Fishing Village Memoirs

Hola Taganga! Cute, charming and picturesque fishing village on the Columbian north coast. Definitely a place I could stay much longer.
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The 1 street town is always buzzing with artisans selling their crafts, restaurants scaling their fish and people drink beer.
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Our days here were spent walking over and around the mountain to the next cove
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where the views are amazing
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and even better, is the end destination.. Playa Grande
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Swimming, kindles, sun and fresh fish for lunch!
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An “emotional experience” as Josh put it.
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Afternoon drinks, never without our kindles
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and gorgeous sunset!
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Followed by ice cold mojitos, garlic bread and the most delicious barbeque at Cafe Bonsai πŸ™‚
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We spent the next couple of days on the isolated beach of Palomino. We got a good beach run in (which reminds me why I fell in love with running) and amazing kindle time
20121227-111854.jpg Unfortunatey, the water was very rough and the beach was a tad disappointing (had nothing on Playa Blanca) so we left a day early so we could spend our last day on the coast in Taganga!

Coffee fields and friends!

After being on the road and hearing stories from other backpackers, we knew we needed to make time to visit Columbia. So we shuffled around our plans and before we knew it we were on our way from Lima to Columbia! First stop Salento, the seriously beautiful coffee region, with a quaint and charming town.

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We stayed at a place 20 minutes walk out of town called La Serrana, an Eco farm and hostel.

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Such a peaceful and magical place, with panoramic views of the valley and mountains.

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Our stay here was going to be amazing no matter what as we met up with 2 friends from home, Jared and Ryan. It was great to catch up, drink, eat, share travel stories and enjoy being in this cool place together!

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Our first night got rolling with the delicious hostel dinner, some drinks and then we headed out to play the local game, tejo aka hit the gunpowder with a metal weight. Only in Columbia.

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The next morning we headed out to the Valle Del Cocora, all tightly squeezed into the jeep

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The views were breathtaking, ground muddy and fields green and lush.

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It was fun to be in the wet, rainy, muddy wilderness together

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And the highlight was of course paying a mysterious ‘park’ entrance fee in the middle of nowhere to a mans restaurant which came with a complimentary hot chocolate and cheese. FYI Break the cheese up and put in hot chocolate.

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After a tiring day, drenched and hungry we ate and relaxed then night time called for a poker game… Excuse the awkward pic but the runner up is staring right back at ya πŸ˜‰

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The next day we went to a local coffee farm, where we took a tour around the family run farm learning about the coffee plants and how they produce their coffee.

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Salento is the type of place you can really lift your feet up and be swept away by the slow-pace, tranquility and beautiful surroundings. It was so great to spend a few days here, surrounded by nature and great company πŸ™‚

Next stop Medellin! For those of you just tuning into our travels now, be sure to check out our travel page and of course foodies and runners feel free to stay and explore!

Check out our Travel Page for more of our adventures!

Volunteering in the Amazon Jungle

Next stop, Taricaya Conservation Lodge in the Amazon jungle! In 2009 I spent a month volunteering here here so I couldn’t wait to return this time with Josh.

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We caught an hour long long-boat to the lodge hidden deep in the jungle along the Rio Madre De Dios

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Arriving at the lodge, it was time to meet and greet the volunteers mosquitos, wasps, ants, bees and all the other lovely creatures. And of course it was time to get working! Our first morning job was feeding the animals.

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Taricaya takes in animals who are in need of care and rehabilitation with the ultimate aim of releasing them back into the wild. But for now, nothing beats a cuddle with these cheeky little things!

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These baby spider monkeys all have their own story of why they are here e.g. Kept as pet and seriously malnourished, lost their mother etc. it was great to see that many of the spider monkeys that were there in 2009 had since been released and are now living free and wild.

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Feel the love?

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Now this little fellow, 1 month old Theo, is the newest member to the Tarikaya Tapir family. He is the cutest, oddest looking creature on earth!

