A Travellerspoint blog

April 2011

An epic road trip to see glaciers and get cold

El Chalten - El Calafate

snow 5 °C
View RTW Part 2 (Aus/New Z/Cook Islands ... home time) on RosiePony's travel map.

So it's probably time I write this blog since I have another 5.5 hrs on this coach, at least I've done 19.5 hrs already! I am heading into 'real' Patagonia now, deep south of Argentina. As I look out of the window I see steppe vegetation leading up to a medium plateau. It's hard to guess the size from my distance away from it. The sun is making the clouds have silver linings and it's extremely windy outside, very hot inside thanks to the coach heaters (sweaty). We passed a herd of lamas a few hrs ago. Other than that I've seen one field of sheep and continuous steppe bushes. It's so beautiful. And vast. And empty. Were travelling on a gravel road, hence the time it takes to get to El Chalten, hiking capital of Patagonia (apparantly), therefore what is little ole me heading there for? Well, whilst I'm no hardcore northface climber I do like an afternoon hike so I am rising to the challenge of trying to find some 3-4 hr round treks. There should be some. If not, I'll go on a horse ride :-) After that I head to El Calafate, don't ask me why everything starts with an 'El' down here... For a trip to the glacia, not had enough of them in NZ!

Ok. So after arriving in El Chalten at 12.30am(!) and walking round for a good 45 mins in the Freezing (bitter) wind Luca and I (the Italian I got the bus with from my hostel) arrived at Aylen Aike, my home away from home in hiking land. I love it there. Always a wood fire burning to heat the place, great hot showers, and a massive DVD collection (in case of rain). Luckily for me I had glorious weather (cold n windy but sun occassionally n no rain!) for my two day stay. Day 1- We hiked to the waterfall, took lots of photos of snow capped mountains (parents, you have the joy of sitting through my epic landscape slide show on my return! Bird, you won't escape from it either- geography geeks together!!) then had lunch. Then we hiked back through townto the other end, taking all of 15 mins(!) to hike up the hill to the condor mirrador (lookout) where we did see some Condors! Massive birds but so graceful. Then onto another lookout over the nearby lago's (lakes) with a backdrop of tall snowcapped mountains to add to the effect. I CANNOT get enough of the landscapes here!!! I am SO coming back here; when I have more pennies! Lotto ticket, here I come.

Anyway, today I hiked to Lago (lake) Torres just below Cerro (mount) Torres. Indescribable satisfaction! I hiked through woodlands so varied in greens, past grey blue rivers, pertrified trees surrounded by red, orange and green bushes contrasting vividly, to a wide river bed of pebbles and boulders and sand with bushes intermitently spread around. Then uphill to a crest where I finally caught my breath and saw below me a rippling lake surface containig icebergs of varied shapes and sizes (all melting) flowing out from the glacier wall a good mile away. Up the ridge I climbed to get a better view including the surrounding mountains, especially the ones containing the crevasse fields and snow drifts up the mountain sides. Snow was peppered around the sides of the ridge and the wind made it very cold so I only spent half an hr absorbing the view before heading back on myself. I wanted to be back by 3pm which I was, the hike in total taking 5.5 hrs- a good time :-)

The following day Luca and I left Sebastian and his fab hostel behind to move onto El Chalten, where lies the Puerto Marino glacier. We arrived after lunch and trekked uphil to our new abode: I Kew Ken hostel- it had a sheep outside! Lovely and warm inside with a great view over the lake and town. Luca and I strolled I to town to do a few admin jobs; banks, Internet and empanadas!back to the hostel to relax then to the supermarket to buy dinner. I have never experienced such bitter wind! So cold! My eyes were running, in fact we ran there to get out of it- unheard of for me I know! Pasta for us and leftovers for the dogs.

After breakfast we went to the bus station and went to the PM glacier- stunning. We had an hrs boat trip to get up close to it (30m away for safety), the wind biting at us all the while. Then we went to the balconies, built specially for viewing the glacier wall. When ice breaks off it is thunderous! It smashes into the water below and if you're lucky you catch the moment. I saw a few chunks fa of in the 5 hrs I spent there, with my flask of hot water and soups n hot choccy :-)

We went to see flamingos at the wetland bird sanctuary the following day since we both liked El Calafate. Our hostel cooked an asado for dinner 9.30pm and the wine flowed so I slept well. It was nice to spend a day doing somehin different since we headed over the boarder the next day to Puerto Natales.

