Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Iguazu Falls

Upon seeing Iguazu, the United States' First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt reportedly exclaimed "Poor Niagara! Screw you Eleanor!
Iguazu Falls lies on the border of Argentina and Brazil and it is a major stop on the Gringo Trail. There are lots of arguments about which side looks better. I found the Argentine side was pretty spectacular.
The park itself is layed out really well and for being the main and if not only reason to come to Puerto Iguazu it is not over the top tacky touristy. Which it could so easily be.

Now for the one and thing that is starting to stick in my spleen. Gringo pricing. You know it, you love it but you get tired of it. Today it is brought to you by Iguazu National Park. Entrance to the park, Argentinians 40 Pesos, Gringos $100 peso. The sign does not actually say Gringo but I may as well. So you smile, try and make a little joke that you are Argentinian and pay your entrance fee.

I do not know the specifics of the main falls, the Devils Hole but Wiki has some great information on the park. There are also some pretty spectacular photos.

How do you get there, funny you should ask. Upon arrival and paying your Freaking Gringo Fee, you enter a nicely laid out staging area. A few shops and stores nothing crazy. You then walk to the train, yes sir you take a train. It is like any carnival train but it holds about 200 people. You jump on board and a 15 to 20 minutes ride through some lush parkland you get to the end of the line and The Devils Hole..bum bum bummm

Spectacular enough and standing in the mist to ward off the blazing sun I was surrounded by so many people saying..ohhh its just like Niagara. No its not you bone heads! Its nothing like Niagara. Well there is water flowing over a rocky cliff but that just about where the comparisons end.

There were great walking trails that led to other vantage points with to many photo ops. I have learned to try and keep it to a minimum now.  I have begun to  experimented with removing the colour and changing the layout from some of my photos. I really like the results. One day I will blow a few up and put them in the bedroom.

To change it up there was a nice wooded trail that led to a small falls and a swimming hole. To get there you are told that there are snakes that may appear on the trail. Nothing is more reassuring then a sign showing that they are friendly and smiling.
Yes, for the second time on this trip a large snake owned my ass. It crossed in front of me maybe 5 metres away. Far enough that I was not in any danger but close enough that turning around and running away like a 10 year old girl was an option.
Iguazu has recharged me for the final leg of my journey.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Posadas Adventure

Unlike the great Irvin Allan adventure flick Posadas is not turned upside down but everyone is gone, including the captain. Yes another subtle reminder that I am in the North and its the off season. Just look at the crowds on the boardwalk.  And its hot, I mean Africa hot. Four litres of water a day hot.

I was going to go to the Jesuit Ruins at San Ignacio but my timing is off. I will head to Iguazu for a couple days and stop at San Ignacio on the way back. Both places are going to be cool.

After battling the crowds along the boardwalk I was hungry. Now the next challenge in this day is how do I find a spot to sit in any of the cafes along the strip. I mean I was famished. As anyone who knows me can tell you the one thing I rarely will do is wait in a line at a restaurant. I freaking hate it. Well I was not having none of that today, someone was giving up their seat to the tourist. Who by the way was the only tourist in town.

As I walked past each cafe there were many "what the hell is he doing here" looks from the locals. I ignored them and pushed through a large crowds who were getting a bit unruly. I found a table right on the main street. How lucky can a guy get, seriously.

Every town I mean every town has a town square and most town squares have a church. Nothing can compare to the beautiful cathedral of Leon, Nicaragua but this little church had its charms.
It took me some time to get the crowds to disperse and have all the vendors move their carts but everyone eventually co operated and I got the shot. Did I mention this town was freaking hot!

Well Posadas is not with out it charms. A nice square, long clean waterfront, a great view on Paraguay and the jump off  point for the Jesuit Ruins of St. Ignacio. It was worth the two days.

A Sketchy Bus Back Into Argentina

This was going to be a piece of cake. An easy bus ride across the border back into Argentina then find another bus to Posada. Its a common route so away we go.

First the bus to Concordia. Quick and easy and with border controls it took about an hour. With the river crossing came an 1 hour time change so I left at 9:30 and arrived at 9:45. Time travel hurts. The border here is not busy at all and took maybe 5 minutes with the line up of 4 people in front of me. After a stamp and a buenas suerte I was back in Argentina. I had no intention of staying in Concordia and finding a ticket should be easy enough. The first kiosk was Singer Bus but they did not have a bus leaving until 11:00 pm and it was an overnighter. I then went to a company I had never seen before. I think it was called dirty bus/smelly bus company. The company slogan was he is not only the bus driver but the mechanic as well. Good Grief!

Most of the buses are double deck and I like to get one up top. For some bizarre reason not only did I take seat in the bottom section, I took the last seat at the back. The good news was the bus was leaving in 15 minutes and estimated time was 8.5 hours. Not many stops but a bit of a milk run none the less.

** Bus seats are assigned and they give you the choice of where to sit when you buy your ticket. They have a little seat selection map on the computer screen and you literally pick your seat. I have been lucky so far to always have a window seat. **

Well after all the amazing bus trips I have been on, and there have been many I was bus slumming it. I wondered why the ticket was so cheap. Anyways I bet you can guess where this is going. We were humming along nicely for about 3 or 4 hours. Making our stops and allowing me time to grab water or food. We even had a couple of decent movies with Bad Teacher and Limitless. Then the oddest thing happened. We randomly pulled over on the side of the highway which considering buses pick up and drop people off anywhere it was not that bad, but he turned of the engine. OK, after thousands of miles and countless bus rides this was new.

Our bus driver/mechanic proceeds to the side of the bus just below my windown and looks underneath. Maybe we hit something, or someone. He gets down on his back and reaches underneath the bus to the undercarriage and starts beating the hell out of something. He comes back up with "a job well done smirk" and off we go.

Well a job not well done. There is the faint smell of diesel and exhaust wafting through the bus and a person near the front tells the driver...screeeech! Bus pulls over. Our guy repeats his thorough repairs of whatever needs to be fixed, this time with a lead pipe and screw driver. And we are off. Thirty minutes later we stop. This exercise is repeated 5 or 6 more times until we get to a town with a Terminar de bus. Well here we go.  He pulls out a piece of cardboard and lays on it and each time he comes out from under the bus he is a bit greasier. Now there are half a dozen dude hanging around looking and pointing. Someone decides they will help and hold the flash light. Our guy is rolling around right below me, shirt coming up to expose a well girthed belly, a quick bacon flip and its plumbers but times 10.

