Thursday, June 25, 2009

So long and thanks for all the fish...

This is a long overdue post as a temporary hold on our adventures in South America. I say temporary, because the Wayward Winos are, even now, planning our triumphant return. So stay tuned for our re-emergence and our announcement of plans.

As for the time now, some of you (if not all of you) know that the Wayward Winos were selected to Host Our Coast in DelMarVa. Living in Ocean City, Maryland, we will be concentrating our energies on bringing light to some of the finer and forgotten gems of the area, specifically Sussex County, Delaware and Worchester County, Maryland.

We will be exploring the small towns and lesser-known attractions, similar to what we were doing in South America, and all the while putting our Wayward Wino style to use. So, if any of you find your way out to these parts, you’ll know the do’s, don’t’s and how-to’s.

We would like to thank everyone who has been following us during our adventures down there. It was a blast exploring South America and we met a ton of great people all of whom we plan on finding in their own foreign land one day. And especially my beautiful cousin Monica and her family for letting us graciously stay in their place during our stay in Lima.

We would also like to thank the fellow travel bloggers that supported us, inspired us, and challenged us to write better, take better photographs and stay on top of everything. In particular, they are Stuart Starrs (www.enperublog.com), Barbara Drake (www.americaninlima.com), and Rachel Gamarra (rachelinperu.wordpress.com). You should definitely regularly check out all three of these blogs for your South American fix.

Also, don’t forget to check out our sister blog, the concert going antagonist Zac Clark at www.rockertycoon.blogspot.com and now also writing for the Jersey Independent (www.jerseycityindependent.com). The Rocker Tycoon definitely got our ass’ in gear when we got lazy. He even let us guest post once.

This isn’t an acceptance speech, so much as a “Hold on, we’ll be right back” post. Because of our current situation, we can’t really carry on both monikers of Host our Coast and Wayward Winos, but we will be stopping in once and awhile, and will be back in full force come September. So keep your eyes peeled and thanks for reading!

And for the time being, don’t forget to check us out at www.hostourcoast.com!

Monday, June 15, 2009

How do we do it?

Since leaving for South America, we’ve received emails and messages wondering what our money situation is like. We’ve gotten tweets suggesting that we “get a job, hippie” and potential handouts; “do you need money to come home…is that why you’re not back yet.” We’ve lol- ed at most of them, but also considered the value of sharing just how we’ve managed to live jobless for four and a half months. It took a bit of work, a wee bit of planning and a dash of attention, but all and all, well worth every ounce of energy spent.

Before we left the States, we figured it was best to have as many dollars as possible, so we saved and saved and took Rockertycoon to the grocery store whenever he needed, knowing he would find it in his heart to feed us at his bar. For additional income, I would pick up random party gigs, clean apartments, and sell clothes at the local consignment shop on top of my usual freelance photo work. Meanwhile, Paul was still busting his hump at the ol’mill trying to get every last ounce of his lovely salary.

Secondly, once we arrived, we quickly realized it only cost about $4 to fill both of us with food and beer while out on the town in Lima, so just imagine how cheap it is to cook in the house….super cheap!! Paul even joined in the cooking fun once Argentina presented their amazing beef.

We designated days for treats. Sundays we could indulge in ice cream and each new city we could splurge on a nice local meal out. Gastronomy is a must in cities…especially for the Wayward Winos.

Throughout all of our days spent in South America, I kept a daily budget of everything we spent, which we eventually turned into a nerdy Excel spreadsheet. Our daily totals, highlighted in red, would freak us out, as our weekly averages and monthly projections were on the rise. We’d in turn eat less the next day, our averages would calm back down and we could rest easy again. It really helped!

We honestly didn’t expect to arrive in South America to travel around until we were penniless; I swear. We initially planned to see a bit of Peru— Machu Picchu, Arequipa and Lake Titicaca- head back to Lima and take one of our English-teaching job offers. Figuring out how to manage our mini-hippie fund paid off and we were enabled to live by the seat of our pants…that are full of holes by now.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Along the coast of Uruguay...

I must admit, the shores of Uruguay have been a main attraction since a few days before we embarked on our boundless South American adventure. Paul and I gazed at the television in his mom’s basement flipping through channels, drinking boxed wine (of course) just to pass a seeming eternity before we boarded the plane. After a while of this we stumbled on to, unknowingly to us at the time, our hero— Anthony Bordain— with “No Reservations” at a shack on a Uruguayan beach. We were sold.

In our quest to find this beach town, several locals gently guided us to Punta del Este, a high-end surfer town east of Montevideo...so we bounced along the coast of Uruguay, not quite reaching our hero´s spot; we´re saving that for summer.



