Why I’m eating vegan & why I haven’t talked about it

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On the 24th May 2018, I decided I would trying eating a vegan diet for a week. I’d been particularly bored at that time, struggling to fill the hole that skiing had left in my life now that the snow had melted and the lifts were closed. I’d watched every Princess Diana documentary on Netflix and moved onto documentaries on global meat consumption and diet. Fueled by facts about the negative impacts on the environment and your health that animal produce causes, I impulsively decided I would try a vegan diet. I was intrigued to see how hard it would be; I’d always been on the side of “I could never do that”.

To my surprise the first week went by without too much difficulty. Luckily I have a friend at work who is vegan and they were able to give me a lot of great advice and guidance. Whistler is a very open place with lots of different lifestyles coexisting, so finding vegan alternatives was easy. Considering I’d made it that far, I decided to keep going. I wasn’t sure how much longer I would carry on but I wasn’t ready to go back to eating meat just yet. I’m forever grateful to Pinterest for making it so easy to find amazing and delicious vegan food inspiration. Some of the tastiest meals I’ve had in a while have been since I changed my diet and I’ve probably become a better cook, learning to make new things like quesadillas.

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After a couple of weeks had passed and I was still sticking to my new diet, I decided to tell my family. I’d told my brother from the beginning – he’s a vegetarian and was very supportive of my decision – but I was nervous of telling my mum. Actually I was nervous of telling most people and I still am. Her first reaction was something along the lines of “can’t you just be a vegetarian?” which epitomises what I had feared – the negative reaction to being a vegan. Lots of people think you’re just being fussy or difficult. They can’t understand why you’ve made such a “drastic life change” and they can’t see why it matters so much to you.

But why do people have such negative views of vegans when those choosing that lifestyle are doing it for positive reasons? We should be glad they are trying to reduce their environmental impact, the amount of animals killed each year for our consumption and improve their own health. I’ve always being conscious of being an “inconvenience” to people when I eat out after being a picky eater as a child and I guess this feeling has intensified now that I’ve cut a large section of everyday foods from my diet. But I’m happy and proud of the decision I’ve made so I shouldn’t shy away from telling people.

I know that this doesn’t appear to have anything to do with travel and it’s quite different to what I’ve written about before, but for me, travel is a journey of self-discovery and choosing to eating vegan is my latest adventure.

10 life lessons from travelling this year

airportIt’s hard to believe it’s been a year since I left England. It feels like a lot has changed in my life since the 30th of June 2017 when I was loaded up with all my possessions in Heathrow airport waving goodbye my mum and that easy lifestyle. I didn’t know how it would work out and I was especially nervous starting off in Venezuela. But now looking back I wouldn’t change a thing.

I’ve learnt a lot in the last 364 days and although from the outside I probably look the same as I did before I left, I feel different on the inside. So, I decided to share 10 lessons I’ve learnt travelling this year, hopefully you can relate to a few if you’ve been on your own journey.

1. Self-belief – travelling independently has taught me to believe in myself, as clichéd as it sounds. I decided where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do and I did it. Even when things looked a bit sticky, like crossing the border into Colombia on foot or getting to the front of a four hour border queue in Ecuador and being told I haven’t got the right passport stamp; I managed to sort myself out. I turned up in Canada without a job or a place to live and I figured it out. Just because others doubt you, doesn’t mean you should doubt yourself too.
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2. Language skills are really helpful – this is one of the most practical life lessons. Learning some Spanish along the way was really helpful. I was definitely ignorant thinking I wouldn’t need to speak the local language. To really experience the culture of a nation, you need to communicate in their language. The next time I travel somewhere new, I’ll take a short language course before I set off.

