A Travellerspoint blog

Calving glaciers on the rocks and a hangover.

or how I saw Perito Merino Glacier

semi-overcast 10 °C

On the bus from El Calafate airport to town I started talking to a youngish fellow sitting next to me who noticed Edmonton on my golf shirt. Turns out he is a resident anethetist in Vancouver general who grew up in Calgary... so we chatted right through the trip.. and parted our ways when the bus dropped me off at my hotel.
So I checked in to my hotel.. great placed with a heated pool.
Had a refreshing shower and went for the tourist walk or as I have heard... a LSD trip.. Look See Decide what restaurant to go to... when I bumped into my Friend Mark who also was doing the same thing.. we chat and decide we should had dinner together... turns out we both love wine.. and steak.. so he had spotted a local restaurant with mainly locals.. and we have sirloint steak and wine.. and chat.. and chat... curing the world and especially Canada of it´s political problems, despite him being from the right and me from the left... then we decide.. hell the wine is good so off to a jazz bar .. and another bottle of wine... after which I convince him to try the local grappa, which is wonderful... so needless to say the next morning.. HANGOVER... luckily my first aid kit... also is a hangover kit... and a few tylenol 1´s and off I go.
So the bus to the glacier is a fairly long ride.. but again it´s the bus and one just walks.
The walkways are incredible.. all wood.. and beatiful. ON the bus I befriended an Austrian lady and we decide to walk together to the glacier.
She tells me that she loves the mountains and lives near the alps.. goes skiing all winter... etc etc.. finally I ask what she does for a living.. wait for this.. she is an anethetist.. what the HEY!!!! weird huh!
So the falls are just astounding.. the glacier moves at a very fast rate and is supposidly one of the few glaciers not in retreat... as one stands on the walkway which are so well postioned.. that one can get all sorts of angles.. the glacier is constantly calving... great groans and crack and creaks come out of the glacier and then chunks of ice fall into the water with enormous crashes, then float away. Almost all of them are an amazing azure blue.. like building sized jewels.. the glacier front itself is sky blue.
It was a day of feeling so small in stature against this monstrous force of nature.. looking at it grind away solid rock.
So the next day was packing my pack and getting on the 8:30 bus to Puerto Natales, leaving at the hotel a pack full of stuff I will not need until I return from my 7 day hike and go onto Puerto Madryn.

Posted by Suraza 13:05 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Iquazu falls and back....

