Saturday, February 25, 2012

Colon, Argentina 22-23 Feb 2012

From Mercedes to Colon was smooth, no more mud ride. I arrived at 3:30am in Colon, half awake, I found a spot in the terminal to continue my sleep.

I read that Colon is a Artesaneas town, in February there is a big artisan festival. This is the reason I come here. Unfortunately, I found out from the taxi driver that the festival is over! Bummer!

It was hard to find information of this town, not so popular on the foreign tourist trail. I managed to get 2 hostel name from the web other seems really expensive. When the taxi driver drove me to the first hostel, there was a big sign ¨Se Vende¨ means For Sale. Shit! That explain why I can´t find it listed on Hosteling International. Let's try the second one on my list. It end up to cost AP300 for the only double room available.That is crazy! This is not Patagonia or Buenos Aires, why is it so expensive. The taxi driver suggested to me to camp, he told me I can rent a tent at the camp site and so I agreed. I took a tent at a camp site by Rio Uruguay which was pretty nice place but it cost me the price of dormitory bed in Patagonia. I´ve decided to just stayed one night and get out of this expensive place. Furthermore the festival is over. :-(

The town is just full of over price souvenirs, not interesting at all. The so call ¨beach¨ by Rio Uruguay was ok but not fantastic. The water of the river was almost green color, I find it disgusting but the Argentinean seems to have no problem with it. So no Artisan, no swimming in the river, I went to internet cafe.

Since I lost my computer which is my primary back of all my photos, my secondary backup in my portable hard disk now became my primary. I have to transfer my photos directly to my hard disk now. I found one internet cafe that was able to read my hard disk. It was old PC and out of date anti virus. I swear if I could or if I would or if I should, sign... I should not have used the computer. If I didn´t used the computer, I would have still been able to read my photos in the hard disk. :-(

What happen was I plugged in both my camera and my hard disk, I was able to transfer all the photos since Buenos Aires till today to the hard disk. I was able to browse and upload some files. After I left the shop, I tried to browse my photos in the camera, ¨No Photos Found¨ I said ¨Shit! This can´t be happening to me now, this is my one and only backup¨ I recalled this problem before, it happen when we plugged in to a computer that has some kind of virus, it will changed all the folders to a shortcut. Then other devices will not be able to read the folders anymore but the files are still in the memory card or storage. I was really piss! My 9 months photos are now not accessible! I could not try my hard disk on another computer to verified because internet cafe here were limited and Win XP can´t recognised the hard disk. It really spoilt my day. What should I do now? Being a IT engineer, that brain automatically start to think of solutions. Option one, go back to that computer and try to upload everything online. I figured with the speed, it will probably take me 3 days... Option two, Buy a new Hard Disk, connect to the other computer in the shop that was not infected, make a copy across the network, that will probably confuse the gal in the shop and hard for me to explain to her. I want to scream!!!! Urgggg!

I went back to my tent, cool down and told myself to drop it. Leave it as it is, I will find a solution back home, at least for now I know the files are still inside. That´s how I spent my day in Colon. Not so good encounter.

*** Appologised no photos available at the moment to post as my computer was stolen ***

Rented a tent at a camp site - AP80

Taxi from bus terminal to search for accommodation - AP40
Taxi from camp site to terminal - AP15
Bus from Colon to Gualeguaychu - AP15.50


Between Carlos Pellegrini and Mercedes, Argentina 21 Feb 2012

Alarm rang at 3:30am but it always happen that I will wake up before the alarm ring, don´t that happen to you when you are scare to miss the bus or flight? My bus arrived on time at 4am to pick me up from the hostel. Here in this small village there is no bus terminal so the bus will pick up all the passengers from their respective house or accommodation. :-)

As we left Carlos Pellegrini, we have to cross that broken bridge again, I wonder how long will it stand with these big and heavy vehicle passing every day. The driver was very confident driving across, suddenly we heard a big "BANG" below the bus, he carried on driving until we reach the other side but something is wrong. He went down to investigate, he came back with 2 pieces of exhaust. Oups! I wonder will the bus function normally! He cleaned his hands and off we go but it was still making noise below, he went down and tighten up something, then no more noise.... I guess that is an OK to go!

The journey will be bumpy but at least at 4am in the morning, there is no sun and heavy traffic. We all dozed off in the bus. 1 hour down the road, the storm hit us, the road ahead was wet and muddy. We were woken up when the bus started to swirl left and right, just like those Rallys motocar in the desert. He turned the wheel to the left the bus swirl to the right and wise versa. Some of the passengers started to scream, that makes me nervous. He was doing all right with the swirling until the right wheels went off the road. Now we are stucked, it was still dark at 5am in the morning. we could only wait. The bus was tilted 30 degree to the right, which makes it hard to find a good position to sit nor sleep.

