Saturday, 29 June 2013

Running Circuito Chico - just don't stop (for too long)

Today was the day that I got to run Circuito Chico, the loop on the westernmost-end of Bariloche. The tar road makes a loop and is very up and down as it winds through natural forests with mountain views. I ran the loop clockwise, saving the five-kilometre Llao Llao section (more vehicles and buses) for last. There are a couple of dirt roads shooting off the tar road here and there but very few establishments on the first 15 or so kilometres.

This map should put you in the picture - location-wise.

Green is the 'Centro de Ciudad' - the main part of town. The 'x' is about where I'm staying (two blocks across and one block up from the Spanish school).

Yellow is the road heading West to Circuito Chico. I took the bus to the first little blue 'tear drop' - inside the pink circle. The bus stops are marked in kilometres, from the centre of town to Llao Llao (around 25km in total). My get off was at about 18.5km from town. We has snow on the mountains yesterday/last night and also a bit lower down in the 'suburb' between town to Circuito (yellow-line area). This time I sat on the left of the bus and got a good look at the establishments. Very sweet. This is the real 'tourist' section. Lovely hotels, cabanas, apartments... very few private residences on this stretch of road. It must look really, really sweet with a good covering of snow. Most of the places are built of wood and stone/brick.

The pink loop includes Circuito Chico - the loop of red road.

The blue loop, that's my local haunt, Cerro Otto. I run the road leading up there a few times a week. It got snow yesterday - I can't wait to get up there to see what it looks like!

Let's take a closer look at Circuito Chico... 

So... I ran clockwise from the '09' tear drop (it marks the location of a bike-hire shop). The green line shows the 'Cemetary of the Mountains' that I visited (in pics below) and the yellow circle shows the location where the Bahia Lopez photo of me was taken by a chap and the arrow shows the direction of the shot to look across the water at the mountain (not shown on this map). Where the navy-blue boat/ferry is pictured (#18 tear drop) is Llao Llao. There are no buses  from where I started the loop to Llao Llao - or they're very irregular (I didn't see any public buses at all - some tour buses, minibuses and a couple of cars). From Llao Llao we're on the kilometre markers again and there are regular buses to Llao Llao and back to the centre of the 'city'. I took the bus back to town from the red line.

About 8km from my starting point. A number of tourists stopped to look at this lovely view. We had snow yesterday/last night so there's a good dusting on the mountains all around.

Amost 10km in - or there abouts.

The sign marking the trail leading up to "Cemetario del Montanes".

I presume that this cemetery is for local mountaineers - those that died in the mountains and those who contributed to the sport / community and just died of old age (or other causes).

Next stop, Bahai Lopez!

I got lucky - caught a tourist as I got to this bridge at Bahai Lopez. I asked him to take a photo of me. Great background (the same mountain as in the pic above - the bridge is about 300m from where I took the pic of the sign). Can we all say, "Layers"? That's me rocking a long-sleeve thermal, run jacket and shell plus gloves, cap and two Buffs (ears and neck). I kept my gloves (regular running gloves) on the whole time.

It's cold enough that I've got a good balance when running but if I stop to sight see, like visiting the cemetery or checking out viewpoints or sites of interest, then I get cold quickly. In my backpack I've got a light fleece as well as my rain jacket and pants. Plus an apple and some yummy raviolli I cooked this morning (with tomato salsa).

I didn't see much snow on the loop except for this spot - and the snow was only on a short stretch and mostly on the left-hand side of the road (I was running in the direction behind me...). It looked pretty. So I took a photo. Fortunately there were very few cars out here. The road sides aren't great so I ran mostly on the road. Yellow shell helps!

Around and about I've spotted APPLES growing wild. This was just too much for me to resist and so taking advantage of being out there on my own, I got into the bushes (with thorns!) and got myself an apple to try. Tasted like... apple! Not too tart either. The trees are all devoid of leaves and so the apples hanging on the branches stand out. 

Llao Llao is sweet and pretty (and small) and its main feature is this, the Llao Llao Hotel. The lake is on the other side of the hotel and, of course, it has this great mountain view. I didn't go up to the hotel. There's also a ferry, which I assume is for lake-tripping and sight-seeing.

In the National Park section I saw a number of walking trails, which would be well worth a visit. The forest is just beautiful! Smells fabulously foresty.

