Argentina and Chile
November 18th to December 15th 2000
Saturday, november 18'th
Nice, quiet and uncomplicated deperture from Billund to Schiphol Amsterdam. I will spend my weekend in Amsterdam which is more fun than Vejle. I put most of my luggage in a locker at the airport - I don't need it for just the weekend.
Take the train to Amsterdam, and the traditional walking-around the canal-thing. Later I find my way to Edam - about 30-40 km. north of A'dam.
It's been pretty hard to find accomodation in Amsterdam for just one night. And since I had thought of a trip to Edam I thought - why not stay there. So I ordered via the Internet, but it turned out that the "Tollhuis" was placed some distance away from Edam. But when I called them, they offered to pick me up at the busstation in Edam - so no problem anyway. The manager picked me up at 5 pm - where things were getting rough and cold - and took me to the hotel, right beside the big lake of Ijselmeer.
Sunday, november 19'th
Leaving the "Tollhuis" at 10 am for Edam and on to A'dam. Nothing special that I want to see - just take a look around this nice city.
But I change my mind, as it starts to rain, and istead go for the Van Gogh-museum. It's infact pretty exiting, because it's easy to get around. And the cafe is brilliant. And for once - a museum which is not full of "sponsors".
It's almost dry for the rest of the day. So I take a long walk around the city. In the evening it starts to rain cats and dogs so I go for Schiphol and my KLM-plane to Buenos Aires which is scheduled for departure 5 minuttes before midnight.
Monday, november 20'th
16 hours of flying - booooooring. And the plane is packed, so it's hard to get some sleep.
After 12 hours we land in Sao Paulo, Brazil and stay there for an hour. Then it's 3 hours to Buenos Aires, before I land in the Ezaiza-airport - pretty tired.
I find a minibus for downtown which will leave in half an hour. But there is noone else but me, that will use this bus, so instead a mafioso-look-alike arrives in a white shirt and a black Mercedes. He doesn't understand a word of english, but he does succeed to let me know, that since I'm the only passenger he can just as well take me directly to my hotel. I try to tell him the name, but either he doesn't understand or he doesn't know the Hotel Lourdes. But he's got something of it anyway, because suddenly we stop, he goes back 10 meters - and we are right in front. He got a good tip!
Check-in - to my room, which is very sparse - but the place is cheap.
Time to do B.A. It's hot and it's noisy. Very noisy to say the least. Take a good walk down Avenida de Mayo, crossing Avenida 9'de julio - in 2 steps - since there is 10 lanes in each direction - so you better take a break at the middle.
Down to Plaza de Mayo - where "the mothers" still demonstrate once a week, because their sons disappeared during the dictatorship-days - also know as "the dirty war". Then back to the hotel - turn on the tv - about 60 channels to choose between.
Tuesday, november 21'st
Up at 4 am (yes - FOUR) to get down to my taxi which is booked for 4.30. It will take me to the small Buenos Aires airport called Aeroparque. From their my LAPA-air leaves for Rio Gallegos at 6 am - and you have to be there an hour early.
Great flight in lovely weather. We make a stopover in Trelew, which is a city I will return back to. At 11 am we land in Rio Gallegos. I take a taxi to downtown, since there are no busses at the airport.
Gets myself a 29 $ room at Hotel Paris - which is not able to live up to it's name. The windows are broke, but the tv and the bed is ok.
Out for a little sightseeing - this is kind of like the wild-west - and there is a heavy storm passing by - so it's pretty cold as well. Take a walk around town - funny place - not the tourist-centre of this world
Back to the hotel - and 2 champions-league matches on the telly.
Wednesday, november 22'nd
At this point you were supposed to head on, but I have made a reservation at the hotel for one more night, so I stayt for one more day (I love this argument....). In fact the plans were to go on to Puerto Nateles in Chile - but the first bus in next saturday! - so plans are made to be changed - and I go to Punta Arenas - also in Chile - on thursday instead.
Take one more look at Rio Gallegos - well I guess I have seen it all - but anyway - but it is a quite relaxing day. Well I needed that, so no problem.
Thursday, november 23'rd
Leaving Rio Gallegos at 1 pm with "El Pinguino" (buscompagny) for Punta Arenas - Chile.
