Archive for April, 2008
A bit more “up” this time. Hope you enjoy it.
A couple more pictures from Rosario: a sleepy dog and proof that Val Kilmer’s been out with his spray can.
The bus journey up here to Posadas in the state of Misiones was actually rather good. The cama seats in the swanky-ish part of the bus are v. comfy, I got a glass of bubbly wine, some passable food, and they showed No Country For Old Men (in English with Spanish subtitles) on the TV. Weird, though, that a proper bus company is quite obviously broadcasting pirate DVDs on their coaches.
Arrived here at 6.30am, and with nothing at all about the town in my guide book, I asked a cab driver to take me to a hotel in the centre of town. This is the view that was awaiting me once I’d checked in: the cathedral, the Paraná river, and Encarnación in Paraguay on the far bank.
Loath as I am to say it, best of luck to Chelsea in the final.
I’m typing this sat in a cafe in Rosario, Santa Fe, Argentina. The sound system in here is playing “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” by Elton John. In fact, the Academy Award-winning “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” by Elton John. I quite like this song. I know it’s wrong, but I do, so shut up.
There’s no Wi-Fi, so shortly I will go and sit in the lobby of the hotel I checked out of this morning and put this online. See my unswerving dedication to bloggery? It’s not really dedication to you, so don’t go around feeling all special or owt; it’s just that I’ve got a bit of time to kill, and I’m not feeling very well, so I’m not particularly up for museums and stuff.
Seems like a fairly nice little city, this. Reminds me a bit of Curitiba in Brazil, in the sense that you get the feeling that it is quite a groovy place for a provincial city. And it’s the home town of Lionel Messi. And some bloke called Che Something-or-other. Not that you’d know it, I’ve not even seen a postcard with his face on it. There seem to be no statues or anything; even the house where he was born has no mention of it on a plaque:
Update 4.45pm: Actually, that’s rubbish; I just went past the house in a taxi and noticed there was a sign saying Casa natal “Che” Guevara right next to the house. It was early, I wasn’t looking properly, so I apologise for the incorrect information. Looking at my photos, I’ve even got one where you can see the sign. Look:
While we’re doing show-and-tell, here’s a picture of a dog bathing himself.
And here’s one of a naked bint using a fish as a loofah.
And here’s a photograph showing that nine preppy cunts could walk into this shop and all walk away wearing different outfits.
Anyway, last night I stayed in a nice hotel. Still fairly cheap, but it was nice. A good mattress, space to spread out, multiple towels in the bathroom, complementary shampoo and conditioner (two separate bottles!) and Wi-Fi. It’s the first hotel I’ve stayed in on this trip which came close to looking like the sort of hotel I’d choose to stay in on a business trip, and after ten days in a very basic hotel in Buenos Aires, I felt justified in spoiling myself for a night, especially considering I’ll be taking a 13-hour bus journey later today. (Extra justification is that I’m essentially getting “free” accommodation tonight, sleeping on the bus.) but, as I inferred above, I’ve got the shits, so I’m not particularly up for much sight-seeing. If it wasn’t for the fact that the same bus is fully-booked tomorrow, I would’ve delayed my journey by 24 hours and stayed here an extra night.
I hate checking-out of nice hotels. It’s always tinged with a touch of sadness that the pristine world is being left behind when you loft your backpack on again and are reminded that you’re a backpacking knob-end, not a swanky business man. And there’s always the nagging doubt that I will have left something behind in the room, even though I check the room twice over; I still feel that it’s totally possible for my eyes to somehow block out seeing my iPod on the pillow or something.
As it is, though, aside from the potentially grim prospect of using a bus toilet a lot on my journey up to Posadas, I’m looking forward to being on the bus. I coughed up the extra 60 pesos (about 12 euros) to go in the swanky bit where the seats are bigger and recline virtually completely. Plus, I’m on a solo seat, not one that has a neighbour which is flipping ace, frankly. On my journey from Buenos Aires to Rosario, I had the aisle seat, and was sitting next to a young fellow with unfortunate jeans.
