Crowded Punta del Este Brava beach

Crowded Punta del Este Brava beach
Allan and Larry loved body surfing here

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Hit the beach!

Planned our last days on the beach in Uruguay. Took a ferry from Buenos Aires to Colonia del Sacramento which was Portuguese settled in the 1600s. (Pic of Colonia is from lighthouse, upper left.) It was strategic to smuggle goods and irritate the Spanish in Buenos Aires. But the Portuguese eventually lost control to the Spanish. Architecture and cultural flavor remains Portuguese.

Next night was in Punta del Este. Punta is marketed as the pearl, the gem... the jet set paradise. We finally had to buy US $6 beers and a $10 margarita. Yikes! But the marina was wonderful. Beach side dining was grand. The highlight was time on the beach with hours of wonderful body surfing and Allan's bivalve pedicure. The other highlight was a big surprise....

...we left him over 700 miles away... then ran into him in Punta del Este... he was walking on the street... we were in a restaurant enjoying sangria. It was one of those "what are the chances" kind of experiences. We met Miss Quito and Jen on purpose in Buenos Aires. But we said our 'final' goodbye to Jan in Iguazu then said hello again in Uruguay.

So our over 24 hour journey home has begun. We spent one more night in Buenos Aires, flew to Santiago from where I am writing. Then we board a plane for Los Angeles and up the long coast. We had Starbucks and McDonalds for a reentry transition today. We want them to turn on the air conditioning here full blast. Since they won't do it, I am afraid winter will slap us in the face. Rightly so. Look forward to seeing friends and family. Home is a good place to be.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Adios Argentina

We finished our days in Argentina with a couple trips outside of Buenos Aires. Tigre is about an hour's train ride and is the center of a delta connected by canals, streams and rivers. Most homes outside of Tigre have no other access except by water taxi. We jumped on a boat, met people from Brazil and Germany and nearly hiked around the mosquito infested island until we crossed one too many bridges and thought we might end up on some other island. Lewis and Clark and Pizarro we are not. We headed back and had beer and a mate (tea) that our friend Sergi prepared.

The next trip was to Iguazu Falls - fantabulous, stuperrific. They are a system of falls between Argentina and Brazil connected by walkways for amazing views. Let the pics speak for themselves. Allan wants to go white water rafting again... I say "No, Indiana Jones." We met another new friend from Poland named Jan. He wants to fish in Alaska; we want to go to Poland. Maybe David or Drew will come with us since they are part Polish? Can we spell Pierogi?

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Buenos Aires - the first days

Remember Miss Quito and Jen? Well, Miss Quito has gone international and we found her in Buenos Aires. Yes, we are getting together with our language school friends in Buenos Aires, a wonderful bonus to a wonderful city where Tango is in every La Boca corner and street cafes are in every block. We are staying in a small apartment in Recoleta for $325 a week. We are across from the Recoleta cemetary where Evita and many prominent political, wealthy, and miltary Argentine people are buried. Allan is posing with Evita, in fact. Dinner is always late 8ish or 9 ish... Last night's dinner was a tenderloin steak, Ravioli, Salad, bread, and a bottle of wine for $25. Clubs do not open until 11 pm. Today we walked around in our neighborhood and visited a butterfly museum/ art museum/ craft fair. Yesterday, we biked in South Buenos Aires and got a great history of the town. Soon we will leave on an overnight bus for Iguazu Falls... till later.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Ginger and Blondie survive an all nighter

Yes, after midnight the 2 of us ventured out on the streets. Two Chrises took us under their wing, first Christian, then Christopher. We were were very busy being popular with our red and blond hair. Yes, Larry bleached. So we were stopped once every block and asked, "Where are you from??" " Soy de Alaska!" "Ahh, mucho frio in Alaska." And so it went from one elbow to elbow plaza to another. There were impromptu bands, people dancing, hugging, laughing.... lack of Spanish did not matter this night, although both our Chrises spoke English well. In fact, Christopher is studying English. Pretty soon it was morning. The street was littered with champagne bottles, trash, and the occasional still breathing (hopefully) body. We shared a completo (hot dog with some tomatoes smothered in guacamole and mayonnaise) with Christopher. He left to rejoin his friends in Vina and we went back to Casa Amaraillo to nap the entire day, a mui feliz ano nuevo!

