A Travellerspoint blog

Santiago

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The bus ride to Santiago was six hours, with the most spectacular views of the Andes between Argentina and Chile. E-J managed to sleep for the majority of the ride, but was suffering from all the rich food and drink from the day before. When it came to passing the boarder, it seemed to be the lengthiest process to date. First, we had to queue for ages to be stamped out of Argentina and stamped into Chile and then all our luggage had to be taken off the bus and passed through a security, surveillance camera to make sure that nothing illegal was passing into Chile. Finally our hand luggage had to be sorted through too.

When we finally reached Chile, we were completely confused by the currency, as 998 Chilean pesos equalled a pound! We then grabbed a cab to our hostel at a cost of three thousand pesos, which sounded a lot!

We spent the evening wandering around, close to the area we were staying in. Londres, with its cobbled streets and lined with little trees, sounded so beautiful, yet it had a run down feel to it which was exacerbated by all the graffiti all over the walls.

The following day, Sam was forced into doing some tourist attractions, much to his dislike. We first wandered into Bella Vista, which is described as the trendy, bohemian area of Santiago. We then caught a tram like train up to San Cristobel. San Cristobel is the statue of Mary, which some people consider to be the equivalent to Christ the Redeemer of Rio. We found it to be a little spoiled by the tourist gimmicks, with tacky music playing, as you wandered up to it and an abundance of seating to use as you stared up at the great statue. It was also surrounded by lots of lights and telegraph poles, which completely ruined the simplicity and view of the statue.

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At this height, we had a good view of the vast city, but at this stage, Sam had really had enough of the place and wanted to get back down the hill. After a (what felt like a treacherous) cable cart lift down the mountain, hitting the tops of trees as we passed down, we made our way down to a small area just outside Bellavista, where we had a quick bite to eat and then headed back to our hostel.

Aware that we had spent a ridiculous amount in Mendoza, we decided to spend the rest of the day and evening in our hostel room, watching trashy TV on the box and ordered a pizza for supper.

The next day we found out our great friends, who we had met in the jungle, Veronica and Ben were in Chile. Both extremely excited to bump into them for a fourth time during our trip, we hurried our chores of the morning and headed over to their hostel for the rest of the day and evening.

During the next two days, we followed the same pattern as before of turning up at Veronica and Ben's hostel at around lunchtime, making a mammoth sandwich and spending the rest of the day enjoying a few beers, table tennis, pool and a good banter with our friends.

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Finally the 10th arrived and it was time to depart South America for New Zealand. At the airport, we were celebrating the fact that we had survived South America and then resorted to having a massive row about who got the drink they wanted with the last amount of Chilean money. The poor waiter, misunderstanding the argument brewing, managed to turn up with the wrong drinks and almost experiencing the wroth of E-J, became desperately apologetic giving us a complementary drink, which saved the day, completely defusing the argument and leaving us all in high spirits!

We then prepared ourselves for the next part of our adventure, New Zealand!

Sam's comments: Great to catch up with Ben and Veronica, have to say E-J has completely worn me out on statues and Plaza's! Bring on the Rugby and Cricket in New Zealand!

E-J's comments: I can't say we really gave Chile a fair chance as we only visited Santiago and did very little in the actual city. I would love to revisit Chile and see it properly, as it is far too expensive for a backpacker. I can't believe that our time in South America is over. I have absolutely loved this place and a part of me will always been drawn here. My heart belongs to South America.

Posted by E-J 17:50 Archived in Chile Comments (1)

Mendoza

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Surprisingly, our flights from El Calafate to Mendoza were incredibly smooth, without any problems or delays. What also added an element of excitement to the journey was to find ourselves sharing a plane with the River Plate football players. These people to the Argentineans are like Liverpool or Man Utd to the English. We also had the main striker sitting in front of us, causing a constant flow of people walking up to him to ask for his autograph or photo. Even the air steward stopped what he was doing in order to get a much-desired photo with the star.

When we arrived at the airport there was literally a mob of press and fans waiting outside the arrival gates. As we stood waiting for our bags along with the mass of beloved players, there was a constant flash of photography and fanatic fans yelling out cheers to their idolized footballers.

