Archive | February 2004

Sleeping with sheep

Yes, I have slept with sheep. And paid for it. And it was fun.

And aside from that, what have I been up to? Well, lets recount. The day after I arrived to Aukland, I spent the morning shopping for shorts then waited around for Kat and Simon to arrive in their rental car to pick me up. So I stood around and waited and they eventually arrived. Traffic is a pain. And we were off. We got a bite to eat and caught up on old times (I met them on the Inca trail) and what we had done in the months since we last saw each other, and then headed to a camping place where I bought a tent. At $100 bucks, plus the 25 I spent on the sleeping mat, it wasn’t cheap, but then again, camping will save me about $10 a night on hotel costs, so I will recuperate that pretty quickly.

Then we headed up north. The first day, we headed up to a city called Warkworth which is where we camped for the night in a place called “Sheep World” (where I slept with the sheep – which were in the pen next to my tent). It was nice. An open air living room with cable TV, a spa, a really nice outdoor kitchen, a stream, and a lot of sheep. After we arrived, we popped over to the supermarket, got some food and beer, headed back and set up our tents then spent the night chatting, eating, drinking and laughing. We met a guy who had just gotten done with a month in NZ in a car he bought. A lot of people do that as they can sell the car when they are done and get their money back. We had a nice nights sleep and the next day, headed further north to the Bay of Islands.

The Bay of Islands is a bunch of little islands right off the coast and is really just the name of the region. There we went snorkeling at this place called Goat Island (after renting wet suits on account of the really cold water) and saw tons of really cool multicolored fish. At one point, some kids were feeding the fish right above us and we were surrounded by huge Snapper (insert other local fish here). It was nice. We then headed up to this town called Paihia and camped there for the night right on the shore of the ocean. After cooking our dinner (lots of steak and sausages on the barbeque) we spent the night chatting and drinking on the beach while staring up at the stars – which are incredible in the outskirts of NZ.

There is very little light in the sky and you can see the Milky Way splashed out over top like a long thin horizontal cloud. It leaves you awestruck.

The next day we headed out early and looked into going sandboarding down some of the giant sand dunes in the area. On account of the wind, however, we ended up not being able to go so we spent the day wandering further up north and hanging out at some incredible beaches instead. Lush green country side and rolling green hills, perfectly pristine beaches, crystal clear water and beautiful white sand was enough to keep us busy for the day and we camped right on the shore of the beach again after having another barbeque dinner. Simon and I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning debating whether or not math is something that exists without human beings (it’s clearly not, duh) and then we woke up early and headed back to Paihia to do Dolphin Swimming.

At the dock, we boarded our boat with about 15 other people and headed out to the water where we sailed with the dolphins in the bay. They swam right next to our boat for about an hour, jumping in and out of the water and splashing around until we eventually got too far out for them. I guess they had a baby with them so we couldn’t swim with them but we ended up heading to some island where we had lunch and could go snorkeling and hiking up the mountain to get some cool views. I opted for the hiking and snapped some pretty awesome pictures. We were at Captain Cook island where Captain Cook first landed in New Zealand and killed a few of the natives.

From there, we went sailing around and relaxed in the sun for the remainder of the day before heading back to the docks. We were pretty damn tired so we mustered up all our strength to head back to Sheep World again and get some sleep. We spent the night after dinner in the spa and ended up heading to bed early. It rained that night, as it had the night before but had cleared up by the morning enough to enjoy a pretty sunny day.

And now we are back in Aukland. What’s the plan? I don’t know. The guy I met a few days ago is still here so we are probably going to try to find some other guys to go in on renting or buying a car and go around the North and South Islands of NZ for about a month to a month and a half. Kat and Simon are going to head down south with their parents so we will probably meet up somewhere else or maybe in Australia. But as for me, I’m gonna figure something out and do it. Sounds very concrete, no?

