A Travellerspoint blog

Argentina

Jesuit Ruins and Iguazu Falls!

All in a weeks travel: Exploring 17th century Jesuit Ruins and then being captivated by the raw beauty and power of Iguazu Falls.

sunny 30 °C

San Ignacious Mini: Jesuit Mission Ruins
23- 25th March ( 2 days)

After a sleepless and uneventful night on another long bus journey we arrived to the quiet river town of Posadas. It’s funny on the bus, because I will see a young-in-love couple cuddling up to each other, and whispering sweet nothings in each other’s ears during the trip, and think to myself “Oh, how cute”. Then I reflect on Ben and I, and our own whispers into each other’s ears that usually go something like this:

Beeennn, you’re on my side of the seat, get over” ( Seat space was fought over constantly during long, squishy family car trips in my childhood and it seems I haven’t forgotten the territorial instinct to slap and scratch to defend my rightful seat space!)

Ouch! You stepped on my foot again, are you doing that on purpose?!! (Imagine Ben giving me a very accusatory look with raised eye brows at 2am in the morning)”, or my favourite...

“(subtle sniffing of the air and a disgusted look on Ben’s face followed by the question) Chelle, did you fart again? That’s not human!” (and then he pretends not to know me even though I am sitting right next to him, which usually makes me declare loudly “I love you honey!”).

Sometimes we will try to play a travel game, that usually ends in accusations of cheating (again, memories of my childhood flash before my eyes) but all in all the bus trips aren't that bad and I enjoy the time they provide for reflecting and listening to my favourite tunes.

Another long bus ride!

Another long bus ride!

When we finally arrived in Posadas we were completely exhausted from the bus journey and as soon as we checked in we were fast asleep, not waking until 1:30pm. I go into slight panic mode when it is afternoon and we haven’t done or seen anything for the day, and I start flapping around packing day packs, grabbing maps and making sure we have sun cream, water, and all the other necessities. Ben on the other hand has fully embraced the Spanish “mañana- mañana” attitude towards time. Recently, a friend we met travelling said “Chelle is the co-ordinator of the trip isn’t she”, to which Ben replied, “Yes, if I was co-ordinating we’d still be in Chile”, haha!!

We ambled ( walking is too strong a word to use given the heat and humidity!) into the small town centre of Posadas and surprisingly found a restaurant that had a vegetarian menu, from which we ordered a delicious soy burger and salad. It is usually difficult to find quality vegetarian food (or ‘pescatarian’ as we are confused vegetarians who eat fish!) , as most places only offer the choice of greasy, plastic cheese covered pizza or pasta- they love their pizza and pasta in Argentina. Refreshed by a healthy lunch and a strong coffee each we caught the local bus out to the San Ignacious Jesuit ruins.

The ruins are 400 years old, and are listed as a Unesco World Heritage site. Upon entering the site we were immediately aware of a peaceful and meditative energy, with a ghostly air of mystery about the ruins, as if hiding the secrets of the Utopian society that lived there. The ghostly aspect was enhanced by the night sound and light tour we did: an impressive display of virtual actors, lights, music and voice to recreate what life may have been like in the missions.

San Ignacious Mini, Jesuit Ruins: The doors to the main temple

San Ignacious Mini, Jesuit Ruins: The doors to the main temple


San Ignacious Mini, Jesuit Ruins: Living Quarters (each family had one small room)

San Ignacious Mini, Jesuit Ruins: Living Quarters (each family had one small room)


There was even a jail as part of the mission and look who I found in it!!

There was even a jail as part of the mission and look who I found in it!!


San Ignacious Mini, Jesuit Ruins: This gnarled tree is said to have a Stone Heart, as it has completely engulfed and grown around a stone pillar that was part of the mission complex

San Ignacious Mini, Jesuit Ruins: This gnarled tree is said to have a Stone Heart, as it has completely engulfed and grown around a stone pillar that was part of the mission complex


We had a guided tour around the site which was a great way to have our questions answered and appreciate the history of the mission

We had a guided tour around the site which was a great way to have our questions answered and appreciate the history of the mission

San Ignacious Mini, Jesuit Ruins

San Ignacious Mini, Jesuit Ruins

San Ignacious Mini, Jesuit Ruins

San Ignacious Mini, Jesuit Ruins

The setting sun over the ruins

The setting sun over the ruins

Virtual actors recreate life on the mission during a spectacular night show

Virtual actors recreate life on the mission during a spectacular night show


The mission lit up at night

The mission lit up at night

At its peak the mission was home to 5000 Guarani Indians, who, led only by 2 Jesuit priests at any given time, relinquished their nomadic and polygamous jungle lifestyle and culture, for a Christian, monogamous life on the mission. It is fascinating that so many thousands of Guarani Indians freely accepted and willingly sought life on the numerous jungle missions that dotted the Brazilian / Argentinian border area at the time. Force was not used in the conversions, rather it was often the chief of the various Guarani tribes who led their tribal group to the relative safety of the mission, for slave traders were targeting the Guarani people and chiefs saw the missions as a place of safety for their people. Sadly, in reality, the missions were regularly raided by the Portuguese slave traders, providing a concentrated gathering of Guarani people for them to kidnap and use on their plantations in Brazil.

There are many other reasons that life on the missions was attractive, however in order to avoid this becoming a historical essay I will leave that for you to read more about if you desire (Or watch the movie “The Mission” for a Hollywood recreation!) The readings on the Jesuit missions are fascinating, and many books debate whether they were a social utopia, an early form of communism or cultural imperialism.

We really enjoyed our time at the ruins, and even tried to cross into Paraguay to visit some more ruin sights, however here we encountered our first corrupt border experience! We rocked up to the border with our passport, although with no Paraguayan visa as we had been told Aussies didn’t need one to visit the ruin sights for the day. We were met by a plump, balding, heavily sweating man at the border, who told us through a slimy smile that we indeed did require a visa, which would usually cost us $45 US each, however he was willing to - *wink wink* - let us cross over for the bargain price of just $45 for the 2 of us if we paid him in cash now. Despite his kind and generous offer we declined, and caught the returning bus for the 10 minute ride back into Posadas, where the biggest spider we have ever seen was waiting for us on our floor. We think this is the cousin of the spider that inspired the movie “Arachnophobia”! It was as big as our hand, black, hairy and UGLY!

It mightn't look so big in this photo but wait until you see it in zoom!

It mightn't look so big in this photo but wait until you see it in zoom!


An unsuccessful visit to Paraguay

An unsuccessful visit to Paraguay

Iguazu Falls: Argentinian and Brazilian side
25th March – 31st March ( 6 days: 4 sight seeing and 2 toilet days!)

The most exciting part of arriving into Puerto Iguazu was that it was only a 5 hour bus trip to get there. Ben and I have calculated that by the time we reached Iguazu falls we had spent 130 hours on buses travelling, and in the weeks since then (when I am writing this) we have done a further 80 hours (bringing our total travel time so far on buses to nearly 9 days! 9 days of our life spent on a bus!). We are wondering if we can add “Successful Bus Traveller” to our CV’s, and list the attributes of such a position as:

Flexible: willing to go with the flow (i.e. happy to hang around the road side when the bus breaks down, to accept that a “Direct Bus” stops to collect new passengers every 30 minutes, and to pee in the bushes by the road side when the toilets are too feral to use).
Adaptable: able to adapt to the different bus environments and bus people ( i.e. successfully ignoring the male, early 20-something year old backpackers who ride in the bus with their shirts off because the AC is broken...unless they have a shapely, tanned six pack in which case I find ignoring becomes quite difficult!)
Patient: willing to calmly accept things that I cannot change (i.e. not clobbering the man behind me who snores like a freight train for the entire bus trip, depriving me of any semblance of sleep even though I am wearing my Dad’s gift of industrial strength ear plugs)
Creative: able to use minimal resources to achieve a desired outcome (i.e. contorting my body into strange and unnatural positions to steal a few minutes of sleep here and there before waking up with a dead arm or tingling toes, a sure sign that some part of my yogi-like body is oxygen deprived).

So , it is with these fine attributes that we have developed through the endless bus travel that we arrived in Puerto Iguazu, full of anticipation at seeing Iguazu Falls, where 275 separate waterfalls thunderously plunge 80 metres down into a turbulent brown, Amazonian -like river.

