South America April - June 2010, Eastern Europe 2009

For the sake of keeping all blog posts in one place, going to keep this Europe travel blog page rolling...

Friday, May 28, 2010


Owen and I just came back from a really amazing tango show at a very famous space of Av, 25 de Mayo. I will post pics soon but imagine smokey atmosphere with great wine, legs flying short skirts and lots of female skin, good looking dark handsome men, an orchestra, dark lights, a maitre d in black and whites, show lights, theatre costumes. We were definately amazed and impressed and so glad we attended. We have found this really great restaurant in San Telmo, which appears close on map but is really 45 mins walking from our hostel, it is very old and has everything that I would appetimize as European. Last night owen and I went there for a bottle of great wine, housemade cheeze and meat (spicy salami, bolognese, smoked thin ham slices, ravioli and cheey tomatoes. It is eating so extravagently for a quater of the price. I especially love being able to splurge on a bottle of wine with dinner, fairly unaffordable in Van. Today we also visited the famous Ba cemetary full of notorious BA families and scandalous policians. It was unbelivable to see how manu dead people could fit into probably a sqaure acre of the ultra extravagent "death houses" (will post to describe). Here lies Evita and almost all of the past presidents from the past 100 yrs.

Tomorrow Owen is going to check out the skatepark and I might do some shopping but am seriosly trying to remind myself I have no job and funds are dwindling.

Hope to hear some Van news.


Thursday, May 27, 2010


We have arrived to the final destination! Well for Owen at least. Wow big city, busy city. Reminds me a lot of New York, a lot of people and cars filling the streets, big posters for plays and shows going on, giant advertising screens etc. This is all of course mixed in with over a 100 yr old buildings and spanish everywhere. Can wait to check out the city and am glad we have plenty of time to do so. Our hostel is massive, kind of like a hotel, has all the amenities and luckily we are in only a 6 person dorm room.

It was so strange booking my hostel in Montreal because there wasnt one option downtown mtl that was less than twice the cost of a night in a hostel down here, guess its all a part of coming back to reality.

how are things in Van?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Hello BA

Today Owen and I went on a big mission to get to the zoo in Mendoza, which doesnt appear to exist but we got to walk for a long time through this massive park in the eastern part of town. Was a neat park palm trees, camping, kind of reminded me of the endowment lands by UBC as it has a university located within it and big wide streets lined with trees and a walking path. Yesterday was fun, Owen and I checked out a wine tour starting at 2pm, which took us to an olive oil factory, two wineries and an artisan chocolate/ liqueur factory. To be honest, we both found the olive and chocolate factory to be much more exciting than the wineries, maybe because we got to test a bunch of different things rather than only two kinds of wines that were promptly sale pitched to you to purchase after you had tested them. One of the wineries was cool because it very old, the grandchild of the initial owner still ran the winery so it was neat to see how an old boutique winery operated. The major wine in Mendoza is Malbec, originally from France, but whose grapes grows best in Mendoza and is pretty much the only place in the world where Malbec grapes are grown. So you want to try some real Argentinian wine, try some Malbec.

Wine is also ridiculously cheap here, you can find it for $2-3 CA. Leather is another cheap item, I almost bought a pair of handmade leather boots the other day from this guy who dressed like Mad Max (they had old re-cycled tires for soles!) but alas they only had ones with ugly designs on it in my size. As I mentioned in a previous post, yesterday and the day before were national holidays here so everything was closed. Today, even though the holiday is over, everything is still closed! Pretty annoying but both Owen and I hope to do some shopping before we leave Buenos Aires. I think we also going to try to make it to Montevideo in Uruguay because supposedly there is a really great market where the ferry lets you off.

Tonight we leave for Buenos Aires on a 14 hr bus, the last one! Thank god. We were going to ball out and get the fancy bed seats but it was way to expensive so again we get the ghetto seats, oh well, last one!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anyways going to go enjoy the last of our few hours in beautiful Mendoza (probably the nicest and cleanest city we´ve been to so far), talk soon.


Ps. swelling is gone, finally!!

Monday, May 24, 2010

I am so beautiful in the morning. Swollen face action shot.

