Watch the sea lions in Valdivia, Chile

Valdivia is, at first view, a beautiful city with a breezy riverfront, multiple universities, old architecture and good restaurant. However, a walk down the riverfront changes your opinion a bit. You notice the extremely smoky Celco-Arauco paper mill that sends up constant masses of smoke into the sky. In 2005 some 5000 black-necked swans died from contamination from this factory. This environmental catastrophe drew local and worldwide outrage, but the plant continues to operate unfortunately.

The city is still well-worth a visit though – even if only for a day. Head to the colourful Ferie Fluvial, the riverside fish and vegetable market, where sea lions paddle up for handouts. In this video you will see some of the huge, gorgeous sea lions that were literally 1 meter away from me. They are not in cages. They are swimming freely in the river…bless them and let’s pray that the river is not as polluted as it looked.

Bariloche in Argentina

San Carlos de Bariloche is the Argentine Lake District’s largest city and popular with both Argentinian and foreign tourist summer and winter.

It is located on the shore of the beautiful lake Lago Nahuel Huapi (the picture above) and surrounded by mountains. The city offers many shops (specially chocolate shops), hotels and restaurants. But the real attraction is outside the city: Park Nacional Nahuel Huapi. The park offers splendid hiking, rafting and skiing.

It’s a fun place to visit, but be prepared that its rather expensive (for Argentina).

Paragliding in Mendoza, Argentina

Paragliding in Mendoza. Just about to jump over the edge :-)
Paragliding in Mendoza. Just about to jump over the edge 🙂

Paragliding has been a life-long dream for me. Flying free in the sky was something I really wanted to try. I don’t think I will ever work up the courage to jump from an air plane (except maybe the week before I get married – one fear conquering the other :-))

But paragliding is totally different from jumping out from an air plane. A para-glider is a free-flying, foot-launched aircraft. The instructor/pilot and his passenger (for a tandem) sits in a harness suspended below a fabric wing, whose shape is formed by its suspension lines and the pressure of air entering vents in the front of the wing.

I found a place in Mendoza offering tandem paragliding for about 50 $ which I think is very cheap and I decided that I definitely wanted to do it. We drove outside Mendoza to the mountains and waited for the wind to pick up.

We used a mix between a forward launch and a ‘reverse launch’. We were standing forward facing the wind and let the wind bring the parachute into the air after which we just took a few steps over the edge and we were flying.

Paragliding is often seen as a higher-risk sport more than it actually is. Nonetheless, there is great potential for injury for the reckless or ill-prepared.

The safety of the sport is directly influenced by the skill and sense of the pilot. It’s important to note that almost all paragliding accidents are the result of pilot error. Paragliding equipment is very well built and, if properly cared for, will almost never fail.
General safety precautions include pre-flight checks, helmets, harnesses with back protection (foam or air-bag), reserve parachutes, and careful pre-launch observation of other pilots in the air to evaluate conditions.

I had worried a bit about the safety before doing the jump – not because I was afraid of falling down, but because I had pain in my back and was thinking the landing might make it worse. There was no reason to worry. The landing was very soft. We ran forward for a little while in order for the parachute not to fall down in our head.

I thought it was an absolutely amazing experience and highly recommendable.

For more information about paragliding – go to:

Wine touring in Mendoza, Argentina

Wine tasting in Mendoza
Wine tasting in Mendoza

Mendoza is a really beautiful city and it is right in the middle of Argentina’s best wineyards (the region produces 70% of the country’s wine), and the base for a number of wonderful outdoor activities. One of them naturally being wine-tasting tours on bicycle….sounds like fun? It definitely is!!!

I went wine tasting with four good friends: Sherry, Thomas, Mathew and Andrew. We took bus 170 from the centre of Mendoza and got of in Maipu. There we started out renting bicycles and headed to the Museo del Vino. The museum displays wine-making tools used by the 19th-century pioneers, as well as colonial religious sculptures from the Cuyo region.

Tours run every half hour on weekdays, hourly on weekends. You can also stroll around yourself – there is plenty to see..and plenty to drink.

The museum offers free wine-tasting, but when you offer this to an English guy, two kiwis, an American woman and a Danish woman – they are going to drink as if there was no tomorrow. The folks at the museum was totally fine with that J The museum is highly recommended!!

After this pretty "wet" visit we went "biking" to the wineries for more wine tasting. All in all a fantastic day.

Tupiza – the wild-west town of Bolivia

Tupiza in Bolivia
Tupiza in Bolivia

Tupiza is a dusty, wild-west Bolivian town. It is surrounded by gorgeous red mountains, desert and cactus. It is a city in Potosi Department. It has an elevation of about 3160 m and the population is around 25.000.

The climate is mild year-round, with most of the rain falling between November and March. From June to August, days are hot, dry and clear, but nighttime temperatures can drop to below freezing.Economically, the town depends on agriculture and mining.

Tupiza has a lot to offer the traveller. Explore the surrounding hills and canyons on horseback which is what I did, experience the mad Bolivian circus that visits the town from time to time or just take a few days out to read books in the pretty central square or by the hotel pool.

Tupiza is also a good stop before heading down to Uyuni – that’s how I did the journey.

Video: Iguazu Falls, Argentina

Here’s a short video I have put together of the clips I took at Iguazu Falls on the Argentina/Brazil border. With the flooding of the Guaíra Falls between Brazil & Paraguay in 1982, the mighty Iguazu falls currently has the greatest average annual flow of any waterfall in the world.


You can view my photo slideshow of Iguazu Falls here.
Iguazu Falls on Wikipedia

Video: Patagonia – in the land of mountains and dulce de leche

Patagonia is the southern region of South America. Located in Argentina and Chile, it comprises the southernmost portion of the Andes mountains to the west and south, and plateaux and low plains to the east. It is a spectacular place. I visited there in May and unfortunately it was impossible to travel further south for me due to the cold (winter time).

So I spent four days at the "top" of Patagonia – San Carlos de Bariloche, usually known as Bariloche. The city is situated at the foothills of the Andes, surrounded by lakes (Nahuel Huapi, Gutiérrez Lake, Moreno Lake and Mascardi Lake) and mountains (Tronador, Cerro Catedral, Cerro López). It is famous for skiing but also known for sight-seeing, water sports, trekking and climbing.

Bariloche is also famous for its chocolate – but I spent most of my time there eating the famous and delicious Argentinian Dulce de leche. Dulce de leche is similar to caramel and made by adding sugar to milk and cooking it, is used on nearly all desserts, including facturas (pastries eaten for breakfast or tea) and alfajores (traditional cookies that consist of tiny biscuits stuck together), and many other Argentine desserts. I love it 🙂