A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: TheNomadWay.com

Bolivia - Uyuni

14 °C

People say you should only visit Uyuni if you have to...and considering it is right at the monumental salt flats, most people do!

After the high of our 3 day trip, we didn`t expect a lot. However as we explored the town, had dinner and drinks with good people from our tour, we enjoyed our night in Uyuni. The local market was great despite nearly being clocked over the head by an old local lady for almost taking a photo of her food stand.

Our first Bolivian hospitality experience was memorable...6 of us ordered some soup and pizza and started playing cards. It was warm and had a good atmosphere, the only problem was the 3 hour wait for our food! Luckily the company was good.

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Bolivia - Salt Flat Tour

12 °C

Setting off from San Pedro De Atacama in Chile we quickly reached an altitude of 4000m within half an hour and arrived at the Bolivian border crossing. It was quite the introduction to Bolivia. A small building in the middle of desert, with a burnt out bus lying next to it!

After some tasty breakie on the side of the road we entered the national park and visited Laguna Blanca (white), Laguna Verde (green) and Laguna Colorado which was a startling red colour and filled with pink flamingoes! We also stopped off at a natural hot spring where we had a dip and took in the spectacular scenery.. Then we had an introduction to the first Geysers we have ever seen...hot pools of mud and steam spitting up into the air. Hitting the highest point of the tour just under 5000m we were all back in the 4 wheel drive pretty quickly as the smell of sulphur spurting out of the Geysers was pretty overwhelming.

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After filling up on some coca tea and tasty brekkie there was an improvement to our altitude-induced headaches, we headed off on day 2 of the tour. Good company and a cautious driver set us in good stead for a day of driving in our 4 wheel drive. We saw desert, mountains, a few more lagoons and Valles de Rocas...with thousands of year old lava deposits sprawled out across the valley. Tonight we had an interesting homestay in a village, with dinner and lots of card playing!

Last day and we headed straight to the Train Cemetry outside the town of Uyuni. Great old train wrecks left to rust away! Then it was onto the finale...the Salar de Uyuni the world´s largest salt flat! Amazing crisp whiteness stretching out as far as the eye can see...not comparisable to anything we´ve seen before! After lots of fun group pics we finished up pour tour with lunch in one of the Salt Hotels, which made completely of salt, bricks and all!

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Chile - San Pedro De Atacama

25 °C

The crossing from Salta to San Pedro De Atacama over the Andes was amazing. We climbed to 4,500m, passed an array of colourful mountains, landscapes and Salt Flats. The bus seemed to climb forever before reaching the Argentinian border. This was our first altitude test...and armed with bucketloads of water, we did ok.

We then coasted down past 6,000m giant volcanoes to the small town of San Pedro De Atacama (which sits at about 2,500m). It was like something out of an open air museum... mud brick buildings, dirt streets and with loads of restaurants, travel agencies and tourists there was a great buzz to the town.

It sits in the heart of the desert, with plenty to do. A highlight was a visit to the Valle de la Luna and Death Valley, a rare dry and baron landscape that resembles the moon. The sight at sunset was beatuful.

After choosing a tour operator for our upcoming 4WD jaunt into Bolivia, we loaded up on more water, some snacks and changed some Chilean Pesos for Bolivianos. Bring on the Salt Flats!

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Argentina - Cafayate

27 °C

It was a bit of luck we were approved to do some WOOFING (Working on Organic Farms) just outside the town of Cafayate a couple of days before arriving. Ony a few hours drive from Salta the climate of Cafayate was so different, a lot drier with red dusty hillsides and cacti!

We were working on a gorgeous property that produces wines, and arriving just after the wine harvest, we were kept busy producing jams from all the left over grapes. The property consisted of a big farmhouse surrounded by many lush trees, 4 cats, a friendy dog, roosters, chickens, tiny chooks, some ducks and a pig! We also got to help out with all the animals as we learnt the daily routine of the farm.

We organised a sunset horse-ride with a local who took us through the fantastic countryside on our last night, which was a great way to end our time in this beautiful part of the world.

As we waited for our bus to leave we managed to sample some delicious organic wine at one of the many Bodegas (wineries) in Cafayate town centre, and enjoy some sunshine in the quaint plaza, before we jumped on the bus back to Salta to connect us through to San Pedro De Atacama in Chile.

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Argentina - Salta

18 °C

Salta has such a different feel about it to the rest of Argentina. It`s humid, gritty and has street food galore. It´s now starting to feel like we´re getting close to Bolivia!

With a gorgeous central plaza and an interesting Archelogica ¨mummy¨museum we filled in a couple of days here easily. The trip up to the mirador was a nice adventure on the cable car with great views across the valley and town. The lush surroundings and waterfalls made it even feel exotic!

After trying some local humitas (corn and maize snacks) at the central market we were geared up for a week of WWOOFING on a property in Cafayate....

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Argentina - Cordoba

After a fancy ´Cama´ night bus, we arrived in the second largest city in Argentina. We stayed 2 nights, so mainly explored the city centre.

