Hi all and welcome to one of the last VanBaelenGuillot blogs!
This time we'll try to tell you a bit about our great final: Argentina, a country which has been high on our visiting list this year and a country for which we were dedicated to do a big effort. As you might know, we got some delays here and there but still felt like completing our travel objectives. For some it is stupid to follow these objectives, but we had in mind to visit Argentina and would do so in the little time that rested us. We had about one month to tackle this enormous country to reach the 'end of the world' better known as Ushuaia. Now we can happily inform you that 11.000 km later, we visited Ushuaia and all the other travel highlights on our list. Now we need some time to reflect of all the things we have seen, as it has been an intense last month and a half with lots of driving.
The last time we left you at the Itaupu dam and the Iguazu falls in Brasil. This is also where we continue our story now as the legendary falls are shared by both Brasil and Argentina. A second day trip on the Argentinian side continues to amuse us, although the recent rains limited our visit to only half of the available paths - and the ones we couldn't visit were the most impressive. Nonetheless, we can't complain as we continued to be impressed. On top we had the great pleasure to run into our SwissFrench travel friends Cedric and Virginie, who happened to be in the neighbourhood. The meeting was only short as we realised we had many kilometres to do, but this was no problem as we would see each other again in Uruguay for the shipping of the cars.
Our next main stop would be the city of Cordoba, more than 1.500 km further. In order to break the journey we visit a Jesuit mission of San Ignacio, providing us further insight in why and how the Jesuits functioned. Approaching Cordoba we have a break of a few days at the Sandivares family, of which we met their son Jahir in Peru some months ago. With typical Argentinian hospitality we are invited to join the typical dish, the asado, which is a barbecue. During several days we have enjoyed the company of the family in the cozy village of Transito ending our contact with a visit to Cordoba. After we proceed direction Mendoza and the beginning of the famous highway 40 - which actually starts more in the north of Argentina, but well, you can't do everything.
Our visit to Mendoza was timed a bit unfortunate, as it turned out to be a holiday. Where our streets are extra filled with people during a holiday, the streets are empty in Mendoza and we cannot do more than visit the centre during a couple of hours and continue towards the mountains. The area of Mendoza is very famous for it's wines, so when coming out of the mountains we do a tour past some of the many wineries which can be found. Don't worry, everything went safe as there is a zero percent alcohol rule in Argentina. Two wineries later we were ready to head south following the legendary 40. This highway is the Argentinian version of route 66, a legendary road connecting the south of Argentina with it's north, following the Andes for over 5.000 km of dirt road. Not. Apparently they have paved almost the entire road during the years. Not a big problem for us as we have already done our set of bad roads and on top the views stay as beautiful, which is the most important.
One of the first stops on this road would be the city of Bariloche, which is pretty boring and ugly apart from the amazingly beautiful surroundings. 100 Km north of the city a collection of hills and lakes start to bringing us from one idyllic place to an even more idyllic spot. The are of the city itself has an elevator bringing you 300 metres up a hill which provides you with a 360 degree panoramic view of lakes and hills, truly a magical place to be!
Further south we visit a travel highlight: The Parque Nacional de los Glaciares - Glaciar park. It's northern part is home to the legendary Fritz Roy mountain chain, which is dominated by the spiky peaks of the mountain and some lakes. Although the day is short and cloudy, we enjoy the hike we can do here and head to the main attraction over 300 km south. In the southern part we find probably one of the most legendary glaciers in the world: Perito Moreno, an obligatory visit to everyone within 1.000 km from it. The glacier is endless, several kilometres wide and over 250 cubic kilometres big. It is a summary of all the glaciers in the surrounding, which again are a summary of all the snow falling in those peaks. A visit is guaranteed to be exciting as the glacier is constantly in move. It is considered to be one of the more stable glaciers in the world, but still it gets pushed forward about two metres per day, resulting in lots of ice cubes falling in the lake. To get here you need to do a considerable effort and spend a lot of money, but it is worth it!
