Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Mendoza, San Juan and La Rioja- Mid-April 2008

From Valparaiso I continued to Mendoza. But before getting to Mendoza, there was the road there. While traveling in South America, I usually took night buses, to save on both time and money on hostels. But when he heard me mention it, the owner of the hostel forbade me to take one this time- he said it would be a great waste. And boy, was he right. The road winds up and up, almost reaching 4000m. There was one point were you look back, and I seriously think you can see the road switching back upon itself about 20 times. There are amazing mountain views, in a variety of shapes and colours, complete with icecaps and rivers flowing next to the road. The border pass was set in one of the most panoramic spots imaginable, and for about 3 seconds you can even see the Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the western Hemisphere. When I got to Mendoza I found out people travel this road up to the border crossing as a day-trip, including a visit to a site called Puente Del Inca (which I didn't see).

Monday, July 18, 2011

FTTN: The desire (or need?) to write something meaningful, and the inevitable failure

What do I want with this notebook [or, for that matter, what do I want with this blog?] What’s its value? It is definitely not a travel diary, since I never write a word about what I’m doing. It isn’t a personal diary either- first of all, there are few things that I consider too personal to disclose, as long as it seems fitting and there’s some point in it; and besides that, what I write in the notebook isn’t too “personal”. It does fulfill some practical needs, like writing down tips and Emails and such, but that’s just a side effect, and far from its main goal. That side effect did have a good effect on the notebook, though: it added authenticity, whatever that means. I’ve always liked to have as many scratched out words as possible, as many pages where the words go through to the other side (but you still write on the other side…), as many humidity marks and torn off corners, as much text running in different directions on the same page… It might be stupid, but I love that. It adds character, it shows that this notebook has been traveling with you, and has not remained impervious to the outside world’s effects. The change in outside appearance somehow reflects richness or complexity in content, if that makes sense. Some dirt is necessary

Valparaiso- early April 2008

The day after the Villarica trek's soaked ending, I woke up thinking I was going to Mendoza, decided by midday to go to Santiago, resisted persuasions from my latest group to go to Valdivia, and ended up on the bus to Valparaiso. I had left Patagonia after about 2.5 months there. But before I reached my destination, there was an unpleasant surprise: I was careless enough to leave my camera in plain sight and fall asleep on the bus, and when I woke up it was gone. Fortunately, I had spent a good chunk of time uploading and backing up all my pictures just before boarding this bus, so nothing was lost. Except, of course, the camera itself. But I had found that camera anyway (that's a different story, though...).
Valparaiso (AKA Valpo) is probably the most “south american” city I had been to at that point: loud, busy, unorganized, blending many European/colonial, local, and just plain strange architecture styles, colourful, and most of all- full of life. It's strange that it's in Chile...

Sunday, February 20, 2011

FTTN: A ballad for the Israeli complainer

A small sample:
- “Fuck these guides, they should let us climb at our own pace. What are we paying these fucking Chileans for?”
- “Do you think we’re going all the way up to the crater? It must be dangerous up there...”
- “What’s this shitty descent all about? They said it would be fun, sliding down on our ass and all that…”
- “Me, on the way down, every single Israeli I see, I’ll bum him out, tell him ‘it’s a really shitty climb’, ‘it’s super hard’, ‘it’s not worth it at all.’”
That’s the high-quality group of people with which I climbed the Villarica volcano.

Puyehue, Pucon and Villarica- end of March, early April 2008

From Bariloche I went to Parque Nacional Puyehue, to do a 4-day trek to the Puyehue volcano and its surroundings. I did the trek alone with 11 more people, which means I met three people on the highway going into the park, and 8 more in the first night's refugio. By the way, 9 of them were Israelis- apparently this is a highly Israeli trek, for some reason. 
The trek goes like this: you go up 1700m in 7 hours, to reach the crater of the volcano, which is inactive, filled with snow and has a great view of the area. Up there we made the obligatory "black coffee up on a viewpoint", and saw a group of condors flying high above us. Then you go down (only the last 500m, not the whole 1700...) and walk for half a day in a desert interspersed with basalt, obsidian and other volcanic rocks, sand dunes and multi coloured hills. Amongst my favorite sights on the way: a mass of jagged, shiny black obsidian that looked like a petrified dinosaur's tail jutting out of the yellow-white sand; a pretty big cave (probably 3m high and about 30 across) that had basalt boulders for a floor and a mini-glacier for a ceiling; and ice hiding beneath desert sand.

Friday, February 4, 2011

FTTN: Doubts, or The Dark Side Of The Trip

My conversations with Ruti in Bariloche brought up (or accentuated) my first serious doubts about the whole “big-trip” concept. It was centered on the subject of the Israeliada, on the flock or mass mentality, on the “everybody does it” of The Big Trip After The Army™.
First of all, something that Ruti said, but that I obviously knew beforehand: the trip is a very egoistic endeavour, it’s all about me, what I want, what I decide, what I deserve. On the one hand it makes a lot of sense, but on the other, there’s a basic imbalance at work. A (wo)man needs to give, to create, to compromise, and not just receive and decide. Well, maybe needs is not the right word.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Bariloche- March 2008

From El Bolson I continued north to Bariloche, where I managed to spend about almost three weeks in total (almost three weeks in the same place! Wow!). I had been there in '92, when I was 8 years old, with my family. So the first order of business was walking around the city, trying to see if I remember anything from the that trip. While the hotel we stayed in back then, with the pedestrian bridge over the main road did look familiar, all the rest didn't really bring up anything. The city itself is a very tourist-heavy town, and at least in the central areas you can't avoid it: almost every house is a hotel/hostel, a restaurant, an internet cafe or a souvenir shop. It's built on the Nahuel Huapi lake, and is mostly built up by low and alpine-style houses- lots of wood and stone. Also, it's built on the side of a mountain that slopes into the lake, so the streets going up from the lake and the main street are very steep. All around the scenery is beautiful, and there are plenty of houses, hotels and cabañas and little towns all around, for the city-haters.