Suitcase on wheels     stuck in the snow   sniffer dog

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

44. Mendoza (Mendoza, Argentina)

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One thing I forgot to mention in my last Santiago entry - karaoke! Thad and I went to a karaoke restaurant in Santiago with a couple of girls Thad had met clubbing. As I said, the place was a karaoke restaurant, which meant instead of the whole crowd being drunk and shouting along with the words as is the karaoke bar tradition, everyone was instead quietly enjoying their meal and listening to the same 5 people sing song after song, and sing them well. The girls wanted us guys to sing a song and after much no-ing I thought, well stuff it, I'm here in Santiago and can make as much of a fool of myself as I like. So I got up and attempted to get the crowd rockin' with "Born to be wild", in honour of my American friend Big Bad John who I met a few years ago in Brisbane Australia. He always rocked that one at our weekly karaoke night. So I was up on the stage, strutting Jagger style, swinging the mic around. Unfortunately, the mic I was singing into wasn't switched on, I was supposed to be singing into one of the other mics. Take two. The music started again and I started strutting, but the crowd just wasn't giving me the energy I needed so I bowed out after the first verse, telling the crowd they weren't yet ready to rock. My friends thought it was great though.

Karaoke Matt
Me rockin' Santiago

The next day I intended to return to Mendoza to continue my trip north through Argentina. However, due to snowfall that day the pass through the Andes was closed. It was closed the next morning too, but it finally opened for a couple of hours in the afternoon, so once we received word our minivan was hurriedly packed and we set off. A word of advice, if you're going to cross borders, try do it in the smallest bus possible. Otherwise you'll have to wait for the entire busload to get processed through customs and their bags searched etc. I'd already thought of that so booked my seat in a ten person minivan, so we only took about half an hour to get through. It could take over 2 hours with a 50 seater bus...

Andes - 01 (Large)

Upon arrival in Mendoza I checked into Sosahous hostel, where Kalin, an American friend of mine from BA was working. I recommend the hostel too, it was pretty cheap at $14 pesos (NZ$7) and friendly, the majority of guests were Argentine so I could use my Spanish.
I loved Mendoza. Mendoza is at the foot of the Eastern side of the Andes, and receives little rainfall as the Andes act as a giant barrier for the rainclouds that come from the Pacific Ocean. So while the Santiago region of Chile on the other side of the Andes is really green, Mendoza is quite desert-like. Well not quite, because of the amount of sunshine it gets it is both the main wine region of Argentina and the main olive growing region. Tierra del Sol, (Land of Sunshine) they call it.

Andes - 02 (Large)
My favourite Andes photo

There's also lots of great day-trips you can do. Paragliding, horse-riding, skiing, wine tours, and a "high-mountain" tour to name a few, as well as seeing the city itself.
OK, enough of the tourist-brochure talk. Unfortunately for me, the next 2 days were cold and rainy! So much for Land of Sunshine, I'm thinking, so I didn't really get much done, other than walk around the city. As well as the usual bus network, Mendoza also has a small trolley-bus network, which are large buses with electric wires overhead, which provide the benefit of trams without all the tram infrastructure. A good compromise, and a nice smooth ride too as the motor is pretty much silent and non-polluting - yay. That's something I enjoy about travelling, seeing the different methods of public transport other cities have.

Because of the foul weather the pass from and to Santiago was still closed, so the hostel had quite a few people staying on longer than they expected as they couldn't get to Santiago. On Day 3 I decided to risk it and head up the mountain for a day of skiing. I hoped that the weather would clear by the time I got there. So I caught a 6am bus from Mendoza, and although they tell you the trip to Las Penitentes takes 3 hours in fact it takes 4 or 5, so we didn't arrive until around 11am. Really, I should have come here directly from Santiago rather than going to Mendoza to save myself backtracking 4 hours but oh well. I hired all the gear from the ski shop there, it was $40 pesos (NZ$20) for skis, boots, poles, pants, gloves, and sunglasses, but another $20 pesos for a jacket so I didn't bother and just used my leather jacket. I figured if I didn't fall over and get it too wet I'd be OK.