** I did take a few photos of our guy working his little heart out but after looking at them I threw up a little bit in my mouth and deleted them.**

Now the time has come. What do I do? Like a signal from on high two well dressed drivers from Singer Bus come walking over. Their bus which sits about 5 spaces over is Mint! They talk to our guy and after they look at each other, smirk, shrug their shoulders and walk away. Well as my Irish friends along the way are so fond of saying, I blurt out FOOK THAT. I get off the bus and tell our guy I want my rucksack. He tells me everything is fine, and I tell him I want my rucksack, he tells me my ticket is for Posadas and I tell him I want my rucksack. He relents.

I grab my blue bag of happiness and walk into the terminal as my old bus chugs off into the night. Singer bus is just sitting there ready to leave in 10 to Iguazu with a stop in....POSADAS!! I pony up the ten bucks and speed my way into the night.

Remember Salto Is No Good For You

Just as salt is no good for your diet Salto Uruguay is no good for your itinerary. Seriously, here it is 2 days after leaving and I honestly blanked out. I could not remember where I stayed or what I did for about a minute...oh yeah thats age and not a Salto being boring thing.

I had sent a few room and be requests to various hostels but I did not hear anything back which is unusual in itself. So I had the girls at the hostel in Colonia book me a room at a hotel for 2 nights. They did tell me, and I did not believe them that most of the hostels were closed because it was to hot. Yes it was to hot!  This is the off season in the north of Uruguay (Folks in Niagara Falls can appreciate a slow off season). Salto is home to thermal pools, which I found out were just that. Concrete pools with the water heated up. *yawn*. Every posting said to skip them so no worries.

Well not only were alot of the hostels and hotels closed but so was much of the town. I have had zero luck with you Uruguay. A walkabout town is always a great way to spend some time so off I went.
Lots of nice old colonial buildings which I can never tire of. It looks like many are in the process of being restored and look great. I took my map that the hotel game me and tossed it into the garbage. I am getting to reliant on maps. It was time to re-hone the senses. It worked, I got lost, what a hero.

The town is a grid, like most towns and cities but I someone got turned around. When it doubt always go back to the river and start again. I had to use the river because my other trick of finding the highest landmark or something that stands out was impossible. I swear I was the tallest thing in this town.

From Salto its good bye Uruguay and back to Argentina. That is Argentina on the right, across the Uruguay river.

I have about 2000 Uruguay pesos I need to exchange, about $100 which can do that In Posadas or Iguazu, but for now its time to keep moving North. I have my bus booked to Concordia Argentina tomorrow then its a short 8 hour hop up to Posadas from where I can look across the Parana river and have my first look at Encarnación, Paraguay.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

No Scooter For You!

I woke up early today excited, giggy even. It was scooter day. Then my excitement turned to lunch bag letdown. There was a slight drizzle left over from the rain last night. The roads were shiny and slick and the grey overcast meant one thing. No scooter for me. So what does a guy do when he has nothing to do. He goes back to bed, that's what he does.

My bad habits of oversleeping and napping are becoming a lifestyle. Who am I to argue after all the years of 6:00 am wake ups, 14 hour work days, exhausing business travele and a blackberry appendage.

It was windy and 15 minutes into my hike blue skys appeared. Whatever, I was on my way. Now I have been jaded with Patagonia and Antarctica so when I walk a waterfront trail of brown water it can become, "yeah whatever". There was a nice breeze coming off the ocean taking away all the humidity so the walk was on.

Nothing spectacular to see. My Merrells have been taken a beating, my clothes are starting to look weather beaten, my hair is in the "in between stage" and I look like a banker. Life on the road!

I came across and old bull fight ring. It was designed like a roman coleseum and was probaby very impressive in it's day. With a a huge fence surrounding it and a sign that said no trespassing it was pretty clear this place was just a monument to times gone by. The hole in the fence said other wise.

Rusting and decaying but impressive none the less. The grass infield was oddly green and neat which gave it a real surrealistic feel. The metal steps creaked when I ran up them, so I ran down them just as fast. I was just looking at the infield and admiring the history of the place when a cold chill ran down my back. Ghosts of matadors past? I dont care if it was mice running across the floor. When my sixth sense tells me its time to leave, I listen every time.

Walking the trail today gave me a bit of time to reflect on what I have accomplished recently. I have accumulated almost 13 months on the road having travelled through 11 countries plus Antarctica. I have volenteered for 4 months in 4 countries while learning a new language. I have marvelled at so much, made lifetime friends while refocusing as to what is important in my life. I now try to look at everything from a new perspective and hope to continue to develop that skill. My bank account has taken a fundamental beating but its money well spent.

This journey has been amazing and eye opening, but this chapter is coming to a close. A new chapter will begin soon enough, and I suspect it will be the best chapter imaginable.

Monday, January 23, 2012


I am in a Colonial town called Colonia. It takes some long round table discussion to come up with a creative name like that. Well done Uruguay, well done. The town is actually Colonia del Sacaramento but its fun to make fun.

I have no issue when people rave about a place. I mean its all subjective right? Well Colonia gets all kinds of rants and raves in the travel guides, and some of the feedback I have gotten from people is the place is amazing. Maybe because I have seem most of the major "colonial towns" through Central and South America so I am a bit jaded. This place is nice and has some charms but it really is no more than a day trip or an overnighter.

I arrived here after an uneventful 3 hour bus ride from Montevideo. I am back to buses being reasonably cheap again. $10 for this journey.

Yesterday being Sunday was all about Football. 8 hours of TV bliss. The hostel had the games on so 7 of us circled around a 21 inch TV and had a great time. The beer was cold, the hostel owner cooked streaks and pork and just tossed it on the table in front of us. Just eat boys..so we did. Like a pack of wolverines!

Good games but Lee Evans, come on. You make that catch and Joe Flacco has a legacy. You drop it and he is just another quarterback that can not win the big one. As for Billy Cundiff pulling a Norwood. Good luck next year you poor sucker. This pro bowl season for you means zero now...hey just like Norwood in 91.
** After the 1991 season, the Bills waived Norwood after signing Steve Christie, formerly of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Norwood became recluse in his native Fairfax County, Virginia, and later became an insurance salesman and real estate agent**

Tomorrow is all about scooters! For whatever reason this is a big scooter rental town, that and golf carts. Now I love a good golf cart and the thought of bombing around it one is awesome but that needs more than one person. A scooter, well having someone on the back holding on tight is always great riding solo is not as silly looking as solo on a golf cart. However these are tricked out Golf carts, pictures in the next post. And scooter is just another fun word to say.

