A Travellerspoint blog

Pantanal

rain 20 °C
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The Pantanal is the Brazilan wetlands, about half the size of France. We had a few days before we needed to fly into Salvador, so we opted for a 4-day/3-night excursion, including activities like Piranha fishing and horse-riding. We knew it was coming up to rainy season, but we didn't realise how much it would rain...on the way in the roads were dry, dusty and bumpy, on the way out we had to walk the first kilometre from the campsite with water almost up to my knees as parts of the road had become undrivable!

During the jungle walk, we got to see monkeys, birds and a stampede of wild boars and were eaten alive by mosquitos!!! The guide books recommend wearing long-sleeved clothing to minimize bites - I was wearing a t-shirt, thick hoodie and a rain-coat, and I was still covered in bites...how can they bite you through so much! We also got shown one of the most dangerous species of wasps in the world - they can give you yellow fever, dengue fever, severe headaches, etc. Typically I managed to get stung by one of them!! Our guide grabbed his machete and held it to my leg - I thought he was joking, but he proceeded to make four deep cuts to get the sting out! He then cut into a tree to find some naturally-occurring antibiotic...I felt like I was part of a Bear Grylls survival episode!

Piranha fishing was fun - caught loads of fish. Any small fish we caught, we'd throw back in - however this attracted plenty of caiman. One came about a metre away from my foot!! Fortunately they seemed fairly scared of humans, so they didn't try to bite my legs off!! After the guides cooked the piranha for us - very yummy! But our favourite activity was the horse riding. horse-riding. We rode through some pretty deep water, but it was great fun (also the majority of the mosquito's would attack the horses rather than us!). We had to watch out for the caiman and anacondas though as the horses were scared of them.

We spent the evenings chilling out with the rest of the group. The cheap cachaca meant sleeping in the hammocks was much easier...spending a whole night in one of those is not as comfortable as you might think!

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The busload of gringo's heading into the Pantanal

The busload of gringo's heading into the Pantanal


On a night safari - we couldn't see much in the dark lol!

On a night safari - we couldn't see much in the dark lol!


Ultimate mosquito protection - still didn't work!!

Ultimate mosquito protection - still didn't work!!


Capybaras - the largest rodents in the world

Capybaras - the largest rodents in the world


Toucan

Toucan


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Sneaky caiman

Sneaky caiman


Mon-key!

Mon-key!


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Drinking games!!

Drinking games!!


Colourful hammocks - these were our beds for 3 nights

Colourful hammocks - these were our beds for 3 nights


Sleepyhead!

Sleepyhead!


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Nasty-looking piranha!

Nasty-looking piranha!


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The water was pretty shallow here - only half way up her knees!

The water was pretty shallow here - only half way up her knees!


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Posted by ravroops 07:50 Archived in Brazil Tagged pantanal Comments (0)

Iguazu Falls

semi-overcast 26 °C

We had had so much fun in Buenos Aires, we really didn't want to leave - we could have easily spent another week there! Though at least we had something spectacular to look forward to. Iguazu Falls, the largest waterfall on Earth (in terms of the volume of water going over it). Just an 18 hour bus ride to negotiate first - we're certainly racking up the miles!

The falls form part of the border between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, and the plan was to view the falls from The Argentinian side first before getting the grand panaramic views from the Brazilian side. First, we actually had a chill out day which we spent hanging out with some of the guys from the hostel. Rav even got invited to play football with some of the local Argies..he mentioned something about getting revenge for the hand of god!

The national park actually comprises of 30+ falls, though the largest and most famous is the Devils Throat (El Gargantu a del Diablo). I think we took pictures of each and every waterfall we saw...ended up with over 500 pictures from the day - definitely needed to cut that down! We also took a boat trip which pretty much takes you through some of the falls...the force of the spray from the falls was so great that you could barely keep your eyes open. Needless to say, we got pretty wet!

The Devils Throat falls were definitely the most impressive sight, though it was a shame that the water wasn't crystal clear - the river picks up a lot of soil on the way down, giving it a muddy-brown colour (we spent the day with a couple of Geography teachers who gave us loads of info!). But it was amazing, and almost hypnotizing, to watch the sheer volume of water plummeting down over the edge, and the mist forming as the water hit the bottom - you could see clouds forming before your eyes. Whenever the sun decided to pop out, you could see rainbows in the mist - very cool! A very worthwhile day out.