First the is two hours of driving on argentinian dirt-road, then one hour to pass the border for Chile. I just wonder how much time could have been used, if there were more than the one bus for the whole hour....Finally 2½ hours drive in Chile - on concrete-roads, and dirt-roads. So you are kind of shaken, when you arriva at Punta Arenas at 6.30 pm. But the bustrip is funnier than the plane - and cheaper as well. You get to see something on the road, but in these parts of the world it does seem a little unfriendly - very dry - very windy - very desertlike - just some small shrubbery now and then.
In Punta Arenas I find the first budget-hotel recommended by Lonely Planet. Hotel Monte Carlo is the name (sticking to the french....). Plenty of rooms at the hotel - I get a family-room the size of my own apartment back home.
Changing money. It is starting to get a bit complicated. I'm walking around with danish kroner, dutch guilders, US-dollars, argentina peso and now also chilean peso. And of course my VISA-card - just in case....
Out for some food. Have a nice chat with some local cab-driver. Take a walk - and back to the hotel.
Friday, november 24'th
Today I get to see a bit more of Punta Arenas. Nice little town - you can see most things in one day.
At 4 pm it's penguin-time. I take a minibus to Seno Otway, where the penguins show off for a pretty small audience. I like these guys. They are very shy -and very curious - at the same time. Take your time watching them, and their curiosity will make the better of them - and they will get closer - at least until the german tourists shows up. Just a thin rope is between you and the penguins.
The closest I get when I'm a little away from the other people. Suddenly a pinguin crawls up from a cave just 1 meter in front of me - takes a shit - and goes back to the cave again. Is he trying to tell me something?
Back in Punta Arenas at 8 pm. Take a shower to get the dirt washed out - it's very windy down here - and the pinguins were staying at the beach, so you do get dirty.
And for the first time this trip there is no soccer-match on the telly this evening.
Saturday, november 25'th
Plans were to take the bus at 9 am to Puerto Natales. But "Buses Fernandez" 9-departure was "completto", so I had to wait until 1 pm. Got back to my hotel, where I got my room back for a few hours. Finished my book - Michael Palins version of "Around the world in 80 days" before going back to the bus.
Sunday, november 26'th
Early wake-up at 6.45 am - breakfast at 7 - down to the harbour an onbord the "Alberto de Agostini" which will take me to Parque Nacional Bernardo O'Higgins. Get my seat - no. 21 - but who wants to sit inside, so I go to the deck. Im ok dressed for this trip - sweatshirt, fleece, rain-gear and a hat - just missing the gloves - and this they call summer!
It's a great trip, eventhough it's cloudy and rainy now and then - but that almost makes things a bit more dramatic. There is a strong wind as well, and suddenly when I'm standing outside a huge wave turns on to the deck and I'm soaked - very much to the fun of the people around. Later they get the same treatment!
It's 4 hours of sailing to the turnaround at the Serrano-glacier. During the trip we pass snowcovered mountains, waterfalls, some pinguin-look-alike birds on the cliffs and a couple of condors hanging high in the skies. They have got a wingspan of about 3 meters, so they look very impressive.
At the glacier the boat will land at a boardwalk. The wind is now so strong, that they have to try three times before succeeding. A short walk for the glacier, where everyone has to take pictures. Back to the boat - and back the same way - I stay outside for nearly all the trip(in fact there were people on board that didn't get out - why do they do these trips?) Back at Puerto Natales at 4 pm - a little rest at the hotel - some food - and back to the hotel after a short walk around town.
Monday, november 27'th
Leaving the hotel at 7.30 am for the Parque Nacional Torres del Paine. Jose is the fast-driving chauffeur - people in the bus is international - Germany, Chile, Switzerland, Mexico, Spain and Denmark.
There is a 3 hours drive before we reach the parc. We pass a huge cave, called Cueva del Miloden. In the park you drive around - with some small hikes now and then - before you are back in Puerto Natales 12 hours later.
It's a great area, eventhough the swiss thinks there are to many mountains. We get to see the famous Torres del Paine-mountain from all corners. There are some really lovely lakes - and we go to "Glacier Grey". Jose talks a lot - but only in spanish.There are plants and animals as well - including Guanacos, Rhea's and Condors.
