Sunday, March 7, 2010

When my baby smiles at me I go to Rio...

When Tegan and Charlotte smile at eachother, we go to Rio!!! And we can tell you that our experience of Rio was very different from the glitzy images of sunshine and glamour you may have in your minds. For starters it was drizzling!! We wandered the shores of Ipanema beach, staring at the clouded Horizon. There was a little moment of sunlight in the morning and we lapped it up. Lazing on the sand, reading, frolicking in the atlantic ocean and trying to take pictures of people in filty g-bangers!! But in the arvo the rain started again!!!

After 2 days in Ipanema we packed our bags and moved to Lapa (the dirrty, underground, bohemian part of the city). During our stay in Brazil we´d had the warnings of BEM PERIGOSO (very dangerous) so many times, with nothing bad occuring, that we no longer really took them seriously. However, Lapa the trickster, really was BEM PERIGOSO!!!!!!

We trundle off the bus in Lapa, swinging our bags and begin our hunt for the hostel Samba. This man approaches us and asks us if we need directions. We tell him we´ll be fine. But he snatches the map out of Tegan´s hand and directs us to follow. He then asks someone where the hostel is. This time, we tell him again, we can find it ourselves. But he takes tegan´s ukelele and says its fine. So we arrive at the hostel, pretty much exactly in front of where we were standing and we go in to get a dorm. When old mate comes in and demands 20 Reais. We tell him no way. But he continues pestering us and the hostel people have to tell him to leave. Tegan and I go upstairs and wait 2 hours until we dare go out again, in case he is still waiting for us. The lady at the front desk tells us that they had to get the police to remove him, because he kept pestering them!!!! What a psycho!!!!

So with the psycho removed, we walk one block from the hostel and get some yummy dinner. Upon walking back, we see this gang of approx 14 children approaching us (we are literally 20m from our hostel at this stage). They surround us and demand some money. We tell them no. Then they start snatching at Tegan´s bag. Her first thought is ´there´s nothing in here really but a book and a water bottle´. But then she thinks ´wait i´m really enjoying this book´. And so she puts up a swell fight, scratching at the kids, even gathering skin under her nails. Meanwhile, a smaller group have started to move in on me, one grabs at my belt and i push him back, but he comes back for another swipe. Just when the battle is looking hopeless, a gun shot goes off. The kids start scrambling and this undercover cop appears!!!! Talk about luck!!

So with a psycho and a gang of kids after us, HOSTEL ARREST begins!!! Lucky the hostel are giving out a massive jug of free Caiparinhas (strong alcoholic beverage). After downing a few we sit on the street in the doorway of our hostel with all the jewellery makers and make friends with these two Columbians (stay tuned for more stories involving them).

Night 2 in Lapa, manages to be just as eventful. We meet this Austrian girl and have a few Caiparinhas with her. She has all these crazy tattoos and even shows us this massive tattoo of a butterfly that she has on her vagina!!!! CRAZY!!! Seeing as though Lapa is the Samba heaven in Rio we decide to go out with the Austrian and this crazy American guy (who walks around like a zombie to scare off Robbers hahaha). We are just about to walk into a club round the corner from our hostel when the Columbians appear. They try and teach us to Samba. It is hilarious. We just don´t have the inbuilt rhythms that they do!!! We leave the club and go up to our dorm and heaven forbids, one of The Columbians bursts into the room looking for Tegan and dives on our bed!!! Tegan takes him by the shirt and says álright times up buddy, you have to leave´!!! hahahaha....

So at the conclusion of our Rio adventure, we have not seen JC because his bloody head was in the clouds and we end up at the airport looking like Kath & Kim. How very unusual....

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Potosi, Sucre, Uyuni...

"Only ghosts of old wealth haunt Potosi & Sucre" - Eduardo Galeano p. 36 Open Veins of Latin America

Potosi yielded colonial charm. The buildings had defied the ravages of age. If anything they had become more aesthetically apealing. The strong faces of stone, brushed with earthern colours, where the wide jaws of windows jutted out above our heads. The subtle curls of smoke, like morning breath, flowing from chimneys. All this overlapping of concrete, suggested a desperate lack of space. Yet the wholeness of the sky and the impending mountains proved this image to be illusory.

