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December 28, 2006

Leaving Today

Hello again everyone.

Mom and I are wandering around killing time while waiting to get some lunch. Lunch begins at 1pm at the earliest and usually finishes (for those of us just hanging out in foreign cities) but today I will have to watch the clock - the taxi comes at 3pm - my flight is at 6:15pm.

Anyway - I forgot to post the link to some new photos. Still missing are Ushuaia and Antarctica and Buenos Aires.


Relatively new photos posted

December 27, 2006

Buenos Aires to NYC

Merry Christmas everyone!! There are only a few more days left of my trip and Mom and I have been trying to do every tourist things we can here in Buenos Aires.

Her arrival here on the 19th was a little bit nerve wracking – I had been out until late the evening before and then she wasn’t there at the expected time. Not being of sound mind when getting ready to leave for the airport on so little sleep, I neglected to write down all of her flight information. I stood for two hours at the very front of the “Meeting Point” area scanning the face of every single person who arrived to EZE – the international airport of Buenoes Aires. After some time and listening to the people around me it turned out that most of us that had been there awhile were waiting for the same flight – the flight from Miami. Finally she appeared, fresh from immigrations, looking as together and mom-like as always. Hugs and kisses all around and we headed off to explore Buenos Aires together.

As soon as we arrived to the hotel and got settled in we headed out to get a little something to eat and Mom’s first glass of Argentinean wine. Then came a nap – neither one of us normally take naps but after that much travel for her and that little sleep for me it seemed like just the thing. In the afternoon it was off to 3 de Febrerio park where we enjoyed cooling off from the afternoon heat by walking in the shade of the trees on our way to the Evita museum. The museum is very well organized and helps to show, on a very human scale, a little bit about the person known as Evita. Having never seen the Madonna movie, I could say that before I went in I knew nothing about who Evita was and why people either love or hate her but after visiting the museum and seeing all of the programs that she tried to start for the benefit of all Argentineans I began to understand the sense of myth surrounding her.

The next two days we had a combination of walking tours and time spent wandering around on our own. The first walking tour was call Best of BA by www.ba-walking-tours.com and was a very informative event. Our group was split into two smaller groups of 4 and we were with 2 other New Yorkers (I’m convinced that most North American tourists are from New York – at least hear in BsAs because I haven’t met but one person from anywhere else). The two guys who run the company seem willing to help you out with just about bit of information about BsAs but they just don’t seem all that friendly. On day 2 – the “private” tour of La Boca which wasn’t all that informative - I got the same info from the guide books and by just keeping my eyes open and looking around me. We were also told by one of the guides that “tourists often have different tastes then us” when I told them about a restaurant that we were going to in La Boca. First of all, how many tourists make lunch reservations for a restaurant in La Boca and second of all, why make a blanket statement about tourists when you really know nothing about the individual. So the restaurant, Il Matterello, was fantastic – the best pasta I’ve ever had including from Mario Batali (but I think that I will go back there for a comparison tasting!!) – and there were no, let me repeat, no other tourists in the restaurant, and it was full. I don’t know, it sounds like he was being quite judgmental of his bread and butter. But as a final word, the basic tour was really good and I would highly recommend it to visitors to BsAs.

Then there were a few days wandering around on our own – Palermo Viejo, Recoleta, the Recoleta cemetery, Museo de Bellas Artes, ice cream and coffee at Freddo and then Christmas Eve and Christmas were upon us.

This Christmas Eve was the very first time in remembered history that my mother did not go to church. We were actually going to look for a church, but the hotel was having a toast (El Brindis) at 5pm that just turned into a 3 hour social event with lots of flowing champagne. Everyone actually showed up at about 5:30pm – 5:45pm but that did not bother our North American need for timeliness – we had nothing else to do and absolutely nowhere else to be for another 4 hours until dinner so why not wait. The brindis was great – we got to meet some of our fellow hotel guests including a fellow named Boris who had arrived a day before his girlfriend and there was plenty of champagne for everyone. What more could you ask for on Christmas Eve? Since Borris had nowhere to be for dinner, Mom and I decided to ask him along to our meat feast at La Cabrera Norte. We ended up having two bottles of Rutini Malbec, lots and lots of delicious grilled meat and accompaniments and some more champagne at midnight. It was a wonderful evening that lead up to a somewhat groggy Christmas morning exchange of gifts between Mom and I.

Christmas Day consisted of a woozy stroll around an almost empty neighborhood – we were checking to make sure none of the stores were open (no one should be working in a store on Christmas morning). No cafes were open either during the first stroll but later on in the day when we went to find coffee – some of them were but they were packed (it was a beautiful warm and sunny afternoon). We ended up having a nice café cortado in a restaurant around the corner – we got a table but the down side of being at a restaurant instead of a café was that there was no bubbly water and no little snack – no matter, we were headed for our third and final beef dinner so we didn’t really need the calories. The dinner was delicious – we split an “appetizer” of jamon crudo, aged provolone, and olives and then we split a bife de lomo – it was more than enough food. While we drank our little half bottle of wine I watched a father and daughter devour almost all of huge omelet (really a frittata) and a milanese. I don’t know how they did it. We almost couldn’t finish our split meal. So that was Christmas Day. The first Christmas I have ever spent without a tree and without gifts under the tree and honestly, I didn’t mind. I think that perhaps next year a trip to the beach for Christmas is in order – it is a good way to avoid the consumerism.

