Monthly Archives: December 2012

12 of My Favorite Places in 2012

Full disclosure: I started writing this post in 2012, but I finished it in 2013. I’m going to go back in time to let it post in 2012. Forgive my tardiness.

Following the lead of Katie at Katie Going Global, and her 12 Favorite Places list, I decided to create a list of my own favorite places.

While it may not be the most representative photo of a place (or the best photo), the photo and the place struck a chord with me.

In chronological order, 12 of my favorite places in 2012…

1) Cabo Polonio, Uruguay

This coastal village, accessible only by a 4×4 truck, is a 30 minute ride from the nearest road. Cabo Polonio has no electricity, a dusty supermarket and a peaceful way of life. Just a handful of residents make Cabo their home year-round, including sea lions. As you’d expect, the population peaks throughout the summer with those looking to disconnect.

En Route to Cabo Polonio

2.) Montevideo, Uruguay

I saw four new capital cities on this trip and of those, Montevideo was my favorite. The architecture in the old city is beautiful. Beaches line the Rio de la Plata in the middle of the city. I was fortunate to have new friends as local guides and saw many neighborhoods, and a brief stop at the British Hospital. I was there during the festival celebrating Yemaja, the Queen of the Water. Even though Montevideo is a major city, donkeys still help with garbage collection.
Montevideo

3.) Maipu, Argentina

Vineyards always make me smile. This was a really fun day in a really beautiful place not far from the bustle of Mendoza. This particular vineyard’s property extends to the trees in the far back of the photo. I had always thought I don’t like chardonnay because of it’s oaky taste, but I learned that there are options and I do enjoy a chardonnay from a stainless-steel barrel.

Maipu

4.) Valparaiso, Chile

Before arriving, I was told that everyone finds that they either love it or hate it. From the art on the streets, literally, to the spectacular views, I fell in love with Valpo. I had only planned on staying one night only because I couldn’t figure out where I was heading next yet I wound up staying in Valpo for four nights. Art covered the streets, there’s a lively community and the sea breeze doesn’t hurt.

Valparaiso
Valparaiso_2

5.) San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

The Atacama Desert is the driest desert in the world. When I arrived, it was experiencing the worst flooding in over a decade.  Here’s a shot of my bus driver calling to find a different route since, yes, that is a river flowing through it. Buildings in town were mostly covered by thatched roofs. Outside, they were mostly covered with layers of plastic tarps to prevent any more water. Inside, buckets were set up to catch the water.

San Pedro de Atacama

Two of my friends arrived in Chile and we spent an amazing few days together navigating the new normal of San Pedro.
SPA2
6.) Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

The world’s largest salt flat is simply surreal. I was there in the rainy season which creates a mirror effect from the salt and the flooded flats. You can play with the perspective but the scenery around you is simply jaw-dropping and reminds you how little we are in this thing called, Earth.

Salar de Uyuni

7. and 7.5.) Lake Titicaca, Bolivia and Lake Titicaca, Peru

I guess I hit on a few superlatives during my travels and here are two more. Lake Titicaca is considered the highest lake in the world, and the largest in South America. Bordered by Bolivia and Peru, I spent time on both sides of, and on, the lake. In Bolivia, I happened to be in town during the weekly blessings of vehicles. In Peru, I stayed with a local family on Amantani, an island on the Peruvian side of the lake.

Lake Titicaca, Bolivia Bolivia

Lake Titicaca, PeruPeru

8.) Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Accompanied by a guide, I felt like I was on a school trip. The coolest one ever. I learned so much. Wildlife and nature are pristine in this paradise. Animals and plants found here are found nowhere else on earth. Here, a blue-footed boobie.

Galapagos 2

9.) Nashville, Tennessee, USA

Nashville has my heart. I love country music, I love live music and I love Southern hospitality. I have never had a bad time in Music City and there’s something to be said about traveling with your girlfriends.

