A Travellerspoint blog

The Pantanal

Safaris and pool parties

sunny

The next destination was due to be bonito but owing to the fact that we now had three dragoman trucks driving towards rio, we took an alternative route and headed first to the pantanal which is a wetlands area teeming with wildlife and birds, right up my street!

The drive to pantanal was going to take 1.5 days so we stopped en route for a bush camp.  The drive days were pretty uneventful, I took the chance to catch up on long lost sleep.  We bush camped at a motorbike race track in the middle of nowhere, which was slightly odd, but it did have the odd tap here and there so we at least could take it in turns to take an attempt at some kind of shower.  This was much needed as it was getting hotter as we drove north and we were all pretty sweaty and feeling gross, even the truck had begun to smell a bit of "salty wee", not so pleasant.

The drive on the second day was pretty easy, stopping en route to pick up our guide who would stay with us for the duration of our time at pantanal. As we approached the pantanal we began to appreciate how great the next few days would be, we saw masses of termite hills, condors and buffalo and we hadn't even got there yet! We arrived at our accommodation in time for lunch, being ushered straight in to the restaurant to be greeted with the most amazing buffet food ever, complete with bbq'd meats, salads, pastas, rice and beans and an array of buffalo related products.   

After lunch we sat with the guide who talked us through our itinerary for the next few days and we went through the usual process of signing or lives away before being shown to our rooms.  It was at this point that we fully appreciated how amazing our accommodation was.  We were staying on a ranch in the middle of nowhere, with amazing rooms, a swimming pool and lots of areas to hang out in hammocks, pure paradise!

After a quick dip in the pool (well it would be rude not to) we were all bundled off to talk about the jaguar project that the ranch is involved with.  This got us all excited and optimistic about actually spotting one ourselves during our stay.  

After the talk we all boarded the truck to head out on our first safari. We were explained the rules - basically shut the hell up, and with our guide sat up front on lookout we headed out to see what we could find.  The whole place was teeming with birds of all different varieties but we also saw loads of cayman, sloping about in the rivers and many capyburras, these weird looking animals who are a kind of cross between a pig and a guinea pig and maybe a beaver, I'm not sure, look them up, they are very cute. We also saw crab eating foxes and marsh deer, we definitely weren't struggling to spot things but we were still holding out to see the big cats.  I also wanted to see a taipur, but I think I was alone in that. We stopped briefly to take a walk for a while but as soon as we got off the truck we were attacked by more mosquitoes than i have ever seen.  Our guide decided that it really wasnt worth being eaten alive for so we got back on the truck and headed for home.  After a while we pulled to an abrupt stop And we're hushed. We were all eating in suspense, wondering what we were listening for when we saw an orselot walking through the bushes at the side of the road.  Unfortunately he was too well hidden so pictures were impossible but finally we had seen one of the big cats, we would go back to the ranch happy!

Back at the ranch we had some pool time before being fed another amazing meal, getting showered up and insect repellented and boarding the truck again, this time for a night safari. This time we had one of the ranch workers up front with a huge flashlight and we were told that this time we were looking for eyes glowing in the light.  All very exciting stuff.  We saw some owls, some more foxes and deer and cayman before finding another orselot.  Nothing new though and nowhere near as much as we'd seen earlier in the day.  Towards the end I found jonny asleep on one side and tanith asleep on the other.  It was a great safari but we'd all had enough and were ready for home. Back at the ranch we had a bit of a Girly natter over a few little vodkas before everyone left and it was back to the usual group. I decided to hit the sack so headed off about midnight to get ready for the next days activities.

The next morning we woke up and on the way to breakfast were faced with loads of rhea (ostrich like birds) and paraqueets just sitting around the ranch.  Pretty special.  After breakfast we split into two groups for the activities.  I was going horseradish in the morning.  It was boiling hot and I'm not the biggest horse fan so I wasn't really looking forward to this, but I donned my hairnet and helmet and got myself a horse anyway.  The ride was lovely, through the trees of the ranch.  Some of the others saw an anteater along the way but I missed him.  I'm not great at this animal spotting malarkey.  We took a break for a while and were introduced to the local cold mate drinking ritual.  Mate is a herbal tea a bit like green tea which is drunk by everyone in Argentina and brazil.  Most of them are hot but this one was cold and made up with lime water.  We drank it out of a cow horn through a special mate straw which has a filter on the end to stop the leaves going up it.  The ritual with the gauchos is that they pass it around and each person drinks the whole thing until it slurps.  It's rude to give it back before you slurp.  Then you hand it back, it's topped back up with water and it's passed to the next person.  They keep passing around until you say thank you and then they stop.  This stuff was so cold and refreshing I wasn't thanking anyone for ages!! After our little stop we headed back to the ranch.  We had plenty of time to play in the pool now and chill before the afternoons activities. 

