Current Date: Tuesday, April 20 2004 7:30 p.m. (Buenos Aries)

Current Itinerary: GOOD NEWS!!! Looks like I'll stay put here for awhile. I have found an apartment with 2 other Argentinian guys in the northern part of the city in an area called Belgrano. Now all I need to do is get a JOB and I'll be all set!

Note #1: In the intrest of getting up to the moment, I'm skipping to journals and won't send them. Don't worry, I've placed them on the website for anyone who wants to read them. Click here for the Florianapolis journal and here for the one I wrote the day I decided to leave SP. By the way, I know there is a journal up there that was never posted or sent...that isn't an accident.

Note #2: Pictures have been posted from my final week in SP (www.thecooperchronicles.com). I have MANY others from Argentina that will be going up soon. I know a lot of you are waiting for those...they are coming.

Tuesday, March 9, 2004

For the final time, I closed and locked the door to apartment 903 on Ave. Sabia at 5:10p.m. Time to go...officially on the move again. My roomate Bert/S. Africa, his visiting friend Francois/S. Africa and myself were all headed to Foz do Iguazu. From there the plan was to see the falls (which I saw 2 years ago) and then I would cross through the (well-known) porous border into Argentina while Bert and Francois would return to SP.

Anyway, had I thought about it ahead of time I might have thought twice about leaving at the peak of rush hour since we would be forced to rely on public transportation to get to the bus station. When we got to the Santa Cruz metro station, there was some sort of problem at the station before ours and we ended up waiting 25 minutes for the train to finally show up...during which time the platform became absolutely jam packed with people. We had to wait until the 4th or 5th train before there was enough room for us to get on with all our bags. This was really only a problem because we knew a bus was going to leave at 6 something but we were not sure of the exact time. It was almost 6:40 by the time we got to Tiete and wouldn't you know it, the bus had left at 6:30. We had to wait 2 hours for the next bus to come. It ended up being a blessing though because a friend of mine was working very close to there and was able to come and see me off...my last SP goodbye but a good surprise.

I have to admit that the thought of leaving SP was actually more difficult than the actual act. I mean, I thought I would be pretty upset on that bus...but I didn't really have any feeling either way. I'm not saying I'm not going to miss all my friends that I met there...I'm just saying that it was more difficult the previous weeks...I guess I had finally gotten use to the idea that I was leaving.

It's 18 hours from SP to Iguazu...I pretty hefty bus ride but it went pretty smooth. I was fortunate enough not to have anyone next to me so that certainly helped. The ride wasn't as comfortable for Bert and Francois.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

We arrived in Iguazu at noon and it was a hot, scorching day. Bert had been here 6 weeks prior to deal with some issues with his legal status in Brazil. That was good because he knew exactly what he was doing and where he was going. When I had been in Iguazu two years ago, I came from a different direction. There is a little office inside the bus station for the hostel we wanted to stay in. Bert knew that if you are more than one person and are going to stay more than 1 night, the hostel pays half your taxi fare so we went for that option. When we got to the office, there was a sign saying the person working the desk would return soon. As we waited in line, several other folks also began to wait with us. One of the guys was saying that a taxi was a little too pricey and that he prefered taking the bus...I often go this option as well as there usually isn't any kind of hurry. However, I did know that the hostel was a good distance away and that it would take two buses to get there...so basically for an extra real or two, we get a fast ride, right to the door...and don't have to deal with the sweltering heat. That's an easy one...we got in the first cab. Thirty minutes after getting off the bus from SP, we were chillin' by the pool sippin' cold beers. This travelling life is tough.

It was good to be back at the Paudimar hostel, which I have mentioned in the past is legendary amoung the traveling circuit in South America. As far as amenities go, I'm not sure if I have seen a better one.

Just after arriving in the hostel, things took a turn for the bad and for the good. On the bad side, I realized that I left a small bag in the taxi that contained my small computer speakers that I would use to plug into my CD player...dammit. On the good side, the guy who drives the bus for the hostel (to the Argentinian side of the fals) happened to pass by so I was able to tallk to him about my "border problems". As you may remember, I have been illegal here in Brazil for the past 7 months and so I really wanted to cross the border without getting an exit stamp...avoiding a 250 dollar fine for my extended stay. The trick was that I needed an Argentina entry stamp so that I would be able to get out of Argentina when I needed to and continue traveling. After explaining to the bus driver my little problem, he told me he could take care of all my needs and it would be no problem. Rock on. I was pretty worried about that so it was good to know he was going to give me the hook up.

