A Travellerspoint blog

A New Year Begins

36 °C
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New Year in Buenos Aires proved to be every bit as eventful as one would expect. We started the evening with a fabulous meal in a restaurant near by our hostel. For the astronomical sum of 20 pounds a head we were treated to possibly the best meal we will have in South America, champagne and wine all night long. I can't help but feel it really is hard to go wrong here sometimes!! We followed the meal up with some drinks with friends in the hostel and a trip to a nightclub. In the normal UK hogmanay fashion it all became a bit of a blur after a few hours however.

With the new year came our planned trip towards the south of the continent. It's been in the planning for a long time now so I was so happy when it came around. The south is by far and away what I have looked forward to the most. First up Bariloche, a 20 hour bus ride from Buenos Aires. As usual the bus journey itself was better than ok. As we approached Bariloche we came through some stunningly beautiful glacial glens, passed huge lakes, and for the first time we set eyes on the spectacular Andes snow capped mountains. Of course it is summer here now so slowly but surely a lot of the snow is melting away.

Bariloche itself is set in the Lake District of Argentina. Over summer thousands of people descend on the town, mostly students who have just graduated recently so it has a good buzz about it. We chose to stay in a small rustic hostel 18km's out of the town itself so as to be nearer the hiking we had planned. The hostel couldn't have been any better. We spent the first few days hiking up the Cerro Campanario which gives some of the best views I have seen without a doubt and then around the chico circuit in the Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi. I've tried to upload a few of the first pictures and I can only urge anyone who can make it there to go one day. Spectacular doesn't really do it much justice to be honest.

We've also taken a tour of the 7 lakes that surround the town. The tour started out pretty early and the first few hours weren't exactly great but the day got better as it went on. All in it was a 10 hour tour so quite a day. It took us up as far as San Martin de los Andes and back. We saw some pretty decent wildlife on the way back and at one point we got a real close up view as the bus driver somehow managed to veer off the road when trying to point something out. I think I was the only one on the bus who noticed we weren't exactly going straight but my Spannish isn't up to shouting advice down a packed bus yet. Anyway, we survived to tell the tale and hopefully that'll be the last of the near bus accidents!!

The food and drink in Bariloche could well be the best yet too. It is famed for a number of things including cheese fondu, wild boar, venison, rainbow trout, salmon, ice-cream and chocolate. Of course we are not one to discriminate so we had to try it all, several times over. A visit to the chocolate museum was fitted in too with some good tasting sessions. Mamushka goes straight in at number 1 for the chocolate and JuaJu for ice-cream must be nigh on impossible to beat. The area has quite a few micro breweries and the beer from El Bolson has to be tasted.

It's probably fair to say the south is living up to all our hope's and expectations so far. Long may it continue ....

Posted by tricky 17:42 Archived in Argentina Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

A distinct lack of snow

in Buenos Aires and loving it ....

sunny 36 °C
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Well the big day had arrived. It´s December the 20th and not only had we just set foot in our hostel for christmas but Aberdeen were playing a crunch tie with Copenhagen. I could only hope they didn't fall at the last hurdle like Scotland had 6 weeks ago. As it turned out Aberdeen "thumped" them 4-0. Or, at least, those were the words used in the local press here the next day. I had thought that they would have reserved that for the likes of Boca Juniors or Argentina, not Aberdeen!!

Anyway, Bs As as we were to find out is a magical city, unlike almost anywhere we have been. Rodrigo's grandmother, amongst many, had warned us of the dangers of some area's but we're fairly sensible these days and so long as you don't venture into certain places you are fine.

The main city is split into several area's all of which we have now visited; Boca, Palermo, San Telmo, Recoleta, Micoro Centre and Puerto Moderno.

Boca is wonderfully colourful. Initially I think many of the area's were painted to cover the fact that it was very poor and basically not very nice. The area is probably the most dangerous and I guess this was highlighted with the policemen at the end of some streets advising us not to go down them. There, however, lies a superb market, outdoor restaurants with Tango in the street, and the Bombonera aka the chocolate box aka where Boca Juniors play their home games. Sadly the football season is over but we still managed a stadium tour and a good look about in the museum. You really would never tire of watching the Diego video´s on show there.

Palermo is the towns posh area. We've been down a few times now as there is plenty to see and do. Shopping, albeit that's massively restricted with a back pack, restaurants, clubbing, the zoo, the religious theme park (almost worth an entry on it's own but I really wouldn't know if it was right to laugh or cry), the botanical gardens, the race course and the polo fields. By all accounts folks moved here when yellow fever hit San Telmo, which in my opinion is far nicer to hang out in albeit it does not have as many "sights".

Recoleta is famous for little other than the grave yard full of tombstones as far as I can see. We went one day and it was literally full of thousands of tourists all in search of Evita's tomb. Of course we went and grabbed a few pictures but it all seemed a little morbid to me and I don't see the attraction in the slightest. I'm probably being harsh but what's new!!

