Sunday, October 30, 2011 in Argentina!

At the beginning of our time in Argentina I (Chris) promised to report on two things:

1) Music
2) Soccer

You may have noticed that I haven't mentioned the music much...and there is a reason for this. Don't get me wrong, the music in Arg is great. So many opportunities to see international artists on the cheap in big stadiums, great jazz and a vibing rock scene. We have been to a few gigs here or there, but we just haven't been that pumped to dig right into it...yet. This has been due to the fact that we are busy doing so many music things at the school, but also because there is a major obstacle in the way for me! And, it starts with F.............Futbol.

It's not only the culturally ingrained madness that comes with the sport that surrounds us (such as 'las inchas' (crazy fans) that pack the streets and let off firecrackers right next to our apartment block every weekend), but also the fact that for the first time in my life I am living only a few hours West of Europe. This means that yesterday, for example, (if I wanted too *clears throat*) I could have woken up and watched live European football from 8am to 6pm, uninterrupted. Ok, that's exactly what I did. I have never had that opportunity before and it was fun! Mika and I needed a day of nothing-ness yesterday, so we blobbed in front of the TV, planned some travel, enjoyed being nerds and had the football on in the background.

Also, I am loving playing football again! Since giving it away a few years ago to focus on music stuff, I have been playing every weekend and often during the week also and am loving it. Our weekend team is playing great and we have won our last 6 games convincingly. I've chucked in a couple of photos 'de la cancha para Uds. ver'. You will also notice some evidence of the TV watching antics in Mikaela's blog below.

Also, my brother Pete sent me a link of a news program in Australia that profiled the football hooliganism in Quilmes, Argentina. In my opinion it is quite inaccurate in a number of ways, but it was kind of bizarre to see an Australian show talking about Quilmes! Click here if you wanna watch: Football hooliganism in Quilmes
P.S. I am loving learning Spanish at the moment...practicing lots at the expense uni study. I've got to finish two essays by mid-Nov for my masters. Nearly one year done which is cool!



Sunday, October 23, 2011

lazy mornings, lunch with friends and 7 more weeks to go!

Sitting here Sunday morning next to Chris after sleeping-in till 9:30, feeling quite groggy. Why is it that when you sleep in you don't wake up refreshed??- I wake up feeling blobby.
But I am welcomed by the space Chris makes in the morning (he wakes up like a light bulb every morning at 7 or 8am).
His space consists of an open laptop with live football updates, an empty cereal bowl and the TV quietly commentating the live European football or Argentinian futbol matches- always commentated in Castellano (Argentine Spanish).
Mornings are Chris' time- and then I come in bleary eyed and plonk down next to him to check the world via facebook and emails.

I have noticed since living abroad I have this habit of every morning opening my laptop to connect with family and friends in Australia-  I don't feel right if I haven't seen people's updated status' or if a friend in Australia has written on my facebook page... I think it is sad, but I think I am also missing my Australian home like crazy.
It is not a depressed missing people feeling- it is a wanting to not feel so far away/missing people feeling... if you can call that a feeling.
It just seems that every morning and night I am starting the day with a square screen and going to bed after viewing the square screen.. I didn't do that before..

The ash is still plaguing the skies here in Buenos Aires. This is the 4th time it is preventing flights in or out of the airports. It is crazy, the skies are this weird overcast look, without it looking cloudy. It better not be around on the 17th Dec for when we are to fly back to Aus for the holidays!
7 weeks (I think..)

It is a big week ahead of afterschool meetings, Music concerts, Choir rehearsals. Last week was fantastic (full but great)- on Thursday after school I ran auditions for next year's Musical that I'll be directing- Mamma Mia. The kids are so excited!! Chris and I have sat down and brainstormed ideas- it will be a lot of work but brilliant fun. looking forward to opening night after all the hours of hard work from everyone!

Also, here are some pictures of the IB Art Exhibition from Friday evening- The creative arts musos came together for a small jazz set of music while people walked around viewing the art- like a mini cocktail evening. It was so nice to sing again- I mean I sing all the time but not for me or not from me. Not where I am singing to tell a story or connect with other musicians or evoke emotion and express myself. It was fun! and we all went cocktail style- me in my black dress and hair all done. Fun times!

