A Travellerspoint blog

BARILOCHE

Coldest place so far - out with the jackets !!!


View Sparksters Big Adventure on Sparkster's travel map.

Sunday 21st to Tuesday 23rd December 2008

Sunday 21st

Stayed here in a nice little hotel on the edge of town ; Bariloche is essentially a tourist town, very popular with Argentinian visitors all year round but particularly popular in the winter ski season. Also big with school trips and the place was overflowing with school kids when we got there.

Its very beautiful and our hotel ( Hosteria Costa Del Nahuel) was situated right on the edge of the lake - quite sunny but a very cold wind meant we had our jackets on as soon as we arrived. And the lovely outdoor pool stayed very unused by all of us

Marcello took Kirsty to the Doctors about her foot while we tried to find a restaurant for lunch - had more disappointing Pizza, same doughy base although I did get some Tomato puree this time.

We used the afternoon to take a chair lift up Cerro Campanario ( I was a little bit uneasy - not great with heights, although it was only 1049 metres high, but chair lift wasnt very substantial !!!!) However there were brilliant views of the lakes and of the Isla Victoria which we're due to visit tomorrow which made the hike up worthwhile.

Kirtsy came with us against Doctors advice but she's having a day of rest and elevation tomorrow to allow the antibiotics to kick in.

We had a lovely meal at Don Molina, a restaurant very near the hotel, which I loved the look of til I realised it was full cow hides on the walls and not black and white wallpaper as I'd originally thought. Excellent food though, so well worth a visit and I totally went for it by having a Merringue based desert tonight as well - Bariloche is famous for its chocolate so not suprsingly it was in nearly everything.

.
Monday 22nd December

Wasnt really in the mood for our boat trip today to Isla Victoria and then the Arraynes Forrest, both on the Nahuel Huapi Lake. Evreyone on the boat was Spanish except for us and a few Americans , oh and the GAP group we met (a rival tour company). Joked all day that at least they had their guide with them - Marcello had opted not to come and as a result we felt like a bit of a hinderance at times when the spanish speaking boat guide had to throw a few english words at us.

Very cold and windy on the boat so we sat indoors, and it was crammed with tourists so nowhere near as relaxing as the trip in Paraty. We kind of entertained ourselves for the day - posing stupidly at bits of old trees and cracking jokes about the Eucalyptus trees ( the guide bored us with a story about male and female trees which we used as our days entertainment- you had to be there !!!).

The second island was even less enthralling - and even the spanish speaking guide left us to our own devices. Really we could've been almost anywhere.

Journey back was a bit better as we had some sun and I was able to sit up on the deck and cringe at the people feeding seagulls and taking photos. No-one believed me when I said that the Seagulls in Peterhead would rather eat your arm than a poltry little cracker.

Finished off the evening with a lovely meal at Familia Weiss, where I compensated for the lack of Morgan's rum by drinking incredibly strong Bacardi's all night. Food was amazing here - definitely worth all the good write ups it gets. Although none of us had its famous Wild Boar, the restaurants signature dish.

Joe and I wasted a few hours at the end of the night in an Irish pub called The Wilkenny ( not sure if thats a mis-spelling or not - we didnt get its Irish connection !!!). Good pub with some excellent 80's music ( cant remember when I last heard A Flock of Seagulls and Men Without Hats in a pub !!!) and it was very busy ; seemed to be getting even busier when we left at 3am to stagger home. These Argentinians have some stamina when it comes to partying I must say

Tuesday 23rd DecemberI didnt quite manage a morning shopping trip around town, as had a very sore head. Bit miffed I didnt go really as everyone came back with amazing bits and pieces. Anyway, we headed down to the bus station for around 11.30pm and got ready for our trip to Puerto Varas, Chile over the Andes by bus. Marcello booked our tickets yesterday so although the bus was busy we had comfortable seats and got our lugage checked on no problem. The journey itself wasnt as picturesque as Id expected - through the Samore/Puyehue Pass ( I think the more impressive way to go is on a two night trek staying at Puella on the way and using a boat for part of it). Anyway, it was pretty if not excatly spectacular scenery.

We went through a small town called Villa La Angostura, which was very pretty and seemed reasonable enough for visiting ( Im wondering if the famous Angosturra Bitter comes from here - given its in Pisco Sours, LOL ??).

Yet more form filling at the border point, Pajaritos, which was in the middle of nowhere, and populated by some of the biggest flies you've ever seen. Given the state of Kirsty's leg none of us were taking any chances and I have to admit to trying to swat them at every opportunity. The border patrol put a sniffer dog onto the bus to make sure we didnt take any dairy or organic produce into Chile but I reckon he had a bit of an off day as he missed my half eaten ham sandwich that Id left on my seat.

