Chris Oates

Chris Oates

Chris Oates




South America » Argentina » Santa Cruz » El Chaltén December 25th 2015

The other great area of granite towers in Patagonia is the Fitzroy and Cerro Torro group, north of El Calafate on the Argentinian side. The small town El Chalten sits right under the mountains so another early start on the public bus gave me a full day to walk one of the trails up to the Cerro Torro glacier. The morning started brightly and there were great views as I walked up through the town, wind and cloud built through the day, but I still caught tantalising glimpses of Cerro Torro through holes in the cloud. This is possibly the most stunning mountain of all, being a slender granite spire, dominating surrounding peaks and glaciers until the land again rises for the equally vertical but broader Fitzroy. These mountains may be little over 3000m, but they ... read more
Cerro Torre and Fitzroy range
Fitzroy
Cerro Torre in the centre

South America » Chile » Magallanes » Torres del Paine December 24th 2015

Torres del Paine As the weather is so variable at the Torres I waited until there was an accurate forecast before booking my trip across the border and back into Chile. Unfortunately by the time I had worked out the best time to go the only accommodation available was $500 US a night, hence this became a day trip!In hindsight this was the right call. The guide told me they had only seen the towers two days of the last seven, while I had a bright morning with some cloud on the tops which cleared into a glorious sunny afternoon with amazing views of some of the most stunning mountains I have ever seen.The day started at 6.45 in an 'overland' type truck for the drive across the steppe, mainly on dirt roads. Apart from the ... read more
Rheas, S American Ostich
Llama
Falls near Torres del Paine

South America » Argentina » Santa Cruz » El Calafate December 22nd 2015

In the rain Shadow east of the Andes the steppe reminds me of a cross between the tussock of the South Island High Country, a Yorkshire grouse moor and the Desert Road near Ruapehu. It certainly has the windswept feel of the Desert Road, but it's a genuine desert with only 250mm of rain a year. It is a land of wide open spaces, big skies and emptiness. El Calafate has a frontier town feel, there are roads and tin roofed buildings, some quite large, but the barren scrub continues through the town as if someone has scattered monopoly houses on the landscape. El Calafate is closer to the equator than London, but with only Tierra del Feugo between here and Antarctica the wind can be bitter, even in summer. A short drive west are the ... read more
Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno Glacier
Fire plant

South America » Chile » Santiago Region » Santiago October 25th 2015

As I packed to leave Rio after 4.5 weeks of travel I was feeling ready to get home and even contemplated changing my ticket and skipping Santiago and Chile. Fortunately Santiago reinvigorated me. By far the most 'European' city I had visited, I enjoyed wandering bohemian suburbs and tasting great quality and good value food and wine. Large areas of Santiago are made up of well designed high quality 6-8 story apartment blocks spaced apart in park like grounds. This means that the view is green and open, rather than into your neighbours living room. A lot of apartments have 3 or 4 bedrooms and families seem to like the lifestyle. While I had seen big volcanoes in Ecuador and been over 3000m in Peru this was just high hill country with glimpses of the high ... read more

South America » Venezuela » North-Eastern October 25th 2015

The Orinoco Delta Caracas airport looks like an aviation museum. I flew in something from the 1960s with engines bolted to the back of the fuselage just in front of the tail. Given the warnings on government websites about Venezuela (frequent kidnappings, violence, armed robbery etc) I had booked all cars, tours and accommodation in advance. This helped as I was met at every location and got around the country in private cars that blended in with ordinary traffic. The drive to the port at the edge of the delta was through flat, featureless farmland with only one distinguishing feature, it was abandoned and not being farmed. My driver explained that a few years earlier the then president, Chavez, claimed that the price of meat, around 2000 Bolivars ( $3US on the black market ) was ... read more
Approaching the lodge
Orinoco Queen Lodge
Orinoco Queen Lodge

South America » Brazil » Rio de Janeiro » Rio de Janeiro » Copacabana October 20th 2015

Rio I made a major blunder in my planning, only allowing two full days in Rio. I had a couple of strolls along Copacabana and Ipanema beaches, watched the surfers at Arpiador and had a swim in the warm water of Ipanema in between visits to the statue of Christ the Redeemer on Corcovado and the favelas of xxx. Even so, I loved Rio and would have liked to spend a lot more time there. The beaches are quite special, and are right in the heart of the city, the headland of Axxx creates some impressive waves and the surfers were able to do some pretty cool stuff. The people are not quite as beautiful as the PR would have us believe, and a lot of the bodies on display are a bit on the chunky ... read more

South America » Venezuela » Guayana October 18th 2015

Angel Falls My driver from the delta to the city of Ciudad Bolivar where I caught the flight to Cainama, was even more vocal than the last. We were stopped at a police checkpoint for 40 minutes while they went through the car and his papers with a fine tooth comb. He later explained that the police are paid the minimum wage, which is impossible to live on. They therefore routinely stop traffic and request payment in return for free passage. Failure to pay leads to the stop and search and 'fines' for anything that is out of order. I thought that Cainama would just be a place to catch the boat up to Angel Falls, but it's a great place. What is called the lagoon is really a wide section of river below a series ... read more
Canaima Lagoon Waterfalls
Canaima Lagoon Waterfall
At the top of the falls

South America » Ecuador » Centre October 18th 2015

Ecuador's Volcanoes On my return to Quito from three fascinating days at Santa Lucia I had a couple of days booked to visit volcanoes. My first choice had been Cotopaxi, but the whole region had been closed as the mountain was erupting, as I saw from the bus to the Antisana Volcano, which stands 5755m high. Antisana is glaciated and even at 4000m it was freezing cold, despite being virtually on the equator, just after the equinox. A short walk to a view point and a mountain bike back down the road warmed me up a bit. We stopped at a restaurant for lunch and were able to watch a condor on it's nest through a telescope. The next day I went to Quilotoa lagoon, a crater lake, on the way visiting the market at Saquisili ... read more
Antisana volcano
Antisana volcano
Biking down from Antisana

South America » Ecuador » Centre October 18th 2015

Santa Lucia Despite the carnage that is the Quito rush hour, most Ecuadorians get around by bus. The taxi to the northern bus station cost $8, and then the bus to Nanogal, $2.50, following the principle that bus fares equate to $1 per hour. The bus was fairly modern, and full. We left the densely packed suburbs of Quito and passed a series of modern housing developments that would have not looked out of place in Stonefields or Albany. Ecuador clearly has a middle class. Next came 'Middel du Monde' a tacky looking tourism destination where we crossed the equator. After this we started to descend into the cloud forest, and two and a half hours after leaving Quito I was dropped in the small town of Nanagol, from where a car took me to the ... read more
Humming bird
Humming bird
New housing development near Quito

South America » Ecuador » Centre October 10th 2015

Quito, Ecuador After a late flight and a fast taxi ride to my hotel I slept well. My first morning in Quito I appreciated the cool that came with an altitude of 2800m, despite being less than 30 km from the equator. The Old Town is a mass of narrow streets, grand squares, Churches and Colonial era buildings, from the grand to the quaint. I wandered round the museum and then headed to the new town, where I had discovered there was an Irish bar that would be showing the England v Australia rugby game. There was a small enclave of expat and tourist bars and restaurants, the pub was full of drunken English fans who became increasingly morose as the game went on. One particularly depressed expat had tickets to what he had hoped would ... read more
Quito Old Town
Ecuador flag
Quito Old Town




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