A Travellerspoint blog

Life in Buenos Aires

Good Wine and Great Tango

sunny 9 °C
View 2012 RTW on Drifters's travel map.

A few weeks have past and we have visited a couple countries since our last blog post, so I think this entry is well past due. After seeing Machu Picchu and spending over a month in Peru, we were ready to see a new place and also settle down for a while. We have been travelling pretty much every 2-3 days now for the last 5 months, and although it is great and I wouldn't trade it for anything, both Anastasia and I are pretty worn out. When we were originally planning this adventure we thought we would visit Bolivia after Peru, and although we heard many great things about the country and the people there; we decided we would rather head to Chile directly, where it is a little more developed and there are a few more comforts than we would likely find in Bolivia (and definitely didn´t have in Peru)

Our final stop in the Americas was to be in Buenos Aires, where we really planned to rest for awhile and unpack our bags before heading out again, but Chile is a country I have always really felt drawn too and wanted to visit, so I refused to skip it, even if it meant we would only be able to stay for a few days in Santiago. So with that decision made, we left Cusco on an overnight bus to Tacna Peru and then took a short 90 minute collectivo ride across the Chilean border to the town of Arica. It shouldn't be so surprising but I am amazed at how much can change when you cross a border, it is really just an arbitrary line drawn on the map by a couple countries, but the difference between Peru and Chile was apparent immediately. The people look different, everything is cleaner, and overall life just feels better. We got across the border without any major issues, except for having our luggage searched presumably because we were the only white people on the bus, and then we soon arrived in the town of Arica. We decided to stay in Arica for a night before taking yet another long bus ride to the capital, and we had a hotel already picked out and were able to check in right away. Did I mention the prices are also drastically different here, (read higher) to go along with the different people and culture. It was a beautiful sunny day and we were glad to be back on the ocean, so we spent most of the day wandering around the city and the coast. We had some good food, and got to take advantage of the kitchen our hotel offered for use, which was never an option in Peru. (Meaning Anastasia got to take advantage of the kitchen, and I was told just to stay out of the way)

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Anyway, the next day we set off again to head further south to Santiago. I was not looking forward to this bus ride as it lasts 28 hours, but it turned out to be a really enjoyable trip. The seats were very comfortable, a lot of the travel was during the day (so we got to see the countryside and desert), they played movies constantly with nice headphones for everybody, and they fed us 4 times. So we arrived in Santiago actually pretty rested and ready to see the city. We checked into Don Santiago Hostel because it got great reviews online, and after staying there I can definitely see why. This is one of the nicest and most comfortable hostels I have ever stayed at, and I would never go anywhere else in Santiago. Anyway, we planned to spend a couple nights in Santiago exploring the city before moving on to Argentina with the intention of getting an apartment in Buenos Aires for at least a month. As it turned out, we got to spend more time than planned in Santiago, which was really a blessing as we got to meet a lot of other great travelers and see some amazing sights and museums in the city. Plus we made it to our first winery tour of the trip (way past due) at Concha y Toro. We didn´t leave Chile when planned because the land border crossing between Santiago and Mendoza (Los-Libertadores) was closed due to the weather conditions. This is not something we had even considered, although I will admit we don´t really do much research before we set out to a lot of our destinations. Apparently, the road which crosses over the Andes can become impossible to traverse if there is a storm. (Which happens frequently in the winter.) Anyway, the morning we were planning to leave the people at the hostel told us the busses wouldn't be running, but we figured there had to be a way to cross, so we headed to the bus terminal anyway and wasted our time going between all the different bus companies trying to buy tickets just to be told there were no busses running. And the best part is that no one knows when the pass will be opened again, so all you can do is wait and keep asking. So we returned to the hostel and checked in again, a bit defeated but glad to have a nice place to stay. The next day we just called the terminal instead of driving down there again, and were told there were no busses. Same thing happened the next day, and the next. So at this point, although we really liked Santiago, we didn´t know how long we might have to wait to get to Mendoza and we decided our only other option was to buy plane tickets directly to Buenos Aires. We purchased tickets for two days later, and I am glad we did because the pass didn't open before we left and I have no idea how many more days we would have been stuck there.

