Monthly Archives: February 2013

What to Do!?

I finished my lunch and headed to the bus terminal in Buenos Aires. On a Friday afternoon in the summer. From a seasoned commuter and traveler, I should have known better.

The waiters at the restaurant warned me to be careful on the walk over since the area wasn’t the greatest (as it usually happens with bus terminals). One waiter also gave me the name of two bus companies that were safe. So this was news, there were companies that weren’t so safe?? Good to know.

Soon after leaving the restaurant the road had a sidewalk with overgrown weeds and it wasn’t a very inviting walk. I saw two women who looked like commuters and followed them. At an intersection, I caught up to them and asked them about the bus to Cordoba. They told me to be careful in this area, and in the bus station, and they also told me that I should use certain bus lines. One of which was one of the ones the waiter had recommended.

I had just used up my Argentine pesos and had no interest in navigating the ATM in a bus terminal on a Friday night. I’d be paying for my bus ticket with a credit card and I decided that I could take out money when I arrived in Cordoba.

The bus terminal, as you might imagine, was crowded (it was a Friday), and hot (it was the middle of summer). I said it before, and I’ll say it again…For someone who knows traffic is a nightmare leaving a major city (read: New York City to beach towns) on a summer Friday, I sure did a great job of inadvertently doing most of my travel through major cities on summer Fridays.


Arrival in Argentina

The ferry from Montevideo to Buenos Aires was quite enjoyable. It was nice to be back in the city that helped me fall in love with South America, but I didn’t want to stay long. My goal was to be in Mendoza by Sunday. It was Friday afternoon.

I hadn’t been able to plan my next steps because of the lack of Wi-Fi on the ferry. On the ferry, in lieu of the internet, I decided I would make my way to Cordoba, Argentina for the night. It was about halfway between Buenos Aires and Mendoza.

After disembarking, I found myself around the corner from where I had eaten lunch a year ago with the boyfriend and friends. There were restaurants lining the waterfront and I found myself asking for a table for one. Aside from the waiters, the restaurant was empty because of the time of day.

Confirming the sticker noting they had Wi-Fi, I double checked upon entering and I was told yes. So I ordered a glass of wine and some lunch. I took out my netbook. I turned it on and nothing. No signal. I tried connecting to the network a few times and nothing.

Since I had already ordered, I wasn’t about to leave. I let one of my three waiters (oops, this wasn’t a budget restaurant) know that I would really like to get a Wi-Fi signal.

Problem solved!

I was moved to a corner so I could pick up the signal from the restaurant next door. The corner table wasn’t as good as my original window seat but the restaurant was empty so I still had good views.

Over a glass of wine and a jamon y queso sandwich, that’d be ham and cheese, I was able to make a loose plan for after lunch — head to the bus station and get myself on an overnight bus to Cordoba. Yes, it didn’t take rocket science since I had already decided what I was going to do on the ferry. Then I sipped some Argentine Torrontes wine as I sent an email letting my family know I was perfectly fine. Especially since I was overlooking the waterfront on a gorgeous summer day in Buenos Aires.


Adios, Uruguay

Saying good-bye to Romina and Mariela was sad because I had such a good time with them. They helped get rid of my loneliness and I was well taken care of in Montevideo. After we said our good byes, I took a cab to the terminal, bought my ticket and was efficiently stamped out of Uruguay and into Argentina as I headed to the waiting room to board the ship.

Thinking the ferry between Montevideo and Buenos Aires would take three hours, I was confident I could take the time to use Wi-Fi on the ferry to make my next plan, and book that night’s accommodation (wherever I would wind up!)

Once I bought my ticket, I had some time before boarding and met a Canadian couple. They had just spent a week in Punta del Este and showed me photos of their trip, and hotel. It was definitely not the Punta del Este I saw! It was glam and glitz and luxury — which is what most people go to Punta for.

I boarded the ferry (which is a rather large ship), took a seat at a table by a window, opened my laptop and was ready to connect to Wi-Fi.

Except there wasn’t any. I couldn’t even pay to get internet.

I wasn’t worried because I would be getting into Buenos Aires around lunchtime so I would have time to figure out my plan, I just thought I’d be able to figure out my plan in the three hours on the boat. Buses in Uruguay had Wi-Fi (which I never used) and I had just assumed it would work on the ferry. By the way, I would never see the Wi-Fi on a bus ever again on my trip.

So, realizing I had three hours to myself, I watched Uruguay slip away into the distance thinking about the adventures that await as I headed into Argentina.

Adios, Uruguay. I will definitely be back.
bye2

bye

uruguay


Lightening My Load

 DSC03314

You haven’t really travelled until you’ve taken on South America…The challenge is deciding where to begin. With so much choice, it’s as though the continent was built for travel; a place that excites, thrills, challenges and infuriates…Brave a white-knuckle bus ride down  Peruvian slopes and be astounded by endless Andean vistas…South America, however is not just about breathtaking sights – its stunning soundtrack is sure to leave your feet a-tapping long after you’re back in the day job…Argentine  folklórica (folk music) trickles out of truck radios in the pampas and the jolting rhythm of cumbia making those Andean bus rides even more absurd.

However, when it comes to experiencing this incredible land the real reward  is undoubtably the South American spirit. The entire continent approaches life with the enthusiasm of an old-fashioned road trip: windows down and stereo blaring. South America is a continent that engulfs you and changes you – your state of mind, your outlook on life. As soon as you step foot on South American  soil, the transformation begins.