Despite our excitement at seeing the falls that we had talked about so much, we weren’t to make it to see them on the first day. Not because of some tummy upset, or tiredness, or a strike (which had stopped others from seeing them).No, none of these rational things stopped us from going straight out to one of the world’s most incredible natural wonders. Instead, it was a SOCCER game. Yes, that’s right, soccer! On our way out to the waterfalls Ben saw that the Boca vs. River soccer game was being shown on big screen live at one of the local bars. He stopped dead in his tracks, and looked at me with big blue puppy dog eyes. My first reaction was “No WAY buddy!”, but somehow 15 minutes later we were both sitting with a beer and pizza, watching the blockbuster Argentinian soccer match of the year. Those puppy dog eyes are more effective than I thought!

Ben captivated by the soccer while the falls await!

Ben captivated by the soccer while the falls await!

It is hard to describe Iguazu Falls without being clichéd (as soon as someone writes that you know it is always going to be clichéd!). In my diary (which I rely on to write these blogs weeks after the events) I wrote: “ Jumping rainbows, tropical butterflies, thunderous noise, plunging cascades, turbulent brown water, rocks and palm trees, magical and powerful”, and I think those words capture the incredible experience of seeing such raw, natural beauty up close and personal.

As we approached the first look out where we would catch our very first glimpse of the falls, I said to Ben “ Are you ready for it?”!. There are some places on our trip that we had talked and dreamed about back home, in between moving houses 3 times in 3 months, getting engaged and finishing work! Iguazu Falls was definitely one of them. To be there was to be living a dream that we had created back in Sydney. And it couldn’t have been more perfect.

We started with the upper circuit which gave us a view of the falls looking down, and led us along a jungle path where monkeys were playing in the trees, butterflies danced around us, and cute little Coati Mundi's (see picture below) scampered across the path in front of us. From up here the view is captured in these photos:

Our first glimpse of Iguazu Falls

Our first glimpse of Iguazu Falls

Iguazu Falls

Iguazu Falls


Seeing the falls from the Argentinian side gave a completely different perspective compared to the view from the Brazilian side.

Seeing the falls from the Argentinian side gave a completely different perspective compared to the view from the Brazilian side.


Looking down over one of the falls

Looking down over one of the falls

There are so many butterflies of all different vibrant colours

There are so many butterflies of all different vibrant colours

IMG_4495_730x547.jpg
Playful monkeys swung in the trees above us as we walked around the upper circuit

Playful monkeys swung in the trees above us as we walked around the upper circuit


A Coati Mundi trying to pick his moment to cross the path on the Upper Circuit

A Coati Mundi trying to pick his moment to cross the path on the Upper Circuit


I love this shot of Ben's - butterfly with the falls in the background.

I love this shot of Ben's - butterfly with the falls in the background.


Enjoying the view from the Argentinian side

Enjoying the view from the Argentinian side


Beautiful butterflies abound at the falls

Beautiful butterflies abound at the falls

After the Upper Circuit we stopped to refresh from the intense humidity and heat that had sweat cascading down our bodies. Never much of a coke drinker, we relied on coke to replace the constant energy being lost through the sweat. At our stop we encountered some furry, and not so timid, little animal friends:

Caught having a lazy moment!

Caught having a lazy moment!

Begging raccoons at a cafe in the park: They would jump on tables and steal sandwiches right out of the hands of unsuspecting tourists!

Begging raccoons at a cafe in the park: They would jump on tables and steal sandwiches right out of the hands of unsuspecting tourists!

Starting the lower circuit

Starting the lower circuit

During the lower circuit we became drenched with the spray from the falls, and so we didn’t even notice that it had started to drizzle. We decided to catch the speed boat that took you out under the falls. It was great fun, but because I wear contacts most days, the force of the water meant that I couldn’t open my eyes for fear of my contacts being washed out. I spent the trip squealing with delight at being under the falls, and shouting to Ben “Can you see anything. What does it look like?!!!”. We were able to take a few early photos from the boat trip before getting to close to the falls, which show a bit of the experience:

Uo close at the falls: viewing platform on the lower circuit.

Uo close at the falls: viewing platform on the lower circuit.


Absolutely soaked after going out to the falls viewing platform!

Absolutely soaked after going out to the falls viewing platform!


Sexy in a bright orange life jacket!

Sexy in a bright orange life jacket!

Getting up close on the boat

Getting up close on the boat


A quick snapshot from the boat before going further into the falls.

A quick snapshot from the boat before going further into the falls.

After the boat trip we caught the little train out to the Gargantas del Diablo (or “The Devils Throat”). This was a devil’s moment- tormentful, fearful, massive and powerful –as the fierce water exploded into spray, but then hopeful and beautiful rainbows bounced above the water as it plunged down from the high rapids. It was a memory that I will never forget, standing there above such a powerful force: one of those moments that you want to bottle up and keep stored forever. We came home, absolutely drenched from the falls, and ended a great day with chats to our families that left us happy for the night.

The long, hot walk out to the Devil's throat takes you over the brown river.

The long, hot walk out to the Devil's throat takes you over the brown river.


A rainbow being swallowed up by the Devil's Throat

A rainbow being swallowed up by the Devil's Throat


Chelle contemplating the power and beauty at the Gargantas del Diablo (or “The Devils Throat”).

Chelle contemplating the power and beauty at the Gargantas del Diablo (or “The Devils Throat”).


A rainbow over the Gargantas del Diablo (or “The Devils Throat”).

A rainbow over the Gargantas del Diablo (or “The Devils Throat”).

Unfortunately, at some stage during the day we must have both eaten or drunk something dodgy that left us with traveller’s tummy for the next few days. We returned to the park the next day to do the Macuco Walk, but sadly I have to admit that the best part was when we reached the end and both of us slept by the creek for an hour, before working up the energy to return! It was a great trail to do for wild-life watching though, and we were entertained by monkeys jumping in the braches overhead, and played “Guess the animal” as little creatures scampered across the path in the far distance ahead. We made a sorrowfully border crossing into Brazil that afternoon, and spent out first few days in Brazil taking turns rushing to the toilet!

The Macuco Trail weaved through dense jungle and was full of beautiful birds, cheeky monkeys, and lots of mozzies!

The Macuco Trail weaved through dense jungle and was full of beautiful birds, cheeky monkeys, and lots of mozzies!

Views from the Macuco Trail

Views from the Macuco Trail

Passing out by the creek on the Macuco Trail

Passing out by the creek on the Macuco Trail


A sorry sight! Ben crossing the border into Brazil sick as a dog.

A sorry sight! Ben crossing the border into Brazil sick as a dog.

Once that was out of our system we visited the Brazilian side of the waterfalls. It was everything the Argentinian side was and more. It offered a more panoramic view of the falls, and had a fantastic walkway out over the falls where you really felt a part of it all, standing above one of the falls and seeing the brown water rush beneath you before plunging down the rock face. It was definitely worthwhile visiting the falls from both the Argentinian and the Brazilian side.

Panoramic view from the Brazilian side

Panoramic view from the Brazilian side

Iguazu Falls

Iguazu Falls

The walkway over the water and to the edge of some falls on the Brazilian side

The walkway over the water and to the edge of some falls on the Brazilian side

Ben and the falls

Ben and the falls

Distant view of the falls from the Brazilian side

Distant view of the falls from the Brazilian side


Ben having one of those travel moments at the falls

Ben having one of those travel moments at the falls


The Devils Throat from the Brazilian side

The Devils Throat from the Brazilian side


Looking down over the walkway and seeing all the mist from the falls

Looking down over the walkway and seeing all the mist from the falls

We ended out time in the Iguazu area with a visit to the Bird Park, where we spent the day talking with Toucans, playing with parrots, and admiring the flamingos! All in all, another fabulous South American Adventure.

Ben having a serious word to the button-eating parrot!

Ben having a serious word to the button-eating parrot!

Chelle smiling nervously!

Chelle smiling nervously!

Bird Park

Bird Park

Bird Park

Bird Park

Ben and Mr Toucan!

Ben and Mr Toucan!

Who can? Toucan!

Who can? Toucan!

My favourite- the elegant flamingos.

My favourite- the elegant flamingos.

Bird Park

Bird Park

2 parrots at play on the ground

2 parrots at play on the ground

Bird Park

Bird Park

Bird Park

Bird Park

Bird Park

Bird Park

Lots of love, Chelle and Ben :)

Posted by CBAdv2010 10:43 Archived in Argentina Comments (7)

Let's tango! With Rosario and Buenos Aires

Food, tango, markets, food tango, architecture, food and tango!

