A Travellerspoint blog

The Iguazodyssey

Gloria speaks...

"Sing! O Muse of travellers, you Calypso of Ulysses and the Holy Mary of Columbus.
Sing of their successor, the hero Cristovo, and of his travels across America Austral.
Tell us how he rode, timeless, neverending, across the vast continental plains,
and how, donned with the helmet of Hades, snuck unseen into the netherworld
of Brazil to face the eternal roar of the forest god Iguazu, Great Water.
Of his victory in shooting him, and then, armed with the sword of wit and the shield
of foreign-ignorance, snuck back across to the real world; fearless, happy, exhausted..."

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First, let me introduce myself. I am Glora, companion of Christopher, also called Cristovo, also called Cristobal. This is an entry about him, I guess, indirectly, but mostly about me. Before belonging to him, I lay on a shelf with a stack of my sisters, also called Gloria (go figure), and before that I was some form of tree, and before that assorted pieces of stardust from a galactic supernova... but then again, we all are, if we're going that far back. My point is we are the same, you and I, so don't judge me for being 'just a book'. Enough of that, then. I am here to tell you about a day in the life of myself, or more specifically the first day I arrived in Puerto Iguazu.

It was a long trip from Mendoza, and neither he nor I slept particularly well. His fault, though, not mine. He seemed consumed by some frenetic energy, and would occasionally pull me out to chat about a stray thought or make me memorise one of his (not to be critical, but) awful poems. I enjoy these late night tete-a-tetes though, and I am a patient and comforting listener as he works hard at making sense. Scratch out this, scribble down that. Sometimes the things he writes can be quite endearing, well worded, and beautiful... mostly, its brainfarts. Even so, I remember them all, proudly.

I sense alot of movement in the morning, and sooner than I expected he lifts me out of my special, cozy compartment in his rucksack. I ride VIP: my own slim pouch at the bottom of the bag, which I DO NOT share with those fat, pretentious boys he totes around to keep him busy. "Tues. 13th April: Barely know the day without Gloria's help...", he starts. I can't help feel a flutter of genuine affection for this pitiable little man who can't keep time straight. Who still even cares about time. Precious. We're riding a bus en route to Brasil, he informs me, hoping its actually heading the right way. We both laugh at this. An inside joke. "I may have an English tongue in my mouth, but not a Spanish one, and for SURE not a Portuguese one." he writes as an excuse, in reference to his mother's admonitions about his general dislike in asking for directions. "Shit. I don't even speak a WORD of Portuguese...and here comes the border." And with that, I am tucked gently back to the comfort of my bag.

He takes me out a little while later... time is less important for me than him, so I can't tell you exactly when. Fairly soon though. He is excited, and the pen is moving quickly across my pages. He is almost sure we are in Brasil illegally. Wonderful. They never stopped at the Brasilian border, just the Argentine one and after consulting his guidebook, (which I adamantly refuse to elevate, as he does, to the status of 'Bible') he is sure he should have gotten an entrance card to be later stamped on the way back. Once he finishes explaining this, he stops and bites the end of the pen. "3 Options:",he writes, "Stay in Brasil forever; Pay the hefty fine; smuggle myself back to Argentina via the infamous black markets of Paraguay.". He continues lamenting the years of Easters and Thanksgivings with his Portuguese friend's family, not learning the words necesary to bribe himself into slavery. Then he asks me to remind him to learn from the Dutch boys a suitable way to say, 'I swear I didn't know she was under 18. I also swear I thought she was actually a she!' in Dutch for when he gets baked in Amsterdam and ends up handcuffed naked to a boathouse in a backwater canal. I laugh, but I sense a little actual concern behind the sarcasm. This makes me a little concerned too. His concern is my concern after all, since we've become that close.

