Back From Patagonia Part 4: Ushuaia City Tour and Some Unfortunate Events

To think that I am still on week 4 of my journals and trips when I still have 4 more months to go through!

Guess that’s something to think about and look forward to ~

>>>> Photos for this post can be found here: USHUAIA TOWN TOUR <<<<

Let’s get started!

After my late night bus trip I finally arrived at Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina – the southern most town in AR and here’s a fun fact – the first homosexual couple in Latin America or at least South America married there. Yay to freedom! Ohhh tangents. Anyway, I got there around 9pm and found my hostel: FreeStyleBackpackers which is somewhat near the center, but uphill enough to be able to wander around the smallish city (more like a large town).

The people running the hostel were around their mid-twenties and fairly trendy enough to have a few computers and televisions around the lounge area. The upstairs contained a fun-looking ping-pong table and usable couches which would come in handy when we wanted to hang out and flirt with cute and foreign back-packers.

One of my travel-mates, S, had her blackberry and thumbed away at her keys for most of the time, but eventually we got her to come out of her shell with a few bottles of Quilmes. The other, E, a shy but more sociable girl wandered the hostel with me. We came upon an open dorm room and spotted to young “men”, around our age (oh to be in age and maturity limbo – not a boy, not a man, not a girl, not a woman – what fun!). I, being enthusiastically outgoing and slightly uninhibited by my bottle number 1, merely poked my head in and grinned. “Hullo” one said, in a fun and cute british accent grinning equally if not more eagerly. The game was in motion.

Having been somewhat involved with another man who was stuck in Buenos Aires (and as we were still courting one another (oh language)) I  was simply looking for some fun company and maybe a little bit of eye-candy for my pretty girl friend. These fellows, or blokes as they say, were attractive enough in my book (personality and looks-wise – I’m not so shallow haha – ‘perfectly tolerable but not enough to tempt me’, thank you very much Jane Austen) so we entered and began to chat about this and that, and pangs of jealousy arrived in my gut when I heard that they had already been to the Galapagos islands and everywhere else one could dream to visit, as they  conveniently came from big money. In fact,  one already owned a house in the Italian countryside and the other happened to be the grandson of a lord – who was even invited to the Royal Wedding! It’s fun when things like that exist in real life – something to entertain the everyday ‘common girl’ like myself haha. After their time here, they were to go up north and travel the long trail to the oh so famous and magical Machu Picchu.

We convinced them to join us for a few tasty and cheap brews (10 pesos for a kilo) and as the night continued and eyes were flirtatiously batting and oogling, I felt somewhat proud of my contained flirtatiousness and loyalty to that blasted pre-paid cellular phone – in other words…I couldn’t help myself from sending a text to that Porteno I had been seeing…..

We woke up the next morning and spent our time walking around the town and visiting the port – the water was brilliantly blue and it glistened under the bright and sunny weather.

As we walked back to our hostel, our male companion, D, started to feel slightly dizzy and out of breath. The night before he had been concerned with the amount of smoke from cigarettes that had wafted into our room from the outside garden where people were smoking. Worried, we stopped for a moment at the top of the hill and asked if he felt he was having some type of allergic or asthmatic reaction – my thoughts were in the direction of a panic attack as he just seemed too young for a heart problem and as I have asthma myself, the signs just weren’t the same. Being in a foreign country, and especially a small town where we weren’t sure of any medical facility, we resorted to calling the police. A patrol car stopped by soon after and was able to give us the name and location of the closest and only hospital. We quickly flagged down a taxi at a queue, cutting in front of a woman holding a baby, but as E felt it was an emergency, I guess things like that just happen sometimes. When we got to the “emergency room” which was basically a hallway, a few chairs, and three sketchy looking doors with who-knows-what laying behind them, D, and our best spanish speaking companion, S, went into the 1st room. This meant that E and I were stuck helplessly sitting in that hallway with 1 chair left as the others were taken up by elderly.

I called the program director to inform her just in case anything happened, and then we waited. and waited. I think I went to the bathroom 3 times before finally S came out and explained they were doing some heart monitoring and oxygen giving… Eventually it turned out okay, and I’m not really sure what it ended up being, but D seemed fine enough – He ended up staying overnight at his host mother’s sister’s home – lucky that she was living down there at the time, huh. The funniest part about this was the way the forms were filled out for him and the insurance company. D’s last name: MacDonald,  isn’t a very common name in Latin America, as anyone could guess. The easiest way he could explain to someone how to say and spell his name was to say “mi appellido es como el restaurante, conoces McDonald’s?” My last name is like the restaurant, you know McDonalds? And they would go “Ahhh, si, si”.

