Kayaking near Bariloche

We spent a great day yesterday on one of the rivers that heads from the lake at Bariloche to the Atlantic. Although for the day it was over £50 pounds GBP, it was worth every penny. We went with our guide and instructor called Hector, or nicknamed “Negro” to his colleagues, and his wife who was our driver and cook for lunch. They are both teachers in local schools, bith teaching physical eduction, but on the weekends take tourists on the river kayaking. I really wasn’t bothered about going rafting again, although I had enjoyed it immensely in Ecuador I had always felt that I was just part of a team of horses and there wasn’t really any skill involved. That day there was a guy in a kayak as a kind of safety backup for the rafters and that put the seed of thought in my head watching how much fun river kayaking looked!

We started out a couple of kilometres from the start of the river, suited up in wetsuits and spray tops, before being given some safety instructions and a set of things to learn that we would need to put into practice. We didn’t actually practice getting out of the upturned kayak as the water, although crystal clear and good enough to drink straight, was bloody cold! We did however know the theory, and I knew that sailing and surfing had given me enough experience in water not to panic when under it! I guessed the best method was not to turn over or fall out and that’s exactly the plan I put into action!

Being used to boats, having done some kayaking on the sea, plus a bit on rivers when I was much younger, (near Llandyssul on the Teifi River in Ceredigion), I took to it pretty fast. Lucy had done a bit before and was ok, and Tim took a little bit of time to get used to how the kayak moved and then he was fine too. The rapids were all pretty small, class 2 being the biggest and although we nearly went later in the afternoon for a harder part of the river I found it a perfect way to start. Our instructor was excellent, very patient and had interesting things to say about the river, expecially the information he told us about the proposed dam that the government want to build for hydro-electricity, but which would destroy most of the surrounding countryside, plus the tourist industry supporting rafting, kayaking and trekking.

After a good 4 hours on the river we stopped for lunch which had been prepared by Hector’s wife. After a great lunch we all managed to fall asleep, me in the shade under the tailgate of the pick up, with the two dogs for company! We all awoke about 4.30pm, as to then being too late to carry on any further as it was too late. Thankfully though all of us were so tired I think it was a blessing in disguise!

Anyway, the company was called Huali and the office is on the same road as La Esquina and Wilkenny’s Irish pub. From the gas station you will find it on the left if you head towards Wilkenny’s. The total price per person, assuming three people go is 280 peso AR, or roughly 50 quid. It is alot, and we probably could have tried to negotiate the price down a bit, but to be honest, it was worth every penny. Note however, that it is more expensive if there is just one or two of you!

A great day and caused me to sleep very soundly, which is good considering how loudly Tim snores!

Photos from Argentina

I managed to find the right combination of XP, USB and fast internet connection to be able to upload some of the photos that have been sitting on my camera for a week or so now. First set is from Mendoza with Franco and Elisa, ditto for San Rafael. I also have uploaded a couple for Bariloche, but I am sure there will be more. Today we are off to go kayaking on a river not far from here, and is supposed to have fairly sedate level 2 rapids only! Anyway, these are the new albums:

Enjoy!

Onwards to Bariloche

We left Mendoza late last night on the overnight bus to Bariloche. A mad dash, as always, ensued as my hammock had been left in the care of Franco after Guatemala and it had been stored at his parents’ house. We made it though, just in time, hot and sweaty as I have to wear my jeans or combats with trainers or hiking boots to travel as I have run out of room in my rucksack to get away with shorts and flip-flops!

Although not a fan of travelling on buses (much preferring the more gentlemanly trains), our bus was comfortable providing what is called “semi-camas”, or basically “semi-beds”. They don’t go flat but go way further than those you would find in economy class on a plane. Our first treat was a fantastic sunset over the mountains, followed closely by an equally impressive thunder storm, which must of stretched for a hundred miles over the mountains, with lightening hitting the ground every 5 seconds or so. It looked like the gods were at war!

