A Travellerspoint blog

Uruguay

6.02.2013 - 9.02.2013

sunny 28 °C

Just across the river from Buenos Aires and 1 hour by boat, you have Uruguay. I’m told it’s not a spectacular country, but when so close it would be stupid not to make a stop. It’s also my gateway to the next stop, which is still unclear. The question is: Brazil or Bolivia…

My first stop in Uruguay is Colonia del Sacramento, where I only spend 1 night. It’s a small and charming town, but besides that there is not much to do. The next morning I already leave for Montevideo, only 2 and a half hours further along the coast.

Pictures Colonia...

The city center is very small and in 2 hours you have seen all historical buildings and plazas. Thank god Montevideo has more to offer: beaches! So I take some time to relax on the beach, swim and play beach volleyball with the locals. The 2nd night is the start of the carnival period in South America and we have a great party with the people from the hostel.

Maybe it’s because it was a very short period here, maybe it’s because nothing spectacular happened, maybe it’s because I’m still wasted from the party yesterday but… That’s all I have to say for now!

Oh, some side notes... After my wallet was stolen in Buenos Aires, I’m still surviving. My parents are sending me money with Western Union so I’m surviving well. And, I have finally decided to go to Brazil after all! In a few moments I’m heading for the bus to Florianopolis!

Pictures Montevideo...

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Posted by tombroekaert 10:27 Archived in Uruguay Comments (0)

Argentina

27.01.2013 - 6.01.2013

sunny 35 °C

The first stop in Argentina is Salta, where I got after a long but beautiful trip on the bus. It is a very beautiful and charming city, In the surroundings of the city, there is also a lot to see, but most of the tours visit areas similar to what I have already seen or what I’m thinking I will see later during my trip.

Pictures Salta...

Hence, and because my time is limited, I decide to leave the day afterwards already to Cachi. The bus leaves at 7 in the morning, but the road goes through a national park so I keep my eyes open for the amazing views. Mostly the road is not paved and very narrow. If this is not categorized as a dangerous road, I’m really curious about the ‘Death Road’ in Bolivia… Cachi itself is very calm and charming, but not that impressive. I decide to rent a mountain bike and explore the surroundings of the village, ancient ruins of a civilization that fought both the Inca’s and the Spaniards, and a cemetery. I do about 45km with a lot of height difference, so I’m exhausted by the time I get back. Most tourists just come during the day, so at night I find myself alone in the hostel…

The next day, I hitchhike my way south to Cafayate. There is no bus connection and you notice why: there is hardly any traffic. The few people that do pass by are super friendly. Whoever has some space left and goes in the right direction stops and gives me a lift. It’s an amazing experience, something you would never experience in a bus. I need 4 different lifts and mostly, I’m happy when all 4 wheels are still attached to the car when they drop me. The road is not paved (and all 165km I do were part of the 2013 edition of the Paris-Dakar rally) and the cars are mostly very old. I have nice conversations in the cars, but also with a police officer in a very small town – not even on the map – which tries to sell me weed and cocaine. The second half of the route is breathtaking, driving through quebradas (gorges), having volcanic rock formations rising up left and right from the car.

By 16h in the afternoon, the last lift drops me on the main plaza of Cafayate. I explore the small town and at night, we try to make a party with the people from the hostel. Unfortunately it’s Wednesday and there is not a lot going on besides live folklore music, which works as well… The next day I take a bike tour through the vineyards, in the area that is known for its Torrontés grapes, a variety which is not known in Europe, and in the afternoon I already take the bus to Córdoba

The first half of the journey is to Tucumán, where I arrive around 19h in the evening, giving me just enough time to explore the city ‘by night’. It’s perfect, as the monuments are spectacularly lighted at night and the views of the plaza, the cathedral,… are amazing. Unfortunately, my camera runs out of battery right after the 1st night picture… Although it’s evening and dark, it’s still very hot in Tucumán and I’m happy I can cool down for half an hour in the air-conditioned bus terminal before I take the night bus to Córdoba at midnight.

Pictures Cachi, Cafayate and Tucumán...

The next morning I arrive to Córdoba. After the check-in in the hostel, I leave to Villa General Belgrano, about 1h30min south of Córdoba. It’s a village that Germans founded after a battleship was sunk off the coast of Montevideo. You can tell right away, the German-style houses are all over, just like the advertisements for the yearly Oktoberfest and German or locally brewed beers, schlager music,… Of course, I cannot leave before tasting the ‘German’ beers, but it’s not my thing: way too sweet. It reminds me there must be an opportunity for making a premium Belgian beer in South America. Something to keep in mind…
Afterwards I go to Alta Gracia, a charming little town where I also visit the house where Ernesto Che Guevara grew up. I only get back to the hostel by 21h30, while the warmth is still overwhelming. I enjoy a cool shower, but it only helps for 5 minutes. Although it’s Friday, I take it easy. After the folklore party on Wednesday, the night bus on Thursday and a long & hot day today, my batteries need to be recharged…

