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Wine and Bikes in Maipú

11 Nov

Maipú, pronounced ¨My Poo,¨ was loads of fun, even if just for the name itself. It´s located about 45 minutes south of Mendoza in Argentina´s wine-making district. There was a group of six of us who ventured into Maipú on the local bus, making our way to Mr. Hugo´s where we rented our bikes. Fully equipped with baskets, brakes and gears, we peddled our way into the vineyards. We ended up only making it to two different wineries to sample wine, but the samples they poured were massive, and mostly reds, which for me is a guaranteed headache when consumed in the sweltering midday heat. I was very happy when we made our way to a beer brewery to order a tall glass of a cold frothy blond and relax under the shade. As you can imagine, the more we drank and the more the sun beat down on our heads, the more the ¨My Poo¨ jokes rolled off our tongues…

¨Maipú is hot!¨

¨There´s corn in Maipú!¨

¨I love rolling through Maipú on a bicycle!¨

and, of course, here is Miss Maipú 2011:

We also made it to a chocolate, olive oil, and liqueur tasting place where we sampled a variety of tapenades, sun-dried tomatoes, very potent flavored liqueurs, and of course, my favorite…chocolate. All in Maipú. The day was well spent in Maipú, and hopefully one day I´ll be able to return to Maipú for some more delicious tastings!

Susan from Amsterdam, me, Ross from Michigan, Vanessa from London, and Eli and Summer from New Zealand. The Maipú gang.

Riding bikes along the vineyards.

The many wines of Maipú.

100 year old wines.

Di Tommaso winery.

Sadly, Vanessa and I had to part ways after our awesome two week stint of traveling together. She made her way up to Salta, a northern region of Argentina, and I crossed back over into Chile with Susan and Ross, who I also had to part ways with. And now I´m on the road alone again…making new friends as I go. I love it!!!

Susan, me and Ross. Genuinely beautiful people who I was lucky to have spent time with.

And now I venture into the desert…

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Climbing a Volcano

29 Oct

Yesterday was one of the most physically and mentally difficult, challenging, exhausting, beautiful and rewarding days of my life. I trekked up a volcano. El Volcán Villarrica in Pucon, Chile, to be exact. One of the world´s top ten most active volcanoes. I never in a million years would have imagined that one day I would be trekking up 1400 kilometers in snow, wearing a helmet and clamp-ons, and carrying an ice pick to peer down the inside of a volcano. It´s something to be crossed off the bucket list that I didn´t even know was on there.

Volcán Villarrica. At the base of the volcano taking in all that I am about to climb, which is to that plume of smoke at the very top.

The day started quite early. At 6am I was eating breakfast, at 7 am we met with the tour guides, and by 8am we were on our way up the volcano. We had the option to ride the ski lift that would take us up the first 400km, but on the one hand that would have cost extra, and on the other hand…I´m up for the challenge. I chose to ignore the guide´s “strong suggestion” to take the lift and opted for the long way up. Me, my two new friends Vanessa (from London) and Helene (from Vienna) and the Aussie boys were in it together. We knew it would be steep and we knew it would be difficult, but we imagined that it would be that much more rewarding at the top.

Trekking up past the ski lifts.

So on we went, up and up. The first optional portion of the climb was steep and took about an hour and a half to zig-zag up the mountain. But once there I felt strong and energized. I wanted to proclaim, “I am strong, I am invincible, I am Woman!!!”  We continued  on, zig-zagging, searching for a steady piece of snow to plant our feet, huffing and puffing. The higher we got, the more difficult it became. The wind became  fierce, to the point where you felt that it could sweep you right off the slope, chilling you to the bone and biting at your skin. The snow was thick, and each step prove difficult to find any balance. I found myself often praying that I wouldn´t lose my footing and roll down the mountain.

A much needed rest and snack break.

We finally made it to a resting point where we could eat a snack to keep energized, and thinking that we had already been climbing for a good 2 1/2 hours I thought certainly we were  almost there. So I asked one of the guides, “how much longer?” to which he replied, “Oh, about 2 more hours.” What???!!!! Oh my goodness. This was the moment of truth. I had two very clear choices: have a mental breakdown, kick scream and cry, refuse to go down and have a rescue team helicopter me off the mountain, or keep going up. While I admit, the former was tempting and would have been a new adventure in itself (helicopter ride is on the bucket list), I chose the latter. Grit my teeth and keep going.

