A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: ayrestours

Buenos Aires, Argentina

The capital, tango, steak, Eva Perón, Carlos Gardel, and an underground bar, 23 - 26 June

semi-overcast 12 °C
View AyresTours does South America on ayrestours's travel map.

What a trip!
Arrived, rested for a couple of hours, then off out into the big city.
But first, food...
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They seem to love cream cheese in their sushi out here!

That night we hung out at a local bar
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and watched a fantastic tango concert
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with a very talented violinist

Then off to the Recoleta Cemetary in the middle of the city.
About the cemetary
It contains the graves of some very notable people, including Eva Perón (Evita)
About Eva Perón
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The graves are all works of art

Then we tasted the local Buenos Aires pizza with a glass of Muscat
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That night we went to a fabulous secret underground bar called Floreria Atlantico. A bar hidden underground. The entrance is through a flower shop. The owner and mixologist also creates the cocktail menus for Gauchos in London
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The entrance to the bar...
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Great tapas and their take on a Bloody Mary and a G and Tea...
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Later on we went to a great underground milonga Tango club called La Catedral
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Lucky for us we had taken Tango lessons beforehand
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We were naturals...
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The next day, a little more sushi...
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and a little more sightseeing around the centre, then Puerto Madero and San Telmo
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Chocolate con churros at Café Tortoni
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And our last meal (for now) in Latam! At Don Julio's, one of the best steak houses in town
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As part of the tradition, we got to sign our empty bottle. It was then placed above the main bar!
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Thank you Buenos Aires
Now off to the airport...
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London in 13.5 hours...

Posted by ayrestours 07:48 Archived in Argentina Comments (3)

Estancia Don Joaquin, Corrientes, Argentina

Another little slice of paradise, Max's first time on a horse, riding with Gauchos, seriously good steak and amazing hospitality! Very very hard to leave 20 - 22 June

sunny 20 °C
View AyresTours does South America on ayrestours's travel map.

We arrived after another overnight bus ride from Puerto Iguazu, via Corrientes, to Esquina. A 14.5 hour journey.
What we had come to was amazing. A traditional working ranch (in Argentina they are called estancias), with 800 hectares of stunning land, 700 cattle, 70 horses, dogs, and a family of skilled and very friendly gauchos.
Despite only staying here for 2.5 days, the owners of Estancia Don Joaquin (The estancia's website), Angie and Diego went out of their way to make us feel at home, as part of the family.

Here are some views from around the estancia
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A very cute puppy
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and some of the beautiful horses
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Then off on our first of 5 long rides over the next days around the estate... Max has NEVER riden before!
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Amanda on Marta and Max on Giuseppe (both extremely obedient, former gaucho working horses, around 11 and 12 years old, 13-14 hands tall)
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A fun guest from Italy called Hugo, who was a repeat offender at Don Joaquin (4th consecutive year!) and who loved to wind up the gauchos when out riding
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Believe it or not, this is actually Max in a canter!
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Watch us in action in this video!

Heading back to the estancia for dinner
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We watched the gauchos at work in the ranch
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and went with them on horseback as they worked in the fields, lassoing and vaccinating calves
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Trying mate (pronounced mah tay) tea for the first time with Angie and Diego (About the Latin American drink)
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A blind wine tasting, with some delicious Argentinian cheese. Around the table with the other guests, trying to guess the Malbec, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvingnon
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and then there was the DELICIOUS food...
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DEFINITELY GOING BACK! THANK YOU TO EVERYONE AT DON JOAQUIN!

Posted by ayrestours 07:58 Archived in Argentina Comments (2)

Iguazu Falls, Argentina and Brazil

A wonderful B&B and one of the most impressive waterfalls in the world, 17 - 19 June

sunny 25 °C
View AyresTours does South America on ayrestours's travel map.

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So, after a 4am start, a 2 hour inter-island water taxi, 1 hour bus ride, 2 hour flight and 6 hour lay-over in Guayaquil, then a night flight to Buenos Aires Ezeiza Airport, followed by a 2 hour transit to Aeroparque Jorge Newbery, "the other airport on the other side of town" (just happened to be rush hour!), then a 2 hour flight to Iguazu airport... We finally arrived in Puerto Iguazu!

