Thursday, December 31, 2009

Bienvenido a Buenos Aires!

  • Buenos Aires has taken time to grow on me.
  • Perhaps the problem is that I had such lofty expectations, after Brazil, Colombia and Peru - which have an earthiness to them all.
  • BA feels to me like Europe, not South America. It lacks (in my humble opinion) the rawness... the realness... the passion... the fire... of the other countries I´ve visited here.
  • I`ve heard it descibed as a mix of Paris, Rome and Barcelona. In a way, I suppose it is. The people are more reserved, slightly distant. Then again, that´s how it is in big cities, and I need to remember that.
  • It´s also a city that lives strictly at night. All the people here go for dinner between 10 P.M and 1 A.M. After that, they go out dancing until the sun comes. Sleep all day, repeat ad infinitum.
  • What Buenos Aires DOES have - in abundance - is music, musicians, artists, artisans.
  • I´ve had some remarkable nights out dancing!
  • There´s a regular Monday night event: "La Bomba de Tiempo", which is a drumming troupe that gets together and performs in a warehouse packed full of people, all dancing to the drums! Afterwards there´s an afterparty at another club which goes on until the morning, where anyone that wants to can get up on stage, get involved, make music.
  • There are loads of live music nights, where you can listen to Afro-Cuban music, mambo from the 1950´s, salsa, samba, candombe...
  • My favourite thing here has been the San Telmo market, which happens every Sunday. During the day one of the main streets is closed off, and lined with handicrafts, second-hand artifacts, antiques, and other bric-a-brac. As evening dawns, suddenly the drums take over the day! Groups of drummers march down the streets, making music, producing energy, creating MAGIC!
  • They start at one end of the street, and walk down, gathering people as they go. There are loads of Brazilians in BA, and it is the amazing Brazilian girls who move like no-one on earth. They both lead the drummers and follow them. People join in as they go, shaking their asses, feeling the passion, getting lost in the moment. It´s ELECTRIC. You can either join a group that you like, and walk with them, or wait on the side of the stret and watch the different groups go by! I was dancing my heart out!!! Driven by the drums, my soul SANG.
  • And THAT is what I take away from Buenos Aires with me. That and the giant, juicy delicious steaks. And fantastic red wine.
  • Today is my first day in Uruguay, as I needed to escape to the beach for a while. But I´ll be back in Argentina soon to explore it further, beyond the capital city.
  • Watch this space for more!
Love you all, and wishing you a new year filled with LOVE, LOVE, LOVE. xxx

Sunday, December 20, 2009

El Hippimundo :)

