Rambling Robert's Travels

This blog chronicals the travels of myself, Rambling Robert, on my next adventure to South America.

My Photo

I am a world traveller. I do not work as such. I have been homeless and unemployed since 1October 2003. I worked as a chef for 30 years in America.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Three days in the saddle

Hi Everyone,
Well I am in Tupiza Bolivia, I got back yesterday after going on a 3 day two night horse treck through the dessert country of South East bolivia. The scenery is fantastic it is high dessert country that reminds you of all those old Clint Eastwood/Sergio Leone Spaghetti westerns. The colors of the mountains are nothing short of fantastic. Beautiful Blues Purples reds oranges greys of all shades. There were 3 riders two woman an english woman named Jo who is 29 and a dutch woman named marianna who is 39 and me an American man who is 49. And our guide Ishmael a 21 year old Bolivian Indian, who was an excellent horseman and a good guide. He does not speak any english which was a drag for English Jo who does not speak any spanish but not a problem for me or for Marianna. My spanish is much better here in Bolivia than it was in Argentina where I relly had a hard time with the accent. I had an easy time of it in Chile too but I am really starting to speak and mainly to understand much better now than in the past.
Of the three horses, mine was the fastest and the most spirited. His name is Laguno and he is a 6 year old pony of dark brown color with a black mane and a splash of white on his forehead. He has white coloring just above all 4 of his hoofs. he is a real friendly and nice horse. Not skittish, but definately full of spunk. He has a peronality disorder, where in he just hated to look at another horeses tail!! We had to be the lead horse always!! He also didnt really much care for any other horse being along side him. Walking was not his idea of a good time either. I had to rein him in quite a bit. He wanted to canter and gallop all the time. Most of the time I didnt mind, especially not on the first day. I havent been horse riding in some time and it was definately fun to be on a nice frisky horse. But lets face it, I am not a kid anymore and three days in the saddle and I dont believe I have a single muscle that doesnt ache. My butt was killing me and my thighs too are all tweaked. But worst of all is my lower back. All that bouncing up and down in a hard saddle is no bueno for a guy my age.Also we were supposed to be given leg protectors but the first day they only had two pair, so I rode without. Bad Luck. No boots, no leathers, big problem. We rode for about 6 or 7 hours and my calves were bruised and had two raw patches like two silver dollar sized pizzas. Ouch. Lugano threw a shoe about an hour out of our first nights rest spot so the next morning Ishmael rode off early to get a new one and came back with a nice set of leather leg protectors for me as well as the shoe for Lugano.What a relief!
On the first day we went mostly through mountain formations and beautiful rock formations and a few ghost towns where once many many miners dug for gold silver and tin. Now there are mostly abandoned mud buildings and a few campesinos living in the towns, not much more. Still they have a certain eary beauty and it was really cool to think that 100 years ago Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid were raiding these very same towns. We saw many nice birds: eagles, vultures and herons some smaller birds as well which Isahmael identified but I dont remember thier names. We stayed the night (actually both nights) in a family home turned into a hospedaje in a little former mining town now 80% abandoned that had no restaurant, bar or market of any significance, The señora of the casa cooked dinner for us of fried eggs rice and potatoes with a salad of tomatoe cucumber and purple onion. It was real good and we were real hungry. We went to the market led there by her son Enrique who is 6 years old and bought a couple of bottles of vino tinto and a lolly pop for Enrique and all in all it was a fine evening.
Next day we woke early and I helped Ishmael replace Luganos shoe and then we rode off mainly through dried river beds and also criss crossing the Rio San Juan de Oro many times. Sometimes in as deep as just below our saddles. It was really beautiful. This river begins in Chile and goes through Bolivia where it then turns south and onward to Argentina for a couple of hundred kilometers before emptying into another river and giving up its name. We were in an extreme valley of red stone mountain walls where we were meant to spot Condors but we did not. (Bummer). Ishmael thought it may have been too windy. We did come upon a flock of beautiful pistachio colored parakeets about maybe 90 or 100 of them in a couple of trees. I think it was the first time I have ever seen these birds not in a cage in somebodys living room. The whole area is just stunningly beautiful, Giant suguaro cactus, all kinds of beautiful dessert flowers, Tiny little pueblos where all the little kids run out and yell "hola" as we pass. Just a great three days.
The third day I was hurtin´ for certain. My back was really aching and my calves were a lovely violet purple color. I switched horses with Jo who decided to join a differnt group which was one rider and one guide who were to be out for another day, so she was out for 4 days instead of three. I spent the third day on a more mellow 8 year old horse and it was a big help especially for my back. So now it is the day after at about 10 o´clock at night and last night and today I have been on codein and muscle relaxers and ibuprophen and I feel more or less as good as new. Spent the day lolling around the pool in my hotel, reading a great book by Saul Bello called "Henderson the Rainmaker" and making a reservation on the Saturday night train to Uyuni and a reservation at a hospedaje that some Canadien travelers recommended to me which is right across from the train station. Which is pretty sweet because my train(the only one of the day) pulls in at midnight. Bad time of night to start looking for a room!!
No clue what I will be doing until then but thats the way my life is. My hotel is called Mitru and it is just swell. My private room with an excellent hot shower costs 25Bolivianos per night (8.08 bolivianos=1.00 US dollar so my room is just over 3 bucks a night)and it includes breakfast. I love the swimming pool and they have a real good book exchange.Life is sweet here in Tupiza Bolivia.
Peace and happiness to all of you.
Ciao for now