Our host, John, kindly took us on a tour around town, including the Tres Fronteras. A river border between Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil
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Then he showed us his home, our accommodation while at the Falls, called The Secret Garden. A lovely little green oasis in Puerto Iguazu, complete with amazing breakfast, wonderful and extremely helpful staff, and the "obligatory" evening Caipiriña and chat 7-8:15pm. It was a great recommendation! Thanks Piers.
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Where we also met Roxy, the lady of the household
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and some great fellow travellers, Julia and Omar
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Then off to the Brazilian side of the Iguaçu Falls. About the waterfall
It also meant another country stamp in the passport (Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Argentina and Brazil)!!!
Bem-Vindos ao Brazil
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The Iguaçu National Park had a lot of wildlife, including colourful birds
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and Coatis
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And then, from a distance, we saw the Falls...
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We came just after a massive flood that closed the park for visitors for days...
Article about the floods
Normal amount of water passing through the Falls, about 1500 cubic meters of water per second, at this time of year. During the flood, 43,000 cubic meters of water per second!!!!! When we were there, it was still very high, around 10,000-11,000 cubic meters per second! Impressive!

We were extremely lucky that the park had reopened and that the weather was so good!

We got quite close to the edge... Walking along this was seriously scary!
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We even got to see our first (of many) rainbows at the Falls...
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The next day, the Argentinian side of the Iguazu Falls
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The popular opinion is that the Brazilian side has better panoramas, but that on the Argentinian side you get closer to the Falls.
First, inside the park, we had to take a train...
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Our first views through the trees...
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And then some more beautiful vistas
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Finally, a little closer to the water...
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And to top it off, we took one of these boats, through rapids, right underneath the cascades!
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We got very very very wet. Well worth it!
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One last Caipiriña with John, then, on an overnight bus to Esquina, Argentina
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Posted by ayrestours 06:00 Archived in Argentina Comments (2)

Galápagos Islands, Isabella Island, Ecuador

A beach bar complete with chilled owner and Marine Iguanas, spectacular vistas, a Giant Tortoise Breeding Centre, a little accident, swimming with sea lions, sea turtles and SHARKS..., 10 - 16 June

sunny 30 °C
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The inter-island water taxi ride:

- 20 passengers plus luggage
- The captain handed us our life jackets and wished us good luck!
- Lots of happy faces to start with...
- Small boat, big waves...
- 1 hour later lots of less happy faces...
- 4 people going through a large amount of the boat's sick bag supply!
- 2.5 hours later, we arrived at Puerto Villamil, Isabella Island
- Max and Amanda survived! In fact, we actually really enjoyed the journey. Thanks to sea sickness tablets and a little angel who told us to sit at the back of the boat by the motors! Sure we would get a little wet, but that was a small price to pay. We sat in the sun, saw loads of flying fish and even watched a pod of dolphins swim with the boat...

Looking forward to the return journey...

Anyway, safely on Isabella
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Thank you Amanda!

Off to our accommodation on the very edge of Isabella's National Park
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Situated ON THE BEACH: Bar de Beto
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The "Malecon", one of the main and only streets in town
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Our local beach was stunning
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We had time to rent some bikes and check out Isabella's Giant Tortoise Breeding Centre...
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and some other recommended places to see, such as the Laguna with flamingos...
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Getting directions from a fellow road-using tortoise...
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A fabulous view of the island...
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This is a male Galapagos Warbler Finch
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Amanda cycling through a tunnel of poisonous trees...
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and enjoying the sun setting as we cycle back to town along the beach
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The following day we watched the Marine Iguanas swimming in the water
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Then, while enjoying the view on Playa del Amor, Amanda decided to test the local medical care, as she slipped and cut herself badly walking over the slippery and very sharp lava rocks
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After this little hiccup, we had plenty of time to do what the locals do best...
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Not a bad way to spend your anniversary, eating Galapagos langoustine (slipper lobster) and drinking beer IN THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS!
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Our last day was spent on a boat trip out to Los Tuneles, semi-under water lava rock tunnels, great for watching Boobies and for snorkelling. Home to penguins, sea turtles, sea lions, sea horses, langoustines, rays, and white-tipped sharks! We got up close and personal with them all. Gliding with the turtles and swimming with the sharks was definitely a highlight.
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Another Blue-Footed Boobie dancing for the ladies
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and watching several sea turtles glide
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And here are the guys we got close to underwater...
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The next day, an early start back to Buenos Aires, via Guayaquil

Posted by ayrestours 15:59 Archived in Ecuador Comments (2)

Galápagos Islands, Ecuador (Day 5 of 5)

Last day on the Encantada, and the decision to stay an extra 6 days on the Galápagos Islands, 6 - 10 June

semi-overcast 32 °C
View AyresTours does South America on ayrestours's travel map.

Day 5 itinerary
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Early bird, but still half asleep Amanda was enjoying her first cup of tea, chatting to our guide on deck, when mid conversation he nonchalantly pointed into the water at three fully-grown Galapagos Sharks, circling the boat... Guess they were also thinking about breakfast!

