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.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Cuzco & Machu Picchu, Peru

Cuzco, what a charming little city! We arrived to Cuzco by plane which was only a one hour flight from Lima. (note for those taking the plane, take Star Peru or LAN not Taca or if you do, be prepared for hidden fees...). Cuzco is almost 3400 m above sea level and this quite often causes altitude sickness for some people. Tina and I both luckily didn't suffer too much, some headache, tiredness and occasional feel of being short of breath.

The best food we've gotten in Peru so far was definitely in Cuzco. This was at a vegetarian restaurant called El Encuentro on our way from the hotel to Plaza de Armas...yes another one, I believe they have a square called "Armas" in every city in Peru:). Since we only had less than a day to explore Cuzco before heading to Machu Picchu, we decided to come back to Cuzco after exploring one of the wonders of the world.

Before embarking on our Peru journey we spent quite a lot of time figuring out how to do our trip to Machu Picchu...train, bus or both, staying overnight at Ollantaytambo or Aquas Calientes or going straight from Cuzco...there definitely are options to chose from! Our itenary went something like this...spend a night in Ollantaytambo, do a day trip to Machu Picchu and go back to Cuzco the same day.

We took a fully packed mini van, 1.5 hour ride from Cuzco to Ollantaytambo where we spent a night. We got up early next morning to catch the train to Aquas Calientes, this was another 1.5 hour trip with some beautiful views. The closer we got, the more excited we were to soon be walking on the ruins of Machu Picchu. From Aquas Calientes there we busses leaving one after the other to take people up to Machu Picchu. You could also hike this part, they say takes about an hour and half...unless you are in a really good shape and willing to hike up without stopping, my guess is it would take longer than that, seemed like a pretty steep hike...After a bumpy winding bus ride we finally got there. There Machu Picchu was right in front of us. We were admiring the famous view that you see in every postcard and guide book. We had a wonderful guide who explained the history of the ruins and afterwards we did our own exploring around. Tina and I went off to take pictures and found a breath taking view on the edge of the ruins where we sat for a while. I could not describe the feeling of awe I had while sitting up there...it was truly amazing...
On our three hour train ride back to Cuzco, Perurail offered us some snacks and entertainment. The hostesses had music pumping out loud while they gave us a fashion show introducing various traditional Peruvian clothing. Fun for us and I'm sure they got some pieces sold too. We arrived to Cuzco tired but extremely happy and satisfied with our memorable trip to Machu Picchu. I hope you get to experience it one day, unless you already have...

Monday, October 24, 2011

Lima, Peru

Now that I've been in Lima, Peru for two days those feelings have changed slightly, I feel more relaxed and ready to immerse myself into the new culture:) Since our (Tina, my dear friend will be travelling with me for the first two weeks) departure was in the early am and we did not get that much sleep on the plane, we decided to take the first day in Lima fairly easily. After breakfast and a nap we headed out for a walk around the neighborhood, Miraflores. Our walk ended up being an eight hour marathon...first we walked around a restored ceremonial centre,the Huaca Puccllana ruins. Since we had some bigger ruins ahead of us on the trip we decided not to go in but just observe the ruins behind the fence. After that we found the charming Inka Market where we got really tempted to buy tons of traditional Peruvian souvenirs but tamed our impulses to only getting a few items. Those items became more special to us when sweet and bubbly Gladys educated us on the cultural meaning behind them. Gladys also gave us charms with Huayruro seeds that are said to bring good luck, fortune and health. That day we also got familiar with a traditional Peruvian drink called Chicha that is made out of black maize. The taste of it slightly reminded me of a Finnish christmas time drink called glögi.

On the next two days we headed towards downtown Lima. We were all excited and ready to experience the fully cramped combi bus where the "busboy" shouts out loud the destination during the short stops whilst people jump on and off the bus. Instead we found out that the busses going downtown were running on a more modern system, like a new fancy metropolitan subway on wheels...

Downtown Lima had very beautiful architecture and so we walked around for some hours admiring them. We went to Plaza de Armas which was surrounded by stunning buildings such as La Catedral de Lima, Palacio Arzobispal and Palacio de Gorbierno which serves as the presidental palace. Close to the plaza there's also the Iglesia de Santo Domingo and Monasterio de San Francisco, they are both worth of checking out. During the daytime downtown Lima was fun to explore but as soon as the evening came and it got dark some of the older gothic like buildings and the ominous atmosphere made us want to jump back on the bus to seek a more safe feeling outside downtown.

