January 30, 2008

Just a day on the glacier

If it's not the first rule of backpacking, it should be: while the whole thing is being done on a budget, know when to spend your money.

Today Brian and I went to the attraction that makes El Calafate any sort of a destination, the Perito Moreno glacier. It's not the biggest glacier around, but it does have a couple of defining characteristics: It is accumulating at rougly the same rate as it's melting, it moves fast, and it's terminal face is right at land. So hop on a bus from town and in an hour, you are standing in front of a glacier, watching pieces fall off into the water in one astounding show of nature.

But we wanted to do it better. We did board a bus in town (with a posse of Japanese tourists, naturally), and went to the Glacier National Park. We did spend a couple of hours on the series of balconies they have there, watching the glacier drop pieces of itself into the lake. This particular glacier apparently has a history of advancing to the point of hitting the land on the other side, at which point the lake on one side builds up water, until eventually the water pressure is too much and the glacier ruptures in a mass of crashing ice. The glacier has currently dammed the lake up pretty well, and they are expecting a rupture again at the end of the summer. It's really impressive.

Anyhow, so when ice falls off the glacier, and it does every few minutes, honestly, it looks like tiny pieces tumbling off, but it makes a mighty crashing sound, and thunderous noise when it falls into the water. It may not have looked like a huge deal, because the pieces that fall are small in relation to the overall glacier. When you walk up, you expect the pieces to be like...this entire side or something, but they are ones that seem small from the balcony. But I am sure our scale was messed up and the pieces falling off were big enough to crush a Wicked Witch or something. But the sound it made, man. I would never get tired of it.

After that, our tour included an awesome boat ride, in the dammed side of the lake, right up to the face. It was insane, to just motor right on past these icebergs kicking it in the water. The ride itself was lovely, and gave a much better impression of scale. Note: we are very, very wee when it comes to a glacier, even a small one like Moreno.

We landed on a beach, and were able to leave off most of our stuff before they fitted us with crampons (which, because we are secretly 12, Brian and I of course joked about in a manner unbefitting our stature but very amusing nonetheless). And then...we get to climb on the glacier. We climbed on a freaking glacier! It was unlike anything else, but also a weird combination of things. The ice is super, super hard, but also easy to break into with the crampons (hee). It´s also really sparkly, and the chunks look like uncut diamonds. We were on the malting side of the glacier (as opposed to the accumulation side) so there were also streams and puddles and pools all over the place, yet the ice around them is essentially hard and unmoving enough to walk on.

I should mention at this point that my freakish luck with Patagonian weather is holding, and it is downright hot as we are loading out for the glacier walk. I am in a longsleeved shirt and jeans, and Brian is in the same, and we are roasting. On the glacier itself, iut is not as warm, but not cold either. We are only in gloves because it is required, and it gets a little warm wandering about. Fortunately, we can just hack off a piece of ice to eat when we get thirsty - it tastes wonderful, by the way.

At the end of the trek, there is a little table, where they have glasses, and they hack off some ice and pour you a scotch. It was kind of gnarly scotch, but a wonderful sentiment, and we drank like good kids.

The sun was bright enough on the glacier that we both have interesting sunburns where the wind and sunblock conspired against us, but all in all, it might be my favorite day here.

are you tired of lakes and mountains yet?

Isn't it rough, that this is what I force you to see, again and again? Poor babies.

This is Lago Agentino, a massive lake that El Calafate sits on, one that turns into marshland closer to town. The water goes all the way to the glacier, where we will be tomorrow. It is very much a resort town, with these really posh, faux-rustic looking lodges all around and some tourists with some seriously evident bucks. But it is also a really nice town to wander about, and it is interesting to view the boomtown-ness of it. There is this posh downtown, and then three blocks away, the paved roads just ...stop. There is also more construction of houses here than I have maybe ever seen in one place. The town's population already went from about 5,000 to 15,000 in the last 10 years, and it looks like they are ready for that to keep happening.

It is a relatively small town, but I really don't see why everyone was bashing it. Really, I would recommend Calafate top anyone - certainly more than Punta Arenas...

January 29, 2008

diet coke: new york

Because he is amazing and awesome, not only did Brian and his Spanish-speaking ass come all the way to Argentina to travel with me for two weeks, but he brought with hiim the most fantastic thing ever: two bottles of real, US Diet Coke. Not foundain, he apologized, but still! It´s real! It´s wonderful!

We went to town today, wandered about some, went to the lake, etc. And when we cme back, it was to a gently chilled real diet coke. I heard angels singing.

Oh, and to answer a question
arduous asked, I am not taking pictures of my Coke cans or bottles, mostly because they don´t look any different. What is inside is an abomination of the label and of all that is holy, but outside they look pretty much the same.

