Archive for the 'Argentina & Chile' Category

Published by Linda on 26 Feb 2009

Buenos Aires

I apologise in advance for the length of this blog. Okay so it sounds really lazy but my legs were so so swollen I decided to fly from Ushuaia to Buenos Aires and I got a really good deal to also fly from Buenos Aires to Rio de Janeiro. I didn’t feel too guilty because I bussed it all the way down and to save some time it made sense to fly. Such a luxury and it avoided 80 hours on the bus to Rio – sweet.
I’m not massively a city person but I have to say I fell in love with Buenos Aires. There’s an indescribable quality about the atmosphere there, which differs in every neighbourhood which changes different nights of the week, and honestly, if it wasn’t for the ham and cheese sandwiches, I could see myself living there for a while. It was also fan-feckin-tastic to be back in the heat, after cold windy Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego.
Got my bearings on the first day with a stroll around centre and San Telmo, a fab neighbour with cobbled streets and beautiful old mansions – abandoned by the elite during times of disease epidemics. I think this is the neighbourhood I’d live in if I had the choice, the buildings, the antique shops with great markets and tango on every corner come the weekends. It’s just gorgeous.
Met a great group of people in the hostel and we all headed off to see a percussion band, La Bomba, that night which was really good fun. They are a huge group and all their work is improvised which makes for great interaction between them and amusing to watch. La Bomba check out this video. Now I’m not into beer all the much but this night was a bit a of beer fest, as we’d queued for ages so we had a few while waiting. This is Gavin, or Billy as I called him (no real reason why)

and he led me to my doom with these litre beers which you had to drink pretty quick or they went warm. Fun night and a nice way to get to know the group.

The next day a couple of us did a walking/history tour offered my the hostel. Our guide was a university student who gave us the political/economic low-down and boy was it interesting. A very engaging guy who really knew his stuff and if you can hold my attention on these topics, you must be good J We strolled by a lot of the buildings each with it’s own piece of history and we also visited the Evita Museum.

Eva (Evita) Peron is a goddess over here and from what I gather, she was like the Oprah of that era, you know, an actress/charity founder/one name entity that crosses all the boundaries, even into the political arena, pushing for women to get an identity card and a vote. It was a very interesting afternoon.

Much to the disgust of my loved ones at home, stating I knew NOTHING about football, I headed off to see a Boca Juniors match that evening with some of the crew. Okay so maybe I know nothing about football but this experience for me was more about the people watching. Football is like religion here. We got stood on, sweated on, squished into the stand with avid fans of all ages. They sing for the entire match, check it out – Boca Juniors

The game itself was little slow, not such an important one so the Juniors scored and relaxed but not the fans, they cheered and booed and sang like it was the world cup final and by god you had to sing with them I might mention that we didn’t even sit in the crazy fan area where football really is a case of life or death. Really funny though, many fans are in the stands 90 mins before the game, the real crazy one arrive about ten mins before, push away anyone sitting in “their” seats and proceed to shout, sing and bounce around for a couple of hours. It was a long and sweaty night and we were pretty filthy coming back but such a good experience.

The following day I dragged Gavin/Billy to Palermo to walk through the botanical gardens and parks and it was like another totally different world again in Buenos Aires.

Huge open parks with lakes and fountains and dogs being walked/baby-sat. Man was it hot though and we walked for a while (well miles and miles according to Gavin!) Saw some interesting things on the way though. 

I supposewe did lose our way a little but eventually we got to Ricoletta Cemetery. Very interesting place and we stumbled across a funeral there, which I’d say doesn’t happen much these days with the cemetery being so full and that. We were a little surprised about how unimpressive Evita’s grave was though, there were a lot more outrageous but hey I guess they spent the money shipping her around the world before finally laying her to rest :-) This one was pretty awesome though……

We went for a nice steak dinner that night and then myself, Chris, Paul and Gavin went to meet some local Argentine girls who showed us the spots in Palermo Soho. Bit of a late one but good fun, we got to laugh at Gavin and Belin partaking in a dance off hosted by a ladyboy!!!