This time, in a hilarious end to the unfortunate events that occurred, in his hand was a crumpled up paper that said “D– Restaurante”. I smile to myself when I remember little things like that. Ah the wonders of language and culture.

We ended the evening back at the hostel after a nice mexican dinner (we had a craving – though Ushuaia is most famous for its seafood) and hung out with the friendly Brits, excited and jittery for the morning to come when we would take a boat to visit the Penguinos!

~La Mariposa

Back From Patagonia: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3;

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Back From Patagonia Part 3: Road Trip to the Tip of South America

>>>This posts PHOTOS can be found at: The Never Ending Road Trip<<<

If you don’t have an idea of what awesomeness I am about to write here, you should probably scroll up and re-read that title.

Did you read it?

Don’t believe it?

Oooohhyeaaahbaby. I made it to the “top” of the world (as they like to say it “down there”, oh geography humor).

LETS GET STARTED!

From Part 2 of BFP we left of at the beginning of my roughly 24 hour bus ride to Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. A port town, developed from a population of prisoners and isolated explorers exiled from the center cities, Ushuaia receives annual tourists every summer/spring/fall (deeefinitely not winter, that place is COLD!) to visit the beautiful state parks and join boat tours that lead to isolated islands with PENGUINS! YAY!

Isn’t this post exciting already!?

Well, sorry but I got to stop you from jumping up and clapping your hands shouting PENGUINS PENGUINS for just a sec. Because, being the poor student I am, I elected to take a bus, to see the country side, and well… to save a few bucks. So, first:

THE BUS(ES) TO USHUAIA:

What we (my traveling mates and I) thought might be a semi-cama (bed) bus that traveled straight to Ushuaia, turned out to be much much more than a sore butt and a quiet journey where one can catch up on their reading. oh no. This is Patagonia and everything is an adventure here.

We left our hostel at 2am in the morning, just as the last backpackers went to bed and the solo night staffer was setting up camp behind the desk. Our backpacks stuffed and our iPods charged, we ventured out underneath the bright starry sky and headed down the dirt hill to the bus station. Like always, we picked up a guia dog who took us all the way to the station, where she even quietly laid down next to our things while we waited for the bus to arrive. We boarded and were happy to find chairs that unfolded into nice slightly elevated beds. Once I figured out how to lean back the damned thing, I was out like Ke$ha after a big bottle of Jack.

The next moment of consciousness was to my SUPER STRESSED OUT companion looking confused as all hell, and everyone on the bus was awake and up collecting their belongings. I thought for a second why this was happening and then I remembered I had TWO tickets. Must have meant something. Probably that we had to change buses as some point. Guess that point was now. We had reached Rio Gallegos, capital city of Santa Cruz, and pit stop for all buses that lead to Ushuaia. It was now 7 am (where did the time go?) and we sat for an hour looking up every time a bus came having absolutely NO idea which was ours and how everyone else seemed to know what to do except for us. Finally a bus pulled up with the same name as the one on our ticket and we grabbed our bags only to be told last minute that we had to “CHECK IN”. Crap.

Rushing back into the station and searching frantically for the right kiosk, we registered and then ran back in time to catch the bus. THIS bus was the long haul. I spent most of my time reading D.H. Lawrence’s “Women In Love” , and catching up on some Zs. At least that is until some stranger woke me up to tell me to get off the bus…which brings me to the next section.

BORDER CROSSING:

For some historical and complicated reason, the tip of South America is split between the countries of Chile and Argentina. And for some complicated and historical reason, we travelers have to pass through not one, not two, but FOUR BORDER PATROL CENTERS. Each one 10 minutes away from the other, and each one takes 30 to 60 minutes to do the following:

  • Get off and back on the bus
  • Get your bags (all of them) back off and on the bus
  • Have all your ID’s checked
  • Have all your bags checked (yes, every damn time)
  • And get your passport stamped (woo!)
  • Also you get to ride a ferry (not so bad…except when the storm we had been out driving caught up to us and we happened to be riding that same channel that shipwrecked hundreds of people and oh look the waves are getting a little more ferocious looking, are we supposed to rock like that????)