So it will be an all day scooter ride in and around the area. I have not rented one since Roatan, Honduras. After tomorrow I am going to hit the road again. I honestly don't know where to go and what to do. A first for me.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

I'm Sorry Sir, Montevideo Is Closed

OK Montevideo I understand you are not BA and pride yourself on being chill and laid back but this is taking it a bit to far. This is Saturday and most places are closed, even in the tourist walking mall. What is up with that. I understand Sunday. Everything in Latin America is closed on Sunday and it can seriously be challenging to find food but Saturday in the capital. Come on, lets get some game! Exploring was good and you have some cool buildings, parks, fountains and statures but I have seen it all before. Bring something to the table!

Wow, that was kind of harsh! There are options when things area slow but the first thing you do is, come on you know what it is...find a bar! Pilsen is 100 pesos, about $5 a bottle but the bottle is a litre and a half. That always takes the pain away.

Just before Antarctica I broke another pair of sun glasses. I think that made 6 pairs lost or broken. I borrowed a pair from Wolfgang on the trip but have gone without since. I could not find a cheap street pair in Argentina and I was just to lazy to put the effort in at times. Well it all changed today. Look at these new puppies.

Ray Ban my favourite. Now the guy on the street who had a whole shit load of styles laid out on the table assured me that these were not knock offs, they were real ray bans. To prove it and because he liked me he would give them to me for $250 Ur. Pesos, about $12.00. Wow, real ray bans for $12. This guy had nothing but my best interests in mind. I jumped at it and gave him a $500 peso note. I got my change and off I went. Real ray bans for $12.  He would not mislead me would he? They are great, look good and I am sure I will lose or break them before the month is out. I went to MacDonald's for a coffee and when I counted my changed I noticed that my street buddy short changed me about 50 pesos. He would not do that on purpose, an honest mistake. A street vendor would not lie to me and rip me off would he?

Friday, January 20, 2012

..and into Uruguay

Uruguay. Go ahead and say it. UR OO GWAY, UR OO GWAY. I love that word.

Well here I am in another country that was just a place on a map for so many years. It was easy enough to get here from Argentina. There is a ship that does the hour trip from BA to Colonia Uruguay 4 times a day. Then I transferred to a bus for the 3 hours ride to the capital, Montevideo. The boat ride was uneventful however I did have a standard class seat and that of course includes all kinds of screaming babies and yelling children. Time to hold my head high and walk with confidence into first class like you belong. Nobody batted an eye or checked my ticket for that matter, plus they gave me champagne. Someone very smart told me that when the time is right walk with confidence and hold your head high, you can go anywhere.

A New country (37), new flag and new freaking pesos to get a grasp on. 1 Canadian dollar = 19.1 UPesos so 1 = 20 in my world. I now have a pocket full of 1000, 500 and 100 peso notes . The bank gives you 1000 notes out of the ATM and they are hard to use. A little tip I learned to get started is to take out 3900 pesos not 4000. That way you get 100s to get you started for cabs and food, then go into the bank during business hours and exchange the 1000s for smaller notes. I like smart advice.

** to my friend Ed, the pesos are safely tucked away in my private safe in my room. Thanks for your concern about me walking around with money in my pocket and announcing it on my blog in the past, again I like smart advice**

Argentina was interesting and had some great highlights. I think because it came after Antarctica and I was sick for a while it never had the chance it deserves. I will pass through the north to a small sliver of Argentina between Uruguay and Paraguay. There are some Jesuit ruins and of course Iguazu Falls on the Brazilian border. I may head over to the Salt Flats in the north as well. Bolivia is entering its rainy season and sadly like Easter Island I may have to skip it. Its not going anywhere and will be a place to explore in the future.

I can feel the difference between BA and Montevideo right away. BA is huge and the portenos (People who live in BA) are aggressive and on the go, busy busy busy. It could be any American, Canadian or European city really. Staring into their mobile devices and blocking the sidewalk or almost getting run over by a passing taxi, bouncing off you, cutting in front of you and not giving a dam. Here in Montevideo there is a calmness in  the city, the people and just the feel. I have only been here half a day lets see what tomorrow brings. Its also noticeably cheaper. I have been paying a premium through Chile and Argentina and its nice to have the dollar stretch a little further.

Finally you would not think so but travelling for extended periods of time can get tiring and the last couple weeks have been a bit slow for me. I think it showed in the blog postings. A few very long bus trips and a brutal and nagging chest cold caused me to loose allot of my energy. As the saying goes, "my get up and go has got up and went". I had some nice wanders and did a few cool things but it was not the same. I started coming around a few days ago but it was a brilliant 2 hour Gcall phone conversation that completely got my groove back, yes I said groove back. My energy is restored and all is right on the road again. Bama, only you could have done that, thanks.

So off I go, into the Uruguay night..come on now UR OO GWAY. Makes you smile when you say it doesn't it?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Buenos Aires

Wow, what a city. Buenos Aires (fair winds) is massive. There are 48 districts or neighbourhoods and I am staying in San Telmo. Here is what Wiki Travel has to say about it.
San Telmo - this district preserves colonial-style houses along narrow cobblestone lanes, illuminated with pretty wrought iron lanterns. In San Telmo, one breathes the history of Buenos Aires. There is also a very exciting, underground nightlife scene.

I have been a walking fool for the last 5 days and during that time I only hit San Telmo, Ricoleta, the Micro Centre and La Boca.

Today I changed it up and jumped on a very touristy open aired bright yellow double decker tour bus. It was great. For over 3 and a half hours we cruised in and out of neighbourhoods and I certainly went to areas I would never have gone. It been a long time since I was on one of these types of tours and I am going to do it more often in large cities.

The first couple days here was all about football! I found an ExPat bar and spent most of Saturday and Sunday there. I needed a dose of Western style life having been lazing around with that chest cold of mine. I had Chicken wings!! There were not great but I ate them in record time, and ordered another batch. The beer was cold, the walk home was safe and it was a great way to start my time here.

Monday and Tuesday were all about exploring. I strapped on the Merrells and off I went. BA is all about parks and monuments. There is nothing but history here. Well history and the freaking Tango!
I kept getting hit up on the street by touts asking me if I wanted to go to a tango show, it included dinner. I honestly thought it was porn or prostitution but then again how many prostitutes cook you dinner?  I guess that is what happens when you grow up in a town full of strip clubs and call girls.I am an idiot at times!

This city is very easy to navigate being in a grid, the buses are cheap and the subway is fast. I found great pubs, good food and coffee shops, lots and lots of coffee shops! Now the Starbucks is good but expensive so it has been Macdonalds coffee in the morning to get me going. Macdonalds has upped it game. For those who don't go it pretty damn good and I am a coffee snob. I have slipped the odd egg mcmuffin in there as well.

