Archive for the ‘Argentina’ Category

What to do in Ushuaia?   Leave a comment

Sunday 9th November 2014

When we look out of the window in the morning, the weather is a lot better than its forecast, and so we decide to go on a hike to the Le Martial glacier from where you have a great view over Ushuaia and the Beagle Channel.

We could take the bus and drive to the end of the Ruta 3 but as this would require the entrance to the Tierra del Fuego National Park, it would cost us around 70 Euros just to take another end-of-the-world picture. Maybe next time when I come back on my bike again. 😉

On the way out of town we pass the voluntary fire brigade station

Suburbia

On to the trails!

Enchanted forest…

The views make every metre we climb worthwhile

We seem to need our daily dose of adventure…

Southern Crested Caracara

Ushuaia is also a ski resort in winter – and they even have cross-country tracks

When I see Steve’s family again I may suggest Tierra del Fuego as the next destination for our annual skiing holiday… 🙂

There are Welsh tea houses and quite a few Aprés Ski offers around

As the chairlift is not operating out of season, we have to walk up one of the ski-slopes

Mountain station with restaurant (wink, wink…)

Did I mention the views?

And still we climb higher

The tourists are well catered for

Click on the photo for full panorama-view

We could carry on to the glacier – like these fearless walkers – but the trail is officially closed and our shoes are not really suited for snow-hiking

We still have some winter wonderland fun

The landscape resembles the High Alps but we are actually only 570 metres above sea level

Down is easier than up – gravity is your friend

Water pouring down over the rock face

The weather still holds as we are approaching the town

We head into the centre to organise our onward journey – Avenida San Martín

 

All travel agencies are either closed (because it’s Sunday) or hopelessly overcrowded (because it’s Sunday). In the evening it starts to rain and we still don’t know how we will get back to the mainland.

I already prepare myself for another day in Ushuaia, staying in our lovely B&B listening to the wind and rain and trying to bring this blog up-to-date…

Posted 15 November 2014 by Pumpy in Argentina, Chile, The 2014 Rucksack Trip

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To the end of the world   1 comment

Saturday 8th November 2014

Accommodation in Tierra del Fuego is expensive and often doesn’t include breakfast, but if you want to eat before the local bakeries open, the big service stations like YPF and Petrobas offer a nice range of coffees and pastries from 7 o’clock in the morning.

General José de San Martín watches over Río Grande

Waiting for our minibus to Ushuaia

The Ruta 3 follows the coastline for a while

We’re not the only ones heading for the end of the world

Stop-over in Tolhuin – with the famous bakery ‘La Unión‘ in the background

The countryside becomes more scenic by the mile

Lago Fagnano

The rough waters of the Beagle Channel

Ushuaia – we’ve made it!

It seems like an age since we started in Buenos Aires (1st September) and passed through La Quiaca (12th September)

 

Now we have to gather a lot of information and make decisions: accommodation, what to do in Ushuaia, are we going even further south to Puerto Williams in Chile (the real southernmost human settlement on earth), and when and how do we get back on to the mainland, by plane, bus or boat? The ladies at the tourist information office are extremely helpful – their service, knowledge and friendliness are exceptional; we get maps, addresses, the weather forecast for the next days, prices and they even call several hotels for us to enquire if they have vacancies – Ushuaia is always busy and remarkably expensive. We receive a free certificate that we’ve arrived at the end of the world, get our diaries and passports stamped and are very impressed.

After quizzing several tour operators we find out that the tour to Puerto Williams takes at least two days and that the crossing of the Beagle Channel to the Isla Navarino has been cancelled today. This uncertainty we would have to deal with on both the outbound and inbound journeys and although we are ahead of schedule, it’s just too risky – we may be stuck on the island for days. Oh well, there must be still reasons left to come back one day…

With the time frame for our stay settled, we find a comfortable room in the B&B De las Artes run by lovely host Marcos who can’t do enough to make us feel at home – which we do straight away.

Then we go on a sight-seeing tour of Ushuaia.

Click on the photo to see the full panorama

Some serious equipment…

Kelp Goose

 

The obligatory tourist shot

Dolphin Gulls

 

Ushuaia International

For dinner Marcos recommends an excellent locals’ restaurant

Many travellers describe the town as ugly…

 

… but we already like Ushuaia so much that we will stay at least another day.

