A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: PennyJohn

Bariloche Argentina to Puerto Varas Chile

storm 8 °C

Getting close to the end of our travelling around however things are still enjoyable. Had a enjoyable bus trip from Mendosa to Bariloche, travelling semi cama class where the seats lie back at about 45 degrees and there is a leg section that comes back from the seat in fron, to the front of your seat. The seats are quite wide and allow you to lie on your side although you are not flat - still managed to get a few hours sleep. Woke in the morning to find the weather changing and it is becoming a lot windier and colder, and as we continued south it really changed. It really started pouring just as we started travelling in the mountain region so although we saw some of the scenery we didnt get the distane view. Arrived in Bariloche to find it raining really heavy and 6 degrees and after Mendoza it was a bit of a change where it was 35 degrees. arrived at the hotel that had been booked for us by the hostel in Mendosa to find that they had no record of our booking and they were full. So off to another hotel that they found and it was a real dump but as it was pouring rain, and freezing cold we elected to stay there for one night and look again in the morning. Changed our minds and looked for hostels in the town, and found one right on the edge of the lake, for the same price as the dump so moved. The new room was on the top floor, 9th, and we had great views over the lake to the mountain ranges on the other side of the lake.
Got the bus the next day up to the local mountain area where there are some mountain walks, and met up with two alaskans who were there to do some mountain climbing. When we got to the mountain it was pouring with rain and again freezing so we had lunch and went back down again. The girl is the base camp manager at Mt MCKinley in Alaska which is one of the worlds best climbing area, and he goes up there ice climbing. The girl told some pretty amazing stories of the life up there and dangers that she has been exposed to by the climbers trying to get off the mountain when they want not when they can. She said that every year someone dies on the mountain during the climbing season which is only for three months or so. she actually lives in a tent, on the glacier, and manages the arrival of the planes bringing up the climbers, and mans the radio for the climbers 24 hours a day. The next day we got the local bus out into the National Park, and then walked around to the other side of the park and got another bus back. The scenery was pretty amazing with incredible mountain ranges right alongside the walk trail, and deep gorges - it again was ok weather wise just sprinkling and just as cold as previous days. Had lunch at one of the lookout areas and met up with an aussie girl from Orange who was returning to australia after working in london - surprising the people you meet in the strangest places. On the way back we stopped at the oldest, and poshiest, hotel in Argentina and had a coffee. Before we could get in the security guard had to ring and see if it was OK for us because we didnt have a booking. We mixed in very well with the other patrons with all their best clothes and us in our walking clothes. Couldnt guess what the price was but it would have been pretty high considering the hotel ambience, position, and appearance.
Bariloche was another one of those special places that we have been to, you can see the german influence with the design of the buildings and even in the name of buildings and restaurants, and in the name of food at the restaurants. Lots of really good steak, great chocolate, more chocolate, and more great steak. In a restaurant a 300 gram steak would cost around A$3.00 - not bad. Although we arrived for the first two days with rain and really cold, the last few were really great with no rain, although still cold with maximum temperatures of around 9 degrees and it seemed to stay like that all day.
The next day the weather had changed for the better so we got the bus up to the mountain and climbed up to a place called refugio Freye, a climbers and mountainering hut at 1700m. We went up there as the alaskans had gone up there the day before to do some climbing, and a couple that we met in Mendoza that we met up with again in Bariloche had done the walk and said it was really good. It was a four hour walk up from around 760m to 1700m, around the mountain ranges, through very pretty forrest, and then up through the tree line and across snow to the refugio. The refugio is in a pretty place surrounded by steep scraggy rocky faces right outside the door. The weather was also very kind to us with blue skies and just a gently but very cold wind blowing. The refugio is an alpine hut where the climbersand hikers can stay at all year round and there is a caretaker who does cooking etc if needed for a small cost. Whilst we were having lunch, pasta and sauce and two coffees each A$7, we watched the guys on the rock face climbing and it was amazing to watch them moving up these rock faces that seemed to be really smooth. As we started our walk back down we were ccompanied by 4 dogs that seem to have made the national park their home. They seemed to be strays as there are no homes around the place but they were all in pretty good condition. They were really friendly and ran around you all the way down, then out into the bush and then back again. After walking for around two hours down, we met two blokes walking up the mountain so the dogs turned around and took off with them. Both of us ended up with sore shins after the walk down, but it was a really great adventure.
Next day saw us leaving Bariloche on the bus and boat trip across the alps to Puerto Varas in Chile. Again we were lucky with the weather and woke to find clear skies and no rain forecast. After a nervous start as we didnt get picked up by the bus at the time we were told, and trying to communicate with the night porter at the hotel, but when we got on the bus it soon transpired that everyone was told that they were getting picked up at the same time. Anyway after that we had a really enjoyable journey across the alps with great weather the whole way. Teamed up with another couple or ages, who it turns out are doing a trip to the Antarctic around the 15th December on a smaller type trip and they are doing kyaking down there. They live at Clareville on Pittwtaer / he is starting a new job when he goes back as the general manager for LJHooker in New Zealand. Also met another American couple, climbers, who knew of the girl at the base camp as he is a climber and had been there last climbing season, small world eh! Again we had terrific views of the snow capped mountains and volcanoes in the area, travelling across crystal clear lakes, deep gorges, thick vegetaion, and windy rough roads. Stopped for lunch at a place called Puella, where we had a three hour stop, so both of us did another canopy ride - this one was around 1.5k long, with 7 platforms between the various runs. This was different to the other canopy that we did, as this one was through the forrest, across gorges and above running mountain streams - all pretty exciting. In Puerto Varas now and looking to see where we go next. Take care all luv us.

