“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” ― Oscar Wilde. Life.

afraid

A lot of people have asked me how I feel being back. Awkwardly, my reply is that I don’t like it. I want to be back having adventures, meeting new people and ahem, in the sun. Its the little things. But I guess this is not the answer people want to hear.

As many of you know, before I went I was not really in the happiest of places. I had come out of a long-ish relationship. I felt bored at work. Things were not going to plan. Also I had moved back home. As much as I love my mum, this is not part of the 33 year old independent woman plan.

So off I went, traveling for two months. Not to find myself and all that jazz. But simply to have a break. Clear my head and laugh lots. Having travelled for the last couple of months – this seems to be a common occurance. Relationships end – persons flee the country. Heartbreak = brilliant for tourism.

And it was wonderful. I genuinely loved every minute of it – even the painful ankle, sleeping in a tent with gale force winds and rain, horse riding on a speedy, beautiful horse and water rafting in torrential rain. Even my frustration at not being able to communicate with most of the South American people for two months has not put me off. I want to continue. I don’t want to be here, plodding along working, going to the gym, waiting for ‘Mr Right’ to ‘save me’ from a Bridget Jones type of lifestyle. But then I have always had ‘itchy feet’ as it were.

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So does this mean there is something wrong with me? My friends are ‘meeting their Mr Rights’ (or have done) or are flourishing in their careers and buying houses. Maybe I need to focus on a career and hobbies. Anything to fill my time so that I do not think of the adventures waiting for me out there.

Also you have to come back at some point right? And when I do, will I regret going away and not focusing on my career and finding a nice English bloke to settle down with. After all, there is always match.com. Will I be alone, living in a shared household with 20 year old somethings because I did not focus on a career and all the good men are gone.

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33 years old. Darnit, why couldn’t I feel like this when I was a wee whipper snapper?!

So my initial thoughts are that I am going to see how things go. I will look for alternative jobs, I will try and date, I will also save and come the end of the year – if I still feel the same – I am off. I am already thinking of including Africa in my route.

Not so secretly, I am keeping my fingers crossed that I don’t find a new career I love or meet Mr Right (whatever that is). Because I want the sun. I want adventure and culture. I have already started zumba classes in readiness for partying back in South America. Ha.

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So we shall see where this year takes me….. As one person quoted me ‘You never know……’. And thats the beauty of it all.

love

Posted in Author: TH, Travel, Wanderlust | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

‘The biggest adventure you can ever take is to live the life of your dreams’. Buenos Aires – Part Dos. The last cHAPTER.

Soooo, I ended Part Uno on route to Mendoza – aka Wine Town. Mainly Malbec – my brother’s favourite tipple. The journey was with Andesmar and OMG it was in a different league completely to the three other coach companies we had travelled with. There was hot food, blankets and pillow, leather reclining seats, free wine AND bingo. Lord, this was the dream. However, bingo was done in Spanish numbers which naturally I didn’t understand so the lovely James translated for me! Ha. Sadly, Grandma’s bingo luck was not on my side – this time!

So we arrived in sunny Mendoza and it is a very pretty place. I have heard stories of travellers who come here and never leave – this was not us. I guess it’s about the people you meet but when we tried to PARTY – there was nada. NADA. South America definitely does not want me to party! And I would spend so much as well. Humph.

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So we stayed in another apartment booked through Air B n B which again was lovely although I took to the owner more this time! There was no ill looking dog. We mooched around the town and no matter how much I tried, I could not navigate myself around it for the life of me. Even on the last day. So I was pretty much like ‘James.. Where are we?’ the whole time.

During our trip, we decided to scratch the traditional bike tour in Maipo Valley and go with the owner of our apartment’s recommendation to visit some vineyards she knew of. A tad classier than drunkenly riding through some vineyards. Shame. But I like a bit of class every now and then 🙂

So we booked this for the day after and decided to pass some time by hiring a bike through the local park. ‘Don’t ride through this area unless with a group’ was the warning from the owner of the bike hire shop referring to a large section of the park we wanted to ride through. Ok. I did not bring my phone. Obvs.

It is quite surprising how safety is an issuevhere – it seems as though I am warned on a daily basis about muggings and perhaps worse. Even the houses all have bars on their windows and doors -like South Africa. Again, I take it for granted in the UK. Although there are definitely shady areas I wouldn’t venture down like any City – it seems more prevalent here. I can’t image us having bars on our windows and doors. However, whenever I go to a European City I am always warned about pick pockets and touchwood the only place I have been stolen from is in the UK. Nonetheless, one did not want to tempt fate and I had no intention of crossing this boundary.

Bike riding was um interesting. It was HOT. And James basically lives on a bike – he rides to work and back daily. So trying to keep up with him, ride the thing and not burn in the sun was quite challenging. To sum up my experience, James said ‘Tara, I am worried you are going to fall into the lake with your bad balance’. I have made a resolution to get fit when I get back to the UK. However, I feel I should be applauded for the fact that I have ridden a bike twice in a week when before this it was not for about ten years!! Clearly, I am more adventurous in South America 😉

So we did this and then went out for lovely food. This is pretty much how the time has gone since I finished the tour – walk around during the days and eat lots. It’s wonderful.

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Because James and I loved Buenos Aires so much, we decided to go back a day earlier than planned. We felt that we would get more out of Buenos Aires than hanging around Mendoza so cue trying to change our coach tickets and accommodation. Naturally, going to the tour shops was impossible as English was unknown. Reallllllly!!? In a tour shop with tourists!!??? Man.

So we called the wonderful Andesmar and JOY someone spoke English – back to Buenos Aires the next day after our wine tasting we were. A small sum incurred.

The next day bright and early we were met by our driver and orf we went to le vineyards. We got there a tad early (10am) for the first one and they were not ready for us so the director had to show us around. He was half Italian and half French but referred to himself passionately as Argentinean. He even gave his opinions on the Falklands – ‘I pray we’ll rightfully get it back one day’!!! Huuummmmmmm…….I mean I don’t mind if that is his opinion (everyone is entitled!) but it was a tad uncomfortable saying it to us on a tour of his winery. Cue uncomfortable silence.

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The winery itself was amazing but a small one. Not mass production. He showed us the mechanics of it all and that for 2 months of the year they would work solidly on processing the grapes. ‘We’ being Bolivians. ‘Why Bolivians?’ James asked – because they are cheap. Of course. I loved his bluntness and quite had a crush on him – he looked a bit like George Clooney.

Anyway, we were then explained about the storage process – the different durations of storage for the wine and different types of barrels used. We were then left in the aroma room. This was fun – I have never smelt TCA before – the smell that means the wine is baaaad. Professional aroma smeller moi?! Perhaps.

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Then for the best part – the tasting!! Hmm, shame is country is big on its red wine – I have not been able to drink red wine easily since I got exceedingly drunk on it when I was 17 years old. The smell of it still makes my stomach go funny. So James was in heaven trying all the Malbec and I tried a nice Malbec Rose which I brought 🙂 I also brought my brother and Nicole a bottle of Malbec as they don’t sell this in the UK and James said it tasted really nice. That was good enough for me as I thought they all tasted a bit strong. Sauvignon Blanc until I die. Classy I know.

Due to the amount of time this visit took, we were unable to visit the next winery and had to go to straight to the third one. I didn’t mind too much, I was feeling a tad tipsy from drinking rose at 11.30 am.

The next winery was a mass production one and lordy, the size of it! We had lunch first – a classy 4 course type of thing – with fizz and wine a plenty. Gosh I was not used to drinking so much so early in the day! This was a very sophisticated affair and I questioned what type of holiday I was on as I was sure I was backpacking and therefore on a budget. Hmm.

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We then did a tour but not before I made friends with the cutest dog!

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Wandering around these places I must say that I love the scientists in their lab coats carrying out tests on the wine with their test tubes and chemical whatnots. What an awesome job! How does one get into this line of work!?

This tour was not that great as the guide’s English was somewhat lacking (although I feel bad saying this since my Spanish is awful) but luckily we knew pretty much all about the process from the last visit. So more wine was drunk and by this point, James was quite drunk. Hahah, he might object to this! We also met a couple of people from the states who had visited 9 wineries over the last three days. My thats a lot of alcohol. One of them was hung over from the night before which cant have been too much fun. The price you pay I guess…. Hahaha!

So drunk and filled with wine, we then headed back to our apartment to get our bags for the coach ride back to Buenos Aires. Every time I think of Buenos I smile. People have said that this was a wonderful place but I didn’t really believe I would come to like it so much. Especially as half the inhabitants want to take my phone….

