Photo of the Day - 4.7.2007

Posted by: elraymundo at 10:06 pm on Friday, April 6, 2007
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Travel, Photo of the Day, Argentina

Photo of a foundered ship in the Beagle Channel
Bad Day
- Beagle Channel, Argentina
Exif: ISO 400; f/5.6; 1/200 sec; 200mm
12.28.2006 ©Michael Raymond 2006 - 2007

Photo of the Day - 4.6.2007

Posted by: elraymundo at 10:53 pm on Thursday, April 5, 2007
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Euphoria, Travel, Photo of the Day, Nature, Argentina

Photo of mountains across the Beagle Channel
Beagle Channel
- Ushuaia, Argentina
Exif: ISO 50; f/16; 1/3 sec; 200mm
12.28.2006 ©Michael Raymond 2006 - 2007

Do the Drake Shake - It’s Hurltastic!

Posted by: elraymundo at 10:52 pm on Thursday, April 5, 2007
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Travel, Argentina, Antarctica

Jeff Watson AI Threat Level: Green - The reader may proceed without danger of reading anything related to American Idol.

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Fetch: The distance that the wind travels over open water that determines the size of a wave - the longer the fetch, the higher the waves.

Unlimited fetch: Some of the largest waves in the world (occasionally reaching 100 feet) occur…[in] the Southern Ocean, the only area of unlimited fetch in the world, since it encircles Antarctica. Mariners Weather Log Vol. 43, No. 1 April 1999

The Drake Passage: November 19, crossing Drake Passage, the most miserable stretch of ocean in the world. Winds circulate unrestricted, clockwise around the Antarctic land mass. Unlimited fetch and unrestricted terrain generate huge waves that become even larger when focused into the narrow Drake Passage between the tip of South America and the Antarctic Peninsula. Ocean currents forced by the earth’s rotation south along the east shores of South America, Africa, and Australia, now flow eastward, colliding with the cold water of the South Antarctic Ocean, resulting in chaos. A Life Other Men Only Dream About, Richard Nelson

29 December 2006
Aboard Sarpik Ittuk #311
Drake Passage Crossing

I think it’s the smells from the kitchen & dining room that are getting me. The smells, combined with a slow acquisition of sea legs, has had me hurl twice today (once in the hallway in a paper sack, the second in the cabin, unfortunately sans sack).

Crossing the Drake while laying in bed (because standing up brings the barf) is like riding a see-saw with sumo wrestlers.

Imagine laying down on a see-saw so that your body stretches lengthwise along the center. A 600 pound sumo wrestler sits down on the raised end of the see-saw. The see-saw sinks and you slide down the length of the see-saw until your toes bump into his belly. There is a slight pause, maybe five or ten seconds, and then a second 600 pound sumo wrestler sits on the other end of the see-saw. Your side rises up while his side sinks down and you begin a slow, inexorable head-first slide to the other end of the see-saw, not stopping until your head bumps into the second sumo wrestler. Then the first sumo wrestler sits again and back you go the other way.

Now…repeat that sliding business every twenty seconds…sliding from one end of the bed to the other as the waves roll the boat around…non-stop, for forty-eight hours. Throw in the occasional eruption of barf and a seasickness patch that, when stuck behind your ear, makes you look like a wobbly and slightly-greenish Star Trek borg and you, my friend, are sailing across the Drake Passage!

Two solid days of barf bags, sumo wrestlers and the borg. C’est très romantique, no?

Photo of the Day - 4.5.2007

Posted by: elraymundo at 7:50 am on Thursday, April 5, 2007
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Euphoria, Travel, Photo of the Day, Nature, Argentina

Photo of mountains surrounding Ushuaia, Argentina
Mountains at Dawn
- Ushuaia, Argentina
Exif: ISO 50; f/16; 1/5 sec; 180mm
12.28.2006 ©Michael Raymond 2006 - 2007

Where the Mountains Meet the Sea

Posted by: elraymundo at 7:49 am on Thursday, April 5, 2007
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: History, Art, Euphoria, Lotus Blossom, Travel, American Idol, Nature, Argentina

Jeff Watson AI Threat Level: Orange - There is a small amount of American Idol content present in this post. Proceed with caution.

