A Travellerspoint blog

Chile - here we come

Santiago de Chile, Valparaiso and Viña del Mar

semi-overcast 25 °C
View Year Off 2007 on Lejla's travel map.

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Ok, next country on the go. The longest country of the world and i presume the thinest (4000km long, 180 km wide) - hope i didn´t make this up completely, we only intend to stay for a short while as it is more expensive here and we were told that the food is crap. Well, in Santiago we stayed in SA best hostel, voted for in 2006 and the location was good, could have been the Soho of Chile. We enjoyed strolling around the city, going for great Thai food and were proven wrong and you can actually find other food than burgers and chips and though more expensive than Argentina, still good value for money.

Santiago de Chile: not sure whether you want to know this, but they have 250,000 dogs producing 40tonnes of dog shit every day (indeed i am fascinated by dogs in South America). Apart from that they have some great hill/mountains in the middle of town. So, great 2 days.

BTW - got conned by fake students on our first day in Santiago, somehow they got us with this weird sounding story that since Pinochet students are really poor people and to finance their studies they come together to distribute poems to tourists. Their US $200 pay a month work as students does´t fund the uni.....bla bla bla, we didn´t give them too much money, but hey...you are warned of them in every tourist leaflet, but it just clicked too late for us.

Valparaiso: Port town. approx. 1 hrs from Santiago and the first impression we have is that of a pretty poor place we don´t particularly like, probably as we were still waiting for good weather, but once the sun came out, we head for the beach in Viña, check apparently the best seafood in the country and have some nice strolls on the Cerro Allegro and Cerro Conception. After 4 days we definitely fell in love with this place...The hostel we stay in was owned and refurbished by the author of the Chilean Footprint autor who helped us to get into the vibe of this place. (London guy who even new Haydons Road...how small is the world).

We go for some runs and try not to be too ignorant and wanting to learn stuff about the countries we visit, we go to the house (now a musuem) of Pablo Neruda who is one of only 2 chilean Noble Prize Winners. Great stuff to stroll through somebodies house who is actually famous. I tell you, great views he got from the study !!!!

Viña del Mar is literally next door to Valparaiso. Buses and a posh tube system connect the two and Viña is like the Chelsea of London whereas Valparaiso is the Camden part..., but it is Valparaiso with its quirky bohemian arty touch which is far more interesting with its hills, murals and cable cars....

Posted by Lejla 13:11 Archived in Chile Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Again down south - Patagonia

..for glaciers, icebergs and huge mountains

all seasons in one day 10 °C
View Year Off 2007 on Lejla's travel map.

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It is quite late to go to Patagonia at this time of the year as it is pretty far south, but if not now when will we come again....so let´s make sure we get the best out of it now. Despite an early start of the winter as they say (it is still autumn) this whole area of Argentina is amazing. Pampa everywhere you turn. It is a rough country side, windy, lots of condors arounds and well why are we exactly here - of course to see the Perito Moreno Glacier and famous Fitz Roy mountain (never heard of it before the trip..but i am not an expert hiker as we know).

First stop: El Calafate... probably didn´t exist more than 50 years ago. Nice smallish touristy place and the gateway (80km) to the Parque Nationales des los Glaciares. We book a promo for the next day - Day 1 Trip to Perito Moreno with a short trekking - and Day 2 more glaciers Upsala, Spagezzi and the Bahia Orla on a Catamaran.

I can´t really add much comentary - i think the pictures talk for themselves. This is just an amazing, asthonishing and beautifull trip despite the freezing temperatures.

Next stop: El Chalten - four hours coach journey, the 3rd early morning in the row (really can´t do 6 o´clocks, always hated them) and we arrive in no mans land. 400 people live in this "village" off season, 2 people who live here are originally from this village, no paved streets, mobiles don´t work...it is cold, very cold and windy and why are we here ?? Trekking, i love it, Simon hates it, but needs to be done ! We know who is wearing the trousers ...only until i get socked in wet snow.

So, no bookings. You just get a map from the local rankers, take you backpack, some food and your legs and walk as much as you can to get to see Fitz Roy. Well we never managed it, our attempt has to be abadonned after we get soaked as we don´t have waterproof trousers and the snow is just too much. Nevermind, some of you got postcards...

Again, met some nice interesting people, bumped into people we met before and had an interesting time in this part of the world, but craving for at least warmer weather now, hence we head to Chile, Santiago de Chile via Buenos Aires as i found a good deal, only to pick up a new debit card in one of the many HSBCs in BA.

Posted by Lejla 12:56 Archived in Argentina Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Uruguay - smallest country in SA

Colonia de Sacramento, Punta del Este and Montevideo

semi-overcast 20 °C
View Year Off 2007 on Lejla's travel map.

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It´s been nearly 4 weeks for me in Argentina, so it is time to tick off another country on the map and why not Uruguay which the Argentinians rather treat as another province than an independant country. Well, on the map it looks tiny and what are about 3.3m inhabitants if you are squeezed between Argentina and Brazil.

