Week 12; Bariloche, Villa La Angostura & San Martin De Los Andes, Argentina

Bariloche is a beautiful town surrounded by lakes that has skiiing in the winter and lots of water sports/trekking in the summer. It’s famous for its local chocolate shops and abundance of breweries. It’s like most of the tourist destinations in Argentina pricey. Camping is great but mostly camping sites are a couple of km out-of-town which is a pain with the backpack, fine if you have a motor bike…Anyway Lourenso hit the jackpot when he found our sleeping station for the night. An abandoned building! It looked as dodgy as they come. During the night we heard voices and people running around our tents but didn’t think much of it. After a while a squad car rocks up at our door step with flash lights ordering us out of the tent. It soon transpired they thought we were 2 criminals who were on the run. They were looking for 2 guys who just robbed a shop. Anyway they said we’d be safe for the night because they would be patrolling the area. A fab introduction to Bariloche!

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Our stunning location for our first night in Bariloche

As much as we liked our new home we wanted to find somewhere a little nicer with no graffiti , broken glass and or criminals. Our plan for the day was to take it handy and go explore Bariloche on motor bike (perfect for my fairly shit energy levels). I went off to try to find a cycling helmet to rent and Lourenso went off to find a new home.So we ended up finding on an old man who said we could camp on his front lawn. Perfect! He was an absolute gent called Amilka (like the choccie). The neighbors thought we were a bit weird and that would be a fair assumption. Our backpacks were safe in his garage so all was good. We spent the afternoon getting to know Amilka which essentially was us all screaming at each other in terrible Spanish/English.

Bariloche is beautiful but it’s a bit too touristy for my liking some of the lakes were crowded with people we still managed to go for a lovely dip in the fresh lake. We ended up going up to one of the view points to watch the sunset this was really impressive with the whole sky turning red. And a bonus there was no one else there. The day concluded with me getting a motor bike lesson on top of a mountain. The lesson was cut short as I needed no more instruction I was pro you could even say rothemotorbikepro!

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Bariloche evening sky
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Lorenso trying to take a photo
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Seriously impressive skys in Bariloche
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Bariloche

The next day we decided to do the Circuit De Chico a famous 60km route around Bariloche with stunning views of the surrounding lakes. Lots of people do it on bicycle but I was still feeling ropey so the motorbike was perfect. En route we ended up stopping by one of Argentina’s most famous hotels. We both looked extremely rough to put it mildly and not exactly the hotel’s typical clientele. They tried to refuse us entry when I said we would like to buy a drink they let us pass. They then tried to charge for visiting the hotel. We pretended to be considering our drink options in the many cafebars the hotel had. I made a dash for the toilets to stock up on some quality toilet roll and we had a mooch around the luxury hotel. I can confirm the toilet paper was like silk and even smelt like roses! My bum didn’t know what hit it. Cheapest room is €500 a night. I got chatting to a gal who worked in the chocolate shop in the hotel and wiped the choccie samples clean. I eventually found Lourenso lurking around and we made a quick exit and continued on our way to one of the stunning nearby lakes.

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View of Argentina’s  luxury Llao Llao Hotel, Bariloche

We found a really quiet area where we went swimming and had a siesta. We even managed to shower in the lakes and clean are overdue dirty hair. Perfect!

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Views en route the Circuit De Chico
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Me on top of hill ( I can’t remember the name) Bariloche

En route home we got pulled over my the police mainly because Lorenso’s bad driving skills and secondly because of my  cycling helmet. Blessed we didn’t get a fine I ended up hitch hiking ‘home’ and Lorenso followed me as I obviously had no idea where ‘home’ was. The new home is really growing on me one of the neighbors even delivered hot coffees to our tent!

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Kitchen for the past 3 days!

I decided to stay one more night in Bariloche to try to sort myself out and get fully better. So Lourenso is headed off to Buenos Aires, Brazil and then Panama where he sets of on a 9 month trip on yacht to Australia lucky duck.

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Good luck to this messer on his travels!

I  picked up a new mattress in Bariloche now it’s not inflatable but it’s a tinfoil thing that’ll do the job nicely. Goofy a random dog I adopted was all over my tent the following morning trying to eat everything in sight. I was shouting at goofy to go away  trying to get a bit more shut-eye. It transpired it was actually the police and not goofy. I was still half asleep  when the police man was talking to me he was basically saying I needed to leave asap. 10 minutes later a different police man arrived with an angry woman saying I had to leave. I subsequently found a note attached to my tent from the previous day telling me to leave the private property. For once it was actually handy not speaking any Spanish and I  played v dumb. Myself and poor aul Goofy hadn’t a breeze what was going on. Once the 2 policemen and grumpy old woman left I started packing up. Goofy made this an almost impossible task. He took a shining to my new mattress and took a few chunks out of it.  Myself and goofy departed on bad terms as a result.

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Leaving Bariloche

I hitchhiked to the nearest town Villa La Angostura which is a base to go explore the famous 7 lakes road. This was a really nice town and a lot more chilled out than Bariloche. I found  a really cool campsite in the woods and planned on renting a bike the following day to go explore.

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I amazingly managed to sleep in this! Tent is officially fecked….