I'm in the bag and its getting progressively damper and cooler. Not good for my skin. I am little worried about my complexion, and smudging my ink when I get put on his lap under a canopy of dappled green light. Seems we are in a rainforest, and all the leaves look as if a madman went wild with a hole puncher. Also not good for me. Butterflies, he explains to me, later, and certainly they are hundreds of butterflies hovering around of every different colour in the world. Like snowflakes, no two seem the same. A Darwinian wet dream. The pen touches the page, and I get that familiar shivering sensation as his mind blots out onto my pages, and I can hear his thoughts and feel his heartbeat through his fingers. Explosions of memories come to me about Iguazu. Masses and masses of water. The exhiliration of the spray on his skin and the roar in his ears. The vistas! The VISTAS! "Truly Epic!" he says to me, with a sigh of contentment. A slight change in tempertature. A quick shift of pulse. He has an idea. He is inspired. He begins to scribble it down, unintelligible to anyone but us. "The Iguaziad? The Iguazodyssey?". Just those four words, hardly words, but we both catch the meaning. He intends to write the blog for Iguazu in the style of the classical epic. He has visions of Homeric grace, however I am a little more skeptical. I remind him about how arduous a task that would be. I recall Virgil's insanity; didn't Milton go blind writing 'Paradise Lost'?; and Keats died after finishing just one canto of 'The Fall of Hyperion'. He doesn't care. He scribbles down the beginning of his epic, his muse incantation, and seals me up and slips me away feeling quite satisfied.

We get back to the bus station. We are waiting for his dinner, the first real meal he will have in ages. He informs me quickly that there were no problems with immigration, that they simply skipped the Brasilian border crossing again. Maybe he got on a special bus. He is mildly disappointed that he has no stamp in his passport, but far more relieved that he didn't need to see the inside of a Paraguayan cargo truck. He is busy correcting the tempo of his incantation, counting syllables off on his fingers...perplexed. I can't resist gloating. This will not work. He sighs and flips me over as his meal comes. He is determined to be a master mimic of style, but will not unless he gets it right. (You will see more of that if he ever actually manages to finish his recently begun, Farewell to Argentina). He eats and drinks and is thoroughly satisfied. I know because I can see it, but also because he tells me so. Only the second time he mentioned his food to me, so he must have been madly starved. He then recounts how he tried to find us accomodation at the MarcoPoloInn and was turned away with the exact phrase, 'Lo siento, pero no hay lugar en el inn', which he thinks appropriate for his Christ-like qualities. Arrogant little prick. After paying the bill, he nods at me in thanks for keeping him company for dinner, and bids me goodnight.

The following day we explored the Argentinian side of Iguazu Falls (its the better side, and takes a whole day to see). We rarely spoke as he was busy walking around and clicking away with his camera... in vain, apparently. I am not a needy companion, so I dont mind a quiet day, week, or fortnight. Still, the little contact we had convinced me that he did in fact have another 'Epic' time, despite his dejected acceptance that he wouldn't be able to discuss it Homerically. (I kept the desired title and the beginning as compensation for this). I will leave you for now with a little piece of our conversation from today, so that maybe you too can get an idea of the scale of this place.
Until next time,
Gloria

--Garganta del Diablo: The Devil's Throat. An appropriate name, for sure. This final edge of the Falls has a 360 drop of water. It literally looks like hell has opened its mouth and is attempting to quench the flames with the whole Iguazu river. You can't see the bottom since thick clouds of mist, churned up like smoke from a furnace, rises up from the depths. Its like standing over a massive, white thunderstorm. The roiling clouds below and the thunderous roar of the water as it enters the pit. Every now and again a plume of mist escapes the gravity, drawn up by some stray wind, and rises geyserlike hundreds of feet in the air. If you are fortunate (or unfortunate, depending on perspective), to be downwind of this, you end up drenched! The hundred s butterflies foolishly attempt to cross this chasm and you can only watch helplessly as they get swallowed by the rising clouds. I tried to take pictures, along with the dozens of other tourists, but its impossible to convey this with pictures. Firstly, its 360. Secondly, its wet! and Thirdly, the pictures all look like they've been taken in fog. Ah well. Epic nonetheless.
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Posted by 4ccamacho 16:54 Comments (5)

Much music, many meetings...and shitloads of wine.

Mendoza

...On foot

"And the wanting comes in waves!" The Decemberist's lead singer yells in my ears. I am walking to the city centre from my hostel and listening, again, to the 50 minute love ballad, where, as is usual of good love ballads, the heroes suffer wonderfully romantic deaths at the end. I like that. This bizarre mix of Keats-ian, English-folklore and heavy rock is not Mendoza-appropriate, I feel. No iPod today, then. Lets listen to traffic, birdcalls and the background mumblings of hundreds of unintelligible Spanish conversations instead. Soak up the city soundscapes, so to speak.

