Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Colombia update


Photo Link:


I entered Colombia on what was supposed to be a 5hr bus from Quito Ecuador to the border, I quickly realised that wasn´t going to happen when the bus was an hour late and instead of leaving at 5am it didn´t roll up to the station until 6:30am. The ride was beautiful though, when ever i could keep my eyes open i was blessed with beautiful mountain scenery, green hills, small villages, canyons, along with fields and pastures. Rolling up to the border was probably one of the most painless crossings i have had thus far. exiting Ecuador was amazingly fast, and entering Colombia required NO paper work, just a 5 person line and a 1 minute or two while the immigration guard flipped to an empty page on my passport and stamped me in. My next bus was actually quite similar to the first of this long journey into Colombia, a estimated 12 hours to my final destination, and at 11pm with still 5 more hours to go i bailed on the remainder of the journey and stopped off in the town on Papayan.

Papayan: is a real locals town and i semi regret not spending more than a day there, with side trips to national parks, mountains with good biking, coffee tours, hot springs, and just good local food, i only spent the morning here before jumping on another epic bus journey. I was planning on heading to Cali but after talking to a couple of travelers re routed to the city of Salento located up in the hills which is one of the major coffee growing regions of Colombia. OH, hostel trails was a great hostel in Papayan.
Salento: More bus drama continued with my noon departure, i rolled into the city of cali around 4pm and hopped immediately onto a shuttle to Armenia. I arrived here around 9pm after a major traffic jam due to shitty weather and multiple upturned cars. the sight of the accidents didn´t deter the bus drier though from driving as fast as humanly possible which scaring the ever living shit out of me and probably all the other passenger (colombia drivers are absolutely crazy). When i arrived the bus driver laughed when i asked how to get to Salento because all buses for the night had stopped.
He was wrong and some how with my horrible Spanish i managed to get onto a mini bus which drove me for free outside of the city, honking at another moving minibus, they both stopped, i was pushed off my bus and onto the other. I had no clue what was happening but i was now salento bound and rolled into town an hour later.
Plantation House is one of the only "real" hostels in town, British run and sitting on a coffee plantain, the overly proud owner runs coffee tours where he boasts about his brilliant idea to grow the best coffee. sadly he has just taken over the estate a year ago and actually didn´t even have coffee to offer us since his yields are so low and it normally takes a couple of years to really start accumulating beans. He again proudly offered us the information that he purchased the estate (12 plus achers) for $50,000usd which is also a fruit farm with pineapples, bananas, plantains, blackberries, etc. etc. an awesome piece of land and amazingly cheap.
the city of salento is quiet, but beautiful place, it was easy to spend 3 days there and the local national park was worth a hike through. I visited and drank some great local coffee, walked the hills around the town and chilled out after way too much busing for the past 2 days.

Medellin: a city which came highly recommended by many and i was pretty excited to get there, sadly it was talked up a bit too much and although i enjoyed it, i really wan´t in the partyin´ mood which is primarily what is so great about medellin. I stayed a Tiger Paw hostel which is American run and hosts a beerpong night every Friday which sadly i missed, the hostel is located very close to zona rosa which is just packed with bars and restaurants, actually i have never see so many bars, clubs, and restaurants so close together, about 6 square blocks of wall to wall bars. I can´t say it wasn´t a good time walking around from place to place, but all in all was just a huge party. Not being the huge Reggeton club dancer or club goer, i actually did enjoy seeing a south american club with everyone moving to the same beat, rhythmically, all in one motion, it fulfilled my expectations of what a club down here would be like. Besides partyin´ and drinking good Colombian coffee, i went paragliding which really was not all that thrilling, a good experience, worth doing, but not all that exhilarating, you get strapped in, take a few steps forward, the wind comes in and all of a sudden your floating, very calm and peacefully.

Santa Marta: Finally i did it, from the southern most tip of south america all the way up north to the Caribbean coast, i spent two nights in santa marta and honestly didn´t love it, i found it to be just a city with nothing too special in it. Playa Blanca was a big stretch of sand with hotels behind it. not a terrible place but santa marta held nothing special for me.

