Thursday 30 August 2012

No Books in this South American Desert

We arrived in La Paz, Bolivia two days ago and between fatigue of very early wake up calls and adjusting to the altitude (15,000 feet) of La Paz we have been lying low.

The ride from Peurto Montt was a busy one. We had a 5:15 am start, 6:00 am breakfast that the kind proprietor of the Seminario Hotel in Peurto Montt made for us an hour earlier than normal.. Then an uneventful taxi ride to the airport.

We flew from Peurto Montt to our first stop which was in a tiny area on the west coast called Iquique.
Pronounced i as in "IT" and "key key".
Iquique  Airport in the Chilean desert

The airport is sparse, in a very deserted desert surrounded by high sand dunes.

We had a very young child screaming non stop with most annoying parents doing absolutely nothing to help him deal with his extreme fatigue. No soothing words, no drinks, no food, no little toys to cuddle. No walks up and down the aisle. Instead they were okay with his seat kicking and screaming.

As for me I put in earplugs, covered them with the headphones, turned on the opera and cranked up the volume.

I did manage to finish the book Animal Farm by George Orwell I had started the night before. I will catch up on some book reviews once I get home. Internet connections are too dodgy to do a lot with the blog and I am lucky when it is  clear enough to put up photos. I will say I loved this book, was deeply saddened by it but not surprised when I realise not much has changed in the world as when this book was written. I want to post it up because I can use it for my Century of Books of challenge and it is also on my 1001 Books You Must Read (which I do not really blog about) and is a vintage Penguin book which I do post up. Just not this week.

We approached Iquique and nothing in sight from the plane's window except sand and dunes. We approached the runway, came in to land, almost touching it when suddenly the pilot put forward tremendous thrust and we took off again straight up into the air. I thought there must be something on the runway. The pilot finally announced in both Spanish and English that there had been "a miscommunication related to traffic" .

He circled around again and this time we arrived easily and safely. There was a small plane that was in our air space so I imagine someone would get a bit of a dressing down about not letting our pilot know.

We stayed there in transit for about an hour and I happily watched the screaming child's family head off to baggage as this was their last stop. I didn't know what gods to thank first.

We then had a very smooth and clear flight onto La Paz which is where we are now. I will post up something separately for this visit as Wi Fi connenctions and energy levels permit. 

We drink a tea here called Mate' (ma-tay) tea which is made from the leaves of the cocaine plant. They brew it in hot water and while there is not effect such as dancing around the hotel room singing Rolling Stones songs, it does help with the altitude issues which make one feel like they can't quite breathe normally, so a bit of panic breathing off and on , and a low grade headache.

We are taking it easy, as La Paz is a very hilly city and getting around makes us stop and breathe awhile and then move on. however this is day 3 and it is getting a bit better. We just keep drinking that tea.

I will get back to books and review but this blog is related not only to books but to travel so if you're only interested in books bear  with me as I will be back to them, especially in the coming months when I am not travelling. All the best out there.

Monday 27 August 2012

Museo De La Patagonia: ART WORK

A beautiful photo of mother and child.
I would love to know their story.
Today, Saturday is our last day here in Beriloche.  We had read about the museum here in our guide book but when we went to it the other day, it was closed. Today being Saturday it is open from 10:00 am until 5:00 with no closure for lunch.

It is a beautiful day for a walk, quite chilly but sunny so we headed off for the museum.

It is a small museum, filled with a bit of history around natural history, the animals, birds and flora. There is also a small section of life in the 1800's in the area as well as early 1900's.  There is a good section on the archaeological side of things, mainly related to early tools and arrowheads dating back thousands of years.

No idea who he is but liked the sculpture.
At the end of the walk through it there is a current display of art featuring some paintings and sculpture.

It took about an hour to see everything so not a big time commitment and as Tom and I reach satiation point at the same time that is good.  I find once I've seen enough, I've seen enough and can't go even 5 more minutes. Must get out.
But I hadn't reached satiation point yet so would have liked a few more things to look at. There is no large gift shop either.

There are several soft cover books about the natural history of the area but nothing else.

The two attendants were friendly and let us wander through at our leisure. We could take photos as long as we didn't use flash which was nice as often in museums photos aren't allowed though I fail to see why in many cases, outside of the art work that is current perhaps.

Today I will leave you with some of the more interesting (to me anyway) finds and hope you enjoy them.

I will be putting many more photos of this museum on my Facebook page so if you are interested feel free to join up. Information is on this page

Arrowheads and early tools and
a diagram telling how to use them
President of Presidente w/ Teddy Roosevelt
(U.S. President) drawn in early 1900's.
Political figures are lampooned

and South America
Prehistoric animals of N. America


I find this very similar to the Australian Aboriginal Wall paintings.