Posted by PennyJohn 10:47 Archived in Argentina Tagged backpacking Comments (3)


Carmelo to Mendoza

sunny 34 °C

Carmelo again is a neat little town, it was also an old smugglers port, cobblestone streets, and a mixture of old and new with really old cars lining the streets and being driven around. There was also the horse drawn work carts being driven around.
Hired some push bikes and rode around the town, and then did a ride into the surounding country which comprised vineyards, cattle, and horses, and an exclusive resort which had a polo field and golf course - didn't go in just looked. It was quite a hot day but it was flat riding although the bikes were pretty basic and couldn't be adjusted too well for us. Sat around the main plaza on the last evening watching the world go by, and trying to get some photo's of the sights that you see like baby's being carried under one arm whilst mum rides the motor scooter, and kids doubling each other in the most unusual ways on pushbikes. It was amazing watching the people arrive at the main plaza around the same time with their maté and thermoses under their arms and then all just sitting around sipping their tea.

Off to Buenos Aires via Tigre on the 0500 ferry which took 3 hours across the river delta, and through chanels around islands. From Tigre we were put in a taxi with a couple of young Uruguay guys who helped us out at the ferry terminal making sure we got on the right transport and we had a good joke about the soccer with them. A fast 1 hour taxi ride into Buenos aires - put our backpacks at the bus terminal and then a bit of window shopping, and coffee shops in the city area watching the clock tick down until our bus. Got on the bus at 8.00pm for our 16 hour trip to Mendoza - and on this trip we upgraded to first class which gave us totally lay down seats so you could sleep on your side - not bad for a bus. We were downstairs with an english couple, a swedish guy with his mum who was from Mendosa and us so there was only the 6 of us downstaris. It was very comfortable. On the way out of Buenos Aires we went through an amazing electrical storm with the associated hail and heavy rain. enjoyed a steak dinner and a glass of wine before getting a few hours sleep before waking with the bus engine stopping. Apparently they were having trouble with the fuel transfer so we ended up waiting on the side of the road for a few hours whilst they tried to fix it and then waiting for another bus to come and pick us up. Finally got picked up but it was by an all stops bus so it took us an extra 6 hours all up befor we got to Mendoza. Pity because our original bus was really comfortable. The bus trip, first class cost us A$40 each for a 1,500 bus trip including wine and hot meal and breakfast - not bad.
Mendoza is a really pretty place with tree lined streets, and our hostel is the best that we have been in on our trip. It is only newish so is nice and clean, with a great kitchen, dining and lounge rooms, and a bar.b.que which we used a few times. Met up with another aussie couple returning home from england and a south african couple on their honeymoon on their way to australia for weddings and wind surfing. The staff at the hostel were really helpful and welcoming. On sunday night the owner and his girlfriend who was an emerican from Chicago had a barby for the guys family and we were included in the gathering and they showed us how to do a barby argentinian style. They were eating these huge rabbits whilst we had the local steaks which were just as huge. Had a good night with the family, trying to communicate with each other. One of the family worked in Sydney in Campsie, and his son went to Campsie Primary the school that Penny went to so that was pretty exciting. Did a wine tour of a small and large winery, and the large one had a really big musuem of wine history which was pretty amazing.
Started our extreme sports here, with a trek to 3 rapelling rock faces of 7,12, and 45 metres in height - Penny did all three. This was followed by watching the Dutch girl, who accompanied us, whilst she did some rock climbing - she was pretty good and climbed some pretty amazing faces free climbing. The rapelling was followed by a relaxing time at some thermal springs, which unfortunately were not that hot although they had a heap of pools and were still quiet refreshing. They had this one circular pool that was about 300m long, and 2m wide, that flowed in one direction so there was a clockwise current that was quite hard to walk against.
The next day was white water rafting - Dib was up the front and we had 7 of us and the guide - 3 other aussie chicks, a german couple and us. The guide was great and had been doing white water rafting around the world and he said the rapids were 3 plus a couple of 4 class rapids - it was really great fun and we ended up totally drenched. This was followed by 'canopy gliding' a series of wire rope runs across gorges and you are hooked to the wire by a carriage system and you control your speed by pulling down on the wire with a leather strip on your gloves. The last two runs are across the river 380m long and 30m high, and then 450m long and 80m up and these are great with the last one where you do not do any slowing down it is just a free speed run across the river. The company was really professional and safety conscious which was good. Got another CD of photo0s from todays events so more to bore you with at some stage. Last day in Mendoza spend in the city area as we don't leave on our bus until 8.00pm tonight, to Bariloche from where we will write again. Last weather report was that it is raining heavily down there and has been for a few days - oh well we have had pretty good weather for awhile so may get to do a bit of reading.