The perfect Saturday in Montevideo, by Mel

Wake up with a cortado after another late night at the pubs of Ciudad Viejo…stroll along the Rambla Francia…watch the fishermen cast from the rocks…take in the fresh sea air…nice, huh? Keep trotting along the Montevideo version of a boardwalk, around the bend, past the cargo ship yard and just across the navy yard…discover the most amazing parrilla experience to date!

Red and blue awnings flap in the breeze as waiters try to entice you in broken English into their parlor, but don’t be enticed…don’t stop here. There is much more to be discovered through the portal that leads to the real mercado area of Mercado del Puerto.

This is the place to be Saturday afternoon according to locals and Lonely Planet alike and it will all be clear to you as you inhale the sweet and smokey smells of grilling steak.

Once you enter the market, flames are flying high above the chefs´ heads, flipping the chorizo and ribs from side to side. The sound of chatty laughter echos through the warehouse-esq establishment. It feels so truely local...leave the tourists to the awninged-parrillas outside.

Hint: Take a peek at a parrilla outside and around the back of the market; they just might offer you cheese and champagne on the house for starters and enough meat for a week. (Wink, wink; nudge, nudge)



cortado – espresso with a splash of milk
Ciudad Viejo – the “Old City” area of Montevideo, located at the point of the city
mercado - market
____________________________________________________________

A Shore to See - Punta Del Este, by Paul

If you want a posh beach resort (with that jetsetter feel), the place to go is Punta Del Este, Uruguay. Laying where the Rio de la Plata empties into the Atlantic Ocean, Punta Del Este has made a name for itself as a elite beach travel, which is more than evident by the scores of high-rise condomineums and hotels overlooking the waterfronts.

Walking down to the beach from 1949 Hostel where we stayed (with yet another "pet-for-the-day"), the neighborhood shows off it´s cute little boutiques as well as upscale restaurants. Although the streets were a bit empty, excepting the occasional fellow late traveller (also in beach attire trying to force a summer) or a local, there was still an aura of summer: of people basking in the warm Sun drinking cold beer on the beach; walking around in their bathing suits and flip-flops where ever they go.


It was a nice experience to visit this small town during what is now late Autumn here. With the population known to boom over 100% during the summer, we were able to walk freely among the high rises and pick any spot we pleased along it´s maginifacent, diverse shorelines. Once ploppled down, it was hard to get lost in the sound of the lapping waves while staring out at the lighthouse in the distance or admiring the lush trees that seem to occupy the small islands off the coast.

From smooth to course sand to rocky beaches, from swimming to surfing, the beach front here has a bit of everything. Between the delicious looking restaurants and the mind-blowingly beautiful shore, it is no wonder this little town serves as one of the major attractions of Uruguay.

Things of Note:


Marking the point where the river meets the ocean, Monumento de Ahogado (or Momument of the Drowned) serves as a warning for swimmers of the dangerous waters better served for surfing.

La Fonda del Pesca is a small little restaurant located three blocks from the beach with an interesting chef and amiable staff serving fresh food.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

A busy BUS-Y couple days

The Wayward Winos have been on the move since last Thursday, after leaving Montevideo, Uruguay. From the capital, we went to Salto, Uruguay, then to Concordia, Argentina and then northeast to Posadas, Argentina, where we were inconviently stuck for a day and change- then off to Puerto Iguazu, Argentina, where we experienced the absolutely stunning Iguazu Falls.

Because off all this bus time (which has been hours and hours on end) and the lack of internet, we have not had the chance to make any posts, and we apologize. We will be working on our next post on our upcoming ride back to Posadas and hope to post tomorrow morning. Until then, take a gander at the updated Wayward Route:

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

La Fonda del Pesca


As you all know, our South American diet since entering Argentina has been a lot of beef and well…more beef. And then we go out to dinner for grilled beef and sausage. Needless to say, our pallets (and our figures) have been ready to dine on something a bit less dense.


Now on the shores of Uruguay, in Punta del Este, we were eager for a seafood delight or at least something different. We were pointed just up the street from our conveniently located hostel to La Fonda del Pesca (Calle 30 between Calle 22 & 24).

Before we even entered the door, the gruff chef welcomed us with a discerning look that said something like, “stupid tourists,” but in a seemingly loving way. Paul tried to push and pull the sliding door…so it was a deserving look, I suppose. A jolly younger waiter then greeted us and said don’t worry, “ the chef just needs his wine.”