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We had fun cleaning out the tapir poo pool (on Josh’s birthday)

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One of the afternoon jobs at the new farm near the lodge is feeding the turtles which have been bred in protected area at the lodge to prevent hunters poaching the eggs to all in town. This project has been so successful and it was great seeing all the beautiful turtles! Here we are preparing their food which consists of extremely finely cut spinach, cabbage, carrots and chicken liver. We were sweating buckets here!

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But the turtles of all sizes enjoyed their meal

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And in return, we enjoyed playing πŸ™‚

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Another activity was animal enrichment where we made paper mΓ’chΓ© snakes and filled them with meat for the cats to practice their hunting. Loved seeing josh being creative πŸ˜‰

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Now in Tarikaya you feel as though you are taking risks all the time. Climbing the new animal enclosure (no adequate ladder of course) to continue on with the building is just one example. I never quite made it up…

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A few hours of machetting in crazy humidity takes it out of you!

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But other projects like butterfly catching and releasing are a bit more chilled

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As is picking mangoes that have fallen off the trees near the hammocks and devouring them… Knife not even necessary!

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Where ever you go here, there are animals! This man paid us a visit in the dining room.

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And Trumpy enjoys his regular tickle under his chin by the hammocks

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Other birds require binoculars and a 45m rickety canopy platform to be sighted.

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My favourite thing to do in the jungle is just to walk, listen to the sounds of the forest an enjoy the serenity.

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Night time in the jungle involved many games of cards

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And an awesome cayman catching session on the long boat with Stuart. He first gave us a talk about the creatures which are part of the crocodilian family and then we set out in silence and darkness on the long boat where he spotted, pounced and caught a cayman, showed us and released it.

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Finally, Josh got to play his long awaited soccer! Peruvians verse volunteers for a large coke. Peruvians won 10-9.

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And last but not least we celebrated a very special milestone in the jungle, Josh turned 25! Yummy dinner (home cooked food was well received by us)

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And then cake time…

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Followed by machetting the piΓ±ata πŸ™‚

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A birthday spent in the Amazon jungle, not bad ay?

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I just love this boy!

Plane is now taking off to Lima where we are super excited to scrub up, wear clean clothes, no insect repellant, use a dry, fresh towel and enjoy the city for 2 days before heading up to Colombia! Let the adventures continue…

Check out our Travel Page for more of our adventures!

Enjoying the desert life

We have journeyed from big cities like Buenos Aires and Santiago, hiked up an active volcano covered in snow in Pucon, relished the smells and tastes of Maipu just outside of Mendoza, trekked and camped Torres Del Paine and the list goes on. But now friends it is time to share our latest adventures in the Chilean desert town of San Pedro de Atacama…

Presenting our hostel, our cozy haven which began as a 2 night stop over stay and rapidly transformed into to an awesome 4 night desert experience.

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The town quite simply has a special touch. The streets are sandy and lined with tourist offices, restaurants, mini-markets and huddles of people waiting to board their collectivo and begin one of the many morning/afternoon/evening tours on offer.

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We don’t usually do the group tour type of thing, but in this town it is what you do. The more you book the better deal you get, and it is the easiest way to see the coolest places. Our first tour was visiting the Valle de la Luna. Awesome natural sculptures formed over millions of years..

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We watched the sunsetting over the landscape which was beautiful!

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Next day, 4am wake up “what the hell have we gotten ourselves into?”

This… Sunrise at the mind blowing El Tatio (the geysers) which means ‘old man crying’ in Quechua

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and by the way, temperature update: -11.5 degrees Celsius

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As the sun continued rising, we huddled around the geysers where the hot steam offers welcome warmth

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Our guide began explaining how the steam comes for the pools of water bellow surface, when he stuck his hands into the water and pulled out a bag of magical oval balls… Eggs!

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Also known as hand warmers ( and breakfast!)

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We continued on stopping at these hidden gems for snaps

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And then we took a dip in the natural hot springs.

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Such an awesome tour and well worth the early wake up. We returned to town at midday, grabbed lunch and napped in preparation for an 11pm star gazing tour. No pictures here but we were truly blown away by how crazy our sky is! Being in an unpolluted, undisturbed desert we saw our night sky up close and personal..planets, the Milky Way, moons, shooting stars.. The list goes on.