Truly, Mendoza is less like a city and more like a very big town, but after being in the south for 4 weeks, this place screams CIVILISATION! with concrete buildings that tower taller than 2 stories, traffic lights (more than one) and buses. The kind of buses that take people around within the town. Public transport kinda buses. Madness.

This city is a fairly new place, thrown down on top the rubble of its former self. When a 9.0 earthquake flattened it in the 19th century, planners rebuilt it with wide roads, and scattered plazas throughout the whole area, so should lightning strike twice, the buildings would have room to fall and the people have room to stand. This is good design for the residents, but also for tourists searching for an afternoon stroll to stretch their legs after 20 hour bus rides. So once I set my bag down in the first, cheap hostel I could find, I headed towards the central plaza for a coffee, a wine or a beer.

I grab a seat overlooking Plaza Independencia, the central square. The coffee isn't particularly good, but the waitress is pretty and friendly. De donde sos? I debate whether I should say Canada, as usual to spare myself a long-winded explanation, but the cafe is empty so I figure I won't busy her by practicing my Spanish with some idle conversation. Trrrinidad, I tell her, rolling my r's like a pro, But I lived in Canada for a long time, I offer almost as an apology. Ah Trrrinidad! Si. Dwight Yorke. . In India, Brian Lara. In South America, Dwight Yorke. We chat for a while about my travels and whether I like Argentina, then a difficult French couple sit next to me and she goes over to cater to their demands. The French. What can you do? I thank her and pay, then I walk through the park and head back to the hostel after picking up some groceries. An early dinner and an early bed. Wine tasting tomorrow.

...By Bus

I wake up the following morning far later than anticipated. I didn't manage much sleep on the bus and a bed is a bed is a bed. Too late for the wine tour now, I think. Thats ok. I am feeling rather lazy anyways. Riding around the countryside drunk might not be the best plan for the day. Today will be another anti-burnout day, I tell myself. (Every once in a while, its nice to spend a day or two doing absolutely nothing, to prevent feeling completely run-down). I talk to the girl at the front desk and ask how to get to the BIG park on the other side of town. I want to climb the hill there and maybe go to the zoo. She tells me the bus number and where to catch it. I head out.

I pop in my earphones. Anti-burnout days are music days. My hipster, or as Geoff calls it 'soundtrack', music is ideal for anti-burnout days. I find the bus stop and get on the number 5. Just as told. I sit in the back next to a young native girl, pull out an apple and relax.

This is the wrong way, I am thinking to myself. With perfect Portuguese navigational instinct I squint out the window. The sun is there... its 1 in the afternoon...yes, definitely heading the wrong way. I notice we are now in the eastern end of the city. The sidewalks are becoming increasingly cracked, the graffitti less 'artistic', and was that just a shrine to Mary made out of plastic bottles and tin cans? Shit. I am easily the only tourist on this bus... galringly so with my backpack and open map. I fold it up tight and put it back in my bag. I shift uncomfortably in my seat. I want to throw out this goddamn apple core and that bright red emergency stop button is just taunting me. After 2 minutes, I lean back, cross my leg and think: C'est la vie. I guess I get to see all of Mendoza today. I calmly watch the city turn to ghettoes then turn back to suburbia. I watch with interest as people get on and off the bus to the singing of The Fleet Foxes, Phoenix, Red Sparows and Modest Mouse. Ideal zoo music, I think. Lets hope I make it back in time.

The bus stops at its final destination. Its just me and the young native girl. She looks at me a little confused. I like getting lost on buses, I tell her in flawless spanish. I am not sure how to use sarcasm in Spanish, but in this case it works as a truth anyways so I feel its appropriate. She nods, still perplexed no doubt as to the bizarre tastes of foreigners, and leaves. The bus driver turns around and asks me where I am trying to get to. I explain, and he tells me I need the OTHER number 5 bus. I learn now that there are multiple routes with the same number. Numerology goes to infinty, but it seems Mendozans don't like counting higher than 10. I wait in the bus terminal's cafeteria for the other number 5 with the bus drivers. They look at me like I am the first tourist to ever invade their sanctuary... and I probably am. I feel like a lone lion, watched from a distance by a cautious group of elephants as we temporarily share a watering hole. God I really hope I can make it to the zoo on time.

