Tag Archives: Argentina

Mapping My Journey So Far

Sixteen months on the road is a long time. During that time I covered quite a distance and did many things. While I’ve been ‘resting’ in the United Kingdom, I’ve put together a step by step rundown of my trip including maps.

South East Australia

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In a van called the Pointy Brick I…

Antarctica, Chile and Argentina

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From Brisbane, I flew to Auckland and spent 3 weeks with family before flying to South America where I…

Brazil, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador

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From Buenos Aires I…

Colombia, Central America and Mexico

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From Ecuador I…

The Full Map. May take some time to load.

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The World Wanderer

Looking Back, Part 2 – Central South America

After a 20 hour bus ride from Patagonia, I arrived in Mendoza, Central Argentina. Mendoza is a wine region and boasts some of the best red wines in the world. While I wasn’t the biggest fan of red wine before, after my time in the city I was a Malbec convert. One of the fun things I did while in the City of Steak and Red Wine was to spend the day enjoying some aguas calientes, a set of hot pools near the city. While this might seem strange for a desert city, it was amazing and included a huge buffet lunch.

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Around Mendoza are several wine areas and the best way to see them is via bicycle tours. The wine was delicious and cycling around the area after many glasses of wine was both crazy and fun at the same time.

Beyond the vineyards, the tallest mountain of the Andes, Aconcagua.

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Next I caught a bus across Argentina to Cordoba, the country’s second largest city. While staying in the city I got out-of-town to Parque Nacional Quebrada del Condorito – Condor Gorge National Park – for a long day walk in the heat.

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Next I headed to the Buenos Aires and stayed in a different area of the capital from the beginning of my trip. As I knew I was heading back to the city, I made contact with a friend of a friend and organised to hang out with him and his friends while I was in the city. They were very friendly and I stayed in the city over two weeks to spend time with them.

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During my stay in Buenos Aires, I caught a ferry across the river to the Uruguayan city of Colonia. While I could have stayed in Uruguay longer I was happy to see the more expensive country for the day and get the stamp in my passport. I enjoyed learning about the city and the country in a guided tour.

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I then bused headed north for my final Argentinian destination, Puerto Iguazú. While the township was very touristy, it had good reason, Iguazú Falls is one of the more popularly visited places in the region. While it had been raining the day I visited the Argentinean side of the falls they were still like nothing I’d seen before. I even took a boat to get right up close to the spraying water.

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The following day, I took a bus across the border to the Brazilian side – Iguaçu Falls. While it’s the same set of falls, it’s a totally different sight and you get closer to the Devil’s Throat, a formation of rock that water pours into from three sides. Both Argentinian and Brazilian sides are a must see if travelling to this end of the world. It was then back across the border to Argentina for a final night before booking a bus to Rio de Janiero.

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After a 24 hour bus ride to Rio de Janeiro – the longest trip in a bus I would take – I found the city to be dirtier than expected. It also gave me a sense of danger I hadn’t experienced in either Argentina or Chile. I’d booked a cheap hostel near the location of Carnival and it turned out to be the smallest hostel I’ve ever stayed in, squeezing 18 people into the space most hostels would fit 6. It also only had one bathroom.

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The hostel aside, the natural wonders of Rio were amazing. I visited Christ the Redeemer, Sugarloaf Mountain and took a bicycle ride along both Ipanema and Copacobana beaches.

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I then took my second 24 hour bus ride to a city called Campo Grande in western Brazil for an overnight tour through Brazil’s Pantanal. The Pantanal is a vast swampy area south of the Amazon. It’s similar to the jungle in many ways, just without the trees. We spent the night on the border of Brazil and Paraguay (the closest I would get to the landlocked country). On arrival we ate Piranha, the mean looking faces leering up at us from the pot. The next morning, we took a boat trip along the river to fish for more Piranha…

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…and to see Caimans, smaller cousins of Alligators.

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Then it was over the border and into Bolivia. As soon as you enter it’s obvious that Bolivia is the poorest country on the continent. The roads are bad, the towns are dirty and the buses are owner operated family affairs and include the kids running up and down the aisles while badly dubbed Steven Segal movies are blasted very loudly. My first stop was the city of Santa Cruz, where I stayed at a brand new hostel for a couple of days before heading on to La Paz.

La Paz is a bustling city high in the Andes and when I arrived my head was exploding from the altitude. It only took a good night’s sleep to recover, thankfully. While the entirety of La Paz is terracotta in colour it grows on you as you explore the city centre and beyond. The lights at night are amazing up the walls of the bowl the city is built in.

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Using La Paz as a base, I had many adventures in Bolivia. For a start, you can’t come to the city without hearing about or doing Death Road. Death Road is a crazy stretch of dirt road 65km long and famous for the cliffs on one side with no barriers. It gets its name from the people who have plummeted to their deaths from it. Riding down it on a bike is one of the most thrilling and fun things I’ve done on this trip.