After cooking dinner, we spent the evening drinking and bantering with the guys from the hostel. After mentioning that we were heading into Brazil, and more specifically the Pantanal next, we had two very funny moments:

1. The Jamboy - one of the guys mentioned that in the old days, you could pay for a kid to cover himself in jam (hence the name Jamboy!) to attract insects, thus helping you avoid being bitten by the mozzies. After much ridiculing, we googled it and found it was true. Rav's refusing to be my Jamboy - any takers?? I'll even let you keep the jam after!!

2. The American - an American girl had arrived that evening, and we were having the usual where have you been / where are you going next conversation. After saying that we were going into Brazil next, she replied "Why do you want to go there? There's nothing to do there apart from seeing the big Jesus thingy!". Definitely the quote of our holiday so far!!!

The Brazilian side of the falls is on the other side of the river, and offers panoramic views of the falls. We decided to spend the day organising our trip to the Pantanal, and skipped it. It would have been nice to have done both sides, but I guess we don’t have time for everything! Though it would have to be pretty awesome to come close to the Argentinian side!

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South American Coatis..very cute, but very hungry!

South American Coatis..very cute, but very hungry!


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En route to getting wet...we were soaked before we even got to the end of the walkway!

En route to getting wet...we were soaked before we even got to the end of the walkway!


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You could see the mist from the falls from far away

You could see the mist from the falls from far away


Gargantua del Diablo - the largest fall in the park. 82m high and 150m wide!

Gargantua del Diablo - the largest fall in the park. 82m high and 150m wide!


The usual long-arm!

The usual long-arm!

Posted by ravroops 14:56 Archived in Argentina Tagged iguazu_falls Comments (0)

Buenos Aires

sunny 30 °C
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Another twenty-something hour bus ride later, and we reached our first major city (we don't think Santiago counts!) of our holiday. A lot of people had told us how much they loved B.A., and we were expecting to be underwhelmed by it, but we're converts too...I can see why people want to move here and become portenos too!

B.A. has five main areas, each with its own identity and vibe.
1. Downtown. This is where we stayed, and being fairly central, it was easy to get to most areas. There are many pedestrianised streets here, though surprisingly not a huge number of restaurants or bars given the number of tourists. Quite a few important buildings and monuments here, and many people selling their wares on the streets. It also has the world's widest road...8 lanes in each direction!! I'm sure someone in Dubai is building a larger road right now!
2. Recoleta - this is famous for it's parks, but especially it's grand graveyard. Many rich and famous families here own sizeable "buildings" in which their family gets buried. You can peer through cracked windows to see coffins inside - quite creepy! If you didn't know better, you could easily think you were in a small town, not in a cemetary! Probably the most famous resident here is Eva Peron (Evita) - there were hordes of tourists here taking pictures of her grave. By the way, the building next to hers was for sale, so if you fancy mingling with the rich and famous in the afterlife, here's your chance!
3. Palermo - this is the poshest part of town, full of joggers in lush green parks. Its split into Palermo Hollywood (full of trendy boutiques and awesome cupcake shops!) and Palermo Soho (restaurants and bars). We didn't get to spend much time here unfortunately (or probably fortunate for Rav's bank balance!).
4. San Telmo - known for being a haunt for hippies and artists, we visited the bustling Sunday market here. Although it's mainly aimed at tourists, they still have some pretty cool stuff up for sale apart from the standard souvenirs - there is a thriving antiques market, funky jewellery, and awesome asado's (big bbq pits) where Rav got his daily choripan - a sausage sandwich which he went crazy over.
5. Boca - An area which you shouldn't wander into late at night, stories of people being mugged and held at gunpoint here made us pretty weary, but we still wanted to go there to see the brightly painted houses for which Boca was famous for. Taking only the bare essentials, we headed down...only to be faced by tourist-central!! The main couple of streets are packed with travellers, with plenty of restaurants and bars about. However, wander a couple of streets, and you get to some pretty dodgy-looking parts. La Bombanera, home to Boca Juniors, is also near here.