Friday, April 22, 2005

Tupiza Bolivia

Well I have finally left Argentina and now I am in Bolivia. I walked across the border at a small town called Villazon. Took a 2 hour 100 kilometer bus ride on dirt road the whole way to this town called Tupiza in south west Bolivia. Bus was pretty comfortable and cheap. Bolivia is one of the least developed countries here in South America. So it is very cheap to live or visit and the people are very friendly. It is the only country in South America (or North America for that matter) where the local indigenous (Inca) people are actually in the majority. They are very pretty people and not too tall. I like that!! They are dark colored people like the color of an old penny. I am in a very high altitude part of the planet in the Andes mountains. The border town last night was at 3500 meters or 10500feet I got a little woozy from the altitude but I have been chewing cocaine leaves and this is a help.
So my last week in Argentina was real nice. I stayed in Cordoba which is a very large modern city with lots of old colonial architecture still intact and lots of old museums and cathedrals. Cathedrals here are not as elaborate as in Europe but are still quite stunning. I liked Cordoba okay but it was not one of the highlights of my trip. It is a city of about 1.5 million people and it is just another big city but not really all that interesting to me.
After Cordoba I spent 5 days in Salta. Salta was great. I really liked it there. the mountain scenerey is gorgeous. It is not a very large city only about 25000 people but it is laid out well and has a lot of great museums and architecture is real sweet too. Great food there as well. They are famous for various foods including their humitos which are like a vegitarian tamale, the tamales de carne which usually contain lama meat, and the stew called locro, which contains many things. It is a yellow soupy concoction with beans and tripe and squid as well as pork meat&bones. I hope I am making it sound good because it is delicious!!
Also the town is famous for its folk music. I went out to a bar in a small museum/house/restaurant called casa de Guemes. Guemes was a famous general from the 1800s and he aparently lived here. They have some historical pictures and letters and antiques and stuff, but they also serve local specialty cuisine and play the famous local music. The night we went there were 5 of us, myself, a nice canadien couple and an Israeli guy and another American man. There were altogether 5 musicians playing a drum various wooden pipes and flutes and guitars. All of them sang and there was one woman who was very good. The music is sort of spanish influenced they finger pick and it has a flamenco feel/sound to it, but with the lovely sounds of the wood flutes it is very south american sounding too. The singing is kind of sad and it reminds me of the Portugues Faldo music too. We drank a lot of wine and had a very nice night of local music!!
So now here I am in Bolivia. I am in a nice town surrounded by beautiful mountains that are all way above the tree line but there are lots of giant cactus and other plants. The mountains are a beautiful burnt umber color and the air is very crisp and clear. It is sunny and hot in the daytime but at night it gets quite cool. I am in a great hotel, it is super cheap here. I have a nice private room with a balcony, a private bathroom, color cable tv, and a nice comfy queen size bed. Very nice swimming pool too, which I spent about 3 hours in and around today. With a buffet breakfast included it is 45Bolivianos which comes to about 5.50 US dollars. With a shared bathroom it is 3 dollars per night but I decided I would splurge!!!
This is the town where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid spent their last few days on earth. I will take the Butch&Sundance tour maybe tomorrow or the next day. There are lots of nice and cheap horseback riding trips available here too. Both day trips and 3 or 4 days riding and camping trips maybe I will do a little riding here as well. I havent been on a horse since New Zealand, but have been on some elephants and camels since then!!! I think I will be here for 4 or 5 days but one never knows...
Well thats it for now.
Rambling Robert the traveling man

