Sunday, October 17, 2010

25th September 2010 - 18th October 2010 - Buenos Aires & Patagonia

El fin del mundo

It’s the end of our trip… sigh… so what better place to go than Patagonia also known as “el fin del mundo” or “the end of the world”. However before I delve into what has to be one of the most stunning places on this planet I want to talk about our time in Buenos Aires also known as “the land of steak!” (our own name).

As mentioned before Buenos Aires is known for it’s steak and it is definitely a worthy reputation. You haven’t eaten steak until you’ve eaten steak in this city! There is more to Buenos Aires besides steak, there is also history and great museums although we didn’t really experience much of that in our time here as we pretty much just ate steak… and shopped… and avoided copious amounts of dog shit. In writing this we have just returned from the boutiques with another 2 pairs of shoes for Sheena and a pair of jeans of me, that’s to go on top of the 2 other pairs of shoes Sheena bought the other day and the jeans, and the leather jacked I was forced to purchase for myself. This is very much a good shopping city.. I can’t believe I’m blogging about shopping…

Cafes and bars of Buenos Aires

I really like the passion of this city, which probably stems from the mass immigration of Italians a long time ago. The people here are almost more European rather than Sth American. They have a love for football like no other and their obsession for tango and opera is conveyed every where you go. Most of all I like the artistic vibe which flourishes in the artesian markets and really creative street art that is scattered throughout regions like San Telmo and La Boca.

La Boca houses - stay in the tourist zone or be mugged!

Cool street art in San Telmo, Buenos Aires

Patagonia on the other hand is all about natural beauty. From the moment we landed in Ushuaia (the most southern city of Argentina) we knew that this was going to be a very special place. The best way to imagine Patagonia is to take the glaciers and snow capped peaks of the Himalayas and plonk them down at sea level on the coast next to placid lakes and bright green forests inhabited by pumas, birds and many other types of wildlife. It truly is amazing and no photograph I have taken will ever give justice to this place.

Ushuaia is a working port

Sheena’s great of idea of going husky riding was fantastic. It was just so much fun and the dogs were really cute of course. I loved the fact that in the moments leading up to setting off, all the dogs get so excited and start barking and jumping around in anticipation as they are so eager to get running!

Beautiful Husky

Huskys eager to go!

We left Ushuaia on a 3 night cruise that went down to Cape Horn and then back up through the Magellan Strait stopping at glaciers, bays, and islands along the way. It was a great experience (worth all the money) and we met some cool Germans along the way whom we met up with again in Buenos Aires (Germans are everywhere!!!).

Our ship down in Wulaia Bay

Riding zodiacs to glaciers

Riding in the zodiacs through ice

Our ship

Magellanic Penguins

After the cruise we headed for Torres del Paine national park, which for me was the most spectacular place of all Patagonia. You kind of feel like you’re in Lord of the Rings or something when you’re trekking around with towers looming over the top of you and next to turquoise lakes and fluorescent green forests. We spent 3 days trekking and even got caught up in a massive blizzard getting soaked to the bone and frozen. The weather becomes ferocious when it wants to, one minute it’s bright sunshine and the next you’re having trouble standing on your own two feet!


We ended Patagonia with a visit to the massive Perito Moreno glacier which was amazing before heading back up to Buenos Aires where we have been for the remainder of our time.

Perito Moreno Glacier

So now it’s time to go home and it feels weird. We’re kind of looking forward to some stability but I don’t think that will last long. The thought of reality is not as appealing as gallivanting around the globe but such is life. We do very much however look forward to seeing all our friends and family as we do miss them a lot! Plus Sheenas credit card is tired and needs a break.

I hope those of you who have read this have found it interesting… It’s been a long and tiring journey and I couldn’t have done it without my special companion J so I’d like to say a big thank you to my Ipod! (Sheena wasn’t too bad for the odd conversation either).

Time for one last steak!

See you soon!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

9th September 2010 - 24th September 2010 - Bolivia - Iguazu Falls


From the high altitude salt flats of Bolivia to the canyons of north west Argentina finishing at the mind blowing falls of Iguazu, we have certainly seen some of the most spectacular scenery one could ever witness in this world.

But first La Paz.