He reclined his seat quite soon in the journey. And when I felt like doing so, I found that something inside me wouldn’t let me do it. My long-term loathing of aeroplane-seat-reclining-people aside, it just feels weird to be reclined next to a stranger. I’m fine sitting next to a stranger, it’s something most of us do on many occasions during a week. But to be reclined, almost lying down! Next to a stranger!? That’s just plain weird. Somehow the reclining turns being “next to” someone into “with” someone. You are lying down with them. Next stop hand shandies? I reclined about three inches less than him to keep things civil. At one point in the journey, while he was napping, he turned and he was facing me. Now, imagine I’d reclined fully, and I’d also fallen asleep, and was facing him, too. You wake up and you can feel the breath coming out of their nostrils on your face. And how awkward would that be if we both woke up at the same time? And it’s not a gay thing; it’d be awkward if it was a woman, too… I think too much about these things. Cogito, ergo sum. For me, though, that would be “I think, therefore I can’t ever relax properly.” Which, sadly, I don’t know how to say in Latin.
I know not many of you reading this care about the sports statistics stuff that I do, but I enjoy it, so here’s some more. This one relates to a previous post about how many of the Brazilian World Cup squad players played their club football at home. Here’s a similar chart looking at the same stat for Argentinian players.
And, looking at the 2006 World Cup in particular, here’s the same statistic for every nation that competed. Not sure that it tells you anything that you probably didn’t already know: three or four rich European leagues attract all the best players and keep most of their own; the five Spanish players who didn’t play in Spain all played in England, for example.
…and what? Germany watches, looks for your weaknesses, and then pounces?
I find it interesting that things that naturally come out of our bodies are viewed as “disgusting.” Faeces, urine, vomit, sweat, nasal mucus, phlegm, blood; all of them, at some point or other, make a lot of us go “eeeeuuww!” And aside from hamsters and syringes full of heroin, we’re not that bothered about talking about the things we put into our bodies. Which, is a rather ponderous way of getting to the topic of toilets.
Argentinian and Uruguayan hotels and hostels seem to be almost uniformly rocking the one-ply toilet paper. It’s like being back in the 1970s. I almost feel like calling for my mummy to come and wipe my bottom, it’s such a throwback to my childhood. But the hotel I’m currently staying in takes it to a new level. They are supplying something that seems to be ¾-ply toilet tissue. (I do like the phrase “toilet tissue,” especially when the “ss” is said in a really sibilant way.) It has plenty of holes in it, but it has no perforations to create individual sheets, either. Look.
Yes, toilets here are always accompanied by their bidet brothers, but you’ve still gotta dry your botty, right? And while we’re discussing toilets, here’s some rather pretty urinal cake-type things that are nice pastel-coloured balls.
And finally, in a cinema here in Buenos Aires (I went to see “Untraceable.” Despite have Diane Lane to look at for an hour and a half; it’s not great), there’s a hand dryer in its own little cage. Not sure why they would feel the need to do this, but they have.
I’ve got blisters on seven of my toes. I, like some of you, have ten toes, so those three blister-free piggies are taking a lot of the strain of my hobbling at the moment; and I assume they will soon have blisters, too. It hasn’t really stopped me doing stuff, but it has slowed me down a bit. On Friday I went for a walk around the Reserva Ecológica, which is, as the name suggests, an ecological reserve. It sits between the blandly renovated Puerto Madero former dock area and the Rio de la Plata, and it’s kinda strange to be somewhere so countryside-y yet be so close to the throbbing city. Pleasant walk, though. Lots of birds that I don’t know the names of flapping around.
Then I saw a guy who seems to be a chair short of a wheelchair.
And to make the blisters worse, I had a good traipse around the rather wonderful Chacarita cemetery. The strange thing about this place is that there are little roads, and you occasionally see cars moving around, so it does feel a bit like you’re in a village of dead people, all living in ornate house with plaques on the front.
It has some underground areas, too (I don’t know the proper term, sorry); but it’s quite lovely down there.
Argentina’s favourite tango fellow, Carlos Gardel is buried here.
A few more random photos of the place…
And, tucked in neatly at the end, here’s
april2008mix.mp3 (44.4MB, 38m39s, available for a week)
Yep, those of you who fancy listening to me ramble on for bloody ages about virtually nothing, then clicky downloady the link below. Have a good weekend.
And here’s some pictures from Buenos Aires Zoo. It wasn’t my intention to put up so many melancholy animal photographs, but that’s kind of how it turned out. Maybe it’s the animals, maybe it’s me.
Some random pictures from the last few days in Buenos Aires.
