Sunday, December 31, 2006


It took us twelve hours to get to the end of the world. OK, technically Ushuaia is not the most southern point of the world. Cape Horn is. Or rather Antarctica, but hey the boats were full (and at least 2000 dollars).
Things you do at the end of the world are hiking up a mountain and visit the national park and marvel about the late hour it gets dark, and not even that dark.
We stayed in a place that was a lot like other places we have stayed in: cheap, old rooms, just about clean bathrooms and uncosy kitchens. We never really feel at home in those places, but most people who are staying there actually live there. Which gives us the chance to inquire about their lifestyle and politics. Argentineans love talking and are more than happy to give their opinions. So while a man was cutting up a whole lamb with a big Swiss knife he explained to us (again) that Chileans were no good. Great deal has to do with them supporting England during the Falkland war (Las islas Malvinas, 1982). He also emphasized that Chile was the only country in South America where half of the population would spill tears over a deceased dictator.
We then moved on to Fidel Castro, who is not considered negatively as by the western world. "In a country that only produces sugar, cigars and rum and that has an American embargo running against it, most people still have enough to eat and free health care, that is quite an accomplishment." Is Castro still alive by the way? Heard Hussein isn´t.
While we were at it, we continued discussing other leaders.
Chavez, the just reelected president of Venezuela gets great support. He resists foreign - mainly American- economical power and tries to nationalise enterprises. He also wants the South American countries to work together. The expectations are high, as he as well promised to reduce poverty. I can understand the support, he seems to put words into action but his approach towards foreign affairs worry me a little. His phrasing towards the US are never moderate (apparently to do with his kidnapping by the CIA in 2001) and he is good friends with madman Ahmadinejad of Iran and has called back his ambassador in Israel. Just from a pragmatic point of view it might not that smart; There is an enormous amount of Israeli backpackers in South America and tourism is big source of income.
Practically all Israelis leave to travel for about six to twelve months, after being 2-3 years in the army, or longer. Many hostels here have Hebrew writing. Most of the Israelis leave alone and meet their compatriots here. We have stayed in places where we were the only ones who did not come from the Middle East. We have tried to make some contact, but they seem to be mainly focused on other Hebrew speakers, even if we have been playing card games on a few occasions and invited to a BBQ. Even though I am familiar with a lot of aspects of Israel, it is different talking to an F16 pilot who flew over Lebanon or hear a girl of Russian descent talk about minorities.

We left the end of the world behind to go into Chile again, to their most well known natural park, Torres del Paine. A day of preparation in which we hired a tent, a stove and other camping gear and collected food for four days (I baked about 20 pancakes that days.Yes I am crazy).
We walked seven hours a day up and down steep paths, most of the time with our backpacks on. We saw blue-green lakes, white glaciers, brown mountains, green fields and grey rocks. The weather was windy, rainy, even snowy, bearable though, but at night we had trouble sleeping, because of the cold. The last day we climbed our way up over rocks to reach the top, to see the Torres (three mountaintops). The first thing I saw however was a girl who said in Dutch to me: "I know you". Turned out to be an ex-colleague from my early student years (NIW redactie). How is that?

No rest after that. The next day we took the bus to El Calafate to admire an impressive and huge glacier (a long-lasting river of ice and snow) in the cold rain. It was Christmas, but luckily here they don´t seem to be going crazy about it, so we just had a quiet evening and then it was over. We had two days left before our flight to Buenos Aires, so we went to yet another national park, this time in Argentina, Fitzroy. More hiking there and then off to the capital again!

We were done with the cold, in Buenos Aires it was at least 30 degrees Celsius and we knew this was going to be the coolest place for a long time...
We saw a few people we had met during our first weeks of travelling and we came to a Tango class with Pato. To my surprise I enjoyed it a lot! Yet another career option opens up...

As we never rest, but just go on and on we are now in Iguassu, the broadest waterfall range in the world. Impressive is most definitely the word for it. Hard to grasp such natural beauty. It is very hot and sticky here. As we are nearing the Tropical forest now it is very green, the insects and lizards are bigger, mosquito bites higher in number and the butterflies more colourful (small wingy portions of magic)..

We were supposed to celebrate New Years´ Eve on the beach in Brazil, but we couldn't make the bus by one hour. Too bad. Not sure what we will be doing tonight, certainly we will cross the border and go to the Brazilian side (Foz do Iguazu) and see what happens there. We have no clue what Brazil will be like, exotic and dangerous is what we expect.
We are tired. Very tired. We have the intention to take it slower and have more fun from now on....hope you do the same, cheers!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


We are growing a tiredness of buses. It seems like we are either sitting in a bus for at least six hours or hiking for six hours.
What we do with the rest of the time?
We look for a place to sleep, collect food, try to gather information and talk to strangers.