Another funny moment was that after we had been in the hostel for just over an hour, the guy from the bus station (who didn't want to take a taxi) came stumbling in covered in sweat. Made me smile as I took the next sip of my cool beer and then dove in the pool:)

So Bert and Francois would only have one full day in Iguazu, which would be the following day (Thursday)...that meant they would have to do the Argentinian side of the falls that day (that side takes all day) and do the Brazilian side either Wed. or Friday before getting a bus back to SP. Bert had brought his golf clubs with him because he is an avid golfer and it is too expensive in SP. We decided we would go do some golfing that day. I'm not that great at golf and I have only done it a few times, but I was up for it.

The course is pretty close to the hostel, so a 5 real cab ride later we were there. It was a pretty nice course. We only played nine holes...with Francois and I playing best ball as a team against Bert. In the end we ended up tying but we had a fantastic day out on the course goofing around and drinking a few beers.

Back at the hostel, we had a pretty strange encounter. Francios ran into another South African guy (from now on deemed saffies) that he went to the school with. He was traveling with a two other saffies so suddenly I was pretty outnumbered. They were pretty cool guys and as any such occasion would warrant, they all started to get pretty wasted. After looking around I began to realize that I was officially back in the hostel atomosphere...tons of gringos around, everyone telling stories of their travels and things of the sort. It was good to be back.

I stepped away for a little while to take a shower. Back in the room I met another guy, Cesar, who was staying in the same room as us (8 people to a room) who was from Madrid. We talked for a quite awhile...it was good for me. It is going to take the next few weeks to get my spanish back up to speed. I have no problem understanding or speaking really...it's just that I mix a lot of Porteguese in now out of habit. It has changed my accent a bit which pisses me off but I think after a couple weeks I'll be back where I was. The two languages are quite similar but are separated considerably by accent, word choice and word order.

So Cesar and I were hanging out in the room talking and another guy from Spain walked buy, Viktor, and heard us talking in Spanish and joined in. He was pretty cool too and had been traveling in Brazil for a couple months. He had a similar story to me in that he only planned to spend a couple weeks there and ended up staying. I could tell the Brazilian culture had had a similar effect on him because he said a lot of the same things I was saying about Brazil almost a year ago.

Anyway, Cesar had been on the road for about a month and was coming from Buenos Aires. He had nothing good things to say about it so that got me excited. We went back out by the pool together and met up with the others who were all getting pretty wasted by then. I ended up meeting another guy, Martin/Barcelona, and a couple people from England. I seemed everyone was pretty shocked when I would say I had been on the road for 13 months. It is kind of funny because I remember a few years ago, when I went on my first backpacking trip to Spain and I was hanging out in the hostels...I would ask people how long they are traveling for and they would be like 4 months or 6 months or whatever. I would be so jealous and even ashamed to say "3 weeks". Now though, I was on the opposite extreme. Everyone had all these questions for me and it was like I was some sort of travel guru...even though I haven't really seen that much if you put it in perspective. I mean, it's really only one country. Anyway, I enjoyed telling my tales of being in Brazil and living in Sao Paulo. As we all know, I happen to love telling stories, and I had an endless supply for everyone.

Bert and the Saffies were going to do the Argentinian side of the falls the next day but I couldn't because due to my Visa problems...once I entered Argentina I wouldn't be able to come back to Brazil. So I organized with Viktor, Martin, and Cesar to do the Brazillian side together the next day.

They all headed off to bed pretty early so ended up talking to this girl, Eva, from Poland. She was great and pretty cute. She happened to have a smile very similar to a good friend of mine, Katie McClintic, from way back in Junior high...but who is still a current friend. Anyway, I ended up talking to her about Katie for a pretty long time and told her who she actually ended up being integral to my meeting Doug McLean (a story for another time). Eva was at the end of here trip and was telling me that whe was heading back to SP to catch a flight home...she had to WORK on Monday. Ouch!!

We talked for a couple hours...again I must say it was pretty nice to be back in the hostel world, hearing the stories of others and just being back amoungst travelers. My first night out of SP was pretty cool to say the least. Hit the sack around 3.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

The bus to Argentina leaves the hostel at 8:30, so when Bert and Francios were leaving, I stirred a little bit. I went back to sleep though and got up at 9:45, just in time to grab a bit of the free hostel breakfast with Cesar/Madrid. It was raining a little so we were debating doing the falls or not. It wasn't THAT critical to me since I had seen the falls before but I did want to see them again. I'm really only here because of the convenient border crossing.

