Wednesday, October 11, 2006

 

Chau, Adios, Sayonara, Arrivaderci, etc.

"You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have the facts of life, the facts of life."

That's the 80's sitcom jingle I was singing in my head as I polished off my final meal in Buenos Aires, and one of the best I´ve had on this seven-week adventure. Thinking I was ordering a steak sandwich (oops), I was instead presented with the Argentine version of meatloaf - including a hard-boiled egg in the center - accompanied by creamed spinach. It was all very rich and very delicious, and the complementary shot of limoncello at the end was just icing on the proverbial cake.

My most excelent lunch at Plaza España was the good, while the bad happened just an hour earlier when I somehow managed to lose my digital camera. Crap-tacular! It was a truly bizzare incident, and one only I am seemingly capable of. I snapped a picture of myself in front of the Plaza de Congreso, and then moved in for a more eXtreme close-up. When I reached into my backpack - less than a minute after taking the aforementioned photo - I noticed my trusty Fuji was not there, and frantically retraced my steps. Well, my camera was nowhere to be found on the ground. My only guess is that I had inadvertantly dropped it while placing it back in my bag, and the three little kids playing soccer nearby quickly pounced on the opportunity to own a FREE camera. I noticed they had left the plaza by the time I realized my blunder. Fortunately, virtually every photo from my vacation is stored safely within iPhoto on my laptop.

So, including my cell phone stolen a few weeks back, this has not exactly been a stellar trip in terms of electronics. Having seen just about everything I wanted to in Buenos Aires - and not wanting to risk parting with any more personal effects - I'm camping out here in an internet cafe in advance of my 5:00 p.m. taxi ride to Aeropuerto Ministro Pistarini (on a side note, its airport code is EZE, so I like to call it Eazy-E Memorial Airport...but I digress).

This would probably be a good time to reflect on my seven-week trip in whole, but am not feeling especially instrospective at the moment so I think I'll save that for when I´m bored sh·tless on the plane tonight, and blog once more when I´m back in LA. As for my return to Buenos Aires, the days (except for Sunday) were generally mellow, while I had a couple of big nights out. I did my fair share of souvenier shopping, with the crown jewel being a late-70's Sergio Tacchini warm-up jacket that's sky blue, red and gold, purchased for less than $12 US dollars! I also found some amazing pop culture knick-knacks which are nearly as old, however they are birthday gifts for readers of this blog and therefore unmentionable here.

Thankfully the LAN Argentina mechanics ended their strike Friday night, and I was able to fly back to BA on Saturday morning. I checked into the BA Stop Hostel, which I chose mainly out of convenience since it's a mere half a block from Paul and Clare's apartment, where my suitcase was being stored the previous two weeks. After telling them about my travels, they shocked me with an invitation to check out some big-time electronic music DJ, playing that night at the mega-club Pacha (which also has branches in London and Ibiza). I say shocked, because in the eight years I've known Paul, I never considered him the clubbing type.

So that night they cooked an excellent pasta dinner, and after several wine-and-coke cocktails (that's big here), we headed for Pacha - located on the banks of the Rio de la Plata - around 1:30 a.m. It was exactly as I had envisioned - a massive, multi-level venue where Buenos Aires' young and privliaged danced with a detached aloofness to repetitive, computer-driven beats (not my favorite genre of music, if you couldn't tell).

I lost Paul and Clare at various points throughout the evening, but all was good since seemingly half the people I had met on this trip were at Pacha on Saturday night. There were the three Australian brothers I hung out with just a few days earlier in Iguazu, Kym from Denmark who I played many games of ping-pong with in Salta (and who had played basketball briefly in the Danish Third Division!), as well as fellow distinguished IBL alumni Leroy from Brooklyn and Inga from Norway. Inga has some sort of connection at Pacha, and early in the evening offered to get me into the VIP section. I thought that would be one of those drunken promises that never comes to fruition, but sure enough the next time we crossed paths she greeted me with a coveted black wristband. I spent a good portion of the evening in this better-ventilated, slightly-less-crowded part of the club, hob-nobbing with an international assortment of electro-music fans, but at no point did I feel like a Very Important Person.

