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Trip to Argentina November 12-29, 2008. Summary of itineray: 2 nights Buenos Aires, bus to San Martin de los Andes (2 nights), cab to Villa Traful (1 night), bus to Bariloche (2 nights), flight to El Calafate [plane rerouted to Rio Gallegos connecting to a bus] (2 nights), bus to El Chalten (4 nights), return bus to El Calafate (1 night), flight to Ushuia (2 nights), then return to BA for flight home.
Day 1-3: Buenos Aires
First night's restaurant; I had chicken but the steaks look nice
A look at my hotel from the nearby plaza
|Best hotel pillow treat I've ever had. One of the few items I brought back was a box of 12 of these things for $7.|
|Some tall buildings as seen from a park||Nice botanical garden||The bus terminal leaving town; must have been over 100 bus companies running out of this place. I took a nice luxury 21 hour ride to next stop.|
|Bunch of stray cats chillin' out. Rest of country had a lot of wild dogs.||1/2 of the widest avenue in the world that was somewhat foreboding and puts even the LA Freeways to shame for wideness; fortunately, there was a light to cross at. Nice overhead shot here.||Click pic for video some guys made demonstrating the cushy seats on this Via Bariloche bus; I had the best sleep ever on this ride and could have done another 10 hours, I think.|
|Big graveyard at Recoletta. Lots of cats here. Lots of crazy crypts.||Nice crazy tree in Recoletta area.||Annoyances about Buenos Aires: Traffic is madness and risk of being run over is high. Every street has a lot of smelly busses, no matter how small, exhaust all over, dinner never opens till 8pm (when walking around all day, didn't fit into my schedule). Plusses of Buenos Aires: good bizzes, good steaks, most people seem fairly content, cheap and plentiful taxis, nice greenery, cool old subway rides for 30 cents, good street signs, crazy drivers were good about signaling turns. 1 full day and 2 half-days was just enough for me before heading off across the Pampas to the Pategonia portion of my trip.|
|A guy walking 7 dogs; saw a couple of these mass dog walkers struggling in the area. They wore gloves to avoid leash-burn.||
Nice color in a park somewhere.
Day 4-5: San Martin de los Andes
Nice key from my hotel in San Martin de los Andes. All the hotel keys were this old school variety. The big piece of wood was to make you turn your key in when you left, which they said was in case they had to evacuate the place so they would know who was in their room. Shady.
After the long bus ride, I was up for activity still since it was so comfortable and hiked a short way to the overlook of the lake that the town was next to.
|Another view of the lake without me sullying the beauty.|
|The second day I was there, I had a bike and went to this other overlook to see the lake from another viewpoint that was very nice.||From the same viewpoint, a view of the city of San Martin de los Andes.||A look at the beach of the town. The air temperature was a bit cool, but very comfortable.|
|Give a good indication of the size and curviness of Lago Lacar.||On a mountain bike ride to this cove at another part of the lake, saw some nice sheep action.||View from Quila Quina, a small town of indigenous people along the lake. The bike ride down this was painful up and down and the sun was pretty intense, though it was fairly cool which was nice.|
|View of the lake from up the dirt road a bit from Quila Quina.||Major sweat action on this ride as evident from the salt on my pack. I also got majorly sunburned on the top of my hands (and nowhere else) as will be seen in later photos. I was wearing a long sleaved shirt during the ride.||Town summary: nice, but annoying that a lot of stores close during the day and on Sunday which caused me hassle. Had a nice steak one night. Hotel was ok, but shower was not great. Plan to rent a car went awry because I forgot my drivers license, so I hired a cab to drive me 100km to my next destination, Villa Traful.|
Day 6-7: Seven Lakes Route to Bariloche with stop in Villa Traful
Cab driver was nice enough to let me stop along the route to check out the various lakes. Here's one.
My first look at Lago Traful.
