Friday, January 30, 2009

Que malo tiempo!

Weather once again ruined my carefully (haphazardly) made plans. I stayed in Montevideo two days longer than I intended, which left me only one day for beachgoing. That particular day was mostly spent inside, avoiding the unrelentless rain and 30 mph winds. Oh joy.

The town, Punta del Diablo, was interesting though. Its single paved road is just the one that leads away. Everything else is dirt and sand. The lifestyle is so lazy, I got impatient (this coming from someone who´s done as little as possible for the last two months). No one is in a hurry and no one likes to work. People are happy to live in povery as long as they can smoke pot and surf.

Anyway, back in Buenos Aires. Rainy here today as well. But the weekend is supposed to be sunny, so it should be a nice ending to my time down here. Looking very much forward to my pitstop, which begins Monday. I should be enjoying some nice beach time in the next week and a half.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

What´s left

I will be back in Omaha in 16 days: Feb. 12. There´s still a lot to do between now and then.

I´m heading along the Uruguayan coast to the east today. Gonna stay on the beach. Friday, it´s back to Buenos Aires for one last weekend. I plan to enjoy a beautiful steak one last time.

The on Monday... Well, once again, I´m not at liberty to say. I have one last country to visit before I make it back stateside. I have a good reason for going there as well; not so random as Argentina from China. I´ll let you know that it is in the Americas. It´s somewhere I´ve never been. And it´s meant to be quite the up-and-coming destination.

It´s not Costa Rica.

You´ll find out soon enough, anyway.

Friday, January 23, 2009


Truth be told, I´m looking forward to going back to the States. Time and again, I´ve been told how jealous people are of my travels. It´s been a blast. However, I´m jealous of them, too. Things like a private bedroom, decent knives and good friendships are hard to go without for so long.

I´ve spent all but two months of the last 17 sleeping in shared spaces. It gets hard. It´s nice to be able to throw your clothes and stuff around--stuffing it back into a backpack day after day becomes tiresome. And of course there´s the snoring, late-night returns by drunk bar hoppers, early morning departers who couldn´t bother to pack the night before and countless other annoyances. Just last night, some dude threatened to kick my ass because I insisted he turn off the light at god knows what hour of the morning. Unreal.

Hostel kitchens run the gammut. Some are absolutely abysmal, with handleless pans and knives that haven´t been sharpened since they were purchased 10 years ago. Some are quite good, with multiple stovetops and all variety of cooking implements (the one where I lived in Wellington was fantastic). I like to cook my own food, but usually I can´t be bothered. It´s a hassle. You have to hope someone left some oil or oregano, or you need to buy these type of ingredients, which you´ll leave or have to carry with you. Ultimately, this leads to really bad eating habits. The number of times I ate noodle soup in China and empanadas in Argentina would make a nutritionist cringe.

And finally, the social life on the road. For a long time, it was cool to meet people from all over the world. I´ve met folks from all range of nations. Ireland, Iran and India. Australia, Argentina and Austria. Iceland, South Africa, Estonia, Singapore, Indonesia, Colombia, Italy. The list goes on into the 40s or 50s, I´m sure. But these "friendships" are temporary and superficial. They´re more like drinking buddies than friends. And every day, it´s the same conversation, with new people: Where you from? How long are you traveling for? Where have you been so far? You don´t even ask eachother´s names until about three beers in, and you won´t remember it. This daily ritual has taken its toll on me. I don´t give a shit where you´ve been in South America. And of course, there´s all the stupid storytelling and oneupsmanship:

"And then to get from Lima to Cuzco, we had to take a 10-hour bus ride, but the bus broke down so it ended up taking 12."

"Oh yea? well, I took a 50-hour bus ride in Bolivia, and we had to get out and push the bus the last 10 kilometers."

Just whip em out guys; I´ll go get the ruler.

Once in awhile though, you´ll stay in a place for a bit longer and some other folks will too. You get past the superficial chat and get to know eachother. I have made some good friends on this trip, whom I keep in touch with on Facebook. But generally, it´s the same day after day after day.

