Brazil To Ushuaia, Argentina
Those lazy hazy crazy days of summer back home but it’s definitely winter here in the south. Oh, we do find sun and the R&R we were looking for. A wonderful 2 weeks in Ipanema, visits with new friends Jef and Sig. A rigorous 39-hour bus ride. Meet old friends, again and go through the rigors of another health check-up. No wild animals, no nervous moments but a good read, we guarantee it! And, you’ll see Fin del Mundo, The End Of The World at the end of the chapter.
Wednesday, July 21, 2004
Iguazu, Argentina to Curitiba, Brazil
Up and at em’, a big border crossing into Brazil today. We need to get across and to the Bus Terminal in Foz do Iguacu by 11:30 AM. Most of our Cataratas acquaintances were milling around, waiting for their bus to the Falls. We walked across and hit it lucky. The bus arrived, we boarded and seemed to fly to the Border. There, things slowed a little. Leaving Argentina was a cakewalk, rubberstamp affair and we were on our way. Back on the bus, across the “No Man’s Land” bridge and to the Brazilian Immigration.
Funny, they passed some Argentineans, even a French couple right through. Our turn came, they looked at our USA Passports and told us that we’d have to come inside for Identification and Photos. Yes, they have imposed the same strict rules on US citizens that we have on Brazilians wishing to enter the US. They even have similar equipment, very high tech. A computer camera and a finger print scanner. They had us in their files in short time and apologized for the delay.
Jef and Sig
The French couple, Jef and Sig, has been traveling for 3 ½ years. It’s been 1-½ years since they were home. They decided to end their worldwide adventure in favor of another, even longer adventure, they’re pregnant. Yes, it was all in their plan. We shared the bus to Foz and a few stories of travel then exchanged e-mail addresses and promised to get together, maybe in Curitiba for the train ride to the coast? They’re headed for the Brazilian Falls today and will be charting a similar course to ours, just a day behind our schedule.
Familiar now, we easily found the bus to the Terminal Onibus. We were in the Estacao by 10:30, perfect timing. They have an Internet Café so we hit the keys and sent messages to friends for almost an hour then boarded and headed for our Brazilian Bus Adventure.
An uneventful 9-½ hour bus ride. We had some food with us so had decided not to buy at the food stop at 6:00 PM. The driver urged us to get out and stretch, as they would be here for a half hour. Walking through the market/restaurant we couldn’t resist a good-looking meat pie then the piece d’ resistance, chicken on a stick. Back on board we ate, no, we wolfed down the tasty chicken and washed it down with a bottle of Brazilian wine. We’ve found a new favorite fast and greasy food.
The scenery is green on rolling hills. The woman seated in front of us spoke in English, asked if we needed anything. Cat told her we would like help in getting to a Hotel since it will be late and dark when we get in. She told us that they were staying at the Presidente Hotel. Lost somewhere in the limited language, she was saying something about no hot water. The she told us that they, she and her husband, own the Panorama Hotel in Foz and Presidente belongs to a friend. So, we thought we had a spot.
Bags retrieved, we stuck close to Celito and Xena. Their daughter and son-in-law met them. They all crowded into one Taxi, they told our driver to take us to Presidente. He seemed to have a mind, or friend of his own. We rocketed away from the curb and our group then squealed around a corner and left them in the darkness. After a real round about through one-way streets he screeched up in front of a Hotel. It looked pretty shabby and wasn’t The Presidente? We argued, he couldn’t speak English nor understand our attempt at Portuguese. Finally I was shouting, Hotel Presidente. He shrugged and away we went. Around the corner and right up to the front door and the Taxi dropping the family. Unbelievable!
We stood, tried to explain our wild ride but failed then took a picture and let the Bellman take us to our room. Parting, Celito asked if we were taking a City Tour tomorrow. We agreed that we probably would. Speaking of shabby, this place is also on the edge of awful. The room is small, its twin beds too short and worst of all, its COLD. The TV was a joke. Then came a knock on the door, the guys voice said, “I’m here to organize your City Tour”. We told him that we didn’t want an organ sized City Tour. He was a clinger, didn’t give up easily. Finally he seemed angry, maybe he thought he had a sure thing? Okay, we’ll get out early in the morning and find a better place to stay. If we do tour the city it will be on our own!
July 22, 2004
A Cold Day In Curitiba
Man, we’re seeking warmth and there is none here. Especially in this room. The window in the bathroom is stuck, jammed open, and the cold wind blows in and swirls around. Thanks goodness, they have fixed the hot water.
The included breakfast was slightly better than the room. We planned our escape, hoping not to run into Celito and Xena. As we walked the cold streets in a misty rain things began to look familiar. There, that’s the Hotel the Taxi driver tried to dump us at. Hey, just across the street is a nice looking place. The staff was warm and friendly at The Curitiba Palace Hotel. The room was roomy the bed a double and, the heater worked. Yes, breakfast was included and so was CNN in English. Geez, this has got to cost a lot more? Wrong, just 10 Reis, about $3.35 more than the Presidente. We took the deal and made the move.
Another nice thing about the Palace, it’s central and adjacent to the big Pedestrian Street. We walked to the Tourist Office located in a Shopping Center called 24 Horas (24 hours) and the Center is open, 24 hours, everyday. They had suggestions for sights and Pizza. Unfortunately, they also told us that the Train to the Coast, the one we’ve read about and wanted to ride tomorrow, has crashed and is out of service. They had a picture of one of the cars dangling off a hillside. It’s closed for at least 10 days.
We did a walking tour of the Center in intermittent rain. I kicked the heater on in our room, Cat studied maps and made plans while I journalized.
Dinner at a Pizza place we’d seen advertised. When we first asked the desk told u that it is in Sao Paulo? We pointed out that the great looking post card had a Curitiba address. Awe yes, that place. They made a circle on the map and directed us down the street. Pizza Paulista is a fantastic place, we’d walked in a cold rain and wished for warmth. They didn’t offer that and the wood fire where they cooked our Pizza wasn’t enough. Other than that, what a great place, what wonderful food. Expensive but worth it.
CNN, Larry King Live and SLEEP.
July 23, 2004
Curitiba City Tour
The Falls, all that walking then two days on buses, we were tired. We decided to take another day, relax, see a little of Curitiba and work on the journal. It is still cool but the sun was burning through the clouds and promising a better day.
The included breakfast, like the room, proved to be a better value that that of the Hotel Presidente. With no plans, in a City with few attractions, we decided on The City Tour. The promise of sun stalled out most of the morning. We took the 2:00 PM bus and did have some sun but no fun. The sights are few and far between and today the bus was packed with students. The ticket allows you to exit 4 times and rejoin the bus. We read about the stops and things to do or see there and decided to just stay aboard. It was not a good investment of our time or money.
Back at the Palace, we did enjoy the heat. I cranked out more pages of journal. Thank goodness Cat has been keeping notes. We’d have no journal without them. A nice glass of wine and hour of relaxation then we walked to a Japanese Restaurant. More Portuguese than Japanese but the food was very good. We both celebrated our cool bus tour and the cold out there tonight by having Udon Noodles. Mmmm, hot and tasty.
July 24, 2004
Curitiba to Sao Paulo
Up, good breakfast then off to the Estacion Onibus. Our Bus pulled out, on time, at 10:00 AM. A midway stop and we fueled up on more of those fried chicken on a stick things and empanadas.
A 6 ½ hour ride and we were rolling into Sao Paulo by 4:30 PM. What a huge city, we thought we’d seen the central skyline then passed the long line of tall buildings. Then came another clump of buildings then another and another. Skyline after skyline seemed to drift by our bus window. At last, a large, busy bus terminal.
The guy at the Tourismo Counter spoke little English bet he did have a loose-leaf book of Hotels. We spotted Mercure and remembered our good experiences with them in Europe. He agreed that it’s a nice Hotel and in a good area. He recommended not staying in the Center. Too much criminals!
The Taxi situation is strange here. You book and pay, in advance, at a booth. There are only 2 choices, we took the first one we came to. Wow, the ride cost 30 Reis, about $10.00. We took our receipt and they put us into the first Taxi in the line. Wouldn’t you know, it was a small compact car. The one behind it was larger and newer. I tried to ask but there was either an “I don’t understand” conspiracy or, they just didn’t understand? So we jammed in and he jammed his foot to the floor. We decided the only good thing about paying in advance was that the driver had no reason to cruise around I circles keeping the meter running for the ignorant tourists.
The Mercure is pretty and pretty expensive looking. A sign on the wall announced the rates at 259 $R per night for a double. We decided that we’d take it for the night then try to find a room closer to our budget tomorrow. I approached and suggested that we have stayed in many Mercures in Europe and they always had a good weekend rate. She asked if we had a reservation and when I reluctantly told her “No”, she said, “Then our rate will be R$ 129 per night. We were shocked, we thought she’d made a mistake. We asked her to write it down, she wrote, “R$ 129. (A drop from about $100 to $45 per night.)
This is a bargain, our room is spacious, warm and has a skyline view. (We think you probably get a skyline view anywhere here?) The price includes CNN, in English, on big screen and breakfast. I made a wine run up the street and almost bought a guidebook on Brazil. We hope to find a Lonely Planet, they had a Michelin Guide but it would mean reeducating ourselves and we may be too lazy for that?
Tired from bussing, we chose to eat downstairs. The Restaurant had another couple in already, we laughed, tourists of course. The service and food were really fantastic. Another shock, the price was as good as the food.
Larry King had Martha Stewart on tonight. She has been convicted and sentenced. She says that she will appeal but didn’t sound very enthusiastic about that. I dozed off, Cat says that she told the world that inside trading and lying charges were, “A big mistake”!
Sunday, July 25, 2004
Sunday in Sao Paulo
The bed is larger than usual. The sheets are crisp and comfortable. The drapes are true “Black Outs”. We slept like babies. The breakfast is a wonderful buffet. The servers hover and are there so quickly that when you go for another helping they scoop up your used plates and whisk them away. Wow, we could get used to this!
Carlos, a guy we met as we checked in sat nearby. He told us that we must go to Parati. (Paar ah chee) He says that it’s a small, quaint, beach town. The streets are made of stones and he says you can tell the locals from tourists by the way they walk. Tourists have to watch their feet as they walk to keep from tripping or falling on the stones. Locals just go. What a nice guy. He’s from Italy. Well he was born here but his Father is from Italy. He works with a large brake manufacturing company. His job is making brakes for motorcycles but they also make disc brakes for mountain bikes. As we left the restaurant he insisted on drawing a map of Parati so that we can find his favorite restaurant, Italian of course, when were there.
On the way out we talked with the nice girl at the desk, told her of our desire to buy a Brazilian Guide Book. She loaned us one, in English.
Happy 450th Birthday Sao Paulo
We walked up to Avenida Paulista, the big street just 2 blocks up the street and into another anniversary celebration. Big signs everywhere tell us that Sao Paulo is 450 Anos this year. Today is a neighborhood celebration with art shows, dance and music. We thoroughly enjoyed walking and watching. We found the bookstore that had the Michelin Guide but it was closed for inventory. Another one nearby was also closed and the staff was inside, busy counting books? A third was doing inventory, too but the guy nearest the door told us that the original store I’d gone to was the only one with travel books.
Back to Av. Paulista and more celebrations. One interesting sight was a troop of young people dressed in black with swastikas on their arms. At first I thought we’d come upon a Neo-Nazi group. They lined up then marched down the street toward a small cluster of strangely dressed people. One of them finally spoke enough English to tell us that they were the cast of a play. She invited us then in broken English said, “Sorry only Portuguese, no English”.
We bought picnic food and ate in our room while we rested. Back out on the street, we went toward a bookstore the gal at the Hotel thought would have the same book she’d loaned us. After a long walk we found the place and found it was closed. There was an Internet Shop there so we checked in. The machines were very fast, the down side is, it’s in an Electronic Game Center and the noise was deafening.
