A Travellerspoint blog

Travelling North through South Chile

sunny 16 °C

Arriving back from Antarctice to Ushuaia (Argentina) we had a couple of nights out and a couple of slow days due to the nights out and also because we had to start fending for ourselves again, finding our own meals, making our own beds etc etc. Nelle´s birthday dinner was a hit with king crab being eaten. Very funny looking crab, nothing like your normal aussie crab, more prehistoric than anything.

The Birthday dinner, with the Shipmates - Ushuaia

The Birthday dinner, with the Shipmates - Ushuaia

King Crab (on the plate) - Vincent and Jana too! Ushuaia

King Crab (on the plate) - Vincent and Jana too! Ushuaia

Sarah took a mountain bike out for the day and rode to the Tierra Del Fuego National Park whilst I slept off a little bit of a big evening thanks to the boys from the ship.

Sarah on bike adventure from Ushuaia

Sarah on bike adventure from Ushuaia

View of Ushuaia

View of Ushuaia

Seth at Ushuaia Post Office

Seth at Ushuaia Post Office

From Ushuaia we took a mammoth day bus trip, starting out through the mountains, where it was icy and snowy in patchs. Add to that two and a half hours of border crossing between Argentina and Chile and then a few hours of travellnig on unsealed, gravel roads. We then crossed the Magellan strait by ferry, which gave us the one highlight of the trip and that was the Magellan dolphins, which we spotted from the top of the ferry (we had been tipped off by one of the lecturers on the Antarctica ship to look out for the little fellas). About halfway across the channel these little black and white dolphins came over to the ferry and started riding the bow wave and jumping around. They were like miniture killer whales, or as Sarah called them large penguins. Unfortunately they were quick like penguins and we were not able to get a photograph.

The road out of Ushuaia

The road out of Ushuaia

Chile Border

Chile Border

Ferry from Tierra del Feugo to the continent

Ferry from Tierra del Feugo to the continent

So one day of travelling - 6am to 11pm and we only got about 600km. Gives you an idea of the roads. Not to mention the 3 buses, 2 borders and 1 ferry.

Arriving in Puerto Natales we found a hostel that had been reccomended and found it nice to not be rugged up against the cold- not warm but not freezing. Yaganhouse was like a family house and very cosy.

The next day we explored the litle town and ventured into the museum. The main reason was to find out what the weird bear was that they had on every street sign and at the entrance to the town. It turned out to be a Milodon which became extinct 10 000 years ago, it´s remains, fossils etc had been found in the area. Fair to say we did not see a live one, but no shortage of sculptures, pictures, hostels named after it etc etc.

Milodon - Puerto Natales

Milodon - Puerto Natales

Checking out the mountains, from Puerto Natales harbour

Checking out the mountains, from Puerto Natales harbour

In the afternoon we caught the bus to Torres del Paine national park. About two hours away. We arrived late in the afternoon and decided to go for a walk to check out the surroundings. It was blowing a gale so we headed back to the refugio where we had booked ourselves a nights accommodation. Dorm rooms, 3 bunks, better than camping. The full board gave us somewhere to sleep, dinner, breakfast and a packed lunch for the next day's hike.

The Torres from the Refugio in the morning - Torres del Paine Nat Park

The Torres from the Refugio in the morning - Torres del Paine Nat Park

The park is where the ´famous´W walk is. It takes four days to do the whole W and you can stay in these refugios hostel-lodge things) at strategic points or camp in the camp grounds. Unfortunately only having one day we decided on a section of the W that gave us the view of the Torres del Paine, for which the park has the name. These rock structures were amazing form the refugio the afternoon we arrived.

The next morning we got up early and set off at 820am after a small but sufficient breakfast. It was pretty much straight uphill for the first 1:15hr then we got a bit of a break for :20 as we headed down into the second refugio, but no stopping for us. We marched on, through the forest for about an hour, until we came to the final part, which was a 45minute scramble, on hands and knees at times. At the top of scramble we reached an amzing viewpoint, which looked out over a lake to the Torres, the weather was perfect and the Torres looked stunning. We sat on a rock for a while taking the landscape in.

Our Journey - Torres del Paine Nat Park

Our Journey - Torres del Paine Nat Park

View from above - Torres del Paine Nat Park

View from above - Torres del Paine Nat Park

View back to the start - Torres del Paine Nat Park

View back to the start - Torres del Paine Nat Park

The Torres walk ahead - Torres del Paine Nat Park

The Torres walk ahead - Torres del Paine Nat Park

Aqua, glacial water - Torres del Paine Nat Park

Aqua, glacial water - Torres del Paine Nat Park

Seth mid-walk - Torres del Paine Nat Park

Seth mid-walk - Torres del Paine Nat Park

The foresty-bit of the walk - Torres del Paine Nat Park

The foresty-bit of the walk - Torres del Paine Nat Park

The Torres appearing as we scrambled up - Torres del Paine Nat Park

The Torres appearing as we scrambled up - Torres del Paine Nat Park

We made it! - Torres del Paine Nat Park

We made it! - Torres del Paine Nat Park

Us at the finish - the Torres - Torres del Paine Nat Park

Us at the finish - the Torres - Torres del Paine Nat Park

Torres plus reflection - Torres del Paine Nat Park

Torres plus reflection - Torres del Paine Nat Park

Sarah at the Torres - Torres del Paine Nat Park

Sarah at the Torres - Torres del Paine Nat Park

During the walk we passed a lot people with full back packs on, obviously camping for 3/4 days. We only had day packs and both of us had hearts racing and sweat pouring off us on some of the uphill bits. I have no idea how some of them got up the last scramble.

The scenery was amazing- deep gorges with raging creeks. Great bridges that, had I had my backpack on I may have been a bit worried about weight issues, given I only had a day pack on I still stepped warily.