Recharged and re-energized to make it up the mountain.

Re-energized and ready to go!

Just don´t look up and only focus on the step in front of you. Sounds silly, I know. An avid volcano-hiker-snow-trekker-wild-man would probably laugh heartily at my exhaustion and weariness, but man oh man, I´ve never hiked a hike like this before. Not looking up worked for a good while until I realized that I was forgetting to enjoy the moment. And so up I looked and found myself high above the clouds in the most beautiful, pristine, breathtaking landscape I have ever seen. I was so thankful to be exactly where I was doing what I was doing at that moment. And while it didn´t make the trek any easier, it refreshed my sense of determination and adventure.

Another rest break. Reminds me of “Weekend at Bernie´s”, the arctic adventure version.

Finally, after a total of 6 hours (it took a bit longer due to weather conditions-we thought we were going to have to turn around and go back), we made it to the crater of the volcano and basked in the glorious moment of knowing that WE MADE IT! And damn it was hard! The Moment of Glory was brief due to the strong gasses pluming from the crater, but I tried my best to be there in the moment and soak it all in. I´m pretty sure that I can to anything after climbing El Volcán Villarrica. I am Woman!!!

At the top of the volcano.

Me, Vanessa, and Helene dangling our feet over the edge of the crater. Inhaling lovely plumes of sulfur.

Our clamp-ons that made it all possible.

The crew that mad it to the top. The only group (it should be noted) that actually did make it to the top that day. We saw the others turn around.

Our guides that thankfully kept us alive.

The way down the volcano was a blast! We attached little plastic shovel-looking sleds to out belt, tucked them under our tooshies, and wheeeeeeee!!! all the way down. It took about 2 hours to make it back to the van, soaking wet, shivering, freezing, and satisfied. A warm shower, a beer, and 11 hours of sleep followed. I absolutely loved Friday, October 28th, 2011.

Buenos Aires

18 Oct

Chocolate covered strawberries, my favorite since I first grew teeth and learned how to chew. And on a stick! Delicious and convenient.

Let’s get right down to business. Buenos Aires is delicious. Anyone who knows me knows that I have a deep love and appreciation for the culinary arts, particularly for the sweet concoctions. Here in Buenos Aires I have found true love.

Bakeries abound on every street you walk down, and for someone like me it’s impossible not to stop in and sample their goods, for research, of course. Puffy, flaky pastries, cookies, scones, muffins, and my ffffffffavorite: medialunas, which is their version of a croissant. And try as you may to behave and be good and resist the temptation of a delectable sweet, just order the cafe con leche instead, you shall fail. For every coffee, tea, milk, etc., that you order is served with a delicious little cookie of sorts. So…not my fault.

I’m gonna eat you.

And of course, we can’t overlook the gelato. I’m not a huge ice cream fan (oddly enough), but out here it’s amazing, created in an array of interesting flavors, and also served on every corner. Be prepared, though, for the dreaded,  nevertheless well-worth-it tummy ache. I’d do it all again in a heartbeat. I’m eying a scone right now, actually.

Aside from the sweet treats, of course, there are countless things to admire about Buenos Aires. It’s a vibrant city with the perfect blend of old and new, filled with people who are warm, helpful and have an impressive zest for life. Dinner starts at 10pm, and showing up at a club any earlier than 2am is just embarrassing. Rarely do people drive here. Instead, everyone walks from point A to point B, giving this city a strong sense of community and a love for being outside together, enjoying their city. And believe me, there is no shortage of amusement here. A stroll down any street will boast an ongoing showcase of live music, tango dancers, clowns, comedians, artists, crafts, antique fairs, farmers markets, gorgeous buildings….and on…and on…and on…

Johnny Depp anyone?

Every weekend the streets are filled with artists selling their crafts.

I love his hat, I love his sweater, I love that he’s sitting there making his jewelery.

An antique man and his antique bookstore.

Little handmade shoes.

