To South America and Back

Sunday, January 22, 2006

One Quick Interruption!

We would really like to take a quick break from our tales to give immense thanks to our wonderful hosts in Montevideo: Auntie Alex, Celina, Claudia, and Manu. Alex was such a wonderful friend to us and we couldn't be more grateful for her hospitality and opening her apartment to us while she was away. Not only that, but she let us into her world and showed us around the beautiful city of Montevideo. We also want to send a special "thank you" to Alex's partner in crime, Andreas, who also showed us around town, took us out for ice cream, joined us for a much needed American flick, helped us with our Spanish, and told stories of his amazing travels. Alex also introduced us to Matilde, who we will be forever grateful to for tutoting us in Spanish during our stay. Everything she taught us has really paid off! Another special character was little Manu who filled our days with her love and constant attention. We will miss her greatly!

Thank you all for being such wonderful friends during our travels!

Lastly, let me include some pics from our experiences in Montevideo...

Meat everywhere!
The building that Alex bought to start her café (we can't wait to see it done!)

Manu's usual spot
The original gates to Montevideo. The city used to be completely enclosed but these original gates are all that still stands.


As Jeremy was saying... we visited the Jesuit ruins of San Ignacio with some friends we met along the way. Two Brits (Helen and Phil) who were staying next door to us in the funny little thermal bath hotel and also enjoying some cold beer on the porch. After a day of drinking and eating in Concordia, AR we took an overnight bus to Posadas and then a short trip to San Ignacio. We finished our long travels with a comfortable (and much needed) night in Puerto Iguazu. After planning our night bus ride, we boarded a local bus to Iguazu falls. We spent the day admiring the absolute beauty of powerful rushing water, lush vegetation, and awe-inspiring wildlife (while working hard to ignore the hundreds...actually maybe thousands of tourists swarming the park). The day was scorching hot and the humidity made it impossible to stay dry but it only made those times when the spray from the water falls drifting your way more enjoyable. We found salvation from the tourists on the island of San Martin where we got an even closer view of the falls as well as some peace and quiet to really take it all in. It's unbelieveable just how grand these waterfalls are! The pictures don't even come close to doing this natural wonder justice...

After a long day at Iguazu Falls, we quickly showered and dined on the same hamburgesas y licuados and jumped on our night bus to Cordoba, AR. We spent the day roaming the bustling streets of Cordoba where the downtown population is made up of mostly college students. This town is also known for having the most Catholic churches in Argentina. (Sorry this pic is sideways. I can´t seem to figure out how to rotate it without a program)

Cordoba was a nice place to spend the day but we were itching to see Mendoza after hearing so much about it so we boarded yet another night bus and arrived in the most wonderful city I've seen yet! Yes, there have been many that we've fallen in love with but Mendoza takes the cake thus far. The climate this time of year is hot yet dry, sunny yet the tree-lined streets provide the most comforting shade, local wine is for sale on every corner, the people are friendly, restaurants and cafés line the streets offering more than the usual fare, and most of all, this area has every activity to offer. We truly believe this is paradise. We're constantly discussing what everyone would think of it here and just how much we're going to promote all of you to travel to Mendoza some day. All right, all right...I'll save more Mendoza details (and many pics) for next time.

(oh! And don't forget to write us or comment on our blog because we love to know that we are still connected to the outside world and we love to read what you little scamps have to say!)

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Bob Esponja

I know how you blog readers get, nervous as the computer fires up, sweaty at the sound of the modem connecting, all the while thinking "What could those little scamps be up to now."
Well here it is:
After spending a few days at an old folks home in Salto, Uruguay, we decided to head up to the Iguazu Falls in Argentina. Along the way we stopped in San Ignacio to pay tribute to our Jesuit roots...

What really happened.

We went to Salto to check out the hot springs or "Thermals" that they have there. We found a quaint little hotel that offered three nights for the price of two, plus, Thermas on the grounds. The grounds of the hotel were nice and leafy, and the air had been a little rainy and cool, so we decided that if we were going to have to sit inside for a couple of days, that we might as well soak our travel weary bones before we did.

We noticed that a little something was up when we checked in, they said that the rooms weren´t ready yet, but they would be in about an hour, and we could change and hang out by the hot springs. The "hot springs" as they are called, are actually pools, similar to the ones that you may find in your average american town´s municipal parks system. Only these were hot. Real hot. This didn´t bother us that much, I mean, hot springs are hot springs right?