The other funny thing was that it was couple after couple doing this great walk for the experience. It was more than often the boy in the front looking very annoyed carrrying the bulk of the bags and then a girl walking four paces behind looking exhausted and fed up with a small day pack. It was clear that most of them were no longer talking to each other. That would not be fair to say of all, as there were some girls doing some major power walking, but setting up a lawyers office at the end of this walk specialising in divorce would have to be a good business.

(sarah) - Seth spent the whole walk happy that he wasn´t being made to do the whole W and very happy that he wasn´t having to carry a huge pack with all our camping gear. As much as he claimed he doesn´t like walking, I think he actually enjoyed this walk. He liked to see it as a bit of a competition to see if he could beat the times it suggested for each section, so I was frog-marched through most bits and of course, we did it faster than suggested time. It would have been hellish to have done it in the rain for 4 days, with him complaining all the way, carrying our camping gear!

Skinny little bridge - Torres del Paine Nat Park

Skinny little bridge - Torres del Paine Nat Park

The only downside to the walk is that you have walk back the way you came, which is the same for all the 'legs' of the W, but we charged down the hill and got back to the refugio for lunch. 5.5 hours of walking, not bad. We then got a minibus back to the park entry, where we bumped into a couple of the boys from our Antarctica trip (small country), they were heading out to do the whole W, but in about 3 nights, with very limited food, a small tent and not a lot more.. oh dear. We drove with them to the catamaran which took you around to the alternate starting point of the ´W´walk and gave a view of the other end of the Park. We past the Cuernos (horns) and the Torres again, with the beautiful milky aqua lake in the foreground.

Los Cuernos from the lake - Torres del Paine Nat Park

Los Cuernos from the lake - Torres del Paine Nat Park



View of the torres from the lake - Torres del Paine Nat Park

View of the torres from the lake - Torres del Paine Nat Park

The Ant Cruise boys (and one more) on the Catamaran - Torres del Paine Nat Park

The Ant Cruise boys (and one more) on the Catamaran - Torres del Paine Nat Park

A bus trip back to Natales, pizza and bed.. wondering if the boys had managed to pitch their tent in dark with one small pocket torch!

From Natales we headed back down to Punta Arenas to catch a plane up to Puerto Montt, which gave us great views of the mountains and glaciers between Chile and Argentina.

View from the plane - Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales

View from the plane - Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales

We then decided not to stay in Montt and sneaked onto a bus heading for Pucon (6 hours North). We arrived in Pucon at 11.30pm, with no accommodation, but found a good, little Hostel right next door to the bus Terminal, Hostel Wohlenberg.

The next day in Pucon was glorious, the weather was great, it felt good to get some sun! we wandered about the cute little town, all very 'alpine', lots of wooden houses and great views of the large volcano, only 20kms out of town, Villarica. We even made it to the beach, which is black (volcanic sand) and Seth had a swim in the chilly, but clear lake. Pucon is a nice town, and can obviously get very busy, as there are a lot of hotels and restaurants etc, but there was no one around, hlaf due to the change in season and half due to the earthquake, people said that it had had a huge effect on tourism, which was a shame, it also meant that we were on our own for dinner most nights, which was weird!

Sunny day, Seth swimming, Pucon

Sunny day, Seth swimming, Pucon

Pucon, view of Villarica Volcano

Pucon, view of Villarica Volcano

The first night we had Salmon and Trout, which are the local specialities, and were fab! (we got huge helpings too.. maybe due to the downturn in tourists! ha ha )

On the second day in Pucon we set off up the Volcano. We were kitted up in wind-proof, water-proof outfits and headed off with a little tour group. We got the ski-lift up the first 500 metres, which was good as it missed out a lot of boring, scree climbing.

Up the Villarica Volcano

Up the Villarica Volcano

Above the clouds on Villarica Volcano, Pucon

Above the clouds on Villarica Volcano, Pucon

Villarica Volcano - half rock half snow

Villarica Volcano - half rock half snow

We then started walking uphill, half-rock, half-snow, the guide went nice and slowly, so it was all ok!

Then things started to get a little windy... and then a little more windy. We stopped to put crampons on as we headed up to more icey, snowy stuff, but by this time the guide had started to look a little worried and so we started to worry that we weren´t going to make it to the the top. The cloud had come down and was totally surrounding us, but we headed on upwards, the 5 of us slowly trudging, little steps, zig-zagging through the ice.
By time we reached the next little peak, the wind was howling and we could hardly stand up! So, the guide called it off, which was a little depressing, but as we could hardly stand, I can´t really imagine us getting to the top edge of a live volcano!

Snow, crampons, ice pick - Villarica Volcano, Pucon

Snow, crampons, ice pick - Villarica Volcano, Pucon

So crampons off, and thick black, goretex nappy on! We were each given a plastic thing (like a giant frying pan) and we headed downhill. There were loads of little, luge-like channels in the snow and we headed off on our bums! It was pretty cool, espècially as our plastic thingies made us go faster than any other tour groups!! It took us about 2.5 hours not to get to the top, and then about 45mins to get back down! But it was muchos fun!

The luge back down - Villarica Volcano, Pucon

The luge back down - Villarica Volcano, Pucon

The weather just got worse and worse during the afternoon, and it pretty much started rainy and didn´t stop!
What better to do when it rains, than eat! We had a Chilean bbq, so much meat, and 2 free Pisco Sours, which are Chilean drinks, lemony things that are brandy based, gross! Neither of us like brandy, but I am sure if we did they would be lovely and refreshing! We made some pretty funny faces while drinking them and as we were the only ones in the restaurant we had to drink most of it, although the pot plant got some too.