Snow - 03 - Matt ski (Large)
Ready to go

Because of all the recent snowfalls the upper slopes were closed for avalanche control, which meant we could hear the occasional boom from above. I paid my $50 pesos for the lift pass, but as I said the lifts were still closed, the only thing open was the beginner's and an intemediate poma. I hadn't skiied in about 6 years but it was OK, I made two cautious runs down the intermediate slope without falling over. "Still got it". The weather was great too, although the skies were gray there was no wind at all so it wasn't cold. I was soon skiing with just the jacket and a Tshirt, no need for my woolly hat nor scarf.

Snow - 06 - Penitentes
Las Penitentes the ski town, beneath Las Penitentes the mountain

Then I noticed the nearby chairlift had been opened but most of the seats were still empty. I skiied over and got on, and was like the second person that day to get to the top. Because the chairlift had just been opened the trails had yet to be groomed, which meant one thing - powder! About a foot of virgin snow! Although the powderheads and snowboarders were stoked, I soon found out that I don't really like skiing in powder - my skiis sunk in up to my knees so I couldn't really turn. I could do a long slow traverse but when I tried to turn I'd fall over head first. Sucked!
After a few more runs on the intermediate poma I had a rest for lunch, and while I ate I noticed the groomer machine grooming a trail down the chairlift run. So I spent another hour or so
mucking around there before calling it a day as my legs were aching. It was kind of boring going skiing by myself too, I think it's probably more fun when you have someone to race or to follow, but I didn't know anyone there.
That night I went to one of the restaurants and noticed all the sunburnt bright pink faces. Many kids had patches of sunburn where they'd failed to apply suncream, which at first I thought was some horrible rash. Although the sky was cloudy all day the sun still got through! I'd put suncream on but so I was left with only sunburnt ears.
That night in the dorm I met my dorm-mates, both from BA, Flavia and Leandro. We decided to head to Puente del Inca the next day, which is a nearby tourist attraction. Another guy in the hostel gave us a ride there, and here it is:

Snow - 15a - Matt Puente del Inca (Large)
Me and Puente del Inca

Behind and below me is a river and above that is a natural rock bridge which supposedly the Incas used to cross through the Andes. Well, I guess they might have. But the river's not exactly a raging torrent so they could have waded through it if they had to. Next to the bridge is the remains of a hotel which was built into the rock face; the rest of which was destroyed by an avalanche around 100 years ago.
From there we had a 3km walk along the road to the viewpoint of Mt Aconcagua, which at 6960m is the highest mountain in America. Unfortunately we couldn't see it too well because of the cloud, but here it is.

Snow - 09 - Matt Aconcagua (Large)
Me and Mt Aconcagua

Along the way we picked up a couple of stray dogs which were super friendly as they were probably hungry. They seemed to be having a ball, playing in the snow as if it were sand on a beach, chasing each other and burying things. One of them got a kick out of chewing and licking the rocks which seemed to be full of calcium.

Snow - 11 - Snow dog (Large)
Stray dog burying a rock

That afternoon Flavia and I hitchhiked back to Mendoza to save us waiting for the 5pm bus, my first hitch-hiking experience in South America, and it was a success. Even better was that she sat in the front and made conversation while I dozed in the back.
A few days later my girlfriend from BA came and visited me in Mendoza. She'd never seen the snow before so we did the same day trip again, from Mendoza to Puente del Inca. After that we played around in the snow a bit, building a snowman and hiring a sled to play on. I'd been to the snow five or six times in my life to go skiing, but I don't think I'd ever built a snowman or played on a sled, at least not that I could remember. The snow was already much firmer and drier than when I was there 4 days earlier, so much so that we didn't even need to hire those funky red Santa Claus boots I'm sporting in the photos above.