Taganga: only a 5 min. taxi ride from santa marta was where i spent 2.5 weeks, a tiny slice of paradise, at least in my opinion. After 19 months of being on the road i was happy to put down my pack and just chill. this town of no more than 1,500 was excellent, it had a beach, some ok coffee shops, some decent food, but overall it was just relaxing and easy going. i spent most of my time relaxing on the beach, drinking fruit smoothies, sippin´colombian coffee, and organizing side trips to near by spots.

The lost city trek was highly recommended but something i was a bit disappointed with, a 5 day hike which could have been done in 3 was anything but a trek. i would call it a leisurely walk through the jungle, not a bad thing but not worth what it costs, the ruins at the top are ok, but being a jungle location the homes made years ago from wood and palm leaves no longer exist and all that remains is the stone stair cases and circular stone foundations, interesting but i think my heart really just wanted to relax, and 5 days to get to an average climax was not what i was looking for. I would say getting to the sight was just as fun and interesting as the lost city it's self.

Tyrona Park: this was worth every penny, a rather pricey (for Colombia standards) park entry fee as well as hammock fee for camping, was money well spent. Palm fringed beaches on a remote part of the Caribbean, amazingly relaxing, nothing to do but eat, sleep, have an occasional beer, and enjoy walking around the coast exploring different beaches.

Over all my time in Taganga was really enjoyable, a french run sandwich shop got most of my lunch buisness, a dutch chef running a excellent restaurant up on the hill in the city got some of my dinner business, and the local bbq joints that pop up around every corner we constantly frequented. Beers at the corner store were cheap and cold and the sun on the beach was nice and hot, i couldn´t be more thankful for taganga at this point in my trip. if arriving here earlier it would have probably lasted no more than 5 days, but i was happy to make it home base for about 15 of the 30 i spent in Colombia. OH, and as far as my travels go, this was the cheapest place that i have seen to get Scuba certified, which i finally did!

Bogota: another city which came highly recommended but i sadly neglected it. My heart was just not into it, my body was tired and all i wanted to do was relax. i spent a full day walking around and regretted not giving it more of my time and attention, but it felt forced and when i got on my flight to mexico i was ready to move a step closer to home.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Peru update

Peru and Galapagos Picture link


Puno: just across the boarder from Bolivia, resting on the lake front of gigantic Titicaca, it was much more of a city than Copacabana on the Bolivian side. Filled with interesting restaurants attempting to be a bit more than they really are, it was fun to have a glass of wine here and get my bearing for my attack on the rest of Peru.

Arequipa: a great city with minimal tourist attractions with in which made it that much better for me. The hustle and bustle of real life was great to walk amongst; eating with locals in the market and shopping in every day supermarkets was fun to experience again. A mini taste or "real life" with out the work or course, but still filled with coffee in the morning and a beer at night. The stepping off point to experience Colca canyon, mnt biking, or rafting.

Colca Canyon: about 5 hours out side Arequipa by minivan through windy dirt roads, wrapping around mountains, down into valleys, past glacial capped peaks, and surrounded by farm land which literally clings to the mountain side, the 2nd deepest canyon in the world was a pretty impressive place to be for 3 days. Hiking wasn't so strenuous since our packs were light and the end of the day always promised a decent warm meal, but a 5am departure to beat the sun creeping over the ridge on day 3 wasn't exactly a breeze. 1300 meters in under 2hours was a good accent on day 3, and well worth the early rise due to the late morning clouds which cover the surrounding peaks. And enjoyable 3 days and the only rural experience I was privileged in, in both Peru and Ecuador.

Cusco: typically the starting point for the famous Inca trail, a 5 day hike up to macchu pichu or the hop on point for aguas caliente, the closest town to the historic Incan city. For me, cusco was just a great city to try some interesting restaurants, visit the local market, learn about "san pedros cactus," and take a trip down a current raging river. Since flooding has taken out all means of approaching macchu piccu, the river we rafted was moving a bit quicker than normal which made it all the more fun. With hopes to return to this city and country, I hopped on a 40hr (2 bus) trip north to the beaches with a 2hr layover in lima. A long journey but easily done when tiered, a bit under the weather and in need of rest.

Bus ride: the 2 day epic ride was long no doubt but took me through extremely impressive landscapes. From the high Andes, to winding rural hills, past farms, small homes, down canyons, into dryer desert landscapes, past sand dunes by the northern coast and up to mancora, A long ride but one ill look forward to in the future when I have time to break it up and really experience Peru.

