A Travellerspoint blog

Argentina 2

LASA Tour 2009-10


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BUENOS AIRES
A few days after we arrived we found out that Margarita wouldn't be able to complete her studies here so we would eventually have to return to Bogotá. That was bad news for her and even worse for me as I wouldn't be able to get to my 100 grounds target for Argentina.

We decided to apply for a visa for her to come back with me to England and then she could return to Bogotá by August to complete her studies. For some reason the decision is made in an office in New York and takes a month. We decided to do some more travelling around the country in the meantime. But before that I got a game of football or ten in!

GUALEGUAYCHU
I think I can just about pronounce this place now. We came here to see the carneval. We got some of the best seats available so that we could see the show. All I can say is WOW! Sooooooo many shinny nipples and butts and that was just the men! It was absolutely amazing. Unfortunately most of the pictures are blurred. Was it because the dancers wouldn't keep still or I couldn't keep still through getting too excited? Who knows? Let's just say it was a crap camera. Anyway, an excellent reason to come back. Please enjoy the video, for the record, it is not me dancing.

large_Gualeguaychu_09.jpglarge_Gualeguaychu_60.jpg

This town also has some amazing variety of birds, the feathered kind. Actually that still applies to the ones from the carneval. Ummm ok the type that can fly. And the river Parana runs through it. Definately a great place to visit.

PUERTO MADRYN
It was during the 24 hour trip to here that I first noticed my feet would double in size during the coach ride. Not sure how long it's been happening for but my feet looked like they belonged to the elephant man.

I have been to this place before and know it's great. We got a great deal renting a house just one block from the beach. Although the season had just finished so it was a bit too nippy for sunbathing. We hired a car and one day drove up to the Valdes Peninsula. From here, if you're lucky, you can see killer whales (orcas) come a shore and eat sealions (Sealions eat penguins before you feel any sympathy for them). There was an Attenborough documentary on it many years ago, this happens in just two places in the world. Unfortunately we didn't get to see this happen. The best months for this are March & April so I guess we were unlucky and will try again next trip. The sealions and elephant seals are still interesting to observe and there are a handful of penguins too. I love penguins.
large_Puerto_Madryn_10.jpglarge_Puerto_Madryn_27.jpg

Next day I drove to Punta Tombo, this is a new place to visit. It is a huge penguin colony, during peak season there are over 250,000 of them. Just my luck to get a cold this day so we didn't stay too long as I had major man flu. Love those penguins though, even more than the Gualeguaychu dancers!
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ESQUEL
This place was recommended to us by the car hire man in Puerto Madryn. An it's a great place. We got a great deal on a house again. The first couple of days I was sick in bed, but at least there was six games of football on TV. Gotta love the time differences, three premiership games watched before end of lunchtime.

We visited the nearby Parque Nacional Los Alerces a couple of times. I would like to do a longer trek there in the future. During a boat trip on one of the many huge lakes there we saw the Glacier Torrecillas which is high up between two mountains. By luck, I took a photo just as some huge sheets of ice crashed down from it. This is quite a rare occurrance.
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Esquel is also a good place for a skiing holiday but I think I will stick to summer holidays here. Definately need to return and explore more of the surroundings.

While here we also got a reply from the visa application. It was denied :( So we headed back to Buenos Aires to pick up Margaritas passport and see what excuses they had given for denying it. Actually the reasons weren't too major and we are confident we will be successful when we try again in January. We also decided to head back to Colombia.

LA RIOJA
This was on the original plan but we missed it out after our bag was stolen in Salta. Now we were heading back north we got to visit here. I have been here before and it's so great that you will never get bored of returning. The whole region has amazing mountain ranges of many different colours due to minerals. There is hardly ever a cloud in the sky and also the Laguna Brava is in this region.

