April 29, 2011 § Leave a comment
Of the last few Spanish-speaking cities I have been the last few weeks, Mexico City is my favourite. Maybe it is because I have recovered from being sick, and my spirits have improved, along with the weather. It is Easter Sunday, and the hotel I have booked myself into has spontaneously upgraded me to what they call a ‘matrimonial’ suite although I only paid for a single room. The bed is gigantic, and I’m sure it is bigger than a king-sized bed. There is also a jacuzzi in the bathroom, which I fully utilized the night of my arrival. All this for less than $50, so what if I’m alone?
I had expected the city to be dead due to Easter but I am pleasantly wrong. It is bustling with activity, and it seems like every other weekend that is busy and vibrant. There are lots of museums to see, sombreros to buy, and food that was tastier. Well, it was nicer compared to South America, but somehow I can’t see myself developing a liking for tacos and wraps filled with cheese. Actually, on hindsight, even airline food tasted better. Anyway, in 24 hours here I observed:
– The streets are filled with armed police on every corner. Does one feel more or less safe?
– The markets are full of witch-doctors who burn a strange-smelling weed/grass and wave it around people’s bodies. It appears to be some kind of method to ‘bless’ people or to fend off evil spirits or something.
– The Frida Kahlo and Diego Riviera museum was very weird and cool at the same time. We weren’t allowed to take photos, but they decorated their kitchen with porcelain decorations of their names. In fact their names were written and adorned everywhere in the house/museum.
Contrary to what people believe, I did not think Mexico City was dangerous at all. It was great fun and I would definitely go back there.
April 23, 2011 § Leave a comment
I have spent my last day in South America at Palermo Soho in Buenos Aires, shopping, and eating rather awful ‘oriental’ food. I have been alone and am now slightly drunk but incredibly cheerful to have found a quaint bookstore on my way back to the hotel. Yes, I have been staying in hotels this time around. Flashpacking, as you may want to call it.
Very glad to be leaving. Honestly I have not enjoyed South America very much. Mainly, the things I will not miss at all:
1. The bland and boring food everywhere. Besides empanadas, pìzzas and pasta, there are not many varieties.
2. Bad and extremely slow service at any food establishment. Expect to wait at least 45 minutes for food to arrive. Even water takes a minimum of 20 minutes. Also they always get orders wrong so go back and forth countless times. Patience is a virtue over here.
3. The cold weather and general unfriendliness of the place.
Things I may miss:
1. The beautiful landscapes.
2. Cheap shopping.
As an overall experience, I doubt I will ever make my way back here. Realized I am just a city girl who needs warm weather and creature comforts. Perhaps my wanderlust is gone, or I have tired of travelling alone. After 3 weeks, all I think about are people and work in Sydney. Sign of old age?
To Mexico tomorrow.
April 18, 2011 § 1 Comment
1. Clean clothes. The feeling of putting on freshly laundered jeans and t-shirt straight from the dryer is a warm and fuzzy feeling. Wish you could see the big beam on my face.
2. Sat in the park and a dog appeared out of nowhere and decided to lay its head on my lap.
3. Sleeping and watching TV.
The journey has been long, intensive, and not very pleasant.
April 15, 2011 § Leave a comment
2 weeks on and I have reached the halfway point on my trip. After 9 days in Bolivia, passing overland amongst its bizarre landscapes and extreme weather conditions, I am ready to leave this country. The land is harsh and dry, the environment unfriendly. Although I have been travelling with a group of six in my attempt to socialize through shared experiences on the other side of the world, at this moment in time I find myself more withdrawn than ever. Perhaps it is due to my own feelings of insecurity, or constant thoughts of the issues I thought I was escaping in sydney, or that I am the only non-Caucasion. Terribly enough, I am isolating myself here as well, choosing to avoid people at breakfast and passing on nights out. It has not helped also that physically, I feel like shit. I pile layers of blankets on top of myself to try and fight the coldness of this place but it does not help. It is cold, too cold to stay here. The altitude of 4100mm has introduced waves of nausea and breathlessness. Nights are sleepless. I hope to feel better upon crossing the border to Argentina tonight.
