I am gonna have to do something I don`t really like doing which is writing a short article summarising very lightly all the incredible places I have been the past week. At some point, hopefully, I`ll get some more time to write more about each of these places which are each truly amazing in their own ways. So much to tell you about them, so much I wanna write, so many photos I wanna share! But I am about to finally get to Patagonia where I hope to spend the next and last 6 weeks and 2 days of this South American trip and for once, I wanna be up to date with this blog which is never an easy task. So here we go for the summary. Here is a map showing where those 5 places are.
Saturday 31st October 2015
We went to visit the Itampu Dam in the morning. It got built in the seventies and in order to built it, 40,000 people were moved and a huge area was flooded. People say that this area used to have more waterfalls than Iguazu does! There is so much to talk about about this Itampu Dam that I definitely hope I find the time at some point to write a special article just about it.
The guided visit of the damn was 2h30 and finished at 12.30pm. After that, we went back to the hotel and chilled until 4pm. Then a driver working with the hostel drove us to the Brazilian exit checkpoint then to the Argentinian entry checkpoint and then to the airport. Chris and Manuela`s flight to Buenos Aires was at 6.50pm and mine to Buenos Aires too at 7.45pm.
It was only 4.30pm when we arrived at the airport. I went to the LAN counter and asked if by any chance, I could go on their 6.10pm flight instead of my 7.45pm flight. She checked and said yes, no problem, and changed my ticket for the 6.10pm without asking for any change fee. That was sooo cool. I love LAN. 🙂
From the plane, a bit before to land in Buenos Aires, there was this gorgeous sunset. My 2 neighbours were a couple from Cordoba who were really friendly. I took a photo of the Boca stadium for the man with his smartphone when we were
about to land and he was sooo happy. He was like a child. I like when people can have this child in them waking up making
them soooo excited about something!
As the hostel Manuela and Chris had booked was full, I had booked another one called Estoril hostel. I found a shuttle bus going to the centre called Arbus and took it to Centro then walked for 20 minutes to the hostel. It was Halloween and I saw from the dorm`s window the rollerblade ride passing by with many people in Halloween`s costume. I thought about the Friday night 10pm Paris rollerblade evening I used to go with my friends Benjamin and Xavier and wondered if the rollerblade ride there had done the same thing the night before!
Sunday 1st November 2015
I will start by saying something I keep thinking on the 1st of each month: How come time flies so fast?? What, we are already in…November???!!!! Voila. 🙂 In the morning, I met a cool Irish guy who has a blog in which he writes with lots of talent. I really loved in particular his description of the women of La Paz! Check it out!
It was Sunday and I was in Buenos Aires. A Sunday. That was lucky. Sunday is the day of the Calle de la Defensa market. This is the street in which I had taken many photos of people when I came to Buenos Aires 10 years ago. Jeeeezzzzz…10 years ago, already! Or 9 years and 8 months as it was in March 2006. At the time, I was studying in Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA for a year and March was Springbreak time. When I was 15 years old, my dad almost got a job in Buenos Aires. We would have moved there. I remember how as a teenage I had been very excited and at the same time pretty anxious to say good-bye to my friends and my life I was used to. But I had started dreaming about Buenos Aires. But ultimately it had not happened. So while in Michigan, a friend of mine had a friend working at United who had a few spare stand-bye tickets he could give away and thanks to him I got to finally go check out Buenos Aires for 8 days at the time, in 2006. It is hard to describe, but I have a connection with Buenos Aires similar to the one I have with London. My eyes gets constantly attracted by its people more than the pretty architecture of buildings and leafy streets which make you feel you are walking in Paris. 10 years ago, I was not into Street Photography anymore, that I got into in 2010. But somehow, most of the photos I took were of the People of Buenos Aires. I made a series of them and published a self-made book on lulu.com and amazon which has probably being made unavailable by now. You can still see the series of portraits of Buenos Aires here on Flickr:
Being back in Buenos Aires 10 years later, I wanted to photograph the people of the city “10 years later”. Saying that, I would have needed 8 days again to do something consistent. A day and half was just not enough. While walking Calle de la Defensa again, I noticed 2 interesting changes. One, what was being sold seemed to me much more “made in China” that it used to be, much more touristy. And two, Mafalda, a really cool Argentinian comic strip character, had become very popular, to the point they had built a bench and put a statue of her, and people were queuing up to take photos of themselves with Mafalda. Funny. Here is a picture of Calle Defensa.