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We purchased tickets with Pluna Airlines because they were the cheapest at $320 one way for both of us. Most people will probably never even have the option because the airline only flies a few routes through Uruguay, but do not ever fly on Pluna Airlines. Let me repeat that, do not fly on Pluna Airlines! It was not an enjoyable experience in anyway and it definitely reminded me why we had been trying to avoid flying for most of this trip. To sum it up quickly, our first flight was delayed by 3 hours, then the next flight was also delayed, then we arrived in Argentina to be told my bag wouldn't make it. Apparently it was left in Uruguay, but they had found it and would send it to Buenos Aires the next morning, so it wasn't too bad. However, the flight the next morning was cancelled and subsequently my bag didn't arrive until another 12 hours had passed, and when it did arrive I discovered that someone had gone through all of my stuff and stolen some of the more valuable items. (Fortunately the camera and more important things we kept with us in our carry-on luggage.) So anyway, enough of my ranting, but please do not take Pluna if you can at all avoid it. Plus, to further irritate us upon our arrival in Buenos Aires, the taxi driver tried to rip us off too. Fortunately we were smarter than him, and after a few minutes of arguing he took off without any ¨extra¨ money. (Apparently there are a lot of problems with taxis in Buenos Aires, including counterfeit bills, robberies, scams, etc. so be extra cautious if you are travelling there.)

After our first tough couple days in Buenos Aires we are now enjoying ourselves much more. We spent the first 2 days in a hostel looking for a short term apartment rental. It was actually fairly easy to do and after checking at a couple local agent offices we found a very helpful woman and were signing a contract for a one month lease on a loft in Recoleta. Since moving in and unpacking our belongings, we have quickly adapted to life here in the city. People here don´t sleep much at night and it is common to eat dinner after 10:00 pm and then go out for a show or drinks until 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning. I don´t know how people get up and go to work the next day, but that´s the way it works here. We have been doing a lot of the typical tourist activities also, and have seen a lot of the museums, parks, tango shows, and of course enjoying all the Argentinean Beef. Plus, just by coincidence we happened to run into Sandra (who we travelled with for a few days in Peru) and spent a couple days with her and her boyfriend Patric catching up on everywhere we have been over the last month.

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So, we have continued to stay busy over the last few weeks and there are a lot of things I am sure I am forgetting to add to the blog, but that´s what the pictures in the gallery are for. We are very glad we decided to stay here in Buenos Aires for a few weeks, but we are already talking about where we want to head next, or maybe taking a short trip to somewhere else in Argentina. So we will see what happens.

Posted by Drifters 12:45 Archived in Argentina Comments (6)

Exploring the Sacred Valley

Seeing Another Wonder of the World - Machu Picchu

sunny 20 °C
View 2012 RTW on Drifters's travel map.

So after spending some time in Lima and a few days in the lovely little town of Cusco we were ready to get back out into nature and do some hiking. Almost everybody knows Peru and Cusco because of Machu Picchu, but to our surprise when we got down here, there are literally Incan ruins everywhere around Cusco and the Sacred Valley. Just driving around on the roads outside of town you can see old ruins and steps built into the sides of the mountains. And many of the sites are just as large and grand as Machu Picchu. So for our first expedition into Incan history we decided to go to the nearby town of Pisac. Pisac is located next to an old Incan City that has been in large part restored. Plus the town has a huge crafts market which is good for purchasing any Peru souvineirs you can think of. After looking around Cusco for about an hour we finally found a collectivo heading to Pisac for 3.5 soles. The car dropped us off in the town of Pisac, and instead of opting to get a taxi to the top of the ruin site, we figured we could just hike from town. It turned out to be more of a hike than we expected, but we saw some great views along the way to the ruins. The only downside for us was the entrance fee to the park. It is impossible to pay only for entrance to the Pisac ruins, you have to buy a ticket to all of the Sacred Valley sites, which was very expensive. But oh well, I suppose that just gave us more incentive to see more of the sites over the next couple days. We spent the next few hours exploring and hiking. I was very impressed with how well preserved everything is and the percision they had when building. Not to mention the fact that most of their structures are built up along the sides of huge cliffs.

