A Travellerspoint blog

South America Part 4

From El Bolson across the country to p....p....p.....pick up a penguin @ Puerto Madryn

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From Barlioche to El Boson about 2 hours away where we chilled out with Craig and Gemma who we met in Barlioche. A small town to say the least but we did a little bit more trekking over the weekend, this time to a hidden waterfall and a cliff shaped like an Indian’s head.
And from here to the Eastern coast of Argentina for a change of scenery to a place called Puerto Madryn where I got to dip my toes in the Atlantic, the first time in a long time, I could almost smell home. Here we got to check out the local penguin colony, the world’s largest rookery of Magellanic penguins. Whoever knew there were 17 different types of penguin in the world! They were so small and cute but not in the snowy icy conditions you’d expect (these are emperor penguins found only in the Antartic) but sunny 25degree heat! Bit like the ones in Victoria Australia. We were lucky to see them as in March/April they begin to abandon their nests in the colony and head out to sea and northwards to southern Brazil. Could’ve taken one home with me! Don't think they'd have noticed one missing out of the million or so that are living there at the moment!
Also spent a day on the Valdes peninsula to see the sea lions and elephant seals (The latter are HUGE!) Not as impressive as the penguins but nice to see all the same. We spent more time on the bus than off it which is hard in the heat. Yes! It was hot here! Off to El Chalten and El Calafate next by overnight bus for some more trekking and glacier adventures. Hope the weather is on our side!

Posted by elisasdiary 14:21 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

South America Part 3

Bariloche

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Back across the border to Barlioche, I swear the pages of my passport are filling up with Chile and Argentina stamps alone! The lake districts largest city located on the shores of Lago Nahuel Huapi is a beautiful spot. St Bernards in the main square reminding me of my childhood watching Beethoven movies. The pups were adorable! The place is littered with chocolatiers each willing to give out free samples to customers (heaven!!) With all our chocolate eating we needed to burn some calories and there’s plenty of trekking options here to do that! As the weather was changeable we decided on 2 shorter treks, one to the cerro campinario which had the most beautiful views over the 7 lakes (rewarded ourselves for this not so tough 20 minute trek with red wine and cake  ) and the trek to Refugio Frey, a 5 hour trek in total, taking us along Lake Gutierrez through forestland and upwards into the mountains. Strange to see a ski field deserted but it made for an interesting trek! People can stay in the Refugios on these treks and go further upwards but we saved this for another trek down south. That and I like my comfortable bed in the hostel!
Tried the recommended El Boliche de Alberto steak restaurant after much hype and was disappointed to be honest. Argentina does good steak but the best meal I’ve had was in The Steakhouse in La Paz. Having said that the red wine we were served in the former was the best so far! Another Malbec I think! I hear it’s difficult to get at home in Ireland, here’s hoping that’s not true!

Posted by elisasdiary 13:39 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

South America Part 2

Valpariso to Valdivia - and goodbye to Chile

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Valpariso
From Mendoza back across the border to Chile, to the coastal town of Valpariso, about 120km northwest of Santiago. It’s a very colourful place and as its right on the sea that can only mean one thing…..beach time! It’s been a while since we were on the coast so we took full advantage. Think we took too much advantage by the look of us that evening! Safe to say plenty aftersun needed! Did the touristy side of things too, checking out the 2nd of Pablo Neruda’s houses/museums (the strangest collection of things I’ve seen in someone’s house – he had everything from a merry-go-round horse in his living room to stuffed birds and Chinese carvings but the views were worth the ticket alone!
We returned to Santiago after a few nights and joined Fiona and Paul on a pub crawl for Paul and Aine’s last night with us. The 5 weeks really flew by! Piscolas were the drink of the night, a national drink here. Met some cool people that night including Taylor Lautner’s double! Check the photos if you don’t believe me!

Next up was Pucon, home to the Villarica volcano which we set off to climb on our second day there! Was tough but worth it for the spectacular views on our ascent of this part rocky part icy trail! Unfortunately we couldn’t see into the crater so no lava spotted and the fumes at the top were so overpowering you had to leave after about ten minutes! Got to slide down it though on our rear ends on toboggan like tracks which was the best part! Felt like a kid again!
After a days rest we took on Parque Nacional Huerquehue for a 8 hour trek through woodlands on the Los Lagos trail which took us to 3 different pristine lakes each one as beautiful as the next. The views were stunning with the volcano smoking in the background. It was a long day but the sense of achievement at the end and the beauty of the place made it worth it. Our first proper trek after the Inca trail. Reminded me of New Zealand somewhat.