|I had planned on staying at a low-budget spot but they were full and as I wasn't in the mood for dallying, I took the first place down the road which happened to be the nicest place is town, at $75 US. Sweet patio.|
|Another view from inside the room. I really spoiled myself because the rest of my lodging would not come close to this.||View of the lake from the patio.||My 2 days here were so relaxing because no one was around and the lake was one of the nicest that I took many shots.|
|Some nice plant color.||First activity of the day was hiking to a couple waterfalls near town.||First waterfall. Nice to get in the shade because it was actually sort of warm and I had been in the sun a lot the previous day. My hands were still in pain from sunburn..|
|Nice view of the lake from a grassy opening in the trail.||Another angle from this resting place where I sat on a bench for a while. The lack of madness and puffy clouds and lake was very relaxing after a hectic start of the trip.||Second waterfall was a bit more impressive.|
|A wider shot of the second fall showing the rugged background. This was in the opposite direction of the lake. At the top was a mountain I attempted to hike to the next day but was thwarted.||I walked a painful 5km down the dirt road to this mega overlook that climbed some serious stairs and afforded one of the top views of a lake I've ever had.||This shot shows some of the coastline of the lake. There was a lot of horse action in the area and they enjoyed the nice grass.|
|Another angle from the overlook.||A final shot. Thankfully, some nice locals from the town that were enjoying the view gave me a ride back in the bed of their pickup for a bouncy ride back to town. I got to use my phrase book a little and for a rare time was understood.||Some wild horse walking by as seen in the evening from my room.|
|Morning view from the hotel room the next day||Big hike for the day started ok, but then I lost the trail and came across this, which was an omen for me to give up.||So instead, I just decided to walk along the lake and admire the beauty. This dog followed me for 2 hours and stopped when I stopped. I felt a bond with him and grew really attached in the short time, even though I normally dislike dogs.|
|After a while walking down the road with my dog companion always ahead of me, I went down to nice rock that had great views and sat for a while.||Another angle from this spot.||directly across the lake from this spot.|
|My dog friend goes for a dirt bath. He liked to get wet and then roll around quite often. This dog had a delighting gallop and really seemed to enjoy life, though I suspect he had no home.||Walked a little down the beach of the lake and took in the scene for a bit.||The water was exceptionally clear.|
|A look back toward the rock outcropping I had rested before.||Low shot of the water.||Shot of me sullying the view.|
|Nice color.||Excellent beer. I don't know how this town that was so small had a brewery. Overall, the beer throughout the trip was great.||I killed a bit of time then took a small bus to Bariloche for the next leg of my tour. This bus cost around $5 to go 160 km. Nice landscape that reminded me of southern Utah. Had I more time, I probably could have chilled out another day sipping beers on my patio at the "luxury" 225 pesos per night hotel, enjoying the lake and no crowds, maybe figuring out where the trail to Cerro Negro was that I couldn't find.|
Day 8-9: Bariloche
view from my hotel in Bariloche the first evening. The place was kind of a dive, but was adequate
Classy lighting in the room.
|Another view from my window.|
|Nice lounge on the floor had the best views in the place.||Before my tour, I needed cash since the cash only nature of all the towns had depleted my supply. Came across this nice interest rate on a 30-day CD, if you were willing to risk the peso didn't devalue during that time..||Tour for the day was this boat ride through the lake to Puerto Blest which then afford some little hiking through the Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi. Bus got us there early, so got some nice pictures from the docks.|
|From the boat. I was the only one in shorts out of a lot of people, but I was the happy one because it wasn't that cold and once we landed, it was pretty warm.||A very cool waterfall seen when the boat went in for a closeup.||A bit overexposed, but shows the vegetation and snow and a nice waterfall way up there.|
|Some snow-fed lake seen after getting off the boat and hiking up this nice wood path that had good creek and cascade views.||Interesting bamboo action on the trail.||Low shot of the main lake.|
|Another view from the same spot.||Cool Amazon-like river connecting the main lake to some other lake. The flies were going nuts here and took me a lot of shots to keep still.||Some cheap whiskey that they served on my 21-hour bus ride. I liked the name and the fact that it was English. One of the few things I brought back was a 750ml of this. It was about $6 and worth about $3, but I get pleasure from feeling like a bootlegger.|
|A sample of the town of Bariloche away from the main tourist center a little bit.||This street totally reminded me of the crooked part of Lombard from my 'hood. Not quite as crooked, but steep and definitely reminiscent.||I have no explanation for these "doggequins", seen in some storefront window. I saw this another time in some other town also, so there is a story behind it. Perhaps it's just cheaper that making a human mannequin head|
|Before heading to the airport, came across this big dog hanging around the main square, it's owner charging to get your photo with it.||
Bariloche was not bad. Had a good selection of restaurants, got some cheap laundry done, everything was very close. It was a little crazy with traffic. 2 nights and 1 excursion was enough and I was ready to go. The flight to El Calafate was on the airline run by the Air Force and they unexplainably sent our plane to Rio Gallegos and then put us on a bus to El Calafate, turning a 1 hour flight into a 7 hour journey. We got stopped twice in the bus for passport checks, which they liked to do a lot in Argentina, so don't take the bus if you are in the country illegally or are wanted for a crime. I didn't mind too much, but it did cause me to scramble around in El Calafate to get my hotel, dinner, and tour for the next day situated. But it was amusing and sort of enjoyable complaining with the other travelers about the whole thing.