Next day stove cooked oats for breakfast in preparation for….

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SANDBOARDING

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Similar to snow boarding (not as fast according to Josh) but definitely fast enough for me!

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Was very cool being surrounded by these massive sand dunes, feeling as though we were in the middle of nowhere.
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That afternoon we hit up the Laguna Cejar.
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Crystal waters, sunshine and blue skies!
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and overall a relaxing afternoon of floating in the 25m deep salt lake..
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Complete with watching the sunset and drinking pisco sours πŸ™‚
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What a crazy few days, feeling so blessed and lucky to be sharing it all with Josh.
Next we have a 3 day jeep journey through the salt flats into Bolivia.

Adios amigos!

Check out our Travel Page for more of our adventures!

Salud Salta!

Hello friends! We have continued to weave our way up Argentina and Chile, and our next stop saw us in Salta in the northwest of Argentina. A fairly large, dense, busy city with a fun street vibe with food vendors selling sweet and delicious popcorn and endless stores pumping out hotdogs and sandwiches (without the crust) piled up to extreme heights on top of each other.

We took a gondola trip up to the top of a mountain and got an amazing view of the city!

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We walked the streets by day

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And of course, by night πŸ™‚ . My favourite part of all the cities which we have visited is always the main plaza. I love how they tell so much about the city and the culture of the place. The perfect spot for people watching!

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The following day we booked a tour through our hostel to Cafayate. We were a bit late on the booking side of things so could only manage to get onto a Spanish speaking tour. It was great nonetheless and a real test for the Spanish. We managed to get by, luckily with the help of some German travellers πŸ˜‰ . We travelled in a mini bus and stopped along the way for some photos with magical surroundings. I am feeling as though the blog photos may become a bit repetitive with all these views, but they really capture something special for us so I am still going to share them.

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Red mountains, blue sky and splashes of greenery.. So pretty!

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Highlight alert- stopping at an old lady’s place in the middle of nowhere to feed llamas and goats! So cute.

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Josh hated getting his hands dirty but luckily he is traveling with his girlfriend…disinfectant and wet wipes to the rescue (check out what he has learnt while traveling with yours truly)

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Like Mendoza, Cafayate is known for it’s wineries, so our tour also included a quick taste!

All round great day.. How better to end it than with a selfie πŸ™‚

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So with that we say goodbye to Argentina for a while, and head back into Chile one last time – to the small desert town of San Pedro de Atacama.

Check out our Travel Page for more of our adventures!

Indulging in the sweet tastes of Maipu

Argentina’s beer wine region, Mendoza, here we come! We were greeted with beautiful hot, sunny weather and a great balcony at our hostel to enjoy it.

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But we had places to go! Next day we bussed to the vineyard region in the large, brown area of Maipu (pronounced my-poo) which as you can imagine left us with hours of play-on-word jokes (which I took a took a step to far, continuing on for days…) From there we hired bikes and rode to the different wineries.

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Maipu smelt like roses!

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We tried different wines from Maipu region, then pooped popped back on the bikes and skidded on to the next stop.

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We were greeted by the cutest puppy, Tommy. It was love πŸ™‚

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And here we also enjoyed tasting the olives and olive pastes.

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We both loved our day in Maipu and highly recommend getting there if you are visiting Argentina.

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We arrived back in Mendoza and checked out some of the great bars the city has to offer. It was a Monday night and the bars were packed!

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We love our day trips- bright and early the next morning we caught a bus to Uspallata. We kind of had no idea what we were going to and to be honest we were both looking forward to 2.5 hours of sleep time on the bus. But when we arrived we were not disappointed! Beautiful, rustic small town in the valley surrounded by mountains. We hired bikes once again, got given a map and disappeared with not another person in sight into the desert wilderness!