Pisco Sour - Pucon

Pisco Sour - Pucon

Pisco Sour face - Pucon

Pisco Sour face - Pucon

Pisco Sour Face - Pucon

Pisco Sour Face - Pucon

Seth checking out his meat - Pucon

Seth checking out his meat - Pucon

Meat fest - Pucon

Meat fest - Pucon

The rain continued the next day, so emailing, blogging, shopping (sarah) and gymming (seth) for us. We then went to some natural thermal baths which were amazing. Most of the baths were hot bath temperature but there was one that you could not get in it was so hot. Three hours in the baths gave us a nice relaxed feeling.

Thermal Pools - Pucon

Thermal Pools - Pucon

Thermal pools - Pucon

Thermal pools - Pucon

But that was before setting off on a 10 hour bus ride through the earthquake zone to Santiago. As it was night the whole way and we slept for the total journey we didn´t see any sign of the devastation caused.

Posted by seth_g 08:27 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Antarctica

M.S. Expedition

all seasons in one day -5 °C

Arrival in Ushuaia at 830am was amazing. To fly in on a clear day over snow capped mountains and mirror flat water in the bay was something special. Walking out of the airport into cold weather was also a fairly new experience for us Queenslanders, who have had nothing but hot weather since we arrived in South America also. Straight to the hostel, dropped off the bags, paid for the night and then went for a walk to try and find a lastminute cruise to Antarctica. We went to a number of travel agents who all gave different information about availability and what boats were going where etc. We finally decided on one agent who was already helping two young guys, Alex and Augusto, get on the 'MS Expedition' (boat) that afternoon at 4pm. We decided given the price and the timing it would be great for us also. The agent was a bit inconsistent (and non-exsistant!) with his info and so we were very nervous about him scanning and emailing our credit card and passports to the head office in Canada. This is 1130am at this point, he had to wait for Canada to open, three hours difference. By this time another couple, Nelle and Adam had joined us and had also put in to go on the cruise. By 330pm we went back to the agent to pick up the voucher that Canada had sent down. Talk about lastminute!

The hostel was great and gave us credit for the two nights we need on our return. After talking to Sarah's Dad on skype we also found out that the cruise was crossing the Antarctic Circle, something this company does only twice a year, and also a cruise that costs a lot more than the ones that head just to the penisula. So we were happy. It also meant we were at sea a day longer than we thought. You start getting the idea about the lack of info we were getting from the travel agent.

A stash of red wine, a bottle of vodka and some chocolate and biscuits were purchased to avoid high prices on the boat...and some ´waterproof´ ski pants (which turned out not to be waterproof!)

So the six of us (Augusto, Alex, Nelle and Adam) got on the boat and it all turned out fine. Our room has two single beds (a good thing- wait for the reason) and an ensuite. Yes, picture of Polar Bear on the wall- and yes only in Arctic, but the ship does both ends, so alternate rooms have the different poles (explains the Polar Bear Bar onboard also). The ship was only refitted a year ago, so it is all new and clean. The reason they have a new boat is because the last one got stuck in the ice last year and sank...... no one died - so a good result!!!!!!! But a little concerning.

Sarah unpacking in our cabin- single beds were good when boat was rocking 45 degrees

Sarah unpacking in our cabin- single beds were good when boat was rocking 45 degrees

So off we set at 6pm. There was a briefing that gave us a little more info and there was a real feeling of excitement on the boat amongst all of the passengers. Some people had booked this up to a year ago so were amazed that we had booked in only two hours prior!

The excitement did not last long for most... as we headed into the Drake Passage.

Drake Passage from the Bridge- 5 people out of bed at this stage

Drake Passage from the Bridge- 5 people out of bed at this stage

So we were told that about 1030pm we would move out of the Beagle Channel and into open sea where it might get a little rough. Most people were loaded up with sea sick tablets and got to bed early. Sleep was ok for me, Sarah not at all really. The boat was pretty rocky..... by the time we had the wake up call over the PA at 730am - having a shower, going to the toilet, getting dressed was all a little difficult and involved hitting a few walls! Sarah did not come to breakfast.

So breakfast was exciting. It was announced half way through breakfast that the outer decks were now closed, Adam and Nelle were responsible for that as they had fallen and slid half way across the stern deck with crew running to stop her going closer to the edge.

There were probably 50 people at most for breakfast. Numerous broken plates, glasses, stumbles, spillages etc. Then one larger lady rocked back in her chair, which are all chained to the floor, with the chain the only thing stopping her going backward, flailing arms and legs. Then the boat came back the other way and she smashed into the table forcing it into the next table, ripping the chairs out of their anchors and smashing Augusto against the wall with the far edge of the second table. She then ended up on her stomach sliding across the floor and into the wall herself, like an ice hockey player that had been taken out and slid face first into the wall. While that was going on there were all the other people who had fallen off chairs etc on the floor. When it is not you it is pretty funny!!

Each day there are two morning and two afternoon lectures on birds, whales, ice etc etc. The first morning lecture had about 15 people in it. After this they announced that lunch would be sandwiches served in the lounge, due to the breakfast incident. Prior to lunch I went up to the bridge (they have an open door policy). The safety officer told me that the waves were around 8 metres but they were building up and would get bigger throughout the afternoon (15m!). We were heading in almost the wrong direction to keep the boat into the waves, as he said in a dry russian accent 'we could get there faster, but I would have to turn side onto the waves then we would really rock and things would go everywhere down there.' Not sure if he realised things already were.

The only lecture had been the bird lecture and I ran into Heidi, the birdy bird, in the stern bar. It has a good view of the ocean and sky and on this stormy day we were lucky to have just about every sea bird she had talked about circling the ship including, Giant Petrels, Albatrose (both types, wanderers and the other..) and some other birds, she was quite excited about them. It was good as it was only the two of us so I got a little lecture and lots of pointing things out.

