A Travellerspoint blog

Mullets over Mendoza

sunny 31 °C

Scenes from my bus ride here
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The weather is fantastic here. Sunny and warm. I set out to enjoy the city.
The city is very small, easy to cross from one side to the other on foot in about an hour. There is a huge park at one end. Parque San Martin, reminiscent of central park, there are runners, walkers, cyclists, rollerbladers all taking advantage of the beautiful day. IMG_3078.jpg IMG_3109.jpg

Since I don't eat alot of red meat I was feeling a bit sick from the streak the night before. I found a great vegetarian buffet. I felt a bit like a criminal eating vegetarian in Argentina. The place is called the Green Apple on Calle Villanueva. The owner Christina lived in NY for several years and meeting me made her homesick. We shared stories after my delicious lunch. The people here are so warm and inviting.

I've been on Mullet patrol, my mission for this city is to capture as many of these fascinating creatures which is not as easy as you'd think. They are literally EVERYWHERE, however obtaining a photo is a bit like catching a squirrel. You have to be swift and stealthy. Just as you're about to get a great shot, they cross the street. I missed several amazing ones because I wasn't ready with my camera.
There are so many varieties here too..there's the classic sho-lo, business in the front, party in the backIMG_3101.jpg IMG_3100.jpg IMG_3111.jpg
.....then there is a version thats cropped in the front with dreadlocks in the back quite a rare breed IMG_3103.jpg. The femullet (female mullet) is alive and well here too!

Thurs night I went for a coffee at Cafe Havana. I asked the employees where I could go dancing and they said they would take me out. After their shift was over we stopped by a local bar. One of the guys has a jealous girlfriend who promptly whisked him away. The other guy couldn't stay long but convinced me I should go to the club alone and got me a cab. The taxi driver was my age and really nice. I told him I only wanted to go to the club for an hour and asked him to pick me up at 1am. I go dancing alone in NY all the time so I assumed it would be the same. I walked into the club at midnight and everyone was sitting at tables. It was way to early for them, they were still having dinner!. I felt really awkward being there alone. The only way to interact with people was to approach their table and interrupt their conversation and ask to join them. That's hard enough to do in English but throw in my awful Spanish and loud music and it's incredibly daunting. Feeling defeated I headed for the bar, figured it would be easier to talk to the few people that were standing. The bouncer decided that I was his girlfriend and told the bartender to give me a drink on the house. The bartender then told me to take a seat and wait at the table. Back to my social isolation, I sat and watched people talking, laughing. I wish my Spanish was better so I could talk to people more comfortably. I had a table with four seats so when a group of guys came in and were just standing around I invited them to sit. It was that simple. Soon I was chatting away with a fun bunch of people, but by then it was time to go. My new taxi friend was waiting for me outside. I told him I needed 2 more hours since the dancing hadn't started. A really cheesy band took the stage and I had fun with my new friends. 3am rolled around and dancing was just getting started! Argentinian's reaaaaaly love to party. I left the club and my driver was there waiting for me. He said many people asked for a ride but he told them he was waiting for me. I love Argentina! He then invited me to go out to a club with him and stopped the meter. The club he wanted to take me to was closed and I was tired so I asked him to take me back to the hotel. It's kind of my MO to become friends with every random person that I speak to so it should be no surprise that I went out with my barista/taxi driver/restaurant owner. Its what I do.

Mendoza is known for its wines, particularly the Malbec. I did a full day tour or 3 wineries/vineyards, Lopez and Familia Zucchardi. Essentially I had wine for breakfast. The tour was interesting because each Bodega uses different technology to produce their wines. IMG_3130.jpgIMG_3171.jpgIMG_3195.jpgIMG_3153.jpg There was an older couple from Rio with me on the tour. The woman was also a speech pathologist working with voice clients. They spoke English well and were very nice. I hope to see them in Brazil.IMG_3203.jpgIMG_3204.jpg
We had an enormous lunch at Zucchardi. Bread, empanadas, salad, veggies, meat, more meat and dessert. The food was amazing as was the selection of wines chosen to accompany it. Sufficiently stuffed, we headed back to town.