One of the things that B.A. is most famous for is tango, and we were fortunate enough to be there during the annual tango festival. They shut down one side of the 8-lane road, put up a stage in the road, and we were able to spend hours watching a live show. The balance and footwork was spectacular! Rav was trying to do bhangra to the beats at one point - such a freshie!

Another things that is huge in B.A. is the nightlife. In typical latino fashion, no-one gets to a bar here much before 12pm, and clubs don't get kicking til after 2am, not finishing til 6am. You can find a party every night of the week...we certainly did!

But the biggest thing in B.A. is the steak! Pretty much the entire menu in most restaurants was some form of steak, which made eating out pretty difficult for me - fortunately most places also did some form of pasta too. Rav on the other hand ate enough for both of us, washing it down with plenty of red wine! Have I mentioned how cheap wine is in Argentina? In the supermarkets round here, you can buy some tasty red wine for about 10 pesos...thats less than 2 pounds!! Even in the top restaurants around here, the average price for a good bottle is about a tenner. No wonder Argentina exports so little of its wine...it all gets drunk by the locals!

Rav's been pretty deprived by the lack of sport he's seen since we've left London, so had been dying to get here and watch a Boca Juniors game. Unfortunaely they were playing away that weekend, so he decided to watch River Plate's (Boca's biggest rivals!) first home game of the season. The atmosphere was crazy...the fans were singing and dancing in the stand, flags were waving everywhere, drums beating...and this was about 2 hours before kick-off!! The first half wasn't great, but the second half came alive, and River won 2-0. Hopefully we can catch some more football in Brazil too!

OK I'm going on a bit here, but want to mention one last thing. Every Monday night, there is a show called La Bomba. About a dozen poeple line up with instruments of some sort (mainly different types of drums), and a conductor freestyles, making up music on the fly. All the musicians (and much of the crowd) are quite stoned, leading to a really cool atmosphere. The music is awesome (and loud!), everyone is dancing in the crowd...a really good party, and one of our fave things in Buenos Aires.

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A fairly small road..only 6 lanes wide!

A fairly small road..only 6 lanes wide!


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Tango on the road - can you spot the traffic light?

Tango on the road - can you spot the traffic light?


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San Telmo market

San Telmo market


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Choripan! So good!!

Choripan! So good!!


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Recoleta

Recoleta


Can you believe its a cemetery - a bit eerie!

Can you believe its a cemetery - a bit eerie!


La Bomba de Tiempe...crazy beats!

La Bomba de Tiempe...crazy beats!


La Boca

La Boca


Roops and her tango-dancing partner

Roops and her tango-dancing partner


The brightly coloured houses in La Boca

The brightly coloured houses in La Boca


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Checkmate? Old guys having a game in the park..

Checkmate? Old guys having a game in the park..


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Atmosphere building up nicely ahead of kick off

Atmosphere building up nicely ahead of kick off

Posted by ravroops 06:45 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Puerto Madryn

sunny 28 °C

After a day of relaxing and sorting out laundry (yes even though we're on holiday, we still have to do mundane things like laundry...my plan of buying new clothes everytime my old ones got dirty isn't happening!), we left a rainy Puerto Natales and started our 28 hour journey back into Argentina, heading towards a coastal town called Puerto Madryn. We saw the sun set and rise on what seemed to be a never-ending straight road, with llama's dotted around the roadside. A day later, and to glorious sunshine, we finally arrived at our destination.

Puerto Madryn itself is nothing special...whilst the beach was absolutely packed full of locals, the water was very dirty and the beach was very stony...its no Mombasa! However, it acts as a gateway to the Valdes Peninsula (where you can see seals and go whale-watching at the right time of year) and to Punta Tumbo, home to the largest colony of Magellen Penguins. Everyone we spoke to gave a different estimate to the number of penguins there, though most seemed to range between 750,000 to a million. We spent the morning walking amongst the penguins (at one point Roops got a bit too close to one, and it nearly bit her!!), though the majority of them were by the sea in a cordoned-off area. We saw some really cute baby penguins, and were tempted to stick one in our rucksack and bring it back home with us - given how cold it is in London, the climate would be ideal!

After the colony, I managed to book us onto a dolphin-watching trip. Given that we had spent Valentines day on the bus, and Roops' love for dolphins, I figured it would be a nice treat! The area around there is home to tonina's (or the Comoran Dolphin) - quite small (about 1.5m, 50kg...same as Roops!) and super-playful dolphins. A handful came to play with our boats, though given their size and how quick they are, it was really difficult to capture on camera. Still it was amazing to watch.

