Back From Patagonia Part 1: Entering El Calafate

[[[PHOTO ALBUMS FROM THIS POST: FIRST El Calafate…. SECOND Perito Moreno]]]]

Everyday, I come home from school thinking about what I want to write and share on my blog.

Everyday, I try to cross one more item off the list of things I want to get done that day… and while “doing” them (i.e. reading a book for school while actually daydreaming about something completely different), I actually narrate to myself what I will write later. sick, I know.

Now. If I actually WROTE a damn word, my head would be a lot less full and I think I’d actually get SOME of those things DONE.

I suppose a brief explanation for the lack of communication is warranted, but let me sum it down to this.

1 week was spent traveling in Patagonia, Southern Argentina (of which I will post about now), 1 week was spent sleeping that trip off while signing up for classes, attending said classes, and completing other menial tasks for school, and lastly, I’ve been dancing my butt off and was just bombarded with school work and every time I come home, all I want to do is just SLEEP!

I’ve been going through some highs and lows, but I think I’ll leave that to the next post (Culture Shock part 2) and I also have some fun ideas planned for future posts (Weird Things That Porte√Īos Like) but for now I will just leave you with the EPIC TALES OF PATAGONIAAAAAA:

(I’m a nerd.)

……..

We start the scene at 4:30 in the morning, where a fine young Gentile Man named D accompanies me in a radio taxi to the Aeroporte. Along the way, we pick up companion E, a sweet young lady from the V of Mont, and we reach our destination at not 1 minute past 5.

(already fun isn’t it?)

Whence upon our arrival, we acquire our last travelling amiga, the name of S shall do her justice, and we go on our way through security (in literally TWO minutes – TAKE THAT USA) and then we sit FOR TWO HOURS.

So, next time you are taking a 7 am flight, you really do not need to get there THAT early. Ok? ok.

Also I bought the most expensive water there. 10 pesos. Really? really.

She brought her own sleep sack. o Em.

We arrived after our two 2 hour flights to a place where the golden grassy flat lands roll into the milky white & blue-tinted glacier water, bordered by the snow-covered Andean mountains. A sight to behold. A fresh view and breath to be taken.

Only one major highway passes through this town (route 11) , and it goes east to west. Looking down it’s vanishing point, it finally hit me that I was IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE. ūüėÄ

I made it to the Hostel America Del Sur, and when I stepped outside the¬†lounge area, I fell in love with Lago Argentina and it’s buddy, the Andes.

El Calafate has beautifully tempered weather this time of year: 70s with the sun to keep you warm and a breeze to cool you down, I never needed more than a light long sleeve fleece over my tie-dye t-shirt (I had to go backpacking in style ūüėČ ). Many roads are dirt, pebbled, and… awesome. I wish I had more time to explore the outskirts of the town, where brightly painted houses and interesting architecture exists (such as those cool bungalows where the v-slanted roofs simultaneously act as the walls). The town itself has a few main roads, but RT 11 carries the traffic through the main stores and attractions (artisan and tourist shops) and a walk further will take you towards the natural reserve by the Lago. Dogs run rampant through the town, but in actuality they are all quite clean and very sweet¬†(in comparison to dogs I’ve seen in other small towns).¬†Each time we walked to town and back a different dog would accompany us, expecting food most likely, but I like to think to myself that they were our own personal guides.

After settling in at our very fun looking and welcoming hostel (run by young adults with dreads and hair wraps – reggae was a constant audible companion), we took a nap in our private room, with double bunk beds and a sweet view of the town/landscape, and once we re-energized we began our tour of the town.

We started out with an informational guided walking tour through the Walichu Caves. Discovered right on the coast of Lago Argentina, these 4000 year old “caves” contain red hand drawn paintings with hidden symbolism, revealing a bit about indigenous life.

A negative hand print perhaps signified the impact and position of a woman’s hand during the birthing process, the force she gives as she presses against her companions for help. A circle of dots spiraling into the center allude to a person’s life line. Other more recognizable figures such as a man, a young stag, and a warrior exist to pass on their history, forever stained on the rock’s edge.