Mancora: a touristy beach town with a small town vibe, good night life, great beach, good waves if your a surfer or just like the ocean. The seafood is fresh and there is not much to due but hang out and enjoy the sun.


My experience in Ecuador is minimal and truly the Galapagos is really nothing like the rest of the country. The rural but beautiful coast line is a place I would like to return to, as well as the stunning peaks of the massive volcanoes which lay close to Quito. Cotopaxi being a peak I hope to summit some time in my life.

Galapagos: truly unlike any place I have ever been. Incomparable, and truly amazing, the cost was high and put a bad taste in my mouth, but it was something I was willing to swallow because it is an experience I have always wanted to have.

Staying on the main island of Santa Cruz was a good base for day trips, and my 60usd trip to Foloreana was THE highlight of my Galapagos trip. Swimming with 20+ sea lions was simply amazing, the water was shallow (less than 6ft deep), the waves were rolling over head and every now and then the occasional sea lion would get a bit to curious and a wave would push her right into you. Surrounded by these animals was an experience I won't forget, 30min disappeared way way to fast, simply amazing.

The tour continued onto the island where we got to visit a couple different species of land touruses which are kept together, they are as close to being in the wild as possible. Only a stone wall separates them from roaming freely, but gives them the freedom of wandering around a very very large area. I believe keeping them together just increases the chances of reproduction. Anyways, they were fantastic to see and a unique part of the trip.

The Boat Cruz, was not forgettable, but not overly special, I did how ever swim with some more sea lions (nothing like the first time), I swam along side some giant sea turtles, walked along side marine and sea iguanas, and got to see countless sea birds on my last day including the Galapagos famous blue footed booby.

I loved my trip but if ever returning would choose to possibly look at San Cristobal island, a much smaller island closer to Floriana (my favorite) and Espana island which I hear is ever so stunning, both only day trips away, thus saving some serious bucks on a 3 day cruse. Over all, a very unique and unforgettable experience.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Peru Email

Its very hard to speak on two countries I have spent so little time in. A total of 25 in both countries (18 of which were in Peru) I feel that I didn’t get a good enough sense of the people, culture, cuisine, or landscape to really allow my self to say I have experience either country to it’s fullest. It’s sad that I consider my self to be rushing, but the realization that I would not be able to visit Machu Picchu forced me to pick up my feet a bit higher and move a bit faster in hopes that some time in my life ill be able to return and visit these two countries properly.

What I did enjoy very briefly, and what I feel like I missed out on, was the slow way of life, the rural towns, the places a bit off the beaten track. Entering Peru through northern Bolivia I headed straight for the large city of Arequipa which I did enjoy, the hustle and bustle of every day life was quite nice to be immersed in, the food market was of course a highlight for me which couldn't have gotten any better once I discovered the crispy skin roasted pork served up with a home made vinegar based hot sauce. I got two portions, one to eat immediately and one to take with me on the bus that evening , I devoured the second one an hour later and clearly it never came close to making it to the journey. Although I enjoyed Arequipa I would have loved to do more trekking in the mountains.

A rural 3 day hike through colca canyon was my only real non city experience which I found to be quite stunning. Cusco and its delicious restaurant filled streets were next on my map and since Machu Picchu was closed (due to flooding) I was only their briefly. The beach town of Mancora which I lounged at for 3 days eating as much Peruvian style ceviche as possible was my last stop in this country and really left me wanting to see more, but I guess now was not the time.

Ecuador was a quick 7 days which started with a midnight boarder crossing, a 4:30am arrival in Guayaquil, a taxi to the airport, cup of coffee at 5:00am, I was on the stand bye line at 6:30am, got the go ahead to buy a ticket at 8:40am and was in the air to the Galapagos by 9:15am. Eating ceviche by 11am, and on a powdery white sand beach by 3:00pm.

I spent 5 and a half days in the Galapagos and to say it was a regrettable decision would be a lie. Expensive.... YES, forgettable.... NO. I had the privilege of spending 2 nights on the main island of Santa Cruz, and three evenings on a boat touring around from island to island. When having had the opportunity to do so much in the past several months, it has been hard to judge how special each experience has been because there has been so many and all have been special in their own ways. When thinking back to the Galapagos, the thing I will remember the most is that it is truly incomparable to anywhere else I have been, and there are not too many places I can say that about.

