Tag Archives: travel

Chacra Millalen – Organic farm

Sunset at Millalen

So, let me be honest, the idea of working on an organic farm for 2 weeks wasnt necessarily high on my list. There were a few things that concerned me, one was, the lack of meat on the menu for that time. Other than that, I wasnt overly concerned. By the end of our time there, it was really quite special to have spent so much time in such a beautiful place. Yes it was a farm, a working organic farm, and we learned so much. Our day basically went as follows:

07:30 – Wake up

08:00 Breakfast – consisting of homemade bread, Jam, Oatmeal and Te Negro (Black tea)

09:00 Work assignments handed out and that could range from weeding the beds in the veggie garden (a large veggie garden) to picking raspberries, cleaning certain areas, making adobe bricks etc etc

09:10 – 13:00 Work!

13:00 Lunch – always a hot cooked meal which could comprise of lentils, potatoe bake, veggie stew, millet casserole and so on, sometime with rice and other accompaniments

14:00 – 16:00 – Siesta time, literally

16:00 – 20:00 Work

20:30 – Dinner time

230:00 Bed Time

Raspberry pickings
Peas picked by Francis

Pickings for the last half hour

We were only working half day on the farm, so generally after lunch we had time off, so we relaxed, read our books, typed up blogs, edited photos etc.

The farm, as I said, is a working farm and so it generates income off the produce. A lot of the fruit is made into jams or preserves and sold in the local town up the road called El Bolson. The nearest town is El Hoyo, but it really is very small, so not much of a market there. Most of the tourists end up in El Bolson and that is where a lot of the produce is sold. The veggies and fruit really is very good and very fresh and of course all natural, so no chemicals or pesticides have been used in growing the produce.

We were on the farm with about 10 other volunteers, 5 of them were from the USA andthe rest were from France. This made for many interesting chats as the French group could not speak much English apart from one of the girls, Lena, who was actually very fluent, more fluent than she let us know. Then the USA group, all girls, were mostly out of college and travelling for the next few months before they returned to the US.

We had a lot of fun and laughter, two of the French guys were highly talented musicians, Nico was a really good guitarist, so good that he could listen to a song one or two times and begin to pluck it out on a guitar. Antoine made music with just about anything, he turned pots into drums, PVC pipes into Didgeridoos and he had a mouth organ which he played with great aplomb. It was really amazing to be sitting around after dinner listening to an informal jam session that they would strike up…

The scenery at Chacra Millalen really stole the show. The farm is surrounded by beautiful rugged peaks that seem to push up effortlessly from the valley. In the distance are snow capped mountains and just beyond that the border with Chile. The valley is green and lush and is home to a lot of cherry, raspberry and strawberry farming, so it really is a great place to have a farm. Also, there are plenty of horses in the area, we would be walking down the country road and two horses, by themselves, would amble by along the road…really rural, but very very pretty.

Chacra Millalen Snowfall
Chacra Millalen Snowfall
Mountain at Millalen

The owners of the farm we also such lovely people, Fabio (who didnt speak any English unfortunately) had a lovely open and smily face and was always joking and making people laugh, Josephine who is fluent in English, Swiss, German, French and Spanish is always in control of what is happening in her garden. Every afternoon, she would walk through the garden with her clipoard and make notes of what needs to be done next.

Overall we had a great time at the farm, and learnt a lot about how things get done on an organic farm, a good experience and as always, great new friendships were made..

The cooking team of that evening
My sweetie in her gum boots
Hmmm, nice gum boots
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Bariloche – The Switzerland of Argentina

We arrived in Bariloche and were amazed at its incredible beauty. After being in the semi – desert area of Mendoza, Bariloche was the complete opposite. Officially known as San Carlos de Bariloche, it is a true gem in the Patagonia region of South America. It is a magnificent region and the town itself is nestled into the mountainside overlooking Lago Nahuel Huapi (Lake Nahuel Huapi) This lake is so big, that it actually looks like the sea, but of course it isn’t, it is fresh, clean and very clear mountain water. The lake itself is 529km square, so it’s a large lake and has been measured as 438m deep, but no sign of Nessie here, maybe it would have to be Jorge. Bariloche has an interesting history and even some Nazis were found to be hiding here as recently as 1995, so its an interesting place. The town is clean and the air is fresh. Right now, its summer, but its not warm (just ask Francis) and if the wind blows, woohoo, it is really cold. The wind blows off the mountains and across the lake and up into the town, if you happen to be in the crossfire when it hits the town, you freeze, good practice for Canada….

The buildings here in Bariloche seem to be influenced by European Alpine villages and look very much like Swiss or Austrian log homes. In many ways, Bariloche reminds us of Canada, on the west coast with the high mountains, huge lakes and stunning alpine scenery.

Civic Centre in Downtown Bariloche
Swiss Home in Bariloche
Swiss Influence

So, to make sure could see the view properly, Francis and I went up Cerro Otto, or Mount Otto. We had to go up via cableway, so once again Francis had to face her fear of heights and this one was quite steep and high. Once at the top though, the view was amazing. You could see a 360 degree view of the whole town and surrounding mountains. The larger mountains are still snow capped, but in winter, the whole area would be white and snow covered. We spent an hour at the top (there is a revolving restaurant there too) and then came down.

