Monday, July 21, 2008

Second day in Ushuaia

Fort his, last day of our Patagonian trip, we had arranged a horseback ride though the forest of Ushuaia with our Spanish new friends. As soon as we arrived to the horse center we knew it was not going to be an easy ride. The rain that had fallen the nigh before was now slippery ice on the ground.. making it quite difficult to walk for us, and of course, for the horses. The guy from the center told us to be calm, we would go by safe paths so there was nothing to be worried about... JA JA!

As soon as we started following our guide we realize he was a lier. We ride trough the forest, downhill to the bottom of the valley, with the horses slippering on the ice. Then we climbed up the next hill... it was amazing how the horses were able to walk by extremely narrow frozen path without falling down! From time to time a horse was too scared to continue, so the guide had to climb back to push the horse to continue walking.
It was a real adventure and after we got used to the wild path we enjoyed it very much. I guess not many people can say the ride a horse at the end of the world!

After the ride, a minivan drove us to the Tierra del Fuego National Park. There we went for a walk, but as it was late and we wouldn´t have light for long, we came back after 2 hours. The minivan was waiting for us. The sun has gone and the water of the ground started to freeze again... so at some point, in the middle of a hill we notice that something was going wrong: we were not going fact, we were going BACKWARDS!!! The van was slippering on the ice, despite the special ice- tires it had.
The driver told us to go down and push while he tried to drive... great idea when even us were not able to stand up on the ice. And the worse part was that we had to take the plane in three hours!!!
Luckily we saw some car lights coming from down hill... they were our salvation, or not1 The cars passed bay without stopping (otherwise they would have got stuck just like us!).
We had started to panic when the 4x4 track of the park guards came to rescue us pulling our car with a rope to the top of the hill.

Finally we arrived on time to the airport to descover that our plane had the normal one hour delay. We called the hostel we had booked in Buenos Aires to inform about it when we discovered that our reservation had been cancelled. Apparently we should have re-confirmed the reservation within 24 hours after the booking (despite we had already payed the 10%). However we hadn't read the email in which they notified us this "procedure". Se, as a result we had nowhere to sleep. To make it worse every hostel we called was full.

In this occasion our saviors were my Argentinian uncles Blanca and Eduardo who live in Buenos Aires. Just a call was enough for us to have a safe place to sleep that night.

Friday, July 18, 2008

First day at the End of the World

First, I guess you appreciate the difference beetwen Mihai's posts and mines. He is absolutely emotionless!!

Well, as you already know due to transports difficulties we wolud only stay in Ushuaia one day and a half inteads of two and a half. That meant that we had to be very efficient to do all the things we had planned in such a few time... and we were.

We woke up early and went to the tourist office where they gave us all the information abouth the activities we could do there. In half an hour we were already on a boat to seal at the Beagle channel. It was a small yatch (10 passengers plus the guide and the "capitain"). We navigated from island to island watching at the sea lions. They were so close to us that we could notice that they really stink! The females were pregnang but still they had their last babies. They were soooo cute!!! We even so them bresting, with the milk all over their faces. The males were huge and each of them had a large harem for himself.

During the trip we also saw few lonely pinguins that were the only ones that had not migrated north to spend the winter. The trip also included a short walk on the island Bridges, from where we could see both Ushuaia bay and the Chilean shore. Very beautiful panoramic.

Back in Ushuiaa we went to Aerolienas Argentinas offices to receive good knews: instead of coming to Buenos Aires in different planes, we could do it in the same plane, at 22.00: that gave us more time to enjoy ushuaisa, plus we wouldn't have to pay the bussines class differences of Mihais old ticket!!

So, now that we were more relaxed we went to enjoy a really good grilled Patagonic Lamb. It was a buffet in which we payed 10 euros each and eated lamd untill we couldn't move! Even the waiter (whith a little unpolite atitude) told us whe we asked for the bill: "yes, in fact it is a good idea to stop eating, otherwise you will get sick..."

To help the diggestion of the patagonic lamb we went to the Marcial Glacier. There was a skilift that took us to the base of the glacier. The skilift moved soooo slow that by the time we rached the top we were already frozen. In addition the gñacier was covered by the snow, so there wasn't much to see. Specially after coming from the Perito Moreno!!