Leaving the Galapagos as quickly as I arrived, I was shuttled off my 3 day boat tour, bused to the airport and flew off the island to Quito all within an hour of walking through the island of Seymour filled with blue footed boobies, sea lions, and iguanas. Landing in Quito after the tranquility of the Galapagos was a bit rattling as everything in Ecuador is priced in USD, as they no longer have a national currency, and the reality of getting closer to home definitely set in with each dollar spent.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Bolivia update

Vilizon: Crossing into Bolivia for Argentina was an exciting part of this south American trip. Not that i didn´t enjoy Argentina, but it was quite sterile, there was plenty of culture but lacked something special, something i couldn´t put a finger on until i crossed into Bolivia. the clothing, the way people looked, the basic simple foods being sold on the streets (empanadas, sandwiches, tamales), fresh juices being squeezed, the realization that I was no longer in what i perceived a first world country was what excited me. Bolivia was more raw, a bit more rugged, and immediatly it excited me.
Vilizon was not a beautiful city, in fact it was exactly what it was.... a boarder town filled with money exchangers, cheap goods, a bus and train station with the soul purpose of getting people the hell out of that dank town. Unfortunately the train which i was hoping to board was filled but I was able to buy the last tickets to Uyuni. Being warned in Argentina that if i missed the train i would be forced to deal with the "bus ride from hell," bumpy, cramped, hot, and terrifying. Maybe it´s been the hair raising trips through the Himalayas in china, or the cramped ass numbing, knee splitting, back sweating, minivan/bus rides i have endured in Lao, Vietnam, or Sri Lanka, but regardless i found the bus to be unbelievably pleasant. i could have done with out my butt sinking to the bottom of the cushion resting on a metal frame, or my back being cradled in the seat feeling as if i may bust through to the other side at every bump the back tiers hit, but the views, and the experience was second to none. Coming into Bolivia with NO expectations i was immediately captivated with a very "American South West" landscape. Cactus's studding the dry earth, followed by canyons, rivers, ravines, rust colored hills, lunar looking mountains, all eventually fading into the open desert with the snow covered peaks of the Andes shooting straight over head. "the bus from hell" was anything but that for me.

Uyuni: the starting point to the Solar del Uyuni, the largest Salt Flats in the world. the town itself is nothing special, set up with westernized restaurants and tons or tour companies willing to take 6 people in a land cruiser into the Bolivian country side. My self and 4 other great travelers boarded a 4x4 for a 3 day tour. A great introduction to Bolivia but not a town to spend too much time in.

Solar Del Uyuni: located just 45min. out side the city of Uynui was the begining of a 3 day trip through the county of Potosi. To say the salt flats are beautiful would be an understatement. unfortunately 1/2 of the salt flats were underwater making visiting the island of cactuses impossible, but the piece of the Solar that we were allowed to visit was visually stunning and unbelievably impressive. the reflections off the water of the salt flats made for some beautiful photos and of course a unreal experience. the trip Continues on after the Visiting the Solar and ventures into desert landscape, mountains, salt lakes, lagunas filled with flamingos, sulfuric geysers, hot springs, rivers, and graising land for llamas. Picking a tour operator is the key to this trip and although our operator was not top knotch, our driver was fantastic fixing a busted battery with rubbing alcohol, a pen, and duck tape, and digging us out of a bog with a back pack shovel and laying river stones down for traction, the man was a legend. the tour, the views, the experience was unforgettable.

Sucre: The ride from Uyuni to Sucre did not disappoint as every bus journey in this country seems to be a national geographic episode unfolding outside my bus window. This beautiful town was quite busy, which made it an exciting place to visit. A large food market took center stage for me with heaps of fresh produce along with beautiful Bolivian hot sauces, all hand pounded out of both fresh and dry chilies. the old women in the market more than happy to allow me to taste them all, weather or not the fiery sauces or the street empanadas i greedily stuffed into my face were the culprit of an all day fever, chills, shakes, and being sick, it didn´t matter because both were equally as delicious. Sara, Vix, James, Olie and I (the 4 travelers i have been rolling through norther Argentina and Bolivia with) checked into hostel called Dolce Vida, and Oasis hostel of sorts with beautifully clean rooms and bathrooms and used this as a base to explore this great town.

