A Travellerspoint blog

Bloody Arse Man

Being a Poephol and Other News

View Around the World in 77 Days on ldroulez's travel map.

I wanted to start off by publicly shaming myself for missing my flight by thinking it was today and not yesterday. There are no excuses for being that crass and negligent in the presence of a printed itinerary and the internet, and for that I believe that if there existed Poephol rating system I would fall roughly between a buck-toothed and a double-sided asshole. Additionally I would like to apologize to the entire Deeks family for preparing what was to be an amazing day for me and coming to the airport early to pick me up. I would lastly like to thank my parents for coming in to help me again by first having my brother call the hostel to translate and then working both sides of the phone to make sure I got on the next flight down. I guess you really are never old enough to have your bum wiped for you and for that I am very grateful to all parties involved.

In regards to my time here, yesterday and today I wrapped up the last possible to-dos on my agenda and have spent today preparing for the trip tomorrow. Yesterday I went to the National Museum of Tango, which was a good follow-up to the Tango Show I went to earlier in the trip. I got context on the evolution of the dance so synonymous with this country, learning how as it become more universal the bands became smaller, moves more modern, and the participants now coming from around the world. Additionally, I went to the Casa Rosada, which used to be the presidential palace but now serves more of a museum chronicling the history of the nation and housing exhibits regarding the "Bicentennial" of independence that occurred in 2010. I found the building to be an interesting concoction of architecture that was very ornate. More than anything it seemed about presentation, as seems to be the case with most things politics, and I found it hard at times to imagine functionary purposes. I rounded out the day by doing a tour at sunset of the Palacio Barollo, which is a building in Congreso that is famous for being built using Dante's Divine Comedy as a source of inspiration. Everything, from the arrangement of floors, to the numbers of pillars, to the decorations around the elevator, harkens back to some part of the book. During the tour we got to see examples of Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven and receive descriptions of the allusions. Of all of them my favorite was Heaven, as we got to scale to the light-house at the top of the building and see stunning views of the city in all directions. What struck me is how lowly built and immense the city is, as the vista at the top of 22-story building allowed me to see all the major sites in the area. The tour concluded with a wine tasting of Palacio Barolo wine and a look into what offices were like here in the 1920s and in many ways still are. The major downsides of renting in the building are the community toilets, lack of A/C (became more and more sweltering with each floor), and the funky layouts of the rooms, which were built for another era of business.

Thus officially concludes my time here, an incredible stay that allowed me both a glimpse into the diverse and stunning geography of Argentina and the countless reasons why I love BA and could see myself living here. To spice things up a bit I also included a poll here to hear what you, dear readers, think of my shenanigans.

Posted by ldroulez 15:05 Archived in Argentina Tagged buenos aires Comments (0)


Because When It Rains it Pours

View Around the World in 77 Days on ldroulez's travel map.

Because of complications involving time and uploading the correct, edited picture I am switching photos over to Picasa. Here you will find all of the photos and videos that I have taken thus far. Hope you enjoy and sorry for any inconvenience this might cause in having to track two things at once.


Posted by ldroulez 19:56 Archived in Argentina Tagged photos Comments (0)

Buenos Aires: A Cheeky Recap

Fortunes, Misfortunes, and the Memories in Between

View Around the World in 77 Days on ldroulez's travel map.

BeSorry for the seemingly endless delay between the posts. Upon further review I have definitely decided that Buenos Aires (hereto referred to as BA for brevity) is the city that never sleeps, and call me a porteƱo for having not slept to truly experience it. Although I cannot possibly capture all of the smells, sights, and experiences that have made up the time since my last posts, I will try and leave you with the best and worst (though not terrible) highlights of such an amazing time in Buenos Aires and Argentina in general.

San Telmo
This was the neighborhood my hostel, the Che Lagarto (see below) was situated in. What I liked most about it was the young, artist vibe. Every Sunday there is a market that runs through the main street, Defensa, for countless blocks and sells everything from the most touristy shirts and wares to handmade ashtrays, jewelery, and mate. The best part are the people dancing to local drum circles and bands in the side streets and the many cool galleries, cafes, and boutiques that also are open for you to peruse at the same time.

My personal favorite places here were El Federal, a cafe and bar that has been here for over a hundred years and has an amazing menu spanning all of the Argentinian fare you could ever think of along with home-made beers. For roughly $10 I had a dark beer and shared a platter of cheeses, olives, meats, tortillas, and pate with newfound friends. Another must for me was Gibraltar, a bar started by ex-pats that served microbrews along with amazing curries and other diverse items for the area.