Most people decided to pass on the afternoons activities owing to the heat, but I wanted to do everything so I stuck to the plan which was to canoe along the river.  We got ourselves ready and took the walk down to the river, getting eaten alive as we walked.  When we got to the bottom we got into our old French canoes and started our way up the river.  I was in a canoe with carol and one of the locals and as there were three of us carol decided she didn't need to paddle. Very annoying, it was hard work!!! The river was beautiful and we were paddling through lily pads and spotting loads of birds along the way.  We we're looking out for monkeys, and eventually we saw a few playing in the trees, but quite deep in so we couldn't see too well.  After a short distance more however, we came across another one just sitting in the tree eating bananas.  Amazing!! We had the usual water fight on the way back to ranch and headed straight for the pool again when we got back. The others had seen a family of armadillos walking around the pool whilst we were gone which is pretty cool. 

We were all feeling pretty hot and lazy so we were literally dragged off for another lecture about the pantanal, before a mad dash for a shower before we headed over to another field for the BBQ that the ranch were holding for us.

We walked over to the BBQ expecting a quiet affair but we were faced with a really lovely set up. They'd put up little tables and chairs, a dance floor, sound system and ridiculously big BBQ and salads. It was quite impressive.  We sat around drinking for a little while before our guide told us we had a little surprise for started.  They took us over to the BBQ and started carving up some meat and handed it around for us all to try.  It tasted like lean steak with a slightly livery flavour.  They revealed that what we had eaten was cow heart.  Then surprise number two came out, most of us had worked out what this was but some of the group were pretty grossed out to discover that we had eaten cow balls.  They were big!! I had a slice but to be honest it was a pretty vile consistency so gave my leftovers to Chris to finish off.  I'm not sure if I should be proud or disgusted by the fact that I have now eaten pig and cow ball on this holiday. A few more drinkers and then the real food was brought out, it was the best ever, so tasty! Whilst we were eating the ranch workers showed us the traditional dance before finally getting us all involved.  A few attempts at bowing the horn they use to call us for dinner and the party was in full swing.  We carried on at the field for a bit before taking it back to the ranch.  This is when things got a little out of hand, there was dancing on tables before a bottle got broken and smashed on Esther's foot.  Much arguing started an I decided to slope off to the pool to chill out with the boys.  Bad idea, not only did I get eaten worse than I could ever have imagined, everyone eventually made their way to the pool and started dragging everyone in fully clothed.  After a bit I headed back to my room to find that Ellie had lost the key and we were locked out.  After much searching we gave up and ended up with 7 of us sharing the boys room.  Not the best nights sleep in the world! 

The following morning there were a few sore heads but we were all up and ready to get out on the boat trip that we had planned for the day.  It was really beautiful and relaxing travelling up and down the river.  Lots of cool birds including one little with really long legs and massive feet that just walks around on the lily pads.  I got a bit obsessed with them.

When we got to the end of the river we set down our anchors and tried for a spot of piranha fishing.  We basically had bits of bamboo with fishing wire and hooks attached to them which we loaded up with small pieces of beef and dangled in the water.  I didn't actually catch any myself but the group caught loads and at one point someone dropped one at my feet and I totally freaked.  You do not want a dying piranha snapping at your ankles, that's for sure!! Funnily enough the fishing cleared everyone's heads and we were all back on form.  Just enough time to head back to ranch and have lunch with the other truck who had just arrived before getting back on the truck bound towards bonito.

I left the pantanal literally covered in mosquito bites, my knees and legs looks properly diseased, I was officially minging, but it was all worth it, it was and incredible place to stay. We saw so much wildlife and had a lot of fun together.  This leg of the trip was just getting better and better!!