The only town of any real note that we went through before reaching our destination was Osorno, which actually looked really grim when we approached it and certainly didnt paint a great picture of Chile to those who hadnt already seen some of it. Apparently it was founded and abandoned a few times during the 16th/17th centuries before becoming one of the main centres for German immigation , which became fairly widespread throughout the area.

We arrived in Puerto Varas a bit earlier than expected - around 7pm ( 7 hour journey) and straight away it felt German, or sort of 'mountain chalet'-ish. Had a bit of a hike to our hotel from the bus station too - not the best, and the hotel seems to be quite far out of town. Anyway, here in Puerto Varas ( or 'Little Germany' as its known for Christmas !!!).

Sure it will be entertaining !!

Posted by Sparkster 11:27 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

BUENOS AIRES

Tango, Football and lots of Wine !!

sunny 38 °C
View Sparksters Big Adventure on Sparkster's travel map.

Thursday 18th to Sunday 21st December

Thursday 18th

Argentina is one hell of a hot place !!!! Couldnt believe the heat in Buenos Aires - or the size of our bedrooms in the Concorde Hotel ( basically about the size of a shoe box).

We arrived late morning and after dropping of our bags went out for lunch, with Marcelo offering us the best Pizza in Buenos Aires at a restaurant he knew.

I was incredibly disappointed - Chris and I shared a Pizza between us that was all dough and cheese, completely covered in ham and not a bit of tomato puree in sight. They used far too much greasy cheese and just to finish off the whole thing they decorated it with sliced hard boiled eggs. My excitement at getting Pizza at last was crushed in about two seconds. Dont go to BA and expect decent Pizza - what you get is a greasy kind of Pizza Pie with no tomato base. Gutted !!!! Who the hell puts eggs on a Pizza ???

We then walked about for a bit to get our bearings, getting to the Plaza de Mayo just 45 minutes or so too late to see the Madres de Plaza de Mayo do their weekly march around it. I heard about this group ( 'The Mothers' after watching a BBC documentary one night about Argentina's forgotten children - children who were illegally adopted in the mid/late 1970's , most being the children of known activists that the government killed or imprisoned. The Mothers organistaion was set up to try and find the missing children and re-unite them with the remaining members of their birth families. Quite an amazing programme and I really wanted to see the Mothers, who all wear white headscarves and photos of their children/grandchildren around their necks. Sadly, all I got was them packing up for the day - and they were quite rude to me when I tried to buy a T shirt. Not quite what Id expected.

Buenos Aires has a very Spanish feel to it - the most Spanish city Ive been to so far, could easily have been Barcelona, quite amazing architecture although it doesnt seem to have the same kind of old historical buildings as some of those cities would. Everything seems to date from the late 1800's / early 1900's, with a few exceptions.

Quite blown away by the sheer size of Avenue 9 de Julio - the biggest Avenue in the world, with 9 lanes of traffic. Takes half an hour and a fair bit of navigation to walk across it LOL !!!

We had a fairly non descript set dinner at a Restaurant near the hotel - everyone else loved it, I thought it was very mediocre. Got excited when they had Sidra ( cider) on the menu - but it turned out to be something very fizzy and very sweet like alcoholic Schloer !! Once again my hopes were dashed a little.

Friday 19th December

We had a free day today, but went as a group to Recoletta to look at Evita's grave in the world famous Graveyard (apparently one of Buenos Aires highlights !!!). The cemetary was unusual - and a bit creepy, but definitely worth visiting. All the coffins were in Mausoleums - some of them could even be seen through glass etc, which wasnt exactly great. We just followed the thongs to the section of the cemetary wher Evita was burried - then I stood a bit aghast as all these tourists queued up to have their photos taken next to the entrance to the mausoleum. A little bit morbid !!!

After a quick coffee stop at a trendy little cafe near the Art Museum ( very good apple pie !!!) we visited the National Museum of Fine Arts ( when it eventually opened). I loved this - wasnt expecting there to be so many well known works by artists such as Gaugin, Monet, Rembrandt, and even a few british painters . I could've spent a lot longer inside but rushed through it so I wasnt holding up the rest of the group. Turns out I was the second person out - they were all still lapping it up upstairs ( I missed the top bit out - which I regret big time !!!)

Chris and I then left everyone else and did a walking tour of BA in the afternoon - walking back to Recoletta first to visit the church we'd seen and Del Pilar Clositers, where there was authentic gregorian style chanting going on as we visited. Couldnt figure out if it was the monks rehearsing or just a CD being played. Umm, come to think of it do Monks rehearse ??

