Category Archives: South America

Wrapping up South America

March 10-12, 2011-

After Machu Picchu, I was spent. The next two days (the 10th and 11th) consisted of prepping for the return home, enjoying our time in our new-and-improved “party hostel”, The Point, and doing closing meetings & feedback forms.

Before the South America trip, Julie made plans with me to extend her travels. She flies out of Cusco, but not until early May! To fulfill her big plans to visit Patagonia and Bolivia over the next seven weeks, she grabbed a bus back to Arequipa the night before our group took off. Here, Jonah showered her with goodbyes, a.k.a. party foam leftover from Carnaval.

It’s okay, she forgave him…and Wyatt, at the same time. We bid farewell to Julie and wished her merry adventures (and lots of steamy hot Argentine men). She will be missed.

I did some last-minute gift shopping. I typically dislike bringing back touristy crap that no one will actually use. Luckily I found a nice lady who agreed to knit a custom cap for Brenna, inscribing the phrase “Throw or Die” on alpaca yarn. Unfortunately she neglected to include the spaces, and the inscriptions reads more like “THROWORDIE”, which throws many people for a ringer.

On Saturday morning, we grabbed three taxis to Cusco International Airport. After seven weeks of highly responsible room sweeps and maintaining control of virtually all my stuff, I forgot my shoes in the hostel in Cusco. South America strikes again!

Ingmar accompanied us to the airport and left us whimpering like puppy dogs behind a glass wall. (He’s also staying in South America a bit longer—just one week in Cusco.)

Here the group awaited our connecting flight to Miami in Lima, Peru.

Upon arrival in Miami the students kissed the floor, remembered what non-concrete-90-degree-angle architecture looked like, and thanked their creators for clean drinking fountains and reliable porcelain toilets. And ran up and down the moving walkways.

LAN Airlines courteously put us up in a four-star hotel for the night after not-so-courteously canceling our original return flight. The students pitched in and I ordered a Papa John’s pizza feast delivered to our rooms. Between this and the hot tub, we had some happy campers.

Not as happy as Jalen, who one week prior had pre-ordered a vegan carrot cake with “cream cheese” frosting to be delivered to the hotel.


And to top it all off, Garrett (a former Unschool Adventuree) showed up.

Thus ended the Unschool Adventures South America trip!

Machu Freakin’ Picchu

Wednesday March 9th

Guess what we did today? Yup. Visit Machu Picchu.

It all started at 4am, when we woke up and joined the line of people waiting for the first buses to Machu Picchu. We did this so that we could be some of the first people in the NEXT line, outside of Machu Picchu’s entrance gates, to get an authorization stamp to climb Huayna Picchu (only 400 people get to climb it each day, and it’s first-come, first-served).

Ahh, 4:30. What a magical hour.

After entering the park, our first stop was the “guardhouse” where we awaited our guide. Hey look, it’s Machu Picchu!

The last time I was in Peru (2007), my friend Patrick and I skipped Cusco and MP because they’re so touristy. Well, they are touristy—that’s a fact. But I really enjoyed finally getting to see the ancient Incan kingdom.

Requisite butt shot.

Trip leader shot.

Myspace shot.

…and a few more group shots.

Our tour guide loved talking about the triangles that are everywhere and how they relate to the glaciers and asked if we were “CLEAR TO THE IDEA?”

Vicious wild llamas wandered the ruins.

Wild “chinchillas” too.

And “Andean eagles”

We climbed up Huayna Picchu, the big mountain that you typically see photographed next to Machu Picchu.

Goodbye Machu Picchu.


Tuesday March 8th-

We spent all day in transit to Aguas Calientes, a.k.a. Machupicchutown. This consisted of a gorgeous 2-hour bus ride from Cusco to Ollyatatambo folllowed by an equally gorgeous 2-hour train ride to Aguas Calientes.

Look how excited Lani was!

So Much Yet So Little Water

Monday March 7th-

The hills of Cusco are steep.

Maybe that’s why there’s no WATER in our bathrooms from 6pm-6am. It’s just too hard to travel uphill at night. Despite the rain every day.

But really, Inca Wasi Hostel, don’t tell me every day that “we’ll definitely have water tonight”, and then leave me confronted with three unflushed toilets.


Sunday March 6th-

We hiked to the “Christo Blanco” on the hill above our hostel this morning…Benji held a striking resemblance.


The early morning hiking crew.

Today, Cusco celebrated Carnaval. For those of you who don’t know what Carnaval is, it’s when the locals stock up on water balloons, buckets, spray guns, and foam spray canisters…and wait for the gringos to walk by.

Jalen felt the wrath of this group of locals.