Got back to the hostel, grabbed our bags, and hopped on a bus. Next stop...Buenos Aires!

En route to Puerto Madryn..28 hour bus ride!!

En route to Puerto Madryn..28 hour bus ride!!


Endless road...

Endless road...


One down...one to go!!

One down...one to go!!


Magellan Penguins...

Magellan Penguins...


Get a room!!

Get a room!!


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Ready...steady....go!!!

Ready...steady....go!!!


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Baby penguin...so cute!!!

Baby penguin...so cute!!!


Rav was trying to blend in with the locals

Rav was trying to blend in with the locals


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The tonina's were super playful

The tonina's were super playful


Rav was well pleased to get this photo...they swam so fast!

Rav was well pleased to get this photo...they swam so fast!


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Posted by ravroops 06:53 Archived in Argentina Tagged puerto_madryn Comments (0)

Torres Del Paine

all seasons in one day 25 °C

Glacier trekking complete, we set off for Puerto Natales - gateway to Torres Del Paine. This is a UNESCO protected national park, containing terrain ranging from 2000m high peaks to deep blue lakes, and even more glaciers. We'd heard much about the unpredictable weather...it was not uncommon to face all four seasons in one hour! The plan was to cover the W trek (surprisingly enough, it's called the W as the route resembles the shape of the letter W) from east to west (they advise you to do it from west to east, but we like to be different!)

We arrived in town in the late afternoon, giving us only a few hours to get everything together so we could start hiking the next day. Its a good thing that we're used to crazy rushing around/last minute planning, and so a few hours later we'd hired our gear, bought our food, and were all set.

The first day, we were up at the crack of dawn to catch a bus to the park. We saw llamas and rheas (ostrich-like birds) on the way in, and were greeted by clear blue skies as we caught our first glimpse of the Torres Massif, the huge three peaks after which the park is named. I managed to lose Rav's hat before we even started - I think his ability to misplace things is contagious! Temperatures must have been close to 30 degrees as we trekked about 8km up a very steep hill with heavy packs (Rav's was a little bit heavier than mine! ;) ). It was worth it as the view of the Torres peaks were absolutely stunning.

The next three days had milder temperatures, and at points we faced what felt like gale-force winds. Fortunately the rain stayed away, and we covered about 80km in total. The paths passed by waterfalls, crossed wooden bridges, involved scrambling up and down rocks, using stepping-stones to cross streams (in one of which I lost my sunnies!)...a real mix of terrain. All the water in the streams was drinkable, which was a real bonus as it meant we weren't carrying litres around with us.

The main view points (the French Valley, the Grey Glacier, etc) during each daily hike were amazing, and definitely made the long treks worthwhile. Every evening we'd pull out our gas stove and make some yummy pasta (with tobasco of course!). We felt like posh backpackers as we'd even brought along fresh veg, garlic, oregano etc to spice up our food..we had a lot of trekkers eye-ing up our food!!

End of day 4, feet covered in blisters, we boarded the catamaran back to the park entrance, and back to civilisation. We (along with the hundreds of other tourists from all over the world who we met along the way) had survived the 'W'!

First view of the park

First view of the park


Our backpacks!

Our backpacks!


An hour in..and Rav's knackered already!

An hour in..and Rav's knackered already!


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The Torres Massif

The Torres Massif


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Dinner time!

Dinner time!


Can't forget to add tobasco!

Can't forget to add tobasco!


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One of our shorter hikes!

One of our shorter hikes!


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Gorgeous sunrise over the mountains

Gorgeous sunrise over the mountains


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Rav looking to the answer for all of life's problems

Rav looking to the answer for all of life's problems


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Just checking we're not lost!

Just checking we're not lost!


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IMG_1816.jpg Our campsite on the last day
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Glacier Grey

Glacier Grey


..still looking...

..still looking...


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Which way do we go?

Which way do we go?


Rav necking a well-earned beer

Rav necking a well-earned beer


Beautiful end to the TDP trek

Beautiful end to the TDP trek

Posted by ravroops 06:54 Archived in Chile Tagged torres_del_paine Comments (0)

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