Oh come on Chris, smile……

…..much better :-)

Managed to tear myself out of the bed and headed to the Caminito area in La Boca with Paul. It’s such a lovely area, originally inhabited by Italians, I’m sure you’ve all seen pics of these really cuty painted houses. It’s a really poor neighbourhood and tourism is probably the only thing that brings money there.

These days it’s quite touristy and most of the houses are now museums or shops. There’s still some nice artwork to be bought on the street and we stopped for a drink at a tango restaurant. Tango Restaurant We even got an impromptu tango lesson, lots of fun, apart from flip flops and me being half a foot taller than the guy! I hardly buy anything at all while I’m travelling, I’ve been so, so good, especially in Buenos Aires where there are gorgeous dresses for cheap-cheap. I did fall for this beautiful hand-painted mask which was to be for Carnival.

This guy had really lovely stuff and myself and Paul had some fun trying things on. I also have his website as he does ship things if anyone is interested.

We had a big old BBQ in the hostel that night, which was good fun and I’m really gonna miss this bunch of people. It’s so good when a group gels like that.

Continuing on the theme of tango, I had got to my last night and still hadn’t gone for a tango lesson. So we headed for a Milonga, which is basically a more informal type of lesson. You can get up and sit down whenever you want. It was great, held in this huge, well kinda barn actually. Loads of old furniture and great paintings.

The wooden floor was worn down from all the dancing during years, god I love seeing things like that. The Milonga is also good as the locals go there and get up to dance as they please. Some great moves from the some of the most unlikely looking candidates, in some cases. Seasoned Tango-ers We did our best with the dancing, I kinda think the more you concentrate the worse you get!! Amateur Tango Also trying to tango in flip flops and/or splinters isn’t the easiest but I don’t have any heels so that’s the way it has to be. I’ve said it to loads of people though, when you’re in Patagonia, you can rent hiking boots so why can’t you rent heels when you go to the cities!! You heard it here first people, I claim all royalties!!

Have to again mention the great people I met at the hostel here, all good craic. Funny though first impressions do really matter because Chris told me afterwards that when he saw me first he thought I wouldn’t talk to anyway and honestly I was just wrecked tired and trying to wake up!! Anyhoo he got his story straight soon enough.

Also want to mention my hostel, which was recommended by Nicole who told me to make sure I stayed in the dome on the roof. These are my room mates Emily and Miriam, lovely, lovely girlies.

We shared a gorgeous spacious room away from everything with stars on the ceiling and a machine who emitted a kinda hippie smell – yeah, yeah I think I am a hippie. It’s funny though because Nicole told me to stay there and on my last night I met Andreas who we figured out met Nicole and Stefan just after I left them in Ushuaia. She told him to stay there too. So it’s not just Cork that’s a small world, it’s all over!! Kinda like that though :-) The hostel was also part of an old building with one of those tiny evelvators where you have to pull the doors across, again – loving it!!

And so I sadly and reluctantly left Buenos Aires, it’s now my top destination that I would have liked to spend more time at. Still though I can’t really complain as I’m off to Rio de Janeiro for Carnival!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

More photos on http://www.flickr.com/photos/lindybear/sets/72157614078023790/ and http://www.flickr.com/photos/lindybear/sets/72157614194081435/

P.S. If you’ve actually read this far down, I’m sorry, the next one will be shorter I promise……

Published by Linda on 23 Feb 2009

Ushuaia – Fin del Mundo

It just felt like I would never get there. It seemed like the longest bus journey EVER!!! Left El Calafate at 3am. We had to exit Argentina and enter Chile so that was 2 boarder crossings. Then we had to get a ferry to cross the Magellan strait over to Tierra del Fuego……

and then another 2 boarder crossings to get back into Argentina. These boarders crossing are killing me and my passport, I try to get them to stamp a tiny little corner which sometimes works but sometimes they get the hump and stamp in the middle of a new page!! Even though the scenery was great for the last hour or so on the bus,  I couldn’t wait to get off it, plus my legs were swollen out like tree trunks – boo to it :-(

Finally arrived at 10pm and crashed for the night and the following day I decided to take a little bus tour around Ushuaia in this cuty little bus…..

