I landed in Buenos Aires after my overnight flight around 11am, met my friend Julie at the airport, and we caught a taxi to our hotel - the Sheraton Conference Center. It was Christmas Eve, so the town was basically shut down. But we managed to find a nice place for lunch - Las Nazarenas. From there we walked around town, going up and down some of the more populated streets, such as Florida St. For a break from the heat we stepped into the Galeries Pacifico for a bit and walked around the mall. That evening we walked over to the Catedral Metropolitana for the 9pm Christmas Eve service. It was very pretty, and the choir / organ at the beginning was great, but after 45 minutes of not being able to understanding anything in Spanish we decided we were in the Christmas spirit enough and moved onto dinner. We had made a reservation at Filo, as we were told Christmas Eve dinners are very hard to book and very expensive. Thankfully we found a cheap one that ended up being a great meal. We made it back to our hotel room, on the 18th floor, just minutes before the Midnight Fireworks show started. What an amazing sight! Fireworks going off around the entire city, for over an hour. Neat tradition!
Christmas day was very relaxed. We slept in, had some brunch at the hotel lounge, and went to lay out by the pool for a while. Now that's a Christmas first for me! In the afternoon we took a 30 minute walk over to the Cemetery La Recoleta - one of the few things that doesn't close on Christmas day. The cemetery was actually really neat…better than I was expecting. Rows and rows of huge mausoleums. We walked around for almost an hour, very fascinated by all the unique tombs. Just before 5 we started our walk back to the hotel and got ready for dinner at Cabana Las Lilas. We were really looking forward to this dinner and it definitely lived up to expectations. The spread of starters they brought out alone was amazing, followed by a great steak and a great glass of Argentina wine.
This morning we got up early and caught a cab over to the Teatro Colon. We wanted to catch the 9am tour, but unfortunately it was in Spanish so we decided to come back later. We walked a few blocks over to the Lima subway station and took the train a few stops over to Plaza de Mayo. This was the same area as the cathedral we were in the first night, but in the daylight it was so different. We walked around the plaza, and admired the Casa Rosada. We walked back to the Teatro Colon and bought tickets for the noon tour. The tour of the theater was really amazing. We got to see the lower and upper lobby, the gold room and finally the theater. So beautiful! When it was over at 1pm, it was raining outside so we caught a taxi back to our hotel to finish packing up for the next part of our journey. At 2pm we took a taxi to the airport, checked in and then caught our 4pm flight to Ushuaia!
Heading back to Buenos Aires after our unbelievable trip to Antarctica is a bit of a blur! I was so exhausted and ready to be home, that I just kind of wandered around for a couple days counting down the hours until I could hop on a plane home. We stayed in a nice little place in Palermo, called L'Hotel Palermo. It was a great part of town to walk around in, get lost and just explore the streets. Only downside was the unbelievable heat! Especially after being in the cold the past 2 weeks. We landed on the evening of January 9th after our flight from Ushuaia. Checked into the hotel and about all we had energy for was to find a great meal at La Cabrera - and then go to bed early.
Check out more photos from this trip here - Buenos Aires Photos
We landed in Ushuaia around 7:30pm after our 3.5 hour flight from Buenos Aires. Stepping outside - talk about a temperature difference - cold and windy. To me it meant we were getting one step closer to Antarctica! The guy from our bed and breakfast was waiting for us at the airport and drove us to the Valle Frio Ushuaia. It was almost 9 by the time we got settled, so we immediately went to look for dinner. Our hotel was at the top of a hill and pretty much everything in town - the shops and restaurants - were down the hill near the water. Fun going down - a workout going back up! We ate at a place called Moustachio - I had a nice dinner and even tried their local beer - Beagle (after the Beagle Channel). It was so weird walking back to the hotel at almost 11pm and it was still light outside. How far south are we?!
