Argentina, visting the arse end of the world and getting up north where its warm, damn quick !!!
Bariloche Travel Blog› entry 20 of 31 › view all entries
SO where were we, ah yes the lovely trek in Torres del Pan, chile, well the following day my knee was totally fucked! so we didnt do that much,a lot of reading and recouperating and planing the next phase of the trip.. Ushuaia or No... for those that dont know, Ushuaia is the southernmost town on the continent ( well its not really, there is Puerto William but that is not easily accessable unless you are well rich or in th navy, me being neither, it wasnt an option..)and the big question was, do we bother going.. its suposed to be great if you have money..beagle expeditions (the channel, not snoopy with a rucksack..) more trekking (h ha, not with my knee) and some fantastic views, not to mention being in the southernmost city in the world.. almost. Well I was up for up for it, H not so much, but went along ayway and we had arranged to meet Nat and Chris, Phillipe ad Chantal in the Irish pub for a beer at the bottom of the world in a few days...
So we did some chores..postcards, washing etc.. ( interesting point, we have had to start making lists f what goes into the laundry as stuff goes missing !H has lost some undies, I lost my good Tiger Beer T shirt etc etc. well this was no exception and the washing came back sans the only expencve item ( bought factory seconds fo course) we have, my berghaus shirt, was surprisingly missing.. but after asking, it magicaly appeared .. hmmmmmm. Anyway, we had a nice relaxing last day in Chile...
So Morning came and we were up early inthe coldest room on the planet ( I think i mentioned before that grandma only heated her room)and set off for the 15 hour bus ride to Ushuaia.. the bus ride was pretty uneventful, the thing about most of patagonia is that it is a big flat place that makes the Norfolk landscape look really interesting. After you have seen your hundreth Llama or mini ostrich thats about it and the ride gets a bit dull...!!
The ride, however, was then broken up by good ferry crossing where we again met Phillipe and Chantal and saw some little dolphins swimming alongside the ferry ( like midgt killer whales) and a few Penguins.. which was nice... and eventully arrived in Ushuaia quite late at night, which in itself was a bit of a shame as the views coming into Ushuaia were spectacular !! but it was getting too dark to see em!
Well we found a hostel that gave us a good deal ( but still the most expencive to date) but it was warm ( as its really fucking cold down there), so we settled in, went for a walk, et Philipe and Chantal again and all had Pizza and beer in an Irish pub.. YAY !!
We subsequently woke up late and upon exploring the town on a saturday we realised this place was really the end of the world.. the arse end of the world.. it was cold grey and rainy and unless you had thousands to spend on excursions to the antarctic or wanted to buy an extremly tacky carved penguin made of jade ( tasteful eh ...)there was not a lot to do. So we decided to leave asap, BUT this was not so simple as there is no Bus station here, just two tourist travel agencies, Both of which were closed !!! arggggg!
Phillipe had the same problem but was up earlier than us and caught oe before it closed at 12, apparently the queue was out of the door of people wanting to get out !! so the ideum is true that the FIRST thing to do on arrival here is to book your departure ASAP !! Anyway after stropping a bit, we bought some beer, went back to the hostel and eventually one of the companies opened so we could get out.. phew, wth our moods lifted we explored the town a bit more and took lots of grey dull photos of two beaming brits knowing they had a ticket out..at 5am the next day..sigh..
well the bus ride up was very simiar to the bus ride down ( no suprise there then...), lots of flat lands, llamas and sleeping, we crossed the border from Argentina to chile, back on the ferry ( only one dolphin this time) then back across the border again back into Argentina and heading north to El Calafate, the town closest to the famous Perito Moreno Glacier...BUT before we got there we had a stop over at the charming ( sarcastic tone)town of Rio Gallegos. We had 4 hours here so went ff exploring, especially as this was the town ´festival´ time so we expected great things......well, think of Halesowen ( not the nice bit where Steve´s folks used to live, but the crappy bit by Macro) with a couple of stalls selling crap like jam and boxes covered in shells and you kinda get the picture..but we found a interet cafe and could while away some time so that was ok.. we eventually got back to the bus station and back on the bus which dropped us off in El Calafate at about 1am ! Luckily I had booked a hostel ( hilarious , me speaing spanish on the phone, its a miracle she understood !) and an old lady was a waiting up for us.The Hostel reminded me of a hospital, it was VERY clean to the point of sterility, and the lady shouted at us for putting our packs on the beds as soon as we arrived, ( too dirty) but it was close to town, warm and we were exhausted so it was like a slice of clinical heaven !
