All of Craig and Linda’s 2011 adventures compiled into one, handy, enormous post. Read about the Indie Travel adventures of 2011!

3/1 Monday Getting up at 5am isn’t my idea of a good time, and it was sad to say goodbye to Anna, Mat and Henry (who didn’t wake up to say goodbye, probably to his parents’ delight).

Anna drove us into the city where we met our guide Bender and the other 20 members of our tour group. After a couple of stops for coffee and ice-cream, we arrived in Quorn in the Flinders Ranges where we were staying in an old mill for two nights. The afternoon walk was up Dutchman’s Stern, named after its similarity to a Dutch sailing ship and not after a moody Netherlander. There was a stop at Warren Gorge on the way back to the mill, to look for yellow footed wallabies, which are rare and only found in two parts of Australia; we were lucky enough to see several. Bender cooked up a feast of kangaroo, camel and buffalo for dinner, and gave an informally informative talk about Aboriginal history.

4/1 Tuesday The day started with the most leisurely departure time we were to have on the tour, leaving at 8am. First stop was at Kanyaka homestead, the ruins of a town which was abandoned in the 1890s. Next we visited Wilpena Pound, a natural basin that was used to farm wheat for a short time around the turn of the 20th century. The walk through the forest to the pound was pleasant, and we saw many interesting lizards basking in the sun. On the way back to Quorn there was a stop at Yourambulla to see some Aboriginal art under an overhang.

Craig and I did a bit of work in the afternoon, before heading out to ride camels with Pichi Richi camel tours – it was a slow walk but definitely a fun experience. Before dinner a few of us headed out to hunt internet, which we found at Flinders Bikes & Bytes – the proprietress was kind enough to open the shop just for us. She has a great establishment with brand-new Macs for internet users and a lovely cafe setup with wifi available.

5/1 Wednesday The days of sleep-ins were over, it was an early start for the drive to Coober Pedy. A stop to see the missiles at Woomera broke the journey nicely, and we arrived in Coober Pedy in the early afternoon. After a short break we headed into an old mine for a look at how opals are mined, and later visited Josephine’s gallery down the road to check out the aboriginal art and to see the kangaroo orphans being fed.

Craig and I then headed to the Old Timers Mine to do their self-guided tour of a hand-dug mine, which was really interesting – that combined with the video from the first tour has given me a much better understanding of opal mining. We also dropped in on the Comfort Inn and the Revival Church next door to see the amazing underground architecture.

The day ended well – with pizza and beer.

6/1 Thursday It was another early start, this time combined with a long day of driving. However, this meant we had more time at Uluru – after settling in at camp and seeing the rock from a distance, Bender drove us in for a closer look. One of the guys on the tour was hoping for rain so that we could see the waterfalls that come after a downpour, something that apparently only 0.5% of visitors get to see – and we were lucky. Just after we left the bus the skies opened and drenched us in a matter of seconds. Soon after, water started cascading down the side of the rock, distracting everyone from Bender’s explanations. The rain let up but the waterfalls were still in force for sunset, which we watched with a glass of wine from a special viewing area. Most people passed on the option to sleep in swags since the rain returned sporadically, and slept in the permanent tents instead.

7/1 Friday If sunrise is at 6am and you have to be there half an hour before, it’s a 20-minute drive from your campsite and your guide likes you to get up an hour before departure, you can imagine that it wasn’t a sleep-in day today. And to tell the truth, seeing Uluru for dawn wasn’t as great as I’d expected – sunset yesterday was much better. I enjoyed the walk around the base though, the caves and pockmarks across the surface are fascinating and Craig and I had a good talk along the way.

Next up was a drive to our campsite at Kings Canyon. We stopped to collect firewood, but the rain that started soon after our arrival at camp meant that we couldn’t have the cozy campfire experience Bender had planned. We did still get damper though, a Bender special with Nutella and M&Ms mixed in.

8/1 Saturday I’m sure you’re getting the picture that this tour involves early starts, and this morning was no different. It makes sense, because the walk we did would have been insupportable later in the day – as it was it was hot enough around sunrise. The walk around the rim of the Kings Canyon was spectacular – I particularly enjoyed seeing the beehive structures and the beach ripples now permanently formed into rock.

It was a relief to jump into the pool back at the camping resort, after which we started the final leg of our tour, to Alice Springs. Sadly, arriving wasn’t much fun – the hostel fell well below our standards by not providing free wifi, and while having a final dinner out with the group was great for the company, the food and the music weren’t.

9/1 Sunday Since the YHA charges (a lot) for wifi, we moved over to Annie’s Place in late morning – where the wifi wasn’t working! At least we had a private room and there were computers we could use to do a quick check-in. Lunch was kebabs in the town centre, which apart from the supermarkets and a couple of food places, was closed due to it begin Sunday.

The wifi was working back at the hostel, so we used it, had a swim, then were picked up by Amanda, an ITP listener. We finished the day with a lovely barbecue and excellent conversation back at her place with her and her partner Gary.

10/1 Monday All of today seemed to be transit – we caught a shuttle bus to Alice Springs airport, a flight to Melbourne, coach to the city and a train to my aunt and uncle’s house. It was all pleasant, though: Alice Springs airport is my new favourite airport in the world. Small, with friendly staff and free wifi – even being randomly selected for explosives testing didn’t bother me, actually it was convenient because there was a seat to rest my bag in while I put my laptop away.

We arrived at Maureen and Guy’s house at the same time as Maureen: perfect timing! She cooked us a lovely meal and we spent the evening watching TV.

11/1 Tuesday We got a bit of work done after a well-deserved sleep in, then headed out for coffee and a chat with Dave Dean, our favourite Melbourne-based travel blogger.

It was my cousin Charlie’s birthday, so he and his wife Ingrid came over in the evening for a birthday barbecue, along with their awesome children Eli and Saskia. It’s always nice to catch up with them.

12/1 Wednesday After another sleep in and a bit of work and stuffing around, we started the journey New Zealand-wards. It was in part a reversal of Monday’s journey: train to city, bus to airport, flight to New Zealand. Our flight was delayed by about 90 minutes so we had far too much time in Melbourne airport, which is NOT my favourite – being under construction doesn’t help. There were power sockets in the restaurant though, so we plugged in and actually managed to get a fair bit of work done.

Craig’s dad and stepmum Norrie and Anne very kindly collected us from the airport – by the time we walked out it was one am. Of course we had to have a bit of a chat and a glass of wine before bed, so it wasn’t an early night.

13/1 Thursday Norrie and Anne had an early start since they had to catch an early flight to the airport. Craig got up to take them in, and woke me up with bacon and eggs for breakfast (he’s so lovely!). I wasn’t quite ready to get up though, and went back to sleep – I finally got up at around 3:30pm. In my defence, I did have a couple of conversations in Spanish, with Juli and Miguel, so I was studying. Honest. Not much happened after that except for eating some truly flavoursome chicken kebabs that Craig cooked on the barbecue.

14/1 Friday I woke up a little earlier and got a bit of work done before rousing Craig. We wandered into town to find lunch (insipid pies) and to pick up essentials from the supermarket (yes, okay, it was mostly chocolate and wine). On the way back I stopped at the hairdresser to finally get the Cambodian disaster haircut remedied. My hair doesn’t look too different now, but it feels so much better.

Craig barbecued lamb for dinner and we watched Nacho Libre in the evening.

View from the Port Hills, Canterbury New Zealand
View from the Port Hills, Canterbury, New Zealand

15/1 Saturday
Craig headed to the airport to pick up his parents at around 10am, not realising that their flight got in at 12… I got quite a lot of work done in his absence. Norrie drove us to Northlands mall to find some lunch; Anne and I both ordered THE WORST nachos I have ever eaten. Us girls then went clothes shopping, and bought blingy jewellery for Anne’s bling party which is coming up soon, while Norrie and Craig went to Vodafone to sort out Norrie’s phone. Dinner was an excellent barbecue back home.

Linda, Craig and the new car
Linda, Craig and the new car (as yet un-named)
16/1 Sunday I’m going to have to get out of this habit of sleeping in, but it’s so good! This morning, when we finally roused ourselves, Norrie’s workmate Greg was waiting in the lounge to sell us a car. He gave us a tour of it, then Craig and I took it for a spin – and it was fantastic so we bought it. We also dug out my old sim card, worked out what the number is, and added credit – so we’re really home now! Have car, have phone number – what more do we need to put down roots? Bearing in mind that we’re only here for the next six months.

After Greg left, leaving the car with us, Norrie and Anne took us out to Lyttleton for a tasty pizza lunch. We drove around the Port Hills and stopped for ice-cream on the way home. In the afternoon we all relaxed, I spoke to Luis de Chile for a while before an excellent Sunday roast, courtesy of Anne.

17/1 Monday Craig got up at a reasonable hour to play golf with his dad, while I slept in then spoke to Luis de Chile and his entire family on Skype. We had a relaxing afternoon and evening in.

18/1 Tuesday The weather wasn’t fantastic for the first day of the roadtrip, but at least by heading south we were leaving the worst of the storm behind us. Despite the rain, it was great to be on the road again; there’s nothing like New Zealand scenery and it just felt right to be driving. We had an insipid lunch at Lake Tekapo then continued on to Queenstown with just one stop for wine-tasting. We were staying with Dan and Hayley and their kids Keir and Tigne, we had a lovely dinner with them and Matt and Jodie, who turned up later on.

Drinking in Queenstown
19/1 Wednesday I slept really badly, so waking up was a mission and we didn’t start our day as early as we would have liked. We drove into Queenstown and did some shopping then had lunch at a Thai restaurant with Dan and a few others who work at the Queenstown Innovation Centre. Hayley and the kids joined us as well, which was nice. After an afternoon of work, Dan cooked us up a tasty BBQ and we spent the evening chatting.

20/1 Thursday What was supposed to be a work day turned quite social, with lunch at Flame with the crew from the Innovation Centre, and a couple of coffees later on with Scott, who’s the MD of Travel Generation. We also headed out for dinner and drinks with Dan, Matt and Matsa – despite all of Dan’s insistences that it was going to be an early night, it wasn’t. There are some awesome bars in Queenstown, though!

21/1 Friday Matt had told us that STA was selling return tickets to South America for $999, so we headed to the Queenstown branch to see if the rumours were true – and they were. Since this is cheaper than we ever imagined paying, we bought tickets on the spot. Yay! I was excited all day. Before we left Queenstown, we dropped into the Innovation Centre to say goodbye, but Dan and Matt were out.

The drive to Dunedin was pleasant, we stopped at Kawarau Bridge for the photo opportunity and at Clyde Dam for a picnic lunch. Lawrence, although we didn’t stop, was a pleasant surprise – they have free public wifi across the whole town! I checked my email on my iPod as we drive through, it was awesome.

We arrived at Katherine’s in the late afternoon. It was great to see her, Ben and Ezra again and to meet Rivka for the first time, who is incredibly good-natured. The huge grin she gave us as we walked through the door definitely secured her a place in our good books, while Ezra spent almost an hour screamingly terrified of Craig. It’s time for a haircut.