The next morning the bus picked us up at 8:20am for our Tierra del Fuego tour. We drove about 20-30 minutes to our first stop – the Ushuaia train station (Tren Del Fin Del Mundo - Train to the end of the world). After the train station visit we drove to the Tierra Del Fuego National Park entrance, each paid our fee (140 pesos) and drove down to the start of our short hike at Ensenada Zaratiegui. We took a very short hike up to a nice viewpoint of the water and mountains, then came back down via a loop. Back at the entrance was world's southernmost post office on the dock. We were able to go in and get our passport stamped for 20 pesos if we wanted, which of course I did! Our second hike was about a mile long up and downhill. At the end we were at Bahia Lapataia, which turned into these boardwalk style walking paths and piers. Beautiful views! We stopped along some benches and our guide pulled out coffee, tea and some cookies for a snack. Then it was onto our final stop, which was a quick photo stop right along the water with the mountains in the background - beautiful, but very crowded with tourist.
We arrived back in town around 1:30, got off the bus near the water and stopped at El Turco for lunch. For the next couple hours we walked around town taking in the sights and window shopping. For dinner we found a really great place not far from our hotel called Kaupe. A very nice French restaurant and yet casual attire is ok (I love this little town)! Since it was at the top of the hill we had an amazing lookout of the entire port. Ushuaia is such a beautiful town, surrounded by the water and mountains. I can't imagine living there in the winter, considering how cold it was in the middle of summer - but it was definitely a great little town to visit. Ok - look at this view, doesn't it look like a painting on the wall!
I woke up on Sunday thinking, finally - today's the day!!! We checked out of the hotel at 10am, but had until 4pm before meeting the ship staff for our Antarctica Cruise. We left our bags at the hotel, as the ship crew was going to pick them up later. Almost all the shops were closed since it was Sunday morning, so we went to the Maritime museum. It was an ok museum – showing some history of the martime efforts and also the end of the world prison. After the museum it was almost 1pm so we walked down the road to Tante Sara for lunch. Then we walked down to the water, went to the tourism office and finally at 3:15 we went to Gustino restaurant, the meeting point for the start of our Antarctica cruise. Around 4pm they bused us just a few minutes down the pier to get on the boat...and so begins the next 12 days of adventure.
Check out more photos from this trip here - Ushuaia Photos
My friend Kylee and I arrived in Peru on March 11, 2009. We went from the Puerto Maldonado airport, directly to a boat that took us to our lodge in the jungle for the next 3 nights. We got to see Monkey Island, look for caimans at night, canoe down the river to the Gamitana river to go fishing, and then took a couple hikes through the jungle.
They gave us gum boots (rubber boots) to wear, which were much appreciated - as you can see from all the mud we walked through. Our big hike was the Lost Lake Hike. We hiked about 5km initially, seeing a tarantula, giant snail and a small snake. Then we got to a watch town (25 meters high) that we climbed up and got the most amazing view of the jungle from above the tree canopy. We then walked on planks across the swamp until we reached a lagoon. We canoed down the lagoon and then walked back out of the jungle after 6 1/2 hours.
At our lodge I still remember waking up in the morning (with the most ice cold shower I’ve ever had by the way…) hearing the howler monkeys from deep within the jungle. We were scared of the noise at first, and then once our guide told us what it was, we just had to laugh. Another highlight from the jungle was just enjoying the hammocks along the river and relaxing in the afternoon!
Kylee and I continued our Peru trip by staying a couple days in Cusco to acclimate to the elevation. We stayed at the Piccola Locanda hostel , which was just perfect for us. We explored the Plaza in town, going in and out of the souvenir shops. We visited the La Catedral, and took a self-guided tour through the 3 adjoining churches. We also visited some of the museums - Museo Municipal de Arte Contemporanes, Museo de Arte Popular, Museo de Sitio del Qoricancha, then finally walked through Iglesia de Santa Domingo.
The next day we took a Sacred Valley tour. We went to Pisac, walked around the Pisac market, drove to Urubamba and then Ollantaytambo to tour the Inca ruins. Next we drove to the town of Chinchero and watched a demo of how they wash, dye, spool and weave the Aplaca fur. We made it back to Cusco that evening and then got prepared to embark on the hardest thing we have ever done in our lives…the 4 day Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu!
We were picked up at 4:45am by Peru Treks and drove to Ollantaytamba. We had breakfast and then began our hike at km 82 at 10am after getting our bags weighed at the station and our passports stamped. It was really hot the first day, which made it that much harder, but we survived the first 12km of our hike. Our porters were just amazing on the entire journey. They would have breakfast, snacks and dinner prepared for us everyday, and set up and tore down our tents – all while departing camp after we left and arriving at the next camp before we got there.
