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A round the world trip in more than 80 days.

Why this blog ?

Our aim : travel and discover the world during 353 days and through some fifhteen countries. We are hoping that this blog will allow us to share the experience with our family and friends thanks to the posts and photos that we will be publishing and also thanks to their comments.

Currently ...

now. For the moment, we are gently readapting from nomadic to sedentary life.


Photos : Ushuaia & Punta Arenas

Click on the image below to see pictures of Ushuaia and Punta Arenas :

Argentina and Chile - Ushuaia and Punta Arenas

Ushuaia : the end of the world (almost).

Finally we are heading for 'Tierra de fuego' (literally 'Land of Fire') and Ushuaia, eager to see with our very own eyes what the 'end of the world' (or as some Argentinians call it with Mediterranean-inherited sense of humour, the 'bottom of the world') looks like.

Being located at such a southern latitude, and taking into consideration the cold and snow that we have been suffering lately, it is hardly reasonable to expect Ushuaia to be a tropical paradise. But, what do you want? I am conditioned by the marketing of a French brand of soap that holds that name, and I can't avoid to associate, as Paulov's dogs with the bells, this name to a shower under a waterfall in the middle of a luxuriant rainforest (minus the mosquitoes).

With such subliminal expectations in mind, the return to reality was, not surprisingly, harsh : snow, hail and rain got the lion's part of the 3 days we stayed in town. Chilled to the bone as soon as we put a feet outdoors, no way was I going to look for a waterfall, and even less try a bath under it (there are enough 'Jackasses' already in the World). Once again, local people said it was not a normal weather for the season (after all, it is full spring here, it would be like getting snow by mid-may in Europe). At this rate, I am afraid they will end up spending the first snowy Christmas since the end of the Glacier Era.

The town is not particularly beautiful, but the scenery around it is quite pretty. It is bathed by the waters of the Beagle canal (one of the natural links between Atlantic and Pacific oceans) where a number of islets holding colonies of sea lions and cormorants, as well as a famous lighthouse, can be visited by boat. Then, against the back of the town raises a snowy mountain chain with its share of ski slopes. Except the trees populating the mountainsides, vegetation is mostly steppe-alike : lichens and bushes similar to those we saw in El Chaltén.

The town was founded in the last years of the 19th century, when the Argentinian government decided to install a prison in order to promote a colony in the area. The land was named 'Tierra de Fuego' by Magellan, because when he first sailed along these waters looking for a way to get to the Pacific, he could see fires burning in the coast. These were fires the Yamanas kept burning in their lodgings. These indigenous people, that had managed to survive the harsh weather conditions in perfect isolation for centuries and centuries (rather than putting on clothes they spread sea lion fat on their bodies to get insulation against the cold), went extinct on the 20th century, mainly due to illnesses brought along by the new colons.

Nowadays, Ushuaia has become a touristy center with a downtown filled of restaurants, shops and hotels. A walk along the seafront provided us with beautiful views, although now and then we were also gifted with the stench of sewers dumping directly onto the bay. Its main attraction is to be the most southern city in the World (further south there are only villages). Just in case you are the absent-minded kind there are signs everywhere to remind you of it.

It's true that for the small amount of 4000 dollars each, last-minute-super-cheap bargain, we could have left for a 10 day cruise to the Artarctic and get much closer to the South Pole. Only issue : after turning inside-out our pockets, we only managed to put together a few pesos. Since anyway we truly missed the good weather, we followed the original plan and left for Punta Arenas, in southern Chili, to wait wisely for our flight to Santiago.

We left Argentina therefore for the last time, but not without having found a rare specimen : a moroccan living there. He is a guy from Casablanca who 14 years ago found that there were not enough sheeps to shear in Morocco, and crossed the Atlantic looking for more.

As per our readings about Punta Arenas, we were not expecting to like it a lot. Maybe because of that we were nicely surprised. The town is not spectacular, but is has got quite a few nice buildings. But the best was that we found some very nice Chilean and French people at the hostel with whom we spent some time partying on Saturday night. And we did not sleep in just any hostel : ours happened to be owned and managed by ... Maradona's dentist's mother. Can you beat that?

We are finally on board of our flight for Santiago, where we hope the sun, or at least a decent temperature, will be waiting for us.


Austral Patagonia : Photos

Clic on the picture below to see shots taken while visiting El Chalten, El Perito Moreno and Torres del Paine :

Argentina and Chile - Austral Patagonia

Austral Patagonia : Back to the Andes

Once the welsh period of our Argentinian trip ended, we resumed our road through southern Patagonia to spend some time between El Calafate, El Chalten and Puerto Natales. This time, the whales and the penguins should not hold center stage but mostly sharp mountains and their surrounding glaciers.