Obviously the cheapest bike was the cheapest for a reason it was shit. This famous route is notoriously hilly. The lakes were absolutely spectacular but the steep uphills were complete torture especially considering how unfit I am at the moment. I ended up getting really sick on the cycle (again) and barely made it home. At this stage I’m fairly sick of not being able to eat and getting sick all of the time. After a sleepless night of getting sick I decided to go straight to a hospital in the nearest town in San Martin De Los Andes 90km north. I am now an expert of the hospitals in the lake district! The Doc this time took me seriously and started me on antibiotics so fingers crossed it works!

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I ended up stumbling across this private property at the start of cycling the 7 Lakes Road
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One of the many stunning Lakes, 7 Lakes Road
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Taking a dip in the middle of the cycle!

I’ve decided to stay put in San Martin De Los Andes to try to properly get better and work for a few weeks. As amazing as it is seeing so many things it can be exhausting particularly in a country this big. I’ve just expected now that everywhere I want to go is a about 2000km away. I think one of the reason’s I’ve been sick for almost a month now is because I haven’t stopped…

So the job hunting commenced I tried to write a CV in Spanish but abandoned ship early on and decided I would have to rely on my personality to do all the work. I started with all the hostels as I desperately needed somewhere to sleep and wanted to meet young people.  I went to 5 different hostels and they all said no!  The second plan was to volunteer in a restaurant in exchange for somewhere to pitch my tent. Again it was a no because they all said my Spanish wasn’t good enough. What a surprise!

The third option was to give coach surfing a go until I figured out a plan. I’ve met lots of people who really recommend this but it’s something I’d never tried. It’s basically a site where people let you stay in their house for free. Generally it’s people who love to travel and meet new people. It’s a bit like air b and b where the hosts have profiles and reviews so it’s quite safe. I was v lucky when Ali replied instantly to my request saying I could stay the night in his place and we would meet me at 11pm after work.

Ali turned out to be lovely. We arrived at his place and it turned out he only had one leg. This obviously wasn’t a problem but I was caught off guard as I wasn’t expecting it. I didn’t know whether to mention the leg situation.  He had a prosthetic leg with a sandal on it so in the dark it looked like he had two legs until he just removed it. Ali’s house wasn’t really a house but just one room. I initially thought we would have to share his bed  which I was a little freaked about. But thankfully he had a spare mattress. As I was trying to sort out the mattress I ended up knocking over his prosthetic leg . Feeling absolutely horrific he then started to explain he brother only had one leg too. I wasn’t sure was he joking or not. Then I presumed they were twins and asked at birth did they loose their legs. Then he told me that he sleep walks all the time in case I got a fright. Not exactly au fay with Spanish sarcasm I tried to change the subject….

To add to the bizarre situation he ended bringing home this cardboard box from work which I just presumed was leftover food. Turns out it was a bird who was being attacked by a cat and Ali wanted to save it. Again caught off guard by this one. In the middle of the night the bird escaped from the box and was flying all over the room. Freaked out doesn’t even cover this one. Overall my first coach surfing experience was a bit unusual but great at the same time. People are great the way they just welcome you into their homes and expect nothing in return. All I brought to the table was a slab of melted chocolate which I ended up eating as Ali doesn’t like dark chocolate.

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San Martin De Los Andes

So between all of this I managed to kind of find a job. Workaway.info is a sight where you can basically volunteer in exchange for somewhere to stay. It covers the most random of jobs. It’s a great way of saving some money, meeting people and getting to know an area. Some of the jobs sound really cool and vary from working in hostels, cafes, on the beech, vegetable gardens, child minding, painting, gardening etc etc. I managed to secure a job with a chap called Yuan in some nearby mountains. I didn’t really read the job description ( as in I didn’t read it at all) but I was desperate so accepted the job straight away. I then read about the set up you would be expected to work for 5 hours a day and some of the jobs included help with the tourists, cooking , cleaning and some outdoor work.  It was a refugio for tourists. It actually sounded kind of cool. I couldn’t of been more wrong…..

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Week 11: El Chaiten, Esquel, Argentina

So week 11 wasn’t the most exciting of weeks. Mainly because I got progressively sicker. I won’t elaborate on the details but things got so bad I couldn’t move from the tent, couldn’t drink much and eating extended to dry crackers and the occasional bite of chicken. Myself Lorenso and Tatoo moved from the homeless shelter into a proper campsite with bathrooms so that was amazing. Toilet paper has become a thing of luxury in these neck of the woods so I have been forced to use leaves on more occasions that I would like to mention (if you will pardon the pun). It’s been rough but despite being violently sick I tried to make the most of being in amazing El Chaiten.

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The view of El Chaiten from the mountains

One of the worst things about being sick was not feeling hungry this is the worst as in Argentina the day evolves around the BBQ and they are such generous people that refusing food/wine kills me. I had a lovely group of Bolivians/Argentinians buying me 7-up and making me hot lemons. They even got delivered to the tent. Spoilt rotten!

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The new stomping ground with bathrooms!!!

We went to visit one of the nearby waterfalls Chorillo de Salta. I was exempt from hitchhiking and got to ride on Tatoo’s motor bike absolutely delira! We made the gorgeous drive (35km) to Lago Del Desierto  which was stunning. Tatoo had to rush back for work so myself and Lorenso hitch hiked home  and made dinner (which I ended up pucking up later that night). Amazingly Lorenso had singstreet on his laptop so we had movie night in the tent. One of my fav films! God only knows how he understood the accent!

