Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Foot asado

I was having a perfectly lovely day doing what homeless folk do, ie drinking wine in public places, until I got a little too brazen and decided to play some barefoot futbol on the concrete. In 10 minutes, I managed to offer my poor feetsies up to the asado gods, who were more than willing to barbecue my offerings. So a nice, nasty blood blister/burn that makes every step painful. Good thing I won´t have to walk for the next 20-some hours on a bus, but meanwhile I still was willing to trek an extra block to save 50 centavos for internet. Pathetic on all counts.

Puerto Madryn was fine, except I am broke and poor and couldn´t afford to do anything but drink cheap wine and take in the sun. Back to BsAs shortly.

In the meantime, thanks to Oz, a little bit of nostalgia and an old tale:

It was a dark and stormy night as I rode on the train. I was working my way to Turkey from Poland to meet my friends for Thanksgiving break. Turkey in Turkey for Turkey day was the plan, but I had a long way before then. I had come from Warsaw (searching for rumored Taco Bell) to Budapest, and was passing through Arad, Romania on my way to Cluj, Romania. Cluj is the second largest city in Romania, and where the ´89 revolution started. I was supposed to change trains in Arad, and I chose that as a transfer solely because I had lived in Arad, Israel some years before. Arad in Israel was settled by Romanians from Arad. So, I was on the train, hanging out with a group of girls who were studying in Budapest and on their way to Bucharest- along with the train. One of the girls had been on Young Judaea Year Course the year before me (small world) and another spoke Romanian (helpful later). Anyway, as I was trying to get off the train in Arad, Romania, a ton of peasants filled up both ends of the train and wouldn´t move for me to get off. A lot of screaming and cursing took place, but I was still stuck on the train.

Fast forward a few hours later, and the ticket-takers started coming around. When the ticket-takers came to us, the girl who spoke Romanian tried to explain to them all that had transpired, ie that I had tried to get off but the peasants had trapped me on the train. This didn´t cut it for them, and they wanted money. I had no Romanian Lira and no Hungarian Forints, let alone a few greenbacks. The head ticket-taker asked to see my passport, which I showed him. He promptly put it in his satchel and said I could have it back when i had some money to pay for the ride. I, understandbly, went nuts.

I told him there was no way he was keeping my passport, and we managed to make enough commotion that other ticket-takers came by. The girl who spoke Romanian explained what had transpired, and finally a nice ticket guy said that I just had to get off at the next stop. Fine, except that was 2 hours later in the heart of Transylvania.

It was a dark and stormy night when I exited the train, and I was scared stiff. I had no money, no guidebook, and no idea where I was except that it wasn´t where I wanted to be. The shady train station was full of gypsies eyeing me, and perhaps vampires lurking. With brass knuckles in my pocket, I ventured out of the train station. Slowly, I walked through the town and searched for some form of "sivilization."

And civilization I found, in the form of McDonalds. Never was I so happy as to see the Golden Arches. Any place that has McDonalds also has a bank and a place for me to stay the night. Sure enough, the lady at the drive-through directed me to a Raifensbank, a bank which I even had an ATM for, and also to a hotel. I promptly became a Romanian millionaire and plunked down 320k lira ($20) for a place to stay. The next morning I got out ASAP, and on to Brasov (home of Dracula´s castle), where I met Andraea- a lovely Romanian vampire who let me stay at her place. But that is a different story. To this day, I have no ideas where I was, and I don´t really care. But I came to appreciate MickieD´s and ATMs that fix everything, and not really being as stranded as you thought.

Ah, but I digress. Back to BA, journey on.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Welsh Coast and the Dalí of Gaiman

I spent 31 hours on a bus to arrive to the Argentine equivalent of Galveston, oy. Actually, Galveston at least has The Spot, the best burger joint on the Gulf of Mexico. Actually, I am not being fair, I have had a fine time. I did blessedly nothing yesterday, save walk by the brown beaches covered in kelp and down the pier. Today, I went touring the Welsh countryside.

Back in 1865, about 150 Welsh landed here escaping religious persecution in jolly ol´. They came here to emulate some biblical style living, but quickly realized that they had landed in some harsh terrain that was far from their lush fields in Wales. Why did they Welsh choose this area? I have always heard that the Welsh like to shag sheep, maybe the great number of sheep in Patagonia was enticing? Ah, but I digress. So the Welsh were pretty screwed until the Tehuelche Indians helped teach them how to hunt and some basic survival skills. The community also managed to recruit more Welsh to come join them, and managed to survive and build a few more settlements.

That was then, today these old settlements are good for touristy Welsh tea and scones. Some people still speak Welsh, albeit haltingly. There are cultural exchanges to Wales to teach people the language, and teachers come here to maintain the language. Also, students and professors of the Welsh language will come here to study the old texts left behind, as they are considered a purer form of the language.

As for moi, I visited Trelew- the village of Lewis- and visited a museum dedicated to the early Welsh pioneers. It was slightly interesting, and worth the two pesos- but not much more. After, I took a bus to another old Welsh town called Gaiman. In Gaiman, I had some Welsh black fruit cake and was ready to move on until I found El Desafio.

El Desafio is an art park created by Joaquin Alonso; out of cans, plastic bottle and glass, the Dalí of Gamian constructed a world of wonder. Glass bottles to make trees, cans to make flowers and plastic to make bulbs- and all in a variety of colors. It put a huge smile on my admiring face and transported me back to Owlhouse in Nieu Bethesda in South Africa. As Alonso states, "What once was trash, now is art." So true, so true.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

New pics up

New pics from Cerro FitzRoy, El Calafate and the Perito Morena glaciar.

Baskin-Robbins of bus rides

I passed the night waiting for my bus reading at a cafe and trying hard to stay up. I read a whole book, "Smile when you´re lying," a travelogue by some features editor for Maxim. Reading that after reading Jane Austen was like having a spam burger after a bife de lomo. It was slightly entertaining, other than the fact I could have written the same book, only probably better. Not that I am jealous, as I have no desire to write a travelogue. He did have a few funny stories and some decent insight, but nothing earth-shattering.

