Argentina Trip 2008

Ryan, Mike, Dan, Matt, Vicki, Chris, Autumn...

We're Home... and.... Thanks to ALL!

Published by Ryan at 12:14 PM
So it's been a little over a week since the rest of us have returned and are now getting back to our routines. Sleeping in our own beds, enduring the cold, service, meetings, and working. (except for Dan, I'm not sure what he's doing for work since he had to quit just to go on this trip. Hmmm?)

So yes, thanks to all for your comments along the way. It was enjoyable and made us feel like we weren't so far away from home. And to those who watched but didn't comment.... well... I hope you enjoy the reading!

As a last post here are a few more pictures and videos.

Thanks again, it was fun...

Some Random Pictures of us...
(Mikes giant Helmet)

(I took a lite jog around the block...)

Things that are illegal to bring home... (I think they got the leopard by surprise)

Live Animals... (and a small child)
(Mark Wahlberg talks to animals...)

Hostel thick walls + Hot Water being made for showers...

The Wine Dungeon... and a dusty town road...

My room talked to me... (just like 2001 space odyssey)

Ecuador I'm Back

Published by daniel keel the magnificent travelling gnome! at 9:48 AM
So everything has gone so smooth so far I decided to push it a little further. So walked up to immigration and 2 Minn's later I was back in the country of Ecuador. They actually gave me one more week to stay here. Should I take it? Well I took a taxi to bethel and scared alot of people, almost to death. Before I left I was told that I wouldn't be allowed back into the country. Many faces were in complete shock! It felt good to be home again. Went sight seeing of all the work that had been in 3 weeks. Alot they don't waste any time. they have gotten 16 new volunteers in the past week. last big push. They hope to be done by the 15th of January. Was expecting to go to my old hall one last time. nope the other hall had the CO so our meeting got moved. Went with friends to their book study for one last meeting in Spanish. WE Had 12 at the book study and 9 in attendance were bethelites cool atmosphere. Chilled with my old friends after that and showed the pixs of Argentina and told my version of the stories. Had one last morning worship this morning. Said my last goodbyes and off to the airport. And here I write eating one last steak. Sorry Ecuador Argentina's beef if much better. But it still tastes better then the cuy, llama or chabrito{old goat}. I will see you all soon. MIKE LARRIVEE The Lonely Traveller and not the {Traveling Gnome}

______Don't Cry for me Aregentine______

Published by daniel keel the magnificent travelling gnome! at 9:29 AM
As I mentioned I had to watch my traveling buddy's leave :[ We had so much fun together so many adventures. probably could have done with out. But it worked out ok in the end. So I went for another tour of the printery. One of the sisters we met in Salta, her son and nephew work in the factory. The nephew works on the electronics of the press, and her son mattias works at the end of the line boxing stuff up. Which they are in shambles right now awaiting a new machine. Oh boy new toys. For lunch we had some tasty pasta and of course wine to go with it. For the rest of the day i took my siesta and went to a cafe to check on my flights. Back to Bethel for Dinner and the family watchtower study. They sing really loud very cool just like our annual pioneer meeting. Ken and Wendy study there watchtower's in three languages. The meeting is in Spanish but they have there English watchtower. From that they go to Pinyin Chinese. WoW alot of work. At the end they interviewed to new bethelites. I went with mattias to his room there i met Walter who has been to Connecticut. Even to our hall 3 years ago only the Spanish congregation. Very cool he remembered it by our lovely frog bridge. From there we went to someone room for food and association. Then to my room to leave for the airport at 4 in the morning. So the first 1/4 of my trip home went good 5 hr flight sleeping all the way. now awaiting my next flight for Ecuador. maybe they will let me in the country for a night for my long layover. See ya all soon.
Mike Larrivee

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Published by daniel keel the magnificent travelling gnome! at 12:34 PM
We went to the flea market in San Telmo this morning. It was bigger than we expected. Every day there are artesans in Plaza Dorrego, San Telmo´s main square. But on Sundays the market extends for 8 blocks north up Ave. Defensa to Moreno, and southwards all the way to Ave. San Juan. Lots of junk, but also lots of interesting trinkets. Lenore Evans could fill two houses. Anyway, Mike and Ryan bought souvenirs. I bought fresh squeezed orange juice.