Big metal flower
Close-up of aforementioned flower
Nice old cinema. Wooden floor, no slope, uncomfy seats, loud projection machine, sound of the film in the cinema next door way too loud; but charming nonetheless
Planetario. It looks good… it isn’t
And, finally, it feels a bit weird for me, as a European, to be seeing signs of autumn in April
Pretty logo, I think. It’s on a closed-up and for-rent shop that was the office for the Municipalidad de la Costa which, I think, is some sort of tourist resort. Should’ve checked Google before putting this online, really.
Following on from the last post, another one about street names. There’s quite a lot of South American streets which take their names from dates. I want to see if I/we can compile a whole year’s worth.
For example, here’s just a handful of what I’ve found so far: 20 de febrero, Buenos Aires, Argentina; Rua 25 de março, São Paulo, Brasil; 1° de mayo, El Calafate, Argentina; Rua 24 de maio, Porto Alegre, Brasil; Straße des 17. Juni, Berlin, Deutschland; 18 de julio, Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay.
I’ve compiled what I’ve found so far, put them together on a page that I am calling A year of streets.
If you can help fill in the (substantial) gaps, it would be great if you could email me (craig AT flipflopflyin DOT com) or leave a comment below.
Hola amigos. That’s Spanish. Impressive, huh? If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll have noticed that I’m in Buenos Aires. And one of the things I’ve noticed about this city – and several other cities I’ve visited – is that there are a lot of streets named after countries.
Buenos Aires, though, is the only city where I’ve bothered to buy an A-Z street guide map thingy (mainly cos it was dirt-cheap and a woman was stood on the street selling them). I was having a little think: how many countries have streets named after them in this city? Being a bit of a fan of graphic representations of information, I gone done made a mappy thing.
The darkest brown represents countries which have streets named after them. The lightest brown is for countries which don’t. The middle brown is for countries which need notes attached, which will follow the full stop at the end of this sentence.
• Falkland Islands: There’s, obviously, a street called Malvinas Argentinas. Equally obviously, there isn’t a street called Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s Mighty Great British Royal Bangers ‘n Mash Falklands Islands.
• São Tome & Príncipe: There’s a Santo Tomé but no y Príncipe.
• North and South Korea: There’s a Corea, but technically there’s no country called simply Korea.
• Czech Republic and Slovakia: There’s a Checoslovaquia.
• Yugoslavia: No such country any more, but there is a street called Yugoslavia. There are also streets called Croatia, Slovenia, and Montenegro. But I feel that it’d be slight unfair to punish Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo, and Macedonia because they are kinda represented with Yugoslavia.
C’mon, it’s interesting! Isn’t it? Hey! Come back!
Out and about with Laura and her chums Laura, Denise, and Julian last night, we walked across Plaza De La Republica and saw 100 or so Paraguayans gathered, waving flags, generally celebrating, as one radio in the centre of the throng broadcast the incoming results of the election back home. They were all supporters of Fernando Lugo, the opposition candidate who’s victory ended more than 60 years of rule by the Colorado Party. This new lot, according to one of the guys celebrating, are going to be better for the country. Hurrah for them.
Going back to the subject of “My Heart Will Go On”: what could possibly be worse than Celine Dion’s version? No, it’s not a trick question. The correct answer is a panpipes, backing tape, and CD-Rs-with-colour-photocopy-insert-for-sale busker’s version. Woo hoo. I just knew you would want me to record a video and put in on YouTube; so that’s what I did. (The background noise is the generator powering Señor Panpipes’ equipment.)
While we’re on the subject: Celine Dion’s heart will go on what? Strike? Holiday? “American Idol”? Or, (a joke for “Father Ted” fans only), go on go on go on go on go on go on go on go on go on go on go on go on go on go on? It makes no sense. And even if you twist your mind and assume it means her heart will continue to love the person in question, it’s just bad syntax, right? That’s why you keep on coming back to Flip Flop Flying, isn’t it? For the topical chatter.
John and I went to see Boca Juniors v. Newell’s Old Boys yesterday. I’ve never been to a game with as good an atmosphere as that. The singing never stopped. They hardly missed a beat when Newell’s scored an equaliser, either. Eventually, Boca won 2-1. But the football wasn’t the important thing, really; it was just being there, seeing those fans. It was superb. And considering all you hear about is that you should be careful there, we didn’t see anything even approach any trouble or violence.