April 10, 2011 § Leave a comment
A short exchange I had with the Bolivian driver yesterday after getting into the car.
Jose: If you like, you can even use your seatbelt. But this is Bolivia, you can do anything you want.
Jose beams at me and was very proud of that fact. A few seconds passed and another taxi speeding in our direction on my side screeches to a stop inches away from me and fist pumps at Jose to get out of the way.
Needless to say, my seatbelt was fastened tightly. Other notes to come when I get over my alleged dices with death.
April 8, 2011 § Leave a comment
It´is late in the evening local time and the air outside is still punctuated by loud explosions. They had started yesterday afternoon but I was too busy catching up on sleep to bother finding out what they were. Today, after almost 24 hours holed up in the hotel room to make up for those nights of insomnia and painful early flights, I discovered that I have come to La Paz amidst some big government protests against pay rises. This explains why the streets are filled with local police, though they just seemed to be hanging around not doing very much.
Seeing that I am alone and really can´t be fucked wandering around with a street map by myself without speaking a word of Spanish, I decided to treat myself and hire a private taxi for the day. For about $7 an hour, it was a no-brainer. The driver, Jose, spoke pretty good English, and became my very enthusiastic photographer, almost insisting that he take a photo of me in very place we stopped. At times I politely declined. He seemed pleased that he had a knack for composition, which meant I was smack right in the middle of every photo, also meaning that one can´t see too much of the background.
As the day rolled on, other than Bolivia´s breathtaking natural topography, much of the city is poor, polluted, and underdeveloped. Roads are rough, buildings unfinished, and I became convinced that the city thrives on some sort of ordered chaos. Traffic was not unlike Egypt, with no rhyme nor reason whatsoever, with people generally walking right in front of moving vehicles with no apparent regard for their own personal safety. Children seemed to have the same attitude. I was terrified.
For once, I got to sample some local cuisine, some chicharron, which is basically deep fried pork with loads of fat, black potatoes, and some kind of giant grain which I don´t remember the name of. It tasted alright, but I am yet to be impressed with South American food. Perhaps I am a little spoilt with Malaysian and Australian food. Tomorrow I go to Tiahuanacu, and ancient Inca site.
April 6, 2011 § 2 Comments
After 3 days in Santiago, today I decided to splurge on a day tour which went to a vineyard in San Esteban and Portillo, a ski resort high up in the Andes. The mountains themselves are spectacular from a distance, but up close they are almost surreal. I had almost convinced myself not to go, as 2 nights of insomnia meant that I really needed to rest up for a way-too-early flight to La Paz the next day. However, witnessing the scenes as shown in the photo, has made the trip worthwhile, and reminded me of the Swiss Alps. However, Chile has been a mixed bag of sorts for me. To give you all a rough picture, here are a few observations I made:
1. Despite sharing its namesake with my favourite spice in the world, the food here is extremely boring and bland to say the least. I love my curries and Thai stir-fries which are filled with spices, so imagine my disappointment when the empanadas and salads here are served plain, and do not have a sprinkle of dressing-up to them whatsoever. At best they plonk a bottle of oregano and chilli flakes on the table, but that is it. Being cheap does not matter.
2. People here do not wear shorts and sandals, even in 30 degree heat. So I must have looked quite the tourist venturing out all day yesterday in my mini-shorts, tank top, and comfy Havainas. In Sydney I practically live in this, but Chileans are pants and shoes people who don’t seem to sweat very much in all their layers of clothing.
3. There are lots of stray dogs on the streets. Mostly they are sleeping and look docile enough, but I didn’t challenge that theory.
4. It is very polluted, and most days the smog is so bad one can barely make out the Andes in the background of the city.
5. Not speaking Spanish has been very hard. I am sure my level of enjoyment would be amplified if I could communicate with the locals, who try their damn hardest to make me understand.
The altitude of 3300m at Portilla this afternoon has not affected me. I hope I will feel fine when I land at La Paz tomorrow at 4100m.