Posted 13 November 2014 by Pumpy in Argentina, The 2014 Rucksack Trip

Tierra del Fuego   Leave a comment

Friday 7th November 2014

Early in the morning we leave Punta Arenas heading for Punta Delgada and Primera Angostura where three ferries run permanently from 8:30 hrs in the morning to 1:00 hrs at night between the mainland and Tierra del Fuego.

With summer arriving in Patagonia, we are reminded that it is Christmas soon…

The last impressions of Punta Arenas

Who has the right of way?

Woohoo – we’re crossing the Strait of Magellan to Tierra del Fuego!

Performing the usual ritual

The weather meets our expectations

Crossing into Argentina – and here, too, the nation grows…

Territorial division of the tip of South America between Chile and Argentina

As you know, we prefer to travel by day and as we’ve heard that the lakes and mountains around Tolhuin and Ushuaia are very beautiful, we decide to stop over in Río Grande and continue our journey in daylight.

Costanera in Río Grande

Part of the monument to the heroes of the Falklands War

Still a sensitive issue – to be discussed with caution here

We are glad to spot a sense of humour as well!

Although, when dinner time comes, we decide to ignore the appeal… 😉

 

Posted 12 November 2014 by Pumpy in Argentina, Chile, The 2014 Rucksack Trip

Another update   Leave a comment

Internet is really slow in this part of the world, as you may have noticed by the lack of daily updates. Last night I had to leave the laptop in the hotel lounge just to upload a grand total of three photos overnight… Anyway, here’s a quick catch-up to let you know where we are and have been – and that we are still enjoying ourselves immensely.

Friday 24th October 2014

We travel from Trevelin in Argentina to the border with Chile on a regional bus that only runs twice a week (later we hear that this service was cancelled the other day…); then by minibus on to Futaleufú. Here we are extremely lucky again: there is only one connection to Coyhaique per week, scheduled for Friday at a quarter to twelve. We arrive around 10 o’clock and thus still have time to exchange money and get some supplies for the journey. Considering the sparse connections serving the Carretera Austral we decide to do the 10-hour trip to Coyhaique in one go and will not stop in Puyuhuapi as previously planned.

In the end the journey takes over twelve hours, because the Chilenos are working frantically on paving the whole distance of the Ruta 7 from Chaitén to Coyhaique. A major project which will not be completed until 2017 at the earliest, as the road will also be broadened to two lanes and huge amounts of rock need to be blasted and disposed of. While the construction is an admirable effort, it will also take the adventure out of the famous route…

The landscape along the Carretera Austral is absolutely stunning; we are blessed with surprisingly good weather and arrive tired but happy in Coyhaique just before midnight. Luckily we even find a room in the first place where we ask for accommodation. Photos can be found in this gallery, #1 to 118

From Trevelin to the border between Argentina and Chile

Our luxury minibus from Futaleufú to Coyhaique – shared with only four other passengers…

Between Futaleufú and Puerto Ramirez

In La Junta

One of the many road closures

In Puyuhuapi

More road works…

Just before it gets dark we cross the Cordillera de Queulat; the pass still being unpaved…

Saturday 25th October 2014

Rest day in Coyhaique. We move to a hotel where we have more space and a baño privado and explore the town. There is not a cloud in the sky – an extremely rare occurrence in Chilean Patagonia. Photos here; #119 to 190.

Car wash for a good cause in Coyhaique

The bomberos (fire brigade) are helping as well

Araucaria (monkey puzzle tree) – extremely tough to withstand the harsh elements in Patagonia

Río Simpson

La Piedra del Indio – the Head of the Indio

Nice place for a farm – with the trails right on your door step

Coyhaique is the main supply centre of the whole region

Enjoying the regional Cazuela – and the Cerveza, of course

Sunday 26th October 2014

Without a reservation we just try our luck and go to the bus terminal for 9 o’clock. We are fortunate enough to snatch the two last seats on the minibus to Cochrane. There is another service half an hour later but we don’t want to risk being stuck in Coyhaique for another day if that bus is fully booked as well. We sit in the last row on the left, where we don’t have the best views of the gorgeous countryside but occasionally we catch a glimpse.

At 2 o’clock in the afternoon we get off in Puerto Río Tranquilo where we want to visit the Capillas de Marmol. While we are searching for accommodation, a young couple approaches us to tell us that they have booked a boat trip for 15.00 hours and we can join them if we want. That accelerates our efforts to find somewhere to sleep and we just make it on time for departure.