25 °C

Hello beautiful, attractive and intelligent blog readers!

Shall we tango? Yes? Of course!

This is a little bit of a long blog, covering Rosario and Buenos Aires. The last part goes into detail about a local soccer derby I went to so for those that have their eyes roll over when it comes to sport - you can probably get save some of your moments on earth by skipping that section.

But enough about that - let's get into it!

Rosario and the Simple Pleasures
March 8th to March 11th (3 days)

From Mendoza we headed West – “Go west!” - to Rosario, about 4 hours out of BA. It was a 14 hour bus ride and I nary slept a wink, and Chelle had a few hours at best so we arrived pretty spacey – something we are becoming accustomed to. Rosario had been recommended to us by travellers in Mendoza as a good chilled place to spend a few days, and it certainly lived up to that reputation.

Rosario has some historical sights to see, including Che Guevara’s place of birth and the national monument; but it’s not a place that relies on history or natural beauty to bring in the visitors. Instead it relies on some simple pleasures: great food, music and shopping – most of them offered all at once in the multi-purpose shops. Chelle and I had decided to do a quick detox in Rosario (which lasted a FULL 24 hours!) and it felt like Rosario was playing the role of the temptress, with an ice cream store, pizzeria or boutique chocolate and wine store to be found on pretty much every corner. Damn you Rosario! You’re the devil on our shoulder!

Most of our time was spent in Rosario wandering the streets and discovering a few gems along the way, including a vego restaurant way out yonder, an art gallery reconstructed from old silos, a microbrewery with tasting selections and our favourite: a music cafe a 5 min walk from our hostel, where you could sit at tables, relax, order great meals and get good quality live music played to you.

Yes – we did it tough in Rosario.

Not sure if this is a good or bad sale!

Not sure if this is a good or bad sale!


Streets of Rosario

Streets of Rosario


Historic monument of Rosario

Historic monument of Rosario

Chelle gazing out from the monument, most likely daydreaming of Rosario ice cream

Chelle gazing out from the monument, most likely daydreaming of Rosario ice cream


Birthplace of Che Guevara - at least that's what the sign told us

Birthplace of Che Guevara - at least that's what the sign told us


Rosario arts museum

Rosario arts museum

Chelle showing her artistic expression in the Rosario art gallery

Chelle showing her artistic expression in the Rosario art gallery


And ... Ben's showing his artistic impression :-))

And ... Ben's showing his artistic impression :-))


Rosario's ice cream shops could only be resisted by Chelle for so long!

Rosario's ice cream shops could only be resisted by Chelle for so long!


An aficionado doing some beer tasting in Rosario microbrewery

An aficionado doing some beer tasting in Rosario microbrewery


I've got the Argentinian blues!

I've got the Argentinian blues!

Music cafe in Rosario

Music cafe in Rosario

Buenos Aires the Land of Tango
March 12th to March 23rd (11 days)

From Rosario it was off to Buenos Aires (BA)! Less than a 4 hour bus trip too – i.e. just down the road. In planning our world trip BA had been one of the places we were really looking forward to - a place rich in culture, history and entertainment; and of course – the home of the tango! *insert clap and sound of feet tapping passionately on floor*

Unfortunately our enthusiasm for BA had been slightly dampened by horror stories we had heard along the way: people getting held up at gunpoint at 10am, robbed in the parks, pick-pocketed, fake money, etc. And after what had happened in Mendoza, we were on high alert arriving into BA – in fact I would have described us as PARANOID. Tiny Argentinian girls would run past and we’d be like, “Who’s that?! What does she want?? Hmmm, does she look dodgy to you??” and we’d grab our bags tighter.

Fortunately our paranoia quickly subsided, and though one can always be unlucky, if you keep your wits about you there is nothing to be afraid of in BA.

So with that said, onto the highlights tour!

Day 1-2:
We arrived in the evening to BA and decided to take it easy. Our entertainment that night consisted of seeing how much we could eat at a Vegetarian all-you-can-eat place without exploding, something we have vowed never to try again (food 1; humans: 0). Stick to those pay-by-weight places.

Vego all you can eat baby!

Vego all you can eat baby!

Vego self-service in BA, we ate it compulsively!

Vego self-service in BA, we ate it compulsively!

The next day brought our first foray to the micro-center (i.e. “CBD”) of BA, including a crossing of the 12 lane highway that is 9 De Julio - a stark illustration that we were no longer in Patagonia.

The 12 lane 9 de Julio - the widest road in the world??

The 12 lane 9 de Julio - the widest road in the world??

The micro-center is a hive of activity, plenty of shops and the usual touristy allures but nothing much that interested us travelers-on-a-budget (or deluding-ourselves-we’re-on-a-budget). What did end up sucking us in though was the open-air tourist bus. Yes, it’s true – we did one.

BA is a city of many personalities in each of its districts, and is actually a great city to see via an open air bus. Plus you get to wear headphones that make you look like a DJ – doesn’t get better than that.

Look - a tourist map on a tourist bus!

Look - a tourist map on a tourist bus!

DJ Benrama on the open-air bus

DJ Benrama on the open-air bus

Here’s some of our observations and experiences of BA’s districts as we passed them by:

Micro-center: full of historical buildings, statues and grand architecture, also now serves as a bustling CBD area complete with both locals selling their wares on the street to shops that could be in any city’s CBD

BA architecture

BA architecture

BA architecture

BA architecture

Mothers of Plaza De Mayo memorial to the disappeared due to Argentinian dictatorship (1976-83)

Mothers of Plaza De Mayo memorial to the disappeared due to Argentinian dictatorship (1976-83)


BA architecture

BA architecture

La Boca: dangerous in its side streets and touristy full of tango and colour in its main ones. We embraced our tourist-side (we were, after all, open-air-busing it) and stopped in La Boca for lunch, some sangria and a tango show. The couple doing the tango clearly had a knack for picking talent from a crowd and asked me come up for an impromptu performance.

Mural and sculpture at the entrance to La Boca

Mural and sculpture at the entrance to La Boca


The colours of La Boca

The colours of La Boca


The colours of La Boca

The colours of La Boca


Sangria time!

Sangria time!

Tango at a La Boca restaurant

Tango at a La Boca restaurant

Treating the crowd to one of my trademark tango moves

Treating the crowd to one of my trademark tango moves


Mural in La Boca

Mural in La Boca

San Telmo: gritty and with crime problems historical, San Telmo is one of the places to be for night life, music and clubs. Plenty of great places to eat; also home to the famous Sunday markets – more on that shortly.

Palermo: an up-market version of San Telmo, plenty of great places to eat, many on the very swanky end. Safer than San Telmo, and we called it home for 4 nights at the Chill Hostel.

Decadent desert in Palermo

Decadent desert in Palermo

Red wine risotto, mmmm

Red wine risotto, mmmm


Splashing out on dinner in Palermo

Splashing out on dinner in Palermo


Goats cheese and fig jam entree, with other assorted goodies

Goats cheese and fig jam entree, with other assorted goodies


Dinner with Ads and George in Palermo

Dinner with Ads and George in Palermo

The bus tour took most of the day, and walking back home in the evening Chelle and I came across a place with a Tango class sign on the door. We had been talking about doing a Tango lesson – “when in Rome” - so thought, “why not ask if these guys do them.” They looked like a local type of setup – perfect. The guy who greeted us quickly recognized we were non-locals with dodgy Spanish skills and broke into fluent English – also perfect. There was to be a tango class there that night in about an hour – SOLD!

Chelle and I got into our best tango gear (thongs and street shoes) and turned up relieved to see that we were not the only Tango-virgins there - plenty of nervous shuffles going on. The place was a small hall type of setup selling drinks and snacks in the back corner and with an open floor made for dancing. We were split into groups of beginners and non-beginners and it was time to TANGO!

Chelle and I did Salsa back in Australia, which I really sucked at but persevered with and ended up enjoying. Salsa is more structured with the 7-step as it’s centerpiece. Tango is more of an impromptu type of dance, with basic moves, yes, but reliant on two people physically leaning against each other almost locked in straight from the waist up and responding and moving to the music. It’s very dramatic. It’s also - pretty damn intimate! You get swapped partners in class and you are literally leaning closely with chests pressed against another person you have not met before. You also are practically whispering into their ear your heads are so close together. Suffice to say – my single brothers reading this blog – get yourselves to a Tango class pronto!

