Sunday, 27 June 2010

Road tripping through the US of A

So I seem to have created a whole new webpage for the North American part of my trip which I don't really want to do as I am very lazy and this will require more work for me. save me re-writting everything to this blog just click the link below to read up on my adventures across the Americas!

Economy Crashing America vs. Cato el Conquistador

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Sunday, 11 April 2010

Life's a Beach!!!

An Island somewhere far, far away...

Take some time to think of your favorite destination on earth.

Perhaps your destination has spectacular beaches or beautiful lush rainforest. Or you may simply prefer scrumptious cuisines day after day. Often the currency exchange will be at the top of our list as we always want more for less. All bar that few percentage of albinos (or the British) will be on the hunt for some excessive hits of vitamin C to darken their pastiness. Now…take all of that and add the most beautiful women you have ever seen into it and you have found my favorite holiday destination! 

What I talk about I can not name as it would be like Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves giving away the secret password to a world of endless pleasure. We all need our own secluded get aways and this place is mine! 

Aaron the Kiwi and I arrived on the Island after chilling in Lencois for a few days. Aaron has been twice already (once only a few weeks before) so you can imagine my expectations are quiet high! There is too much to see to spend your time going over an experience already experienced so I was excited and anxious to be here and see what all the rave was about. Lucky we had rested hard for about…hmmm…3 days as we were flung right back into it here with the continuations of Carnival post parties and the End of Summer parties to keep us entertained. 

Whilst here we stayed at 2 different hostels. Sunset Backpackers was definitely the pick and one of my favorite hostels in South America. Priced higher then most but what an amazing view and group of staff. Happy hour every night (free cocktail) is a necessity in ever hostel so good work Junior and staff in getting those caipirinhas to us all on the hour! If you make it to SB you may see my ugly mug hanging over the bar…a gift to the owner who caught a few of us having late night snacks from the kitchen on CCTV! Most days were spent at the beach which has some of the best surf in Brazil. Nights were spent drinking or…. drinking! We hired scooters to get from A to B and is quiet inexpensive. It takes a good few hours to get around the island and some very scenic locations. Some good clubs on the Island but none will compare to P12. This day club is set around a massive pool. Drinks are excessive but stiff. Bikini's are everywhere and after a day in the sun sipping on cocktails its time for a boogie on the dance floor!

With copious amounts of booze as a lubricator many friends were made and whilst causing shenanigans on this island getaway like no other. I'm sure you don't need me to ramble on anymore as your probably just googling at the pictures!

After 2 weeks being spoiled on the 'Island of Pleasure' I ventured back to Rio where I did all the touristy things that I hadn't had time for over the Carnival period. Jesus, Sugar Loaf, The Botanical Gardens and also an epic ride hang-gliding over Rio de Janeiro. Whilst I was flying the chance of making my next flight out of South America were growing slimmer and as it turns out I missed my flight to New York. Luckily my airline were flexible and I was able to out of Rio only a few hours later at no extra charge. 

This Blog entry is the final one for Cato el Conquistador in South America and Antarctica so I hope you have enjoyed!! Tune in next week for the shenanigans as I head through the US of A.

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Thursday, 1 April 2010

Carnival Recovery!!

Salvador and Lençóis

I blame the vast amount of partying over the last month to be the main cause of not posting anything since just after Carnival. So I need to back track about 5 weeks to Rio de Janeiro where I ventured north to Salvador on an epic 34hr bus ride! I would never commit to such a long bus ride since I experienced this almost 8 years ago when traveling up the west coast of the USA on a shit heap of a bus (never travel Greyhound in the USA!). It was only supposed to take 24hrs but, as you become used to in South America something went wrong. Nothing too serious….just a break down and a drawn out wait for the next bus to turn up. Eventually I arrived in Salvador where I met with a Kiwi compadre (Aaron) who I last partied with in Buenos Aries.

Not too much to rave about in Salvador. I only stayed the 1 night and didn't venture too far from the hostel as I was still sobering up from Carnival. I did have the unfortunate experience of running into a creep with a knife down by the waterfront whilst snapping up some pictures of the sunset. Been a while since I've done a hundred meter sprint but when your got a knife pulled on you it's amazing  how fast everything happens! Anyways…I got away and didn't need to part with my belongings or limbs! This is the 1st knife incident I have had over almost 5 years abroad and over 35 countries so don't let this incident worry you too much if our thinking about heading off to South America!