Posted by PennyJohn 09:58 Archived in Argentina Tagged seniors Comments (5)

Buenos Aires to Colonia Uruguay.

sunny 23 °C

Well still in Buenos Aires to start. Had a nice birthday tea for dibble (thanks for all the cards) at a local restaurant that they call a bar b que restaurant. We had a table right at the front window so had a good view of the world going buy and of a bloke out the ront who was touting for business for the restaurant - I think I found Tiko's twin a dead ringer. Had a nice meal, a couple of bottles of red and then a wobble home - luckily it wasn't too far. The area we are staying in close to the city, in an antique and arty area and is pretty nice with lots of intereting buildings. Walked along the waterfront, which has the university situated there, and lots of restaurants but it hasn't been over commercialised. Got a taxi out to a suburb called La Boca, the home of Maradona the soccer star - the area is an arty area and all the buildings have been painted bright colours and manequins hanging out of windows and doors and off balconies. Its not a big area, lots of restaurants, artists, and they have tango dancing out the front of the restaurants and in the street. Had a walk around the main city streets of Buenos Aires, lots and lots of people but no dramas, we walked down the main mall that goes for about 10 blocks but couldn't go all the way because of another protest at the law courts - we seem to find all the fun.

Todays Pennies birthday - and she also thanks all for the cards and e.mails. Had a late morning, omelette for breaky and then a walk to the boat terminal to book our boat to Colonia to get caught up in a bomb scare there. Met a couple of aussie's who were on the way to watch the soccer in Uruguay so ended up having lunch wih them on the river side of the buildings. After beig allowed back into the ticket office, had another walk through the city - lots of looks but didn't buy anyhing. There is just too much to buy but we don't have the room to carry things around or another month or so. Had dinner for Pens birthday in a restaurant overlooking a little plaza, we both had shazlick - chicken, beef and vegies - very nice - a bottle of red and then home. One of the strange things of Buenos Aires is the amount of dog poop that is all over the place - you have to keep an eye out where you are walking.

The ferry to Colonia left at 11.30am and we had to get there by 10.30, however we ended up there early and just as well we did, as it was a saturday there were heaps of people getting the ferry to Uruguay for the weekend. Customs and Immigration was slow, but continued to slowly move. The boat is very flash - we had to got first class as the cheap classes had all been booked out - why they need first class for a 1 hour boat trip is a bit strange. The boat is a very big cat and takes cars as well. On arrival had a little walk to our hostel.