Nor were the rest spared.

Lunch made it all better.

La Cuerva de las Ladrones

Friday March 4th-

Last night I took the students to a discotheque that Malena (of the Spanish school) told me was hip with all the young’uns in Arequipa. The students reported a much higher incidence of balding middle-aged men. Ha! Too bad.

Today everyone packed up and moved out of their homestays and (staff) hostel in preparation for our night bus to Cusco. We did internet’ing and last-minute city exploring. Julie and Ingmar took Benji, who’s been dying for a good climb, to the lock rock gym, the Cuerva del Mono (¡que divertido!):

Unfortunately, Benji’s luck took a turn for the worse at the bus station. He left his camera out on a chair and a team of four female thieves distracted him (and the rest of group) while one of them “bumped into” the chair and grabbed the camera. (I wasn’t there—this is the story I got.)

Benji was thankful that this happened near the end of the trip. The camera was covered by traveler’s insurance, but there was no tourist police to file a report in the bus station, and police from one district (i.e. Cusco) won’t create a report for a crime that happened in another (i.e. Arequipa), so Benji is SOL in terms of getting compensated. Bummer!

You Can’t Slick the Slicker

Thursday March 3rd-

[OKAY SO, it’s actually March 14th today. This is the farthest that I’ve been behind on my blog, but I’m determined to catch up.]

The highlight of this morning was tricking not one, not two, but THREE of the students into owing me a frappucino!

I did a classic card trick where they cut the deck, look at a card, put it back in the middle of the deck, and then I flip through the cards and tell them that I’m using my psychic powers to determine when the card is near. I purposefully flip past their card, play dumb, and tell them that the next card I’m going to flip over is theirs. I then get them to bet against this proposal, and then I crush their dreams by flipping over their card from the pile of discards.

Kina and Benji were the first to bet against me (a frappucino each), and Claire later did the same. Here’s me cashing in on my sweet victory with Claire.

On another sugary note, Inca Kola is the official soda of Peru. It tastes like a cross between bubble gum and vanilla cream.

Five Shots

Wednesday, March 2-

A shot from our daily morning meet-up at Cusco Coffee:

A shot of Mount Misti, the volcano next to Arequipa:

A shot of Julie traversing the bouldering wall at La Cueva del Mono:

A shot of Ingmar scoping out the Mono himself:

And a shot of Ingmar doing a sick dyno:

Gatto in the Park

Tuesday, March 1

This morning our group (minus Quinn, the late-sleeper) walked to Yanahuara’s central plaza and scoped some epic views of the surrounding mountains and volcanoes.

We discovered a few pleasant and quite side streets.

And we spent the rest of the morning discussing John Taylor Gatto, unschooling, and education theory in the sunny park. Very nice!

The Best Photo Ever

Sunday, February 27-

Our two homestay organizers and Spanish teachers are Malena and Pepe of Juanjo Spanish School. They lead classes in two downstairs rooms of their multi-story house in the Yuanahuara neighborhood of Arequipa. Somehow they juggle having four kids, teaching hours of Spanish each day, and running a business. Malena told me that she hasn’t taken a vacation in 10 years!

I caught the students looking a bit weary after their first afternoon of Spanish class with Pepe:

And Malena:

Before our meeting on the roof of Pepe and Malena’s house, I snapped this photo of the group in the light of sunset. It’s my favorite picture from the entire trip.

The full resolution photo is available here:

Finally, we found this little bugger on the walk home. Looks like he had a run-in with someone’s boot. I’m glad it wasn’t with my flip-flopped foot.


Saturday, February 26-

Today we went for a hike in the terraced countryside outside of Arequipa. The destination: Sogay. The students had a lot of fun with that one.

We crossed a treacherous river.

Kina soaked up the sights.

A fierce game of Ninja appeared after lunch.

The students waited for their return “combi” bus—a 15-person transport van typically packed with about 30 people.

Hike day: success. Tomorrow: Spanish classes begin.

Arequipa, Week 2

Friday, February 25-

Our first week in Arequipa was flexi-week. Now we enter our second week: back to the grindstone! Home stays, four hours of Spanish classes per day, and the occasional group activities in the mornings.

I’m writing this post almost a week late, so I apologize for the lack of details in this and the upcoming posts. They will be spartan.

But you won’t care because…here’s a picture of Julie with a baby!!

Fin de Flexi

Thursday, February 24-

Today is the last day of flexi-week and the students are going hog-wild with their leftover budget! We spent a big chunk of the day touring the Santa Catalina Monastery, the high walls of which we’ve walked by every day. This monastery is OLD—like 500+ years old. Lots of neat photos to be found.

