Sunday, January 29, 2012

Salta: stopover

Tim decided to tag along with us up to Bolivia, we decided to break up our trip north with a stop in Salta. We had to take two buses up with a midnight to 2:30 am stopover in Tucuman. The first bus we were on was ok but every movie they put on played 2x!!! That was not so good. The scenery on the way up though was pretty nice with the mountains and desserty-ish land.
Salta is considered a base for touring around this area. Apparently there are amazing things to see like canyons and great horseback riding trips but we just hung in the city. We got into the terminal with no where to go and tried to find a place online before noticing a guy peddling his hostel, 7 Duendes (dwarfs), he told us it was 50 ($12) pesos a night and offered us a free ride so we took it. Since it was still only 8am when we arrived we had to wait to get into a room, when we got in I passed out till 2pm. Once I awoke I took a much needed shower and Nick and I went into the center to look for a place to change money. We failed then went to the terminal to figure out our next move (to the boarder of Bolivia) then went to the anthropology museum where I thought displayed Incan mummy kids but after looking through it and just seeing alot of pots I realized we were wrong and they are in the museum of high altitude. Then we walked back and viewed the big cathedral, very ornately elaborate is what I can say describes it. I was done with walking after that and we came home and made a nice stir fry dinner which was much needed after eating so much white bread for the past 24 hours. We even drank our organic wine we bought in Mendoza so good.
The next day we tried to buy our bus ticket online because we would get a discount. Of course it wasn't working so back down to the terminal we go to buy it full price, off to Quaica to cross the boarder. After, Tim, Nick, me and this Aussi Spencer went on a cable car up to this hilltop to get a view of Salta. We got kinda lost walking back, found a supermarket and bought the makings for a nice Sunday roast dinner prepared by Tim. Twas lovely!


