Wednesday, September 30, 2009

window of opportunity

A few snaps of the Andes crossing by bus - 8 hours in all but about 2 at customs, one of the most ineffectual border crossings I have ever seen. We sat around waiting and waiting whilst a number of customs agents sat around twiddling their opposables. There were windows for bus passengers (huge long lines) and windows for a few car drivers. (twiddlers)

Do you think there was a chance for the Twiddlers to help out the Bussers when they had nothing to do? (About as much chance as me becoming lead male for the Bolshoi Ballet that´s how much)

So I stood sullenly in line casting baleful glances and wishing for sprained thumbs on the lot of them.

I was lucky to have decided to come today. My bus driver told me the high pass at the customs post was blocked the day before and people had to sit in their buses/cars for 11 hours!! And he said there was another blizzard forecast for tomorrow.

Arriving in Santiago I was blessed with one of those rare occasions where everything works effortlessly in my favour.

There was a metro station outside the bus terminal and it was on the correct line to take me to the station directly opposite where I was staying. My hostel happens to be right in the centre of the city in a lovely cobbled-streeted area full of big old buildings. This atmospheric area only extends to one city block.

The hostel was huge, old and looked very interesting in the website photos. This should have rung alarm bells.

It turned out to be like a cross between something from Gormenghast and the Addams Family. Huge cavernous rooms, dimly lit and full of old (not antique - just plain old) furniture.

The staff were also cadaverous and moved about slightly hunched on parquetry that creaked and groaned like an old forest in a gale.

Still, I unpacked in my room (up 84 flights of stairs to the attic) trying to put things on tables and on hangers without actually moving about on the floor, to avoid the dreadful creaking.

I decided I really needed to move in the morning - and this idea was reinforced when I went looking for the breakfast room the next morning.

After negotiating several flights of stairs (up AND down) criss-crossing various stages and wings of the building, I finally found the ´Señora´ who was preparing breakfast. She was dusting off a table in a lovely little room on the corner of the building with early morning sunshine streaming in through the windows. The room was charming with a ´homely´touch to it.

¨Desayuno?¨ I inquired, pointing to the room.
¨No!¨she replied and instead ushered me into a dim, dark room in the middle of the building with a faint glimmer coming from a window into a small light-well.

Breakfast was a 3 day old bread-roll and instant coffee.

So now I am in a much more friendly and pleasant place across the road.

I´m quite liking Santiago. Today was hot and sunny and I wandered the streets all day, taking in the Museum of Contemporary Art.

When I first entered this magnificent edifice I could see the main entrance rotunda was being set up for something, and I was directed downstairs to a single large exhibition room. It contained 12 large paintings by one artist.

Then I asked the door attendant where next. He said that was it. Nothing else.

I left a little shocked and continued with my rambling, past the building, only to discover the front entrance was at the other end!

I had gone into the arse end of the building - so it comes as no surprise that all I saw was a lot of s***

across the andes

through the mountains

mountains road

near the customs post

chile border post (the 66th!)

my street

the 2nd hotel

detail from my window

art gallery

some church or other

protester - good to see demos are alive and well in chile

demo detail

Monday, September 28, 2009

fox on the runway - sweet!!

Well yesterday lunchtime I was sitting slightly perspiring in the beautiful springtime gardens of Colonia del Sacramento, a UNESCO Heritage town a few hours busride west of Montevideo.

It was a picturesque town with all the usual quaintness that makes people flock to these places. I really liked it - but an afternoon, evening and half the following day and I was champing at the bit for some grunge. I can only take so much pretty.

Now here I am less than 24 hours later in 2 deg C in Mendoza, central west Argentina, having spent last night back in Buenos Aires. (¨Do try to keep up, Fanny¨)

Taxi-ing in on the Mendoza runway I was surprised to see a plethora of pussies prancing about the runway. At a closer look I realised they were a type of fox. (Hence the heading)

Despite the chill, I experienced a thrill at being in such close proximity to the Andes, which nestle on the very outskirts (or so it seems) of the city.

Yesterday here it was apparently 20-22 degrees - the cold snap has brought fresh snow to the mountains which I hope will just add to their overall beauty.

I am here only until the morning and then I hope to catch an early bus to Santiago in Chile, where I will spend a few days. The hostel manager here is a charming chatty fellow originally from Panama. Casper (The Friendly Host) gave me an exhaustive overview of what to do in Mendoza.

He had outlined what appeared to be a 6 hour marathon encompassing all of the city´s highlights - despite the fact that it was approaching 4pm and gets dark about 7. But I had to admire his enthusiasm and promised to do my best to SEE IT ALL.

Consequently I walked 9 blocks to the city centre, found a cafe and had pizza.

colonia street

ba graffiti

mendoza abstract

(*apologies for the terrible ´70´s reference in the heading!!)