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Stunning ride to Lago Del Desierto (photo Lorenso)
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El Chaiten (photo Lorenso)
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Chorillo de Salta  (photo Lorenso)
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Drinking the infamous mate (photo Lorenso)
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Lorenso, Me, Eileen and Tatoo at Lago Del Desierto
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Getting sleep wherever possible, Lago Del Desierto (photo Lorenso)
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The hat getting some serious airtime!(photo Lorenso)

It was Lorenso’s last day in El Chaiten, himself  and Tatoo have been travelling for 1 month on motorbikes.  Saying goodbye is always the hardest about travelling. I am hoping to meet Lorenso in Bariloche in 4 days (if I make it).  The following morning Lorenso said his goodbyes to go get his motorbike in Chile. Obviously he got a hitchhike after 5 minutes (I’m usually waiting 5 hours! jammy bastard)

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Lorenso and Tatoo pushing the battered bike for the last time!

The next 2 days I could barely move and even struggled to buy food. The Bolivian’s had me convinced I had a parasite so decided a trip to the ‘hospital’ was compulsory. Anyway the Doc said I had managed to get a 2 week virus and that all I could do was wait it out he said I was severely dehydrated and to avoid needing IV fluids I’d need to drink 6 litres of water! The hospital didn’t accept card and all of the banks in El Chaiten had run out of money so embarrassed I couldn’t pay.  I offered him my coat as a form of compensation (becuase I literally had nothing else ). He looked at me in disgust afraid of catching my horrific virus. Straight to the bus station to try to get out of El Chaiten the bus man told me the 20 hour bus to Bariloche was booked out for the next 3 days (It’s high season at the moment). I had vowed I wasn’t hitch hiking in my state and just couldn’t face it but with no other choice I decided to give it another go.

El Chaiten was beautiful. It’s definitely a place that’s going to change in the next few years. At the moment camping and park entrance is free but I can see this changing and it becoming similar to Torres Del Paine in Chile so go now! I wish I hadn’t been so sick there as there were lots more treks I wanted to do but I was lucky enough to have gotten there so no complaints!

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Leaving El Chaiten (photo Lorenso)

Hitchhiking is an interesting one and I think I have a love hate relationship with it. To date I’ve hitch hiked with 14 different  people between Chile and Argentina. It has been an amazing way to learn about the country, speak spanish and of course save some money (the buses here are almost as expensive as flights). That being said it is very testing and does take a certain person to do it. It can be really difficult waiting for hours on end. Getting rejected constantly isn’t amazing for morlae but getting a lift makes it all so worthwhile. It can be difficult when it’s getting late and dark and your afraid you won’t get to where you need to be but luckily this hasn’t happened. The quickest ride was after 1 minute and my longest wait was 5 hours.

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Not the worst hitch hiking view (photo Lorenso)

Luckily Tatoo dropped me outside the town and  I waited an hour when a lovely couple from Spain picked me up. They are travelling the world for 2 years in this van. At this stage I was extremely sick and had to concentrate so hard not to get sick. As most of you know I get car sick on the best of days. I felt so rude because I could barely speak I attempted to eat  a cracker worried I hadn’t eaten anything In 2 days. Luckily they picked up a Brazilian lad and Israeli girl which took the focus off me and I just lay there for the horrible 10 hours. We were blessed the couple brought us as far as Perito Moreno. The three of us checked into a nearby camping site. Pitching the tent in the blackness of the night with the constant urge to puck was awful. The other couple went to cook dinner and I just attempted to sleep. It was definitely the worst day of the sickness all I could manage to eat were a few starbusts!

The next morning I got up early to try and have a better chance at hitch hiking the additional 800km to Bariloche. I walked for a while and once again was standing on the wrong road for an 1 hour when a man told me there was no hope of getting a life here and I would be better off going back to get a bus. I went to a garage trying to find out where the route 40 was (Argentina’s famous motor way, most people can’t miss it but i’m not most people). I couldn’t have been luckier a driver recognised me from El Chaiten as the girl in the big coat drinking lemons. He told me he was going to Esquel 600km away which was en route. They were 4 lads travelling for the holidays and couldn’t have been sounder. They gave me some bread and I started to feel a little human again and the journey actually went fast. I was so grateful to them.

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Myself and the legend Daria in Esquel

We arrived in Daria’s hometown Esquel at 4pm. I was so destroyed from all the driving so coudn’t face any more cars. Daria offered me accomodation for the night and promised to drive me half the way to Bariloche the following morning an offer I couldn’t refuse.  I actually felt hunger for the first time since getting sick so he brought me shopping and I played it safe with bread and eggs terrified of pucking in the kind strangers house. I was mid way through my meal and actually enjoying it when Manila the cute dog robbed the rest and ate it! (probably a blessing in disguise). The next morning I had a fab shower and even got to use conditioner ( another thing of the past) and felt like a new person. Daria even washed all my clothes luxury doesn’t even come close.

Myself, Flor (Daria’s friend) and Daria set off towards El Borson. It was a stunning drive we stopped en route to do some walks around the lakes. It was glorious! The initial plan was to drop me to El Borson  and I would hitch hike the rest but Daria felt so sorry for me he  drove an additional 150km and dropped me the full way. I’m blown away by how much the people have done for me. They expect absolutely nothing in return. All he would let me pay for was him ham and cheese sambo!

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Beautiful tour of Esquel’s lakes (colour of the water is amazing)
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A view of a glacier en route to Bariloche
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Beutiful Esquel

It was about 11pm  by the time we reached Bariloche.  I managed to track down Lorenso. We caught up in Mac Donalds (I went wild and ate my crackers).  As predicted I knew we wouldn’t be forking out the 22 dollars for a hostel so Lorenso was on the case to find somewhere to camp….