I don't. By the time the other number 5 crosses the entire city of Mendoza, the zoo has half hour to close. Not worth it, I think. Probably doesn't even have lions...or elephants. I climb the hill behind it at a leizurely pace, appreciating the upward moving smells of a potpouri mixture of animal feces. At the top is a monument, of course. Argentinians love their monuments. This one is dedicated to the centennial of their Independence...entitled, Gloria. I smile. Worth the climb, I think. I have a cup of surprisingly good coffee from a travelling coffee salesman (yes, they exist), and enjoy the aerial view of the city that I've spent the whole day exlporing from the window of a bus. It isn't my favorite. I have been spoiled by quality. Still, there is a grungy charm to it. A realness. Like real people live there, with real lives. I trek back down and head back home. Tomorrow for SURE is wine day, I tell myself.
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...Cyc-*hic*-ling

I force myself to wake up at a respectable hour. Hard to do since I've spent the night before training for my wine tour. Such training always backfires.

I make sure I am on the right bus this time, meticulously checking the map against the street signs as I head out to Maipu, the wine district on the outskirts of Mendoza. Soon enough I am escorted by a young kid to Mr. Hugo's bike rental. Mr Hugo is a man of about 60, who walks around his front yard with a pitcher of wine, laughing like an unbearded Santa Claus as he tops up the glasses of his patrons... sweatily returned from their rideabouts, or signing paperwork to begin. While his more serious daughter explains the routes and the wineries, he tops up my glass for the third time. I am with my brand new English friends (shocking how fast you bond over wine), planning our route when I hear my name yelled out from behind. I turn around to find my Israeli friend, Pinenah, with a big grin on her face. "Mr. Hugos is the best, huh!" she says. "I told you so," I respond. After meeting her in El Calafate, sharing a tent with her in Chalten, bumping into her on the volcano in Chile, this 4th meeting does not really come as a shock. Same routes, same people. With her friend, our group now swells to 5. The sun is shining high and bright in the sky, and my nose is beginning to numb. All excellent developments. We hop on our bikes and wobble off down the gravel roads of the Maipu countryside.

We see the wine museum; we visit a chocolate/olive oil/liquer establishment; we learn about wood and aging; We sip wine and shoot absinthe; we occasionally eat olives and bread spread with dulce de leche. We are sitting in the museum, swirling our second glass and discussing in haughty British accents the undertones of plum and strawberry, that not one of us can taste, when a pair of Dutch guys sit next to us. I recognize them from the bus here, and they likewise recognize me. We drunkenly ask them to join our group, and they happily acquiesce. Its beginning to turn into a tinto-tinted version of Wizard of Oz, as we travel down the gravel-dirt road, adding more characters to our entourage.
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When it rains it pours. By the third winery I spot Tim, another friend from my Chilean volcano experience, who seems to appear from nowhere while we are getting a lesson in the growing of vines in the fields. Uno mas! We grab a table at this fancy winery, and order a couple bottles of increasing complexity. The guy begins to explain the differences, then stops, claps his hands together and says... Ultimately, vino es vino es vino. Its all just grape juice gone off. Drink what you like, and once you enjoy it, thats all that matters. We applaud this lack of pretension and take his advice. We drink alot, and enjoy it.
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The sun is low when we visit our last winery. Tim had been there already but suggested it for its comprehensive explanation of the differences of Argentine wine. We learn about Torrentes and Malbecs and Cab Savs, the three commonly grown types*. We learn the pretensions of each. We tour the cellars and ask lots of intelligent questions... surprisngly. Maybe they just seemed intelligent viewed through the hazy veil that had descended on us. As the sun sets, we ride back to Mr Hugo, making it just in time to have a couple more laughs with him and his wife over some (now that we knew it) awful wine. He put us on a bus and we headed back to town warm and happy. I made plans to meet the Dutch boys later on, where we went out with some local Mendozan girls to a club downtown. Home by 6 in the morning, having drunk for so long that I had regained complete sobriety. This is what I had come to Mendoza for, and I was not disappointed.

Its now Sunday. I have sworn off alcohol for a while in order to let my liver regenerate a bit. Thankfully(?), I will be stuck on a 36 hour bus heading to Iguazu Falls on the Brazilian border. Plenty rest for it then. Its a really massive detour, but I am told that its too important to miss, both by Planet Earth, and the hundreds of travellers that have crawled through from Brazil's carnival to join the 'Gringo Trail' up the west coast of South America. I trust both sources, so away I go.