Back in Puerto Natales at 8 pm.
Tuesday, november 28'th
Late wake-up this morning - 8 am! The bus from Puerto Natales leaves for El Calafate in Argentina at 9.
Wednesday, november 29'th
Leaving at 9 am with Interlagos-turismo for the Perito Moreno glacier - and something as strange as an english-speaking guide.
It's a 2½ hours busdrive - on dirt-road - before we are at the glacier. We will be there until 4 pm.
You walk on some boardwalks where you can see one of the greatest "nature-shows" on earth. The glacier is pretty close - at the highest it's 70 meters - the normal is about 40 meters. It's so impressive to watch - and to listen to. Because the glacier keeps on to drop bits and pieces of ice into the Lago Argentino. It sounds like thunder everytime a piece blows off. You can really fell what power such a glacier is.
The last 2 hours out there I find a quiet spot - and I just stand there and stares at this exceptional show. I could have stayed there for days.I hardly recognice that it has started to rain, and I get quite amazed when I return to the hotel to find out that I've got sunburnt in my face - because it has been cloudy all day - but there is something with ice and beams from the sun isn't there?
Back in Calafate at 6.30 pm. A good beef and a Quilmas for dinner - without anything else. One day I might remember that you have to order anything for your food - well I got it as extras anyway.
Thursday, november 30'th
Wake up - I have got a cold - here - in the middle of summer.
I leave Calafate at 1 pm by bus for Rio Gallegos. That should take me 4 hours, but it does take 5, since the driver stops in the middle of the desert and start to run around the bus with a screwdriver - the bus was running hot.
From Rio Gallegos straight on for Trelew. That will take me 16 hours on my "El Pinguino"-bus - leaving Rio Gallegos at 8 pm.
Friday, december 1'st
16 hours in bus - at this time - with a cold - that is more tough, than it is fun. I arrive at Trelew at noon.
Find myself a hotel-room at Hotel Galicia - "con bano et con television".
Take a nap - a bed is better than a bus-seat. And while I still remember the bus-ride I decide to take a plane further on to Buenos Aires. I buy a ticket at LAPA for next friday - 142 pesos.
Saturday, december 2'nd
Half daytrip to Punta Tombo - a penguin-colony about 100 km south from Trelew. Penguins are some funny birds. They have a silly walk, and they have no respect for rules and regulations. It is clearly marked which areas is for people - and which for penguins. But the penguins give a shit - they walk wherever they will - crossing the parking-lot, in no respect for the fact that this is human area.
In the evening its the telly on the hotel. They cover the soccer-world intensively. Live matches from England, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Chile and of course Argentina. At least 4 sport-only channels. Tonight its Celta Vigo vs. Barcelona - and then 2'nd half of Belgrano Cordoba vs. Velez Sarsfield (0-3 - quite a surprise)
Sunday, december 3'rd
This was supposed to be a really relaxing day (you need that at vacations as well.....), with plenty of soccer on the screen. But crisis from the morning, no pictures on the tv, the cabel are broke they tell me at the reception. Very argentian - a lot of things down here a poorly maintained - houses, busses, roads - and tv-cables as well.
Therefore I hang out in the city of Trelew. But nothing is going on here on a sunday. So in the afternoon I go to Gaiman about 20 km from Trelew. Gaiman is famous for it's welsh culture and it's welsh tea-houses. Princess Diana was here once!. But welsh tea is - to be honest - not my cup, so instead I find a park recommended by Lonely Planet.
It's called "El Desafio", and this is not a normal place. It's an old environment-activist that has made it - and runs the place. Everything is made out of garbage!. Flowers, plants, strange sculptures - even the fencing - is made by old beer-cans, ketchup-bottles etc. etc.. A truly great place to visit - and the owner of the park is happy to tell you everything you want to know - but in spanish only. But he didn't care that I didn't seem to understand anything.
Talking about "spanish" - todays success-story is, that I succeeded in asking someone the way to the park in spanish. And the person asked, in fact understood what I was saying. And even more surprisingly I understood his answer - things are moving on this trip.
Monday, december 4'th
Bus to Puerto Madryn - some tourist-hell about an hours drive from Trelew. The bus is "kaput" after 15 minuttes - we must wait for a new one.
