February 27, 2006
Today Jack and I took off to Rosario, a few hours to the west of Gualiguaychu. All we had enough time to do after the bus ride was find a hotel and take a quick walk around town. The city has over one million people, but it doesn't look like there is much to do here, so I'll probably get moving again within a few days.
February 26, 2006
This was a really lazy day. Jack, Jenny, and I started our day with coffee at a restaurant, then we walked around a bit and had lunch at another restaurant, then we walked around some more and had dinner at another restaurant, then we went out for a drink at another restaurant. I think I've eaten at more restaurants in the last three days than I previously had all year. Sometime in the middle of the day, we managed to walk to the bus station to buy tickets for tomorrow. Jenny is going to make her way toward Iguazu Falls, and Jack and I will go to Rosario together tomorrow.
February 25, 2006
A dancer at Carnaval.
This afternoon, Jack, Jenny, and I took a walk around town. When we got to the river at the edge of the city, we noticed a large gathering of people, so we sat down for a beer. Soon, it turned into a large party, where people danced with their sandals around their ankles. We probably could've stayed there all night, but at sunset it was time for Carnaval to start.
We walked to the main stadium in town to see the Carnaval at 10:30 PM. I was impressed from the moment I got there. The whole thing was set up like a parade where countless people marched past us, and it was very professional. Some of the floats were three stories tall, and the costumes were ornately done. It must've taken hundreds of hours to put the whole thing together. Every few minutes, somebody from the audience would run out to hug a person in the parade and get their picture taken with him/her. Their only punishment was to be sent back into the crowd. In the end, hundreds of beautiful people wearing next to nothing danced and wiggled their way past us until nearly 4:00 AM.
Carnaval in Gualiguaychu turned out to be a pleasant surprise. It was easy to walk to from my hotel, cheap to enter ($9), lasted over five hours, and was done very professionally. The best part was that this all happened in a small town in Argentina, not in Rio di Janiero. If you happen to be in Buenos Aires at this time of year, I'd definitely recommend going to Gualiguaychu for Carnaval.
The photo album for this entry is here.
February 24, 2006
I wasn't quite sure where to go next, but I knew that Carnaval was coming up, so I wanted to go somewhere where I could watch the festival. Jenny, with whom I had gone to the Rolling Stones concert, and Jack, an American at my hostel, were going to Gualiguaychu for Carnaval, so I decided to go with them.
I met Jack and Jenny late this afternoon in Gualiguaychu. Carnaval isn't until tomorrow night, so we just went out to dinner at a Mexican restaurant. While we were eating, someone tapped me on the shoulder. It was Juliana, the girl who was staying in the same room as me when I was couchsurfing back in Vina del Mar, Chile. It was a really strange coincidence because I had just emailed her and she told me that she was going somewhere outside of Buenos Aires for the weekend, but I couldn't remember where. That place happened to be Gualiguaychu! We'll probably meet up again in Buenos Aires when I go back in April.
February 23, 2006
The Rolling Stones happened to be in Buenos Aires this week. I'm not really a fan, so I wasn't going to go. However, Jenny, an English girl at my hostel, had some extra tickets and convinced me that it might be my last chance to see them. They may be old, but they are one of the greatest bands of all time, after all.
I went with Jenny and Shaun, also from England, to the stadium late this afternoon. It had been raining all day and didn't show any signs of letting up, but at least it was cool. When the Stones played two nights ago, it was almost 90, but today, it was in the low 70's.
We got situated on the soccer field where the concert would take place a few minutes before the first band began playing. The first band was nothing special, but the next band was really good, even though I didn't know any of their songs. The Argentines really liked them, though, and soon the stadium was filled with 70,000 screaming fans. It started pouring, but most people didn't seem to care.
By the time the Rolling Stones came out, the crowd had been thoroughly warmed up. Everyone was jumping around and cheering for a bunch of sixty-year-olds. Despite being so old, they still put on a good show, and Mick Jagger can still move pretty good. I got soaked, but it was still a lot of fun.
February 20-22, 2006
The cruise really drained me. I was "burning the candle at both ends" for two solid weeks, so I needed some time to get caught back up on my blog, photos, and most importantly, sleep. For the last three days, I walked around Buenos Aires a bit and hung out with some people at my hostel, but that's about it. Now that my batteries are recharged, I feel like I'm ready to move on in my journey through Argentina, wherever it may take me.
February 19, 2006
Antarctic Cruise Day 14
The Plan: Get kicked off the ship and thrown back into the real world.
I had to get up early to pack my stuff for the first time in two weeks. Not constantly reorganizing my pack meant that I needed over an hour to get everything in order. I had breakfast, made sure I didn't forget anything, and thought about my cruise.
In many ways I was sad to leave the ship. Everything I wanted was handed to me for the last two weeks. I ate more food than I normally would in months. I never had to worry about finding a place to stay, finding something to do, or my stuff getting stolen. With all of those daily inconveniences out of the way, I had plenty of time to learn about the places I was visiting and have fun.