I was really looking forward to going to La Paz as from my visit back in 2004 I remembered it to be a really vibrant and interesting city with an old quarter filled with swarming local markets and women cooking local dishes on the side of the road that smelled absolutely disgusting. All this taking place in the ridiculously steep stone cobbled streets running up either side of the valley, which at almost 4000m in altitude made for exhausting yet rewarding meandering. I know no one likes to hear some annoying person say “this place used to be sooo much better before” but in this case it is unfortunately true. The cooking women and their awful smells have gone because the streets are no longer filled with locals as all their markets have been replaced with generic tourist shops selling the same crap you can buy all over the Gringo trail in Peru. Now instead of a vibrant market in the old quarter, there are empty streets with the handful of tourists seemingly passing time before they embark on their trip to the salt flats or some other tour.

However La Paz isn’t all bad. The drive down into the city is spectacular as you descend down, overlooking the sprawl surrounded by snow capped mountains. There is also life, markets and bad smells, they just have been relocated further up the hill. The witches market is still there with their dead llama foetus’ on display but the area has in my mind lost a lot of its charm.

We found the life eventually in La Paz

Our trip to the salt flats was far from disappointing. I’ll let the pictures do the talking but basically it involved bizarre salt plains, giant cacti, flamingo infested lagoons, and volcanoes! Despite the fact that Sheena tried to drive away with my shoe and God attempted to rub me out of existence, the whole three days were fantastic.

Train graveyard Uyuni, Bolivia

Our ride on the salt flats

Sheena tried to drive away with my shoe!

Falling inside a giant bottle!

"This is what you get for not believing in me!" - God

Giant Cacti on fish island in the salt flats

Fish island - Salt flats

Flamingos on the lagoons

Hot geyers

After the salt flats we headed to Argentina, with our destination being the north western city of Salta. We went via Chile and the bus route through canyons and desert was fairly spectacular. Lots of reds in the mountains contrasting with the greens of the oasis set against a bright blue sky. Salta is a cool laid back city right next to the wine producing region of Cafayate which made for a nice overnight visit. Being in Argentina is quite refreshing as day to day life is very modern and easy and we are now back in a land where food is important Hooray! More culinary (meat) discussion in the Buenos Aires blog to come later.

The canyons and colours on the way to Salta

Wineries at Cafayate

A flight to Buenos Aires followed by another flight to Puerto Iguazu led us to our next destination. Iguazu falls have to be visited in person to be appreciated. Nothing I can say and no photographs I could take will truly reflect the magnitude and awe of these epic falls. Taking a boat right up to the base of the falls was a really fun and wet experience and the whole package made all the effort and money it took to get there well worth it.


So far we have seen so much natural beauty it’s hard to imagine it could get better. Having said this we have just arrived in Patagonia and once again this continent has thrown up some pretty spectacular stuff. That’ll be for next time.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

4th August 2010 - 8th September 2010 - Peru

Full on

I’ve started writing this while we are waiting to board our bus to Puno and then to Copacabana in Bolivia. Hopefully we won’t have any problems on the border because we’ve overstayed our visa here in Peru. We’ve overstayed for a few reasons, one being that the annoying customs man only gave us 30 days for some reason (most people get at least 60) the other being that there is just too much to do in this unbelievable country! So much so it’s impossible to cram a months worth into a blog so I’ll have to be brief.

After 5 nights of just chilling in Lima (which is a lot nicer than what it was 6 years ago) we caught a flight to Cusco, the tourism capital of Peru and the former capital of the Incan Empire. We were meant to catch the same flight as Dad who joined us for our Cusco adventure, but that didn’t eventuate, instead we just had to hang out at Cusco airport for him to arrive. It was really great seeing family again and both Sheena and I enjoyed having Dad’s company and I’m glad Dad really enjoyed his time in a very different cultural environment, however I doubt he will be rushing to join me on any high altitude treks again :p


Dad blending in.. (sorry I just love this photo)

This was my second visit to Peru and my second time on the Inca trail. Last time as most of you know I got very sick and didn’t have a particularly enjoyable time of it. This time was a different story, not only did all 3 of us complete the trek in good health besides Dad experiencing the for the first time the effects of altitude (finally at the age of 27 I have found a physical activity that I‘m better at than my father!!!), we also had clear weather that allowed us to see all the wonderful snow capped mountains and valleys I missed before due to previously trekking in the wet season. It made for a completely different and more beautiful experience. We were also accompanied by a fantastic guide Christian who we had all to ourselves, his passion and knowledge about the Incas made the trip that much more enjoyable. The finale of a fairly perfect sunrise over Machu Pichu made for an unforgettable 4 days!