Puerto is not the most interesting place I have ever visited.There is not much to write about - so I wont do that.
By the way - changed my plane-ticket. I will be leaving for Buenos Aires wednesday.
Tuesday, december 5'th
The big trip to Peninsula Valdés - a half-island sticking into the atlantic ocean. Up a little before 7 - bus at 7.30 on a tourist-bus mainly with flamish-speaking belgians - strange. The trip is about 500 km in total - back at 8.30 pm.
First we go to Puerto Pyramide - and whale-watching. In a very small boat we head for the bay to watch the whales - and they are out there - and they get close to the boat - you can actually touch them if you like. And if they wanted to, they could easily turn the boat upside down - but thank god they dont want to do that. Most fun is a motherwhale and her baby, which is so close they touch the boat. And the skipper is a smart-ass - making sure to sail so fast that the waves come into the boat, making sure we are all soaked.
After that - it's the rest of Peninsula Valdés, with stops at sealions, sea-elephants, birds - and a lot more
The weather is clear skies - 30 degrees celsius - so I get a good tan and is very tired as we return.
And of course - on this last night in Trelew - you find the best pub, where they also serve some good food. Time for a "hamburguesa", "frittas" and one of the big Quilmes (3/4 of a liter-bottle)
Then it's back to the hotel. Oh how lovely - they've decorated for christmas - the very funny receptionist (Also known as Bocas Junior) look sad, and apologising - as he sighs "navidad".
Wednesday, december 6'th
Take a walk around Trelew most of the day before going to the famous Paleontological museum. Well - it's not that famous - I'm the only one there. And if you do not know whats inside such a museum, its dinos and other animals from long times gone.
At 5 pm I head for the tiny airport of Trelew - and at 7 its take-off with LAPA-air for Buenos Aires Aeroparque
In B.A. I take a "remise" (a kind of taxi) to Hotel Madrid. It's hot up here - 28 degrees celsius shortly before midnight. At the hotel I have won a room turning right on to Avenida de Mayo. Very hot - and very noisy. Out for something to eat - no problem at 11 pm in this time - actually I think it's pretty normal.
Thursday, december 7'th
Take a walk to the KLM-office to confirm my ticket back home. But they have moved, but at the end I find their office.
In the afternoon to Recoleta. Recoleta is a rich neighboorhood in the northern part of town. There is a famous graveyard. Among others Eva Peron is buried here. It's a long walk - it's very hot - so im quite burned out, when I return back home.
I had a good chat with a guy at a kiosk this day. He was good at english. It's to bad, that I myself, is so poor in spanish, because argentinians likes to chat about where you come from, what you think of Argentina etc. But unfortunately most of them are just as bad at english, as I am at spanish - and a conversation in finger-language doesn't often go long.
Friday, december 8'th
Another hot day in B.A. - and another long walk -this time to La Boca, a workers-area in the southern part of the city. Very much a contrast to Recoleta, but La Boca is much more exiting.
There are lot of wall-paintaings og colourful houses - but also a lot more poverty and decline. I pass a fire-station, and while a take a picture of a wall-painting opposite, a voluntering fire-man that is bored, asks if I want to se the station of the "bombadores". Of course I will, and he shows me all their old and new fire-engines.
I'm also passing "La Bombonera" - homeground for Boca Juniors. You can see the stadium for free - so that I do.
On to Caminito, and the dirty river of Riachulo. This is more "tourist-boca" with plenty of restaurants, people wanting to sell their "homemade" paintings, panhandlers etc.
It's a long walk back to Hotel Madrid. Today I have been walking the hot city for 8 hours, so I'm pretty tired as I return.
Saturday, december 9'th
Sunday, december 10'th
Morning-tour to San Telmo. Every sunday morning there is a market where you can buy everything. There is also tango-dancing, harmonica-music - and whatever that always turn up when people gather.
Back to the hotel - siesta - in this heat you start to like that invention.
The late trip today is to Puerto Madero, a kind of new-rich area, with boats and cafe's at the old docks. But a good place to stroll around, doing nothing (like the rich people do).
And in the evening it finally arrives - what you have been waiting the last few days - the huge rainfall. Thundering and lightning - and water pouring down. I sit at the hotel-window and enjoy the sight - and especially enjoying that I'm not out there.
