Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Hanging out in Bariloche

This is just a sunny day where Lee and I took it easy between our crazy excursions as Bariloche is adventure town of the western Argentina... this is in the Centro Civico where weird looking dudes pimp out their gorgeous Saint Bernard dogs for tourist photos at stupidly high prices. I wanted to adopt one.


Holy crap we did it, Lee and I went on a paraglide!!! and I will try to describe how absolutely amazing and insane the entire episode was. We had signed up for a paraglide last week but due to weather conditions the dudes decided that it was not ideal so no go. But on Monday as we were checking out of our hostel and moving to another, we asked if the trip was possible that day as there was no wind. We lucked out and the instructor said he could do it and whether we would be ready in a couple of hours.

No. I was not ready but hell yes we were going to do it. You know the feeling when you´ve been psyching yourself up for something but when you didn´t know it was coming, it can send your stomach turning at the thought. But it was something I really wanted to do and it was a tandem flight so the instructor flies with you.

Lets skip a few hours into the future to this picture... I was standing on a cliff edge, on a mountain top 1400 metres above sea level, wearing a helmet, a flying suit that was attached to a massive bag/parachute and questioning my sanity while my instructor Ernesto hooked me up to a massive paragliding wing (the chute). I had just watched Lee take off on his glide with another instructor and it was pretty alarming yet exciting.
So Ernesto then told me that once he was ready with the wing, he wanted me to run hard off the cliff. EH? Jump off a cliff? Right. I couldn´t get my head around having to just run off the cliff, what if the wing didn´t take to the wind? That and many other questions flew past my mind including questions like, do I have a Last Will and testament?

Anyway, suddenly he shouted GO! and I tried to run but I couldn´t and it wasn´t fear, it was the fact that the wing had taken perfectly to the wind and when it does it pulls like a bull in the other direction so I had to fight and pull towards the cliff, and then suddenly it let go and took flight and I then I ran screaming into the wind. And we took off! And I screamed for another 2 minutes. Ernesto said he had never heard anyone laugh happily and scream fearfully at the same time.

It was absolutely breathtaking, and even more so such a great feeling to know that I had the courage (madness) to jump off the cliff and trust in everything. We glided above shimmering lakes, mountain tops and little towns for about 40 minutes and it was unlike anything I have experienced. If you have a chance to do it, DO IT.

Click on the video below that Lee took of me coming into land, I got a little confused about whether to do a running landing or a jump landing after Ernesto told me to decide closer to the time as it depended on the wind. In the end, I ran, jumped and fell flat on my face with Ernesto landing on top of me. Turn up the volume so you can hear me screaming.

Wicked rafting adventure

I am totally hooked on white water rafting.

I´ve gone a few times in Sri Lanka and was never totally impressed or taken by the experience, but oh man yesterday was a completely different one altogether. We drove for a good hour out into the national park and got to the cool base camp of the company that did the rafting - called Extremo Sur!!! Extreme!!!

After breakfast, we suited up in wetsuits and all the gear, including boots (which definitely made me feel better) looking quite ridiculous we all took the rafts down to the river. We had a hilarious Argentine instructor/guide who was pretty cheeky. We started our rafting journey down Grade 4 rapids!
It was super fun and we had a great team of 8 - people from U.S., Holland and U.K. So the water was absolutely freezing cold but really refreshing unlike my previous lake experience!

We rafted through some of the most beautiful canyons - through small calm coves of aquamarine water with whirlpools - some of the rock that formed the walls of the canyons were gun metal grey and black in colour forming amazingly smooth sculptures. It was just beyond comprehension.

Anyway, I should point out that after getting caught in surf rapids and being doused with immensely pressured water, our team´s boat didn´t flip!

Now the cool thing is the river takes you as far as into the mouth of the Pacific Ocean beyond the Chilean border!!! I have no visa to go there, and we only asked if this was a problem when on the raft which some might have deemed a little too late. It was awesome because though we didn´t go to the ocean, we ended our raft journey on this land that was the ´grey´area - the none country land which was neither Chile nor Argentina - sort of the border of both! So I kind of made it!! Whoo hoo. Check out the pictures of this and the raft trip on Lee´s photoblog.

We are definitely going again...