Many of the vendors were dressed in costumes; we aren´t sure why, but we saw catwomen, samurai, metal people, Batman and the Joker, and a lady dressed all in blue with a skirt made of bubble wrap. There were also the requisite street entertainers. One group stood out: the ¨Juga Limpia¨(Clean Fun)¨ band. They were a huge percussion group, maybe 20-25 people, with drums and rattley bottles and sticks. And Mike says they were hitting glass Coke bottles. I didn´t see that. Argentine Stomp. They were impressive.

We went to a nearby cafe for lunch, where Mike didn´t like his food. (I´ll admit, it wasn´t very good. But his face was classic Mike.) While there, a seemingly middle class woman came in off the street and snatched a purse from a table. She tried for two but was caught. See Vicki? Don´t hang your purse off your chair!

Well, right now we are posting in the lobby of the hotel we checked out of, and I´d better stop writing before we are kicked out. We´ll post you from Atlanta. . .

A Three Hour Tour

Published by daniel keel the magnificent travelling gnome! at 7:54 AM
We had a hard time getting going yesterday; I guess we were tired. We knew we missed breakfast at the hotel, so we got dressed and left, planning to stop at a cafe for a coffee and something quick. Once we picked one and sat down, we were surprised to be given full lunch menus. Apparently it was 1 30 in the afternoon; we had no idea! It worked out well for us, though. You can't find eggs early in the day, but at 1 30, we happily ate omelettes and fried eggs with ham (and fried banana--but that's another story.)

By 2 15, we finally got on our train to Tigre, a town about 15 miles north of the city on the river delta where the Parana and Uruguay rivers meet to form the Rio de la Plata. For a half hour, we walked around a bit aimlessly, until we were approached by a tourist guide offering us a private boat tour. I knew I didn't want to get on one of the large, impersonal 50-passenger catamarans, but I am naturally skeptical of tour salespeople. In the end, we are glad we let him talk us into it. It was a great tour!

The delta comprises thousands of islands, separated by a network of rivers and natural canals, none of which are very deep. The large ships can only travel on the largest ones along the periphery. Our guide, Fernando, took us everywhere: through poor and rich neighborhoods, seeing how the people live. Like Amazonia, they all have their houses on stilts, as the river rises sharply every 10 or 15 days. (We were there on an exceptionally high day ourselves.) There are no streets on the island; the natives use the streams as roads. Along the banks are gas stations, stores, bars and restaurants, each with its own dock. We motored past rowers, kayakers, jet skiers and tubers, as well as larger boats, anchored down to relax. Some boats have barbeque pits affixed to the side--very clever!

The highlight, though, was our stop. Fernando took us to a small, rustic restaurant owned by a friend of his. The place was tiny; there were only two other groups there. One left as were arriving, but we met the other family: a young couple from White Plains with two young, precocious children. The wife spoke Spanish, and the husband didn't, but he tried. We thought of Matt and Vicki traveling with their children-to-be, especially when the husband clapped his hand and yelled: "Ninos! Banos? Do we need banos?" We got to meet the owner's pet dog, Lara, who loves pecans, and her baby beaver that she rescued from the delta after hunters shot its mother. We also saw ducks, and her cat which wants to kill the beavers and the ducks. I don't like the cat.
After two bottles of wine, it was time to leave, so we headed back on our boat, and then back to Buenos Aires. We ate a small dinner and went to bed early. It was a good second to last day.

Return to Civilization

Published by Ryan at 4:19 PM

We took our flight today from Salta to Buenos Aires. Now we are in an uber fancy hotel called the Moreno. We got 3 beds, a small kitchen area, a couch with sitting area, a closet with a light in it, a desk, a bidet (Dans favorite) and free Wi-Fi...

