Santiago (Chile) - Buenos Aires (Argentina)
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The fireworks were amazing and were only bettered by the crowd jumping up and down singing dancing and waving giant balloons - long black and white bags tied at each end colours of Colo Colo -
After this the game could only fade in comparison - had great difficulty in getting back to our hostel after the match - public transport was jammed packed with people hanging out of buses etc - eventually we flagged down a taxi and he managed to stuff 7 of us into the wagon.
Later on in the week I experienced my first earthquake - I was in bed at the time and the thing started to shake - eerie experience- happens quiet regularly in Chile as it so happens
After about a week in Santiago I started my Spanish coarse - it wasn't much fun being on the other side of the desk - after a couple of days I was glad to get the opportunity to spend 2 days in Vena Del Mar - beach area on the coast of Chile - fortunately we could also continue the coarse there - so it was handy to get another 2 days of that out of the way.
When I arrived back in Santiago Mick was in the court yard waiting for me - it was good to see someone that could speak English (especially after I had this Aussie pleb taking the piss out of my accent while in beach resort)
The owner of the hostel Ian was a very good host putting on wine tasting nights and also having bbq's of different meat cuts which were absolutely delicious,
While in Santiago I went up San Chriostabal hill on 2 occasions to see a view of the city. There was also a nice shrine and alter up atop the hill where pope John Paul II once said mass. (I bet he didn't have to walk up)
After a few more days in Santiago Mike and I headed south to the wine region of Talca - armed with my few words of Spanish and a desire to taste plenty of wine the adventure was about to begin.
Arrived in Talca and discovered that our hostel Casa Chueca was actually a VEGETARIAN hostel run by German's - that took the wind out of our sails a little.
They cooked up meals and they were absolutely gorgeous - the food was amazing - Mick wasn't long falling for one of the workers at the place a girl called Gazxina - Mick like myself has an uncanny ability to forget names - so we resolved this issue by the the 2 words gazelle - she looked fit like 1 and xena warrior princess - unfortunately for mike she was as nimble as a gazelle and evaded capture.
While in Talca we took the opportunity to rent out a few bikes and head to the local winery -
Hugo De Casanova - the day was sweltering and we were delighted once we arrived to the place after about a 10km cycle - once there we got a nice tour of the place and then down to business - after about 2 glasses of wine - we were on the road again - 2 bottles of wine each - carefully placed on the handlebars as we cycled home
- the country side was really beautiful and was the perfect setting for such a trip - in our enthusiasm to get back to the hostel and open up our bounty we over shot the entrance by about 1 km - how bad.
polished off the bottles after a couple of days and headed to Pucon.
While we were there we decide to climb Snow covered Volcan Villarrica
which is 2,847 meters and one of Chile's most active volcanoes. It rises above the lake and town of the same name. The volcano is also known as Rucapillán, a Mapuche word meaning "House of the Spirit". Villarrica is also one of only a handful of volcanoes worldwide to have an active lava lake within its crater.
We get up at around 5 and head off in the bus to the foot of the volcano - the first 1 hour was mainly walking on ashes from previous eruptions after that we threw on our crampons and gaiters and started to walk on the glacier. Our guide showed us how to use our axe in case one of us fell - if you fell on the way up and you didn't get some purchase with your axe you were pretty much fucked.
Was scary enough heading up as we zig zagged in our ascent - after about 3 hours we finally made it as we reached the summit we were choked by the mixture of chlorine and sulpher . We spent about an hour walking around the rim and taking photos - unfortunately we didn't see any lava - the trip up however was exhilarating enough.
The trip down though was well dangerous and on a number of occasions I was glad to get the help of the guide to descend. Back in the hostel we settled back to a cold beer and a rest my feet were really killing me - I was half tempted to cover my feet in dog food and get the mutt wipee to give them a lick - fortunately for him I couldn't find any dog food !!
After a couple of days we headed to the hot springs just outside of villarica with our volcano group it was great to finally relax and sooth our weary bones on through san martin de los andes and then to bariloche in Argentina, stayed in 41 below in bariloche. After a few days scouting the place for Irish pubs (they have 4)we eventually settled on Willkennys for St Patrick's Day.
We started on the beer early as we wanted to catch the Ireland v Italy rugby match, after a while headed back to eat breakfast and then after a wee nap headed out for the night and early morning _ it was rough .
The pub itself was a bit of an odd place. It had the whole place decked out in the Irish colours and the like, every so ofter an Irish flag would appear on the wide screen tv with the slogan Tiocfaidh ar la then after that a unionist flag would appear. Kind of bizarre,unfortunately none of our Spanish was that good to correct the gaff.
Next afternoon was in bad shape, headed down and gobbled a few raspberries that were in the fridge / washed down with a couple of danone's and a glass of long life milk. Unfortunately this milkshake had difficulty gaining any purchase on the barren landscape that was my stomach and in no time at all the bathroom sink was a delightfull colour pink.
