We are home!

Happy new year friends! I am a bit behind on the blogging scene, but I am making my return.

A lot has happened since our stay in the beautiful fishing village of Taganga until now. So now just a quick recap πŸ™‚

We had a crazy few days of travelling. Think 5 countries in 2 days. Hence exhaustion hit big time! We made our way from Columbia to Punta Del Este in Uruguay (via Peru, Panama and Argentina). A highlight of our short stay in Punta was catching up with our friends Loren and Ryan. We cooked dinner together

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Beached and posed with the (apparently) famous fingers, cool hey? But as you can see the sunshine never lasted long, the sky had other plans.

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That was the last of our beach days. We spent the next couple of days catching up on our sleep debt, getting caught and stranded in the streets in the bucketing rain and exploring the town by bus over this insane bridge infamously known as ‘Drunken Bridge’

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Another highlight of our stay here was celebrating New Year’s Eve. We dressed up, hopped on the bus and made our way to our friend Alex’s family, who live in Punta and invited us to spend New Years with them.

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We had a traditional Uruguayan barbecue (asado), where the meat is grilled over hot coals, with lots of patience and lots and lots of love

20130111-061138.jpgAlong with the meats we enjoyed delicious cheeses, insanely delicious sweet potato and potatoes stuffed with Roquefort cheese cooked on the asado, salad and traditional desserts. It was such a treat to experience this with such a warm and welcoming family. Thankyou!

After dinner, we brought the new year in with champagne and fireworks.

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People in the neighbourhood buy their own fireworks and light them at their a leisure. Sitting in the back garden watching these fireworks was incredible and we actually thought we were the center of it as they were happening 360 degrees around us

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The rest of the night involved hitting up a white themed apartment party (in our black and bright orange outfits) and then a longgggg walk home. Was a great night, good company and fun way to begin 2013!
Next we caught our last bus and boat back to Buenos Aires for a few days of unwinding, reflecting, debriefing, drinking, eating and enjoying the very last leg of our adventures. We ended with quite the bang! Josh had accumulated some points from work travel and managed to book us into the magical Park Hyatt hotel for our last 3 nights. Wow. Think showering without thongs, walking barefoot, FREE drinking water, a proper absorbent towel… It is totally the small things you take for granted when backpacking for three months.

The best hotel perk had to be the randomly spontaneous deliveries of fresh fruit πŸ˜‰
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We also enjoyed exquisite breakfast overlooking the gardens

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And complimentary champagne on our last night πŸ™‚

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But it was all over to quickly and after 4:45 wake up and 16 hour flight we arrived home VERY excited to see our families!!!

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And that brings us to the end of our amazing travel adventure. What a journey!

I feel truly blessed to have shared these incredible experiences with the love of my life. We laughed a lot, and cried a lot from laughing alot.

Before I finish up, I want to thank YOU, my friends (new and old), family, fellow travellers and fellow bloggers for following our journey through my little blog. During our trip My Love Affair with Running transformed into a travel sharing space and I will now continue blogging about my passion for fitness, food and healthy living, so I hope you continue to ride along with me.

On a side note, I am always looking for new products and experiences that can enrich my healthy living philosophy to try and share with my readers. If you have got any health, fitness or natural products you are interested in me Trying and Sharing, please Contact Me by following the link πŸ˜‰

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!

360 degrees of beauty in Tayrona National Park

Following a blissful few days on the beautiful Playa Blanca we began planning the last stint of our Columbian adventures and we knew more beach time was what we were after. Enter Tayrona National Park. Beach, forest and seclusion. From the entrance you walk through the forest and stop and camp at the different beaches along the way.

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Josh’s name for me is ‘Stompy’ as (according to him) I ‘just walk’ without looking where I am going with my head in the clouds. This could have turned dangerous, apparently I missed stepping on this little man by just a few cms! Josh’s lengthy research suggests this was a Colombian Boa, and was about 7 feet long and thick!

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We weaved our way through forest and sand, reaching open areas with great views of the sea.

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We eventually arrived at El Cabo

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where we got our tent

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Made our standard tuna sandwich πŸ™‚

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And spent the rest of the day on the beach and exploring…

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Nothing better then sitting on a rock as the sky gently turns from blue to red to darkness, watching and listening to the waves go by

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The next morning, after an eventful storm night, we had breakfast, spent the morning on the beach and then headed to Arrecifes, where we would spend our second night. On the way we found coconuts and tried every possible method of cracking it open (without a machete). Failed.

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We got our tent and pretty much spent the rest our time

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Right over here…

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Real unspoilt beauty.

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Oh Caribbean, we are most definitely falling more and more in love with you!

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!

Llama foetuses to island hopping

After our amazing few days on the road jeep crossing from Chile to Bolivia, we caught an overnight bus to the bustling city of La Paz. Wow.

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The markets, the lovely people, the vibrancy of the busy streets, the hooting of cars, the street food and finally being able to better speak and understand the Bolivian Spanish brought the city to life and made us truly fall in love with it!