By 7am, we heard a sound of a tractor,woohoo the rescue team is here! We happen to be near a farm, they came to help. They attached the cable in front of the bus and started to pull, the tractor wheel was spinning none stop but the bus didn´t move an inch. :-( Looks like the bus is too heavy for one tractor, they went to get another tractor. We waited for another hour. Now 2 tractors arrived, they lined up and connect to each other like a train. We were all praying hard! This time it works! Off we go back on the road. We thank the farmers for their help and continue our journey, it was still raining.

The bus was still swirling all the way, the bus driver was very experience and very careful. We drove on for another few kms when the road get muddier. This time out of the control of the driver, the back wheels went off the road. He ram the engine hard but that actually make it worst and sank deeper in the mud. He finally stop when the rubber on the wheels started to smell. Meanwhile the other cars that are passing by one after another got stucked in all style. We were watching and counting since we have got nothing else to do. We waited for a long time for a rescue team but no sign of them. Our bus driver then decided to collect stones to put in front of the back wheels so it provide some grip to the wheel to advance. One of the passenger and me, we went down to help, wow! it was very slippery, I could hardly stand still, the rain started to pour again. We can't do anything. We waited and slowly all the cars one by one left us. I fell asleep.

When I woke up it was already 11am, of course we are still at the same place. There were no more cars around us. The rain has slowly die down but the road was still muddy. Where is the tractor? One guy in the bus, started to question the driver, why nothing is happenning, why no one come to help? Why this why that...Someone should do this or should do that... He was so selfish, he didn´t even help instead just sleep in the bus, he wanted to get back on time because he had paid for the bus ticket, he even asked the drive to stop him a car. Some people are really selfish and btw he is Israelist! I have met many of them on the road who were just like him. The driver was annoyed with him and he left the bus. "That´s great! Now we lost the driver too!¨ I said it out loudly. He kept quiet after that.

I think around 1 pm, we saw a sign of a tractor from far. The tractor was small but anyway we didn´t have a driver to drive the bus. :-( Half an hour later, we saw another tractor coming our arrived with our driver! Yeah! He went looking for one. :-) The 2 tractors combined effort to pull out the bus. We got out finally! One of the tractor tow us along the way till we got to a drier ground. We were so grateful for the driver and the tractors´help. We finally arrived at Mercedes around 3pm. A 2.5 hours journey end up to be 11. What an experienced!

My next available bus to Colon is at 9pm, I have 6 hours to kill. I went looking for Internet Cafe to see if there is any news of my passport. Pablo wrote me but he told me no news yet. :-(

I am still hoping as long as I am here in Argentina...

If you are my FB friends you can view this video clip.


Bus Mercedes to Colon - AP111


Friday, February 24, 2012

Carlos Pellegrini, Argentina 18-20 Feb 2012

From Puerto Iguazu to Carlos Pellegrini, I need to change 3 buses. First 9 hours to Corrientes, then 3 hours to Mercedes and lastly 2.5 hours to Carlos Pellegrini. What is so interesting at Carlos Pellegrini? It is the main base to visit Reserva Esteros del Iberá. It is home to abundance birds and animal life and one of the finest in South America.

At Mercedes, the only bus to Carlos Pellegrini leave at 12:30pm, the bus ticket was cheap. Only AP30 for 2.5 hours ride. There must be a catch! When the bus arrived at the terminal then it make sense. It was a non aircon bus, with hard seat, no luggage storage area and full of dust with a huge spare wheel inside the bus. No seat number allocated so first come first serve basis. People started to get in the bus to book a place, I did the same as well. It was another hot day. Gosh! We will be in trouble soon. Slowly the bus started to load up, with boxes of food and plastic bag of breads and people. There were more passengers then seats. Some were sitting on stool and some on the spare wheel. I felt like I am back to Bolivia again. The road was bumpy and dusty, plus the hot weather it was unbearable.

We arrived at this beautiful Lake Ibera, passing the lake on a broken bridge, we arrived at Carlos Pellegrini. The driver first stop at the Tourist Information Center, he then started to drop everyone off their respective Hotel or Lodge. I didn´t have anything booked, I thought I could get some info from the bus terminal. Then maybe I thought, maybe there is no terminal here. The village looks really empty! I gave him one of the Hostel I wrote down, he said ok I will pass. :-) That is nice to have a door to door service.

So I was dropped at the hostel, luckly because there was no road name or anyone on the street, didn´t know where I am. This place is like a small village in my home town, the road are sandy, house are surrounded with huge land, horses, cows, sheeps, chickens and dogs wandering freely on the streets. There is really nothing here. The hostel that I picked didn´t offer cooking facility and it cost AP100, I couldn´t affort. The lady direct me to other hostel which is 5 blocks down the road. Under this freaking hot sun and white sandy ground, I felt like walking on the desert. The first hostel doesn´t allow cooking, the second one allow but it was full, finally at the third one, I got a private room with fan and able to cook. I got myself a cold shower immediately! Phew! That was really needed.

The best thing to do here to see the wildlife is to take on a boat trip which will bring us to the dense floating islands. There is over 350 spicies of birds in this reserva including coloful Kingfisher, hummingbirds, eagles, egrets, herons, ducks and many more. I booked myself to the early morning boat trip. It was costly as it was Public Holiday in Argentina. We will leave 7am in the morning for a 2 hours trip around the lake.