3. Things don’t always have to go to plan – being flexible and open to changing your plans helps you to make the most of travelling and life in general. In South America it was really hard to see everything I wanted to see in so many different places, in such a short time. Turning up in a town on a day when all the museums are closed; planning a beach day when it’s raining; trying to catch a bus on a day when there aren’t any; were all common occurrences when I was travelling and you just have to get on with it. Sometimes there’s nothing you can do to change a situation, so make the most of what you can do, not what you can’t. (Hakuna Matata, basically but without the catchy song)

4. My worldly possessions don’t mean as much as I thought they did – I can be a bit of a hoarder at times, especially for mementos like ticket stubs. After having to carry everything I have on my back for four months I’ve realised, do I actually need all this stuff? Especially clothes – I don’t need tonnes of tops, dresses and shorts that I never even wear. I’m much more comfortable wearing leggings and jumpers anyway.

5. Desk jobs are really not for me – I kind of knew this before I set off on my adventures but travelling really confirmed it for me. I can’t just quietly sit at a desk doing the same thing everyday. It doesn’t fit my personality and I’m so glad I learnt this now rather than 10 years down the line when I don’t know why my life feels so unsatisfied.
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6. How to spend money more wisely – I still can’t claim to be any kind of budgeting expert. I’ve always spent money as fast as I’ve earned it but travelling definitely taught me (sometimes the hard way) that you can’t afford to do everything you want to do, even if you have the cash now. Travelling for five months without earning a penny means you have to consider what it’s worth spending money on and what you can live without.

7. I’m more outdoorsy than I thought – in the UK I was never interested in hiking or landscapes. My idea of a perfect day at home used to be watching movies and baking. Walking the dog was always a chore I resented and going for a run would be rewards with hours of doing nothing. Now I’m much more excited by outdoor activities and most of goals for the summer are around hiking and camping. My best memories of the last year have all been outdoors, especially teaching kids to ski.
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8. Working with kids is great – a perfect segue here. I’m never had a job working with kids before. I’ve volunteered as a sports coach and I’ve done the odd bit of babysitting for family friends but actually being paid to hangout with kids all day and teach them how to do something you love is great. I don’t know if I’d feel the same teaching children in a classroom environment but I’m tempted to try in the future.
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9. I have the best family in the world (but I already knew that really) – my family has been there for me the whole way through my travels, even when friends haven’t. My mum especially has been so supportive and helpful, whatever the time difference or situation; my auntie has to be the biggest fan of my blog, commenting on nearly every post, closely followed by my grandmother, and I couldn’t be closer with my cousin. Travelling on your own definitely has highs and lows but with my family behind me I didn’t feel alone.
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10. If you want to make a life change, you have to do it for yourself – this last one speaks for itself, really. A lot of people didn’t believe I could or would do all the things I’ve done this year. I wasn’t happy with my life before I left but through the life changes I’ve made I feel now I can determine my own happiness.

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Why am I still here if Whistler is closed?

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This is a question I have been asking myself on and off since Whistler mountain closed on the 22nd April 2018. I have always been very clear that the reason I came to Canada and to Whistler is to ski. I chose this resort out of all the other quieter, less expensive resorts in Canada because of its huge terrain. I spent a month or so training to be a ski instructor and an amazing six weeks teaching children how to ski. Now the lifts are closed and the snow is melting, what am I still doing here?

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I don’t have a profound answer to this question. I’m not sure I even have a real answer. All I know is I don’t seem to be able to leave. All the people I have met here over the winter have been telling me how much I will love summer; how it is so much better than winter, how there is so much more to do. But when you are doing something you love, do you need anything more?

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Over the last six months, skiing has become a huge part of my life. It has transformed from a hobby to a lifestyle – something I plan my week around. All of my best moments since being here have been on skis, whether it’s passing my instructing qualifications, helping a friend to conquer new heights, teaching my first lesson, winning a race, getting the freshest tracks on the biggest day of the year or starting each Sunday watching the sun rise over the mountains. This mystical place has won my heart and just because it’s closed for the winter doesn’t mean I can turn my back on it.

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What I didn’t realise when I chose Whistler was that it has such a popular mountain biking scene in the summer. Those who know me well will know I don’t know how to ride a bike. It’s not something I talk about much, mostly because I find it embarrassing. People always follow this discovery with, “do you know how to swim?” as though I’m deficient in all of life’s basic lessons. Maybe this will be the year I learn to ride, if I can afford to buy a bike, but for now this activity is barred to me.