A little time to relax, type some journal and have a glass of wine. It only took a minute for us to decide to eat downstairs again. It had been so good last night and it’s so easy. Food and service remain great.
Go Lance Go
Today was a huge one for Lance Armstrong. He has done it for the 6th straight time. Yes, he’s won the Tour de France, one of the most grueling sports events in the world. Amazing, he really has “Bon Courage et Bon Chance”, courage and luck. For us, we’ve come a long way this past year. Hard to believe that it’s been a year since we pushed through crowds to witness the Prologue and 16th stage or the 100th Anniversary Tour.
Tomorrow the Democrats kick off their Convention. We watched Politician after Politician for as long as we could. Sleep finally overtook our desire to see what they have in mind.
July 26, 2004
Downtown Sao Paulo
Politics, in a way our day is to be consumed by a branch of our Government controlled by politics but operated by bureaucrats. We had the US Embassy address but decided to check with Pablo at the desk before setting off. Good thing we did, they’ve moved. This will be no walking matter, they are now located an area almost on the fringe of town. We called, and the woman wasn’t unfriendly but she was short, sweet and to the point. “No, we don’t have a Social Security Division here, not here, not Rio, not even the Capital, Brazilia. We have no Social Security Office in Brazil.” So, that was that. We’ll have to wait to see them in Buenos Aires.
Wanting to get a head start on leaving we chose to go to the Station and buy tickets today. The subway system here is easy to find, easy to use and clean. It dropped us right at the Station. It’s so simple that we decided to use it when we leave town. The bags will be a challenge but beyond that it should be easy.
We had our tickets in hand, were back on the subway and downtown in just an hour. The streets here are hectic, almost crazy when compared to those in our lovely Jardim Neighborhood. One of the folders we found has a walking tour. We started and pretty much stuck with the route. The Cathedral Metropolitana is an imposing structure. It’s twin spires jut up toward the clouds. The interior is plain but quite full of worshipers.
The square is full of small crowds, watching performers and religious speakers. Other buildings of note maintain the feeling of old. Lunch on the move at a little Café. One of my favorite photos is a display of sunglasses shot from inside the Café. This is a big city.
Subway back to Jardim neighborhood, an hour of Internet then back to our lair. This room I great, we kicked back, had a glass of wine and enjoyed our big screen TV.
Was it lazy or do we really love the Restaurant downstairs? Another great meal and good company. Luis, seated at the adjacent table began talking with us. Nice guy. As we chatted another guy seated several tables away called out, “Did you say you’re riding bicycles around the world”? He became so interested that he joined Luis at his table and the four of us shared the good food enhanced by the good conversation. Luis lives here in Sao Paulo, he got off work but hates to drive in rush hour traffic. He stopped for dinner while the millions of others fight it out for lane changes.
Bernie is a tourist of sorts. Well traveled, he’s here visiting friends. He’s from Chicago, a headhunter. You know the ones who go after executives for companies. He tried making a move to New York but missed his family and, his regular clients.
The only news is the Democratic National Convention. Tonight the featured speakers were Bill and Hilary Clinton. We both dozed off but I awoke in time to hear Bill. He, as usual, had a good message and great delivery. Cat has a problem with President Clinton and his trifling. I think he’s a bright guy but like President Bush, I think both of them are slower than their wives. Hilary and Laura are both very bright and level headed. Maybe it would be better if they were President.
July 27, 2004
Sao Paulo to Parati
Up early, we were going to pack and shuffle the bags to the Subway. I was feeling a little puny and my backache has returned. Packed, we decided to Taxi rather than carry. So, we enjoyed another very good and leisurely breakfast. The taxi pulled in at 10:00 AM, we threw the bags in the front seat and were off. Sao Paulo is almost as big as Los Angeles. The gal at the Hotel said that with surrounds counted in they have over 12,000,000 inhabitants. We saw a few poor looking people, a couple of kids half heartedly begged but we didn’t see the abject poverty we thought was here.
The bus driver struggled with the crowded main highway. It was bumper to bumper. Finally we broke out of the clusters of high rises and into suburbs. Just as the driver began to breath easier and get up to speed he hit the hills. Another slow pull, sometimes stuck behind a long line of struggling trucks. We wound our way to the top then started down the equally steep eastern slope. What a marvelous view, we could see cities clustered along the coast.
A Bump and Grind Ride
We pulled into Parati (Pronounced Par-a-chee) by 3:00 PM. Small town, smaller still bus station. First thought, walking to the Hotel lost out to another Taxi. Our idea to walk to a Hotel was squelched by the young guy in the Tourist Office. His comment, “It’s only a 10 minute walk”, combined with my aching back, drove us toward a taxi. Once loaded and rolling we were glad we’d chosen a ride. The streets are uneven stones placed at random, just as Carlos had warned. Though interesting and picturesque, they make walking tough. In fact the taxi ride was a bump and grind.
We just randomly chose one of the 4 Hotels the young guy had recommended. Our driver waited patiently while Cat checked the room. She gave us the high sign and I handed him 10 Reis. We’d moaned a bit at the cost when we contracted his cab. Now, it seems reasonable since he must have to replace suspension, often.
Our room is small but decent. It reminds us of rooms in a Mexican resort. The courtyard is full of tropical plants. They offer CNN and FREE Internet access. We took advantage of the computer. Oh, they also include breakfast. The price is right, this off-season traveling does have some advantages.
The old Church is just across the street. We walked around it then off down the stone street. Maybe we should say we hobbled around as the stones aren’t flat. The buildings, homes and businesses are painted in bright colorful splashes of paint on walls and window shutters. Parati is, as we were told, a wonderful little enclave.
The riverbank is lined with colorful boats. Fishing and excursions seem to be the main employer. Well, add in the tourist shops, Hotels and Restaurants and you have what looks like a booming little economy.
It had been warm all afternoon but as the sun dipped the temperature followed. I was feeling a little off, we talked about dinner and where to go. There is a Sea Food place across from the Hotel. Close sounded good, we walked across. They have a nice patio overlooking the river but it was cool and windy. We chose a table just inside the door but the wind soon had us making a move.
Cat chose a fried fish that was just fair. I had a fish stew similar to Cioppino, it was a little salty but GREAT. We took a walk around the old church on the rough cobbles. Sought out Punto Divino, the restaurant Carlos had recommended. Another picturesque spot, we will dine here tomorrow. ON the walk back Cat stepped into a huge pile of Doggie Doo. P U what a mess.
CNN was full of DNC. (Democratic National Convention) We were barely able to stay awake through Ted Kennedy’s speech.
July 28, 2004
Parati and Sunshine
The included breakfast was just okay. However, the surroundings are tastefully done. Our quest, first thing is for a Laundromat then on to the Bus Station and bought tickets for tomorrows bus to Rio. Met a nice gal from The Czech Republic who has been working as an Aupere for the past 18 months. She loves Brazil and is also booking her trip to Rio for tomorrow afternoon. She’s just making one last visit to a place she says that she loves.
A nice sunny day for walking. We strolled to the waterfront and pier. Lots of tour boats with hungry hustlers trying to fill their seats. We can see the dozens of islands but decided not to sit in a boat all afternoon just to see them up close. The fishing boats were in and unloading shrimp, big fresh beautiful shrimp. We slowly sauntered back along the water, across the little bridge and down river, around a corner and to a beautiful bay.
Shrimp for lunch was a must, sitting on the sand of a pristine beach was a delight. The shrimp were cooked with the shells on. Very tasty but hard to eat. We watched a woman windsurfing or trying to. It was too warm in the sun and a little cool in the shade. We began conversation with a nearby British couple whose names have escaped us, have been traveling for 7 months. They’ve covered lots of miles and seen Thailand, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand and now, Chile and Argentina. They have another month then it’s back home and back to work. We talked about the strange feeling when you think about re-entry, work and family.
I spent some of the afternoon working on our pictures. The new camera is great and the photos using the telephoto lens a real improvement but, I have to clear the Memory Stick and work the photos as they fill. The other camera leaves a mini CD with the pictures. The Memory Stick requires that they be saved in the computer and backed up on CDs before erasing. Cat retrieved our not so clean, clean laundry.
Dinner With Brits
Dinner at Punto DiVino, the name is a play on words in Italian. It means divine point or point of wine. Service started off slowly and remained that way. The Wood Fired Pizza was wonderful. Best of the evening goes to our neighboring table. John and Ray are English Language teachers in Brazilia. Ray’s parents, Terry and Ann are visiting. John is an avid shell collector, Ann is beginning a writing career and has chosen to identify herself as Anna in her work. Really nice people, John and Ray, who speak fluent Portuguese, helped us order our Pizza. They also recommended an ApartHotel in Ipanema. So much fun flowed that we stayed late, even split an extra glass of wine.
John knows a lot about Parati. He seems to have studied the area between shell searches. The area was developed as a Port to ship gold. Yes, there’s gold in them there hills, or at least there was. Some of the stones in the street came down from the mines BUT, the more interesting stones came from Europe. The ships headed here on their golden voyages were filled with stones for ballast. You know, empty ships would wallow. So, the streets that now make this place a Tourist Destination are a combination of the OLD and NEW world.
The DNC was in full swing but sleep preempted the speeches of Al Sharpton and the Vice Presidential Candidate, John Edwards.
July 29, 2004
Parati to Rio de Janeiro
We met a French woman, Fortune, at breakfast. She lives here in Brazil and has for years. She’s a tour director and in charge of a bus full of French visitors. She suggested that her Boss owns a flat that we might be able to rent. She carries 3 cell phones and whipped one out but failed to connect with the Boss. So, she wrote down his phone number and suggested we call him when we get to Rio.
The almost full bus pulled out at 8:50 AM, on time. The coast here is gorgeous, jungle, hills that jut up out of the water and into the clouds. The sapphire sea, emerald islands, coves filled with villages and boats feel like a travel log, playing out through the bus windows. The road raises and falls as it clings to the coast. The bus makes a lot of stops in all those small places. We picked up so many passengers that the driver had to begin slowing and waving but passing by others who are waiting. At one such stop we were able to grab a snack.
Toting baggage, we sought Information. The best we could do was a girl working at a booth representing Hostels. She spoke enough English to tell us that we could get a bus just outside the fence that would take us to Ipanema. A Taxi driver sidled up and gave us his pitch but his 30 Pesos was no match for the 3 Pesos per person bus fare.
Anna, a local, helped us figure out how to find Visconti, the ApartHotel that Ray and John had recommended. It was very nice but all they had available were Suites and they were pretty pricey. The desk clerk called their other Hotel further down beach but they too were fully booked. I stood by our bags while Cat walked the neighborhood. The only place she found was a simple Hotel room and they wanted more for it than the Suite. It was now after 3:30 PM, too late to start house hunting, we settled for the suite.
Late lunch at Bob’s Burgers. A wonderful, juicy, grilled chicken sandwich. I was feeling less than good, Cat went shopping for a few essentials while I went back and rested. My lower back is suffering from all the bus riding and I’m losing the battle with the upper respiratory infection I think I caught from Eduardo and Anna.
I felt so sluggish that we decided to eat in. Cat went around the corner to a small Café and got a Steak and Salad. We split them and watched the DNC, again. It was John Kerry’s big night.
July 30, 2004
Our attempt to workout didn’t work out. Again, the weight machines were broken. We did some warm-ups and stretching then went to breakfast. A young couple seated next to us was speaking good ole US English. They’re here San Diego with a group of friends to attend a classmates wedding on a nearby Island.
The Internet connection at Visconti is as expensive as their rooms but, when in need! We checked and found a few apartments listed so e-mailed them and got phone numbers. Connecting wasn’t easy. The only guy I got on a bad cell phone connection sort of went in circles. I began to think that he was just trying to stall or get us to come to his office. He had no specific recommendations.
