Patagonia Part 4: The van, Captain Jack Sparrow and freedom

The camper van showed up a few weeks late. In an epic stroke of luck, I managed to get it out of customs by myself when the guy helping me got fired. I bounced back and forth between the port and Santiago, Chile. Batteries were dead but what little things stored in there were intact. I prepared for the long trip south. While meeting a buddy I met traveling in Santiago, he introduced me to Pascalle, a gal traveling from Holland (or the Netherlands. Its confusing.) Pascalle had her previous plans fall thru and was looking to head south. “Jump on board” I said. “I have an extra bed up top and just split gas with me.”

We rolled out the next day (after I slept in the streets of Santiago outside the hostel). I knew I had a good companion when she neither stressed about the van delay nor about me getting stuck in the sand the first night in my beefy 4wd van! I had to get pulled out (twice!) by locals. Humility in hand we headed south. She knew it was gonna be a fast trip but was up for it. I had to meet my buddy to trek in southern Chile so we rocked the 2000 or so miles in 8 days. Nearly running out of gas once and blowing out a shock absorber another. We drove past mountains and volcanoes and lakes and deserts. It was a stunning trip. Like the Colorado plateau meets Flagstaff meets the north Cascades. I really wish we had more time as the people were amazing and the views (and wind) epic. Pascalle did great driving when I got tired and we mainly camped for free when we found a spot. We got to spend time at a local Chilean Fair being the only tourists, camp out under an amazing sky similar to Joshua Tree and and swim in lakes and rivers.

We arrived back in El Calafate, Argentina for my third time and felt at home at the hostel with my friends there. Pascalle and I said our goodbyes, hoping to connect later. She was probably one of the best travel companions ever. She rocked it as a co-pilot.

Busting my ass to get across the border back into Chile to meet my buddy Michael, I had another gal with me for the ride to split gas. Thus still not having any solo time with my van!

Michael and I have backpacked together in India, Guatemala, the Grand Canyon, California, and now, Chile. We always laugh as for two guys in their fifties that seemingly have their shit together, we somehow screw shit up when trying to connect. True again as I was napping in the van in Puerto Natales airport while he landed in Punta Arenas! Three hours south! How we goofed it up I don’t know. But he got to ride a Chilean bus!

Our backpacking trip to Torres del Paine got canceled because of rain. Long story but when the busiest park in Chile has a hiccup, your reservations gets screwed. Since Michael was only down for 2 1/2 weeks, I needed to make the call to get us into the mountains. So we crossed the border (again) back to Argentina, El Calafate, and El Chalten. There was a trek there I heard about and knew that neither weather nor reservations would hurt us.

The Huemul Trek turned out to be one of the most dramatic ones I have done. It is a 60k trek over four days that skirts the Southern Patagonia icefield; getting up close and personal with several glaciers. Unfortunately, both Michael and I got blisters in the first hour (new boots!) Even though we have both been hiking a lot, the wind and blisters hurt us. But we still knocked it out and experienced breathtaking views. I wanna go back to all of these treks. I could spend a month in El Chalten alone.

With me planning to take a 2 1/2 day ferry from southern Chile (Puerto Natales) we headed to Punta Arenas (got the airport right) for his flight. An Air BnB snafu had us homeless the second to last night and a stroke of luck (again) got us to meet Juan Matric, the owner of a hostel that hooked us up.

After seeing my van (and me lamenting I had had no alone time in the wild yet with her), he convinced me to take the road all the way down to the tip of the Pan American hiway to explore. Hoping to be alone, I drove all the way down after taking a two hour ferry to cross the Straights of Magellan. Through a blinding rainstorm. Couldn’t see a damn thing.

After reaching the end of the road (it was Saturday and there was no one there so I ignored the warning signs and drove the last 5 plus miles waiting for the end.), I turned around. This road is being constructed to connect the rest of Chile to the Beagle Channel near Ushuaia, Argentina. It is way the fuck out there. Tired, sick of the rain, but glimpsing a few hanging glaciers along the Cordillera Darwin, I said, what the hell. There was a small “town” on the map towards the water. I just wanted to rest, hike a bit and maybe play some guitar. What I got was a different story.

I rolled in Caleta Maria, and its one house, as the clouds diappeared and this beautiful inlet presented itself. Pechuga is an aging fisherman turned tour guide. As I rolled up to the beach I asked where I could camp. I also jokingly asked him in Spanish when we were eating when I saw the lamb being grilled over the fire.

He asked me if I was alone when I walked back after parking and I said yes. Him and his 6 buddies invited me over to play music in this stunning, fjord-like utopia. You can see pics I posted.

They fed me (salmon, ceviche and lamb) and gave me local booze and played music with me. Allowing me to practice my Spanish. I was also told Camilo (he lived in the house; Pechuga lived in a camper on the beach.) had kayaks. So the next day I joined a pre-planned trip to paddle by the glaciers. It entailed a one hour boat ride and lots of preparation.

When we paused for lunch, we hurriedly built a fire. Not knowing the plan, I inquired. Captain Jack Sparrow is going to make us a traditional stew from Chiloe (that’s north Patagonia). I’m like who? Johnny Depp? That’s what they kept calling him.

As I napped in the sun on the beach (after these fisherman grilled me right out of the water scallops, gave me some wine and some local steak, it started getting late. Like 4 PM. Who and where is this guy? These guys dive all day and all year in suits to get lazy people like us our restaurant delicacies. A rough life they have for sure. It’s brutal down there.

Like a vision out of a movie, this strapping 40 something sleeveless Chilean smoothly walks thru the bushes to our little setting in the woods. Everyone hops to it and he makes the handmade dumpling like things, makes the salsa, and puts the clams and chorizo and potatoes and mussels into this massive stew pot on the fire. Camilo asks me what I think.

Damn. I just wanted a day alone with my van in the wilderness. No plans. Just freedom and rest. AND I GOT THIS! It was deliciosa!

That is why I don’t plan much when traveling. To have the ability to stop for a bit.

We said our goodbyes and I got my quiet time in the van.

My next stretch is a ferry north tomorrow. It arrives at the southern part of the Careterra Austral. One of the most stunning and remote drives in the world. From there, its all driving and a few local ferries. No flights for me for awhile. I am liking it down here if you can’t tell. But neither my spanish nor my guitar is improving. The people are great. It is safe. To be continued…

Patagonia Part 3: Wind and acceptance

The books say its windy here. This is mainly on the southern part of of the main Andes range but north of Tierra del Fuego. Near the third largest icefield in the world. “How bad can it be?” I asked myself.

