patagonian dispatches

southbound

2005-01-26

From guest blogger Jules:


hola, mi familia!

this message will serve as your one and only notification that YOU have been
hand-selected to be part of the elite group of fortunate souls that receive
fabulous email postcards from jules as she travels the south american
continent. how does that make you feel? might i suggest, “darn good,” or
perhaps, “freakin awesome.” if your initial reaction was anything akin to,
“i could really do without this useless garbage cluttering up my inbox, i’m
too important and i have better things to do,” please reply and say so and
i’ll take you off the list. but shoot, you’ll be missing out on the vivid
chronicles of my once-in-a-lifetime trip to south america, all the laughs
and crazy times, and then you’ll have to hear about it all second hand,
which is lame. i mean, think about it, you could even put a map up on your
kitchen wall and put little colored pins on it to track my progress, how
much more fun do you want!

so, i hope this message finds you all well and enjoying the various facets
of life, wherever you be. most of you should be aware, but for those that
came in late, i am indeed getting the heck out of here for a few months to
pursue eye-popping scenery, winding mountain trails, alpacas y llamas y
condors y pumas (y mas y mas), fabulous latin culture, all the fun of
communication in a non-native tongue, and so on and so forth. i’ll begin in
buenos aires, argentina, con mi companero alejandro (a buddy i met playing
ultimate in fort collins) and head south to trek the glaciares y montanas of
southern patagonia (the fitzroy and torres del paine areas, then possibly
tierra del fuego). alex will head home at the end of february, and then the
adventure truly begins for solo jules… where i will end up is yet unknown,
but i am intrigued by every corner of the south american continent, so the
world is pretty much my oyster. if all goes well, i plan to wander around
until late april/early may, when i’ll return to the homeland and start
another field season in the colorado mountains. yikes, life is rough…

i depart this thursday, 27 de enero, but fear not, my friends. i may be
leaving you, but you are not leaving me. you are all special people who have
enriched my life in unique and wonderful ways, and i carry you always with
me on my journeys… whenever i am feeling lonely, or afraid, or am stricken
with diarrhea and can’t move, i’ll think about you and everything will be
okay. so, thanks for that.

well, time to say adios, amigos (i really mean that now). hold down the
fort, willya? and take good care until next we meet and give yourselves big
ole goodbye hugs and kisses from me.

all my love,
jules

p.s. to my parents and other persons i still hope to maintain a shred of
respect with (you know who you are), i apologize in advance for the candid
and uncensored nature of all emails from here on out. i might use swear
words and talk about bodily functions. just skip those parts.

bon jour, adieu

2005-01-27

Greetings and Salutations!

I’m sitting here and staring at two giant expedition backpacks
stuffed to the gills with the latest technological gewgaws and
doodads (but only two pairs of underwear) and contemplating the
last time in a month that my lower gastrointestinal tract will
resemble anything near normal.

Whoops, perhaps I should back up a bit. Starting in the middle of
the story works occasionally (“in media res” is what we writer-folk
call it), but I can sense that some of you out there in
reader-land are wondering what the hell I’m babbling about.

Right. So some of you I haven’t talked to in a while and others I
probably annoy on a daily basis with my 13-year old’s sense of
humor. But the short story is, at some point in the distant and
sundry past, I got the strange idea in my head that you (yes
you!) might be interested when yours truly went off and did
something queer (as our hobbit friends from The Shire would say).
And thus, you are inducted into my world-famous Bcc: email list.

In a few short hours, I will embark on a plane pointed at Buenos
Aires, Argentina for a month of trekking in Patagonia with my
esteemed companion, Jules Kray[1]. Along the way, I hope to have an
adventure or three and spin a few yarns while sitting around this
virtual campfire I like to call “email”.

If this sounds sucky to you, please let me know and you’ll be
removed from my spam-list (also, I’ll probably hate you forever,
but don’t take it personally, you big jerk). Also, I might
occasionally use bad words and talk *way* too freely about
normally socially-verboten subjects like diarrhea, so if you are
getting this mail at a work account and want me to email a home
account, let me know.

In any case, now that that’s out of the way (and assuming you’re
still reading), the basic idea is to head down to the Fitzroy
area, los Torres del Paine (that’s Spanish for “the Torres del
Paine”), and if’n we’re lucky, Tierra del Fuego. Along the way,
there’ll be camping, trekking, climbing (maybe), penguins,
flamingos, guanacos, whales, and diarrhea (and how!), oh my!

The last time I did something like this[2], I was engaging in
some moderately risky business. My dear old mom didn’t seem to
appreciate the gallows humor about selling my belongings and
donating the proceeds to the Access Fund. Well, this time, Mom,
you’ll be happy to know that my chances of dying are way smaller.

(I suppose my management will be happy to hear this as well so
that our product schedules don’t slip out by another few months.)

I’ll be posting all these emails on my blog. If you want to hear
Jules' side of the story, her emails will be there too (She’s a
damn fine writer, setting a high bar for me to match. Hopefully
she’ll set it so high that I’ll be able to just walk underneath).
The blog will let you post your commentary on how dumb I am, so I
highly encourage it.

But that’s neither here nor there. I’ve nattered much longer than
I ought’ve in order to tell you the simple fact that I’ll be out
of the country until March 1.

ciao!

/Alex

1: To see Jules in one of her better moments, please refer to: [REDACTED]

2: Chronicles from the last trip are here:
https://chizang.net/alex/2002/05/17/dispatches-from-peru/

numero uno

2005-01-28

From guest blogger Jules:

hola, amigos!

soy en argentina! que suerte! es un milagro!

we successfully launched the sudamerican mission yesterday, after narrowly missing our first flight to chicago (our space cadet travel agent didnt bother to tell us the flight time was changed to be 30 minutes earlier than we were aware of). with some luck, we raced barefoot through the security lines and hopped on board just as the gates were closing, and a few hours later navigated the vast maze of chicago ohare to find our connecting flight to buenos aires. that was the real committing part. 11.5 hours strapped into an airplane chair, 5000+ miles over land and sea, and several bags of complimentary pretzels later, we finally rejoined with terra firma, another continent, another hemisphere. for the first time after so many months of planning and so many years of desiring, this chance to visit this amazing new place on planet earth at last became real…

we checked into our hotel around 1 pm (after nearly causing an all-out brawl between three taxi drivers at the aeropuerto, ay ay ay) and desperately cranked up the a/c (hace mucho calor en buenos aires this time of year). took a wee nap and then began marching all over downtown b.a. in search of plane tickets to our next destination, el calafate (southern argentina, a portal to the fitzroy area of patagonia). we fly out of b.a. on jan. 30th, and then we are truly out there, at the edge of civilization. montanas, here we come.

so far, and i speak from 7 hours of experience, things are pretty different here, but not so different… the city of buenos aires is actually suprisingly modern and cosmopolitan, y la gente es muy guapo, tambien. the hardest thing for me is the language… the pronunciation here is pretty unique and the pace is fast, so i dont understand much, but i have been trying my best to speak and force myself to think in espanol. if it wasnt for alex, i would be quite lost in communications, indeed, so muchas gracias, buddy. so far, ive already drank the water out of the tap and eaten raw vegetables, so im really rolling the dice on the chancy table of gastrointestinal possibilities… but what the hell, i say, im committed. i want the full experience. tengo hambre!

well, thats all for now, we have a long walk back to our hood and its about to get dark, so stay tuned for more updates as we get further along. just wanted to drop a line to say: phase one complete, dos personas intact. all my best to all of you….

vaya con dios, jules

safe, sound, and sweaty

2005-01-28

Hola friends and family,

Just a quick note to let everyone know that we made it safe and
sound. Not much time, but a few quick notes before signing off…

– Buenos Aires is a modern Euro-flavoured country, nothing at
all like Lima or La Paz.

