Travel Thursday Revisited: Very South America 2006

A roundup of some of the places I stepped on during this longer-than-expected trip. That was back in the days of film/not digital for me, so you can imagine how much extra equipment I had to lug around, especially in the Peruvian Andes. . .

Iguazu
Have you ever been amazed by the roar of a waterfall, just one? Imagine being surrounded by a horseshoe of them! This is Iguazu, in southern Brazil, famously shot in a few movies, including a Bond and an Oscar winner. Even with the hotel window closed, you can still hear the thunder.
And then you hear the loud squawk of a bird on your balcony. How loud does he have to screech to be heard over the waterfalls? Very distracting.
And it was a toucan, and who can see a toucan without wanting some Froot Loops? Not me. Unfortunately, the hotel was out of them. Well, at least they were smart enough to know what a Froot Loop was and usually have them around, but I know by the time I get back to Buenos Aires I’ll have gotten over the urge.
Damn, I can’t believe how humid it is here. I’m usta cold waterfalls. . .

Buenos Aires
Flying into Buenos Aires you’re stunned at how big the city is; it makes you think you’re in El Ay, it’s so spread out. The big difference is the two hugely wide streets, probably just as wide as the Champs-Elysees, or Paseo de la Reforma in Mexico City. Anyone care to guess the name of the more important street? Avenue July Ninth! Why is this important? My birthday, of course. Claiming you didn’t know is no longer a valid excuse. And no clothes, even UCLA t-shirts! I already have a UCLA umbrella too.
After the tango show the dancers got people from the audience to try to teach them some moves. So of course one of the women, the prettiest I’m sure, came to my table and tried to persuade me to join in, and wouldn’t believe me when I told her I already knew how to dance tango, but I’m on the injured reserve list for life. Finally I stood up and did some arm movements while standing still to prove I knew the stuff. She smiled, gave me a kiss on the cheek, and waved bye-bye as she went looking for another target. And it wasn’t till I got back to the hotel that the desk clerk laughingly told me I had a huge lip mark on my cheek. . .
I hate that. . .
Oh, and a shoemaker/dancer tried to buy my boots because he loved them so much and wanted to make some just like it. That’s one thing I never expected to happen to me. . .
I actually spent only one day touring Buenos Aires, since it doesn’t have all that much going for it as far as tourist attractions, tango bars notwithstanding. It’s a place to BE more than to see. Well, there’s the obelisk, but once you’ve seen one Washington Monument you’ve seen them all. The second day I spent shooting models, some of which were tango dancers, though I couldn’t picture them with all that heavy makeup and attitude.
Before I left on this trip I was asked if I was going to Patagonia, which seems to have some sort of quasi-religious sentiment attached to the name. Nope, the company I’m shooting for doesn’t go there, and been there/done that. Although it would have been cool to revisit a certain tiny town. . .
Peaked your interest? Well, here’s the story:
Way back when I was in the Marine Corps, we parachuted at night after a 12-hour flight, not being told where the hell we were. In fact, the point was to figure out where in the world we were in as quick a time as possible, without being spotted by the locals. I was the intel guy, so it was my job to find out. I quickly figured out we were in the Southern Hemisphere, whereupon the team leader says, “That’s a big help!” all sarcastic-like. My reply was, “Hey, I just eliminated half the world!” Actually more, since that half of the world is more water than land, but why quibble. From there I found a small town and creeped up to the school–luckily it was the weekend–and saw a map through the window and figured out where we were and called it in. Record time, too.
From there we were picked up and sent to jungle training in the Amazon, of which the less said the better. Can’t use a rifle or knife on creepy-crawlies. . . well, some of them were big enough to use a knife on, but too fast. And I didn’t care if I flunked the course, there’s no way I was eating ’em!