The Micro Centre is where the shopping lies along with many of the cities more famous statue's. Of course we've been to see them all but it's a bit like a maze at first. Annoyingly no matter where you go you always seem to be facing the Obilix. Been reasonably lost countless times but now after 10 days here I think I have finally got my bearings. It's fair to say I've bailed out and got a taxi once or twice though.

Puerto Moderno is fairly similar to places in many towns in the UK where they have improved the area along the water front to attract tourism. It's really nice down there. Sadly we went down one day to go to the ecological reservation near it but there had been a large fire and hence it was closed for a while. On the plus side we met around 100 odd clowns there another day which was quite a sight. They were all doctors, nurses and surgeons at local hospitals trying to raise awareness

San Temlo is the area we are staying in. We booked our accommodation here months before leaving the UK to make sure we got exactly what we wanted for our time here. Christmas and New Year is no time for smelly dorms. Our first port of call was the Tango Inn. This has probably been one of the better hostels. A great room, a superb bar with pool table, and some really nice fellow travellers and staff. Of course it's the festive season so it's always going to be a party time. I'm actually pretty pleased with our efforts given the time of year. We could easily have slipped into the party mode and missed everything the town has to offer. Instead we've managed both. Not sure how sometimes but we've got the best of everything so far.

Christmas was destined for pasta and salad until the last minute. On christmas eve Ali found a flier for a traditional knee's up so we called and sure enough they managed to make space for us. A great day and, not unusually, we bumped into some guys we had met in Brazil near the start of our travels. As usual christmas day was a little more then merry. Helped out by the owner of the place who plonked 3 bottles of champagne on our table gratis at the end of the night. I would bet my bottom dollar he is still trying to work out how he didn't make a profit that day. Never seen someone try to run a restaurant quite so merry and at hand with free booze. Still, we're not one to know it, just quaff it. It proved a real long day for me however as the night before we were invited to a party. Parties here never tend to wind down. Ali retired but before I knew it I was in a taxi with 3 others on the way to a club. Little did I know the club for 45 odd kilometers away! Around an hour later the taxi driver pulled in. We'd had to stop about 6 or 7 times for directions, hardly a confidence booster. Anyway, the club was superb, almost like an outdoor festival. It soon became apparent that if you weren't from Bs As you really didn't go to this place. A few folk told me so but rather than make me feel unwelcome they just said I was brave/mad/mental and took us in with open arms. A big thankyou to Dr Agua whoever the hell you are. We danced around till 8am then decided it was time to head home as we needed some sleep pre lunch and the long day ahead. The club itself went on till 8pm, a real proper 16 hour club. I think I would have made it through but I guess I will never know.

Of course in Bs As the big thing is Tango so we sourced the shows and worked out what we wanted to see. Fortunately San Telmo is the area for Tango and we struck out lucky with a deal at the hostel where the best show had a half price offer for Sunday night. Pre show we got a champagne reception followed by one of the best 3 course meals I have had yet. The Tango itself was very very good but I will be bold and say Tango Fire at the Edinburgh Festival was better. Nonetheless the night was fantastic and anyone in Bs As would be crazy to miss out.

Talking of things not to miss, the food here is phenominal. We've been for countless steaks. Sometimes they hang off both ends of the plate, sometimes they don't. The one consistent thing is quality. It's amazing that you can get the best part of a kilo of meat in a restaurant for 3 or 4 quid. Last night we even managed to get a curry and beer. Great I thought. The reality was my pakora sauce was hotter than my vindaloo. :-( Still, it tasted nice, think they just forgot the chilli's!!

Well today is 31st December. It's all very quiet here at the moment. I can only assume people are in bed resting up for what is sure to be quite a carnival tonight. We found a superb local restaurant that we have booked for a meal. I took away the menu so I can actually make sure I get exactly what I want!! First glance tells me it's duck, prawns or steak for main course, and it's definately free wine all night so it's looking good at the moment. Needless to say there is a party in the hostel which will run all night long but there is also the option of heading to a club circa 2 or 3. I think that's the plan but as with much of the trip so far the plan often goes out the window.

Wherever you guys are I hope by the time you read this you've had a great new year and it brings you everything you desire.

Posted by tricky 08:35 Archived in Argentina Tagged backpacking Comments (2)

Peace continued in Punta del Este

in South East Uruguay

33 °C
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I had injurred my foot about a week ago now and it had been in some real pain so we thought a few days at one of South America's most famous beaches would help. Rest, rest and more rest.

Punta was only 5 hours by bus from Colonia so we went over early in the morning. Punta is Uruguays answer to Monaco. Literally. We arrived there and there was a street circuit set up for 3 days of racing. So much for the peace. I think the series was called the TC 2000. Not quite F1, more like F3 and various other types of racing with cars like Porsche's and Ferrari's.

