A Travellerspoint blog

Colonia, Uruguay

sunny

On line there are hardly any hostels to stay at especially at the weekends because a lot of Argentines go to Uruguay for the weekend. We started to panic a bit but hedged our bets on a hostel that didn’t have any reviews called Sur Hostel, and it paid off. It had only been open for 5 days when we got there and had been full every night. Bernado and Nikko who run it also said that they could have filled it twice over everynight if they had had the extra beds which they had ordered but not received. It is really well situated on the corner of Rivadavia just outside the old town and a 10 minute walk from the ferry terminal. The rooms were really big and not crammed at all like some dorms that we’d been in and the communal space was good too. It was a bit more expensive than normal for us but we knew that Uruguay wasn’t going to be cheap. We paid 360 pesos per person per night (30 pesos =£1) and it included breakfast too.

One night Bernardo and Nikko put on an Asado (BBQ) for everyone and it was amazing! There was a huge chunk of meat that took about 3 hours to cook and it was perfect. There were loads of veggies and churrizo sausage and really fresh bread, plenty for everyone. Again everything was cooked so slowly and definitely worth the wait!!
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And we found a beer named after Grandma!!
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The only downside to the hostel was that they were a little disorganised but that’s only because they had just opened. They didn’t have any lockers, but were waiting on them to be delivered, and not all the locks on the bedroom doors worked but they got a locksmith out straight away.

Colonial itself has a lovely old town and is a Unesco World Heritage site. Most of it is pedestrianised along the cobbled lanes. 5393710495_986f8669ff.jpg5373585230_e3efca4382.jpg5373591128_6d74862f30.jpg5373665164_4073507f1f.jpg5373236335_0477fdb59b.jpg
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It feels quite Spanish here with it’s colonial style white washed houses with shutters on the windows. The Puerto Viejo (Old Port) is now full of nice yachts and has a lovely old light house too.
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There is a restaurant called El Drugstore which is set off one of the cobbled squares and has a few really old cars set on the road which have obviously been there for ages with grass and trees growing inside them. One of them has been turned into a really cosy table for 2!!
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The next part of the trip was really tricky to decide on. We wanted to go up the coast through Montevideo and through to Brazil but a combination of things made us change our minds. It is their summer holidays so everywhere is busy and mostly full and also hikes up the prices enormously. And in fact our decision to go inland through Uruguay and up to Iguazu Falls instead was probably the best decision considering. But we were really disappointed that this meant that we weren’t going to Rio on this trip. So with a lot of help from Bernado we organised a few days at an Estancia called El Silencio…….

Posted by downbhoy 16:00 Archived in Uruguay Comments (0)

Buenos Aires

Coming in to Buenos Aires was timed really well with the Dakar!! Loads of lorries, cars and bikes were returning to the city after so many legs of racing around the desert. For about 100km before BA the motorway was lined with thousands of fans. They were all on ther verge, central reservation and bridges mostly set up with picnics and flags waiting for the return of the vehicles. It was quite a spectacle!!
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We got a really good location in our hostel, right near the Obelisk, and quite appropriately named Hostel Obelisco! Here we joined the Hostel International club so that we now have a discount card for all the other hostels which are part of the same group. In our 6 bed dorm we met a lovely guy called Walter who was visiting from Chile. He had such a good sense of humour and was really funny.
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We went our for steak (there seems to be a running theme here in Argentina….!) and sure enough it was amazing!!!!! Then we sat under the Obelisco and just chatted about various things and put the World to rights.
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The next day the 3 of us went to do the walking tour that the LP had suggested, but it didn’t turn out quite how we had expected!! We made it to the Plaza de Mayo which has a small obelisco which was built on the anniversary of BA’s independence from Spain. This square attracts lots of protests these days especially ‘Mothers of the Missing’ and Human Rights.
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The Casa Rosada is on this square which are the Presidential offices. The reason it is pink could be due to an attempt of peace in 1868-1874 when it was painted pink (Red=federalists, white=unitarists. Another theory is that it is painted with bovine blood which was common practice in 19th century! Oh and also Madonna sang from here in her Evita days!!
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As it was Sunday we headed to the markets to see what we could pick up, it was all the way down one of the long roads off of Plaza de Mayo. There were loads of different stalls from clothing to paintings to nicknacks to food.
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All of a sudden it went really dark and the street lamps came on and everyone started shouting ‘lluvia, lluvia’ ‘rain,rain’! and then the winds came whipping through the cobbled street taking with it paintings and trying to take with it the little gazebos over the stalls. We had to help one stall hold down his gazebo otherwise it would have been gone!! There were things flying everywhere! Stall owners were hastily gathering up all their wears and packing them into boxes and bags because the next thing we know the heavens opened!!!!!!
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We ran under a corner of a shop and it was there that we met Alejandro, a churro seller. We were stuck there until the rains eased a bit but that was probably about 1 ½ hours!! Just chatting away, and Walter would help us out if we were stuck with the translation!! And it would have been rude not to have tried his dulche de leche churro (sweet batter fingers fried in oil and then dulche de leche squidged into the middle (dulche de leche is like caramel but really really sweet)).
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So when we finally were able to go anywhere we headed to the pub which was recommended to us called Kilkenny’s but after walking for miles and miles it was shut!! So we went into a random pirate pub to dry off for a few before walking back to the hostel where they had made homemade pizzas which were beautiful!!5453862182_a21fdee1c1.jpg