We are now half way on our trip. We still have two months and one week left, but it feels like we are running out of time. We have crossed most of Chile, but there is still so much left to do.
The south couldn´t be more different from the north. In the north the view was invariably dry desert, while here it rains a lot, is therefor very green and has many lakes.
Our favourite spot so far was Pucon, where we stayed in a lovely hostel ran by a Dutch guy.
We climbed up a volcano. Dressed in hired trousers, jackets, sunglasses and a helmet (yes I looked very sexy) we struggled 4-5 hours through the snow. I don´t think our guide thought we would make it, as the only thing that came out of his mouth was: ' vamos chicas' . Of course we made it up to the crater.
Going back we sat down on our behind and slided down the steep slopes. You should try to scream (scary) and laugh (funny) at the same time...not easy!

oh, and yes! We saw penguins..OK, I wasn´t able to converse properly with them, as they were on a rock and I in a rubber boat, but it was worth it!

Summer is approaching. We are travelling in the direction of Antarctica, so it is COLD! We also notice summer is on its way as buses and hostels are fully booked at times now. But that is not always bad. We were stuck here (Punta Arenas) for a day, with not much to do, but it was nice to just relax and watch TV for once and not constantly being on a hike or planning ahead..

The big news is of course the death of Pinochet. We don´t notice much, except for a few communists on the square. It all seems to be happening in Santiago. What we did notice, is that the papers don´t seem to refer to him as ´ex dictator´ as I am sure the European press does. Let´s just hope they won´t stop the investigations


Hag Sameach, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!



Rosella and Sylvia

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Hey, Free internet in some hostels (Pucon, Bariloche), so I have been able to upload the pictures of our visit to New York, two months ago already!
Now I better get moving,we need to hitchhike to Chiloe,Chile today..

Saturday, November 25, 2006


There we are. Santiago, capital of Chile,where the gap in the ozone layer is the most apparent. It doesn´t offer that much, so I am taking my time to write. We are staying at a friend of a friends´house and that is quite relaxing, for a change. It was about 40 hours to get here by bus from La Paz (with a few stopovers in the middle, like a visit to an observatory. Chile has plenty of desert and many observatories, the biggest in the world even, where my friend Jaron is currently working!)

La Paz
is what it promised to be: chaotic. The capital of Bolivia, the highest in the world, is not a pretty town, but it is a pleasure to walk in. Half of it is an open air market and we wandered hours through the streets of it.

But first things first. After half a day of hearing the bus was surely going to come the next hour, we went to another town to catch it there. There we bought tickets for the 11 am bus the next day. It did of course arrive at 14:30. Luckily we were kept company by Tess and Anthony from Sheffield who had had the same crazy plan as us. In Santa Maria we had to catch the bus to Santa Teresa, which only came at 4 o´clock at night. Exhausted, but happy, we finally set off towards Machu Picchu. Three hours of walking in the mountains and 3 hours of following the train tracks (mainly looking down to step on the beams). We could feel we were already in the tropical rainforest; the weather was sticky and we were surrounded by palm trees. At arrival Sylvia and me did apparently not feel tired enough and we climbed a steep mountain. We almost reached the top after 1hour and 45 minutes, but we needed to turn back, as it would be too dangerous to return in the dark. A beautiful view, but no glance at the site from another angle...
The next day we got up at 5 to climb MP. It normally takes about an hour 15mins., but I was so tired and had not properly recovered from a nasty migraine a few days before, I could hardly climb the stairs and it took us many hours to arrive.

So...what is MP? It is the biggest site where Inca ruins were found. What makes it special is the spectacular view. It lies on a mountaintop, surrounded by high peaks. We stayed there all day and were the last to leave, seeing Lamas and vicuñas (by now we know they are not all lamas, there are also alpacas and vicuñas). We are still scared of their big teeth and their fame for spitting at people.

The way back went a lot faster...we just had to walk a few hours on the rails (Tessa and Anthony had given up by then and bought a train ticket) and after that we got a lift on the back of a truck.
Back in Cusco we tried out the nightlife. This part of tourism is fairly new to us. There are pubs and clubs that are just filled with tourists. As our days are long and active and the alarm clock going off at 6 is no exception anymore, we often don´t make it into the night..We had fun, but in all honesty going out with my mates in London is more enjoyable and the salsa level in Amsterdam is def. higher! This to my surprise, as all you ever hear in Peru is traditional love songs and salsa..

