Wednesday, October 28, 2009

First Day!

     I probably won´t be posting every day of my journey, since I need to fight the internet addiction. Besides, ¿who would really want to read or write about all that? I am typing con un Spanish keyboard, so if I place random symbols throughout the writing, cool. ¨´´ ¬

Clouds over the Caribbean. Photo © 2009 Drew Castle Peters
     Touching down at 9:30 this morning made me realize, "Woah, I´m in South America." It really does look and feel different than any place I´ve been to before outside the states. Trying to listen to and read and speak Argentine Spanish all at once is certainly a rush. I quickly changed some money into Argentine pesos, and now I´m simply strapped in cash. Upon my catching of the local bus shuttle to the city neighborhood of Retiro, I hopped the company´s taxi service for a trip farther Northwest into the city, ending up in Palermo Hollywood, which is a nice neighborhood somewhat near the immense and frankly gross Rio de La Plata. It´s a quieter section off the main drag that has hip nightlife, great restaurants and is right in the perfect area.
Photo © 2009 Drew Castle Peters
     On the way to my current hostel, Hostal Mi Bulin, I passed through some more run-down neighborhoods on the southern end of the city. Apartment buildings are everywhere, and old and new buildings of all sorts are next to each other, with no overall "design continuity" plan in mind. The people certainly dress uniquely here, although the evening is still young (currently just after 7pm).
     The women are either 9s or 10s, with the older ones aging gracefully, and of course some average ones scattered about. I saw the ideal girl stride by me walking the streets. She had short, dyed-red hair, an arm tatoo, great curves and a cool fashion sense. She was singing and grooving to some mobile mp3 device, and I literally stopped, did a double take, turned around and started following her (not stalking, since I had to go back the way she was headed anyway - don´t judge).

Photo © 2009 Drew Castle Peters. All rights reserved.
      I walked up to a park in the nothern Palermo area, about 14 blocks away from the hostel. I had a hell of a time trying to find some sort of map of the city, which I eventually bought in small form at a newsstand for 5 pesos ($1.75 US). I should just stop into the U.S. Embassy, in the same district and they probably have better maps, for free I´d even bet. Anyway, the park I visited looks a lot like Balboa Park, not far from the main city life, with a TON of rollerblading beauties, families and couples and single people excersizing in some form or another. It´s like Balboa Park, with L.A.-quantity, super-agro-agressive traffic surrounding it. I mean the city does have just under 14 million inhabitants, and frankly, there is hardly any polution control, from the smell and look of it.
      I had to literally run across the 8 and 10 lane roads, and it seems that traffic lights are mere suggestions. I have to look before attempting to even put ONE FOOT in the road, since cars speed down residential streets and through suicide intersections at near 30 mph! I have seen so many near accidents vs. city buses today, and people always pass each other on one-way roads, even with kids in the car.
     I tried my first true (and very staple) Argentine meal today - three handmade empanadas and a half-liter of Quilmes beer, the favored beer of the locals. The beer is actually similar to shit like Coors, which I don´t care for. Quantity vs. Quality = Quilmes. The empanadas were DELICIOUS, all fresh ingredients of beef, bacon, cheese, plum, and eggplant. All for 17.50 AR pesos, which runs me .... 6 bucks!

Photo © 2009 Drew Castle Peters. All rights reserved.
     I gotta really organize my next few days so I can explore more of the city. I didn´t get out TOO far today, since the overnight flight coupled with flying across the states didn´t allow me much sleep, and so I´m pretty beat for today. There is still tonight though, since they don´t eat dinner here until at least 9 or 10, and go out clubbing and to bars around midnight or later. Good first day so far... Holy crap, I´m on another continent! 
     All for now, more for later.
Photo © 2009 Drew Castle Peters. All rights reserved.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Pack List and Current Sentiments

Summing up my travel gear to only 40 lbs. (18 kilos) has been a little bit of a challenge, and even at that weight I feel it's still a little heavier than where I'd like to be, at around 30 lbs. (13 kilos).  Many of my pack items are perishable (toiletries, repellant, etc.), so the weight will drop down as I go and back up as I buy goods for my return home.

By this time tomorrow I will be on a flight down to BsAs (Buenos Aires), so hopefully a.) my planes are safe and I don't end up in the ocean, and b.) the airline companies don't manage to lose my main pack, which I have to check in. Otherwise, I'm excited, a little anxious, and hungry for some Argentine food!