La Paz: The capital city did not disappoint, set in valley brick homes spring up from the center reaching to the tops of the surrounding hills. the city its self sits in the shadow of massive snow capped mountains and is surprisingly easy to escape, 40min. (traffic free) and you can be lost in the more Bolivian country side, taking a bike ride down the worlds most dangerous road, or doing your best to summit or attempt to summit a 6,000mt mountain. Altitude sickness is not uncommon here and in fact first day arrivers are often bed ridden for a day. I spent 5 days here doing a day on the Most Dangerous Road, wondering the city, and partaking in Bolivian Carnival which is much different than most would imagine, nothing like the ones in Rio.

Most Dangerous Road: Was completely unique experience, in my travels i am constantly relating one town to another or one activity to a similar one i may have had but this was something special. Starting just 1hour from the city center of La Paz the bike ride was about 65 kilometers down hill which starts in/above the cloud line and meanders from the snow line, down into the heat of the low lands and the jungle. through the clouds, past Coca plantations, under water falls, past rivers, from asphalt to gravel road, past land slides, and rural mountain homes i loved every minute of this day. We finished in a river valley and after a great lunch the nearly 4 hour van ride back to La Paz began, but similar to all my bus adventures the ride back to town was just as, if not MORE spectacular than the bike ride down hill. The new death highway (a paved road) touches the tops of mountains, above the cloud line at points, giving you the most spectacular view of the green valley below as well as the chance to stare at the massive peaks which run through the Andean mountain range. Unforgettable and completely unique!

Day Tour Of La Paz: A capital city with all the amenities a capital city would hold, markets, shopping, streets stalls, street food, restaurants, clubs, bars, activities, and of course the most unique prison in the world San Pedro Prison. I spent the first day wondering through markets, visiting plazas and squares, being inspired by the culture of the city. the most unique part of the day is when Sara, Vicky, and I wondered up to the San Pedro Prison to take a look and had the opportunity to talk with a prisoner on day release who described the dynamics of San Pedro in as more detail than we could have ever expected. If you interested in this there is a book called Marching Powder. Basically it is a prison run like a city where you pay for everything, from your cell, to your food, run by prisoners as well as run by generals and guards, a prison where your family can live with you, where cocaine is not only processed and sold from with in but also sold beyond the walls, transported by guards and inmates alike.

La Paz Carnival: simply indescribable, nothing like the scantily clad Brazilian Samba dancing beauties. First of all Bolivia has an obsession with water balloons and super soakers, so a major part of this festival is hosing down anyone who may look dry an comfortable, second of all, fake snow or foam dispensed out of aerosol cans (much resembling shaving cream) is the other obsession and covering "the gringo" is another favorite activity of many locals. Since Carnival lasts around 5 days, a lot of my time was spend dodging the streets which hosted foam and water filled activities. this is not to say i didn´t drop around 45usd (a near fortune in boliviano) to purchase as many cans of foam as possible and throw my self into "the lions den" getting foamed, drenched in water, and equally partaking in the madness. Children, toddlers, seniors, teens, no one is off limits and during the parade which can be as cultured as traditionally dressed dancers or as roughly as teens piling down the streets in what i perceived Halloween costumes everyone gets wet and foamed.... me included.

Copacabana: No, not Brasil, but Bolivia is set on Lake Titicaca the largest lake in South America. A beautiful lake and a rather ramshackle town, I headed out to Isla Del Sol an island where the Incan story of the Sun was crated, staying in a rather basic accommodation perched high above the water, over looking the docks and set into the Terrance hills, three days passed quickly and were a beautiful way to relax after the madness of La Paz Carnival.

Bolivia Email

A photo copy of my passport, $135usd, a small green sticker, and a fresh stamp on my passport and i stumbled into Bolivia after 44 days in Argentina. Similar to many boarders i have crossed in the past year, life on the other side is a world of difference, a difference i was welcoming for some time. the beauty of Patagonia, the chance to visit a penguin colony of nearly a million, the opportunity to explore the most southern tip of the continent, and the pleasure of sipping some great Malbec wines and relaxing in the country side was not a bore, but a change was more than welcome.