It even has a bar downstairs. It was bloody freezing though, shiver!! Ushiaia is lovely as it is surrounded by mountains……

has glaciers and a fab national park. Apart from it being the end of the world and the gateway to the Antartic, there’s actually a lot to do here, you could easily spend a week, especially if you rented a car for a day or two. Later on I met up with Stefan and Nicole.

The following morning myself and Stefan headed for the Prison Museum……..

which basically has everything the other museums have and more, just in case you’re planning to visit. It was really interesting, everything from the ships that sailed here, to the history of Ushusia, to aviation, to art galleries, to the Antartic, of course the history of the prison itself, and prisons around world, even Kilmainham jail got a mention….

Myself and Stefan had to laugh at some of it though. One of the first exhibitions rooms details a note from Charles Darwin who described the inhabitants as sturdy on top, broad shoulders, long bodies but shorter skinny legs. He stated that at first he thought they were the “missing link” which myself and Stefan thought was just awful!!! We had to laugh though and hope that something has got lost in translation as we are talking about only over a hundred years ago!!

It was interesting to read the history of some of the prisoners and we wondered just how cold and miserable it was there in the winter time.

The weather here is okay during the day when the sun comes out but god does it get cold when it’s cloudy and all your warm clothes are in the laundry!!! Anyhoo I digress as always. Back in the museum, we were also amused by one of the letters written by a political prisoner. He told of how all his possessions were taken from him, his clothes, his books and then he even went on to say “they even took my mate cup”. Mate is a type of tea which is really popular in South America. The cup is a small wooden/metal bowl where the tea leaves and hot water are placed and then there is matching straw. 

The Argentinians bring their mate cups everywhere, on the buses or even walking along street – in case they meet some friends and a mate session is required!! It’s very social and one mate cup is shared in a group. I’ve taken up on a couple of mate sessions with the locals on bus rides and as this is considered somewhat of an honour, it’s been kinda nice – even though you have to pick the tea leaves out of your teeth after!! :-) Anyway we had to laugh at the indignance that this was taken from the prisoner. I’d say the books would have kept him entertained longer!!

We strolled through the museum and there is so much there, we couldn’t take it all in. We got our “end of the world” stamps in our passports and then we had a stroll around town.

In the afternoon, we headed off to see some Penguins accessed through a huge estancia. The penguins are fascinating and I took a heap of photos and videos which you can see on my flickr site. We literally landed on the beach and they were everywhere!!

They weren’t really bothered by us, they were more concerned with themselves. I thought they would be quite energetic but no they kinda save themselves (for what I’m not sure!!)

We strolled around the island and you could watch them for hours.

I took some videos too, these are my favourites Penguin 1  Penguin 2 and Penguin 3 Penguins waddling is just the best!!

So as I said they are not as active as you would expect. Some of them were waddling around but mostly they just started to stretch and flap their wings and you thought they were just about to do something energetic but mostly they just flopped forward for a rest….

The young penguins are funny too as they are covered in brown fluffy feathers – which they try to shed but they really just look like they’ve been caught in a pillow fight.

Awww just look at him!!! Penguins pick a mate and when we were there it was obviously tea-time because they were calling out for each other. Sounds a bit like a donkey?! Check it out….Penguin-Donkey

Afterwards we headed back to the city and decided to go out on the town. Now I came to the end of the world to find that there were not one but two Irish bars – The Dublin Pub and The Galway Bar. There was no Cork bar though – disappointing. Anyway I didn’t come all the ways down here for an Irish bar so we headed out to a local nightclub and had a good night.

So that ended my time with Stefan and Nicola who were staying on a few days but as for me, well it’s off to Buenos Aires!!!!