Fingers crossed next week is better!!!

 

 

 

 

Week 10: Calafate & El Chaiten, Argentina

The hitchhiking journey from Ushuaia to Calafate was an interesting one. Tatoo dropped me to a spot just outside Ushuaia on his motor bike. 1 minute later the most humungous truck pulled over. I was reluctant at first as I couldn’t get myself or the backpack into it. I had to be lifted into the truck with my ever-expanding bags. The truck driver Maxi told me his truck was 19 meters long and he drives 6000 miles a week. He seemed nice and we talked shit spanish for hours. For some reason I thought the ride was 2 hours but it subsequently turned out to be 15 hours. I was a little concerned was Maxi started making mate whilst maneuvering the monstrosity of a truck across the narrow mountains. He smoked and chewed coka leaves for the solid 15 hours. The truck had a build in bed which he kindly gave to me. I had the pepper spray handy in case Maxi had any ideas. I needn’t have worried he was a gent. Although I didn’t sleep I was grateful for the lie down. He dropped me off at Rio Gallegios where I had to hitch another ride to Calafate. I was waiting about an hour for this ride which wasn’t bad at all. I’m becoming a daydoy (hitchhiking) pro at this stage.

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Hitchhiking to El Calafate; 900km in this monstrosity

Allihandro another gent also driving an outrageous truck kindly stopped. This drive was only 3 hours and the scenery was spectacular. Ali invited for dinner that night saying he would love the company not that I’m much company given the Spanish set up. We had another meat and wine feast. He subsequently gave me a knife, coat, sunglasses and a few empanadas as memorabilia of our time together. I hit the jackpot with Ali.

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Campsite in Calafate
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View from my tent

The main attraction in Calafate is Perito Moreno, the world-famous glacier. In Calafate I stayed in a fab campsite. It had proper showers, washing and cooking facilities something that has become quite foreign to me. Slightly destroyed after the turbulent journey getting here I had a lie on the next day and a relaxed day. That evening I was feeling a little ropey and not hungry at all ( which is so unusual for me). I decided to have some bread and a cup of soup. The cup of soup was the ruination of me. Out of nowhere I got extremely sick. I was violently sick with diarrhoea and vomiting. It was absolutely horrific. Unable to even stand upright I ended up getting sick outside this guys tent, the reception and in the river. Eventually crawling into my tent in a cold sweet I was in for a restless night. I got a sudden urge to puck and my brand new tent and sleeping bag were the victims. There was no hope of making the loo. Really in despair I had no other option but to shower with my tent. I was shivering at this stage and genuinely can’t ever remember being unwell. This went on until 7am when I had to decide whether or not I would be well enough to visit the world famous Perito Moreno Glacier 70km away. Stubborn as always I powered through and seeing as it was my last day there I’d be raging to miss it.

The next morning I stocked up on fluids and hitch hiked to the glacier (the bus was a pricey 40 euro). A really nice American couple let me share their taxi. The windy road to the glacier was the perfect  pucking storm thankfully I managed to make it to the glacier before pucking my ring up again.  The glacier was spectacular but obviously I couldn’t fully appreciate it. You can hear the ice cracking every few minutes so impressive.

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Breathtaking  Perito Moreno
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A violently sick Ró at Perito Moreno
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Amazing glacier
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The glacier is over 900m long (700m under water and 200m above water)

The nexy day I left Calafate to make my way to El Chaiten. The vomiting had subsided  so I made the dreaded hour walk to the point where everyone hitch hikes . The first hour was a disaster as I found out I was standing on the wrong side of the road (not ideal). I was alone mostly only  after about 2 hours  a gang of others arrived ( 3 Spanish, 2 Israli and a French guy). At this stage I didn’t want to talk to anyone as I was feeling ropey and you have 10 times as much of a chance of getting a lift if your alone. The Israli’s told me there was a bus at 8pm leaving from a bus terminal 3km walk away and did I want to join them (according to mapsme…!). I figured it was the best option, after a horrific walk we arrived at the non-existent bus terminal (surprise surprise). The Israeli guys were carrying handbags in comparison to my monstosatry of a bag. One of them kept asking me irritating questions like what kind of grades did I have in school, how was my childhood…… you wouldn’t be able for it on any day of the week but 3 days of no food and vomiting and hours of hitch hiking  it just was the pits. We continued walking/hitchhiking for another while. It was impossible to get a ride with lots of cars passing mainly families full to the brim. With light closing in and Calafate 3 hours away hope was dwindling. After a painful wait with the Israelis and them playing dreadful rock music I was absolutely delira when they said they were abandoning ship and going to try again in the morning.

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The grim reality of hitch hiking: Israeli lads playing rock music while I tried to find us a lift!

 

I told them I would camp on the street and meet them in Chaiten. Literally 2 minutes later a van pulled over and said he’d take me. At this stage I had lost the will to live and any shred of hope of finding a ride . Needless to say the Israelis were over like a shot gagging to get in the van but the van man was having none of them and said he would only take me! I was once again v v lucky. We lapped away for 3 hour drive it was stunning scenery.

