Me Embracing the World

Me Embracing the World

Monday, January 29, 2007

Home of the Hippies (El Bolson, Argentina)

Hey Everyone!

Just a quick update from Patagonia...

I now feel comfortable saying Patagonia because everywhere I look is some new sharp snow covered peak or glacial lake. Where we last left off, I was working my way south, then located in Bariloche.

Bariloche was a very touristy, yet equally beautiful town with a fetish for chocolate, mountains, and all things german/swiss. The buildings all had a swiss architecture to them, and it was almost to much for Katrine, who just felt that she was back in Europe. It´s also the chocolate capital of Argentina, and we definately put in a good effort on understanding the whole breadth and depth of artesenal argentinian chocolate.

Unfortunately, I left my backpack in the taxi on the way in and lost it! AGAIN!

REALLY unfortunately is that it contained my journal. Now this is sort of my online journal too, but my journal really meant a lot to me, had a lot of the personal thoughts and contemplations, and just in general was shaping up to be a great memory keepsake. So I spent at least 2 days sort of... well sulking around, asking the taxi company if anyone had found it, and doing a whole lot of nothing. I then got my act together, chalked it up to the continual process of accepting change, and started looking for some of things I lost. Which means, books (Matilda in spanish, spanish dictionary), sunscreen, medicine, and my journal. Not all that much really, once again I was lucky that I didn´t have any valuables in there, just goes to show that I should never stick valuables in my backpack :).

So... after all this, we decided we wanted to go for a hike. My friends decided to go on a 3 day hike, up over on a glacier. It sounded wonderful. It didn´t occur to me until we were walking around that day, but I realized that I couldn´t go with them. I strained my leg pretty badly outside Copacabana, Bolivia, and ever since its been sporadicaly feeling strained again. I realized that I wouldn´t want that to happen to me again out in the wilderness, but yet I´m going to have lots of trekking opportunities in the near future and want to do them, so I would start up slowly and work my way up to multiday treks again.

The next day, they left on the trek, and I took a newly met Israeli friend up to Cerro Otto, what was supposed to be an easy 4km hike up and down for a nice afternoon. Well the trail, was a nice gentle slope, but I didn´t really see it, and we ended up walking up an extremely steep incline that went all the way beneath the gondola to the top. My friend decided halfway up that he wasn´t so into it anymore, but I continued on to the top, and then took the trail (which turned out to be 9km) down. All in all, it turned out to be longer than I had expected, but it felt great! I realized that my calf is just strained and tight, and that with lots of streching and strengthening, I can be back up and trekking in no time [knock on wood :)].

But enough about me, what about the places I´ve been?

Well, after the hike, I grew ancy about Bariloche, eager to move on, so I hopped a bus last night, beautiful bus ride by the way, to El Bolsòn. Described in Lonely Planet as, `the closest you can get to Berkeley, California in South America`, I would offer my own description as a mix between Berkeley, California and Sedona, Arizona, swirled together into one big hippie-organic-energyfield bundle and splashed down into the Patagonian Andes.

What does this mean? Beautiful mountains, a laid back feel, lots of parks with lots of backpackers and hippies lying around barefoot and guitar wielding, and some of the best ice cream in Argentina.

I´m set to stay here and relax a bit until my debit card finally shows up (I lost it back in Satiago). In some ways I feel like the rythem of the the trip has been for me to lose things, find them, replace them, lose them, replace them... oh well, asì es la vida.

So, Chao Chao for now,

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Southward... (Bariloche, Argentina)

Man, where has the time gone, it feels like January just disapeared...

I´ve spent the past month traveling from Mendoza to Bariloche, something I thought would take me just a day. In fact, I almost just bought a direct ticket from Mendoza. Of course, I didn´t, and one month later I find myself here. I´ve been traveling with a group of friends the whole time, a group thats fluctuated from 3 to 5 people depending on the various locations we´ve been.

