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Rich’s Travel Diary

Thursday, 30 Mar 2006

Location: Heading North, Argentina

MapThe days spent chilling out in Bariloche worked wonders for our energy levels, although we still managed to squeeze in a 60km bike around the area and a hike to the top of the hill overlooking town.
We were now ready for Pucon (back in Chile) and the live volcano climb. This entailed getting up at 4.15 am to start the climb at 5.30 (in the dark). We walked for about an hour before we reached the snow line where we had to put on crampons and helmet, and were each given an ice axe. Luckily the sun had come up by then which provided us with fantastic views across to Argentina. We then climbed for a further 3 hours to the top (crater) which was hard work, especially as we had to speed up to avoid the clouds that were chasing us up the volcano. We made it to the top, still in the sunshine, and got to look in to the crater itself which was giving out lots of volcanic gases and you could see the odd splash of lava. We could only stay for about 10 minutes as the gases made breathing difficult so we then headed back down, getting to the bottom in about a third of the time. It was a really enjoyable day but we were left exhausted - so we planned a 3 day hike in the local national park for the next day.
This hike, although in a less spectacular park than some of the previous parks, was really worthwhile . It had a mixture of mountains, monkey puzzle trees and lakes, was extremely quiet (the second day we didnt see any other hikers) and had the added bonus of open air thermal pools during the second day which we also had to ourselves.
After returning to Pucon, we then left Chile for the last time to head on up to Mendoza, the wine capital of Argentina. We spent one of the days visiting the local wineries where we sampled some (lots) of the produce and bought a couple of bottles for good measure.
From there it was another overnight bus journey to Buenos Aires before heading up to Iguazu, home of the mighty Iguazu Falls. This is a collection of waterfalls that were without doubt the most spectacular we had ever seen. Check the photos - we enjoyed them so much that we spent a second day over the border in Brazil, seeing them from the other side of the river. While in Brazil, we also managed to take in Itaipu, the largest hydro electric project in the world and the 7th wonder of the modern world (as they kept telling us). All very impressive though, and worth the 11 bus journeys of the day to see the dam/falls.
The next day we did a marathon 28 hour bus journey to get over to Salta, where we are staying for a couple of days before we head up to the border of Bolivia, a mere 5121 km from Ushuia (and all covered by bus!). Its going to be sad to leave Argentina as its had fantastic scenery and sights, great steaks (for Sheena), excellent wine and friendly people. Then again, we have only heard good things about Bolivia and its even cheaper - yipee!