Chile
Because of the time difference, I was having dinner in Santiago as I watched UCLA win their first basketball game of the tourney. Who woulda thunk there’d be a sports bar in Chile? Of course all the big screens were showing soccer, but I managed to grab a little table in the corner and persuaded a waitress to change one of the TVs to the game; I do seem to have awesome charm when it comes to non-romantic matters. Luckily I didn’t look at all out of place, considering everyone was screaming at the soccer games, except for the timing, so I was screaming alone, until a couple of Americans came in. Not UCLA fans, but I’m sure they were hoping I would buy them a beer if they cheered.(almost rhymed).
Didn’t have to go to Antarctica to freeze my giblets off, even if it’s summer here in the Lake District. (according to spell check, that’s how you spell giblets; I thought it would be a J. Actually, didn’t know I had giblets, but live and learn.) It’s really frustrating being out at ten at night with a full sun while wearing half a dozen layers. . . and having to take off the gloves to take photos. . . on a camera that hates cold. . . especially when you were in 70 degree sun the day before.
Schnitzel and Strudel in Frutillar, for that brief taste of old Germany, on St. Patrick’s Day, of all days. For a longer taste, or better yet a taste of Austria, I stayed at the Hotel Salzburg. And fresh juicy grapes the size of cockroaches on steroids: mmmmm. . .
Just for the heck of it, on my way back from the Lake District to Santiago, I spent the night in a town called Los Angeles; pretty much had to, right? The next morning some Germans–real ones, from the old country–and Czechs tried to cajole me into going white-water rafting with them. Me, who’s deadly afraid of water, possibly even more than heights! I figured I’d go along with the free ride and then chicken out at the last moment so I could take photos, but as it turned out their rental truck wouldn’t start and I didn’t have to go through any theatrics to stay dry.

Easter Island
Except for the statues, the less said about this place the better. Even the statues got old to this archaeology enthusiast after a day. Checkmark it on the “been there/done that” list. . . hope that didn’t come across as bitter, just disappointed.

Bolivia
Got back to my favorite South American city {Santiago} with two days to walkabout before catching a couple of tiny flights up to Lake Titicaca. Go ahead, laugh at the name, you know you wanna.
Not much I can tell ya about it. It’s a huge lake, and it’s really cold because it’s way up in the mountains. A couple of real islands, a few fake ones, and some very touristy cultural awareness. Oh well, it was a nice rest.
What rest? Did you hear my scream at 12:30 in the morning local time, 9:30 Pacific? The only TV in the hotel with cable was the one in the lobby, and the desk clerk was looking at me like I was crazy as UCLA played like shit and still beat Gonzaga at the end. That was exhausting! And yes, I know UCLA didn’t deserve it, but that’s why you play the full 40. . .

Peru
Someone at the home office in Seattle was smart enough to have a small plane ready for me in Puno, which is the town on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca, to take me to Arequipa, but I convinced him to make a detour. First we circled the lake a few times–well, not really, we didn’t go into Bolivian airspace, but you know what I mean–so I could get some shots, then we headed for the coast so I could shoot the Nasca lines, then finally when we were almost there we flew over Colca Canyon. If the Peruvian Air Force asks you about unscheduled flight plans, we were having lunch together that day, right? (hummed to Cheryl B. Engelhardt’s Empty Alibi.)