Friday, September 25, 2009

montevideo glimpses

montevideo building

main square mvd

a bit jeffrey smartish - mvd harbour

suburban building



wall abstract


thanks to my good friend Jana, I now have a new addiction.


(Ordering them sounds a bit like asking for ´A Grade´ prostitutes)

They are a chocolate covered caramel biscuit and are quite fragile so you really MUST eat them as quickly as possible.

I think I am up to number 12.

illegal alien

You would think that having spent so many years travelling that I would pretty much have everything down pat.

But somehow I found myself in Asuncion, the capital of Paraguay - probably THE most despotic of all the South American regimes - with nothing in my passport to show I was actually there.

This is what is generally known as ¨not good.¨

Somehow I had caught a local bus from Iguacu in Argentina, crossed through a tiny bit of Brazil and entered into Paraguay without the bus stopping at customs.

Once I reached Asuncion, I ended up splurging on a taxi as it was getting dark and I knew the hotel was a long way from the bus terminal.

When the taxi pulled up in front of the hotel I was sure he had taken me to the wrong place.

It looked... well... too nice.

the hotel

The following morning, after meeting another solo traveller, Paolo from Milan,over breakfast, we both went to the immigration office a few blocks from the hotel and with Paolo´s Spanish had it all sorted in a blink of an eye.

No seriously - and remember this is South America - they issued me with a letter for customs really quickly. I can only think that a lot of stupid poor saps like me do exactly the same thing. (Go with it - I´m trying to alleviate the embarrassment)

I´m afraid to have to say that the nicest thing about Paraguay (or at least the few square metres I experienced)was the hotel. The countryside a cup of really milky weak tepid tea.

scenic paraguay

Asuncion had so little to offer that Paolo and I felt we had done it very good justice in 3 hours.

Currently I am now in Montevideo in Uruguay and loving it. I liked the place 5 minutes into the bus trip from the airport. I have just returned from 7 hours of walking around town. It is fascinating with some excellent pieces of Art Nouveau and Deco architecture. The sun is shining, and the people are smiling, and I finally worked out how to get some damned money out of the automatic teller.

iguacu falls

more falls

yet more falls

ho hum

bored yet?

overlooking one of the cascades

...well they keep kerb-crawling

Saturday, September 19, 2009

24 hours

I have been here for 24 hours and slept for 12 of them.

I have just eaten possibilty the worst cheesecake in the known civilized world (as the uncivilized have not yet progressed to cheesecake) It was the consistency of soft silicon rubber with considerably less taste. The biscuit base was a thin stain on the bottom with no resemblance to anything biscuity. On top of this extravaganza was a paste of something that could possibly once have been fruit. (A long time ago in another galaxy)

This was after ordering nachos which turned out to be a sea of guacomole on a plate with a flotilla of cornchip sailing around in diminishing circles as if being sucked down into a whirlpool.

I watched a motorcyclist ride a good 50 metres down a busy road clutching a subway sandwich IN BOTH HANDS - not actually eating it, rather trying to determine what was inside said roll.

Once darkness fell, a myriad of garbage-rummagers came out and descended on the city´s refuse.

I have just returned to my hostel to bump into a fellow student from COFA.

some b.a. graffiti

some more

the soap on a stick in my lunchspot bathroom. The action needed to use this phallic device meant it was preferable to be the only one in the bathroom at the time.

night time architecture

perfection... a cafe that also sells motorbikes. Or a motorbike store that has a cafe. (I prefer the first interpretation)

habla nothing

My Spanish is sadly lacking, and I have a tendency to pronounce everything the way the French do out of habit (French being the only language I have actually put any effort into bastardising)

So a lot of my questions are generally met with raised eyebrows and ¨Que?¨

Buenos Aires is currently cold and wet - and so am I. It also is a gridded city and looks like an old delapidated Canberra.

And its vast.

I´ve been walking all morning and dont seemed to have gotten anywhere.

But its great - after all - I´m in Argentina! (62)

(will add photos shortly)

Monday, September 14, 2009


"my name is Terry...and I am a caffeineaholic."

OK I admit it. I can't do without my coffee.

In the past I have given up smoking, alcohol, meat and fish, and...other things. But I cannot, nay will not give up coffee.

I tried once - worst 5 hours of my life. To heap horror onto the horror I replaced it with ... .decaffeinated That's like replacing Laurence Olivier with Ben Stiller.

(Ugghh.. I can't believe I've stooped to putting the words 'decaffeinated' AND 'Ben Stiller' on my blog.)

And so - the first, and most important item in my luggage has always been my plunger-mug. (Or 'cafetière cup' if you like) A brilliant invention up there with the kidney dialysis machine and Tim Tams.

It is a coffee plunger built into a mug. Add ground coffee, hot water, plunge and drink. It's an emergency make-do replacement when there isn't an espresso machine within coo-ee, and eliminates the need of that other abomination (shudder)... instant coffee.

my little preciousssss...