A Travellerspoint blog

Estancia Santa Maura - Santiago de Chile

overcast 10 °C

Managed to survive the plane journey over the Andes and arrived safely in Santiago yesterday, however the pilot did have to take a diversion due to bad weather over the mountains, and there was plenty of turbulence to keep me guessing if we were going to fall out the sky.

On Monday morning we went to stay for a few days at a ranch 220km North of Buenos Aires. We were picked up from our weird little hotel by Javier who would be our guide for the next three days. He was a nice guy and seemed really interested in Scotland, so did quite a lot of reminiscing about home with him over the course of our stay. Santa Maura is a working estancia/cattle ranch. It is absolutely massive, something like 4000 acres with 4000 cattle.

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The whole of the East coast of Argentina is absolutely flat. Really weird not to be able to see any hills for 360ยบ. There are lots and lots of cows all over the place though. Big fat juicy succulent walking steaks as I have come to view them over the past month. Jenny was well up for some horse riding whilst we were in Argentina so Santa Maura was perfect as they owned about 70 horses, some tame, some wild, and the farm itself is worked by traditional Gauchos on horseback.

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I wasn't so keen on the idea to start with as I'm a bit apprehensive of horses. I'm happier putting my money on them as opposed to my self. Anyway turns out we both had a really good time, and I even managed to get my horse up to a canter which was quite exciting. My horse was called el sincero - the sincere - and he was nice and sedate. Didn't really seem that keen on moving anywhere too fast, and took a good kick to get him going....on the way out. No problem encouraging him to go home though, back to bed - the kind of lazyboy attitude I admire. Did manage to get him up to a canter though which was good fun.

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The first day that we were there we settled in to our accommodation which was an old farm house. Was really nice old place. Absolutely freezing, but had a huge open fire which kept me entertained.

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The only electricity came through a generator that went off at about 11pm each night. Was all good though. Olga looked after us, preparing all our meals whilst we were there. She was such a good cook and really friendly. She kept taking the piss out of me because I looked like a dummie when getting on the horse, and like a cripple when I got off at the end of our riding. She and her husband let me and Jenny join them to watch the football (Argentina v Colombia) on our first night. Olga is probably in her fifties, and I have never come across a woman, let alone a woman of that age who was so excited about watching a football match, and so knowledgeable about the players. Was very impressive. Argetinians are absolutely mental about football. Most impressive was the asado (barbeque) that she prepared for our final lunch at the estancia.

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Absolutley amazing. Stuffed ourselves full of meat. Argenina is all about meat, meat, meat, and cakes and buns smothered in Dulce de Leche. Dulce de leche is basically caramel made from boiled condensed milk I think? It's so so sweet, but they all love it. I'm sure some them even have it on their steaks behind closed doors.

Having settled into the house we went canoeing on the lake behind it with Javier.

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Was nice and peaceful and saw loads of ducks and birds. After this we played bowls, me and Jenny against Javier. Javier was very competitve. Unfortunately we, as team Scotland, put on a typically Scottish display, starting off so promisingly then ending up getting inihalated. We had a wander round the farm houses, which had plenty of animals for Jenny to chase about the place, in particular two young puppies which she was very fond of.

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I liked the chickens and the big black pig that they had locked up in a kind of dark wooden prison in the woods. It got very excited whenever anyone went near it. Along with horses and cattle they also kept quite a few sheep. They were weird looking things though, not like the ones at home. They had thick wool all over them, head and legs, and no tails. They looked a bit like miniature polar bears.

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On our second day we got up early and went for a long horse ride to look for the Gauchos, to try and see them working. Unfortunately we didn't get going til a bit later than planned because Jenny was in control of the alarm. We did get to see them the next morning when we went out, as we left earlier. Was really interesting to see them herding the cattle into a pen and giving them vaccinations for the winter. Jenny even got a chance to give the shots, which she really enjoyed. The afternoon of our second day we went for some more canoeing. This was a big mistake. It was ok on the way out onto the river, but the wind picked up on our way back and both of us were knackered from the riding. Me especially, not being used to it. I felt like someone had taken a cricket bat across my lower back. Anyway it took us ages to get back, and at points we were going round in circles and backwards, wasn't much fun.