In the town of Arequipa I stayed in a hotel called La Casa de Mi Abuela, which translates to “my grandmother’s house.” It was a cool place to crash, with bungalows and gardens and such, but I just had to mention it for the name. There was also a restaurant called Zig Zag–yes, in English, or whatever language that comes from–that served stone-grilled ostrich burgers. Make up your own joke.
In the Colca Canyon, I had another chance to go white watering, but this time found it much easier to say no, and that was before they told me they were rated VI (I hope the higher the number, the more difficult, otherwise I passed up the equivalent of a ride on a bathtub). I climbed a volcano instead. (Ha, sounds so easy when you write it. . .) From up there, better than from the plane, it was easy to see why this canyon is twice as deep as the Grand one in Arizona.
If you’ve ever seen a condor, California style, you know how huge those puppies are. The ones down here are even huger, if that’s a real word (according to spell check it is). Wingspans 10 feet long–that’s longer than some basketball players. So big they can’t just flap and start flying, but need a running start off a cliff; imagine doing that for the first time. They circle around below you and then, suddenly it seems, they’re above you. Ever been in one of those aquarium tunnels, where you see sharks swimming above you? That’s how it felt, only more so, because you weren’t protected by glass and one of the young birds might mistake you for lunch. Got some cool pictures, at least.
Was that UCLA-Memphis game not the ugliest ever? And that’s saying a lot, considering the past two. At least I won’t have to worry about finding cable TV for a few days. . .
Even though I’d been to Machu Picchu before, this time I not only spent a whole day going through the ruins, but also other sites in the valley, as well as having the time to actually speak with locals and make fast enough friends for them to take me to places the tourists never see.
These four days were, and it is rare for me to use this word, spiritual, even magical. It was truly amazing how many tourists I came across who were tearful, some because they finally got here, but mostly because it’s just so fucking beautiful. . .
One of the highlights–at least for this non-morning person–was getting up at five to join the workers at Machu Picchu on the trek up the mountain so I could shoot the dawn. And just for fun, I played Shannon Hurley’s Sunrise as I shot, followed by Lovers Electric’s Morning Sun. It really helps when an old UCLA buddy is now the regional director for archaeology and can do whatever the hell he wants despite any posted rules, and bring his friend along. {Hopefully you already read that story, called “Puttin’ the Machu in Picchu!” It features a German/Swedish blonde model, so. . . yeah.}
Turns out I inadvertently got one of the local guides in trouble. When I sign up for one of these trips, I’m given a list of things they want me to shoot. Usually it’s a short list, and I can improvise and add to it, as long as I get a usable shot of what they want. So it turns out one of the sites they wanted me to shoot is no longer open to the public, only their local guide “neglected” to tell them this; afraid of getting paid less, I guess. But if he was dumb enough to think no one would notice once they arrived, well, who am I to deprive him of reaping from his stupidity . . .

