Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Desde la Patagonia...(20-24/ene/06)

Muy buenas a todos. Ya dejamos la gran ciudad para viajar y bajar por la costa de Argentina lo cual implica muuuchas horas de bus. La Patagonia Argentina se caracteriza por sus inmensas y casi desérticas llanuras en las cuales no habita más que el viento. El terreno es muy árido y solo crecen arbustos silvestres. Paramos en Península Valdés para ver la curiosa fauna marina: leones marinos (son de coña y apestan!), elefantes marinos (unas enormes moles grises no muy atractivas...en esta época del año están cambiando el pelo y se pasan semanas tirados en la orilla a la bartola unos encima de otros...son bastante peculiares...), pingüinos magallánicos (son geniales!) y orcas asesinas acechando a los leones marinos (son preciosas!). Por el camino también vimos fauna terrestre, todo tipo de animalillos nuevos para nosotros la gente de ciudad...

La siguiente parada fue Rió Gallegos desde donde, después de una noche en un camping que recordaba un poco a la peli de Psicosis partimos para Puerto Natales en Chile donde nos encontramos ahora.

Es una gozada y un lujo poder hablar con todo el mundo sin tener que preocuparte del idioma. Al igual que lo es tener todo el tiempo del mundo y poder hacer lo que te plazca en cada momento sin tener el agobio de pensar que se te acaban las vacaciones y tienes que verlo todo en 2 semanas.

Mañana nos embarcamos en un trekking de 7-8 días en Torres del Paine, un parque nacional del que hablan maravillas. Creo que va a ser un poco palizón porque cargamos con la mochila, la tienda y comida para toda la semana...ya os contaremos a la vuelta...

Hasta entonces muchos besos a todos y a cuidarse!

Entry into Chile (21-24/Jan/06)

Puerto Natales, Chile

Saturday was a day of rest round Puerto Madryn. Not much to do, and it's a pretty ugly town, so we just sunbathed a bit and read. On Sunday we took the local bus for an hour South to Trelew, and from there a quick afternoon trip to Gaiman, an old Welsh settlement. The local Welsh descendants seemed to have picked up the siesta habit and weren't out in force. At all in fact. A bit of a ghost town with token "typical Welsh houses" (but mostly following the typical square block of concrete that is the typical Argentinian Patagonia architecture) and lots of signs for "Welsh tea" in interesting Celtic typography, with lots of Cs, Ws and Ys. Jumped in a canal (a defining feature of Gaiman) to cool off, took a couple of pictures, and got the bus back to Trelew. From there we took the night bus to Rio Gallegos.

Monday. The plan was to go to Ushuaia, the Southernmost town in the world, take the Southernmost train in the world to the Southernmost national park in the world. But that meant 3 nights in Rio Gallegos which wasn't an exciting prospect (yup, more concrete, unexciting scenery, and not much to do but find out why the Falklands belong to the Argentinians at the local museum), so decided to skip it (sorry Dan!) and go to Torres del Paine in Chile instead. We will probably visit Ushuaia in the future though, but by plane, either in a couple of weeks from el Calafate, or next Dec/Jan if we go to Antartica. So we spent the day in Rio Gallegos, watched Narnia (NOT recommended), got tipsy with some crazy French guy, and walked back to the campsite munching empanadas.

Tuesday morning we took the bus to Puerto Natales in Chile, the gateway to Torres del Paine, a not-to-be-missed park, much bigger than Ushuaia's. It is much nicer than the Argentinian towns, probably because the Patagonian coastal towns are the uglyest ones in the whole of South America, being mainly industrial/shipping. At last we have mountains and trees (though the Patagonian flatlands are also amazing in their own way). We also have a camping site right in the centre of town, rather than 3km away. Today Wednesday we will relax and plan out trek in Torres del Paine. It looks like a 7/8 day affair, with lots of camping equipment and food to carry. A "bit" of excersise for a change. Didn't bother to get a Chilean SIM as we'll be mostly without network and after this we will go straight back into Argentina, to el Calafate & the Moreno glacier.

Right hand column

Puerto Natales, Chile

Forgot to mention, finally worked out the correct international number for our Argentinian mobile (they have the most complicated telephone system on the planet) and it is now in the right hand column. It won't work for the next few days as we are in Chile, and probably won't have any network coverage anyway as we'll be hiking. Also added an initial approximate estimate of our route if anybody wants to join us for a couple of weeks or so. Will be invariably updating it as our plans change.

Esther is letting the Spanish readership down, only one entry so far. Will whip her into shape...

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Peninsula Valdes (19-20/Jan/06)

Puerto Madryn, Argentina

Spent last Wednesday lazing about parks in Buenos Aires, our bus didn't leave until 7pm. Slowly making a mental list of all the little things that work slightly differently here than Spain, from the way houses are numbered to what type of shop sells methylated spirits (for the burner, not for drinking). Also slowly building up a vocabulary of Argentinian words; nearly all the fruits are called differently to in Spain.

