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Archive for the ‘Argentina’ Category

Catarata’s

In Argentina, Sud America, travelling on August 17, 2010 at 3:24 am

The falls at Iguazu are just immense, stretching across the horizon, walking through the rainforest to get to them, you hear a dull rumble, as you get closer it becomes a roar as the inconceivable torrents of water, crash themselves against rocks, flood down slopes and hurls itself out into nothingness. But when you stand at the lip of the waterfalls you hear nothing but a quiet burble as they eject themselves from their river’s course out into the blue of sky.

Mist is formed, the spray drenching you as you stand in the whooshing roar at the base as the doomed arc of liquid reaches the bottom. The sound of water pounding itself onto rocks is deafening, the spray hits you from all sides, drenching you, hard to hear, hard to speak, hard to see, I revel in this moment, unaware of how soaked I am becoming, letting the aqua surround me.

Iguazu on the Argentine side is full of tourists, clumps of them lining the walkways, the burble and chatter of voices as loud as the waterfalls, lining up posed in front of the catarata’s, cameras handed to each other keen to show they have been to this marvelous place.

I sit and write this and wait for the moments when the tour group passes and I can sit and listen to the waterfalls speak to me. Hear nothing but the rumbleroar, unceasing crash of water flooding ever downward. What bliss it would be to have the walkway and waterfalls to yourself to walk unhindered, to see unbroken vistas, to sit for hours on end, listening to the migration story of so much water.

The catarata’s stretch out, a huge horseshoe of falling water, dirty brown at the top, streaks of it spilling over before it cleanses itself in its fall, a pure brilliant white wall of water.

And suddenly it is still on the viewing platform, the lush green vegetation, sentries, guarding this place, silent in their vigil.

I walk through the verdant forest that covers the ground between the falls, up metal and rock steps, the grated pathways segmenting the water that flows beneath my feet. Rainbows abound, curving out of the mist showing you where the pot of gold is, hovering tantalizingly just out of reach in a churning boil of water. As I stand over the spill and toil of a smaller waterfall, a rainbow appears in front of me and I get the chance to step through it, seeming it right there in front of me then it disappearing as i walk towards and through it. This could be the birthplace of all rainbows, there are so many, over every waterfall, arching over the mist they create is a multicolored crescent.

The devils throat, the crescent where several waterfalls merge is a miasma of mist and water vapour, leaving me sometimes dry but mostly damp as the wind changes direction and I am standing in a spitting splash of water. The mist rises so high and the water drops so violently that you can’t see the bottom, so shrouded in mist is it. The mist reaches up high enough to be mistaken for a cloud. The roar at the top is loud enough to stop you from speaking but step away and stride back along the walkways and the roar subsides to a low grumble, blocked out by the green growth that somehow seems to find a foothold despite the weight of water around it.

Oh I shouldn’t forget to mention the butterflies that flutter constantly across my path, yellow and cream and purple and violently orange. They congregate in little bundles of colour and energy, darting hither and yon, unceasing movement until they alight on a leaf or a branch or a railing or your hand, then they stop wings no longer beating just every so often opening and closing, antennae moving. Then they are gone.

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Argentinian farewell

In Argentina, Braaaazil, travelling on August 17, 2010 at 3:20 am

I’m on yet another bus, but this one is different, this one is taking me not just out of buenos aires but also out of Argentina as I head to the falls at Iguazu.

I’m saddened, I’ve met many good people in Argentina and the good times I’ve had make me want to extend my time here. Buenos Aires has bewitched me with its shabby chic when it’s not being gorgeously chic, with its generosity and capacity to consume carne, helados, postres, vino tinto, and empanadas. God I’m going to miss the lazy afternoons in the sun, eating and drinking, the late nights and comatose mornings. I’m gonna miss the long straight avenues, the tree-lined side streets, sun dappled by their branches and leaves, gonna miss the roof top terrace at the Hostel Estoril, the hammock, the ornate Palacios across the road, the angled ride up Lavalle to Palermo. The two-inch thick meat cooked to medium perfection, the empanadas, god! The empanadas, the heady scent of illicitness wafting around me in clubs. The history immersed in tango and wine. The huge distances you have to travel by bus. The blueness and clearness of the sky. The juggling beggars at traffic lights, the colonial style architecture, the street art, the late night stumble from bar to bar, the scooter like battle for position by all traffic big and small, the live music on the corners of markets on the weekend, the choripan thick and juicy, the cheap but excellent wine, the laughs on the rooftop, the way Buenos Aries has bewitched me, like Screaming Jay Hawkins cackles it’s put a spell on me. And like many of those who I spoke to, joked with, drank with, I’ll be back. One way or another, and if any of Los Porteños need a bed to sleep on, a roof over their heads, and a companion to hang out with in London town, your always welcome at mine. It’s the least I can do for the generosity you showed me and i’d hope to make your stay in London as pleasant and fun-filled as mine was in Buenos Aires.

