A Travellerspoint blog

Floianopolis

We had a fairly rough overnight bus, including a pretty cool elecrical storm and Jack having a small waterfall coming down his window (on the inside). On the upside, we were served Martinis - swings and roundabouts I suppose but I think Jack would be happy to trade his martini for a window that kept the rain out.

In any case, we arrived the following morning in Florianópolis, Brazil, a little bit worse for wear after not much sleep on the bus, but with a sense of relief that this place looked pretty amazing.

Florianópolis is a city on the mainland and an island which is linked by a bridge. The mainland is the more `city`part and the island is where the nice beaches are. We had been suggested a place called Barra de lagoa so we got on the bus and headed there.

We are staying at a really cool hostel just up the hill from the beach. It is about a 20 metre walk to the beach which has white sand, good sized surf and really nice water. It was our first proper beach stop of the tour and it was great to finally be able to go for a swim in the ocean!

Barra de lagoa is a pretty small place, with restaurants on the beach, a few clothing shops, bakeries etc but is generally a pretty small, sleepy place, which, after the hustle of Buenos Aires was a welcome change of pace. The other pleasant surprise is that it is relatively cheap. We had all been expecting to have our pants pulled down with money in Brazil, and i have no doubt we will, especially in Rio, but florianópolis is pretty reasonable.

The first afternoon we got seafood platters and drank sangria on the beach - just another day on holiday! On the way back, we stopped in at the icecream buffet (you load up your plate and pay by weight). Well done to Jack, who after eating a solid lunch, still managed to put away over half a kilo of ice cream, sauces and lollies.

That night we cooked a BBQ at the hostel which was great. One of the bonuses of having 7 people is that it becomes really cheap to do communal cooking. When it was just the four of us, we were eating at restaurants all the time because cooking for ourselves worked out to be the same price. We also bought some fresh fruit and some spirits and whipped up some coctails. Some peoples´coctail making skills were better than others, but pre dinner festive cheer was the winner on the day.

The next day we went and did a walk we had been told about. It was up a valley then along a ridgeline with beaches on both sides and great views of the lagoon, the beaches and the different small towns. It was a good, tough walk up some rough terrain, and after a jog in the morning was the most active day on tour so far. We came out on a beach called Mole which was really nice. Again, white sand, blue water and good waves. We had lunch at a restaurant on the beach at Mole, a few well deserved beers and jumped on the bus back for a swim and another BBQ.

Unfortunately, the next day it was raining. James, Jack, Nato and I did a surf lesson which was a lot of fun. We had a pretty classic instructor who would be more stoked than us when we got up on a wave - you would surf away with him whooping in the background! I struggled a bit with the knee which doesnt yet have full range of motion, but dont worry mum, i was careful and didnt push it!

We had planned on going to this big party as it was a public holiday, but with the occasional drizzle, we decided to flag and headed to a slightly bigger place called Lagoa for dinner. We walked around for ages, trying to find a restaurant that was open (being a public holiday) and eventually settled on a few big mixed grills. We drank some Caprioscas, which are ridiculously aggressive, along with every coctail you get in South America - don´t get me wrong, because i am all in favour of a good, aggressive pour, but some of these drinks are liking sipping on lime paint stripper with sugar.

We then moved onto another few pubs and ended up having a pretty large night. We got home around 3 and it is fair to say a good night was had by all.

Unfortunately for the rest of our time in Flori, we were cursed with constant overcast drizzle which is not overly condusive to lying on the beach. The boys did some more surfing lessons, we swam, did a bit of exercise, but mostly operated buffets. Over here, most restaurants are por kilo buffets, where you load up your plate and weigh it and you pay for how much you eat. There is also the same concept for ice cream. The lads have been approaching the 1kg mark of food and i am confident we will break it before we leave Brazil. It is not uncommon for us to go from the lunch buffet straight to the ice cream buffet.

Only other event of note is that we met up with Bridgette Kight and her friend Kate for a BBQ dinner at the hostel. Unfortunately, the boys were focussing a bit too much on the beers and not enough on the meat, so it wasnt our finest grilling effort, but we all like our meat a bit on the rear side, so we pushed on through.

Getting sick of the rain though, ready for Iguazu.

Posted by Braddock 11:19 Comments (0)

Uruguay

After an hour ferry across to a place called Colonia in Uruguay and then a 5 hour bus, we arrived at our highly anticipated destination of Punta del Este. PDE is Uruguay´s version of the gold coast - a well off, beach town with heaps of apartments and condos, restaurants and shops selling touristy stuff.

