South American Street Art

To be perfectly honest, I cannot pass a colourful wall and not pull the (currently beaten up) camera out. Same goes for when I see hearts – on stickers, in chalk or paint – I’m constantly asking John to stop in the street just so we can check out a crack in the ground that looks like a heart, haha old romantic.  That damn Drew Barrymore and her ‘Find it in Everything’ book about hearts everywhere – it’s so true!

Ok, so Chile

Hands down, South America’s number one artsy destination – the entire city of Valparaiso is covered in colourful street art. It’s stunning – an outdoor art festival every single day. Lucky residents.

Here we are!

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Kids

Hummingbird

Game

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God, so true

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That's pretty much how it looks!

Woman Man Valpo view Dexter Watering can

Waaaay down in Torres del Paine in Patagonia, this fantastic postbox is probably the cutest piece of art in the land!

The loveliest postbox in the land

Up in Ecuador, Quito’s residents have some serious artistic talent. The colourful kiddies are from Otavalo, which coincidentally houses the universe’s most colourful market!

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Courtyard

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Word

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Colombia didn’t have much in the way of graffiti type art…see the voluptuous example from Cartagena for Colombia’s take on art. That Botero has a thing for the ladies… You do also see the odd hummingbird throughout Colombia.

Colombia

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Bolivia‘s street art scene seemed to centre on women…

This is pretty much how the locals look

Local Grafitti

Street Art

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…Oh, and some dinosaur prints. Hahaha!!

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Not exactly street art, but Peru’s handmade decorations (from Cusco) are awesome. I wouldn’t say no to spending another Christmas in this special place. Art was a little more old-school up north in Kuelap

Tree

Llama

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Argentina’s definitely a little more colourful…

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Eye

Che

Now there's a mosaic!

Well it wouldn't be La Boca without this...

There's tango everywhere here

We didn’t find too much in Brazil

Colourful graffiti in Paraíso

Graffiti in Ipanema

Except maybe the most epic piece of art you’ll ever come across wandering down the street:

Amazing sandcastle on Copacabana Beach

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Essentials – Packing List for South America

South Ameria

What do you bring on a season-spanning trip to a continent when your daily outings could be in tropical rainforests, on beaches, climbing ridiculously high mountains or traversing glaciers? Here are our essentials!

General

  • Packing Cubes. I used 3 packing cubes (similar to these) and rolled everything into them and they slotted perfectly into the backpack. I don’t think I’d travel again without packing cubes; you can fit so much into them and you can pack and unpack them really quickly.
  • Venturesafe Pacsafe 25 litre daypack – we chose this as our day-to-day bag; it was comfortable enough to wear sightseeing every day, strong enough to withstand a 3 day adventure in the torrential rain and humidity of the Colombian jungle and is supposed to be slash-proof (thankfully, I can’t attest to this but that’s actually why we bought it).
  • Water Bottle/Flask. We went with this one from Hydro Flask, great for keeping glacial water cold and boiling water hot (tea time!)
  • Travel Hairdryer. I had to pick one up on our travels. BIG mistake not packing this first day…it warmed me up after many a cold shower!
  • Eye Mask – Papinelle in Australia have the loveliest eye masks made with Liberty of London fabrics (filled with lavender and complete with silk ties which won’t ruin your hair – since you’ll obviously be spending hours straightening your hair whilst backpacking…)
  • Ear Plugs – I’m what I would honestly call an ear-plug connoisseur (can I put that on my CV?) and definitely recommend Ohropax wax earplugs – there’s no noise getting through these babies.
  • Portable Battery Pack – we used this one by Anker, you won’t have electricity everywhere in South America and it’s really handy to be able to charge your phone or camera in your backpack whilst you’re on the go.
  • Universal Adaptor Plug. Non negotiable.
  • Neck Pillow – I brought a velour one with me on this trip (thanks Mum); last time I had one of those blow-up ones which was definitely easier to carry but way less comfy. You need some comforts on this type of trip.
  • Travel Towels – you know those microfiber ones you can pick up Penneys (or Primark or any sports store actually) – they fold up really neatly but get so manky – they’re the one thing you’ll want to get rid of the second you get home!
  • OzForex Travel Card – we used this for currency in a few countries (you can only have a certain number of currencies on it) but we found it had the best currency conversion rates around (from Australia) and all the ATMs we went to accepted it.
  • Ziploc Bags (medium and large size) – probably the most useful thing you could pop in your bag – great for preventing spillages, keeping passports dry, storing coffee beans, keeping wet clothes separate – the list is endless!
  • TSA approved travel locks – we used these as a deterrent more than anything but if you stay in hostels you’ll need them for the lockers provided.
  • A Pen – don’t overlook this one; you’ll need it at every border crossing.
  • Bose Travel Speaker; we used this with our phones and iPad to listen to music and watch movies. Surround sound in a tent baby!!
  • Tea. I brought a box of Harney & Sons Paris Tea along with us and savoured each and every single cup of tea.
  • John’s Aeropress has to be included on this list – I think he used it along with his mini coffee grinder more than he changed his socks. True story.

Clothes

This isn’t the entire list but the pieces I’ve pulled out over and over again:

  • Rain Jacket – unfortunately this one’s a necessity. We needed these every single day down in Patagonia. John bought a Mac in a Sac on Amazon and mine is from Marmot (a wind-breaker is a great idea).Black Leather Trousers – I couldn’t believe how many times these came out. John doesn’t want to see me wearing them every again but I care not!
  • Jeans – I went with a deep grey pair (only 1 pair of jeans, yes!) and I wore them all the time. Do not travel without jeans, seriously.
  • Hiking Boots – these are not a luxury, particularly in wet season – there are slippery stones and mud all over South America. You’d be crazy not to pack these! Mine were by Merrell and John’s were by the North Face. If I never see mine again I’ll be happy though…yep, don’t think I’ll be getting over all that climbing any time soon…
  • Trainers – good for days you’re not doing a major hike. I brought Nike Lunar Flyknits (like these) and got a lot of wear out of them.
  • Converse – way nicer than wearing your hiking boots or trainers with your jeans, and good if you want to look a bit more dressed up than trainers allow.
  • Havaianas – absolutely essential (for the beach and manky showers alike)
  • Sun Hat.
  • Bikinis – I brought 2 but Colombia is a fantastic (albeit expensive) place to pick up really pretty swimwear.
  • Pashmina/Scarf – great for all modes of transportation (why are aeroplanes always freezing?) I had a light grey one with me but also purchased a warmer scarf in Otavalo, Ecuador and wore that a lot.
  • Yoga Pants – not for morning yoga sessions (way too disorganised) but they’re great for hiking/trekking/keeping warm/relaxing and…sleeping in a tent! I packed 2 pairs.
  • Sports Top – I just brought one but could have used two; especially useful for trekking as they dry really quickly.
  • Sunglasses – not sure it’s necessary to actually mention this but John left his in the car in Ireland so just in case…

First Aid Kit

  • Plasters/Band-Aids
  • Paracetamol
  • Malaria Tablets – we went with Malarone as they’re the only ones that don’t seem to have any after effects. However, we brought a ridiculous amount with us – I don’t know what some doctors are doing recommending malaria tablets for everywhere in South America (our doctor in Dublin did); it’s just not necessary – check out the WHO website for where you actually them.
  • Insect Bite Cream – I’d recommend a proper one instead of just a normal cream – those mozzie bites can be seriously bloody annoying…and scarring.
  • Anti-histamines – as above.
  • Nausea Tablets – boat trips and long bumpy bus journeys. Enough said.
  • Eye Drops – you can get these along the way but it’s always nice to be able to read the packaging in your own language!
  • All Purpose Balm – I used C.O. Bigelow Rose Salve but Lucas Papaw lotion or Elizabeth Arden 8 Hour Cream would be good too.
  • Little Scissors (absolutely indispensable)
  • Tweezers
  • Sun Lotion – SPF 50 – the rays are incredibly strong in this part of the world
  • Bug Spray or Lotion with Deet to keep the mozzies away (OFF! is good as is Nopikex which you can purchase in Colombia)

Key stats from our trip!

So, I kind of thought it might be a good idea to keep an account of some key statistics from the 6 months we spent in South America (also including Cuba here):

Countries: 9

Passport Stamps: 30. Mostly from all the criss-crossing Argentina and Chile!