There’s lots of other summer activities that are popular with locals here like fishing, camping, frisbee golf (frolf) and swimming in lakes, I just need to find one that works for me.

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In the last year while I traveled through South America I discovered a passion for hiking that I’d never had in the UK. I’d always thought walking was just a slow way to get to where you wanted to be. Thankfully, there’s a lot of hiking to do in Whistler and British Colombia. While I have to be a lot more careful not to wander into a bear here than I did in Patagonia, there’s still going to be places I can discover on my own. And anyway, if I need to be part of a group to hike, at least it encourages me to be more sociable.

So, while I might still be sad that the ski season is over, I’ll try to make the most of the summer in front of me and the beautifully transforming landscape that surrounds me here. It might not be a winter wonderland but it still beats the skyscrapers of London hands down.

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My Canadian adventures: living in Whistler

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I’ve been living in Canada for three months now. Although I’ve been in the same spot for much longer than my travels in South America, I feel like a lot has changed in this short space of time. My initial plan had always been to stay in Canada for the six-month ski season and to return to the UK in May 2018. But that’s no longer the plan.

I had thought that during my travels in South America I would have some kind of epiphany and know where my life was headed and what future career I should pursue. As it came to the end of those first four months travelling I started to realise that that wasn’t going to happen for me. I would need to explore lots of different paths until I found one that fits.

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For now, I’m working in Guest Services for a property rental company where being talkative and lively isn’t seen as a negative like it has been in my past ‘desk jobs’. I have morning or evening shifts which give me flexibility to go skiing in the morning before starting work most days.

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On Sundays I work up the mountain and it’s definitely my favourite part of the week. I catch the first gondola up at 7:45am and spent the day helping beginners get up after a fall. I have had a couple of Sundays now with fresh tracks in unskied powder and it’s just the best feeling. From this I’ve realised I want to work on the mountain next year – I want to be outdoors and I want to be active.

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So I’m now taking the steps to make that happen. I have a visa until October 2019 so no extra work there. I’m improving my skiing technique and pushing myself more up the mountain. I’ve decided I want to learn to be a ski instructor and I’ve signed up for Level 1 and 2 instructing courses (which aren’t cheap). And importantly, I’m speaking to everyone ‘in the know’ about getting staff housing next season. It might not be a foolproof plan and I’m sure there will be changes along the way but for now, it looks like I’ll be in Canada for 2018.

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Iguazu Falls, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo: the final chapter in South America

I am now writing this post nearly a month after concluding my journey in South America. How I have managed to get so far behind is a mixture of being extremely busy and extremely lazy. I apologise to anyone who has been waiting to hear the conclusion of my adventures. Writing this post has been on my mind nearly everyday and perhaps I have been putting it off because I didn’t want to believe that chapter of my story is over. But now that I have been in Canada for nearly a month, I am starting to come to terms with my changing circumstances and lifestyle. While my adventures are not so varied, they are still exciting. I have been very fortunate to have experienced so much in such a short space of time and I’ll look back over this record in the future with happiness and nostalgia.

And so, now it is time to conclude the final chapter of my South American backpacking trip with a 10 day highlights of my time in Brazil. I had intended to spend two weeks in Brazil at least, but as is always the way, you never have enough time to do everything. Brazil is a huge country and I knew that there would be no way to get a flavour of the whole place in such a short space of time, so I limited myself to three popular southern highlights: Iguazu Falls, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.

Iguazu Falls

This spectacular natural beauty really does deserve a post of it’s own. I remember saying before I arrived in Iguazu that I’m sure the falls would be beautiful but I doubted they could compare to the awesomeness of Angel Falls in Venezuela – the first stop on my trip. This proud assertion couldn’t be more mistaken.

The falls sit on the border between Argentina and Brazil – luckily I had enough time to see them from both sides. Most travellers only see one side but I’m so glad I got to see both. I couldn’t pick a favourite side though. In Argentina you are above and below the falls, and the main attraction is the platform that comes out onto the top of the Devil’s Throat. From there you can see the huge mass of water come over the top of the falls and crash down into a foamy expanse at the foot of the cliff. This part of the national park is supposed to be the busiest but I think I must have chosen the perfect time to reach the end of the platform because there was plenty of space to enjoy the view. There is an opportunity to take a boat trip into the falls on the Argentinean side but I decided it was too expensive and I had been on a lot of boats recently.

