Ruta 40

Bariloche, Argentina
“Running parallel to the Andes mountain range it brings together some of the most amazing landscapes”

Ruta 40 is one of the famous drives in Argentina, running parallel to the Andes mountain range it brings together some of the most amazing landscapes. It was between Christmas and New Year that I travelled this route and enjoyed some wonderful experiences. Starting with Christmas in Bariloche, the chocolate capital of Argentina, and ending in El Calafate on New Years Eve with the bonus of getting to see one of the most famous glaciers, Perito Moreno on New Years Day – as one of my friends said “What a way to start 2008”!!

Bariloche
A special time of the year for most people, it was great to spend Christmas in such a scenic place where everything faces the lake. The weather was absolutely gorgeous, around 25 degrees and sunny. I must say it did feel odd to Kayak on the lake in the hot sun and yet still see snow capped mountains. Christmas Day I spent relaxing, walking about 7km into town and eating a picnic lunch under a palm tree with Ruth and Karen. It was only the evening when the party started when I met the rest of the over landers for a great Christmas Dinner and steak and mushroom sauce and of course the best part of exchanging Secret Santa Gifts!!

El Chalten
Alternatively known as the windiest place ever known in my opinion – I don’t think I have ever been blown around so much!! It did make the thought of camping for 2 nights in the rain, wind and cold not too appealing and the opportunity to bunk up with 5 others in a tiny weeny cabin a total luxury.

It was here in El Chalten that I got my first glimpse of a glacier and all I can say is Wow! I even got the chance to walk on Glacier Viedma which for me was a great but slightly scary experience. Walking down a 70 degree slope in just shoes with metal clips was a tad overwhelming – but you know me, not shy at asking for help especially when the tour guides were so cute. The bonus was I didn┬┤t have to ask twice they willing fought over who was going to help me – aaahhh Argentinian men ­čÖé

On our second day five of us woke up and put on our beanies and gloves in order to take a small hike for a glimpse of the Fitz Roy Glacier – at first we couldn┬┤t see it but once the clouds lifted it was well worth the walk – I do however think the hot chocolate at the end was an even better end to the day.

El Calafate
New Year celebrations started on the 31st with a glass of vino in town to celebrate the end of 2007 and all good things I am about to see in 2008. Having got to bed at 6am in the morning the Perito Moreno Glacier on the 1st still had the wow factor and it was very exciting to watch some of the glacier break off into the water.

I hope all of you had an exciting holiday season and are enjoying a good 2008!

A vibrant city

Buenos Aires, Argentina

 


I just loved BA – not something easily explained but the vibrancy and the atmosphere of this city made each day really exciting. Fair enough there were more shops than I have seen for ages and at prices most travellers can afford!!

To enjoy the city the best way possible I quickly got into the routine of venturing out for dinner at around 10pm before venturing off to either a bar or nightclub to take in the most the city has to offer. My most memorable moments are mingling with the locals to practice my Spanish. One evening we had a taxi driver determined to find us a place to dance for the evening (being a Thursday most clubs are closed) and he trawled the city playing 80s classic music on his CD Player. Even more funnier was the 4 taxi┬┤s following behind us with random people we had met that evening wanting to follow us to the best place in town. After 2 hours we finally gave up and went back to our hotel – the driver still only charged us 11 pesos – what great hospitality!!

My other memorable moment was in San Thelmo scouring the markets and chatting to two ┬┤┬┤rusta┬┤┬┤ Colombians selling their wares. They were great to chat to and were such genuine people making Kirsty and I free metal rings and then finding us at the cafe later to give us a great bottle of vino tinto. Now would that happen in London!

I left BA after a great four days (not just partying as you will see in the pictures – I did venture out on a city tour) and we drove along the Uruguay border to a small town called Carlos Pelligrini.

Carlos Pelligrini

Not much here but the national park called Reserva Natural del Ibera – it was a perfect relaxing place after BA. I spent two nights camping and enjoying the wildlife in the area – okay I did not quite enjoy being woken up in the middle of the night with the local horse poking his head in my tent (my luck I know)- but I did enjoy the boat trip the next day to see some Caymans with their beady gold eyes and some aquatic mammals called Capybara (big hamsters).

The power of water

Foz de Iguacu, Brazil

 


One of the most dramatic waterfalls in the world, straddling both the Argentinian – Brazil border, I was fortunate enough to be able to see both sides of the Iguacu Falls.