By the way its hard to hide on someone in a closet with smoked glass as a door and a light in it.

They have a terrace view that has a nice view of the city. There is a fire place up there, a small bar area (which is the breakfast area in the morning), and a workout area. Its all very nice. This feels like a nice reward after a crazy couple days.

Other than that we are basically lying around and resting up so we can eat later. We are turning into cats. Meow...
Thats the quick of it. Tomorrow we are talking about taking an hour train ride to the delta town of El Tigre. It's suppose to be nice, we'll let you know if it is...

It's All Fun and Games Until Mike Blows a Fuse!

Published by daniel keel the magnificent travelling gnome! at 5:18 PM

Apologies to everyone for not blogging the past few days. We've been a bit busy. The upside: we now have a lot of stories to tell. So if you're one of the illiterates who has been just scanning the pics up until now, you might want to put your reading glasses on cause this one's going to be a doozy!
Salta's nickname is Salta la Linda (Salta the Beautiful). I don't believe the city itself is exceptional. The beauty is outside of the city, expressed in its natural setting. It is cradled by low mountains on both sides, and thus is not as dry as areas nearby. And less than 4 hours away in all directions is some stunning scenery. To the north is the World Heritage-listed Quebrada (Canyon) de Humahuaca. We decided to head there on Tuesday, and then on Wednesday drive to Cachi, a picturesque town to the south.
We picked up our rental car on Tuesday at midmorning and headed out of the city towards Jujuy, the next provincial capital about 60 miles to the north. There is a highway that can get you there in 45 min., but we opted for the slower route travelling through the mountains. The landscape was unexpectedly green, far more lush than anything we had so far seen in this country. There were animals everywhere, which made me happy. Apparently, ranchers here tag their animals and let them roam wild. And Ryan enjoyed the winding, semi-dangerous road.
After we reached Jujuy, we skirted it on the highway and kept heading north. The landscape quickly changed to dusty canyons as our altitude rose. We stopped a few times to explore; Mike was a little more daring than I.

For lunch, we stopped at a "cafe": a little crooked hut that served empanadas in your choice of cheese or llama. We did not like the llama. Later, we returned to the city for a dinner of more wine and steak.
The next day we woke up and again got in the car, this time to travel to Cachi. Cachi is a pretty little mountain town catering to tourists, but the best part about it is the drive there. Route 33 winds along the Rio Calchaqui, with alternating sections of pavement and gravel for about 13 miles until it crosses over a very suspect bridge and begins climbing the river gorge. For about 10 more miles it winds steadily higher, and then the pavement ends and the road starts ascending the mountains in a series of switchbacks until the road actually reaches the clouds. Of course we got out of the car often for pics. Once Ryan pretended to fall and almost scared a bowel movement out of me.

At the top of the mountain is a plateau roamed by wild donkeys and llamas. (I know!) Then the road begins its descent to Cachi, crossing a national cactus forest and including a long straight stretch of road where you can see cars coming for miles. We eventually made it to the town, where we had lunch and stretched our legs by lazily wandering around.

The ride there took over 4 hours, so at 4 30 we decided we had better head back. About a third of the way back, the car stops halfway up a dusty ravine. I stop the iPod to see if Mike is serious. He is. I get out of the car with them to show solidarity as they huddle over the hood. We have oil. We have fluids. We have gasoline. Yet the car is not moving and neither Ryan nor a Larrivee know why. Apparently, we blew two fuses. After two cars come around the blind corner and sneak by us, they decide the best thing is to push the car until it is turned around, and then coast it down the hill back to the long flat stretch.
Once that is done, we are safer than in the ravine, but are still in the middle of the desert, 20 miles from the nearest town, with a rental car that doesn't work. So we decided to hitchhike back to Cachi. Ten minutes later, the second or third truck pulls over. They speak no English, but I gather that they think leaving the car alone on the road is unsafe. So Mike jumps in to get help, and Ryan and I stay with the car as darkness approaches. It is at this moment that I realize this will be the best blog ever.