In the evening, the sunset on Lake Ibera was gorgeous. The entire lake became orange and birds was abundance. I really wish I have my glasses now! :-( I will missed lots of birds with my 70% vision.

In the night, the heat was unbearable, the bed was still warm from the day. The ceiling fan hardly make any wind, I sprayed myself with Off and open the windows, there was no wind instead welcome more mosquitoes (the window has no mosquitoe net) I didn´t sleep much as I was bitten all night.

Got up at 6:30am, no sign of my breakfast. Ate some of my stash of biscutte for breakfast. We were 7 in the boat, the guide speak Spanish so whatever name that he said I don´t know what it is but I saw lots of birds, caiman, capybara and a mash deer. It was really fruitful, it´s worth all the money spent. I know someone would love this place. :-)

Back to the hostel, I asked the owner for an aircon room but there was no availability. I told him I am checking out. I moved to the first hostel where it has fan but windows with mosquitoe net. The room is huge and bright. The lady owner change her mind and allow me to cook. That was nice of her. Maybe she pitty me that I didn´t sleep the whole night and saw me with my big plastic bag of food. :-)

I wanted to buy the book of Flora and Birds of Ibera in a souvenir shop 5 blocks away. This book is great with photos and names of flowers, birds, animals, butterflies, plant and frogs that live in Lake Ibera. Unfortunately it was close, I realised I was the only idiot walking on the street, everyone I guess is either in their room or the pool. :-( A family I met in the previous hostel invited me for a Asado lunch, of cause I couldn´t miss it. I joined them.

On the last day, I went early to the park  for some trekking. There were only 2 trails, one is a 1 hour trail and another is 30 minutes. I saw grey fox, howler monkeys, capybara and lots of birds. I wish I could go for another boat ride but I didn´t have enough money as there were no bank in the town. There is no internet, no supermarket, nor a bus terminal, only plenty of birds! If you are not a bird lovers, you should skip this place. :-)

I have booked the bus to leave the next day, the only bus that leave to Mercedes is at 4am, it will pick me up from the hostel. Cool! :-)

Hospedaje Ibera with breakfast - AP80
Hospedaje Los Amigos with breakfast - AP70

Bus Mercedes to Carlos Pellegrini - AP30

Boat excursion - AP100

Puerto Iguazu, Argentina 14-17 Feb 2012

Iguazu Fall

The 20 hours bus ride was long but in a comfortable bus served with 3 meals, I don´t mind the return. Travelling without my glasses is hard, I can´t see well and the sun is hurting my eyes. Lucky not too many handsome guys here to miss! :-p

Arrive in Puerto Iguazu, I look for the hostel where tha gals have booked themselves in, someone shoulted to me across the street, I could recognised the blue top but 2 of them have blue top, then when she cross the street...ahhh it´s Inge. :-) So nice of her to come looking for me, bad news was the hostel they checked in do not have dormitory. We went hunting for one, some were full finally we found one just one block from each other. It was really nice to see them again, they have been great travel companion. We never argued, only between them and I always tell them to keep me out of it! :-) I think we get along well because we have the same ideas, same style, same interest (except for some cultural and historial stuff) same speed and most important we understood each other. We have off and on travelled together since 20 Jan and still we were not bored of each other yet. They are my lucky stars!

Our target in Puerto Iguazu is to visit the mother of all fall, Cataratas Iguazu. The park has 550 km2  so huge that we have to spend 2 days to see everything. First day, we headed for the Macuco Nature Trail. It was a 7km trail both way. which suppose to take 3 hours to complete. There is a waterfall at the end and a pool to dip. We took almost 2 hours to arrive at the fall because we encountered many insects, birds and animals along the way. The waterfall was small and the water wasn´t very clean. We enjoyed more the nature than the waterfall.
After that Nature Trail, we did the lower trail and had an amazing ride on the boat which went almost below the giant fall. We all got wet inside out. Luckily I had only my bikini on and the rest is in the dry bag. The gals was soak! :-) That was a thrilling experience to feel the rush of water from the fall, even though it was not directly under the fall the water was still powerful. The sound, the power, the volume of water falling at one time was just mind blowing! I don´t know how to describe it. We had perfect weather with slight cloud. The rainbow on the fall made a perfect picture moment.

The place is very touristic, the easy access to the fall provide accessability to old and young and even to disabled person. From the walking path we could see the Brazilian side but only at the Argentinean side we could take the boat ride, cross to San Martin Island and go as close as touching the fall. I am contented with Argentinean side. :-)

When we exit the park on the first day, we have to get a stamp on the ticket for the 50% discount on the second day. We planned to visit the Devils Throat which is the highlight of the entire park. On the 2nd day, we started much later. Catching up with some sleep. We started with the Green Trail, this time we took as much time as we can to find small insects and birds. I managed to  find a stick insect. :-) There were lots of butterflies. The coati are abundance here, they are cute but dangerous because they can bite. Lots of sign said No Feeding but lots of people are ignorance.