rain 21 °C

OK I just have one thing to say about the falls... and it is probably the most mis-used word in the English Language.. fantastic.. truly it is awe inspiring. What a rush of an experience.
So I arrived at my hotel as described in my previous blog... then managed to get organized for my trip to the falls.
Deciding against an organized tour for about $5 for a return ticket to the falls I took the regular city bus.
Arriving in grey weather I was mostly prepared for rain and or heat. It is after all the most northern point of Argentina, which also means the hottest more or less... certainly the closest to the tropics.
For a relatively small fee I entered the park.
On the bus before boarding I started talking to a women, who when she spoke sounded South African, anyway after a few hilarious exchanges it turns out she is an Israeli grandma.
So after a lengthy conversation on the bus we decide to tour together for a while, or at least until early afternoon when she had to return to fly back to Buenos Aires to join her tour group.
So there are two ¨"levels" of the falls... upper and lower.. we started with the lower.. and caught a train, which in hindsight would have been easier had we walked, the distance being so short.
The trails are great there... all boardwalked and with handrails, which is great for keeping people off the ground and hopefully keeping the disturbance to a minimum...
Welll the first viewing of the falls was in one word unbelievable.
Then it rained... and rained... tropical rain... it was steaming hot.. I had on a pair of short pants... luckily... but the rain was relentless. I have a great coat from MEC.. but it was not enough to keep out the rain when I kept taking off my hood... so wet wasn´t bad as it was so warm.
After my companion left I went to the upper falls, an area called devils throat. The walkway which was newly constructed crossed the river then went out above the falls... HOW incredible... you are standing above a huge waterfall with about 5000 cubic meters per second flowing over.. and as a water manager I can only say... almost nothing.... but the spray is almost blinding.. and so hard to take a photo. There are these entrepeneurs who have step ladders and charge to take photos from above the spray of one standing on the edge.
I also took a chance and bought the adventure package. It included an anemic tour through the jungle on the back of an truck.. then into a huge and powerful jet boat.
The captain then took us upriver and into and I mean INTO the falls... they force the passengers to put everything into waterproof bags. I did except for my waterproof camera. The lady behind me from Puerto Rico was screaming.. after she told me she was scared at first.. then when the boat went into the spray she was so excited.. she even bought the video they take to show her kids at home.
I have to say I am so happy I went to the falls.
The next day I purchased a second day half price ticket and walked through the downstream jungle in the hopes of seeing a toucan or the monkeys that inhabit the area.
Saw nothing but did manage to get eaten alive by mosquitos. I thought I bought Ben´s insect repellant.. but seemingly I bought Bens Insect attractant.
From Iquazu I returned by bus to Buenos Aires.. and this time slept almost the whole way.. and the food was palatable...
From Buenos I relaxed for a few days and took a flight from Buenos Aires to El Calagata in Argentinian Patagonia.
It is funny how one meets people on ones travels, and how much they can affect one. I met a couple who was their last day in Iquazu. They were a Belgium couple having a steak at the table next to me. They extolled how incredible it was to watch the whales and walk amonst the penguins in an area called Puerto Madryn. So the night before I left.. I phoned Aerolina Argentinas and changed my flight, and how efficient the service was... done over the phone.. so much for thinking that I would get inefficient service.
So I arrive at the airport to fly to El Calafate on the first leg of my flight and was told to go to the sales counter to pay for my change.
I get served by someone who looked at me like I was something on his shoe. Then when I gave him my details he started typing.. then writing down figures on a piece of paper.. then typing.. and typing... At least 20 minutes later.. he tells me I owe $300 dollars.. fine I pay.. then go to the ticket counter... where the attendant checking me in.. does the same... bearing in mind I planned to be early so I could get something to eat and not rush... so I ask and she tells me that the agent had messed up the flights totally...
SO back to the sales center... at least my check in agent phoned the other counter and went to the front of a lineup about 20 deep. Again... typing and typing.. I nearly screamed at him.... it was gettting later and later... then finally a ticket in hand and again back to my check in agent who called me to the front of the line ahead of glaring passengers.
SO I JUST made it onto the plane... luckily the airline still serves food and had a sanwich and arrived in El Calafate uneventfully.
( More blog chapters to follow I am typing this in Chile after many chapters written in a diary sitting in El Calafate and I am currently in Puerto Natales with a rotten cold and a badly blistered foot... so keep looking for entries and once I am back to Argentina I can get my card reader and post some photos.... )

Posted by Suraza 12:38 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Zero for the shirtless guy, one for the mall cops....

observations stories so far..