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After a full day of hiking we jumped on a collectivo back to Cusco and enjoyed yet another good dinner, with plans to see more ruins the next day. We got up early the following morning, had breakfast, and went in search of a taxi. (We decided to skip the collectivo today because we had spent so much time looking for and waiting for one the previous day) We immediately found a driver who was happy to take us through the whole sacred valley, stopping at various points to take pictures and also to see the ruins at Moray and Ollantaytambo. He was a great driver and turned out to be very knowledgable about the sites as well, so we really enjoyed it. The landscapes have continued to be breathtaking here in Peru and it is made even more so around Cusco with all the ruins in the mountainsides. Plus the weather has been fantastic everyday. Just to drive to Ollantaytambo from Cusco takes about two hours, but because of our frequent stops and spending about an hour walking around the Moray ruins we didn't arrive to Ollantaytambo until the afternoon. However, we were expecting this and planned to stay the night in Ollantaytambo before heading onto Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu. The taxi driver helped us find a great place to stay in Ollantaytambo at Hostal Andenes and then he was on his way back to Cusco. We dropped our bags off, had a late lunch, and then went on to see the ruins of Ollantaytambo. The town of Ollantaytambo itself is really nice, it is fairly small but surrounded by huge mountains and is set right up against the ruin site. We spent another couple hours at this ruin taking pictures and enjoying the views. As usual, we managed to find a trail to the top of the mountain that apparently is very rarely used, which made for a difficult but rewarding climb. Although all the sites have been stunning so far, I think Anastasia enjoyed this one the best. Following the hike we headed back into town and went to the train station to purchase tickets to Aguas Calientes. (It is not possible to travel to Agauas Calientes and Machu Pichhu by car) We were a bit concerned because we had read and heard from a lot of differrent places that train tickets as well as tickets to see Machu Picchu need to be purchased well in advance during peak season, but as it turned out, we were able to walk right up to the window and choose from 3 different trains the following day. Although the train is expensive, it was very easy to arrange and provided some great views of the mountains on the way to Machu Picchu.

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The next morning we enjoyed breakfast in Ollantaytambo and then borded PeruRail for our hour and a half journey to Aguas Calientes. Aguas Calientes is nothing special, just a small town that is really only on the map because it is right next to Machu Picchu, but anyway, we wanted to stay there for a night so we could get up bright and early and catch the first ride to Machu Picchu. That afternoon we bought tickets to Machu Picchu in town, because for some reason tickets are not sold at the entrance to the park. (Again there was no problem, as there were still hundreds of tickets available for the following day) We had dinner, a couple drinks, and were off to bed for a short night of sleep. We awoke the next morning at the lovely hour of 4:30 so we could get down to the bus station and buy tickets for the first bus to Machu Picchu leaving at 5:30. There was already a pretty long line for the bus when we got there, but it turned out not to matter, because as soon as a bus is full they head off to the park. I believe we left on the second bus of the morning at about 5:40. The ride to Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes takes another 45 minutes but is very beautiful early in the morning. For me the main reason Machu Picchu is so stunning, is not because of the ruins, it is because of the surrounding landscapes. Machu Picchu is at a lower elevation than much of the other nearby ruins and because of this the landscape is covered in jungle and very green, and at 6:00 in the morning driving to the park there were also clouds surrounding most of the nearby peaks. After waiting in another line to gain entrance to the park, we were finally there, and it did not dissapoint. The ruins are amazing and the views of the mountains are beautiful. I am very glad we got there early because the light in the morning made for better views and pictures, and also after about 10:00 the park does get a bit crowded. We spent about 5 hours exploring the main site, as well as hiking to the sun gate and a nearby Incan Bridge. We thoroughly enjoyed the ruins, got to see some llamas grazing the slopes, and took some great pictures. All in all the trip to the park was expensive and a bit difficult to get to, but it was definitely worth it. After hiking we took the bus back to Agaus Calientes and then took the train back to Ollantaytambo (This time we took Machu Picchu Train and enjoyed it more) where we spent the next couple nights resting and enjoying the small town vibe. We have been in Peru for a month now and there are so many more things we would like to see, but we are starting to feel like it is time to move on. So we will see where the next couple days take us.

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Posted by Drifters 07:55 Archived in Peru Comments (3)

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