And what are my impressions of NZ so far? It’s beautiful. The car rides are never boring as you can always look out the window to some of the most beautiful country side you could imagine. Lord of the Rings was filmed here and I can see why. Incredible beaches, incredible country side, tons of stuff to do, and really friendly people (probably even more so than Argentina!). Although I am spending lots of money, I am enjoying it and from what I hear, the best is yet to come (The South Island is supposed to be even better). I am starting to get used to the slang used here and I guess it helps that I have spent the past few days with Kat and Simon, who are both English. After a while, you find yourself using words like “Reckon'”, “boot” (for trunk of the car), “bit”, “bloke” and a few probably not suitable to write. Sometimes the accent is kind of hard to understand but you get better at it after a while (“Okay, for the fourth time, what the hell did you just say??”). I also am still resisting the urge to say “Gracias” after I buy something or say “perdon” when I bump into someone. Old habits die hard.

Anyways, wish me luck!

Detained in customs…

So, where to start? Where did we leave off? Ah yes, getting back from Uruguay. So I got back, and went to a pretty cool piano concert in the Colon theater (If I weren’t typing on a Korean keyboard, there would be an accent in Colon) and then met up with Julio (from Peru) who was still at the hostel as he had not yet left Argentina. So we hung out quite a bit and went and explored some other parts of the city before I left. The final day I was in Argentina, we went to a part of Buenos Aires called Tigre which is where a bunch of rivers come together at a delta and took a boat around for 5 pesos. It was pretty cool and the area was really nice.

But I was in a hurry to get back to the hostel so I could get my stuff together and get to the shuttle service to the airport. We took the train back and got our stuff arranged, I bought a bunch of mate for the proceeding months, and the bid our farewells (again). I was off. To explore new territory. To meet new people. To finally speak English again (even though I would prefer to continue speaking Spanish).

I got to the airport and after checking in and boarding, I was off to New Zealand. I met an interesting couple in line who had gotten married in Mendoza (the wife was from Costa Rica and had family in Argentina and the husband was from New Zealand) and we ended up randomly having seats right next to each other in the plane. We chatted the whole trip and then when we arrived, we met each other again as we got detained in customs.

So let’s explain how that happened. You see, you need a plane ticket out of New Zealand to get in. And I didn’t have one.

“Please step to the side sir. This officer will escort you to the waiting room. But don’t worry, it’s not that big a deal”

“Alright”, I replied. I wonder if this is gonna be a long process. What can they do? Deport me? Yeah. I guess they could. That would suck.

I then met an agent named Jenny. She explained to me that I needed a ticket or proof of funds. No worries. I showed her my online banking balances and she ended up giving me a 3 month visa. According to my balances though, she should only have given me a 2 month visa. But I think I kind of charmed her into it. It feels really good to be able to use your language the way you would use it in your own country. In South America, I couldn’t talk people into stuff very easily with jokes and a big smile. I couldn’t be comfortable enough with Spanish to do that. But here, I can. And it feels so weird. I can make people smile again. I can joke around. It’s like being able to walk again after being stuck in a wheelchair for 6 months (although I got better at managing the wheelchair as time went on). And now I’m back. I have to keep resisting the urge to say “perdon” every time I bump into someone and “quanto sale el internet la hora” when I walk into an internet cafe. I have to get used to an English keyboard again (Those damned quotes and question marks!).

So I got into New Zealand. It was raining. It was cold. And I had to get a taxi to town. How much would it be? Well. $50 New Zealand dollars (1NZ dollar = .71US). Holy shit! Okay, whatever. And then I was there at the hostel. It was 6AM and I was tired. I checked in and slept for 3 hours then got up, went upstairs to the kitchen (the hostel here is really nice) and drank some mate. Everyone looked at me kind of strangely. What the hell was I doing? And then…

“Eh!! De donde sos??!” (Hey, where are you from??), I heard from the corner of the dining room.

And thus I met Gaston, from Buenos Aires, who is working at the hostel to cover the cost of living there while traveling. We had mate together and chatted. This is what mate is all about.

I then went for a walk around Aukland. It looks really nice, but I must admit, I am in a bit of sticker shock. After six months in South America, the prices here seem exorbitant. A coke is like $2US!! In Argentina it was about 33 cents. A meal on the street is about 7 bucks. In Argentina it was about 1.50. I think I may end up losing all that weight I put on after all…

So what else? I bought a new harmonica (In a better note to play blues) and I also bought lonely planet guide books for New Zealand and Australia. After seeing them in bookstores for $50, then $42, I found a used bookstore with each for $30. I also was able to sell my Chile and Argentina books for $15 bucks! Right on! I also found a CD by Johnny Cash that I have been looking for in South America for about 3 months. I’ll have to contemplate buying it for a little longer. Music is very important when your traveling. It makes long distances bearable.