– That said, you can still easily die while crossing the street
here, as every driver seems to be a maniac.

– It’s HOT. Like in the 90s and humid. Egads, I haven’t sweat
this much since the bad old days of living in Texas.

– Spanish is slowly coming back, but the accent here is funny
and not one that I’m used to.

– I’ve already made an ass out of myself by attempting to open
a bottle with the back end of a pocket knife. The woman
watching me came screeching around her counter with a bottle
opener and chastising me, saying “cuidado, cuidado”.

Alright, more to come later; just wanted to let you know I am
still alive (and survived the 13 hour plane trip).

ciao.

/Alex

ps, for those of you who didn’t get my first email, it’s on the
blog at https://chizang.net/alex/

el sur

2005-01-31

From guest blogger Jules:

hola empanadas!

despues de dos dias muy muy muy locas en buenos aires, vamos al calafate en
el sur de argentina. (after 2 really f**kin crazy days in b.a., we went to
el calafate in southern argentina, but bear in mind i dont remember the
correct conjugation of that verb, ir, for the past tense). the insanity that
we cooked up in the big ciudad, once we figured out how to hold the map
right, is more than i can possibly relate, suffice it to say we
got-er-done…

but let me back up and fill in those of you who are not familiar with the
custom in latin america. we eat a little lunch (por ejemplo, empanadas) a
las uno o dos, afterwards we take a siesta (anywhere from 1-8 horas), and
then we wake up around 9 pm, eat dinner at 10 or 11, and then start drinking
and party til dawn. i tell you, friends, this is a schedule i could truly
embrace (particularly in the dreamlike state where jet lag and sleep
deprivation tango). our second night in b.a. was spent in this manner, con
nuestro companero rob knapik (from fort collins) on a quest, no, a holy
crusade, for the perfect restaurant (which ended when we finally found a
reasonable looking one and were too ravenous to keep walking), where we ate
huge fatty gordo gigante platos de comida rico (salmon y steak), washed them
down with 2 bottles of vino, and just when consuming more food seemed
imposible, we then ordered the most extravagant dessert on the menu,
essentially a barge of helados (ice creams), dulce de leche, cookies, etc.
all on top of panqueques dulces, ay ay ay. apparently, our waiter was amused
with los gringos borrachos (drunk honkeys), so he brought us glasses of
champagne on the house.

after this, we stumbled upon an irish pub (some things you never have to
look hard for, en todo el mundo) had whiskeys, guinnii, and “chanchos”
(knapik’s drink, fernet y coca, fernet es un licor egual de jagermeister).
we were dismayed at this point to learn that all the discotecas were closed
due to a freak accident la semana pasada, but not to fear, we convinced our
waiter to bring us home and entertain us until the dawn. we all caught a
taxi, in bucketing rain, when the pub closed (around 4 am), and ended up at
our new friend paolo’s apartment, where we danced away the wee hours to his
cranked-up stereo, braving the rain on his deck, which was several stories
high overlooking the city. finally we made it back to the hotel to pass out
on our chiclet-sized camas at 7:30 am. surreal! un buen tiempo!

of course, all the goings-on of the night made it a bit of a mission to make
our flight at 3:30 pm that afternoon, but somehow, just barely, we pulled
it. and now we have been magically transported from the land of chaos to un
lugar mas tranquilo in el calafate… very reminiscent of some of the
colorado mountain towns, like cb or telluride, but a little larger. when we
sauntered into town, in fact, a feeling of calm like i haven’t had in months
washed over me as i saw the place, one main street, quaint little shops,
perros libros (dogs running around free), and shaggy pack-carrying
mountainfolk (mostly international) all over the place. did i mention the
distinctive skyline of the patagonian andes in the distance. mi corazon es
contento ahora…

we are staying in a hostel, which has good and bad points (namely, the
stinky snoring europeans we are sharing our room with, holy funk, people, do
you ever bathe), and tomorrow (feb. 1) we depart early for el parque
nacional los glaciares, the fitzroy area. we are planning to do a 5-day trek
there, and then return to civilization for a few days before heading further
south. i’m buzzing with anticipation, for so close to the mountains (and
they look every bit as remarkable as i had imagined) i feel i have truly
arrived now. espero que hay mucho sol en la semana proxima… today was
beautiful, sunny, but i understand that we have mucho viento y lluvia (wind
and rain) to look forward to, sooner or later…

ahora, ustedes ojos son cansados from reading all this mumbo-jumbo, so til
next time, take good care,

paz y alma,
jules

out of the pressure cooker and into the glaciers

2005-01-31

Hola todos,

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve written last. Even so, this
correspondence will be the abridged version since a) I’m tired
and sleep-deprived due to not having anything resembling a normal
schedule in the past 4 days and b) I’m rather annoyed that my
last attempt at emailing ended in dismal failure after my
connection died one hour into the composition. So now, dear
reader, we must both sigh and wonder at what might have been.
(trust me, it would have been *awesome*).

In any case, Buenos Aires is now but a fading and distant memory.
We spent a few crazy thirty-six hours painting the town red with
our friend from Ft. Collins, Rob Knapik, who is a great guy and
one who makes you think, upon meeting him, “Gee, this fellow is
going to go places. Like jail, perhaps.”

Ha ha! Just kidding of course! Knapik is good people, and is in
Argentina to study cosmic rays in the Mendoza province (and if
you know anything about quirky queerness of quantum physics, you
will not be at all surprised to learn that Mendoza is where all
the Argentinian wine comes from).

We spent a bit sweating on the subway (called Subte) and a few
hours lazing about throwing a disc in the botannical gardens.
After a short siesta we were ready for dinner — at 11:30 pm.

