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Saturday, July 29, 2006

4 days in Cafayate

About three hours outside of Salta is a little town called Cafayate. I ended up really liking it there and stayed for four days. Me and Nancy, an English girl I met in Salta got in Monday morning and checked into a very cute hostel. It was too late to do the main excursion through the canyon and so we went and did a walk along the river. It was beautiful, the river wrapped through the mountains which were all covered in cactus.

There was not a very clearly marked path, you just had to follow the river, crossing it when you couldn´t walk on one side anymore. At the end we got to a small waterfall with a crevice behind it, so i took off my shoes and walked in to the little cave behind the waterfall.

Here are some goats we saw at the end of the walk and then some other people that were around chaced them, caught them and let us hold them.

The next day we wanted to see the main attraction, the canyon and varous rock formations that are along the main road. We decided to take the most challenging way and rent bikes. So the way it works to do it with bikes is you get on a bus at 9am with your bikes. The bus takes you 50km up the road, drops you off and then you bike the 50km (about 30 miles) back. We were told it was pretty flat with more downhills than uphills. Well for one thing it was the longest bike ride I have ever done, and there were a lot of uphills and even when it was flat the sun was beating down and you were biking against the wind, and just so tired the flat didn´t seem flat. The wind was so strong that at some points you had to actually pedal going downhill because there was so much resistance from the wind. So it was really realy hard but very worth it because it was the most beautiful place and the views made up for how challenging it is. Basically we were just biking down this road with giant rock mountains on all sides of us. Because of the minerals and the process of formation, the rocks were all different colors and had all different wierd forms.

There were also some specific formations to stop along the way. This one is this big cave/crevice thing, i don´t know how to really explain it. If you notice at the very bottom of the photo there is a very very small person, that gives you an idea of how big these formations were.

Stopping every two seconds to take pictures made for good biking breaks which were much needed. After about 6 or 7 hours of biking we made it the 50km back and basically showered and crashed for the night.

Nancy left the next morning but I had decided to stay for two more days. Still exhausted from the day before I decided to have a relaxing day. I walked around the town, went to a goat cheese making place and saw how the cheese was made, and went to a winery (there are tons in the area). That night the hostel had a barbeque and afterwards everyone sat around playing guitar and singing traditional Argentine folk music which was really nice (I was one of the few non Argentinians staying there).

The next day I decided to go back to the river and take a different path. I thought there was another path along a river that split off from the main one but it turns out that river was dry so I just walked up the middle of the dry river. The path started to go up and so I just followed it and at some point I realized I was clibing up big rocks and bolders and getting to the top of this hill. I wanted to get to the top but it started to get more and more difficult to climb the rocks and I realized that I was by myself in the middle of nowhere climbing huge rocks and that probebly wasn´t the best idea so I turned around. It was a good thing I didn´t go farther because making my way down the rocks was a lot more difficult than coming up. I safely made my way down and went and sat by the real river to eat my sandwhich and then walked back into the town with two French guys from my hostel.

Even though I have a lot more time, I decided just to come back to Buenos Aires instead of going somewhere else because I was tired of moving around so much and being on buses all the time. So I took two long bus rides last night and got back to Buenos Aires this morning and am at the same hostel I was before. I have about four days here to see more of the city, then back to Santiago on Wednesday for a night, leave Santiago Thursday and get home Friday morning...less than a week to go!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Reserva Provincial Esteros de Ibera

After a night on the bus I got to Mercedes, a tiny little town where I met two English girls my age and we arranged the bus to a even smaller town, Colonia Carlos Pelegrini and tours of the nature reserve that is there. We took a van/shuttle there which took about three or four hours. We were in the middle of nowhere, the whole time we maybe passed 10 farmhouses, otherwise just open land, horses and cows. At about 3:30 in the afternoon we arrived in the town. We were staying at a place that was stables that had been converted into pretty nice rooms. We dropped off our stuff and then immediatly went on our first tour, a walk through the woods/rainforrest. On the walk, the guide pointed out lots of plants and animals. All over the town, just wandering around were these animals (I don´t remember their name)that are basically giant rodents, and they let you come close, but are not dangerous. Here is me trying to get as close as I can to one of them, it gives you an idea of their size.

We also saw lots of monkeys which I was really excited about because there is supposed to be monkeys at Iguazú falls but I didn´t see any and I had really wanted to. It was hard to get a picture of the monkeys but here are some attempts, if you can tell, the second one is of a baby clinging onto its mother.

Then we went on a boat tour in the lake, through the marshes. Here we saw more plants, lots and lots of really cool birds, deer, more giant rodent things, and most exciting of all, caimen, which are like mini crocodile alligator things. There were tons and tons of them all over the patches of land in the marshes. Most of them are about 3-4 feet long. They sit there all day in the sun and then at night go underwater and are completly harmless.

(Ahhh, it stopped uploading my pictures again...check back for a picture soon)

We started out the boat ride before sunset and were out on the water all through sunset and a little after sunset which was so beautiful.