Having sat and stood with all the players throughout the whole journey, we felt a little guilty for not bothering to get at least one autograph for one of the fans, who had been waiting for so long in the arrivals lounge, especially when the players chose to depart the airport through a secret exit leaving their fans and press bitterly disappointed.

As we drove through the city of Mendoza, we were amazed to see how green it was. Every street seemed to be lined with rows of trees along the pavements. The place seemed so green and yet Mendoza is suppose to be in quite a barren, desert area. It was explained to us later that this is because the place was specifically cultivated and has draining systems and canals that run throughout the whole city allowing trees and plants to grow.

After we arrived at our hostel, we decided to take a walk around the city and made our way to the Plaza Independencia. We strolled through all the market stores and E-J was still in the mood for buying, so Sam had to desperately dissuade her from buying some pointless, wooden salad spoons.

The following day was all about organizing tours and after we'd booked a white water rafting trip for Sam and a horse riding tour for E-J, we decided to give it a day before we committed to any wine tours. The afternoon was spent watching a disappointing rugby match against Wales and then we ended the evening in a restaurant, by the name of Don Tristan, much to Sam's delight.

At 8:30 am the next day we were picked up by the rafting crew and driven to Rio Mendoza, about an hour out from the city. Our group doing the all day tour, consisted of ourselves, a Brazilian business man (who spoke no English) and a German couple. Sam took great delight in the name of the German man, Axel - though repeatedly said to E-J throughout the day, he's not as exciting as his name!

Our guide was a friendly Argentinean and after the twenty minute talk about health and safety (we think this could be the longest and most efficient one we have had so far in South America) we began to prepare ourselves. Sam's cry at this point of "don't save the Germans" got a frosty reception to say the least! We got dressed into the appropriate gear of wet suits, helmets and splash jackets and made our way down to the river's edge. Sam and Axel were quick to volunteer to be at the front.

When we first started off, our guide immediately told us we were all rowing wrong and if we continued like that we were going to be exhausted in about 5 minutes! After a few more minutes of coaching, we were pretty much in unison.

As we made our way down the river the first few rapids were quite tame, only Sam and Axel seemed to get the brunt of the water spilling over the front of the boat. Realizing this, the guide manoeuvred the boat to ensure that everyone was pretty much soaked within the next ten minutes of the trip.

As the rafting continued the rapids got stronger, but there was nothing there that frightened any of us, not even E-J. After an hour and a half we stopped by the side and our guide made us an amazing lunch of cold cuts and wine. We couldn't believe that such an array of food could be stored so well in our tiny raft.

An hour later and feeling a stone heavier we returned to our boat to tackle some level three rapids. These were stronger, but again not as terrifying as they may look from the photos!

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The only time that E-J almost lost it was when the guide purposely ploughed us into a rock! The rest of the time it was great fun and Sam was quick to stand up at the end and pose for the camera.

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During the ride back into town, E-J was out for the count and by the time we were back at the hostel we could feel our limbs starting to cease up. That night we had a well deserved hearty meal and a good sleep.

The next day, we both felt incredibly stiff (particularly E-J, who seemed to walk similar to John Wayne again), we had a relatively quiet day, sorting out our vineyard tour for the following day. As we approached the tour agents, we found them to either be full of two extremes in price; the cheaper industrial vineyards or the high-end boutique vineyards. In the end we resorted to choosing a place, which would take us to three boutiques and one industrial, along with a five-course lunch at one of the vineyards. It was then that we decided that perhaps we weren't really doing the usual backpacker scene, but more a backpacker plus version, whereby we seemed to treat ourselves a bit more than most!

That evening, we were collected at around 7pm to be taken to a horse-riding ranch just out of Mendoza. The ride should have only taken 15 minutes, but the driver managed to get terribly lost and after having a fit about how difficult the place was to find, he finally got us there, much to Sam's relief who was on the verge of cancelling the whole trip!

When we arrived at the ranch, we were both a bit wary of the place as it looked rather derelict and there was a load of dishevelled dogs and a kitten running around us. We met our guide, Gabriel, a rodeo expert and he took us through the safety precautions of riding a horse. This consisted of, pull the reins to the left to make the horse go left, pull the reins to the right to make it go right and pull the reins back to make it stop. At this point E-J asked whether there would be any helmets, but our guide laughed and said we wouldn't need them. Within seconds, we both found ourselves following the guide and heading towards a rather steep hill. At this point, our horses realized we were pretty useless, so took it upon themselves to lead the way, following their usual tracks. The route was incredibly barren and desert like and we found ourselves riding up and down steep gravel hills.

