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Samba!

Carnaval in Rio

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It is a surreal experience to be in Rio during Carnaval, even discounting everyone´s words of caution about the rampant robbery and general unruliness. Fortunately for me, I have not had the misfortune of proving these warnings necessary. But then again, I am a cautious cat.

People keep telling me that Rio is more of a riot than a festival like in Salvador ("Now, <i>THAT</i> is a party!"), but this is really plenty festive for me. Everywhere you go, every street you walk down, there are <i>blocos</i> playing music, people dancing, colourful accessories on people.. <i>I</i> thought it was fantastic.

Strangely enough, my pathetic grungy wardrobe that I felt was inadequate in presentability in Buenos Aires felt fine in Rio. Of course, it may help that I am staying in Copacabana, one of the predominant beaches in Rio, so everyone walks around in swimsuits and sarongs or seethrough beach dresses.

More later.

Posted by BatSoo 02:42 Archived in Brazil Tagged events Comments (0)

Feh, sunken cost.... Writing about where I am NOW

Maybe I´ll tell you when you grow up

sunny 30 °C
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Jujuy, Cafayate and Iguazu updates be damned, I´m going to write about Rio this time. Alright, so I have been in Rio for like.... 8 hours, but still. Short update.

So I got to Rio finally. 21 hrs on the bus went by okay, though I was mildly carsick all the way. Blech.

It is hot! Like 30 degrees hot! But thankfully, Iguazu had put me through ~40 weather, so I am finding this surprisingly bearable. (Rawr. <- bear) Besides, my hostel is three blocks from the Copacabana beach, so all is well.

Also, VEGE-MA-TABLES!! I had found Argentina good for meat but terrible for them green stuff. So expensive when available, and even then often shrivelled and plain sad looking. But I found a supermarket where onions and tomatoes bore some sane prices. Dinner tonight shall consist of tuna, chopped peppers, onions and tomatoes on multigrain bread. I also found cottage cheese. But they only sold eggs in 12-packs, so I am still debating if I should go back and get a carton. I am here in this hostel for five nights, so I plan to actually make dinners for once. Oh, fully stocked pantry, I miss you. You too, fridge.

That is it for now. The city is bustling in the Carnaval festivities. I saw some float vehicles for Carnaval drive by as I arrived this morning. Tres cool. People are walking around with kiddish head pieces and some costumes even just midday. <3

Must run out to catch some street parties around Ipanema (beach), courtesy Carnaval. As I said to Christine, it is supposedly a 25 min walk along the beach, but we shall see how long it actually takes me. they always forget to count the tourist tax of getting lost on the way, no matter how strait the roads are.

Posted by BatSoo 10:05 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Salta

The day could have been better.

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After the sweet yet groggy bus ride up to Salta, I rolled off the bus and walked yet again too long to find a hostel. I had two options, Puesto Viejo with not-so-top notch rating online but highly recommented by Katy and Inti Huasi with very good rating and location (about 200m from the bus station).

It was raining to keep up with my streak of having rain on my first day in every city so far (3 completes an infinite pattern, right? Hey, if Fermat could do it...), so in true sledge-hammery fashion, I got out both of the rain covers for the backpacks and took forever to put them on. (I had an extensive overnight-bus-pack to put back in, too: baby wipes, food, water, tetris handheld, books, granola bars, sleeping bag.... Ironically, I had forgotten to bring my sweater on with me. What a klutz.) After that, I walked and walked and walked to no avail... Could not find Inti Huasi for the life of me. Some day, my friends, I will get better at following maps (I can read it no problem. It is just not transitive to practice just yet). At least I cdould appreciate my own wisdom of having ditched the sleeping bag. That was 1 kg I didn´t have to lug around.

I actually had a good time walking in the rain with no umbrella, though. (Buried too deeply underneath other junk. It has since been moved to the front pocket with the other rain gears.) You see, I had company. This small puppy loitering around the bus station followed me for no less than an hour I wandered. It waited for me when I looked at the maps (which was pretty pointless given I could not find the streets I was on), ran after me if it was delayed by on-coming traffic at crosswalks, and even came in to the station with me when I went back to resume the starting position for a fresh start. Eventually, I started to pace for it to follow me better. Definitely one of my Salta highlights. (Apparently the dogs just do that around here. Bizarre.) You can tell the dogs here are better taken care of than some other parts of the world like, say, Ayutthaya, Thailand. They sleep all day everywhere, roam around freely without people threatening them, have decent coats (i.e. fed adequately), do not bark at pedestrians, and wag their tails as people walk by (if they are awake, that is). Given how many of them there are on the streets, I´d say this is a very good thing. I do not wish to feel endangered like in Ayutthaya. (You know how much I love dogs, so you do the math and figure how hostile they were.)