My plans for Oktoberfest didn't work out so I decided to spend a few more days in Mendoza. I spent the day in the park.

Fri night I was going to go out with the crew from Cafe Havana. They told me 12:30 at my hotel. I waited and waited until 1:30. I wasn't sure if they meant 12:30 Argentina time which could be 1, 2, 3am...or if they weren't coming at all. If I waited any longer I'd be asleep on the lobby floor so I opted to go out alone. I went to Por Aca, the bar on Aristedes Villanueva that we said we would go to and I didn't see them there. Again feeling defeated I set out to find fun alone. Villanueva is the street with all the bars and restaurants so there was no shortage of places to go or people to talk to. I walked past the Public House at hostel Damajuana. My ears perked up when I heard English. I asked where they were from and was delighted to hear California, and Australia. I decided I would hang out there. The people there were very young but fun. Nick from Orange county is a sweetheart, the stunning Australian girl was only 19. There was a HUGE group of Chilean college students from Vina who had been partying all day. I don't know where the time went but when I checked it was 5 am and I had a rafting trip at 8:30 am so I said my goodbyes. They were all staying at the hostel there and it didn't look like the party was ending anytime soon. Crazy thing is I didn't feel tired at all.

8:30 am they picked me up at the hotel for my day of adventure. Horseback riding was first. I had the most elegant white horse and we set off into the Andes. IMG_3217.jpg
Our guide was so nice and spoke English really well. I practiced my Spanish with him. The scenery was so beautiful. Snowcapped peaks, tufts of brush and thistle scattered in the desert, a green lagoon, flowing river. So tranquil. So easy to forget any worries or cares. Reflecting on how lucky I am to be having all of these incredible experiences. IMG_3222.jpgIMG_3226.jpgIMG_3230.jpgIMG_3247.jpgIMG_3251.jpgIMG_3268.jpgIMG_3261.jpg
I had lunch with Gaby and Jon, a newly married couple from London. Gaby is hilarious, wonderful British sense of humor. We went rafting after lunch.
I am kind of an adventure junkie. Skydiving, hang gliding, bungee jumping did nothing for me. Class IV rapids in raging white water following a storm in Costa Rica, now that was exciting. Rio Mendoza has class IV rapids so I was excited. Disappointed when I learned that the river was low and its not until December that the real rapids begin, I may have to return. I sat in the front to get the most excitement out of it. Dressed in head to toe neoprene we set out into the freezing cold water. My wetsuit had a few holes in it so the icy water chilled my toes. The river was calm to my dismay. Our guide Diego worked on the Pacuare river in CR where I went rafting with Liv so he knew the kind of rapids I was looking for. I think he intentionally steered us near rocks to liven things up a bit. The front of our raft went up on a rock. I dug my foot into the foothold, leaned back and tensed every muscle in my body in an attempt to avoid going in the frigid water. My head went in the river but I managed to stay in the boat. We ALL thought I was going swimming. But that was the only excitement on the brief 45 minute trip. There was a really nice family from Cordoba. The mother is a biologist and professor at the University. She has 4 sons. The 8 year old was happy to practice English with me and wants to be my facebook friend. So cute. I will have to see them in Cordoba!
After rafting I walked around the town. The Argentina/Peru match was on so there were hoards of people watching in cafes and peeking in the windows from the street. There was much cheering and chanting in the street when they won. I stopped by Havana to see what happened the night before. They must have come for me 10 mins after I had left and our paths didn't cross. We made plans again to meet at the Public House and then go to a club. Again realizing how difficult life is without a phone. I went over to the Hostel to see the gang. The hostel has a pool, ping pong table, hammocks. They were having an Asado (BBQ) and had again been drinking all day. Ah, youth. I really like the vibe at the hostel and how easy it is to make friends. My hotel is boring and attracts business travelers. The private rooms were really nice though I can't imagine getting any sleep at a place like Daymajuana. Conflicted.
I told Gaby to meet me at the hostel as well. The group at the hostel was going to a different club, Adele and Nick decided to stay at the hostel and Gaby and Jon got lured to an “awesome” club with some weird guy at the bar. Again off on my own. I told the Havana crew that we would meet a Apeteco. Ready to dance I jumped in a cab. The club was mobbed with greasy mullets, and a cloud of smoke rose over the dance floor changing colors with the strobe light. I pushed my way through the crowd in search of the Havana crew. I left promptly after I could not find them. Realizing that clubs in Mendoza, now matter how great the locals claim they are are awful.