Sunday’s the Jewish New Year for trees, so Ben had to dig a hole at the synagogue. We all accompanied him and Craig and I even helped a little. In the evening we celebrated the shabbat with a South American dinner, before checking into Ramsay Lodge.

22/1 Saturday A fantastic day – we headed over to Katherine’s for the morning, she and I spent a bit of time in the kitchen preparing for Tree New Year while Craig entertained the kids. Later we hopped in the car to go to Blueskin Bay and collect cockles, which Katherine later prepared in a tasty creamy pasta dish.

23/1 Sunday Beat, one of my ex-students, was in town, so we headed to the Octagon for a coffee and to catch up on the two years that have passed since we last saw each other. The GPS tried to take us to Christchurch when it was time to drop him off at the Cadbury Experience, so we said a hurried goodbye as he ran into the building trying not to be too late for his tour.

Next up we headed to the synagogue for lunch and tree planting; Rivka didn’t seem to want to be part of proceedings and fell asleep in my arms.

In an attempt to find something to do in Dunedin that we haven’t done on one of our many previous visits here, we headed to the Dunedin Chinese Gardens. They were lovely, an oasis of calm in an area of Dunedin that was quite run-down before the gardens opened in 2008.

In the evening we ate Malaysian food for dinner and mocked the Americans for what they name their babies.

24/1 Monday After a coffee at Katherine’s and a trip out to Careys Bay for sushi and for a beer, we said farewell to the Greenbergs and started the trip back to Christchurch. Our favourite cafe in Moeraki, Fleur’s, is apparently closed on Mondays, so we paid too much for coffee from a kiosk near the water and drank it at an outdoor table overlooking the bay.

The drive back was beautiful and uneventful, we stopped briefly in Oamaru and picked up fish and chips for dinner.

25/1 Tuesday Craig spent most of the day preparing for the launch of Chris Guillebeau’s Travel Hacking Cartel, and we had dinner at home with Norrie and Anne.

26/1 Wednesday The Travel Hacking Cartel launched at 5am our time so Craig woke up early to check that everything was under control, which it was. Later on, when the day actually started, we headed out to Allways Rentals to meet Merav, who we’ve known for a while on Twitter. We had a great coffee and a chat with her, then had lunch back at home before driving into the city to meet Jason from Seeya for a couple of beers beside the Avon.

27/1 Thursday Another day of shopping. Parking was awful in Christchurch city, but we eventually found a space for the car and spent a couple of hours wandering around the shops (and paid for our ticket to South America, yay!). It was crazy to see how many buildings have been destroyed by the September earthquake; a lot of shops on Cashel Street were locked up with red warning notices pasted all over the windows. On the way out of town we also saw a couple of churches whose steeples had been removed and were squatting oddly beside the church buildings.

28/1 Friday Norrie and Anne got up early and went to the airport to collect their friends Alison, Harry and Evelyn, who came down from Auckland for Anne’s sixtieth birthday party, and we spent the day with them – Craig went out with Harry and Norrie while us girls drove to Cust for a lovely lunch.

29/1 Saturday The weather wasn’t playing nicely in the morning, and Anne was concerned it would rain for her big party. Luckily, though, the showers passed over and the skies were clear in the evening, and the party went well. The theme was “bling” so we were all shiny and glittery – for some reason I let myself be convinced to wear fairy wings. Actually though, my starry eyelashes garnered more attention.

It was a great party, everyone looked awesome and I’m pretty sure Anne had a good time – and that’s the most important thing.

30/1 Sunday After a pleasant sleep-in, I chatted to Julian and then my mum on Skype before heading out to lunch with a group of Anne and Norrie’s friends at the Mud House. The food was pleasant, as was the company, though the service left a fair bit to be desired.

We had a relaxing afternoon, during which I caught up with Luis de Chile and Craig got some work done. In the evening Anne and Norrie’s friends came over for a washed-out barbecue, after which we checked out the party video and photos before settling in to watch the tennis final.

31/1 Monday Anne and Norrie’s friends were still down from Auckland, so we split up according to gender for a day out. I went shopping with Anne, Evelyn and Alison; while Craig hit the golf course with Norrie and Harry. After a glass of wine together, the others had to fly home, and Norrie, Anne, Craig and I had dinner at home.

1/2 Tuesday Craig and I headed to Riccarton in the morning to pick up Angie Orth, a fellow travel blogger (and PR extraordinaire) who we met at TBEX last year. We had coffee then went for a walk before dropping her off at the airport for her flight to Melbourne.

Norrie had the day off, so he took us out to lunch (and to the lawyer’s, fun times) in Rangiora, then insisted in buying us gifts. We spent our final night together hanging out at home.

2/2 Wednesday We made a late start to our roadtrip; we’d heard that it was raining in Arthur’s Pass and wanted to make the most of the 32-degree heat in Christchurch. The drive was nice, only about two hours, and we stopped for a picnic lunch at Castle Hill. We were staying at the Mountain House backpackers and were lucky enough to be given one of the cool houses up the hill from the main lodge. After settling in, a hike was in order; we chose a couple of short ones, to Bridal Falls and the Devil’s Punchbowl. They were great walks, through classic New Zealand bush and with the reward of waterfalls at the end. The day finished up in the local bar, drinking beer and eating pizza with Bob, the owner of the Mountain House.

3/2 Thursday After a quick coffee with Bob and a tour of the Mountain House‘s different buildings, we headed westwards to Greymouth. We stopped there for lunch then continued on to Punakaiki, to see the pancake rocks. Next, it was on to Nelson, where we checked into the Custom House backpackers and had fish and chips on the wharf for dinner.

4/2 Friday The road from Nelson to Picton must surely have the most amount of roadworks per kilometre in the entire country, but despite delays we arrived in time to catch the Interislander ferry across to Wellington. We were given passes to the first-class lounge, and enjoyed the free lunch and wireless Internet access – an upgrade might actually be financially sensible if you plan to buy food onboard.

Our friend and ex-flatmate Joy got in touch with us while we were on the ferry to suggest we meet her for a drink in Wellington, so we went to Mac’s on the waterfront for a beer or two, and caught up on what we’d all been up to since we last saw each other 18 months ago.

We hadn’t realised the Rugby Sevens were on that weekend, which made the streets entertaining but accommodation very hard to come by. Luckily Couchsurfing saved the day – a couchsurfer called Mark said we could try out his brand-new tent (all the rooms inside were full of other couchsurfers). We had dinner with him and his other guests, then crashed out in the tent. Awesome.

5/2 Saturday We breakfasted with the other couchsurfers, then headed back into Wellington city to go to Wellycon, a board-gamers’ convention. Basically that meant we just played board games all day! In the afternoon our good friends Angie and Dave turned up, so we enjoyed playing a game or two with them and eating dinner at the nearby Hell Pizza. They run a board game company with Craig, so it was all work, all day!

After dinner we drove up to Wanganui to find a place to stay but nothing caught our eye and Craig was keen to press on, so we scoured the city for an open petrol station before driving on to National Park. There, we found a friendly-looking residential street to park in and discovered that the new car has quite good seats for sleeping in – great reclination!

6/2 Sunday After a too-early start, we stopped in Taumaranui for a much-needed coffee, then drove straight on to Auckland. We dropped into Sylvia Park shopping centre to pick up a few things, and of course ran into all sorts of people we knew – it was quite nice actually. Next, we went over to my mum’s to say hi after not seeing her for a year or so and to pick up some essentials – I suddenly have a lot more clothes! In Auckland, we’re staying with our friends Chris and Sarah, who very kindly cooked us dinner – much appreciated.

7/2 Monday Perhaps somewhat unwisely, I started at work the day after arriving back in the city. It was great to be back in the classroom though, I found a lot of energy for it, though it had all disappeared by the end of the day. It was also awesome to see my colleagues again and catch up with them, and Craig met me and Rhi (my friend/boss) for dinner and a walk after work.

8/2 Tuesday After another day at work, Craig and I relaxed with a beer with Ben and Glenn (who interviewed us last year for their Kiwi Nation podcast).

9/2 Wednesday After work, we headed over to “the flat” where our mates Dave, Janine and Ange (and four others) live. We chatted, ate, caught up, and headed into Mt Eden with Ange to see Sherlock Holmes in the park. Some of our other friends (notably Graham and Julie) were there as well – it was so awesome to see them!

10/2 Thursday The day-four slump hit me at work, but at least the evening made up for it – our friends Drew and Katrina came over for dinner, which Chris and Sarah prepared: hand-made pasta with a smoked fish sauce. Magic.

11/2 Friday Friday’s always a good day, since I finish at 12.15. Rhi and I decided to re-institute the Friday tradition of eating Korean pancakes, and I also got to meet her parents, who are over from Wales for a holiday. I dropped into the library to pick up some books in Spanish (yay for El Principe Caspian!), then headed home to record the podcast with Craig. We decided to have an evening in since we were going away the next day, and basically just mooched about the house.

12/2 Saturday Our mate Dave’s parents have just built a bach (Kiwi for holiday home) at Lang’s Beach, and Dave had invited a select few of us up to try it out. It was billed as a “culinary and bach extravaganza” – we all had to prepare a tapas dish and choose a wine to accompany it. This meant from when we arrived at 2.30ish, we basically just ate all day. The food was incredible, the company better, and the bach was pretty good too.

13/2 Sunday A sleep in was definitely in order after a hard week of work and a Saturday of eating and drinking. When we finally got up, Dave and Mara made tasty breakfasts and a few of us played Ticket to Ride.

After a bit of cleaning, Craig and I drove back down to Auckland, did some grocery shopping, and had a relaxing evening in.

May travel diary

It’s been a while since we’ve had cause to write a travel diary: at present we’re holed up in Auckland, saving for a second South America adventure in August.

However, last weekend we managed to escape to one of our favourite New Zealand travel spots: the area north of Auckland.

Wednesday: On Wednesday I headed out to the Spaceships depot in Penrose to pick up Tane Mahuta, my ride for the next four days. Spaceships are converted people-movers, with a double bed, fridge, DVD player, built-in iPod-to-stereo cable — they’re a great way to get around New Zealand’s roads because, unlike a camper van, they drive smoothly around all our narrow, curvy roads!

Tane Mahuta, the clean spaceship camper van
Tane Mahuta, our Spaceship for a long weekend.

I knew I was heading North — Linda and I were celebrating our recent wedding anniversary on an overnight cruise in the Bay of Islands — but picking up the car gave me an idea. I’d take the vehicle to meet it’s namesake: Tane Mahuta is the name of New Zealand’s largest living tree, a Kauri in the Waipoua Forest.

Things to do on State Highway One

Thursday: After a quick stop to pick up supplies, I headed north. Less than an hour up State Highway One, there’s a new toll road — just NZ$2 each way for the Spaceship. You don’t have to stop: the machine reads your license plate, then the toll can be paid online or over the phone, but has to be paid within five days … I left it until Monday.

