8. Olivia in Bolivia: Sucre, La Paz, Death Road, Copacabana

After 2 months of rapid roaming and excessive Google Translate, we decided to hunker down and “estudiar espanol”. Once the capital of Bolivia (and still the constitutional capital), Sucre is a pleasant, mild climate, mid-altitude (although we still struggled up the hills) city located in the south-central part of the country. We settled in to the genuinely delightful (although a little fascist re rules) Casa Verde hostel and with writing implements in hand, we summoned our inner students and signed up to classes at the Sucre Spanish school. 

Whilst initially confused at paying to spend our evenings doing homework, it was made worth it by the vast improvements in our Spanish and the delicious 3-course £3 lunches at vege restaurant Cafe Condor. We even found time between shopping for weirdly shaped fruits at the markets, and moaning about man-flu, to make our own gluten free bread. 

 The key tourist attraction of Sucre is the Parque Cretacico aka Dinosaur Park which is home to one of the largest collections of dinosaur footprints in the world (over 5,000), as well as some impressive life size models of the dinosaurs themselves. It was fun stepping back in time (pun always intended!) however as the tours only run at lunchtime we could only view the actual footprints from afar. 

Armed with a new ability to almost communicate with locals, we took a nerve shattering flight from Sucre to La Paz which, unbeknown to an asleep Liv, eventually arrived at the 4,100m high airport after multiple attempts to land. La Paz, the highest administrative capital in the world, is a hectic, bustling, noisy, dirty, sprawling mishmash of a city which, like marmite, divides people into love it or hate it categories. For us it was more of the latter although Friday night at chabad filled with travellers, chicken shnitzels and an incredibly drunk Rabbi was great fun. The vege food at Namas Te was also amazing and they even sold jars of tahini. I think we must be the only travellers in history to travel with two bottles of olive oil and a jar of tahini!

 One of the stand out moments of the whole trip for me was Camino de la muerte aka…Death Road! The world’s most dangerous road gains it’s name from the ~300 people killed yearly from car accidents along this narrow winding mountain road with blind corners, overhanging rocks, waterfalls and of course a 1000m sheer drop. Thankfully, a new road was built in 2006 and since then, the old one is primarily used by crazy, thrill-seeking tourists (and us) on bikes looking to descend the 64km rocky dirt road from 4,700m high to 1,200m. Whilst we were frequently reminded that several cyclists still die each year, even I (the nervy-wobbly cyclist) felt safe in the hands of our Gravity (highly recommend this company) guide Scott from Scotland. The scenery was spectacular and my nerves quickly faded away as my confidence grew. Starting to believe that I may in fact survive the day, I even started enjoying myself and, whilst there were a couple of hairy moments, we both arrived back injury free and elated. We thought it best to wait until this point to let our parents know what we had just done!

After an exhilarating adrenaline pumping day, we thought we’d take it easy and unwind with… a series of 50mph zip wires several hundred meters above the jungle floor. The views were incredible and, after reaching terminal velocity, the ride was strangely serine. Vast coca plantations swept across the mountainous terrain and the cool air refreshed our tired faces.   

 With our feet firmly back on the ground, we joined a walking tour of La Paz from San Pedro prison which operates like an enclosed community where convicts pay rent for cells, live with their families and run businesses. The most notable of these were the prison tours (historically one of the top attractions on lonely planet) and the finest cocaine production in South America…hmm, I wonder if they could be related?!

From inmates to insanes, the Witches Market was seriously weird. Dried llama foetuses for use in rituals, sweets made with poisonous glues and “love potions”. The stories that accompanied them were even creepier, with tales of homeless people being buried alive as offerings to Pachamama (Mother Nature) to protect their buildings.

Weird did eventually turn to wonderful when hearing about traditional Bolivian courting practices (the age old tale of men throwing stones and women revealing their calves if they’re interested) and explanations for the unique female dress code; an over order of bowler hats that were accidentally too small for the men’s heads. My personal favourite story was that one of the many protests in La Paz was actually due to The Simpsons being taken off air, and resulted in it being shown 3 times a day. 