The food situation deserves some discussion. Most Argentines
don’t eat breakfast, have a mid-morning snack of empanadas, eat
lunch around 1 or 2, and then are ready for dinner in the late
evening. Nine pm would be considered an early dinner and 10 seems
to be about the average. Portions are ridiculously Brobdingnagian
in size and seem to be divided equally between actual food and
butter. It’s a coronary surgeon’s delight down here; in short, my
type of folk. Even so, at times it can be a bit much, and this is
coming from a guy who once tried to eat every item on the Wendy’s
value menu in one sitting (and failed in a spectacular shower of
vomit, but that is not the point here).

Regardless, we left the restaurant at one in the morning, bloated
beyond belief, and proceeded directly to a nearby Irish bar with
the intention of stalling for time before heading out to the
discoteques. Unfortunately, it turns out that there have been
several horrible night club incidents where multiple (like 200)
people have died due to lacking fire precautions. Nowadays, all
the discos are closed while the city tries to figure out how to
prevent this from happening anymore (here’s a hint: less
corruption).

Since the discos were closed, the next obvious solution was to
befriend the waiter and get ourselves invited to his apartment
along with all his amigos and continue to dance and drink and
blast ear-shattering music until 6:30 AM until realizing that
taking a flight a mere nine hours later with a hangover would
suck royally. With some reticence, we bade them adieu, and slept
in a ridiculous sweaty pile, three of us on two chiclet-sized
beds pushed together, all with feet hanging off the edge.
Fantastico.

We’re in Calafate now, and leaving tomorrow to hike in el Parque
Nacional Glaciares. Calafate is a lovely town with a dash of
village and a hint of city, and booming like no other.
Construction is everywhere, and every third shop is for the
turistas. Think Aspen or some other idyllic mountain town before
it got infected with Xtreem Capitalism (coming soon to ESPN 4).
Still, I like it better than B.A. The ratio of windstopper fleece
and goretex to leather has increased dramatically, and dazed
wind-burned gringos tottering about with backpacks large enough
in which to smuggle a small Guatemalan family abound. We’ve
embraced the hostel scene, enduring cubic metres of cigarette
smoke and filthy Euros who seem never to have heard of “soap”.
Regardless, it’s a good time had by all, and it wouldn’t be fun
if it were fun all the time.

we’re about to lose the ability of harnessing electrons to do our
cruel and merciless bidding, and thus you shant hear from me for
a while. Until then, yours truly is over and out.

ciao,

/Alex

ps, as always, to get Jules' side of the story, be sure to check
out the blog at: https://chizang.net/alex

10 steps down (the stairs), 3 days back

2005-02-01

The best laid plans go to waste. Look before you leap. We now
interrupt your regularly scheduled vacation for these important
messages.

One of these days, I’ll be able to speak completely in cliches
and aphorisms, but until then, I guess I still have to do a bit
of thinking on my own.

Apologies for the discontinuity of thought, but things have gone
a bit awry. This morning, Jules took a nasty spill down the
stairs and ended up twisting her ankle. The 40 lb. pack she was
carrying surely didn’t help, methinks. Nothing major, but hiking
is out of the question for the time being.

In any case, we’ve had a temporary setback; nothing too out of
the ordinary on a long trip like this. Expeditions get bogged
down due to illness and minor injury all the time. The plan now
is for some good old fashion first-aid: rest, ice, compression,
elevation. Lots of Scrabble, rummy, reading, and writing to while
away the hours and keep our minds off the coming adventures.
Hopefully we’ll be able to carry on in a few days' time.

Until then, signing off.

ciao.

/Alex

envian esperanza, por favor

2005-02-01

From guest blogger Jules:


ah, you are surprised to hear back from me already? well, a funny thing happened on the way to the door this morning… no, really… but perhaps “funny” isn’t the word i’m looking for either–not funny ha-ha, at least… a strange and unfortunate turn of events. to this moment, i cannot understand what cosmic forces allowed it to happen, but i try not to question the ways of the universe.

alex and i were right on schedule this morning as we donned our packs and started to head for the bus station. we were team-carrying our duffel bag of “extra stuff,” which were going to stash at the hostel during our trek, downstairs to the front desk, alex in the lead. forward momentum, all systems go… until my foot missed the last stair and i came crashing down with all my weight, as well as that of my 40+ pound pack, right onto my left ankle. and the result: a good hard sprain. it made quite a spectacle for the 15-20 other tourists/trekkers in the front room of the hostel, i’m sure, and after awhile i was able to overcome the shooting pain to hobble back upstairs with alex and find some hielo and ibuprofen. he looked at me, hoping for an optimistic statement. “we’re not going anywhere today, man,” i glumly replied. back to the dingy hostel bed i was more than ready to leave behind for the good ole argentinian ground, trying not to let the reality hit too hard. but we were going nowhere! ay ay ay, el suerte malo. in one second, just one step, all our excitement was totally squelched. darn it, clumsy jules…

we did manage to meet up with a nice nurse from the uk fresh off a trek herself, and she assessed my sprain–two ligaments damaged, necesito 72 horas of icing/resting before i could think of going anywhere… now it was time to get depressed. alex has only 1 month here, and can’t afford the time to wait around for my clumsy ass to heal. and i just can’t wait that long to get going! i’ve already waited long enough, and here i am, come all this way, just out of reach of the mountains, and here i am stuck, in this shitty hostel, another 3 days at least… dismal. well, i guess it could always be worse, i could have fallen from the top of the stairs, or maybe i could have a sprained ankle *and* amoebic dysentery… as it is, i should be thankful this mishap occurred within civilization, and hopefully take it easy for a few days and be extra extra careful when i do sling that pack on my shoulder and start scrambling around in uneven terrain.

anyhow, we still intend to do the trek we first planned, just postpone it a few days, and we should still have time for the other trek we hoped to do. alex can hopefully keep himself entertained renting mountain bikes and checking out nearby glaciers in el calafate… and bringing me empanadas and more hielo here and there… but the specter of boredom that looms ahead for yours truly is nasty indeed. thus, i implore you, amigos, send me emails so i can hear what’s going on in your world as i wait this one out. your company, via internet, will help me heal up quick and get back on track with this adventure. thanks to everybody who has written to me already, your love is much appreciated in good and bad health.

and there’s yer update for now. missing all of yous, una-pie jules

el amor encirculo el globo

2005-02-03

From guest blogger Jules:


muchas gracias, todos, para sus emails!