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The town itself is described as a green oasis in the middle of the desert…

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The ride was uphill on rocky, unpaved roads for 10 fricken kms! Maybe had we prepared ourselves mentally for this challenge it would have been easier? Pretty low on the energy side of things, we eventually got to the end of the road,

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used every last ounce of energy to climb up to the top of one of the mountains and took time to enjoy the incredible view of the multicoloured desert mountains.
Worth the hard yards πŸ™‚

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After some chill time and targeted rock throwing, which is becoming Josh’s new hobby we readied ourselves for 10kms of pure downhill sweetness!

These highlights from Mendoza are only a handful of what this city has to offer! We also enjoyed just relaxing in the beautiful parks- went for an awesome run, enjoyed the cafes, markets and bars and were sad to be leaving… Luckily overnight buses aren’t that bad πŸ˜‰

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Next stop, Salta – in northwest Argentina!

Check out our Travel Page for more of our adventures!

Boots up, Bums down

Next stop, Pucon!

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Beautiful quaint town with a great vibe, cool street markets, good restaurants and amazing warm weather!!

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Our 1st day here we hired bikes

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And explored the small streets, unpaved roads, rivers, farms…

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and visited these beautiful waterfalls.

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It was an awesome ride. I am seriously considering trading in driving a car for a bike when I get home πŸ™‚

Day 2 was time to get the boots dirty again. We hit up Huerquehue National Park. The showers turned on but we enjoyed trudging along in the mud

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and making new friends..

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Now day 3 was what we came to Pucon for.. To climb one of Chile’s most active volcano, Villarrica. For this you need to go with a guide and assistants, in proper gear including real boots, wind and rain protective gear and a backpack filled with things I have never seen or heard of. Think crampons, gaiters and plastic toboggans.

Gear on and ready to go! Note the weather at the bottom of the mountain.

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As we made our steep ascent up the mountain, we trekked through the clouds and slowly began to rise up and above them

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And slowly but surely the blue skies graced us with their presence!

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The higher we got the more magical the view was

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We finally reached the top… 2850m!

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We sat, enjoyed the crazy view and re-layered up as it got pretty chile chilly pretty quickly.

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Looking down inside the volcano we didn’t see any lava but we saw and smelt the smoke coming out which was pretty damn cool

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Now the question on everyone’s lips was how the hell are we getting down from here???
Considering the practically vertical ascent there was no way down but via the bum..

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Wish we could have taken videos of us coming down. But no need for an explanation on why this was not possible :p What took 5 hours to climb up, took only 45 mins to come down. This is a pic of a group who came down after us…

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After an amazing sleep, the following day called for relaxation and time to enjoy the town before bussing off to Santiago.

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We spent hours enjoying the sunshine and watching that little volcano in the distance

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Pucon, although you were a bit out of the way for us to get to, you made our stay worth every ounce of our energy!

Adios amigos xxxx

Check out our Travel Page for more of our adventures!

Bariloche Part 2: See, do, conquer

Our special stay in Bariloche continued to be filled with more adventures. For those of you just joining us now, check out Bariloche, part one – Revenge of the nerds. Our next day trip we planned was to visit the Cerro Otto lookout point which was accessible via chairlift or for those stupid enough, by foot. Never ones to turn down a challenge, we opted for the latter. And a challenge it was. 2 kms of a steep sandy trail that ever seemed to end. Hot and flustered,

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we continued till we reached the top. Great panoramic views, but we both agreed that we were not sure it was worth the effort. Future travellers, just take the chairlift!

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After a few happy snaps we sat briefly in the revolving restaurant then made our way down, yes, in the chairlift πŸ™‚

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After our mini trek we were quite exhausted and our intention to walk around Lago Gutierrez turned into a brief pit stop where we grabbed a snack

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And headed back to town where we spent the rest of the day planning and organising buses, hostels and our whitewater rafting trip the next day!!!

Gear on and we were ready to take on Rio Manso.. Josh excited and me.. eek.. not so.


After the safety talk I was kind of freaking out. Josh took the seat at the front of the raft and I took the back seat (closest to Estaban, our guide/skipper/leader who I quickly befriended) πŸ™‚

From the very first rapid Josh was right in there…


Spot me below? Back left. After seeing the size of the oncoming grade 4 rapid I comfortably snuck my way into the safety of the boat..