Posted by RosiePony 14:26 Archived in Argentina Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Lakes, lakes and... A few more lakes!

Bariloche - El Bolson

all seasons in one day 10 °C

My timing is impeccable. I arrived to a wine tasting party that evening at my hostel, two flats on floor 10 of a high rise apartment block overlooking the lake and square in Bariloche- stunning views. So off I went to the supermarket, spending the last of my cash on food and wine. I then tried to get more out only to find it was a no go. My bank had put a block on my card since I don't often use that one and my other card had run out of money (I'd gotten so excited about life in Mendoza I hadn't bothered with boring money admin for a while- lesson learnt!). So having transferred money into my account it was a waiting game whilst I changes some 'emergency' dollars at the hostel to keep me going. That night I met Lambrose, 33 from Cyprus. We agreed to hire a car and do the 7 lakes road the following day. This would take us through Villa de la Angustora onto San Martin de Los Andes. By the time we hired a car and set off It was 1pm and we did a lot of picture stops onthe way. We tried to inquire about stayin in a refugio (hostel in the middle of knowwhere) but it had no room unless we camped- no thank you! So on we drive until we reached SC de Los Andes at 9pm! We found a hostel and despite being very tired, went out to look round the town. We found Ku a Parrilias restaurant (steak house) where i had the best venison steak ever with glorious red wine. I certainly got a sound sleep that night :-)
Off to a bit of a shaky start the next morning as Lambrose accidentally broke a glass window as he closed it. The hostel staff ended up shouting at us so we made a swift departure (nothing to do with me though!) back to Bariloche along the paved road eitherside of which was steppe vegetation, lakes or mountains. Day 2 was my favourite road trip! We arrived into bariloche at about 7, in time to buy bus tickets for my onward travel to El Bolson, return the car and make dinner.

On the bus to El Bolson i sat next to an Argentinian lady who despite the fact I told her I couldn't speak Spanish, insisted on talking at me in Spanish in the hope that some infiltrated through to my brain. As it happened some did and now I know some colours! I immediatley felt like she could be my argentinian mum (nothing to replace u though mum!) as I showed her pictures of my family and when we had got off the bus, we had our photo taken together, and she gave me her email address to email her photos too. She even helped point me in the direction of the tourist info centre for which I am grateful- may be I've made a pen pal eh?! The best thing, she was from mendoza so I can go back on my next visit!

I got directions to my hostel, a warm pine feeling lodge just out of town that's very warm upstairs but cool downstairs, and serves dulche de letche for breakfast (love it!) and settled in, chatting to my roomies, a nice german girl who's name I forget and Itai, from Israel. It's BBQ night (see, good timing!) which unbeknown to me, starts at midnight! Or it did after the wine and UNO and cards we all played :-)

Spent the next day with Itai, walking up to the lookout, picking fruit from trees along the way enjoying the sunshine and views. Then we had icecream, my first in Argentina- amazing! Vanilla and dulche de letche all for $13! about £2 yum! Dinner was steak cooled by Itai- he's a chef so who am I to try and help/hinder him in the kitchen? And it was very yummy indeed! We had a bit of a craft evening, learning to make paper boxes...dont ask!

Itai left for Bariloche so i went for a walk to the lake with Lawrence, who's French and not very lucky with directions! We got off the bus too early and went to the tourist info centre who told us it was a 1 hr walk to the lake. Or we could walk in the hills to a lookout then to the lake...we chose the latter and 5 hrs later (!) we arrived at the lake. It was 7 by the time we got home, my knees paying the price :s all good fun in hindsight! A hot empanada on the way home lifted our spirits n after a hot shower, and dinner life was fine again!

