A Travellerspoint blog

December 2009

Chile to chilly Boston

Our final thoughts. . .


View A Rough Outline of our Trip on daveliz's travel map.

Enjoying espresso on our last day in Santiago, Chile.

Enjoying espresso on our last day in Santiago, Chile.


Our around the world adventure came full circle. We ended in Santiago at our friend Valeria's house, where we started the trip. Once again, her family welcomed us and treated us with warmth.

Our around the world adventure came full circle. We ended in Santiago at our friend Valeria's house, where we started the trip. Once again, her family welcomed us and treated us with warmth.


Rosalia, Valeria's cousin and neighbor, is making her award winning empanadas (pastry triangles filled with beef, egg, onions and mushrooms!)

Rosalia, Valeria's cousin and neighbor, is making her award winning empanadas (pastry triangles filled with beef, egg, onions and mushrooms!)


Rosalia also makes the most delicious chocolate and dulce de leche alfajores.

Rosalia also makes the most delicious chocolate and dulce de leche alfajores.


Our last tourist stop at the famous Virgin Mary on Cerro San Cristobal.

Our last tourist stop at the famous Virgin Mary on Cerro San Cristobal.


Leaving from the Santiago, Chile, airport. We had a crappy flight to Miami, but the customs agents were surprisingly kind. Four hours later we were in chilly Boston. The following day it snowed a foot, not the warm welcome we wanted after more than a year in the sun!

Leaving from the Santiago, Chile, airport. We had a crappy flight to Miami, but the customs agents were surprisingly kind. Four hours later we were in chilly Boston. The following day it snowed a foot, not the warm welcome we wanted after more than a year in the sun!


I can’t believe the end has come. Fourteen months sped by with only memories, thousands of photos and stories, and a few souvenirs left behind to remind us what we accomplished.

Our trip around the world became our job, as well as our pleasure. Every day we had a new mission, new responsibilities, new tasks, bus and train schedules to follow, hostels to find and reservations to make. We enjoyed the journey, but admittedly (even though it causes anxiety) are ready for a break, ready to find a home and job, and ready to spend time with our friends and family.

This trip was something I dreamed about for a long time. I don’t think it drastically changed me, rather made me more insightful and passionate about the world’s joys and flaws. I hope I will be able to carry that over into a future job, helping to make the world a happier place for people to live.

- Elizabeth

I just read an eerie article in Marie Claire (it was the only magazine in the bathroom!) titled "My Marriage Fell Apart...on Our Honeymoon!" It's by a woman named Liz who traveled with her husband Dave in South America. In summary, their marriage is still in tack but they had so much trouble adjusting to life 24x7 together that they traveled separately during their honeymoon and now she now only travels with her sister.

We experienced so much during this journey but the one thing we'll definitely take away from it is how it strengthened our relationship. No matter how difficult a situation, we always managed to eventually find our sense of humor and make light of ourselves. The article made me appreciate how fortunate we are to have found a travel companion in each other, let alone a life partner.

So, we're on to life's next set of adventures whatever they may be. I'm looking forward to it as much as I was our year abroad.

- Dave

It is hard to complete a list of superlatives for this trip, but overall it was the people we met along the way and the interactions we had with them that have created the lasting memories. Thank you to all who housed us. We loved every home stay!

If you’re curious:

MUSIC:
When we hear Jack Johnson or Eric Hutchinson we will think about this adventure. Their music was on in almost every hostel when we entered, or we bounced around to it in the cars we rented!

FAVORITE MOMENTS:
Eliz: Painting classes in Australia, being immersed into a Khosa village at Bulungula in South Africa, hiking and kayaking in Abel Tasman National Park in New Zealand, living in a minivan for two months in New Zealand and Australia.
Dave: Viewing Torres Del Paine, waking up in campervan to sounds of the ocean, drinking wine with a view at Cable Bay Winery on Waiheke Island, NZ, dolphins giving us an acrobatic show in Bay of Islands, New Zealand, biking through Bangkok, relaxing on beaches of Ko Phangan, Thailand, kayaking in Parati, Brazil, reaching summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the many good times we had with friends.

COUNTRIES WE COULD LIVE IN:
England, Netherlands, Australia and Japan.

WANT TO GO BACK, BUT COULDN’T LIVE THERE:
Everywhere in South America, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand.

