Category Archives: 2007/2008 South America

Our trip to South America in 2007/2008

Day 75/76: Enroute Buenos Aires – Auckland – Sydney – Perth

Sunday – 17 February 2008:  Enroute Buenos Aires – Auckland – Sydney – Perth

Arrived in Sydney and headed to duty free to rebuy the alcohol and perfume and Scott also got himself a new iPod shuffle to take to uni.

We made it through Customs but had to give up our biscuits at Quarantine, apparently the dulce de leche which is cooked for about 3 hours still is not cooked enough for Australian standards and may contain foot and mouth disease, even the official said it was a pile of rubbish but he didn’t have a choice. They let through all the wooden items etc though.

Saturday – 16 February 2008:  Enroute Buenos Aires – Auckland – Sydney – Perth

Get to Auckland airport and they wont allow any of the alcohol to be taken back onto the plane, apparently due to regulations that you cant transit with alcohol, so we had to surrender that and the people that was over 100ml in size. This was extremely frustrating and we were livid, but the option was to miss the flight and get a later one or give it up and I went with the give it up, although I think Scott wanted to argue and miss the flight.

Continue reading Day 75/76: Enroute Buenos Aires – Auckland – Sydney – Perth

Day 72/73/74: Buenos Aires, Argentina

15 February 2008 (Friday):  Buenos Aires – still here

Another day of sitting around watching the world go by from our suite.

We made sure we got to the airport early, so ordered the taxi and they arrived on time, so nice as the hotel is, we are back to Buenos Aires airport. We arrived and were sixth in queue. The gates opened and we actually have our luggage checked on, although the plane is now expected to depart about 2:30am instead of midnight.

We wandered around the airport and bought some perfume and alcohol (note this is a big mistake).

The flight left at about 2:30am so it wasn’t too bad. The thing with AA is that they never tell you anything and when you ask it is always si, si. Which we have come to realise means no, but we don’t want to tell you. So even thought we checked with three different people, there is no vegetarian food for me and the other option is meat. Still at this stage I don’t care as we are at least heading in the direction of home.

14 February 2008 (Thursday):  Buenos Aires – Still here

We ventured downstairs of a breakfast buffet which is absolutely fantastic. The airline is paying for all our food which turned out to be pretty average as it was a set meal and they didn’t have much of a vegetarian option.

We have nothing left to do in Buenos Aires, so actually are having a doona day today and watching tv and catching up with photos and sorting ourselves out for when we get home. There is free internet at the hotel, so we are reading through uni notes etc. The other people staying here are also students so everybody is frantically trying to get the last of their uni stuff ready as now we wont get home until Sunday.

We rang Qantas and told them of the problems and we are heading down to the Qantas office to book onto the only available flight on Sunday. We did have a frequent flyer ticket but to change that meant we wouldn’t get home until Monday and have to overnight in Sydney so we are paying for a ticket instead.

A word of advise for anybody – do not ever fly Aerolineas Argentinas. They are absolutely unorganised and have no idea.

We had a walk around the streets, but as we cant eat anywhere other than the hotel, we headed back there.

13 February 2008 (Wednesday):  Buenos Aires – still here

We are due to leave today, so this morning we packed our bags and got organised.  Even though we haven’t shopped much, we seem to have accumulated a lot of stuff, but it all fitted in.  We popped out and had a final wander around San Telmo.

We had lunch at a local restaurant we have been very eager to try and wish we had earlier, it was great.  The food was very creative and interesting, the service was good and it was really busy.

We handed over the keys for the apartment and caught a taxi to the Airport.  We queued to get through the security screening processes which took a couple of hours and started to get a bit worried as not many people were being allowed to check in and people near us were telling us of delays and cancelled flights and people being bumped etc.  We started to get a bad feeling.

Anyway we made it through security and into the check in line which was progressing very slowly with more and more armed security guards and police arriving.  After another 2 hours we finally made it to a check in counter.  The guy tapped away on the keyboard for ages and finally we asked if we were on the flight and he said, oh no, they were fully booked and he had put us on Fridays flight back to Australia – nice of them to tell us, considering we actually went into their office to confirm our flight!!!

So they got a nice piece of Scotts mind and we ended up in a 5 star hotel with taxi vouchers for their and back.  No way was I getting on a bus at midnight.  We arrived at the hotel and they were going to give us a twin room, so Scott asked for a matrimonial, and I saw they had a pile of cards for suites, so asked if we could have a suite as it has been a long day – they said no, but they decided to give us one, so we have a huge three room suite which is absolutely beautiful and has the best shower in the world.