To the ordinary traveller who sought cheap beer and glossy surfaces, it was a paradise, reminiscent of European glamour. However, if you looked through the reflections, a different reality bore its teeth. The glossy facades of colonialism were cracking like carelessly applied make-up. Walking the streets in the drowsiness of dawn we saw the stoic faces of Potosi, still breathing after centuries of Hispanic opression. Before the world had stirred from its slumber, this long string of faces, wrapped in coloured blankets, awaited charity. The cracked hands of bread and mate (tea). Huddling beneath the overhang of roofs to escape the rain. It was an image of incongruency. How could such poverty exist in this epicentre of colonial wealth? If you glanced at the Cerros, you understood...
The mines bore down on the city like a broken tooth smile. A maze of dust and machinery that swallowed all consciousness. It is these silver and tin extraction pits that are the cause of Indigenous poverty in Potosi. Whilst the Spanish and other colonial powers profited off the resourses, over 8 million Indigenous workers were condemned to early deaths.

Being in Potosi merely reinforced my awarness that the struggles of Indienous peoples worldwide are the same. Barrack Gold, Rio Tinto.... We gotta stop these fuckers before its too late!!!!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Leaving La Paz


´The still point of the turning world´- T.S. Elliot

We leave the violent lights of the Cerros (hills) of La Paz behind. Following the grafitied underpasses and vertical roads, that make movement in the city possible. In this night, swollen by the odd-shaped moon, I welcome the transcience of the travelling lifestyle. The state between permanence and nomadism. Where we stay in one place long enough to become acquainted with the daily rhythms, yet moving on before the strike of boredom ensues.

The shapes of country are blurred by the frosted windows of the bus. There is a sulky presence of distant lights, but not enough to reveal the true aesthetic of the landscape. We laugh at the narrow seats and the bad American movie, tainted further by high pitched dubbing. A lesson for choosing the cheapest transport option. Yet, this is not enough to dampen our spirits. We have the vibrant pages of books to captivate us and good company. We have eachother. Besides, this is the way to experience the real Bolivia. The Bolivia that is caught in a continum of contradictions. The coach is full of locals, their coloured blankets lighting up the drab interior of the bus. The intense smells of Pollo (chicken), Huevo (egg) and other delicacies, as street vendors siddle up the aisles, balancing their wares. We´ve already stopped 6 times and have not left La Paz yet. I think she is reluctant to let us go.

My head is filled with ideas and questions, inspired by the ramblings i´ve read in books. Literature has this amazing ability to enrich the experiences of places you visit. The mundane goings on take on heightened meanings. The delicate masks of colour and devloping world glamour, become transparent, so that in the eyes of beggars, street vendors, taxi drivers and merchants, an alternate vision is reflected. I remember Galeano´s dictums (the author of open veins of Latin America). The way the West has crushed all of the leftist attempts at government reform in this continent. I wonder whether Evo Morales will suffer the same fete? His name was like a brand, plastered on the paved surfaces of walls, houses and streetlamps. The repetition, made those three letters, E V O, stick in your memory like a splinter. His dark, blinking eyes, keeping watch over the city from the remains of election propaganda. There is a determinism in his face and i hope he has a prosperous reign, that defies the patterns of American intervention and neo-colonialism written in history.

La Paz has a beauty that reflects its name (The Peace). It is embedded in the colour of the streets. The earthern faces of mudbrick, laced with warm, smokey scents. The shiny basis of paved roads, where bodies congregate next to their incomes. Stacks of textiles stitched with the delicacy of heartache - the longing for lost land. The round breasts of fruit, splayed out on coloured mats, where the heads of Indigenous women poke-out, hats resting on their ebony braids. The patience of the taxi line. Faces silent, yet souls dancing. All life is legitimate here. The stained hands of the shoeshine boy, painting an equally important picture, as the waiter that serves you a coca mate (tea) or the señorita that exchanges your dollars. There is an unwritten system that maintains the biodiversity of human relations.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


Rambo.. what more can we say.

monito (monkey).

Fishing for Pirahñas

The ´Baaaaahhhhhbbeeeeee Anacondaaaaahh´.

Watching the sunset from our river camp.

So we left ´the peace´, after a night of chomping down Llama steaks and dancing the night away to an afro-bolivian band. We woke our sorry heads up and caught a bus to Rurrenanbaque. 15 hours of teeth clenching cliff sides and manouvering past trucks and other obstacles (Tegan didnt seem to notice though, as she was pashing the boy in the seat beside her). We arrived at 3am and put up our tent in the bus station car park. We awoke to motorbikes, sunday markets and tropical heat. We instantly fell in love with the relaxing and positive vibe of the town and spent the day doing just that.