The crossing is rough and exciting, the caves are absolutely amazing and we think this experience is the start of a beautiful friendship with Tal and Chen from Israel, who are in the middle of a 2-month trip through South America and freshly engaged since Machu Picchu. After we’ve reached terra firma again they offer to take us to Chile Chico in their hire car the next day.

Photos are in this gallery; #191 to 502

Breakfast is served in our room

… and it is quite a good one!

Near Villa Cerro Castillo

Cerro Castillo

Five seasons a day – it’s a bit like Scotland

Río Ibañez

Lago General Carreras – Chile’s biggest lake

In Puerto Río Tranquilo

With Tal and our skipper

 

Capillas de Marmol – the Marble Caves

 

 

Monday 27th October 2014

¡Feliz Cumpleaños, Babbelito! Today is Johannes’s special birthday. The landlady has decorated the breakfast table with a homemade cake and accessories the friendly ladies in the tiny village shop have helped me sourcing the previous evening. Tal and Chen pick us up at 9.30 hrs and we drive along the shore of Lago General Carrera to Chile Chico on the border with Argentina.

Again we are blessed with gorgeous sunshine and stunning views of the biggest lake in Chile – a fantastic birthday present for Johannes. The route is unpaved but mostly well maintained and we would make good progress if we wouldn’t have to stop for photos every other kilometre… We have a nice late lunch in Chile Chico before we cross into Argentina and find accommodation in Los Antiguos.

By the way, we haven’t seen a single minibus the whole day and wonder how long it would have taken us to get here by public transport…

Photos here; #503 to 718 and here (Argentina) #341 to 360.

Happy Birthday, Johannes!

Cisne de cuello negro – black-necked swan, native to the south of South America

Driving the actual distance of 166 kilometres would probably take three to four hours only…

Lunch in Chile Chico

Into Argentina

Los Antiguos

It’s not easy in this village but we finally find a birthday dessert!

Tuesday 28th October 2014

Just before they drop us at the bus terminal in Perito Moreno, Tal and Chen ask if we would like to join them on the 700-kilometre journey to El Calafate. Wow, we are gobsmacked by their kind offer and gratefully accept.

Long stretches of the Ruta 40 have been paved since 2010 and the only ripio left are the 174 kilometres between Gobernador Gregores and Tres Lagos, where we lose the hour that Chen has gained on tarmac against the GPS’s estimate. We are lucky that the wind is not half as strong as the last time I travelled this route and was almost blown off the road. Photos here (not fully uploaded yet – please check later).

Wednesday 29th October 2014

When we wake up there are patches of blue sky but on the way to the Perito Moreno glacier the clouds are closing in and it begins to snow. Tal and Chen are hugely excited, as snow is rare in Israel, but the weather also means that the view from the Miradores is zero. Fortunately the sun comes through for about twenty minutes and we get some glimpses of the glacier and all the wonderful blue shades of the ice. Photos here (not fully uploaded yet – please check later).

Thursday 30th October 2014

Tal and Chen take us with them to El Chaltén; it’s their journey back to Bariloche where they have to return the car. Although it is snowing in the morning, the weather improves on the way and grants us the most wonderful views of the Fitz Roy mountain range.

The hotel I stayed the last time is fully booked but we find a lovely room in the excellent Hotel Lago del Desierto which is even closer to all the amenities. Like in El Calafate we have difficulties getting cash from the only cajero in town and find that hardly any business accepts payment with credit card. The season here lasts only four months from the middle of November to March and it isn’t worthwhile for the small enterprises to pay a whole year’s fee to the credit card companies. While this is absolutely understandable it leaves us in a precarious situation and the risk of having to wash dishes for the rest of our stay.

Out of the blue we come across the perfect solution of our problem: the restaurant where we have a delicious dinner takes Euros at an incredibly good exchange rate for us – we will return with more money than we set out with… 😉

Friday 31st October 2014

Today we do the Capital Nacional del Trekking justice and trek to the Lago de los Tres. Thanks to cloudless sky and bright sunshine we have splendid views of the Fitz Roy Massif. The first three hours of the trail are pretty easy going but the last two kilometres it’s a backbreaking climb up to 1,150 metres above sea level. As a reward we see a condor, the frozen Laguna de los Tres and the Fitz Roy in their full glory. We are happy but a tiny bit tired after the 28 kilometres we have covered in 12 hours… Photos to follow.