Early start, off on a walk around North Seymore Island. The trail led straight passed this feeding sea lion pup...
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Frigates...
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the famous and endangered Blue Footed Booby. Again, as it was mating season here on the Islands, we got to see them enact a rather amusing "mating dance" complete with honks (the females) and whistles (the males)!
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A nesting Galapagos Dove
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and the Land Iguana
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Even the fish were coming out to see us off...
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And sadly, that was the end of our 5 day sailing trip. It truly is a little slice of paradise out here. All that was left was for us to say goodbye to our guide, crew and fellow travellers...
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...and take the next "water taxi" to Isabella Island, in the Galapagos, where we would be spending the next 6 days! No rest for the wicked!

Posted by ayrestours 21:01 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

Galápagos Islands, Ecuador (Day 4 of 5)

Galapagos Penguins, sea lions, getting a little wet, sea turtles and rays, 6 - 10 June

semi-overcast 32 °C
View AyresTours does South America on ayrestours's travel map.

Day 4 itinerary
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First up, off to Sombrero Chino Island (shape = name)
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On the way there we saw more Galapagos Penguins and got close to a large family of sea lions
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On Sombrero Chino, we walked a short trail around the island. Our proximity to the animals never ceased to amaze
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This will be a great photo Amanda, just take one step back...
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Back on our trusted dingy to Encantada
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Time for a little sailing
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Off to Black Turtle Cove to look for some sea turtles and rays in amongst the mangroves
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Spotted Eagle Rays
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Sea turtles. They love the shallow, quiet waters around the mangroves, far away from predators in the open ocean
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After a good hour floating peacefully alongside these tranquil ocean creatures, we headed back for some platanos and cheese snacks and a beer on our "little red sailing boat". What a great day!
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Posted by ayrestours 17:51 Archived in Ecuador Comments (1)

Galápagos Islands, Ecuador (Day 3 of 5)

Lots and lots of lava, another stunning beach, snorkelling, Galapagos Penguins, more sea lions, and an amazing encounter with Galapagos Hawks, 6 - 10 June

semi-overcast 32 °C
View AyresTours does South America on ayrestours's travel map.

Day 3 itinerary
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First excursion was to Sullivan Bay to see the wildlife and some amazing lava formations
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Stingray in very shallow water
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A Great Blue Heron fishing on the beach
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Getting ready to walk on the lava
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Then across the Bay to Pinacle Rock
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Our first close encounter with the Galapagos Penguin
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Our welcome committee
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Then a short walk up hill to the lookout point
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Where Juan, our guide, made some distressed food noises and enticed these beautiful Galapagos Hawks a little closer to us. After about 15 mins we had 9 circling around us. Sometimes it felt like we were the ones being watched!
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Then to Golden Beach for some snorkelling with penguins, and a wide variety of tropical fish
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Back on Encantada enjoying the evening sun
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Posted by ayrestours 11:11 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

Galápagos Islands, Ecuador (Day 2 of 5)

Lots of Boobies... And more overnight sailing, 6 - 10 June

semi-overcast 32 °C
View AyresTours does South America on ayrestours's travel map.

Day 2 itinerary
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The Galápagos Islands are so unique. Only 3% of the islands are accessed by humans. The remainder is National Park. Tours and tourist numbers are restricted and pretty much everything is forbidden, for the sake of protecting the wildlife and it's habitat. Access into the National Park is only in certain areas with a guide/Park Ranger and only on designated paths. This protection and control means the animals do not feel threatened by the small groups of us humans that have come to have a look. As a result, we were able to get incredibly close to these wild animals in their natural habitats on land or in the water. Utterly amazing!

Today, for example, we got to see lots of wild Boobies...

Sorry lads, going to have to disappoint you. These Boobies are of the avian variety.

These are Masked Boobies
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Red Footed Boobies
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Male Frigates (they inflate their red pouches during the mating season)
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A rare sighting... The Galapagos Owl. He's the brown bird-like object in the middle of the 2nd photo with the brown background...!
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Before heading off on our afternoon excursion, we were taken snorkelling in open water. This was cut short when a number of us got caught up in a nasty swarm of jellyfish...
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Rather painful when wrapped around your arm!