Beautiful buildings, the countries oldest cathedral, some great pedestrian shopping streets and a cool plaza to relax in the afternoon. Cordoba is a great university city where we also experienced some of the cities nightlife and mingled with other travellers and locals.

A massive downpour on our last night resulted in us wading though water up to our knees as the streets in the city centre turned into rivers!!

With a fresh set of dry clothes on we made it onto our night bus heading north to Salta...

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Argentina - Mendoza

27 °C

Mendoza, Argentina´s wine capital, there was so much hype and it was nice, but not quite as amazing as we were hoping!

We enjoyed a day trip to Lujan, the quieter of the two wine regions nearby. We went with a great group we met through our hostel and hired some bikes to visit the wineries in the area. The experience was fantastic, including tours of gorgeous wineries, detailing the production of wine from grape pressing to bottling, including sampling some unfiltered wine, and many types of wines produced in the area. We also had lunch in a gorgeous vineyard and after a few more wineries swayed our bikes towards a Chocolateria to finish the day off!

Our trip into the Andes mountain range to view Mt Aconcagua (the highest mountain in all of the Americas!) was spectacular. As is was offseason, we were unable to hike or camp so we did a day trip up with a group stopping at various sights along the way reaching an altitude of about 3,000m where we walked a circuit (slowly!) and ate lunch whilst viewing the peak.

We stayed at Mendoza Backpackers which was a great social hostel and organized many excursions, including the trip we took to Aconcagua as well as a second winery day to the town of Maipu.

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Chile - Valparaiso and Vina Del Mar

20 °C

We didn´t really know what do expect with Valparaiso and after being spooked by the odd beings near the bus station, it seemed a bit strange. After a taxi to the hostel that view quickly changed.

Winding, narrow and steep streets that never seemed to end, street murals, live music, colourful buildings and a gritty feel, this place is one of our favourite cities on the trip so far. We walked for hours, and just wished we stayed longer. The hostel was a winner too, good people and a great night out in one of the many bars.

La Sebastiana was also good to see (house of famous poet Pablo Neruda) and gave us a panoramic view across the unique city.

We also went to nearby Vina Del Mar, Chiles big beach destination for people from Santiago and across in Argentina. The cold and cloudy day meant for a quiet grey beach so we weren't able to experience it in full flight!

Next up, an overnight bus across the massive andes to Mendoza...

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Chile - Santiago

26 °C

Santiago, the capital of Chile. A huge city which had a great vibe, rivalling that of Buenos Aires.

We arrived early morning following a night bus from Pucon and and ended up staying in Santiago´s eastern suburbs with an Airbnb host (a website where people rent out their house or a room). We stayed in a room in a sweet old ladies house complete with plasma tv, a luxury that we had forgotten even existed.

The subway in Santiago is a dream, slick and clean...day 1 we decided to head to Domingos, a market type area near the Plaza Egana subway station. Full of locally made goods..we were advised against going to the city centre due to protests which could get ugly.

The next couple of days were fine and we walked pretty much the entire city centre..Plaza de Armas, Palacio La Moneda, Cerro Santa Lucia and the Central Market were some of our favourites. The place had a great vibe and not the 'keep a lookout for pick pocket' reputation it had. The local dish 'Cazuela' was nice, a chicken and veg soup.

The climb to the top of Cerro San Cristobal showed just how big the city was, very impressive, especially with the faint view of the massive mountains as a back drop. The cemetary was well worth checking out except for the fact that I arrived 3 minutes after it had closed.

On our last day we checked out the crazy people participating in the Santiago Marathon and then the Memory and Human Rights museum which was interesting.

That evening we jumped on a bus for a short ride to Valparaiso...

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Chile - Pucon

21 °C

Heading deeper into volcano country, in the middle of the Chilean lakes district we arrived at the town of Pucon, which sits on the edge of lake (lago) Villarica, and is dwarfed by Volcano Villarica, lingering for anyone considering the volcano climb. The town has many Hostels/Hospedajes and caters well for the tourist crowd. After carefully selecting a tour operator (a decision not to be taken lightly due to the dangers involved!!) we decided to do the climb.

We set off a 7am, driving to the base of the volcano in the dark we climbed a few hundred meters. We watched sunrise over the fantastic view we already had of the valley and then it was time to climb climb climb! After a couple of hours of steep incline we reached the ice, and attached crampons and clung tight to our ice picks! The going got tough and as we crossed across the sheer ice face numerous times, reaching an altitude of about 2650m.

When we were nearing the top the wind really began to pick up, one of the biggest dangers for climbers, and after seeing some boulders roll down the face we had just crossed, we were happy with our guide’s decision to descend! This involved sliding down numerous snow slides, similar to bob-slay runs until we reached the rocky section again. The way down was a lot less taxing, except for peering over our shoulders for possible boulders, and a lot quicker than the ascent! That evening we enjoyed a few beers with the other climbers in our group, including another Australian couple, and celebrated making it down in one piece!

