That's right: for the first time ever, a white guy is going travelling in South America. Read about my adventures as I travel the continent and try my best not to steal or conquer anything.

February 21, 2006

By popular demand?

Well, I've been called out by my sister - totally fair given that I called her out on her blog - so I guess that demands a post of some sort. I was trying to avoid the obvious point that this blog would be better titled "Aborted Attempts to Do Interesting Things" (that's the AAtDIT, or in honour of the same sister, the UNAAtDIT*), because that's been my life of late. There was, of course, my aborted attempt to hit up Colonia del Sacramento, but more recently my aborted attempt to go see the Boca Juniors. Sold out, you see.

I had a decent enough afternoon as a result - hanging out with the fellow travellers with whom I had arranged to see the game - but still, heading to the Bombonera would have been cool. And at the very least, one interesting thing that is not going to end up as an aborted attempt is my trip to Patagonia, as it's going down in two days. Highlights will include the following:

  • Tierra del Fuego: that means "Land of Fire". End of the continent. Wildlife, extreme geography, and temperatures that will allow me to get a decent night's sleep.
  • Perito Moreno: a big glacier. The appeal pretty much speaks for itself. I'm saying hello to the glacier on the behalf of anyone who wishes to say hello, and that's a lot, because usually I'm not one of those "oh by the way [acquaintance 1], [acquaintance 2] says hello" kinda guys.
  • Peninsula Valdés: a cool peninsula between two bays with some odd wildlife. Highlights include killer whales rushing baby sea lions at 50 km/h.
So that's what's up, and the blog will likely be put on hold for a while, until I return rested, cooled, and with totally mind-blowing pictures. Having said that, I'd love for the wicked comments-leaving to continue. Thus far through the comments I've learned about alfajores and the fine art of picking up Argentine babes with poor spelling. Muchas gratias Paul. I'll be back in about two weeks or so; my best to everyone in the meantime. Until then, a few random shots:

Artigas looks forward to decades of political mismanagement while porteños play football in the background.

A pretty building in Palermo.

The closing minutes of the Boca game. San Lorenzo had just put the nail in Boca's coffin with a second goal, and Dyfan and I had to work really hard to cover up our laughter, because the announcer was doing the classic "gooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooal!", [big breath], "gooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooal!"

*It exists.

February 16, 2006

Just sorta hangin'

Not a whole lot to add, unfortunately, as these last few days have been pretty quiet. I spent most of Monday recovering from a very sociable weekend, and in a hostel on the weekend, you have no choice but to be sociable. On Tuesday I was supposed to go to Colonia del Sacramento, but that was contingent upon my travel companion's camera arriving from Australia, which it didn't. Regrettably, I didn't find out about the wayward camera until well after we were supposed to leave, so I squandered a lot of Tuesday waiting around. While I was a little annoyed about that, I have only myself to blame that I let the exact same thing happen on Wednesday. To quote one of our age's great orators: "fool me once, shame on - shame on you. Fool me . . . you can't get fooled again."

So, Colonia del Sacramento is out, and I've made alternate plans. Today the Welshman and I are heading down to one of the shopping districts - because at these prices how can I justify not buying fashionable wares! - and then maybe to the pools with a few other people. At some point today, definitely, a trip to the Bombonera to get tickets for this Sunday's Boca Juniors game. I'm not necessarily siding with either squad (Boca or River Plate) in this very intense rivalry, but Boca was home this Sunday, so I'll be there in blue and gold. If I can't find any blue and gold, I'll at least avoid the white and red that would assure me a thorough stomping. No joke here: wear white and red to a match in Boca, get stomped. If you're lucky.

Next week is going to be Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. BA is lovely and all, and I'm enjoying getting to know the city, but settling down in a more spacious landscape right now would be quite nice. I'm going to focus on the mountains and glaciers, mostly by hiking, though I'll rent a bike now and then. That'll probably be at least a week or two, and if I don't come back from that trip with some cool pictures, then I will have failed massively as a photographer. Speaking of which, is there no one to criticize my photos? No one want to tell me what technical or compositional guidelines I've violated? Caley and Evan and Teya, I'm looking in your direction.