I should have booked my rafting trip for Sunday as EVERYTHING is closed on Sunday. I walked around the city looking for a bike to rent to go to the park. Stopped at the Green Apple to say hello to Christina when two young American girls and a French guy came in. I joined them for lunch, told them tales of Bolivian travel and took them to the park. I left them to pack my bags and check out of the hotel. I had 2 hours before my bus so I went back to Damajuana to say goodbye to everyone and to return the guys sweater that I borrowed the night before. They were all in the backyard, drinking, having another Asado, trying to convince me to stay. The hard part of traveling is meeting great people and then having to leave them, though knowing me I will never lose touch with them.

Off to another bus ride. Going to meet Carlos in Cordoba :)

Posted by jackiekslp 20:48 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Helllooooo Where are you?

Vina/Valpo/Santiago/Portillo

sunny

Sorry guys have been too busy living life to keep up with blogging. I still can't get over the fact that this is my life! Every day has been incredible.

It's siesta...I am at an Italian restaurant in Mendoza Argentina having an amazing salad and Cannellini with spinach and pumpkin. Its 6:30. My dinner time, their lunch time. People don't eat here until 10pm or later! I can't do that. Not yet anyway. Got to Mendoza after another long bus ride. I found a hotel and set out to find a place to go for dinner. I have to admit I was a bit intimidated going to dinner alone in a country where social dinners are the norm. I walked and walked trying to decide where to go. I don't know anyone in Mendoza so I asked the aSW community for some recommendations. I heard an American accent so I stopped to ask if he knew where the restaurant was. He invited me to join him and his Argentine colleague for dinner. Having no other plan I happily accepted. I had to see if everything that I had heard is true about the food. I wasn't disappointed. Not a big red meat eater, I ordered the steak anyway. It sliced like butter and melts in your mouth. Mmmm. And the malbec wine..Heavenly. Oh and the chocolate here is amazing too. The guys were cool and Gaston the Argentine is going to Cordoba for Oktoberfest the same day as me so we will meet up there. I didn't realize Mendoza is an hour ahead of Chile so I got to bed after 2.
Argentina will be dangerous for me...shops everywhere, cheap, good quality leather..handbags, shoes, clothes. Wishing I had a giant suitcase. Lunch was 10 dollars lol. Amazing.

Disappeared for a while..first part of the trip that felt like a holiday. Settled into Vina, enjoyed good food, the sound of the ocean. IMG_2904.jpg
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Found an amazing gym called Cuerpo Mente that made me homesick for Equinox. Took spin, zumba, and kickboxing class there. Great instructors, nice people. Nothing like a good workout to bond people. Walking back from the gym, I asked someone for directions to Calle Arlegui. The handsome, young French/Venezuelan boy walked me home and invited me to go out to a local pub. I knew he was young but I was shocked to find out he was only 21! Very mature for his age, Ilan had some incredible stories to tell. I stayed out with the college kids till 4am. I was surprised to see so many mullets, and tails in Valpo! (Get ready for photos)

I returned to Valpo to get lost in the hills.
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My father sent me some great photos of Valpo and Vina from 1967 when he was there with the US Navy.
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I went to check out the Naval Museum.
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Had another great lunch IMG_2953.jpg

Max and I watched the sunset over the ocean IMG_2961.jpgbefore we went to a Palestinian art exhibit in the Congress building. His friend Marcella is the curator of a museum and invited us to the event. I felt privileged to be in the Congress building! IMG_2978.jpg

