Sunday, December 04, 2005

Rio de Janeiro - 4 Dec 2005

Hi, today its time to fly home again. The last 2 days I have been visiting the beaches of Rio, the downtown area and I went up to Sugar leaf mountain to have a beautifull view over Rio. The weather here changes from day to day. I had 2 days of sunshine and a whole day of rain and temperatures changing from 32 degrees to 21 degrees an today back to 25 degrees. Its my last
update from south america as at 17.10 local time today I will fly back to Belgium and tomorow noon I will be in Brussels. What I learned on my trip is that people in Europe should try to smile
a bit more and to be more open to each other. On former travels in Asia I saw people smiling everywhere and south america is not different, the people are open and friendly and enjoy life.
Belgium is known for its beers, good food and parties but when you walk into a pub and you smile to someone they think you are preparing an attack on them. Here you get a nice smile back and a second later you have a conversation. It,s something we should do more as well
in Europe. Well, thats it, I need to hurry a bit or I miss my flight.

Cheers all


Thursday, December 01, 2005

Rio de Janeiro - 1 Dec 2005

Due to the long travel hours I could not write something descent the last few days. Monday morning when I was still in Buenos Aires I visited La Bocca, the colourfull italian suburb of
Buenos Aires and after that I walked a bit along the old renovated docks, the docklands of
Buenos Aires, it seems every city in the world with docks need an area like this. At 16.00 hr
I took a bus to Puerto Iguazu and arrived there at 09.00 in the morning the next day. I put
my lugage in a locker and visited the Iguazu waterfalls on the argentinean side. It was impressive but I discovered that I am getting the feeling like am getting used to these things.
I had to say so many times wow and see so many wonderfull things that at the end it really need
to be something big to make impression. Well.....these falls where big enough but after spending
like 6 hours walking from one cascade to another I had seen enough water and was not really
interested in seeing the same thing again from the Brazilian side, which has the same effect but
you have to show your wallet twice. So I took a local bus to Foz de Iguazu in Brazil which is
a crowded overgrown and unattractive city and booked a bus for the same evening to Rio de
Janeiro. I already spent 19 hours in the bus the previous night and had to spend at least another
22 hours in the next bus. During the night the bus got problems with the gears and could only go
in first and second gear so we have been driving for 3 hours at about 35 km/hr to the next
checkpoint where another bus of this compant (Pluma) was waiting. The busses in Brazil actually sucks. It cost double the price to get somewhere compared to the surrounding countries
and no service at all when in the surrounding countries you get a flightservice like meals,
drinks and sometimes blankets. Anyway, the 22 hrs busride ended up in a 26 hours busride and
at around 20.00 hr wednesdayevening I arrived in Rio de Janeiro. 6 hours earlier I passed
Sao Paulo which is a huge but unattractive city of 18 million people. Rio de Janeiro has about
8 million people from which 50 % white, 40 % mulate mixed and about 10 % black. The poor
people almost live in the gardens of the rich people, you walk through the fancy streets with
nice appartments and when you look up to the hills you see the favella,s of the poor, you see,
cause going there is out of the question. In the centre you see really poor people going through
the rubbish of the rich to see if they can find something usefull. I am staying in a small hotel
about 100 meter of Copacobana beach which is the most safe area but also the most expensive.
Today I walked a bit along the beach and through the shopping streets of Copacobana and Ipanema. Forget the stories of beautifull girls in G-string on these beaches, if you want to see that
you really have to come with the carnaval in February. On these days it looks like any ordinary
spanish beach but of course with a worldclass tropical setting.

At the same time by arriving in Rio de Janeiro I also crossed the finishline of my race through
south america which started in Lima, Peru. It was almost 6 weeks of travelling and not always
easy, I spent for example 8 nights in busses and had to fly a few times to close the gaps. But it
was worth it. I saw a lot of new and interesting things. But now I am looking forward again
to go home to my girlfriend for who it was not always easy, I thank her for her patience, to see
my family and to get back in my job , doing something productive in a good team. Thanks to my
collegues too for covering my ass when I was gone. I will give a few updates of Rio the next two
days and then you get the final summary of my trip. Pictures will be online half december.


Monday, November 28, 2005

Buenos Aires - 27 Nov 2005

Today I slept untill 11.00 and then I went into the city for a few hours to visit the main downtown monuments like the casa rosa from where Evita did her famous speeches. Buenos Aires looks a bit Europe too with even a C&A and Stella Artois everywhere. This morning I booked a strange excursion for 45 euro. They say when you are in south america you should see at least 1 footballgame so at 14.30 a bus picked me at the hotel an off we where to the River Plate Stadion just outside the city. We went into the catacombs, visited the fanshop and then got
a one of the best seats in the stadion a bit away from the fanatic supporters clans. Club Atletico River Plate is 6th in the competition with only 2 games to go after today and today they welcomed the leader in the competition Club Gimnasia y Esgrima L.P. or short Gimnasia L.P.
When we entered the stadium the hard clans where already in position singing and waiving
flags like crazy people, every game here has more entertainment than the English Cupfinal.
A guy from Spain told me he had never seen this in Spain, not at Real Madrid neither at Barcelona. You should really shout sometimes to understand each other. I had to take pictures and small movies to see it back at home this carnaval. It was an open and sometimes hard game
and during the game the firebrigade cooled off the fans by spraying water on them with the
big firetubes. It was clear that Gimnasia is the leader cause they won the game easy with 1-3.
After the game I went back in the city and now I am going to look for some dinner and watch
some streetacts from clowns and stuff on the streets here.