Just beyond there was my first planned stop: Puhoi Valley, famous for its cheese. Just my luck, the dairy’s café was shut, the local artisan spreads company was shut … everything except for the kayak hire and the general store was shut! With some Puhoi blue from the Store in the fridge, I headed off again.

Part of my goal for this trip was just to follow my nose, I wanted to turn down roads I don’t normally follow. When I saw “Parry Kauri Park” signposted in Warkworth, I drove down to see it. The rain was pouring, so the first stop was into Warkworth Museum for a while. The weather looked so bad and Northland is so important to New Zealand’s colonial history that I thought I’d do some more museum-hoping over the weekend.

The rain cleared a bit, to allow me into the Kauri park: two magnificent trees were obviously the centre-point, but there was lots of native secondary growth around too.

A few more kilometres up State Highway One, and I pulled over in Te Hana. I’d never stopped here before but for the last few years, I’d seen a reconstructed Maori Pa, or fortified village, being built on the side of the road. After buying some locally made feijoa and apple juice, I dropped into the information centre. It was almost two hours later that I left, having spoken with Sunny, Lou and Linda from Te Ao Marama Marae, and discovered the 17th century Maori village was being opened in June … We’ll be back for that.

In Kaiwaka I bought some bread and grabbed an espresso at Café Europia. You can’t miss this place: a white ship’s bow seems to be coasting into the highway, and the ferro-cement interior was built by the owner’s father, a local artist. The coffee is good too.

Back on the road

It’s been a transitory week, full of packing and moving. We packed up our life in New Zealand and eventually managed to make it to Argentina, which somehow seems even better than it was the last time we were here.

Monday 1/8 Since our departure day was Tuesday, Monday was a haze of last-minute preparations. We did some packing and some cleaning before heading over to my mum’s pace for a final family dinner, then had a glass of bubbles with Chris and Sarah back at home. Craig stayed up late in an effort to finish off some urgent ITP work and I worked out how to get into Buenos Aires city if the flight was delayed, as the Aerolineas Argentinas website seemed to indicate it would be.

Tuesday 2/8 The Auckland Airport website had joined the party and was saying that our flight was delayed, so I rang the Aerolineas Argentinas office to check. When they finally answered at 10 o’clock they said that not only was the flight delayed, it was also overbooked since the previous flight had been cancelled. I asked about the next flight (on Thursday) and they said that if we wanted to fly on Thursday, we could fly business class. We said yes.

This took a lot of pressure off Craig and freed up some time for me to organise our photos, which I spent most of the next two days doing. We headed out once, to find pies for lunch, and in the evening we ate guacamole and watched a documentary.

Metro Cathedral, Buenos Aires
Metro Cathedral, Buenos Aires
Wednesday 3/8 Having a whole completely unscheduled day was strangely freeing – I think I’ve spent too much time teaching! We used the day to get some work done; I continued organising photos, while Craig did all sorts of things. It was nice to be together during the day, even if we were mostly just staring at computer screens.

Thursday 4/8 Departure day two started well, Auckland Airport’s website said our flight was scheduled to leave on time, and when I called to confirm the flights, Aerolineas Argentinas said there were no delays. I called again later in the day after my dad noticed that the AR flight to and from Sydney was cancelled, the same aircraft usually does that run then heads to Buenos Aires. But no, they assured me there were no delays. They lied.

We got to the airport after a day of cleaning, packing and errands (and a coffee with Ange) and were greeted at the check-in desk by a delay announcement. The flight was going to depart at 2300, about four hours late. At least our business class status gave us access to the Koru Club lounge, where we headed after spending some time with my dad and Craig’s mum and sister. The lounge was awesome, we enjoyed the food, the wine and the internet access right up until the time they kicked us out. At 11pm, when our flight was supposed to leave. It didn’t. We finally boarded just after midnight, taking off at around 1.45am — seven hours late.

The flight was okay, I tried to sleep but didn’t succeed too well (surprise!). We’d been planning to catch a bus into the city but since we arrived at 11pm at night we decided we’d be better off travelling by remis, a kind of private taxi. We made it to our couchsurfing host’s place at around midnight and all headed to bed soon after that.

Friday 5/8 We’d booked a walking tour with Urban Adventures for Friday before all the delays, and getting up early in the morning was a bit of a mission! The tour was great though, we met our guide Daniel in the Plaza de Mayo, and he showed us around the cathedral and plaza before taking us to Caminito and San Telmo. We’d been to most of the places before but it was great to see them with a guide, he explained a lot about the history and social significance of the areas we visited.

Caminito Buenos Aires
Caminito

After lunch we headed home and chatted with Soledad (our host) for a couple of hours. She headed out for the evening and we went to bed, still trying to recover from a couple of bad nights’ sleep.

parrilla in buenos aires argentina
La parrilla
Saturday 6/8 We spent most of the morning working and hanging out with Soledad and her sister Belén, then went on a fruitless search for a sim card — who would have thought the phone shop would be closed on a Saturday. At 5pm we met up with Luis the water lawyer, a language-exchange friend of mine who I’ve known for about two years but never met in person. It was so great to finally meet him! We wandered around Avenida Corrientes looking at books for awhile then grabbed a drink in Luis’s favourite cafe, where he was met like the prodigal son.

Dinner was at a parrilla complete with tango show, we all ate too much meat and drank maybe just a little too much malbec. The metro was closed when we finally emerged, but we caught a taxi … only to realise we’d run out of cash. The walk home was very pleasant.

Sunday 7/8 We said goodbye to Soledad in the morning, promising to meet up during the week, and met Luis at his hotel. We all left our bags there and caught a metro to San Telmo to immerse ourselves in the San Telmo market. Craig and I didn’t buy anything (we still didn’t have any cash) but Luis got a few presents for his friends back home, all the while trying to speak like an Argentinian and not like a Chilean.

filejeado stall in san telmo markets buenos aires argentina
Filejeado stall in San Telmo markets
Luis wanted to eat at Siga la Vaca, a restaurant in Puerto Madero, but when we arrived just before three, the line for a table was out the door. We decided to look for another parrilla and eventually succeeded in finding El Potrillo after a rather long walk along the river. It was worth it though, the food was incredible.

After that, we had to hurry to get Luis back to his hotel in time to get to the airport (though we shouldn’t have bothered rushing, he was flying Aerolineas Argentinas so the flight was delayed). After saying goodbye, Craig and I headed to Kaixo hostel, where we stayed last time we were in Buenos Aires. Apart from heading out for dinner, we basically just spent the evening in, relaxing and getting a bit of work done.

Next week, we start Spanish lessons at Expanish. We’re planning to find somewhere cheaper to stay, hopefully a double room near the school.

Monday 8/8 Today was definitely a Monday: we had an early start to get to Expanish by 8am, and we had to pack up our bags before we left. There was no time for breakfast, but at least we made it to school on time.

We had to do a placement test to determine our Spanish level and after that we had 20 minutes or so free — we spent them in a cafe, having a Buenos Aires-style breakfast of cafe con leche y medialunas (white coffee and croissants).

School went well, we both felt like we’d learned something by the end of the day. After school we had an orientation meeting then had pizza in a cone for lunch. We had to find cheaper accommodation than the hostel where we’d been staying; we found it in San Telmo. It’s quite basic but Hostelbookers gave it a high safety rating, so we’re happy with that.

Pizza in a cone Buenos Aires
Pizza in a cone
Tuesday 9/8 We could sleep in a little later than yesterday, but school starts at 9 and we’re about 20 minutes’ walk away. Breakfast was coffee and medialunas at our new local, after which we spent four hours at school studying, and another two watching an Argentinian movie. In the afternoon we worked until the school closed and had hamburgers for dinner from a dodgy-looking joint near our hotel.

Wednesday 10/8 Another day of study and work, broken up by an extra lesson for Craig and a reggaetón dancing lesson for me — it was hilarious. Later on, we discovered our new favourite pizza place, where we had cheap but tasty pizza and beer for dinner.

Thursday 11/8 We’re quite impressed by the extra activities the school offers — today it was a mate tasting, where we learned how to prepare mate correctly. Later, we headed to Avenida Corrientes to buy me some books, then walked to Puerto Madero for street-food dinner. Parrilla stalls line the boardwalk that borders the river; we chose one at random and feasted on roasted pig.

Friday 12/8 Today was going to be our last day of school, but we’ve decided to stay for another week. I spent most of the day trying to decide if I wanted to do group or private classes, eventually settling on a compromise: semi-private classes with Andrea, a guy from Italy. In the afternoon I went to the free tutorial class that the school offers; no-one else went so I ended up with a private lesson. Poor Pablo, he almost fainted when he saw how much homework I wanted him to mark!

Learning how to make mate in Buenos Aires
Learning how to make mate
In the evening we cooked pasta for dinner then headed out to el Boliche de Roberto, a locals’ tango bar that one of my classmates had discovered. We arrived at 9:30 and the entertainment started two hours later: a woman singing, accompanied by a guy on guitar. They didn’t have any form of amplification and it was amazing how everyone listened in complete silence. Later, when the next act came on, the performers invited the audience to join in “okay, let’s do one we all know…”. The whole bar (admittedly very small, but packed) burst into song — I wish I’d known the words! We were taken home by a talkative porteño cabbie who seemed quite moved when we let him keep the change (it was about 50 cents…).

Saturday 13/8 A miscommunication meant that we didn’t do the Graffiti Mundo tour that we had been planning to do, instead we spent the day in, working and relaxing. Dinner was pizza at our local. Actually, lunch was from there too…

Paddleboarding in Palermo Buenos Aires
Paddleboarding in Palermo

Sunday 14/8 Ah, a perfect Sunday! Craig brought me breakfast in bed (porteño-style: cafe con leche y medialunas) then we caught the metro to the Botanical Gardens to record the podcast and explore the green spaces around Palermo. The whole of Buenos Aires seemed to be out, cycling, rollerblading, or paddleboating on the lake.

On the way home we stopped at a supermarket to buy some juice and wine; we couldn’t get the wine because it was election day, which at first seemed strange but on second thought isn’t a bad idea.

Monday 15/8 Getting up for a nine am start was never going to be easy, but it seemed even harder than normal after a weekend of sleeping in. School went well, though my classes were even more difficult than they were last week, but definitely useful. In the evening I did even more study to try to get my head around the subjunctive, and we both got some work done.

Buenos Aires street art
Buenos Aires street art
Tuesday 16/8 Another day of school, work and not much else.

Wednesday 17/8 After class we jumped on the subte to a suburb near Palermo called Collegiales, where we met Melissa from Graffiti Mundo, and the rest of the tour group, to do a tour of the street art in the area. We’d noticed all the graffiti around the city, of course — it’s kind of hard to miss — but it was really interesting to see it with a guide. Melissa talked about the differences between the various kinds of art we saw and the history of street art in Buenos Aires, as well as telling us about the artists: their style, their history and what they’re doing now. It was amazing. We finished the tour in a bar/gallery, where we had a drink and wished we could buy some of the art on sale.