You´ll see these people littered throughout the 3 new albums of photos that I´ve posted (I´ve also updated the map, give it a look!, so let´s get to know them...
Left to Right: Kathleen, Andreas, Katrine, and Johanas

1) Kathleen, 24, tree planter girl from Canada. I´ve been traveling with her since we met in Copacabana, Bolivia, with exception of a week detour into Chile. She´s an artist, guitar player, and soon to be teacher when she returns to BC. Great companion who, among other things has taught me the value of taking care of myself, contributing to the group, and cooking.

2) Andreas, 41, traveller from Austria/Italy. Andreas brings a touch of class to the group, with his ever-poised demeanor, fine italian cooking, and heaps of sarcasm when you least expect it. He met Kathleen in Mendoza and we´ve been together since. He´s taught me new understanding of ´going with the flow´ and how to cook a mean aldente pasta.

3) Katrine, 24, occupational therapist from Belgium. With her big brown curly hair and welcoming smile, Katrine does good as an ambassador of Belgian good will. She used to be a gymnast and thus has been teaching me the value of streching, and Kathleen the art of handstands and flips. Fresh off a Columbian romance, she´s also quite good with the spanish and brings a ´can do´ spirit to everything she does.

4) Johanas, 25, criminologist from Belgium. The other half of the fearsome Belgian twosome, Johanas is a very friendly and empathetic human being. Through in a good sense of humor and a desire to address societies ills, and you get some really good company. Unfortunately, he had to return to his native land two days ago, before we came to Bariloche, but we wish him all the best in his future working with refugees!

So... quite a interesting bunch, and as you´ve now read, we´re down to 4 at the moment. That will probably thin out more as things progress, as Andreas is moving west towards the island Chiloe in Chile, although Katrine and Kathleen are both working their way towards Ushauia as well.

And that´s where I´m headed. Down South. Way South, 1000km from Antartica, and the most southern city in the world. Along the way I hope to see some glaciers, penguins, and the sharp rocky mountains that charecterize southern Patagonia.

Yes... that´s where I´m going, but what have I done for the past month? Where have I been?
Well, as I listed in the last post, From Mendoza, I´ve snaked my way rather slowly down through:

...6 hour bus south

  • Malargue - Small rural town nestled up against the Andes, I spent a week here with Kathleen and Andreas, hiking, farming, siestaing{it was really hot}, eating ice cream, biking to a fish farm and finally finishing my oversized book, The Lifebox, the Seashell, and the Soul by Rudy Rucker

...2 hour bus north

  • San Rafael- The urban connection point between Malargue and Mendoza, I just spent a few hours in my sister city, dinner and then back on the bus south

...8 hour bus south

  • Neuquén - The capital of the district of the same name, a large pleasent city with nothing of note besides the fact that I flew next to someone from Neuquén on my flight from Lima to Cuzco. Of course at the time I never thought I would actually go here, so it was a trip. Kathleen and I spent an afternoon waiting around and then hopped a micro to push onward.

...3 hour bus south east

  • Junín de Los Andes - yippied (yuppie hippie) up small town, close to ski resorts, and briming with a lake tahoe vibe. The first place where Kathleen and I encountered the fact that its actually tourist high season and its possible to not have a place to stay if you don´t reserve ahead. Luckily, our taxi driver knew someone (a local shop merchant) who rented out a house, so for a night its like we were local Junínians, with a little cottage to ourselves.

  • San Martin de Los Andes - Whatever we found in Junín, San Martin (just an hour south) was like an enlarged version. Bigger city, with a big lake, pronounced moutains, covered with trees... San Martin would be our home base for the next week.

We also found ourselves with the problem once again of having no place to sleep in San Martin, but once again we also were helped by a recommendation from our friendly taxi driver. This time it landed us at Casa Coco, the abode of one charesmatic reinasance man by the name, not suprisingly, of Coco. It wasn´t a hostel in the technical sense, as it was just a house, but Coco had set up the upstair room to squeeze about 20 people into a row of bunk beds and every little nook and cranny of the attic. All I can say is we loved it.