Saturday 1st November 2014

We think we have deserved a rest day and take it easy: just a little 11-kilometre stroll to the Mirador del Torre, a nice lunch with the leftovers from last night’s Milanesa, a visit to the local Heladeria on the way back, some shopping for presents for the loved ones at home and another attempt at uploading photos to finally post an update here…

Cerro Torre

At the Mirador del Torre

Please come back to this post in a day or two – I will keep trying to upload photos and add them to the days in the text. Thank you for your patience.

Posted 2 November 2014 by Pumpy in Argentina, Chile, The 2014 Rucksack Trip

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A couple of pictures   1 comment

We are already in Coyhaique! The only bus serving the Carretera Austral from Futaleufú went two hours after we arrived in the Chilean border town on Friday!

But before we tell you our stories from Chile, here are some photos accompanying the recent ‘Quick Update’ –

Tuesday 21st October 2014

Our high-end coach on the route from Puerto Varas to Bariloche

Bye bye, Panamericana…

Lago Puyehue

Río Pilmaiquén

And whoosh – we are in Argentina!

Snow on the Paso Cardenal Antonio Samoré at 1,314 metres above sea level

Iglesia Catedral

First chocolate samples…

Wednesday 22nd October 2014

From uptown to downtown Bariloche it’s a steep descent

We find adventures everywhere we’re going…

We are briefly tempted to buy a car for independent travel through the Patagonian wilderness…

Bariloche and Lake Nahuel Huapi

Of course, we have to feel the water

Careful, Johannes – I haven’t seen any shoeshine boys in town…

We make a friend

The Neo-Gothic cathedral

Time for a coffee…

… and chocolate!

For our British readers…

Thursday 23rd October 2014

Hasta luego, Bariloche

Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi

In El Bolsón

La Patagonia argentina

Our cabaña ‘Ty Gwyn’ – the white house

Afon Percy – downstream becoming Río Futaleufú in Chile

Posted 26 October 2014 by Pumpy in Argentina, Chile, The 2014 Rucksack Trip

From Argentina to Bolivia: Salta – Humahuaca – La Quiaca – Villazón – Tupiza   2 comments

Thursday 11 September – Salta to Humahuaca, Argentina

After an opulent breakfast we leave the Hotel del Antiguo Convento and head for the bus terminal, passing the old convent itself.

The bus takes us north zigzagging through Güemes, Perico, San Salvador de Jujuy, Tilcara and, climbing gently from 1,190 to 3,240 metres above sea level, to Humahuaca, our destination today.

Some impressions from the road –

We still contemplate taking the train occasionally

In Jujuy we have to change buses – the one in front is probably better suited to cope with the altitude. As it is quite a logistical challenge to shift all passengers and their luggage we wonder why they didn’t use the newer model in the first place.

Mmm, it was probably a good idea to stick to the bus…

Welcome to Humahuaca

We find a nice little hotel in the middle of town –

– then we set out to explore the city, which has its own distinctive culture and where the heaviest fighting in the country during the Wars of Independence between 1814 a 1821 took place.

Monumento a los Héroes de la Independencia

Of course, such a special place is also quite touristy

The Town Hall

La Quebrada

The much contemplated railway…

In the evening we enjoy the regional cuisine: aubergine with goat’s cheese and a Quinoa casserole

 

Friday 12 September – Humahuaca to La Quiaca, Argentina, and on to Villazón and Tupiza, Bolivia

Breakfast is rather frugal – but typical for the region

The bus to La Quiaca, the most northerly town and starting point of the famous Ruta 40, leaves at 10.10 hrs – or 10.40, but we don’t really mind; we are on holiday.

And promptly, half a mile further down the road…

5121 kilometres to Ushuaia…

From the bus terminal it’s less than a kilometre to the border, so we cross La Quiaca on foot to see a bit more of the place.

Ok, we admit defeat – travelling by train is definitely not an option

Both Argentinean and Bolivian immigration offices are conveniently in the same building; we fill in the necessary formularios, get our stamps and walk over the Río La Quiaca into Villazón in Bolivia.