To finish the day we had booked what seemed to be and amazing activity: a night excursion with a dog sleigh and snowshoes!! We had arrange to meet with the tranfer that would take us to the dog's center at 6 at the port. At 6.20 no-one had come to pick us up yet... the common punctuality of the argentinian transports!
We were doing the activity with our spanish friends, so when we arrived to the mountain center we were as excited as a group of teenagers. They told us that we would do the first part of the excursion walking with the snow shoes and after we would take the dog's sleigh to complete the excursion (that was supposed to be 3.30 hours long...)
We started walking through the forest, under the moonlight... it was great and so funny!! It was not as cold as we had feared so it seamed to be perfect until, after only 15 minutes we saw the refuge that indicated the middle point of the route... already!!!????

So, what to do, we took off the snow shoes and entered to drink a hot chocolate. Of course we started complaining among us... why so short????? They told us that they would take us to see some beaver houses, so we though : ok, at least we will do some more walking. Well, the beavers houses where just 200m away from the refuge: not too much to walk!!!
We spend some time having a look at an iglu that was constructed next to the beavers and then we started with the dogs. We were sit on the sleigh while the dogs pulled from us during less than 15 minutes. Then we arrived again to the mountain center and that was all. They offered us a terrible dinner (of course, included in the price) and send us back home. So yes, we where there for 3.30 hours, but the real "adventure" lasts 45 minutes..... at least those 45min where really funny!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

From Rios Gallegos to the end of the world

A long trip in a normal bus... the good ones are to high for the ferry. Just after departure we were told to eat all fruits and vegetables because we cannot pass them to Chile. After one hour of travelling the bus reached the border. Of course we needed twice the time to pass through the argentinian part were they have just one guy controlling the passports. After the border the bus traveled for another hour until we reached the Magellan channel. Here we saw a dolphin (tonina) jumping arround the ferry and of course some see birds. On the way we saw also the guanacos, a fox and some wild geese. After more hours we reached the border again. Same story..... Chilean part was crossed very quickly and we waited about one hour to pass the Argentinian custom. This time it was justified somewhow.... Couple of days before they caught somebody trying to pass three kilos of coca in a luggage. The problem was the scanner was not functioning so everybody had to open his bag and show the content......
We reached Ushuaia couple of hours later after 14 hours on the bus.
The good side was that we met a group of spanish people and we arranged some excursion toghether for the following days.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Will we ever reach Ushuaia???

As I had told before today we were suppose to travel by bus to Ushuaia. The bus departs at 3.00 in the morning so we made de enourmous effort of waking up at 2.00 and take a taxi to the bus station. The effort was worthy, we thought....
Again we were wrong. When we arrived a the station we were told that because of an accident that had happened at 19.00 in the road to Ushuaia the police had decided to stop the trafic during the night. That ment, of course, that our bus would not leave that night. Instead we would have to take it in the morning and travel to Rio Gallegos, an intermediate town between Calafate and Ushuaia. There we would have to spend the night and take the bus to Ushuaia next morning.... WHAT A SHIT!!!! A completely wasted day in Rio Gallegos, a horrible city where there is absolutely nothing to do.

And there we are right now, in the only cyber that is open hoping that tomorrow, finally , we wil reach Ushuaia. But maybe that´s too much to hope.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

El calafate:the "one glaciar" tour.

For today we had arranged to do the "All Glaciers Tour", a boat trip that takes you through the Argentino lake to several different glaciers.

We left the port early in the morning, and just few kilometers away the deck we started seeing icebergs, huge pieces of ice that had fallen from the many glaciers that end in the lake. They had diferent shapes and colours and their submerged part was nine times the above water part!!

The "original" trip was going to the Upsala glacier, the biggest in Argentina, then it entered in Onelli Bay, where we would descend from the boat to make a short walk through the forest and reach a point where we could see other 2 or 3 glaciers, Finally again in the boat we would navigate to see the last glacier called the Spegazzini.
The capitan announced that the itinerary of the trip could be modified since it depended on the disposition of the icebergs. If they blocked the entrance of the chanels that leaded to any of the glaciers, we wouldn´t see them. Still ... we had to try.