Oh and let me mention I had my stage debut in Peru. We went to a touristy folk dance show and I was (un) lucky enough to be picked out at the very end to dance with a guy. I am contemplating now whether to take this career further or not.

To conclude our stay in Peru we went to Lake Titicaca, the biggest in the world above 2000 meters. We visited the Islas Flotantes. 35 tiny islands, made of reed that grows in the lake. Also the small houses and boats are made of it as well. Overly touristy, but peculiar and springy.

The Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca was more beautiful and we spend time on the Isla del Sol with David and Petra, a Brazilian couple from Sao Paolo we had met on one of our long hikes and with whom we travelled to La Paz.

In short: of what we have seen of Bolivia and Peru was very beautiful. The food in Bolivia is better and the people are friendlier. Even when you are innocently playing with kids in the street in Peru they will ask for money and if you don´t give any, they´ll lose interest. Bargaining was always a necessity (I left that to Sylvia), as we were always charged double the regular price. It is not a nice feeling and at one point made me lose my temper (it did help). Having said that, it is ambiguous. We do have a lot more money to spend than they have. The prices are cheap. The kids are an important source of income.

Going from the poorest to the richest country in South America is interesting. It feels a lot like Europe here, in Chile. They also look like Europeans. We have been walking around in awe in the huge supermarkets with many different brands, enjoyed the fact you know hot water will come out of your shower and that toilet paper was a given.
Chileans don´t seem to be too loved by their neighbouring countries; The Argentineans we met called them ´cold´ (and the Chileans call them arrogant) and the Peruvians (our campaining friends told us) feel robbed by them. Apparently the Chileans more or less own the mines in Peru, but don´t pay taxes over it, Pisco sour is known as a Chilean drink, but in truth it is Peruvian and the train to Machu Picchu is owned by Chileans, who charge ridiculous prices for it. The village of Santa Teresa is putting money together to build a bridge, so they can break the monopoly and have their own bus going there, so they can earn some money on tourists as well..

My impression: so far Chileans have been charming with us!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


It is outrageous, but we are not sticking to our Travel plans.
It all went fine. We found ourselves slightly ahead of schedule in Chile.
Pedro de Atacama has the driest desert in the world (or at least that is what they claimed and why there was no water at night) and Arica is not a beautiful town, but it was good. We somehow relax a lot more in the city than in the country side, as there there is so much to see and do; horseback riding, excursions, mountain biking, ruins to see..
But yet again we queued for another stamp in our passports. We find ourselves in Peru this time. What can we was just too close to the border of Chile not to go.

In Arequipa we visited an Inca Mummy. Small, hard to see and ugly, but I found it all pretty exciting. Peru has a lot to offer. It is mainly based on Inca history.
The Inca Empire was the largest empire in Pre-Columbian America, but in truth only lasted about a century, from 1438 to 1533. The Spaniards, with conquistador Francisco Pizarro as its leader ended it all, destroying as much as they could and introducing the Spanish language and the Catholic religion. The language, Quechua and worship of Mother Earth, Pachamama are still in use (which does not seem to stop anyone from throwing rubbish in the streets and nature).

We have visited many ruins already, most of them found high in the mountains.
Which makes me wonder if it is altitude and tiredness, or that I am just unfit, as the walks take us a long time! Most of the ruins are ascribed as ´temples´ or as ´places of worship´. Not that much is known about their daily lives, as they did not have any writing. Most of what is known comes from Spanish journals.
The capital of the Inca Empire was Cuzco, which means ´navel of the earth´. It is named ´the most beautiful city of South America´. And it is in fact beautiful, even if it does not live up to the level of Rome or Amsterdam. All they live of nowadays is tourism. It does drive us crazy at times, as every five minutes there we are approached to buy necklaces, eat in their restaurant, join one of their excursions or pay for a photo of a traditionally dressed lady with a lama , which we have both seen in the wild. It seems to be stamped on our foreheads: Gringas.

We are now in a small town, we got stranded here, waiting all day for a bus. Tomorrow we will resume our journey, on our way to Machu Picchu. Peru is cheap, but excursions are very expensive, so we decided to walk the six hours to Aguas Callientes (Machu Picchu village) and do it ourselves...I will let you know how that will work out!

