Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Pantanal

The Pantanal is the worlds largest inland wetland and is in south eastern Brazil along the Bolivian border. I went there for 4 days and went for walks and boat rides in the wetlands to try and spot wildlife. I swam in a river with Piranhas and Caiman and slept in a hammock. The mosquitoes were bad but the wildlife was good.

We did a few hikes in the jungle and also a boat ride with our guide Pipinho to spot wildlife.

A Porcupine.

Hyacinth Macaws.

A Caiman.

A Toucan. I found them to be very skittish and hard to get a good photo of.

A Capybara. Its the worlds largest rodent, a vegetarian, and a great swimmer.

We went Piranha fishing. You just need to lower any type of meat into the water and give the fishing pole a jerk to land the fish. They cooked our catch up and we ate it for lunch.

Horseback riding in the swamp.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Iguazu Falls

3 days. 3 countries. 4 illegal, 4 legal border crossings.

After an 18 hour bus ride from Buenos Aires we arrived in Puerto Iguazu, Argentina to view Iguazu falls. I was skeptical at first, however, the shear size and power of the waterfalls was really incredible.

The falls are viewable from both Argentina and Brazil. The Argentinian side of the falls is a better experience due to the size of the actual park and the trails. On the Argentinian side you can walk miles of catwalks around numerous waterfalls and into the surrounding rainforest. There were lots of cool birds and really colorful butterflies everywhere. We also saw a bunch of toucans, a monkey, and a tarantula.

The Devil´s Throat from the Argentine side.

The weather in Iguazu is completely unpredictable. Its the rainforest. So you can expect a healthy dose of humidity and rain. Shortly after being drenched by showers we got some sunlight which made these rainbows. Getting a break from the clouds and rain really made the experience better.

The next day we headed over to the Brazilian side, which provided a good overview of the falls. The Brazilian side was nice because you were able to appreciate the shear size of the falls, but the Brazilian side is much smaller and only took a few hours to see everything.

Me next to the Devil´s Throat.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Eco Yoga Farm

It didn´t take much convincing by Liz and Rives to get us to come to the Eco Yoga Park with them. Located 60km outside of Buenos Aires, the farm hosts volunteers who work in the organic garden and participate in yoga during the afternoon. For volunteers the cost is USD$15 per day. We intended on staying 3 days but ended up at the farm almost a week because it was so much fun.

Yoga inside the Truli.

Learning Tai Chi in front of the Truli.

The inside ceiling of the Truli. It took a few years to construct and was designed by a Peruvian Architect.

For the first few days we had terrible weather. This meant no farming and no work. So we passed the time by doing yoga and playing lots and lots of really competitive card games. You would think that doing yoga and practicing medatation all day would calm people down...but it didn´t.

Liz and Rives with cabin fever after being rained out twice.

Spades enemies. They might look nice but they hate each other right now.

Finally after enduring a few days of rain the sun came out and we worked on the farm. I spent hours making mud and applying the mud to a hut that was under construction. It was an awesome and messy job. The next day I spend some time working in the garden and cutting back bamboo.

The mud hut after a days work.

Martin preparing a vegetable bed for fresh seeds. The same vegetable bed had been full of plants and harvested the day before.

Enjoying a communal meal together.

The farm was run by Hare Krishnas who live meat and alcohol free and featured delicious vegetarian fare. Much of the vegetables we ate were straight from the farm and harvested the same day.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Buenos Aires Again

After spending a day in Colonia Del Sacramento, Uruguay I headed across the Rio de la Plata via ferry to Buenos Aires for my second stint in the city. The last time I was in Buenos Aires its was high summer and muggy. This time around the city was much more pleasant for exploring, which included another trip to the San Telmo outdoor market.

The antiques section of the market.

After walking around for a few hours in a city of 13 million people I bumped into Liz and Rives. I know Liz and Rives from my time living in New York. We scheduled dinner together at La Cabrera, an amazing and reasonably priced steak restaurant in Palermo. While your waiting they give you free champagne! But its not really free bcause while waiting your forced to share the sidewalk with a bunch of other annoying scensters.

Dinner at La Cabrera with Liz and Rives.

Liz and Rives said they were heading to a Yoga Farm the next day. We followed them. Read the next post.

Amendment: I am back in BA after coming back from the yoga farm with two new friends from the farm, Helen and Kathrin. On Monday we went to La Bamba Del Tiempo, a weekly live drum show that takes place in an old warehouse. It was really great. More on all of that later.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Panagea Estancia

After great anticipation I finally had a chance to live my out Gaucho dreams at the Panagea Estancia. Panagea is located in rural Uruguay near the town of Tacuarembo, 4 hours north of Montevideo.

The Estancia is a working ranch and backpackers hostel run by owners Juan and Susann. Juan is the head gaucho and a licensed veterinarian. The estancia has been in his family for generations. Juan is a well traveled backpacker and an all-around awesome guy. Susann is Juans wife and she is a fantastic cook and mother. Throughout the 4 days at Panagea, Susann made sure that we were well fed and totally taken care of.

Day 1
At the estancia there are nearly 100 horses and 1000 cattle.

I spent the morning of the first day getting a crash course on how to properly saddle and ride a horse.

After some brief instructions we set off to round up some cattle so we could tag their ears and brand them.

After finishing the round up it was Alexi, David, and Dan´s job to push the cattle from the "egg" to the pen where the cattle would be branded.

Juan applying the scalding brand to the flank. After applying the brand we pushed the cattle back out into the field to graze and fatten up. Panagea raises cattle until they reach 250kg (about 2 years of age) and then sells them to other ranches where they double in size before going to slaighter.

Day 2
On our second day we had to check the older female cows for pregancies. These cows were between 8-10 years old and some were done producing offspring. Unfortunately for them this means being sent to the slaughterhouse as low quality meat (good meat comes from younger cattle). But the pregnant cows would need to stay at Panagea to give birth and nurse their young.

Feeling around the cows uterus for a calf developing.

After lunch we headed out with Bilingua, an expert gaucho that works at Panagea, to round up and shear over 200 sheep. We only had to shear around the eyes so the fast growing wool doesn´t block the sheeps vision. This shearing needs to happen two times a year.

Day 3
On the third day we went out in the morning with Bilingua again to shear some more sheep. This time we worked a bit more efficiently after having mastered the art of sheep wrestling and shearing techniques the day before.

In the afternoon were had a walk to the stream and a leisurely ride out to a hill that overlooked the entire Panagea estate.