A cloister:

Kitchen facilities:

Well-tended roses and colorful walls everywhere:

Ye-olde facilities:

Monastery pigeon spying on my nap spot:

They finished the day off by taking everyone out to the wonderful Mexican food restaurant. I was so happy.

Josie and Quinn went big.

Hanna (top-right) died a little bit, again.

Cameron and Tara joined us for their last full night in Arequipa. They depart tomorrow on a night-bus.

Fin de flexi! Tomorrow: back to the oppressive rule of Blake, Julie & Ingmar!

Los Museos

Wednesday, February 23-

More Starbucks this morning. I’m working toward merging my personal website (, blogging website (currently Zero Tuition College), and a new consulting/guidance service together under one banner. Lots of writing to do.

This afternoon the students got their act together and walked us across Arequipa to find the free art museum.

Unfortunately, it didn’t exist. They walked back to the Plaza de Armas and talked with the tourist information center, where they found about a free archaeological museum nearby. That seemed to be closed too (a sign above it read: “On vacation for February!”), but then a guard opened the door. I’m impressed by the quality of museums thus far in Arequipa, and this one was filled with a satisfying number of cadavers, bones, and artifacts.

Afterwards, the group hung out in Cusco Coffee, which is Starbucks-wannabe with bigger couches. This photo adequately captures their raunchy humor. (Kina was sick, poor girl!)

At night the group played soccer at some sort of empty pond (?) and had a few locals join in. I stayed in town and researched Machu Pichu options.

The S/8 Cappuccino

Tuesday, February 22-

There is a Starbucks that opened just down from the historic Plaza de Armas in central Arequipa. Some call this a blight; I call this awesome.

Here’s why: this Starbucks is the first coffee shop I’ve found in Peru and Chile that doesn’t have blaring horns 2 feet away from your table, or swarming flies, or odd and illegible hours. It’s clean, quiet (outside of normal Starbucks music), has fast wi-fi, opens reliably at 7am every day, and the staff are consistently friendly. The staff also seem very glad to be working at a Starbucks (compared to all the other restaurants and cafes I’ve seen, where listlessness is common).

The drinks cost twice as much as other cafes (S/8 instead of S/4 for a cappuccino), but I still go here every morning.

Today was a day of not much happening. The students had plans to visit a free art museum at noon, but those fell through. On the upside, I got a lot of writing done, which makes me a happier trip leader.

We ended the day with a delicious student-cooked meal and meeting on the roof.

Snapshots of Arequipa Life

Monday, February 21-

Today I present you with snapshots of our life here in Arequipa, Peru. The students are keeping flexi-week pretty flexi, with only lunch, dinner, and a museum visit as the scheduled group activities today.

The view from our hostel’s roof:

The mini rooftop kitchen where the students whip up delicious meals:

Bags of milk are very popular in Peru (and South America in general). Here Jalen shows off her bag of soy milk:

Wyatt puts away about three of these per day:

The hostel has pug puppies and photogenic bean bag chairs.


Okay, time to dial down the cuteness. Seriously.

Josie at the museum:

A mini replica of downtown Arequipa:

Day Off #2

Sunday, February 20th-

DAY OFF! Wooh. All I can say is, thank god for the Arequipa Starbucks (opened 3 months ago), because it’s the only thing open at 7am in this entire city.

I’ve been waking up around 5:30am each day because we lost two hours crossing the Chilean/Peruvian border…but we only traveled north! Go figure. So the sun rises really early, and I with it.

Today I wrote, wrote some more, watch The Black Swan (El Cisne Negro—in English with Spanish subtitles) at a movie theater (they don’t butter their popcorn!! What’s the point!?), napped, wrote, and ate more Mexican food.

Oh, and Cameron Lovejoy and Tara Dean (two unschoolers who I know from many different places) showed up! They’re traveling around Peru for a month and coordinated their visit to Arequipa to match ours.

That’s all! No photos today—day off 🙂

The White City meets Flexi-Week

Saturday, February 19th

In yesterday’s post I omitted a rather important announcement: Friday was the beginning of South America trip’s “flexi-week”, in which the students design the travel. They choose the lodging, buy the food, budget the money, plan the activities, and arrange the transportation (except where border-crossing is involved). On the Unschool Adventures Argentina Trip in 2008, the group did two weeks of student-designed travel, and it was a big hit. On this trip, the students are designing one week of travel in Arequipa, Peru: The White City.

Originally I suggested that the student’s do homestays (which include breakfasts and dinners for a bargain price) for the flex-week, but they weren’t into that idea. So they went online to and found the Bothy Hostel instead.

