Gringos in Goofy Hats South America Tour 2008 16 October 2008 – Chile 3

We made it to Santiago…and this was no small feat eventhough it wason our itinerary and we paid for the tickets…it seems the LAN gods ofPeru had one more trick up their sleeve before letting us go…So, after 2 painful encounters with the Peruvian travel industry, we prepared for our 3rd and final round with the full confidence that this would go smoothly.  Afterall, we had our reservations, we paid for our seats and had made NO CHANGES…

Posted from Chile:

posted Tuesday October 2008

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Shoestringing Sea To Sea – Canada 9

Sunday, Sugust 10:

Another gorgeous day in Ottawa as the four of us set off on bikes to explore further sites in this lovely city.  Even Massey has been comparing Ottawa to Victoria as an accessible people-friendly city – high praise indeed.  Ottawa has a wonderful series of biking paths, and we made our way in leisurely fashion along the Ottawa River toward the downtown core.  Along the way, we were amazed to see a section of riverbank that contained a huge number of rock sculptures in and around the water.  We learned that this “rock balance art” was initiated by the artist in 1986 and later gained support from the National Capital Commission as a unique and natural way to beautify the landscape and provide a place of peace and reflection for the people of Ottawa.  These are all natural sculptures, with no mortar used to hold them in place; thus they are generally washed away in November and rebuilt again in the spring with a different presentation, theme and story.  As luck would have it, we were fortunate to meet the artist, John Felice Ceprano while we were there, and he spent some time talking to us about his philosophy regarding balance, in his art and in life. 

Continuing on our way, we biked along the foot of Parliament Hill until we reached the Rideau Canal, another of Canada’s wonders.  Here again our timing was right, as we were able to watch the process of moving some pleasurecraft through the locks into the river.  I had never seen this before, so it was fascinating to see them gradually lower the water level in each lock allowing the boats to move in steps until they reached the open water.  As onlookers gathered to watch the process, there was a lazy laidback atmosphere – what better way to while away a summer  Sunday afternoon!  There were all kinds of  boats in the water, including the cleverly named “Lady Dive”, Ottawa’s answer to the Halifax “Harbour Hopper”.  Certainly the Ottawa waterfront was hopping with activity! 

After a short but very steep climb, we arrived at the doors of the National Gallery where we parted company for awhile.  I was keen to see the Renoir exhibit (the side benefit of which would be air conditioning.  The day had become increasingly hot and humid and I was positively melting by the time we made it up the hill), while Massey, Grace and Paul decided to look for an outdoor cafe and something cool to drink.  So I spent the next hour in the gallery, thoroughly enjoying the work of this great French Impressionist master.  The theme of this exhibit was Renoir’s landscape phase, and I rented the audioguide to accompany the exhibit so as to gain maximum benefit from my brief visit.  And so I had a bit of an art lesson, learning about the “impression in the moment” developed by this school of artists, as they worked quickly and boldly to capture the light and its effects on their subjects.  It was a marvelous exhibit of 60 paintings featuring beautiful landscapes in bright happy colours and interesting subject matter from the period 1865-1883.  Massey and I had seen Monet’s garden at Giverny a few years ago when were in France, and it was interesting to see some of Renoir’s paintings done in the same locale.  In some cases, references were made to scenes painted independently by both Monet and Renoir, and the audioguide also pointed out a few paintings where Monet is thought to be one of the subjects.  The exhibit also contained works that Renoir had done in his travels to Italy and North Africa, so it was a very comprehensive overview of his work in landscapes.  This was the only Canadian venue for this exhibition, so I was thrilled to have had the opportunity to see it.    

I rejoined the group for and ice-cold beer and snacks, after which we made our way through the Bytown Market area and back home, following the Rideau Canal for quite a distance.  On previous visits to Ottawa in the winter, I had skated on the canal, so it was interesting to gain a summertime perspective of this significant waterway.  It was a picturesque ride, taking us past the University of Ottawa, Carlton University, and through acres of experimental farmland right within the city limits.

We topped off the day with gourmet hamburgers at The Works, a popular spot where you build your burger with any imaginable topping, including peanut butter and cream cheese.  While we opted for something a little more conventional (The Big Ben with smoked meat and sauerkraut), the burgers were delicious and a great end to a great day.

