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Hitch hiking, bus marathons, red wine and sunshine

10 Mar

Hey folks,

Apologises, hapworkingtheworld seems to have been on holiday the past couple of weeks and will probably be on holiday for the following couple as well. I’ll fill you in on what I have been up to since pooing and spewing in Torres Del Paine, and what I’m going to be doing in the coming weeks.

Well, after Torres Del Paine I chilled out in Puerto Natales, Chile nursing my stomach back to semi regularity with pumpkin and ginger soup. After 3 days of this and weaning myself off the Imodium I finally had the confidence to fart again!

With my new found confidence I wanted to get the hell out of cold and windy Patagonia (the southern region of Argentina and Chile), as beautiful as it was I wanted warmer weather, where? I didn’t care, just as long as I didn’t have to wear a thermal and a woollen hat.

I headed to the round-a-bout just out of town where the traffic is just starting to apply to the accelerator for the open road to the Argentine border an hour away. I couldn’t have asked for a better hitch-hiking spot. Within 10 minutes I was picked up by a local lady. All was going well for my hitch-hiking mission to my sunny oasis………..that was until………………….

10km out of town my ride pulls over to the side of the open road and tells me that her house is down the side road and wishes me luck for my journey north. You can imagine my joy, 10km before I was in the perfect hitchhiking position, the start of the open road and close enough to town that I could still walk back if the weather packed in or if I had no luck. NOW, I was on the side of the road with cars and trucks passing at 100km/hr with no real space to pull over. Oh yeah, did I mention that there were menacing dark Patagonian storm clouds in the not too far off distance. Using all my breathing exercises and positive thinking I was trying to be thankful for the lady picking me up, but I just couldn’t help but thinking she had been hit with the dumb stick a few too many times. Seriously, why the heck would a guy hitch hiking with his big pack want a ride only 10km down the road to the middle of nowhere! God bless her for picking me up.

As mothers do, I was reprimanded for my bad thoughts and within 10 minutes Mother Nature had talked with her contact in the Patagonian wind department and got him to fast forward those storm clouds right to where I was!

I tell you what, there’s nothing like standing on the side of the road in Chile in a downpour with your thumb out and trucks passing you at 100km/hr with no real hope of catching a ride to make you realise what you really want to do. All of a sudden that bare bones, dim hostel that I had wanted to get out of seemed rather appealing and not to mention dry. At that point the red wine and sunshine of Mendoza, a place I had always wanted to visit seemed a lot more appealing than hitchhiking in the rain.

I crossed the road, and hitched a ride with a car pulling out of the dirt side road that my lady had taken an hour or two before. I have never been happier to hop into a car that has pieces of rope hanging out of the doors where door handles are usually located.

Once back in Puerto Natales, I went and booked the first bus out of town to Argentina’s famed wine region, Mendoza. For those of you that are not familiar with the South American geography, Mendoza is about 10 cm away from Puerto Natales on my guidebook map. In reality that 10cm translates into an 8 hour bus ride over the border to Rio Gallegos, Argentina (via Punto Arenas), a 6 hour stopover in the bus station and then a 52 hour direct bus ride to Mendoza!

After my 66 hour bus marathon I arrived in sunny Mendoza! I spent one day just relaxing wandering around the city that felt to me a little bit like Buenos Aires younger sister, smaller but still with the same flashy European first world appearance.

The next day I met a random mix or Americans and English who were up for renting bikes and touring the regions wineries. As can be expected from mixing red wine and bikes the day consisted of one member having his bike hit by a truck and having to be picked up by the bike shop owner and me leading the group 7km in the wrong direction and having to retrace our steps. The red wine consumption carried on into the night as we then sampled the Mendoza night life.

The next day with my Mendoza souvenir, a headache that pounded to the beat of UB40’s famous lyrics “red red wine” I hopped on a 28 hour bus to the Argentinian/Paraguayan border. I arrived at midnight and stayed in a bus station hotel that had all the flare and comforts of what you would expect from a South American border town bus station hotel, complimentary cockroaches thrown in for guests’ enjoyment.