So, as we approached to the entrance of the Upsala glacier we knew our fate: there were huge icebergs between us and the we coudn´t go further to see it.Unfortunatelly, that was the same way we should take to reach the Onelli Bay, so we wouldn´t do that part either....
Finally we started moving towards the Spegazzini glacier. Its frontal wall is the highest of all glaciers more than 100 m above the water level) and it was so blue (it turned out that highly compacted ice is blue!!) that it was amazing.

After a while admiring the glacier we move back to the entrance of the Upsala glacier to try it again. For a second we though we could do it, but the capitan told us that there was too much ice and we risked to get trapped among the icebergs.. so the excursion had finished.

Of course we were all a litle bit dissapointed....we had payed a lot of money and we would see just a third part of all. No refund, of course. Then Mihai discovered that they had just managed to get to the Upsala twice in the last month. I guess that if we all had known that before booking the trip, we would have though it twice.
In any case, I think that it was worthy just to admire the blue icebergs.

We landed and decided to go to the Redonda bay, a part of the Argentino lake that freeze in winter so people go there to do some ice-skating. I managed to rent a pair of skates but there were no skates for Mihai. Better for me, I really needed someone to hold my hand while I pretended to be a professional skater!!!!

Tonight at 3.00pm we will be leaving by bus towards Ushuaia, the end point of our trip :( . It will be a 12 hours trip in which we will cross the border on Chile a couple of times and will cross the Magallanes Channel on a ferry boat. It may be much longer that the plane trip, but at least we know we will arrive in Ushuaia, not as with the Aerolineas!!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

El calafate: The Perito Moreno glaciar

Today at 9.00 am we were ready at the hostel hall, waiting for the minibus that would take us to the National Park of the glaciers to watch the Perito Moreno, one of the most famous glaciers of the world because it´s one of the few that it´s not dissapearing despite the global change.

The bus drove us to the park, and we saw a beautifull sunrise (at 9.30!!) over the Argentino lake, the largest of Argentina. We were enjoying the snowed patagoninan landscape when suddenly, after a curve, we saw it: The Perito Moreno, a 60m high, 5 km wide and 30 km deep glacier that ends in the "Argentino" lake. Its total surface is approximate 250 km2 (larger than Buenos Aires Capital city!!)

We drove closer and took the boat that for one hour would navigate from the peninsula de magallanes, situated in the opposite shore of the Argentino lake than the glacier to the glacier wall. It was soooo cold, but still amazing. The glacier is famous too because it advances every day an average of 1-2 meters towards the peninsula of magallanes till the point it touches the shore creating a natural dam that breaks the lake in two parts. Two days ago that dam collapsed due to the force of the water(this happens very often every 2,4 6 years...)so today we could see the channel that comunicates both parts of the lake.

We were freezing on the boat when we heard a huge noise, like a thunder and we saw it: an enormous pice of ice had fallen from the glaciar wall to the lake creating a wave that shaked the boat. Uauuuu!!! Amazing but too fast to take a picture :( ... next time we would be ready. After a while we heard it again, we looked at the wall but nothing was falling, Instead of it a huge iceberg came up from the bottom of the lake. It was an underwater rupture!!!!!! It was great!

We turned back to land and started the tour on the paths in the peninsula de Magallanes, right in front of the glacier. The good thing of this season is that,despite the cold, there are very few turist. So we could walk all over the paths as if we were alone with the glacier. Definitively it was worthy to come here, despite all the mess with aerolineas!!

Tomorrow we are going in the "All Glaciers Tour", a day long boat trip in the north part of the Argentino Lake where we will see some more glaciars. I hope we don´t freeze!!!!!

Again in Buenos Aires

The end of our Nothwest trip was coming to its end, but of course the adventure continued just until the last moment:

The 9th july we drove from Salta to Tucuman. It was the "Argentinian Independence Day" when they conmemorate the day they signed their independence from the Spanish Kingdom. It is a national holiday and every city has big celebrations. So we expected to find a great parade and huge party in Tucuman, the city where the Independence was actually signed hundred of years ago.

