Sunday, 28 September 2008

Fin del Mundo

We have arrived in the most southern city in the world, Ushuaia, on the island of Tierra Del Fuego. Suddenly (well as sudden as 31 hours on a bus can be) the landscape has changed from baron flatland to snowcapped mountains. We thought we´d better start getting some practice in for the Inca Trail and also wanted an excuse to use our new thermal underwear, so on our first day we decided to hike up to Glacier Martial. Unfortunately there was no glacier to be seen and we had to negotiate steep climbs in one foot of snow. The views from the top however were stunning as was the bar of chocolate we´d packed in case of emergencies!

We had an unexpected surprise when we got here as we found out that we were still in time for some skiing and snowboarding. After some deliberation (around 5 seconds) discussing the possibility of broken limbs at the beginning of a 7 month holiday, we trotted down to the hire shop and got ourselves kitted up for a day on the slopes. The resort was quite small but conditions were good and after an excellent day we both came off the slopes unscathed and exhilerated!

The next day, with aching legs, we took a stroll out to the National Park of Tierra Del Fuego. We had a walk around a beautiful lake that took us right up to the border with Chile, the sun was shining so no need for the thermals!

Today we took a boat along the Beagle Channel stopping at Island H (cleverly named as the island is H-shaped) to see Rock Cormorants, King Cormorants and Seals. We also saw where the native Yamana people used to cook and eat their food, noticeable by all the discarded whale and bird bones. Somehow they managed to cope without thermal underwear, instead smearing themselves in whale fat but we´re sticking with thermals for now!!

Flying north tomorrow, unfortunately Antarctica is beyond our budget. Aiming to get to El Calafate where hopefully we will have a slightly more fruitful glacier experience.
Hope you are all well

Lots of love

Jo and Al xxxx

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Penguins, Whales, Wales and Cake

We left BA on Friday 19th September and headed down to Puerto Madryn, Patagonia by bus. The buses here rule (think National Express Rapide from the mid 80´s...... fortunately it´s nothing like that), we opted for first class tickets (it is our honeymoon after all) where the seats actually turn into proper flat beds, which is essential in such a massive country where travelling anywhere takes ages.

As we neared the outskirts of Puerto Madryn at midday on the Saturday (1300km´s from BA approx) we could just about see the sea between the houses, and I was totally convinced that I´d seen a whale just off the coast. Jo was telling me to be not so ridiculous and my mind cast back to when I was about 12 on holiday with my Mum, Dad and brother in Tenerife. My Mum was convinced she´d seen a dolphin from our apartment balcony so ushered us all down to the rocks to scour the sea for about an hour, no dolphin to be seen. Anyway, after checking in to our hostel we took a stroll down to the seafront to be completely floored by the sight of loads of whales about 500 yards off the beach! We walked down the pier to get a closer look and it was truly incredible. Each year loads of Southern Right Whales come to this huge gulf as it´s quite protected, an awesome sight.

We arranged to do a boat trip to get a closer look at the whales from nearby Peninsula Valdes which is a big protected national park area. We managed to get fairly close to some whales and they were huge. We also saw some elephant seals, one of whom who had just given birth, on the beach. We were sure we could hear David Attenborough´s voice as we were witnessing all of this. We had a cool guide called Daniel who was a cross between an old, overweight Rafa Nadal and the late Steve Irwin, unfortunately I didn´t get a picture so you´ll have to use your imagination for that one.

The next day we visited Punta Tombo which is home to the largest colony of Magellanic Penguins (approx 175,000) outside of Antartica, once again accompanied by Rafa/Steve. Incredible to see so many penguins, and some walk half a mile inshore to make their nests!

Later in the day we went to Gaiman which was established by some Welsh settlers in the late 1800´s (they still speak and teach the language there). We had tea and cakes in a Welsh tea house which felt pretty surreal, we were served by a lady who spoke Spanish with a slight Welsh accent which made the experience even more strange!