 

More photos on http://www.flickr.com/photos/lindybear/sets/72157613868814408/ and http://www.flickr.com/photos/lindybear/sets/72157614077928900/

Published by Linda on 21 Feb 2009

Blown Away in El Chalten

After seeing the wonders that Torres del Paine had to offer, I was really looking forward to El Chalten and The Fitz Roy Range, which is basically the Argentinian version of Torres del Paine National Park. Took a bus there and we stopped off on the way to take a few photos.
The road to El Chalten is typically Patagonian, bumpy (as it isn’t sealed or surfaced) long, straight and goes for miles and miles and miles…….
This road was really good (for a while) but the surface that you see at the edges is the norm but I suppose it will all be surfaced in a few years. Anyway I met a guy called Eric from San Fran, who I had met the previous night coming back from Torres del Paine. Checked in at the National Park info centre and got our maps, etc. Since it was kinda lunch time I was planning on a lazy day and then start trekking the following day. Eric has other plans for us though and we ended up doing the trek to see Cerro Torre.
Now I’ve had zero exercise since I left home, whereas Eric did the “W” in Torres del Paine in 2 days!!!!! I’m not kidding, that’s pretty hard core trekking in the region of 70km, with a big backpack. Some of it he even ran! So this was my trekking buddy – oh dear! Struggled a bit at first but it was fine after the first few km. There were some nice views on the way…….
……… and we got a glimpse of Cerro Torre…….
…..but of course seconds later the clouds rolled in and the rain/hail started. So we retreated to the campsite for a while and started to head back. The wind in El Chalten is almost as crazy as in Torres del Paine. So frozen to the core, we headed out for a drink in the Microbrewery. I met up with Albert and Kerstin who I met in Bariloche and El Calafate. After a 19km trek we had a well-deserved chillaxy night and said our goodbyes as they were heading back North the following day. I also met up with a german girl called Nicola and we were going to meet in Ushuaia a couple of days later.
The following day was a bit crap as the weather forecast said there would be zero visibility. I decided to do a trek to Laguna Torre anyway as there isn’t a whole lot to do in El Chalten otherwise. It was all good apart from the last 5km where the wind and hail were in my face all the way. Also Eric had stayed in bed (well deserved in fairness) so I had no one to chat to incessantly!!  I persevered anyway and got to Laguna Torre which looks like this on a crap day……
….but I trekked 22km to see it so I’m putting it up here!!!! Had to kinda leg it back down as I was taking a bus back to El Calafate but it didn’t take as long as I thought and there were some great views coming back to the town. I know i keep going on about it but the landscape here really is amazing and I was completely blown away – physically and otherwise.
Hanging around for the bus, I met Stefan from Switzerland and we hit it off. We were both staying in the same hostel too and I arranged to meet him in Ushuaia with Nicola.
I kinda had been thinking about Ushuaia for a while and I figured since I had come this far south I said I might as well go all the way to the end of the world. It was only another 30 hours or so from El Calafate, which sounds like a lot but actually really isn’t in this part of the world. So I headed back from El Chalten to El Calafate and even though I’ve totally fallen for Patagonia, I have to say, I’m glad to be out of the wind and rain.
Until next time….more photos on http://www.flickr.com/photos/lindybear/sets/72157613678780982/

Published by Linda on 15 Feb 2009

The Road to Patagonia, Torres del Paine & Linda, Linda, Linda!!!!

Well I embarked on a 36 hour bus journey down into Southern Patagonia. The land is flat, thundra and arrid. Siobhan, it kinda reminds me of Mayo :-) Check it out…..

And just in case you´re wondering, a few hundred miles down the road, it looks ex-act-ly the same……

It´s hard to believe some of the most famous mountain ranges are going to spring out of the ground down here. I read an article in National Geographic about Patagonia, they stopped in a ¨town¨ that was literally a petrol station and nothing else. Now I thought they were exaggerating but then we stopped there…..

Hmmmmm we were on our way towards the end of the world and the way the wind was picking up, it certainly seemed so. Now I could have gone the more remote and desolate route (believe it or not), the famous Route 40 but it took too long so I went for the conventional bus that literally crosses to the east of Argentina and back again but it was still a day quicker so that had to be my choice. I arrived in El Calafate and it seemed there was some life down here in Patagonia. El Calafate is on it´s way to been another Bariloche, it´s geared towards tourists, offering tours, boat trips and buses all over the region. Still though it´s a nice town and I met some good people there.