We walked along the beautiful beachfront, looking for a sign from above, in one of the windows. None to be seen. The Best Western Hotel had a sign for apartments so we tried them. Fully booked, the young guy there suggested a nearby Real Estate office. Rachel spoke with us, they don’t handle rentals but she gave us other ideas. One was to go to a condominium down the street where she’s heard they do vacation rentals. That turned out to be a winner.
Sonia at Ipanema Sweet Condominiums spoke enough English to help. She has a couple of places we can rent for 150 Reais per day (About $50). That’s about half the price of the Visconti. Cat looked at one and felt it was just okay. Another woman seated in the office spoke to Sonia in Portuguese. She offered her place, a penthouse 2 bedroom, for 200 ($65) Reais. She said that it usually rents for 300 and for 1 month or longer. She, accepted our offer of rent for 2 weeks, if we’d pay cash. We rode the elevator up, looked, fell in love and took the deal.
The place is nicely furnished, fully furnished including pots, pans, plates etc. One bedroom is down, the other up. Each has a separate bathroom and big screen TV. The best bonus, we can see famous statue of Cristo, arms spread, his right pointing down toward us, and off the top floor deck a fair view of Ipanema Beach.
The couple that have been living in the place still have their bags there and won’t be out until 2:00 PM. They will need time to clean the place, too. Oh, one of the best things about the place, she included daily cleaning in the price. We enjoyed a nice lunch then walked back for our bags. By 4:00 PM we were ensconced in our new home.
The TVs are in the bedrooms, I began trying to find a way to move one to the living room. After exploring the cable and electrical I called Sonia and asked. She was emphatic that it couldn’t be done. We decided that we’d eat our dinners up stairs so I brought the plastic table and chairs in from the deck. We were set.
A quick trip to the nearby Zona Sul Super Mercado and we were soon sitting at our upstairs dining area enjoying home cooked pasta and sit-coms. The only weakness of the place, no hot water in the kitchen sink. Well, the housekeeper will have to deal with that one. What a treat, home cookin’ then sleep in our new home.
July 31, 2004
1st Day As Ipanemans
Today is the first of our almost everyday walks on the promenade. Up early we walked to the beach then off into the crowd of walkers, joggers, cyclists. The promenade extends from one end of Ipanema Beach to the other. Some of the most hearty are running on the sand. There is a workout area on the east end where Ipanema collides with Copacabana Beach. The weights are concrete on pipe. The lifters seem serious. No huge guys but in a way it reminds us of Muscle Beach at Venice Beach in California. There are chin up bars and others for stretching scattered along the beach. Also, about every 100 meters there’s a snack bar. They sell cocoanut in the husk and people sit sippin’. Has to be an alcohol added treat, hey all look too happy to be sippin’ straight milk.
It is the kind of day we’ve been dreaming of. Bright, sunny and warm, already 20 C (68 F) at 8:00 AM. We picked up a couple of sweet rolls on the way back in then cut and enjoyed fresh mango, papaya and bananas. We sat on the deck, reveled in the decadence and soaked up sun and listened to Acadiana on our CD player. Geez, it was now getting hot, we had to move into the shade by 9:30, heavenly.
We visited our local Internet Shop and were surprised to receive a message from Teresa, our vocalist/guitar player with Acadiana. She send along a picture of Terry and I with her on stage that she’d sent out to fans to let them know Acadiana was once again playing at Heritage Square in Oxnard. She said nice things about both Terry and I and told of how we had played there every year. A very nice tribute. What a rush of memories, Cat shed a tear, I got the big lump in my throat. We sent back a thanks, told her we’d been listening to the band then invited her to come on down to Ipanema.
My sinus and upper respiratory infection is getting the best of me. I gave in and stopped at a Pharmacy. The woman there got my sign language and sold us a 3-day course of Azitromicina (Azitromiacine back home). It’s the kind of anti-biotic that I like. Strong dosage, short duration, my body hates anti-bodies. I get a puny stomach every time I take them. This way I’ll only have the ickies for 3-4 days.
Second meal of the day, a picnic as I worked pictures. I took my first pill with the sandwich. Then Cat shopped for dinner while I slaved away on the computer. Cat is cookin’, again. She bought a whole barbequed chicken for less than 7 Reais, (about $2.50). She whipped up potatoes and veggies to compliment it.
We took our positions at the white plastic table upstairs and watched a Movie. Great meal, great movie. Larry King live was a dead show, we went to sleep during but I awoke at 1:00 AM and shut it down.
Sunday, August 1, 2004
Another Sunny Day in Ipanema
Up and out for our daily walk, we were surprised, the street adjacent to the beach is closed to cars. It didn’t make sense as we walked out to the west end of the beach. On the way back the place, all lanes, were getting crowded. Dozens of runners, walkers and cyclists had become hundreds and it was almost shoulder-to-shoulder. The booths are setting up for a busy day, a cocoanut truck followed us and they were throwing the natural green balls across to shop operators. This is the tropics.
The people come in all shapes and sizes but most wear bikinis or Speedos, regardless of size or shape, age or condition. There hundreds of beach chairs being wheeled down and set up in rows. Beach umbrellas were popping up like mushrooms on the sand. Plenty of English and French language flying around among the beach goers, too.
There is a double beach volleyball court set up. The picture of a woman and the words “Olympiad” enhance the event. Several great looking female bodies were popping the balls back and forth across the net, practicing for the upcoming tournament. We circled out and down the lagoon on our return. A great walk were it not for my aching back and knees. Then too, nature’s urge almost overwhelmed me on the return. Barely made it back to our home place.
More journal work for me, Cat shopped for food and made us another picnic. Eating in is not only a treat, it’s also a great savings.
Just an afternoon at home except, as Cat began to prepare dinner our French pals, Jef and Sig stopped by. We sat, talked and made a date for dinner tomorrow night. They are such a wonderful couple. We might have just gone out tonight but Cat has been living with the pain of Diverticulitis and I’m on my final day of the anti-biotic. We will both feel better tomorrow.
Cat served Steak and Salad with Malbec, the famous red wine of Argentina. We ate up, enjoyed another movie then settled into our bed for late news.
August 2, 2004
A Long Walk then Jef, Sig and Dinner
Up early and out for another wonderful walk on the promenade. Back in and another wonderful fresh fruit, bread and coffee breakfast. Showers then we set off on an all day walk. Back to the Lagoon, Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas and around it on another paved path full of joggers and cyclists. The lagoon ,though not pristine, is very picturesque. Our route took us toward then into the shadow of El Cristo. Corcovado is the name of the mountain pedestal the base for the statue, in the heart of Rio. The word Corcovado means hunchback and describes the look of the mountain. Corcovado and the other rounded peaks shooting up around it is the picture we all have of Rio de Janeiro in our minds.
The Lagoon shore bears left we went right toward O Centro. Then, in a plan change, we veered to the left and into a tunnel toward Copacabana. There are people living in the tunnel, wrapped in their blankets pulled over their heads, trying to sleep? These sights are troubling but then, we reflect back to California and recall similar scenes.
The tunnel spills out into bright sunlight and rows of stores and shops. Now we were hungry and on the beachfront. Our search was interrupted by Edmondo, who asked where we're from. He was born in Bolivia, but attended University in Berkeley, California. An Engineering student, he hired on with a huge C. F. Braun Construction, met a girl from Brazil and settled to raise a family in Piedmont, CA. His friends call him Mundo. He and his wife are here visiting her Mother who is 96 years young. Edmondo says that she is alert, bright and fun to talk with. We spotted a Bob’s Burgers, took a picture with him then he walked on as we wolfed down chicken sandwiches.
After our sandwich we walked along the Copacabana Beach. Sand castles and sun worshippers, even fishermen. They were repairing nets then we caught a group launching their boat. Back on Ipanema we watched surfers plying the rolling waters and thought of our friends back home, Randy and the Reef Ratz. This is a beautiful place, we’ve begun to think of it as “Home Away From Home”. 6 hours on the road and we finally made it home before night.
Jef and Sig brought a DVD of the first half of their journey. We watched in wonder. Jef is a precise photographer, he will wait for hours just to get the perfect shot. They are so natural, so French and so well traveled. We are beginning to fall in like with them.
Dinner, we set off for the Restaurant next door and they closed the door in our face. Jef and Sig have eaten at another place nearby. It too was closed, maybe they all close on Monday? Finally after walking and talking we found one open. The food and ambience were so-so at best, the company made up for any of the down sides.
It was late when we got back to our lair. We were all tired, we decided to continue the DVD viewing at a later date. We really feel a connection with them. They’ve been to many of the places I visited on my first time around the world. They’re definitely travelers who love traveling.
It was late when we got back in, we decided to meet again to finish viewing their pictures. We were tired, the long walk has taken a toll. We think our shoes are adding to the fatigue, sore legs and backs.
August 3, 2004
It’s a Rainy Day in Rio
The usual fruit, bread and coffee breakfast. It’s not a typical day in paradise. The rain taketh but also giveth, we didn’t do a thing this morning. No exercise, no walk, just hang, relax and rest.
A day of writing journal, a day of listening to music. We bought a CD of Sambas including “The Girl From Ipanema”. Well, a 2 CD pack of 30 songs, old and new. Those along with Acadiana and we had a day. Lunch in, a little TV and then, another delicious Cookin’ With Cat meal.
Life is GOOD!
August 4, 2004
A Visit With El Cristo
After an invigorating walk and a fulfilling fresh fruit and coffee breakfast we were ready to set off for Corcovado. First things first, the trouble we’ve been having with our Visa and ATM cards must be solved. Sonia volunteered to help, she made calls to both toll free numbers. This proved to be a much more difficult task then she at first had thought it would be. She had to call the local phone company then their long distance server. Finally she got the code for reaching the toll free lines in the US. Both Visa and First Bank told us that the cards were okay?
The proof is in the pudding, as they say. We marched right down to CitiBank and stuck the ATM card into the slot. Voila, she spat back money, we’re in business, again.
We’ve seen lots of young people with painted faces and arms in funny clothing. One young guy who asked for money tried to tell me what they’re doing. Something about Medical? Then another request for Reias from a girl. She spoke enough English to tell me that it is for school? So, I gave her a few Real and took her picture. We figure they’re Medical Students collecting for charity? Well, we hope that’s what it’s for.
So, with a pocket full of Reias we set off for the mountain and the Concrete Cristo. Though we see his silhouette from our window he is reached only by a long, round about bus ride. Then, a steep, slow cogwheel train ride up.
Heavenly Hip Hop
We arrived much later than we thought we’d be but it wasn’t a problem. The only thing to do is get a few close up pictures and some panoramic shots of the city below. The view is spectacular no matter which way you turn! The most time consuming thing was trying to get a picture of us in front of Cristo. The steps are crowded with others vying for the right spot for their photo. We’re amazed, the area is jammed with tourists and this is off-season. We kept waiting, watching and wondering what it might be like on a busy day, in season? There’s a couple of guys being filmed doing a dance for the camera. It was an interesting foreground for a video.
It was 5:00 PM by the time we got back down to the street. A girl in a stand selling telephone cards pointed up the street when we asked where to catch the bus. We walked, stood then hailed our bus but the driver didn’t want to let us on? He tried to explain then gave up and waved us aboard. We sat down, he left and we had the bus to ourselves for the next 10 minutes. This is the terminus of the route. We had to wait until departure time. He came back, took our money then we set off toward Ipanema. Another long, hour and fifteen minute, thrill a minute ride.
It was dark and we were hungry by the time we got to our stop. The Pizza place seemed to be beckoning. We made our choices then went on home. We made salads then Cat walked back and picked up the Pizza. Another great day, but so-so pizza.
A movie, CNN news and sleep.