Finally got to Puesto Viejo and wished I had persevered for Inti Huasi. It may have been that I was tired and was a bit put off by the appraently mega-strong Israeli representation. (Israeli are everywhere, though. It is kind of strange just how many there are.) Plus, my dorm mate seemed a bit snobby. (She was a Danish girl who actually turned out to be very friendly once we started talking. This is usually the case, of course. But I was also a bit thrown off by her apparent fling with the hostel staff.) Forgot to put on the sunscreen before heading out due to the rain. Oops.

Went around to look at even more churches and the main square. I was not too thrilled about Salta, though. It was nice enough, but nothing dramatic. Went up the mountain via cable car(!!) for the panoramic view. (This made me like Salta a little more.) I was getting sunburnt by then, so I didn{t want to risk even more and walk up the footpath. Then I looked out on to the mountains all around for hours.... that is, after I got a salad for lunch. Sweet, sweet green stuff.

Okay, embarrassing story time.

Before the cable car ride, I went to the bus station to get my bus ticket to Jujuy. Try saying that. In Spanish. It sounds like an owl: Hoo-hooey. And in my pathetic spoken Spanish attempt to purchase the Flecha Bus (Flecha-oos, as they say) ticket to Jujuy next morning, I made the ticket agent laugh so badly he had to cover his face for a while. Oh, burn. (He was cute, too.) Well, at least it got the message across. He gave me a schedule of the buses from Salta, and I said, in competent English, ¨I will be back after I give it some thought.¨ He then blew me a kiss, so I guess not all was lost... (I ended up getting the 6:30 AM bus. Just wanted to get out as soon as possible.)

Headed back to the hostel for a sunscreen-and-aloe-vera break as well as booking my hostel in Jujuy. I was starting to notice the hour difference between my watch and the computer there (something I noticed when I first got to Córdoba but as I went by the hostel clock only, I never gave it a second thought). I wrote it off as a stupid-outdated-hostel-computer problem, of course.

Salta, supposedly, has an awesome archeological museum with English translations and Andean children mummies (likely sacrifices to the Sun). That was one thing I was set on seeing that day, and the guide book had told me the hours were 9-13 and 16-21. (Hence my return to the bus terminal and the cable car rides first.) I got there at 7:28 and discovered that the hours were now 11-7:30pm. Owwwww. I was really seriously bummed out by now as I defeatedly walked back down to hostel. So much so I grabbed a lomito completo (Thin steak sandwich with cured ham, eggs, and cheese.. with a hint of lettuce and tomatoes) AND fries. I didn´t even want the fries.... or the second half of the sandwich.

However, the clincher was that next day, after getting up at 5 (after getting to bed at 1 for some odd reason) and getting to the station at 5:30, I found out it was actually 4:30 AM. Yes, my watch was indeed an hour early. Yes, I could have seen the mummified children. ¿¿¿WHY DIDN´T ANYBODY TELL ME THERE WAS AN HOUR DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BUENOS AIRES AND THE NORTHERN PROVINCES??? Sigh.

That about wraps up my experiences in Salta. Not a stellar one. Beautiful, though, and I could see why some would love it. Just could have been better for me.

Posted by BatSoo 05:32 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Humour

Well, at least I find it amusing

sunny 23 °C
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I seem to be exhibiting a mild allergic reaction to something, though you never know if I just had a vicious army of mosquitos attack me without me knowing. Unlikely, but..... whatever.

Reason I love travelling number 58:
Even at times of perils, there is sense of humour present. When else do you get to ask yourself, ¨What am I allergic to? Llama or cactus?¨

(Of course, it figures the only med I left out was corticosteroids I got last time I broke out in hives... Aloe vera to the rescue!)