The wall opposing the door was adorned with veggies and condiments, garlic and herbs. Bright colors and seaside murals filled the other walls of the small, five-table restaurant. We were the only guests and were able to basically hang out with the very friendly server while the salty chef hung in the back. It felt like we were right at home with new friends.

We happily perused the menu that seemed to have a wide selection from meats and fish to pastas at a very affordable price, about $3- $5 USD.


Paul snagged the fresh fish of the day in a rellena-style, lightly batter-fried with a layer of melted cheese atop the filet, while I chose the veggie raviolis with a bolognaise sauce. As the chef prepared our dinner, he periodically grabbed a vegetable from the shelves of the wall, proving our food’s absolute freshness. After a few bites, the grumbling man came to the table and said, “te gusta (you like it)” with a little smirk. I guess he finally had his glass of vino.


Once dinner was finished and the simple mention of the in-house crafted dulce de leche accompanying a large piece of Uruguayan flan had us convinced that we needed to try a dessert. (This is usually an avoided practice for us lowly, and now job-seeking backpackers, but after the delicious meal, it seemed necessary.) And I am glad we did…this is a must-get if you ever venture to this restaurant in Punta del Este.


In the end, a large dinner plate each, a healthy portion of dessert, a liter bottle of beer and the tip, cost us $700 URG, about $30 USD. That may seem like a lot, but for the amazingly fresh meals a good amount of beer and the friendly folks we met, the experience was well worth it.

Monday, May 25, 2009

La Bomba de Tiempo

The Monday night suggestion when visiting Buenos Aires is La Bomba de Tiempo, meaning The Time Bomb- a local percussion show held at the Konex Culture Center.

The corner market makes a killing selling liters of beer to the eager crowd stretching around the corner. Street artists sold their wares along the sidewalk.

Once inside the doors, this remodeled warehouse welcomed hundreds of people, evidently from around the world. The atmosphere a very social, sharing event. More than once was I asked for a sip of my beer as I watched the drummers perform their art in the middle of the crowd.

The smell of illegal substances hung over our heads and under our noses as the room more and more filled while the performers continued on, shifting from one conductor to the next. Each new leader moved his drum team to different rhythms and times by way of hand symbols, like another language that I could not understand, but was drawn to watching. The sounds made my heart beat faster and my feet stomp harder.

From time to time the crowd would yell in delight, as the floor shook with all the dancing and stomping going on. The room was open on one side to the outside, letting out the sounds to the groups sitting out in the large open-air atrium smoking and sipping on the jugs of beer served from the bar.

The first group finished hitting their drums that were situated on the concrete floors at the foot of the stage; we thought the show was over. One and half hours of a drum circle was enough for me, although it was entirely amusing. There didn't seem to be much room for additional rhythm or bass.

Then the main event took the stage in their matching get-ups and robust set of sounds. The conductors changed, just has they had before, but this time with more of a sense or organization in the chaos. The performers seemed to read each others mind, seamlessly going in and out of speeds and solos. What we thought was impossible-- keeping our attention at a drum circle for over an hour-- had been achieved. The new act incorporated a synthesizer for one set lasting for forty-five minutes, and a trumpet for another forty-five. The crowd swooned as the conductors and drummers pulled them in to participate with yelling and dancing.

While leaving, our ears rang with deep thuds and high-hats; we were satisfied with our night at La Bomba de Tiempo. For about $4 USD per person, it proved to be well worth the cost. Although the audience was quite international, there was a definite air of locality and city pride, especially from the performers and many of the crowd members.


***REMEMBER: VOTE for Paul Cox, your favorite Wayward Wino, at www.hostourcoast.com. We're in the running until Thursday, so spread the good word!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Host Our Coast Application!!










We've been working really hard on this application video to "Host Our Coast" in DelMarVA, the shores of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia, this summer. It's our chance to actually get paid to do exactly what we've been doing all along here in South America...Crazy right?!

VOTE for PAUL COX at www.hostourcoast.com and help your favorite Wayward Winos come back to the States to Host the Coast for the summer!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Dancing in the Streets

Sunday, Melanie and I took the advice of the many guide books and tourists information maps of Buenos Aires- we visited Calle Caminito in La Boca district. Visions of locals breaking into a tango in the streets and open air barbecues danced in our heads.

After taking two metros to the area, we disembarked and climbed outside to ask directions of a kind lady. After she instructed us that the "53" bus would take us there, she promptly warned us to take great care, telling us we could be robbed right there in front of the train station. With those words of wisdom lingering in our head, we decided it might be best to hail a taxi and be on our way.