Loved the walking tour, especially as Chris took charge and made sure we didnt get lost at all - we walked from Recoletta to Congreso de la Nacion, trying to find the Opera House on the way ( its closed and completely covered for renovations so we didnt see any of it - ha to buy a postcard of it to make do instead) then walked the length of the Avenue de Mayo looking at various sights/buildings along the way. Even managed to get a Madres de Plaza de Mayo T-shirt from their offices on the Avenue. Shame its a size too small though !!!

I succumbed to peer Pressure once again and did a junk food stop ( Burger King this time) for lunch - completely Chris's idea (honest). To be fair it was quick, cheap and cheerful and didnt get us too waylaid from the walking. As per yesterday it was scarily hot - reapplied the factor 30 religiously but could still feel myself burning !!!

I was a bit disappointed that we didnt stop for a coffee or a little alcoholic beverage at Tortoni's - the oldest cafe in Buenos Aires ( infact the whole of the country - opened in 1858), but as Chris said we were a bit short of time. I stuck my head in through the door and it was like walking back in time. Very old fashioned !! We consoled ourselves with the fact that the guide books said the service was exceptionally slow and that waiters often ignored customers ( the others all went there for lunch and said the complete opposite by the way so I wouldnt believe everything in The Lonely Planet or Rough Guide !). If I was doing it again I'd definitely pop in for something to eat.

Quick trip back to the hotel and we were off to a Tango Lesson and Tango Dinner Show. I was a bit sceptical of the whole thing as I thought it seemed a bit touristy but it was actually incredibly good. The lesson was awful - I was so bad ( though marginally better than Chris !!) and Marcello videoed the whole thing on his camera - again, only those and such as those will get to see me in action.

The show was excellent - some of the dancers have recently won national awards and you could see why. Of course the drink flowed too so we were all very drunk by the end of it ( would definitely recommend it, food was very good too -Complejo Tango on Avenue Belgrano) Joe Kirsty and myself ended up in an Irish bar late on - and things got a bit messy. I escaped around 3am to the hotel only to be woken about an hour later by Joe at reception needing a hand with Kirsty. We had a job and a half getting her up to her room, and matters were made worse by the fact that the night porter was convinced we were trying to bring a prostitute into the hotel - he kept saying "NO !! NO !!" as we dragged her up the stairs. Funny now but a bit close to the bone at the time - I had visions of us all being thrown out into the street !!

Saturday 20th December

Up with hangovers ; Kirsty looked suprisingly fresh but opted to go shopping instead of visiting La Boca - the poorer part of BA, with an even more European feel than the rest of it. It actually had a very artsy Italian vibe to it and depsite all the warnings we felt very safe their. I got acosted by the ugliest and oldest Tango dancer you've ever seen who wanted me top pay to have my photo taken with her - I ran a mile laughing as she eventually got her claws into Joe , who was then photographed by a bus load of Japanese tourists with the woman around his waist. I loved the colours of the buildings and treated myself to a couple of hand painted pictures by a local street artist - very classy. Visited the Museo de Bellas Artes Benito Quinquela Martin - an Argentinian Artist who painted Boca life, especially the ship/boat building that used to go on there. Was pretty cool that they also had his living quarters on show - and there were live working spaces throughout the museum where todays young artists were painting/sculpting in studios.

Today's main event was the football match between Boca Juniors and San Lorenzo that Marcelo had managed to get us tickets for. The Argentinian League Championships had ended in a 3 way tie at the top, so play offs had been introduced - and although tickets were like gold dust Marcello managed to get us some. Was an experience and a half - we got picked up at 2.30pm along with a whole heap of other tourists brave enough to venture to the game and got to the stadium around 3pm. After a bit of queueing in scorching heat we were inside and ushered to the back section of the Boca terracing - supposedly the safest bit for tourists/psuedo plastic football fans like myself. The match didnt kick off until 6.30pm so we had almost 3 hours to hang about and watch the build up to the match, but it was really entertaining - never seen anything like it. It just kept getting better and better - everything from fireworks and samba drums to the biggest flags Ive ever seen. We even got hosed down by the local fire brigagde as the temperature became a bit unberable, and that started a real fan frenzy !! Nothing like this ever happens at Eatser Road, eh Pete ??. San Lorenzo had already won the first play off match against Tigre so if they won tonight they would be crowned champions. Of course, being in the Boca end we all soon became die hard Boca fans - the singing and the music just 'gets into your blood' ( LOL - told you I ws a plastic fan, almost bought a T-shirt too !!!!) And after an amazing evening we all went home happy when Boca won 3-1. Had a real job getting out of the stadium though - once the Boca fans won they just wanted to keep on partying, and the ones that did decide to leave were pushing through the crowds all sweaty and hyper. Organised madness !!