After meeting with Aaron we ventured to Lencois - hippy-ville which is located on the side of a national park 5 hours due west of Salvador. Very beautiful area but only few days there. It was a perfect spot for chilling after Carnival and a small detox. Some of the best hiking throughout Brazil can be done here however we opted for some rock climbing and just lazing about. I had a friend here who owns a pousada (Brazilian name for guest house) and also runs a school for underprivileged kids so I had the opportunity to work in the school for a few days which was quiet rewarding! My Portuguese was crap so the communication was very limited and I was placed with the youngest kids and was hours of entertainment for them as they would take turns in getting thrown into the air and swung around!

Ok…so too much of nothingness was getting on Aaron's nerves and after the few days detoxing it only seemed fitting to head to another party destination… Perhaps the greatest in Brazil and from my experience so far…one of the best locations I have been to!! So….tune in to the next Blog to hear more!

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Wednesday, 3 March 2010

The Peruvian Way...

Lake Titicaca & Island of the Sun
A few hours away is Lake Titicaca (bordering Bolivia & Peru) and Copacabana (Bolivia side) which is worth a few days and will break up the trip to Cusco. From Copacabana you can catch a very long boat ride across to the Island of the Sun for a few days of chilling out at 4000 meters altitude! It is not far away from mainland it just the large boats only seem to be equipped with 50 hours power motors so you might as well be swimming! You can hike across the Island and also camp for free. Not much else to do on the Island except for relaxing and drinking some mate with the odd Argentinian passing by. I spent my last few days of 2009 here and had some unreal weather with spectacular sunsets.


Cusco is a party town but also has allot to see and obviously the gateway to Machu Picchu. You can organize your MP trip once you arrive. I stayed at Loki one night and also the Southern Comfort Hostel which is out of town a little but a nice and friendly hostel run buy a Canadian. It's slightly cheaper then Loki (stayed for 1 night only) and the people here are travelers and not simply on a binge month or 2 away from home. I also spent a few nights at Casa de la Grina which had a nice feel to it at the top end of town. You can visit a number of archeological sights which are all around Cusco. I enjoyed a quad bike tour immensely as it had rained the whole night before hand so getting covered in mud was on the agenda! I only paid 110 local for a good 3-4hours. It's cheaper if you round up a few from the hostel. 

I Blogged my shenanigans for Machu Picchu a month ago so see the earlier Blog if you want to read up on this. Also, check out Ciran's Blogs as he is a writer who I traveled with for a few weeks and his stories are more in-depth, correct literacy and you get to see my travels from another angle!

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Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Backtracking to Bolivia

La Paz, Uyuni and The Salt Flats!     (tips for sis)
Heading North? I would recommend making your way to Bolivia from BA via Mendoza (wine country) and up to the Salt Flats and (the Old South). I came down from the North (Peru) but if I was doing a trip again I would start at the more expensive countries first (i.e. Brazil, Chile & Argentina) as you appreciate everything more when your not looking back at how much cheaper the beer was in the last port-of-call. I didn't get to Mendoza either as I ran out of time, however everyone I have meet over the last few months have pointed the rolling hills of this wine region to be the pinnacle of their trip. 

After hearing some good reviews of the Salt Flats whilst in Peru I decided to jump on an overnight bus from La Paz and head down south to sus it all out. I was lucky to get straight off the bus and find a tour group leaving the same morning and with a pretty decent group of fellow travelers. Unfortunately the tour organization was not so good…in-fact the worst run tour I have ever been on! A good tour company to go with is apparently ACE Tours (got this from some other travelers) but we went with Oasis Tours who are the spawn of Satan himself so steer clear! Tours are booked from Uyuni or you can pick up something on the Chilean side however it more expensive as your pausing Chilean Pesos rather than Bolivian. I am not going to dive into it too much as my traveling compadre, Ciran the Irish Berliner, has already written such a brilliant and captivating story of these scandalous Bolivians and our shenanigans to follow over the next few weeks on the road so I shall just point you to his "Award Winning Blog" (in Ireland) -

La Paz, also another party town so only a few days here unless you want to spend all your time at Route 66 - an unusual bar for ex-pats. I stayed in both the Hostel Republica and Hostel Austria (which is the cheaper one of the two and is worth a look). Both are near Loki Hostel where I spent most nights drinking my first few rounds. Make sure to do Death Road and go see JC (owner) at Radical Rides. He should sort you out and tell him I sent ya but considering the amount we drank that night it's likely he will not recall me but recommendations will get you a cheaper price! I cant recall how much we paid but it was all around the same but they had good safety gear and decent bikes. Ciran has also written some good notes on this so check it out when heading over or if you just want a laugh!

