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Price of beer in a bottle: No earthly idea, though I’m sure it would offend me.
Song currently stuck in my head: Get Innocuous! (LCD)

I’m sitting in relative luxury, hanging out at [name withheld]’s parent’s house
for a few days before we drive back to Chicago.  Since my last update
I’ve pretty much just hung out in Buenos Aires, walking, shopping,
museum visiting and contemplating poisoning some pizza to leave in the
fridge for whoever has been stealing our food.

In retrospect:

Garlic may or may not repel mosquitoes.  I was quadruple dosing on
garlic pills in South America, trying to reach that point where you
begin sweating garlic.  That’s supposed to do the trick.
Unfortunately there weren’t many sweaty, mosquito infested areas in
South America.  Inconclusive.

Nalgene bottles are to American backpackers as maple leaf patches are
to Canadians.  Nearly all Americans carry them and almost no one else
does.  This was pointed out to me often.  I don’t advocate Nalgene
usage (though I carried two), but I also don’t shy away from this
image.

Best items:

My Honduran knock-off crocs- they look ridiculous but are comfortable
and indestructible.  After initially breaking them in I could wear
them for hours of hiking without issue.  I destroyed a pair of sandals
and a pair of water shoes and discarded a pair of hiking sandals that
rubbed my feet raw any time they got wet.  The crocs took 6 months of
abuse and don’t appear to have aged much at all.  Only being left in a
180 degree sauna for hours harmed them at all, and it only slightly
reshaped them and they had to be broken in again.

Airseal packing bags- you fill these with clothes and then squeeze the
air out of them, decreasing the size by about half.  A must have,
these let you carry a smaller bag, add almost no weight, and segregate
the dirty and smelly from the fresh and clean while keeping all of
your clothes safe from spills in the bag.  Also, since most body odor
is caused by decaying bacteria the bags tend to make smelly close
smell less when removed (the lack of air inhibits the decay, I
believe).

Gladware- anything that you do with a ziplock I did with gladware.
It’s can be easier to pack and doesn’t puncture or leak as easily.

Aerosol sunscreen- I’ve raved about enough already.  Bulletproof.

Ugly, beat up duffle bag- used at my friend Scott’s suggestion in
place of my more expensive, shinier backpack.  The first thing my
Belizean friends said when the picked my up in Mexico was “you look
like a local” (not a native, mind you, but a local gringo running
errands or taking a weekend trip).  Cabbies hassled me less, as did
everyone else.  The big bright backpack often screams “naive gringo
with money to lose”, and even when you’re savvy and broke it attracts
the annoying attention of those who would profit from the naive and
careless.  Plus my bag was much, much less likely to be stolen from a
baggage hold on a bus, train, or plane.  It was the crappies bag in
the bin.

Padlock- a good padlock is worth the added weight (which is
substantial).  I used this everywhere and it’s 10 times safer than a
lesser padlock (in persuasiveness) or one provided by a hostel (in
access restriction).

Slax- portable linux for secure computing when financial accounts
needed to be accessed.  The bootable USB stick was a pain, too few
machines could boot to it, but a burned CD was a breeze.

Less impressive items-

Rough Guide Central America/ Rough Guide South America- Terrible.
I’ve used great guides from this publisher before, but these condensed
guides were abysmal.  The organization was inconsistent, essential
info like bus and train info was omitted.

Moisturizer- taken for high altitude dry climates, never needed.
Sunscreen would have done the trick had a trick needed to be done.

Too much DEET- I took way, way too much insect repellent… Over 4Xs
too much.  98% DEET goes a long, long way.

I’ll be sorting and collecting photos over the next few weeks and will
email when they’re available.  Attached are a couple of current
favorites.