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Mendoza Argentina

Well here I am in the city of Cordoba Argentina after spending a week of quality time in Mendoza. Mendoza is a thoroughly modern city of 140,000 people in Central Argentina near the Chile border. Its main claim to fame is the excellent quality of the wine bodegas here and in the surrounding areas. Most especially in the unbelieveable quality of wine they are making from a rather obscure grape varietal called Malbec whicch is a red wine grape that originates in Bordeaux France.It is also a well known place to mountaain climbers, rock climbers and trekkers from all around the world as here are to be found the highest mountain peaks in all the Americas. Mount Aguaconda is the tallest mountain in all the world except for those of the Himalayas. I passed within a few dozen miles of this mighty mountain on the journey from Santiago Chile to Mendoza, and I can testify that it is amagnificent sight. Truly awe inspiring and I was reminded of the way I felt when the clouds parted and I got to see Mt Cook in New Zealand in all its awesome glory.
I spent on of the most relaxing days of my journey at the wonderful termas de Chueleta. These are beautiful hot springs only 35 kilometers from Mendoza. I went there with a road buddy, a very special woman named Lisa from USA who is a Doctor of psychology, in a recent previous life in Montana. We had some very intersting conversations about life on earth and ANGER and the role it plays in my inner journey, and how I deal with my ANGER at the things I think are wrong with the world.
I feel as though I may have made some progress in my work. Perhaps a stumbling stone has been cleared from my path. Time will tell. Thank you Lisa...
Mendoza is just a beautiful small city with lots of excellent little theme plazas. They are scattered all through out the city. My favorites were the plaza de Indepencencia. the Plaza de España and the Plaza de Italia. All have lovely fuentas de aguas and manicured lawns and old oak trees and lots of benchs to sit on and people watch. Just near my hostel was tahe parque central which is a few hundred acres of wooded hills and trimmed lawns and walking and jogging paths and lots of old trees and a man made lago. There is also a zoo there but I chose not to visit it.I have been already to a lot of zoos... I spent 3 days doing little more than lounging around the swimming pool at the Point Break Hostel and soaking up sun and warmth while taking an occasional plunge in the pool and a quick swim. WAtched Chelesea get beataen by Munich and Boca Juniors dismantle the first place Rosario Central futbol club. Yeeahh Juniors!!!
Read a great George Orwell book called "Down and out in Paris and London" all about being poor. Very thoughtful and enlightening.I love the way Orwell wrote on the human condition and the human spirit.
Mendoza is the kind of city I believe I could settle down in some day. It has a very liberal attitude. It has two synagogues and many yoga centers and a buddhist temple just on the outskirts. It even has a couple of vegetarian restaurants, quite extraordinary for Argentina.
While I was hangin out and enjoying my life in Mendoza one of my closest friends over the last 20 years had a terrible near death experience in San Luis Obispo and suffered a near fatal kidney failure. I was reminded through him of how delicate a balance we all tread between this life and the next and I am grateful that the Godess chose not to take RB from us at this time. I am just not preopared to be in this world without such a wonderful friend at this point in time. I am happy to say that he seems to be on the road to recovery and for this I am unabridgedly grateful. Who says that prayers go un-answered?
So here I am in Cordoba about 700 kilometers north of Mendoza on my way to Bolivia. This is my first day here in Cordoba a city of about 1,400,000 people. It is a cultural and historical center here in Argentina and there is a lot of colonial architecture still intact and a lot of old catholic missions.
The childhood home of Ernesto (Che) Guevera is only about 30 kilometers from here and tomorrow I will go and visit his old home and pay my 3 pesos and take the tour.I will probably be here for 3 or 4 days and then head off to Salta which is about 900 km north of here and only 100 km or so from Bolivia. Salta is famous for beautiful dessert landscapes of intense colors and huge natural salt flats. I will write my next travel blog from there.
Peace to all of you.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