I have seen many marches in Latin America. They have been peaceful and fun to watch. It has mostly been students but that is always a good thing. In my world students should always question authority. Well yesterday I hit the big time.
I heard some banging and chanting and like a moth to a light I had to go check it out. At the corner of Av. de Mayo and Peru there were what I figured were farmers or vendors. Thier signs were protesting thier inability to sell whatever it was they were trying to sell. I hung around and was taking a few photos when the taxi drivers who could not pass stopped blaring thier horns...and got out of thier cars. I dont work for the press so my camera went away. This was going to be interesting. There were a few cops milling about so when the taxi drivers started fighting with the protesters the cops actually backed away. Weird I thought. However weird it was all about regrouping. Within 45 seconds there were yellow vested fully geared cops coming from three different direction. I actually remember saying "Where the hell did they come from" to the people beside me. They were not taking and shit. They moved in batons held high. The second the screaming started that snapped me out of my daze. I turned tail right back the way I came and never looked back. It pissed me off, I dropped my water!!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

All About Eva

No trip to Argentina and more specifically Buenos Aires would not be complete without mentioning Eva Peron. I know very little about her but it is an understatement to say there are references to her everywhere in this city.
She was the first lady of Argentina for less than 6 years and died in 1952 at the age of 33. Fifty years later when I mention or ask what someone thinks about Evita or Eva Peron thier faces light up. Young, old, man or woman it does not matter. This woman seriously captured the mood and hearts of a nation and it holds true to this day.

She is buried in Cementerio de la Recoleta. What a crazy ass place. I have mentioned my love of cemeteries and how the one in Valparasio Chile was impressive. Well let me tell you it can not hold a candle to Recoleta. It was like walking down city streets with massive house like monuments, polished marble, clean streets and lots of green space. They honoured the rich an famous of Argentine society and no expenses have been spared. I did not know anyone other than Eva Peron but I stumbled across ex presidents, poets and writers, actors, and great historical figures.

"Don't Cry For Me Argentina"
It won't be easy, you'll think it strange
When I try to explain how I feel
That I still need your love after all that I've done

You won't believe me
All you will see is a girl you once knew
Although she's dressed up to the nines
At sixes and sevens with you

I had to let it happen, I had to change
Couldn't stay all my life down at heel
Looking out of the window, staying out of the sun

So I chose freedom
Running around, trying everything new
But nothing impressed me at all
I never expected it to

Don't cry for me Argentina
The truth is I never left you
All through my wild days
My mad existence
I kept my promise Don't keep your distance

And as for fortune, and as for fame
I never invited them in
Though it seemed to the world they were all I desired

They are illusions
They are not the solutions they promised to be
The answer was here all the time
I love you and hope you love me

Don't cry for me Argentina

Have I said too much?
There's nothing more I can think of to say to you.
But all you have to do is look at me to know
That every word is true

I like Sarah Brightmans cover of the song.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Human Camel or Bad Dehydration

Buenos Aires! It has been almost two months since I was in a big city (Santiago) and I have missed the vibe. There is something about a city that gets me going, especially after two months in country. Listen to me, like its been a brutal experience being outside a city.

The last couple weeks have been a bit slow. A couple long bus rides (21 hours and 31 hours) plus this nagging chest cold has kept me a bit inactive. Not a bad thing at all. Sometimes you need to rest and that is exactly what I was doing. I am still working on Moby Dick (what a brutal read), been studying Spanish daily for a couple hours, getting lost of sleep and working my way back into trekking shape. However I have just realized the one massive bad habit that I picked up that last couple of weeks, out of sheer neglect and laziness. I have not been drinking enough water.

On any given day I try to put away 2L of water. I know, drink 8 pints of beer no problem, 2 litres of water a huge challenge. Yesterday I found the Alamo in the Recoleta district. An ExPat sports bar about a 30 minute walk from my hotel, so off I went. It was NFL Game day! I got there early, 3pm and the games did not start until 6, remembering we are 2 hours ahead. So I sat in the pub with a few other guys who did not know the Saturday schedule and dove into decent chicken wings and the special. A pitcher of beer for 40 pesos, about $10. The bar filled up to sausage capacity and the beer was going down great. First half over, time for chicken fingers and fries..oh and another pitcher. The San Fran / New Orleans game was a good as it gets. I was starting to wobble a bit and was going to leave after game 1. New England was going to blow the doors off Denver and I still needed to find my way back to my hotel in San Telmo.

I remember the way as I am a landmark guy and keep the streets to main streets and a minimum when I get too a new place, and when I have been drinking. Well I was finishing a second pint when the American dude beside me when to the bathroom and came back with the standard dude phrase "I broke the seal about an hour ago", then followed up with, "Dude are you a camel?". It took me a second but before I could say anything both him and a few other guys that we were bull shitting with wondered if I was ever going to pee! Now don't get the wrong impression. Guys don't go to the bathroom together, guys don't talk in the bathroom and you always leave an open urinal between you and the guy next to you, and you don't really pay attention to when guys go. However, if you (well me) drank 3 pitchers of beer plus 2 pints and did not move from your chair from 3pm until almost 10 pm people notice that. I was ready to leave so I got off the chair. Suddenly these fools gave met a round of applause because I was heading to the bathroom. It because pretty funny.

** the americans were US Marines and were every bit the cliche, but they cracked me up**

Well walking home I had to think about the absurdity of it and I could only conclude that I must have been extremely dehydrated. I put away almost 200 oz of liquid and did not pee. Remember dehydration is a lot different than thirsty. Dehydration is dangerous. Its also 35 degrees plus here!

I wandered back to my hotel along a very busy 6 de junio to indenpendcia and the streets were jammed with people. Walking, sitting on patios or just hanging around. I just smiled my half drunk smile with my internal monologue telling me I was half in the bag walking the streets of Buenos Aires and I did not have a care in the world.

Thursday, January 12, 2012


Leon, you hung in there as long as you could but the competition was just to tough, but you sir, you have been replaced! I honestly did not think it could happen. A town on this journey has taken over from Leon Nicaragua as number 1 on my list of top towns. That town is boldly known as Mendoza Argentina.

