A Travellerspoint blog

Mendoza to Salta and the end of my travels in Argentina

sunny 40 °C

Hello from Chile!!!! I´m currently in the San Pedro de Atacama desert, after several days of extreme tiredness I finally had a good night sleep last night and feel so much better for it. It´s extremely hot here and i´m a black woman, the desert is totally beautiful and surrounded by snow covered volcanoes together with blue and green lagoons. This morning Sivan and I went sandboarding in the dunes of the death valley, IT WAS SOOOOO MUCH FUN. We had the funniest instructor with a mass of dreads who kept taking the mick out of the British accent (cup of tea!). I´ve never done sandboarding before and it was brilliant, once you get the hang of how to balance, brake and speed up it is actually quite easy. This afternoon we are going to the moon valley to watch the sunset, it´s a full moon so i´m hoping for some spectacular views.

Anyway, my update since my last blog...so much has happened so I don´t know where to start! I´ve spent just over a month travelling Argentina and what a country!! It hasn´t felt like it´s gone that quickly either but then every day has been quite significant in one way or another. Ive done a big loop of the country from Iguazu down to Buenos Aires, right to the South of the country in El Calafate and then worked my way up to Salta in the North. I´ve seen waterfalls, glaciers, snow covered mountains, lagoons, huge lakes and multi-coloured mountains, and spent a crazy amount of time on buses...over 110 hours at least. The cities have been full of life, music and laughter and the Argentinians have been incredible hosts...i´m going to miss Argentina a lot. The local people have been so welcoming, friendly and gone out of their way to help me. The only thing i´ve found a bit frustrating is my inability to communicate with them on a wider level. I can ask for directions, order food, book accommodation and say what I like, do for a job and where I plan to travel etc. But many people here don´t speak much English so with my limited vocabulary I can´t find out more about them which I´d love to do. But anyway im doing my best to speak Spanish here and ive still had some very funny moments with the locals, in particular the hitchhiking...but more on that later! What I do want to remember is the warmth of the people ive met in shops, restaurants, on the street and how this had such a positive impact on my experiences in the places I visited, it has made me reflect on how I treat people in my everyday life back at home.

On a slightly sad note, the group of girls I was travelling with had to split at the end of last week because of the different directions we were going in. We ended up travelling for over two weeks together since meeting in El Calfate, spending all our time together as we experienced Pategonia, Bariloche and Mendoza. Lidwien (from Holland), Sivan and Hagar (from Israel) are wonderful girls, spending so much time together has been really easy and the laughter has been constant (too many private jokes to write about on here!) Lidwien left for Buenos Aires last Friday and there were tears :( Yesterday we left Hagar in Mendoza and now Sivan and I are travelling together until we have done the salt flats in Bolivia and then she will head back to Argentina and I will go onto La Paz. Its been very funny because Sivan wasnt planning to come to Chile or Bolivia but she has been sucked into the Reeves spreadsheet itinerary, haha. So we will keep living the "muy international" dream for another week at least...

OK so when I last blogged I had just arrived in Mendoza. Mendoza is an amazing amazing place. I love it. After falling in love with Buenos Aires I didn´t think another city here would capture my attention in the same way but Mendoza really wowed me. I´m not sure if I can really put my finger on what makes this place so great but the general atmosphere and feel of the city was awesome. It felt more Argentinian than Buenos Aires, was set in a beautiful setting surrounded by mountains and vine yards and had a funky nightlife and really lovely, happy people. And on top of that I stayed in a really cool hostel and had some really funny times with the girls and other travellers we met. Although for a couple of nights we had a very strange old man in our room from Portugal who kept feeling the need to walk in and out of the dorm take his clothes on and off repeatedly. Why, I dont know. The staff at the hostel on the other hand were really funny and this made up for the fact it wasnt the cleanest place Ive stayed in.

