Saturday, April 25, 2009

A Southern Loop - Day 9 - The End of the World

It's after 10pm and I've managed to find a quiet corner of the ship void of people. The night is overcast so the sea is as dark as the sky is black. This is the second day in a row 'at sea' and I've found that my biggest challenge isn't dealing with the rocking and swaying of the Southern Pacific, but rather the near impossible task of finding a quiet place to sit with just the voices in my head as opposed to the voices of all the passengers aboard. As of right now, the solitude I've managed to find has come by way of downing two cups of coffee and then lurking in the shadows of the upper decks of the ship.

After Cape Horn we veered northwest towards Ushuaia, Argentina, the southern most city in the world. The city is located in a region of South America known as Tierra del Fuego, and has been a semi-frequent topic of discussion since we moved to Buenos Aires. Also known as Fin del Mundo (The End of the World) this place has stood as a distant curiosity to most people and despite my added research it remained shrouded by a blanket of translucent details. I had never met anyone who had actually been there, thus what little of it I heard from people had been passed on from friends of friends, adding a mythical air to this extreme southerly place.

Ushuaia's modern existence began as a penal colony and what I expected to see was a barren "end of the earth" port city, however unlike the islands that surround Cape Horn it was far from barren. It was a place that reminded me about what I missed most, outside of friends, about home (California). Like getting to a place that is absent of concrete. Where crowds of scrambling rambling people are replaced by the silence and stillness of towering masses of trees. Ascending a mountain and elevating a view. The smell of wet dirt, aging bark, and all of the other things that pervade the nose in the absence of consumption and exhaust. As I walked through the autumn air it didn't take long before I knew that some day, many months from now, I would eventually find my way back to this place, for just like the empty shadowy places I've grown found of disappearing to on this big moving mass of steel, the forested mountains of Ushuaia were a quiet place for the traffic jam of thoughts in my head to decongest themselves.

approaching port from sea

the "End of the World" post office

postal Gorilla

April means Fall in the Southern Hemisphere and every year this is the first place in the world that the colors of the leaves start to change.

Bahia Lapataia: where Argentine Highway 3 goes to die

looking down on the city of Ushuaia

Currently Reading:
Winslow Homer
by Carl Little

Currently Listening To:
As many of the voices in my head as I can and ...

Song: Where Is My Mind
Artist: Pixies
Album: Fight Club Soundtrack
(for T.Baas)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Southern Loop - Day 8 - Cape Horn


450 miles from Antarctica.
With the wind scowling,
we run the Horn,
and dance with the two oceans.
South of South.

On Day 8 of the 'Loop' I found myself for a moment completely south of South America. Cape Horn, a Chilean Island that lies just 450 miles north of Antarctica, is the place where the continent of South America ends and the two titans of the Pacific and Atlantic meet face to face. With the wind howling and a cocktail mix of two oceans surrounding us, our ship "ran the Horn" (circled the island). It was a strange thing to see and do. It wasn't strange to circle an island in a ship, but it was strange to be in a place that until now was just some extreme point on the shadowy bottom of a light-blue spinning, cardboard globe, or a little thought about answer on a 4th grade history test. The rawness of this place sits virtually unchanged since the discovery of its existence hundreds of years ago, and in its solemn desolation I couldn't help but feel like I was somehow moving, drifting through the shipwrecked ghosts of history.

Currently Reading:
Lord of the Rings
Fellowship of the Ring
J.R.R. Tolkien

Currently Listening To:
Song: Life On Mars?
Artist: Seu Jorge

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Southern Loop - Day 6 - Puerto Madryn, Argentina

On April 12th, 2009 we left Buenos Aires on a 20 day journey that would take us on a voyage around the southern tip of South America (Cape Horn) to Valparaiso, Chile, followed by a bus ride over the Andes, through Mendoza, Argentina and back to Buenos Aires...a "southern loop". The following is some of the things I saw on Day 6.