mi tobillo (ankle) is healing, albeit slower than molasses, but i have no doubt your well-wishing, good humor, shots of whiskey in the ankle’s honor, and collective good vibes and love are all working together in one big mushy ball of positive energy towards speeding its recovery. i can walk, very sloooooooowly, con muchisimo cuidado, and have learned how to tape it properly to secure it for the walking. i’ve spent the last few days being largely sedentary, catching up on sleep, reading, writing, drinking plenty of argentine beer (i recommend it with plenty ibuprofen)…

but to break up the monotony of lying around the hostel, my nurse friend authorized a mini-excursion for me yesterday afternoon. we taped the living snot out of my big ole swollen joint, crammed it neatly into my boot, and sent me and alex off on a guided tour into el parque los glaciares to see one of the largest glaciers this side of the world, el perito moreno, emptying into el lago argentino, the largest lake in the country. we took a bus into the park, and then a boat ride beneath the edge of the glacier, a towering wall of jagged blue ice, with massive chunks calving (breaking off) and crashing down into the lake right before our eyes. que magnifico! by far the largest glacier i’ve ever seen, and definitely the most active. right at the base of some impressive montanas as well… just being near them put my heart at ease, and seeing the landscape bonito, reminiscent in many ways of new zealand. i felt like a bit more of a turista than i usually like to (and a crippled one at that), but it was more than worth it to get outside for awhile and check out a brilliant natural feature.

today we spent hobbling around town (again), getting more bus tickets, mas comida para trekking, and visiting the local farmacias to buy out the entire town’s supply of athletic tape. we have overstayed our welcome at this hostel (the maids are very annoyed at our huge piles of gear blocking their way to the other camas in the room), and ready or not, we’re about to get the heck out of here. alex has volunteered his strong shoulders for the bulk of our gear, and i’m going to lighten my load and administer lots of tape, ibuprofen, and a half-assed ankle brace to the ankle, and by god, we’re going to make this mission happen one way or another. tomorrow, to el chalten, and then to begin trekking around fitz roy. sure, we’re probably pushing it, but we’re crazy like that. and we can’t take anymore of this town. time to hit the trail. yes, mom and dad, i’ll be very careful.

well, i’m running up quite an internet tab, so i better close, but thanks again for your concern, all, and keep us in your thoughts as we venture away from civilization. and always remember, enjoy your good health. we’ll be in touch again on the flipside, chao for now.

abrazos y besos,
jules

Waiting to Go Go

2005-02-03

A TRAGICOMEDY IN ONE ACT

(with many apologies to Samuel Beckett)
(starring Jules as ESTROGEN)
(and Alex as VOLDEMORT)

(A grungy hostel room; three sets of bunk beds)
(Morning)

(ESTROGEN lying in the bottom bunk, staring sadly at her ankle)

(Rustling from above. VOLDEMORT pokes his head over the edge of
the top bunk)

VOLDEMORT:
(roaring) I am he who must not be named! All must bow down to
the Dark Lord!

ESTROGEN:
About time you woke up. My stomach’s Rowling. And you’ve
gone completely Potter. Since when are you so awake in
the morning?

VOLDEMORT:
(croaking morning voice) Good point. (blinks sleepily and
rubs eyes). How was your night?

ESTROGEN:
Alas, no better than the first. Or the second. Something
really needs to be done about those snoring Euros.

VOLDEMORT:
(frightened) What did we do?

ESTROGEN:
(confused) We?

VOLDMORT:
(suddenly with a French accent) Vee are zee Euros, no?
Monsieur Beckett, he placed us in zee country of
Francais. Your mozzer vas a snowblower, and your fazzer,
he stank of elderberries!

ESTROGEN:
Perhaps so, but we sprung fom the forehead of a demented
chino-americano, from New Jersey no less. I fear he has
spent too many days in the mind-numbing tourist trap
that is Calafate. Gone a bit soft in the head, he has.

VOLDEMORT:
Pah! (spits off the top bunk. ESTROGEN ducks for cover.)
Let’s get out of here then.

ESTROGEN:
Great idea. We’ve been waiting to go go for too long now.

(neither moves. ESTROGEN looks down at her ankle again)
(VOLDEMORT glances down and sighs)

VOLDEMORT:
Perhaps a side trip to the Perito Moreno Glacier then?

ESTROGEN:
(vigorously tries to wag tail, realizes she has none,
settles for scratching behind the ears instead) Rat would
re reat, Reorge! Re need to ret out rof ris rostel!

(Rosie the robot maid enters the room, spews a stream of
unintelligible spanish. Smoke pours out of her ears and much
beeping (in spanish) is heard. exuent Rosie, chased by a bear.)

(VOLDEMORT looks at ESTROGEN. ESTROGEN looks back. Neither moves)

ESTROGEN:
(sighs) Let’s go. We’ve been waiting to go go.

VOLDEMORT:
(sighs) We can’t. We’re waiting to go go.

ESTROGEN:
So true. What day is it today anyway?

VOLDEMORT:
February 2nd. Why do you ask?

ESTROGEN:
No reason. It just feels like the same day repeating over
and over.

(both collapse back into bed)

VOLDEMORT:
(talking to the ceiling) I can’t wait to go go.

ESTROGEN:
Let’s go go.

(neither moves)
(fade to black)

fin.

aventura!

2005-02-09

From guest blogger Jules:


hola todos,

over the past 5 days, we clambered across nearly 50 km of tierra salvaje y
silvestre, drank el agua fresca straight out of the streams, powered down
some steamin' pots o hot dinner mush, and laid eyes on some of the more
stunning rock piles en todo el mundo. mi tobillo no es fuerte, pero es mas
mejor ahora. still a bit swollen and unsteady, but with a constant stream of
ibuprofena, an ace bandage, and dr. chiang’s mad crazy taping skills, she’s
good enough to trek on (barring any further mishaps). we had quite good
fortune with weather, and all in all our first trek was legendary…

at long last, we set off–a gimpy gringuita and an overladen
chino–remarkably without incident or accident, on a bus bound for el parque
nacional los glaciares. well, not so much a bus but a sauna-on-wheels. our
voyage of 4 hours over argentina’s finest gravel and cobble brought us to el
chalten, a teeny mountaineering outpost (i.e. crested butte cerca 1970)
nestled at the edge of a deeply gouged glacial valley below the lofty spires
of cerro fitz roy. we hopped off the bus and onto the trail, spending our
first night in a grove of lenga (beech trees) on the banks of a rushing
glacial river. the next morning, the veil of clouds was lifting off of cerro
torre, and we got a few good looks at the crazy spire of intricately
patterned granite–far f**kin out! we boogied (well, sort of half-boogie,
half-hobble) on down the trail, below montanas and past dos lagos grandes,
to arrive at our next camp, below mighty fitz roy and its many satellite
peaks. the following day, we climbed around in the cirques below fitz roy,
gawking at blue blue glaciers, and enjoyed a lazy wander up a milky green
glacial rio. finally, we trekked to the far side of fitz roy, via another
spectacular glacial valley, and then back out to chalten, where we caught
the bus back to calafate. today we’re hanging out doing laundry and
re-supplying for our next adventure into torres del paine en chile.