Mendoza "Wine Country" Argentina


Last night Owen and I arrived to Mendoza, Argentina after a 7 hour bus trip crossing the beautiful snow filled moutains of the Andes that separate Chile and Argentina. We spent two nights in Santiago, a very European-ish city to see Geoff off on his flight back home. Santiago was fun lots to see, its a massive city, but the food was a bit lacking. What really stood out was how much meat places a central role in the diet of most Chileans, I either had to eat meat of suck it up and eat salad for days. The best was the pile of meat that you could get, which of course came with wine.

I,m pretty excited to do a wine tour in the next few days think we might stay two more nights here to fit some more things in (lots of activities to do here). This all will be done, however, only face stops swelling and I stop being covered in the craziest itchiest hives all over. Last night was hell I couldnt sleep all night because I was so itchy everywhere it was horrible. Both eyes ae swollen but almost one was swollen shut this morning it is so gnarly. I will try and post a pic I took two hours ago its gross but funny. I have NEVER had an allergic reaction this bad before (im not even allergic to anything...) and have no idea where its from but I took double allergy medicine and swelling has gone down a bit but am keeping the shades on today for sure. should probably go to the doctor but it is of course a national holiday here today and tomorrow so everything is closed.

Also lost owen last night. We rolled with some Brit boys who were going to a hostel and ended up in separate cabs that took us to two separate hostels (owen of course had allergy medicine that would have been helpful). but all is good now, after some confusion, Im now sitting next to him. Anyways have been hearing the weather at home is beach weather! here is cold still, but at least sunny. It is strange being somewhere where the leaves are all yellow and orange and falling on the ground. feel like ive missed a season altogether, especially since the flora is so much like what we have at home, except for the token palm tree here and there.

Anyhoo will let you know how the activities and swelling go here in the next few days.

Love Jess

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

La Serena, Chile

Hello Chile.

A welcome reprieve from the ghettoness of Bolivia. We spent the last 3 days travelling through the Bolivian salt desert, where we saw blindingly white salt fields, aquamarine blue lagoons, flamingos, and epic sunsets while soaking in hotsprings surrounded by geysers and ice filled lagoons. The temperature was bitterly cold, I would guess minus 15 at its worst, but probably colder with windchill. Waking up in the overnight bus to Uyuni where we began our trek and looking out the window of the bus, we were oh so pleasantly surprised to find that it was SNOWING outside. yes snowing. after having found our tour company and having layered up in the unheated breakest place we were sitting at, we were presented with the option of either cancelling our trip or postponing it due to the snow. the town hadnt seen snow in 5-6 years, so the 5000m above sea level passes were supposed to be sketchy. long story short we made it after almost having to come back after we then confronted a major sandstorm where the 4x4´s windows were in jeopardy from flying rocks, we made it to Chile where we then hopped on a 17hr train to La Serena Chile. anyways owen needs to computer will update soon.


Friday, May 14, 2010

To the Copa, Copacabana

Bolovia! We arrived yesterday am after an overnight bus that was supposed to be direct from Cusco to Copacabana, although they ended up droppping us off on the side of the street at 6 am to be picked up by a rough looking van that crammed us all in, and then another van once we got across the Peru- Bolivian border. Getting to Copacabana was a relief as it is a remarkably quiet town that sits on Lake Titicaca, one of the highest lakes in the world. We are currently sitting at 3200m above sea level and still finding it hard to breathe, particularly after trying to do any excercise or lugging your bag up 4 flights of stairs. The lake is beautiful blue and very large, almost looks like the ocean. Owen, Geoff and I got a great view after we hiked up the mtn for half an hour to reach the town cemetray for sunset. Yesterday also entailed a lot of sleeping as we have all become very burnt out. I thought for sure I would be really sick after the trek and overnight buses, where we had barely slept. Owen also suffered from the flu while we were away on the trek and is still recuperating. I have also self prescribed myself amoxicillin for a possible bladder infection ( i researched online!) as no prescriptions are necessary in Peru (and no clinics were open), sketchy! but actually it seems to all have worked out, so hopefully from now on we will all be healthy and well.