August 5, 2004
Botafogo and a Buzz
A cool and cloudy morning. We used the gym, stretched and lifted a little weight. More of the same wonderful breakfast then a decision. Our plan to visit Sugar Loaf went up in clouds. Sugar Loaf is a ride up a cable car, we could se that the clouds would hamper any attempt to take pictures of Rio so we decided to stay at ground level.
Waiting out the overcast, I typed journal. Cat went comparison-shopping for Bus and Air Fares to Buenos Aires. What she found took the decision out of the process. Flying is 1,200 Pesos each. That’s about $800 for the 2 of us. The Bus, on the other hand, is less than 300 Pesos, under $100 each. For the $600 difference we’ll suffer the 39 hours. We’ve ridden lots of buses to get here but our record for duration is 9 ½ hours. It will be a grind but, the money makes the difference.
After lunch we decided to go into the center of Rio. As the bus rolled along the beach at Botafogo I was tempted by the possibility of good photos. We jumped off and walked through the pedestrian underpass. The bay water is flat, the sand white and beautiful. We watched a fisherman throwing and pulling his net. Sugar loaf is now completely free of clouds. It’s too late to make that trip so we went on with the plan to go up tomorrow.
A group of rowing skulls slid through the water. We figured it was a rowing class. There’s a bike path at the edge of the sand. We followed it and found a repairman sitting, waiting for a broken bicycle to wobble in. I thought it was a good picture, he posed then we got acquainted. Difficult working around language but he’s a proud man and enjoys his work.
The Esso Station at the corner lies under a strange, unfinished looking building. Another picture. Back under Avenue Pasteur, we walked and wondered at the city and the mountains that jut up from its streets. It’s so picturesque and uniquely Rio. Cristo stands, looking down on the rooftops and lives below.
Lunch, we were drawn in by signs for burgers, fries and a drink priced at a hard to believe 3.50 Pesos. They did have them, we ordered and were surprised, we didn’t know that they had buns that small? The burgers were peewee sized, the bag of fries tiny and the drinks came in cups barely larger than a shot glass. Okay, we admit the food, though not ample, was good.
Cat’s been pushing me to get a haircut. We saw a little neighborhood shop and did a walk in. The guys were characters. They had a guy in the chair that was getting a very close cut. I used sign language to let them know I wanted to leave about a quarter inch. They showed us the shears they were using on the other guy and said, “Numero uno”. (Number 1) They pulled out several plastic attachments for their clippers and began counting, I chose #3. It’s a close cut, I may be sorry when we get to the south and cold.
The bus back dropped us at the door of our Internet Shop. After checking messages we made a call to Kathy at our CitiBank in Oxnard. We feel that they’re charging us for cash withdrawals on our ATM at CitiBank branches here. She told us that she’d check and e-mail her findings.
Dinner in, another typical evening at home. Another movie, CNN news and sleep.
August 6, 2004
Sugar Loaf and Santa Teresa
Sunny, Clear and Bright
Oh, my aching back. In deference to walking our beautiful walk we chose to do a light workout. Cat was on the treadmill and I on the stationary bike by 7:00 AM. We moved through the rowing machine and free weights ending with the bench press. A pretty good workout.
Another fabulous breakfast of fresh fruit, bread and coffee then off to Sugar Loaf. The bus ride was simple, we’d been here before. We paused for a picture of Cat under the picture of the mountain and missed the cable car. Two guys, Edgar and Jadir had to wait while we dawdled. They too missed the car. We waited, alone at first then the crowd began to assemble, just a few then a bus must have unloaded. It was almost a half hour then a very cramped ride up. The maximum passenger load is 75 and we were close to that.
The first car stops half way. We spent an hour there, talking with Edgar who could speak some English, and enjoying the view. They are from Santa Catarina, an area in the south that Cat wanted to visit. There’s an art exhibit at this halfway point, too. That explains the picture, Carnival. There’s a helicopter pad below us and the approach for the airport comes across in front of El Cristo and back toward us then off to the right, across the bay to the airport. Yes, you can see one of the flights in the picture with Edgar and Jadir.
As we walked we watched a crowd straining, taking pictures and looking up into a tree. There were several little big-eared monkeys cavorting in the branches. They are so cute, small enough to sit on your hand. Makes us wonder how they feel, having cameras shoved into their faces and being fed junk food to lure them into photo range.
From the ground the second leg doesn’t look like the height that it attains. Maybe because the mountain is larger than it looks? The views from the top are unbelievable. The plaque at the half way stop describes the surrounding mountains and how they were formed when the two continents, South America and Africa collided, before the drift. All of the pictures that make Rio unique center around this ancient event. Wow, what a way to visit Mother Nature.
Down and out on the street, then another bus, into the Center. Lunch, drawn in by the sign we enjoyed the worlds smallest hamburger, order of fries and coke. The cokes were served in cups smaller than the cups on a water cooler. Well, the price they advertised was small, too. (7.50 Reias, $2.25 for both of us.)
A Voice From Above
There is a beautiful small church in the shadows of high rises. As we passed the strains of a wondrous voice called out and urged us to stop and enter. If you can view the little video you’ll know how a celestial voice sounds. Is it an undiscovered artist or a recording of Andre Boccelli? Either way, Communion was in progress and it was heavenly!
There is a Photo Exhibit at the Cultural Center. We stopped and wondered. The shots were taken as far back as 1880. Lots of tintype, black and white and color to learn from, even a wonderful copper sculpture of Don Quixote.
The Center is a blend of old and new. We walked up to the Trolley to Santa Teresa and had to wait in line. Missed the first car up but made it to the front of the line. These were mostly locals, coming home from work and school. The car is old lurches along, rumbling and rattling. It crosses the top of the old aqueduct then climbs up the hill to Santa Teresa. A noisy, bumpy step back in time. There is little to see and nothing to do but hang on for dear life. We rode to the top, paid for the round trip and then sat and enjoyed the bumps again on the hard wooden seats. Don’t you love cobblestones and rails? It really is local transportation, they call it Bondiho. Local passengers holler out to the conductor then hop on and off as the car slows. Santa Teresa is little more than a few shops and restaurants. The ride is the treasure of Santa Teresa.
@ S. T.
Another Pick Pocket?
Back down, we found a bus stop and waited. A young boy, maybe 12-14 years old, began to beg. He sucked on an empty bottle while holding his hand out. He would occasionally almost whisper, “Un Real, por favor”. We resisted and tried to get the point across that he shouldn’t beg. Then, as we stepped up to board I felt movement in my right pocket. I grabbed his wrist and held on. He twisted and squirmed but knew he couldn’t get away. I felt sorry for him, he’s about the same age as Timothy, our grandson. He was looking back at me like, “Are you going to hurt me”? I shouted “No, no, don’t steal”. Then as if to accent the message I gave him a light kick in the seat of the pants as I cut him loose. He ran, we sat on the bus and I worried. Why are there so many young people, mostly boys, who take the chance? It may be poverty driven yet, we wonder whether he would even get to keep his profit. Too many of these street kids have to turn there take over to their Family or, their Pimp. I may have felt worse than he did from the experience.
The bus ride back to Ipanema was as thrilling as they always are. Dinner was home grown, again. Pasta and Veggies on high, a great view from our deck and a movie while we ate. Life is GOOD!
August 7, 2004
Sig and Jef/Bus Tickets
We were both watching the clock. We’re meeting Jef and Sig at 9:00 AM and don’t want to be late. A hurried breakfast then off on the bus. They were there, waiting. Jef has found a path that goes around Sugar Loaf. Well, as it turns out, it only goes part way then up, straight up. We walked and talked and enjoyed each other’s company. They are such interesting people and they have as many stories of travel and adventure as we do. The path clings to Sugar Loaf and is muddy. They thought about climbing the big up. I knew it wasn’t for me and Cat agreed. So, the 4 of us turned back.
We made a date for dinner at our place, tomorrow. They are French, we did the cheek-kissing thing then hugged and parted. They were going to a beach for sun, we wanted to get to the main Estacion Onibus to decide on the way to B A. We had to take one bus to the local station then wait for another. This central station is buzzing with action. Booths sell things of every description. Music blares from several CD booths adding to the discord. After waiting and wondering about finding a bus among the hundreds that pull in and out we approached locals. We asked but understood less of the answer than they did our question.
Finally, a Policeman suggested we wait on the 3rd curb area. Cat had scoped out the bus number from a handout we found at the Tourist Office. (When you go to Rio be sure to get one of these. They are great and easy to understand. Too bad we didn’t figure it out sooner.)
The Estacion Onibus was familiar. We came in from a different angle so it took a few minutes to orientate. Seems like a month ago that we arrived here. All asked and answers led us to Crucero Del Norte. The nice girl helped us through the learning curve and make a decision. We bought tickets for next Friday at 4:30 PM departure. What a bargain, both tickets cost only 580 Real or $193. Less than $100 each. We wondered at the cost then wondered what Greyhound would cost back home for a 2,000-mile trip? We even got seats 1 and 2, we’ll have a great view for the 39-hour trip.
Lunch in the station, the portions were larger than those downtown but the price was, too. We stood at the same corner where we’d caught the bus when we first came to town. There were several drivers and assistants getting off shift. A great observation of life amongst comrades.
An hour on the Internet, an hour of relaxing, dinner, steak and squash then a movie. Larry King had a woman, Joni, on the show. She has been a quadriplegic since she dove into a like at age 16. What a positive person, we got her web site and will send it to Genesis. She has been in a wheel chair for 32 years and has a non-profit that helps provide chairs and other assistance to others with handicaps. She also mouth paints, hold a brush in her teeth and produces wonderful works of art. Though very religious, she is inspirational. We hope Genesis can connect and between them they can help some nice students in Tanzania. Check on Joni at www.JoniAndFriends.org.
Sunday, August 8, 2004
Rain, India and Tibet
Rain, rain go away, come again some other day, after Pat & Cat have headed south. We took advantage of our shut-in situation. Cat began packing and I worked on our journal. The rain slowed in the afternoon, Cat shopped for dinner. I continued to peck away at the pages.
Our dinner guests, Jef and Sig came an hour early. Cat was still chopping lettuce for salad. We set up the computer and enjoyed their pictures of Tibet and India. A little hard for Cat to follow but I’ve been there and memories flowed back like a tidal wave.
We enjoyed their company and hated to see them go at 10:30 PM. They must get prepared for their long flight home, tomorrow.
August 9, 2004
Lazy, Hazy Ipanema Day
We awoke to a report on CNN that a whale had beached itself at Ipanema. We are starting to feel like beached whales. We’ve begun telling friends that we’re putting on a layer of fat like seals and whales do when moving into the cold season. It’s hard to think of being in the cold again but, today may be a vision of things to come. Rain, light to misty at times, has cooled the air considerably. We walked in it and talked of things to come. Cat hates cold like cats hate water.
So, our day, the day of these beached whales, was another day of eating. Great breakfast of fruit, bread and coffee. A Chicken Pies picnic lunch then Cat out did herself with a huge piece of salmon surrounded by rice and veggies for dinner.
The rest of our day was typing journal for me and shopping groceries for the Cat.
We slept through Larry King’s show but awoke to pictures of the whale beached somewhere here in Brazil. They weren’t specific about where it is but we decided to investigate in the morning.
August 10, 2004
El Sol has returned bringing a fresh feeling of summer to Ipanema. We set out for exercise and discovery. We walked to the end of the Promenade and stopped at a News Stand where the story of the Front Page story of the Beached Baleia hangs. A crowd has gathered, starring up, reading and discussing the big news of the day. We learned that it’s ashore on Ilha do Boa Viagem near Niteroi, the old Capital of Brazil. It’s accessible by ferry or there is a 14-kilometer bridge. We may try to get out there?
