Monday, April 27, 2009

A Walk on Water

The striking size and phosphorescent blue glow of the Perito Moreno Glacier are astounding as is watching large chunks of ice fall from its massive walls. We hiked along its side and then strapped on crampons before climbing onto its back, first icy and much like a blueberry snow cone, then smooth and gleaming in the sunshine. We trekked for hours, peering into crevasses and crawling through caves.

Earth Days in Ushuaia

After a three day bus ride and crossing the Straits of Magellan, we arrived in Ushuaia. Many people say its just a place to go to say you've been there; it being El Fin Del Mundo, the southern most city in the world. We found it to be a place surrounded by natural beauty. We explored Glacier Martial, with the help of our stray dog guide we called Estampilla, sailed in the Beagle Channel and hiked in Tierra del Fuego National Park.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Iguazu Falls

Iguazu Falls are not just one waterfall but a series of beautiful steppes of gushing water and thunderous clouds. It is shared by Brazil and Argentina and we began our experience on the Brazilian side where panoramic vistas combine with close encounters of rainbows and mist. On the Argentine side, we took a boat under the falls where we were overwhelmed by the white sheets of water and returned drenched. Walking through forests and into different viewpoints of the falls, we saw endless rainbows that almost came full circle. Our last stop was the Garganta del Diablo (Devil's Throat) which brought us to the top of the mightiest falls allowing us to peer down into the heavy misty turmoil of Iguazu. Warning: The falls are LOUD!

Brazilian Roadblock

We hit a Brazilian roadblock.

After leaving the Internet cafe we returned to the bus station to spend our remaining hours in Chui. As we walked up to the desolate old building, an old man was pulling down the metal gates and locking the doors. Frantically, we ran up and tried to explain that we had left our bags inside the station and we had to catch a bus to Porto Alegre in three hours. For a brief moment we thought we were going to have to wait to morning to get our bags. Turns out they were just closing the station for dinner (8:30-10:30) and would reopen 30 minutes before our bus left. We were invited by the barmaid to pass the hours at the local watering hole next door: a trailer with a 40 watt light bulb, ice cold beer, and a stray dog for every customer. The hours passed quickly as we sat in the chilled evening air and watched local dramas unfold.

After what must have been a lovely supper, an old woman reopened the bus station. We retrieved our bags and gave our passports to the Portuguese-speaking bus driver, explaining in Spanish that we had to stop at Brazilian immigration for our entry stamps. He seemed very familiar with the process as he took our passports and wrote down the numbers and visa information. We thought, people do this all the time.

We got on the bus and a few minutes later arrived at the Brazilian border. The Brazilian Federal Police boarded the bus for a security check. Our passports were out, thinking at any moment we would be shuffled off the bus to the immigration building, similar to the experience in Uruguay. We weren't. As the bus driver got back on Temple tried to explain again in Spanish that we needed the entry stamps. He seemed to explain, in his native tongue, that it was all good. The bus pulled a way and we were now in Brazil without entry stamps.

We consulted our guidebook and it said, "entering Brazil the appropriate form is completed by the rodoviaria staff when you purchase your tickets into Brazil [which made sense because the ticket woman had checked our visas]. The bus stops at the Policia Federal and the conductor completes the formalities while you sit on the bus." That's a relief! That completely explains what just happened. It was late, we were tired, so we accepted this explanation and fell asleep.

We woke up at 7am at the Porto Alegre bus station and realized that there was something rotten in the state of Rio Grande do Sul. We headed to the tourist information booth for an explanation of the passport stamp procedure. The tourist info woman said immediately, "you need a stamp." She was very helpful and explained exactly what we had to do. One, go to the airport. Two, find the Policia Federal office. Three, explain your situation and ask for an entry stamp. It sounded either extremely easy or nearly impossible. She gave us directions to the airport, only three metro stops away, and explained where the police station was. On the way out the door she said, "its no problem." We hoped it wouldn't be.

We followed her instructions and made it to the police station at the airport. We expected to find a mustachioed tough guy cop but in reality it was a cute girl in a middrift and denim capris. After explaining our situation she asked us to follow her. She took us through every emergency exit, employees only area, and secret passage way in the airport before arriving at the completely empty customs area. She explained our situation to two increasingly confused looking customs officers. They asked us to sit in their office while they discussed what to do. After a few minutes, a more professionally dressed woman entered the office to ask us some questions. She then left for more discussions with the others. The longer the conversation the more difficult this is going to be for us, we were thinking. After only a few more never ending minutes she returned with the entry forms and a stamp. Obrigado! Now, we were officially in Brazil.