PACK LIST FOR ARGENTINA [prepared 26 Oct. 2009]

  • Large hiking backpack w/ external frame
  • Smaller day pack
  • Packable duffel bag (for getting hiking backpack thru security)
  • 2 pairs jeans
  • 1 pair nylon hiking pants (found in my wardrobe by chance)
  • 1 pair shorts
  • 1 pair swim trunks
  • 2 collared long-sleeve cotton shirts (black; brown w/ruffles)
  • 2 collared short-sleeve cotton shirts (off-white; brown patterned)
  • 2 cotton "band" shirts (The Dread Crew of Oddwood; The Lord Weird Slough Feg)
  • 1 lined nylon windbreaker
  • 1 pleather jacket
  • 1 XL rain poncho (to cover backpack too)
  • 1 Australian leather bush hat (for hunting velociraptors)
  • 1 pair merino wool socks
  • 2 pairs cotton athletic socks
  • 3 pairs cotton-polyester socks
  • 4 handkerchiefs / bandannas
  • 1 leather belt
  • security pouch
  • aviators and polarized brown-tint sunglasses
  • 1 pair eyeglasses
  • 3 pairs contacts
  • hiking boots
  • athletic shoes
  • flip-flops
  • shower sandals
  • notebook
  • planner
  • digital camera
  • mp3 player
  • watch
  • compass
  • Nalgene 1L bottle
  • basic hiking first aid kit, with additions: Neosporin, lighter, 2-sided signal mirror, magnesium fire starter,  asthma medicine, extra ibuprofen
  • safety blanket
  • fleece blanket
  • asthma inhaler
  • malaria medication (chloroquine)
  • typhoid fever antibiotics (ciprofoxacn)
  • permethrin insect repellant
  • 100% DEET insect repellant
  • 85 SPF sunblock (who knew it was ever that high?)
  • 10 Magnums
  • inflatable travel pillow
  • down sleeping bag
  • contact cases, nail clippers/file/tweezers, shaver, earplugs, dental floss, 1 bar soap
  • deodorant 
  • Swiss Army knife
  • personal business cards
  • Oddwood business cards
  • passport
  • immunization card for Yellow Fever
  • ISIC card
  • Driver's license
  • AAA card
  • pens
  • duct tape
  • 2 Argentina guidebooks
  • 2 Spanish pocketbooks
  • bungee cord (to hook backpack onto a chair at the restaurant to prevent theft)
  • combo lock
  • spare AA batteries
  • spare Ziploc bags
  • camera/mp3 USB cables
My pre-trip supplies. Photo © 2009 Drew Castle Peters

All of that in only 40 Imperial Pounds! Don't forget, I will be wearing about 5 pounds of clothing at all times, in addition to the load. And if I drink and eat as much as will be expected, I'll come back weighing far more than my current 160 lbs. (72 kilos). Argh!

As I said, I'm limiting myself in the way of electronics. And about....80% of everything I am bringing is disposable plastic. That is America's big "FUCK YOU" to planet Earth. I wish we limited plastic production, but hey, what can we do? Another time for that discussion. BsAs, here I come!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

7 Days To Go... or actually just 166 hours

Argentina is literally just over the horizon, and my trip is only days away. With plans and purchases finalizing, I figure everything will just happen all at once, from packing to making copies of everything and arbitrating my travel items. 

I've been arranging what clothes I'm bringing based on so many factors: the weather, type of fabric, style, and practicality. The weather for the next month will be spring weather (since it is the spring season), so there will be rain and sun and clouds and cold nights and windy days and stifling humidity throughout the course of a week, and even in the span of 24 hours, I'd bet.  Porteños (what Argentines living in Buenos Aires call themselves) seem to be very fashionable, so I'm planning to dress as if I were in La Jolla, CA every day I'm in B.A., and with their money being what it is now, I may get to enjoy myself as part of the well-to-do too. I won't, however, be lavish or opulent with my spending, because then I become a target.

As for protection from the other elements, I'm bringing some strong insect repellant for my skin and permethrin for my clothing. Normally I would not ever care to wear such things out in the wilderness, however those little subtropical Amazon-based mosquitos pack a huge mortal punch. Yellow fever, malaria, and dengue fever are pretty terrible and, in many cases, fatal diseases. I've received my yellow fever and started my malaria vaccines, but prevention of bites is the only way to protect myself from dengue fever. And, the sun is a little more intense due to malaria medication and just being in AR itself, so I'll have to wear a layer of sunblock in addition to the repellant, which is totally against my normal "skin regimen", so to speak. Also my leather bush hat, polarized sunglasses, condoms, and rain poncho should keep me further protected in every way.

The modern age really necessitates a lot of "stuff", which is just more of a hassle since I somewhat buy into it. What am I bringing for entertainment?
  • The Zombie Survival Guide - because it's better to know than to not know, wouldn't you agree?
  • Argentina - A Lonely Planet travel guide, offers insight into hostels, realistic prices, things to do, etc. I recommend at least thumbing through the book. Seems a bit disorganized-feeling (although it's not)
  • The Rough Guide to Argentina - offers a little more knowledge than the Lonely Planet, and is in color (which does make it much more organized-feeling). The two books complement each other.
  • mp3 player  - 8 GB, Sony Walkman which is already far superior to the iPod. Mac makes terrible products outside their computers, which are already overpriced. 
  • digital camera - will make good use of this for myself and (of course) this blog.
So that's where I am currently- if I don't update before I leave, the next writing will probably be out of an Internet cafè down in Buenos Aires. I might throw a pack list up online, so y'all can see what I bring. Cheers.