Archive for the ‘Argentina’ Category

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

Tagged with

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…


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

Stranded in Resistencia   Leave a comment

We have changed our original itinerary; from Asunción we won’t be carrying on through the Paraguayan Chaco to Bolivia via the Mennonite Communities, but go south again to Argentina and on to Salta in the north-west of the country. Literally everyone I’ve talked to about Argentina told me that I must go to Salta. We will miss one of my favourite places in Bolivia, Tarija, as a result as we will only join the original route in Villazón, but thus I will also see something new.

In the morning we still have some time to enjoy the sights and delights of Asunción.

Pantheon of the national heroes

The Treasury

The Lido Bar by day

Then we catch the first bus of the day to Resistencia, the capital of the Chaco region in Argentina. It should arrive in plenty of time to give us the chance to catch a connecting bus to Salta at either 19.00 or 22.00 hrs.

We have not even left the Paraguayan capital when the bus breaks down…

After two and a half hours we can finally carry on. When we arrive at the border there is a huge traffic jam – six double-decker busses (like our own) are in front of us, each taking half an hour for all passengers to get their exit and entry stamps and have their luggage checked – or searched if they are unlucky.

We are allowed to cross the bridge at José Falcón on foot; and although I know that I shouldn’t, I take a few pictures of the chaos around me. And promptly, when I return to the bridge, I am stopped by an officer who politely asks to show him my photos and delete one after the other…

Dusk is falling when we can eventually travel on. To cut a long journey short, when we arrive at Resistencia it is already 23.00 hrs and all the connections are gone – the next bus doesn’t leave until 18.00 hrs the following day. We are stranded. Now in Europe, you would be accommodated in some nice hotel at the bus company’s cost and be paid some compensation on top but we are in South America (count yourselves lucky the next time you’re about to complain).

The most the bus company can do for us is that the friendly agent walks with us 100 metres from the terminal and shows us a hospedaje they normally use in emergencies like ours. The room is cheap and once upstairs we understand immediately why.

The communal bathroom

It’s already after midnight, the town centre is another five kilometres away and we are absolutely knackered from the journey. So we decide to stay and file this night under Experiences.

Posted 13 September 2014 by Pumpy in Argentina, Paraguay, The 2014 Rucksack Trip

Cataratas del Iguazú – Argentina   2 comments

Fortunately we felt a lot better the next morning, albeit not 100%, but well enough to get up and head for the Argentine side of the Iguazú Falls.

Three surprises awaited us there – the bus fare had increased from AR$5 to AR$40, the entrance ticket now costs AR$215 (US$26 / £16 / €20) and not AR$85 as in 2010, and, worst of all, the most impressive part of the falls, the Garganta del Diablo  (Devil’s Throat / Teufelsschlund) was closed – as it had been for the last two months! Poor timing on our part…

Even though, the national park still has a lot to offer and is well worth a visit –

Posted 7 September 2014 by Pumpy in Argentina, The 2014 Rucksack Trip

Tagged with ,

From Buenos Aires to Puerto Iguazú   2 comments

After another short night, we decide to explore a part of Buenos Aires which does not exactly lie on the tourist trail, the Costanera Sur, an ecological reserve on the riverbank of the Río de la Plata.

On the way we stroll through San Telmo again and visit the Mercado.

Then we have another look at Puerto Madero.

Who would have thought?

Costanera Sur

Rio de la Plata and the Buquebus, the ferry to Uruguay

Frugal lunch on the shore

A rather unusual view of the Buenos Aires skyline

Local flora

Back to civilisation

Cafés y pasteles on the Plaza Dorrego…

… San Telmo’s main square

Time to leave for the bus station Retiro; we take the metro, the Subte (Subterráneo de Buenos Aires) .

Retiro Central Bus Station

Onboard tbe coach

Suburbs of Posadas…

Road closure that adds to our ultimately 20-hour journey…

Finally we reach our destination Puerto Iguazú

Looking for accommodation

We find a lovely little hotel for a reasonable rate and start planning the rest of the afternoon – but unfortunately we are soon confined to bed for the remainder of the day; the food on the coach must have been dodgy and we spend the whole night running between cama and baño feeling very sorry for ourselves…

Will we be fit and healthy again to visit the famous Cataratas del Iguazú the next morning, the main reason for coming here and one of the highlights of our trip?

Posted 6 September 2014 by Pumpy in Argentina, The 2014 Rucksack Trip

Exploring Buenos Aires   Leave a comment

After thunder and lightning during the night, Johannes and I walked from San Telmo through the city to the central bus station Retiro to buy coach tickets for the onward journey to Puerto Iguazú.

Teatro Catalán

Manzana de las Luces

Centro Naval

Plaza General San Martín and Torre de los Ingleses (the tower of the English), since 1982 renamed to Torre Monumental

Traffic Buenos Aires style…

In the afternoon Cristina kindly took a few hours off and accompanied us on a guided city tour.

Palacio del Congreso de la Nación Argentina – Cristina’s place of work

One of the many demonstrations in the capital to improve the living conditions of its citizens

Not much progress has been made in the last four years…

The Russian Orthodox church

Stadium La Bombonera in La Boca

… with strong support in the community

La Boca neighbourhood

That’s how the first houses in this district were built – and people still live in them

And only five minutes from La Boca…

Puerto Madero – the district of the super rich…

… US$ 4,000 per square metre – and the apartments often stretch over the whole floor…

Rush hour

Embassy of Brazil

A piece of home…

Then Cristina had to go back to work…

Avenida 9 de Julio

And as the highlight of a wonderful day, Cristina and John invited us round for dinner.

Master Chef John’s own Octopus – delicious!

Thank you both so much for all your time, your hospitality and generosity – we enjoyed your company immensely!

Posted 5 September 2014 by Pumpy in Argentina, The 2014 Rucksack Trip

Berlin – Heathrow – Buenos Aires   2 comments

Back in January I had got a fantastic deal from British Airways for a non-stop flight from Heathrow to Ezeiza, and thus Johannes, my dad, joined me from Berlin-Tegel on Sunday afternoon.

Über den Wolken…

London from the air

Meanwhile at Terminal 5, Heathrow…

Bye, Stevie baby, see you in 3 months’ time…

Our 777

After 13.5 hours our destination came into view

Río de la Plata between Uruguay and Argentina

Avenida de los Lagos in Nordelta, BsAs

Misty, enchanted landscape…

At Ezeiza

For some reason we couldn’t get any cash from the ATMs at the airport, so we decided to walk the four kilometres from the bus terminal to our hotel.

Johannes on the Plaza de Mayo – the presidential office ‘La Casa Rosada’ (the Pink House) in the background

Memorial of the Falklands/Malvinas Conflict

The Cabildo Buenos Aires – the former city council, today a museum of the May revolution in 1810

Waiting for our friend John in front of our hostel in San Telmo

With John in the Gibraltar, a pub as British as it can be in the historical centre of Buenos Aires

Another of the famous citizens of the Capital Federal – Mafalda

Dinner at ‘La Poesía’….

… where you can get the best ‘Picada’ in town

… and we were joined by John’s better half Cristina

An amazing city, delicious food and great company – and tomorrow we will explore even more of Buenos Aires!

Posted 3 September 2014 by Pumpy in Argentina, The 2014 Rucksack Trip