The rapids only got more challenging, but we smashed each rapid and the team spirit grew, fun factor increased and nerves (kind of) subsided.


Until this….


When we all sat down at the end to watch the videos which the photographer had taken, my sneaky fall into the safety of the inside of the boat was all revealed and my secret was out. Was a great day, met some great people, conquered the nerves and definitely felt a good sense of accomplishment at the end!

Was a fun adrenaline-lifting way to end our stay in Bariloche. Well that is it for now but if you missed it, check out Josh’s thoughts on traveling with me, quite a laugh.

Check out our Travel Page for more of our adventures!

Josh’s Thoughts – What I’ve learnt travelling with my girlfriend

So i admit I have been quite slack in keeping my side of the blog updated, following my introduction in our Ushuaia Post. With a little spare time on my hands, I thought it’s time I share some more of my thoughts.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have taken several great holidays, with most of them being with my best (male) mates. Guys are guys, and lets be honest, we function very differently to our opposing gender. While this isn’t my first trip away with Kel, the nature of this trip has really opened my eyes to some interesting things about travelling with your girlfiriend – some of them are just interesting differences between us. There are, however, many simple things that guys could learn from our female friends and I thought I’d share them so that those that haven’t travelled with a girl don’t miss out!

Before I get into it, there are some obvious differences that I am not going to bother discussing here ( e.g. The role of wingman is probably not necessary, personal hygiene is not an unaffordable luxury and paper-scissors-rock is not a viable way of settling an argument/making a decision ).
Rather I am looking at some subtle things that I have found to be amusing/helpful.

So here we go:

1) The many uses of wet wipes – these little gems are something that most guys (without kids) would have no idea about. Great for cleaning hands after a packed picnic lunch, but even better – when you get to the point where one more wipe with hostel toilet paper will likely draw blood, call on the wet wipe! Also can be used in lieu of a shower during long multi day treks! (Great for the hard to reach places…)

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2) The time-money-HEALTH relationship – The extent of one’s travel is generally subject to two main constraints – TIME and MONEY. For example, when planning a holiday, you are normally limited to the amount of leave you get from work, and how much cash you have in the bank. You may be able to get more time off, but do you then have to lower your daily budget to be able to make use of the extra time? The same can be said when actually on the road- e.g. You really want to do a 3 day trek – you may have the money, but do you have the time? Thus the theory of constraints – Obvious, right?

But travelling with Kel (and maybe this is not applicable to all girls), a third constraint exists – HEALTH. Take the example of eating lunch- if i was travelling with guys, i imagine my lunch would consist of 2 empanadas (typical south american street food) and maybe a beer from the supermarket. Its quick and very cheap, leaving plenty of room in the budget for the rest of the day.

One of the few empanadas I have indulged in (almost as delicious as my Granny Ida’s perogen!)

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However what about the HEALTH budget? 2 empanadas for lunch may mean there’s nothing left in the health budget for dinner, and therefore I have to get something smaller AND have a salad.

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Hence I am more likely to agree to a tuna and avocado sandwich for lunch, to leave space for a 500g sirloin for dinner!

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Luckily Kel and I both love the physical activities (trekking, bike riding etc) so that boosts the size of our health budget!

3) Dessert is a possibility – when travelling with guys, dessert after dinner is not even considered, as dinner usually consists of cooking in a hostel, leading into a massive drinking session and then into a big night at a bar/club and spending all your money on drinks before stumbling home, and waking up with a hangover. However cut that all out, and you actually leave a lot of money and time (and health budget) to enjoy ice cream or a chocolate fondante!

The BEST ice cream I have ever tasted… And I mean it – Juaja in Bariloche (apparently they have a shop in Melbourne too so check it out!)