How about in your face constantly, nearly knocking you down, hurting your eyes wind? Making you hate being outside, shifting directions and speed wind. Keeping you from wearing a ballcap wind. Sand in your eyes and making them water wind. Bracing yourself against it then it dies for a second and you fall wind. Gusts to 75 mph easy. And it is summer.

Watching people riding their bikes in it and talking to them about it I was like “no thanks”. But I wanted to trek of course. The previous description was just walking down the street. Especially in El Chalten, the backpacking central of Patagonia.

Essentially, everyone jams into the 100 or so hostels here in January and February (summer right?), hoping for good weather to get up into these easily accessible (two to three hours) campsites and maybe farther up to the lakes and glaciers.

All shapes and sizes and ages come here because, well, the books say it is beautiful. And it is.

Maybe 50 day hikes and overnights await. If you get lucky and it is not rainy and just a little windy, it is incredible. My Facebook pics of Fitzroy etc were windless.

After a day of heaving changing weather, I somehow scavenged a tent to be able to get up into these beautiful mountains (they are not that high here. Maybe 6-8000 foot peaks? But what a dramatic difference just 1500 feet can make! Glacial valleys still being carved. Peaks and valleys constantly being shaped by wind and ice.

I hiked around lots of the range here and got accustomed to the mountains. Crossing between sections, I did a fairly long day with the wind and rain abating just in time for a sunset attempt up to Laguna de los Tres and Mt. Fitzroy. Securing my tiny and shabby borrowed tent, I felt confident as we left the weather had cleared. If even temporarily. Learning from experience, I decided to hike to the lake with Tom, a guy I met on the trail. The weather was perfect.

Everyone wants the pink sunrise pics on the spires. The towers. Of this range especially. But I wanted to take it in during “un pausa de viento”, even if the sun was setting behind them. Knowing I could also get up at 4:30 AM and make the 1 hour and 1200 foot climb a second time; especially once i saw what was waiting.

We passed tons of people coming down and the campground where we had pitched our tents had maybe 70 tents? And there were only about five people up there so we had the whole beautiful place to ourselves for the most part. Hanging glaciers, lakes, spires. Colors changing by the minute. Different angles. I opted for naked plunge instead of just the photo. Yeah it was cold. Wow. Stayed til we needed a headlamp the last part of the descent.

As I settled into my tent, the wind started picking up just enough to drown out the obnoxious group of Israelis that were ignoring the “quiet hours” signs right up to and past midnight. As the night wore on, the wind increased to a ferocity that had the tent bending over me in the night, waking me up regularly. It drowned out my alarm. But hey, I wasn’t climbing up there in the now gusting to 75 mph winds. Plus, my tent would be gone with me out of it. Around 7:30 am, the gusts finally snapped a pole. So now my planned two nighter would be only one. But what an incredible two hours up there.

The acceptance part hit me today. The Buddhist

Patagonia Part II: The White Continent

I know Antarctica is not part of Patagonia but it begs to be included in my description as it is indeed an extension of Patagonia. It’s farther, colder, whiter and more remote.

Anyone that knows me, knows I have a disdain for cruise ships. Now keep in mind, my commentary on any of this is just that, commentary. It is not judgement of people, places and things.

I have been on one cruise in my life. A two day sales meeting cruise from LA to Ensenada and back right before I left for Nicaragua during grad school. I made the best of it, but hated it. The feeling of self-importance and dare I say cultural ignorance had me throw up in my mouth. But I did it. It was a big boat.

Fast forward to now. I had not planned on going to Antarctica as I had heard of the prices and let’s be honest; I am a travel snob. Yeah I drop cash on dinner or a plane flight but I like going as simple as possible. If only to avoid separating me from the regular guy. Especially the locals. It is my choice. And sometimes a necessity.

Antarctica cruises are expensive and if you do a month long one, well, they are crazy expensive. I met Frank, a German engineer in my hostel. He had just returned. You must go Bob. 10 days.

I had heard they sell trips last minute discounted up to 50%. I had just filed it in the back of my mind. But Frank sold me in two minutes. I booked the next day.

I checked into my 3 person dorm type room to meet a man I was perhaps unprepared to meet. Tito. Tito was convicted of drug smuggling and tax evasion. He wrote a book that is an Amazon best seller. Gringo. Recently made into a movie. I shit you not. He got out of prison about 18 months ago after ten years and is in his mid 60s. The other roommate is a Romanian programmer. Strange bedfellows.

I got the full Tito the moment I met him. His unassuming manner of describing his “reverse” rendition as he was kidnapped from Venezuela by US authorities and held for a month without charges. I mean, can you make that shit up?

Hearing him tell his stories again to the unsuspecting suburban americans was pretty funny. The looks on their faces were like “When is he gonna say gotcha??”

He never did. It is all real.

Tito and I got along great and I just thought, well, he is what he is as he took pictures of himself holding his book in front of the penguins. He was a good guy.

The two day trip down and back thru the Drake Passage (some of the roughest water in the world) can be either the Drake Shakes or the Drake Lake. We had mainly the former but like a 5-6 on a scale of 12. On the way home it was so calm. We left Ushuaia, Argentina around 6 PM on Dec. 29th and had a gentle evening of beautiful skies as we cruised the Beagle Channel between Argentina and Chile. Around 10-11 PM we hit the Drake. I had never been seasick since a kid so I was hopeful. Many people had gotten these patches behind their ears to help with motion sickness that made them look like CIA or members of a secret society. I was not privy.

I got the cheap version of some relief from the doctor that entailed acupressure wrist bands and ginger tablets. I did okay. Morning one I was met at the dining room by a guy on all fours in the carpeted hall, horribly missing his barf bag and blasting the walls and floors. Don’t look. Keep on moving. As long as I don’t smell it…

By end of day 2, (which was really our first full day) I was feeling a little rough. Laying down and small meals got me thru. Mid day New Year’s eve had us in calmer waters and I could have a beer. The trip was beautiful but it’s all water, no land, you can’t read, can’t play guitar. Because of the motion. And my only form of distraction was eating, coffee, and endlessly watching the numerous birds that followed the boat. Mainly the albatross. What an incredibly beautiful animal. Essentially, the albatross (and a few other birds here) rarely lands. They lock their wings and simply ride the wind up and glide down; efficiently traveling hundreds of miles on little energy. Their beautiful dance with the wind as they circle the boat in the now seemingly endless sunlight had me mesmerized. I watched for hours. Always hoping for that one really close flyby, that had the bird stop in time, right by the deck, before he stopped his ascent and turned back to ride the wind. It was this beautiful, magical event like watching salmon catching the current or an expert kayaker paddling the rapids. It was poetry. And it had me appreciate that animal more than I thought. And birds in general for that matter. Because it really is all about birds down here. And whales.