Aeroplane Trips: 19

Long-haul Bus Journeys: 69

Boat Trips: 17

Hostels: 59

Mosquito Bites: 81. Buggers.

Pizzas: 45

Photographs: 13,266

Phones Broken: 2

Favourite Country: Colombia (both of us)

Least Favourite Country: Bolivia (agreement again!)

Favourite City:

Favourite Place Overall:

Least Favourite City: Agreement on La Paz, Bolivia

One item we’re glad we packed:

  • Ciara: Earplugs (technically 2 items but you know what I mean!)
  • John: AeroPress (for making his coffee!!)

São Paolo, Brazil

We flew from Rio’s Galeão International Airport (R$30 and 30 minutes in a taxi from Copacabana although we were warned it could take hours. Lucky us!) to São Paulo’s GRU airport for less than $95 for both of us – amazing deal but we did fly at 6am on a Sunday morning. We rented an AirBnB apartment in the Paraíso area of the city (taxi from GRU to Paraíso was R$28 and took about 10 minutes), which was definitely not a tourist centric spot so we definitely had a local neighbourhood feel. We had 2 full days in São Paulo, not enough time to do this megacity of 11 million people any justice but we managed to tick a few things off the list! The metro is pretty good here, very easy to navigate and costs R$3.50 per trip. Oh ya so we’re back at square one with the language again – 6 months of learning Spanish and now we’re in Portuguese territory – it’s so frustrating! We were actually able to communicate pretty well in Spanish to be honest; they say that Portuguese speakers can decipher Spanish pretty well, thank God they were willing!

The Japanese Market (at the Liberdade metro stop) is on every Sunday, worth a stop off since São Paulo has the world’s largest Japanese population outside of Japan – about 1.5 million people! They gotta do sushi well, right? Yes! The streets here are lined with red oriental style lampposts and there are lots of Japanese supermarkets and trinket stores to wander around after you’ve perused the market stalls.

We met a few people from São Paulo over the past 6 months and they all told us that the one thing that you HAVE to do is visit the Mercado Municipal de São Paulo (São Bento metro), oh my God were they right! Amazing. The selection of produce is fantastic; fruits we’d never seen before, colourful spices from all over the world and cheeses smellier than you’d find in France! Back to açaí and we visited the first place to offer açaí in the market, Don D’Aju. Perfect! The biggest draw of the market is the famous mortadella sandwich, perfect if you’re in the mood for a pound of meat.

Avenida Paulista is the financial area of São Paulo, the CBD I guess. We walked a few kilometers of this one evening, coming across concrete towers, more Starbucks than you can imagine but also some street tango classes which is pretty cool. A few streets away from Avenida Paulista is Rua Oscar Freire, a shopping area and lovely place to wander around shops such as American Apparel, Forever 21, Kate Spade and Espaço Havaianas, Havaianas flagship store where you can get flip-flops for about $5. Well worth that visit! You can actually get Havaianas in the supermarkets and from street vendors – you know the ones that sell newspapers? It’s actually the perfect city to have a Havaianas malfunction – you know when the strap breaks and there’s no fixing it? (Oh ya, it’s happened to me in New York and in Lima. I sure wear mine out!)

Colourful graffiti in Paraíso

Colourful graffiti in Paraíso

Fresh coconuts - just grab a straw!

Fresh coconuts – just grab a straw!

Sunday Market in Liberdade

Sunday Market in Liberdade

São Paolo Cathedral

São Paolo Cathedral

São Paolo Cathedral

São Paolo Cathedral

In front of the Cathedral

In front of the Cathedral

THE coolest traffic lights!

THE coolest traffic lights!

Banespa Building - based on the Empire State Building

Banespa Building – based on the Empire State Building…kind of…

Banking in São Paolo

Banking in São Paolo

Busking on the streets of São Paolo

Busking on the streets of São Paolo

Municipal Market of São Paolo

Municipal Market of São Paolo

More of the market

More of the market

That's a hell of a lot of spices!

That’s a hell of a lot of spices!

Lovely colours

Lovely colours

Cheese-sus!

Cheese-sus!

Nearly taller than John!

Nearly taller than John!

So much fruit!

So much fruit!

Hungry?

Hungry?

Where?

Where?

Plenty choice here!

Plenty choice here!

Decisions, decisions!

Decisions, decisions!

Like a beach party ☀️

Like a beach party ☀️

Bye, São Paolo!

Bye, São Paolo!

Next stop: New York City!!

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Getting to Rio from Montevideo in Uruguay on the cheap is not easy! We had to get the ferry back to Buenos Aires from Colonia in Uruguay (again with Colonia Express), then fly from BA’s Ezezia International Airport (taxi from the Colonia Express port to the airport was $ARS150 and took about 40 minutes) to Sao Paolo (we flew with Qatar Airways but bring a fleece to Sao Paolo airport as they have the air-conditioning set at Antarctic) and then catch another flight (we flew with TAM who were wonderful) to Rio de Janeiro. It took us about 24 hours in total and going to Rio was really a last minute decision but we’re sooo glad we did it – it’s just beautiful.

We booked an AirBnB a couple of blocks from Copacabana beach (taxi from the airport cost R$70 – about $30 but took 2 hours – it’s only 20km from the city!!) and although we didn’t really have time to do much research on the best locations to stay in Rio I think it was a perfect location for a first-timer in Rio. Copacabana is in the Zona Sul or South Zone. We were pretty short on time in Rio, just 3 days so we tried to pack in as much as we could. It’s definitely a place we can’t wait to get back to so that can only be a good sign! So I guess I’ll start with Copacabana, one of the most famous beach resorts in the world. We were a couple of blocks back from the beach and the roads were exceptionally busy so we didn’t get much sleep. We went to visit the Belmond Copacabana Palace (hotel) and that’s DEFINITELY where we’re staying next time! Plush. The beach itself is 4km long so there’s plenty of space for strolling, sunbathing and beach-sports. There are lots of places to eat all along the beach, I guess shacks really but they sell more fast food really, burgers, chips and ice-cream but they also sell fresh coconuts with a straw and there are plenty of places to stop off for a cocktail. In the evening there are plenty of market sellers selling souvenirs, trinkets and the like. If you walk a couple of blocks inland you’ll find plenty of supermarkets; the best one we found was Zona Sul – very like the supermarkets in America, plenty of choice. So, I now have a new addiction, açaí bowls. They’re absolutely delicious and a superfood you know! My 3-a-day habit has not yet ensured my transformation into Gisele but I’ll keep you posted! This might be because we found an AMAZING gelato spot. God, I can’t even explain how good it is – it’s from Oficina del Gelato (Address: 903 Ave. Nossa Sra. de Copacabana) – just try it out.

If you continue walking down Copacabana beach you’ll eventually find yourself at Arpoador, a huge rock that separates Copacabana from Ipanema. Watching the sunset at Arpoador is one of the most touristy yet essential things you should do in Rio. There’s a great buzz here, with guys selling cocktails (caipirinhas of course), hippy singers drawing groupies and people just chilling out and chatting making it a lovely place to watch the sunset. The sunset itself wasn’t great to be perfectly honest. I had heard it’s so amazing there’s often clapping and standing ovations so we were a little disappointed with a grey sky – I compare every sunset we see to Borneo though (see post and pics of Borneo and those sunsets here) and nothing has come close yet. I’ll keep searching!!

Once you’re on Arpoador rock you’re looking up along Ipanema beach all the way up to Leblon, the most affluent area of the Zona Sul. Our AirBnB hosts told us it was the nicest beach in the city so we spent a few hours relaxing here. Beach-life is definitely different to what we’ve been used to in Australia for the past few years. In Australia you’re a little stroll across from all the eateries when you’re on the beach. In Rio, apartment blocks and busy roads (with crazy drivers) line the beachfront and you have to go a couple of blocks inland to find food and shops. We walked a lot on our first day looking for food!! We did find a wonderful açaí place in Ipanema, Polis Sucos, delicious! T.T. Burger lies in between Copacabana and Ipanema beaches and is a pretty good spot for food after the sunset. They make their own guava ketchup and delicious summer mint and mango milkshakes.