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The horses, far more in control than we were seemed to know exactly how to handle the steepness so that we were both able to literally sit back and enjoy the ride and the banter from Gabriel. After half an hour of strolling along, we were both feeling rather confident, so Gabriel decided to push us to the next level, by making us trot. We then reached a straight track and he told us it was time to gallop. Having not been on a horse for a good 23 years, E-J was a little reluctant to do this, but within seconds the horse recognized the route and started to trot, canter and finally gallop off across the gravel track. As E-J pelted off down the lane, holding on for dear life, she began to scream out to Gabriel, "make it stop, make it stop!", forgetting that all she had to do was pull on the reins. The expertly trained, Gabriel was able to galloped up along side her, killing himself with laughter over the ridiculous, terrified grin on E-J's face and pulled on the reins so that the horse immediately stopped. The next section of galloping was fine, except that Sam managed to drop his sunglasses, forcing Gabriel to gallop back to retrieve them.

As we continued to pass along the incredible hillside, we took in the amazing views of the mountains behind us with the sunset.

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By the time we made it back to the ranch it was dark and we had both had a fantastic time riding and talking with Gabriel. We were then treated to a lovely BBQ with Gabriel, along with the two other workers on the ranch. Sam on seeing a small jug of wine decided to ensure he got "value for money" from the tour and drank it very quickly, what he hadn't accounted for was Jug number 2 and then jug number 3! This was a great way to enjoy the evening and from the adrenalin rush of horse riding session, we both found the alcohol to take fast effect! After many laughs, we finally left the ranch around 1am, on Sam's insistence. The early hours of the new morning where a blur to Sam, who spent them in the bathroom managing to recognize some of his earlier barbecued food!

At 8:00 am the next day we awoke to get ready for our wine tour. Sam on falling out of bed landed on a bit more of his evening meal and we then quickly changed and showered in time for the tour. We were greeted by our tour guide and driven to the first vineyard on the list, Alta Vista. There, we were told that instead of joining another four people for the tour as expected, we would be experiencing it all on our own, which made it incredibly special.

Alta Vista was one of the boutique vineyards, owned by a French couple and it had the most beautiful grounds with a backdrop of mountains. It is still quite traditional and the fermentation of their premium standard of wines is still done in the traditional cement vats, rather than in the more modern metal vats. We were told that the grapes are hand picked punches and then once they go through that process, there are a group of women that literally hand pick each grape, making sure that it is to the perfect standard required. After several more facts, we were taken to the tasting room where we tried our first drop of wine at 10am. Sam was seriously suffering at this point, having miscalculated last night’s indulgence, he struggled to keep the early tasters down! E-J was loving every minute of the exquisite wine and we also got to keep a bottle of the most delicious Malbec.

The next place we went to was called Largarde and this was one of the oldest wineries. The buildings were made of adobe (which are fatal should there be an earthquake) and are very cool inside. The ceilings are made out of a type of bamboo. The wines are kept at the right temperatures during the fermentation. After a similar talk and run through the features of the winery as before, we were taken to the tasting room for more delicious wine. We were also taught how to distinguish a Malbec from another red; as when looking at it, it has a fluorescent purple ring within it.

The third vineyard, Ruca Malen was a more modern place and had a very modern architecture. Here, we had our incredible five-course meal. We sat in a room, which had a 360 degrees panoramic view of all the vineyards, and the table was full of glasses so that we could sample each course with a different, specifically selected wine to bring out the flavours.

We were both in our absolute element and could not believe how beautiful the place was. Before we started our tour there, we were able to sit on a balcony looking out to the vineyards and the mountains, sipping the most unbelievably, premium Malbec wine. We felt incredibly spoiled.

The last vineyard we visited was more of an industrial place and we immediately felt that as soon as we entered the place. We noticed, it was all about quantity (with an element of quality) and yet all the other places had regarded the quality of the wine to be of the highest of priorities.

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By the end of the tour it was 5pm and we both felt incredibly full from all the rich food and delicious wine. E-J also noticed that she looked like something similar to a freak show, as her teeth had turned seriously blue!