I like this shot of this man showing a photo album to a woman who is laughing remembering good memories when looking at it. It was like me that morning going through the photos I had taken 10 years before, laughing at some shots of the past.
There was a football game happening in La Boca neighbourhood between La Boca and Tigre and the atmosphere in the streets was crazy. Argentina is having presidential elections on the 6th December 2015 and it was interesting to see how the candidates to the Presidential were using football to gain popularity.
In the evening, I met a Corean girl at the hostel and we went to see a documentary about Patagonia called Yenu Kade which was pretty interesting. Then we grabbed some street food and went back to the hostel.
Monday 2nd November 2015
I did some logistics in the morning. I bought a second external drive so I could do a copy of the external drive I carry with me which would contain all the photos of the past 4 months that I could give to my parents 2 days later before they flew back to France. I found that in Gallery Jardin which was the spot where there were a double dozen of shops selling that. It was so interesting to try to withdraw money in several banks before to manage in one and to see 50 people queuing up at some ATMS to be able to withdraw. You can only withdraw 1,000 argentinian pesos at the moment, this is crazy. Something wrong going on with the money in Argentina at the moment. Inflation also is huge. After buying the x-drive, I walked to the English books library where I got “The Old Patagonian Express” from Paul Theroux and “In Patagonia” from Bruce Chatwin. Yeah!!! I had started both books while in Australia but as I had not finished them, I wanted to start them again. Then I sat in a cool cafe where I had some nice lunch and then I went walking around a little bit in the Recoleta Cemetery. There was a sun halo again, like the one I had seen in Arequipa. It created cool effects when taking photos inside the cemetery!
After that, I headed back to the hostel, grabbed my bag, walked to the Arbus stop and got into the bus again going to the domestic airport. I took the 5.45pm plane to Mendoza. It wasn`t that much an interesting flight. Got there around 7.30pm. Got into a taxi. Got to a hostel called Los Empredarios which was pretty cool. At the reception, as soon as I arrived, I met with Mira and Perihan, 2 German girls and a friend of them from Bermuda islands. We chatted for a bit while they waited for
their taxi to get back to Santiago by plane and said we would try to meet there. Then after they left, I met Lisa, an Irish girl who had just arrived from Bariloche. We left our bags in the dorm room and went for dinner. Lisa had been travelling for 5 months and didn`t really know when she would stop! So cool! She was heading to New Zealand and planning to be in Sydney for Christmas and then travel Australia. After dinner, we came back to the hostel and chatted with a group of 5 English people from London and 1 Dutch girl. We asked them if they had cycled to wineries yet and said we were keen to take the local bus, rent some bikes and go the next day. They told us that a week before, two Irish girls doing that had been mugged by a guy on a motorbike who had stolen everything from then. Right…Ok. We decided that knowing that, it wasn`t worth taking the risk. We asked them if they wanted to join but they had other plans. As they were all going horse-riding the next day, I enrolled for that while Lisa preferred to do the half-day wine tour.
Tuesday 3rd November 2015
The breakfast was awesome. There was a legend there, Claudia, making crepes for all of us. Cutest crepe ever.