Large leafy tree lined boulavards, cafe and terrace filled walking malls, streets teeming with people of all ages at all hours of the day and they are not carrying large backpacks or tekking gear.Lots of chatter and smiles everywhere. Being in the dead heart of Argentine Wine country the tourism trade is just a by product of life here in Mendoza, it does not thrive on it alone. Restaurants are reasonable, about 30% less than anywhere in Patagonia, the public bus system is decent, and cars stop for you when you cross the street (Do you hear that Peru, they STOP). The weather is amazing year round. Today its 39 and sunny, but I am adjusting.
I have spent the last 2 days and early evening just walking around the streets absorbing everything. I would stop for coffee at a cafe or lunch and a beer at an out door terrace or Irish Pub (yuppers, Liverpools thrives here in Mendoza). There is a MacDonalds to avoid but a Subway to enjoy. However the subway lacks in anything on the hot and spicy side like jalapenos or hot pickled peppers. I will write head office about that. The clothes shopping here is exactly what I needed as both my socks and gitch are ready to a museum. There is an abundant of choices for not argentinian food (streaks or hot dogs) and when I found the local shwarma place, well I found home. I have been there 4 times and I might go back tonight. All told this town has a great working town feel to it and it is close to mountains, rivers and wine country giving your many options for adventures.

The Updated List
1. Mendoza Argentina
2. Leon Nicaragua
3. Cuenca Ecuador
4. Boquete Panama
5. Santiago Chile

I decided that I needed a break from Hostels and more importantly dorms. I wanted my own space for three or 4 days. I went large and found a 1 star hotel, yes sir 1 star, Hotel Aragon. I am splurging at $30 a night and living large in Mendoza.

** In the past when travelling on business I usually stayed at The Queen Elizabeth in Montreal or any other Fairmont in Vancouver, Calgary or Ottawa. If I went to a city without a Fairmont there was always a Sheraton, a W or an other fine hotels to be had. (I refuse to stay at Hilton). Now being a presidents club member had its privledges, and I really like being a presidents club member. However, I honestly like my 1 star hotel and all the quirks and charms it brings to the table....Yeah I am lying. I miss the maids turning down my bed, my breakfast arrive hot at the door just after my wake up call, my shoes being shined, the gym, the pool the American Express expense card and most of all, working with my friends in Montreal. Now that being said, it sure felt good to toss the blackberry into the Niagara River when it was time to leave that world.

Ok, back to reality. Today I was signed up for a Bike Wine tour. I was to get driven out to wine country in a microbus so I suspect there would have been 10 or 12 others. When we arrive we would be given a bike, a helmet and a map and told off you go, have fun. There is a curcuit that you do which is short, about 12 km and you visit 5 or 6 wineries, on the bike. I was rearing to go, but alas it was not meant to be. Our driver had a family emergency this morning and could not make it. The sun was shining and I was up early so off I went exploring.

I did something I rarely ever do and if asked I always say no. I went to the local zoo. Now I am sure there are good zoo's in the world and that they do great research and save endangers species and all the rehtoric that goes with it. All I see are animals in cages walking in circles or sleeping. The Mendoza zoo lived up to that glorious standard.

First birds. As I haved mentioned in the past, birds are cool. However when there can not fly, hop from branch to branch or are walking on the ground how is that good. There were gorgeous Pumas, that just layed in thier small and dirty cages staring out at me. A black panther, wow a black panther however it may have been a rug in front of a fireplace for all it was doing. The elephants looked at me like they were crying, there were a couple of hippos submerged in filthy water. The zebras were huddled in a corner, the bears literally had thier heads on rocks looking out at everyone. Bengal tigers, african lions, hyenas and water buffalo they had them all. Each looked at deaths door.

There was one moment of excitement that made me pull out my camera, monkeys!! Wild and roaming the trees doing what monkeys do. I suspect they escaped and nobody cared but just watching them made me feel better about the whole experience.

I walked back into town, drank a couple of large ice cold draft and decided it was to hot to be outside. I am going for a nap...just like the animals in the zoo.

Monday, January 9, 2012


Wind, wind and more wind, that is Barlioche. Today has been exceptional though. Winds topping 40 knots, thats about 46 mph. What is a knot you say, well 1 knot = 1.15 mph
According to The UltraLight Place todays winds bring fresh gales, breaks twigs off trees and generally impedes progress. Yes sir powerful enough to make me wobble when I was out on the street proweling for lunch.
It must be normal because they monitor the wind at the hosteland this is a huge wind surf bay. With the lake lright outside the big bay windows it makes for a great view. The waves are good rollers with s a few white caps and the water is exceptionally blue, but compared to the Drake the waves here can only be described as cute.

I spent the three days here doing exactly as planned. Sleeping, eating, sleeping, eating, drinking then sleeping some more. It has worked because this chest cold is breaking. There are some great hikes here and usually its weather be damned. Honestly it can be a good challange with the weather sometimes, however its time to rest.

This gorgeous place my home away from home while in Bariloche. No not the white van you fools, WilKenny Irish Pub. Will Kenny come to the pub, yes sir he will. The Quellmes draft is good and they had the NFL playoffs on. What better place to be when your feeling sick than an Irish pub!
I also made a point of eating properly here and found a few impressive places. The first was Le Fonda Del Tio a local favourite.  From LP. You won't find student crowds or primped ski bunnies at this modest local favorite, which whips out massive portions of hearty food for a very local crowd. A must if you're on a budget or feeling tired of the tourist scene.

The food is home made and beyond good. Today I had gnocci bolonaise and a huge salad. Yesterday ravioli. My body was craving pasta and it did not disappoint. I also drank grapefruit juice for whatever reason. Pepsi you will not defeat me. Tonight I am going to "Steak Out" at El Boleche De Alberto
Speaking of food, well to use that term very loosely I have not seen a fast food chain for almost 2 months until today. I smelt the smell before I saw anything. That disgusting yet familiar and comforting smell. Then as I turned the corner they they were like beacons of obesity just calling my name. The golden arches. I stopped, stared and was almost compelled to go in and I was not even hungry. Maybe tomorrow.

Finally, for what ever reason this town is know for its chocolate. For me chocolate is Snickers, Hershey and Turtles but I am a heathen at my core. Today I got a lesson as to why woman tend to choose chocolate over us men and honestly its not a fair fight. I have met the enemy and it was delicious. (For the record I can kick chocolates ass, any place and any time)

I also finally got off my butt and bought some flip flops. I am tired of being without sandels of any kind since since I left mine in a hostel somewhere in Chile and I hate wearing socks. You Aussies will be proud I have a new pair of Havaianas and they are comfy.

So a pretty uneventful time in Beriloche. This is a hot spot on the back packers circuit but then again so is everywhere that I have been stopping in Chile and Argentina. I need to get off the Gringo trail for a while. Talking to a few people they actually feel the same however they also feel compelled to keep on the trail for fear of missing something. After Mendoza I am going to just pick a few small towns on the map and find my way there. Change it up a bit while a work my way to Buenas Aires.