After a lot of vinegar and a rest on board, in the afternoon, off to Darwin Bay
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To chill on the beach and get close to sea lions
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Galapagos Gulls
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And some more Frigates and Red Footed Boobies
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A Yellow-Crowned Night Heron
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And our lazy buddies, the Marine Iguanas
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We were so close to the animals, it was unreal
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A couple of our guys got creative on the beach
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Then back to the boat for dinner and drinks on deck
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Posted by ayrestours 21:43 Archived in Ecuador Comments (2)

Galápagos Islands, Ecuador (Day 1 of 5)

5 days and 4 nights sailing around the Galápagos Islands onboard the Encantada motor yacht, 6 - 10 June

semi-overcast 28 °C
View AyresTours does South America on ayrestours's travel map.

About the Galápagos Islands

Day 1: Arrived on Baltra Island in the Galapagos and transferred to Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island
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to meet our guide, yacht crew and 10 other fellow travellers from Denmark, Holland, Germany, England and Israel
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and our 69ft (22m) yacht "the little red sail boat" Encantada
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First port of call, the Charles Darwin Research Station to see marine iguanas (black), lizards, land iguanas (yellow), crabs, and giant land tortoises. Sir David Attenborough would be proud...
About the research centre

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Unfortunately we were 2 years too late to meet this famous island inhabitant. They can live up to 150 years!
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About Lonesome George

Land iguanas
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A quick stop at the fish stall on the pier at Puerto Ayora, full of pelicans and sea lions...
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...before our first boat-based adventure... That evening, we travelled 12 hours by boat to get to Genovesa island. Let's just say that sea sickness tablets were a good invention!

Posted by ayrestours 15:04 Archived in Ecuador Comments (2)

Santiago via Argentina to Guayaquil, Ecuador

24 hours stop over in Buenos Aires before flying to Ecuador, beach time, 3 - 6 June

sunny 28 °C
View AyresTours does South America on ayrestours's travel map.

Crossing the Andes before entering Ecuadorean airspace
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Our next stop was a lovely fishing and beach town south west of Guayaquil, called Playas. 2.5 days of R&R
and some tasty Ecuadorean street food, such as baked platanos and chicken, shellfish, cangrejo (crab)
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Ecuador's answer to ceviche
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After all that food, Max really needed to shed some weight...
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Now off to the beach...
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...to watch the local fishermen and birds fight about who gets to have what...
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These 'conchas' are a local delicacy
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Our last night here at a beach bar, chatting to the locals
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Early start in the morning of the 6th back to Guayaquil to catch another flight...

Posted by ayrestours 08:54 Archived in Ecuador Comments (1)

Casablanca region, Chile

Wine tasting: 2 days, 3 vineyards, 1 rental car, exploring the Chilean wine region of Casablanca, 31 - 1 June

sunny 25 °C
View AyresTours does South America on ayrestours's travel map.

Our first stop in the wine region off Route 68 was a boutique vineyard called Casas del Bosque, set in acres of stunning autumn colours
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About the vineyard Casas del Bosque

That night we went off-road and stayed in the countryside, miles from anywhere. With nothing but horses, a farm dog, kittens and the stars to keep us company
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Day 2, first stop, a wine tour at Viña Indomita. A massive operation, which exports 95% of its wines to Europe and the US
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Most vineyards in this region are now using special wind machines that are activated when the temperature drops below 2 degrees. The machines then circulate the various thermal layers, pulling warmer air from above the fields down to the ground, raising the overall temperature around the sensitive vines.
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Our tour around the premises
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Tasting their Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Carmenere, and Cabernet Sauvignon
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About the vineyard Viña Indomita

Our last vineyard of the day was another boutique vineyard, called Matetic, complete with exclusive hotel and restaurant
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This is an experiment by the owners. Different wines are matured in cement containers (this one was filled at Easter, hence the Easter Egg look), rather than the usual French oak. Jury is still out on it though
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About the vineyard Matetic

Heading to the airport. Off to our next country...
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Posted by ayrestours 05:49 Archived in Chile Comments (1)

Valparaiso, Chile

World Heritage Site, a lot of art, exceptionally fresh seafood, a few more piscos, and back on the Pacific coast, 28 - 31 May

sunny 25 °C
View AyresTours does South America on ayrestours's travel map.

A very colourful city. Shame about the petty crime and the copious amounts of dog mess in the streets. We stayed on Cerro Alegre (Happy Hill)
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One of the pully lifts around the old town to get people up and down the steep hills. Over 100 years old!
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and one of the old bus trams
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A walk along the seafront
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In the middle of a feeding frenzy. Seagulls and sea lions getting leftovers from the fish market
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Art on every corner
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The food (...and piscos)
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Being very civilised, enjoying afternoon tea
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A mixed seafood ceviche
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including local seafood delicacies called Locos
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About Locos

and Piure...
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To give you an idea of how adventurous this was, it was even too much for Amanda to try...
About Piure

No comment
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Posted by ayrestours 06:32 Archived in Chile Comments (4)

Santiago de Chile, Chile

The Chilean capital, a fun bar, fish market, stunning views, wine tasting, some more piscos, and a delicious Chilean meal, 24 - 28 May

sunny 25 °C
View AyresTours does South America on ayrestours's travel map.