some notes on the s. american trekking experience (granted my sample size es
solamente uno): hay muchas muchas backpackers, mostly from europe, and the
camping is communal-style. tents upon tents upon tents, within centimeters
of each other. anywhere from 50-100 personas, pero un latreno. mighty
pleasant. some of the trails are desperately in need of work, but it was
good to hear the park “rangers” preaching the leave no trace ethic… we
were surprised to hear the rangers advising us to drink unfiltered
streamwater, but then again we were at the headwaters themselves, and
handily, there’s no giardia in these parts (like new zealand). of course,
the scenario is a bit tenuous, what with the amount of human
traffic–requires the complete cooperation of visitors not to bathe, do
dishes, or shit in the waterways. most people seem to be respectful of the
commons, but all it takes is “that one guy” to get everybody downstream
sick… anyhow, here’s hoping people are still drinking out of the rivers
here many years from now.

even after spending several days in a tent together, alex and i are getting
along alright so far (he’s been a hell of a trooper dealing with my bunk
ankle). but we now refer to him as “daisy.” i guess i tend to forego luxury
items such as deoderant on longer backpacking trips, but at one point, the
subject of b.o. was raised, and he remarked, “yeah, borrow my deoderant, you
REEK! but not me, i smell fresh as a daisy!” what!? true, i’ve smelled
worse, but *everybody* has an odor after that much physical exertion, and an
entire fleet of fruity-scented products can’t take that away. sorry, daisy,
you can’t get away with comments about how yer shit don’t stink (though i
confess, i did enjoy exfoliating once or twice with his biore facial wipes).

well, there’s much more i could go on about, but its quite late and we have
an early bus tomorrow, and frankly i’ve gone on long enough. hope you all
are well, gracias para su communicacion, i love hearing from everyone how
its going. i promise i’ll get back to each of you before too long (next rest
day). i miss you, i love you, take care until next time…

abrazos y besos, jules

Budget Koan’s Diary

2005-02-10

Budget Koan’s Diary

Friday 4 February

Arrived at Campomento De Agostini today, where we pitched our
tent within arm’s reach of some nearby Chilenos. Jules' ankle
seemed to hold up just fine underneath several layers of zinc
oxide and neoprene ankle brace.

We wandered up towards Laguna Torre to try and catch a glimpse of
Cerro Torre, but it was for naught, as the spire was enshrouded
in a dingy tattered shawl of grey cloud cover.

The following morning was slightly better, as we got to see most
of the mountain, although maddeningly, seeming never all at once.
Like the cover of an imported Swedish smut video with black dots
placed in all the strategic places, clouds seemed to dance around
the summit of the Torre in various positions and conniptions for
the hour or so we were there. I haven’t felt this frustrated
since making out with my high school girlfriend.

Saturday 5 February

Arrived at Campomento Poincenot today, again camping within
spitting distance of other eager turistas. The camping situation
is a mixed bag — drinking directly from the rivers is a great
gobs of fun, but being piled atop your neighbor is a tad much.
Still, I’d take it over a sharp stick to the eye any day.

No.

Sunday 6 February

[this space intentionally left blank]

Monday 7 February

The private Los Troncos refugio costs $14 pesos per person per
night (vs free for the national park) but makes up for it with
the charming feature of allowing you to pitch your tent in a lawn
covered in dried horse shit.

Tuesday 8 February

Woke up early this morning in order to hike out and catch a
view of the back side of Monte Fitz Roy. The three Israelis
camped 7 feet away decided to wake up early as well presumably to
hike out to Cerro Electrico. Apparently, they woke up the nice
Brits who were camped 3 feet away, so one of them poked his head
out of his tent and politely asked them to keep it down as they
were trying to sleep. The Israelis apologized and then continued
to talk at the exact same volume. A few seconds later, we heard
the Brit scream out from inside his tent, “IGNORANT C**TS!”
We later decided that you just haven’t heard that epithet used
correctly until you’ve heard a Brit scream it in a furious rage.

Hiking back to El Chalten via Ruta Provincial 23 was a dismal
prospect, especially after having to ford the Rio Blanco and
ending up with wet footwear. Luckily, after a few kilometres, we
were picked up by a friendly French family on holiday. Irony of
ironies, for once, I think that Frenchmen were offended by the
smell of Americans.

This email was brought to you by the letter Q and the country of
Chile (where we are currently located (Puerto Natales, that is),
before our next 5 day trek to see los Torres del Paine).

/Alex

I know you’re out there, I can hear you breathing

2005-02-16

Oye todos!

Short mail for now (more to come later), but the precis (that
would be French for “summary”, proving that I did pay attention
in high school) is that we just returned from trekking around in
los Torres del Paine.

In a word: more frickin' awesome than sharks with frickin' laser
beams on their heads (or dogs that when they bark, bees shoot out
of their mouths for that matter).

(ok, more than a word, but I exaggerate a lot; you should be used
to this by now)

But that’s neither here nor there. The plan now is to head down
to Tierra del Fuego, which is that pointy bit on the southern end
of South America. And thus, we have a nice segue into the main
point of this short notice which is this:

If you want a post card from the end of the world, reply back
with your snail mail address. (If you’re lucky, you might even
get a personalized response rather than the generic “You wish you
were here, don’t you” that I plan on copying multiple times (ok,
just kidding, but you get the point)).

suerte,

/Alex

ps, in case you were wondering, yes, this is also part of my
secret plan to trick you into replying back to some of my emails.
Write back people! Email works in both directions, ya know? :)

la vida buena

2005-02-17

From guest blogger Jules:


(advance apologies for the length of this email, but i don’t skimp on the
details, people)

?hola chicos!

bienvenidos a the continuing saga de “la aventura excelente de jules y
alex.” strap yourselves down and get ready to partake in the journey,
wherein we venture further south, get a new stamp en our ole pasaportes,
spend well over 100,000 pesos apiece in the space of just a few days, feed
our budding addiction to the nectar de durazno (peach juice, mmmmm),
befriend heaps of crazy travellers and trekkers, indulge in some wicked
potent alcoholic concoctions and later pay the price, gaze upon the most
awe-inspiring vistas en todo el mundo, and i meet the tiniest dog of my
life… ?listos? ?vamanos!

despues de fitzroy, we rambled southward from calafate, argentina to puerto
natales, chile, by bus. we commenced to exploring los calles de puerto
natales, along with the herds of stray dogs running in packs–perros de
muchos tipos y talles, some big, some small, some really really small. once
in chile, we had the great amusement to withdraw currency of mind-blowing
denominations from the local atm, as the exchange rate and standard price of
things here is different than that in argentina. we get 550 chilean pesos
for $1 (versus about 3 argentine pesos per dollar), which sounds like a lot,
but then a piece of fruit may cost 200 pesos, our hostel stay cost 5000
pesos por noche, and a pair of stylin' puma shoes (?que rico!) will set you
back 30000 or 40000 pesos… regardless, we were feeling mighty rich walking
around with 10000-peso bills in our pockets! as we journeyed about town,
many of the shops had stereos out in the street, pumping out the beats, and
it was great to hear so much music… la musica es como miel in mis orejas.
el sabor diferente (the different flavor) de chile was a truly refreshing
change from our base camp in calafate…

after sometime, we stumbled upon a quirky-but-comfy little hostel run by 2
mellow, down-to-earth, friendly characters, and caught some z’s on their
sunken-in mattresses. the next morning we rose early and hopped a bus to el
parque nacional torres del paine, glimpsing guanacos (a cousin of the llama)
y flamingos hanging out around the lakes. immediately, the rich matrix of
the landscape captured mi corazon, from the imposing black-on-white rock
faces, to the blue glacial ice spilling out of the high basins, to the
prickly green and yellow pincushions of the shrubs carpeting the hillsides,
to the intense turquoise lakes… ?que magnifico!