This real stuff is great, yo. Having a blog hs totally paid off.

back to 'tina

I have said a final goodbye to my very first country and made my way out of Chile yesterday. I am back in Argentina, in El Calafate. And peple have been warning me that this place is touristy (which it is) and expensive (which it is, sort of, but also very upscale - it doesn't seem to be that much more expensive for the same things), but I am also finding it gorgeous. It´s a lovely little mountain town on a huge lake; with all of the "native artisan" emphasis, it strikes me as a very New Mexico/Arizona resort town. Not a bad place to spend a couple of days. Plus, tomorrow: glacier!

I also managed to almost manage my Chilean money correctly, so I didn´t leave with too much extra. Maybe I will change the 2000 pesos I have, maybe not. We'll see. On the other hand, the computer at the hostel, while free, is archaic enough that the USB drives don't work. Pictures will have to wait either for an Internet cafe or Buenos Aires, whichever comes first.

OK, so I don't really have anything to day, at least until I can get pictures up, but I want to keep my loyal fan base reading. I will be more interesting as soon as I can, I swear.

January 27, 2008

torres del paine wrap up

So sorry for the radio silence - I have been in rustic wilderness for a few days, but to make up for it, fair warning: this post is LONG.

I came here for Torres del Paine national park, one of the iconic parts of Patagonia. It´s this ginormous park that is one of the hiking hotspots of the world. T
here are two major treks - the W, which is supposed to be 4-5 days and hits the three major sights of the park, and the circuit, which is like a week and hits the W spots and then goes back around, basically. I was doing neither. Even though the park has full services (as much as they are in southern Chile), I have never really been camping or trekking, so I didn't think by myself, on this, was the way to start.

Goooooood call.

Day One (Thursday)
Puerto Natales doesn't have much, but it is the closest town
to the park, so they have got their system down pat. From any hostel in town, you can buy a roundtrip bus fare on a bus that leaves twice daily to the park. There are certain companies that have certain deals with certain hostels, but they all cost the same and leave the same and do the same, so you just go wherever you are staying. So at 7:30 in the morning, me and about 6 others from my hostel answered the beep from the bus outside, hauled ourselves into the bus, and went on a tour of the city and various other hostels. We were pretty much full when we started out the 3 hour drive to the park. Most of the road isn't paved, so it was very...invigorating that early in the morning, but for the last hour or so we could see the topography of the park, so that was cool.

Once we get to the main gate, everyone piles out and pays t
he entrance fee. Some people - those who are just daytripping to see the Torres themselves (huge granite spires that gave the park its name) or who are starting the W from that end, get on a mini shuttle to wherever they go. The rest of us stay on the bus, which takes us right to the catamaran stop. They have it timed perfectly so we get there about an hour before the boat departure - enough time for a quick hike up to the head of a waterfall. It´s not a big falls, but you get so close to it that it was worth the 20 minute walk each way.

The catamaran as easy and quick, not to mention pretty. And that deposits us right at the Refugio Pehoe - the hostel/lodge where I will be staying. Handy, no? So I am one of the lucky ones who gets to drop off the bulk of my stuff - food, clothes, everything but what I will need for the hike - before heading out.

I hiked that day with Matt and Sarah, an awesome Canadian/American couple doing something completely different (you can check them out, hi Matt & Sarah!
). We were on essentially the first leg of the W, where they were going out and camping, and I was planning to go out and come back in. I wanted to do the whole leg, but it wasn't to be - I ended up coming back about 3/4 of the way into the leg, knowing that as much as I hiked, I still had that much to do back. But funny thing about hiking - it´s way shorter to come back. Who knew? I had a couple of factors against me, mostly the weather - despite the infamous blustery, changeable, awful Patagonian weather, we had blue sky, no wind, and upper 80s the whole time - unheard of around here. But in all, I had about a 7 to 7 1/ hour hike that day - not too shabby. And the point of it all was to see the Grey Glacier.

It was my first time seeing a glacier, but not to be my last, and it was...awesome, in the truest sense of the word. I was truly blown away, I just loved it so much. The huge chunks of ice that had broken off and were floating about in the lake were great, too - they looked utterly fake, these giant white and teal blue papier-mache creations, like something made for a school dance on global warming. But real!

That also summed up my entire day. After getting back, showering, and eating, I essentially fell into bed and did not stir.

Day Two (Friday)
I woke up and put on the same gnarly, awful clothes from yesterday (well, different shirt - I am only human) and loaded up adn head out again. Looking back, it´s so cute and optimistic how I dutifully packed a windbreaker and warm shirt for the "fierce" "unpredictable" Patagonia weather - but it was more hot and clear for me. Today, the hike was a little flatter, and went around lakes, over streams, and to Valle de France, which basically has a glacier mountain on one side, and the back side of the Torres on the other. Once I got there, I just sat and watched.

There would be these sounds like rolling thunder, and if you looked you could see ice falling off the mountain tops. It was stunning; I am sad I wasn´t quick enough to get a picture. I know it´s probably not good from an environmental standpoint, but it was gorgeous nonetheless.