(the photos are mostly for my beautiful grandparents).

Love to everyone- wish I had another travel adventure to update- but normality is swinging around here. We need to clean the house a little this morning and then we are heading over to our friends house for lunch! I am teaching my beautiful friend Natalia how to make muffins and banana bread- which is not common here in Argentina!! We teach each other Spanish and English and it's great! I am blessed to have such a great friend in my life here!

~ Love Miki

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Orange poppyseed cake and a spontaneous trip with Chris!

We both hit this weekend like a bomb- sleep-ins, long lay-ins, existing all Sunday in my pyjamas... we were completely clapped out and Chris had a nasty throat infection.. and were so thankful to have 2 days to rest up for another week of school.

9 more weeks and we are back in Aus for holidays and fun with family, friends and my beloved beaches!!
Very VERY excited!
and sure, there is 9 more weeks of school- but it is going to fly and in the meantime we have more weekends ahead of adventuring around here in Buenos Aires, more time learning Castellano, hanging out with the beautiful friends we have made here, enjoying the warmer weather that is coming through and making all the trees green again!

By the river in Tigre
So this weekend was restful, we also woke up on Saturday morning to decide that we wanted to go on a random spontaneous adventure- go somewhere new and try different things!
We took it easy and left the house at about 11am- caught the train from Quilmes to Constitution- Subte (subway) from Constitution to Retiro station- Retiro to Tigre! It cost both of us together $4 to get to Tigre by public transport, it was great!

In Tigre

My lovely husband in Tigre

Tigre means 'tiger' en Castellano.. I don't know why they call it Tigre, it is a river town with lots of canals and pretty riverside walks. But the highlight was discovering their markets!!! oooo it was fun! the best part of the day was finding a shady spot right on the river, sipping our mate and listening to some live jazz played by a guy on a saxophone- relaxing!
Out of all the market goodies we walked away with sun-dried tomatoes, an empty cool shaped glass jar and dried coloured flowers wrapped in brown paper.

I have two favourite things to my list of favourite goodies-
1. Carry flower wrapped in brown paper- it made me feel so pretty- is that childish and strange of me?
2. Today I soaked the sun-dried tomatoes in hot water with fresh garlic for 20mins- then dried them off and put them in my new glass jar, filling it with extra virgin olive oil. It was some homemade, Italian, fresh goodness I felt all good on the inside.

Tigre was fun, and we were so tired from walking around in the heat all day- we got back on the train intending to head back to Capital- but remembered we were passing Belgrano station, which has China town!!! 2 stops away, we decide to get off in Belgrano to explore China town at night! and so so glad we did, it was a highlight of our day!! We went to one of the many asian supermarkets 'Casa Chino' which had EVERYTHING! and we went a little food mad and bought lots of goodies! im so happy because I now have 4 packets of rice paper rolls- you can't get them anywhere else but in China town!! also sesame oil, 2 minute noodles, chai tea, poppy seeds and other goodies! we even found Feta cheese and tofu! but couldn't refrigerate for the trip home.
We then had dinner at a swishy Japanese restaurant- I am in love with ceviche!!

Belgrano had such a great vibe!! We will be back in a weekend coming for sure to do some more exploring- and so easy to catch the subte and bus and everything!

Other weekends that we have had since my last update have been cool as well. In the last couple we have had to be at school for school event like Founder's Day (running a live music stage all day) and evening concerts. Now with that settling down, we hope to have more energy for hanging with friends.

We did go bowling together one weekend which was fun! I lost.. but not by much hehe.

clever Chris won the game

look how many times we missed!!! I almost thought we need bumpers! haha

We also have some beautiful friends that we hang out with and they invited us on a picnic with their family to a big big park called 'Parque Pereyra Ireola' or something like that.. it is acres and acres and acres of parkland where 100's of local families come and have picnics! it was amazing. but the best bit was being with our new friends and family over here. It an honour to hang with such genuine people.

So, am I practicing my Castellano- more now, but could be practicing harder! I have help from my friend Nati who I am meeting with once a week to practice and drink mate with. I love her! and I love learning spanish... I am finding it hard to remember all these new words- It is like it goes in one ear and out the other... I will keep trying!

