Sunday, April 8, 2007

Dancing the Tango in La Boca, Buenos aires

hehehehe.... oh I love being a tourist sometimes!

It's snowing in Whistler

Is this a cheesy shot or what?

The Inca Trail- on top of the world

This would have to be one of my most memorable moments of the Inca Trail. I walked out of our lunch tent, finally drying off after a morning spent trekking through torrential rain...and saw this. One of the most beautiful memory pictures I've taken in my life (you know, when you take everything in so you don't forget it).

This one is for the family!

Me in Peru feeding a llama.. or is it an alpaca..? Didn't I learn anything?

P.S. Some things about my trip.

I’ve neglected to tell you my whereabouts for the last couple of months. But as they say, no news is good news.

In three and a half months I travelled from Vancouver, jumped down to the Carribean island of Cuba, trekked my way over the Andes from Peru to Bolivia, suffering from the altitude drop with a dizzying descent back down to Argentina, cruising the River Plate to pop in to the Uruguayan coast and flying over to the “shake your butt capitals of the world” of Salvador and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil… before finally setting in Buenos Aires. Phew.

While I don’t claim to be an expert on any of the countries I have visited, I do enjoy telling some tales, giving tidbits of advice, recalling national obsessions and warning you of potential predators who may be lurking in your path as you write your own version of The Motorcyle Diaries.

P.S. Some things about my trip.

Vancouver, Canada- Forever my pumpkin pie
Famous for- it’s beautiful natural setting, wow! Vancouverites are also darn nice people. Heck, these people stop traffic when they see you are about to cross the road.
Predators- Mother-nature unleashing havoc with the occasional freak snow storm and rain storm, fun!
Don’t miss- a visit to my super babe Tash and her crew.
Special thanks- Tash and her very cool crew. Calliope and family. Elise, Marietta, and extended Waterloot family, Bob the horse, Bentleigh the dog, the cat, and little guinea pigs Poly and Ester (I’m sorry about your furry friends in Peru where they are considered a delicacy).

Cuba- Talking ‘bout a revolution….
Famous for – Revolution, Che, mini skirts suitable for any occasion, Cuban cigars, mojito cocktail.
Predators- Tourist hunters. Cubans earn US$25 a month so realize you are the one who will be paying for everything.
Stay at -Jose Ricardo’s place in Habana for the best hospitality on the island.
Don’t miss- seeing the masses attend an official celebration such as Fidel’s birthday, or having a coffee made by Salvador.
Special thanks- Jose and Salvador, for teaching me about Cuba and Cuban people.

Peru- home to ethereal lost Inca cities.
Going to Macchu Picchu via the four day the Inca Trail trek? Remember to take coca leaves*, rain coat with hood, plastic poncho, change of socks and clothes, scarfe, beanie, hat, sun glasses, sunscreen, really warm sleeping bag, walking stick, camera with spare batteries, toilet paper and first aid kit with stuff for blisters, pain, inflammation, altitude sickness, nausea, pills to encourage as well as halt bowel movement and a torch for when mother nature does call during the night and you just gotta go.
Don’t worry about holding anyone up, just take loads of photos and remember to look up at the stars at night. Breathtaking.
Detour and check out- Arequipa- see the ice maiden mummy found on a nearby volcano and now on display in the museum… freaky and moving.
*Not sure what kind of drugs Che was on when he wrote in The Motorcyle Diaries that he couldn’t sleep after chewing coca leaves. The humble coca leaf will get you up and over those Andes. Start chewing, Che!

Bolivia- The coca leaf is not a drug.
Famous for- being dirt cheap, civil unrest and violent demonstrations.
Stay at -El Carratero in La Paz,
Eat at the markets -and when you don’t understand what something is, try it. You only live once, what you don’t know won’t hurt you and bacteria comes and goes*
Remember to- Go to the Coca Museum to be all educational and learn that the Coca Leaf is not a drug- you can even buy a t-shirt to remind everyone else.
National Obsession- road blocks to protest and get their own way and fireworks to scare the shit out of everyone in their path.
Don’t miss- Lake Titcaca- Bolivian side, Salt Plains in the south, and Sucre where you can buy real chocolate from a chocolate shop (which are indeed hard to come buy in Bolivia) and a humble spicy chorizo (spice is also hard to come buy in these parts). Sucre, lovely little town.
Special thanks- Ramiro and Nilda for your kind hospitality in Cochabamba.
*Do NOT even think about doing this when you are planning to get on a 10 hour bus ride. More toilet advice in the section “Toilet Advice”.