Would thoroughly recommed going to a football match for anyone who's spending time in Argentina or the rest of South America for that matter, as its so different to anything you'd see at home, The fans are really passionate about their teams and its sheer entertainment from start to finish with areal party atmosphere. Never thought Id see the day that a football match would be one of my holiday highlights ( unbelievable eh ??)

We were all shattered when we got back to the hotel and Kirsty's leg was in a real mess as she had an infected bite from the BBQ night, but after a quick half hour we headed off to the harbour area, Puerto Madero for a meal at a steak restaurant. I was kind of too tired to appreciate it, but it was a lovely place and full of late night diners. Kind of regret not wandering down around the harbour area before - seems very upmarket and exclusive, and it was only minutes from our hotel. I was very impatient to get to bed though and couldnt be bothered with all the hanging about at the end of the meal. Also declined a late night drink with Joe and left him to head off to another Irish bar by himself.

Oh, I also got myslefa littel Argentinian Haircut this morning - first time I have even had a haircut where my hair actually looks longer after it, think I had a few communication problems with the hairdresser !!!

Sunday 21st December

We were up and ready to head to the airport for 9.30pm - everyone really worried about Kirsty's leg as she can hardly walk on it now and its going black. Thank god it wasnt mine that got bitten that badly.

Bit sad saying bye to Chris, whos staying for the rest of the day in Buenos Aires before he starts his journey home - be strange not having him around as part of the group. Hopefully catch up with him in Wellington though.

Dont remember a lot about the flight to Barriloche - apart from fact that I fell asleep. again it was pretty turbulant at times - scary stuff, although I still slept through some of it.

Posted by Sparkster 17:05 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

IGUAZU

Even more impressive from the Argentinian side !!

38 °C
View Sparksters Big Adventure on Sparkster's travel map.

Wednesday 17th December 2008

Argentina definitely milk the falls for everything they can get in comparison to Brazil - we had a local guide this morning who took us through the array of walks and hikes around the falls. Once in the Parque we transferred onto a kind of oversized Jeep for a drive through some of the thick forrest surrounding the falls before boarding a boat for a drive through/under/right up close to the Falls. Amazing !!

Although I got seriously wet ( far wetter than Id expected) it really was an outstanding trip - I didnt feel 100% safe either though as some of the rapids we crossed over were quite treacherous and the boat did a fair bit of bumping about. Joe and I purchased the DVD of the trip - they had a camera man photographing us all in the boat. Its hilarious viewing, I look petrified from start to finish ( seriously scared, though trying to act nonchalant - not a good look !!). I'll hire it out to those interested in a good laugh when I get back. Once again Im impressed that Ive 'pushed trhe boat out' ( excuse the pun) and done something a little bit out of my comfort zone.

Took the rest of the day for me to dry out - even in 38 degree heat, but I loved every minute of it. Struggled a bit with my sunburnt feet - even Factor 30 wasnt keeping them protected. The views just kept on coming as well, and just like yesterday I took far too many photos, will need to edit them down later. Even saw a Crocodile ( or was it an Alligator - Im not sure !!)

Our last night in Puerto Iguazu consited of a Barbeque at the pool - Marcello slaved over it whilst we did the tour of the falls ( yeah, right - he spent the day in the pool; we didnt get our food til 9.30pm !!!). Now Im not a massive red meat fan ( especially when its fatty or has bones attached) and Argentina is renowned for its steaks so I wasnt exactly the best candidate for a BBQ but I enjoyed it - we all got bitten though, with poor Nikta having to go to bed early as she was being attacked merciously by mosquitos.

The wine flowed til the early hours , although I called it a day reasonably early - yet another flight tomorrow, this time to Buenos Aires where we're staying for 3 whole nights. Im ecstatic at the thought of not having to live out of a bag for a few days !!!

Posted by Sparkster 03:36 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

PARATY/SAO PAULO/IGUAZU FALLS

Lots of travelling but an amazing experience at the end of it !! My highlight so far !!!

sunny 32 °C
View Sparksters Big Adventure on Sparkster's travel map.

Tuesday 16th December 2008 ( Well behind with the blogging now but doing my best !!)

Most of today was spent travelling - we left at a shockingly early time to travel by minivan to Sao Paulo airport for our flight to Iguazu ( took about 5 and a half hours). I was like a half shut knife for most of the journey, dosing on and off with the old Ipod on ( still playing James Morrison's newest album to death on it !!).