From here we go to the furthest imaginable point away: the end of the world, Ushuaia. Many people recommended us not to go here as it is to far away and there is little to do. On top it is winter and according to some it was impossible to go there due to the quantity of snow. Well, surprise, we had good weather and it was totally doable and relatively easy. We had very little problems getting here and actually really enjoyed our visit. The village is a winter paradise with several skiable mountains, beautiful vistas, nice hikes, dog sledding and great lamb asados! What an experience it was to be at the end of the world and the end of the panamericana. Although we have never made it our objective to follow the panamericana, which starts in Alaska and is over 17.00 km long, we did drove on it during several occasions and have always considered it to be the big guiding line trough the Americas, so pretty cool to drive till the end of it.
From Patagonia we head back north in the direction of Buenos Aires, the final for Mireia. But we are not crying yet as we still have some impressive stops between Ushuaia and there.
Along the way we meet several impressive sea lion colonies only matched by what we see in Puerto Madryn, the home of the Southern Right whale during more than half of the year. A zodiac takes us together with 40 other tourist to the peninsula. We had low expectations to see anything, although we knew there were plenty of wales. We were an oversized life jacket and have a worthless place on the boat. Well, again, we were wrong. When approaching a whale we suddenly had two wales next to us, one for each side of the boat. Apparently the wales show interest in the boat and get really close. This lasts as long as the boattrip, turning out to be an expensive but very rewarding trip. In addition to the whales a trip of the peninsula can be made, but not now. Heavy rainfall has closed the other roads and has therefor made visiting impossible. We decide, on the other hand to ignore this warning and the big orange cones blocking the road and do the trip of the peninsula anyway.We come all this way for something with a 4x4 and we are sure that some mud isn't gonna stop us. Indeed, the tour was very doable, although very slippery at times. Unfortunately, the season is not the best and there was little to see.
So we continue further to the north, where we only have on stop before Buenos Aires, the city of Epecuen, a low profile tourist destination. The village originally used to be a tourist hotspot until it got flooded in the 80s. Having been flooded for over 10 years, not much of the village is left, making it again a tourist destination. Nowadays the village is like a ghoasttown and is worth a visit.
Finally, we go to Buenos Aires, where we have several days before Mireia has here flight to take. The city is really big and is a mix of some European cities like Paris and Madrid with a bit of New York - in our opinion. The amount of impressive large structures is countless and the city has many places to see. Still, we felt a bit lost. Argentina is mostly a rural country, having only 40 million inhabitants of which a third live in Buenos Aires, you are mostly alone. But the city might very well be a good preparation for a return to Europe. After a multy day visit the time had come to bring Mireia to the airport. Suddenly it came to mind that our trip had come to an end, just like that. The last weeks in Argentina had been so busy that we almost hadn't thought about it. Yeah, we were always aware of it, but with a busy agenda you never really think about it.
Ones Mireia gets her plain, Alex continues with the car to Montevideo in order to ship the car, after which he will also return to Buenos Aires to take a flight home, ready to pick up life again.
We hope you enjoy this set of pictures, more will follow but not in such quantity. Sorry about the number of dog pictures, we don't know what happened!