This is interesting b/c the handprint is raised from the wall of the rock.

The conquistadors enjoyed playing games and these were
the cards to one of the games.

These were blanket sized animal pelts, the fur is on the backside
and the tanned side has been decorated with paint.

Beautiful beadwork with silver and above silver jewelery.

A very old bottle of ink. The
bottle was like a large whisky bottle
in size. Still had black ink in it.
Caricature of a geologist. Geologists and
explorers were often ridiculed by these
drawings as well as political figures.

Sunday 26 August 2012

Independent Book Shop in Beriloche

Yes we are still in Beriloche. We take the bus trip tomorrow morning (Sunday) back to Peurto Montt to the hotel on the hill for one night. We then get up very early and fly to La Paz Bolivia. So as the next two days are spent in travel we are taking it a bit easy today.

We have had a very relaxing time here and did not book any excursions, mainly as they are ski related being winter and we don't ski.  Enjoyed time walking about the beautiful city, eating some lovely food and reading quite a bit.

A couple of days ago we came across a beautiful little independent book shop. We entered and as usual and everyone was more than friendly. South Americans are extremely friendly people.

I asked if I could take photos of her shop and of some of the books and I received a big smile for my effort to speak at least a few Spanish words.

We walked every city street in search of a second hand book exchange and talked to a few people but evidently there isn't anything like that here. Just as well we brought Kindles as there aren't many books in English here and we are going through a few of them.

Today I am merely sharing some  book covers to  that I thought might be of interest. Most of them are about this area of South America but others go further afield.

Thursday 23 August 2012

Interesting Bus Trip from Peurto Montt to Bariloche...

We arrived safely in Bariloche yesterday afternoon but what a day. We woke up at 6:15, packed up the last of our things and went to have breakfast at 7:00 in our hotel. We finished quickly as our bus was to leave at 8:30. 
What we didn't expect was the tremendous rush hour traffic and as there was a large school at the top of the hill where our hotel was located the traffic was stopped dead on this road in both directions. Hundreds of four wheel drives going up and down this road with one little child strapped in the back of it.

The hotel proprietor was great. He called for our taxi and said it would be there at 7:45. We waited.7:45  He called again. Only five minutes away. We waited. 8:00, no taxi. He rang again. We waited. We wondered how we would ever get out of the driveway much less down the road. Finally at 8:05 a taxi pulled up and we threw our bags in the boot.

He headed up the hill. Stuck in the biggest traffic jam he pulled into a side road of the school, more 4 wheel drives with all the darlings needing to be as close to the door as a person could possibly get them. Cars honking, stopping cross ways in front of other cars. Finally the taxi driver got through it all. 8:15. We jumped out at the bus station, handed in our ticket and jumped on board. 7 minutes to spare. Too close for comfort in our book.

The trip out of Beriloche was uneventful, the bus was comfortable and we snoozed a bit. We had about 6 hours to go.

Eventually we got through the industrialised areas, the small towns and the scenery began to improve. 

A very gray farewell to Peurto Montt

 We began going through the mountains. I would like to tell people to try hard to not have to use a bus toilet whilst going through the mountains. Never having had this experience I am not happy using the loo whilst in the water ski position, hanging on for dear life to the rail, swaying to the left and to the right and back to the left again.  
Driving through a small town.

As I am prone to motion sickness I took a tablet once back in my seat and it did its job. 
Then we began climbing into the mountains.We bagan to see patches of snow. Then we saw more snow and continued our climb upwards. Now the only thing I know about bus rides in South America is when I read the papers about some bus going off a mountain pass. I refused to let me mind engage in these visuals and enjoyed the scenery that became more beautiful by the moment.

It wasn't long until the snow was upon us. It came in huge wet blizzard conditions. It was beautiful. The bus has a gadget on it that limits its speed to 100 km per hour (60 mph). I was happy about that. 

There was a great deal of volcanic ash along the way, in the ditches and up the hillsides. A very dry gray looking dust. Watered down by the pouring rain.
The gray above is volcanic ash piled up by the side of the road.
There are two volcanoes in this area we went past

Did I mention we'd had a very large storm, gale force winds and driving rains were still continuing from the previous night?? Well, we did.We had slowed to about 50 at this point. There is a sign at the front of the bus that tells passengers how fast it is going. I guess if we go over a mountain it is nice to know we aren't going too quickly.
A half buried warning sign about how slippery the road is ahead.