San Telmo

In Argentina, Buenos Aires, Sud America on August 17, 2010 at 3:14 am

Street markets are for people watching, grab a seat outside a bar/resto/cafe and watch the myriad people walk past, slowly, stopping and starting, leaning in to peruse more closely the wares on display, the goods to buy.

I’ve got no space to carry anything with me, so I was avoiding malls, shopping precincts/districts, markets. No desire to fill my bag with trinkets and nick nacks, mementoes of my travels, solid markers of the places I’ve been. If I do buy anything it has to be sent back, to be kept in storage until I return, less is more and I’d rather have fewer more intense keepsakes than any item that catches my magpie eye.

But holding myself back from the street fairs I am keeping myself from seeing the citizens of that space do what they always do, what everyone always does, buy tat for themselves and their loved ones. But I also miss the opportunity to see the locals, miss the chance to really look at them in the bright light of day, when the weekend is upon them and they leisurely go about their lives. Miss the stage set up and the free tango lessons, the San Telmo drum school dancing and drumming down the narrow avenue, the food vendors pulling their wares, their cries reverberating along the cobbles, kids being pulled to and fro, the slow walk of couples hand in hand, the stop and stare and quick discussion of the goods up for sale, each stall holding the goods of an artisanal, book marks, jewelry, slogan t-shirts, mate gourds, scarves, dresses, shoes, toys and games, sitting on the kerb, blanket spread out in front of them, sipping their own mate, chewing on a choripan, smoking yet another cigarette.

Stop and watch the final preparations as a stage is being set up, the lights angled down onto the impromptu dance floor, the crowd around the edges leaning forward in anticipation, amused chuckles as people are taught the basic steps of the tango, how to hold their partner, how to step, when to step, people playing at tango until…

The old couples lit by those bright lights, step out, gliding across the cardboard dance floor as the young crowd stands and watches and takes photographs. This isn’t for play or for show they are living this moment. The women’s foreheads pressed against their partners cheek, eye closed, bodies closer, swirling across the dance floor, first only a handful of couples then more and more, as the strings wail high, and the accordion pushes and pulls its mournful notes into the ether.

I see no one under thirty on the dance floor, the music that brought these couples together that bound them tight as youths, of no use to their children and grandchildren, a footnote in argentine history even as we tourists scrabble to find the authentic slice of this dancing tradition. But these dancers don’t care about that, all they care about is the music, and the movement of their bodies and the steps they learned so very long ago, loving the joy it brings and that flush of remembrance of youth and desire and the beginnings of love.

Autumnal Saturdays

In Argentina, Buenos Aires, travelling on August 17, 2010 at 3:09 am

The sun shines down upon Buenos Aires and the Porteños are out in their droves in the main Parque. I sit on the 67 bus on my way to Palermo and headphones in enjoy the dappled play of the shadows that we cross over as the sun beats down. Traffic is bumper to bumper along this stretch of three lane highway and the driver is leaning on his horn long and irritably, wanting the traffic up ahead to move quicker.

I’m engrossed with the way the shadows fall from the trees that line the narrow roads we’ve just driven down, how they lengthen and stretch, the dark shapes cast by buildings and stationary cars and bushes, the fractal elements of it, the glare and shine of the sun that cuts through every so often. The warmness of sol’s glow, warming everything beneath its benevolent gaze. Love the way sun falls through the windows of the bus and how the darkness changes shape, sliding along in sweeps of radial movement.

Flying high in the argentinian sky.

In Argentina, Sud America, travelling on August 17, 2010 at 3:07 am

The morning after, the wine tasting the day before. I’m sitting in the hostel as Matt is making his decisions about what activities to do. He’s done most of the ones on offer already at some point in his travels and finally puts his name down for paragliding, which precipitates the rest of us signing up.