That evening we had a light meal at Don Tristan's again and then had an early night in preparation for our final destination in South America the next day to Santiago.

Sam's Comments: Mendoza is a one of my highlights, great food, amazing wine and plenty of things to do, although I will go easy on any free alcohol next time!

E-J's comments: I absolutely loved Mendoza: possibly from all the thrilling activities we did rather than the actual place itself. The rafting was brilliant fun, the horse riding was an incredible adrenalin rush and the wine tour was simply out of this world. I feel so spoiled!!

Posted by E-J 12:44 Archived in Argentina Comments (4)

El Calafate and Perito Moreno Glacier

sunny 27 °C

When we finally arrived in El Calafate we were both relieved to be off the dreaded Route 40 having both suffered cramped legs during the last part of the journey. By now we were hobbling from the stiffness in our legs after our long, five-hour walk in El Chalten. We found our hostel and at 11pm and headed to a restaurant for a late meal.

The town of El Calafate had a similar feel to Bariloche, full of stone and wooden buildings.

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We noticed how this place also catered for the America tourists with all of its souvenir shops and clothing gear, branded with the words Patagonia or El Calafate. We found the huge, modernized cement structure of the town's casino to be an interesting feature, situated slap, bang in the middle of the town. Its style of structure did not fit in with the rest of the place.

Typically we chose a steak restaurant and although we thought we were only getting half a bife de Lomo, it turned out to be enormous!

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This was another amazing steak to add to the list and the restaurant itself was also great with the waiters full of banter. We got back to our hostel around 1am and prepared ourselves for our mini trek on the glacier the next day.

Surprisingly our early start was met with an efficiently organized transport to the glacier, which actually collected us (for once) bang on time. After an hour and half, we arrived at the first viewpoint of the glacier and it was an incredible sight. It literally looked like a block of ice that had been planted in the middle of the lake between two mountains.

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As we got closer, the site became more and more impressive, and surprisingly the temperature around us stayed warm. We then boarded a boat that took us very close to the spectacular glacier, which close-up looked so blue and so mesmerizing. The closer we got the more unbelievable it looked and the way that it was formed in the lake, with such straight angles made it look almost artificial.

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We learned that this glacier is constantly moving forward, but does not show, as big chunks of ice are constantly falling from it everyday. Also, the glacier is made from the snow on the mountain behind and it takes 10 years for the snow to compress into ice and a further 400 years for it to finally reach the front of the glacier.

As the boat drove up and down the side of the glacier, we could hear a few sounds similar to explosions, which were pieces of ice falling into the water from the other side and also sounds of cracking, as the heat in the air caused the glacier to constantly crack. It was fascinating!

The boat then dropped us off on the left side of the mountain, where we were put into groups and met a guide that was going to take us onto the glacier. After a short talk about the glacier's history, crampons were fastened to our shoes and we found ourselves setting foot onto the wondrous ice.

When we first stepped onto the glacier the sensations were so strange, we felt as though we should fall down or slip over and yet the crampons really helped us to stick to the ice. We were given a brief instruction about how to walk in these potentially lethal shoes and slowly made our way up the path.

As we walked around the glacier travelling up and down the curves, it became almost magical when all we could see was ice everywhere.

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The glacier looked so blue and so clean from a distance, but walking along it, we could see a layer of think dirt resting all over it, which had been blown onto it from the mountain. Also, the cracks in the ice were the most intense blue and seemed to go so far in depth.

The guides were incredibly thorough in their touring, making sure that everyone followed the clear path that they were making and digging holes in the ice, to create steps for us to climb up and down when it was too steep. They would also act like barriers, standing on the crest of a lip, while we carefully walked up and down past them.

After a two-hour trek, we were beginning to feel like pros and wanted more of a challenge and just as we walked down one of the final lips of the glacier, we were greeted with a surprise. Sitting in the middle of the glacier was a wooden box and a table with several whiskey glasses on it. Our guide proceeded to open the box to reveal a bottle of whiskey; he then knocked a load of ice off the glacier, sprinkled it into the glasses and topped them up with a large amount of beautiful whiskey. We all cheered and enjoyed the deliciously frozen drink.