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When La Raymunda and I talk about where, ultimately, we’d like to live, I usually tell her that I’d like to live somewhere very far away from Virginia and somewhere where the mountains meet the sea. That narrows the possibilities right away: the Chilean Andes run right up to the edge of the Pacific, New Zealand has mountains and glaciers all over the place and is surrounded by the Pacific. Washington State, though not perfectly qualified, comes close. Alaska and western Canada might also be in the running, and Iceland (active volcanoes!) and Norway, of course, with its spectacular fjords.

Normandy pops up a lot in this conversation also, but usually when I’m more in the mood for WWII battlefields, medieval history, Norman manors and castles, cuisines based on meat, heavy cream , cheese and brandy, pastoral landscapes dotted with orchards abutting seaside cliffs, cathedrals and the incredible Bayeux Tapestry. Oh, and Paris is just down the road from Normandy, too.

I never considered Argentina, though, since its only mountains are the Andes and the Andes form Argentina’s western border with Chile - the Argentine side of the mountains do not meet the sea. But once I got a look at Ushuaia from the air as we approached the airport I had to add Tierra del Fuego to the mix of possibilities.

At nearly 54.50 degrees south latitude, Ushuaia is the world’s southernmost city and currently has about 100,000 people living there. It sits on Tierra del Fuego at the southernmost edge of South America, ringed on three sides by snow-capped mountains (see the Photo of the Day just above here) and is fronted by the Beagle Channel, named for the ship that carried Charles Darwin on his famous naturalist voyage and which gives Ushuaia access to the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The chief industry is the Antarctic tourist trade, so there are photo shops and gear shops and plenty of restaurants and pubs. Working for a company that traveled regularly to Antarctica wouldn’t be bad, either. The local seafood is tasty (the king crab and the king crab soup at Volver, a seafood joint working out of what looks like an old wooden weather-beaten house sitting just across the road from the water’s edge, was great and the local dark beer, Artisanal Beagle, was really good, too).

I don’t speak Spanish, which is initially a problem, but fixable. Aside from that, though, with mountains, glaciers, glacial lakes, ocean, good food, good beer, adventure-type stuff all over the place and a decent camera shop, Ushuaia has just about everything I need to be happy. Oh, and the dollar is actually strong against the Argentine peso, so we wouldn’t be broke all the time like we would be in Normandy.

Anyway, something to think about.

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By the way, was it just me or could you actually see Haley’s uterus peeking out from under her miniskirt last night on American Idol?

Photo of the Day - 4.4.2007

Posted by: elraymundo at 8:33 am on Wednesday, April 4, 2007
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Travel, Photo of the Day, Argentina

Photo of the Shy Bidet in the Tolkeyen Hotel - Ushuaia, Argentina
The Shy Bidet
- Tolkeyen Hotel, Ushuaia, Argentina
Exif: ISO 800; f/4.5; 1/40 sec; 45mm
12.28.2006 ©Michael Raymond 2006 - 2007

The Shy Bidet

Posted by: elraymundo at 8:30 am on Wednesday, April 4, 2007
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Lotus Blossom, Travel, Argentina

Argentina is a don’t-flush-the-paper country. Their sewer systems are not built to process toilet paper and so beside every toilet in the country sits a small waste bin where one can deposit their…uh…detritus. They’re cute little bins, usually bright white with an easy-open lid, cheerfully gobbling up all manner of nastiness without complaint. It’s a system that works well-enough, I suppose, when there are no unpleasant colonic surprises and when the bins are emptied frequently. (The Debra once had a particularly horrifying olfactory experience in a Peruvian bus station in Tacna - my little lotus blossom stumbled out of a foul public bathroom, her face greenish yellow, her hand clamped over her mouth, desperately trying not to hurl - “The bathroom…so bad…overflowing bins…the filth…the dirty paper……the smell…”)

So, to restate, the bins are an adequate hit-or-miss solution when circumstances are ideal.

The situation quickly becomes dire, however, when weird-butt strikes. Those little toilet-side bins fill up and overflow pretty quickly when you’re going through entire rainforests of TP. And once the cheerful little bins are full, they’re full. There is no on-call chambermaid available for a discreet drive-by bin-emptying. Hence the overflow which exposes the critical flaw in the system. Because who wants a scented visual reminder of the refried beans or the unpeeled fruit or the unidentifiable Third World haute cuisine that done-in their colon? I’ll tell you who: not me, that’s who.

And that’s where a bidet comes in handy. And hallelujah praise the Lord we had one in our hotel in Ushuaia, because I was living in desperate times.