The beach here is full of Volleyball. There are a dozen nets of so and talent varying from Olympic quality to groups that reminded us of Real Estate office picnic players. A school was in session, teaching the fine art of Beach Volleyball to all ages, sizes and shapes. There’s a full sized double court set up with grandstands and tent cover, too. A banner with the picture of a woman and the word “Olympiado” tells us that it’s an important tournament coming this weekend. The girls practicing there bring Cat’s friend Lisa to our minds. Her sister, Linda played during the 2000 Olympics.
Cat caught up on the journal notes, then found a seamstress to fix the zipper on her shorts. I finished placing pictures in the text or the current journal. Lunch in. Cat spent most of the afternoon cleaning up old messages at Internet.
Dinner, Chinese food from the “Per Kilo” Restaurant downstairs. A so-so meal and a so-so movie. Larry King had some ridiculous story of a guy from Modesto, California. He was caught lying about acceptance to Medical University just a day before his wife disappeared. Now he’s been charged and will stand trial. Hard to believe that this kind of journalism share the stage with world leaders like former President Clinton and President George and First Lady Laura Bush who will appear in a couple of days?
August 11, 2004
A Huge DHL Disaster
Another great morning, another great walk. We’re getting to a nodding acquaintance with some of the locals. An odd assortment of humanity, varying from very fit to slow moving bathrobe and slippers walkers. It isn’t unusual to see the flesh of men and women, beyond their prime by several decades, bulging over the elastic of their Speedos or Thongs. We think it’s less a matter self image than an attitude of, “What is, is”. A very relaxed life and lifestyle.
Sorry to say, all the effort, all the work and the Whale has died. The headlines were, Baleia Morte. How disappointing, we wonder at Mother Nature and, why some things work like they do?
Cat called DHL to confirm arrival of our package and their address. The girl told her that there are taxes of $500 US due. Stunned, she told them that we’d come to the office. Confident that, like other countries, we’d have to meet with the Customs Officer, explain our trip and the items and they’d waive the fees, we spent an hour at Internet. Then, the long ride across town on Brazilian, thrill a minute” Bus and a girl that sounded like a recorded message. She was adamant that we would pay before they would release our things.
Finally she called and a nice guy, Elton, came out and talked with us. When we explained he said, “I’ll tell my Boss, he’ll help”. Elton then disappeared, never to be seen again. His Boss hid form us. We waited impatiently then asked the girl to call the boss or Elton. She talked with someone then said, “They will talk with you in a minute”. Another 20 minutes then a phone call from Customer Service. This girl was completely detached from us. She was calling from Sao Paulo. Her message was, “Pay the $500”. The items in the package were things, a computer battery, 256 MB Memory Stick, 2 custom WR2 cycling shirts and income tax papers. Total value, $496 US, more than 100 % import tax?
Disillusioned with DHL and disgusted with Customer Service, we left. Back at our favorite Internet Shop we e-mailed questions to DHL International and requested a detailed written explanation. They instantly sent back the typical “Your message has been received, we will reply within one business day”, auto response.
On the positive side, we e-mailed the complete text of Leg #20, Buenos Aires to Brazil to Web Master Wally.
Dinner up, pork chops, potatoes and veggies served up with a movie. Then another Scott Peterson, Modesto Soap Opera on Larry King. Disgusted with Scott’s plight and DHL, we hit the sack.
August 12, 2004
Accounting and Preparing
Beautiful Brazilian sunshine, and another wonderful walk on the Promenade. More nodding acquaintances then fresh mango, papaya and banana. Life is good despite the current DHL bump in the road.
Cat’s day consisted of picking up our fresh laundry and e-mailing the completed corporate tax info to Don our CPA. For me, another day of journalizing. I’m already way behind on our Brazil to Ushuaia segment. It’s not easy keeping up with this project but worth it in the long run.
Still no response from DHL? Cat rushed around trying to find a bag for us to carry excess items on the bus. She picked up some of the great chicken sandwiches from Bob’s for lunch.
Left over Pasta and the George and Laura interview. George maintained his cool, even looked Presidential. Maybe because Laura was at his side? I have always believed that she’d make a better President.
August 13, 2004
Off To BA by Bus
After our final wondrous walk and breakfast. No news isn’t good news from DHL? We picked up food for the bus ride but failed at finding a bag. Another Bob’s chicken sandwich luncheon then back to our penthouse. We reluctantly left our lair, Cat returned the keys while I lugged luggage.
The local bus pulled up in just minutes. The now familiar ride took less than an hour. We were at the Onibus Estacion with a half hour to spare. Our bus pulled in, we got a couple of pictures got the bags on board and were off to the South, on time.
There is plenty of legroom for me and movies on a TV screen just above our heads. It was lean back, enjoy and leave the next 39-hour of driving to THEM.
They made a dinner stop at a Service Station/Truck Stop. It was cold and windy outside, just cold inside the place. Our soup was lukewarm by the time we got back to the table. The buffet was not very good or warm, either. We were happy to get back to our cozy seats and a glass of wine for dessert. We slipped out of our cloths and into sweatpants in the dark. Sleep wasn’t easy but it did finally take us.
The lights came up and a few other passengers joined us in Sao Paulo. We have a new neighbor in the solo seat next to us. He shuffled his things and slipped in and out of the seat trying to get comfortable. They fired up a movie for the late arrivals. We were too tired to watch. Both of us pulled the blankets over our faces and finally found sleep, again.
August 14, 2004
Mucho Mas Bussing
Life on Board
The driver brought the lights up at 6:00 AM but it was still dark outside. Neither of us got a good nights sleep, lots of tossing and turning but not bad for a bus seat. Our dreams of stopping for a big breakfast went up in bus fumes when the alternate driver delivered a Styrofoam plate of cookies and crackers covered with saran wrap. Drinking the tiny cup of coffee’s a real balancing act. The trip to the toilet is tough. Between the side-to-side rocking of the bus and the unexpected jerking of the slow downs and speed ups makes standing, trying to brush teeth a real challenge.
Our seatmate from Sao Paulo stirred then shuffled through his things. He added some kind of drink to his Styro breakfast then asked for more coffee in Portuguese. As he shuffled again Cat said, “He’s an interesting character”.
You just never know who does and who doesn’t speak English. We assumed that he didn’t. Cat took out our Brazilian map to figure out how much progress we’d made. He looked over then in almost British sounding English said, “May I see your map”?
Carlos’s father was English, his mother Brazilian. He spent his career years with Goodyear as a chemist. He took out an open bottle of red wine and poured a glass as we talked. His wife died 8 years ago, he and his two daughters live in Sao Paulo but he’s Argentinean. Born and raised in Quilmes, an historic place, home of the Quilmes Indians more than a thousand years ago it’s famous today for brewing Argentina’s favorite beer.
Those 5 words, asking for the map, began a gabfest between Carlos and me that lasted on into the night. We stopped for lunch and he told us that he was traveling to see his sister in Buenos Aires and get a dog. He feels the need for a companion, his daughters are moving toward lives of their own. Not just any dog, he wants a specific breed that we can’t recall. One that he’s had in the past. Wants to take his time, find the right pup and bring it up his way.
Lunch at another roadside place. They serve a fair buffet for a very fair price. Carlos had one of his Home Town beers and shared a glass with me. The entire spread was ours for only 13.50 Reias or $4.50, total for the two of us. Talk with Carlos helps wile away the hours. He’s extremely knowledgeable and has lived in London and Akron, Ohio. Well traveled and well read, he’s a joy to talk with.
A quick stop at Foz do Iguazu, a few more passengers then on to Argentina. The border crossing was through the same Customs Office we had gone through with our Angel before. Just across the roadway from the spot where we met Jef and Sig. They had us hand in the papers we’d filled out on the way out then waived us through.
Getting into Argentina was a little more trying. We had to dismount, claim our bags and drag them through Customs there. They scanned the, we know not why? Then, we returned to our seats and conversation with Carlos. Into the familiar Omnibus Estation at Puerto Iguazu where they loaded up most of the remaining seats but we didn’t have time to get out.
Another long afternoon, I spent mine talking with Carlos. Cat watched movies and shushed us. She thought we were bothering the people behind us.
Dinner was better than all the other meals combined. They pulled into the Crucero del Norte main station and fed us at their own restaurant. A light meal but good food. We passed on the meat course. Too much sitting to eat things that take days to digest. We did bring our wine in which also added to the ambiance. Best of all, it was included in our fare. Back aboard, we began our second night at 9:00 PM.
Another unmemorable movie then sleep, sort of.
Sunday, August 15, 2004
Back in Buenos Aires
Awake before the 6:00 AM lights up routine. We were surprised that it’s still dark. Maybe the clouds are keeping the sun hidden? Another tray of cookies and crackers with a small cup of sweet, strong coffee. Carlos knew that we were a little ahead of schedule. They pulled into the Bus Port at 7:30 AM, an hour early. We had sea legs or should we say bus legs when we stepped onto the walkway. Thirty-eight hours on a bus, that’s a record for us and one we’re pretty sure we won’t try to beat, ever again.
The sun’s still hiding, it was like twilight. We caught a taxi and were back in our old room at Hotel Frossard in minutes. The room won’t be ready until later. We walked up and down Florida Street, killing time. Not many shops open on a Sunday. Checked into Internet at our regular place. A pretty good backlog of messages to sort through, that helped to wile away a couple of hours.
A call to Maxine, she’s waiting for us to pick up the bags. We called Eduardo and Anna, they want to get together on Monday or Thursday. Monday’s a holiday so it would be better for them.
The room is still small, the bed is still small but it feels like home, sort of. We shuffled and unpacked then walked to Maxine’s. A fun time, talking about our trip and thanking Xandra and her for the convincing us to change our plans. She told us that they want to have dinner on Monday because Xandra is going to New York and won’t have any other time. We confirmed, we’d work something out with Eduardo and Anna.
Funny, when we agreed on a dinner date Monday Maxine said, “Shall we get together at 10:00”? We looked at each other and said, “How about 7:00”? She laughed and said, “You really are Americans, aren’t you”? We settled on 7:30 here for a glass of wine then dinner at 8:00.
Back at Frossard, we called Eduardo and Anna and gave them the news then the option of dinner on Thursday or lunch tomorrow. They chose lunch, so we have a tough eating day ahead of us.
An unpacking rampage then the beginnings of a packing plan for getting to Ushuaia. Dinner down with our friends at Il Fratello and sleep, deep and restful sleep in the first bed we felt in two days.
August 16, 2004
Dia de San Martin, an Unexpected Holiday
Who the heck is Jose de San Martin?
General Jose de San Martin (1778-1850) was one of the unifiers of South America. He and Simon Bolivar of the north, led in the Revolution that flared up on May 25, 1810 that eventually led to the expulsion of the Spanish in the early 1820s. The loosely held alliance crumbled soon after. Think what a powerhouse this continent would be if united.
Though Jose’s birthday isn’t until tomorrow they’ve shifted holidays to Mondays or Fridays to lengthen weekends here, just as we have at home. So, thanks to Jose, we’re faced with another down day. Most businesses and offices including the US Embassy, are closed.
We couldn’t even enhance our breakfast as the Bakery was one of the shops taking holiday. Eduardo and Anna picked us up at noon. We drove through the streets talking like magpies, getting re-acquainted. The restaurant they’ve chosen is a very upscale Buffet called El Generoso, the Generous. The spread looks great, we were seated near the window, Anna went to the ladies room then, the Waitress came to the table and said something to Eduardo. He seemed shocked and told us that she had said something about someone dying in the kitchen so they were closing the restaurant. When Anna returned they called the girl over and the story had changed slightly. Someone had been burned and the Police were closing them to investigate.
The staff were milling around, looking lost as two husky, uniformed Policia came through the door. We and the other couple already seated had to exit. As we reached the door Anna asked again and finally got the scoop. Last night, as one of the waiters served a flaming dessert, a customer was badly burned. Nobody died, but they did take the person to the hospital. Eduardo and Anna were miffed, they had driven to the El Generoso before they picked us up to make sure they had the reservation and a good table. So, the Policia had chosen to surprise the staff and cost the place the loss of a Holiday crowd and lots of pre prepared food.
