A Travellerspoint blog

Santiago and Valpariso

sunny 22 °C

The border crossing into Chile was rather uneventful. All they did was throw away the sandwiches we brought which steve claims tasted dodgy anyway. The bus attendant guy did try and play with my head by pretending my bag went missing when he was really wearing it. We had a stop over in Osorno for about 5 hours. It was a very long 5 hours. Then we headed onto Santiago. Santiago is apparently the most modern and developed capital city in South America. I can believe that. There´s a number of high rises and loads of malls and people wearing suits. We stayed in a hostel in Bellavista - the Bohemian arty center of the city. Nice vibe about it. We explored the downtown area and found Japanese restaurants. This made me very happy - and the fact it was quite warm in Santiago and sunny. We mainly just mulled around but it was good. Empanadas, beef filled pastry in Argentina, are still around but instead are cheese filled. Most travellers said they didn´t like Santiago but I found it refreshing and lively after being in small towns for so long. The next day we went to Valpariso. Now everyone, including guide books, rave about Valpariso; having been there I have no idea why. It was overcast and freezing cold when we went. Outside of the hills with the fair views there wasn't much to commend it in my opinion. It's a port town but offers no good area to enjoy the water, it´s all big containers and docking equipment - quite unsightly. So glad we didn't stay there. Anyway I was quite glad to be back in Santiago which was sunny and warm again. The next day we went to the big park in the center of Santiago, it´s on a hill. Easy and cheap to get up but not so much to go down. We got up there and found a Virgin Mary statue and various scenic points allowing for views of the city and mountains - if they weren't obstructed by smog. We had "breakfast" up at the restaurant and man was it expensive. Ridiculously so and to rub salt in the wound they even have this "table charge". I have no idea what it´s about but it´s 10% and apparently not the same as tipping. Steve was raving mad and it bittered our experience up there. We went down on what appeared to be a kind of ski lifts and wandered most of the day looking for english books. We did manage to find an english bookstore and it was glorious.

I liked Santiago but I think I´m finding I like big cities more than the countryside. Chile is actually cheaper than I thought. People were saying it was more expensive than Argentina but I don´t think that´s true at all. Next stop is San Pedro de Atacama - a 24 hour bus journey away. Happily this is the last long bus journey we have. The rest can be down in 12 hours or less I think.

For pics of Santiago and Valpariso go to: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=78295&l=15c36&id=684816071

Posted by Janelle_B 12:01 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Bariloche

the winter town

semi-overcast 12 °C

What to say about Bariloche. I´m not sure why but I seemed to be set against this place before I even came there. It´s kind of like a ski resort town. Cold, very touristy, lots of chocolate, lots of outdoor kind of activities like horseriding, skiing, rafting etc. We didn´t do any of that. Mainly because I just wanted to sit around and relax. We´re planning to do a lot of that in Cusco anyway. The views from the town are very scenic and there are a few walks that are worth some time. We mainly did those walks and ate chocolate. The main walk to Cerro Campanario was the best. Supposedly in the top ten views suggested by national geographic (I´m not sure if I believe that rumour though), it is quite a site. The hostel we stayed in Pudu, was tolerable but crumbly at the edges. I had a large bone to pick with the fact the curtain didn´t go fully across the panoramic window and allowed those below in the smoking area to easily look up into the room. The shower also tended to spray all over the bathroom and leave everything in that vicinity soaked.I was glad to go. The chocolate was good though and the last restaurant we went to was like a little hobbit house with a tree growing in the middle. We had parilla there, Argentian bbq, which was good but expensive. It´s across the border to Chile next. Santiago.

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For more pictures of Bariloche check out: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=78262&l=82d9f&id=684816071

Posted by Janelle_B 13:08 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Puerto Madryn

Whales and Penguins

semi-overcast 20 °C

Hmm it´s been a while...mainly I´m lazy. From El Calafate to Puerto Madryn is pretty much a 29 hour bus journey with a changeover at Rio Gallagos. The break made it bareable and because we were in semi-cama the seats went back quite a bit facilitating sleeping. The only point I was annoyed about was the fact they decided to play a horror movie at 10am in the morning. I can´t tolerate horror movies at any time let alone while you`re mulling over breakfast. It wasn`t a good horror movie but mind you there were kids on board and stuff.