Puerto Madryn

Economy car rental.
150 km into Patagonia.
Bouncing, ripping down gravel roads.
Punta Norte or bust.
Dust storm visibility.
Stones flying.
Sheep spying.
All on an empty tank stomach.
Need food.
Pit stop halfway,
in a half-moon bay.
Puerto Pirámide.
Stretch the legs.
Rainbow house on southern shore.
Fish fry on a windswept nowhere beach.
Then back on a nowhere road.
Punta Norte or bust.
We make it to the point.
A dusty, cliffside, chaparral point,
with big ogre sea lions.
Deep clean breathe.
Back in the little Chevy ride.
Stones re-flying.
Sheep still spying.
Cattle grate.
Punta Norte AND bust.
Tire bust.
Tire rolling in different direction bust,
on the other side of the road.
3 wheel car.
Oh shit middle of nowhere.
More laughter.
Abandon car.
Hitch hiking.
Canadian couple VW rescue ride.
Back to civilization.

ship graveyard

wide open road

Puerto Pirámide

discovering old rainbow house

something to climb on

a window in a window in a window

feeling small

"Gorilla" Bay

Punta Norte

Currently Reading:

...about the history of Cape Horn and nothing that's written in German.

Currently Listening To:
Song: Vanished
Artist: Crystal Castles

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Southern Loop - Day 3 - Montevideo, Uruguay

On April 12th, 2009 we left Buenos Aires on a 20 day journey that would take us on a voyage around the southern tip of South America (Cape Horn) to Valparaiso, Chile, followed by a bus ride over the Andes, through Mendoza, Argentina and back to Buenos Aires...a "southern loop". The following is some of the things I saw on Day 3.


Montevideo, Uruguay

Old fort city,
on a capitol coastal river hill.
Fall jacket shade.
Side street graffiti,
Plaza Independencia.
Armored trench coat shotgun banks.
Zillertal Beer tastes like PBR.
Cool big river night.
New Rasta-dyed wool hat.
Orange vested crane container shipyard.
Pulling, tugging out of port.
The sun expiring on the Rio de la Plata.

Plaza Independencia

the top of Palacio Salvo

Montevideo Gorilla

Imagine if you're job was to carry around a shotgun all day. Sound like an awesome gig? Then Montevideo is where you want to be. Uruguay is the Sweden of South America, and the money here moves (by old beat up armored trucks and shotguns). Not the clean-cut uniform type? No problem. We saw shady looking guys in trench coats with shotguns too. (Clay this shot(gun) was for you buddy.)

giving some dude a gorilla sticker

When I go home I'm building a fort.

ship blue sun

panorama of Montevideo

Currently Reading:
Lonesome Traveler
by Jack Kerouac

Currently Listening To:
Song: Fake Empire
Artist: National

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

International Postal Love

International post office.
Package from my Mom waits for me.

A two-train subway ride away.
I eat my Wheaties (oatmeal),

and make the ride.

Morning rush hour.
Packed like sardines.

Then a walk.

4 more blocks.
Past sidewalk vendors.

There's a sale.

Sandals. Maté. Empanadas.

Past train station.

People everywhere.

I tag a gorilla sticker.

Past bus station.
I arrive to my postal line.

30 people ahead of me.

The waiting begins.

An hour passes
I graduate to another line.

Times slows,
and another hour passes.
I graduate again.

This time with a Masters in Line-ology,

And Dying Slow-ology.
I second guess my Spanish.
Maybe I shouldn't be waiting.

No I should be.

Everyone is.

It's how we roll here.
I start noticing little things.

The postal uniform is a white labcoat.

The AC is on.

And the doors are open.

And it's not hot outside.
Hey, that guy's missing a leg.

Why didn't I bring more food?

Or a flask.

I'm the tallest person in the building.

What if I die here.

Better carve my name in the wall.

Dank was here 2009.

Then, just before I lose consciousness,

my number is called.

The one that been on loop in my head.

Nueve, seis, ocho, dos, cinco, ocho.

The glorious exchange is made.

45 minutes later I'm home.

With care package in hand.

And not dead.

This Sunday we engage in a welcome reprieve from the city. An escape from all the lines, people and fast paced energy that the concrete is home to. Ahead of us is a 20 day excursion consisting of a two week voyage around Cape Horn, and a week long journey by bus over the Andes and across the Argentine plains. I have no clue what we will all see and do, but that's kind of the point - fresh air and the unknown.

FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH: About a week ago I woke up to see this sunrise in the East and simultaneous double full rainbow in the West. One of those moments where the Earth makes you smile. I grabbed my camera, shot some consecutive frames, and spliced them together. I thought they were worth sharing. Check 'em out.


Currently Reading:
The Thor comic book and book of Rudyard Kipling poems that my Mom put in the care package

Currently Listening To:
Song: Reaching For Light
Lizzie West