The taxi dropped us off where Calle Caminito emptied into the harbor. Here, sat street food vendors offering up popcorn and nuts, and artists peddling their crafts. We walked through the market, loosely checking out the artisanal matés and leather hand bags, until we reached the colorful building that adorns all the postcards and pamphlets about Buenos Aires.

Loud traditional tango music hung in the streets like a bad fog, and we pushed through the crowded area, looking for those communal parrilla's or tango bouts in the streets, but sadly all we found was a very narrow, very short street, flooded with tourists. Over priced restaurants had their outdoor stages set up for small tango shows; their employees aggressively hounding us to sit and eat with them.

Looking for something to take from our one and half hour journey from our place in Palermo, we ventured into some of the many souvenir shops on the street. More of the same merchandise sat on their shelves as were out under the tarps of the street vendors, but now with a higher price tag: hand-painted matchboxes, ashtrays and bombillas.

After we had our fill or this very Disney-like atmosphere, we settled at a strip mall-esque place with a café, had a beer, and planned our escape.

Overall, Calle Caminito ended up to be a huge tourist trap- Buenos Aires's South of the Border. There were two choices of entertainment: eat and drink for more than you should spend, or shop. Although, some of the handmade crafts were quite impressive, it wasn't what we were expecting. The Wayward Winos can't, in good conscience, recommend this location for a visit, based on that disappointment of broken promises of culture.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Thoughts of guacamole and corn chips...

Traveling around South America has definitely given us the opportunity to embrace the local foods, usually so often that we can't wait to have a taste of something else. Today we ran to the local taco bar, La Fabrica de Taco, beaming with thoughts of guacamole and corn chips and hopes of margaritas (although we found none, but we did find beer).

The twirling meat spit, like that of a gyro, added to the fifties-esq sidewalk taco bar ambiance. The kitchen opened to a window where customers could watch the cook slice, dice and throw tacos together. Jars of juices lined the side of the counter; accurately (and amusingly) named sauces were neatly placed along the edge.

We sat down at the bar on the opposite side of the sidewalk. Once we struggled through the fancy Spanish words, we discovered tasty and not badly priced tacos-- in Buenos Aires.

At first, I ordered the Volcan, a flat fried tortilla with roasted beef, cheese and guacamole, while Paul ordered the Carne Asada Granitado, a basic roasted beef and cheese soft taco, with two Imperial beers. Delcious they were, but only left us grumbling for at least three more each. Minding our manners, we ordered only two simple Carne Asado tacos.

The bill all and all wasn't bad at $53 Argentine pesos with tip; about $14 USD for the both of us.

If you ever find yourself starved of variety and in Palermo, pull up a stool at La Fabrica; you won't be disappointed.

La Fabrica de Taco (The Taco Factory)
http://www.lafabricadeltaco.com/
Gorriti 5062 - Buenos Aires, Argentina

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Carnivore's delight

I thought steak and potatoes was the meal of all man meals, until I arrived to Argentina. They hands down have the dude meal of choice I've seen to date (until we visit a culture that eats raw meat off the bone or something). Forget the potatoes, forget the sides, even forget the bread. Simply pile the meat on a mini grill and toss it on the center of the table, perhaps with a bottle of wine. A carnivores delight!

Every cut, breed and size of meat can be a part of the asado, or barbecue. Although, we've only had the watered-down version-- a huge slab of beef loin, a few huge ribs, a chunk of brisket and a chorizo or two-- the meal has many delicacies that are thrown on the Argentine grill. Chicken, blood sausage, liver, kidneys, intestines, or other random cow parts can also be doused with a bit of marinade and roasted to harmony.

Buenos Aires is often noted for their parillas, asado serving restaurants. Occasionally their windows are filled with with flames and large racks of meat spralled over the coals. These racks are quite enticing to the carnavore types. "The Buenos Aires [parilla] experience was overwhelming...The plate of meat came, and it filled me up with its first waft," according to a traveler buddy of ours, Chris M.

In Argentina, it also seems to be a crime to serve these delicious roasted meats without a sauce (at least), since not much else is on the table. There are usually a range of little ramekins of spicy flavors and oils that can accompany the meat platter, but the most noted is the chimichuri. Full of sabor and spice, this sauce can be purchased in local Argentine markets. For most of you, I know this poses a problem, so here is my version; the one I've adapted from a few recipes along the way. Try it for your next asado!

Chimichuri Sauce
2 cups pure olive oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup cilantro or parsley (which ever you prefer)
3 cloves of garlic, pureed
salt and pepper to taste
**Easy route: throw all these ingredients into a blender and poof: Chimichuri!
***Option two: finely chop everything and stir together.