To celebrate the independence of La Paz, the whole city was having a party and the streets were crammed full with marching bands, parades and a lot of drinking. Thankfully being about a foot taller than all the locals meant getting a good view wasn’t much of a challenge.

 After a hectic few days, we opted for simplicity and boarded a Bolivia/Peru Hop bus tour headed to Copacabana (the beach in Brazil is named after this town) which lies on the banks of Lake Titicaca; the worlds highest navigable lake. Las Olas hotel was truly spectacular, from a gigantic round bed to a wood burning fire, not to mention the incredible sunset views over the lake. 

Feeling refreshed, we said goodbye to B-Olivia and crossed into Peru only to discover that chaos awaited us. More on that next time… 

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7. Re-roaming! B-olivia: San Pedro de Atacama & Uyuni

Sometimes when travelling the stars align, other times, the only way to avoid eye wateringly expensive flights is to go the road… already travelled. The re-roaming(ton) began in Iguazu Falls and arrived into San Pedro de Atacama (aka northern Chile) 4 flights and 48 hours later after: a delicious steak in Buenos Aires, a picturesque sun rise in Mendoza and a relaxing shabbat in Santiago. With just a day in the Atacama desert before touring into Bolivia, we decided to rent bikes and cycle to the Valle de la Lunar (Lunar Valley) which gains it’s name from it’s mysterious moon-like landscape. Equipped with terrible bikes but directions for a “nice flat route”, we set off in high spirits and high vis.

After an hour of steep hill-climbing whilst being battered by a sand-storm (imagine the feeling of a thousand tiny needles stabbing into any exposed skin!) we were informed that our route should have included turning left 5k earlier! 

With our skin looking radiant from a level of exfoliation that only sand-blasting can achieve, and our lungs filled with dust, we dejectedly turned around and headed back. Decision time: to continue home or to take that left turn and see the valley? 

Yep, you guessed it, we trooped on and arrived at the start of the valley… completely zonked. Facing yet another 20k worth of cycling to descend into the valley and return, Liv graduated from the Kazza school of shmoozing with first class och-nours and made friends with some Chileans with a car! I was jumping with joy at ditching our bikes… 

From squeezing through narrow salt caves that made Liv feel tall, to the beautifully vast desolate landscapes, the Lunar Valley was incredibly diverse. 

Giant sand dunes flowed down into rocky plains and salt flats stretched for miles. 

Pictures captured, we profusely thanked our impromptu drivers and achingly cycled back. 

Thanks to the worst ice-wind in 30 years closing the standard border crossing, we met our multinational group of travellers at a chilly 4am and headed north into Bolivia for a 3-day Uyuni tour. 

From the moment we stepped off the 4×4 the altitude hit us. A bizarre feeling of breathlessness that made gentle walking a challenge let alone jumping selfies. All stoked up on coca tea/sweets and with our hearts pounding, we toured the rugged landscapes and lagoons of Bolivia. 

After a day of llamas and quinoa (they even had quinoa beer) we arrived at the spectacular salt flats of Uyuni where, after overcoming the sheer amazement of the place, we managed to get a few amusing photos thanks to the vast flatness distorting perspective. 

Following a freezing night in a “hotel” made “completely out of salt” (#pedanticquotations) and with all running water frozen solid, we headed back to the salt flats for sunrise and to see the oasis of Incahuasi, some more local wildlife and a museum on… yep you guessed it, salt. 

All salted out, we finished our tour with an evening relax at the outdoor thermal pools where, after summoning the courage to de-robe in minus 8 Celsius, we were rewarded with delightfully hot water and an incredibly clear view of the stars. Southern hemisphere constellations learnt and shooting stars seen, we settled into another freezing and this time vertically challenged hostel. 

Uyuni tour completed and excessive photos taken, we bid farewell to our fellow international travellers and, in the land of seemingly extreme temperature changes, departed on the worlds hottest local bus towards central Bolivia where we’d soon learn some very valuable lessons… 

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6. Water load of fun! Brazil: Rio de Janiero, Ilha Grande & Iguazu Falls

When we last left you we were “stranded” on the island paradise of Morro de Sao Paolo following an ill timed ill time. Well good news! Just three boats, two super cool hats, a bus, plane and several taxi rides later and we had made it to Rio – phew!