Inca Trail Photos

Where's Wally??

The money shot

Amongst Machu Pichu

Back in Cusco and after a few days rest and sight seeing we took off for a couple of days white water rafting. Once again it was a lot of fun and I’m fairly sure Dad will be back to do it again, he is much more at home on the water than on a mountain! After the rafting it was time for Dad to go home… a fairly fast couple of weeks with very little down time but all of it was great fun…

Robot dancing at Sacsayhuaman

Robot dancing in the raft

Fun on the river

Playing football with the local kids

You’d think that after all that activity Sheena and I would be quite tired…. Well we were, very tired… so we thought it was a good idea to go to the Amazon jungle for 8 days… So on to a freezing bus bright and early to drive 10 hours, sleep one night… sit in a boat for 7 hours, sleep one night… sit in a boat for another 6 hours all so as we could arrive in Peru’s Manu National Reserve Zone. Manu is a highly protected area of the Amazon jungle and only gets about 1600 visitors per year, so we felt pretty lucky to be able to experience such a unique environment. We went with the purpose of spotting lots of wildlife and although we weren’t lucky enough to see any jaguars, we did get up close and personal with many different species of monkey, vultures, tarantulas, boas, poisonous frogs, toucans, caiman (crocodiles), and the very rare giant otter. The mosquitoes totally sucked as did the sand flies, we came back looking like we had the measles and once again it was an exhausting and hot experience but well worth the time and effort.

Capuchin Monkey


Friendly Tarantula

Monkey & Bird Watching on Salvador Lake

Caiman by the Catamaran

Back in Cusco, I was hit with something that gave me a nasty fever… Poor timing considering we had a 10 hour bus ride to Arequipa early the next morning. Waking up feeling rather shit, we caught a cab to the bus station to find out that our travel agent was a dirty liar and got us tickets for a different much cheaper company pocketing the extra money we paid for the better bus. Sleeping most of the way we made it to Arequipa in one piece. After briefly worrying that I may have malaria, we finally realised it was just a nasty stomach bug.

Arequipa is a really interesting colonial city built by the Spanish at the foot of 2 active volcanoes. Good thinking. The area is also prone to earthquakes and during our time there I felt a small tremor, which is apparently a weekly event. Arequipa had a couple of great sights such as the Mummy Juanita, the frozen child sacrificed on the top of the Ampato Volcano, and the Monastery of Santa Catalina, a mysterious place only revealed about 40 years ago. The Monastery is also a photographers dream with it’s beautifully painted walls and plant life throughout.

Monastery of Santa Catalina

A few hours outside of Arequipa is the Colca Canyon which is famous for it condors. You get so close to the condors as they fly over your head only metres away, the only place in the world you can get that close.

Condors of the Colca Canyon

I’m finishing this blog in La Paz, Bolivia (we had to pay a whopping $5 fine for overstaying our visa), and I should mention we never actually made it to Copacabana. Our bus broke down on the way to Puno and we missed our connection. So instead we stayed in Puno one night and visited Titicaca from there. A trip out to the man made Uros Islands where locals still live was spectacular due to the bizarre nature of the islands and also the beautiful sunset which lit up the lake gorgeously.

Boat ride on Titicaca

The Uros Islands

Sunset on the lake

Life on the Uros Islands

We’re at the end of this blog now, you may notice the gaping absence of food discussion. This was to be expected as Sth America is not really known for it’s culinary delights. Having said this, Peru is definitely trying to push it’s own gastronomy and restaurants serving good quality local delicacies are popping up. We did get to taste some good dishes such as Roccoto Rellena (stuffed peppers) and of course Ceviche which we had in the best ceviche restaurant in Peru filled with locals chowing down on tasty fish cooked in lime and chilli. Now we’re in Bolivia and we’re back to eating pizza every night :p

Time to eat some more pizza.