A Travellerspoint blog

San Martin - Pucon - Santiago Part 1

Hola again!

Such a busy week or so and lots to report back on. From Bariloche we headed 4 hours north to the small Argentinian town of San Martin de los Andes which my questionable Spanish translates as ´San Martin of the Andes´. We weren´t expecting much from the town but it is a mini version of Bariloche and so suited our taste exactly.

We went up to the lookout on the first day although as usual the trails were not marked and you were left to your own devices to find the route to the top of the mountain. My boy-scout training came to the fore as i handily left strategic markers in the form of mis-shapen sticks along the way. Of course they proved of no use as we went a completely different way back down the mountain after finding the look out at the top. Nevertheless the views were stunning with the lakes, mountains and a small beach making San Martin postcard perfect. Back at the hostel we took advantage of being the ONLY guests by taking control of the Ping Pong table. Hannah played the role of Forrest Gump perfectly while myself, her opponent, took the role of Desmond Douglas / Carl Pern (look those names up on Wikipedia!). The ping pong was seriously addictive and before long we had worked up a bit of a sweat and the competitive spirit in us both threatened to de-rail the rest of the travelling!

On day 2 in San Martin, Phil "Eddie the Eagle" Dean and Hannah "Bodie Millar" Cockle once again donned the winter warmers and took to the slopes. It was a much more successful day. It is funny how there actually being snow can make a difference to the quality of skiing!

Skiing San Martin Cerro Chapelco resort

Skiing San Martin Cerro Chapelco resort

The resort was perfect for my limited skiing ability and Hannah´s piste map reading ability. It was small with lots of wide, red and blue runs. We had a great time and unfortunately for followers of the blog, there were no massive wipe-outs to report back! We both remained unscaythed, including from the button lift! and it was great to sport our Spidey hats again. When i say unscaythed, i went to bed that evening with stinging eye balls that resembled red snooker balls. We searched NHS direct and it turned out that it is possible to get sunburnt eyeballs! Maybe i should have worn sunglasses. Who was to know that white snow reflects sunlight into your eyes??

We moved onto Pucon and therefore back into Chile. We should have realised something was up when the bus journey took 2 hours more than it should have. Another warning sign was the name of the town, Poo-con. It was an absolute poo-filled con as the weather and town were rubbish! We had originally planned 5 nights there to enjoy all the outdoor acitvities on offer including climbing the volcano that overlooks the town. However we cut short our stay and tried to get as soon as possible.

Volcano Villaricca - Pucon

Volcano Villaricca - Pucon

Put it this way, we only actually managed to see the volcano once during our 3 days and you have to wait for good enough weather to climb the darned thing. Like Michael Fish on steroids, we checked the weather forecast constantly during our 3 days hoping for a break in the weather. It never came and we reluctantly decided that we were not going to be doing our Sir Ranulph Fiennes impressions and climb the volcano. We opted for a slightly softer option for an outdoor excursion than climbing the volcano... going to the hot springs. They were good although it was very, very dark. This was in order to create ambience and relaxation but in our minds it only created nervousness and apprehension as we wound each other up by pretending there were critters in the pool. At one point i put Hannah´s bikini strap on her head and she thought it was an eel!

We managed to get a bus out of Pucon a few days early but there was not many bus seats left so we were left with a "Classico" seat. Don´t let the romantic name fool you, this was not a great seat. It was made even less appealing when the man in front of Hannah started snoring incessantly. Hannah shook his chair so ferociously i seriously thought she had broken the guys neck!

Our mood improved dramatically when we got off the bus and started exploring Santiago. It is a truly amazing city. We spent the first morning getting acquainted with our new surroundings (and getting re-acquainted with an old friend named BKing). The city is the most modern city we have seen in South America. At the same time it is clean and safe with loads of atmosphere. We booked a walking tour for the second day and lucklily we were the only ones on the tour. This means we were able to bombard our unsuspecting English speaking guide with a million questions about Santiago, Chile and the rest of South America! It was a great 4 hour walking tour of the city. The history side of things was really interesting and then they showed us two central parks with amazing lookouts over the city. As you can just about detect from the pictures below, the city is surrounded by Andean peaks but these are often covered by smog and pollution from the city. Nevertheless, the city looked amazing from such a high viewpoint.