And I just got an email from Simon and they are gonna pick me up from my hostel tomorrow afternoon. Everything is falling into place. Yes indeed. Perfectly.

Anyways, it’s time to do some reading on New Zealand to see what there is to do here. Also, I have to figure out how I am going to get to Australia. From what I gather, I need an exit ticket to get there. So let’s say I get it to China. Well, I need an exit ticket to get there too. This is gonna be an annoying process. Oh well. It’s a good day when all you have to worry about is buying tickets to another country. No?

Three countries in two days

Yup, three countries in two days (and boy are my arms tired). But it sounds cooler than it is. They were really close together – Brazil is right next to Argentina is right next to Paraguay. There’s a place in the US where you can stand in like four states at the same time and then you could tell everyone that your tired because you just got done seeing four states in like 5 minutes. But you wouldn’t have a whole bunch of passport stamps to back it up.

Speaking of which, I am kind of worried about my passport filling up. The border people seem to get quite a kick out of stamping the pages of my passport in the most inconvenient place thereby prohibiting the stamping of other countries’ stamps. I think it may be a kind of territorial thing (this page is my BITCH –Uruguay). Has anyone ever reading this ever ran into the problem of a filled passport? I’ve heard that they can add pages, but I don’t see how…and I’m gonna be getting a lot more stamps in the upcoming months.

So yeah, Uruguay. Crazy old Uruguay. Have you ever heard of Uruguay? Well, I can affirm that it does indeed exist. I was pretty tired from my trip from Iguazu (in the stinky toilet bus) two days ago and I went to go see a piano performance at the Colón Theater here in Buenos Aires that night. It was really cool and the lady that played was pretty good. The theater is really nice and it takes up like a whole city block – which is pretty impressive in itself. Lots of people were dressed up. Not me though. Flip flops and a backpack. HIGH SOCIETY. So after that, I went and booked a tour of Colonia in Uruguay for the next day. You have to take a boat there and then they take you around the city by bus, feed you lunch and then bring you back on boat – all for 75 pesos (about 25 bucks). I just had to remember to bring my passport and be at the dock by 8:00.

I went back to the hostel and slept.

The next morning it was pouring (hey that rhymes!), and I figured that the weather situation wouldn’t make for very good touring (damn, I should be a rapper – look out Eminem) but I went anyways. I ate breakfast and took a cab to the dock and then sat around until the boarding time. I changed 20 Argentinian pesos to Uruguayan pesos and tried to fit 18 ten peso notes into my wallet (Children, can we say – “Inflation”? Gooooood!). I hopped on the boat and was off. Big boat, took cars too, and they had a bunch of movie theater seats that reclined back for the passengers. I finished “Estupidos Hombres Blancos” (“Stupid White Men”, translated into Spanish) by Michael Moore and then took a nap. Then I was there.

“Sabés que el tour no es en Inglés, si?”, said the tour lady (Sabés is the vos conjugation of Spanish they use here).

“Por esto, estoy hablando Castellano.”

I was asked a few more times if I understood that my tour wasn’t in English that day.

It got kind of annoying. We had lunch and I sat with a Peruvian couple and chatted with them for a while. Then we walked around the city and saw the sights. It started raining (it had been overcast) and we continued on. Colonia is really beautiful but I couldn’t get good pictures on account of the clouds. What a shame. We then got on the bus and went and saw some place with the worlds largest collection of key chains, little bottles of liquor, cans, ashtrays and some other stuff (oohhhhhh, ahhhhhhh). Then they dumped us in the store where they make all these different kinds of jams. Chili pepper, garlic, onion, strawberry, banana, etc… which were all pretty tasty.

And then we had two hours to explore the city on our own. There really wasn’t much more to see so I sat on the beach and contemplated my next chess move against Roland (I make printouts of the board so I can study the next move). I climbed the lighthouse and then met up with a guy I met in the hostel in Buenos Aires and his wife. They were riding around the town on a little moped that they rented for a dollar an hour. Pretty cool. And then I met back up with the group and we headed back. It was a pretty boring boat ride home until I heard these guys playing guitar in a room and I went and played the harmonica with them (I bought a harmonica in Buenos Aires). It was pretty fun.