I took a daytrip to Isla Negra, which despite its name is not an island. The trip was a waste of 35$ but you live and learn. We visited Pablo Neruda's beach house which was cool. He was a collector of many things, masks, statues, maps, bottles, nautical instruments. I wish the museum were a store, there were many things that I would like to have. Although I have sold my apartment so I currently am homeless and have nowhere to put such things. After the museum our driver was ready to return to Vina but our group protested saying we were supposed to be there for the day. We went for a long lunch to piss him off. I had the Reineta once again which is a lovely white fish with vegetables and a delicious fresh fruit juice. We stopped to see the world's largest swimming pool which is in a private gated community so we had to sneak around the back..The pool is massive and has sailboats in it.
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Max is an avid snowboarder and his friends invited us to Portillo for the weekend. Portillo is in the Andes on the Argentina/Chile border. The majestic snow capped peaks are spectacular. IMG_3020.jpg A young mountain range, they are continuing to rise and are rich in minerals. Max claims he has an invisible umbilical cord to the Andes and cannot be away for more than 3 months at a time. Private ski lessons were not in my projected budget but as I have only been skiing once, it was necessary.
Patrice was my instructor, a former racer from Austria.
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Fantastic teacher, broke everything down and made learning really easy. Despite his hesitation, I made him take me up the mountain after only and hour lesson. He left me alone to practice what I had learned. I did fairly well, wiped out a few times because I cuoldn't turn slowly!. I was pleased with myself that I was able to “ski” down a few times. The heated pool/jacuzzi was a great reward!
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I met some fantastic people in Portillo. Gabby, a charismatic pottery maker from Santiago who dreams of visiting NY. Gabby is very extroverted, the kind of free spirited energy that is contagious.
She introduced me to her friends, all passionate skiiers who spend the winters in Portillo. Veronika, super cool Austrian girl who was travelling S America and is now living with her Chilean boyfriend Daniel, Carol, a stunning Brasilera and her boyfriend Jaime, and Jenny, a spunky Ozzie who was been on the road for 7 months. The US ski team was there training so we partied with their coaches and had a blast.

Max spends a lot of time in Portillo and has some connections there so they offered us a free room and lift tickets. We didn't plan to spend the night there and all of my things were in Vina. I had another lesson with Patrice, two hours this time and learned proper technique. I was sore from the previous day, skiing inefficiently, squatting the whole time. The second was was MUCH better. I learned control and it was far less terrifying as I was no longer flying around turns wildly. Portillo has a great sense of community and I hope to return with Gabby and Co. next year.

I left Max at Portillo as I had plans to meet Anna, another aSW friend. I planned to take the 5pm bus with Jenny but a group of people that I met at the bar the night before offered me a ride. Ed, a finance guy from Sydney and Waldo, a South African living in Santiago working as a mining engineer. The guys were cool and much more tame sober. 15K out of Santiago I heard a huge THUD. I thought the tire blew. A large black dog had run across the highway and we had no time to avoid it. The impact ripped the radiator off and we were forced to pull over. Some people removed the dog from the road, I want to believe that I heard barking but I dont think there's any way that dog could have survived. We waited at a McDonald's at the service exit for a tow for an hour and a half. So much for getting there faster by car. The girls that were following behind us were nice enough to drop me off by Anna's..

Poor Anna and her friends were waiting, wondering what happened to me. I've decided I cannot live without a phone. I planned to meet Jenny in Santiago but we couldn't pull it off with sporadic email checks. Anna took me to a party for a friends birthday. The party was fun even though I couldn't really talk to anyone. We were out till 4am. i actually slept until 11:30! Hallelujah!.
Anna lives in Providencia, which is a lovely, residential part of Santiago. Despite all of the negative things people in Vina say about Santiago, i didn't think it was bad. Maybe because I was in Puno before. Although I really cant say I SAW Santiago. I really was on the hunt for jeans and something other than hiking clothes. Shopping there was much better. Although now I have way to much stuff!.