There's my experience of Lima in a nutshell:) Now I'm really looking forward to moving ahead, hopping on a plane and seeing what Cusco has to offer! Until then...adios amigos!

Pre travel feelings...

While October 20th was getting closer, the day when my three month journey to South America and Caribbean would start, it slowly became a reality to me that I was REALLY about to embark on this amazing adventure! I had mixed feelings...quite excited, slightly nervous and also happy, especially to have friends join me on part of my trip! Half of the trip though I would be on my own which made me a little sad because I would not be able to share all the experiences with someone...

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Goodbye Finland, Hello Canada

It's been four years now since I moved to Vancouver, BC. My first contact with Canada was when I was two years old and my family moved to Sudbury, Ontario. My parents, like me now, wanted to experience something different in life so they sold our belongings in Finland, packed a few luggages and off we moved to Canada for five years. We had a five year plan, it was to work and enjoy a different way of living life in a foreign country. We stayed with the plan, ended the five years over seas with a 2 month travel journey around 17 states in the US and then moved back to Finland.

Ever since I had the thought in my head that I would want to come back some day to see how life in Canada would be. First time I really considered it was when I was in my early twenties but the timing never seemed to be right. Then finally when I was getting close to my thirties I thought "it's now or never" and so it all started happening. For a while I had been considering about continueing my studies so I thought I would combine these two goals of mine together, move to Canada and study there. I applied to a university on Vancouver Island to study Recreation and Sport Management and got accepted in. I sold pretty much everything I had including my business and my apartment, packed a few luggages and said goodbye to my family and dear friends. At the same time I was excited about my new life but also felt sad about leaving my loved ones.

It has been an amazing four years of studying, working, a little bit of travelling and most importantly making great connections with some amazing people. I feel that during this time here I have learned about life more than ever before and that's because of those people who I've crossed paths with. I've met so many people with various backgrounds and from different walks of life. All their interesting stories and life philosophies has taught me so much and this is something that I will always be grateful for.

Maybe I'll tell you some of the stories along the way but now I'm going to catch a breath of fresh air in the rain...in Finland we have the snow, here we have the rain and we get lots of it. That's something I don't think I'll ever get used to. Luckily I don't have to worry about the rain nor snow this winter. Three week countdown to my South American - Carribbean trip has started! Adios for now!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Beginning

I should have gotten out of bed on one of those several nights I was lying there and thinking about things I want to write on my blog, things I believed would inspire readers, things I believed people would want to read about, things that sounded good in my head...I felt like I had so much to write about, which I still do but for some reason I feel like I've gotten a writers (not that I really consider myself being a real writer) "stage fright"  all of a sudden and not sure where to start...

Maybe I should first tell you a little bit about myself, not too much though so you don't get bored and stop reading in the second paragraph of the first posting;) and I'll also tell you a little of what you can expect from my blog, so here we go...I am a woman in almost her mid thirties, someone who is adventurous and always eager to learn and experience new things. I have lived in four countries, two of them for just about a year in each and in the other two I have lived for several years. Which countries, that you will find out later in my blog. I have worked in various fields, worked as an assistant, travel guide, fitness instructor, project manager, owned my own business and had a few other interesting occupations along the years as well. At the moment I am working in the film industry and also doing some interpreting work. In four weeks however, I'm planning on taking a break from all that to go on an amazing three month journey to South America and the Carribbean. I can't wait to blog about that experience and hopefully inspire others to travel and also provide some practical insights for travellers going to the same places. So on the side reading about travel experiences on this blog, you will also be able to read about my perspective on life in general; someone who has packed her bags and moved accross the globe, is living in a foreign country that for now is called home but is still seeking for answers if this is the place to settle down for now or if it's time to move on soon again...

I believe this is a good start for now, no too long and hopefully interesting enough that I kept you all with me till the end. In the next posting I'll tell you where I am living now, how and from where I got here. Hope to have you all follow along, good night!