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Next I hiked along an alternative route to Death Road called El Choro, through cloud forests and past my first Incan ruins. During the hike I climbed to the highest I have ever hiked, 4900m, and at that altitude the climb was intense and difficult. It was a great hike and also my first with a guide. Not something I relish, preferring to carry all of my own gear and cook my own meals.

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Then I caught a bus to Uyuni for a 3 day tour around the Salt Flats and along the Andean High Plains to the three-way border of Bolivia, Argentina and Chile. The Salt Flats are like an inland sea without the water.

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There were so many different terrains on the high plains and many stunning views. We visited some very interesting places, like the lodge made entirely from blocks of salt where we stayed on the first night. Views across Lago Roja – Red Lake.

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Then it was back to La Paz where I managed to suffer from food poisoning, an illness everyone seems to get in Bolivia. Don’t trust the street food! For my final days in Bolivia, I caught the bus up to Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world. After a day tour to Isla del Sol, I booked a bus into Peru…

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Next, Part 3 of my Look Back Series where I complete my time in South America by working my way to Colombia.

The World Wanderer

El Bolsón, Argentina – Impressions

For my final stop in Patagonia I caught a bus 100km south of Bariloche to the small town of El Bolsón.

El Bolsón is known in Argentina for the typical Patagonian trekking and mountaineering experience, fly fishing, art, its regular markets, micro-breweries and for being a hippie town. The label of hippie town was what caught my attention and is the tag line that draws most other travellers to the town.

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I only spent a couple of days in El Bolsón and while it did seem like a nice small community in a great location, I didn’t find a lot to actually make it a hippy town. The sculptures in and around the town centre were pretty cool, but the markets were fairly typical selling many of the usuals: home-made jewellery, carved wooden things, sewn items and a myriad of different semi precious stones.

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El Bolsón sits between two great rocky ridges, a 2km tall range that got a powdering of snow on my second day…

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…and one 1,600m tall range. The trekking did look amazing but El Bolsón is in Patagonia. But since my visit was during a rainy last week of autumn, I hadn’t planned to go hiking.

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While my visit to El Bolsón was inexpensive and relaxing, with winter arriving, it was time to head to warmer climates.  After a brief stop off back in Bariloche, I headed north into the desert to the wine region of Mendoza.

Some things to do in El Bolsón:

  • Kayak Lago Puelo
  • Hike Cerro Piltriquitrón
  • Walk up to Cabezo del Indio – Indian Head Rock

The Lone Trail Wanderer

Bariloche, Argentina – Impressions

Nestled in the foothills of the Andes and alongside Lago Nahuel Huapi is San Carlos de Bariloche.  While there were no direct buses from Pucón in Chile, I took a bus for 4 hours across the Andes and south to the city of San Martin de los Andes.   There I waited for several hours before catching another 4-hour bus south to Bariloche.

Somehow I’d messed up my booking at the hostel and there was no room for me when I arrived.  But they were kindly able to arrange a room in an empty hostel nearby for the night.  I returned the following night when my booking was actually due to start.

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While Bariloche is set up for hiking, mountaineering and skiing, there’s more to the city than just the standard Patagonian wonders.  With a heavy Swiss influence, Bariloche has become famous for its chocolate with more than a dozen boutique chocolate vendors in the city.

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The mountains near Bariloche have plentiful hikes, but as it was nearing winter many of the longer trails were closed. I chose a couple of shorter hikes to work in with a two-week spanish course I’d booked, to revise what I’d learned and to help with my confidence.

Booking the course was easy, the hostel manager rang for me and that afternoon I went down to meet to the director of the spanish school, took a placement test and sat in on a spanish cooking lesson.  Beyond the lessons there were additional means to practice the language such as the cooking class, a city tour and going out for drinks.

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My hostel was 41 Below and was owned by a kiwi guy, although he’d retired from running it. There I met a lively bunch of people and enjoyed several dinners and nights out with them – just not so much on school nights!

Because of the Swiss influence in the area, the city’s architecture has a European feel, especially the cathedral – which was actually built in 1946 to resemble the buildings of Europe a thousand years earlier.

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The state buildings around the city centre also have a European feel…

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Worked around my spanish course:

  • I had great steak and red wine meals at Alto el Fuego restaurant
  • I climbed Cerro López to Refugio López on a day walk.
  • I hiked up Cerro Catedral for an overnight stay at Refugio Frey
  • I tried chocolate from each of the different vendors
  • I caught a bus south for 100km to the hippy town of El Bolsón

Other things to do near Bariloche:

  • Sail on Lago Gutierrez in summer
  • Ski Cerro Catedral in winter
  • Hire bikes and ride the 60km Circuito Chico
  • Explore Llao Llao peninsula

After returning from my foray in El Bolsón, I headed north out of Patagonia to the wine region and the city of Mendoza.

The Trail Wanderer

El Chaltén, Argentina – Impressions

El Chaltén is a small town at the northern end of Parque Nacional Los Glaciares in Argentina. It’s a town bred purely from the tourism generated by the National Park and Mt Fitz Roy.