Day Three (Saturday)
I woke up and went for a quick hike - straight uphill, though - on a path on neither the W or the circuit. It was only about an hour each way, but I wanted to do something that last day. When I got back, I had a quick (and COLD) shower and got everything packed up. I spent the morning lolling about the lodge - really, there are worse places to loll - before reversing the whole process and winding up back in Puerto Natales 6 hours later or so.

So another day, another 8 hour hike. I learned some important stuff with my hikes of the last couple of, in addition to the whole idea that I always come home much faster than I go. For instance, my ankles get NASTY and dirty, and hiking is just a fancy way of saying "walking." I don't know if I am a hiker, or if I was simply lulled into thinking so by REI and the lonely planet guides for Patagonia, but I also know that this was the major hiking part of my trip. It was kind of cool, though, to be all wildernessy. I filled my water bottle up in mountain streams that were pouring direct from glaciers! How cool is that?

So now I am back in Puerto Natales, where nothing is open on Sunday. I sent my laundry out for an ungodly sum, but it´s worth it for how dirty it is. I also have a ridiculous number of tiny bug bites, from sitting outside the night before I left and day one of hiking, but I used my mighty bug repellent to prevent further nuisance. Also, I think I am to be commended that I have no suburn from all of that. Impressive!

I am having some issues getting the computer to respond well with my camera and flash drive, so I can't upload pictures onto this entry. It has taken me a truly preposterous amount of time, but I have successfully updated my online album, though, so everything is there if you need it. I add pictures, hopefully tomorrow - when I am back in Argentina, and, I am ecstatic to report, I will have company. I am being met by a lovely, lovely friend for the next two weeks, and I have to tell you - I can´t wait. I like being alone, and I like traveling, but traveling alone? Is really hard. No joke.

January 23, 2008

coca light: chile

For anyone who has known me for more than about 60 seconds, you know that I take my Diet Coke very seriously. I love it. I love it almost as much as my mom ( I also love it almost as much as my mom loves it. Heh.).

When my consumption reached dangerous heights, in an effort to pare it down, I decided to only drink the best. So I drink fountain Diet Coke, and have for long enough that I no longer like the canned or bottled stuff.

All of this is to say that I am a big fan of my Diet Coke, and my tastebuds are very mightily honed in that area.

I knew going in that international Diet Coke is just not the same, and it isn´t. But I am trying it here and there, just to see if any of it is passable.

Chilean Coca Light? Sucks. It´s got that terrible sugar on my teeth feeling of regular Coke, and the nasty fake sweetener aftertaste of some saccharine byproduct. Not a winner, folks. Not a winner at all.

what is slow and red?

Damn this South American sun! I arrived in Puerto Natales yesterday, and had about 45 minutes to kill before a neighboring hostel was holding its daily orientation on the Torres del Paine park, so I wandered about some.

I was gone about 30 minutes, seriously. And my neck and ears are BRIGHT RED. It is terrible. The rumor is that at this time of the year, the hole in the ozone (that I thought was mostly gone now? Is that industrail propaganda?) is directly overhead, so that´s even more encouraging. Once again, damn you, global warming! Today, it is much more cloudy, and I am earing my SPF 50. Get through that, sucka!

Anyway, so Puerto Natales. As a town, it is cute enough, if a bit run down. it does, however, have the major, distinct advantage of location. Not only is Torres del Paine a couple of hours off, which makes this a major hub of the backpacker trail (and all the troubles that involves - hosteling here is very annoying...), but it is also perched on the Last Hope Sound (what a name, huh?).

In traveling, as in real estate, it is all about location:

Other than that, though, it´s still slow internet (that picture took like, a millenium and three tries to upload - appreciate!) and not a lot of sights. I am going to spend the afternoon packing for my trip to the park and sitting in a cafe. I won´t be online at all for a few days, but when I get out of the park I will be sure to update.

January 21, 2008

punda'd out

yup. punta arenas is a big meh.

of course, it didn´t help that it was cold and drizzly and windy this morning, and warm and sunny and hurricane windy this afternoon. but overall, not much to move me.

i went to the town center, which was cute, if crawling with the folks from the princess cruise that docked for the day. i went to the cemetery. i took pictures of the straits. yep, i pretty much did all the town has to offer, save for the package tours. that go out of town.

so tomorrow, i move on - to puerto natales, chile. it´s the basepoint for the torres del paine national park. i don´t know what internet will be like, but i will update as soon as i am able.

January 20, 2008

country number two

I made it all the way to Punta Arenas, Chile with much success, I am now, however, on dial up for the first time since the 90s, so that may be a bit more challenging.

My first impression of the town is that I am not crazy about it - nothing wrong, per se, but I think my day-plus here will be plenty. It´s again not a big place, but oddly sprawled out - it reminds me weirdly of parts of Los Angeles, only wihtout the traffic. I would.t be surprised if the two were built at such a time that they did, in fact, share construction mentality.