So yes. more exciting that sitting on one bus for FOREVERRRRRRRRR.

After changing buses once more in Rio Grande, the next part of the trip wasn’t too exciting, the sun had begun to set as we started to weave through the mountains on our way to the town. The geography had changed from flat lands and golden fields to green forests and mountains. The last hour was my favorite as I got to watch the beautiful sunset over the Andes and lakes. As we reached Ushuaia, the last bit of sun set and a crescent moon rose over the glowing water. It was a beautiful and perfect way to feel we had passed through the gate into Tierra del Fuego and the End of the World.

~La Mariposa

Patagonia: Part 1, Part 2; Part 4


Back From Patagonia Part 2: The Hike to “Fitz Roy”

<<PHOTOS: Perito Moreno and El Chalten>>

My mom took this photo. She got to see it, bless her heart.

This title is a partial lie. One, I didn’t really make it to Fitz Roy…and Two..we didn’t really actually “see” Fitz Roy, we just kinda stood and looked at where it was supposed to be.

BUT, before we can get to what I hope seems like a very intriguing story, let us back track to where I left off in my last post, BFP part 1.

After our awe-inducing and entertaining ferry safari to the edge of the glacier, and after capturing a crackling and wave-making giant ice piece fall into the water, my 3 companions and I walked along the north side of the Perito Moreno Glacier for what seemed like a short while but in actuality was 2 hours. We leisurely strolled down the metal man-made path (with stairs and everything) over the edge of the peninsula’s cliff, getting as close as possible to the ever-growing and every changing mass of snow and ice. Every now and then we stopped to snap some shots, look pensively over the glowing white and blue, breathe some fresh air, and feel wonderful.

My favorite part of this trip were the moments when time ceased to exist and the present would seem to last a lifetime. It was a mind cleansing experience and one that I hope never to forget. A handful of photos are there to make sure that doesn’t happen. I spent the last 15 minutes sitting on a bench looking over the top of the glacier. It was a hello and a goodbye to this wondrous natural phenomenon. I felt so much at peace.

We arrived back around 4pm, took a nap, and then went into town for some FOOD. Somehow my exploration tendencies got me separated from the group, and I spent a few hours wandering alone through the streets. I spoke with some locals in a leather (the leather) store, and I should have bought a jacket or a bag because they were SO nice, but I wasn’t confident in my “leather quality” knowledge, so I refrained. I DID, however, purchase a really pretty cuero belt, which was a necessity as I seem to have shaved off a few pounds since my arrival. (Ironic because I seem to be constantly eating, but who’s to complain really?) Dusk turned to night, and I was getting hungry. I began to look for the group more intensely, though not really preventing myself from peeking my head into a few more art shops (and buying some cute earrings hehe)… but I was losing hope of finding them. Hoping to spot them soon, I bought some ice cream to boost my energy (the best ice cream exists in AR – BA is sooogooood) – I finally noticed them while crossing the street and ran up to meet them – unfortunately by that time of night (roughly 9:30) all the restaurants were pretty populated and thus, we ate at the chain restaurant instead of a local dig.

I seemed to always be hungry on that trip – Snacking like Woah. This chain of restaurants (I saw at least 3…which is weird because the town literally consisted of A Single Road.) was called La Lechuza (owls are their mascots…and very common in Argentina). I had the BEST hamburger. With Bacon. WHAT. :D. It lasted me until lunch the next day.

——————————-

Speaking of “the next day” – we had signed ourselves up for a trip to El Chalten, nearby town and gateway to the northern section of Parque Nacional Los Glaciers AND Fitz Roy!

At 6:30 am, we ate a quick breakfast and then were dog-escorted to the bus station for our 3 hour coach bus ride to El Chalten. During the relaxing trip (which I enjoyed) we stopped about halfway at a cute rest stop (with cute men!) where I bought a DELICIOUS piece of banana bread topped with melted chocolate, and a factura (medialuna con dulce de leche -YUM.) The rest of the trip I went in and out of consciousness, and every time they opened, my eyes spotted a different landscape. After fields and farms came rocks layered in reds, browns, tans, and whites. Small rivers of blue ran through the earth and I could see the early formation of mini canyons. I looked to my left and just as we came around a bend, the hill opened up to reveal the tips of the Andes – I gasped audibly. We had arrived to El Chalten. It was 11 am and we were gearing up for our adventurous trek into the mountains.