Thursday 18/8 We arrived at school at 9 and left at 7 — at least we got a lot of work done! Dinner was at Desnivel, a local parrilla restaurant that we’d been to a few times already.

With July y Naty on the beach
Linda with July and Naty on the beach
Friday 19/8 Our last day at school went smoothly, although it was sad to leave. I think our heads would have exploded if we’d tried to do another week of lessons, though! After school we went to Retiro bus station to catch the bus to La Plata; the bus even stopped where it was supposed to, not like the last time we went south from Buenos Aires. There was, however, a rain squall just before the bus arrived and we got drenched.

The trip was smooth and July met us at the station. Naty got home soon after us; it was so good to see them both again! July prepared pasta from scratch and we spent the evening eating, chatting, and planning what to do for the long weekend.

Saturday 20/8 Craig and I meant to get up early but ended up sleeping in, which delayed our departure a little. We finally got away at around 11, driving south along the coast. We stopped in a lot of small villages, most of them full of houses for rent, popular with different groups of people during the summer. After a bit of searching, we found a guesthouse to stay in in Valeria del Mar, and took a wander around the town before driving to Pinamar for a parrilla dinner, followed by beers at a rather smoky bar.

Sealions in Mar del Plata
Sealions in Mar del Plata

Sunday 21/8 The day started with cafe con leche y medialunas, that very Argentinian breakfast. We got away pretty soon after that, and continued south to Mar del Plata, one of the biggest cities in the region. It’s a lovely city, with really nice architecture and a lot of beach space, which apparently gets packed solid in summer. Given that it was about 8 degrees when we got there, the beaches were noticeably empty. We had a seafood lunch (a Mar del Plata must-do) then went to visit the sea lion colony near the port.

Next, we turned north to Balcarce, where there’s a museum to commemorate its most famous inhabitant, a Formula One driver. July enthusiastically guided us around and I was disappointed that we couldn’t have a go on the racing cars in the kids’ section of the museum. After tostados (toasted sandwiches) and submarinos (hot chocolates) we drove north to Tandil to look for dinner and a bed for the night, which was easier said than done. All of the hotels were full and the restaurants where we wanted to eat had lines out the door. After two hours of bed-hunting we gave up and drove to the next town, an hour or so away, where we finally found somewhere to stay.

We’re planning to spend most of the next week in La Plata with July and Naty (providing they’re happy with that!) then go back to Buenos Aires for the weekend.

Monday 22/8 We woke up in Rauch, a town with not much to offer but accommodation — although finding that at 2am the night before had been a huge relief. We hopped back in the car and drove on to Monte, a small town by a lake, for a lunch of cheap, tasty pizza.

The drive home after that wasn’t too long, we arrived in mid-afternoon and rested for a bit, then Naty introduced me to her favourite computer game. A bit later on, Naty’s parents showed up and we spent the evening chatting and eating picada — snacking on salami, cheese and bread, really — a great way to eat.

street art detail in la plata argentina
La Plata street art
Tuesday 23/8 After a sleep in, Craig and I headed into the city to pick up ingredients for dinner. For some reason we decided to walk home, which at least meant we got to see some of La Plata’s street art, and get some exercise as well.

It’s great how late dinner is here — I could take as long as I wanted to cook dinner and not have to worry about when to put it on the table. After dinner July and Naty introduced us to their favourite board game, TEG, which Craig is now unashamedly addicted to.

Wednesday 24/8 We spent the day at home trying to get some work done, then all pitched in to make a tasty dinner of Spanish tortilla and tuna tarta, which was followed by a couple of rounds of TEG. Awesome.

Thursday 25/8 Washing clothes sometimes feels like an ordeal — it did today. We planned to put it on, wait for the cycle to finish, hang it out, then head to the city to see the cathedral. This plan was foiled by the fact that it was a two-and-a-half hour cycle! We finally left and caught the bus into the city, where we had pizza in the main square then looked around the cathedral and its museum. As part of the museum entrance fee, you can take the elevator up one of the towers for a good view of La Plata.

plaza morena cathedral la plata argentina
La Plata cathedral

Naty’s parents had invited us to their house for an asado, so we headed over there in the evening, and proceeded to eat far too much meat. There was salami to start; then chorizo sausages, glands and intestines; followed by huge slabs of pork and beef. And some very nice vegetables, I should add.

After dinner, Naty’s brother was showing us physics tricks with coins and forks, which moved on to a maths game, which seemed to flow on logically to the monkey game — where people have to do different actions with their bodies depending on where they’re sitting. I managed to convince everyone to play, and it was hilarious. We ended up spending several hours playing that and other similarly silly games.

walking in san telmo buenos aires argentina
San Telmo street art
Friday 26/8 After another day of work, it was time to head back to Buenos Aires. Naty and July drove us to the station, where we caught a but to the capital, followed by the subte to the house of our Couchsurfing hosts Melina and Juan. They have a beautiful apartment in San Telmo, with high ceilings and gorgeous details… and a crazy cat. They cooked up some dinner of sausages and chips and we sat around chatting until it was time to go to bed.

Saturday 27/8 We didn’t mean to sleep in so much, but it was so good! It did mean that we didn’t really have time for our planned cultural day in the city, so we stayed around San Telmo with Melina and Juan. We all wandered down to the market to pick up some fish for lunch, which Melina and Juan prepared to perfection. We tried to repay the favour by making burritos for dinner, but it wasn’t the same.

Juan’s friend’s band was playing a gig later on, so we all headed out at about 1:45am to see him play, accompanied by another of Juan’s friends. The gig was at Konex, a cultural space that used to be a factory, and one wall of which had been decorated by some of the street artists whose work we’d seen on the Graffiti Mundo tour. The music was good and everyone was having a really good time — when Juan’s friend’s band came on, a lot of people were singing along, so they obviously have a good fan base!

Sunday 28/8 Since we’d got home at 6am the night before, a sleep-in was definitely in order. We dragged ourselves out of bed at about 1pm, because we’d organised to meet Crystal, an ITP listener, at 2. We even managed to not be late! We had lunch with her, then wandered around the city centre and Puerto Madero for a couple of hours.

When we got back to Melina and Juan’s, the neighbours were over, so we chatted with them for an hour or so, then relaxed before heading out for a hamburger dinner and tasty ice-cream.

Tomorrow we’re starting a tour with Intrepid Travel, so we have to meet the rest of the group in the early afternoon. The tour runs from Buenos Aires to Rio de Janeiro via Uruguay and the Iguazu Falls, so most of the next week we’ll be in Uruguay.

Monday 29/8 Melina and Juan had to leave at 9:30 to head to work: quite a respectable time, we thought. We left at the same time as them and walked to the hotel in the microcentro where we were going to meet the rest of the tour group, and the receptionist was happy for us to check in at that early hour: score! We dropped off our bags in our room and found a cafe for breakfast before attempting to post some things home — sadly, the cost was prohibitively expensive, so we decided to throw some of it away and cart the rest around for a bit longer.

We spent most of the afternoon relaxing back at the hotel, and met the rest of our tour group in the evening. Everyone seems really nice: our tour co-ordinator, Yasmina, is from Argentina, and there’s also a Lithuanian couple and four single girls: from Switzerland, Scotland, England and the United States. In the evening Craig and I walked down to Puerto Madero for bondiola and reggaeton on the waterfront: a great end to our time in Buenos Aires.

Tuesday 30/8 After breakfast in the hotel, we all took taxis down to the ferry terminal for the ferry to Colonia. The crossing was a smooth and unevenful three-hour trip, during which Craig worked and I studied a bit of Spanish. On arrival, we had a tasty lunch of chivito then Yasmina gave us a quick orientation walk around the town.

The weather was infinitely better than it was the last time we were in Colonia: brilliant blue skies instead of fog and rain. The atmosphere was the same though: quiet and relaxed. For dinner Craig and I had choripan from a shop on the main street; the others went to a restaurant but we didn’t want another huge meal!

Wednesday 31/8 Our departure time was a bit later than yesterday’s, so we had time for another wander around Colonia, to take the photos and videos we’d missed the day before. Then, we walked down to the bus station to catch the bus to Montevideo, which is only about two hours away. Jasmina gave us a quick orientation, then left us to discover the city for ourselves. We wandered down to the markets at the port, where Craig and I had an asado lunch with the Lithuanian couple Ignas and Jurate; the girls chose to have a lighter lunch of empanadas.

Afterwards we wandered around town taking photos and video, and had a rest back at the hotel before a light dinner.

Thursday 1/9 Once again, we had time in the morning before departure, which we used to revisit the old town and Plaza Independencia. And find some coffee, of course. Today’s bus was longer: about five hours to Tacuarembo, followed by about an hour in a minivan to the estancia. In Tacuarembo, while standing around waiting for everyone to get their bags, someone started waving wildly at someone behind me — or so I thought, because she couldn’t possibly be waving at me; who do I know in Tacuarembo? It turned out to be Catha, who we met on our walking tour of Buenos Aires with Urban Adventures on our very first day in the country. It was great to see her again; in fact I spent most of the evening catching up with her after our tasty dinner at the estancia.

Horseriding at the estancia in Uruguay
Horseriding at the estancia in Uruguay

Friday 2/9 Our first adventure on the estancia was learning how to saddle horses gaucho-style then riding them for a couple of hours. Craig came to the lesson but missed the first, quiet, outing with the horses; instead he stayed behind to try to catch up on some work. Lunch was salad and potatoes, accompanied by stir-fried veges and t-bone steak cooked over an open outdoor fire: delicious.

In the afternoon we saddled up our horses again and headed out to work: first we rounded up sheep and drove them to a pen, where we drenched them; and next we moved some cattle from one field into another. It doesn’t sound like much but the fields are enormous! After another delicious dinner, we watched the Motorcycle Diaries and an episode of An Idiot Abroad, while enjoying the fantastic fire Craig had built.

Hot pools at Salto, Uruguay
Hot pools at Salto, Uruguay
Saturday 3/9 Kata convinced me to get up early to go for a run with her, which turned out to be really pleasant. We chatted in Spanish as we jogged across the estancia, which was nice — I’ve spoken almost no Spanish this week, since everyone on the tour speaks English. Craig and I both stayed behind in the morning to get some work done, but I headed out on the horses in the afternoon, after yet another delicious lunch.

Sunday 4/9 In the morning we waved goodbye to those staying behind: Lisa and Sally, two other travellers who had also been staying at the estancia, Catha, and Susanna. Juan drove the rest of us to Salto, about three and a half hours away, where we had lunch and some of us relaxed in the hot springs. It was the perfect thing to do after two days of horse-riding, the pools were so hot!

Monday 5/9 I’m not the biggest fan of overnight buses, and this one did nothing to change my opinion of them. It was a little cold, I couldn’t find a comfortable way to lie, and the food was pretty much just bread. I did at least get some sleep, which shows that I’m learning how to deal with this travelling-on-overnight-buses thing — mostly I deal with it by not doing it, which works well for me.