It looks like my timing today was just perfect. My run took me 3h30 - according to my tracker I got in 28.2km. I got back to town around 15h30.. The temperature was dropping and not long after I got back some snow began coming down in town. 

As I end this post, a big FELIZ CUMPLEANOS to my dad who celebrates his 64th birthday today. 

Thursday, 27 June 2013

A look around town

Fred thinks I'm staying in a ghost town because I haven't posted any photographs of the town and people walking the streets. So, I took my camera with me when I went out running this afternoon.

I really got lucky with the weather. It has been drizzly since yesterday and after class today the sun came out and the sky cleared a lot... My original plan was to run to the top of Cerro Otto today to check out the snow on the surrounding mountains (we're still waiting for the 'real' snow to arrive - the ski slopes are not yet open). 'My' road was quite muddy and sloshy, but good nonetheless. As I got higher it got colder and the clouds were moving in. I definitely made a good decision to come down when I did as the wind was also howling up there and with two light shells I would have gotten chilled quickly.

A drizzle accompanied me back into town, where the weather was much improved. It was a bit 'monkey's wedding' with the rain and sun coming and going. We're expecting clearer and more sunny weather from Friday through to Monday. This is also colder - it really isn't that cold (I guess 7-9C) at the moment, when it is raining lightly. But when it is clear - and windy - the temperature drops substantially.

I seem to have got my 'cold-weather-running-apparel' working pretty well. I wear full tights, a thermal long-sleeve base layer and a running shell (pink one in the photos). For additional warmth and wind protection I wear the yellow shell. The combination works really well. I've had one run where I've peeled off both shells to run in just the baselayer but more often than not I wear both. I usually keep a Buff on my head - like an Alice Band - to keep my ears warm (today it served the dual purpose of holding my cap on too!) and I start out with a Buff around my neck too - great when the wind is up.

I haven't yet had to bring out my fleecy tights. The ones I'm wearing are pretty regular tights - not smooth-shiny lycra... warmer. On these... I bought them not long before coming here. I am totally in love with my Under Armour tights. I'd bought a pair of 3/4 tights and liked them; I then went for the full-length tights. They  are TOTALLY FABULOUS. The second pair are New Balance - and they're driving me INSANE! I like the fabric but the damn tights don't stay up. Sure, I tighten the draw string but they try to slink down with every step, dropping the gusset lower. They could really do with some seams near the knees, which definitely help to keep tights better positioned and in place. And it isn't that these tights are too big or too small for me, they're just right - as long as I don't run...

Here are the pics from today (Fred, see... this isn't a ghost town):

They're not big on pavements... when it snowed on my birthday this was all icy! This is a good section of 'sidewalk'.
There are pavements alongside the main roads about the town centre but you've got to watch every step. There are small steps and uneven 'cobbles'.
'My' road - going up, up, up! It is 9km of up from the base of the road to the top-top. I run the 4-5km section. It's probably another 2km (of up) from my hostel to the base of the road. This part of the road was snow-covered in the previous photo from last week. This blue sky is a bit deceiving... About 20 mins later when I came back down this section there wasn't a stitch of blue sky and it was raining lightly. I tie my second shell around my waist for when the weather turns. 
Part of the town below and to the left and the main 'centro de ciudad' to the right. The water on the lake looks nice... but it wasn't. White horses today.
A street in the nice part of town (no street signs in the not-so-nice part of town - no tarred roads either).
There are some nice houses in this nice part of town but many of them also look quite dishevelled. These peeps have got a lovely view.
One of three (I believe) intersections in the whole town to be traffic-light controlled. I thought that there were no stop streets but I saw two signs today... except the people don't stop. The other intersections have neither stop signs nor yield signs nor traffic circles... It's a pause and go (or just go) situation. 
Looking on to the lake is the town hall / civic centre (opened in 1940). Probably administrative offices here too. And there's a museum. I don't know who this guy is... he has been 'decorated' in graffiti. 
Next to one of a number of wooden sculptures around the town centre. I'm rocking my double-shell system here. I get really cold, really quickly when not running. I'd just run through drizzle and then the sun was out again. (I asked a fellow tourist to take this photo)
And where would we be without a nice, big church over looking the lake, in the middle of town? I haven't been in it yet.
There are three main roads running parallel to the lake. I'd say the 'main' parts of these roads are not even 1km long. This is the main-main one. Yes, there's even a Mackie D here! 
This is very much a tourist town. Hiking in summer and skiing in winter. LOTS of shops selling woolly sweaters and a gazillion beanies and scarves. Wearing something on your head is crucial - too cold without. Massive variety. The hand knitted ones seem to be the most very favoured by the people walking around - not the factory-made beanies. Also, many of outdoor stores selling ski apparel and also gear for hire and second-hand to buy.
The other HUGE thing here is CHOCOLATE. Aside from the obvious Spanish influence, this town was settled by Swiss and Austrian immigrants in the 1800s. Bariloche is the main chocolate manufacturing town in the country - loads of export. I thought Milka was a Swiss brand, but it actually comes from here. There are at least three big chocolate shops on every block of Mitre Street! They're large stores and they often have seats inside so you can have coffee or thick hot chocolate... 
Another very large chocolate store. If you look closely you'll see two cable cars in the window, behind the reflection. They move up and down the wires! The big chocolate manufacturing thing started in Bariloche after WWII. There's a chocolate museum, which I'm going to visit next week with the Spanish school.
As wine is to Franschoek, beer is to Bariloche. This is the Austrian influence. There are dozens of artesanal beer (cerveze) establishments throughout the town.
Bariloche certainly isn't 'quaint' but it is sweet. There are hundreds of hostels and hotels in the main part of town and along the 18-odd kilometre stretch of lake-side road leading to Cirquito Chico (that area of islands and lake in my photo above). And more, I think, on the loop. And then there's the main ski resort of Cerro Catedral, which is about 20 mins outside of town, to the South.