Bidets work like fountains, like those outside the Bellagio in Vegas (although I fear the ass big enough to rinse with the fountains at the Bellagio). Like a little geyser that lost a bet, a bidet shoots a stream of climate-controlled water upward - ideal for cleansing ol’ Mr. Brown Eye. The water temperature is adjustable - there are hot and cold water knobs, just like in a bathtub - to prevent an unwanted blast of frigid water into one’s nether-crevice or the sudden scalding of one’s anus.

Unfortunately, we had a shy bidet (not much spurt) and so cleaning up the ecological disaster I created could not be done (fountain wouldn’t reach the no-no place), meaning I had to shower (thank God there was a handheld showerhead, the first I’d seen in Argentina), which is when I learned that no amount of yoga poses was going to do the trick so eventually I borrowed a technique I read about in Morocco and just left-handed it.

Sic Semper National Aero Monopolous

Posted by: elraymundo at 8:19 am on Tuesday, April 3, 2007
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Euphoria, Lotus Blossom, Travel, Argentina, Antarctica

Jeff Watson AI Threat Level: Green - The reader may proceed without danger of reading anything related to American Idol.

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The postcard we mailed to ourselves from Vernadsky Station arrived last Thursday (delivery time: 2 months 26 days!), indicating it’s a good time to take this blog out of South America and get it down to Antarctica.

Vernadsky Station is a Ukrainian research base on Galindez Island, one of the Argentine Islands of the Wilhelm Archipelago, which lie off the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula. (Want to Google Earth it? Go here: s65° 14.746′ w064° 15.481)

But Vernadsky Station, with its young and lonely scientists and its bar wallpapered with brassieres comes later. First we have to get to Antarctica and to get to Antarctica from South America you have to get to the world’s southernmost city, which sits alongside the blue-green shaded Beagle Channel, nestled among the snow-capped summits and turquoise glacier-fed lakes of Tierra del Fuego at the very tippity-tip-tip-tip of South America: Ushuaia.

27 December 2006
Aeroparque Jorge Newberry
Buenos Aires, Argentina

Our third internal flight on Austral/Aerolineas Argentinas and, consequently, our third delayed departure.

Tomorrow we board the Sarpik Ittuk for Antarctica!

08:40 - Original schedule for take-off
10:15 - Revised schedule for take-off
11:20 - Revised revision of schedule for take-off
11:50 - Actual boarding time
11:50 - 13:22 - Sit on tarmac
13:26 - Passing peacefully over the urban sprawl of Buenos Aires, only 4 hours 46 minutes behind schedule

If you replaced the minutes and hours with years and months you would have the timeline for the Remedy release at the Place of Evil and Darkness. As it was, though, it was just another day in the life of a traveler on Argentina’s national domestic airline: delay after delay after delay. Sic semper national aero monopolous.

“When I was a kid I thought you could jump around on the clouds,” I said, looking out the window at the blanket of puffy white clouds outside the window, “and sink into them like a waterbed and then bounce up.”

“That would be fun if you could,” said La Raymunda, holding my hand. For a while at least she’d forgotten to fear flying. We were airborne with our minds turned toward penguins and icebergs…and how much barfing would occur while crossing the Drake Passage.

We’ll begin our trek south tomorrow with a little story I like to call, “The Shy Bidet”.

En la mañana!

P.S. Mystery Fawn has been migrating back and forth between our house and the O’Neill’s for a week now, lately sporting some new looks. Check the fashions and migrations of Mystery Fawn here and here and here and here and, finally, here.

Photo of the Day - 3.29.2007

Posted by: elraymundo at 10:08 pm on Wednesday, March 28, 2007
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Euphoria, Travel, Photo of the Day, Nature, Argentina

Photo of the viewing platform below Salto Bossetti - Iguazú Falls, Argentina
Viewing Platform
- Salto Bossetti, Iguazú Falls, Argentina
Exif: ISO 200; f/8; 1/100 sec; 24mm
12.25.2006 ©Michael Raymond 2006 - 2007

Photo of the Day - 3.27.2007

Posted by: elraymundo at 6:00 am on Tuesday, March 27, 2007
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Euphoria, Travel, Photo of the Day, Nature, Argentina

The Devil's Throat (La Garganta del Diablo) - Iguazú Falls, Argentina
The Devil’s Throat
- La Garganta del Diablo, Iguazú Falls, Argentina
Exif: ISO 400; f/8; 1/800 sec; 70mm
12.25.2006 ©Michael Raymond 2006 - 2007

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