Friday, 28 May 2010

Iguazu Falls and on to Rio

We're in Rio now, and have had a good few days of beachtime, but haven't yet said anything about leaving BA and heading to Iguazu. Once back in BA, we satyed an extra night to see Nube 9 - a band recommended by Merrie who play at Beatle week who were playing the next day. It was amazing, they did a best of the 60's night with everything from the Beach Boys, Beatles, Jefferson Aiplane, Diana Ross - a real mix all done brilliantly! We're looking forward to ctahing up with them again this at the Mathew St Festival in August.

From then, it was on the next day to Puerto Iguazu, another overnight bus of about 18 hours or so - easy! We got wine on the us which was a new one, although we have not done the "Super Cama" bus, which is supposed to be literally a bed, with champagne, whiskey and you're own selection of DVD's. We're a bit sad about that but there's always next time!

We arrived at Iguazu, checked in and then headed straight to the national park - we'd arrived a little late, and a friendly chap suggested us a route so we could see as much as possible with nearly not enough time! We got the train once we'd arrived which takes you around the park, and went straight to the Devil's Throat waterfall, the big one (of several massive ones!). We passed loads of butterflies flapping about, all different colours but sadly hard to get a picture of! Once off the train, we had to try our hardest to race oast Team Santiago", who were walking very slowly in their green team hats and taking up all the walkway! We had no time to dawdle, so probably wound them up a bit weaving in and out to get past!

The waterfall itself was mindblowing - looking at the middle actually made you feel a bit sick, it looked like a chocolate fountain pouring down to the bottom that you coudln't even see! The spray created an incredible rainbow - we were so glad we'd got a sunny day to come and see the park as it made everything shine!

Having taken our pictures, we raced back for the next train so we could start on the lower trail which would take us past more waterfalls, and down to the boat ride. We past some incredible smaller waterfalls and saw some of the parks wildlife too - 'racoon things', before making our way through the spray down to the "port" - actually just a plank and a rock with some steps cut into the rock.

We were already soaked, and quickly changed out of our shoes and put our stuff in the dry bags they have for you there, and finally used the poncho's Jenni had given us before we left. 6 months of carrying and finally we made good use of them! The boat ride itself was insane, we whizzed right up to the falls several times - i've no idea how our little camera survived, we might as well have dropped it down the loo! It was so wet! The finale was to rushes right into the falling water of the Devil's throat. Just trying to open your eyes was hard, but we tried! We both drank far more dirty water than can be good for you, but had such an incredible time before getting back off and assessing how soaked we were. Sara did ok, I was wrecked.

From there we whizzed up a bit further, where one of the platforms got you nearly as close as the boat had to the falls. I headed out onto the platform in my already soaked state, and the wind created by the falling water was vicious! There was a school trip there too, all of whom wanted a go when I was there!

From the lower trail, we headed on up to the upper trail to see the falls from the top but it had just closed. We obviously looked heartbroken, because the guy let us go through as long as we were quick! We whizzed along with cameras out, and it was wonderful to watch the sun go down over the park and see the spray turn a different colour. We mustn't forget the monkeys, which we saw leaping from tree to tree over the river which amused us for a little while before we had to rush on!

Even with our late arrival, we think we saw what the park to offer and it really was worth every minute we whizzed along. That night we went for our last Parilla or Argy Barby, which served up some amazing Steak, gorgeous chicken, a nice sausage, some questionable black pudding, some dodgy kidneys and some sort of gross intestine thing that really wasn't great! I tried everything, but sadly only the steak and the chicken was finished!

Next day we were off to Brazil, with the plan of crossing the border and heading for the bus station to get to Rio and the beach asap! On a local bus crossing the border however, you have to ask them to stop at Brazilian immigration, so we whizzed through without a stamp and were officially illegal immigrants in Brazil for the next hour and a half! A bus journey back for the stamp and card, and then another back to the town was a silly hour we needn't have spent! Next, we looked for our bus, only to find the long distance terminal was another bus ride away, probably about 8 km's out of town! We finally arrived at 11.50 having left at 9, to find a bus ready and waiting that left at 12. We were straight on it, but sadly buses in Brazil aren't as good as in Argentina, and are more expensive so it wasn't quite the ride we'd been used to! 24 hours, several awful films and about 3 hours sleep later, we were in Rio.