The boat was built in the 90s and tastefully done. I was on the pull out couch which made me feel I was remotely roughing it. 6 foot 1 on a 5 foot 7 couch. Dining room, lounge and bar (manned by an Eastern European banging out hits with an accent but more like Murph and the Magic tones of Blue Brothers fame or Bill Murray singing Star Wars on SNL). But he was a good musician and a good guy.

The crew was an eclectic group of international naturalists/ex military/outdoor enthusiasts. They loved it down there and their enthusiasm was catching. Imagine 3-4 Joe Lamannas without the music and you’ll understand. I connected with many of them. During our journey down we were given presentations on the wildlife and geography to have us better understand what we were about to see. The staff was knowledgeable and friendly and with only around 100 passengers, it was easy to get to know them. During our private conversations the topic inevitably turns to the fact that many on the cruise either don’t know their good fortune, didn’t pay for it themselves (lots of millenials with parents), or have no idea about climate science. But I’m sure some did. And me being a traveler for a year and not a fly down/fly back guy, had the others asking me “What’s your deal Bob? Why are you here?” I like being the odd person out. Sometimes.

I had some really interesting and deep conversations with the staff on a variety of topics. And I connected with some of the other travelers. Especially a nice family from Colorado originally from Ohio.

On the first day I stupidly said to one Canadian crew member that Alaska was more beautiful, has animals, blah blah blah. I’m a dumbass. Should have waited.

By the time we actually got to the Antarctic Peninsula, and set foot on the actual continent (my 7th!) and not an island, I was mesmerized. I went on the daily hikes and penguin watching and sought a little nook to hide and watch things unfold. We dressed up in our warm weather gear and life jackets and marched through a decontaminating wash so our boots don’t bring contamination to the penguins and we don’t bring smelly penguin shit back on the boat. They drop Zodiac boats in the water to shuttle us back and forth. Since I joined late, I got no kayaking or camping in. A little bummed but the rest was just magic.

We passed by an 11 Km long iceberg on New Year’s Eve. Think I posted a pic of that with me in it.

The night after New Years I think, was so beautiful I played my guitar outside til 10 PM in the fading sunlight. Watching the last pink glow on the mountains until after midnight. Not sure if the glow would ever leave, I finally went to bed.

The night after that I needed my Bob time, so I left dinner early and went up on the top deck for about an hour and half of solo ice, glacier and whale watching until it became evident to everyone what was happening all around us. The slow fading light and no wind made it seem like I was in some episode of Game of Thrones or just fairyland. Hours of looking, watching, hearing, and just feeling really really lucky. It truly is stunning.

We were treated to 6 or 7 feeding Humpbacks and 5-6 feeding Orcas. A mad dance of light and ice and fins ensued as the captain kept moving the boat slowly in their directions. Ooohs and ahhs as the magic Fluke of the humpback disappeared. Over and over.

The penguins are just amazing yet hard to describe. They are funny and seem to be both collective and individual in their actions. Sometimes they are curious. Other times they don’t care. They are playful and silly. Go solo or trudge through the snow in pairs or more. Then walk slowly up these massive hills, stumbling as drunk here or there and bounce back up; seemingly invincible and oblivious to pain and embarrassment! They look clumsy on land but swift and nimble and playful in the water. At times they were living on cliffs 500 feet above the water!

It is not lost on me that the regular backpacker will never see this stuff without a loan or family money. You can do it cheaper like me but it still required a credit card and is once in a lifetime for me. Although I would do it again.

It is also not lost on me the amount of waste, consumption, and carbon emissions it took to get us there and back. All to view a place that could be disappearing and some species that are at risk. BECAUSE of consumption like this. But it is lost on many. Yet it is the only way to see this place unless you score a gig down here or a volunteer opportunity.

I had to succumb to the crew talent show which included karaoke singing of some classic 80s tunes. I Will Survive, All Night Long, and yes, Sweet Caroline. YMCA and a Conga line brought it home. Whiskey saved me. But the pain I experienced through the trite display of cruise life, was worth it to see what I have seen.

There are many moments in my life that resonate and they are mainly in the outdoors. Watching Namche take in the smells while watching a sunset over the Pacific, the last bit of sun on Everest, dusk in the Grand Canyon, a kayak sunset in Alaska, and the seemingly endless dusk or dawn down there in Antarctica amongst the quiet animals and peaceful ice flows. Only the random bird squawk, the wind, and the sound of ice against the boat. I wanted to sleep outside one night but didn’t get it approved in time. Watching the water and the mountains I spent hours above and outside. Thinking we might see a night like that again, since we had gotten two nice ones in a row, but knowing it would likely be the last magic one. It was. And it rocked me with its beauty and serene solitude.

The beauty of that place has filled up my heart and has me recommitted to exploring nature as much as possible on my trip. And for the rest of my life for that matter. I am committed to being outside. As much on my own power as possible. This place is magic. While talking to an British ex-military on staff last night around my age he said “Yeah, you really can’t explain it. You have to experience it.”

Exactly. Especially the Polar Plunge.

And i hope I can recommit my efforts in that environmental direction. If I can just finish this book….

Patagonia Part 1: Es como Alaska pero no hay animales que pueden comerme!

Patagonia is the last great place I have really dreamt of going. I can use my Spanish and hopefully improve, hike in the mountains, and wander around a pretty safe environment. And I have no real schedule. Finally.

My trips to Spain and South Africa were mainly to spend time with friends and family. That was the priority. Being in Spain, Portugal and South Africa was a side benefit, and amazing.

But during that part of my trip, my heart and mind were continually looking towards South America. Part of it was that I didn’t have to really plan around a plane flight once I got here and could plan just a few days in advance, thus settling into a rhythm of “how do I feel?” and what I have learned from fellow travelers and locals about what to see and do. It is a rhythm I love and tends to dictate my life. It is also why I can only travel with a certain type of people; those with a flexibility to their day and an understanding that me not wanting to do something is not dismissive of their wishes. It’s why seeing Dave and Derek and Laura and Andy and Jo was so awesomely easy. It is also why solo travel can be amazing as your life path crosses someone else’s if only for a hike or a beer or sharing a conversation in your hostel room. It is a rhythm that, while harder to accomplish as you get older, still resonates deeply with me and does not go unnoticed. It can be lonely at times but not much. I connect with people easily, even in Spanish, and they usually respond to my enthusiastic basic spanish.