Nashville

10.) Taormina Mare, Sicily, Italy

A beachside town just a few miles away from the tourist mecca of Taormina, this was the start of the off-season. Restaurants were filled with locals, the beaches empty since it was a little chilly but the scenery and the weather excellent for sightseeing, relaxing and just taking in the views.

Taormina Mare

11.) Mt. Etna, Sicily, Italy

Driving from the autostrada in Sicily, you can’t help but notice the mountain as it gets closer. And then as you head up, it gets colder. But the height gets you above the clouds and reminds you of the past explosions. If you kick up some dirt and feel the ground, it’s warm from the cauldron bubbling inside. Super super cool.

Mt. Etna

12.) Gozo, Malta

Malta is an archipelago situated just 90 miles south of Sicily and just north of Tunisia in Africa. Gozo is one of the three islands in the Maltese archipelago and is surrounded by water, rolling hillsides and amazing formations like the Azure Window.  Villages dot the island each offering delicious meals, warm locals and stunning views. The pace of life on Gozo is noticeably slower and more relaxed than on its larger neighbor, Malta.

Gozo, Malta

And the trouble with lists, is that I can’t include each and every place.

Just because I left you out – La Paz, Bolivia; Mendoza, Argentina; Arequipa, Peru; Salta, Argentina and Santiago, Chile – doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy you. As for Minas, Uruguay; Vina del Mar, Chile and Villazon, Bolivia, well, I’m probably not headed back your way anytime soon, but thanks for the memories – including the trying time to get my Bolivian visa.

Thanks for reading! A happy and healthy new year to you and your family.

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Back at Daisy’s

Back at Daisy’s we met the rest of the house. We sat around the candles, ate dinner in the grass and finished a few beers before the last candle went out.

Once our candle burned out, we said goodnight. My excitement for a good night’s sleep soon fizzled. There were no locks on the door of the house, and I certainly didn’t have a door to my room. (Remember I entered my room through a hole in the floor). Oh, and one of my roommates was missing. Hopefully they wouldn’t be too loud but we certainly didn’t have to worry about anyone coming back and waking me up by flipping on the lights – since there weren’t any.

Climbing up the ladder to my bed for the night, I mentioned to my new friends that I hope I don’t hurt myself climbing in the dark. One of my roommates told me “It’s best if you don’t. There’s no hospital in the village.”

Knowing how my eyes ached, I had a twinge of nervousness. Knowing I wouldn’t be seeing an eye doctor until I reached Montevideo in a few more days, I was hoping for the best until then.

Once I got into bed I realized the sound of the wind. Not sure if the roof was sturdy, but I didn’t have much to lose. My backpack, holding everything I owned, was on the floor next to my bed. My headlamp, my iPod, my glasses and case joined me and my sleep sack in the bed. If the roof blew off, I only had a few things to hold onto.


Cabo’s Supermarket

My new friends and I headed back to the supermarket to get provisions for dinner. It seemed like everyone had the same idea. The supermarket was jumping!

Stepping into the supermarket was like going back in time.

An old icebox held milk, eggs and yogurt.

fridge in the supermarket
The scale was rusty from years of use and it was so charming. The man behind the counter had a manual weight to check the price against what was on the scale.

scale

In the corner, stacks of boxes housed batteries and flashlights.

The three of us chipped in for a variety of vegetables, breads and cheeses, and beer. Once the sun went down we had headlamps and beers. And candles like these found on tables at a bar on the walk back to Daisy’s.

Heading back to Daisy’s house, I really took it all in. My parents were probably freaking out because they wouldn’t hear from me for over 36 hours and here in Cabo Polonio I couldn’t even contact them if I wanted to.


A Tour of Daisy’s House

After stopping in at two houses we thought was Daisy’s (remember we had nothing more than the man at the supermarket pointing in the general direction of Daisy’s house to guide us), we arrived.

We meet Daisy’s daughter, who was well into her fifties. I had been thinking Daisy was around our age.

My German friends secured a double bed in a private room — the only private room. I scored the last bed in the place upstairs in the attic. It took a little work to get to my sleeping spot.