After our quick info sesh and a debate about which trail to take, my failing navigational skills set us on the wrong path – which seemed to be the right one as I thought the town had ended – the road (I thought was the main one) cut off and all that was in front of us was a farm and a camp site. We veered left and walked up a ways before a sign finally appeared and said “Nope, wrong way.” Actually, what really happened was we walked up the hill, I was kind of like, I don’t really think this is right, but I really have no idea where else to go, everyone was walking briskly, and then we finally encountered some hikers. It was JIM and ANNA from America Del Sur (funnily enough, they also had accompanied us on our boat trip to Perito Moreno earlier that week)! They had come to El Chalten as well and were about to go hiking through the entire park, from Cerro Torre to Fitz Roy, camping and backpacking like the tough and awesome travelers they are. They pointed us in the right direction, and after some grumbling from everyone in the group, we set off for our REAL hike.

Too bad for us, the weather was being slightly temperamental. Clouds seemed to cover most of the mountain peaks, including the infamous Fitz Roy. The dark and moody mist was menacingly beautiful, reminding me of a historical pilgrimage somewhere in the middle of nowhere. It was grey and windy (VERY windy) and from time to time we would be splattered with some drizzle and rain. Though it never seemed to be too treacherous and miserable. In fact, I welcomed the coolness as when we started to pick up the pace I generated quite a lot of heat. I am proud of myself for hiking – though I don’t feel I could ever do a REAL camping hike, giant backpack gear and all, I really did enjoy that ‘walk’. I never thought I would be able to do it all, and I only had to use my inhaler once! (This is coming from a girl who is supposed to be healthy, but in actuality, I’m not – I don’t really have great lungs, asthma, etc. and I get dizzy pretty often. But this time I felt really good – besides being the slowest and the last one to get anywhere…but exercise is becoming a part of my weekly routine here in BA and I hope to continue when I get home.)

It was slightly cloudy (you could see the dark and billowing ones containing a frightful storm not too far away) but despite the greyness, the sun always seemed to follow us where we went. The wind barreled through the rocky pathways, sneaking through the trees and picking up speed over the cliff’s edges. We could literally walk on an incline and still be held up – a natural wind tunnel. We reached our check point in an hour or so (about half the time it was supposed to take), where we passed a campsite and then found ourselves miraculously in front of Capri Lagoon. Here, one should be able to see the towering Fitz Roy, through the bordering and painted snow-capped mountains.

The wind was picking up and rain began to fall so we didn’t stick too long by the water’s edge – a location that seemed to increase the speed of the wind. We stuffed our lunches quickly into our mouths and then headed to an outlook on the way back down the mountain. It overlooked the canyon and the rapidly flowing river down below. The wind blew rigorously through the forest at our backs, one could jump up in the air and land a foot father down the path. Needless to say, the way down took less than half the time it did going up.


At the bottom, we sat by the glacier water river’s edge, filled our bottles, and played with rocks. My only wish was that we could have floated down the awesome rapids. Exhausted, but with more than an hour left, we (regrettably) decided to go to the “Waterfall” that was only a “45” minute walk away, thinking it was going to be easy (it was not). The wind had picked up even more, and we were walking directly into it. Think man in a suit sitting on a lazy boy  in a wind tunnel commercial. Think Sahara desert at the end of your energy with no water and hours of time spent venturing aimlessly. This was definitely a case of “are we there yet?” I don’t know why, but I was sore, and this was hard for me. I guess you could call it a hike, but it was really a just a rocky road that led to a “meh” waterfall populated by middle age men on “photographer” tours. My hips were giving out by that time, and so I sat on a rock and calmly munched on an apple while listening to the gushing water sounds.