So then lunch in the lounge saw a smaller turn out again. They announced that all lectures were cancelled for the rest of the day and dinner would be sandwiches served to the cabins by the staff. So in the afternoon there were 5 of us in the lounge and that was it. True to the safety officer´s estimations the waves picked up, averaging at 12 metres and topping out at 15 metres. The boat was getting a lean of up to 45 degrees, which I can tell you feels like it is going over every time.

Sitting in the lounge it was really a matter of laughing every time we got hit by a really big one which essentially lifted you onto your feet and then flung you back into the chair. The young boys decided they should race from one side of the boat to the other in the lounge. Bolted down chairs and tables made great moguls. One ended up with a split nose. Fair to say I was the clever one for videoing it.

So night two- limited sleep again. But by 2am things settled down a bit. By morning it was reasonable, Sarah did not make it to breakfast but made a fleeting appearance at lunch, quick bite to eat and then a run back to the room. I saw the doctor and got her some harder drugs. They at least got her to sleep and removed the nausea. More lectures, which was good to break up the day, 35 mins on the exercise bike in the gym (felt like mountain biking as the boat still had a decent rock), filled up the day. The highlight was the pods of killer whales that just moved past the boat, about 10 whales in total in three pods. Came within 50 metres of the boat, absolutely amazing- just bobbing up and down like dolphins, but much bigger and much more obvious due to the black and white colouring.

The view from our porthole- rough

The view from our porthole- rough

Dinner was good with the captains toast prior to dinner and an overview of the landings form the expedition leader. The standard and volume of food they pump out on the ship is sensational. So the need to do some simple exercise while we are still sea bound is critical to not suffer a serious blow out.

This morning there were icebergs floating past the ship which was pretty amazing.

We had now been on a moving boat since 6pm Tuesday 2 March. It was now Friday 5 March and the first land sighting will be at about midnight tonight. 78 hours of open water. At 1am we crossed the Antarctic Circle 66 33 39 which most of us slept through. Sarah had spent some of the morning on the bridge speaking with the captain. Who is very monotone, dry Russian humour was telling her that 'we will cross the Antarctic Circle where there is a red dotted line on the ocean and a blue dotted line in the sky. But I think we cross here (pointing at the map, between the dots), so you will not see them.'

We had our mandatory IAATO (International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators) briefing in the morning. We had to take our day packs and outer shell clothing and vacuum it all to make sure there are no seeds taken on land. Then later we had our zodiac briefing. Most of the passengers are now alive and the excitement started to build again as we prepare for landings and zodiac cruises below th Antarctic Circle.

On the morning of the third fourth day, Saturday, we awoke to towering white walls of snowcapped, Antarctic bedrock and glaciers jutting out into the bay, glowing blue in the cracks as if the light was coming from within them.

Zodiac- Souh of the Antarctic Circle- Hannusse Bay, Hanson Island

Zodiac- Souh of the Antarctic Circle- Hannusse Bay, Hanson Island

It was a very scenic breakfast surrounded by icebergs and amazing coast line that dwarfed the boat.

Cold Seas- MS Expedition

Cold Seas- MS Expedition

South of the Antarctic Circle

South of the Antarctic Circle

We had drifted down into Hannusse Bay and had come to a halt on the western side of Hansen Island. The morning consisted of a Zodiac cruise (1hour 15m mins) around Hannusse Bay where we got close to the coast.

Cold Zodiac Cruising- Hannusse Bay, Hanson Island

Cold Zodiac Cruising- Hannusse Bay, Hanson Island

We saw fur seals on icebergs, lots of birds and came to appreciate that ice can be blue, white or clear, which appears black in the water.

Amazing Blue- Fish Islands

Amazing Blue- Fish Islands

We wore thermals (top and bottom), t shirt, fleece, warm jacket, waterproof jacket, ski pants, two pairs of socks and gum boots, and still felt a bit of the cold.

Rugged up for outdoors

Rugged up for outdoors

Lunch back on board and we motored North to Detailles Island. The hut on the island was British and used between 1954 and 1959. Still with oats, liquor, books, clothes, bedding etc in the hut. We landed on the island and were able to walk around.

Out of Service British Antarctica Survey Hut- Detaille Island

Out of Service British Antarctica Survey Hut- Detaille Island

We saw a very large Crab Eater Seal right where we landed, he did not move the whole time but to look up once in a while. There were fur and leopard seals on the island and also some Adelie penguins. A snow ball fight with some of the boys let off a bit a steam after being stuck on the boat for so many days.

Crab Eater Seal- Detaille ISland

Crab Eater Seal- Detaille ISland

Back on the boat after three hours on shore, it was time for dinner after a luke warm shower. Dinner was delayed due to a pod of about 8 humpbacks playing off the side of the boat. This went on for about 30 minutes with tails being flipped up, fins being waved and toward the end some heads poked, which was them feeding. They cause a whirlpool, herding the fish together as a group, and then one comes up through the middle of it. After dinner we moved to the back deck and toasted champagne as we crossed over the Antarctic Circle for the last time heading north. Most people on the boat (including staff) have set records for getting the furthest south ever. 67 degrees South. Just indicates how lucky we have been to get on this cruise. This is the boat gang, but not the specific crossing toast...

The Lounge Gang

The Lounge Gang

There was also a National Geographic photographer onboard on assignment here. He has been very willing to help others with cameras and tips. Fair to say my interest in taking photos has not led me into a conversation with him. But he did give a talk after diner and showed a couple of hundred of his photos from over the past 25 years and talked about his job, both the romantic (travelling the world), brain numbing (5 days for one frame) and heart breaking (two cleaned out homes by partners). But all in all it was interesting and we are hoping his trip makes the magazine so we have another memory of our cruise, footage may make the TV, Magazine or online... so a little exciting.