As Jackson Brown boldly states in his song The Load Out:.
We've got to drive all night and do a show in Chicago Or Detroit, I don't know
We do so many shows in a row
And these towns all look the same

Its when these towns all start to look the same that its time to do something different. Three days in Mendoza drinking wine should take care of that. I also find that Argentina does not have that South American edge to it that I was expecting. Every guide book says it should be placed in the middle of Europe and they are not far off. It is safe, clean and fun. Don't get me wrong at any level, this is Argentina. Home of Red Wine, Great Steak and crazed foot ball fans. I am loving it. However after so much time in the comforts of Chile, Antarctica and now Argentina I think I am craving something just a little edgier. Uruguay will be a good start in a couple weeks, then Paraguay then Boliva. Ah Boliva, there is something about Boliva that captures my imagination.

** Late night update. This hostel just had a mini rave. A bad band (lead, bass and kit) did bad covers real loud for a couple hours in a very small room. It was awesome!

30.5 hours In A Bus : Part 2

Saturday Jan 7, 2012

11:15 am
I just finished letting Van Morrison ease my way into the day with Hard Nose To The Highway and Period of Transition. I personally think that Wild Children from Hard Nose To The Highway is they style of Van Morrison Song I could listen to for hours. Sure everyone likes Browned Eyed Girl and Moondance but Wild Children is Van at his very emotional best. Give it a listen  here and you will know what I mean.

12:00 pm
Our bus not only starts to slow it jerks to a halt. SHEEP!! There are sheep everywhere and especially all over the road. We are driving through what appears to be large tracks of farm and ranchland, however it is still scrubby brush. It is sprawling and massive. From going 100km to 15km our trip now is going to take a bit longer. I am talking sheep for miles. I have to think that TAQSA does not account from sheep when it makes up its time table and itinerary.

1:15 pmLunch Stop at a farily non discript shop. The bus pulled off the main road to get here so this is a planned rest stop. They had pizza, sandwiches, candies and fridges full of drinks. There was a market around the corner so I took off for that (again not being a part of the herd just keeps me on my toes). I got back just as another bus was pulling in. I did see someone with Oreos so I lemminged up and rushed in. The look on the faces of the ladies working behind the counter was a combination of excitment and fear. Not because of me for gosh sake, but for the arrival of the second bus. How can you not be ready ladies. These buses come to your shop as a planned stop and they come every day. This is common everywhere I have been.
My oreos disappeared in about 3 minutes. They are usually washed down by a cold, sweet loving pepsi however this time It was bottled water. I was told I have to stay healthy so I am back on that path after a bit of a deviation.

3:00 pm
Brunch?  We pulled into a gas station where neatly dressed guys came out to serve us another meal. Pretty good cold chicken and rice with apple juice. I did notice the insane lineup for gas. I counted 31 cars. No explanation just an observation.

4:00 pm
Mountains. I see mountains. Well that was 24 hours of pain free bus travel! However we passed a road sign that said Bariloche 154 and an arrow pointing right. We went left. I realized my senses were leaving me because we entered a National Park and another nameless town and I did not have the energy to find out what they were. Daydreaming was working for me. The bus station was large and modern and it was busy enough, but who cares. Lets move along, nothing to see here.
I just watched Ritcheous Kill with De Niro and Pacino, it wasn't aweful however three scenes with De Niro having sex with Carla Gugino is just not right - EVER.
We spent what seemed like an odd amount of time at this bus station however I just found out there is a huge forest fire in the valley near El Bolson, the town we were heading to. This is going to be interesting.

5:45 pm
Along the way to El Bolson you could start to see the smoke coming from the valley and as it got darker you could see the glow of the fire. The smoke was massive and blocking the sun. Another powerful reminder from Mother Nature about who is in charge. We were not in any danger and that was 2 days ago so stop worring Meema! We had gotten to a cross roads and of course we were suppose to go straight. Yeah straight into the firestorm! We went right and around the gates of hell. The road was definately beautiful and scenenic but not designed for a huge double decker cruiser bus. We crawled slowly up and down narrow but safe roads, across very narrow bridges and through some of the best scenery of the trip. I was stuck to me seat, Ipod a blasting and enjoy the bumping and pounding. However later that night and the next night I paid for this simple pleasure with pain in places I never new exisited. Time was now not relevant.

8:30 pm
I have become one with Seat 31. After a bumpy 3 hours I could see the main highway and it happened again. Bariloche 125 km to the right, we went left. COME ON! We had to back track to El Bolson about 20 km. I did no research on this town but it is a jump off point for camping and trekking in the area. More then a few people told me it was filled with hippies from the 70s. Hippies from the 70s? Well I was going to get into Bariloche much later than I had planned but we were close and I was ready to get off the bus in El Bolson just to get off, however seat 31 had a strangle hold on my senses.

10:40 pm
Bariloche!! I arrived alive but there is an Irish pub near my hostel and I am going to find it. I jumped in a cab to get to the Patanuk Lake Hostel, the only place on the lake here and I was not disappointed. My room had a huge picture window overlooking the lake. If it wasnt for the 7 other people in the room it would have been amazing. Budget Travel is starting to wear on me with these dorms. I am looking forward to getting back to the poorer countires of South America so I can get private rooms again. However if this is my biggest concern right now I am doing ok. I tossed my bags on my bed, walked double time to the Wilkenny Irish pub and caught the end of the Saints/Lions game.

If you think these past 2 posts have been boring, well you should have been on the bus! Seriously it was not as brutal as you might think and at times it was pretty enjoyable. The good news is this is and will be the longest bus trip I have to take in South America. I think there is a 14 hour trip to Mendoza coming up (cake walk) and another to Salta however I will be checking for flights as well.

Argentina is massive and as big as India, so this should be fun

Sunday, January 8, 2012

30.5 hours In A Bus : Part 1

What could be worse when preparing for your 27 hour bus trip? Having it last 30.5 hours. Don't get me wrong I am just whinging as it really was not that brutal. Time went by fairly quickly. TAQSA the bus company kept the movies going throughout the waking hours. Angels and Demons, 2012, Ritcheous Kill, Ingloreous Bastards, and Babel plus I had Moneyball on my laptop. I just realized, that is 3 Brad Pitt flics. Whatever I liked him as an actor ever since True Romance
**As an aside my laptop battery now only charges to 65%. This sucker is less than 2 years old. Time for a little email to Gateway and Toshiba however I know the response I will get. Parts are not our fault, they are made somewhere else and we just put them together. At least I will tell them thier product is shit and feel better about it. It also does not help that I have dropped this puppy on more that one occastion but I am not going to tell them that.**

Friday Jan 6, 2012
Today was going to be another of my famous lazy ass days, something that I am going to have to shake sooner rather than later, but not just yet. I just realized I lost my travel alarm and I have no idea when the last time I pulled it out. That speaks for itself. My bus was not leaving until 4:00 and the guy at the hostel told me I could hang around most of the day if I wanted to, which was decent of him. I got up late, wandering into town for some lunch and travel supplies and was ready to say good bye to El Calafate.