The next day I visit Córodoba. It’s a fascinating city: mixing history and economy, noise and tranquility, locals & internationals,… If it wasn’t for the heat, I’d say this would be a sweet place to live. At night I go to Argentina’s ‘el superclasico’: River Plate vs Boca Juniors. We manage to score tickets for the sold out match at the entrance of the stadium. 2 hours before the start of the match, the stadium is almost full and people are singing already. It’s a great match with plenty of opportunities but unfortunately, ‘we’ (Bocas) lose 2-1. But the atmosphere is amazing. The fans are singing and standing by there team all match long and the referee is called ‘hijo de puta’ only once during the match. I think fans in Belgium can learn a lot…

We only get back from the match by 3h in the morning, and after a last beer in the hostel, I get a good night’s sleep. The last day in Córdoba I relax, spending some time walking around and enjoying the sun: a nice change in the otherwise busy schedule. At night I catch the bus to Buenos Aires, my last stop in Argentina. When I want to buy the ticket I notice both my debit and credit card are blocked. Thank god I can pay in dollars, but I’m running very short in cash… Unlike Peru and Chile, buses are not very punctual in Argentina and we leave almost 1h30 minutes late.

Pictures Córdoba...

The next day my cash issues are solved and I can continue without troubles. I spend 2 full days in Buenos Aires. It’s a huge city and walking around between the different sights takes time and is exhausting. I have mixed feelings in the city. It is very nice, but it could be so much more. A lot of beautiful buildings are hidden behind trees, flag poles, modern ‘art’,… And right in front of others, they have made a bus terminal. As I’m not 100% convinced, I decide to move on to Uruguay after two days already.

When heading from the hostel to the boat to Uruguay, my wallet is stolen on the subway. It’s very crowded and I’m carrying 2 bags, and I don’t even notice I was robbed until I want to pay my taxi at the boat terminal. Luckily a friendly Argentinian pays the taxi for me and later I get a little cash from an American guy. Together with the 50 euros I’ll change, I should be able to survive the first moments!
I’ve only lost about 30 dollars (I had spent all my Argentinian money because I was leaving for Uruguay), along with my credit/debit cards, my Belgian ID and driving licence. So… nothing too serious, thank god I still have my passport!

Pictures Buenos Aires...

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Posted by tombroekaert 13:24 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Chile...

20.01.2013 - 27.01.2013

sunny 33 °C

It’s been a short period in Chile, but a great one. After the long but comfortable trip from Lima to Arica, I explored the quiet and charming city. After watching a great sunset over the Pacific Ocean, I headed back to the hostel. It was only there I found out there is a 2-hour time difference with Peru and it was already close to 10pm. As I had to get up early the next morning to catch the bus to Putre, I packed my stuff and went to bed.

The next morning, the bus took me from Arica (0 m) to Putre (3.500 m). Arriving there, I met Sonja (Switzerland) and Jonas & Cécile (Sweden), with whom I spent the next 3 days with in Putre. We had a great time in the national parks (4.600 m and above), seeing magnificent landscapes with ever changing rock formations, snowy volcanoes, lakes and amazing wildlife. This time of the year it’s supposed to rain, but we were lucky and only caught some rain and even snow late in the afternoon. I was also lucky because I did not get any signs of altitude sickness. At the end of day 2 & 3, we got to relax in hot springs, relaxing the muscles and giving new energy afterwards.

Heading back from Putre to Arica, I found a direct night bus to San Pedro de Atacama: another 11h in the bus. It’s a long trip, but I love night busses. You really save a day by travelling at night and on top of that, you really have some time for yourself. A perfect moment to reflect on the previous days, filter and select the pictures, get some rest,…

Pictures Arica and Putre...

San Pedro de Atacama is a small town in one of the driest deserts in the world. When arriving, I could immediately feel the intense heat and dryness. The morning I spent exploring the town, which is very nice but unfortunately full of tourists. In the afternoon I visited Valle de la Muerte and Valle de la Luna, an amazing mix of desert and rocks in all possible colors. Cherry on the pie was a spectacular sunset over the desert. And after the sun was hidden behind the mountains, the desert showed his (her?) real beauty, making the color pallet more amazing than before.

After dinner with a Belgian/Dutch couple I got to know during the excursion, it was time for bed already, as I had to wake up at 3:50 am the next morning, to go and visit the geysers north of San Pedro de Atacama. It was hard getting out of bed, but we had a nice group and the setting was once again spectacular. A plain area full of smoking holes and geysers, together with the sunrise… It was -5,5 °C while visiting the geysers, but luckily it heated up along the day and we got to visit the hot springs (again).