The Bothy turned out to be a great find. Aside from the hot water problem (they’re solar-only, and it’s usually cloudy in the summer, so…no hot water!), it has everything that our group needs, including a movie room that’s just the right size for our 13-person meetings.

The students spent their first full day in Arequipa exploring the city, buying groceries, and thinking about possible activities for the rest of the week. I spent the day scouting out all the awesome, awesome restaurants that the city has to offer. I ultimately decided that the Mexican restaurant “Tacos & Tequila” was the highest priority. Jonah, Hanna and I went there for a post-dinner snack.

Hanna went into a little food coma after the first bite of her burrito.

My taco was a work of art. LOOK AT THAT GUACAMOLE!

So happy.

International Child Abduction, My Ass!

Friday, February 18th-

Border crossing day: Chile to Peru. I was seriously stressing, because Chile has some draconian regulations regarding international child abduction. Prior to the trip I asked all the parents to sign and notarize an authorization form for the Chilean authorities. I had also spoken with the Chilean consulate in San Francisco and a trip leader from a South American adventure kayaking company, and they both indicated that authorization paperwork was definitely necessary. I felt confident that my authorization form (which I drafted myself, in English and Spanish) met all the requirements, but when dealing with bureaucracy…who knows! Thus, I was stressed.

The border crossing was also stressful because the (apparent) best option for crossing was to hire three taxis to take our group across. I don’t like handing out the student’s passports when I don’t have to, and especially not to Chilean taxi drivers who are yelling at me because I don’t understand the intricacies of the Chilean-Peruvian border paperwork. I also don’t like splitting the group up, but Julie, Ingmar and I each had cell phones with unlimited calling time between each other, so that was good.

All this leads to the requisite anti-climax: We got across without problem.

The taxi drivers got us into all the right emigration/immigration lines and blasted through our paperwork. And the Chilean authorities never once asked for a shred of authorization paperwork. We arrived in Tacna, Peru, earlier than expected.

While I’m glad that I was prepared for the worst-case scenario in the Chilean border crossing, I also think that the whole ordeal took a few months of my lifespan. Oh well!

The rest of the day was: a long bus ride to Arequipa, Peru, and arrival at our hostel for the upcoming week. More on that in the next post!

(Sorry, no photos today!)


Thursday, February 17th

Today passed like a dream! We woke up at 7am in the Arica bus terminal and walked to our sweet-ass lodging which I had reserved for one night: The Arica Surf Hostel.

The Surf Hostel was by far the nicest hostel of the whole trip: huge common area (pictured above), spacious rooms, uber-friendly staff, and a free breakfast with espresso and scrambled eggs (compare to: bread and jam, the typical South American hostel “breakfast”). It was also the most expensive hostel of the trip at roughly $20 per person per night.

Because yesterday was a bus today, and tomorrow was going to be a bus day, we just rested more today. Everyone in the group needed it. Jonah and Ingmar went surfing, and I poked around the downtown walking promenade. I found a Govinda restaurant (a chain which serves all-vegetarian fare run by Hare Krishnas) and convinced them to open up at 8pm for our group—so we enjoyed a lovely vegetarian fixed-menu in our very own restaurant! A great ending to a restful day.

From Desert to Desert

Wednesday February 16th-

Today we slept late, packed up shop, and said goodbye to San Pedro de Atacama.

Roberto the desert hippie helped shlep our bags in his Scoobie Doo van.

We took a short bus to Calama (which Lonely Planet unapologetically calls a “shithole”) and spent two hours in the bus terminal eating greasy chicken and fries, and then hopped onto our second-to-last overnight bus to Arica: the tip-top city of Northern Chile.

Flamingos Do Exist in the Wild

Tuesday, February 15th-

This morning we toured the Salar de Atacama (world’s third largest salt flat, after Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni and Utah’s Great Salt Lake) and a few high-altitude lakes. Epic photos below. The rest of the day was spent recovering from the oppression of waking up at 6am. Also: eating incredible veggie burgers (the best we’ve found in South America).

The flamingos eat the krill which eat the minerals produced by the endless volcanic activity in the region.

Benji and Lani chatted up a group of university students from Concepcion (in central Chile) who were on our tour. Great to see those Spanish classes put to use!

Forgot to mention: in the restaurant adjacent to the wonderful veggie burger joint, they served a dish (Chori..something??) that consisted of a pile of french fries covered by diced beef, chicken, pork, and sausage, onion, and a fried egg. The meat fanatics of the group rejoiced.

Valle de la Luna

Monday, February 14th-

This morning I haggled a few companies for a big group discount on tours of the Atacama desert. We ended up with two tours: the Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon) tour today, and Lagunas Altiplanicas (high-elevation lakes) tour tomorrow.