I tracked down my two American amigos slightly before sunrise, which we watched from the large patio, but shortly thereafter I suffered one of my bad-music-induced headaches (different from my usual headaches), and shared a cab back to the Microcentro with three guys staying at a nearby hostel. That ride added to the surreality of the evening; one of the guys happened to be from Santa Barbara, and was so beligirently drunk that he yelled "pinche cavron" at nearly every passing car. On top of that, our driver was a hard-core Boca Juniors fan, and when he realized we all spoke English instructed us to chant "RIVER GAY! RIVER GAY!" for a good two blocks of our journey. At 7:00 a.m., I couldn't get out of that cab soon enough...

Definitely a night to remember, but I didn't have much time to sleep it off since my shuttle ride to the Boca-River game was scheduled for 12:30 p.m. on Sunday. I investigated every avenue for buying tickets to the "SuperClasico", but the only option for foreigners is to pay a company an incredibly inflated price, which includes transportation and a chorizo sandwich. Like my two previous Argentine soccer experiences, I found myself in the rowdier "Popular" section, and sitting amongst River Plate fans, I had to go deep, deep undercover by rooting against my beloved Boca Juniors. I risked severe bodily injury otherwise. I was actually hoping for a tie - so that the River fans would not turn surly - but the home team won 3-1, ending Boca's unbeaten streak that extended back to last season. Despite the outcome, it was truly one of the most exciting sporting events I've ever attended, and worth every peso. The chanting, flares, banners and general fervor of Argentine soccer fans are without equal in the world. Out of rootless paranoia I decided to not bring my camera, but fortunately three European guys staying at my hostel all had theirs and they burned me a CD with tons of images and videos. They only tell half the story of what it was like to actually be there...

Monday and Tuesday were very low-key; I visited the barrio of San Telmo one day and then returned to my former 'hood, Palermo Viejo the next to take a stroll down memory lane. After seeing a good chunk of this city of 13 million, I definitely think I chose the best area to live in for a month. Last night there wasn't much going on at the BA Stop, so James the Brit and myself ventured over to the Millhouse - reputed to be BA's "party" hostel - where we met Naomi (who coincidentally was on his flight from London a few days earlier) and learned about a drum-and-bass night at nearby BarReign. The three of us headed there for yet another evening of Quilmes beer and thumping beats, but nonetheless a fun way to say farewell to this city's zany nightlife. I'm actually looking forward to resuming my sedentary life in LA, and listening to dance music made by black people, the way God intended it!

OK, on that note I'll end the longest blog of my trip and take one final stroll around this fascinating city. As they say here - in a weird Spanish/Italian hybrid - CHAU!!!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

 

Travelin' Photos


Well, I made it back to Buenos Aires at noon yesterday, and am now recovering from one of the craziest nights/mornings out of my life (details in next blog). Today I'm off to the "SuperClassico" - River Plate vs. Boca Juniors. There will be 100,000 fans and 1,100 police officers there, and I can't decide if that's a reassuring ratio or cause for concern. Keep your eye on Fox Soccer Channel, and if you see a riot, I'll definitely be right in the thick of it!

Here are 10 of the choicest photos from my two weeks of traveling in Northern Argentina. From top to bottom:
1) Classy waterfalls, classy point
2) Nuevo amigos Ben, Sam and Hass
3) Devil's Throat, in all its misty glory
4) "Hi, I'm a coati!"
5) I looked for the dark-skinned, Spanish-speaking leprechaun, but couldn't find him
6) The Sea Captain enjoyed his day at Iguazu Falls
7) Mercado in Tilcara; glad to see the King of Beers has branded itself in the Third World
8) Informative graffitti in Corrientes
9) Salta's Iglesia San Francisco looky purdee at night
10) My patented "American A$$hole" pose atop Salta











Friday, October 06, 2006

 

Trapped in the Tropics

When I wrote out this blog entry by hand, I mentioned something about perhaps spending a little too much time in Puerto Iguazu, but I had no complaints because the Falls were all that and a bowl of Trix. Well, scratch all that - I will be spending WAY too much time in Puerto Iguazu, due to a mechanics' strike that has cancelled my LAN Argentina flight back to Buenos Aires this afternoon. Of course, every cloud has a silver lining, and as a result of the Pinko Commies and their work stoppage, I have been put up in the Hotel Cataratas - the town's only five-star property - and get a FREE dinner tonight as well. The good folks at LAN are fairly confident that the strike will end today and we'll be on a 10:00 a.m. flight back to BA tomorrow. Otherwise it's looking like another sleepless 15-hour bus ride. Good times!

I will now continue with my previously-written blog entry...