Snow - 19 - Matt Ruth Snowman (Large)

Seeing her again was great. We really missed each other. When I first left BA I was looking forward to hitting the road and getting a bit of breathing space, but after Juan and the other guys left me behind it got a bit lonely. I loved the freedom of travelling alone in SE Asia in 2002, meeting other backpackers, but now I just wanted to be curled up next to someone in bed again. Also, sitting around smoking and speaking English with other backpackers doesn't have the same appeal it did to me then. Maybe that's why I have a suitcase. So, I decided to return to BA "for a few days" to be with her a bit longer. Which meant that night we caught back to back buses from Puente del Inca to Mendoza to BA, arriving at 10:30am the next day, just in time for her to start work at 11am.

Snow - 01 - Suitcase snow (Large)
Not quite a backpack(er)

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

43. Gringoland (Santiago, Chile)

The next day we did a bit of sightseeing with Leo, the Santiago native, being our guide. First stop was some hill with a giant virgin statue on top, from which we could view Santiago's smog. The Virgen San Cristobal overlooks the city and makes a useful landmark. To climb the hill we took a finicular, which had me singing "finiculee finicular finiculee finiculaaaar... da da da da da finiculee finicular". It was the same as the ascensors of Valparaiso.

Santiago Lookout - 02 - Finicular
Climbing the hill in the finicular

I really liked Santiago. To me it had the feel of a modern city of New Zealand or Australia, like say Auckland. Everything was clean. The houses all had a lawn. Every household has a car or three, so public transport is shit. Tagging graffiti everywhere. Wide footpaths. It certainly made a change from downtown Buenos Aires - small footpaths, dogshit and trash and political graffiti everywhere, no lawns or trees, lots of buses (which is both good and bad).

Santiago Lookout - 05 - Virgen San Cristobal
The Virgen San Cristobal overlooking the city

Another important difference between the two cities is the women. While Buenos Aires women are slightly more attractive, Santiago women are a lot more welcoming. In Buenos Aires I hardly ever got eye contact with girls in the street. But in Santiago, man the girls loved to check us out. And not just me because I was the gringo, but the rest of the boys too. I'm not sure why girls don't in BA. I blame Buenos Aires men. The men of BA are so macho that any attractive girl walking in the street unaccompanied is used to hearing comments from men of all ages, both complementary and vulgar, and receiving head to toe leery glances. Where I come from us guys are a lot more discreet with our perving. So, BA women tend to walk the streets with a 100 yard stare, eyes fixed straight ahead and ears closed, to ignore the perving. Perhaps Santiago men aren't so brash, but the girls there loved to return our glances. We were first made aware of this while our group of 5 was waiting for the finicular to take us up the hill. A bunch of schoolgirls nearby was giggling, and the words "Backstreet Boys" were overheard. Then one of the girls came up to us and introduced herself to each one of us with a peck on the cheek. Not at all shy, but a bit young for us. A few days later Thad and I were sightseeing the downtown, and man we'd receive admiring glances from all sorts of girls: schoolgirls, university students, girls our age, even Mums with kids in tow. Perhaps sometimes it was the gringo factor - we obviously stood out as foreigners, whereas in BA it's not always so obvious (or perhaps interesting) that we're foreign.

Santiago Lookout - 07 - Posse Leo
Posse and Leo at the lookout

The main negative that Santiago has is the smog, which the locals acknowledge and are trying to deal with. The problem isn't the emmisions or the number of people - Santiago only has about 4 million inhabitants, but the geography. With the glorious snow capped Andes as a backdrop to the west, and another smaller mountain range blocking the route to the Pacific coast to the east, Santiago sits in a bowl. So the pollution has no escape, nowhere to dissipate to. I'm told it's not so bad in the summer, when the summer winds come to blow it all away. To be honest, at ground level I didn't really notice it. You could see it in the air above, as the snow of the Andes looked kind of brown instead of white. Then, from the virgin lookout you could really see it as you were sitting above the smog, so the view of the city was obscured. Still, I found ground level pollution in Buenos Aires worse, since BA has so many buses, and the buses have undercarriage exhaust pipes. The buses in Chile have their exhaust pipes at roof level, like in Sydney, so the pollution wasn't in your face. A simple enough measure that makes a difference.