Obviously another very important piece of Rio’s tourist infrastructure is Cristo Redento or Christ the Redeemer statue on Corcovado Mountain. You can see the statue from pretty much everywhere in the Zona Sul which is pretty cool. Quintessentially Rio. Google Maps was honestly absolutely useless for the rest of South America but it’s fantastic again in Brazil so we used that to help us get around the subway and buses. There’s a flat cost of R$3.40 for each journey you take on the bus and R$3.50 for each journey on the subway. Pretty easy to work out! We took the bus from Copacabana to the neighbourhood of Cosme Velho (how to get here) and then purchased our tickets on site for R$51 (R$62 in high season (round-trip). You can buy tickets here too). The train takes about 20 minutes to get up to Cristo Redentor and the views from the top are amazing. Rio is honestly gigantic!

Jardim Botânico do Rio de Janeiro or the Botanic Gardens are at the bottom of Corcovado Mountain so can easily be done on the same day that you visit Cristo Redentor. The gardens have been in existence since 1808 – what??!!! Since we love an old rose or two we had to go and check it out (entrance is R$7)! There are over 900 different varieties of palm trees in here, a gunpowder factory and a beautiful building housing a fantastic collection of orchids – oh, and toucans and a tiny monkey! Awesome!

We hopped off the subway one evening at Botafogo. There’s a beach here but it’s in no way sanitary so it’s not a beach-day spot. There are plenty of yachts moored here so it makes for a nice place for an evening stroll (aside from the millions of cars whizzing by) and a shopping centre called Botafogo Praia Shopping which has plenty to keep you occupied for a couple of hours.

Rio is full of favelas or city slums which are apparently run by druglords. You can visit these if you wish (through an agency – do not go there on your own) but there was no way we were giving more cash to these guys to watch people living in squalor. There’s a huge favela right behind the Sheraton hotel at the end of Leblon beach. It’s crazy how close those who have and have not live together here.

Copacabana Beach

Copacabana Beach

Such a tough life!

Such a tough life!

Amazing sandcastle on Copacabana Beach

Amazing sandcastle on Copacabana Beach

Ipanema Beach

Ipanema Beach

Wandering down the promenade

Wandering down the promenade

So pretty

So pretty

John admiring an old tram before going up Corcovado Mountain

John admiring an old tram before going up Corcovado Mountain

The Zona Sul en-route to Cristo Redentor

Overlooking the Zona Sul en-route to Cristo Redentor

Would you just look!

Would you just look!

Cristo Redentor in all his glory

Cristo Redentor in all his glory

Rio from above

Rio from above

It's one gigantic city

It’s one gigantic city

A stop off in Botafogo to see Sugarloaf Mountain

A stop off in Botafogo to see Sugarloaf Mountain

Cable car to Sugarloaf Mountain

Cable car to Sugarloaf Mountain

Rio's Botanic Gardens

Rio’s Botanic Gardens

A lonely rose in the rose garden

A lonely rose in the rose garden

A durian fruit tree

A durian fruit tree

I'm sure these are safe...

I’m sure these are safe…

Caught mid-flight!

Caught mid-flight!

Ugly but still pretty!

Ugly but still pretty!

Lily-pads

Lily-pads (and hearts!)

Aw, and a lily

Aw, and a lily

Orchid storage!

Orchid storage!

Just so many

Just so many

I want them all!

I want them all!

Hands down THE prettiest flower

Hands down THE prettiest flower

These gardens are gigantic

These gardens are gigantic

Ya...am...I don't know

Ya…am…I don’t know

The Cacti Garden

The Cacti Garden

They've got everything here!

They’ve got everything here!

Look who made an appearance

Look who made an appearance

You don't want to get caught in these babies

You don’t want to get caught in these babies

Graffiti in Ipanema

Graffiti in Ipanema

Sunset samba at Arpoador Rock

Sunset samba at Arpoador Rock

Sunset session

Sunset session

Overlooking Ipanema and Leblon

Overlooking Ipanema and Leblon

Next stop: Sao Paolo, Brazil

Montevideo, Uruguay

We took the ferry from Buenos Aires to Colonia and then took a bus from Colonia (bus station is right next to the ferry terminal) for the 2.5 hour trip to Montevideo with COT ($URG311). You can get a ferry/bus combination from BA all the way to Montevideo but we wanted to spend a few hours in Colonia so went with this option instead. We took a taxi at Montevideo’s Tres Cruces terminal (very modern, with a pretty good shopping centre upstairs – clothes stores, supermarket, hairdressers, frozen yogurt and a food court; a good spot to have to wait around) to the centre of town for $URG160. We stayed at the SMART Hotel in the Barrio de los Artes (artsy neighbourhood) which was lovely; minimalist design, good food and great staff. I’m enjoying being back on hotel territory! The hotel was less than a five minute walk from Plaza Independencia, a great place to start your own walking tour of Montevideo.

Montevideo’s most attractive tourist area is the Ciudad Vieja or old city, which is reminiscent of Old Havana complete with crumbling facades and local ‘characters’. The old part of the city is surrounded by the Rio de la Plata (technically a river but more like the ocean) and you can easily walk along the rambla/boardwalk by the water – which can definitely be likened to Havana’s Malecon (remember my Havana post?).

We did a bit of walking tour so that’s the way I’ve decided to share this post. Hope you like it!

Walking Tour of Montevideo

Starting at Plaza Independencia, you’ll want to check out the beautiful architecture of the Palacio Salvo, apparently the site of the world’s first ever tango performance. Take that, Argentina! John obviously made me do a few tango steps here. Why not?! In the middle of the plaza you’ll find a 17 metre statue of José Artigas, (the man who put the wheels in motion for Uruguay’s independence from Spain and Portugal) on horseback. Underneath this statue is José’s mausoleum (free entry), a huge darkened room with some (very bored looking) uniformed guards. It’s worth walking just left of the statue to take a quick look at the beautifully renovated Teatro Solís too. Walking back along the back of the square I’d walk through the Puerta de la Ciudadela down Sarandí street, a street full of shops, art galleries and market stalls. Take a look around one of the loveliest bookstores you’ll likely ever see, Más Puro Verso Librería Brasserie (Address: 675 Sarandí). There’s a huge collection here, including some English language titles which is nice, there’s a brasserie upstairs and the music is ever so soothing. Museo Joaquin Torres García (Address: 683 Sarandí) is definitely worth a wander around. It’s a 4 floor museum dedicated to the works of J.T. García housed in a beautiful building with a quirky art shop at street level. Entrance is $URG100 (although they let us in for free as they had no change). Continuing down Sarandí you’ll end up at the lovely, leafy Plaza de la Constitucíon, complete with ornate fountain and market sellers and overlooked by the imposing Catedral Metropolitana. Take a walk in to the cathedral, it’s pretty plain from the outside (although still pretty) but the inside boasts beautiful blue tile-work and a very beautiful alter. It’s also a nice place to take some respite from the city. Continuing back down Sarandí you’ll find Artico, a very casual seafood restaurant/take-away spot – a great spot to pick up some lunch to eat back in the plaza. There’s a health food store a couple of more buildings down from here called La Molienda which has lovely fresh juices (orange or blueberry on our visit) for $URG8.

Palacio Salvo

Palacio Salvo

José and the Palacio Salvo

José and the Palacio Salvo

José and a crap load of aircon machines

José and a crap load of aircon machines

José's mausoleum

José’s mausoleum

Teatro Solís

Teatro Solis

Lovely tiles

Lovely tiles

Cool skateboard bench

Cool skateboard bench

Puerta de la Ciudadela

Puerta de la Ciudadela

Más Puro Verso

Más Puro Verso

JTG's New York

JTG’s New York

And some more

And some more

Continue down Sarandí until you get to Alzaibar street and turn right here to end up in Plaza Zabala. This is a very quiet park but one of the loveliest we’ve seen to be honest. Overlooking the park is the stunning Palacio Tarranco, once one of the finest residences in Montevideo (entrance is on 25 de Mayo so just walk along the side of the house. Entrance is free). There are a few floors to meander around here; it is still styled how it would have look back in the early 1900s although the furniture is somewhat minimalist compared to what you’d see in a similar style house in Europe. The garden, although small, is a lovely place to sit and relax.