Unfortunatly the shuttles only leave there at 4am so our choice was to just be there for the afternoon and leave the next morning or have to stay a whole day more, and there is not that much more to do so we were just there for the afternoon and then left at 4am the next morning.

I changed my plans and decided to go to Salta which is a city in the north of Argentina, a few hours south of the Bolivia border. I had originally not wanted to come here because I thought it was too far, but realized I have a lot of time and I had heard good things about it. On the bus I met two English guys who were traveling together and an English girl traveling by herself. We all had the same guide book and so were all going to the same hostel and got a room together. The three of them figured out that they were all studying medicine. A little while later two more English guys arrived and were staying in our room too. I jokingly asked the two new guys if they studied medicine, and it turns out they both do. So I am in a room filled with English med students, and me which is very strange. I have been walking around here all day and realize there is not much to do for more than a day or two but there are supposed to be these beautiful canyons about three hours from here so I think that me and the other girl in my room are going to go there tomorrow for a few days.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Iguazú Falls

Before the falls, just a little more on Buenos Aires. First of all, here are the pictures of the bookstore in a theater that I mentioned before.

Day 4 in Buenos Aires I spent most of the day wandering around the neighborhood where my hostel was which on Sunday has a huge outdoor antique market and tons of antique stores with really cool stuff that was just fun to look around at. That night I went to a concert with some people from my hostel of some argentinebands whihc was fun.

Day 5 I took a train to Tigre which is a small town right outside of the city and just spent the day walking around by the river which was really pretty. At 8pm I went back to Buenos Aires and got on a 18 or so hour bus to Puerto Iguazú the town right outside the Argintine side of the falls

Iguazu Falls

The falls were amazing. There are two sides, the Argintina side and the Brazil side but I couldn´t go to the Brazil side because of complicated things with passports and visas. It turns out that the falls are the dryest they have been in 17 years, but still had tons of water and were incredible. Here are some of the "smaller" falls.
Normally the wall behind me with the waterfall would be completly covered in tons and tons of giant waterfalls, but I was happy with this. The biggest attraction is the Garganta del Diablo, which I am not sure how it can possibly be dry now. The picture doesn´t really show it but I would describe it as a giant black hole of water, it was really incredible.
It is all pretty touristy with tons and tons of people and walkways to walk by the waterfalls, though I did go early and manage to avoid some of the crowds in the first hour or two I was there. In the afternoon I got away from the super crowded touristy part and took a longer hike to a less visited waterfall. Because it has been dry, it was pretty small but what was nice was it was small enough that you could walk across the rocks and go right over to it and stick your head under. Also there were a million beautiful butterflys there that were everywhere. When I sat still long enough a bunch of them landed on my feet, hands, sholders. This one stayed on my finger for a really long time and so I decided to pose it for a picture.

I had planned to stay another night to rest and leave in the morning but the bus to the place I wanted to go only left in the evenings so I jumped on another overnight bus, transfered at 6am to another bus and finally arrived in small town to arrange a trip to a nature reserve, which I will put up more about in a post coming soon.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Buenos Aires, Argentina

I finished up all my work and arrived in Buenos Aires Wednesday night and met up with my friend Jenn from my program and her friend to spend the next day with them.

Day 1 - Casa Rosada, Plaza de Mayo, Las Madres de la Plaza de Mayo
First we went to the Casa Rosada which is the presidential office and is actually pink (the pink house). You can´t go in except for a small museum in the back but being in the museum you don´t get any sense of the actual palace. In front of the palace is the plaza de mayo. Here is me and Jenn in the plaza in front of the Casa Rosada. The balcony on the left of the picture is where Evita Perón used to give her famous speeched and Madonna used the same balcony in the movie Evita.

We walked around the area a little and saw some churches and the really beautiful architecture around the city, waiting for 3:30. Every single Thursday at 3:30 the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo have a march around the plaza. During la Guerra Sucia (The Dirty War) when there were ¨disappearences¨ and many people were kidnapped, tourtured and killed, a group of mothers and grandmothers of the disapppeared formed to protest what was going on starting in 1977. All the mothers all wore white scarves on their heads and wore photos of their missing children and grandchildren around their necks. The people who commited these crimes have still not been brought to justice and so as a symbolic act the madres continue to protest once a week. These women were mothers and grandmothers 30 years ago and so are all really old, most of them I would guess are 80 or older but still come out every thursday. It is a small group but people still come to support them. My immpression was that they also address more current issues based on their sign they carried. After half and hour of marching one of the mothers and a palistinian woman spoke about the tourture adn disappearences happening currently in Palistine and expressing their support for and solidarity with the palistian people, particularly Palistinian mothers that have also lost their children. It was a really really amazing thing to see. These women have so much commitment to their cause and continue to protest what happened to their family and their country which takes a lot of dedication.
(Distribution of Weath Now!)