The next day I crossed into Brazil, finally leaving Argentina, with some friends I had met in Peru and Bolivia. It wasn’t the smoothest of crossings as the bus driver forgot to stop at border control so we could get passport stamps. Instead, he left us 200 metres into Brazil on the side of the road with our bags. We walked back to the border, got our stamps and waited for the next bus. Luckily we were staying at the same hostel – a very cool Tetris container hostel – so we travelled together the whole way and went to the Brazil side of Iguazu together as well.

The Brazil side of the falls is just as spectacular. From there you get a panoramic view of the falls on all sides, ending with a platform that takes you into the middle of the base of the Devil’s Throat and covers you in spray. The weather was perfect on both sides but because of the spray, the Brazil side was covered in rainbows. I haven’t seen such intense rainbows before and they really added to the magic of the scene. We were very glad that we had gone when we did because it rained all the next day.

I can’t recommend one side more that the other, they were both amazing and equally priced. You don’t need to book a group tour to see either, the public buses are regular and inexpensive and the beauty of the falls speak for themselves. This was really one of my favourite parts of my whole South American experience. It’s definitely a must-see for any travel enthusiast.

Rio de Janeiro

From Foz de Iguassu (the closest town to the falls in Brazil) I flew to Rio de Janeiro – pronounced by Brazilians as “Hieo” instead of Rio. Annoyingly for the four days I was there, the weather wasn’t great. It was hot and humid and cloudy. I didn’t get to enjoy the famous crystalline beaches like I’d planned but I did get to know more of the culture than I had expected. I started out with a walking tour, as always, to get my bearings of the city and learn about the history. This was a pretty good walking tour by comparison to some of the others and so I decided to also pay for the food tour the same company offered. It was good value and something I hadn’t done up to this point in the three and a half months I had been travelling. Although I couldn’t name any of the dishes it was delicious food and interesting to see the Caribbean influence. I also tried a lot of coxinha’s while I was in Rio, which are shredded chicken and cream cheese, covered in a dough and then fried. They’re made in the shape of a tear drop but it’s supposed to resemble a chicken thigh, apparently. They are extremely unhealthy, but also extremely delicious.

Later I took the cable cart up to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain just in time for the sunset. Unfortunately the clouds got in the way for most of it and I was taken off guard by the strong winds but it was still a beautiful place to see panoramic views of the city.

The next day I decided to take an early morning stroll along the famous Copacabana beach, despite the bad weather. I was very nervous of being robbed but I decided to take my phone anyway as I really wanted to take pictures. In the end I had no problems and there were others with their phones. I could almost imagine how busy that beach is in the summer but I don’t think I could have stood the heat anyway.

My final highlight of Rio was visiting the huge botanical gardens. They weren’t disturbed by the weather at all and, again, I could just imagine how lush and green they would be in summer. There is a sensory garden with lot of different smells for those with disabilities, a huge number of cacti, a large orchid greenhouse, a rose garden planted in a spiral formation, a palm tree lined path, beautiful and ornate water fountains and a Japanese garden which I’m sure is beautiful too when the lilies are in bloom. I’m not interested in gardening but I do love the colours and shapes of these kinds of botanical gardens, and this was probably my favourite part of Rio de Janeiro.

São Paulo

I left Rio on a rainy morning and arrived in São Paulo, the final stop on my destination, just as it was starting to get dark. It was a surreal feeling knowing that I wouldn’t be visiting anywhere else in South America. This would be my last hostel on the continent after staying in more than 30 in just four months. But I had something to look forward to in São Paulo, I would be visiting two friends who lived there that I had met trekking in Venezuela. So in a way, it would feel like ending at the beginning.