Rio de Janeiro is just a 2 hour flight south of Salvador and until the 1960s was the capital of Brazil until the newly built Brasilia took that mantle. We arrived at the famed (and disappointingly pretentious) Mango Tree Hostel relieved but wary; Rio is known for being extremely dangerous. Petty crime such as thefts and muggings are at an all time high and frequent shootouts occur in the favelas (slums). As a local once said: “America is great but sucks. Brazil sucks but is great”.

A short taxi ride into what we were assured was one of the “safer favelas” (I was obviously still on edge!) brings you to the Dois Irmaos (Two Brothers) mountain. Motorbike taxis await to zip you up the narrow windy roads to the start of the trail as, unlike our unwitting and confused uber driver, most taxis won’t venture all the way. The hike is a fairly steep climb to the top where panoramic views of the south side of Rio can usually be enjoyed. Whilst our view was sadly this:

we were kept entertained by the marmosets along the way.

Having learnt our lesson about cloudy mountain tops + views, we opted for exploring Rio’s impressive 140-hectares of botanical gardens which houses more than 6,000 species of plants and trees. A haven of tranquility inside such a hectic city, the gardens are packed with intricate orchids, gigantic bamboo, bird swooping from tree to tree and lakes swarming with fish.

The only thing spoiling the calm were a couple of crazy jumping touristsand the impromptu game of “Find the Roamington”…After a brief tropical storm and with the sun poking it’s head through, we headed to Sugar Loaf Mountain where a series of cable cars whisk you 400m up to the top of the peak. From there we witnessed spectacular panoramic views of the sun setting over Rio, from the huge Rio-Niteroi bridge spanning the entire Guanabara bay, to the numerous verdant (#karen) islands and the golden beaches of Copacabana (cue Rachel from Friends singing).

Next on our itinerary was Ilha Grande (pronounced “gr-arn-gee” and literally translates as “large island”), a lush mountainous island just a few hours bus/boat south of Rio. Staving off Morro related flashbacks, we joined a speedboat tour of the island’s most popular highlights which, to our surprise, turned out to be completely Portuguese speaking! Not deterred and with snorkels in hand, we braved the chilly waters of the nearly indistinguishable “blue” and “green” lagoons and were rewarded with swarms of exotic fish and turtles.

Any trip to Ilha Grande must involve a trip to the famed Lopez Mendez beach. Having been told it was a two hour walk, we were pretty impressed with ourselves when seeing the beach after just an hour of hiking through treacherous terrain. Alas our smugness was quickly shattered when a randomly placed tourist office informed us that we were in fact only at the half way point. Tired and sceptical (how different could this beach really be?!) we trooped on and, luckily, it was totally worth it. The powdery white sand was as fine as flour and seemed to stretch for miles. The crystal clear waters were pleasantly cool and, until a gigantic wave came and took Liv by surprise, were perfect to relax in; it really was an idyllic setting.

After a tranquil few days, we headed back to Rio just in time to see a chaotic futbol game between arch rivals Flamengo and Fluminense (no we hadn’t heard of them either!). We arrived at the famed Maracana stadium and witnessed a hair-raising and emotional battle ending in a 2-2 draw after a literal last (95th) minute goal. Go sports teams!From Rio we flew to Iguazu falls where we spent a couple of days exploring both the Brazilian and Argentinian sides of one of the world’s most spectacular natural wonders. Whilst the Brazilian side provides an incredible overview of the whole waterfall system, the Argentinian side gets you up close and personal to the two thousand tonnes of water flowing per second. Witnessing this sheer natural power was a truly breathtaking experience and whilst pictures don’t do it justice, here’s a few we took:

After three weeks of feeling linguistically lacking, we stocked up on delicious gluten free bread (Miss Laura Bakery in Foz do Iguacu was incredible) and left Brazil for an unexpected but delicious travel reunion tour. More on that next time…If you like reading our blog posts, please follow us and feel free to leave a comment or two!