I arrived in the far northeast corner of Argentina at 6:00 a.m. Tuesday morning, which was a pleasant surprise since it was over an hour earlier than I anticipated. What was not pleasant was the bus I traveled on from Corrientes - a squeaky, antiquated, single-level coach operated by some company calling itself "Expresso Singer". Having zero interest in watching the bootlegged, sub-titled Vin Diesel movie they were screening, and unable to sleep, I attempted to read, but with the overhead lamps caked in years of soot and dirt, that wasn´t going to happen either.

Automotive inconveniences aside, I did make it to Puerto Iguazu, and checked into the Hostel Inn just as the sun appeared. By hostel standards, this place was a resort, with a ginormous swimming pool, hammocks and couch-filled common area. I slept for a couple hours, and despite my eagerness to see the Falls, decided that Tuesday wuld be better spent as a recooperation day from two straight nights of bus travel. I wandered the streets of Puerto Iguazu, ate lunch and tried in vain to remove the block Bank of America placed on my ATM card, a problem that would not be sorted out until two days later. I still haven´t determined if they were in fact protecting me from fraud, or if they´re just incompetent ass-clowns. Upon returning to the Hostel Inn, I finally got to swim some laps and met some of my fellow backpackers, including Sam from England and Hass from Wales who I made plans to visit Parque Nactional Iguazu with the next day.

My first reaction upon seeing Gargantua del Diablo (Devil´s Throat) - the biggest of the Falls - was "Holy Sh·tballs!" Imagine a near-deafening roar of water plunging into a giant hole in the Earth - which you cannot see the bottom of - all while being sprayed with a fine mist that feels fantabulous on your skin beneath the oppressive tropical sun. Despite being surrounded by geriatric tour groups and field-tripping kids vying for the best possible view, all of my natural-born cynicism dissapeared for for a solid 10 minutes as I stopped to appreciate what Momma Nature is capable of.

We then ventured to the Upper and Lower Trails of Parque Nacional Iguazu, which yield many more eXtreme close-ups of hundreds of waterfall. However, please don't get the impression that I was engaged in any sort of hard-core trekking here. Despite being in the middle of a dense jungle, virtually every trail is paved and hand-railed, and there's even a train to shuttle you around. On top of that, the lookout points have been specifically designed to allow every amateur photographer to take National Geographic-caliber shots. Despite the Argentines' attempt to create an Eco-Disneyland, you are still very much in the wild, as we encountered several varieties of large lizzards, countless colorful butterflies and this strange racoon/anteater hybrid thing called a coati.

After about six hours and four miles of walking through 85-degree heat and 90-percent humidity, Sam and I decided to call it a day while Hass opted for an expensive boat ride that takes you to the base of one of the Falls. Needless to say, I slept like a baby Wednesday night.

Thursday was supposed to be another action-packed day on the Brazilian side of the Falls, however I have the Bush Administration to thank for ruining all the fun. You see, a few years ago our government arbitrarily decided to start charging Brazilians an entry fee to visit the U.S., as well as fingerprint every man, woman and child who ventures to the BEST DAMN COUNTRY ON EARTH. In retaliation, Brazil instituted a $100 visa fee for Americans, but everything I had read before my trip indicated that they turn a blind eye if you just hop over the border on a day trip to view the Falls.

Well, within the past few weeks, they've gotten a lot stricter, as no fewer than three Hostel Inn employees told me in no uncertain terms that I'd need a visa (which needs to be applied for in the U.S.). That was a real downer, especially since I had negotiated an incredible fare with a cabbie to take Hass, myself and two other hostelers to the Brazilian side of the Falls, the city of Foz de Iguazu as well as Ciudad del Este in nearby Paraguay. So, not only did I miss the incredible panoramic views the Brazilian side affords, but I also missed the opportunity to add two more countries to my "I've Been There" list.

That left another day of down-time in Puerto Iguazu, which felt eerily like the first except for the spurts of torrential rain that you only get in the tropics. Also, I was finally able to withdraw enough cash to last me through the end of my trip. I never reached a point of desperation similar to when Devoe and I were down to 3 combined Euros during our trip to Ireland a few years ago, but I was definitely counting and conserving my pesos.

Well, please keep me in your thoughts and hope I make it back to BA tomorrow via plane. Expect one more blog post from Argentina, some photos, and then my triumphant return to LA on Oct. 12!!!