I also watched Usuaian b-boys breakdance on cardboard and beatboxing. Ah, the universality of hip-hop, thus proven when you can find breakdancing at the end of the earth. Two of the best hip-hop clubs I have ever been to were in Shanghai and Beijing, respectively. Meanwhile, I have seen breakdancing in such random places as Vienna, Maseru and Marrakesh. (editor´s note: Or as I now hear Matisyahu on the radio in Puerto Madryn, Patagonia)

Later I passed the time talking to a missionary from Colorado. A young guy named Mark who ran up to me when he saw my Breckenridge hoodie. He was there doing some outreach and people with him were putting on an evangelical interpretive dance.

Anywho, I stayed it to catch my 5:30 bus and proceeded to be on a bus for the next 31hours. It wasn´t supposed to be that long. I had purchased a ticket to Puerto San Julian, which was halfway between Rio Gallegos (the first stop back in Patagonia) and Puerto Madryn (a place I wanted to visit). I arrived in Rio Gallegos and was ready to switch to the next bus, which was supposed to take me to Puerto San Julian (PSJ).

Except as I was going to get on the bus, the bus attendent told me that the bus didn´t actually stop in Puerto San Julian, but only at the entrance road to the city, which was a good 3-5 km away. I was furious, as none of this was mentioned to me. I would be arriving at midnight to a barren road leading to the city. The bus itself was going to Comodoro Rivadavia, some 6 hours further north.

Since I didn´t want to be stranded like I once was in Transylvania (if anyone wants to hear that story, please post so), I figured it was better to go to Comodoro Rivadavia (CR). I explained to the bus people that if they wouldn´t take me to PSJ, I wanted to go to CR. They balked, saying that I hadn´t purchased a ticket to CR, which was 6 hours further. Right, I responded, I had purchased and was holding a ticket to PSJ where they weren´t going so they couldn´t lecture me on purchased tickets versus purchased destinations. My logic won out, and got me a discounted fair farther north.

I arrived at 5:30 to CR and caught yet another bus to Puerto Madryn, where I am now. In total 31 hours of bus rides. Now off for a nap on a bed, not a bouncing bus seat.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Friday, January 25, 2008

The world´s most southerly....

A rather ubiquitous phrase tossed around here, but the one place where it is most apropos is "the most southerly gritty town." My friend Daniel had mentioned that to me, and it is correct: Ushuaia is a bit gritty outside of the tourist blocks.

I spent yesterday at the Parque Nacional; I had to sneak in as an Argentine because I wouldn´t have been able to afford the entrance fee otherwise. I spent a few hours on a nice hike around the bay and past some wild horses grazing. The evening was spent with my fellow travelers, and witnessing the horror of Argentine karoake. I think I have grown a little jaded from the jagged rocks, it´s time to head north back to BA. With that said, every journey of 3,040km begins with a first 5:30am bus journey, ugh.

Since I am doing nothing today but killing time, I will address "How the South was won-part two." The conquest of Tierra Del Fuego was particularly brutal. The main tribe in TDF was the Selk´nam, a war-like tribe. As settlers moved in and began sheepfarming and fencing off the Selk´nam´s ancestral land, the Selk´nam began hunting the sheep. This brought reprisals from those who saw this as a threat to their investments. Although it was the Selk´nam who were painted as "savages," the white settlers unleashed a campaign of genocide against them. Whites began headhunting the Selk´nam, with bounty hunters being paid for severed ears (until earless Selk´nam were found roaming the countryside) and later 1 pound sterling for their heads-the same as for a puma- and the heads were sold to European museums. There was even a bonus offered for pregnant women. Meanwhile, sheep and whale carcasses were laced with strychnine to poison the Selk´nam hunters, while captured children were injected with infectious diseases. Remind me who were the savages?

Meanwhile, "civilizing" came in the form of Salesian mission, who were paid 5 pounds by landowners for rehousing the Selk´nam on their mission. Later measles epidemics swept through and decimated the remainder. Other tribes on the island were no luckier. Another group, the Yamana suffered worse during measles outbreaks because they had adopted European dress and their damp dirty clothing increased the rate of disease than those who were still in their semi-naked state. Also, the change in diet from a high-fat to a more European agricultural diet reduced the Yamana´s resistance to the cold and to disease. "Sivilization" and savages.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Austral

"The sense of sublimity, which the great deserts of Patagonia and the forest-clad mountains of Tierra del Fuego excited in me, has left an indelible impression on my mind."
-Charles Darwin

The morning began with receiving stamps in my passport at the local tourist office. They actually stamp your passport with stamps for the end of the world. After wandering around the most southern tourist trap in the world, I visited the Museo El Fin Del Mundo. It was an interesting place, with history of the region. There were exhibits on the Selknam, the original inhabitants. They also had something about the missionary work, and had bibles translated into Selknam. I will discuss more about their pacification and extermination later.

The museum also had something on Julius Popper, who was a Romanian-born adventurer who set up shop down south during the Fuegian gold rush. From 1887-1893, he set up his own little republic down south, and minted his own gold coins and issued his own stamps- both of which were on display.

After the museum, I hung out in the city until I took a catamaran tour of the Beagle Chanel. We sailed out to the Isla de los Pajaros, these wannabe-penguin birds and also to an island of sea lions and to the Lighthouse at the End of the World. I returned and later met my friends Sam from Greensboro and Allison from Toronto for a few drinks at a pub, and we sipped smuggled Old Smuggler whiskey as the place got too packed to get more drinks from the bar. Meanwhile, Sam just found out that his grandmother had surprised him with a trip to Antartica. I can´t guilt trip my grandparents, cause they took me to Southeast Asia a few years ago, soooo...anyone want to be my sugar-grandma and send me to Antartica? Any of you readers who have been enjoying the blog so much that you want to be a very generous benefactor? I will gladly rename the blog after you in exchange for passage to Antartica, and I will return with a penguin and a seal as thanks.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

El Fin del Mundo

"You vitriolic,patriotic, slam, fight, bright light, feeling pretty
Psyched

It's the end of the world as we know it
It's the end of the world as we know it
It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine"
-REM, "It's the end of the world as we know it"

I hopped my 3am bus yesterday and arrived early in Rio Gallegos to catch another bus to Ushuaia. While waiting, I chatted it up with an amiable fellow (whose name I am blanking on) from Greensboro, NC (luv Jan´s House) and a girl from T-dot. The girl was amazed that I picked her background as Sri Lankan, she said I was only the third person to ever correctly identify her roots.