I got up early the next day to see about getting tickets to see the glacier ( we had decided to do the south ASAP as it was really expencive and very cold, so we wanted to get north.) but nothing was open until 10am ( lazy argentinians !!)so it was pointless and I headed back to bed ! we Resiged ourselves to being in town for 2 nights and jumped the 11am bus to see the glacier.
As per usual, park entrance was twice what the book told us..no suprise there ( if you are going, dont bother with the bus, rent a car and get there before 8am as there are no guards and you get in for free.. we learned this after the fact but it is he best way to do it !!)
but even at the inflated cost this was worth it !! the Glacier is AMAZING, even after Grey. The sheer scale and proximity is breathtaking, as are the big chunks almost perpetually falling of it making the most amazing noise! we must have seen several car sized shunks go, and one building sized, crash into the water. It was a beautiful sunny day and one of the most fantastic sights we have seen so far on the journey !! Especially as when we arrived there was virtually no one there( by the time we left you could bearly hear the glacier over the loudmouthed Americans squaking over it) which was nice....
We got back to town about 5pm and as we had no kitchen at our hostel we looked for somewhere to have dinner.. WOW is this a pricey town, no burger joints of fast food just really posh tourist restaurants.. so after wandering for about a hour we went to the bar over the road from the hostel ( typical) and had a beer and lomito (yum)!
Another day, another bus ride, this time the long trek up to Bariloche, our next destinaion, via a small town called Puerto Madryn, where we planned to camp ! So we bought some rolls and ham from the supermarket and planned to go sit by the lake for a lunch al fresco before we left.. well, we could not find the lake, but did find the flooded racecourse, and as we tried to make and eat our rolls surrounded by stray dogs, we realised the mosquitos were having a better meal than us, and gave up, heading back to the bus station via a very nice (if expencive) bibliocafe for submarinos ( if I have not mentioned before, excellent hot chocolate.. will make you all one next winter..) for the night bus connection via Rio Gallegos to Puerto Madryn.
Arriving mid morning, Puerto Madryn was a lovely little seaside town, the campsite was a bus ride out (about 5km) and a nice lady gave us a free ticket to ride :-) so we arrived and the camp was right next to a historic monumant where the welsh first landed in Patagonia, and YES one of them was called Jon Davies !!! ( I have photographic evidence !!) So we set up camp and wandered back into town where after some shopping around we booked ourselves onto a tour the next day to see the wildlife rich Penninsular Valdes !! The place for whale watching in Patagonia (and even though we were out to season for the right whales, we did have a chance of seeing Orcas, as this is where that amazing footage of the orca beaching itself to grab sealion pups for breakfast was filmed !! How exciting !!!A couple of beers later and we were back at the campsite grilling in the free fire pits ( about 500 grams of excellent beef is about a dollar here..really, tomatoes are more expencive than beef !! its nuts !!!). As the evening wore on we were joined by some artisans from Buenos Aires who were in town selling their bracelets etc.. well, in exchange for using our coals (whice we had already finished with) they gave us little string Bracelets !! sigh.. how could one say no.. so now H and I are one step further down the road to silly trousers and dreadlocks as we both now sport silly string bracelets !! sigh !! there is no escape !!!
The next day brought Penninsular Valdes, the amazing natural fauna and flora place !! for penguins, elephant seals, sealions and of course the ORCA !! We joined the bus at 8.45 (was expected at 8, but no prob) for the 2 hr ride to the penninsular. We were first let off at a museum with some nice exhibits and an additional 45 clip clop charge to get onto the penninsular ! Then we went straight to a place called Puerto Pyramide. This is where you can (at 100 us dollar extra cost) take a boat out to see the whales. Well as this was not whale season, it was a bit pointless, but as One person on the bus had booked this, the other 18 of us had to wait for two hours while they went off in this crappy little town ! we were very lucky and saw some juvenile penguins hunting, but this was a bit of a dull time as we all wanted to get off to see the orca !! Eventually we got back on the bus and off to a very cool penguin colony ( but only there for 10 mins), then on to the elephant seals (about 500m away so could hardly see em) and finally to the sea lion colony where the orcas may be seen.. well . we had another 10 minute window here before we had to go, and no surprise, no Orcas !! Ok sea lions are cute, but after Galapagos, well I think we have been spoiled !!
So basically I could sum up the day as: 5 hrs on a bus, 3 hrs waiting and about 45 minutes actually where we wanted to be.... but H enjoyed it so that was ok.. my tip to other travellers.. RENT A CAR and do it yourself..
Back in town we jumped another night bus heading up to Bariloche, Party town in the lake district of Argentina.. we did not know what to expect and certainly did not expect what we found there !!! more to come in the next thrilling ( well thrilling if you live in a small box with no windows or visitors and spend most of your time talking to a slug named alan..) installmants next time....