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Archive for February, 2011

27th February
2011
written by Hazel

After another full day bus trip we have made it to Puerto Natales, Chile.  The big thing in town (actually 2 hours out of town) is the Torres del Paine National Park and we´ve got some pretty good plans for making the most of it!  The past couple of days we´ve explored the town, met the mascot, had some Cristal and the strangest pizza I´ve ever tried and spent a lot of time preparing for the park.

Town Mascot

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26th February
2011
written by Hazel

The national park is just a few kms outside of Ushuaia, and there are plenty of busses that run back and forth throughout the day.  We decided to do a moderate hike along the water, rather than to climb the giant mountain in the park, and we were rewarded with some amazing scenery.  The day started off gray and windy, but wound up sunny and windy with perfect temperatures for hiking!  Click any of these photos to see the gallery from the hike.

One of the many bays along the way

Mountains across the Channel

25th February
2011
written by Hazel

There were several options for a boat trip from Ushuaia (including Antarctica!) but we chose a tour to a penguin breeding colony and it was definitely the right choice.  Penguins are absolutely adorable, and not something you often get to see in the wild.  The tour promised us that we would be able to “walk within the penguins” and it was the only trip in town that has permission to take tourists to this penguin island.

Flag trees on the way to the penguins

We stopped at a couple of scenic spots along the way and after about an hour on gravel roads we arrived at a ranch.  Justin and I had thought that the ranch would have a tour that involved ranchy things, but we were wrong about this.  It was actually a marine museum and research station and we got a tour of all kinds of bones and even got to see a dolphin being dissected.  That was smelly!

Scientists hard at work

Ok, so that´s not a cute penguin picture, but I´m getting to those!  We took a short boat ride out to the island and then had an hour walking around looking at the breeding colony.  There were Magellanic and Gentoo penguins.  The Gentoo are more rare and have orange feet while the Magellanic were plentiful, nest in burrows and are plain black and white.  And here are the cute penguins…

22nd February
2011
written by Hazel

We had a beautiful sunny day, so we decided to hike up to the Martial Glacier, just outside of town.  There is a chair lift that goes part of the way up the mountain, which is pretty awesome because the hike after that to get to the glacier is extremely steep and we were glad to sit and watch the views both after hiking up from the town and then after the steep trek to the glacier.

View from the ski lift

The glacier itself was not as impressive as the ones we saw in New Zealand, but the views of the town and the landscape were just awesome.  Click on either of the photos in this post for more pictures!

Glacier!

19th February
2011
written by Hazel

Well, yesterday was a long day.  We were up bright and early at 6:30 am in order to get our bus, but Justin was starting to feel really sick.  We had sprung for a hotel in Rio Gallegos (which was really nice except for the strong smoke smell in our room) and they gave us a nice breakfast of coffee, teeny-tiny sweet croissants, and rolls with butter and jam.  Unfortunately, Justin wasn´t able to eat much and we were a little worried about the bus.  We loaded up our backpacks and walked to the bus station (about 30 minutes).  No problems getting the bus, but it was about 30 minutes late.

It was our bad luck to be seated in front of a horribly behaved little boy.  On our last bus trip (37 hours) there was a kid right in front of us and he was an angel!  Not this one.  He screamed, whined and kicked our seats the entire way.  We also weren´t able to lie our seats back because he was on his parent´s knee.  We also had to stop at 4 border checkpoints and get out at 2 since getting to Ushuaia involves crossing into Chile and then back into Argentina.  The first of these stops took over an hour and we had to sit on the bus while the driver did paperwork.  He left the heating on and we were all wilting by the time he got back.  Justin was obviously not feeling well, but he was a trooper and managed to sleep for most of the trip.

Guanacos!

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17th February
2011
written by Hazel

Before

After!!! Who knew they had hairdressers in the bus station?!

Views from the bus - click for more!

One more 12 hour bus ride tomorrow and we’ll have made it to Ushuaia!  Busses are very fancy here.
15th February
2011
written by Hazel

Well, we have about 30 mintues until we´re off on a 47 hour bus trip heading south to Ushuaia and there´s a lot we could still say about our time in Buenos Aires.  I´ve had an unfortunate couple of days with a yucky stomach bug and on top of that I managed to explode our plug adaptor.  Pretty big spark there.  Despite all of that we had an awesome Valentine´s Day picnic with some bread, cheese and bubbly and we´re very excited for the next step in our adventure.

Favorite Empanadas in Buenos Aires

Empanadas are everywhere in Buenos Aires and they are a delicious snack.  This place had our favorites so we´d often run off there on our break from Spanish class.  They have a ton of different kinds.  My favorite were the Caprese – little pastries full of cheese, basil and tomato, but the beef ones were yummy too.

We´re already missing our Spanish class.  We learned so much and had 2 really great teachers over the 3 weeks.  We learned a lot about Argentina and our communication skills definitely improved.  Both of us were tempted to stay longer in order to learn even more. 