I was greeted at my (fab) hostel with the words, we party tonight!! So myself, Kerstin and Albert (who I met in Bariloche) said we´d check it out. It was good craic.

…….and were entertained by the likes of mime artists, a group playing drums and digeridoos (yes really) and then some bands, some of which were good and some of which were ¨entertaining¨ :-) Band Good fun though and we drank huge beers……..

Up early the next morning to go to the Los Glaciares National Park. Myself, Kerstin and Albert went to check out Glacier Perito Mereno for the day. We had a couple of nice photo stops along the way.

Anyone who is checking out my flickr page will see I´m getting somewhat obsessed with sky down here, it´s just amazing. When we got to the park, we started off with a boat trip to view the glacier from the bottom up…..

Then we went up to the viewing balconies to see it from the top down……

The glacier was much different to Franz Josef, that I had seen and trekked in New Zealand. It was very much wider but nowhere near in height. It was however, very dramatic!!! It advances at a rate of 2 metres a day so we got to witness it ¨calving¨, i.e. huge columns of ice collapse, break off and plunder into the icy water below, much to the delight and surprise (every time!) of the crowd watching. You can watch a video of it on my flickr ( Perito Marino and Perito Marino 2) but I didn´t capture any good one as it happens so quick. It sounds like loud thunder when it happens. Very dramatic and by the end of our day we were totally addicted!! It was a case of ¨oh let´s just stay for one more¨Good fun though and beautiful scenery. Really amazing.

The next day I went to see Torres del Paine National Park (Chile) Now I have to explain that Torres del Paine and it´s famous granite towers are a huge draw in this part of the world and one that many travellers like to tick off their list by either trekking the ¨W¨or the whole circuit. As the ¨W¨takes five days to complete, I had to settle for a day trip and, for reasons I will explain in a minute, I don´t think I would have been able to do it anyway. We headed off at 5.30am and had a boarder crossing into Chile on the way. Then the landscape began to change from the flat plains to gorgeous mountains with great layers of colours. We stopped at this turquoise lake and in the background part of the National Park was coming into view.

Just beautiful and so dramatic. We entered the park and it was a little cloudy but as soon as we got out of the bus the famous towers came into view.

They are dwarfed here completely as it would take more than a day to actually reach them and see them properly so this would have to do. We continued on and had a little walk to get a closer look at some of the scenery. Just check out these…..

The different types of rock in these mountains are amazing when the light catches them. Anyhoo we were taking photos and the wind there is unbelievably strong. So there was a huge surge and one minute I was standing and then next I was on the ground. This freakish wind just literally picked me up off my feet!!!!

So as I said, I don´t think I would have been capable of it – especially with a big backpack!!! Ah no I would have loved it and when we were leaving I was totally gutted that I couldn´t stay to trek at least the ¨W¨but them´s the breaks and I had some trekking planned on the Argentinian side anyway. Spent the bus jouney bacl to El Calafate staring at the landscape, I just love it here, it´s so unusual.

Even saw some flamingos in a lake. Flamingos are really stoopid though, if I´m remembering a documentary I saw a while back, can´t remember why though……

I´ve been thinking about language again and I have picked up some spanish, enough to get by but the problem is that you don´t really need here so then you get lazy. I´m looking forward to being forced into it when I move out of Argentina. I think that english speaking people have it too easy and I really want to make an effort. Although I don´t know how good my pronounciation is anyway as everyone corrects me when I say Torres del Paine, it should be pronounced ¨Pan-ye¨but I say PAIN and what people don´t realise is that this is on purpose – I maintain that you´ll be in a lot of pain after you trek it so it´s pretty fitting :-) It´s also pretty unfortunate that my name is spanish. Linda means pretty is spanish so every time I check into a hostel, they say Ah Linda, Linda, Linda, you know what it means??? – the horrible thing is I´m usually after a 20 hour bus journey, wearing grubby clothes, hungover or just a bit wrecked looking in general so I don´t feel very ¨Linda¨at all. Booo hooo :-(

That´s about it for now, I´m off to trek in El Chalten, wish me luck…….