I spent a week with a grad school buddy, Chris, in Buenos Aires. He had just had achilles tendon surgery and his wife was on a work trip. So I settled into my “manny” role I am used to and just stepped in when I could to supply “Uncle Bob” time with his 3 and 5 year olds. While he slid up and down the stairs on his ass and around the place on a wheeled office chair!

Buenos Aires IS A BIG CITY. I stopped liking cities awhile ago. But I enjoy seeing friends in them. It makes it easier.

I rolled over to Mendoza which is so much like Napa/Sonoma but so much more beautiful and farther from the ocean. Hot, dry, and high. Couchsurfed on a young angry feminist (self-described) hippy chicks floor and played music with her friends. She lived in a small place amongst the grape farms and it was really nice, and really quiet. Day hiked with my new buddy Alejandro. I liked Mendoza.

A long flight to the “End of the World” in Ushuaia brought me to Tierra del Fuego. The geography here is really unique. Ushuaia has the feel of Juneau as it has the cruise ship shit show and is around the same latitude in reverse. Juneau is way more stunning as the big mountains are right there as are the glaciers.

Here the mountains are smaller but no less stunning. Jagged peaks and hidden hikes. Day hike mecca. Its fucking windy here. When it is not, it is incredible. No bugs, no animals to be afraid of (but that DOES diminish the allure a bit). It is an island, cut off from the rest of South America by the Straits of Magellan. Tierra del Fuego includes both Chile and Argentina and was named by Europeans that saw Native fires burning as they sailed up the Beagle Channel and Straits of Magellan but the indigenous folks hid in the trees. That didn’t save them unfortunately. They are now eradicated here.

Puerto Williams, on the south side of the Beagle Channel, is really the southernmost city and also on an island. Isla de Navarrino. It is also in Chile. Chile is expensive. And this town really is. All goods have to come from Punta Arenas; a 30 hour boat ride. Instead of two hours from Argentina. There is weird shit between Chile and Argentina about importing food. It is mainly the Chileans issue.

To that end, Argentina and Chile are different. Argentina is to Chile as Canada is to the US. As Portugal is to Spain. That is my first pass. Chile is a bit more intense. A bit more arrogant, and a bit more capitalist. Argentina a bit less ignorant. That is my first take. I bonded more with the Argentinians. They are more open-minded.

Because of last minute decisions, I was forced to stay at an “Eco” hostel here in Puerto Williams. I am not sure the exact connection with ownership here. But the 30 something couple here calls themselves owners. But they are doubling the size of the place (and the original place is not finished), have only a small kitchen that makes me feel uncomfortable to cook (as they make expensive meals for guests), and seem to have more employees than guests. The hostel is 6 km outside of town and there is no communication as to expectations and who is in charge.(I got a ride to the hike yesterday but after a 16 km hike I had to walk the last 4 km home) It is kind of a shit show actually. But I have connected with some of the employees, it is in a beautiful setting, and I needed a break anyway. Hmmm. Some millennials that are trying to be hip and eco groovy and failing miserably. Sound familiar?

The light changes and moonrises and wind and sun and clouds and rain and super long days make you feel like you are staying in a different place every day. Overlooking the Beagle Channel and staring at Argentina is pretty cool. And that moonrise….Wow! My body feels great after three pretty burly day hikes in a week with a maybe ¾ full pack?

I’ve done the unthinkable. Popped my credit card down for a last minute discount trip to Antarctica. The boats leave from Ushuaia and some fellow hostel folks said I “must” do it. And I am. Check out Facebook for my recent pics. I really can’t be bothered with the Cyber jerk off between these tech companies and sharing info. Greedy fuckers.

Merry Xmas and Happy New Year!

Searching for the perfect dirty Martini: Three weeks in South Africa

I met Andy Withers in 1993 on my first trip outside the US with friends Denny Young and Andy Adams. In London. He was Denny’s travel buddy/bromance from a previous trip. But they had an open relationship. A few months later he visited Cleveland to see Denny. So we had beers. We connected.

While traveling for a year in 1995, I hung out with him and Denny in Sydney, where Andy now lived and reconnected. Later that trip, I met his soon to be wife Jo and had dinner and laughs. We got along so well we later planned to meet on my 1998 trip to Nepal, TIbet and India for a few weeks. They had to cancel as Andy had a reaction to a rabies vaccination. In 2000, while living in Dublin, Andy was home visiting family in the UK and shot over to see me for a long weekend excursion to the Dingle Peninsula to hike and explore and see Irish music.

In 2007, Jo and Andy visited the west coast and spent time with Namche and I in the Mission in San Francisco before I moved to Arcata for grad school. In 2009, while in grad school, I flew to Vegas on a work trip to see them while they traveled the west again. Of course, through all of this we kept in touch and tried to stay in each other’s lives as best we could living halfway across the world.

Fast forward to 2018. I hadn’t seen them for nine years and had spent maybe 9 days together over 20 years? Of course that means a three week visit!

Anyone that knows me, knows that I have never really had a fascination with Africa. I haven’t dreamt of climbing Kilimanjaro or fantasized about paddling around the Cape of Good Hope. I did, and still do, have a fascination with the history here. And the animals. Nelson Mandela and to a lesser extent, Desmond Tutu, are people that have had a tremendous influence on me with respect to hope and perseverance and truth. They are icons in my mind.

WIth Andy and Jo moving here last spring, and me planning a year long trip (and well, South Africa IS on the way to South America right?), the timing was perfect.

Andy and Jo took me in as though I had seen them yesterday.

Their older, fun loving 4 legged friends, Ringo and George, made my stay comfy. So how lucky was I to connect with good old friends, travel throughout South Africa for three weeks with them on a trip they planned! They are such kind and great people and just allowed me to slide into their lives and travel and explore.

We drove the Garden Route along the southern East Cape coast and visited various wineries, game preserves and small towns.

We saw elephants, lions, warthogs, rhinos, jackals, penguins, wildebeests, cape buffalo, baboons

and many more. We were close enough to both male and female lions for me to actually jump while sitting in our open jeep (and nearly piss myself) when they got up to move.

The highlight for me was the nearly 50 or more elephants moving around the water hole in the morning. Walking around (and nearly on) our car. Meandering around traffic, rocks and trees.