My home away from home. I really got lucky choosing this place. I'm totally at home here and am made to feel part of the family - by the hosts, Pablo and Florencia, and the other friendly travellers. There's a very warm and social atmosphere here with many meals eaten together.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

37 Days of Running - DONE

I'm a bit behind - a week behind - on wrapping up my annual game.

 I did indeed complete my '37 Days of Running' - that's 37 consecutive days of running/walking at least 5km leading up to - and including - my birthday.

I arrived in Argentina on 12 June and logged a few days of big kilometres (15km to 19km) of walking around the city looking at sites. Once in Bariloche I really got to run and enjoy this beautiful scenery.

I forget now, but I think that my shortage mileage days would have been the night I arrived in Buenos Aires, when I only walked about 4km (I have no idea as I didn't take my logger - I was out for an hour but was also looking around) and I think when I arrived in Bariloche I also just did a walkabout to find what was where.

Again, my memory of the days here is foggy (and I haven't been as meticulous with my training log) I think, with the exception of today - when I'm purposefully playing indoors - that I've run/walked every day since I started the Challenge back in mid-May.

Jonathan, in CT, also undertook my birthday challenge (thank you Jonathan). On my birthday he sent birthday wishes and said that I he would prefer if I would get younger every year and not older so that the number of days in the challenge would diminish, not increase. I think I've enticed Jonathan into doing his own birthday challenge (Days of Activity - not just running). His birthday comes up in August. I think he prefers to do my birthday challenge because I have... sixteen fewer days to my challenge than his! ;)

Till next year and what will be '38 Days of Running' ;)

Old MacDonald had a... El pollito pio

There's this absolutely awesome Spanish song. Totally addictive. I liken it to a funked up 'Old MacDonald had a farm'.

The song is called 'El pollito Pio'.

Pollito is a chicken.

The song goes something like...

"On the radio there is a chicken PIO."

Pio seems to be the sound that a chicken makes - cheep-cheep in English.

And then there are a whole bunch more animals added with their sounds.

Let's see...
A hen, rooster, turkey, dove, cat , dog, goat, lamb, cow, bull and, finally, a tractor. With each one, as with the English classic, the animal plus sound is all added together much like..

The dog - woof
The cat - miaow
The cow - moo

It's catchy and silly and sweet.


(you can find the lyrics - letras - online if you're inclined to)

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

I eat snow

The long weekend passed quickly - with a lot of being outside. We've had awesome weather for the past couple of days. Sure, it is cold (by my standards) - probably four to seven degrees during the day. Without wind it is pretty 'warm' and if you sit directly in the sun and are in a sheltered spot, it is certainly much warmer.

I'm addicted to running the route from the hostel and up the road to Cerro Otto. It's the closest 'peak' to town and the winding road is peaceful with only a few cars, especially when compared to the roads in town and the road along the lake (a barely-there strip of dirt for the pavement). 

