Posts Tagged ‘travel’

A sandwich and a beer

They say you only get one chance to make a first impression.  I was already an hour late for my first day of school at the prestigious Universidad Católica Argentina in Buenos Aires.  Lacking the linguistic ingenuity to come up with a clever excuse in Spanish, I decided that class was overrated and if I were to skip I could save the first impression for the following week.  My desire to relax on a bench, which should not be underrated, was overcome by mid-morning impatience and boredom and I wandered East – probably the least popular cardinal direction in terms of exploration. The only people to be found walking the streets of Puerto Madero were police officers. I got the feeling that the neighborhood required a dress code.  It bared no resemblance to the barrio that I called home.  I peered into an enclosed restaurant patio where patrons sipped wine above white linen tablecloths.  Strolling past a window washer in the Mercedes-Benz dealership and an apartment building security guard, I couldn’t help but wonder where these service workers lived. Did they also enjoy the pleasure of an hour’s journey to end up in a part of town that looked nothing like their own?

Eventually, the imported car dealerships and skyscrapers gave way to an unromantic boardwalk along dried marshland. A sidewalk parilla caught my eye. The menu featured an array of grilled flesh served up in the best possible manner- a sandwich. I turned North to discover that a similar stand could be found approximately every 50 yards. About 90% of the customers were wearing hard hats and the other 10% had one within arm’s reach. This was obviously the preferred lunch of the working class. They chomped on choripan and washed it down with Coca-Cola or beer (my clock read just past 12:00, so it was cool). It seemed strange they were eating so early in a city notorious for late meals.  I realized that it  was indeed a late lunch for them, the difference being that they were probably working before the sun had come up.

This was my first introduction to the disparities and contradictions of Buenos Aires.  Here in Puerto Madero only one street created a visual dichotomy separating metropolitan Europe from working class Latin America. While both have their charm, I think I prefer my lunch with a hard hat and a beer.


The Spring

If there were a disease for overwhelming serenity I’d say I’ve contracted the deadliest strand. Unfortunately, I think I’ll have to settle for Giardia. I started this morning with a case of cottonmouth that accompanies sleeping in the desert at 5,000 feet. Between my four water bottles I had 1/3 liter of clear drink remaining. So I packed up camp and took off before the hear of the day and headed towards “The Spring.” It sounded icy cold and more pure than any tap.

The day before, I had tried to buy water treatment supplies at the outpost. I was inspecting two different purifiers when the owner interrupted, “Where ya goin?” She questioned. If the desert had a human form, I was looking at her. I told her my destination and she leaned back her shoulders and crossed her arms above her wide stance.

“Ah, you don’ need that stuff. Just go to the spring and use yer tee shirt fer a filter.” Her face was the same orange-brown as the rock formations in the distance. Leathery skin stretched taut over her sinewy muscles.

“Yeah?” I replied, “It’s not dangerous?”

“Ah naw, spring’s fed by fresh snowmelt, clean as it gets!”

That was all I needed. I wasn’t one to refuse advice from The Desert herself. Before leaving I asked her how business was. “It’s rough…the economy.”

“Yeah it’s brutal,” I quickly agreed. But I was really more concerned with her sales skills. The outpost business is tough when you encourage visitors to leave under-prepared.

I reached the area on my map labeled The Spring just before noon with empty water bottles and a thirsty tee shirt. My fantasies of fresh snowmelt were quickly erased as I peered down into a murky, insect-infested puddle. I was greeted by a couple that looked like they had just popped out of an REI ad. Their combined weight couldn’t have been more than 250 pounds and they were excitedly filling their water containers. No, not water bottles, but huge plastic bladders with carrying rings and a special lid for adding purifiers. Into each bladder they poured a special chemical, waited five minutes and then added yet another final droplet of purifier. Cheaters.

Ashamed to unveil my complex system, a brown tee purchased from Goodwill, I casually remarked that I’d fill up on the way back down. My tongue was so dry it scratched my mouth as I spoke. So I finished the hike and was far too thirsty to enjoy the amazing rock arch at the top. I eagerly descended back to the spring.

Guess who was happily enjoying a hot meal from their portable stove and titanium cookset? I pulled out my trail mix, $3.59/lb, steal of deal. Mom always taught me to spot the good deals. Too dehydrated to care I whipped off my tee and told them about The Desert. Their faces looked less than impressed as I the puddle water filtered through the sweat and dust of my shirt. “Enjoy your lunch!” I said as I capped my last bottle. As I trudged the next five miles to my next campsite I couldn’t help but wonder, how long does it take before Giardia kicks in?

Worth 1,000 words

As a travel-enthusiast I can fully appreciate the amazing ability of a photo to whisk the viewer to a foreign land.  Here are just a few examples of good uses of photos in different kinds of stories.


  • I’m not a big fan of the layout of this site but the photos speak for themselves.  This is a series from the L.A. Times detailing the effects of Mexican President Felipe Caleron’s war on drugs.
  • Great combination of audio and photos to form a slideshow on the recovery process after Hurricane Katrina
  • Photo slideshow with simple but informative captions on the cocaine trade in Peru.

Individual photos

  • This shows how one photo can captivate the attention of the world. Steve McCurry shot this portrait for 1984 story in National Geographic  and Gula’ face (rather, eyes) became a symbol of the conflict.  She even inspired a follow up search and article in 2002.
  • This picture was featured in over 100 newspapers and led to later stories.  It created a character for millions of readers.
  • On a less serious note, this photo from The Seattle Times is fun and well-suited to the story.