Steve Happ Photography Ramblings and dissertations

July 31, 2010

More La Hoya

Filed under: South America — Tags: , — admin @ 2:39 pm

Wednesday 28th July 2010

This seems to be turning into a daily diary. Dear Diary, today the wind was blowing again. Nada para hacer. There is nothing to do. I met some boys from El Bolson who are staying up here for a couple of nights. They are helping me with my Spanish and are really good kids. Today, the lifts are closed again because of the strong winds so I went for a little walk and watched the beginners for a while. Maybe later on the wind will stop a little and I can go for a practice ski. August is supposed to be the best month for skiing here, so I guess I will just hang around waiting, waiting.

Thursday 29th July 2010

Today was a great day. The sun came out in the morning and the wind stopped for a while. The skiing was fantastic and I skied all day. I am starting to get more confident and in a week or so I should be up to speed. I was skiing with Ernesto the tennis coach from a city near Buenos Aires. He is a similar ability to me so we had a good time skiing together. The wind came in gusts later in the day but it was patchy. I actually went down on the chair lift this afternoon as I could not be bothered skiing down the icy goat track. I hate goat tracks.

Friday 30th July 2010

After the great day yesterday today was a bit of an anti-climax, but I guess that was expected. Me and Ernesto went left at the top of the Sol poma and went down one of the big faces. At the top was a bit icy but further down, it was like heavy powder and crud and I skied it OK so I am pretty happy about that. I just need more time and confidence and I should be able to ski some powder with a little bit of control. What else happened? The boys went back to El Bolson and Ernesto went back to Buenos Aires way. There are a couple of Canadians who have come to ski La Hoya for a month so that will be good to have some company now and again. They are from the far North-west of Canada and they reckon that Smithers might be a good place to go and ski for a season.

Saturday, 31/7/2010

I am sitting in a cafe in Esquel listening to the Crying Game. And it is snowing outside. There are little flakes coming down as I speak. I came down today because it is all socked in up the mountain. You cannot see a thing. Hopefully there will be a big dump very soon.

La Hoya Ski Resort divertido

Filed under: South America — Tags: , — admin @ 2:34 pm

Up on the Mountain

Monday 26th July 2010

I am staying up on the mountain at La Hoya and the wind is howling. Really howling. I have this little room but the place is a bit weird. I have been to some weird places but this is the weirdest. I am having trouble coming to grips with Argentina. It is like complete and utter anarchy and I am totally confused. I thought I would like anarchy but its not much fun if you do not know what is going on or what the rules are that you are supposed to ignore. My presupppositions are shattering in the face of a living example of Chaos Theory. Maybe I need to loosen up a little?

La Hoya
Looking up towards the bowls and cornices

This morning I caught the taxi up the hill and dumped off my gear then went for a ski. The sun had come out in patches and the wind was just starting to blow when I headed up the lift. When I got up the top I had a major freakout meltdown when I realised that my wallet was not in my pocket. So I raced down to my room and it was on the bed. whew! Que idiota! I got a few good runs today. When the wind started getting stronger, they started closing the chair lifts and a poma and at the end of the day, everything was just about closed.

I got back to my room and had a bit of a lie down and when I got up there was no-one around except me and the boss of the place and his wife. He seemed quite surprised that I was staying here so I am not sure what is going on at all. I do not think there is anyone up here in the snow and the wind except the three of us. I told you it was a bit weird. Argentinians do not go to bed until really late. They have a late dinner, after ten o’clock or later and then they just have lots of fun and keep me up because I am used to going to bed at ten and getting up at 6am. The sun does not rise here until 9 in the morning. I could not believe it when I waited for the sun to come up and its getting later and later. My body clock needs some major readjustments. I do not how if I can cope.

I just read what I wrote above and it is really disjointed. Maybe because I am really tired and my brain is not functioning properly. Who knows? I will try to flow a bit better in the future, I promise.