We went on a two day tour, the night before we left our guide we hired told me his 4x4 was damaged but not to worry as he will arrange alternative transport. On the first morning we got a lift with another tour to Talampaya National Park and done the Arco Iris tour. I probably mentioned this after I first visited but you feel like you are walking on another planet with the multi coloured rocks and mountains.
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Then we had to wait a while but eventually got a lift to the next tour in the National Park. On this one you go through a canyon then see different rock formations, my favourite is the Dog & Pig in caps (look at photo). There are also some ancient carvings in some rocks.
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Afterwards we had to wait ages until our guide got us a lift on the staff bus to our next town Villa Union. It was really embarrasing especially as we had our luggage with us and my Spanish was good enough to know that they were making fun of our guide for arranging transport like this for us. We dropped him for the next days tour and easily managed to arrange another which had the appropriate 4x4 transport. The drive to the Laguna Brava has amazing views, you end up going as high as 4,600 metres. At the Laguna there were some flamengos. The surroundings are breathtaking. I'm glad I have done this again, what a great day.
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We got a bus back from Villa Union to La Rioja but then had to wait six hours through the night at the station, after arriving in Salta we discovered that there were no buses to northern Chile available for five days. After reading about a minor earthquake in the Atacama region we decided to head to the Argentine border with Bolivia instead and head north that way. So once again another throught the night bus journey. This would be a regular occurance as we made our way back, but I'll tell you about that in my next blog.

Posted by Marcos92uk Fri 21 May 2010 20:57 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Argentina 1

LASA Tour 09-10

overcast 20 °C
View LASA Tour 09-10 on Marcos92uk's travel map.

Salta
This is one of my favourite places in Argentina. The journey here from Bolivia is long and bumpy, and this time also chaotic at the border control. The road is a stoney tack for half of the 18 hour trip. Also very dusty inside the old coach with no toilet! The timing wasn't good either as it was the holidays and there was hold ups at the border. In the end after a few hours I turned into the dumb English traveller and jumped the queue to get me passport stamped.

The accomodation prices had doubled in the 3 years since my last visit and on the 3rd day actually found a decent place to stay after overpaying at some uncomfotable hostels for the first 2 days. It was great to start eating Argentine steaks again. Also there was a summer tournament match on between Independiente and River Plate so got a game of football in too.

We managed to find a tour company that would do a repeat of an excellent trip I done back in December 2006. We done it in reverse heading to Cafayate and back through Cachi the next day. Also they added in the Quilmes ruins on the first day. The weather was cloudy annoyingly as our first 4 days stay it was sunny with no clouds. The tour visits different mountain regions, the wine producing area of Cafayate, the ruins of Quilmes and more mountain formations which have amazing colours. I also managed to start a Goat fight. On the first morning we stopped at a place that sells goat cheese and while feeding one of the goats another one attacked it. I'm thinking of making a sport out of it, I am sure that ESPN will be interested. It gets really violent, loved it!
Salta 12

Salta 12

Salta 50

Salta 50

Near Cachi we stopped at one place that makes ponchos from apaca fur, I remembered visiting a place like this on my first trip and regretted not buying one. Also this place was where a man produced one for the Pope John Paul who visited here in the 1980's so I bought one off him this time, paid $300 for it as I didn't want to haggle as he has friends in high places!
Salta 55

Salta 55

My bag with me Laptop was stolen out of the tour car when we had stopped in Cachi, we think it was the tour guide who done it. I will say no more about it because we were sad to lose the Perú photos.

Cordoba
After having the bag stolen we changed our plans and headed to Cordoba where some friends we made in the Galapagos, Raul & Kita, live. They had a villa with a huge swimming pool in the suburbs. Margarita spent all the time by the pool. One day we went to Villa Carlos Paz which is one of the busiest places for locals to go on holiday. It has a nice lake and we trekked up and down a hill which was hard as it was about 38c.