The streets were dusty and covered in dirt, the women were dressed in thin soled shoes with a nice little 1/2 inch heel, pleaded skirts, layered woolen sweaters, a "bowler hat" sitting proud on top of their head, with the perceived mandatory Andean satchel strung across their backs woven in the bright color of pinks, reds, blues, and greens carrying anything from the local groceries to a new born baby. The men in their dark colored slacks and similarly woven thick woolen sweaters, their skin much darker, and stained by the high elevation and brutal strength of the high Andean sun. The integrated European roots which is ever so present in Argentina is nearly non existent as Bolivians seem to be shorter, wider, and fit to bear the hard life they have been dished out.

I booked the quickest bus out of Vilizon (the boarder town) I could, not because it didn´t hold Bolivian charm but because I was so excited to see what else this country had to offer. Each bus ride i was privileged with was yet another episode of National Geographic as i stared out the window at endlessly changing landscapes. Cactus studded parched earth, green river beds, canyons, lakes, salt lakes, salt flats, massive mountains, and glacier capped peaks. My naive perception of the Bolivia country side kept me plesantly surprised as each destination left me with another opportunity to be blown away with what this rural country has to offer.

The Solar del Uyuni, the worlds larges salt flats took my breath away. The town of Sucre was small but a lot of fun housing a fantastic food market minutes from my hostel, this was part of the town that i couldn´t get enough of, the new and exciting ingredients and the old women so willing to give you a taste of what they were offering, i loved it.

La Paz and it´s surroundings were a county in them selves, simply an area i couldn´t compare to any other i have visited. Set in a canyon, in the shadow of peaks screaming over 6,000 meter, holding a world famous prison (San Pedro), bursting with what i would consider one of the worlds largest water/foam fights (during Carnival), and offering the opportunity to bike down "the worlds most dangerous road," i had plenty to do and see here (more detail in the blog).

I finished Bolivia in typical Marc fashion... just relaxing. three hours outside La Paz just 30min. from the Peru boarder is the town of Copacabana and the island of the sun (Isla del Sol), a ancient Incan island with some pretty humble (forgettable) ruins. Staying in a rather basic accommodation perched high above the water, over looking the docks and set into the terraced hills, this was a beautiful way to relax after the madness of La Paz Carnival.

My vision of rural South America was far from fulfilled in my travels through Argentina, but the raw and constantly changing Bolivia country side was a sight i will never forget. Seventeen days seemed hardly enough to drink in the culture and landscape. Never having seen the Bolivian Amazon, not getting the opportunity to play and climb in the massive mountains of the Andes, i hope some day i get the chance to return.

Still in the Andes mountains and now in Peru my trip continues to bring me a closer to home. Even though i´m still a bit below the equator, central America is not too far away, and soon after Mexico and the USA.

Bolivian Photos:

Argentina Update

Buenos Aries: The arrival to BA was no sweat, getting into the country was a breeze and when i arrived it was in typical fashion. a long flight, from a cold climate arriving on a hot day, sweating, confused and wanting to just get to my hostel. 1 confusing bus ride took me nearly to the front door of my hostel (lime house) which was located on 9 de Julio street, a good location to be. BA at the time seemed expensive but after traveling the rest of the country i look back and regret not taking advantage of how cheap it really was. food was mostly meat, meat, and more meat, but there was of course variety in there as well. My preconceived notion of south America was that it was a big beach and was hot all year round. as i figured out weeks later that is far from true but my other mental picture was on hot Latin Dance clubs that party till the early morning. As i am not a nigh clue/disco/salsa enthusiast i was not all to excited for this but it was something i had to see. Surprisingly i really enjoyed the 2 clubs i went to, one being a 15 piece percussion (drum) show which consisted of 100s of people on the dance floor, a really fantastic evening which entailed me rocking my baby blue suit, getting overly drunk and getting a greasy hamberger stain on the vest. the other club was less memorable but ended the same way, me passed out in my hostel dorm bed. 9 days disappeared in BA faster than expected, a city that did not have an over whelming South American feel to it, it could have been any city anywhere for that matter but a place i enjoyed and wouldn't mind returning to.