Plaza Constitucion

Plaza Constitución

The prettiest fountain

The prettiest fountain

The sweetest cherub

The sweetest cherub

Market in Plaza Constitución

Market in Plaza Constitución

Montevideo's Cathedral

Montevideo’s Cathedral

Tiles in the Cathedral

Tiles in the Cathedral

Stalls in Plaza Constitución

Stalls in Plaza Constitución

Awesome wall

Awesome wall

Palacio Tarranco's garden

Palacio Tarranco’s garden

John taking it all in

John taking it all in

Nifty Parisian piano

Nifty Parisian piano

How to own this..

How to own this…

What a staircase!

What a staircase!

They built them well!

They built them well!

You can either go back to Sarandí here or walk down Washington street to get down to a very famous Montevideo landmark, the Mercado del Puerto. There’s a lovely handicraft market just outside and has some good quality handicrafts. The Mercado del Puerto is less of a market than a selection of overpriced restaurants but it’s worth a look. There are a couple of souvenir stores here too. Make sure to look up to catch a glimpse of the awesome clock.

So much colour!

So much colour!

Central Bank of Uruguay

Central Bank of Uruguay

Walking out the back of the Mercado del Puerta, turn left and you’ll likely see the entrance to the Museo del Carnaval. Montevideo has the longest carnival season in the world at 40 days so it marks sense that they’d want to show off some costumes. Entrance is $URG90 (for us foreigners with a free coffee, no tea). You’ll find yourself in a darkened cobblestoned street with costumes of carnivals past surrounding you. It’s a pretty tiny but fun museum.

Street art

Street art

More street art

More street art

And a little more!

And a little more!

Doors of the world

Doors of the world

Outside Mercado del Puerto

Outside Mercado del Puerto

Mercado del Puerto

Mercado del Puerto

More of the market

More of the market

Inside the Museo del Carnaval

Inside the Museo del Carnaval

Model Carnaval

Model Carnaval

Past costumes

Past costumes

Here's a close-up - fine moustache!

Here’s a close-up – fine moustache!

Carnaval past

Carnaval past

What's this?!

What’s this?!

Recycle, recycle, recycle!

Recycle, recycle, recycle!

Made from plastic. Talented bunch.

Made from plastic. Talented bunch.

Mini model

Mini model

And another. So cute.

And another. So cute.

You’ll now need to make your way back to Plaza Independencia. From here, walk up Avenida 18 de Julio, Montevideo’s main shopping and traffic thoroughfare. There are plenty of cafés (something that’s lacking in the old town) and shops here if you need to buy some leather; Uruguay is famous for its leather and geodes. Random. You can also buy shoes with soles about 12 inches high. I honestly think this part of South America has some kind of a small complex. It’s just as bad in Buenos Aires. You’ll pass Plaza Ingenerio Juan B. Fabini and Plaza Cagancha walking up here and there are plenty of lovely colonial style buildings here so just look up! At the corner of Avenida 18 de Julio and Yi streets you’ll see Locks Fountain, similar to the locks bridge in Paris and absolutely heaving with lovers’ locks. We saw a little girl here with her grandmother and the grandmother was explaining the how if you put a lock here with somebody then you’ll always be in love; the little girl said she’d need to come back with her Daddy to put a lock there.  How adorable!

Once you get to Ejido street turn right and the Museo de la Historia del Arte will be across the road (the door is on the left hand side of this very ugly building). Free entrance here again gets you 3 floors of Greek, Middle Eastern, Roman and Pre-Columbian art.

Arty!

Arty!

Locks Fountain

Locks Fountain

Have a lovely Easter weekend 🙂

Next stop: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay

We took the 8.15am, one hour ferry crossing with Colonia Express from Buenos Aires to Colonia de Sacramento in Uruguay. We went straight to the bus terminal and purchased our tickets on to Montevideo. We only stayed for about 4 hours as we had to get to Montevideo but that was plenty of time to explore. You can store your luggage in the bus terminal (2 hours: UYU30, 4 hours: UYU50, 6 hours: UYU60. UYU50 is about $2.50). Colonia’s historic quarter or Barrio Histórico is a UNESCO World Heritage site and has quite a few sights to keep you entertained for a couple of hours. The city was founded by the Portuguese in 1680 and changed hands between the Portuguese and Spanish quite a few times (and the Brazilians once) so it has a lot of history! It’s very popular with Argentinians who pop over from Buenos Aires to get their hands on USD (which are given out at all ATMs in Uruguay) so they can save or get the blue dollar rate back in Argentina. I’ve heard that ATM queues can be ridiculous in Colonia (Argentinians bringing their friends ATM cards and the like) but we went at the bus terminal and had no wait. We actually got a good enough rate at the bus terminal for exchanging the Argentinian Pesos we had left too.

We wandered around the city for a few hours, taking in the colonial architecture, grabbing overpriced coffee and trying to dodge the hoards of tour groups. There is a beach here but it’s anything but pretty. You can walk all along the water and you’ve circled the historic quarter and pretty much taken in all the sights so that’s quite handy! One of the nicest things to check out is the lighthouse and ruins of the old Convent of San Francisco. The trees around it are beautiful and you can go up the top to take in the surrounding landscape. The drawbridge or Portón de Campo is also worth checking out. There are plenty of souvenir stores near here to help you while away some time. We stopped for ice-cream at Cali next to the drawbridge ano that’s definitely worth a stop. Calle Suspiros is one of the oldest streets here; it’s quite dilapidated but that’s really the beauty and charm of it. The Basilica del Santísimi Sacramento is a lovely whitewashed church with some ruins right alongside it. You can sit on a bench here in the shade and do some people-watching, lovely!

Nice welcome!

Nice welcome!

Awaiting a tumbleweed

Awaiting a tumbleweed…

Wouldn't mind this as my house...

Wouldn’t mind this as my house…

So pretty

So pretty

Yachting with the locals

Yachting with the locals

They enjoy their Coca Cola signs in Uruguay

They enjoy their Coca Cola signs in Uruguay

Lots of old cars in Colonia

Lots of old cars in Colonia

Looking towards the Basilica del Santísimo Sacramento

Looking towards the Basilica del Santísimo Sacramento

Planting in cars these days

Planting in cars these days

Pretty flowers

Pretty flowers

Wire sculpture

Wire sculpture

Getting ready for the lunchtime rush

Getting ready for the lunchtime rush

Lighthouse of he ruins of the Convent of San Francisco

Lighthouse of the ruins of the Convent of San Francisco

Portón de Campo

How cool!

How cool!

A nice reminder

A nice reminder

Gorgeousness on Calle Suspiro

Gorgeousness on Calle Suspiro

Uruguay baby!

Uruguay baby!

Next stop: Montevideo, Uruguay

Buenos Aires, Argentina

We flew from El Calafate to Buenos Aires’ domestic airport, Aeroparque Jorge Newbury. We stayed in an apartment in the Palermo Hollywood district (remise/taxi from the airport was $ARS160 and took about 15 minutes) which is filled with cafés and boutique stores. I’m glad we chose Palermo as there was plenty to do in our own neighbourhood and the subway brought us to the centre of town in no time. As Buenos Aires is so big I’m going to divide this post into more manageable bites, which I hope make more sense.

Microcentro

The centre or microcentro of BA has a few sights but we didn’t find there was too much to hold our interest for more than a few hours. The most suitable subte/metro stop from our apartment was Catedral just off the lovely Plaza de Mayo, which is overlooked by the equally lovely Casa Rosada or office of the president. We wandered around here a few times and the plaza is quite a nice spot to people watch. It’s an easy walk from here to the San Telmo area but I’ll tell you about that in a minute. Probably the most famous tourist street in the city is Calle Florida, which I think they should rename Calle Cambio as touts shout Cambio! Cambio! at you here from every direction (we actually did change $USD with Lumax Cambio, just to the left of the El Ateneo Bookshop on Calle Florida. Don’t worry, they’ll approach you). There’s a beautiful shopping centre (Can I describe a shopping centre as beautiful? Yes!) here called Galerías Pacifico which has the prettiest vaulted, frescoed ceiling – well worth admiring. There’s a pretty good selection of stores here too! On an awfully sad note we found a very lonely looking Harrods store around here – open it up again BA! A bookshop with a difference, El Ateneo Gran Splendid (Address: Avenida Santa 1860) is housed in an old theatre. There’s a lovely vibe in here, a bit of art dotted around, a café to chill out in and a whole load of tourists snapping shots. Don’t miss it though. It’s worth walking to see the Obelisco in Plaza de la Republica, a 67.5m tall concrete and white stone obelisk built back in 1936 in just 31 days! It stands at the cross-section of Avenida Corrientes and Avenida 9 de Julio, the widest avenue in the world. Cool! We wandered from here to the Retiro neighbourhood to check out Plaza San Martín, a lovely green space (which used to be a bullring) to chill out with the locals…and Sheraton guests.