Today as I sit here in my pj's all day (I'm not embarrassed, we all do this sometimes people)- I have been looking up tour companies for the Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu and think I have found the right company!
They are called 'Peru Treks' and had the best price for the 4 day/3 night trek! If anyone has gone with them or heard anything let me know- I have looked at all reviews and read sooooo many things and different companies! It is so exciting!
If anyone wants to come trekking with us in 2012 from the 30th April to 4th May, let us know!

My favourite heladeria- Via Cosenza en Quilmes!!  CHOCOLATE ESPECIAL!!!!
Just thought I would include another photo of an INCREDIBLE ice cream here in my hometown of Quilmes... this is by far the best ice cream I have ever had in my life- I eat this at least once a week... my head keeps telling me "be careful miki... get your ice cream butt to the gym"! eeek.. but I am totally enjoying life in the moment of eating this ice cream! hahaha
I just looked at how psychotic I look.. baahahahaa.. this one is for you mum... you have raised an ice cream monster... haha!

Today, I made orange and poppyseed cake for the first time! it was good...apart from the fact that the middle fell out and oozed everywhere... yea so it wasn't cooked in the middle.. but it tasted good! hahaha and the outside area was cooked good! but man it was funny to turn it upside down and see my cake start oozing poppyseed batter all over the board! haha I licked it up no problem!
Easy as to make! get yaself some poppyseeds and go wild everyone! haha

chat soon,

Sunday, October 2, 2011

I'm a first timer... in Salta & Jujuy

So we can tick off our travel list the 2 provinces of Argentina- Salta and Jujuy.
The only luggage needed for our week escape!

There was a lot of first time experiences for me:
The Salt Flats in Jujuy- 'Salinas Grandes'
- Driving in Argentina (first time in 8 months behind the wheel.. loved it)
- Walking next to cactus' twice my height
- Coming face to face with a 1000 of year old Incan mummy of a 15yr old girl, perfectly preserved, colour in her clothes, skin on her face, braids still neatly plaited in her hair... incredible
- Standing on kilometres of salt
- Waking up with a view of the mountains and sunrise to perfect and natural
- Eating llama
- Being up so high on a mountain- 4100 metres altitude
- Sitting in a natural thermal spring in Argentina (designed like a swimming pool... but with beautiful natural hot water!! loved it!)
- Discovering how connected Northern Argentina is to Incan culture and the road leading from Salta to Machu Picchu in Peru!
- Eating the best damn Locro of my life (In Salta everyone!! Locro is like a meaty hearty stew with beans and goodness.. oh it was good! haha)
- Watching the colours change on the rocky coloured mountains- green, grey, brown, yellow, purple, red, pink, orange.. amazing!
- Talking fluently in spanish to a local hippy who made for me, in front of me, some really cool rings!
- Regularly sipping mate in the park, in the car, by a lake, walking down the street..
One of Salta's Cathedrals! 'Catedral'
- Standing in a 140 yr old Cathedral in Salta
- Getting a parking fine in Jujuy town and going on the biggest mission to pay it off... it was only $30 pesos (US$7) so it wasn't so bad.. but effort.. gosh was it effort!
- Purchasing earthen wears in Tilcara, a very historical mountain town full of Incan culture, Argentinian Indigenous people and lots of mountains, rocks and cactuses!
- Constantly driving on rocky dirt roads
- Staying in an amazing little Cabana with a fire crackling and smelling good and casting a romantic glow over the room as we fall to sleep.
- Having my shampoo explode in my bag because we went up so high in altitude going from Salta to Tilcara (lucky I used a plastic bag.. or could have been a messy disaster)
- Realising how out of date the prices are in our Argentinian lonely planet guide... the prices on accommodation and food stated in the book are not accurate.. they are now double the price! (which is still cheap.. just not THAT cheap)
- Travelling to the North West of Argentina! Salta and Jujuy (two 'states' or they call them 'provinces' of Argentina! IT WAS AWESOME!

