A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: TheNomadWay.com

Chile - Coyhaique

17 °C

The Carretera Austral, meaning ’Southern Road’, is one of the most isolated roads which runs along the south-western side of Chile. Nestled to the west of the Patagonian mountain range, this part of Chile receives an astonishing amount of rain which gives it such an amazingly tropical feel for such a cool climate.

Mid-way through the Carretera Austral is the town of Coyhaique, although this town was not that small, it really made us feel like we were in the middle of nowhere! It may not have helped that we were dropped off at 10pm at night in the rain, skipping over puddles for 2 hours before we were able to find any accommodation.. The Chilean style accommodation in this area was mainly Hospedajes - someone’s house who lets out a few rooms for tourists, and generally not well signposted as we found out!

The town itself was on our map as a stopover and a way to access the rest of the Carretera Austral. Sometimes waiting for days for the next bus, we were lucky to get one 2 days after we arrived. Another battle during our time on the Carretera Austral were the strikes, no commercial transport was able to get through, including food, so the supermarkets were VERY bare!

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Argentina - Los Antiguos

19 °C

Decision time...heading north from deep south in Argentina we had a couple of options, proceed up Argentinia's Route 40 or the Chile's Carretera Austral.

The famous Route 40 is a huge journey on a mainly dirt straight road, with little wildlife or anything interesting along the way...the less travelled and less touristy Carretera Austral on the other hand, winds north along the mountains with rivers, waterfalls, lakes and small towns...Despite transport strikes and threats of more, we decided on the Carretera Austral.

To get there, we took a bus from El Chalten to Los Antiguos in Argentina, a small town with loads of fruit farms. In search of a fruit farm, we wandered up a long drive without sign posts hoping we found one, reached a house and was greeted by an older couple who took us around their farm and loaded us up with apples, pears, raspberries, peaches and more. Delicious and they refused to accept any payment.

Fresh fruit with cheese and crackers for dinner went down a treat...

Los Antiguos is an entry point into Chile, so we stayed here for 2 nights to link up with the ferry in Chile Chico and start the Carretera Austral.

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Argentina - El Chalten

20 °C

In contrast to El Calafate, Chalten is a small town nestled in a valley surrounded by magnificent hills and mountains including Mt Fitzroy. We stayed in town and did day walks from the town, which was a nice relief after camping at Torres Del Paine! There were various viewpoints we walked to for magnificent views over the town and across over Mt Fitzroy range, and multiple surrounding glaciers.

And the 8hr day hike (with lots of photo taking) to Mt Fitzroy was a definite highlight. It was one of the most breathtaking views we have ever seen. There were great views of the mountain throughout the walk, and the surprise of two pristine sky blue lakes at the top miradore were a great reward!

Apart from sharing our dorm with some crazy Russians, we also bumped into some English and US guys we had met earlier in the trip who were good fun, so that gave us something to do in the quite town most evenings!

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Argentina - El Calafate

16 °C

A great setting, small town with wooden buildings, we checked into our hostel which turned out to be a bit of a dive and walked the town. A lot of touristy shops but with the surrounding glaciers, no wonder!

As it turns out, the famous Perito Moreno Glacier had just had its biggest ice fall in 4 years the day before us, so we were in for a treat (the news even made it to Australian news sites). The largest fall meant the whole glacier was unstable so from the moment we arrived we witnessed massive chunks falling off into the water creating huge waves.

The glacier was is incredible, massive, jaw dropping and we sat in awe for hours. The maze of raised wooden pathways allowed us to see it from different angles and all were breathtaking. An experience we won't forget...

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Chile - Puerto Natales (and Torres Del Paine)

16 °C

The W Trek!

Time to head north again...we crossed back into Chile from the southernmost tip of Argentina and bussed up to Puerto Natales.

This town was full of hostels and restaurants...catering for the tourist crowd on the way through to Torres Del Paine National Park.
We decided to give the ´W` trek a go.. As novices to outdoor trekking with packs and camping equipment we decided on the 5 day 4 night option instead of the longer 8-9day circuit!

We felt well prepared after heading along to the Erratic Rock info session and began our 5 day adventure on a bleary early morning bus out to the park with our backpacks (full with tent, sleeping bags, mats, stove and alot of food!). The next few days were full of highs and lows and were some of the best times we´ve had on our trip, plus the spectacular scenery we were surrounded by! It was a hard slog, we trekked about 80kms over steep inclines, many many rocks and through mud, rain and sunshine.

Glacier Grey was magical to watch sunrise over, and on our second night we could hear the ice falling from other glaciers nearby. It was a fantastic sense of achievement to make it to the Torres view point for our final morning...climbing for 45mins steeply uphill in the pitch dark and horizontal rain. Although a ray of sunshine would´ve been a nice touch for our last morning (and would´ve made Paul the photographer happy) it was still a great experience!

We returned to Puerto Natales for a night after the trek and wow did a shower and bed feel nice!