The girls and I did fewer activities and tours in Mendoza and instead just soaked up the atmosphere, laughed at the amount of el mullets on show, saw a Chilean rapper and danced to a lot of reggaeton! I had planned to stay for 3 days but ended up staying for nearly a week. On one of the days we did a tour of the vineyards, people here hire bikes and cycle around the vineyards doing tours of different wineries and of course testing the wine. We saw only two wineries because the tours were quite long, but it was interesting and I enjoyed the wine a lot. We saw a large company (Norton) and a smaller winery which produces more expensive wine for an exclusive market. We also spent another day visiting the hot springs in the mountains and this is where we had our second hilarious hitchhiking experience. Im aware that hitchhiking wont ever be promoted in the Lonely Planet as a particularly safe thing to do but we agreed we would only try to hitch a ride back to Mendoza with a family/old couple. So we wrote "Mendoza" on an old piece of paper and stood at the side of the road, thumbs out. We must have looked pretty funny because a member of staff at the springs directing cars into the car park started to laugh at us and told us he would help us find someone. A few moments later a very funny and very old bright red car started to leave the car park with two men inside who looked like gangsters. We pulled our thumbs in and agreed we would let this one pass but the guy helping us had already flagged the car down and convinced the two men to take us back to Mendoza. So we got into the car (which was a challenge as only one door worked) and headed back to town. We discovered that the car was a Ford Falcon and made the same year I was born! The two guys worked in a bakery and one of the men had a very funny relationship with his wife who he only saw once a day when they met at work to change shifts. There was a loud clunking sound coming from the boot, the guys joked that it was a body but we didnt feel at all unsafe. Even though they lived out of town they insisted on driving us right to the centre, another act of kindness from people we had just met. On our final day Sivan and I were so tired we went to a public pool and just sunbathed the whole day. It was at this point that I turned a completely different colour and people stopped believing I was English.

On Saturday night we took another very long bus up to Salta, no drug busts on this one but Hagar started speaking to someone on the bus from Pategonia who owned a radio station and asked us to say hello to all his listeners on the phone the next morning..random! My first impressions of Salta were really good, another place full of life and people willing to help us. The town becomes really alive in the early evening where everyone hits the streets, eats ice cream and shops. We were only in Salta for two full days, on the first day we explored the centre, booked our bus to Chile and took a cable car up to the top of the mountain overlooking the town. On the way back down we decided to walk and this is where hitchhiking experience number 3 took place. Well actually we were offered a lift by two guys Sivan had got speaking to at the top of the mountain, they seemed harmless so we agreed and they offered to show us nearby San Lorenzo which is a pretty town full of large mansions and amazing ice-cream. We stopped at a water park where we took some hilarious photos and then got dropped off in town a couple of hours later. The two guys were hilarious, one was a complete joker and reminded me a lot of my dad. On our second day we took a tour north via Jujuy and saw spectacular views of the seven coloured mountain which literally is a mix of purples, green, orange, reds etc. Apparently it is formed by different minerals, I wish I was better at science to fully understand it!

So now I´m back on form but over the last few days the tiredness of travelling, lack of sleep and the heat really hit me and Ive done some really stupid things. Like paying for a large bottle filled with tap water I´d taken into a shop when on the hunt for dulce leche cookies because I assumed id picked it out of the drinks cabinet. Before arriving in Chile Sivan and I tried to book a hostel for the Atacama Desert and starting getting stressed because everywhere was fully booked. When we finally found somewhere available the internet broke and we had to go to a friends hostel to sort it out. I finally made a reservation and joked about being so tired that it wouldnt surprise me if id booked it for the wrong year or something. Last night when we arrived in Chile after a very long and tiring bus journey from Salta through the Andean mountains I had no sense of where anything was, had no Chilean currency and wasnt even sure how many Chilean pesos there were to the pound. As I started to ask local people where the hostel address was I thought I was getting some strange reactions, I didnt think it was my Spanish because im finding the Chileans much easier to understand and speak to than the Argentinians. Sivan and I finally got to an internet cafe and asked some guys to help us find the hostel, we soon realised that the hostel id booked was 1,000 km outside of San Pedro Atacama!!!...no wonder people were looking at me strangely when I was asking if it was far! The guys thought the whole thing was pretty hilarious but could see that Sivan and I were about to cry so sorted out contacting the hostel, cancelling our booking and helping us find another hostel. Weve got things arranged now for the next few days we are here but I really need to sort out my head before we enter Bolivia because thats going to be a much more challenging country to travel in.

Anyway ive written an essay here, will try and update again before I leave Chile xx

Posted by hanaldinho 09:45 Archived in Chile Comments (3)

Ruta 40, Bariloche & a strange journey to Mendoza

sunny 40 °C

So I just had a bit of a crazy bus journey from Bariloche to Mendoza. I knew it was going to be a long one (17 hours) but with the "coche cama" I felt quite relaxed about it and was looking forward to lots of sleep and Argentinian bus food. I´ve become really good at sleeping on buses which is good as I´m spending a lot of time on them. However this bus journey to Mendoza ended up taking much longer. First of all the bus was over an hour late which was annoying when we´d given up sunbathing time at the lake to get to the bus station early. Then a couple of hours into the journey I was in a very comfortable position in my huge leather fully reclined seat having a nice dream when I suddenly realised we weren´t moving anymore and half the passengers were out on the roadside. I found out it was something to do with the brakes not working properly (quite important when you are on hilly mountain roads) and we had to wait for a mechanic to come out to try and fix the problem. Over two hours later and I was cold and with my sugar levels plummeting starting to get in a bad mood. However the mechanic turned up and bus fully fixed we headed on with me getting a good 10 + hours sleep overnight. The next morning we were nearing Mendoza when the bus got pulled over by the roadside Police, which has happened a few times while i´ve been here. These Police wanted to check our documents so I got my passport ready with the stamp showing I hadnt exceeded my 90 days in the country, but the officer was more interested in my other stamps and in particular with the amount of stamps I had for Brazil! Not sure if he thought I had a strange relationship with his neighbouring country but there wasn´t much he could do about it. However the Police were actually more interested in 3 other passengers on our bus and then discovered that one of them was carrying a kilo of cocaine! The men and the cocaine left the bus, two returned and we dont know what happened to the other man but it was all very strange.