Posted by selson 15:50 Archived in Brazil Comments (1)

Iguazu falls!!

Brazil and argentina!!!

all seasons in one day

We left buenos aires and started the long drive to puerto iguazu which was to take two days with a bush camp en route.  It was a pretty uneventful day and after cooking the group burgers and an amazing salad we ha a couple of beers and had an early night. The new Ozzie boys, Tim and josh stayed up with Ryan and grant and Esther and were given a bit of a telling off the following morning for keeping Claire awake. At last someone else was getting the telling off!!

The next day we took the remaining drive towards our destination stopping along the way to visit the Jesuit ruins. It was absolutely roasting hot and we sat at the side of the road eating cold hot dogs before we went off for the tour of the ruins. Im sure the ruins were pretty amazing but the heat was destroying everyone and concentration was lacking. I have absolutely no idea what the guide told us about them, I just wanted to hide for the shade and drink ice cold water. It was also Taniths birthday that day so we entertained her with her random present that we found last minute in the supermarket of a balloon modelling kit. We managed to fashion a giraffe a couple of dogs and some swords before getting bored. During our lunch stop jimmy managed to find a small child to sword fight with which entertained us whilst we all died in the heat. 

After the ruins we got back on the truck and headed for our campsite. It was a pretty cool campsite with a pool and the other drago truck was there too.  It was made pretty clear that we weren't allowed to keep anyone awake that night so we had to abandon the camping area and go drink by the pool.  Before we did so, we celebrated Taniths birthday with the traditional vodka jelly, expertly made by myself and Claire at a gas station using the hot water machines dedicated for the mate drinkers of Argentina.  This caused confusion amongst some of the older passengers who had never seen vodka jelly before.  Irene explained that it was basically what happened before we all "got silly" and it was advisable to go to bed before it started.  Gladly they ignored her advice and we were all pleasantly surprised when most of the older guys grabbed a spoon and got stuck in too.  Unfortunately for Tanith, she got more than her fair share and before long she couldn't string a sentence together and the beginning of the famous five began.  Claire and I found ourselves some drinking buddies that night in josh and Tim and little Sarah threw herself in the mix too.  This leg was to be the death of my liver for sure.

We stayed up for hours drinking and chatting.  It was really nice to have some fresh conversation and when it eventually ran dry we somehow got onto a conversation of utube videos and Tim showed us a very cute one of a baby monkey riding on a pig. After that it all deteriorated with josh sharing a nasty one involving a monkey and a frog and Claire lowering the tone with one called "jar squatter", this was all wrong. Thankfully it was pulled back with a clip of two ladies running a 52 mile race with them fighting for next place without the use of legs.  Very funny.  Out of the blue josh made up a game of shining a torch on us and calling out a random animal name and we had to make the noise and do the action. A very annoying game and one that unfortunately did not end until much later in the trip. Seriously, what was I supposed to do with bull frog? The night ended with rain and we took to bed leaving the boys to it at 5am. A bit stupid considering we were heading to one of the highlights of the tour the next day, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.

So at 6:30 the following morning we were awake again and eating breakfast and getting ready for a day at the falls.  Iguazu falls sit on the Argentina / brazil border and are a collection of huge waterfalls.  Seriously, nothing can prepare you for them. They are absolutely stunning. 

We packed up camp and set off for the falls, arriving there at about 9:30am. As soon as you get inside the park the system is explained. There are three walking trails you can do at different levels of the falls, there's also a train that takes you to the top and and island you can walk around to see them from a different perspective. On top of this there are a couple of boat rides you can do.  We opted to break away from the rest of the group and head first to the island, as the queues were supposed to get pretty bad later in the day.  I don't do queues.  

Off we set on the walk when we bumped into Claire who told us to catch the train part way as it was a long walk.  Having queued for 45 minutes for the train, it delivered us at our destination about 200 metres away from the start point.  From here on in, we would do things our way. 

So we started on the lower walk which took you to the island, you wak through the forest a little bit, seeing a couple of smaller waterfalls along the way and then all of a sudden you are hit with the real thing.  I can honestly say they are the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.  There are hundreds of narrower waterfalls and several wide ones and they are incredibly high and the power of the water is immense.  It's very hard to describe in words, by they definitely take your breath away.