JUST ONE DAY OUT OF LIFE ( (Bray / Madonna)

04:30 AM. Alarm clock goes off. We need to leave, but the hotel owner says he has no change, even though we warned him beforehand. We feel tricked. Sylvia runs through half of Arequipa and comes back with the change and we can catch a bus to Chivay, in the Cañon del Colca . The panorama on the journey is rather boring, very dry and we go so high we see snow from the window.
Once we get off the bus we are surrounded by three different hotel owners who try to lure us to their hotel. We pick one. There we chat a bit with a girl who works there. She tells us a lot tourist come there, pay a kind of entrance fee (Boleto turistico), but the community never sees anything of it.
We hike to the next village: Yanque. It is the kind of mountain road where you bump into lamas, donkeys, bulls, horse, sheep and traditionally dressed women. While it is getting dark we arrive at the local openair swimming pool, which consists of natural hot thermal water. We shiver, because of the cold, but we do get in. At first we are a bit careful, as we only see boys, but they turn out to be lovely, as they walk us back in to the village in the dark and make sure we get into a cab. Of course this cab is overfull. We sit in the hood of the car. Since we are tourists the driver does not let anyone else in the hood...lucky hey!

The alarmclock is again set for 4 o´clock, as we are taking the 5 o´clock bus to spot condors. How much fun is that! After hours and hours of waiting I see about two, but too far away for a picture. We decide to walk to the next village. After an hour a pick up truck stops asking if we want a lift, it is still hours away to the next village. We get in -no need to say it was overfull. It is an interesting bunch. Regional elections are coming up and the are campaigning for the National party. The national party being left wing. It is unclear what they really stand for; equality, more democracy..well...Their main aim seems to be end of corruption and better care for tourists. Better care for tourists seems to mean paving more roads and lower prices for us. The driver tells us Peru is the fourth richest country when it comes to natural resources. I ask what is done for the locals that don´t live in touristy areas.I ask him if he doesn´t find it sad that in spite of that their whole economy drives on tourism. He does not understand my questions. We spend the rest of the day with them, visiting many small villages, to just arrive in time to catch the smelly nightbus to Cuzco.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Around San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.
Click on picture to enlarge.

Friday, November 03, 2006


Bolivia is a funny country. Among the poorest in the world. The population seems to contain mainly nativos (indigenes, nativos, aborigen- you choose). It has the highest everything; city, capital and is mainly known for its greatest export product; Coca(ine). It is a country rich in natural resources (copper, silver, gas..) and Paraguay (with help of Shell), Brazil and Chile have taken land away from it.

The bus is older, the windows don´t open and the driver has clearly quite some coca leaves in his cheek. De villages start to look poorer, the odour of the passengers reaches the nose with more ease and people that miss their front teeth seem to get younger and younger. We are on our way to Bolivia.We read in our Lonely Planet that Yavi, near the Bolivian border in Argentina is interesting enough for a d-tour. So that is what we do. It turns out to be the most poor looking village so far. Houses built of mud stone and that is it. The only thing it offers is one of the oldest churches of Argentina, 1690 if I remember correctly. White thick walls and a lot of gold. A Spanish control freak and a whiny Italian lady keep us company. What sadness is this all!!

We freak each other out by stories about theft and warnings we have received about the border village in Bolivia. With some tension we pass from one country to another. It turns out to be completely fine. It is very busy. Young and old is selling all kind of stuff down the street. At the bus station it is crowded and every company yells wherever they are going. We leave in again an old bus, we see no paved roads and at whatever stop kids will jump into the bus to sell food and drinks.
First thing that catches our eye is how the women look. Dressed in many layers, a wide skirt, two braids and a funny round hat. Its function is unclear, as it is too small to protect against the sun. Sylvia tells a story about an Englishman who tried to sell them in Europe, but had no success and then came to here and became a rich man. All ages seem to to carry children. Even though we are sweating, because of the heat, they pack them in warm blankets, put woollen hats on them and put the babies in their colourful cloths, which are knotted on their backs. (and when I say in, I mean, they are IN the bag).

We stop Tupiza, which turns out to be a lovely small town with a colonial main square. It is safe and clean. Funny how bad all the stories were and had almost put us off. There are three activities I want to do in South-America. The first one located me in a rather unusual spot; on the back of a horse. We rode five hours through the mountains and had the most amazing views. I had a hard time walking derriere was pretty sore!!

Time to go to what we actually came for; the biggest salt flat in the world. But first we have to get there. We are able to buy tickets for the last two places in the back of the bus. This bus is smellier and older than any of the previous busses and we sit folded in the back, while more and more passengers come in. The bus is not just overloaded with luggage, but also with people. We drive off and it takes us a long time before we seize feeling scared and we both declare we love life and each other. A couple of hours over the roads in the mountains with its sharp turns. At some point some luggage falls off the roof. We need to keep a piece of cloth in front of our face, as it is so dusty/sandy. Not to sound all negative; the view was absolutely breathtaking...
After a few hours we arrive in another town and are put into a jeep. It counts 14 passengers, a small child and the driver. Let me say that normally probably not more than 8 people would fit..!!!We are relieved to arrive in one piece in Uyuni.