Puerto Madryn is on the eastern coast of Argentina and known mainly for it´s proximity to two animal reserves; Punto Tumbo penguin colony and Valdes Penninsula for sea lions and whales. The tours are expensive in my opinion. We did the one to the Valdres Penninsula because we would see more animals and we did see Patagonian hares, Guanicos (cousins of the llama), whales, penguins, sea elephants and even a hairy armadillo. The scenery itself was a bit desolate but it was a decent day even at the molopoly prices. Also the whale seeing boat trip we could have done without on the basis that you could see whales just as closely and free from the docks in Puerto Madryn. You´re aren`t actually allowed on the beaches with the animals, which I suppose is fair though I would have loved to get a closeup of the elephant seals. They actually look quite dead when you see them at first - they only appear to muster energy to throw stones on themselves and occasionally wail like some sort of half-dog/half possessed demon child. The penguins were actually quite close to the fence so we got to see them closeup. Very cute and small - these are megellanic penguins. The guide told us a story of how an emperor penguin got lost and ended up down by the penninsula. Apparently one of the park rangers took it in as it were, the penguin actually followed him around. Apparently they´re like a meter high so it looked like a kid or small person beside him waddling along. About a month later apparently they put the penguin on the boat heading to the antarctic. The guide was in tears because they were like friends. I thought it was a cute story.

We stayed at Hi Patagonia which was a very nice hostel with a minifridge and a TV in the room. I have to say it was quite enjoyable having a TV in the room. Was able to watch some shows in english with Spanish subtitles including the titillating Legally Blond and Two and a Half men...better than nothing I say. The owner of the hostel, Gaston, was quite the accomedating , nice chatty fellow. We´ve been finding the higher rated the hostel the more they´re willing to bend backwards to make you happy and keep that high rating on hostelworld. The restaurant we went to on the first day, El Nautico I think had a fabulous set menu that I feel necessary to menu on the basis that it was one of the most memorable parts of Puerto Madryn. Anyway we left with no regrets onto Bariloche.

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For more pics go to: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=76183&l=dafd5&id=684816071

Posted by Janelle_B 12:08 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

El Calafate and El Chalten

Amazing Patagonia

sunny 12 °C

I don´t think I could be any more impressed with the southern edge of Argentinian Patagonia. Our time spent in El Calafate and El Chalten was great and the views spectacular. Of course words could never cover it.

From Buenos Aires we almost missed our domestic flight to El Calafate because we mistakenly assumed the flight was taking off from the domestic airport. Lesson: Always check the airport your leaving from! Luckily our driver took us straight to the international airport when we realized our mistake...for a considerable fee of course. The man deserved every penny though because we thought for sure we were going to miss our flight and have to deal with the aweful reprocussions in spanish but happily we made it by minutes. Or by the "skin of our balls" as Steve said. Aerolineas Argentina has a great reputation - didn´t stop me from being freaked out on the flight. I talked to one of the very friend flight attendents, who all spoke great english, and it really helped. He was so nice I felt bad I never got to say thank you to him for talking to me for a good hour of the flight. Anyway the first views of Patagonia were stark and desolate. Mountains in the distance but barren wilderness in between. The skies at points that evening looked simply surreal. Chilly and beautiful.

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We stayed at America del Sur...which is probably one of the most reputable hostels in South America. Everyones stayed there or at least heard of it. Clean, spacious, with underfloor heating. The room was very nice and cozy. The staff very helpful and laidback. Fairly expensive town though and touristy. We met up with a friend and ex-colleague in a happy coincidence of luck. The next day we headed out together by taxi to Perito Moreno Glacier. Spectacular. Apparently one of the few glaciers still advancing. The blue of the glacier is amazing and the greenish run off another interesting colour of water I´d never seen. We had the place practically to ourselves because it´s off season. You could occassional hear the cracks of the ice. We went on a boat to see the north side as well. Cold cold wind but again very nice views. We stayed there for a few hours and the taxi driver took us back.