Well, after about three hours we got a room, a very nice one in fact. But, as we hit the showers there, it started to dawn on us. This place is using the hot springs as their water source, and considering the fact that the weather had, in the past three hours gone from about 55 degrees to about 98 degrees, this place might now be that "cool" after all.

Then we realized that the clientele of the hotel were all either in their mid to upper 70´s or about 13 years old. Don´t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with those respective ages, but when it comes to finding interesting and exciting things to do, we´re stuck with either Gin Rummy or "Bob Esponja" (as Spongebob Square Pants is known here.) We went with Gin Rummy and loads of freezer chilled Patricia- the local beer, running about 32 pesos for a 1 Liter bottle, that´s about US $1.50.

The crazy thing about this place was that no matter the weather, people were hanging out in the pools. Kids and grandparents alike, splashing, playing...sweating. With no where to cool down. Odd, but they seemed to like it.

Alright, I need to cut this short, I don´t know how these blogs seem to get away from me like they do? We need to get on a bus to Mendoza soon. Wine country here we come, but before I go I´ll set your collective minds at ease, that is if you have made it thus far. No, we don´t really have Jesuit heritage (but here are some pics anyway).

To Be Continued.....

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


I was very excited at the prospect of heading south for the winter for many a reason. One being to scope out, or as teammate Hans would say "Recon" the bicycle situation there. I figured that, with the strong European heritage, especially where we are now, in Montevideo, that the cycling would be seeping out of every old brick that South America has to offer.

It is safe to say that a good majority of people from Montevideo are Italian in heritage. Pizza and Pasta are sold on literally every street corner, and as I understand it, Pizza and Pasta could be thought of as part of an "old country" Italian tradition. I was also under the impression that cycling was as well. However, I think that maybe the Italians, knowing there are more of themselves tucked away in this forgotten country than they could shake a bike pump at, all got together, in Italy, and decided to leave their South American cousins out of the mix, completely. How rude, and Italian of them.

From a distance it looked good, people of all shapes and sizes were darting in and out of trafic. Girls were riding to...well, wherever they were going with their long dark hair blowing in the breeze. But when I got up close I simply couldn´t believe what I was seeing. Broken down bicycles littered the streets, and the ones that were being ridden I´m sure are actually made by Huffy. Names like "Wonder, Winner, and Lyte" are about the only thing that I´ve seen so far, and believe you me, these bikes look anything but lite.

Wait, there was one nice lugged steel bicycle, but it was so lathered in yellow primer-headset, bb, cranks, pedals-included that I couldn´t tell what it was. Don´t get me wrong though, Uruguay has their Vuelta Ciclista del Uruguay, and even a Silver metalist on the track at the 2000 Olympics. Milton Wynants. But that´s probably another story.


There was hope to be had about the state of cycling in Montevideo however. As we were riding a bus into the city for the second time (after our little excursion to Piriapolis) I caught a brief glimpse of a sign that read "Velodromo de Ciclismo." My heart did a little flip-flop, and all at once I had hope. I had purpose...find the velodrome, find the sweet bikes.

After wandering the city streets on three separate occasions, with no luck I tried a new tactic, asking directions. Sure, sure not a big deal, unless you don´t speak the language. Suddenly velodrome became Velodromo de Ciclismo, pronounced, with much more flair (Vhel-o-dhrrro-mo de Cee-hlis-mo) trust me, I dídn´t even understand myself the first few times that I said it. But after rolling it around on my tongue a few times I practiced it out on some locals.

What luck! They new where it was! I didn´t understand one word of what they said on getting there, but I had a nod of affirmation, and a point in a general direction. Two and a half more of these conversations (I say half, because I´m still under the impression that we left one old man while he was still yammering away) and the buildings parted to reveal the grass of Parque Batlle (pronounced Bah-jay).

The thrill of finding something after treking through an urban sprawl where you don´t speak the language, made it glimmer in the smog choked sunlight. ¿Se puede entrar? Was my nervous question to the two guards (guards??) smoking at the entrance. Another nod of affirmation, and the gates of heaven were opened to me. Ok, that might be too strong a metaphor, since the place was empty.

Still, the place had an air about it, the well used track, the even more worn seats surrounding it, they all had ghost fans, and I got to walk past every one of them, and out on to the track.

The whole walk home, which took about 30 minutes, compared to the 2 hours getting there, all I could think was, at least I know how to get there for the next time, and then I´ll definitely bring a bike.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Ode to Chrissy

There is a lot to fill you in on but first we need to say a few words to mourn our recently departed favorite traveling buddy, Chrissy, as she is venturing back to Madison as we speak. She will be missed by South America but mostly (in my opinion) by me, Jeremy, and Auntie Alex. Here is a short list of the highlights from our trip thus far and those with which Chrissy had an influence over...