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The cute little town of El Chaiten (only 2000 people live here)

 

When I arrived in Chaiten I was told the town never has signal due to the high winds. I had organised to meet up with Lorenso and Tatoo who had found us all a hut to stay in for the night.  With no address for the hut or way of contacting the guys I was fairly screwed. So van man told me I could sleep in his house although he was v nice to me I wasn’t keen on the idea. I found a restaurant with wifi so camped out their for a while trying to figure out a plan. I got chatting to one of the workers who felt so sorry for me he let me stay in his nearby house. He was a gent and slept on the floor while giving me a double bed, absolute luxury. He even brought home left over pizza from the restaurant. Not wanting to be rude and obviously dying for some pizza I ate it all.  Sadly I puked it all up later that night. Despite feeling shit I managed to sleep and was so lucky to have found Bruno.

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The entire town of El Chaiten

In the morning I managed to contact the guys and Bruno brought me to their ‘hut’.  Tatoo had planned on finding work in Chaiten and amazingly found a job in a restaurant starting that day. So  myself and Lorenso decided to do a 3 day hike in Fitzroy. I wasn’t feeling the may west but figured if I took it slowly I’d be ok and the route was fairly straightforward.  Prepping for our hike I realized somehow I had managed to lose a whole backpack of food, a runner (this was later returned to me by a randomer) but worst of all my new inflatable mattress. How anyone can lose  an entire mattress and not realize is actually quite impressive if you ask me. Un organised as always we left at 5.30pm.

Our first night of the trek we camped in Poincenot campsite. We decided to share my 1 man tent because it was lighter to carry. When we were pitching it we realized the tent was completely broken?? one of the poles had snapped so we tried to resuscitate it with a branch. After about half hour of failed attempts I found a repair kit in the bag which did the trick.

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Evening hike up to Fitzroy (oblivious to what was ahead)
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Rock climbers in El Chaiten

 

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Lorenso trying to repair my sad excuse of a tent

Dins for the night was ham and cheese sambos with whiskey, ginger and honey tea to try to warm up.  The plan for the following morning was to set alarms for 4am for a sunrise trek over Fitzroy. We needed have bothered as true to character I was getting sick all night (luckily not in the tent this time). Obviously feeling terrible and stubborn I decided to go ahead with the steep up hill climb at 5am. Lorenso wanted to stay with me but he was walking too fast that I urged me to go with out me. I also wanted to puck in peace. So after 4 more pucking episodes en route up I eventually crawled to the top just on time for sunrise. Trying to look at the positive side of things i figured it’s not often you have pucking views this good.

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Puck stop view en route to see

The fitzroy mountain range wasn’t visible from the top but we were treated to the most incredible red/golden colours and a beautiful rainbow absolutely incredible experience. I was so grateful I made sunrise by the skin of my teeth. When we eventually made it down we took a well-earned siesta until 1pm,

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Amazing rainbow at sunrise
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Making sunrise by the skin of my teeth
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Me and Lorenso 6am Firtzroy

The 2nd days walk was lovely and because we left so late we had it all to ourselves. The sunny weather turned into gaelforce winds with me getting blown completely off the track into a bush. We met a couple en route whose jacket got blown away with all their money, and passport. A complete nightmare. I could completely emphatise with them as this typically something that would happen to me.

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Amazing Fitzroy
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Some short lived sunshine!

The winds turned into torrential rain. It doesn’t get much worse than pitching a tent in the rain. Our tent was completely leaking and we were soaked. We hoped for a gap in the weather to try to get fresh water to cook dinner. We decided it wasn’t worth it and settled for no water or dinner. We took out our sleeping bags and tried to warm up trying to ignore the huge drops of rain falling on our faces. We ended up spending  a solid 20 hours in tent together trying to wait out the rain. We had a few minor melt downs but managed to pass the time quickly enough with my epic music (sound is a little suspect following lake/coffee incident), playing guess the capital ( I now know Nairobi is not the capital of Hawaii) and filling Lorenso in on the interesting Gallagher family tree.

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Loosing our minds in Fitzroy

We scrambled out of the tent at 4pm the next day mainly because I needed the loo and  to get sick. We made some grub and then started to make our way off the mountain where there the sun shined for the rest of the day.

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Day 3 views en route down from Fitzroy
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Some lovely evening sunshine
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Huge glacier in the distance

 

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Spotting woodpeckers in Fitzroy

We eventually made it off the mountain at about 10pm. Accommodation that night was  back in the ‘hut’.  With my inflatable mattress gone we had to sleep on concrete absolutely baltic. There was one other Chilain lad, Luxumburg staying here for the past 10 nights (the poor divil). Definitely not somewhere you’d fancy sleeping on your own but it did the job the night.  I drew the line at maximum one night in the homeless shelter. This place makes the tent feel like the Westbury hotel and definitely was a first and last!

Overall an extremely tough week with getting sick. I still have no idea how I got so bad but fingers cross next week the pucking will have fecked off! I don’t think I can handle much more!

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Our ‘hut’/ homeless shelter in El Chaiten

 

 

 

 

 

Week 9: New Years Eve & Ushuaia, Argentina

Next destination; Ushuaia, Argentina. Obviously the impulsive buying of the tent, inflatable mattress and sleeping bag was going to cause some problems in terms of carrying. Something I obviously didn’t consider. One of the guys working in the hostel insisted on helping me pack needless to say I didn’t decline (completely forgetting about the abundance of dirty laundry, the poor fecker). My food bag Is getting bigger and bigger by the day. The old garlic is fairly pungent at this stage but stubborn as always I refuse to through anything out (channeling my inner Dom).