At night, the goodbye drink got ‘a little’ out of hand as we went to an illegal desert party. Around 1h30 at night, everyone gathered on the streets with bottles of boose (mostly pisco and coca cola, to make piscola) and walks out of town into the desert, while the police is trying to stop everyone which is carrying alcohol in public. We got safely to the party and god knows how, but we also got home safely. I only woke up at 12h30 the next day, which made me miss my connection to Salta, Argentina. Hence I was forced to spend another day relaxing in San Pedro de Atacama. But there are worse places to get stuck for an extra day, so I enjoyed the afternoon chatting and relaxing, went to bed early and now I can really say I’m on my way to Argentina. It’s a long drive again, but the scenery is amazing: driving through the dry altiplano, spotting groups of llamas, looking at the road stretching out as far as the eye can see,…

Pictures San Pedro de Atacama...

The goal in Argentina is to get to Buenos Aires. It’s a little unsure how I will get there, but the plan I have now is visiting Salta and Cachi, then hitchhiking my way to Cafayate while doing some national parks, stopping in Túcuman and Cordoba before I go to Buenos Aires. It will take me more time than I initially had foreseen, limiting the rest of my tour. But I think it will be a great adventure and a better experience than rushing through all the typical tourist stops and big cities. I keep you posted!

Lots of love to you all,
Tom

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Posted by tombroekaert 05:52 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Goodbye Peru, hello Chile!

14.01.2013 - 20.01.2013

sunny 28 °C

After spending two weeks in Lima, the time to go has come. I have to admit I absolutely adore the city and its habitants, and in a way I’m sad having to leave. But of course, I came here to travel and in that way, I’m eager to start moving around, to travel and get to know much more about South-America.

It does feel very strange leaving the hostel after 2 weeks. In many ways, it feels exactly like 2 weeks ago, when I was leaving Belgium. The mix of leaving everything and everyone that was familiar, with the excitement towards the unknown and new adventures.

Now, I’m writing you from the bus to Tacna (in the deep south of Peru), a 20h drive from Lima. From there, it will take me about 2 hours more to cross the border with Chile, until I get to Arica. In Chile, I’m planning to visit Arica and the surroundings (incl. Lauca national park) and the Atacama desert. Afterwards, I’ll continue to Argentina.

I’m not going to make too many promises about all the other places I hope to visit. During the last days I was making the planning and there are just too many things I would like to see, but time is limited. I suggest you follow my blog and find out, together with myself, in what places I end up…

Pictures...

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Posted by tombroekaert 16:40 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Lima (2)

7.01.2013 - 14.01.2013

semi-overcast 28 °C

It’s more than a week since I’m in Lima. I can say time is flying and I even haven’t started the real traveling yet… The week was nice, taking Spanish courses in the morning and spending relaxing afternoons and evenings with people from the hostel, Felien or Carolina.
It’s summer time in Lima and this mostly means splendid weather during the day: a lot of sun, close to 30 °C but a refreshing breeze in the city. In the night, it cools down to some 20 °C, which means still perfect to go out in t-shirt but just cool enough to sleep.

The weekend started off with an amazing party on Friday evening with people from the hostel: 6 different people, 6 different countries and 4 different continents. We went to a small underground party in the house of an artist in Barranco. First there was some live Peruvian music, followed by a dj’s playing their thing. The party scene is much more exotic here. Of course, even here they play ‘gangnam style’, but mostly salsa, cumbia, reggaeton,…
This party was the perfect setting to practice some Spanish, but mostly to learn my first basic steps of salsa. I was told you can’t learn Spanish if you don’t know how to dance salsa… It’s not too difficult, but often I got slapped on my hips, meaning I should move them more. And of course, I’m far away from spinning around the girls… it is really amazing how good some of the locals can dance.
Of course, I was more than happy to teach the Peruvians the basics of ‘gangnam style’ dancing in return.

Saturday was beach time, some 40km south of Lima, with Felien and a Belgian couple also currently living in Lima. Although I spent most of the time resting in the shadow, I noticed at night I was burnt. In the evening, we drove 60km more south to Asia, where a festival with Peruvian artists was organized. The setting was great: a fancy place right next to the beach. On top of that, in the center of the place there was an artificial wave where some surfers showed their tricks during the concert. Unfortunately the place was not completely full with people, which caused there was not a real exotic atmosphere. Still, we had a good time and saw some good bands, I already downloaded some new music…

Now I have 4-5 more days in Lima taking Spanish courses, and I’m already looking forward to really start moving around! First destination will be Chile.
I know a lot of people are waiting for pictures, but they will come as soon as I start moving. Currently I’m not taking too many pictures, I’ve been in Lima already and although it’s very beautiful, I’ll fore sure go to places where I can take more impressive pictures.
Talk to you soon!

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Posted by tombroekaert 11:50 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

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