Santiago Lookout - 06 - Santiago Pano
180° of Santiago

We all stayed in Santiago a few more days before Juan and Posse hit the road again back to Argentina. Thad and I stayed a bit longer as we wanted to see a bit more of Santiago and its nightlife. I also didn't fancy getting back in Juan's car as I'd just gotten the petrol smell out of all my clothes by sending them to the laundromat. Which was a shame, because it was great fun travelling with them, way more fun than bus travel.
So Thad and I hung around a few more days staying in an Australian owned hostel full of gringos (hence the Gringoland title to this post) and going out every night. Man it was expensive. Although the drinks aren't too expensive the club entry fees and taxis were killer - I heard the taxi drivers play all sorts of meter tricks. One night I bailed home early in the bus but Thad caught a cab later for $15,000 Chilean pesos which is NZ$40. At least in BA the taxis are really cheap.

Around Santiago - 00 - Apartments
Downtown apartments

We were also checking out the city in the day... I remember seeing Santiago on "Wild On" on TV in NZ before I came to South America, and on that they showed how Santiago has a lot of Cafe Con Piernas (Coffee with Legs), which are cafés in which the waitresses wear only bikinis. That was one of the items on my tourist checklist so we went and checked it out, not really sure what the deal was.

Around Santiago - 04 - Cafe con Piernas
Café con Piernas

Unfortunately the atmosphere was more strip club than café, with blacked out windows, dark lighting and loud music. The waitresses made jaded conversation with shirt and tie wearing businessmen, much like a strip club. Or like a Japanese hostess bar. Not really my scene, but at least the coffee was really good.
One final thing I'll mention is that Santiago had a great subway system, very modern and clean, with really wide doors which made boarding easy but also means there aren't as many seats inside. Although the trains were the standard electric passenger trains running on steel tracks, the carriages had big rubber Goodyear tyres. Never in my life have I heard of a train with rubber wheels and I have no idea why, but I bet the tyre company doesn't mind!

Around Santiago - 08 -  Subway tyres
Rubber wheeled subway train

In all, I really liked Santiago, and from what I hear English teachers can make a comfortable living, well, more comfortable than Buenos Aires. I knew that before I came to South America, but the reason I chose to live and work in BA was I'd heard that Santiago was polluted, boring, that Argentine women are better looking, and that Chilean Spanish is ugly sounding. Well, polluted yes, but it didn't bother me too much. Boring, no. Argentine women are slightly better lookingw but Chilean girls are more friendly. Chilean Spanish is different sounding and they do use some different words with super- this and super- that, cachai, but man it's not like I'd pick up the Chilean accent and it's silly to think I would - I'm always gonna sound gringo!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

42. Road trip contd... (Santiago, Chile)

While the road on the Argentine side of the border was more or less a slow, straight ascent, the descent of the Andes on the Chilean side was a rapid and twisting road with around 20 hairpin bends.

Road Trip Santiago - 20 - Sulphur
A bright yellow sulphur deposit

Once we'd quickly gotten the Andes behind us Chile opened up into a green wonderland which reminded me a lot of the North Island of New Zealand. I've never seen grass as green as that of the Waikato region of NZ where I grew up, until now. But while the Waikato grass is used to feed dairy cows, here wine is the big earner.

Road Trip Santiago - 39 - Chile pano
Andes in the background

We drove into Santiago, the capital of Chile, at around dusk. First stop was a shopping mall where we could all change some money. Although it was Saturday evening, the shopping mall was packed with crowds and crowds. It was like it was Christmas shopping madness. Juan called up his friend Leo, who we were all coming to visit, and we followed Leo's car to his parents' place. Leo's family and friends were very welcoming, giving us the spare room to share, and his Dad put on a great asado Chilean style for us and their extended family.