Thoughts along the way

It is strange, and rather daft sometimes while on this journey to find that I often worry about the silliest things. And actually the more I think about it, the more I realise that we (human beings) do tend to spend WAY too much time contemplating things that at the end of the day do not really matter.....

because sometimes I think about the most menial of tasks, whether we are going to get good seats on the bus journey or whether I wrapped my shampoo bottle in a plastic bag etc and cloud my mind to the point where I forget to look out the window. But I am learning to release the need for wondering and letting my mind unwind, so I can spend more time looking out the window of my bus, and getting to see what a beautiful adventure I am on.

I also have been thinking, about how much I miss my lovely best friend Soharni, and though she thinks she is the smartest smarty pants in the galaxy sometimes, I want to post a picture of the two of us... looking forward to when we can hang out again.

Our Free Spirit Tour - the awesome adventure and bloody cold lakes

Supposed to go paragliding today and though its sunny and blue skies it is way too windy, might find my way back to Lanka a bit too quickly if i tried it today. So I have time to blog.

We spent two amazing days in the national park called Nahuel Huapi at a log cabin style hostel which had a lovely little fireplace, great homecooked food and a super cool adventure crazed guide. The place was run by the same guy who runs the hostel in town and his family took great care of us. Though his wife and kids managed to beat the rest of us at Uno (could have been the wine we were drinking that sabotaged our skills).

So we biked in the morning, though I wussed out and decided that a 25km bike ride potentially uphill for a lot of it did not merit my trying it, as I knew that I would just swear like a sailor or worse and make it unenjoyable. So Lee and two other South Africans we befriended, set off on that journey and I set off with Gito (pronounced heeto) our long haired Micheal Bolton look alike with muscles friend/guide took me to a lake side beach and told me to bike around there and then find my way through this easier bike trail back to the cabin. He left to join the others. It was superb because I got a leisurely ride, had a good sit down by the beach and then fought my way through narrow bike trails and heavy forestry that ran alongside a deep aquamarine blue lake, it was fantastic.

After a great bbq lunch, we decided (though it had started to drizzle, being in the mountains it was like experiencing English weather patterns) to go kayaking and boating on the big lake. So we set off, and good Lord it was the coldest, wettest and (did I say) coldest experience I have ever had. I am a tropical island girl and wearing the right clothes, winter weather is tough enough. Here I was in rolled up jeans, my UT flipflops and a rain jacket, and it was definitely nowhere near enough. After 5km of rowing, Lee saved me from nearly passing out from the cold as I was shivering quite alot more than it was deemed healthy and managed to carry me up the hill back to our cabin where I stood under a hot shower for 45 minutes. And then after that I managed to use all my limbs and talk coherently. It was a bit intense. But I have to admit, it was an adventure and it was real as opposed to guarded tours or watching from a large cruise ship, it was amazing to be on that massive lake and have nothing or no one around, except us, mountains, a boat and a few flipping fish.

Back in Bariloche now, and tomorrow we raft! Whoo hoo!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Perito Moreno Glacier, El Calafate

Some of the Perito Moreno Glacier in El Calafate.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

El Calafate, Glaciers, Lakes and Bariloche!

Seems Í´ve been a little slack on the blogging but I am planning not to let it slip too long again though to be honest I did want to wait until we did a couple more journeys before going into detail! So here we are - in beautiful Bariloche. Its sort of the ski / mountain destination of the western border of Argentina. Seriously, this country is absolutely stunning, it has such a diverse scenery, immense bouts of empty land and then pockets of quaint colourful little villages changing each time we pass through a border.

We had a lovely time in Puerto Madryn, the hostel we stayed in (the second time) was awesome as it was chilled out and had more travellers. Its turning into an amusing little scenario when we try to explain where Sri Lanka is, and then the people who sort of run the hostels have always asked me to write their names in Sinhalese, which to me is amusing and also rather stressful as I have realised they all planned to get tattoo´s with what I write so I had to make sure I got it right. Imagine, they´d be walking around with the translation of monkey balls on their ankles.

The journey from Puerto Madryn to El Calafate (where the Perito Moreno glacier is) was long though manageable... but I won´t bore with details. Though I decided that it was probably the best valentines´day ever cause before the bus ride Lee and I strolled through the lovely beach front and got ourselves some yummy food and then chilled out in the garden area of our hostel where a Dutch woman who was a fellow travller pulled out her keyboard (I kid you not, she is carrying a rather large keyboard around with her on travels up to Peru and Bolivia, says it´s because she misses playing her piano!!!) anyway she started playing some lovely music and it was just perfect... until she started playing weird electro classics.