George and Ruth came over from Mendoza while we were in BA which was lucky for us because we left our laptop cable in Mendoza so they came baring gifts!! It was good to catch up with them again. One night we went to see the Tango in San Telmo which was really good. The square was quite pretty too. I think it is one of a few places that you can see tango for free as some hotels offer a stupid price for dinner whilst watching the dancing, so we were very lucky.
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We needed to book our boat over to Uruguay (its a lot quicker than driving around) so we went to the Buquebus (ferry terminal) to buy them. Our ferry ended up costing 147 pesos to Colonia and would take 3 hours. Very excited about Uruguay.......

Posted by downbhoy 09:41 Comments (0)

Mendoza, Argentina

sunny

After our fill of Santiago we head to Argentina to Mendoza. The bus took 7 hours and cost 12000 Chilean pesos. However we get dropped off at a ridiculous hour but it’s ok because we have reserved a hostel called Punto Urbano hostel, so it’s ok…..or so we think…!
We had phoned this hostel about 5 times between us to make sure that it was ok that we were arriving at 0430. They assured us that it would be fine and that we didn’t need to book, but we did anyway and thought nothing more of it. But guess what?! There was no room at the Inn when we arrived! So our taxi man suggested a few more hostels and they were all full. After I had gone into the hostels to ask about availability they taxi driver must have thought I was messing around or something so then he went and asked the next load of places. 7 hostels later and we were getting desperate! I had even seriously considered sitting on the park bench just for a few hours and then going to hostels again in the morning!!!! Luckily though on hostel number 7 we asked if it was possible to stay on the sofa because we were really struggling to find anywhere!! And they said that was fine! Hooray!! So we get our heads down for a bit until everyone starts getting up for breakfast or checking out and then we get a dorm! So if anyone needs a hostel in Mendoza we would highly recommend Hostel Independencia right near the main Plaza, it was 48 pesos each per night (£1=6 pesos) with breakfast included.

We met Ruthie and George here who had been biking around for a good few months and were heading back to Buenos Aires to put Georges bike on a boat to take it home. Ruth had already sold hers in Chile the week before. Hats off to them both though- George had driven from Alaska all the way down to Argentina in 5 months. Ruth had only just passed her bike test a few weeks before coming over to Chile 3 months ago and then they arranged to meet up and do a few months biking around. Sounds amazing.
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Next day we did the Mendoza wine tour. We got the local bus out to Maipu which cost 1.80 pesos and took about 45 minutes. When we got off the bus there were a few touts there wanting us to hire their bikes for the day. ‘Bikes and wines’ won our vote at 15 pesos each with a glass of wine thrown in before we set off!! First stop along the 12km stretch was La Antigua which made chocolates, grew olives and Darren sampled the Absinthe for breakfast!! Next stop was the furthest one away called Familia di Tomasso which was lovely. We took our time getting here and had lunch with a bottle of Rose which was nice! We did the tour here which wasn’t bad either except we were a bit annoyed that the same bottle of wine if you bought it from the cellar was 20 pesos less but you couldn’t drink it on the premises!!
The main road in Maipu is long and straight but very very busy, not like being in the countryside at all, we had trucks, lorries and buses whizzing past us even though there was a cycle lane it wasn’t what we thought it was going to be.
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Next Bodega on the list was Trapiche, very popular in Argentina set in some very impressive grounds. Malbec seems to be the grape of choice around here and they say you cant get a bad bottle of it.
Next was a beer garden which was very hippyey and very laid back. Was nice just to sit and cool down for a while.
Before we new it it was 7pm and had to get the bikes back!!
I think we got a good deal because we heard of some people paying 50 pesos for the day which included taxi out to Maipu and hire of the bikes. We did the same but with the local bus and it cost us 18.60 pesos each! Bargain!
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A lot of people come to Mendoza and use it as a base to hike up Aconcagua a huge mountain which takes several days to get up and down and can be really dangerous. The weather over Christmas was so changeable that some hikers got caught out and had extremely bad exposure with pulmonary oedema and all sorts. They were the lucky ones as they rested at our hostel, but they looked like someone had taken a blow torch to their faces, it was awful. Sadly with this weather though some hikers didn’t make it back down to the bottom. With this in mind we were horrified when a 16 year old Japanese guy wanted to do it unguided!!!!! Of course they wouldn’t give him a permit without parental permission so he waited as posted off the form for his parents to sign and send it back. However the authorities still didn’t want him to do it alone and he refused to take a guide so the guys at the hostel were really good and gave him alternative hills to venture up which weren’t as huge as Aconcagua. But this guy was tiny not a pick on him and he left with a 120 litre pack on his back and a 60 litre on his front!!!!! Thought he was going to snap in the middle!!