  • "The Hippy World"
  • Ever since I arrived in South America, I've heard the term in passing.
  • I believe (from what I can make out) that it refers to a specific brand of people on this continent - hippies, dreamers, philosophers, travelers...
  • There is an energy in South America, a call to people who have abandoned the status quo, the norm, the dictates of modern society... a call to explore, and interact, and LIVE.
  • There are many travelers here from within South America itself, who make their way through the continent by making things - music, jewelery, handicrafts. It's been absolutely amazing to meet these people, to be encircled by their warmth and openness, to learn from them and have my eyes and heart opened by the interactions.
  • In Cuzco, I had just returned from Machu Picchu. I was sitting by the fountains in the Plaza de Almas waiting for an Australian girl that I'd met in the hostel - we had plans to go for lunch together.
  • Not far from me, I saw a young rasta - long dreadlocks down to his knees - talking animatedly in Spanish to 2 girls. He gave off a vibe of such warmth, and joy, and fun.
  • In no time, he had come over to talk to me, and in my broken Spanish we chatted for a while about life and stuff. He invited me to come and see his band play later (he plays percussion - bongos and tribal drums), and then when my friend came, he immediately invited us to come with him and his 4 girl friends to a traditional Peruvian lunch.
  • These 5 lovely individuals took us to a restaurant outside of town, treated us to DELICIOUS local food - ceviche ("Peruvian sushi", as they described it), seafood, and the local purple corn drink... what a meal! What an experience! I smile even now, just thinking about it.
  • Then last night was my first night in Buenos Aires. Not knowing anyone here, I asked the guy working at the hostel for a good place to go for steak and wine. This IS Argentina, after all!
  • He told me where to go, and also told me that 2 blocks from the restaurant was a square where there are free live tango shows, and music, and people.
  • I went past the restaurant, saw people lined up waiting for a table, and thought I'd rather go to the square first.
  • Not 2 minutes after I sat down, I was deep in conversation (yes, again in Espanol!) with a 50-year old hippy from Peru.
  • He shared his bottle of wine with me, and regaled me with tales of the history of Peru, of Argentina, of astrology, and tarot, and life, and love.
  • After about 2 hours, more of his friends started joining us - more free spirits, open and warm and "tranquilo". Some came with little children - toddlers running around laughing anjd giggling. We drank wine, we laughed, we celebrated life...
  • What an evening! At about 1 a.m I got hungry, so I took myself for dinner. The restaurant was PACKED (even at this time), dinner was EVERYTHING you would imagine it to be - giant, juicy, delicious steak, with wonderful wine...
  • What a night!!!
  • Once again, in a very different way, I couldn't help but feel SO VERY FORTUNATE.
  • All of these "chance" encounters, with all of these fascinating individuals. I am learning, experiencing, living my dream.
La vida es hermosa. Siepmre.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Blessed, blessed, blessed.

  • I feel so lucky. I feel so fortunate. I feel so blessed.
  • I want to embrace the Universe, and thank the stars and the planets and the sun and the moon and nature and everything magical and mystical and wonderful for the gift that I have been given, that is my life.
  • I just got back from Machu Picchu. I am feeling completely high on life after the experience.
  • Machu Picchu defies description. Completely. It´s inexplicably ethereal, and amazing, and uplifting.
  • I woke up at 4 a.m, to get there really early and be one of the 200 people a day permitted to go up Waynapìcchu: a RIDICULOUSLY steep and difficult climb which (luckily only takes about an hour - with MANY breaks! and) culminates in a view over the entire ancient Incan village that is unsurpassed.
  • Actually, when I arrived, the whole area was shrouded in clouds and mist. I found a spot high up on the mountain, and for 2 hours watched as the the clouds s-l-o-w-l-y parted to reveal the ruins... bit by bit...
  • It was spectacular. Ethereal. Otherwordly.
  • I had booked a guide as well, and after the ""grand reveal", I found my guide and he talked me through the whole area, and the history of the Inca people. Then I climbed Waynapicchu and saw it all from on high.
  • I was captivated.
  • The whole experience has left me so emotional, and almost breathless, and made me thank everything in this Universe yet again for the gift that I have been given!
  • When I set out on this adventure, I had a very vague plan of what I wanted to do. All I knew was that I wanted to experience LIFE. The world. And I have. In SO MANY WAYS!!!
  • I pinch myself constantly. I try to smile at everyone I meet, be kind to everyone I meet, spread love everywhere I go... It´s the only way I know how to thank the Universe for the amazing gifts that I have been given. I am blessed with an incredible family, incomparable friends, and so much good fortune!!!
  • Life is SO BEAUTIFUL.
  • I am humbled, and overwhelmed.
  • Thank you ALL for being a part of the magic. xxx

Monday, December 14, 2009

I´m all alooowwwwwwwnnnn...