Sunday, November 27, 2005

Buenos Aires - 26 Nov 2005

This morning I had really bad weather with a lot of rain. I woke up at 09.00 and took a shower but the weather
was so bad that I went to bed again and stood inside untill 12.00 when the rain stopped. I read on the internet
I am not the only one who suffers from bad weather cause Belgium is not much better with rain and snow and freezing temperatures. At 13.30 I went to the airport. I was lucky I booked a flight to Buenos Aires with LAN
cause Lineas Argentinas was on strike today. At 13.22 the plane took off. One hour and 20 minutes later the
plane landed in Puerto Rivadavia, an oil town at the coast to drop and pick up some passengers and 30 minuts
later we were back in the air. At 19.20 we touched down on the domestic airport of Buenos Aires. I thought
I was landing on the old airport of Hong Kong as we flew low over the city before landing and I could almost
see in the kitchens of the flats we passed while landing. Due to the strike of Lineas Argentinas the airport was
full with planes but we could manage to find a parking spot ;-)

The weather is here much better than in the south, about 24 degrees and a bit sticky. I took a taxi to the
central busstation of Buenos Aires, the biggest I ever saw. The ticket row was almost 500 meter long with
over 150 ticket offices, all different companies and outside they have slots for 70 busses at 1 time. I bought
a ticket to Ciudad de Iguazu, 30 euro, departing monday at 15.00 hr local time and arriving tuesday 09.00 hr
local time, so I have 1.5 days to spend in Buenos Aires which is just enough to visit the highlights of te city.
After buying the ticket Ii checked in in hotel Central Cordoba for about 20 euro a night.

So tomorow a long walk through the city.


Friday, November 25, 2005

Ushuaia/Rio Gallegos - 25 Nov 2005

Hi, the 23th I spent the morning in El Calefate and in the afternoon I went to the airport to take
a flight to Ushuaia. Normally the flight should leave at 16.20 but it was delayed to 18.00 hr and
the 20.00 hr and finally the plane landed in El Calafate at around 22.00 hr. At 22.30 we took off
for the 1 hr 20 minutes flight so it was almost midnight when I arrived in Ushuaia. I checked in
at hostel A manecer de La Bahia where I payed 25 pesos or about 8 euro for a dorm bed.

As an aviation freak its a bonus that I have landed on the highest commercial airport in the
world as well as the most southern commercial airport in the world.

The next day I woke up early and walked around a bit in the centre of Ushuaia enjoying the
nice views over the Beagle channel, the port (with only Maersk containers) and the snowcapped
mpuntains as a backdrop. The town itself was a bit bigger as I expected but still small enough
to walk through it.

In the afternoon I went to Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego for a 5 hours hike on several trails in the park. The setting is really beautifull with lakes, lagoons, mountains and a lot of birds and
especially rabbits. If rabbit paradise exists then its there. At Bahia Lapataia route 3 stops which
marks the real end of the world or el fin del mundo, 3063 km from Buenos Aires.

In the evening I went out eating in a Tenedor libre restaurant for 24 sol or about 8 euro.
I met an American, Karl, from Colorado so I did not have to eat alone. At a tenedor libre
you can eat as much as you want, a cold and hot meat bar, salad bar end desert bar are
available plus a real fire grill and barbeque where the cook can offer you beef, sheep meat,
chicken etc... When you come out of such a place you dont need breakfast the day after.

This morning at 05.30 hr I took the one and only bus connection from Ushuaia to Rio
Gallegos, a 590 km trip. We started in the Andes mountains but soon the landscape
changed into grasslands. To make the trip we had to cross the Chile border for about
250 km and then back the Argentinean border so my passport is filling up with stamps.
We also had to cross the strait of Magellan by ferry and there a sea lion swam with us
for maybe 30 seconds as he or she was saying " see you back soon at Tierra del Fuego".

At around 17.00 today we arrived in Rio Gallegos where I will spend the night. Tomorow
afternoon a take a flight to Buenos Aires, hopefully without a delay.


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

El Calefate - 22 Nov 2005

Yesterdayevening, before I took the bus in Rio Gallegos, I went to eat the biggest tenderloin
steak in my life. The way they eat steak here is like we eat fries in Belgium. For this huge 5 cm
thick steak and a glass of beer I paid less than 5 euro. With a full stomach I went on the bus for
the 5 hours ride to El Calefate. I arrived at 01.00 in the morning today and checked in in
Calefate hostel, a dorm bed for about 8 euro.

This morning I woke up at 07.00 and at 08.00 we left for a daytrip to the Petito Moreno
glacier, one of the biggest glaciers in the world. We had to drive 80 km and when we arrived
there it was dry but bitter cold and a lot of wind. I was glad I took warm clothes with me cause
freezing point was not far away. First we did a hike in the national park with beautifull views
of the glacier and the lake. After the hike we went on a boattrip on the lake to see the glacier
for closeby. Each time a piece of ice as big as a house broke off and fall in the lake it was like
a thunderstorm was above our heads.

At 17.00 hr we were back in El Calefate. I will have a diner and then go to bed early I think
cause I need some sleep.


Monday, November 21, 2005

Rio Gallegos - 21 Nov 2005

Last night was bustime again. Yesterday evening the bus was 1 hour too late so at around 20.00
I left the Puerto Madryn busterminal on a Andesmar bus. We drove the whole night through Patagonia which is boring cause the scenery does not change on this 1200 km traject. At around
15.00 hr today we arrived in the small oil town Rio Gallegos, 1 hour too late to get a smooth
connection to El Calefate. Lucky enough there is another bus at 20.30 hr tonight so I dont have
to stay here cause there is not much to see. The trip to El Calefate takes about 5 hours. From El Calefate I want to visit the Moreno glacier which is about 80 km from El Calefate.