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Uruguay or Bust

October 9, 2009

Typical of most mornings, Sonya and I couldnt get our arses moving until mid-morning. The goal was still Uruguay. We were going to Uruguay. That was the plan…

After checking out of very lovely and somewhat peaceful hostel, we checked into what we had heard was ‘the party hostel’ (but that will come later), because if you werent aware by now, we had plans to go to Uruguay!

We legged it back down to the dock to get the ferry at least now knowing where we were going. Except, well, they had no economy tickets left for the last ferry of the day. First class was going to cost us 300 pesos or about $120 for a 1 hour ferry. So, here was the dilemma: Do we spend $250 on maybe half a day in a random country and try to soak in some culture at the tourist tack Port… Or, do we spend the money on shoes? Neither of us wanted to be the first to admit that the latter was a far better option, but I gave in. I bust! So, what we thought was going to be a day of cultural and geographical education turned into a very ‘girlie’ shopping trip in a very civilised shopping mall. The day was complete with a shoe purchase from Zara and a detour to the movies to see Hugh in Wolverine.

I guess after a few solid weeks of being on the road you need days like that. You know the sort where you would kill for Maccas, hot showers and a bed that didnt have rubber sheets? To somewhat normalize yourself and feel connected to some sort of reality. Experiencing different cultures, languages and environments takes it out of you. And, for a few hours that day we completely forgot where we were. Wolverine ended and we were both a little frightened to discover that we were on the other side of the world, and that we couldnt just go to the car park and drive home. It was a bit bizarre. Lucky, we had a very random and very funny night ahead of us.

Plan Aborted

August 4, 2009

I cant remember when the idea was floated, but crossing another country off the list always seems a good idea at the time. So, the decision had been made – we were going to go to Uruguay – for the day.

I think the fact that the hostel had only two bathrooms and that Sonya had most suddenly become one of those people that takes ages to get ready (which is not her reality at all), but we didn’t manage to get moving til halfway through the AM. Add to that fact, that I managed to get us lost around the Argentinian Air-force base and inadvertently got caught up in a workers protest and we missed any chance to get the boat to Uruguay.

Feeling pretty dodgy (which had since become normal), we walked along the rather newish very sophisticated docklands and had ourselves a smoothie and contemplated what we would do with our day instead. Nae ideas… We walked back to the hostel, finding the Pink Palace along the way – which rather disappointingly was closed to the public. After again inadvertently joining another protest- this time with riot police and water cannons at the ready; we made up our minds that we would try Boca for the afternoon.

Boca

Boca

Boca is really cute – but a complete tourist trap. I cant say that I get too annoyed by hawkers, but honestly, I’ve never seen so many in such a small space. Boca is a colourful little joint, and I kept saying I would love to have seen it before it had been ‘discovered’. It was full of restaurants, cafes and cheesy shops selling the same tacky touristic crap. We settled on a place for lunch, chosen mostly because they weren’t annoying us as much as the other restaurant hawkers. Luckily we were in for a treat. No, not the food – the food was terrible. No, our treat was a very good-looking accordion player. Who knew that accordion players were hot? We decided that it wasn’t the lead singer, the bassist or the drummer you would fall in love with in Argentina – it was the Accordion player! We had some fun pretending to watch the freebie tango show in front, but we were really salivating over the stretchy boy…

Stretchy Boy

Stretchy Boy

After lunch I decided that it was a good idea to buy a baby cow-hide. You can hate me over this decision if you like, but I moved on while imagining it in my apartment. What I didn’t think of though – was that it was an animal by-product. Oops?

We tried to get back to the hostel and managed to end up in Buenos Aires suburbs. Yep, us little gringo whores in down-town Buenos Aires, not another whitey in sight and no signage to help us get back, if I can remember I was absolutely starving… We finally manage to get a bus back by waiting for the same bus that took us the wrong way, getting back to the hostel in time to go to a tango show with two Aussie chicas and a dead boring tight-arse American that we had met.

I cant say it was the highlight of the trip, but the Aussie girls were fun and Sonya had much enjoyment in trying to lead me round the dance floor; I had much enjoyment in not letting her.

Tango Me

Tango Me

Tomorrow was Uruguay, and a quick hostel change. So, Dinner, Tango Show, Bed.

The Mission

August 4, 2009

We arrive in Buenos Aires and contrary to what people had told us, we managed to get ourselves on public transport and get to our hostel without any trouble ie. being mugged or harrassed. Maybe because we had already been violated?

