A Travellerspoint blog

Uruguay, carnival and waterfalls

sunny 28 °C

Uruguay might just be my new favourite country in the world! I don't know why, it may be the beaches; never-ending, wild and just absolutely beautiful. It might be the people; smiling, easy-going and crazy about their mate. And after travelling South America for more than six months, I realized that I can still be surprised over the tranquility and relaxation that saturates it all. I thought Chile, Argentina and Peru were laidback - and then I get to Uruguay and realize that there is one dimension more to it, at least! Everything is just a little bit slower and a little bit easier, and you can't do anything about it but enjoy it.

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House with a view - Punta del Diablo

We came with the catamaran from Buenos Aires to small Carmelo, where we the traffic constituted of nothing else than horsedrawn carts, mopeds or shiny, wellkept cars from the 50's or earlier. The pizza was good and cheap, the beer was ice-cold, and in the evening we had picnic down at the canal, watching the locals hanging out at the rowing club. Coming from Buenos Aires, which is a cool place but huge, Carmelo had that super-cozy feeling that we were looking for.

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Fruit store in Montevideo - yes, we went there too.

Even more cozy, I dare to say, was Colonia del Sacramento, our next stop along the Uruguay coast. It's an old smuggler´s port, with irregular, cobbled-stone streets and it's absolutely charming! Since we realized that it was Valentine´s day (we´re usually not into that sort of stuff) we treated ourselves to one of the super-funky restaurants that you can find all over the town. At this one, we actually got to sit in one of the 50's cars, with the interior replaced with chairs and table. Exept for the awesome food, good wine and cool atmosphere, we got loads of attention from people passing by, wanting to take our picture etc. A lot of fun!

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This is the car, from the outside

However, most of the time in Uruguay we spent on or close to the beach, in lovely little Punta del Diablo. It's not a lot more but a small, colourful fishing village, but recently it has started to attract surfers and other beachbums, and the fishermen have added "renting cabañas" to their business. But it's not touristic (yet) and it has got a good vibe. We tried to surf one day, but most of the time we just spent reading, swimming in the waves, horseback riding over the dunes, and having ridiculously good fish for dinner. There were a few party opportunities, but most of all we just wanted to relax - that's what you do in Uruguay.

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Beachlife - Punta del Diablo

I could easily have spent more time in Uruguay, but unfortunatelly we didn't have the time. After 11 days we jumped on a bus taking us all the way up to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil (that's 32 hours on a bus, no piece of cake, I tell you!) for the carnival. And it's The Carnival. Even though everyone we met before told us that there are other carnivals in Brazil that are cheaper, safer and more fun, we still wanted to go to Rio. Because that's what you have heard of since you were a kid, isn't it?! It's world famous, The Carnival in Rio!!! And now, looking back, we don't regret it. It is splendid! Colours, caipirinhas, and samba on the street. Everyone is just happy, 24 hours of endless joy and party (unfortunately we don't have too many pics from the carnival because we didn't want to bring the camera unless we felt it was safe). It was almost surreal; sleaping all day, drifting down to the beach for an hour or so, back to the hostel for showers and a few beers, and then it all started again, partying all night uttil sunrise over the beautiful Ipanema and Cobacabana. And this was going on for almost a week - and we have hardly been partying at all during our travels!! (Exept Christmas, New Year's and that sort of stuff) I totally enjoyed it though. Despite the burdensome hangover that tortured us for several days afterwards...

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Carnival...

We have also seen the Iguazú Falls, both from the Argentine and the Brazilian side. Very, very impressive. I mean, I was actually enjoying looking at a waterfall for two days! It's huge, it's remarkable, it's dramatic and extraordinary - there's just no end to all the synonyms... If you have a chance, go there!

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Iguazú falls - Argentine side.

And go to Uruguay, too.

Right now we are in Parguay, which seems to be the least visited of all the countries in South America. Everyone is really friendly, but slightly surprised to see tourists. Makes travelling a lot more interesting, and a bit harder... Tomorrow, we are going by boat up the river Rio Paraguay towards the Brazilian rainforest. A five day trip to the middle of nowhere, I suspect. More about that later!

Lots of love to all
//Susanna

Posted by snatterand 09:05 Archived in Uruguay Tagged backpacking Comments (5)

Land of Fire

all seasons in one day

The last months we have been doing nothing else than trekking!!! And I mean nothing else. I mean, we did have occasional days in between the treks for transportation, washing socks and a bit of resting, but nevertheless there were never more than one or two days in a row before we went out there again. Sounds a bit maniac, doesn't it? Parque Nacional Puyehue, Parque Nacional Nauel Huapi, Parque Nacional Los Alerces, Parque Nacional Los Glaciares, Parque Nacional Torres del Paine... I've been to so many national parks so that I don't even remember the names of all of them! We've been sleeping more in our tent than in real beds, eating loads of dehydrated food, climbing endless amounts of peaks and watching several glaciers in sunrises.

