Carnival 2009, we escape the dancing and head off for some fresh air in Patagonia.

4 March, 2009

So last week was carnaval week here in sunny Brasil, for those who have been reading our blog for a year (thanks for sticking with us)!!! you will remember that last year we went to Rio and did the “carnaval thing”, for those who missed it, you can read our blog on it here, it was great fun – everyone should do it – at least once:

Greg and Cath hit Carnaval 2008

As a highly civilised country, Brasil (and most of latin America) gives three days off work so that everyone can fully enjoy the carnaval parties that are taking place all over the continent. But in a sign of our increasing brasilianness (and yes that is a word), we like many Brasilians chose to escape Brasil for the week and head to Argentina – for those of you who think that Argentina is also in Latin America,  you would be right, except for when it comes to carnaval, apparently the argies consider themselves too European to celebrate carnval, so while the rest of LatAm is dancing, drinking and wearing g-strings and feathers in their hair, the Argentians are in a ignoring their partying neighbours and going to work like good Europeans!!
This of course means that its a great time to visit Argentina to get away from it all – which is exactly what we did. We flew to Bariloche in the north of Patagonia, Argentina.
Here is Bariloche on a map, and our place (its four hours flying time to give you an idea of the distance:

We arrived in the middle of the night (cheap flights that seemed a good idea at the time), so our first night in Bariloche was a bit of mystery, we were staying about 20km outside Bariloche, at a lovely little place called Patagonia Vista, so when we drew back the curtains at dawn, we were blown away by this view:

Like many of the buildings in Bariloche Patagonia Vista is designed in a kind of a swiss chalet meets Latin American style:

Unlike our earlier encounter with interpretation of swiss chalets in Monte Verde last year, the buildings in Bariloche are really well done, not just a copy of a swiss chalet, but taking the best bits of “European” design and adding some local flavour.
For anyone who has been to the south east of the New Zealand (around Queenstown), you can pretty much picture what Bariloche looks like, its a picturesque tourist town on the edge of a beautiful lake, with majestic mountains on every side and the great outdoors within easy grasp.
Like Queenstown, Barlicohe is essentially a tourist town, the main street is a never ending line of chocolate shops, fondue restaurants, tour operators, and outdoor clothing shops, but the magic doesn’t really happen in the city, it happens in the hills and lakes all around it.
Bariloche is just the start of Patagonia, right on the edge of Chile, it’s surrounded by the Andes on every side and has enough lakes, mountains, rivers and valleys to keep anyone busy for the rest of their life. The region is full of places for outdoor activities including fishing, rafting, kayaking, mountain biking, skiing, climbing and just about anything else that can be done outdoors. Which is exactly why we choose it for a week escape from Sao Paulo.
Just about anywhere you head to from Bariloche, the scenery is just stunning:

This picture is a view of lakes and Llao Llao hotel – apparently the most famous hotel in Argentina, Cath spotted instantly that it was also exactly like the resort in Dirty Dancing, so she spent an afternoon walking around the hotel carrying watermelons and looking for Patrick Swayze while I took more photos:

Bariloche is also full of lots of wandering dogs, just about anywhere you go there are some dogs wandering around, this one we spotted while out on a walk near where we were staying:

He was completely mental and would suddenly take off on a superfast run through chasing himself and generally having a great time – I don’t know what type of dog he is, but the tiger strips made him quite a dashing fellow:

While out on the walk where I took this picture Cath and I were talking about how much like New Zealand it felt, the area around Bariloche is a little alternative, very relaxed and very very beautiful, its probably the most New Zealandish  looking place I have ever seen.  But when we got back to the car park at the end of the walk, we met three backpackers who we had passed earlier on the walk, they had been jumped and robbed while on the same track we were on and the police were scouring the area trying to find the two teenagers who did it. This horrible crime really shocked us out of our revere and reminded us that things are very different over here, it’s not so dangerous that you shouldn’t come and see it, but you need to keep your wits about you at all times…..
The next day we went for a big tramp up one of the nearby mountains, starting at the La Catederal ski field (apparently the best ski field in Lat Am) we went on up and across the hills to ´Refugio Frey´. A Refugio is basically a mountain hut, but being Argentina it has full time staff and offers hot meals and snacks, unfortunately as I thought it was 10km return trek, we left a bit late in the day, we worked out after a couple of hours that it had to be 20km return trek, so we hurried on hoping to get to the refugio before lunch finished….. which of course we didn’t, we arrived just in time to watch some other trampers tucking into a hot lunch and made do with just salami and cheese sandwhiches on mouldy bread – I wouldn’t normally eat moldy bread, but due to me thinking it was just a 10km walk, we hadn’t packed any food, and that was all that was on offer!
But apart from a dodgy lunch, the small bit of the Andes we saw were just stunning, here are some photos we took on our walk:

One of the bridges on the track!

Another awesome handbuilt bridge

Climbers scaling one of the stunning peaks

Refugio Frey – a long way to walk for mouldy salami sandwhiches!

Us sitting in one of the ´tentsites´ to keep out of the wind!

The view from the refugio

Use relaxing in one of the campsites, out of the breeze and enjoying the clean air and sunshine!
On our last day we took a drive to see the black glacier (Perito Moreno) on Mt Tronador. The glacier and snow covered mountain are 40km into a national park, the road to the base of the glacier is to say the least a bit rough. narrow and windy, in fact it’s so rough, narrow and windy that it runs one way (inwards) from 10am-2pm, then the other way (outwards) from 2pm to 6pm. Presumably this is to make the road a bit safer and lessen the chance of you getting hit by some crazy tourist coming round the bend sideways. But of course as the Paris Dakar rally had been through here just a month ago, Greg took this as his inspiration to see how quickly he could cover the 40km in their super rental/rally chevy corsa, Cath was remarkably silent for this bit of the trip, but if we were to do it again I would at least spend enough on the rental car to ensure that it had a ´jesus handle´ for the passenger to hold on with as the car powerslides around the corners!
Here are some pictures we took around Mt Tronador, it definitely one of the most beautiful places we have ever seen, amazing snow capped mountains, glaciers, waterfalls, woodpeckers, eagles and stunning aqua blue lakes and rivers  – the highlight of the trip for sure.

Mt Tronador.

The end of the black glacier

Translated ´only fools beyond this point´

I am guessing it was a hawk – but its just a guess!

One of the many aqua lakes full of glacial run off water

Cold and clear – and i mean really cold!

Thats it for now, back to work…

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One year in, we are still here and still loving it!

2 March, 2009

Hello Hello,

Long time no chat!

We have now been in Brasil for over a year, many people predicted the initial six months would keep going and going and it has.

So it now looks like we will be here for another year or two – which in our world is practically forever, so we are settling into our Brasilian lifestyle even more and making ourselves more at home here in sunny Sao Paulo.

Of course because we are now going to be here for longer, all of you who have been talking about coming over to visit us can now go ahead and book your tickets!!!

I know I have been a bit slack on the blog front for a while now, work and other not so exciting things have kept us a bit quiet for the last few months, plus we have also been traveling a lot, trips to Australia, England and Spain have kept us on the move and having fun catching up with family and friends all over the world.

Work for both of us is good, as usual busy, but good and with summer finally in full swing over here we really have nothing to complain about.

Last night we were watching the travel and living channel (gregs favourite channel after Speed), and we happened to see TV chef and travel show host Anthony Bourdain presenting a show from Sao Paulo. His encounter with Sao Paulo and his view of the city very closely mirrors our own thoughts on the city, so i thought i would post the show here for anyone who wants to see it.

Thanks to youtube, the full show is available to watch online (but its broken into five bite size pieces)  the show is about forty minutes all up,  so get yourself a comfy chair and a cool drink and settle in and follow Mr Bourdain as he falls in love with the city we also love:

Of course for anyone who wants to download the whole show, you can download it here:

http://thepiratebay.org/torrent/3780431/Anthony.Bourdain.No.Reservations.S04E01-04%5Bcabra%5D

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Watch this space as we will back soon with another post on our latest adventure to Patagonia!