volcanos, rafting and more

Reporting from:   Pucon, Chile.

Went to Argentina last weekend.  Crossing the Andes was simply
gorgeous.

At the border in Argentina, the border people that dealt with our
passports for the Argentinian side weren’t wearing uniforms.  One guy
just was wearing a Lacoste polo shirt.

The Argentinians have a lot of Italian influence, which was clear when
we passed a truck in our bus and the truck driver made a very Italian
gesture back at us.

A little while after Argentinian immigration, we got stopped for a police check.  The only person on the whole bus who got bothered at all was Pepe, the Mexican, whose bag they looked in.  And found nothing.

Unfortunately for me, the major reason that people go to Mendoza, Argentina is for cheap steak and good wine and since I never
partake of either, the experience of such was not mine to have.
Still, I hung out with this Mexican guy and he was nice, plus, we
spoke in Spanish the whole time, so it was a good chance for
immersion

We ended up buying tickets to an event that was supposed to be a big
deal.  In the end, it turned out to really be mostly for late teens,
inside of a park with a bunch of bars from the city and a crappy band
or two.  Before we went, the rest of the group (2 Swiss, 2 Germans and
said Mexican) went off to dinner while I stayed back.  From what I
heard, we were supposed to be meeting at 11:30 PM, a time which came
and went.  So after midnight, I asked the guys at the hostel that we
were staying at where I needed to go to get to the concert.  They said
it was at this park which was 2 kilometers away.  I said so like 20-30
minutes walking?  One agreed, another said that walking was a bad idea
and everyone else agreed and said I should take a taxi.  I wasn’t sure
if this meant that the area was dangerous or if it was just a bad
walk.  So, to be safe, I took out most of the stuff from my wallet and
considered where to hide it.  At first, my sock, but that wasn’t
comfortable, so instead I put it in the tiny pocket in the right side
of my jeans, which wasn’t so discreet, but in the underwear was no
better than the sock.  And I took the chip out of my camera and put it
in my shirt pocket.

And off I went.  At first, I was slightly nervous, but after a while
of literally walking in the street and feeling like it was pretty
comparable to the neighborhood that I live in in Santiago, I lost the
fear.  I got to the park and asked someone where Club Hipico, where
the party was supposed to be, was.  He said, in Spanish, that it was
three blocks more, then a right, then a left, then a right.  Sounded
fairly close.  It wasn’t.  So I walked through the park, at night,
with no one around.  This seemed more dangerous, until I arrived
amongst a bunch of families playing soccer and the like.  I asked
someone else where Club Hipico was, but got sent off to the wrong
direction, which became evident when the next person told me to go
back where I was.

The people dissipated and I was alone again in the park.  While walking, there was a car that I was wary of.  The woman inside locked her door as I walked past.  This amused me greatly.

The last person I asked, another guard for another sort of country club like place in the park, gave a simple direction in Spanish: “Up.”  And after walking up a big hill, I was finally there, 50+ minutes after leaving the hostel.

At this point, I figured the other people were already in the party,
so I saw fit to try to cut the line as best as possible to get in.
While trying to do so, I saw that the others were in fact already in
line, so I stayed there.

And that’s the minimal excitement of Mendoza.

————–

This weekend, I am in Pucon, which is in the south of Chile.  We
arrived and went whitewater rafting thereafter.  There were two
choices.  Level 3 or level 4+/5.  For the record, if you do level 6,
you’re lucky if you don’t die as it’s considered unnavigable.  We
chose 4+/5, because according to those with more experience, it’s
boring at the lower levels.  So at first, I was nervous, as I’d never
been on such a thing before.  In Thailand, I went on wooden thingies
down the river, but it wasn’t a paddling situation for the passengers.
But really, in the end, it felt pretty safe.  No one fell in the
water because of anything other than the guides goofing off in that
guides goofing off sort of way.

The volcano was much more interesting.  All of us felt fairly
confident, because according to Wikitravel and other places
“Snowcapped Villarrica looms majestically over Pucón at 2,840 meters
(9318 feet) above sea level. Climbing to the top is non-technical and,
on clear days, easy.”  Our biggest concern (the eight of us, 2
Italians, 1 Swiss, 1 French, 4 Americans) was picking the travel
agency that was the best deal for the most qualified with the best
guarantees if there were weather problems.