Valle de la Luna is just outside of San Pedro. It’s a wholllle lot of crazy rock formations caused by violent tectonic and volcanic action over the past six million years.

Our guide was a bit nuts, having led these tours for 12 straight years. He rocked the glacier goggles pretty well.

Rock strata in three directions! Crazy!

This rock made little crumbling sounds when we were really quiet, which was disquieting in a safety sense.

Erosion explosion.

Sunset over the valle.

Julie hales the moon.

All is quiet.

Sweet tour. Tomorrow morning at 6:30am: high-altitude lakes and flamingos!

The Driest Place on Earth

Sunday, February 13th, 2011-

Our bus from Santiago arrived in San Pedro de Atacama, in Northern Chile near the Bolivian and Argentine borders, at 6:20pm, right on time. The manager of our hostel in San Pedro, a total desert hippie named Roberto, picked us up in his puke-green van. San Pedro is where we’ll spend the next three nights, touring this barren land which is apparently the driest place on earth.

At the hostel, Julie led a four-chord sing-along with Quinn on ukelele. We crashed early, as it’s difficult to sleep well on a long-distance bus (with most of your body at a 30 degree incline).

Tomorrow: our first desert tour!

27 Hours in a Bus!

Saturday February 12, 2011-

What’s more fun than a 24-hour bus ride from Santiago to San Pedro de Atacama? An additional 3-hour bus ride from Pichilemu to Santiago! That’s our Saturday.

Here the students display their endless enthusiasm for long bus rides.

And…that’s it.

Last Day in Pichilemu

Friday, February 11, 2011-

We’ve reached a nice daily rhythm here in Pichilemu. Too bad we’re leaving it all tomorrow.

This morning our group met after classes, as we always do, on the school’s terrace overlooking the ocean.

I joined Quinn and Jonah’s homestay family for lunch. They were very nice and cordial, but there wasn’t much conversation as the entire family watched Spongebob Squarepants during the meal. (Claire and Jalen’s host family, with whom I ate on Wednesday, were much more talkative!) I snapped a photo of the boys with their homestay mom.

For my dinner: two sweet sweet empanadas with mashed potatoes. YUM.

And as an added bonus, here’s a shot of Punta de Lobos, where Julie and Ingmar took a small group of students yesterday.


Thursday, February 10, 2011-

Not much to report today, except that we are all officially addicted to the fresh, homemade empanadas that two ladies bake all day just outside of downtown Pichilemu. Here are group meets at the backyard oven-plus-eating-area in the afternoon:

And the nice empanada lady shows us her wares:

There was surfing and classes and such today too. But really. Empanadas.

Pichilemu Days

This morning I snapped a few photos of stduents in their Spanish classes. 9am is an unknown hour to virtually everyone in sleeply Pichilemu…but not us!

Each morning while the students are in class, Julie and I wait for the hotel next door to open (around 10 or 10:15am, which is considered “the beginning of the day” here). This hotel has an espresso machine. It fuels the 45 minutes of quiet reading and writing time that we both enjoy.

During the rest of the day our group met and discussed the consensus process (which the students will use to determine their “flexi-week” itinerary), went home for lunch (Julie, Ingmar, and I each joined one of the families for lunch), and surfed (I surfed!). At night the students met up for a dinner out, and Julie and I went back to the cabaña because we’re old and tired twenty-somethings.

Day Off

Today I took a day off. No camera, no photos, and lots of quiet time. I walked for an hour and a half between Pichilemu and Punta de Lobos, the famous surf spot. Thank you to Julie and Ingmar for running the show while I was gone.


While the students studied Spanish this morning, Julie and I explored “downtown” Pichilemu and the beach. We spotted a llama that was unquestionably outside of its natural environment.

After Spanish class, group meeting, and lunch with their homestays, we met the students at the surf school. Everyone got fitted for wetsuits.

This was very exciting.

Lani even got a hood!

The exhausted-looking, late-twenty-something Swiss surf instructor led the group in warm-up stretching.

His Chilean counterpart walked them through three basic steps for standing up on a wave. (Paddle hard; do a push-up with elbows tucked at your side; hop one foot forward and crouch low, arms out.)

Each person demonstrated their mad skills for the group.

And I took portrait shots with Claire’s digital SLR camera.

The group headed out into the crowded Pichilemu beginner waves, a beach break with a sandy bottom. Three instructors accompanied them and I kept a watchful eye from the beach (I’ll surf later this week!).

Out they paddled.

Suerte chicos! Tomorrow, we do it all again.