Overnight we sailed north and got out into some rough seas again. The rocking was as bad as the first day. Sarah again had a bad sleep. We awoke to a basic white out, well, maybe 100m visibility. A few large icebergs floating past the ship. We were slowed down by ice in the morning and got to our destination 20 minutes late. Straight out for a landing in the morning. Our first time on the Antarctic continent at a place called Prospect Point. There were penguins at much closer quarters at this location. They were moulting so we gave them a wide berth. A glacier came right down into the water next to the beach (rocks etc) and just after we arrived a large chunk sheared off and fell into the ocean. It was only small as it broke up and just made slushy ice on top of the water, but a pretty good wave (1 maybe 2 metres). I sat for about 20 minutes with the camera ready trying to get the next one. Happy to say I did but not as good a fall as the first one. On the zodiac back to the boat another fall occurred and our driver took us on a loop so that we could see the wave and stuff. It was very cool. It was one of the things that I wanted to see, it would be amazing to see a proper iceberg shear off a glacier as the wave and piece of ice would be huge.

The other great thing about the morning was that the clouds cleared and blue skies came out. More importantly we could see for the first time the extent of the peaks, which rose out of the bay to astonishing heights. It was really great to see this as it finally gave some indication of the continent beyond the beach where we landed. Until then the cloud, and fog had sat on the top of the first rise (150m or so).

Peak in the distance- Prospect Point

Peak in the distance- Prospect Point

The afternoon entailled a Zodiac Cruise around the Fish Islands, wher we got some fantastic pics of beautiful blue icebergs, offset against the mean, grey, Antarctic sky and the dark, black, cold ocean. We had a great driver, Julio, and he asked if we wanted to walk on an iceberg - yes, please! So he pulled up and Seth hopped off, Julio drove away and Seth started to look a little worried.

Sethberg- no one before, no one after

Sethberg- no one before, no one after

We then all got a turn on different bergs, it was quite surreal.

Sarahberg- Fish Islands

Sarahberg- Fish Islands

In the evening Seth decided to embrace the travelling thing and shaved (well, a number 4) his hair off - no more $60 haircuts for him!

Seth Getting a buzz cut

Seth Getting a buzz cut

The next day we continued North and stopped at a research base, it was Ukrainian, Vernadsky. It had previously been British, but sold to tUkrane in 1996 for 1 pound. There were all blokes and were quite happy to see a bunch of young girlies (most of the cruises are oldies!) - and infact our tour leader had used that as a teaser to get them to allow us on shore!

Vernadskiy Base, Ukraine

Vernadskiy Base, Ukraine

We sent a couple of postcards, which may or not go via Ukraine (they weren´t very talkative) - but will take 1-2 months. And got our passports stamped with Ukrainian/Antarctica stamps. Some also had a few home-distilled vodkas (at 10am!).

Vernadskiy Base, Ukraine- Post Office

Vernadskiy Base, Ukraine- Post Office

In the afternoon, the weather was terrible, sideways rain, so our zodiac cruise wasn´t much fun at all! But it was proper Anarctica weather. We took one picture of the bridge iceberg and then went back to the ship, and the sauna.

London Bridge Iceberg- Pleneau Islands

London Bridge Iceberg- Pleneau Islands

In the evening, we cruised the Lemaire Channel, a famous(?), beautiful channel, only 0.5 mil wide and great icey mountains on either side. It was very scenic and the captain fif a very good job to steer it through the icey bits, especially as a lot of this area is uncharted and the captain (and ice captain) just use their experience and their own notes from previous trips!

Lemaire Passage- Iceberg Alley

Lemaire Passage- Iceberg Alley

On our second last ´land´ day, we went to Danco Island, which was like proper Antarctica, it was snowing and really good, powdery snow.

Geared up for snow- Danco Island

Geared up for snow- Danco Island

We landed amongst a million penguins and seals and then hiked up to the top of the hill, where we were promised 360 degrees views of the area, but it was a bit of white-out when we got there, so got 360 degrees of white, which in itself was quite nice! It was very cool walking up through thousands of penguins, with them sliding down on their bellies past us... the penguin highway.

Danco Island- Adelie Penguins

Danco Island- Adelie Penguins

Adelies- Danco Island

Adelies- Danco Island

At the top we built a snowman (well, snow duck!), the snow was like icing sugar and stuck really well, but our not-very-prepared-for-antarctica gloves meant it was a very painful process!
When we got back down we found out Adam had proposd to Nelle, which was very cute!

Snow duck on top of Danco Island

Snow duck on top of Danco Island

On our final morning we arrived at Deception Island. It is a culdera, a collapsed volcano (looks like a fortune cookie on a map). It is still active and there is steam coming off the beach. We walked around what seemed like a moon scape, with the remnants of a whalers station dotted around, it was a little spooky!

Deception Isalnd, Whalers Bay- from Neptunes Window looking in

Deception Isalnd, Whalers Bay- from Neptunes Window looking in

The entrance into the culdera is only 150m wide and is called Neptune´s Bellows. About 200m from the entrance is a u shaped depression in the hill side and it is called Neptune´s Window.

Deception Island- Neptunes Bellows- Entrance into Culdera

Deception Island- Neptunes Bellows- Entrance into Culdera

Two of the passengers were married at Neptunes Window... well sort of .. the Expedition Leader was master of ceremonies, so I don´t think it is official, although on the last night of the cruise when they were giving out certificates for bits and pieces, they gave them a marrriage certificate, very funny.