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Leaving beautiful Chile for Argentina

I took a 3 hour bus to Punta Arenas where I had to spend the night before catching another bus south to Ushuaia. The bus left me off at 11 pm so I struggled in the rain to find accommodation everywhere was extortionate. I eventually found a cheap place after about an hour walking. Dinner/ breakfast was rice cooked in cream with a stock cube (I won’t elaborate on this one). I was offered a frozen ‘burger’ by a Russian lad which I politely refused as it resembled a dirty cloth for your feet. I know my standards are fairly low but you have to draw the line somewhere.

The following morning I was planning on getting the 15 hour bus to Ushuaia. I was so so lucky I got the last ticket for the bus with all other buses booked out for new years. I eventually got off the bus at about 9pm. Every backpacker you meet raves about the app maps me (similar to google maps). To date it’s been fairly useless for me and has actually caused me problems. Anyway I decided to give it another shot.  I used it  to find a *free camping spot* in Ushuaia (not an easy task) . It was a really random place for camping with no other tents so I wasn’t sure… The place was a steep hill with lots of tourists taking photos from a view point. I decided to trust maps me and I managed to pitch my tent all by my self. Delira! I was chilling in the tent when the police came over to say this was a public hill and camping was illegal not exactly a surprise. Anyway a blessing in disguise they took me in their police car and found me a hostel for the night.  A sleepless snoring night but breakie was included so happy days.

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Windswept town of Ushuaia
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Tatoo and Lorenso officially at the end of the world!

Ushuaia is known as the end of the world. One of the reasons a lot of people come here is to go to the continent Antarctica (which is only 1000km away). This was one of things I really wanted to do in this trip. But it was quite clear early on it was going to be goer with the cheapest price I could find coming in at 6k. Some people camp out in Ushuaia for weeks looking for last minute offers. I Decided against it. It’s definitely going to be a bucket list item for the future (maybe when I retire)!

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Ships going to Antartica, Ushuaia (photo: Lorenso

The next day the hostel found me a legit camping site 5km out of town the owner came and picked me up on New Years Eve.
It was fairly basic with a chemical toilet, cold ‘shower’ and of course no signal or wifi but gas people so that’s the main thing. There was about 20 others camping mostly from Argentina, a few Germans, Italians and Brazilians. I couldn’t understand one world they were saying.  The past 2 months I have been learning Chilano (they essentially have their own language). The Argentinian Spanish sounds kind of German so back to the books. Nacho an Argentinian farmer who has 1000 cows was feeding me chunks of meat all day. In my element. That night we had the biggest meat and wine feast.  Lorenzo and Tatoo (friends from Chile) eventually arrived equipped with more meat and wine.  Honestly I don’t think I’ve ever eaten as much meat the party went on until 6am. I think I was making up for being so hungry for the past 2 months. With the vino running out we moved on to the pisco & fernet  ( a typical disgusting Argentinian drink that tastes of herbs) and then obviously back onto the vino.

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Camping in Ushuaia
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New Year’s Eve Party Ushuaia
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Obviously decided to dress up for the party in my Pj’s!
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This was only the beginning

New years day was spent nursing a hangover with more meat  but not just any meat, a whole lamb a delicacy of Argentina called Cordero. The whole day evolved around the roasting of the lamb which takes approx 4 hours. It’s massaged, bathed in beer, and rubbed with all sorts of condiments. I genuinely can’t put into the words how incredible this was like silk in your mouth.  We spent the day like animals ripping shreds of meat off the animal, sucking meat from the bone and of course drinking excellent Argentinian wine. Any trace of female was well and truely gone.  The later part of the day I was given a tutorial on how to use an axe. V addictive.The men were shocked at all the meat I was putting away. It was more than ideal with a few vegetarians in the audience there was more meat on offer. We all hit the bed in the height of meat sweats for the first warm sleep of the year.

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no shame!
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Beer baths for the star of the show!
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The star of the show; Cordera bbq roasted lamb
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Nacho with the typical Argentinian drink; Fernet served with Coke

The following day at capacity with meat we decided to go explore the nearby glacier. Myself, Tatoo and Lorenzo agreed to meet at 10 am (they were staying in a free campsite nearby). With them missing in action I decided to head off on my own hoping they would catch up with me. Somehow I managed to go to the wrong glacier. I left at 2 pm for an 8 hour round trip in hindsight this was a terrible idea. The weather was atrocious freezing, pissing rain and snowing. The steep hike upwards was trecharious with regular falls along the way. Most of the people I met on the way up were urging me to turn back with the snow getting heavier and heavier. I found two sticks and slowly got to the top where the weather eased a little. The way down was fairly dodgy with me falling every few minutes. I eventually got back to the campsite covered in mud looking like a grizzly bear. I took an icy ‘shower’ and started straight on the hot whiskeys. Lorenzo and Tatoo eventually came back and we figured out I had gone to the wrong glacier. New year’s rule no solo trekking (Úna I promise).

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The wrong glacier in Tierra Del Fiego (I can’t even remember the name)
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Bizzard closing in!

The following day a gang of us decided to go for a two day trek into Tierra Del Fuego National Park.  I thought I was un organised but then I met  Lorenzo and Tatoo they made me look good. The three of us together was a recipe for disaster. We had planned to head off early with a few others from the camping site but we only managed to get ourselves together by 2 pm.  The walk was stunning despite the pissing rain. We eventually arrived at camp hours after the others, a beautiful enclosed Laguna. We were all frozen and covered in mud. I had fallen into a river so I was genuinely soaking. None of us had brought a change of clothes or shoes so we made a fire and attempted to dry off. I got chatting to a few randoms near our tent so managed to secure myself a pair of hiking boots for the evening off a chap called Reuben he even threw in a mate  for good measure.