Leo Asado - 01 - Leo Snr
Leo's Dad, Leo Snr prepares the meat

As the night wore on we were introduced to Pisco Sour which is a popular Chilean alcohol drink with a lemon flavour. With all the food and the Pisco and the driving I was worn out, so once again went for a midnight nap to recharge my batteries as we were intending to hit the town that night, it being a Saturday. Bad idea. Juan came in an hour later to ask if I wanted to go out or sleep, and I responded with "sleep". What he should have done was remind me that we had driven all the way and we were in Santiago Chile for one night of partying and dragged me out, rather than given me a choice! So the boys went and hit the town and came back the following afternoon with numerous girls' phone numbers each, while I stayed in bed only to be woken at about 3am with a burning stomach for which I blame the Pisco.

The next day was Sunday, so once the others had returned to Leo's house from the night before we set off in two cars for Valparaiso, 2 hours away on the Pacific coast. One thing immediately clear was that driving in Chile is a lot more expensive than Argentina. Petrol is about twice the price, and we also had to pay two toll roads amounting to about NZ$10 to get there. Still, the road was a nice straight4 lane highway.

Valparaiso is a large city of about 200,000, and adjoining it is Viña del Mar, another city about the same size. We followed the coastal road for another half hour through a few other towns which were still part of the same metropolis, before stopping at Con Con, to sample ceviche, which is raw fish marinated in lemon. Unfortunately, ceviche was off the menu due to a toxic algae bloom, which was fine by me. So we ordered our fish cooked, and it was great. I hadn't had a decent plate of fish and chips in months as Argentines aren't fish fans, so I enjoyed it. From the beachfront restaurant we watched the sun set, before heading back into Valparaiso to do a bit of night sightseeing.

Valparaiso - 01 - Sunset
Sunset at Con Con

As well as being a picturesque city built on the steep hills surrounding a bay on the Pacific coast, with nice looking beaches (but freezing cold water year round, I'm told), Valparaiso is also famous for is its ascensores (elevators) which run up the steep hillside, as a form of public transport. So after getting lost driving around in circles looking for one, we eventually parked our two car convoy and took one for a ride, walked around the hills a bit, and then took another back down to near where we'd parked. Valparaiso was spectacular at night too, with the hills all lit up in the yellow glow of streetlights. Quite cold though, being winter.

Valparaiso - 05 - Valparaiso pano
Valparaiso at night

Valparaiso - 04 - Boys ascensor
Leo Thad Me Posse Juan Matias Juan-Pablo in the ascensor
Valparaiso - 09 - Ciber cumming

Umm, ok

After a spot of cyber cumming at the internet cafe we headed back to Santiago that night and went to bed at a reasonable hour. More later...

Saturday, August 13, 2005

41. Road Trippin' (Mendoza, Argentina)

With a tear in my eye I left Buenos Aires last Thursday, heading to Santiago, Chile, via Mendoza, Argentina.

map of argentina
Map stolen from

We finally got away at about 2pm because of problems with paperwork on the car. It took ages to get out of BA but we were soon crossing the pampas as the night set in. Like many Argentine cars, the Peugeot had both petrol and natural gas (propane) to run on. Natural gas is about half the price of petrol but a full tank only has about a 100km range. Juan chose the slightly longer route to our first scheduled stop, Mendoza, because Route 7 had a lot more natural gas stations where we could fill up. In between stations we would switch the fuel system to petrol when necessary.

Road Trip Santiago - 02 - Boys car
Posse Thad Juan Me and the Peugeot

In the car was me, Juan and Posse from Argentina and Thad, from the US, as well as our 3 backpacks and a suitcaseonwheels (me). I bought a brand new shiny red suitcase for this part of my trip and copped a bit of shit from the other guys - what sort of backpacker are you, and someone came up with the name Zoolander which was pretty funny. My standard defence is that backpacks suck and all they're good for is carrying dirty laundry from bus stop to hostel - man, might as well have a smaller suitcase on wheels and roll it around without wearing out your shoulders and creasing your clothes.