The next day we set out for the Pampas (The savannah or wetlands), for three days of animal watching and exploring. We found ourselves in the back of a dusty ute with an American wearing a granny flanny, whose name was Ian, an awesome couple from Ireland and Spain, whose names were Angie and David and three mosquito hating Koreans, whose names have slipped my memory. As we later realised we were very fortunate in our fellow group members. After 3 hours in the jeep, we made it to the river and began our journey to the camp, another 3 hours up stream. We saw plenty of birds, river dolphins, alligators, Capaburras (MASSIVE guinea pigs), monkeys and even a sloth (mostly thanks to Tegan´s good eye for spotting animals). Arriving at the camp we were greeted by a well equipped army of mosquitoes, (we´re talking an army the size of China´s population), which sent the Koreans into an instant flurry (they were that bad we were even forced to spend our evenings hiding in our mosquitoe nets, although this definately didn´t deter our amazing time on the trip). We were also greeted by another tour group full of Bogan Aussies, who would soon become our mortal enemies. At the dinner table, we felt the full weight of their presence. They were not only ignorant and disrespectful, but had the worst manners. After listening to one of them yell ´Senorita, Mas (More)´at the top of his lungs, we decided we´d had enough. Our Irish friend Angie said ´The word please exists in Spanish too you know´. From there on in, it was open slather...........

We spent one afternoon trudging through the wetlands in our gumboots, and pushing our way through fields that resembled sugarcane.....we were on the search for anacondas!! The guides kept going on and on about how hard it is to find one and we would have to be really lucky! I (Tegan) found a baby one, the size of a worm, and a guide found another baby one....and then when we had almost given up hope one of the guides announced he could smell an anaconda....we thought he would start searching for it, but instead he waited for everyone to come running. When everyone was around the guide found the anaconda, without really looking (weird) and picked it up and put in in the middle of the circle. It was huge....3 metres... but very friendly and didnt mind us holding took Charlotte and I to lift it together because it was so heavy!

After leaving the anaconda and the guide (who had to be the last one there- weird again)...we were to find out by accident that it was all a FAKE and SCANDAL and a CONSPIRACY!!! The anaconda is a captive pet of the guides and they brought it in a bag and planted it in the reeds! what a crock of shit!!! The funniest thing is the macho bogan aussies we hated thought they were so tough picking up the wild anaconda!!! ahahahaha

The pampas was amazing...apart from harassing fake anacondas we went swimming with river dolphins (I couldn´t because there are pirahnas in the river and I had my peroid...and apparenty they would have attacked my vagina!!!!).....went fishing for pirahnas and cat fish for dinner (yum yum) and went on a night boat ride surrounded by the glowing eyes of the aligators!!! freaky!

We arrived back in Rurrenabarque, bathed our stinky and mosquito bitten bums and headed out to meet with our friends for one last farewell. We drank exotic cocktails, bolivian blaster was Charlottes pick, with every spirit imaginable and a touch of coke, what more could one want? Anyways we played some bad pool, on my part (grace) and some fooze ball with the man with an afro and when we were the last occupants of the pub, we ran home in the pouring rain. ´Mornin ladies, overt your eyes im dropping my pants´ said Ian our granny flanny american friend. Nothing suss we just found everything he said hilarious. We set off on our next adventure... into the jungle...

Another life threatening experience awaited us as we zoomed down the river dodging tree trunks and other debre that had been washed into the water after last nights storm. After three hours of laughing and getting ready to swim, we arrived on a deserted bank. The jungle was just as we had imagined and we fell in love in an instant.

We were introduced to our guide, who we realised was Bolivian Rambo. He was equipped with a massive machete and an even bigger gut, which was dressed in camaflouge. After flying through the jungle canopy on a swing made of vines, we spent the afternoon chasing 100 Pumbas (you know, Timone´s best friend), through the Amazon. Rambo would stalk real elegant, listening hard, then his eyes would light up and he´d start running, beckoning us to follow. Ahhh The hilarity. Not only did we see pumbas (or warthogs), we found tucans, macaws, monkeys, tarantulas, small jaguar type thing (ocelot), taipurs and butterflies. We also learnt lots of the medicinal properties of the plants which the indigenous people of the area (the Tacana) use.