We hired a car and drove to some towns in the region. The first night we stayed in Mina Clavera visiting the La viña dam. Then drove up to Los Tuneles. On the way we had a traditional lunch which was made from Goat meat. When we got through the final Tunnel the view was spectacular. At first it looked like we had driven to the coast and could see the ocean. The land below was so flat that's what it looked like.
Cordoba 29

Cordoba 29

Cordoba 37

Cordoba 37

Then I drove to Cosquín. The road was a stoney track and took hours to drive taking us up a mountain range and to the other side. We were worried about damage to the car from all the flying stones, I suppose I could of slowed down but where´s the fun in that! Then a storm hit us with the biggest hail stones I have ever seen, it was like the ones in the end of the world movies. Every time they hit the windscreen it sounded like they were smashing it. In Cosquín there was a festival of traditional music which they call Folklore here. Driving a hired car in Latin America is very stressful as the local roads can be in terrible condition.

Paraná
Didn't do too much here. The beaches were practically 100% under water due to the high level of the river which runs down all the way from Brazil. The water is really muddy so wouldn't want to swim in it anyhow. Did do a nice boat trip on the river one afternoon.

Santa Fé
This place is boring do not come here unless of course it's to watch a football match, which is what we done.

Colonia Carlos Pelligrini
This place is great for it's wildlife. It's a small town of about 600 people in the marsh lands of Corrientes. It's tricky to get here but well worth the visit. We were unlucky with the weather so didn't see as many animals as I did when I first visited here. To save time we booked a 4x4 to drive us to our next destination which took just 3 hours instead of over 13! This is because it drives on a sandy road through the marsh lands. The trip was an adventure in itself and the driver was very good and managed to keep the car on track despite sliding all over the place. I would love to drive this track, it looks better than the Dakar Rally.
Carlos Pelegrini 13

Carlos Pelegrini 13

Carlos Pelegrini 21

Carlos Pelegrini 21

Iguazú
The waterfalls here are breathtaking, literally as you can do a boat tour that takes you through one of them! There are over a hundred falls here. You spend a few hours on the Brazil side where you are opposite the falls, there is also a racoon problem here and you see loads on the trail. Nearby there is an avery where if you're lucky you can get attacked by Tucans. The Argentine side needs a day as you walk amongst the falls and can take a boat tour. Also while you are here you can visit the Itapu dam built on the Paraná river between Brazil and Paraguay.

Iguazu 25

Iguazu 25

Iguazu 34

Iguazu 34

Brasil 39

Brasil 39

Itaipu 09

Itaipu 09

El Sorberbio
As if we hadn't had enough of waterfalls we visited El Sorberbio to take a tour along the River Uruguay, which is between Argentina and ... well Brazil in this part of it. When the weather conditions are right and the river level low a 2km long waterfall called Moconá appears in the middle of the it. We finally had a bit of luck with the weather. We nearly didn't have a boat for the trip though as on the way it unconnected from the tow and crashed into a tree.
Mocona 13

Mocona 13

Posted by Marcos92uk Sun 21 Mar 2010 19:28 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Peru + Lago Titikaka

LASA Tour 2009-10

sunny 30 °C
View LASA Tour 09-10 on Marcos92uk's travel map.

Well luckily the bus was waiting for us at the border but it was a hassel you don't need in the middle of the night.

Trujillo
It was a bit more complicated to get here than I expected as the bus stopped at Piura and there were no buses until midnight. Piura seemed very rough and I was keen to leave so we took a bus to Chiclayo which is half way and from there got a bus almost right away to Trujillo. I first visited Trujillo in 2005 and was pleased to be returning as I didn't have any photos from my first visit, but I guess now I still don't!

There are a few archaeological sites that are older than the Inca ruins. The first we visited was the Chimu mud city of Chan Chan. This dates back to 850 AD. It is really impressive and they are still excavating parts of it. Then we visited Huaca De La Luna. This is another great place. The city has five levels where each time they re-built the city they built it on top of the old one. Due to damage from the Spanish and looters you can see some of the original walls which have been built on by the more recent ones. They have also retained their original colour even though they are more than a thousand years old. I think it's time to moan about the photos again :(

Near Trujillo is Huanchaco and here they serve the best ceviche. It's also a good place to surf if you are in to that, which I'm not but the ceviche makes it worth the visit.

