Archive for the ‘Argentina’ Category

Iguazu Falls

Posted: April 10, 2013 in Argentina, Photos, South America

Iguazu National Park

Posted: April 10, 2013 in Argentina, South America

Three weeks after leaving the southernmost city in the world, and after travelling 5,700km on some of the world’s most comfortable buses, we arrived at Puerto Iguazu, a small town close to the Brazilian and Paraguyan border.  The city was our penultimate stop in our adventure in Argentina, and was driven by Mirella’s passionate desire to see the waterfalls that are just 20km from town.

The waterfalls, over 270 of them, are of course Iguazu Falls, and are found inside an amazing national park in northern Argentina.  We spent the first afternoon in town wandering about, having a late lunch, and then deciding that dinner would be some of the best ice-cream we have ever had, which is saying something in a country where the locals are fanatical about ice-cream!

The next morning we were up bright and early, as we wanted to beat as much of the crowd as possible (it is a park that deservedly is packed most days).  We were the first people in to the park, and we headed straight for “the Devil’s Throat”, the most popular view of the falls in the park.  Along the way, we were lucky enough to see some guinea pigs and a capybara.

The Devil's Throat

The Devil’s Throat

After a quick train ride, we walked out across a series of metal boardwalks that take you over the river for over a kilometre to get to the photo above.  The power of the falls was incredible, and we both got completely soaked by the spray coming off the thousands of litres of water that poured over the edge of the cliff.

The next few hours were spent walking around more metal boardwalks viewing many of the falls in the park.  The infrastructure was excellent, and made viewing really easy.  We were stalked by coati’s for our lunch, whilst they look cute, they had some serious claws!

Coati

Coati

After lunch, we headed down for another must-do whilst in the park, a 12 minute boat ride that gets you up close and personal to some of the falls.  This was Mirella after the boat tour:

Soaked!

Soaked!

Boat tour done, we decided to squeeze in one more walk before calling it a day, and I am so glad we did.  We headed out on the only nature trail open to the public, a 3km walk to a small waterfall with no boardwalks, and therefore much less people.  And we were lucky enough to spot one great bird, and a big troop of monkeys.

Toucan

Toucan

Black-Capped Capuchin

Black-Capped Capuchin

A really great day in one of the best parks in Argentina, we returned back to the hotel exhausted after plenty of walking, and are now looking forward to our last long distance bus ride in Argentina, from Iguazu back to where we started over two months ago, Buenos Aires.

Iguazu

Iguazu

More photos in the gallery above!

After a great bus ride with Crucero Del Norte (including dinner with whiskey and champagne!), we arrived in Cordoba for a couple of days, as we make a bee-line for Iguazu Falls from Patagonia.  We had thought this city would be a good midpoint for our long journey from the South of Argentina.

Cordoba

Cordoba

The city is the 2nd largest in Argentina, yet it feels far more relaxed than the distant capital.  Surrounded by mountains, it had a great vibe, and has a world heritage site in the centre, a set of Jesuit buildings that are approx 500 years old.

We spent the first day chilling out after our overnight bus ride, enjoying Easter Sunday with a big lunch and dinner.  The next day we jumped on a bus for an hour out to a small town called Alta Gracia, famous for housing another world heritage site, a Jesuit church.

Alta Gracia

Alta Gracia

Alta Gracia

Alta Gracia

Wandering around the church and surrounds was a great way to spend half a day,  and then we headed back to explore the 2nd world heritage site of the day.

The Jesuit quarter in Cordoba was also excellent, and we took in old buildings and churches over a four hour walk around town.

Cordoba

Cordoba

The next day we got on another long distance bus, heading overnight from Cordoba to San Ignacio, in the north of Argentina.  As an aside, the bus system in this country is phenomenal, every bus we have taken has been on time, clean, super comfortable (equivalent to business class on a plane!), with movies in English, simply brilliant.

We arrived in to San Ignacio the next morning, and the temperature change was dramatic.  We were now in the jungle, and the humidity, heat and mosquitos were testament to weather that could not have been more different from just a few days ago on top of the mountain range in Bariloche!

Our reason for stopping in San Ignacio was to take in another world heritage site, San Ignacio Mini, a Jesuit ruin from the 1600’s.  The ruins are spread over Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina, and Mini is the best preserved in Argentina.  Unfortunately as Aussie’s we need a visa for the other two countries and we did not have the inclination to go through the visa process.

The town is super sleepy, which suited us down to the ground.  We headed straight for the ruins as the weather was great, and they were a fantastic site.