after a boat ride deposited us on the far shores of lago pehoe beneath the
impressive cuernos del paine mountain range, we strapped on our mochilas
(backpacks) grandes and hit the trail, which took us along the rim of a
gargantuan glacial valley above a monster lago verde, all the way to the
terminus of massive glaciar grey. we camped there beneath the glacier on the
black sandy beach, in close proximity to gobs of other trekkers (as in
fitzroy), all speaking in native tongues, spread out upon the beach like a
smorgasboard of flavors in an international buffet… a wienerschnitzel
here, a spring roll there, haggus next door to us, and a huge gang of
british youths, talking all tea-and-crumpets at the top of their lungs. in
many ways, a pretty cool scene, but then again it takes awhile for everyone
to pipe down at the end of the night, so sleeping can be a challenge…

the following day, despite being throttled by the elements (el sol y el
viento fuertisimo) we missioned it a good 20 km or so, to another camp at
the base of the spectacular valle de frances, which we lazily explored on
day three. we hiked up through beech forest, past small glaciers and a
roaring rio, into an unbelievable cirque, and kicked back to revel in the
360 degree panorama of majestic mountains, impressive towers, horns, and
aretes–this ridiculous skyline, totally vast and wonderful, surrounding us.
the vista was enough to break your mind, almost too large to take in. later,
as we chilled in camp, we met a fine group of 3 chilenos and 2 chicas de
norteamericano, and shared some comida and a box of red wine. day four was
another trek-til-you-drop kind of day, as we made our way from the plateau
below the cuernos, weaving over alluvial fans and up and down deep creek
channels, into the next valley, where we endured a *grueling* climb above
the powerful rio ascensio gorge to bring us within reach of the legendary
torres del paine. we camped below them on a small forested ledge and prayed
for good weather in the morning, when we hoped for a chance to gawk at the
torres, our grand finale for day five…

of course, when your alarm goes off at 5:30 am, you think, oh how i just
want to be lazy, its dark and cold out there, its soft and warm and sleepy
en mi bolsa de dormir… but then you reach deep down in your guts and pull
out something, sheer will, and pry yourself up and start walking (well,
stumbling), into the wind, your headlamp guiding the way up a faint trail in
a sea of massive talus boulders. and then, after climbing and climbing, you
are there, and the sunrise is just beginning, casting a surreal red glow on
some of the most brilliant towers of rock on the planet, and right there
before your eyes las piedras increibles son en fuego, and its almost too
beautiful to comprehend. pure unequivocal awe, amazement, thankfulness, a
moment when all your sweat and pain and arduous footwork is more than worth
it…

the torres at sunrise were quite a special sight, and afterwards, we boogied
down, down, down, mas abajo towards the exit point at the valley bottom,
where we reconvened with 2 chicas de nebraska we met along the trail. we
planned to celebrate the completion of our treks in style back in puerto
natales, after some long-awaited, much-needed duchas (showers) at our
respective hostels. by chance, we also met up with our other friends back in
town, and invited them along as well, to an intriguing local watering hole,
“el bar de ruperto.” our group was muy divertido, conversations in several
languages, and a bilingual rendition of “cumplea?os feliz” para jose (un
amigo chileno). after enjoying mucho vino, “chanchos,” and some local beers,
our curiosity was piqued by some of the bebidas misteriosas (mystery shots)
on the menu… especialmente “las cucarachas,” que tienen tequila, brandy, y
ron, y estan en fuego (we didn’t realize how many potent alcohols were
involved until it was too late). of course we were quite enamored with the
fact that these drinks were on fire, and joyfully tossed a few rounds
back… next thing i knew, the bar was spinning, or was i? this is when the
events become fuzzy… en el ba?o, i put my face in the toilet and let ‘er
rip, how you say, “?? toss the cookies?!” ?vomitar! yo vomite tres vezes…
and was escorted safely back by mis amigos nuevos to the hostel to pass out
for good (by the way, i wasn’t the only one to lose it after the
cucarachas… apparently after i departed, one of the chilenos hurled big,
four times, right there in the bar). just for the record, a hangover feels
just as good south of the equator as it does at home. but it sure was a fun
time, eh! ?viva la fiesta!, en todos los dias.

and now, with clean laundry, a fresh outlook, and a fine new buddy (pierre,
de frances) we are en route by bus to ushuaia, argentina, tierra del
fuego–el fin del mundo. tonight, we stay in punta arenas, chile, and
tomorrow, a long bus trip (12+ horas), across a great canal by ferry, and
we’ll be at the very bottom of the continent, hopefully to do some trekking,
eat some king crab, see some penguins, and revel in endless daylight hours
(already, we have been getting a good 15 hours or so of sol every day, not
too shabby). so, i’ll be sending home to all of you, my dear friends, some
good vibes from as far south as one can get (unless you can make the spendy
voyage to antarctica… brrrrrr). i hope you are all quite well and doing
fun things wherever you might be, and i think of each of you along my way.
thanks for your emails, it warms mi corazon to feel your love from clear
across the globe. salud y buena suerte, todos!

mucho amor,
jules

priceless

2005-02-17

blood red blooms blushing
chilean fire bush flares
fireworks on stems

gusty blustery
patagonian winds rage
still 10 K from camp

batholith towers
light and clouds swirl all about
nature’s lava lamp

shy picturesque beasts
where are all the guanacos
postcard it is, then

enough indulgence
haikus are cute but get old
“priceless” ads work too

Backpack rain cover: $20
Gore-Tex rain shell and pants: $350
Not using either during entire Patagonia trip: priceless

el cheapo Timex watch (with alarm): $12
Petzl Tikka headlamp: $25
Predawn hike to gawk at gloriously glowing Torres del Paine
at sunup: priceless

Iodine tablets: $2
Pur brand water filter: $60
Ignoring them and drinking directly from sparkling pristine
glacial-fed streams: priceless

Blistex “herbal” chapstick: $1.50
Nivea moisturizing lotion: $6
Needing both after a lazy afternoon nap in an alpine cirque under a
blazing Patagonian sun: priceless

