A Travellerspoint blog

Argentina

no time to post. but you should remember.

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Hope Xmas was cool. Have a great New Year. Argentina made me most welcome. Predominantly by killing about 20 cows to feed me. In Paraguay now and just about to head out for New Years. May yours be fantastic. Have a good, no, great 2008. See you around and about. Your man in the field.

Lid

Posted by lidster 18:43 Archived in Argentina Comments (1)

Patagonia

Argentina and Chile

all seasons in one day 15 °C

I figured on a year of Summer for my trip and technically this is summer in Patagonia but it can get a little chilly nonetheless. Penguins live down here in their millions so you get the idea. To be fair it has actually been relatively warm. Occasional hat, fleece and jacket weather but more often like an early spring morning in the Lake District. Not that I have been there recently. It does look a bit different though.

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This is one of many similar. Got some with people in them too. With the sun shining and a beer in your hand the 4 day boat ride passed most pleasantly. It wasnt luxury but we got fed and having met Americans, English, Aussies and a few other random sorts we quickly discovered that we had enough booze hidden below decks to kill a small army. Please take a look at what must be a medium sized army.

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Quality bunch. They also shared my lack of extreme trekking equipment and my distaste for overly prepared ponces who dress up for Arctic hikes when they are only off for breakfast. "Is that space age looking gore-tex jumpsuit yoghurt proof". "Oh Yes". "Excellent. Fuck off." You get the idea. Check Ecuador for more of the same.

So, all embarked, all disembarked. There was one Scottish dude who apparently described himself as a practising sadist and he did disappear immediately after we got off the boat. Happy trails fella. Anyway, as most of you should know, I come from Portsmouth and we have a degree of Maritime History right on our doorstep. The one thing that the museums generally forget to mention is that people tend to a) get sick when it is rough at sea, b)sitting on a boat for an extended period of time sends you a bit funny and c) there is nowhere to run to so its probably best to get a decent seat and a glass of rum before the rush starts as not a lot happens. Well unless you consider this to be action.

Or 2 drunken Aussies being chased by the same bloke (he appeared to be Barman, Security and potentially was responsible for pointing the ship in the right direction in his downtime) - I should mention that it was 2 am and they were naked - so chased and chastened they were, starting on the top deck and then through the dining area while he shouted that in Chile this sort of thing was really not appreciated at all and that they should cease and desist both the running and the nudity immediately. Some of the vehemence was lost in that particular translation but you can fill in the exclamation marks and asterisks at will. How we laughed.

There was a glacier (rather confusingly called either a "glacier-iceberg" or an "iceberg-glacier" by the tour guide) but compared to the one we cheked out later it was rather distant and unimpressive so I'll save my powder with whatever those big blocks of ice are actually called until a touch later.

So Boat was fun, delayed by a day due to bad weather but we had a very cool bunch onboard and generally got hammered amidships or on the poop deck so good times all told.

Puerto Natales was blah, bumph, blobble. No-one comes down here to see the towns. Its all about the nature.

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So having arrived we decided to do something. Most innovative of us I know. Many will not believe this but we went on a 10 hour trek to check out some large upstanding rocks. No more upload space so google / Torres del Payne.

Only pain I had was in my feet. We felt really rather extreme up until we were overtaken by a retired couple who were easily 65. A couple of 8 year olds also completed the same walk but don't tell anyone else.

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No normally I try to cover one place or one country per blog. However, this time I shall lump in a bit of Southern Chile and Southern Argentina. For those of you who are British I have a cracking photo of the Argentinian border. Las Malvinas son Argentinos or some combination. Most excellent. No bandwidth so just make a picture in your head and continue.

Probably had forgotten all about that hadn't you? Not down here they haven't. Which is understandable. Wouldn't fancy some jumped up country half the world away invading the Isle of Wight would you.... Come to think of it.... No, wouldn't work, no oil or minerals. Nice idea though.

So getting onto Glaciers. most excellent. This one is actually on the move. 1.5 metres per day. Steady state though as although a fair bit falls off the same amount is added each day at the top. Its bloody enormous. And loud too. Cracks and landslide typ of noises to a quite scary degree. Amazing place though. Its one of 350 locally all in the National Park - which was set up in 1937. It actually blocks off a part of the lake. As a result pressure builds up and the differential in lake levels can get up to 25 metres, at which point the pressure build up is so great that huge (and I mean massive) lumps of ice explode and crash into the water. Well, at least thats what the Guide told me. He could be bullshitting though as all we saw was lumps about as big as a family car fall off. I tried to get some video but failed miserably and almost got egg mayonnaise on my camera at one point. All ok though. Nearest town is called El Calafate for your info.

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Not being the trekking type I figured 10 days skipping through Patagonia would be enough. Its the same for most places as it turns out. 10 days is never enough. So much stuff I missed but the stuff I saw was amazing. Patagonia is something else. It'll cost you more than you may expect but no-one I travelled with ever thought it wasn't worth it. The scenery is stunning. The air is really dry and clear so these enormous and imposing landscapes actually look close enough to touch. Takes your breath away. 4 stars.

