Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Colon, the next bit

It would appear that the only time you can't get food in Colon is lunchtime. Unless you want icecream. Tonnes and tonnes of icecream.
I felt like yelling "Open a lunch cafe - there's no competition!"

For dinner on the 27th we decided to go to that cafe again. We sat down. Maho attracted my attention. It was the same waiter again! I waved in a grand way to embarrass him. He hesitantly waved in acknowledgement with a half smile.

The chef WAS there this time. I ordered dos carne empanada. Maho ordered a burger. The waiter asked a question. Well, she didn't want to accidentally order me something again so Maho looked politely blank.
"Sandwich?" he asked
"Yes" replied Maho.
AHA!! You DO speak English, you cunning bastard!

I recall reading that South American machismo dictates that men shouldn't embarrass themselves by speaking English badly. Better to pretend that you don't speak it at all. That would explain the waiter's and Dario's original reticence.

On the third day we were simply wandering around and passed 'our' cafe again. Maho nudged me. Our waiter was waving at us through the glass.
We waved enthusiastically back and I laughed like a drain.

We caught the bus back to Santiago by the dick of the Napoleon of bees. This was after I'd assured Maho we had plenty of time to walk to the hotel from the boat to meet the taxi I'd booked for 5.45. We were passed by the taxi when we were within sight of the hotel. He hung around long enough for me to have to run to flag him down. We begged a toilet break from the manager who seemed so extremely sad he'd allowed tourists into his hotel, grabbed our bags and piled into the cab. We were the last on the bus and had to get them to reopen the luggage compartment.

Leaving the manager to philosophise over the obvious folly of running a hotel, I pondered how buses always leave on the dot, yet the journey can take an extra hour or so longer than anticipated. Oh well. Maho's faith in me was only slightly shaken by this. Luckily I only got us lost twice in Santiago.

Final Colon scorecard:
Arse demon: 3
Harry: 0
Long suffering Maho: -3

Buenos Aires, Random Art shots

A charmingly crumbling building in San Telmo with a massive mural. Umm, yeah, you can´t really make out what it is. Bummer. It involves people on horseback bring stuff to a market and somesuch.

I love stencil art. Tagging is lame, and I´m not too fond of those wall sized spaypaint signiature graffiti. But stencilling is something I can really appreciate - particularly when it´s political or when subsequent artists add to it. These are the little gems that make randomly walking the streets so rewarding. That, and cheap blowjobs.

A self-portrait of the artist, armed with a MAW, who made a building sized street scene mural of the main strip in BA - Avenida Mayo.

This was the artwork on the wall in our room at Che Lagarto hostel. I like it.

This banded armour (probably +2) was in an antique shop in San Telmo. I have no idea how old it is, or if it some sort of parade armour or not. San Telmo has a massive market each Sunday with tango demonstrations. The rest of the week it is merely the heart of BA´s antiques trade.

Colon: Palm National Park

We woke at 3am to be picked up by a polite guy whom we´d been warned didn´t speak English. It´s a one hour drive to the Parque Nacional - a drive that was doomed to become quickly uncomfortable and bereft of conversation as my stilted and badly pronounced minimal Spanish ran out. But since I had nothing to lose I persevered, passably translating for Maho. Dario hosted tourist drives for a hobby. He was a fisherman and also hunted. He was 41. That sort of thing.
Gradually he started to loosen up and become more expansive. What tipped the balance was me turning up the radio "Permiso? Permiso?" and singing along, in English, to "Send soon a Donna." It turned out Dario did have some English after all.
No, it wasn´t "Shut up" or "My ears!"