We headed straight to Ipanema, checked into the first hostel we found and hit the beach and that pretty much brings us up to date - we've had four days of beach-eat-sleep! We're going exploring this weekend a little, although Big Jesus is covered in scaffolding so I doubt we'll bother heading up there, especially when the beach is so near! Not sure about the favelas either, no real desire to go round slums. We did go to the Maracana stadium last night to see what can only be described as pub football without the bellies as the Flamengo-Fluminese (Fla-Flu) derby took place. Flamengo (Brazilian champs) were appalling - their keeper did however score a great freekick in the 90th minute, but Fluminese won 2-1 with their second goal also a screamer.

We can't believe it's our last week away - 6 and a half months has flown by, and we'll see everyone soon!


ps piccies of Iguazu...

Thursday, 20 May 2010


Was epic.

Every time you opened your eyes you were surprised by the size of a new mountain, or the amount of snow falling overnight, or the amazing blue of the glaciers we saw! Words can't really do the scenery justice so you'll have to have a look at the photos of El Calafate and the Perito Moreno Glacier here...

And of El Chalten, Mount Fitz Roy and other awesome landscapes here...

Once in El Calafate, we had a day of relaxing and sorting out our glacier trip - the bus ride there from Ushuaia was a long one, interrupted by a 5 hour wait in Rio Gallegos bus station which we could've done without. We woke up to a great view from our hostel out onto the lake and the mountains beyond which were all covered with snow, back by a pink sky - the sun didn't rise properly until about 9.30 am!

The next day was our day on the glacier. We had an hours ride to the national park, where we were then given a couple of hours to explore the boardwalks, looking at both the North and Suth faces of the glacier. We were wuite lucky to see several small ice falls, and then an absolutely huge one where what looked like 3 houses worth of ice just cracked off and fell into the lake. The cracks were like gunshots, and we could constantly hear the creaking of the ice as it moved forward. We passed a sign en route which said 32 people had been killed by flying ice shards, even though we were still a fair way from the actual face of the glacier. Scary stuff! It was massive, and wound back up into the mountains - apparently it's 70 metres above the water and goes up to 140 metres below the surface of the lake. Amazing.

After lunch, we then headed out on a boat, past several icebergs and onto the other side of the lake where we got onto our second glacier of the trip! Our guide, Diego, was a bit of a mountain goat scrambling up and down with ease while we plodded about like Godzilla (his words), digging the crampons in and trying not to slip! It was so much more blue up close, and looking into some of the drain holes and crevasses again reminded us of being on a different planet.

The next revelation was that he water was drinkable, so we immediately found ourselves some nice icecubes to suck and mini waterfalls to stick our tongues under. The trek ended with a whiskey, cooled by glacial ice Diego hacked out of the floor! Whiskey's not really our thing, but we filled our glasses up with more ice and water instead! It was a good end to what had been a brilliant day!

El Chalten was our next stop, and we left early the next day to catch the 3 hour bus up there. Once there, we stopped off at the visitor centre to be given a map and an amazing view of the mountains. Once out of the hostel, we headed for Lago Torres, as the weather was amazing and we'd have a good view of the mountains on the way. At the main viewpoint, we were greeted by the sight of clouds literally rolling down the mountain and glacier in the distance. Unfortunately it was too far to keep going after we'd stopped for lunch at the viewpoint, and while the others continued a little further down the path, Sara and I headed back to town to do an "easy" walk up to the waterfall - Chorillo del Salto. It was worth it, the waterfall was amazing, and it was another chance for me to stick my head into a stream and drink like a dog which is always good!

Next day Sara was feeling a bit under the weather so we relaxed in the morning while the others (some of whom were even worse for wear!) headed out to do a couple of the shorter treks. After an hour or two, we decided to head out anyway, Sara braving the wind to head up to the Fitz Roy viewpoint - one of the hardest walks, with a steep climb for much of the way. 2 hours there and 40 minutes back says it all really! The view was spectacular, although Fitz was covered by clouds, there were two glaciers, one of which was that special glacier blue, resembling a wave coming down the mountain. Then a rainbow appeared as the sun poked through and we were glad we'd made it out after all!

On the way back down, I shattered the dreams of a Korean family, who asked how long it was to the viewpoint. They had literally come 20 minutes out of town, and when I told them it was probably and hour and a half at least they all looked a bit gutted. Sara tried to reassure them that this was the worst and steepest bit and glumly the trudged on. We didn't ask if they made it when we saw them, later, they might've been upset if they hadn't!