"It's an important event that you do with your family or friends; usually a lot of people because you wouldn't do such a big production for just a few." -- Julietta, friend and local of Buenos Aires.

Tip:
The meat in Argentina is AMAZING and cheap, so eat up! You don't get meat like this in the States unless you shell out significant amounts of money.

Although tempting, don't eat the bread; save room for the meat!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

A Night of Tango

Last Friday, the Wayward Winos attended a tango show at Complejo Tango, a tango club in the Palermo district of Buenos Aires. It was an ideal night in this South American city filled with dance, steaks, and wine.

Tango is one of those Argentine pillars that one must try, similar to the maté. It is like visiting Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and having to try a cheese-steak, or simply having to go to a baseball game anywhere in the States. Even if you wind up hating it, at least you tried something culturally important. In this case, the event was more fun than my two-left feet expected.

The night started off with an hour lesson in the Argentine dance of tango; the very basic steps and nothing more. Being the gentleman of the couple, I had it easy: lead, be firm, but wait for the lady to finish her steps before reacting. As I turned my shoulders from right to left, Melanie made her "ocho", or figure eight, with her feet in our close embrace. After two or so "ochos", I would stop her dead in her tracks, splitting her legs with mine as she kicked her right foot through my split legs; the "gaucho". Then after a few clumsy sets of "ochos" and "gauchos", the final destination of our dance was reached: the "dip". Hands on the small of her back, firmly holding as she leaned back, chest pushed up, her hair barely grazing the floor, eyes to ceiling.

Dinner was served promptly at 9:30 P.M., after the lesson. She had the fillet, rare, I had the pumpkin stuffed ravioli. We both shared a bottle of red... then another. Wine was the atmosphere of the night by the time the show started. Through dance, the show told the story of three young gangsters in Buenos Aires and their love interests; a show of love and violence in the streets and clubs of the city. Warm embraces and violent spins and dips.

It was all something that Frank Sinatra or Dean Martin would have been apart of, except instead of whiskey and martinis, there was red wine. Deep, rugged voiced men, voices scarred with cigarette smoke and cigars, sang of cold-hearted women and rough nights. They walked through the small room, serenading women sitting in the audience and raising their glasses to the men. The lights fell and when they returned, another chapter of the young gangsters life started.

This went on for about two hours, and, even though the entire thing was done in their native tongue of Spanish, we never lost interest. After the lights came up, we finished our glasses and strolled home talking about our second tango class and our future careers in dance- all the awards and competitions we would win.

Overall, the night was splendid, although it was a bit touristic. The class was in English, which I suppose was for the better, so we could actually learn something, but it did take a little edge off of the event. The audience seemed to be entirely filled with visitors looking for a piece of tango culture, as well; it wasn't the dark, candle-lit, smokey milonga with Argentines tango-ing the night away, drunk and making love in the corners, but you get the idea. For the price tag, $380 Argentine pesos or about $89 (USD) for the two of us, it was a bargain experience that included a class, a spectacular show, a tasty three-course meal, and unlimited wine.

In the end, we left feeling a bit more Argentine.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Patagonia




















For two weeks, the Wayward Winos ha
d spent their time wandering around the South American region of Patagonia: bobbing in and out of hostels and trudging along wet and chilly trails. For the most part, the towns they've visited have been more than amazing; the places they've stayed and the sites they've seen have been worth the price they've payed to experience that places they've passed through. What the Wayward Wino's have seen in Patagonia has been nothing short of amazing. It was read by them that Darwin described it as "wretched and useless," and this is more than understandable when taking a frustratingly long bus ride through plains. Otherwise, Patagonia has a tremendous amount of amazement to offer. Darwin wasn't able to visit the people that reside there now, especially in the towns like Bariloche (and especially at the La Barraca Hostel). And he certainly must have missed out on the culture of the gaucho, that once was the idea of Patagonia. Even though mountains and extensive, desolate places of land make the visual aspect of Patagonia, the people along the way make what is important of the area: a true smooth feeling of the grass around. From the Perito Moreno Glacier in El Calafaté, Argentina to the Tierre del Fuego National Park in Usuaia, Argentina, Patagonia really is more than you can imagine for an other-worldly experience. And although the price for most of the places are on the high side of our budget, these sights are worth the extra pennies; just spend your time wisely.



Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The End.

Ushuaia, Argentina is indeed a fascinating city. Swiss or Swedish in feel, due mostly to the strange architecture and the high, snow covered mountains in the background, the city is quite alien. The uniqueness of being at the bottom of the world, Antarctica being a small distance away, allows the city become what most Patagonian towns are: an overpriced tourist hub.