And so five of us make the long winding, 4×4 powered ascent up into the mountains just outside Mendoza, before getting strapped into a harness and running off a stony hillside and launching myself into the sky, sitting between my pilots legs as we lurch and rise into the brilliant blue sky.

You can see for miles and miles and miles and MILES!!!

It’s like nothing I’ve experienced ever, more calming and peaceful than the bungee jump, but akin to a rollercoaster ride without knowing where the turns and the dips are coming from, as the pilot is just navigating the thermals, looking around and searching for the next upward surge as he banks and I eyeball the ground beneath my swinging feet.

The mountains rush beneath seemingly so close, but my shadow is so far away and small, skimming across the undulating terrain, my stomach turns and skips every time he changes direction, not knowing which way he’ll be turning.

And as we fly there’s a beeping which comes quicker and quicker, until it’s one long drone and it frightens me, are we going to fast, to slow, to high, to low. I don’t know what it’s meant to indicate so I turn, stomach still roiling and ask my pilot who tells me it’s the altimeter, so I join the dots and decide that it let’s him know how high he’s climbing and how fast. Just as I make that connection he drops a couple of meters and I’m swung about in my seat, and I look out over the peaceful surrounds and the stunning surround and let that overcome the queasy stomach I’m feeling and I’m crushed when we make the spiraling descent to land, wanting to keep up there flying high with the eagles.

Swirl, sniff, sip, swallow

In all about the ride, Argentina, eat drink man woman, Sud America on August 17, 2010 at 3:03 am

So a whirl of us from the hostel went on a wine tour, hired some bikes from mr Hugo, mine had a basket on the front and some snazzy purple brake calipers, and went riding down the bumpy fractured roads amongst the vineyards for tastings at the various Bodega’s on the map/flyer that Mr Hugo had given us after we’d rented the bikes.

To say it got messy would be an understatement. Wine and riding don’t mix, the two broken spokes I returned the bike with can attest to that. But it was fun. Matt the escalator was knocking back the absinthe he’d purchased at the liquor factory we’d started out at before the sun had risen to its highest point.

We did a proper wine tasting at the Trapiche Bodega, which was a lovely mix of old and new, new buildings modern, glass and metal hidden behind old original walls, with shiny metal vats for the fermentation of the wine set into the main buildings in long rows.  Before discovering a small outdoor bar round the back, down a long dirt road, and off the beaten track. It was just like someone’s large backyard, which just so happened to have a bar in it, and a cooker, on which the owners made home-made pizza’s and empanadas’.

Then it was off to Latitude 33 for more wine tasting and casting envious glances at the food that was brought out for the other cycling wine tasters. Obviously I managed to get the bods to break out a bottle of rose for the people, and how sweet it was.

Drunken ride out to the very last winery, when I’m trying to ram into the back of the people in our group, I have no idea what took over me, though I’m pretty sure it was the wine. Which precipitated me breaking like two or three spokes in the front wheel, tipsily pulling them out, and then trying to figure out where everyone else had got to. Finally found them and drank even more wine. And good it was too.

Rolled back to Mr Hugo’s and handed back the bikes, making sure I pointed out the broken spokes, a shrug, and a never mind shake of the head, and then the big man was pouring house red all round as the bike was rolled back in with the others.

A good day was made better when we rolled drunkenly back to the hostel and you know when you’ve been out on the lash from lunchtime and you think you’re talking at an acceptable volume, but in reality you are shouting like a five-year old trying to get their parents attention. Well that was the situation when we hit the hostel a whirlwind of drunkenness and loudness. We had been drinking since noon so we could be forgiven a little bit….

May Day

In Argentina, Sud America, travelling on August 17, 2010 at 3:00 am

May Day bank holiday falls on a Saturday for the Argentinians and the international workers day is celebrated by a Saturday when no one works, apart from the bus and taxi drivers and the odd kiosco owner and those out to make a quick peso as everyone heads to the Parque de General San martin for a bit of sun worshipping, and game playing, and eating mixed with gossiping.

Cars line the roads that crisscross the Parque, folding chairs and tables pulled out placed under trees, on the bent and short grass areas, in-between the males of the family having a kick about, whether still at school or rotund head of the family. All become the great short one Maradona, or the many second comings that have so far fallen short Ortega, Aimar, Riquelme, Messi. The ball at their feet turning their body clocks backwards/forwards, as they become younger sprightlier or older stronger versions of themselves, scoring that goal that wins that cup.