After a few days there, we´ve now just arrived in Ushuaia in Tierro del Fuego after a mammoth 31 hour bus extravaganza (now imagine THAT on a National Express Rapide bus). We´ll update again soon with more news.

Hope all´s well back home.

Lots of love.

Mr and Mrs Mason x

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Managed to finally add some pics!

Here are some more random pics.

Jo and I sporting our trendy travel cushions on the plane..... not sure why we didn´t get upgraded....

The cool metal flower in a park near La Recoleta....

Street tango at the San Telmo antique market....

Monday, 15 September 2008

Boca Juniors 1 - Independiente 1

Yesterday we went to see Boca Juniors vs Independiente, the second biggest BA local derby after Boca vs River Plate. Totally amazing! We thought we´d got ourselves into the seated area but arrived at the stadium with our fixer, Paula along with a group of other nervous tourists from all over the world to realise we were standing on the terraces with the Boca fans! The atmosphere was awesome, the game was fairly average quality but the best thing to see was the ref pushing all of the players quite aggressively! Two Independiente players were sent off for abusing the linesmen, and after each player was sent off, all the Independiente players started attacking the linesmen, having to be dragged away by the riot police before the game could restart. Total mayhem. You could actually feel the stadium swaying underneath your feet when all the fans were jumping around! By some small miracle, having all been split up into various parts of the terrace we all managed to reconvene to head home on our cool old school bus that had obviously been ´borrowed´for the weekend. Tried to upload some pics, but having some technical difficulties.

Plan for the rest of the week:
Finish spanish lessons with Paloma our cool tutor
Find Jo a coat (somewhat hilariously Jo and I arrived here with no coats or waterproofs - still getting to grips with this whole travelling thing, have realised shorts and tshirts might not be sufficient for climbing glaciers)
Continue chilling in BA - really starting to love this city

Then we´re going to head down to Puerto Madryn on Friday by bus to look at the penguins and whales. It´s a hard life....


Friday, 12 September 2008

Buenos Aires - Steak and Spa!

After a painful 13 hour flight, we´ve arrived in Buenos Aires! Our attempts at getting an upgrade on the grounds of being honeymooners were futile as the flight was jam packed. We have already seen the Iguazu Falls though, from 37000 feet! The pilot did some nice banking right over them to allow all to get a good view. We are still planning to get a closer look later on in our trip.

So, Emma and Mags had planned a little surprise for our arrival which I had a little prior knowledge of having been asked by Emma to push back the dates of our first 2 nights accomodation. Emma and Mags gave me a blank sealed envelope the night before we left and told me not to open it until we had met our transfer at BA airport. I wasn´t allowed to tell Jo anything, although Jo being Jo she´d already sussed something was up. The penny dropped when we came out in to the arrivals lounge to be greeted by a very smart gentleman holding a leather bound sign for Mr and Mrs Mason. We were then shown to a very nice big Merc with blacked out windows. We opened the envelope to learn that Emma, David, Mags and Matt had treated us to 2 nights at a luxurious spa hotel in the Puerto Madero district of BA. We got to this awesome hotel to be shown to our hotel room complete with rose petals in the hall and on the bed and a bottle of champagne!!! The following day we strolled into BA centre to get the lay of the land, and returned to the hotel for some serious spa and steak action.

Today we had a fairly large shock to the system transferring to our first BA hostel experience, which is a perfectly okay place but not quite a spa hotel! We can´t seem to find the telly in the room, and massages from the staff are not forthcoming. Anyway, we´ve arranged for a weeks worth of Spanish lessons starting tomorrow and will probably then head out west to seek some rural relaxation. BA is excellent but the countryside is calling.

We´ll post some photos once we´ve sorted the cabling out.

Lots of love.

The Masons. x

Monday, 8 September 2008

We are married!

Thank's to everyone for making the 6th September 2008 the best day of our lives!