With this being said, like most Patagonian towns, it is more than necessary to visit Ushuaia because of the utter beauty that surrounds it. Even the views from the city streets can leave you speechless and the Tierre del Fuego National Park will certainly leave you breathless. It is hard to express what is found in this remote part of Patagonia. The scenery and landscape of a simple three hour hike around a lake was stunning, as soft green patches lined the beaches as well as odd shale rocks crumble beneath our feet to make more black sand.

Although Ushuaia, as a city, is little more than an overgrown tourist information center, the parks and scenery make the stay bearable, just as long as you have some sort of knack in the kitchen. Remember, where there are tourists, there will be high prices but cooking, with or without a vat of sangria, can make you friends and incredible memories.

____________________________________________________________
Hostel: Patagonia Pais
Cost: $30 ARG per person, about $8 USD
Includes: Shared bathroom, WiFi, coffee & tea for breakfast, clean large kitchen, tour info


Travel tips:

FLY!!! This time around (in the off season) it was actually cheaper to fly than to take a bus-- $140 USD for 3.5 hours vs. $160 for just shy of 3 long DAYS.

Plan to do your own cooking or at least throwing sandwiches together on your own. There is only one price range-- expensive. Even the "greasy spoon" type places are comparably pricey.

Beware: on the 7th day, Ushuaia rests! Plan your meals or any errands for Monday through Saturday; nothing is open Sunday.

Try Beagle cerveza! It's a delicious local brew.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

South America by Bus (video)

See the Five Principles of Survival in motion on Wayward Videos.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

South America by Bus

The art of a proper bus ride is a hard, but necessary ability to hone, especially when in South America. Here is a continent of few, if any, trains; where buses will almost always be cheaper than planes. However, time as well as comfort are something of a sacrifice when riding on these buses. This is where mastering the perfect bus rides comes into play.

Getting excited about our first plane ride in nearly a month this Wednesday (we found a rare occasion where flying actually is about 20 USD cheaper than taking a 2.5 day bus ride to Buenos Aries), I've started thinking about how our preparation for, and coping with extremely long bus rides has evolved. In doing so, we have come up with some tips and tricks to accomplishing that perfect bus ride and fighting this war against boredom, uncomfortably, and insanity.

First, know how long the fight will last. This is paramount in proper preparation, especially when it comes to food. Most shorter bus rides (eight hours or less) will not serve food, so it is in your best interest to carry some food on board. Sandwiches and other finger foods work the best, but keep in mind you trip itinerary. If you are going to cross a border, you will need to throw away any fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats. Even if the bus ride is longer and there are meals on board, they may not be appetizing, so it still may be prudent to bring a back-up snack.

Second, make sure your weapons are sharpened for battle. This means have your ipod and laptops fully charged and your reading material is ample and desirable. There is nothing worse than riding down the spine of South America, nothing but desert on all sides, and having your music abruptly stop. For most of us, music is a sort of lifeblood, and to have to stricken from us can be devestating to a good journey.

As for the books, make sure it is a book that is fitting to the trip and countryside. When traveling Peru, I was reading "Red Mars", by Kim Stanley Robinson. This book tremendously immersed you in the alien landscape of Mars, as I was being immersed in the strange, yet beautiful Andes Mountains of Peru. On the other hand, Melanie, while stuck in the Andes, at four in the morning, trapped by a mudslide, civilization many many miles away, was reading "Death in the Andes", by Mario Vargas Llosa; a book about the Shining Path terrorist organization that still exists in the very hills that we were occupying. Not a good choice for keeping sanity.

Thirdly, know thy enemy. Find out about the bathroom situation. This cannot be stressed enough. Find out what the bathroom rules are- if there is one and what can be done in them. This especially applies in Peru, where, more times than not, on-board bathrooms do not work. This information, of course, will not be revealed until two hours of a six our trip is over and you have just finished a one liter bottle of mineral water. You will have to resort to cutting of the top of the bottle with a pen to make a bigger target, instead of simply not drinking the water to begin with. Worse, some bathrooms are reserved only for certain bodily functions. This, however is revealed via an angry bus attendant knocking down the door and passengers passing out as you quickly try and pull up your knickers.

Fourthly, be on your toes. Pack your carry-on lightly, because most of the buses are quite cramped in their seating arrangements, but pack thoroughly. This includes your camera. Just because you will be spending the better part of you life on a bus, does not mean that a photo, such as a young girl boarding the bus carrying her pet llama that is as big as she is, will not come up. Be prepared for these things, otherwise you could miss out on capturing a great memory.