That evening Rambo took us for a night walk. It was so tranquil listening to the constant humming of the jungle in the blackness. UNTIL, Rambo looking for animals, shook this rather large vine. Looking up i saw this monkey shape falling like a splat of paint, straight for Grace´s head. Next thing You know Grace is diving off into the bushes, commando style, with a mazzive shriek escaping her lips. We could not stop laughing!!! Rambo included! Turns out it was a rat!!!!! This little incident put us into hysterical moods and we spent the rest of the night carrying on like giggly school girls on camp.

We also made some sick-arse jewellery out of a collection of seeds we found in the jungle!! way cool! Anyway... heading back to the Peace (La PAz) this evening, so we will have some more stories for you all soon!!!!!!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Copacabana & Isla del Sol

So we have left the lovely Peru behind and have walsed into the depths of Bolivia. Our first stop was Copacabana, on the glistening shores of Lago Titicaca. And boy wasn´t that a blast!

We celebrated Tegan´s 25th bday in style, following the shoreline out of town, with a gang of Perros (dogs) in hot pursuit. For Grace and I, (who grew up on Lake Macquarie), the Lake flooded us with a sea of childhood memories, which left us feeling all dreamy. Then, when we were isolated enough, we did just what Chas Jagger expects from us vixens and got our tits out for titicaca (sorry ladies and gentleman, the photo will not appear here for your voyeuristic pleasure).

After a lunch of Trucha and Papas fritas (its sounds exotic but its really just fish n´chips), we hit the water with a bottle of bicardi and a papaya mixer. Our Vehicle: A Blue Swan paddle boat. One of those ones you motor by moving your legs really quick. Well old swanny wasn´t the most agile mover, espcially on the turns. I think the lady, who hired us the boat had a few quiet chuckles as she watched us try and reverse the swan back into place beside the jetty.

That evening we sat upon the balcony of our hostel with our friends, Samuel & Kevin (who are swiss french) and Camilo (who is Argentinian). In true celebration of Tegan´s birth, we let some firecrackers rip or ´Burn the sky´as Camilo described it. You should have seen Camilo commando roll as Tegan let off a sneaky firework. I think he flew higher then Grace´s head.

Enjoying the True splendor of Lago Titicaca, we made the journey to Isla del Sol. Where we found ourselves on a beach full to the brim with folk singing Argentinians, who practically used our tent as their firewood. We sat huddled in our tent scared shitless, as we listened to one particularly crazy one (who had taken some hallucinagen), go absolutely mental!!!

Anyway, apart from Argentinians, Isla del sol offered us a few days of quiet solitude. We explored the north of the island on foot, wading through the farmland and fanging down the terraces. We Laughed at the hairy donkeys, pigs and cows that managed to waddle down onto the beaches and explored the Inca ruins. We even joined the Argentinians in their folk singing antics on one occassion. Them playing nationalistic singalongs in Spanish, we playing some aussie originals and then combining for some rock´n roll classics. ´Hey Hey mumma said the way you move gonna make you sweat gonna make you groove´............
Ahhhhhhhh life......



Okay so we meet the funniest people all the I thought I´d give you a couple of examples-

We were having breakfast in a cafe when we noticed a bald, barefooted crazy guy rambling loudly to himself on the street. Next thing we know he´s in the cafe blaring out rubbish. He is one of those really annoying North Americans with a really strong accent! So, he´s telling jokes and claiming to be an inmate (on morning leave) in the gaol in La Paz, and going on about how he is really good friends with Rusty (famous author- Brit guy who wrote ´Marching Powder´from the inside of the gaol), and asking for money (coz he doenst get any money in gaol) and offering us a tour of the gaol. We didn´t believe a word he said....he was one of those really untrustworthy characters!!! So we pointed out some perfect table diving opportunities for him and sent him on his way!

We were later to find out that this man is the famous ´crack-head mike´, who has been out of gaol for 6 years and spends his time tricking tourists into giving him money for fake gaol tours! hahahaha

2) The Mute French Hippy
We met this guy out at a reggae bar. He sat at our table for about an hour and didnt say a word. He wouldn´t answer any of our questions and just starred blankly.

The next time I saw him he stood outside the internet cafe I was in and starred at me for about 15 minutes...was really creepy!