Day 71: Colon, Argentina

12 February 2008 (Tuesday):  Colon

We arrived at Retiro Omnibus Terminal at 06.30am and there were already loads of people around – I don’t think this place ever stops, it is just mind blowing the amount of people that travel through here.  Our bus was, as usual, fashionably late but only by 1/2 hour which isn’t too bad.

We slept a fair part of the way as there wasn’t much to see except fields and fields, as far as the eye can see of corn or potatoes, which is very weird as you only see potatoes cooked as chips and you don’t see that much corn on the menu here in Argentina, so not sure where it goes.

We made a couple of stops along the way at some very small towns which were unnamed, or at least we couldn’t see any town names and the bus terminals were just a shed.

We finally made it into Colon after about 5 1/2 hours.  The bus station is quite large and has a tourist office which was actually open and more bizarrely had a map (something quite unusual we have found).  So we headed off to the thermal springs.

The roads here in Colon aren’t paved, just sort of flattened mud, so everything is dirty, even us now.

Colon thermal springs - - notice the temperatures on the signpost!
Colon thermal springs - - notice the temperatures on the signpost!

The thermal springs here are as far removed from the thermal springs in San Pedro de Atacama as you can imagine and look nothing like the photos on their website.  Here they are like actual swimming pools of varying temperatures.  We tested out a few over the afternoon, but as the day got later and siesta time kicked in they became very busy.  So you are just standing there in a a swimming pool with no room or move or even float.  So we sunbathed for a bit and then gave up and headed back into the town centre for a look around.  There are loads of people around in the thermal baths and along the rivers edge probably because everything in the town centres is closed, including the restaurants for siesta time which appears to be from 1pm to 7pm.  We have begun to wonder how any actual work gets done here.

The town isn’t very big but along the river there are lots of camp grounds with activities and a lot of people have speed boats, or as Scott calls them stink boats, as the only boat you can have is a sail boat!!  This is obviously a very popular holiday destination for Argentinians.

We made it to the bus terminal for an icecream, I am still missing my Biltzy Pops from Chile and have yet to find a substitute.  Our bus arrived on time, so we boarded and headed off, to break down and then get going again and then to pull into a bus station and have to change buses, but at least this new bus works, so off we headed back to Buenos Aires.

It was a very long day and a tad disappointing, but it was interesting to see the differences in thermal springs.

DAY 70 – 11 FEBRUARY 2008 (MONDAY)

Buenos Aires

Today is our shopping day, so we headed up to Paraguay Calle and bought a few bits before heading into Avenue Florida and got Scott some jeans. He then wandered off back to San Telmo to leave me to shop by myself, so I bought a leather jacket as they are very cheap here, I suppose the amount of meat people eat they have to do something with the skins, just wish they had nice shoes. I could find the perfect handbag, but kept looking just in case.

In the meantime Scott headed to SAE and swapped our read books for something new for the plane and caught up with emails and changed our flights from Sydney to Perth to a later flight as we just know Aerolineas Argentinas will be late.

I finally got back and we headed out for a later dinner to the same restaurant as on Saturday night. We didn’t have the same waiter so the service wasn’t as good, but the food was still wonderful. We met a lady who had just spent 45 days trekking through Fitzroy park, totally amazing and awesome experience, I wish I could have the courage to do something like that.

DAY 69 – 10 FEBRUARY 2008 (SUNDAY)

Buenos Aires

We set off on the Subte for Belgrano and Chinatown.  Belgrano is a leafy, green and obviously well to do suburb, it has lots of open parks, lovely buildings and huge sidewalks.  A lot of people were out enjoying a Sunday morning breakfast.  There are meant to be markets in Belgrano but not much had been set up in Plaza Belgrano, so we decided to head to Chinatown.

We didn’t have high hopes as throughout South America there were not many Chinese restaurants etc, but Scott wanted to order Chinese food in Spanish!  We didn’t have a map of the area, and only a vague idea where they may be.  Well it was absolutely brilliant, if anybody is here on a Sunday, this is the place to come.  There were stalls, shops, restaurants and a whole street of Chinese fast food cooked before your eyes plus loads of vegetarian options.  We were in seventh heaven and did many laps of the stalls, especially for the steamed dim sum which was a highlight, although the chilli sauce was very hot – even Scott thought it had a tang.  We bought some sauces from the local chinese supermarket to bring home and finally dragged ourselves away happy and contented.

We headed to the overland train line to go to Retiro and walked to the Reserva Ecologica Costanero Sur which is meant to be a bird watchers paradise in the centre of Buenos Aires.  Well we saw 3 and 2 of them were the same species, the rest of the birds were pigeons and they dent count.  The marshlands were all dried up so there were no other species of turtles (meant to be loads of them according to the brochure) and lots of varieties of fish.  We did the 2km walk and gave up.