After the wedding we walked back down to the old whaling station and had a look around, I can´t imagine orking down there in the freezing cold, chopping up whales - yuk!. Then of course it was time for a swim. Water temperature was -1 degrees celcius. Fair to say it was freezing! Getting undressed was bad enough in the wind but then hitting the water... we could not have imagined how cold it was. And it got deep really quickly so as we dived in and then turned to run out we realised we could not touch the bottom and had to swim back in the couple of metres, which I can tell you, is far enough. But great fun, and we can now say we have swum in Antarctica, along with 35 of the other passengers. Getting out of the water was also ridiculously cold, your fingers and toes really didn´t work, so it was straight back to the shio and the sauna!

That afternoon we went to Half Moon Island which is part of the South Shetlands. There was an elephant seal on the beach where we landed and lots of Chinstrap penguins. Chinstraps are the smallest of the penguins we saw and very cute, called for obvious reasons, they were also the most friendliest, or maybe just used to seeing people, so got very close to us.

Half Moon Island

Half Moon Island

Half Moon Island- Seth and Penguin

Half Moon Island- Seth and Penguin

On the zodiac on the way back to the boat, the driver was the assistant expedition leader. A couple of nights ago we were having a few drinks and I (Seth) told him he was 'assistant TO the expedition leader' (The Office fans will get the joke). Fair to say he did not forget and proceeded to soak me by pointing the zodiac into waves. But it was our last outing, so we didn´t really care.

So, we were back on board for 2 days and 2 nights of crossing the Drake Passage, which was nowhere near as bad as the trip down. They continued with lectures and entertainment, but the excitment had kinda worn off!
We arrived back into Ushuaia at 8pm, but had to stay onboard for the last night, which makes a ´12 day´ cruise a bit sneaky.

The cruise was great and we saw every possible animal - penguins, seals, sea birds, whales and some fantastic scenery, it was great to go as far South as we did, as the area seemed so much more surreal and no trace of other people having been there. We made some good friends, although it was a bit weird bumping into people from the cruise around Ushuaia on the day after!

Sorry, for the mega-long blog entry - but we went to Antarctica, man!

Posted by seth_g 13:59 Archived in Antarctica Comments (1)

Buenos Aires

sunny 25 °C

After a relaxing time in Iguazu Falls we are back in the big city. Taxi from the airport to the hotel where Sarah´s parents had booked us in for two nights to catch up with them and two of their friends that they were travelling with for the last three weeks. Walking into a 5 star hotel with thongs and backpacks always turns a few heads, but it was lovely to be in a room that has airconditioning that does not wake the people across the street, hot water that is also controllable and other small pleasures, such as toilet paper- something lacking in the hostel at Iguazu.

The night and next day were spent with Sarah's parents and two friends, Peter and Paula who were at the end of their three week South American adventure. Lots of stories to share and laughs were had about misunderstandings and other adventures. And a bit of meat-eating (including Morcilla, which is an Argentinean blood sausage - yum!) and wine-swilling.
Cameron´s by the pool

Cameron´s by the pool

After our two nights of comfort we were relegated to find a hostel. We found one online, booked it, caught a taxi there, walked in, Sarah looked at me and said 'I am not staying here.' We left our bags and went for a walk to find another place to stay. Lucky for us we found a spare room and relocated. Unlucky for us the hostel was a party hostel and that night there was a fair crowd who did not go to sleep at all and drank themselves into a stupor. Most of you would be thinking I was right in amongst it, but in my old mature days I was trying to get to sleep. What with that and the heavy-metal-all-night club just below our window we were glad of our ear plugs!

The next day we caught the tourist bus around the city and got off at Boca. Great markets and the houses are all painted bright colours (Caminito). Lots of characature style murals and fake Boca Junior football tops - which of course we bought. A full loop on the bus and by the end of it we were both amazed at the architectural depth of BA and the history. We saw the balcony at the Casa Rosada, from where the Perons spoke to the square filled with the supporters (Evita movie fans), the old dock area (Puerto Madero) that has been redeveloped (which was very like Darling Harbour in Sydney) and some great parks and amazing sculptures including the aluminium tulip which opens in the morning and closes at night, it is 19m high and quite impressive.
Casa Rosada

Casa Rosada

Boca

Boca

That night we went to the Boca Juniors soccer match. The home team of Maradona, the most successful soccer club in the world, with 16 premierships in the last 10 years and the most popular in Argentina. We went on a tour which organised transport and seats in the members area of the Chocolate Box (the stadium). I was not keen to go in the 'popular' area where there was only standing room and locals. It is hard to explain the crowd but the video and photos may go some way to do that. They were standing on hand rails gripping the yellow and blue banners that went from the top of the stand to the top of the riot fence on ground level chanting and singing the whole match. One guy even climbed the riot fence and hung off the top pumping up and down with the crowd cheering him on. Absolute madness. The opposition supporters were at the other end of the stadium in the top section fenced off from the local supporters and surrounded on both sides by security guards.
Boca Juniors Soccer

Boca Juniors Soccer

It was a local derby with the opposition only being from 60km away so pretty exciting. Boca scored a penalty in the first half but then in injury time the opposition scored and the match finished one 1-1. A great night out. The opposition fans were allowed leave after the final whistle but local fans had to remain in the stadium for 20 minutes to allow the safe exit of the opposition fans from the stadium. Perhaps that should be compulsory for Bulldogs supporters also.....

The next day we went to Eva Peron's (Evita) grave. An amazing cemetery where the riches families in BA have been trying to out-do each other by building ever bigger and more exsquisite mausoleums, some as big as small churches. We then went to the Evita museum and walked around Palermo which is a great little suburb full of fashion, food and drink (and the biggest ice cream in the smallest cone!)
Evita Museum

Evita Museum

We then met up with Nat a friend of mine from AusPost in Sydney. A friend she had met on the plane, Zoe also joined us for a few beers, dinner and some red wine. We actually had a proper Argentinean meal, as we ate at about 11.30pm - the restaurant was packed and people still came in after us. This was followed by a failed attempt to find a tango bar.
Nat, Zoe, Seth and a pile of meat

Nat, Zoe, Seth and a pile of meat

The next day, Sunday was a bit slow due to the beers and wine.

