Friday, January 19, 2007


Thank you all for reading and if you have got this far I really am impressed not even all my family members have made it to this point!
Other thanks go to my big pink sunglasses (you love them or you hate them but you never ever forget them); my flight socks (definately not my most sexy item of clothing but certainly required on those long journeys); my iPod (for not packing up and keeping me sane on those long journeys); and last but not least Koala, who has been everywhere, been laughed at (many, many times), survived almost decapitation and always been prepared to give me a hug.
Finally a few facts: of the 290 days i've been away i've spent it in 66 different towns, spent 20 nights on buses and 2 nights on aeroplanes, travelled through seven countries (including Spain), been up to almost 6000m above sea level and down to 150m underground, learnt to dive and to speak spanish, crossed the equator 6 times, swam in two oceans, eaten a guinea pig, travelled the entire length of the continent (over land, by bus) and learnt to never ever throw toilet roll down the toilet (hopefully i'll try to unlearn that one now i'm home).

is this the end?

and so, i write the final entry from the same place i wrote the first (that will be LS 23 then). and i'm asking myself what has changed here?... not much my sister has bought a house (strangely so has my dad) and my mum has put her wedding photos in an album. its colder and slightly darker than when i left but otherwise i look out of the window and see the same people, the same houses and the same trees.
That is not to say that i'm not delighted to be home and possibly the familiarity of it all is what is so exciting. The flight home is the only journey (without exception) that i have taken, in which i have been literally unable to sit still due to anticipation (or knowing) of what i'm going towards. Every other journey has had an element of the unknown- will i like it/the people?; will the people like me?; will i find a bed to sleep in?; etc. but this time i knew exactly what i was getting- laura waiting at the airport followed by much (caffeine fuelled) talking all the way back to Bramham, at which point i was greeted by a lovely glass of red wine beside the fire and some belated christmas presents.
and am i different? well judging by the easy way we all fell into conversation, my unforgettable way of picking at the food before its served, licking the wine bottle rim after pouring or interrupting - it would seem not. have i learnt things? yes, i'd hope so but i'd also hope i would learn things after a year at home in Leeds too. I've probably learnt different things and i'm sure i'm different in subtle ways (or perhaps i've learnt the art of that?!) or can now manage to express a few sentences in spanish (how i say Buenos Aires or Uruaguay seems to be a constant source of amusement). but i'm sure i'll fit right back in where i left off.
what was my favourite place/thing? This i've been asked many time in the last month and i can honestly say i that i don't really have a favourite place/thing that i've been/done. If pushed, i'd probably say that would be something really difficult like climbing Huayna Potosi or trekking to the Lost City, or something really fun like Buenos Aires for christmas and new year or maybe simply just the month that i spent with Roo in Peru (despite that definately not being my favourite country). What i've decided is that what has made my trip has been the people i've met and for the most part the people i've met have been wonderful. They have had the capacity to make even the dullest places seem fun and raise a smile whatever calamity has befallen me. and so thank you, all of you- you all know who you are and rest assured you haven't heard the last of me! (and by the same token some of the most spectacular places could have been quite ordinary without that person making me smile). I guess i'm just not a scenery girl, give me people any day.
And now for the shortest paragraph, what is it that i've been doing for my last week in Buenos Aires? Not much is the answer.
I did manage to go to one charity event- a soup kitchen where i helped cook dinner for over a hundred people from a really poor neighbourhood. I did enjoy alot and do feel a little bad that i only managed this once (but not so bad i guess to have made me go again). The contrast between those who live in the lovely flats where i've been shopping or taking photos to the neighbourhood where people are queuing up with plastic boxes to get the weak beef stew that i have cooked for them and will serve to them in a mud floored hall was quite astounding and certainly humbling.
The 3 Musketeers had their final days at the millhouse and i was very sad to see Kate and Hannah leave but happily soon found that the swedish girls in my dorm were good fun and equally up for having a laugh, so we enjoyed many more drunken but tasty meals around town.
and of course shopping, shopping and more shopping!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Losing my heart as well as a good deal of my memory in Buenos Aires