I got back at midnight, bought a half pizza and an oversized bottle of beer (a whopping $1.50 US), went back to the hostel, ate and went to bed.

I’m international, baby.

Smuggling Americans over the border

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but Brazil just recently implemented a new requirement whereby which Americans have to get fingerprinted and photographed at the border (since we are now making them, and everyone else applying for a visa, do the same upon entering America). On top of that, Americans need to pay $100 dollars to apply for a Brazilian visa (what we charge to apply for a visa in the US). You have to wait for a few days before getting your visa and then you’re golden – you can enter at will.

This was one of the reasons I didn’t get a chance to explore Brazil. Besides the fact that it’s huge and I would have to spend lots of time in buses (and not getting to know the country), it would set me back $100 bucks, so I opted to save it for another time. But…I still wanted to see the Iguazu Waterfalls from the Brazilian side of the country.

What are the Iguazu waterfalls, you may ask? Well, to start, they mark one of the coolest and most incredible things to see in South America. Nestled in a tropical rainforest, the waterfalls fall smack dab in the middle of the borders between Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina. The best viewing points are on the Brazilian side and the Argentinian side and you have to make special trips (and pay separate entry fees) to get to each. Each side has it’s unique attributes, as I had been told from other backpackers, and I really wanted to get a chance to see the falls from both vantage points.

But yeah…that whole visa thing. I didn’t have one. And I wasn’t going to apply for one. I had heard that sometimes they weren’t very strict with who they let cross (as long as you made it clear you were just going to see the falls for a few hours) but I had also heard that they turn people away occasionally. Was it worth the risk? Well, seeing as the bus ticket over the border cost me a whopping 45 cents – yeah, I think it would be worth trying.

So let’s back up a little bit. How did I get to Iguazu? Did anything interesting happen? I took a bus. And not really. (Why do you ask such stupid questions?). After exploring the Retiro area with Julio and bidding our goodbyes, I went back to the hostel and at some food – mentally preparing myself for the 18 hours of staring at some fat guy’s head in front of me that would invariably ensue shortly thereafter. I packed up my stuff, bought some food at the supermarket and began my journey to the bus station. It’s a pretty easy trip, seeing as there is a subway entrance right outside my hostel. But yeah, the heat. The damn heat. It was so incredibly hot that by the time I had carried my backpack into the subway, caught the train, got off, walked the short distance to the bus station and found the gate where my bus would eventually arrive – I was drenched in sweat. Completely drenched. I dug out a shirt from my bag and changed out of my wet one. Everyone watched. “God…he’s soooooo white!”, I could imagine them saying. Jealous. Of course, I only had to wait two more minutes to have drenched that shirt, as well, but not to the same degree. I hoped my bus would arrive soon. And it did.

I hopped on and took my seat on the second level up at the very front. Not too bad. I had room to rest my feet and I had the whole front window to look out. This wasn’t gonna be too bad. The really nice buses in South America are just that: really nice. They are two levels, with a bathroom, coffee machine, air conditioning for each seat, area to keep the meals warm (yes, there are meals – which are actually pretty tasty), TV’s every few rows for the movies (I ended up seeing 3 movies) and the chairs are really big and comfortable. I was in the “Coche cama” seat by myself (there is a column of single seats next to another column of double seats on the other side of the bus) which reclines back almost horizontally and had a thing that comes down for your feet to rest on (like a recliner leg rest). Although it’s still a pain to sleep in it, it’s still pretty nice. So yeah, I sat there for 18 hours listening to music, watching videos, eating and sleeping. But I didn’t sleep that well, as the conductor and his assistant kept talking unusually loudly the whole night and I could hear them over my earplugs, but I eventually got a few hours of sleep and woke up with the assistant guy poking me for breakfast. And then we arrived.