Take care everybody

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Cost of beer in a bar: about US$2.50 in an expensive club, US$1.50 in
the hostel for 1 liter
Song currently stuck in my head: Pretty Pistol, Marilyn Manson

We´ve got love songs in our heads, killing us away…  I´ve been in
Buenos Aires for about a week and a half now, save the 3 days that we
all went into Uruguay to check out a hot spring resort.  BA is very
cool.  Everyone that I ask what I should do here says the same thing:
walk around constantly and eat as much meat off the grill as your body
can stand.  Thus far it has been good advice.  The Argentines are
really into rock and roll and this seems more manifest here than in
Mendoza.  Aaron dumped the contents of his ipod on one of the hostel
computers and they´re still filing through the stuff, playing odds and
ends and calling each other into the room.  It´s the next best thing
to having my music here and it´s why I´m singing Manson to myself on
the street.  I threw on some old White Zombie and when it got to
Thunderkiss ´65 some 20 year old Argentine girl across the table
perked up and started pumping her fist in the air, calling it out by
name.  I haven´t been to any shows yet, but that´s defiantely next on
my agenda.

My hastily formed impression of Uruguay was that it´s an eery
middleground between rural Indiana and rural European locals that I
know only through second hand experiences.  The landscape was often
indistinguishable from, say, Wyatt, Indiana.  The people were quiet
and orderly above all, making this the first place where one even has
the chance to be the ugly American.  Most of the other countries that
I´ve visited in this trip don´t give you that opportunity.  It´s hard
to look all that ugly next to a machete wielding Guatemala mugger and
no one can hear your condescension over the reageton or the screaming,
defecating children (and adults, really) on any bus in Central.  In
Latin America, for the most part, your worst behavior won´t piss off
anyone other than other visitors.

Uruguay silently shattered this precedent.  The landscape was midwest
and the people were very Euro; not euro in the stylish way that we
sometimes think in the states, but simply more polite and refined than
most of the cultures that I´ve encountered thus far.  We were always
the loudest people in any given room, even when weren´t trying.  The
hot springs were hot, which is how I like them, and spending a day
lounging around the campus in a robe, wandering pool to pool to sauna
to pool was exactly what I had in mind.

This entire area is still recovering from an Argentine economic crash
that occurred in the mid 90s, and while things aren´t as cheap as they
were 5 years ago I´m still getting a great value.  Aaron was beside
himself, not being jaded by Bolivian prices that way Sarah and I have
become, at the low cost of a meal of assorted grilled beef.  The
Argentines themselves are exceedingly friendly, even across the
language barrier.  We´re staying at a hostel with a lot of full time
residents that are attending various schools around the city.
Apparently the local apartment scene is such that this is a better
deal, and why not?  There´s a well equipped kitchen here, a movie room
with DVD and a decent screen, high speed internet and someone to clean
the bathroom for you.  If you don´t absolutely require privacy
(they´re mostly dorm dwellers) it´s a good deal.

Today we´re off to Iguazu falls.  It´s up at the border with Brazil,
17 hours away, and I think I read it´s the second largest waterfall on
the planet or something.  They didn´t explain how they came by that
tag (highest?  Most overall area?  Most volume of water displaced?),
so I kind of ignored it.  But the falls look gorgeous either way.  We
won´t be crossing into Brazil, mostly because of time and budget
constraints but also in large part because I don´t like getting
knifed.

I have roughly 2 weeks left until I fly back to the states.

Untitled

08.19.07

Does anyone have any recommendations in or around Buenos Aires and the
Argentine side of Iguazu?  I´ll take recs on towns to check out,
hostels, bars, clubs, restaurants… anything really.

The place is a blast, but I´ve sometimes plagued by the feeling that
something cooler is happening a few blocks away…

Untitled

08.17.07

August 12th, 9:06am: Aaron Marbury touches down at the Buenos Aires
international airport.

August 17th, 1:48pm: Personal budget, liver decimated; digestive track
greatly confused at sudden influx of grilled meat.

