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Whirlwind Week

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Hola!  Apologies for the long delay between blog posts.  It’s been a crazy week, and on top of that Seth had some work deadlines to meet (yes, he is still working on the road!) so my computer time was pretty limited.

Here’s what we’ve been up to, in brief.  Sorry for the lack of photos – will try to add more next time:

After Bariloche, we returned to Buenos Aries.  One thing we had to do – see a soccer game in the city.  We managed to find a guided tour to take us to a game of the local city favorites, Boca Juniors, which was a really funny experience. The “tour” consisted of being picked up in a converted city bus with a bunch of other tourists, brought to the game, and then taken to a bar for pizza and beer.  We had to go through about 3 security checkpoints to get into the stadium, and the police would confiscate anything you might want to throw at the opposing team & their fans – pens, lighters, lipstick, batteries.  This didn’t stop some crazy fans who still managed to smuggle in flares and throw them onto the field during the game, along with water balloons and other items.  The game was a non-stop audio experience, with a band playing throughout and all the fans singing songs about the team the entire time.  Pretty crazy and pretty fun.

Uruguay!  What do you know about that country?  I knew next to nothing until last Tuesday.  It’s across the river from Buenos Aries, and several people told us we had to make a day trip over there to check it out, in particular the city Colonia del Sacramento.  It’s a world heritage site, being a perfectly preserved colonial city.  And that’s exactly what it was.  We took a fast ferry over there – about 1 hr total – and found ourselves in a peaceful, quiet retreat from the hustle of Bs As.  It’s a tiny little place, totally walkable, with old cobblestone streets from the 16th century, tiny little houses with tiny little doors and tiny little shops.  It’s kind of like Argentina, except instead of Argentinean wine, cheese, leather and alpaca goods they will sell you Uruguayan wine, cheese, leather and alpaca goods.  Really though, it felt like a lovely, calm place, at least the little corner we experienced.  We sampled the local sandwich, Chivito, which is steak, eggs, ham, lettuce, and spread on bread.  not bad!  After exhausting the tiny little historic corridor, we took a city bus about 3 km away to explore the local beach (very nice with very nice picnic sites amongst trees lining the coast)… then we took the bus back and had a nice light dinner of Uruguayan wine, cheese and tapas.

Iguazu!  Amazing!!!  It’s kind of hard to get to (16 hr bus or a pricey flight) but totally worth it.  There is something like 200 different waterfalls all flowing at this amazing u-shaped place.  I will have to do a separate post about it with pictures because words don’t do it justice.  Being there engages almost all the senses:  the sound of the rushing water, the feel of the spray, the smell of the flowers and the fauna, and of course the vision of rainbows and butterflies and water everywhere.  In addition to the falls, we stopped by a local bird & animal sanctuary, where they take in birds and monkeys and other creatures that people had as pets or that were injured.  They have a fantastic training program where they teach eagles and other birds of prey how to fly and hunt so they can be released back into the wild.  Again, I’ll have to do a full post with pics on this short trip!

Tigre!  This is a town about 30 min north of Buenos Aries, reachable by either a $0.25 city train (like the Chicago el train) or a $4 slightly nicer touristy train.  It sits at a delta on the river, and there’s a casino, and an amusement park… we took a boat ride out into the delta to see some of the homes that sit on islands in the water.  Apparently there are 3 parts to the delta, which is huge: the first part is inhabited (which we saw), the 2nd part takes about 1-2 hrs to get to by boat and is semi-inhabited, and the 3rd part is 3hrs away by boat and totally wild.  We just saw a little bit of the first part.  Nice, but it’d be cool to go further in someday.  The highlight of Tigre, though, was stumbling upon a little store that advertised 31 flavors of empanadas.  Naturally we had to investigate.  After chatting with the very friendly lady running the show, we settled on just 2 flavors: Mediterranean, which was cheese, basil, garlic, fresh tomatoes and olive oil, and a sweet variety with cheese, apples and brown sugar.  Made to order and baked in a large wood fire oven.  Guess what?  these were the BEST empanadas of our 3 weeks in Argentina.   We should have ordered them by the dozen, as the lady initially suggested.  They cost about $0.75 each.  omg they were so good!   If I lived in Bs As I would work my way through their entire menu.  They also make pizza, too.  yummmmm.

Peru!  So here we are, currently in Cusco.  We flew here on Sunday.  First impressions:  Cusco is gorgeous, ancient, so much history here in the city and the people.  It’s hard to imagine that the Incas moved around the same buildings and plazas as we do today.  It’s also stinky — like Argentina, they don’t seem to have many regulations on car exhaust so it kind of smells like diesel and fumes everywhere.  And once you get out of the main historic center, the city turns to a mesh of new and old, poor and not so poor, and I don’t have a sense yet of how the overall state of this place is.  Are the people doing okay?  Is there a middle class?  It’s hard to tell with so many people clearly so dependent on tourists.  We wandered into a local library today and saw a row of people sitting and reading newspapers attached to stands.  Behind them were another row of people reading the papers over their shoulders.  I wish I could have taken a picture.

The food we’ve tried has all been delicious.  Great flavors, quinoa, chicken, lots of potatoes.  Lots of Italian, too – pasta and pizza everywhere.  They’re big on soups, roast chicken, lomo saltado – beef with vegetables in a soy sauce, and pisco sours.  I haven’t had a chance to have one of those yet due to acclimatizing – we’re at 12,000 feet and the first couple days were a rough adjustment.  Today we feel okay, hopefully settled in enough to hike tomorrow.

Inca trail!  Tomorrow we start with a pick up at 4am (yikes!) so we can be at the trail head at 7am and beat the other 20 tour groups that will also start the trail tomorrow.  It’s a 3 1/2 day  / 3 night trek over several very high mountain passes and ending at Machu Picchu on Saturday.  I’m very excited, although I’ve been fighting off a cold so I’m just hoping I feel okay enough to enjoy it all.  We met our guide, Freddie, tonight and he told us “I am a very slow walker” so that made me feel a bit better.  He’s a history teacher who loves archeology, so I’m looking forward to learning about the Incas and the sites we’ll see along the trail from him.

Time for bed so we can make our wake-up call.  Wish us well – will update after the hike!  ciao!

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Wednesday, May 11, 2011 12:27 am

    Good luck on the trail! I already like the sound of Freddie.

  2. Heather permalink
    Wednesday, May 11, 2011 8:59 am

    Another great post! I can’t wait to see the photos. I hope you feel better, Kristen!

  3. Jen permalink
    Wednesday, May 11, 2011 10:15 am

    I CANNOT wait to hear about your hike! I love your posts and am sitting here getting hungry!

  4. Tuesday, May 17, 2011 4:07 pm

    Potatoes, waterfalls and animals? Does it get any better?
    The empanadas sounded amazing too. I bet monkeys like empanadas.
    Hope your cold didn’t hold you back.
    ~Shephard

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