So. . .
According to my handy dandy pedometer, the best gift evah–although you have to consider I usually gets clothes as gifts, but still–I walked over 100 miles on this trip. No Fffffin’ way! When my feet and shins heard this news, they decided they should feel sore, even if they didn’t before. (did that rhyme?)

;o)

Travel Thursday Encore: Putting the Machu in Picchu part 3

That afternoon we were strolling by the railroad tracks, hand in hand, on the ten minute walk to the part of Aguas Calientes that contained the tourist amenities. Despite the hunger, she was in the mood to try something other than the hotel restaurant, possibly something local; she was as adventurous in her gastronomic exercises as I wasn’t.
Though still feeling the hunger pains, her brain managed to function better now, knowing the beast would be fed soon, so she was able to take in the town. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d been somewhere so poor-looking, then realized it reminded her of a movie western set. It felt really out of place, then she remembered Butch and Sundance going down to Bolivia and giggled.
Maybe because her shopping hunger had no room for engagement, or more likely because none of the trinkets did anything for her, she didn’t stop to look at the souvenirs and artisan works lining the street as we approached the busy section of town, still holding hands. That would probably change later, she smirked; once her stomach was full, she figured she’d give in to the buying urge that was presently lying dormant inside her, like an alien monster.
The crowd was mostly made up of tour groups and smaller units of backpack-laden hikers, some of which crashed into each other as they gawked at her. Despite the natural blush, she was well used to it, and enjoyed it, as long as the attention was limited to sight; rarely did anyone say worthwhile words about her beauty. And she knew I didn’t mind the looks either, as long as they kept their distance as well.
“They’ve fixed the place up since I’ve been here,” I murmured, pointing to the little plaza that in most Latin pueblos signified the very down of downtown.
“I need to take a photo,” she decided. “You told me once that this was Peru’s version of Katmandu, so I want something for comparison when you take me there.”
“Most people only go to Katmandu on the way to climbing Everest.”
“Oh. Well, I don’t plan on doing that.”
“But I guess we can go on a walking tour for a few days after the next trip to the Taj Mahal. Either way, go ahead and take your photo.”
“Don’t suppose you’d go pose over there, in front of that. . . whatever that statue is.”
“If you want to catch the whole square, I’ll be too far for anyone to tell who it is, so just shoot.”
“Okay okay, stop being so bossy.” She quickly framed the shot and took it before I said anything else, then grinned and jumped over to kiss me, kicking up a heel like a cliché. “Okay, no more side trips. Me need food!”
“I too. Remember when we arrived that the train station platform has tables for dining? There’s probably a good restaurant there.”
“I was too tired to notice anything at that point. And trains kick up a lot of dust. And I don’t want to walk that far. What else ya got?”
“Let’s find out. Did you at least see the market stalls when we got off the train?”
“Hmmm, you’d think I would, but I didn’t. Why?”
“I was watching as we approached, and they actually had to move their little portable stores off the train tracks so the train could park.”
“Wow! They really have no other place to set up?”
“Not if they want to be right there to hit up the weary traveler as soon as they step off.”
“Yes, I can see their marketing strategy. By the by, I am not looking forward to the train back down. I got enough of the scenery on the way up.”
“I can scrounge up another way.”
“We are not taking a bus!”
Of course not. It’ll be faster and even more scenic.”
“What is it?”
“A surprise.”
She pouted, but only for a second. “Promise it’ll be good?”
“Absolutely.”
“Then I’m forced to trust you.”
“There’s a pizza place.”
“I did not come all this way to eat pizza,” she said primly, no longer grinning.
“There. That place.”
She looked. “Yes.”
It being brunch time in a place that never heard of brunch, we were seated immediately, and the service wasn’t all that different than it would be, if not in the States, then at least in other places around the world used to tourists. The waitress even spoke some English, and just like that Katarina was snacking on the bread pieces while I waited for my corn on the cob order that I’d placed immediately before checking out the main menu.
“They serve trout all the way up here? Really?”
“It’s flown in, of course,” the waitress smiled as she dropped off the corn on the cob, then quickly scurried away.
Katarina looked at me blankly, but I simply smiled and said, “I like her,” as I dug into my appetizer. The corn looked a bit different here, but turned out to be just as tasty, to my relief.
“Good thing for you they grow it up here,” she laughed.
“Corn was the staple crop in this hemisphere before the Spaniards, but only with the Incas was it sacred.”
“No wonder you like them.”
“They saved the very best lands for it. It even became a symbol of power, more so than even coca, or potatoes.”