Here’s a clip, anyway, of the fans singing, and some photos below that.
Someone’s checking you out, luv
Note the policeman’s shield protecting the Newell’s player from possible projectiles when he takes a corner
…then Boca scored again
According to a very friendly guy in a kiosco, this is the first time “in history” that Buenos Aires has suffered from this smoke problem. It has been caused by some less-than-skilled field burning, preparing fields that were previously used for pasture for the growing of more-profitable soya beans.
I arrived back in Buenos Aires late on Wednesday night. As the plane approached the city, the usual sodium twinkles that one sees over any city, looked a little bit different. It was hazy. On the ground, it was like the city was covered in mist. And there was a smell of something having been burnt. It was still there in the morning and seemed to get a bit worse yesterday afternoon and evening. If the bad English and terrible Spanish conversation I had with the guy in the hotel reception is to be believed, there’s been some sort of fires in Buenos Aires state (not sure if it was forest fires or crop fires; arson or not) and the wind has brought it over the city. As a smoker, one can’t really complain about there being smoke in the air, but it is slightly unpleasant and at times has made me feel a bit queasy. Still, it does help make the sunset quite pretty.
Considering I’d been feeling a bit flat and out-of-sorts the last time I was here, I’ve been determined to enjoy the city this time. That managed to last all of a few minutes though. I got in a cab at the airport to bring me to the hotel. As most advice dictates, I took a radio taxi. But, I guess, you never know when you’re gonna get ripped off or not. It could happen in London, but it’s more galling when it happens to you when you know that you’re being taken advantage of just because you decided to visit a foreign city. The driver looked quite mean, but on my travels so far, I’ve learnt that that means nothing really. Some of the best, nicest, most helpful cab drivers I’ve had have looked like escaped murderers, so I try not to take any notice of how they appear. I made one mistake, though: while I was looking for something in my bag, I failed to notice that he hadn’t turned the meter on. I really should have done that, especially considering I asked him how much it would be and his reply was “meter.” So I knew fairly soon that I would be getting stiffed. For the rest of the journey, I braced myself to be paying double what it should cost. (Last time I paid 85 pesos, approx. 17 euros.) When we stop in front of the hotel, he tells me it’s 190 pesos. Cheeky motherfucker. But it gets worse. I hand him a 100 peso note and two 50 peso notes. As I gather my stuff together, I’m also aware that he’s moved, done something. I soon found out what it was. He looked back at me and showed me two 50 notes and a ten peso note. The cunt had switched the hundred for a ten, and now, with no small amount of menace was demanding the the 80 that I still “owed” him. Needless to say, I coughed up, tried to accept that I’d been had, and decided not to give him a tip.
Still, I wasn’t as calm as I’d hoped I would be; that post-Santo Daime calmness seems to have drifted away now, anyway. It put me in a bad mood. And at the moment, my emotional state is a bit touch-and-go anyway, so very slight things like this do make it easier to slip back into feeling blue. Which lasted for most of the morning and early afternoon. I went to a museum, Museo Xul Solar, which was an interesting building full of art that was so not my cup of tea; had a nice salad with bacon and blue cheese, and set off on a bit of a hike to find a cinema. As I cross one of the big avenues, I notice a guy crossing in the other direction. As he passes me, I slow down, turn my head, and find my mouth saying, “John!?”
“Wh-wha-what the fuck?”
I reversed my course, walked to the pavement and was stood there talking to a friend from London who I’ve not seen for over seven years. And, quite frankly, if there was anything at that point in my day that I could’ve done with, it was seeing a friendly face. We sat in a park for the afternoon, had a few beers in the evening. And just as that was coming to an end, a man and woman walked by and it was Brendan and Mel, the couple I’d had a beer with in San Salvador airport back in February. They were on their way somewhere, but we exchanged pleasantries and made plans to make plans to meet up after the weekend. And then I got a taxi back, and the driver was thoroughly pleasant, and smiled at me heartily when he saw I’d given him a tip. Things even out, don’t they?