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All in all Santa Maura was a really enjoyable experience, and the locals on the farm were so nice and made us feel really welcome. From here we returned to Buenos Aires spent a quite night in and got up early to fly to Chile.

Only spending another half day here in Chile then leaving South America for oz tonight. The weather hasn't been great since we've got here, pretty grey, wet and cold. However, Santiago seems decent enough.

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There's not anything that really stands out about it as a city. It has a prettyish central plaza and lots and lots of religious sculptures and monuments littering the streets but nothing that really sets it apart. Today we took a trip up the cerro San Cristobal which is a big hill in the centre of the city. Took the funicular up to the top.
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Unfortunatley was a bit cloudy, so couldn't really see much, which is a shame because I know the Andes are out there somewhere, as we saw them when we were landing here.

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There is a big statue of the Virgin Mary at the top of the hill looking out over the city which is quite impressive. Also up there, there is an open air church with speakers all over the place playing hymns and latin chanting which is quite creepy.

The one downside to Chile so far is that it is a lot more expensive than anywhere else. We were staying in a pretty grotty little hotel for more than we have paid anywhere else so far. It did the job, although there was a nest of pigeons right outside our window flaping about and cooing at each other the whole night. Eating and drinking is pretty expensive here. A bottle of wine in a restaurant starts at about 4 pounds which is a shame, because the wine here is supposed to be pretty good, and we are being confined to drinking the stuff from the Chinese supermarket at 85p a bottle that tastes like vinegar. Food is really good here, I had conger eel soup the other day, which was a lot nicer than it sounds. Spent last night drinking in communal area of our hotel with a paralytic Chilean guy. He was a good laugh, although was a strange conversation, because he kept talking to me in broken English and I would respond in my crap Spanish. There was an Australian guy with us too, Glen. He seemed alright to begin with but as the night progressed it became apparent that everytime he opened his mouth a torrent of diarrhoea would come out. He was full of shit. He came out with some absolutely ludicrous claims, like his friend had been eaten by a crocodile, he'd been kidnapped in Columbia, he'd been stung by a boxjellyfish and he worked for the 20th richest guy in Australia etc etc. Didn't impress me very much, and I told him as much. Ended in a bit of shouting at each other. I just hope there aren't too many Glens in Oz.

Anyway, we are having to kick about here for the rest of today, before flying out to see the wizard later tonight......

Posted by calumfife 15:19 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

More electrical fun

sunny

In addition to the suicide showers that are standard issue in most of central and south america, the electricians over here also like to have a bit of fun with both the electrical sockets and light switches. It seems to be the norm to wire the socket up and then leaving it unscrewed from the wall. Most times anything is plugged in or removed it is accompanied by a burst of sparks from the holes, which makes using them very exciting indeed.

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This is also a favourite for the lightswitches. Either that or to have broken/cracked switches embedded into the wall so that you feel like you're really getting involved with the electrical wiring behind.

Posted by calumfife 14:10 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Iguazu Falls - Buenos Aires

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Suffered the 36 hours round trip to the falls at Puerto Iguazu, right on the northern border with Brazil. Took a luxury bus there and back, so it wasn't all bad. The buses in Argentina are great.

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The seats basically recline to horizontal if you pay a wee bit more, and you get fed and DVD's to watch. A far cry from the buses in Bolivia that are like you're sitting on a moving toilet. Also, the farters and snorers seem to prefer the cheaper buses here which is the real bonus. We also got a glass of wine with our meal on this trip, and choice of champagne or whisky on the way back down. Felt like royalty. Not a lot to Puerto Iguazu so when we arrived early in the morning we just got a place to stay then headed straight to the falls. At the bus station we met up with a Norwegian guy called Lussef and spent the day at the falls with him.

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He had very good English which made things easier as my Norwegian isn't up to much.