Day 10-11: El Calafate and Glacier Excursion
Arriving late to El Calafate, I booked the all day multi-glacier boat tour. Lots of nice ice bergs and it was quite cold.
another general boat view.
|First glacier was not reachable due to major iceberg blockage.||I was a little slow getting to the prime picture spot for the closeup.||Example of greenery in the midst of major coldness. I was imazed to see this type of plant in such cold areas, since I'm only used to seeing trees like the pines of Tahoe that can stand the freezing weather.|
|Aproaching the first glacier of major proportions.||Glacier Action.||Bit wider view of the glacier.|
|Another angle looking as the glacier climbs up the mountain.||Left side of glacier.||Little water fall with some chick in the Captain's Lounge taking a picture of something in the other direction, not sure what..|
|Artsy shot. For some inexplicable reason as we jammed away from the glacier, the crew started blasting this Queen song over the PA system. I liked the song, despite it disturbing the mood. Some French guy complained and they turned it down.||Cool 'berg with a hole in it.||The big Perito Moreno glacier.|
|Bit of an angle to get some size appreciation.||Shows a little bit of the glacier texture.||
The glacier trip was fairly exhausting after scrambling around the night before and having to wake up early for it. Had a great steak in town at night and excellent ice cream for the 2nd night in a row at this place near my Hotel Los Lagos. I didn't partake in the ice cream in this country except for 3 times at this spot, but it was excellent.
Day 12-15: El Chalten
Bus ride to El Chalten afforded some nice desolate Patagonia landscape. I was in the front and was amazed by how low these clouds were.
After arrival in town, my goal of the day was to hike to this waterfall. The weather was not great and it was raining off and on and somewhat cold, but not too bad.
|Next day, I pulled the curtains on my hotel and was so happy to see it relatively clear because it had started snowing at night. A look at the town, which itself, was not that nice. Looked like an earthquake had hit it and the wind was crazy walking down the streets with dust flying in your face..|
|My hotel for 4 nights. They took no reservations and I got the last room which was lucky. Above the office was a tv lounge where I watched History of the World one night. Nice guy running the place.||On the way to the Fitz Roy trail. Sunny, but threat of storms lingered..||Another look at the town down the road towards the trails. I think I had a really good steak at one of those places on the left one night.|
|Look towards some mountains from the first vantage point on the trail.||Same spot.||Same spot.|
|Evidence of snow from the night before. This was still a pretty low elevation.||First view of Fitz Roy. Previous day, this would have be totally hidden by clouds during the storm.||Wider view of Fitz Roy near the first viewpoint.|
|Some guys I joined on the hike from SF were worried about the clouds, but at this point, we were confident that we would make the base of Fitz Roy and it was clearing more.||More clearing.||Getting Closer.|
|Little bridge crossing. The infrastructure of the park was very good. Great map board and mostly well-marked and well-maintained trails in a tough environment. I was impressed.||Look back at the other mountain range as the trail starts to get tough. Very steep and rocky with snow and wind.||Hiking through the snow. With the nice sun, it wasn't too bad. Our goal was in sight.|
|Example of the trail with market and nice clouds and mountains.||Fitz Roy in fairly good clearing with the lake frozen over. I would have liked to see the blue lake, but couldn't complain.||A look to the left, we see some glacier action. My Rough Guide book had excellent detail on this hike and advised to walk a bit more along the banks of the lake.|
|Nice snowed over lake. I'm sure much of it was from the previous night. No one was willing to walk on it, smartly.||A nice blue lake down below. Way down. I was actually a little scared to stand here. Note sweat. That climb was tough and it got to be freezing standing out here, even with nice sun. Nice lunch spot.||Shot of me with a little more of the mountain and glacier in view. This clear view would not have been had if I had slept an hour later.|
|Stayed for a bit, but then the wind all of a sudden started up there was a sense the mood was changing. We just barely made it out of there before the wind and blowing snow made things tough and was turning new-comers around.||I was astounded at how fast the weather changed. Coming down, my backpack almost blew out of my hands as I took one strap off to get something. The mountain is obscured all from blowing snow.||Interesting trees.|
|It's getting worse. Around here, a big gust of wind blew this woman off a little log crossing and my hat sailed way into some marsh. I got it, but would lose it later on the trip in the Beagle Channel.||Day 3, went for big hike #2 to the other lake and glacier, I can't recall the name of, but it was basically to the left of Fitz Roy. Not too many photos, but here's a nice glacial-tinted river.||First look at the lake and glacier afar. It was hard going, but you could go further to get a much better view of the glacier which I did and was very glad to have done so.|
