Friday, March 16, 2012

Friday, April 30, 2010

Pictures up on site

As I update the pictures they'll appear on my webpage:

Saturday, April 17, 2010

"The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page."
- St. Augustine


Contact   to order prints

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Traveling and Tired

So much has happened in so few days. Seems like there's never time to document things. A night on Lake Titicaca was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. I stayed in a small house with one of the local families who cooked traditional meals, dressed me up in their colorful clothes and danced folklore with me. Buckets of fun.

The islanders predate the Incans by a long way. The floating islands were a lot of fun to visit--entire peopled islands made of reeds. There the people speak Aimara, an ancient dialect that sounds pretty much nothing like Spanish. On the bigger islands the people speak Ketchua. Those who have more interaction with the mainland speak Spanish as well.

I sat on a fairly long bus ride to Desaguadero to see if I could get across the Bolivian border. I sat between two older woman whose dress and unfamiliar speech were pretty interesting. I got across Bolivia, but not for more than 5 minutes before they wanted to charge me $135. Not worth it so I took a little bus back to Puno.

Today I have felt reasonably tired. There comes a point after enough traveling when one starts to consider the things he misses at home. This has been a crazy, enjoyable and exhausting ride. I have no idea how many hours I've put in on buses across South America. I just bought my last one for 160 soles. Another 20 hour ride and my adventures on South American roads are pretty much over. There's something I'm missing from home and today sinto un pouquinho de saudade.


Sunday, March 21, 2010


Dang, I'm going to have a hard time picking favorites for places I've visited in Argentina. The people are fantastic here and once more I'll be sad to leave some very good friends behind.

Tucuman has some pretty sweet colonial architecture. This is the 'government house' which looks rather daunting against an ominous sky. Batman might live here.

And here is the famous 'Independence House' where Argentina declared itself independent of spain on July 9 1816. It's kind of a cool building from the 17th century.

Here's my good friend who runs a little empanada shack not too far from the main square. When she told me proudly that she had been recognized as an 'empanada champion' she agreed to let me take her picture. They were good empanadas.

Here is Juan Campillo, a Columbian friend who, believe it or not, is also studying film. Never would have anticipated it, but we sat at the hostel patio into the night discussing Truffaut, Eisenstein and Pudovkin. That tested the Spanish.

Sort of looks like he wants to kill me here, but he's really a good egg.

Some awesome fine friends I made in Tucuman along with a family who made the best chicken empanadas I've yet tried.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Deep Thought (or series of them) from Iguazu

I got up early to explore the Argentine side of Iguazu falls. There's a lot to see and I wanted to do it all in one day. I started out with a little hike (actually more of a walk--the difference I've determined is due to presence of a pack or frequent bending of the knees more than 40 degrees or so) along a jungle trail. Couldn't count the number of spiders I saw. They seem to like building their webs right above the path. Almost every time I looked up to the tree tops I could see a spider somewhere. Great monstrous beasts, they were. Made me uneasy every time I felt a cobweb on my face because I was afraid I might be walking into one.

The trail leads to a waterfall where it splits, giving the traveler the option of hiking to the top or the base of a waterfall.  The long walk/hike gave time for my thoughts to wander and as I walked, I considered reincarnation (not that I considered reincarnating, but that I pondered the philosophy). As I stopped to look at another fantastic specimen of a spider above me, my strange little brain produced the following from the juxtaposition of my thoughts--It's what I consider a proof for the argument that spiders could be men reincarnate:

At morning's break I did awake, to walk through jungle heat
a path not trod by those abroad, yet one with joys replete.
With heightened sense through flora dense my curious feet did roam,
when I stopped cold to there behold a spider in her home.
So still was she, unphased by me, but conscious all the same,
in ready stance should circumstance to her deliver game.

'Spider' said I, 'how hard you try, you unfortunate beast',
'you spin away then wait all day, arrival of your feast.'
I dared to muse, silence abuse, to laugh at her despair
when, though absurd, I thought I heard this query from the air,
"Oh human wise, of logic prized, please tell me if you can,
what difference great does separate the spider from the man?"

Caught unawares, into the air, I lifted my gaze high,
attention won, she carried on, and this was her reply.
"Some time ago my web did go along the waterline,
where sat a man, his pole in hand, for oh so long a time.
He casts his line as I cast mine, each in our separate way,
and we both wait, 'til carries fate into our hands some prey."