Huaraz
After a bus journey through the night we arrived at Huaraz. This town is next to Huascarán National Park and you can see the snow capped mountains from here. Huascarán is the highest peak in Perú at 6,768 metres but I didn't fancy climbing it.

To visit the National Park we took a bus to Yungay, this town was completely wiped out by the Ancash earthquake of 1970. Read the link below if you're interested.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1970_Ancash_earthquake
We visited an amazing laguna called Llanganuco which is right next to the Huascarán peak.

The next day we done a trek to Churup Laguna. This turned out to be one of the hardest, and dangerous, treks I have done. The first three hours weren't tough even though they were all up hill. Then we arrived at the start of the churup mountain which is also in the national park. A worker told us it would only take an hour at the most to get to the laguna but stick to the right hand path as the other is dangerous. After another three hours of steep trekking I was beginning to think I had taken the wrong path. Then the trekking turned into rock climbing alongside a waterfall which made everything slippery. Even though we were so close they was no way we could make it as the climb was dangerous. We had our lunch on a ledge beside the waterfall. Then we discovered we couldn't get down! How did we manage to get up there? I was close to panic and Margarita was in tears. It was so difficult climbing down as we couldn't get any grip. There were two occaisions when it seemed it would be impossible but we did eventually make it back. Looking at the map at the front of the national park I guess I should of gone the right side of the waterfall but the path was not very clear. Also lucky we didn't stay stuck and wait for help as the park guard had gone home. Surprisingly I really enjoyed the experience but it could of been a disaster so hope I am more careful next time.

We also done a tour to the ruins of Chavin, the ride there was really scenic although the ruins themselves are not great as they haven't done a lot of excavation or restauration work.

Huaraz is a great place to visit offering lots of treks. I am definately coming back one day soon.

Lima
The bus ride to Lima took longer due to gearbox problems. This meant we arrived when it was dark and all the buses to Arequipa were full. The next day we went to take the bus, they all leave from the Victoria area which is a real dodgy place. We were in a restaurant ordering lunch when a man stopped and picked up 50 cents from beneath our table and gave it to me. I thought this was strange and when I looked over at our bags the one with the passports and creditcards was missing. I ran as fast as I could in me sandals looking for the thief. Fortunately when I got to the end of the street a waiter was walking back with the bag. He had seen the whole thing and chased the theif. We had been very lucky.

Arequipa
This city is night to the volcanos of Misty and Chanchani, which I failed to get to the summit of three years ago. In that time the snow caps have disappeared.

We done the Colca Canyon tour which is three days and two nights. You get driven to Chivay and there are look out points nearby where you can take photos of the condors. I was disappointed as they were many tourist at this point and also the condors we spotted were too far away to get a decent photo. Then on to another town for lunch and then we trek down the canyon to some homes where you sleep for the night. The deepest part of the canyon is 4,160 metres but this part was around 1,500 metres. The next day we trek along the canyon to our next hut site. In this place were loadsa mozzies and they really enjoyed the meal I provided them. The final day was ofcourse the ascent back up. As soon as I had got to the top fours condors flew overhead, I managed to get a couple of photos. This made it the perfect tour. Is it time to moan about the loss of the photos again?

Cusco
The first three days were spent in three different hotels as there was always something wrong. Even the one we stayed in had the smallest shower I have ever seen and a strange smell.

We spent days visiting the ruins and markets in Pisaq, Ollantytambo and Saqyshuaman. I love this places and there is even an new temple of the moon that has been discovered recently. As it was the rainy season there were showers most afternoons. We was planning on doing the Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu. This is five days long and pretty tough. A guide advised us against it and the recent news has proved it the right decision not to do it. I was more disappointed for Margarita as I had done the Inca trail before. I promised her to do it on our next tour. Also I wanna visit the Wari ruins near Pikillacta as due to the rain I only got a brief glimpse. So we left Cusco after just five days but on the last day it rained non stop for over twelve hours so it was definately the right option.