Monday, december 11'th
Back to the hotel for sieste - in the evening just a walk around the neighbourhood.
Tuesday, december 12'th
Take a local-train to Tigre - a suburb north of B.A. There you find Delta del Parana. The rivers Uruguay and Parana meets here, and create the delta before going into Rio de la Plate where B.A. is placed.
Take a great boat-trip in the delta. It's a 4 hours trip - it's not just a tourist-thing - actually we are very few tourists. It's a normal boattrip for the local. The boat docks at the different private boardwalks at peoples houses - and people are getting on and off along the river of Carapachy. So it's ment for the local people on the small islands in the delta. But it's also a "schoolboat". We dock at scool no. 14 (all shools down here have numbers), where 20 kids get on board to go back home. Finally we also carry freight, packeges, newspapers and mail.
Back in Tigre at 4.30 pm - and an hours train-ride back to B.A.
Wednesday, december 13'th
Last day in South-America. A little sad - but you have to get back to work and christmas. I don't know whats worst. No honestly - I'm looking forward to get back home.
I just spend the day walking around - no specific goals.
The hottest hours of the day I spend in the cinema. My first and last visit to the cinema on this trip. "El Protegiro" featuring Bruce Willis - awful.
Thursday, december 14'th/Friday, december 15'th
Bus to Ezaiza at 10 am - check in - you've got to check in at least 2 hours prior to departure. At the gate I meet the first danes on this trip.
Leaving for Amsterdam at 2.10 in the afternoon - on time. Stopover in Sao Paulo. Then it's 12 hours to Amsterdam, before landing af 8.30 am local time. Get's a good sleep on the plane - nearly ½ an hour - so im very much up and running as we reach A'dam!
My plans were to spend the day here in Amsterdam. But it's raining and it's cold, and I'm tired and I want to go home. So when I book for my evening-flight at the airport - and they offer me a place on the first one leaving instead - I happy say "yes please".
Some quick shopping - and off to Billund - and then the bus to Vejle. Thats it.
3 hours for Puerto Natales. Out to look for a hotel. Lonely Planet recommended "Natalino" - the cheapest place on this trip - the smallest room - but the most engaged host of them all.
Now how will I spend the next few days?. Im booking a sailing-trip for sunday, a bus-trip for monday - and when I am in my booking-mood I also book a busticket for El Calafate for tuesday.
Take a walk around town. Very much a tourist town. But you can see that people in this part of the country isn't very wealthy. Thats a little surprise to me. Small houses made of made of tin and poorly maintained is the standard.
5 hours of busdriving - dirt-road again - and the usual so slooooooww border control. I never before got as many stamps in my passport as I did on this trip. In Calafate at 2 pm.
El Calafate is a small tourist-city with only 6000 people. Most of the city seems to get their outcome of the tourist that stay here, befor they go to the Perito Moreno glacier.
I book in to a hotel called El Paso Verlika - take a walk around town - which is quickly done - make a reservation for my bustrip tomorrow - and thats it.
In the evening the youth of Calafate celebrate the glorious victory of Boca Juniors in the intercontinental-cup against Real Madrid, by driving up and down the main-street - honking all the time.
A little more relaxing today. A little shopping on Lavalle and Florida - actually without bying anything.
In the evening it's time for some local folklore. It's tango-night in the amfi-theater at Parque Lazema, which I passed yesterday on my La Boca trip.
Sexteto Mayor and Leopoldo Federico is playing, Raúl Lavié, María Graña and others are singing, the dancing is Compañía Tango Pasión - all good, solid, wellknown names for me. I can stand it for a couple of hours, before I return to the hotel.
First to Teatro Colon - the famous (?) B.A.-opera. There's a guided tour at 11 am in english. I join in. Very lovely place to be honest - even for an opera-hater like me.
Then it was time for a classic on my trips. The local zoo. I take the subway to Plaza Italie - go to the surface - and there it is - closed!. More people running around, don't know why. It was supposed to be open - but it just isn't.
So insted I take a walk in a local park. I'm in the rich part of B.A. - a city with huge differences between rich and poor. Here you hire someone to "walk the dogs" when you are to lazy to do it yourself.