We waited about an hour and the rain subsided so we were on our way. It was Cesar/Madrid, Viktor/Spain, Martin/Barcelona, myself, and we picked up another guy, Sandro/Italy. We walked the just over one mile path back to the main road to catch the bus to the falls. On the way, I talked a little about my travels but it was Sandro who had the big story. I had noticed him the night before with all these bandages on his nose at the hostel. It turns out that his bus that he took overnight from Floripa to Iguazu two nights before had crashed into another bus in the middle of the night. He ended up with a broken nose but there were many others that were in worse shape...he was lucky. This being Brazil however, all you get is a "sorry about that" and they send you on your way. He even had to pay his own hospital bill. I was telling him that it was too bad it didn't happen in the US...I can just see the lawyers salivating to get their hands on that one. He would have been a millionaire. They would have sued both bus companies, both drivers, the company that made the brakes on the bus, and the people who made the highway. Seriously though, it's scary to think about...I mean, of course bus is the primary means of travel in Brazil and their will be accidents, but it reminds me I've been lucky enough that I haven't been on a bus that has even broken down (a fairly common occurence), let alone one that crashed.

When we got the falls, all the others decided to do a boat ride...it was pretty pricey and I had been there before so I decided against it. They went to get a car to the boat stop and we said we would meet up in a few hours. I was on my own...I got on the bus that takes you into the park and drops you off at the walking path. On the bus, I met this guy Kris from England. He was super cool...he had been traveling in Bolivia, Peru, and Argentina and was heading back north. We hit it off instantly and decided to do the walk together for the falls. It turned out that he was going north to catch a boat up the Amazon from the Peru side and would eventually end up in northern Brazil and travel down the coast. Of course, I had loads of suggestions for him and told him alot about some important places to stop on the northeastern Brazilian coast. He also had some suggestions for me for my time in Peru.

We enjoyed seeing the falls together. I can honestly say that I had forgotten how incredible they are...absolutely blows you away they are so immense and beautiful. The power of the whole thing overwhelms you when you are there hearing the thunder of the water and feeling the mist hit you in the face. Anyone who comes anywhere near this area has got to make it a stop on their list.

Kris and I spent about an hour and a half hiking the short trail and taking a bunch of pictures. Afterward we had a little lunch (got attacked by a swarm of bees...arrrrrgh) and finally went our separate ways. He was a good guy to spend the afternoon with and I hope our paths will cross again in the future sometime.

There happened to be an internet place next to the restaurant in the park but it was predictably expensive. I literally spent 3 minutes there and it cost me 1 real...in comparison it is 2 reals for an HOUR in SP. Anyway, I sort of flirted with the girl at the counter with ended up working to my advantage because later when the I met up with the Spanish guys and they went to the same place, she told them there was a 5 real minimum. I never told them what I had paid.

I walked back to meet the others at the beginning of the path and we walked it again. They said they had enjoyed the boat ride quite a bit, which they had paid 100 reals for. I duly informed them that Kris had told me the boat ride (the SAME boat ride plus more) on the Argentinian side costs only 30 reals. (Note: I confirmed this for a fact later...anyone going there should note this). Live and learn.

They sat and ate lunch and were attacked by the same damn bees...dang it. After lunch we went to the internet place again for them...Cesar wanted to e-mail his friends and family. When I asked what the urgency was, I was informed of the terrorist attacks on the subway in Madrid. Since I had been in the park all day I had not heard anything...someone had met those guys on the boat, found out they were Spanish and told them about what had happened. I must admit that it made me pause and think for quite awhile. There I was, going along happily with my day at this beautiful national park and around the world folks were glued to their sets, seeing images of the carnage in Madrid. It made me feel a little ashamed to tell you the truth and was a good reminder of our humanity. I was fortunate enough to be as close to the event as anyone that was 4000 miles away could be since I happened to be with three people from Spain at the time and one from Madrid. Obviously, the effect of the events were much stonger on them and they were noticably upset. One thing I didn't like...and I'm sure the world view will be the same in some circles...Martin was saying that the only reason that there could be terrorist attacks on spain would be because they supported the war in Iraq...hinting that it was somehow our fault. That typical world view to throw blame at the US. Whatever happened to terrorists being just plain crazy? Maybe THAT'S the reason they did it or do anything they do. I guess I'm saying that it still bugs me a bit that some people sort of feel like the US "deserved" Sept. 11 and that it was somehow justifiable since we are some sort of a "Goliath". I remember a guy from Chile telling me that a couple years ago...pissed me off then and it still does. Nobody deserves any of this crap and that is all there is to it. One thing I could never seem to get a grasp on and probably never will is senseless violence. Makes my blood boil. I guess I end up at the same spot that many people end up at...Why? My heart goes out to all those folks in Madrid and to all the friends and families of those who were lost. Another true world tragedy. Maybe I'll go back and live in the nice peaceful Amazon:)