Posted from Canada:

posted Tuesday August 2007

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Ecuador – 9

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posted Monday May 2006

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Clo – Clo in South America! – Argentina 8

Yes, Iguacu Falls really was that amazing!  The photos dont do it justice, I took about 5,000 pictures and they could all be postcards.  The helicopter was fantastic and well worth the splurge.  Iguacu is made up of over 60 seperate falls and from the ground, its hard to get a feel for the whole thing, as youre looking at sections of it.  From the air, you can see all of the Falls at one time and it is a truely awesome sight!  Iguacu may not be the tallest falls or the widest falls, fact fans!, but it has the largest volume of water.  The main section is called the Devils Throat (thats whats in the picture above) and your teeth rattle when you stand beside it with the sheer force of the water!  I had a look at it from the Brazilian and the Argie side and even from the ground its spectular, spectular.  Because theres so many different waterfalls, every time you look at it, you can see something different.  I just loved it and it has been the highlight so far.

My last few days in Brazil were a riot.  We were in Foz De Iguazu, which, as the name suggests, is the closest town to the falls!  It was Bazzas birthday on the Saturday night when we arrived and we headed to the local hotspot, Club Ono.  It was really dancy when we got there but a 70s tribute band, in full afro, appeared on stage shortly after.  As long as I live, I will never forget the dance off with the locals!  I dropped out when all my Saturday Night Fever moves were exhausted but Baz stayed til the death, bless him!  His neck will never be the same after attempting a headspin.. We also went to this cheesy cabaret night, youve got to love it!  They had dance from all of the different countries in South America and most of it was actually fantastic, although I did take a pass on the DVD!  Id like to say I was there for the culture but really I was there for the food!  We have been eating really well on this trip (except when my team cooks!) but I have never seen anything like the spread they put on at the Refain Show.  There was everything you could imagine and we decended on it like locusts, trampling Japanese tourists en route.  The joys of not having to cook something ourselves!  I clocked the desserts early on, a whole help yourself ice cream counter and about 40 different cakes- it was like Christmas!- so I tried to eat as few carbs as possible to leave enough space and gorged on Sushi but everyone else at the table had full-on meat sweats for the entire show..

Then, joy of joys, it was back on Moose for a two day drive to Buenos Aires.  When theres a two day drive, we have whats called freecamping. In my innocence, I thought this would mean finding a quiet field near a clean stream or maybe a camping area at a nice beauty spot but it actually means rocking up to a servo (petrol station with a toilet) and camping behind it- the glamour!  Baby-wipe baths will only get you so far and I have never been as filthy dirty in my life as I was for those two days.  It was so hot, one of my flip flops melted to my foot and I had a pretty decent tan….until I hit the showers in BA!

It was a happy bunch of campers that arrived in BA yesterday morning, especially as we were staying in a hotel, its probably a dump but to me, its the Ritz!  After getting back on good terms with hot water, I headed off on a city tour.  This city is really beautiful, I dont know why Im so surprised.  It has a real European feel to it and its laid out really well with wide streets and lots of parks.  I love the La Boca area, with all its multicoloured buildings but it is still a really poor neighbourhood and youd want to have your wits about you walking around it.  The rest of the city feels really wealthy and cosmopolitan and apparently theres a Starbucks somewhere but I have yet to find it.  After three weeks of expresso, Im dreaming about pints of coffee…

BA is the birth place of the Tango and theres a big tango festival on this weekend.  Were off to a tango show in the Cafe Tortonni tonight and Im really excited about it.  Im thinking of going for a tango lesson this afternoon but Im afraid the poor teacher was defeated by my two left feet. If it takes him about twenty minutes to realise that the rhythm was never going to get me, I wonder will he let  me spend the rest of the lesson trying on the shoes and dresses, best 30 pesos Ill ever spend- soooo much fun!  Im here til Monday, so Im going to the antique market, hippie fair and Recolletta Cemetry tomorrow (where Evita is buried) and Im going to do the cultural things on Monday, museums and churches and maybe a steak, if Im feeling brave!

Posted from Argentina:

posted Saturday February 2008

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Ted and Sheree Cook – azcook – India 8

December 4-5, 2007
  Bangkok

Our first task upon returning to Bangkok was to get the Indian visas issued.  We decided that both of us didn’t need to trek across the city to drop off and pick up passports, so Ted set out at about 7:30 to head to the Indian Embassy.  The hours for passport drop off are 8:30-10:00 and pick up from 4-5.  The plan was to get a Motorcycle taxi to the closest sky train station (their Metro, but it only covers a small part of the city now) and then take it to the visa building.  MC taxis are about the only thing that moves during rush hour(s) traffic.  Basically, they carry you on the back and weave between lanes, on to sidewalks, down back alleys and anywhere they can fit to get you to your destination.  We observed that all of the MC taxi drivers are young men.  Our hope is that it is because they eventually graduate to being tuk tuk drivers and then real taxi drivers and it is not due to the mortality rates.  Well, Ted decided this was a reasonable risk, Sheree was unsure.  The first problem came when after 3 attempts, none of the MC taxi drivers would take him where he wanted to go.  We are still not sure why, they just said no.  So, he tried a regular taxi.  After sitting for about an hour and a half and getting about 3 blocks, the driver finally found a way to break loose and found an alternated route.  Ted got to the station at about 9:30.  The sky train was efficient and he arrived at the Indian visa office at 7 minutes before 10.  The return process was better,  sky train then an MC taxi from right outside the station to the hotel.  The process was repeated later in the afternoon with MC taxis and sky trains in both directions.  Ted lived to tell of it.  We ate, swam in our luxury pool, read and went to bed.