Then it was back to Calafate and onto the plane the next day back to BA having said goodbye to Em, Dom, Katie and Carolyn. We were looking forward to a bit of heat again!

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Glacier Tomorrow!

Enough said really, we're all really excited! We're doing a trek on the Perito Merino glacier, it's going to be awesome. Then on to El Chalten for a night where we'll hike fr a coouple of days around and about the national park at the foot of Mount Fitz Roy, and then we're back to El Calafate and flying back to BA, leaving the others to make their way North. We'll be going from a glacier to the tropics in three days. We're so excited!

Also here are some more photos of BA and Ushuaia, the Glacier Martial and the Tierra del Fuego national park, click on the pictures for the albums!

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

The Ends Of The Earth

We arrived today in Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world. It's not as cold as England! We flew in over some incredible mountains and then headed up to the Glacier Martial - not as impressive as Franz Josef in NZ but still icy and something special! The walk up to the glacier was supposed to be a ride in a chairlift - the surrounding area becomes a ski-piste come the snow, but unfortunately it wasn't working so we wandered up instead. A little wolfy/husky type puppy followed us up which was fun, we called him/her Jeff/Petunia.

Today we went to the Tierra Del Fuego national park, where we went on a coastline hike for 4 hours, with the most amazing views of snowpeaked mountains stretching right down to the crystal clear water. The weather was perfect, with a bit of sun and no rain until we were having a cup of tea at the meeting point for the shuttle back, it was ideal! We may have seen a whale, we're not sure, but it was definitely surrounded by seals and all sorts of sea birds. Later on we saw some large scavanger birds along with what was apparently a buzzard - i'm turning into a pigeon fancier.

It's the off season here at the moment, so some of the activities aren't happening, we wanted to kayak but the companies aren't running any kayak trips at the moment so we're off to El Calafate tomorrow on a bus that'll take us in and out of Chile, on a ferry and then overnight to EC. We might look to change our flight back to BA so we can have bit more time in the sun once we're all glaciered out!

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Bolivia - Amazon Pampas Tour

Picasa added a new Blog this option so here's a direct link to the Pampas pictures!

Friday, 7 May 2010

From the Jungle to BA

We had an absolutely amazing time in the Amazon Basin, the pampas tour was incredible and we saw so many different animals and birds - there are about a million photos to prove it! The journey there however was a different story.

We set off on the Tuesday morning in our Jeep that we'd hired, driven by Armando who was the boss of the tour company! Three hours out of La Paz, we hit a roadblock, a glorious Bolivian tradition where the small winding mountain roads are covered with trees, rocks and people stopping all the traffic from passing. Apparently they had been promised a "machine" (digger/strimmer/wheelbarrow?) by the government and they hadn't got it so why not bring the country to a standstill!? Anyway, we retreated to a hotel nearby to wait it out, hoping that Evo would dig deep and sort it out so we could get on the road again. 8pm arrived and Armie told us there'd been no progress and now there were 200 lorries backed up on the side of the mountain! We spent the night to see if it was different in the morning, and the same rice and steak meal for lunch, dinner and then breakfast!

Come the morning, there'd been no change, but Armie had found us a route! Brilliant. The bad news was it was a 10 hour detour to get to just beyond the roadblock. We set off along what appeared to be an even more questionable "road" through clouds and over rivers and up the sides of some of the biggest mountains we've seen so far. A lot of other people were taking this route the other way, which involved reversing round some very scary corners to get out of their way.

After 10 long hours, we were back on track for another 6 towards Rurrenabaque. This was the bumpiest road we'd ever been on, and we were progressing nicely before coming across another roadblock. Disaster had struck! Thankfully, this roadblock wasn't as militant as the other one, and we were able to pay our way through - a pricey £2.

From then on it was plain, bumpy sailing, until 2.30 am at which point the drug squad stopped us, searched our bags (badly) and asked for our passports, all the while shining torches in our faces. No dog, which was wierd, and we weren't smuggling kilos of fine Bolivian prodcue so on we went, finally arriving in Rurrenabaque at 3.30 am. We were up 4 hours later to head out on the tour.

