• Chiloe: witchcraft, mermaids and saltwater

    Chiloe is damp. The heavens opened to greet me as soon as I arrived and by the time I reached my hotel, I was drenched. But it was somehow ok. Chiloe is perhaps at its most atmospheric when the clouds roll in and the islands are wrapped in mist, hidden, Brigadoon-like, from the mainland. It’s located off the coast of Chilean Patagonia, only a few hours from the town of Puerto Montt, but it feels like an entirely separate world. The Chiloe archipelago has a distinctive culture formed out of its maritime roots – it’s a land of fog and saltwater, where mermaids lurk and a ghost ship glides silently…

  • Steak, sunsets and the magic of Montevideo

    Montevideo was my introduction to South America and, to be honest, I was a little apprehensive about it. I knew very little about Uruguay and I’d read a few things about Montevideo, the capital, that concerned me. In particular, the Ciudad Vieja area, where I was staying, was meant to be pretty sketchy on weekends and after dark. And on a more practical note, accommodation in Uruguay was relatively expensive and I risked blowing through my budget early in my trip. Returning home so soon with my tail between my legs wasn’t an appealing thought. At this point you may be asking why I was even travelling to Uruguay in…

  • Dreams of exploration in Punta Arenas

    Stepping off the bus at Punta Arenas into the frozen Chilean dusk, my first impression of the super skinny South American country was “wow, it’s a bit chilly in Chile”. Sorry… But when you’re almost as far south as it’s possible to be before you reach Antarctica, in a country that juts out into the stormy Drake Passage, you would expect the weather to be a little on the cold side. I ended up in Punta Arenas kind of by mistake thanks to a misunderstanding with bus schedules. It didn’t really matter though because I already half expected to be staying here at some point during my journey through South…

  • Travelling to Ushuaia: the bus to the end of the world

      When I was planning my trip to South America, I had grand ambitions of travelling overland from Tierra del Fuego, at the southernmost tip of the continent, all the way up to Canada. After bimbling rather aimlessly around Asia, I wanted to undertake a grand expedition with a clear goal. However, heading straight to Ushuaia – right at the bottom of Argentina – from the UK is a lengthy and expensive journey. So my “expedition” actually started in Uruguay and I worked my way down the east of South America, journeying back north on the other side. (Spoiler: I never made it as far as Canada.) My goal was…

  • Welsh Patagonia: The pampas grass of home?

      I’ve always struggled with homesickness. You may think that’s strange for someone who willingly chose to leave everything behind in pursuit of the unfamiliar, but both of my long trips overseas were blighted by what we Welsh call “hiraeth” or a longing for home. I’d had a tough time in Buenos Aires so I was looking forward to escaping to Argentina’s vast open spaces. My next port of call was Welsh Patagonia. Would spending time here cure my homesickness – or make it worse? My introduction to Welsh Patagonia didn’t come from history lessons or an article in a travel magazine. It came from a spoof noir novel called…

  • Penguin spotting on Peninsula Valdes

    My rough route around Argentina was already taking me in the vicinity of Peninsula Valdes, although I was completely unaware of its existence until I started planning things in more detail. The peninsula – a few hours drive from the coastal town of Puerto Madryn – is a UNESCO World Heritage site thanks to its importance as a nature reserve. If you visit between May and December, you can go whale watching but you’re likely to see all sorts of incredible animals year-round. Although I wasn’t there at the right time of year to see whales, I was hoping I’d be just in time to see something I’d never seen…