One liter of Chilean shampoo: $1000 Chilean pesos
One pair of Ronaldi361o-brand flip-flops: $6000 Chilean pesos
Having to replace “comfort” items left behind in another city because
while on vacation, your schedule is subject to your whimsy and
you feel like ignoring your itinerary: priceless

Bag of quick camping rice: $6 Argentine pesos
A few leftover balls of Argentine angel hair pasta: questionable value
Combining them with a few scraggly vegetables and splitting a huge
pot of camping starch-mush with one of your better friends in the world
after a long 24K hike, ignoring all the accoutrements and annoyances
of Valentine’s day back in the states: priceless (the guys out there
reading this know what I’m talking about)

1.5 Liters of Chilean Cabernet-Sauvignon: $1500 Chilean pesos
Kicking in your share of the meat cost: $2500 Chilean pesos
Learning how to grill lamb, chicken, and beef, Patagonian style from
an Argentine with gaucho roots: priceless

Somewhat upscale Chilean dinner: $20,000 Chilean pesos
Shots of cucarachas: $1800 Chilean pesos (each)
Puking it all back up after too many of said cucarachas
(and many other drinks) shared with new Chilean and American
friends: priceless
Finding out the next day that Jules puked three times: priceless x 3

One hour of internet use: $700 Chilean pesos
Typical postcard: $300 Chilean pesos
Having to buy 25 postcards and promising to mail them from
Tierra del Fuego because you bribed your friends to email you: priceless

In some emails, there is narrative. For everything else, there is
ripped off content from the advertising campaign of a huge
multi-national that has permeated our brains and is good for a cheap
laugh or two without much effort on my part.

cheers,

/Alex

1: a picture of some Chilean fire bush:

2: Argentinan pasta comes in these strange balls of dried pasta that unravel
as you cook them

3: Thanks for your emails! I will respond to all of them (eventually).

4: Our 12 hour bus ride to Tierra del Fuego begins tomorrow.

‘!sgniteerg’

2005-02-22

ps, using a bit of imagination (and perhaps a few bottles of
wine) this mail will make sense. (hint: I’m upside down)

/Alex

For now, chao from the land of fire.

Like all good things, though, it must come to an end. Tomorrow, I
begin a multi-day sprint back to Buenos Aires so that I can catch
my return flight back State-side, so if you don’t hear from me in
the next few days, it’s because I’ll be spending hours upon hours
on various buses and border crossings.

By all measures, I’m having the time of my life.

We spent the past few days trekking in the Fuegian wilderness
with our new Gallic friend Pierre, dealing with, among other
things, an over-friendly stray dog, three people in a two person
tent, missing camp sites, fickle weather, absolute solitude,
extravagant meals prepared in the hostel, chocolate beyond
belief, mad rush of souvenier buying, dropping $50 on postcards,
and the like.

The past few days have been idyllic and amazing. The scenery here
is ridiculous, what with the mountains coming right down to the
sea, and the weather changing more often than Britney’s marital
status.

This mail is going to be rather abbreviated because my time here
is short, but regardless, I wanted to write and say hello from
Tierra del Fuego, or as the local nomenclature would have it, el
fin del mundo. For the non-castellano speakers out there, that
would be the end of the world.

Hola todos!

el fin del mundo

2005-02-24

Guest blogger Jules:

buenos dias, amigos!

get out yer globes and turn em upside down. yo tengo una cuenta de la semana
pasada… and it goes a lil somethin like this:

first, the bus from puerto natales to ushuaia: 15 horas, solo pampa. well,
we did take a ferry across the strait of magellan, landing us on la isla
tierra del fuego, but other than that, nothing much to see but the vast
grasslands, splattered with an occassional guanaco or nandu (a flightless
bird, much like the ostrich you all know and love). good times for sleeping,
if you can manage to drown out the noisy chatter of mobs of israelis and the
high decibel pre-programmed bus soundtrack of wailing chilenos and
panpipes…

but then we arrived in ushuaia, argentina, “el ciudad mas austral del
mundo.” the southernmost city in the world. yeah, that pointy part at the
bottom of the continent, just above that white blob that says “antarctica.”
if that’s not damn cool, i don’t know what is. i’ve come clear from 40
degrees north latitude to below 54 degrees south…. and that’s just
geography. more impressive is the topography, the rugged highly

metamorphosed fuegian andes, with their ancient beech forests dripping in
moss, brushing up against the freakin atlantic ocean. que bonito, que
lindo, ushuaia! and the city is hot stuff, super clean and modern, all kinds
of flavor, glacier-spilling peaks arriba, a harbor full of quaint little
boats abajo. and the weather changes every five minutes, hace calor y
despues hace frio, con sol, viento, lluvia, nieve, todo en una dia…
actually, in many ways, quite comparable to alaska. but clear down here.

we travelled with a frenchie pal, pierre, who we met in puerto natales, and
after wandering around for awhile playing turistas, the three of us
commenced to a marathon 2-day trek in the vast range cerca del ciudad.
totally different than what we had experienced in the last two treks, remote
and wild–the lack of a developed trail and “famous” attractions reduced the
crowds to almost nil. que bueno. sure, we got lost plenty of times,
bushwhacking through bogs and mud and patagonian jungle, but we also got
some excellent vistas all to ourselves… a lofty cirque all full of glacier
(that we got up close and personal with), a gorgeous lago, eye-popping
turquoise hue, nestled below pyramid peaks, a surreal stony pass to navigate
in torrential wind and rain… and what could be more fun than cramming 3
people in a 2 person tent (guess who got to be in the middle)? “good times”
would be a major understatement…

thanks to pierre’s culinary inspiration, when we weren’t trekking, we ended
up cooking at the hostel kitchens every night and eating like champions (por
ejemplo, local pescado fresco con arroz y verduras, and postres perfectos,
like bananas flambe con chocolate y helado). we also whooped it up with some
of the locals (our friends at the hostel el jardin) on our last night in
town, which made it fun for alex and i to wake up at 5 am and catch our bus
back north the following morning… and even more fun once we hit the
serpentine highway and our driver, speed racer, was taking corners at warp
speed (the “no-puke challenge,” and we had some close calls). several bus
hours and two days later, we have returned to puerto natales, and manana,
back to calafate, that legendary place where it all began…

and then, alex flies back to buenos aires and luego, los estados unidos on
the 28th. and what will become of jules? quien sabe? stay tuned…

abrazos y besos, jules

royale sin queso

2005-02-26

[JULES]
Okay, so tell me again about the hash bars.

[ALEX]
Okay, what do you want to know?

[JULES]
Well, hash is legal over there, right?

[ALEX]
Yeah, it’s legal, but it ain’t a hundred percent legal. Also,
you’re thinking of a different country, and we ain’t there. We’re
here, although I must admit that it was a clever way to let
our readers know that I’m about to rip off another piece of
American culture written by a far cleverer writer.

[JULES]
Word. Also, you’re nowhere near as good looking as Travolta.