Killing Time in Santiago, Arriving Pichilemu

Not much to report this morning. We killed seven hours in Santiago’s Alameda bus terminal, playing cards, surfing the internet, eating expectedly mediocre terminal food, and buying bus tickets for next weekend. Then we boarded yet another bus: three and a half hours to Pichilemu, Chile, where our group will spend the next week doing homestays, Spanish classes (two hours per day), and surf classes.

Chris Wilcox, the owner (with his wife Valerie) of Pichilemu Institute of Language Studies, met us at the bus stop. I had worked with Chris and Valerie over e-mail since last March to organize our group’s lessons and accommodations, and it was a pleasure to finally meet them in person. Chris is a former Truckee and Monterey, CA, resident, so Julie and I immediately started talking favorite California beach and mountain spots with him. Chris is incredibly friendly and a gracious host. He walked us a few blocks to the school where the students met their homestay families.

This week we had five homestays for our ten students, with two students (of the same gender) staying at each house. Julie and I purposefully mixed up the homestay combinations to combine group members who didn’t know each other that well. Many of these families were first-time homestay hosts, which was a refreshing change from the Bariloche families that seemed to host students year-round. (Chris interviewed or had previous relationships with each of the homestay families.) The students departed with their families for the evening. They will be eating three meals per day at the homestays, with lunch being the biggest.

Only the three staffers remained. Chris took us to the local supermarket, which was a mob scene on Sunday (remember, this is summer break for Chile) and then to our hilltop cabaña accommdations. Julie got stoked for the sunset, and we called it an early evening.

It’s good to be on a warm beach, with nice people, in early February. That I know for sure.

Chau Bariloche, Hola Chile

Much traveling today. Early this morning we took taxis to the Bariloche bus station and grabbed the 7:30am bus bound for Osorno, Chile. The five-hour-long ride over the Andes passed gorgeous, sky-blue lakes, and endless rocky peaks. I didn’t take any photos because I’m really not a fan of bus-window shots, sorry!

We spent the majority of the day passing time in Osorno, Chile, a large city in Southern Chile with no particular tourist draw. We walked to the Plaza de Armas and napped on the grass.

Julie and I bought new cell phone sim cards, Jalen bought a new camera, and we all bought supermarket dinner food (at an overwhelmingly large Wal-Mart like store). I feasted on a Granny Smith apple imported from the U.S. I thought that was funny.

Our bus was a sweet “coche cama” ride with lots of space for everyone to stretch out.

Julie and Jalen (sporting her new camera) approved.

At 9pm I passed out on my seat and slept for a glorious, uninterrupted 10 hours.

Bariloche Hike

Our final day in Bariloche. The students said goodbye to their Spanish teachers, we ate our last sandwich lunch, and we said “feel better!” to Lani and Kina, who were feeling under the weather (and went back to their homestay).

Then we went for a hike.

Cerro Campanario is a popular day hike accessible by bus from Bariloche. We hiked up to the Cerro and soaked in the grand views. The beauty drove many to embrace each other:

And look generally adorable:

The whole group, minus Kina and Lani:

Claire, being dramatic:

Just the dudes, being manly:

Just the dudes, being seductive:

We dropped the students at their homestays on the bus ride back. Julie, Ingmar and I grabbed our last hit of Bariloche chocolate and some cena para llevar, and we then ate at the hostel in the company of a group of musicians from Buenos Aires. Much jamming and butchered acoustic versions of American songs.

Bife and Blogs

Julie took the day off to go bike around a peninsula, so today was a lot of solo trip leading for me. I changed dollars (both into Argentine pesos and Chilean pesos), bought pastries for snacks, took lunchtime sandwich orders, and answered business e-mails. Before lunch I snapped a few shots of one of the student classes playing Spanish hangman.

Jalen entered the hangman’s letters.

Aren’t they a photogenic group? (Teacher on the far left)

The other students gang-petted the school’s cat.

After lunch #1, I convinced half the students to join me for lunch #2 at El Boliche de Alberto, where I’ve been eating once per day to keep la fiebre away. Here’s Wyatt being very civil with his bife de lomo.

Quinn had a love affair with his.

Quinn also loves to engage me in political debate. I acquiesce. He’s a quick study and talented debater.

The rest of the afternoon was spent in the internet cafe, where the students caught up on blogging. I later caught up on their catching up, and they have some really quality blogs. Both in photos and writing. I recommend that you check them out here:


A Non-Sick and Very Pleasant Day

Today was very pleasant because it was my first 24-hour period without sickness in a week. Also because I’m surrounded by very pleasant people in a pleasant place. Here are some of those people waiting for there Spanish class in the morning.

