A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: jaconn

Back in to Argentina

The criss-crossing starts

sunny 12 °C

After a very pleasurable evening (with the odd drink) listening to a local play some excellent songs on the guitar i woke up in what seemed like a mansion of the normal tents, i could actually lie flat out in them. As i meantioned before, the weather had deteriorated considerably and half of our tents had actually become swimming pools, so we set of for El Calefate in Argentina a day early in search of a bed. The main reason to come here, well, the only reason was to see the Moreno Glacier. The fastest moving Glacier in the world. We had a couple of days here and a very nice town it was. With a whole fleet of tourist trucks in our hostel and a couple of days to spare there seemed nothing for it but to experience the nightlife which consisted of, and i quote "The original Irish pub of Patagonia". Now i´ve never been to Ireland but i´m pretty sure this is not typical Irish pub. It certainly didnt play Irish music (well, U2 i suppose is Irish but that can´t count) but with enough Argentinian beer in us we made a couple of good nights of it.

As i said, the reason to be here was to see the Moreno Glacier. After a solid 3 hours sleep (the nights dont finish till 5am or so here) i got up to go see the glacier. It was well worth it (check the photo), 50-60 metres high and you could here it creaking and cracking. It was like playing a bandit though waiting for bits to fall off into lake below, ´just one more minute - i dont want to miss anything´. In the 3 hours i spent watching it I saw a few occur and at times it sounded like thunder. A spectacular sight.

From El Calefate we headed for El Chalten, a small town in what seemed like the middle of nowhere. It was a very strange town, hardly anyone was about and felt like a ghost town, but here was the starting point for yet another hike, this time to see Mt. Fitz Roy. A 3406m granite pillar which to be honest wasnt a lot different to Torres but this time the walk was actually really enjoyable. With the luck of a fine Autumn day the view was superb. The hike was 30km through woods of a fantstic red colour with a very tough final acsent to the mirador (spanish for viewpoint, see i have learnt something) and even saw a woodpecker. Being my first encounter with a woodpecker i was somewhat disappointed to realise that they don´t actually sound anything like Woody The Woodpecker. It was at this point I also realised that one or two cartoons may not be true to life, I think i aged 12 years in that minute. Maybe there is a chance of me maturing. My stomach then started making my decisions and it was time to head back quick smart for a good feed in the evening before leaving the next day to get yet more Chilean passport stamps.

Posted by jaconn 13:20 Archived in Argentina Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Chile

Its not warm!

all seasons in one day 5 °C

The next stop up from Ushuaia was Torres Del Paine in Chile. The literal translation of this is towers of pain!! And now i Know why.

In Ushuaia we were told there is a world famous walk called the W-walk. They said it was a challenge but well worth it aparently. A few of us decided to do it. We honestly thought it couldn´t be that bad, that there would be a fair bit climbing mountains but a lot more flat walking. We were slightly mistaken.

Arriving the 1st day needing to rent tents, we managed to track the person down only to get two man tents that must be designed ergonomically with Ump A Lumpas in mind. Laying down flat out i comfortably touched both ends of the tent which meant i had to curl up into a ball to stop my sleeping bag getting wet.

Woke up early to start the 1t leg of the walk and it was a magnificent day. not a cloud in sight and the mountain covered in snow overlooking us had turned pink in the rising sun. This wasnt going to be so bad after all, we all set off with plenty of layers that soon came off in the sun it was nearly a 20km walk that turned into a good scramble up rocks to get to the first view point of the famous granite pillers (check the picture). the weather was absolutely perfect. the lagoon in the forground with the pillars towering behind was a sight i will not foget. Getting back to campsite with plenty of daylight left we decided to head for the next campsite which was 11km of undulating ground away. We had walked 32km in the first day. With 2 more days of hiking i was already exhausted.