I was expecting it to be hotter, as that’s what everyone was telling me, but it wasn’t too bad. I got my stuff and hopped in a taxi to the hostel I had reserved the previous day – “Las Cabañas”. 5 pesos later I was there, checked in and getting my tour of the facilities. Not too shabby, I must say: they even had a pool. I asked the lady at the desk if I could go see the falls that day (I had my doubts as it was already 1:00 PM) and if so, how I would go about doing it. She informed me that there was a bus that came by the hostel and would take you to the bus station, where you could take another bus to the waterfalls.

But which side to go see first? Well, from all accounts, the Argentinian side was much better than the Brazilian side, and one should devote no less than 5-6 hours on the Argentine side, as opposed to maybe 2-3 to the Brazilian side. After doing the math, I decided that I could smuggle myself over the Brazilian border, see the falls and be back before the buses stopped. So I set off without any Brazilian currency and not knowing a lick of Portuguese. I got to the bus station, bought some food at the supermarket, and before I knew it, I was on my way to the border.

When we arrived, everyone got out and walked into the Border Control office. I nervously handed over my passport to the agent and told him that I was just going to be over for a few hours to see the falls. He nodded in approval and stamped my passport. I walked out and looked. Hmm…I have just been stamped out of Argentina. I got back on the bus and we took off. “No Brazilian office?”, I thought to myself? And then we stopped. Everyone looked around and I kind of looked towards the ground (God forbid some guy sees that an American is sneaking across). And then the bus started back up and we continued on – and I was in Brazil.

“That was easy…”, I thought as I waited for another surprise. But as it turned out, I was in the clear. I made it. Hell yeah! I examined Brazil from my window.

Portuese is very similar to Spanish and I could understand most of the signs and billboards as we passed by them. Everything else though looked a lot like Bolivia, actually. It was interesting. And before I knew it, we were at the bus station and I hopped out, looking for a bus to the waterfalls. I was approached by a guy who spoke perfect English and he told me everything I had to do.

“You pay here, and hop on bus 120, and then your there. Easy as that”, he told me.

“Wow…you speak perfect English! Did you study in the US?”

“Yeah, I spent a few years there. Hacienda Heights”.

He even knew where Riverside was. That’s a first. So I hopped on the bus and took my seat and this pretty cute Brazilian girl in exercise clothes came and sat next to me. She spoke portañol (portugues + español – which is almost a new language in itself) and we could both understand each other more or less. She was a Arabic music dancer and gave me a brochure on which she then wrote her email.

“Are you going to be staying here? Where? You should come out with me! Ah, only a few hours in Brazil, eh? Hm, well, we can still talk on email!”

Yeah babe, sorry. Your not gonna get into America that easy. I was reminded of Omar in Bolivia (Omar Spechar) who told me that I should just go into a club with my passport and wave it around.

“Dude, you’re sure to get laid.”

Such power.

So anyways, we said goodbye and I was soon at the waterfalls. I paid my $20 pesos and started exploring the park. I walked along the catwalks and explored the various viewing points of the falls. It was pretty cool, but nothing spectacular. Or at least, not what it had been hyped up to be. On the Brazil side, you get to see everything from a distance – in a panoramic sense. It’s not very intimate and you get really ripped off in the exchange rate if your paying in Argentinian pesos. It was also insanely hot and humid. I couldn’t believe it. I wanted to just die. Well, not die, but at least get to a room with air conditioning. I saw everything there was to see, then hopped on the bus back to base of the park. Then caught the bus back to the bus station and then walked around looking for the bus to get back to Argentina. A guy told me it had just left and another would come in about 40 minutes. So I sat and waited with a French couple and before I knew it, we were on the bus back to Puerto Iguazu. I was exhausted and had to fight to keep from falling asleep. I made it back, checked my email, got something to eat and went back to the hostel. I slept really really well.

I woke up early (7:00 AM) though to see the falls on the Argentina side. I went to bed at 12:00 so I was running on little sleep, plus the little rest I got from the bus trip, but I was sure I could do it. I got breakfast and then headed to the bus station. I was able to get a ticket back to Buenos Aires for that very day (after getting back to the falls) so I was happy that I wouldn’t have to waste an extra day (and pay another 23 pesos for the night) in Iguazu. I bought some food and was on my way to the waterfalls.