After arriving in Puerto Iguazu, Argentina, we hopped in a minivan to cross the border to Brazil, and the rest of the people in our group headed to the Brazilian side of the Iguazu Falls in the late morning. Craig and I decided to stay behind to try to get some work done after finding some coffee to cure our fuzzyheadedness. Craig was feeling sick, so we spent more time relaxing than working, and never seemed to find time to record the podcast. In the evening we went out for dinner with Angie, Karen, Suzi, and Jennifer – who somehow managed to score us cheap caipirinhas.

Argentinean side of the Iguazu Falls
The Iguazu Falls
Tuesday 6/9 Today, we hopped on an Urban Adventures day tour to visit the Argentinean side of the falls. The rest of our Intrepid group were there too, but not on the same tour as us — we ran into each other a couple of times though, which was pretty funny. We also saw Jack, another ex-Expanish student: I love that feeling of meeting people you know in unexpected places!

The falls were amazing, it’s such a huge volume of water! We walked along the Devil’s Throat walkway, which was apparently partially closed up until a couple of days ago due to flooding, then walked the upper and lower trails. The rest of our group (a Dutch family) was doing the boat trip, so we let ourselves be convinced to jump on as well. It was a fun experience, we got up close and personal with the water (the boat goes right up to the falls so you get completely soaked), but I’m not sure it’s worth the US$60 price tag.

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at Hito Tres Fronteras to see the triple border, as well as at a market in Puerto Iguazu.

Monkeys in Iguazu Falls national park
Monkey at the Iguazu Falls
On the whole, visiting the falls as part of a tour was a good experience — we were picked up and dropped off at our hotel, had a couple of extra stops we couldn’t have done easily independently, and got to know more about the falls from a real local — our guide’s father was born within the park boundaries.

Wednesday 7/9 Clarice, our guide from yesterday, picked us up from the hotel relatively early to take us to the Brazilian side of the falls. The Brazilian side has less to do than the Argentinean side; there’s just one path along the river, but the views are fantastic — a full panorama of waterfalls. It was overcast and the cloud mixed with the spray of the waterfalls to almost hide them from our view for awhile, but luckily it cleared up. And we got to see monkeys!

In the afternoon we relaxed back at the hotel before heading to the bus station for another bus marathon. The first stage was an overnight bus (yay!) that left at around 7pm. It was quite a different experience than travelling on the Argentinean overnight bus, there was no movie and no food was provided. To make up for this, we made several quite long stops at roadhouses, where we could buy food and use the toilet.

Paraty, Brazil
Paraty, Brazil

Thursday 8/9 I woke up about half an hour before we arrived in Sao Paulo, where we got off the first bus and waited for about two hours for the next one. It was another five hours or so to Paraty, and the second bus was really comfortable. Unfortunately I was so tired when we arrived I could hardly function, so we had an early night after a pizza dinner.

Linda in Paraty
Linda in Paraty
Friday 9/9 We were feeling a lot more awake after a good night’s sleep, but I wasn’t keen to join the others on a trip to the beach — it would have meant another two hours in a bus, for one thing. We went out for breakfast and lunch, and I wandered the town around in the afternoon while Craig worked. It’s a lovely old Portuguese colonial town, and no motorised vehicles are allowed in the historical centre, so it’s kept a lot of its colonial feeling.

In the evening, Washington came to meet us, which was awesome! He was a student at my language school back in New Zealand (though not my student) and we’ve kept in touch through Facebook. It was so good to see him again. We went out for dinner and drinks and he taught us a bit of Portuguese, notably the word “pirata” (pirate) because there was a guy dressed as Captain Jack Sparrow wandering around near our restaurant.

Saturday 10/9 We spent our last morning in Paraty taking some extra photos and videos, then caught a bumpy local bus to Angra Dos Reis. From there we hopped on a ferry to Ilha Grande, where we have three nights. First order of business was ordering a few caipirinhas — Craig and I even bought one from a street stall (it was good).

Ilha Grande Brazil
Ilha Grande Brazil
Sunday 11/9 The wonderful thing about Ilha Grande is that there are no cars on the island, you can only get around by foot or by boat. We decided to hike over to the other side of the island, though we delayed our departure because it was raining when we woke up. The walk over took about two hours, with a steep uphill to start, and along the way we saw tiny monkeys! They were so cute. The beach was worth the walk, though the weather could have been better — there was no sunbathing going on. Everyone else caught a boat back, but we decided to return by foot — good exercise, right?

Monday 12/9 We started the week in Ilha Grande, but since the weather wasn’t up to much, we spent most of the day inside working. In the evening Angie and I went shopping to buy the ingredients for caiprinhas, which we made on the balcony of our pousada (guesthouse) and which turned out to be pretty good — it was a bit of a surprise, because our equipment was quite slapdash. Dinner was a barbecue at the beach bar nearby.

Tuesday 13/9 Yasmina had organised a private boat and minibus transfer to Rio, which was a little more comfortable than the bumpy public bus we’d arrived on. Our hotel in Rio was amazing — one block back from Copacabana beach — and Craig and I somehow managed to score the most fantastic room ever, on the twelfth floor with beach views. We stayed in and worked while the others did a whistlestop tour of Rio’s main sights, but we caught up with them in the evening for a rather expensive last dinner and caiprinhas on the beach.

Wednesday 14/9 Our plan to spend the morning on the beach was scuppered by rain, so we made the most of the hotel wifi and worked until 1pm when the others left. Luckily the rain let up enough for us to walk the 40 minutes or so to Ipanema and our Couchsurfing host’s place — also incredibly well-located. We had been going to stay with someone else, but his relatives had arrived unexpectedly and he couldn’t host us. Luckily, Pedro responded to our post in the Rio Emergency Couch group and we ended up spending a fantastic couple of days with him and Maryanne, another couchsurfer who was also staying with him. Craig and I went for a walk around Ipanema in the afternoon, and spent the evening chatting with the others.

Monday 19/9 Our Couchsurfing place was in Santa Theresa, a lovely neighbourhood located quite a long way up a hill. As luck would have it, the top of this very hill is where Rio’s iconic Christ the Redeemer statue is located — we decided to walk up to it. The walk took about an hour and a half, along windy unpavemented streets, but the feeling of satisfaction at arriving at the ticket office was immense. The ticket price includes a minivan ride up the last stretch of hill, thank goodness, so we saved a bit of energy there. The statue is amazing and the views from the top of the hill even more so: we saw the Rio-Niteroi bridge that we’d driven across the day before with Washington, the lagoon near Pedro’s house, the Sugar Loaf, and of course Copacabana and Ipanema beaches.

Rio de Janeiro street art
Rio de Janeiro street art
The walk down was easier but just as long; we took a detour to another awesome lookout then continued down the hill to the supermarket for supplies. This was mildly stressful. We spent the evening with Ale and his cousin Edu, chatting and eating.

Tuesday 20/9 After getting a bit of work done in the morning, we walked down the hill to catch the metro to the Botanical Gardens. We only had two hours there before they closed, but they were fantastic, really well laid-out and with a lot of variety: from Japanese gardens to waterfalls and rivers. We spent the evening with Edu, drinking home-made caipirinhas and eating burritos for dinner.

Wednesday 21/9 We had an early start, but not as early as Edu, who left the house at 4am to head to the consulate. We had a more luxurious 7am wake-up, which gave us time to pack up in a leisurely fashion and leave at 8:30. The walk to the bus station was steep and difficult to start with but soon levelled out, and we hopped on a bus to Sao Paulo at 11am. On arrival six hours later, we called our Couchsurfing host Norma then navigated the metro to… the wrong stop. Fail. The return journey involved a transfer at Sé, in the central city, which was so packed they have security staff managing the crowds. We did eventually find the right stop and had a 15-minute walk through light rain to Norma’s place. All in all, a standard kind of transit day.

Norma made us extremely welcome, preparing a light supper for us and leaving a basket of tasty treats on our bed. She had to go out to a band practice and we waited for her husband Marcondes to get home from work before going to bed.

Thursday 22/9 After a sleep-in we headed to the supermarket with Marcondes, who then cooked us a tasty lunch before leaving for work. We were thinking about going into the city but left it too late; it looked like the weather in the centre was shocking anyway. Instead, we walked around the neighbourhood where we’re staying (Penha), had a tasty hot chocolate, and got into a long conversation with the checkout guy at the fruit shop. In the evening we made caipirinhas with Norma then chatted with her and Marcondes after he came home. Spanish is the lingua franca at the moment… our Portuguese is almost non-existent and they don’t speak much English, but we’re all getting by in Spanish.

Sao Paulo Municipal Theatre
Sao Paulo Municipal Theatre

Friday 23/9 Craig and I prepared lunch in the morning, which we all ate together before Marcondes had to go to work. We also headed out not too long after, and caught the metro to Sé, where we looked at the cathedral, the municipal theatre, and other city-centre highlights before walking along Avenida Paulista.

Apparently it was the Day of the Icecream and an army of red-shirted young people were handing out iceblocks outside the art gallery, we scored two each on the way past and a Magnum to share on the way back. It started to rain so we had a coffee and had a look around some of the bookshops and art spaces along the avenue before wandering along to Vila Madalena, where we had planned to meet my ex-student Felipe and some couchsurfing acquaintances Thaís and Daniel. We ended up having a lovely evening chatting and drinking some very tasty caipirinhas (well, I did anyway, Craig stuck to beer).

Saturday 24/9 Unfortunately Craig woke up feeling sick and didn’t improve as the day went on, so he spent the day in bed catching up on some reading while I headed out shopping with Norma and Marcondes. We started by catching a bus then a metro to a shopping mall where we picked up a car they had hired, then drove around the city visiting their favourite food shops. Norma made sure to take a round-about way so I got a personalised tour of the city centre, as well as having a chance to see the Japanese shops in the Liberdade area.

Marcondes, Norma and Linda in Liberdade
Marcondes, Norma and Linda in Liberdade

Lunch was an enormous feijoada that we picked up on the way home, after which we rested for a couple of hours then got ready to go out. Norma’s a singer and was performing in two bands in a bar in Itaquera; it was a perfect excuse for a night out. I got to practice my Portuguese with the other band supporters, including Norma’s parents, who are really lovely and were incredibly patient with my stumbling attempts at communication. Everything wrapped up at about 5am and I dived into bed as the sun was rising.

Sunday 25/9 Getting up didn’t seem like a very good idea, but we managed it. Craig was feeling a little better so we recorded the podcast and got some other work done while Norma and Marcondes returned the car.

Now, it’s mid-afternoon on Sunday and we’re planning to head to the bus station via the museum of the Portuguese language in the Luz metro station; we’ve heard it’s really good. Our overnight bus to Foz do Iguaçu leaves at 8pm… obviously, we’re really looking forward to it.

Monday 26/9
Yesterday turned out to be more exciting than we expected; we headed out the door at around 3pm, planning to meet Felipe and Clarice at the Museum of the Portuguese Language at four. We spent 20-minute walk to the metro talking about the impending overnight bus trip; on arrival Craig realised he didn’t know where the tickets for this trip were. He’d taken them out of his wallet when we set off to explore “very dangerous” São Paulo, and hadn’t put them back in again. After sifting through almost all our stuff looking for them, we decided they must be back at Norma and Marcondes’s place. He turned around to find them and I continued on to meet Felipe and Clarice.