Tuesday 27th July 2010

This is my second day staying up on the mountain at La Hoya. This morning all the lifts were closed up until mid-day because of the wind. It did not seem too bad down at the base but who knows how bad it was up the top. I went out skiing about 1pm. There was only one run open and that was the goat track back down to base. It was the worst of conditions – wind-blown crud on top of ice. I was just practicing my technique. You had to get it right because one second you are on ice and the next you are in a little bank of crud. It takes me a while to remember my technical points but today I remembered to drop my knee further down to get more edge. I was also practicing weighting and unwweighting.

There is not much to do up here in the mountains so I am going to spend lots of time learning and practicing my Spanish. I am getting better bit by bit but it is a struggle sometimes. It does not help that the Argentinians pronounce their “y” as a “sh” sound. So I will probably end up with an Argentinian accent.

July 25, 2010

Skiing at La Hoya

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My first day skiing in Argentina

I was not sure if I was going to go skiing today after my massive all day bus ride yesterday. But I managed to get up early, get dressed and catch the shuttle bus up to the mountain. I am staying at the Casa del Pueblo hostel, which is pretty cheap for 45 pesos or about twelve bucks a night. It is a bit of a madhouse with young Argentinian skiiers holidaying and having lots of fun. Well I got up the mountain and bought a day ticket for 140 pesos which is about forty to fifty dollars. I just wanted to get up the mountain and suss it out to see if it is worth staying here for a couple of months. It is pretty massive with the lifts in a big bowl with slopes all around in a big semi-circle.

La Hoya
My first day skiing in Argentina

I took it pretty easy at first as I have only skiied about four days in the last couple of years. The slopes were pretty icy first thing in the morning because the sun had not hit the pistes yet. I just skied down the double chair, taking the easy way down and just taking it pretty gentle. I think there are about five chairs and a few T-bars and these pomas scattered around the place. I did not go exploring but stayed on the same pistes. I might leave that for another day when I feel a bit more confident.

The Andes
A view of the Andes from La Hoya ski resort

I met lots of nice people who are very friendly. I am enjoying it very much. Sometimes I have difficulty with the language but I manage to flounder along and express my needs somehow or other. I am trying to learn Spanish but it is very slow and painful. Que lastima!

Travelling in Argentina

Filed under: South America — Tags: — admin @ 12:17 am

Going to Esquel

Wow, where to start. Another manic day in Argentina. I got up early and took the taxi to the bus terminal. The taxis in Argentina have been really good so far. They are reasonably cheap (about ten pesos for a kilometer) and the taxi drivers are very honest, which is pretty weird. You have to wait for the bus to come up on the television monitor at the terminal before you know what platform it is coming on. It can get very confusing because you have no idea where the bus is going to come in. And not many people speak English and get impatient when I try to speak in my excrutiating Spanglish. I met this guy who was a ski instructor at Chapelco and Catedral who helped me out heaps. He ould not speak English but was very patient trying to understand me.

They give out these little meals of pastry on the bus for lunch. I also got a glass of lemonade which I thought was quite cute. I saw my first site of the Andes eventually and it a bit hard to describe. All my preconceptions went way out the window. They are huge and I mean huge, they just go for ever and ever. The landscape is very desolate and wild with huge lumps of rock sticking out of the land. The only comparison I can draw is the immensity of the Himalayas which give a similar feeling of massivity.

the bus to esquel
The bus to Esquel stopping off at Bariloche

We finally got to Bariloche which is on the side of this huge lake. There is the lake on one side and these immense snow-covered mountains on the other side. We got stopped twice on the way by the police which was a confronting experience. They came on the bus and checked us out. The second time a police dog came on the bus and sniffed us all. They took away a couple of youngster who later came back thankfully and boarded the bus.

Finally we made it to Esquel about 8pm. I was pretty knackered by this time, and caught a taxi to the hostel which is full of people and a madhouse of activity. I have booked a shuttle bus to get me up the mountain in the morning to go skiing. I have got all my gear ready to go, I just hope that I remember how to ski.