Unfortunately the weather decided to take a turn for the worse, as it does in mountains so easily. The next day we waled up the Frances Valley only to see mountains covered in cloud. But there were some huge avanlanches that we all thought was thunder to start with it was that loud. Walking another 18km left us with a long slog up to see Glacier Grey on the last day. The weather was truly horrendous on our final day, incredibly strong winds and driving rain meant the the meant the 12km (24km round trip) hike up to see the Glacier was a tough one. And morale in the group had taken somewhat of a battering, just like the tents. We were pretty miserable by this time and the thought of spending another night in a tent that wouldnt be suitable for a toddler in the lounge was not doing us any favours. As we went up the mountain the wind just got stronger, but i´d got this far, i was not going to quit now so close to the end. Even with the bad weather there were some greast views to keep my mind off the job in hand, the lake had huge icebergs floating down the lake and with patchy sunlight stretching across the snow capped mountians there were plenty of photo opportunities. Luckily we bumped into another truck tour who offered us a lift back to the rest of the truck and more importantly a tent that i could stretch out in. So we happily accepted their offer.

All in all it was probably the toughest physical test i´d done, walking a 4 day 75km in 3 days with a big backpack was hard work. And quite honestly not a lot of fun at the time, but looking back it was a superb experience. And the luck we had with the weather on the first day to see the granite pillars in clear blue skies made it all worth it.

Posted by jaconn 11:20 Archived in Chile Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Argentina

Due South!

sunny 25 °C

Finally found some time to to update you all on how its going. And boy i have been a long way in the last few weeks. Have travelled all the way from Iguassu Falls down to Ushuaia and am now on the way back up currently residing in El Calafate to see the Moreno Glacier.

So, starting on the Argentinian side of the Iguassu falls that now seems years ago. There are two sides to the falls, the Brazilian and the Argentinian (as you have probably gathered). The Brazilian side gives an overview of them from a bit of a distance while the Argentinian side has walkways throughout the falls. And I can safely say the Argentinian side is a lot more impressive. To actually stand just meters from god knows how many gallons of falling water per second is, how shall i put it... refreshing. It was a good thing is wasnt a cold day, in fact it must have been the hottest day ive experienced so far on the whole tour. And thats saying something. It was a very long day of walking in the sun, but definately worth seeing the might of the falls. When i got back a cold shower was in order, unfortunatley when i looked in the mirror, it wasnt me looking back, it was a cartoon character called Mr Tomato head. Yes, I had well and truely caught the sun that day. And i even had used loads of sun cream but to little effect.

On the way to Buenos Aires, we had a free camp in between the two days driving. When i say free camp, i mean we try to find somewhere with amenities that are actually better than the campsites we stay at. On the 1st days drive, we set of at 6.30am and drove till about 9pm (told you they were lond days), but we were rediculously lucky. We found a school that was for farmers children of ages about 14-17. Its a specially built school for them, as they are basically grown up to work on the farm, so for so many weeks a year (not that many either) this is the only education they get. They were so friendly and offered to let us stay the night in the dorms sharing with the kids. When we drove in they were amazed, we were told they had never met different language speaking people. We all joined in playing music and gave them a game of volleyball, they won. Dammit. But it was such a good night. I expect something i will never experience again.

We arrived in BA on St. Patricks day which happened to be a Friday, so going out just had to be on the cards. Had my first taste of the Argentinian steak, in a nice swanky restaurant. With me not really being the swanky sort of person, i plumped for the simple steak and chips, but boy, it was some steak, the kind that melts in the mouth, just perfect. It was so cheap aswell, it cost less than a tenner for a meaty steak, veg, chips, beers, wine and a coffee. The steak started some sort of disorder in me, i was determined to try something else in all the nice restaurants that we went to in the 5 nights we were in BA. But evertime i tried to order the word steak would just flow out my mouth. I ended up having it 6 nights in row! Brilliant!