Posted by RosiePony 14:08 Archived in Argentina Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Wine, bikes, horses, gliding, asado's and MEAT= Argentina

Mendoza - Bariloche - El Bolson

sunny 27 °C

I met Leandro at the bus terminal having easily navigated the metro system, im a dab hand at this after the London Undergroud! Onto the coach from Santiago to Mendoza, a 5 hr journey watching the mountains come n go. I fell in love on that journey, I love snowcapped mountains and a sense of peace descends on me as I arrived into Mendoza, the city of wine!
We stayed at the same hostel as Laura, meeting up with her for late dinner and a glass of wine. Naturally start as you mean to go on! However since we were all knackard we decided to have an early night, something around 1am?
The following days event was with Mr Hugo, his notourious wine tour reccommended to me by numerous fravellers id met along my trip. Me, Leandro, Laura, Dave, Solae and Lene got the bus out of the city to Mr Hugos, were supplied with bikes and more importantly wine, allowing us to wobble off on our self guided wine tour :-) we started with a chocolate tasting, absynthe included, as well as dulch de letche - best thing ever; spreadable fudgeyness! Having the warm feeling in our tummies we continued onto the furtherst winery so as not to have too hard a job coming back! We stopped for a lovely lunch of spinach and butternut squash pie with rice and (of course!) red wine then had a few more tasting sessions. Back to the beer garden to end the brilliant day if sunshine before returning the bikes to Mr Hugo and a fond farewell with yet more wine! We had met a trio of siblings during the tasing and had arraned to go out for dinner with them, so it was a race against the clock to get back in time and get ready- we failed being an hr late. However, still ended up eating with them, having a ball and a few more drinks before bed. I realisethis is the way to become Argentinian! Everything is later, chilled out and often spur of the moment?!
The next day (I'm not recalling days of the week, it all rolls into one long day after a while!) we all went horseriding with Matias, our hostel owner. We drove to a crystal clear blue (Azul- see I learnt colours!) lake perfectly reflecting it's scenery, before heading into the hills, condors flying above us! We arrived at Daniels house, our Goucho, where his 5 kids were soon being entertained by us - such cute kids! Then after a snack of home made doughnuts (om!) and a drink of Maté (herbal tea) it was time to saddle up! I rode Valentino, who I learned to trust despite him always wanting to be at the front of the crowd or next to Matias' horse (horses had best buds too it seems). Glorious weather, beautiful landscapes- we spotted a lama up the hill too!- and a yummy lunch of beef schnitzel (it wasn't, but I can't recall the name and it's the closest description I have at hand) with tomatoes in bread with wine. All in all everyone had a fulfilling day, proved by the silence of sleep in the car on the journey Home!
I had intended to leave the following day but in the morning when I went to buy my bus ticket from the station it was cheaper for me to leave the next day instead, which I didn't mind since I liked spending time in Mendoza. A city with a relaxed atmosphere. So when I returned to the hostel, asking Wout the Belgium tourguide what I should do that afternoon, I was suprised when he said paragliding! So, taking spontanity at it's word, I thought 'why not?' and signed up. However a Kiwi called Trent upped the anti by agreeing to it 5 mins after walking into the hostel, bein scared of heights to boot! So off we all went, to run(!) off a cliff, catch the wind and soar upwards with the birds! I had a fab tome up there, enjoyingthe aerial views, sunlight glinting off the mountain sides, tottaly at ease in the harness. On the decline we did twirls and swirls and then the landing came. Not the most graceful of landing but safe all the same! The of to the pub to wait for the rest of the team. After a few beverages, someone suggested an asado (BBQ), to which we all lit up in smiles. We definatley got spoilt that evening as two of the guys cooked chorrizo sausage, black pudding sausage, beef ribs and steak with green peppers and eggs as well as the most divine onions (yep that's right- never have they been so tasty) in the world! Wine flowed as did the food and fun was had by all. Finally a trip to a lookout over Mendoza, it's lights twinkling in the dark of night.
I spent the next afternoon chilling out in the main Plaza with Tent after our attempt at shopping failed due to siestas! So we grabbed a tea and lemon pie and chatted about life whilst people watching. On the way back to the hostel i found a camping shop open so off i went to buy the final items I needed for Pataginia. I had a farewell dinner with Solea whih was rather yummy, grabbed my stuff, said farewels and got the bus south to Bariloche, a mere 15hrs away!

Posted by RosiePony 14:04 Archived in Argentina Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Empanadas, Pisco Sourz and Spanish!

Santiago, Chile

sunny 31 °C

After a long flight landing before I set off on the same day (timezones, grrr!) I arrived in Santiago, the capital of Chile. I got a taxi shuttle to my hostel, in providencia, a red painted building slightly faded, crumbled n run down looking. My heart sank n I recalled what it was to 'really' travel again. Oz n NZ had made me wet behind the ears as I worried they would. However, upon entering The hostel I was met by the nicest chillian guy behind the desk who showed me to my room. Trying not to instantly get in bed to sleep, I scoped out the hostel. Kitchen-small but functional, something I didn't care about since the main reason I booked the hostel was for the included breakfast and dinners - om! This lead onto a lounge area that was again functional but not overwhelmingly inviting- needed more lighting -so off I popped to the local supermarket to get supplies for a nice cup of tea! And I'm telling you, I needed it! Feeling slightly resorted I chatted to a few people in the lounge who then left to go on the next part of their travels - was it somethig I said?! So I had a nap until dinner time 9pm.