Cost of beer in a bar: about US$1.  We just had 4 Fillet Mignon
sandwiches and 4 pints of beer for US$13.
Song currently stuck in my head: Perhaps (Couplings is playing in the
other room)

Alright, let´s get this started…

I went to the jungle.  Actually, it was the “Pampa”, an area in the
Amazon basin where we boated around for days with The Dutch Family
Robinsons, stalking Caymans (basically alligators) Caiberras
(basically huge guinea pigs), swimming with dolphins and fishing for
piranha.  It was about as cool as it sounds.

Next we spent 3 days touring the southern areas of Bolivia (salt
flats, lakes, freezing cold, etc) and crossed over into Chili based on
a last minute time saving decision.  We bussed down to Santiago and
then over here to Mendoza, about 33 hours in all and considerably
quicker and cheaper than our old plan.  Chili is pretty much 1st-world
and was a bit of a culture shock to see.  US style infrastructure
complete with convenience stores and no one vomiting or spitting on the
buses or pissing on the side of the street.  We ain´t in Bolivia
anymore.

Argentina seems very, very cool at first sight.  I´ve cleared me
schedule tomorrow, intending solely to take in some of the city.  I
really intended to recollect some stories this week, but this keyboard
is so god-awful that it´s taken me 30 minutes to get this far.  I hope
to add an addendum later this week.

Untitled

08.01.07

Nothing this week folks.  A lot has happened, but little time to reflect.

Price of beer in a bar: It’s a resort town, so US$2 for 20 ounces
Song currently stuck in my head: Welcome to the Jungle (Guns and Roses)

I spent yesterday desecrating the memory of 10s of thousands of
deceased Bolivians by using the scene of their demise for cheap
thrills and a little adrenaline.  But then, with tourism you’ll have
that.

I’m speaking, of course, of the infamous “Death Road” in Bolivia, a
title approved by the Inter-American Development Bank and well earned.
Attached is a photo, though in it you don’t have any fog or rain so
it doesn’t really look that bad.  This road has been a popular trail
for mountain bikers for years and just a few months ago an alternate
highway was completed and opened (thanks to US funds, I’m told), but
some motor traffic continues to use this dirt highway surrounded on
each side be shear cliff.

Pictures:

http://blogs.bootsnall.com/monirz/archives/images/yeah3_edited.jpg
http://www.jordibusque.com/Index/Stories/YungasRoad/DSK00030-DSC_0011.jpg

Sarah and I biked it.  It was fun.  60some kilometers, 90% of which is
downhill.  There were points where the cliff wasn’t satisfied to hug
the roadside and instead carved right into the road in front of you.
There were chickens, children with slingshots, waterfalls, loose rock,
loose dirt, buses, heat and freezing cold (we descended 3000 feet, so
the temperature change was significant).  It was, at times, scary.
But I can say with authority, and I”m serious about this: The “World’s
Most Deadly Road” hasn’t got shit on the Chicago Lake Path.  Because
while I made it through yesterday relatively unscathed, I defy you to
travel 60km on the lake path and not get hurt.  At the very least
you’ll come perilously close to hitting two Lincoln Park princesses
pushing their baby strollers two abreast blocking one entire direction
of the bike lane and half of the other, blissfully unaware that they
aren’t wandering through the park.

Sarah and I have contracted about 2 weeks of activity with local
tour agency (the same one I booked Choro through about a month ago).
Yesterday’s downhill dirt storm was day one, and today we board a 15
bus to the jungle.  We’re in the lowlands already and I love it.  It
reminds me why I love Central America and gives me the chance to
compare South America on a more balanced scale.  We’re doing 4 days
stalking wildlife in the jungle, then back to La Paz and on to the
freezing cold of The Salar (massive slat flats) in the South.  After
that we’ll head on to Argentina and spend our remaining month in and
around the sit-tay.

Not mentioned in today’s email for purposes of brevity:  nationwide,
highway closing strikes in Bolivia and Peru, a return to Copacabana,
the Island of the Sun, more third world pharmacy zaniness, and a
conspicuous and consistent lack of cheap liquor.

Take care everyone.