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Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Freakin´ Thanksgiving...

So, Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Thought it would be best to get online and write mine out, because well....let´s be was heinous. I´m in Puerto Montt, the port town in the Chilean Lake District. It´s here that I´m taking a boat trip for 12 hours tomorrow across to Bariloche in Argentina. Starting the second half of my trip. CRAZY that this is half over. The countries I was most looking forward to hitting were Argentina and Brazil and to think that I have all of that AHEAD of me, after all of the wonderful experiences I´ve had so far in Ecuador, Peru, and Chile. I cannot wait. More so, because today just sucked and I´m going to tell you about it. I feel better venting but you ALL know that already don´t you? Hehe....

So, backtracking a bit: Thanksgiving used to be my favorite holiday. I´m obsessed with the turkey meal. I´ve just always loved it. Maybe it´s my mom´s Thanksgiving that I love, but it´s always been my favorite holiday. Last year, the title got tarnished a little when, in Puerto Rico, at the buffet at the Ritz, they RAN OUT OF TURKEY right as I was next in line and tried to offer my schwag-cooked-under-the-heat-lamp-leftovers instead. At the Ritz. To which I said (c´mon, unison now...) ¨ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?¨ My dad, sister and Jordan were mortified by my behavior to the holiday waitstaff of the Ritz, I didn´t have turkey and I was upset for days. Seemingly, I´m still not over it. ;)

This year tops it. Getting into Puerto Montt, guess what? It´s raining again. Are you keeping track? Day 5. Then, got in a fight with a Chilean cab driver that took me to no man´s land b-c he misunderstood and took me to the actual name of my hotel, sure, but a street CALLED THAT NAME in the slums, not the HOTEL and I FREAKED OUT (I speak a mean fighting Spanish I realized...) until I understood the mix-up and that he wasn´t going to take me to alley and slaughter me for kicks while his taxi driving cab friends watched them kill the little American chica. But then, we became BFF (obv...) and he asked me where I was from and I said NY and he said, you were so rude with your mouth and your hands and your tone, that I knew you had to be from the United States. ME? RUDE? Then, he let me go for free b-c he thought I was funny and knew that he scared me taking me to that part of town (I was shitting in my pants) and he was sorry, and was tough and stood up for myself. He told me my heart stopped and I turned white. PROJECTS, I tell ya. With like bars on the windows of houses made of cardboard materials. I don´t know why you need bars on cardboard houses, just use a $1 box cutter to bypass the bars part and you´re inside. I mean.... it was a bad scene. There were like wild horses in the middle of the half paved road WITH the wild dogs, cats, goats, rats, mice, pigeons and guinea pigs.

So, I ate a hamburger with guac (big thing here) on it for Thanksgiving dinner after the taxi debaucle. And it´s raining. Did I mention? Again. And the hotels were all booked so I was walking the town in the pouring rain, with my 400 lb wheelie bag that kept flipping over down EVERY curb and knocking my ankle out, going into every hotel asking, begging for a place to stay, and they had NONE (I went to about 8), and finally some receptionist was nice and told me that a new hotel just opened and had 170 rooms and I should check there, so I did. But, NEW HOTEL DRAMA, the first room wasn´t ready and like had dirty sex bed sheets still happening when I walked in. The second room had no lights or electricity hooked up. The third room the key wasn´t working. When I finally got into mine, and was changing, the door flies open with a staffer giving a tour of the new facilities... HELLO!?!?! Did you not check with the front desk about WHICH room to use as show!!!! I was mid-pant change. `Lo siento, lo siento, senorita`... says the tour guide backing out of the room gingerly. Geez. Then, the ¨machina de tarjeta de credito´ isn´t up and running yet, so I had to find myself a money exchange (another hour of rain walking) or else I couldn´t stay there. Aren´t hotels a SERVICE industry. Meaning, they serve you?!?!? Not in Puerto Montt, Chile. I mean....all I wanted was a ROOM!!!! A bed. A place to wash my face. OH, and I´m PMS.

I´m OVER Chile today, can you tell?

Onto Argentina tomorrow. Crossing through the lakes. CAN´T WAIT. Maybe it´ll rain again. That would be nice and different. I´m fine, I´m fine but today´s been a long, long day. And I VERY MUCH needed to vent. I just want some turkey. And sun. Sun would be nice.

Happy Thanksgiving. Big smiles. No, really.


PS. I just reread this, what a day! Thanks for listening...

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Romancing the Stone....

I made my way from Santiago to Pucon, Chile in an overnight bus two days ago.
Yes, you read correctly, an overnight BUS.

I asked my concierge at the Santiago hotel to book me an overnight TRAIN with a sleeping car and he booked a bus. So, I bit the bullet and went. Again, the public transportation here in Chile is fantastic.
Basically, it's a double-decker bus with seats that flatten out into beds. Black out shades, snacks, breakfast for like $50! 12 hour trip. I'm going to try to see if I can do the same thing from the south of Argentina to Buenos Aires, it's so much less hassle than getting to the airport, checking bags, going thru immigration, sitting waiting for the flights, etc... I'm now a converted busser.

Arrived in Pucon, a ski town here in the south of Chile yesterday morning at 9:30 AM. It´s pouring here, day two of it, no less. But the town has so much charm, even in torrential downpour, that I can't help but adore it and want to make every moment count. My hotel fronts the Plaza and backs Lake Villaricca. The best way that I can explain Pucon is that it's like Interlachen, Switzerland. Set in the mountains, surrounded by lakes, with tons of outdoor activities. I just can't help but look around here, craning my neck constantly for a better view of the snow-capped mountains and the blue of the lakes.