I arrived in BsAs slightly frazzled after my immense journey north and certainly overwhelmed by the heat in the city. I checked into the Milhouse Hostel- as described in the guide book as a 'party hostel', my first impressions were of a very disorganised students' union (staffed by some of the hottest looking people i had seen for a long time) and went to find Kate & Hannah, two English girls I had met in Bolivia and arranged to meet here for christmas.
I wish i could say that i spent the 10 days leading up to new year doing cultural activities spending my time in art galleries, dancing tango or seeing the sights and admiring the architecture but that would be a lie... Instead I caught up on gossip with the girls and the time seemed to pass very quickly in a (slightly blurry) haze of laughter, wine and shopping.
Christmas day was certainly very different for me. I have to admit having christmas in the middle of summer (it reached 43 degrees on christmas day!!) is a bit strange and the total lack of all the tacky commericalism that you find at home didn't make any of us feel very christmassy. Our multinational Christmas dinner consisted of steak, red wine (lots of both and definately no brussel sprouts!) and a few tears after each one of us rang home. Most argentines celebrate 'christmas' on christmas eve and so by early evening on the 25th the city seemed pretty much back to normal.
The sun set on 2006 whilst I watched a big free tango show and classical concert in the main avenue of BsAs and then I spent night disco dancing in a huge stylish open air club, that oddly, had a pond right in the middle of it (needless to say some of us left a lot wetter than we had arrived). We stayed til dawn and watched the first beautiful sunrise of 2007.
Once our hangovers had worn off we decided to have a few days relaxing on the beaches in Uruaguay. It turned out to be rather more difficult to get there than it should have been-a 4 hour journey became a 10hour epic! But we got there only to find it is right in the middle of high season and the hostels think it reasonable to double their prices!!! We stayed just long enough for me to turn most parts of my body pink and somehow get sand into every item of clothing I own.
Now back in BsAs we have managed to visit those art galleries, see the sights, take lots of pictures and generally enjoy the culture. and i love it. Anyone who spoke to me after coming back from Barcelona last year will know how cool i think it is there- well double that and you get close to how cool BsAs is! I'm intending to spend the rest of my time here in the city, perhaps do some more volunteer work or perhaps just more shopping and try to maintain my tan.

...and so

...the story continues.
We arrived in El Calefate after many many hours on the bus.
It seems the only reason that people come to El Calefate for is to look at the enormous glacier, say ahh, watch bits fall off, take some photos and then get the hell out of the town as it is superficial and hugely expensive. We did exactly that but I have to say that the glacier was absolutely amazing and worth the huge price you have to pay to get even a cheap look at it. I also made time for some more ice cream eating and some jewelery shopping (of course!).
Then to El Chalten for some serious hiking... I arrived in El Chalten alone (Rich was to arrive later that day, leaving me to organise (!!) a hostel for the night) and to step off the bus into a face full of freezing rain, surrounded by serious hikers all wearing more 'technical' clothing than is nessecery for a space trip to the moon; where as almost everything I was now wearing had been knitted and bought in Bolivia- i was wearing just about every possible colour/design/pattern of alpaca wool its possible to buy, wasn't a great start- even better that I had no map and no hostel reservation. So, being the resourceful person I am I followed the friendliest group of people to a hostel and checked in there.
El Chalten town is nothing to write about, in fact I could so far as to say it is possibly the uglyist most souless place i've ever been. I found out later that it had in fact only been built after a border dispute with Chile and was not even 20 years old, all the buildings resemble prefabricated garden sheds with corrugated metal roofs. There is no town centre and didn't even appear to be any locals, simply tourists and those people that sell things to tourists... Nevertheless, the views of the mountains once the fog and rain clear are supposed to be amazing- the only question now, when will the cloud lift. I spent the entire first day hanging out in the hostel which was reminiscent of a big comfy ski lodge, drinking hot chocolate and chatting. Rich arrived later and organised a walking map and the destination of tomorrows walk.
We spent the next five days walking through the national park of glaciers and it was very beautiful and peaceful but unfortunately we never had a day clear enough to see the top of the most famous mountain (Fitz Roy). Almost on many occasions we would reach the specified view point just as cloud and snow were closing in around us and have to retreat back down the mountain and most frustratingly on the one occasion we got closest to seeing the summit my digital camera took the opportunity to die! I was more than a little cross about this and it also means i've gone all old school and am now using 35mm film for the rest of my trip so you will have to use your imagination and look at my photos once i'm home.
I stayed in El Chalten until just before christmas before taking the bus all the way up to Buenos Aires- this meant 40 hours straight on the bus (for reasons I'm still unable to fathom Rich elected not to sit beside me!! obviously nothing to do with my irritating hyperactivity).

Thursday, January 04, 2007

merry christmas and happy new year!

hello there everyone.
i really hope you had as much fun as i did this year, did you? the truth is i'm still having fun, at present i'm on the beach in Uruguay so unfortunately i won't be giving a proper update just yet. but i thought i'd let you all know i'm still alive.
love ya, katie xx