So back on the Andesmar bus we were and this time, it was even better. I would go as far to say that this was the best bus ride I HAVE EVER BEEN ON!! EVER. Yeah, I am going to throw that out there. Why!? Wellllllll…… firstly, the bus attendant was sooo nice. Then as I started to have a wine nap, he started the bingo IN ENGLISH!!! How exciting – so I started playing and….. I WON!!! Yay!! Clearly Grandma Woollett’s bingo skills had passed down to me! I won a bottle of wine which was ‘ironic’ (not sure if this fits here, I can never use this word correctly) as I had purchased three bottles of wine from Mendoza and was quite weighed down by then). Then I got given another. I looked a bit like a struggling alcoholic with my four bottles and backpack.

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Anyway, back to why this was the best journey ever; we got dinner which included MASH POTATO! I had been moaning to James about how much I wanted mash potato since our visit to the Evita museum where in the restaurant the waiter said my meal came with mash but actually didn’t. I wanted to point this out to him so as to save crushing disappointment for others in the future butndecided perhaps no one else would care that much.

Moving on – it gets better folks – they showed the film Captain Philips in English which I loved (curiously I find the whole piracy thing very interesting) and then… for the grand finale – I got to watch an electrical storm from the bus window. This was sooooooooooo amazing. The whole sky repeatedly lit up every few seconds and there were lightning bolts everywhere. It was sooooo awesome. I watched this for about two hours listening to my awesome playlist until the storm was on top of us and I got a bit scared as the rain pelted down. I tried to photograph it but couldn’t 😦 I was also worried about holding up my electrical items whilst the storm was above us. SO BEST JOURNEY EVER 🙂 James was sleeping throughout most of this due to his excessive wine drinking! Hahhahaha.

Dens after all that excitement, we arrived back in Buenos Aires and stayed at the same hostel in San Telmo.

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We also visited the famous cemetery where Evita – amongst many others were buried. It was a very extravagant place and the tombs were naturally eerie – especially as you could see some of the coffins and some tombs had stairs that led underground.

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‘Tonight James, we are going on a pub crawl’ – which was also an arranged tour – I instructed. Hmm, James didn’t look too impressed as he imagined a bunch of Brits getting drunk but I (as a Brit) wanted to get drunk and dance!! So after a day of sightseeing, we got dolled up and joined like minded people in pursuit of alcohol.

The guide was weird. ‘I LOVE SKINS, ITS SO AMAZING, ALL MY FRIENDS LOVE IT, and WE WANT TO STUDY IN ENGLAND’ was the initial introduction. Hmm, I have never really watched Skins but I am pretty sure it’s all about alcohol, drugs and sex. Not quite what happens here (well not completely) but I didn’t like the impression she had of us English! Then there was supposed to be free food which had gone. I was a tad worried as we had not had time to eat before coming out and as previously highlighted; my alcohol threshold had diminished after not drinking much since leaving the UK.

So drinks were had and upon entry to the next bar, alcohol was poured into our mouths from the bottle – like something you see on that TV series Kavos. I was quite ashamed and worried I might catch something but James’ thought was not quite like mine ….. ‘IS THAT ALL!?’ was his initial thought. Moving on…..

I am not quite sure how but we managed to get quite drunk in this bar as I don’t really remember too much after the entry! Like exactly what happened here except at one point James saying he felt ill and needed to go home.

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I was not happy with this at all as I wanted to party so was debating whether to contact this guy I had met in Bariloche on my Dragoman tour. His name was Facundo and he told me he lived just outside Buenos Aires. Would it be inappropriate to text someone you met once and ask if you could party with them!? Well sober I might have said yes, but drunk I did not! So off texting Facundo was I. He said he was out locally with his friends and he lived half an hour outside of the city. Hmmm, should I get a taxi to meet him?! I am in a foreign land with no recourse to the spoken language and my phone battery was dying. James said to go (thanks James). Again, sober I would have called it a night with a sigh, but drunk I was like ‘I am coming’!! James thinks I have a split personality when drunk as I seem turn into Tara the Brave which is completely the opposite to when I am sober. Is it worrying that I am more decisive and carefree when drunk?!

So it turns out Facundo offered to meet me somewhere in the City (not in his home town as I had thought) and then he drove us back to his local area where his friends were partying. Unfortunately we couldn’t get in the club due to the time we got there so he showed his local area called The Tigre (or the Delta….). This was not quite the partying night I wanted – fate was just not in my favour on this trip – and I felt bad for Facundo as it also meant he did not get to party. I got a raised eyebrow from James as came in at 7am ish. Ha. Well at least I had an interesting night out. I fear my mum and brother are going to have a heart attack when they read this – ‘you met a random guy in Argentina and went off with him!!!?????’ Si. Tara the Brave. And perhaps stupid.

The next day, James and I went for an 11AM walking tour (after my arrival back to the hostel, I would say that I was a tad sleep deprived) and it was all I could do to stop myself falling in a heap on the floor. Naturally Buenos Aires decided the sun would come out that day! Heat, a hangover and sleep deprivation does not make for a pretty Tara. ‘You look well rough’ was James’ helpful comment to me. Sometimes less is more I think!

The tour was very interesting but we had encountered most of it from the previous bike tour. Such as the building with Evita’s face on both sides – one was smiling and the other was shouting in a microphone. The smiling side was facing the poorer districts of the city and the shouting side was facing the richer parts. Self explanatory I think. We also saw a house built on a building and walked over the biggest avenue in South America. Brazil tried to beat this by building a bigger avenue but the Portenos (local Buenos Aireans) noted that this was not actually an avenue but a highway. Ha!

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That evening James and I went for dinner in the newest district of the city – the port area called Puerto Madero. This was lovverrrrrly. So new and shiny. Also mosquito infested (of course) and dinner was sat largely in terror as they proceeded to eat us. Buggers.

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We then bumped into a pair we had met on the pub crawl and went for a drink with them. The guy was ok, not very chatty but the girl was lovely. She mentioned she had fallen for said guy as they had met travelling. James said he thought the guy was HOT and gay. I was confused and still pretty tired from the night before. So I asked James if we could stay for one drink and go home which I regret as I wasn’t going to have this moment again. But tiredness had momentarily (I say momentarily because I later changed my mind) set in and I wanted to sleep so much.

Once we got back to the hostel, ready for bed I was. Due to the coach journey and the night before, I hadn’t slept in a bed for two nights. Howeverrrrr, fate had other plans as Facundo whatsapp’d me to ask if I was out as he and his friends were going……CLUBBING IN BUENOS AIRES!!!! He must have picked up on my need to party! Darn it. Dilemma. Extreme tiredness but CLUBBING IN BUENOS AIRES…. I had not done this yet. So despite the fact I had to meet them in an area I didn’t know and James didn’t want to come, off I went to dance. Sober. Again sorry Mum and Darren.

I met Facundo (who was apparently very drunk at this point) and we went into a club. You know how when others are all energetic and smiley and you are not… this was how I felt. However, tiredness would not stop me from partying – plenty of time to sleep when you are dead as ‘they’ say. So off to le bar I went – Vodka and Coke please. Apparently no one drinks this combination here?? I was confused… this is the BEST drink in the world – how can they not drink it here? Where AM I?! After this initial shock and raised eyebrows from the bar staff, I was downing my drink and boy did I need to for what came next. DANCEATHON.

Facundo’s friends were lovely but he and one girl in particular decided I needed to perhaps loosen up and dance. Now if you have ever seen a Zumba class, this is how they dance here. So energetic and arms/legs moving everywhere. Lord. I was sober and tired. This did not stop them trying to ‘teach the poor English girl’ how to Zumba like dance. I felt like how I imagined a dad would feel when his teenage kids were trying to show him how to dance and he looks sooooo UNCOOL. (I have now signed up for Zumba classes – I will master this way of dancing if it kills me!!).

So after a mortifying couple of hours trying to pretend I knew how to dance like Shakira and was in fact not an uptight Brit, Facundo said it was time to leave. Darn, just as I was getting into the moves. Not. But I was enjoying the club and my Vodka and Cokes.

Another night of little sleep and I missed James on my return as he went off to visit the presidential palace and take a tour of this. Drat. However, I looked and felt a mess after three nights little sleep. James returned (raised his eyebrow again) and we went to San Telmo market which is full of lovellllly items. We brought my best friend Hannah a birthday present and again the sun was out. WHY SUN!?? Why, when I am hungover, do you come out but when I am fine, you leave!? So in the heat I stumbled around the market as it was James’ last day here so I didn’t want to spend it in bed. Well actually I did want this very much but that would not be very nice at all. We then got back to our hostel and I passed out for a ‘cat nap’ until we went out for our last supper.

We went to a lovely Italian restaurant and ate looooads. I felt sad that James was leaving me too. This was a good evening and we took a long walk home through the city. I also think I encountered an attempted mugging as a motorcyclist collided with me and made a grab for my bag. He failed. Thank god. This was also the night that I slept in a bed for a full nights sleep in three days and it was soooooooooooo good. I can see James’ raised eyebrow…..