Unfortuntely for us, PDE is only busy during a few months of the year, and one of those few months is not April. It was dead. Real dead! we arrived in the afternoon, checked into our hostel and then went for a walk. It was overcast and the beach was ok, but nothing on a nice NZ beach.

We had a few drinks and found a pizza buffet for dinner. We tried to go out but there was just nothing happening.

Highlight was seeing some large sea lions on the port. Other highlight was challenging Nate to walk past them and seeing him squal like a piglet and run away when one of them sneezed. To be fair, they were pretty big and Bridgette told me on good authority that they are faster than humans. I remain sceptical.

Anyway, the next day we decided to book the bus to florianópolis, and it was a good thing we looked when we did, since the buses only go once a week and this was that day. We booked the bus and mucked around town and got on the overnight bus.

In conclusion, I can see how during the prime season, PDE would go off. We were just a bit behind the main season and therefore arrived at a bit of a ghost town. I am still glad we did it, because I had heard a bit about it, and it is still good fun exploring new places.

Posted by Braddock 10:37 Comments (0)

Buenos Aires

After finishing up in Bariloche, we got on the bus for 26 hours of sitting down, watching terrible movies, eating worse food and trying to listen to spanish tapes for more than 3 minutes without falling asleep. We all got a bit more sleep than the bus to Bariloche from Mendoza which was good, especially since this bus trip was another 10 hours longer.

We got in on Saturday night to our hostel, called Milhouse, which is a bit more expensive than the other hostels we have stayed in but is pretty nice and we have our own 4 bed room.

On the Sunday we went to a place called San Telmo which has markets. The actual markets are in a square and are mostly antiques, but random and pretty cool antiques, not just boring stuff. These vendors have to be registered etc, but the main action was in the streets leading up the square. The streets are cobblestoned and lined with vendors selling pretty much anything. For lunch we went to this place which was essentially an empty square lot on a corner and bought a bbq sandwich. The place had a man and woman singing which was quite classic too.

That night we went to a tango class which was pretty funny. we learnt the basic steps and then got dinner, unlimited wine and they did a proper tango show. I am not a massive dancing fan in general, but this was pretty impressive. We all really enjoyed it. After dinner we had some drinks with our brazilian mates we met at tango and then headed out to a cool pub in Palermo which had live music. We pedalled our new found tango moves accordingly.

The next day we went to a Boca Juniors soccer game. Boca Juniors are the main team in Argentina and are quite good I think. Like tango, I am not a huge soccer fan, but when in Rome...the game was Boca vs Arsenal. My lack of soccer knowledge was exposed, because the only arsenal I know is the english club, so i told the girls that this would be a MASSIVE game. Unfortunately, aresenal is also the name of another local team, so alas, it wasnt the game we thought it was!

It was still awesome fun though - we got picked up from the hostel in a bus with a whole lot of other people and taken to this house by the stadium. We walked through a hole in the fence pretty much and into this packed courtyard with people selling beers and suspect looking bbq food. It was pretty random and hard to describe, but i know that the girls have put photos on facebook. The game itself was pretty classic. They sing and chant and dont sit down for the whole game. I still dont understand how people can get so into such a boring sport, but it appears they can!!

The next day, the rain came. Not to be deterred, we tried to find this big mall, but a mall is just a mall, and we have all been in malls before so we ended up coming home, saturated and deciding to sit the rain out. We had some drinks at the hostel and went out to Palermo for dinner. we then came back to the hostel and the girls went to bed, but I pushed on with some english lads and ended up going to an amazing drum and bass place until 7 in the morning. I am not president of the drum and bass fan club, but this was pretty awesome music, and the venue was pretty cool with awesome lights everywhere. i had a great night.

The next day the girls went to see the Evita museum but i have obviously decided to sit it out, in favour of having a substantial hangover and getting some sleep. It was raining though, so there was not a lot to do really without getting saturated. A quiet night was had by all.

The boys arrived the next morning on the overnight bus from Santiago. After we left them in Barliche they took the bikes up to a place called Los Angeles where they had a buyer lined up, then boosted to Santiago to grab the rest of their stuff and then came over. That day we got some lunch and sorted admin, such as tickets to Uruguay and Jack´s ticket home then did an open top bus trip around the city. I am not normally a huge fan of these because they are so disgustingly touristy, but we didnt have a lot of time left and because we hadnt been able to check out as much as we wanted, it did allow us to see alot in a short time.

That night we went to a phenominal steak restaurant. This restaurant, for some reason that escaped me, does not take bookings despite being very popular, so you put your name on the list, drink the free champagne and wait to get called. We ended up being seated around midnight but it was well worth it. The steak was delicious and the condiments etc that came with it were amazing too.