First I had a day to myself to explore the city and see some culture so I started with a walking tour – of course. The guide for the tour was one of the best I’ve had, although the route did seem to be based around areas where we could get discounts from their tour at rather than sights to see. It did, however, take us down the famous Batman Alley where you can see São Paulo’s most famous graffiti art. If you’ve followed along, you’ll know that I am a big fan of graffiti and murals so this was right up my street. We even got to meet one of the artists who was riding by on a bicycle!

I also went to the São Paulo Museum of Art on Paulista Avenue, one of the city’s most famous streets. Although the main exhibition on sexuality wasn’t to my taste, there was another interesting exhibition on the top floor that displayed the artwork on clear pieces on acrylic so it looked like it was floating, suspended in mid air. All the information about the artwork and artist was on the back of the piece of work so you would make judgements about the art itself before finding out more. The work ranged from 16th century to 21st century as you moved your way through the exhibition.

The next day, my friends Wyllyan and Aline met me at my hostel and whisked me away on a locals adventure to a food market in the centre of the city where I tasted lots of unusual, exotic fruit and then we had lunch in a restaurant upstairs in the market. The building was built like a London train station with a big, arched ceiling and beautiful stained glass windows. It had far more sophistication than any market I’ve seen in London.

After lunch we walked around the city centre, visited an amazing cathedral, went to the Japanese part of town (like chinatown in London), watched a weird 3D commercial film at the São Paulo Stock Exchange building and admired the architecture which resembled Gringotts Bank from Harry Potter, in my eyes.

The park we had planned to see on my final day in South America was closed because of a Yellow Fever outbreak so we steered clear of that. Instead, we went to Ibirapuera Park in the city which has a stunning lake, ducks and swans, lots of trees with brightly coloured flowers and people running or riding bikes. It reminded me of a tropical version of Victoria Park in London. It was very peaceful in the daytime but apparently at weekends it’s very busy.

Then we went to another art gallery which we browsed around and Wyllyan’s cousin, who worked there, took us up to the rooftop to see the amazing panoramic view of the city. São Paulo has more skyscrapers and cars than I’ve ever seen and from that viewpoint you could really get a sense of how immense in was.

For my final meal in South America, a place where I’ve tried a lot of new and delicious food, Wyllyan offered to cook spaghetti bolognese for me, as he knew it was my favourite meal and his family are Italian. So to pick up ingredients we went to a place called Eataly – well, I could have lived there forever. They had everything Italian you could eat: fresh pasta, fresh mozzarella, gelato, wine, pizza. I tried at least five types of mozzarella and watched them make fresh pasta by hand. This might not sound very Brazilian but São Paulo is said to have the biggest Italian population outside of Italy so this food has very much become part of Brazilian culture.

The meal was very delicious and before I knew it we were all in the car on the way to the airport and my time in South America was up. I was a mix of nerves and excitement as I sat on the plane waiting to take off – probably a lot more of the former than the latter. I had no concrete plans made for Canada beyond the first few days; I’ve never lived abroad before and I had used quite a bit more of my funds in South America than I had planned. I would no longer be moving place to place, meeting new people everyday but settling down in a town I’d never been to, where I knew no one and finding a job after five months without working. Yes, I was scared. But I also knew I was too scared to go back to London yet, without a plan or a purpose. In the four months I had spent in South America I had hoped some kind of divine idea would strike me about where I saw my life and my career going – but instead I think I buried the problem at the back of my head and enjoyed the time I had.

As you can tell, I’ve made it to Canada and I’ve been living in Whistler for nearly a month – so I haven’t completely messed up yet. But I’m far from what I’d call settled in. I’ll just have to patient and see how it goes. Who knows, I might love it here and never come back to the UK – but it’s far too early to make those kind of decisions yet.

48 hours is not enough in Buenos Aires

Buenos Aries, the capital of Argentina and my first stop after a month in Patagonia, is the sixth largest city in South America and far too big for me to cover in just 48 hours. Why did I spend such a short time in this beautiful metropolis? Unfortunately, I was a victim to my own ambition, trying to fit too many destinations into just four months. With only two weeks left of my South America trip and four destinations still to visit (Buenos Aires, Iguazu Falls, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo) I decided that Buenos Aires had more than enough attractions to warrant a whole trip to itself in the future. Also, the Latin America Art Museum (MALBA) which I really wanted to visit was closed for the whole of October – so I would have to come back.