MENDOZA Argentina 5/4/05

Hi everyone,
I am back in Argentina in a town called Mendoza. It is the heart of the Argentina wine country. I just arrived at a very nice hostel called DamaJuana in the center of town, Very nice place with a swimming pool and restaurant free breakfast and free internet for about US $7.00 per night. Twenty pesos here in Argentina. So I just got in and hung out in the chaise lounge chair by the pool for about an hour soaking up rays. First sunbathing since my stay in Iguazu Falls about 4 weeks ago. I deserved the little sunbath and swim since i spent all day (from 8 am to 3pm) on a bus coming from Valparaisa Chile.
The bus ride was one of absolute glory!! Serious! We went through all these beautiful mountain passes and past a great range of mountains and got a glimpse of a mountain which i am now sorry because I already forgot its name but it is the tallest peak in the Americas at about 6,500meters or about 20,000 feet!!!
WE went through many serpentine winding roads thousands of meters above the tree line, and also through many small tunnels. The views were just UNBELIEVABLE
I know it sounds funny to say but it was one of the nicest bus rides I have ever been on.
Two weeks in Chile in the beautiful lake country and on wonderful Chiloe Island were fun but rather un-eventful. The truth is I liked Argentina better and I am kind of glad to be back here, This country is about 30 to 35% cheaper than Chile too. The food is a little better also I think. but the food in Chile was very good also,I loved the empanadas (like little calzones with all kinds of fillings either fried or baked)and the milcaos (little potato cakes with cooked chicken or pork in the center) Yesterday in fact I had a fantastic seafood stew in a little market in Valparaisa. It was just gigantic and chock full of mussels different kinds of clams these lovely orange colord barnacles that the people eat down here and fish in a yummy broth of tomatoes and onions and a delicious picante tomatoe and chile salsa served on the side, Just fantastic! Valparaisa is a port town on the pacific ocean.The big open air market is just a few hundred meters from the sea. Downstairs the market is all fruit, veggies and other food stalls and upstairs is all restaurants serving fish and seafood stews and fried fish and the like, There is a little strolling band of three guys one playing a guitar one with marakas and one playing a little mini acousic guitar with nylon strings all three sing together and harmonize beautifully and they do it all for propinas (tips). They stroll all around from one restaurant to another, there ar no real walls seperating the restaurants it is just different kitchens really, There are of course some partial walls but everyone looks into everyone elses restaurant. It was excellent. I really liked it. I also had a nice fruit that I was unfamiliar with called a pepina dulce which translates to sweet cucumber. It is small and looks like a pale yellow and pale green striped colored miniature eggplant. You peel it and seed it and dice it up ¡Aye caramba! Que sabrosa.(its great).
Valparaiso was a little disappointing. I was expecting a more laid back beach town kind of experience and it is instead a thriving and bustling port town with a population of a couple of hundred thousand people. It is a UNESCO world heritage site (this stands for united nations totally cool place). I stayed in the barrio that is the heritage site and it was okay. A lot of the city is pretty dodgy at night I was warned. Interesting story:
Three days ago I am in Pucon a beautiful lake side city in Chile with an active volcano on Lake Villarica, and I meet a very nice Dutch couple he is from Amsterdam and she is from Utrecht, and I have just bought my bus ticket to go to Valparaiso and we are chatting in the hostel asking and answering the first ten questions that all backpackers ask each other ie