Luckily the tickets were found and Craig met up with us when we came out of the museum. We had a nice dinner of stuffed potatoes then Felipe and Clarice dropped us off at the bus station to catch our overnight bus back to Foz do Iguaçu.

Strangely, I managed to sleep quite well on the bus, and woke up in time for the last rest stop before arriving in Foz, which meant I could have a coffee, wash my face, and arrive in a relatively human state. We caught a local bus to the urban bus terminal and checked into a hotel nearby before walking into town to organise my visa for Paraguay. I thought we’d just have to drop off the paperwork and pick it up the next morning, but no, they did it while we waited. Waited for quite some time, though; we were starving when we finally had lunch, but the two enormous “com tudo” hamburgers and chips made up for it.

We worked and rested for the rest of the afternoon, then had a light dinner from the supermarket before bed.

Tuesday 27/9 Checkout was at 11:30, so we had a long lazy morning and caught a local bus across the border at around 12. I asked the driver to stop for us at the Brazilian customs office, and he gave us tickets that would let us on the next bus that came along. Score! This meant we didn’t have to walk across the bridge in the searing heat. On the Paraguayan side, we didn’t have any trouble getting into the country, and a helpful woman at the tourist office told us everything we needed to know about Ciudad del Este and about travelling in Paraguay.

It was a long walk to the hotel she recommended, but worth it: the same price as the hostel we’d found online, but with a private bathroom and a good location close to the bus station. After settling in, we walked back into town to find an ATM and have lunch, then caught another local bus to the Itaipu Dam. The woman at the tourist information office had failed to mention that there are only four tours a day, but by sheer good luck we showed up in time for the last one. The trip was about half an hour on a coach, and was well worth doing, though it would have been nice to have had more stops in different parts of the dam. When we got back to the visitor centre, we realised that we had missed the movie that precedes the tour, but a nice receptionist put it on for us when we asked about it.

Itaipu Dam
Itaipu Dam

We had to wait quite some time for a bus back to the city, but one eventually arrived and we walked back to our hotel for a rest before heading out for arabes for dinner, which are a local take on kebabs.

Wednesday 28/9 We’d been planning to spend just a day or so in Ciudad del Este, but our accommodation was comfortable and the wifi worked, so we decided to slow down and spend a couple more days there working. Meals, as always, were highlights: for lunch I had al monida (a kind of dumpling stew) which the server assured me was more Paraguayan than Paraguayans, and for dinner we had arabes again. Yum.

Thursday 29/9 Another work day, and I also opened my Spanish grammar book for the first time in a while. In the evening we watched Eat, Pray, Love on DVD.

Friday 30/9 We checked out at ten and walked across the road to buy tickets for the 11am bus to Encarnación, which left on time and dropped us at the Encarnación bus station at about 4:20. There was no tourist office to be seen, but we got a hotel recommendation from a ticket seller and checked in at a hotel across the road. The hotel manager gave us a map and information about how to get to the Unesco-registered sites nearby: basically, it’s going to be a mission.

We dropped our bags then headed out to explore the city. It’s small, but is developing rapidly: a nice riverside walkway is being constructed and the town square is green and shady. We had dinner at a comedor at the SuperSeis supermarket; the food was cheap and tasty. In the evening we watched an episode of Life and drank Chilean wine.

Saturday 1/10 Our plans to visit the Unesco sites were scuppered when we woke up to the sound of thunderstorms. We decided to extend our stay, and since the weather forecast for Sunday wasn’t much better than that for Saturday, we arranged to stay until Tuesday morning.

Instead, we spent the day mostly indoors, first sleeping then working and studying. Lunch was a hilarious experience at the comedor behind the bus station, where we ate meat barbecued on an outdoor grill while listening to several different bad Spanish pop songs at the same time; every restaurant wanted to play their own music, loudly, on stereos with bad speakers. It was awesome. The food was good, though, even if the temperature had dropped 20 degrees and we were shivering in the wind.

In the evening we had dinner at the SuperSeis again and watched Catfish.

Sunday 2/10 The weather turned out to be a lot better than predicted, but we’d slept in so late by the time we realised this that it wasn’t worth heading out sightseeing. Anyway, it was Sunday and almost everything was closed anyway, there would probably be fewer buses and it would just be too hard… We decided to stick to our plan of going on Monday. Instead, we recorded the podcast then went out for a walk to find coffee. In the afternoon we got some more work done and headed back to the SuperSeis for dinner.

Monday 3/10 It was a perfect day for an excursion, and we decided to start early to make the most of it, leaving the hotel at around 9am. The first bus got us to Trinidad at 10, and there was a bus waiting there to take us on to our first destination, Jesús de Tavarangüe. It’s one of the 30 towns established by the Jesuits in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but was sadly never completed because the Spanish kicked the Jesuits out of the area in 1767.

Linda at Trinidad, Paraguay
Linda at Trinidad

We didn’t have much time at Jesús because of the bus timetable; we caught the same bus back to Trinidad at 11, to see the ruins of Trinidad del Paraná. This mission actually functioned as a town and there was more to see, including a bell tower and a crypt. After a pretty expensive lunch we headed over to the nearby quarry where the stones used for the construction of the mission were obtained, and our guide invited us to try tereré (cold mate tea). It was good.

We had to wait awhile for the bus back to town, but it eventually arrived. In the afternoon we went for a last walk around Encarnación and had dinner at the Super Seis.

Tuesday 4/10 We’d planned to catch the bus to Asunción at 9:30 but arrived in time to take one half an hour earlier. It wasn’t a comfortable trip, but we arrived in one piece and found our way to a hostel near the city centre, where we dropped off our bags before heading out to find an optometrist. I’ve been having problems with my eyes and just wanted to buy some eye drops, but ended up being seeing an optometrist who gave me three different types. It was brilliant.

Monday 10/10 The week started as we meant it to continue; we slept in then relaxed and worked for the rest of the day. It was a public holiday so Lila wasn’t at school, and an Australian friend of Leigh and Noah’s came around for lunch.

Tuesday 11/10 Craig and I both got a lot of work done during the day. In evening we headed out with Leigh and Noah to the opening of an exhibit in the art gallery; it was really interesting: 200 photos of writers to celebrate 200 years of Argentinean independence. There were snacks on offer that I found quintessentially Argentinean too: tiny empanadas and mini pastries filled with dulce de leche.

Afterwards we bought milanesa sandwiches from a takeaway place and ate them in the town square.

Wednesday 12/10 The task for today was to try to clean the pool, which has about a foot of water in the bottom of it, and which is inhabited by many tiny tadpoles and a couple of happy frogs. Sadly, our efforts came to nothing: the pump didn’t seem to want to pump out the water no matter what we tried. We’re still not sure whether the mechanism is blocked or if we need to hire a separate pump to get rid of the water; the pool guy who was supposed to come on Saturday could have told us had he ever turned up.

Thursday 13/10 We all left the house early to drop Lila off at school, then Leigh, Noah, Craig and I had coffee and medialunas at a nearby cafe before heading to school ourselves. Leigh and Noah teach a weekly class in a high school in a low-income area of Salta, where students can learn about new media and photography. Craig and I spoke about ITP then helped some of the students set up their own blogs. Afterwards we went shopping at an enormous supermarket and bought enough flour for a year.

Friday 14/10 After a work-focused morning, Craig and I headed out for a walk in the afternoon and even managed not to get lost.

Saturday 15/10 The morning started well: with pancakes. I think Leigh has the best recipe ever, they were so tasty! In the afternoon I did a bit of Spanish study while Craig worked, and in the evening Noah made an incredible asado.

Sunday 16/10 Another lazy day, but gloriously sunny!

Monday 17/10 Noah takes Lila into school at 7:30 in the morning, and today we dragged ourselves out of bed early enough to get a lift in with them. We had two things on the agenda: pick up my new glasses from the optometrist, and visit the museum.

Market veges Salta
At the market

It had been an early start though, so we began the day with coffee and medialunas at a café on the main square before heading to the museum to check the opening hours. Which is when we discovered that it doesn’t open on Mondays. Drat.

Next, we headed to the mall to pick up the glasses. Of course, being 9:30 by this time, the mall wasn’t open either, but a least it professed to opening at 10. We skulked around the supermarket a bit and arrived at the optometrist’s at five past ten. However, there was a problem here too, and it wasn’t just that my new lenses were so much stronger than my old ones that they made me dizzy; the credit card machine wasn’t working. We tried all of our cards to no avail, and eventually Federico let us go without paying, as long as we promised to come back the next day. We left my old glasses with him as security, though I’m not sure how much security it is to leave behind something that will very shortly take up space in a rubbish bin.

Around Salta
In Salta la linda

Finally, we went to the market, where we had a lot more luck than in our other endeavours, and bought a whole bunch of vegetables as well as some Jesus Cheese. (The vendor’s cart was graced by a large picture of The Lord.)

Tuesday 18/10 After a morning spent wrangling the Air Asia website and making phone calls to the bank, we caught the bus into the city — to visit the museum and pay for my glasses. You can imagine our mirth when when we couldn’t pay for the glasses since the new machine hadn’t arrived yet. And the fun continued when, on arriving at the museum, we discovered that it was closed for the day for maintenance. Ha! Ha! Ha!

The day wasn’t completely wasted though: I bought some popcorn. It was good.

Irreverent empanadas
Irreverent empanadas (apple edition)

Wednesday 19/10 We’d told Federico that there was no way we’d be coming back on Wednesday to attempt to pay for the glasses, so we spent the day at home working and catching up on some reading.

Thursday 20/10 Thursday means an early start; we dropped Lila off then had coffee and medialunas at the bus station before heading to school. My little group kept working on the blog we’d started the week before, adding a couple of posts and changing the theme. Leigh and Noah were working with iMovie and Photoshop, and Craig was helping another group start a whole-class blog.

Afterwards we visited Yaguar, which turned out to be another bulk-food place which, like the one we visited last week, doesn’t sell unadulterated coffee — all the coffee here is laced with sugar. We had very tasty empanadas for lunch before heading back to the mall and finally paying for the glasses, though not by card; we had to take cash out. Federico kindly gave us a discount to make up for the fact that withdrawing cash is stupidly expensive here, and we were all happy.
the evening we made our first batch of Irreverent Empanadas. Argentinians take their empanadas very seriously and would never consider filling them with some of the things we plan to put in them. We started simply though; Fried Apple. Dusted with sugar, of course. They were tasty.

Friday 21/10 After the excitement of yesterday, we needed a rest; we stayed home and worked.

Wichi community at Hickman - cute kid
At the Wichi village

Saturday 22/10 Noah, Craig and I left the house at about 7:30 for the long drive north to the Wichi village at Hickman. Lila had woken up with a fever so Leigh had to stay home with her, which was a pity.