Aside from my strange journey i´ve had a brilliant week with the same girls i´ve been travelling with since El Calafate. They are great company, we have done some awesome activities together, my favourite so far being white water rafting down the most beautiful river into Chile. We have a similar sense of humour so everything has been funny, but we also enjoy our philosophical debates and discussions about how each others countries work. Even better, they are really good cooks and also love their vegetables so we´ve been making some lush meals together over a good bottle of Mendoza wine costing 6 pesos (about 1 pound 50). In Argentina when you ask for a vegetable you get given potatoes so with all this meat it´s been really necessary to have our 5 a day!

So a lot has happened since I last blogged. After all the trekking in El Chalten we took the Ruta 40 to Bariloche, which involved two days on a bus plus an overnight stay in a town called Perito Moreno. I wasnt looking forward to this journey at all but the first day was cool as there were a lot of interesting passengers to speak to and the bus drivers were brilliant, there were two so they could share the driving. Sitting at the front we got chatting to them, one of the girls better as her Spanish is so much more advanced. I was a bit worried that one was too young to have a driving licence but being able to ask someone how old they are I discovered he was actually 27! The other one was a complete gentleman and had to save myself and the other girl from a French man with no concept of personal space and a very rude shop owner at one of the stops we made. I also got to taste Mate Tea! People here drink it loads and I was really curious about what it tasted like. It´s drunk by putting dried leaves of yerba mate into a pot and pouring hot water onto it and drinking through a metal straw. The bus driver offered us some and I would describe the taste as a mix of green tea and cigarette ashes...I dont think I will be drinking much more of this in my time here! The journey was fine and went quicker than I was expecting however when we reached Perito Moreno town I was glad we were only using it as a stop-over. The hostel was not nice and I had to share a room with a guy who didnt see it necessary to shower or deal with his trekking trainers appropriately. At the point at which he vaulted himself onto the top bunk above me and started waving his feet in my face I seriously considered sleeping outside but fortunately two dutch girls joined us and helped resolve the ventilation issue. The next day the bus journey was long and boring, we had a different bus, different drivers and the seats reclined far less so it was uncomfortable and hot. However we made it to Bariloche and decided to stay 3 nights/4 days in the town which is set in a beautiful lake district.

In Bariloche we did loads and it was a lot of fun. We were also joined by a guy from America who the girls met in their hostel in El Calafate. Day 1 we arranged a few tours and ended up climbing another mountain, taking the most vertical route possible (I think it was my fault). However at the top the views across the lakes were spectacular so it was worth it. On the way back we decided to try and hitch a ride down the long hill and ended up on the back of a pick-up truck driven by some really funny guys from Mendoza. They ended up taking us to a nearby town called Catedral where we had hot chocolate before taking us all the way back to Bariloche town. It was a very funny experience.

Day 2 we hired a car to drive around the 7 lakes in the national park, it was very easy to get the car and none of the rental places really cared about our licences or the fact they weren´t international! Having not driven for a few weeks it was great to get behind the wheel again even if it was on the wrong side of the car. Day 3 we went water rafting down a beautiful lake into Chile. This was soooo much fun, particularly as our instructor in the raft screamed all the instructions at us in Spanish so the whole experience involved a lot of physical and mental effort. This was followed by an all you can eat BBQ where I consumed at least a whole cow and possibly a full pig also. This was probably my favourite day of my travels so far, the scenary was again totally spectacular and I laughed so hard my stomach muscles are still hurting. That evening we went out in Bariloche to dance to reggaeton and laugh at the amount of mullets on show. Finally we ended up back in our hostel where one of the owners Luis made us cake and tea.

Now we are in Mendoza and i´m liking the feel of this place a lot. Tomorrow we are hiring some bikes and cycling round some of the vine yards where we will be doing wine tasting! Wednesday I think we are going horse riding in the mountains.

Have a glass of Mendozan wine for me in England!!