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Argentina - Ushuaia

8 °C

What a contrast Ushuaia is to the rest of Argentina! Cutting over the Chilean border twice to reach Ushuaia by land, the marathon 12hr bus ride finished by swinging through the windy roads at night and pulling into a town that sits as the gateway to Antarctica. Ushuaia really had a ski village feel to it, and we were there in summer! Although there was no snow on the ground it was frequently snowing amoungst bursts of sunshine.

Ushuaia sits above the Beagle Channel, populated with many colourful buildings there are great views from most corners of the hilly town. The warmth of our ski-lodge style hostel, Freestlye, was a comfort to us, as well as the brown bread (yay!) and eggs they supplied for breakfast. Day trips included a walk up to the San Martel glacier in town, not a great glacier but the walk and views were great. Our boat trip on the Beagle Channel was fantastic, magical views of the surrounding snow-capped mountains, sealions and penguins.

Two days camping in the Tierra Del Fuego National Park bordering Ushuaia was a highlight, although bitterly cold it felt like we had walked into a scene off The Lord of The Rings! Beautiful moss covered trees and pristine lakes. The view from Mt Guanaco was breath taking but the 4 hour climb up in itself was a mission!

We had our first experience of couch surfing for the next 3 days which was a nice taste of a locals way of life and a welcome break from hostels.

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Argentina - Rio Gallegos

14 °C

Rio Gallegos was a mandatory stopover for us, and most people heading down this route, unless you are willing to connect an overnight bus with another 12hr day bus. Being the middle of February we were visiting the town in the height of summer, which included bitterly cold winds, grey bleak skies and the star attraction...the new brid watching centre!

A big change from the warmth we just left behind. 24 hours is plenty long enough to experience the joys of this bleak fishing town which lives in eternal winter!

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Argentina - Puerto Madryn

29 °C

As our night bus swung around the first few corners we had encountered all night, travelling down the straight route 3 in eastern Argentina, we knew we must be getting close to civilisation again. The sun was just climing up and in complete contrast to the dry desert landscape which we had been surrounded by for the last 12 hours, there was a town lining a glimpse of ocean.

Walking to our hostel (yes our one bit of training for upcoming national parks!) we saw a car fly by and on a second look realised that there was a dog standing on the roof surfing along! Hi Patagonia Hostel prepared us fully for all the tourist options in the area, and we opted to hire a car with some other tourists to see the nearby sights to have a bit more independance and save some Pesos.

We visited Peninsula Valdes, a full day excursion, where we patiently waited to see a glimpse of a killer whale, but it was not our day. However there was plenty of other wildlife as the shores were lined with seals and sea lions with their pups.

Punta Ninfas was another big drive on a search for some Sea Elephants (hiding in the water!) where we were told not to leave the car unoccupied, otherwise it would most likely be missing a wheel or more when we returned! Despite the lack of wildlife there was a gorgeous view of the sea and coastline.

Our visit to the new penguin reserve in Punta Tombo was a definite highlight. We saw thousands of penguins in their natural habitat, and as they kept crossing the path we really had to be on the lookout to avoid stepping on one! We also swung though the Welsh town of Gaiman, founded by the welsh settlers who migrated to Argentina.

We clocked up about 1200kms over 3 days, most of this on gravel roads, so it was a sigh of relief to return the car in one piece!

The town itself had more than we expected for what seemed like an isolated community, including the usual Argentinian chains and Paniderias where Paul was pleased to find the biggest pancho ever! We had a tasty Parilla (Argentinian BBQ) with our great hostel on our last night before jumping on another overnight bus heading further south...

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Argentina - Mar Del Plata

28 °C

We arrived in Mar De Plata to find half of Buenos Aires laid out on the beach with their multi-coloured umbrellas and g-string bikinis!

It is a nice place for a beach holiday with many restaurants selling the infamous Argentina pizza, and licuados stands lining the beach. One of the highlights was our hostel, Che Legarto, which was more like a hotel, crisp white bed sheets, private bathrooms and great breakfast!

We took a bus along the coast which was well worth it to get to a much quiter beach where we could actually see the sand! Apart from being completely windswept by the strong winds, which are part and parcle of Mar Del Plata, we had a great walk back into the centre along the beach and rockpools.

The city and building were nicely lit up at night around the main square, perfect for a romantic stroll! We had a couple of nights stopover here before heading to southern Argentina.

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Argentina - Gualeguaychu

29 °C
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Carnival time! We didn't know what to expect, this place is meant to be quiet all year then go crazy for carnival.

The hostel was nice enough, all locals apart from one or two and we found out pretty quick that the reputation was right. The dorms were full of people sleeping at 3 in the afternoon.

The town is set on a river, with the central area being quiet, but when we got to the river, it was crazy. Masses of people, pumping music, dancing, temporary pools, people swimming - huge beach feel, good times.

Carnival was great, hardly any tourists, huge elaborate floats...started at 11pm and finished up at 4am. Its then completely the norm to then go out till 9am...