Puerto Madryn: a small 20hr south by bus from BA, this small town caters to a national park on a peninsula which hosts penguins, dolphins, and whale watching, as i arrived on Christmas day the only tour was for a colony of penguins 1hr south which i signed up for since it is a colony of nearly 1million. the city it self was very chill and i would have spent a few days here if i hadn´t already booked my bus ticket out of town from BA which was onward to Ushuaia. the penguins in Puerto Tumbo were great and it may have been expensive but was a great Christmas gift to my self on an otherwise uneventful day.

Ushuaia: the road to the end of the earth was long 32hours on a bus, and you ask was it worth it? this is still a question of mine, but getting there was a journey in it´s self as you watch the landscape change and the excitement builds as you approach the last city on earth. Ushuaia´s claim to fame is that it is the southern most city in the world, sure there are ports in Antarctica but none that can be called a city. the town it´s self caters to tourists as well as to trip to the south pole, i was unbelievably tempted but the 3,000usd for 11days was not so inviting. Instead i took a 2 day trip to the national park and found that to be quite enjoyable despite the rain/snow. 2 nights in a 12 bed bungalow to my self with a wood burning stove was not too bad, walks during the day, wine, fire, and some simple camping food by night. New Years was spent in Ushuaia at the southern most city in the world and really that is the only thing it will be remembered for the evening was quite average and again ended with me in a blue suit sleeping on the hostel couch.... a quick 19hr bus to Puerto Madryn Chile was to follow on Jan 2nd.

El Calafate: After returning from Chile on a 4 day hike i was ready for a nice bed but settled for the cheapest possible since Calafate was well over priced. the main attraction here is the Perito Moreno Glacier which is breath takingly spectacular. 70pesos to get there 75 pesos to get in roughly a 45usd day and that does not include the boat if you wish to float up close to this massive wall of ice (which i didn´t do). it was quite impressive to see one of the worlds only advancing glaciers shed massive chunks of ice as large as a house into the bay which it encroaches on. worth the 5 hours spent there.

El Chalten: 3hrs north of Calafate is a town that sucks you in and drains your wallet but the true beauty is free, the national park which the town is located in. home of the Fitz Roy mountain range, an Iconic Patagonia mountain range which lies just 4 hours (walk) out side town. This i sadly can say i never made it to, it was cloudy, a bit rainy, and windy as hell, so i opted for 2 relaxing days of strolling through the town and chilling in the hostel. bus tickets were already booked in advance as they sell out fast in tourist season and i had to leave 2 days later with out getting to see the mountains. for what it was worth, i kind of had my fill in Torres Del Pines national park in Chile a week earlier so i was quite ok with missing another mt. range. it would have been nice but ya can´t win them all.

Bariloche: set in the mountains, similar to Lake Tahoe or Lake Wanaka (NZ), this quaint but tourist filled town was as you may believe... filled with tourists. I talked to the guest house operators and they explained that i hit a bad year with terrible weather the hiking i had planned was reduced to a bike ride. An 18 kilometer loop weaving in and around a couple of the many lakes in the area i realized where the true beauty of this area lay. where the town occupies the hoards or tourists, it serves its purpose well, keeping the country side beautiful and clean. sure there are a couple of golf courses in the mix and a few hotels which lay in the foot of snow covered mountains but this other wise desolate country side was well worth the time and effort.

Mendoza: The home of some truly beautiful Malbec wines. I met up with two sisters and a great guy from SF and together we took a cab to wine country, rented some bicycles, and hit the tasting road. typically biking and drinking doesn´t mesh so well, but we held it down, visited 3 small wineries, took some tours, did some tastings (and no we didn´t spit), and had a great afternoon in the sun. the city was a bit larger than expected but a great stop to taste some of Argentina's finest.

Cordoba and Salta: A bit of a blur due to the great company I was traveling with, Sara, Vicky, James, and Olie reminded me that i am on vacation and sometimes it means taking a deep breath, having a glass of wine, a beer (or 12), grilling some food, and enjoying a good time. Cordoba being one of the first opportunities i have had on this trip to cook for my self (in a hostel), i took full advantage of the roof top terrace complete with a wood fire Asado (grill). the kitchen was semi equipped and the market down the road had nearly everything i needed.
Fresh and dry chillies ranging in flavors from paprika, to cayenne, and even as sweet as a dyed bell, i had what i needed to make a spicy American style BBQ sauce, and since Argentina is the home of good beef, selecting a familiar cut was all i needed to do. Wood grilled beef, smoked and grilled garlic bread, butter blanched and grilled leaks, cabage- pickeled red onion- poached candied plum- Gorgonzola salad, with a Mendoza malbec sweet wine syrup was what was for dinner the first night and each night was an opportunity to get back in the kitchen and have some more fun. teaming up with these travelers gave me a new breath of travling life. Although Cordoba didn´t really inspire me as a town it was less touristy gave me a new perspective into Argentine culture.