Lot's of love,
Alex and Mire
|The Argentinian side of the falls allows for a more close visit where you walk on top via bridges. The heavy rain of the last months wiped away some of these bridges further in the park, making it impossible to visit them.|
|Bonjour les mecs!|
|The size of the waterfalls is indescribable|
|Breaking our journey to Cordoba we visit the Jesuit mission of San Ignacio|
|And to break it further we visit the city of Santa Fe, which has a nice beer brewery. The brewery is on the right and directly feeds the bar on the other side of the street.|
|The family Sandivares, Stella, Ramon and Dario, which have welcomed us in their home for several days with great Argentinian hospitality...|
|... And an asado muy rico!|
|This time with Osmar|
|And the old train station|
|A nice church in the city|
|An absolute wonder: A Siamese dog!|
|Winter in Mendoza - looks more like autumn|
|Confirmation of the previous|
|This bridge, el puente del Inca, is a bridge formed naturally by the minerals in the thermal waters|
|A sad image: the vineyards in Maipu don't look happy in the wintertime|
|Wine barrels displayed at the Trapiche winery|
|Starting the legendary highway 40, over 5.000 km long, going from North till South|
|Searching birds at Laguna Blanca|
|Home to the black necked swan|
|We also see some kind of an eagle with it's pray: a fox!|
|Camping next to Lago Lacar in San Martin de los Andes, trying to do a nice asado ourselves|
|The vistas are not bad at all over here|
|Negrito, another dog we wanted to take with us!|
|Next lake at the routa de los lagos|
|The panoramic views on top of this hill where breathtaking|
|So that's how they look like when alive|
|Caution: Flying palm trees|
|Fritz Roy in the north of Parque Nacional de los Glaciares|
|And again from a bit more nearby this time|
|Suddenly winter really arrived in the southern part of the parc, nearby Perito Moreno|
|The majestic Perito Moreno glacier|
|Perito Moreno in full action|
|View from the boat|
|Alex, still with facial hair|
|The glacier goes until deep in the mountains, you can't even see it's beginning|
|Cooking with a few|
|Jah man, I and I no like no snow man|
|Patagonia is famous for it's lamb asados|
|At the dog sledding spot|
|Ready for some running, pulling forward some big tourists which just filled themselves at the all you can eat lambasado restaurant|
|Nonetheless, we go forward|
|A curious coloured fox|
|The end of the panamerican highway!|
|And the end of the world!|
|More of the dirtiness and we are lucky as the colour of the car makes it very difficult to see if it is actually dirty or not|
|A petrified tree, calculated to be 150 million years old|
|Waking up seeing everything is covered in snow, who doesn't love this?|
|We too, but we don't like to see that the wind has pushed in so much snow inside the car that we can make a snowman|
|This big male is having sweet dreams|
|For us these are lamas, but for the locals not, these are guanacos|
|The peninsula valdes also has some sealions, but they are so far|
|No comment required|
|Two right back whales|
|They are so close to the boat!|
|There is no dock here so all boats are put in the water with a big tractor, By the way, if you go here, try to take the submarine, even if it is twice the price the experience must be worth it!|
|A bit far from us you can see female sea elephants taking a nap|
|The village of Epecuen was flooded for over ten years|
|Nobody died when it flooded, but not all valuables could be taken away|
|Also the cemetery got flooded, hope nobody escaped|
|Bad picture, funny moment: When arriving in Buenos Aires 10 AM we see these workers in the middle of the city on a big avenue, putting a big animal (we think it was a pig) on the asado. Maybe they are just preparing lunch?|
|Not everybody was working for their lunch, this one is for our 'sleep wherever I can' category|
|The city is filled with impressive buildings reminding us to Paris, Madrid and other European cities|
|The architecture is simply impressive in most of the center|
|This old navy training boat lies at Puerto Madero and is an impressive visit|
|The Japanese garden brings a bit of peace in this busy city|
|The fly is dead, the fly is dead,...|
|This giant flower opens and closes at the beginning/end of the day|
|Everybody visiting Buenos Aires must visit the Recoleta cemetery|
|It is simply impressive to see, people really exaggerate, some of these places are bigger than a house|
|But it is a great place to wonder around for some time|
|Mafalda, a cartoon legend for the Spanish speaking in the world|
|Typical water bottles are for sale on many of the street markets|
|El caminito, located in the horrible neighbourhood of la Boca, has some colourfully decorated houses|
|It is an obligatory stop, but you must make sure not to walk away from the touristy area to much|
|Beautiful old market|
|The last meal had to be made in style|
|You have served us well jumper, now it is time for you to go|