On the 7th of June, 2011, we departed Australia bound for Buenos Aires in Argentina via Auckland, New Zealand. After arriving in New Zealand, flight officials informed us that the Puyehue volcano (check out the photos in the link!) in the Andes Mountains of southern Chile was erupting at the time and had made it dangerous to fly at night. This flight cancellation was due to the large plume of ash rising from the volcano. We soon learnt that this ash made it as far as Australia grounding many planes. Thankfully our plane was only delayed until the next morning. We didn't mind a bit as it was our first night on this incredible trip out of Australia, and the airline (Air New Zealand) put us up in the Grand Chancellor, expenses paid. There were only one or two disgruntled passengers, one of whom was only holidaying for eight days in Buenos Aires. We guessed that this might shake off any jet lag before his return home!
After landing in Buenos Aires and finding a comfy hotel to stay in, we went into jet lag recovery mode. For the next few days, we would wake at 7 am, last till 6 pm, sleep till 2 am and then venture out for a beer and dinner for 1-2 hours before bedtime and waking early again. This routine was painful but an excellent place to be in as we discovered Buenos Aires seems to be always awake. Furthermore, we experienced both ends of the day, the quiet mornings of Buenos Aires and raucous late nights.
The evidence of the volcano we found here was unusual. At first, we thought that Buenos Aires must be a very dusty city. We soon realised that volcanic ash covered the buildings and cars in a soft, thin layer of grey ash.
Finding our bearings in such a large and beautiful city, we decided the only way to see a lot of it before we left would be to jump aboard one of the city double-decker buses. This decision proved an exceptional experience, as we hopped on and off the bus where and when we chose; we discovered many sites. As always, we left many more desires for returning journeys.
Chomping for our first surf in South America, we hopped aboard the Buquebus Ferry en route to Uruguay.
First, stop in Colonia before the capital and then La Paloma, where we camped down in a cosy wood fire heated cabin. Unfortunately, the swell had a bit to desire. It was in this town we adopted our first of many adopt-a-dogs who became known as Ol' Mate. Ol' Mate would sleep out the front of our cabin and join us on many walks. Wait near our clothes on the beach while we surfed and generally protect us from many other stray dogs. Very humble and friendly, we gifted any leftover scraps from our meals and enjoyed the peace that Ol' Mate provided.
We discovered a great home in Punta del Diablo with another Ol' Mate. For the next short little while, this home was the best discovery yet. 2 bedrooms, bathroom, kitchen, dining room and open fire all within a stone through from some of the best surf we had seen on this epic trip. Being able to cook was great as we discovered that eating in Uruguay involved lots and lots of cheesy pizzas or hamburgers. Unbeknownst to us, we were going to find a lot more 'carb factories'.
We enjoyed our time here living here and exploring the local area finding an abundance of sea and land life.
I was surfing on my own with a couple of locals when a curious sea lion decided to swim over for a closer look. I did my best, trying not to be alarmed. I asked the locals if the sea lion was dangerous in my limited Español. They laughed, not understanding the stress I was feeling. Not long after I calmed myself down, the sea lion lost interest and moved across the bay. I felt relieved and went in to tell Bronnie about my experience.
The following day Bronnie and I were out surfing in the same spot on our own when the curious sea lion swam over for a look. It was a lot closer today, which gave both of us the heeby-jeebies. Not feeling very comfortable with the sea lion bobbing around us within a meter or two, we decided to head to shore. Not long after this decision, a substantial wave came through, which Bronnie wasn't so lucky to pick up. For me, it wasn't a lousy wave to escape with into shore. I jumped off my board in the shallows to see where Bronnie was at in time to see her paddling for a wave with the sea lion mimicking a killer whale inches from her torso. My goodness, I thought as Bronnie had timed her escape wave to the last dying seconds. We later read that sea lions can become quite aggressive when territorial, but they are quiet and safe most of the time.
We decided that Uruguay was a bit too cold for our liking at this point in our trip and that we wouldn't cut back across to the west coast near Santiago, Chile, as initially planned. But travelling our way into warmer weather up the gorgeous beaches of Brasil was an inviting idea.
Feeling excited to cross the border into Brasil, we arrived at the bus station in the border town of Chuy. We bought our tickets and eagerly awaited. During this time, we suddenly realised that we might need a visa for Brasil. This thought fell on us like a tonne of bricks. We remembered a process of weeks for this visa and quite an expense when applying in Australia. Our next thoughts were Surfing in chilli Chile, after all. Our next step was to apologise to the ticket man in the little Español we had learnt. On doing this, the bus company sent us to the Brasilian embassy, where they spoke English and said no worries at all.
We paid $AUD40 and waited overnight for the visa to be processed. In Australia, this would have cost $100 and taken weeks to process. We were very joyous crossing the border with our freshly stamped passports.