11:30 am.
I got online and found myself FB chatting all afternoon. A great way to spend my time on this day thats for sure, thanks Bama. I had until 2:00 before I was going to be asked to leave. They needed to clean etc and I was cool with that. Howevere 2:00 came and I explained to the owner that I was chatting and who I was chatting to. He smiled knowingly and told me to stay another hour if I wanted to. Be nice and people will be nice and people will be nice right back to you.

3:00 pm.
Holy crap, how did that happen. Logging off and shutting down I had to get my ass to the bus station. It was only a 15 minute walk however I have learned to be early for any bus trip. They have been known to leave early, and Bariloche awaits. I am going to arrive on Saturday night so Sunday is going to be all about finding a bar that is showing the NFL playoffs and eating a good meal.

3:30 pm
My TAQSA chariot arrives. A double decker beauty. I climb aboard, find seat 31 and settle in. Now I am all about the excitement of a road trip however the two couples to my left have taken it to a new level. They start talking and it gets louder and faster. I recognize that its Italian not spanish and they are all talking at the same time. How is that possible? I torrented Moneyball so I put that on loud enough not to hear them. What a good movie. Well done Bratt Pitt and Jonah Hill. During lulls in the movie I hear my neighbours babbling away however the wife of the guy next to me has settled back into her seat.
Moneyball done and the silence is deafening. I watched the end of 2012 on the buses movie screens. What a piece of crap even if it did have Thandy Newton and Amanda Peet. A look out the window and it is all flat scrubland. *yawn*. Maybe a nap.

6:45 pm
I just spend the last couple hours staring out the window with my internal monologues rattling around my head to keep me entertained. My mind does drift into wierd and wonderful places at times.

8:00 pm
We pulled into Rio Gallegos for a bus transfer. We all jumped off the bus, grabbed our bags and stood around looking confused. It was organized chaos thats for sure but easy enought to figure out. You look for your bus company, TAQSA and check the digital read out on the front of that bus. If it says Bariloche that is your bus, if it says anything else dont ask the driver if this is the bus to Bariloche. However as a fail safe and if your not sure just hang around, let everyone else on your bus do the leg work and just follow the herd when a bus shows up.
Anyways 3 very bad beef and olive empanadas and a scray bathroom visit later I am back safely in good old seat 31 with the Ipod at the ready. Bariloche in 23 hours, mas o menos.

** I guess it is human nature to be stressed to the point of panic when you dont have all the percieved information you think you need and have to resort to thinking for yourself. Bus changes as an example. I try my best not to be a part of the herd mentality while being a part of the herd.**

9:00 pm Suppertime! Good Grief, why this just popped into my head. Suppertime from Your a good man Charlie Brown. Snoopy Rocks!  Well yes sir, like our hero Snoopy I was now being fed. With our laptop tables not securly fashioned it stared with a some type of pizza bun a flat bread and then there were two slices of very good spiced beef with sliced roasted potates. It was a small meal but it will be enough to carry me through the morning, plus I had lots of fruit and other healthy type snacks. With AC DC as my dinner music the food was devoured in about 3 minutes.
The thing about heading north is the sun starts to set at a reasonable hour. The sunset was not glorious but pertty enough over the scrubland, but this was scrubland of Argentina so that gave it a special feel.

Saturday Jan 7, 2012

3:00 am 
zzzzzz, snort, zzzzzz

7:00 am I surprised myself and slept through the night. The seats on the buses here recline to about 160 degrees plus there is a well designed leg and footrest the pulls out from the seat in front of you. This gives you the possibility of stretching out. Its not awesome but does the trick. However my hips are sore, that is a first. Again sucks.
We pulled into some town which was probably fairly important because 10 people left the bus. This place looks like an old Communist Eastern European town of the 70s. Lots of drab, high and square apartment buildings and just a dreary feel. There was a huge waterfront so why so drap town of Argentina? One of the Italian couples were part of that group and it was kind of sad to see them leave so early. I have some great convesations with them and they were really nice. When they left they gave me a small bag of food and like the stray dog that I am right now whoever feeds me is my friend for life.

9:30 am
I just woke up from a pretty good morning snooze. The bus is quiet and I just had breakfast of a chocolate filled coissant and carmel candy. Ok, sure whatever.

I was out of Patagonia. The soaring mountains were gone the sun set at a reasonable hour.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Birds Are Cool

Yes I said it outloud BIRDS ARE COOL!. You know you are getting older and maybe a little crazy when you start bird watching and really enjoy it. I can see my future old guy activities clearly. Metal Detector on the beach, Check. Bird Guide and Field Manuel, Check. High powered bonoculars for birdwatching and not leering, Check. Thermous of Single Malt and flash of wine, Check. Gorgeous woman beside me, Check.

El Calafate also has an emerging protected marshland beside the lake and that was worth a visit. Laguna Nimez Nature Reserve is a habitat full of sand dunes, marshes, Goose, Gucks, Lapwings and some preditory species.
I am all for Nature Reserves and I will say it again. Birds are cool. The walk around the lagoon took about 90 minutes depending on your speed. I only took a few pictures as I just wanted to enjoy the experience. It was a nice way to spend the mid morning.
Now back to my bus station experience of yesterday. For those that do not know there was a huge forest fire in Torres Del Paine National Park over the last couple of weeks. An Israeli national decided to heed the "no open fires" orders and then he tried to burn his toilet roll. BOOM goes the dynamite and the entire park went up in flames. He admitted to starting the fire but when he was arrested he said that he was innocent and it was lost in the spanish translation. Good Grief! 
Anyways google it and you will find all the stories. My favourite line came from his father. "He would not do this, he served in an army combat group and is more responsible for that". Ah, he was in a forward position within the Isreali Army and he would never do anything inappropriate. Got it!
So how does this affect my not going to El Chaltan and hike the Fitzroy. First its this damn chest cold. The decsion was easier now that everyone who now could not trek the W in Torres came to El Calafate on thier way to El Chaltan to hike the Fitzroy. The bus station yesterday was complete chaos. All travellers turned into lost and ignorent tourists. There were 7 large busses parked and ready to go. You could see everyone had thier tickets and vouchers but they were running around, bumping into each other, not giving a shit about anyone else and then stopping to take photos. The bus drivers were getting angry, the ticket agents were flustered, the tour leaders were almost in tears and our heros the Trekkers in full gear could give a rats ass. I was ashamed to be a part of the chaos so I walked to the end of the terminal and watched the maddmess unfold. It was a Saturday Night Live sketch just waiting to happen. Every tourist cliche possible

All buses were leaving at 8:00 and my microbus was leaving at 8:15 so I had a front row seat. A few others came over to where I was and we just smiled knowingly. There was no need for words.