After Mendoza we had a really tricky decision to make- go south to Patagonia or go East to Buenos Aires. It was a really tough call but we felt that time restrictions were against us and we wouldn’t be able to do Patagonia justice to that is another trip for another day. So we head over East….

Posted by downbhoy 08:51 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Rosario

Argentina

sunny

It was an overnight bus to Rosario so we arrived at about 8 in the morning. Our hostel was called Hostel de la comunidad and the staff were really friendly and helpful. The hostel was on 1 level but was up 2 storeys, the rooms were so tall and airy though and there was a nice patio/outside bit near the kitchen.
We did a lot of walking in Rosario but it was just so hot it wasn’t always pleasant! We walked to one of the Museums which was miles away from where we were staying but when we got there at 230pm it was shut!! Opening hours were 1-2pm!! How ridiculous is that!? It was a bit of an eye catcher though. It used to be a flour mill or something and had hugely tall tanks which had all been painted really bright colours. It sat on the river side but this didn’t really make it look any prettier though because the river water is so brown and murky looking!
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We also wanted to go to the Observatory but again after a really long walk we got there and it was closed!! After all the hype of seeing a show which neither of us had seen before we were quite deflated.

So not sure what to make of Rosario….except the beef was good!! We cooked it ourselves after using sign language to the butcher in the local supermarket (because I havent got a clue what all the different cuts are called and was getting thoroughly confused!)but eventually we get some really nice steaks and have a bit of veg with them and a bottle of Malbec or it could have been Cab-Sav possibly!
So next stop is Buenos Aires.
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Posted by downbhoy 08:46 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Santiago

sunny

A 4 hour flight from the very relaxed Easter Island landed us in Santiago. We had heard it was quite a smoggy place but were pleasantly surprised, it really wasn’t that bad. A hair raising taxi ride from the airport (11,000 pesos) took us to a hostel which was recommended to us by a guy on Easter Island. It was called Chilli Hostel and was in the Providencia region of the city. We were in a 9 bed dorm which was a nightmare!! Rustling plastic bags and zips being undone and done up a thousand times are now our new pet hate at 6 o‘clock in the morning when someone is leaving, especially after being woken up at stupid oclock by 18 year old Dutchmen coming back after a night out! How old do we sound!! But it had a nicely decorated wall or 2 in the sitting room full of wine bottles!!

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We walked for miles in Santiago! Plaza de Armas is the main square in the city and it was really busy especially after work. We got talking to a load of older locals who come there every day to play cards, chess and watch the world go by. They were such characters!! All very arty or musical. Lucia Pinochet was our favourite, a retired dancer who had travelled the world and had photos to prove it!! She gave Darren a Spanish lesson as she was reading the paper, a very kind lady.
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There was also a brass band playing in the band stand which was lovely!
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The Cathedral on the square was very impressive and nice and cool inside!
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The Museo Historico Nacional was also on the square and had the history of Chile upto the 1973 military coup but nothing later. Although there were loads of startling photos taken at around that time which were displayed in the courtyard there.
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The Central Market is full of fish and restaurants. Infact all the restaurants seemed to be full at lunch time which is about 2 hours long during the siesta.
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The old Mapocho train station across the road is now used as an events arena. Damage after an Earthquake made it unsafe and it stood all empty for ages until it was restored a few years back and now it used as a cultural centre as well as a concert venue.
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A bit of a walk away is the Palacio de la Moneda guarded by men in uniform. It was originally the official mint (moneda=mint) when it was built in late 18th century. Opposite the palace is the Plaza de Constitucion which houses a huge Chilean flag and a statue of President Salvador Allende who was overthrown here in 1973.
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Bellavista is a lovely part of town with bars and cafes lining the streets. We sat for a while in the Plaza Caupolican which is at the bottom of the Parque Metropolitan which is where the 14m high Virgen de la Immaculada Concepcion is. You can see this from nearly everywhere in the city.

Posted by downbhoy 12:13 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

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