BA is a beautiful city, very european and very very clean. We were staying about a ten minute walk from the centre, so there was always something to do. Sleep was a main priority but there just werent enough hours in the day, especially when you dont want to waste the daylight but the city only really comes alive after midnight. My favourite night was our tango night. Everyone from the tour went to show but 6 of us actually went for a lesson and on to a tango club. The lesson was so much fun, they made it look so easy and natural with free flowing movement. While i managed to look like i was just walking around arm in arm with my partner, how on earth did they do it?? Im not sure what my partner was complaining about, i only broke 4 of her toes... shes got 6 left! The next day i thought why not do something really stupid today, so i decided to throw myself out of a plane at 12,000 feet. I loved every second of it, even managing to get in a couple a funky dance moves while free falling.

Having spend 4 days in BA it was time to move on further southwards. Another couple of rediculously long drive days and we were in Peurta Madryn, a Welsh town in the middle of nowhere (nothing around for hundreds of kms). But it is the stopping point to go to the Peninsula Valdes - home to whlaes breeding groung, penguin colonies, elephant seals and sea lions, but more impressively one of only two places in the world where the killers whales attack the seals on the beach. Im not sure what classes as a colony but i saw about 10 penguins, and the guide said it was one of the biggest colonies on the world. I hope they not going extinct!! I did see the sea lions having a fight, there was a lot power there. Unfortunately the bit i had been looking forward to the most never materialised. I didnt see the killer whales. I know it would have been lucky as they dont attack that often, but that would have been spectacular. Ohwell, cant win them all.

The next stop was the end of the world - Ushuaia. Was a pretty small city, but a very pleasant centre to stroll through. There wasnt really a lot to do there except hike the mountains in the background or jump on excursions to the Antartica (which i looked into with Dan and Mario but we missed the season by a day!) So sure enough i did the hiking thing. Im not sure how but Alain, Mark (australians) and myself managed to get lost walking to the Martial glacier in top of the mountain over looking the city. You can see the glacier from all over the city yet somehow we walked straight passed it and ended up torturing ourselves by climbing what must be the worlds steepest ski slope, only to have to climb back down. I say bloody australians, must have been looking at the map upside down. So we had been walking for 2 hours before we even got onto the right path, we were so tired we wimped out and got the chair lift up the 1st half of the mountain. The next day we did the "End of the world" walk in the national park. But it has to be said it not the end of the world and i cant imagine for the like of me why its called that. You get to the "end of the world" and there is sea but there clearly land just a few hundred meters further south from us. So whats that all about?? Still a nice walk though and the hightlight was yet another stupid idea we had the night before - "lets join the antartica club". This involves stripping off completely naked and swimming in the sea for a minute (and i dont mean paddling). I was FREEZING, it wasnt long before my body was telling me to get the hell out. Later we researched the sea temperatures and it turned out to be 7-8 °C. Ouch!

Thats the end of Argentina for now, but we will be crossing backwards and forwards between chile over the next month or so. So keep posted for some more Amazing Argentinian stories.....

Posted by jaconn 09:19 Archived in Argentina Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Back End of Brazil

The Pantanal and Iguassu Falls

sunny 35 °C

After the madness that is the Carnival i was ready for some quiet time. Thinking meeting up with the tour would be a bit easier than pulling four all nighters in a row i was sadly mistaken. I think in the last two weeks i have drunk enough beer and punch to sink a fleet of ships, let alone one. but its all good!
Set off from Rio in the morning heading to Paraty down the coast. Rio was amazing but so tiring, i wasnt too unhappy at the thought seeing something different than the bottom of a beer bottle. A 4 to 5 hour drive went quite fast talking to all the new people who were to be my new best mates for the forthcoming 3 months. Upon arriving in Paraty the weather so scorchio. But it was the humidity that takes toll. Had a few quiet beers that night, thinking i´d get a good night sleep for the boat cruise the next. lying in the tent for 10 hours getting a max of 2 hours sleep is not fun. got up looking like a zombie (as everyone kindly pointed out). with all sorts of bugs caught in the mosquito net. there was even a big spikey caterpillar was doesnt doesnt help with the relaxation when trying to sleep. `are they poisonous?´.
The boat cruise was to start at 11am. there was basically an unlimited supply of beer and punch. so i thought there was only one thing for it. drink myself into a stupour so i pass out rather than sleep (well, its better than nothing). And it worked a treat! The boat cruise great. going from deserted beach to deserted beach in the sun drinking ice cold beer was exactly what the doc ordered!