GLAD WE WENT, BUT WILL LIKELY NEVER RETURN:
China and Cambodia.

BEST BEACHES:
Thailand, Brazil, and Australia.

MOST PLEASANTLY SURPRISED:
Laos, Brazil and Japan.

COUNTRIES THAT HAD THE BIGGEST IMPACT ON US:
South Africa, Malawi, and Cambodia.

FAVORITE CITIES:
Melbourne, Kyoto, London, Amsterdam, Noosa, Salvador and Tokyo.

BEST TOUR:
Biking through Bangkok, Thailand (Grasshopper Adventures), Bay of Islands sailing, New Zealand (Captain Mike from Canada), and Litchfield and Kakadu Parks, Australia (Territory Expeditions - check out http://www.territoryexpeditions.com.au we are the models in many of the photos.)

WORST TOUR
Oboke Gorge boat ride in Japan, Atuel Canyan in Argentina, and the Ecological Expeditions Pantanal tour in Brazil

WILD MOMENTS:
Monkeys serving us drinks in a Japan bar, a baboon in our car in South Africa, Cambodia border crossing by foot from Thailand and white water rafting in the Zambezi River in Zambia

MOST FUN
Thailand dancing with our friend Lucy, and listening to music in the streets of Salvador, Brazil.

FIRST SURREAL MOMENT:
Eliz: Sydney Opera House.
Dave: Torres Del Paine.

WORST MOMENTS:
Eliz: Constant stomach problems in New Zealand (but I know where every free toilet is), any hike more than three days, China (poor sanitation habits got the best of me), South Africa tick bite fever, sleeping within earshot of snorers (thin wall hostels and campsites) … I’ve been known to shake stranger’s tents to wake them out of a deep snore!
Dave: 8 hour bus trip in Africa with diarrhea, Zanzibar boat trip with sea sickness and diarrhea, dealing with Elizabeth’s meltdowns on the mountains.

SADEST MOMENTS:
Eliz: Having someone in South Africa tell me tick bite fever was fatal and I would die soon.
Dave: Elizabeth telling me that we were spending too much money while eating white rice and canned peas for the fifth night in a row in New Zealand.

BIGGEST PET PEEVE:
Queue etiquette in most parts of the world! Why do people rush to the door, push and shove, and cause massive stress to all passengers to get onto a plane or bus with assigned seating? The worst culprits are people in China where the concept of a line is nonexistent and the use of elbows is common. Second are the French, who form lines, but quickly enter a game of rugby at the first sign of the line moving. Most other countries form lines, but once there is a hint of boarding the line falls apart into mass chaos. People in the US tend to crowd around the entrance to airplanes blocking everyone called before them from boarding. Come on people! Japan and England win for best line etiquette.

FAVORITE FOODS:
Empanadas, alfajores, kobe beef, churrascaria in Brazil, pre-packaged peanut butter and fluff sandwiches and rice balls in Japan.

FAVORITE DESSERT:
Chocolate mint slice cookies from New Zealand and Australia, alfajores from Rosalia's in Chile, and the iced mocha drink from the Atomic Café in Melbourne.

WORST PURCHASE:
$3 Singapore made sunglasses bought in Laos that lasted less than a week. The paint melted off leaving the image of glasses on our faces.

WON'T MISS:
Squat toilets, although we do appreciate the cleanliness factor of not sitting on a filthy toilet seat, and on the plus side, the incredible thigh muscles that we built up from squatting. We also won't miss collecting our dirty toilet paper and having to toss it in the basket next to the toilet because the septic system couldn't handle the paper.

BEST LUGGAGE ITEM:
Swiss Army knife, spork (Light my Fire) and tiny ASUS netbook.

Thank you for going along for the ride with us. We appreciated all of your comments, suggestions and well wishes. We are sure there will be more travel adventures ahead, but for now, we must try to be productive citizens here in the US.

Our first five minutes in Boston! A blizzard came the next morning, a sign our 14 mo. summer was officially over.

Our first five minutes in Boston! A blizzard came the next morning, a sign our 14 mo. summer was officially over.


All the best and safe travels!
- Elizabeth and Dave

Posted by daveliz 16:25 Archived in Chile Comments (7)

Mendoza malbec and more

sunny 80 °F
View A Rough Outline of our Trip on daveliz's travel map.