Posted by BatSoo 15:38 Archived in Argentina Tagged health_and_medicine Comments (0)

Córdoba

It was time to recover

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After getting off the overnight bus, I felt positively groggy from sleeping in a heavily air conditioned stale air. I should also mention that in anticipation of this, I had put on long pants, hiking boots, and long shirt, and this outfit did not suit the Córdoba weather at all. Lest you think otherwise, I must assure you I was nevertheless cheap enough and I headed to the hostel on foot. If only I had known how big Córdoba was... or even fully realize that my hostel was across the city. Mind you, it was by no means an extensively long walk, but by the end of the hike(?), my chest and shoulders hurt a fair bit from carrying the 60L backpack on the back and the compact but seriously packed daypack in the front. I cursed the idiocity that made me pack the bulky sleeping bag yet again. I vowed to make up my mind about the beast once I got to the hostel. (Hostel Morada) Notable was my unusually good coordination. I suspect the praise-worthy Argentine practice of making all cities basically grids. Seriously, it is awesome. Their street number ranges are on the signs every block, too, so you know exactly how many blocks you have to walk up.

After too long, I finally got there. Squeezed through the narrow door way with the bulky backpack, climbed upstairs. Checked in. Quiet hostel. Less nice than the one I left behind in BsAs, but I may have been biased. Ha.

Córdoba was a nice enough city with large pedestrian only street areas and many Iglesias (Spanish for church, I believe. But then there are many Iglesia Catedral´s around, which kind of breaks me). It was much hotter than Buenos Aires, I must say. Slightly more humid, too. I had allotted three days (two hostel nights and an overnight bus up to Salta) there in order to get some laundry done. An overgenerous plan, as my laundry came back the afternoon I got there.

I spent the next three days mostly just wandering around the city, getting more fruits in my diet (I was starting to worry about getting scurvy) and shamelessly exploiting the bathroom at the free-entry fine arts museum downtown. Debated getting a dressier shirt, but that never did result in anything. On the second day, I went walking along the canal. As I was walking down, an old man walked up to me and started pointing at the empty benches and bleachers. I was, predictably, confuzzled. I think I really came through to him, because he stopped talking fairly soon. Eventually, I gathered he told me to be careful with the big honkin´SLR because the neighbourhood was sketchy. I nodded knowingly (though too late), thanked him and walked away with the camera tucked carefully in my backpack.

Later that day, I was sitting on a bench in the busy shopping district, fairly enthralled in the photos I had taken that day, deleting the ones I no longer wanted. Then this middle aged woman came up to me, and started saying something.. in Spanish. It went something like this:
Argentine Lady: ¨Por favor, ñlkdsfjñlsidfjañwierujañ...¨
Soo: *deer in headlight look FULL ON*
Argentine Lady: ¨Entiende?¨
Soo: *whimper* No...
She then went at it again, this time with actions. When she made a whooshing-by motion with her hand, it clicked that she was being very kind to me and warning me about anyone who may try to snatch it from my tenuous grip. I nodded knowingly, and she walked away (probably muttering something about the clueless gringos everywhere).

And so the time went by... Highlights include sitting at the hostel kitchen table and reading whilst listening to the New Zealander play guitar and sing. He was good! He had been travelling for 6 years. Is that not crazy? He was actually interviewing for a job in town to stay in Argentina for a while. Man... This was giving me some serious thoughts about moving down here for good.

Anyway. The time came, and I went down to the bus terminal to get on the overnight bus to Salta. I was kind of glad to get out. It was a nice enough city, but it was also not terribly exciting to be there. In retrospect, I should have utilized the second day better and gone on a trekking tour to Sierras de(l?) Córdoba. Live and learn, I guess. This realization did bum me out on the last day as I left the city on yet another seriously sweet bus, this time a notch down at just Cama class instead of Cama ejecutivo.

I really do hope Argentines know how lucky they are to have bus system like this. For 165 pesos (I think), I rode the ridiculously comfortable bus for 12 hours or so. It helped that I was on the upper deck with panoramic views (I was in the first row, so I could even prop my feet up and look out). AND they even fed us food better than some airline foods I have had in the past. AND they came around with handfuls of chocolates afterwards. Ridiculous.

But anyway. Salta, Jujuy and Cafayate updates will have to wait until I have more than 5 minutes left in my internet time.

  • *** Sleeping bag update

I ditched it sneakily under the bed before I left the hostel. Rest in peace, bulky (free) sleeping bag. You were good to me. I will remember you.

Posted by BatSoo 15:06 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

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