This is literally the only photo I could get with out some ass with a tripod and fancy camera in the way

Getting cranky and having a deadline of 5:30 pm, we headed to town, this time the wind pressing against our backs and speeding up the return process. Each time I turned a corner or passed a hill I would think, “yes we’re so close” but…I was usually wrong. Finally I made it, after what seemed like forever (when actually it was just 30 minutes or so). I hobbled back to the station craving a hot chocolate and went to purchase one to fulfill my chocolatey needs. Unfortunately I chose the wrong place to get it, and after a half an hour wait I was given a cup of milk with two pieces of “chocolate” (similar to a hershey bar minus the hershey-goodness). No spoon. No melted mixed thick yumminess. I took one sip, cringed, and threw it out. And at a loss of 13 pesos. Not one of my best moments, but you live and learn I suppose.

I spent the bus ride home sleeping and ending the last 15 minutes with a good listenin’ to Alison Krauss – always puts me in a good mood. By 9ish we were back in town (Calafate) and quickly purchased our snacks for the loooooooooooong bus ride to Ushuaia. This time, we ate at a local restaurant with 1.5 waiters (and quicker service than Lechuza) the .5 was a 5-6 year old girl who helped put napkins and salt-shakers on our table. The 1 was a handsome looking waiter who I did not dislike staring at, heh. Everyone ordered hamburgers (which were the SIZE OF MY HEAD) and I had raviolis – something I had been craving all day. Dos quilmeses and a football game later, we were stuffed and exhausted. At the hostel we repacked our belongings and sat deliriously in the lounge as we waited for 2 am to come so we could catch our 3am bus to Ushuaia…

To Be Continued…

~La Mariposa

Patagonia Posts: Part 1, Part 3, Part 4

<<PHOTOS: Perito Moreno and El Chalten>>


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 Porteños 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. 😀

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 😉 ). 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]]]]


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.)


Biking in Wonderland

This is a short post  – mainly to share a new album of photos taken during a API bike tour in Palermo through the majestic Rose Garden. This area is also close to the Japanese Gardens, the Horse Track, numerous lakes, and lots of very popular parks. It is on the east coast of Buenos Aires and north of the center. The ginormous park borders the city’s edge separating it from the Rio de Plata. It was an awesome bike tour and somehow I managed to take a bunch of photos mid-peddle without killing myself!

 

I'm a nerd.

 

 

Pros:

  • Sun, but no sunburn
  • Pretty birds and flowers
  • Exercise
  • Exploring the city on bright orange bikes

Con(s):

  • only one: the bike (read: skateboard) helmet that kept falling into my eyes every time I turned my head.

CLICK FOR PHOTO ALBUM

P.S. BONUS VIDEO OF LAST SATURDAY’S SWING DANCE – JAM at 3AM: I’m the first couple dancing (with Bobby Bonsey)!

(If that link does not work, here is my video – though the beginning is cut off 😉 )

 

And Lastly: my new boyfriend.

Thanks for flying with me,

~La Mariposa


Your Intro Tour to the Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires

I FINALLY have more than an hour to just sit and stare at a wall.

It is Sunday, I have slept a good 7 hours (which is a lot for BA), taken a shower (washed of the sticky foam residue from Carnival), ate some ravioli, did my spanish homework, went through the 900 photos I took in ONE WEEK (-_-) and mapped out my schedule for the next semester.

And now. I can finally give you all an update!

First, sorry for the neglect, but honestly, I’ve just been trying to get from point A to point B without running into a wall or a more appropriate analogy here would be dog poop (of which there is a plethora of different types to step in).

Second, I am very safe, very happy, very healthy (well, it’s a little hot here), and very content.

Ok. Now that that short update is finished, here is a more lengthy and unnecessarily detailed account of the past 7 days (starting with the first two: SAT and SUN).

Last Buenos Aires post, I mentioned at the end that we (the API exchange group) were to embark on a 3+hour bus/walking tour of the main barrios in the city. Which we did. It was very pretty.

If you want to see how pretty and interesting it was, you’d probably get a better picture from actually looking at one (some. a lot.): CLICK Here, Here, and Here!. (note: Currently in the works and will be updated very soon)

We ventured to Plaza de Mayo (south of Recoleta where I live), home of the administrative and political powers (judicial as well). The center of the court consisted of an obelisk statue and a symmetrical brick path with white stencils of hooded women. These represent the mothers who lost their sons during the Dirty War. There are constantly protests and marches in this area, and although it would be interesting to see one, it’s not the safest to hover around one.