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MENDOZA

Mendoza, Argentina, was an area we looked forward to the entire year. We were supposed to start off our honeymoon in the romantic setting of vineyards and mountains back in November 2008, but a border strike prevented us from getting there. We finally rolled into Mendoza in December 2009 on yet another overnight bus (that is five in the last few weeks!) Mendoza is a beautiful, relaxed city with lots of parks, plazas and tree lined streets, but we set our expectations too high on the grape scene. The wine was fantastic, but we had a vision of peaceful vineyards and quaint villages sitting at the foothills of the snow capped Andes mountains, similar to regions we experienced in New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and in the States. Rather, the villages were not that well kept and the vineyards were on fairly busy streets with unwelcoming security gates.

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Mendoza city has two main areas for vineyards, Chacras de Coria and the more well known Maipu region, which was the first in the nation and we believe started by a Chilean. Mendoza is one of the top five largest wine regions in the world, the largest in Argentina producing 70% of the country's wines. The area is best known for its red wines, especially malbec, as the climate for growing ripe fruit is excellent with dry, hot summers and cool winters.

This vineyard wasn't open to the public, but we enjoyed the view!

This vineyard wasn't open to the public, but we enjoyed the view!


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We toured the Chacras de Coria region by bike, making stops at Bodegas Alta Vista, Lagarde and Clos de  Chacras. The most picturesque vineyard we visited was Alta Vista. It also had the best wines we tasted that day.

We toured the Chacras de Coria region by bike, making stops at Bodegas Alta Vista, Lagarde and Clos de Chacras. The most picturesque vineyard we visited was Alta Vista. It also had the best wines we tasted that day.


These stainless steel tanks hold the cheaper and younger red wines, white wines and champaign for fermenting. Alta Vista uses huge cement tanks for the higher quality wines, because that allows for better temperature control.

These stainless steel tanks hold the cheaper and younger red wines, white wines and champaign for fermenting. Alta Vista uses huge cement tanks for the higher quality wines, because that allows for better temperature control.


The higher quality and more complex red wines age in these French and American oak barrels for six to 36 months. This process is the second fermentation period taking place after the wine has been sitting in the cement tanks.

The higher quality and more complex red wines age in these French and American oak barrels for six to 36 months. This process is the second fermentation period taking place after the wine has been sitting in the cement tanks.


The Alta Vista tasting room used to be one of the old cement tanks. The small window in the lower right displayed the three foot thickness of the wall. The floor and doors are made from parts of an old, giant oak barrel.

The Alta Vista tasting room used to be one of the old cement tanks. The small window in the lower right displayed the three foot thickness of the wall. The floor and doors are made from parts of an old, giant oak barrel.


Dave likes the torrontes best, a white wine unique to Argentina, with malbec coming in a close second.

Dave likes the torrontes best, a white wine unique to Argentina, with malbec coming in a close second.


We loved seeing the old cars en route.

Although drivers in Argentina have embraced new cars, they haven't forgotten about some old goodies. You see old Fords, Peugeots, Renaults and Citroens everywhere, probably very reminiscent of Cuba.

Although drivers in Argentina have embraced new cars, they haven't forgotten about some old goodies. You see old Fords, Peugeots, Renaults and Citroens everywhere, probably very reminiscent of Cuba.


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Mendoza city itself is quite vibrant.

Families gather on weekend days at Parque de San Martin.

Families gather on weekend days at Parque de San Martin.


At night, Mendoza is hopping with bar-lined streets. We tried our best to go out to dance, but with the start time of 1 a.m., us old farts were in bed. We were awake enough to grab a drink beforehand on Av. Aristides Villanueva

At night, Mendoza is hopping with bar-lined streets. We tried our best to go out to dance, but with the start time of 1 a.m., us old farts were in bed. We were awake enough to grab a drink beforehand on Av. Aristides Villanueva


Mendoza is also the nearest city to Aconcagua, which is is the highest mountain in the western hemisphere. Fortunately, Dave had no desire to do the 15 day hike to the top. Perhaps the thought of his complaining wife next to him gravitated him towards another glass of wine instead!

SAN RAFAEL

Before going to Mendoza city, we visited San Rafael, which is in the south of the Mendoza province and also known for its wine, fruit and olive trees. We visited Bodegas Valentin Bianchi, Suter and La Abeja. Argentinians rave about Bianchi and it was the best of the three.