Back at the hostel I got my first chance to see a TV for the day, so I spent awhile watching CNN with the others and we got our first images of the bombings that most people around the world had been watching all day. That was when it hit me that the borders might tighten down around the world for the next few days...and here I was in a delicate situation for crossing a border the next day. Hopefully all will work out okay.

I took a little nap as it had been a long day and had done a ton of walking. Also, I had spent most of the day with a pretty severe headache that I couldn't seem to shake and I wasn't feeling the greatest. When I woke up, Bert and the others had just returned from the Argentinian side of the falls...they were not sober. I wasn't feeling much better but I went out for dinner and had a couple beers to try to fight off the headache. At dinner I ended up with Eva/Poland from the night before, Cesar, a saffie girl, an Isreali girl, and this guy from Dallas. I guess I had forgotten what it was like to sit down at a table with a group of people from all different countries. It is a true pleasure that I don't ever want to stop appreciating. We had a great conversation and a couple of us ended up sitting at the table for about two and half hours.

Afterwards I headed to the bar by the pool and hung out for awhile. Bert and the other saffies had started up a pretty rowdy drinking game and were having a good time. My head was killing me though and I felt terrible so I couldn't join. I felt especially bad because it would be our last night together...but I was happy to see Bert enjoying himself. I went to lay down pretty early, around 11:30 and fell asleep. I woke up around 2:30 when Francois came stumbling into the room (not sober), took off his shirt, used it as a pillow and laid down in the middle of the floor and passed out. It was pretty funny. An hour later I stirred again when Martin came into the room and was trying to get Francois into bed, which he was eventually succesful with...I also stirred another time when Bert came in to get something:) After that I wasn't able to get back to sleep. Whenever I have a little stress or anxiety or something is on my mind, I can't seem to sleep. I couldn't help to think about it being my last few hours in Brazil...a country I had grown to love and be a part of. Also, I would say goodbye to Bert soon which I wasn't looking forward to. I was laying there thinking about Brazil so in a rare occurence I went back and read a few of my journals from last year...something I have been conciously trying to avoid until I get home...wow, even I have forgotten many of the things I did, but even more some of the feelings from back then and how I reacted to things. It made me seriously appreciate these journals and the work I have put into them. They really are a treasure.

At 6:30 I still hadn't fallen asleep again. It's a long story but I was still waiting for a taxi to deliver the speakers I mentioned I had left in the taxi the first day. They hadn't arrived and I was a little worried since I was leaving on a bus at 8:30. I checked at the reception and they still hadn't come...dammit. I managed to sleep until about 8 and then I had to get up to pack up my things.

Friday, March 12, 2004

After I got all my things together and checked for my speakers again it was time to go. I woke Bert up to say goodbye. He walked me out to the bus...we had a goodbye which was a bit tough for me. Bert and I were a team for the past several months and I had grown to love him like a brother. We had been through so many things together and I couldn't even begin to talk about the number of things I learned from him. I've said it before but meeting folks from other countries can be an unbelievably enriching experience. I would have never thought that I would get the chance to meet someone from South Africa, let alone that person becoming one of my best friends. Bert, I will miss our times together dearly. You are truly one of the best guys I have ever met and it was my supreme honor to have lived with you and gotten to know you. I selfishly hope our paths will cross again in BA, but whatever happens, I wish you all the best my brother. If you ever need anything from me, please know I will be there for you.

I boarded the bus with the crazy bus driver and my stomach was turning knots. This was it for my time in good old Brazil and I was now truly on my own once again.

Luckily, I crossed the border with no trouble...acquiring my Argentina entry stamp and I was officially in the land of the legal. I crossed at 9:33 a.m. After spending 584,752 consecutive minutes (yep, I counted) on Brazilian soil, I was finally moving on...ready to tackle a new country and prepared for more adventures.

AC

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