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Archive for March, 2010

Who´s Bari Loche?

We left a boiling hot Buenos Aires and boarded a very nice ´cama-suite´bus and 21 hours later arrived in Bariloche. On arrival we had to whip out our fleeces as the temperature was quite a few degrees cooler.
We stayed in what could be described as our favourite hostel yet. It was on the 10th floor of an apartment block and had stunning views of the town and surrounding lake and mountains.
Bariloche is a famous upmarket ski resort and a very popular destination with the Argentines.
The first thing that struck us about this place was the abundance of chocolate shops. Switzerland has nothing on this town! And unfortunately we didn´t have enough time to sample them all!
Once we felt settled into rural life again, we headed off to hire bikes to do some more exploring. The bike ride was superb and a real calorie burner which needless to say was well rewarded on the route back to the hostel!
The next day we decided to head into the mountains and begin a two day trek – staying one night on the mountain in a refugio.
Well the trek was a little more difficult than I was expecting. In fact I would consider four hours of rock clambering to be pretty hardcore! We have much stronger arm muscles now that´s for sure. The views were magnificent all the way… so made up for the aches from the long climb. Once we reached the refugio we sat and enjoyed a well earned beer and enjoyed another splendid view of a lake.
For once in my life I was quite sad we were not camping. The location to pitch a tent was superb and the weather was pretty fab too. I wasn´t looking forward to spending a night in a dorm with about 30 other people! Yes I can definitely say that the night in the refugio is up there with the worst night´s sleep of our travels so far. Well it runs a close second to the over-night bus in Bolivia.
At the crack of dawn we packed our sleeping bags and headed off to complete the second day of our trek. Thank goodness most of this trek was down hill and along nice tree-lined trails. Much more like what I had in mind for a country trek!
On Sunday we visited the old hippie town of El Bolson. It´s a couple of hours away from Bariloche. It´s a lovely place to spend a Sunday afternoon – especially if you´re in the mood for a nice lamb sunday lunch!
The area is famous for it´s lamb and we were more than happy to sample it in this nice cosy restaurant. It did not disappoint. We ordered the restuarant´s speciality to share and the mound of lamb arrived on a carving board. It was instantly devoured. The only thing missing was some mint sauce! Apparently that´s not ´done´ in Argentina! Needless to say it was all nicely washed down with a bottle of malbac! I think we are slowly working our way through all the Mendoza producers.
We are now back in BA for one night and have a very early start in the morning to board a plane to El Calafate. Let the glacial adventure begin!

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Well it’s been a while since we’ve had a chance to update the blog…

The wine tasting in Mendoza was great. You can have too much of a good thing though and we were wined out by the end. Mendoza was a great little place though, we really enjoyed our time here. There is a great cafe culture with people hanging out all throughout the day. Also at last some decent coffee! The chances of a decent coffee in previous places were slim but it seems the Argentines like their coffee.

After a few days in Mendoza we headed to Cordoba. It is a big university town with some impressive architecture. A nice place to hang out and relax but we didn’t find too much else to do there. We had a great asado though. The asado is an open wood fire that the Argentines like to cook meat on. After a slightly disappointing steak in Mendoza my taste buds were reignited! Here we got to try a variety of different cuts, all very tasty when washed down with some Malbec! The wine in Argentina is so cheap it’s crazy. House wine tends to start around 2 GBP in a restaurant, cheaper than drinking beer! Obviously you can pay much more for the finer stuff but to find a very drinkable red for that money is unbelievable.

After Cordoba we headed to the capital, Buenos Aires, arriving Sunday morning after a nice night bus journey! Buenos Aires is made up of a number of barrios or districts as we would call them. We stayed in San Telmo which is a little up and coming bohemium area. The hostel is one of the best we’ve stayed in and very conviently located for the San Telmo market on Sundays. The market is a little like Portabello in London but with “free” Tango shows in the streets. We walked on to the Puerto Madero area for a nice lunch, we went all out here and treated ourselves to champagne, a great bottle of wine and a huge T bone steak! Puerto Madero is an area that runs along the riverside, looks a little like Canary Wharf is some ways. The next few days were spent exploring some of the other barios. We went to Boca, home of the famous Boca Juniors football team. I convinced Gem into a stadium tour here. It’s not exactly the theatre of dreams aka Old Trafford but it was good fun watching re-runs of Maradona goals! He’s regarded as something of a God here. Boca is famous for it’s Caminito area with coloured houses. It was very touristy though, you could even get your picture taken with a Maradona look-a-like!! We also explored Palmero which is a more up market area with lots of cafes, bookstores and boutique shops.

After being cooked up in cities for a few weeks we decided it was time to explore mother nature again so we booked a bus for Iguazu. We travelled in style in the Cama Suite class. You get a seat which folds down into a bed, wine, champagne, whiskey and a steak dinner! Not a bad way to go, much like business class on an airplane but much cheaper! The journey time was around 18hrs but it flys by pretty quickly, I think we’ve become accustomed to these long journeys now though. Our hostel wasn’t the best in Igazu but it had a small swimming pool so we hung out there for the remainder of the day. The following day we visited the falls themselves. So many people had told us how amazing they were I was half expecting to be under-whelmed! However you can’t fail to be impressed by these falls. They were amazing and definetly a trip highlight. You can understand why Eleanor Roosevelt was quoted as saying “poor Niagara” upon seeing the falls. We spent a full day here exploring the various trails, even popping for a dip in a natural rock pool at the end of one waterfall.

Another long journey back to Buenos Aires, this time we chose another bus company to compare. We arrived back on a Sunday again so took in some more of the San Telmo markets. We also visited Recoleta, the most up market area in BA. Here you can walk around the graveyard were many of Argentinas famous are burried, including the famous Eva Peron. Again a bit touristy but fun for an hour. We then headed off for a nice steak dinner and a bottle of red, well it was Mothers Day so we thought we’d celebrate for them!

Our next stop is Tigre. It’s an hour outside of Buenos Aires. Apparently a nice day trip to make. We are meeting up with a friend we met in Peru who lives in BA and teaches in Tigre.

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Boom Boom Shake the Room!

Phew…we were very lucky not to be closer to the epicenter of earthquake in Chile. Valparaiso was affected badly enough so I can´t imagine what it was like down in Conception. Gem felt the initial tremors first and woke me up from a Chilian wine induced sleep! It wasn´t too long before the whole building was swaying. We remained pretty calm though, I´d read about earthquakes in the region before and assured Gem “they happen all the time”! It was all over in about 5 mins, after that there was a number of after shocks but nothing like the main event! Still at the time we didn´t realise the seriousness of it all. The electricity cuts out automatically after an earthquake so we couldn´t see anything in the dark. In the morning we saw the huge cracks in the walls and the devastation on the streets.

So our Chilian adventure has been cut short for the moment. Shame because we really enjoyed Valparaiso. We hope to get back to Chile towards the end of our SA trip. We´ve now hopped over the border to Mendoza, Argentina. Today we´re off wine tasting round the local vineyards by bike.

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