Enough of that for now. Off to BA. Tour of Northern Argentina. Swapping a fleece and a hat for some rubber ding-dongs (Jamaican for Flip-Flops) and some serious sun screen. Ozone may eventually be missed by us all but during the summer down here you can light a cigarette if you leave it out on the side for 20 minutes. Get a hat. Cover yourself up. Will try to get a Christmas update from BA but not sure I can promise. As such. Cheers.

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Have a good one. Drink and eat too much. January is nothing without guilt. Love to you and yours. Smiles all round.

See you in 2008. I have a sneaking suspicion that its going to be a good one. Potentially a great one. Therefore... Jump high fives all round.

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Stay classy San Diego.
Lid

Posted by lidster 09:21 Archived in Chile Comments (1)

The Galapagos Islands.

4.75 stars. Most excellent.

semi-overcast 28 °C
View South America - out of Sorts on lidster's travel map.

Not sure if you have been or indeed what you have heard but the way you see wildlife will forever change if you are lucky enough to spend a few days on these islands. There was some excitement when we got a boat from the airport to the main island of Santa Cruz when we saw a Sea lion playing in the reeds about 20 metres away. The photos taken by all on the boat were deleted later that day as we turned up to the hotel, took a look off the balcony and saw about 20 sea lions, 200 iguanas and some birds I didn't recognise.

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The Islands themselves were left untouched for so long there are a large number of species found here and nowhere else. Not sure I could recognise the difference but the sheer amount of wildlife is a stark lesson in what happens when you build motorways, supermarkets and multi-screen cinemas.

I was lucky enough to go swimming with sea lions the day after. We took a boat tour and the guide said "jump in, they quite like it", so we did. And they did. Went snorkeling the day after that and saw about 20-30 turtles of all sizes generally hanging out. White tip sharks all over. At least a million Iguanas. Birds aplently. Dolphins jumping about in the sea. It was all a bit crazy really.

The biggest thing you notice here that I have never seen anywhere else is that none of the wildlife is scared of humans. They have a look at you and then get back to doing whatever they were doing. Sat down on a rock while out walking and watched amazed as 2 herons walked past me and started looking for lunch in the pool I was next to. Heard a sneeze and looked round and I was pretty much sitting on an Iguana about 70 cm long. None of them take any notice. Some of them seem genuinely curious, or maybe oblivious.

The place itself is mostly about the wildlife but it is pretty stunning to look at. Here is a volcano type thing. One of many. Last eruption in 2005. Lot of lava generated. No-one seems too bothered. Good for them.

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Here was a gorge 30 minutes from town. Mix of salt and fresh water, fish and stuff in.

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As always trust the English to throw themselves off of something and ruin the peace and quiet. Fun though.

Went on to Isla Isabella after 2 days. no banks, no Internet to speak of. No phone reception. Not too much chance of getting fed outside of some pretty specific (and secret) serving hours. Most of the places told us they had no food and that we should go somewhere else. But the lack of civilisation means you get a lot of this...

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and this...

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It would take you a week to see most of these islands, a month to see them all and a very long time to get bored of them. You see more life here walking to the shop than you would in a week or a month or even a lifetime most other places.

The serious business is of course how long will it last. Apparently they are putting up the entry fee to the islands to 200 US from 100 at the end of the year. There is talk of taking away their World heritage status. The big boats full of rich westerners have had their diving licenses taken away but they still continue to tour and dive. Some of the islands are inaccessible but it would appear you can get to them if you are willing to pay a bit more. It seems that the dangers presented by the human race here are not over fishing, clubbing stuff to death or over building and changing the habitat. Here there appear to be too many people who want to turn up and take photos. Something comes to mind about how things change as a result of the simple act of observation. Think it was about electrons in atoms or some such but the same appears to ring true here.

The question is. Do you close the islands and let the animals get on with it - but then no one can come and have an experience like mine - or do you let them come and end up with a bunch of un-inhabited volcanic rocks that when he rocked up inspired Darwin to pen a rather influential tome about how stuff changes and improves over time. Not a question for me to answer. Sunstainable tourism sounds good but no-one who works these islands thinks it is possible. Which is a shame. Corruption, greed and the voyeur in all of us will probably kill this place eventually. Not sure how you should react to that, watch a wildlife documentary or book a flight. Your call.

Well, I came here and was amazed. I will always be glad to have been lucky enough to have spent the last week here and I think my appreciation of the natural world will be skewed in their favour in future. Time will tell. Most amazing.

Spent a couple of days in Quito and am off to Chile for a really quite frightening amount of miles in about 2 weeks. South America is fairly large as it turns out. Off to see some ICE.... ICE..... you can fill in the rest.....

Congrats to Rog and Sangita on the new addition to the family. Hope you manage to get some sleep - although you could always re-read this if you have any trouble nodding off.

Take care. Hug someone special today - and not via Facebook, that doesn't count.

Posted by lidster 11:46 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

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