Another long bus to the Chilean border, and I was sitting next to a Norwegian fellow who was eating smelly sausages. The border wait to leave Argentina took forever, nearly two hours. We left Argentina, and entered Chile and her hypersensitive customs control. Thankfully, it was just a rumor that I, as an American, had to pay an entry fee to get in to Chile. It only applies for flights into Santiago. My joy was tempered by the realization that Bolivia has tacked on a reciprocal entry fee for Americans, one that I checked and found to be true. Damn you George Bush, your tax cuts didn´t help me and your policies are hitting me directly in my thread-bare pockets! Ah, but I digress into anger. Back on the bus in Chile, the Norwegian fellow was munching on more smelly sausages that he smuggled into Chile. A sausage smuggler, haha!

After a nap and a nice ride through the barren lands of Chilean Patagonia, we reached the Straight of Magellan. Unlike Ferdinand or Sir Francis, since I am traveling alone, I didn´t have to put down any crew mutinies. I almost executed an annoying brat on my bus, who wouldnt stop whining. Still breast-feeding at what looked to be nearly 4 years old. Hey, can´t blame the tyke on that one. Ah, but I digress. So, I crossed the Straight of Magellan, and watched penguins and baby killer whales swim by. The crossing was rather short, and I arrived to Tierra del Fuego, the Land of Fire and truly the end of the earth.

Not that my journey was done there, I had another 5 hours and another border crossing from Chile back into Argentina before I reached Ushuaia. It was fine though, cause as we reached Ushuaia, the mountains and the setting sun looked to be something out of Lord of the Rings. Stunning setting as I arrived to Ushuaia, the furthest southerly city in the world. Having eaten nothing all day, save a cheese sandwich and an alfajor, I quickly found a cheap rotisserie and chowed down on a quarter of chicken, salad and a quilmes. I ate so fast it hurt my stomach, but I continued eating because I was so famished. After, I caught a taxi to my lovely hostel and went right to bed.

Today, I am off to the National Park to hike around a little. Tomorrow, perhaps to sail around the Beagle Channel. Sorry folks, it doesn´t seem I will have pics up for a bit as it is slow and expensive but I will try.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Climbing on diamonds

I spent the day climbing on glaciars with Maria and Martina, it was simply amazing. The Perito Morena glaciar is one of only two advancing glaciars in South America and the only accesible one. We arrived to the glaciar by boat, and as we got closer, a huge chunk of ice fell in the water. The jagged ice cliffs and spires are truly a sight, and the crevices of neon blue are beautiful. The guides strapped crampons on our feet- these devices that looked like either bear traps or something you would use if you were going out to club baby seals. With the metal shoes, we ascended up the glaciar and climbed around on ice crystals .

We wandered past beautiful little crevices of neon blue and the sound of rushing water within the glaciar. We listened to the snap, crackle and pop of the ice chunks. The ice shined like giant bling in the summer sun. We drank fresh glaciar water and goofed around in pics with the ice pik. We also got to have a true "scotch on the rocks," a glass of whiskey with glaciar ice. The glaciar was fascinating because it was in such stark contrast with the lush green forest around it. After climbing for an hour and a half, we took a bus to the North Face, which gave a different perspective. I will need to get my pics up, because my words can do no justice.

Interestingly, while we were on the English tour, I was the only native-English speaker. Everyone else were Israelis. There are a ton of Israelis in Patagonia, I think this could be a good article. As for El Calafate, it is an interesting tourist boom town. It lives off the tourism and it shows. There isn´t much to the town itself, but compared to where I had been, it is a metropolis. Interestingly, there are two companies paving the roads. One has a contract to do the streets, and the other has the contract to do the connectors between the intersections and the corners with the roads. It is a bit of a mess, with paved roads in some parts waiting for connectors, while paved intersections wait for roads. Slightly typical for here.

The city also does well from the patronage of the Kirchners, who own lots of property here. Former Pres Nestor Kirchner had been governor of Santa Cruz, a province in Patagonia, and they own a considerable amount of locations here. Cristina was in town, but didn´t invite me in for a drink.

Tonight, I begin my 18 hour journey to the End of the Earth. On to Tierra Del Fuego and Ushuaia with a 3 am bus. Journey on.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Imaginátelo en vivo

Imagine it live, as the advert states on the subte a brazilian miles away. I will explain.

Some people earn their miles with purchases of things. Rapid rewards for stuff they don´t really need. I, on the other hand, earn my miles in a far different fashion. The miles come on bumpy roads, on long buses to somewhere. While the miles you earn might go towards a flatscreen tv, my flatscreen is the bus window.

I have a lot of miles to explain on how I got down here, but all is good. I have been off hiking for the last few days with little internet connection in town. My day shall pick up from where I left off in Esquel and on to here.

After spending an ungodly 3.5 hours uploading all those pics, I ran into Elenora, and we had coffee and frambuesa (rasberry) pie at a little cafe that I had frequented earlier. After pie, I grabbed my stuff and headed on to the bus station to catch my 27 hour journey. I walked in and was looking for a place to charge my ipod. I walked into an office and ran into Lizzy, a wee Aussie lass I had met over breakfast at the wooden palace in El Bolson. Ironically, as I headed out from that breakfast, I said maybe we will catch up down south. I caught my 2am bus, and was blessed with a first class seat (ie no one next to me).

