Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Buenos Aires, Argentina

This is the one I could write a whole chapter on, instead I think I'll keep it fairly short. For a long time I had wanted to go to Buenos Aires (BA), don't know exactly why but I just felt like I should go there. I also wanted to stay there for a little longer because I had been moving from a city to another every 2-3 days. I was there little over two weeks in total and did lots, according to a friend who is from BA I went places he's never been in his life. Some of them of course are mostly tourist attractions, though now I can say that I have walked the same hallways as Evita did in Casa Rosada:)

I have to say that my very first impression of BA wasn't that great since someone tried to rob me in the first 15 minutes upon my arrival. No worries though, nothing got stolen since an officer rushed over to chase the thief away. Afterwards I was still determined to continue on walking through the sketchy area over to the subway instead of jumping into a taxi. I didn't let this incident bother me and was still open to enjoying what BA had to offer. And it offered lots...

Besides beautiful architecture (see picture below), which I admired for hours every day while walking around the city, there's a few places I want to mention shortly and I think are worth of seeing, the Recoleta cemetery and La Boca.
Even though the Recoleta cemetery is famous because Evita's family is buried there, that's not the reason why I would recommend going. The whole place is amazing and I can guarantee that you have never seen a cemetery like that before. I like to call it "the little town of the dead" because literally, it feels like a town. The coffins are placed in these small structures that almost seem like mini houses, with a tombstone look. I know this all probably sounds somewhat weird but I don't know how else to describe them (see picture below).
La Boca with it's colorful Caminito is a totally different ballgame, so to speak. La Boca has cheerfully colored buildings that of course are a huge tourist attraction. Everyone goes there to take pictures, shop souvenirs and watch tango while having lunch/dinner. To me just looking at the colorful buildings brightens up my day (picture below).

One more thing I have to mention is of course Tango. Cony who owned one of the hostels that I stayed at, recommended an awesome Tango teacher who I ended up taking a class with. She was also a producer of an amazing Tango show. I invited a few travelers I had met, to go see the show with me and they all loved it! It was totally different than the shows that are mainly made for tourists. I would like to try to describe the venue but wouldn't be able to give enough credit for it as it deserves!

There would be tons more to write about BA but as I said in the beginning, I would keep this one fairly short...so it's time to say "ciao" for now!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Cordoba, Argentina

I had three days in Cordoba before moving on to Buenos Aires. For Cordoba I think it was enough, two days would have been plenty if I hadn't gone to the outskirts. First day I walked around the city on my own popping into some museums and churches. In the evening, back at the hostel I met Sandra. With her I planned a day trip to Alta Gracia for the next day. It is a smaller town, about a 40 minute bus ride from Cordoba. This is where the revolutionary Che, Ernesto de Guevara, used to live in his childhood.

That next day went by quickly walking around Alta Gracia, having lunch and going to the house of Che. In the evening when we got back to our hostel we prepared some dinner and got ready for a night out at a salsa congress! I found out about this when I was asking the hostel staff where to go out for salsa. The event was not in the downtown core and definitely doesn't compare to the other salsa congresses I have been to. This one was in a local restaurant and didn't seem to be that well organized overall. We had a good time though and I got my few salsas.

The third day we went to check out a few museums and art galleries with a small group of people from the hostel. Lots of walking in the heat required a stop for some ice cream of course. In the evening I went for my first Argentine tango class. It was like stepping back in the days...we approached this old building where we could hear tango playing, stepped inside a dim restaurant where people were already taking steps to the music. The place was decorated in old fashion style or, it had been around for so long that they hadn't bothered changing the decoration from what once was up to date. I think the atmosphere was charming and I had a blast taking my first steps in Argentine tango.

Thursday, December 1, 2011


Uu-la-la, now we're talking! I sat in the wide, soft, leather seat that was more comfy than my couch is! I knew right away I would be totally alright traveling 18 hours in the bus from Salta to Mendoza...have to say that the dinner (with wine) and snacks weren't that bad either, they showed a few movies and we even played bingo!