"Quisiera ver cabybara (I would like see capybara)" I said, expecting him to laugh and say it was unlikely. Even though we were taking the pre-dawn animal spotting trip, I wasn´t expecting much. And certainly not Capybara.
We turned onto the 12km dirt road that lead to the park proper. After a while Dario points to two Capybara by the side of the road. We stopped, they ambled off. A bit later there was another two - the male of which was scentmarking unconcernedly. And then a coauple more.
"Sorro!" says Dario as something dashed out of the headlight glare. I assumed it was a medium sized terrified rodent. I think in response to our obvious excitement Dario started providing more and more information. By now he was speaking English at about 80 to 20 words in it´s favour. In the park were capybara (called capincho here), sorro, bambis, antelope, wild pigs, frogs etc
Drive for a bit more.
"Bambis! Tres bambis," says Dario pointing.
Then we got to the actual park, which starts with a camp ground. the campground is full of vizcacha. Cross a rabbit with a brushtail possum. They live in small family groups in burrows.

Dario started imparting his hunter knowledge. He explained what noises we could hear: the rattling purr of the male vizcacha (vizcacho), the faint ´booh booh´call of a female "brother of bambi" (small deer) that was very hard to see, the frogs, the swish of owl wings overhead, bat calls, he imitated the alarm call that male capybara give when they see a hunter. All knowledge you´d expect a hunter to aquire. We discussed the stars, lightning and sunrise - stopping every so often for another tidbit of hunter lore or to have an owl pointed out to us.
Dario fixed up a mate for himself. I asked to smell it "Permiso aroma?" He insisted we taste it, and then explained how it was prepared, and what varieties you could have - ones with orange peel, flavour teas, milk etc
For someone who "didn´t speak English" he was an outstanding guide.

We got back in the car and scanned likely capybara spots, to no avail.
"Now, we are like hunters" he said.
Every two hundred metres we spotted nightjars on the road, which grudgingly took off.
We watched the sunrise over Uruguay at the bank of the river that is the border. Gorgeous.
Dario took advantage of the sand to draw animal tracks, explain pig culls, and provide a geography lesson which included dialect differences around Argentina.
We walked into the forest with a slim chance of seeing the bambi brother. We got to a headland where I discovered "Sorro (actually Zorro)" means fox. Dario explained how all the vegetation on the river comes from upstream. Lorros (lorikeeks) were stirring over head. He pointed out their nests. A small number of African vultures had escped from a nearby animal park and set up residence in this national park (That took a fair amount of translation genius on my part to work out). they and the wild pigs were the only non-native animals here.
As we got within sight of the car Dario tapped my shoulder and hissed "Ai! Ai! Ai! Bambi brother!"
We got within about eight metres of it and watched it as long as we wanted. Dario explained that he´d never seen one apart from fleeing from him in horror at long range. He delightedly took photos.

It was time to drive back to Colon, our two hours in the park were almost up.
The park is the last bastion of the Yatay palm - one million left. They were harvested for their superior hardwood. Their growth form is really interesting: for the first forty years they grow on the ground with no trunk building up a large root, then they shoot up 30 metres or so without adding to their girth at all (like most palms) for the rest of their 300+ year life. Dario explained that we humans were the opposite. At forty the only measurment that changes is grith.

I suggested the palms looked Jurassic. This lead to a mutually confusing conversation concerning dinosaurs. I knew Dario had cottoned on when he exclaimed "Archaelogica!" Who would have guessed my velociraptor impression would prove useful in a car in a forest in Argentina?
Dario tried unsuccessfully to explain a concept and apologised with "My English es primitivo."
It was infinitely better than my Spanish so I replied "Me Español es archeaological!"

Dario slowed down beside each of the many species of bird we came across just beside the road. The first was a pair of Teko - a type of plouver. Half in mime, Dario explained that their cry for which they are named "teko teko" is them mourning the loss of their money.
"See how the man is very well dressed?"
"Yes, he looks like he´s wearing a suit. Tuxedo."
"Si! He has mucho dinero, but he lose it all. his wife, she cries Teko teko to scold him. Their eyes are red from boo hoo."
"Crying. Si!"
"Si. In Argentina, todo aves (all birds) have historia."
I asked what the Lorro´s story was.
Oh, this involved smiling and lots of "how do you say it in English" in Spanish. It was evidently a bit rude.
Ok, loros are like banditos who marry for sex, but they are somehow dodgy. Ah! They are (in the story at least) unfaithful partners. So, when you want to tell someone to piss off you tell them "Go fcuk the wife of the loro!"

