Second time around the world

28 Feb


Germany, Switzerland, China, Taiwan, Philippines, Fiji, Vanuatu, New Zealand, Tahiti, Bora Bora, Easter Island, Chile, Argentina, and Brazil.

Points & Miles used – 1,843,200

Cash Value – £48,382

Flights – 30, 115 hours, 37000 miles

Airports – 23

Airlines – 18

Cars – 11, 2500+ miles

Hotels – 40

Days – 64

Countries – 15 (including transit)

Currencies – 10

1st Class Lounges – 3

Luxury private limousines between aircraft and terminal – 3

Boat transfers – 6

Active volcanoes – 1

Overwater Villas – 5

Iguazu Falls, Argentina

27 Feb

The Brazilian side was so impressive I considered not bothering with the Argentine side. The sunrise view from the splendid hotel room revealed two things that encouraged me to go anyway: better weather and the falls are in such force that the spray forms lasting clouds. The hotel is in the only one in the park and just a short walk from the trails, so let’s go.

First views are already impressive and just like the Brazilian side it gets better around every corner.

With some frightening edges viewed from very close up, which do make you glad you weren’t the first person ever to come down this river in their canoe…

The walkways and viewpoints are almost empty for two hours:

Take the mini train to the Devil’s Throat viewpoint, and yes the close up view of the falls is good:

But first you have to force your way through this for 15 minutes:

To get to a point where this is your view:

Another 5 minutes of pushing and shoving and you might bounce to the front for 3 milliseconds and 1 picture. It seems almost everyone goes to the Devil’s Throat viewpoint and hardly anyone bothers to walk the trails, where the views are so much more varied and intimidating.

Time to go. Surprisingly, the Iguazu Falls airport actually has a lounge that’s in the Priority Pass network. For such a tiny metal-hut-and-runway provincial airstrip it doesn’t make sense. It’s a small lounge:

With a decent view:

But the best thing is that if you know it’s there, you ask at the customer service desk downstairs in the main scrum of the stinking hot terminal, and the lounge staff will come to escort you to the lounge, fast-tracking through security by the back door. You’ll be the only person in the lounge, left in peace and quiet and air-conditioned luxury with sandwiches hand-made by the lounge staff on-request, emerging on the aircraft side of the boarding gate when the time comes, to confused looks from all the peasants who’ve been queuing up for 20 minutes, giving you black looks but also probably wondering who the hell is this guy getting VIP treatment. Suckers.

One last glimpse of the falls from the air, surrounded by jungle, but only if you bothered to do your research and pick a seat portside because that’s the side that usually gets the view:

And that’s it. All that’s left is a night back in Buenos Aires then a very long flight back home.

Almost two million points and miles for just over £48,000 of travel through Germany, Switzerland, China, Taiwan, Philippines, Fiji, Vanuatu, New Zealand, Tahiti, Bora Bora, Easter Island, Chile, Argentina, and Brazil. Success!

Iguazu Falls, Brazil

25 Feb

Wasn’t sure I’d have enough time to get into Brazil, especially when Aerolineas Argentina delayed my flight for 90 minutes, but my local driver was very quick and got me through the border really fast.

Heavy storms began as soon as I got into the Iguazu national park, but even soaked to the skin it was a better experience than Niagara or Victoria falls, by a very long way. It’s much more dramatic and powerful and impressive.

How many photos of a waterfall do you want? They’re not great, though, because of the driving rain coating camera lenses, specs leaving me pretty much blind as they misted up, cameras eventually failing altogether.

You can get a lot closer to the water than at other big falls:

But if you want to get really close, go on the boats:

A few hours later, with everything thoroughly wet, I got upgraded at the Meliá and found a perfect view of the falls from a nice dry room:

(The only flaw with the hotel is that the lounge is full of pathetic one-up boasting dumb fucks. Yes, we wanted to downsize so now we live in a boat and take our summers in Umbria. Oh yes, we tried that but found the boat life to not be downsized enough for us so we live in a shoe and take our summers in a cryogenic chamber that used to be owned by Banksy. Oh how sweet, we own twelve Banksys. Oh that’s lovely. He used to be our butler until we moved to a little chateau just outside Provence….”)

Buenos Aires, Argentina

25 Feb

More transport service failings. First, a very rare let down from Blacklane, the usually excellent and reliable limo service, when my business class car (“Mercedes E Class or similar”) is a shitty little Hyundai driven by a Chilean peasant wearing a dirty potato sack and carrying a pig, and featuring class-leading rear legroom. Normally there’s enough room for any amount of cat swinging:

Alright, he was wearing jeans and there was no pig, but still, not the usual professional image of a Blacklane driver, and certainly not the usual quality of car. Yes, I’m wearing jeans, but I’m allowed, I’m not at work. Not until next week. Oh god, I’ve got to go back to work next week…

Next, another LATAM flight. No aircraft change this time, and the crew were great:

The problem was the meal. Looks OK:

It was not OK. The salad was so wilted it was almost rotten. One of the forks had a piece of gunk stuck on it. The other fork bent when I tried to eat the chicken, which was so dry and tough it couldn’t be cut. Looked like the whole thing had been left out for two days. Solution? Another complaint to LATAM, no doubt to be ignored, another glass of red, and a couple of extra chocolates as an apology. Ell-oh-ell, right? I did get to watch the excellent Bohemian Rhapsody because this aircraft did have IFE unlike the previous broken pile of junk, so not all bad.

At least Ricardo, my Blacklane driver on arrival in Argentina, was a total pro with a nice BMW and a confidently aggressive but smooth driving style, and the Hilton is just around the corner from a very pleasant riverside walk with bars and restaurants and buskers and tango. Not as good as the Newcastle-Gateshead Quayside (better tango by far, obviously) but still very nice:

Santiago, Chile

24 Feb

Forget the tourist hop-on/off bus tour or being ripped off by taxi drivers, every Sunday in Santiago several miles of city roads are closed to traffic so you can go out on your bike, scooter, roller blades, or running shoes and cruise around enjoying the sun and the free water.

I started out with an electric scooter before swapping to a bike. 90 minutes of riding and sightseeing cost a couple of quid.

I was going to say don’t ever bother visiting Santiago. Instead I’ll say make sure you visit on a Sunday.