“Your other fave,” she laughed, seeing no need to point out which one. Attentive but still very hungry, she reached over to grab the hunk of cheese that came with the corn. “It looks weird, all white and puffy, and those kernels are huge. How does it taste? Like corn?”
“There’s a corny base taste, yeah, but it also tastes sweeter than usual, with a little milk thrown in. Not as good as the corn I had in Rotorua, New Zealand, but at least top five.”
She grinned as she remembered that old conversation, especially about the entry at #3, and the corn girl who’d served it–and herself–to me at a festival in the Midwest. Thinking of that luscious redhead. . . that quickly went away as the waitress came back to take our main order.
Having a backup ready in case the description turned her off, she asked the waitress about the Pachamanca.
The girl was efficient. “That’s a classic mountain dish that goes all the way to the Incas, it means ‘Mother Earth’ in Quechua. Several types of meat, potatoes, peppers, herbs and cheese are baked in a hole over hot stones, with banana leaves placed between the layers. It is cooked underground because the Incas worshipped the earth, and to eat directly from it was a way of honoring the Mother Goddess and giving thanks for her fertility.”
“That’s perfect!” she squealed. “I’ll have that.”
She waitress smiled and ticked a note on her pad. “What soup would you like?”
“Hmmm, what’s sopa a la criolla?”
I smiled at her perfect pronunciation, but she was too hungry to reply with anything more than a return smile, listening to the waitress instead.
“That is a basic soup, but you may find it different because it used quinua as its grain.” Going on before she could be asked, she explained, “The word means ‘moon’ in Quechua. It expands four times its original volume when cooked and thus has more protein than any other grain, so you can see why we like it so much.”
“Is there a moon god that’s in love with the Mother Goddess?” I grinned.
“I hope so!” the waitress giggled.
Playing along, Katarina said, “There is now. I’ll have that.”
“Great. And you, sir?”
Not having enjoyed alpaca meat the last time I was here, I went with the regular beef steak, not worrying about how long it would take, since the corn was fighting an efficient holding action on my hunger.
Katarina looked at the cob husk left on my plate and sighed, wondering if she should have ordered a quick appetizer too. “What’s six inches long and makes me happy?”
I considered, then went with, “Just about anything, Earth Goddess.”
We’d quickly grown to love the silences between them when we’d first met, but she didn’t want that right now. “So, is there other stuff to do here besides Machu? And orchids,” she quickly remembered.
“There are other sites, mostly harder to get to, but also nowhere near as dramatic as Machu. Any tourists going there would think them anticlimactic. Like someone looking at any other model after watching you.”
“I was with ya before you said that,” she assured him, biting her inner cheek to keep from laughing.
“There’s plenty of places to hike, that don’t take four days. There’s one that goes up to that other mountain over there, got some good shots of Machu once. And if I can remember where that other one starts, there’s a waterfall that’s just your style at the end of it.”
“So, you wanna tell me the story about walking the Inca trail now?” But before I could answer, she suddenly cursed.
“What’d you do now?”
“Do you remember that as soon as the gardener left, we were all alone up there? Or even before he got there, when it was still dark? Who else could say they fucked at Machu Picchu?”
I smiled. “I love a sexually adventurous girl.”
“Especially if she’s yours, right?”
“Wouldn’t be any fun if she was someone else’s.”
Her eyes danced at that, but she kept a straight face. She also kept quiet for a while, because she was too busy eating, until finally she shouted, “I want dessert! And no donuts this time!” While perusing the dessert menu, she came across something she thought was amusing, though as usual with me the jury would always be out. “Says here this restaurant also owns another one near the railroad tracks called Toto’s House.” She grinned. “I know how much you hate the Wizard of Oz, but. . . dinner?”
Holding up my fork, which contained a chunk of steak, I asked, “Aren’t you afraid of what kind of meat they’d serve at a place called Toto’s?”
I watched carefully as her face slowly turned green, and knew I’d blundered.
“Ya know,” she rapidly dropped the menu, “I think I’m full.”
“You are not! Watch, I’ll distract you, and in less than a minute you’ll have forgotten.”
Less than fifteen minutes later–tough walk uphill and a stop for a snack to tide her over–though she was definitely not counting–she was luxuriating in a private room, lying face down and naked. It had taken her a bit to decide just what kind of massage she wanted, though the last thing she needed right now was the Energizing one that topped the list. Of course she had no idea what an Inca Massage would be, but was leaning toward one called Altitude Problems, for good reason, when she was informed she could have a mix of all of the above. She was so tired and eager for some hand-healing that she simply agreed to that and flopped down on the bed, then moaned when she realized she forgotten to take her clothes off first.
