Torres del Paine

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With Ania beign already two months pregnant, we decided not to spend few days trekking the famous W circuit around Parque Nacional Torres del Paine.

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But we still wanted to visit the place so we opted for organised minibus day trip.

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The visibility and the weather may not have been at their best on that day but we still enjoyed spectacular views of the mountains.

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New Year’s Eve in Patagonia

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Could there be a more beautiful sunset on New Year’s Eve? Believe it or not but we took this photo less than an hour before midnight!

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All thanks to the latitude at which Puerto Natales, Chilean port is located. Being 51° 43′ below the equator, the city enjoys extremely long summer days.

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You can celebrate New Year’s Eve in many ways! If you can afford it of course :-) Unfortunately, we were not invited on board.

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And that’s how we welcomed the New Year’s Day: the Patagonian way! Our hosts took us to this lovely lake just a few kilometres away from Puerto Natales.

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Perito Moreno Glacier

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Few days after Christmas we hired a car to see one of the most spectacular sights in South America.

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It may seem small from the distance but this giant glacier has the area of more than 250 square kilometres.

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To fully appreciate this Patagonian monster we took a boat cruise that took us really close to the glacier.

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Some of these enormous chunks of ice are over 70 metres high.

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Another way to see Perito Moreno is to walk on the decking that allows you to admire the glacier from a different angle.

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And if you ask Mateusz, it was very cold that day :-)

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Although Ania thought differently, proudly showing off her baby bump :-)

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The last final glimpse of this natural wonder…

 

How to extend your visa in Bolivia

We have just survived anther encounter with Bolivian bureaucracy. This time we were pleasantly surprised with the quality of the service and support we received at Dirección General de Migración when applying for visa extension. Which means that there is hope for all volunteers who want to stay in Bolivia for up to 6 months (3 months longer than their standard 90 days tourist visa).

SAM_1319The visa you need to apply for is called Visa de Objeto Determinado Casos Especiales (30 días). You can extend it twice which gives you in total extra 90 days of a legal stay in Bolivia. The first 30 days cost 600 bolivianos and if you present yourself with all the documents listed below you should be able to apply for it within one day, although be prepared to spend a good few hours in the process.

  1. Passport valid for six months beyond the date of entry.
  2. Passport size photo on the red background.
  3. Passport photocopy of the page with your photo and the page with the last entry stamp to the country.
  4. Recommendation letter from the institution where you work voluntarily to confirm your role with them.
  5. Photocopy of the ID that belongs to the person who wrote a reference letter.
  6. Formal letter (solicitud) signed by the lawyer requesting Visa de Objeto Determinado Casos Especiales.
  7. Most recent bank statement to prove you have sufficient funds to support yourself financially during your stay.
  8. Formal letter (declaracion jurada de solvencia economica) signed by the notary to confirm that you have enough money to cover your expenses. Unfortunately, the bank statement does not suffice. We asked and were told it needs to be submitted along with the notary letter.

SAM_1322After one month you can apply for Primera Prórroga de Visa de Objeto Determinado Casos Especiales which allows you to stay for another 30 days. It costs Bs. 300. The last application for Segunda Prórroga de Visa de Objeto Determinado Casos Especiales grants you final extra 30 days. It costs another Bs. 300. The entire process may be time consuming but gives you peace of mind of a legal immigration status during your stay in Bolivia and surprisingly, saves you money as it is cheaper than paying 20 bolivianos per day per person overstay fee when leaving the country.

The only bad experience we had during the whole process was the way we were treated by abogado (lawyer) who wrote a letter to request the visas. He also charged us in advance for preparing the notary letter which we were supposed to collect from his workplace on Monday morning. When we returned to his office, the only one located on the first floor next to the immigration office which is on Av. Ballivian 722 (also known as El Prado), we found out that nothing was ready. We had to walk with one of his workers to the notary office which is a good few streets away. We spent there over an hour waiting for the documents to be written. What is more, we were informed that if we did it directly through the notary it would cost us 150 bolivianos compared with Bs. 195 that we paid to the lawyer. Dissatisfied with the customer service we received, we returned to the lawyer to complain about the fact that he overcharged us (not about the amount of course, but just for the sake of the principles). We also added that it was not fair to make Ania walk long distances in such a heat. With a smile on his face, the lawyer arrogantly replied that it is good for pregnant women to walk a lot in the late pregnancy. As if we came to him for health related pregnancy advice! He also contemptuously added that we could take him to the lawyers’ tribunal if we wanted and refused to refund the difference. We would rather spend another day working voluntarily in our project and let this lawyer continue to work in line with the code of conduct he chose for himself. But we also thought it would be prudent for others to know about it and judge it for themselves when looking for immigration lawyer!

