Monthly Archives: August 2010

Into Brazil: The Iguazu Falls

June 30, 2010–Iguazu, Brazil

We arrived at the border to this curious fast food drive-in style border crossing.  Fast for everyone but us, as we had to wait for the next bus to arrive, while citizens of Argentina and Brazil rode through unchecked.

Yet, as if God was rewarding us for our patient wait.  We found some fresh onions on the ground outside immigration.  FREE onions!!!

By the time we got into the city and back out to the falls, the sun was already on its way down.  The light in the mist of the falling water was beyond words.

Iguazu falls is composed of several waterfalls that line a short canyon, meaning that as you walk your way up the canyon, new waterfalls appear.  The large collection of falls in the picture above only represent one small section, the last section, of the falls.

As the falls continue expanding before your eyes the awe begins to take hold.  The sheer expansiveness of the falls coupled with the beautiful lush green islands between the tiers of raging waterfall is one of the most impressive sights we’ve seen.

Eventually you arrive at the heart–the Devil’s Throat.  In the picture above you see only half of the two tiered fall.  The roar of the water and the spray that jets out from below is overwhelming.

A foot bridge takes you out into the middle of the Devil’s Throat and leaves you standing in the spray as water careens down from above, then rushes under your feet only to once again fall, finally becoming a violently churning river.

Looking down the falls, they seem to continue without end.

Having had our dose of mist and awe-inspiring natural wonder, we’re feeling pretty good.

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Filed under 2010.06.30 Brasil

Buenos.

June 29, 2010–Buenos Aires, Argentina

Seltzer dispensers on sale at the Sunday morning market in San Telmo.

Vegetables in all shapes, sizes, and colors arranged beautifully for sale.

At an art exhibition Batman eats his own kind.

Nice clothes.

Scott took us to a great venue, where local people come to enjoy tango.  And a band showed up.  Beautiful.

In a poorly lit, smoky room with a creeky wooden floor, Kaori was way into the dancing.  Scott and I were into a bottle of Argentinian wine.

Scott.  We spent a couple days living with this Japanese-speaking, lawyer-on-vacation, Ausie.  Quite a guy.  He took care of us like we couldn’t have expected.  Sharing views on new and old experiences, wonderful home-cooked lasagna, and all kinds of stuff, our first couch surfing experience was a wonder.  Thanks, Scott.

Off to see the falls at Iguazu.

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Filed under 2010.06.25 Argentina

We Won!!! (a qualifying match)

June 27, 2010–Buenos Aires, Argentina

You’ve never seen the streets of Buenos so empty as when Argentina is playing in a World Cup game.  Nothing but the occasional bus, making its route empty of any passengers.  A silence you’ll never hear in a town like this.

Then, the game ends.  This time in victory.  Victory=Crazy on the Streets.  Like this guy, who fingerpainted his car in Argentinian colors.

Scott and me near the obelisk, where it all happens.

Cars and trucks, filled with people waving flags and making noise with whatever is loudest, head for the obelisk standing in the center of town, and traffic grinds to a halt.  I’m sure that no one who wants to “get somewhere” would come close.

TV crews interviewing a child to see what she thought of the game.  Probably more captivating commentary than that of the players.

A giant Maradona, bouncing in the wind, dances with thousands of Argentinians.

Anything that rolls becomes a stage for showing Argentinian pride.

People. People. People.  All having a good time, enjoying their victory.  I wonder what this street would look like after winning the Cup?

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Filed under 2010.06.25 Argentina

Death in Buenos Aires

June   26, 2010–Buenos Aires, Argentina

La Recoleta, situated in one of the best neighborhoods in Buenos Aires, is the final resting place of many Argentinians of great import.  The wide lanes of the cemetery are lined with grand mausoleums, looking much like a miniaturized city.  If people rode around the cemetery in miniature cars, this effect would be increased.

While a great number of graves are in pristine conditions, graves that have been left unmanaged are most apparent–broken glass, falling walls, caskets fallen from their shelves.

Among ex-presidents, scientists, and the generally rich lies the “Spiritual Leader of Argentina,” philanthropist Eva “Evita” Peron.  There was a line to see her grave.

Walking through the cemetery, filled with huge statues and art from a variety of styles–all of the highest quality, is like walking through a museum.  Absolutely marvelous.

Many of the largest mausoleums are modeled on churches.  With caskets placed before crosses and stained glass, it’s almost as if the funeral never ended.