Lago Titikaka
The bus ride was a first for me as I had never had a leaking roof before. On the Perú side from Puno you can take a tour to the floating islands of Uros. Even though I had done this before it was good fun as the experience was different as the familys we visited were more fun. One lady got Margarita to dress up in her clothes and when we left they sang us songs in six different languages, including Japonese and English.

On the Bolivian side Copacabana had got a lot more popular than my previous visit. From here you take a boat to Isla Del Sol and walk from one end of it to the other which takes about three hours and has amazing views. The water is cleaner than the Perú side and the weather better too. We were told the we had to pay pasage in both the north and south end to the local community. Then near the south side two extremley old men were trying to charge us again. I explained to them that we had already paid and they said it was another cumminty. After I shouted at them they let us through without paying. Back on the boat I check our pasage reciepts and it turns out that the old men were right and I should of paid them and not the community before. Sorry old chaps. Especially as it's only 5 Bolivianos, less than 50p!

And one last complaint about me lost photos :(

Posted by Marcos92uk Tue 2 Feb 2010 16:45 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Ecuador

LASA TOUR 2009-10

sunny 27 °C
View LASA Tour 09-10 on Marcos92uk's travel map.

Quito
Even though it’s just 93 miles from the Colombian border it took 5 and a half hour’s to get there by bus. We ended up staying in a hotel on the same street as when I was here in 2005. A lot had changed since then as there are no armed guards on every street and my favourite restaurant is no longer there.

While in Quito we visited the Basilica and you are allowed to climb to the top of one of it’s towers and from there you can see the city.

We also took a one day tour up Volcan Cotopaxi. You can do a two day tour to the summit which is 5,900 meters and camp during the night but we weren’t fit enough for this so you get a ride to about 4,200 meters and walk up to a hut which is at 4,800 meters. I tried walking up further but didn’t get too far as it started snowing and I kept losing my grip.
Cotopaxi 08

Cotopaxi 08


Galapagos

The flight to Galapagos stopped in Guayaquil which meant it was almost twice as long but was still only 2 and a half hour’s.

While looking for a hotel in Santa Cruz Island a man stopped us and took us to an apartment which only cost $30, what a bargain as it was one block from the sea front. It was also handy as we could cook for ourselves as food is really expensive here.

One day while walking along the seafront to the Giant tortoise center we saw lot’s of amazing wildlife just mingling with the locals. There were sea lions, Pelicans and some birds I have never seen before all waiting for food. The birds don’t fly away even when you get close, it’s very strange. One of them is called the yellow warbler. Even though it was great to see the giant tortoise it’s a shame that it was not in their natural habitat. You must read the story about lonesome George.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lonesome_George
Galapagos 05

Galapagos 05

Galapagos 12

Galapagos 12

We took a boat trip to Floreana Island. The sea as quite rough, especially for the size boat we were on. It took two hours to get there and I think most people felt ill by the time we arrived. Unfortunately I think this was the wrong tour to do as we didn’t see much wildlife and I was hopeless at snorkeling. I didn’t have flippers and found it hard to breath through the mask. Also there was a strong current and you soon drift away from the boat. Maybe I’m just upset because I didn’t see any Blue Boobies but I guess it gives me a reason to come back one day and do a tour to a different Island.

Back on Isla Santa Cruz you can walk to a secluded beach called Tortuga Bay. You see a lot of Iguanas, actually so many I got bored of them even though some were different colours. In the bay you can see the water tortoise swimming and seals. We came across one tortoise that as trapped between rocks and Margarita helped it free. As I mentioned before, the birds don’t fly away from us humans and I was eating a packet of crisps on the beach and within a minute was surrounded by birds. I got a little scared as it was like a Hitchcock film but they didn’t attack me although they followed me to sea.
Galapagos 68

Galapagos 68

The day before we left we walked for a couple hours from one town, Bellavista (20 or so houses) to another town, El Cascajo (less than 20 houses) and of course it rained. Luckily in the second town shortly after starting to walk towards the beach which was still about 10km away a jeep stopped and let us ride in the back. At the beach in Garrapatero there was a great place underneath trees for BBQ’s. There as also a reserve but we only saw one flamengo there.

