Buenos Aires

This is waaaaay late, but a month-or-so ago I took a little last-minute trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina to do my last border-cross to renew my travel visa.

I decided not to take my digital camera, and instead brought along my trusty, old Canon AE-1 35mm film camera. I only shot four rolls while there, and two of them happened to be black and white film, which I haven’t been able to develop yet. I was holding out to get that done, but I’ve wasted enough time already, so I’m just posting shots from the two color rolls that I shot.

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I stayed at a nice hostel called Eco Pampa in the Palermo neighborhood – which is the hip neighborhood with expensive restaurants and clothing shops. It was a cool place though, and had plenty fun things to offer, and good food to eat.

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This restaurant, La Esquina de Las Flores, was excellent! Completely vegetarian, and everything is home-made and delicious. Even though people will tell you that you need to have the steak in Argentina, I highly recommend going here.

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(inside the restaurant)

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There’s some pretty great street art and murals around Palermo too.

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I rented a scooter from this place around the corner a couple of times because it was cheap, and fun! Also, the dude working there was a Chileno guy, so we bonded over that. The public transit in Buenos Aires is pretty great – between the metro and buses you can get around pretty much anywhere, but it’s fun to be able to drive through the streets and explore on your own.

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The city seemed to be pretty bike-friendly too. Lots of bike lanes, and all sorts of people – young, and old – riding around on bikes.

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I really dug the paint and designs on the public buses, which looked like they were designed in the seventies.

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(smoking causes cancer)

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I visited the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (National Museum of Fine Arts), which had a great contemporary photo exhibit, and an awesome collection of Francisco De Goya drawings. It was free too!

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Caught this dude crooked grinding!

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There were tons of book stores on the main street downtown, and something told me that looking at a photo of a store-front of a book store in twenty years is going to have a novelty quality.

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Some strategically placed political graffiti.

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Another statue.

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El Obelisco de Buenos Aires – a giant statue in the heart of the city built in 1936 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the founding of Buenos Aires.

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Plaza de Mayo.

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A tile mural in the subway.

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The ocean on the other side of South America (the Atlantic, duh)!

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Flying over the Andes Mountains on the way home.

I really enjoyed the visit, and I thought Buenos Aires was a really cool city – it reminded me a lot of New York City actually. I’m bummed Lindsay didn’t get to experience it, because she really wanted to go as well, but hopefully we’ll both be back sometime.

San Pedro De Atacama

A couple of weeks ago we took a long weekend trip to San Pedro De Atacama, a desert town in the North known for its beautiful and bizarre landscapes, clear night skies, and for being in the most arid desert in the world.

On a Thursday night we were talking and realized that Lindsay would be leaving really soon, and we had still not explored the North or South of Chile much. So we decided we would check out San Pedro, which was recommended to us by friends, and we booked a flight to Calama (just an hour and a half shuttle ride away from San Pedro) for the following day.

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The town is pretty small, and the streets are filled with tourists popping in and out of the many tour agencies, restaurants and gift shops.

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The Church in the plaza is beautiful, and very old.

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We spotted this meter that gauged the level of intensity of the sun, and listed precautions you should take if you have light or dark skin. You can see here the current level was at “extreme”.

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They have a very nice little museum that walks you through the history of the land and people in and around San Pedro.

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We ate at some very good restaurants while we were there that had a very good selection of vegetarian dishes, namely La Estaka, La Estrella Negra, and Casa de Piedra Atacameña.

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We stayed at two different hostals because it’s all we could book that was available. This was at Hostal Rural — a very interestingly decorated party hostal that was thankfully pretty quite and mellow.

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The night sky was amazingly bright and clear. We took a stargazing tour that brought us to the roof of an astronomy building where a guide explained some of the constellations and some science behind the stars. He also had a couple of enormous telescopes that we could look through.

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The first tour we took was a moto-tour. A tour through the desert on ATVs. It was really great because it ended up being just us, one other tourist from California, and the tour guide.

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We rode around for about three hours or so and didn’t see anyone else the whole time.

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Lindsay and I shared our ATV, so we switched off between riding on the front and back.

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Every now-and-then we would stop for a break to take in the landscape and grab a drink of water — it was very hot, and very dry.

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The landscapes seemed to get more bizarre the further we went. We were riding through the desert to an area that was one of the largest salt flats in the world. All of the salt deposits that covered the ground look just like snow, and the backdrop of sand dunes and desert rocks seemed like such a weird combination.