El Generoso has another place on the waterfront. The staff called and reserved a spot for us. Perhaps the unfortunate turn of events for the victim and the restaurant was a good thing for us. The other location is right on the water. The area has been refurbished from old warehouses. It reminds us of San Francisco’s Pier 39. Generous is a great descriptive for this place. The food sections include salads and soup garnished with carved cheese, meat cooked on racks rotating around coals in the typical Argentinean way. They also have Sushi and Pasta Bars and a Mesa de Postres. (Dessert Table)
Like kids, we attacked the boards over and over. The wonderful kinship we’d found with these two now really feels like family. We stuffed ourselves with food and filled our hearts with our Buenos Aires family. We mentioned before that Anna had spent 10 years in the US that left her with the tie that binds us, English Language. They brought family photos so we now know the faces of their kids. What a warm afternoon on an otherwise cool day.
Eduardo drove us down the waterfront then around several areas while Anna provided running commentary. We saw new areas and got to know areas that we’d seen but not really known. It was 5:30 PM and a dreary dusk as we pulled up in front of Frossard. Cat asked Dr. Eduardo if he’d take a look at her mammogram results. He seemed delighted. She ran to the room and grabbed the paperwork. He took a look then through Anna’s interpreting he asked for the X-Rays. She ran back up for them. Dr. Eduardo tried to see them in the dim light of the car. Disappointed, he got out and went across to the window of Il Fratello. What fun Cat and Anna had, talking about how all our buddies there may now recognize Cat’s breasts.
It’s hard to explain what emotions do when parting with people like these. Close, but no tears, just heart felt hugs, cheek kisses and holding onto each other’s hands. Promises to see each other again, somewhere, sometime. We rushed across the deserted street, not to avoid traffic, to distance ourselves before emotions spilled over.
We tried to relax and digest, preparing for our dinner date. Walking was a good option but it was now dark, cold and windy. We choose to Taxi it.
Maxine met us on her security speaker, let us in and we were seated in her cozy living room. Xandra arrived soon after. We enjoyed a couple of glasses of wine and winning conversation about life and in Xandra’s case, cycling in the south and Patagonia. It was after 8:30 by the time we adjourned and walked out, looking for a nearby spot for dinner.
The first place looked too dressy, the second didn’t have the menu everyone wanted. Back across the big street and into a small place downstairs in a basement. We took a seat in the back, got another bottle of wine and chose our meals. Cat and I just had the salad bar that included pasta. Both Maxine and Xandra had a small meat dish, too.
The evening boiled down to a “Getting to Know Each Other” affair. We shared personal things, sometimes slightly embarrassing things amongst ourselves. Nothing that we couldn’t share with any good friends, they were curious about us and we them. Sorry readers but no details here!
More heartfelt farewells, hugs and kisses. It was after midnight when Xandra dropped us off at The Frossard.
August 17, 2004
A Lost Day in B A
Breakfast, I made the usual enhancement run and we enjoyed our fruit and coffee. Our problems for today are to approach DHL and get tax papers e-mailed that we would have had they released our package. DHL seems to be avoiding us. We started our Internet visit with another message to them then one to the US Embassy in Rio requesting help. Our usual Internet Shop didn’t have a printer. We relocated down the street and began processing e-mails for printing.
The DHL Debacle and Our Social Security Payments
The girls started printing then, wouldn’t you know it, their printer broke down. Somehow, in the process we lost the message from our Accountant, Don. A message to him, then rediscovery and another message canceling the request.
Our need for documentation is for the Social Security Office. They have cross referred our income tax and misconstrued some of it. We need these papers in order to prove out our lack of income as they have discontinued payment since last June.
By the time the girls got the printer going and ran our 50 pages it was too late to make the trip to the Embassy today. None of this discouraging series of event or wasted time would have been necessary had DHL DELIVERED!
Picnic in the room then back to our usual Internet Shop. We checked messages then went back to the room and Cat spent the afternoon working on our “List of Friends”. I spent mine on our computer. Such is life for WR2.
We dined down, again. Very good food and service from friends. We were so tired that we didn’t even attempt late night TV.
August 18, 2004
Social Security and Tickets to Ushuaia
Breakfast then off via bus, to the Embassy. Another cold drizzly day in B A. Luckily for us, the line at the door of the Embassy is all Argentineans, standing in the damp cold, waiting to apply for Visas. We walked right in but had to sit and wait. Even though they say the Social Security window is open from 8:30 to 12:30 daily, it was closed.
After a 45 minute wait a nice guy listened then checked with Internal Revenue on their Internet connection. He came back with a printout and suggestions. We’d come prepared and provided copies of our 2002 and 2003 tax returns. I also completed a hand written statement stating that I had no income in 2002. The guy took the pile of papers and again we waited. A young guy seated near us had heard us talking with our fellow behind the glass. Jorge asked about our travels then told us that he’s been traveling around South America for almost a year. He’s from New York and is here to get his Passport extended. He may stay longer?
Our new friend, Antonio, at the Embassy came back, receipted us for the copies and suggested that we should get something back from Social Security within a month. Another month without a check?
Peke, Our Broken Armed Friend/Travel Agent
You probably remember when we went back to retrieve our blood tests and a young girl helped us? Peke was there, waiting to have the cast removed from her right arm. We were struggling trying to get answers when she stepped in and helped. She was so nice that we traded names. She gave us her business card, she’s a Travel Agent. We knew that she and only she would book our flight to Ushuaia.
Finding her office was pretty easy even though the windows of the bus were fogged up. We had to scurry through heavy drizzle but went directly to her door. Cat is becoming a great guide. Peke was there, looking her pretty, perky self. I embarrassed her slightly when I told her she looked to young to be a Travel Agent. She’s actually 23 but looks 18 to us. She’s been a Travel Consultant for 4 years. Peke’s boyfriend, Sean, lives in Boston. They met when he stopped in to change his the date of his Airline Tickets. They talk weekly and send e-mails daily, maybe hourly? He’s a counselor with a Non-Profit called “Seeds for Peace”. They work with young people, future leaders from Palestine and Israel. He has his work cut out for him.
Peke booked us on a flight to Ushuaia. We’ll depart on Saturday at10:40 AM. It’s a 3½-hour flight so we’ll be in around 2:00. Peke knows a family that operates an Apart Hotel. She called, booked a room and even got him to pick us up at the airport there. What a nice way to get business done with a nice person met by happenchance. Is it that most people in the world are nice or are we blessed with good luck?
We took the subway back to Frossard then went out seeking soup for lunch. Our friend Pablo suggested a place down the street. No soup so we went back to the first place we’d passed. So, it was sandwiches.
A relaxing few hours, a little work on our new pictures then dinner down the street at La Posada. Really wonderful food, wine and prices. Cat had the Lamb and I the Pamplona Chicken.
Cat was caught up with an interview with Joan London, a former Morning Show Hostess. She’s had surrogate twins and has written a book about the general deficiencies of children’s diets. I couldn’t focus so I rolled over and missed the end.
August 19, 2004
Day at the Doctors
We ate well last night but must fast this morning. Eduardo has arranged appointments for another blood test for each of us and a Pap Smear for Cat. We’ve been suspect of the earlier results and decided to have the blood tests re-done. A colleague of Dr. Eduardo’s, Dr. Patricia met us and led us through the maze of hallways. She had blood drawn first then gave us time to get some food before Cat’s Pap and my appointment with an Orthopedic Specialist. Dr. Patricia took the Pap Smear.
My shoulder is sore and has been for months. Xandra’s husband, Pablo, is an Orthopedic Surgeon. He told her that it was probably my Rotator Cuff. The Orthopedic Specialist had me move my arm around then up and down. He put pressure on it and described the pain I was feeling then concurred. He drew a picture of the Rotor Cuff and explained the problem then prescribed Voltaren 75, a super strength anti inflammatory. When I asked for a photo with him he called 2 other guys in and we all posed.
I got the last treatment of the day, a visit with Dermatologist, Dr. Marina. The other Dermatologist we visited 3 weeks ago had diagnosed the growth on my leg as a viral wart, she concurred. Knowing that eventually, hopefully sooner rather than later, we’ll be wearing shorts again and disliking the look of the growth, I wanted it removed. I expected Cryo-Surgery, you know where they freeze it. She pulled out an electric gun and after a local anesthetic, burned the crusty culprit to a crisp.
With just a short 30-minute break for lunch, we spent most of today, more than 6 hours, with Doctors. The results of the Blood will be ready on Monday, the Pap Smear next Thursday. Dr. Eduardo will pick them up, review them and e-mail them to us. All thanks to another of those happenchance meetings with strangers that are now like family!
At a loss, we asked and several well-meaning folks gave us several differing opinions about which bus to take back home. Finally we began asking Bus Drivers as they pulled up. On the third try we got a winner. Cat again spotted our cross street and we hopped off. Home again, home again jiggety jog.
I went Interneting, Cat dashed off, drug shopping and got the new prescription. Pizza and Pasta downstairs then TV. Cat was again caught up in Larry King. They did a show on the anniversary of Elvis’s death. I slept through it, she dropped off during and woke up later to blaring news.
August 20, 2004
Last Day in B A
Cat was awake a lot with stomach pain. Her old archenemy, Diverticulosis, has struck again. She stayed in bed and began a course of Cipro. We hate taking medication, especially antibiotics this often but it’s the only cure we know?
I got yogurt and bananas for Cat then had the usual enhanced breakfast. My task is to walk to Maxine’s for the bikes. I stopped on the way and picked up more cash at CitiBank.
Maxine was in, we chatted and she introduced me to Areil, her young friend. She met him while volunteering to help the homeless at a Church. She has him in weekly as a guest. She doesn’t give him money but something much more valuable, self esteem. She treats him as an equal, lets him read her books and study history. He’s found a job, as janitor at a bank. His interest for cataloging and the help he’s given Maxine has helped him begin doing filing at the bank. What a great story, huh?
Maxine called a Taxi Company and learned that, due to the wet weather all their vans are booked until late tonight. She tried every company she could find then called a Help Line. They told her they could get a Taxi Van but it will cost an extra 10 Pesos. I agreed. Getting the bikes out of the storage, it was a bit of a struggle with my sore arm and aching back. Maxine gave me a big hug, well wishes and cheek kisses then the bikes and I dropped down the elevator shaft. I drug them out the door and spotted the Taxi across the street. Another struggle, I had to carry them one at a time.
The driver, Angel, doesn’t speak English but understands my sign language. His Renault van is almost new and he’s proud of it. I decided that he should be the one to take us to the airport tomorrow. He’s available, we made a deal, 30 Pesos. Maybe more than the cost if we just called a Taxi but, it might not be that easy. We need to know that we’ll be there, on time. He agreed to pick us up at 8:30 AM.
Cat spent the morning struggling with her pain and slowly repacking our bags. Our lunch was a smorgasbord of leftovers. We ate in the breakfast room and watched the Olympics in Spanish. I got our things to send home into a box and wrapped it carefully with lots of tape including a roll of white with the word “Fragile” written over and over.
Cat continued her struggle with the bags. I walked to the mail place with our Packages. We have a large pack of things, CDs, brochures and cloths we won’t use. Our small package is a plastic bottle with Brazilian coins that we want to mail to our friend and neighbor, Randy. We have sent 3 packages of African coins in our regular mail backs but Daughter Lori hasn’t opened them and sent the coins on to him. We want him to know we’re thinking of him. (Hola Randy and the Reef Ratz!)