First off, the back story, Coco is an extremely charesmatic later-aged man who welcomes everyone to his house with a hug and a kiss. He really is a reniasance man, a painter, an arquitechet (He actually built the odd looking Swiss style house), a tango singer with a PA in his living room and a mind full of melodies and lyrics, a chef who would always prepare some asada (barbecue) or pizza each night, and a lover of travel and language.

The real highlight for me was getting to see him use his singing talents, which we employed quite frequently due to the fact that there were two professional tango players who lived in the house! Julia (Bandoleón, a strange button accordian that shows no sign of organization) and Dardo (Accordian, his name means Dart in spanish) were a wonderful pair of musicians and people from Rosario (North of Buenos Aires). They were in an Orchestra Típico together back at home, and playing in the resturants of San Martin for several months. I had the great fun of sitting around Casa Coco with them on several nights, doing my best to keep up with the tango skills. To be honest, I think we did best when we played some buena vista social club tunes.

But this is how Casa Coco was, always full of music, always full of life. For our first few days, there was a group of 8 or so 20 something guys from BA (Buenos Aires). Every night was loud and rocous until at least 6 in the morning, and since the whole house was basically just one giant room, we had to learn to sleep with it. Still, we didn´t mind too much, it just added to the great feel of the place.

Anyways... according to plan, Kathleen and I met back up with Andreas, Katrine, and Johanas in San Martin and decided to rent a car for a week and drive around touring the many surrounding lakes that make up the Argentinian Lake District. We piled a bunch of food and tents into the car and took off for Parque National Lanín. Simply put, this trip was a vacation from the vacation and it was wonderful as such. We were treated to astounding veiws of Volcan Lanín and the surrounding lakes. Rather than see all the lakes, we took a day or two at each one we visited and got to enjoy the tranquility of camping, even with our lacking of supplies. Luckily, all the sites had fire pits and we found ourselves cooking some Parilla (barbecue) in true Argentinian fashion ( you burn the wood in a corner and move the coals under the grill when they´re glowing hot, suprisingly enough, you don´t need that much wood to cook a bunch of meat).

As an unexpected highlight, we looked up into the sky at night and were suprised to find a VERY large comet just sitting there, streaming in the sky. Comet McNaught (, which supossedly is the brightest one in the past 40 years. The beauty of which being that it really wasn´t in my plans to go comet hunting, but McNaught is only visible from the southern hemisphere, and was only discovered on August 6, 2006 anyways. The first night I saw it, I actually just thought it was an airplane in the distance, over the lake, so i didn´t tell anyone. But the next night, it was brighter, and it was clear that it was something quite special in the sky. I did my best to take some photos, but ran up against the limitations of my night photography equipment/ability.
When it was all said and done, it was time to travel south to Bariloche, the launching point for southern Patagonia.... but thats a story for another day....

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Enter Argentina (San Martin de Los Andes, Argentina)

Two Weeks!

Two weeks, and not a single entry.... that leaves a lot to fill in! For starters, I´m in Argentina! And all respect to Chile, I think I like it a bit better here primarily based on two reasons:
  1. It´s Cheaper
  2. I can actually understand what people say
Its suprising how much these two things contribute to your experience.

So... since the last entry (where I was just about to enter Argentina) I´ve been wine tasting in Mendoza for a few days, hiking and siestaing in Malargue for one sweltering week, passing through San Rafael, Neuquén, and Junín de los Andes in search of cooler pastures, and now find myslef lounging on the lakeside beaches of San Martín de los Andes.

Along the way, my memory card decided to break, AGAIN, so I lost all my pictures of wine tasting in Mendoza, and have only a few of my recent travels( coming soon! ). Luckily, I´ve decided to follow my parents advice and get my self a new card (worthwhile expenditures, Tools and Memories!)

Oh... but the internet cafe is closing... so this will have to be all for now... but know that I am alive and well!

To be continued...

Monday, January 1, 2007

Feliz Año! (Santiago, Chile)

Well now, don´t I have a lot to catch up with. I find myself in the bus station of Santiago, with several hours to kill, waiting to hop on a bus to magical Argentina (Mendoza).... So what have I done in the past week?