The ride was bumpy, to say the least. 27 hours, 26 unpaved. When on a paved road, it was like riding on ice. But the ride was passed in a pleasant fashion, with chatting with my fellow wayfarers. We arrived in El Chalten at 4:30am, and for once I actually had a reservation, at a place called Elal- I picked it because of the name.

El Chalten is a tiny town that was established in 1985 to handle the tourism related to the glaciers. It is mostly unpaved and rugged, there are no atms or banks, and it feels like an old cowboy town.

After settling in the next day, Lizzie and I went hiking to Laguna Torre to see Cerro Torre. We went hiking through various trails and past what looked to be a tree graveyard. Unfortunately, there were clouds, and we couldn´t see Cerro Torre. However, the hike was nice. It ended at a lake that was formed from a glacier. Although it had been hot and I was shedding layers during the hike, once we reached the lake, it was so cold I needed a hat and sweater. We hiked back into town, and arrived some 6 hours and 22km later.

We had decided to switch hostels, because the owner of Elal wasn´t very friendly. I am still pissed I had to pay 5 pesos for a towel, and he wouldn´t turn on the hot water for me the morning we left the place. No sense in being bitter, we switched to a far more friendly hostel.

The next day, the weather was perfect, and we headed off hiking to Cerro FitzRoy. FitzRoy was the name of the chaplain on Darwin´s boat. We began the hike, and after a little while stumbled gaping upon the first lookout of Cerro FitzRoy. While I had seen pictures from the aforementioned adverts, I was speechless at the sight of the mountains. More impressionante than Mt. Everest. The sculpted peak was known to the Tehuelche (indigenous) as “The Mountain that Smokes” for the way the clouds cling to the summit.

The hike continued over beautiful terrain, and we were urged by fellow hikers to visit the Laguna de los Tres for the best view of FitzRoy. The ascent up to the point was intense. A good hour and a half straight uphill. Not an easy climb, and over rocks and wet areas. Thankfully, a fellow traveler gave me a staff to use, which aided my hike. We clawed our way up the hills, until we reached the first part of the summit, a taunting flat part before another hill to climb. Finally, we reached the the laguna, which offered the most spectacular views of the jagged cliffs and glaciers. We snacked on possibly the greatest bananas ever, and enjoyed the endorphin rush. From the peak, there was a lake from the glacier, a waterfall and another glacier that had painted black lines down the side of a mountain. It was fantastic.

After a long while, we headed back down, and returned some 10 hours and 25 km later, to have some veggie pizza and welcome the late shabbat since it didn´t get dark till midnight. As for dinner, I can´t begin to describe my horror when my famished fingers opened the pizza box to find a corn-covered pizza. Luckily, I found an Argentine next to me who liked the vile stuff, and passed it off to him. He was half-Jewish, and Lizzie is also half-Jewish, and we were joined by a French Jew named Joelle who heard us talking. A nice little shabbat over beer and pizza, and the chance to aid and do a mitzvah, as Joelle had her money stolen in Chile, so we all chipped in to buy her provisions for her return journey.

I woke up early yesterday, and caught the bus to El Calafate. Pippin couldn´t make it, but Mery and Tita met me at the bus station. Mery is Tita´s sister, who lives here in El Calafate. After dropping off my stuff at her place, we all went out to Laguna Nimez- a bird reserve on Lago Argentino (Argentina´s largest). After spotting swans and ducks, we made our way to the lake´s beach and took far too much sun and got burned. The night was punctuated by an incredible asado with various cuts of beef, Patagonian lamb and a grillled onion and pepper dish that was mouthwatering. A long, late night of wine and cherries and lazy day has thus followed. That about wraps up my last few days of trekking. Pictures shall be up soon.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

El Chalten

India taught me the luxury of a hot shower; Patagonia taught me the luxury of paved roads. After 27 hours of journeying on unpaved roads on the bus, I have finally arrived to El Chalten. We passed briefly on some paved roads for about 20 minutes, and it was like riding on air. Can´t really get into too many other details, as internet is super expensive here. Otherwise, off to climb more mountains.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Proof and new pics up

 
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I also posted my Bariloche pics. It only took me 3.5 hours at a godawfully slow internet cafe. Enjoy viewing them more than I did posting them.

How the South was won

"Our self-respect as a virile people obliges us to put down as soon as possible, by reason or by force, this handful of savages who destroy our wealth and prevent us from definitely occupying, in the name of law, progress and our own security, the richest and most fertile lands of the Republic."
-General Julio Roca

I would be remiss if I didn´t discuss the history of the pacification of Patagonia. Argentina´s history in regard to its native population is very much like the United States. Argentina´s war with the native population first came to a head with General Juan Manuel de Rosas´ "Desert Campaign" in 1833. Rosas was one of the first caudillos, South American war lords, and waged a brutal campaign against the indigenous population in the South to expand territories he could use for patronage. This campaign was the precursor to the later "Conquest of the Desert," led by General Julio Roca.

As settlers began crowding out the Mapuche and Tehuelche from their lands, and the disappearance of the wild live stock that the tribes once dependended on, raids ("malones")on the estancias increased. In the 1870s, Argentina was debating how to handle its Indian problem. One one side was Minister of War Alsina, who argued for lines of fortifications, fences and ditches, as well as the integration of the tribes. The other, led by General Roca, called for a campaign to "extinguish, subdue or expel" the Indians of the South.

Taking a page from Manifest Destiny, Argentina viewed territorial expansion as its natural course. Roca led the army south in 1879, and crushed the indigenous population, killing 1,300 and taking another 3,000 prisoner. In crushing the Indian resistance, the whole of Patagonia was open for settlement. Meanwhile, General Roca rode the success of his campaign into political success and won the 1880 Argentine presidential election.

I am not writing this to judge Argentina any differently than I judge the actions of the United States. History is brutal, and historians are often hypocritical or culturally relative. I am simply putting this out for educational purposes.

Menos o Mejor

Less or Better. Good advice that was given to me the other day as I woke up to a babalas after a night of 3 peso wine and fun with Aussies and Brazilians at the wooden palace. Drinking 3 peso wine makes you feel like 3 pesos the next day.