We pick a company which will take us with four others on a three day tour.The Salaris is 200.000 km2 and it is simply impressive to be surrounded by a completely white area, as if you are driving through snow. I buy my first souvenir; two candle holders made of salt. Let´s see it if makes it through the 3 1/2 months we have left...We see one woman packing salt with bare hands and closing the packages with a burner. On this trip we also visit caves, various lagunas, huge rocks in the desert, loads of Flamencos and what we appreciate most; natural geysers and we take a dive in a natural hot thermal bath on 4800 meters high (which is equal to the Mont Blanc, the highest point in Europe). At night it is really cold and we have dinner with our jackets and woollen hats on!It is a beautiful tour, but both Sylvia and me feel a bit sceptical. We spent almost an entire day in the jeep and it is mostly getting on and off to get pictures. There is no other way to do it, but it makes it hard to 'feel' the environment.

We change country, as soon as we enter Chile the road is asphalted. Our bags are checked one by one. One girl hands in a bag of Coca leaves which she had forgotten to leave in Bolivia. The police laughs about it. I however am asked to come to the little office, as I was carrying the shocking amount of 4 apples. I have to sign a declaration that I agree with the destruction of them. Fruit is definitely more criminal than drugs if you ask me!

Monday, October 30, 2006


First of all: Yes I am still a vegetarian!
In the end it is not that hard, even though the food is starting to be pretty repetitive.
A lot of Argentineans are of Italian descent, which has made the Italian kitchen very popular, and I can therefore eat pasta and pizza. Not as good as the real thing, but good enough. And the ice cream is good!
I can also eat humitas, a kind of pure of corn and empanadas de queso (dough filled with cheese). And many many eggs..
The interesting thing is, is that I became a vegetarian as a protest against the so-called bio-industry, in which animals are treated in the worst way and fed hormones and such. I am not against eating meat and do cook it for my family, as I don¨t believe they should suffer under my idealism. Here animals live freely and in a natural environment, so my argument doesn¨t stand that strongly. I am however so used to not eating meet, that I find it hard to change my habit. It has been 18 years without now..feel free to comment on this one!

Even though in Bolivia now, still want to finish writing about a few impressions I had from/on Argentina

As I mentioned before, we have had the chance to speak to a lot of locals (or should I say people from Buenos Aires). Between 1880-1920 Argentina was the richest country of the world and in 2001 people would wake up and whatever they had was only worth 1/3. Luckily for me, impossible to imagine. The economy seems to be perking up, but it is not easy. Most persons we spoke to work over ten hours a day to be able to afford daily life.
Everybody still is convinced (it is an accepted fact) that the government steals and that the police is corrupt. Besides those, people seem hardworking and honest.

Everybody seems to have a specific president to complain about. This country has known presidents that vary from bad to worse.
Now that they annulled the amnesty for those in power during the military dictatorship, the junta in the seventies, there are process going on. It still is not over. Jorge Lopez a victim of that regime has testified and disappeared after. It is assumed he is been killed for obvious reasons..

Peron is of course another name that sounds familiar, even if it is just for his second wife, Evita, who knew how to be poor with the poor, but enjoyed being rich with the rich. Peron took away possessions of the rich and made it of the state. He did not hesitate to use violence. Peronismo is still advertised, even though a clear modern definition is not given.

Menem is who we hear most about. He sold most national companies to private (foreign) investors. This has meant that certain good working services seized to exist or were not controlled. He even sold a piece of land in the south to Mr. Benetton, while people were living on it!

On a bit of a lighter note: a singer we hear often here is Shakira, but if you ask about her, most will frown and tell you they don¨t like her, because she is dating the son of ex-president La Rua (another corrupt one).

Saturday, October 28, 2006


I left you at our (exhausted) arrival in Tafi del Valle.
Since then we have been travelling through places like Amaicha, Cafayate, Salta, Pumamarca, Tilcara and today we made a daytrip to Iruya from Humahuaca, where we are currently staying. As (most of) the names already suggest they aren´t originally Spanish towns, but inhabited by indigenous people.
Except for Salta they are all small villages in the mountains in the north of Argentina. All of them hours apart from each other, the mountains vary. We have taken hikes over very dry steep mountains (Tafi) (yesterday we felt the first rain in 7 months....rivers and vegetation are all dried up. Since a few days the suns shines really brightly), the mountains with seven colours (Cafayate and Pumamarca) and climbed to the top of a white mountain (Humahuaca). We also visited old ruins from the Quilmes (Amaicha) and Indios (Tilcara) and a saltfield (Pumamarca).