After the lesson the venue had a Friday-night special: music and open-floor Tango. We got a drink and sat down to watch and enjoy as the professionals took over the floor, that was, until some first time amateurs could not resist and decided to get up and show them how’s it done – welcome Ben and Chelle! We did our best to avoid knocking other couples over (only JUST succeeding) and I can’t say what we were doing was exactly Tango, but we had good fun and a laugh and were there tango-ing in front of people after one lesson – a good true BA experience!

Sorry we don’t have any photos to share, it was an experience only moment. Here’s roughly what we looked like if you want to picture it:

Ben and Chelle doing the tango in Buenos Aires

Ben and Chelle doing the tango in Buenos Aires

Day 3-7:

The next 5 days in BA were spent mostly exploring the city by foot during the day and going out at night for dinner or a show. By the end of it we really felt like we had got to know BA as a city, and we LOVED it!

Here’s the highlights tour:

Markets, markets markets: BA loves its markets, and like much of South America, no pavement space is to be wasted in trying to spruik something. There are official markets however and we first visited the Recoleta markets and then the big daddy of markets: San Telmo. We walked San Telmo markets for no less than 6 hours, hardly stopping at any stall for more than a brief moment and still couldn’t get to see it all! Street performers and artists had come out to play and there were people everywhere.

Jazz in the markets

Jazz in the markets

Fresh OJ at the Recoleta markets!

Fresh OJ at the Recoleta markets!


Tango in the streets of Recoleta

Tango in the streets of Recoleta


BBQ at San Telmo - Argentinians love their meat!

BBQ at San Telmo - Argentinians love their meat!


San Telmo markets & random guy

San Telmo markets & random guy


Chelle caught in a brief moment of not market shopping

Chelle caught in a brief moment of not market shopping


The crowds of San Telmo markets

The crowds of San Telmo markets

A local sits with his possesions as a tourist enters the frame - one of my favourite pics of the trip

A local sits with his possesions as a tourist enters the frame - one of my favourite pics of the trip


Cafe Columbia! :-))

Cafe Columbia! :-))


Pupeteer at San Telmo markets

Pupeteer at San Telmo markets

We finished the markets with a visit to one of the famous café’s in the area, Plaza Dorrego, and then met up with our friends Ads and George for dinner and beers in San Telmo square, surrounded by Tango going late into the night. It was then onto Puerto Madero, known for its many fine restaurants along the water. But it was Sunday night (which is always quiet) and we were a little rowdy and might not have been too popular with the romantic dinner crowd, so we made our own fun.

Plaza Dorrego Bar (San Telmo plaza)

Plaza Dorrego Bar (San Telmo plaza)


Chelle lost in a moment at Plaza Dorrego Bar (San Telmo plaza)

Chelle lost in a moment at Plaza Dorrego Bar (San Telmo plaza)


Tango in the square at San Telmo

Tango in the square at San Telmo

Walking along Puerto Madero

Walking along Puerto Madero

Chelle and George putting on a show outside their favourite restaurant!

Chelle and George putting on a show outside their favourite restaurant!


I am just a cute innocent girl I could do no wrong

I am just a cute innocent girl I could do no wrong

La Recoleta Cemetery: cemeteries are not usually high on the priority list to visit in a city but this is one exception. Set in Recoleta the rather originally named La Recoleta cemetery is a place where the who’s who of BA and Argentina came to be buried, with the extravagance of your burial plot symbolic of how rich and successful your family was – or how much you wanted to “one-up” the Jones’. Eva Perron is buried in this cemetery as is the previous President and many before him.

It’s a fascinating place to walk through, and contains 100’s of cemetery sites. Individuals or whole families are buried in each site and people have to buy not only land in the cemetery but pay ongoing rental there as well. Going through the cemetery Chelle and I talked about what the working class of BA must think about such a cemetery with its extravagance and wealth. There’s more money in one of those graves than most people will see in their lifetime. It’s almost like the rich are preserving and highlighting the socio-economic divide even in their death.

Recoleta Cemetery

Recoleta Cemetery

Recoleta Cemetery

Recoleta Cemetery

Recoleta cemetery

Recoleta cemetery

Eva Peron's grave site

Eva Peron's grave site


Grave of a former President

Grave of a former President


RIP Dr Jesus (yes there was a last name)

RIP Dr Jesus (yes there was a last name)

Drumming La Bomba style! Every Monday in BA at the cultural centre there’s a drumming concert called La Bamba de Tiempo where 15 or so drummers get together for a 2 hour performance in various styles and generally with a special guest from locally or around the world joining them for the last hour. Before the main concert starts a group of amateurs first perform some improvised routines including drums, shakers, symbols and other percussion. People take turns to be the conductor using some type of code to control the group that we couldn’t decipher, and people rotate around the instruments. Each conducter brings his own energy and style and the drumming talent is incredible – you can tell they have the beats and rhythms in their blood.

The main concert was more of a classic show, and Chelle and I were right up the front centre stage until our ears could handle no more. The crowd was your hip, hop and happening BA crowd, hippies and the young and trendy hanging out. Felt a little bit like a Byron Bay Blues festival crowd, and the number of joints being smoked would have made Bobby Marley proud!

The pre-warm up at La Bomba

The pre-warm up at La Bomba

The pre-warm up at La Bomba

The pre-warm up at La Bomba

The main perfomers at La Bomba de Tiempo

The main perfomers at La Bomba de Tiempo


Proof we were at at La Bomba de Tiempo

Proof we were at at La Bomba de Tiempo

Art, cafes and culture: in the micro-center is one of BA’s most famous cafes, Tortoni’s. Historically it was home to some of the city’s finest artists and thinkers, many of whom are remembered with paintings and drawings that line the café (strangely we are not yet up there). Next door is the tango museum which details the history of tango from its roots to modern day art-form.

BA also houses a fine art museum with an impressive collection of classical paintings, including works by Van Gogh, Picasso, Rembrant, Monet and Mayonnaise (cue Jack Handy). We also discovered a local artist Xul Solar whose paintings were fully of colour and movement and won the inaugural Chelle and Ben Buenos Aires Art Prize.

Next on the cultural tour was the Eva Perron museum, detailed her extraordinary life and rise in the political landscape of BA. Highly recommended googling for more information on a woman who had such a dramatic impact on the people of Argentina and was so well loved by the working class.

No experience of BA night life would be complete with some great food and live music. This meant the hard work of visiting Jazz clubs and eating dinners with goats cheese and fig jam – we did this just for you, our dear blog readers! No need to thank us!

Admiring a work in the modern arts museum in Recoleta (or perhaps staring blankly)

Admiring a work in the modern arts museum in Recoleta (or perhaps staring blankly)


Ben attempting to deciper Spanish in the tango museum

Ben attempting to deciper Spanish in the tango museum


It takes two ...

It takes two ...


BA tango museum hall-of-fame

BA tango museum hall-of-fame


Chelle in cafe heaven

Chelle in cafe heaven

Tortoni's cafe

Tortoni's cafe


Eva Peron museum

Eva Peron museum

Thelonius Jazz Club

Thelonius Jazz Club

Colonia

We had planned to stay in BA for one week and it ended up being a week and half before we left, so we had to make the tough decision not to go to Uruguay at large – in particular, Montevideo. As a consolation we still had time to fit in a day trip to Colonia.

Colonia is a 3 hour one-way boat trip from BA and is a historical city lined with cobblestone roads that make for an enjoyable walking tour, including the fort, museums, churches and the lighthouse. It has a artistic feel to it as a town and is lined with some of the best arts and crafts shops we have found in South America - probably a good thing we had run out of Uruguaian cash by then. The food is also fantastic, with plenty of fish options given that it’s a coastal town.

Some might call Colonia a tourist trap, and it does make for an expensive day trip – but hey we had fun. And we got an impromptu dance show on the boat on the way home – what more could you want?

The charm of Colonia

The charm of Colonia

Captions welcome

Captions welcome

Chelle and the lighthouse

Chelle and the lighthouse

Cobblestone streets of Colonia

Cobblestone streets of Colonia

Might have problem with the rego on this one

Might have problem with the rego on this one


Local Uruguayan desert, some sort of cake, ice cream and chocolate combination - VERY healthy!

Local Uruguayan desert, some sort of cake, ice cream and chocolate combination - VERY healthy!


Colonia sunset

Colonia sunset

Cheap entertainment on the boat back from Colonia

Cheap entertainment on the boat back from Colonia

The crazy tribal fight masqueraded as a soccer game: Boca vs River

WARNING: long story of a soccer game coming up!