Then the snow was blinding. When I sat very upright to look out the front window I could not see the road and we were still climbing. I was really excited by all of the snow. It was beautiful and I have not seen snow like that in a long time.  The bus speed continued to decrease. We passed a couple of snow ploughs and a car full of young people cavorting in the field next to the road. What road? I could barely see a track. The bus was down to 31 kph (18 mph).
The forests are beautiful and plentiful.  

Visibility had definitely decreased but so gorgeous.  I loved it.

I was enjoying the view, Tom was enjoying the view, the man to my left up one row had a big smile like a young boy, the other man across the aisle from me was making the sign of the cross several times over and kissing his St Christopher medal. What did he know we didn't? 

We then began going down hill. I knew it wouldn't be long before this wet mess was melted enough at lower elevations to show us clear roads again. I was not worried. Good bus, strong tires, lots of weight. One does not grow up in Michigan and not understand snow well.

No ice, not much wind. We were fine.  Down, down we went and the speed crept up. 50 KPH, 60. We were doing well and back on track for Beriloche.

We then came into Chile immigration to say goodbye. Everyone off the bus. Everyone lined up in the immigration building. Everyone gets their passport stamped and back on the bus. That was easy.   

Leaving Chile - Immigration

A few more miles and we come to the customs office of Argentina. Everyone off the bus, everyone in the office lined up, everyone gets passport stamped again. I love getting stamps in my passport. 
Customs office, arriving in Argentina

Then the bus attendant and driver pull out all of the luggage and drag it to the large X-ray machine. It all goes through the X ray and two piles form at the end of that. Bags to be searched and bags not to be searched. Tom has a large bag and he gets off with no search. Sure enough, my bag gets searched. Can't figure out why as I only have clothes in it. 

They opened it up and find, now this is a bit delicate here, a box of ' female medication' is all I can say modestly. At my age you get itchy. This medication makes you not itchy. We're all adults here, we can all understand that.  However the men who work in Argentinian customs do not understand this delicate female matter. They also do not speak English. I do not speak Spanish. 

They opened the box and to their amazement it must be filled with syringes. No syringes.  Hombre Numero Uno examines box. Quizzical look on his face. I say, "Medication, medidicione"...sounds Spanish enough. He looks perplexed, calls over Hombre Numero dos.  Bigger man, older man. Medication?? " Si"  I say.  He calls over the supervisor. By then, every other person on the bus is interested. They must all watch Border Patrol on TV too.

Supervisor pulls out all the foiled wrapped applicators and passes them around to other two men. Audience follows it like a tennis match.  I turn around and ask Tom to get up here and translate for me. Hombre Numero 2 pokes my arm with one and says, "Syringe? Needle?"

I shake my head and say " no, no,no, no, no." In Spanish you say No several times.  I have three uniformed officers in front of me, all of them holding the medicione and finally one goes, Ah medicione. I asked Tom to get up there and say the word "female medicione" so they all stop playing with the stuff.  The bus  passengers remain watching avidly. This is much more interesting than the herbs in the previous passengers case. 

There are people at these crossings with guns. Big guns. I did not want to get arrested over ' female medicione.'  Tom comes forward, through the throng and says in Spanish. " Cream medicine for women only."  

Suddenly the men very quickly start jamming everything back into the box, dropping it like it was some diseased reptile.  The crowd quickly disperses.  No arrests here for drugs. The younger officers hand everything quickly to the older man and he puts it all back together and hands it back to me, "Gracias" and I reply "Gracias"  and everyone is muy happy. 

Back on the bus.  

The incident is soon forgotten as we pass mountain lakes, two volcanoes in the clouds we can barely see and before we know it we have pulled into our bus station in Beriloche.  All is well.  We found the German hotel we are staying in and the day finished.  What a day. It started out very stressful, became very exciting, then quite funny, in hindsight of course, and then safely tucked in for the night.  I love travelling. Never know what is around the corner.  No doubt, more to come.

Tuesday 21 August 2012

Books and Food in Peurto Montt on our last day

This poster is in our hotel lobby here and shows the many waterways
around Peurto Montt

Today is our last day in Peurto Montt as we catch the 8:30 am bus and travel to Beriloche on a 7 hour journey. I hope there are not many mountain passes involved.  Beriloche was originally established by German immigrants and is a large ski area this time of year. However we hope to enjoy the beauty of the multitude of lakes there and the quiet of a smaller city. Besides we still have about 500 books to read on our Kindles.

Today we walked into town and explored a more affluent area of the city. We needed to get some Argentinian pesos as Beriloche is in Argentina. 

We are doing okay even though the Argentinian peso is stronger than the Chilean peso, the Australian dollar is stronger than the U.S. dollar so the exchange rates continue to be favourable.