If she had any doubts beforehand as to the usefulness of hanging out with a guy on an expense account–yes, me–they were certainly dissuaded now as she undid her boots and dragged her jeans down her legs, not exactly gently, leaving the white socks on because she knew they looked so cute. It was tougher working off the blouse and bra, and then she basically had to just drop her undies, but soon enough she was really zoned out and giving herself up to the bliss.
It seemed like only seconds later she was awakened by the soothing breeze of condor feathers being waved over her. After being told it was an Inca tradition, she wondered what I would think of that. . . then realized she hadn’t given me a moment’s thought since she’d undressed. For just a moment she was mortified, since I’d been so kind as to pay for the whole thing, then realized I’d probably gone off to have my own massage. Yeah, but he’s probably thinking of me, she sighed, vowing never to let me know she’d broken her own rule.
Getting off the table with an audible groan, she reached for her clothes, only to find they were nowhere in sight. Instead the masseuse held a fluffy-looking blue robe out to her with a smile as well as outstretched arms. Shrugging inwardly, she donned the offered uniform and followed the still-smiling lady through a short labyrinth to the outdoors, where she saw me slowly slipping into the pool, looking like I wasn’t wearing anything either.
Laughing, she barely took enough time to throw the robe off before diving in, almost scaring me. But she turned out to be the one frightened as she realized her skin was sizzling from the volcanic-like water.
“Remember when you asked me what the town name meant?” I grinned when she broke the surface and did a jitterbug that would make any synchronized swimmer envious.
“And you said you’d tell me later, so I’m gonna assume it means ‘hot water,’ right?”
“This is exactly why I defend you when people say you’re not smart!”
“Thanks for that!” No longer impersonating a blowfish, seemingly getting used to the heat, she turned to wrap her arms around my neck and kiss me hotly, though not as hotly as the water, she giggled to herself.
We looked into each other’s eyes for a moment, and then I took in the whole view. The water had darkened her fair hair, and it lay tight to her head and across the brow in flat honey-gold tendrils, as if it had been sculpted.
Suddenly, as usual thinking things well after the fact, she glanced around frantically, her hands moving to cross her chest and block the view. I laughed, then used my own body to cover hers, wet rubbery skin slicking against hers as I whispered, “Relax. I paid for them to turn away anyone else who wanted to dip in here.”
“I was wondering why we were alone. That makes me feel guilty, but I can live with it.”
“Don’t. There are other pools, just not with a view of the sugarloaf.”
She turned quickly, being half-mermaid, then gasped. “I hadn’t noticed! Tell me what it’s like to climb it,” she sighed.
Leaning into her back, I murmured, “Do you want to hear about the Sacred Rock?”
Somehow managing to giggle and moan at the same time, she managed to gasp, “Been there, done that.”
“Never stopped you before. . .”
“Um. . .”
“To the left of the Sacred Rock is a path that leads to the gateway to Huayna Picchu. Even though it looks steep, even those in pretty bad shape can climb it in an hour.”
“How fast can you climb it?”
“If I was racing, about fifteen minutes.” I noticed the way she was staring at the Old Mountain. “Get there early, avoid the sun and the climbers. Get better photos that way, too.”
“How many people can fit up there at once?”
“Not many. There’s a booth where they make you sign in, and if you don’t come back quickly enough they’ll send the next people up, telling them it’s okay to throw them off.”
Gasp!
“Well, not really.”
Seeing an inflatable rubber animal next to her, she scratched for it and placed it on the concrete ledge underneath her breasts, then leaned forward to stare at the view.
“Last climbers at one, and if you’re not down by three, they’ll come and getcha.”
“The view, the view,” she sighed, fighting to keep her eyes open and looking through the clouds at the top of the mountain.
“There’s a platform at the top, directly overlooking the ruins and the forested mountains. But most people don’t know there’s a tunnel that takes you to a rocky perch that has full-circle views. There’s even less room in there, and I for one could spend hours up there shooting, if the people waiting weren’t about to throw me off.”
“They wouldn’t dare,” she whimpered,
“But you don’t want to climb it when it’s rainy. Those stone steps are even more slippery than the ones at Blarney Castle. Remember I told you about that?”
“The girl who told the guy to kiss her ass!”
“That’s her. It’s so steep it’s frightening coming down, but there’s a turnoff that no one knows about, an hour’s walk to the Temple of the Moon. The trail dips down into the cloud forest and then climbs again, so you gotta ignore your groaning thighs.”
She did manage to giggle a little there, though she was close to being completely out of it.
“Right above the river, about halfway down the peak, there’s a mysterious group of caverns and niches with the most beautiful stone work you’ve ever seen–”
“Better than the Alhambra?”
“Apples and oranges, though there are a few thrones around the altar.”
“For me, the Moon Goddess!” she screeched, then promptly fell asleep.
{To be continued, with an orchid walk, a hike to a waterfall, and a pretty scary trip in a helicopter}