The next day was the King’s birthday.   The preparations were amazing.  The money spent to decorate the city must have been substantial.  Every street was decorated, not just parade routes.  All the locals wore yellow shirts (the royal color), had flags and lit candles in the evening.  We went out to the main street near our hotel to watch.  Traffic had come to a complete standstill (surprise) and the street was completely filled with people with their candles and flags.  There was a big screen on one corner so you could watch the King at every moment of the day and periodically the locals would break in to song (we think the national anthem).  We thought the King was to drive down the street we were on and we still don’t know if he did or not.  Too many people to tell.  At one point, we were scared to death when fireworks were set off (officially) from an area about 100 feet from us, right in the middle of the city with thousands of people around.  The fireworks were amazing and we had never been so close to a fireworks demonstration like this. It was fun to watch but we were starting to become a bit bit fearful as flaming balls were falling out of the sky into trees, onto cars and onto peoples heads.  We were fortunate not to have anything singed, but we found lots of firework debris in our hair after all.  One woman right near us got some of it in her eye and headed off looking for help.  Good luck!  Following the fireworks everyone headed off in various directions.  On our way back we spotted our first bug snack seller.  She had about 10 different types of stir fried and seasoned bugs, from cockroaches to grasshoppers to maggots for sale.  We have photos to verify, but even the adventurous eater Ted didn’t opt for the delictable snacks.  Now he wishes he had.  You never know when you might be in a dire situation and need that protein and besides, how bad could they be,  they are stir fried and seasoned afterall.  Also, for our friend Jennifer’s sake, someone she trusted needs to try new foods before she will go for them.  If she had been there, maybe we would be able to tell you more about how they tasted.  Tomorrow off to India.

Posted from India:

posted Monday December 2007

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My Two Cedi’s Worth – Impressions of a Month in Ghana – Ghana 7

A new day, first sunrise in Ghana, that passes quite slowly in ‘rest’, so you make friends with the hotel staff, learn a few words of Twi*. Many naps later, you join the ‘boys’ for a Stone beer, twice the size and potency of a regular beer. Coupled with the liberal shots of ‘local gin, it’s the best’ on an empty stomach that the boys press on you, and it’s an early night, lulled by the very bizarre sitcoms running on TV Africa. The next day passes in much the same way, thouhg you rise to two nearby churches’ weekly jubilation, with a disappointing trip to the airport (still no bags) and a journey through the main clothing market in Accra, a huge space filled with vendors, odors ranging from leather thongs to coconut milk spilling freshly from the husk, and dried fish, thoroughly unappetizing under the flies. You hear people calling, music thumping from time to time, chickens and on one occasion, a dog squealing as a boy swings it by a hind leg – shocked, you stop but Henry pulls you on shrugging out the explanation that this tribe from the north eats them (‘them’? ..Oh the dog.)and maybe that’s why. Ok. You find a phone chip, bargain sunglasses and a change of clothing and leave satisfiedly sucking on bagged pineapple, the first fruit you’ve had here to supplement the starchy-spicy staples. The bargaining is tricky-half of it is in Twi or pidgin English, but you hold your own, making the vendors laugh at the pluck of this sweaty obruni.Other things you handle less easily, like the girl who clutches your arm like a friend and demands ‘Obruni, give me 2000’ (, apparently a child sent from the north by her parents to earn money, wandering in bands with the others and carrying loads for a pittance, at best (2000 cedis is about 20cents, but will buy her a small meal.)

A day in the bumpy trotros that ride the potholes in the pocked red dirty road faster than they should, so much that the van doors swing open quite often to the cries of ‘faster!’ from your copassengers. You silently welcome the respite from the African sun and don’t mind how long it takes you; a deathtrap like this could use caution, if only to lessen the pressure on the string holding the door to the vehicle. Uncertainly, you’re back in your room waiting for a call to see if you’ll finally be oriented by Martin. Maybe tomorrow. You dream of Tafo, lush and full of promise – the project! You think of tomorrow’s adventures… You miss home and the people you carry in your heart.

*(more than you do in Ewe, which the next day will abruptly end with the confusion of the close words for ‘be quiet’ and ‘vagina’)

Posted from Ghana:

posted Tuesday July 2007

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Jonty’s China Trip – 7

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posted Monday May 2006

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