A weekend stop in Valdivia was next to attend a local festival with a friend we met in Pucon. Rene kindly showed us around for the weekend, took us to local restaurants and to the fireworks display on Saturday night followed by some dancing in a local club. Weird in the clubs here everyone dances in twos, takes a bit getting used to not having the circle of friends that usually crowds dancefloors at home but hey it’s a chance to practice my salsa! A stop at the local Irish bar has really confirmed my opinion that the South American attempts are nothing like Irish bars, just painted green with a few flags here and there. I mean the staff don’t have a word of English and probably don’t even know what Guinness is! We were probably the most Irish thing about the place! Rene challenged me to taste Chilean chocolate before I try the famous chocolate in Bariloche (Argentina) and to be honest I had no objections! Anyone who knows me knows I love chocolate! Got to see the Ireland Italy game in the hostel which was great after the disappointing cancellation of the France game while we were sitting in the pub waiting for kick off! Great result!

Posted by elisasdiary 13:34 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

South America Part 1

The story so far! From Buenos Aires to Mendoza and a lot in between!

all seasons in one day

So I’ve been really bad with this of late, I’d like to say I haven’t had time but that’s not strictly true as we are spending endless hours on bus journies as we navigate our way through South America. Here’s the story so far
We arrived to sunny Buenos Aires where we rejoined Maria and Fiona who’d taken a Spanish course a week previous. The jet lag was horrendous, I felt like a zombie for days but once we began to feel somewhat normal we got stuck into what BA had to offer – steak dinners and tango dancing!
Definitely recommend a tango show to anyone coming here! After a week we flew to Lima (Peru) where we were joined by Paul and Aine who had come over for 5 weeks. The taxi drivers here are a little mad as are the public buses, people randomly jumping on and off while a guy holds the destination on a placard out the window! The Dakar 2012 arrived all the way from Argentina while we were there so the place was busy prepping the streets for the finale celebrations. Visited the Circuito Magico del Agua which is a series of illuminated water fountains and displays which was pretty cool.

Cusco was next on the list, the altitude hitting straightaway (3300m usl) and we out of breath quite a lot! We decided on the 4 day adventure trip to Machu Picchu as opposed to the official Inca trek as it was a LOT cheaper and was more fun than trekking for 4 days! With this we got to do mountain biking, ziplining, whitewater rafting which was great fun. We’ve since met people that paid $500+ for the inca treks, we paid about half that! We stayed in hostels too so no camping – when I say hostels it was anything from a mud hut to someone’s house in the hills! Made for a few interesting nights! The hot springs at the end of the 3 days was a treat! Day 4 was the climb to Machu Picchu itself which started at 430am and 1600steps! My ass should have been so toned after it! It was difficult with the altitude and the hour of the morning but we all made it in about an hour. What greeted us at the top was kindof mystical as the morning mist and clouds gave way to an incredible sight.
Copacabana was next, we might as well not have gone here, it was a disaster! No functioning ATM and the non-acceptance of credit cards anywhere meant we had to pool funds together in order to just get out! Lake Titicaca was beautiful but the rain while we were there put a dampner on exploring it! So onwards to La Paz where we spent the next week or so in action packed adventures, starting with a biking trip down the worlds most dangerous road – Death Road. Only took about 2 minutes for this mountain bike rookie to go tumbling over the handlebars and onto a busy road – we hadn’t even started the death road bit! Lesson to self not to pull on the brakes so hard! It was great fun though, the scenery beautiful but you only notice when you’re stopped! It’s not as scary as people say, yes there’s lots of steep drop-offs but once you’re careful….. Photography while cycling is a no no, you need both those hands on the handlebars!
We took a trip into the Bolivian Pampas(wetlands) from Rurrenbaque for 3 days. The flight worth the 100e (the bus can take up to 40hrs!) even if it was bumpy and in a tiny plane that landed in the middle of a field! The airport terminal was no more than a cow shed! An experience to say the least! The 3 days were spent exploring the area by boat. We got to see alligators, caimons, turtles, capybaras(the largest of the rat family), monkeys, toucans (Guinness bird!), macaws and even got to swim with pink dolphins, yes pink! Such excitement as these creatures swam amongst us!
Stocked up on winter woollies in La Paz which sells alpaca woollen products and its really cheap too! The socks are so cosy! We were going to need them for the next journey – our journey to Uyuni in Bolivia. The bus was an overnighter and got stuck en route meaning we almost missed the tour but luckily for us there was a Massey Ferguson on a nearby construction site that pulled it out and we were on our way. We were joined by 5 Australians, 2 South Africans for this trip which was by 4x4 landcruisers. The first stop was the Bolivian Salt flats, the largest of its kind in the world. Incredible place and a great opportunity for funny photos! What struck me over the next few days as we drove towards San Pedro de Atacama was the diversity in the landscape, one minute dry arid ground in The Valley of Rocks, then snow covered mountains as we moved higher up around the lagoons, followed by green grass before finishing up in the redness of the desert! Spotted lots of wildlife, the flamingos a highlight for me as I’d never seen them in the wild before. Llamas were in abundance as were Vicunas, both of which you’d never see in Europe.
We arrived in San Pedro, a pretty little desert town with restaurant after restaurant after restaurant! Its tourist centered with plenty options for hostel but its very expensive also. We got a bargain of 11e for a hostel, pity it meant I had to sleep on the top of a 3 tier bunk bed! Eh never again! Thought I was going to fall out! Didn’t help that they got rain for the first time since July and were completely unprepared for it! The rainwater started coming through the straw roof and under the door, the sheets the staff gave us to stop the flow were pretty much useless! Unfortunately the star gazing trips are not on when we arrived which was really disappointing. They don’t do them for 6 days around full moon as there’s too much light so we decide to cut time here short. We try to book our next bus to Salta and we’re told the buses are booked up until 15th Feb! Only options are an expensive private transfer or change route! We decided on the latter! Santiago our new destination.