Dogs tongues lolling, dashing hither and thither, police on their tall horses, sauntering along the roped off roads, runners striding or struggling through their miles, the workout fiends with their tops left behind, sweat glistening over muscles so lovingly manufactured. Walking purposefully, everyone’s gaze required. Girls on rollerblades, knee pads, elbow pads, wrist guards, helmets on, modern day stormtroopers behind their shades. Cyclists on road bikes and mountain bikes looping the Parque, legs turning, beside them spinning hard to keep up and failing, kids on bikes with training wheels, bmx’s, mini mountain bikes, left behind as their cycling elders pass. Couples strolling arm in arm, kids tugging ineffectually on the leads of their biggest than them dogs. Mothers holding babies wrapped in blankets close to their bosoms. Groups of people sitting on blankets, passing the gourd round.

The Parque is a never ending stream of people/families/couples/kids/teens time on their hands and a whole day to waste. Packs of dogs roaming the grassland, getting tangled up in peoples legs, following forlornly looking for scraps of food, affection, attention.

Sun behind the long mass of cloud, but the humanity that has taken over the Parque will not remove itself they mean to suck the marrow out of this day.

Grey Trevor

In Argentina, Sud America on May 1, 2010 at 5:20 pm

So after the White water rafting it is cabalgatos in the afternoon, trekking across Mendoza’s arid landscape on the back of a horse.
So I’ve always had a soft spot for horses from riding the arm of my mums sofa to victory in on of the classics, the Derby, the St Leger, the Prix de l’arc de triomphe, to getting all misty eyed when black beauty or the black stallion came on TV. So just before I left work I had taken a couple or three lessons on the very big horses that they had at the riding club to see if I enjoyed it, which I did. But I never got the chance to continue my tutelage, redundancy got in the way.
So I’m in Argentina, home of the gaucho and I’m thinking why not, when the opportunity arises. So I find myself pointed out by our guide and lead over to Trevor, the grey horse that will bear the weight of me for the next two and a bit hours. He’s much smaller than the horses I sat on so many months before, actually all of the horses are, I don’t need a box to stand on to get my foot into the stirrup and before you know it I’m heaving myself into the saddle and holding both reins in one hand.
Trevor turns out to be a very placid beast who just wants to be amongst his mates and as we get mounted he slowly moves over to the other horses and squeezes himself into the pack.
We move off in a slow line with Trevor a horse or so from the rear and our guides directions to keep your reins short and not let them eat anything. Trevor of course wants to eat any and everything so I spend a bit of time jerking his head round so as to get him away from eating the long grass.
We settle into our routine. Trevor plodding along following the line of horses up front, me trying to take photos, until a younger guide on a much sprightlier and bigger horse comes up behind us and Trevor breaks into a little trot and soon all the horses at trotting away and we become a much tighter packed bunch.
We form a single line and the horses follow each other along a path that fords small streams and tightly packed pampas grasses. I’m starting to get the hang of riding Trevor, though it’s more me sitting, Trevor walking and every so often me pulling the reins to the left or right to keep him on the straight and narrow.
We head out of the grasses and out onto the plains and it’s arid and dry, an bushes and rocks surround us, dust is kicked up with every hoofstep and the air is dry, as the sun hovers over us. But it’s a dry heat and I start to enjoy myself, twisting left and right to get a good view ot the Andes and the hills closer by. I’m a cowboy in a western, guarding the wagon train or slowly moving those cows to market. As the hours pass and Trevor carts me up hills and down into valleys and dried rock strewn riverbeds, carefully picking his way along then breaking into a little trot to close up with our lead guide, I wish i was a better rider and was on a better horse (no offence Trevor) so I could gallop and canter and explore more of the expanse of terrain around us. Argentina feels vast, somehow larger than New Zealand with whom it shares many natural similarities, though New Zealand is alot greener.
But for this point Trevor is just right for me as I grow more confident in my position when he descends, leaning way back, bouncing up and down in the saddle as I kick him into a trot and giving him affectionate pats after we crest every steep incline.
The afternoon goes too fast and before I know it Trevor is quickening his pace as he recognises his surroundings and I’m hopping off his back as he goes for a huge piss.

Ps riding behind a horse as it goes for a  shit is not recommended viewing, especially the bright pink starfish at the end.