The time in BA was coming to an end *cue tears* but we’d held out another day for one primary reason: the local Boca vs River soccer game. Sport must always remain the number one priority of an Aussie male! This is one of the fiercest sporting rivalries in the world, only happening a few times a year; and seeing it in Boca stadium ranks as one of the great football experiences you can have. It’s much more than a football game to Boca and River fans, this is about history and identity as well. River is known as the richer, elite football club (“booooooooooo”) while Boca is the working class club (“Boca! Boca! Boca!). Both have huge fan bases in BA, with Boca being slightly larger. This was a home Boca game so I knew which way the cookie crumbled.

The ticket to the game costs the locals only about AUD $10, but it’s impossible to get as a tourist unless you go through a tour that adds a zero and then some to the price. Chelle decided to opt out of the game as we were planning to go in Brazil as well, so it was off I went for the big day out – what could possibly go wrong!

Firstly, it started raining. And not just sprinkling, POURING down. I’d come well prepared for this in shorts and a t-shirt, and waited for the bus to the game huddled under shelter. The bus takes you there at 11am even though the game doesn’t start till 3pm, so we were all hoping it was a passing shower and we’d be right by kick-off.

One hour later we turn up to the queue to get into the stadium and it’s still pelting down rain. A smart guy was selling poncho’s at the entrance and most of us tourists frantically grabbed one and preserved the last bit of dryness we had. Even garbage bags were going for a premium! The queue to the game is something to be seen, it goes for about 500metres even hours before the game, as there is no reserved seating and it’s first in best dressed. In the queue the Boca chants start and people are jumping up and down and generally going crazy. Us tourists were as well, even if we had no idea what we were chanting! (Most likely: “watch the gringos dance! Watch the gringos dance!”)

Waiting in line in the rain

Waiting in line in the rain


Poncho saves the day! Did they have to give me pink though?! That's River colours

Poncho saves the day! Did they have to give me pink though?! That's River colours


Police in force at the game

Police in force at the game

We waited in torrential rain for about an hour before finally getting into the stadium, only to find that our area was already completely packed out. There’s no seating, just standing, and to get even a clear view of the game requires pushing your way through local Boca fans like you’d push your way through a mosh pit. Fine if it’s a Jack Johnson concert; not so inviting when it’s crazy Boca fans.

The few of us that did decide to push through for a better view saw about 10 rows of prime seating right at the front of our grandstand area near the pitch. And it was all empty! Uh hah! How smart are we to see that!!! As we headed towards them we were told something along the lines of, “go sit there if you want, but, be prepared to be peed on for the next 80 minutes!” Hmmmm – let me weigh that one up!

See the River fans are quarantined to one part of the stadium, which was right above where we were standing. And because the River fans can’t stand the Boca fans – or vice-versa – they urinate and defacate and throw it into the Boca crowd during the game. Yep – that’s right! Flying pee and poo coming your way! You’d think being a home game that Boca organizers might have at least let the Boca fans and tourists enjoy such fun behavior but instead they are the ones getting done.

River fan (young kid) throwing urine on the Boca crowd - I was just out of his range!

River fan (young kid) throwing urine on the Boca crowd - I was just out of his range!

Given this, of course nobody sits within reaching distance of the River grandstand (apart from some brave souls who stand there with umbrellas – that’s commitment for the team) which has the net effect of squashing up the Boca crowd even further. It was wall-to-wall as it was with about an hour to go. By the time it reached kick-off you were squashed between at least two people and likely had your arms leaning on another person’s shoulder with the other stuck in the crowd. Mosh pit is the right description.

It’s an incredible spectacle at the Boca stadium as you are waiting for the game to start. There’s consistent chanting (apart from the “ole” bits we “rhubarbed” our way through), jumping up and down, Boca coloured balloons and paper confetti being thrown everywhere. It’s sensory overload and you can’t help but get caught up in it! And then a giant Boca team flag gets gradually rolled out over one end of the crowd – opposite us – and swayed from side to side. Before another flag appears over the top of it, and both giant flags sway side to side. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before at a sporting event; you can feel the passion and intensity in the stadium.

Three amigos at the soccer

Three amigos at the soccer

Boca vs River crowd going crazy with the streamers

Boca vs River crowd going crazy with the streamers


The blue balloons fill the stadium

The blue balloons fill the stadium

The crazy crowd end of the stadium

The crazy crowd end of the stadium


Go Boca, go Boca, go Boca!

Go Boca, go Boca, go Boca!

Boca stadium, alive and waiting for the players to arrive

Boca stadium, alive and waiting for the players to arrive


The Boca crowd brings out flag #2

The Boca crowd brings out flag #2

Finally it came time for kick-off, and a giant roar came around the crowd. One of the Boca strikers was to become the all-time leading Boca scorer if he got a goal and we were hoping to see it and be a part of it because it would have been WILD. The fans are crazy without the game even starting let alone an epic goal like that being scored! I had even planned a giant Australian “raaaarrrrrrrrrrr!” to mark the occasion.

And the players arrive, the streamers go crazy and the chants start up!

And the players arrive, the streamers go crazy and the chants start up!

As the teams kicked off the soccer ball stopped dead on the pitch – not a good sign. Players were sliding everywhere and the ball would hit dead patches consistently as they dribbled it around. It didn’t make for great football and after about 5 minutes the players all got together in the middle of the ground, started talking and agreed that, sure enough, just our luck – the game was to be cancelled!

With the pent up energy around the crowd this was not a good thing and we were told to expect fights to break out. Us tourists stuck together like lemmings and started heading out of the stadium. No-one was allowed to leave straight away as the River fans were given a brief window to leave the stadium and escape without getting seriously hurt. One of their routes of escape however was underneath a section of the grandstand we walked past on our way out. I started to video some of the mutual profanities and gestures going on between the fans (“You suck really bad, sir” and things like that) and as I did I started seeing things thrown into the River fans. It was chunks of the stadium that had been ripped off! Chunks of stadium cement.

Then, in my periphery I’ve seen someone rip a wooden door off the stadium and pick it up. I’m videoing from the side and as I pan around I hear one of the tourists yell “no way!” and see through the lens this door plummeting towards the River fans below. The guy had thrown the bloody door off the balcony! A group of River fans hadn’t seen it and I’ve watched the door come flying towards them thinking they are surely going to get fatally injured, and thankfully, just where the door was thrown there was a tree with a branch sticking out that the River fans walked under. The door hit the branch and gave just enough time for the fans to scatter. It was MADNESS! This was not a football game going on, it was a tribal fight!

Note: I'll try to upload a photo on this later.

Suffice to say us tourists sheepishly exited the stadium, slightly on edge. Didn’t help either being holed up for 30 minutes to make it safe for us. But we got out alive - and we may not have seen a football game, but we’d certainly got a taste of the Boca vs River experience. Can’t say I’ll be rushing back for another game any time soon – but I’ll keep the memories.

And with that rather dramatic day our BA stay had come to an end. Next stop –the mighty Iguazu falls!

Till then, take care
Love Ben and Chelle

p.s. Misc shots from BA

Top of the chill house hostel - just chillin

Top of the chill house hostel - just chillin


Buenos Aires subway

Buenos Aires subway

Chelle hanging with the local nuts guy - captions welcome

Chelle hanging with the local nuts guy - captions welcome


Chelle pratically inhaling those sugar coated nuts - they are gooood

Chelle pratically inhaling those sugar coated nuts - they are gooood


Buenos Aires flower sculpture, near Recoleta - designed by a local Argentine sculpter (Catalano)

Buenos Aires flower sculpture, near Recoleta - designed by a local Argentine sculpter (Catalano)


Buenos Aires school of engineering

Buenos Aires school of engineering

Posted by CBAdv2010 14:50 Archived in Argentina Comments (6)

1 week in Mendoza, the heart of Argentinian wine country.

Beauty Queens, a Pick Pocket, and the Annual Mendozan Wine Festival!

sunny 30 °C

Mendoza
February 28th – March 7th ( 1 week)

Hello amigos! I should be greeting you in Portuguese given that we are now in Brazil, however seeing as we have been hit with a “delightful” bout of travellers’ diarreah, we haven’t left our room since yesterday afternoon and so haven't had a chance to learn any Portugese yet. Poor Ben has been hit harder- he had such a high fever overnight that a wet face cloth almost sizzled when I put it on. His fever broke this morning but he is still pretty sick now, and is really wishing that we had booked a room with our own private bathroom instead of the shared bathroom that we have. Ben's forever an optomist and despite being as sick as I have seen him, he says that on the plus side, he has lost a few kilos in 24 hours and is quite happy that his holiday belly is shrinking! Don't worry Bronwyn, I am looking after him and it should be out of his system in the next 24 hours, poor thing.

