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Archive for April 29th, 2010|Daily archive page

Soundtrack to Mendoza

In Argentina, Sud America, travelling, tunnnneeeee! on April 29, 2010 at 3:34 am

The bus winds it’s way through the Argentinian country side, following the course of the lakes, snaking along the humped road, the sun slits through the gaps left by the half closed curtains, golden and warm, as every so often my face catches the suns gaze, turning my lids orange. The view from the window is glorious, the green and dun knobbled, cobbled terrain, bushes bobbles on the surface, the moon is full and rising even before the sun has set, the low slung cerro’s casting long shadows, and the road stretches on for ever, wisps of clouds hang balloon like in the clear sky, a pale shade of blue, darkening as it pushes itself onto tiptoe to reach the upper atmosphere.
Johnny hammond’s “tell me what to do”

is followed by “our lives are shaped by what we love”

on my headphones, the perfect chilled soundtrack to this low flying journey, johnny’s piano intro, followed by a tweaking, wah wah guitar riff, high pitched over the little fills, which create a palette of melodies, then the bass and johnny’s short verses, before the saxophone does it’s thing, sly and wicked, and a cool walk away all combined in the solo which sits high above the beats beneath.
“flying high with you….
trying hard to sleep….
tell me what to do??”
Dusk creeps over the land, sun relinquishes it’s hot grip, and the vertically challenged hillocks in the distance are draped in a livery of purple and cerise and aubergine. The moon is big and full and easy to see but when I try to capture it, it just appears as a pale white dot, a glitch in the image, a bad pixel. I take shot after shot trying to capture it and immediately delete them, my eye is a 70mm lens and my camera is a 28mm.
I’ve sat on buses all day today and will be on this one into tomorrow morning. Listening to music all the way, glad the playlists on the iPod are so long, the big chill containing 338 chilled, mellow, outdoor tunes, named in honour of my first festival experience out in the wilds of Herefordshire, amongst deers and ageing children of hippies and friends ready to drink a cocktail, share a smoke and dance as the tunes roll down, sitting on grass, blanket beneath your cheeks, feeling the night come upon you stealthy with a chilly grip, eyes turned to the spotlit stage and the music that is amplified from it, heads nodding and feet tapping and the connection with it strong, linked to all those around you.

The bus is taken out of commission and we are transferred to another as we wait in the cool night air, underneath the awnings of a bus station that feels like an airport.
Restless night as the bus zooms through the darkness, uncomfortable, chill breeze emanating from somewhere, hitting just that tiny bit of exposes flesh, no position conducive to sleep, shift, stretch, scrunch, curl, nothing hapening. Check watch every so often, time moving in big chunks, so sleep must be pressing it’s weight upon me.
Awake for the final time as the sun draws a blood red line along the horizon, right side of the coach welcoming the new days arrival as the sky lightens and the sun rises, left side mourning the nights departure as the moon slowly disappears.
Vineyards cover the land as far as the eye can see, the only demarcation the taller trees that line the edges of the fields, and the gravel roads that bisect them. A low flat view, providing a perfect sight of the warming earth, the nights condensation turning to mist, weaving a blanket of smoky layers over the grapes. Assume at first it’s a fire then realise my mistake as i see the mist everywhere.
Outside of the cities, Argentina is a country of low slung single storey buildings with awnings and sloped roofs, of long roads whether paved or gravel, of the Andes dominating the view, the giant on the edge of your vision, well at least in the district of San Carlos which borders Chile. There is a pleasantly rustic and outdoor feel, of the community trying to make the best of the location, rather than gentrifying it, as if the land is too big and strong and rather than try and tame it they are just living with it’s routines, it’s habits, it’s nature, letting it dictate to them what is required and what isn’t.
In the time is takes to write the above, the sun has popped over the horizon, bulbous and golden, so low at this point that the trees which edge the vineyards, provide a shield to it’s glare, intermittently creating patches of sun and shade. And as the sun rises over the land, just like when it dipped below the horizon the night before, it feels like a scene out of a road movie, the wide expanse of land, the long two lane blacktop, the bright sharp shards of sunlight requiring the wearing of shades, the scrub growth, the dwarf bushes populating the ground all the way to the horizon, the electrical poles that quarter the earth sticking their wooden fingers into the sky, and just then as I look out into the light light light blue sky the Isley brothers pop into the mix, “brother, brother, brotherrrrr!”

Soon after a zed and two l’s from Fila brazilia comes on and I recline the seat some more, close my eyes and let it wash over me.