On the Monday, we went on a Ranch Tour/Gaucho Fiesta, it was a bit touristy, but we saw some Argentinean countryside and did some horse riding etc. We had a big lunch, which loads of meat and singing and dancing, which was good, they did some tango and other traditional dances of Argentina. They also performed some horse-riding demonstrations and we drank some of their traditional tea - called Mate/Mattae, which is like really strong green tea and is shared around in a wooden bowl/cup with a metal straw, it has some perforations at the end which act like a tea strainer. It's ok, but must have some major caffeine or some other drug in it as all Argentineans drink it like mad!
Ranch Tour

Ranch Tour

Tango-ing

Tango-ing

Toucan (in cage unfortunately)

Toucan (in cage unfortunately)

Seth ´enjoying´ horseriding!

Seth ´enjoying´ horseriding!

In the evening, we had tracked down Alex, one of Sarah friends from the surf club in Sydney and met her at the hostel she was staying in, less than 400m from ours. We went around there and met a few aussie blokes that she had been travelling with, we had a significant amount of beers and pizza. There was a good travel story regarding one of them and their Carnival experience, lets just say the you tube video says it all. Just by luck two of the other guys were having a coffee and saw the clip on the local news, found it on the web and much to his dismay posted it on you tube and told everyone. Well worth a watch if you enjoy seeing people getting caught in funny situations. (Parental Warning- if you are old you may not find this as funny). Search in you tube for 'Policia flagra praia' the top one with about 5500 views. It is a legitimate news clip.

The next morning we were up at 350a to catch a flight to Ushuaia which is the southern most city in the world, right at the bottom of Argentina. Both of us were pretty hung over but made the the flight on time and all was good. BA is a wonderful city and if not for the language barrier (ignorant aussie) it is a city that could be seriously considered as a place to live. So it is fair to say our experience of BA was a good one, but as always it is as much about the city as it is the people. It was great to catch up with Sarah's folks and their friends, as it was with Nat, Zoe and Alex. The only negative was paying a taxi driver with a 100 peso note and getting 80 pessos back in counterfeit notes, not an uncommon thing. So the taxi cost us AUD 30 instead of AUD 8- not the end of the world but not a nice event.

Posted by seth_g 06:47 Archived in Argentina Comments (2)

Iguacu Falls

The start of Argentina

semi-overcast 36 °C

Iguacu Falls are on the Argentine and Brazil border. We approached on the 16 hour bus from Sao Paulo so arrived into Foz do Iguacu which is on the Brazil side of the falls. We had booked into a hostel on the Argentine side of the falls as we flew out of the airport on that side two days later. After 9 hours sleep on the bus and having to wake Sarah up to get her off the bus (one of her best sleeps since arriving) we did not feel too bad, but unpaved roads on the bus during the night did break the sleep up for Sarah a bit, rattle rattle rattle.

A quick bus into the local bus terminal then a wait for the bus that crossed the border and we were on our way. We read in the guide book that if you are just crossing the border for a day there is no need to go through Brazilian passport control on the way out - which was good, as the bus did not wait at the Brazilian boarder and you had to wait another 40 mins for then next one ...so, we decided to risk it. The plan was to come back to Brazil two hours later after checking in and getting rid of the bags.

So a shower and check in complete back on the bus. Passport control were none too happy that we had decided not to enter Argentina and less impressed on the Brazil side that we had not left. But in the end they just waved us through and said on the way back do it properly. Luckily, a little strategically, we were on a tour bus at this stage which waited at the passport control.

So the Brazil side of the falls is just an overview. You look across the river at the falls mainly.

They are massive, bigger than Niagra- see photo below for stats!!!
Waterfall Comparison- Iguazu is BIG

Waterfall Comparison- Iguazu is BIG

They just keep on going- very wide and very amazing. So we walked the path, seeing lots of Coatis, little possom, bandicoot type creatures, one chased Sarah for a little bit.
Coatis

Coatis

Then got to the end of the path that had a small walkway out into the middle of the river where you could stand in the mist of one of the major falls. It was pretty amazing.
Brazil Iguazu Falls Viewing Platform

Brazil Iguazu Falls Viewing Platform

Then up the tower to the to of those falls. Sarah struggled with the grated floor on the observation deck but we managed a couple of photos. Back ont he bus and through passport control for the 3rd time! properly with little fuss.
Iguazu from Brazil side

Iguazu from Brazil side

Iguazu from Brazil side

Iguazu from Brazil side

We also visited the Tres Fronteras - the point where the 3 borders of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay meet. it´s a view out over the river, but you see the 3 painted pillars of each - a bit hard to get in one photo (in fact impossible without a helicopter) - but I am sure you get the idea.
The three frontiers- Argentine Frontier

The three frontiers- Argentine Frontier

Tres Fronteras

Tres Fronteras

Dinner that night was the first search for a Argentine slab of meat. We found a nice restaurant and ordered a few beers and abottle of red- lots of Malbec- and then decided on the special cut of meat- Matambre- lower back bit of cow. Unfortunatley not a big slab of red meat but nice all the same.

Next day was the Argentine side of the falls. There was a gas powered train that took you into the park and a superior and inferior walk, one at the top of the falls and one at the bottom respectively. This gave a much closer view of the actual falls and complimented the overview we saw the day before.

