I have been home a few days and am just starting to get my stuff together. I will now try to upload news, photos and videos from my final week in Argentina. Sorry for the delay.
...and, please remember, the journey continues in New Zealand in 2 weeks' time...
I am on my way back to England. So, please be patient; early next week I will upload loads of news photos and videos, as well as at least half a dozen blogs from my last week in Argentina, including information about a couple of fantastic grass roots organisations that are helping to improve the lives of people in Argentina.
'Same, same, but different' is an expression popular in Asia.
Travelling on the Chilean steppe, I was amazed by the remarkable similarity to the steppe and mountains of Central Asia's Kyrgyzstan. There were the same macho cowboys riding horseback as you see in southern Kyrgyzstan, but there were also Guanacos - a camel-like creature that you can only find in South America. So many similarities, but only a handful of differences.
Two locations literally worlds apart. Same, same, but different:
(c) Justin Walley & morethanagame.info 2011
Bumped into the Bear again, for the second time in 3 days, this time inside one of the largest caves in South America, close to Torres del Paine. For anybody that has ever seen the film 'The Fountain' - one of my favourite films - there was also this tree that put me in mind of the tree of life, which is central to the plot of one of the most original films ever made. Hard to quite get across how a tree in a cave could have something bizarre and almost spiritual about it, but if you have seen 'The Fountain' you will understand my idea.
And if you haven't, choose a quite November evening alone, to enjoy this wonderful film.
A short video clip I took of ice crashing into the water at the awe-inspiring Perito Moreno glacier:
You see evidence of it all over the world. It has been like that for 5 years, in many senses:
Life is becoming harder and harder for the average person. Prices are skyrocketing; jobs are being lost in many places, never to be replaced; currencies are significantly being devalued or are appreciating in damaging ways for the local economy. The list goes on.
Officially, I believe the inflation rate in Argentina is 9%, but the reality is somewhat different. In the space of a few weeks here, I have seen the prices of transport and accommodation rise significantly; locals I have met tell me that the real inflation rate is likely 125% over the past four years. A hotel room for example that would have cost 70 Pesos, 2 years ago, will now set you back 200 pesos in some towns.
You feel that something is amiss. I felt that in Malawi last year and wasn't surprised when there were riots there a couple of weeks ago protesting increases in the cost of living. If I found costs for some items there expensive, can you imagine what it is like for the locals? I remember petrol prices in Zambia in 2010 were higher than in the UK, one of the most expensive places in Europe to fill up your car.
Locals everywhere, with the exceptions of a couple of Asian countries, complain of rising prices, unemployment and creeping poverty.
I fear Argentina will suffer another crash at some point in the coming months or years, but you feel that with many countries. Travelling teaches you many things but it is also a window on the world, telling you how things really are rather than listening to the lies and the propaganda we are fed by our media. The middle class is getting squeezed in dozens of countries and more and more people are being dragged into debt. I don't see any way out for the poor. I have seen it, so I know this is the reality. The ongoing 'currency wars' are bad news for most of us. I fear that the corrupt, self-interested morons who rule us are leading us to a very, very dark place...
Just before setting off for Argentina, my lovely nan, who just turned 90 a couple of days ago, was convinced I wouldn't come back from this trip. She has never said anything like that before. It put the fear of God into me, to be honest. And after getting stung by a scorpion last summer in Africa and held at gunpoint in Kyrgyzstan a couple of years earlier, you start to think that your card might be marked. I have, consequently, been fearing the worst.
Mishaps to date, comical and problem causing, include:
- missing my connecting flight to Argentina in Brasil on my way here,
- having a bus accident on the first day of Copa America with a tree branch smashing in through the window and almost decapitating my friend Nurnberg Charles, sat next to me, and spraying us with glass,
- having 150 euros stolen,
- missing a bus by ten minutes and it costing me another 100 euros,
- getting knocked to the street by a dog,
- accidentally taking 400 pounds instead of 40 pounds out of a cash machine and consequently not being able to buy flights online,
- having my bank account closed by my bank because they thought someone was using my card and getting stuck somewhere with no cash as a result,
- leaving my guide book and 20% of my clothes on a bus, never to see them again,
- giving a bloke a 100 Peso tip (20 euro) - instead of 10 (2 euro), because he reminded me of my grandad, and I felt too ashamed to ask for my cash back afterwards (and leaving me cashless),
- staying at the world's worst hostel, getting sick, and waking up in the middle of the night to find water pouring onto my bed through the roof,
- leaving my towel and all my cosmetics in a hostel, never to see them again,
- getting to a hostel and finding my reservation cancelled the night before the Copa final, with Buenos Aires full and nowhere to stay,
- getting dizzy and apparently fainting,
- experiencing a small earthquake in Chile that gave me the fear,
Then, the other night, I was in Chile, trying to deal with some awful personal news by downing a 1-litre carton of red wine, sat on a park bench, by the local fjord. A dog came along and tried to steal my food. I gave him a bit, but that just encouraged him. So, I got stuck with him. I am not good with dogs but we made our peace - sort off - and he had half of my cheese rolls and chocolate and I got to keep the wine. But when it was time for me to stroll back to my hostel, the fella started following me. I tried to get rid of him, but he wasn't having any of it. It happens all the time in Argentina and Chile; dogs just start following you, they will go 20 blocks and still be there snapping at your heals. "Look just **** off! I tell him. I don't mean it, but I find myself attached and worried about the lad and just want him to go home; he has a dog tag and is well taken care of.
And, suddenly, three dogs come piling out of a house we pass and chase him into a corner across the road. I watch as he gets bitten on the leg and limps away. I feel terrible, like I am responsible for having given him the bread and cheese, and him being here...and then, the most terrible thing happens: as he limps away across the road, he gets hit by a car. And I am so shocked and upset that I just run and run...
And I don't know why this is all happening to me but, what I do know is that, I had some of the worst news of my life 2 weeks ago, and I have gone to pieces ever since. I feel like a demon is chasing me.
The long, long lonely road south to Tierra Del Fuego, 3000 kilometres south of Buenos Aires:
(c) Justin Walley & morethanagame.info 2011
Copa America 2011
A blog from the 2011 Copa America and road trip around Argentina.