Santiago - view from San Cristobal Lookout

Santiago - view from San Cristobal Lookout

A stunning city and 2 stunning people

A stunning city and 2 stunning people

The plan for the next few days is to visit Valpairso (about 2 hours from Santiago) and then come back to Santiago for a football match at the weekend and some more sightseeing before flying to Auckland next Tuesday!

Spot the odd one´s out!

Spot the odd one´s out!

Happy Hannah!!

Happy Hannah!!

Posted by Phildean7 15:16 Archived in Chile Comments (1)

Bariloche

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The climate cooled dramatically as we moved 16 hours into deeper south argentina to arrive in Bariloche. A town named after an English fisherman by the name of Barry Loche. Not a lot of people know that.

Our hostel is the most impressive yet.

View from our hostel!

View from our hostel!

As you can see there was a flickering of snow which was enough to send us both into a state of mild hysteria at the prospect of skiing. We decided first to let the locals have their weekend fun on the mountains and set off on an intrepid bike ride described by the man in the bike shop as a "bit up and down". That was like describing Ric Waller as a "bit fat". During the ride itself i had to dismount about 5 times. My level of manliness hit new lows as Hannah had no trouble negotiating the 90 degree hills. Following her on a bike is like following a cross between The Terminator, Fatima Whitbread and Victoria Pendleton! She´s a machine! The scenery was well worth the effort. And we even managed to find a secluded beach spot for some lunch.

Cool helmet!!

Cool helmet!!

Stunning Bariloche scenery

Stunning Bariloche scenery

More stunning Bariloche scenery

More stunning Bariloche scenery

Thank goodness i had a days rest before we took to the slopes on Monday. It gave us enough time to recover and buy ourselves two matching spiderman hats. Without doubt we were set to be the coolest people to hit the white hills for quite some time. The skiing itself was, how can i put it... eventful! A champagne moment from the holiday so far came when we caught a red run down the mountain. It started off as a thin path which i proceeded to snow plough my way through. After 3 minutes of thigh-burning snow ploughing the snow on the "run" disappared and the red run turned into a "brown walk". We both had to unclip our skies and carry them through Glastonbury style mud for about 50 metres. It was stupid! At the bottom of the run the snow returned and we were faced with a steep runway to get us back to the main mountain. Hannah advised me that my trusty snow plough would be useless so i kamikazed straight down with faint echoes of "snow plough!" coming from Hannah behind me. I duly misheard and thought she was shouting "up mountain" so tried to change direction up the mountain at 50 mph - cue a 50 yard face plant into the muddy snow and much, much too much laughter from my unsympathetic wife! In all though the skiing was great fun. Not much snow down the bottom runs but well worth the day. We plan to ski again in San Martin on Friday. It would be a shame not to share the Spiderman hats with more of the Argentinian population.

Skiing!!!

Skiing!!!

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After skiing we noticed that the wind burn combined with our spiderman hats had left us with a strange burnt tattoo on our faces that provided lots of amusement for the people at the hostel.

Bariloche is a great little town. Hannah aptly described it as "being designed specifically for her". There is the skiing, the beautiful views, the lakes, the friendly people and of course the fact that every other shop is a chocolate shop! The smell the wafts through the high street is heaven. We have tried our best to obtain various free samples from the shops and have become regulars at one of the cupcake places in town.

Cupcake heaven!

Cupcake heaven!

The hot chocolate they serve is basically liquid chocolate. I have noticed that they serve this with a free glass of water because it is just too chocolatey. One evening we actually bought some chocolate and were delighted when the lady serving us implied that you could have as many chocolates as you could fit into the box. The choice was just too wide and the serving lady was pretty annoyed when we were still umming and aahing over our choices 20 minutes later. When we returned to the hostel with our chocolates we snuck them into our room where eating and drinking is forbidden. On the way back from the chocolate shop we had also thought of a cover story so we would not have to share them with anyone else in the hostel! That same evening i also saw a dog in the lift on it´s own! These stray dogs seriously get everywhere.

On our last day we got a gondola to a look out called Cerro Otto. At the top was a revolving cafe that gave you panaoramic views over the lakes and mountains. It was stunning although i managed to feel travel sick even though the cafe revolved once every twenty minutes and moved round at a snail´s pace. On the way back down the mountain the wind got up so the men operating the gondolas used heavy machinary to load up each gondola with a heavy rock before allowing me and Hannah to get in! It was not very comforting.