After we decided on one, we got our gear ready the night before and
got picked up at 7 AM the next morning.  45 minute drive to where the
hike was going to begin.  5 hours up, 2 hours down they said.  Down,
was sledding down the ice/snow.  I was wearing long underwear, which
turned out to be a pointless thing to do, and I took it off on our
first break, which was an hour or more into the trip.  I was pretty
happy with the fact that I was keeping up with the Swiss guy, Marius,
who goes on 10K runs.  There were other people on the trip with us,
and apparently a few of them gave up almost immediately.  Later on,
one of the guides said that only 6/10 make it to the top.  We went
further, with the dirt changing to snow and ice as we got up further.
I had a water bottle in my jeans pocket as was wearing my synthetic
black shirt.  It wasn’t exactly easy, but people get saying that it
was going to get harder.  At about halfway up, they told us that we
needed to start using our ice picks to help us along the way.  So
holding the long part, we would dig the ice pick in, like a walking
stick.

I was in the middle of our group at this point.  A member of our party ended up experiencing altitude sickness.  He went down the mountain.  We kept going.

I wasn’t feeling great as we furthered on.  Your feet keep slipping,
because the snow is getting softer as it gets further in the day.  And
not too far in, we lost all covering from the sun.  And I, of course,
did not bring a cap, but wished that I had.

On a break, I was keeping myself together sort of OK, justifying that
it was more the sun than the altitude or the climb.  A guy offered us
ibuprofen, which I gladly took.  Then, Alexa mentioned vomiting, which
tends to make me want to comply with an order that wasn’t given.  I’m
sure the nauseousness was there anyway, but that didn’t help.  So I
ended up throwing up a little.  And Alexa said that it wasn’t going to
get any easier and asked if I wanted to stop.  No, I didn’t.

We kept going.  I kept asking how much further it was.  It was an hour
or so more and I felt like I could push myself.  Next break, chowed
down an apple and then proceeded to throw a bunch of it up.  On the
next part of the climb, I had a piece of baguette and chewed on it as
I kept climbing.  When I started wretching as we were walking, the
guide in front asked me if I was sure I wanted to continue.  I said
yes.  The day before, I had sang a sea chantey while we were rafting.
Susan asked me while we were walking, with about 20-30 minutes left if
I could sing it.  So I got through the verse and the chorus while
barely being able to breathe at the end.  At this point, I was in the
absolute back, with only a guide behind me.

Once we could see people sledding down the hill, I said to everyone
that I really was going to make it.  They agreed, and said that they
would drag me if they had to, but then realized that there was no
chance they would do that.

And there we were, at the top.  From our vantage point (and perhaps in
general) we really couldn’t see into the volcano, but we were too
tired to be really that bothered by it.  The two points they made to me about urination were:  1)  Be careful of the wind.  (Of which this is even more important at the cusp of the mountain.  2)  If your urine isn’t clear, you’re not drinking enough water.  Well, I was sipping every few steps and my wayward urine was as bright a yellow as the Sun Baby in Teletubbies.

So then, we put on all sorts of clothes to be ready to slide down.
Jacket, pants, cover for over the pants, cover for between the pants
and the boots, and the sled itself, which was buckled in on the pants cover.  And a helmet.

And down we went.  After going down a few of the sections, I thought
that I could probably adjust my speed enough to be able to film with
my camera while I was going.  I was ready to, but the next one seemed
a bit steeper/faster, so I decided not to do it at that one.  On the
way down, you use your ice pick as a paddle to make yourself go
faster, or your feet to slow down (and worst-to-worst, your whole
body).  On this big section, I ended up losing control of my slide and
ended up focusing more on keeping my sunglasses than the ice pick.
The ice pick stayed behind as I finally rolled myself over to stop
myself.  The guide behind me got the ice pick for me on his way down.

On the next section, I went to get my camera and tried to video.
Somehow, the video got screwed up.  Probably just user error, but
still, it upsets me.  I have a bunch of good pictures in general, so I
guess I’ll get over it someday.