Welcome to Buenos Aires!

Welcome to Buenos Aires!

Casa Rosada

Casa Rosada

Plaza de Mayo with the Cathedral in the background

Plaza de Mayo with the Cathedral in the background (yep, the one that looks like the Stock Exchange)

Pretty door/building on Calle Florida

Pretty door/building on Calle Florida

Some of BA's architecture

Some of BA’s architecture

Galerías Pacifico

Galerías Pacifico

El Ateneo Gran Splendid

El Ateneo Gran Splendid

Harrods Buenos Aires

Harrods

So sad!

So sad 😢

Plaza San Martín

Plaza San Martín

Pimped up BA bus

Pimped up BA bus

Obelisco

Obelisco

San Telmo

Walking down Calle Defensa from Plaza de Mayo brings you to the antique store laden neighbourhood of San Telmo. Be sure to stop to have your photo taken with the beloved Argentinian comic book character, Mafalda (at the corner of Defensa and Chile streets). There are a few buildings which have been converted to little markets selling old records, crockery, glassware, posters and the like around here – you just have to look in every door! The San Telmo Mercado is worth exploring; here you can find antiques, art, fruit and veg and have your dinner in a café or an espresso in Coffee Town. Continuing down Defensa you’ll find leafy Plaza Dorrego, apparently awash with an awesome antiques market every Sunday but we unfortunately missed this. We visited on a Saturday and there were quite a few stalls around though.

The neighbourhood of Montserrat is just next to San Telmo (technically the Casa Rosada is in Montserrat) and it’s well worth ambling through its cobblestoned streets. Buenos Aires’ oldest café, Café Tortoni (Address: Avenida de Mayo 825) is here and still has tango shows every night (you have to book in advance but I believe you can do it on the day in the café).

Approaching San Telmo

Approaching San Telmo

Relaxing with Mafalda

Relaxing with Mafalda

Awesome

Awesome

Beautiful colours en route to San Telmo market

Beautiful colours en route to San Telmo market

In an antiques market

In an antiques market

San Telmo market

San Telmo market

Antiques store in the market

Antiques store in the market

Cool fruit boxes in the market

Cool fruit boxes in the market

Plaza Dorrego on a Saturday

Plaza Dorrego on a Saturday

Old school store on Plaza Dorrego

Old school store on Plaza Dorrego

Palermo

We spent the majority of our time in BA around the Palermo area which is roughly broken down into numerous smaller  areas but we spent most of our time in Palermo Viejo or Old Palermo and Palermo Nuevo. Palermo Viejo is further divided into Palermo Hollywood and Palermo SoHo. Palermo Hollywood (where our AirBnB apartment was located) is called so because lots of TV and radio producers set up shop here back in the 1990s. Palermo Hollywood’s leafy lined  streets are brimming with cafés, bars and restaurants. Our favourite coffee spot here was LAB Tostadores de Café on Humboldt street and the best brunch award would have to go to the very pretty Oui Oui. There’s a brand new outlet shopping centre on Avenida Juan B. Justo (very close to the Palermo subte stop) called Distrito Arcos. It doesn’t have lots of very well known brands but Lacoste, Adidas and Levi’s are here and Vitamina (Olivia Palermo models for them) seems to be opening soon. You could easily spend a couple hours pottering about the stores here. The famous Argentinian ice-cream brand, Freddos is here, along with a pretty cool looking modular shaped building housing a Starbucks; Le Pain Quotidien makes an appearance too for foodies. Palermo SoHo’s epicentre is Plaza Serrano, most exciting at weekends when there’s an arts and crafts market but honestly I thought it was more of a blink and you’ll miss it spot! There are cafés, restaurants and boutiques around a playground with a few benches; it probably doesn’t deserve the plaza title but it’s a nice spot for a meander . The coffee spot you’ll need to look out for here is LATTEnTE (Address: Thames 1891). Palermo Neuvo holds the triangular shaped Carlos Thays Botanic Garden (Plaza Italia subte stop), just next to the zoo, is a lovely spot to wander around and take a break from the city heat. Although not the most peaceful spot in the world, there are lovely fountains, statues and a stunning greenhouse to potter around. Thays’ mansion still stands in the grounds and there’s some artwork and mini models to check out in here. It’s free to enter the gardens.

We really enjoyed the Jardín Japonés or Japanese Gardens (Scalabrini Ortiz subte but a good walk from here), built within the expansive Parque Tres de Febrero (entrance is $ARS50). It was built in 1967 so has had plenty of time to mature into the beauty that it is today. There’s a huge lake in the middle of the garden filled with gigantic carp and criss-crossed by a number of bridges. There’s obviously also plenty of Japanese greenery and some bonsai trees to admire. So cute! The Rosedal or Rose Garden is also situated in the Parque Tres de Febrero and is absolutely gorgeous (free entry). It has been around over 100 years and is kept perfectly. There’s a lake here you can rent pedal boats too.

Checking out the streets of Palermo Hollywood

Checking out the streets of Palermo Hollywood

Café in Palermo

Café in Palermo

Free gigs!

Free gigs!

Plaza Serrano

Plaza Serrano

Now there's a mosaic!

Now there’s a mosaic!

Can't pass up a Ché shot

Can’t pass up a Ché shot

Cute street in Palermo SoHo

Cute street in Palermo SoHo

Plaza Serrano's weekend market

Plaza Serrano’s weekend market

A sign in action

A sign in action

Feeling all Alice in Wonderland

Feeling all Alice in Wonderland

Madison Avenue!

Madison Avenue!

So cute

So cute

Bit different

Bit different…

Oh so pretty!

Oh so pretty!

So cool

So cool

In Plaza Italia

Here’s looking at you kid

Entrance to the Botanic Garden

Entrance to the Botanic Garden

In the Botanic Garden

In the Botanic Garden

Just relaxing

Just relaxing

One beautiful greenhouse

One beautiful greenhouse

Just catching a breeze

Just catching a breeze

Great chill out space

Great chill out space

Rosedal Garden

Rosedal Garden

European!!

European!!

Japanese Garden

Japanese Garden

Lovely setting

Lovely setting

Japanese wishing tree

Japanese wishing tree

Couldn't resist another

Couldn’t resist another

La Boca

We took a taxi to La Boca from outside the San Telmo mercado ($ARS40, ten minutes) as we’d heard that La Boca was quite dodgy. La Boca’s most famous street is called the Caminito, a street lined with colourful tin ramshackle houses – it’s basically a tourist trap but I’m glad we went to check it out. There’s a lot of stalls lining the streets and quite a few souvenir shops and restaurants too. We went to the Havanna café (they’re EVERYWHERE in Argentina) for a submarino – the tastiest hot chocolate where you get hot milk and a bar of chocolate so you can make it to your liking – delicious (I’m thinking lately I should just have had a photo blog on hot chocolate drinking sessions…) we caught the bus back to Palermo from here for just $ARS5.

Havanna (chocolate store) on the Caminito

Havanna (chocolate store) on the Caminito

Yep, that's the Pope

Yep, that’s the Pope

Just get a submarino!

Just get a submarino!

Caminito

Caminito

Excellent

Excellent

There's tango everywhere here

There’s tango everywhere here

Caminito Street

Caminito Street

So blue 😊

So blue 😊

Forever captured!

Forever captured!

So pretty

So pretty

Practice your tango skills

Practice your tango skills

Having a right old natter

Having a right old natter

Get your souvenirs here!

Get your souvenirs here!

Well it wouldn't be La Boca without this...