[ALEX]
I dig, baby, I dig. But you know what the funniest thing about
South America is?

[JULES]
What?

[ALEX]
It’s the little differences. A lotta the same shit we got here,
they got there, but a little different.

[JULES]
Example?

[ALEX]
Alright, when you’re at a traffic light, the light changes to
yellow. And I don’t mean green-yellow-red either, although they
do that too. I’m talking about red-yellow-green.

[JULES]
Goddamn.

[ALEX]
And when you’re done taking a piss and you wanna wash your hands,
you got two knobs in front of you. One labeled “C” and one with
an “F”. Which one do you twist?

[JULES]
Well, I don’t know what the hell “F” is, so I’d use “C” for cold.

[ALEX]
You do that, you’ll burn the fuck outta your hand. See, “C” stands
for “calor” which is “hot” and “F” is for “frio” which is “cold”.

[JULES]
Shit.

[ALEX]
Dig it, baby. Those cats got all sorts of weird abbreviations.
You’ll be driving down the highway and you’ll see all sorts of
signs, like Est., Pdte., and Gdor.

[JULES]
And?

[ALEX]
Well, Est. is short for Estancia, which is a big ol' ranch. They
got tons of those down in Patagonia. And they seem to be in love
with their old leaders. Pdte. stands for Presidente and Gdor.
is for Gobernador.

[JULES]
Driving, eh? What kinda cars they got?

[ALEX]
Alright, well most of them run on diesel seeing as how it’s only
75% the price of gasoline. And so you’ll see all sorts of crazy
shit that you ain’t never, but never, gonna see in the States.
Like a Ford Escort — the epitome of el cheapo American cars — that
runs on diesel.

[JULES]
A diesel Escort. Who’da thought.

[ALEX]
Damn right. Not to mention all them Euro marques, like Renault,
Citroen, and Fiat.

[JULES]
What about all that mayonnaise I keep hearing about? They drown
their fuckin' fries in that shit, man?

[ALEX]
Yeah, but that ain’t all. Hot dogs too, which the Chilenos call
a “completo”. I seen ‘em do it. They also got this weird shit
called “salsa golf” which is a blend of ketchup, mayo, and something
else I can’t tell.

[JULES]
Uggh!

[ALEX]
Them cats is weird about their food. Their ketchup tastes like it’s
got about a pound of sugar added. And when you buy fruits and veggies
at the supermarket, there’s a separate register right by the produce
section where you bring the shit you got picked out, and some dude
puts prices on them for you, but you still pay up front at the
cash registers.

[JULES]
Weird.

[ALEX]
All the markets are full liquor stores too. They got beer, wine,
and liquor just sitting out on the shelves. And I ain’t talking
no Popov plastic bottle vodka shit neither. You can get a full on
bottle of Bombay Sapphire gin, though it’ll cost ya a peso or two,
if you can dig. And you know what they call a Diet Coke?

[JULES]
They don’t call it a Diet Coke?

[ALEX]
No, they got the metric system there. But more importantly, they
speak Spanish — they wouldn’t know what the fuck a “diet” is.

[JULES]
What’d they call it?

[ALEX]
They call it a Coke Light.

[JULES]
Coke Light. Doesn’t have quite the same ring as a Royale with Cheese,
but I guess it makes sense. What’d they call a regular Coke?

[ALEX]
A Coke’s a Coke, but they call it “un Coca-Cola”.

[JULES]
Un Coca-cola! Hahahaha… What do they call a Pepsi?

[ALEX]
I dunno man, I don’t drink that shit. Anyways, you ready?

[JULES]
Yeah, let’s git.

[ALEX]
Word, baby. Word.

re-entry

2005-03-01

Friends, family, other sundry folk —

This email is brought to you by the letters “U”, “S”, and “A”.
That’s right, I’m writing from Stateside right now, having
survived a rather hectic six straight days of travel.

I’d like to write a brilliantly funny and coherent email. Alas,
that’s a bit beyond my mental capacity right now. Plus, I
finished reading Don DeLilo’s “White Noise” during my trip, and
now my brain is polluted with postmodernism. (btw, for those of
you out there looking for a new book to read, I *highly*
recommend it. Hard to describe, but for our generation, think of
a more intellectual version of Seinfeld in book form.)

So, a collection of a few disjointed thoughts is what you get.

First, thanks to all those who replied to my mails (and even more
thanks to those who told me they actually enjoyed them… ;).
Your travelling friends look forward to news from home (and for
those with fragile egos like me, they need to be constantly
reassured that they are missed). You might not get an (immediate)
reply (such is the limited time of a backpacker), but trust me,
they are much appreciated. So keep this thought in mind next time
someone you know embarks on a major journey.

Being home is odd at the moment. Things never really change much,
especially in a short a time as a single month. As I left the
airport today, I was immediately stuck on a traffic jam for 1/2
an hour on I-70. The absurd surreality was delicious, and made
me wonder if I’d just been in a dream for the past month. Only
two days ago, I was in Tierra del Fuego.

From the department of too much information… I had the pleasure
of taking my morning constitutional today on my flight from
Buenos Aires to O’Hare. Of course, in America, we simply toss our
toilet paper into the toilet. This is not the case in Argentina
(indeed, most of South America), where almost all toilets have a
small wastebasket next to the toilet to hold the used TP.
Somehow, watching the poo/tp combination get sucked into oblivion
and knowing that even our airplane toilets are stronger than the
plumbing of an entire *country* made me feel strangely patriotic.
It was all I could do to stop myself from screaming “U-S-A!
U-S-A!”. Trust me, this would not have gone over well at 5 AM on
an international flight. And from the department of *way* TMI, I
was the master of my own domain for an entire month. Beat that.
Seinfeld fans know what I mean. Everyone else will just have to
wonder what the hell I’m talking about.

By this time, Jules should be done with her 36 hour bus ride to
Bariloche. After spending a month in constant contact with a
single person, I can certainly feel a void right now. Let’s all
wish her “buen viaje” and “mucha suerte” in her travels.

Jules — I’ll miss you, kiddo.

Speaking of which, let me put one last plug in for my blog. If
you got added to my email list late in the game, or were left
wanting for more details than I provided and wanted to get Jules’
side of the story (since she did play by play and I was the color
man), you can read the archive of all the mails the two of us
sent back to our respective collective friends:

I do update the blog on a semi-regular basis, and in the next few
weeks or so, I’ll probably have some more thoughts on the trip
that weren’t worthy enough for mass email.

I’ve been blasting Radiohead throughout my house for the last
hour or so, and am realizing that I’m nattering on. So with that,
I’ll draw to a close. Thanks again for reading along. I hope you
had as much fun reading as I did writing.

This machine will
will not communicate these thoughts
And the strain I am under
Be a world child form a circle before we all go under
And fade out again and fade out again

– from Street Spirit, by Radiohead

signing off,

/Alex