Eventually, the snow ended and it was a short walk back to the bus.

That night (last night), we went to the hot springs, which to me, was
fairly boring and not worth the price for less than an hour.  Oh well,
I’m part of a group.  But the other two activities were definitely worth it, even for a cheapie like myself.  Now, they are off biking, and I am here, content to not have to be biking right now.

————-

I finally bought roniweiss.com.  It currently just brings you to my
Angelfire website.

I am still participating in “Don’t Worry About The Government”, a US
politics podcast produced by Ethan Cheng.  Didn’t do it last week, but
have been in all of the others since I’ve started.  I still want to
start my own podcast and I’ve been revving myself up to do more
blogging, but we’ll see.  And DWATG is still on iTunes and
dontworry.tv.  It’s just an MP3 that you download that you can listen
to on your computer or personal music player.
———-
Additional tidbits:

F., another student, explained some of his routines.  “I wake
up at 7:30.  I go to work.”  And as for the evening?  “I give candies
to children.”

Roni:  Wait, what?
F.:  Oh, sorry.  I give candies to childrens.
Roni:  No, no. That’s not the problem.  What are you saying?
F. takes a deep breath.
F.:  My neighbor’s children.  I give them candy.

Now, at this point, I’m wholly confused.  F. is a bit of a
weird guy, so I could see him thinking this is a nice, normal thing to
do.  Or perhaps it’s just cultural.

F.:  My neighbor says that the children will come to my house.

And finally, it dawns on me.  He’s talking about Halloween.  I explain
that this verb tense is used for general things and that him giving
candy to children is not a regular event.  I ask him if this would be
any more correct in Spanish.  Since he now understands, he laughs and
shakes his head.

——-

Two sad stories:

The other day, while I was walking, there was a fight on the metro
stairs.  One older, seemingly drunk and homeless guy was kicking a
younger guy and there was blood on the stairs.  A security guy seemed
to be trying to get the kicker to stop, but the kicker then walked
away.  A few steps past this, I saw a guy laying in the middle of the
street, on his back.  A bunch of people were tending to him, and the
cops showed up.  The whole time I was there, the guy never moved.  I’m
thinking he was alive, but had a neck injury.  Ah, and through this,
by chance, Daniel Powter’s “Bad Day” was playing on my iPod.

I hung out with the cop, Yury.  She offered to get me a ride back in a
cop car, but apparently a kid got shot in the head, so her friend was
busy.

————
Back to normal.

A few weeks ago, I got a new class that was supposed to consist of three people.  First class, a woman shows up.
Second class, a man shows up and says that he really needs to review
things like the alphabet.  Third class, the woman again.  Fourth
class, the woman, then the man arrives late.  He seems lost.  I try to
go back and explain what we’re doing.  He stands up, shakes my hand,
says “Sorry,” walks out and then apparently tells the company that he
is not interested in taking English lessons.  No one has offered a
reasonable explanation for all of this.  I will not take the blame
(which no one is explictly assigning), as we did well one-on-one.

C. (a student, to F., whose wife is preggers):  Is your
daughter in your wife’s belly?

It was interesting to me when I passed a church, with all these people
inside for a wedding and the maids outside with the dogs.

P.’s mother called at the end of class one day and in English he
said “I can’t speak Spanish in my English class.”  He kept pushing
this, which I assume she didn’t understand, then finally started
speaking in Spanish.

Two classes in a row ended in a strange way.  In one, P. said
“drunk her” and I had to correct him that he meant “get her drunk.”
In the next, A., the woman who says that I remind her of her
German ex-boyfriend, said that people have said that Argentina will
someday take over Peru, so I am lucky to have visited it while it
still exists.

On the streets of Santiago, they were selling American license plates.
In Pucon, we saw a Florida license plate.

P., the student that brings up prostitutes in every class:

“Argentinians are the cowardliest people in the world.
Bolivia isn’t a country.  [but] It’s a nice place [to visit].”

And, if you’ve stayed this long, here are my tentative South America
travel plans:  North of Chile, to the Atacama Desert, to the Salt
Flats of Bolivia, Machu Picchu, Rio for Carnival, Colombia, Panama,
then to the States.

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