Road Trip Santiago - 01 - Juan driving
Road trippin Argentine style - with mate

After about 3 hours we had our first car trouble, a loud hissing sound from the natural gas system - it seemed it had sprung a potentially dangerous leak so Juan had to switch it off and we had to run on petrol for the rest of the trip. The car hadn't been running so well either, with the power seeming to cut in and out, like it was an air intake problem or something. The cabin of the car had a strong petrol smell too which not only gave me a headache but also permeated our clothes and our luggage, so that we all smelt like mechanics. So we pressed on at a slightly slower pace, and only made it as far as San Luis, which was still 3 or 4 hours short of Mendoza. We stayed the night in a cheap hotel and left at about midmorning the next day. I took the chance to have a turn driving. I'd driven on the right hand side of the road before in Vietnam, but that was only a motorbike, so it was a new experience driving a left-hand drive car and changing gears with my right hand. But no big deal. The roads here were great for cruising - a 4 lane highway, long, straight and flat, with little traffic or police. The speed limit was 120km/h, I was cruising at about 130 and still got overtaken so I maxed the Peugeot out at about 150 to keep up. The roads back home in NZ are so full of traffic and so windy that to speed makes little sense, as you'll only ever cut a few minutes off your journey. But here it's easy to sustain high speeds for so long that it makes a difference.

Road Trip Santiago - 06 - Matt driving
Me driving

We arrived in Mendoza the next day, and what a beautiful city it was. Much cleaner than Buenos Aires but still with enough of a city feel. After stopping for lunch we decided to press on to the border and cross the border to Chile the same day. Mendoza is at the foot of the Andes, and wow, how amazing it was to be driving through them! The road here crosses the Andes at about 3500m, and near the border itself is the mighty Mt Aconcagua, the highest mountain in South America at 6960m (which is the highest mountain in the world outside the Himalayas). Since we were crossing the border we stopped to take some photos and leave a stash which we'd pick up on the way back.

Road Trip Santiago - 10 - Andes pano
Stash break

Road Trip Santiago - 27 - Andes

As we gained altitude the car ran worse and worse. We stopped in a small town to ask about the road and if it was open, and while there a mechanic had a quick look at the car and said that it was probably an air intake problem. We were told the road had been closed for two days due to recent snowfalls but it was now open for cars with chains. We thought the road might have been closed as we'd already been passing trucks parked on the shoulder of the road, queueing to cross the border, even though the border was still at least 50km away! Since it was already getting dark and the car wasn't running the best and it was Friday night, we decided to turn back to Mendoza and spend a night there partying, rather than risk the border crossing and arrive in Santiago too late to do anything.

Road Trip Santiago - 24 - Andes
Sun behind the Andes

So we drove back to Mendoza and checked into a hostel and planned on going out partying, as Mendoza has a reputation for cute girls since it's a university town. However with all the driving and smoking everyone was pretty tired, and what was intended to be a pre-party siesta at around midnight turned out to be bedtime, as none of us woke up to go out after that.

We woke up pretty late but eventually hit the road to the border for the second time. We were surprised to see the queue of parked trucks was now stretched back even further from the border, around 80km 200km, past where we'd left our stash. Yet another example of Argentine inefficiency - if a truckload of goods has to wait a week to cross the border to Chile the system is broken.

Road Trip Santiago - 25 - Andes morning
Approaching the Andes again (snow in background)

Although the car still wasn't runing well, the road to the border on the Argentine side was for the most part straight and not very steep, so we made good progress even if Juan did need to drop it down to 1st or 2nd gear every now and then. Eventually we made it to the snowline, so we stopped for a snowfight at my insistance.