After a few days into the tour it became evident that this is definately an expedition rather than a holiday.Getting up before it even gets light on half the days is tough on the body. but luckily i´m starting to master the sleeping in any conditions now. so i´m getting by.

Next was bonito, the campsite had a lovely river by it. which was certainly a good selling point. It was so refreshing to jump into to cool down. The main reason we stopped at Bonito was to do Rio Do Prata river snorkling. Unfortunately it had rained the day before (when i say rained i mean chucked it down, the tropics dont do these things by halfs). so we could only go half way down the river until the rain water washed into it. The river is unbelievable clear, 30m underwater vision. the river starts in a pond which comes from the underground springs, and react with the lime stones causing crystal clear water. It was great fun with some scarily big fish swimming around us.

On to what i´ve been looking forward to for some time, The Pantanal. Two days of 12 hour drives really makes you think about driving in England. Never again will i think it is a long drive in the UK, this place is massive beyond belief. Arrived at the Pantanal at 10pm in the middle a huge lightning storm. The pitch black became daylight every few seconds as the lightning streaked across the clouds. It gave a great eerie feel to our arrival. Up at 7 the next morning, to go pirahna fishing. I love it. Caught a massive pirahna the guide said was very hard to catch. I must be a natural! The ones we caught were either killed for bait or fed to the Camen who obviously knew what they were waiting for. Was still good to feed a Camen tho.In the afternoon, we went on a boat ride up the very same river we had just caught the pirahna and fed the camen for a bit of wildlife viewing. Didnt see as much as i though we would, but the swim in the river refeshing (definatley not relaxing due to the predators in there). We were warned not to swim if we had any cuts. But i cant shy away from a challenge like that. I would regret not doing it so i did. And i´m here to tell you all so its fine.

Next day, waking up with somewhat of a hangover and with an uncountable amount of mozzy bites we headed to ranch, for a horse ride a hike in the swamp. Both fun, but walking in forrest with huge ants made me wish i´d not worn sandles. Had been bitten by an ant in Bonito and it drew blood. Impressive!

At the Iguassu Falls now, it is nothing short of amazing. The surroundings of plush forrest is incredible. Check the pic. Even got to see a racoon! they are cute. Heading on to Argentina tomorrow after a very much needed day off!

Posted by jaconn 06:55 Archived in Brazil Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Brazil - Rio De Janeiro

The party capital of the world

sunny 33 °C

Well, i´ve been here for almost week now and this place is nothing short of incredible. There is so much to do. i havent had 5 minutes to myself yet. I´ve been up to the Christ the Redeemer statue, hanglided over the beaches of rio, sunbathed on Cocacabana beach, been the maddest street party i will ever go to, seen wild monkeys playing in the trees.... i could go on for ages but i have so much more to do.
I´ve met loads of people, from all over the globe. Although it does have to be said that England does seem to be the main place backpackers come from. I now officially come from London. It makes life a lot easier, if i say England in reply to everyone who askes where you come from then they always (and i mean always) then say ´London?´. So to say i am from London is just easier.
The picture is of me and three aussie lads i´ve met in the hostel. Went to the street party with them last night, 3 of us were pickpocketed. i only lost a disposable camera sits no big loss but Dion had his wallet taken. We didnt let it ruin the night tho, drinking and partying until the early hours. It was one of the best, if not the best night i´ve ever had, was just so crazy. tens of thousands of people crammed into a street.

Posted by jaconn 08:57 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

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