The beaches there were beautiful and the sunsets amazing over the harbour. Uruguay is a truely beatuful country along the coast. It's quite a bit more expensive than Argentina however so we were spending a lot more. One large bonus in the hostel was that they didn't seem to mind you taking your own beer and rum to the bar. Exactly how they make money in that bar I will never know. I never really saw more than 4 or 5 drinks bought there in 3 nights and the hostel was very busy.

The first day at the beach was not too bad until the roar of the street racing started. At this point I decided day 2 would be spent at a beach out of town. There was a "bikini" beach which is where the famous folk like Shakira tended to go. That'd do. Off we headed for it on a local bus. Only one problem. I actually had little clue as to where it was, only which bus to take. About 45 minutes later it became completely apparent that we had gone to far but the beach there was great. Only the weather wasn't but it was brilliant for watching the kite surfing. What a speed they go at. That evening we bumped into "football" Dave again. Apparently he had just recovered from the christmas night out so we embarked on a few more beers that evening in the hostel bar taking us to the back of six. We agreed to meet up again in a few hours after some sleep. Boca were playing AC Milan and the Utd were playing Liverpool. Dave never quite made the first game, an enthrawling 4-2 win for Milan. Still, he saw the dull 1-0 win for Utd and that's the one that counted after all.

We'd definately have been better off at the car racing I think!

Well, so much for the peace and quiet. We spent 1 more day in Punta in the vain hope the wind would calm down a little. It was still in the 30's but the wind was actually making it cold, not by Scotland standards however.

To finish our trip in Uruguay we decided a trip to Montevideo would be needed. It is the capital and is also on the southern coast. To be honest this place has been the most dissappointing of our trip. The city doesn't actually have much to offer in terms of points of interest. We've walked around quite a bit in that way we do but it feels a little uneasy. On the plus side we found a large indoor food market which cooks up your dinner in front of you. There are hoards of people touting for your business but we settled for the area where the old men were after all they were bound to know best. And they did.

Tomorrow morning we head for Buenos Aires for two weeks over the festive period. At last we are booked into a double room again. It'll be bliss not having to share with smelly travellers once more. I'd have a rant about it but I fear sounding like Victor Meldrew and that's not something I want.

Posted by tricky 13:43 Archived in Uruguay Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

10 Days of Peace

in the south of Uruguay

sunny 34 °C
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The tenth of December, a little over 2 weeks to christmas. Ali and I decided that a short trip to Uruguay was in order. The websites and books all question why more people who travel this part of the world don`t go. Heck, we're going and first stop is Colonia de Sacramento, a small port town in the far south west of the country.

The trip started with a 50 minute trip across the sea from Bs As on a super fast ferry. It was pretty cool and a change from the long bus rides although they have become part and parcel of getting from A to B by now. 12 hours by coach doesn't phase us at all. We decided to stay in El Viajaro Suites Hostel as it sounded pretty good. Sure enough when we arrived it lived up to the expectations and fortunately the first night in the dorm was just Ali and I which is always a bonus. We took a wonder around the town and went to the highly recommended "El Drugstore" for dinner. A craving for chinese food was fixed albeit I've never had peas and potatoes at the side of my sweet & sour before!! Two for the price of one though as that was my 5 a day fruit and veg in a oner. Most unusual in Argentina I tell you.

On the second day we took a further walk about town. It's probably only got a population of circa 22k but it still covers quite a large area. In the end we walked the far length of the town up the coast and along the beaches to the bull ring. I've never seen a bull fight and I was pretty curious although I very much doubt Ali would have gone in even if it didn't turn out to be closed. Yep, closed for years not just for the day damn it. We met some gaucho type guy there and after we took some pictures of his horses he tried to get us to go riding with him. I had planned to go horse riding anyway but somehow this didn't seem the right time. I'd just pay the extra few quid and do it via the hostels I thought. Plus he didn't have any saddles and I hear it can be pretty uncomfortable at best.

When we got back to the hostel after dinner we met Dave. Actually Ali had met him earlier I think. Anyway, Dave was travelling by himself for 4 months ish and trying to take in a football match at every premier ground in Argentina. The season is over at the moment so he too was taking a much needed bit of quiet time in Uruguay. I spent most of the rest of that evening talking with him about football. What a trip. I imagine 90% of men would love to do that.

Obviously in order to have some quality peace and quiet I needed to hire one of the beach buggies I had seen parked by the restaurant the day before. I told myself I could teach Ali to drive a little, even just steer with confidence. I'd seen some quiet places. In no time at all we had a red buggy. Anyone who knows anything about cars will know red one's are the fastest. We'd been anway for about 8 weeks at this point and I felt I had it in me to successfully drive on the left, er I mean right hand side of the road.