'I must contest!' I did protest, my species to defend,
'The fisherman, he hunts for fun, and this is key my friend!
My race is best, Darwin attest, we now are civilized,
in in moral code, in heart and soul, our intellect is prized.'
Then did I see, what looked like glee, a smile on the face,
of that insect who would reject the grandeur of my race.

"A noble try," came her reply, "but it's not hard to show,
despite your claim, we're still the same, and I shall prove it so.
You can't deny the reason why your hunter casts his line,
know this my friend, that at day's end, it is the same as mine.
The reason real I will reveal, for his line and my house
has to do, with food, not true!, but for fleeing the spouse!

Yup, there's a look into my bizarre little head. Now you know what happens when you spend too much time traveling alone :)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


So, I got back fairly early one day and didn't really have much planned, so I said to myself, "Self, let's go to Paraguay."

So I went to Paraguay and have nothing to report; not much exciting in the part I saw. Lots of street venders of electronics. The most noteworthy part is that they sell flash drives without any internal circuitry to tourists--they're just plastic and metal with a hollow inside :)

Got the public bus back to Argentina before they stopped running and I got stranded in a foreign country (hmmmm.....I guess I was getting a bus back to a foreign country, but Argentina kinda feels like home).

Monday, March 15, 2010


That's what the falls look like -- from the Brazilian side! ;)


What to say about Iguazu? I think I'll let the pictures speak for themselves. Suffice it to say that it's one of the most brilliant and beautiful places I've yet experienced. Incredible--especially the devil's throat from the Argentine side. The last picture on here of me grinning at the very bottom is what I look like when I am very very very happy. It was quite spectacular.

The story of my getting across to the Brazilian side I don't think I'll post publicly, not only because it's longer than I want to write out right now, but, well, for other reasons. Ask me when I get home if you want the full spill. For now, just enjoy the pictures and envy my existence if you'd like.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Catching up!

Due to a lack of time in my wonderful adventures, I'm going to just start pasting my journal entries in here as my blog. Less writing for me. It'll give more material for people who care (pretty sure that's just my mom, but at least I've got one friend in this world) and my weary knuckles won't have to type two separate things.

If it's too tangential or personal get over it and find something more productive to do with your life than read internet blogs.

(just kidding on that last part, as I mentioned, I don't think this blog is read much, but if anyone reads it who doesn't know me, please understand that I employ an unhealthy level of sarcasm--I'm secretly flattered to know people read this)

2 Mar 2010 - Mendoza  21:09

What great success I'm having in this country! Today I got into Mendoza, got taken to a nice hostel/home by a guy named Mario. Settled in to a place I'm quite satisfied with (I can do my own laundry and cooking, it's got free breakfast, there's an amazing back yard patio with grape vines and empty wine bottles, a fruit and vegetable market near by, etc) and found out that this week begins the festivities of the grape harvest here in Mendoza. This weekend there is a huge show that people come from all over the world to see. Once more, my biggest complaint against Argentina is that there is simply too much to see and do.

Tonight I got to see the beautiful candidates for the queen of the vineyard or whatever this competition is for. Afterwards I headed to the Italian park where they had some great Italian music, live, and all sorts of Italian foods. It had a buena onda y ,me gusto bastante.
Beauty queens arriving at the Sheraton hotel

3 March 2010 - 19:00 - Aconcagua; 7 Years in Tibet

Good tour of the area between Mendoza and Chile today. Got to see the highest mountain of the southern hemisphere, or at least of South America, Aconcagua. Would have liked to try climbing it, but the ascent is closed now, a lot of people die on the trek even when it's open for climbing, you need special gear (by that  I mean not a knock off North Face pack from China) and it supposedly costs about $300. Too many discouragements (in particular the 300) to attempt it this trip. It was sure beautiful to see from the road, though.

Aconcagua is supposedly about 20,000 feet tall and means 'Stone Sentinel' in the native tongue.