I met an American girl whose name I forgot to ask (crazy how we always ask how long are you travelling for, and where have you been so far, and long more are you travelling and tell each other travel stories but often forget to ask hey by the way what is your name!?). She was from Arizona and super cool. She was working as a wildlife biologist and travelling South America since 10 months already, having spent about 3 months in Colombia, 2 months and half in Ecuador, 2 months in Peru, a few weeks in Bolivia. I asked my usual question: Do you have a blog? I was really keen to read it. But sadly, she didn`t. We walked to the free guided tour of Mendoza together. She told me a crazy story, she experienced the “mustard trick” I had heard so much about but I had not met yet anyone to who it happened. When she was arriving from a 15-hour bus in Antofogasta in the North of Chile around midnight and walking up the stairs in the terminal to go catch another bus, someone poured some water on her leg. She was so tired she actually didn`t even feel or pay attention to it. A friendly local girl arrived and told her: “Hey, you seem to have something on your leg, let me help you clean it. Ah wait, maybe put your bag down, it will be easier.” That girl drew her attention away for a few seconds, and a guy went pass without her noticing and grabbed her bag. When she turned back, the bag was gone. At the same time, the local girl had told her: “That`s it, you are all good now, see you” and had disappeared. Interestingly, she didn`t know about this trick so she looked for the local girl and found her and went to her and asked her: “Hey, my bag got stolen. Did you see anything?” The local girl looked surprised that she had found her and said “No, didn`t see anything and disappeared, for good this time.” She lost a small camera, her computer, the x-drive with all her photos, and a few other things. Crazy story.
We arrived at the plaza meeting point and waited to start the tour. There a couple of people from our hostel and from other hostels joined. Pili, the girl doing the tour introduced us to the history of Chile, to the various spots of Mendoza. It was really
interesting. Do you know who San Martin was? she started. Well, he was the guy who liberated us from the Spanish along with Simon Bolivar. And do you know why there are so many squares in Mendoza? So that when there is an earthquake, people can gather to these squares easily. And so on. It was an awesome tour and she was incredibly good at keeping our attention on and telling us about the city. At some point we went to the top of a building and had a pretty nice view of Mendoza.
With the American girl, I went to buy my bus ticket for Santiago for the next morning 9am first and then we had some lunch on the plaza. It started pouring rain and we got a bit soaked by the time we reached the hostel. Luckily it stopped soon. We got ready for the horse riding. A minivan picked 12 of us up and off we went. The place where we did the horse riding was really great. It was managed by Caroline, a girl from Belgium and her Argentinian partner Javier. There was a French couple volunteering there, Barbara and Julien. The horse ride was really nice. Javier first showed us how to hold the reins the way the gauchos do it, the reins in one hand and the second hand free.
I had a horse called Chocolate who was responding well and I galloped for a bit. The pleasure of galloping in such a beautiful countryside! Here is a shot of us horse riding there.
After the horse ride, I gave a hand in the kitchen while chatting further with Caroline, Barbara and Julien. It was really great to share stories and learn more about their ownv crazy adventures. We had an awesome asada barbecue with the group made of the American girl, A kiwi couple and several English people, the Dutch girl and me. Then we went back to Mendoza. I browsed through the books offered for exchange and found a guide about Patagonia and bought it. I was super excited as there were a few cool maps in it. We all caught up with Lisa who had had a great half-day wine tour. In the dorm had arrived a French couple who was very cool. The girl was working in an eco-friendly company focuses on long-term sustainability while the guy was working for Open Knowledge, a London-based company into Big Data for small businesses and doing data science. The website of the company he works for is pretty interesting http://www.okfn.org They were travelling for a year around the world but he could still work from anywhere, which means he is what has been named recently a digital nomad, super cool!