But, anyway, rewinding a bit. After visiting the glacier on Tuesday, I had a day to kill in El Calafate before my late flight. I’d spoken to a lovely Czech couple on the hostel on Tuesday evening who’d had to do exactly the same thing: do something for a whole day in a town with not much to do. They told me about a small ecological reserve called Laguna Nimez, on the edge of the town next to Lago Argentino. So I went for a saunter. There was no-one in the cabin at the entrance and the gate was chained shut. But I could see something pink in the distance. [Insert whimper-y noise here.] They were flamingos. So close, but behind a locked gate. A guy came out of a half-built house nearby and shouted at me. His hand gesture lead me to believe that I could just jump the gate, it was okay. Woo. Thirty seconds later, he came back out, and shouted lots of Spanish that made me realise I should walk the other way. It was quite swampy where I did walk, so probably a good job he told me. It was quite lovely there. A few geese here and there, and a group of about ten or so flamingos just over the way. It was wonderful to see the occasional fella flying in to join his mates at the edge of the lagoon. I was soon joined by a dog on my walk. She came out of nowhere and tagged along. Now and then she’d put on a little display for me by running towards some geese so I could see then flying, but mostly, she just tagged along. She ate some cow shit, though, which I assume was to show me that she was a maverick. I jumped over the gate, she slipped through a gap in the fence, and we left the reserve and did what we both wanted to do more than anything: play with a stick on the dusty, empty road.
El Calafate itself isn’t really much. It’s a small town with a lot of tourist stuff. Aside from the very centre of the town, roads are sandy tracks. There’s a hell of a lot of building going on, and one suspects it’s all hotels and hostels. I had nowhere booked to stay, which feels a bit weird when you arrive by plane. Somehow having no plan feels right when you arrive by bus; but by plane, my brain automatically feels like I should be able to tell a taxi driver exactly where I want to go. As it was, I got the shuttle bus to the centro and had a walk around. Found the tourist info place, got a map, and saw a flyer for a hostel that boasted it had been rated no.3 in Latin America by some website or other. That’ll do me.
The place is called America del Sur, and considering my previous experience of hostel life virtually put me off for life, this place isn’t half bad. In a way, I wish I’d not seen that it was rated so highly, cos then my view of hostels in general would’ve been bolstered. The dudes who run the place are all bearded – good start – and incredibly friendly. It’s just a simple thing, but they all remember my name and use it every time they speak to me. There’s a heated floor, too. Mmmm, that’s nice.
So, yes; essentially everyone else visiting the town is here to see one thing only. That’s Perito Moreno, a big glacier. Ever since I saw a photo a friend took when they visited here a few years ago, it’s always been on my list of places to go. When I began planning my trip to the Americas, this was the first pin on the map. It’s got a five kilometre front end, and reaches 50 or 60 metres high. There’s a peninsular facing the glacier front, which separates two lakes, so as it advances its two metres per day, that causes shards of ice to fall off into either lake. The sound delay means you see it before hearing it. If you’re lucky enough to be there at the right time, and lucky enough to not be in the loo, you’ll notice some ice crack and then the massive sound of the ice cracking. You’ll see it splash a big wave out from the base of the glacier, then you’ll hear the splash of ice hit the water.
I’d booked myself on an organised trip. The glacier is about an hour and a half from El Calafate, so it was really the only option. Me and a few other hostel dudes were picked up at 9am, we snaked around the town picking up more tired-looking people and eventually we were on the road, driving past the piercing turquoise of Lago Argentino. It was a great view out of the window, and would have been even better had our tour guide not insisted in rabbiting on constantly about the landscape. I’m all for a bit of information, but there are times when you just wanna enjoy the view not be barked at about the view. This is the Mona Lisa, she’s a girl, she’s wearing clothes, she’s got a cheeky smirk going on, the foxy minx. Etc.
Headphones blocked most of it out, though. Anyway, when I got there, first I went on a boat to get a close-ish look of one face, then up to the various viewing platforms to get an overall view. Magnificent stuff. Utterly amazing. Pretty much the most beautiful thing I’ve seen in my life, not counting Jerzy Dudek saving Andriy Schevchenko’s penalty in the 2005 Champions League final, of course. I’ll shut up and just show you some photos.
First, though, a picture looking the other way, away from the glacier. I put this one first because it was a beautiful view, but would get lost if I put it at the end what with the glacier being so stunning.
On with the show. First, the view from afar.
Now the view from up close on the boat.
And here I was lucky enough to be snapping away at the moment that some ice fell off.
And now some views from the viewing platform.
Not bad, eh?