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We debated between doing a long daytrip to Chile´s Torres del Paine park or going to much more nearby El Chalten overnight. We decided to do El chalten - Torres del Paine was 5 hours drive each way and barely any time for walking or trekking. This turned into a great decision. El Chalten is an awesome town. The small hub for trekkers, backpackers and climbers still retains a grassroots "real" feel to it. It hasn´t got too touristy yet. The views were incredible. The treks - challenging and worthwhile. Mount Fitzroy was so impressive. I´ll never forget it. Our second day we got particularly good weather. Anyway I recommend it to all and any Patagonian traveller. The pictures just can´t compare to the experience of feeling those stark peaks beside you.

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The views both leaving and going from El Chalten were amazing also and Ranche Grande hostel, we´re we stayed overnight, was pretty good with a nice restaurant/coffee place build right in. We headed back to el Calafate on the famous Route 40 but I have to say I was loathe to leave the beauty behind. We spotted horses, condors, flamingos and guanacos (cousin to the llama). I love Patagonia.

For more pics check out:
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=75854&l=034c0&id=684816071

Posted by Janelle_B 15:00 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Buenos Aires

Tango mi amor

semi-overcast 18 °C

Buenos Aires is one of those cities you just need to visit because it´s so famous. It´s got a good vibe to it. We arrived early Sunday morning when this vibe is dead. Almost nothing was open and it was quite chilly and overcast. We made our way to the hostel, our bed wasn´t ready yet so we had to wander for a while. Got lost on the subway system there but eventually got back to the room after lunch time for a shower then we headed to San Telmo. The bohemian tango heart of Buenos Aires. There´s an antiques market there on Sundays and at first we thought it was just in a building but then it spilled out into some other streets, and with it crowds and street performers and it a very good atmosphere. By then it was getting sunny as well, so that helped. Later that day after a nap we headed to Recoleta where another market is, however by the time we got there it was mostly done. This one appears to be much more popular with the locals because hundreds of teenagers were meandering around amongst hippies. Also good atmosphere if one was in the mood for reggae, the smell of ganj and hoards of loud teens. We weren´t so much in the mood so we ate and headed back. The next day though, once we were more fully rested, we headed back to Recoleta to see the famous cemetary where the weathly and famous get to be buried. Obviously the concept ´you can´t bring it with you´was lost on these folks because some of their graves weren´t much of a step down from their previous lifestyle. Frivolity that easily falls into the catagory of ridiculous, it is quite a city, and really very much it´s own city. Streets, houses, streetlamps the whole enchilada. It´s very pretty to look at though and beautiful from an artistic perspective. The grave of Eva Peron, though undistinguished compared to most and apparently a source of contraversy resides within. It definitely is worth a visit.

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The next day we headed to Palmero, which is technically one of the recommended ´sites´of Buenos Aires. I´m not sure why. While it is a pretty park, it wasn´t all that interesting. We went to plaza del Mayo after which has a pink palace and through the shopping area where we were able to pick up a few english books. Buenos Aires as a whole I found a bit of a typical city. The buildings were pretty but unremarkable and very European. It does have a good vibe and would probably be great to live in but I suppose I´m more interested in natural phenomena while in a continent like South America. As that was our last day we went to a tango show and that is what makes Buenos Aires worth a visit. Tango. Impressive dancing and atmosphere that makes you want to learn. Beautiful music, beautiful dancing and good food. That was the most worthwhile part of our trip.

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Other Points
The people seemed decent enough. Argentina as a whole seems much more safe than Brazil. The food is all pasta and pizza and meat. I´m not sure how they live. It´s like coffee and croissants for breakfast and empanadas (meat filled pastry) for lunch and pizza or pasta for dinner. Not my style but I´ve survived thus far. The empanadas de carne are great. Beef is in great availability and value. You could get two steaks for like $5 Pesos (1.10EUR) at the grocery store. You can barely get a bottle of water here for that price. The weather has been pretty mild. Not at all hot like I would have liked but I guess when they´re coming out of winter that´s too be expected.

Check out more pics here:
http://www.new.facebook.com/album.php?aid=75564&l=129db&id=684816071

Posted by Janelle_B 13:32 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

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