One last thing: for all those who suggested that I was fortunate in escaping the Canadian winter, well, you're right. But - last night was so hot that I could barely sleep. Sleeping here isn't especially easy at the best of times, with the foam mattress, tired sheets, wooden frames that are maybe an inch longer than I am, and five other snoring CO2 emitters, but toss in the kind of heat that causes me to sweat in bed, and this place becomes considerably more uncomfortable. That's part of the reason I'm heading South, actually: BA is just stinking hot right now. Enough.

February 13, 2006


Interesting weekend in the hostel. This place was very quiet during the week, which is why I spent most of my time walking around, getting my bearings, taking pictures . . . solo stuff. The hostel saw a definite spike in traffic on Thursday, and by Friday night, the place was packed. Interesting people come here from interesting parts of the world, so virtually every introduction is followed up by the usual "where are you from and what brings you here" line.

There was one Israeli, though I didn't really get his story; a couple of recent high school graduates from Columbia; a few party guys from California; Australian mountain climbers; an artist from Philadelphia who comes down here every time he sells a few paintings; a Swiss guy who is waiting on delivery of his motorbike so that he can drive down to Tierra del Fuego and then up to the equator, and back here; a Welshman who just wants to find a bar at which he can watch the Six Nations rugby tournament before he goes.

Elisabeth, a 28-year-old Norwegian, was definitely the winner amongst them all in terms of life experience, if we define “life experience” as those things that more fortunate or circumspect people are glad didn’t happen to them. Her last memory before being impregnated, she recalled, was taking a vertical swig of 198-proof home brew, pulling it aside to snatch a breath, and seeing . . . somebody. By the time she could register her next memory – waking up alongside a handsome albeit unfamiliar partygoer – the future life experience had already settled in her 15-year-old body. What remained of her old life was lost when Elisabeth’s mother was murdered by a jealous ex-husband.

It was at that point that her story took a Norwegian left turn. The Norwegian government – presiding over four million residents and an advanced welfare state – supported her because she was single mother, and added an incremental allowance in exchange for her staying in school. She raised her daughter and her little sister, earned her undergraduate and post-graduate degrees, and was able to get a well-paying job with an international bank, thus allowing her to pay back all that the country had given to her. Despite the happy ending, I don’t see Elisabeth as a slam-dunk case study for the socialist cause: it’s difficult to know how much of her success was achieved through her own efforts, and how much through the government’s support; and her misfortune was the result of her own decisions as well as those that were out of her control. Still, coming from a country that likes to boast about its social safety net, I was struck by the Norwegian people's dedication to ensuring that none of their citizens slip through the cracks.

Oh, and on a completely unrelated note, my name in Welsh is "Dafydd". Where have you been all my life, third "d"?

February 10, 2006


Talk about a successful shopping trip. I left my hostel around 12:00 to head down to the calle Lavalle (calle means "street"), a long open-air pedestrian shopping area. A little on the touristy side, of course, but some nice stuff in there regardless. I was very much in need of a white t-shirt, because the one I brought had wine stains all over it (I rock at packing), and I finally found a nice fitted one at Zara, of all places. I know: you come all the way to Buenos Aires and you shop at Zara? It's a little lame, I admit, but were there a single local clothing store that didn't sell football jerseys, and nothing but football jerseys, I'd go there for my t-shirt. I guess I was in the wrong part of town if I wanted to buy an Argentinian shirt without blue and white stripes.

The beautiful Avenida 9 de julio, "9th of July Avenue".

A better shot of the obelisk that pins together two major streets in Buenos Aires: the Avenida 9 de julio and the Avenida Corrientes.

Next up was sandals, and I had been looking for these since I had arrived, with little success. Not many men's sandles being sold around here, and not for less than $120 pesos, which struck me as absurd. $45 CAD for sandals? I pay $0.50 for a perfectly good empañada and you want me to give you $45 for sandals? Not happening. So what would the calle Lavalle be able to offer that the areas I had already searched couldn't? How about a sandal warehouse liquidation sale! Think I'm joking?