I had been wondering what food would be stereotypical of chile, particularly whether or not it would be spicy following it's namesake but reading my guidebook it is quite plain fair. I had chicken burger (no bun) with salad rice n tomatoes, lovely n refreshing. Then it was off to bed as I had to get up to town in the morning for half ten to meet laura, a Sheffield girl (yey) I'd sat next to on the plane.

I got the tube the next day (Weds) with Mano, a Dutch guy staying at our hostel, to lisas hostel - so much more western than mine (nice new clean feel) where we sorted out an action plan for the day. We went to the top of st marys hill via the fornicular (tram pulley system) which gave good views of the city and the famous Santiago smog. But I did get to see some if not all of the mountain range that surrounds the city. From the ground you tend to forget this! Then we headed through bellavisa (trendy sport for dinner and going out) towards the main city square that houses lots of beautiful government buildings. A bit parasian, there were artists selling their work and doing sketches next to tarrot readers and chess players. The fountain attracts crowds for some reason I can't comprehend yet and sprinkled within the busting crowds were students covered with eggs, flour and sardines since they were first years and head to 'earn' back their shoes by begging for money until they got 10,000pesos (£12) to bring back to the older students for a big night out!

Since empanadas are the fare of chile snacks we headed to a restaurantthat served them. They are like mini Cornish pasties, the pastry not as thick and very different fillings- mainly cheese and "insert meat/veg here". Three filled me up and I'm looking forward to trying more of them.

Back to my hostel in the hope of a shower only to find I'd be denied due to fumigation of my room- a common practice to keep out bugs. It would have been rather nice had they mentioned this when I set off that morning as I had a newly opened pack of crackers that I had to
throw out :( I got over it. Honest. Dinner was pesto pasta- big helping which was nicely washed down with some red wine. Their red wine is quite sweet so I'm looking forward to going to a vine yard (or two!) to do some real chilean wine tasting.

Thurs- I managed a lie in, scoffed brekky n had a quick shower n hopped onto the metro to meet Leandro at the Turbus ticket office since we had both decided to go to Mendoza to meet laura there, who had left this morning headed there. Mendoza is a 7 hr bus journey away across
the Andes mountain range, on the Argentinian boarder. Why so soon out of Chile I hear you ask, well why not?! The guide book inferred boarder crossings between the two countires are friendly n commonly used, it cost £15 one way and sounded fun ;) plus I had no actual route ready in my head for south America: just 2 months to get from Santiago to Buenos Aeries, a direct 22 hr bus journey away from one another!

After we got our tickets to leave the following day we headed to the art museum, free, to look at the statues, photos and other displays. Luckily for me Leandro is Brazillian so can speak Portuguese and therefore understand some Spanish, he can certainly hold a conversation here, so he did some translating otherwise I think it would have been a fairly short museum trip for me! After we climbed the smaller hill in the city, steps to the top via levels with trees and plants hiding views until you reached the summit to see (it was a gorgeous hot day) stunning city panoramas wih the mountains in the background as far as the eye could see. Santiago definatley made an impression on me that day.

Walking back to the hostel via a sunny leafty park I packed, chatted to other guests and got ready for dinner- quiche, rice n tomatoes - yum! Since it was St Paddys day we thought we should celebrate by going to the 'local' Irish pub in bellavista. Filled to the brim with ppl wearing green garmonts we ordered jugs of beer. I tried a pisco sours - lime egg and pisco (still not sure what that is) shaken n served in a wine glass. V alcoholic. But nice, it had a tarte aftertaste so I didn't have a whole glass but appreciated it nonetheless. Once we'd done rounds we decided hotdog time, something else chile has a big love for. Especially with advacado and tomatoes- yum! Off to sleep for my early start the next day, looking at my clock unrealised it's half 3 in the morning! Where did the evening go?!

Posted by RosiePony 13:44 Archived in Chile Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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