Valentin Bianchi´s wine cellar was huge. It stores thousands of bottles of wine.

Valentin Bianchi´s wine cellar was huge. It stores thousands of bottles of wine.


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We tasted homemade marmalade from one of many shops outside a fruit farm.

We tasted homemade marmalade from one of many shops outside a fruit farm.


SAN RAFAEL is also known for the Cañón del Atuel and the El Nihuil Dam. The canyon is about 60 km long and made from a variety of rock types and formations. Unfortunately we don't have the best photos, because we went on one of the worst tours ever. . . only stopping at the hydroelectric plants and not sights of nature's beauty. At the end of the tour we had a really bad wine tasting too :(

The colorful walls of Cañon del Atuel.

The colorful walls of Cañon del Atuel.


Thankfully we did stop at the Valle Grande reservoir, which was pretty exquisite with its turquoise water and mountainous surroundings.

Thankfully we did stop at the Valle Grande reservoir, which was pretty exquisite with its turquoise water and mountainous surroundings.


This street sign in San Rafael marks where it all began. We bought our around the world flight ticket in Buenos Aires, and stop number one was Chile.

This street sign in San Rafael marks where it all began. We bought our around the world flight ticket in Buenos Aires, and stop number one was Chile.


Before getting on an overnight bus to Santiago, Chile, we spent a few hours on our last day in Argentina at the Termas Cacheuta, a thermal water park just outside of Mendoza. The natural, warm and bubbly springs promised to give us a bit of relaxation before returning home. Unfortunately, the million and one children running around had something else in mind.

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Twenty six countries later we have returned to Santiago, Chile, where we began our trip. We have come full circle before returning home to Boston.

- Elizabeth and Dave

Posted by daveliz 12:26 Archived in Argentina Comments (3)

¡Champaquí!

Hiking to the highest peak in the Córdoba province, El Cerro Champaquí (9,154 ft), in the Sierras Grandes mountain range.

semi-overcast 60 °F
View A Rough Outline of our Trip on daveliz's travel map.

Cerro Champaquí, Córdoba, Argentina, through the clouds.

Cerro Champaquí, Córdoba, Argentina, through the clouds.


Elizabeth and I often reflect on our year of travel and have the strange sensation that the past 14 months have been a dream. We've found that one of the best ways to inject a dose of reality is to visit people we've met along the way. This is one reason why I was so insistent that we climb Champaquí, the highest mountain in the Córdoba province, with a few of the Argentinians I met on Kilimanjaro.

Perhaps, subconsciously, it was also why I misinterpreted the Spanish dossier sent to me by Miguel, my Kilimanjaro friend and guide for the Alto Rumbo Champaquí hike. I initially translated it to say three day hike with three to four hours of hiking each day, so Elizabeth agreed to do it with me. In reality, there were three to four hour hikes in the morning and then in the afternoon. Sorry Elizabeth!

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Elizabeth wasn't too happy with my mistake since hiking seven hours a day for three days straight isn't her thing. Now that I say it, it doesn't sound fun to me either! Never-the-less, she made it to the top easily with only a few (hundred) minor complaints along the way ;-)

Elizabeth wasn't too happy with my mistake since hiking seven hours a day for three days straight isn't her thing. Now that I say it, it doesn't sound fun to me either! Never-the-less, she made it to the top easily with only a few (hundred) minor complaints along the way ;-)


How many women would within a year live in a car, sleep in a tent, hike mountains in the rain, use bathrooms ill-suited for humans, take cold showers and not kill their husband? I'm a lucky man!

How many women would within a year live in a car, sleep in a tent, hike mountains in the rain, use bathrooms ill-suited for humans, take cold showers and not kill their husband? I'm a lucky man!


We hiked with a group of nine fun and friendly Argentinians. Raul, with whom I hiked Kilimanjaro, was the only English speaker.

We hiked with a group of nine fun and friendly Argentinians. Raul, with whom I hiked Kilimanjaro, was the only English speaker.


Miguel, our Alto Rumbo guide, describing the history and geology of Champaquí and the Valle de Calamuchita in Spanish. I tried to translate for Elizabeth, but my Spanish was pushed past my limit. Miguel would talk for five minutes and I would inevitably translate, "that rock is of some importance."