Do I sound cynical? Well, I'm not. I seriously think this is the way to experience Patagonia! I`m completely satisfied with the fact that I have spent almost 2 months in my trekking boots, because I have indeed been able to visit some of the most magical places in the world. The sparkling snow in the intense afternoon sunlight in the upper part of Valle Francés. The astonishing volcanic peaks above the light clouds that filled up the valleys around Volcan Puyehue. The luminous turquoise waters of Rio Azul were you could go for a short, refreshing swim (5 seconds before freezing to death...). I just love all those places, and never in my life I will regret that I made an effort to get there!

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The sky is huge over Parque Nacional Puyehue

However, after the Torres del Paine circuit (8 days, 140 kilometers, a lot of aches and blisters) we both felt that it unquestionably was time for something else! With grief in our hearts, we cancelled all our plans of trekking down in Tierra del Fuego. Instead, we went horseback riding, penguin watching and to the cinema in Punta Arenas to watch "King Kong" (horrible movie by the way). Wonderful liberation, I can tell you!!!

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Refugio Otto Meiling in Parque Nacional Nauel Huapi

Don't misunderstand me. I love trekking, I really do. I'm gonna go trekking again and I'm still gonna love it. But right now, I've had a little bit too much...

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Lago Nordenskjöld in Parque Nacional Torres del Paine

Tierra del Fuego was, by the way, just as far away as you would imagine. It really is the end of the world! You start to realize how distant it is when you have to travel days on a bus, without seeing anything else than the Argentine Pampas, to get there. Almost as much daylight as in Sweden a summer's day, but a whole lot colder (something made me think about Iceland, although I haven't been there at all). Unfortunately, we we're both ill when we were in Ushuaia (with colds after all that hiking) so we didn't see as much of it as we wanted to.

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End of the world feeling in Puerto Natales

And now, after travelling south for almost 5 months, we finally came to the point where we had to turn north again (Antarctica was never an option). One chapter has come to its end and a new one has begun... (poetical, ey?) Coming up is tango and soccer in Buenos Aires, beachlife and surfing in Uruguay and Carnival in Rio. Sounds nice for a change!

Lots of love to all
//Susanna

Posted by snatterand 10:34 Archived in Argentina Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Lost in the Patagonian Andes

- and so much more!

...I don't even know where to begin!!! I was sad to leave Peru, especially since we were rushing it a little bit and actually missed Arequipa completely. On the other hand, after buying a guidebook on the treks in Patagonia, we were very determined to get there as soon as possible, itching to get out and do some hiking...

We didn't feel like spending too much time in northern Chile - mostly deserts, and one of South Americas most expensive countries - but San Pedro de Atacama was defenitely worth a couple of days. Not only the driest place on Earth, the town itself was also spectacular and didn't look like anything I've ever seen before. It made me feel like I was in a middle of an old Western movie, and I just expected to see Clint Eastwood walking down the street in cowboy boots. We explored the surrounding desert with rented mountainbikes. Went to both Valle de la Luna and Quebrada del Diablo, being constantly thirsty in the hot, dry climate, and constantly fascinated by the weird, extraterrestrial landscape.

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Moon Valley...

Even more fascinating was the Tatio geiser field, where we went an extremely early morning to catch the best views at sunrise. We left San Pedro at 4 o'clock in the morning, andwhen we arrived at the geisers at 6 a.m. the temperature was still below freezing. Nevertheless, we felt obliged to put on our swim suits and go for a swim in the hot springs. It wasn't too bad - until we had to get up again. :( At least we got some cool (!) pictures!

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Me by the geiser

Then we hit the road again, heading for Argentina. Working our way down south through Salta, Cafayate, Tafi del Valle and Mendoza, we spent a week our so, indulging and enjoying the pleasures of the abundant vineyards and the excellent food (strong Italian influences here, what can I say...?). Everything in order to gain a couple of extra kilos before 2 months down in Patagonia! We've only done 2 hikes so far - around Volcán Antuco and Baños del Caulle, both on the Chilean side - and we're already looking a bit skinny...! Though, we are going back to Argentina to spend Christmas in Bariloche and try out their famous chocolate, so I think we are gonna get around that problem fairly soon. ;)

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Food - and good food too!

Patagonia... It's magical to be here, finally. Hiking around this area is a childhood dream coming true. Though, it's a demanding task to make it come true! The trekking is sometimes strenuous. We have encountered scorching deserts and blistering cold (just like Prince Charming, in Shrek II). On the last trek we got lost for 24 hours and then had to walk 4 kilometers in wet, heavy snow, slightly uphill... To reach the refugio and be able to sleep indoors was a relief, but it didn't last for long: we woke up at 4 a.m. when 4 Chilean boyscouts stumbled in, talking in loud voices, taking photos with a flash, and waking up not only us but also all the birds (several birdnests under the roof)! Then they all fell asleep really fast and started snoring like crazy while the birds were whistling and trilling the rest of the morning...

So, yes, sometimes I do ask myself: why? But on the other hand, after getting back from one hike, I can't wait til the next one! And as you probably can imagine, we're not going to Bariloche merely for the chocolate. The trekking around there is supposed to go through some of the finest scenery in the whole Lake District.

That's all for now, I wish everyone in the world a great Christmas, take care of yourself and your friends!!!

//Susanna

Posted by snatterand 06:41 Archived in Chile Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

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