We motored for about 45 minutes up the main coastal road to the west but seemed to be getting nowhere in terms of finding another town so we decided to head back given I had no idea where petrol stations were situated and I had battered through almost half a tank. The buggy comfortably sat at 50kmph but on a good downhill you could stretch her to 60. That equates to eating a heck of a lot of bugs by the way. By now I was definately getting well used to driving but Ali still didn't want a shot. Shock horror. After lunch we headed in the opposite direction and before long we found the most beautifully idylic beach. You could see for miles and only one small family were there so we lay about for a while. The father upon seeing us arrive tried to get us to take the buggy onto the beach for a "spin". Fortunately I had actually read the t&c's of the hire over lunch and #8 quite clearly stated that the beach buggy was not to be driven on sand so being the mature sort of guy I am I actually obided by the rules for a change.

Ice cream time was now upon us so I drove back into town. Here came my first and only time of driving on the wrong side of the road - pulling out at the junction. It only lasted about 3 seconds but it felt like a lifetime as the police waved at me. I pulled down a side street, then another, parked up and we took ourselves to get that ice cream. Close call, but the reality is the friendly police here were only saying hello.

Back at the hostel the room filled up with Keith (unsurprisingly from Cork), Sonny and Alex. I had met Sonny on a few occassions around Iguazu before, usually drunk. It turned out Sonny and Dave lived quite close back home. After a few lagers I decided that since I was going to cook that night anyway I would make dinner for us all. There was an asado out the back in the courtyard and I had now been to a few so I thought I pretty much new what I was doing, much like I've seen Gordon Ramsay on the tele so I could work in Claridge's. A few of the lads trundled down to the supermercado for steak and some other asado food, onions, peppers and the likes. It wasn't long before I got it going, albeit I had some help from the hostel manager. I can't even remember his name but he plays centre for Uruguay in the rugger. Naturally he seemed pretty big.

A few hours passed and the meal had been a massive success. A few girls from Sweden had joined us but they were drinking tea. We were now all decided that this was a full blown christmas night out since none of us would have a work one at home. The beer, wine and rum were in full flow. In South America it is pretty normal to not head out until 2 or 3am so we did just that. We found a pub with some locals and settled down. Keith joined in with some local traditions, Dave spoke Spanish to a couple of the dogs outside and I tried my hand at pool with some guy from Columbia. A great night out only marred by getting lost and having to get a map in a petrol station on the way home. Still, we had made some good friends along the way.

Posted by tricky 12:53 Archived in Uruguay Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Random Top 5

Things I am Loving .... a lot

sunny 35 °C
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Well, this is a pretty random entry. It's circa 5am and I woke up with the need to write something. Hopefully my clothes are on the right way around as people are beginning to come in from clubbing and I am sat at the front door.

I've decided to write my top 5 things about travelling so far. Come Peru they may have changed, maybe not.

5. Food. Some of you may or may have not noticed my increasing gut size. I truely love my food, yep, not kidding. Every place we go there is a new place to try, a new local dish, a regional speciality. Going out at home will never be the same. It's got slightly more expensive here in Uruguay but the quality is amazing. Cordoba has been my favourite so far but it would be nigh on impossible to name my favourite dishes.

4. Weather. Personally I can't believe I am only putting this at 4. I reckon it's been 8 weeks ish since we left the UK and we've had around 4 or 5 UK type days. Why do we put up with it? 30 to 40 every day, eating our meals outside if we want, a lovely tan ...... Life is definately different here.

3. New places. Where do I start. Rio, Ilha Grande, Paraty, Iguazu, Cordoba, La Cumbre, Colonia, Punta del Este. It strikes me now that we don't try enough new places in our lifetime. Take a week or two, try something new, you'll love it probably. I can hardly wait to go to some places on our list ... Bs As, Patagonia, Atacama dessert, Andes, Inca Trail ......

2. People. Without people where would we be. We've met some right interesting folk you know. Mind you we've met a few right wierd one's too. One's I should mention for the right reasons (sorry if I forget, edit is great) ...... Lorna, Claudia, Laura, Debra, Rob, Rodrigo, Paola, Dave, Keith. I love meeting new people and this trip has definately been an experience for that.

1. Ali. Wow. I knew when Ali and I decided to travel it would be pretty amazing but I never realised quite how good it would be. Sometimes you take things for granted. I'd like to think I don't but I probably do. Ali has been the best travel patrtner you could dream of. She's there when I need her, she's bloody hillariosly funny, sometimes without knowing it, a great listner and talker, up for an adventure and above all my wife. I'm a lucky chap indeed.

Well that's enough for now. I need my sleep I think.

Posted by tricky 22:14 Archived in Uruguay Comments (0)

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