It is 5 30 when Mike leaves in the truck with all of my money and half of Ryan's. Ryan and I play cards for a while. 7 30. More wild donkeys stroll by and I get out to watch. Ryan is starting to wonder what has happened to Mike. I figure he is either stuck in Cachi, trying to get a ride back to us, or has gotten raped and killed by the men in the truck, in which case we have bigger problems. Soon it is 8 00. It is starting to get darker and colder. I switch the iPod to "Hang On", a talk by Bob Malowksi, thinking it will be encouraging. (At least we're not hanging from a wet, bloody cable 300 feet in the air.) By 9 00, I have decided that Mike is lost to us, and am preparing to sleep in the car. The road traffic, which was sparse at its peak, is now completely gone.
Finally at 9 30, Mike shows up in a beatup patched paint sedan with two Spanish-speaking mechanics. Again, I step out into the now chilly air to show support. I am wearing a short sleeve polo, and Mike has on shorts, so we take turns wearing Ryan's hoodie. After an hour and half of checking spark plugs, building bootleg fuses, and testing the ignition, the mechanic decides that is the fuel pump, and that the car cannot be helped at that point. So we leave the car on teh side of the road and climb into the mechanic's car. He agrees to give us a ride--not to Cachi, but to his hometown--Payogasta, a dust puddle 8 miles north of Cachi.
We arrive there after 11. The only hostel in town is dark and locked, so we ask some lounging teenagers where the police station is. They direct us to a private house with a police emblem on it, and when we knock, a young woman comes out eating her dinner. She explains to us that the owner of the hostel is a woman named Gloria, and escorts us to her house. Gloria is asleep in her nightgown. The policewoman, who we learn is named Mariel, brings us back to the police station to wait while Gloria gets dressed; there we meet Mariel's daughter and drink purple Coke in the radio room. This entire time, all conversations are taking place in very bad Spanish, and Ryan has no idea what is going on.
Once Gloria arrives at the police station, we thank Mariel, exchange emails and continue on to our hostel. It is thankfully in good clean condition, so we pay our 40 pesos ($12 US) each and settle into our beds. We have the place to ourself, and there is a bathroom included in our space, so I am happy until I recall my guidebook's warnings about contracting Chagas' disease--a tropical illness caused by the feces in beetle bites which causes eventual enlargement of the heart. Apparently travellers rarely catch it, unless they are sleeping in rural adobe dwellings in the north of Argentina. Ryan and Mike laugh at me, but I wake up a few times during the night, sure i've been bitten by a beetle.
In the morning we go use the village phone to contact the rental company. They ask us to wait in Payogasta until they can bring us a replacement car. So its to the square to play more cards. By 12 30, we have been stranded for 19 hours when the new car finally arrives. We have enough time to go back to Cachi for lunch at the same place as the day prior, and then head back to Salta, where we have to pick up our laundry, return the car and get dressed for the meeting, as we have three sisters meeting us at our hotel to bring us to the meeting.
Once we made it back to the hotel, we rushed to clean ourselves up (brushing my teeth has never felt so good) and got dressed. The sisters arrived, and we caught a cab to the Kingdom Hall. It is a new hall, built less than a year ago. We were minor celebrities there; we probably took 40-50 pictures. And everyone wanted English literature. They cleaned Ryan and Mike out, but I refused to give them my bible. Afterwards, we were invited over someone's house for dinner. The amazing thing is how late this culture operates: their meeting starts at 8 30, and we stayed at the house until 2 40 am, eating (what else?) empanadas while Ryan played the guitar. They asked us to pray in English, which probably benefitted no one, but enhanced the impression of international brotherhood. Once we finally excused ourselves, we caught a cab home, where I am presently writing this blog entry.

I again apologize for the lapse, but I hope you understand.

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