The bus down to Puerto Madryn was great. When they say coche-cama (bed-seat) they mean it. Slept like a baby, hardly noticed the 17h trip. The Southern Pampas/Patagonia landscape is really amazing. Very desolate, nearly like a desert, but with shrubs. Not a bit of human habitation in sight for miles and miles, and completely flat.

Friday we took a tour to see the main attraction of the area, Peninsula Valdes. The same flat windswept landscape, with 4 different types of shrub (to the untrained eye, apparently there are about 12), but teeming with wildlife and we were lucky enough to see everything in season (wales leave mid-December, and adult elephant seals as well): ñandus (like ostriches), güanacos (related to the llama), pinches (armadillos), foxes, maras (Patagonian hare), but especially "baby" elephant seals, sea lions and penguins, and we were very lucky to see killer whales (orcas). Sea lions were the best as it was mating season, so there were loads of newborn babies and fights amongst the males, as well as the orcas preparing to start hunting them.

Next stop, Gaiman (just South of here), an old Welsh settlement. And soon after Rio Gallegos, on our way to Ushuaia, the Southernmost town on Earth.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

An extra day in Buenos Aires (16-18/Jan/06)

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Turns out there is a 60km/h gale blowing round Peninsula Valdes Wednesday, so we got an extra night at the hostel in Buenos Aires to avoid fishing our tent out of the sea. Monday we bought tickets for tomorrow's sleeper bus and then went shopping for a mobile doen the main shopping street, Florida. We now have a PhD in Argentinian mobile phones, but finally managed to buy one - number in the column to the right. Whenever we change country we'll buy a new SIM card and put the new number there as well.

Started to take budgeting seriously. Acording to the guide and our plans we are supposed to survive in Argentina on $20/day/person, wich turns out to be roughly 120 pesos. We are hitting 100 pesos OK, which leaves only 20 for transport and exras like tours, so we'll have to try and cut it even finer. No doubt camping and being out of the capital will help, and getting to know the local rip-offs. Monday night went way over budget as they did a party at the hostal, but nearly recovered it all today.

Tuesday, after the hangover, we bought some vegetables (at last, green food!) at the supermarket and had a picnic in one of the parks. Then we joined a free Spanish tour of the cementery in Recoleta (where, you guessed it, Evita was buried). After that we walked to the "bohemian neighbourhood of Palermo, with it's cobbled street" where we didn't see a single bohemian and only a glimpse of half a cobbled street. The central square there is very nice though, surrounded by bars, cafes and terraces, so we had to stop for a quick bottle of wine. After that we took out first tube (called subte here) back home, and now to bed...

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Primer contacto (15/ene/06)

El domingo 15 de enero llegamos al albergue a las 2.30 de la mañana y nos recibieron con Calamaro de música de fondo! El primer día nos lo tomamos con calma (las lluvias torrenciales tuvieron algo que ver con esto...) y estuvimos deambulando por mercados, grandes avenidas (de hasta 10 carriles!) y pequeñas callejuelas... La lluvia ya se ha acabado y los primeros rayos de sol ya se reflejan en mi espalda... Vivir con un presupuesto apretado tiene sus trucos. El primer día casi ni nos dio para cenar pero el segundo día (quizás porque yo era la encargada del dinero ese día:-)...) nos dio para comer, cenar y hasta tomar unas copas!

Esto de estar de vacaciones durante un año es lo mejor...!

Y mañana emprendemos camino a Patagonia para ver a los pingüinos!

Muchos besos a todos!

Monday, January 16, 2006

First day (15/Jan/06)

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Well, after 3h sleep and a 12h flight we arrived 2am Argentinian time at the hostel. Obviously, instead of going straigh to bed we stayed up for a couple of hours sipping beers and soaking up the atmosphere. The hostel has a nice big communal room to chill out in, mixed rooms with not too many beds (only 4 in ours) and is situated nicelly in the center. Rained cats and dogs today even though it's supposed to be summer, but we went out anyways, to the nearby San Telmo neighbourhood, which has nice antiques ("more than 10 years old" in America) shops, cafes and restaurants. We had a full-on Atkins diet lunch for tuppence, got soaked, and generally walked around for a bit. Buenos Aires is really nice, and feels so familiar. Quite a lot like Madrid really, but with more small shops and less big chains. The people are also pretty chilled, and the accent doesn't get on my nerves as I thought it would.

Just off to find some empanadas for dinner, then early to bed as tomorrow morning we have to find us a bus down to Peninsula Valdés, a nature reserve 18h down South on the way to Ushuaia. We'll probably get an Argentinian mobile as well; if we do we'll post the number on this blog.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Nearly there

Madrid, Spain

Just had Tomás (Esther's dad) inject Hepatitis B in our bottoms. All that really remains is to move all our gear from the floor to our rugsacks, and manage to not miss the flight tomorrow afternoon. Soon our 12-15 month sabatical round South America will begin. First stop Buenos Aires.