Well it wouldn’t be La Boca without this…

Recoleta

We actually ended up in Recoleta twice during our stay in BA. On our first visit we checked out one of Buenos Aires’ most famous attractions; it’s odd to say attraction as it’s Recoleta Cemetery but there you go! Recoleta is quite a well to do neighbourhood and they haven’t shied away from spending money in this labyrinth of a cemetery. Honestly though there’s a definite beauty to this place, it’s full of  impeccably (for the most part) kept stone and marble tombs, some the size of a Manhattan studio! Evita is buried here (just follow the crowds of people. She’s in a tomb under her maiden name, Duarte), along with quite a few presidents and other notable Argentinian residents. It’s an eerie but fascinating place, well worth a visit. Just next door is the Basilica Nuestra Señora del Pilar, a lovely white church with an ornate gold main alter and beautiful tiles along the floors and up the walls. You can visit a museum within the church too ($ARS15). I wouldn’t miss this church if you’re just next door in the cemetery. On the weekends there’s an arts and crafts market with over 100 stalls on Plaza Francia, just outside the church. It’s worth a walk around if you’re looking for souvenirs. Just bear in mind that BA is not an early city – some people only set up about 2pm! There’s a much talked about store/centre here too called Buenos Aires Design which is pretty much a group of furniture stores. Maybe it’s loved by many but I honestly thought it was a bit of a hyped up IKEA. We checked out the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes just around the corner from here (free entry) one afternoon. It was a quick visit to be honest, but they have a nice collection of art (including Henry Moore, Jackson Pollock, Picasso and Rodin) and a nice museum shop. Just next to the museum is the Plaza Naciones Unidas which is host to the Floris Genérica, a huge flower sculpture which is supposed to open and close with the sun although it’s currently undergoing some repairs.

What's on in Recoleta?

What’s on in Recoleta?

Basilica Nuestra Señora del Pilar

Basilica Nuestra Señora del Pilar

City of Tombs

City of Tombs

A very pretty tomb

A very pretty tomb

Rows and rows

Rows and rows

Some pretty old graves here too

Some pretty old graves here too

Yep, very, very old

Yep, very, very old

Ornate to say the least

Ornate to say the least

There's Evita

There’s Evita

Tango on everything at Recoleta market

Tango on everything at Recoleta market

Recoleta's a very pretty neighbourhood

Recoleta’s a very pretty neighbourhood

Awesome street sign

Awesome street sign

The prettiest of pinks

The prettiest of pinks

Floris Genérica

Floris Genérica

Getting to Uruguay: We organised our ferry crossing to Colonia in Uruguay with Colonia Express in the microcentro (Address: Avenida Córdoba 753). They were the cheapest provider (by far). Seacat Colonia are just across the road from here but they won’t let foreigners pay with Argentinian Pesos. Thank but no thanks 😊.

Next stop: Colonia, a UNESCO World Heritage site in Uruguay

El Calafate and Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina

We travelled with Turismo Zaahj from Puerto Natales to El Calafate in Argentina ($15,000CP). An hour in to the journey we stopped to get our exit stamps from Chile – this took exactly 8 minutes for everybody in the bus – yay!! Ten minutes later we arrived at Argentinian border control and all the bus was stamped in to the country in about 10 minutes and there were no bag checks. Best border crossing EVER.

El Calafate

We stayed in Las Cabañitas in a two story little cabana on our first night in El Calafate – it was adorable and had the most beautiful lavender bushes outside. Now I say two story but you could only fit the bed in upstairs, and even that was a tight squeeze – cozy I would say! We stayed at Hostería Austral on our second visit, nice but no kitchen facilities and the owners were quite greedy – turning radiators half on, telling people there was nowhere to exchange US dollars except with them and then offering a terrible rate, and also telling customers the cost of a trip to the airport is $ARS250 when it’s $ARS200. Little things I know but definitely enough to put me off recommending them.

El Calafate is a very pretty town, lavender bushes abound, cafés are filled with freshly wowed hikers and glacier-goers and souvenir shops are overstocked with local berry liquors, jams and chocolates. There’s really no comparison between here and El Chaltén.

We stopped in a few times at Borges y Alvarez, a bar with a library feel which overlooks the main street, Los Libertadores. They have very tasty hot chocolates here along with rustic style potatoes which are delicious (they’re not mentioned on the menu so you have to ask). Abuela Goye’s chocolate shop is just up around the corner from here and is worth a stop off; randomly we picked up Wally’s Patagonia Tea from here – so many flavours! There’s a café chain called Don Luis here (we saw at least four), not amazing but the have ok sandwiches and bakery goodies to take away. The best craft/souvenir store we found was Arte Indio; it honestly has some of the best, albeit pricey, souvenir shopping I’ve seen in a while. There’s a park within the town called Intendencia Parque Nacional Los Glaciares which is worth a visit; there’s not much there but it’s worth a quick visit – there’s a few statues of Darwin and a map of the National Park (which hosts the Perito Moreno Glacier).

El Calafate isn’t the easiest place to get the blue dollar rate. The only option we found was Cambio Casimira Bigurá (current exchange rate is $ARS11.50 for $1 USD). Here you don’t have to purchase anything to get the blue dollar rate, everywhere else you can pay in US dollars or Euro but you won’t get as good a rate (others were offering $ARS11 for $1 USD).

We flew from El Calafate to Buenos Aires and paid $ARS200 for a remise/taxi which we pre-organised at one of the many stands around the town.

El Calafate!

El Calafate!

Cute accommodation on our first visit

Cute accommodation on our first visit

So far from everywhere we know!

So far from everywhere!

Cute little shopping area

Cute little shopping area

Old school store sign

Old school store sign

So lovely!

So lovely!

Park within the town on El Calafate's history

Park within the town on El Calafate’s history

Learning every day!

Learning every day!

Darwin and a Macaroni Penguin

Darwin and a Macaroni Penguin

The Big Ice – Perito Moreno Glacier 

We booked an ice trek called ‘The Big Ice’ with Hielo & Aventura for a day walking along the Perito Moreno Glacier – a glacier that’s neither advancing nor retreating at the moment. The whole glacier is 250km² and is Patagonia’s most famous (and beautiful) glacier. FYI Upsala is the largest glacier in the area – at 60km long. Unbelievable!

We set out at 7am and travelled to the Perito Moreno Glacier lookout point, about an hour and a half away from El Calafate. We had an hour to look around here, there are a lot of steps so you’ll warm up in no time! Back on the bus and five minutes later we were at the ferry stop for the 15 minute crossing to the forest next to the glacier. Here we met our ice trek guides, Lewis and Emmanuel. We had to walk for about 45 minutes along the forest floor before arriving at the base of the glacier. Here we put on our crampons and headed on to the ice for 3 hours. I was expecting it to be quite jagged and that we’d have to climb a lot but it was more like little hills with lots of crevices. There were plenty of crystal clear pools of water for us to fill up our water bottles – the water is just beautiful. Lewis and Emmanuel trekked before us, clearing a safe path and chatting away. We stopped to have our packed lunch before turning around and trying to find the same path back. The day absolutely flew and it was so much fun! On the return journey we sampled some wild calafate berries in the forest, quite like a blueberry except a little more bitter. We were picked up by the ferry and they gave everybody some Famous Grouse whiskey (or Farmhouse Goose as John told me he got!!) with glacial ice, along with a little keepsake – a ‘Big Ice’ key ring and mini Calafate berry liquor. Nice touch!

We're here!

We’re here! Just look at that baby in the background!

Right you are then!

Right you are then!

That's quite a glacier

That’s quite a glacier

It's gigantic

It’s gigantic

Gigantic I tell you!

Gigantic I tell you!

Up close

Up close

A change in weather after the ferry crossing to the forest

A change in weather after the ferry crossing to the forest

Crampons!

Crampons!

Ok, I didn't have to do any hard work

Ok, I didn’t have to do any hard work

They totally match my hiking boots!

They totally match my hiking boots!

And we're off!

And we’re off!

The water is perfect

The water is perfect

Little bit of climbing

Little bit of climbing

Just chilling❄️

Just chilling❄️

Ice-picking challenge...save the tourists

Ice-picking challenge…save the tourists

There's a substantial drop down there!

There’s a substantial drop down there!

Told ya!

Told ya!

Paying his way...