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El Chaltén was quaint and had plenty of hostels, although many were aimed more towards the hotel end of the market than to backpackers. There were plentiful tour operators and adventure stores selling the big named adventure gear for both hiking, ice climbing and glacier expeditions. There was also a small cafe/bakery scene in the town which was great, as the hostels don’t provide breakfast.

I stayed at the Hostal Pioneros del Valle. This large and fairly cheap hostel had plenty of rooms, most set up with 6 beds. But as it was low season when I stayed I had the room to myself. Splendid!

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High season is December to the end of March and outside of these times more than half of El Chaltén’s businesses close down. The several restaurants in town are reasonably priced restaurants, including the local micro-brewery, which is good considering the town doesn’t have good facilities for buying your own food. While there are supermarcados, they aren’t very ‘super’.

The National Park had great day walks and several longer hikes – some very intense indeed. Being short on time, I only did a 3-day hikes. It doesn’t have an official name but I called it the Mt Fitz Roy Triangle. The other great advantage of the Parque Nacional is it’s cost. It’s free. Something different in a land of expensive national park entrance fees.

Here are some of the other walks:

  • Cascada Margarita
  • De las Vuetas River Canyon
  • Piedras Blancas Glacier
  • Punta Norte – Hito Limítrofe

Next, I head back through El Calafate to Puerto Natales in Chile to catch the Navimag Ferry

The Lone Trail Wanderer

Ushuaia, Tierra Del Fuego, Argentina

Ushuaia is the city at ‘fin del mundo’ – the end of the world. It’s the southernmost city in the world located on Tierra Del Fuego, an island at the southern end of Patagonia shared by Argentina and Chile. Apart from the other islands of southern Patagonia, the only place further south than here is the great White Continent.

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The taxi drive from the hostel in Buenos Aires was a rather exciting and scary experience. I shared with a Japanese lady and the pair of us huddled in the back seat as we hurtled headlong along the motorway to the airport. While the lanes were well-marked, the driver didn’t seem to notice them. He shot along at 130km, weaving madly even though the road wasn’t busy. We both felt safer once we arrived at the airport.

The 3 hour and 45 minute flight became an adventure of its own when fog in Ushuaia forced the plane to land at Rio Gallegos, some distance to the north, to sit it out. Thankfully it didn’t take long. The approach to Ushuaia was along the Beagle Channel which separates Isla del Tierra Del Fuego from Isla Navarino to the south. As we descended into the airport the sights were mind-blowing with snow-capped, rocky mountain peaks on either side.

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Ushuaia was larger than I expected. I’d pictured a quaint little port township nestled on the edge of the mountains, but it’s actually quite large. Stepping out of the airport the sights were amazing, the city nestled under the mountains on the edge of the channel with the mountains spreading from horizon to horizon.

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While I’d been warned not to expect much from the weather, it was fairly clear when I arrived and over the next couple of days, became cloudy and overcast. The mountains usually begun the day covered in cloud, only to clear as the day progressed.

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The Ushuaia Freestyle Hostel was a fairly nice place although like most cram as many people into a small amount of space. There were several common rooms including a large TV room and games room on the top level. Mostly the staff were friendly, although one or two had an ‘I don’t really care’ attitude unless you were spanish or an attractive woman. The wireless internet was pretty poor forcing everyone to wait for the two provided computers or go into town.  While one of the better hostels in town, it closed down shortly after I was there, becoming part of hotel next door.

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Downtown Ushuaia was a lot larger than I expected, the main road being quite long and for the most part has shops along both sides. The city is a little touristy, which isn’t a bad thing, and it actually has a full supermarket, something I wasn’t able to find in central Buenos Aires. There are all sorts of shops here and many more shopkeepers speak english than in Buenos Aires, but I was still unable to find a mini SIM card at one of the many mobile phone stores. Not that I needed to call anyone, it would have been useful to have a steady means to get access to the internet.

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Overall, Ushuaia was beautiful and even at the end of summer, it wasn’t that cold.  I did get some strange looks walking around in the middle of the day in flip-flops and a t-shirt. Evenings got cooler, but not freezing.  It was just chilly enough to be refreshing (for me anyway) but most people were decked out in their warm clothing. I still carried a jacket, just in case, but got hot quickly climbing up the hill to the hostel or when I entered an air-conditioned shop. Winter there would be seriously icy.

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I went to Ushuaia with no strict travel plans and just figured it out as I went. I did book one of the Antarctic cruises, for 12 days and it cost me more than I had planned, but when was I going to have the opportunity again? It did mean I had 10 days to kill in Ushuaia.

Here are some of the adventures I had in region:

Other things to do in the region I didn’t get time for:

  • Tierra del Fuego National Park for short walks and Lago Roca
  • Dublin Bar, the southernmost Irish pub in the world
  • Skiing at Cerro Castor (in winter)
  • The Maritime Museum of Ushuaia
  • The 4-5 day Dientes Circuit hike

Next, I headed off on my Antarctic Voyage.  On my return from the great white continent, I caught a bus north to Punta Arenas, Chile.

So many adventures to be had. But thus is life.

The Lone Trail Wanderer