Monday, October 02, 2006

 

14 Hours Down, Nine to Go!

Well, I have successfully completed the longer of my two marathon bus journies on my pilgrimage to Iguazu Falls. I left Salta at 6:00 p.m. last night and arrived in Corrientes at 7:45 in the a.m. following an all-night trip through some of the most unremarkable terrain on earth. The flat, virtually straight drive on Route Nacional 16 through El Chaco Province was broken up only by stops in some truly downtrodden farm towns. Lemmie tell ya, you can´t call yourself a seasoned world traveler until you´ve cruised through Taco Pazo and Roque Saenz Peña in the wee hours of the morning! The good folks at Flecha Bus also screened that bizzare movie "Domino" with Kiera Knightingly and a clearly bootlegged version of "Mission Impossible 3". I now hate Tom Cruise even more.

I had a seat on the top deck at the very front of the bus, which was simultaneously cool and a bit unnerving since I saw exactly what our driver was seeing. I got to check out how poorly maintained the two-lane road we were traveling on was, and I got to see us slow to a crawl as we passed ematiated cows and horses grazing on the shoulder. I´d imagine hitting them would leave quite a mess. Because the ride was so bumpy, both reading and sleeping proved futile and I was one unhappy camper by the end. The seats recline, but not to the point where you can get anywhere close to comfortable. On a positive note, I did get too see the sunrise for the first time in lord knows how long.

I decided to reward myself for enduring this miserable journey by checking into the Corrientes Plaza Hotel, a place I could never afford if it were in the USofA. I got some sleep, caught NFL highlights on the English-language edition of SportsCenter they show on ESPN Deportes, ate lunch at a McDonald´s ripoff called McColl´s and cruised through this hot and humid city of 350,000, located on the banks of the Rio Parana. The highlight of my stroll was watching a rather large toad hop up the steps of a local business, then being chased after by the owner´s dog. Thoroughly drenched in sweat, I returned to the hotel for more sleep this afternoon.

My nine-hour ride to Puerto Iguazu leaves at 9:50 tonight, and should be a breeze compared to what I already endured. I will arrive sometime between 7:30 and 8:00 tomorrow morning, about 38 hours after originally leaving Salta. Yikes! I´m sure it will all be worth it, since Iguazu Falls is supposed to be one of the most awesome spectacles on earth. I´ve heard from fellow travelers that the water level there getting back to normal after a few months of drought.

My last few days in Salta were mellow following Friday´s rafting trip on the Rio Jurmiento. The Class III rapids were not as raging as what I experienced in Costa Rica last year, but were still darn fun. We rafted through an amazing desert canyon, where the rocks were as multi-colored as I saw a few days earlier in Tilcara and wild horses drank on the river bank. I was put with two dudes from Washington DC and a couple (the wife German, the husband American) in the English-speaking boat, and our guide was Frank, a German ex-pat who moved to Argentina eight years ago. When we would get into the rapids, he would yell "keep paddling - this is not a vacation!!!". As an added bonus, Frank brought his dog Falcon on the boat, who seemed truly unphased by all the adventure and simply braced himself by draping himself over the seat.

I had originally planned on doing two hours of zip-lining that afternoon, but after seeing that the cables were suspended over 300 feet in the air, across a canyon 800 feet wide, I decided I was all good hanging out on terra firma. Having already paid for this adventure, I bartered with the good folks at Salta Rafting and instead received a CD containing photos of our rafting trip (they position a photographer at various points along the river) and a refund of 15 pesos. Below is my favorite photo from the trip; I spotted the cameraman and was able to execute my patented "Classy Point" despite being in the throws of a demanding eXtreme sport. For the record, I wasn´t wearing shortie-shorts; that´s just the by-product of intense and aggressive paddling:
















Over the weekend, I fell into that "hanging out at the hostel" trap that every backpacker is bound to at some point. Countless games of ping-pong were played and I averaged about six e-mail checks per day. Fortunately, I met some really cool peeps - three gals who graduated from the University of Oregon a few years ago and three Israeli dudes who just completed their military service. I had heard South America is infested with Israeli backpoackers, and that they´re typically loud and rude (shocking!), but Yariv, Yotam and Dor were OK by me. They also forgot the exact date of Yom Kippur, so I don´t feel too bad about not fasting on the holiest day of the year for my people. On that note, I think I´ll continue attoning for my sins with some jamon-covered pizza!!!

Apologies for this rather uninspired blog; sleep and food depravation will do that to ya...