James then left and I was alone again. I had booked to stay in a hostel back in Palermo – the nicer part of town that we had initially stayed in so I got a taxi over there. It’s quite a drive – the city is so big. I must say the taxi drivers were always lovely – even though they didn’t speak English and one even gave me chewing gum during my 3AM drive across town. Result.

The hostel was lovely and I made friends with a guy from Germany and a girl named Sara from Taiwan. I had never really thought of going there but she made it seem so lovely I think I will one day. She was so nice and had just started her two month trip – the opposite of me and I felt so envious of all the adventures she would have. She was flying to Ushuaia in a few days – where I started. So Sara and I pondered around the lovely Palermo neighbourhood and I took her to this awesome burger bar James and I discovered. I missed him.

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That evening, I sat in the hostel rooftop bar chatting with the German guy (I can’t remember his name!), Sara and a girl called Lucy from the UK who had moved out there one year ago. Hmmmm.

I then got a message from Facundo who was teaching water skiing to a group of Russians the next day and asked if I wanted to join him. water skiing!!??? YES. Also I did think he was lovely!

So the next day, Facundo’s friend picks me up from the hostel (9-9.30am but in Argentinean time this means an hour later) and off I head to the Tigre Delta for a day of sun and water skiing.

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It was soooooo funny watching the Russians get more and more drunk, sing songs and generally get merry. I had a lovely day laying in the sun, reading, watching Facundo give his lessons and getting chased by this persistent bee. I think Facundo is quite the ladies man here. Nonetheless, I get free drinks too – whoop!

Then it was my turn for my lesson and lord I was a tad terrified. What if I drowned!! But alas, I did not and it was SO MUCH FUN. The instructions are a tad overwhelming as you pray you remember what to do but having someone do it with you makes it better. Especially when they know what they are doing! We then went for a drink to this gorgeous bar area by the Tigre (or Delta?!) and sat on the water front. We then went to Facundo’s friend’s house for dinner which was a nice way to end my trip here. Although their pasta portions were a tad large and rather than eat this I drank more wine. Drunken Tara. Si.

For my last day, I met Sara and we pottered around Palermo again taking lots of photos and eating. We also planned to go for dinner that evening to have steak and wine. My last supper! We did and it was a perfect end to my stay here. As well as the hotel I booked into 🙂

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And so that was that and my trip to South America came to a close. With great sadness.

I chatted to the taxi driver again (who actually spoke English!) and asked him what people generally think of the English here. ‘Cold and mean’ was the general impression. Not his though – he quickly added. Well on that note, ciao Chile and Argentina. You have both been amazing and I have had the most super duper time. I have already decided I will come back at the end of this year because I love it so. See my next blog.

And thank you for reading my blogs 🙂

I appreciate that they have been exceeeeeeedlingly long but I hope that they have been a bit interesting and made you want to come to these wonderful countries. And maybe meet a Dragoman bus, Marion, Nam, DJ, lovely german couple, Juan and Facundo along the way – amongst many lovely others! 😉

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Posted in Author: TH, Travel, Uncategorized, Wanderlust | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

“You can’t love a city if you have no memories buried there”. Buenos Aires. Part Uno.

Hmm, did I save the best place for last? I think so.

I don’t know if it was the places I visited in this last part or the people I met, but I am in love with Buenos Aires. There is something so intriguing, charismatic and wonderful about this place. There is also the constant fear of getting mugged, run over or breaking your ankle on one of the many broken pavements that keeps you on your toes. Or not if you fall over!

So I left the wonderful Santiago apprehensively and headed to Buenos Aires for part 3 (the last part) of my journey. I decided to get the plane in the end due to reports of muggings at Buenos Aires bus station and I didn’t really fancy encountering this solo as my first time visiting Buenos Aires. Especially with my 17 kg backpack and vast electronic collection. Last time was a fleeting visit with my hero ‘Juan’ and fams to the domestic airport.

So I arrived in Buenos Aires excitedly looking forward to seeing James. However, the carnage in the arrivals area was truly a sight to behold. Orderly queuing appears to have escaped the knowledge of Argentineans as lines formed everywhere in no particular order. People were even climbing on the luggage escalator things to get around the queues! Lord. I missed Santiago. Also it was cloudy outside!? Hmm.

Eventually after about 10 people ramming their suitcases into my ankle I was free and saw the fresh faced James relaxing in a coffee shop. I soon learnt that frequenting a coffee shop would be a daily event with Mr O’Brien for the remainder of my stay in Buenos.

I had booked for us to stay in an apartment in a district called Palermo for our first two nights in Buenos Aires. I have only just learnt to pronounce this correctly much to James’ frustration. Palamo, Parlamo, Palleymoro.. you name it I said it. In hindsight, this was a nicer part of the city. However, nothing looks nice when rain and thunder are involved which is what the weather gods had in store for us when we arrived. This was quite disheartening for both of us as James naturally expected sun here and I had just left gorgeous weather in Santiago.

Never mind, we pottered around this area for the day and discovered that the pavements were difficult to walk on due to missing slabs and uneven surfaces. I tripped on several occasions – one was particularly embarrassing as it happened on a main road in front of all the traffic. We then headed out that evening for dinner and here started my fear of being mugged – much to James’ surprise. In my defence, the streets are pretty dark and all the reading material warns about repeated muggings. Have I mentioned how much I love and neeeeeed my phone?!

The next day, we planned a day of sightseeing and first up headed to the Evita museum which I found very interesting. I have not seen Madonna’s urm ‘screen portrayal’ of this inspirational lady but I will probably watch it back in the UK. It was amazing how much she achieved in her life – especially as she died at 33 years old! My age!! I must admit I felt a tad inadequate with my life achievements compared to hers. We also had a fabulous lunch here and WIFI!!

We then headed to the Japanese Gardens and this is where we first encountered the mosquitos that would persistently attack me for the remainder of my trip here. Grrr. I knew it had been too good to be true up until this point. Critters. No, mosquitos.

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We also discovered the area Reccolta which appears to be where the middle/upper class live. The people even look different in this area – more european. It is sooooooooo nice. So clean. The trees even had clothes! Cute. This is also where the famous cemetery is but we decided to visit this on our return to Buenos Aires a few days later. Largely because it was closed when we got there.

The next day we left Buenos for Iguazu and our epic 20 hour coach journey. Now I had read that you get bingo, hot dinners and wine on such coach journeys but alas this was not the case. Starving does not really sum up how I was feeling. Nonetheless the seats reclined pretty much like a bed and I had a great night sleep. James not so much. There was also a dibarcle over the seat numbers as apparently the seats we had – ’16 and 17′ – did not exist so we were told to sit in ’14 and 15′. However the lady who had 14 and 15 naturally believed we were in her seats and a mini argument broke out with her and the coach attendant. James and I simply stared, not really understanding what was being said angrily in spanish. But we got to stay in our seats. Victory = starving comfortably.

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So we eventually arrived in Iguazu and there was sun. Yay. James had booked an apartment through ‘air b n b’ which meant we were staying with local person in their home. In this case, we had this sultry Argentinean lady and stayed in her out building. Her whatsapp name is ‘cuteness’. Hm.

It was a really nice apartment but incase you couldn’t tell, I didn’t really take to her – to James’ annoyance I think as he thought she was wonderful. Perhaps it was the fact that her dog looked like the most starved, beaten dog I have ever seen and that she didn’t offer the pancakes and cocktail on arrival as indicated. It was more the dog thing but the latter was the icing on the cake! Not sure if I was getting a tad tired of the constant traveling around at this point as I did notice my general patience and mood seemed to be ummmm quite short at this point. Poor James.

So for the remainder of the day, we mooched around the town and encountered the most thunderous weather as the sun quickly disappeared. Hmm, this was not what we signed up for!

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We had heard that visiting the Argentinean side of the falls was better but it was due to rain the next day so we weren’t sure whether to go to the Brazilian side as this would not take as long.. Decisions decisions. I would point out that my decision making process has diminished over the last couple of months so I am not sure how I will cope back at work. Oh well, worries for another time.

Deciding not to let the weather bother us, we opted for a full day on the Argy side and OMG it is soooooooooo breathtakingly beautiful. I have never seen anything like it. Cue lots of photos, selfies and rainbows. We also had the lovely sun bless us with its presence so it made the whole day even better. We also did a boat ride up to one of the smaller falls and lorrrrrrd, this was terrifying but So. much. fun. Even though it was a smaller fall, it was soooo powerful and the water beneath us was crazily volatile. We got absolutely soaked. It was fantastic. We also made friends with a guy from India and Norway. The guy from India was lovely and had a really nice aura about him. So calm. He was looking to meet a lady I guess and trying to escape the pressure from his parents to have an arranged marriage. He said that for most people in India, to get the flight he did, they would have to work 12 hours a day, six days a week for one year. Amazing. Makes me realise how fortunate I am. He also said that in order to get a visa for Argentina, he needed to show a complete itinerary for the whole of his trip. This meant a lot of planning. And when he came back to Argentina from visiting the Brazilian side of the falls, they reduced his duration to stay from the normal 90 days to 20. Shocking. Again, it makes me so grateful to be in the position that I am in.