Salta: I quite enjoyed as a city, it was busy with locals going about day to day life, the park in town always had people hanging about, the cafes, and restaurants spilled onto the streets offering the normal Argentine fair of parilla (mixed grill), along with chicken, beef, or cheese filled empanadas. I think i took to this town due to its local busy feel. the bars were fun, the company remained the same, the salta hostel also had a roof top terrace so more bbq was made and beers consumed.

Cabra Corral: the last stop before leaving Argentina was a large set of lakes about 1.5 hours out side of salta. James, Olie, Sarah, Vicky and I rented a car, packed a bit to lightly, forgot bug spray and sun screen and headed out to the lake to camp for a couple of nights. we found a 10ft by 5ft, 6 sided tin shed complete with 4 beds and one on the floor, which sat 20 yards from the lake. three days here was a perfect way to chill before leaving Argentina. i took a few nights off from cooking and the 5 of us enjoyed the lazy days of swimming, getting a bit sun burnt, and chewed up by bugs, while soaking up the scenically beautiful and tranquil rural land scape.

Argentina Email

Argentina............. Seven days in Spain disappeared faster then i could have ever expected, 3 days in Malaga in the south followed by 3 in Madrid, i was hosted by three spectacular people whom shared their homes and lives with me while giving me a bit of a local view of how they live their day to day. My stay was short and to say i have seen Spain would be wrong, in fact all i have seen was a brief glimpse of these fantastic peoples lives and a hope that i can return soon for another delicious tour of a great country. I was taken to the airport by my two new friends and as i hugged them good bye and wondered into the airport i was hit with a cold sweat. The reality set in as i buckled my seat belt and watched the Atlantic ocean pass beneath the plane, behind me lay my amazing experiences throughout Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Turkey, the Middle East, and Morocco. Excited to keep moving, a bit sad about what i have left behind, but day dreaming about what is to come, i let out a bitter sweet smile, i´m heading back to the Americas.

Spending well over a month in Argentina and a brief 6 days hiking in Chile I feel comfortable with the ground i have covered. An enormous country with an amazingly diverse landscape, flying directly into Buenos Aires i posted up for a solid week attempting to learn a bit of Spanish, hitting the Argentine all night Discos, and partaking in what i believe is Argentina's most passionate pass time, eating red meat. I meandered down the east coast stopping here and there until reaching the end of the continent. Ushuaia, Argentina a city located at the end of the earth, the closest city to the south pole and the starting point to the final frontier.... Antarctica. I couldn´t wrap my head around paying $3,000usd for an 11day boat trip but one day when i have the cash i´ll be "checking the box" and hopping on that boat down south.

After a week in Ushuaia i boarded my first bus of many to come, the direction was heading was north, and so it will continue until i hit the good old USA. Hopping in and out of Chile I was fortunate to have 4 great days hiking in some of Patagonia's most spectacular landscapes, visiting a breath taking glacier (perito moreno), and picking my way north north north up through Argentina into the Lake Tahoe-esk landscape of Bariloche, Wine Country in Mendoza, through Cordoba, on to Salta, and will soon be heading into Bolivia.

As February is now upon us i can´t help but think about the countries that have passed, the 17months that i leave behind, and the exciting future that lay ahead. Sadly a major destination i was hoping to hit, Machu Picchu has suffered some serious flooding and mud slides and the reality is that I might not be able to visit it. Missing out on most of Chile, and all of Brazil is another regret but being blessed with such a fantastic opportunity to have seen what i have seen, it is hard to say i have missed out on anything. As i begin to creep north i´m excited about my return home, but by no means will my last few months be rushed. Excited to see all of you when i return but can´t wait to explore the countries to come!