It was either after class on Thursday or on Friday afternoon  (no recuerdo - I don't remember) that I ran into the poorer part of town. Like in SA, the poorer parts make up the biggest part of the town. It's all dirt roads there and plenty of hills, which make for good running. Maybe it was Thursday after class... With Thurs and Friday being public holidays we had the Friday off but got additional exercises to do.

On Friday I went walking with Grisel, a new friend from the hostel. She lives in Buenos Aires and is sporty - field hockey, rowing, some running and a bunch of other sports like surfing and skiing when opportunity presents. She came here to ski but the slopes have not yet been opened. On this walk we saw a bit of town and then walked down the road along the lake, looping up to join a parallel road to return to the hostel.

On Saturday morning I slept in, dozing until about 10am. I could easily have slept longer but what a waste of a beautiful day that would have been. And beautiful it was!

Grisel and I caught the bus to Cirquito Chico, which is a scenic loop of road. It's about 19km West of town - still part of Bariloche - the town stretches out along the lake. Our plan was to hire bikes to cycle the loop (about 26km) but the bike place was closed! So, we went walking instead. 

with Grisel
There's a spot on the map, off the main tar-road loop, called Colonia Suisse. I was expecting a lodge / hotel kind of thing but it was instead a really simple house-type building. It's a small restaurant - probably only breakfast and lunch - or just lunch. It's on this other pretty lake and the view from the restaurant is probably pretty good. 

We went back to the road and a bit further along to a campsite on the lake. It is closed now in winter but what an awesome spot it is. We sat on some steps overlooking the pebble beach, enjoyed the scenery and had a picnic of tea (mate for Grisel and a berry-something for me) and some munchies. Very little wind, a bit of sun - perfect picnic recipe. 

The beach and lovely lake view.

Grisel, soaking up the sun.

And then we walked back to the bus stop (but one two kilometres close to town) to return to town. We figure that we covered around 15km.

Our timing was perfect - we got back to town just as it got completely dark. In town the fiesta was happening. I didn't see any schedule for the fiesta so I really don't know what went on over the weekend aside from bands playing music at night - VERY late and until the wee hours of morning. We saw a bit of the 'Snow Queen' pagent - the contestants walking the ramp. 

The whole purpose of this festival is to celebrate the ski season and the opening of the slopes - except that the slopes haven't been opened yet. 

Town (the two main roads) were quite happening on Sat evening. More and more tourists are descending. It's going to get really busy from next weekend, I think. So shops were open and there was a good vibe. We were looking for these ski boot protector things for Grisel and she helped me to find a yarn store. Oh golly! what a gold mine this place is. So many lovely yarns that are totally different to what I can get at home. I bought a skein of a lovely multicoloured, uneven-strand yarn and I have already whipped it up into a nice, warm beanie. Just to finish it off with a decorative flower. My skein was around 190g and cost about R100. Not bad. I'll use half of this to complete the beanie. I'm definitely heading back to this shop!

Sunday morning I crawled out of bed around 09h30. Again, a stunning day and not one to be wasted in bed! While I sleep very well anywhere, I'm sleeping extra very well. Whether tired from class, trying to think-understand-translate-speak Spanish, long runs, outside cold, snug inside, still dark at 8am... Regardless, mornings are challenging!

I went off on a one hour run, again to the road leading up Cerro Otto. As I was joining Grisel and Simone for a walk, I made it a quick one-hour run. From the hostel my only option is uphill to get to the quiet and winding mountain road. Takes me around 12 minutes to get to the road and then I gave myself until 35 minutes to see how far I could get up the road. At 33 minutes I was on a bend - a scenic curve that looks down on the main part of town. I gave myself a few minutes to enjoy and then I blasted home, getting back a minute or two before my hour was up.

And then we went walking and must have been out for a good 90-mins... or a bit more. Another girl, Tanya, met us at the 5km mark (lake road bus route - it has kilometer-ish markers). The chilly, fresh air is quite invigorating.

There are a number of yarn bombed trees around the main part of town. This snowman looks very recent.
I ran Cerro Otto again yesterday, running higher up the road. There's no ice on this dirt road at the moment, which is brilliant. Less slipping and sliding. And, I dare say that it was warm yesterday. Maybe 7C? I took off my run jacket - wearing only my thermal long sleeve (and long tights - not thermal, normal). And, also took off the Buff from around my neck. Very warm! Hahahaha.