In the morning with relative ease (3 hours wait and US$45 later) I gained my Paraguayan tourist visa from the Paraguayan consulate. I then jumped into a rickety bus and headed to the Paraguayan border with the other Paraguayans that had various sized cartons of cheap Argentinean goods that they were taking back over the border, most notably cheap boxed red wine that litters the gutters of the urban slums.

As I struggled to fit through the beaten up bus door with my oversized pack laden with my tent and sleeping mat I was warmed, not only by the humid Paraguayan air but by the relaxed chaos that is Paraguay. The rubbish littered dirt road, the old men sitting on stools in the shade drinking tereré selling everything that you don’t want from local football team banners to tacky cell phone holders, to the truck driver resting in his hammock slung from the side of his truck. It was a world away from the tourist packed shiny streets of Mendoza, it felt good to be back in Paraguay.

The next evening I was waiting at Asuncion airport for Mandy who had spent the last 6 weeks back in Colorado where she had chaperoned a group of Paraguayan exchange students. It felt good to be back at the airport where nearly 4 months ago I had said good bye to Mandy 3 weeks before her 30th birthday as I chased a small hope of finding work on an Antarctic cruise ship leaving from the port of Ushuaia at the end of the world.

As hard as it is saying good bye to a loved one and not knowing if you’re going to be seeing each other in 1 month or 5 months, or which country you’re going to be seeing each other, or knowing if my crazy obsession with working in Antarctic is going to end in tears, frustration and a deflated dream. It is golden to be reunited and the flame burning brighter better than before as you have both achieved and done the things that have been eating away at your minds for awhile, i.e. me working in Antarctica and Mandy getting to Brazil, studying Portuguese and going back and seeing her family and friends in the US.

In short our 10 days in Paraguay was spent chilling out at a friend’s country house by the pool, cat sitting for another friend at her downtown apartment and spending time with the friends that had made us feel so at home for the Paraguayan chapter.

As I write this I’m sitting at a smoky street side café in Buenos Aires watching the hustle and bustle of this great city pass by. At 2am tomorrow morning we are catching a flight back to Auckland where we will be for nearly a month. Really looking forward to it, a little family reunion, a little roadie down the South Island and a few talks at schools. Then from NZ it’s off to Melbourne, Australia to start a new chapter. I could tell you my plans for the Australian chapter and the following Africa chapter, but that’s going to require a whole new post. Let me just say that my year in Melbourne is going to be spent raising funds for my African chapter, a chapter that is going to finish my goal with a bang! Expect something totally different from my previous chapters, think in terms of EXPEDITION.

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Argentina, Uruguay photos

16 Aug

  Click this link to view my Uruguay and Iguzau Falls photo albums.

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All is going well in Paraguay. The following posts are going to be on Paraguay.

NBL Hap

Now that’s a lot of water!

12 Aug

Igauzu falls lies on the border of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay (la triple frontera). Unfortunately poor old Paraguay must have got the short end of the stick and received nothing, as you can only view the falls from the Argentinean or Brazilian sides.

Mandy had already seen the Brazilian side so we decided (Well Mandy decides, I’ve never been good at planning ahead with travel, I just follow like a good little pack horse) to stay at Puerto Iguazu on the Argentinean side.

Here is where I wanted to bamboozle you with statistics about the waterfalls but unfortunately I can’t remember and I’m not connected to the internet. But you can ask Mandy, due to popular belief Iguazu is not one of the 7 wonders of the world, she knows this because she lost the bet today and this is why she’s cooking dinner tonight! Although I think it should be as the falls are spectacular.

This morning going against backpacker norm, we were out of bed before 7am, and on a public bus headed for the world famous Cascadas de Igauzu. Being nerdy tourists we were first to enter the park, and we even had cut lunches, the only thing we were missing were the oversized cameras hanging from our necks and the lonely planet guide to Iguazu falls in our hands-that’s not a dig at Lonely Planet, nothing but love for them.

Watching the falls has the same mesmerising effect as sitting on the beach watching the waves roll in; it’s something you could do all day. And that is what Mandy and I did, we were first into the park and got the last train out.

From the photos you can see that the water is quite muddy, this was due to an abundance of recent rain.

