Posted tagged ‘south america’

“You don’t need magic to disappear, all you need is a destination and a great hostel!”

July 21, 2016

Yesterday was the perfect day: sunny, warm and dry. A breeze from the south kept my house cool. It will be warmer today, but this room, in the back of the house, is still dark and cool. I’m going to be out on the deck today with a good book and a cold drink. My outside table is perfectly shaded by branches from the scrub oak. Gracie lies in the shade at the right angle formed by two sides of the deck. She sleeps deeply and sometimes even snores.

When I was teaching, I was usually traveling in July and August. I was one of those backpackers who slept in hostels, on overnight buses and sometimes in parks. I bought bread, peanut butter and jam and ate sandwiches to save money. Sometimes I bought a cooked chicken and tomatoes for a fancy dinner sandwich. I had a Go Europe guidebook which listed free food at happy hours. I’d nurse a drink and eat my fill. Overnight train travel was my favorite route between two places. Sometimes I’d just buy a seat and try to get comfortable enough to sleep, but a couple of times I bought a couchette and was able to stretch out on a mattress and sleep.

Traveling in Europe was a huge adventure for me. I got to see all the places I’d only read or dreamed about. One summer it was five weeks in England, Scotland and Ireland. Another summer it was six weeks traveling in Finland, Russia, Denmark, The Netherlands and England. The big trip was eight weeks in South America. I landed in Caracas and left from Rio. In between, I traveled from country to country by bus, car and planes. The best plane ride was over the Andes from Lima to Cusco. I saw the shadow of my plane on the mountain tops covered in snow. In those days few Americans traveled in South America. We met only one other in Paraguay who asked to join us at an outdoor cafe. He had heard us speaking English. He was the head of Pan American Airlines in South America and was on his farewell tour of Pan Am offices before his retirement. He told some great stories including one about Eisenhower visiting South American and having to extend runways for his plane. I think that trip was my all-time favorite.

Eight weeks from now I’ll be in Ghana.

“I have learned that to be with those I like is enough”

August 13, 2012

We have sun, that bright orb in the sky which sheds light on the world. It has brought warmth and dispelled the damp so tonight will finally be the oft postponed movie on the deck night. It is supposed to pleasant and cool.

It was a mirror under her nose to see if she’s alive type morning. The dog wanted out. I don’t know when. I heard her bells, went downstairs, opened the door and turned off the AC so I could leave the door opened and she could come in which she wanted. I went back to bed. The phone woke me at 10:30, that’s right, 10:30, but I didn’t let the late morning change my ritual: two papers and two cups of coffee later, here I am.

Now I’m stuck with nothing to day; my mind is a tabula rasa. I write six days a week (it used to be every day) and have been writing this blog for at least six years maybe even seven I’m not sure. I have discussed every aspect of my childhood, my teen years, college years, Peace Corps service and the day-to-day stuff which keeps me busy or idle depending upon my mood. I have excoriated tourists, supermarkets, slow drivers who can’t see over the steering wheel and the weather, can’t forget the weather. I have taken you with me to Morocco, Ghana and South America, though that last one wasn’t live. Soon enough you’ll be going back to Ghana with me. You have been made privy to the number of underwear I’m bringing on my journey, and I’ll be posting my flight times and numbers so you can make sure I arrived safely. I have told countless dad stories. You even know some of my failings as I’ve lamented them a few times, a tin ear being one and impatience being prime. You have essentially become family but don’t expect post cards!

“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.”

August 6, 2012

It rained early this morning: just what we needed, more humidity. Already the weather has a stranglehold. I went out to get the papers and gasped. The weather woman claims this humidity will end today but Cape Cod will be the last place to feel the change. I guess I’ll just have to hang out in the AC.

Today is our last visit to South America.

When we were leaving Argentina for Uruguay, we decided to take a short hop plane ride across the Rio de la Plata to Montevideo. The plane was an old prop. When we got on board, the stewardess gave us each a small ticket and a hard candy. Come to find out the ticket was for a drawing. The winner, the man in the seat ahead of me, won a lady’s handbag. That was the first and has been the only time I was part of an in-flight drawing.

Montevideo was a lovely city with beautiful parks, statues and huge sculptures. It was small, especially in comparison to Buenos Aires. I was drawn, as I had been in so many other cities, to the old town. Many of the buildings there, dating from the colonial period, were a bit run-down, but it was still my favorite part of the city. You could see water from both sides of the main street. There were small places to eat, little holes in the walls where we stopped for lunch. The entrance to the old town was the last bit of the wall which had once surrounded the city. Later, we took a bus tour to orient ourselves. Part of the tour was a walk through the General Assembly building. It was empty. The military had taken over the country in 1973 in a coup and dissolved the branches of government. We saw the assembly room with its rows of empty seats.

We finally did some shopping just for the sake of shopping because with the trip nearing its end we didn’t mind hauling extra stuff. I bought some beautiful gold bracelets: one for my mother and one for me. My mother wore hers for the whole of the rest of her life.