After taking in our first glimpse of the falls we took the short boat ride across to the island and walked up and around, seeing the falls from various viewpoints and angles. On the way back we stopped to let Sarah swim at the little beach there and to have a spot of lunch before getting the boat back to the main land.  Next up was the short boat ride that we had decided to take.  This was the best bit!!

The short boat ride takes you over to one side of the falls to take pictures and then over to the other side to take pictures.  Then they take you in to the falls.  We started on the furthest side and we got a little by wet, you could tell they were very strong but we were all a little bit disappointed that we didn't go in the bigger falls.  Then they took us back to the other side and this time we were not to be disappointed!! Oh my god we only touched the edge of the fall but it was so strong, I couldn't see a thing and at one point a huge wave of water came into the boat and literally soaked us through and left us with about 6 inches of water in the bottom of the boat.  It was so much fun.  When we started driving away we were all begging to go back in so the boat turned around and took us back in for a second dose. It was amazing and everyone came out laughing like children. I didn't want to get off the boat. 

After the boat ride we were soaking wet so decided that we'd take the train up to the upper level, we managed to meet the rest of our group at this point so we all got the train together.  At the top we stopped for ice creams for begginning the walk to the falls.  On the way we walked over the top of the falls where we saw huge catfish and turtles swimming in the water. 
I was expecting the view of the falls to be similar to what we had already seen but nothing could have prepared me for what I got.  We were literally right on top of the waterfall watching the water go over the edge.  The spray was amazing and soaked us through again.  We stood there for ages, it was mesmerising.  And better than anything we'd seen yet.
When we finally admitted that we needed to leave we headed back to the train and the exit to pick up our lift.  

The afternoon was dedicated to making our final border crossing into brazil and the short drive to foz do iguacu which would be our base for two nights to allow us to see the falls from the other side.

We arrived at the campsite to be faced with two other tucan overland trucks and eventually our other truck would arrive too.  This was clearly going get messy.  

The campsite had agreed to put on a BBQ for us which turned out to be bolognese and salad. It was all very nice though, and then we moved over to the bar for drinks and games. I played some table football with Sarah and then watch Claire and Tim play pool for a while.  That night I got to know Esther a little better and all the girls sat by the pool for a while. We regrouped for a little while and were attacked by josh and the animal game for a while before mini decided to turn nasty on people and that's when the swimming pool incident happened. Thats a story only for a restricted audience but needless to say it was both the most disgusting and funny thing I have ever seen and ended up with me, josh and Sarah hiding her clothes.  At 5am I decided enough was enough and returned to the bar to announce my departure for bed.  Everyone was clearly waiting for someone to make the first move as at this point everyone did the same. 

The following morning we headed off for round two of iguazu falls, leaving at 8:30am. I managed to grab a quick breakfast and Sarah stole
Me a sandwich from her truck from my lunch.  It was a very quiet start to the day and to be fair didn't get much better for the rest of the morning. Both trucks clambered on to Carmen to make our way to the falls, being crammed down the isles after 3.5 hours sleep is not great. 

The falls were amazing still, with only one walk to choose from this time. The view from the brazil side was still amazing but much further away so you could take in the whole view.  You still got the spray but not as much and after the Argentinian side it was a little less breathtaking, but still absolutely amazing.  At one point you take a lift up to a different level of the falls and on the outside were the biggest spiders I've ever seen. Yukky!!! At the top were more of the little raccoon type animals running around that we had seen the previous day, very cute but they bite!!!

We stopped at the top for much needed juice and empanadas before heading back to catch the bus back home.  Sarah and I decided to go into town to look about and grab some lunch.  It's fair to say it was a waste of time as there was nothing in town. We found ourselves a kilo restaurant, ate and then got a taxi back to camp.

As we got back to camp a massive storm set in and the heavens opened.  We sealed all the tents and made our way down to the lake to laze about in hammocks for a while.  Sarah slept whilst me and the two Claire's chatted about the prior evenings activities before being joined by the boys to have beers. Team Japan cooked us an amazing meal of tempura. It would have been rude not to have a few Vinos with our dinner and before we knew it we were back to the same group of five chatting under our little shelter whilst Tanith slept in the hammocks.  Claire came to join us for a while and a ridiculous drinking game was planned called 26 twins which thankfully never actually happened.  Eventually most went to bed but Claire, josh, Tim and I stayed up again sharing music and before we knew it the other truck were up and putting tents away, we headed back to our tent to hide our all nighter shame before emerging for breakfast and packing up.  Today we would start our drive towards the pantanal, for wildlife spotting.