There are patches of snow on the road side on the Cerro Otto road - higher up. I like to eat snow especially as I don't always take water with me. I looked online to find the reasons why one shouldn't eat snow. I've always heard you shouldn't - which doesn't make sense - like you shouldn't eat icecream. 

If you're hypothermic and thirsty it isn't a good idea because eating snow will make you even colder and the amount of water you get from it vs energy expended by your body to melt it isn't worth it. In this situation eating snow can kill you. Other reasons... debris/contaminants in the snow from the atmosphere and the ground (and people/animals - don't eat yellow snow!). Since the former is not applicable to me (I'm just out running) and I'm not concerned about the latter (this isn't city snow), I'll keep eating a small scoop here and there to wet my mouth - it's not for hydration. 

As for Spanish lessons...
The American girl didn't come yesterday as her grandfather is really ill and she was looking at flights to get home. He passed away this morning - she'll be flying out to be with her family. So, it is just me in the class. This week I'll be having two hours of private lessons per day - instead of the four-hour group lessons. I'm a bit disappointed because I like the group lessons and I have planned to be at lessons for four hours a day, not two... 

It seems like there are more students coming in next week (main tourist season starting). I'm finding the one-on-one quite intensive and estoy muy cansado (I'm very tired) afterwards. Doesn't feel as much fun (not that lessons have really been any fun) and I'm missing out on the opportunity to learn from the mistakes of others - not just my own, of which there are many! I hope that I'll be back to four hours per day from next week.

I'm sure that I must be progressing but it doesn't feel like it. My vocab is growing and my written Espanol has improved but my speaking still sucks. *sigh* I try a bit here and there but feel sooooo slow! I'm trying to drop in more words here and there when I speak (English) to reinforce the vocabulary. I really need to watch more tv, which I've barely done. My teacher recommends Nat Geo or History Channel as the Spanish is good and clear and easier to listen to (not too fast).

My understanding is improving but I struggle when people speak fast and not clearly. When I speak to people here who do not speak much English or English as a second language, I speak more slowly and clearly to them and I don't use 'fancy' words. When I don't understand someone I ask them to speak more slowly and instead they try other words and they speak more and more and more! I don't need more. I need the same original words just said slowly. I like to think I'm getting the hang of the Buenos Aires 'sho' use but it still catches me out often when a word I do know is said differently to what I know it as. For example 'kay-e' ('kay' like kayak and 'e' like elephant) vs. kush-e ('ush' like crush) for calle (road).

Then again I'm only on lesson 6...

Already 14h00 - time to get ready to go run. Ciao.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Language meltdown

I had a language meltdown on Wednesday. Our teacher speaks to us only in Spanish and so when I ask what something is, the explanation is in Spanish. The challenge is that I'm not very experienced with language teaching methods but this seems to be the 'bombard them with Spanish' method. I think that the theory behind this method is that children learn to speak a language surrounded by the language... the difference with adults is that we know a language already but need to learn the words of another language so I'm not sure I buy it...

Anyhoo, I chose this language school from the internet and the reviews are good and it seems they've taught people to speak Spanish successfully so I just have to chill and go with the flow.

But, I did have a 'freak out' - not crazy in actions -  but in my head I was going ballistic.

I don't mind not being able to communicate fluently, it is not being able to understand everything IN THE LESSONS that I find totally irritating.

When she is talking, talking, talking, talking away in Spanish all I can think of is, "The more you frikkin' keep speaking the less I frikkin' understand!".

And the other part of the frustration is, I guess, that I've been wanting to do this for so many years and perhaps my expectations are too high... But not that I expect to be speaking Spanish after only three days...

Anyway, during our tea break I spoke to the director of the school to tell her that I really wasn't getting this. The lass from the US too - she's in the same boat as me. And I suggested that the Italian lass be moved into a higher class - for her sake and ours. She's too good for us and when she and the teacher are chatting away, we're lost. I also requested more grammar. I think it is important to learn how to build the language so that I can build it on my own. The director said that Day 3 is usually the meltdown day...

I was working through Spanish podcasts from January and I felt like I was remembering and learning and progressing and I like the teaching method used. The first two-and-a-half lessons were just a total bombardment! Disappointment was a big part of what I was feeling.

Today the change was implemented and the class was way more smooth with just me and Danielle (the American lass). We really enjoy the 'board games' where you have to answer questions or conjugate verbs when you land on a block - this kind of thing. Interactive activities. We had an extra two hours of class this afternoon to make up for the missed lesson tomorrow (public holiday and long weekend here) and we've got some homework and also the director thought I'd appreciate some additional lessons / homework related to grammar that I can work on in my own time. The lesson this afternoon was really fun - with a different teacher - who is passionate about grammar and she explains things in English!