Sensational weekend...next up our first night bus back through Buenos Aires to Mar Del Plata.

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Uruguay - Mercedes

28 °C

We were chatting to a local in Montevideo who was from Mercedes who asked us, why are you going there??

Partly because it sounded good and also because it was conveniently right next to Gualeguaychu (our next stop to check out Carnival, Argentinian style). I don't think there was a hostel but we found a guesthouse in the town centre. It was hot, the fan was screaming loud and it seemed like it was about to fly off the roof and slice us but it was a bargain and run by a super old lady.

It was a nice town to see, relaxed, no tourists, a river/beach where everyone seemed to hang out, play soccer, ride their motorbike and drink mate. We went to check out some ruins, saw a dinosour museum and ate a monster Chivito (steak, bacon, eggs, cheese, olives, veg and chips).

A nice place to chill out, next up back across to Argentina...

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Uruguay - Montevideo

28 °C
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A few hours along to coast to Uruguays' capital, Montevideo on the bus...with WiFi, yep we eventually found out that pretty much all longish haul buses in Uruguay have WiFi. So handy.

Checked in to a new hostel close to the bus station, explored the town by foot all the way down into the old town which was actually pretty sketchy. The plaza was nice, some good buildings ate some good food. The 2 main beaches were good (their claim to fame over BA), ate dinner overlooking Punta Carretas.

It was a nice place to visit but it didn't properly grab us...next up, Mercedes.

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Uruguay - Colonia Del Sacremento

27 °C
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Knowing we had to get to Patagonia while the weather was still good and the fact that we wanted to experience Carnival in Gualeguaychu (Argentina), we only had 6 days to see Uruguay.

First stop, Colonia Del Sacremento. We caught the boat from Buenos Aires and following a quick interview by a local TV company, we found a hostel and checked in. Surrounded by natural brown water we loved this place pretty quickly. Old stone buildings, cobbled streets and super restaurants. We also discovered that Uruguyans are NEVER without their mate drink in hand (herbal tea) and thermos!

There was a pier too where at 1am (basically mid afternoon in this part of the world), there was a fishing competition, nice.

We hired bikes and checked out the area, great town to visit!

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Argentina - Buenos Aires

30 °C
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After a 14 hour flight to Dubai, and another 14 hour flight to Rio, we had a 1 hour pit stop before a 4 hour flight to Buenos Aires..it was a mission but Emirates were great, the time flew by.

Buenos Aries, the 'European' capital of South America, it delivered. We had the weekend to explore the city prior to our 5 days of Spanish lessons. It was quiet in the city due to the weekend and the fact that most BA people escape the heat to the beaches however we walked most of the city with a local who showed us the sights. Great French and Spanish buildings.

The following 5 mornings of Spanish were ordinary, aimed at beginners the class seemed to cater for the Brazillian Portuguese speakers and brainy boffins. Lucy did ok, I almost got nothing out of it!

In the afternoons we did some sightseeing, Recoleta was great, we hired bikes, saw the fascinating cemetary and spent a lot of time in our local haunt, San Telmo. The Pizza in Argentina is not great, but our favourite one was from UGI's, they are basic but cheap delicious. We should have had more!

The Sunday market along Defensa St was well worth checking out as was the local Tango in Plaza Dorego. La Boca was also good, if you head there though make sure you stay on the main streets, it's a dodgy place.

We were introduced to Empanadas (little pasties crammed with ham/cheese/beef/chicken or tuna), Dulce de Leche (caramelised milk which we became a little obessed with) and Alfajores (2 biscuits with dulce de leche in between). It was almost impossible to miss the many Havana stores (Argentinian style Starbucks) our favourite drink being a submarino - hot milk with a chocolate bar melted into it, and the Freddo ice-creameries lining the streets! Our favourite flavour...yep, Dulce de Leche!

Next up, a boat to Uruguay....Colonia Del Sacremento.

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United Arab Emirates - Dubai

26 °C
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A journey from Australia to South America via Dubai? Odd we know but it was half the price of a direct flight from Sydney and it meant we could check out Dubai on the way.

So we stayed 5 days and had a great time. As it was the middle of January the weather was perfect, we stayed in a very flash 1 Star hotel in the city and was treated to spectacular oil soaked noodles each morning (among other things).

Dubai was great, built on sand the construction is massive, from the marina, the Burj Khalifa (tallest building in the world), the Dubai Mall (a city in itself), the indoor ski fields, and the man made parks to the palm and world islands built in the water - gob smacking stuff.

We also spent a lot of time in the old town, a great cultural experience which shows the 'old' Dubai still lives. The very touristy 4WD dune bashing/dance show/camel ride/BBQ was well worth it, except make sure you don't get motion sick! It wasn't Lucy's favourite experience in the back of the 4WD pushing the car to its limits on sand dunes with hammering arabic techno...

We had some great street food and one of the best Indian dishes we can remember too, early Friday morning, we boarded the plane...South America bound...

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