Until then, and next time... I hope everyone is well, and I offer you a toast in Spanish:
Salud y amor y el tiempo para disfrutarlo.
(Health and love and the time to enjoy it.)

  • I had plenty Malbecs for you Mum. Plenty... Couldn't find the Catina family though. I think they are further north in San Juan or something. Also, they are rarely in the shops either, so I am assuming its an export-only wine. Way over my 12 peso limit.

Posted by 4ccamacho 10:22 Comments (3)

Volcanoes, Lakes and 80s sing-alongs.

Chilean Roadtrip

Some context:
Excerpt from Gloria:-
Wed 31st March.... sitting in the rental agency waiting to pick up our car. Munching on fruit with Ashley, Jordan, Rac..
Sat 3rd April.... sitting in the rental agency waiting to drop off our car. Whoa! Where did those 4 days go? Got distracted and never stopped. Heading home to the hostel ASAP for food and a shower. I am stink and starved.

Some (more) context:


The plan was to head over to Pucon via Osorno in the south of Chile; climb the active, snowcapped volcano; head to San Martin in Argentina and drive through the Lake District on the way back to Bariloche. The plan was a success, sort of. The real story goes something like this...

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¿Trrrinidad? ¿Donde esta?

After calling 15 different agencies in Bariloche, searching for the cheapest deal, we (3 Israeli girls and an American- Jordan, Rachel, Inbal and Ashley), set off to obtain the keys to our rental car and hit the road. Our car was a beauty: a blue Chevy with jusssttt the right amount of rust to make the blue really pop. As the sole 'hombre' of the adventure, the mechanic took me under the hood while the girls jumped in to cozy up for the drive. There, he conspiratorially began to explain to me in quick, quiet spanish undertones... something... some problem with our beautiful machine. I feigned understanding, wanting to maintain some semblance of masculine dignity, and was a little concerned when he began to teach me how to hold pieces of the engine together with scraps of folded paper. The price was unbeatable, but we had inadvertantly rented an origami car. I payed close attention despite understanding absolutely nothing of what was happening, hoping that in a crisis I would be able to duplicate this bit of Japanese magic on our American baby. I waited for the thumbs up (literally, I made sure I got a thumbs up) and then, unphased, got behind the steering wheel, switched into first, and jerkily took us out of Bariloche and off towards Chile.

Due to the extensiveness of my travels, I have become something of an expert in border crossings, and whether crossing from Canada to New York for a bit of cornbread, or hopping from Argentina to Chile for some volcanic adventure, there are 2 simple rules you should always follow.
1) Do NOT have an unruly, Taliban-esque beard growing on your face.
2) Do NOT be born in a small country, the existence of which is dubious.
I ignored both... again.
After 30 minutes of consultation with every official at the border crossing (and just to make sure you understand... this is a log cabin on a dirt road, in the middle of the high-altitude forest... so there were only 3 of them, including the janitor), and a while searching through Chilean customs manuals, they decided that I was probably allowed into the country. With one last perplexed look at me, and with me giving a vigourous nod of approval, I was stamped in. One more tick for my list of countries visited. I was officially in Chile.
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Volcanic failure, inappropriate swimwear and 80s sing-alongs

We arrived in Pucon, at the base of Volcan Villarrica, stiff but otherwise unscathed. The girls, having left me to drive 8 hours alone while they napped, were sent out through town in search of accomodation and a guide to take us up the volcano the following day. Excelling at this, we found a sweet little hospedaje (guest house) for the night and a guide who had sincere doubts whether the weather would allow us to climb the following morning. Adamant about our schedule, we insisted that we try, so home to Vivi's we went, crashed on the most comfortable beds in the world, and waited till morning.

7AM. We groggily managed to meet our guide in town. Staring up at the tar black morning sky, we all concurred that summitting the mountain was impossible. Dejected and despairing, we returned to Vivi and went back to sleep, hoping that we could call the sketchy car company and add an extra day to our trip. We managed to do so successfully, and by noon set out with a picture of a map, and nothing more, to find some hot springs and relax our already relaxed muscles.
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After a well spent afternoon wading around in our underwear, to the shock and dismay of the other patrons of the pools, we took our steam-intoxicated selves to the grocery to purchase a giant box of wine and a couple good steaks. If we couldn't rough it climbing a volcano, we were certainly going to take advantage of luxury on the cheap. After taking over Vivi's kitchen, (and its true no matter where you go in the world, the kitchen is the 'spot') we had an incredible meal and sprawled out on the floor of her living room, singing (slurring) 80's rock ballads.
Little known fact: It turns out that all Israelis know every song that has ever existed, and once 3 bars are hummed, will break out into song, complete with harmonies and the instrumentals. This proved quite useful when we drove through the mountains and the radio would knock out for hours.

