Sunday, November 27, 2005
1. Animal Park, Villa Tunauri, Bolivia The chance to work with pumas ocelots, spider monkeys was amazing. Although I complained bitterly a lot of the time it was truly one of the most challenging and rewarding things I have ever done
2. The Salar, Southern Bolivia This strange moon like environment is for me the best site in South America that we saw. 4 days in a jeep looking at places I havent seen anywhere else. Amazing 3.Machu Pichu, Peru Yes it´s as good as everyone says
4. Buenos Aires. A cross between New York, Paris and London and at a very affordable price. The only place to live it up on the continent
5. Easter Island the most remote island in the world and one of the most fascinating. Well worth the 6 hour flight from Chile
6. Galapagos islands sailing around from Island to island eating wonderful food and seeing wildlife up close and personal. Magical! 7. Cadmalca, Peru Building a stove for a Peruvian family was a great experience and got us to an area of Peru few tourists visit
8. Living with an Ecuadorian family Thanx to Yoly and Marco for accepting us into their lives and showing us the way Ecuadorians like to live, and teaching us a bit of Spanish along the way 9)Iguassu Falls Brazil truly spectacular sight and better than Victoria Falls in my opinion 10) La Paz A crazy Bolivian city at very high altitude and with dried llama foetus for sale, it´s unlike any other city I´ve ever been to
2) Tupiza, Bolivia. Getting blockaded for 5 days in a small town in Southern Bolivia. Having to do all our shopping before the shops shut at 9am and then sneaking into restaurants at night to avoid the angry mob that roamed the town looking for blockade breakers.
3) Tierra Santa, Buenos Aires. A religious theme park smack bang on runway 5 of the international airport. What more can I say 4) Easter Island , Chile. Attacked by a territorial hawk whilst cycling on the Island. The bird came for me three times and the final assault felt like someone slamming a phone book on my head.
5) Cadmalca, Peru Judging the local beauty contest in front of hundreds of tribally garbed Peruvians 6) Cadmalca Peru teaching the local Primary schoolchildren English in very bad Spanish 7) Galapagos Islands, Ecuador Walking around on an Island where the possibility of stepping on an Albatross or 10 was very real indeed
8) Villa Tunauri, Bolivia A spider monkey stole the book I was reading, fled to the trees and then proceeded to eat it.
9) Otavalo Ecuador going to the local fiesta with our host family and finding ourselves in the centre of town getting chased by drunk men in silly hats and fired at with tear gas by riot police 10)Ollytaytambo, Peru. Grabbed by a drunken Grandmother and forced to dance for half an hour unable to leave a very bizarre drinking den
1) Plastic chairs. Whoever is making all the plastic chairs over here is definitely not sitting on them. Every restaurant from Quito to Rio is decked out in either red or white... If youre lucky you may get some beer advertising on one of them. Ambience is a dirty word here and why have something nice to sit on when you can fill an empty restaurant with 250 of these things.
2) Buenos Aires taxi drivers. The oxford dictionary definition of maniac driver has been updated to include the antics of these guys. We did 145 kilometres an hour on the freeway from the airport, most of it up the bum of the cars in front. Lanes are optional, pedestrians fare game and cursing par for the course
3)South American cuisine. Ever wondered why you havent seen any South American restaurants recently? Now unless you like fried chicken, served with bland salad and beans you aint gonna be satisfied. And guinea pig... 4) Bolivian Buses. Can somebody tell me why all the buses in Bolivia leave at 7.30 at night and arrive at their destination at 3.30 in the morning so you can spend the wee morning hours cold, hungry looking for a hotel that´s open in a dangerous part of town.
5)Altitude. with most of Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Chile being above 3000 metres this meant that for most of our trip we have been cold, sleep deprived, with headache, nausea, tiredness, breathlessness and other obscure side effects
6) Poo paper in the wastepaper bin. We don´t know how lucky we are in western countries wiping your bum and casually dropping the paper in the toilet. Over here it all goes into a little bin in the corner. Often it´s overflowing and usually only emptied every few days which can leave for a very smelly en suite bathroom
7) Electric showers. Unless you like getting zapped before every wash these are definitely going into room 101. Usually only found in very cold climates, they come with only one tap and the more you turn it on the colder it gets... so if you want a semi warm shower expect a dribble. on the upside the electric zap will definitely get you going in the morning
8) 9pm bedtimes. With the exception of Argentina, it´s tucked in watching some crappy cable tv by 9 pm every night. In Ecuador Peru and Bolivia, it´s too cold out there, nothings open and all the nightlifes gone to Rio.