As soon as we entered the city we started seeing grups of policemen... normal if they were having some kind of celebration. When we approach the center of the city to return our rented car we discovered that most streets were cut for the traffic... "ok, it must be also for the celebration..." so while we were trying to get to the rental car office we started seeing hundreds of policemen...mmm.. a litle bit suspiciuos for a normal celebration.
Finally we solved the mistery when we saw a huge panel in which it was written: "Welcome Mrs. President!!!!" So the president of Argentina was comming to Tucuman for the Independence day!!!! Great!!!- we thought.

We were soooo wrong. Because she was coming all the city was paralized. The historical places to visit (like the independence house) was obviouly closed because she had decided to visit them too. And the Tucuman people were not very happy either. Every year for this day they have huge parade, music, party, even bullfights in the street but this year there was NOTHING but the president.... Bad day for being in Tucuman.

We took the bus at 15.50 towards Buenos Aires. We were suppose to arrive at 7.45 because our plane to Clafate leaved at 12.30. Theoretically there was time enough... but just theoreticaly. Watching the bus before leaving Mihai remarked that the tyres were very old and the drawing had almost dissapear.. "just like the Formula one tyres", he said. Well, it was 22.00 pm when the bus stopped in the middel of nowehere. "What's happening??!!".... Do you guess the answer? We had broken a tyre!!!
Incredible... so we had to change the tyre of a gigant bus in the middle of the nigh.

We arrived just on time to the airport and, with the standard one hour delay of Aerolineas Argentinas, we took our plane to Calafate. Unbelievable but truth, we were flying to Patagonia!!!

Tomorrow we will be watching the Perito Moreno glaciar.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Back to Salta

Despite Purmamarca was a quite nice village (compare to others we have visited), yesterday night was a complete desaster. I wanted to go to one of those bar-restaurant with folcloric music, so I pushed Mihai to come with me... bad idea!!! The spectacle should have started at 21.30, but when we arrived at 22.00 the musicieans were arriving too!. The bar was empty and we were not too hungry, so we order some sweets and tea. While we waited and waited for a simple tea the music started, and with it the hell!!! They were playing with giant speakers so it was soooo loud we couldn´t hear each other speaking. So after suffering for a while and, since our tea hadn´t come yet, we decided to pay and leave... complete disaster!

This morning we visited the seven colours hill and after we drove to the Salinas grandes, a huge extension covered with salt. After taking some pictures we continued 100km through a non paved road towards San Antonio de los Cobres. In the way we reached 4170 meters asl!!

In San Antonio we had lunch and after we drank a tea of Coca leaves... it was good and had no secondary effect!! I also bought a jacket made of Lama wool that smells a little bit weird...

We started going down to Salta and passed by the indian ruins of Tastil were we tried to find some more ceramics, but we only found two small pieces. Too many treasure hunters had been there before us!

Now we are back in Salta and tomorrow we will drive to Tucuman, where we will finish our trip in the northwest of Argentina. A worthwhile tour.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

From Iruya to Purmamarca

Today we woke up for a complete breakfast in our luxury hotel. We were resting a little after eating then suddenly we saw a very little little bird which was oving very very fast. We took a closer look and... guess what?? It was a colibri!!! There were any of tem eatng from the flowers. We are very lucky since we have seen the bigest (the condor) ad the smallest (colibri) birs in sout america!!!

It took us 2 hours of non paved road and 15 river bed crosses to reach the civilization but in the way we stoped at 4000 meter high for a short walk. It was very windy but still we climbed a liitle bit more. In the way up we saw a herd of vicuñas (a kind of small llama) that passed very closed to us. We also saw some more condors... maybe the same of yesterday. We are lucky tat the americand taught us how to recognize a condor. Otherwise we would have miss them all!!

We took te road to Tilcara and in the way we pass through the Tropico of Capricornio. In Tilcara we visited the ruins of an ancient indian village and Mihai founded a small ceramic piece in an tomb. Another treasure for my collection!!!

Tonigh Mihai and me will sleep in Purmamarca. The plan for tomorrow is still to be decided.

