Location: Buenas Aires, Argentina
OUR ROUND UP.....
We started here in BA mid January and this is where we have to say goodbye to our South American Adventure. After almost 3 months of travelling the bottom half of this amazing continent we have been fortunate enough come to the end safely and with huge smiles for having seen its natural spectacales and experienced its beautiful cultures.
To try and summarise....we winded through the Andes Mountains in amazement, sampled Mendoza wines on bikes, enjoyed the vibe and went to Spanish School in Buenas Aires, was in awe at the beauty of Iguazu falls, viewd the wildlife and remote sunsets of the mozzie ridden Pantanal, snorkelled the crystal clear streams in Bonito, endured the longest bus ride across Brazil, admired the Costa Verde with its green waters and scattered islands, admired caperioria dancers in the colonial town of Parity, swam at Lopez Mendez the best beach in Brazil, were speechless at the sight of dolphins playing by our boat´moi linda´, Lis fell very ill and beat a servere intestine infection from the local food, we´ve been to Rio de Janerio..what more can you say about that, we were almongst the biggest party in the world in the Sambadromo, danced samba with the locals at bloca street parties, watched the city lights of Rio come alight from the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain, watched the sunset over Ipenema beach, chilled out on the beaches on the pennisular of Buzios, saw the Andes mountains through the smog in Santiago City, attempted to climb an active volcano in Pucon, took a road trip through the Argentinean and Chiliean Lakes District, saw colonies of sea lions and peguins, ´hardcored it´trekking and camping in one of the most breathtaking national parks in the world - Torres Del Paine, was in awe at the size and beauty of Moreno Glacier and to close we travelled to the southern most city in the world.
Looking back its crazy when you think of everything that we accomplished. Of all of the places and things we set out to see and do we achieved and not to mention exceeded expectations. We have experienced the culture, food, made freinds with locals and explored the special sights that Chile, Argentina and Brazil have to offer the world. We highly recommend that you get to experience them one day too, we know you will love it as much as we did....so book your flight now!
Location: Ushuaia, Argentina
Here we are at the southern most city in the world!! Yeh we checked this statement out on a random globe we found in a store here. We suspected that NZ might be just as close, but nope, here takes the title. We were hoping to scope out the last minute boat trips to Antartica but unfortunately we were 1 week too late and the trips have stopped for the season....bummer, we were really keen to be spontaneous.
Much the same in this quaint little town surrounded by mountains, they have penguins and sea lions (think most the peguins are migrating north though), boat trips to a light house, glaciers, and trekking in National Park Tierra Del Fuego. To tell the truth after 3 months on the road we are pretty tired so we decided to chill out in our nice cosy, friendly B&B, watch sky telly (English...yay), drink hot chocolate, go for little walks and shop.
We´ve had a nice time chilling out here and are about to board our flight to BA this afternoon.
Location: El Calafate, Argentina
El Calafate sits on the shores of Lago Argentino and is a tourist centre for visiting Parque National Los Glaciares. The National Park is home to the famous Perito Moreno Glacier, the surrounding 13 glaciers and the dramatic Fitz Roy mountain.
We went on a day trip to Perito Moreno Glacier which was an amazing natural wonder, hard to comprehend its size. It is some 30km long, 5km across and 60 metres high reaches the water at a narrow point on one of the fiords. Boarded a boat to the North face and saw wall of ice up close, pretty cool.
Spent the next few days chillin out in the look alike Alpine town, with its main road filled with quaint artsy stores, tour agencys, mountain gear shops and coffee and chocolate cafes. Not too mention getting into the bife de lomos, which the boys could eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner....Argentina has it all as far as natural sights, it is cheap and is a meat lovers paradise.
We had to farewell a team member here, Matt had to return to Santiago and back to London. Now it is back to the 3 little amigos, but in the next few days we will all be going our seperate ways, Dan to Iguazu and us to the southern most city in the world, Ushuaia at the bottom of Argentina. Will probably send our last entry from there as there will only be a quick stop of in BA before saying goodbye to South America and flying back to Londontown.
Location: Puerto Natales, Chile
Onwards and further north to the prime sheep raising area in Chile to Puerto Natales. Today this town is the gateway to the magnificent Torres Del Paine National Park.
Covering 145km north West of Puerto Natales this National Park is a UNESCO reserve and a must-see region. Constant views of peaks, glaciers, turquoise lakes it is said to be one of the most impressive mountain areas on earth. With 250km of well marked trails which includes the most popular ´El Circuit¨and ´The W´ the park is fast becoming a popular destination for those seeking to take on a challenge in a amazing corner of the world.
With such a big wrap, us 4 amigos set out to gear ourselves up for exploration of the park. Not hard-core trekkers and unequiped for all aspects of trekking and camping we decided to go for it and hope for the best. We spent half a day organising our 3 day and 2 night stay in the park by hiring equipment from shoes (we know, it was gonna end in tears), wet weather pants and jackets, tents, sleeping bags, matts, stoves, you name it we got it. They say you have to cater for all weathers as in the park can change in minutes. With hopes that we had everything we had a cosy sleep and woke for an early start at 6am.