White water

In Argentina, Sud America on May 1, 2010 at 5:12 pm

So after an hours drive out to the mountains I’m stuffing myself into a wetsuit, making the mistake of leaving my underwear on, and I’m kitted out with a fleece, waterproof jacket, helmet and life jacket and then another twenty odd min drive along the course of a river. Looking down on it as it boils and churns, white water bubbling as the river rolls over submerged rocks.
It’s me and three other Spanish bods a guy Pablo and two girls and I’m at the front, being given the three commands i’ll need to follow adelmante? Paddle alto stop paddling, and one for paddle backwards which I’ve forgotten. And we set off with our guide in a kayak out from amusing himself with barrel rolls, and two guys in the back providing the instructions and experience.
With white water rafting there are six categories of danger going from 1-6 with 1 being tranquilo and 6 being make a mistake and you die and the river for our descent is between 2-3. But I’m not frightened, well okay a bit nervous as we plunge into a depression and the water surges over the front of the raft and soaks us with it’s cold weight. I paddle as directed one foot in the triangular slipper sewn into the bottom of the raft, the other wedged into the gaps in the inflatable ridges.
The canyon soars above us on either side, scarred and jagged, bare rock and low lying bushes. The sun is high warming us even as the water tries to chill us to the bone. I try not to blink every time the boat drops precipitously into a dip of the river and the water rears up over us, but I fail, my glasses holding the droplets of water on their lenses like a chiding reminder, and I’m craning round in my seat to look up at the walls of rock hemming us in.
I’m surprised by how little paddling I have to do, we only paddle for a couple of strokes then stop, and let the force of the river carry us along, I’d imagined it to be a marathon of constant paddling, but the tranquil quiet parts of the river provide plenty of opportunity for rest and watching the view as well as chances for the tour photographer to snap shots of our grinning faces.
The guide at the back keeps up a running commentary, I assume it’s about the river and what we’re doing and how the river is formed and tidbits on the location, but it’s all in Spanish so over my head.
I listen and look and keep looking up to overhanging ridges as if at any moment native Americans could attack, arrows flying towards us, hissing through the air.

Round and round

In all about the ride, Argentina, bike, Sud America on May 1, 2010 at 5:07 pm

You will not believe this, but Mendoza has a velodrome! A motherfucking velodrome, and it’s got the most gorgeous, high concrete banking, that you’ve ever seen, with a swoop and a curve to it that makes the jaw drop, and in a place that gets as little rain as Mendoza it should be in use 24/7.
But it’s not, it’s derelict, cobwebs everywhere, main gate locked tight and with nobody around and only the sun and the clouds above to observe what I’m doing, that gorgeous steep short track gets me rolling slowly round it, gearing to low, fear in my heart as my tyres squeal and scratch and I try to maintain enough momentum to keep myself up by the blue line.
The track feels shorter than Herne hill, maybe 250 or 300m long and the banking makes me dizzy just looking at it, I wanna say it’s as steep as Calshot of Manchester but I’ve been to neither and so can’t make any sort of informed decision.
To get to the track I have to crawl under a fence, after sliding the bike under it as well, brushing the dirt from my knees and walking the bike across rocks and shrubland, that makes me wish and not for the first time why I didn’t bring some bigger tyres with me, or even a mountain bike. But when I get to the track and see those smooth curves, I know why.
I stare at it for ages, who knew it would be here, I’ve only found it because I was round by the old Malvinas football stadium, trying to find new paths through the big park which sits at the bottom of Cerro Gloria and looking at my little map I see there’s a velodrome. I don’t believe it’ll be any good but you know I’ve got to go and check it out. I’m travelling the world with a track bike for chrissakes course I’ve got to check it out. And for those three short laps it doesn’t disappoint, forum track days would be acecakes here, with the sun always shining, using the long low ramp that connects to the back straight to get upto racing velocity and then just attack those curves hands tight on the drops channeling the spirit of the Hoy, thighs pumping, breath coming slow and deep, before getting out of the saddle for the last dig for the line, the bods cheering and drinking in the infield.
God it’d be magnificent!

addendum: on an early saturday morning ride, saw two guys on track bikes, drops and everything, heading past me in the opposite direction, possibly heading to the track. so it may not be totally unused..

google map linky

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=-32.884241,-68.880316&sll=-32.884135,-68.880157&sspn=0.001083,0.001666&ie=UTF8&ll=-32.883083,-68.881016&spn=0.017335,0.02665&t=h&z=15