The drive took about four hours, which we broke with a stop for coffee and medialunas halfway there. It was midday and hot when we arrived, and Noah’s contact Simón invited us to sit in the shade while he finished the section of fishing net he was making. Women and kids started to gather around; Noah handed out the oranges he’d brought.

It was a pretty laid-back visit. Noah gave out batteries for the cameras they leave there so that the kids can take photos, and we talked with Simón and another community leader called Ramón about how they’d like Cloudhead to help the village in the future. Then we gave out the clothes that Leigh and Noah had collected at a recent exhibition they’d put on to display photos of the village, many of which were taken by the kids themselves. It was great to see the kids’ eyes light up as they played with the cameras.

Ramón and Simón seemed to be gradually accepting the fact that Cloudhead really wanted to help them and aren’t going to do a runner like has happened in the past. We talked about what they wanted: to plant crops, some bricks to repair the church… It wasn’t a lot.

Wichi community at Hickman | Cloudhead - 02
Checking the photos

It was dark by the time we got home, and Leigh had prepared a tasty soup and episode two of the Irreverent Empanadas: Steamed Red Bean. They were good but a little sweet; we plan to refine the recipe for next time.

Sunday 23/10 We had tried to find a live stream to watch some of the other Rugby World Cup games, and had failed. This morning though, Craig found one on Veetle, which was recommended to us by the owner of the hostel we stayed in in Asuncion. And thank goodness — I wouldn’t have wanted to miss the final!

New Zealand was playing France, a repeat of the quarter-final game we’d seen in Zurich four years ago. Last time, we lost. This time, we did not — and the World Cup finally belongs to New Zealand again! We expressed our joy very quietly, given the early hour (7am) and went back to sleep.

The rest of the day was relatively lazy, Craig did some work while I read (I’ve been catching up on some Terry Pratchett) and in the evening I smashed him at the Catan card game.

Monday 24/10 The week started slowly, with a day at home working.

Tuesday 25/10 After a worky morning, Noah, Craig and I drove to the hardware store to get equipment to clean and paint the pool. It was an adventure; one that involved asking lots of questions and visiting many sections of the enormous store, some more than once. When we got home it was too late to start work, so we spent the evening relaxing.

Wednesday 26/10 It was a perfect day for working on the pool, so Craig and I headed outside in the morning to start sanding, then moved on to washing down the walls with a spectacularly toxic acid. We had to take a break in the afternoon when the sun was overhead because it was just too hot, but we got back into it in the late afternoon when the shade reappeared.

Thursday 27/10 After dropping Lila at school and having cafe con leche and medialunas for breakfast, we headed to school for a class on Photoshop. I don’t use Photoshop very much, so I demonstrated what not to do by showing the students photoshopdisasters.com. Later, we went to an enormous fruit and vegetable market and bought an incredible supply of fruit and veg, which will probably last us at least a couple of days. Then we visited the bulk shopping supermarket, which was possibly a mistake… Let’s just say that the cupboards are now full.

One of the things we bought was empanada pastry, which I put to work as soon as we got home. The new additions to the Irreverent Empanada family: breakfast empanadas, three cheese (yum) and strawberry and ricotta.

In the afternoon Craig built a compost bin while I did a bit more sanding in the pool, and Noah attacked the dirtiest areas with acid.

Empanadas - apple, spinach
Irreverent Empanadas -- spinach and ricotta, apple and raisin

Friday 28/10 Definitely a day of progress! We did the last acid wash, cleaning down the floor of the pool, and waited for that to dry before filling the cracks and holes with sealant.

In the evening Noah took Craig and me over to a friend’s house for an empanada party. It was really fun; we met heaps of cool people, I learned how to do a proper empanada fold (although my first attempts were pretty rubbish), and the empanadas were really tasty. We carefully refrained from mentioning the Irreverent Empanada project, for fear of being lynched, but Leigh said later that they probably would have understood.

Chat Roulette
Chat Roulette

Saturday 29/10 We were all set to paint in the morning but the sealant hadn’t quite set, so we put it off until the afternoon — when it rained. Fail. At least I got to try out my new empanada fold — Lila and I made two very tasty batches of empanadas: spinach and ricotta, and apple and raisin. The best so far, I’d say.

Sunday 30/10 After emptying the rain out of the pool (the drainage system still isn’t working; yay for buckets), we decided once again not to paint for fear of rain. Tomorrow, definitely!

I spent the rest of the day catching up with some of my language partners (notably Maria from Spain and Luis de Chile) and watching Gran Reserva, a TV show set in a winery, which Maria told me about a while ago. In the evening Leigh introduced me to Chat Roulette, which was definitely an experience — mostly a boring one, but an experience nonetheless.

Monday 31/10 The preparation was done and we finally had a sunny day, so in the morning we got started with the task we’d been waiting for: painting. Set-up took a bit of time, including what felt like half an hour just to get the lid off the paint bucket. Finally we were ready though, and we spent the morning painting over the cracks that we’d sealed last week.

After an afternoon rest, we were back out there, this time to do the first full coat. I worked on the corners, rims and steps while Craig painted the walls with the large roller, then we worked together to paint the floor. It was satisfying to finish and head inside for a nice cold glass of water.

Tuesday 1/11 It was another really hot day, so we started early in order to get the second coat done by lunchtime. The paint dried quickly, so after dinner we rigged up the hoses to start filling it up… but unfortunately it’s going to be a slow process. There’s a water regulation system here in which the water is only turned on for a few hours at night, enough to fill a large tank in the roof of the house for use during the day. It’s a great system and I fully approve of it, but we’ll have to wait a bit to be able to use the pool.

breakfast tacos
Breakfast tacos

Wednesday 2/11 With our project completed, we were at a bit of a loose end — so we worked. In the afternoon Craig and I went for a walk and tried to put together a plan for the near future.

Thursday 3/11 Thursday is school day, so Leigh, Noah, Lila and I headed off in the early morning, leaving Craig at home with a sore stomach. After dropping Lila at her school, the rest of us had great coffee and the best medialunas thus far in a cafe in the city before heading to our school. Today the project was to plan a video to enter in a local competition, and to find similar videos on YouTube for inspiration.

Afterwards we visited the local market and the mall to get supplies for the week and Noah made summer rolls for lunch. These are my new favourite thing, I’m looking forward to making them at home when we get back!

In the afternoon I made the next installation of Irreverent Empanadas, banana and chocolate chip. They were tasty but we were all so full after milanesas and salad that we didn’t finish them all. Sad.

Linda with blueberries
In the art gallery

Friday 4/11 Mostly a work day, pleasantly broken up by breakfast tacos (thanks Noah). In the evening Leigh, Noah, Craig and I went to the opening of an art exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary art, where we were given sparkling wine and blueberries. Afterwards we went to an asado to celebrate the birthday of Hugh, a friend of Leigh and Noah’s.

Saturday 5/11
Another work day, during which Craig finished the first draft of the Travel Safety book that he’s writing with Craig Bidois. In the evening we met up with the mother of a friend of Lila’s for milanesa sandwiches.

Sunday 6/11 I managed to drop and damage my new glasses in the morning, so I wasn’t very impressed with myself. I spent a fair part of the day trying to find solutions but when none were forthcoming I gave up and watched Napoleon Dynamite with Craig, and Craig played chess with Noah.

The pool has been ever-so-slowly filling itself, we’re hoping by the end of next week it might be finished. I’ll keep you informed!

Partly-full pool
The pool on Monday morning

Monday 7/11 The sun was streaming through the window when I woke up, with a hot insistency that reminded me of summer camping — that feeling that you have two choices: either get up or suffocate. Plus a fly or something kept landing on various parts of my body, which was very annoying. When I reached up to brush it off, it stung me: not a fly, then. It turned out to be a hornet; Craig hurriedly looked up hornet-sting remedies on Google and I spent the next little while holding an ice pack to my finger. 

We spent the rest of the day working; Craig wanted to completely finish the travel-safety book by the end of the week and I was preparing videos to publish next year. 

In the evening Leigh and Noah went out to a concert and Lila and I made chicken empanadas; probably the closest to traditional that we’ve attempted, though I don’t think the salteños put eggplant in theirs.

MAAM Salta
The museum of high-altitude archeology

Tuesday 8/11 Craig and I decided to make one more attempt to visit the Museum of High-Altitude Archeology, with the hope that it’d be a case of third time lucky. First, though, we headed into the mall to visit the optometrist and buy a huge bottle of soft drink as protection against the sweltering heat; it was a long walk to the main plaza where the museum is situated. Luckily it was open, and even more luckily, air-conditioned.

It’s an interesting museum that houses the mummified remains of three children who were human sacrifices about 500 years ago. But although it was beautifully laid-out, the museum left us feeling quite confused, and we had to do a bit of research when we got home to understand what we had seen.

After the museum, we went to La Esquina for tasty milanesa sandwiches, then headed back into the centre to look for Aerolineas Argentinas — hoping to redeem airpoints for flights to Buenos Aires. We found the office, but it was closed for the siesta and wouldn’t reopen until 4.30. Instead, we visited the beautiful church of San Francisco — or at least looked at it; it was also closed.

The only other thing we wanted to do was add credit to our bus card, but this was easier said than done. After asking at several shops, we found one that usually could give us credit but couldn’t right at that moment; we had a coffee in the main square while we waited for their system to come back online. Of course, it didn’t, and we ended up walking back to the shop near the market where we’d originally bought the card. What a mission!

Church of San Francisco, Salta
Church of San Francisco

Wednesday 9/11 It was another sweltering day, so we spent a lot of it lazing around. Craig worked and I read my book and chatted with friends. 

Thursday 10/11 Thursday is usually a school day, but today was a public holiday so we slept in. The weather turned nasty and it rained most of the day, so we stayed at home and got some editing done.

Friday 11/11 When Craig headed downstairs to make coffee, he found his shoes lying in the middle of the floor — and not in the same state as he’d left them. Pipa the dog had given one of them a good chewing, rendering it unusable. She’d also gotten into the compost bin that Craig made last week. Needless to say, we were not impressed with her.

Salta food festival
Balcarce markets

In the afternoon I made dolmades and Noah cooked milanesas for lunch. After a slow day we ate dolmades for dinner and watched 500 Days of Summer before bed.

Saturday 12/11 After a morning of editing, we borrowed Leigh and Noah’s car to head into town to find Craig some replacement shoes. Luckily Timberland had some decent ones, and we managed to negotiate a minuscule discount when the machine wouldn’t let us pay by card — withdrawing money here is expensive!

In the evening Noah took Lila to a dance performance, and dropped us in the city so we could go to the International Food Festival. First, though, we walked into town along Balcarce Street, browsing the beautiful wares in the market along the way and joining the throngs of people in the pedestrian malls in the centre. Salta always seems to be at its busiest in the evening.

Linda creeping through the undergrowth
Linda creeping through the undergrowth

Back at the other end of Balcarce, peña restaurants were trying to draw in customers to see their “traditional” shows. We managed not to get pulled in and made it through the crowds at the end of the street to the food festival. There was a stage set up for dance performances, but we were more interested in the food. We started with Chilean empanadas paired with a pisco sour, then moved on to Peruvian potatoes, followed by an Argentinean chicken skewer and a Brazilian caipirinha. For dessert we had French cake then Italian cake with a glass of Argentinean wine. It was brilliant.