Posted by hanaldinho 18:30 Archived in Argentina Tagged mendoza Comments (5)

Trekking in Patagonia, Southern Argentina

El Calafate y El Chalten

sunny 18 °C

I´m taking South America for all its got! I actually think i´ve planned my itinerary quite well by balancing seeing the big towns and cities with time in between to soak up the beauty of this continent. I´ve spent the last few days trekking hard in Southern Patagonia, the physical exercise is really needed given my personal challenge to eat as many Argentinian cows as possible plus an unhealthy addiction i´ve developed for Dulce Leche. The beauty of this place really feeds my soul, at this particular moment in time every muscle in my body hurts, I´ve embraced the no make-up/completely windswept look but i feel wonderful. I´ve taken about five thousand photos of the Perito Moreno Glacier and Fitz Roy here in El Chalten and I dont think one really captures how stunning these places are, i really do need a better camera. Photos to follow when I get somewhere with decent internet connection.

So after arriving in El Calafate I explored the town which is small and not worth staying in for more than a day. I went down to the laguna and had an amusing moment with some locals watching a bird of prey try to attack and eat quite a large dog. The next day I visited the Perito Moreno glacier....oh my word, it´s amazing. And huge. The first time I saw the glacier was from the viewing balconies and it stretched back as far as I could see into the mountains, at different times of the day the colour changed from white to blue and it was gorgeous. Every so often a piece of the glacier would fall off into the water and it would sound like thunder, it actually made me worried about the amount melting off, i´m not as environmentally friendly as i should be but the thought of this glacier melting motivated me to be more responsible. But after learning more about the perito it apparently is quite stable, it moves 2 metres a day which is pretty crazy too. In the afternoon a group of us actually went onto the glacier and did some mini ice-trekking with these crazy spikes they attach to your shoes, it was so much fun.

Earlier in the day I´d started chatting to a girl who i discovered was from Holland and also travelling alone. Even better she seemed completely lovely and was travelling in the same direction as me. She told me she´d met a couple of girls from Israel who were also travelling my route so we agreed we´d try to travel at least as far as Bariloche together. A couple of the mini-trekking guides invited us out for a drink in El Calafate so we agreed to meet for drinks and check out the rocking nightlife in the town. OK so it wasnt really that rocking but it was an amusing night anyway. The girls from Israel were also really cool and fun, funnily enough i´d actually been introduced to them in Buenos Aires a few days before. A girl from Germany staying in my dorm also joined us and we had lots of interesting chats about boys, work and study. These girls have impressive jobs, one is a prosecutor in Germany, another a doctor, and another doing medical research. It really is nice spending time travelling with cool people, especially staying in places as beautiful as this - you need to share it with someone.

The girls and I took a 3 hour bus ride north from El Calafate to El Chalten on Friday and we´ve spent the last 4 days trekking in the national park here. El Chalten is beautiful and unpredictable, the weather is crazy. Yesterday we experienced sun, rain, and snow all in the same day and I cant quite explain how strong the wind gets. You can be walking down a steep hill leaning forward at about 90 degrees and the wind will still push you backwards. There are several long day treks you can do here, they take on average 8-9 hours a day and the advantage is it gets dark at around 10pm so loads of daylight for it. On Saturday the weather wasnt great but one of the girls and I decided to trek to one of the lagoons. We got totally lost, ended up climbing over two mountains and somehow ended up finding the path again (no thanks to me). Yesterday we all did the most popular hike to the base of the Fitz Roy, the last hour climb was really tough but we felt a big sense of achievement making it and rewarded ourselves with dulce leche cookies. Today my muscles were sooooo tired but I made myself do one last trek because tomorrow I will be on a bus for 2 days up to Bariloche so it was my last chance to get some walking in. I´m so glad I did, the weather today was really sunny and the best its been so far. I took a trail behind the mountains and had a complete moment with nature (think meadows full of yellow flowers, dense forrest and ice-cold lakes).

Last night was the first time since travelling where i got a full decent nights sleep, the last couple of dorms i´ve stayed in have had VERY loud snorers, it was driving me insane. In my current dorm there are two really cool girls from France who are doing the same route as me but opposite direction and a lovely guy from Buenos Aires who can speak as much English as I can Spanish so we have been having some funny conversations. Oh and over the weekend something funny happened...I was using the internet in my hostel when a girl accidentally pulled the plug of my computer out. When I went to see what had happened I realised it was Elspeth - a girl I worked with in Manchester who I was planning to meet up with in Brazil for Carnaval! Very funny and random.

So tomorrow I will take a TWO DAY BUS RIDE (urgh) to Bariloche, the girls and i are hoping for some sunshine so we can go swimming in the lakes and improve our tans. We shall see....

Thanks for the messages from people back home, really cool to hear from you. Lots of love xxx

Posted by hanaldinho 12:34 Archived in Argentina Comments (4)

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