Fifthly, strength is in numbers, so stick together. If you are traveling with company, make sure one knows where the other is at all times. Waking up while stuck in the Andes, at four in the morning, trapped by a mudslide, civilization many many miles away, and finding that your travel mate is missing is a rude awakening indeed. In fear and panic, poor Spanish becomes completely indecipherable and you will not be able to convey your thoughts and descriptions about the missing individual. Instead, the rest of the passengers will simply laugh at you when you discover, after waking up half the people and asking everyone you can see through the darkness, that she has just relocated to the seat behind you for more space.

On a similar note, buses will leave your ass (yes, leeeve yo asssss). I repeat: do not assume that the bus will remember that you were a passenger. If the bus stops at a gas station to refuel and allow the passengers to releave themselves (since the bathroom obviously doesn't work), do not be the last one in line at the pot. While your in there doing your business, the bus is outside starting its engines. And as your cursing yourself for forgetting toilet paper, the bus is leaving your ass behind. Even if everyone on the bus is screaming to the driver that he is missing one, and you are sprinting behind, while still trying to button up, the driver will keep on going until his next stop. He will not pull over for you and wait. Sorry. Hopefully there is a taxi, or you'll be discovering the Nazca lines by yourself. (Yeah, Mel never knew she could run with such cheetah-like speeds.)

So, in conclusion, the fight against the bus is winnable. Just because you may be forced to take long rides to save some money, doesn't mean you have to be miserable. Remember, know how long the fight will last, keep your weapons sharp, know thy enemy, be on your toes, and strength in numbers and you will, at the very least, survive your trip.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

El Calafaté and the Perito Moreno Glacier

We arrived in El Calafaté during what is Patagonia's late fall. The colors of the surrounding forests and plains burned with brilliant oranges, yellows, and browns. Around every corner, as we walked through town, it seemed to be expected that a scarecrow would be found nailed into someones lawn or signs for nearby pumpkin picking would appear. The whole area seemed like a familiar small town right before a festive Halloween and Thanksgiving season. People out with their rakes, piles of multicolored leaves on the curbs and renegade ones drifting through the wind and onto the streets and sidewalks.

The sun rose late and set early, so it was difficult to judge time. On the second day, we were up before the daybreak preparing to visit the Perito Moreno Glacier, one of three main attractions in the immediate region. Being so far south, the air was crisp and perfectly cold; it found the holes in our sweaters.

As we rode on the $25 (USD)-bus to the national park, the country opened up and the plains grew on both sides of us, stretching to the mountains rising on the horizon. Snow capped peaks surrounded us on all sides.

The first sight of the glacier appeared forty-five minutes and $15 (USD) after our departure, wedged between two mountains. Amazingly blue icebergs drifted in front of it like criminal escapees. The glacier continued to play hide-and-seek with us as our bus winded through the valley. Occasionally, the semi-tour bus would pull over and stop for photo-ops of the glacier and wildlife. The bus driver would clumsily stand up from her post and mutter a few Spanish words, assumingly, about the view or the creature in sight. Then she would turn back around and continue on.

By the time we reached the glacier, our camera's were already half full with this picture or that. As we stepped out of our ride, we were surrounded by more of the Autumn colors and the white and blue gleam of the glacier. The front wall of the glacier seemed to be stretching out to us, or oozing out from in between the mountains. Staring at the mass of ice was made it seem as if you could actually see it move forward; as if you had the ability to see fine, infinitely small details. It was breathtaking.

As we walked along the steel grate path that conveniently and safely always sat just six inches from the ground, we looked out at the natural beauty before us sitting a quarter mile away. Resting our elbows on the railing, we snapped photos with the rest of the tourists walking the same circuit.

The glacier was pristine in its existence. Beautiful blues and whites painted the wall immediately facing us, with long thin brown lines running diagonally. In the distance, cracking and crashing sounds rang out as parts of Perito broke off and escaped.

We continued to walk the circuit, up and down steel stairs, across the grating six inches from the dirt. Pictures were taken and coversations had of how beautiful the glacier was. Twenty minutes later, we found ourselves up top - near the new construction, concrete and brick overlooks with more railings half built, the sound of brick saws loud in our ears - finished with our tour. Three hours and twenty-five pesos to spend while waiting for our return bus.

We sat in the café, cushioned chairs behind large pane glass, eating our two apples and stared out at the glacier...past the railings, walkways, and lookouts and wondered if the bus would be any earlier than scheduled. People around us sat, almost uninterested in the natural beauty outside, and ate their strange gourmet looking meals that were heated in microwaves while they weren't looking- a Wawa or convenience store dressed up with venetian blinds and nicely dressed servers; prices jacked up for no good reason. The gorgeous ice stuck behind the sound of construction.