There´s not a lot to do here, aside from booking out-of-town tours, which I don´t think I am going to do, so I will bop around town tomorrow to see if my opinion changes.

The bus ride was not terrible - the 12 hours includes all of the stopping and starting time, so it is actually quite broken up, between the leaving-Argentina border crossing, the entering-Chile border crossing, the ferry crossing, etc. Plus, I had an empty set beside me, and a British tour in front of me, so I got the lowdown as their guide explained everything to them. I am not itching to do it again (fortunately, I don´t think I have to - all the other bus rides I know about are 5 hours max), but it wasn't dreadful the once.

Tomorrow, dialup willing, I will try to post some pictures of the Straits of Magellan, since they are like, down the block (!).

January 19, 2008

everything you ever wanted to know about ushuaia

I find that I really liked Ushuaia - I did everything I really wanted to, so I am ok with less time here than I had originally intended (between buses leaving a day early and me arriving a day late, I really am only here for 2 days, plus a little that first night). Besides, I still want to go to Antarctica someday, so that will probably bring me back here at some point.

The town is a really interesting hybrid. It´s not miniscule - at least 60,000, if not more, but it is also built where there wasn't room, so it´s crammed between mountains and the Channel. It is only about four streets deep (but they are very long!), yet as it is, there are staircases on the sidewalks because of the steep hills. It´s also such a vacation spot for the whole world, that it has a very cosmopolitan feel. It feels like a jumble of Tahoe (with the rusticy-resort feel), an Alaska frontier town (it is an undeniably remote and harsh place to live, so the people that do it year-round have a bit of cache for it, and they know it), and a Track & Trail catalogue (how tempted am I to go to one of the umpteen stores and buy something by Patagonia, IN PATAGONIA). So take all of that on a normal day, and ptoooy out spits a cruise ship´s bazillion passengers on shore for the day. It´s chaotic and weird, but also really lovely.

Tonight was a warm and sunny Saturday night, so the main drag (really, the only street with anything but houses on it) was packed with families, and everyone in town under the age of 20. Apparently, it is the place to be in Ushuaia, and it was kind of cool to see. Not necessarily cool to get stuck behind when you are hungry and want dinner, but whatever.

The 20 hours of sunlight is surprisingly disorienting. It never feels late until it's 1 am, and combined with the traditional Argentine tendencies towards late dinners and nightlife anyhow, and the fact that it is the summer holidays, and it´s really disorienting to see toddlers out and about at 11:45 like it´s nothing.

So, thumbs up on Ushuaia. Stop here on your next Antarctic cruise.


i have spent my time in ushuaia hiking, and it has been lovely.

yesterday, i invited myself along with two girlsfrom the hostel - they were planning to do the same hike i wanted to do, plus i enjoy companionship where i can get it. they are from san francisco, of all places - residents at UCSF - and clearly serious hiker/outdoorsy types. and man, am i glad i tagged along.

they show up decked out in REI, i am carrying an overstuffed messenger bag. they´ve also been in town for 4 days, so they showed me where the market is, and then we headed out. this was listed as the 'glacier martial´hike, and i must admit, i was excited to see a glacier in real life. we didn´t really know where we were going - all of us were inspired by the description in lonely planet, and the directions there were vague at best. but we were supposed to find a chairlift, and we did - nonoperational, but no matter. we were going to climb anyway. so we CLIMBED THE SKI RUN. it was killer steep (probably at least 30% grade? and LONG. but the views at the top are killer. then we kept going and...nothing. i mean, it was a cool, boggy, meadow at the top but...nothing glaciery. damn you, global warming! clearly, this was glacier-made, but no ice except on distant mountain tops. we werent sure it was the right hike, but when i got back and checked, yup. we were in the right place. don´t know where the glacier was. they were acting like it was a casual walk, but the ascending/descending killed me. i thought it was worth it, too - i´ll upload the picture form the summit, and you will see too.

today i went to tierra del fuego national park. dude - i went to TIERRA DEL FUEGO. i am like, living in 3rd grade social studies, y'all. so cool. anyhow, took a bus there this morning, and did the 'moderate' hike, and i found my level. it wasn´t egregiously hard, but there was enough climbing and trudging and scrambling about that i was beat at the end. it was great for a non-hiker, too. the path was really well-marked, and i would wander along and feel like the only person in the world, and whoop! there´s a tour group. it was nice in making me feel that if, hypothetically, this klutzy city girl were to fall off the trail, someone would find her. hypothetically.

in the end it was about 6 miles, and i am BEAT. totally gorgeous, though - it wound along a lake, overlooking mountains, through some forests. completely wonderful, and totally picture-perfect glacier topography, which i always love.

it was unusually warm, though - generally this area gets to about 50 in the summer, but it was at least 60 all day, and still is at about 9pm. so i came away with a niiiiiice sunburn on my nose and back of my neck. hot!

tomorrow, i leave the country for about a week - i am going to punta arenas, chile, on a smashing 12 hour bus ride. should be...awesome. but hopefully pretty, and i have benadryl on hand for when it is not.