These gentle giants have truly a Zen way to them that I never have seen in a zoo. I wonder why? Their regal beauty had me loving every minute watching them interact. Silent. Blowing water and mud on each other. The (not so) little babies running around like cartoon characters in a Disney movie. Ears flapping. Every once in awhile a massive one would walk by and take our breath away.

It is truly different sitting in a car or jeep on a safari, passively taking it in. And I enjoyed it. Not knowledgeable on the poaching issue, I learned a lot. WE are destroying these creatures for their tusks. And I feel helpless to do much. Poaching and policing it is a war here.

While in Cape Town, we explored the beaches and of course, Table Mountain, the iconic Urban mountain that reminds you of Jurassic Park.

It was amazing to climb. And I would do it every week if I lived there. We saw District Six (where apartheid displaced thousands of minorities from their homes and relocated them), visited Robben Island to see where Nelson Mandela was held prisoner

and of course, George and Ringo time.

Andy and Jo and I see eye on many things and basically view the world in similar fashion and travel in a similar way. So it was very easy. Andy works for ESPN and they both have seen lots of the world and now about eight months of South Africa. I feel so lucky to be able to jump into and out of people’s lives and spend time doing cool things.

But dammit, they don’t make dirty martinis here. Or any martini for that matter. So I suffered. I wanted one. I needed one. And every dinner out began with the question of did they make them. And the denial. Martini racism. I hate it.

That being said, I spent my time trying to figure out South Africa. Since Jo and Andy have only been there 8 months, they hadn’t fully experienced personally some of the bad things going on here. Mainly crime. So we were all forced to pay attention to what HAS happened to others and heed warnings. Muggings on trails. People flying through the gated communities when opened. It was different for me.

These are my impressions. Not judgements or the gospel. Just how I saw (or didn’t see) things.

Apartheid is no longer government policy. Yet, it remains a country of two separate cultures. You drive through Shantytown areas (for lack of a better word) and see and hear about black on black crime. Yes there are blacks and whites living together in communities but not many. I also have heard of the gov’t being black now but super corrupt and enriching themselves. By butchering Mandela’s dreams. Simply switching the color of the oppressor. There is fear of repatriating white land to the blacks in ways similar to Rwanda. Now I don’t advocate any of that, yet the continual process of trying to right past wrongs always leaves someone in the lurch. One family may have inherited land that was taken from blacks centuries ago and one family may have slowly earned that ownership over time. Which is fair, if any? I don’t know. But I do know that South Africa is current example that greed and power are color blind. But the blacks got screwed here. How to right that wrong is above my pay grade.

There is no WHITE GENOCIDE. It’s bullshit. Is there violence? Yes. Tossing that word around does a disservice to places where it has really happened.

What I also know, is that I have never been met by, spoken to or helped more by people of color than here on a daily basis. Yeah, it was mainly on the surface, but the blacks and colored were friendly and helpful in all areas. I felt safe. I learned a lot. The whites were mainly older and somewhat disinterested but since they weren’t working service jobs much, what does that mean? I don’t know. And I certainly haven’t walked in any of their shoes. So I remain clueless as to the underpinnings of society here. There is this disequilibrium I don’t quite understand. Yet seeing hotels, restaurants and houses with gates and barbed wire is a stunning sight and made me uncomfortable. Because of the history here, it had me become more fearful of blacks. It really did. And that is coming from someone who normally is not and who has examined racism very deeply, taught a class on it in Ireland and pride myself in giving every race and religion a chance, no matter my previous experience. So that’s a glaring example of what propaganda can do to people. When you hear something a lot you subconsciously believe it’s true. See invading Hispanic caravan.

Knowing that most crime came from the black community is a total mind fuck for me. And it saddens me to see a much more recent example of exploitation, racism and prejudice in a society where the blacks were the first ones here. Unlike our horrible history of slavery in the US. But it allows me to more fully understand crime. When most of the people that are impoverished here are black and most of the crime involves them? Hmmm. Poverty. Crime. Coincidence?

So my struggle was that I didn’t know where I fit. Like most places i go, I connected with the local, mainly indigenous population. But on the surface. And I can’t be in their world for many reasons. For the first time in my life, I really felt uncomfortable about my whiteness and cared what they thought of me for my skin color. And I couldn’t (and still can’t) rectify it in my brain. This was the defining example for me of how much the white man has really screwed up the world. I just wish I was more present during the hopeful time when Nelson Mandela was president. An empowering and more positive time here. It just shows how a leader’s rhetorical content and tone can lift up a nation when it real and positive.

It’s a beautiful country full of contradictions and confusing social messages. Which one is correct? All of them. Off to my last stop. America del Sur! I think you can just see it…

Freedom Now: South Africa and the Apartheid Museum

I’ve never been to the Holocaust Museum. Though I have friends and ex-girlfriends whose families were impacted.

I’ve gotten to see first hand the occupation of Tibet by the oppressive Chinese regime.

I’ve never seen an in-depth history of something horrible and horrific that had happened in my lifetime. Until now.

I stopped in Joburg, as they call it, to explore the history here; especially Nelson Mandela and Apartheid.

It did not disappoint.

In the 80’s and 90’s, I was not particularly engaged in the struggle that was occurring in South Africa. I had heard about it, but without it being in your face, it was quickly pushed to the back burner. I was on to my next fraternity activity or studying or looking for a job.

The 80’s were when knowledge of goings-on in the world were brought to the masses via big name musicians. Live-Aid etc. and Artists United Against Apartheid. U2’s iconic “Rattle and Hum” album made reference to South Africa in a few songs.

It wasn’t until 1999 when I was getting my teaching credential at Chico State and had to teach a section on Africa that it grabbed me.

Since history wasn’t completed yet while in high school and college, I hadn’t read about Nelson Mandela’s 27 years in prison before his release and ascendancy to the president.

Having grown up in the 60’s and 70’s, I was unfortunately numb to reports of racism and violence. Having witnessed it first hand in small doses.

When I taught the class on Africa, I focused on Nelson, Bishop Tutu and Stephen Biko. All big ñames. During that time, I had also been studying Gandhi and the Dalai Lama so I understood non-violent protest.

For those that don’t know, after Mandela was released, South Africa nearly devolved into Civil War. More people died AFTER he was released than all the years of apartheid combined.

Once negotiations for a new gov’t were achieved, he was elected president. Once in office, Mandela had to devise a way to bring the country together. The answer was the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

If you confessed your crimes, amnesty could be granted and healing could begin. That was the plan. I’ll leave it up to you to decide if it worked or how well.

The museum slowly walked you through the history of South Africa and apartheid, mainly through the black and colored lens, but also the world lens.