Paying his way…

Aw

Aw

Here's what the surface of a glacier looks like

Here’s what the surface of a glacier looks like

A little more

A little more

John enjoying his Famous Grouse with some glacial ice

John enjoying his Famous Grouse with some glacial ice

Next stop: Buenos Aires baby!!

El Chaltén, Argentina

🍀🍀🍀

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

🍀🍀🍀

Although we travelled to El Calafate prior to El Chaltén we returned to El Calafate so I’ll tell you about El Chaltén first!

We travelled with CalTur for the 3 hour journey from El Calafate to El Chaltén ($550ARS return to El Calafate). The bus stops about 2 minutes from town in the Park Ranger Office so you can listen to a quick safety briefing (in Spanish and English). We stayed at Condor de Los Andes for 2 nights ($ARS230 per person per night) – in a dorm room for just the second time in our whole trip. The first night was fine; we met a lovely couple from Buenos Aires but the second night we had 2 Brazilian guys and one of them must be the snoring champion of the world. Such fun! Also there was an absolute scramble from the bus station to look for accommodation so I’d definitely advise booking here before just showing up.

Anyway, as our time was short in El Chaltén we decided on a day hike from the town up to a viewpoint at Laguna Torre to see a glacier. We did the 9km (each way) trek in about 6 hours. It’s quite hilly here and there even though they say it’s relatively flat so just be prepared for that. There are a few viewpoints or miradors on the journey with views of Cerro Torre and the valleys around El Chaltén before you reach the base of Laguna Torre with the glacier reaching right to the mouth of the lake. It’s pretty beautiful and if the weather had been kind to us then we would have had stunning views of Mount Fitzroy in the background. We walked along the ridge high above the lake to a mirador called Mellinsk (about half an hour to the top from the lake) to get a view up along the glacier; it’s definitely worth the extra half an hour climbing as you get much better views of the glacier than just down by the lake.

El Chaltén is the tiniest of towns – if you’re not in to hiking then there really wouldn’t be much to do. There are quite a few restaurants, most of which don’t open until 7pm, and La Cerveceria, an expensive see joint where you get popcorn along with your drinks. Wifi was terrible in El Chaltén, although we had some spotty reception in a nice little café, Lo de Haydee, which also had very tasty apple crumble.

That’s kind of all there is to say…I probably wouldn’t be in a rush back.

El Chaltén 'town'

El Chaltén ‘town’

Probably the tiniest church on the planet

Probably the tiniest church on the planet

Local shop

Local shop

Freakiest sky ever

Freakiest sky ever

John starting the trek

John starting the trek

Rainbow greeting

Rainbow greeting

Hahaha!!

Hahaha!!

A well trodden path for sure

A well trodden path for sure

Pretty close to another glacier

Pretty close to another glacier

Getting a little further up

Getting a little further up

To see this!

To see this!

Nice spot to relax

Nice spot to relax

The weather turned beautiful on the way back

The weather turned beautiful on the way back

Next stop: El Calafate and the Perito Moreno Glacier

Puerto Natales and Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, Chile

Warning: This is an exceptionally long post. You may wish to pop on the kettle.

Puerto Natales

Just over 2 hours from Punta Arenas, passed a desolate, windswept landscape at first and then snowy mountains jutting out in the distance, you’ll find yourself in a new province, Ultima Esperanza. We travelled with Bus-Sur ($6,000CP) who dropped us off at Rodoviario bus terminal, about a 15 minute walk from the town centre. We stayed at Erratic Rock ($30,000 for double room) which was the most perfect place – homely, warm and welcoming; and a great breakfast. There’s not too much to do in Puerto Natales proper, it’s really just a spot to organise yourself for a trip to Parque Nacional Torres del Paine. Erratic Rock is right next door to Base Camp, a pub which organises a free information session every day at 3pm where you can learn about Torres del Paine (treks to do, gear to bring, you can also rent gear or take free stuff from recently returned trekkers from the pub). We found a lovely café down by the water, The Coffeemaker, which has an open fireplace, good tea and banana cake, and a great view. We had fantastic pizza at Mesita Grande – king crab on a pizza? Yes please!

Puerto Natales' Cathedral

Puerto Natales’ Cathedral

The loveliest postbox in the land

The loveliest postbox in the land

Wish I could knit. I shall have to learn!

LOVE this store! Wish I could knit. I shall have to learn!

The Navimag ferry bringing the town all it's supplies

The Navimag ferry bringing the town all its supplies

Local sculpture

Local sculpture

Kinda looks like a potato

Kinda looks like a potato

There are some mountains back there...somewhere

There are some mountains back there…somewhere

John trying to break his hand

John trying to break his hand

Me trying to break my body

Me trying to break my body

Bit of water in your boat there mate

Bit of water in your boat there mate

Torres del Paine

We booked tickets at our lovely, homely hostel, Erratic Rock, for the 7.50am bus ($15,000CP open return with ‘Via Paine’) heading from Puerto Natales’ Rodivario bus station to Parque Nacional Torres del Paine (TDP). I’d recommend getting tickets for the 7.30am bus to the park as the 7.50am was full when we got there so we had to wait another 15 minutes for them to put on another bus – which is fine but if you want to camp for free then you need to sign up at the park’s entrance point and everything was booked up by the time we arrived. Actually, if you can then you should try to book your bus tickets with ‘Buses Gómez’ – they seemed a lot more professional than Via Paine. The journey from Puerto Natales to TDP took a little over 2 hours including a 15 minute café stop along the way (delicious homemade cakes).

The entrance point to the park is called ‘Portería Laguna Amarga’ and once you’re here you’ll have to fill out a form (they have pens) and you’ll need to go to a desk to pay your park entrance fee ($18,000CP). You’ll then need to bring this form to the next desk to get stamped in and they’ll provide you with a map to the park. If you want to camp for free at Camp de Torres you’ll need to queue up again and register. You’re then obliged to watch a 3 minute safety video before hopping on a waiting shuttle bus ($2,800CP) to take you to one of the trek starting points. We decided to start our trek at Hotel Las Torres.

Most people who visit Torres del Paine do a trek called the ‘W’ which brings you round some of the highlights of the park and usually takes around 5 days. There’s another trek called the ‘Circuit’ which brings you all around the back of the park, and includes the W and can be done in around 9 days. There’s another, longer trek called the ‘Q’ which takes around 10 days. We decided to do a bit of an ‘O’ shape – the back of the circuit and most of the W, excluding a little bit in the middle, in 6 days.

Views from the bus en-route to the park

Views from the bus en-route to the park

On arrival at the campsite of Hotel Las Torres ($8,500CP per person. Yes, that’s $34 to fricking camp!!) we organised the tent and then started a one day trek to the Base de Las Torres, probably TDP’s most infamous site – three towering granite mountains overlooking a beautiful turquoise lagoon.

This is a mostly uphill slog that took us about 8 hours return. It was definitely difficult (it’s very rocky so I’d definitely recommend hiking boots) but once you get there you forget all about it. We took a little toe-dip into the glacial water – the perfect recovery for aching feet!

Our first nights camp

Our first nights camp

And we're off!

And we’re off!

A wowsers moment

A wowsers moment

Fecked already

Fecked already

So far so beautiful

So far so beautiful

Just horsing around

Just horsing around

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Up up up

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Thought we were already in here…but yay!

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Finally here and I’m zonked

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Ok it’s pretty damn gorgeous

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Taking it all in

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Wow

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John taking a moment

Day 2 was a 4 hour walk in the park! We took a few breaks and met a lovely German chap who we ran in to everywhere for the next few days. We passed lots of fields of something along the lines of wheat (??) and many, many horses. Campamento Serón ($8,500 per person) was possibly the windiest place on the earth to try to get a tent up. We’re becoming pros now though 😊 You can actually get meals here AND they use Kerrygold butter so they could only be great, right?

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Let the orange marks show you the way…when you actually spot them

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Freaky little spot

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John with the weight of our world on his shoulders

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Walking with horses

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12km complete!