funky tree

main plaza statue

another church

inside the elaborate church

first dinner

the organic wine and olives so good

view from the cable car

Sunday roast

Mendoza: Let the Wine Floweth

We decided to skip Bariloche and head straight to Mendoza for some winery fun. We convinced Tim, a guy we met in Puerto Natales, to meet us in Mendoza and tour some wineries on bikes with us. He agreed and we booked a hostel. The bus to Mendoza was uneventful, I didn't sleep but we had the front top seats so at least we could stretch our legs. It was another long bus journey, about 17 hours, but this time we got into town at 9am not 12 am! We walked to our hostel, Hostel Lagares, and found Tim who had gotten there the previous night. It was a nice hostel, clean and new looking but unfortunately we had roommate trouble. We were a room of six, Nick and I, a couple from London a Russian and some other guy who we never talked to. The Russian smelled and he lost favor with us when he unplugged the aircon at night and it got SO HOT! I was tossing and turning and sweaty all night! Then the next morning the other guy in our room set his alarm to go off at 6 am and then proceeded to keep pressing snooze FOR OVER AN HOUR!!!! No point trying to sleep so we got up early that day.
We didn't have much time in Mendoza, only three nights since our main goal at the moment is to get out of Argentina because of budget reasons, but we had a good time. The first day we got here we went to the plaza which had a really nice fountain going on and we got some lunch. We also booked our winery tour on bikes for the next day. The wine tour was terrific! We went to three wineries and an olive oil factory, lunch was included plus snacks afterwords at this place with a pool where we hung out for an hour and a half.
The first winery used to be the biggest one in the region and they say the world at one point (not sure about that one) but is now a museum. We got to see all the huge barrels where they kept the wine, and we got to climb up on top of them and walk across them! They all have little doors on them which the people would somehow climb through to clean the barrels, a tight squeeze for sure. Then we saw the huge aging barrels in the basement and a huuuge tank where the white wine was kept, we climbed through this claustrophobia inducing doorway and saw the inside of this 'tank' which held 250,000 liters of white wine. It smelled very musty but it had great acoustics. The climb out of the doorway was like a second birth, but being pulled out by a bald Argentinian named ..baldy. After we tasted some wine and snobbily tried our best to figure out what we were tasting. It mostly consisted of cherries, leather, a roast dinner and bike chains. The next winery was a really chuchi (posh) one with all stainless steel barrels and conveyor belts and whatnot. First we saw where the grapes were mashed and all the tanks and tubes, then the aging barrels made from french oak (the best oak for aging wine apparently) and then the room where they bottle, cork, label and box all the bottles. We were taken into a tasting room for our tastes and then given extra in the buying room. At this point I was feeling a little tipsy. Oh and did I mention this was all on bikes? I had a fun beach cruiser bike that braked by going backwards with the pedal, something I haven't done since I was a kid! Nick wanted that bike but the other one was broken and he had to have a mountain bike and was grumpy about it. After the second winery my sitbones were hurtin since it's been probably 2 years since I was last on a bike!
We went back to our base for a wonderful lunch of empanandas and ate our fill and of course drank more wine. I was ready for a siesta but no time for that, it was on to the olive oil factory. It was a small factory that only goes during may-aug and the rest of the year they do tours and dry fruit. I learned that the color of the olive coincides with the ripeness of the olive with black being the latest and sweetest. It was a quick tour but at the end we got to taste a bunch of olive oils (with garlic, with basil, with oregano) on bread and eat raisins which gave us a little pick up to get to the next tour which was an organic winery. We entered and rode through the grapevines before getting to a barn to start the tour. This vineyard doesnt' use pesticides but instead uses permaculture to keep the pests at bay. They also borrow a mule named Rosita every year to plow the fields. Unlike the other winery they bottle, label and pack all the bottles by hand. Nick and I bought a bottle from here and it was SO GOOD! Tim bought some olives which were also terrific!
The next day in the evening we heard about a free folkloric band that was playing in town so we tagged along with a group going. We didn't realize how chuchi it was going to be though so I was waaay underdressed with a tshirt. We ended up on top of a building with a free glass of merlot listening to the band with a great view of the sunset and the city, it was a great, unexpected event. We got back to the hostel in time for the asado they were cookin on the grill, very good. Next morning we were off to the terminal for our next bus.

Mascot of the first winery/museum. People rub his huevos for good luck.


Walking ontop

Old corking machine

Special cask

Inside the white wine cask

Industrial winery, stainless steel casks

conveyor belt

old wines


olive press

Olive oil filtering

Olive oil eating

riding through the grape vines to the organic winery

snacks at the end

sunset from the rooftop
Me with my free wine, tshirt and band

El Bolson: Workaway at Rosie's

We finally boarded the bus for El Bolson at 12:30am. After a long day of climbing up a hill and hiking and eating all you can eat pizza I figured we'd be able to pass out right away, except that I was very wrong...
The bus was very cramped so we squeezed ourselves into our seats and the bus pulled out heading north for ruta 40. I just started dozing when suddenly we pulled onto a dirt road which made the bus very, very bumpy and sleep only for the drugged. Ruta 40 was having roadwork done for a many miles so that was fun, and the bus driver kept smoking which was really annoying for those who wanted to breath. He probably had one once every hour, which I'm sure was not within accordance with company policy. Yet 22 hours later we made it to El Bolson, on the way in it was dark and we saw fires on the hillside of El Hoyo (ignition source unknown, probably a camper).
We were in El Bolson because we had a workaway planned for two weeks. Workaway is working in exchange for food and lodging, we would be working six hours a day at Rosie's house. So we got in after midnight and decided to call Rosie, our host, and hope she was up. We got a taxi out to Mallin Ahogado, the house was about 20 mins away from the town and not even  minutes into the ride our taxi broke down! We waited another 20 mins for another taxi to show up but we werent' exactly sure where the house was. The taxi driver went to a house that Nick and I were sure wasn't the house and clapped at the door. We were so embarrassed, hiding behind the seat, that he was waking these people up! Like we thought it wasn't Rosie's house so we kept going. Finally we found it and Rosie was waiting outside for us, we arrived about 40 mins after we had called her so we felt pretty bad since it was now after 1am, but she was very nice about it. We paid the taxi driver 40 pesos and brought our stuff inside. Rosie is an English woman who had moved to Argentina when she was in her 20s and has been here ever since. Her and her husband at the time built the house she had, a really cute log cabin on 10 acres of land. Half the land was a pine forest with a river running next to it and the other half had her house, garden, fruit trees, wood shed, more trees and the little camper (caravan) that we would be living in for the next two weeks. Even though the bed was small it was very welcome that night, and I finally got to sleep!