Spanish Class with Alejandro

Last week we finally made it out to tango at La Viruta where we had a yummy dinner with a view of the dance floor then took a tango lesson.  Awesome!  There were so many amazing dancers there and we had a great time watching them.  We didn´t really get the typical tourist show, but we saw a lot of real tango.

View from our table - sorry it´s blurry

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8th February
2011
written by Hazel

We’re settling into a pretty awesome routine here in Buenos Aires.  Lots of sitting in cafes and studying, lots of good food, and lots of Spanish classes.  I’m very behind on emails, but will try to get caught up in the next few days.

We spent the past weekend exploring the city and had a really great time looking around.  Friday night was swing dance night and we were really pleased to discover that we could understand a LOT more of the Spanish than the week before.  On Saturday we went out to Palermo, the fancy area of town, on the Subte (Subway) and explored the giant complex of parks there.  We had thought to go to the Planetarium, but it was closed for renovation.  Instead we wandered around the rose garden and botanical garden and saw the outsides of the zoo and the racetrack.  These parks are truly enormous and really well kept up.  There were a lot of people lounging in the shade with picnics and it was a really pleasant place to hang out.

Click for Palermo Parks Gallery

On Sunday we had a busy day exploring the street market in San Telmo and going to the New Year celebration in Barrio Chine (Chinatown).  The street market was really colorful and fun to explore.  It was also a surprise to us that it was pretty low-key even though it was really large.  People were very laid-back and there wasn’t much persuasion to buy anything.  San Telmo is a cool old neighborhood, but I didn’t take too many pictures since it was pretty full of people.  In the afternoon we took a long subway ride and made it to Barrio Chine.  This was a bit of a disappointment since it was completely packed with people.  We could hardly even move, let alone look around.  We did get to see a dragon, but not a very good view.

Chinese New Year Celebration - Click for photo gallery

We’re dancing again tonight and starting to work on our plans for leaving the city.  I have to admit, it would be pretty easy to get sucked into spending quite a lot more time here.

3rd February
2011
written by Hazel

This morning we headed out for a bit of an explore around the Plaza de Mayo.  This plaza has been the location of many historical and political events and has some pretty cool buildings.  We saw the Casa Rosada – we have a white house, they have a pink house!

Casa Rosada - click for photo gallery

Then we looked around the cathedral for a while.  My pictures really don’t do this justice as it was pretty impressive and the light was tough for photos.

Cathedral

We stopped at a cafe and sat outside enjoying the city and drinking a coffee.  There is a real cafe culture here and it’s fun to sit and watch the city go by.  After that we visited Florida St. which is known for it’s shopping – cool to see, but not of too much interest to us.  Then we walked up to school by way of the obelisk.

Obelisk

One of our most touristy days yet.  All of these spots were full of people with cameras, but it was still nice to see some of the big landmarks of this city.

We have had one negative note, which is that I accidentally left my memory card reader with my camera’s memory card in the computer at school and it looks as though it’s gone for good along with all of my New Zealand photos.  I had a lot that I hadn’t uploaded!  It’s pretty lucky that I’ve been uploading most of the major events, and I’ll be more careful from now on.  We’re also lucky because we have extra memory cards and a second reader and my camera is just fine.  Still really annoying, but of all the things that could go wrong it’s not too bad.

2nd February
2011
written by Justin

Well, you asked for it — some photos of our new apartment! Here you go:

Apartamento

Photos of our lovely new studio!

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Not a bad place! It includes amenities like satellite TV (Los Simpson is a pretty good show to watch), air conditioning (!!!!!! muy importante!), and an easy walk to all sorts of public transportation. Second floor means it’s reasonably cool and not a long lift ride, and the neighborhood is not too shabby!

Buenos Aires the town is a lot more manageable when you have a space to yourself. Instead of going into a locker for your stuff, worrying about leaving food around, worrying about other people snoring, etc, you can have a nice relaxing evening after a long afternoon in school studying Spanish. Being relaxed allows us to enjoy some of the details of the town, like how there are little shops everywhere, selling fresh fruit! We made a ton of OJ out of 2 kilograms of oranges that we bought for a whopping 7 pesos (that’s $1.75 for those listening at home). Super sweet and delicious! Other interesting bits are the dogs lying around everywhere, busy following or imitating their owners, the way that little cafes and restaurants pop up in the strangest places, and the super cheap food. ¡Bueno!

Last night we had an amazing date at the parrilla (grill) at which we sampled some beautiful food and drink. For our wine we had a Malbec “Alamos”, which was really quite a delicious drink. I think it may be available in the US as well! For the “plata principal” Hazel had “Bife de Lomo”, an enormous Sirloin steak, cooked as the Argentines like it — “a punto”, which means medium-well in US steak terms. It’s a bit of a change, but the flavor of the Sirloin really comes out when the steaks are cooked to that doneness. I had pork chops ‘a la riojan’, which means that one chop had an egg on it and the other had ham and red peppers. This came with potatoes and peas. Along with a side of steamed chard we were in heaven! That was before dessert which was just a sugar overload. We decided to have the homemade chocolate mousse (Delicious) and a side of dulce de leche, which was almost too much!

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