Date of the revolution of Argentina from Spain

Every Thursday, these women come to walk in a circle around the obelisk in a peaceful protest

After walking into a beautiful church, admiring the intricate carvings and architecture of the surrounding buildings, we went down into the subway (called: Subte) to take the oldest train left in the city. Down Avenida de Mayo we got out near our next destination: Cafe Tortoni, the oldest coffee shop in Argentina, as well as a cultural center for Tango as it is also right under the Academia Nacional Del Tango.

Unfortunately, we missed the actual train by a hair and ended up taking a newer model (Sorry Bruce!), but got to our destination all the same. I loved the energy of the Cafe, the furniture, the way the waiters wore bow ties and waistcoats with two tails, and that classic coffee smell. Plus I got to hang out with some classy guys.

This is the Cats Corner of Tortoni.

We hopped back on the bus to continue our tour of the southern barrios San Telmo and La Boca. I pretty much died and went to architecture heaven, but not before I was able to snap some pretty nice photos (for having been on the bus).

These are noticeably less wealthy barrios (or boroughs for you New Yorkers out there) and you can start to see the deterioration of buildings, art, nature, and people. However, the energy is still as bright and lively as it is in the center of the city, and I am sure the famous brightly painted homes help to keep up spirits. Not to mention one of the two famous football teams hails from La Boca: La Boca Juniors!

I will definitely be re-visiting this area for some fun weekend touring.

From there, we took a bus to Puerto Madero, close to the harbors, and right over the Rio de Plata (which is really more of a Rio de Marron = brown). But it was beautiful all the same. This area consists of more modern high rises and symmetrical construction. There’s not much on the ground, and actually, the area was strangely void of people. Would be a good place to shoot another Armageddon film I suppose.

I enjoyed straining my neck to look at the cool metallic structures, but personally I love the european inspired buildings more. One highlight was the Women’s Bridge or Puente de la Mujer which was constructed in 2001 I believe. Very cool graphic vectors and I would have spent an hour shooting photos down there if I could (:D).

 

Women's Bridge

Apparently, it is supposed to represent two Tango Dancers. Do you see it?

Finally, we returned to Recoleta for a lunch break, some walking, and much needed shade. I could see the tips of grave stone monuments peeking over the brick wall of the famous Recoleta Cemetery where Evita is buried (among many others).

Our tour rounded up in the mid afternoon (around 4 I think but who really knows when your in 80+ degree weather and all you care about is the pretty rooftops with flowers) to go to our final “Meeting” and introduction. Boring stuff (read: important information) was discussed and I don’t think I need to recount all of it.

I can’t for the life of me remember what I did that night, but maybe it was fun? I Remember! It was L’s Birthday! I got invited by a few Lindy friends to attend a young woman from Seattle!’s birthday dance. She rented out a small bar and played blues/swing music. It was a lot of fun and I embarrassed myself by dancing completely normally (read: outrageously) but I made a handful of new friends and even got invited to join a Burlesque group (YES!). A young woman and I spent a chunk of time discussing and imitating Bob Fosse moves and I had about a heart attack when of the portenos started practicing a chair routine in front of me (guh.) Needless to say, I stayed till about 4 (Yikes!) and got walked by a nice gentleman to a taxi which I intelligently told exactly the way home and with home I had a fun conversation with in Spanish. (In fact, I usually always get to talk to Taxi Drivers in Spanish). Got home, showered, and passsed outttt.

The next morning it was “up and at em” for a nice medialuna (mini croissants) breakfast with coffee and fruit and then onwards to our first Collectivo (bus) ride. We went to Belgrano, and walked a few blocks to the location of our University. It is located in a nice residential area, not more than three blocks from two main avenues, with lots of yummy places to eat, cheap places to shop, and pretty buildings to oogle at. The con of living in such a resi-area? Dog walkers and lots of dogs. Which means lots of stinky dog excrement. This makes me appreciate NYC’s no poop policy. A lot.

After our brief intro to our school (literally 5 minutes spent outside the building)  we walked 6ish blocks (cuadras) to the Subte, and went back to our hotel to pack and meet our new HOST FAMILIES!

(TO COME: Fabulous Outing at La Viruta! A Real Live Dinosaur Spotting! A Bike Tour! AND the most beautiful Rose Garden taken right out of Alice in Wonderland!)

~La Mariposa

 

Universidad De Belgrano

 

The View