Puerto Iguazu
On the way to the Devils Throat, we walked across 2km of plank bridge built on top of the Iguazu River. It was so freaking hot! I felt like jumping into the river but that was not possible, the current was strong and the cat fish are more than 1m in size. The plank walk lead us to the mouth of the Devils Throat, we could hear the thundering sound from far, when we arrive we were just blown away by the impact of the fall. We stood and stare under the hot sun for as long as we could. Pictures can´t capture the intensity of the fall so we made lots of video. We still have the Upper Trail to complete before the park close, reluctantly we left. At the Upper Trail, it's another view all together, We could walked on top of some of the falls. The Argentinean really did a great job with the walking path, it provide access to everyone up close from all angle. Great job!

We stayed till the park close, at the end of the day. At the train station, everyone was nicely sitting in the last train waiting for it to leave. Marga spoted a deer walking pass the train track, we run to take a photo, by then half of the train passengers were out of the train. It was a funny scene. With the caotic situation, we took advantage to sneak into the trail which was already close. We would like to spent our last few minutes in the jungle instead of the noisy train. End of the day, we saw some monkeys, monitor lizards, a deer, some Aguti, toucans and some rat looking animal without a tail.

On our last day in Puerto Iguazu, we finally have to say our last good bye. They left to Brazil without me, I went to another Nature Reserve Park called Ibera. I was sad that our journey together has to end here, I hope for a miracle that my passport will be recovered and I will be off to Rio to meet them. Till then Good Bye and Good Luck my dear friends.

Hostel La Esquina del Bambo with Wifi and breakfast - AP60

Bus to Iguazu Park - AP20 return
Bus from Puerto Iguazu to Corrientes – AP200
Bus from Corrientes to Mercedes - AP68

Entrance to Iguazu Park - First day AP100, Second day AP50
Boat ride - AP125

Buenos Aires, Argentina 8-13 Feb 2012

Buenos Aires is the capital city of Argentina, covering 19.4km from north to south and 17.9km from east to west. Almost as big as Kuala Lumpur. We arrived at Ezeiza airport about 35km south of center. As there were no metro service to the center, we 3 took a taxi. I have found a couch and Inge and Marga will look for a hostel. So we have the taxi driver drop us in the center where there is the metro and near to some hostel streets. The metro system in BA is called Subte. There were 6 lines and it is cheap, per ride it cost AP2.50. I manage to find my way to my host house which is 20 minutes away by Subte from the center.

I was welcomed into a very neat and beautiful decorated house. My host Pablo cannot speak very well English so we communicate with Spanish. He was very interested to learn about Malaysian and Asian culture. We talked about food and culture. I promised to make him a nice Malaysia meal.

2nd day in BA, I met the gals in town, we followed the Lonely Planet Guidebook Walking Tour. First we started with San Martin Park, then we went to Teatro Cervantes and Teatro Colon, one of BA`s most impressive buildings. Marga and Inge took a tour and I decided to skip and went for a cheese cake and coffee. We met again to continue our walk passing the Obelisco and arrived at Plaza de Mayo. I was getting really tired with all the cars and human traffic. After 1 month in Patagonia, it was hard for me to get back to this busy city environment. I decided to head home for some rest.

3rd day in BA, I first went to get my bus ticket to Puerto Iguazu for Sunday. Then I went to meet the gals, today we planned to take the tourist bus to go around the city. When we went to purchase our tickets, the gal in the booth was very rude to us, she insisted that we have to take the 4pm bus instead of listening to our preference to take the bus whenever we want. Well! It is a hop on and hop off bus...duhh! She just took back our tickets and return our money back and wave for the next one in queue. F!@#$# bitch! She spoilt our mood. Then we decide to walk, we visited San Telmo and La Boca. San Telmo was a fashinable and classy neighborhood but in the 19th century a yellow fever epidemic hit, driving the rich north into the present day Recoleta. Now what left is old mansions that are subdivided to house poor people,  converted to museo, fancy shop, and hostel. The San Telmo market and Plaza Dorrego has lots of antiques shops. I quiet like this place. 

We then hop on to a local bus to La Boca, which only cost us AP1.20. With some help from the local, we made it to La Boca. I immediately like this place. It is colorful with the many vibrant colors of building and tango music everywhere. But his place is prone to have more crime than central area. Only the tourist area is relatively safe. When we were there, there was a football match at night, the famous Boca Junior - club of famous Diego Maradona is playing. There were police everywhere, so we took this oppotunity to walked around the La Bombonera stadium. Unfortunately due to the match, all the shops, restaurants and bars close early. We were told that it is not safe to stay here. We quickly finished our beer and left the place. We had our dinner in a nice restaurant and bar, it could possibly our last dinner together if we don´t meet in Puerto Iguazu.