Not a great picture, I admit - I just snapped it on the fly - but you get the idea. So that went pretty well: a nice pair of brown leather sandals for about $25 CAD, a much more civilized price. Hurrah. So I came back to the hostel and grabbed a nice prosciutto sandwich along the way to celebrate. The folks in the sandwich shop were quite nice and patient with my poor Spanish, as has been almost everyone here. The guy who has been the friendliest to me so far was looking to scam me for a few pesos, I think, but numbers two through ten in the top ten nicest porteños were all genuine, so that's pretty good.

calle Lavalle

I think the sign in the background reads "Jesus Christ is the Lord; Universal Church of the Kingdom of God".

One of the many beautiful parks in Buenos Aires. This one is in the Plaza San Martin.

February 08, 2006

A belated thank you

I definitely owe a thank you to everyone who came out on Feb. 4 for my little gathering. As predicted, there was no self-important speech-making, and there were no shots (thank goodness), but instead just a collection of excellent people, all of whom got along very well and all of whom I'm proud to call my friends. Special thanks to my dad for strolling in, picking up a round for the whole group, staying for thirty minutes, and then, regrettably, hitting the road. That was classy.

This is but a small selection of the 100+ people who so kindly came out.

February 07, 2006

My first walk around Buenos Aires

Hit the streets this afternoon with a mind to getting four critical things: food, a map, a plug adaptor, and sandals. I succeeded in procuring all but the sandals, so I'm pretty happy. As for the food, I was going to give the restaurant's cannelloni a try, but I didn't know what "verdura" was, other than the main ingredient. So I asked, but the waitress didn't speak a word of English, so after 15 seconds of getting nowhere, I made a mooing noise and added "poco" (small), as I had a hunch that "verdura" is veal. No dice. I then tried a quick baaa (only baby-like), but that wasn't it either, so I just gave up and ordered the chicken. I just checked, and "verdura" is vegetables. Not even close. Now I'm trying to imagine what noise a vegetable makes.

I really enjoyed taking a bunch of photos though, so my thanks to dad for the camera.

A family friend recently offered the simile that Buenos Aires "is like a run-down Paris". I think it has a character all its own, but you see what he's talking about in buildings like these.

The chap in white is Carlos Pellegrini. He lead the Partido Autonomista Nacional (PAN) - a collection society's elite who ruled the country for at least 30 years of its democratic history - to an election victory with himself at the helm in the 1870s, and then later through massive electoral fraud with his successor as the ostensive leader. He then passed a series of electoral reforms in 1911 that outlawed the abuses that had kept the PAN in power all those years, apparently believing that the PAN was so popular that syetemic fraud was just a waste of time. The PAN was then soundly trounced.

A very typical street in BA. Trees and white buildings.

Unfortunately, I didn't catch the name of this guy. Now, one would be forgiven for thinking that we're simply looking at another well-intentioned member of the ruling elite who became drunk on his own power and was brought down in a nasty coup, hence the defacing, but really, that describes just about every Argentinian president. And they all have their own statues, and streets named after them. It's odd.

I blame my mother for not letting me do cartwheels in a busy city street.

February 05, 2006


So I'm heading off for South America for six months, and a handful of people have shown an interest in what I'll be up to down there, hence this blog. I doubt that I'll update it very regularly or that it will be particularly interesting, but who knows, I might just get into this blogging thing, and I should come up with at least a few good pictures. Right now I'm in Toronto and my plane takes off in about six hours. Naturally, I've just begun to consider this whole packing thing, and should be wrapped up about two minutes before I have to go. My first real post will be from Buenos Aires in two or three days. I'm going to spend roughly the next 20 hours either in airports or on planes, so after I'm finished with that, and the two things that I've planned for my next six months, I'll be ready to communicate again. Feel free to fire off an email to me anytime at

Oh, and I'm an autocrat, at heart, so I'm moderating comments. Do leave one now and then though, particularly comments critical of me or this blog, as those are the kinds of comments that I leave on other people's blogs, and they always really appreciate it.