Whats your name?
Where are you from?
How long you gonna be traveling?
How long have you be traveling already?
How long have you been in (insert name of present country)?
What do you reccommend to see/do here in (insert name of present country)?
Where were you last?
How was that?
Where are you headed next?
When are you headed out?
And well they had just come from Valparaisa and had only been in South America for 8 days so far of a planned 6 month trip.
So I say "I am going to Valparaiso tomorrow how was it?
They look at each other and shrug, he says "well we got help up at gun point"
She says "yes, the second day of our trip!"
I say "oh shit what bad luck, at gun point? Yikes what happened?"
"well it was like this we were staying at a really nice place the Lunasonrisa hostel (oh f%&$king great thats where I am going) and we were walking around the Museo Cielo Abierto (open sky museum)and taking photographs of the murals and were having a real nice time climbing around the hills and looking at the view of the sea and finding all the beautiful murals and these three guys in their late teens followed them and caught up with them at a corner and one got in front of them and pulled a pistola and the other two were behind them and started removing thier little day packs and...she started crying and told them no so they left hers alone but they took his and it had his cash and passport and creditcard and ATM card and the camera and ah well... So they took off running and it is 7 at night and still light out and the peoople in cars didnt stop or anything and the people in their houses just shut their doors when it went down and so the guy starts chasing them and they took off and he lost them in the narrow winding streets. They told the cops who did nothing and they had to go to the police station and fill out a report (half a page long) they didnt even ask for a description of the muggers... They didnt even PRETEND to give a ducks fart about it. And I am thinking "oh swell why didnt I hear this story BEFORE I bought my ticket"
Well I guess there are two ways to get ripped off, you are stupid and lazy or you just have plain old bad luck.
Stupid and lazy is when you flash jewelry and cameras and count your wad of cash as you walk down the street from the ATM, wear clothing that are way way more expensive and touristy looking than the locals or you just leave your hand bag on the ground next to your seat at a sidewalk cafe...
THREE WAYS sorry sometimes it is a combination of stupid and bad luck. These two told me they were just stupid to be carrying their passports, ATM cards cash and shouldnt have been so obvious about taking pictures and they felt it was like their fault, But I say no way Jose`. Dont blame the victim!! They were ripped off and they probably could have been more careful but I told them look its nuts to blame yourself. You should be able to take pictures at an outdoor museum!! Thats what its there for. Where are the cops when you need them? This is the same stuff that happens in every country in the world. I told them they learned a good lesson the hard way and they were just plain unlucky.
So I was extra careful there, and went to the open air museum and had no problems, of course only one person in a thousand has that kind of bad luck. I felt foolish for even considering not going after hearing their story, but still I didnt stay very long and I am glad to be back in Argentina.
I will be headed up towards Lake Titicaca in the next week or 10 days doing my slow ramble throught this wonderful and beautiful continent. Just thanking the goddess for my continued good luck.
Oh yeah I read the most excellent couple of books these last ten days one called Fountainhead by Ayn Rand and one called A delicate Balance by an indian guy named Distry. Both fantastic I highly recommend them to travelers and squatters alike!!
Thats all for now
Rambling Robert