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Argentina

The End of the World

Close Encounters of the Penguins Kind...


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That's it, the journey in South America was almost over when I finally reached Ushuaia, dubbed the End of the World city, in Argentina. After travelling thousands of kilometres from Mexico, I had finally set foot on the most southern city in the world, the closest from Antarctica. I could have carried on a little bit as there is also this village called Puerto Williams, in the Chilean part, at only a 15 minutes boat ride from Ushuaia, but technically this is only a village hosting no more than 2500 inhabitants and besides that this 15 minutes boat ride costs 125$, one-way! So let's say Ushuaia is the most southern point in America. :)

The first impression when you arrive in Ushuaia is that this town seems to only benefit from tourism. There are tons of souvenirs shops, hostels, restaurants but always at a higher price than the rest of Argentina. Everything here is dedicated to "El Fin del Mundo" and after a while your wallet starts to feel it...

I have made it!

I have made it!


Mexico, 8771 km... 6 months ago...

Mexico, 8771 km... 6 months ago...


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Ushuaia by night

Ushuaia by night

Unfortunately when we were there the weather wasn't at its best and it prevented us to visit and hike in the national park Tierra del Fuego which is supposed to offer some very nice views. However I managed to realised one of my childhood's dream, to see penguins in their real habitat! There are lots of marine wildlife around Ushuaia and it is common to spot whales, dolphins, seals, orcas, penguins, it just depends of the time of the year as most of these species are only passing by to migrate between different oceans.

But one common attraction here is as I said, to visit one of the several penguin colonies around Ushuaia. Magellanic and Gentoo penguins can be seen almost all year round, with the odd King penguin making an appearance as well. But to see Emperor penguins, one would have to hop on onto one of the cruise boats to Antarctica and spend around 15 days navigating the glacial waters, for a "small" cost of minimum 3000 US$... I guess this must also be the experience of a lifetime but that is not really an option when travelling on a budget... Well whatever, it will be for a next trip!

Ships waiting to set off for Antarctica

Ships waiting to set off for Antarctica

And after a few days spent in Ushuaia, I felt that it was now time to go back up to Chile as my flight to New Zealand was only a week away. I would then hop off on a bus, through snow and strong winds in direction of Punta Arenas (Chile), only to find out that all the ferries which make the crossing in the Magellan Strait were not running because of the strong winds blowing off that day. Fortunately after a 6 hours wait, the wind decreased and we could finish our journey to Punta Arenas.

Magellanic penguins

Magellanic penguins


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More rare though, the Gentoo penguin

More rare though, the Gentoo penguin


And even more uncommon, the King penguin, it was the only one we could spot that day. It felt like that lovely penguin had taken the wrong turn and was like: "WTF am I doing here!

And even more uncommon, the King penguin, it was the only one we could spot that day. It felt like that lovely penguin had taken the wrong turn and was like: "WTF am I doing here!


The King penguin keeping an eye on the Gentoos brooding their chicks

The King penguin keeping an eye on the Gentoos brooding their chicks


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Be careful...

Be careful...


Penguin attack! <img class='img' src='https://tp.daa.ms/img/emoticons/icon_smile.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=':)' title='' />

Penguin attack! :)


Trying to communicate with the penguins... Not that easy!

Trying to communicate with the penguins... Not that easy!


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Tree shaped by the wind on the J Road

Tree shaped by the wind on the J Road


Lots of snow on the way back, not even sure how the bus managed to go through

Lots of snow on the way back, not even sure how the bus managed to go through

Posted by manolo84 15:17 Archived in Argentina Tagged animals cities english Comments (0)

The Perito Moreno glacier


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Merry Christmas everyone!

I know I know I am now quite late behind with the blog... So I will try to catch up as fast as I can in the next days, maybe writing condensed articles with less pictures, but I have been saying this now for a while so I would better not make any promises! :)

After Mendoza and Bariloche, I arrived 28 hours later in El Calafate and with new friends met on the bus. Already the prices for accommodation and food were higher but apparently it is common knowledge that Patagonia is a lot more expensive than the rest of Argentina. Yes you read correctly, I had finally reached Patagonia, the last region on my list in South America! I didn't count all the hours spent in buses but it would be interesting to make some statistics. However Patagonia is a big region, encompassing both Argentina and Chile so a little bit more to go still...

Anyway, in El Calafate the main attraction is the majestic Perito Moreno, a huge glacier which unlike others, is still growing and advancing. I didn't know much about glaciers before seeing one, so I will just provide a bit of information for those who want to know more about this nature wonder.