I took the bus to Lago Puelo, a beautiful lake under the view of some rather large, snow covered mountains. At the entrance gate, a ticket person comes on the bus to sell the entrance tickets. Argentines were 3 pesos, foreigners were 6; of course, I answered that I was a porteño. I sat on the beach reading Jane Austen´s Sense and Sensibility. I have been arguing with an Argentine girl in my hostel that the book is a classic, not chick lit. She is basing her opinion on not having read the book, but having seen the movie, which is closer to a chick flick.

I hitchhiked my way back to town, first with a lovely Uruguayan couple, then with a nice chilean couple. After a much needed nap, I went with an Aussie named James on a hike down to the Rio Azul. It was a nice long walk downhill to a nice little river. We hoped to find a ride back up and save the uphill journey but our thumbs had no luck.

Yesterday, I took the bus to Esquel, where I am now. I sat next to a nice porteña girl named Elenora, who works for a Jesuit NGO that provides schooling for the poor. She said that she isn´t religious, but because the Jesuit strand is the black-sheep that is close to Liberation Theology, it works out okay. After settling in Esquel, we ended up going hiking in the Parque Nacional Los Alerces. Alerces are very old trees, and similar to Redwoods in California. Again, I snuck in to the park as a local, 7 pesos rather than 20 pesos. I don´t feel guilty cheating my way in, because I would never charge an Argentine or any other foreigner 3 times as much in my country.

Anyway, we hiked our way out to the Cinco Saltos, a waterfall with five parts. It was a nice hike, almost all up hill. It took us close to 3 hours total, and we almost missed the bus back, except we managed to hitchhike with a nice chilean couple to the bus stop. At the bus, there was a group of Israelis. I chatted with them in hebrew. I realized that it wasn´t as silly that the Israelis keep asking if I am Jewish. Before when I had the long curls, it was obvious, but the Jewish skinhead look is more uncommon. As they were further up in line for a full bus, I told them in Hebrew to save us seats, which worked out well. We got back and were joined by another Argentine girl and went out for parilla (grill). A yummy Patagonian lamb cooked in wine and falling off the bone. Yum.

Today I am taking it slow and hanging out before I take a (gulp) 27 hour bus to El Chalten down the unpaved route 40. Not a lot of fun, I imagine. Journey on.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Puck in Patagonia

I went to shabbat services at the Chabad Bariloche. While I utterly respect what Chabad does throughout the world, I just don´t enjoy the services. They are just a far different style than the type I enjoy. Fair enough, in Patagonia I will take what I can get. After I called the family for a shabbat service I enjoy more, and then headed on to dinner. The place was a sea of Israelis. There are always so many Israeli backpackers. They usually travel in groups, and there are tons in Patagonia. As I am not Chabad, I am neither Israeli, while I respect both very much.

I left Bariloche this morning at 11am. I debated calling Harry for his birthday, but with the time difference, I can´t imagine he would be happy to speak with me. I left Bariloche for El Bolson. El Bolson is an old hippy hangout from the 1970s. It was Latin America´s first non-nuclear town. It is the veggie side of Argentina.

I arrived and couldn´t find a hostel, so I went to the tourist info place. They sized me up and directed me to a little place in the woods. I trekked over the bridge and into some unpaved roads until I found my wooden palace in the forest. Very nice, and rather inexpensive, I like it. On my way back from the hostel to town, I came to what I wrote above. I had been slightly melancholy on why I felt like an outsider the previous night. When I came to my answer, I was rewarded for my pondering with a peso in the path. I headed into a fun little fair, where I had artisanal beer and the third-best empanadas I have ever had. Off to protect my virgin scalp from the sun.

chai

A happy, happy birthday to my little brother Harry, who turned 18 today. Enjoy the cigs, lottery and army. Please post your answers to the 4 questions.

Since I am utterly egocentric-the ombligo del mundo, the bellybutton of the world- I will now spin this into a column about me. I can remember back to my 18th birthday, I got a sony playstation to prove I wasn't old. Ten years later, I am still playing. The last ten years roughly breaks down to this: 3 years studying at Brandeis, 3 years studying and living abroad, 3 years working for the Israeli Foreign Ministry in Texas and a year in DC gearing up for more travel. Not a bad decade.

My Mom mentioned to me on my birthday how 28 struck her deeply. She was 28 when she had me. She found out she was pregnant the same week she had received admission into law school. 28 strikes me a "hinge" year, a time that will bring great change.

I had been thinking about the most influential person for the last decade. The parents rank up there, as well as many friends and girlfriends. Some wonderful professors who I learned a lot from, and some great bosses who taught me a lot. Yet my "person of the decade" goes to someone whose name I can't begin to recall and I met only briefly.

The award goes to some American traveler who I met on the train from Berlin to Prague in 1999. I was backpacking with a big group of Yearcourse friends, and there was a solo traveler in the train car next to us. We invited him in and were chatting with him. We were traveling in a big group, and had done so in Israel and were doing so in Europe; he had been traveling by himself and regaled us with stories and explained how easy and fun it was be on your own. We invited him to join our group, but he politely declined as he preferred to travel alone. We couldn't understand it then, but I understand it now. We found him the next morning in the same hostel we were staying in, and he had made friends with a beautiful Sri Lankan girl. The impact was not lost on yours truly. So, whoever you are, you win the award for having the most influence on my life over the last decade. It is probably because of you that I have been doing what I am doing, and truly enjoying my travels. Cheers to you, may we meet again someday on some long bus or train to somewhere.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Upward over the mountain

"Sometimes you find yourself in the middle of nowhere,
and sometimes in the middle of nowhere,
you find yourself."
-Hummer

"So may the sunrise bring hope where it once was forgotten
Sons are like birds, flying always over the mountain"
Iron and Wine, Upward over the Mountain

I climbed a mountain today. Not a large hill, or a steep ridge, but an actual mountain. What did you do today?