The Argentina side was much more nature based, so it seemed. They had a lot of trails to explore, where you could see wild animals (this whole thing, is in the middle of a rainforest, after all) and a train that would take you to the different viewing points around the falls. I spent the day wandering around in awe. Yes sir, the Argentina side was definitely better than the Brazilian side. It was incredible. Many more waterfalls to see up close and there was even an island to which you could catch a free boat. The views were spectacular and the whole thing was finished off with a trip to the top of the waterfalls to see “La Garganta del Diablo”, which is where a bunch of falls all crash into each other in an dazzling display of force and energy. I really don’t think the pictures I took do justice, but check them out. They are incredible. I even have a video which is definitely worth checking out.

After looking at my watch and realizing I had to go, I hopped on the train back to the base of the park. A butterfly accompanied me for about 25 minutes while it licked my backpack (don’t ask me why). It was pretty funny. And yes, butterflies do lick.

At the entrance of the park, I waited for the bus and met an Australian girl named Bill who was just finishing a year long trip through Europe, Cuba and South America. We chatted about our travels and I realized…I’m six months into my trip and it seems like it’s been a week. I’m going to be in her place in another year and a half, which although is kind of a lot, but if it goes as fast as these 6 months have gone by, will be gone before I know it. And she had a boy’s name and I have a girl’s name. The similarities were uncanny.

So anyways, we said goodbye, I went to the hostel, took a shower, bought some food for the bus trip and sat around at the bus terminal waiting for my bus. A really cute girl came and sat really close to me, which was strange, seeing as she had been sitting next to her friend across the way before that. Her friend watched and smiled. I guess I was expected to talk to her. And I did. She was from Holland and we chatted about South America and what we were doing for about 5 minutes. But she was leaving for Brazil. And me? Buenos Aires. Our respective buses arrived and we said goodbye. Too bad. She, I don’t think, wasn’t after my passport. It would have been cool to get to know her better.

And so after another 18 hours in a bus, next to the toilette (god it smelled so bad), I am back in Buenos Aires. I got an email from Simon (who I met in Bolivia) and he and his girlfriend are renting a car in New Zealand and they invited me to come. Sounds good to me.

The agenda for tomorrow? A quick stop over to Uruguay and then back to Buenos Aires. This too sounds good to me. Or maybe I’ll save that for the next day. I don’t know. The important thing, however, is that I go take a shower right now. I stink.

The clock ticks down…

It was dark and late. Like maybe 1AM – or maybe 2AM, I don’t recall, and we observed the city night life from the comfort of our taxi. The driver pretended he was lost and cruised by the prostitutes standing in the street (as I believe he gets a commission if he drops us off at one). The girls looked at us coldly – which I would imagine had something to do with that fact that they were literally wearing nothing more than a plastic bikini and high heels – and a slutty looking blond wig. An American looking tourist walked by and talked to one, then started walking down the street with his new girl.

“Right here is fine”, we told the taxi driver after passing the girls a good distance.

We stepped out of the cab and looked around. We were surrounded by beautiful girls eating at restaurants, walking to and from the clubs, walking in groups, standing around doing nothing – it was incredible. Truly incredible. Never in my life have I seen so many beautiful girls everywhere I went like I have seen in Buenos Aires. It’s like walking down the street with supermodels zooming by every 20 feet. Don’t believe me? Come here and see for yourself.

But Julio and I were on a mission: to find a Tango place. We had been told that we could see a cool Tango show in this area and we had the address…it was just a matter of finding it. And we did. But it was locked up.

“Hey”, we asked the guy standing out front (I’m translating to English for you), “can we still go in?”.

“I don’t know. Ask,” he said as he rang the buzzer.

A door opened out of the sheet metal that was covering the entrance and a guy poked his head out.

“Do you have an invitation?” he asked sternly.

“No…but the lady at the tourist information office recommended that we come here.”

“Alright, come on in,” he said reluctantly.

He guided us down a dark hallway and we entered a fairly descent sized theater containing about 50 people and took a seat towards the back.

The show was already going and we quietly watched. Over the proceeding hour and a half, we saw Tango dancing, a band playing the Tango music itself, a guy reciting poems, people singing and, of course, lots of beautiful girls. It was a mixture of all of the above with a comic twist and we laughed our asses off. It was awesome. And when it was over, we left. We couldn’t order drinks during the show and so we didn’t spend any money and there was no charge to get in. We had just watched an incredible show – for free. That sure beat the shows that were advertised in the tourist office ($140 pesos, or about $50 US bucks) until Julio said, “Yeah, but is there anything for non-gringos? I’m not a gringo.”