Wednesday 4th November 2015
I woke up and looked at my GPS-alarm clock and it said..8.39am. While my bus was at 9am. I had put an alarm for 7am. Somehow it didn`t work and I slept in. Mendoza was actually a place where we slept really well! I ran to the brekky area and saw Claudia and asked her what time it was. She said 7.39am. I had not updated the time and my GPS was still on Iguazu Brazilian time. Luckily it was just that! I got ready, had an awesome crepe Claudia only knows how to make, and got a taxi to the bus terminal. There I took the 9am bus to Santiago. The journey by bus from Mendoza to Santiago is reputed to be beautiful because you go through the Andes. That day it was pretty rainy and foggy so it wasn`t probably as good as it could be on a sunny day, although We did go through some snowy sections like this.
I arrived in Santiago around 3.30pm and got a taxi to the apartment my parents had booked for a night located near Santa Ana tube. They had not arrived yet so I waited in a cafe nearby in which there was WiFi. They arrived about an hour later. Their plane from Punta Arenas to Santiago had been delayed because of a crazy 100km/h wind which had slowed down the loading of the luggages into the plane. We got the keys to the flat and chilled out. I unpacked all my bag and went through every single item and got rid of about 2 kilos of stuff. A box of too many contact lenses, a few first aid kit stuff I felt I would not need, the silk sleeping bag which had been handy in the jungle that I would keep if I was going again there but that I would not need for Patagonia, and a few other items like this. Here is the shot of all those little things.
Time flied and it was already 8pm so we walked nearby and found a nice place for dinner. When zooming in on my phone on Google Maps I could zoom on Patagonia even if I had no connection. It was very handy. We spent the evening talking about Patagonia where my parents had just spent 3 weeks and looking at the map so I could understand their itinerary. Pucon, Puerto Montt, boat to Puerto Chacabuco, day boat to see the glacier of the Laguna San Rafael, bus to Coyhaique then Chile Chico. Bus to El Calafate through the east coast of Argentina because the direct bus going south was only going certain days of the week. Perito Moreno next to El Calafate. Tourist bus through Puerto Natales to go directly to Torres del Paine. Bus from there to Puerto Natales then to Punta Arenas. Flying back Punta Arenas to Santiago. I could feel that 3 weeks was not enough, and that even the 6 weeks I wanted to spend there would not be enough either! After dinner, went to bed!
Thursday 5th November 2015
We went for the free walking tour of Santiago in the morning from 10am to 1pm which took us through a lot of markets.
And also to the cemetery which is really huge and maintained as the Recoleta cemetery in Buenos Aires. We learned about the local saint called Romualdito who was a young orphan selling snacks in the streets and got murdered. He was young and innocent and died tragically. When he was burried, people who knew him came to his tomb to ask for favours and then would bring a plate thanking him if their wishes had been granted.
After the tour, we had a drink called Terramotto in a bar with the group. It is made of white wine, pineapple juice and grenadine. After that, we went for lunch in a nice cafe and had massive salads. Then we headed back to the hostel. My parents grabbed their bags and before we knew it, they were already in the taxi, waving good-bye, off to the airport to fly back to France. I hanged around in the cafe where I had waited for them to get out the Bolivia-Brazil bus journeys
and Iguazu Brazil articles. The connection was slow so I grabbed my bags and moved to another cafe with better connection. Around 7.30pm, I headed to the tube and went to meet Lluis at his place. He had arrived in Santiago on the Sunday and started working on the Monday in medicinal plants advisory to patients who have various health issues and want to change their diet to improve their health. Shortly after, two friends of him arrived who were staying with him that evening too and off at 3am to Torres del Paine. One of them was actually a really good friend of a girl who was a really good friend of a girl friend of Lluis and that`s how they had got in touch. So it was funny to think that Lluis and Pedro had never met because they seemed to already know each other! We went to check out the view of Santiago from the top of the building in which Lluis was staying which was pretty beautiful. The tower in the background is the tallest of Chile and is actually nicknamed Mordor as at night it can look a bit frightening like it!
Then we just spent the evening chatting, eating and having some beer and wine.