More photos on http://www.flickr.com/photos/lindybear/sets/72157613495075799/   http://www.flickr.com/photos/lindybear/sets/72157613495371415/   http://www.flickr.com/photos/lindybear/sets/72157613678645418/

Published by Linda on 07 Feb 2009

Pucon & Bariloche

So remember I said I´d be taking buses at night so as to not waste the day? Well I took a bus from Valparaiso to Pucon and I´d set myself up for a good old sleep. So around 11.30, most folk were settling themselves so I stopped reading, curled up and proceeded to conk out. 1am arrived and the young fella sitting next to me opened and started eating a packet of crisps……NO NO NO NO NO!!!!!! if everyone´s asleep, I´m sure there´s an unwritten law that you´re not allowed to eat crisps – with “open-mouth” munching noises especially!! In Oz when myself and Kate were annoyed, while telling the story we´d point our fingers and say NOOOOOOO!! If the annoyance really merited it, the finger would waggle from side to side :-) Yeah okay we´re weird but you´d have to see it…. Anyhoo this young fella definitely would have got a waggly pointy finger on several counts. I´m a big believer that you only get one shot at sleeping on a plane or bus and yep, you guessed it, I was still awake at 8am when the bus got into Pucon. Now, in fairness, the young fella wasn´t the only cause for concern. Every time I closed my eyes and started to drift off, I get a weird sensation, open my eyes and there was an old lady sitting in front of me (who couldn´t sleep at all) staring at me!!! Hello???? I know it´s public transport but again that surely violates some other type of rule, right???!!!!

Anyhoo, rant over, I arrived in Pucon which is a really cute town (or is it a city, I´m not sure) Now it´s totally purpose built for tourists but still I have to say I really, really liked it. There´s a little bit of a swiss theme going on with all the wooden shop fronts and touristy things to buy. Woolies are the big thing here, hats, scarves, ponchos, etc. the funny thing is even if you have been to Chile, these still look familiar….maybe we had some souvenirs around the house when I was little or something. There are loads of big chunky knits, you know the ones that are soooo soft, squishy and you just have to touch them….. – not in Chile, scratchy hard wool that would drive you mental!!! Anyway I signed myself up to climb the volcano the following day and I was a bit nervous because I´m so unfit but since I didn´t do the full day glacier climb in Franz Josef (and this is the same deal) I said I´d give it a go. Had a walk around the town, but everywhere you look, this volcano is in the background…..waiting…….

So that evening I wandered down to the company to sign (i.e. waiving their obligation for anything at all that may happen to you) forms and there was rain fore casted so the whole thing was called off. So disappointed!!! Of course now I was stuck in Pucon for another day (which was certain to rain), which is a day I desperately need for somewhere else and I was stuck with a wooly hat and gloves……….well at least they´ll be useful in freakishly windy, rainy and massively unpredictable Patagonia. AND aren´t they just fantastic?????? Anyway I met an Italian gentleman in the hostel and he was going trekking in the National park so I said I definitely wanted to something worthwhile with my day. Woke up to thundering rain at 5am and it rained solidly until about 9.30 so that ruled out the National Park. Then the sun came out and there was a 1.30pm bus so I said I do a short trek but of course the bus was full!!! Then the twitching started because I´m not able to do nothing all that well. One positive about staying an extra day was that my legs returned to their normal state and I didn´t look like a 90 year old woman anymore. The bus just seems to swell out the legs big time. I hung out with a Cork lad, Darren, and we chatted the day away. I also got to try one of Pucon famous hamburgers which are pretty much the size of your face!!! If you´re ever there, try one from Rap, I´m not a hamburger fan but they are mighty fine :-)

So I finally made it to Bariloche, via Osorno where I was going to stop for a night to check it out but now I´m glad I didn´t to be honest!! My friend Pam told me that Bariloche was here favourite spot in Argentina and I have to admit I liked it a lot too. It´s really touristy, kinda wooden fronted shops……

that look like swiss log cabins, chocolate shops, more woolies and trekking gear as it is a kind of gate-way to Patagonia. You also get great views of one of the lakes as you are strolling around the town. 