Monday, July 7, 2008

From Salta to Iruya

The plan for today was to visist the Salinas Grandes, but in the way we changed our minds and decided to follow another route. We drove north, through a landscape with dams, lakes and tropical forest to San Salvador de Jujuy, a boring town with nothing to see. We continued our way north, our objective: Iruya a small town of 300 inhabitats at 3800m altitude. In the trip we crossed the "quebrada de humahuaca" and we stoped to see the "paleta del pintor" a hill with many different coloured sediment layers.

We continued to Humauaca, a little but nice vilage full of handcrafts shops. Impossible not to buy anything!. We ate "empanada de llama"(llama pie)... mihai liked it but I couln´t really enjoyed it... thinking of the poor llama :( We also had tamales mmmmmmm they are meat balls covered by corn flower and packed in a corn leave. They are incredible good!

After lunch we started the last part of the journey to Iruya, 50 km through a non paved road. The road wasn´t so bad (although it took us 2 hours to make 50 km) and it crossed the river several times (now is the dry season, so there wasn´t too much water, but I cannot imagine how they do it in summer, the rainny seasson).

But the most amazing thing was the landscape... uau!! The relief, the colours... amazing!! It was like nothing I had seen before. And to make it better, we saw the condor again.
We only had a bad time when we stopped in the middle of the road to iruya, with no telefone signal, nobody passig by, at 4000 meters altitude to take a picture. We go back to the car and... ups! Where are the keys???? ....we though we had lost the keys of the car so we started getting nervous but, after 5 minutes of panic, we found them, on the top of the car..... uffff

Once in Iruya we decided to give us a gift and tonight we will sleep in a very nice hotel, with two towels for each, two pillows for each and, most important, heating!!!

Now, enjoy the pictures.

From Nowhere to Salta

We woke up with the rooster, everybody in Los molinos was sleeping. So quietly we started our daily trip headind the town of Cachi. We arrived there at 9 in the morning and after having some breakfast we went for a walk around the village. It was full of handcrafts shop and we could´t avoid buying some souvenirs.

We saw many people gathered in the main square, some people arranged big speakers and some girls and boys were dressed with the traditional customs. "What is happening?" I asked and the answer was: the "Welcome of he fist tourist". What a good luck we were going to see some traditional event!! So we waited and waited (here thigs go slowly) when suddenly someone announced "the fist tourist has arrived to the village, it will be here in few minurtes" So we expected to see someone dreesed as the fist turist who came to cachi like 100 years ago surrounded by the village people.
Instead, the police car came out, with te sirens ringing followed by a normal car inside of wich were the fist turists: the "first" normal turist family that had arrived from Tucuman to the city that day, first of the winter season....
So unfair... WE HAD BEEN THE FISRT TURIST!! WE HAD ARRIVED AT 9!!!!... but from the wrong road... :(
So they received lots of gifts while we could just enjoyed the party.

We moved to Salta, the capital of the province were we succeded in washing our clothes (Hurray!), mihai develop 5 photo films (Hurray!) and we managed to get our tickets to flight to Patagonia next week (Hurray! hurray!). After all we will manage to visit all places we had planed... if Aerolineas Argentinas doesn fuck it again!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

From Cafayate to Nowhere

We woke up in a freezing but sunny morning. After breakfast we took our car and drove towards the Quebrada del Cafayate, an astonish gorge next to the Las Conchas river. The landscape there was amazing!! The hills had been eroded by the wind and the water for thousand of years, producing incredible forms and figures. The color of the rocks ranged from the very red to green or white and the ground was totally covered by the sand resulted from the erosion.

When we were admiring the landscape we saw two "big birds" flying over our heads. I didn´t pay them any attention until a couple of Americans next to us started shouting "condors, they are condors!!!!". And offered us their binoculars to have a closer look. Those "birds" are huge!! Good luck the American bird watchers where there, otherwise we would have missed the condors.

We drove back to Cafayate, where we had lunch and tried the only wine ice cream of the world. You could choose, white wine or red wine... still the best one was the "dulce de leche" ice cream...mmmmmmmmm

Later in the afternoon we took the "panoramic road" towards Cachi. And by "panoramic" I mean "no paved".... and it´s a National road!!!! The landscape was again incredible and different from the one we saw in the morning.