We flew from Montevideo to Sao Paulo and had a bit of culture shock. The city was huge, and I felt like Country Mouse. There were skyscrapers, shopping centers and cars, lots of cars, and even back then millions of people. We wandered the streets and stopped in beautiful parks and a few museums, but we didn’t stray far from the center of the city, from the downtown. My Spanish had gotten pretty good throughout the rest of South America, but here I was pretty much at a loss with the Portuguese. I could figure out menus, but that was about it. Sao Paulo was my least favorite stop of the entire trip. We stayed only three days as we were eager to get to Rio.

We flew to Rio and took a bus into the city where we found a really nice hotel through happenstance. We walked by it and liked the looks. Our room was huge and even had a table and chairs.

I loved Rio. It had tons of things to see and great restaurants with wonderful food. We took trips around the city every day. One trip was to Copacabana and Ipanema. Even though it was winter in Brazil, we had to walk the beaches and across the sand. It seemed like a rite of passage. We did some shopping in the stores around the beaches, but they were a bit rich for me. I did buy a few small gifts to take home.

Another trip was to Sugarloaf Mountain. I had seen pictures of Sugarloaf jutting out of the water but never imagined I’d be there. We took the tram to the top. From the tram, as we traveled up to the mountain, we could see Rio spread below us, but it was the view of Rio from the top which was spectacular. Also from the top I saw a US submarine. It was the first time out of a movie I had seen an actual sub traveling on the water. It looked small from where I was standing, but the conning tower was prominent.

Of all the symbols of Rio, I think the most magnificent is the Christ the Redeemer statue on Corcovado Mountain. It stands over Rio as if to guard it or maybe bless it. A picture of that statue had been in one of my geography books. It was so beautiful I had kept the picture safe in my memory drawer, and I couldn’t believe that so many years later here I was standing on that very spot. We rode to the mountain then climbed the steps to the statue. It towered above us both awesome and breathtaking. Spread out below us was the city, the water and Sugarloaf. I felt on top of the world.

We were in Rio five days. The city was beautiful. We ate in a variety of restaurants, some hole in the wall spots, always favorites of mine, but on our last night we ate in an expensive restaurant as a sort of going away present for ourselves. We were celebrating what had been the trip of a lifetime. We had traveled from Caracas to Rio and been gone eight weeks. That last night we toasted our trip and each other. The next day we flew to New York then on to Boston. We arrived home filled with memories I have never forgotten.

“The next open space was a park in a burst of sunlight, then a boulevard, and a glimpse of Europe and the hurry and the fine clothes of people on a busy pavement.”

August 5, 2012

The house is getting a breath of fresh air for a bit then it’s back to summer hibernation. It’s unbelievably humid, and the air is so thick it’s almost difficult to breathe. It must have rained a bit earlier as the deck was wet when I went out there this morning. The birds are in full voice, especially the crows. Tonight is our movie night. I just hope the dampness gives way to a bit of sun so everything can dry.

Today I have to go to the dump, to Agway for bird seed and to the grocery store for a few things. I am now out of coffee, and only that and pet food will get me into the grocery store.

If someone had blindfolded me and dropped me in the center of Buenos Aires, I would have sworn I was in Europe. The city is gorgeous. It is called the Paris of South America and rightfully so. The architecture is colonial. Outdoor cafes are all over the main shopping area, which is pedestrian only. My friend had a long leather coat made in one of the shops. We walked all over the city through plazas, into churches and museums. The Rose Garden was lovely despite the lack of blossoms, it being winter there. The hats and colors of the mountain Indians had disappeared and were replaced by every day clothes. One day we took a bus tour to a large aestancia, a working ranch. It was a cattle ranch. One of the bulls, a champion, was so enormous that the man holding him appeared tiny, almost dwarfish. Our guide explained that the semen of this bull sells for an enormous amount of money and he brought us to the extraction area. He started to explain and stood where the bull stands before the process. I couldn’t stand it any more and started to laugh at the vision running through my head having to do with guide. My friend too started to laugh. We had to leave the group, and the guide asked if we were okay. We could only nod. At the ranch we had a beef dinner and were entertained by Argentinian dancers. It was a wonderful day.

My favorite part of the city was La Boca, a neighborhood where many of the earliest residents had come from Italy and where the off-beat still lived. The area is called la Boca because it is at the mouth of the Riachuelo. This part of the city was so amazingly colorful. The buildings were brightly colored in reds and yellows and blues. I loved it.

Our hotel was an old one in the historic district. It had a grand dining room and lots of wood and character. The US ski team was staying there. They had been summer skiing in Bariloche, Argentina. We met them at breakfast in the grand dining room. They were all young.

We had beef for dinner every night because it was so cheap. We’d walk around until we’d find a restaurant we liked. Not once were we ever disappointed by the food.

Being in Buenos Aires made us feel as if we had left South America. It was so unlike all the other countries we has visited before it. We could have been in Europe. I enjoyed Buenos Aires but I missed the vibrant colors, the Indians and the hats most of all.

We were getting close to our flight home so we didn’t have much time to spend in Argentina. I’m sure we would have found everything we were missing if we had left the city, but we had yet to go to Uruguay and then on to Brazil then finally to Rio and home and we had only about 10 days until then.

Uruguay and Brazil and home tomorrow.