Although I only had a short time in Buenos Aires, I tried to make the most of it and still managed to fit a lot of sights into just 48 hours.

City walking tour

My usual first stop in any big city is to do a “free” walking tour (they call them free but you still have to tip a fair amount). They always help you to get your bearings of the city, it’s easy to meet people and you can get some good tips of what’s worth seeing during your stay. I perhaps wasn’t as prepared as I should have been for this walking tour, setting off with just 30% battery power on my phone, but it was interesting all the same and gave me a good excuse to spend ages having a long lunch instead of traipsing around the cemetery taking pictures.

I learnt about the Argentinean people’s thoughts and feelings around the Falklands War and how it affected their communities, saw the building voted the ‘ugliest building in Buenos Aires’ and compared that different types of architecture across the city (most people think there are European-style colonial buildings in Buenos Aires but there aren’t). Although I’ve been on some better walking tours across the course of my trip, I’d still recommend it as a good start.

The Pink Palace at sunset

After a good nap (I had arrived at 2am after a delayed flight), I went to see the famous Pink Palace and Plaza de Mayo. Just as I was approaching the palace, I saw the end of a changing of the guards kind of ceremony. The Pink Palace was not as spectacular as Buckingham Palace, of course, but it was still worth seeing. By the time I’d got there the sun was just starting to set as well so it added to the pink colouring. It is situated in a pretty plaza with bright white architecture surrounding it and it is a great place to view the sunset from for a few minutes of peace and quiet in the bustling city. It would have been nice after this to eat out in a classy restaurant but still on a strict budget I settled for a couple of gin and tonics in the rooftop bar of my hostel.

Ecological Reserve

The next day I was sure to make the most of my time in Buenos Aires by getting up early to run around the Ecological Reserve, located right in the city centre. Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures from this as I was scared of getting robbed so I didn’t take my phone. This was an unnecessary fear as it wasn’t a remotely dangerous place to run. I didn’t realise before I set off that this was actually the same morning as the Buenos Aires marathon and the route I had planned would cross the official route multiple time. This was the first run I’d done in three months, despite telling myself and others before I left that I would be running all the time. I was a quite ambitious with my route and ended up running for over an hour and a half which was certainly more than I was physically capable of.

Once I reached it, the Ecological Reserve was a beautiful place to run around with serval lakes and beaches. The skyline in the distance was a nice contrast to the surrounding greenery of the park.

San Telmo Sunday street market

After a slow shower, I was already feeling the effects of running for too long, I headed out to the San Telmo Sunday street market – one of Buenos Aires’s most popular weekend attractions. The Sunday market continues further than the eye can see and must be more than 10 blocks long. I started in the middle walked up to one end and then all the way back to the very other end. It was exhausting but great. A real bustling artisan market and for once there was something different to Inca and Andean crafts. Buenos Aires has its own distinct style and this was clear in the market; it was filled with artist signs, music, leather works, handcrafted treasures, antiques and more.

Art museums

The street where the market finally finished opened onto the Museum of Modern Art of Buenos Aires (MAMBA) which I visited next. I like art museums but I don’t always enjoy modern art – I prefer the classics like Monet, Renoir, and Van Gogh – but in the third floor of the museum I saw one of the best modern exhibitions I have ever seen. It was called ‘How to Entangle the World in a Spider Web’ by Tomas Saraceno and was created by eighteen colonies of spiders. There were so many times I kept wanting to reach out and touch the webs, just to check they were real, but obviously I wasn’t allowed to and couldn’t do that. The cleverly placed lighting and eerie scuttling sounds that were being played quietly in the background added to the intensity of the unbelievable exhibition and I felt lucky to have stumbled across something so outstanding.