;o)

Travel Thursday: Very South America

Because I’ll be out where the internet done shine all day tomorah, you get the usual Thursday blog an hour early. . . try to control your excitement. . .
This one’s from 2006.

Iguazu
Have you ever been amazed by the roar of a waterfall, just one? Imagine being surrounded by a horseshoe of waterfalls. This is Iguazu, in southern Brazil. Even with the hotel window closed, you can still hear the thunder.
And then you hear the loud squawk of a bird on your balcony. How loud does he have to screech to be heard over the waterfalls? Very distracting.
And it was a toucan, and who can see a toucan without wanting some Froot Loops? Not me. Unfortunately, the hotel was out of them. Well, at least they were smart enough to know what a Froot Loop was and usually have them around, but I know by the time I get back to Buenos Aires I’ll have gotten over the urge.
Damn, I can’t believe how humid it is here. I’m usta cold waterfalls. . .

Buenos Aires
Flying into Buenos Aires you’re stunned at how big the city is; it makes you think you’re in El Ay, it’s so spread out. The big difference is the two hugely wide streets, probably just as wide as the Champs-Elysees (in that hellhole known as Paris) or Paseo de la Reforma in Mexico City. Anyone care to guess the name of the more important street? Avenue July Ninth! Why is this important? My birthday, of course. Claiming you didn’t know when it was is no longer a valid excuse. And no clothes, even UCLA t-shirts! I already have a UCLA umbrella too.
After the tango show the dancers would get people from the audience to try to teach them some moves. So of course one of the women, the prettiest I’m sure, came to my table and tried to persuade me to join in, and wouldn’t believe me when I told her I already knew how to dance tango, but I’m on the injured reserve list for life. Finally I stood up and did some arm movements while standing still to prove I knew the stuff. She smiled, gave me a kiss on the cheek, and waved bye-bye as she went looking for another target. And it wasn’t till I got back to the hotel that the desk clerk laughingly told me I had a huge lip mark on my cheek. . .
I hate that. . .
Oh, and a shoemaker/dancer tried to buy my boots because he loved them so much and wanted to make some just like it. That’s one thing I never expected to happen to me. . .
I actually spent only one day touring Buenos Aires, since it doesn’t have all that much going for it as far as tourist attractions, tango bars notwithstanding. It’s a place to BE more than to see. Well, there’s the obelisk, but once you’ve seen one Washington Monument you’ve seen them all. The second day I spent shooting models, some of which were tango dancers, though I couldn’t picture them with all that heavy makeup and attitude.
Before I left on this trip I was asked if I was going to Patagonia, which seems to have some sort of quasi-religious sentiment attached to the name. Nope, the company I’m shooting for doesn’t go there, and been there/done that. Although it would have been cool to revisit. . .
Well, here’s the story:
Way back when I was in the Marine Corps, we parachuted at night after a 12-hour flight, not being told where the hell we were. In fact, the point was to figure out where in the world we were in as quick a time as possible, without being spotted by the locals. I was the intel guy, so it was my job to find out. I quickly figured out we were in the Southern Hemisphere, whereupon the team leader says, “That’s a big help!” all sarcastic-like. My reply was, “Hey, I just eliminated half the world!” Actually more, since that half of the world is more water than land, but why quibble. From there I found a small town and creeped up to the school–luckily it was the weekend–and saw a map through the window and figured out where we were and called it in–record time, too.
From there we were picked up and sent to jungle training in the Amazon, of which the less said the better. Can’t use a rifle or knife on creepy-crawlies. . . well, some of them were big enough to use a knife on, but too fast. And I didn’t care if I flunked the course, there’s no way I was eating ’em!

Chile
Because of the time difference, I was having dinner in Santiago as I watched UCLA win their first basketball game of the tourney. Who woulda thunk there’d be a sports bar in Chile? Of course all the big screens were showing soccer, but I managed to grab a little table in the corner and persuaded a waitress to change one of the TVs to the game; I do seem to have awesome charm when it comes to non-romantic matters. Luckily I didn’t look at all out of place, considering everyone was screaming at the soccer games, except for the timing, so I was screaming alone, until a couple of Americans came in. Not UCLA fans, but I’m sure they were hoping I would buy them a beer if they cheered. (almost rhymed)
Didn’t have to go to Antarctica to freeze my giblets off, even if it’s summer here in the Lake District (according to spell check, that’s how you spell giblets; I thought it would be a J. Actually, didn’t know I had giblets, but live and learn). It’s really frustrating being out at ten at night with a full sun while wearing half a dozen layers. And having to take off the gloves to take photos, on a camera that hates cold. Especially when you were in 70 degree sun the day before.
Schnitzel and Strudel in Frutillar, for that brief taste of old Germany, on St. Patrick’s Day, of all days. For a longer taste, or better yet a taste of Austria, I stayed at the Hotel Salzburg. And fresh juicy grapes the size of cockroaches on steroids: mmmmm. . .
Just for the heck of it, on my way back from the Lake District to Santiago, I spent the night in a town called Los Angeles; pretty much had to, right? The next morning some Germans–real ones, from the old country–and Czechs tried to cajole me into going white-water rafting with them. Me, who’s deadly afraid of water, possibly even more than heights! I figured I’d go along with the free ride and then chicken out at the last moment so I could take photos, but as it turned out their rental truck wouldn’t start and I didn’t have to go through any theatrics to stay dry.

Easter Island
Except for the statues, the less said about this place the better. Even the statues got old to this archaeology enthusiast after a day. Checkmark it on the “been there/done that” list. . . hope that didn’t come across as bitter, just disappointed.