Posted by selson 13:46 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Buenos Aires

My fave city!!

sunny

The final drive day to buenos aires was a good day. It was Australia day and with many Aussies on board we were set to have a lot of fun. 

About an hour into the drive, after the usual early morning snooze on the truck, we pulled in to refuel and the three Aussie ladies (Marion, Marissa and carol) sprang to life. They gave each of us a eucalyptus leaf enscribed with an Australia day message and then made everyone a mid morning snack of Vegemite rolls. They'd put together an Aussie playlist for the truck which got them all dancing in the aisles and jonny and dan dancing in the petrol station forecourt whilst we waited for the truck to fill up. It carried in like this for most of the day until we finally arrived at buenos aires early evening.

This gave us just enough time to get checked in and showered up before most people hit the pub to continue the celebrations. I was pretty excited about buenos aires so chose to take a quick walking tour around the area before heading for drinks. I managed to get my bearings a little and even take in evitas balcony, on a beautiful red building in the middle of a square in the city centre.  

The following day we had arranged for a city tour in the afternoon so we had a free morning to explore. Claire and I decided to take to the shops to finally stock up on some well needed clothes. We failed pretty miserably, we were expecting a very glamourous, well dressed city and we were very wrong. We eventually had to drag each other out of the shops and go home pretty much empty handed as our standards were beginning to slip and we were actually tempted by some pretty horrendous clothes.

We took ourselves back to what would be our main eating destination for the week, a really nice veggie cafe who did the best juices and lentil burgers ever. Hardly the cuisine we were supposed to be eating in buenos aires but after a few months of cheese and wine it was nice to have something semi healthy for a change.

After lunch we headed back to meet the others to begin the city tour. It was pretty disappointing all in all as we mainly drove around the city in a coach not being able to stop and take pictures. It was really just an orientation so that you knew where to head back to later on.  That said we did have three stops, one at the main square with the evita balcony, one at the local football stadium and one at boca.

Obviously I had seen the evita balcony before, it's a beautiful square with some amazing buildings. A big protest going on in the centre of the square though over the ownership of the falkland islands (or
Malvinas for the argies) so it was a bit weird there.  The next stop was the football stadium.  I have absolutely no interest in football whatsoever so when they dropped us at boca junior football stadium, I honestly thought I was going to see some kiddie football ground. Little did I know it was the main buenos aired team who are very well known with some very famous players. Oops. Out of sheer peer pressure I paid up to go into the football stadium which was a bit wasted if I'm honest.  It's very small for a well known team but at the end of the day looked like any pitch to me.  

After the stadium we went to the area of buenos aires known as boca. Boca is / was one of the poorest areas of buenos aires.  People there lived in houses made of corrugated iron which they painted up in bright colours.  It's a bit sad to see how people live there but the colours are amazing and it's a very beautiful part of town.  This is also where you see lots of tango dancers in the bars. It's become quite touristy so there's very few bars there without dancers out the front.  I had a wander around the area, looking through the market stalls and checking out the port, before heading back to the bus for the final drive on the city tour.  The city itself is absolutely beautiful, the buildings are almost like those in new York, very tall with little balconies on. The streets are all tree lined, many people said it reminded them of Paris a little.  We saw the evita statues and the monuments given to the city by England and France and the huge silver flower in the park, before heading back to the hotel.

We got back to the hotel had a quick bite to eat and then headed off to town to have a tango lesson. We arrived at the venue of our tango lesson to be faced with a very grand old ballroom.  The place was empty when we arrived and we quickly started to wander if we were wasting our time. The lesson did end up being just the 11 of us although there were some other more advanced tango'ers also there.  The teacher took us through the basic steps before leaving us to practice for a bit.  It was quite tricky but soon enough we'd all got it and we were ready to move on to the next steps. Next up was the figure of 8 which involves the lady twisting about in the balls of her feet a lot.  Again we were taught the steps and then left to have a go on our own.  At this point the teacher pulled me away from the group and stuck me with this old Argentinian guy to practice with.  The old guy took it upon himself to teach me again from scratch and whilst it was a bit weird being taken out of class before long I was freestyling tango pretty comfortably.  It was wicked.  He was pretty strict though and was not happy unless everything was spot on.  He kept jabbing at me to tuck my tummy in and hold my shouders back and keep my legs straight.  He did not take any prisoners!! He even had me doing it with my eyes closed which oddly made it slightly easier.  At the end quite embarrassingly he made me perform in front of all the others.  Obviously they found this highly amusing.  