5. Pousada Poosaga. Brazil: Salvador, Chapada and Morro de Sao Paulo

pousada
pəʊˈsɑːdə/
noun
1. a hotel, B&B or guest house in Brazil
Origin
Portuguese, literally ‘resting place’.


poosaga
puˈsɑːgə/
noun
1. a period of being in somewhat less than perfect health
Origin
Roamingtons June 2017, literally ‘poo saga’

As you probably have guessed from the blog intro, we were forced to face the age old reality about travelling this week; at some point everyone gets ill. Luckily for you readers, this didn’t happen until the end of the week…

From Santiago (Chile) we flew to Salvador, the capital of the state of Bahia (26 states in total), located on the northeastern side of Brazil. After the mammoth journeys we’d been taking in Patagonia (see past blog posts), the 6 hours of flying seemed like a breeze: swift and turbulent. OK so first impressions of Brazil: warm, noisy, energetic, vibrant, and… unnerving, party due to everyone warning us how dangerous it was, and partly due to the number of cockroaches scurrying around!

Armed with a good night’s sleep, a delicious avocado, mango and banana smoothie (the fruit in Salvador was incredible!) and a secret bum-bag for our stuff, we roamed from the beaches of Barra, to the cobbled pavements of Pelourinho. 

With colourful buildings, bustling market stalls, giant public lifts and quirky statues, there was a real excitement to the city.

To avoid being hassled whilst spying on an impressive street capoeira performance, we popped into a building that turned out to be incredibly interesting museum. The Afro-Brazilian Museum details the history of Brazil, from Portuguese invasion to the several hundred years of slave trade from Africa. At one point 75% of the population were African slaves and, along with the historical information, the museum displays several styles of art from those cultures including amazingly detailed wooden carvings. Mmm chicken…

Speaking of chicken, Friday night was spent with a bellowing chabad Rabbi in a shul weirdly donated by the “Fingergut” family; a relation of ours perhaps?

A 7-hour coach ride from Salvador brings you to the town of Lencois and the Chapada Da Diamantina national park, named after historic diamond mining, and features incredible mountains, forests, waterfalls and caves.

Our day started at the Devil’s Pool waterfall where unscrupulous workers would curse the devil for taking the diamonds they had been attempting to steal. In reality, rain could increase the water flow so much that even sunken diamonds would be swept downstream. Whilst the diamond mining has long ended (I still optimistically scanned the ground), this particular spot has become popular for people crazy enough to jump (or accidentally belly flop) 30m into the water below.



Armed with torches we explored some of Lapa Doce’s 23km of caves (third largest in Brazil) littered with striking stalagmites and the guide’s amusingly pronounced “stalag-tits”.

The most unique cave experience was swimming in the brilliant blue waters of Poco Azul. In high season tourists face a 4-hour queue for just 15 minutes in the cave; luckily we were the first people there so went straight in. The water was so completely still and clear to the rock beneath that, as we descended the rickety steps, I was surprised to find the water level about 10m higher than it appears!

Photo from Google as didn’t have our good camera with us then. 

At Pai Inacio however we were “special enough” to witness one of only two days a year that the view looks like this:

Thankfully it cleared quickly and we did get to admire the view. 

After three days of delicious tapioca pancakes, stunning views and swimming in every cave, waterfall and lake we encountered, we headed to Morro De São Paulo, an island a few hours south of Salvador, for some beach chilling.

OK folks, remember how this blog post started? Well I’ll spare you the unpleasant details, but after a lovely day of exploring Morro, things turned ugly fast when we were hit by a stomach bug. Numerous days were spent indoors wishing we were home whilst being surrounded by lush palm trees, warm sea water and pristine sun-drenched beaches; not quite what we had envisioned!

This is however the reality of travelling; it’s great, but it’s not all great. Blogging about the hours upon hours of planning, researching, debating and deliberating, or the conversations assisted by Google Translate, would make for some pretty dry reading. Travelling can be tough, and requires a lot of work, but I could not recommend it highly enough…in the words of Nike, just do it!

Our supply of freshly felled coconut water did seem to be helping (the pousada owners were really lovely!), but progress was slow. With a flight to Rio de Janeiro rapidly approaching, we had to find a way to escape the island…

4. Santiago & Valparaiso: A tale of two cities and a lot of food!

Without realising that snow had closed the border between Mendoza and Santiago four days ago, we arrived at the bus station happy and carefree…ignorance really is bliss! Luckily, 5-hours of uncertain but picturesque border “queuing” later, we managed to squeeze through and make it to Santiago just in time for Friday night kiddish at the Israelita Circle of Santiago (conservative shul in Santiago).