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This day was valentines day (sob) so James and I went to a local restaurant and had a ‘romantic’ dinner 🙂 ha. Twas lovely.

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The next day we went to Brazil to see their side of the falls and this visit was surprisingly easy. And I got another stamp in my passport. Yay! The Brazilian side is amazing too but with a reduced number of walkways. The view is still pretty amazing. I cant get over how magnificent the falls are. However, they have these weird animals wondering around that apparently bite you. That was not a relaxing thought as they brushed past me a few times in their ‘packs’. There was also a warning for ‘pumas’ in the area and tips for how to react if you encounter one. ‘Appear bigger than you are, speak louder and don’t run’. Sorted. With these guidelines I look forward to the day I run into one. Alas, not on this visit. THANK GOD.

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Then we headed back to Buenos but lordy – the journey home was a NIGHTMARE. We boarded the empty coach and took our seats at the front of the bus. It was a lovely new bus and I was very excited as there were pillows and a blanket.

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About an hour into the drive, the bus attendant comes over and says ‘you are not supposed to be on this bus’ – our ticket was for 15/03/2014 not 15/02/2014. Bugger – the stupid webpage kept changing the return date and crashing when I was trying to book the tickets. Apparently the bus was ‘due to be full and we needed to er ‘get off’??????!!!!!!!!! Hm, not quite what we had in mind getting stranded in the middle of nowhere. So at the next town, we are dumped at the bus station and told we need to go back to Iguazu. I dont think so was my initial thought – there was nothing else to do there and it was a 20 journey to get back to Buenos which I did not want to delay. Hmm.

So you think it would be easy trying to change onto another bus?! No. It was the most frustrating experience of this whole trip as no one spoke English or understood what we were trying to do. When we eventually managed, we didn’t have enough cash to purchase the new tickets, or access the internet and they didn’t take cash cards. Arrrrrrrgh. Fear of being stranded was too much and I started crying in frustration at the whole thing. Its that loose tear valve thing I had before. Poor James. Eventually with the help of James boyfriend speaking fluent spanish and James’ mobile acting as an interpreting device, we got on a bus to Buenos which was packed and uncomfortable. That was a horrible 20 hours of my life which I will never get back or want to think about. Even thinking about it makes me anxious. To top it off this massive flying beetle decided I needed some of its attention and buzzes by my ear then landed on me. Shrieking I was. Hysterical I was. The straw that broke the camels back comes to mind as I felt I could take no more from this horrible town. Oh also I lost my Pandora bracelet here too. Cursed?! Perhaps. I remember James looking at me and saying ‘Tara you really need to calm down’. OMG. Speechless I was.

So the next day we arrived back in Buenos – broken and tired. This time we were in the district of San Telmo – a grottier part but with more character. We were only here for one day as we were due to visit Mendoza – wine town. That evening we met with a couple I had met on my tour and had a lovely time catching up with them and drinking wine. I love this couple – they are soooo nice.

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The next day so we did a city tour – by bike. Now you think this would be fun – and it was – howeverrrrr I have not ridden a bike for, hmmmm, perhaps 10 years!? And this was a 4 hour cycling tour around the city. Nervous? A tad as the guide pointed out casually that the city dogs like to chase us and the drivers aren’t really bike friendly. Gee.

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Despite my general unhealthiness, I managed to keep up with the group and made friends with a lovely Aussie girl. Aussies are great, I really think I should move there. The tour was a brilliant introduction to the city and we ventured into the ‘dangerous’ land of La Boca – one of the poorest but beautiful parts of the city. I didn’t take photos. Again, love for the camera.

After this, we had to hot foot it to the bus station and catch our 14 hour coach ride to Mendoza – WINE TOWN! Woop. This time the coach was amazing – hence our super smiles.

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I figure these blogs are quite loooong so if you wish to continue reading… maybe grab a cuppa and then click on Buenos Aires – part dos which shall follow shortly! Oh how my spanish has flourished. Adios. Ha.

Posted in Author: TH, Travel, Wanderlust | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“A city isn’t so unlike a person. They both have the marks to show they have many stories to tell. They see many faces. They tear things down and make new again.”. The glorious Santiago x

Well after ‘roughing it’ for three weeks on a truck – clearly any form of civilisation was going to be a welcome break. And where better to re-join modern civilisation than the capital of Chile – Santiago. Even saying it sounds glamorous.

So we ended in Happy House Hostel and it is sooo nice here. We were not expecting private twin rooms with our OWN bathrooms thats for sure. Thanks Dragoman – a lovely end to an amazing trip. So we freshened up after our 12 hour drive and made plans to eat at 8.30 for the ‘last supper’ as it were.

Howeverrrrrr, our guide Yves did not anticipate that we would want a ‘last supper’ night out in Santiago so he hadnt booked a restaurant for us. Oh dear. Cue sighs from us the group. It is not easy getting 23 people seated and fed in a restaurant without a booking so our poor guide Yves looked a tad stressed as he tried to organise something. And hoorah he did 🙂

We ended up in a restaurant in the Bellavista area which was lovely. Gorgeous in fact and there were cocktails a plenty. Good times.

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The next day – slightly hungover (thats probably a white lie – quite hungover) I packed to go to my new digs over in Providencia. UPGRADE TIME!! I was sooo looking forward to chilling by the pool allllllll day. It was soooooo hot here 🙂 So backpack on (just the baggage you want to arrive with to a classy hotel and lorrrd its soo heavy – over 20kg!) and offs I went to a more leafy, quieter part of town. Latas Mamasita.

I checked in all dandy and smiled happily at the room with a bathroom and a HAIRDRYER – finally – straight, blow dried hair! Yay. Also complimentary washing products. Could I have been more smug?! No I dont think so! I may have done a happy dance. Ahem.

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I sunbathed, had a nice salmon ciabatta then decided to make use of the ‘business centre’ and upload my photos – all by myself. It was so peaceful. And I felt so grown up. However, I wanted say bye to the remaining members of my group so I hot footed it across town to meet the others before everyone went their separate ways.

It was a nice evening but I think tiredness from the trip and previous night out shattered us all so no drinkies for me this evening and I headed back to le hotel for a good snooze. And then, images of Luther series 3, episode 1 flashed through my head. Oh nooooo! What if there was a man under my bed waiting to kill me?! (Of course) and I slept largely with the light on – because of course this would stop him! Mental note dont watch Luther till on my flight home to le UK. Plan.

The next day I got a taxico to meet mum and made polite chit chat with the driver. I did not anticipate having to wait 2 hours for mum to exit at the arrivals gate and awkward silences followed with said taxi driver. Mum then emerged and it was lovely to see her arrive – hoorah – and we nattered until .. Well we nattered all the time really. Shared news from the UK and my adventures and we then got one of those tour buses around Santiago as our joint introduction to le City. This was nice as you dont really have to do much except be driven around admiring the landmarks. I did force mum to get off at a couple of stops – one of them being Saint Lucia hill – and I climbed to the very top. Cue photos of Santiago. Saw a couple of gecko things too which was cool. Also fell down some steps onto my bum. Classy. Flip flops arent climbing material.

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On the hill mum and and I noticed quite a few ‘amourous’ couples. They were everywhere. Smiling politely we passed them but inside I was thinking ‘get a room, there are children – and DOGS around’. Not that I am bitter at all. Moving on….

Then found out on our walking tour a few days later that this is because young adults generally do not move out of their parents homes until either they get married or go to university. As it is too expensive to move away for university – the latter is not really a thing. So children generally live with their parents until their late 20’s (I feel better about that!). The country is still quite traditional (divorce was only legalized in 2004 and abortion is still illegal) so there will be ‘none of those shenanigans under my roof’ is sort of the mentality of parents in Chile. Hence making out ALOT in parks. Not sure this is a better outcome but hey ho.

Then due to mum’s bad back and blistered feet (she didnt take well to the hot climate the first few days much to my amusement – I am horrible!) we got back on the tour bus. I forced mum to get off again at an area called Bellavista so we could mooch around this very cool neighbourhood – but she was worried we would miss the last tour bus back. So we saved this for another day and ordered pizza take away at le hotel with pisco sours. Classy ladies I know 🙂

In Santiago Mum and I also walked about Providencia which is lovely and completely different to other parts of the city. Also had amazing ice cream. We did a ‘tips for tour’ free (ish) 3 hour walking tour. ‘Most people tip me 10,000 – 15,000 pesos’ was the introduction from the ‘where’s wally guide’ so not really free or discretionary. However this was very good and gave us a brief insight into the history and culture of Santiago and Chile. Plus it was in the SUN. Ahem.

On the tour, we started at Belles Artes station and looked at some graffitti done by Inti Castro – a popular Chile graffitti artist.

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The images are supposed to represent items a modern citizen needs or relies on. Including a mobile phone. Not sure exactly what the skulls are meant represent – I assume death in some way – but I was too shy to ask! Santiago is very focused on the arts and you can see this throughout the city with independent shops selling homemade items, street dancers, jugglers, graffitii etc. There was also this cool old building which is now an arts building for up and coming artists and clothes makers. Mum and I attempted to venture into one of the shops but quickly discovered it was a sexy shop like Ann Summers. Not quite.

As much as I love creative people, they always highlight how uncreative I am! How do they think of these things?!

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Also found out that dogs are a big part of Santiago’s culture. People treat them as family and its generally the way that the owners let them out in the mornings and they go home in the evenings. Ha, day out for the dogs! The ones without homes are looked after by the residents of Santiago and none looked under fed or ill. Apparently if people see an injured dog, they take them to the vet. There are also kennels scattered around the city and bowls of water for them to drink out of! So lovely.

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As mentioned above, Santiago appears to be big on the arts and the shops are full of things I wanted to buy. Darn budget and exceedinly full backpack. There is also cool graffitti everywhere (although I guess that is the same with most big cities). Its a really lovely city. My favourite I think although having gorgeous weather does help. We visitied the Gabriela Mistral Cultural Centre and the guide pointed out these door handles that President Allende installed to represent ‘power to the people’. Pinochet later took over this building and changed the handles upside down. Our guide said that this was to signify oppression.

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Our guidetook us to the La Moneda presidential palace and we learned that President Allende died here fighting the coup involving General Pinochet – who he had appointed as Commander in chief for the army. It was my understanding that he shot himself once the army broke into the building. How awful. Mum and I wanted to visit the muesum about this when we returned to Santiago from San Pedro but it was difficult to find. There was very little information generally about the Pinochet era.

We ended our tour at a wine establishment with hundreds of different wines! Yay. My brother Darren and his girlfriend Nicole would have loved this place and I wished they were here with us at this point. Cue missing home.

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Mum and I then returned to Bellavista for shopping and cocktails. I cant describe how much I love this place and Santiago in general. I just feel so relaxed here. And oh the weather is amazing – hot but not humidly so.

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And then we bid our sad farewell to the hotel – and ate as much breakfast as we could – before heading to the airport for our next destination – San Pedro. Not before we had to spend ages finding a foreign currency exchange place because all the hotels want dollars and not their own currency. If you pay in dollars, you dont pay the 19% VAT charge apparently.

Weirdly as we were walking down the street, this cute dog saw mum across the road and started wagging its tail excitedly. Then it ran acorss the road to join us and shockingly got super excited and kept sniffing her and running around her. It was SOOOOO wierd. Then it followed us all the way to the bank and waited outside. We did get a bit freaked out because it literally would not leave mum’s side – even when we popped into a shop to ask for directions to the bank. It also kept barking at her. Shamefully we intentionally lost the dog by hiding in the bank for a while and leaving by a separate exit. I feel sad about this now. It could have been our mascot or protector and a companion for mum’s dog Betty in the UK.

I have written a blog separately about the lovely San Pedro so after this break, we returned to Santiago. Lovely Santiago. Howeverrrr, in my pursuit to convince mum (and the family really) that hostels were actually quite nice, I convinced mum to stay in Happy House Hostel for our last few nights in Santiago. She agreed.

Upon arrival, mum seemed a tad deflated and when they showed us the room with a double bed, I was like ‘oh lord, not again…’. So I said I asked for a twin and the staff said ‘Si this is a twin’. Hmmm. No. So they changed us to a twin room which was a tad grottier. ‘Where is the kettle and tea facilities? Where is the hairdryer?’ was mum’s initial comments. Also the drive from the airport did not help as it highlighted that we were in fact in a less desirable part of town. Tears welled in mum’s eyes as she foresaw her last few days here. I felt so bad. However, she soon got used to this as I located a hairdryer and showed her the kitchen upstairs for tea. No hostels for mum in le future.

We tried to find the muesum about the dictatorship but could not. So we headed to Bellavista again to relax. The next day, we headed to Valparaiso and looord, if you ever see the bus station here, you’ll think Victoria Station is a coach wonderland. It was sooo chaotic with people everywhere and no screens to tell you which bay your bus was leaving from. Numbers 30 – 36 was what we were told as we had to scan and wait for our bus to arrive.

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Alas we had been told Valparasio was a wonderful place. But on arrival, we could not see why. It was very run down. However, we found our free walking tour guide and he showed us a lovely side to the city. The city has many ferniculars as it has so many hills. The houses are all painted in wonderful colours with lots of alleyways and graffitti art – of course.

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It was a visionary treat but notmso for the nostrils as the smell of dirt and dog pee filled the air.

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Nonetheless, as lovely as the tour was, mum and I were happy to get back onto the bus for the safety of Santiago. By this point, mum had started to quite like the hostel 🙂

Our last day together involved sitting around the hostel pool (right?! How could you not like this place) and relaxing. It had been a lovely two weeks. And mum was leaving me. There has been too much of this – the departure at Gatwick, the end of my Dragoman tour/goodbyes and now this.. Emotionally it has been a rollercoaster!! Ha.

So I then waved mum off at Santiago airport and bravely headed back to le hostel. All by myself. I felt lonely without her. The next day I had no plans as my flight to Buenos Aires was not until the next morning. So I made my way into the breakfast room all by myself. Haha. I am kidding. During our stay here, I had spoken to a lovely couple in their mid 40s who were travelling for ONE YEAR. Lucky devils. They were also doing the same Dragoman tour I had done but starting off in Santiago. I also spoke to this man and his son who had spent one month travelling the Lake District of Chile by bicycle. I then made friends with this American girl called Laura and spent the day subathing with her by the pool – not before speaking to another older woman about the trials of dating in London and being in your 30s. She had the same concerns for her daughter! Ha. Laura had met some people in Mendoza so I had dinner with them which ended my stay in Santiago perfectly. What an amazing time I have had here. I love you Chile.

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Now onto Argentina…..

Oh and on the personal injury front – the splinter has gone 🙂 Woop. I got it out all by myself 🙂 However, on another front, I seem to have gained a wierd, incessant giggling whenever something happens.. even thinking about it makes me giggle. Its sooo wierd but if mum tells me her feet are blistered, her back hurts or more recently she sunburnt her nose, I burst into fits of laughter and cant stop. Random! Poor mum.

Over.

Posted in Author: TH, Travel, Uncategorized, Wanderlust | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

‘Once again there was the desert, and that only’.

Hmmm what did we expect when we arrived in San Pedro?! I am not not gonna lie, we were a tad worried as to what awaited us in the desert. Especially as I had accidentally booked us into a matrimonial apartment with no actual address. Must not do this when James comes out!

I was realllllly looking forward to the star gazing tour with professional astronomers at SPACE, Moon Valley and seeing some geysers. However, what else awaited us I was not sure about. Normally I love being away from big cities and into the countryside. However, there was something that made me a tad anxious about San Pedro. Maybe its the complete isolation as we literally were in the middle of the desert and I don’t speak Spanish. Or that it is just so small.

We boarded our flight and I wasn’t expecting much from this as it had been soooo cheap. I had imagined it possibly being cargo and flying with alpacas. However, Sky airlines is apparently a newer company in the Chile airline field and cheaper than LAN – the main airline here. It was a lovely plane journey and we got lunch – result. The views were amazing, we flew alongside the Andes and then into desert mania. Gulp.

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View of the Andes

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Calama airport is tiny and is still being built it seemed. There was no checking of passports and we simply  grabbed our bag and passed the shuttle service which offered to and fro services to San Pedro. Awesome. Athough not having an actual address was confusing. Dropped off on a street corner?! Hmmm.

On route to San Pedro we passed some amazing scenery – I cannot describe how wierd it is to be here. I have never seen anything like it. Complete nothingness. Also I say some amazing scenery – I fell asleep for part of the shuttle trip – something about the motion of a vehicle that sends me to sleep. Fast.

So then we arrived at our street corner and a man comes to meet us. Mum and I think he looks like Jesus (however Jesus is supposed to look – different subject matter). He is our landlord a it were and very nice. Oh and he speaks English – result! Our apartment is just off the main street (so getting lost is impossible – except if you are my mum who still gets confused when we do the same walk up and down the main street here) and it is loooooovely. Soooo cute. Anyone who knows me knows I have a inner hippy streak and love granny kitsch. This apartment is IT! If I could bring it back to the UK I so would. I have already brought some knitted Alpacas 🙂 And I am sooo getting a knitted jumper from here – its the softest wool EVER! However, the hundreds of ants climbing the tree in our outdoor ‘dining room’ can stay here. Grrr. We have already lost the sugar to the ants.

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Outdoor shower

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Ant Tree

I would definitely recommend this place to couples coming here for a few days. Not perhaps the 6 full days that we stayed here! But as you will see from the photos, it is very unique and I love showering outdoors! Also on the Sunday there was a town parade going on (a religious parade I think) and the locals partook in this with fancy outfits, live bands and dancers. It was very cool AND we got to watch this from our doorstep. How nice was it showering in our garden listening to a live band march through the town IN THE SUN.

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So, relieved about the apartment, we then venture into town. I kid you not when I say it is practically one long, main street with a few side streets and a main square. It would take you less than hour to walk around it all. And we have six days here. Gulp. And no WIFI. Gulp again. Mum says ‘you’ll just have to learn to relax without the internet’. I am confused as to what she is saying and every opportunity I can I find somewhere with the internet. Ha. As expected, its not fast but its good enough.

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So cue LOTS of time mooching around – in our apartment and a bar/restaurant with WIFI. Its a lovely place though and the shops are brimming with amazing, expensive things to buy. All made here obviously. As well as my jumper, I have seen a funky water bottle carrier and hippy trousers. I recks Ill give the hippy trousers a miss though – I would hate to become a cliche 😉 Althouuuu it would be worth it though just to greet James in them when he gets here! Hee. And see my brothers face when he sees me wearing them 🙂 Also it would be funny to wear them to work on my first day back! But I am on a budget – important things only.. Like my jumper and water bottle carrier 🙂

At night San Pedro comes alive with tourists and locals drinking it up. And of course how could I forget the human like dogs. There is suddenly a noise level as people emerge from… the desert?! to consume alcohol. However this all all stops at 1ish and I have not partaken in this drink culture. Shock. Although we have indulged in cocktails and wine, they seem to give us headaches the next day. Not sure if it was the strength of the sun out there or altitude. I have since found out its likely to be the altitude and mum was not feeling great from it and not adjusting to the altitude here as suggested online. She sounds like Darth Vader with her blocked sinuses and I am not an expert in altitude sickness. Most ailments yes, but not this one. I sort of expect to turn around and find Darth Vader standing there ‘Tara, I am your mother….’. Ha.

So tucked up in our matrimonial bed we are most evenings at 11pm the latest! With one eye open I may add – I know those pesky ants are just waiting for an opportunity to march all over me like they did my sugar!

There are also soooo many tour operators we didnt know who to go with! So we thought we would go with three different ones – mostly recommended by the Lonely Planet (LP) and the last one because it is next to our apartment and I wanted their free wifi! Hee. These are Grado10, Atacama Adventures and Turis Tours. For the next fews days, we have planned visits to star gaze, visit Moon Valley, see the geyers and a trip to see some flamingos/lagoon. Mum wanted to see the latter. I wanted to go to Salar de Tara – right, its clearly meant for me – but the LP says although spectacular (why thank you :)) it is also back breaking (ha, perhaps more apt!). But not quite sure mum was feeling that or the sand boarding at night. Funny that.

We did the star tour first with SPACE and this was sooooo beautiful. I mean the view is just amazing – hundreds of stars – and we saw the brightest of them all through a telescope. I forget its name though! :s We also got to see Jupiter which was amazing. I also discovered that there was more to Orion than his belt (or Tara’s line as I used to call it) and discovered where the Southern Cross was. Also felt impressed with myself when the astronomer explained ‘supernova’ as I knew what this was from currently reading Bill Bryson’s ‘short history of everything’ book. Go me.

Signing to mum in the pitch black was difficult, I am not gonna lie but at least we got a hot chocolate at the end of the evening. Yay. We also saw an amazing shooting star (amongst a few others) which, to quote said astronomer ‘was the best he had seen in the last 5 years’. It was amazing – although I missed part of it due to signing to mum. The tour was definitely worth doing and the astronomer explained so much more about space but to be honest, I find it all a tad mind boggling. Better get on with my Bill Bryson reading…

We then headed to Moon Valley with Grado10 and the guide was lovely. His name was Nicholas and he wanted to learn sign language so we taught him the basics – hello/bye, thank you, you’re welcome and my name is Nicholas. I think I would be a good teacher. He also came to South America 2 years ago from France – started off in Ushuaia like me – with plans to travel for 10 months. He is still here and appears not to have made it far! He said he was leaving San Pedro in March to travel and end up in French Guinea where he wants to stay for another 2 years?! How do people just do this?! I am in awe of people like this. I wish I was brave enough.

Moon Valley is gorgeous and it was really nice to leave San Pedro and see the sites. It was also time to bask in the gloriously HOT sun! We ventured into a small salt cave and had to climb up part of this steep hill which set off mums fear of heights. Poor love, I don’t think this is what she had in mind when she said she wanted to come to Chile. We then headed to Death Valley and watched the sunset. It was pretty gorgeous but it ain’t no Ayes Rock. I wonder if by travelling I have become a tad complacent about beautiful places. In my head I am like ‘Yeah that’s cool, but it was better in….’ Blah blah! Tut.

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We then did a tour to see the geysers. The tour company was picking us up at 4AM! Lord. So up at 3.15am we were and were told to bring warm clothes. Well, I feel I did not really grasp the point of that as it was soooooooooooo cold! I mean literally like climbing the mountain in Torres but WITHOUT THE PROPER CLOTHES (and rain). The guide said it was below -0 but honestly, I could not feel my toes and felt cold to the bone. One lady suffered from altitude sickness pretty bad and had to head down before us but I was ok – just FA-REEZING. Mum felt a bit lightheaded.

The geysers were pretty amazing and I have not seen these before so I was impressed.

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The noise they make is sooo wierd – like one heavy breath and poof, hot smoke comes out. I was trying to stand near the smoke so it would warm me up and am unsure how, when there is soooo much heat below the surface bursting through, my feet were SO cold. Why was the floor not warmer?! Bill Bryson?! Anyone?! Some were gushing hot water too (these are the actual geysers) and ha, our guide placed eggs and drinking chocolate in a hot water pool for our breakfast. Cue boiled eggs and hot chocolate for breakfast (or tea for me and mum). This is because the guide said the hot water was about 99 degrees. Wow. I didnt test this by dipping my finger in – basically because I was rigid from the cold. Honestly see said picture below for how cold I look and times it by 100. We then had the opportunity to swim in the hot springs which some people did. Had my toes not been in a state of frostbite and my bones rigid, I might have done this as I really wanted to. However, the guide says he has done this trip for over 5 years and he still has not ventured into the hot springs due to the thought of getting undressed and dressed in the cold. So I am not the only one! It looked pretty cool though.

I have now made a mental note though to try everything (almost everything) for my last part of the tour. I can be quite a chicken and lazy so I regret not jumping off a rock when water rafting (it was high and haha I have done it already in Aussie land was my excuse ;p) and not getting into the hot springs. So hence forth, going forward I shall be Tara the Brave. Ish. And thus have no regrets.

We didnt end up doing the last tour due to it being at quite a high altitude and mum not feeling great. So we mooched for day 5 and actually it was really nice. I think we adapted to doing very little!

Overall San Pedro is amazing and I would highly recommend coming here – it is truly a beautiful and unique place. However, 4 days would be plenty of time to do most of the tours. But apart from the tours, there isnt much else to do apart from eat, drink and shop and it is expensive here. Also these things dont take that long so you are left with quite a bit of time on your hands. Maybe to contemplate the beauty of life if you so wish. The tours are mainly half day ones so mooching around seems to be how we have spent most of our time. This would be fine if we didnt want to do more in the Santiago area (or home as we have come to refer to it!). I might come back here for a couple of days (to do the rest of the tours, night time sandboarding and have a night out in San Pedro) as part of another trip.

So thats it for now peeps, back to Santiago tomorrow for my last few days in Chile and we are going to the apparently wonderful Valpraisio. Back to civilisation and mum breathing like a normal person! Then its off to Argentina again for me and the last part of my wonderful trip.

Oh and in case you were wondering, I have injured my leg ´twice by walking into the wooden matrimonial bed frame and almost concussed myself by headbutting the door frame twice. Just so you know I havent changed that much.

Ciao 🙂 x

Posted in Author: TH, Travel, Wanderlust | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

“Definition of ‘adventure’: extreme circumstances recalled in tranquility.”

Ha so here I am in Santiago – Blimey O’Reilly – it has certainly been an adventure.

So it all started in Ushuaia – the city at the end of world. It was grey and hmm a tad cold. But that’s ok – because I had prepared myself for such. What I had not prepared for was DOGS everywhere! They literally wander the streets like humans.. crossing the roads, walking along side you.. My thoughts went from ‘bugger I should have got my rabies injection’ to ‘they are taking over the world’ and shadowing humans to a unsettling degree. I am pretty sure a couple of dogs tried to get on the bus in Bariloche (chocolate heaven) the other day – the only obstacle was the bus ticket process which I swear they were concentrating on from the bus stop. True fact -Dog domination will start in South America.

So Ushuaia is nice – the gateway to Antartica and an opportunity to see penguins and sea lions. A nice boat ride on the beagle channel but if you ever come here – try and book in advance to go on to the penguin island where you can walk amongst the little fur balls. They are well cute little tings. Sea lions are too but their smell is quite um ‘fragrant’. And you cant walk amongst them. You can also hike in the national park which others said was nice. I opted for the penguins and a lie in. Then it was time for le tour to commence – Ushuaia to Santiago. Woop.

Ushuaia penguins sealions

The dragoman tour began with our introduction meeting. ‘All your itineraries are wrong’ was how the chat started with Yves our guide. Hm, good. I should point out that I spent most of the tour not really knowing what was happening so the itinerary issue did not really affect me. I have learnt that i am more like a sheep – a follower rather than a leader.

The group is big – it took me about a week and a bit to learn everyone’s names and even then I often got it wrong :s Everyone seemed nice and I made friends with an Australian girl called Marion who was to become my tent buddy (or perhaps more aptly my hostel buddy) throughout the trip. She is 22 years old but bless, I am quite immature for my age so we get along dandy. She also doesn’t seem to mind my incessant, random ramblings (in fact she quite often has her own!) Ha! We also discovered that we had been placed in groups of 5 and we would take turns to cook for the group (of 23!!) when camping and decide on meals between us. HAVE YOU EVER TRIED TO GUESS PORTIONS FOR 23 PEOPLE!!? Lord.

Sooo we were then introduced to ‘Mamasita’ our truck and off we went – Patagonia herrre we come. First stop was crossing the ‘Strait of Magellan’ – a supposed 20 minute ferry ride which took 1 and half hours as ‘the tide was too low for Mr Ferry Driver to park le ferry’. Great start. We then ‘bush camped’ on some deserted land near an empty barn for the night [cue horror film images] and were introduced to our tent and hammer. It also resulted in our guide Yves slowly saying ‘Girls, this is how you hold a hammer and this is how you use it’ talk. Yay – I have truly grown as a person.

bush camping

The next day we then headed to Torres Del Paine National Park. And the introduction to rain, wind and cold which has pretty much followed us this WHOLE trip. Good times. Oh and a damaged ankle, bleeding-cut head, sunburnt scalp, achy back and splinter that won’t come out and appears to have set up home in my hand. Thank goodness mum is here soon. Oh and the mother of all hangovers.

The refugio we stayed in in the National Park was lovely – views of the lake and mountains. I gathered my hiking boots, hiking socks and got my ‘waterproof’ outfit together. I felt quite the professional hiker! Although no gandalf walking stick (until later in Mirador woodlands)… I also lent my ‘spare’ waterproof trousers to another guy in my group. How I loved watching him hiking in front of me super dry whilst I quickly discovered that my ‘waterproof’ trousers were not actually waterproof in torrential rain. Rather they dried quickly. Marvellous.

Day 1 was an uphill hike to see a glacier but due to the extreme rain and wind, this was not visible when we got there – the bitter, cold end. I did see some wee icebergs though. Also my hiking boots had decided to turn against my ankle bone and render me incapable of walking. Hobbling in pain was pretty much how I spent the first day – and the bone has still not recovered as I discovered when water rafting 2 weeks later! Grr. And YES I know that everyone told me to ‘wear them in’…Oops. I think my ankle is just shaped in such a way that the boot was incompatible. Darn….. However, the saving grace was that I could not do the W Walk – which after being the coldest I have EVER been from a three hour walk, suddenly this did not seem SO bad. ‘All’s well that ends well’ as Nanna Joy used to say!

The national park is lovely and the scenery is totally amazing. HOWEVER, having experienced voluminous rain and people carrying winds, I would say your experience is likely to be weather dependant. I couldnt really see much view wise sometimes (as you are pretty much staring at the floor the whole way trying not to trip) and when its raining heavily and fareezing cold, enjoyability levels sort of diminish.

We mulled around this national park for a few days and a few of us hiked again – a smaller sized hill with gorgeous views. It was superrr windy and we had nowt else to do as the truck broke down.
Then I attempted to hike again on the Day 4 – the last day of the W Walk. IN MY PLIMSOLS. It was sunny-ish but uphill and I must admit, walking in cath kidston flowery plimsols was probably not designed for such! As the group passed, I cut my losses at the half way point. Hiking is not my bag – staring at the floor and breathing like an 80 year old on a treadmill does not quite fall within my definition of fun. So I headed back to base where two cocktails awaited. FUN at last.

I should point out that I did participate in hiking to high, scenic points a few times and have photographic evidence for this.

W trek hike w walk2 shoes view3

We then headed back to the mainland for the next part of our journey. But not before the lovely DJ, a lady in our group (aged in her 60’s) chatted up a cowboy looking, harmonica playing marine from Argentina! Ha. Go DJ.

Next stop El Calafate – home of the Perito Moreno glacier – and a rare sighting of the….SUN! aMazzzing. Especially as I did not expect it to be warm near a glacier. The Perito Moreno glacier is beautiful and the sounds it makes when the ice is falling off is amazing. definitely worth a visit. And we had SUN! Double celebration.

glacier and me glacier glacier2

Also had a chance to get some washing done which when you’re living out of a backpack, this is a very exciting moment! Althouuuuu I thought I put my hareem trousers in and then when I got my washing back and they were not there, I ‘accused’ the hostel of losing them. No one else had them and tears welled after this and banging my head on a window and cutting it open. Note – blood seeping scalp is not a good look. Luckily a good Argentinian meat feast with wine helped cheer me up. Oh and I then found my trousers buried in the bottom of my sleeping bag a few days later! (a common issue when residing in a two person tent and changing in your sleeping bag I should point out. I wonder what else is in there….). Turns out I didnt place them in the wash as I presumed. OOps. Wish I hadnt asked everyone in my group to check that they did not have them by mistake. Ditzy blonde anyone?!

We then headed to El Chalten and I signed up for ice climbing. And rented hiking shoes so that I could do this activity with my deformed ankle. However, due to the strong winds (I am not kidding, they were SO strong) this was no longer possible. So instead I went for ice trekking and I think it is the best thing I have done on this trip. So AMAZING. And terrifying. I mean the crevices were gigantic and one slip from me would likely render me down at the bottom, sobbing – and cold naturally. Thankfully this did not happen. Woop. Did I also mention that I had the second BEST burger I have ever had in El Chalten – naturally nothing can beat Queenstown Ferg burger. It was super big and yummy. Mmm. This was also where camping ceased for me and Marion – hoorah.

glaicer 2 glacier1 glacier 3

The next day Marion, Svenja and Yentz (a lovely couple from Germany) and I went hiking. A last attempt to see if I enjoyed this activity. Rain again and it was confirmed that I did not. Not uphill anyway. I did however, find a Gandalf like walking stick and posed mystically with this. And posed like a tree in a forest with super cute small trees. Its the little things.

sticki am a tree

That evening I went out to dinner with Marion, Nam (a lovely Aussie girl who is travelling for a WHOLE YEAR!!), DJ, Carol (the oldest member of the group at 66 years old and travelling for 6 ish months) and Karleen (a really sweet, integrally honest lady from Belgium who has pretty much travelled everywhere!). It was really nice learning about other people and their lives etc. It could be that at home, you generally meet and befriend kindred spirits but on a tour with people from all walks of life, you see a wider range of personalities, beliefs and experiences. Suddenly wanting to spend the rest of my life travelling does not seem so unusual.

Then on route to our next destination, the truck broke doown again. I was ok with this as we got to stay in a cafe with internet and I had my first Pisco Sourz. Yay. Plus obviously it was raining and we had been due to camp. Due to the time that it took to fix le truck, we got placed in a looooovely hostel. Cue clean sheets and a bed. Happy Tara.

The next day was driving to a farm in Chile for horse riding and meat feast bbq. Stopped off at the famous cave of hands and basked in the glorious sun. Its a rare thing on this trip although it may not sound like it as I have mentioned it quite a few times. Horse riding was good but terrifying and not something I would EVER do again. Marion’s horse tried to buckeroo mine (on purpose ;)) and my life flashed before my eyes. I also screamed ALOT. Did the gorgeous horse ask me if I wanted to gallop super fast with it across the Chilean terrain – er NO! I was literally like a jelly bean bouncing from one side to the other praying not to hit the ground. I have never felt my insides jiggle around SO much. Its like my stomach internally touched my throat passage and my heart hit my shoulder. Seriously. The next day I couldnt bend from back ache. This tour is hard work. Then I got the splinter that wont leave my hand.

horse chat horse view horse

Next up was to Fufutaleufu (Foot a la foooo as we liked to call it!) where we ‘camped’ for the night. Due to the truck breaking down we couldnt spend a whole day here as planned and that was a bit disappointing as it seemed a lovely place and the water rafting is supposed to be ace here. Oh and I say camped but actually, there was a chalet free so Marion and I went in that with the carol, karleen, dj and dirk and ingrid – who have been travelling to the most amazing places. We had a lovely time here, the group cooked burgers and potatoes which were YUMMY and we had some cat wine. Its just got a cat on the carton – dont fear – there isnt some wierd animal cruelty thing going on here! We then discussed having a night out in Barliloche as although it may sound like I have been drinking somewhat on this tour – alcohol rationings would be the case here. A nice evening but on entry to the chalet we encountered millions – I kid you not – of moths circling the light outside. Think swarm of locusts for the imagery that awaited us. And fear. I woke up said older ladies as I screamed, running through the swarm to get inside.

Next stop Bariloche. Cute town, super nice chocolate and I got some for mum – however, I shall see how hungry I am by the time she gets here! Ha. It feels like we are back in civilisation and there was SUN!! It went the next day though. Of course.

Decided to do a small HIKE, it seems like this is all there is to do so I dont know why my jeans are getting tight! Some of the group decided on mountain biking but to be honest, I am tired now! So hiked a little then went to this lovvveeeeeely 5 star hotel for lunch which was soooo luxurious (and a tad pricey but sometimes you just need that reward!). This might be the reason for the jeans issue. Then, me, Nam and Marion decided to find a bar. Enough was enough now – give me a cocktail or ill cry was the general thought. And damn did we find them! The first long island was deceivingly ok, the second knocked my socks off and I don’t remember the remaining two that I had. But we danced, laughed and then headed home at half 5 that morning. Amazingly fun night and well needed. However cue major hangover on the bus at 8.30 am and genuine fear that I would throw up on the bus in front of fellow group whilst on bumpy road. Why was the road so bumpy!? Not good. However, I am a super strong person as I got through this trial, sick free.

eve out

Next up Pucon and torrential rain. We went white water rafting. In Torrential RAIN. But well, was in the water anyways! It was really good but panic of being flung onto a rock and drowning did cross my mind. I am definitely turning into a bigger worrier in my old age. I survived. Good times.

rafting1

Then on day 22, we left at 6.30am to head to Santiago for our 12 HOUR DRIVE. I kid you not. But we arrived and were super happy to be placed in a lovely hostel with hot water and clean sheets! WOop.

group

Looking back over the tour, I am sooooo glad I did it. Dont get me wrong throughout – what with the wind, rain, cold, camping (and setting up the tent) and truck breaking down a few times – I did not really appreciate the amazingness of it all. Its hard being constantly on the go, getting up super early every other day and being stuck on a truck for houuurrs at a time. Also I was with 23 people I did not know that well – all with different personalities and habits. However, looking back at the photos I cant help but feel super happy about it all. It truly was an amazing adventure.

And I will miss the people from the tour – especially Marion, Nam and DJ – the lovely ladies who helped keep me sane.

SO now I am in Santiago where a new adventure awaits with my lovely mum. The hotel is super nice and I have done very little today but smile and enjoy the sun. Apparently rumour has it that the sun resides here. SO far so good 🙂

 

20140125-202206.jpg

Posted in Author: TH, Travel, Uncategorized, Wanderlust | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

“Travel far enough, you meet yourself.” Oh dear.

I arrived at Gatwick ready to start my solo adventure and to be honest, I had not really thought about the actual GOING part. More the telling everyone about it and dreaming of exotic places. So imagine my shock when it suddenly hit me that my family who were seeing me to the airport were going to leave me there. Well, this thought was too much for me and suddenly I started crying. Sorry family. Bad move.

Bravely I left them and wandered into duty free. ‘I am an adult and I can cope on my own the other side of the world’ is what I told myself. So, all I needed to get was a plug convertor and then be on my way. A casio watch later, I was on the plane.

On the plane, I sat smiling, admiring my new watch and thinking how organised I was to be on the plane so early. All those times running for the plane were clearly due to the others that I was with at the time. Then suddenly, 10 minutes before take off I remembered the charger. Fucccck. I asked the steward if he would mind letting me get off the plane to ‘buy something very important’ but they looked at me like I was crazy. I felt panic like nothing else – how an earth would I cope without my phone!? Its bad enough being a solo, indpendent lady but I neeeeeeed my phone to contact people and keep me sane. Fuuuuck again. Tears welled for the second time. And I had an awesome playlist to listen to 😦

I arrived in Madrid thinking I could maybe find one there but all the shops were shut. every single one. My heart sunk – this trip was not going to plan so far.

Never mind. I sat waiting for the next three hours – minus my awesome playlist – watching others. I felt like I was already in South Amercia with all the people around me. ‘Why were there so many South Americans in Spain?’ was my general thought and that I hoped I would have someone who spoke English to sit next to – so far the English language has disappeared apart from in my own head. So far. I also wondered if I looked like an experienced traveller – Probably not! Ha.

Finally we were called to board the plane and I excitedly wondered what awesome films I would get to watch. I find my seat and am alarmed to find a handsome man sitting next to me. Randomly, good looking people make me feel nervous until I get to know them (just so I dont offend all the good looking people in my life). But still, I planned on vegging out and watching films, eating loads and now I had good looking company to witness it all. Boo.

However, ‘Juan’ was Really nice. He kept me entertained throughout most of the flight (which was good as my remote for the tv was faulty) and even managed to convince the air stewardess to give us 3 glasses of free wine. Ha. No this airline does not give free alcohol and the films were awful – lucikly I didnt need to watch them even if i wanted to. Also, Juan’s parents lived in Buenos Aires so he said he would ask them to give me a lift to the domestic airport to save me getting a shuttle bus. Result.

Finally, after what seemed like forever we arrived in Buenos Aires and again, NO ONE speaks a word of english. Its like it doesnt exist!? Even I know a bit of spanish ‘Ola, gracias’….oh and now ‘Si’. Thankfully I had Juan who navigated me around.

Anyways, we head out of the airport and are greeted by Juan’s parents who hug and kiss him a million times – even throughout the car journey his dad kept kissing him. It was so nice to see affection like that – in the UK its not really like that so much. OH and the HEAT! It is sooooooo hot here, the sun hits me and my body and face automatically turn to face it and I freeze. Yes, this is what I am talking about!

Then before I know it, I am at the domestic airport and my helpful Juan has to leave. I feel sad.. he’s the only person I know out here. Tears well again. Lord I must see my doctor about this when I get back – I am sure there is a loose tear valve. It was solo Tara again and I must admit, I am not as entertaining as I imagined I would be. I am bored now and just want to talk to people. Another 4 and half hours later I am on my last plane for this part of the journey. Its a classier airline I must admit but still no films! And no phone as I have not yet managed to locate a charger. Oops.

So I am here in Ushuaia and it is COLD. It is sort of like Aspen but a South American version. I will post photos soon and tonight I am meeting my tour group. A tad nervous but c’est le vie (see I even know french!) gotta roll with it. Tomorrow is a chill day here, might get on a boat or whatnot and Saturday we leave for the tour. That’s when I anticipate my blog will get more exciting. But thanks for reading all this if you have managed to get this far! Ha.

Latas peeps xx

Oh and here is a song that keeps me sane out here – thanks to TK!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qDVW81bXo0s

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Happy Saturday People

Posted in Author: NS, etc | Leave a comment

I have 5 weeks to go.

http://www.dragoman.co.uk/holidays/details/patagonia-and-tierra-del-fuego-between-santiago-and-ushuaia

Oh its so cold in the UK. I hate it.

And then… I think of where I have booked to go on my tour and my heart sinks. Its going to be coldER. Reports say mighty winds that knock you off your feet, torrential rain, sunshine bellowing through the ozone layer (which sadly has placed its hole  directly above Patagonia) and this can be all in one afternoon. But at least Ill get to see Llamas. And wear glorious hiking shoes.

I am excited. And grateful I have this amazing opportunity to travel. I just need to get through the 23 day tour with 19 other strangers and then I will have grown up. Had a life altering experience. After all, I am flying across the world to the ‘City at the end of the world’, hiking through mountains and ice with hiking shoes and if I can find one – a Gandalf like walking stick (if anyone has one of these please forward – I’ll endeavour to return it once I have conquered Patagonia – promise). All new things.

Its just the cold. And fear for my nose and toes – both of which don’t react well to cold.

I have 5 weeks left to get my stuff together. This means injections, save, buy travel gear – I have never hiked before and in conditions listed above, I have no idea what I am supposed to wear. Layers is all I hear about. So I could just ‘do a Joey’ in Friends and wear alllllll my clothes at once. That’s layers.  And it saves me buying things I’ll probably never wear again. But I somehow don’t think my floral, backless dress will see me through a cold night camping in Patagonia. Maybe Santiago though. Possibility.

Santiago. Now this sounds warm. And has the perk of mum then coming out for 2 weeks which means a nice hotel with clean sheets and a pool. What a victorious end. Just 23 days……. Piece.of.cake. Brr.

patagonia

 

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