There is loads to do here and I met up with four german girls……

and we headed off up Campario to see the whole range of lakes and mountains around Bariloche. It was pretty spectacular.

After that we went on a 25km bike ride, which sounds like a lot but it was fine really. You can do the whole circuit which is 60km and I thought that would be a bit much, especially since you have to cycle from Bariloche and deal with traffic. Anyway it was lovely, the sun shining, at least for the first 5km and then of course it started raining!!! Booo to it. Still though we saw a lot, there were beautiful view and we cycled up the hill to a fab hotel called Hotel Llao Llao to take in the view there (needless to say they didn´t leave us in or anything!!!) We all really enjoyed it, I just didn´t feel a knackered as I thought I should have, although this is what we looked like half way through so maybe it was more taxing than I thought :-)

Anyhoo we celebrated with a steak from El Boliche de Alberto – which is THE place the have steak (medium/rare whether you like it or not……. good job my tastebuds have changed)

around these parts. Even poor Kerstin whose a vegetarian tried the steak, well we are in Argentina. And indeed it was fantastic!!! Totally stuffed though. Ended the evening in the hostel with two of the girls and some Cork lads who´ve been in Bariloche for a week or so. Kinda nice to chat to people from home for a while, especially when they are a good laugh!! Some of them (the ones who weren´t afraid of the rain!!) did the cycle too. The funny thing is, the place that rents the bikes talks you through where to go and what stops to include. The guy really stressed that when you´re on the way back, make sure to take the turn for his place or you´d end up in Bariloche!! Of course one of the Cork boys forgot this and added 20km to his adventure – classic!!!! We had fun with that!!

The next day I was leaving in the afternoon so I had a stroll around in the cold, cold wind. Dreading heading south now as it´s going to be sooooo much colder there! Did the other must eat treat, which was chocolates from a shop called Mamuschka. Think I need to get out of Argentina or I´m going to need bigger trousers :-)

I know I´m really lucky to be doing a world tour but sometimes I do get jealous of people who are just doing one continent as they get to stay somewhere until they feel like moving on. That said I know I´d be really lazy and never see anything. I have to say though I would have loved to hang around Bariloche for another few days but I saw a lot and really enjoyed it and I needed to keep those thoughts with me for my upcoming 36 hr journey south into Patagonia and the first stop is El Calafate…….

Sorry it was such a long one. More photos on http://www.flickr.com/photos/lindybear/sets/72157613443695699/ & http://www.flickr.com/photos/lindybear/sets/72157613443766439/

Published by Linda on 31 Jan 2009

I am a ham and cheese sandwich…….

…….but I´ll get to that later :-) So I crossed the date line – that big milestone finally came so naturally and cheesily enough I had to take a photo of flying into ¨yesterday´s¨ dawn from the plane!!!

Okay, alright it´s a bit crap but it´s more impressive in real life I promise. South America is great so far, so much better than I thought it would be. Flew into Santiago which I expected to be mental but it´s not really, I liked it a lot. Pretty much zero english speaking folk though so I´m learning spanish pretty quickly! It´s easy to practice as the locals are friendly and talk to you all the time. The rest of the time I just make do with body language and gestures and I think they get me – well I haven´t ended up in the wrong place or insulted anyone yet so I think I´m doing okay :-)

Have made a bit of a plan for what I want to see in Chile and Argentina and am really hoping to get right to the bottom but it´s tight timewise as I need to make Rio for Carnival on the 20th February so I´ll have to see….. You can get stuck in places if the buses get booked up.