Best of all, there were literally hostels dotting every street corner, allowing one the opportunity to check out the competition and potentially make some new friends.

This neighborhood was quick to do with to do as it centered around the soccer stadium for the hugely popular local team Boca Juniors and a very touristy street with colorfully painted houses called Caminito. On one of my first days here I went and did a tour of the stadium, learning songs, the history of the "club of clubs," and getting a insider's perspective as to why fans flock to the Bombonera from all parts of Argentina. Unfortunately I wasn't able to see a game (see below), but I was able to get a feel for the undying support of the local fans, as people for blocks and blocks around tailgate, dance, and sing along with the raucousness of the fans present at the game. I also got my first taste of parilla, or bbq here, trying some part of the cow called chinchulin (never figured out the names of the meat I ate, although it was usually delicious, cheap, and present everywhere).

As I am assuming every tourist must, I went to Recoleta to see the burial grounds of the elite and the final resting place of Eva Peron, who is still very much alive and well in the hearts and minds of almost every Argentinian. More than anything, I was struck by the omnipresence of urban decay, seeing mausoleums everywhere that must have been very grandiose and self-serving altars to proud families reduced to little more than decrepit and run-down structures. While the upkeep must be outrageous, there is definitely a touch of irony that in the end, nature consumes us all.

Other than the cemetery, there was a pretty good market each Saturday for artisans, great nearby ice creams shop called Freddo, and the National Museum of Fine Arts, which deserves a better description. Besides having a free entrance and the standard works by European and some South American masters, it does an amazing job of chronicling Argentinian art from pre-colonial to modern times and is a great way of seeing the development of the city through different mediums and perspectives. Surrounding the museum was a nice sculpture garden that was BA's version of New York City's "Museum Mile."

Like San Telmo this was another with a lot of things going on for someone my age culturally and socially. This was the location of the coolest shopping in BA, including local brands like Bolivar and Bensimon and cool restaurants surrounding open plazas. Additionally, this was the location of the best nightlife in the city (see below), frequently a destination for me and new-found friends in the hostel who were taking advantage of night-life deals being offered.

Tigre Delta
This was one of the two day-trips I went on while here. Just a short 1-hour and 1 peso ride away from the Retiro train station, this is the spot where all of the locals come to unwind during the weekends. Inter-dispersed throughout the delta of the Rio Plata are numerous wooded islands consisting of clubs, resorts, and places for people to hang out, play, and completely unwind. People get around from place to place via boat and canoe and then find a good spot on the beach to tan and swim, although the river was a bit brown for our tastes (either dirt or sediment). Besides this there was a huge market selling typically Argentinian goods with a no-nonsense attitude towards my best bargaining efforts.

San Antonio de Areco
This is an old gaucho town located roughly 2 hours away from the capital but also miles away in terms of ambiance and attitude. It reminded me as almost a cross between some of the quieter parts of the south of France with what I would imagine to be the old West. There are wild horses riding around the outskirts of town, a gaucho museum, and a variety of silversmiths selling elaborate pieces to the public. Besides this there is a quiet park with a river that is a gathering place during the weekend, a central square bordered by the church and the two busiest roads in the village, and little cafes that serve mate along with local delicacies. This was another welcome escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, although it ultimately came at the expense of missing the Boca Juniors game (see below).

Iguazu Falls
Wowwy Wow Wow Wowwy. I can easily understand why this place is being considered for one of the "Seven Natural Wonders of the World." I was lucky enough to come in after a huge rain and leave before another, allowing me to see the immense falls on the Argentinian side and the Devil's Throat on the Brazilian at their most awe-inspiring. To see such immense of water moving is truly one of those "you-gotta-be-here-to-believe-this" moments, and I got the luxury of seeing them both from above on the well-built trials that link up the park and below as a part of a boat tour that literally takes you into the falls (trying to upload videos). Besides this I did a eco-adventure consisting of rapelling down a waterfall and zip-lines through the jungle that was time well spent on the first day there. The dichotomy between the lush and relatively silent jungle and the loud, dirty city was well worth the 18-hour one-way bus ride it took to get there (Note: buses in Argentina are amazing, with hot meals, fully reclining seats a la business class, and prompt service for roughly half of flying).