Bolivia
Got back to my favorite South American city {Santiago} with two days to walkabout before catching a couple of tiny flights up to Lake Titicaca. Go ahead, laugh at the name, you know you wanna.
Not much I can tell ya about it. It’s a huge lake, and it’s really cold because it’s way up in the mountains. A couple of real islands, a few fake islands, and some very touristy cultural awareness. Oh well, it was a nice rest.
What rest? Did you hear my scream at 12:30 in the morning local time, 9:30 Pacific? The only TV in the hotel with cable was the one in the lobby, and the desk clerk was looking at me like I was crazy as UCLA played like shit and still beat Gonzaga at the end. That was exhausting! And yes, I know UCLA didn’t deserve it, but that’s why you play the full 40. . .

Peru
Someone at the home office in Seattle was smart enough to have a small plane ready for me in Puno, which is the town on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca, to take me to Arequipa, but I convinced him to make a detour. First we circled the lake a few times–well, not really, we didn’t go into Bolivian airspace, but you know what I mean–so I could get some shots, then we headed for the coast so I could shoot the Nasca lines, then finally when we were almost there we flew over Colca Canyon. If the Peruvian Air Force asks you about unscheduled flight plans, we were having lunch together that day, right? (hummed to Cheryl B. Engelhardt’s “Empty Alibi.”)
In the town of Arequipa, Peru I stayed in a hotel called La Casa de Mi Abuela, which translates to “my grandmother’s house.” It was a cool place to crash, with bungalows and gardens and such, but I just had to mention it for the name. There was also a restaurant called Zig Zag–yes, in English, or whatever language that comes from–that served stone-grilled ostrich burgers. Make up your own joke. (I was going to add something about there being sand on the burger, just so I could mention yet another musician’s [Halie Loren] song, but I don’t think that’s the part of the ostrich they used in the burger, at least I hope not).
In the Colca Canyon, I had another chance to go white watering, but this time found it much easier to say no, and that was before they told me they were rated VI (I hope the higher the number, the more difficult, otherwise I passed up the equivalent of a ride on a bathtub). I climbed a volcano instead. (Ha, sounds so easy when you write it. . .) From up there, better than from the plane, it was easy to see why this canyon is twice as deep as the Grand one in Arizona.
If you’ve ever seen a condor, California style, you know how huge those puppies are. The ones down here are even huger, if that’s a real word (according to spell check it is). Wingspans 10 feet long–that’s longer than some basketball players. So big they can’t just flap and start flying, but need a running start off a cliff; imagine doing that for the first time. They circle around below you and then, suddenly it seems, they’re above you. Ever been in one of those aquarium tunnels, where you see sharks swimming above you? That’s how it seemed, only more so, because you weren’t protected by glass and one of the young birds might mistake you for lunch. Got some cool pictures, at least I hope I did.
Was that UCLA-Memphis game not the ugliest ever? And that’s saying a lot, considering the past two. At least I won’t have to worry about finding cable TV for a few days. . .
Even though I’d been to Machu Picchu before, this time I not only spent a whole day going through the ruins, but also other sites in the valley, as well as having the time to actually speak with locals and make fast enough friends for them to take me to places the tourists never see.
These four days were, and it is rare for me to use this word, spiritual, even magical. It was truly amazing how many tourists I came across who were tearful, some because they finally got here, but mostly because it’s just so fucking beautiful. . .
One of the highlights–at least for this non-morning person–was getting up at five to join the workers at Machu Picchu on the trek up the mountain so I could shoot the dawn. And just for fun, I played Shannon Hurley’s “Sunrise” as I shot. It really helps when an old UCLA buddy is now the regional director for archaeology and can do whatever the hell he wants despite any posted rules, and bring his friend along. {Hopefully you already read that story, called Puttin’ the Machu in Picchu!}
Turns out I inadvertently got one of the local guides in trouble. When I sign up for one of these trips, I’m given a list of things they want me to shoot. Usually it’s a short list, and I can improvise and add to it, as long as I get a usable shot of what they want. So it turns out one of the sites they wanted me to shoot is no longer open to the public, only their local guide “neglected” to tell them this; afraid of getting paid less, I guess. But if he was dumb enough to think no one would notice once they arrived, well, who am I to deprive him of reaping from his stupidity . . .

So. . .
According to my handy dandy pedometer, the best gift evah–although you have to consider I usually gets clothes as gifts, but still–I walked over 100 miles on this trip. No Fffffin’ way! When my feet and shins heard this news, they decided they should feel sore, even if they didn’t before. (did that rhyme?)

;o)