Day 3 was 6 hours from Campamento Serón to Refugio y Campamento Dickson. This was a little bit difficult at the start of the day (damn climbing. John’s now a convert and no longer seems to enjoy climbing. Thank Jesus!) but once we got up a hill overlooking Lago Paine we were treated to a stunning view of the lake along with all the wind in Patagonia. Not joking – I could hardly walk with the wind pushing against me! Onwards and upwards and we landed at Coirón, a ranger station where you have to register and then on through a lot of windy forest and pass some beautiful rivers until you get a view of the a beautiful glacier and you just pray that the lodge you’re looking down on with horses in the grounds is your campsite…and it is!! Joyful! A quick descent landed us into the lakeside Campamento Dickson ($4,300CP per person). There were cold showers here and a little mini-market (they had Twix!) too. As this place is beside a lake it’s teeming with mosquitoes – aggressive little feckers too so definitely bring repellent.

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Big day today

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So pretty

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Actually managed to get ahead of John for 5 whole minutes

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Just another day 😊

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I think this is where the hobbits live

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Wowsers

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Delighted to see this sign for a little rest stop

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Pretty clearly defined path round these parts

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More snow!

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This place is just amazing

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There’s our little orange home

Day 4

This was a relatively easy 4 hour hike from Refugio y Campamento Dickson to Campamento Los Perros (camping was $4,300 per person at Los Perros). It was mainly a walk though hilly forest with a couple of viewpoints until you reach a small but still very impressive glacier, Glacier Los Perros. It’s just 10 minutes from the glacier to the camp so we set up shop and wandered back to the lake by the glacier to chill (quite literally) by some gigantic icebergs.

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Bye!

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Little more climbing today

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Proof I’m up here 😊

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Totally cool; that’s not fast moving water…

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Well hello!

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Absolutely massive up close – I mean size of a bus

Day 5

We started at Campamento Los Perros and had a 2 hour uphill slog to Paso John Gardner, 1,200m in the air. Have to say neither of us were enjoying this John Gardner chap. Once you get to the top you forget all the blister and muscle pain though – you’re overlooking the 28km long Grey’s Glacier – probably one of the most spectacular vistas either of us have ever seen. It’s a very steep descent from here for another 2 hours to Campamento Paso. We made lunch at Campamento Paso and continued on for the 4 hour trek alongside the glacier to Refugio y Campamento Grey. This walk was mostly through forest and we spotted a working woodpecker which was awesome. There were some seriously fun suspension bridge crossings thrown in on this leg of the journey too. High up and windy = great combination! Although it was the longest of our days it was probably the most enjoyable – I don’t think I can do the scenery justice with words and pictures.

Grey’s camp had great facilities; piping hot showers (from 7pm to 10pm), a mini-market and indoor cooking facilities – a real treat! We met a lovely American couple here on their honeymoon so had a great evening chatting over pasta. Camping here was $4,300CP per person.

Day 6 started with an early morning wake up call and 3.5 hour trek in the rain. We’ve had the most amazing weather for the whole trip so a little rain didn’t dampen our spirits at all. A river crossing over jagged rocks wasn’t ideal though…

We caught the 12.30pm ferry from Refugio Paine Grande ($15,000CP) across the most beautiful turquoise Lago Pehoé (30 minutes) and took a waiting bus back to Puerto Natales for some time indoors. Such an amazing experience.

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Oh such pretty colours

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We made it!!

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So Grey’s Glacier is pretty damn beautiful

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John on the descent

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Bravo nature 👏

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Beautiful little things

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We’re pretty high up

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Me and my companion, Sticky II

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Kinda vast

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Yes, it finally ends

There's a stairs we gotta get up over there!

There’s a stairs we gotta get up over there!

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Homeward bound now

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Sad to be leaving but woah that’s a turquoise lake!

Next stop: El Calafate, Argentina

Punta Arenas and Isla Magdalena, Chile

Punta Arenas

We flew in to Punta Arenas from Puerto Montt with Sky Airlines (quick 2 hour journey with amazing views of the snow covered peaks of Parque Nacional Torres del Paine – try to sit in a window seat on the left hand side of the plane). We took a little mini bus for the 20km trip into the centre of Punta Arenas ($3,000CP per person) and quickly found some lodgings at Barefoot Backpackers on a quiet street…saying that I think all streets are quiet in Punta Arenas, it’s the definition of a tumbleweed town apart from the main street. There’s a pretty good Unimarc supermarket (Address: Salvador Allende 349) for picking up supplies and lots of outdoorsy stores – The North Face currently have 30% off!! We had a relaxed cuppa at Amaranta just next to the Bussur bus terminal. They have good wifi and if it’s empty it’s because of their ludicrous prices – $5 for a cup of tea. Would you be well? We also had some lemon pie at Café Tostado (Address: Hernando de Magallenes 922) and some ok coffee and lovely tea from the cutest looking place in town, Patiperro (Address: intersection of Lautaro Navarro and Pdte. Julio A. Roca) to take on a little wander to the waterside down by the casino. We ended up staying in Punta Arenas for 3 nights but unfortunately that’s only because I caught a little bug so was bedridden for one of those days. Aw.

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Bus-Sur’s fancy schmancy terminal

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Good ol’ Ferdinand Magellan

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Church by the Bus-Sur offices

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Penguin merchandise

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Give me more penguin stuff!

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Museo Braun Menéndez

Patiperro coffee shop

Patiperro coffee shop

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Warming up

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Punta Arenas’ fitting graffiti

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Princess Cruises docked in Punta Arenas

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Bird-watching

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Just in case you need keys cut

Isla Magdalena – PENGUIN TIME!!

We booked a tour to Isla Magdalena to see an island full of penguins with Comapa Travel for $30,000CP per person. Demand is exceeding supply at the moment so we had to book 2 days before. On Saturday we rocked up to the Terminal Tres Puentes ($2,700CP taxi ride from Punta Arenas’ centre) at 2.30pm. Our boat/ferry, Melinka, finally left at 4pm for the hour and a half journey to the island. It’s a pretty boring ferry trip so bring a book and some food/be prepared to nap. Luckily I have some magazines on my trusty Zinio app.

All I can say is woah! Approaching the island you see thousands of black and white Magellanic Penguins (and plenty birds too) and plenty of penguins swimming alongside the ferry to get to dry land. It’s so awesome! We spent an hour on the island just click clicking away. You have to stay on the designated path but the penguins aren’t obliged to do so (!) so they cross in front of you all the time. We saw a few furry baby penguins next to their burrows. There’s a lighthouse up the top of the island with a couple of posters on penguins the birds of the area. It’s honestly the windiest place I’ve ever been – we’re talking 2 tops, 2 fleeces, a windbreaker jacket, 2 pairs of socks, hiking boots and a woolly hat – and I was still cold! My one mistake was the yoga pants though, those babies ain’t made for seafaring.

Just a word of warning – once you start closing in on the ferry terminal back in Punta Arenas you’ll want to make your way outside (we saw penguins swimming alongside us and John saw a whale) as once the ramp goes down it’s like an episode of The Amazing Race; every man for himself to try to get a taxi! There were only 5 taxis and a few minibuses for the entire ferry so you’ll definitely want to get off ASAP so you’re not waiting around in the icy weather.

Definitely worth a day trip from Punta Arenas 😊

Our ferry to Isla Magdalena

Our ferry to Isla Magdalena

Oops

Oops

I see them, I see them!!

I see them, I see them!!

We're here!

We’re here!

They're everywhere!!

They’re everywhere!!

Popping up everywhere 🐧

Popping up 🐧

Doesn't the guy on the left look like Cruella Deville wearing a coat?!

Doesn’t the guy on the left look like Cruella Deville wearing a coat and heels?!

This guy actually walks like The Penguin in Batman

This guy actually walks like The Penguin in Batman

Hello, is it me you're looking for?

Hello, is it me you’re looking for?

Do I smell?

Do I smell?

Buds for life

Buds for life

Abbey Road? The Beatles?

Abbey Road? The Beatles?

Hellooo! Anybody home?

Hellooo! Anybody home?

Aw, fluffy babies 🐧🐧

Aw, fluffy babies 🐧🐧

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Hurry up!

Watch my back?

Watch my back?

Penguins crossing

Penguins crossing

All by myself!

All by myself!

I'm home lads

I’m home lads

Well, it is breeding season

P-p-p-pick up a penguin. Well, it is breeding season

Ok last pic

Ok last pic

Next stop: Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, Chile