Che Lagarto
Ahh, the good old Che Lagarto network of hostels. If trademark infringement weren't an issue, I would replace its current motto of "a South American philosophy" with that of Hooter's: "delightfully tacky yet unrefined." Never have I been to such a place that was so full, unabashedly cheap and seedy and times, and yet still the time of my life. The best/worst part of it is that if you stayed at one you could stay at another for 20%, which made one overlook the cockroaches/ broken lights/ water damage/slanted pool and bootleg game tables/ pimps amongst the staff in order to get quite easily the cheapest rates around. Throw in the always full bar and constantly rotating beds and the $12/ night in BA and $7.60 you are paying in Iguaza seem like the steal of the century. Choosing this place on a whim was the best decision I made, as without it I wouldn't have met the countless Chileans/ Aussies/ Israelis/ English that made this leg of the trip unforgettable.

So far what I have experienced here has truly blown any notion I have had of "partying hard" out the water. What I came to learn after that first night was that people go out at 1:30 at the EARLIEST (basically first in), things truly get good around 4, and you aren't really having fun unless the sun has completely risen. Additionally, clubs that would be considered on point with the Meatpacking District or other "flash" (Aussie word I learned for posh or cool) areas cost at most $12.50 USD to get in. The most ridiculous one I discovered in speaking to a local and perusing online was called Mandarinne but also known as Terrazas. On any given Saturday night if you weren't here then you must have been sleeping or out of the city limits. I have never seen so many people waiting in line, taking up an entire driveway as if they were waiting in line to get into a Lakers Finals game against the Celtics. Add to this the thousands of people who end up in the 6 main salons inside and the riverfront patio and bungalow outside and you have a recipe for dancing until you see the sun rise over the river and the first planes taking off overhead from the nearby Jorge Newberry airport.

Dulce de Leche
Although BA and Argentina is known for its meat I was a huge fan of dulce de leche here, which is touted as a culinary delight. It finds its way into cookies, crepe-like pancakes, flan, and especially ice cream, which became one of my favorite indulgences on the trip. From anywhere between $.75 and $4 you could have one or two big scoops mixed with anything from chocolate to banana to nuts to caramel and even sometimes I had it in flan with another scoop of mate (truly Argentinian if you ask me). One good reason for leaving is avoiding its impact on the waist and the old wallet.

One of the most interesting/funny things that I have encountered while in BA specifically is that almost everyone meet seems to think that I am Brazilian, calling me brasilero. Whether it be receptionists at the hostel, street vendors, or even a female in the clsub, something about my increasingly dark complexion and sometimes the way I speak Spanish leads them to believe that I am a neighbor from the north. This had led me to believe that a.) I should learn a couple of phrases in Brazilian, get the required visa, and return home to find my true"mother" and live my new life amongst my long lost countrymen. b.) there is still a little bit of animosity/ competition between the two groups, as I have heard that some Argentinians find Brazilians "rude" and "aggressive," meaning that for one of the few times during the trip it would less stigmas attached to being an American foreigner coming in to a country. Just musings, though, that will have to be re-examined on my next trip down here.

I decided to put this section at the end for three reasons:

  1. I don't want to put a damper on such a great portion of the trip, especially in light of the delay
  2. In the grand scheme of things I have done pretty well with keeping it together
  3. The monetary value isn't worth the regrets if would have had if I didn't take risks

First off, I have the now two bottles of shampoo that have been stolen, which at this point is just funny that someone would want my anti-dandruff shampoo or used bar of soap at the hostel. Secondly, as mentioned above, I missed the Boca game because of the fact that the bus that was supposed to take me back to BA in time for the game never arrived and so I ended up getting a ride with a different carrier only to find out that my ticket was given away. Lastly, and most sadly, I lost $25 as a "deposit" on what I thought were going to be custom-made shoes to a guy named Hugo at the San Telmo market (one reason this post came out later is that I was waiting outside on the street corner for roughly an hour at our pre-determined spot). One could argue that I should have known it was a scam when, after I agreed to a deal, he ran to get a newspaper, which was then used to measure my feet, taken down my specifications, and create an ad-hoc business card with his name and phone number. Or maybe when he asked for the deposit and said he was taking a "vacation" down to the beach in the week that followed, leaving me two days to get the shows. Whatever the case, I saw custom shoes everywhere, including the molds for making them. For now I would like to believe that Hugo is still out there, waiting to do the transaction with me.

And you thought the last post was a bit of the long side. Hopefully, although cheekily, this makes up for the pro-longed absence and is a step towards more concise and regular journalism on the next stage of my journey in Seth Africa.