Through pictures and videos, the museum movingly displayed how mercilessly apartheid was administered and how lives of all colors were impacted. Most notably the non-whites.

After two hours of education, you were deposited into a small theatre with a 40 min video of live testimony from the commission. Whoa. Tears were shed. It was intense to hear someone openly admit to murder, face the surviving family and, in some cases, be forgiven.

Being able to see these events unfold chronologically, much of it in my lifetime, had particular resonance.

Seeing how people treat each other and are treated, and their ability to rise above things, is a deep view into humanity.

And being insulated from much of this while living in the US in my 20s makes me sad. But not anymore.

It’s why I came to Joburg.

Lasting Spanish impressions

I have learned a really hard lesson here about my Spanish. My desire to learn it has been a Catch-22. Meaning, learning more makes me want to learn more. Knowing nothing makes me shy about it. I have never really sat and made it the number one priority in my life. When in grad school, i was always running, working and in Mexico. NOT using my Spanish. When I lived in Guatemala, I had my job, of course, and was volunteering. And I saw it would take massive effort, if ever, to get to a point where I could have the kind of conversation I wanted. And my brain worked at one speed with those ideas and my Spanish mouth was slow. I didn’t have the “time”. It is the same way with the guitar but I can put that down for weeks and be okay.

When I left from Cadiz with this shitty infection that continues to block my hearing, I rented a camper van for my 14 day quest to wander the north of Spain. I had the desire to learn more about the culture and have some of those “moments” I have collected over the years through my travels.

Well forced “moments” rarely happen and its certainly hard when you are driving a ton and spending the night, camping alone, on remote beaches. It is when you don’t force them they come to you. And it might just be an incredible sunset over the North Atlantic after days of rain or a short conversation with a Spanish Air BNB host that is not hurried. Especially when understood by both parties!

Leaving Cadiz, I drove hard and straight thru the north of Portugal to get to Galicia, in the remote northwest. One thing that is obvious here, is not only are the accents and words in Spanish different in each region, but most regions also have their own separate language! Change regions and the street signs change. Catalonia, Galicia, Basque.

Galicia is gorgeous and home to Santiago de La Compostela. For those that don’t know, it is basically the end of El Camino. The Way. A pilgrimage of hikers that walk across Spain or Portugal and sometime France to get there. Paying homage to the Patron Saint of Catholicism, Apostle Saint James. Thousands of people walk either part or all of the trail, staying mainly in towns and can actually come from many directions. It is not really my scene, and I have heard both good and bad things about it. Anyway, I can tell you with absolute certainty that the dozen or so “pilgrims” I saw on their way a few hours past Santiago, trying to get to Fisterra, gained my respect. The lighthouse at Fisterra is the real end of the trail and having walked hundreds of miles, dammit, they are going to the lighthouse to close the deal! I shit you not the wind gusts were near 50 mph as I drove past these people, walking in sideways lashing rain, trying to get to the lighthouse. Man. I jumped out of my van for just two minutes for photos. One of the worst storms I have seen wind and rain wise on the coast.

I wandered up through Galecia, spending some gorgeously quiet nights just pulling off the road, camping for free, and feeling safe. I would cook in my combination Ford/Westphalia (can you believe it?) and attempt to beat my infection by sleeping 9 hours a night. Simple. Easy. Stunning.

The small villages perched on cliffs were dreamy places that you can only wish you lived. I mean, what would you do? They are mainly farming communities.

Unfortunately, as in most beautiful places, the environment is being destroyed by people cutting down trees, building houses from outside money, only spending summers there, and wreaking havoc on the economy.

This is my first real trip to Europe. I am astonished at the amount of drinking, eating and shopping in the big cities. It seems its all that people do. And this is low season. Either you have cash and are hitting the touristy spots or you don’t and you’re 25. I know that is a generalization. And I am somewhere between. Well, I am not loaded, and not 25.

Europe is just one whole country, it seems, and everyone is competing for the rich tourist. Everyone. And i would say the only larger town that didn’t make me feel strange is San-Sebastian. Basque Country. It seems just a little more normal.

The Basque people, of course, ALSO have their own language (street signs included) but speak Spanish too. They are visually the most stunning of the groups I have seen in Spain. Naturally striking with dark hair and dark eyes. Friendly. Engaging. San Sebastian is the same latitude as central Oregon and warm and green. It is this city of about 180k people right on the Atlantic with mild temperatures. 500 to 1000 foot rolling hills behind the town. There is a fairly large beach here (and a good surf spot) and some rocky outcrops. I stayed 10 min away from Old Town so it feels mellower. There are still shit tons of people here though. I like it here and would maybe pick this place to study Spanish in Spain. But not right now. It is closer to what I am used to. It also like 20 miles from France.

The drive along the coast was pretty incredible with jaw-dropping sunrises and sunsets and few people.

Lots of tour buses and a few travelers. I hiked a canyon trail in the Picos de Europa and the snowy peaks are visible from the ocean. I could spend a few months here exploring but maybe in September? Longer days. Less chance of rain.

The Spanish people feel more like a conglomeration of countries instead of one. That might seem obvious but it is what it feels like. This is really the first “western” country I have traveled in and its an adjustment. There is a vibrant middle class and very few homeless. People have dogs. And they are small. They sit on beaches a lot. They don’t get up really early it seems. I feel really safe here. People don’t seem uptight and they speak a lot less English than I thought they would. But since there are LOTS of tourists the people really don’t give a shit where you are from etc. on the main route. Not super engaging generally. The Spaniards don’t move around as much and are fiercely connected with their place of birth.

Everyone raves about the food. It is just okay. Until San Sebastian. Normally, the food is bland in my opinion. Like in the UK, ketchup and mayonaise are spices!

But its healthy. Rarely am i ever served processed foods. And they serve you olives for appetizers and only oil and vinegar for salad dressings.

But the pinxchos in San Sebastian. Wow. They say this the best place for food. Imagine every possible way to make a tiny half sandwich on homemade bread.

You walk into a bar/restaurant/coffee shop and there are tons to choose from. As a sandwich fanatic I’m in heaven. Oh, maybe that one with salmon? Mushrooms? Goat cheese? Only sausage and cheese? Ummm. Okay. Good stuff. Maybe even a pepper in there to spice it up. And you order and eat and drink and just pay when you leave. Feels pretty awesome and friendly.

I can say with certainty, that other than a few folks at the surf/yoga retreat, I haven’t had that in-depth conversation with a Spaniard I crave. History. Current events. The lifestyle here. I wanna know the real deal. It seems I get the best info at hostels. They are all local people working at my hostel here and I have learned a bit.