So with the choice made I stayed an extra day in El Calafate. I had lunch with a few Filipino Aussies from the Antarctic trip who were in town, Kelvin and Don. Thier claim to fame is that they brought adult diapers on the Antarctic trip thinking that they were not going to be able to pee while landing. Funny funny stuff. They are good sports about it.

 I have been south for over a month now and its time to start putting some serious km behind me, the north is calling. Next stop is Bariloche, only a 30 hour bus ride away. For those keeping track that is Toronto to Miami. I could not find a flight as its high season and everything was booked so its Semi Cama for 30 hours. I think I am going to keep an hour by hour diary of the experience so stay tuned for that.

The wine country of Mendoza is creeping closer!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

El Calafate

Call it post Antarctica letdown or just being a lazy ass but I have been a lump for the last few days. However I have also stopped drinking Pepsi and other sodas for the New Year and what has happened. My body has said "oh yeah tough guy" and has started to fight back. First with a screaming detox headache for the first three days and now a chest cold that has me sleepy all the time. So when sleepy, sleep! And I have been.

I took a flight from Ushuaia to El Calafate on the 2nd. I was not in the mood for 2 border crossings and 14 hours in a bus. I wanted to move along, so here I sit.
El Calafate is famous for one major thing and that is the Perito Moreno Glacier. After Antarctica I was not really prepared by a mid mountain range glacier but I gave it a shot. Boy I am glad I did. What a sight. This bad boy is 30 km long coming down the mid andes randge and believe it or not it is 240 feet high. That is over a 20 story building. It was massive. I think the fact it stood alone and not surrounded by icebergs and other glaciers gave it a different feel

First up was the 90 minute bus ride to Glacier National park. It was one of the nicer bus rides I have had scenery wise. Chile was great but there is something special about the Argentine Patagonia that has a different feel to it. Cant explain it and am not going to try. However the experience at the bus terminal had alot to be desired. A bit more on that later.

We stopped at a Catamaran launch and off I went. I wanted to see this bad boy from the water, a la the Maid of the Mist. Holy crap it was massive.. This glacier is in contant change and with that comes high peaks ice blue ice as mentioned over 250 feet high, almost 90 metres.

Next came the walking tour. The Governemnt created what can only be described as a well thought out system of trails from which to view the glacier from all angles and sides. I stared at this baby for 4 hours moving along, stopping for while then moving some more, well me and about 1000 other people. However there are so many trails it was never crowded.

Now the thing this iceberg is famous for is Ice Calving. I knew what it was but never new the term. This glacier was constantly cracking, smashing and banging then it would happen. Large chunks of ice would fall off the glacier into the sea. I was never quick enough with my camera but it was a sight to behold. It happend no less than 30 times while I was there. Some pieces were as large as buildings other the size of cars. Even when a piece the size of a basketball fell the noise was awe inspiring. As I said before, we humans are so small!

This pictures gives you an idea of the size of this glacier. Have a look at the humanoids on the footpath out front. We all stood around listening to the cracks and bangs with great anticipation of the next large calfing moment.
When you stopped doing that and just stood back and looked up the glacier you then noticed how beautiful it really was.

Glaciers have now moved into my top 5 favourite things. 1. Skittles 2. Volcanoes 3. Glaciers 4. Penguins 5. Non distructive Ocean Surges.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Time To Start Heading North

2012 starts in Ushuaia Argentina where I am literally at the end of the Earth (fin del mundo). It has been inpiring to have wandered this far.Now it is time to head North. Well there is no other direction to go unless I want to go back through the Drake Passage and I am not ready for that challenge again so soon.
Argentina is huge and diverse. There are huge steaks to gorge on and many, many bottles of wine to be enjoyed. To that point, when I get to Mendoza the wine tours are done on bicycles. Oh dear lord!!

One thing I am going to stop this year is my lust for Pepsi and other sweet carbonated beverages. As anyone who knows me this is no easy matter. I am sure there are days where a small tear will fall from the corner of my eye as I walk past the fridge on my way to the Gatorade or fruit juice section.
No matter what you want to change or resolve to change DO IT!. Start small and commit to that change then build on that. Most of the time we eat or drink for comfort and Pepsi has given me great comfort in the past. I did have a nice run of Diet Dr. Pepper thanks to the Iclandic Ring road and the horrible eating habits of my sister Kelly. I am not making light of addiction of any kind but we give up because routine is easy and safe. So if its smoking, cutting back on booze, walking every day after work or taking that trip to that special place you always wanted to go to, stop talking about it. Find a way to make it happen
As Elbert Hubbard said, "Stop taking life so serious, you'll never get out alive"

** I quit smoking on Nov 1, 1987 and it was the most brutal, and I mean brutal thing I have ever done. I know what your up against**

A few milestones of 2011:

- I now have a decent comprehension of the Spanish Language
- Built a bathroom, a storage room and office space including framing, drywall, tiling and designing electrical, plumbing having never used a power tool before.
- Spent time in El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Argentina and Antarctica
- Lost 10 lbs, gained that 10 lbs back and finally decided to not give a shit about losing 10 lbs anymore
- Touched the bottom of the earth and now vow to touch the top
- Sold a house and threw a cell phone into a river
- Read 16 books
- Lost my Aunt and Uncle within 3 months of each other
- Have finally learned how to use one of the most powerful words in the English language - NO
-  I can now open up a let people into my weird little world and that world will not collapse around me.
- Finally and the most important thing for me in 2012 is that sometimes someone can come back into your life that makes a real difference no matter how long they have been away. I am very thankful for that.

2012 is upon us. Lets hope they Mayans and Hopi were just lazy bastards and did not finish those calendars, but we shall see in December right? Regardless I am a believer and that change is coming. The world can not continue to move forward in such an insane manner. There is not going to be Apocolypic End of the World (then again maybe there will be ) but a change none the less.

One final thought for 2012:
Everyone is busy just being busy and most days don't accomplishing anything. The dumbing down of society with Email, text, television, Facebook, twitter, Cell phones, land lines, mobile devices and the pavlovian effect they have created is awe inspiring. There is no time to formulate a thought or opinion any longer, because everything is needed NOW. So learn to say no, turn off the device and go outside, kiss your spouse, play with your dog, read a book, learn to paint or do NOTHING! Do you really need to respond to that email? Use technology wisely in the coming year.

Safe and Happy Travels for 2012.