Thursday, September 28, 2006

 

To the Boonies and Back

As I write this, I am sitting on a bus headed back to civilization following a two-day trip to the most remote town I have ever visited. It´s called Tilcara, 7,500 feet high in the Andes, population 3,300 and less than 150 miles from the Bolivian border. Virtually every resident is indigenous and speaks Quechua, and the only the main road in town is paved. There also seems to be the highest per-capita population of mangey street dogs in the world; I resisted all urges to pet them.

The star attraction in this corner of the globe is the Quebrada (ravine) de Humahuaca, formed over millions of years by water, wind and various other elements, leaving multi-colored sediments along the way. It´s a bit reminiscent of the Grand Canyon, only slightly less grand and you look up at the crazy rock formations rather than down.

I arrived in Tilcara yesterday via a four-hour ride from Salta, disoriented, hungry and frankly a bit scared. However when I spotted the busload of field-tripping teenagers from Buenos Aires, I realized I wasn´t the only Gringo in town. I stumbled into Hostelria El Antigal where I was offered their last and most basic room, and after trying a bowl of locro - the hearty local stew - I was ready to explore the town. In less than three hours I visited the central plaza, the iglesia, archaeloigical museum and Pucara, the remains of a pre-Columbian village. As you might expect, there aren´t many entertainment options in Tilcara, but thankfully there were a few soccer games on TV, so I joined El Antigal proprietor Pablo and his buddies in the restaurant to enjoy the action.

Tilcara was actualy supposed to be the second stop of my adventure, since Paul had advised me to visit Purmamarca, an even boonier town 20 km closer, and take a walk arouind the Hill of Seven Colors. However, the bus stop for Purmamarca is actually 3 km outside of town in the middle of nothingness, and you´re supposed to flag down a taxi to take you the rest of the way. Well, I was the only passenger who got off at that stop, and with zero taxis and few people in sight, I had my second freak-out of the trip (see my previous post for the other). With visions of being abducted by a lonely mountain man dancing in my head, I flagged down the bus driver just as he was pulling away and mumbled something incoherent about making a mistake. When he seemed confused, I simply stated "No me gusta Purmamarca", and he let me back aboard. Red-faced, I returned to my seat...

I spent the early part of this week in sunny Salta, following a stress-free two hour flight from Buenos Aires on Sunday evening. The first person I met at the Terra Oculta youth hostel was Kim, an Indiana native who was living in San Francisco the past year and a half. She played soccer at Washington University in Saint Louis, and coincidentally her twin cousins were members of the UCSB golf team a few years back! We cruised around the city for a couple days, visiting several churches and taking a gondola ride to the top of a hill overlooking the entire region. Salta´s highlight is it´s Mercado Central, where you can purchase virtually every part of every farm animal, genuine "Adilad" sneakers and an entire large pízza for two US dollars! I finally feel like I´m in South America here, and have finally found spicy food, virtually unheard of in Buenos Aires.

After being spoiled with my own spacious apartment for a month, adjusting to hostel life has been tough, but I finally got a decent night´s sleep on my third night here. I am returning to the Terra Oculta until Sunday - which honestly is a little too much time in Salta - but am excited for tomorrow´s all-day rafting and canopy touring excursion with Salta Rafting. Although it´s the height of the dry season here, I´ve been assured that Class III rapids will be awaiting me. Having conquered a Class IV river in Costa Rica last year, I´m not too apprehensive.

Then Sunday evening is the bus journey I´ve been dreading for a while - 13 and a half hours from Salta to Corrientes on my way to Iguazu Falls. I will blog again following that arduous trek, provided my sanity is still in tact!!!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

 

Final BA Photos





This will be my final photo post for a while, since my laptop is safely stowed in Paul´s apartment and I won´t be able to resize pictures. So, for your viewing pleasure (I know these are outta order...I don´t wanna reload them, sorry):
1) Drink´n at the Hostal Colonial with (l-r) Boris from Germany, Frederico from Uruguay and Luas from Brazil. Frederico was a little amped since he had just returned from an Iggy Pop concert.
2) With IBL instructors Francisco...
3) ...and Nadia
4) Boca Juniors´most "special" fan
5) Some sort of promotional video shoot at La Bombanera. Some old guy told me who the players were, but I forgot.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

 

Buenos Aires: A Retrospective

Well, a month has truly flown by and I’m down to my final night of pretending to be a resident of Buenos Aires. Although I will return for five days at the end of my trip (more on that later), it’s probably a good time to reflect on what life was like here. First off – and this is gonna sound lame – I can’t tell you how enjoyable it was to establish a routine in a foreign city. I bought some sort of breakfast pasrty almost every day at the panaderia down the street, hollered “¿que tal?” at Carlo who runs the nearby sandwich stand, exchanged pleasantries as best I could with Alicia my building manager and rode the usually-crowded Subte downtown every weekday to learn Spanish.