Colonia is a great little place - it was an old smugglers port in the 1800's, and there is still an old world feel about it - itis like Port Fairy in Victoria for anyone who has been there. Lots of tree lined streets, lots of very old vehicles parked around the place. Not sure if they have been abandoned or they have put them there for effect, although we did see some driving around and one restaurant had tables in the back seat section of a couple of cars. feel very safe here, and contented could stay longer. Lots and lots of motor bikes, and people everywhere including whilst they are riding the motorbikes sipping mate^ tea. Had 3 interesting days in Colonia and today got the bus to Carmelo which is just to the west of Colonia still in Uruguay. We caught the local bus, which was very comfortable, and which stopped along the way picking up passengers. It must have been the time for the schoolkids to either go home or to school and we picked up heaps of them and they were all very polite and the bus driver was talking and joking to them all. The counrty side was farming with heaps of cattle, horses, and crops - quite flatish with rolling hills and very green countryside.

Carmelo is a lot smaller town, not a lot to do it is more just a stopover point. Will stay here tomorrow and then get the 0400 hrs ferry to Tigre, then Buenos Aires, and then ann overnight bus to Mendoza which is back on the western side of Argentina.

Talk to you from there.

Posted by PennyJohn 10:08 Archived in Argentina Tagged backpacking Comments (3)

Salta - Puerto Iguazo - Buenos Aires

sunny 20 °C

So for those that are still with us our journy continues.

Well still in Salta to start with. For tea we went for a walk around the city trying to find a cheese shop that we were given directions to from the staff in the hotel - no luck. We went to this restaurant for tea and they had the local dish advertised on special for 19 pesos (A$6.00) for the two of us so we took it. The meal came out amd it was this huge amount of meat on a bar b que hot plate -not sure what all the meat was but it had kidneys, liver, something that looked like bar b qued tripe, ribs, something else which Penny thinks was tongue, some really tender steak, blood sausages ( which we didn't eat) overall it was really nice and the meat was eally great - we didn't get sick from it which was also a bonus.
The next day we took the sky lift to a hill overlooking the town of Salta and had lunch up there - all pretty nice. Tried to download photo's with no luck. Booked trip onwards. Had beer and nibbles in the main plaza watching the world go by.

Slept in the next day as it was our last day in Salta and we had a long bus trip in front of us. Had lunch in town and took the bread they give out with every meal and bought some meat on the way back to the hostel so we had something to eat on the bus trip.
Got on the bus in Salta to Resistancia, and very quickly realised that we had booked the wrong bus as it was stopping at every bus top along the way picking up people - still managed to get a few hours sleep along the way. Arrived in Resistencia around 0530 am and were dropped off in the street outside the bus terminal. Got a taxi into town and found an early opening restaurant and had breakfast. walked to the tourist office around 0730am and after talking to them decided to head off to Pasadas as we didn't feel too bad after the bus trip and we could save a day. We had pre booked accommodation in Posadas via the net, and got there about 5.30pm. Accommodation was in an old building, although we had our own room self contained it was very basic and was in need of a lot of maintenance - the kitchen was that bad that we could not cook or eat there. Had dinner in town at a flash restaurant - penny had hawaiin steak, and dib steak with mushrooms and potato. Steak was terrific and it still only cost us A$10 for both. There was no-one in the restaurant when we got there but when we left it was packed - they eat late over here.

Not too good the next day - gout struck dib!!! had a slow walk up to the main plaza and late breaky in the main plaza street and watched the world go by. The local school kids put on a drum,dancing display, not sure what it was all about but they were having fun anyway. Had a wait at the bus terminal for our bus to Puerto Iguazo, and whilst waiting had some empanada - wrong move. about half hour into the bus trip the stomach cramps started, and we also realised that we had picked the wrong bus as it ws stopping at every bus stop picking up people. There were people sitting on the floor, standing up and there was no room at all. In addition the toilet on the bus didn't work so couldn't be used. The only benefit from the bus being a local bus was that it stopped regularly so we were able to use the toilets at all the bus stops. The trip was only 260 klms but took us 6 hours of misery. Finally arrived at Puerto Iguazu and got to the hostel we had booked around 7.30pm - got directions from the tourist bureau and they got us lost and then a young guy that we asked took us to where we were meant to go. Hostel was pretty good.