|High vantage point view of the end of the lake and glacier. Some people were out there walking on it.||Another view showing the higher levels of the glacier a little better.||A shot looking back the other way. I sat at this spot for a while talking with this 70 year old German guy on a retirement around-the-world trip. He had some good stories about hitchhiking in the US during the 70's. On the return trip, this dude jammed and I had a hard time keeping up.|
|Another shot looking straight out from the lookout spot.||Last full day had the clearest weather, though it still was crazy windy.||First, I hiked to this observation point over the city and surrounding area. Here's a look from the start.|
|It was really tough to take a photo here as the wind was lifting me up, even as I sat on a rock.||Example of really nice trail signs they had. I liked the carved and colored maps which came in useful for easing my mind that I was going the right way. This was the start of the main hike for the day.||Nice color on the trail with some mountain in the background|
|It was really cold up here because I had sweated too much during the major final climb. This is the lake from the previous day, but viewed from the other side.||I took cover in a nice rock barrier, but it was still freezing as I at my lunch. Nice angle view of the lake from here.||View of the terrain in the other direction from the same spot.|
|I was low in photos by this time and had no additional memmory so was conserving pictures. In all, it was a great 4 days in the town and I had a couple good meals and some great chocolate at this maker right across from the hotel that I regret not bringing back any from. Also had some of the best hot chocolate at another spot. They melt the chocolate in milk and it is so much better than cocoa powder, it's not even close. My sneakers by this time had worn out so I left them in the garbage here and my hiking boots became my main footwear. Took the bus back to El Calafate for 1 more night at the Hotel Los Lagos and a minor excursion.|
Day 16: Layover day in El Calafate with minor excursion to Estancia
Probably could have planned better, but my flight down to Ushuia was such that I sort of had to waste a day in El Calafate, but there was this late excursion leaving at 5pm (since it stays light till 10 or so) to this estancia for a little hike and then a nice BBQ. I took 2 photos. I'm mad at myself now for taking one with this guy in the way because I really like it. This was just amazing landscape.
I should have taken a picture of the meal because I seem to recall it was very nice with great chicken and some other meats and I also enjoyed talking to the other tourists including some French Canadians who were nice to me since Obama had won the election. Lots of Canadians, French, Germans, and English on this trip.
Then there is this final picture from El Calafate of the emergency exit of my hotel. This door, on the second floor opened to nothing, so you'd fall to the ground if you ran screaming out in a fire.
Day 17-18: Ushuia
Upon arriving, had some time to walk around town before boat tour and saw this amusing scene of some kids visiting an old prison.
Nice lighthouse on the Beagle Channel excursion. Weather would turn a bit sour later on.
|Penguin island. I was surprised that the boat grounded itself right up to the beach to get close views.|
|Another look at the channel on the way back to dock. It was really cold out there and my hat blew off on this boat ride. My glasses almost did too.||Next day, weather was grim; cold with rain, but I woke early for a full day at the national park. Started off with a little walk in this interior section to a waterfall that was sad, but the genreal scenery was nice.||Really wet hiking, lot of wild horses around, a lot of nice coast line.|
|Saw several of these bird couples around the park.||Some bay.||Nice lookout point near the tip of the park, that is the end of some big road that goes 1000s of KM through Argentina.|
|There actually was a lot of cool stuff in this park, but I planned poorly and had no memory left. Walked through a lot of wetlands and bogs. I was exhausted from walking around all day. Had a nice crab dinner. Slept 2 nights in a hostel which I won't do again because I'm too old for dorm showers/bathrooms, but I will say it was cheap at $10 a day and the town was fairly full and very pricey for lodging. 2 days was enough for Ushuia. Got some good chocolate here also to take home, but it wasn't as good as the chocolate place in El Chalten. Final day 19 doesn't count as it was all travel and nothing to report, except that in Buenos Aires, it started raining so hard I was scared the bus driving us from the domestic airport to the int'l one was going to slide off the road. Flight home was painful.|
For the truly ambitious, here's the unedited audio notes (25MB, 1 hour long) I recorded as I had some downtime at various spots in the trip.
Please note that I may have been drinking beer or exhausted when making these remarks. It's not all that enlightening, but has a few interesting items.
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