So wanting to make a film with a decent soundtrack, something as broad as the big chill playlist which reverberates inside my ear canals, none of this iconic rock, or wall to wall hip hop and rnb, or the odd nod to the present day, or the latest fey indie bands homage to heartbreak. It feels like movie soundtracks are either sweeping danny elfmanesque, yann tiersen orchestrations, or products of musical synergy, which band/artist/singer songwriter has produced a hit this time or let’s do a goodfellas and pack it full of hits that everyone knows. I want more, actually it’s more than that I want what I listen to and love to be up there, for the whole swathe of music, jazz, dnb, trip hop, soul, funk. And as I finish this you won’t guess what comes on.
Maxwell’s “I’m you: you are me and we are you (pt me and you)”

from the album that he and the hordes of screaming female fans at the academy last year seemed to conveniently forget Embrya, which in my mind will stand the test of time better than the two that have come after, a perfect, confident, sprawling, epic, egotistical concept album. Go get it people, big basslines, haunting vocals, and an overarching water symbolism, oh and strings to die for.

Villa la angostura

In Argentina, Sud America, travelling on April 29, 2010 at 3:27 am

So I’m staying in a lovely little hosteria owned by mono a friend of a friend of a friend in villa la angostura, which is where the circuit of the seven lakes starts, it sits on the edge of the nahuel huapi which has many fingers and is only thirty odd kilometres from the Chilean border. It is a beautiful setting, the Andes sparsely populated with snow on the high peaks to one side and an unknown, to me at least, run of cerro’s to the other, a cerro isn’t really a mountain more of a mini mountain, mono says they are about 1,500- 1,800m high and the Andes are like 2,500 – 2,700m, but the cerro’s are impressive nevertheless.
I’m sitting writing this on the edge of a lake, my cheeks numbing on the large rock beneath me. The clear lake water slowly lapping at the pebbled beach, I’m on my way to puerto manzano to sit on and look out and over another beach, bike propped up behind me.
This is excellent since I’ve been rather lazy in my week in bariloche, not venturing out very often. To be fair to me the first couple of days were really shitty weather, rainy and overcast an windy as fuck. But it turned as it does in autumn, reall strange to be saying that in April, it’s also strange to see the trees turning brown, flexing their autumnal colour muscles so early in the year, well for me anyways.
So bariloche was, apart from a jaunt up a cable car to the top of cerro otto pretty much an indoor experience, I managed to catch up on the blog, deleted a shit load of photos from my hard drive, if I lose the external I’m fucked, met up with some people, drank some, ate some, and generally had a little intermission in the travelling life.

But back to villa la angostura, it is amazingly peaceful here, I’ve come out of season I know, but sitting by the lakeside and there are so many different little beaches along the lakeside it reminds me of Sardinia, where as long as you know where to look you can find a secluded piece of beach anywhere along it’s coastline.
The sun is bright and high up in the sky, and as long as you stay under it’s warm gaze you don’t feel the cold, but hit a piece of shade and step into a breeze and you know it’s not summer. But a couple of layers of merino and getting out of the saddle to get myself up the inclines which the main road follows soon warms me up.
I feel heavier than I did when I started this journey. It’s a real struggle to get any consistent exercise in, I can feel the spread across my gut, and the constant drinking isn’t doing it much good either, especially as I’m drinking the local brew, either quilmes cristal or imperial and I’m making the decision now to knock back the wine or head straight to the shorts, specifically the rum I bought duty free on the day trip to Uruguay.

Quick fragments of villa la angostura.
Horse running beside me as I pedal, constrained by the fence between us, barking of dogs, deep and booming, azure waters disturbed every so often, ripples rolling towards shore, sing song Spanish, quick and slurred, laughter of children as they run up and down, up and down, higher reaches of hearing twitters of birds, hawk gliding nonchalantly overhead as I approach and incline, breeze cutting into me as I walk back through the darkness from the supermercado, violet sky with the stars starting to appear, the Andes massive and static, but their visage everchanging as I ride round the curling roads beneath them. The wind making me blink as I descend the curving coastal roads, and with every blink I get faceted shards of orange and red lingering in my vision. Hearing from faraway the engine note of car or truck, knowing it’s coming but unable to see it for the curve of the road. Kids riding down the main street on their mountain bikes, singly, in twos and threes or in a big mass, jumping kerbs, spinning hard before sitting down, treating them like big bmx’s, the sun setting through the trees as the leaves go through all the shades of orange to brown.