Baños
We visited Baños but were unlucky with the weather as we trekked for a few hours up the hills but when we got to the top we couldn't view the nearby volcano.

Cuenca
We really enjoyed Cuenca. A lot of the buildings are beautiful, we thought the architecture was great in this city. Nearby is La Cajas national park. We went there for a couple of days. The first day we walked close to 20km. The landscape was amazing and we saw a few different kind of birds but unlike the Galapagos they didn't stop and pose for a foto! The night was very cold staying in a hut and Margarita suffered with altitude sickness and I suffered with her keeping on waking me up to tell me she was suffering, sorry babes love you!

The second day trek was difficult even though it was shorter. The were some steep climbs in the first half of it. The lakes weren't as beautiful as the previous days but it was good exercise. The clouds cleared in the afternoon and we both got really sun burnt. My nose was glowing red!
El Cajas 35

El Cajas 35

The bus trip to Perú was crazy. The bus to the border was about 6 hours. When near the border we had to change bus. This bus was full and our seats were taken. We were standing at the back of the bus when someone explained to us that we needed to get our passports stamped for leaving Ecuador near where we changed buses. The bus stopped and the driver said he would wait for us at the Perú entry point while we took a taxi back to get our passports stamped. I didn't trust this guy so we took all our luggage with us. Why do they make some borders so complicated? Is it too easy to have the passport office at the border? Any way we took a taxi who conveniently overcharged us, and when we got to the Perú point do you think our bus was there waiting? bearing in mind it was 2am. Well read the next blog to find out.

Posted by Marcos92uk Fri 15 Jan 2010 16:49 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

Colombia Part 2

LASA Tour 09-10

semi-overcast 20 °C
View LASA Tour 09-10 on Marcos92uk's travel map.

Bogotá
I stayed in Bogotá for a couple more months but didn't do too much touristy stuff. Watched a few more games of football of course!

One match I wanted to see was being played in a university. The day before a teacher had been held hostage for a few hours, this university is known for it's strong communism ties. I decided to risk going to the match any how. When I got there there was plenty of army presence around the perimeter fence. At the entrance I was told that although the game is still taking place, no fans were allowed to attend. I thought about climbing the fence to get in but was put off by all the armed security.

Another time I was on the bus to Tunja and it was stopped at a security point and all the locals had to show there identity cards to the soldiers. I didn't have me passport with me so just said English when I was asked for ID and that was good enough for them.

Finally, even though I enjoyed all me dinners and cups of teas from mamá Cecilia I decided to leave Bogotá. The first exit was abandoned after a change to the football fixtures messed up me plan. The following week the day before I was leaving was Halloween. Everyone here dresses up in fancy dress, even if it's not halloween related. I went to a party with Tatto & Paula. I dressed up as a kind of Vicente Fernández. Paula's cousin also came along, a girl named Margarita. I guess she was impressed with me big hat as we started seeing each other and of course another Bogotá exit was cancelled.
Bogota_37.jpg

After 5 more weeks of waiting Margarita left her job and agreed to come travelling with me and I finally got to leave Bogotá. Ciao ciao Mamá Cecilia & Papá Moises I shall miss you.
Bogota 44

Bogota 44

Ipiales
After a 23 hour bus ride we arrived in Ipiales which is right near the Ecuadorian border. It is famous for a church which has been built into the side of the hill in a valley type thingy (just look at the fotos as I don't know the word for it) and also the local dish of cuye which is cooked guinea pig.
Ipiales_12.jpg
Ipiales_01.jpg

Posted by Marcos92uk Sun 20 Dec 2009 20:13 Archived in Colombia Comments (1)

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