I went to take a nap last night, and dozed off at 8pm. I woke up this morning at 8am, and was wondering if I was getting old. I took the bus to Cerro Catedral, a ski mountain in the winter and trekking cliff in the summer. It is called that because of the craggy rocks at the top look like gothic spires.

I arrived, weaved my way past all the tourists taking the chair lift to the top, and started my ascent. As always, I was wholly and woefully unprepared for my endeavor. I set out with no water, and had eaten little that morning and brought nothing with me. See under: Table Mountain in Cape Town.

The hike was beautiful, it was just me climbing up through ski trails. I hiked past fresh streams coming down the mountains and fields of grape-ish purple flowers. It was tiring and I took my time to admire the view. I reached the summit some 4 and a half hours later, taking in some spectacular views and even impressing the workers at the park for my perseverance up the path. Maybe I am not so old.

I got to the summit and practically passed out in the lodge. The lodge was playing old 80's pop/r&b music, I didn't know hell was so high up. I sat there watching condors fly by, as I devoured some vegetable soup and a whole bread basket. Just as I was considering myself spry, hearty and hale, I found myself stuffing the remaining bread into my bag like my grandmother would- maybe I am getting old after all. In total, I climbed a 1,900 meter mountain (6,230 feet).

I opted not to try to trek down because I have to go to shabbat services, so I took the chairlift down and listened to Amelie play raindrops as clouds played shadow games on the mountains. Off to shower and head off to Shabbat services. Shabbat shalom to all.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Lago Escondido (The Hidden Lake)

I woke up early in my breakfastless hostel. I was annoyed by this, because it was expensive by my hosteling standards (39 pesos or $13). I put on every possible layer I possessed and set out to find a new hostel because the one I was in was booked up. I trekked uphill to find the Nomad hostel, which had room for moi, was cheaper and included b-fast.

After settling in, and grabbing some breakfast while it snowed on me, I made my way to the center of the city to catch a bus out on the Circuito Chico, a lakeshore drive with hiking spots. I met a group of Argentines, two girls traveling together and a cute couple. They invited me for mate and I joined them in the search for Lago Escondido. As we were looking for the trail, we asked some hikers returning how far it was. 20 minutes. We then proceeded to miss the trail marker and hiked along the rode for a good hour or so. We decided to give up after we flagged down a car, and the driver seemed to think it was 9km away. After we had walked ten minutes back, we bumped into another hiker, who said it was only 2 km away. The two girls had to return, so I ventured back towards the lake with the couple Marcos and Carla. They had been dating for 7 years, since high school. Cute.

Anywho, our hike dragged on much longer, and we rechristened the lake Lago Perdido (lost lake). Eventually we found the trail and the lake itself. The lake was beautiful. We sat out on a little dock on the turquoise lake, under the majestic mountains above. 2 hours of hiking for 20 minutes of lake relaxing. They left to go back, and I stuck around a little longer. I found the right trail, and caught up with them. We hiked out way back into the starting point and caught a bus back into town. The bus was jam-packed, so we hopped off at a brewpub called Blest. After hiking and freezing ourselves, it was nice to get some french onion soup and a stout.

On our way back, we just barely missed the bus. He could have stopped but didn't I flicked off the driver and called his mother a "taxista." We were waiting for a few minutes at the bus, when we managed to hitchhike our way back in the back of a truck. They got in with a little trepidation to our convertible since it was their first time. First time is always special. We rode back along the lake route, with the mountains in the distance. I felt like a dog with its head out the window and tongue hanging out. Lots of fun. We drove past the bus and I flicked off the driver for good measure. Then our ride needed to turn, and we had to get off. We ran to catch the bus, which was at a stop. I sheepishly got on the bus with my tail between my legs. Thankfully, I don't think the driver had seen my bluster.

Nor did I get in nearly as much trouble as when I was 13 and told the school bus driver to "kiss my ass." Now, perhaps I was a little punk back then, but HE DID SEE ME running all the way to the stop and went anyway. I ran to the next stop and, huffing and puffing, asked why he didn't stop since he definately saw me. His reply was that I wasn't directly at the stop. I let loose. My punishment was that I had to sit up front for the rest of the year.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Roy G. Biv in the Argentine Alaska

I awoke to the barren void of desert, where city and life once surrounded me. A bit of angustia filled my head and heart at the loss of the life I had in BA. The vista brought back my smile, and a upside-down smile of colors appeared in the horizon. Actually, three rainbows in full form and beauty. The first like little down-turned smirks of color; the second a jubilant affair across the whole sky; the third was a gate into darkness and rain.

I arrived early to the Argentine Alaska. I took a bus into town, and stopped at a chocolate factory for a cup of coco and a medialuna. I trudged around to 4 different hostels, and managed only to find a bed for the night. The view outside my window is stunning. Off to play.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Shorn

Like a little lamb! I have no hair. A year of hair is now gone. Thanks to everyone who wished me a happy birthday, as the greetings came in from all over. England, France, Pakistan, Israel, Egypt, Korea and other assorted places. A very, mery unbirthday to moi.

Monday, January 07, 2008

veintiocho; the crazy twentyeights

I woke up early for my birthday, from some kids making an infernal racket outside. Ah, the crazy eighty-eights, and leaving eighty-seven (which was such a regal age). Maybe one of the nurses at the retirement home will give me a "happy-ending" spongebath. I bribed one of the orderlies to bring me a "happy special" prune cake and to spike my bran-and-oj with a little champagne- that should keep me "regular.". Harry stopped by, his seventy-eighth birthday is next week. He brought me some new grillz for my dentures-nothing like a blinged-out set of false teeth. I also received some good new this morning, my book, "Tales of a Wandering Curmudgeon" reached number one on the NY Times list. Ah, the crazy eightyeights, this should be a good year.

Ok, maybe I am not that old, but I sure woke up tired this morning. I little babalased, shedding skin like a lizard from too much Mar Del Plata sun, and my knee still hurts from falling out of bed two weeks ago. Oh, the aches and pains of pushing thirty. Otherwise, I am all good.