Here’s a photo tour of our accommodations.

Note: pictures do this situation absolutely no justice.

This was the ladder I had to climb to get upstairs to my bed. When I made it to the top, I learned that I would be sharing an attic with two roommates.

stairs to my bed

Once I made it up the ladder I would be coming up through this hole. See the beer on the floor? That’s mine. And that red blanket? That’s the bed I would be sleeping in. Once the sun went down, there would be no electricity. Good thing I am not a sleepwalker, right?

the hole i climbed to my bed (with the red blanket) note the beer on the floor

Getting ready for sunset.

preparing for sunset

Here’s another view of, for a lack of better words, the hole. The boy of the German couple was really tall. So tall that he had to duck everywhere in Daisy’s house, except for the kitchen (which sadly, I have no photos of). His height proved helpful for me since he was able to lift my backpack up the hole so I didn’t need to maneuver up the ladder with my pack on my back.

literally the hole i came up from

To get to the bathroom you had to go outside to a separate room. Think port-a-potty with walls. I still don’t know why this toilet was on a pedestel.

There was no counter space by the sink and since water wasn’t drinkable, imagine trying to brush your teeth holding a water bottle and miscellaneous toiletries. At this point one of my eyes were in so much pain that I no longer had to worry about contact lenses and solutions so a few less things that I had to balance at the sink.

the toilet

This barrel had a huge dish inside to scoop water into the toilet in order to ‘manually’ flush it. Ladies, keep an eye out. No matter who came out of the bathroom, the seat was always up thanks to the manual flushing system.

the water to fill the toilet to 'flush' it

And this is Daisy’s house.

The three of us dropped our bags by our beds, or in my case, raised them, and together made our way back to the supermarket to figure out our dinner before the sun goes down!


Sights around Cabo Polonio

The bus dropped us off on the side of the road. Just a few of us got off at the stop.

Everyone that got off knew we needed to buy tickets and we all followed one another to where the trucks were gathered. We purchased our tickets for the 4×4 trip to Cabo Polonio.

The journey would take 30 minutes and the views on the empty beach were pretty cool.

(This is a photo as we arrived into town). We were the only truck on the beach at the time so I only got shots of the pristine beach from our particular 4×4 — but the views were stunning. It’s amazing that a place like this exists.

another shot of the 4x4 trucksthe 'road' to cabo polonia
When we arrived in Cabo Polonio, I learned that the directions to Daisy’s place were a bit like a scavenger hunt. We were to find the supermarket and ask for Daisy’s house. There, someone would be able to direct us.

Yes, someone would know. Was Daisy the mayor? Was the town this small?

Um. Yes, practically and yes.

We headed to the supermarket per my new friend’s notes. Here, a shot of the supermarket.

buy bus tickets on the left and shop in the supermarket on the right

Sure enough, as my new friends were promised, at the supermarket someone knew and we were directed to (or at least pointed in the direction of) Daisy’s house/apartment/shelter. This is the view from the supermarket. Cozy cottages dotted the landscape.

I’m so curious. This couple hadn’t been in Uruguay for more than a few weeks. How did they meet Daisy? Who is Daisy? Are they good friends? Am I crashing on an old friend’s reunion?

At this point, I’m so confused. From the pieces of conversation that I’m picking up – I begin to realize – this couple doesn’t know who Daisy is either! Here I am thinking they know her, and I know Daisy just as much as they do.

My curiosity was absolutely piqued and I couldn’t wait to find Daisy’s house and my accommodations (I hoped!) for the evening.

what the village looked like


What to Expect in Cabo Polonio

Hot water: unlikely

Running water: maybe

Electricity: no

Was I nervous? A little.

Was I excited for the unknown? Definitely.

on the truck to cabo polonia


Printcopia Giveaway Results

Click the link to see the Printcopia Giveaway Results courtesy of Random.org.

Congratulations KATHY!! Check your email for details on how to claim your 8×10 canvas print!

Thanks again to everyone for entering.