Current Date: Saturday, May 1, 2004 4:40p.m. (Buenos Aires)
Current Itinerary: Begin to plan bank robbery:)
Note#1: Greetings and Salutations! Since I have so much time on my hands and no money for beer, I have made a MAJOR update to "The Players" section of the website (www.thecooperchronicles.com). I know there are MANY more people that need to be added. I'm working on it so please be patient...I'm only one person doing all this.
Note#2: More of a question than a "note". As I was walking through the city the other day, something hit me...so it's time to go to the collective hundreds with a question...which I could probably find the answer to myself if I looked hard enough, but what would be the fun in that?
QUESTION: Unlike in the USA, in many latin countries, streets are often named by dates...that I assume are important in history. It seems however, EVERY single latin country I've been in has a few streets and/or plazas in common...namely, June 9 and May 25. Anybody out there got the skinny on what was so damn significant about these days? The strangest thing to me is that streets/plazas with these names exist in EVERY city, yet they are not holidays (which was even more suprising in Brazil, which has approximately 175 national holidays during the year). What gives?
Woke up in the hostel in Mercedes and Phil/England and Aideen/Ireland were nowhere to be found. I figured they had headed to the internet place to get in a last minute session before heading off into the middle of nowhere for a few days.
I went down to find them and also get in a quick internet session...but I was only able to read two e-mails since the connection was so slow...one was from FJC though, and it brightened my day more than any of you can imagine.
At 11:45, the bus driver came for us and we walked out to the bus that would be taking us along the three hour journey into the park. It first site it was a bit scary...sort of reminded me of the bus Richard Pryor drives those kids across the country on in "Bustin' Loose" (an absolute CLASSIC!). We snapped some quick pics of the bus and our bus drivers so that just in case we didn't make it, there would be evidence that we willing got on that thing!
A very long, very bumpy, 3 hours later we had finally made it to the Ibera Ranch, where would be staying. To say that the whole three day journey to get there was worth it would be an understatement. Phil and Aideen got their own huge room as did I. Our rooms were connected and we had an immaculately clean bathroom to share between us. There was even one of those water coolers there with all the water we could need...now this may not seem like such a luxury but when you are traveling in very rural areas such as this it is very nice for two reasons...first all, it is darn hot at the moment and since we spend a lot of time outside, we really drink a lot of water. Also, it's not like there is a store on every corner...getting water can be a bit of a hassle at times. The entire town of Carlos Pelegrini has a grand total of 600 people in it (my highschool alone was twice that size) so you get the idea of how small it is. An interesting thing we would find out later by the way...65% of the population is children. Not surprising really..small town + nothing to do = many kids.
We settled into our new rooms and then met Hugo, the guy who's ranch we were staying on and who would organize everything for us. It was around 3 at the time so we organized to go on a boat trip later that evening around 5, after the day would cool off a little. We were a little hungry so we ordered a pizza and just relaxed for a couple hours. We were all VERY pleased with the place we were staying and all we had done to get there.
At 5, Hugo picked us up and took us out to the dock, where Martin, a guy who works for him would take us out around the lake to see some wildlife and tell us a bit about the area. We spent a couple hours out on the water and it was great. We saw TONS of animals...many, many alligators (actually jacare) of all sizes, some beautiful species of birds (some that were pretty large and colorful), and a lot of the other mammals...particular abundant was this enormous guinea pig type animal, the Capybara, that is supposedly the world's largest rodent. We took a ton of pictures and learned a ton.
Back in our pousada we got changed and then went up to THE restaurant (of course, there is only one in the whole town) to get some food. We had beef and mash potatoes (wohoo! I love mash potatoes and they are not very common in Brazil) and a make shift salad...it was a pretty quality meal...or so it seemed (hint: I'm foreshadowing). We actually talked a little that night about the political situation between England and Ireland...something I don't really know too much about. I mean, I know they supposedly hate each other, but I don't really know why. Anyway, I'm not going to turn this into some sort of social studies lesson, but it was interesting to learn a little bit. It was clear I touched a nerve in both of them. Anyone who has a brief insight into the history behind the riff, feel free to enlighten me.