Since we only had 2 days of trekking we decided to complete portions of ´The W Circuit´- The Torres Del Paine and the Lago Grey treks. After pitching tents at the base we set off at noon on a 17km round trip with an elevation of 1km...yes..OMG. Through amazing scenery, wooden forrest, streams, up and down canyons, finally reaching the final asent to reach the Torres by having to climb 45 mins up bolders...yes...nearly breakdown and cry material here but ´Team Hardcore´reached the top and it was magical, well worth it and the weather held out..unlike our feet.
The following day we caught a bus and a catamaran, set up camp and headed for Glacier Grey. On the 15km trek we saw ice-bergs and lakes and the most amazing view of Glacier Grey.
All up we ´hard-cored it´a total of 32km in 14 hours in 2 days and survived terrential rain and gale force winds overnight in our tents. The experience was unforgettable and the park a must-see.
Location: Punta Arenas, Chile
Centre for local sheep farming and fishing industries, this tranquil clean city is the gateway to travel Southern Patagonia.
By boat we experienced sighting the amazing colonies of Magellanic Penguins and Sea Lions. This was definitey a hightlight of this area, check out the photos.
Location: Bariloche, Argentina
Sitting on the steep wooden shore of Lago Nahuel Huapi, Baraloche is one of Argentinas most beautifully sighted cities. With many restraurants, the best chocolate store (Mamushka), the creamiest helado (ice-cream) in the country and the devine steaks, yep...we are in the Argentina Lakes District! Speaking of steaks, had the most amazing meal at a traditional steak house, where the mozo´s wore groucho atire and served up a storm. This place was Bariloche´s first general store, where apparently Bush Cassidy bought his amunition in the day...well so they say.
We hired a car and set off on the classic 60km ´Circuit Chico´ running along the many pristine lakes, wooden cottages, mountain views and passing the world famous Lloa Lloa Hotel with its panoramic views and perfect gardens. Stopping for lunch by the lake, we splashed out and had two fondue, a classic cheese and a raw meat one which you had to cook to your liking in a fondue deep fryer, was pretty different and tasty.
The following day we ventured on the seven lakes drive, aiming to stop at a small unknown village that a local bar owner recommended called, Traful. Typical Patagonia scenery, the early morning sun glistening on the land. windy roads, streams, bridges, jagged mountain peaks. Spent the night in a cosy log cabin nestled in the mountains playing cards and drinking local red wine.
Back on the bus, through border crossings to Puerto Montt in Chile to catch our flight to Punta Arenas in Southern Patagonia.
Location: Pucon, Chile
Well we have swapped the bikinis and beach for fleeces and mountains...what are we thinking! We flew from Rio back to Santiago where we picked up another member of the team and welcomed Matt onboard! From there we bused it south to the small village of Pucon.
Pucon is the base for adventure activities like white water rafting, trekking and the main highlight of the area is Volcano Villarrica, which is indeed an amazing sight.
After arriving by bus at 7am we hired car to explore the area and thought it be a good idea to warm up for the big volcano climb. So we did the 3 Lago hike in the Pargue Nacional Huerquehe which was a 16km round trip then aftewards soaked our sore limbs in one of the many thermal hot springs in the area.
An early 7am start for the volcano climb, up and ready to tackle it only to be greeted by cloudy weather which was disappointing. The tour company decked us out in all of our mountain gear in hope that the weather would clear up when we reached the base. Yes, jackets, pants, boots, crampons and icepicks...then it hit us...holy smokes, this is hard core stuff!
Unfortunatley the weather wasnt the greatest at the base and there was no gaureentee that we would reach the top but we decided to give it a try.
The still active volcano is 2840m high and normally a 3-4 hour trek to the top. During the first 400 metres up the first incline there was not so positive outlooks as we looked ahead. Us girls werent happy trekkers and broke away from our hardcore pack, Matt saying that he would stay with us and Dan ´Mr Hardcore Climber´continuing with the rest. So the three of us and our great guide, Juan, who spoke no English, (could have been a problem in a sticky situation) steadily continued up over ice, through the cloud until we reached a 20cm wide path of ice and a steep drop down the volcano. Oh no....nearing the 2000 meter mark one of us pipes up and claims we are scared of heights, yep, over half way and it wasnt one of us chicas. This was our turn around point, we lunched on the side of the volcano then started our decent by sliding on our bums on the snow down the side which was fun. All up we did about 7 hours...not too bad for us unfit novis hikers. The rest of the group only went a little further only to turn around due to bad weather also.
Location: Buzios, Brazil
Buzios is considered one the most charming places in Brazil, set on a peninsula boasting 17 beaches, discovered by Brigitte Bardot in the 70´s. There are loads of cute boutique´s, restaurants and is known as Brazil´s St Tropez. Went on another boat trip around the white gleaming sandy beaches and all you can drink caipirinihas. Playing cards, working on the tan and generally chilling out, boy its a tough life.