If twentyseven was regal, twentyeight will be grand. In typical Pavlichko fashion, I invited a gaggle of people for a birthday/going away party to a bar that was closed. I posted up a sign with chewing gum, sending everyone down the street to an Irish pub. The party was nice, and in Don Pablo fashion, only girls. Yet unlike last year in Bangkok, none were shooting pingpong balls at me.

I got some wonderful birthday wishes from far-away places, people who I would not expect to remember my birthday. And some forgetfulness on the part of some people who I would not expect. So it goes. On to the birthday questions, as sent by Harry, drumroll please....
1. If you could have dinner with anyone living or deceased minus my lovely self (Harry), who would it be? Dinner on the floor with one Mahatma Gandhi, eating rice and veggies.
2. What was your favorite birthday? My eighth (?) birthday party at BowlAmerica, or have I stolen a memory from someone else.
3. Where were you last year on your birthday? Bangkok
4. Where do you want to be for your birthday next year? Hawaii or Zanzibar

Off to shave the cabeza. One year of growth, coming off my soon-to-be-sheared head. As for a birthday gift to myself, it comes from Borges (The Maker), and is titled "Borges and I"


The other one, the one called Borges, is the one things happen to. I walk through the streets of Buenos Aires and stop for a moment, perhaps mechanically now, to look at the arch of an entrance hall and the grillwork on the gate; I know of Borges from the mail and see his name on a list of professors or in a biographical dictionary. I like hourglasses, maps, eighteenth-century typography, the taste of coffee and the prose of Stevenson; he shares these preferences, but in a vain way that turns them into the attributes of an actor. It would be an exaggeration to say that ours is a hostile relationship; I live, let myself go on living, so that Borges may contrive his literature, and this literature justifies me. It is no effort for me to confess that he has achieved some valid pages, but those pages cannot save me, perhaps because what is good belongs to no one, not even to him, but rather to the language and to tradition. Besides, I am destined to perish, definitively, and only some instant of myself can survive in him. Little by little, I am giving over everything to him, though I am quite aware of his perverse custom of falsifying and magnifying things.

Spinoza knew that all things long to persist in their being; the stone eternally wants to be a stone and the tiger a tiger. I shall remain in Borges, not in myself (if it is true that I am someone), but I recognize myself less in his books than in many others or in the laborious strumming of a guitar. Years ago I tried to free myself from him and went from the mythologies of the suburbs to the games with time and infinity, but those games belong to Borges now and I shall have to imagine other things. Thus my life is a flight and I lose everything and everything belongs to oblivion, or to him.

I do not know which of us has written this page.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Borges´ Muse

For all who those who enjoy the Empire of the Muse series, a new entry is up, entitle "Borges´ Muse and my own."

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Victory in Iowa

I got chills from Obama`s victory speech. Click on "speech" to watch, all my non-net savy friends. On to New Hampshire.

And the most surprising of praise from an unlikely source: the archconservative George Will.

"Barack Obama, who might be mercifully closing the Clinton parenthesis in presidential history, is refreshingly cerebral amid this recrudescence of the paranoid style in American politics. He is the un-Edwards and un-Huckabee -- an adult aiming to reform the real world rather than an adolescent fantasizing mock-heroic "fights" against fictitious villains in a left-wing cartoon version of this country."

And Will calling anyone else "cerebral" really means something.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Iguazu and Mar Del Plata pics up

New pics up from Iguazu and Mar Del Plata.

Levantine Tour & Punditry Services

I returned to BA to play tour guide for a lovely Jewish family that my family and I met during a delay at the Iguazu airport. I had planned to continue on to Patagonia from Mar Del Plata, but decided to return to play tourguide. Usually my tourguiding services come in exchange for steak, but this time Levantine Tours had its first paying customers. Besides, I really liked the family and almost felt guilty accepting money, but got over my guilt cause I am po´.

Meanwhile, my Kennedy rolled to victory in Iowa. I am jubilant, but my joy is tempered by the prospect that this is the first battle in a long war. Good luck Barack, keep up the good fight.

A congratulations as well to Huckabee. Thanks for silencing that prissy teflonite Romney. Any man who would have Chuck Norris as his Sec of War is my kind of candidate, even if I could never vote for him. The Republicans are truly reaping what they have sewn with a Huckabee candidacy. All the folks that they co-opted into voting for their agenda, but never really liked, have come to take over their party. Wal-mart is setting up shop in the Grand Old Party; the country club´s walls have been breached.

Nice piece by David Brooks that focuses on last night´s outcomes.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

The yearly roundup; a year in the life of one Mr. Paul S. Rockower

I took off for a weekend last month
Just to try and recall the whole year.
All of the faces and all of the places,
wonderin' where they all disappeared.
I didn't ponder the question too long;
I was hungry and went out for a bite.
Ran into a chum with a bottle of rum,
and we wound up drinkin' all night.

It's those changes in latitudes,
changes in attitudes nothing remains quite the same.
With all of our running and all of our cunning,
If we couldn't laugh, we would all go insane
.
-Jimmy Buffett, Changes In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes

From the Sea of Silver (Mar del Plata), on the Beach of the Wolves (Playa de Los Lobos), the year ended amid asado and the sipping of champagne and sherbet. The wind swept across the beach, and took the fading year with it. To paraphrase Manu Chao, "El viento viene, el año se va." The wind comes, the year goes. The year departed in a glorious fashion, in a world away from where it began. So begins my favorite blog entry, taking stock of the many miles I have crossed to get here, because the year began a world away.

The year that was began over a far different kind of asado, some Lao barbecue at the Lao-Lao gardens. All was not quiet on New Year´s Day, as I tucked myself into what was said to be the last fast ferry from Luang Prubang. With my knees tucked into my life-vest sporting chest, and crash helmet and ear plugs as accouterments, I cascaded down a river of glass. Along the way, I admired the beaches that were the hue of peaches, and the simple life that inhabited them. "The simpler life, the better life," say the Lao people. So true, so true.