* This is a photo montage.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Bariloche: more than a hike

As you've probably noticed, we've been in a different pueblo or city almost every other day. All this buzzing about became quite grueling and was affecting the Wayward Wino chi. Once we arrived in Bariloche, the city lined by lakes and full of chocolate, we we decided this would be the perfect city in which to take a breather and realign.

Although we did two (somewhat lame day-hikes), one in Parque Llao Llao and the other to Cerro Catedral, we found the most interesting aspect indoors; in our hostel. Bernardo and Estefania, the inn keepers, delighted us with a mate lesson (check out the last post) and the Argentine way of folding empanadas. "It makes more sense, so that the meat doesn't come out," she said. And that it did, Estefania's work baked their way to much prettier final emapandas than mine.

Sometimes the best part of traveling is to slow down and live a bit like the locals. And in the case of Bariloche, live life sloooowly. Enjoy. Take another sip of mate and just nibble on an empanada. There's time...just keep nibbling.

A whole six days later we sadly parted ways...

video

Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Study in Mate

Three months before we left on this trip through South America, I swore off coffee and for the most part, I've made good on this effort. Sticking mostly to tea, I've gotten my caffeine fix in other ways.

Now, in Bariloche, Argentina, I discovered and have been awaiting to try a new, interesting take on drinking tea: maté. After receiving a cultural lesson from Bernardo, the inn keeper at La Barracca hostel, I codified my desire to try this method and made my way out to buy my first maté cup, bombilla (straw), and yerba (the herbs used for the tea).

With these items, I was ready for my first maté experience. I began with the "curing" process: a two day event that allows my wooden cup to absorb the flavors of the yerba. To do so, yerba is poured into the new cup and hot water is added. This similar to any other preparation of maté, except that this will be left out over night, and not had. The next day, the process is repeated with a new batch of yerba. After the two days, the maté cup is ready for use.

As I waited for my maté to cure, I thought about the new culture of people I have been introduced to in Argentina. So far, this has been a country of long sighs and long breaks; a slow easy going place. Most shops shut down, at least here in Bariloche , for two to three hours every afternoon for siesta; waiters and waitresses let you be as you type away on your laptop, with empty glasses, as long as you want- hours at a table never to be approached. All very different from the on-the-run feeling we've grown accustomed to in the United States, where servers nearly escort you out the door as soon as the last morsel is lifted from your plate, and coffee and tea are more likely to be found in paper to-go cups rather than mugs on a table surrounded by friends. Here moments are drawn out, not crammed in before deadlines.

Drinking their tea is an event; a ritual that takes great care and time. First, a new cup needs to be cured, a two day process. No rush. Take your time. It will taste better if you wait. Then, each time a maté is taken, it is almost another event. While you sit with friends, sharing stories, or you sit by yourself and a book or a movie, you carry with you your water, constantly refreshing the tea with hot water. Savor as much as you want. It has so much flavor. Have more hot water. There's a whole Thermos. No rush.

The drink itself is an experience: a fancy cup, usually only for drinking maté, a fancy, metal straw or bombilla, and a wide selection of yerba to choose from. All three are personal to the owner; "This is my maté," as said by Bernardo regarding his maté. "You take care of your maté." As friends sit around drinking their maté, you feel as if you are in a smokey bar with gentlemen smoking their favorite choice cigars or filling their timeless pipes, or perhaps an American barbecue with everyone with their personal beer mugs.

And so I wait. No rush.

***

Two days had past and anticipation was high. Even though South American culture is slower than in the States, I still found myself not able to adapt: constantly not wanting to wait. In the time, my girlfriend was even able to get a coffee to-go from a local gas station early on Sunday morning, when the entirety of Bariloche, except us, the gas attendant, and the strays were still asleep. But I waited.

And with my first taste, I was honestly a bit taken back. The bitter taste, not complimented by the grapefruit flavors of the yerba, was strong. The small grainy particles, seemed to permeate the straw, landing square on my tongue leaving me feeling like a just had a mouthful of fine sand. Then, I found myself rushing to drink. One sip. One sip. Refill. One sip. One sip. Refill. Too bitter. So strong.

So I stepped back, and enjoyed. Took my time between sips and tastes, held the maté longer than I spent drinking it. Relaxed. Then, finally...I got it.

____________________________________________
Tip:
Take care of what mate and bombilla you select. It speaks to your character and soul...it is your grail.