So we are back one more time on the Andes but around here the situation is quite different from what have seen in Peru and Bolivia. While in these countries we were at an altitude between 3000 and 4000 meters and in a very dry atmosphere that can transform, in a matter of minutes, the surface of you lips to a cactus-like skin, in Austral Patagonia the mountains do not exceed 3000 meters high and the area is one of the biggest worldwide drinkable water reserve. It even rains or snows several times a day. But the wind is the most difficult thing to bear : blowing all the time and freezing every inch of your body that is not covered. It is so strong that sometimes you can loose your balance. Hopefully our technical outfits that make us look like bags of potatoes help resist these rough weather conditions.

The area has some great landscape ready to be explored. We started with the city of El Calafate which is the gateway to the Perito Moreno glacier. It is one of the little few in the world that is not backing up. It is quite impressive seeing this huge monster (170 meters high and 5 kilometres wide) spit an iceberg in the surrounding lake while doing a huge noise.

A 4 hours bus ride to the north took us to El Chalten, the self-proclaimed Argentina's capital of hiking which main attraction is the “Cerro Fitz Roy”. This mountain is known for being one of the hardest to climb in the world. On average there is one attempt each year, while the Everest is climbed by dozens each day. Lacking motivation for this kind of achievement, we managed to hike 45 kilometres spread over 2 days, which gave us the opportunity to reach the Fitz Roy base and to see the glaciers, the lakes and the vegetation that surrounds it. Obviously, our Parisian body, that is used to walk only to the next subway station, decided to retaliate by being stuffy the next day. But it was an easy one compared to the Colca Canyon hike that we did in Peru. El Chalten was also our first dorm experience. It is true that it helps to come across people, even if a Dutch declared chemical war to the whole barracks and a German guy practised for the snoring world cup 'till his wife woke him up.

We finished this little tour of Autral Patagonia by visiting the “Torres del Paine” national park while staying in the city of Puerto Natales in Chile. This area is Chilean equivalent to El Chalten. A little bit discouraged by the bad weather and a little bit bunted by what we have seen in the Argentinian side, we chose to do a day tour to see the highlights of the park instead of hiking.

During this stop in Chile, we had also the chance to enjoy a fine dinner with Sophie and Philippe, the Belgian couple we came across several times during these last months in South America. We learned that evening that in their country roasted chicken is served with stewed apples. It looks weird but Bea tried it and found it quite good. Anyway, it was the last time during this trip that our roads crossed. As their trip around the world is ending, they need to start going toward the northern hemisphere to be in Brussels beginning of December.

In our case, we have to go southbound to reach the “Tierra del Fuego” and Ushuaia so we can see how the “end of the world” looks like.


Photos : Trelew and the Valdes Peninsula

Click on the image below to see some pictures of our visit to Trelew and the area around :

Argentina - Trelew

Trelew and the Valdes Peninsula : Argentina's Welsh side

We are now away from the Andes and close to the Atlantic ocean. The landscape have changed : mountains, lakes and monkey puzzle tree forests have been replaced by flat and arid Patagonian steppe.

Towns in this area were founded by Welsh immigrants who colonised the fertile lowlands of Chubut river back in the second half of 19th century. The culture brought along by the forefathers is still present nowadays : brick houses with woodwork doors, flowery gardens, associations and schools of traditional Welsh music, tea houses. Indeed, Argentinians of welsh descent, even those coming from mixed families, can still speak the language of their ancestors. Walking around Gaiman, a small village near Trelew, taking note of the likenesses with the United Kingdom, hearing two young mothers with their pushchairs speaking to each other in welsh, and enjoying a five o'clock tea with a selection of typical pastries in one of the many tea houses spread around the village, is a funny and fascinating experience (and on top of that, cakes were really good, yum yum !)

But as you can imagine from our last post, we did not cross Argentina from west to east just for the great tea and pastries (we have got Morocco for that). It is the wildlife that can be seen in Valdes Peninsula and the other natural reserves of the area that brought us here. Since distances are big (we made some 900 km in two days) and we did not want to be dependant on organised trips, we rented a car. It felt good to be behind the steering wheel for a change.

There were animals to satisfy everyone : guanacos (a camelid of the same family as llamas, vicunas and alpacas), rheas (a kind of ostrich), cuis (a little fast rabbit whose first cousin I ate in Peru), sea lions, elephant seals (the biggest males weighting up to 2500 kilos), pink flamingos and plenty of other birds.