San Ignacio

San Ignacio Mini

We spent a few hours wandering around the ruins, and then had a siesta before returning for a light and sound show that is displayed on and around the ruins each night, it was very cool!

San Ignacio Mini Light Show

San Ignacio Mini Light Show

The next day we chilled out, as it poured down with torrential rain, and all that remains now is a quick 4 hour bus ride to Puerto Iguazu, the jumping off point for us to see one of the seven natural wonders of the world, Iguazu!

More photo’s in post below from the Jesuit trail…..enjoy!

Esquel to Bariloche

Posted: April 7, 2013 in Argentina, South America

After drying out from a huge soaking in Los Alerces NP, we left Esquel and headed north to a small town called El Bolson.  We went primarily to see the market that is held three times a week, and to take in the scenery of the surrounding area.

El Bolson

El Bolson

The market was similar to many hippy markets around the world, for those that have seen Nimbin in Oz, it was a carbon copy halfway around the world!  Replete with many dreadlocks and food stalls selling the cheapest food in the country, and the smell of a certain herb prevalent, it was a fun way to spend an hour, for the people watching value alone.

We then went for a walk out of town, and the picture above shows the scenery we were immersed in.  A good day in Bolson.

The next day we moved on to Bariloche, a city I had never heard of prior to arriving in Argentina.  A quick cursory read on the Internet quickly brought me up to speed.  A city sandwiched between a beautiful lake and towering mountains, a massive ski field just 20km from town, some of the best hiking in northern Patagonia, and a town famous for its chocolate, ice cream and gnomes.  Sound good?

It was AWESOME!

We spent a week in and around Bariloche.  Unbelievably, we had fluked the timing so that we were there the week before Easter.  What better place to be then the capital of chocolate in Argentina?

Oh, and this is a sample of how the Lake District looks:

Bariloche

Bariloche

The first few days were spent in a gorgeous four star hotel overlooking Lake Nahuel Huapi.  Finally, after the challenges of a very expensive Southern Patagonia, we had the Flashpacking back on track!  For the same price as a hostel in Ushuaia, we had a gigantic room with slate floors, a huge King size bed, a bathroom about the size of the aforementioned double room in Ushuaia, and the hotel had a swimming pool, sauna and gym!

So, a few days of rest and relaxation ensued, and we discovered that Bariloche is indeed very good at making some of the best chocolate in the world, and the ice cream is to die for….

We spent a day on top of Cerro Campanario, renowned by National Geographic as having one of the best ten views in the world.

Cerro Campanario

Cerro Campanario

After a great few days in and around Bariloche, including the best steak we have ever had (sorry Mr Bates!) at Alto el Fuego (twice!), we rented a car and headed north.  We primarily thought of renting the car to do the Seven Lakes route, a famous drive past some incredible scenery north of Bariloche, to a small town called San Martin de los Andes.  A bit of internet research led me to believe that there was something even better just past San Martin, in Lanin NP…

Seven Lakes Route

Seven Lakes Route

The Seven Lakes route lived up to the hype, as around every twist and turn on the road there were stunning vistas.  We did a hike in Los Arrayanes NP along the way, famous for one of the last surviving tracts of the Arrayanes tree, only found here in Argentina and in Japan.

Arrayanes NP

Arrayanes tree

We pushed on from San Martin de los Andes, to a small town called Junin de los Andes, and had a great lunch of fresh river trout.  We then headed along a very long, dusty dirt road to Lanin NP, home of the Volcano Lanin.

Lanin NP

Lanin NP

Absolutely amazing scenery, and at the end of the road a great campsite for the night, with a great view from the tent.

Lanin NP

Lanin NP

After some great hiking and scenery, we drove back to Bariloche, and headed out for a hike to Refugio Frey.  Considered one of the best hiking areas in all of Patagonia, it did not disappoint.

Refugio Frey

Refugio Frey

We took a chairlift/gondola combination from Catedral up to 2000m above seal level, and then hiked for a few hours through some amazing alpine scenery.

Refugio Frey

Refugio Frey

We then made our way to the campsite, for an amazing sunset (and pizza at the Refugio, how good to get a cooked meal in the middle of nowhere!).

Refugio Frey

Refugio Frey

The next day we hiked down to Catedral, and hopped on a quick bus to Bariloche, and ate far too many Easter eggs and ice cream for one last time!