We also did a day trip to the national park and walked up to view 3 lakes sitting at 1000m, very peaceful and a nice relaxing day. While we waited for the bus back to Pucon we were treated to a hot chocolate and kruchen (German style pastry). Odd I know…German pastry in south America, but there have been many German immigrants to this area of Chile and German foods, especially pastries are found across this area of Chile...yum!

We also spent an afternoon in the town of Curarrehue, where we had some delicious indigenous food for lunch!

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Argentina - Bariloche

24 °C

The Swiss like town of Bariloche was very cool, loads of chocolate shops, fondue and swiss style wooden buildings. We scored a with a great hostel too. There was loads to do so we ended up staying longer than we thought.

A nearby town called Colonia Suiza was a stunner with swiss style chalets set in the mountains. It was completely quiet, but we were still able to enjoy some apple strudel, hot chocolates and hot chips to top it off.

The next day was an utter highlight at Villa Catedral, a ski mountain and resort in winter...mountain bike heaven in summer. A day pass on the cable car gave me unlimited rides for the day and after going up to 2000m I was was treated to masses of downhill mountain bike tracks back down varying in difficulty. It was incredible fun..especially racing the cable car down...8 times.

Llao Llao park wss also nice, we hiked by lakes and saw ancient Arrayan forests then we went to Cerro Campanario...a lookout nearby which National Geographic says is one of the top 10 views on the plant. We agreed, lakes and mountains surrounded usin every direction, stunning.

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Argentina - El Bolson

24 °C

We decided to check out El Bolson as a day trip from Bariloche and arrived at 11:30am, just in time for the 'hippy' market. It was cool, locals of the hippy variety with arts, crafts, street performers, food and more. Again the town is set in a perfect place, surrounded by mountains.

After cramming our stomachs with local goodies, we walked up to the nearby lookout for a squiz, nice. On the way back we ate blackberries by the dozen on the side of the road. A relaxing day...we then took the scenic road back to Bariloche.

After a brief sleep we woke early and took the bus back into Chile via Osorno once more and we arrived in one of Chile's outdoor capitals, Pucon. Driving in, Volcano Villarica dominated the skyline...couldn't wait to tackle it...

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Chile - Osorno

18 °C

After a good sleep in a comfortable but slightly odd Hospedaje (the owner didn't seem to want guests), we ate breakfast and headed into the town centre. There was not a lot to do in Osorno, so we just checked out the main streets and ate loads of food from the mega supermarkets (as good as home) where we found brown bread, as rare as hens teeth in this part of the world.

The town square had a massive bronze bull, and the market near the sqaure was interesting, then we sorted our bus tickets back into Argentina to Bariloche, the outdoor capital of Argentina.

The drive went up into the mountains and wound through beautiful scenery. The border crossing took its usual couple of hours, and we arrived around 10pm in Bariloche...

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Chile - Puerto Montt

23 °C

After an overnight ferry from Chaiten, sleeping in an armchair we arrived early in Puerto Montt and quickly scoured the town for a place to stay as the sun came up. Using a recommendation from the Lonely Planet we finally found a guesthouse. The town is nice, set on a hill, we first wandered down to the salmon markets and, tasted cheese, ate some lunch and bought some salmon and veg to cook that night in the hostel. Fresh as a daisy and delicious.

From there we checked out the town centre and did some shoe shopping (no luck for Paul, Chileans have small feet).

The next day we joined the guesthouse owner and her family on a road trip which was a nice day... we visited Frutillar, a small German town and tried some kruchan (German cake). We drove past lakes, volcanoes, ate a traditional Parilla (complete with blood sausage) and into the Puyehue National Park.

Very scenic and to top it off, we swam in natual hot springs for a few hours which were right by a creek! Brilliant. From there, we got dropped off in Osorno for the next leg...

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Chile - Chaiten

25 °C

A gorgeous day on the road heading north on the Careterra Austral, surrounded by lush green hillsides and waterfalls as we drove down the middle of the valley. We stopped off in small isolated towns along the way to stretch our legs and get some food, as it was about a 12hr drive along the single lane windy gravel road. It was a great day full of fantastic scenery, and as we were sharing our mini bus with 5 local men and we felt a long way away from any other tourists!

When we pulled into Chaiten we were surrounded by shells of houses and ash strewn across the town, remnants of the ash eruption in 2008 which reached as far as Buenos Aires. The dominating Volcano Chaiten sat on the horizon, threatening its plume of ash and steam above the town. We stayed at one of 2 options, which was also the only restaurant in this ghost town! We did make it to the volcano about 20kms away from town, and undertook the couple of hours uphill clambering to view the lava dome over the top of the volcano which emits ash and steam, and we had a great view back across the valley.

The return trip back to town wasn´t easy due to there being no transport options! It involved waving madly at the one bus passing along the road that evening, which luckily stopped to let us two dust covered gringos on! With a sigh of relief we made it back into town just in time to jump on the cargo ferry to Puerto Montt...and saw a great sunset over the calm water as we sailed away from Chaiten!

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