·"Man dog" (a black sharpei that lived at our first hostel)
·"Milling about"
·Mullets and rat tails (all the rage here)
·Swedish couple with tiny backpacks (our idols)
·Staring guy who Chrissy barked at
·Cake´s restaurant in Punta del Este
·Uruguayian man who rides his bike all day while blasting the same ad (the best part being when he stops to flip the tape from his walkmen which he keeps in his shirt pocket)

·Climbing Cerro del Toro
·The Turkish guy

·Auntie Alex

·Medio y Medio
·The mangy puppy that we wanted to take home

·(Last but not least) Chrissy´s famous quotes. Here´s a small sample...
-"You know how they take ears and grow them on rat´s backs for experiments and cloning? That´s what I look like."
-"It´s a remake of Juleo and Romiet"
-"Where does my mouth go?" will be greatly missed. expecting some fabulous earrings or similar when we return. You little sneak!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


Well, we made it safely out of Punta Del Este and arrived in Piriapolis at 8am yesterday. We couldn´t have been more pleased to see the quiet streets, quaint shops, and better prices. After finding a terrific hotel we wandered through the streets, talked to all of the dogs, and hiked up one of the three big hills in Piriapolis. Then for dinner we went up the second large hill by lift which was amazing! The view of the city lights was beautiful from the restaurant. This small town is quite bustling and people (even families and their children) stay out until all hours of the night. Our bodies were tired and our brains may not have been at their best but we had the greatest time and we couldn´t believe that we actually had beds to go home to that night (clean ones that is!).

Nine hours of much needed sleep later Chrissy´s ¨Aunt¨ Alex took us to El Polonia which is just east of Piriapolis and Punta Del Este. After driving up to the outskirts of the city we then had to park and ride in on government issued trucks. Wè plowed through rolling sand dunes and ended up on the most beautiful and tranquil beach! The ¨downtown¨ looked like it robbed Madison of all it´s hippies and was made up of one short line of them selling their homemade goods. We went to lunch at one of the two restaurants and one of the only buildings with electricity. After filling up on food and a drink similar to sangria, we headed down the beach and into the vast reaching dunes (or as George described...¨the Sahara¨). It was a beautiful and relaxing day that was pleasantly finished off by a visit to Alex´s Turkish friend in Peradena where we enjoyed the much talked about Medio y Medio (a white wine champagne mix that´s popular here in Uruguay). Now we´re back in our favorite city and ready to go to dinner (yes, it´s almost 2am but people eat very late here!). Tomorrow Chrissy will leave us (so sad!) and we will be searching for an apartment here in Piriapolis. We may stay a week or so and enjoy the beach and hiking and then head to Montevideo. There we will stay at a friend of Alex´s and take spanish lessons as well. So far we love Uruguay so much that we may never leave. We have so much yet to see though so we won´t settle in just yet but we´ll enjoy every moment that we´re here.

There are tons of pictures to post so hopefully we´ll get our act together soon and post them!

Until next time,
A&J (and C)

Monday, January 02, 2006

4:43 am Punta del este

So tired. Our hostel sucks. Bugs are everywhere, in my clothes, in my bed.

We had a really great blog yesterday, but for some reason it didn´t publish. We started in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and now, one boat and two busses later, we have arrived in Uruguay. Don´t fret though, we´re not done with Ar. just checking out some beaches with our lovely travel mate Chrissy Thuli.

The mishaps have been turning out to be the funniest parts. We forgot to print out the name of the first hostel that we were to stay at, but we didn´t. Oops. Gracious Pablo who picked us up at the airport and aimlessly drove around a city of 8 million people, I think was at his wit´s end, but he got us there.

por allì por allà - this has been our best direction, it means, just go over that way, and then turn and go that way.

Now here we are, in an internet cafe at 5 in the morning. Chrissy already tried to requesition a restaurante for us to sleep in, but that didn´t work out so well. We also tried to lie our way out of the hostel that we are in by telling them that Chrissy´s Aunt (made up) was taking us to Polonio right this instant (3 am). That didn´t work out so well either.

We 're still trying to fake our way into a local hotel with some Lonely Planet alias that we invented. It´s amazing what you can come up with in the early morning.

We´re off, "free" breakfast awaits somewhere.

Delta Force Sector Sud America over and out.