The guide then offered more and after Sam's third strong glass, he thought he'd better stop as he was beginning to feel a little light-footed. The last stretch of walk back to dry land seemed much easier and more relaxed, especially for Sam, who felt as though he was gliding along the ice.

When we made it back to the mountains edge, we had forty minutes to sit back and enjoy the magnificent view of the glacier. At this point, most people had become quite used to it, so retreated to an indoor area, but we both sat on the cliff edge in ore of the beautiful structure before us. We sat there listening to the cracking sounds and watching enormous pieces of ice fall into the water, which then followed with an incredible explosive sound, half a second later.

We then caught the boat back and were driven to the other side of the glacier where the main viewpoint is, that everyone can visit. We found this side to be equally impressive, though not as special as before, as we had been able to appreciate the other side all by ourselves. This side also showed a greater dimension of the glacier and how far back it stretched to the snowy mountains behind. It truly was a spectacular sight.

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After the bus journey home, we went out for a bite to eat at an incredibly over priced pasta restaurant and decided to try our luck at retrieving our money at the local casino down the road.

With three pounds to spend each at the roulette table, Sam immediately put it all on black and lost. E-J on the other hand, had far more success with the numbers. Winning back double her amount. The night went on for some time with E-J repeatedly handing Sam several chips, which he then proceeded to lose. Finally, E-J feeling she had paid for her meal, decided to cash in what she had won, Sam was disappointed that she hadn't gone with his instinct and put it all on black again.

The next day we had nothing planned, so we spent it wandering around the small town, looking in the overpriced souvenir and clothes shops and dealing with admin. Realizing that this place literally drained money as fast as we could transact it, we tried to keep our activities to a minimum. We ended the day with a few beers in a lovely, local wooden bar and then returned to the steak house from the first night, for another incredible steak. We were not disappointed, as this steak was the best to date!

We both then calculated that Sam was now on his 16th steak since being in Argentina, and seriously, we needed a break from red meat!

Having enjoyed the outcome of the night before, E-J suggested that we repeat this and win our money back at the casino. Again, spending no more than three pounds on our chips, Sam repeated his same usual mistake of betting it all at once. More patiently, E-J wasn't having much luck either until she was down to her last chip or managed to win four times as much back, making herself very pleased with the final outcome.

The next day, we left for the airport of El Calafate reasonably early, where we would catch an aeroplane to Buenos Aires and then another onto Mendoza.

Sam's comments: El Calafate, was a pretty dull town but the Glacier was amazing, by far the best free Whiskey I have ever had!!

E-J's comments; I found El Calafate to be a very pretty little town, but sadly too expensive for backpackers. The glacier was simply spectacular, words can't really describe it, as you have to see it for real; all your senses are aroused and it makes you really appreciate the magnificence of the place. I am so glad I forced Sam to go so far south!

Posted by E-J 10:00 Archived in Argentina Comments (2)

Route 40, Perito Moreno, El Chalten

As we walked down to the bus at 6am, we arrived at the pick up point to see many clubbers walking home from a big night out! We waited for the bus for a good forty-five minutes with a few Korean tourists and other backpackers. Then at 6.45am we were off onto one of the most historic roads in Argentina “Route 40”. We sadly can't tell you too much about the first few hours as we both fell straight to sleep!

When we stopped for lunch, we sat in the delightful setting of the petrol garage forecourt and took in the sights! The guide then informed us why this road was so dangerous. He told us that the road was used by few cars and travel had to be done during the day as the area is extremely barren and few places provide fuel let alone water.

The next few hours passed slowly as we took in the scenery with the scorching sun burning through the windows. We were told that the air con (which consisted of several small fans strapped to the ceiling) was broken, so we would have to suffer the heat. As the journey continued, the Korean tourists seemed to get louder and louder and kept pulling out their huge cameras at anything that moved inside or outside the bus. We both just sat back and took in the surroundings. We pulled over for about half an hour to take in the view. Sam and E-J were both not as impressed by the landscape as much as the rest of the group, perhaps we had already been spoiled by the incredible landscapes we had seen in Peru and Bolivia, but Sam took great delight in the bus drivers moustache and insisted on getting a picture with him!