After enough Air Supply, Journey and The Eagles had been sung, we went off to bed, listening to the rain patter on the roof, and said our nighttime prayers that it would stop by morning.

Volcanic failure 2, Hunger VS Tired, and The 7(ish) Lakes

The following morning was beautifully clear, and correspondingly cold. We got to the trekking shop, loaded up our backpacks with helmets, ice axes, crampons, gaiters, and other such glacier-climbing gear, and set off towards the base of the mountain tripping with exictement (and a minor overdose of coffee). We began the climb without too much problems. After about 2 hours we had climbed over half-way, and had reached the Ice line. The view from even here was epic. There was an ocean of clouds below us, swirling and crashing occasionally against the islands of mountains that managed to poke their peaks above the surface. The air was thin, but crisp and clear, and Ice had formed bizarre structures hanging off the black volcanic rock that littered the face of the mountain. It was like being in a completely different world.
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The plan was to don our ice gear, trek up the rest of the volcano to the crater, and then, using our ice axes as brakes, slide down the other side on a canvas sheet we toted up with us. Epic. Mother Nature, however, had other plans. The rain of the night before had created a hard glass-like crust of ice along the summit, and with a fierce wind blowing, the guides refused to take us any further. We waited for 45 minutes along the ice line... occassionally testing it and coming up with the same conclusion. To climb would be to die, apparently. Disappointment spread like a plague throughout the camp where dozens of people had come for the same epic experience. Riled up by some Dutch and Czech guys, we attempted to prove that it was possible, and 'convince' the guides that it could be done. We didn't get very far until we skidded back down to the group. Ultimately, we were forced to turn around and join the slow, clumsy, turtle-like exodus down towards the sea of cloud and back into the real world.
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We left the mountain a little disappointed but ultimately happy we tried. Getting directly into the car without a shower or a meal, we re-crossed the border to Argentina (a slightly less awkard crossing, since I already had the Argentine stamp of approval). By the time we arrived at San Martin de los Andes, the town on the north end of the famous 7 Lake stretch, we were a dangerous mixture of tired, smelly and starving. One of which I can handle, but all three will turn me into a 'girl on her period', I think was the reference the girls used. Like someone in a daze I tagged along as we searched for appropriate accomodation. We found it fairly soon, and after a good scrubdown, set off for food...and wine. Needless to say, I slept like a baby that night.

The final drive back to Bariloche was like returning home. The whole point of the excursion was to see the Lake District in its glory. The volcano was only a failed addition to the plan. Still, by the 4th day of driving through the mountains, blue, glass-blown lakes and 100 foot waterfalls became fairly mundane. Adam and Eve must have only eaten the fruit after being bored stiff of paradise. We did the tour of the 7 Lakes pretty quickly despite the rough roads. Upon coming over the hill and seeing Bariloche on the other side of the final lake, we all breathed a sigh of relief. We were home!
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An Easter of Sawdust and Reggae

Yesterday was Easter Sunday, and though I didn't celebrate it in the typical way (one mass per vacation is my rule of thumb), I had an interesting time nonetheless. The chocolate shops were all open and so I gorged myself on pounds of that as I sat on a bench and celebrated easter by listening to teenage reggae bands play covers of Bob in spanish, while a team of lumberjack artists sculpted tree trunks with chainsaws. I doubt I will have a more bizzarre Easter Sunday in many many years to come.
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I leave Bariloche tomorrow (Tuesday 6th) and continue my northwad progression towards Mendoza, the wine district of Argentina. I will be sad to leave this place, easily the most beautiful I have been to so far (and thats saying something). My friends from here are off to BsAs, so I will leave them as well, but I suppose thats what travelling is; a series of hellos and goodbyes. And who knows... the direction is all the same, so maybe in a couple weeks we will be reunited to undertake an equally ludicrous and hilarious adventure in Bolivia or Peru!
Until then... I will miss the singing.
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Hope everyone had a good Easter weekend.
Ciao for now.
xx

Posted by 4ccamacho 12:46 Comments (2)

Accidental Religion, Chocolate comas, and Learning Hebrew

Bariloche

Feeling like the Kerouac of South America, I travelled the historic Ruta 40 north from my idyllic hippie village of El Bolsón to the ‘big city’ of Bariloche. Having a total population of 70,000, its hardly a city at all. The town, settled by Swiss immigrants centuries ago, claimed to maintain its swiss charm in the heart of the Argentine Lake District.