It´s been fun. It´s been enlightening. It´s been challenging. But it´s been a long time, and I´m ready to bring some consistency to my life once again.

But hopefully not in a cubicle.


It´s always fun to go to a new country. Passport stamp, new money, different culture. Uruguay isn´t terribly different from Argentina though, in many respects. Food´s quite similar. Language also is similar. It´s small, though. Buenos Aires has a bigger population than the whole country. Montevideo is cool. Very European, like Buenos Aires. A bit worn down. Some beautiful architecture:

From Argentina

I don´t know why they put that godawful antenna on top, though. And for every nice building like that, there is one of these eyesores:

From Argentina

I have two more nights here in Montevideo, then I will check out a few other spots in the country, probably along the coast.

And how about a random photo? In Montevideo, and in a few Argentine cities, the recycling program looks like this:

From Argentina

The city´s poor patrol the streets, digging through trash in search of bottles, cardboard and other goodies to cash in for $$.

Monday, January 19, 2009


A map of my travels through the country:

View Larger Map

On the wild side

You´d have to go to a zoo to see a larger variety of animals than I saw yesterday. Guanacos (type of llama), rheas (small ostrich-like bird), sea lions, elephant seals, grey wolf, oversized rabbit-thing, armadillos, magellanic penguins and all sorts of other birds were on the menu.

The trip started with a two-hour cruise along the coast to see some sea lion (sea wolf--lobo marino--in Spanish) colonies. Next stop was a bit of snorkeling (sorry no photos) in the chilly water. We had wet suits, so it wasn´t so bad, but there wasn´t much to see, thanks, in part, to recent storms, which made the water green and murky.

Once ashore, we had a stop at a small penguin colony. I´ve seen wild penguins before, but never in such numbers. The small colony had hundreds of birds. Apparently there is a bigger one south with thousands. The chicks were molting their fluffy feathers, revealing a coat like their parents´. Soon they´ll be hitting the water.

From Argentina

After that was a visit with the elephant seals. There were only a few dozen on the beach. These non-mating males were simply molting their fur before they migrated--as much as 11,000 kilometers away. The females and the ¨beachmaster¨ males were gone, as they had each lost a lot of weight during the birthing and mating season and needed to eat up.

More exciting was a large sea lion colony. It was quite interesting: a female gives birth to one pup and can soon thereafter mate again. This cycle happens every year. So there were dozens, if not hundreds, of new pups--some born within the hour. You could tell this, because there were tons of sea birds swooping in to eat bits of the placentas. Yum!

The bulls were each minding their harems, with frequent fights and showmanship to ensure no one encroaches on their territory. In this video, you see what happens with a womanless bull decides to run right through a couple harems.

Very sorry to not have more photos. So much of what we saw was at a bit of a distance, as we were in a protected area. But this guy didn´t hesitate to scurry right through the parking lot.

From Argentina

Off to the north today and Uruguay tomorrow, if all goes as planned.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Let´s play catchup

Now that I´m finally back in civilization (well, sort of. I´m still in a small town and surrounded by absolutely nothing on one side and the ocean on the other), I can finally provide a much-needed update to the happenings of the last week.

By the numbers

--Number of hours spent on buses in the last week: 50
--Kilometers traveled: Approx. 3,000 (about 2000 miles)


Bariloche is beautiful. It sits near the Andes, on Lake Nahuel Huapi. It´s surrounded by mountains. I enjoyed excellent views, a great 25 km bike ride and the best ice cream in the world--lots of it.

The scenery:

From Argentina

The deliciousness:

From Argentina

Across Patagonia

The southern chunk of Argentina is known as Patagonia. I don´t know what I expected, but I don´t think this was it. It´s barren. It´s flat. It goes on forEVER. There is so little life out here, the rare service station can charge 25 bucks a gallon for gas and $8.50 for a bottle of coke (or could if then wanted to).