On the other hand, two weeks was long enough for me. After the second day, I barely met any new people. The food I was eating, while plentiful, was horrible for me. The activities were fun, but I was always on a strict schedule. But most importantly, I think being on a cruise gives one a diluted view of the world. How much can you really learn about a big city in 8 hours? And how many local people are you going to meet when you're being bussed around in a guided tour all day? The people I meet while traveling usually don't have a lot of money, but they are usually friendly and more than willing to show me what living in their country is all about. On a cruise, when your hand is constantly held by a tour guide, you never really leave your own country. When that happens, it's tough to learn about somebody else's country, which is what I value most in traveling.
Still, this cruise has been one of the highlights of my entire life. Seeing the glaciers, the wildlife, the endless miles of desolate land of Antarctica, is something not many people are privileged enough to experience. In fact, only about 300,000 people have ever set foot on the white continent, and now I'm lucky enough to be one of them. The cruise had its share of pitfalls, but it still will be an experience that I will cherish for the rest of my life.
February 18, 2006
Antarctic Cruise Day 13
Our last dinner together.
The Plan: Relax in Buenos Aires for the last full day of the cruise.
We reached Buenos Aires, our final destination, this morning. Not much was happening on the ship today, but I noticed that a lot of the backpackers, myself included, didn't go into town for very long. My excuse was that I could hang out in Buenos Aires as long as I wanted, but this was my last full day on the cruise. I wanted to eat a few more huge meals and live in general luxury for one more day before permanently returning to the backpacker world.
Eventually, Craig and I went into town for a walk. We found a pedestrian street called Florida with lots of shopping and weird people, which probably served as a good introduction to the city. Craig wasted no time in buying a plane ticket for Ushuaia in two days. He wanted to do as much trekking in southern Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego as possible before the end of the short summer season in a month.
When we got back to the ship, I began working on my blog for the first time since leaving. I had a lot of work to do, but I am obviously almost caught up now.
Not many people were left on the ship tonight. The "full-pricers" were all out on tours of the city, and most of the backpackers decided to go to a tango show. I didn't feel like leaving the cruise ship until I got kicked off, so I stayed in and ate one last dinner with the few of us who remained aboard. After a quiet day, I got to bed early.
The photo album for this entry is here.
February 17, 2006
Antarctic Cruise Day 12
A group photo at our last party together.
The Plan: Explore Montevideo, Uruguay
We got to Montevideo today at sunrise. With 1.5 million inhabitants, it was the biggest city I had visited since Santiago two months ago. For the first time of the cruise, we could actually dock in the jetty and walk directly onto the land below. It was a nice feeling.
After breakfast, I walked around the city with Craig, from Australia, and Fred and Alex, from the United States. The city had the same parks and monuments typical of every city in Latin America, but it also had some nice beaches and colonial buildings. After walking for a few hours, we took the long way back to the ship and noticed the pleasant lack of tourists in the city. I'm sure I will get back to Montevideo at some point.
Today was my first reintroduction into society in twelve days. The ship was a fantasyland where I could have whatever I wanted whenever I wanted it. Walking around the city, I felt like a normal member of society again. When I got back on the ship, I was right back in Disneyland. The good thing about walking around today was that I began getting used to backpacking again slowly instead of being thrown right back into the fire.
The photo album for this entry is here.
February 16, 2006
Antarctic Cruise Day 11
A group photo.
The Plan: Another day at sea.
This morning, we had our second lifeboat drill of the cruise. It was pretty boring, but required for all passengers. We had to put on our life jackets and stand outside the lifeboats as if it were a real emergency.
As soon as the drill ended, the scavenger hunt began. My team sung "American Pie" with pianist Bobby Reynolds, made a dance video at the Charleston, dressed up the statue in the back of the ship, got the captain's signature, and got the artist to draw us a picture, among other things. In lieu of the recent complaints about "us," we had to change the questionable items to be more agreeable with all potential observers. It has been fun, but several of the teams have fizzled out as interest weaned from the original exasperation when the idea was originally proposed.
Once again, it was a very relaxed day on the ship. I ate several huge meals, played some ping pong, and got somewhat caught up on sleep. The weather outside continued to get warmer.
Edward Wilson of The Antarctic with Chris Wilson -- Chris' great uncle Edward was part of Scott's expedition that reached the south pole a few weeks after Amundsen and tragically died 11 miles from their supply depot after being unable to move due to a terrible storm. Edward was a very interesting man well before the expedition with Scott. As a child, he would disappear all day to observe and draw nature. As an adult, he became an ornithologist and an expedition artist. He was the last of the great artists employed to document expeditions before photography became mainstream. Chris is a very intelligent man who seems to know everything about birds, and it appears that Edward shared a lot of the same personality traits.
The photo album for this entry is here.