Location: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
We were greeted in Rio by Dan, our friend from Australia and together we moved into our wicked apartment in the heart of Ipanema which was home for the next 10 days and was our haven from the craziness of carnival.
Strolling Ipanema & Copacabana beach, Christo the Redentor, Sugar Loaf Mountain, a soccer match at Maracana football stadium and Carnaval was the highlight of our stay in this great city. Majority of our time was spent in Ipanema amongst the street parades ´blocos´ and the major hightlight of course was the Sunday night parade at Sambodromo. This is a spectal that features thousands of costume dancers, elaborate floats and excitable fans (30,000 people) cheering on their favourite schools. The championship is hotly contested, with the winner becoming the pride of Rio and all of Brazil and therefore they put their hearts and souls into all aspects of the event. The parade runs from 10pm to 6am and each group (6 in total) displays a theme of continual stream of colour, music, dancing and craziness unlike we have ever seen before. This event alone has definately made our trip to Brazil worthworth, take a look at the photos and see the amazing costumes, effort and passion that is put into this event.
We made alot of friends along our travels and Rio for carnival was a meeting point to catch up again. We met the Irish Contingent (4 awesome girls) in Mendoza orginally and caught up with them again for a few pints and good times in what do ya know, an Irish Bar in Ipanema. Renee´s friend Paolo from Shell London who she last met up with in Ibiza was also in town for the big show. Was great to catch up considering he now lives in Barcelona! Wonder which party we´ll met up next at Paolo?!?! Then there was Gav, Renee´s mate from London, had many a cerveja with him and his travel mates also. One night we went out in Lapa, this area hosts Rio´s chaotic vibrant street party scene, in a dodgy part of town of course. There was an outdoor samba festival where we attempted to samba with the locals. It all went pear shaped when some dodgy characters started harassing Lissa and Dan. There was a crew of locals just waiting for a bite from us, hence we footed it out of there straight of away. It could have turned ugly very easily!
Speaking of hairy moments, the trip back from the Sambodromo was a shit your pants event. We really should have guessed it when we got into a taxi with mags! He led us through the cobbled stone back streets of who-knows-where, when suddenly we were abruptly stopped and greeted by a baracaded street with police armed and ready to shoot their one metre length machine guns... pointed directly at us. Couldnt understand a word of what they were saying, Portuguse would have come in real handy at this point....dumb tourists. Two blocks later, we were greeted by yet another baracade of cops and yep, machine guns pointed at us again. This time the windows had to be wound down so they could see who was in the back. Think he just led us down a dodgy path, oh well, thats Rio for you.
Also were in town were Chris and Fleur, are an Aussie couple we met on our eventful Pantanal trip. We celebrated the closing out party together at the festivities of Banda de Ipanema, this is a long standing banda with a wild crowd, complete with drag queens and wacko costumes. We joined in the wackiness complete with metallic and afro wigs. Dan was particularly popular amongst the drags, we think he enjoyed the attention....not. Let us say now, if you are gay, semi or thinking of turning, book your tickets to Rio now. Hottest gay male bodies, decked out with six packs in every direction possible. Gay mans dream. We joined in the gay bloca party, mingled with the boys and danced on the bars. Great night out, they really know how to party.
Rio really is an amazing and diverse city, set amongst the most gorgeous settings with really fit, gorgeous and energetic people. Not to mention the weather, the sun is always shining and the locals really do make use of their fabulous beaches ,
Location: Ilha Grande, Brazil
The coastal bus trip from Parity to Ilha Grande was gorgeous, lots of islands, beaches and clear waters, great for a sailing trip. Ilha Grande is a tropical island 2 hours south of Rio, the locals refer to it as ´Forces of Evil´ as it was previously a pirates hideout, lepar colony and a jail for voilet criminals. To get there you need to catch a ferry, which was eventful, it was at least 40 degrees sharing a barge with at least 300 people, locals, tourist and bulk groceries for the whole island. Half way the barge caught fire, people in a panic and the sweat fest continued. We caught up with our Chilean friends who we met at Parity and drank many a cerveja with on the island.
Spent the day at Lopes Mendez which is arguably the best beach in Brazil. It is only reachable by boat for 1 hr and a 20 min walk. It really did live up to its reputation. It was lined with white squeaky sand, palm trees, mountains and the clearest water we had ever seen, even us Queensland girls rated it. Spotted a bit of wildlife on the way back, on the walk we passed monkeys and even a snake, and on the boat trip we saw the most amazing group of dolphins. There had to be at least 20 swimming beside the boat and putting on a great show for us.
Our exploration of the island came to a holt after our great day at Lopes Mendez. Lis came down with heavy fevers and out of action for 10 days, not a fun time. Two doctors later it came out that she had eaten some dodgy food and got a intestine infection. Drama central.