So that´s about it for Bariloche. Mountains, skiing fun, lake views, exhausting bike rides, too many cupcakes. But my favourite thing about Bariloche is...

An apt name?

An apt name?

Adios!

Posted by Phildean7 14:16 Archived in Argentina Comments (2)

Mendoza

From Cafayte we travelled 20 hours via Tucuman to reach Mendoza, wine country! We are definately getting used to the longer distance bus journeys as 20 hours does not seem that long to us now. Hannah spent the majority of the journey berating the man behind us for gurgling up phlegm for 18 of the 20 hours.

Mendoza is a fantastic small city. The central square is good with lots going on although it was dead when we first arrived on a Sunday morning. There are 4 other smaller plazas around the city which are also nice places to hang out. The whole city has a very welcoming atmosphere and we were glad we had 4 nights here.

Mountains and vineyards Mendoza

Mountains and vineyards Mendoza

You cant come to Mendoza without booking a wine tour. We duly obliged by bussing it to Maipu which is 30 minutes from the city centre. From here we found Mr Hugo's bikes which had been recommended to us by others. We got to meet the great man himself, Mr Hugo. He was a legend and turned into even more of a legend when he gave Hannah a bike with a basket on the front! On the wine tour, you make your own way round the wineries in the area. The first place was a wine museum but there was no Englihs guide so you had to make do with staring at huge wooden barrels. After 2 minutes this got tedious so we nabbed our complimentary free wine and headed to the chocolate / liquor making place. This was much better as we satisfied our tight fisted ways by takign advantage of the various free tastings on offer. As well as liquors there were olives, marmalades, and of course chocolates. The next winerry we went to was very swish. They showed us round and then talked us through the proper procedure for trying wines. We can now be snobby and pretentious and pretend that we know what we are talking about. Although later that day we found the wine they had given us for tasting for about 3 quid in the supermarket! When we got back to the bike shop Mr Hugo offered us a glass of free wine. Not wanting to be rude, we accepted and he brought out a jug of wine and poured us each about a pint!

Phil wine tasting Mendoza

Phil wine tasting Mendoza

Hannah wine tasting

Hannah wine tasting

We spent a lot of time in Mendoza enjoying the weather and the surroundings. One day we braved the bus to go to the cinema outside of town. Big mistake. Being cocky we thought we would get off at the stop closest to the cinema. We waited and waited scoffing our noses at people who got off 2 minutes walk from the cinema. 50 minutes later we were still sat on the same bus panicking as it took us deeper and depper into the suburbs. We completely missed the film and headed back to the city centre with our tail between our legs. The next day we did make it to the cinema, on foot.

It's been great to relax for a few days and we now head to Barioche, 17 hours south of here and hopefully the chance to go skiing!

Posted by Phildean7 12:20 Comments (2)

Cafayte - Mendoza

Update number two...

We are now in Mendoza having arrived from Cafayte on an overnight bus on Sunday morning (it is now Tuesday afternoon). As usual, the weather is amazing. A girl commented the other day how tanned we both were which is pleasing.

Cafayte was a great place to go and we were really pleased we made the effort to go there. It is a very small town surrounded by wineries and mountains and stunning scenery. We got in around midday, ate and then headed off to find a 10 metre waterfall about 5km out of town. The lonely planet describes the walk as moderate so we ventured off without a guide - a folloish mistake! There were no other walkers or hikers around and trying to follow the trail was nigh on impossible unless you had the scenting and hunting skills of a highly trained mountain fox!

How are you supposed to find the way to the waterfall on your own?

How are you supposed to find the way to the waterfall on your own?

With our tails between our legs, after 40 fruitless minutes we headed back to base camp to ask for a local guide to show us the way. Although he spoke no English, he was a legend! The "moderate walk" was more like a dangerous hike as we risked life and limb following our guide up and around mountains and rock faces that hung over the River Colorado 20 metres below! It was crazy that we had no safety equipment but made it all the more worthwhile.

Cacti on the walk - climb - caving expedition!

Cacti on the walk - climb - caving expedition!

At one point we had to meander our way through a gap inbetween some rocks that i swear was no bigger than a small child. Somehow the rubber-limbed guide managed to squeeze through and then he urged us to follow him! Hannah needed a bunk up and managed to get through after adjusting her rotound bottom to the correct angle! Then the guide practically pulled me through the gap after my feeble attempt nearly ended in a plummet into the river! But the two hour walk - hike - cave resulted in...