4th day, was a Saturday. With Pablo we planned to visit China Town in the evening so I could buy some stuff to cook a Malaysian meal. In the morning, I went visit the famous Recoleta Cemetery, tha gals was also going there, we didn´t managed to find each other. Lovely cemetery with lots of angels and nice architecture. Many famous people were barried here including the famous First lady of Argentina- Eva Peron or so called Evita.

The China Town was a threat for me, I went crazy over toufu and all the asian stuff. Pablo bought a chines teapot and cups and some chinese tea. I was dying to have toufu so I bought toufu, spring onion, ginger, oyster source and some onions to cook at night. It was a fiesta! I was so happy to have stayed an extra day just to cook. :-)

5th day, my last day in this big city, I am happy to move on, enough of big city, crowded, polluted and noise. I am taking the 2:30pm bus to Puerto Iguazu. The gals will be there 1 or 2 days later, hopefully we can meet again. Iguazu will be my last stop in Argentina before I cross to Brazil. I have to make it to Rio for the carnival in a week time.

Pablo has been amazingly hospitable. I am lucky to have met him. From his house I took a train to the terminal, while changing train in one of the interchange terminal, some white stuff flew from behind me, it stained my backpack and my hair. A guy walked pass me and told me that my bag was dirty, I have to clean it. Immediately I recalled this scam that I read online, this is a common scam that the thief used to steal from foreigner. I continue to walked then a lady approached me and offer her help, I told her no thanks. I walked on, as I thought I have got away from it, I put down my bag when I arrived at the other platform. First the small backpack I put in between my legs, then the big backpack next to me. It was just a little bit of shaving cream that they used. I starter to clean it then suddenly someone shouted behind me and said you drop your money, I looked back, there were some money on the floor, I took a step backward but suddenly my mind struck, I didn´t have any pocket, that´s not my money.Just in that spilt seconds, I turned back and my small backpack is gone! Someone shouted and pointing to a direction, I run towards it but I stop and turn back immediately cause I thought to myself that it must have been one of them that distracted me by pointing me to the opposite direction beside I still have my big backpack lying on the floor. At that moment I was so angry with myself to have put down my nags and let this happen. I should have waited for the train and left. Oh! No! Now I´m in deep shit! My passport is in the small backpack. Disaster!

I went up to the ticket counter to get help, they pointed me to another gate where there is a police. I found the police but he told me I have to go to the police station which is in Florida Station. I asked if he can accompany me there, he said "No". What is he there for? Doesn´t care that I was robbed and can´t help to go with me to the police station? Useless! I took out my map and started to find my way to the station, on the way I saw a few other police on the street, Same thing out of 4 of them, none of them can bring me to the police station. Should I thank them for giving the direction? So I finally arrived at the police station to make my report. I asked if I can make a local call, guess what? No, you can´t. Luckily I have some money left in my sling bag to make a call from the phone booth.

I called Pablo and explained him what happen, finally I tear out while talking to him. He was so nice to take me back. At his home, I made a call to cancel my credit card and sim card. I still can´t get over what happen, I have lost a lot of expensive stuff but my passport will caused me my trip. I can´t even finish Brazil now and of cause I miss my bus to Puerto Iguazu.

The embassy will open on Monday, everything will depend on it now. Whether I can still go to Brazil or wheather I can get a new passport. I read before that loosing a Malaysian passport overseas has only one option, that is to return to Malaysia to get a replacement but I am putting my hope high now cause I am not ready to go home yet!

In the evening, Pablo went with me to the crime scene. We search every single dustbin around the station, Pablo asked in all the ticketing counter, kiosk, rubbish cleaner and some guys in the station. One of them told him he is a Robber but he didn´t robbed me, he explained to us that they usually work in a group, "It´s a job" they robbed and  at the end of the day they gathered at one place to share all what they have robbed, sometime they will drop passport back to the ticket counter at night, so we should come to check with the ticketing counter the next morning. He even asked me if it was 2 men and a lady who robbed me, I was so shocked to hear that, Pablo asked if he could help with my passport but he refused. We spent almost 3 hours searching but nothing was found. While heading back to collect his car, we cóuldn´t find it! OMH! This can´t be happening, first I though it was stolen but then we found out it was towed away. He has parked outside a theatro that happen to have a show that night. It cost him AP250 to collect the car back and more when he receive a fine. I felt deeply sorry that I have caused all this to him, I offer to pay for the fine but he refused. That night I couln´t sleep, everytime I close my eyes, the scene repeat over and over again.