OK, I having more to say, feeling a bit tired, so to conclude this post; as far as water goes, Igauzu is pretty dam cool!

One of those little travel moments

11 Aug

The beauty of travelling here in South America is that nothing is certain and there is always more than one correct answer. For example, when we arrived in Salto, Uruguay we asked at the bus station about getting to Puerto Iguazu, about 12 hours away on the Argentinean side of the border. The lady told us that it was not possible to get to Iguazu from there and we would have to get into Argentina and buy a ticket there.

A day later we went back to the same counter and asked a different lady that we wanted to get to Iguazu, she said “no problem, what you have to do is pay for your ticket here, you will travel 1 hour across the border into Argentina and will be dropped off at the Concordia bus station. There you will have to get a taxi and ask them to drop you off on the side of the highway 20 minutes out of town. I will ring the bus driver that will be passing by around 10.30pm on its way to Iguazu and tell them to pick you up”. Perfect.

Well it seemed perfect until we were still standing on the side of the highway at 11.30pm in the cold with buses and semi trucks passing. Standing there wondering if the lady back in Uruguay had gotten around to ringing the bus to let them know they had to keep an eye out for two back packers on the side of the highway.

But without that happening we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet our two new friends, hoppy the stray dog that had been hit by a car and Neddy the highway policemen who took a break from fighting truck crime (or sleeping) to chat. All so often whilst travelling you forget where you are and what you are doing, it all just starts to feel so normal. But at that moment I thought to myself, this is great, here I am, on the side of a highway in Argentina, it’s 11.30pm, I’m eating soup with a badly limping stray dog and talking to a 19 year old Argentinian highway policeman, and I don’t know if I have missed my bus or what is going to happen.

The story has a happy ending, the bus comes, bang on time (South American time), only an hour late, we are welcomed to a warm bus and leave our new friends. Hoppy goes back to being a stray dog eating left over soup that the two humans with big packs left him. Neddy goes back to fighting crime (or drinking mate) and will wake up in the morning look at the photo on his camera phone and think to himself “that guy from New Zealand spoke good English for his second language” (during conversation Mandy said she was an English teacher and Neddy says “did you teach Hap how to speak English”!)

Photos and update.

6 Aug

I’m sorry, I’ve been neglecting the blog over the past couple of weeks as I have been focusing on finding Antarctica work. Of which I am still in the process of doing and it is proving to be time consuming. It is also proving to be quite hard, but people have been very helpful and supportive in my little quest. Please keep the fingers crossed.

The past week we have been travelling through Uruguay but last night we crossed back into Argentina and are at Foz do Iguazu, the legendary waterfalls. We are off to check them out tomorrow, can’t wait. This coming weekend Mandy and I will be in Asuncion, kicking off the Paraguay chapter, so looking forward to that. (Hazel, if you reading this, can’t wait to catch up with you, hope you loving Chile).

I will get a couple of Uruguay posts up in the next couple of days, but until then check out my Bariloche album, there’s no shortage of stunning scenery in this album.

Goodbye Bariloche

26 Jul

Tomorrow I leave Bariloche, a beautiful part of the world that I have called home for the past 5 weeks. It’s been another great chapter living with my Argentinean host family and studying Spanish

This week I have been making the most of Bariloche, visiting the beautiful sights, hanging out with friends, snowboarding and eating asados. It has been a great good bye, and as always a little sad leaving, but also exciting as a new chapter waits in Paraguay.

But before Paraguay, it is off to Buenos Aires where Mandy and I will apply for our Paraguay visas. Once obtained we will we pop over into Uruguay and check that out, couch surfing along the way. Then time permitting will stop off at Spectacular Igaucu falls before arriving in Asuncion, Paraguay. So stay posted.

More disgusting photos!

24 Jul

Yep, here I go again, more photos of disgusting views. Last week with my Spanish school we did an afternoon trip out to the famous Llao Llao hotel, 21 km out of Bariloche (Its just a big hotel that people that look like me aren’t really welcome). Haha, here’s the photos of the lake behind the hotel. You’re probably wondering why we are leaving such a mountainous paradise. By the way it’s started snowing, yahoo, some snowboarding is on the cards!