We walked to Puerto Madero to take some photos of the docks, on the way we went through a lot of parilla stalls so Scott kept sniffing up his meat quota for the day.  Puerto Madero is obviously the place to come for Sunday lunch as the restaurants actually had people in them, which is a first since we have been here.  We had eaten our fill in Chinatown, so wandered around both sides of the docks.

We walked back to the apartment via Reconquista which today was a giant market all the way to San Telmo, so we bought a few souveniers and made our way through the huge crowds, which seem bigger than last week.  On returning to the apartment Scott at a snooze and I ventured out myself or have a browse and bought a lovely Indian box I had been eyeing up since coming to Buenos Aries.

Tonight we tried out our locally made Limoncello which was awful, so that will go in the bin.  So I wandered into Boca and bought some locally made icecream from the Heladeria as a treat.  We are trying out all different flavours and  the same with other food, if we haven’t had it yet, we have to try it, can be a good idea, but today Scott had a sausage made of fried polony type meet cooked in battery – yuk!  We chilled out for the night listening to the radio.  Here all the radio stations seem to play 80’s music, how good is that, I love it but Scott is a tad stressed and cant wait to get home and play some System of the Down.

La Plata

DAY 68 – 9 FEBRUARY 2008 (SATURDAY)

Constitution Station is near San Juan Subte station but it is a bleak part of town.

We got our tickets for La Plata and bought a couple of scones to tide us over for the journey. The train pulled out and is one of the worst trains we have been on, including India. It is dirty and the seats are rock hard.

The scenery was also similar to India, poor dilapidated houses, lots of rubbish, graffiti, but we left most of that behind and headed through some countryside.

The train station at La Plata was grimy and dirty but we quickly headed …

Buenos Aires

DAY 66 – 7 FEBRUARY 2008 (THURSDAY)

Scott headed out and finally tracked down a miniature screwdriver set, so he could take apart the camera and see if it is just sand or dust that is the problem. He got a lot of the screws out etc, but the ones holding in the lens etc wouldn’t come undone. So we headed to SAE and researched some cameras and models and then went up Avenue Florida after talking to the local camera shop and the best places to go. We found a camera shop where the assistant was really helpful, but Argentina does not stock the latest model we want and they don’t know when …

Montevideo

DAY 64 – 5 FEBRUARY 2008 (TUESDAY)

We walked to the ferry terminal at the top of Puerto Madero in 40 minutes, it was nice and quiet, but already hot and steamy at 7am. At the ferry terminal we checked in and then went through immigration – Argentina and Uruguay were sitting next to each other, so it was very quick and painless. We boarded the ferry which is large and has duty free etc on board. I read and Scott slept for the 3 hour journey to Montevideo. We disembarked and caught a taxi from the port to our hostel. At the hostel our booking was all confirmed and we checked in and …

Buenos Aires

DAY 61 – 2 FEBRUARY 2008 (SATURDAY)

We had a leisurely start to the day by visiting the mercado and markets for groceries and doing some bookings for accommodation in Montevideo.

We then walked up Puerto Madero which is kind of a very long Southbank, the river (docks etc) are lined with restaurants and apartments. It was nice, just very quiet, maybe things liven up here at night. The renovations have been well done keeping the character and tradition of the docklands with cobbled paths and brick warehouses and the restaurants all open up onto the paths. Apparently the real …

Tigre

DAY 59 – 31 JANUARY 2008 (THURSDAY)

We caught the Subte from San Jean to Retiro, bought our train tickets to Tigre and jumped on the next train heading there. There are trains every 8 minutes, so we didn’t have to wait long.

Tigre is a small town, although now it is an outer suburb of Buenos Aires but it is on the Rio de La Plata delta, so is a bit cooler and has a village feel to it.

We headed to Estacion Fluvial and the tourist office to get a map of the area and bought some tickets on the local ferry to Tres Bocas and headed out there as there is a nature walk around the …

Buenos Aires

DAY 56 – 28 JANUARY 2008 (MONDAY)

We left Rosario on the 8am bus, which was the first we could get and headed down Ruta 9. The scenery wasn’t much to see, except the rain started and got heavier and heavier, not a good sign.

The traffic etc increased as we entered the outskirts of Buenos Aires with lots of country clubs and gated communities. The roads are fairly well maintained, but that is probably the millions of tollways you have to go through to get anywhere here.