Though not a jaw-dropping cave walk, where gigantic stalactites and stalagmites (do you still get those confused?) tower over you, it was still a beautiful place to walk around, what with the pretty rock formations, the coast of Lago Argentina at your feet, and a piece of cultural history to learn.

My first account of I DON’T SPEAK YOUR LANGUAGE FLUENTLY happened soon after our tour. We were riding back to town on the bus when the tour guide, looking directly at me, asked in Spanish (and this is roughly what I think she said) – “Do you guys want to get off here? or are you continuing?” And me, not really mastering the whole language after 4.5ish months and having a much hindered ability at reading body language because I didn’t have my glasses on, turned to my compatriots (all Avenzada Espanol Estudiantes) asked them, “Do we have to get off here? Is this the end of the tour?” I figured that A. we only paid for the Cave tour, and B. this bus was going somewhere NOT in the direction of our hostel…we should probably get off…but they all just sort of shrugged and off we went to continue what was called the CITY TOUR… and not something that we paid for. In the end it didn’t matter and some fun things included:

Spotting Cristina Kirchner’s (El Presidente) home (basically large and covered with lots and lots of trees), Passing a very pretty boardwalk along the Lago A, and stopping at a history museum, at which we finally realized our mistake and were graciously given a free ride back to town.

We strolled along, window shopping, looking at pretty artisan crafts, and then we walked along the boardwalk where water weeds, trees, and birds inhabited the stagnant part of the lake. I sat facing the seemingly ever-expanding landscape and contemplatively munched on some lays potato chips. Always salty and crunchy when you need ’em. Em, the adventurer, jumped the fence/wall, hopped over a couple of rocks, and stood on the water’s edge. I enjoyed myself by just watching her and the birds flying overhead.

Did I mention it was windy?

Another 2 hour nap later and I woke up to the smell of yummy yummy Asado – an Argentine version of BBQ Grilled meat, choice of Beef. and can I just say YUM.

We ate at the hostel with the buffet styled dinner and some Quilmes to wash it down. We also purchased a cheapo bottle of Malbec to hang out with post-dining. Sat with us was a couple who had just arrived from the wilderness. They had been backpacking (actually hiking and tenting) in Torres Del Paine, the Chilean national park with beautiful beeeauuttifulll mountains, views, and wildlife. Jim was happy to shave, and Anna pleased to have a warm cooked meal. They came from Long Island, he a boat sailing lawyer and she a partially retired Czech model who once graced the cover of Vogue (if you can believe it!). I thoroughly enjoyed their conversation and shared wine (which trumped ours by about 10 points).

We made it an early night, satisfied and full of meat and drink, we fell asleep easily enough.

_____________

The next morning it was Up and At ‘Em at 7:30 am. I was greeted by dry bread and dulce de leche. Coffee was a happy friend that day. 20 minutes later we were on a very comfy coach bus heading out to Perito Moreno and El Parque Nacional Los Glaciares. We passed by Estancias (horse ranches) and rolling hills. As the sun rose, I was soothed by the voice of our tour guide who spoke about the history of the area (a location originally inhabited by farmers who have now mostly left due to the dryness of the land) and the glacier I was about to oogle (a constantly growing “piece” of ice that is 80% below water and the chunk above water towers over 60 meters high)

When we got to the park and paid¬†the 100 peso (15 for students) fee, we embarked upon a boat ride that would carry us to the glacier’s edge. Yippee! It of course was freezing and bitterly windy, but I was too excited to see ICE. why? I have no idea, but for some reason it is just the bees knees.

Words can’t really do it justice but, here’s a visual taste:

SPLASH!!!

(those tiny specks on the ice are PEOPLE!!)

Alas, I must leave off here, as I am to go to a breakdancing/hip hop dance club tonight and will be taking a tour of La Boca tomorrow. Don’t let me not post for 3 weeks people! I don’t want to forget anything and I want to stay in touch.