Lonely Planet South America on a Shoestring

I love guidebooks. They are my souvenirs and my notebooks. I have folded over pages and I have made notes on the white space as I learn information about a place while I’m on the go.

I have a shelf in my bookcase with guidebooks from all of my travels — starting with a Let’s Go Europe: 2000, Lonely Planet Switzerland, Fodor’s New Orleans, Lonely Planet Costa Rica, Frommer’s and a Lonely Planet both from Italy, Lonely Planet Croatia, Lonely Planet Argentina and more.

I was hoping to put my Lonely Planet South America on a Shoestring back on my bookcase.

It took less than a week carrying around my book to decide that the book would need to come apart.

This guidebook would not make it home in one piece to take it’s earned spot on my bookcase.

I had seen other backpackers do the same and I had to join them. I was carrying around dead weight and pulling out this huge book every time I needed it wasn’t going to work for me. In fact, I wasn’t pulling out the book because it was so cumbersome.

The prospect of ripping my book apart broke my heart, although, temporarily. It was adding to the load I was carrying on my back but I didn’t want the book to go to waste.

There was so much information on these crisp, brand new pages and so many places to explore! My friend Romina was preparing for another trip to Brazil, which was the biggest section of the book, and which was not a destination for this particular trip. Romina told me that reading the pages of the other sections would also help her practice her English (which was already superb). Knowing that the remaining part of my book would go to a good home lessened the blow.

I took a deep breath, ready to deface a book. I pulled out the pages for Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador. Romina gave me five paperclips to put together my new, and lighter, ‘guidebooks.’

guidebooks

And I left Romina the rest of the guidebook, still pretty much intact, for her use.

DSC03313


Photos: Donkeys at Work

La Pedrera Donkey

donkey trashman 

Trash donkey – Montevideo, Uruguay

Transportation donkey – La Pedrera, Uruguay


Seeing the Celebration of Yemaja

Once the sun went down on the day where I saw the sheep’s head, Romina, her friend and I headed to the Yemaja Festival on the Rio de la Plata — on a different beach from where we had been earlier in the day.

There, was a religious festival on the beach, in the river and on the streets. Yemaja is the Goddess of the Sea.

The beach was full of people celebrating this spiritual holiday. The beach and the surrounding streets were full of people like us, who were observing.

In the sand, people had scooped out holes to put candles. Families gathered around their ‘hole’ and you could see them enjoying the company of those around them.

these were the holes in the sand

the beach was covered with candles in holes

It made the beach look beautiful but if you weren’t watching where you walked, it could have been dangerous.

it looked pretty

People were dressed in all white as they walked from the beach into the river to make their offering to Yemaja. Long white cotton gowns and pants dominated the fashion scene of religious participants.

women walking into the water

On the beach there were bands playing and on the street just parallel to the beach there was music coming from nearly every car.

It was very interesting and I didn’t take many photos, or try to get good ones, because I felt like an intruder on a spiritual journey. If you Google “Yemaja and Montevideo” there are photos if you wanted to see more. The spellings vary as this is celebrated in a variety of countries with an African influence.

And no, I did not see any other animals on the beach.


Heads Up! You Won’t Believe It Until You See It!

I know I didn’t want to spend time in cities, but after being so far from civilization for a few days, I couldn’t have been happier being in Montevideo.
With Romina's mate
As for food, jamon y queso sandwiches are everywhere! That’s ham and cheese — and they cut the crust off when you order them in a restaurant.
The other popular food item — dulce de leche. It’s very sweet and I was introduced to this during a vacation in Argentina. But the locals love it!At this point I had stayed one night with Mariela in her high-rise apartment and one night with Romina in her rented house. I didn’t want to be the houseguest that never left but the girls convinced me to stay just one more night.
My third, and final full day, in Montevideo had Romina and I heading to the beach!
View to the left…
Montevideo in the background
View to the right…
 Beach view away from the city
Shot of the city and the beach
The beach was pretty dirty with smashed watermelons and a fair amont of trash scattered on the beach.
 Dirty beach
Romina explained that this was the start of a native holiday. The fiesta, celebrating Yemaja, was for native people to send off watermelons, and boats, as gifts to the Goddess of the Sea. It was an African tradition and there would be many people celebrating again, on beaches around the city, tonight. We should go, Romina said. It wasn’t something she celebrated but it would be good to show me. I agreed.
Romina's shot of me after she took the picture of the head. Still note trashed beach.
We continued to soak up the rays and I headed to the water to stick my feet in. I walked along the edge of the water realizing that I was in Uruguay. It was like I had to keep pinching myself, knowing I was there. Being around Romina and Mariela made me a lot less lonely and their hospitality was incredible. I was having so much fun with them but I knew I needed to leave the next day. I continued along the beach until I was stopped in my tracks.By a head.

Yes, you read that right. A head.

Head
Without even taking a double look, I ran back to Romina skeeved and shaking in disbelief at what I just saw. I started speaking in Spanish and English telling her that I think it was a dog’s head. I even woof woof’d a few times to get my point across!
There was no blood but there was most definitely a head. She erupted in a fit of giggles. I was puzzled but still freaked out by what i just say so I was asking what, why?
When she caught her breath from her laughter, she said it’s probably from one of the gifts from the festival.
I said you have to go take a picture of it. I can’t go back and look but I wanted to see it again. Plus, no one at home would have believed me.
She took my camera and went to document the body- less head.
When she came back I asked more questions. And I kept saying perro (dog)? She replied with baaaa baaaa.
So sheep it was.
Another shot of the head