Uruguay- mate (pronounced “ma” and then “tare”); a bitter drink, like tea. Don’t add milk though.
Famous for- Alfajores, a type of cake sandwich with lashings of “dulce de leche” (like caramel) in the middle. As yet,I haven’t found any that taste as good in Argentina. Still looking.
National Obsession: It doesn’t take you long to notice Uruguayans carrying around a brown leather shoulder bag. This fashionable accessory (not!) was practically designed to carry a thermas filled to the brim with hot water and the obligatory mate and bombilla (straw with silver mouth piece. This is beginning to sound like some kind of cult!). There will not be a day you do not see someone walking around with a thermas held snugly under elbow, mate in hand and leaving the other hand free for other practical things such as putting petrol in your car.
If you are offered a sip, go ahead- forget what your mamma told you about catching germs drinking from the same straw as strangers. This rule doesn’t apply drinking mate.
Don’t miss- trying mate, or going to Colonia, cute little town.
Special thanks- Cuadro and Alvarez families for your warm hospitality.

Brazil- Beer shalt not be cold.
Famous for- CARNIVAL!!!!
National Obsession: Really cold beer is what the Brazilians are really adamant about. Beer fridges clearly display the icey temperature inside for potential customers to be extra sure and beer is kept cold on the table by sitting in a snug container which is put through a grueling training process to ensure it makes the cut. These Brazilians even have a brand of beer whose label changes colour if the temperature of the beer drops below the accepted temperature- really bloody cold. I guess they need to keep temperatures down somehow during the world’s biggest party!
Predators- Notice a withdrawal in a city you haven’t been anywhere near? That’s the information mafia, coming to an ATM near you looking to skim your card details and steal a shit load of your money- as happened to the author of this neat little information pack! Travelex refunded it all in a few days though, no dramas.
Don’t miss- Buying costumes for carnival and making friends with locals to find out where all the best parties are at. Also try to learn some Portuguese and Samba, you will have even more Brazilian friends!
Special thanks- Cariocas Nina and Daniel, for showing us what Rio carnival is all about and for giving me a bed for when we finally went to sleep!

Toilet advice for the backpacker in Central and South America- I am not joking.
Prevention and preparation is the key.
1. Strengthen your quads and gluts before arrival to be well-prepared for the inevitable squatting toilet, or any toilet for that matter! Roll up your pants before you enter and stop looking for the flush. Throw a bucket of water in and run.
2. Get used to using public toilets while still in your home country, although I am not really sure anything will help you become accustomed to this, sorry.
3. Never ever try something new to eat just before a 10 hour bus ride.
Always go to the toilet before you get on the bus and only drink on the bus if you are really really thirsty.
4. Remember if you are lucky enough to find a bus with a toilet, don’t use it! If really must go, it’s only number ones, ok? And good luck.
5. Always carry toilet paper.
6. Always throw the toilet paper in the bin in the corner, never assume you can flush it.
7. Always carry anti-diarrhoea pills.
8. You want soap? Carry disinfectant wipes to wash your hands, there is never any soap.

Argentina- Che, como andas? Aussie Translation: Mate, how are ya going?
So they don’t speak the purest form of Spanish over here, but they’re a good bunch these Portenos (people from Buenos Aires). I’ve decided to live with them until November so they better be!
I found a great teaching job at a great school with very friendly people, and I’ve also found a nice place to live with a nice gal from the States.
So it’s all looking peachy. If anyone wants to visit you will be treated to some hair raising rides on the very efficient public transport network full of brazen bus drivers committed to taking you where you want to go- dead or alive.

Love Dianne

It's a fact: Brazilians know how to party!

Now we are in April I have sufficiently recovered enough to recall the week that was Carnival in Rio de Janeiro and to confirm from experience that Brazilians indeed know how to party.

Forget about being sensible and all those rules about drinking beer before midday- anything and everything is ok during Carnival.

But... "Where exactly may I shake my booty?" I hear you cry...
Rio's Carnival is not supposed to be as good as Salvador's which spills into all corners of the city. Rio is bigger and it is easy to get lost on a corner and wonder, "May I shake my booty here?"

My advice is to meet some locals and ask, "Yo, where is da party at?" and I assure you it is nearby, very close...
Shannon and I are lucky enough to have lovely Nina living in Rio, a friend from Melbourne, so we got the low down early on and went shopping for our outfits in the local markets and got the low dodwn on which parties to go to. And during carnival we were up early at 8 or 9am getting ready for the day while the others in our hostel were hungover from the night before and getting it all wrong as day parties proved to be the best.

Needless to say we had an absolute blast!

Friday, February 16, 2007

From Salvador to Rio

It's been a while, but how can I apologise for spending my time doing the samba or lying in a hammock?
Salvador was a hot and sweaty place to be for 10 days, and I took the opportunity to do dance and Portuguese lessons. Mais fallo poco portugues! Evenings going to parties, following the band through the streets and dancing away will be highlights of my time there.
Now I'm in Rio, which is gearing up for carnaval celebrations starting tonight. I have bought some costumes (how exciting!) to wear along with Shannon and Nina, Melbourne friends. Nina is living here so thankfully we can get away from hanging out with the hostel crowd (the type that doesn't go out anywhere apart from the hostel bar, "ya' know wat I mean?").
Love Dianne