As you might be able to tell I have always been a creature of habit, but one of those I was able to break was my rigid eating schedule. No more making fun of Ben for wanting to go out to dinner at 6:00 p.m.! I have trained myself to dine as the Argentines dine, with dinner at 9:00 p.m. or later. You don’t really have much of a choice, since most restaurants don’t open before 8:00. I’ve learned the trick to holding out is a piece of fruit or cheapo hot dog (called a pancho) around 5:00.

As far as the people go, most are hospitable, gregarious and extremely patient while trying to explain things to me en Espanol. Today I even had a woman offer to put me in touch with her son who spends half the year working in Aspen. The women are definitely friendlier than the men, which is just fine by me. You can definitely tell that a lot of people are of Italian ancestry, since there are a lot of expressive hand gestures here.

As far as my four weeks of Spanish class are concerned, I have mixed feelings. I didn’t have delusions of becoming anywhere close to fluent in such a short amount of time, but thought my language skills would be a bit more advanced than they are. Although my vocabulary and verb conjugation abilities have definitely expanded, I sometimes ask people to speak to me as they would a five year old child – as slowly and simply as possible. I was more than happy with the instruction I received at the International Bureau of Language; their lessons were structured very rationally and their teachers are really helpful. The onus was on me to put in extra time after class, and between my excursions around town, eat’n and drink’n, e-mailing and blogging, and of course the requisite siestas, I seemed to let studying Spanish fall by the wayside. I have vowed to invest in a set of CD’s I can listen to in the car when I get back home so that I can try to build on what I’ve learned here.

I don’t think there will be any sort of grand sendoff from BA, as three consecutive nights out that ended at 3, 2 and 5:00 a.m. respectively have zapped me of any desire for revelry. The highlight was Wednesday when I made a return trip to Opera Bay with a group of IBLers and met the lovely Laura, a communications student here who also works an outsourced job for Bell South, trying to sell DSL service to toothless hicks. Talk about your thankless jobs! I asked her to go through her sales pitch, and I pretended to be Joe-Bob Wilson from Birmingham, Alabama. We totally hit it off, and why I did not ask her out will remain one of life’s great mysteries…

Then Thursday night I made my third and final visit to La Virtua Tango at the Armenian Cultural Center, and brought fellow Spanish student Avi from Chicago as well as Andrew the Kiwi, who I met Monday at the all-you-can-eat buffet near my place (I love the random encounters you have with fellow tourists). At the tango lesson, we ran into one of my IBL instructors, Francisco, who was there with his girlfriend and some chums. I thought that was a cool coincidence, especially since there are 13 million people here. Andrew and Avi both had a good time and vowed to return, and I was proud of myself for playing tour guide in a city I barely know myself.

As for the change in travel plans foreshadowed in Monday’s blog post, they have come to fruition. On the ferry ride back from Colonia last Sunday, I broke out my trusty Lonely Planet guidebook and had a minor freakout when I realized just how vast the distances were between the cities I planned to visit; that’s not even taking into consideration excursions from them. So, grudgingly, I have decided to cut Mendoza and Cordoba out of the trip, which thus eliminates bus rides of 18, 10 and 20 hours in length. So, as it stands now, all I have is one massive 22 hour trip between Salta and Iguazu Falls, which I plan to break up by spending a night in a city midway between the two. I’m basically cutting out a week of traveling, so I moved my return flight up one week and will now be back in LA on Oct. 12, hopefully ready to face reality!

One benefit of the abbreviated itinerary is that I will now be back in Buenos Aires for the “Super Classico” match between Boca Juniors and River Plate on Oct. 8,, which is pretty much the equivalent of the Super Bowl in this country. Tickets might be a bit pricey, but I think it will be worth attending if only to be amongst 100,000 screaming, singing people who all consider the outcome more important than ending world hunger.

OK, off to Salta tomorrow evening. If you see a news story about an Andes Airlines flight crashing, that will definitely be mine since they only have ONE PLANE!!!

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