I got out the bus at midnight, and without a plan crashed at the closest, cheapest hostel, encountering there a whole team of Israelis, all excited for their big week. (important information: Passover began on Monday, and hundreds of Israelis found their way out of the wilderness and made a great exodus to Bariloche to feast for the evening).

The next day, being Sunday, I set off in search of a new, nicer, and more central accomodation. As I walked down towards the lake I saw an old stone cathedral. Having not been to any of the touristy cathedrals in South America yet, I decided to take a look. Maybe it would ave some nice stain-glass or something... I like churches, so wy not.
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I stepped into the church and was accosted by Spanish chanting and wailing, and a crowd of people waving tree branches in the air. What the hell sort of church is this? Having travelled for so long with the northbound jewish pilgrims, I had forgotten Jesus also did the Passover thing. It was Palm Sunday, and in the absence of palms, regular trees did just fine. I figured I would purge my dusty soul with some good ole fashioned Christian cannabilism, and partake in the mass. Always strange to do mass in a foreign language. I stifled laughs everytime we prayed to El Señor (the Lord). It kept sounding to my Anglo ears like begging schoolteachers for forgiveness. Nonetheless, an excellent mass, in a beautiful church.

I quickly found the Centro Civico, the preserved square of original Swiss Architecture. Surrounding it were dozens of chocolate and gelato shops. I sat and complimented the holy bread and wine with some sinful sugary goodness. I am sure eating chocolate on the first day of Semana Santa has to be considered blasphemous. Found a new hostel on the top of the hill with a great view of the lake and moved on in. Met a new team of Israelis and had a great evening.

Monday: what the fuck. Where is everyone? The entire hostel had emptied of its residents (to go to the beginning of their massive 500 person feast), and I found myself the only Philistine left in the place. After ensuring the rapture hadn’t come 2 years too early and I was left alone in the world, I left in search of distraction. I headed north into the mountains, rented a bike and rode the Circuit Chico, a 35km ring around the many lakes of Bariloche. It was gorgeous, and well worth today’s sore ass and jelly legs. I then found a ski lift to take my tired body up the central hill, called Cerro Camapnario, to get a 360degree view of the area. (N.B. I am an expert on 2 things, thanks to my dual lineages: appreciating a good view is one of them). This lookout has possibly one of the most stunning vistas I have ever seen. I have attached pictures, but when it comes to landscapes and viewpoints, it never seems to suffice. The place was... picturesque. (I am finding that I am quickly running out of superlatives to describe this country... and I still have 4 more months-Shit!).
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Coming home, I loaded up on chocolate and beer to spend my evening alone, and found a group of Aussie cyclists ad moved in to fill my ebrew void. I spent a nice quiet evening with them and slept like a baby.

Today, I woke up to magically find the jews had all returned! Sababa! Grabbing a last stroll through the town now, we are currently attempting to arrange a car to drive north together (given good weather) through the Lakes and over the mountains to the volcanoes of Chile, where we hope the active faultline will not vaporise us as we attempt to summit one of them. I guess I am going to have to practice my Hebrew.

Until next time
Ciao

Posted by 4ccamacho 14:21 Comments (6)

The ELs of Patagonia

El Calafate, El Chaltén and El Bolsón

El Calafate

After what I thought was an epic 22 hour trek across the middle of Patagonia, I had finally reached my destination. A National Park in the deep south called Parque de Los Glaciers. One can imagine the purpose of the park. The town was El Calafate, a small village of a couple hundred folk living in log cabins along a bright blue lake with pink flamingos residing there for the summer. The stragglers were still there, which testified that I had won my race with winter. I had made it! It was warm(ish), and I thought I had wasted my 30 pesos in purchasing a jacket.