The hostel we had booked was a lovely little place – Terrazas Estoril, that we had chosen on the net and also contrare to recommendations. We’d figured that with a total of five nights in Buenos Aires and so much to see that we would try and stay out of harms way and have a few quiet nights to begin with. The Staff at Terrazas Estoril were awesome and only to happy to help (one of them managed to saw off the padlock on the locker when I lost my keys!). Our first mission when we arrived in BA, besides getting to our hostel safely, was to find Sonya a new camera and me a memory card. Surprise, I had left the memory card on my desk at work…

I thought this was going to be easy. Not so much. Technology is so much more expensive in Argentina… Sonya wanted the same camera if not better. She paid about $400 for the one that was stolen and that was a good deal. We dragged our feet up-town, mid-town and down-town attempting to find something that was close. Reality set in though and expectations of the cameras specifications  and price were beginning to get compromised. A similar older model was finally found, but at the equivalent of $850! We were pretty close to despair, and this point really needed a beer to sort it out. The Strip club hawker wasn’t too impressed when we asked him for directions, and so we continued to trudge around until we found a seedy sports bar in time for happy hour – the freebie appetisers that come with our bitter bellinis weren’t so happy!

Back on track with some alcohol to fry any good decision making skills, we came across what can only be described as a haven for IT geeks. An entire arcade full of shops selling PC parts, gadgets and whatever-you-call-that-thing. But that’s where we found the shiny beacon of picture takering. The exact same model as Sonya’s at the bargain price of $AUS450! Success!

After all the extremely physical and mentally challenging work that went into finding that camera, we had to retire back to the hotel for cheap Argentinian wine on the roof overlooking Buenos Aires and bed.

Our Day in a Cop Car

May 4, 2009

After a fairly dodgy sleep due to some very inconsiderate fellow travellers (not noisy drunk – no, they were noisy sleeping) and a long wait for the best showers E-V-A-H (long wait due to the same inconsiderate travellers who loved wasting water – or were anally hygienic?). I realised that our wonderfully perverted host may have placed a camera in the bathroom. But Smeh. Whats a dirty ol’ perv in comparison to a lovely hot shower?

After some messing around trying to back up our photos (which was wonderful intuition), me and Sonya headed off for the cop station. We’d been told that we had to go to the nearest station to where the incident ie. where the blatant robbery of my personal effects, took place. So, we headed back to the police station located within the bus station, but with a double mission: get a bus ticket the hell outta there and report poor ol’ Me’s blackberry stolen.

A very nice man at the info desk at the bus station wrote a lovely wee note to take to the Police – in Spanish of course:

“Me rubeum mi celula
En el Bus kinieda derde Salta
Alguren se sento jurito a mien el bus y lo saco de adentro del bolso yo estaba durmiendo
necento copsa denunda para me compania de seguros.”

Which translates to:

“A fat wanker stole my blackberry out of my lap when I was on the overnight bus from Salta.”

We handed over the note to the smoking lieutenant (no, not smoking hot – smoking enough nicotine for Sth America), who laughed heartedly (who knew he had it in him after all the nicotine) and told us to wait. So we did.

Meanwhile, they let out a handful of prisoners from the cell. Yes, apparently the very very small police station located within the bus station had a cell!. I’m guessing they were all in there for misdemeanours like drunk and disorderly and the like. But talk about timing! They all joined us on the bench seat outside the cop station and proceeded to re-lace shoes and belts. Yep…

After a good half an hour of waiting our boys in blue showed up and we were  asked to accompany them to yet another station. By this time me and Muppet were in hysterics and Sonya was attempting to take photos of us in the back of the cop car with its hard plastic seats and metal caging without us getting arrested. We did manage to get a few including a few very good ones whilst waiting outside the cop station.

The policeman were lovely, and one of them – Inspector Claudio, was definitely good enough to be arrested for. It’s quite obvious that we were already spilling out all the cliches and lowest common denominator jokes about being arrested by such a very good-looking policeman and it’s well known that we are both cheeky tarts so I needn’t bother telling you what we were saying to and about Inspector Claudio.

After the translation of my report, the boys in blue offered to drive us up the road – taking some liberties; we duped them into dropping us right over the other side of town. The last thing they said to us: “Be careful and don’t fall asleep…” Hmmm. You know whats going to happen don’t you?