Before I came, I got pretty excited about new food (as I always do) but they are just mad for their ham and cheese sandwiches, ham and cheese toasties, ham and cheese croissants, ham and cheese pastries (lots and lots of pastries)……. I think you get the picture :-) Now I´d never say no to a ham and cheese sambo but come on I feel like it´s all I´ve eaten since I got here. It´s that or pasta which I´ve kinda gone off at the moment. So feeling extremely unhealthy and sluggish on the food front right now. Steak in Argentina might improve things hopefully.

I have to say the buses are fan-feckin-tastic here, serious comfort people. Planning to do a lot of journeys by night as they are so long and I don´t want to waste daytime on the bus. They also serve you dinner or lunch on the bus – take a guess, oh yeah…….. ham and cheese!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anyhoo, I bussed it to Mendoza, Argentina and had a nice day walking around. Chilled out on Plaza Independencia and had a stroll through some of (huge – 420 hectares!!) Parque General San Martin. I had pre-booked my hostal here as I heard things were pretty busy but when I got there, they were overbooked. So the guy there said when this happens, people stay in his buddies´ house which I was a bit apprehensive about but I said I´d go have a look. Now I totally regret staying there, as it was this gorgeous Argentinian house with a courtyard/garden, tucked away off the main thoroughfare. It would be such a lovely place to live for a couple of months. I met a couple of french and americans who were doing just that. Anyhoo it´s back to normal hostel living now. I was still trying to catch up on sleep so that´s pretty much all I did the first day. Went horse-riding through the mountains……….

…….the next day and it was just lovely. Really hot and it´s so good to be back in the heat. Again I happened upon another hostel up in the mountains where I met a lovely english called Lucy who has been travelling for the last 3 years now. This place was great and would be just fantastic to chill out for a while but for me, I was off on a night bus to Valparaiso.

Valparaiso was far bigger and more congested than I had expected. It´s a port town and it is quite touristy, a lot of folk from Santiago come here for the weekend. I teamed up with my room-mate, Rob from English and we walked around to take in the sights. They have these ascensors here which are basically rickety cables cars that bring you up to take in the views of the port and the bay.

The little houses and hotels up in these parts are lovely. Tiny little place, reminiscent of seeside towns in England. Valparaiso also reminds me of southern Italy with all the hilly streets, shuttered windows and the way it´s built into the hills. Went for a bite to eat that night in a local restaurant and it was totally worth the money (a tenner is expensive these days!!). There was a band including a guy playing the accordian and a couple of singers. It was just gorgeous, I can´t even describe it properly but it was so authentic, just local people having a simple, relaxing night out. Think of ¨Duty Free¨ (remember that TV show?) without the cheese but it had the same kind of vibe. I would have loved to capture it on video but I think it would have been totally out of place, in fairness though, it was good enough to invade their space for an evening.

I think when you´re travelling, you go through phases where everything breaks and/or you just get really tired. These last few weeks have been a little like that, the zip on my (fantastic) backpack broke so I had to get it replaced (with the worst zip ever – thanks Kiwi bag fixer guy) and of course the kind officials in Chile don´t seem to like the look of me so my bag has been searched at every given opportunity. They kinda look half sorry for me when it takes ten minutes to zip it back up!!! Next my ipod decided to throw a complete wobbly and refused to work any more so begrudgingly I had to wipe it and start all over again – nooooooooooooo :-( Having a struggle with my old boss in Darwin to get my last payslip so I can file for tax back. Very tired and kinda fluey after the bussing around New Zealand – don´t know why I feel tired, so much more so than we were doing the driving around ourselves in Oz. Anyway the list of tiny irritations goes on, nothing major but they all come together as they always do. When I arrived in South America, I kinda thought…… god do I have the energy for a new continent???? but having had a couple of good nights sleep, I feel soooo much better and ready to take on the world again :-) Oh yeeeeaaaahhhhhhh!!!!

And on that note I´m off to Pucon for a couple of days and then on to Bariloche in Argentina.

More photos on http://www.flickr.com/photos/lindybear/sets/72157613195065500/ http://www.flickr.com/photos/lindybear/sets/72157613156214995/ http://www.flickr.com/photos/lindybear/sets/72157613195118756/