Te Amo…

I still have miles to go before I sleep.

~La Mariposa

 Patagonia Posts: Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

[[[PHOTO ALBUMS FROM THIS POST:¬†FIRST El Calafate…. SECOND Perito Moreno]]]]

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It’s Getting Better

{{{PHOTOS: Recoleta Cemetary and Parque Norte}}}

After such a mesmerizing, magical, and thrilling first 20 days, it was only inevitable that I had to experience some negativity and struggle.

Before that “negative struggle,” however, only blissful paradise existed.

At some point last weekend (about two weeks ago) I woke up on a lazy sunday afternoon with the goal to “get out of the house and go explore the city!” Since I lived in Recoleta, and I was slightly lazy that day, I decided to “explore” my own barrio. After a soothing breakfast of sweet medialunas (mini-croissants), tea, and a chapter of D.H. Lawrence’s Women in Love (I am “Loving” this novel) I found the central location of the most touristy sights to walk around (read: because they are close to each other, and I was/am lazy). I headed out of my apartment around noon to get some lunch (a yummy and cheap (10 pesos!) tostada aka grilled cheese sandwich with ham, and a licuado aka a banana smoothie) and then continued down towards the Recoleta Cultural Center. When I arrived I was pleasantly reminded by the familiar architecture and landmarks that I had already been there once for lunch during my Intro to BA tour. As I walked towards my destination, I happened upon some lovely live jazz music (somewhat influenced by Dixie Jazz – ¬†they were playing a nice version of “Oh, Lady Be Good” with a banjo and guitar player, a clarinetist, and a trumpeterrr…(?)) anyway – they were good, and I happily delayed my plans for a few minutes, wondering to myself where all the Lindy Hopper (Bombers) were.

Nature called and I popped my head into the nearest open venue which happened to be, OH I DON’T KNOW…THE RECOLETA CEMETARY?! Good Planning Mari.

So, I did my business (tip – always carry a portable amount of TP or tissues…really. No. Really.) and when I got out, I bought a 5 peso map of the cemetery and was about to head out into the maze of scary and creepy old graves, when – Hark! I heard clapping and laughing amidst a very good Jazz tune! Once again I was lured back outside and to my delight – I found those lindy hoppers I was so keen to dance with! A mother and a daughter from Seattle, WA were there dancing together and a crowd had formed around them. I ran up to them with a huge grin on my face and said HEEEEYY Guyssss!! Giggling was had, and then we all busted out some charleston, balboa, and the best swing-outs we could do in flippyfloppies/bare feet.¬†See the short and silly video Here

After a few tunes later, we all decided that going into the large cemetery together was probably better than getting lost while going it alone. Thus a group adventure in the creepy crawly spider weby cemetery commenced. The Full Album of my favorites can be seen here: CLICK!

Things to look out for when at the Cemetary:

Kitties – there are sooo many!!!

Open doors – no matter how many you see – don’t go in, you will probably fall down the stairs and land on an open casket. Shiver.

What happens when you take a picture of a dark and open grave with the flash

Trees – there’s actually a little park in the middle of the cemetery – you can sit and…picnic?

Evita – and other famous people I don’t really know much about but should probably know about are buried there.

Pretty and very photogenic sculptures and grave stones – I realized why I love to photograph them so much! They have emotion, posture, and angles carved right into them – the perfect models!

Cathartic¬†moments – the times when you wander for a bit on your own, look up, look down, and look sideways and think “huh.” – completely necessary when walking in a place of memory, peace, rest, abandonment, and did I mention kitties? It was Kitty Palace there. There will be an update with more places for Kitty Spotting (The Botanical Gardins, Villa Crespo Natural Science Museum etc).

We're Besties Now. Seriously.

Since we got to the cemetery a little late in the afternoon (around 4pm) the sun was beginning to set and the clock tower bells chimed 6 pm and in a cinematic moment, the park began to close just as the beams of sun started to glare through the numerous stain glass windows, illuminating the cemetery with color and a sense of magic. In another cinematic moment, I, having gotten separated from the mother-daughter duo in a moment of “chase the cute kitty,” ran into yet another group of swing dancers (yay!) and we left together to met up with the others.

