Friday 1 February 2008

Argentina...steak, vino and spanglish!

After a hectic few months of non-stop travelling in Australia, New Zealand and Chile I fancied chilling out in one place for a while and spent 10 days in Bariloche, the gateway to Patagonia. While I was there I managed to take in a week`s spanish lessons at La Montaña which gave me a good grounding in the basics and let me start to learn more on my own. Although I was far too lazy to go on any of the treks or venture south into Patagonia I was able to soak up some of Bariloche`s amazing views from the relative comfort of the beach...even by South American standards it`s a really pretty town.

View of Bariloche from cable-car (obstructed by gimp in novelty t-shirt)

New Years Eve bash in Tango Hostel with Sven and las Argentinitas

I got hauled up on stage for a few drunken tunes to ring in the new year...(I thing this pic of me destroying Hotel California)

After Bariloche I sampled for the first time on the famuosly ridiculously bling Argentinian buses. For $60 I travelled the 20hr journey to Buenos Aires in style with 3 movies, 2 meals and free bad? BA definitely lives up to the hype. The steaks are to die (or kill...or kill and then blame someone else) for, the women are the most beautiful on the planet (..not counting some obscure parts of West Cork), La Boca one of the most colourful little boroughs you`ll ever visit & the rest of the city is so full of more turbulent history than you can shake a stick at (..if shaking sticks is what floats your boat).

Seconds before devouring the best steak on the planet with Barry McDonogh in La Cabrera (...odd lesbian couple at the next table kindly took this pic for us...cheers dykes)

Downtown BA

La Casa Rosada...home of Evita`s stirring speeches & Madonna´s inane warbling

Colourful working class district of La Boca

Diego Maradona, Evita & a.n.other salute La Boca

Quality Boca Juniors mural, La Boca

After Buenos Aires I took a monster 20+ hrs bus up to Iguazu Falls, a truly immense collection of powerful waterfalls (dwarfing Niagara Falls) on the border with Brazil. Apparantly the negative ions generated by the waterfalls contribute to giving people a feeling of giddyness & euphoria, who knows. I´m no Scientician.

Iguazu Falls...the money shots!

Garganta Del Diablo...aka The Devil`s Throat

Post-waterfall boozing in Iguazu hostel

Cordoba is a great little University City (8 in total) with great nightlife, I mainly just went on the lash. There. I`ve said it.

Great afternoon session with Lyden on the bongos in Tango Hostel

Lashing it up in some random Cordobesan nigtclub with Richard (..the day before he was robbed at gunpoint!) & Lyden - link below

Here`s a spanish newspaper report of friends of ours who were robbed at gunpoint in broad daylight..they made it onto the Argie equivalent of News at Ten afterwards! -

Polo lesssons in Cordoba...lovin´ it!

Mendoza is a great city in the wine-growing region of Argentina (...its Malbec is world famous) and is no slouch on the partying front with loads of great party hostels & clubs scattered around the city. My highlight was definitely cycling around the wine region for 6 hours getting lashed on 101 different wines and stumbling back home to continue the messiness, drinking some lethal local concoction from a giant babies bottle!

At Puenta del Inca (created by the interaction of ice and hot springs) with Frederico (x2) on Mendoza road trip

Cerro Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the Americas

I WANT one of these for when I get more drinking out of a cup for me

Mendoza`s famous vineyards up close

Sampling some of Mendoza´s finest produce...

Racing Vs Independiente (F.T. 0-0)...promised much but was probably the poorest match (..that I haven`t taken part in myself) for many a long year

Monster session in Break Point Hostel for our last night in Mendoza

Salta was a bit boring really...didn`t really see what all the hype was about. Far too sleepy for a big city & the weather was pants. If I told you the highlight of my time in Salta was sneaking into a 2 movies for the price of one that should give you a good idea of my opinion of it.
Boozing it up in one of Salta`s messy night spots (the Argentinian girl far left is close to being clinically insane)

Friday 4 January 2008

Chile...(I know it`s not pronounced "Chilli" but I sound like a gimp when I say "Chil-eh") me!

Due to Chile having something vaguely resembling a developed economy and quasi-western prices a lot of backpackers tend to limit their stay in Chile to a night or two in Santiago before a long-haul bus into Argentina. Because I`m a glutton for punishment I decided to take the financial hit & explore Chile a bit more and I`m glad I did. It`s a country of vastly constrasting environments (from modern cities to desert to glaciers), super-friendly people and more than a few interesting sights along the way...I liked it so much I ended up spending Christmas there although spending Christmas day on a beach in 30 degrees was a slightly unsual experience..

This monument in Santiago is dedicated to the "Pueblo Indígena" (Indigenous people), who originally populated Chile and has been quite a contraversial piece as it shows the broken face of a Mapuche man symoblising the bravery of Chile`s native people.

As you can see, in Santiago Christmas is brought to you exclusively by Coca Cola...

After a couple of days in Santiago I fancied a few days at the beach and caught a bus up to nearby Valparaiso (Chile`s Cultural Capital and a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and Viña del Mar (a seaside resort town which has attracted huge investment in recent years)

View of Valparaiso from above (..well from as high up the hill as I was willing to walk)

Vina`s "ascensores” (basically urban outdoor lifts used by locals to negotiate Vina`s many hills) which date back to 1883

Valpo`s local scouse population open up for business..

Vina del Mar, the garden city

Testing out the camera`s timer function in Vina with Sole & Connie

The beach at Vina..looks lovely but your wobbly bits will not thank you one bit if you take a`s fuppin freezing!

"Big Wave" Surfing with Blake in Pichelemu

At the foot of Mount Villaricca, Pucon..8am. If only I knew then what I know now..what a tough day`s trekking

Views as we ascend...and ascend and ascend...

At the summit...finally, fit to drop at this point

P.S. The highlight of this trek was actually the descent where we were able to slide down 90% of the mountain on your arse at a ridiculous speed on a piece of plastic vaguely resembling a skinny hot water bottle..I`d highly recommend it (although be prepared to find ice and snow in some very unusual places afterwards)
View of a lovely mountain (the name of which I have no clue)
Hate the game, don`t hate the playa...

Celebrating Colo Colo`s 4th Championship win with some crazy, boozed up locals...some things are just universal

The fish in Chile is savage...

"Don Sergio" our lady-charming (apparently according to the man himself there are "many ladies who call me the Don", sausage-c0cked, wannabee-restaurantour bus driver...A legend

Sampling the huge Christmas feast Sergio prepared for us in Puerto Varas

P.S. "The Don" has his sights set on opening up a Chilean restaurant in Dublin so keep an eye out for him..the man can cook!
The Don doesn`t let some giant lemon slices get in the way of telling us how many chicas he has had in the last 2 weeks and just how fertile he is..

Just for the record I did spent the majority of Christmas day on the phone to home listening to various version of "The Fairytale of New York" on a loop...sob
Puerto Varas...30 degrees...Christmas Day...surreal

En route to Argentina...just some pesky border guards left to outwit
Views of the Andes from a Bus..perhaps the most visually stunning bus trip I`ve ever taken (I`ve yet to get the no. 3 bus out to Ballyphehane but it`s on my to-do list)