We head to Cordoba next, a short 1500km away on an overnight bus, photos of Bariloche and the Lake district in the post below…

After a couple of glorious nights in a three star hotel in Esquel, a small town in the Lakes District of Argentina, we headed off in to Los Alerces National Park.  It is a small park in northern Patagonia, not heavily visited as Bariloche and Nahuel Huapi NP is up the road a couple of hundred kilometres away.  The reason for our visit was to see the Lahuan or Abuelo tree, one of the oldest in the world after the Bristlecone Pine and the Giant Sequoia’s.  The oldest tree in the park is 2600 years old!  Trying to imagine the fact that this tree has been around since Roman times is staggering.

There were a few challenges to us seeing this particular tree.  The first was that we arrived in Esquel on the weekend, and nothing was open, so we were armed with little information (apart from what the Internet could tell us).  We knew there was a boat trip needed to get to the ancient tree, and that it ran on a Wednesday, and we also knew there was no bus to where the boat left from.  Other than that it was hop on the bus and see what happens!

Upon arrival at the park, the ranger at the information desk confirmed that we had hit a significant snag in our quest to see the old tree.  It was 36km up the road through the park to get to the beginning of a 4km walk to the jetty to take the 22km boat ride to the 650m walk to see the 2600 year old tree.

The issue was there was no bus to take us the 36km up the road, the rest was easy.

Mirella took the news well that she would be hitchhiking for the first time in her life in the middle of nowhere in Argentina, despite being taught at a young age (as most of us have been) to never, ever hitchhike as you could be killed and dismembered by a crazy person.

We spent the first day in the park doing some simple walks, the scenery speaks for itself.

Alerce National Park

Alerce National Park

So, up bright and early on day two, and out to the main road to hitchhike.  After 30 minutes or so, a man was kind enough to stop, a local kayak guide, who was going 33km up the road to work.  Fantastic!  We spent the next hour chatting away in broken English and Spanish, and things were looking great, the tree would be ours!

We spent the rest of the day hiking around a new section of the park, including a gut busting climb to this viewpoint.

Alerce National Park

Alerce National Park

Collapsing in to the tent that night, all seemed well for the next day and a boat ride to the ancient tree….

The last day in the park started well, up in the rain, packed up soaking wet tent (it weighs a lot more when soaked in water!), and a quick 4km walk to the boat launch.  We began to get nervous over the last 500m as we started passing hordes of Argentinians who appeared to be heading to the same place.  Upon arrival at the jetty our fears were confirmed, the boat was sold out!  The ticket collector said grab a seat, you never know your luck, 2 people may no-show.

So we sat for an hour waiting and hoping, and sure enough two people did not arrive!  On we went on the hour cruise, and finally we saw the ancient tree!

Tree hugger

Tree hugger

Although not officially allowed to be hugged, we figured if it can last 2600 years of human interaction, surely a hug from Mirella can only make it happier?

The rain poured down again at the end of the day, and a final soaking whilst waiting for 15 minutes for the bus back to Esquel could not wipe the smiles off our faces, we had an amazing time in Los Alerces National park!

The gallery below is a smattering of shots in the park, enjoy.

Upon our return from Antarctica, we were keen to stretch our legs, and Ushuaia was kind enough to provide an awesome national park just 12km from town, Tierra Del Fuego.  The weather was looking good, so we kitted up, and headed out for a couple of days hiking, and a couple of nights camping.  One of the options for getting to the park is an old steam engine that was used for many years to transport prisoners, so of course we were on to that in a flash!

Train to end of the world

Train to end of the world

After hopping off the hour journey, we set out to combine a couple of short hikes en route to our campsite at Lake Roca.  The weather was amazing, and the views spectacular.

Tierra Del Fuego

Tierra Del Fuego

Some of the coldest camping I have ever done ensued over the next two nights, with ice forming inside the tent on our second night, creating stalactites from the roof that rained down on us in sub-zero temperatures!

After a great couple of days hiking, we headed back in to town, organised a bus ride to Esquel, a mere 34 hours away, and then set out for one last adventure doing a cruise along the Beagle Channel.  The weather could not have been any better, the channel was a glass mirror and there was not a cloud in the sky, Mirella continues to work her magic on the Patagonian conditions!

Lift off - Albatross

Lift off – Albatross

We are now safely ensconced in Esquel, a small town in Northern Patagonia.  We will spend a couple of nights in this sleepy town, getting our clothes clean and drying out the very wet tent!  Our plan is then to head in to Los Alerces National Park, with a series of lakes and some of the oldest trees on the planet to explore.

End of the road

End of the road