Sunday 13/11 Right behind Leigh and Noah’s place are some hills populated by cows and horses and a large forest stretching up into the mountains. The temperature was perfect for a walk, so we packed a bag and headed into the bush. However, after about half an hour we changed our mind, having gotten sick of being grabbed at by the prickly undergrowth — we turned around and walked into San Lorenzo town for ice cream.

When we got back, we were pleasantly hot and decided that it was time to try out the pool for the first time. The water level is finally about right and Leigh and Noah had added the right chemicals and tested the balance the day before, as well as taking out suicidal frogs when necessary.

The water was cool and clear and we only had to pull out two frogs during our swim — it was a great way to end a hot walk.

Craig jumping into the pool
First swim!

Monday 14/11 To start the week, we caught the bus into town to go to a museum that we’d heard a lot about, Pajcha. Because it’s closed during the middle of the day, we headed to a cafe to do the final edits on the Travel Safety book, then wandered around town a bit before arriving at Pajcha just after it reopened at 4pm. We were met at the door by Diego, the effusive polyglottal co-director, who explained the downstairs exhibits to us (and the many other visitors) at length, then accompanied us upstairs so that we could ask him questions about what was on display. It’s quite a small museum, but well-curated with a lot of interesting pieces. And Diego’s enthusiasm gave it all a lot of life.

Salta church of San Francisco
Church of San Francisco, Salta

In the evening Craig manned the parilla for tasty asado of four different types of sausage. Yum.

Tuesday 15/11 We spent most of the day at home since the weather wasn’t great, but headed out for a walk in the afternoon. Dinner was kebab skewers and barbecue ribs that Noah had picked up the day before: very tasty.

Wednesday 16/11 After a meeting to discuss upcoming books, Craig and I headed out for a long walk around San Lorenzo. In the afternoon, he kept working and I read the last book in the Narnia series… The book belongs to Leigh and Noah and I wanted to finish it before we left!

Thursday 17/11 Leigh wasn’t feeling well, so she stayed at home while the rest of us dropped Lila at school, had coffee and medialunas, and headed to class. For some reason the class was being held in a different location about three blocks from the school where it is normally — not that it mattered. The task for today was for the students to hit the streets with videocameras and interview locals about what they think about the neighbourhood. It was fun.

Afterwards, Noah dropped Craig and me at the bus station so we could buy our tickets to Buenos Aires. We met up with him at the market after buying a huge amount of cheap fruit and vegetables… It makes me sad to think about how much they’re going to cost back in New Zealand.

Salta breakfast
A typical Argentinean breakfast

Friday 18/11 Craig wanted to go to a museum that offers free entrance before 10am, and since it takes an hour or so to get into town, we had to make an early start. At least the weather was nicer than it had been for the rest of the week and we didn’t have to walk in the rain.

The museum, el Museo de Historia del Norte, (the museum of the history of the north of Argentina), was interesting but like the museum of high-altitude archaeology, raised more questions than it answered. It had a lot of awesome artefacts, but they could have been much better curated.

Salta la linda
Salta really is a very pretty town

We did a bit of shopping and had a great coffee and excellent medialunas in a café’s courtyard, then took the teleférico (gondola) to the top of Cerro San Bernardo for great views of the city. When we came back down we had a sit-down lunch at a small outdoor restaurant behind the craft market — our table was right by the lake, it was awesome.

In the evening, Leigh, Noah and I headed back into the city to see Lila perform in her school production, which was held at the main theatre in the centre of town. It was spectacular; it started with inexplicable gymnastics and ended with a video of parents doing a dance routine. The rest of it made more sense and was very entertaining, and Lila looked really cute in her musical hat.

We picked up incredibly tasty empanadas for dinner, which we paired with Fernet and Coke for a wonderfully Argentinean dinner.

Lunch in Salta by the lake
Lakeside lunch

Saturday 19/11 Leigh and Noah had invited some friends around for a lunchtime asado, so we spent the morning preparing, and the afternoon hanging out with them and eating tasty meat and vegetables.

After the friends left, Craig, Lila and I decided to go for a swim. The weather was a little too cold for it, but we had fun anyway. In the evening Craig helped Leigh and Noah with their website, Lila showed me her awesome circuit-making kit, and I talked to a friend from Colombia via Skype.

Sunday 20/11 Our last full day in Salta: tomorrow it’s the long ride to Buenos Aires. We spent the day working, packing and generally getting ready to go.

Monday 21/11 We made an early start so that we could get a lift into town with Leigh, Noah and Lila, saying goodbye to Lila at her school entrance. Afterwards, we had breakfast with Leigh and Noah at a buffet which offered 27 different types of bread product — impressive. After a final wander around town, during which we failed to find the game a friend of mine asked me to buy him, Leigh and Noah dropped us at the bus station and we hopped on the bus to Buenos Aires. It’s a long trip — 19 hours — but we chose a slightly more expensive seat option which at least meant we saved a few hours of travel time: some of the journeys were 23 hours long! The bus stopped at around 8pm and we all got off for dinner in a roadside restaurant, which was included in the cost of the bus ticket, and was quite tasty. When we got back on the bus, Craig and I made ourselves comfortable and drifted off to sleep.

Buenos Aires breakfast
Buenos Aires breakfast

Tuesday 22/11 The bus was supposed to arrive in Buenos Aires at 7am, but we got in half an hour or so early, and got off the bus fuzzy-headed and unsure of what to do next. I’d filled Craig’s metal water bottle with hot water from the bus’s coffee supply and grabbed a couple of coffee teabags, so we sat in the waiting room for a little while, sipping our coffees and waiting for alertness to arrive.

We’d booked an apartment in Recoleta through Roomorama, but checkin was early afternoon and it was still quite definitely early morning, so we found a cafe for coffee and medialunas, and used their wifi to plan the next few days. After that, we walked in the general direction of the apartment and found ourselves outside Craig’s favourite bookshop in the world, El Ateneo, housed in an old theatre. We hung out there for a while and were having very overpriced coffee in their cafe when our contact for the apartment called and said we could check in early, so we did.

Next, we headed to Avenida Corrientes to buy books. I love Avenida Corrientes; I just wish I had more space in my bag to fit in all the books I’d like to buy. Afterwards we took the long route home so that we could visit Recoleta cemetery, which is full of beautiful tombs. Some of them are in quite bad repair though, which is a pity.

Recoleta cemetery Buenos Aires
Recoleta cemetery

Wednesday 23/11 Our task for today was to vote: the New Zealand general elections were going to be held on Saturday and we had to vote before then. At least it was easier than three years ago, when we were living in Perth and had to trawl the city for a fax machine; this time we could just go into the embassy and vote there. Afterwards we had panchos for lunch and caught the metro a few stops to the Xul Solar museum, which displays the art of a well-known Argentinean artist.

In the evening we ate at El Fortín, a parrilla restaurant located near our apartment, and chose the parrillada: sausage, blood sausage, various cuts of meat, kidneys and intestines. It was tasty.

Thursday 24/11 Craig wanted to visit MALBA, the museum of modern art, so we headed there on foot, making our way leisurely in that direction. On the way we visited the Recoleta church, which has a small museum of religious art tucked away through one of its archways. It was well worth the five-peso entrance fee. We also visited La Flor (a beautiful flower sculpture) and had a coffee and medialunas in a cafe before finally making it to MALBA, where we spent a couple of hours. The art was amazing and varied; I particularly liked the park benches.

Our route home took us through several of Palermo’s parks, we bought a drink in one and had choripan for lunch in another before catching the metro home.

One of Buenos Aires' many parks
One of Buenos Aires' many parks

Back at the apartment, we discovered that our laptop charger had bitten the dust, so we took a walk to the nearby Mac store to see if it could be replaced. Unfortunately it would take two months to get a new one (!) which isn’t very useful to us. The clerk did let us leave Craig’s laptop with her to get charged for a couple of hours though.

In the evening we ate parrilla leftovers and salad and watched Prince Caspian on TV.

Friday 25/11 We’d planned an early start but somehow didn’t manage it, and arrived at Teatro Colon at 11:45, instead of a couple of hours earlier. It’s a popular attraction, and even with tours every 15 minutes the earliest we could get tickets was at 12:45. And that was in Spanish; if we’d wanted to do the English tour we’d have had to wait until 3pm. The tour was really interesting and the theatre is beautiful — we were lucky to see it lit up actually because we’d been told that there was a lighting rehearsal and that the theatre would be dark. But the workers must have gone to lunch and we got to see it in all its glory.

Teatro Colon
Teatro Colon

After a lazy afternoon, Juli and Naty (our friends from La Plata) picked us up and we went for a drive around San Isidro, an old part of the city, before dinner at a fish restaurant. Craig wasn’t feeling too well so it wasn’t a late night, but it was great to spend a few hours with them.

Night of the bookshops
Night of the bookshops

Saturday 26/11 There was some problem with our accommodation booking and we had to move apartments on Saturday morning, which meant packing up and catching the metro to Palermo Hollywood. Luckily our apartment was ready and we moved in immediately and spent the afternoon relaxing. In the evening we caught the metro back to Avenida Corrientes to join in the Night of the Bookshops celebrations — there was music, a Scrabble competition, a mural being painted, and lots of people roaming around. We bought icecream and a couple of books, then had cheap pizza and beer for dinner before heading home and watching a Harry Potter movie on TV. It’s quite novel to have a TV!

Sunday 27/11 We managed to make an earlier start, and spent the morning exploring the San Telmo markets, after which we had our last cafe con medialunas in a bookshop cafe and caught the metro home.

Our apartment for our last night in Buenos Aires
Our apartment for our last night in Buenos Aires

We spent the afternoon relaxing and working then got ready for the epic journey home. To get to the airport had to walk, catch the metro, then catch a bus — a much longer route than taking a taxi would be, but a tenth of the price. Luckily it went without a hitch, and we got to the airport early. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 2:30am, and took off only an hour late — which for Aerolineas Argentinas is actually pretty good going.

Back in New Zealand The flight was uncomfortable but we made it home and through security with no problems, using the self-check machines for the first time. We were happy to note that none of the bottles of wine and spirits we’d packed into my bag had broken during the flight, though it seemed that we hadn’t had to check the bag in after all, since no-one was bothered by the other liquids we were inadvertently carrying in our carry-on luggage.

My dad picked us up from the airport and we collected our car from Ange, who had been looking after it for us. After that, we visited my mum to get some clothes and other essentials from her cupboard, then headed back home to Chris and Sarah’s place.

This week has been full of catching up with people and running errands — we’ve caught up with Craig’s parents and a bunch of our friends, and I started work on Friday. I especially enjoyed getting paid for it the day before because of the way the pay schedule works! The weather has been pretty good too — looks like we’re in for an excellent summer!

Your thoughts on "Travel diary 2011"

Would you like to leave a comment?