Somehow we knew we wanted to discover Argentina, but we know very little and our preparation consisted of getting ready for the journey. I was planning to read some literature, but never had time to do so. (Anyone who wants to send me a copy in Dutch or English of a well respected Brazilian/Chilean/Argentinean author, with a preferance for Borges, contact me!). Every step here is a discovery. I already had my first encounter with lamas in the wild!

Most travellers we meet are Argentineans from Buenos Aires. This gives us the chance to see how they are and to ask many questions (I know, how unlike me!)
It is one of the characteristics of travelling: you meet, form little groups and dissolve again and then perhaps meet again a couple of days later or never...Today we bumped into Silvina and Sebastian again, who we met in the hostel in Tafi, which was pretty cool. They talk clearly and are generally a good laugh!
The impression the Argentineans have given us is that they are social, talkative and inclusive, which is great!

Most people don´t speak anything but Spanish, not even in the hostels or touristinfos. We don't even bother asking if they understand English and we are able to stutter (less and less) our way through it, as long as people speak slowly or repeat what they say (less and less necessary. Learning new words every day. I even helped translating on few occasions! Knowing Italian and listening to Gloria Estefan and Salsamusic is paying off!! Sylvia claims I was even speaking Spanish in my sleep...
I am just happy I can get my information, ask questions and make a few jokes. Sylvia is trying harder to grasp the language. We might buy a grammarbook soon, as it is getting quite frustrating using the wrong conjugations of the past tense..

The various Argentineans we hang out with are as much tourists as we are. In Buenos Aires almost everybody is of European descent, which you can see. As soon as we started to head north, the looks changed. People here have a brown coloured skin and a different build. I am sure you are familiar with the look, mainly from touristguides of Peru or Bolivia. They are the ´indigenos´, or the ´nativos´ as they call it. It seems like the government has never invested that much in them and their language Quechua has disappeared a great deal. We have stayed in various villages and not even half of the roads are asphalted. You see them neither on tv nor on the many football teams. We often sit hours in the bus, passing mountains, not any house in sight for miles and still people get on and off...
We visited one nativo that lived in such an isolated environment. It was his choice to do so, as he wanted to live according to the traditions of Pachamama, mother earth. He had built the different buildings (kind of sheds) and the oven on the premises by himself from whatever the earth had offered him. He lived off making traditional pots and masks, which are sold on the many artesanal markets and off his sheep and chickens. Even though the original tradition is very much aimed at nature, I am not sure about their religion. I know the Jesuits have worked hard and there are churches and crosses all over. When we visited the big beautiful cathedral in Salta on sundayevening it was fully packed.

I have many more things to tell, but unfortunately this internet cafe is closing in a few minutes...

Tomorrow we are heading to Bolivia. The saltmine we visited here was pretty cool, but now we will visit the biggest in the world in Uyuni for a few days before heading to Chile. It is quite exciting, even though we feel a bit insecure about Bolivia, after feeling safe here and having clean bathrooms!

A last remark for the Dutchies:
Ik kan er niks aan doen, maar elke keer als ik het bord naar de stad ´Neuquen´ zie, moet ik toch lachen...en oja, Maxima is hier wereldberoemd.

In any case, we have no lack of ´local authentic´ experiences....dusty villages, porteños (inhabitants of Buenos Aires), nativos, mate (a drink Argentineans are addicted to. Put very strong tea in a cup. Add water. Put a metal straw in it. Pass it around. Add water when necessary. It is very bitter) and I even tried Coca leaves (still waiting for its effect).

Thursday, October 19, 2006


Buenos Aires. Huge.
The impression I got from the bus from the airport stayed with me the rest of the time we were there. The city looks run down, is dirty and there is an enourmous amount of traffic, many roads had not less than four lanes (and don´t think they ever stop when you cross the street)! When you look better and up you realize that the buildings are actually beautiful and that it is called ´Paris of South America´ for a reason. Unfortunately the buildings have not been maintained and they have lost their splendour. We also noticed a lot of police around, not sure what they do. Only place where we did not see police was at the trainstation, where we felt unsafe and indeed saw some (indigenous) kids group together and steal a handbag of someone. This really gave me the creeps, esp. since there are a lot of stories out there as well...