Miguel, our Alto Rumbo guide, describing the history and geology of Champaquí and the Valle de Calamuchita in Spanish. I tried to translate for Elizabeth, but my Spanish was pushed past my limit. Miguel would talk for five minutes and I would inevitably translate, "that rock is of some importance."


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Everyone made it to the top successfully just in time for siesta.

Everyone made it to the top successfully just in time for siesta.


Our group at dinner the night of the summit. Even though we didn't understand everything they were saying, they made the experience enjoyable. We made them all a bit jealous with our 14 month trip. Extended travel is even more unheard of for Argentinians than Americans.

Our group at dinner the night of the summit. Even though we didn't understand everything they were saying, they made the experience enjoyable. We made them all a bit jealous with our 14 month trip. Extended travel is even more unheard of for Argentinians than Americans.


"Equipo Kilimanjaro." Me, Miguel, Viviana, and Raul.

"Equipo Kilimanjaro." Me, Miguel, Viviana, and Raul.


After the hike we explored Villa General Belgrano, a little German village that serves as the base camp for Alto Rumbo.

If people weren't speaking Spanish you'd think we were in Germany.

If people weren't speaking Spanish you'd think we were in Germany.


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It's amazing how many towns and cities we've seen in a year. We've taken countless bus trips from town to town. Córdoba was the next city to mark off on the map. We got a small dose of life in the city before our next destination, the province of Mendoza.

Elizabeth gets cozy for our overnight bus trip.

Elizabeth gets cozy for our overnight bus trip.


Córdoba has an extensive network of pedestrian ways.

Córdoba has an extensive network of pedestrian ways.


The ubiquitous Argentinian town plaza with man on horse in the middle. Every city and town in Argentina centers around a large square.

The ubiquitous Argentinian town plaza with man on horse in the middle. Every city and town in Argentina centers around a large square.


The architecture is very European.

The architecture is very European.


Córdoba is a Jesuit town with churches on every corner. Each one has its own character.

Córdoba is a Jesuit town with churches on every corner. Each one has its own character.


Córdoba has the largest university in Argentina. Nearing the end of the school year, sorority girls make a little noise marching down the main street.

Córdoba has the largest university in Argentina. Nearing the end of the school year, sorority girls make a little noise marching down the main street.


We had to buy the peculiar looking green fruit from this peddler. Two days later we realized it was a fig and not some tropical Argentinian fruit.

We had to buy the peculiar looking green fruit from this peddler. Two days later we realized it was a fig and not some tropical Argentinian fruit.


One thing we find hard to swallow in Argentina is the diet. Individually the meat, empanadas and sweets are delicious. However, a typical breakfast is white bread with dulce de leche (caramel spread), lunch consists of ham and cheese on white bread, and dinner is some type of meat, meat, meat with a combo of rice, potatoes or pasta. Fruit and vegetables are rarely on the table. We were surprised that even the athletic hikers didn't vary their diet to give them more energy. Meanwhile, our insides feel like glue.

Onwards . . . a few more bottles of wine, a handful of empanadas and alfahores, and some Latin dancing in Mendoza and our trip will quickly come to a close. We're looking forward to seeing our friend Valeria and her family in Santiago, Chile, soon where it all began. It's sure to be a sentimental and emotional experience!

- Dave

Posted by daveliz 03:38 Archived in Argentina Comments (3)

Mission accomplished! Salt Flats.

Our journey to Salta and Cafayate, Argentina

sunny 100 °F
View A Rough Outline of our Trip on daveliz's travel map.

Coke is it! The biggest thing around. Salinas Grandes, Argentina.

Coke is it! The biggest thing around. Salinas Grandes, Argentina.


From the beginning of our world trip, I wanted to visit a salt flat, a dried lake of salt, which looks like a snow covered desert. Our goal was to visit the world's largest salt flat in Bolivia, but unfortunately relations between Bolivia and the US have not been good. When we started the trip in Oct. 08, there were travel warnings for Americans to stay out of Bolivia. Now, Bolivia wants US citizens to pay $135, give bank statements from the last three months and requires a passport photo on a red background, which is absurd. I can go into all of the political reasons for this, but Dave and I simply decided that getting this visa was not worth the hassle. It is apparent to us that newly re-elected President Evo Morales does not welcome Americans right now, which is a shame, because Bolivia is a beautiful country and many of its citizens depend on tourism dollars that will no longer come from us, among others.