El Calafate was absolutely beautiful, and rather a relief to see different landscapes from the flat endless plains of nothingness that we were used to till then. It´s a quaint town right in a valley amongst towering snow capped mountains...all the shops, cafes and restaurants were mainly out of wood... just beautiful. We saw the glacier, and honestly there is little point in trying to describe it - it was an awesome, overwhelming and breathtaking sight. We saw a piece of ice the size of a 3 storey building just crack and smash into the lake with a thunderous noise... it was amazing and even got a clap and cheer from the crowd watching.
While watching the icy blue glacier, you can distinctly hear it cracking and melting under the strong sun rays and it sounds like thunder. Phenomenal. Will post pictures.

We stayed in a wooden cosy little cabin, called Las Cabiñitas de Familias... had lovely English lavender growing outside.

But Argentina is bloody windy! It is a damned thing - honestly there have been moments that I have wanted to physically punch the wind while it blew bits of sand, rock and bird feathers into my mouth. Lee acts as if he was on a smooth sailing boat with a slight breeze in the air. I am yet to master how he does it. Till then I´ve got my boxing gloves out.

Bariloche is lovely, right on the side of a beautiful shimmering blue lake with a backdrop of mountains again - the hostel we´re staying in has a 24 hour bar, awesome rooms with lake views and loads and loads to do. Tomorrow we set off into the Parque Nacionale Huapi for 2 days and a night where we are going biking, trekking, snorkeling and rafting which should be fun, plus theré´s going to be a campfire and bbq! Man I love doing all this stuff.
Plus, we´re going paragliding and horse riding over the weekend - I am so excited about both those two as its what I´ve really wanted to do!

Thats it for now, too much blogging and not enough pictures to show - will post more once we´re back... We are both coming to the realisation that we don´t have to head off back to work or anything soon, its not a short holiday! Hurray for life trips.

Monday, February 12, 2007


Pictures of us in Puerto Madryn, Gaiman (Welsh town) and the awesome Sea Lion colonies that we journeyed out to see - hopefully these shots give you the chance to see the stunning colours of the Atlantic ocean. Also some hilarious signs that have been translated straight into English from Spanish...

Dust and sea lions in Puerto Piramides

I have to admit I am really settling into life on the road, life being so free and in control thanks to a certain few decisions we make each day. It´s strange how planning journeys and the decisions that come with them really show you how easy it is to change the direction of your trip and hence its results. I guess to anyone that would read obvious, but literally deciding to take a bus right on the spot and heading into a town you have no idea about, will lead you to an adventure that is completely spontaneous and exciting.

We saw wild sea lions yesterday in Puerto Piramides (sleepy marine life watching town) after taking a 10 km walk on an incredibly windy, dusty and desolate road in the hot sun - filled with dry bushes, snake holes (and snakes that Lee saw which prompted me to bolt!) and lots and lots of sand. Which went into our unsuspecting eyes.

It was worth it though because finally, we sat down on a cliff, ate our packed lunch and watched sea lions frolick, nap and roar in the afternoon sunshine by the bluest of waters. It was fascinating to know they were wild and shun the idea mentally that we could be at a water park or something. There were barely any people, and just colonies of these creatures which waddled along the ground and swam gracefully through the clear waters. Though they did do a very ungraceful belly flop-dive into the water at first.

Argentina kicks ass in my book, so far.

W(h)ales and Puerto Madryn

So the journey was loong, but manageable, which has convinced us to do more this week. I will be spending the evening of Valentines Day on a 18 hour bus journey to Rio Gallegos. But thats a story I will leave for when its completed!

Puerto Madryn is lovely, its right on the sea front with a fantastic pier where normally people can sit and view Southern Right Whales just playing about roughly 30 metres away. But unfortunately for us the whales have already left P. Madryn on their journey for warmer waters! Damn damn.

But there are markets (which bring on a whoo hoo from me and groan from Lee), water front restaurants and bars (that are overpriced holy moly) and cool little oceanography museums and other little things to keep us happy. The hostel we stayed at for the first 3 nights was crap though, they were not very friendly and it was overpriced for shabby rooms... however the breakfast was the biggest joke. The crustiest hardest teeth breaking bread. Ugh.