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Sunday, 28 February 2010

Rewind....Argentina, Argentina!

Buenos Aries 

BA is a beautiful city and well spaced out. "The Paris of South America" it was described as by Charles Darwin on one of his many Voyage's of the Beagle, so many years before me. A party town for me though as apart from the European architecture there wasn't much else to see. La Boca is a major draw card for some (especially for those soccer fans wanting to see the stadium) who are interested in the history of the area as this is where BA started. Some nice brightly colored buildings and English speaking waiters trying to lure all gringo's to dine at their establishment. 

The Zoo is worth a look for a bargain of only $6.5USD (Jardin Zoological). You can easily kill a few hours here with some pretty half decent exhibits of many animals I have not seen before. I didn't make it to the Botanical Gardens (Jardin Botanico Carlos Thays) as it was shut due to a fierce storm the week before causing some havoc! Running around a cemetery (Cementerio de la Recoleta) looking for Evita's grave site was recommended in the Lonely Planet but once again the LP led me to disappointment as this cemetery was way to well kept and flamboyant for me to enjoy! A trip to Iguazu Waterfalls can be arranged from BA but the day long bus ride (one way) for a water fall that you weren't allowed to swim under was not cool! So…back to the partying! I only seemed to find expensive night clubs that and you queue twice for a drink. This shit ain't fly with me so most of the partying was done at the hostel bar or back in hour 6 bedroom dorm! Some good transvestite shows, tango lessons/shows and mud wrestling can also take your time up. I would recommend only 2-4 days here unless your a city lover but for me I had seen enough and defiantly partied way too hard!   


Getting to Patagonia is recommended and if you can book a flight as early as possible to El Calafate or (worst case) Rio Gallegos then it will save you allot later. I flew to Rio as its much cheaper (because it's a shit hole with very little to see). I spent most of my time at the airport as you can sleep here and get a decent rest as there are no flights from 10pm to 2am and then 3am till about 7am (best thing about Rio). So this is a much better option than to head into town where not much happens unless you work at the car rental place or bus depot and everyone is scrabbling to get somewhere else! Much better then a dorm room at the hostel, the Airport has all you need and you will most likely be the only person sleeping over. I'd suggest the checkin table for the most comfortable airport slumber! Only 2 electrical sockets at the airpot for public, but no need to rush as nobody else around and they are hard find. Just head to the sign to the far left of the check in desk (near where you should sleep) and they are on the side of it. Or you can go to the bar and ask him to run a cord but they shut early and will make you buy something.

My time in Patagonia was very brief and I wish I had given myself some more time here. Whilst in El Calafate, a mega tourist attraction hence the wonderful English menus and many gringo's, you can do a number of organized treks and 4WD trips. I only spent a day here though as I had very little time due to getting trapped in Ushuaia (bloody buses) and I had wanted to spend most of my time in El Chanten (4hrs north of El Calafate). So unfortunately I missed the remarkable Perito Moreno Glacier which is located 80km outside of town. I did all this because I had my heart set on a ice climbing tour run out of El Chanten which I had pre booked and was absolutely pumped for! It was only a day of trekking but involved glacier walking and my to be first experience ice climbing! Unfortunately here in Patagonia every day is determined by the extremities of the weather. As I ate my breakfast at 5.30am in the hostel (Rancho Grande Hostel - pretty decent) waiting for this rugged Argentinian climber to come through the door with his backpack and ice shoes dangling from it I thought to myself that perhaps my pack was slightly under-packed. When I left Australia I had less then a week to pack. Keep in mind that I am away for a year and traveling across every continent with many different weather conditions and environments that I was going to endure. I also had a million other things to do before heading off and may not have done as much research as was necessary. My bag consisted of mostly "summer wear" as I was in South America and North America throughout the summer and then over to Europe for another summer followed by Africa and Asia briefly apron my return to Australia in December. In total my belongings weighed 19kg and was the least amount of gear I have ever traveled with.  

