Thursday, May 28, 2009

other adventures in argentina

Two months down and three to go! The cash supply is running low, the liver is slightly less pink and healthy than before we left (not that it was particularly healthy before) and the amost-there tan from Brazil has well and truely disappeared. But, hey, currently we're in beautiful Bariloche in northern Patagonia surrounded by Andean snowy mountains and crystal clear lakes so we can't complain too much. Argentina really is an amazing place. Three days ago we were in a desert in temperatures reaching the early 30s, but yesterday we were climbing a frosty mountain and sliding home on icy roads. Ive had to invest in a scarf and gloves today. For a while there I was considering buying a balaclava; cosy and terrorist-chic!

In the end our departure from Buenos Aires was delayed because Mary had a mild dose of the swine-flu. It was all very emotional when we did leave the city - we had become quite attached to our hostel (having turned a blind eye to the paper-thin mattresses and semen-stained sofas) and to the people we met there. We left for Cordoba on a night bus and got our first taste of the "full cama" Argentinian bus experience. No champagne unfortunately... I think next time we'll just have to bring our own.

Cordoba is a weird mix of beautiful colonial universities and churches and the most hideous 1960s apartment blocks and business buildings with air conditioning units sprouting out of them like warts. We stayed there for 3 days and visited the Che Guevara museum in Alta Gracia - Che was hawt! Although a little bit too serious and probably a pain in the hole to be married too. He left his wife with 4 kids under the age of ten to go off and fight in the Congo, which is laudable but also a bit shitty. I'd have been pissed off if I were his wife. In the museum they had Che's motorbike and a push bike he cycled around northern Argentina when he was in college. At least we think they were the originals, it didn't actually say explicitly.....

After Cordoba we travelled south west to the city of Mendoza which is a sprawling city full of trees and open drains on the sides of the street which are easy to fall into if you are drunk. We were quite active chicas in Mendoza and did something cool every day. We started our time off there in the proper way; by having a champange picnic in the local park (and by champagne I clearly mean 10 peso sparkling wine). We've taken to these picnics as something of an Eilish and Mary tradition whenever we arrive in a new town and long may they continue. The following day we rented bikes and cycled round the vineyards in the region. All went well apart from when the pedal of my bike fell off into oncoming traffic and I had to scramble onto the road to retrive it and thereafter stop to screw it back on every kilometer or so. And our bums were a bit sore the next day too... Which is why we went to a natural hot springs resort in the mountains the next day - the water did wonders for our sore bums and the setting was pretty sweet too. The ongoing battle to get rid of my fear of heights has been continuing. We headed off hiking in the mountains round Mendoza the following day and abseiled off a 20 meter rock face (beside a waterfall!!!). And we got to do it 3 times so I´m practically Lara Croft now. I`m sure when I return home Ill be able to conquer one of my biggest fears and be able to walk the pedestrian flyover over the Stillorgan dual carraigeway without freaking out.

After Mendoza we headed north to a place called San Juan so that we could visit The Valley of the Moon National Park - a desert that used to be an ancient seabed and is a really important archaelogical site with fossils from all three periods of the dinosaur.... or something. I`m not exactly sure of anything about the place because the whole guided tour was done in Spanish by a guy who kinda looked like Michael Jackson (when he was black). The entire day was a bit torturous cos we were both very hungover and we had to get up at 5.45am and get on a packed minibus for four hours to just get to the National Park. Then we drove around in the same minibus for another 3 hours in the park and then another 4 on the way home. Added to that everyone on the bus was a bit past it.. I´m sure the majority didn't have their own teeth anymore. One old lady insisted on spraying herself with old-lady perfume every 15 minutes causing myself and Mary to dry retch on a fairly continuous basis. The one saving grace of the day was that we went to a really strange place where the locals worship a lady who went off looking for her husband who had gone to war. She had her kid with her. She may have died. I don't really know. Anyways, they all LOVE her and they have this elaborate altar to her in this town up on a hill and they make donations and offerings to her to ask for her blessing and to bring them luck and safety. The whole place is covered in photos, flowers, bottles of water and car license plates (to bring safe driving). The hill up to the altar is covered in miniture houses (some are quite impressive models) which represent the homes that they want for themselves and their families. It kind of reminded me of Fraggle rock a bit.

So, after all the excitement of the north we got on a bus down to Bariloche. Its so beautiful here its kind of unreal. Not the ski season unfortunately so we have just been going for walks in the mountains. Well, we went for a walk yesterday. And we left a bit late so we ended up stranded up a mountain, in the dark, without a torch, in a national park, in Argentina, in the cold. We were quite scared. But it was all fine and the stars were lovely and Mary had her Swiss army knife if anything went badly wrong which we were reassured by. Lastnight we celebrated the fact that we hadnt been eaten by pumas by getting quite drunken. Unfortunately this state of inebriation led to some bad decision making and we wandered into a dodgy local bar whereupon almost immediately Marys jacket was stolen. Hmmm... its the first thing which has been stolen from us, and it happens in chocolate box, touristy Bariloche.... Go figure.