It was a great send off to Buenos Aires. I can safely say they we embraced the steak eating culture of BA to the fullest. The girls did especially well, not shying away from massive, rear pieces of meat and in fact have often been heard discussing what to eat for dinner, before we have even paid the bill for lunch.

BA, like a lot of big cities has a large divergence of wealth. The nicer areas like Polermo and Ricoletta are really nice and modern and other areas like La Boca are the opposite. A bit disappointing about the weather, but there is not a lot we can do about that.

We got up early the next morning to get on the ferry to Uruguary.

Posted by Braddock 14:11 Comments (0)

Barriloche

the bus trip to barriloche was 16 hours. I have never sat on my backside for 16 hours straight and it was a mission. The busses are relatively comfortable, with reclining seats etc. but people get up in teh night, slam doors, the drivers banter away whilst driving over pot holed roads, so besides emma, there was not much beyond dozing.

However, its not all doom and gloom - the drive into Barriloche was pretty cool. The landscape was a cross between National Park in NZ with lots of tussock etc and a road runner cartoon with lots of large rock formations sticking up.

Barriloche itself is really cool. It has a swiss village feel about it and is right on the lake. It reminded us a lot of queenstown. We checked into a hostel and had a walk around town. The specialty here is chocolate - there are shops the size of small supermarkets, just with chocolate. The girls like it. A lot.

We cooked dinner back at the hostel and went to bed pretty early as we were all fairly goosed from the bus.

THe next day we got on a local bus around the river a bit and hired bikes. We did a 36 km circuit and the views were amazing. The lake is so clear and the mountains surrounding it are epic. I will try and load photos of what we saw (but same as the photos of the Andies on the bus to Mendoza, photos do not do justice to the sheer size of these mountains). We stopped for lunch in a small swiss style village (¨village¨is probably giving it a bit too much credit - it was a collection of shops down a 3km gravel road) and had fondue for lunch. It was pretty tasty, you get a large plate of sausages, olives, pickeled veges, salmon etc as well as bread to go with the fondue.

Unfortunately, fondue is not the mid race food of choice for many athletes, so the next 10kms or so were tough going. Things were made easier however once Lucy and Bridgette found out their mountain bikes had more than one gear (24 in fact) so they didnt have to graft up the hills in 17th gear all day.

We came back and headed out to an Italian restaurant for dinner and then a pub for a few drniks but nothing silly.

Unfortunately, the next day, tradegy struck. The girls went off to do some shopping and i went to an internet cafe to email etc and my camera got pinched from right on top of my bag by some people using the computer behind me. I even felt my bag move by my leg, but i was so engrossed in bringing my blog to the people that i didnt even realise, and when i looked down to try and upload photos, alas, my camera was gone.

The silver lining to this crap cloud is that there was a customer in the dairy by the internet cafe who spoke English so she offered to come with me to the police station to translate. She was a lifesaver because none of the police spoke any English and it would have been a nightmare trying to get the police report for insurance without her.

It was a good wake up call that even in small tourist towns, we have to be on guard. I will get a new camera on travel insurance and the girls have photos of the same stuff I did, so overall it could have been a lot worse, but it is a good reminder that we are not in safe old Aotearoa anymore.

That same afternoon the boys arrived on the bikes. We went out to dinner to an amazing steak house and saw first hand why Argentina is famous for its steak - it was sensational. Had a few beers and headed to another travellers night spot for a few more drinks. There was a live band, but South Americans prefer their live music sitting down we have found (which is no way to listen to rcock music) so, because there was no dance floor, we were cranking moves in the aisles, generally making a scene. We made more of a scene when the singer asked where we were from and then asked if we could do a haka, to which we willingly obliged. It was one of those cringe moments when you wake up in the morning and wonder what on earth persuaded you that doing a haka was a good idea. We then moved onto the casino where they were just GIVING out money. Most of us came out up and we left around 4:30am - a good and large night had by all.

The next day was not surprisingly, pretty quiet, but later in the afternoon we did horse trekking which was heaps of fun. we trekked up into the mountains for some sweet views and cliche horseback photos. The cowboy that took us had a sick sense of humour and gave James (the biggest in our group) the smallest horse, which looked more like a young donkey. Whilst the rest of us finished with sore backsides from galloping all over the place, James had a sore shoulder from beating his horse so much, just to get it moving.

Yesterday was our last full day so we went and hired a fourth bike (well, a 110cc scooter) and we all went for a drive, with the boys taking a girl each, and me trying to keep up on the scooter. We went up a massive hill on a dirt road to the top of a very long gondola, had some lunch up there, took more photos, saw an Andean condor which was enormous and came back down.