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The falls are incredible. Really worth a visit even though it was a long way. There are loads of walkways that let you get right over the top of most of them, and you can see them from all different angles. There's even a free boat out to an island to get closer to the falls. We came prepared with the ponchos to avoid getting wet. The place is really naturally picturesque, and you walk through rainforest to get to the waterfalls. The falls themselves are a series of waterfalls running right the way round a cliff. The main waterfall is the gargantua del diablo - devil's throat. It's really spectacular.

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You have to walk quite a way to get to it, and all the way there you can see what looks like smoke billowing up into the sky, caused by the spray from the waterfall. The sound and amount of water pouring into this part of the falls is really amazing, took loads and loads of photos. Lussef had a camera that was so old and battered that when the flash went off a puff of smoke came out the top of it which was interesting. Jenny got her wildlife fix here too, as there were coatis - or snout raccoons as Lussef liked to call them - and capuchin monkeys all over the place.

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The snout raccoons liked stealing crisps off the tourists. We stayed one night in Puerto Iguazu and headed back to Buenos Aires the following day.

Haven't done much since then other than bum about in Buenos Aires. We went out for Jenny's birthday on Thursday which was good fun. Went out for a Thai which was nice.

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Had a very very late one that night, didn't get back til about 8am. Easy to do here, as nothing ever seems to shut. We started in a strange little place full of quite old people who were all very very drunk and kept pestering us to dance.

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We watched Argentina destroy the USA in the Copa America and I wore the argentina strip that I'd picked up in Cordoba, which got a good reaction off the locals, even in the swanky club that we ended up in.

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During the day we had gone to the zoo (where else) where Jenny was very excited about the fact you could buy food to feed to the animals. Unfortunately it was only the crap farmyard-type animals that liked eating the dogbiscuit things that we bought.
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Would be a lot more fun with steak. There were funny little beaver/rats that had free roam of the place chasing tourists about looking for food.
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As zoos go it was ok.

The food here in Buenos Aires needs another mention as it's so great. Other than the steaks and red wine that are standard issue, you can get just about anything you want. Tenedor libres - all you can eat joints - are very popular here. We went to one the other night. Was really good. You pay three quid and can stuff your face with just about anything. They had various chefs on hand to cook basically anything you wanted. Would be very easy to turn into a very big fat person out here. Probably just as well we've only got a few days left here. Had another Parrillada last night.
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This is basically a barbeque for two. Unfortunately we went for the cheapest version, and got served up all the most disgusting bits of the cow - liver, kidneys, intestines. The intestines still had some strange creamy substance inside them that you could squeeze out lik toothpaste. It didn't taste very good. Jenny didn't eat any of it.

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Today we took a trip to la Boca to see el caminito. This is a famous little street with loads of brightly coloured painted houses and street performers. Lots of street tango and even a diego Maradona look-a-like.

Staying in quite a strange little hotel at the moment, very cheap, but very strange. In the lobby there is a very old picture of Gwyneth Paltrow from a magazine framed on the wall like a family photo?? Also Tomorrow we're going to stay on an estancia/ranch 200km from Buenos Aires. Jenny's very excited. I've been told that they have a nice calm horse for me. I'm hoping it might be a rocking horse. I'm also a bit nervous about our flight to Chile in a few days, as Lussef helpfully drew our attention to the fact that it is the same route that the film Alive is based on. Bit worried if we do crash because I've become so accustomed to eating 450gram steaks, I don't think Jenny would keep me alive very long.

Posted by calumfife 16:50 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Mendoza - Buenos Aires

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Arrived in Mendoza early in the morning. Absolutely freezing cold. Had to trapse the streets for quite some time looking for accommodation which wasn't much fun. This place was quite a bit more pricey thananywhere else we'd been. We asked in one really dodgy looking place with black lighting and luminous furniture, to be told that they only rented the room by the hour. Gave that one a wide berth. Eventually found a reasonable place with a gas heater which I thought was nice. Jenny thought we were oing to be gassed to death in our sleep as she was convinced she could smell gas from it even when it was off. To be fair had there been any sort of leak we may well not have woken up, as the room had no windows.