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4) Sometimes asking for directions can help – but only sometimes and it’s probably because you have a bad map…

5) Check border customs restrictions before crossing – Chile, like Australia, has very strict rules about what you can bring into the country, with fresh fruit and vegetables being a big no-go. If I was with guys, this would never be an issue. But when travelling with Kel, bus rations do not consist of chips and chocolate, but rather a fresh green salad (with dressing) in a Tupperware container, plus 2 bananas, an apple and 2 carrots!!
You should have seen the looks on the faces of the border staff when emptying our bags. Luckily I insisted on ticking YES on our immigration form for “does your luggage contain fruit or vegetables”.
Believe it or not, Kel even tried to take an apple across the border the next time, and only agreed to chuck it once we saw this sign:

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6) Your travel companion is 50% of your trip – so make sure you have a good one! Even after spending all day every day together for just over 3 weeks, Kel and I are still powering on and loving (almost) every moment of each others company. We live every day like its our last day of the trip, and we always end it with a laugh. This trip wouldn’t be half as special if it wasn’t shared with Kel! Hopefully I’ll feel the same after 3 months!

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That’s all for now- Thanks for reading and we look forward to updating you all again soon.

Check out our Travel Page for more of our adventures!

Bariloche Part 1: Revenge of the nerds

The Argentine Lake District’s largest city, Bariloche, was our next stop and bring it on – we were ready for it! Arriving at Hostel 1004, which came highly recommended from a number of our friends (thanks Lee, Brad and Bortzy) we knew this would be a place we wouldn’t want to leave.

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We immediately felt at home with the lovely staff and the beautiful views over the lake and city.

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With our Spanish slowly progressing and the hopes of staying put in Bariloche for a little while, we thought we might try some Spanish lessons. We planned to meet Carolina the lady at the Spanish school for a brief introduction conveniently timed at 8:45pm (everything happens late here) – our time or dinner. She sat us down for a hard core test and we were not happy Jan.

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Needless to say, the nerds rebelled. Cheating our way through the first part of the test and failing to complete the rest of it, we threw away our hopes of mastering Spanish. Instead, we planned our revenge and opted to spend our days exploring the city by bike, car, foot, kayak and chairlift all fuelled by the most delicious food and an awesome city vibe starting in the main square and extending across the city.

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The streets of Bariloche are lined with cute chocolate shops (hello endless days of taste testing!), restaurants and cafes.

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This city doesn’t do healthy. Most nights I ate the local fish, trout drenched in the traditional butter and lemon salsa

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and Josh enjoyed his schnitzel or steak, nicely portioned ay?

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Needless to say when we came across this next little gem it was well received by both of us even if Josh is too stubborn to admit it πŸ™‚

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Heaven!! Amazing juices, assortment of different veggie delights and complimentary sweet tea to finish the meal off with. So good, we went back a second time!

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But enough about the food, the real heart of the city lies in its beautiful surroundings. One of our highlights was hiring bikes and doing the 25km ‘Circuito Chico’ route. To begin with, the hilly terrain and cars speeding past almost blowing me away left me screaming and close to tears at many points.

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But Josh was patient, gave me many a pep talk and soon enough we were flying down those hills in unison.. Stopping every now and then to enjoy the incredible views.

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At about the halfway mark we turned down a gravel road with steep inclines and decided to tie up the bikes and walk down to the lake. We found a beautiful spot and enjoyed our picnic lunch.

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Back on our bikes we got and our next stop was at a little Cervazeria (beer house) where we sampled some beer and enjoyed the view for a little while before completing the rest of the circuit. Awesome day!

The following day we changed our mode of transport from bike to hired car, where we set out bright and early to drive the ‘Circuito Grande’. Our cute station wagon took us all over town.

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We cruised along the freeway, trying to figure out these roads with no rules; plugged in the iPod and sang our way through the mountains and shimmering turquoise lakes.

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We felt really spoilt with these views.. It is amazing how beautiful and so diverse a region can be.

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After a long day on the road, we chilled with a competitive game of cards and some drinks.

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Guess who won? πŸ™‚

That’s all for now,friends. Pease leave us a comment and fellow travellers, feel free to ask us any questions or share your thoughts/recommendations. We love hearing from everyone!

Stay tuned, Bariloche Part 2 is on its way!

Check out our Travel Page for more of our adventures!