As a consolation we settled for the more convenient Salinas Grandes north of Salta, Argentina.


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Salt Flat Romance.

Salt Flat Romance.


Dave is in the palm of my hands.

Dave is in the palm of my hands.


Salt forms in a honeycomb shape as the earth moves.

Salt forms in a honeycomb shape as the earth moves.


Salt is collected for human consumption and use from these pools dug into the salt flat, which are constantly regenerating themselves with new salt. Iodine is added for eating purposes.

Salt is collected for human consumption and use from these pools dug into the salt flat, which are constantly regenerating themselves with new salt. Iodine is added for eating purposes.


En route to the Salt Flats we drove along the road next to the Train to the Clouds.

Tren a  Las Nubes runs on the third highest railway in the world. It is now only used for tourism purposes.

Tren a Las Nubes runs on the third highest railway in the world. It is now only used for tourism purposes.


We climbed up steep mountain roads, passing colorful mountains made up of several types of rock.

We climbed up steep mountain roads, passing colorful mountains made up of several types of rock.


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We also passed desert filled with cactus.

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And stopped in small Inca influenced villages.

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Colorful quilts for sale on the streets of Purmamarca, a small, touristy town.

Colorful quilts for sale on the streets of Purmamarca, a small, touristy town.


Purmamarca is known for the Cerro de los 7 Colores, but when we arrived and the sun was setting only about 5 colors appeared on the mountain.

Purmamarca is known for the Cerro de los 7 Colores, but when we arrived and the sun was setting only about 5 colors appeared on the mountain.


This small town was straight from a western film.

This small town was straight from a western film.


Doesn't this town look like Lego Land?

Doesn't this town look like Lego Land?


The northwest of Argentina is quite rural and poor. Sugarcane and tobacco production are the main agriculture industries in the area, which help the local economy. We learned that Virginia tobacco either directly or indirectly supports about 500,000 people a year in this region.

SALTA is the capital of the Salta Province. It is a medium size city with a nice square in downtown and pedestrian shopping ways.

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Salta church.

Salta church.


Direct deposit hasn't made its way to Argentina. Bank lines are incredibly long, wrapping around buildings, especially at the beginning of the month when seniors want to collect government checks.

Direct deposit hasn't made its way to Argentina. Bank lines are incredibly long, wrapping around buildings, especially at the beginning of the month when seniors want to collect government checks.


CAFAYATE is a quaint town about two hours south of Salta. It is influenced by Spanish architecture and ancient tribes.

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Cafayate rests in a valley high above sea level and is known for its wine.

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We rented bikes to ride around the wine region, not really thinking about the high altitude, dirt roads and affect of the wine. Hmmm. We really enjoyed wines from Finca Los Nubes and Domingo Hermanos, especially torrontes wine grown from a grape native to Argentina.

Here are some scenes from the bodegas:

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AMAICHA DEL VALLE is home to the Pachamama museum, which is not to be missed in the middle of this small town on the way to Tucuman from Cafayate. The property is part sculpture park and part art/history museum solely designed by artist Hector Cruz. Pachamama means mother earth, so the focus of the paintings, tapestries and sculptures is on nature and the aboriginal culture in Argentina.

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Like the locals in small town Argentina, Dave flagged down the bus to take us to Tucuman so we could catch another bus to Cordoba. It was a long day!

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With less than one week left, Dave and I are trying to enjoy every minute, but are sad about the impending end to our adventure.

Coming up . . . hiking to the top of the highest mountain in Cordoba, plus wine tasting and canyons in San Rafael.

- Elizabeth

Posted by daveliz 11:34 Archived in Argentina Comments (1)

Traffic, Wetlands & Water Falls

Sao Paulo, Pantanal & Iguazu Falls

sunny 95 °F
View A Rough Outline of our Trip on daveliz's travel map.

SAO PAULO

Sao Paulo is the world's fourth largest city, which is apparent by the endless streams of traffic. It is so bad that locals are not allowed to drive during rush hours one day a week. It is made up of several different neighborhoods, some very ritzy, others rundown. It is also a major international and domestic business hub for Brazil.