Mate at night in the 'La Plaza de 9 de Julio' - The 9th of July Park- Main square in Salta

So that is our trip in a nutshell.
I cannot say enough about how amazing our accommodation was in Tilcara (and if you are going to Salta, then Tilcara is a place to see!!) we stayed at 'Cerro Chico' which is like saying 'Little Mountain' I guess... but it was PERFECT! for US$70 a night... it was incredible!! you could easily pay more it was just so good!! I was totally our style but super comfortable, and the fireplace and amazing mountains surrounding us just made it!
Here are some photos.
Our cabaƱa- No. 4

Our little salamander for our fire!! romantic!

our view!! beautiful
Our mapped out route- Salta up to Tilcara
Let me highlight the route we took for you. We went to the North of Salta.. we only had really Tuesday to Friday (4 days with the car) starting in Salta and having to finish in Salta. We hired a car, which is TOTALLY the way you should do a trip in this amazing place!! Sure you can get comfy coaches everywhere.. but they are packed full with tourists and the drives are long. It was so nice having the freedom to take detours, stop where we want and where we stayed in Tilcara needed a car as well because we were 1-2kms on a little dirt road just out of the town centre (which was perfect).
With only 4 days with the car, we chose to see the Northern areas of Salta and Jujuy... We were told that the South with Cafayate and Cuchi are incredible and the drive is supposed to be one of the most scenic ever, but we just didn't have the time- we would easily come back and do this in the future!
But there is still so much of Argentina to experience- and SOOOO much of South America to explore!
The five places in Argentina we have explored- Buenos Aires, Mendoza, Iguazu and now Salta & Jujuy
Day 1- Arrival in Salta (pm)- Monday
Catedral en el noche- Cathedral at night
Monday Night we arrived in Salta, we went with a small car hiring company that was much much cheaper than Hertz car hire.. we paid for 400kms a day (we thought we were going to drive super far and forever) but we should have paid for 200kms a day which would have been MUCH cheaper!! but now we know and we learnt what to pay for next time. The car was ready and waiting for us at the airport in Salta and we navigated our own way to our little hostel in Salta (Yatasto Hostel).
It was a friendly clean place which I thought was a little expensive for a hostel but it was good!

Day 2- Salta to Tilcara- Tuesday
In the car we get and off we go to Tilcara... we went the loooooonnngg winding scenic route around the back mountains of Salta to Jujuy, which took double the time then if we had gone on the freeway... It was nice, but too slow and long and winding...the best stuff/views started after Jujuy city! So go the freeway people! The roads were soooo narrow it was ridiculous! but it was sooo good driving, we hadn't driven since being in Australia which was 8 months was excellent!
Rest stop by the lake- after passing the boarder
between Salta and Jujuy

We made a lunch stop in a mountain town called 'Purmamaca' which is where the mountains were really spectacular. This town is at the foot of the famous 'Cerro de siete colores'/'Mountain of seven colours' we were there at 1pm.. and it was beautiful, but not AMAZING...the sun wasn't dancing on the mountain face, so the colours weren't as bold.. look at the difference in these photos!
Cerro de siete colores a las 13:00
Cerro de siete colores a las 9:30
Morning is the time to see this little town ppl!! on the way to the salt flats!
Anyway, we arrived in Tilcara at our amazing cabanas and relaxed.. we went into sleepy relaxed mode, lying in the sun, playing guitar, drinking mate... we went and explored the centre of Tilcara.
Incredible driving- into cactus country! Very dry and rocky the higher up you go
Purmamaca markets
Relaxing at Cerro Chico- Tilcara
Our morning view from our bed
Cerro Chico
Cerro Chico- Chris with the Llamas
Day 3- Tilcara to the Salinas Grandes - Wednesday
We thought it was a 20 min drive to the salt plains from Tilcara.. but it was nearly 2 hours drive! and it was a SPECTACULAR drive... you would not want to do this in a tourist bus!! no way.. not around all those winding mountain roads up up up to 4100 mts and then down down down to the salt flats... it was incredibly picturesque! You have to go past the 7 coloured mountain in Purmamaca (glorious in the morning.. so many tourist buses, it is the best time to see it!), and then up and up and up we drove! We drove next to cliffs that were so high and amazing... and then on the road we actually drove above those cliffs and was looking down on them!!
Clever photography- perspective!! haha!! this is how we travel in Argentina!
We then arrived at the salt flats.. was so quiet and no living thing. It had one building in the middle of the road.. not much good vibes going.. but we had fun, got out the car and took some very very fun photos. It is crazy to think that this whole area was once probably a huge natural salt lake! and now our world has changed so so much.