Well I thought I would write a short blog on the highlight of my trip so far. The things good and bad and those that stand out.
So hopefully the blog title has you intrigued.. so I´ll leave that story to last.
Of course the big one for me is being pickpocketed in an internet cafe at 10 in the morning and there were only 3 people in the joint. The guy was good and I paid about $30 for a lesson in care.. fairlyl cheap but it´s made me paranoid for sure.
Next, because I have been blessed with so much travel.. street hustlers are pretty easy for me to ignore.. on my first day in Buenos Aires some guy in a uniform approached me for money, wearing some kind of faded blue vest and approached me with some crazy photocopied piece of paper saying he was collecting money for charity. The charity being helping people in hospitals with no money. Told him I had been robbed and had no money... I was sitting on a bench and just wanted to observe the square, an historic square called Plaza de San Vincente.
THe next day I was there.. he approached me again with a smile asking for money.. I walked past him and told him no.. he continued then yelled " It was good that you were robbed" mmmm so much for charitable works.
Then there was Sula the grandma from Israel travelling on her own that I met in Igauzu and we toured for the morning before she left. She had a lot of ¨jewish¨humour sayings and one of them was that her father told her if an Argentinian didn´t eat meat for 3 days he would have to cut his finger to see blood... YIKES.. but one should see the size of great gobs of meat served in a parrilla ... different kinds of meat and a lot of it... served at the table once cooked in a hibachi with coals to keep it warm and keep the bbq taste.
I wont forget argentine pedestrians. The drivers here are insane.. driving as fast as they can.. the pedestrians well they are pedestrian.. walk slowly take up the whole sidewalk.. but NEVER NEVER give way (maybe that is the lesson from their driving?)... it is totally frustrating to walk when there are crowds.. they positively amble.
Resaurant service here is crisp.. you get a menu and served right away.. things come as fast as one wants them... bbq meats take a little longer.. but then you get to the part of paying... and almost nothing will get the servers attention.. they are quite happy for you just to sit... in fact in one coffee shop I saw a "gang" of elederly ladies practicing origami... without a coffee cup in sight.. they were there all the time I was drinking coffee.. and showed no signs of going.
And I do have to say though it´s funnny here.. the locals and tourists mingle quite easily... no problesm.. I was in a 150 year old cafe called Cafe Tortoni and there wre tourists with camera flashing away and there were old guys who were about as aged and faded as the furnture and decorations.. gesticulating over coffee without a mind to the tourists.. gives the place a great feel, and Argentinians are very warm people. I am learning though that Buenos Aires is virtually another country within a country.
all for now.. catching the bus back to Buenos Aires the on to El Calafate for my hike.
And now for the funny one.. I was touring around BA and went to the botanical gardens.. they have incredible species there.. and it was full of people being a spring day.
I walked past a few women in their bathing suits.... sitting in the sun.. and couple of families with kids and a picnic.. then I see two "super" mall cops.. in their uniforms.. rushing accross.. and there is this old guy with his shirt off... grey haired and a beard.. jeans on and had his shirt off in the sun.. Well I guess they told him to put his shirt on.. THEN the war was on..shouting and threatening.. eventually this old guy had to leave.... guess those were the rules no topless.. male or female.. but if you are a women.. a bathing suit is ok.. GO FIGURE....
hasta luego

Posted by Suraza 11:38 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Giant Rats and Butterflies but NO Toucans

Today was jungle walk day and I had a half price ticket for the Iguazu Park. Funny story though. Yesterday as I was leaving the park I noticed if you presented your ticket you could come the next day half price. If you read my previous blog you will remember how soaked I got. Well I reached into my pocket and pulled out the soggiest sorriest clump of paper, formerly known as the entrance ticket and gave it to the attendant.
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He took out a stapler and clipped on the discount coupon... gawd dont know how he did it. ( Mind you there was the formalities of having an identity document number to add to this coupon first.. ) It was pretty funny... just about as funny as when I had a beer and pulled out a wallet that I think fish could have lived in and paid with a sopping banknote.. ewwwww!!!! poor waitress.
So I got up earlyish eyed out the attendants putting out deck chairs next to the pool and the gorgeous sunny day and went ahead to the park in the hope of seeing toucans. I was armed with my newly purchased rain pants ( one of the items I forgot to pack.. but bought a pair of vastly superior quality to the ones left behind).
Well got to Iguazu and went on my walk and it was wonderful.
Saw a lot of incredible butterflies and spend mosquito bitten hours photographing them. Apparantly I bought Ben´s mosquito attractant when I thought I was buying repellant.. either that or Argentine mosquitos are attracted to the smell that Canadian mosquitos hate?

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I also saw a large rat like thingy.. yeah I DON¨T know the name.. I know it isn´t the worlds biggest rodent.. but gawd it looks like it.. anyone know the name of this beast?

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At the end of the hike there was a beautiful falls, the name of which I should remember.. but don´t.. but nevertheless I got a nice young couple to take my photo.. and they didn´t run off with my camera... yahooo!!!