If no man could become rich in Peru, no man could become poor.”

July 30, 2012

No movie last night: it was “spitting rain” as my mother would have said so my friends and I played games, ate inside and watched the Olympics. Today is still a bit damp, but I think the sun is making a decided effort to appear. The morning is a lot lighter than it’s been.

We’re still in South America, in Guayaquil, Ecuador. We got here on a small boat from Duran where the auto-bus had finished its run after scaring the heck out of us while showing us the most amazing sights. Guayaquil was hot, and the hotel we found had no screens so I was a mosquito magnet. I don’t remember anything about the city. I just remember swatting and scratching all night. We stayed only a day as the city was really planned as a transit stop. The next day we took another local bus toward the border, and the people were again most accommodating in the passport transfer from the back to the front. We got to the Ecuadorian/Peruvian border too late to cross so we had to stay in Ecuador overnight. That border town reminded me of something out of an old western movie. People were walking out and about all night, and the cantinas were all open and crowded, mostly with men. Our hotel was right on the main drag, a cheap hotel right near the border. For a bathroom it had a hole which necessitated good aim. The hole was out back.

Because I had not slept the night before, I fell sleep right away and heard nothing. My friend was awake most of the night because of the noise and the people walking by our room right on the street. She was a bit frightened by the thought of our room being so central so I think staying up was really a sort of guard duty for her. The next morning we got breakfast and changed dollars into Peruvian sol as the rate was so much cheaper in Ecuador. We got double what we would have gotten into Peru, and knowing we were heading to Machu Picchu, we changed a lot of money. The two of us walked through the border into the first building, passport control. Signs were all over about the amount of Peruvian money you could bring into the country. We were way over the limit. We noticed clothes flung over a screen and realized someone was really being searched. My friend immediately started to panic as we had hidden a lot of money in our bras. I told her to write down on the entry form an amount of money above the limit so we looked honest. That worked. We got a lecture but that was all. The next building was to prove we had a ticket out of Peru before we could come into Peru. Anyone who didn’t was directed to a small building where they were forced to buy bus tickets they’d probably never use. I realized the guy checking tickets spoke no English so I gave him the sheaf of plane tickets, and he flipped through the pile and let me go. I told him my friend was with me, and he hand gestured her a wave out of the building as well. We boarded a bus to Lima.

More tomorrow if you don’t mind.

“To travel is to possess the world”

July 28, 2012

Clouds have descended permanently. The day is damp and grey. Thunder showers are predicted for later. I hope so as it is really dry.

Today I’ll harvest a few tomatoes. Okay, I’ll harvest two. They are red and beautiful on the vines in the raised garden I had built this year. My cucumbers are also growing. I expect they’ll be ripe when I’m gone.

Birgit asked about my trip to South America. I guess I’ll give you a few highlights. I did all the planning from all sorts of books, and my roommate and I left for Venezuela toward the end of June in 1976. She spoke no Spanish, but I spoke enough to get us by. I joked and said if we played our cards right, I could sell her, and we could come home with more money than we left with-she was not amused. We stayed in Caracas a few days then took a bus to Merida, in the foothills of the Andes. Back then, there were few tourists in South America, and we were the only non-Venezuelans on the bus. On the way we saw a crashed bus which had missed a hairpin turn and gone over the mountain. I heard muerte when the driver stopped to talk to one of the police along the road. I didn’t translate for my friend. We stopped once in a small mountain town and were told to try the fish. It was the most amazing trout I’d ever tasted.

We went to Merida because we wanted to ride the world’s highest cable cars. The next morning we were in line and waiting for the car to come back down the mountain when the wind started. It was fierce enough that they stopped the cars from going up the mountain, and those already there were stranded. We walked around Merida and went to the market but ended up leaving a couple of days later. The cars still had not gone up the mountain. We took a bus to Colombia and ended up at a small town near the border. The hotel was disgusting. I swore I was dirtier after my shower than before it. We left the next morning for Bogota where we stayed in a relatively expensive hotel compared to what we had been paying for the other hotels, and that start our pattern. We’d stay in dumps for a few days then in really nice hotels for the next few days.

I’ll give you the highlights of each country as I remember them.

In Bogota we went to the Gold Museum. The most striking memory I have of visiting that museum is being closed into a dark vault with thick doors. Nobody moved in the dark. When they turned on the lights, we were surrounded by cases filled with Incan gold. Every one gasped.

Another stop was the cathedral in the salt mine in Zipaquíra, about an hour or two from Bogota. I was amazed that the salt was black and asked a guard how the salt got white. He went away then came back and said we had permission to tour the factory. Off we went in his official car. We donned hard hats and walked all over the factory. I remember two things: how awful I look in a hard hat and how my mouth was salty the whole time from the dust. He gave us a chunk of salt more black than white which I still have.

I found the English-bookstore in Bogota, and we ate some great local food in hole-in-the-wall restaurants. I don’t know other than carne what we ate. It was good, and that’s all that mattered.

We took another bus and were on our way to Ecuador. The travelog will continue another day.

South America, Take It Away: Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters

April 17, 2010

This is from the album A Musical Autobiography – Volume 3 & 4.