Posted by jackiekslp 20:25 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Vina del Mar/Valparaiso

Chile

sunny

“The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy then to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.”
CHRIS McCANDLESS
Into the Wild

I went to sleep in the desert and awoke to the splendor of the Pacific coast. Waves crashing in unison upon the scraggly coast forcing an explosion of white spray into the air. The lush green is a stark contrast to the baroness of Atacama, the driest desert on Earth. The sea invigorates me, makes me feel alive. Like the Incas believe, Agua es Vida, Water is Life. My body prefers the sea. I no longer feel weakened from the altitude, my hands no longer resemble those of a 90 year old woman. I feel alive...ready for the next adventure, eager to see what awaits me today.

I arrived in Vina del Mar despite not knowing if my host was home. I called him when I arrived and luckily he was free to meet me. Vina del Mar is a lovely beach/resort on the Pacific. I am excited to be here.

We dropped of my bags and spent the day in Valparaiso. The sun is shining but the spring air is crisp.
Valpo, as it is affectionately called, is a fantastic city. Some cities have an energy that is palpable. Like New Orleans for example. To me,Valpo is one of them. Its life comes from the contrasts. Its a melange of old world charm (It is a UNESCO heritage site) and modern creativity evidenced by the incredible graffiti murals . IMG_2882.jpg IMG_2877.jpg IMG_2874.jpg A bohemian town now, home to many creative minds, artists, writers. The candy colored facades stacked precariously in the treacherous hills defy gravity.IMG_2872.jpg IMG_2881.jpg Built without architects or engineers, they have miraculously withstood numerous earthquakes. The oldest and most interesting are made with corrugated tin, weathered and showing their age, begging to tell their story.IMG_2892.jpg IMG_2883.jpg
The hills have Ascensors, tram-like escalators to bring the people up the hills. There are 14 of them around the city since the late 1800's. Valpo is an important port city both Naval and commercial. Shame my camera battery died. I will have to return.

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My host is a friend from my aSW and Hospitality Club networks. Carlos Maximilliano Mills www.maxmills.com He generously gave me his apartment to use in Vina del Mar downtown. A respected photographer, author, surfer, snowboarder, activist with strong opinions, the conversation was never dull. Max gave me his now infamous tour of his beloved Valparaiso. It began in the home of the Nobel Prize winning Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda. He left me alone to wander the poets eclectic collection of treasures from around the world.
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Max and I then had a coffee when an odd, serendipitous thing occurred...
When Max picked me up at the bus terminal he noticed I was reading Into the Wild. A former film critic, I was surprised to learn that he hated the film stating that they didn't ever fully explain why the protagonist went to live off the earth in Alaska. Our first debate. Max had also noticed that the child of a famous Chilean sportscaster had died of an apparent suicide, jumping from a window. While I explored Casa de Neruda, Max read a newspaper article about it. Discussing the article over a coffee, he told me they found a book in the boys car...you guessed it..Into the Wild. Strange.
Max's first book is a collection of stories that involve the Law of Attraction. A principle by which I have always tried to live by. Essentially you have the power to attract things in the universe with your thoughts. Ever notice how when you begin the day stubbing your toe, you then spill coffee on your shirt, are late fow work because of unforeseen traffic and have “one of those days”. Law of Attraction. Similarly, by focusing positive energy you can bring about more of the things you want or summon people you haven't seen in a while just by harnessing your thoughts. Sounds hokey but true. Read the Secret.
Max took me to his favorite hole in the wall restaurant to try a Valpo staple. A popular dish since the 70's it is essentially chunks of steak, scrambled eggs, onions atop a mountain of greasy fries. Delicious. We talked for hours about my work, movies, and his many hobbies. He invited me to a beautiful ski resort this week. Not one to pass up an opportunity, I may have to push Santiago back a few days.