Friday 6th November 2015
While Lluis headed to work, I headed to the bus terminal to catch the bus to Valparaiso. There are buses every 15 minutes so I just arrived, grabbed a ticket and was in the bus of 9.31am shooting off within 10 minutes. I arrived in Valparaiso bus terminal and took a micro, a small bus from the street behind the terminal. I arrived at the top of Alemania street corner with Cirilo Armstrong and walked down Cirilo Armstrong and arrived at the hostel called Nido del Caminante that Paul and Manue had recommended in their blog T`as quoi sous ton poncho. I met with Andreia, the Chilean girl who has this hostel with her French boyfriend Vincent. I dropped the bag and walked towards the centre and had some nice lunch which started with an artichoke.
Then I walked around to find white gas, called bencina blanca for my stove so I could use it in Patagonia. Better find it there than when I would arrive in remote Patagonia. I went to the Shell station and the guy said that the Super 97 could be the closest thing to what I was looking for but that he was not recommending it as this was for cars. He suggested to go check some Ferretarias so I checked 2 of them but they didn`t have any white gas and didn`t know where I could find that.
During that errand, I ran into 2 graffers who have graffed lots of walls in the city with the same type of colourful faces, they are called Sami and Cynthia. It was awesome to see graffers at work.
I stopped for a coffee and then went on the graffiti tour at 3.30pm which went on until 6pm. I met there Kate from Melbourne who had been travelling since mid-June and wasn`t sure when she would stop. The graffiti tour was really awesome and we saw lots lots of various graffs from various graffers. Here is one view of Valparaiso during the day. I took hundreds of photos of the graffs also. More photos to come in a more detailed article just about Valparaiso, later!
After the tour, the guide Rodrigo was heading to Palanco hill so we went with him on the micro and went to check out a few more graphs. I asked him where I could find bencina blanca and he said that I should try the shop called Easy and showed me where it was. After our walk around Palanco, Kate and I went for errands. There were so many little things I needed. We stopped first at Easy, which turned out to be a shop similar to Bunnings in Australia where one can buy Shellite which is
white gas for stove. I did find bottles of bencina blanca and bought 2 bottles of 1L in case I could not find them in Patagonia. I was super happy to have found it!
Then we were sent to several places until the final one in La Polar where I could buy an Entel sim card and recharge it for a month. Rodrigo had told me to get Entel rather than Claro or Movistar because the network coverage is better. Yeah, I had a sim card of the country again! Could be on what`s app anytime again. Awesome! We also went for some more errands and I bought baby wipers I could use for the hiking days with no showers, an additional small bottle of contact lens product,
a USB portable charger for the phone. Finally I got one!! It is a very cute rectangle cube box. We also stopped at the bus terminal where I bought a ticket for Pucon for the next evening and Kate confirmed the time for her bus ticket. After that, we went for dinner and had an awesome fried Merlow and some white wine. Then went back pretty late to our respective hostels. Here was a view of Valpo at night.
Once back at the hostel, I had a cool chat with Andreia, Vincent and 2 girls and a guy volonteering at the hostel. Andreia and Vincent had a plumbing problem with the toilets and closed the terrace as the smell was getting too bad. We joked for a long time about that toilet issue and how we would have to find solutions when needing to do number 2. 😀 Then went to bed pretty late.
Saturday 7th November 2015
In the morning, I had a chatty brekky with two girls from France who were sisters and travelling 14 more days only on a 3-week trip and were trying to cram in as much as they could. We talked about the logistics of them going to San Pedro de Atacama then Uyuni, Potosi, Sucre, La Paz, Titicaca and back to Santiago within 14 days. Sure it was feasible but a pretty crazy schedule. They decided to change their bus ticket to San Pedro de Atacama for a flight ticket and to skip La Paz and Titicaca and keep that for another time. I also chatted with Laurent and Chloe who have been travelling the world for 9 months now and have a blog here: http://chloelolo.blogspot.cl
Then I got picked up at 10.45am by a van for a day tour. As Kate had booked that and told me about it, I thought it could be interesting and had what`s apped the agency the day before to join the tour. We picked up Kate from her hostel afterwards. In the bus were only South American tourists which was pretty cool. A father and mother from Quito, Ecuador visiting their son who was working for a year in the Santiago`s police before to come back. A guy from Costa Rica. A father, mother and
brother from Venezuela who were visiting son and wife living in Santiago with their son, and a couple living 2 hours south of Santiago. And Kate and me. That was really cool! We went around starting with the harbour where we saw sea lions.