We start in Colonia de Sacramento (2 nights) as this is the easiest place to get to from Buenos Aires. It is literally a 1hrs ferry ride with the great Buquebus over the neverending River Plata seeming like the sea - as it is enormous, but it is actually a river (huge and brown though).

Colonia is old and colonial. We head for the beach and a run, we are actually here to top up our tans, but forget it, it is raining and raining (which some of you might have already read in the blog Simon sent out). A little bit depressing, but what can you do. I learned this living for 6 years in the UK, don`t get moody only because it is raining. On day 2 we go for a nice walk and find this amazing restaurant called "The Drugstore" and hey, the world looks different after a lentil stew and 1 1/2 liters of Sangria.

Punta del Este (4 nights): After 2 nights we decide to pack it in for more action in the St. Tropez of South America, where models, politicans and VIP hang out in the summer (surrounded by Paparazzi) to find more beach (weather). Punta is a peninsula, the season is over, so that we don`t see a face arriving in the rain. 2 blocks down the road is our hostel 1949 where we check in and enjoy having our own TV with some english / american channels which makes all the difference if you haven´t watched TV for nearly 6 weeks.

The Hostel has a great location, really in the midst of 2 beaches and close to the beautiful port (sealions !!!) and we make some good friends on the first night. We were really off to bed, but somehow started chatting to some interesting people who asked us to join them for some dinner and since then we made friends with Nina from HH, Frank from Canada and a great bunch of english (croydon) and Aussies - we have been bumping into ever since....

So, finally, it is party time in Punta del Este as the weather is still not good enough for beaching, hence we drink, chat and meet different guys in the local Moby Dick. The next morning or should i say day, as you tend to sleep in Punta forever and ever (it is the only hostel i have found so far, offering breakfast until 12pm) apparently something to do with the air here...or is it me and the fact i love sleeping forever (...hence another good reason to travel and not to work).

Once the sun comes out, we don`t move from the beach. Our books become our best friends, we just leave the beach to get some lunch and as our new friends decided to leave we spend some time on our own. Still going for the odd run and sightseeing (mainly house spotting as they have some fantastic and some odd places here).

Next stop Montevideo (2nights):
Again a fairly short bus ride, we head for the capital of Uruguay and check in the Che Lagado hostel on the Plaza Independencia. Close to the gateway to the old town, we meet extremly nice staff in the hostel, go for food as we can afford it now (old town, after expensive Punta) and my only effort to start cooking was viciously penalised. I fancied some easy scrammbled eggs and opened the pack only to see dozens of small but horrendous looking worms crawling out of the eggs i just had purchased...i know now need to elaborate any further, or ?? Hope i didn´t put you off.....hey, it is far away...

Montevideo has a huge port, but we mainly head for the beach before flying off to cold and windy Patagonia.

Posted by Lejla 11:18 Archived in Uruguay Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Back to Buenos Aires

...a good couple of weeks here

sunny 27 °C
View Year Off 2007 on Lejla's travel map.

Well, hola again...i should really be writing in spanish going forward now that i mastered my 2 week spanish course (school was recommended to me by a SAP colleague from Germany and what surprise.. loads of german and swiss students hanging around).

BUT first things first:
Last days with mum:
Back from the Lake District, it is hostel time for Lejla and Ljubi and we choose the Hostel Obelisco, pretty central for the last 3 nights together. We have done most of the sightseeing on our first BA leg, hence i start my spanish course straight the next day whereas Ljubi has to make up her mind whether she is too scared of BA on her own or whether she masters this jungle of a city on her own. She goes for the second option and i meet her after the first 4 hours spanish school at the Puerto Madero for lunch and beers and that´s pretty much what we do for the next three days until it is a very very sad day. Wednesday the 14th of march and it has been literally 4 weeks, day and night we spent together, it is time to say good bye for now. Strange feeling, but this day was supposed to come, one way or the other and why not have it come on a highlight, when we enjoyed it the most...and i stopped nagging and teasing her...

Ljubi arrives in London approx. 20 hours later and makes her way to Germany the day after while i start enjoying my time on my own before Simon comes.

Time on my own: i decided to move hostels, go completely low budget in a dormitory in the Tango Inn Hostel in the San Telmo district. Time flew and i must admit that i had a great time with a lovely group of students coming to BA to improve their spanish, some people i met in the hostel and of course tango dancing. Well students..Helga from Germany is 66 and she amazed with her attitude to life and learning. Couldn´t believe how switched on she was....and all sorts of characters, you could start writing a book about. Once out of school i tried about 5 different tango schools with beginner lessons, private lessons to improve this really really difficult dance and i tell you, it was hard work. Naively, I thought you just need to learn the sequence of some steps and bob´s your uncle, but i was proofed completely wrong. It is all about posture and your body...even the wonderful new shoes didn´t help - it is just a painful start as with most things in life.