We took it easy and slow, before we got into the pace of things.

One of the first things we visited was the synagogue, a reform one, which they call ´liberal´, just like in Holland. We had a private tour through this beautiful building and learned about the history of the Jews. Almost all Jews are descendants of immigrants from Ukraine, Russia and Poland. The inquisition was abolished after Argentina gained independance from Spain (1810).
Baron de Hirsch used his funds to pay for the transport of many Jews so they could escape the progroms. He set up the Jewish Colonization Association; they worked the land, became gauchos (Argentinean cowboys) untill they had paid it off. Most of them sent their children to university, so the next generation did not continue on that path. You can see most people in BA are of European descent anyway, we definitely do not stand out.

We also went to a service in another synagogue, which was quite an experience. At first they did not want to let us in, since they did not know us and we had to prove we did know someone and then we were let in, without even looking at our bags. We were worried, as we were not wearing a skirt, but everybody was dressed casually: jeans, t'shirts, carrying their bags. The whole service was sung (accompanied by a keyboard, viola, percussion and flute) and lead by a longhaired rabbi. It was very busy and there was a truely good atmosphere.

What added colour to our visit was the locals we met and who treated us so nicely. They were basically friends of friends and two I had met the previous summer. They took us around the city and took us for drinks and food to local bars. David, Ariel and David, Lili and Federico if you read this: thank you so much for sharing your personal stories and answering my incessive stream of questions on history and politics!

After four days of BA, we decided to take a daytrip to Colonia, a small city in Uruguay. It took the boat three hours to cross the river. Colonia is a lovely town, esp. after busy BA. As the name suggests it was a colony, which is still to be seen in the Spanish and Portuguese style of the houses. After that visit we took the nightbus to Cordoba, for which the same can be said; churches in Spanish style. Beautiful, but if you have been spoiled like us and have had the opportunity to visit the original countries, it is not that impressive, it only stands in its shadow.
From Cordoba we visited the village Alta Gracia, where we found ourselves in the house of Ernesto ´Che´ Guevarra. Not a spectacular museum, but I found it sort of interesting. I still haven´t made up my mind about him. Here (and in many other places) he is a big hero. I guess his idealism is admirable, he really wanted a better life for the poor and wasn´t looking for power (he resigned from the many posts he had in the Cuban government to free Bolivia), but I really doubt violence is the way and wonder if he just decided what was good for the people, without really consulting..

Another nightbus took us to the middle of nowhere.Tafi del Valle they call it here.
Mountains, green. Not sure what we will be doing exactly, probably long hikes, without a doubt, I will let you know, question of tiredness and time..internet seems to be widely available (in noisy places), even here!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


This blog was written on the 11th of october, but due to lack of decent computer time,
it is already outdated! Got lots more to tell, but too many other places to go..

Unfortunately not been able to upload any pictures...

It is one of those days that you spend 12 hours on a plane overnight in which only your right leg falls asleep..
It is one of those days in which you almost walk out of the airport with someone elses bagpack
It is one of those days in which at arrival the cash machine doesn´t work
It is one of those days your luggage moves all over the bus
It is one of those days that you spend two hours in an old bus over a dusty and busy road to get to your hotel
It is also one of those days that you arrive in BUENOS AIRES, in South America and when the rest is just a detail..

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


I left you all while I was still looking back on my time in London and looking forward to my time in faraway. Right now I am in between two places again: we are leaving New York City for the city of Buenos Aires.

First things first though! During my last week in The Netherlands I started to feel at ease again. My German ex-colleague and friend Annette came for a visit and among the many things we did, we visited a town up north, Groningen, which I enjoyed very much. I guess I just needed to get out of town.. After her visit time flew and I ran out of time to see all of my friends.I am really sorry and hope to make it up once I get back!

Of course, on the night before leaving I still had to finish and clean up many things, which meant not more than barely a couple of hours of sleep. The flight to Washington was a long one and sleeping is definitely a good idea, but unfortunately stayed a theoretical option, as I found it impossible. The film ' The Devil wears Prada' kept me entertained for a bit (Meryl Streep put down a mean character and the boyfriend of the main protagonist was v. cute, but all in all it was a rather predictable production).The journey from DC to NY was also a long one, thanks to the hour delay and my migraine attack, which made me hang above a paper back in order to spit out whatever I could dig up from an empty stomach.