We bumped into Sara, the Italian lass, and I asked how her new class was going. She looked pleased (yesterday she said she'd been thinking too that she should be in a more advanced class) and said that this class is faster for her.

Overall, sure, I'm learning and I'm understanding more. I'm learning loads of words daily - I don't remember them all but repetition definitely helps. And I enjoy listening to the people in the hostel speaking at night.

Our teachers are from Buenos Aires and there's quite a different accent and pronunciation from BA. Actually, you get a different 'Spanish' in each of the Spanish-speaking countries - I guess much like the accents and sayings and pronunciations of English - like SA English vs Australia vs Scotland etc.

This BA pronunciation... For example... in the word pollo (chicken) the double 'l' sound that I'm used to (from Chile, Costa Rica, Mexico, Spain Spanish, podcasts etc) is said 'poyo' where the 'yo' being much like the 'Yo' of York. In Buenos Aires they say 'sho' - not as in shoe or choose but like the 'che' in porche without the 'e' (replace the 'e' with an 'o' to get the sound. I'm finding this challenging when listening to 'recalculate' what the word is and also to remember to pronounce 'sho' instead of 'yo' (either way is fine but the 'sho' is the local manner).

So, big learning curve and I hope that next week will be more successful. When I'm out running or walking around I make nice sentences in my mind but I'm struggling to spit them out verbally. Four days down and I've got homework and reading and listening and interacting and adventuring ahead this weekend.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Compleanos blanco (White birthday)

This morning I woke up to a white birthday as a dusting of snow fell in this town of Bariloche overnight. It seems like this snowfall caught the locals unprepared as I've seen no cars with snow tyres - they were crawling along with little traction on the iced roads this morning - some almost sliding backwards!

I received a number of sms message this morning from friends and family and just as warm "Feliz compleanos" greetings from the peeps here at breakfast. A lovely warm start to this cold morning.

It only starts to get light after 8am so the sun isn't shining very strong when I walk to the Spanish school, which is only two blocks across and one block down from the hostel. As the people walk on the snow it compacts to make very slippery ice. Quite exciting and novel for me. Trail shoes do pretty ok. I'd love some with ice spikes!

I'm now two days into Spanish lessons and feeling quite overwhelmed. My teacher, Sasha, speaks nothing but Spanish to us - I probably understand about 40% of what she says; I get the gist of the next 40% and there's a goo 20% where I haven't got a clue. If we ask what a word is, she does tell us in English.

There are two other women in the class with me. A lass from Arizona who is probably at a similar level to me; and a lass from Rome, who is definitely above both of us.

I'm enjoying the vibe in the hostel. Last night I was up quite late (most are up way later than me) and enjoy being surrounded by all the Spanish. There are a few who speak pretty good English but they're good and they don't speak much English to me and are very willing to help to explain words and to correct my sorry attempts. I seem to get it so much better in my head than when I try to spit out the words.

Well, two days down and 3.5 weeks to go... A chap here reassured me this afternoon that it will start to click after a week or so. 

Yesterday after class another teacher, Javier, took us on a mini tour of the town. It drizzled the whole day yesterday with snow coming into the mix in the afternoon. Our tour was very cold and very wet and very windy but at least I now know where to get an electronic bus ticket, which I need to do before the weekend, and also he recommended a supermarcado (supermarket). 

There's a fiesta on this weekend, which is a long weekend. It's in the town square - only a few blocks from the hostel. It's a public holiday on Thursday so they get Friday too. It seems there will be concerts and things. That will be fun to check out.

The silver lining to my lost-in-the-language compleanos day was that the morning dawned crystal clear with a big blue sky and shining sun. I took advantage to head out for a birthday run - the same area as I was on Sunday afternoon. This time I took the road up and down. What fun! 

There was probably around 30cm of snow - or a bit more - on the upper parts of the road. I didn't go all the way to the top - just to a lower-down ski station (children's ski area?) where I met the two St Bernards on Sunday. And then I turned around and ran back. I saw a few runners out there and also three guys on what I assume are cross-country skis. I ran past them going up the road ;)

It will take me a while to get used to running on this snowy-icy surface. Definitely can't lose focus for even a second or I'll go flying for sure. I enjoy running on the snow, which 'squeaks' under my shoes rather than the slipper ice, compacted by cars. I also learned today not to run too close to the trees. With the sun out the snow was melting so chunks come off the trees - some just missed my head!