Deciding NOT to waste time, I went rafting yesterday. Yes, I know, I know. We're all taught in the States that thunderstorms and being outside in them equals sudden death by lightning, that's not the consensus here in Chile, so I went with it, and took a Class IV rafting trip down the Trancuro River with two guys from Chicago. My guides Jorge and Christian (the rescue kayaker) were skeptical of how successful a trip it would be, considering the rain, but took us anyway.
I had a blast! The rapids were fantastic and enormous. We actually had to walk the raft down the river for a couple of the rapids because they were too strong and the current would've toppled us. But, what an exhilirating feeling. Better than sitting in a hotel, waiting for Mother Nature to give it a rest.

Of course, the day couldn't be without incident. During the 'walking the raft' segment of time, we (me, Mark and Sam, the Chicago boys) had to walk thru the jungle to get the end of the rapid. In our wetsuits and booties, torrential downpours, it was a bit slippery, so I'm not sure what exactly possessed to take a shortcut from one riverbank to the other by climbing through a huge tree. YEAH, I'm always full of bright ideas. Well.....serves me right. I fell out of a tree while going across and
I´m sore as shit. Like full on "Romancing the Stone (thank you Karen) jungle acrobatics. Shimmying out to the edge of the very strong, thick branch. Shimmy, shimmy, shimmy. Moving my ass right on down. As I got above two huge rocks where I had planned in putting my feet down and jumping across to the next riverbank, the slick branch betrayed me, ungripping my ass, and letting me plummet, footing not yet quite right on the rocks, down. Flipping while hitting the fissure between the two rocks. My helmet (THANK GOD) bounced off one rock, then the other, while my hips flew straight up in the air. A complete an utter wipe out. I don´t black and blue easily, and I am like blackened on elbow, hips and knees. I literally fell out of a tree!!! Thank god the raft trip photographer didn't get THAT shot. Well, kinda funny if he did.

Anyway, I´m fine but just kicked around today, no rainy outdoor activities for me. Hopefully, the weather will clear tomorrow, there's an active volcano here that is supposed to be an amazing hike, with hot springs to ease the pain afterwards. The weather report for tomorrow is looking better. But, the south of Chile, bruises and all, is wonderful. I absolutely love it.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone... Mind you, I've yet to see turkey on a menu anywhere. Guinea pigs, yes (it's a delicacy in South America). Turkey, no. So, I'm very jealous of you all....

More soon.


Saketinis in Santiago...

So, a few nights ago, I went out with Tony, a Chilean friend of a friend from HarperCollins who lives in Santiago.
He was born in Chile, but has lived everywhere from New York and Miami to Rio, to London, to Buenos Aires, but now is back
here. He's been very helpful throughout re: Chile and South America. He took me out last night in Bellavista, the Villagey part of Santiago. What a night! I realized I'm just not equipped for South American night life and better get it together before I get to Buenos Aires and Rio and have to really pull out the stops....

Tony is 39, about 6'5" and looks like John C. Reilly from Boogie Nights. Picks me up in a little Alfa Romeo, and takes me to
some fabu sushi place called Etniko (a play on the word Ethnic, I'm told) that's hidden behind a door and you have to "know" about it. It's like Bond Street or as close in feel as it can be. Have drinks, I order a saketini. They almost
balked when I asked for sake and VODKA...very conservative city and he said it's unladylike to drink like that here... he wasn't being rude, just explaining and being incredulous of my order at the same time. Tony's the mayor, knows everyone. Amazing...people keep coming to table. I'm minding my own business, happy to be eating SUSHI, though the comparison with the sushi we all know and love isn't necessary, not even close to the same thing! After dinner, I'm maintaining I'm FINE (having had vodka for the first time in 3 weeks) and we head to the next place which is a little Chilean bar that unbeknownst to us, they're doing poetry readings and an open mike at..... We're loosening up a bit, or maybe it's me doing the loosening b/c I I knock my WHOLE MARGARITA as the waitress is putting it down ALL OVER him. Not a drop touches me. NOT ONE DROP. But remember, I'm FINE.....

I can tell he's livid, but dealing. I was getting up/down in the middle of the poetry reading to get napkins (I cleaned out the whole supply b/c in S. America, napkins are like 1-ply paper. They crumble up into a spitball, like you can't evn put it on your lap but it's only as big as your kneecap and so light (1-ply) that it flies off from like a sneeze breeze from 2 tables down. HORRIBLE. So, I use all the napkins and my heels are clicking back/forth as I keep getting more napkins for him b/c he's Margarita-sticky. The Chileans who are VERY SERIOUS about their poetry/singer dudes on stage are pissed at us. I'm asking them to take pictures, to boot. Blah, blah... So, we move on. Now, at this point, we're best friends, bonding over the spillage and the awful poetry set to song.

So, we then go to some CLUB called La Feria. Again, hidden behind a door, it's a full on lair. Red everywhere, the walls, the couches, the light fixtures. The DJ is jamming with himself like it's New Years Eve. But, we're early and there's nobody there. It's like 2 AM!!! And we go in anyway, and just sit on these red couches and talk and I'M WASTED b/c I haven't had vodka, and now I've had 3 (do you believe I'm saying this...?)!!! And, at about 3 AM, the club starts to fill up with all these Chilean youngsters that I cannot believe are JUST coming out to play, and thinking to myself, what the hell happened to the days when I WAS A YOUNGSTER like this and could drink 7 saketinis and hold my own and dance all night and never come down. I'm sad to leave, goddamnnit, I've got dancing shoes. But, I just can't party forward, I need sleep. And...........was miserable the next day. My first serious South American hangover.

Moral of the story: I have a lot of work to do before I get to Buenos Aires, let alone Rio. A lot of freakin' work......