I decided to come back to BA (not sure when exactly this is supposed to be, but let´s keep it as a thought) !!!! Meanwhile I arranged to meet up with Julia (german chic who recommended spanish and tango schools) as were at the same time in BA in one of the famous milongas. As i never met her before and didn´t know how she looks like, i was sitting on my own until a local guy asked me to dance. I don´t know why my confidence level for this split second was on a high, but i said yes, thinking i don`t know anybody here, if i embarass myself and ......i can´t tell you how embarassing it was. I was literally walking on his feet and didn´t feel the floor at all. No need to write more ! He avoided me for the rest of the evening and i didn´t make any eyecontact with anyboday who fancied a dance.

Time with Simon:
Well, the little one finally made it after a couple of hick ups at home Hence, instead of starting our trip in a cheap hostel, we decided to start the whole thing upmarket with a boutique hotel in Palermo Veijo which is THE place to be, go, live, eat....in Buenos Aires. Simon was half impressed with the hotel, pretty impressed with Palermo and the happiest i have seen him for a long time, when he finished his first asado or was it a lomo (rumpsteak or filetsteak),
but the biggest smile on his face was the breakfast encounter: some actor he adores playing a rough irish guy in SHAMELESS (Paddy Mc...). Well, must have chosen a good hotel in the end, or ? We enjoyed the hotel and Palermo, but after 3 days of rest and luxury, it was time to think BUDGET and we moved to the cheap end of the city, back to the life of hostels.

Posted by Lejla 21:47 Archived in Argentina Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Lake District Bariloche - Southamerica´s Switzerland

..called Braziloche in the winter and a city smelling of chocolate

semi-overcast 15 °C
View Year Off 2007 on Lejla's travel map.

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Also check http://www.simonlejla.spaces.live.com
Oh, this is now a while back, so i have to start digging deep trying to remember, but one thing is for sure - the 5 days we had in this beautiful part of Patagonia will remain in my memories for a very very long time.

Ljubi and i decided to bite the bullet and slash out an additional 170 pounds per head to see the place "every Argentian wants to visit once in his life": Bariloche" - don´t quote me on this one, Ljubi read it in a german travel book.

In particular when i read that there is a nice and cosy hostel run by a slovenian family i decided this is destiny as 1) we could speak in "serbo croat" with them after all the fiasco in Brazil and if not 2) we could speak to the son in law who is german. By the time i read the sentence that we could decide for half board and be fed central european cuisine, i knew what we could expect. This would be like going home and being spoilt.

A short taxi ride from our hotel on a boiling day in BA to the local aeroparque which is much easier to get to than the international Eizeza airport...two hours later ...and a bit...(haven´t seen a flight on time in this country so far) we arrived in Bariloche. The airport was in the middle of nowhere (this reminds me of the last BB session.."Jade sits in no where") and i wondered where all the beautiful 9 lakes were and the amazing country side as all i could see out of the plane looked more like some sort of "Steppe" (yes guys you need to learn german again) or kind of desert with nothing really growing. Reminded me actually of landing at Split airport.

Our pickup somehow didn´t work and we arranged a cab to take us to "Katy`s Hosteria" (hosteria kind of translating into B&B). First thing i learned was that in Bariloche you won´t find any street names and numbers as such, obviously there are street names, but that´s not how you tell a taxi driver where you want to go, but that you actually tell him, how many kilometers from Bariloche you are staying. As we decided that we wanted to go for the full monty, relaxation pur, no city, no noise, no telephone and internet, Katy´s Hostel 24.3km from Bariloche seemed the perfect destination.

Set on the Llao Llao peninsula, this part of the world is magic. Never thought i would be such a nature bunny, but i just enjoyed our walks, strolling through natural parks, taking a boat ride on the famous lago de Nahuel Huapi, going for runs and passing one of the most famous hotels and obviously getting lost after misreading the map.

Well, by now i got over it and can admit it, but i am sure that mum hated me inbetween even after tremendous views we got, she was just exhausted after 12km and pretty happy that a bus turned up to take us back home (which only shows every 2 hours and was packed until the last standing space). The only other option would have been hitchhiking which is a no go, but what do you do when you are stuck in the country side....nothing too worry now as we did get the bus :-).

Bariloche town is nothing too special, except the chocolate you can buy at every corner and i must admit i had the best ever hot chocolate in my life.

Overall this trip was particularly special, because oft the special hospitality from Katy, Tone, Andriana and Dirk. We loved chilling in the beautiful hosteria with the beautiful gardens, hence eating organic home grown salads - excuse me where do you get that!! Dirk has also got his own travel agency specialising on Patagonia, hence great for chats to get tips for the rest of my trip with Simon. The hosteria is currently not in the Lonely planet, but the South america handbook and i urgently need to write a good review for them as that´s pretty much how you decide on where to stay in SA.

Highlights:

Day 1: settling in and enjoying Kati´s great 3 course dinner
Day 2: making most of the sunshire, experiencing the country side and getting lost
Day 3: too knackered for any world changing events, taking a bus to Bariloche for hot chocolate and developing the first set of pictures
Day 4: Boat trip on the famous Nahuel Huapi to Isla Victoria
Day 5: Cerro Otto, taking a cute red austrian gondola to a circling confiteria on the mountains, more hot chocolate
Day 6: heading back to BA.

Posted by Lejla 19:00 Archived in Argentina Tagged ecotourism Comments (2)

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