El Chalten

SAM_3285 SAM_3286We arrived in El Chalten completely exhausted after our first near 23 hours bus ride from Esquel which cost us $400! Not easy to travel on the budget in Argentina! At least Mount Fitz Roy, the very reason we travelled to this place, was kind to us showing its summit shortly after we got there.

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SAM_3288 As it was December, which means summer in this part of the world, we could enjoy daylight and beautiful sunset long after 10pm.   SAM_3295 SAM_3304And that’s how we started Christmas Eve last year. First with a trek to this scenic waterfall and then, courtesy of a German family who responded to our shy hitchhiking attempts, a drive to this gorgeous uninhabited place that we literally had only for ourselves.   SAM_3309

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And that’s how we ended Christmas Eve! With a bit of raw porridge, cocoa powder and a traditional Argentinian Christmas cake in a half-deserted hospital in El Calafate after long two hours journey in an ambulance. But I guess you know this part from our previous post.

Cerro Campanario and Bariloche

SAM_3227This is one the many amazing views you will get from Cerro Campanario near Bariloche.

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It has been rated by National Geographic as one of the best panoramic views in the world and it’s hard not to agree.

SAM_3223To get there you can either take a chairlift which costs $50 for a family of three…

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or hike up the hill for free! It only takes half an hour. We decided to do it on the budget :-)

Bariloche itself can as well reward you with great views…

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this photo of city center and Lago Nahuel Huapi was taken from our room.

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We rarely recommend hostels but this time we’ll make an exception as this is the only place with guaranteed 10th floor images on your camera!

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It’s called Hostel 1004 and you’ll be glad you stayed there!

 

San Martin de Los Andes

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SAM_3174Failing miserably to climb an active volcano in Chile, this time we decided to take it much easier :-) We started with Mirador Bandurrias located a short walk from San Martin de Los Andes. It is only 800 metres high and awards you with a beautiful view of Lago Lacar. No crampons or other equipment required and no snow on the way to the top :-)

SAM_3198Encouraged by the success, the following day we decided to tackle another summit. This time 1778 metres high Cerro Colorado. It took us good few hours and the higher we got the more clothes we had to put on but when we made it to the top we knew it was worth it! And we also found out why they call it Red Mountain!

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Climbing Villarica

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SAM_3167The weather forecast seemed to be very promising in the morning. What a wonderful day to climb a volcano! 2,847 metres shouldn’t be that difficult. So we thought! At least at the beginning :-) So we didn’t bother with the pictures, taking the sunshine for granted. Fast forward few hours of climbing and it all changed in an instant! The visibility or complete lack of it made the further ascent impossible! We never made it to the top that day. Nobody did. At least we got to slide down on plastic boards! It was fun and quick and helped not to think about the initial disappointment…

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At the foot of Aconcagua

Located at 2,740 metres, Puente del Inca near Mendoza is the name of the village, hot springs and a natural wonder that you can see behind us. Because of its proximity it is also a starting point to all these brave, courageous and fit people who plan to conquer Aconcagua, the highest peak on Western and Southern Hemisphere.

Well, on this occasion we were not that adventurous. Although allegedly technically easy to climb, almost 7km of altitude was a challenge definitely not for us. It was even hard to get a glimpse of the summit, shrouded in thick clouds for the entire afternoon. To make it worse, our egg mayo sandwiches came under a massive ant attack :-)

Luckily, when we came back the following morning we got rewarded by the cloudless sky and beautiful, majestic view of the mountain.

Bodega Catena Zapata

Yay, we’re going to taste some wines today :-)

And this is the place where it starts…

When the grapes are ripe…(not these, of course)

They are placed in these massive stainless-steel tanks…

While the best stuff ends up in French oak barrels…

Catena Zapata, the ultimate vino argentino!

So many bottles to choose from…

How about this one? Can I drink it now? :-)

At last! Now we can try it!

Is it the wine or can we really see the Andes behind the clouds? :-)

And all of it because of Pablo! We hope that very soon he’ll be in charge of this place!