Mendoza is full of activities. You can go bungee jumping, skydiving, horseback riding, paragliding, to name a few! The most important thing though in Mendoza is of course the wine tour.

Before I even started my trip I knew I would want to go horseback riding in Argentina. So I booked a "sunset riding in the Andes" trip. There was was a group of 9 of us plus our guide and driver. They drove us up close to the Andes to an estancia with horses, cats and dogs (lots of puppies:)) chickens and roosters. They were already waiting there for us so in no time we were on our horses and on our way! It was about an 1 1/2 hour ride which went really fast, too fast if you ask me, I would have been happy to continue on for another hour or two. By the time we got back to the estancia it was time for a BBQ. This was a modest BBQ but the meat was delicious, no arguing there. This was actually the first time that I ate steak in Argentina, not sure why it took me so long, everyone knows that the meat here is like nowhere else...yummy! I also had my first Mate here which is a very popular tea. You drink it from a cup that has a "straw" (it filters the tea so you won't get the tea leaves in your mouth, clever!) and then you share the cup with your friends, filling it after each person. Everyone drinks Mate in Argentina and it's always meant to be shared by using only one cup. I would say "yummy" for this one too! Conclusion is that overall it was an awesome day filled with some new experiences, which of course is my cup of tea;)

I had also been told about the mouth watering ice-cream that they have in Argentina. I had tried some already in Salta and it was good BUT the one I had at Ferruccio Soppelsa, chocolate amargo and mascarpone con frutos del bosque was over the top! Can I say yum-my again!!!

My last day in Mendoza I did the wine tour with a bunch of people from our hostel. We went to Mr. Hugos (which everyone had recommended) to rent out some bicycles. They of course welcomed us with some wine and then gave us maps and a run-through of the wineries to visit. Off we went to the well known wineries of Mendoza! Unfortunately we had a late start so we didn't have time to visit all the ones we would have wanted to. Still we had a great time and some great wine:) Arriving back to Mr. Hugos they welcomed us again with wine so we sat there for almost two hours exchanging our wine tour experience with others. Then it was time to hop on the bus and make my way to the hostel because I was yet taking another night bus, this time to Cordoba.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Salta, Argentina

I said goodbye to Uyuni at 2 am and hello to Salta 24 hours after. It took some traveling on the train and bus and of course crossing the border to Argentina...needless to say that i was ready for bed as soon as I arrived to the hostel in Salta...next morning I had breakfast while exchanging travel stories with bunch of other backpackers. Later Sarah, Elaine (I had met them in Uyuni) and I went downtown to MAAM, an exhibition focusing on Inca culture and especially on the sacrificed children. During an expedition in 1999 they discovered 3 mummified body's on the top of Llullaillaco mountain. It's assumed that these children were specially chosen and then frozen to death as a part of an Inca ritual and that there are about 200 "graveyards" like this in South America. The atmosphere at the museum was literally cold...

My stay in Salta ended up being a day longer than I had planned. Reason for this is that I found out about the South Pass. Here comes some valuable info for those who are planning to travel across Argentina by bus! This pass entitles to either 5, 9 or 15 bus rides across Argentina. I bought the 5 x pass for $230 which will end up saving me quite a lot of money, since my next trip to Mendoza would alone be $100 (the pass saves you money especially when you are traveling long distances). When you book your trips you need to reserve your ticket 24 hours in advance but it saves you from having to go to the bus station or travel agency in advance to find out/ book your trips. Not getting any profit for advertising this;) I just know I would appreciate any info that would save me money on my travels:) For more info go to argentinabybus.com.ar. Ok that's it I'm done with the advertising!

I didn't really end up doing anything else productive in Salta. To be honest there's not really even that much to do there. I did however have a good time socializing with other backpackers. Lots of valuable tips for where to go and what to do and there definitely was some interesting life stories to hear as well.

Next will be an 18 hour bus trip to Mendoza...we'll see what awaits for me there...