We all sat for a minute, chatted about the wonders of the location, meeting/running into dancers – and then we had another good idea. ICE CREAM! Yum. So me and L being young and cute, were treated to yummyness – I got dulce de leche, frutilla (strawberry) and some other kind of fruity flavor. So much ice cream. So much. I died.

Then we walked around the feria (artisan market) located just outside the cemetery, watched some street Tango performers, and then ended up at a salsa rueda demonstration – which I hopped into at the last moment. Exhausted and wanting to get back to the casa before sundown, I said my goodbyes and headed home.

Lots more good and fun things happened between then and last weekend (Club 69 Baby!!!), but it probably consisted of school, working on a project about Villa Crespo, being slightly sick, more school, taking naps, and planing my upcoming Patagonia trip.

This past weekend I went dancing Friday, and on Saturday I had the same “Sieze the Day” kind of feeling as Sunday, and at JUST the right moment, I called my U.S. friends (from API) and we all met up at Plaza Italia and caught a collectivo to go to Parque Norte. Aka The best decision I have made yet.

It was Paradise- or close to it, because what I needed at that moment was to hang with the girls, be petty and put on a bikini, get some sun, exercise, and swimmmmm.

Which I did… but we can also add to that: feeling really pale, noticing that portenas don’t wear bikinis but instead thongs are the norm (but SERIOUSLY. their butts are amazing. probably from all that walking) and I got an ear ache. All necessary prices to pay for the amazing day I had. PICS HERE. I HIGHLY recommend going there – its 25/30 pesos during the week and 50 pesos during the weekend – for a DAY (to 8pm) of a park with 4 (or more?) pools, umbrellas, chairs, a water slide, and hey let’s throw in some water aerobics and volley ball – ¬†you name it. Outside the pool area was a basketball court, a tennis court, a football court, a food court, and the food wasn’t a whopping 50 dollar overpriced amusement park price, but a normal (even cheaper than normal) 12 pesos for a hamburger or small pizza, and 5 pesos for a ginormous amount of ice cream. So. DEFINITELY worth it. Plus, a 2.50 peso fare round trip on a colectivo (not more than 20 minutes) that rides along the Rio de Plata and drops you off right by the subte Green Line D.

So. That was relaxing.

And then the wave of “you’ve had way to much of a good time, here, taste some misery” came. You can just call it “being sick.”

I missed two and half days of normal scheduling, sweaty/feverish/chills, throat was killing me, ear ache was making my brain want to explode, and head was pounding. Oh, and did I mention that the final exam that counted for 60-70 percent of my class was the next day? Well it was. And well, I passed – with high marks (who knows how I did it). Today, I finally acquired the brain power and energy to stop by the University medical center (which is free btw) and the nurse gave me antibiotics and advice to get better – which I have. I feel about 50 times better than I did earlier, and though all those things that sucked about being sick earlier still exist, they exist at a smaller and more whispery level. At least they are quiet enough for me to finally update this blog. And for that, I thank you, Doctor, savior, my hero.

Next week I will be on “Spring” break – traveling through Patagonia – El Calafate, El Chalten, and Ushuaia. I most likely won’t be on the internet too often (this week was an exception because I was getting antsy being in bed all day) but I will be sure to post tons of photos when I get back!

I will be right HUR in 3 Days.

Lessons Learned:

  • Sometimes it is good to make plans (parque norte) and sometimes it is good not make plans (recoleta cemetery)
  • I can’t spell “cemetery”
  • Kitties are always cute – but try to refrain from petting the mangy ones
  • Sun is good – Sunscreen is good too
  • Sleep is good also

~La Mariposa

HAPPY ONE MONTH ABROAD!!!

(Tip of the Day: The Mama’s and Papa’s will get anyone in better spirits.)