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On my way back.. I was thouroughly entertained by the sound of lightning.. yeah.. great claps of thunder... helped me increase my stride.. after a thourough soaking the day before I was in no mood for more... on and on I trudged.. then when the drops started.. and the thunder roared.. I thought naaa it wont.. then more rain.. and then I said to myself.. this is it.. then it came down.. so on with the rain gear and I had my new waterproof hikers on.. I was totally dry from the rain.. BUT I had my own personal sauna in the waterproof gear and the 30 degree temperature.. definite beer inducing.
SO I hoofed it out of there.. on the way out came accross an argentine couple with a young girl all wearing flip flops.. asking how long to the end.. they seemed to continue.. mmm can´t be a great experience for the young girl for sure.
WHen I got back to town after a 1/2 wait for the bus and a further 1/2 hour ride I treated myself to a quart of beer ( 650cc) and a lomo criollo sandwich at the bus station grill ( egg and sirloin steak sandwich with cheese). It was to die for.. what a great sandwich...
So as I write this blog in my book before typing it I am now sitting next to the pool at the hotel after a great swim and sunning myself in the newly cleared sky.. but my heavens it muggy.... after two days of rain and 30 degree weather you gotta believe is so bloody muggy..
Í had a bird tour booked for tomorrow morning but the guide got a private tour and hassled the hotel staff here who were trying to help me book it.. so no bird watching... SADNESS here.. for sure. So will hang out and relax tomorrow.. I´ll also write a blog on some of the experiences I have had so far.. the ones that stand out..
hasta luego
ciao caio

Posted by Suraza 13:22 Comments (0)

Damp, Drenched but not Down..

rain 25 °C

Awsome is said as a cliche by the youth.... Awestruck is what I say after today... completely awestruck. ..
So let´s back up .... let´s see.. woke up to the sound of rain on the tin roof of my hotel followed by the obligatory.. uh! OH!...THEN that thought was underscored by the thunderous applause of lightining.. YUP a semi-tropical rainstorm was in it´s full glory. .. so damn that 6:30 am alarm.. I showered and had my included breakfast of ... ok the highlight was freshly squeezed orange juice.. leave it at that... and peered out the window.. to say.. ***** it I am a Rhodesian, South African, Canadian Jew.. nothing will deter me.. upstairs to my room I went.. dressed .. cameras in their cute waterproof bags.. and bags in bags.. off I went to catch the 5 peso bus to the falls.. and half an hour later I was their with a slight deviation.. At the bus station.. again a huge affair with 15 ticket offices and multiple gates, much like an airport ( I think this town there are about... 80000 people) anyway.. before boarding the bus I chat to a women and she is an Israeli.. me thinking by her accent she is South African develops into a morning friendship and chat.. and a great name she has.. Shula.. there is more to it.. but who knows.. but we did share a ¨"brotherhood" and had a great chat us both being secular jews... unloved and unrecognized by the mainstream Judaism.
So we arrive at Iguazu falls with pouting rain.. and roam..
Igauzu falls beautiful bird

Igauzu falls beautiful bird

Igauzu falls on the Igauzu river joins the Parana, which is an indigenous name meaning something like giver of water.. and I am being VERY literal.
Iguazu Falls

Iguazu Falls

The Parana is part of the border between Brazil and Argentina and then becomes the rio Plata which flows into Buenos Airies and is so huge at the mouth that at one shore one cannot see the other shore, which is in Buenos Aires, Montevideo in Uruguay.
oh! yes where were we? yes the Iguazu falls. So after a 5 peso bus ride, taking 1-2 hour we get there... in the rain and forking over 60 peso for the non resident entrance fee.. off we go. Chatting ( Shula and I) like old Israeli political commentaries. ( edit .... isn´t it weird how one meets others on travels.. that have so many similar and interesting viewpoints.. is it kismet? is it something else... but what it is is interesting if you open your mind to other viewpoints and opinions.... it is truly the spice of life... it is what makes travel interesting... to open ones mind .. to though and opinion).....
So the day was about enjoying the splendour of the day.. trying to keep dry in the relentless rainfall.
The highlights were an incredible ( and here is that word awesome) rush of standing above a HUGE waterfall.
I think though I am going to have to lean on the few photos I can upload to make much more of a statement than I can make to get the feeling accross.
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So in the afternoon I had paid for a ¨"jungle wildernous" experience.. the first part of which was an aenimic drive through the semi-tropical forest that makes up this area.. followed by a jet boat ride.. WHAT A RUSH... OMG... up the river and into and I MEAN into the falls... hopefully the following video gives you the idea.
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Tomorrow I will just tour through the forest... and then on Friday I hope to hook up with a professional bird guide.
TILL then.
hasta luego.

Posted by Suraza 19:34 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

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