Santiago:A short stop in between the 26hour journey from San Pedro to Mendoza. Stayed in the Barrio Brasil are at the Casa de Roja a really cool hostel housed in an old colonial building with plenty space to chill out and enjoy the sunshine. Took a free walking tour of the city- our guide Philippe was so passionate about the history of the city and to our amusement very animated in his explanations. He’s got irish ancestry apparently – Green! There’s actually a street here named after an Irish man Bernardo O Higgins who fought for Chilean independence. The irish are everywhere! We get to see some really nice spots including the house of famous Chilean poet Pablo Neurda and the Lastarria area which is packed with coffee shops . Get a bit lost on my way to Bellavista, a neighbourhood full of bars and restaurants, for the rugby and end up getting a taxi there. Need to learn how to read maps properly one of these days! Disappointed the rugby is cancelled on Saturday guess everywhere can’t have 35degree heat in February! Head up San Cristobal hill in Bellavista for a view out over the city, its huge and extends in every direction! You can walk up in about 25mins but with the heat and laziness I take the 3e funicular up and down. There’s a sanctuary at the top to Mary and it’s a busy spot for young and old alike as its part of the metropolitan park. It houses swimming pools apparently and a zoo!

From Santiago we travel to Mendoza Argentina and take the famous Mr Hugo wine tour! We’d only just hired the bikes and he was pouring our first glasses of local wine! He’s definitely a character, I can see why his business is so popular. At 30 pesos it’s a steal for an outing. It’s a self-guided tour so we set off with our maps and visit 3 vineyards, getting a tour in one which was really interesting, and sampling the local produce but not just the wine. We also to got to try olive oils, the nicest balsamic vinegar I’ve ever tasted and some liquors made with everything from fruit to green pepper! That one was spicy!

Posted by elisasdiary 11:58 Archived in Argentina Comments (1)

East Coast Adventures come to an end :(

Sydney

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Rejoin my travel comrades for New Year celebrations in Sydney. Its good to see the girls again as they left Melbourne a week before I did. We take a trip out to Palm Beach although everyone would recognise it more as the location of Summer Bay from Home and Away. Plenty snaps of the surf club and kiosk! Its just a pity they were on a break from filming. Meet Garry and Triona here, they’ve just arrived from Kuala Lumpur where Triona unfortunatley was hospitalised with Dengue Fever but is well on the mend now! John joins us that night too, it’s like a mini school reunion!
New Years Eve we spent at Luna Park, an old style amusement park right on the harbour allowing us fantastic views of the bridge for the fireworks! A lot of people gather in the surrounding parks which also give great views but you have to be there very early in the morning to get a good spot. We don’t take up our spot until 10pm! It’s definitely a different way to spend NYE, reliving your childhood in a place that could be compared to Funderland. The fireworks kick off at 9am for the kiddies and then at the stroke of midnight after the big countdown. They are nothing short of spectacular as 7000 tonnes of fireworks explode over the sydney sky, lighting up the world famous Harbour Bridge and opera house in reds, greens, blues, and yellows. I’ll try and get a video up soon!

New Years Resolutions = Zero

Fiona and Maria depart for South America to do a Spanish course, we follow a week later so its only the 3 amigos left. In our last few days we manage to fit in the Coogee to Bondi walk, a city bus tour, a trip to Manly (even the ferry ride over is worth the trip for the views of the city alone), catching up with Gemma, a bbq with Brian and Bill (cheers lads for putting us up!), visit to Hyde park and the Anzac memorial, QV building (where they had a huge Swarvovski decorated Christmas tree climbing 3 floors! 17000 crystals apparently) and a spot of shopping! Unfortunately due to the weather conditions we had to cancel our trip to the Blue Mountains but that was the only disappointment! Sydney is a great place, full of activity, there are lots to do and see and we didn’t see half of it!
It was sad leaving Sydney and Australia behind. It has been an amazing 2 ½ months meeting so many wonderful people, having lots of fun and seeing some incredible sights. People ask what has been the highlight? In such a big country that’s a very hard questions to answer, each experience different to the next. I loved every minute of it and will definitely be back at some time in the future.

Posted by elisasdiary 15:41 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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