9)Rubbish. With the exception of Buenos Aires, disposing of rubbish means throwing it out the bus window. 10) 80`s music. Laura Brannigan, Dire straits and Phil collins well and truly live here in South America. Ask someone about English rock and they´ll reply with I love Elton John, ask about Australian music and it´s all about Air Supply. Not that there´s anything wrong with Air Supply...in fact I have a new appreciation of their music.
Saturday, November 19, 2005
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
It has to be the city destination of the world today. A bottle of very good red wine from mendoza,Gourmet whatever you imagine in a genius sauce delivered with all the new York trimmings in a trendier restaurant this side of any soho for 15 Australian dollars a head. It´s Paris without the prices. Italy without the attitude, london without the weather. Never before have I spent days shopping in a city´s trendiest boutiques followed by meals the equivalent of a small loan in Australia. We are living it up in BA no doubt about it. Even the sidewalks here have carpets.
The dog walkers are truly hilarious. We have seen up to 18 dogs being walked a la New York style. Interestingly they are amazingly well behaved. You never see them fight or hear them bark, despite the fact they are usually tied up in a huge bundle as their walker heads off to another block of units to collect yet another dog.BA is also the land of the Psychoanalyst. There are more therapists here per capita than anywhere else in the world. Just goes to show that too much good food and excellent boutiques really doesn´t make you happy. Oh well might have to go and console myself with a warm duck confit salad with heirloom tomato bisque topped with caremilised tart tatin and served with grilled gypsy peppers.
"Maradona is the King of Argentina" I remarked off handedly to the man on the ferry
"Maradona is not a king" He replied disgustedly, "He is a God"
And there you have it. Nothing more to be said. Browsing the newspaper stands in Buenos Aires you can find about 8 magazine covers with Lord Maradona. ( To put this into perspective thats about 3 more than Shakira). He even has his own TV show at the moment called the Night of the Number 10. ( No prize for guessing that was the numero on his football jersey). The new look trimmed down, stomach stapled Maradona has already appeared interviewing Fidel Castro, Heading footballs with Pele and achieving other impossible feats such as getting more than 4 syllables out of Mike Tyson. It also appears he´s set for a political career, rallying the protesters against George W Bush´s recent visit. Needless to say theres a Diego Maradona shop, every type of Diego Maradona coffee cup, or souvenir football you could ever desire.
For the Argentinians he reflects their tumultous times. He began life in the slums of Buenos Aires and made it to the top of world football even leading them to the world cup victory in 1986. His most famous incident ( after firing an airgun at a reporter, or getting hooked on Cocaine, or whacking on double his weight) was the hand of god incident against England. In the world cup semi final he famously hit the ball into the net with his hand thereby leading Argentina to victory. To a country that holds the value of sneakiness and cheekiness above all else it was perfect. Upon being blamed for "robbing" the game, he was even heard to reply, "Whoever robs a thief gets a 100 year pardon" referring to the recent Falklands war with England.
Moreover as Argentina´s fortunes faltered during the currency crisis, so did Maradona´s. He was on his deathbed addicted to Cocaine. But now he´s back, bigger, better and cheekier than ever, just like Argentinas economic fortunes. All Praise to be maradona
Monday, November 14, 2005
The game itself was fun. Australia losing 1-0 but hopefully in the home leg in Sydney the socceroos can score 2 goals and make the first world cup in 30 years. One of the funniest highlights was SBS presenter Les Murry mobbed by yobbos chanting Les Les Les who then proceeded to spill beer all over his suit.