Somehow I was still on my feet, though barely as I hadn’t sat down all day by this point, and I had to buy a bus ticket at the other end of town. I took the metro to the bus station and then decided, probably unwisely, to walk to the National Museum of Fine Arts (MNBA). I was exhausted by the time I got there and although it had some nice pieces, it was nowhere near as good as the National Gallery in London or the art museum I had visited in Valparaiso. To be honest I was too tired to enjoy it and I spent most of the time taking pictures to examine more closely later.


All in all I had a very short but mostly sweet time in Buenos Aires. It is a very sophisticated capital city and definitely one of the places I want to revisit in the future. As the title of this post says, 48 is definitely not enough time to see Buenos Aires in all its beauty.

Ushuaia: the end of the world and the end of my Patagonian adventures

It’s not as apocalyptic as it sounds in Ushuaia. ‘El Fin del Mundo’, as Ushuaia likes to call itself, translates as ‘the end of the world’ but they’re using this title in a geographical sense as it’s the last city in the south of Argentina, closest to Antarctica. It’s also most travellers last (or first) stop in Patagonia. It rivals Torres del Paine for expensiveness and there’s a lot of attractions to spend your money on. Luckily, although maybe not for my bank balance, I had four full days to spend here so I had time to do all of them. I realised that I may never come back to Ushuaia so I should make the most of the opportunity and cough up some of my cash.

Day one: El Tren del Fin del Mundo and Tierra del Fuego National Park


Most people consider the train at the end of the world an expensive gimmick but for someone who had never been on a steam train before, I was really excited to experience it. The train is an important part of the penal history of Ushuaia (more on that later) and takes you through parts of the Tierra del Fuego National Park which you couldn’t otherwise see. The carriages are little three-seater compartments which made me feel like I was on the set of the Hogwarts Express (another reason I wanted to take the train) and there is an interesting audio guide which is played during the journey.


I had perfect weather for this day and halfway through the ride we were able to get out and take pictures of the train and amazing surrounding scenery – stamped by the clear impact of deforestation during the time the area was inhabited by the prison occupants. Instead of replanting, this area is left as an mark of the history of the city.

After the train ride, the minibus which had dropped me off at the train station picked me up and took me further into the Tierra del Fuego National Park. The bus dropped me off at the end of Route 3 – the most southern main road in Argentina. From there, there are a number of short walks you can do around the peat marshes and Lapataia Bay area. This is a beautiful place that you could easily spend the whole day strolling around. Annoyingly I only had a few hours so I couldn’t walk all the trails but the bits I saw were outstanding. I didn’t know anything about peat before reaching Ushuaia but it has a lot of positive benefits and it changed the look of the landscape from the rest of Patagonia.




Day two: The Beagle Canal cruise

The next day I shelled out for the most expensive day trip of my time in Ushuaia – a cruise of the Beagle Canal. I don’t know a huge amount about the Antarctic expeditions and navigations of the south but I do know that the Beagle Canal was an important part of the history of this period. It’s the only passage through Argentina and Chile out to the Pacific Ocean and I felt very lucky to be able to afford a boat trip along this notary route.

Most of the boat trips include a visit to the (weird) bird island, the sea lion island and the lighthouse at the end of the world. Only some include the penguin island (Isla Martillo), mostly because it’s the furthest away. These trips which include a chance to see the penguins are the most expensive but I decided that I hadn’t come all this way not to see them. It’s only just the start of the season where the penguins arrive so it was a bit of a gamble to go with this option but it was definitely worth it.

The (weird) bird island was the first stop and it was jam-packed with these seagulls posing as penguins. I was momentarily deceived before I remembered penguins can’t fly (thanks Madagascar movie). They weren’t the main attraction of the trip but still pretty cool to see and they were much better than the plain old white seagulls we get in England.

Next was the sea lion island which I thought was very impressive although quite quiet – only a handful of sea lions were perched on the rocky cliffs. They clearly don’t like the boats visiting them because they kept swimming away every time we got closer. It was the first time I had seen a sea lion not in a zoo (and I’m not even sure I’ve seen them in the zoo). They’re so much bigger than you would expect and their ‘lion-like’ qualities are interesting to watch.