So, blog-wise we are up to recording our time in Mendoza, heart of the wine country in Argentina. We spent 1 week here, not because of all the great wine, but because it was Wine Festival time and the city was in a fun fiesta mood. Also, we were staying in a place (“Chimbas Suites”) that had such a chilled out, friendly atmosphere with great people, a pool and Moroccan inspired garden courtyard area to spend lazy afternoons reading, and it became just to hard to move on from here quickly! We embraced the South American siesta during our time here, and would have a 2hour nap in the afternoon- a break from all the hard relaxing by the pool!!

The main restaurant area in downtown Mendoza

The main restaurant area in downtown Mendoza


Eating well in Mendoza: Our daily vegetarian feast

Eating well in Mendoza: Our daily vegetarian feast


Relaxing at Chimbas Suites

Relaxing at Chimbas Suites

The highlights of our time in Mendoza:

Bike riding around Maipu vineyards: We met up wtih Ads and George again, and the 4 of us hired bikes for the day to explore the vineyards. We thought we would be riding on little country paths, through sleepy wine country, but instead found ourselves riding alongside trucks and cars on a potholed, dusty main road! It was a great day full of fun that started with a visit to an Olive Plantation, where we learnt all about how olive oil is made, and got to taste some olives and sun dried tomatoes at the end of our tour, mmmm, delicious! So delicious that we bought a massive tub of olives and jar of sundried tomatoes, and then overdosed on them over the next few days and haven’t really been able to eat olives since!!

Enjoying the olive farm tour

Enjoying the olive farm tour


Inside the old olive oil factory

Inside the old olive oil factory

The modern production system for olive oil

The modern production system for olive oil


Sampling the olives, mmmm!

Sampling the olives, mmmm!

IMG_3252_730x547.jpg
One of the quieter roads on our bike riding experience

One of the quieter roads on our bike riding experience

From the olive farm we went onto the boutique family run vineyard “Familia Di Thomosa”. We had a scrumptious lunch of spinach cannelloni with blue cheese sauce and a pumpkin and feta quiche in their courtyard restaurant set amongst the vines. We discovered a new variation of white wine called a “Torrontes”, a distinctive Argentinian fruity, dry white wine. Served chilled on a summer’s day, it was the perfect accompaniment to our meal, and has since become a favourite. The best part of that delicious meal was the tiramisu desert. It was by far the most amazing tiramisu that George and I have ever tasted, so moist and the perfect blend of coffee and Tia Maria, my mouth waters at the memory! We now describe tiramisu deserts as “It was yum, but it wasn’t Thomosa”!

Familia Di Thomosa winery

Familia Di Thomosa winery

Our gourmet lunch

Our gourmet lunch

The old wine vats

The old wine vats


More of the underground cellar

More of the underground cellar

The barrels where they age the wine

The barrels where they age the wine


A serious wine tasting moment: observe the colour, swirl the wine to determine its body, appreciate the aroma and the drink!

A serious wine tasting moment: observe the colour, swirl the wine to determine its body, appreciate the aroma and the drink!

We spent the rest of the day visiting another vineyard, and a place that specialised in chocolate and liquor. The boys were brave (or stupid?!) enough to try their home made absinthe, and while they didn’t go blind from the experience, they won’t be repeating it in a hurry!!

Lighting the absinthe soaked cube of sugar

Lighting the absinthe soaked cube of sugar


1,2,3 down goes the absinthe

1,2,3 down goes the absinthe

Wine tasting

Wine tasting

Enjoying a fine Malbec with friends!

Enjoying a fine Malbec with friends!


The girls!

The girls!

Italian Night Festival: As part of the Wine Festival, the Italian community had a wine and food night market in one of the open aired plazas. Ben and I ate “vegetarian” home made ravioli, which turned out to be spinach and ricotta ravioli with a meat Bolognese sauce! We did our best to scrape some of the sauce off, although I did have quite a few mouthfuls before realising it was meat and I have to say “damn it tasted good!”. This scared me, and made me worried that I may actually like the taste of meat, however the moment has passed and there has been no more accidental sampling of meat sauces!! We bought a home made wine from one of the stalls, and one cup knocked our socks off! It was cheap, strong and nasty, and obviously a favourite with the locals!

Beauty Queen street parade and a pick pocket: As part of the festival a Harvest Queen is elected. There were about 20 young hopefuls, and on the Friday night they had a massive street parade, where the beauty queens sat on over-the-top floats, throwing down apples and grapes to the thousands of people crowded on the street. Unfortunately the crowds were a pick pocketers dream, and sure enough as we were walking home at the end of a night, a young man started to push up against me, drumming on my back and making me feel really uncomfortable. I told Ben, who was in front of me in the chain of people weaving a way through the masses to get home, and Ben turned to look at who was harassing me. As he was distracted another man on the side of Ben reached in and took his wallet, which had his credit cards in it and a small amount of cash. A classic distract and steal moment, which all happened within 5 seconds. We felt pretty stupid for falling for it, but we knew that it would happen at some point during our time in Sth America.

Cardboard cut outs of the Beauty Queens lined the streets so that people could vote for their favourite! I had to drag Ben away!

Cardboard cut outs of the Beauty Queens lined the streets so that people could vote for their favourite! I had to drag Ben away!

A Harvest Queen hopeful

A Harvest Queen hopeful

More beauty queens on big floats! Watch out for the flying apples!

More beauty queens on big floats! Watch out for the flying apples!

Fun on the hill top: For the concluding night of the festival there was an extravaganza of fireworks, singers, dancers, comedians, magicians etc, performing in a massive arena. Instead of buying tickets, we went and sat on one of the hills surrounding the stadium and enjoyed the spectacular from there. We went with friends from the hostel, Bobby and Sy, but by the end of the night our little gang had expanded and we had made great friends with a local family who were sitting next to us.

Bobby's moment of fame: Being interviewed by the local TV crew.

Bobby's moment of fame: Being interviewed by the local TV crew.


The boys! Ben, Bobby and Sy

The boys! Ben, Bobby and Sy


My two favourite little new friends!

My two favourite little new friends!

Our view of the extravaganza! We had more fun on the hill top than we did watching the show!

Our view of the extravaganza! We had more fun on the hill top than we did watching the show!


The hill top gang!

The hill top gang!

And so our time in Mendoza came to an end with another long, over night bus trip to Rosario. Ben will pick up from here and write about this lovely city and then the captivating Buenos Aires (when he is feeling better!)

Lots of love, Chelle and Ben

p.s.. Feel free to comment cause then we know people are reading! :)

Posted by CBAdv2010 08:28 Archived in Argentina Comments (13)

Chocolate Heaven in Bariloche!

A town of stunning lakes and mountains and mouth watering chocolate delights!

27 °C

Bariloche
February 24th - 27th ( 4days)

Bariloche is one of those places on earth whose natural beauty and lovely laid back energy, makes you want to pack up everything you own and move to live by the lakes and mountains. The fact that it is also home to a multitude of “chocolaterias”, which produce their own mouth watering chocolate, is another incentive to relocate here, as many Irish and English that we met in Bariloche had done. On the other hand, the amount of chocolate that we consumed in our 4 days here meant that there may in fact be no chocolate left in Bariloche, and if we did live here we would run the risk of turning quite quickly into content little fatties!!

After our challenging 35 hour bus journey on Route 40, plus all our recent hiking, Ben was exhausted and didn’t feel up to a 36km bike ride around the lakes of Bariloche. I had refuelled on numerous strong espresso shots and had restless energy so I jumped on a local bus that took me 18km out of town to a bike hire place. From here I completed a 36km return bike journey that took me up and down hills, through bush paths, past secluded bays and to lookouts over the lakes and mountains. My favourite was Villa Tecul Beach, which I went back and visited again with Ben a few days later.