In fact our 5 days in Montevideo were terrific fun. We somehow managed to score tickets to Manu Chow on the Thursday night and had a rollicking great night listening to his Spanish blend of Reggae/scar that has every hippy this side of Bogota rising their joints in religious awe. The city itself has the atmosphere of a John Le Carre thriller, with 50´s architecture, and old time cafes on every corner.As in Argentina, the popular thing to do here is the Parilla which is basically a huge BBQ with more meat than you can poke a really long stick at. Kate the Vegetarian was extremely impressed when her portion arrived
But now the flying uruguay visit is over and we´re back in Buenos Aires and living it up in the land of tango, red wine, crazy drivers, Maradona, designer boutiques, psychoanalysts and more Maradona...
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
"What country you from?" asked the female customs inspector upon arrival
"Australia" replied the grinning idiot called Ed
"Australia, oh my god... right open your bags please"
and thus was our introduction to Uruguay 4 days before the world cup Football qualifier on Saturday. We´ve just arrived in montevideo and have our tickets for Saturday´s game, although this being good news is yet to be decided. For those non football fans.... to qualify for the world cup Australia plays Uruguay in a 2 game decider... one game in Montevideo and one in Sydney ( which sold out in 1 minute). It is an exact replay of the game 4 years ago where Uruguay defeated Austrlai thereby earning qualification. On that day the Australians players were spat on when they arrived at the airport, a band was sequestered to play drums outside the team hotel all night long and basically the soccerroos couldn´t have felt more welcome than if they had accidently stumbled into the trenches at Flanders.
The build up has already been fun with complete war between the Uruguay and Austrlalia soccer federations. Firstly the Uruguyans wanted more time between the two games. Soccer Australia refused... so Uruguay scheduled the game in Montevideo for 10pm so Australia would miss the Lan chile flight back for the second game hence having less time to recover. Australia managed to charter a flight.... the Uruguays flight fell thru and now Australia won´t let them change the time back.... who said Sport wasn´t politics.
So here we are in Montivideo... shouting Aussie Aussie Aussie from every street corner ( albeit in Spanish) and pretending not to have read the Australian Government travel warning about visiting Montivideo and keeping a low profile. Oh well... if you´re to go to one football match on the continent this one is it. So keep your eye out on the telly for 2 idiots clad in yellow amongst a sea of blue... we´ll be the ones the fireworks are aimed at. Luckily we talked Dan ( English) Chantel ( American) and Ezekiel( Argentinian) into joining us for the slaughter. Well barbecue actually....thats what the hotel attendent pronounced it would be when we checked in... At least those Uruguayans have a sense of humour
Friday, November 04, 2005
Today the mu-ites spend most of their time looking at elderly German tourists clad in safari suits. It truly is a very sad end but just goes to prove that the search for peace and harmony is anything but a noble cause.
But tourists come for miles to gaze at these large heads and invent all sorts of ridiculous explanations to as how they came to be standing all over the Island. One of the most bizarre theories is that they were carved by the islanders between 200 and a thousand years ago to honour their ancesters. They even point to the fact that various statues at different stages of completion have been found in a quarry displaying the stages of production. What freaks and very disrespectful to the Ancient tribe of Mu´s.These freaks even go on to say that the Islanders ran out of resourses in about the seventeenth century and henceforth a period of tribal warfare erupted which led to the toppling of the big heads (which these idiots call Moai). They go on to say the heads were moved with log sleds. How ridiculous as any idiot can see the heads walked down the hill themselves
Talking of big heads Kate fitted in very well on the Island despite the fact that it is one of the most isolated spots anywhere. It took us 5 hours and 40 minutes to fly from Chile, and for the record the tourists aint coming here for the food. Yes everything is in Tokyo prices and the vegetables are the same as 50´s Communist Russia. (With the queue´s as well) In fact so small is the Island that on the electronic map inside the plane showing where exactly we are on the planet, the diagramatic Aeroplane was in fact larger than the Island. But it was well worth the trip. We ended up having 4 days cycling, walking and getting sunburnt around this very beautiful but quite treeless Island. It even had a very tropical looking beach
One of the most interesting spots was the site of the Birdman cult. in this very strange ritual, men would climb down from the steep cliff in the photo below and swim out to the Islands you see behind me to search for sea bird eggs. First back thru the shark infested waters won the dubious honour of being the Birdman for a year. This involved living alone on a remote beach after having shaved off all your bodily hair. Mmmm maybe the alien theories arent as crazy as they sound