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At about 8pm we arrived into Perito Moreno, a small and rather shabby town that had a minimalistic feel to it. This was accentuated as we tried to find somewhere to eat and realised that nothing was open! We therefore resolved to eating at the restaurant of our accommodation, the Belgrano Hotel, although this may sound rather splendid, it was in actual fact very basic!

The following day our bus arrived at 10am and we set off for El Chalten. As usual, we both tried to go to sleep until we stopped for lunch. Lunch was in a typical South American time frame, told we would stop for twenty minutes, when we in fact stopped for one hour!

The afternoon was spent on the road and E-J soon regretted not wearing her sports bra as the road turned into a bumpy, gravel track. Due to the poor conditions we managed to gain a puncture and had an unexpected stopover at a local farm. The stopover became amusing to both of us when we saw a Korean tourist being chased, knocked and pushed by the llamas.

As we approached El Chalten and having done over 12 hours on the bus, we managed to see the impressive sunset on a backdrop of mountains.

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Finally at around half past twelve we arrived into El Chalten and after a much-deserved beer, collapsed into bed.

Rising early, we decided to enjoy the scenic town of El Chalten before our evening bus set off for El Calafate. The mountain ranges of El Chalten are everywhere and by walking for 5 minutes you can be totally surrounded by them. That is why Butch Cassidy and The Sun Dance Kid rested here for three months after robbing the bank of London, Chile.

Picking up a few sandwiches and bottles of water we decided to walk to Laguna de Torres, which was a natural lake. We set off and soon had time to saver the fine landscape of conafor trees and giant mountains with their snowy peaks.

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The vast landscape was really impressive, however with the sun still rising we were starting to feel tired. Having climbed the pebbled dune we finally arrived at our destination. The area was not a disappointment; it was spectacular to see the beginning of the glacier rising up, with floating, large pieces of ice bobbing along within the lake.

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We sat there admiring the view, eating our lunch before going down to the water. We both picked up large pieces of ice from out of the water and managed to only hold it for a minute or two, as it was so cold. Knowing that we had to be back in time for our bus we started to head back.

As we arrived back into the village of El Chalten, we were exhausted and extremely thirsty. E-J kept telling Sam "I am walking like John Wayne". The only cure for this was to find a pub and enjoy a quick pint before heading back to the hostel for the bus to El Calafate.

Sam's Comments: Awful bus journey, although the Korean tourists did provide a lot of entertainment!

E-J's Comments: The journey down here was pretty unpleasant; I think I've just about had it with South American buses! Laguna de Torres was beautiful, I'm so glad I got to see it even if it did mean a brisk five hour walk there and back, my legs killing by the end of it!

Posted by E-J 09:59 Comments (0)

Bariloche

sunny 27 °C

The bus ride to Bariloche (Home to the 1985 Skiing World Championships) was definitely the best journey so far, out of all our travels, especially when we were handed a glass of sparkling wine to enjoy, while watching an evening film during the trip. Also, E-J had a particularly successful time, as she was able to sleep 12 out of the 19 hours journey.

When we arrived in Bariloche, surprisingly we found it to be incredibly hot. We knew it was the summer season, but it was scorching. We found the buildings in the area to be made of stone and wood, giving it a slightly Swiss feel, though we also felt there was a part of it that looked so clean and brand new as though it was all just for show.

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The next shock was how expensive it was. In the past, we had always managed to wangle a deal here or there, but Bariloche only gave you a couple of companies to do tours with and no room for negotiation. We also found, if you wanted to try to do something independently to any of their overpriced tours, the tour agents were of no help to us.

On a positive side for E-J, she found Bariloche to be full of chocolate shops. Although when ordering her craved hot chocolate, she had the misfortune of ordering a submarino, which ended up just being, over processed, hot milk.

Our hostel was more like a hotel and was 2 km outside of the town. It was lovely to be out of the bustle of the touristy town and the place was surrounded by 40ft evergreens. It was also run by an old, eccentric German, who had very extreme and opinionated views about certain nationalities, especially his own. Despite not wanting to get on the wrong side of him, we found him to be very friendly to us and helpful.