Villa Tecul Beach

Villa Tecul Beach

Villa Tecul Beach

Villa Tecul Beach

This was our first day apart since leaving Australia 5 weeks ago, and it felt strange not being able to share the experience together. Every time something exciting happened or a new incredible view popped up over the horizon I would turn to tell Ben, forgetting that he wasn’t there. It’s funny how quickly you adjust to spending 24 hours a day with someone and how reliant you become on them being there. Ben is my travel partner in crime, and the day apart made me appreciate how lucky I am to be travelling the world with my best friend, who also happens to be my future husband! So, after our day apart we spent the next 3 days sharing our adventures in Bariloche, which I will recap briefly for you now:

Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate!! Bariloche’s post WW2 European immigrants introduced chocolate making into the area shortly after they arrived, and chocolate now has a special home in Bariloche, which is famous for its rich and creamy chocolate delights! Can you believe that we spent an entire afternoon walking down “Mitre St”, the street of chocolate shops and chocolate dreams, just sampling chocolates and ice-cream. That is all we did for the full afternoon- sample chocolate from one shop, move onto the next to try something different, move onto the next to try some ice-cream etc etc. I was in chocolate heaven, and Ben did his best to keep up!

Sampling the chocolate delights!

Sampling the chocolate delights!

Chocolate Heaven!

Chocolate Heaven!

Rapa Nui

Rapa Nui


Mmmmmm, creamy, rich, chocolate goodness!

Mmmmmm, creamy, rich, chocolate goodness!


I couldn't count my change fast enough- give me the chocolate!

I couldn't count my change fast enough- give me the chocolate!


They had chocolate everything- here are some chocolate cameras, but you could also buy chocolate mobile phones, cars, books etc etc!

They had chocolate everything- here are some chocolate cameras, but you could also buy chocolate mobile phones, cars, books etc etc!

The 7 Lakes Tour from Bariloche to San Martin de Los Andes: With our great new friends from Brisbane who we met on the Navimag, Ads and George (Georgina), we hired a car for the day and set off on the 400km return 7 Lakes Route. This was a fantastic day, and another highlight of our trip (there are so many of them!). The scenery was spectacular, and we stopped off at numerous lookouts along the way to appreciate it.

Photo stop!

Photo stop!

Stopping off along the way to enjoy the views

Stopping off along the way to enjoy the views


Passing waterfalls on the way

Passing waterfalls on the way

We enjoyed a scrumptious lunch on the northwestern shore of Lake Nahual Huapi ( in the town of Angostura), where our meal perhaps tasted even better because of the dazzling blue lake that we sat by. With our bellies full of tasty goodness we continued on until we came to a river area where some people were picnicking and swimming. We were ready for a swim, and although the water was icy cold, we all got in and swum over to a ruined old bridge. From here we watched as one of the swimmers climbed the intact, modern bridge and then jumped with a big splash into the river below. Of course, as soon as Ben saw this he wanted to give it a go!!! With an entire crowd chanting and clapping for him, Ben climbed the bridge and did a great bomb into the deep and clear river below (he checked before doing it!). The crowd wanted more so Ben got up and did it again, much to their delight and cheering, and I’m sure Ben would have happily stayed all afternoon there except that we had to get going to our final lake town before sunset!

Enjoying our lunch!

Enjoying our lunch!

On the northwesters shore of the stunning Lake Nahual Huapi

On the northwesters shore of the stunning Lake Nahual Huapi


Lake Nahual Huapi

Lake Nahual Huapi


The lake at Angostura where we stopped for lunch

The lake at Angostura where we stopped for lunch


Our swimming place

Our swimming place

Enjoying a refreshing dip in the icy river

Enjoying a refreshing dip in the icy river


Bridge jumping to an audience

Bridge jumping to an audience

We arrived in the early evening to the Monarco of the Lakes District, San Martin de Los Andes. It was a smaller and “posher” version of Bariloche, and we enjoyed our short time there relaxing on the beach, while the boys had a dip in the lake. We couldn’t head for home without an ice-cream stop, and I ordered the biggest ice-cream of my life, and enjoyed every mouthful!!

San Martin De Los Andes

San Martin De Los Andes

San Martin De Los Andes

San Martin De Los Andes

The biggest ice-cream of my life!

The biggest ice-cream of my life!

Our dusty little hire car, perfectly reversed parked

Our dusty little hire car, perfectly reversed parked

The trip back took longer than expected, and we were worried because we were meant to be meeting friends for dinner at 9m at our favourite vegetarian restaurant, and by 10pm we were still half an hour out of town. We felt really guilty, but still had to stop to take photos of the setting sun over the Andean landscape!!, and by the time we got to the restaurant it was 10:30pm and our friends weren’t there. (It all worked out fine as we found out later that our friends hadn’t been able to make it to the restaurant so we didn’t feel so guilty about stopping to take all those sunset photos on the way home!!).

Sunset on our drive home

Sunset on our drive home


Colours of the sunset on our drive home

Colours of the sunset on our drive home


Gourmet vegetarian food at "El Vegetariano"

Gourmet vegetarian food at "El Vegetariano"

The ground shook: That night as Ben and I slept peacefully and unaware, Ads and George and many others around town were evacuated from their building as the massive earthquake in Chile (8.8 on the richter) moved the ground in Bariloche, some 650km away (!). We went to pick Ads and George up the next morning, and heard about how they had evacuated their hostel and people had slept out in the parks, to worried to stay inside their buildings. It was devastating hearing news of the Chilean earthquake, and we met many people over the next few weeks who had been affected in some way. It was a sobering feeling to know that we were just near the earthquake some few weeks ago

The 7th Most Wonderful View Point in the WORLD and the 10th Greatest Panoramic View in the WORLD: Yes, that’s right....the entire whole wide world.... or so says National Geographic!!! Whether these viewpoints really are as claimed or not, they were absolutely, jaw dropping, breath taking, spectacularly beautiful. We were captivated by the colours, the tranquillity, the vastness, the pure radiant beauty of the mountains meeting the lakes, and took a few photos to help us remember it!

View from the 7th Most Wonderful Viewpoint in the World!

View from the 7th Most Wonderful Viewpoint in the World!


The Bariloche Gang!

The Bariloche Gang!

Airborne

Airborne

More of the spectacular view

More of the spectacular view

Ben and I caught a chairlift up one of the mountain for the panoramic view of the lakes district. It was a steep ride up to an incredible view:

Making our own fun on the chairlift ride!

Making our own fun on the chairlift ride!


On top of the world at the 10th Most Panoramic View in the World!

On top of the world at the 10th Most Panoramic View in the World!


View from the chairlift

View from the chairlift

Spectacular view of the lakes

Spectacular view of the lakes

And with that chairlift ride our time in Bariloche came to an end, and it was back on the overnight bus to Wine Country, Mendoza.

Sending our love from across the miles!
Chelle and Ben

Posted by CBAdv2010 16:46 Archived in Argentina Comments (5)

Don't cry for me Argentina!

El Calafate, El Chalten, and Route 40

sunny 15 °C

El Calafate
(17/ 18/19th February)

Hello! This is the final bombardment of "catch-up blogging", although we are still about 3 weeks behind, sigh! Feel free to skim the words and just check out the photos as I probably would after 4 days of blog updates, haha!!

So..... goodbye Chile and Hola Argentina!! The border crossing from Chile into Argentina was possibly one of the easiest border crossings of any past travel experiences so far (i.e. no rabid dogs chasing you across, no guards asking for ‘baksheesh’ or a bribe and no sudden pat down searches behind a tattered old curtain!).

El Calafate is a cute little town that seems solely designed to cater for the tourist. It is expensive and a lot of people we have met travelling didn’t enjoy their time here, as they felt it was a “tourist trap”. However, we had a great time because of some lovely experiences which we will recap for you!

The little tourist town of El Calafate

The little tourist town of El Calafate


The main street in El Calafate

The main street in El Calafate

The BEST hostel in Argentina: We stayed at 'Hostal Lautaro', which was run by a young married couple, Belen and Dario, with amusing and well meant “help” from their one and half year old daughter, Andina. Andina would help serve us breakfast in the morning by sprinkling sugar over everything and putting the cornflakes into the coffee! They made us feel a part of their family and so at home, even waving goodbye to us as we got on our bus! The icing on the cake was discovering that Dario used to be a chef (for the Argentinean President no less!), and he cooked up a gourmet storm for us each night. His home made ravioli was possibly the best pasta that we have ever tasted! Ben was even more impressed when they served us a red wine labelled “Benjamin”. However, Belen thought it was unfair that it only had Ben’s name on it, so before she served it to us she quickly created a label saying “Michelle’s Wine” and stuck it on the other side of the bottle!