July 22, 2010

Bubalco Zoo, Rio Negro

Filed under: South America — Tags: , — admin @ 10:34 pm

A Day At the Zoo

Today I was invited by the very sweet owner of the hostel, Portal de Suenos, here in Neuquen, Patagonia, Argentina, to go to see the birds at the Bubalco Zoo. We set off after ten o’clock and drove through the Rio Negro flood plain which is full of fruit crops. The soil here is very fertile and the whole area is planted out wherever there is space. I am guessing that the melting snows from the Andes create some massive water flows and the silt from the floods would cover the whole are with some very sweet soil.

On the way I saw quite a few Chimango Caracaras. They are very common out here. It is found all over central South America. They have a piercing call and the sky is full with their cries.

Chimango Caracara
Chimango Caracara

Here is one obligingly sitting on a pole right in front of me.

Chimango Caracara
Chimango Caracara

This one is called a Tero by the locals and is closely related to the Australian Masked Lapwing. It is a Southern Lapwing, Vanellus chilensis. It is a common resident throughout South America. There are some sub-species which I have not learnt about yet.

Southern Lapwing
Southern Lapwing

Bubalco Zoo is about 15 kilometers from General Roca, Rio Negro. They have quite a few tropical birds in cages and some big cats. I was particularly enamoured of this Jaguar, which was in a cage of course.


This Andean Condor came down from the skies to scrounge a bit of meat. I am not sure if they feed them to bring them down for the visitors or not. Here he is having a good look for some tucker.

Andean Condor
Andean Condor

And here he is tucking into some yummy meat. yum yum.

Andean Condor
Andean Condor

July 21, 2010

Argentina Travel Tips

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Travel Tips for Argentina

I guess it may be a bit presumptuous of me to be giving travel tips for Argentina when I have been here a whole week, but I think these observations are relatively valid and quite helpful in my humble opinion. Well, strap on your seat belts and let’s go. Oh, and these prices quoted are at July, 2010, so check current prices.

Many international visitors to Argentina will come in through Ezeiza Airport at Buenos Aires. If you are a native of Australia, Canada or the USA, make sure you have some US dollars, pesos for the Reciprocal fee. The fee ranges from US$70-130. Blame your own government if you have to pay this fee. It is tit for tat. After you have made it through customs, turn left and you will see the office of Manuel Tiende Leon, which is a shuttle bus that runs every hour or so into the city. The cost is 50 pesos. Buy your ticket and head out to the bus stop and you will get taken to their terminal in Puerto Madero, Buenos Aires. Make sure you have the address of your hostel or hotel so that they know where you are going. Do not assume they will know where a hostel is. At the terminal they put you in a taxi and take you to your hostel door.

I stayed at the V&S Hostel Club at Viamonte 887, Esqina Suipache. It was about US$13 for a dormitory room. The people there very friendly and helpful. There is a Spanish Course there which seemed to be very good and at quite a reasonable price. I saw their notes and they seemed to be quite extensive. The guys doind the course seemed satisfied with it. To get out of Buenos Aires you can catch any of the luxury sleeper buses from Retiro Bus Terminal. Retiro is massive with more than 80 platforms. But be warned. If want to get there on time, make sure you leave plenty of time to get there because of the horrendous traffic in Buenos Aires. If you do not have much luggage, it would be easier to just walk there. I went for a visit the preceding day and sussed the place out. Lucky I did, because the place is quite large and confronting. My bus fare to Bahia Blanca cost me 180 pesos. Get either a Cama or Semi-cama seat, both are OK. They recline just a bit more for the more expensive seats.

In Bahia Blanca I stayed at the Bahia Blanca Hostel, which is about 2 kilometers from the bus terminal. The taxi will cost you about 15 pesos. Make sure you get an official taxi with Radio Taxi written on it, especially in Buenos Aires. I found the taxi drivers in Argentina so far to be extremely honest and helpful. The Bahia Blanca Hostel is at Soler 701, Esquina Israel. You can buy bus tickets in the town Centro just opposite the main park.