We saw ground birds, loros, woodpeckers, song birds and even one of the african vultures about a third of the way back.
While Maho slept Dario and I discussed how the land was used. This included soya bean harvested for oil, beans and cattle fodder, and eucalytpus plantations that were harvested every eight years for paper.
He finished up with an impromptue tour of Colon.

And yes, my archaeological Spanish was fully demonstarted when I tipped Dario with "You have two beverages on my. (Tengo dos bebidas en me)"

I recall Gerald Durrell writing about the Teko in his book about collecting in Patagonia in the mid fifties. Durrell´s books were the first books I ever got into. From the age of about eight I´d pester dad to take me to the library to get the next Durrell book. There are a dozen or more of them, and are still a delight to read. Durrell is responsible for getting me interested in this part of the world, with his descriptions of the animals focusing on their personalities and his anecdotes involving encounteres with various locals who helped him in frantic and excentric ways.
It strikes me that Dario is exactly the sort of person Durrell would have met.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Photos from Colon NP Las Palmyras, Argentina

Yatay palms. The reason for which the park exists. Hmm, excellent grammar there. Interesting to think that one of these trees in shot could predate the Norman conquest.

Rainforest vegetation in a temperate climate. The seeds are all washed down from the Amazon area by the river.

Dawn breakin g over Uruguay. We are standing on the Argentinian bank of Rio de Uruguay.

Vizcacha. Take a rabbit and a brishtail possum, then mix. She wandered up to us as Dario was talking. She snuffled my hand, obviously accostommed to gettiung hand fed by campers.

Okay, so i should date this properly, but I´ll do that later.
I have also added photo posts Random Art Shots , Glaciers Part1 and Glaciers part 2

Argentina. Colon´s silver lining

At the entrance to Colon is a sign that reads "The City with everything."
I didn´t know that éverything´included the toilet with the most powerful flush in the entire world, but it does!
And it´s in our room!

The first time I used it, it unpacked my socks and arranged my toiletries in ascending order of height. However, it´s sheer ability to execute it´s main function is breathtaking. I decided to do some tests.

I ripped up all the toilet paper on the roll and flushed it away in one go. Promising.

Then I went and got more and wadded half a roll into one lump with tearing it and away it went too.

Next, I didn´t even bother unsticking the start of the roll. I just chucked it in whole and pushed the button.

There was a small ornamental pot plant on the window sill. Gone. EVen the decorative pine bark couldn´t stay bobbing on the surface for long.

I found a kitten next door and wrapped it in one of Maho´s bras. ZOW! The little beggar didn´t even have time to blink in terror.

Lastly I went down the street and bought half a chicken and chips with extra salt.
Didin´t even leave a greasy smear.

Now, THAT´S a toilet.

Argy. BA to Colon

Caught a very new coach today: complete with plasma screens, radiojacks and complete leg-rests, for the four hour trip north to Colon. The driver stopped once we were well out of the city. I was happily surprised to see snacks including ham and cheese sandwiches. (Later I was to be unhappily surprised to see these sandwiches again so soon.) All this for 70pesos return! ($25approx.)
I ate the jamon y queso tortes and felt a bit queasy. Note intrepid bilingual pun.

We were going to Colon so that we could visit the National Park of Palms - 40ks north. We were hoping to do hours of walking in the park, but (transport options being limited) it looked like the best we could do was 2hours in there with a guide-driver for 40pesos each. There was a pre-dawn starting option that porported to be good for animal viewing. I was sceptical. Two hours after all...
We were both a bit deflated by this and that Colon was not the beautiful colonial town we´d expected. So we retired to a cafe to order food and drink. With the help of another patron we discovered that the chef wasn´t in for another 40minutes, thus there was no food. Then that saint of a woman again rescued us and the waiter (who seemed afraid of us and our no hablo espanol ways) to say that the beer we´d ordered ¨is hot".
Maho joked that this was going to be another beetroot incident.