January 17, 2008

at home at the end of the world

It took an extra day, more stress, and more flexibility than I maybe would have liked, but I made it to Ushuaia today without much additional issue. I got to my hostel, which looks lovely, and wandered around the town some. So far so nice.

Check out the view from the upstairs lounge in the hostel:
swank, no?

Anyhow, the town is charming, and I can't wait to hike and explore. I am uploading photos as we speak, and tomorrow I will hopefully have no issue getting a bus out of here for this weekend or Monday (fingers xed for me!).

My low mood has turned itself around, for which I am glad. My entire trip was sort of stretched out in front of me, but I think I am looking forward to it again, as it should be.
I'll post more details of the place as soon as I have been here for more thana few hours. For now, I
will just say that it is really cool, how this is such a tourist destiation, but for the whole world. There were lots of Argentines and other Latin Americans on my plane today, and all were as giddy and excited as I was at the vistas from the plane windows. There were Scots and Irishers at the baggage claim, there is an Israeli at the computer next to me - for a remote world's end distination, it sure is a hot spot.

Also, it may not technically be the midnight sun, but it's darn close - sunset was at about 11:30 tonight, and I am sure it will rise again in like 3 hours. Trippy.

Thank you so much for the comments, by the way - please keep them coming! I love feeling connected!

January 16, 2008

travel 2, me 0

Rough, rough start, y'all.

My flight was delayed 3 minutes when my parents left me at security. No big deal at all - except, as my mom says, once delayed, more delays likely. By the time I was heading to the gate, it was pushed back from 12:45 to 12:54. I sat down, wrote a bit, and went to double check - there was no plane yet, see. It was now slated for 1:10.

I checked on the arrival time, and the gate agent told me a lot of people were making the Buenos Aires connection in DC, so I shouldn´t worry. So I didn´t. We took off, late, and landed, late. I had a brisk walk through Dulles, and got to my gate with 15 minutes to takeoff. They told me that there was no time for me to get something to eat, but it´s ok - there is food on the plane! (eyeroll).

So I board, lovely plane, empty seat beside me, blah blah blah. The line to take off is long, so we are in it for like a half hour. Suck. Then we pull out of line, because BOLIVIA HAS CLOSED ITS AIRSPACE. It means we need a reroute, and more gas, so back to the gate we go.

We took off about 2 hours late, made up some time and landed about 1:20. I was not going to make my 2:05 flight, from another airport, to Ushuaia.

As we were at the gate in DC, I borrowed a US cell phone from the couple behind me (I thanked them profusely, and felt a bit like I was on the Amazing Race), so I called my mom and had her cancel my first night at the Ushuaia hostel. I cajoled and finagled, and got a flight tomorrow afternoon to Ushuaia, despite most of them being very full. So I am in Buenos Aires now, winging it at a hostel and no idea what to do.

Now, my only stresses are: that this is an indication of things to come. I still have to get buses out of Ushuaia, which may not be easy. Also, Aerolineas? Is on strike. Domestic flights are not affected, but international ones are cancelled. Guess who I fly to get to Auckland in a few weeks? Yup.

I am exhausted. Stressed. Disoriented. A little overwhelmed. I will be better tomorrow, but I don´t think I should try to be too touristy today - it might kill me.

January 15, 2008

last post stateside

adios, all.

not all who wander are lost

i would really not be leaving the country if it were not for my mom. and i don't mean that in the bad way, but in the good one.

last fall, when i was in la, miserable, and thrown into personal crisis, i was on the phone with my mom - for one of what was probably several times that day - and i said that i should travel, and figure out what i want to do on a beach in thailand. her response was immediate: "i think you should."

my mom's support has been unwavering. she welcomed me moving back home, she patiently listened to all of my blather and planning and worry for the past year, and sat through many trips to REI. she also knew that today was coming, and that i was leaving, but she never let her sadness about that color her support for me. and even tonight, when leaving is really, really hard, she just reminds me that i can do this, that i will love this, and that everything will be great in the end. even though she sometimes cries when she says it, i know that she means it.

really, i have gotten nothing but support and favor for this crazy, stupid, wonderful plan of mine. i get some worry about disaster befalling, i get some sadness, i get some envy or blank stares, but really, everyone has been so for this. it makes me certain that i can do it, and almost as certain that it's the right thing to do (really, that's at a solid 70%; i hope to have it full to 100 by the end of the week).

my dad has outfitted me with all of the techno gear i could want - he's always 10 steps ahead, and he makes sure that i will have everything i could need for the whole time. my sister has always been the cheering corner - she's the one who keeps me abreast of how fun this will be. and my mom is the one that reminds me that this is what i want, and that when i am done, i always have a home to come home to.

i have had a rough couple of days. i feel really prepared - i think i have covered all of the bases i could reasonably expect, and i am all set. but i am not ready. leaving is the hardest part, and it is made even more dramatic with the knowledge that what i am doing is a big ol' leap of faith. i am not good with change, especially when i like things as they are.

i do love home. fortunately, my dad and my sister and my mom have made it easy to take home with me. i will be sad to go - i already am, and the morning...well, it will be ugly, y'all - but i've got a lot in my corner. my mom has never wavered, so i will not either.

of course, since i will also be thinking about the people who are not with me all the time whilst i am gone, i am sending pics to her, just to remind her that i am thinking of home and missing it.