However, the show queens are the whales. At this time of the year, they visit these shores to reproduce and raise their little ones. It is possible to see them just by walking on the beach in Puerto Piramides, a little village in Valdes Peninsula. Nevertheless, we took a boat trip in order to get a closer look. But we disturbed them much less than in Puerto Lopez in Ecuador, where we had a little bit the feeling of a whale hunt. We only missed seeing killer whales which also come to the area, but later in the season, to feed on baby seals (a good excuse to come back :)).

We boarded another boat to go watching 'toninas', small black and white dolphins. Since they are so nosy, they come near the ship as soon as they hear the engine running. And I assure you they get a fun ride without paying any ticket : they love to swim sticking to the front of the boat, in what must be the dolphin version of a 'encierro' (running of bulls through the streets). No risk here though, because as soon as they get bored of the ride, they add a bit of speed and they get ahead of the boat in seconds.

To conclude, we visited a big penguin colony. Now is the time when husband and wife take turns in the tasks of staying in the nest incubating the eggs and going to the sea to feed. It is so cute to see them walking is small committees, stretching and rubbing their bellies... Still, we are a bit disappointed because against our expectations, and even if we tried really hard, we did not manage to find the commando from Madagascar, the movie.

But I think the most wonderful thing of all, was to see adults of all ages (we were part of the lot) going back into childhood mode, completely charmed and enthusiastic, with bright eyes and smiling
broadly each time we saw a whale, dolphins or penguins : “look, there they are! Well done! How cute !” Personally, I had much more fun than spending a day in Disneyland!.

Most people that visit the region stay in Puerto Madryn, the most touristy town in the area (it is supposed to be nicer and it has got a beach). We have chosen to stay in Trelew in order to visit the town's palaeontological museum. The dinosaur footsteps that we saw in Sucre piqued my curiosity and I wanted to have a look at the bones as well. I can not complain, the museum has got plenty of fossils of dinosaur, mammal, reptile, fish, trilobites and plants that lived in the area a while before Karim and I ever planned to come. I felt all tiny standing next to the front leg bones of the biggest 'dino' that inhabited South America.

After all these wildlife experiences, we are now on our way to El Calafate, where the Perito Moreno glacier and some treks at the foot of the Fitz Roy mountain are waiting for us, before crossing to the Torres del Paine National Parc on the Chilean side of southern Patagonia.


Photos : Bariloche

Click on the image below to see some pictures of our visit to Bariloche :

Argentina - Bariloche

Bariloche: Welcome to Patagonia

The city of Bariloche is our entry point to Patagonia. The region is on the wish list of every globetrotter thanks to its gorgeous landscapes and its “Ruta 40”, the Argentinian equivalent of the US road 66.

Bariloche is THE prime ski resort in South America. It is surrounded by lakes and a wonderful Swiss-Alps-like scenery. The area is visited by Argentinean and worldwide tourists. But the main crowd is from Brazil so the joke here is call the city Brasiloche.

The region was also home to Germanic immigrants. The buildings do not have this Spanish colonial touch anymore and some local people have blue eyes, blond hair and a mustache. You even find some last names like Otto and Weiss. A Swiss colony could be visited and, to add to the stereotype, chocolate shops are everywhere. You can even take a photo with a huge Saint Bernard dog.

When dropped in Bariloche by the bus, Ms very-heavy rain and Mr ice-cold wind where there to welcome us. I think that the quantity of water accumulated in few hour was easily beating to death Morocco yearly average. We had to forget quite quickly the warm weather of Cordoba and put on the Bolivian hat that already saved our lives in the Uyuni salt flat. As it is spring in the southern hemisphere, these unfriendly conditions somehow took us by surprise. Even the people from the area admitted that it has not even been like this this last winter.

Our plan was to spend the next 4 days hiking the area. Looking at the sky, we had the feeling that we were about to spend more time in the hotel room than outside. While hoping for some mercy from the Pachamama, our moral index took a serious blow when it started snowing and it did not stop for two days.

But, at least, 50% of our couple had its share of joy and happiness seeing all the skyline dressed in white. Bea, who is from a village in the mountain that did not implement snow, was very happy with all these snowfalls. She shoot, like a sniper, all what seemed to be a snow flake and was so excited that I was thinking that she would literally dove in this white powder. Though, the lady does not really enjoy snow ball fights.

Nevertheless, we managed to visit the area and to do some hikes under the snow and the rain. At least our last day the sun made a long awaited appearance, but it was not warm enough to take off our Bolivian hat.

Bariloche was worth the visit and it was so different from what Argentina has offered us before. The next destination on the list is Trelew on the Atlantic coast and still in Patagonia. Actually, this time, we have an appointment there with Ms Whale and Mr Penguin.


Photos : Salta & Cordoba

Click on the image below to see some pictures of our visit to Salta and Cordoba :

Argentina - Salta, Cordoba