Posted by jackiekslp 08:11 Archived in Chile Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

San Pedro de Atacama, Calama

Chile

sunny 22 °C

Karl and I arrived in Calama which looks like a nice city, Relieved to feel sense of order and security, we got off the bus and looked for a hotel. I asked a man on the street for help and he stopped what he was doing to walk us to a few options and negotiate the front desk for us, Unheard of. Karl was mistrusting of him saying that he now knows what room we are in. It's sad when us jaded NY'ers don't trust kindness. Exhausted, we decided to skip dinner and get ready to pack for the am flight. I packed up some things for Karl to bring home to lighten the load. Not sure how I'm actually going to have to carry my bags myself! We got a taxi to the airport and were really early. We ha some breakfast and then said goodbye, He had a brief flight to Santiago then a 9 hour layover, I am officially ON MY OWN, Such a strange feeling. I have 50 weeks of travel ahead ...no schedule...alone. In a place where I barely speak the language. Feeling a little uneasy...is this safe? Am I crazy? Can I do this? Self- doubt.

The answer is YES!. I waited for a taxi out front, met a nice young couple from Santiago and spoke to them in my Franish. I was able to get my point across. They were going to take a tour of Atacama desert. Before they boarded their bus they went out of their way to run around Calama with me to assist me with getting a bus to Vina del Mar. I decided to press on and if I want to I can always come back to Atacama. They helped me find a nice tourist bus with full reclining chair. Good thing since its an 22 hour ride. And frankly I am a little bused out after Bolivia. But this is different, paved roads, blankets. Besides a 350$ flight wasn't an option. La playa here I come. I had a lovely day by myself. I went back to the hotel from the night before to shower and leave my bags so I would be free to roam the town. I had an amazing lunch of fresh fish and salad IMG_2853.jpgsitting out in the sun and listening to the horns or the military band playing for the Chilean Anniversary celebration. Que Bueno!
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I am now writing to you from the comfy seat of my tourist bus to the soundtrack of the man across the aisle playing drums on his chair and his wife snoring away at 7:30 pm. Only 17 hours to go. At least I got up to date on my writing. Going to read Into the Wild for a bit...

Posted by jackiekslp 07:51 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Travel Tips for Peru/Bolivia

1.ALWAYS bring toilet paper with you where ever you go. If you're lucky enough to have a toilet 99% of the time there will be no paper,
2.Carry a sack of coins. No one EVER has change and they groan any time you present them with a paper note small or large and have to leave the tienda to get change.
3.If you do bring paper notes, particularly dollars, keep them pristine. They will not accept money that has even a small tear or missing corner. Nothings worse than when they wont change your only money because its old. They prefer newer printed paper too with the color as opposed to the old green backs since they less likely to be counterfeit,
4.Lower your standards, lower, now lower and then lower them some more for Bolivia. It is a developing nation, stricken with poverty, It is unreasonable to expect anything close to what we are used to.
5.Coca, coca, coca. Altitude sickness is no fun.
6.DONT DRINK THE WATER. Brush with bottled too.
7.Be prepared to be harassed by vendors every time you walk down the street.
8.Wander off the tourist path and get a real feel for the people, the city, the food, the culture but...
9.Be careful, Always stay alert. Getting drunk increases your chances of something bad happening because you let your guard down
10.Beware of fake taxis, have a hotel call one for you, your life is worth more than saving a few pesos, Sit in the front seat or behind the driver. Don t put your bags in the trunk. Windows closed, doors locked. Get all of your things out before paying. Negotiate a price before getting in, ask a local how much you can expect to pay. They will jack up the price for gringos.
11.Ask the locals where the best restaurants, shops etc. Every time I did they would walk me to a non-touristy section.
12.The smartest thing I've done so far is found a tailor in Cusco to custom make a pair of pants for me with secret interior pockets for credit cards, passport etc. In a few hours I had my pants. No more dorky money belt that makes you look pregnant, no more locking and unlocking my bag just to get some money. Everything is easily accessible to me, not to thieves. Now if only they made jeans.
13.Talk to everyone! It makes for a much more colorful journey. I made friends with my cab driver today who didn't speak a word of English but he was listening to Arabic music so I told him I bellydance. Don't worry about sounding stupid. He will now follow my blog. Hola Arturo!
14. Don't waste calories on the cake/torta. No matter how enticing they may look from the window, they are all dry and crumbly..likely due to the altitude.

Posted by jackiekslp 07:45 Tagged tips_and_tricks Comments (0)

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