I’m now sitting on a large silvered log at the public beach at puerto manzano, an excited dog digs up the sand to the left of me, his two female owners sitting on blankets, shoes off, toes digging into the sand. I’ve made the cardinal sin of not taking any food with me on this ride, no bananas, no biscuits, no flapjacks, no chocolate bars. Just a bottle of water, a spare jumper in case it gets cold, some cold hard cash and the camera. Puerto manzano is only 7kms away from angostura and I thought I’d be there and back in no time, ready for the meaty goodness that would be my lunch. But I missed the turn and rode an extra ten k’s into the bargain, along the winding, undulating, lakeside road, spying two other cyclists, one a younger fella on a road bike giving it some as he hauled his bike up an incline, the other older on a mountain bike, also giving it loads as he came to an uphill. I waved and said hola to both as they came past, we cyclists got to keep together.
So by the time I’d realised my mistake and made he turn back, my stomach was reeling, clamouring for some sort of sustenance, when all I had to give it was water. But as I write this on the beach amused by the dogs intense dedication to digging a large hole in the sand, I’m ready to let the hunger pangs continue for a little while as this beach is too tranquil to dash away from. The heavier, sloppier splash of wave on beach as the tide comes in, the warmth of the sun on my flesh, heating me up literally. I’m going to stay here for a little while and enjoy it, I’m only 7kms away from lunch, which is what four miles, maybe five, which is sub thirty mins riding in anyone’s book.

As the sun sets and the shadows grow ever longer I sit on the beach of another lake by the side of of the worlds second shortest river, which connects lake nahuel huapi with it’s sister. It’s getting chilly and I’ll return to the hosteria soon but the view across the water with cerro’s to the right of me is irreplaceable. The sky here is so clear and blue, so vast and overarching that it’s impossible to imagine living where buildings get in the way, and at night the stars are all around, just out of reach up their in the heavens.

Bariloche/1004

In Argentina, Sud America, travelling on April 29, 2010 at 3:09 am

My time in bariloche is spent up on the tenth floor of the tallest apartment block in the city at the hostel 1004, when I arrive and set my bags into the dorm, in the common room they are playing lewis Taylor and I feel good about this choice. They play music constantly most of it I’m feeling, a mixture of soul, rock and some weird ambient chillout, it transpires that they are the happy recipients of music from travellers who have stayed their before, culminating in a large collection of Buddha bar and loungecore cd’s. I want to give them the contents of my iPod but they aren’t running Itunes and it’s a faff to rip and then burn the songs for them onto audio cd, though I vow to do so when I get to nuevo York.
Bariloche is inbetween seasons summers over and winter hasn’t yet begun so it’s a bit of a ghost town, but there are still enough people to have protests and to walk up and down the main street shopping and not dropping.

The local bus drivers hold an all day strike, parking their buses up in the central square, tooting their horns and burning tires, the authorities don’t seem to mind too much letting them get on with their protest. But as like in buenos aires  it is a bit disconcerting to see police with 9mm’s holstered at their hips, it feels very wild west.
But the inbetween season doesn’t stop the travellers coming and there is a constant stream of people signing into the hostel. It’s nice, got a big kitchen which everyone makes use of and I become a fixture in the common room sitting on the laptop punching out the blog updates, catching up on football weekly and the beyondjazz podcasts. But most of all it gives me time to decompress after buenos aires, the party city to rival all party cities. I can see why maradona had such a hard time keeping control of his vices there, the city never stops, I’m hoping Miami and Vegas and New York can match it.
So a couple of things about hostel living, you’ve got to speak to everyone, get to know everyone or at least hear their travels, it’s easy to do ask where they’ve been, where they are going to, and you’ve got a connection. And you never know when that person you spoke to once in he kitchen as you waited for the kettle to boil will be your new traveling partner. Itineraries are so transient and the people you like and want to hang out with, can leave so soon that you’ll probably need to make sure you don’t curtail your friendship possibilities too early.
People are always hooking up whether for one night stands, drunken sucking of face or become long term (days/weeks/months) travelling partners. But what you must never do is drunkenly disappear, then leave the bathroom door open as you loudly confirm your mutual attraction. Especially when a drunken oirishman who takes a mischievous delight in retelling the story is about. The story will become one of his most favoured on his travelling tour and it will be expanded, embellished and dramatised, even as you sit there red faced trying to drink your now warm beer, as he tells you, me and anyone else who will listen step by step how he caught you inflagrante.