The tango show finished pretty early.  Most people decided to take the opportunity and have an early night but four of us girls decided we would take a different option and head out for some salsa dancing.  When we arrived at the club we were told we were way too early and that it wouldn't even start until 1am.  The people of buenos aires live by a very odd timescale.  Restaurants don't open until 8 and they don't normally fill up until 10pm, then they go out around midnight and don't really sleep.  I don't know how they do it.  Anyway, we headed off for food and wine whilst we waited for the club.  A couple bottles of wine later back we went in search of more dancing.  The club was really nice.  Fairly small and unlike salsa clubs in the uk, not filled with total sleeze bags.  After a couple hours two of the girls headed back but i stayed behind with another , I wasn't done yet! We danced until the early hours of the morning, befriending some colombians and Argentinians along the way.  Eventually we had to give up and go home. Taxi home in daylight, a sign of a successful second night in ba!!

The following day was a little slow starting for obvious reasons. After eventually dragging myself out of bed I met up with jo and Claire and we took the decision to head to san telmo to look at the markets and see if we could find some tango shows.  We walked around slowly taking in some little shops along the way.  I discovered that my cards had been blocked so without any money, I left the girls having some food and drinks and headed back to the hotel to sort it out and find some cash. 

That evening I should have been joining the group for a dinner to say goodbye to those of our group leaving in ba, but one of the guys who works in the Amex office in buenos aires offered to take me out for a tour of the city and drinks with his friends and I decided that the local option would be much better.  I had such a brilliant evening. We drove around all of the various parts
Of the city, parking up to take a walk about and see the main attractions. Before heading on for some food and then meeting his friends for beers.  I really wished at this point that my Spanish was better and I could have communicated with his friends but it was still nice to be out with locals and away from the tour group for the night.  At around 2am most of his friends took off to a club, but I was shattered so instead i headed back to the hotel.  I wasn't sure about meeting up with someone from work whilst I was away by actually I'm really glad I did as it was so nice to see the city from a locals perspective.  

The next day work also invited me to go out on a boat trip to some islands where all of the locals go at the weekend.  I was really excited and wanted to go but I had booked up to go to a tango show in the evening and we would never have got back in time so I had to cancel and instead decided to take off on my own for a walk through the city.  I had my route planned and off I took to tick off all the sights one list. 

I walked past the clock tower which was given to buenos sites by the uk, which is weirdly directly opposite the Falklands war memorial.  I got lost a bit and ended up in a really dodgy part of town which stank and was the only time in buenos aires when I didn't feel totally safe.  After finding my way back on to my route I headed towards the famous cemetery where evita is buried.  I decided not to go in and later I was pleased with my
Decision as a loa of the group got robbed during a tour in there that day and they ended up closing the cemetery.  I went for a bit of lunch and then headed off in search of the giant silver flower statue.  I found a few other statues and some markets along the way and then sat in the park with the flower for a little while.  My plan was to carry on to the palermo district but I was pretty tired by this point and had developed a rather in attractive heat rash so I decided to head back to the hotel and to get ready for the tango show.

Most people dropped out of the tango show as they thought it was too expensive but I decided I wanted to go and I did not regret it (even though the alternative was a curry which I am quite partial too!). The show was amazing, the dancers were wicked and it took you through the history of the dance, starting with brothels and men dancing with men etc.  they then went on to go through the American Indians and some of their dancing, before going on to gauchos.  The gauchos were wicked.  They do this dance with balls on the end of strings which make a noise when they hit the floor.  Very hard to explain, but it was incredible to watch.  It was an excellent show and we went home very happy that night.