Almost there...
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After a 6.5 hour bus journey from La Serena, we arrived in Santiago. Our hostal recommended we try this bar around the corner called The Clinic...
The bar´s website (spanish only)

Great food and drinks, interesting decor
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...and a rather shocking menu...
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A walk around the colourful Barrio Bellavista
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Next day, off to the central fish market
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Great things sometimes do come in large sizes! Amanda finds a bottle of pisco to quench her thirst
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Off up Cerro San Cristobal to see a panoramic view of Santiago
About the hill in the centre of Santiago
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A day of delicious Chilean wine and food
An afternoon of wine tour and tasting in Cocha Y Toro, on the outskirts of Santiago, Chile´s largest winery and home to Casillero del Diablo wines
About the vineyard
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According to the legend, the cellars of Cocha Y Toro are protected by none other than the devil himself!
The story goes... Back in the days when the winery was really just a private family business, they had a problem with bottles of wine disappearing. The staff was stealing their private reserve. So the locals, being a very superstitious and religious bunch, were fed a story through the "grapevine" that the Devil lived in the cellars, and had been recently seen. Since the rumors of the Devil inhabiting the cellars, the leakage of bottles ceased, and so became the name given to the wine in that cellar, Casillero del Diablo (Cellar of the Devil), and the legend lives on!
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...and to this day, all those with a guilty conscience can apparently see the shadow of the devil at the end of the corridor protecting his bottles. Please do let us know as we can´t see anything...
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Then down to the business of tasting the wine
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For all our foodie friends...
In the evening we went for a Chilean tasting menu at Borago
About the restaurant
If anyone would like to know what it is they are seeing, we have the menu with matching wines in Spanish somewhere in our luggage...
It did include things such as locally sourced and sustainably caught fish and seafood (such as sea urchin), all different types of locally foraged flora and fauna, alpaca, venison, homemade chocolate, and an after dinner mint that exploded in your mouth and left you smoking!!
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A unique and memorable experience!

Posted by ayrestours 14:16 Archived in Chile Comments (2)

Pisco Elqui, Elqui Valley, Chile

Pisco and wine tasting, star gazing, and relaxing, 21 - 24 May

sunny 25 °C
View AyresTours does South America on ayrestours's travel map.

Heading inland from La Serena for 2 hours into the Valle de Elqui, renowned for its pisco distilleries, hectares upon hectares of vines, and star gazing observatories. Similar to San Pedro de Atacama, the Elqui Valley has some of the clearest, unpolluted skies on earth.

For the next 3 nights we stayed in Pisco Elqui, a quaint little village in the heart of the valley.
About the name

View from our apartment
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First stop, to have another pisco. All in the name of research!
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Next we hired some bikes and cycled to a nearby boutique vinyard called Cavas del Valle
About the vinyard
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We just had to...
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On to a pisco tasting at Mistral
About the distillery
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The (still) controversial history of pisco, the drink

That night, off to see the stars and learn about the night sky, planets, galaxies, clusters, nebula, and the true and false Southern Cross at the Cielo Sur observatory
About the observatory
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Amazing experience. Maybe we aren´t alone, after all...

No rest for the wicked! Next pisco tasting at Los Nichos, a boutique pisco distillery with a long family history in the business
About the distillery - Spanish only
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Enjoying the rest of the afternoon
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An apple pisco before dinner... "salut"
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Next stop Santiago de Chile!

Posted by ayrestours 16:29 Archived in Chile Comments (1)

La Serena, Chile

Heading south by bus, a short stop over in a large coastal town called La Serena, 21 May, oh and by the way, we experienced an earthquake!!

sunny 25 °C
View AyresTours does South America on ayrestours's travel map.

Just one night here before heading inland to our next destination.
First we needed to refuel. And Amanda needed to spend some time getting to grips with her new toy... [author´s correction: her new phone...]
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That night, we were woken in the early hours by a loud noise and the bed shaking. The shutters and wardrobe doors banging. The earth was literally moving beneath us, be it for only 5-10 seconds! We were witnessing a 5.3 magnitude earthquake!

Earthquake Tracker website

Posted by ayrestours 15:01 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

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