Dario's scrumptious vegetarian pie.

Dario's scrumptious vegetarian pie.


Enjoying nights in with Dario's home cooking at Hostel Lautoro

Enjoying nights in with Dario's home cooking at Hostel Lautoro


Belen's creative label for Michelle's wine

Belen's creative label for Michelle's wine


And the real wine!

And the real wine!

Trekking on the Perito Moreno Glacier: The stunning Moreno Glacier is impressive to look at, being 5km wide and rising 74 metres above the surface of the water. Up close the glacier looked a bit like a meringue pie (maybe I , Michelle, was feeling particularly hungry on the day but I really thought that it looked like something you could stick a dessert fork into and take a mouthful of!). We joined an Ice Trekking tour and had an amazing 2 hours trekking on the Glacier. It was our first experience using crampons (the metal spikes they attach to your shoes so that you can walk safely on the ice), and they took some getting used to! Parts of the glacier, where the top surface of the ice has cracked, were a piercing blue colour. There were also water holes, where water gushed down an opening in the glacier and was sucked underneath never to be seen again (not something you would like to fall into!), and glacier lakes. We enjoyed a drink from a glacier water stream, and finished our ice trek with a small shot of whisky served on glacier ice at a makeshift bar near the bottom of the glacier! A fantastic experience!

Petit Moreno Glacier

Petit Moreno Glacier

The glacier is constantly carving with a thunderous noise as huge chunks of ice break off

The glacier is constantly carving with a thunderous noise as huge chunks of ice break off


Petit Moreno Glacier

Petit Moreno Glacier

Chelle and Ben at one of the lookouts

Chelle and Ben at one of the lookouts


My first experience with crampons!

My first experience with crampons!

One of the bright blue water holes

One of the bright blue water holes


Kung-foo fighting!

Kung-foo fighting!

Who has a dessert fork? Looks like a meringue pie to me!

Who has a dessert fork? Looks like a meringue pie to me!


The make-shift glacier bar!

The make-shift glacier bar!

Bird Watching at Lagoon Nimez: Being first time bird watchers we were rather unprepared for the experience, lacking the compulsory binoculars, a wide brimmed hat and a bird whistle! However we did have a little booklet with pictures of the birds, their name and a brief description. Even armed with this, we can only recall the birds as being “big pink ones” ( OK, those ones are easy- Flamingoes), “little blue ones”, “brown ones”, “flying small ones” etc etc. Despite our lack of knowledge about our fine feathered flying friends, it was lots of fun and we can understand how it becomes a serious hobby for people.

The view of El Calafate from the lagoon

The view of El Calafate from the lagoon


Bird watching at the lagoon

Bird watching at the lagoon

Arts and Mate: The Argentineans are famous for their tea drinking of the herbal brew “mate” (pronounced like “mah-tey”). It is a strong tea brew that is usually passed between friends, sipping from the one mate straw. We came across a quirky bright blue house set by the lagoon, which had a sign up saying “Casa de Arte” (House of Art), and some musicians sitting on the front balcony sipping their Mate tea. They invited us in and brewed a fresh pot of Mate for us, before then starting up a great jam session of Argentinean folk music (a rehearsal for their concert later that night). So we got our very own little concert and Mate experience, as well as meeting some great locals, Pancho and Juan, and their two playful dogs who loved all the attention Ben was giving them!

Ben's new furry friend!

Ben's new furry friend!


Our very own live music concert!

Our very own live music concert!


Mate Tea, a strong herbal brew shared between friends

Mate Tea, a strong herbal brew shared between friends

We loved the fun times in El Calafate (Ben even came face to face with a dinosaur), but the next town called and off to El Chalten we went.....

Making our own fun in a museum.....Ben v Dinosaur!

Making our own fun in a museum.....Ben v Dinosaur!

El Chalten
(20/21/22 February)

Just 3 hours north of El Calafate is El Chalten, an even smaller town located within the Los Glaciares National Park. El Chalten is trekking paradise, home to Patagonian mountains and granite peaks, waterfalls, lakes and more glaciers. People come from all over to catch glimpses of the Fitzroy Peak between the misty clouds. We met some people who had spent 4 days waiting in El Chalten for the clouds to part and reveal the magical mountain, however after day 4 it still remained veiled and they gave up and moved on. Unbelievably the 3 days that we spent here were picture perfect- blue skies and only small gusts of the famous southern wind. We used the great weather to do 3 day hikes (yes that’s right- day hikes! No camping or big backpacks required!!):

• Laguna Torre Walk and Lookout ( 28km return hike)
• Waterfall ( Taking it easy with only a 6km return walk)
• The 3 Lakes / Fitzroy Walk ( aprox 26km return hike)

The hikes and scenery were spectacular, and physically a lot easier than Torres Del Paine. We loved our time here, and couldn’t believe the natural beauty that surrounded us. All the colours seemed so bright and dazzling, the mountains massive, and the lakes the most beautiful yet. The photos say all that needs to be said ( except don’t decide to jog the remaining 3 km back into town at the end of a day hiking just because your body is feeling so warmed up and fit..... I ended up re-pulling my hip flexor muscle and Ben hurt his knee, causing us to limp slowly back into town at the very end! The towns micro-brewery made all well again with their local brew!).

Photos from our walks around El Chalten:

This incredible view was well worth the 26km return hike and hard mountain climb at the end!

This incredible view was well worth the 26km return hike and hard mountain climb at the end!


The fitzroy lake

The fitzroy lake


The stunning view at the end of the 3 lakes trail

The stunning view at the end of the 3 lakes trail


More of the Fitzroy lake view

More of the Fitzroy lake view


Enjoying the walk!

Enjoying the walk!


IMG_2913_547x730.jpg
The mighty Fitzroy

The mighty Fitzroy

Our relaxing day at the waterfall

Our relaxing day at the waterfall

Walking back into El Chalten as the sun is starting to set

Walking back into El Chalten as the sun is starting to set


Aussie Aussie Aussie! We met a swiss man on the Laguna Torre trail who was wearing an Aussie bandana which we borrowed for this photo!

Aussie Aussie Aussie! We met a swiss man on the Laguna Torre trail who was wearing an Aussie bandana which we borrowed for this photo!

Snickers really satisfies!

Snickers really satisfies!

The Laguna Torre

The Laguna Torre

Enjoying a quick rest in the sun

Enjoying a quick rest in the sun

From paradise to hell...... cue "Route 40"!

Route 40 (or Ruta 40)

Route 40 is one of the longest roads in the world, and runs parallel to the Andes Mountains, linking southern and northern Argentina. It mostly passes through barren landscape broken occasionally by sparsely populated towns. It is on the “Must Do” list for adventure travel in Argentina, so we excitedly set off on this adventure ourselves...unaware of what lay ahead!

The lonely view from route 40

The lonely view from route 40


"On a dark desert highway...."

"On a dark desert highway...."

The route turned out to be mostly unpaved, gavel road, and we spent 35 HOURS on a cramped, smelly and sweaty bus, with a bus-driver who smoked continuously. The longest break we had off the bus was only 1 HOUR. The rest of the time was spent on the bus, which was furnace-hot during the day because the AC was broken, and then was Antarctic-cold at night because of the desert temperature outside. The seats barely reclined, meaning that sleep was near-impossible. To top it all off the bus blew a tyre on the “dark desert highway”, and we spent close to 2 hours standing around in the freezing cold early hours of the desert morning while the bus driver and assistant comically tried to change tyres. They resorted to using sticks and stones from the side of the road to help jack the bus up even higher! So, Ruta 40 was definitely an unforgettable experience, but not in the way we expected!

Trying to keep our sanity- a bottle of red and a movie!

Trying to keep our sanity- a bottle of red and a movie!


It was a cold cold morning waiting for the bus tyre to be changed and Ben wasn't happy!

It was a cold cold morning waiting for the bus tyre to be changed and Ben wasn't happy!


The never ending Ruta 40

The never ending Ruta 40


Our stranded bus

Our stranded bus

Now, when we catch a long distance bus we smile when the ticket sales person tells us it will be a 16 hour bus ride...... Only 16 hours, ha! We laugh in the face of 16 hours!!! Nothing will ever be as bad as Ruta 40! The only thing that made it all OK was our safe arrival in one of the most picturesque places on earth- Bariloche. But that is for the next blog which we hope to get up before too long.

Love Chelle and Ben

Posted by CBAdv2010 18:17 Archived in Argentina Comments (5)

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