Next day, first thing I did was to go back to the Police Station, because they can´t be more intelligent than making a modification on an old report which resulted in stating me as an Argentinean and I remind them again that it is a blue bag instead of black. She refused to change it. Got that done, now I will try my luck at the ticket counter to see if the robber is kind enough to leave it there. Well! Nop! My next stop will be the Malaysian Embassy then. The consulate was not around, the interior of the Embassy was nicely decorated with photos from Malaysia, I thought of home again. A lady came to chat with me, she is Malaysian Chinese, been living in Argentina for more than 10 years, she was extremely nice, I suddenly miss home, we chat in Mandarin  Malay, Hokkien and Cantonese, she made me coffee and lunch, she even invited me for ice cream during her lunch time. That was truly Malaysian hospitality.  The consulate came back after lunch, as much as I hope for a good news, I was prepared for the worst. I was told that I´ve to return to Malaysia, he can only issue me an Emergency Document to return. I asked if I can leave from Brazil, he said he is not sure if Brazil custom will let me in with the emergency document. The only good news is I have 30 days visa in Argentina, I can spent the rest of my 20 days visiting Argentina. Maybe with some luck someone will find my passport during the 20 days. :-)

Now the only place I want to go is Iguazu Fall. I went immediately to get my bus ticket to leave that night. Don´t want to spend any more time in this city. The gals are leaving at 7:30pm, wherelse I took the 9pm bus. I still have to pack, sort out some stuff and say good bye to Pablo. Pablo sent me to the terminal this time, before that he stop by at the metro again to ask for my passport. He will help me to contact the Loss and Found department to see if there is any passport found. He is my angel!

Items Stolen :-
  • Passport
  • Yellow fever card
  • Driving license
  • Malaysian ID
  • Singapore ID
  • PADI dive ID
  • IANTD dive ID
  • Computer
  • Dive Computer
  • Camera housing
  • Credit card
  • Ipod shuffle
  • Handphone
  • $400 cash
  • Sunglasses and spectacles
  • Torch
  • Tumbdrive
  • SD card
  • Internet banking key
  • $100 Travellers cheque
  • Souvenirs
  • books and dictionery
  • others
*** Appologised no photos available at the moment to post as my computer was stolen ***


Taxi from airport to center - AP50 share by 3
Bus from Buenos Aires to Puerto Iguazu – AP497 x 2
Subte - AP2.5 per ride


Thursday, February 9, 2012

El Chalten, Argentina 5-8 Feb 2012

Fitz Roy

El Chalten is 2h30m from El Calafate. This town exists for its gateway for trekkers to Mt. Fitz Roy (3405m) and Cerro Torres (3102m). The most beautiful of all peaks in the Andes range. (In my point of view)Mt Fitz Roy remains among the most technically challenging mountain to climb due to its sheer granite faces and treacherous weather condition. The Glacier National Park is trekkers’ heaven with well marked trail and easy access from El Chalten. On top of all access to the park is free! 

Our bus stops us at the National Park office where everyone was given a briefing on rule and regulations of the park, trekking routes, weather forecast and a map. We were told that weather has been bad for last couple of days but tomorrow forecast will be a good. Luck is on our site again. :-) This we really need it because Mt Ritz Roy is always hidden from the cloud, only on a good day we could see the gigantic peak. We are praying hard! 

We arrived at this charming town surrounded by cliff, mountain, glacier, river and lake. I fell in love at first sight! There is only one main street that borders by hostels, restaurants, tour agency and souvenir shops.

The weather at El Chalten is much colder than anywhere else we’ve been, probably because it is surrounded by glaciers and constant strong wind. After checking into our hostel, we went to the bus terminal to sort out our tickets to the airport and we bought our shuttle ticket to Hostel El Pilar where we are going to start our trekking the next day. We could only leave with the 9:30am bus as the first one has been fully booked. The trek from Hostel El Pilar is supposed to be better as we will not take the same route to and back. We were warned that the wind is strong and it will be very cold. We have packed enough food for the day and all the warm clothes we had in our backpack to hike to the foot of Mt Fitz Roy. 

Piedras Blancas GlacierWe woke up with sunshine and blue sky. :-D We could even see Mt Fitz Roy from town. Wow! We were really lucky! We got picked up around 9:45am and arrived at Hostel El Pilar at 10:20am. The first 2 hours trek was along the river in the forest, we have a panoramic view of Mt. Fitz Roy, Piedras Blancas Glacier and all the mountain range around it, and it was incredible! We could hardly keep our jaw close! We took photos after photos wishing we could bring this remarkable piece of nature back home.

We arrived at the Poincenot camp site around noon, we took a break for lunch before we proceed to climb the 1.5km steep uphill to Lago de los Tres at the base of Mt. Fitz Roy. The trail is exposed to strong wind, at times we have to squad down and hold on to some big rock around us. It took us an hour to reach, as soon as we climbed over the hill, we were blown away by the beauty of what was in front of us. The little struggle up the steep hill is all worth it! Another 500m trek brings us down to Lago de los Tres and the cliff side over viewing Lake Sucia. I would say this is the ultimate of all peaks and mountains. Gosh! It is so gorgeous!

Lago de los Tres

On the way down, weather starts to change, clouds covered the peak and we had strong wind blowing from our back, thanks to that we made it back to town in 2 hours but the last one hour downhill was a bit tough as our feet started to complain. We were contented for this perfect day! 

The weather on the next day was awful, it was cloudy, rain and windy. We could not do the 6 hours trek to Laguna Torre but who cares, we have seen the best! :-) We have to leave something for our next trip isn’t it? I stayed in the hostel whole day looking at the photos over and over again, we were just so damn lucky.