Posted by ldroulez 18:24 Archived in Argentina Tagged buenos aires Comments (0)

3 Days for the Price of One

Crossing Borders in South America

View Around the World in 77 Days on ldroulez's travel map.

First off I would like to apologize for the delay since my last post. Hopefully the ensuing stories, along with the somewhat lame excuse that editing and uploading the photos on this site takes more than a while, will work for now and I work to get back on track now that I have started adjusting to Buenos Aires.

Day 1
My final two full days were good ones and definitely helped to put a good cap on the trip. On the first of the two days, Feb. 1, I went with the previously-mentioned Spaniard and a friend he met on travellerspoint.com (gotta give a shout out to the hosting site, which apparently is also very good for asking locals about things to do in their hometown/city) to the vineyard Concha y Toro, which lies just outside the city. Getting there was cheap and efficient as always thanks to the subway system, and after getting off at the last stop at city limits we took a microbus to the bodega and some of the vineyard grounds. The most interesting part for me was that we all took a tour in Spanish, which meant I had to bring my a-game in order to learn about the company's roots, methods of production, and about the different kinds and characteristics or wine produced. My most interesting takeaways from the experience were as follows:

  • Tourguides are roughly the same across all languages and cultures - same hyperboles and embellishments, same gift for the stage, same seemingly endless knowledge of the stories and tangents that make their place unique
  • Concha y Toro is an over 100-year old company named after its founder Melchor Concha y Toro and is the largest exporter of wine in Chile
  • The main way of distinguishing different types of wine is by looking at the leaves of the plant that the grape is on
  • The Carmenere grape, which at one point was thought to be extinct, is unique to Chile and makes one of its more celebrated wines
  • Wine tours abroad aren't necessarily cheaper in South America at roughly $15 for a quick tour and two tastings, but at least they don't short-pour a brother

After the wine tour we went to what was described as a "country restaurant" on the walk back to the metro. One thing that was a very delicious surprise pebre, a type of salsa made of aji-powder, chilis, garlic, tomatoes, and garlic, and is served with bread before the courses are served. As a big fan of spices and sauces myself, I threw it on pretty every aspect of my meal, and it gave my fish that right blend of flavor and kick it so needed. Another interesting discovery was that water without gas is typically unavailable, so choices fall between beer and soda in the drinks department (tap water is considered unsafe because of high chlorine levels).

My last real highlight of the days was being able to find another pair of shorts for the hot weather ahead for a mere $8, less than a bottle of pisco no less.

Day 2
My final full day in Chile was the one that I indicated in the Google map. Because I didn't have enough money left to use public transportation and didn't want to spend $10 to take out more, so 17km and many memories later, my kittens hurt beyond belief.

First, I went to the Pre-Colombian Art Museum to see a very concise yet complete account of the art and customs of indigenous people spanning from the Yucatan peninsula to Patagonia. Something I found interesting was the common threads of cultures using drinking vessels to portray the people and animals around them, the allusions to animals in mythology as seen in masks and sculptures of deities, and the very blatant marks of fertility that characterized art with women. My favorite exhibit dealt with yarn and weaving in Andean culture, and I was surprised to see such intricate and colorful rugs dating back thousands of years.

From here I went to two great food places. The first was Rosa's Emporium, that has had steady locals for days and is known for its delicious pastries, ice creams, and interesting dishes. I had a delicious gelato with a scoop of banana and palm honey and another of green tea mango. After this, I trekked to El Ambassador, whose claim to fame is having the best empanadas in the city. In a very quirky and dated deli I got to meet the old owner and see his wares. An empanada or two later, I definitely had to concur that the thinner crust and better ingredients set it above the rest.

After this I hoofed it over for a Spanish tour at la Chascona, one of the three houses owned by the late/ great poet Pablo Neruda of Chile. What made this place worth the walk were the three distinct parts of the complex that were built at different times and gave it real character. The first echoed of a boat, as Neruda loved the sea, and had low-slung ceilings, maritime art, and a trap door in the back. Before the Chilean government used it to flood the house, there even was a canal running through the center of the property toward it. The second building had posts made of pine and cypress and art by Diego Rivera, a friend of Neruda's, and Fornasetti before he became hugely famous. The last, which was a study room, had madonna statues from the Church, the Nobel prize he won, as well as various beautifully written manuscripts, works, mementos. Best of all, I got to use my ISIC student card to pay only $5 for both places, saving roughly $8

That night, I had an interesting dinner/ conversation at the hostel with two Portuguese guys who were travelling the length of South America and had just been through Brazil and Patagonia. We talked about Lisbon (how it is like the "Golden Gates," or San Francisco), politics (how there are only two choices but never a true winner), and their trials and tribulations going from place to place via bus (took them 25 hours to get from an airport in Argentina to Santiago). We shared Patagonian beers, wine, and ice cream, and all in all had a great time.