Well I´m so glad you asked. Since fleeing the heat of the Atacama Desert I´ve found myself diving into the industrialized, modernized, Europeanized, world that is Santiago Chile. The streets are big and clean, the metro works better than New York, and everyone is decked out in super trendy clothes and ´trendy´ european mullets. The best I can describe it is like an odd cross between Los Angeles and Spain.

And what have I done here? Why, I´ve had the wonderful opportunity to visit friends from my I-House years. I arrived into Santiago after a 23 hour, yes as in 23, bus ride from San Pedro de Atacama, good thing the Chilean buses are some of the best I´ve ever been on, sorry US, even Peru´s got you beat. So, I stumble out of the bus, culture shocked and what not, and meander my way to the suburban outskirts of Estoril, Las Condes, where I am graciously greeted by Nicolas (Nico) Brenner, a friend from IHouse who I haven´t seen in 3 years. But no matter, he sets about making me feel the most at home I´ve felt on this trip. THANK YOU NICO!

The next 3 days, I literally just wandered around Santiago. I found my way to the Palacio de Moneda museum, and Plaza de Armas, but mostly just spent my time getting lost on the Micros (Buses) and enjoying watching everyday Santiago life. What a contrast! All the pros and cons of modern society were shoved up in my face and left me in a very conflicted mood. I was lucky enough to meet up with Diego for a night on the town where he introduced me to one of the two reasons ´Chileans are Alcoholics´ Piscolal, Pisco mixed with Coca-Cola. (The other being cheap good wine). THANK YOU DIEGO!

I also met up with Johanna from all my Jungle adventures and Rahel from Uyuni. We took a night, cooked some pasta, went out for a bit and enjoyed eachother´s company. Its strange how often I see the same people when travelling but I guess that´s the point of the whole ´steam´ of tourists thing (Ask Jerome Engel if you need further explanation). Rahel also was leaving to New Zealand on Dec. 31 so she GAVE me her Lonely Planet South America to replace the one I lost in Arequipa. THANK YOU RAHEL!

But what was I going to do for New Years? Enter Juan Eduardo Justiniano and his gracious family. I hopped a 2 hour bus to the coast, skipping the beach institutions of Valparaiso and Viña del Mar, and heading to the small elite hamlet of Zapallar. Juan´s family really took me in and embraced me as one of their clan, and when I say clan, I mean clan! In addition to immeadiate family, there were cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and all of their friends. I never got an official headcount, but I think we came in at around 12 or 15. Juan had a very nice house positioned a skip and a toss from the beach and everyone piled in to make for a very wonderful atmosphere.

Not content to just let me sit on the beach, Juan got me up real early (10:30) to go mountain biking in the hills, which for all in the know, look EXACTLY like the hills of Marin! I was in a wierd time-space warp, where I had travelled thousands of miles to come..... well.... home. In a combination of a poorly set up bike and me being a bad mountain biker, I proceded to, over the next 4 hours, almost kill myself several times while Juan Eduardo hardly broke a sweat. Alright for Jesse being out of shape!

I barely made it back to the house, surviving the good intentioned chiding for all at how long it took me, to find myself presented with one of the best lunches I´ve had on my trip. The family Justinano really knows how to eat! I relaxed on the beach, was suprised to meet Diego again on a chance encounter, learned the mysteries of paddle ball, took another nap, and woke up fcr the beautiful display of fireworks (LOW DOWN!) that I´ll never forget. Forget partying, I was exhausted, so I went to sleep at a tidy 1am, to wake up to a New Year. THANK YOU JUAN EDUARDO AND FAMILIA JUSTINANO!

And that brings us to now... where.... I don´t really know what I´m doing. I´m going to Mendoza, and from there south, back on the road. I could have stayed much longer in Zapallar, and the family Justinano were more than gracious enough to let me stay (I payed my rent with guitar music), but I felt almost TOO comfortable there, if that made any sense. A cross between Marin and Monterey, it was beautiful, wonderful, and relaxing, but well, like being home. Which makes me realize what a great place I live, and I have all that to look forward to when I return.