Actuallly it was a pleasant enough journey and we arrived at the Airport in loads of time for our flight - which ended up being postponed/delayed by over an hour ( first delayed flight Ive had so far !!!).

Wasnt overly happy at the airport though as we were in the Domestic section but could see all the International passengers and their duty free shops/restaurants through a glass partion. Kind of rubbed salt into the wounds as all we had was a fairly poor cafe which sold me a shockingly bad Panini. I was close to having a huff as we'd passed a Pizza Hut in the main terminal building which Id gotten very excited about. Sod's law that there wasnt one in domestic departures. Ive been craving Pizza ( along with Morgan's and Cider since I left the UK !!)

Fairly okay flight to Foz de Iguacu, although very bumpy at the end. Joe managed to lose his travel guide - which turned up under a seat 8 seats infront, it was that bumpy. It was all go when we arrived - we got collected then taken straight to the Brazilian side of the falls, arriving their around 4.15pm. Brazil offers the best panoramic views of the falls whilst Argentina offers supposedly closer ones, and our plan was to visit Brazil this afternoon then cross over the border and check into our hotel and spend the following day doing the Argentinian side.

Was incredibly hot when we arrived - and I'd also covered myself in insect repellent ( having read how full on the mosqito's are near here !!). To be honest I dont think the insects were as bad as they've been elsewhere and I survived the visit with no bites.

The falls are just amazing - cant believe that I didnt make the connection that the film "The Mission" was partly filmed here ( Joe informed me of that one !!). Once he told me I totally recognised scenes from the film. Kirsty also maintained that the original Tarzan TV series with Johnny Weissmulller had its opening scene filmed here - Im not as sure of that one.

Either way the falls are breathtaking - everyone was saying that they were far more impressive than Niagara ( cant comment as Ive not been there - YET !!). I couldnt get over the sheer size of them - four times as wide as Niagara and they continued to get better and better as we walked round towards them. Mark ( and everyone else actually) went into photography overdrive mode - couldnt stop clicking away. As a result my camera died on me just as we reached the most impressive part fo the falls. Got well and truly soaked by the spray posing for photos next to the it.

The trip over the border was a little more exciting than usual as Kirsty had managed to lose her entry papers - cue a bit of panicking from Marcello, who informed a very pale Kirsty that she could be fined up to US$300 or possibly even refused entry. Thankfully he manged to smooth it over with the female passport control guards - insisting Kirsty stayed inside the van so he could work his charm.

We then travelled on to Puert Iguazu, a kind of purpose built little town about 20km from the falls on the Argentinian side and checked into our hotel - the very nice Hotel Alexander, with its own little swimming pool in the back.

Marcello took us to an amazing restaurant called AQUA, which I just loved - everything about it was amazing, the service, the food and of course the wine - which Marcello took control over organising. Argentinians just love their wine and will spend ages picking out the right kind of Malbec or Syrah to go with their dinner. Have to say I stuck with beer - Ive already learnt that ordering a beer is quicker and it arrives much faster, although I did sample the wines too ( typical greedy scot !!)

Posted by Sparkster 15:47 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

MERRY CHRISMAS EVERYONE

Way behind with this blog now !!

sunny 20 °C
View Sparksters Big Adventure on Sparkster's travel map.

Just to say Merry Christmas to anyone and everyone back home who may be reading this - Im seriously behind with the blog, trying to keep it up to date but finding it hard going ( maybe cause Im writing too much waffle LOL !!!)

Anyway, am currently in Puerta Varas, Chile where I'll be spending Christmas - we're just about to head out for a meal now, complete with Santa Hats that Joe expertly managed to buy from a market seller in town !!! Reckon we got the only 4 Santa hats in Puerta Varas. Who says Brits abroad do themselves an injustice !!!!!!!

Will get the rest of this written up in due course ( hopefully tomorrow as we have a lot of free time before our flight to Santiago tomorrow night).

Spent today sightseeing around Puerto Varas ( the locals call this Little Germany - and to be honest it does look like somewhere in the Alps, and everyone looks Germanic !!) and then treked up a volcano - which was covered in snow, impressed with the photos I have to say.

Thanks again for all the comments - and promise I'll fill in all the blanks over the next few days - almost done with South America which Im a bit gutted about. Will need to come back at some stage.

Mum, Dad - will try and ring tomorrow at somepoint as have a phone in this hotel room, so that should get me dutiful son brownie points LOL !!! ( Did you get my last email ???)

Have a great Christmas !! Mx.

Posted by Sparkster 14:33 Archived in Chile Comments (1)

(Entries 11 - 15 of 40) « Page 1 2 [3] 4 5 6 7 8 »