The ocean here is a colour blue I have NEVER seen, it is just an intensely eye pleasing rich navy blue, but slightly mixed with turquoise... I really cannot explain it, so hopefully the pictures will!

The other cool thing we did was take a bus journey to this quaint little town about 2 hours away - it is a Welsh settlement (yay Wales!) - very green with a lovely river and weirdly enough it looked alot like wales.... Though it was strange to see all the signs in Spanish and Welsh. We went to an "authentic" Welsh teahouse where we got charged a fair bit to have tea and cake in this little wooden house which was loaded with Welsh artifacts from the first settlers. The lady who served us and owned it was kind of well known in the area and she was a Welsh descendant, she was also really fascinated that I was from Sri Lanka, claiming her ancestor journeyed from Wales to Ceylon to buy tea which he then brought to Argentina. Quite a journey just for a cuppa, but then it is tea and Ceylon tea is the best!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

On the road again...

I am writing this from a small dusty farming town called Tres Arroyo which is where we are in transit before we take our next bus (an arduous 14 hour journey unfortunately) to Puerto Madryn for all the marine life action. It is amusing because we knew these hourneys were coming up and after a lovely week of relaxation and exploring by the beaches of Necochea, I am actually satisfied in a way that we are going on this journey so that at least we are going to feel te vastness of the land that is Argentina.

Funnily enough when we explained our journey to a local the other day and the sheer length of our bus journeys, the dude laughed and said ´well thats what you get when you put two of the world´s 10 largest countries next to each other´which is so damn true. Argentina and Brasil are two of the largest, I started to think of the other 8... I will research them and post it here. Thats another thing that I´ve found while travelling, is the constant thirst for general knowledge and sort of the curious questions you ask in school or when growing up, its funny hwat you come up with when you have all that extra time to think. I even mentioned to Lee a sort of Encyclopedia would have been great on our trip, he then asked me how many of my clothes and essential items I was willing to leave behind to carry one.

That`s where I left that topic. Ain´t no way I´m leaving anything.

Check out Lee´s blog for more on the lovely Argentine family that sort of took us under their wing while in Necochea. Will post pictures when we get to our hostel in P. Madryn.

Sand dunes and funky fog

So we went 4x4 off-roading on some wicked sand dunes. The amazing thing is that these 85-110 metre high dunes are about a 30 min drive from Necochea town centre and are completely formed by the wind. The winds here are so immensely strong and blow teeny tiny bits of sand into your eyes no matter which way you look, nor even if you wear those superbly large sun visors.

Standing on the top of these Sahara style dunes with the sun shining and blue skies it was spectacular as it was bizarre, because just minutes before we had driven on the beach right along the shorefront in the thickest fog I have seen in a long time. It was dark and grey in Las Grutas beach where we had only sunbathed the day before, and it formed in less than an hour. Climate change is truly affecting all of us.

Pictures of the crazy dunes when we get to a more solid internet cafe.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

And more on the beaches of Necochea

De Argentina

De Argentina

De Argentina

De Argentina

Music, markets and beaches

Finally some pictures!

Few things bout the lovely Argentine´s

So the Argentines as a people:
1) They have a massive sweet tooth and every couple of blocks you find a cake or chocolate shop; this is illustrated further by their most favourite food accompaniment called Le Dulce de Leche which is sort of Caramel milk, its like a caramel spread which they have with their toast or their pancakes or make ice cream out of to mention a few things. I´m not sure I like the taste.

2) The girls love wearing this cool pair of trousers that sort of crop at the calf but they are elasticated there and are baggy there on to the thighs and then are slim to the hip. They are pretty cool looking. They also love thong and g'string bikinis.

3) They absolutely love rock music. From Chili Peppers (no matter what language you speak if you hum "dani california" or "Snow" they will know it and you´re immediately friends) to the Stones they are massive rock music fans and it plays through the streets and in their homes and in cafes etc. Though they do tend to overdose on Bon Jovi here and there, tsk tsk.