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A salt crystal, close-up.

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We rode out to a spot that used to be some sort of mine, and found some traces of human life — like this big old bus.

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I had never ridden on an ATV before, so I was really have a blast!

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The scenery really started to remind me of how mars was depicted in old sci-fi movies, or the Twilight Zone.

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The dirt and sand that was being kicked up into the air by our vehicles as we plowed through the desert covered us from head-to-foot by the end of the tour.

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We finished off the tour by watching the sunset over the salty desert.

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This is what usually happens when we have someone take our photo with a manual focus film camera.

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The next day we woke up really early to start a tour at 4:30 AM. We got on a bus and drove for about an hour or so to check out some geysers called “Geiser del Tatio”.

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We didn’t realize that they were pretty high up in altitude though, and it was actually very cold. We were not prepared.

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There was also a hot spring there that you could swim in, so I gave it a try.

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It was really warm compared to the freezing, morning mountain air, but it wasn’t exactly “hot”. I waded around in the water for a while, trying to find spots that were particularly hot.

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The steam that it created was a really cool sight.

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A view of the steam shooting up into the air from the many geysers, from a distance.

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On the way back we stopped at a little mountain oasis village to stretch our legs, use the bathroom, and get a snack.

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An animal skull and cross on top of one of the roofs.

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The houses were really short.

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There was a little church on top of a hill that overlooked the town.

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I stopped for an empanada.

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We saw some flamingos on our way back to San Pedro.

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After getting back to San Pedro, eating some food, and taking a nap, we headed out on another tour. This one took us to Laguna Cejar, Laguna Piedra, and to the salt flats.

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The salt from the lake would dry on your skin and clothes, making them stiff and crunchy.

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This is Laguna Piedra (rocky lake), a very salt-dense lake that makes you float on top of the water.

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I think it was one of the weirdest things we’ve experienced, and we couldn’t help but laugh pretty much the whole time. It was a lot of fun though, and I highly recommend it.

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This is Laguna Cejar (“the floating lake”). The lumpy salt mounds that surround it crunch a little beneath your feet as you walk through them, and it feels sort of like walking through densely packed snow.

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We got on our tour bus again and drove out to a pair of swimming holes to take some photos and walk around.

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We finished our tour out in the middle of the salt flats, surrounded by mountains that were being covered in the warm light of the setting sun.

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We couldn’t get over how weird it was to walk around in the snow-like salt-covered desert.

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As the sun began to set over the horizon our tour group enjoyed some snacks, juice, and pisco sour, and talked about where they were from and what tours they had gone on.

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The final day we rented some bikes in town and rode out to Valle de la Luna (“Valley of the Moon”).

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On our way out of town a dog, whom we started calling “Sal” (salt), followed us. He ran alongside us as we rode, and stopped to rest with us when we needed a break. We were worried about him because it was so hot out, and we ended up riding for about 20km, but we made sure to give him water whenever we stopped. He turned out to be a very nice friend.

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The landscapes we saw there were even more mars-like, and really quite amazing.

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The scenery was overwhelming expansive, and we really felt very tiny in comparison to giant dunes and rocks that surrounded us.

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Lindsay rests in a natural chair before we head off to explore some caverns.

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Sal led the way.

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The caverns offered a much appreciated cold and shady shelter, so we took advantage of it.

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We rode back into town, Sal still trotting by our side, but clearly tired, thirsty, and hungry. When we got back the first the we did was stop at a tienda and pick up some dog food so we could feed Sal. We gave him his food and some more water, and then as he was preoccupied with eating we quietly left to return out bikes. We were afraid that he would continue to follow us and make it even harder to leave when the time came.

We had a really great time in San Pedro, and definitely recommend visiting if you’re in Chile, but I’m glad we made it a short stay. We were there for four days, which seemed to be the perfect amount of time to thoroughly explore the town as well as go on a good amount of tours.

Valparaiso — Osvaldo Rodríguez

This song by Osvaldo Rodríguez is a beautiful description of the city of Valparaiso.

The lyrics:

Yo no he sabido de su historia,
un día nací allí, sencillamente.
El viejo puerto vigiló mi infancia
con rostro de fría indiferencia.
Porque no nací pobre y siempre tuve
un miedo inconcebible a la pobreza.