After dinner we went back and played cards for awhile. They went to bed early, so I worked on journals for awhile and listened to music until I dozed off. An hour later, a woke up (around 3) and I felt absolutely terrible. I thought for sure that I had gotten food poising. I was on the verge of vomiting...I mean, VERY close. This will sound unbelievable, but I have never vomited from being ill (not since I was old enough to remember anyway...so we'll call that never). There have been a few alchohol related vomits but even that doesn't happen to me very often...maybe 10 or 12 times ever...a pretty small number if you divide it by the number of times I've been wasted in the past ten years:) Anyway, the vomit streak was in serious danger of coming to an end and I felt absolutely horrible...cold sweats, nausea, the whole nine yards. I wasn't able to get back to sleep (partially because how I felt and partially because this freakin' cricket in my room that did not seem to want to shut up) and I sat there all night feeling absolutely terrible. I was worried that I'd be forced to stay in bed the next day. Since we had all eaten the same meal I was wondering if Phil or Aideen were having the same problem. I didn't hear either of them get up throughout the night though. I must say, it is a scary thing when you are traveling and become ill...especially if you are considerable distance from civilization. Whatever I had, had come on very fast and unexpectedly, which makes it scarier...all I could think about was some sort of exotic insect had bit me and I was finally going to meet my bitter end. Okay, that's a little overdramatic, but seriously, it isn't a pleasant thing to go through.
Wednesday, March 17, 2004
Just after 7, the others woke up and they said they didn't feel bad. I was feeling slightly better (i.e. I wasn't going to vomit anytime in the next 10 seconds) but I still felt pretty nausious. We were supposed to go on a nature walk at 8 and I didn't want to miss it. I had absoutely no appetite so I rested while they went to breakfast.
We headed to the ranger station at 8...I wasn't feeling the greatest but being out in the fresh air seemed to help a bit. The hike was actually cool. It was short and not near as rigorous as I expected, which was good for the condition I was in. We actually were fortunate enough to see a family of monkeys which was really interesting (although they tried to "target" us as their toilet). We watched them for quite awhile and took somewhere in the neighborhood of 450 pictures.
We kept walking for awhile put I just wasn't up for it. We headed back to the ranger station a little early and then went back to the posada. I slept for about 3 hours and woke up feeling pretty much the same. I figured maybe it would be better if I ate a little something. We went to THE restaurant to get lunch. I was only able to eat one empanada and I drank a 7UP (hey...it's the uncola!) to try to settle my stomach.
There was something sort of interesting that happened at lunch. I was talking to the guy who owned THE restaurant and asking him if he was from there. It turned out that he was from Posadas and had only been in Pelegrini for a few years. He mentioned that he came to Pelegrini, not because he wanted to, but because due to the crumbling economy, he could no longer afford to live in Posadas. His wife's family is from Peligrini, so they moved there. Now, Posadas is no metropolis, but there are a couple hundered thousand people there, so it is, in effect, a city. Peligrini on the other hand, is merely a village...only 600 people as I said before, no paved roads, no television, and it's 3 hours from the nearest town where you can actually get things. There are no supermarkets or stores of any kind except this tiny general store/restaurant. I was commenting to Aideen on the way out there that I could never ever live so far from everything. It is great to visit, but I'm more of a city guy...I like action and accesibility. I mean, let's say that little store runs out of soap. You have to go 6 hours round trip, just to get the smallest of things. I just don't think I could ever handle something like that. Anyway, so I was asking the guy if he liked living in Peligrini...but he didn't even have to answer...it was written on his face. He was miserable. You often have this idea that those folks are so content with their simple way of life and that they glad to be in their situation...but you realize, that isn't the case for everyone. This guy rambled on for 15 minutes about how bad he wanted to get out of there.
Back at the pousada, we just hung out on the porch talking. Another girl, Monica/Germany showed up and hung out with us. She had traveled all of Argentina and had some interesting stories. We were supposed to go on a horseback ride that evening but I knew my stomach was never going to hold up to that. Aideen decided against it to so Phil went on his own.
In my travels, I have met several couples traveling together and I always find it interesting. It certainly puts a lot of strain on a relationship, as any of you can probably imagine. It always seems like the guy is slightly immasculated, but then, what's the difference between that and any relationship. We all know who's calling the shots. I have to admit though, I really admire it...and maybe it makes me jealous a bit. I mean, if I found someone who would be willing to do this with me, I'd probably marry them on the spot.