And two very pleasant coffee addicts.

This afternoon we had a lovely group meeting and played bonding games by lake.

Chocolate made the meeting even more pleasant. Here’s Julie getting some chocolate rama:

…and enjoying the subsequential spiritual moment.

Very pleasant.

Bistec de Lomo en mi facehole

Tuesday February 1-

Here’s our group at Spanish school in the morning. Everyone is chipper.

The classroom assignments.

Today I was moderately functional in the morning, and then la fiebre wiped me out mid-day. I missed the group meeting and, apparently, a very funny story crafted by Kina, Lani, and Jalen in which I play some sort of demonic role. I hope to hear it tomorrow.

By 5pm I recovered and was ready for dinner. I’m avoiding caffeine, dairy, and fried foods in my attempt to get well soon. I’m also slowing giving up on my 10 years of vegetarianism as I learn more about the benefits of pasture-raised meats. These factors all conspired in the direction of: El Boliche de Alberto.

El Boliche (for short) is an Argentine steak restaurant that I’ve twice visited but never enjoyed as a flesh-eating customer. The first time was my inaugural backpacking trip around South America with friends Matt and Patrick, and the second time was the Unschol Adventures Argentina trip (where my brother Cooper and fellow students dined). Now it was my turn.

At El Boliche, everything is made out of leather. Ingmar, Julie, and I each ordered the “Bistec de Lomo” after discovering that it was the filet mignon cut. Price: 65 pesos, or roughly $15.

Here our meat sizzled on the Argentine parilla.

We enjoyed an epic view of Lago Nahuel Huapi while waiting.

The meat arrived (plus a stack of fries) and we were pumped.

The first bite was epic creamy delicousness.

As was the last.

I left no survivors.

I would like to dedicate this post to everyone who ever gave me crap for not eating a steak while I was a vegetarian, most notably:
– Bryan, Russ, and Steven Elrod
– Mehar Sethi
– Patrick House
– Matt Davis
– Donny Watrous
– Cooper Westerkamp (probably)

On a final note, Julie’s jacket looks a lot like the Via Bariloche bus fleet.

La Fiebre Returns!

Monday January 31-

All of the students got up around 7 this morning to arrive at the Spanish School early for placement interviews. No one complained (there has been very little complaining whatsoever on this trip), which impressed me, and the group at the far homestay were even more impressive, because they need to take a bus each way, and they were super on-time.

The students did their interviews, were split into three classes (max four people per class), and then went off for there first lessons. And I…got la fiebre again.

I’m pretty sure that I caught something last week—a sort of acute bronchitis that’s been passing around the group—and this week I caught something new. I won’t bore or disgust you with the symptoms, but they’re different from last week’s fiebre. This is an all or nothing fiebre. Either I’m laid out in bed with the grim reaper over me, or I’m walking around fine.

Needless to say, I spent the rest of the day in or around the bed. And at night I got really loopy—a changed level of consciousness, as the EMT would say. My fever never really gets about 101, so I’m not super concerned, but it’s still strange.

Thanks to la fiebre, no new pictures today. Here’s one that Julie took from the bus ride en route to Bariloche.

Stumbling around Bariloche

Guess what hour 18 of a 22-hour bus ride feels like? Yup, you guessed it. Just like all the others.

The students slept soundly in the wee hours.

After arriving, Julie and I tried to buy next weekend’s bus tickets to Santiago, only to be told that we needed to pay in cash. Cash. Really? We’re going to pay more than a thousand dollars in Argentine pesos when I can take out maybe $250 at a time with $10 in ATM fees? Try getting a POS system, Tas Choapa (that’s the bus provider we wanted to use). Julie and I decided to patch together a bus trip from two other companies that accept credit cards, perhaps with a stopover day in Valdavia.

To stretch our legs, we decided to walk into Bariloche instead of taking a bus or taxi. Poor Claire came down with the fever bug during the night, but walked the 4km nonetheless. What troopers they are.

Bariloche is great for epic background shots.

Ingmar was pumped.

We grabbed lunch at a restaurant, dropped the students off at their homestay family houses, and then crashed at our hostel.
Tomorrow: Spanish classes begin bright and early at 8:15am!

Posh Bus to Bariloche

Our first epic 22-hour bus journey! How exciting.

This morning we packed and cleaned up our apartments. A representative from the rental agency checked us out and discovered three towels missing in total from two apartments. Where could those towels have possibly gone?? Our students didn’t have them, and we didn’t go walking down the streets of B.A. in them. And when we checked in, no one counted these towels.