Day 2 - Around the City, cemetary, Recoleta, Museo de Bellas Artes
The day before, Jenn and her friend left and I moved hostels to be in a more central area. I decided just to spend the day exploring the city and decided to walk and ended up walking really far and was exhausted by the end of the day. I went to see if I could see a show at the famous theater opera house but nothing was playing, so hopefully I can get another chance to see something. It is a beautiful city and was really nice to walk around. I walked down to the river, throught the shopping district, and around some of the more historic areas that have beautiful European style buildings. Someone recomended that I go to a particular bookstore. It was a old theater house that has been converted into a bookstore and was so cool. It looked just like a theater but was filled with books and bookshelves instead of seats, including the balconies and on the stage is a cafe. I also went to the cemetary which is all just little mini chuch like buildings that are very fancy. I saw Evita´s grave which is where everyone flocks to and leaves flowers and things because people adore her so much. Then I went to a museum and saw an exibit by a Colombian painter, Botero which was amazing. He does all political art work about the violence in Colombia and I really liked it.

My hostel is a lot of fun and there are lots of people from all over so I have been hanging out in the hostel with all of them at night which is fun.

Day 3 - La Boca, Recoleta Feria
Saturday morning I went to La Boca which is a working class neighborhood on the river. There is one section that is really touristy selling lots of souveiners and things, and then the rest of the neighborhood is really dangerous and the police stop tourists for going in. All the houses are painted bright colors which is fun but it wasn´t so exciting, I went took a few pictures and was done. I then went to a outdoor fair/market that happens every weekend. It is a really nice market kind of hippy with lots of nice crafts, jewlery, etc. it reminded me a lot of telegraph. While I was there I ran into this girl Tess who also goes to Bard but I don´t really know but we have mutual friends. We ended up spending the afternoon together walking around the city. Argentina is supposed to have amazing steak so I went out to dinner with some people from the hostel to a good meat place but I don´t eat meat so unfortunatly I can´t tell you how Argeninian beef is but I have heard it is amazing.

it finally started working again to post pictures normally and then stopped so I couldn´t put up the pictures of around the city and of the bookstore which I really want to put up so check back i will try and get it to work again

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Mendoza, Argentina

(There are now some pictures up from skiing on the last post)

Last Thursday me adn my friend Kate went to Mendoza whichi s the closest city in Argentina to Santiago. I t is only a six or seven hour bus ride through the Andes mountains. I had heard before going that the bus ride is beautiful and worth going just for that. It is true, it is a gorgeous ride through the mountains. On the chilean side, huge mountains that normally would be completly covered in snow but because there hasn´t been so much now this year they were mostly just dotted with large passes of snow.
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Then at some point we went into a tunnel that went straight through a mountain and emerged on the Argentina side which looked completly different. There was no snow at all but huge mountains that were all different colors, mostly shades of brown but some of them even had a green, purple or yellow shade to them. Anyway, really really beautiful ride there.
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We arrived in Mendoza and met Kate´s friend David who was studying in Mendoza, found a hostel that Kate had stayed in before and got some dinner. The next day me and Kate rented bikes and went to the big park in the city. People in Mendoza are crazy drivers and don´t stop at red lights or for pedestrians and so biking through the streets was quite scary in addition to the fact that Kate´s bike seat had unnaturally bouncy shocks and so she just bounced up and down the whole ride. The park is huge and beautiful, all the paths are lined with big trees that arch over the path. After getting a little ways into the park we realized we were completly out of shape and exhausted so we stopped to have a lunch of bread, cheese and palta (avocado) and take a nap in the grass in the sun. Kate´s friend David was leaving the next day and so we went to his goodbye party which was all Argentinians, mostly his neighbors. There were little kids, teenagers, people our age, and adults there. It was so nice because they all seemed to have a relationship with him and really liked him. I was a completly different atmosphere and type of relationship than I am usedto and have in Santiago.

It was wierd being in Argentina, it was my first time leaving Chile since I got there about five months ago. It is still spanish but they have a very different accent and different words they use. I don´t use that many Chileans words but Kate does and we encountered a lot of times when they didn´t know what we meant because were using Chilean words that half the time we didn´t even know were Chile specific. It is also so much cheaper there. Although Chile is cheaper than the US, it is the most expensive country in South America and so things were much cheaper in Argentina.

The next day we planned on taking a bus in the morning so slept in and went to the bus terminal. We got there and were told that it had started snowing and they had closed the pass to Chile and it would probebly open the next day. That afternoon everyone who had come to the party was going to say goodbye to David at the bus station so we decided to go. It was pretty incredible to watch. About 18 people showed up to send him off and the genuinly really loved him and were going to miss him and there were quite a few tears. There were lots of goodbyes adn tehn everyone stood there and waved until the bus left. It was so nice and made me jelous that I don´t have a community and friends that I am that close with in Chile.

The next day we again had tickets and found out that the pass was going to be closed for at least another two or three days and we both needed to get back to Santiago, I had a paper to work on and a flight to Buenos Aires on Wednesday. So we eventually gave in and bought one-way plane tickets that were super super expensive adn way more money that I want to admit to spending on a 50 minute flight but I was just realived to be back in Santiago to finish up everything I needed to get done.