From Argentina

No trees. Lots of ugly bushes. Some sheep. A few ostrich-type birds and some llamas. If the sheep are scared in Montana, they´re used to it here.

Getting around

Never have I traveled so well. There are several classes of bus available to travelers in Argentina. Semi cama (cama=bed) provides seats much like the economy seats in an airplane, except they recline further. Upgrade to coche cama for just a few dollars more and you have a business-class seat that reclines quite far. They´re only three across, and a hot meal and booze is included on the better fleets. I have not enjoyed the luxury of ¨cama total¨, which is a seat that folds into a flat bed.

The buses are, more often than not, of the double-decker variety.

From Argentina

And a view of coche cama:

From Argentina

Greyhound needs to get its shit together.


I experienced the coldest weather in nearly two years these last few days. I was in the deep, deep south of the country. So far south that the sky wasn´t totally dark until after 11 p.m. Why put up with such torture? To see the Perito Moreno glacier. Worth it? Yes, definitely, despite going on a horribly rainy and cloudy day.

The glacier is massive. Something like 20 miles long. It´s three miles wide at the bottom (I had to look that number up, and I couldn´t believe it--this thing´s huge!) It advances at about two meters a day, with about that much breaking off into the lake. We could hear the ice groan and pop as it moved forward, and huge exploding noises as chunks of ice crashed into the water. It was absolutely awe-inspiring, despite the horrible weather.

From Argentina

The section you see here is well over a mile long, along the water:

From Argentina

Today I´m in Puerto Madryn, on the east coast of the country. My hostel is seconds from the water. Tomorrow, I intend to go check out some wild life on the Peninsula Valdes, which is a protected area. After that, its up north and over to Uruguay.

Stay tuned for more about my stop on the way back home!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Snail´s pace

Proper updates will have to wait for a few more days it seems. Here in Bariloche, which is Argentina´s equivalent of NZ´s Queenstown, the Internet is absolutely dragging ass. The town is packed with tourists from all over the country, as well as plenty of backpackers.

I´m off to the far south on Tuesday to see the Perito Moreno glacier near El Calafate. Apparently it moves up to a couple meters each day, causing huge chunks to break off into the adjacent lake.

After that, I think I´m heading to the east coast for a few days and then quite possibly into Uruguay for about 10 days. These plans change daily, so I could be up to just about anything by the time I update this again.

Regardless, I´m leaving South America on Feb. 2 and making a nine-day pitstop on my way back to Omaha...somewhere outside the states.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Iguazu Falls

I have seen some amazing natural wonders in New Zealand. Milford Sound and the mountains around Lake Wakatipu come to mind. And in China I enjoyed some fantastic views from atop mountains and the beautiful karst structures in Guangxi Province.

But Iguazu Falls may very well top all of these.

It´s one of those things that you ¨have¨ to see in Argentina, let alone South America. The falls are in the northeast part of the country and share a border with Brazil. They stretch wider than Niagara, and stand higher too. The falls (cataratas en espaƱol) are actually 275 distinct waterfalls. Don´t confuse this with Venezuela´s uber-tall Angel Falls. And if you´ve seen the latest Indiana Jones movie, these are the falls you see at the end when the spaceship thing leaves.

And now, I present you with some of the greatest eye candy ever featured on this blog.

From Argentina

From Argentina

From Argentina

From Argentina

From Argentina

A long-distance view of Garganta del Diable, or Devil´s throat, the falls´ most impressive section.

From Argentina

A view from atop Garganta del Diable. The Argentine-Brazilian border runs right through these falls.

From Argentina

And since that hardly does this view justice, here´s a video that shows the power of the falls.

And lastly, a video of a different section of the falls.

I´m back in BA for another night, then on to Bariloche in the south tomorrow. I´ve got about 3 1/2 weeks to explore some of the south, before I depart Argentina in early February.

And I´ve got another mystery stop on my way to Omaha.