On the way, we passed the little town of Uspallata, the road following the city leads up to Cerro Tundunkeral. This is where the film '7 Years in Tibet' was shot. We drove by the military establishment where the extras and crew were stationed for shooting the film and across the street was the hotel Brad Pitt stayed in. I told the local tour lady I was studying cinematography. She wants me to bring Brad Pitt back and shoot a movie after I graduate. Hmmmm. Not sure if that's going to happen. Don't know if it would be 'Another 7 years in Tibet', '14 years in Tibet', 'Brad Pitt with a new and improved accent in Tibet, or maybe '7 years in Mendoza'. Looks like I've got a lot of options. I'll have to consider it a little more seriously.

The highlight of the tour (nope, it wasn't Brad Pitt's hotel) was the division between Chile and Argentina (I made it into Chile after the quake!). The pope came to resolve a border dispute some time ago and there is now a statue of 'Cristo Redentor' to mark his peace-making accomplishment. It was a rather disturbing bus ride up a switchbacky road, but it was great.

Another fun part of the trip is that it follows the route taken by San Martin at the beginning of the 19th century. We stopped by a bridge built way back in the day. I found out the tour lady is getting a degree in literature on the side so we spent a while discussing Don Quixote de LaMancha. I'm going to buy a copy of it before returning home. My goal is to learn Spanish well enough to understand and enjoy it :)


4 March 2010

Upon arriving at the bus station in Mendoza, a guy took me to his house and offered to let me stay in his pseudo-hostel for 40 pesos. It's close enough to about everything I want to see so I agreed. The place itself is worth documenting.

Relaxing in the hammock with an odd book.

My first day walking through Mendoza I stopped at a large, important-looking building. Inside were several desks and a tourist office. The tourist office didn't have too much that interested me, but there were two very good looking chicas at the desk so I stopped to 'practice my Spanish.' They ended up giving me a free ticket to a philarmonic orchestra which I went to last night. Holy buckets was it ever amazing. Only in Mendoza do good looking girls just randomly give you tickets to free concerts of such quality.

I got on the bus around 8:00 because the event started at 9:00 PM and I didn't want to miss anything. I'd been told that the bus to get to the airport where the concert was being held passed on the street 'Salta.' After asking a couple people, it was clear that the bus didn't cross Salta. I stopped at a pharmacy in search of better directions. One pharmacist said, 'The airport, ahhh, you need number 60!"
- '60?' I asked to clarify.
'No, 6' said another man. The two then got in an argument about whether it was number 60 or 6 that I should take. When it looked like they'd resolved their difference in opinion, I asked in Spanish if it was number 60. The man, thinking I wasn't understanding said, in English, '16!'

That didn't help much, and I explained to him that 16 in English meant something entirely different than either 6 or 60, and just as I was doing so, one of the pharmacists exclaimed, "It's that one!" pointing to a bus passing outside. I ran out the door and to the sidewalk. The bus was in the middle of the intersection and getting to it would be a little awkward and embarrassing. I resolved not even to try when I saw that it's number was '3'. If anything, my conversation at the pharmacy had convinced me that the bus number must have something to do with '6.' I let the bus pass, and a guy on the corner showed me where the bus stop was where all the buses stop. After only 15 minutes or so of waiting there I got the bus and was off.

I met a nice couple from Buenos Aires who had apparently experienced something similar to my story on finding the right bus. They loudly denounced the Mendocinos (people from Mendoza) as poor direction givers. I started talking to the guy in front of me as well. When I told him I was from Utah he told me he was a Jehova's Witness and then pointing to his friend said, "This kid's Mormon!"

We quickly all became friends and passed the night together. Jhonny is the name of the JW and Nicolas the Mormon. Jhonny had been collecting the fliers of the beauty pageant participants and we all put in our votes for our favorites. It wasn't too long a ride to the airport.

After waiting an hour (the event was an incredibly planned and executed one with around 10,000 viewers, but still late in classic South American style) the fun began. The orchestra was magnificent. We heard everything from Hungarian Dance Number 5, Mozart's 'Figaro', Tchaikovsky's 'Polonesa', Strauss's 'Marcha Radetsky' and even the Argentine national anthem with a harmonica accompaniment! Heard 'the lone ranger' as well, but not sure what it's real name is, Rossini?

The area is right next to the airport--really right next in the strongest way that right and next can mean exceptionally near something. A couple planes took off during the event and it was a spectacular experience. A rather bizarre, but intriguing combination to hear the clash of the orchestra accompanied by the engines of a gigantic airplane so near. The moon was nearly full and the event happened under the light of the stars. It was truly fantastic.