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Tierra Del Fuego National Park
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Having a bit of shut eye in the campsite in Tierra Del Fuego

The fire was a god sent with the weather freezing.  We were camping at the bottom of the world quite cool! Myself and Tatoo started to heat up rocks to try and get the sensation back into our numb hands and feet. We were all cooking our socks on the fire. I had the genius idea of drying off my hiking boots in the fire I obviously got distracted when there was some food on the go that my hiking boots went on fire ( at least they were mine not Rueben’s). I’ve never had the best track record with fire 4 years ago I set my hair on fire in a bar in Berlin so another rule going forward stay away from fire not matter how cold I am. Raging I will have to buy another pair. These boots have been around the globe in Everest, Kathmandu and more recently Patagonia (thanks Sinead for the discount! Ecco served us both well).

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Warming up our feet in the fire in Tierra Del Fuego National Park

Dinner was complements of Lorenzo. Absolutely stunning concoction of pasta, cream, tuna, scallions and cheese. We all inhaled it! Washed down with lots of mate. Mate is a herbal tea famous in Chile and Argentina. I hated it at the beginner it’s quite strong but definitely grows on you and anything hot is a luxury in sub zero temperatures.

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Pre lighting boots on  fire

 

Myself, Lorenzo and Tatoo shared a 2 man tent for the night trying to warm up.  We managed to sweet talk Rueben into giving us some of his pasta and tomato sauce.  The campsite was absolutely stunning and so quiet. Waking up to stunning mountains and a gorgeous turquoise lake was pretty special.  With some unexpected sun we chilled in the campsite until 3 pm. This in hindsight was once again a terrible idea with a 7-8 hour trek ahead of us. The sun was short lived and we got drenched for the duration of the day with rain and hailstones. As expected in Patagonia. The second’s days hike was absolutely stunning with fjords, waterfalls and lakes (unfortunately we all forgot our cameras). Absolutely knackered we got off the mountain (still 12km from our campsite and with darkness closing in things were looking grim). We still had to try and find a bus and walk another few extra km. Shivering with the cold we all agreed we would be better pitching the tent on the street. Lorenzo started inquiring could we pitch the tent in  a woman’s garage. She saw us all shaking and invited us in for coffee. Absolute heaven. The guys went off to buy food and wine for the dinner. In the meantime  a random man came over and took pity on us. He said he had been backpacking before and homeless and he knew how it felt and that if we wanted we could all stay in his house and have hot showers. We couldn’t believe our luck and almost cried with happiest. Coffee woman drove us to his house. When we arrived it was clear the chap and his partner were funny fish (but very nice fish).  They were most certainly involved in some dodgy dealings but we were all just so grateful for the roof we didn’t care. They arranged 5 mattresses on their kitchen floor for us all (even though they had their own bed?). We blared U2 and the cranberries, drank wine, watched limitless and had the best showers of our lives.  I was even given clean socks a thing of the past since starting back packing. * I was so sad to hear about the recent death of Dolores O Riordan.

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Our host for the night!
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Having a mate for the road before hitch hiking
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The current hiking boot situation 😦

Next stop Calafate. The guys are on motor bikes  such an amazing way of travelling around (p purchase in the future?). I resorted to hitch hiking!

 

 

Week 8: Christmas in Puerto Natales & Torres Del Paine

The W trek  in Torres Del Paine National Park is kind of like Peru’s equivalent of Machu Pichu and the main reason people come to Puerto Natales. It is almost impossible to get a booking for the trek because it has become so popular. People are paying hundreds to thousands to do this trek as part of a tour.  It was something I really wanted to do but resided to the fact that it was fully booked and I would most like just be able to do a day hike (as opposed to a 4 day trek) not willing to pay mega books. Luckily the beauty of travelling solo it’s easier to find last-minute deals and I was lucky enough to find a spot camping! Delira I started my ‘preparation’ for the following day.

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View from the entrance of Torres Del Paine National Park

I was a little bit worried about doing the trek because I haven’t had a proper nights sleep in 5 days. Last night was no exception. While shivering in the crappy tent I realized I had  lost my phone. I tried to re trace my steps and realized I last had it at the supermarket. At 2 am in the morning I decided the best option was to run to the supermarket in the hope of finding it. Amazingly the phone was just sitting on a bench. This is the same phone that I lost in Times Square in New York 3 years ago and subsequently got delivered to Temple Street. Myself and the poor phone have been around the block.  V v lucky.  In fairness the 30 minute run warmed me up so I wasn’t complaining and I was just so grateful to have my phone. When I eventually got back to the hostel my tent had blown away so I had to try to pitch it again in the darkness and rain not ideal. I can’t even explain how strong the winds are in Patagonia.

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My new neighbor has a better sleep set up than me!
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My other neighbors and professional tent advisers

At this stage it was almost time to get up for the 6 am bus to Torres Del Paine. A rough start to some tough days ahead.  I genuinely can’t remember being this tired. On the boat over to the national park I was trying to see if I could suss out any potential mates or solo travelers to share a tent with. When your this cold all shame goes out the window and I was genuinely serious. This was proving difficult with lots of jolly couples. There was one German lad who once again was having none of me. It look liked I would be flying solo in my sad excuse of a tent!  My first day I pitched the tent in Paine Grande (with the help of a Swiss couple). I did a 9 hour round trip to Glacier Grey and Lago Grey. They were beautiful. Weather in Patgonia is so unpredictable and changes all of the time. It’s renowned for it’s incredibly vicious winds which I was experiencing first hand. I got stuck in torrential rain  and got soaked. The rest of the day was fairly grim as I was absolutely frozen.  Keeping my head down to try to avoid the icy winds and rain I ended up falling over a tree. I did something to my thigh nothing major but walking was even more of a challenge.