Cable Car
Francis taking in the view
View from Cerro Otto
Surrounding Mountains - Cerro Otto

Bariloche is famous for its chocolate. There is a chocolate shop literally on ever block of the main streets and each one of them MAKES their own chocolate. No Cadburys here…only hand made stuff. So we visited the chocolate museum and it was really fantastic to see how it gets made, we wanted to buy some there, but it was really expensive. We walked a bit further down the road and went into another shop and you could see them making it there too, so we watched, caved in and bought some there, a little cheaper, but wow, really tasty stuff and very fresh. The amazing thing is, every chocolate shop is full of people, the Argentinians certainly have a sweet tooth and so each chocolate shop seems to be really busy. So we bought our first chocolate and we were hooked, each day since, we now go for a choccie run at about 4pm in the afternoon.

Chocolate Museum
Chocolate Mixer
Cherries dipped in Chocolate

Also, on this same evening, we went to dinner at a local couchsurfer called Julie (pronounced Hoo – lee) She made a traditional Asado (similar to a braai) for us and prepared us some food. It was great, the meat, of course, was amazing. Argentinian beef is really good and she was a very interesting person. She is a scientist and is involved in researching the wildlife in Baricloche…so she was very interesting company to say the least.

Julie and Francis
Asado - yes, thats meat..

After dinner we headed back to our Hosteria, but here is the interesting thing. We walked down about 500m of dirt road from her house at about 11:15pm and then got to a main road where we stood for about 10 minutes and waited for a bus back to town. We then got on that bus and were dropped off safely in town about 20 meters from out Hosteria. It is incredible to think that we could never attempt this in SA and that the infrastructure here works so well…buses here, even in a small place like Bariloche, run until midnight. The next day, we went out on a boat trip, but that will be my next post, so keep on looking…should go up soon.

A belated Happy Christmas…. no WiFi

Well, we were in the city of Tucuman for a few days and the Wifi was patchy there, we then moved onto Tafi Del Valle where there was only one place in the whole village that had WiFi and so it has been difficult to put any news on the blog for the past week.  Both Tucuman and Tafi del Valle were great, Tafi is almost 2000m above sea level, so it is very high up and is surrounded by massive mountains. Unfortunately, it rained for the 3 days we were there, so I have no photos worth putting up. When the clouds did lift, it was only on the last day as we were leaving the bus station….such a pity. We are now in Salta and there is plenty WiFi, so more posts will be put in the next day or two…in the meantime, here is an image from Tucuman…taken from the balcony of our hotel.

Steeples of Tucuman

Cordoba

We arrived in Cordoba and soon realised that Argentina has some really huge cities. These cities are on a par with any city in the world, they are busy, restless places and never does the noise stop. In fact, Buenos Aires is one of the noisiest cities in the world and Cordoba is the second largest city in Argentina, second only to BA, so it is also a noisy place. We only stayed one night and then have moved onto Tanti, our little outpost in the foothills. below are some pics of Cordoba by night.

Train travel…a great alternative

In South Africa, we don’t have much to choose from when it comes to public transport. Unfortunately, we have not developed a robust system that can be used by all South Africans.

Window view

In years gone by, air travel was expensive and I remember as a child we would travel from Durban to Johannesburg by train. In recent years, this has changed because air travel became more affordable and unfortunately, train travel became less safe.

Recently though, we heard about a new train offering that was travelling to major destinations in South Africa called the premier classe and we decided to travel from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town on the train.

We had an absolutely amazing time. The train was certainly luxurious, but more than that, the scenery w

as outstanding and the service was excellent. Nothing was too much trouble for the staff, they were friendly and very

Dinner Time

helpful. The trina itself was in very good condition, the cabins and lounge areas were spotless and this made for a fantastic experience. We meandered through some fo the most amazing scenery in the Eastern Cape and into the Western Cape,

we saw some amazing sights that you just dont see when travelling by road and certainly not by air. Some of the kloofs and passes were amazing with the highlight being the Outeniqua pass into George. It was quite an interesting trip, sleeping on the train took a bit of getting used to, but it was a lot of fun…try it some time.

Bar and Window
Lounge Cart
Train houses

The journey begins…

We have less than two weeks to go before we leave Johannesburg and go down to PE and then Cape Town. We fly out of Cape Town to Buenos Aires in mid December and from there the journey begins. We will spend a few weeks in Buenos Aires and then we are planning to go down to Patagonia, Bariloche, Tierra del Fuego. We will then go to Ushuaia and from there, we are thinking of going to Antarctica.

Antarctica - Photo source unknown

Antarctica is an amazing place, a place that evokes an amazing sense of adventure, we are very keen to go there, but only timing and budget will tell. From there we plan to go to Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, Brazil, the Caribbean, Paraguay and then Uruguay. So that should keep us busy for the next year or so, after that who knows.

So, South America, here we come…