So I saw a tango show. What else have I been up to since I arrived to Buenos Aires? Well…besides gawking over the girls (did I mention that there are about a million beautiful girls per city block here?), I have taken the subway/bus/taxi combination to see many really nice areas of Buenos Aires. I have taken a city tour (which was okay, but way too fast and way too superficial), visited parks, plazas, museums, theaters, libraries, art galleries, some really good restaurants, the dams of a river that flows at the edge of Buenos Aires and then out to the ocean, checked out a dance club, and gone to the movies. This city is awesome. I love it. There is so much to see and do, everything is so incredibly cheap, and the people are so incredibly friendly.

Today I got up late (got in from the club at about 6AM) and took the subway to the bus station to buy my ticket to Foz de Iguazu. What is Foz de Iguazu, you may ask? It’s an incredible arrangement of waterfalls right on the border of Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina. I leave tomorrow and it will take me about 18 hours to arrive.

I’ll check it out for a day or two and then head back to Buenos Aires. And when I get back, I’ll have about two days to check out Uruguay and then it’s back to Buenos Aires to leave for New Zealand.

I’m pretty excited and sad at the same time to continue on and I don’t know what exactly to make of it. I have had an incredible time in South America and have been really lucky to have had the experiences I have had here. How many Americans do you know that have come down here and gotten showed around countries and cities by locals they happened to know, worked and traveled around with families from that country and then traveled around for another few months on his own? One? Oh yeah, me. I met a guy from New York yesterday named Brian who did a similar trip a couple of years ago and he has gotten me all riled up about India, Asia and Africa – and I am really looking forward to them. After six months of traveling, I have still only just begun. It’s crazy to think that I am still going to be traveling for close to another year and a half.

But you know something? I can’t wait.

Hello Buenos Aires!

So what’s new since my last post? Well, I’ve since moved. Yes, indeed. I have moved on. I spent a few more days in Bariloche and then finally bought my bus ticket. Eugenia’s (one of the most incredible girls I have ever met) family was coming to visit and we wouldn’t get to hang out as much for a few days so I figured yesterday was as good a time as any.

And then, 18 hours later, I was in a new city. But not just any city, mind you – Buenos Aires. The most cosmopolitan city in South America. Everything is big and busy and there are loads of things to do (or, if you’re Australian, “heaps” of things to do). And it’s really hot.

When I arrived at the bus station, I walked through the 1/4 mile long bus station (no joke), found out how much it would cost to my next destination (Foz de Iguazú to see the waterfalls) and then hopped on the subway to get to my hostel. It was so humid and sticky that I was afraid I might bump into someone and get stuck (and then have to wait for the weather to dry to unstick ourselves). It wouldn’t be so bad if it was a hot girl, but if it was some ugly Chilean chick, what would I have done? I don’t want to think about it (the horror!).

So anyways, I made it to my hostel, checked in and took a shower. Everyone here speaks English, which is a little weird. I prefer Spanish. About two minutes after taking a shower, I was drenched in sweat again so I gave up and went walking in the city. I tried to check out some of the museums but the ones I wanted to see were closed (lots of museums close in February – probably on account of me coming to visit) so I walked through some shopping centers and just ended up going to see The Last Samurai, which I thought was a pretty good movie.

It makes me want to go to Japan and become a samurai (don’t laugh, I so could). After, I got the paper and read it over dinner before heading back to the hostel and falling asleep (in the intense heat).

Today, I got up late, drank some mate, read the paper and then ran into a guy I met in Bariloche in the hostel. We’re going to meet up in a little bit and head out to do something with another guy we both met in Bariloche (one’s from Peru and another is from Buenos Aires). It should be pretty fun.

Not much else to report. I leave for New Zealand on the 15th. I really want to stay here in South America but I know that I can’t. I have to move on and continue with the plan. If I extended my time in each country that I liked a lot, my trip would get extended to like 10 years long, and I don’t have that much money. And no, I am not missing home. Home is a state of mind.