Road Trip Santiago - 32 - Snow

As we neared the border the queue of trucks was moving, and while we were overtaking the queue we had our only near-miss of the trip - as we rounded a corner one truck was overtaking another on our side of the road. Juan hit the brakes and we skidded a bit on the slushy snow but we managed to stop and the truck pulled in in time.
The border crossing was one of the easiest I've done - no walking across a border with our bags as both immigration departements were in the same building. No kids begging for money. And no crazy taxi drivers offering you a ride to the next town. A sniffer dog checked our car and our bags, but what with the overpowering petrol smell he wouldn't have found anything. It was so strong that when we first pulled up and Juan wound down his window, the waiting immigration officer snapped his head back wondering what we'd spilt inside.

Road Trip Santiago - 35 - Sniffer dog
A customs dog checks out the suitcaseonwheels

OK, it's nearly 9pm and I'm starving so I'll write the rest of the road trip in another post...

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

40. Leaving (B.A, Argentina)

I'm finally getting ready to leave BA. On one hand I'm really excited to leave as I'm finally going travelling, which is one of the reasons I came to South America. On the other I'm sad to leave behind my girlfriend who I've been with for over 4 months now, and the friends I've made here. The plan with my girl is that I'll return in January to see her again, and we'll see where we are then. She doesn't want me to leave and tells me every day, because she loves me. Well, she says te quiero which is more or less the equivialent of I love you but I'm not sure if it has the same meaning here, as she always says it to her girlfriends too. For what it's worth la quiero too.

Last week was my last week of work, I decided to be good and work through until the end of the courses even though I was sick of working and could have left earlier. So I had to give my students exams which was a royal pain in the ass, organising photocopies and then marking the exams, all unpaid work of course. I should have just bailed the week before like a number of other teachers did. But I didn't want to burn any bridges. Speaking of which, Hi to all my former students reading this (I gave them this website address).

Sam Party - 02 - Thad Ryan
My friend Thad (left) with Ryan (right) who recognised me from here

On another note, I was at a party at a friend's house the other weekend, and a guy came up to me and asked me if I was mattyboy - he'd recognised me from this webpage! That was kind of surreal for both of us, for him that he recognised me and that I existed, and for me too. So, way to go Ryan!

Room - 02 - Meat
One for breakfast, one for lunch...

Operation Beefcake has come to an end. I'd been going to the gym and eating protein 5 times a day for the last six weeks or so and it seemed to work, I put on about 7kg of muscle which my girlfriend and her friends noticed and complemented me on. However, last week I was sick with stomach complaints, not sure if it was something I ate or I'd kind of poisoned myself with too much protein or something, but I couldn't eat much for 3 days, and ended up losing 3kg of the 7kg I'd put on :-( No doubt the rest of it will fade off during my upcoming travels.

Room - 03 - Protein
One of these every week or two...

The other weekend we went to the Japanese Gardens here in BA, for the Tanabata festival. That's the festival where the Japanese write their wishes on a coloured piece of paper and tye them to a tree. Unfortunately the weather was really foul, cold and wet, so there weren't too many people or wishes tied around the place.

Jardin Japonese - 04 - Lake
Japanese Gardens

Trent, one of my best friends from New Zealand, is currently in town which I'm really excited about. He came to Argentina for a year in 1994 as a high school exchange student, and now he's returned to visit with his parents. They're gonna travel through South America for seven weeks, unfortunately he's only in town for 3 days but we've caught up a couple of times which has been great. I took him to an asado at Juan's house and what was cool was we got to speak Spanish together for the first time. Ever since I've known Trent he's spoken Spanish but I never ever understood it in his company. And now we're more or less at the same level. That kind of validates the last seven months that I've been living here!

Juan Asado - 14 - Nacho Diego Posse Trent Juan Matt
Nacho Diego Posse Trent Juan Me at Juan's

I'm taking Trent and his parents to one of my favourite restaurants in about 5 minutes, and then to a tango show which my student Diego (read story below) got us 4 free tickets for. Thanks Diego! So, I gotta run right now...

Tango Show - 05 -
Tango Show at El Querandí, Perú 302

The Tango show at El Querandí was great. The restaurant was beautiful and the show was 5 acts which showed the evolution of the tango. Thanks again to Diego's wife Elizabeth, who is one of the professional dancers in the show, for the free tickets.