The next place I went to was Neuquen which is the start of Patagonia and is situated in the west of Argentina, near to the foothills of the Andes. I had an overnight bus ride to get there , which was Ok, because I slept a fair bit during the night. I stayed at the hostel Portal de Suenos, the Gate of Dreams. Very poetic. It is quite close to the bus terminal and the tariff is about 40 pesos. It should only cost about 10 pesos for a taxi or you can walk if you have a light pack. I would advise catching a collectivo bus into town from the hostel, as it is nearly 5 kilometers and I walked it and its a long way. I think you catch bus number 9 into town.

Well that is about all there is. I am going to Esquel in a couple of days by the day bus. I am not sure what hostel I am going to stay at yet. I will suss it out when I get there. Hasta Manana!

July 20, 2010

Neuquen, Patagonia, Argentina

Filed under: South America — Tags: , — admin @ 10:34 pm

Park Life

I arrived in Neuquen at the beginning of Patagonia this morning after an all night bus ride from Bahia Blanca. I will get into that story later on. After I went to the hostel i walked into the centre of town to see if there were any birds in the parks there. I had a look at some woods near the bus terminal before this, but they were very barren and it looked like some workers were on a strike near a work site and were picketing the place. I thought it best not to go waving a camera around anywhere near that action.

After a marathon walk to Centro, I wandered around the park and at first saw a few Gorrión or House sparrow(Passer domesticus).There were a few other little birds in the park but not lots. They even had heaps of Feral Pigeons to make me feel all at home. I liked the shot of this fluffly little fella. I think it might be a Saffron Finch but I am not quite sure.Edit: its a female or juvenile House Sparrow. Thanks to Buckeye. Doh, so i feel silly.

Maybe a Saffron Finch. no, its a house sparrow, Passer domesticus.

I am fairly sure that this one is a Saffron Finch. But again, not entirely sure.

Saffron Finch ?
Saffron Finch ?

This was definitely a Rufous Hornero. I had seen lots of them in Buenos Aires and they are quite tame and hang around in parks and where humans congregate.

rufous hornero
Rufous Hornero

Not sure what this is but it looks like some kind of Indian Myna but of course it is not, doh! It is an Austral Thrush (Turdus falcklandii), common to South Argentina and similar to the Blackbird which is of the same genus. The local name is zorzal patagónico.

Austral Thrush (Turdus falcklandii)

I also saw a Great Kiskadee. I was hoping to see some raptors but there were none about.

But now I shall digress and tell you about how I got to this point. I caught the day bus from Retiro bus terminal in Buenos Aires to Bahia Blanca in the south on the Atlantic Coast. I had been hoping to get some photos of some water birds but when I got there, it just wasn’t possible to get anywhere near the water for me. After that I hopped on the night bus to Neuquen and here I am.

July 16, 2010

Buenos Aires Birding 3

Filed under: South America — Tags: , — admin @ 10:12 pm

Costanera Sur Ecological Reserve

 Golden-breasted woodpecker
Golden-breasted Woodpecker


The above might be a Scimitar-billed Woodcreeper, Drymornis bridgesii, called in Spanish, Chichero Grande. But I am not sure about all this yet. I am still researching. If you have any information, please inform me. Muchas Gracias. Or, it could be a Narrow-billed Woodcreeper (Lepidocolaptes angustirostris), Chinchero Chico in spanish.

 Silver Teal
Silver Teal


Eared Dove
Eared Dove(Zenaida auriculata)

The local name for the Eared Dove is Torcaza.

Brown-hooded Gull
Brown-hooded Gull

The Brown-hooded Gull is called GAVIOTA CAPUCHO CAFE in Spanish and has the scientific name of Larus maculipennis. They were flying over the Rio de la Plata, or River Plate, the famous river where the Battle to sink the Bismark was held in the second world war.

Buenos Aires Birding 2

Filed under: South America — Tags: , — admin @ 2:15 am

Costanera Sur Ecologicial Reserve.