The three day return to Santiago was anti-climatic except for a UND T-shirt, quite a highlight for Allan. When clear, Santiago is a beautiful city surrounded by mountains, some snow-capped. We climbed a couple of the hills/ small mountains within the city. Museums were closed on Monday, the day we reserved for museums. So we relaxed and enjoyed in Santiago under 80 degree days. Had late dinners with cervezas y vino tinto. Not a bad way to end our time in Chile.

Vive, Vive, Chile

We arrived in Santiago (pic right) at 2 am and were surrounded by taxi cab drivers and hoteliers telling us where we should go and where we should stay. It did not help that Chilean Pesos are 502 for every US dollar. It's so confusing when you pay out 13,000 pesos for a cab ride. On the other hand, if you want your march to millions, Chile is the place for you. So after one night in a better than usual hotel for us, we explored a bit of downtown before taking a bus to Valparaiso.

Valparaiso is on the coast (pic above on right). Together with Vina del Mar the towns comprise about 800,000 people and is Chile's second largest metropolitan area. Valparaiso was a thriving seaport in the Americas before the Panama Canal was built in 1914. It is a UNESCO site for it's series of acensors (elevators) that climb the steep hillsides on which the neighborhoods are built. It is a bit bohemian. Grafitti/ art is everywhere. Galleries and old brightly colored houses perch on cliffs, including our B&B. We stayed at Casa Amarillo for three nights with Lisette (Chilean) and Martin (Australian), wonderful hosts. For New Years Eve we gathered for Pisco Sours and potluck dinner representing Canada, Germany, and the US. One of our mutual guests was celebrating her 50th birthday that night; her husband went all out by cooking for us and opening the wine. Of course, champagne and fireworks topped it all at midnight. Coordinated fireworks from about 6 launch sites from Vina del Mar down the coast filled the sky and hundreds of thousands (plus 2) filled the streets. (Read the next post for NYE highlights.)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Larry and Allan meet Papa Noel

After much anticipation, we were on a plane just after midnight, December 13, enroute to Lima where we spent our first night with men celebrating their soccer team's championship. We learned new team songs, avoided a tatoo of "U" (they are serious fans), and left for Quito the next day. We spent one week in language school which was absolutely wonderful until our teacher called Larry a Gordito - un pequena Gordito- poco, poco... The truth hurts in any language. We met language school friends with whom we celebrated the crowning of Ms. Quito. Bryan had been given his... er her title one week before we arrived at a language school function. On this particular night, Allan made her the sash and gave her the trophy which we borrowed from the bar where we all gathered. We did not do Ecuador justice for all the possible activities, but we spent over half of each day in school. We did manage a trip to the equator...

Then we left for Cusco, a very cute Colonial city, the heart of the Incan Empire in its day. Our wonderful new friend from Houston, Shilpa, was the only other participant with us and our guide on our two day Inca Trail/ Machu Picchu adventure. She commented as we were riding to the train that she was nervous about the hike. Larry said she had two strong men to help her. She asked, "Where are they?" Sassy, isn't she?! Of course, Allan added, "We're looking for them, too!" The first part of the trail was definitely tough - steep and at high elevation. We became Shilpa's sherpas. We then followed a drizzled, flattened path to our view of this Wonder of the World. It was fun to explore the entire lost city the next day. We actually hiked Wayna Picchu, the mountain in the background, and were grandly rewarded with magnificent vistas.

We spent Christmas eve and day with a collected group of friends from Kansas, Texas, Wales, Ireland, Arkansas, and California. We explored the city Christmas Eve, white water rafted on the Urubamba Christmas day, and gathered again for dinner and a Nirvana tribute band concert. Although we missed family, it was a very memorable holiday with a great bunch of people .

Lake Titicaca was next on our agenda. We took a bus to Puno from where we took a boat on a two day adventure to the floating reed islands of the Uros, Amantani, and Tequile. The reed islands are absolutely amazing, made of lake grown reeds and their roots upon which they build their houses, school and play fields. We stayed with a host family on Amantani, an island with no cars and limited electricity. Families still cook on wood stoked earthen ovens. Olga, Alfredo, their two children and our guide Jonathan were great. We hiked to Pacha Tata instead of Pacha Mama. Titicaca is the womb of the world in Incan folklore. Again we were rewarded with stunning views of the Andes and Bolivia in the distance.

Now we are in Lima awaiting our flight to Chile where we will celebrate New Years in Valparaiso. It is the second half of our trip and we will keep you posted. But the moment is here to wish all of you a wonderful holiday season, what remains of it. We have thought of friends and family often over Christmas and with the approaching New Year. Drop us a note. Let us know how you are doing. Much love.