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After a couple of days suffering from the typical South America travelling bug, I recuperated thanks to being in the care of the most caring guy ever.. And soon enough we hit the markets and became regular diners at our Bolivian momma, Elizabeth’s busy market store. Fried trout for me, chicken (complete with all its parts) for Livia and chicken for Josh

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We spent 3 great days walking the streets from the mystical witches markets selling potions for every ailment, spiritual statues, incense and most bizarrely llama foetuses which are supposed to bring good luck.. Business here can keeps the lovely ladies on their toes…

Can you spot the llama foetuses below? (Click to enlarge)

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Another highlight in La Paz was visiting the San Pedro prison… If you haven’t read the book Marching Powder you won’t understand our thrill of seeing the prison (only the outside don’t worry moms). A Brazilian guy tried to lure us in to visit an inmate who he had connections with, but we were hesitant and luckily so, as once we said no thanks he tried begging us for money. Hello what’s with the begging? We thought you claimed to be a tour guide and a security guard.. Needless to say we quickly departed the area

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After a bit too much market shopping this guy was looking for something with a bit more adrenaline.. Hello running down a building in a Spider-Man outfit

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Ahhhh so much worse being the person down the bottom watching my love dangling down a building

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But what can I say? He did great! And all smiles as he reached the bottom πŸ™‚

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After a great stay in La Paz it was time to zip up the back packs and goooo northhhhh. Our next port of call was Isla Del Sol. We caught a bus to Copacabana (northern tip of Bolivia, bordering Peru). Now listen to this! I was sticking my head out the window as I do and I spotted 2 friends from Sydney, Nat and Tash! Was so excited to see them and we managed to spend that night with them (and 9 crazy Argentineans) at the magical Isla El Sol!

After a steep, hard walk we reached our heaven! And only $4 a night!

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We watched sunset with drinks and good company

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After a fun night we woke up bright and early to watch sunrise..

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Josh and I carried on walking and exploring this awesome island and Josh made some friends along the way

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But soon enough it was time to leave 😦 easily could have spent another day enjoying this tiny slice of paradise!

But drum roll… Time for Peru! We walked and bussed over the border and arrived in Puno, on the Peruvian coast of Lake Titicaca. With just a quick stopover here we took a morning trip to islas flotantes de los uros – the floating islands of the Uros people.

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It was so cool to see how the Uros people use the naturally growing totoro reeds to construct everything on their islands- from their houses to their boats, furniture and even food!

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That’s all for now friends. Next up we catch an overnight bus to Cusco

Adios and thanks again for following our journey and keeping us company with your comments!

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!

Big City Buzz

We arrived in Santiago bright and early after an overnight bus from Pucon. Only able to check into our hostel at 3pm we dropped off our bags and we were off roaming the streets (as we do) before the city had awoken.

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We decided to join a free walking tour, and we are so glad we did! Our guide Felippe was amazing and brought the city to life. After hearing not such great things about the city itself from other travellers, we found a liking to it and would highly recommend popping by if you’re in the area! We stayed in the awesome neighbourhood of Bellavista recommended by Aarin, a lovely girl we met in Pucon who lived here for a few months. Lots of great bars, restaurants and fun vibe.

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There was a great buzz- street performers, cool street food stands and don’t worry if you forgot to polish your shoes, there is someone conveniently placed every 10 metres of the city offering this service. Coffee-on-legs was another interesting service on offer all over the city district. What looks like an espresso bar with skimpily dressed girls serving coffee to men smoking cigars in business suites, feeding their egos for tips- is just that! Some of the places still have ‘happy minute’ where they ring a bell, shut the doors and close the window shutters – stripping for the business men, collecting tips then resuming business as usual.

As well as cultural norms of the city, Felippe did squeeze in some more historical info too.

This pic was actually taken to capture our new friends aka our fellow Aussie walking tour companions in their matching Kathmandu hats and belted up cargo pants (us in 40 years)

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After our walking tour we enjoyed lunch- yay sushi!!

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The next day we caught a bus to the charming, bohemian style, overly congested and colourful city of Valparaiso. My aunty had a friend who lived there and highly recommended us visiting it- thanks for your advice as always Mish!

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Every corner you turn takes you to a charming new alley way, lined with graffiti filled walls, brightly coloured flowers and lots and lots of power lines.

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Walking these streets was like walking through an art gallery – surprises around every corner…

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We went to local fruit and veg market- my favourite part of any town. Bustling, colourful and loud.

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Everyone here seems pretty content πŸ™‚

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…Only after a month in South America is this cute, rather than unhygienic!

We then headed down to the neighbouring coastal city of ViΓ±a Del Mar. So different to its neighbour- spread out, modern and city with a real beach-holiday vibe. Lots of beautiful gardens, hence it’s known as the Garden City.

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We enjoyed walking along the sunny boardwalk and stopped for some delicious dulce de Leche churros (dulce de leche is the famous caramel-like Argentinian spread use in everything- desserts, pastries, ice cream etc).

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Overall an amazing couple of days! Next destination the wine region of Argentina, Mendoza πŸ™‚

Thanks for tuning in friends, until next time adios!

P.S. Thankyou for the ongoing comments- we never have long enough periods of wifi to respond to each comment but we really love reading them! To our new blogging friends from all over the globe, feel free to leave us a comment or any questions about places we have been so far (and of course, any recommendations for us will be greatly received as well!)

Check out our Travel Page for more of our adventures!