Moments later, an overweight man came over to my table where I was enjoying my strong morning coffee. He did not look at all like the rugged Argentinian man I was expecting and he was not caring any climbing gear. He informed me that due to the impeding storm clouds forming over the summit that todays climb would be cancelled. A full refund was available but not wanted…"how about tomorrow?" I asked only to find that it was already fully booked. This was not good news to my ears as tomorrow evening I was scheduled to depart the National Park on route to Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. I was so guttered and this was obvious to the young Argentinian woman who had served me my breakfast. She came over to my table and suggested a number of hikes I could do on my own. I had already researched some of these (for tomorrow's activities) and asked her about the difficulties of the 8 hour hike to the Laguna de los Tres which was the base camp for the Cerro Fitz Roy (Mt Fitz Roy) climb…

I set off early after breakfast as I had a lot of ground to cover. The day didn't look too bad and I wondered if perhaps they hadn't got the numbers required for the trip and went for the "bad weather option" to save themselves from loosing out. A slight chill in the air but I was well enough rugged up with a number of layers and a Gortex jacket I had picked up a few weeks earlier in Bolivia. Walking for about 2-3 hours on my own with only a few campers spotted on the way scattering around their campsite arranging breakfast, I came to a fast running river with no signs of a crossing. I still had a good hour before I should reach the lagoons however I couldn't find a way to cross. Up the river I went for a kilometer but still the river was running to fast and no foreseeable crossing. I started making my way back determined to find a tree across the river where I could pass. Off in the distance I could see some other hikers. They were on the other side of the river so I kept on the same route down the river until I found well weathered path that led to a timbre crossing. Another hour of scampering up the mountain accompanied by the tunes on my Ipod I finally reached the top where I was overcome by the beauty that I was being witness to… Mt Fitz Roy reached to the sky with its snow capped peaks and smaller mountains either side. At the foot stood a massive glacier standing still in time and the Bluest of lagoons I have ever seen was the result of the sun melting down onto this ice sculpture. A simple travelers lunch was served on a rock by the lagoon…salami, bread and cheese with a sneaky chocolate bar (to help with the energy levels for my decent). An hour or so was spent wandering around and taking many self portrait photos of myself and these glorious surrounds. 

On my decent I could see rain clouds coming across very quickly and I pitied the many that were going past me in the other direction thinking perhaps the early start was a good idea after-all. During my 4 hour trek back to El Chanten (where I enchanted some bad weather) I thought about a quote that I had read a few weeks before that was taken from Charles Darwin's journals - "The plains of Patagonia are boundless, for they are scarcely passable, and hence unknown. They bear the stamp of having lasted, as they are now, for ages, and there appears no limit to their duration throughout time." I had reached the ultimate destination for the modern traveler: the stereotypical unspoiled, rugged terrains of the far south and was seeing the Fitz Roy Mountains just as Darwin had almost 200 years ago….in all of it's awe-inspiring unadulterated splendor!

I left Patagonia the following day content with what I had experienced in such as small amount of time. I new then I would be back to Mt Ftiz Roy one day and perhaps then I will give myself enough time to do some ice-climbing!  

Tierra del Fuego

Hundreds of years ago the natives in this far southern barren land (The Yaman) communicated with each other by lighting signal fires along the coast - A passing vessel captained by Mangellan saw these in the 1500's decided to name this place "Tierra del Fuego" (Spanish) which means "Land of Fire" in English. My visit here was for one reason and one reason only… Antarctica! Sorry lovers of the Tierra del Fuego but as the ships depart from Ushuaia this was the only reason I made it this far south. 

Rather than flying direct to Patagonia you could also fly FAR South…to the END OF THE WORLD however be prepared as Ushuaia is a major tourist destination and almost all the glitter is no longer, as the beauty of this area has been trampled by the many tourist flocking to get that stamp in their passports (as I did) to say you have been to the most southern town in the world. If you fly all the way down to Ushuaia you could then make your way back up over land to Patagonia. If not enough money to head to Antarctica then you can do a boat ride around Ushuaia seeing some penguins. A number of hiking treks and camping is available in the National Park also but is obviously seasonal. I stayed at FreeStyle Hostel which is the best in town for that price range ($60peso). WiFi and a few computers in the common room with fast enough internet and heated floors! Make sure to book you bus/flight out off town as soon as possible (sometime even before you arrive) as it is quite common to get stuck in town longer than anticipated (like me!).

Over the last few months I have had allot of people ask about my travels (Ie. where to go and stay) so I hope this Blog helps those fellow Globetrotters heading to South America. You can also see all the hostel's I have stayed in if you log onto Hostel World and check out my page....very handy option.  

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