Didn't really do very much in Mendoza. It's a pretty place, with loads of plazas dotted about the place. Neither of us felt very well. Both choked with the cold, and the decongestants that we bought made us both feel unwell which helped enormously. We went to the zoo here. We got a lift off a guy who spotted us looking at the map like a couple of idiots. Drove us up there in his battered old car that felt like it was held together with elastic bands. He gave us a bit of a guided tour on the way up to the zoo which was nice of him. At the zoo I spent the entire time feeling like I was going to either collapse or throw up. Some of the cages that the animals were kept in kind of made me want to throw up anyway. Wasn't a very good zoo.

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Huge enclosures for the llamas and other stupid farm animals, (in fact even had some monkeys and llamas wandering freely about the place) and tiny wee jail cells for the big cats which were all just pacing up and down the place. You could get right up to the cages though. Jenny was sticking here fingers throught the gaps at every opportunity, even touching the lion who wasn't well impressed. Spent the rest of our time here sampling the many different wines from the region and eating steaks. Can't emphasize enough how great the steaks are here. Got a 450gram one here for a couple of pounds. So so good. Building up for a big daddy one before we leave. Have seen 700grams on some of the menus but not quite ready for that yet. From Mendoza we headed for the capital, Buenos Aires.

Buenos Aires is amazing. Really good looking city. Absolutely massive. Got the usual colonial stuff that every Argentinian town/city has - central plaza with standard issue statue of General San Martin who liberated Argentina - but it's all much grander and on a bigger scale. Really trendy, cosmopolitan place.

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We've spent most of our time here just wandering about the place looking at stuff and shopping. Lots to see. Monuments all over the place. Also lots of evil pigeons.

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I dragged Jenny to see La Bombonera, the football stadium of Boca Juniors.

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It's in a pretty dodgy area of town, La Boca. Quite a few interesting characters lurking about here. Really wanted to see a game whilst we were here, but the season just finished. We did however watch Boca lift the Copa Libertadores, a South American wide club cup competition. We watched this in a pub/restaurant in Mendoza, full of Boca supporters. It is the 6th time they've won it, thrashing Gremio 5-0 on aggregate over the 2 leg final. Unfortunately the Cup hadn't made it back to the ground for us being there as the final was played only 2 days before we went there. The ground is amazing.

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Gutted we couldn't see a game because the atmosphere would be immense. It's called the Bombonera because it looks like a chocolate box from above. It was built in 1940 and holds 60,000. The tour guide told us that when it's full the ground actually shakes, the top of the third tier moves back and forward between 4 and 5 centimetres. It's also built in such a way that the visiting team's dressing room is directly underneath the most mental part of the boca support. Got to go in the dressing room and see all the players lockers etc. Juan Roman Riquelme's was about the most exciting name there, he scored 2 in the recent final and is a local hero.

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Diego Maradona played for Boca and is the real hero here. Was a bit disappointed that he wasn't there, even more disappointed that they didn't have a bit more stuff in the museum celerating him, given that he's only the best footballer ever. What they do have for him is a his very own box, right on the halfway line in the posh stand with his own big yellow bench/throne.

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We went out for a few drinks the other nigh, and saw a bit of traditional dancing and tango, which was quite impressive. I'm not really fussed by dancing. I hate strictly come dancing, although that's maybe as much to do with Bruce Forsythe stupid face than anything else. But this was very impressive. The tango was especially so.

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The other stuff involved a lot of stamping and jumping by the guy, landing on the outsides of his feet which was pretty amazing as well given if I tried that I'd end up in a cast. Was good to see. Drank quite lot of wine that night and saw some live music in another place. Got chatting to the first Scottish people that we've encountered so far here, which was a good laugh.

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Heading for Iguazu falls today. It's an 18 hour bus journey which I'm not looking forward to at all. The falls are supposed to be well worth it though. Hope so.

Posted by calumfife 13:52 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Cafayate - Tucaman - Cordoba

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Spent a few days in Salta recovering from lots of drinking and steak eating. The steaks here are ridiculous. Can get a 350g steak for a couple of quid, and a bottle of good wine for about 4 quid. You can also buy a 5 litre jug of crap wine for 2 pounds.....which is nice. From Salta we got a bus to Cafayate.