The shul was big, buzzing and incredibly beautiful. It was built only 5 years ago and was designed with a huge amount of Jewish symbolism and purpose.  Once past the rather strict security, the mix of metal, stone, wood and water feature, created an extremely modern feel; the views of the Andes through the large glass walls were also stunning.

Photo from Google images as was shabbat/chag when we there.

From the second we arrived, the community was so welcoming and friendly. Our visit was frequently (and embarrassingly for us reserved Brits) publicly announced mid-way through services and often included blessings for our future children (#lol)! In true Chilean style, dinner at Rabbi Ari Segal’s house (one of the three Rabbis who huge thanks must go to for being our shul guide and translator) didn’t start until 10pm but was delicious. They really did make us feel part of their community throughout Shabbat and Shavuot and, whilst amusingly I did have to decline the offer to be their fourth Rabbi, we’d both love to return sometime.
From shul to shore, we spent a day wandering the streets of the coastal town of Valparaiso with Free Walking Tour guide and comic extraordinaire Alvero G. Now a brightly coloured quirky mishmash of a town, Valparaiso was originally a shipping port for Santiago and was never intended to be a town of it’s own.

Alvero brought the mass of street art to life as well as introducing us to some tasty (although gluten-filled) local delicacies. The alfajores (biscuits filled with Dolce de leche and covered in chocolate) were tempting but it was the empenadas (fried pastries filled with cheese/meat/veggies) which were too good to miss even for a glutard like myself.

Who can resist a steaming hot deep fried cheese, olive and mushroom pastry pocket?! This was of course all washed down with a Pisco sour (local liquor made from grapes) – delicious!

As Santiago is somewhat bigger than Valparaiso, and as I’d finally run my first 5k of the trip, we decided a bus tour would be a good way to see a lot of the city in a short space of time. This however turned out to be an expensive day of traffic jams and endless waiting whilst stranded at remote bus stops. The next day I channeled my inner Uncle Jona and, under the pretence of being a disgruntled travel journalist (does this blog count?), insisted on a refund.

Feeling elated that our dastardly plan had actually worked, we merrily joined free walking tour #2 guided by Franco, which was much improved and cheaper than the bus tour and to our surprise validated our last blog post title! Although no-one is entirely sure where the country name originated, our favourite of the many theories was that Chile actually does mean chilly; the Inca found this land freezing compared to the tropical north and in the Inca language, Chile literally means chilly.

Whilst wandering the streets and sites of Santiago, Franco took us through the roller coaster history of Chile from Spanish invasions to military coups, and to the darker side of Chilean history which until 20 years ago had been completely removed from the history books. In the 1920s, the Chilean government discovered Patagonia (the very south of Chile) was rich in natural resources and decided they wanted control. They began a campaign to exterminate the indigenous populations and sadly many cultures were completely wiped out.

From the sad to the bizarre, Chile generally has bad coffee, but beware when searching for a decent espresso. A few decades ago, a creative business woman came up with an “innovative” idea to sell more coffee. Whilst she couldn’t improve the quality of the coffee, she decided the next best thing would be to employ women and have them dress provocatively. This worked and the “Cafe con piernas” (coffee with legs) industry is still going strong today; the female equivalent “coffee with 3 legs” proved much less popular probably due to the horrendous name!

Liv’s favourite site was the funicular (the name says it all) at San Cristobal Hill which rises high above the rest of Santiago and has a giant 14m high statue of the Virgin Mary dedicated to the immaculate conception.

For me, a real highlight of Santiago was the food. After finding kosher meat and amazing fish and in the supermarket, we proceeded to eat like kings. From salmon green Thai curry and satay chicken to lomo beef steak accompanied by a variety of crazy new fruit/veg (some good and some not so great), and of course some delicious Chilean red wine.