Basically a glacier is a large accumulation of snow, which forms ice over years and years. The main thing for a glacier to form and grow is that the glacier has to grow larger in winter than it is receding during the summer time (ablation). And finally, because of the gravity, the glacier will slowly move downwards like water and due to the effects of pressure, some parts of the glacier at the front will fall regularly, creating small icebergs and huge cracking sounds.

That's for the very very simplified explanation of what is a glacier and on the right is a diagram showing the different glacier parts.

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The Perito Moreno is quite spectacular and a famous tourist attraction as it is one of the most accessible glaciers in the world, after just a short ride in bus, it is indeed possible to admire it and to be right in front of it. And the difference with this glacier is that the accumulation stage is more important than the melting and evaporation stage happening at the front so that's why the glacier is still growing, by sometimes up to 2 metres a day! And after a bit of thinking, we decided to squeeze some extra dollars in and do a guided tour on the glacier itself, with crampons. I have to say that the money was really worth the trip as you can judge by the few pictures below...

The right side of the glacier

The right side of the glacier


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Lago Argentino

Lago Argentino


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A bit far away, but I managed that day to capture the ice falling from the glacier

A bit far away, but I managed that day to capture the ice falling from the glacier


You feel very little in front of this wonder of the nature...

You feel very little in front of this wonder of the nature...


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The glacier from the "inside"

The glacier from the "inside"


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Our expedition

Our expedition


Matt and myself celebrating our day with a glass of whisky to warm us up... <img class='img' src='https://tp.daa.ms/img/emoticons/icon_wink.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=';)' title='' />

Matt and myself celebrating our day with a glass of whisky to warm us up... ;)


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Posted by manolo84 20:15 Archived in Argentina Tagged glaciers english Comments (0)

From Salta to Bariloche

via Mendoza


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After San Pedro de Atacama I decided to cross straight away the border to end up in Argentina, in Salta more precisely. Salta is one of the biggest towns in the north of Argentina and located at the foothill of the Andes, also surrounded by the desert. The architecture is nice, with a colonial style, but I don't know why I wasn't feeling a good vibe there. My mind was probably already thinking of Patagonia and therefore after just a day, I took another bus (22 hours...) to reach Mendoza...

And I think Mendoza is probably a more familiar name as this town (and region) is the centre of the Argentinian wine industry, for which it is world renowned. It is also located near the Aconcagua, the highest mountain outside of the Himalayas, just a few hours away by car (or bus....). The weather is good, not too hot (at least when I was there) and it seems to be a lively city where it is good to live in. And there are a few things to do when you come to Mendoza, the first one being to visit as many bodegas as you can! :) Be careful though, sun + good wine (+ food) is a lethal combination which can send you to bed by mid-afternoon! It definitely felt like being in the South of France....

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View to the Andes from the vineyards

View to the Andes from the vineyards


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The next day, I packed my small backpack and took the bus in direction of the Aconcagua National Park. We were the 14th of November and the park officially opens the 15th of November for the summer season so I couldn't get very close or even reach the first base camp of this enormous mountain (almost 7000 meters) but it was enough to have a glance at it and to tell myself that I would come back one day and make it to the top! I also had the chance to meet a nice french couple who offered me a ride back to Mendoza (and thus avoid waiting hours for the bus) and on the way we couldn't resist but to stop in a typical Argentinian restaurant to eat the local parrilla (meat grill). I think I easily ate at least 500g of meat that day...

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Condors circling in the national park

Condors circling in the national park


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bridge formed by thermal waters and minerals near the Aconcagua national park

bridge formed by thermal waters and minerals near the Aconcagua national park


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But time was running short once again and once back in Mendoza I decided to take a bus for my next stop in Argentina, Bariloche.
The bus ride was quite long (22 hours) and the landscape changes drastically between the two cities, but for the best I should say. Bariloche is a little jewel of a town which reminds a lot of several ski resorts in France. The main reason why people stop there I think is the amazing landscape as the town is located on the shores of the lake Nahuel Lapi and inside the National Park of the same name. There are a lot of outdoors activities available like hiking, horse riding, biking, kite-surfing, etc.. and I really felt it was a good place to relax and spend a few days...

Lake Nahuel Lapi

Lake Nahuel Lapi


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Stream inside the Nahuel Lapi national park

Stream inside the Nahuel Lapi national park


View from the Refugio Frey

View from the Refugio Frey


A weird shaped tree

A weird shaped tree


More waterfalls...

More waterfalls...

Posted by manolo84 00:58 Archived in Argentina Tagged mountains lakes cities wine english treks Comments (0)

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