One person who was also at the table and deserves a separate paragraph is an Israeli fellow I met. Something that has been pretty fascinating to me that has been relayed to me by almost everyone I met is the sheer number of Israelis in South America. Apparently it is a very big destination after military service and there is even a travel service centered here called the "Gringo" that helps to guide people and help them find places to stay amongst comrades and things to do. What impresses me most is their anything-goes, adventurous mentality, as most have an idea of what they might like but are open to anything at a moment's notice. For example, the guy who was with us met a Chilean girl from Santiago and had come up from Pucon, which he visited on a whim while in Bariloche, to see.

Day 3
The first half of my day was relatively uneventful, consisting of my typical last-minute packing, final goodbye with all of the friends on the hostel staff, and taking the good-ol "Centropuerto" to the airport. The real fun started after I arrived in Buenos Aires, or Buenos as it is affectionately known.

What most struck me was the sheer amount of traffic on the huge swaths of road, the humidity that enveloped you on all sides, and the sheer size and beauty of the city. One immediately can see why it is the "Paris of South America" as there are huge parks, open boulevards, and a variety or beautiful architecture and statues that are eerily reminiscent of parts of Paris. Also, three major things stand out to me thus far when comparing it to Santiago:

  1. 1. It is noticeably cheaper in all aspects.
  2. 2. The Spanish is georgeous but hard to understand. And this was coming from Chileans I met in the hostel, who self-proclaimed their3 Spanish "sloppy" and "ad-lib" in comparison
  3. 3. The city is a lot edgier. This deals with the safety on the streets after hours, the countless people I have seen picking through garbage and leaving the remnants strewn about the street, and the abundance of graffitti on everything.

In regards to my hostel, so far so great. There is a pub and restaurant on the ground floor that has food and drink specials each day. My room has a nice view overlooking the outdoor patio, a comfortable bed, and a good fan to circulate air. Also the staff is friendly and tries to help you with a huge book that gives you special deals throughout the city. In this way they truly encourage and help you to meet other people and explore everything in the city.

Having said that, I jumped on the bandwagon immediately by signing up for the All-You-Can-Eat BBQ. For a mere $10, I got a glass of wine, salad, bread, and heaps of the freshly prepared cuts of Meat that make this place famous, along with chicken and chorizo. I also got a chance to speak to a Chilean ex-pat and her Swedish boyfriend, two Chileans, and a gang of guys from Chile. From here, we took advantage of a deal through the hostel and the 8 of us bought exclusive passes to get into the "Club HipHop Culture" for a discount.

After taking a taxi there, which along with public transportation here is extremely cheap, I was in familiar territory and got to show Argentina by gringo moves by busting out to 50 Cent, Snoop Dogg, and all the other rap crap that us Americans have the pleasure of calling our own. I would characterize the fashion, which was supposed to be hip, as somewhere between the late 90s and early 00s, with crip-walking and break-dancing to boot. Once you get over the seeming 10-1 ratio of guys to girls and the fact that the girls aren't interested despite the near countless waves of men that wash up around them, I had a great time dancing and "acting a fool." After 4 AM when the Salsa music was put back on, I lost my role in the driver's seat and mostly confined myself to the sidelines trying to figure it out. We ended up taking the taxi home around 6 AM as the first glows of the new day were out. Funnily enough, its not even like we were the last ones out, as there was plenty iof Argentinos out and about.

As long as I take full advantage of mid-day siestas and drink plenty of mate, I think I am going to be able to keep up with this place.

Lot to process but I hope you like it.

Posted by ldroulez 16:53 Archived in Chile Tagged santiago buenos Comments (0)

Quick Idea of what I am doing

Teaser while Packing

View Around the World in 77 Days on ldroulez's travel map.

Unfortunately I don't have the time right now to explain the last two days because I got into a long discussion involving politics, travel, sports, and Brazil with two Portuguese travelers but this is where I walked today.

Starting to figure out the whole blog thing and looking forward to more posts.


Posted by ldroulez 18:56 Archived in Chile Tagged santiago Comments (0)

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