Les Eclaireurs lighthouse was the next stop and it really has an unstated beauty. It’s not technically the last lighthouse at the end of the world but that’s what it’s famous for. The distinct red and white against the blue of the sea stands out starkly adding to the meaningfulness of the remote location. I took so many picture of this simple lighthouse – it’s situation is just mesmerising.


Finally we reached the penguins! The gamble was worth it because there were a fair amount of penguins to see. The island housed two types of penguins the Magellanic penguins and Gentoo penguins (I had to look this up because I couldn’t remember their names so I’m sorry if they’re wrong). The Gentoo penguins are bigger and just stood still in the middle of the island. I couldn’t see them so well from the boat but it was nice to see two types of penguins and really I was just glad they were there. The Magellanic penguins were a lot more active and spent a lot of time on the shore. We were really close to them at one point and could observe their flock-like nature as the swam and walked in groups. As always I wanted more time to see them but they were amazing to see and worth spending the extra money on.

Day 3: hiking to Laguna Esmeralda

I thought I had finished my hiking days in Torres del Paine but no. I heard about this popular and moderate difficulty hike to see Laguna Esmeralda – a blue-green lake surrounded by mountains. Although this sight is nothing new in my trip through Patagonia, I had heard a lot of people speak about this hike and I had time to spare so decided I would go to visit it.


What I didn’t know was that the hike is a VERY muddy one through peat marches, bogs and through a very muddy woods. To us English, it was definitely an occasion for wellies but I didn’t have any so hiking boots had to do. Thankfully I picked up a large stick to hike with near the start because I had a number of sticky situations were I was stuck balancing on a stone in the middle of a peat bog. Even when a guide told me I had gone the wrong route I stubbornly persevered and managed to find a route out.


After two hours of hiking through the mud, I eventually reached the lagoon and it was completely free from other hikers. I must have had the perfect timing because I could take all the pictures I wanted without obstruction. The lake was half-frozen and this made it stand out against the others I have seen. The surrounding mountains were clearly visible despite the clouds sitting behind them and I felt lucky to get such good weather.

Day four: the history of Ushuaia

On my last day I had to check out of the hostel at 10am which was quite annoying considering my flight to Buenos Aires wasn’t until 8:30pm. But the hostel did let me leave my big pack there during the day even if I wasn’t allowed to stay. This meant I had time to visit all the museums in Ushuaia and learn about the history of the city.

The best place to learn about Ushuaia is the famous Museo Maritimo y del Presidio (the maritime and prison museum) housed in the original prison. This is a huge museum and after spending two hours there I did start to lose concentration so I definitely could have learnt more about the maritime heritage and Antarctic expeditions but I focused on the prison section of the museum as I’d learn about this on the train trip.

In the start of the 1900s, the Argentinean government set up a penal colony in Ushuaia that was built by the prisoners themselves. It was modelled on other successful colonies such as the UK had started in Australia. I’ve never been inside a prison before and it was really interesting and eerie to visit. The building itself is amazing with five pillars of cells that convene on a circular space used for gatherings. One pillar has been repainted and holds the exhibition about the prison and other is left completely as the prisoners would have experienced it. In the first I didn’t think the place would be too bad to stay, in the latter I quickly changed my opinion. It was freezing and bleak and depressing. The hard manual labour in the forest cutting down firewood for the prison, reached by the train, seemed like a nice escape from this confined existence.

In the afternoon I also visited the small Fin del Mundo Museo which didn’t have much worth seeing expect a large stuffed bird exhibition which was very interesting. I also went to Historia Fueguina (a thematic gallery that’s a bit like Madame Tussaud’s). It was a really interactive way to learn about the history of the southern tip of South America and the cultures that existed before today. I would definitely recommend visiting it for the story of the native cultures and the exploration of the 19th century that brought Charles Darwin to the continent and helped to establish his Origin of Species.

And that’s it, before I knew it my time in Patagonia was over. I had amazing time with all types of weather and landscapes. I wasn’t sad to return to metropolitan civilisation as I really am a city-girl but I will look back on the adventures all the time and hopefully return in the future!