We arrived into Retiro about 12ish, which is the main transport hub with the buses, trains, local airport …

Rosario

DAY 54 – 26 JANUARY 2008

We arrived into Rosario at 9am and headed to our hostel at Hostel Rio Brown which we had booked through hostelbookers.com, but they didn’t have our booking and just looked blankly at us when we gave them the reservation confirmation number etc. Great here we are in Rosario at a weekend with no accommodation what a great way to start a visit and I am now in a totally peeved off mood and could quite easily get on a bus to Buenos Aires.

Scott convinced me that Che Guevaras house was just around the corner and as it is a life long dream of mine to go there we …

San Ignacio

DAY 52 – 24 JANUARY 2008

Up before the sun yet again to walk to the bus terminal for the local bus to San Ignacio. The bus must of stopped everywhere possible and in between went at world record speeds. I dent know how they work out the bus stops because as far as we can tell people just wait at the side of the road or appear when the bus stops, still seems to work. We motored along, stopping for other passengers and for mate thermos refills.

We eventually got to San Ignacio at 1pm and even found our accommodation which wasn’t bad as we didn’t have a map and nobody could speak …

Puerto Iguazu

DAY 48 – 20 JANUARY 2008

Well yet another Groundhog Day. We headed out from the hotel for desayno and almost unbelievably found a place that actually served cafe con leche that wasn’t Nescafe. That must be a first here in South America.

We headed to Cordobas main bus terminal and tried to sign up for Murdoch activities but as usual the website is crap and you cant do anything without getting errors.

Scott is progressing well with his bracelet making and is starting to fill up my arm – obviously I am his best friend as he keeps making them for me.

We confirmed …

Cordoba

DAY 46 – 18 JANUARY 2008

Yet another packing and moving day. We left our luggage in the hostel and headed to a bank to top up funds etc. We had a coffee in the main mall and watched the people and world go by. We then found a bead shop as Scott has progressed onto adding beads to his friendship bracelets.

Lunch beckoned and we found a restaurant on the mall and Scott demolished a huge stake and we tried a bottle of the local chardonnay. The wines so far on this trip have been spectacular and so cheap it is brilliant for our budget. We had a leisurely lunch finishing about 3pm …

Mendoza

DAY 43 – 15 JANUARY 2008

Got up way too early and packed, yet again and headed to yet another bus and bus station. Our bus was a little late and we progressed slowly – obviously having problems with the bus electrics as the air con kept going on and off.

We hit the Chilean border and progressed through quite quickly obviously this just lulled us into a false sense of security as we motored past all the lines of cars, buses and trucks. Eventually we stopped at the Chilean-Argentinian border and there we stopped, not to move for the next 2 1/2 hours. Eventually we moved through, …

Santiago

DAY 39 – 11 JANUARY 2008

We caught the bus at San Pedro for the long trip to Santiago (24 hours). The bus is a huge double decker with very comfy seats that recline. We left on time heading through Calama and Antofagasta on the coast which joins the Panamerican highway. The scenery is just constant deserts and doesn’t seem to change, except with the addition of the coastline. We got out and stretched our legs where we could but the bus didn’t stop for long, at one point it left without some of the passengers, who managed to catch up to us at the next stop. Some of the towns looked …

San Pedro de Atacama

DAY 36 – 8 JANUARY 2008

We arrived in San Pedro at 1.30am. We were dropped near the town centre in the pitch black after walking in the wrong direction for a while, we finally got our bearings and headed to our hotel where we had made our booking. Only to find there was no booking and they wouldn’t let us in. We rang a couple of other places in the vicinity but everything was fully booked. So here we were in the middle of the night, in a town we didn’t know without any accommodation.

We headed back to the Plaza de Armas where we had seen a church and Scott thought we could camp …

Iquique

DAY 34 – 6 JANUARY 2008

We got up early and packed before having breakfast and getting a taxi to the airport. The drive was about 30 minutes back to the top of the valley, we cant get over how many houses and people are here in this small area, it is absolutely packed and there appears to be no room for further development unless they start building more skyscrapers and I am sure I wouldn’t want to be living in anything high after we have seen some of the building methods. The airport is the highest in the world and only special planes etc can land and take off at this altitude. We …

La Paz

DAY 31 – 3 JANUARY 2008

Got up early yet again – sucks. We packed up our bags and headed to the bus stop and there are two buses for La Paz. The bus company girlie finally showed up and we demanded to get on the bus to La Paz, she joined the melee to buy 10 tickets for our group (in reality she needed 12), but we soon loaded our bags and jumped on the bus, nothing was getting us off. Anyway two of the group didn´t have seats (theres a surprise) but they were allowed to stand or sit in the aisle for the trip, although as luck would have it, 2 people had cushions with them, so they sat …