Argentinian side
The majority of the falls lie on the Argentinian side and the national park has lots of paths and trails set out so you can see as much of the falls as possible and from every angle. If you were to visit I would recommend going on the Grand Adventure Tour, through the jungle in jeeps (unfortunately we missed the Jaguar and her cubs by a few days) and then off in a speed boat to not only to see the falls from the water but experience some intense and throughly soaking showers. Great Fun!

To top off this great experience I received a present from my Aunt and Uncle – One night stay in the Sheraton in the national park. Oh my word after camping what has felt like eternity, I could not contain my excitement (and thanks) for such luxury. I also found the fact that that bathroom actually had toilet paper and hot water an absolute treat and it did also take me a while to find the edge of the bed in the middle of the night to go to the toilet!

I totally spoiled myself by making the most of my stay at the Sheraton and enjoyed the view of the falls from the pool deck – I also got to have some Martinis with one of the other guests who enjoyed the the grand adventure with me.

Brazilian side
From the Brazilian side you can take in the whole view of the falls and it certainly is great for taking sunning pictures. I stayed at the Paudimar Campsite some 12km outside the town of Foz. It was one of the best campsites I have stayed at with a pool and bar onsite – it is also convenient to get to the National Park to visit the falls as it is a 10 minute bus ride.

After staying 4 days around the falls it was off to the seaside town of Parti for some good beach time. We drove for about 2 days camping in the forest and then near a beach before we reached Parti. It was the first time we noticed that the bugs were out with some nasty sandflies on attack. We were in for a total disappointment as we arrived at this famous beach resort in a torrential downpour and made our way to a very soggy campsite. It was a week before Carnival and even though the campsite was a floodplain they were still charging an unbelievable 20 Reals!! Having decided that I was watching my budget very carefully I had set my mind to camp even in this great weather, but my fellow female travellers were having none of it and whisked me away to share their room for the next three days – I was literally reduced to tears at the kindness of their gesture.

I had hoped for sunshine for the next few days and I was blessed the next day when the rain had stopped and just for good measure we played ┬┤The sun is shining` by Bob Marley to get us in the mood for our day cruising. The boat cruise was extremely relaxing and went past some great beaches . We got time to swim in the sea, dive off the boat and it was here that I tasted the best Vodka Orange (the secret freshly squeezed oranges). After the boat cruise it was off to explore the night life till about 5am followed by birthday celebrations the next day for my friend Kirsty. My views of Parti – if the sun is shining it is just fantastic – if it is raining best get out that set of cards!

Accommodation:
Paudimar Campsite
Sheraton Iguazu Resort & Spa – Parque Nacional Iguazu, Iguazu National Park, Argentina

Argentine Patagonia

Argentine Patagonia
Puerto Madryn, Argentina

 


Having made it to the end of the world and surviving the cold for three nights in tents I was more than keen to leave this beautiful positioned town, Ushuaia, and head off in search of more landscape contrasts, sea life and warmer weather.

It took two days of driving, including a border crossing back into Chile and then back into Argentina to get to the next major town, Puerto Madryn. Along the way we visited a sea lion colony near Camarones before we camped by the coast for the evening. A beautiful sunset, campfire and the sounds of the sea were the perfect end to a long day drive. Having seen quite a few sea lions, it was off to Punta Tombo National Park to visit a penguin breeding ground. I thought it would be something like Boulders Beach in Cape Town but I was surprised to see how big it was – it went on for miles. Although a bit smelly it was fantastic to see all the little penguins waddling around.

Trelew
Going from enjoying the sea life, I bizarrely visited the town of Trelew, a welsh village – yip in the middle of Argentina! There are lots of traditional tea houses and they certainly live up to the expectation of great tea and cake.

Puerto Madryn
Finally we arrived at this interesting seaside town with a beach that stretched for miles and lots of bars and cafes. We explored some of these and managed to dance on the beach until 6 in the morning – good going! The rest of my days I enjoyed the sunshine before venturing to the exciting town of Buenos Aires.

Puerto Madryn is mainly the main entrance point for the Valdes Peninsula which is famous for its marine reserves. Unfortunately I missed the trip out to see more sea life and armadillos as I needed to get my leg checked out at the local hospital. Not something you would want to do everyday but if you are ever in this town the hospital services was definitely first class and the consultation was free.