January 14, 2008

t-minus 35 hours

i'm not ready to leave.
i'm not ready to leave.
i'm not ready to leave.
i'm not ready to leave.

January 13, 2008

The Official Packing Post

I am all packed. I leave on Tuesday, not tomorrow, but as I realize anything I may have missed, this way, I can pack it right away instead of taxing my overstressed brain with trying to remember it later.

I have officially gone from this:

to this:

(minus the pillows and bed and linens of course)

So for anyone interested in what I am bringing, here is the complete packing list. It sounds like a lot, but it all fits in my pack with room to spare, and it weighs about 26lbs - all very manageable for what I am doing.

I'll do a post-mordem in July to analyze my mad packing skillz, but this is where I am starting out:

clothing, etc:
tank top
2 tee shirts (one wicking)
2 longsleeved (one wool)
3/4 sleeve button down
bermuda short/capri
tee/cami/yoga pants (pajamas)
sarong/big ol' piece of cloth
4 socks (1 wool, 1 running, 2 cool booties)
packable rain jacket
sun hat
underthingies (girl's gotta have some secrets...)
buff (it's like a bandanna, but better)
flip flops
trail runners

toiletries et al:
shampoo bar
hair styling cream
face moisturizer
body moisturizer
face wash
nail polish
polish remover pads
bug repellant
mani scissors
emory board
bobby pins
laundry soap
travel toilet paper
shout wipes
extra lip balm (i have these tucked everywhere - Bonne Bell Dr. Pepper, my addiction)
travel towel

first aid:
excedrin, benadryl, laxative, anti-diarrheal, eye drops, abreva, band aids, itch cream, decongestant, neosporin

odds & ends:
head lamp
eye mask & earplugs
travel alarm clock
sleep sack
plug adapter
ziplocks, twist ties, duct tape, sharpie
nylon back to pack the pack in for checking

carry on:
little notebook that i've written everything in
credit cards in wallet
flash drive
spanish phrasebook
water bottle
guidebook pages
itinerary & paper tickets

I think that is everything - I may have forgotten things in the list, but I think I have most things in the actual pack. I'll add anything I find I've forgotten.

January 12, 2008

an open letter

Dear fates:

I understand that people get sick. I also get that no one likes it, that everyone wishes it would go away and never come back, and that I am not an exceptional case.

But if we could, say, not have a repeat of yesterday any time between now and July, that would be awesome. I will even be more specific: yesterday morning, I was fine. Yesterday when I went to bed, I was ok. Feel free to continue those. It's the in between. Don't do that.

Yesterday was not fun - clearly, the pinnacle was me getting ill on the lawn of a strip mall, a particular incident I would care not to repeat on ANY continent. But the pervasive, violent vertigo/nausea/vomiting/clamminess that hit like some evil marriage between sea sickness and food poisoning? Please, please don't let that happen while I am gone. I so rarely get sick. Let this one be my turn for the next few months, eh? See, I won't have my mom on hand with tepid ginger ale, a sofa to lay on and moan/nap/watch TiVo, and a supply of bland, digestible food that requires no trips to the market on my part.

So until I have those things back going for me, I would really, really appreciate it if we could not repeat yesterday - or invite any of yesterday's friends over to play - whilst I am on my own and on the road.

Thanks and kisses,


cc: immune system, karma, viral and bacterial nemeses

January 11, 2008


Fortunately, this week has been (mostly) much better. I had my last day at work on Tuesday, which was very busy and surprisingly sad. For a place I was so done with, it was somewhat difficult to actually be done with it. But now I am.

And then Wednesday, my parents and I sat down and planned out our holiday in Greece. It's far away, but it will be lovely - both to soak up the blue blue water and white white buildings of the islands, but to see them. They come at essentially the halfway point of my trip, so I am sure I will be lonely and glad to see them. And then its al downhill from there.

I also got my Egypt tour sorted out - and once I got my tour booked and the tickets to and from, I just let it all go. It will be good. It will be amazing. And I get to go to the Dead Sea, which is a nice bonus.

(It's funny - as I do all of my planning, I realize how little "completion" in my travel I will be getting to check off. I know I will have to go back to Australia, to see the West Coast and Ayers Rock and the like. I am not going to Vietnam, so at some point I will be back in Southeast Asia. Every region - if not most countries - will not be done for me. But between Petra, the Dead Sea, Amman, and the ruins there, there's a good chance I will be done with Jordan, and probably Egypt as well. So it's nice to have that checked off m lifelong to-see list).