Aside: In Spanish"it" can be added to some words as a diminuitive. Thus señorita is a little or young señora. Un momento is a moment, but un momentito is a small moment: equivalent to "I´ll be with you shortly" and "I´ll be with you right away." Further more "it" can be used as an indicator of affection: "Dear Tida" could become "Tidita."

So I suggested to Maho that if ever she had the chance to name a cocktail she should call it a Mahito.
I mused what would be in it.
Maho instantly replied "Rum, lime, mint, sugar... and beetroot."

Then you´ll never guess what happened!
My arse exploded!!
Perhaps it was just too tempting of Fate to visit a town called Colon.
Imodium be my friend.
That´s one pair of undies that won´t be coming home.

For you, I told them, the war is over.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Argentina Una

Okay: I stuffed up.
Admittedly I couldn´t do anything about the plane being delayed by two and a half hours in Toronto, but I still got the day wrong.
The original plan was for me to set up a Forward Operating Base in Buenos Aires the day before Maho turned up. About four days beforehand I realised that I´d actually screwed up and bought a ticket for the day the day Maho arrived. So, I got there about five and a half hours _after_ Maho.

You know I wrote that Canada was cold?
Well, BA is really hot!
Someone should tell me these things. It´s especially hot when you´re trying to get into town as fast as possible worried that you´d abandoned your friend to robbery, rape and being sold into slavery.
But it all turned out alright. Ironically we´d got hostels a block and a half apart. We met up for dinner and agreed to meet at hers at 10am the next day.

My hostel sucked, so did hers so we hoofed it to CheLagarto a bit off the beaten track, via the world´s oldest prostitute who waved me off. Not that I was asking. Although I was tempting to turn to my gorgeous 21year friend and say ¨Corr! Now there´s a woman!"

We got a twin room at CheLagarto and it all looked pretty damned good. We did a walking tour of central BA, as suggested by Lonely Planet, and went to a Lagoon park thingo to wilt in the sun and look at birds.
Lunch for Maho was, quite accidently, beetroot salad. Not, beetroot WITH salad, but chopped up beetroot in a bowl. I was far more sensible in having jamon y queso tortes because I actually knew what they were. However, as later events were to transpire I shall swear off them for a year and a day. I swapped half a sanger for some beetroot.

Returned to the hostel for showers.
The evening we walked back to the market-fair that we encountered being set up on our way back from the lagoon park thingo. Lots of very cool jewellery at the market. Maho´s way of dealing with Spanish (ie smile and nod) meant that she ordered a roast beef sandwich for me as well.

Sunday the somethingth. 25th. That´s it.
We went to the Retiro to book dos boletos por Colon, and wandered back through town looking at neo-colonial and colonial archeticturetitecture.

"Get on dwon! You can be the fnukiest won in twon" lyrics by Mike Hughes

Barrio San Telmo is a trendy boho part of town with Sunday street markets to augment the permanent antique markets. Dorrengo square is famous for it´s tango demonstrations. We had showers and got on dwon. The street markets started several blocks before San Telmo proper, with merchandise (again, mostly jewellery) displayed on blankets on both sides of the street. There were street musicians a bungo from twelve pieces bands to single dudes with a guitar, and various other street performers.
The tango demo was awesome. I really, really like the whole tango aesthetic. It´s so powerful and sexy and glamourous and passionate!
Although the dancers were sweating like pigs. Someone should tell them that Buenos Aires is really hot.
In the evening we wandered down Avenida de Mayo and then Florida to get some modern architecthuretichure to contrast the colonial lined cobbled streets of San Telmo. We unexpectedly bumped into a whole string of performers and blanket displayed jewellery in this long pedestrian mall that is Florida.
I had to buy the CD from this three piece band. They were extremely moving musicians. If I had to sum up BA after two days, I simply play you this music.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Friday, February 23, 2007