Alas, none of this logic worked on the rental lady. US$15 charged. Just another one of those little financial hits that are a part of this kind of trip.

We walked to Retiro bus station and waited for our chariot.

As promised, our double-decker bus was hella posh. The students enjoyed the view

and the fully-reclining seats

while Julie enjoyed the meal service

Sorry, I forgot to take a picture of the outside of the bus!

We slept as well as you could sleep on a bus. Which for me, wasn’t that well, especially with residual illness.

La Fiebre

Latin America gets the worst of the worst American B-movies. That’s what you learn when you’re sick with la fiebre (fever) in Buenos Aires.

Today I suffered from the 48-hour cold/flu/fever bug that our group has been passing around. I stayed in bed all day while Julie and Ingmar took the group to their final tango lesson and grocery shopping for the bus trip tomorrow.

And now, as to not end this post on a low note, here is a picture of delicious Argentine medialunas!

Seeing BA with a Mercedes

Thursday January 27-

A day of great group photos. Here are the students on the corner outside our downtown Buenos Aires rented apartments.

This morning we enjoyed a guided tour of Buenos Aires by Mercedes, a Spanish tutor with whom I worked over Skype in November.

We learned the history behind places that we had previously visited, like the Casa Rosada (Pink House).

The tour ended in photogenic La Boca.

Tango, dinner, repeat!

Las Violetas

Wednesday January 26-

Not much to report today. We took it easy in the morning, hung out at my favorite cafe (Confiteria Las Violetas), tango’d, and enjoyed a great soup dinner created by one of our students, Benji.

Evoking Evita

Tuesday January 25-

This was our first “normal” day of the trip. We walked the shady streets of Buenos Aires toward Recoleta this morning.

Even tiny public parks have a Facebook page, apparently.

In Recoleta we toured the famous cemetary, home of the monied aristocracy of Argentina. The big attraction is Evita (Eva Peron).

Other famous people were to be found as well.

Crypt cats lazed.

Next stop: ice cream. Josie works at an ice cream parlor in Asheville, NC, and she was sooooo excited!

Kina displayed poster-perfect ice cream posture.

Wyatt, Quinn, and Kina practiced their Spanish with a national newspaper.

Next door to the ice cream was El Ateneo, an opera house-turned-bookstore.


We grabbed the subway to tango lessons, where Alicia taught us the salida a.k.a. cruzada a.k.a. “the cross”. Ingmar and Claire demonstrate.

Jalen, one of our two vegans, was delighted to find a frozen block of squid in the supermarket—but still no soymilk.

We enjoyed a light rain on the way back. Buenos Aires is HOT, man!


Settling into B.A.

Monday January 24-

This morning our group caught up on sleep and e-mail and then enjoyed a brief picnic in Parque General San Martin. We took our first subway ride to tango lessons with Alicia Pons and hit up a gloriously large supermarket on the way home. Unfortunately, even the gloriously large supermarkets don’t have peanut butter, black beans, soymilk, and many other staples that we’re accustomed to. Nonetheless, Julie whipped up a mean Mexican-style dinner. Benji was impressed.

Jonah and Hanna loved it.

I stayed up until 11pm searching for missing apartment keys. Fun!

Exhausted Mayhem

Sunday January 23-

Few of us slept well on the international flight. Arriving at Buenos Aires Ezeiza airport, we grabbed our pre-arranged taxis to our rental apartments, moved in, and then walked to the San Telmo neighborhood of Buenos Aires, where we found an endless street fair and live tango.

Benji and Lani caught up on sleep, slum-dog style.

Ingmar, our trip leading assistant (and former Australia trip student), was already in B.A. when we arrived.

We strutted along Puerto Madero on the way back to the apartments.

Ready? Set? Sleep.

Vamos a Argentina!

Saturday January 22-

This morning Julie and I found some sleepy students in Miami Int’l Airport. Their red-eye had arrived at 5am. Our int’l flight didn’t depart until 9pm. 17 epic hours in Miami!

Eventually they woke up, and the rest of the students arrived. What a nice group we have.

On the plane we enjoyed plenty of space, a great movie selection, and sweet meal service.

A Buenos Aires, vamos!

To Miami

Friday Jan 21-

Three flights today: Eugene to Seattle to Memphis to Miami. All were pleasantly on-time and on the third I even got my own exit row! One of those minor traveler’s victories. I carried the final dose of my live oral typhoid vaccines in a tiny styrofoam cup with ice refilled from plane drink carts.

At Miami I found Julie, my South America trip coleader, and we hit up a late-night Honduran restaurant. There was karaoke.

Jules was stoked.

Goodnight, Miami. Tomorrow: llegan los estudiantes!