I have done all my errands (said goodbye to Target, gotten a last dental cleaning before losing my insurance, done one last-ditch presentation for my second job because at this point I will take any little bit of added income I can get, gone to the bank, etc), I have steam cleaned by bathroom (next up: bedroom. Yowza, I am a slob), and I have put away all of my books and plans and budgets, and am basically ready to head out. I think.

OK, so I am still a little baffled that this is real and I am doing this ON TUESDAY, but at least my mood is way better about it. I have lost the GOD I am so TIRED of this I don't even want to GO feeling, which is good.

I still want to go.

January 08, 2008

unfortunately, my momma did raise a fool

And for once, I am not talking smack about my sister.

But first, can I get a holla for travel agents? Seriously, they are awesome. I have lived all over the country, which has always necessitated a lot of travel back and forth. How do I do it? Internet, of course. I barely remember another way to make or check a flight reservation. So in that way, travel agents are dying breeds.

But if you, say, are interested in getting dirt cheap tickets that go all around the world, they are handy. And if you're near gouging out your eyes in frustration that you cannot get from Cairo to ANYWHERE from 2am on Saturday until...2am the next Saturday, they can come in handy.

Because they can make you realize that you have been an idiot.

I was search, search, searching everywhere for flights between Egypt and mainland Europe. When I first started looking, I had cheap ticket to and from Germany, without specific dates, so that formed the plan:meet my parents in Greece, do Eastern Europe, go to Egypt, finish in Scandinavia, go home. But as I have previously bitched ad nauseam, I simply could not get from Egypt back to Germany/Western Europe, and especially not in such a way that I could then efficiently continue to Copenhagen.

I wonder if it's obvious from reading the above the major, major flaw in getting stuck to that plan. If not, is it a clue that there are daily, reasonably priced fares between Athens and Cairo? And then does it become pitifully obvious that I should obviously go to Egypt earlier, after I separate from the 'rents in Greece, and come back there and then just do all of Europe in one go at my own pace? Total duh, right?

I don't mean to be so blue, but it's been hard for the last couple of days. All of the planning and plotting, combined with my obsessive budgeting and the feeling like I am going to go way over my money (or the related worry that fear of going over budget will make me stingy and miserable, which is about as much fun as having no money), have exhausted me. I've been feeling nickel and dimed an overwhelmed.

But my travel agent (and patient mother) helped a lot. I found a totally different tour, reasonable flights, got them all booked. I am going to Egypt, and actually spending more time in Jordan, and I am pretty much booked and ready to go. So I was low, but having it all done, and I feel much better now.

So my new resolution is that I have got to stop getting fixed on order plans. It will all go so, so much easier for me.

January 07, 2008


(and it don't feel so good.)

I've had a very long, pretty disheartening weekend. While it was lovely to spend it all inside while the Storm of the Century (tm every local weather station) raged outside, it was NOT refreshing to spend so much time with nitpicky foreign transportation logistics.

I don't know if it is a result of growing up in car culture, some result of privilege, or my own preference for urban environments over remote, but the concept of not being able to get from place a to place be is just...foreign to me. But it comes up A LOT when you are trying to navigate the fine points of place to place travel.

I spent hours and hours Saturday night online, trying to find reasonable flights to and from Egypt for my tour there. I went to every single budget carrier in Europe (note: there are many, many, many budget carriers in Europe) to get to and from at reasonable time and price, and essentially came up empty. The only one that had a good fare left at 2am from Cairo, when my tour ends at approximately 6pm in Dahab, on the Sinai peninsula. So, assuming nothing went awry, I could totally make the bus-flight-flight that it would take to get back to Europe, but I don't really feel like basing my entire schedule on the assumption that nothing could possibly go wrong crossing from Jordan to Egypt earlier that day. That is a recipe for a world of hurt. And all other flights either didn't leave for several days, or were upwards of US$400.

I gave up on Sunday, but was not in that much a better place trying to figure out where I want to go in Australia. The country is so damned big that it's a huge pain in the ass to go anywhere, and everything I do will involve some contortionist combinations of planes, buses, and a river of tears. I ended up completely scrapping my earlier plan of either Great Keppel Island or Whitsundays, and now I am going someplace totally different. But how did I arrive at that choice? Yup. Hours in front of my computer at every airline site I could come up with.

It was even more disheartening that I started the weekend with a dawning horror that I am going to go way over budget. I am terrible at spending money and I am a saver at heart, so this is really hard for me, to just be in spend-spend-spend mode with nothing coming in, but it's also next to impossible to accurately budget for 6 months on the road in such varying economies as Cambodia and Denmark. I will just have to have faith that all of my buffers will come through, and that everything will not cost as much as I fear.