Other than that we have filled our days with walking around various parts of the city: the ecological reserve, San Telmo, Palermo, Las Castanitas, Retire, Palermo Chico, Microcenter and fulfilling self-imposed chores. Each day we set off with a task to do and a sightseeing goal and end up walking for hours. Yesterday, we went to find me some wine to take home. The goal was to get some higher end wines (although we have been drinking a $2US white wine from the grocery store that I love) and I had decided to go to a place called Terroir based on the Time Out guide and on the fact that someone at the store posts on egullet.com occasionally. It was an intimidating place – most upscale wine stores are no matter what country you are in – but Alejandro, one of the owners, made us feel immediately welcome. We talked about shipping and how much it costs (too much for me right now but it may be an later) and about how to take the wine onto the plane. Mom is going to be my wine mule because due to the delightful new regulations controlling US flights we can no longer take wine as a carry on. I am not happy about this. Alejandro selected three wines for me based on my tastes – two of each bottle – and packed them for the plane ride.

Then, yesterday afternoon (Tuesday 26th) we began to pack the bike. This was a melancholy moment – it was the true mark of the end of the trip, this adventure. But there will be more trips more adventures farther down the line.

As Mom and I sit in a café drinking New York styled iced coffee I try to just enjoy the last few days of being abroad. I have seen so many things, talked to so many people, had many experience. My point of view has changed or more precisely refocused – things that I though were impossible before have taken on a new accessibility. So tomorrow I leave to return to what some people call “the real world”, back to work, back to routine (not that I didn’t have a routine while traveling) but I return with many ideas of my own to work on, many things to write about, and many things to share with friends.

Thank you, my friends, for making this possible. For giving me the support and the encouragement that I needed to embark on a complete this grand adventure.

December 01, 2006

Drabs and Dribbles - The Return to Argentina

So I last left you in Coyhaique, Chile. Since then I have taken numerous ferries, saw the Cuevas de los Manos, crossed the Chilean-Argentine border about three times, booked a boat to Antarctica (!!!!), hiked on a glacier in Calafate, went horseback riding with a wonderful picnic lunch, backpacked part of the famous “W” in Torres del Paine park and am now sitting in Ushuaia drinking coffee and occasionally looking out the window to glance upon the Beagle Channel – yes – the Beagle Channel. Have I mentioned how wonderful and diverse South American is?

So I finally left Coyhaique after a tense morning waiting for the minibus that was to transport me and my bike to the ferry. It was supposed to show up at 6:30 and moseyed up in front of the hostel at 7:30. This was after they locked me out of the hostel – I had to bang on the door and get them to call the transport company for me. Anyway, off I went hoping that my fellow biker, Nick, was safe and sound and out of the 4 inches of snow that had fallen overnight. I was glad that I made the decision to not ride – I would have been miserable and growing through endurance was not the frame of mind that I was in at that point. Once on the ferry, I sat in the minibus to stay out of the wind and cold and to avoid the huge waves that splashed over the side of the ferry and onto the windshields of our bus (and on my bike which they had lashed to the side of the boat). I was happy not to be out there. We landed and after a few crazy gringa woman sentences and gestures to the captain of the ferry (no one else would look at me) they finally released my bike from the boat. Perhaps someone was hoping that the bike would just be forgotten. Fat chance. Actually, to be more realistic, there was probably just some protocol and paperwork that I was ignorant of and we all really just did what we could – I insisted on my bike in baby Spanish; they insisted that I wait to have someone else bring it off the boat.

I loaded up and set out for my very short ride to Los Antiguos – back into Argentina. It felt good to be on the bike, if only for what I though was to be a 7km ride but turned out to be a 15km ride (about ½ on gravel) due to road construction. I rode on pavement, in the chilly but not rainy weather to the Chilean border – this was a stop sign (PARE) in the middle of the road – with no parking area – I guess they don’t get much traffic at this crossing. After rousing the police and aduana from their lunches I breezed through the border in about 5 minutes. Wow. Then I headed off onto what the GPS said was a secondary road toward my beloved Argentina. I pedaled and pedaled and even flagged down a passing truck to see if I was going in the right direction. I was – they had just changed the road! Breezed through the border and hopped onto an, oh so convenient bus that was headed to Perito Moreno (changed my mind about riding the next day – worried about bus schedules).

Perito Moreno was the perfect example of how open and helpful Argentinean people can be. There was one company offering travel to El Calafate (my next major destination) and while it wasn’t Chalten Travel (who didn’t bother to email me back about ticket purchases) and didn’t go down the famous Ruta 40 it was transportation, they would take my bike AND it was cheaper. The ticket seller got me a bus for the next day, called a travel agent to help me arrange a trip to Cuevas de los Manos and between the two of them discussed places for me to sleep. The travel agent piled my bike and gear into her truck and off we went to find a bed. This is about the third time that someone has driven me around city or town and helped me find a decently priced, clean bed to sleep in. I am just constantly amazed by this (and it’s all been in Argentina!!). Bed found, we unloaded my stuff, she drove me to town, showed me the banks, grocery stores, and internet and after agreeing to pick me up at 6am for the Caves, we parted.

The next morning dawned very early – somehow I had managed to stay up until midnight – packing my bags for the 20 hour bus ride that I would embark on almost as soon as we returned from the caves and read for a bit. I’m reading more again now – when I don’t stay in hostels. Hostels are sometimes dangerous places – too much socializing and not enough reflection and writing. Bad Nif (but I have met some fascinating people – and some really stupid ones too).

You know – I am leaving for Antarctica tomorrow and have realized that I would like to actually describe the events of the past few weeks in detail and I do not have the time right now, this evening to dedicate to another 10 pages of tedious detail. But, I should have time on the boat – I share a cabin with one other person. I hope that I have the self-discepline to actually focus on writing. It will be sort of like a prison; on a boat there won’t actually be anywhere to go. Ahhh, but that is not true – apparently the operations deck is open and we can badger them about navigation and GPS and all that fun stuff. I’m looking forward to it. And to all of the wildlife that I am supposed to potentially see. And to set foot on Antarctica!!!!


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