We then went to a ski town called Catedral which is the biggest ski field in the southern hemisphere. It was obviously pretty quiet, being it not winter and everything, but it was a sweet place with huge chairlifts all over the shop and again, set in some pretty awesome terrain. We had a beer there and the consensus was that life is pretty good at the moment. We came back, went out to a mexican restaurant for dinner and had a few drinks. We were walking home and Bridgette, Jack, Nato and I saw a pub with about 40 metres of choppers, Harleys and big cruisers lined up outside and some good rock music cranking inside. We decided to check it out and we walked into the most pure biker bar i have ever seen - everyone wore black leather, no exceptions. Jack looked radiant in his bright blue sweater. But it was an awesome vibe and we didnt feel unsafe. There was a band playing and they were phenominal . They were a hard blues/rock band and the guitarist was just peeling away on sweet solo after sweet solo. There were bikers up the front, thrusting their helmets in the air to the music and more mullets, beards, beer guts and rough biker chicks than you could shake a stick at. It made me miss my guitar.

So today is our last day in Bariloche. We are taking it pretty easy because we have given it a good go and there is a pretty thick fog around. The boys have just left on the bikes. They are going to high tail it back to Santiago and try and sell the bikes so they can get across to BA to meet us. We are on the 5pm bus to BA this evening for 26 hours.

Overall impressions of Bariloche is that it is a lot like Queenstown - mainly a winter place but with great scenery all year round. Most of the activities involve getting up mountains through different means (horse, mountain bike, motor bike, gondola etc) and checking out the views, which were pretty amazing. Again, like the andes, photos will not do it justice. Feel like we have given it a good go and we are ready to move onto BA which we have heard a lot of good things about!

I am still trying to upload photos, but we are all having a few issues, including bastards stealing your camera, sub optimal hostel internet and so forth. However, I will continue to persevere in my quest to bring the blog to the people.

Posted by Braddock 09:06 Comments (1)

Mendoza

We got on the bus in Santiago to get to Mendoza. The bus station was a stressful mission, with a lot of terminals and not many people speaking english.

Once we were on the bus, the drive was phenominal. Going through the Andes was breathtaking - we were snapping away like Japanese tourists the whole time but the photos do not do it justice. The size of the mountains and the view looking back through a valley at the winding road was pretty awesome. No trouble getting through the border either (we had heard it could take 4 hours but we were through in about 30 mins).

Then we came back to earth a bit when we got to Mendoza. we were expecting a sleepy town in the mountains with a few bars and a few hostels, instead we walked into a massive bus station around 10pm in the middle of what appeared to be a fairly dodgy part of a pretty big town. Emma and I tried to get some cash whilst Bridgette and Lucy guarded the bags, including from a potential snatch and grab.

Very long story short, we finally figured out why no taxi would take us - not because the girls hadnt showered, but because the hostel was literally right across the road. after asking a policeman where the hostel was, and him trying to explain it, he realised it was actually quicker to walk us there so we got escorted by a cop fully kitted out with body armour and a pump action shot gun. It doesnt get any safer than that.

The debarcle continued however when the hostel we were staying in had lost our online booking, so we stayed there the night and checked into another place this morning. It is like a homestay with a husband and wife running it. I think we are the only guests. It is pretty sweet.

We spent the day doing a bit of admin, given we have a fair bit of travelling coming up - we booked transport to Barrioche and Barriloche to BA, sorted wine tour etc. we then had a look around town, had a beer in a nice part of town in the sun and walked back through some markets in the town square where there was music and people breakdancing.

The next day was Bridgette´s birthday and our first party day so exceptations were high. Bridgette was awarded the captains armband, which put her in charge of the day´s festivities. We got the bus out to Mr. Hugo´s and saddled up on our bikes. The first stop was a place that made sauces, chocolates and absenthe. We got the tasting tour and with some good aggressive captaincy, our first drink was an absenthe shot at midday. Inspired leadership.

we toured around a few different vineyards and ended up having lunch at a popular vineyard. We had platters and drunk red wine, sat in the sun and talked to the people around us. It was good fun. We then cycled back to Mr. Hugo´s, where we had a few more vinos and then taxied back to town. We even got a free round of champage because it was Bridgette´s birthday.

We had dinner and more drinks in town and then headed to a place which the lonely planet described as having ¨retro house music¨, we were all excited and a substantial night was had by all.

I also dominated Lucy in a dance off, but i don´t need to brag about that. Safe to say she has learnt her lesson on that one.

The next day was pretty quiet as you can imagine. we checked out of teh hostel and sifted around town from food outlet to food outlet, killing time before our bus to Barriloche...

Posted by Braddock 16:52 Comments (0)

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