15th July 2010.

The White-lined Tanager, Tachyphonus rufus, is a medium-sized passerine bird that is a resident breeder from Costa Rica south to northern Argentina, and on Trinidad and Tobago. It occurs in semi-open areas including gardens.

female White-lined Tanager

The Picazuro Pigeon (Patagioenas picazuro) is a common bird in South America. It is a brown bird with white dashes on the back of the neck. It is similar in appearance to the Spotted Turtle-dove

Picazuro Pigeon
Picazuro Pigeon (Patagioenas picazuro)

The Crested Caracara (Caracara cheriway) is found in the dry southern states of the USA, Central America and the northern parts of South America. They feed on carrion. I was wondering why there were no crows about but it may be that the Caracara does that function of cleaning up. They have a black cap with a short crest at the back with pale sides of the back and neck. In flight you can see the white patches at the ends of dark wings. There is barring on the upper back and chest.

Crested Caracara
Crested Caracara (Caracara ceriway)

Crested Caracara
Crested Caracara

Red-crested Cardinal (Paroaria coronata)is of the Order: Passeriformes and from Family: Emberizidae. They are found in northern Argenina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. Their natural habitat is tropical or sub-tropical dry shrubland and badly degraded forests.

Red-crested Cardinal
Red-crested Cardinal (Paroaria coronata)

Rufous Hornero

I found out what the name of this bird is. It is a Rufous-collared Sparrow.

Rufous-collared Sparrow
Rufous-collared Sparrow

This may be a Tropical Mockingbird but I cannot identify it for sure. They are very common. Thanks to Daniel, it seems that it is a Chalk-browed Mockingbird.

mockingbird ??
Chalk-browed Mockingbird

This grey and steel blue little bird would flit around very quickly and it was difficult to get a photo of it.

Masked Gnatcatcher

Giant Rood-rail
Grey-necked Wood-rail

Spectacled Tyrant
Spectacled Tyrant (Hymenops perspicillatus)

Saffron Finch
Saffron Finch (SICALIS FLAVEOLA), spanish name – Jilguero dorado

July 14, 2010

Buenos Aires Birding

Filed under: South America — Tags: , , — admin @ 11:15 pm

Costanera Sur Ecological Reserve

Well I am now in Argentina after a massive flight from Australia, and I am totally wiped out. I do not think I got any sleep on the plane. We got into Buenos Aires airport at about 10:30am and jumped on the Manuel Teinda Leon shuttle bus to my hostel. The traffic in central Buenos Aires was appalling. It is even worse than Sydney. I had a bit of a sleep when I sorted out my bed, then I got the camera out and went down to the Costanera Sur Ecological Reserve. Down near the port I was taking some photos of sparrows and other birds and an official car park attendant came and told me not to take photos. It must have been near some sort of official building. I apologised and headed straight down to the reserve.


This bird may be the Bahia Antwren (Herpsilochmus pileatus) with a common Spanish name of Tiluchi Corona Negra. But then again there has been a split and it might be the Black-capped Antwren. Edit: But then again, it may be something like a Tropical Mockingbird.

Great Kiskadee (Pitangus sulphuratus), Spanish name – Benteveo

The  bird below is the Golden-billed Saltator (Saltator aurantiirostris). Its common name in Spanish is  Pepitero de Collar.

Golden-billed Saltator (Saltator aurantiirostris)

Golden-billed Saltator (Saltator aurantiirostris)

Rufous-collared Sparrow

Costanera Reserve is pretty much a wetlands. There were quite a few birds so I was taking quite a few photos. I have not got a field guide to the birds of Argentina yet, so I am going to have to try and identify them from photos on the internet.

Black-hooded Parakeet (Nandyus nenday)

Buenos Aires bird list

Rufous-bellied Thrush
Great Kiskadee
Golden-billed Saltator
Black-hooded Parakeet
Shiny Cowbird
Bahia Antwren ?

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