Cafayte was quite a cool wee place. Big wine producing area. Not a lot to do other than visit the wineries. We're still travlling with Eva and Joe, and went with them on a free wine tour. Started at 10.30am which was dangerous. First tour was a bit crap. Second was quite good, because they gave us a lot more free samples. Drank a few glasses of wine then bought a bottle for later. I got a bit of a taste for it at this stage and ended up drinking right through. Even had one of the local delicacies - wine flavoured ice cream. Was more of a sorbet. Had one white and one red scoop. Both tasted pretty nasty, so reverted back to the litre bottles of beer which was just fine. Had goat stew for lunch here which was quite nice, although it smelled like live goats do which was a bit offputing. Jenny fed most of her goat to the dogs which then followed her about the town for the rest of the day, even into the shops and the bars. This is nothing new on our travels however. Jenny is like the pied piper for dogs. Only she doesn't lead them into the river she wants to have them stay in our room. There is always a pack of smelly, flee-bitten, limping dogs chasing us wherever we go.
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We spent a couple of nights in Cafayete and then headed further south to Tucaman.

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Not a lot to say about Tucaman. Not a lot to see or do. Jenny wasn't well so I went wandering about in the drizzle. Not much fun. Only stayed a night here to break up the journey to Cordoba.

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Cordoba is a nice city. 2nd biggest in Argentina. Spent the last few days there. It's the second biggest city in Argentina, and a there is a big University population, so the nightlife is very good. We stayed in a pretty run down hotel. Nice enough, with TV that kind of worked, can't really complain at 3 pounds a night. The toilet was very strange though. The room itself was about the same size as the main room. It was tiled from ceiling to floor, and felt a bit like being in a gas chamber. Also to flush the toilet we had to reach into a dark cavity in the wall that was the systern and pull a lever. All a bit reminiscent of Bolivia. We again met up with Evan and Joe here. Eva went to school near here so we went out with a few of her school friends for a night out. Got introduced to a new drink that the Argentinians love, Fernet Branca. It's very alcoholic. Was a really good night although didn't get to bed til 7.30am and someone helped theirselves to my jacket in the club.

Next day we struggled out of bed at 2pm and went to see a football match - Belgrano de Cordoba v Banfield.

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Wanted to try see Boca Juniors but didn't get to Argentina in time. Got to Cordoba for the last game of the premier division season though. Unfortunately Belgrano - nicknamed los piratas/the pirates - are a bit crap and we went to watch them get relegated, but it was quite a good game. They make Scottish footballers look like their playing in glue, so much quicker. None of them are frightened of the ball. They like to run with the ball and pass it to each other, as opposed to booting it into the stands, which was nice to see.

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Belgrano have two grounds a small 28,000 seater one and a bigger one for the bigger games 48,000. We saw them at the bigger one - Parque Chateau Carreras. Atmoshpere was pretty good although it's an olympic stadium with running track so we were miles away from the pitch. Think it might have been better at the smaller ground. I also wanted to go in the "popular" section but bought posh tickets by mistake. The popular section looked mental. Every 15 minutes or so a gap would appear in the crowd and a bomb would go off and fireworks and flares were lit after the goals. There was a big riot police prescence. Was good though. There must have been about 30,000 odd belgrano fans. Only about 10 Banfield fans. A lot of the Belgrano fans around us were not very impressed with what they were watching, even though they won 3-0, and rather than cheering on the team were hurling abuse at their own players - "hijo de puta" being the favourite insult. Even the little boy behind us was shouting this regularly. Very familiar. Just like being at Tynecastle. Was good day out although the ground is way out on the outskirts of town and we had to walk for miles in the freezing cold back to town.

Spent yesterday hanging about waiting for a night bus to Mendoza where we are now. Seems like quite a nice place so far, although getting more and more expensive the further south we go. Even colder here which is not funny. Mendoza is the biggest wine growing area in the country, so going to get involved in a few more sampling sessions.

Posted by calumfife 12:25 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

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