We headed for 3 hours to Santa Rosa, grumpily managing to make the Aussie chap who'd joined our group feel most unwelcome! We saw Toucans, eagles and cows being herded by a team of Bolivian cowboys. Arriving in Santa Rosa, we made our way onto our longboat to take us to the eco-lodge. Within minutes we had seen alligators, caymen and turtles! We then spotted kingfishers, herons, birds of paradise and a family of capybara, or rat-pigs as they were known for the duration of the trip! The long journey in the jeep had already been forgotten, and when we saw the monkeys life couldn't get better!

The ecolodge itself was basic, and there was bat poo on Sara's pillow, but we ignored that and spent some time getting aquainted with the camps resident cayman. We could sit at the foot of the steps and it would be merely metres away, and feed the resident monkeys who hung about at the back of the camp - a favourite part of the trip for me!

Next day we were off into the pampas to see if we could find an Anaconda. We did, well, an Aussie lady did after about 20 minutes, so we were quite happy and lucky it turned out, the roup the next day spent 3 fruitless hours searching in the blistering heat. We quickly got out of the pampas which was a grassy muddy stink bog, and headed back to camp, Sara's one foot soaked thanks to a leaky welly, not that it stopped her spotting everything there was to be seen - the tiniest frog on a leaf didn't escape her eagle eyes! On the way back to the boat parrots flew overhead - everyone was happy.

That afternoon we (I) went swimming with the pink dolphins. It was more a swim near the dolphins, and as the water was muddy you couldn't really see them. It wasn't a highlight of the tour, although the proximity to the alligators was more of a talking point - they were not very far away at all!

That night we went out with our torches looking for the alligators - their eyes shine back. It wasn't that interesting, but the stars above were incredible, and this was coupled with the presence of thousands of fireflies twinkling in the trees. It was a magical moment! Then, Armando (who'd turned up earlier) invited us to a workers party he was throwing up the river, so off we went to spend a few hours with a load of Bolivian people! The two Dnaish girls shone, Sofie reading people's palms (Gypsy granny) and Sandra loving the cows they had there a bit too much, jumping in the pen with them every so often. Sara was tempted in to stroke a cow, before making a hasty exit through the fence when the crazy viking ran into the middle of them!

Next day we spent the morning piranha fishing and feeling a bit worse for wear. Sara caught a red piranha, the agressive ones (I'd swam in that water!), although it just grabbed onto the meat and didn't let go rather than getting hooked! It fell on the floor of the boat to the sound of girly squeals! All I managed to catch were catfish and what appeared to be the smallest fish ever caught by any man. Our guide had a good laugh at my expense.

Then it was back to Santa Rosa for the journey back to Rurrenebaque where Armando (who was driving us again) popped a tire on the jeep - the curse of the Team England/Denmark again! We arrived back to find out that the roadblocks were still going on, and we would have to fly back to La Paz. We stumped up the cash, and had a farewell dinner with our new Aussie chum (the initial hostility had all been forgotten!).

Next day, we headed to the airline office to get the bus to the airport, only to find it had already left. They told us not to worry, they'd get us a taxi. 6 motorbikes turned up, and bags on backs, we hopped on and whizzed to the airport. It was a field. There was a man with a pistol firing it to scare the animals off the "runway" (flattest bit of the field). Our plane arrived - a 19 seater twin propellered beast.

40 minutes later we were back in La Paz, wondering why we hadn't flown both ways!

Tuesday came and we said goodbye to our chums - we were off to Buenos Aires, on what turned out to be a 55 hour journey. We took the bus and then the train through Bolivia to the border - the train passing through the salt flats at night (we'd sat on the tracks 2 weeks previously!) and thereby being freezing! At the border at 7am, we crossed over into Argentina, not even bothering with an exit stamp from Bolivia, and headed to the bus station. From there we got a 5hour bus to Jujuy, where we changed to a 2 hour bus to Salta. At Salta we were gutted to find out none of the super comfy Cama Superieur buses were leaving until the day after, so we hopped on a Semi Cama to BA - a 22 hour ride. I was shouted at for pooing in the chemical toilet - after 18 hours you've got to do what you've got to do! We arrived in BA about 4pm ish, and got a taxi to the hostel where we hoped we'd meet with Em, Dom and their friends! Success! We even got in the same dorm as them! Last night we headed out for our first taste of Argentinian steak which was brilliant, and now we're off to plan our travels over the next week or two - the question is how far South to go, and whether we want some more glacier action or not!