So, weve another 2 days here and then were crossing the border into Chile. More snowy mountains. Theyre purty.

luv, e

and apologies for the lack of punctuation in the last part of the blog... i managed to screw up the keyboard, must have hit cntrl and one of those pesky function keys by accident

Monday, May 11, 2009

bye bye BA

Tomorrow we leave Buenos Aires. It makes me sad. This city is amazing. It has all the good points of Europe, but with a South American twist of it's own. I love the way everthing only gets going at midnight, that the place runs so well even though the Argentine people have been through so much crap in the recent past. I love the beer, I love the people. The men are hot. The restaurants are cheap. The cafes are cool. The ice-cream is delicious. The clothes are stylish. The leaves are golden...... Okay, I'll stop now. But seriously, if anyone is thinking about going on a citybreak and can stretch to the price of a long haul ticket, go to BA, it's fabulous darling!

The past week has seen me attend a Spanish course in the city centre. Probably mistakenly I opted to challenge myself and jump into Nivel 2... with not hugely successful results. Is it possible to be worse at a language after studying it for 4 hours a day, five days in a row? Well, I think I've proven it. My Spanish SUCKS worse now than last Monday. Hmmmm.... maybe if the teacher wasn't so hot I would have learned more?

Having to be up at 8am in the morning and commute into Plaza de Mayo made me feel like a real local. However, it did majorly hinder my social life for the week. There just isn't any point in going out before 11pm here so it was a quiet week for wee eili. On Monday night we did go to La Bomba de Tiempo, a drumming group who put on weekly shows of a Monday night outdoors in the courtyard of a cultural centre. Amazing beats and an interesting mix of backpacking gringos and be-dredlocked, week-smoking portenos. Add to the mix a few 8peso tumblers of wine and it all makes for a great night.

Apart from catching a cold and chopping the majority of my hair off it was a quiet week besides. Tomorrow we're catching a night bus to Cordoba in the centre of the country. Sad to say goodbye to BA but nonetheless it's time to move on.

hasta proxima,

Sunday, May 3, 2009

One month down, four to go....

How the hell have we been away for a whole month already? It really doesn't feel like it, though I have missed home a few times in the past week or so. Wee Conor has started walking which will be cool to see when I get back and I'm missing out on all the new Late Late Show host debate which I'm sure is raging back home.... Nevertheless one has to get over these trials and plough on with the travelling.

We´ve been in Buenos Aires for five days now. Arrived here via the Argentinian bus system which CIE could definitely learn a thing or two from. Fully reclining seats, movies and a guy who comes on board to serve you a hot dinner and drinks. Apparently if you opt for the highest class ticket you even get a glass of champagne before bedtime! What we´ve seen of BA so far has been great. We're staying in an area called Palermo Soho which is quite a trendy part of town and has lots of cafes, boutiques and bars. We haven't been rushing around to see everything in the city at a crazy pace because we're staying here for 2 weeks in total. Also given the nightlife here it's hard to get out of the scratcher before noon. The going-out scene here is crazy: people eat dinner at 9 or 10pm, start drinking at around 11pm and then hit the clubs at about 2am. Clubs stay open all night long - at least til 8am. I´ve been told that hardcore partying portenos will regularly get home at 6am, nap for three hours and then head off to work for themselves. It takes some adjusting to. We´ve been to one really good club here which had the unusual combination of been hosted by a huge drag queen troupe and also included a breakdancing show mid way through the night. As for steaks... well, we've still to sample some of the better restaurants of the city but we've definitely set our sights on few places. We're just back from a soccer match now. We were there in support of Boca Jnrs who were playing in their homeground. We didn't have tickets and only managed to get touts to smuggle us through the gates for the second half. This was after walking around the grounds of the stadium in the very dodgy area of La Boca, passing through police on horseback and in riot gear. There were a few moments where we wonered if the touts were leading us down an alley to relieve us of all our belongings (Mary and I have taken to stuffing money down our bras) but thankfully we managed to get in. The atmosphere was brilliant, with some really passionate chanting and some rather colourful language from some very small children! My favourite bit was when a sixty-something year old lady fully decked out in the Boca colours produced a rucksack full of caramel sweets and starting throwing them out into the crowd. Now there's a way to earn popularity points! The match itself was great and we're thinking about going back again next week. I think there might be a football fanatic in me waiting to come out.

We're planning on spending another week here and I´m starting a week-long Spanish course tomorrow morning. If I can manage to rise at 8am in the mornings for the whole of next week it will be a miracle.

Until next time.