After the events of the morning, it was time for food, and after a really disgusting sandwich, we headed off to discover Mendoza in the last few hours we had there. We ended up licking huge ice-creams and sitting at a big park in the middle of the city, more than happy to soak up the sun.

The birds twerped; the lunching workers chortled; lovers, well they loved and made us a little ill; and the beauties slept. Fast forward 10 minutes and the beauties stirred rubbing their sleepy eyes. In complete disbelief and incomprehension Sonya’s camera had been stolen.

There is no saying in plain language how devastated we were at that point. With grass still imprinted on our tired faces we took off for the nearest police station. Again.

Somewhere through the back-halls of a cultural museum we found the very wee police office, with three very polite and welcoming police officers. Sonya starts her her wee rant describing that her camera had just been stolen and I start pissing myself laughing. One of the cops just happened to be the very good-looking, very polite Inspector Claudio who was grinning and shaking his head at me. Sonya finally catches up on the joke…

So Claudio’s friend (I’m sorry, I don’t remember his name) picks us up. Again. We hop in the back of the cop car. Again. We go to yet another cop station. Again. We were both seriously ready to cry, but our boys in blue kept us cheery, told us to behave ourselves, be careful and not to fall asleep! Couple of hours later and Angry little Skye and poor Muppet Sonya (who in the same couple of hours managed to lose our hostel key and thereby our 20 peso deposit) left bloody Mendoza for what we hoped were brighter times in Buenos Aires.

Victim of Crime and My First Injury

May 3, 2009

Day after the club wasn’t going to go so well. Sonya wasn’t well at all, as we found on the cable car going up San Bernado mountain*. (We had planned to hike it, which – as well also found out really wasn’t that much of as a hike as just walking up the driveway). If you’re ever there, and this will be disappointing… Don’t bother unless you want some exercise. It was pretty cheesy and a bit god bothering for my taste. On that note, Ill just add that the other very poorly sick Muppet christened San Bernado in her own way.

We got on the bus in the afternoon for a rather long and precarious ride to Mendoza. We were pretty pleased to find the Supermercado so we could stock up on chips, biscuits and fruit and thank god we did!

I’m not going to bore you with bus trips, but seeing as this is where we became victims of crime in South America, I think Ill have to indulge a bit.

The fat wanker sitting next to us on the bus was snoring his head off, and whilst having to endure Johnny Farnham film clips from the eighties (Yep, couldn’t believe it) and crap filled spam for dinner, we were both over it pretty quickly. Sonya began poking him every now and then and god knows what else she did to stop him from snoring, but whatever she did hadn’t worked. So, with plenty of empty seats, Sonya found a seat down back where she could at least try and get some sleep. Good for her, cause I couldn’t be bothered.

I guess the fat wanker woke up at some stage and took the opportunity to steal my  blackberry out of my lap while I was asleep and managed to get off a couple of hours before I even woke up. Lets just say that at the time, I was crapping myself, mostly because of the talking to I was going to get when I got back to work, and also, because my blackberry was my life. Sonya and I never really recovered from the violation (I know that sounds extremely serious), but we were always slightly more paranoid on buses since the incident.

We arrived in Mendoza with no accommodation booked and both of us extremely tired (and me extremely shitty about the blackberry, I mean seriously, couldn’t they have held me up at knife-point for it?) So we went with the first HHH (Harassing Hostel Hawker) we found, which just happened to be the creepiest hostel owner we could have come across… But… It had free wine…

The hugely overweight chain-smoking ‘divorced’ hostel owner was apparently a “practicing  good masseuse” who also “practiced” something called Reiki and something else my brain  has blocked. Seems as if wanted to “practice” on us, but I think the only thing he was really practising was being an accomplished pervert, as I soon discover the surveillance camera in our dorm! Filthy Fecker!

Trying to put my blackberry loss behind us, we go head for wine country and jump on some bikes. We, as we have seen in prior entries, Ive accomplished the Inca trail and Death Road without injuring myself. Can I get on a perfectly good bike after one glass of wine on a perfectly flat road and not fall off? That would obviously be no…

I never used to be a red wine drinker, but the wines and chocolate liquor were pretty good in Mendoza, and I haven’t looked back.

The hostel wasn’t exactly pumping or full of nice people (weird when there was free wine and a perfect pervert?) in fact everyone was pretty rude, so myself and Sonya managed to make do with our boring as batshit Brazilians room mate to have dinner with. (Who knew Boring  HosBrazilians existed?). I will say one thing for this hostel – it had the most perfect shower we have come across.