Had a arest day with a short wander around the local town. Nice quiet town - found bank - organised bus trip onwards. For tea had a local dish - lumps of meat on a great big sword that is stuck into wood on the end of your table - you slice the meat off the sword onto your plate - all very nice.

Were driven into the Argentina side of the Iguazu falls by the owner of the hostel we were staying in. Had an open army style truck trip thru the jungle, then a jet boat ride jup the river to the falls thru the rapids, then into the spray under the falls - everyone got totally wet and it was all great fun. back onto land with everyone dripping wet but no'one really cared as everyone was in the same boat - luckily dib didn't notice the wet clothes competition that was going on all around him. we then had a walk along the top of the falls right t the point where the falls tumble over the edge. Really quite spectular and incredibly noisy. Had a steak in town that we shared and some mashed spuds - had tea with an american from texas who had done a lot of work in queensland working on cattle stations - surprising who you meet around the place.

The next day we went to the brazillian side of the falls, and realised that we had wasted our money on our visas as they were not even needed and on the brazillian side they didn't evenn look at our passports. Went to a bird aviary before the falls and that was very interesting with birds from all over the world. The falls on the Brazillian side of the falls are diffferent from the Argentine side but just as amazing - you seem to be able to see them from different perspective as you are looking at them rather than down on them. Back at the hostel met a guy from Scarborough (perth) who gave us some tips for buenos aires.

Had a really nice trip overnight from Puerto Iguazu to Buenos Aires in a pretty amazing bus - fully lay back seats with wine served with dinner. Not sure why but we had a large amounts of stops and being searched by the Police on the way - they didn't seem to find anything or take anyone off so not sure what it was about. The trip was around 16 hours long and managed to get a few hours sleep. arrived in Buenos Aires to find that the accommodation that we had booked had been double booked - a bit of a drama but we finally ended up in a really nice apartment that has its own kitchen that we are able to cok breaky's and tea in so that has been really nice.

Thats it - we are in Buenos aires and will report in due course. Its OK if anyone wants to corespond with us as we don't mind reading any mail - any mail will do!!! please someone talk to us..

Posted by PennyJohn 14:01 Archived in Argentina Tagged backpacking Comments (4)

Uyuni through salt flats to San Pedro to Salta (argentina)

4 wheel driving,bus

sunny 12 °C

You have not heard from us for awhile but they did not have an internet in the hospital. After the bus crash our broken bones are not restricting us too bad and we are able to get around. Just checking who actually reads these messages!!