And finally we arrive to a little village of 600 inhabitants called "Los Molinos". A place lost in the middle of nowhere that, surprisingly, has an Internet café!! And that´s because young people of every town spend all their free time playing games on the computer.

Tomorrow we will move to Cachi and Salta, wher i hope we could find a place to wash our clothes. Otherwise, we will be in trouble!!! ;)

Friday, July 4, 2008

From Tucuman to Cafayate

This morning we departed from Tucuman with our rented car heading the Tafí valley. The morning was grey and cloudy when we arrived to our first stop, the ruins of a jesuitic mision in Lulas. On the way, thousand of hectars of sugar cane were being croped by the locals using giant "machetes" ... it seem that technology didn´t reach this lost place yet.
As the morning pass the clouds dissapeared leaving a blue sky with a shinny sun. We pass through the Natural Reserve of Los Sosas, and incredible tropical forest that leaded us to the Monument of the indians. From there we moved to the Tafí valley and reached El Mollar, a very little town with many many menhires, gathered from all the valleys around. Some of them were carved and really nice. There we ate two very tipical plates, the "humita", a kind of paste made of corns and vegetables, and "lucro", a`potage made of beef, legumes, vegetables, potates... they were very good and only costed 5€!!!!! both !!!!! This countryside is soooo cheap... some time.

We moved foward to Tafí del valle, the neighbour town were we visited some more jesuitic ruins.. theye were very efficient and in 300 years they constructed thousands of small misions where indians were "converted" from being sauvages to proper cristians...ya ya

We continued driving trhough an incredible landscape were the only thing you could hear was the silence of the hills and the only feeling was that time had stop.

After a while we arrived to the ruis of the Quilmes city. The quilmes were an indian tribe that resisted the spanih for 150 years. However ther were finally defeated and all the population (a total of 5000) were "deported" to Buenos Aires. They walked for 7 months and most of them died of starvation. Only 500 reached buenos aires.
How do you thing I felt when a little indian was telling me (Cris)this story??? spanish... we are crap.

Well the city was huge, and the view from the top of the hill, were the chaman lived was impressive. Our indian guide was not very happy when he discovered we were not the tipical lazy tourist but we wanted to climb to the top to have a better view. We didn´t seem very happy either when Mihai decided to take a shortcut trhough a steep hill to see some graffities made by the Quilmes indian. In fact, I was not very happy either!!
But at the end the litle indian took as to the place where some tombs had been excavated and let us to pick from the floor some painted ceramic pieces from the indians funerary vases. I was sooo happy! Now I have ceramic from the Quilmes indians and the micenian greeks!!!

Now we are in Cafayate and tomorrow.... we will see.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Northwest

Now we are in Tucuman ...we have just arrived after 20 hours of bus from Posadas. Tomorrow morning we will rent a car and start the exploration of this part which will take us about one week. Anyway more on this part during the next days. Now is 2 am and I am going to sleep ....


An amazing place.... we just wanted to stay there and watch the waterfalls forever. The argentinian side is muh longer and brings you close to the waterfalls. Also in the argentinian side one is just meters away from Garganta del Diablo. On the other hand the brazilian side offers more open perspectives and thus incredible panoramic views. Long story short one should visit both sides.

In the argentinian side we have spent a full day. During the morning the sky was foggy (see the first pictures) but after 1 pm it cleared away so we have repetead the Upper and the Lower trails for a second photo round. We crossed to San Martin island, took the boat for a closer waterfall look (and of course we got completely wet) and at the end we have returned from the Graganta del Diablo by a man powered boat.

The path in the Brazilian side is much shorter so we did it both ways (go and back) in around 2 hours. The panoramic views from this side are incredible. The drawback is the distance to the waterfall that is much bigger. Also one cannot visit the falls one by one.

Change of plan

So.... Aerolineas did not want to take us to Calafate. Finally they have canceled our flight after 6 hours of delay. Imagine all the people in the airport yelling, crying cursing etc.. Since the best option they have offered was to wait 3 days for the next available flight we have decided to go north. So we took the bus and hit the road towards Luciana and Iguazu