Friday, April 17, 2009

La Parilla

On Sunday night in La Paloma, Clay and I grilled out on la parilla, the South American barbeque grill. Some friends at the hostel joined us and we cooked short ribs, chorizo, peppers, onions and potatoes. There was a lot of meat and our surfer friend Juan showed us how to grill like Uruguayans. After the wood burns into small coals, Juan moves the hot pieces under the grill. This continues until everything is cooked, usually an hour or two. Our other friend Ricardo, the godfather of the hostel, always tends to the fire so we called him El Maestro del Fuego. After a while he left the duties to Clay. When the meat was cooked to perfection Clay served us a delicious meal.

Waves and Moonscapes

After a day of little (Temple) to no (Clay) success surfing, we watched the sunset and the moon rise.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Surfing to La Frontera

Clay and I are currently in Chuy, a dusty no-mans-land border town between Uruguay and Brazil. On one side of the main avenue are businesses operating in Spanish and on the other, businesses in Portuguese. The town itself doesn´t belong to either country, however, so there are rows of tax free stores selling mostly bags and lingerie. Horse drawn carts line the streets and remind us of the wild wild west. The stray dogs here actually look like strays as opposed to what we´ve seen previously - cute friendly dogs that become your temporary companion. Clay and I have about 7 hours to kill in Chuy (Chui on the Brazilian side) before we get on a bus to Puerto Alegre, Brazil and then another overnight bus to Iguaçu Falls.

La Paloma has definitely been an exciting portion of the trip so far. We stayed in a great hostel on the beach with laid back staff, a great atmosphere, and delicious breakfasts. We went to different beaches in the area where we body surfed and then rented a surfboard -both of which left marks. The waves were powerful and a lot of surfers, mostly Brazilian, were in town for Semana Santa, the "Holy Week" of vacation preceding Easter Sunday. La Balconada beach, the locale of the hostel, had amazing sunsets followed by the full moon rising behind a beautiful lighthouse.

Last night we grilled ribs and sausage (carne asado) and had a great time with the Uruguayan staff of the hostel, a Floridian couple and some Irish guys that were recent arrivals. It took hours to get the coals hot enough to cook the meat so we ate at a typical South American dinner time: 11:00 pm. Clay became a real grill master and for a second I thought I might be dating a gaucho.

After two major cities, La Paloma was wonderfully relaxing. We got a nice tan but still don´t look like natives- It may have something to do with our height averaging about 6 feet. Now we head to Iguaçu Falls for some hiking and more natural beauty. I think it will be worth the 36 hours on a bus.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Vamos a la playa

Juan, a surfer who works at our hostel, offered to give us a ride to his favorite surf spot so we jumped in the back of his truck. He took us through La Paloma to a gorgeous beach called La Pedrera.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Colonia del Sacramento

Crossing the Rio Plata from Buenos Aires to Uruguay, our ferry arrived in Colonia del Sacramento, a well preserved but touristy colonial town. The oldest town in Uruguay, Colonia's cobblestone streets and white washed buildings are surrounded by a quiet bay.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


In Uruguay, everywhere you look people are drinking mate. Often shared among friends, the loose yerba mate tea is steeped in a small gourd, also called mate, and drunk through a silver straw with a filter called a bombilla. Its not the most simplistic approach to a caffeine fix; mate lovers carry their mate, bombilla and a thermos of hot water with them throughout the day. Although sometimes the gear is carried in a leather pouch, more often people hold their mate in one hand and tuck their thermos under their arm. The drink is popular in all of South America from small towns to busy city sidewalks.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Our best meal in Buenos Aires.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Recoleta Cemetery

Since the 1800s, the elite of Argentina rest eternally in an above ground cemetery in the famous Recoleta neighborhood of Buenos Aires. Coffins lie inside mausoleums of beautiful marble and carved stone, creating row after row of religious imagery and dusty padlocks. Tourists saunter among the dead, as once shiny graves fall into disrepair and once mourned souls become the forgotten.