The next day and a half, were spent dealing with the admin of getting to El Calafate, which turned out to be more difficult than we had originally anticipated. Naively, we hadn't realised it would be such a problem to get there, but discovered that the only road down to it was “Route 40”, which changes from tarmac to rough gravel and rocks for the majority of the journey, with very little in between the two locations. Also, the tour that we had planned to do in El Calafate, sounded a little too extreme for E-J, who at her best, wasn't the most competent at climbing, let alone trekking and climbing over an ice glacier for 6six hours! Eventually, all was sorted and we were able to explore the beautiful landscape around Bariloche that everyone raves about.

The next day we walked to the cable cart, which took us up to the top of the mountain called Cerro Otto. At the top of this there is a 360 degrees panoramic restaurant, which seems to be the gimmick place that everyone flocks to. We decided to avoid this overpriced feature, though E-J decided to have a wander around the restaurant, just to get an idea of the view. We then decided to walk along one of the pathways and get some pictures of the breathtaking sites of the lake, Nahuel Huapi below us.

We then headed in the direction of another walk, but within 5 minutes Sam was insisting that we turn back, as with no map we might get lost. E-J tried to explain to Sam that this place was a well-known walking district, and it was highly unlikely that we would get lost following a track. E-J also pointed out the families with their young children walking past us, but Sam was having none of it. It was only when we were back at that start that we noticed the signboard, pointing out the three walks that you could take, which only took a maximum of 1 1/2 hours.

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After we were back at the bottom of the mountain, having finished a minor squabble about not doing the walks, we decided to explore another famous tour, which was called the Isla Victoria tour. This is a boat ride, which takes you along the lake to several different islands dotted around the place. Finding it a little over budget we decided to have a drink in the famous hotel Llao Llao instead, which was 100km from there. This hotel was huge and beautiful. It claimed itself to be one of the leading hotels in the world and when we walked inside we could see why. It had a long, wide corridor, which stretched a good 75 metres in length and was completely decorated in rich wooden beams all the way around its perimeters. The view from the restaurant window was also spectacular and we both day dreamed about returning there for the ski season, one day when we are rich and successful...

As we left the hotel, it began to rain and twenty minutes later we were standing crammed with a load of other people on the local bus back to Barlioche. An hour later, having had several elbows and armpits shoved into our faces we were back in Bariloche and headed to a bar for another well-deserved drink. That evening, just for a change, we treated ourselves to the rated best steakhouse in Bariloche and found the steak to be amazing! It was then that E-J said that she was seriously steaked out and needed a break from all that red meat, having had seven steaks in Argentina since we arrived there on the 16th January. Sam worked out he had beaten this record with a total of nine!

The next day, after moving to a more central hostel (which was slightly painful as there had been a mistake with our original booking) we headed to Cerro Catedral, which is the biggest ski resort in South America. The journey took an hour by bus and when we got there it was a strange place. Decked out to be a ski resort, it looked more like a ghost town full of empty restaurants and bars with slopes full of grass, wild flowers and muddy rocks. E-J had always wondered what a ski resort looked like during the summer and she found it to look rather depressing. Meanwhile, people around us were raving about how the place was so beautiful and tranquil. We decided to catch a chair lift to the top and after E-J's numerous stories about her times on a chair lift when skiing, Sam was desperate to get off!

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The view from the top was very impressive as we were able to see a large panoramic of the place with the lake and mountains all round. We were also able to see the Chilean Mountain range, which seemed so close. After an hour of taking in the sites, we headed back down to the bottom of the mountain, again by chair lift, amazing ourselves with trying to see if we could get a response from the people travelling in the opposite direction with our waves and holas - very childish, we know.

The trip back to the centre of Bariloche was equally unpleasant to the day before, as we were the only two people willingly and rightfully so, to give up our seats for the elderly. We again found ourselves in the same situation as before, being shoved in all directions. That evening, we resorted to having pasta and giving our digestive systems a break. We then headed to bed to be ready for our 6am wake up the next day to begin our journey along Route 40, stopping in the towns of Puerito Moreno and El Chalten before we would finally arrive in El Calafate.

Sam's comments: Beautiful Bariloche is far too commercial for me. Steak count up to 9 in 11 nights!

E-J's comments: There are elements of Bariloche, which I did find incredibly beautiful; The sea of evergreens covering the bottom of the mountain range and the way the deep blue lake seems to stretch for miles. I was also disappointed by how Bariloche is catered solely for the American tourists and the price is doubled just because they know people will pay!

Posted by E-J 08:24 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

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