  • Back to being a solo traveller again.
  • I´ve forgotten what it feels like to be outside of the warm, comfortable embrace of friends, in a familiar environment, where everything is simple, and routine, and easy to navigate.
  • After my month in Colombia, with a group of friends that became like family, restaurants where I knew the menu off by heart, and a hostel that felt like home, being in Peru has been quite an adjustment.
  • I landed late at night in Lima, the capital, and was whisked off to my hostel in a taxi right away.
  • I was the ONLY PERSON IN THE HOSTEL! There was another guy when I checked in, but he left for a midnight flight a few hours after I arrived.
  • So anyway. I spent the next 2 days in Lima wandering around on my own. I forgot how exhilerating it can be to not have a CLUE. About anything.
  • Armed with a map provided by the hostel, directions on where the bus passes (there´s no actual Bus Stop, you just stand on the corner and flag it down), and my outstanding command of the Spanish language, I managed to explain to the ticket lady on the bus that I wanted her to tell me when to get off at the Historical Centre.
  • And she did. And I did. And it was wonderful. I didn´t see another tourist the whole time I was there, which made me feel very brave, and edgy, and adventurous.
  • Lima is quite charming. Peruvian people are very different from the 2 other nations I´ve been to thusfar, although the typical South American warmth and kindness continues to colour every interaction.
  • I also stumbled upon (in Moraflores - a more affluent suburb of Lima, on the Peruvian coast) a little park area dedicated to lovers! There was a massive statue overlooking the sea, of a couple in embrace, surrounded by low mosaic walls inlaid with Spanish quotes on love... so very romantic...
  • I love finding things by accident! Getting lost when you´re walking around a new, unfamiliar city is great fun. It always leads to wonder. I often get lost intentionally. BUT - I always keep a map with me for aftewards, as ultimatly, I DO want to find my way back again!
  • Now I´m in Cuzco, which is simply divine. What a quaint, charming little place indeed! But more on that next time.
Until then - muchos besitos de Perú!!! xxxxxxxx

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Captivated by Colombia

  • My heart breaks as I write this.
  • After a month in the wonder that is Colombia, it is time to move on.
  • I shall forever cherish the magic of the past month.
  • I started in Bogota, the capital city, which is BEAUTIFUL Set high up in the mountains, the student area where I stayed in is a slice of exquisite colonial architecture, surrounding by lush green mountains, fresh air, and a general atmosphere of welcoming, warmth and loveliness.
  • After that, I moved up north to Cartagena, a romantic and magical Spanish colonial city on the Carribean coast.
  • Ostensibly, I thought I´d base myself somewhere fabulous where I could stop and learn Spanish - not being able to communicate has been driving me crazy, as you can all imagine!
  • But my lessons lasted only about a week, after which I decided I had enough basic vocab down to throw myself into conversations and bumble my way through, learning as I go.
  • While on the coast, I travelled around a bit - the highlight of which was Playa Blanca, a glorious Carribean island with no running water, no electricity, hammocks for beds, and delicious fresh fruit, fish and seafood for every meal.
  • It´s so hard to encapsulate the incredible month that I´ve just had! The Carribean coast is wonderful - people here are SO FRIENDLY! Warm and kind and laid-back and chatty... there seems to always be a fiesta happening somewhere, dancing in the streets, drinking and laughing everywhere...
  • I have also been blessed with my Cartagena family - travellers and Colombians alike - all of us reconnecting time and time again in a hostel that became like a home.
  • I shall miss Señor Everything and Super Mario, who hung out on the street corner daily and nightly, somehow learned my name, and were always full of smiles and bargain-offers... :)
  • I shall miss the set lunch and dinner menus - a choice of fish, chicken or beef soup, followed by fish, chicken or beef done in about 10 different ways, with rice, beans, salad and a drink - all for under $3.
  • I shall miss the casino across the street, with loud music and happy people milling about outside all day and all night...
  • I shall miss the Historical City Centre, with its 500 year-old Fortress walls, its balconies overflowing with bougainvillias, its colourful and beautiful homes - alive with life and concerts and people and salsa music...
  • I shall miss the Plaza up the street, where you can get beers, delicious street food, fresh fruit juices and cocktails until the wee hours...
  • I shall miss the heat, the daily sunshine, the evening breeze, the sounds of laughter everywhere...
  • I love Colombia. I feel like I have left a part of me there... forever.