Do buy beer and share with others, do go out when others invite you, do not hold yourself aloof from what goes on around you, do bring some cards and teach people to play shithead, do enjoy getting to know the hostel staff, they will give you a squeeze every so often. Both figuratively and literally.
Try and find smaller hostels, the big ones can get impersonal in a hurry and the mass of people you may meet outweigh the few you will want to keep as facebook friends

Via bariloche

In Argentina, Sud America, travelling on April 29, 2010 at 2:58 am

So after two and a bit weeks in buenos aires I’ve bitten the bullet, booked the ticket and am on the luxury semi cama seat, reclining it and preparing for the 20hr journey to bariloche. The skies over buenos aires are a sullen leaden grey and it’s been raining non stop for the last couple of days, a constant drizzle intermittently interrupted by a heavy downpour. The weathers changed as well, you can feel the transition into a different season as the temperature drops and the wind picks up, it’s not exactly cold but it’s enough for the porteños to start wearing their winter coats.
As the bus rolls out onto and along the freeway you see both faces of bs as, the darkened flaking walls and the upscale billboards. The skyline is a topographical jumble of semi high rises and lower two/three storey buildings.
I got on the bus at half four in the afternoon and it’s not expected into bariloche until one thirty tomorrow afternoon. But I’m already yawning, was out late last night, head didn’t ht the pillow til five, out enjoying some salsa with claudia and marisol, and then one quick final ride through bs as, a city I’m going to miss, so vibrant late at night, busy and interesting whatever the time of day, but especially at night. I don’t know how the locals manage to combine such late nights with working the 9-5. Nothing gets busy till 2am! But they do somehow.
I’ve only done about half of what I was told to do in bs as but it feels like plenty. Th cities drained me of energy, though the rain days stopped me from heading out they did allow me the chance to catch up on some sleep, to recharge the batteries and return to being the daytime version of me.

The coach is like being on a plane that never lifts off the ground, the seats are wide and long and recline back a long way, there are a couple of tv screens front and back and when the meals are served they flicker into life to show entertainment, right now it’s midachi, some sort of three man variety show, lots of changing of outfits, impersonations of singers and musical acts some I know, michael Jackson, abba, most I don’t. The whole thing is in Spanish so what do you expect. There also seems to be a running theme of some of the acts standing round or performing with their pants around their ankles.
The windows are fogged with condensation and the bright lights are starting to irritate my eyes. I think I was actually asleep before they turned them on. The ache in my coccyx not bothering me for the time being. It’s been a constant with me on these travels, whenever I sit for longer than an hour or two this pain/ache manifests itself. Can’t remember having it back in London either, think maybe it might be from the riding, maybe saddle position, too high maybe, can’t tell, I never got this pain when I was in London riding my bikes back there, it just aches and is literally a pain in the ass. Having to adjust your position every so often to ease the ache, ahhhhh, sweet relief.
Swing a hand across the window to remove the condensation and all there is beyond is darkness, stretching out as far as the eye can see. Occasionally the darkness is interrupted by a lorry being overtaken, tail lights appearing in front then sliding away beside you as the bulk of it makes a fleeting appearance. All to infrequently you see the long thin line of lights which denote some sort of human habitation, town/city whatever. The lights hugging the contours of the earth, but too far away to be made out.
I try to read but my book bores me, feel sleep creeping in from the edges, headphones in to block out the Spanish tv voices I sleep. But it is intermittent. I take out the headphones and turn onto my side. And I sleep. But for how long and how deeply? I wake as we make scheduled stops in the dark. Passengers stumbling down the aisle, more asleep than I am, wrapped up in my blanket.
Sunrise happens quickly, from overwhelming blackness to a glimmer of light to blue sky and a wide expanse of countryside in a few minutes. With the sun up you can see the terrain, all around flat softly undulating shrubland, one two lane highway bisecting it. It feels utterly monotonous, the type of view you’d get in a western as the cowboys ride their horses endlessly across the expanse to escape the law. There are no landmarks or features which I can discern and I turn my head from side to side looking for the rising majesty of the Andes. But no luck.
I doze and when I awake we are curling down a road to a lake, mountains to the right of me, water to the left. Trees can now be seen alongside the low slung bushes, there is a bit more blue in the sky and in the water and the clouds remind me of New Zealand.
In think I’m getting a look at the seven lakes which are one of the guidebook things to do and see either by driving or riding round them. The ascents and descents don’t look too bad as the bus rolls along them and I’m going to ask at the hostel for maps and opinions on doing it. After the short city miles of buenos aires I feel the need to stretch the legs a bit…
A couple of kilometres outside of bariloche we stop at an gendarmeria checkpoint, a brown dog a Labrador I think comes up the stairs and then down the aisle as it’s handler a soldier in green army fatigues and a 9mm inside it’s holster on his waist. A man with long hair, stubble and a guitar in a soft case gets off the bus, he isn’t happy. All the buses along this route are stopped and the sniffer dogs sent on board, the soldiers search through guitar geezers belongings and we wait as other buses are waved through.
I think my boy had like a little bit of weed on him, he seems very casual in his dealings with them and after a soldier has a look and smell of what’s in a white plastic bag, geezer is let back onto the bus.