One thing came of the weekend, and yes, this is me trying to silver lining a tiring weekend of planning:
I got so tired of planning where I may want to go and what I may want to do that I keep reverting to "Maybe I will just stay here that whole week..." instead of going other places. If I get this exhausted reading about these places, I can't imagine what it will be like to be going to them all. I will probably be very, very thankful for the "stay here a week" mentality come a few months in. So getting tired prepping could save my ass later.

Also, I am quite sure that when I do return home, I will never, ever, ever want to figure out how to get from where I am to where I want to be again.

January 02, 2008

is it possible Argentina changed time?

I get these emails from my travel agency that sound incredibly dire: SIGNIFICANT CHANGE IN SCHEDULE! YOUR ITINERARY IS AFFECTED! When I first got one, it was about a week after I booked my tickets, so I freaked out that it had all fallen through and oh my god what was I going to do nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.

And so I look, and, like, Quantas changed my flight number, or a flight is now departing at 7:06 am versus 7:05. Clearly, their version of "significant change" is not the same as my version. Or, you know, my mom's version, were she looking for a significant change in the cleanliness of the house, for instance.

So I've become pretty inured to the Chicken Little emails - I check them and compare them to earlier versions, and move about my merry way. Usually they don't matter, sometimes they are good - my flight from Sydney to Singapore got moved up like 35 minutes on departure and almost an hour on landing, which means I may get in early enough to take the train from the airport, which would rock.

This one is just...weird, though. My first connecting flight, from D.C. to Buenos Aires got bumped back by 5 minutes, which I am decently happy about - it's a pretty tight connection, and I have a connection to make on the other end as well.

But, inexplicably, leaving at 9:45 instead of 9:40 changed my arrival time - it's now 11:25 am. Instead of 10:20. I have NO IDEA how that works.

And it sucks, because I previously had 4 hours to deplane, collect bags, clear customs, catch a cab, go to the domestic airport, and check in; now I have 3. My connecting time did not change. Suck. (On a related note, can I say again how happy I am that after this first leg, every single flight I am taking is direct, has no connections, and will not have hugely negative consequences if delayed? If I can make it through this one, I should not have that stress for the whole trip. If I can just make it through this ONE. Pray for fine domestic weather on January 15th, y'all).

OK, so that's weird, right? And then, I have a couple of domestic Argentine flights to and from Patagonia - all unchanged. And my flight from Buenos Aires to Auckland still leaves at 11:59 pm. Only now, instead of landing at 4:40 am, it's 5:40 am.

Seriously, did Argentina just change what time it is there and make it an hour later? And they did it on their own schedule, so that internal things are not affected, but international plane travel is?Does Argentine daylight savings go into effect on New Year's day or something? Am I dense for being baffled by this?

I am so confused. I think Argentina may have changed time to mess with me.

Last Wednesday.

On Sunday, I was driving my friend Pie to breakfast, and she said, "So, are you getting excited?" It literally took me about 45 seconds to get that she was not asking about the impending pancakes.

This is not real to me, that this is happening and it is happening soon. I have been getting ready and prepping for so long, that it seems like a vague idea, not something that is really and truly going to happen, in less than two weeks.

That does not seem possible. Two weeks from today, I will be in Tierra del Fuego.

I did a lot over the last week and a half, since I had the whole time off from work. I went through my closet and drawers ruthlessly, and I had to remind myself that there is no getting rid of stuff "before I go." This is later. This is before I go. I ended up with about 4 bags of stuff to give away, and another one that was so run down it went out with the trash, and I still probably have things that I meant to give away "before I go," but it hasn't occurred to me, because this does not seem real.

A lot of my friends were home for the holidays, so I got to see them all, but saying goodbye involved more hugs and "send emails! keep me posted" wishes than normal. Since most of us are spread about the country, I won't be seeing them much less because of this travel than I would otherwise (except for a lovely wedding I am missing in February, unfortunately), but the well wishes were still out in more force. And it was just not possible to think that this was it - the last time I will see them before I leave. I have said most of my goodbyes at this point, save coworkers and family, and it has yet to sink in.

My mom kept thinking yesterday was Sunday, and today was feeling sprightly and made a full hearty breakfast - she told us not to expect the same treatment every Monday. Then she remembered: "...or Wednesday." I asked if I could demand this every Wednesday, since really that was only signing her up for one more Wednesday - the one after that I will be gone. It fleetingly felt real, and sad, in that instance, but it passed.

It's my last Wednesday at work today. I got gas yesterday, for possibly the last time before I leave. Everything from here on out is the last something, before I go.

I cannot believe I am doing this.

January 01, 2008

new year's resolutions

For some reason I really like New Year's resolutions, so I am setting some, even though my life is going to be so out of the ordinary for most of the year that changes for the better seem a little redundant.

1. Set foot and spend time on six different continents this year. (So sue me, it's a softball.)
2. Procrastinate less. (I figure this is a good bit of self-improvement that's possible at home AND abroad. Besides, for most of the year, if I put things off, I may leave the country before I get to it.)
3. Floss daily. (Not travel related. I have gum concerns.)

Happy New Year, all!