Then, we saw him on the street! drunk as hell and I think off his face on cocaine. And he talks!!! ALOT....he is sooooooo annoying!! His first statement was "So now you know who am I because I´m talking to you. I didn´t say anything to you the other night because I didn´t want to talk" (profound). His next rant went- "I didn´t want to do the whole boy wants girl, girl wants boy, boy wants drinks and drugs, girl wants drinks and drugs....boys wants blah blah, girl wants blah blah" and he just continued to go on with the meaning of life in this style for a good 10 minutes....
Then we asked what he was doing today (big mistake) and he said "walking and working and walking and working and walking and working and walking and working"...... and he went on repeating these two words for a few minutes! Then Charlotte asked him to fix her necklace....and so we were stuck talking to him for eternity while he took forever to fix the necklace in his drunken state! He argued with me for ages about the fact that you shouldn´t have to pay any money to do volunteer work....but his argument was the repitition of one line!!! and he didnt listen to a word I said about grassroots projects needing small donations in return for food and accomodation. ahhhhhh!!!!!! And he just went on and on and on with some hippy bullshit!!! ahhhh We much prefered him as the mute!
He did give me a very beautiful ring he made though.......

Final funny experience from yesterday was going to a restaurant where there was a traditional music-dance performance on...
Firstly the performance was so wierd and absurd and not traditianal at all, it was one of those crap tourist attractions! They wavered the $11 cover charge when we said we didnt have it, so we bought a drink. Next thing we know the dancers are pulling people out of the crowd to dance. Charlotte being one of them!! Grace and I spent the next 10 minutes in hysterics watching the uncoordinated tourist try to dance. (Charlotte wasn´t one of these tourists). Then in the middle of the show they realised we werent buying any more they kicked us out!!! ahhh haaa

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Machu Picchu

In The Motorcycle Diaries, Ernesto ´Che´Guevara writes:

´High above the city another Cuzco can be seen, displaying
the destroyed fortress: a Cuzco with coloured tile roofs,
its gentle uniformity interrupted by the Cuppola of a
Baroque Church, and as the city falls away, it shows
us only its narrow streets and its native inhabitants
dressed in typical costume, all the local colours.
This Cuzco invites you to be a hesitant tourist,
to pass over things superficially & to relax into
the beauty beneath a leaden winter sky´(p. 104).

I believe this is an incredibly apt and evocative description of the city we grew to love so much. Standing upon the brilliant shoulder of the hill, we saw this face of Cuzco. The crumbling bodies of Christ. Vestiges of colonisation, sprouting out of the paved streets: the stolen limbs of Saksaiwayman. We stood in subtle confusion. Disgraced by the desecration of cultural artefacts, yet mesmerised by the elegance of what lay below us.

We took the long, cheap route to Machu Picchu, on a bus which wound its way through the precarious faces of cliffs. I think all our hearts were in our mouths, as the mist grew thicker and we crossed the torrents of rivers and waterfalls. The large crack on the windscreen an imminent sign. Alas, we arrived unscathed, with any previous fears of heights well and truly gone.

You cannot fathom the magnificence of Machu Picchu without having seen it. Even then, it´s hard to imagine its existence, because it has such an dreamy quality. We arrived in the paleness of daybreak. Rebelling against the usual flow of human traffic, we walked down the terraces and found an isolated pocket of ruins to explore. There, on the moist grass, we watched the morning mist dissipate and our surroundings become tangible. We were encased by the badly groomed heads of mountains. Their immensity brushing us with feelings of mortality. Through the remaining strings of mist, the broken pelvis of the river whispered far below. It paused for a moment, all pensieve and stuff, before getting lost in the matted knots of jungle.

We entered the many rooms, not only marvelling at the endurance of the architecture, but how the Incas managed to construct such a work atop a mountain, surrounded by impenetrable jungle. We fathomed the different vibes elicited by the rooms, some warm, some sombre & we imagined all the people who had walked here before us. The stories that the walls and the grass and the birds knew of. The utterings of history played out in this place.

Looking out over Wayman Picchu (the mountain pictured in all the famous photographs), we witnessed many tourists posing in various, awesome and tacky poses. After laughing for a while, we decided to take our own tacky tourist shots. Even pedro (my toy llama) posed for the occasion. Then, we wound our way up to the terraces and hung out with the llamas. Bellies aching with laughter as we tried to replicate their rotten toothed, wok-eyed grins.

Ahhhhhhhh what a day hey! On a final note, i´ll just say that it has been amazing reading literature such as ´The Motorcyle Diaries´, Pablo Neruda´s ´The Heights of Machu Picchu´and Isabel Allende´s Ínis of My Soul´. These writings have helped to colour our experiences of the places we have visited, because they speak so honestly and creatively about the history & the culture, and encourage our imaginations to fill in the other hidden details.