Food and movie passed into the night and i woke up just before dawn. Brilliant reds morphed into azul blues of the night sky as the sun came up flooding the empty pampas with light. Later on in the morning we climbed up through passes viewing lakes and alpinesque rivers. The countryside here being one of vast scale and tremendous contrasts. It is so beautiful.

We arrived in Bariloche at 2pm. Not the longest trip so far, or for the future, but long enough for me to put up with. Bariloche borders a huge lake. When I mean huge, I mean huge. Not in the same ball park as Titicaca in Bolivia, but compared to anything in the UK it dwarfs it. It is so odd as a Brit to comprehend the scales involved. I probably traveled further on the bus last night than it would be possible to do if you drove north to south from John O’Groats to Land’s End. Truly baffles the mind!

We plan to do something active here, either on the lake or rivers that surround. Rafting again, kayaking (my preference) or maybe even sailing are possibilities. After a couple of days here I plan to head south again to Esquel. From there I can make one trip to Perito Moreno, possibly one of the most impressive glaciers in South America, and then to Trevelin, the only surviving Welsh community in the mountain regions of Patagonia. After that head over to Puerto Madryn and the surrounding villages and towns that make up the “Comunidad Gallese” or Welsh Communty here in Argentina. Apparently tea, scones and cream is not just a possibility, but a must!! I will have to check in the phone book for Powell’s and Morgan’s which I can go and turn up unannounced with my passport as my proof of Welshness!

Loving Argentina. Love it, love it, love it. Come visit! It’s the one must of South America!

Argentina rocks – in Mendoza

Fed up with Chile (me more than Tim) I had decided to leave Chile earlier than planned and head across the Andes to Mendoza. I had traveled for a month with Elisa and Franco in Mexico, and they had invited me to come and see them in Mendoza where they have an apartment.

Lucy, our English friend from the Secret Garden in Quito had flown down to meet us, and as soon as she arrived we left for Mendoza by bus. The journey over the Andes is fantastic, mainly for the outstanding scenery of the mountains. The border crossing was the easiest to date, with the Chilean exit and Argentinian entry combined in one neat process in a single building.

We arrived in Mendoza late, well late in British terms at 11pm, but early in Argentinian eyes. Most people don’t think to eat the evening meal until 10.30 or 11, finishing after midnight.

Drinks in bars carry on until about 4am, when they then go on to a club until the early hours of the next day. They seem to be able to cope with this style of life mainly since the afternoon being so warm means that it makes more sense to sleep from midday until about 3 or 4pm.

We stayed the first night in a nice hostel (Andinas Hostel) after the other hostel we wanted to stay in was full.

The next night we moved in to stay with Franco as they have enough room for the three of us. Currently Elisa is living back in San Rafael, 3 hours from Mendoza by car as her job is here for the moment.

View the photos from Mendoza, Argentina.

We came to San Rafael yesterday, passing through miles and miles of beautiful vineyards that reminded me of southern France. We went up to the Valle Grande which is a large valley blocked by a series of dams. The river that flows below is a popular holiday destination for Argentines, with hotels and lodges following the river all the way down. Rafting and canoeing are also popular but we haven’t got around to it yet!

View the photos from San Rafael, Argentina.

Tomorrow we will return to Mendoza and think about our next move, which will probably be to Barriloche and onwards further south. I now only have three and a bit weeks to get all the way south to see the Perito Moreno glacier that Kerstin has told me not to miss (thank you mi amor!) and then get back up to Buenos Aires. We will probably head down via the mountains and come back up via the Atlantic coast. Elisa has suggested that we can go and visit a part of the UK, i.e the Falklands, a common joke here as most Argentines consider the war as more of a political issue in the 80’s for their military government of the time. Mind you that isn’t too far removed from old Maggie Thatcher who needed to win an election too, I hasten to add!

Anyway, enjoying Argentina a lot. The prices here are vastly cheaper than Chile. The people are fantastic and very very friendly. The pace of life is perfect for me, being laid back and relaxed. I am looking forward to seeing what Buenos Aires is like too, since Kerstin loves the city.

Not much else to report. Check back in soon!