Pat to Poste, The Postman Smiled
The Mail Store wouldn’t accept the package, they say they can only mail up to 2 Kg, our big pack is a little over 4. They directed me to the regular Poste, about an 8-block walk. I hustled there, got a number, stood in line and went to the window when called. All in vain, they too couldn’t send a package this large. They also told me that shipping the coins couldn’t be done because they are metal?
Now I was told that I’d have to go to the International Poste. It isn’t walking distance, I took a Taxi. Another line, another wait then a guy waiting there asked if I was picking up mail? Geez, another wait in vein and another move to a different line. Finally, the Aduana, the Customs Officer. There went my wonderful wrapping job, he cut it open to view the items.
He cleared them then told me to have a guy there rewrap them. Of course there was a price to pay, 25 Pesos. I complained so he sent me to another window. The guy there seemed disgusted with me. He looked at the things then turned and picked up a cardboard Poste box. When he said 2 Pesos I grabbed his deal, addressed the box and he taped it. Then the coin trauma, became drama. He had to call a supervisor, she immediately said, “No” but when I showed her the coins were Brazilian she softened. We had to get them out of the plastic bottle, the 1 Reals were so big that I had to cut the bottle. We lay them out on paper and my now very friendly Postman taped them down and slipped them into an envelope.
My experience with the last Postman started badly. He was surly. I remembered our philosophy in Africa and the conversation with Maxine about how a smile can disarm. When I started acting like I needed his help and smiling he came around. My smile led to success and a new friend.
The entire process had taken 4 hours. It was almost 6:00 PM when I got back to Frossard. We enjoyed a glass of wine. Cat is feeling a bit better, the Cipro is taking affect. We dined down, again. Cat had only plain pasta, hoping it would set well. I forced myself to enjoy a Fillet Mignon.
Larry King was so boring that we were soon snoring.
August 21, 2004
Buenos Aires to Ushuaia
3000 + Kilometers in Bumpy Air
We are anxious, we were up at the crack of dawn. Breakfast in our room to save time. I brought the bikes up from the basement where we’d stored them then covered the protruding axels and wrapped “Fragile” tape over and around to strengthen them. I taped our beat up luggage bags, using up the “Fragile” and a roll of regular shipping tape. We were standing at the door ready to roll when Angel pulled up.
Loading was almost a scientific experiment. Angel began by wanting to put the bikes on the bottom. I objected, he understood, we don’t want put the heavy bags on top of the bikes. So, bags below, bikes above and we were ready to go. Angel had us at Aeroparque ¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬Jorge Newbery by 9:00 AM. He even prompted us to pay only 2 Pesos for help getting the bags inside. The luggage handler got most of the bags on his two wheel cart and led us to counter #9. We stood in line, lifted the bikes and bags onto the scale and waited for the bad news about overweight. They fly the bikes for free but charge 3.76 Pesos per Kilo for excess. Not bad, 111 Pesos, only about $35 US. A bargain when we compare the price we paid, at least 10 times more, to get from Greenland to Europe.
Off To “THE END OF THE WORLD“
Our flight lifted off 10 minutes behind the 10:40 AM schedule. The wheels cam up with a bump but it wouldn’t be the only bump we’d feel on this flight. Almost every seat was filled. Good fro the Airline, but it always makes me nervous knowing that they’re flying close to max weight load. It seemed to take a long time to get to 31,000 feet then the Captain recommended keeping our seat belts fastened. It wasn’t that bumpy, we were above clouds and over water most of the flight.
The bumps and clouds are related. As we descended we really got the bumps. As we broke through the cloud cover the snow covered “Tail of the Andes” seemed to be luring the plane down, toward them. I was nervous, Cat’s palms were sweating. Besides the feeling that this part of our ride wasn’t going to be a “Cake Ride” the plane seemed to be heading directly toward the peaks. This is as close to a mountain as we’ve ever flown. Just as we were getting ready to ask the Steward, the plane veered off to the right away fro the mountains and down, toward Ushuaia. We didn’t clap when the wheels touched down but we did breath a big sigh of relief. The Airport was almost too warm. Fabiom, the owner of Los Andes ApartHotel was there, waiting. We retrieved the bags and bikes and stuffed them into his van.
The Andes ApartHotel is a lot further from town than it looks on the city map. Our first impression is that it’s not such a great deal. It is a two-room place. The living room has a dining table for 6, there are 2 single beds, and our double. The kitchen we saw in the brochure is only a sink and microwave so, no real home cookin’. We do have several TV channels and one is BBC! The heat is hot water registers but they’re not very hot. There is also one of those plug-in heaters that we immediately fired up.
We unpacked the bikes and bags. Stuff was scattered everywhere. I attacked the bikes while Cat worked on the repack of bags. The bikes look shiny and new. Our pals at Bowman’s did a great job on them. I had a little trouble with Cat’s shifter, it has been tweaked a bit in the box. All in all they look and act pretty well. We’re anxious to get on and try them, maybe tomorrow.
Dinner at Volver, a place Cat read about in our Lonely Planet. The Taxi ride cost 5 Pesos, we thought he was taking us on a round about until he pulled up to the door. There’s a van and motorcycle painted with blue and yellow stripes our front. It represents the Prison Uniforms, Ushuaia was a Prison town from 1884 to 1947. We chose the place because the Guide says “Great Seafood”. The place was built by the 2nd Chief of the Prison who later became Jefe de Policia. The building was home to several prisoners after the Prison was closed. Later the last pure blood Ona native, Rafaela Ishton lived here until 1985. The newspapers pasted on the walls for insulation are now part of the Historic value of Volver.
Our dinner was superb. For starters we both had Centolla, their Crab Soup. Fresh caught Hake for Cat and Eel for me. We momentarily met a couple from Spain we were the only diners until they arrived. She’s from Barcelona, he from Cordoba. Like ships passing in a fish Restaurant, we bid them adios and departed.
Nothing worth staying up late for on TV. Another dose of the rerun news then off to bed.
Sunday, August 22, 2004
First Day in Ushuaia
The sun doesn’t peek over the Andes until almost 9:00 AM. Claudia, Fabiom’s wife, delivered juice, toast and a thermos of hot water in the dark, at 8:00. We had to use instant coffee in little tea bag things seasoned with packets of powered milk. Had to ask for another bag for the second cup.
I finalized tuning the bikes, Cat got everything repacked and made a list of groceries and other needs. Our shower was in cool to cold water. One advantage here at the Andes is use of their computer for Internet. The bad news, we gave it a try and couldn’t get it to interface with AOL.
We walked into town. It was cool and blustery but bearable. The streets are muddy, we walked to the Harbor then through the streets. Ushuaia isn’t very large. We walked from one end to the other, taking pictures and exploring. We were starving, it was almost 3:00 PM by the time we found a warm Café. Cat nibbled on something like pizza made with garbanzo beans, I ordered a Lamb Goulash. It was good but rich and large. I wolfed it down, all except the 5 bites Cat pilfered.
More walking, the Tourist Office provided a sheaf of papers with Hotels, here and down the road. They allayed Cat’s fears about places to stay once we roll out. There are only a few shops open, they all close for Siesta from 1:00 to 4:00 PM. We spent an hour at the Internet Shop then took a Taxi to Norte, the Super Marche. Our hopes of finding a roasted chicken were dashed. We did get instant coffee to supplement the packets, and a box of real milk, breakfast supplements. It was after 7:00 PM by the time we got back to Los Andes.
We were so full, in fact one of us was bloated, that Cat started a search through our on board food. She came up with several packets of Top Ramen noodles. Claudia boiled water and we had soup. Fortunately we’d laid in a bottle of wine, we had a dinner!
A movie and noodles, BBC news and bed.
August 23, 2004
A Snowy Day in Ush
A sort of roaring sound brought us awake at 7:00 AM. We peeked out the window to see a plow roaring down the road, pushing snow aside. White flakes are swirling and there’s 5 centimeters (2 inches) covering the ground and it was still coming down hard and fast. So, we won’t be going on our bicycle test ride today!
We crawled back under the covers and snoozed until Claudia knocked on the door with our ration of toast at 8:30. Breakfast then a Robert DeNiro thriller movie. At 12:30 the sun peeked through and the snow stopped falling. We are anxious to go to town, but we’re in the middle of the movie and hooked by the plot, must know the ending.
The sun has made a breakthrough, it’s now flooding down on Ush. A taxi in then lunch, hamburgers and empanadas. We checked with a shoe repair guy, he had some leather soles to glue on our cycling shoe covers. We didn’t like the look of the deal.
These Boots Are Made For Climbing
We’ve been trying to find boots, something light weight enough to carry. Our $10 shoes are shot. Mine have a broken soul, Cat’s take water like a sieve. The problem isn’t variety, there are plenty of stores selling shoes and boots here. It’s me, Zapatas Grandes are tough, in fact we thought maybe impossible, to find. The largest, most well stocked place brought out every pair of 46s that they had. We were giving up, I’d put my old clunkers back on, when a young guy came up and took over. He found a pair that fit. I even put my insoles inside and still got my foot inside. Cat easily found a pair she likes. We hope they take us up the trails to the face of glaciers, the ruins at Machupicchu and onto the Galapagos.
We spent the nest hour on Internet, messages in and out. The snow started to flurry again as we typed. Next, down to the Super Marche and the Shoe Repair across the street. The guy there has rubber soul material. He sounds credible even though his price is more than the other place. Victor is a big jovial fellow, he laughs and jokes but we can’t understand. We left our shoes and fowl weather shoe covers. He says they’ll be ready tomorrow. He’s our new SOUL MAN.
A roasted chicken, green salad and potato salad, it’s dinner in, again. BBC, a movie and lights out. Yes, the flakes continue to flutter down.
August 24, 2004
A Blizzard in Ush
“Oh the Weather outside is frightful, but the fire (Electric Heater) is so delightful. Where ever we’ve got to go, Let it Snow, Let is Snow, Let is SNOW”! We awoke, not to the silence of snowflakes but the rumble of the Snow Plow at 4:30 AM. Peeking out we could see that this was more than a little spring thing. We pulled the covers up and snuggled.
Up at 8:00, it is still snowing and blowing. Toast and juice, coffee bags supplemented by a spoonful of instant. The toast was okay but we also had some sweet things. The Olympics entertained us as we ate and on into the morning. The weather hasn’t let up at all. I typed, Cat did accounting. We lunched on leftovers.
Cat in A Blizzard!
At 2:30 PM Cat got beyond Cabin Fever. She has been pacing lice a caged Cat. She called a Taxi and headed for town. She spent 2 ½ hours on the Internet then exited into a blizzard. The snow was so thick she couldn’t see across the street. She decided to take a Taxi. She stood on the sidewalk waving and wondering. Finally she caught the eye of an empty guy. She was off, down the street to the Super Marche.
The market was full of people, rushing around like this might be their last chance for food. Cat got a bottle of wine and bananas. We’re planning on dinner out. Then, a melodrama trying to get a Taxi. She had to stand outside in a line. A woman told her that the reason everyone is waiting for a Taxi is that the City Buses had stopped running. This is a major storm.
We all know how Cat loves the COLD. She now had to stand in the line out front, it was that or nothing. The wind howls around the corner of the building, as you get closer to the Taxi Stand your less and less sheltered. She saw little kids slipping and sliding, being blown along the icy sidewalk. She couldn’t tell if they were playing or struggling. She wasn’t playing, she was shaking. The as her turn came and a Taxi pulled up, a woman pushed past and opened the door. Cat screamed, “NO, no, this is my Cab”. The crowd took her side, Cat pushed her way in the door as they scolded the woman and cheered her.
I typed, watched BBC and at 5:00 PM I started to worry. More typing, more fretting. What could I do, what should I do? It’s another of those moments when I begin to think that we should have Cell Phones. I set 6:00 as the benchmark then stretched that moment-to-moment. Standing by the window like a little boy, waiting and worrying. At 6:30 a Taxi pulled up, she jumped out and ran in. I opened the door and she dashed to the heater. She was shaking and on the verge of tears. We were both shaken.