Goodbye Canada

Last night was my farewell bash. It was awesome. It was a pot-luck byo spectacular at the Slo's place with about 25 biologists and biochemists from Dalhousie Uni (which is where Slobro works). Everyone got stuck in despite it being a Wednesday and some of them meeting with a multimillionaire the next morning to ask for money because they are so professional etc etc

When the party had been whittled down to about eight I figured it was time for "Khe San".
I put it on and explained what was happening during the verses. Then I engaged Martin, one of the Czech guys, as my demonstration partner for the choruses.
We stood up. Martin said "But I don't know de wards."
I told him it didn't matter.
And it didn't.

Dear Slobro and SloSister-in-law,

Thank you very very much for putting me up.

I have bought you a present.
I have hidden it somewhere in your house.
It looks like this:

Inside are these:

Before I have ninja skillz, you will not find it for ages, so I have stashed it sideways to ensure that the "Sampling of the Delights of French Red Wine" will not spoil.

Adios, me hermano y me sister-in-lawo.

PS I have stolen one of your towels.

Things I learned in Canada

...that I actually would like a taste of Xena's honey first thing in the morning.

...and that my son is going to get one of the family names. (sorry about the lighting on this one)
I just want to stand at my front door yelling "GAYLORD!!" I guess I don't actually _need_ a son for that.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Halifax. And they say Canadians have no sense of humour

Alright: Stop!
Mattress Hammer time!*

Ms Fits on RYWHM recently posted about a friend of hers who witnessed an accident. The Canadians are such helpfully people in such instances.

And should a hot traffic cop also attends the accident...

* To ignore one girl hitting on you, MattressHammer, may be regarded as a misfortune; to ignore both looks like carelessness.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Yeeharr! Bluegrass Canada Style

But first: beer!
Ooh, and eggs and bacon with fries because they were $2.99.

Coloured glass light shades in a pub in Halifax, Canada that look the same as those upstairs in the Friend in Hand in Glebe, Australia.
Coincidence or destiny?

These guys are the Bluegrass Diamonds from New Brunswick. My photgraphy skillz have captured them performing in French.
The highlight of the afternoon was the headliner J P Cormier. He was an absolute demon. And his bass player was a wizard on the mandolin.
I like Bluegrass when no-one is singing.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Halifax Friendly Ice Monsters

Dear Harry,

Are you having fun yet.

Love Caroline
Dear Caroline,

No, it's boring as hell.

It's mostly washing up so far.

Love harry

It's pretty funny walking in the forest here, because the ground freezes. That means when it rains the water sits on the surface and then freezes, so you get ice covering all the ground - especially the paths. That didn't occur to me.
Makes for more adventurerous walking than a calm wander through the woods.

I spent about half of my walk today on the frozen lake. There are large air pockets trapped under the ice. When the ice expands, and moves with the wind(? airpressure changes?) these fantastic sounds that boom and knock ring out. This means that you _hear_ the lake when you get near.
Better yet: as you walk on it, and deform the ice, more sounds are generated. It sounds like the elctro-liquid-organic bass effects from leftfield - particularly 'Original' and 'Afro Melt.' There are some deep booms some with an echo. There are sort of whip sounds but slow and taps and knocks. It was disconcerting at first and then it was like a friendly monster following me. It would be a prime sample site for dub. Then I thought how cool it would be drunk or stoned. And ride mountain bikes on it. Hewgor would be totally up for that.

I found some awesome fractal patterns where warmer water has bored holes in the ice from below, then frozen. They look like creeks seen from the air. Or because they are in a flat plane with long staright cracks in the ice; and are exposed where the snow has blown off, they look like fossiled alien ganglia. See?