Just a sneak preview of the next day…

Our Day In A Cop Car

*Just on a side note: We happened to catch a bus from San Pedro to Salta with a couple of Rugby playing Aussies. We saw them again at San Bernado, and you will soon meet them again…

Salta Stalkers

May 1, 2009

There isn’t alot to do in Salta except extreme sports, which I was fully going to take advantage of. Sonya, however, wasn’t so keen.

So, of I went on my own little bungee adventure. To be honest, I wasn’t the least bit scared on the bus on the way to the bridge I was to launch myself off. When we got to the bridge I did find I was a little anxious that I would stain my underwear, but that’s about it. And honestly, its been like that the entire trip!

I was lucky (?) enough to be first to jump. So they made me sign what I think was some sort of liability waiver, which was of course in Spanish, weighed me, which was bitter sweet really – embarrassing… yet I had lost 4 kilos; and then the bungee guy consults a scrap of paper to calculate elasticity. Feeling oh so safe…

Then the ankle straps go on and I proceed up the stairs and onto the plank. And I wish you could see what actually happens… However, the stupid film I paid an extra $40 pesos for doesn’t actually like uploading. (If anyone can help me out here, let me know).

So, yep, dunked! Completely! Last minute nerves, but I didn’t stain my pants, which is a bonus. Definitely wanted to go again and again!

After arriving home, Sonya had teed up a free dinner at the hostel down the road who were having a bbq. Our dinner was lovely, but the bbq everyone else was having (having actually paid for it) was absolutely amazing. It was my first taste of Argentine Bbq, and can I tell you it was some of the best meat I’ve ever tasted. The two Irish girls we met (Maebh and Aisling) who are absolutely lovely, fun and gorgeous were sneaking me meat, and I couldn’t have been more thankful.

There was a wee tango show after dinner, but I have to say the hit of the night was the beautiful Australian singer who ignited hearts and a big jam session and then quickly put out the fire after singing only two songs and very quickly breaking our hearts in the same instance. I did manage to prove my rainmaker skills though! Always a bonus.

Sonya, Maebh, Aisling and I all piled into Luis’ (our very friendly hostel host) car, and we took off for a massive nightclub in town. No lining up for us, we were straight in, which I was quite happy to do, because all I could see around me was bad shoes and bad haircuts. (Yep, better than the ‘Gong. Argentina is now officially the land of the bad haircut!) However, unlike the ‘Gong, no-one knows how to dress here! If you can imagine Kath and Kim on heat… I do have to say, so nice not be in Sydney dealing with boxhead bouncers and queues for no good reason! Anyways, after figuring out the stupid drinking system – which was not in fact that random as we went along, we finally got home at about 5ish…

Cheers to Luis and the other guys at the Hostel. Have to be some of the nicest people we’ve some across. You’re great at your job!

NB: We did have photos of San Pedro and Salta, however, as you you will come to know, the camera was stolen in the next town along with about 50 photos that hadnt been backed up ;(

Warm Relief

April 30, 2009

Our one day in Chile was a warm relief coming from altitude and bloody freezing conditions.

San Pedro is a wee small dusty town with not much to do except chillax and eat, which we were quite happy to do.

After walking past a restaurant hawker for the umpteenth time, he finally convinced us with promises of happy hour cocktails so we would eat at his restaurant. The cocktails were a bit hit and miss and the food was fine, the company ended up being hilarious.

An entire busload of Chilean paramedics rocked on in and we inadvertently became their entertainment. Sonya was immediately accosted and a dirty old man sat next to me and amused himself for what seemed like hours reading our Spanish phrase book.

The women of the group didn’t seem pleased at all and I’m pretty sure they were muttering Gringo whores under their breath.

We finally got outta there and spent the rest of the evening drinking red wine in our room.

We had our first near miss moment when breakfast took forever and we had no idea where to get the bus from and ended up running through the streets of San Pedro. Crossing into Argentina was pretty exciting and spectacular. Stopping at the border was not.

Poor Sonya was picked out of the line and had to go through a completely different process to the rest of us. Nuevo Zealanders are apparently spreading the swine flu around, the promiscuous sluts they are. Thing is though, Sonya hadn’t been in NZ since Christmas and actually lives in Melbourne, but its not that easy to say in Spanish! So she gets taken into a room with officials wearing masks, vials of vaccine everywhere and drips and needles. Kind of scary…

Anyways long story short, we get to Salta, have a couple of beers and head to bed.