At night after dinner, we talked about eating the blue berry-El Calafate, the guy from the hostel showed Inge to a Calafate tree just outside the hostel and we ate some off the tree. It was delicious! That wasn’t enough, we went looking for Calafate ice cream, only 300m away from the hostel. Hoping that will definitely bring us back to El Chalten. :-)

This was my last stop at Patagonia, what a great way to say good bye. Thank you Patagonia for giving me such wonderful memory and experience!

Hostel Albegue Lo de Trivi– AP70 for a 3 beds dorm with wifi

Shuttle to El Pilar Hostel – AP50
Bus from El Chalten to El Calafate Airport – AP90
Flight from El Calafate to Buenos Aires – US$278.10
Airport Tax – AP38


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

El Calafate, Argentina 4-5 Feb 2012

After 4 borders crossing with 4 extra stamps in my almost full passport, 1 ferry ride and 2 changed of bus finally I arrived in El Calafate after 20 hours. I went straight to the hostel and sleep.

El Calafate derived from a name of a blue berry plant commonly found in Patagonia. There is a saying if you eat the blue berry, you will definitely return to the city. :-) Everyone comes here for one reason, to see the enormous Perito Moreno Glacier. Perito Moreno Glacier is 5 kms wide, with an average height of 74m above the surface of the water of Lake Argentino and a total ice depth of 170m. Due to its size and accessibility, Perito Moreno is one of the most visited place in southern Patagonia.

Since we are 3, we decided to rent a car to visit the area around the Glacier National Park. We started off to visit Lago Roca, 50km from El Calafate. The landscape was mainly low land bushes, mountain and lake. We passed by some ranches and sheep farms. The road was rocky and dusty. From the view point of Lago Roca, we could see Perito Moreno Glacier forcing its way out in between the mountain. We had a quick lunch while admiring the breathtaking view of violet blue Roca Lake.

I took over to drive to Perito Moreno Glacier, it was my first time driving on the other site of the road, and shifting gear with my right hand. :-) It wasn’t long till I got used to it. Thanks to the gals who have trusted me and gave me their support. It was another 50km drive before we arrived to the first view point. The entrance to the park is AP100, it is expensive but nothing is cheap in Patagonia.

We arrived to the final view point at 3pm. We stood there with our jaw opened! We were speechless! We saw the biggest piece of floating ice just like a river flowing towards us. Nothing can be more impressive!  As we walked towards the closest viewing platform, we felt so tiny against this giant wall of ice. 

Perito Moreno Glacier

The glacier is advancing 2m a day, periodically the glacier will form a natural dam in the Lake Argentino, separating the lake to 2 part, causing the water on the other side to rise above the main level of the lake. The enormous pressure produced by the increasing height of the water will break the ice barrier causing a spectacular rupture event. This is not regular as it recurs naturally at any frequency at once a year to less than once a decade. While we were there, we witnessed several times the melting and collapsing of ice wall which produced a huge thunder sound and then follows with a big splash and waves in the lake. We spent 4 hours starring at these big pieces of floating ice. Words could not express what we felt, photos could not justify the enormous size of it. You will have to come see it for yourself! :-)

Once again Patagonia has blown me away! 

Hostel Posada Patagonica Nakel– AP90 for a 6 beds dorm with breakfast and wifi

Taxi from Terminal to Hostel – AP21 shared by 3
24hr car rental – AP342 shared by 3
Gasoline – AP62 shared by 3
Bus from El Calafate to El Chalten– AP90

Perito Moreno Glacier Park – AP100

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Ushuaia, Argentina 31 Jan-3 Feb 2012

Ushuaia is commonly known as the southernmost city of the world, and the entry point to Antarctica. It is also the most expensive place to visit as well. It took us 10.5 hours to arrive from Punta Arenas. The cold fresh air welcomes us as we stepped out of the bus. Isn’t it summer now? Quickly we found our hostel. It was warm and comfortable inside, I’ve decided to stay in to eat cup noodle for dinner. All the hostel were fully booked tonight, lucky for us, I’ve made a reservation, later I found out that a cruise is leaving to Antarctica the next day, that’s why all the hostels are full. Last minute spots are available at US$4550 for a quad shared 10 days cruise. I wasn’t keen and it was not in my plan as this amount of money will cut my trip short for 3 months. Maybe as all the other senior people in town, I will do it when I am 60. It will be my next target to achieve. :-)

Next morning we went to sort out our ticket out of Ushuaia, there are only 2 options to get to El Calafate, by flight which cost US$223 (2 hours) or by bus which cost US$120 (20 hours) I chose the cheapest option, Inge and Marga chose to fly. We also went to the Tourist information center to get our stamp of “The Southernmost City of The World” on our passport. Thought my passport is running out of pages, I still managed to squeeze it in. :-) Yeah, now I have collected a stamp from “Mitad Del Mundo” which means Middle of the World. I wonder is there one for The Northernmost City of The World? Where is it?