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Day 1 trekking en route to Glacier Grey
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Beautiful Glacier Grey
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Lago Grey’s wildlife

I eventually managed to crawl back into the camp for ‘dinner’. Because I got a last-minute deal for the trek I was slightly un-organised ( wouldn’t be like me). Everyone around me had hot stoves, gas cookers, the complete works and steaming food. I on the other hand  had just brought some left over rice from the night before’s dinner. What I hadn’t planned was the fact I had no cutlery or a bowl so once again sitting there in wet clothes eating cold rice with my hands. Quite a grim image. This trek is un doubatably harder on your own because you have to carry absolutely everything yourself from tent to food to cooking equipment so mates are advisable for this trek! Things started to pick up from here. I got chatting to a Chilain guy who is actually a guide so he took pity on me and gave me thermals for the night and some hot water. Life saving. The next morning after a sleepless night breakfast was oats, cold water, peanuts, raisins and dule de leche. It was delish except for the chill factor. I had to make breekie in a plastic bag *due to lack of bowel (I found a spoon in the bathroom so happy days).

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View from my tent in Paine Grande

2nd day trekking was gorgeous with all the elements testing us sun, wind, rain and snow.  Another 8 hour round trip I rushed home to catch the last boat out Paine Grande delira to say good bye to the windy campsite.

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Getting stuck in a blizzard in Francis Valley

My new mate Fabian had a car so I was so lucky after the boat he took me for the most amazing drive around the national park that evening (instead of paying for the expensive bus). Afterwards we cooked dinner together in the boot of his car; pasta with tomato and tuna never tasted so good. I was in charge of the booze so made mulled wine (essentially just hot wine with some orange yum).  Afterwards I pitched my tent in the darkness with once again the help of some locals with beautiful views of the following mornings challenge.That night it was less windy and although still freezing I managed to get a little bit of shut-eye.

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Evening Drive around Torres Del Paine

Day 3 I  trekked to the infamous Torres Del Paine. At this stage I had run out of oats so breakie consisted  of dulce de leche, milk powder and peanuts.  The trek was tough enough but the weather was gorgeous so despite feeling absolutely nackered I really enjoyed it. I spent about an hour at the top. It was glorious.  I have to say I underestimated the W trek. The trekking itself is fine but the days are quite long and on empty stomachs, really tough weather conditions and carrying all your accommodation makes for a great challenge in a spectacular setting. There were people doing 8 day treks in the park which personally I think would be too much for me.  I eventually made it back to the hostel at about 11pm. It was  fully booked so I had to resort to pitching the tent once again ( a professional at this stage). One of the guys gave me his sleeping bag that night and it made such a difference I slept like a baba.

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Day 3 en route to Torres Del Paine
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Relief!

I absolutely loved Refugio Hosken in  Puerto Natales it had such a lovely family atmosphere a perfect place to spend Christmas. Everyone there was from Chile so it was perfect for practicing my Spanish too.  They were all big into cooking are were constantly baking bread and cakes. I was in my element.  A place you could easily get stuck in.  Christmas isn’t as big a deal  as at home with virtually no build up or anticipation. They celebrate with a big meal on the 24th with very little happening on the 25th.  Christmas this year was always going to be different but it was a sad one this year. Mam rang me  on Christmas eve to say our dog Benjy had suddenly died. We had him for 13 amazing years and it was so tough being so far away from home and not being able to give him a hug ( Ben is the only once allowed to hug me).  This was the first time I was grateful for the tent as I was about to take some time to myself. I cried for the whole day even in the supermarket. A stranger kindly gave me their sunglasses to cover up my mess of  a face in the supermarket. I pretended I was a celebrity. I will never forget Ben and how much happiness he brought us all.

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One of my favourite photos of Ben in Corpus Christy braving Storm Ophelia

Everyone in the hostel were really kind to me and we all chipped in to make dinner for 20 people that night.  The distraction was the best thing I could have asked for.  There was no mention of a turkey or ham and menu for the night was boiled sausies, rice and salads and of course mayonnaise. I have never met a nation more obsessed with mayonnaise. In fairness the mayonnaise was homemade. Christmas day was v chilled with more boiled sausies, eggs and rice on the menu for lunch.  I spent the day learning guitar drinking vino and eating homemade cake. I couldn’t have asked for nicer people and it was definitely a memorable Christmas.

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Christmas Eve Chilain Style

 

So with my friend Martha leaving Porto Natales I had to return the tent. As an early Christmas Present to myself I decided to treat myself to a brand new tent, inflatable mattress and extra hot sleeping bag.  Absolutely delira with my new purchase I set up my new house and had one of the best sleeps since coming to Chile.  Obviously I didn’t even consider  the extra couple of kg of weight. The usual impulsive Ró go the better of me (I know Lucie you warned me).

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Views of Puerto Natales
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Views from the town of Porto Natales

Leaving beautiful Puerto Natales to try out my new ‘house’ in Ushuaia.