Snow Blind

By Adam Capelin

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So I turned 30 on Saturday! Yeah I’m an old man – but to celebrate this milestone in celestial revolutions, I went snowboarding in the Andes, Argentina at a resort called Las Lenas. Not bad for an old man. Keira and Caroline (our English friend for the weekend) braved the conditions on skis, in-between hot chocolates.

It dumped about a meter of snow on Saturday and Saturday night. Lots of soft sugary powder. Visibility was white out conditions. Just imagine boarding with your eyes closed and feeling the seduction of gravity. The sky was the same colour as the ground or was I looking at the ground – hard to tell. If we stuck to the edge of a run we could just make out the next trail edge pole marker after leaving the previous one a couple of turns behind. I don’t think we were going too fast, just checking our turns. But sometimes when I thought I was slowing a mark in the snow would race past me in the opposite direction alerting me to an unsuspected rapid descent.

Sunday revealed a ski resort struggeling to remain open with the thick blanket of snow burrying it. Conditions were clearer and we could see some of the terrain we had been shoooshing down the previous day. Wow – we could actually see some of the surrounding mountains. Powder was in plentiful supply as lift operators excavated lifts and tows up the mountain. Another day of pushing powder, tired ankles and aching legs. I might be 30, but I stuck the last run of the day off-piste and retired a very happy camper!

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And then we fly to South America…

By Adam Capelin

Street graffiti in Cordoba

We’ve been repeating those words for months to fellow travellers.  It always takes an extra breath to add that to the end of our Round the World Trip itinerary script. South America; The unknown. What are we doing in South America?  I have no idea – we’ll figure it out when we’re on the road.  A flick of a page from the Lonely Planet guide to South America, a conversation or email from a fellow traveller and a glint of local knowledge and you’re away.  We landed in Buenos Aires, capital of Argentina, and fly out from Lima, capital of Peru, and we’ll visit Bolivia somewhere in the middle.  Sounds like a plan.  We only purchased the Lonely Planet’s guide to South America the same day we departed London.  Swapping the Europe continent guide for the South American continent guide. Crazy I know.  If I could listen to myself describing our planning for South America 6 months ago I’d probably slap myself in the face and shout, “What! Are you crazy!”

– A few things we’ve learnt about South America –
This continent is vast.  Argentina has the same land size as India.
20 hour bus trips across nothingness are normal.
A little (pocuitto) spanish goes a long way in crossing the language barrier.
Argentina is cheap like Vietnam but the accommodation and food quality is closer to European standards
Grande beef steaks are uber MeatMeet quality and at a fraction of the price
A steak dinner before a Tango show is a great night out
Iguazu falls are some of the biggest in the world (we’d never heard of them before)

So stay tuned for some interesting blogs – I’m not sure what we’ll find down the road.  After the capital of Buenos Aires and Iguazu falls in Argentina’s North East corner, we’re now heading to Mendoza in Central/Western Argentina near the boarder with Chile and Aconagua, the Western hemispheres highest peak at almost 7000m.  From here we’ll head North towards Boliva following the Andean Mountains and the road once travelled by “Che” Guevara.

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The message that forgot it was sent

By Adam Capelin

On 22 June, 9:35am, Mum sent us a text message that for some strange fault in technology forgot that it was sent and received and read.  Message transmission successful. End of message right?  Wrong. Instead of finishing it’s logical existance from phone sender to phone receiver, this message has decided to continue living in the global microwave and satallite transmission ether.  Like a virus, this message has started reproducing itself, demanding attention like a hyperactive child with attention deficiency disorder. Look at me, look at me. look at me. At first we guessed Mum had simply forgotton to lock her keypad and the phone was bouncing around in her handbag or something.  But five days later we’re still receiving the same message and we’re starting to wonder what the hell Mum is doing running around with her handbag 24hrs a day.  Is she attempting a Guinness book of records shop-a-thon, or did she leave her phone on a non-stop freight train accross the Nullabour?

I think we’ve re-read the same message almost 50 times.  It’s become like a familar line from a famous poem.  Everytime Keira’s phone beeps a message alert, I can read the words burned into the screen; “Great to hear you arrived safely. Take lots of care – love you heaps. Will buy a webcam this week. Can we help with tax any way? X mum”

It’s just the kind of message you can depend upon from Mum.  A subtle hint about doing you tax return under the guise of motherly love.  And with the volume of repetition, its like a well rehersed parrot – nagging me incessantly.  Well, I’ve done my tax return now and we’re staying out of trouble, so I guess you can stop sending that same message. Hang on – I just got a message… Guess what, it’s from Mum…

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The Devil’s Throat

By Adam Capelin

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There’s something surreal about watching a colossal river collapse right in front of you into an abyss of roaring mist.  It fills your vision and blocks your ears with a wall of white destructive noise.

Standing on the edge of the Devils Throat on the Argentinian side of Iguazu falls, the sensation is at once both terrifying and captivating.  It’s an awesome sight.  The volume of water crashing into itself far below has no where to go and huge plumes of mist are blasted back skyward above the falling river creating clouds above the falls.

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5 months of transient existance

By Adam Capelin

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The 24 June marked 5 months of transient existance.  And to celebrate this occasion we hopped on a bus from Buenos Aires to Puerto Iguazu for 20hrs.  What better way to celebrate travel then with more travel.  Our longest single haul by road or air so far.  Read a bit, listen to some music, watch a B-grade Hollywood movie with Spanish sub-titles, close your eyes and you’re there. At least the sense of distance isn’t lost on a bus like it is when you fly.