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Filed under 2010.06.25 Argentina

Random stuff in Potosi

Japan provides a substantial amount of aid for Bolivia.  Apparently one way they help is by providing used automobiles.  All the large trucks, busses, and heavy machinery we say had traces of Japan.  Like this “Town Design” bus from a middle of nowhere town, Nagasu.

Then you have a Korean expatriate school bus from Japan.

Then you have children marching.  I don’t think this march was sponsored by Japan, however.

Tongues.  On mannequins.  Most likely not Japanese imports.

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Filed under 2010.05.29 Bolivia

Hi-ho, hi-ho…

June 16, 2010–Potosi, Bolivia

At 4,090 meters (13,420 ft), Potosi is one of the highest cities in the world.  Due to Spanish exploitation of the silver mines at Cerro Rico (Rich Mountain), in the 17th century Potosi was the richest city in all of Latin America and among the richest in the world.  Operating the mines using unsafe methods and slave labor, this rate of production so damaged the enslaved indian population that a continuous supply of slaves from Africa were brought in to meet demand.  The mines are still in operation as a cooperative today, however, poor conditions mean that most miners will die by 40 years of age.

You can see the headlamp of a miner as he pushes a cart full of ore out of the mine.  The dark, damp, and worst of all dusty mines were hard enough to walk through.  The dust produces silicosis in most of the miners.  Kaori and I were the only people wearing dust masks.


A miner here is pulling ore from a chute into his cart.


The mine is composed of several levels, and moving between levels means climbing up and down narrow chutes as long as 30 meters.  The deeper you go, the hotter and harder to breathe it becomes.  The high altitude adds to the problem.

Workers here repairing broken tools.  They told us of a collapse that killed one of their fathers.


The miners we spoke with were very aware of the dangers that this work entails.  The benefit, however, of being able to provide for an entire extended family with their wage alone, seems to overshadow the certain health problems of the future.  Pay for miners is much, much higher than any other work they might find.

Workers visit the “patron saint” of the mines to ask for higher yield and safety and also to show thanks.  Some say that the statue appears as the devil in an attempt by Spaniards to scare the workers into submission, however, the large phallus of the statue and local legends of Pachamama (Mother Earth) indicate an animistic ideology where subjects hope for “impregnation” of the mountain.

We were in the mountain for less than two hours, we were more than ready to leave when the time came.  The heat and the altitude combined with breathing through masks had taken a toll on us.  Eight hours a day, six days a week?  No way.

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Filed under 2010.05.29 Bolivia

Volcanoes and Cactus-covered Coral Reefs (Uyuni, part 2)

June 15, 2010–Uyuni, Bolivia

Kaori and I woke up early in the morning, well before the sun came up.  We were afraid to miss the sunrise, which we knew would be spectacular after seeing the sunset the night before.  We weren’t prepared for the below zero temperatures, but we put on every available article of clothing and hoped for the best.

Our guide had told us the sun would be up at 7am, but we knew better.  We didn’t, however, know better enough, and we were standing on the salt flat in the pitch-black night at 5:30am, nearly an hour before the sun actually came up.  C-O-L-D.

As the sun reached over the mountains, rare, James flamingoes sprang to life and flew in a big circle around us before returning to their pools, as if on a morning jog to get the blood flowing after a long, cold night.

After returning to our lodge for a quick breakfast, we were off to climb Mt. Tunupa, or Pachamama (mother earth), as it is referred to by the local Aymara people who were so kind to us the night before.

Tunupa, in addition to flamingoes, is also home to mummies.

On our way up the volcano, loosely stacked rock walls defining land possessions stretch more than half way up the volcano.

The crater of Tunupa is beautifully colored.  Green, red, yellow, black…the colors change as the sun passes through the sky.

After wearing out our knees on the way down the mountain, we hoped back into our Landcruiser (for some reason, EVERY jeep on the flats is a Landcruiser) and headed to Isla Incawasi, an island covered in coral fossils (as it was submerged in the ocean before the Andes were formed) and cacti as old as nearly 1000 years.

In the picture below, you can see the bubble-like appearances of the coral fossils that cling to the rock of the island.  Here Kaori is trying a piece of the flat, to find, unexpectedly, that it is very, very salty.  Uyuni.  One of the best things we’ve experienced thus far.

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Filed under 2010.05.29 Bolivia