4) They are a proud people, love their country and want you to see it all. We had long conversations with the bus driver in B.A. who told us about his 19,000km journey by car through Europe who wanted us to visit the Northwest, the bank teller who insisted on telling us all about Tigre a beautiful area in B.A. and the waiter at a lakeside cafe who brought out his guitar for Lee to play after a 2 hour long conversation about life and travelling. (This lake by the way called Lago de la Circes put the Beira to shame in terms of green water and nasty creatures living in it! Tourist attraction my ass!) Quite funny also how the guy giggled when he found out that Lee was from England as he asked whether we realised we were right in the middle of the area where the Falkland War veterans were residing! Yeeps.

5) They have amazing bus service and system, their buses put economy and sometimes business class into a more shabby category. In Cama class (which is like first for bus travel) you get served hot meals, whisky, wine or champagne!

Will let you know how it works out next week.

We got a mobile sim here and our tel number here for the few who have been asking for it is:
+54 11 6759 0850

Hasta Luego mis amigos por ahora.

10 days on the road

Still in Necochea which we have decided is a cool little place to hang out. We´re going to extend the stay and be here for about a week until we head down south to Puerto Madryn which is the home of whale watching, sea lion and penguin colonies plus orca´s (whale sharks) that eat them all! Its going to be long journey town from here on for about 2 weeks as the sheer vastness of Argentina will hit us hard. From 18 to 24 hour bus rides, yikes yes. Its really going to put our ability to entertain each other to the test.

Pictures are taking some time to publish but we´re working on it right now!

Friday, February 02, 2007

Road Trippin´

It´s been a really surreal job to start our journey, we were getting pretty homely and settled in Buenos Aires I have to admit. It is such a fabulous city, so many characteristics from real slums to beautifully architectural plaza´s to amazing markets (i nearly passed out from all the stunning jewelry and fares) to very funky almost London like embankments.

There was a cool little bar/restaurant that was attached to our hostel and it was run by a fairly grumpy dude who looks like he could have been in Miami Vice. Maybe thats why he was grumpy. Anyway, we spent alot of our evenings there as they had a lot of local musicians playing Brazilian jazz to ska punk to funky blues etc but completely different to anything I´ve heard before and its not because it was in a different language! We got to know the dudes who work behind the bar plus we partied one night with these 5 young guys who were in a funk band and we were out on the streets chatting, drinking and fighting off a drunk clown from a nearby market. I kid you not.

After much consternation, we decided that since we had planned the next steps of our journey we should just "get on the road" so we did. Next stop Tandil.

Hmm. Tandil was probably our first mistake. Possibly the dullest town in Argentina, not given away by the fact that all the inhabitants of this mountaneous/lake side town - do is bike ride, jog and sit and watch the view. Of the lake and the mountain. Luckily I´m with the funniest guy in the world so we made the most of it. It wasn´t a bonus that the hotel we were staying at put us in one of their "good" rooms which was at the back near the garages and was pretty much like an American motel. So the sights to see in that town took all of 1 hour to see, it was completely dead and what was supposed to be a 3 day trip ended the next morning when we high tailed it out of there to the next town - Necochea which is about 8 hours south of B.A.

We like it here, so we´re staying for a week we think though not decided. Hurray for no major time plans! Its a pretty beach town but holy moly, when we got to the beach last afternoon, it was filled to the brim with thousands of people. Mainly (as Lee immediately noticed) young hot girls wearing thongs and hot pants that go right up the bum and leave little to the imagination. I can´t help but stare myself. By the way - this is not the reason we´re staying though it is amusing to see Lee trail off in conversation as these women walk by.

To be honest this kind of beach isn´t exactly our thing, we prefer the quieter beaches, and we´ve been told there are some, so tomorrow we´re renting some bikes and going to ride bout 8 km to some nearby. Plus there´s a beautiful forest that sort of runs parallel to the beach here which is full of little lakes and horse riding etc so there´s alot to do here.

It is immensely overwhelming to be this free. Our only concerns are, where we are going next, booking our acccomodation, watching our cash flow and thats pretty much it. And we´re enjoying it so much. I am learning loads about my tolerances, and about letting myself go from worrying about silly things. Also being surrounded by so much Spanish (barely anyone speaks any English), its amazing how adaptable the human brain is, because I am already picking up words and complex sentences etc, there´s alot to learn but I am gaining the confidence to speak.
I love this trip. And though its only been just 8 days, it feels like much longer only because of how much we have seen and done in such a short space of time. Makes me wonder what its going to feel like in a month let alone 3!

Thats it for now, sure I will get to a computer with more pictures soon.