Glacier Martial

Once this is done, we went to Glacier Martial just at the backyard of the city. We took a cab to the Ski lift station at 385m, from there we trek up to the glacier at 1000m. It was a breeze after all the trekking in Torres del Paine. The weather was nice with passing cloud, it was snowing lightly up there, I was so happy screaming around! :-D In local dialect we call it “Suang Gu” literally means a tortoise from the mountain who has never seen anything. We only reached the ending point of the glacier as we had no proper equipment to climb further, we had a great view of Ushuaia and Port Williams across the Beagle Strait. It was an amazing moment to feel the ice on the glacier, something that has been growing for thousands of years and to drink from the glacier, nothing can be more pure then glacier water.

Port Williams

The wind here like anywhere else in Pantagonia can really blow you away. As I walked across the crossway to the Navy base, I almost got blow away. :-) From the Navy base, I had a great view of the city with the backdrop of the glacier and mountains behind it. It was truly beautiful. I was glad I made it here to the end of the world. It was an emotional moment.

On the last night here, Giovanni arrived from Punta Arenas, it was my turn to cook a meal. I promised to make a Chinese Malaysian meal, first I wanted to make curry but I couldn’t find coconut milk or curry powder or neither ginger. At the end, I made my mom’s specialty-meat balls. It was my first time making it by myself, but it wasn’t bad at all. When Inge and Marga fight for the last meat ball on the plate, it reminds me of how my brothers and I used to fight for the last one on the table as well. :-) Over this 8.5 months trip, I have cooked more than I have done it back home. Maybe when I get back I will like cooking more but you never know, food is so cheap in Asia.

So here we are again saying good bye for another time. I left with the 5am bus, where else Inge and Marga will catch a 12pm flight and Giovanni will stay for 2 more nights in Ushuaia before heading to Puerto Eden. 

Yakush Hostel– AP90 for a 6 beds dorm with breakfast and wifi

Bus from Ushuaia to El Calafate – AP503
Taxi to Glacier Martial – AP30 shared by 3


Friday, February 3, 2012

Punta Arenas, Chile 28-30 Jan 2012

I took the 9am bus from Puerto Natales to Punta Arenas, it took only 3 hours. 6 blocks from the terminal I found my hostel, the Blue House. Parul has checked in earlier as she took the 7:30am bus. Today I have plan to stay in and update my blogs and photos. Inge and Marga arrived the next day, they finally decided to head south. We reunited again! :-)

Magellanic Penguins
Magdalena Island

The only attraction here is the 69,000 pairs of Magellanic Penguins on Magdalena Island. The island has been designated as a National Nature Reserve to protect the breeding site of penguins. Commercial fishing has been ban around the island hence help increased in penguin populations. We signed up for a 4pm excursion. We boarded the car and passengers ferry, on the way to the island, we were greeted by Minky whales and dolphins. As we get closer to the island, we started to see some penguins in the water, those who were out hunting. From far, we could see the black and white dots all over the islands.

There is a proper walking path built for us, we are not allowed to cross into the penguin nesting ground or to touch them but on the other hand they can cross our path and come close to us if they want. :-) Every year in September, the penguins come to this island. The male Magellanic Penguins will first arrive and prepare their nest. Nests are built under bushes or in burrows. The females then arrived to pick their partner. Magellanic Penguins mate with the same partner year after year. The male reclaims his burrow from the previous year and waits to reconnect with his female partner. The females are able to recognize their mates through their call. 2 eggs are laid and incubate for 39 to 42 days. Both parents shared the responsibility in 10-15 days shift. By April, they will leave to warmer area in Brazil or up to Peru.

We have 1 hour on the island, we could walk up to the Light House but I only walked as far as 100m. It was a great moment watching them for that 1 short hour, they are so adorable. There are chicks, young adults, and pairs every few meters. Some are resting, some are watching us, some are calling, some are just doing nothing. With 69,000 pairs on this 1576 square kilometers island, we were surrounded. I have difficulty choosing which penguin to shoot. :-)

There is a famous cemetery in town, dates back to 1840's, with many local aristocratic families, English and Croatian inmigrants. It's famous for its magnificent mausoleums, architectural construction and shaped pine trees.

Parul finally sorted out her flight ticket, she wanted to go to Puerto Williams but she could not get a return ticket to Punta Arenas. As she holds an India Passport, she needs Visa to enter Argentina, plus she only applied for a single entry to Chile, she can’t return to Chile once she leaves. We teased her for touching the foot of the Magellan native in the Plaza de Armas square because according to the local legend, whoever touches his foot will return to the city. We teased her for not able to leave the city. :-) She finally bought her ticket to Cochrane after getting stuck in Punta Arenas for 4 days. So Inge, Marga and I continue to Ushuaia where Parul retreat up north.

On the last day in Punta Arenas, Geovanni whom we met in Navimag checked in to the same hostel, he cooked us an Italian pasta for our farewell dinner.

Hostel Blue House – P6000 with breakfast and wifi

Bus from Punta arena to Ushuaia – P30,000
Return transfer to port for Penguin tour – P1000

5 hours Penguin tour – P25,000