The buses in Argentina do a good job of catering for the long-haul trip probably better than an Economy class airline seat. Seat comfort and trip service are divided up into 3 different classes; semi-cama, cama, and full cama or upper cama (kar-ma).  Semi-cama seats partially recline and don’t have as much leg room as cama seats.  Cama seats almost fully recline and are probably similar to business class on an airline with meal service and limited drinks. A full cama seat fully reclines into a flat bed with full meal service and unlimited drinks.  You never know when karma can come back around so we opted for cama seats from Buenos Aires to Iguazu falls.

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The Grand Bazaar, the Muslim Lady & the Finding of the Ring

by Keira Louis

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Turkey is THE place for gold and diamonds. We didn´t know this before we arrived in Istanbul, but almost immediately, hoards of jewellery stores were appearing in front of us wherever we went.

I couldn´t resist the temptation to look at engagement rings. Expecting the prices to be on par with those in Italy and Greece (i.e. VERY EXPENSIVE!!), Adam and I window-shopped at first, until we were coaxed inside one store by its friendly male owner. During our travels, though, we had learnt that actually entering shops before you have made a decision about buying something was a dangerous move. You would no doubt walk away having paid too much for something you didn´t really want anyway. So we were very cautious.

Once inside, we sat down at the diamond ring counter and politely (but non-commitedly) enquired about the price of the size and cut we were after. I was already planning the usual ¨Thanks but no thanks¨get-away line in my head, but when he finally calculated the price for us, we couldn´t believe our ears. It was the cheapest price we had been quoted across Europe, and a good price, too. We could have bought it right there and then, but as this was the first shop we had actually looked in we decided to compare prices in other stores. I opted for the ¨Thanks, we´ll think about it¨ line instead, which our friend seemed to like, and we continued our search.

With a new sense of excitement, we headed into the Grand Bazaar, Istanbul´s massive undercover tourist market lined with rows of souvenier shops, fake brand-name T-shirt and perfume stalls, turkish delight and apple tea sellers, and suprisingly, quality jewellery shops specialising in gold and diamonds. We had a sneaky suspicion that everything would be overpriced (it was a market specifically targeted at tourists) but we thought we´d have a look anyway.

After window-shopping a bit more, we entered our second shop, and again, were surprised by the price we were told. This is ridiculously cheap, we thought, even cheaper than before, but the ring still looked of excellent quality and the slightly bigger diamond sparkled proudly. It was gorgeous! Before we could decide to purchase it or not, however, we had to check our bank balance online. Since our credit cards were stolen in Barcelona, we had been surviving on only one debit card so we would have to pay in cash, IF our current funds allowed (it would take 3 days to transfer money and we were leaving the next day). So we headed to an internet cafe near by, and this is where the story takes a strange turn….

We were in luck – there was just enough money in our account to purchase the ring if we decided to. It was about 2pm and the Grand Bazaar closed at 6:30pm so we had a few hours to think about it (and google ¨diamonds in Turkey¨, just to make sure we weren´t being sold a fake!)

So while I researched, Adam went to get a quick haircut (I know, I told you the story got strange!) from a ¨Salon¨, which appeared to be just around the corner from the internet cafe inside the complex we were in. But to Adam´s surprise, he was followed by a security guard who seemed to be saying (in Turkish) that he wasn´t allowed to be here. Having heard the commotion, a muslim Turkish lady emerged from her office to politely explain to Adam, in English, that he was actually in the Istanbul Cultural and Performing Arts Centre, not the hairdresser at all. Obviously, ¨Salon¨ in Turkish means something completely different to the English word!

The lovely lady introduced herself as Nazmia and kindly showed Adam to a hairdresser, enjoying the fact that she was able to practice her English with him on the way.  The haircut turned out to be just what Adam wanted, and so cheap, so we went back to Nazmia´s office to thank her for her help.

Nazmia took a liking to both Adam and I, and we were in her office talking til almost 5:30pm. She gave us gifts from the Cultural Centre, invited us to a theatre performance on Sunday (which we weren´t going to be around for, unfortunately) and insisted on us joining her and her family for dinner at a nearby restaurant that evening. It was such a lovely offer – and we really wanted to go – but we had to get back to the Grand Bazaar before 6:30pm to buy the ring, as we decided it was too perfect to resist. When we explained this to Nazmia, she flew into help mode again. Before we knew it, she was on the phone to her friend who had a jewellery store in the Bazaar, saying her two very good friends from Australia wanted to buy a ring. She told her friend that we would come to her shop, and demanded that he give us his best price, otherwise, Nazmia would not shop there anymore. With that, she hung up, wrote down her friend´s name and shop number, and Adam and I were off. We organised to meet back at 7:30pm for dinner.

We were naturally a bit dubious but decided to check out one last price out of courtesy to Nazmia. And we were so glad we did – the price we were quoted was the best price we had seen all day. We were sold! Our ring would be ready for collection at 9am the next morning. I was so excited!

Nazmia was over the moon to hear that we had purchased from her friend´s shop. We ate dinner at a lovely Turkish restaurant near her office with her partner and two gorgeous children. She was such a genuinely, friendly lady, with so much to give, and we were so glad to have met her. It was a really great night with delicious traditional food and drink – and to top things off, we didn´t pay a thing. In another show of her genuine, unselfish nature, Nazmia shouted us.

When we finally picked up the ring the next day, we were really excited. It was perfect, just what we wanted. Istanbul turned out to be a surprising stop during our travels –an experience we´ll certainly never forget!

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WINNER – Best Leaning Tower of Pisa picture

By Adam Capelin

WINNER

It just had to be done…!

Other entries included;


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