Workaway life:
Eating and working. Rosie fed us very well, we had home made bread and jam every day for breakfast and lunch and dinner was veggies and pasta, or trout or empanadas. Very good food.
Work we did:
Nick- chopping wood, building the woodshed walls, cutting the chopped wood
Lora- whitewashing the walls, staining the woodshed walls, picking raspberries, pitting cherries
Together- picking cherries, picking up horse poo, building a compost, pulling up baby pine trees, cleaning this one spot in the woods where a little house used to be

on our free time we swam in the river, rosie took us for a picnic at a waterfall (catarata escondida) for lunch, one time, we walked to another waterfall after work one day and during the weekend we would go into town and hang out in the plaza (all sorts going on there) and go food shopping. There's a great open air market in the plaza which was great to walk through but we couldn't afford anything (except the food). One day we went to Lago Puelo which is a beautiful lake surrounded by mountains. We had to take a bus there from El Bolson for 6 pesos but what we didn't know was that it was in a national park which we had to pay (the foreigners price..50% more) to get in. Also we didn't know that you could go camping there which would have been nice to do because there were hiking trails and whatnot. We hung out all day and went swimming and watched the people in the water, it was a beautiful day. We hitchhiked back into town with a lovely couple from Buenos Aires who liked to listen to Iron Maiden. When we got back we hung out in the plaza and watched some acrobatic vagabond travellers do a show and then a kumbia band play for a bit. We had to get a taxi back, when we got in the driver wasn't too friendly and we had a feeling we would have a problem with the price, which we should have negotiated before we got in. We were travelling on the exact same day and time as we had the week earlier going to Rosie's house for the first time so we knew it should be 40 pesos but when we got to the house he said 55 pesos. I said, no we came here exactly a week ago on the same day same time and it was $40 pesos and he was like well you were charged wrong and I was like no that is what the dispatcher said when he looked in his book! He ended up giving us 5 pesos back so we paid 50, the next morning Rosie confirmed that that was way to much. Next time I was in town I actually went back to the dispatcher and told him. He didn't know what to say.

Workaway was deff a great experience, two weeks was a good amount of time although. I got used the routine and when it was time to start traveling again I had to get back into it!

cherry pickin'