From Uyuni we left in our Landcruiser around 10.00am, the two of us, kristy and adam, the driver and a cook. There are no tared roads in this area at all so it was straight onto dirt tracks. First stopl just out of town was the railway graveyard where all the old trains that used to carry minerals (borax we think) from Uyuni to the coast in Chile - not terribly exciting but a photo opportunity. next stop was a salt making establishment just on the start of the salt lakes. The opertion is pretty basic - families are given some land opn the salt flats and have to remain in the little settlement (50 families) to retain their land. they ride out to their plot on bicycles and dig the salt by pick then shovel it into little piles to dry. It is thenn transported back to the settlement where it is dried, finely crushed and then bagged into 1kg bags by hand. Continuing across the salt lake to a hostal made out of salt - the building, beds, tables and chairs everything except the toilet. Some of the tours stay here but we continue on as it only just the beginning of our journey. The stop for lunch is at a rocky outcrop called 'fish rock' it looks like a fish lying on its side from a distance across the salt plains - and has these huge cactus on it perhaps 3-4 m high and from the top you get a terrific view around the salt plain and it is still pretty amazing when you have snow capped mountain ranges around the salt plain. After lunch (bar b q'd alpaca)we continued to our overnight hostal and by this time we had exited the main salt plain and had travelled around the edge of a dusty alto plateau. we had been warned that accommodation on this trip was basic and they were right - twin bed room and pretty basic toilet facilities and showers. In the afternoon we walked across the plain to a rocky outcrop where there we a number of old graves and the people (mummies they call them) had been preserved in the dry air - not that exciting compared to the 'ice maiden we saw in Arequipa. Power was from a generator that went off at 9.00pm so no late nights. The wind sweeping across the plain was freezing and quite strong so a cold night was had. After breakfast it was off again on the journey across the alto plain visiting a pink and a red lagoon that both had pink flamingoes on them and an area of rocks that had a rock that looked like a tree (if you let your imagination run wild) and another rocky outcrop that had long tailed rabbits living in it and they came down and ate bread that you put out. The drive now is on really rough roads across a very dusty rocky alto plateau and there seems to be tracks going everywhere, Reached our overnight camp and this is more basic than the previous with the 4 of us in a 6 bed dorm, very very basic toilet and no showers although no-one had one the previous night so no-one cares. The bed is a base of concrete and rocks with a thin rubber mattress and a cold night was had. they said it got down to around -5 degrees and very windy so the chill factor was high making it even colder most probably. Last day on the trip saw us see at a geyser area, which was at around 4,600m with outcrops of ice formations around the geysers, a red lagoon with more flamingoes and then a swim in a thermal spring - it may have been hot if the freezing wind hadn't been blowing across it but we still had a go. Lunch was at a small hostel just inside the Bolivia/Chile border and we waited here for a little while as our bus from the border to San Pedro in Chile was not till 3.00pm. The border post is pretty basic with only the Bolivian side represented here. Our bus came to pick up us on time (incredibly)and then off to San Pedro via a 2,000m drop in altitude. The Chilean border check point is on the outskirts of San Pedro and far more proffessional then Bolivia with all bags searched etc. As we didn't have accommodation booked the bus driver drove us around until we finally found a B&B type accommodation. This one had a kitchen so we cooked our own breakfasts and dinner to save money but as food is really so cheap it was most probably just for a change to eating out. Had a couple of pet llamas in the backyard that we fed our scraps to. Not much to do in San Pedro, it is a very small town with very dusty narrow streets with this ongoing wind blowing dust everywhere. The first time for weeks that we have been able to wear shorts and t shirts. Kristy and Adam left us here to continue their travels through Chile whilst we head off to Argentina. On saturday we went for a bike ride out through a valley surrounded by lava type mud formations, including inca ruins etc -quite hot and dusty but good fun apart from the sore bum as the seats and suspension were not made for rocky rough roads.
Our bus left Sunday morning on the journey to Salta (argentina)and took 12 hours. If you take out the time we waited at the Chilean border (1 hour) and the Argentina border (1.5 hours) the trip would have been a lot quicker. The trip was again through very mountainous country, dispersed with long flat straights, and roads winding up and down the mountain ranges. On this trip we would have gone from around 2,500m at San Pedro to up to 4,800m over the Andes and then down to 1200m at Salta. This is the lowest altitude we have been for over four weeks. Arrived in Salta around 8.30pm, and got a taxi to our hostal which we had pre-booked via hostalworld.com (our first time)and everything went smoothly. Accomodation near the centre of the town, small room with en-suite, and friendly young staff.
Had a walk around Salta today and on first views it is like a small european town. A different type of people here, and the shops are a lot more up market although things are still cheap compared to home. Had lunch in town at a cafe on the edge of the main plaza (hamburger, toasted sandwich, coffee, milkshake) and it cost around A$6 in total. One of the amazing sights is the amount of police and security guards, that are around the banking area and all have machine guns slung over their shoulders - and there are police very visible walking around the city it all feels very safe.

We are staying here for a couple of days before heading off to Iquizi falls in the north eastern corner of Argentina. We will go by bus but it is a 24 hour trip so we will break it up into acouple of shorter journeys - these old bones can´t handle too long a trip.

Some facts for those interested. For the last few weeks we have been above 3,600m and up to 4,800m travelling over parts of the Andes mountain range. It is always cold at these altitudes and with the windy always blowing the chill factor is quite high, resulting in very cold nights and cool days. Long pants and coats are the dress of the day, together with beanies and sometimes gloves. Temperatures at night are at or below freezing with the days in the high teens if lucky. San Pedro was a good change being able to wear shorts and t shirt during the day until the winds started blowing and the sun went down. Salta is the lowest altitude we have been at only 1200m but still need long pants and coat during the day. The vegetation during the trip has been different ranging from thick forrest type vegetation in the Peru mountains to the barren wind blown mountains in Bolivia and Argentina.

Posted by PennyJohn 08:41 Archived in Bolivia Tagged family_travel Comments (4)

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