Don’t you love Happy Endings? We chose not to venture out again. Another raid of the bike bags, another Pasta dinner and a TV movie.
August 25, 2004
Cat & Cabin Fever In Ush
The wind howled round the corner of our little cabin as we ate our toast and sipped tea bag coffee. It’s hard to tell how much of the snow is coming from the heavens and how much is blowing down off the roof? We filled the morning watching diving and volleyball competition with Spanish commentary. Cat computed her accounting files.
After a picnic in we broke out of the cabin, caught a Taxi and invested 2 hours at the Internet Shop. We waited until 4:00 PM for our Shoe Repair guy, Victor, to open after Siesta. He was his usual jovial self, even laughed when he told us they weren’t ready. He’s sure he’ll finish them by Manana.
The weather has settled, it’s cold and breezy but livable. We decided to venture up the hill and treat ourselves dinner at one of the 5 star Hotels. Hotel Glacier sits high above Ush. They say the views, both of the Glacier and City, are spectacular. It’s already dark so except for the lights there won’t be a view.
Finding a Taxi took patience. Segundo, our driver, is a nice guy and anxious to please. It’s dark and cold, we could see the ice hanging from the cliffs roadside. The climb is steep, the road white with snow and ice. Segundo seems in control, we only slipped and slid twice. At the entry to Glacier we got out in a brisk wind, Segundo stepped out, pointed to his watch and suggested, in sign language that he would pick us up. We got it and said, “Ocho y Media”, 8:30 PM.
The Hotel entry has a ski lodge feeling. There is a roaring fireplace off to the left. We decided to have dinner then our last glass of vino fireside. The Restaurant is plain and empty save for the WR2. We took a seat near the window with view of the twinkling lights of Ush, below. The wall heater was probably the best feature of Hotel Glacier. Remembering our first meal here, we both ordered Crab Lasagna. We got a small microwave dish that looked like a TV Dinner. There were half a dozen crab legs swimming in sauce but it was a small serving and a far cry from Volver’s Centolla soup.
Segundo showed exactly on time. We had talked and dawdled so had to swig our last dash of wine, skip the fireplace and go. I went out and asked for 5 minutes. Segundo smiled and sat back in his Cab. We did get a brochure about the Hotel but we remained the only humans, save staff, to be seen. We felt that they hated to see us go. By the way, the most prominent feature of the 5 star rating is the price.
Strange Movie, Strange News
Cat flicked until she found a science fiction film. Kids with gray hair who had all been born on the same day? Strange news, Mark Thatcher, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s son, has been arrested for complicity in the thwarted attempt to form a Coop in Equatorial Guinea. Remember, the Plane full of Mercenaries that were captured in Harare, Zimbabwe just as we were entering the country.
Stranger still, Vice President Dick Cheney disclosed, in a Town Hall Meeting, that he opposes President Bush’s desire for a Constitutional Amendment, a Federal ban on Same Sex Marriage. Cheney feels it’s a State Rights issue and should be decided at State level. Why would this ultra conservative guy take such a stand? Easy, one of his daughters is Gay.
When it Gets Personal
Isn’t it interesting, how your thinking can change when the issue is personal? Wonder what his feelings about Iraq would be if one of his kids came back from there in a body bag?
August 26, 2004
In Prison In Ush
No snow during the night. Breakfast in, again, we like it that way. Hazy sun, but still very cold. We called for a Taxi rather than brave it. Internet and messages from and too home. Torn, we checked with the Tourist Office about the best way to visit the Parque National. There are a couple of regularly scheduled buses that run back and forth. The girl mentioned that most people ride out then take a hike through the park. That sounded way too cold for us. The only other alternative, a bus tour. Geez, we usually hate tours but it wounds like the only way to go, here. Awe, another decision, if we want, we can work the little steam train trip in, too.
So, we have gone from a 20 Peso bus ride to 80 Pesos for the tour bus and 96 for the train. Wow, a little less than $60 but it is a 5-hour trip? With that decision out of the way walked to the Maritime Museum, currently the Naval Base located at the old prison facility.
So, it’s like a 2 for 1 deal. You visit the Maritime area and get a glimpse of Tierra del Fuego history. They have models of most of the boats that plied the waters here, in the early days. Back in 1520 Hernando de Magallanes (we call him Magellan) sailed through the straits and won the right for them to be named for him. Being the first Europeans, they called the land Tierra del Fuego. No the land wasn’t on fire but they could see fires on shore. The native Yamana people had fires burning in their camps. In fact, they even kept fires in their canoes. Who could blame them, it’s darn cold here. Especially if you’re running around half naked.
Darwin, the Yamana and their Demise
During the next 100 years lots of others made the trip including Sir Francis Drake in 1576. They portray him as a Pirate? My memory seems to be that he or Magellan, one or the other, was the first to sail around the world? They have models of these two ships as well as lots of others. One that catches the imagination is The Beagle. In 1833 she sailed in and they named the nearby channel, Beagle Channel. One fellow on board, Charles Darwin, made some observations of the locals. The museum calls that unfortunate. Lonely Planet expands that, they say he saw the Yamana naked except for loincloths and seal skin capes paddling their canoes and noted that they were sub-human beings without spiritual life. They were treated thusly and, like our natives in Ventura, the Chumash, it only took about 150 years to kill all of them off.
The prison is the reason there is an Ushuaia. Settlement here began in 1894 and the first prisoners arrived in 1896. They were housed in wood and tin shacks and put to work building their own prison. What a terrible place it must have been, so remote and isolated. There were few escapes and those who did probably died, trying. It reminds us of Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay and, remember the Prison in Wyoming?
There are stories here of the long term and/or famous inmates. One, a Russian, was saved from the gallows because he was proven to be 18 years old. His murdering life style doomed him to a life time here. Another child killer, Pendeho, had beaten, stabbed or strangled by the time he became a teen. The youngest prisoner ever sentenced to Ushuaia, he too would end up cutting trees and living his life out in this place. (His nic name has to do with his ears. They stuck out and the others nicknamed him, Donkey)
One very interesting guy, Ricardo Rojas (1882-1957), was sentenced as a Political Prisoner. Speaking out or more likely writing about the Regime in power at the time. He was interred here in the 1930’s. He continued to write and won several awards for his stories during his imprisonment. Interesting, when convicted he was offered Exile. He refused preferring prison in his Father Land?
The current building was constructed over several years, beginning in 1902. It’s cold and impersonal as a Prison was supposed to be, in those days. The tour starts at the Maritime Museum that’s housed in one of the 5 two story corridor cellblocks. They do have heat, big barrels fired by gas. They look like they were wood burners back when. Imagine how cold it must get in this concrete meat locker in winter. They have one of the later model Steam Engines with a passenger car attached, on display in a courtyard.
Lunch at a Pizza place. Pretty good and lots of it. Enough to take a box home for Happy Hour. A store nearby has the neck warmer/hat combination that we’ve been looking for. We can wear our head covers and these over our lower faces if we’re caught out in extreme cold. The two girls working there, Silvina & Gabriela were enamored by our trip. One said that she had a bicycle when she was 13 but only road it a few blocks. She also smokes so we worked on her about quitting. Nice young girls.
Another walk along the Main, San Martin, to Victor’s Shoe Repair. They have added the layer of rubber on the leather we had put on in Buenos Aires. I think that the leather that was sewn on wouldn’t have lasted. The thread would walk right off. Now we have rubber souls on top of the leather. Hopefully they’ll hold up until we get to warmer climes. A wine run to the market across the street then Taxi home.
It’s pretty chilly but sunny. We took the bikes out for a test run. Had to work a few bugs out, but they feel pretty good, overall. The new “Cheeko” seats feel strange. We adjusted then adjusted again. We’ll give them a fair try, at least until we reach Rio Gallegos, on the mainland. Of course we hope they are the answer to our sore butts, but, we’re not throwing the old seats away, yet. We’ll report back on this one!
A leisurely leftovers dinner and the usual packing frenzy. Tomorrow WorldRiders2 will be back on the road, again.
August 27, 2004
Ushuaia Choo Choo
Another night without snow and now, a muted promise of sunshine. Breakfast in then, off for a trip to the Parque National. They say we’ll see native fox and birds as well as Canadian beaver, European rabbit. The tour company came to pick us up, as promised, at 8:40 AM. That’s pretty early for us, the sun is even having a hard time awakening. The bus had to swing past several other Hotels and was finally packed full. They drove through sparse, snow covered fields and ice-capped mountains.
The train is cute, a diesel burning steamer. It is tiny but similar looking to the one we saw at the Museum. It is a replica of the Prison train used to take convicts out to the woods. They cut down trees and shipped them back into town for construction at the prison and homes of early Ushuaia. Oh yes, for heat, too.
After a half hour wait we boarded. Only about half full but they had us cram into the front few cars. It’s a slow moving Disney ride. The little train huffs and puffs up then stops for us tourists to get a picture of a couple of typical Yamana huts. They cut the little blue diesel engine that has been pushing us up. We did the tourist thing then back in and huddled around the heater. They did have an English speaking guide on board, just for us? We’re the only Gringos we’ve seen today.
Back to the bus and Pablo, our guide. He points out a pile of trees and brush then that he says is a Beaver dam. He’s quite a guy, speaks Spanish, of course, English, French and German. There were no other animals to be seen, too cold. We had to dismount at the shore of a Glacial Lake and walk down the rocky shore. The wind was howling, the blue green water choppy with white caps dancing.
A half hour in a Café at lakeside, we didn’t want food but both stood in long lines to get into the Banos. (Toilets) We did learn about a plant similar to Mistletoe that hangs in green clumps, they call it Chinese Lanterns. We did sit near the fireplace and arm a bit.
The best of the ride today was as we were leaving the Parque. There is a sign signifying the end of National Ruta 3, The Pan Pacific Highway that runs all the way from Alaska. As we posed for a picture a couple rode up on bikes. Christian and Anita from Switzerland have just completed their final miles. They’ve cycled 23,320 Kilometers from Anchorage. Cat wanted to know how it is, out here in the open spaces and cold. Anita told her it was tough, cold, rough roads, mud and ice. Christian disagreed. They sound a lot like Pat & Cat. They’re on a plane and off to Switzerland tomorrow.
Back on the bus, we did the drop off routine in the reverse of the way we picked up our fellow passengers. We had Pablo drop us in the middle of town. We found a little local Café and had Hot Dogs for lunch. Yes, Hot Dogs! Not bad.
An hour at the Internet Café, letting our families know that we’re heading north tomorrow. We sent a message to Christian and Anita. One of those “Why didn’t we think of this”, kind of thing. We invited them to meet us at Mustacchio’s, for champagne to celebrate their completion and the beginning or our “North to California” voyage.
Los Andes, a last minute packing frenzy then back to town. Christian and Anita didn’t make it. Dinner was a little better than so-so. There was a group of guys seated nearby speaking English. We thought at first that they were crew from the big blue Freight Ship we’ve seen in the Harbor, today. No, they’re skiers, here for the snow. Some from Colorado, Washington, even California. Nice guys, we had a great time talking, speaking California English.
The Waiter, Rudolfo, came out in the street and took our picture. We climbed up on the windowsill and stood under the sign for Moustacchio’s. We want to send it to our pal, Joel, you remember, Mr. Mashurubu in Mbeya, Tanzania.
Back at Camp Los Andes, we shuffled things a bit then lay back and tried to sleep. We’re both worried about setting off in the cold, desolate, even hostile environment.
On The Road, Again!
This is a tough place to live. Maybe even tougher to cycle? We are really tired of sitting, waiting. The weatherman says we’ll see sunshine tomorrow. Yea though we cycle through the valley of the snow, we fear not. Well, we are afraid of freezing but being either brave or crazy, we’re going for it. Thanks again for reading along with us.