First thing we noticed when we arrived, was that there were no small (or old) cars to be seen. Sandy, a girl who I had met at a wedding in London picked us up and drove us to Sybil, while stopping now and then and loudly ask people for the way in her thick Brooklyn accent.
Sybil, who I know from an international seminar in Sweden a summer ago (have report of that somewhere) welcomed us warmly with a nice meal. Exhausted we went to sleep at 11:30 pm, which to us was 05:30 in the morning!

We did the usual tourist thing in New York;
walked for hours through Manhattan, passing Fifth Avenue (too expensive), Chinatown (smelly), little Italy (not much to see), Harlem (very tranquil), Central Park, Rockefeller plaza, took the boat to see the Statue of Liberty close by and to visit Ellis Island (getting on the boat was almost as strict as going through customs!) and so on...We only had time for two museums, but these ones were huge and had an impressive collection of (European) art; The Metropolitan museum of art and the Museum of Modern Art.

There was also time for socialising with Sybil and her boyfriend (brunch with Klezmer music), and what was very special to us, we met relatives. They are directly related to my mother (cousin), but no one had had the opportunity to meet in the past. In spite of this, they have always loyally sent us new years´cards. They showed us great warmth and enthusiasm, we received a true royal treatment!

I had two meals in a Sukka, which is a record in my life...the first one was with the executive vice-president of the organisation where Sybil and me met and in the evening we had an event about, you guessed it ´identity´. The most interesting part for me there was, that I bumped into Julian. A German guy I had not seen in years, but have known for years, as we used to go to the same conferences, all over Europe; Budapest, Cracow, Belgrade, Holland...He had married a very nice New York lady..

I had been to New York before, about 7 years ago. I had not been impressed with the town and felt overwhelmed in a negative way. This has all turned the other way...suddenly it seems not as big and I can appreciate the vibe of a big city and its constant offer of activities (yes that is an easy sum, London has had its effect), which years back I labelled as 'impersonal' and 'superficial'.
I however still haven´t fallen in love with its high buildings and architecture...old Europe still b
eats that!

Thursday, September 28, 2006


In between my holiday to Israel and family coming over, it has been five months since I last visited my town of birth. Not that much seemed to have changed here; They are still working on the same roads, the cheese is still good, Amsterdam pretty and people seemed to have hardly noticed I was gone. I have immediately fallen into a kind of passiveness, which is juxtaposing the hectic life I lead in London.
Strangely enough I also had to get used to hearing Dutch all over, while my thoughts were still in English. I really hope I don’t end up like those sad cases who speak English with a Dutch accent and Dutch with an English accent…

I don’t expect to give a clear account of eight months London, it isn’t so tangible. I have also lost a bit of distance to really be able to properly reflect (and judge!!). I don’t think I or my views have changed.
However, a year ago I wouldn’t have believed you if you’d have said that I would let people tell me what to do, would drink a fair bit of alcohol on a regular basis (to the Brits’delight), would play football and would not dedicate much time to cooking, film and not read the newspaper…
The biggest difference I think is, and I have stated this before, that my life has become a lot more about me, the here and now. It means a lot of partying and being judged on what I offer at that very moment. It seems to be working for me, as I feel I built a nice, big group of friends, and that is in the end what determines the quality of life..and am def. not complaining there! I have a more positive attitude. I am sure I lost a few brain cells on the way, people estimate me quite a few years younger, but who cares?!
Of course I do miss my family and it isn’t always easy that people don’t really know my background.
Another difference is, that I was used to do a lot of things on my own and in London I am always surrounded by people. That is part of the big city, where people seem to be scared of silence, ‘cause they might even run into their own thoughts!!

Since I am only human (yes, might come as a shock..) it hasn’t all been great. I have had about one month in which I felt more or less miserable. I however never took it out on London. I am by now old and wise enough (yes really) to know these things pass, if you give it a little time. And it did pass once my family had arrived for a visit.

London, being such a big city, gave and gives me the feeling much more is possible, as long as you are not too shy to ask for it. However. Work and social life are sucking time and energy, it is very hard to stay focused. Even if I had quite a few laughs in the office, I did not like my job that much. In eight months I did not find time and space to properly look and find another job (my excuse: first months I was acclimatizing, then had to move to a new house, went on a holiday, had family over..).
A Portuguese colleague once remarked that everybody she knew had come to London with great dreams, but these would disappear once settled in. I completely understood what she said. At the same time, I can argue with that, as I had given up and put away my dream of traveling to South-America. And here I am. Took it off the shelf, dusted it off and now I am flying out on the 5th of October…
In March I will again take up the challenge called London and hopefully be more focused, even though I am sure I won’t give up on the good times either!
For now….here is where the journey starts and I will hopefully have the time and inspiration to keep you posted.