Returning to Buenos Aires and My First South American Soccer Match

In mid-May I returned to Argentina’s capital Buenos Aires, a city I inhabited in the summer. This time I was lucky enough to spend time with Rebecca and her enthusiastic children Kaye and Robbie in Belgrano. West of Palermo, Belgrano is one of Buenos Aires’ grandest suburbs, full of old mansions and tree-lined streets.

I was also fortunate to catch up with Australian expatriate Pat. Pat is a mad Huracan fan. Huracan is the best Buenos Aires soccer team no one has heard of. If you come to Buenos Aires, don’t ride on the Boca Juniors, Racing Club or River Plate bandwagons, join Huracan’s passionate supporters instead. Pat initiated me into Huracan at a Primera Division match against Unión de Santa Fe.

Huracan Match, Buenos Aires, Argentina

With Pat at Huracan’s Tomás Adolfo Ducó Stadium; note the empty ‘away’ end Continue reading

Córdoba, Argentina’s Second City

From Mendoza in early May I took my most comfortable South American bus ride yet, a nine hour overnight Andesmar “suite 1st class” bus to Córdoba. Córdoba is Argentina’s second largest city (behind Buenos Aires) and with world heritage listed 17th century architecture it has something for tourists.

Santi, who I’d met in Santiago, kindly showed me around the centre, pointing out interesting places. Importantly, Santi also recommended places to eat typical local food including lomito, a South American steak sandwich and locro, Córdoban stew.

Córdoba, Argentina

Lighting features at one of Córdoba’s entertainment areas Continue reading

Thermal Resort and Wine Tour; Fantastic Days in Mendoza, Argentina

Travelling from Santiago to Mendoza in early May took time but was worth it. Famous for its Malbec wine, I experienced two of my best days in the Mendoza region, despite overcast and rainy weather.

On a whim and inspired by a British couple in my hostel, I booked a day trip to the Termas Cacheuta spa resort outside of Mendoza. Another couple on the morning bus were already enjoying the day, drinking from a wine bottle.

Located next to a river in Cacheuta, Luján de Cuyo, Termas Cacheuta features several indoor and outdoor thermal pools of varying temperatures, a cold pool and a sauna. The resort also provides an amazing buffet lunch!

Termas Cacheuta, Mendoza, Argentina

Termas Cacheuta’s lunch buffet contains great meat, vegetables and salad Continue reading

Valparaiso: a Colourful City for the Arty and Fit

On the Pacific coast a few hours from Santiago, Valparaiso is famous for its incredible street art. The town is also very hilly. Valparaiso residents would have to be some of the artiest and fittest people around as I found out in April.

Valparaiso has an excellent produce market and one morning I met up again with Cami and Sara to wonder around both the permanent market and nearby street market.

Valparaiso, Chile

A green vegetable stall at Valparaiso’s produce market with outer leaves and husks discarded on the street Continue reading

The Chile Adventure Begins – La Serena and Coquimbo

Following the Salar de Uyuni tour, in early April I crossed the Bolivian border and took a bus down to San Pedro de Atacama. Chilean border procedures are conducted in San Pedro, not at the isolated border itself.

Chile’s quarantine regulations reminded me of Australia’s with no fresh fruit, vegetables, meat or plant products allowed in. After immigration formalities, incoming passenger bags were lined up for a quarantine dog to enter and sniff. On this occasion the dog didn’t find anything suspicious although it did pick out a bag planted later by the customs officer.

Desert town San Pedro de Atacama is a major backpacker destination and outdoor activity base. After seeing many amazing landscapes on the Salar de Uyuni tour, I wanted a change of scenery and travelled onto La Serena via Calama. On the overnight Calama-La Serena bus I slept my best in four days as previous nights were spent at sleep-disrupting high altitude (~4,000 metres).

Founded in 1544 La Serena is Chile’s second oldest city (after Santiago). The existing buildings are however newer as the original city was destroyed by a 1730 earthquake.

Chile is noticeably wealthier, tidier and more organised than Bolivia. Chile also has some of Bolivia’s former coastline, won in a 19th century war between the two nations. The lack of coastline is controversial in Bolivia and subject to dispute. After being landlocked for two months, I was ready for seafood!

One evening I visited Jack Fish, a Peruvian inspired ceviche and sushi restaurant with fellow hostel guest and Pearl Jam fan Natalia. The restaurant owner was also a rock music fan, naming different menu combinations after bands and that night playing music from Touring Band 2000.

La Serena and Coquimbo, Chile

Rocking on with pisco sours and ceviche at Jack Fish, La Serena Continue reading

Sucre, Bolivia’s Constitutional Capital

Founded by the Spanish almost 500 years ago, Sucre’s historic rise and decline was linked to the  Potosi silver mine. With its year’s round mild climate and lower altitude (2,800 metres), Sucre was the preferred place of residence for the wealthy involved with Potosi’s silver trade.

Sucre is Bolivia’s constitutional capital and home of the high court (La Paz is Bolivia’s seat of government). Sucre is also the capital of Chuquisaca Department. With its historic buildings, museums, good restaurants and pleasant climate, Sucre is a popular place to visit and stay. After Santa Cruz, Sucre became my home for four weeks this March as I took Spanish lessons (gracias Faby!) and enjoyed the atmosphere of the city in general and The Beehive Hostel in particular.

Sucre’s Mercado Central (Central Market) was a regular destination with its fruit and vegetable, general produce and juice stalls.

Sucre, Bolivia

One of many juice stalls lined up next to each other at Mercado Central Continue reading

Tropical Relief in Santa Cruz, Bolivia

Being bedridden with altitude sickness in La Paz, I knew I had to escape to a lower altitude. My chosen destination was Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia’s second largest metropolitan area and home to the country’s largest international airport. Viru Viru International Airport lies away from city centre and on the taxi ride in, I saw several rhea, large flightless birds related to the emu and ostrich.

Santa Cruz is in Bolivia’s tropical lowlands and shares the same climate classification as Darwin, Australia. Although Bolivia is famous for its high altitude, two-thirds of Bolivia’s land mass is actually lowland.

Santa Cruz, Bolivia

The city of Santa Cruz as seen from my approaching plane Continue reading

An Amazingly Situated City – La Paz, Bolivia

From Carnival in Cochabamba, in mid-February I caught a day bus to La Paz, Bolivia’s political (but not judicial) capital and most famous city.

Bolivian buses often feature salespeople temporarily coming on board to sell their wares, usually drinks or snacks. However, I have also been in the audience of a man selling a tonic (ginseng?) and cookbooks and a boy busker singing. On the Cochabamba-La Paz bus I bought Charque de Llama from a woman. Charque de Llama is a traditional Bolivian meal featuring dried llama meat, white cheese, corn kernels, boiled potato and hard boiled egg.

La Paz, Bolivia

Charque de Llama on the bus from Cochabamba to La Paz

The road to La Paz passes by spectacular Andes scenery and high mountain passes, including one over 4,500 metres above sea level, or twice as high as Australia’s highest mountain, Mount Kosciuszko. Continue reading