From the harbour we could see the various hills of Valparaiso which is built on 42 different hills.
We continued and went around. We had lunch in a sea food restaurant from which there was a superb view.
We finished at Vina del mar, the city nearby. We had a quick stop at the beach.
Then we saw the famous clock which was given by Switzerland after a football game.
We finished the tour around 6.30pm. All South Americans stopped in Vina del mar bus station where they took a bus back to Santiago. The guide dropped Kate at the Valparaiso`s bus station and he dropped me at the hostel around 7pm. I was pretty flat out and just went to buy some empanadas and came back and hate them and chilled out all evening, chatting with Laurent, Chloe and Helene, another French who was staying in my dorm too and was also heading to Pucon the next evening.
Sunday 8th November 2015
I had a grand plan of going to visit the Pablo Neruda`s house called La Sebastiana in the morning but I just lingered around a lot at breakfast chatting with people. There were 2 other French people (so many French in that hostel!) who had arrived the night before and were only on week-ends. Andreia had been working in finance and audit in big companies and realised it was meaningless to her and moved to Santiago to work in small NGOs helping them with the financing. She was working with two of them, one which making sunglasses out of wood and the other one out of fishing nets. There are lots of fishing nets polluting the ocean so recycling them into something is a pretty good idea. I was intrigued to find out how you can make solid sunglasses out of fishing nets though! The French guy Mathieu had been 2 months only in Santiago and was creating his start-up to help out photographers of Santiago for them to get more business by developing a concept where the photo session would be free and the people who came for it would be able to select the photos they liked and pay per photo rather than a fixed price upfront. He had created a webpage already that he was planning to develop further. The webpage is http://welovepix.com
Watch that space!!
It was really interesting to chat with them and see people again like Phil Buck exploring further the land of dreams, human boundaries, innovation and entrepreneurship in a practical sense. I ended up lingering around until 11am, then packing my bag to check out and then going to buy some veggies and fruits to make a salad and a fruit salad for the barbecue. I came back and Chloe and Odile spontaneously proposed to help make those salads which was great as we went three times faster. Helene had gone out to get some wine and came back and added a few oranges and helped us too. The guys meanwhile were cooking big chunks of meat on the barbie and had made some mayonnaise and cooked potatoes to make a potato mayonnaise salad too. We ate around 2pm and were a dozen of us. It was a really nice Sunday barbie, this hostel did feel like home!
After that, with a Mexican girl also staying in my dorm, we walked about an hour to La Sebastiana, all the way on the Alemania street taking photos of as many graffitis as we could. We got there at 4pm, bought our tickets which included an audio guide and visited the house of the poet Pablo Neruda which was one of the three houses he had. Beside being an poet, he was a collector and an artist. He loved life, great food, great chats with friends and looking at the sea. His house was the perfect spot to work with an incredible view of Valparaiso and the sea and get inspired.
We came back with a micro. I tried to do a few more dropbox photos backup. Then with Helene we cooked a quick dinner of pasta, carrots, broccolis and omelette. Then it was 8pm, we grabbed our bags and walked down to the plaza. After 3 days of white cloudy sky, the sun was finally shining!
We grabbed a micro bus and headed to the bus terminal. There we waited in front of the dozen platforms, hoping to not miss the bus.
In the evening…off to Pucon, the entry door to Patagonia!!!! Finally!!!!