This cotton candy man was so cute, I couldn’t resist taking a picture. Cotton candy made right there on his bicycle.He was cool before the food truck craze.

Farmer’s market.

Farmer’s market.

Puerto Madero-right next to where I’ve been staying.

La Boca.

The streets of Buenos Aires filled with people.

Beautiful buildings like this are everywhere in BA.

And here is me 10 minutes after arriving to Buenos Aires after a 20 hour bus ride.

Sadly, my time in this beautiful city is up. Time to move onward and westward!

Iguazu Falls, The Land of Rainbows and Butterflies

12 Oct

I’ve never seen so many picturesque photo opportunities in one setting,  and yet, as many pictures as I took, it’s impossible to capture the enormity and grandeur of Iguazu Falls. Even if I had flown over the falls in a helicopter with a million-dollar professional camera (do those exist?), I still wouldn’t have been able to capture what Iguazu Falls has to offer. I can’t put my finger on it exactly…there’s a certain overwhelming energy that stirs up the place, a constant roaring hum of water pounding and crashing into itself, every viewing point of the waterfalls is adorned with a rainbow or two, and there are hundreds of butterflies of every color fluttering all around you. I found myself walking around with a goofy smile, and at times bursting into a  spontaneous giggle. True for me and everybody else who was there.

There are two sides to view Iguazu Falls from, the Brazil side and the Argentina side. If you ever get the opportunity to go I definitely suggest seeing the waterfalls from both. In Brazil you get a full panoramic view of Iguazu in its entirety, and in Argentina you can spend the day walking around the waterfalls seeing them from above, below, left, right, and in some parts you’re close enough to get drenched in the spray of water shooting off the cascade. There is also the option to take a boat ride that takes you down the river and gosh darn up close and personal with the base of the waterfalls.

Iguazu Falls is one of those places that reminds you of your little teeny tiny existence on planet earth, yet at the same time, if you let it, it can be a profound experience that reminds you that you’re a part of something a whole lot bigger.

Iguazu Falls from Brazil:

Crossing over:

Argentina to the left, Brazil to the right, and Paraguay straight ahead.

From Argentina:

enormous infinite sky

not the most impressive of the bunch, but it reminds me of the waterfall ricky and i went to in maui, so i loved it

I was lucky to have this guy land on me and stay long enough to take a picture

I love Iguazu Falls!

Rio de Janeiro, Obrigada.

7 Oct

Well, trying to keep up with this blog has proven to be a bit of a challenge, but, I’ll try my darnedest to sum up my marvelous Rio experience in one short(ish) blog post:

Day one in Rio was a 24 hour whirlwind. It started at 9 am when I landed, and ended at precisely the same time the next day. Yes. My exquisite friend Jenny joined me for the Rio portion of my trip, and lucky for us we both landed at just about the same time. Granted, it took a good two hours for us to find each other at the airport sans cell phone or a well thought out plan, but no matter, we were finally in each other’s company and on our way. We had some unexpected twists and turns (dodging shady taxi drivers, desperately searching for our apartment, begging a stubborn, non-English speaking Brazilian woman to make a phone call for us, searching for a bank ATM that would accept our cards, 6 to be exact, and grocery shopping-no drama there), but eventually we were all settled in and ready to meet up with Angela, Svend and Stephen for a nice quiet concert in the park Rock in Rio. Think Coachella, but cleaner, more crowded, and in Portuguese. The headliners that night were Katy Perry, Rihanna, and Sir Elton John, all of whom put on incredible performances. There we were, in front of front row, standing next to the security guards and photojournalists, watching the performers dead-on. Uh-mazing experience:

The main stage.

Elton John was amazing. B-B-B-Bennie and the Jets.

And my absolute favorite picture of the night…this is how people look when Rihanna comes on stage.  So many awesome faces to appreciate.

We left the festival at around 3 a.m., which would seem like a good time to go home and sleep. But, no, not in Rio. Instead we danced the night away on a yacht until we saw this:

My first Rio de Janeiro sunrise.