Ah, peace from cars! While Dave did some business in the city, I took a public bus to Ibirapuera Park, which is home to a contemporary art museum and Afro-Brazilian history and art museum.

Ah, peace from cars! While Dave did some business in the city, I took a public bus to Ibirapuera Park, which is home to a contemporary art museum and Afro-Brazilian history and art museum.


The best part about SP was having several local, personal tour guides.

My friend Alessadra, whom I cycled with at the gym in Brighton, moved back to SP to work. She took us to the chic Unique Hotel with an incredible roof top view of the city. Alessandra and her friend treated us to Sao Paulo contemporary pizzas (thin crust pizzas with interesting combos of veggies, fruits and meats on top) and caipirinhas, our favorite Brazilian drink made with cashaca. We owe them!

My friend Alessadra, whom I cycled with at the gym in Brighton, moved back to SP to work. She took us to the chic Unique Hotel with an incredible roof top view of the city. Alessandra and her friend treated us to Sao Paulo contemporary pizzas (thin crust pizzas with interesting combos of veggies, fruits and meats on top) and caipirinhas, our favorite Brazilian drink made with cashaca. We owe them!


My friend Karin, who did an abroad year in Brazil several years ago, set us up with the niece of her host family. Roberta and her husband Erik gave us a driving tour of SP and treated us to a fabulous traditional meat dinner at a local churrascaria. We owe them too!

The friendly staff gave us a tour of the oven facilities. Beef and pork are slow cooked in these brick ovens for four days before serving to guests.

The friendly staff gave us a tour of the oven facilities. Beef and pork are slow cooked in these brick ovens for four days before serving to guests.


Presentation isn't the best asset of the churrascaria, but the food was yummy! We didn't order anything, the wait staff just brings endless meat and side dishes to the table until you ask them to stop!

Presentation isn't the best asset of the churrascaria, but the food was yummy! We didn't order anything, the wait staff just brings endless meat and side dishes to the table until you ask them to stop!


Although there are some good low fair air carriers, traveling through South America is often easiest and cheapest by bus. Plus, most locals travel this way. We like it because it allows us to see the country side. We've taken several long distance buses (10-24 hour journeys) to get to our destination. Dave gets comfy on an overnight bus to the Pantanal!

Although there are some good low fair air carriers, traveling through South America is often easiest and cheapest by bus. Plus, most locals travel this way. We like it because it allows us to see the country side. We've taken several long distance buses (10-24 hour journeys) to get to our destination. Dave gets comfy on an overnight bus to the Pantanal!


PANTANAL

The Pantanal region of Brazil is the largest wetlands in the world, home to hundreds of species of tropical birds, caiman (small crocodiles), piranhas and anacondas to name just a few of the animals.

The Pantanal covers 54,000 sq. miles of Brazil to the south of the Amazon rain forest. The wetlands are submerged in water for most of the year, but we visited during the dry season in November so were able to drive around the territory.

The Pantanal covers 54,000 sq. miles of Brazil to the south of the Amazon rain forest. The wetlands are submerged in water for most of the year, but we visited during the dry season in November so were able to drive around the territory.


We took a four day 'Ecological Expedition' tour which was good, but a bit gimmicky and run by knife wielding cowboys out to make a quick penny from budget travelers.

We took a four day 'Ecological Expedition' tour which was good, but a bit gimmicky and run by knife wielding cowboys out to make a quick penny from budget travelers.


There are more caiman than people in the Pantanal. During the dry season there are piles of them lounging around pockets of water. Thankfully they are not aggressive towards humans like the crocodiles in Australia.

There are more caiman than people in the Pantanal. During the dry season there are piles of them lounging around pockets of water. Thankfully they are not aggressive towards humans like the crocodiles in Australia.


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A little too close for comfort!

A little too close for comfort!


Although we saw an array of birds, the best time to view them is in March during migratory season.

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And there were other creatures ...

The swamp rat or capybara is the largest rodent in the world.

The swamp rat or capybara is the largest rodent in the world.


Swamp deer.

Swamp deer.


Howler monkeys make a loud and spooky scream during sunrise and sunset.

Howler monkeys make a loud and spooky scream during sunrise and sunset.


We went horseback riding through the bush - an activity my ass and back rejected.