The fiesta is in honor of the 'cocecha' or grape harvest. Part of a large grape vineyard intersects the space between the stage and the audience. After the music, the beauty queens come out to the grape vineyard and fill baskets with the grapes. Nicholas is a sneaky guy who is good at getting into things without being caught. He came back with some grapes which we all shared as we watched the rest of the show. They are incredibly sweet here, no wonder the city is so renowned for its wine.

- Nicolas and his caifed grapes -

At the end of the show, we snuck up to the front. Nicolas did some sweet talking to the guard who let us pass and we went up right by the grapes and the beauty queens. The national queen was there who sports a very heavy crown made of gold and silver with emerald grapes. It's only taken out on special occasions and the security is pretty high. As the girls passed, Nicholas (how he knows all their first names I'll never know) asked each of them if they'd stop for a photo. I couldn't believe how courteous they all were in stopping for these random people standing on the other side of the rope and I was ready for security to escort us away. I consider the on-camera flash one of the most dis-courteous things you can expose your subject to, but the girls are good enough looking that the pictures still turned out okay.

- Beauty queen and the famous crown -

Nicolas and Jhonny ran across the runner up to the queen of one of the districts as well, a very beautiful girl who only lost by 10 votes. Didn't have much time to talk, but we kissed (Argentine style of course, just on the cheeks ;) ) and she ran off to do her beauty pageant duties. Told Nicolas to tell her she only lost by 9 votes now because she had mine ;) Haha, if people really read this blog they're going to worry that I'm going to return with some Argentine girl. No worries, Utah girls still have them beat :)

The philarmonic orchestra was only a small prelude of things to come. The following days were filled with cultural festivities of all sorts in the public parks. I went to the Italian plaza where they had a surprisingly diverse assortment of Italian foods, bands and other culturish tidbits.

The public parade was an enormous amount of fun. Not entirely different from in the states, but with a few, very notable and very exceptional, differences. The beauty queens parade around on their floats in the baking sun, the legitimicy of their smiles fading every minute. The Mendozinos have got it figured out here, though. Instead of giving away candy, these chicas give away fresh fruit! I thought Argentina's greates invention was the alfajor, but gorgeous looking girls throwing honeydews and watermelons off parade floats might just top it.
What a heavenly combination of good ideas; I know the people have a lot of negative commentary towards their government officials, but somebody has something right figured out here.

The crowning event of the entire fiesta is the 'acto central.' It happens on Saturday night at a Greek ampitheater some distance from the center of the city. This amazing theater is said to seat about 20,000 people, but many of the locals skip the entrance fee and climb a hill behind the theater for a pretty good view. Another 10,000 are said to fill the hills around the theater. It's actually a somewhat unfortunate situation. Apparently the tickets for this event were made available at the end of last month. Only a certain amount are alotted to the locals who stand in line for hours to get their tickets. Within a few hours (weeks before the event actually takes place) the tickets are completely sold out. The tourist companies buy up a good portion to sell to rich foreigners for a handsome profit. Unfortunately this means that a lot of locals don't even get to see their own show. I'm not sure how bummed they are about it. A lot of them have seen it so many times they don't seem to care anymore, while others wait in line every year to assure themselves a seat. One only has to witness the event to realize why it's worth waiting for. The spectacle begins with a lone indian dancing and this crazy liquid fire coming out of the surrounding rocks. There's a bunch of fog, music and lights, and the whole thing is pretty surreal. A chronological telling of the founding of South America follows, including even brief cultural samplings of other South American cultures (like Brazil!).

 There are some great traditional dances from all of South America, acrobatics, theater, video, pyrotechnics and the beauty pageant at the end where the new queen is crowned (that part took waaaayyyyy too long). That's all topped by a fireworks show just as incredible as any I've seen anywhere else. The cool thing about the fireworks is that they launch so many and from various locations that your entire peripheral vision is truly filled with some sort of firework. At some points in the show an entire 180 degrees were illuminated with flashes of color. It was great!