The next day I went off on the hunt for a boca football shirt as a very belated birthday present for my nephew.  I got very confused by them and I still don't know if I have the right one or the right size.  Hopefully he'll like it!! After that I had a very lazy day on my own wandering about the shops.  I wanted some clothes for rio carnival and then I wanted to chill for a bit.  Buenos aires was taking its toll!! I started watching a movie in my room but fell asleep and woke up to the sounds of Claire who had been robbed on the tube, not good.  We had a welcome meeting that night as the next leg was starting and then we headed out to see a show called bomba de tiempo.

Bomba de tiempo was amazing. It's an amazing percussion show in a warehouse type building.  There are about 15 percussionists with various different drums and they take it in turns to stand at the front and improvise a piece of music. All of them were amazing and the atmosphere in the crowd was pumping. This is the closest I'd get to a gig in a long while. They were selling  litres of beer so this also helped the evening along nicely. It was such a brilliant night that when it ended we all wanted to go on elsewhere. As nine of us had eaten we ended up having dirty burgers on the way to the official after party in some grungy underground bar.  It never takes our lot long to get on the dance floor and soon enough we were all in full dancing mode.  After a while a band came on.  They were pretty awful of I'm honest but we wet with it.  After them some of the percussionists from the show arrived and they did their own performance in the club.  We had little Sarah up on stage dancing with him and everyone else was having a great time too.  A brilliant first night for all the newbies and one that I definitely won't forget for a while.

The following day was to be our last in ba. I still hadn't ventured over to Palermo so this was the plan for the day.  Off I set with el and Claire, we started our day walking through the botanical gardens and the parks in the rain.  They are very beautiful, and nice to see such big open spaces in the middle of a city.  

We then headed up to palermo which has lots of nice bars and cafes to sit and watch the world go by in. We did that for a couple hours before having a wander around the boutique shops picking up some last minute items from our shopping lists.

We headed back to our hotel after that to be back in time for a group meal before heading to bed for an early night before long drive to iguazu the next day. 

Buenos Aires quickly became one of my favourite cities in the world.  I have lots f brilliant memories of that place and I felt totally at home there. I love it!!

Posted by selson 18:39 Archived in Argentina Comments (1)

El chalten

Trekking on land and ice!!

sunny

El chalten was next on our itinerary. Famous for mount fotzroy, lots of hiking and it's glaciers.

We were camping just outside of town so after the usual painful job of cook group shopping we headed to camp to set up for the night. We all got a little excited about the fact that we were finally stopping somewhere for a few nights and that there was a micro brewery within spitting distance of camp so first night was a little messy.  Some people were up early for horseriding the next day but I opted for a lazy lie in and some hiking.

We set off shortly before midday for a 2 hour hike to the mount fitzroy viewpoint and back.  When we got to the viewing platform we got a little carried away and talked ourselves in to carrying on for the 7 hour round trip to lake Torres. It was very pretty, and easy walking although very hot.  It was a lovely chilled out day just the three of us.  After a short while patrick got bored of the slow pace and marched on leaving jo and I to follow behind.

Shortly before arriving at the lake jo managed to trip on the smallest piece of wood in the world (it can only really be described as a nubin) and took a massive tumble leaving her with bruised wrists and a huge swollen knee with a fair amount of skin missing.  Fortunately jo found this funny as I did falling over pretty hilarious and was not very helpful in the recovery process.  She demanded I drag her up quickly because she "looks absolutely ridiculous". She was also unhappy about having scabby knees for buenos aires.  To be fair she did look ridiculous, she'd just caked herself in the whitest layer of sunblock which all the dust and sand stuck to down one side. A lovely White sandy bloody mess.

Anyway, a couple of Germans washing her legs later and we decided to keep going. It was def worth it as when we arrived at the lake, it was stunning with perfect views of the moutains.

About 10 minutes into the trek back, I threw my toys out of the pram because I was stupidly hot on the backs of my legs and demanded a sun cream stop.  When we stopped I discovered the worst heat rash all down the backs of my legs. It was so sore, like pouring boiling water on yourself.  Not nice basically.  So there we were. 2.5 hours from camp with jo hobbling along slowly and me trying to hurry back because there was no shade to hide from the sun in.  The walk back could not end quickly enough!!!

We were in a right state wen we returned to camp so we chilled for a little while before the other truck arrived and the fun and games began for another night.  Several games of twister later and we had ourselves some new friends from buenos aires. Hopefully they will stick to the promise of sending us a list of things to see and do there as I really have no clue!!