It was an interesting story that Phil and Aideen had. To put it briefly, their relationship began a few months before Aideen was about to embark on a year of travelling...mostly in Australia and then on to Canada. Phil was not in a situation that he could drop everything and leave, so she went and they maintained their relationship while Aideen travelled, with Phil actually going to visit her a couple times. She then returned to London (that was where they met and she lived before traveling) for a couple months. Just an aside...we talked about that pretty extensively...particularly about how difficult it was for her to be back and how miserable she was. I'm so scared of feeling that same way when I originally return to a "real" life. It will certainly be a tough adjustment. Hmmmmm...maybe I can just do this forever.
Anyway, Aideen was not through with her travels and was planning on spending another year traveling in South and Central America. Phil wasn't keen on the idea and really wanted her to stay in London...but in the end, she couldn't be denied...so he decided to do it with her. Pretty cool. Love really makes us do some crazy things.
Phil got back from his horse back trip a couple hours later and said it was pretty cool. I remember Aideen and I were wondering how it went with him and the guide because Phil speaks barely any Spanish and the guide zero English. By the way, I again must say, I really admire people who come here to travel for an extended period of time and don't know 2 words of the language. That really takes guts and must make things extremely difficult at times.
Later on, we all went to dinner. My appetite had finally returned and I was ready to eat something. While walking around the corner to the restaurant, we stopped outside one of the houses where there were a bunch of kids playiing...as I stated before, there are kids running around EVERYWHERE in this little town. We talked to the family for a few minutes...nothing really significant was said, they asked us where we were from and things of the like, but the moment touched me for some reason. Maybe it was their friendliness or the energy of all the kids...I don't know. There was just something about the way the looked us...they were just so fascinated. We really come for vastly different worlds, and I guess I was just reminded of it at that moment.
We had a good pasta dinner. We were joined by Monica/Germany and another German couple that had arrived that evening. We had a celebratory beer with Aideen because it was St. Patrick's day.
We had to get the bus back to Mercedes the next morning, which inexplicably leaves at 4:00a.m., so we turned in rather early. Our time on the Ibera ranch was outstanding and the owners were unbelievably nice to us and the rooms were fantastic. I can't compare the animal life and what we saw to the Pantanal since I wasn't there, but anyone coming through here that has time should make the stop for sure.
Very little happened this day...I spent just about all of it traveling. We were up before the roosters at 3:30 to get our things together and get the bus. It was bumpy ride back on our "Bustin' Loose" bus. One thing of note was that we passed by a huge brush fire on the way. It must have stretched on for 2 miles. The sheer size of it was alarming...I can't imagine the destruction it must have done.
Back in Mercedes we went to the bus station to see about buses going south. Phil and Aideen were heading to Buenos Aries and there was a bus leaving just one hour later...I hadn't decided where to go yet but there wasn't a bus even heading in the direction I wanted until 7 that night. That is the problem with being in small places in the middle of nowhere...you are really at the mercy of the bus system.
I said goodbye to Phil and Aideen who were a pleasure to travel with. Maybe I'll see you guys in BA! Good luck.
I decided on taking a noon bus to a city called Goya and hopefully get a bus sooner that was going south towards a city called Rosario. I got to Goya around 3:30 but there wasn't any buses going south until 10:00. I toyed with the idea of spending the night in Goya but decided against it. I spent most of the day walking around and on the internet...as I said...nothing very noteworthy happened. I got on the overnight bus to Rosario at 10.
Friday, March 19, 2004
I arrived in Rosario bright and early around 7 a.m. I didn't really have much of an idea what area I was going to stay in or what I was going to do...the lonely planet doesn't have much to say about the city. It is rather large (1 million plus) and that was what I wanted after being off the beaten path for 10 days. I was ready for some hustle and bustle.
The tourist info booth in the bus station was still closed b/c it was too early, but as luck would have it, a list of hotels, their addresses, and their prices was partially exposed through the window. I found the addresses of some cheap places that, according to a map that was posted, was pretty much in the heart of the action. I caught a bus into the centro and walked around to a few places, finally settling in a place called the Benidorm on Ave. San Juan (1049). It was good, clean, cheap, and extremely well located. I recommend it to anyone going to Rosario.
After checking in, I relaxed in my air-conditioned room and watched a little cable TV. Then I spent a couple hours walking around in search of food and on the internet. I think I mentioned some time ago that I was going to meet up with my friend Anthony from Houston as he is also traveling in Argentina at the moment. We had been in contact and I knew he was in BA so I tried to get him to come up to Rosario (it's only 4 hours) for the weekend. He was thinking of going to Mar del Plata but said he'd let me know later on.