But Jenny and I didn’t let a little lack of sleep, and perhaps a slight hangover, keep us from exploring our new, strange, beautiful paradise. We hit the ground running. I’ll let the photos explain the next 9 days:

Our first good look at Rio de Janeiro, on our way up to visit Cristo Redentor.

Cristo Redentor, standing 130 ft. tall.

Walking along the shoreline of this adorable fishing village in Urca.

Seeing Rio from the top of Pão de Açúcar (Had to borrow this from somewhere online)

Botanical Gardens.

Botanical Gardens.

Soccer Match. Botafogo vs. Sao Paolo. The Brazilians had so much energy, so much passion for the game! Frustratingly enough, It ended in a tie.

Me and Jenny and Rio.

Ipanema sunset.

There’s so much more to share, but hopefully this sums it up well enough.

As much as I loved Rio, however, there were a few things that I couldn’t tell if they made me want to laugh or cry, or perhaps both at the same time…

Speedos. Everywhere.

Justin Bieber posters. Everywhere. (Camera wouldn’t focus. It’s on a Bieber ban.)

Taxi drivers watching movies whilst driving, contributing to the already insanely chaotic roads of Rio.

Guidelines for those who rent the apartment we stayed at. This was framed in our kitchen. Please, if you have a moment to read it, it’s priceless.

and last but not least, buttock implants (photo unavailable).

All in all, Rio de Janeiro was such a blast and I would go back in a heartbeat. Next stop: Iguazu Falls!

one little apple, one big world

22 Sep

Three months of clothes all bundled up!

“We salute at the threshold of the North Sea of my mind, and a nod to the boredom that drove me here to face the tide…and swim”

And here it is, the last night before my departure. After all the daydreaming, talking, googling, planning (or lack thereof), saving, shots (tetanus: ouch), and goodbyes, I’m finally on the very brink of realizing one of my biggest dreams: travel. And the challenge there? To go it alone. Scary? Sorta. But really, at this very moment, I’m consumed with excitement and gratitude. This is a dream 10 years+ in the making, something that I’ve always wanted to do, but always wondered if I actually ever would…or could…or should for that matter. But the reality is that this darn longing to travel has been nagging at me for way too long, and I’m dying to figure out why I feel so compelled to venture into the unknown.

The support that I have felt from my parents and sisters, my boyfriend and his family, and my friends has been overwhelming, and I’m filled to the brim with love and encouragement. Any doubts and second guesses have long been forgotten (well, as of yesterday, perhaps), and I couldn’t imagine venturing out without my army of supporters cheering me on.

Everything is packed and ready to go.  I opened with the lyrics from one of my favorite songs by one of my favorite bands, Frightened Rabbit (a band that’s not for everyone, it’s true), and if you feel so inclined to read them, here are the rest:

SWIM UNTIL YOU CAN”T SEE LAND

We salute at the threshold of the North Sea
in my mind
And a nod to the boredom that drove me here
to face the tide and swim
I swim

Dip the toe in the ocean. Oh how it hardens and it numbs.
And the rest of me is a version of man
built to collapse into crumbs
And if I hadn’t come down
To the coast to disappear
I may have died in a land-slide
Of the rocks, the hopes and fears.

So swim until you can’t see land.
Swim until you can’t see land.
Swim until you can’t see land
Are you a man or are you a bag of sand?
Swim until you can’t see land
Swim until you can’t see land
Swim until you can’t see land
Are you a man or are you a bag of sand?

Up to my knees now, do I wait? Do I dive?
The sea has seen my like before though it’s my first
And perhaps last time.
Let’s call me a Baptist, call this the drowning of the past
She’s there on the shoreline
Throwing stones at my back

So swim until you can’t see land
Swim until you can’t see land
Swim until you can’t see land
Are you a man or are you a bag of sand?
Swim until you can’t see land
Swim until you can’t see land
Swim until you can’t see land
Are you a man or are you a bag of sand?

Now the water’s taller than me
And the land is a marker line
All I am is a body adrift in water, salt and sky

So swim until you can’t see land
Swim until you can’t see land
Swim until you can’t see land
Are you a man or are you a bag of sand?
Swim until you can’t see land
Swim until you can’t see land
Swim until you can’t see land
Are you a man or are you a bag of sand?