Three amigos, rather three inexperienced horse riders, including Sjoerd from the Netherlands. Sjoerd's horse did a spin every ten steps and our horses led us right into prickly trees. We have war wounds on our legs and arms to prove it : - )

Three amigos, rather three inexperienced horse riders, including Sjoerd from the Netherlands. Sjoerd's horse did a spin every ten steps and our horses led us right into prickly trees. We have war wounds on our legs and arms to prove it : - )


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We took an all-but-relaxing boat tour along the waterways of the Pantanal.

The river is lined with caiman and filled with flying fish. I got pummeled several times in the back and head by these powerful, little fish that landed in our boat. Not fun!

The river is lined with caiman and filled with flying fish. I got pummeled several times in the back and head by these powerful, little fish that landed in our boat. Not fun!


Pantanal women use the river to cook and clean.

Pantanal women use the river to cook and clean.


Most of the men in the Pantanal are cowboys, ranchers and fishermen.

Most of the men in the Pantanal are cowboys, ranchers and fishermen.


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We went fishing for pirhanas. They are native to this area, living in fresh water bodies in South America.

Check out these teeth. Piranha have quite a bite.

Check out these teeth. Piranha have quite a bite.


After two hours of trying, Dave finally caught one! (For the record, I caught one in about two minutes, but got so excited that I flung it off my fishing pole and hit the poor Dutch boy traveling with us. Then the fish returned to the water.)

After two hours of trying, Dave finally caught one! (For the record, I caught one in about two minutes, but got so excited that I flung it off my fishing pole and hit the poor Dutch boy traveling with us. Then the fish returned to the water.)


Dave gave the onlooking caiman his prize for lunch.

Dave gave the onlooking caiman his prize for lunch.


Accommodations were grim during this expedition, sleeping in a tent with no ventilation in 110 degree temps and high humidity. Playing futbol with the locals was the only way to bring a little bit of life back in us.

Accommodations were grim during this expedition, sleeping in a tent with no ventilation in 110 degree temps and high humidity. Playing futbol with the locals was the only way to bring a little bit of life back in us.


IGUAZU FALLS

Iguazu Falls is impressive from both the Brazil and Argentinian sides. With more than 275 falls, spanning 1.7 miles in length, and heights of 200-269 feet, we were in awe!

We visited the Brazilian side first on a rainy day. This area is called Devil's Throat which marks the border between the two countries. It was more intense, powerful and bigger than Niagara and Victoria Falls.

We visited the Brazilian side first on a rainy day. This area is called Devil's Throat which marks the border between the two countries. It was more intense, powerful and bigger than Niagara and Victoria Falls.


We didn't think the Argentinian side would be much better, but it was. From this side you could see the variety of falls along the river.

We didn't think the Argentinian side would be much better, but it was. From this side you could see the variety of falls along the river.


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The falls are surrounded by a forest filled with colorful, exotic butterflies and birds.

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Dave makes a friend. This butterfly sat on his hat for hours as we toured the falls.

Dave makes a friend. This butterfly sat on his hat for hours as we toured the falls.


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The tucans were pretty cool!

The tucans were pretty cool!


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I give most South American attractions credit for putting signage in English, but PLEASE have a native speaker check out the grammar and spelling before printing and posting one hundred signs like this....  </p><p>This absolutely happens everywhere around the world, giving us a good laugh.

I give most South American attractions credit for putting signage in English, but PLEASE have a native speaker check out the grammar and spelling before printing and posting one hundred signs like this....

This absolutely happens everywhere around the world, giving us a good laugh.


After nearly a month, we were sad to leave Brazil, but excited to enter Argentina. With a five year visa in place we know we will return to Brazil. The country is so large there are endless opportunities to see more and meet new incredibly warm and friendly people.

And a random note, which our hygienist Joe who is Brazilian would be proud, unlike any other country we have visited, the Brazilians are noticeably into dental hygiene. Many people have perfect teeth, with people in their 20-30s wearing braces, and people brushing their teeth frequently in cafe bathrooms at bus stations, etc.

We've actually been in Argentina for almost two weeks now. Email has been slow at best, so we are rapidly working to keep you up to date on our adventures through Salta, Cafayate, Cordoba and Mendoza.

More soon,
- Elizabeth

Posted by daveliz 16:22 Archived in Brazil Comments (3)

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