The purpose for the existence of this little village is to take tourists, such as myself, to the Perito Moreno Glacier: an epic piece of ice sliding its way down the mountains. The Bible says that it is one of the most active glaciers in the world, and often 'explodes' with dramatic results. I went in hopes of seeing something... explosion or not.
It was indeed epic, and although it didn't explode, there were alot of chunks splitting and falling off with thunderous cracking and setting off little tsunamis in the lake.
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I met some American (and a French) people who I rode the boat and walked the platforms with. We decided not to trek across the ice itself, being cheap and hoping to do it further up in Chalten for less. Headed home, drank ourselves into a state of apt warmth and off to bed.

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El Chaltén

Woke up with dry cotton mouth, and 5 minutes left to catch my 7AM bus to El Chalten. Slept like a baby on the bus, as you can imagine. Reached the bus station on the other side and was waiting patiently for my American comrades when I was assaulted with greetings in Hebrew. Another girl, whom I vaguely remembered meeting the night before came over with her squad of Israeli friends to drag me away with them. I had promised, apparently enthusiastically, to go camping with them that day. It came back in a flash, and upon the arrival of the Americans, we set out to find gear, and a place to store our crap.
Luckily the rentals were dirt cheap, and the hostel the American girls were in didn't seem to mind us storing our crap in their storage room. I imagine they are quite accustomed to campers and hikers trekking through and feel for them.
The set plan was thus: Hike up to Fitz Roy, the big mountain; camp there; trek south to a glacier lake; hike on the glacier; camp; head back to town dirty, sweaty and content. Obviously, this wasn't the case.
The hike to Fitz Roy was beautiful. The weather was warm, and hiking in a t-shirt was almost too much. We made it too late to climb the mountain that day, but planned to do the sunrise hike to see it in its pink and orange glory. Settled down to camp quickly, and just as quickly the cold set in. Harsh, bitter, nasty cold. Without being allowed to light a fire in the park, we set up our stove, cooked our rice and lentils, and raced to bed by 8. Thats the kind of cold we're talking about. Bed-by-8 cold.
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2 of 4 of us woke up early the next morning to climb the Fitz Roy. It started out beautiful. The mountain had plans to accomodate us and turn a bright shade of pink... at first.
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By the time we had summited the peak, a snow storm hit. There are few things worse than being 3000m up in the sky and getting bombarded by minature hail and crazy fierce wind. Needless to say, we stayed there no longer than 10 minutes.
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Hiked down and with the rain setting up for the day, cancelled our hiking plans and headed back to town. Spent the following 2 days relaxing in the warmth of a good bed, hot drinks (cold drinks too) and good company. I might have beat winter there, but it was nipping too closely at my heels. I booked the earliest bus Northward, and hopped on a 26 hour trek up to El Bolson.

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El Bolsón

This, my current location, is a whole different ball-game. Settled due to its strangly warm micro-climate and fertile soil, El Bolson became a haven for hippies in the 60s and has thrived as its own 'ecological municipality'. It specialises in organic farms, bio-art, and natural products*. It is a beautiful town and I just finished walking through the town market, held (luckily) every Saturday in the main Plaza.
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The market is wonderful. Jewelry made of leaves, woodwork, hand-knit sweaters from the owners own wool from sheep with names; berries, jams and chocolate truffles; organic produce of (gasp) VEGETABLES! In Argentina! The food stalls were where I spent all my money: Deep fried empanadas, waffles with fresh berries, Dulce de Leche (caramel) and cream and Home-made beer (which was just a fanatastic way to have breakfast). I am glad I decided to stop here on my way towards the Lake District. Well worth the detour. Heading to Bariloche tonight, and the exit of Patagonia...

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Side note: I have been told that children who grow up near the ocean have a tendency to be dreamers. Something that the expanse of water does to their subconscious. I don't know if thats true, but I wonder what the subconscious of children here is like. The mountains are terrifying large, and loom above them everyday. Do they even notice them? I wonder what they feel when they leave the valleys of their birth and enter the wide flat fields of elsewhere. This Patagonia adventure, though entirely unplanned in my trip and a complete accident of fate, has been a truly amazing experience. I will be sad to leave it all behind.... Although to be honest, I am not going to miss the night-time chills. Onwards and upwards to wamer weather.

  • Stef, I think if you ever decide to become a true hippie organic food producer, this is your spot. They have no meat people yet. You can be the first!

Posted by 4ccamacho 12:53 Comments (2)

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