This was a great day!
We went back to Tilcara for lunch, walked through the Incan ruins.
Ate llama steak for dinner, which tastes like beef really.. and that night we went to the main plaza (park/square) and bought some beautiful earthen/ceramic dishes, a jug...that are still used in Tilcara and are still made the same way, the same shape and design as the Incans did thousands of year ago. It is amazing how the Incan culture is alive and rich in this place- sure it is pushed a little more because of tourists... but when we saw the archaeological Incan findings and remains... it is the same.. amazing!

Yay I'm in my shoe!
My little husband on the bonnet of our car doing an Irish dance!
Day 4- Tilcarra to Jujuy- Thursday
Would not want to land on one of these!
We checked out of Cerro Chico and left Tilcara not really knowing where we were going to stay that night or where we wanted to go. We hadn't pre booked this night just thinking we would make a plan as we drove, which is what we did. We read in lonely planet that there was a place called 'Termas de Reyes- Aguas Calientes' which is the Kings Thermals- Hot waters. It was about 15mins out of Jujuy town centre. You take a road off the main highway and it leads you into a natural, lush valley between green mountains. It was so relaxing and good, parking under a shady tree and spending a couple of hours drinking mate and swimming in the hot thermal waters from the mountains!! we laid in the sun like lizards, relaxed, swam.... our skin was amazing after being in this water!! I am so into natural thermal waters!! awesome- and not many people about, so it was very tranquil and not touristy!
We then drove into the town centre of Jujuy which is the city of this province. It wasn't a 'city' more like a country town with lots of people and cars... it was the 'day of students' (like mother's day but for students) so all kids were out of schools and there was music on the streets into the night! We stayed in a lovely lovely old mansion house that had been done up, it was very nice! and we walked around at night- it was so safe and friendly and the people were beautiful- it had a great vibe (una buena onda!)

Incan fortress ruins in Tilcara
In Tilcara at the Incan ruins
Day 5- Jujuy to Salta- Friday
The usual 'Helados' (ice cream) shot! haha
Leaving Jujuy around 11am.. we had left our car in a pay parking spot on the street and at been there 1 hour without buying a ticket.. so we got fined.. it SUCKED! Not knowing where we really were and the process in order to pay it.. we had to find the local municipality office to pay our fine.. the later we left it, it would get bigger, and we couldn't leave it to the car company to pay... so off we went with our bad spanish skills and actually got it all paid and done within an hour! amazing! we thought we would be in cues for HOURS waiting, or get lost and not be able to find the building. but it was success!
We took the freeway back from Jujuy to Salta which was only an hour drive.. not 2-3hrs! haha
Back in Salta we decided to stay our last night back at the Hostel Yatasto.. it was cheap and on a quiet street. we had lunch at a small mexican place which had THE BEST mexican we have had yet!! it was so good we went back there for dinner! simple and healthy and tasty and goood! haha. we also went to the Archaeological Mountain Museum in the main square of Salta which was a highlight!!! The Incan history is incredible! I had no idea of it's significance in Northern Argentina. We came face to face with a 15yr old girl mummy. She was a child sacrifice to the Incan God's where they choose the best looking, healthy and highly respected child (son or daughter of the chief most likely), take them on a pilgrimage to Maccu Picchu and back and then drug them up and bury them alive, fully adorned and buried with prized objects so that the Incan Gods would bless the people. It was a most honourable ritual, and one that I just can't understand. It was sad and looking into this 1000 yr old child's face, I had no words... it was so fascinating. This was a little girl, sacrificed for her people. The museum as a whole was amazing and explained everything really well! Even the little dolls and materials and pots that were buried with the children were perfectly preserved, the colours still so vibrant and the painting on the ceramics so clear, incredible.
The car was picked up at 8:30pm that night. No problems, too easy.

Day 6- Salta to Buenos Aires- Saturday
To the airport and then an easy flight (2hrs) back to Capital. A remis (a private taxi from Quilmes) home and it was great to be back.
For the first time, it actually feels like we have a home here. And now with summer coming and the warmer weather, the green on the trees, walking around in thongs (flip flops for those who aren't aussies) and eating way to much ice cream then we ought to...
Lift is good.

Will update again soon.
All my love,

~ Miki