If it’s Thursday in Buenos Aires, it must be time for Street Art.
There is so much Street Art to see in Buenos Aires, there are several entities providing tours, and one even divides the available tours into North and South. We even rode a bus for part of the North tour; kind of frustrating for viewing work, but it got us quickly from one section of the tour to the next.
The scene in BA is different than Bogotá, but alive and flourishing nonetheless. We saw numerous HUGE works, and many from a Mix of Styles event in 2011.
This garage door is across the street from one of the first street art projects where artists endorsed their work by signing the painting. According to the guia, the owner of the building across the street was so impressed by what the artixts created on their house, he asked them to decorate his garage.
That artists actively include their identities – email addresses, Web sites, names, and QR codes in their work is significant because anonymity used to insulate artists from heavy fines and/or prosecution. According to Anna, the arrival of democracy gave artists the freedom to “own” their work by signing, and that tradition continues today.
The mural along the bottom here is a separate work, honoring soldiers in the Maldivian war (Falklands).
Check out this video excerpting the “World’s Largest Homer Simpson Mural.”
Though many people view travel an adventure in itself, I like to do my part to add excitement to my days (and days) of travel. I’m seeking, and I’ve convinced myself I am promoting, synchronicity.
I don’t think of myself as Master and Commander when it comes to this expedition. In fact, some mornings the tedium of a detailed itinerary is too much, and I simply take off, turn left where I usually turn right, and experience the day as it unfolds.
Yesterday was one of those days. I’ve been wanting to get out to the Atlantic since arriving in Buenos Aires. On Google Maps, the ocean looks deceptively accessible – obstacles like cliffs and coastal highways are difficult to recognize in advance and surprisingly common. Over coffee and toast, I noticed Reserva Ecologica Costanera Norte on Google Maps. Go ahead and Google it yourself – I’ll wait.
So, you can see how the Reserve is situated; a knob of land to the east of a city university. I’m thinking bike paths, hiking trails, maybe a visitor’s center. All of the elements my American upbringing have led me to expect.
I go to the end of the Subte line and head northeast on Congresso. 5K to the water. Soon I’m passing a huge soccer stadium, crossing highways and rail lines and it is raining so hard my umbrella bends.
The closer I get to the University, the more desolate the landscape. Empty parking lots, idle doorways, massive empty buildings. No one to ask for directions.
Behind one empty lot, according to Google Maps, is the reserve. I can see a bridge:
No developed trails, no signs, nada. Do I trust Google?
The rain has stopped. Wind from the east is making bushes and Pampas Grass horizontal. Crossing the bridge, I can see a trail, or a path, through the bushes and trees.
About a half-mile along a meandering, nearly invisible pathway, a clearing. A tall tree, and the Atlantic just beyond. Wow.
The sea might have been angry, but I am ecstatic.
For an idea of what the environment was like, listen to this clip:
Larger cities in South America, North America, and all over the world have many elements in common. Streets, traffic, stores, restaurants, taxis, bus stops, people. What makes my travel interesting is the prospect of discovering something unique or special about every place I visit – not necessarily something iconic like Big Ben in London, or the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
For example, when I think of Moscow, I remember visiting an art exhibition in the Manezh, a former royal stable turned art gallery next to the Kremlin. In front of a huge contemporary painting, dense with historical and political symbolism I won’t ever comprehend, a man stood weeping. My friend Lenya explained one reason for the man’s reaction; overwhelming joy at being able to view such an important work of art in a public museum. This was 1990, the time of perestroika, glasnost, and the pending demise of the Soviet Union.
My special memory of Buenos Aires, much less dramatic but just as significant, will probably be stumbling upon this huge, calm, shady park in the Palermo neighborhood.
I’m not sure what it was about this place that struck me. Perhaps that I “found” it unexpectedly. Perhaps that a cool breeze traveled in and out of the shade, or the joggers, the dogs, the picnickers.
A locus of normal, familiar activity away from the millions of porteños inhabiting Argentina’s largest city, the heart of the country. A place where a traveler notices little things that evoke special memories.
It is hot here in Buenos Aires. In the 90’s, temperature and humidity. I can only last a few hours out on the streets – then it’s back to the air con hostel.
Maybe my body is acclimated to those cold February days in Colorado, though when I check the weather in Fort Collins, it’s not that cold. I’m wearing shorts and a T-shirt every day, and I have a pretty good tan going. On Monday, I’m off to Mar del Plata for a couple of days on the beach. I guess I’m whining.
Lots of walking here – it is pretty easy to find my way around. Today one of the main streets filled with demonstrators. I’m not sure what the demonstrations were about.
I was thinking something to do with an election, but news reports say the demonstrators organized protests supporting state workers whose jobs are being cut. The marchers used drums, songs, and gigantic flags to display their message. Streets all over were difficult to cross, and a fellow hosteler said he got stuck in the mess for 2 hours.
Lots more than political unrest today. In the narrow streets of the San Telmo neighborhood, there are so many examples of prime street art. I even found an abandoned building, covered in murals and portraits.
It looked like a former musicians collective. A sign out front
I’m thinking the music was authentic, not the natives. I think at least one of the portraits represents on of the artists:
More views of the building:
Then, I found a cool bookstore, the SECOND most beautiful in the world, according to the Guardian newspaper.
A theater converted to a bookstore. Cafe on the stage, reading nooks in the box seats.
It is easy for me to become so involved with urban details, like grocery store locations, metro schedules, museum opening times and so on that I forget the more appealing, less accessible natural areas in the countries I am visiting.
I am in Chile, where the western boundary is the Andes mountains, one of the world’s largest and highest mountain ranges. In Colorado, those who are able and willing can bag a 14er or two or 53. Climbing the state’s highest peaks is a lifetime goal for some, a bucket list item for others.
I know I am proud of the Colorado Rockies. I know my pride is often irrational and jingoistic. I always scoff when Phil Liggett announces grueling Tour de France stages in the Alps, where road altitudes are hundreds of meters lower in altitude than Loveland or Monarch passes. “Come to Colorado,” I like to think, “and see what real altitude riding is all about.”
If the infrastructure were in place in the Andes, the climbs and descents would kick ass, both in Colorado and the Alps. The Andes could host trekkers and climbers hoping to bag one or more of at least seven 20,000-foot (6,000 meter) peak. I chose to hike to the base of a 19,000-foot volcano (like a 20,000-foot climb was an option).
The excursion to San Jose involved a tour guide and a driver, along with 8 other travelers seeking a deeper, non-gringo experience in Chile. So far, I like spending time with guides. They always talk about weird factoids – stuff like, “OK, guys, this place is where President Augosto Pinochet was attacked by leftist guerillas.” We were on the way up the Cajón del Maipo, a winding canyon lined with big, beautiful homes. Pinochet maintained a huge estate in the canyon, also pointed out by the guide as we drove by. It is now a university offering degrees in ecotourism. Anyway, the bus pulls to the side of the road, and El Guío pointed to a tunnel just ahead. A railroad tunnel, built in the 1870’s long abandoned and unused. “OK, guys. I’m going to drop you off here. I’ll pick you up on the other side of the tunnel. Use your cell phone flashlights – it’s dark in there.”
About a quarter-mile later, we stumble out of the tunnel into daylight once again.
The scenery here, and throughout the day, made me homesick for Colorado mountains.
I stopped comparing the Andes to the Rockies along about here. I concede the Andes occupy about 3,000 times more area, have more altitude, and are probably less affected by people in general than the Rockies.
At this point in the journey, we are only at about 8,500 feet above sea level, so not much panting or wheezing from me. Overhead, too quick on the updrafts to snap a photo, an Andean condor circled, quickly eliminating us as a potential meal.
At the base of the volcano, a grassy meadow formerly used by sheepherders to fatten the animals before market. Today, we fatten ourselves with box lunches, wine, and a sunny repose before heading back to the city.
I like Santiago a lot. My luggage arrived with me, I figured out a cheap ($10) ride from the airport to the hostel on my own, and I haven’t used Google Translate once since I have been here.
However, I’m not doing well at finding interesting, unique subjects for photographs. I seem to have focused on cultural contrasts and ironic items so far, images that command a photo, that demand an out loud “WOW” response, or even a silent “look at that.” So far in Santiago, not many things have evoked such reactions.
The first day, I walked along Vicuña Mackenna to the big park where the zoo and La Choscana, one of Pablo Neruda’s homes, are located. I found a mountain bike trail and took that to the top.
One noticeable difference between Santiago and any of the other cities I’ve landed in so far on this trip is the number of trees. Lima is a desert town with a couple of nice public parks, but tree-lined streets are not a part of the plan. Same with Bogotá and Quito. Santiago’s streets are shady and almost overgrown with tall trees. There are so many parks I can’t walk them all.
This arboreal advantage may make the city feel like a familiar American town. Where streets in Lima are so narrow and packed with traffic (I folded a collapsible SUV side mirror on a passing vehicle with an elbow while walking a Lima street), the boulevards here are wide, the traffic is obedient, and there are no horns.
I think that “urban familiarity” may be clouding my vision, making things seem very familiar when they are not.
I’m not complaining – it’s just a weird sensation. I’m in Santiago, Chile, the skinniest, longest country on the planet, and I’m not spotting unique characteristics.
I may have to resort to fluffing my posts with selfies. . .
It is easy to forget the natural world when one is in the center of a population center like Lima, Peru. The Lima metropolitan area is home to 10 million people, one of the largest cities I have ever visited. While the urban experience is intense, incredible, and unavoidable, the natural wonders of Peru are just as intense and incredible, and should be sought out.
A few miles off the coast, three hours south of Lima, there is a place where seals, sea lions, dozens of species of sea birds (can you say blue-footed booby?) and Humboldt penguins gather to feed, reproduce, and contribute to a ruckus louder than a gridlocked intersection in the capital city. The islands are little more than rock outcroppings – constant pounding by Pacific waves and gusty winds carve interesting arches and caves in the geologic formations.
Just feet from the docks in Paracas, the number of sea birds is astonishing. Clouds of them drift over the tour boats, and pelicans drift in the waters around departing boats.
Around the islands, the sea is lively, the tour boats buzz in and out to provide the best views for passengers, and the noise from thousands of seals and sea lions is louder than any intersection in Lima at rush hour. Brown heads pop up near the boats, seals exploring the strange flat carriers full of orange-vested humans.
All around us, the waves are crashing against the rocky shores, the birds are squawking and squealing, the seals and sea lions are barking and bellowing.
So many photos to take – look, there! Look over there! Monster bull sea lions fight, diving birds plop turds on us, tour guides shouting information.
The chaos provided some serenity for an urban traveler, some unusual sights and amazement.
On the way out to the islands, we pass by the geoglyph pictured below. According to guides, there is no information about why the glyph is there, or what its significance is. It is over 500 feet tall, and pottery found nearby is from around 200 BC. Like the Nazca lines, origin and purpose unknown. Though it looks like a recent endeavor, everyone assures tourists it is ancient.