Next step for us is to get on a bus sometime today to go to La Paz, and then afterwards head down to the salt fields which are supposed to be amazing. Heard the weather at home is nice! Its sunny here but frigid at night, can´t believe I have gone back into winter, goodbye tan...

Talk soon.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Agua Calientes, Peru - Just Finished Inca Trek!!


Currently just completed the four day Inca Trek to Machu Picchu. Pretty incredible. The trek started early early in the morning (or night???) of the 8th. We were to meet our tour group in Cusco the biggest city close to Machu Picchu to be picked up by bus at 4am to start our mission to one of the seven wonders of the world. The bus took about an hour and 45 mins to get to the starting point of the trek, Kilometre 82. Our group consisted of 12 trekkers, two guides, and 18 porters (including a cook) to carry all of the tents, chairs, gas, food, etc to each campsite. By the end of the first day I knew this trek was going to be so much better than the Lost City trek, well maybe a different kind of trek than the Lost City. The trail was actually well established, our guides were well trained (one of the them had gone to school for 4 yrs to be a guide) and had studied the Inca trail and sites to be able to provide us with intricate detail and knowledge about the incas, the way they lived, and the history behind their kingdom.

The first day was very easy only an hour climb at the end of the day. We were completely spoiled arriving to the break/ camp sites having lunch or dinner waiting for us (3 course meals) with our tents already set up and hot water and soap waiting for us. We also received big applauses upon our arrivals to these spots from the porters, which is ironic because they completed the trail during the day in way faster time carrying approx. 25 kilos of weight on their backs. It was almost an embarassment for them to be applauding us because they worked so hard getting up before us, carrying our stuff, completing the trail wayyy before us and then going to bed after all us. I felt like a pretty big rich spoiled gringa.

Day two was the hardest, took us 10 hrs to complete 16km, having hiked up to 4200 m above sea level to reach Dead Woman´s pass. The climb was long (3 hrs) but not too intense, but lots of up and downhill that day. Geoff and I decided to hire porters to that day as we had both the heaviest and third heaviest bags of the group. This was probably because 2/3 of the group had hired porters for the whole trek, which would have beena great idea but definitely more expensive. I was definately a bit disapointed in myself for how heavy my bag was but was so paranoid of being cold I slightly over packed, even bought a North Face jacket (which was completely worth it by the way). We also ended up having to carry our sleeping bag and mattress, which added to the weight. The third day included a lot of downhill and about 5 hrs walking but had some great views and inca sites. Today we got up at 3:30 am (oh yes) in the rain to start our trek to the final destination, Machu Picchu. We had to wait until 5:30 am for the gates to open to let us in, and then walked for about two hours to reach the biggest of all of the Inca sites (there were a lot of Inca sites along the way). It was absolutely beautiful arriving around 7:30, it was misty and fogged in ( think of Lord of the Rings cool misty eery-ness) but as the morning progressed the clouds cleared and the sun came out. Got some great photos and learned a lot from our guides Raoul and Marselino.

Overall the trip was amazing, we ate great food, did have to use bathrooms that were literally holes in the ground, but were grouped with a great set of people and guides that made the trek that much better. It felt really good to have trekked all that way (44km) to reach Machu Picchu, especially when we got to the site and saw all these tourists all decked out in hiking gear looking like phonies (having taken the train), while we were proudly sporting out mud and probably slight stench (only one shower stop along the way). We were also so much more fortunate because we got to see so many amazing inca sites along the way, some that could almost rival Machu Picchu, and got to hear about the Incas from someone who had grown up in the mountains and was extremely proud and knowledgeable about his ancestors and country.

Having seen the site, Geoff and I have reached Agua Calientes (there are hot springs here we´ll check out later today!) where we will meet our group again at a restaurant for our final goodbye lunch/ dinner before we catch the train back to Cusco at 9:30 pm.

Suffice to say we are both pretty beat having hiked the last four days but are looking forward to some hot showers and real beds once we get back tonight around 1-2 am. Tomorrow we will meet up with Owen who we had to leave in Cusco. Cusco is a really great small city, touristy, but with lots to do and great food (Owen is the champion restaurant finder).