With our bellies full it was time to fly from Santiago to Salvador to begin the Brazilian part of our travels. Had we known what we know now though, we never would have booked that flight! More on that in the next blog post…

3. Brr it’s Chile! Puerto Varas & Mendoza

Welcome back friends (narrator voice from Jane the Virgin; thanks to Tash for our current TV obsession!). On pretty much a daily basis for the past two weeks our conversations have gone as follows:

  • Me: Brr it’s chilly
  • Liv: No, it’s Argentina

and so just to break this cycle we crossed over from Bariloche (Argentina’s lake district) to Puerto Varas (Chile’s lake district)…the lengths some people go to just to be right!

On crossing the border, we discovered three things:

  1. Chileans don’t pronounce the “s” at the end of any words…explains the confusing bus driver look when we insisted we were going to Puerto Varas
  2. At 850 Chilean pesos to the pound we felt like millionaires casually carrying bank notes worth 20,000
  3. Chile has gluten free bread! This was extremely exciting after 2 weeks of rice crackers aka air, and the best we found was the Nutrisa No Glut range.

We checked into the Hostel Melmac Patagonia which was clean, homely and came with a great wood burning heater as well as free beer on tap. Much to the surprise of the owners, we were the first Brits ever to not make use of this, opting instead for a delicious Chilean red wine to acompany our kosher attempt at a Pastel de choclo: Chilean corn pie.

Following a relaxing Shabbat, we ventured to the small town of Frutillar, known as the city of music, to do some exploring. 

It sits on lake Llanquihue (the largest lake entirely in Chile), and the German style wooden buildings display it’s original roots as a German colony. Along the black sandy beeches, several small streams feed water into the lake and (Liv’s favourite part) when attempting to jump over one, I may have slightly misjudged the distance…

Thankfully, the theatre coffee shop provided us with delicious coffee, wifi to FaceTime Libby, and warmth to dry out a sopping wet foot.

With our last day in Puerto Varas we headed to Volcan Orsorno, one of the most active volcanos in the southern Chilean Andes. With just a few hours before our overnight bus departed, we hiked the 6k to the viewpoint and managed to get some great photos along the way.

After a VERY long wait at the border crossing (highly recommend flying to avoid this as our “6 hour” journey turned into 9), we made our way to Mendoza, where both Remis were very excited to sample the wine and olive oil that this region is famous for. We stayed at the Chill Inn hostel which, contrary to it’s name, was delightfully warm although very noisy, and distinctly average. 

We started our tour of the wineries at Bodega (winery in Spanish) López; one of Mendoza’s largest. They can produce ~10,000 bottles an hour and to repay the country which provided so much to the immigrant founders, only 5% of it is exported.  The wine was tasty, cheap and they even had a bottle the same age as me (and just as mature). 

The last bodega we visited was Familia Cecchin; an organic winery in Mendoza. They use no pesticides but instead have fruit trees as decoys to protect the vineyards from birds, herbs to repel the insecs, and horses plough the fields. Whilst we didn’t love the fruits of their labour (pun intended) but still managed to finish all the samples. 

The most exciting part was the visit to the olive oil factory which smelled incredible the moment you step foot onsite. 

Whilst most people had just a couple of tastes of the different flavoured oils, armed with an entire bag of gluten free bread, Liv and I helped ourselves to seconds, thirds, fourths…well we definitely got our money’s worth! 

The most flavoursome oil is the first press before it’s filtered for clarity and so of course we couldn’t resist buying a bottle #nofilter. We then became the only backpackers in history to travel around with two bottles of olive oil…can’t waste the good stuff on cooking! 

After such a tough day of drinking wine and eating delicious food (it’s a hard life!), we thought we’d treat ourselves to a relaxing day at the Parque de Agua Termal aka Thermal Park. 

The park has a range of different temperature pools both inside and out, as well as a slightly odd dress code… 

If anyone can explain why thongs are OK but shorts aren’t, please do enlighten us! All that was left to do was tuck into some kosher steak (thanks Chabad), drink some more wine, and prepare for another boarder crossing back to Chile, although we soon found out how unprepared we were for this… 

2. Ice ice baby! Patagonia

A 3 hour flight from Buenos Aires takes you to the heart of Patagonia and to a small town called El Calefate, named after a small berry, and pronounced kal-eh-fatty which led us to numerous rounds of “hey miss Calefate” a slight adaptation of the song by Million Styles (who knew we were so gansta?! ). We checked into the America del Sur hostel complete with heated floors (amazing), a large lounge with panoramic views of the Andes mountains and, thanks to Liv,  a tea shower from the mezzanine level to the confused front desk people below.  There we met an aussie girl called Lucy who’s trying to be the first female to hike from Ushuaia (most southerly point of South America) to the top of North America, which she expects will take 4 years! 