After spending time with Dave, I went solo for awhile. I had been keeping in touch with my good friends from Bellingham, Derek and Laura. They were traveling down from the UK and Ireland with their friend’s car. As we slowly starting moving in the same direction, BAM! Meet up in San Sebastian!

The next five days were awesome. We shared Air BnBs and hostels, we drank, played music, and my hearing loss allowed me to share a room with a snoring Derek! We cruised along the base of the Pyrennees and the southern French Border, hiking and catching up.

Quite the treat. We got to experience an incredible day hike, fell for our Air BnB host and slowly drove through the beautiful fall foliage in the hills and mountains on the way back to Barcelona.

Our last night before Barcelona, we stayed in a small town north of Barcelona with my Argentinian friend Bruno. Bruno stayed with me couchsurfing when he was at the tail- end of an epic 2 year motorcycle trip from Patagonia to Alaska 18 months ago. A really cool guy I connected with and got to cross paths again. If only for one night!

Imagine me, Laura and Derek Duffy hanging out with two Argentinian guys that play guitar and have traveled a bunch. We made dinner and had lots of laughs. It so happens Bruno’s friend is heading back to Argentina, speaks good English, and guides in the mountains. What luck for me! Lots of fun. It made for a great last week here.

I really like Spain. It is like many different countries in one. Some of the landscape is just stunning. Though there is little wildlife here and it feels as though you can’t really get lost. Capitalism also has it in its grasp. Even though people want their independence in some areas, they are captive to the buck.

I will return here. I would buy a camper and spend time only in the north. With better Spanish. It has been a different trip for me for sure. Challenging in many ways. But I am glad I saw what I saw. I have a good grasp on the cultural and geographic diversity. Not sure I could live here. But I could keep coming back. And I am trying to raise Spanish higher up the priority scale.

Election: At least we have a sense of some checks and balances on this guy we call President. Folks. The guy isn’t stupid. He smartly tapped into three groups in our country. Those that have money and having more is the number one priority, those that make anti-abortion their number one priority and those that will buy into whatever shit you serve them that makes them feel not as ignorant or disempowered as they really are. And they have been able to suppress enough voters to make a difference. I thought I saw it all. Remember. If you want to know what the guy (Senor Trump) is going to do, ask yourself what he needs to do to benefit him. Always.

It has never really been easy for me to be an American. Right now it is really, really hard. And we are viewed very, very differently in this world. And not in a good way. I always like to have a conversation about it with people who think differently. I have learned to soften my rhetoric and tone ever since my opposition to all things patriotic after 9/11. Yet, I still have not been able to have a conversation with any friends or acquaintances that support this guy that is based in reality. No matter what common ground I seek (and strangely i do agree on some things he does but for different reasons. See NAFTA), it always devolves into either disinformation, emotion, or they just “believe” something different. Usually facts. Or it is justified with the stockmarket. Our willingness to compromise our values for the almighty dollar has never been more evident.

Adios por ahora. Leaving for Johannesburg!

A birthday in Spain: Infections, injections, and breathing on the beach

At 3 AM on my birthday, I woke to a splitting, mind numbing feel like someone punched me in the cranium headache behind my right ear.

Hoy shit what it THAT?

After a few days of trying learn to surf, humility in hand, I woke to go the bathroom and jam some ibuprofen down my throat.

Wow. This is painful. Google swimmers ear. Text my buddy back in CO and he says vinegar and alcohol. None in sight.

I’m staying at a yoga/surf retreat that teaches you how to surf and does yoga in between to help your body.

Nice. The first two days of weather were rain and 50s. Made me feel at home.

The instructor did her best to help me get up on the board but I was failing. I’m mean it is hard at first.

My bday I was gonna sneak out at sunrise and try on my own without the watchful gaze of Carolina.

But instead I stumbled down the street, past the bars still raging from Friday night and luckily found a cab to the pharmacy.

As stuck my face into the tiny darkened hole that was more like a prison window, the woman there listened to my plight. She gave me antibiotic ear drops.

The taxi driver had waited, drove me back and wished me luck. I dropped back into bed but the pain was bad so I popped a few painkillers to solve the problem the Ibuprofen didn’t.

I sent a WhatsApp message to Carolina as she lives upstairs to check in when she wakes and yoga won’t be happening.

As i woke at 9 the searing pain in my ear began to get worse. Oh man. She says let’s go to the doctor.

They let me right in, look at my ear, give me more antibiotics and something for inflammation. 180 bucks.

Good right? I go home to sleep. Pop two MORE painkillers and more drops and try to sleep. It’s now 3 PM. I am starting to get concerned. My head feels as though it is being inflated by a bicycle pump when I move. The pain is now a 7.

One of Carolina’s friend shows up, Berta, and she’s a nurse. Her English isn’t great but she says if you’re in that much pain you can get a shot for it. Really?

As I pace around the backyard the girls prepare to go and we go back to the private doctor. Now the pain is 8.5 and I am close to tears. I pace around the waiting room as I can’t sit.

THIS IS BRUTAL. Happy. Birthday. To. Me.

The doc grabs me, jams this huge needle in my ass and I laugh as I can’t really walk now. The girls help me to the car, after 10 min the pain goes to 7, 6, 5, and 4. Wow.

We walk to beach, do a yoga breathing practice, watch the sunset, come home, have dinner, and play some music.

Then I passed out. Birthdays are never dull.

By the way, the doctor didn’t charge me for the shot. The visit was expensive.

Don’t take healthcare for granted. If you vote for people that say they want to cut Social Security and Medicare etc., you only have yourself to blame. The people trying to come to our country won’t take it from you.

That adventure would have cost me a grand in the US without insurance.

Even on my birthday.

Thanks for all the great birthday wishes! More to come!

Tres semanas con mi hermano en España

Two brothers who haven’t traveled together in years. Well, other than a Springsteen concert here or there or with Dave’s family. Our lifestyles are different yet not so different. Dave has a family that includes a wife, two boys, a dog and a gecko like creature. I’m solo.

Both of us “unemployed”. On the same budget. About the same interests and pace. Although Dave has a greater interest in history and more of a “carpe diem” mentality since he’s traveling for three weeks. Enjoying a different kind of freedom.

Interesting how we can drop right into our daily banter of work, politics and family. Because we didn’t have other family or friends around (and of course are aged) the usual ball busting was absent except for playful ribbing about Dave’s humorous take on his Spanglish or questions on who is older.