As both Mike and my Spanish was proving inadequate we decided to enroll in a Spanish coarse in Bariloche _ more punishment _1 week
During the coarse of the lessons our teacher was always talking about dulce de leche It sounded amazing but she couldn't think of the English translation.Mike and I were excited with the prospect of trying out this new product only available in Argentina. We eventually found out that Dulce de leche was actually caramel!!!!! for fuck sake
On the brighter side we found a restaurant called Alberto's. On 3 occasions we ate the finest steaks yum yum (still haven't been beaten).This was a no bullshit restaurant. Beef /lamb and a side dish of salad-chips. The food was cooked on a massive grill in the middle of the restaurant.
Also everywhere you walked in bariloche you were surrounded by chocolate shops. This was particularly acute as it was coming into easter
After spending a total of about 10 days in Bariloche we headed south towards Ushuaia.
as we zig zagged between Argentina and Chile we eventually ended up in Rio Gallegos.A town in the middle of a region in the middle of nowhere,
In and out of Rio Gallegos in 2 days and then on to Ushuaia ( the southern most city in the world.)
Ushuaia was a real last outpost - there were dogs everywhere in the city and they took a particular shine to Mick's leg.
After a couple of days we decided to head out to see a couple of penguin and seal colonies a nice boat trip if you are not hungover, all the same it was good for clearing the head
There were quiet a few dedications to the Falklands as its 25 year anniversary was coming up needless to say they would appear to be still a little pissed about that war.
It was really interesting walking through the streets and seeing meat being grilled on big open fires. It was while here I realised that Argentina was indeed the king of the carnivores.
From Ushuaia we headed to el calafate.
El Calafate was a beautifull little town with many quaint wooden shop fronts and small eateries but our main reason for being here was to see the Perito Moreno glacier. We rocked up to our hostel (Los Dos Pinos) pretty late and like 2 dicks we started to put up our tents. It took a while to get my 1 to resemble any form of habitation, so to cool down my raging frustration I had to take off my t shirt and go topless. This resulted in the tent going up alright but also the added bonus of getting a cold the next day. Early off the next day for a short trip to see the glacier.
Perito Moreno glacier
The 250 km˛ ice formation, of 30 km in length. This icefield is the world's third largest reserve of fresh water.Glacier is 5 km wide, with an average height of 60 meters above the surface of the water, with a total ice depth of 170 meters. It advances at a speed of up to 2 m per day (around 700 m per year), although it loses mass at approximately the same rate, meaning that aside from small variations, it has not advanced or receded in the past 90 years. At its deepest part, the glacier has a depth of approximately 700 m.
Needless to say the view was amazing, just hearing the ice crack and fall into the lake demonstrated the power of nature. I stayed looking at the ice breaking off for more than 3 hours and could have stayed longer.
Then on to Fitzroy mountain range in El Chalten, arrived there and then the next day we headed on our hike.I tried to bring as little as possible but it was still a nice weight on my back, this was made all the heavier as my head cold was getting worst. After we started hiking I felt really drained after about 30 min, but still managed to keep throwing 1 foot out in front of the other.After about 5 hours of this foot throwing we eventually got to the first camp site and set up.The scenery on our way to the first camp was spectacular and the way the trail was made and the natural style of the footbridges and signage was well impressive.
I eventually locked my tent down for the night by tying it to everything that didn't move Then master chef Mike Mac Sweeney put all he learned in the Chinese restaurant in Galway to good use (a pasta and chicken soup combo)
1st bowl was super
3rd getting a bit globby
4th fear factor
5th / wasn't that sick or hungry
Head down for the night realising wasn't feeling super .
On our 2nd day in the Fitzroy we made it to the 2nd base camp located beside a river. It was arctic cold and the wind blowing across the river didn't help. We put up the tents and chef started to look a bit nervous at the same ingredients we had from the day before. Needless to say we were less than enthused, fortunately we got some tuna off Kate an Irish girl we met and that did the trick / headed off to bed with a warm tummy and happy thoughts after a while i realised this would not be enough to keep me warm
I got really cold in the middle of the night so threw on another pair of thermals - still freezing - threw on another pair of boxers over the leggings ( looked like a super hero at this stage). Unfortunately the gushing water and recently commenced rain drops on the tent gave my bladder an idea so threw on a pair of jeans (now looking like Michelin man) and braved the elements - needless to say the procedure took a while and was complicated.
The next day however was super - the campsite backdroped against a glacial lake and mountain range. Within the lake was a small ice berg - the image was really beautifull and made the 2 day hike all the more worth while
- We headed back to El Chalten that day and reflected on a super 2 day hike - then back to El calafate and a flight up to Buenos Aires.
Where I stayed