I got back to my hotel room just in time to catch Seinfeld! Rock on. Anyway, I spent the rest of the afernoon just meandering around the centro and seeing a couple sights. While walking I stopped in a small store to get some water and ended up striking up a conversation with the woman who owns it. She was incredibly nice and we spent an hour talking to each other. So far it seems to me that the Argentinian folks are just as kind and helpful as the Brazilians. Good to see.
I stopped at the internet place to see if Anthony was coming...alas it was not in the cards...he was heading for Mar del Plata. On my way back to the hotel, I stopped in the store to grab some ham, cheese, and bread for dinner...yep, back on the traveler's low budget diet! Although, I did buy some wine to class up the meal!
I spent a couple hours in the hotel and hit the streets around 11 to see what I could get into. I had a map with me that listed a few bars/clubs, several of which were within walking distance. I figured while walking along I would grab a beer...I winced in pain as the guy explained to me that in Argentina, you can't buy beer after 11 p.m. WTF! I have been living a spoiled life in Brazil all this time. That is very dissappointing.
Well, I wondered for awhile and finally found a club that was just starting to open...but it was FAR too early to go inside. It was only about 12. There was a restaurant/bar across the street so I figured I would wait things out there and maybe meet some people. There was a table with to pretty good looking girls inside the restaurant so I strategically placed myself right next to them. Before long I struck up a conversation with them...they were pretty cool. Gabriela was one but I forgot the other's name. Anyway, it turned out they were waiting for some friends of theirs....it ended up being me and 8 girls!!! Sweet. They invited me with them to this Kareoke bar and we had such a blast. We sang a bunch of songs and danced there for a couple hours.
Around 2 we left there and we were headed to another club. For some reason there were absolutely NO taxis. The next day I would find out they were striking that night in some sort of protest because a taxi driver had been killed and several of them robbed over a few months time. I remember that when I was talking to that woman earlier in the day, she told me how there used to be no crime in Rosario but in the last few years, the economic situation in Argentina has indirectly caused a rise in crime rate. I'm constantly seeing examples of how this country has been affected by what happened a couple years ago and it still does not cease to surprise me.
Anyway, it was a considerable walk to the club, but we finally made it. The key was the girls I was with were VIP, so we skipped this huge line and got right in! The place was enormous and packed with several hundred people, so we all quickly lost each other. I didn't complain though...it must have been 15 to 1 girls to guys in that place! I ended up meeting another group and pretty much danced with them the whole night. They left around 5 and the place was still packed so I stayed behind...which might have been a mistake. Later when I was leaving, as I stated before, there were no Taxis (but I didn't know that at the time). I asked MANY people for a ride but nobody was willing to give me one...which was a little frustrating. I had heard the centro wasn't safe at night so I was worried about walking back...even though it was only about 20 minutes. Luckily it was late enough (or early enough depending on how you look at it) that the sun was starting to come up, so I felt a bit better. I got back to the hotel without incident so it was all good. Despite the ending, it was one hell of a day in Rosario!
Saturday, March 20, 2004
I woke up at 4:00!! It didn't really surprise me though...I had slept very little the previous few nights and I had got home at almost 7 a.m. Anyway, not to much happened this day. I had been feeling extremely run down since the virus or whatever it was I had contracted on Wednesday in Peligrini. I had forced myself to go out on Friday night, but after a small dinner and some time at the internet, I knew i wasn't going to make it for Saturday night. I basically layed in bed, watching a few movies(I saw this classic movie, "Juice" with Tupac!) and sleeping on and off...contemplating if I would go in search of a doctor the next day...I felt that bad. I was originally thinking of staying in Rosario for 4 days or so, but I decided I would shove off to Buenos Aires the next day. I figured I could spend some time there recovering, I could hang out with Anthony, and also do some preliminary work on finding an apartment and a job. That was an idea that didn't excite me too much. Despite being a little under the weather, I was really enjoying traveling again and I was getting this feeling like I wasn't going to get to see near enough of Argentina. I particularly want to go south to Ushuaia but I think it is too far and too expensive. Even if I can't do that, I'd really like to travel around for another month or so and get to know the central and western parts of the country. Maybe I'll try to stetch my money and travel to the last possible minute. We'll see.
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