The Dakar Rally has been a huge event in Bolivia

We rest for a few minutes on the main square –

– find the only cash point in town relatively quickly (thanks to Open Street Map on my phone) and head for the bus terminal. We have just asked a local señora if we are in the right place – like in many towns, there are different terminals for local and national/international connections – when we are approached by another lady: Van a Tupiza? Great, that’s exactly our destination today!

We pay the stately amount of 15 Bolivianos (£1.34 / €1.69) for the 90-kilometre journey…

Our luggage is securely fastened on the roof rack

We sit right in the front next to our ‘chofer’…

… and enjoy splendid views

It seems that our chauffeur has spent a bit too much time watching Formula 1 but at least they have paved the road since I’ve last been here on my bike, and so we already arrive after 1.5 hours in Tupiza. One of the many demonstrations in Bolivia blocks the first bridge into town.

Fortunately the activists decide to abandon their protest and let us through. While I am dealing with our luggage, Johannes makes friends with the locals.

The Hotel Mitru, where I’ve stayed in 2010,  is only a few streets away and we get an excellent spacious room on the first floor. And the receptionist, Edgar, even remembers me and gives us a good rate.

We feel quite tired from the journey and only leave our accommodation to have dinner at the Churrasqueria Moises – a huge mixed plate with beef filet, chops, chorizo, salad, potatoes and rice.

Tomorrow we will grant ourselves a rest day – Tupiza is such a lovely place.

Posted 16 September 2014 by Pumpy in Argentina, Bolivia, The 2014 Rucksack Trip

Resistencia to Salta   Leave a comment

Due to non-existent Wi-Fi and flaky internet availability in the places we stay, I’m falling more and more behind with keeping you up-to-date on a daily basis. Therefore we’ve allowed ourselves a rest day today and I will give you just a brief overview of our recent adventures.

Tuesday 9 September – Resistencia to Salta, Argentina

We sleep surprisingly well in our modest chamber, head back to the terminal to buy tickets for our onward journey and then take the local bus into town to find a nice little café and have some breakfast.

In the end we spend five pleasant hours in the Heladeria (ice café) Luigi being pampered by the friendly waitresses with café con leche, freshly pressed orange juice and delicious pastries. Apart from indulging ourselves in local delicacies we even get some work done: editing photos, writing our journals and another blog post and sending emails to the loved ones at home.

When the electricity fails (a common occurrence in this part of Argentina), we go for a stroll through the city of the sculptures, as Resistencia is dubbed for its many pieces of art, all exhibited in public places for everyone to enjoy.

We return to the terminal with plenty of time to spare and sit on the terrace watching the world go by until our bus to Salta arrives. It’s almost dark when we set off, so we wouldn’t have seen a lot of the Argentinean Chaco – had it not been for the brightly shining moon.

Although the bus stops often, we still get a good night’s sleep and arrive relatively refreshed in Salta.

Wednesday 10 September – Salta, Argentina

From the terminal it is only a short stroll to the first of the accommodation options I have in mind and Bingo! – we get the most wonderful room of the whole journey so far at the excellent Hotel del Antiguo Convento. It is also the most expensive but I can negotiate a 20% discount and the facilities, the quality of the fittings and the helpfulness of the staff are worth every peso.

Johannes could happily stay here for two weeks… But we have a loop to finish. After settling in we head into the centre of Salta to ask at the tourist office what we should see.

Basílica Menor de San Francisco

Cabildo de Salta

Catedral Basílica de Salta – Santuario del Señor y Virgen del Milagro

Through the park along the Avenida San Martín we walk to the cable car that takes us up to the summit of the Cerro San Bernado, where we have a splendid view over Salta – before descending via the 1021 stone steps back into town.

A seemingly harmless bottle tree…

Oops!

We briefly contemplate visiting the village of San Lorenzo, as recommended by the friendly señora at the tourist office, but decide that we’d had enough excitement for the day and return to the Old Convent Hotel. We only leave to have dinner at the Corredor de las Empanadas next door – also well worth a try when you are in the area.

Johannes can’t manage one litre of Cerveza on his own – the things we do for our parents…

Enjoying some excellent local dishes – Tira and Cazuela de Cabrito

Well, after a day in Salta we can say that everyone we have spoken to about Argentina hasn’t promised too much…

Posted 14 September 2014 by Pumpy in Argentina, The 2014 Rucksack Trip