The next day was ice trek day.  I wasn't sure whether to be excited or nervous.  Being a little bit rubbish on ice it's fair to say I was definitely a little freaked out.  We boarded a boat for the 2 hour ride to the glacier.  We were all shattered so wasted the boat journey fast asleep but thank god we did because when we arrived at the glacier it was amazing.  This one was bigger than the one in el calafate but less of the ice is visible and you don't see as many bits cracking and falling off.

We started the walk climbing up and over some rocks to the start of the glacier. At this point we were given our crampons to wear .  This is the first time I've worn them and it definitely took a while to get used to them and trust that you weren't going to slip and smash your face on the ice.

The trek was amazing, there were little holes everywhere in the ice that were really deep with re brightest blue colour.  We walked over crevasse and in caves. It was amazing. So beautiful. Only pictures can describe it really.  The views across the glacier from up there were something else.

When we were almost done with the trek the guides started chipping away at the ice. We were all panicking a little thinking they were digging stairs on the steep part for us to trek up. Fortunately what they were actually doing was chipping us some ice for us to have baileys on ice. Yummy!!

We slowly made our way back to the boat and then camp for our final night before starting the five day drive to buenos aires.

The drive to buenos aires was log and arduous. At times it was fun and times the most boring thing I've ever done. The landscape was so plain, just miles and miles of nothing.

We made a couple of stops along the way, one at camarones to visit an absolutely huge penguin colony and one at gaiman a welsh village, for tea and welsh cake. Final stop was a bush camp in the middle if nowhere for a night of scary camping before today, our final day and Australia day.

Our Aussie ladies are bloody brilliant and have been a lot of fun so far. I think ive even developed a small taste for vegemite, but don't tell anyone :-) 

Next stop buenos aires. I'm very excited indeed. I'm planning on a tour, some shipping, tango shows and lessons and possibly a day trip to Uruguay.  More on that later xx

Posted by selson 11:32 Archived in Argentina Comments (2)

El calafate

Creaking glaciers!!

sunny

Next stop after Torres del Paine was el calafate. Which is home to a famous glacier.

First day was mainly taken up with driving and chores followed by a nice homely dinner in one of the amazing restaurants there. We had a really nice group that night, great food, lovely wine and a little nightcap in a bar with a local band and a disarono on ice. 

The following day we had an early start as we would be heading out to see the glacier. We boarded the bus and headed off for the 70k journey to the port. At the port we had the most ridiculous trek to the boat down a sheer drop with about 70 other people.

We boarded the boat and took the 90 minute round trip to the glacier front. The glacier was the third biggest in the region but still bigger than anything I have ever seen. 250 square kilometres in total and something like 70 kilometres deep. It's constantly moving, growing 2 metres each day but it doesn't progress as the glacier is constantly losing the front layer. From the boat we could hear the glacier cracking and groaning as it moved and lost bits of ice and some huge booms as large chunks fell off the front into the glacier lake. It was very dramatic and fascinating. But there was more to come.

After the boat ride we drove round to another part of the town to walk around the catwalks that had been contructed to be able to view the glacier from all angles. From here you were able to see it from a higher point but also fr different edges that lose more ice. We watched and waited patiently to see bits fall. We saw loads of smallish bits fall off and just when we were about to give up we saw a piece the size of a house drop. Weirdly this part was quiet but it created huge waves in the lake that continued for ages.  About 10 minutes later we thought Another piece ha fallen but it was actually the first bit coming back up out of the water. It took ages for it to reach the top again and float away.  

We could have stood there watching all day by eventually we had to leave and head back to town. We did a little but
Of souvenir shopping as there were lots of quirky shops here and then headed back to the hostel for an empanada making lesson.

Empanadas are essentially just the south American version of a pasty, so really they were easy to make but it was a lot of fun. 
We made beef ones, cheese and ham, cheese and onion and various combinations of them all before whacking them in the oven and patiently waiting for them to cook.

A short time later they were ready and they were absolutely amazing. The best I've had yet. I totally over indulged on them and then had to take myself to bed.

Food and glaciers, a great combo it seems!!

Posted by selson 10:11 Archived in Argentina Comments (1)

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