wood cutting

forest clearing clean up, this used to have a cabin on it

taa daa. finished
our horse poo collection
our house

cherry pitting

Rosie's house, breakfast outside

Nessie made out of bottles

Lago Puelo

acrobatics in the park

Band in the park

Nick's conquered  wood pile

La Cascada Escondida

Building woodshed walls

my cherry pie!
inside our house

staining walls
chainsaw fun
Rosie and her new woodshed walls

Thursday, January 12, 2012

El Chalten: The Trekking Capitol of Argentina

El Chalten, a town within a national park.
We decided to head over here before going to El bolson since we diiid come down to Patagonia to do some trekking and so far had only done about 5 hours worth. So after spending a terrific New Years at Erratic Rock Hostel we went back to El Calafate, Argentina and that night took a bus up to Chalten. By the time we got there it was pretty late and we decided to camp instead of staying at a hostel. We found a camp site, El Relincho, which cost 35 pesos per person ($9) and we paid for 2 nights. Finally we got to use the tent and stove!! The next day we just got to know the town, buy food (like always, that's all we do) and learned about the trails in the area. El Chalten is known for it's mountain Fitz Roy, which means fire mountain or something in the native language of the peoples that used to live here. We planned out our week, all depending on weather since a cloudy day can ruin a view and probably ate some more.
On our second full day we walked to Laguna Torre where there was a glacier to see and the mountain Cerro Torre. We did it as a day hike but there was a campsite close by for those who wanted to camp. It was about 2 1/2 - 3 hour hike there and we hung around for an hour then hiked back so a 7 hour day. Very nice out but near the laguna it was sooo windy! There were actually walls made of rocks that you could duck behind when it got really bad. On the way back to town we ran into one of the workers at Erratic Rock Hostel who had come over to hike for 8 days, did not expect to see him on the trail but it was awesome that we did!

Our third day we were going to do a four hour hike to a look out point where you can see the whole valley and surrounding mountains but it was pretty cloudy and not worth it to go out. Instead we moved to a hostel for the night and got our bags ready for an overnight hike we doing the next night. Later we walked an hour to see a waterfall, Chorrillo del Salto, and put our feet in the mountain stream. It was cold.

Our fourth and fifth day were my favourites. We headed out at 10 to hike to Poincenot, a campsite close to Fitz Roy. It was pretty cloudy though so we couldn't see the mountains as we hiked and a little chilly. It was a three hour hike mostly uphill (I'm so out of shape, I was dying) through the forest and then through a valley. It was so pretty. We set up tent at 1pm, ate our sandwiches and I passed out! Since the days are so long here we knew we had much light left still to go exploring so at four we set out to see Glacier Piedras Blancas. It was a really fun hike through the valley and over streams, as we got closer to the glacier we stared to see many more big rocks until all we saw were very big rocks. So big we had to start climbing on, around and over them, even jumping from rock to rock. It was so much fun plus a great workout and a bit of an adrenaline rush at times (like when I thought I would fall and get swept away by the river flowing under the rocks). There was barely anyone out this way and when we got to the lake and glacier we could relax and enjoy it with only 5 others there. The rock jungle gym was in a valley so going back we climbed a bit higher up the valley and had a quicker time getting back. Tortellini for dinner.
Next day we were going to hike up to Laguna de los Tres where we could get a terrific view of Fitz Roy. We woke up and it was a beautiful, not a cloud in the sky, clear day. We then began to berate ourselves for not setting the alarm and wake up for sunrise (which apparently makes old Fitzy look reddish) and set out toward the trail. OMG what a trail. It was up, it was rocky, it was dry, and I was huffuing and puffing like the damn wolf. Plus, there were all these annoying horse fly looking flies that kept landing all over us and buzzing around our face and sometimes biting my spandexed legs! I think between us we killed about 70! But it's all so worth it!! At the top it's just a terrific view that you can never capture on camera. There is a lake, there is a glacier, there are the mountains and since you're up high you get a great view of the area and Laguna Sucia and the waterfall that goes from Laguna de los Tres down to it. We did a good thing by getting up and out because there werent' many people there at all when we got up to the top. In fact, we didn't pass anyone hiking our way up but going down there were many people going up (this was about midday) who kept asking if they were close. We just kept saying yes hehe. We also saw the Erratic Rock guy hiking up too.
Got back to the tent, had lunch, had a siesta, packed up and hiked back to town because that night at 11:50pm we had a bus to take us to El Bolson up Rt. 40. The rest of the evening we had a shower at the hostel that we stored our bags at and went out for all you can eat pizza (which later made my stomach hurt cuz I ate too much). Then we sat at the terminal and waited... and waited...

Walking around El Chalten

To the waterfall

Walking to Laguna Torre
A very windy Laguna Torre with glacier

The Waterfall

Walking to Glacier Piedras Blancas, rocks getting bigger!

Piedras Blancas

The rock jungle gym we took to get to it!

Our view from our campsite at Poincenot in the morning

Hiking up to Laguna de los Tres to see Fitz Roy
View of Valley

Laguna de los Tres, Fitz Roy and glacier