First on our list was the Perito Moreno Glacier; arguably one of the most beautiful sights in the world, although at 500 pesos per person (£25) just to get into the national park, an expensive one. Only 10% of a glacier is visible with the rest submerged under water, and yet when that 10% is 70 meters high and the size of greater Buenos Aires, it’s somewhat of an impressive spectacle. 

We arrived at the balconies overlooking the glacier and, along with the incredible view, the thunderous sound of gigantic blocks of ice cracking off the side of the glacier after being warmed by the sun and witnessing them crashing down into the water below was mesmerising. 

A short boat trip across the glacier fed lake, and after donning wolverine style crampons, we were ready to follow in the footsteps of Francisco Moreno and scale the ice. When stepping onto the glacier it was like being instantly transported to a different world; a pale blue landscape scattered with deep crevices flowing with freezing water.  Like a scene from a Jean-Claude Van Damme alcohol ad, the trek ended with whisky on the rocks glacier style which for some reason inspired some David Attenborough style filming. 

The next day when cycling around Lago Argentinio (filled with flamingos!) we went from the brilliant to the bizarre when a pack of stray dogs started following us. Our attempts to shake them failed when they managed to keep up with our tops speeds but thankfully they were all bark and no bite.

 Speaking of wildlife, our trip to the Ecological Reserve was somewhat underwhelming and so we moved on to the glaciarium which, pun intended, was pretty cool, featuring 3D movies, motion tracking cameras (still not sure what the point of them was) and funny toilet signs. 

A short bus journey later, we arrived in El Chalten to freezing fog, scary horror movie style dark buildings and incorrect Google maps information leaving us both wandering and wondering. Luckily we found our cosy room at the Hostel Thiamalu, and woke up to bright blue skies and the stunning mountain scenery for which El Chalten hikes are famed for. The 20k round trip of the Laguna de Los Tres hike did not disappoint and, after an arduous last 1k of steep climbing (500m altitude rise), we stopped for lunch overlooking numerous glaciers, mountains and frozen lakes. The scenery was truly breathtaking (as was the climb), and of all the hikes we did in El Chalten, this was definitely the best view. 

El Chalten is somewhat lacking in food supplies (and ATM cash) and so after finishing up our home cooked reserves, we ventured out for a delicious meal of Salmon and Trout at Techado Negro which we would definitely recommend. We then prepared ourselves for the 25 hour bus journey (yes, over a whole day on one bus!) to Bariloche, the lake district of Argentina. We thought that such an inconveniently long journey would at least be cheap but at 2600 Argentinian Pesos (£125) per person we were wrong!

25 hours later, we checked into the highly rated hostel Penthouse 1004. Whilst the view from the communal area and the home made bread were fantastic, we found the rest pretty underwhelming. We ventured out, despite the dubious weather warning, towards the Hotel Llau Llau (pronounced like “ciao” in Italian), once featured on Argentinian currency, and situated in the beautiful national park Nahuel Huapi.

From there we took a boat tour to Puerto Blest however dubious weather soon turned into something more reminiscent of Manchester (pouring!). Luckily a small sunny interlude allowed us to get a couple of great photos of the tree covered walkways, waterfalls and lakes.

The next day we hired a car with people from our hostel and drove the Seven Lakes route from Bariloche up to San Martin De Los Andes.  The organised tours are significantly more expensive (£100pp vs £15pp) and are far less flexible so definitely worth getting a car. The weather initially looked to disappoint again however we were in luck, and 8 hours of driving later, we returned with some incredible pictures.

As Bariloche is also famous for it’s chocolate, the only thing left to do was find some chocolate fondue (easier said than done), and wish a temporary farewell to Argentina.