We walked along the waterfront again and ended up at the big new mall that is in Peurto Montt. It is certainly a contrast to the bus station end of town. As it was too early for lunch we decided to go inside and have a look.  We are not big fans of malls as we think they all look exactly the same no matter where we travel but we did want a cup of coffee and thought we'd find one there.  

I was also curious if there were any book stores inside or if I would be able to find something along the book theme to keep up with the spirit of this blog to photograph.

Yes,, Believe it or not,
 Ripley's is the name of the anchor store of the mall.

We found a little food court that had very good coffee and sat at our table people watching people which is one of our favourite past times. Across from the cafe was a chain bookstore and we decided to go in and have a look. We realised everything would be in Spanish but I particularly enjoy seeing the various covers of books I am familiar with in Tasmania with different covers. They also had some books in English as a salesman was quick to tell us but we have all those books on our Kindle and travelling with books is just too hard.

This child's version of Don Quixote struck my fancy.
  I love Don Quixote and the representation here of  the characters made me laugh.
I know I will have to endure seeing copies
  of this book both in new and second hand book 
shops & op shops, for years to come. 
I think it is just akin to bad graffiti. 
The layout of the books was fairly
traditional in this chain store.

A couple of popular books translated into Spanish.  

We tired of the mall fairly quickly and decided to do one last walk around several city blocks and then it would be time for lunch. We saw an interesting restaurant on a corner we decided to go back and try it  as it was filled with people which is always a good sign.
Lunch is served here.

However we still seem to be struggling with the menus in Spanish.  We look through the menus which are usually vast. We focus on the specials because that eliminates a lot of fruitless translation.
Today we knew we were NOT going to have a hamburger. Yesterday we ordered hamburgers and got chicken burgers. No idea how that happened as we did not see the word ' pollo' anywhere which means chicken.

We were seated quickly in a booth by the window, opened the menu and decided we wanted sopapillias. We know what they are.  The waitress came and between Spanish, English and gestures we decided on the sopapillias.  The entry under that item also intimated the sopapillias would be mixed. Some would be filled with chicken, some with another meat, etc.

The plate of sopapillias arrived. They come with a mild tomato/onion salsa mixed with parsley and also another more pungent hot sauce.  We looked at the plate and thought, "Okay a nice size platter for lunch." They were hot, non greasy and delicious. However they were empty.  We opened each of them with our fork and just air inside. What about the meat and chicken fillings. We polished them off and as they are a dough they are very filling.  We started talking about what we would do after lunch.
Just as we were finishing the last crumb and the sauce the waitress turned up with a big smile and.......

A BIG MIXED PLATTER..     Vegetarians? Look away...Here was the filling of our sopapillias all right.

Four large pork chops, two smoked sausages that were really thick, two very long hot dogs, plus two chicken thighs attached to two chicken legs. At the bottom of this dish are two very large peeled cooked whole potatoes all swimming in a sauce at the bottom. The bottom dish had a lit candle in it and everything was steaming hot.

We burst out laughing because we could not believe we were meant to eat all of this food.  We aren't big meat eaters however we do eat meat.  So in thinking, while in Rome............
We ate what we could but only made a dent on a chop each and a single bite from a big fat sausage. 

There was no way we could eat it all. We are also concious this is a poor country and we could not let it go to waste. 
Then we noticed a saving grace. Doggie bags!  Everyone was packing up their food to take home. Well we couldn't keep this at home or in our hotel room but we are aware of the starving dogs everywhere in this town.  Yesterday we handed out an entire box of dog bone treats we bought at the supermarket.

We didn't know how to get this food to homeless people but we knew how to feed the dogs. So off we trotted out of this restaurant with our wrapped package of meat.  Off to find a dog. This would be a quick job as there are dogs everywhere. Do you think we could find a dog? We walked blocks and could not find a single dog. Yesterday we walked blocks and found 30 of them.  
We walked closer and closer to our hotel and in the end I hid all of the food in the tall grass at the bottom of the steep hill our hotel sets on top of.  We then went upstairs to our room. I sat down at the computer, looking out the window and watched and waited for a dog, any dog to come along and find this.  It took about 20 minutes before a very skinny young black dog we had seen hanging around found this food.  We sat in the window and watched him eat every bit of it. He must have thought he won the lottery.  It was too bad we couldn't have fed a human but we don't usually put much difference between humans and animals and dogs feel hunger pains just as humans. So all was not lost and the food was not wasted.

I think we will be studying the phrase book a lot more before our next restaurant meal. Tom's Spanish is very good in most situations but we just haven't transferred any skill yet to menus....except "Cerveza"  (Beer)

It felt great to get back to our hotel room.