Yo les quiero contar lo que he observado
para que lo vayamos conociendo.
El habitante encadenó las calles
la lluvia destiñó las escaleras
y un manto de tristeza fue cubriendo
los cerros con sus calles y sus niños.

Y vino el temporal y la llovizna
con su carga de arena y desperdicio.
Por ahí paso la muerte tantas veces
la muerte que enlutó a Valparaíso
y una vez más el viento como siempre
limpió la cara de este puerto herido.

Pero este puerto amarra como el hambre,
no se puede vivir sin conocerlo,
no se puede mirar sin que nos falte,
la brea, el viento sur, los volantines,
el pescador de jaibas que entristece
nuestro paisaje de la costanera.

Yo no he sabido nunca de su historia…

Which in English, roughly translates to:

I have not known of its history,
one day I was simply born there.
The old harbor watched over my childhood
with a cold indifferent face.
Because I was not born poor and always had
an inconceivable fear of poverty.

I want to tell them what I have observed
so you leave knowing.
Dwellers chained off the streets
Rain washed out the stairs
and a blanket of sadness was covering
the hills, with their streets and children.

Then came the storm and drizzle
with its load of sand and waste.
For death there went by that place so many times.
Deaths that left Valparaiso in mourning.
and once again the wind, as always,
cleaned the face of the port of its pain.

But this port ties you down like hunger,
you can not live without knowing it,
You can not abandon it without missing
the tar, the southern wind, kites,
the saddened crab fisherman,
our coastal scenery.

I have never known of its history …

Cerro Abajo 2014

This past Sunday was the 2014 Cerro Abajo race – an annual downhill race that takes place in the hills of Valparaiso, put on by Red Bull (read more about it here). We had been looking forward to seeing it since we got here last June, having seen videos of it before, but seeing it in person was even cooler than we thought.

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The day started out at about 11 AM with a BMX demo at Plaza Aníbal Pinto, where the finish line of the race was located.

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It looks like this guy was just flung into the air and is about to crash to his death, but he is actually doing a backflip tailwhip, and he did land it.

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Some racers relaxing at the bottom of the hill before the race.

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After the demo ended we made our way up the hill to get to the starting line for the beginning of the race, and got a chance to check out some of the obstacles.

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They used some shipping containers from the port (which there are plenty of) to create this obstacle.

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A boy buying a completo (giant hot dog loaded with toppings including guacamole and mayonnaise) through one of the gates near the starting line.

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The starting line was packed with people, who were crammed shoulder-to-shoulder behind of the fences blocking off the racing area, or perched up on top of a roof to get a good view.

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After waiting a while the first racer burst from the start line, unannounced, and the crowd broke out into a roar of cheers.

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I spotted a Chicago Deers fan amongst the crowd.

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I secured a prime spot below the starting line while waiting for the next round of racers to come through, but the event staff kicked out all of the media from within the gates, so I had to move before I got any shots from here.

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Some people had some prime views from the roofs and back yards of their homes that lined the race track.

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I found a spot hanging over one of the fences that was rigged to the side of the stairs, which was already occupied by three or four other people, threatening to collapse.

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Some of the crowd were actually getting in the racers faces, shouting at them to go faster, and stronger.

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I’ve walked up and down these wooden steps before, and was worried they wouldn’t hold up with just me on them, so I was pretty shocked to see the racers flying down them without a care in the world.

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A packed crowd waiting for racers to hit this wall ride, which was in repair at the moment.

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This spot in the race had the bikers jumping from one street to another, over a crowd of people!

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Another crowd waiting for another wave of racers.

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Luckily I ran into a friend who had an extra media pass that he gave me before the start of the race, so I was able to get inside the gates to shoot. With some smooth talking I was able to secure a pass that gave me access to all of the Canon press pits, and access to this view from one of the sponsor areas.

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Here are those shipping crates in action!

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At the bottom of the hill a pack of racers wait to be taken back up to the starting line at the top.

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Some of the crowds were dangerously crowded, and the threat of someone getting trampled seemed to be very real at times.

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Lindsay and I found a good seat to wait at the finish line for more racers to come through.

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Another Chicago Deers fan spotted in a large crowd.

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A racer blast through the air to on his way to the finish line.

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The event was really awesome, a lot of fun, and I highly recommend that if you are in Chile during next year’s race, you make it into Valparaiso to see it.

Here is a video recap from Red Bull: