Argentina, Uruguay and a distracted traveler
Traveling to every country in the world at this speed is hard work. Very hard work. But it is also very rewarding.
So, somewhere between dropping my girlfriend off at the airport and taking the bus back to Santiago in Chile...I lost my brain.
The big Facebook event went great. I could not have hoped for more. More than 150 people volunteered to share the video on their personal Facebook page on September 21st before noon. It was shared massively and gained a lot more attention for Once Upon a Saga which is wonderful. But as you may know it took me 4 emails to get the instructions right and then I realized that I had to return to Chile from Argentina because I had forgotten to film some video for the "South America video". So I booked a bus back to Santiago and returned to Mendoza in Argentina the same day. It was only 7 hours each way and the cost of 2 more tickets :(
Going over the Andes twice in a day.
But now I got it right. I didn't cheat. I've got footage from Chile now and that probably means a lot more to me than to anyone else.
So, what is Mendoza like? It's heaven for me! I have my heart set on summiting Mt. Aconcagua which is the highest mountain outside of the Himalayas. It's not technically difficult but it is very high and the sheer altitude might be a problem for me. But the season doesn't start until November 15th and though I seriously considered waiting I finally decided that Once Upon a Saga is what I am doing now and that Aconcagua will be a project for a different day.
My good friend Lars had his honeymoon in Argentina. He recommended this restaurant and it was fun to sit and think that he too had been there. But I missed the company.
Mendoza happens to be the starting point for most expeditions to Aconcagua and for that alone I love Mendoza. But more objectively it was just a really nice city. The city center with its beautiful parks is an amazing setting for everything else. The kind gentle Argentinian way of life combined with great meat rocks - and the casual guitar playing and the dancers in the streets creates a phenomenal atmosphere. I could see myself returning to Mendoza someday.
The congress building in Buenos Aires.
But the show must go on. Another bus got me across country to Buenos Aires. A major city of around 20 million souls when you count it all. That's a lot of people. The city is among other things known for its European style of architecture and it did have a European feel to it. Especially the high costs for food that go hand in hand with modern society. I struggle to buy bread and toppings and still remain on budget. But empanadas are cheap and delicious. I like the ones filled with meat. I like to think that I might have been a carnivore dinosaur many years ago. Salad is for the weak - give me steak!! :) Argentina is famous for its meat and often it is served to you on a plate with nothing else. What's for dinner? Meat! And what else? What do you mean what else?! You get meat, son! ;) Argentina is by the way famed for its dinosaur findings. The very largest dinosaur fossils known to us have been found in Argentina including one recent discovery that absolutely dwarfs what we before perceived as being "a big dinosaur". What else lies undiscovered?
The Recoleta cemetery is an eerie place when you are there alone in the morning on a grey windy day. The crane on the other picture has been left as decoration at Puerto Madero perhaps to remind us of the past. I like it like that. A glimpse of history.
Argentina is like its neighboring countries made out of the same extraordinary fabric of spectacular nature. Being so far from equator the temperatures are quite pleasurable but keep in mind that European summer is South American winter. Volcanoes in the north, mountains to the east and as close as you can get to Antarctica in the south the landscape is supposed to be otherworldly. Some adventure for another day.
Thor the giant (I may be crouching a bit for effect)
I ran into Thor from Denmark while in Buenos Aires. Thor is 6 meters tall and only 19 years old so he may grow to around 10 meters if we keep feeding him. He's a great guy and as it turned out he was leaving for Colonia in Uruguay on the same day as I was. Only he was on the early boat at twice the price - because I'm on a strict budget ;)
I got on a boat for the first time since Panama. Fun :)
I crossed the "River of Silver" by fast boat and made it to Uruguay in only an hour. Thereby making Uruguay country #58 with only 145 more countries to go. Yeah, this thing will be over before you know it and I wonder if I at some point in the future will stand on a bridge in the evening looking into dark water as the stars rise above me. And if at that point might get the crazy idea that all of this was but a dream and never really happened. How is it honestly possible that we can live in 2014 and know that nobody has ever traveled to every country in the world without boarding a flight? I grew up thinking that no matter where I would go. No matter where I would stand and basically no matter what I would say it would have been said before and someone would have stepped there before - we have been around for more than 200.000 years. So many people have lived and died and any significant geographical challenge that I can think of has been conquered. The last great ones being when the South Pole and Mt. Everest were conquered more than 60 years ago. How did we miss traveling to every country by land? 7.000.000.000 people live on this planet and though many will never get the chance to embark on such an adventure others will and have. Oh well.
Colonia is such a charming place when the sun is out.
So, back to Uruguay. Colonia is wonderful. Well, it rained the first day but the next day I had blue skies above me, a nice cream in my hand, locals playing guitar and I had meat for dinner. The guitar playing that is so frequent in South America is no joke! There must be millions of "Santana's" on this continent. People here have magic fingers when it comes to guitar playing and I have yet to hear someone play that I wish really wouldn't. Being in the historical center of Colonia leaves you with the sense of being on a small island. Some places you can see water on 3 sides and the traffic is slow and respectful. It felt like a short holiday.
With more than 2,000 adventurous supporters in the Facebook group we have not only surpassed the amount of people living in the town where I grew up, but we have also created a vast network of individuals in many different countries and time zones. It's fascinating!
From the left: Javier, Ana, me, Zozan, Niko and Thor
Javier from Uruguay is such a supporter and he wrote me prior to my arrival to Uruguay saying that we should have a beer together if I was up for it. And knowing that a stranger is a friend you've never met before I never hesitated. Now with both the giant Thor and I in Colonia I asked if I could bring him and we agreed that the more the merrier. So Javier brought his childhood friend Ana and I happened to meet two German travelers, Zozan and Niko and then we were six. A couple of beers turned into dinner at a fantastic restaurant and 6 strangers at a round table became friends as the night progressed. To my surprise Javier paied for all of us which I couldn't talk him out of.
So the next evening I invited Javier to join me for pizza and beer on my dime. Javier is such a great guy with a large knowledge, a good sense of humor and a large heart. I can't help thinking that he sets a fine example for Uruguayan hospitality.
Uruguay was perhaps the first South American country to separate church from government. Abortion is legal and so are drugs as marihuana and hash. It is overall a very modern and progressive country that fancies meat and good times as far as I can tell. On the bus from Colonia to the capital Montevideo I found myself looking out of the window across the green fields and white farms thinking: "this could be Denmark". If only we knew how to play guitar...
This project is extraordinary hard work. Packing, unpacking, boarding a bus, checking into a hostel, talking to people, learning about the history, the culture, staying on budget, checking out, being polite, being open, boarding a bus, updating the social media, answering questions, answering more questions, interviewing the Red Cross, writing stories, packing, unpacking, sleeping in a new bed every night, meeting more people, answering more questions...and the beat goes on. But I promise you: there is nothing else I would rather do than this. Because in spite of the hassle the reward of meeting so many people, learning so many things and seeing, smelling, tasting and feeling the world as I move through it is a gift!
I miss people, I miss my girlfriend, I miss familiarity and I feel really tired right now but not homesick - I never felt homesick in my life. So I will aim for some relaxation in Brazil in the form of some boat travel on the Amazon river I hope. It will be a great adventure ;)
Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - increasingly exhausted but moving forward :)