I believe I forgot to mention what tender mercies led to my acquisition of one of these highly coveted tickets. Jhonny, who I'd randomly started talking to on the bus a couple nights before, had a niece or something who is an athlete with a race date coinciding with the central act. They'd already bought a ticket for her, and when she couldn't go, they gave it to me. I was quite ecstatic to receive it and thanked them immensely. I don't really know how you thank immensely, but I'm pretty sure I did it. I had resigned myself to the inaccessibility of the show for me owing to the fact that tickets for its principle act had sold out weeks before I'd even arrived in Mendoza.

Before I caught my 6:00 bus this morning I bought a paper, 'Uno' as the Mendoza daily is called. The front page story announces the pending decision of the government to restrict the 'acto central' from tourists from here on out. The event is simply too crowded and there is not enough availability for Mendozino locals to experience this wonderful cultural event that is rightfully theirs. I couldn't agree more with the decision, though I can't deny the sense of victory I feel for having been the last 'outsider' to witness the event :)


Cordoba is too big of a city for me. I stayed long enough to do my civic duty, but I'd like to move on to a place where I can feel a little more culturally grounded with the people and a little less overwhelmed by cars and buildings. The place is rather nice, however, and beginning with this tone evokes a more negative air than I wish to convey. The architecture of the place is gorgeous and it's supposedly capital of the alfajores.

Another awesome thing about it is that the little ceramic tiles they line the streets and walkways with trace the shadows of the buildings at a certain time of day. What a fantastically marvelous idea! I didn't even notice it until it was pointed out to me, but I'm quite taken with their ingenuity.

Cordoba also marked the first of my more concerning illnesses on the trip. Stomach clenched so tight I couldn't walk straight, lungs ached like crazy causing short, rapid breathing, extreme tension and internal aching between the top of my spine and base of my skull (this was the most disconcerting symptom because the last thing I'd like to experience in Argentina is a spinal tap) and a fever. Apparently there have been unusually high dengue and encephylitus counts the last few days in Cordoba. Didn't feel any aching behind my eyes or delirium, though. Think I just got some bad food.

As has occurred with such frequency this entire journey, some force of divinity, destiny, (or whatever existential understanding suits your taste) has led me, even in my moments of physical suffering, to a state of relative safety and comfort. It is the consistency and infallibility of instances like the following that secure my belief in the intervention of a higher power. That entire sentence came out rather awkwardly big-vocabularily. In short: somebody upstairs loves me.

I had not felt well/ideal for about a day, but I thought a hike might do me well. I'd spent a lot of time on a bus covering pretty large distances of Argentine countryside and considered my unsettled physical state as a possible result of that. I had randomly encountered two Israeli girls I'd gotten to know in Buenos Aires who just happened to be staying at the hostel I'd randomly ended up at. Another Israeli girl had joined them and the three invited me to go hiking about 2 hours outside of Cordoba.

I got up early the next day, and despite a relatively extreme level of fatigue, put on a happy face and went out. When we got to the canyon we were hiking to (BEAUTIFUL countryside, like a cross between Monty Python and Lord of the Rings landscape with condors and everything) I felt poorly enough that I just laid on a rock for a while. I ate a little lunch, but didn't have much of an apetite and kind of forced my ham and cheeze sandwich down. These are the types of sandwiches that require a somewhat healthy appetite to ingest under normal circumstances. I told the girls I was going to walk back and I'd meet them at the park ranger house type o' thingy.

Anyway, the story is too long to explain in such detail without losing the jist of the narrative and wasting my time at the moment (well, maybe not my time because I'm on a bus towards ****** --haha, it's a secret where I'm going next) but the basics are these. The girls got back to the ranger house in the middle of nowhere, found me lying across a rock like a sack of lifeless frijoles complaining about how much my neck and joints hurt and took care of me. The girl my two Israeli friends had picked up on the way had served her mandatory time in the Israeli army and just so happened to have served as a nurse. She starts whipping out all this technical nursing stuff (if I'd been in better health I'd have asked her why in the world she'd been hiking with all that) and she checked my temperature and everything and pulled out medications I'd never heard of as I'm not big on pills. A couple from a nearby province arrived who just happened to offer us a ride back the way we were going so we didn't have to walk, and when back at the hostel I lay there and tried to think about happy, cold places like Ushuaia and small penguins and watermelon to keep my mind of my misery.

Anyway, moral of the story is, if you're going to get sick in a foreign land, get sick near a qualified Israeli army nurse who knows her business about curing people.