At the bottom of the inferior walk we got on a boat and did a little trip out to the bottom of the fallls. Once lap for a look and photos and the next we were told to put the cameras away. As we had been told it was like being in a shower we had prepared- Sarah in bikini and shorts, and me in my shorts only, both with thongs. Shoes and other clothes, bag etc in dry bags provided. We were at the front of the boat so on the second loop around the falls the driver pushed the boat into the mist of the falls and it is fair to say it was not a shower- more a bath- it felt like someone was throwing buckets of water on your head.
This was our boat soon after

This was our boat soon after

They want you to float

They want you to float

One of the boats

One of the boats

I am sure we were no where near the actual bottom of the falls but given I could not see due to having to cover my eyes as the spray hurt even with them closed it was hard to tell- but it felt like we were under the full force.

Out of the boat- small walk up the path dripping wet and a seat on a rock to dry off and have some lunch- getting good at rolls and cheese. Pretty scenic spot for lunch too.
Scenic lunch

Scenic lunch

We then walked back to the train, and on the way saw a Toucan flying overhead. They do look pretty amazing and we are both looking forweard to seeing more. We then caught the the train into the centre piece of the park. There is a grated raised pathway that is 1.2km out across the water out to the top of the main water fall. We walked out it and stood right atthe top of the biggest water fall of the lot. It was absolutely amazing.

The old pathway which was noticably higher than the existing one was washed away in the floods of 1992- it is amazing to think how much water must have been going over the falls at that time ifthe water level at the top was 2 or so metreshigher than it weas the day we were out there.

So after and amazing journey to the falls it was back to the hostel and the search for the meat continued. Sarah had read that the town had soem of the best restaurants in Argentina and there as one that came highly reccomended. So off we headed. It is also important to note that as usual I am looking for dinner at around 6pm- stretchingout to 7pm if pushed. Given this we are waiting at doors of restaurants for them to open, or at best eating in an empty room, but the advanatge is great service- five waiters on hand with nothing else to do. By the time we finish the restaurant is normally buzzing. So the meat ont his night was spot on- 500g of meat cooked to perfection on a grill at the front of the restaurant and served on a hot grill at the table. Sarah had ribs which I also managed to get a fair chunk of.Argentine Meat

Argentine Meat

A ten minute chat with two Dutch men who sat next to us at the end of dinner was about the longest we have spoken tro anyone else since starting the trip- they had just come form the south of Argentina and had some good advice on things to see.

The next mornign revolved around preparing to get to the airport to fly out to Buenes Aires where we will meet with Sarah´s parents and their friends who are just finishing a three week holiday and where the next installment will come from.

Posted by seth_g 09:53 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Paraty

The little coastal town

Sarah and I left the hustle of Rio and headed on a bus to Paraty- about 4 hours south. The bus ride was comfortable and a semi lay down bus which means that the seats are basically at 30 degrees. Very comfy for a snooze.

We arrived to a a very muggy Paraty and got a taxi to the hostel which was across the street from a small beach. We decided to go for a swim. I beat Sarah in every race, she claims the handicapper needs to be shot. The water was a disgusting warm- not becasue of any other reason than it was in a little bay that was not getting any circulation.
The bar across the road

The bar across the road

We then sat on the beach after our extensive excercise and had a few beers at one of the four hut style cafes, just plastic chairs and tables on the beach. At R4 a long neck this soon turned into me having a few. Sarah saying- why cant you just have a couple and then stop, slow down, etc etc. It could be said I was fairly pissed. Well I had excercised. Whilst we drank a huge storm blew in- very scenic across the mountains and it rained very hard. The hostel only had power in some rooms so we swapped around to get one with a working fan. The water had come back on earleir in the afternoon.

Paraty is a little fishing village in a bay- there are many little villages on the bay that are only accesasble by boat. Paraty being the cenrte for these small places. Big mountains which clouds sit on surround the area, with lush green follage covering them.

The first night we went out for dinner to a pub- ate, all very nice- then found out there were no visa facilities- all ATMs closed at 10pm- and we had about R20 less than we needed to pay for dinner. Sarah had to walk back to the hostel and ask to borrow R50 so that we could pay for dinner. I stayed and had another beer- well someone had to. The next morning I found in my pocket that Ihad more than R50' oops' must have missed that note due to the beer, Sarah not so impressed.

The next day continued to rain so we decided to get up late and just go into the old town- stone streets- no cars- horse and carts- very pretty. We just spent the day emailing and writing the previous blog. Got back to the hostel, Sarah went for a swim and I had a beer. Then went out for dinner again, with money this time.
The small streets of old town Paraty

The small streets of old town Paraty

The next day we went on a boat trip which took us out of the bay to the ocean side. We snorkelled- looked at coral, fish etc in nice clean water. The boat was great- big sailing boat. We went passed lots of little islands with single houses on them. Obviously there is some money in South America somewhere as these places were pretty impressive. We swam onto beaches and ate a nice lunch of squid on the boat- well I did anyway- Sarah had an upset tummy- touch wood I dont get it.
The boat

The boat


One of the houses on single island

One of the houses on single island


Me swimming into the little beach

Me swimming into the little beach

One of the houses had a spa room in the trees over looking the ocean pretty amazing.
One of the little beach houses wharfs

One of the little beach houses wharfs

The boat trip was great and only cost AUD 15 each which was a great value for 5 hours out. After our boat trip we lazed around at the hostel- I did some excercise and Sarah snoozed. Dinner involved a Caprahina for me (pineapple) which was average and will not be re ordered. But when in Rome.

Paraty was a great spot and very relaxing after the busy Rio. We have now moved to Sao Paulo on the bus (5 hours) are in the station for 2 hours (hence the update) and then on a bus for 16 hours to Iguacu Falls- we have a sleeper which means it goes totally flaty so should be ok.... we will see.

That is Paraty wrapped up- update after Iguacu.

Posted by seth_g 11:28 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

(Entries 11 - 15 of 20) « Page 1 2 [3] 4 »