Before Cusco (after taking an agonizing 24 hr bus from Lima) we had to say goodbye to Corey after having reached Lima, but not before we spent a few great hours checking out the nice part of Lima (Miraflores) and the boys have a good skate at the skate park off of the beach. So random we started talking to a bunch of kids at the park to ask where a good place to eat might be and they ended up coming with us to Chilis and one of the even knew of Geoff which is pretty crazy. Needless to say they were pretty stoked on the guys adding them to facebook immediately and one I think just msged Geoff already.

Anyways this is a long one but just wanted to say we survived and it was great. Can´t wait to post the pictures!


Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sickness. Guayaquil, Ecuador.

We left Montanita yesterday on a whim after a few days of literally doing absolutely nothing for the past few days on the beach. The town had so many prospects of being a great party town where we might meet some people, tiki lounges, bars on the beach, best pina coladas I´ve ever had (and pisco sours - new drink i tried with egg white in it), however, the place had too many restaurants and bars and not enough people, leaving it all feeling pretty empty. All of the "hostels" were more like hotels, so no communal hang out places.

Leaving Mantanita, we drove along the coast which is mostly undeveloped with a few random cafe/ restaurant type places along the way that all look the same and a few token boats here and there. Coming into Guayaquil was like entering into a sea of tin roofed shacks, with fences made from anything that was picked off the street. Guayaquil is a dirty, busy, MASSIVE (8 million ppl plus), commercial town, very different from the more ´pretty´ capital city of Quito. I still have a hard time coming into cities because of the amount of garbage everywhere. Garbage on the side of the raod from people hucking it out their car window, garbage in the trees from being picked up by the wind, garbage floating in the discoloured river water and garbage burning (I saw tires and wires being burned yesterday) randomly by whomever on the street. Throwing away water bottles still hurts a little everytime too, particularly since we go through so many down here.

Anyways, understanding that Guayaquil was a commercial town, we went into the downtown core with not the highest expectations. The only really touristy thing to do in this city is check out the newly re-developed area of Malecon 2000 along the river. So we went, walked, saw the dirty big river carry plants down and out into the ocean. Looked at the cafeteria style restaurants, checked out the underground mall, overall not too exciting but was something to do. Coming back to the hostel I walk into my girl dorm to find the only girl I am sharing the room with on the floor, moaning, in the dark. I´ll admit, "Oh great" was one of my initial thoughts, after general concern of someone moaning on the ground, of course. Turns out she had bad food poisoning and was leaving the next morning to get on a plane to go to the Galapagos Isls. Oh great. Luckily, I think she had got most of her barfing and other, etc out earlier so I got to avoid listening to that all night. Unfortunately, I started to feel nauseous msyelf and was sure I had food poisoning. You see, I have to tell you these gruesome details, otherwise you wouldn´t get the full feel of the trip, right? Anyways luckily took some left over medicine of Owen´s from his fun experience with food poisoning in Taganga, Colombia and felt a million times better a bit later.

Last night was hard to sleep, it has not been that hot in a room the entire time on this trip. Guayanquil is extremely hot and muggy, I assume it has something to do with the river and wetlands, which I think could be likened to somewhere like Florida or Mississipi (although, Ive never been to either). So anyways that is why i am up at 7 am writing you this lovely post!

Today Owen and Corey go skate this massive skate park downtown, I might go watch or go check out a museum on the Malecon. Other than that we will just be mentally preparing for our 24 hour (yes 24 HOUR straight) bus ride to Lima. I´m dramatizing a bit, don´t think it will be that bad, just hope its not air cond to death like most of the other long trip buses. Last time I wore 2 flannels, a hoodie, had a fleece jakcet as a blanket, wore jeans and my woolie lumberjack socks, oh, and a toque. Was still a bit cold! Can´t wait for Geoff to bring the sleeping bags for our trip to Machu Picchu (and now as well for the bus rides).

Anyways, wish us luck and will say hello when we are in Lima before we head off to do the big Inca trek.