On day 2 we were woken up at 5:45am and handed hot cocoa tea in our tents. This day was really brutal, basically all up hill! We hiked up 700 meters before our first break, and then went up another 400 meters afterwards. As we reached 14,000 ft I wasn’t sure if I could make it. Slowly but surely though we made it to the top of Dead Woman’s Pass! It was very cold and windy at the top, so we only stayed about 15 minutes and then started our way down - 600 meters down in an hour and a half - to our campsite for the night. Day 2 also totaled 12 km.
Day 3 we started with going uphill 400 meters, then down 300 meters. We came across some large Inca sites and walked around those for a bit. It started raining and pretty much didn't stop for the next 2 days! But we put on our rain gear and continued on.
After lunch we hiked another 200 meters up and then we began the dreaded 1,000 meters downhill! I have to say I really enjoyed the downhill, but man it was brutal on my knees! You would stop to take a picture and your legs were just shaking! It was really neat seeing the changes in scenery as you went downhill. We went from these sparse mountaintops to feeling like we were in the jungle with lots of trees and bugs flying around. The last 40 minutes was neat because we were overlooking the mountains and Urubamba River just as the clouds were lifting and we saw a rainbow over the valley. That evening we saw Winay Wayna Inca ruins near our campsite and finally called it a night after 15km hiked that day.
On Day 4 we woke up at 3:45am and finally made it to Machu Picchu. It was cloudy when we arrived in the morning, as the rain was finally stopping. The neatest thing though was sitting there at the site and minute-by-minute as the clouds lifted we saw another section of the ruins appear. It was like nature was just teasing us so we fully enjoyed each new stone that emerged as the clouds lifted all the way. When we finally took in the entire site - WOW! Definitely worth hiking 26 miles and not showering for 4 days.
After exploring Machu Picchu, we took the bus down to Aguas Caliente - had lunch and enjoyed the hot springs, then took the train back to Ollaytatambo and a bus to Cusco.
My friend Gabe was traveling around South America and in January 2006 I met him in Cartagena, Colombia for a week. It was a place I never would have had on my travel list, but after going there it probably ranks as one of my favorite travel destinations so far! What an amazing and unique city! We stayed in a $20 a night hostel (Hotel El Viajero), where I joke that you could shower (cold water only), use the toilet and sink at the same time it was so tiny! But for some reason, it fit the atmosphere of the trip perfectly and I couldn’t have seen it any other way. It was incredibly hot in Cartagena, so the cold shower at the end of a long day was great!
We saw so much in 5 days, it’s hard to remember it all. One of our favorite things to do almost every day was walk on top of the city wall around Cartagena. And then in the evening we would grab a cerveza and enjoy some of the most amazing sunsets I have ever seen over the Pacific Ocean from either the city wall or the Café del Mar Restaurant!
We walked around the Plaza Boliver and Plaza Santo Domingo, saw some museums and explored the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas (which was a highlight) in the city.
We took a boat ride out to Rosario Island to snorkel and relax on the beach. We also toured the Castle of San Fernando de Bocachica, featured in the ending of the movie Romancing the Stone.
On another day we took a taxi up to the Convento La Popa de la Galera.
Lastly another highlight was floating in a mud volcano (Volcan de Lodo El Totumo)! Now that was an amazing experience!! After getting out of the mud the village kids would take you to the beach nearby and they literally just dunked you in the water, took off your swimsuit under water and scrubbed all the mud all of you. It was hilarious!
Another highlight, which unfortunately I was too nervous to try until the last day was the fruit stands along the street. Oh man - the fresh mango off the cart, fresh squeezed orange juice…I can still taste it!
The first feet picture is one of the many sunsets we watched over the Pacific Ocean. Next one is laughing at my lovely flip flop tan. And the third one is relaxing on Rosario Island after our snorkeling tour.
I’m writing this blog entry 7 years later, and Colombia still ranks up there as one of my favorite destinations. I would love to return one day…but I have such fond memories from the first trip, I’m not sure if I want to take a chance on ruining any of those!
Check out some of my photos from this trip - Cartagena Photos