The folks were astonished that the younger brother was a teacher and actually retired. Where the older single brother just wasn’t working.

Dave knowing and using less Spanish, but still having some basics, allowed me to sit back and let it be more of his trip.

Watching him step in and attack a conversation with locals in a mix of Spanish or English was normally pretty hilarious. His personality showing through more than his efficient use of the language to get his point across. “Mi esposa no permite!” garnering laughs from both men and women. He fearlessly never shied away at an attempt and fortunately, with two rental cars, 1 flight, 1 bus, 1 train, 5 Air BnBs and 5 hostels, we never got into a crisis situation.

He could order and ask for what he wanted and our biggest f up was directions. And let’s be honest. That’s Siri’s fault. Always.

We drank EVERY night. Never to excess as Dave has a “blind date” reaction to shots we learned the first night. He refused beer bongs in Lagos (I complied) and he enjoyed getting up, planning our day and our meals, as we wished. Not having to take into account the changing wishes of his two young boys.

The route of Barcelona, Madrid, Lisbon had me needing the outdoors.

Renting a car down the coast of Portugal gave us a diverse look at rural Portugal and some hiking. Heading back to Spain was great as I could communicate again and at least say “have a good day” as I was useless in Portuguese.

After a few days in Seville, enough to see the Alcazar and a Spain/UK “futbol” game, we rented a car and perused the stunning “White towns” that showed quite a different lifestyle.

Stuffing ourselves every night with beer, wine, meat, cheese, and olives made it (slightly) easier for Dave to avoid any gluten infused cuisine.

We saw Fado, Flamenco and a stunning sunset off the Alhambra the day before we witnessed its intricate work inside.

We had beers on the beach, slept in from time to time and shocked some poor German college students, with whom we shared a hostel room, as to the state of affairs in America. They are likely scarred for life.

Dave’s life of working with kids made it easy for him to connect with the college crowd although he likely wasn’t used to drinking with them.

Pub crawls in Lisbon, tapas trail in Granada and eating more olives in 20 days than we likely have eaten our whole lives kept us moving.

Whenever I needed a break from Dave’s curiosity for the history, I would take a nap, hit the gym or rent a kayak.

Dave got into a rhythm of washing the clothes he wasn’t wearing everyday and hanging them to dry, masterfully traveling with one small backpack to my three. He devoured the minimalist lifestyle and relished the fact that his toughest choices were bottom or top bunk and beer or wine? And since he always slept up top when we shared a bed, his only real choice was beer or wine.

His grasp of history kept the younger travelers interested and when he met older teachers “just retired”, you could feel their admiration for him having pulled off quite the feat; retiring from teaching at 50 after starting at 28?

As Hannibal on the A-Team used to say, cigar in hand, “I love it when a plan comes together”. We are lucky.

Off he went to Barcelona this morning while I make my way to Cádiz and getting ready to explore the north.

Suerte mi hermano!

The old guy still has some game

Well it depends on what that means. I have to copy and paste this to Facebook. Sorry.

I arrived in Barcelona after a long and crushing overnight flight via Iceland. Took me a night or so to recover. Before I left I got to spend five days with Joe and Jenny and my two beautiful and fun god daughters Elena and Thea in Milwaukee.

I’m staying at a hostel for the first time since…geez. I don’t know. There are some in Guatemala. But this is the first time I’ve shared a room if you don’t count the porters when trekking in Nepal. In like, um 20 years?

I’m staying here for a week until my brother Dave comes. I am in the section of town called Gracia.

Because I’m staying more than a day or two, the other three beds in my room cycle thru daily. Because they are mostly way younger than me and here to party it’s like two (actually 4) ships passing in the night. I get up early and the others are just getting home. Israeli. British. American. You name it.

I can get just about any type of food a block or two away from me. It’s a 20 min walk to classes, we have a rooftop, and a 10 min walk to the gym. So I got my bases covered. The folks are pretty friendly and it safe. A bit pricey though.

The hostel employees are incentivized to get us to do stuff. They make dinner every night for about 3.5 euros. It’s served at 9:30. Then they organize a pub crawl AND go with us. I begged off the first night, got pulled in for awhile Thursday then last night went for the whole Kahuna.

There are three hostels owned by the same group so all three congregate in a pub around 11:30 PM then go to a club around 1:30.

So if you can picture me walking down the streets of Barcelona with a pack of 40 20 somethings you’ll get the picture.

At the pub I played pool with an engineering student from Holland that was struggling with trying to make positive change in the world without doing a deal with the devil. It was a fascinating conversation that centered around accumulation, free markets, IRR, economies of scale and greed. Why folks that have a lot need more. He would NOT let me talk about Trump. He says “we all agree he’s a dick. Let’s not waste our time.” Fair enough.

I walked to the club with Diego, a Mexican guy from Toluca. We chatted about Mexico City, Chiapas, Baja and how I feel safer in Mexico than the US.

At the club I mostly hung out with a German Med student that was astonished I was doing my trip at 54. My age came up as we had a long conversation with a jack off US college student who lived in Madrid and was here for the weekend. Without prompting, he went into a rant how great it was to spend mommy and daddy’s money and be able to have sex with anyone without consequences. As he sucked down his Budweiser (no shit the clubs here only sell Bud and Corona! WTF?) he bragged of dropping 300 euros in the bar that weekend and how his dad (who’s my age) flies to Seattle EVERY week from Philly for his job at Amazon. Um. Contrast?

I told him I was using the college money from the children I don’t have to travel. He was obnoxious, self absorbed and had no interest in Spanish. Nice.

Max (the German dude and I) waxed philosophically about Healthcare and travel. He couldn’t find an ATM so when I couldn’t drink any more Coronas (okay it was also 3 AM), I offered to lend him 20 euros so he could hang, drink, and get home. He was like, “I’m leaving tomorrow. You TRUST me?” Sure dude. I just hung out with you for three hours. Leave it at the desk as the old guy will be sleeping.

I went for one last piss before I jumped in a taxi to avoid a 45 min walk/metro home. As I navigated the dudes washing their shirts out in the sink after puking on themselves I thought about the night.

Some people may think I’m crazy. But I am traveling, having incredibly intellectual (at times) conversations with people from all walks and countries, working on my Spanish, my guitar. And my book. My brother meets me in a few days. Carpe diem.

Max came into my room this morning to wake me up and personally hand me the 20 Euros. He was effusive in his appreciation. Said he had one of the most interesting conversations of his life, is staying another day and appreciated my trust.

All that and I never had to dance…..

I’m getting into a rhythm. It’s beautiful here.