Found it! The 10metre waterfall. Worth it in the end!

Found it! The 10metre waterfall. Worth it in the end!

We dodged more bullets on the return to base and you can probably detect the delight (relief) at arriving safely back home...

Our guide and us! Check out the legendary hat!

Our guide and us! Check out the legendary hat!

Seeing as danger was now our middle names, Indiana Dean and his faithful assistant Hannah Jones set off on a 50km bike ride through the stunning Cafayte valleys the very next day. The lonely planet had warned us to set off in the morning as the winds "got up" in the afternoon. Ignoring their advice we clicked the snooze button on our alarm and started the ride at about 11:30am. The first hour was stunning.

Scenery on Cafayte 50km bike ride. Did i mention it was 50km?

Scenery on Cafayte 50km bike ride. Did i mention it was 50km?

Country road take me home...

Country road take me home...

Then, out of nowhere, it got stupidly windy. My lightweight frame was knocked off my bike several times by the wind and the dust. We were supposed to stop for a lovely lunch on the roadside but the wind was seriously strong and would have made crisp eating an extreme sport, so we tackled the remaining 35km in one Lance Armstrong-esque effort!

Stunning Cafayte scenery

Stunning Cafayte scenery

By the end of it my bum was aching so much it hurt to get out of my bike seat. I moaned all the way for the last 5km but was rewarded with an ice cream (helados) at the end. The ride was better and more entertaining than we expected. The lonely planet had got it´s revenge after we slagged it off for giving us duff advice about the waterfall walk the previous day.

Our hostel in Cafayte is nice. One of the most sociable ones we have been too. We met another couple and played some Uno. I couldn´t do a blog update without including this photo, Daddy Dean would be proud...

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After 2 nights in Cafayte we started a marathon 20 hour - 2 bus journey to Mendoza. We started at 6am Saturday, changed buses in Tucuman before overnighting it to Mendoza and arriving at 8.30am Sunday morning. Mendoza is a stunning city which i will update soon about...

Posted by Phildean7 11:25 Archived in Argentina Comments (2)

San Pedro de Atacama - Salta, Argentina

Well, it´s been a very hectic few weeks and a we have not had time to update the blog for a while so this is the first of two installments over the next few days...

After the Salt Flats we headed to Chile for the first time. As soon as you come through the border you notice straight away you are in a more developed country. We felt sorry for Bolivia as it has the same natural resources as Chile but noting to show for them.

Atacama - the town itself is right next to the border. It is a brilliant liitle town. Perfect after the salt flats as it gave us a play to relax in amazing surroundings. The town itself, like everyhwere in South America, has a great central square.

San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

Around the town there are mountains and obviously the Atacama desert. There are no paved roads or pavements, just dusty streets. It is like the wild west! It is expensive though, most expensive place we will go in South America we think. We stayed at a great hostel - Campo Base (classic name!).

There were loads of activities to do. On the Saturday, we hired bikes and rode through the Devil´s Throat (a gigantic rock formation) which they call a gorge - what´s a gorge? Is this like Cheddar Gorge?

Hannah ver Magnusson

Hannah ver Magnusson

Onw night we went on the Star Tours expediition which was great. They took us about 6km out of town into the desert where some astronemer talked to us about the stars and planets. We then went outside and looked through 9 different telescopes that showed us loads of cool things in the sky. We saw Jupiter, Venus, the Milky Way and other galaxies. Apparently, the Atacama desert is the best place in the world to see the stars and planets. The sky is certainly ridiculously clear at night.

While we were in Atacama, we also went to a floating Lagoon. The lagoon was in the middle of the desert and freezing cold but we braved it and went it. The lagoon is very salty water so for once in my life i was able to float! It was a cool sensation.

Laguna in middle of Atacama desert

Laguna in middle of Atacama desert

Sunset Atacama desert

Sunset Atacama desert

Atacama was definately one of the best places we have been too. Loads to do and a great atmosphere and there was a great place for chicken and chips!

After 3 nights in Atacama, we went to Salta in Argentina - a 10 hour bus ride. The bus ride was very scenic, through the mountains. There is not much to do in Salta. And it is raining and quite dreary so we moved on after one night to Cafayte - 4 hours away and much, much nicer. Blog update to follow soon...

Posted by Phildean7 10:36 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

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