I arrived to Thailand some hours later, changing my austere ways for a bit of luxury as there were more ATMS of my block in Chang Mai than in all of Laos. I trekked in the jungle of Chang Mai, and went a little white water rafting- where I was rewarded with a bloodied lip for fishing fellow rafters out of the drink. Then on to Koh Chang for a bit of flour white-sand beaches and crystal clear bath water seas. Back to Bangkok for my birthday, for a bit of pingpong dodging with my friend Dan.

Then it was off to Calcutta, where I matched Gandhi in hair styles. The Indian enigma was in full force as I trekked down the Bengal coast and down that wondrous inverted pyramid. All the way down to Konyakumari, where the three seas meet and Gandhi had his final rest. From that most southerly point, I worked my way back up, through Kerala-the land of coconuts and its lovely backwaters. From there onto Shabbat in Cochin and perusing through Jewtown. Up to what was once Portugal, and to Goa with its ubiquitous Israeli presence. And onward, through Bombay to visit my Seeds kiddies. Then up through Rajasthan, visiting cities of blue and pink, as well as a Valentine´s Day at the Taj Mahal with Minseon. A quick stop at Varnassi, the Mother Ganges´s city of Life, Death and Spirituality, then to Delhi where I hung with my friend Ashok and his crew. From Delhi to Amritsar, where I joined the Sikh pilgrims at their Golden Temple and dined on the pilgrim´s fare. A little halftime show at the border, then on to Pakistan.

Pakistan was a pleasant surprise, stopping first in Lahore to celebrate the kite-flying festival Basant with my Seeds kids and to take in the city´s cosmopolitan cafe culture. On through ´Pindi and Islamabad, for some Dunkin Donuts coffee. Back down through Multan´s splendid shrines, and to Karachi and its hotel with reception clocks that read: Mecca, Kabul, Damascus and Baghdad.

I left the subcontinent for a place that I know far better, the Middle East. First off to the Emirates, to Dubai´s disneyland, and to Abu Dhabi for a little American comfort. A trip to Bahrain that didn´t exactly work out, so then it was off to Jordan to see more Seeds, and visit old Crusader and Roman ruins, as well as party it up in Amman.

With my heart fluttering like the blue and white flag, I made my way across the desert and arrived to Israel. I went directly from the border to the Kotel, and as my prayers ascended to heaven, a white feather landed at my feet. I enjoyed wandering through Jerusalem´s familiar old walls, visited tons of friends, was crowned an honorary Druze, and met my namesake and had Passover with the Rakowers. Israel from top to bottom, and including to the Dead Sea; hitchhiking to the lowest point on earth, after some months before I had been frolicking at the base of Mt. Everest- the highest point. My trip to Israel, in many ways, seemed to be the highlight of the year.

Then a reverse exodus with matza in my back, across the Sinai and onto Cairo. Sadly, my time in Egypt was punctuated by the death of one of my campers, Omar. I was able to attend the funeral. Otherwise, I stayed with my old friend Valentine in her lovely Cairo apartment, and I climbed through pyramids and played under the pharoh´s gaze.

My trek ended, and I kept a promise to my little sister to attend her college graduation. I spent the next few months at home, trying to adjust to life in America, and try to get going again. I spent my time working as a research assistant for Prof. Ma´oz and his Harvard project, and writing a paper of Pakistan-Israel relations. I also worked as a teacher for immigrants taking their citizenship exams. I thought I was going to be working for Seeds of Peace over the summer, but forces conspired otherwise; it worked out for the best as I was able to get far more done on the paper, as well as take a trip to Jamaica on SOP´s severance. In Funky Kingston, I hung with the Jewmaicans and left just before the hurricane hit.

I finished the Pak-Israel paper, celebrated Rosh Hashanah and headed down to Argentina for a different kind of travel experience. I settled in to settling down, and managed to fashion a nice life for myself in Buenos Aires. I studied Spanish, taught English and volunteered at a Jewish Baby center. I made good friends and I am finding it increasingly hard to leave a city I once thought I only "just liked." In addition, I continued my travels all over the Argentine, visiting La Plata, Rosario, Tandíl, Mendoza and Cordoba, as well as Uruguay. I also got to share my Argentine world with my family (sans Ellen), who came to visit me for little over a week. We traveled as well, hitting up Iguazu Falls- one of the true wonders of the natural world.

And all this brings me to where i am. Sitting in a hostel in Mar Del Plata, a city that is an Argentine version of Tel Aviv combined with Alexandria. As I stare out into the void of the promise and potential that the new year has to offer, I offer my thanks for the year that was. I crossed eleven countries in a multitude of miles, and made a world of friends. I saw the richest of the rich- living in black gold splendor above the sands- and I saw the poorest of the poor, whole families living in the streets on the meagerest of provisions. I have tried to record it, and to share it, but there was so much that was never written, never captured by the camera´s lens.

I will end this wondrous year with an anecdote and a passages. First, the anecdote of one Mr. Marco Polo. As Marco Polo lay on his deathbed, the citizens of Venice came to him to convince him to recant his tales as fabrications. He simply laughed, and said, "I have only told you half of what I saw."

As for the passage, that comes from my new best friend Borges. From his wonderful short story, The Immortal, "As the end approaches, wrote Cartiphilus, there are no longer any images from memory- there are only words. Words, words, words taken out of place and mutilated, words from other men- those were the alms left him by the hours and the centuries.

Goodbye 2007, you served me well. Bienvinidos 2008, let´s see what you have to offer. I am set to begin Che Pablo´s Motorcycle Diaries, as I head towards Patagonia. And with a little luck, to cross the Straits of Magellan and reach the end of the earth- Tierra del Fuego. And back to Uruguay for the Nahum Goldmann Fellowship, then a trek across Bolivia and Peru to come home for a wedding. After that, God only knows. I shall take it all in stride, as I know not even what continent I will be on when it is time to recount the year that will be. Feliz Año Nuevo to my family, friends and readers.