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Finally I got better enough so I could continue on and here I was going on my third overnight bus, this time to Uyuni. The worlds biggest salt flats are located here and that is the reason why I wanted to stop in Uyuni. The bus trip was with Todo Turismo, nice dinner, good service, blankets and pillows. First three hours were alright, the next six not so...brochure said that 80 km is a non paved road but it ended up being "a little" more. It was the most bumpy, loud and unsteady ride I've ever been on, so much so that I had a hard time believing it so I had to record some of it! Finally at 7 am we arrived in Uyuni. Otherwise the town has nothing to offer, therefore I wanted to catch the next train out of there. I had timed this trip in advance knowing that there's only six trains per week departing from Uyuni. The next one would be the following night at 2 am. I knew there were day trips to the salt flats starting around 10 so I had to drop off my things at the hostel, book the tour, my train ticket and have breakfast before that.

Got everything done on time and was ready to head to the salt flats. On the trip we saw the train cemetery, salt hotel (where we had llama for lunch...), cactu island and of course the amazing salt flats. It's definitely worth of experiencing and the views are stunning, I'll let the pictures do the rest...

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Copacabana & La Paz, Bolivia

We arrived early in Puno and since it was not that intriguing to either one of us we decided to keep on going. A few people we spoke to recommended going on the Bolivian side of lake Titicaca, so we jumped on another bus that ended up taking about 5 hours instead of the 3 hours that we were told it would. Finally we got to Copacabana which is a cute little town right on the lake. We found a nice hostel called Cupula owned by Martin, a sweet gentleman from Germany who was very kind and helpful. From him we booked a day tour for the next day to one of the islands on lake Titicaca and enjoyed a delicious lunch at the his hostels restaurant. Martin also recommended to do a 45 min hike up the mountain to see some beautiful views and watch the sunset, which we did. Normally a hike like that would be like a walk in a park (ok, well not quite but almost) but because of the high altitude of 3860 it took a few huffs and puffs from us. It was worth it though, the view of the lake and Copacabana was literally breath taking.

The next day we were suppose to go on the trip to one of the islands but the altitude was really getting to me and I wasn't feeling well so we decided to skip the trip and take an earlier bus out to La Paz. We got on the 1 pm bus and arrived in La Paz slightly after 4 pm.

La Paz for me wasn't that interesting. We had one day to explore La Paz before Tina would head back home. Of course that one day was a national holiday so almost everything was closed and the city was pretty dead. After Tina left I was going to continue to the next city right away but because I was quite sick, and didn't have the strength to travel, I had to stay in La Paz for a few more days.

As soon as I would get my strength back, Salar de Uyuni would be waiting for me with new stories to tell...

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Arequipa, Peru

After staying a few more nights in Cuzco we were ready to move on to new adventures. Our next destination would be Arequipa, south-east from Cuzco. Getting there by bus takes 10 hours so we decided to take a night bus to avoid loosing a day. There were several companies to chose from and prize range for a semi cama seat was 45-90 sols ($16-33). On the bus we got a small package of crackers and a bun with cheese, not much but we really weren't expecting for anything anyways. They showed us the movie El Dorado which was partially filmed in Cuzco, so it was fun to watch it and recognize places that we have just been to. The only thing was that the volume wasn't high enough for us to hear well. Though they did play the same movie three times in a row so I guess you could pick up some scenes you missed, on the second or third time;) We arrived to Arequipa in the early dawn and decided to head to our hotel for a nap before heading out to explore the city.

Arequipa had one of our most liked accommodations so far and the weather was on our side too so things looked great. Sunshine both days, if fact the sun was so strong it even went through our clothes, never had that happen to me before...Evenings of course get very cold as in all the cities we've been to in Peru. Our first day we decided to enjoy walking around the downtown area and on the second day we took a 4 hour tourist bus tour...unlike what we've done so far, usually we like to do our own thing. Have to say though that it was quite nice because we got to see some of the outskirts of Arequipa and not just the city centre. After those two days and a night, in a really comfy bed, we were ready for another night bus. This time the bus would take us to Puno and lake Titicaca.