Feliz compleanos! 37 today! And what a beautiful afternoon. This road was all dirt two days ago. Warmer out than on Sunday (less wind) so sweating despite the chill.
Looking down on Bariloche - through the branches. First snow in town for the season.
Arrow showing where I went to on Sunday afternoon. Didn't go all the way up there today. I couldn't have asked for a prettier birthday run ;)
There's quite a cooking culture here in the hostel and at night (late) a number of the men take turns cooking. I can't quite figure it out but there is the guy who owns the hostel, Pablo, and his wife and little daughter, plus some of the people who work here plus a couple of other guys - perhaps friends? They all eat together late at night. Last night the one guy may delicious pizzas and most nights Pablo bakes 'pan casita' (home-made bread) for breakfast.

Things happen here late... the local disco gets going around 3am. My dorm mate (only one at the moment - Diego, he works here at the hostel) got back at 8am on Sunday morning! And people get up late too. And so they eat dinner late too. Diego must have been partying last night too because when I cam back from school a bit after 1 he was still sleeping!

To give you a quick idea of how much things cost...
  • It's around R2.00 for a bread roll. Loaves of bread (like regular sandwich bread at home) are very expensive - like R40.00 a loaf. Very popular here it to buy rolls daily or to bake your own bread at home.
  • Six large eggs are around R14.00.
  • It's around R15.00 for a can of lentils.
  • I paid about R22.00 for three bananas and two apples today. It's around R20/kilo for bananas at the supermarket.
  • A litre of apple juice is similar to home at around R14.00.
  • A 500g packet of fresh spinach and ricotta stuffed ravioli is around R36.00. Big Italian heritage in Argentina so pasta, especially fresh, seems popular. 
Some things very similar to home - others much more expensive and others cheaper.

My other slippies are somewhere - with prices for things like rice and other odds. I've found a nice vegetable shop with a not very socially-adept fellow (a bit abrupt) that is on my way home from the Spanish school. I bought a nice red cabbage (half) and onions from him over the weekend and I got my bananas and apples there today too.

Bariloche has many stores that cater specifically for tourists, who will be hitting town in a big way in the next two weeks for ski season. TONS of chocolate stores. Also outdoor clothing (new and second hand). And artesanal beer is also a big thing here with many microbreweries around town.

Hasta luego...

Monday, 17 June 2013

First run... in heaven

After a slow and easy morning I headed out for my first run here in Bariloche. I thought I'd go out for an hour or so. I got back after THREE HOURS. At one stage during the run I thought that I must have died and gone to heaven. But as I'd always figured heaven for tee-shirt-and-shorts weather, I knew that could not be so. Nonetheless, I am in a HEAVEN of some kind because this place is just fabulous. Cold. But fabulous.

I set off along the 'coastal' road, with basic street map of Bariloche in hand. The wind was howling but with two Buffs (one on head, one around neck), a thermal base layer plus run jacket plus wind shell and long warm (not fleece - these are still to come out) tights, I felt A-ok. Ah, and running gloves. The wind here is really icy! Even saw iced-over puddles on the road side. And this was at 13h00-ish! Only going to be getting colder from here...

I've got another, local map. This just gives you an idea of the town. Need to get my hands on the hiking map of the area.
As much as I've never been crazy about the cold I do find it fresh and invigorating - quite novel and exciting for now. The hostel is nice and warm inside and you sleep warm too. There's even a radiator in the bathroom, which keeps off the chill after showering.

The lake. These waves are so totally because of the wind. Brrrr...
After a few kays I took another road up and made my way across to what looked like a trail on the map. What it was is a trail... it runs beneath a ski lift. Yes, it is steep and straight up!

More than 2/3 up already. Just a bit more to go. Underfoot on this section ahead the 'gravel' just slides - very loose.
After a bit I started to see bits of snow and up on top there was quite a bit. Spectators too, who came up by cable car.

And this isn't even the main ski mountain area! So much exploring to be done!

I think I'll run this route frequently as it is awesome and easily accessible. Will be interesting to see the change in the scenery over the next few weeks. Going to get very WHITE. Won't be any vegetation showing. I'm going to have such awesome weekend adventures!

And then I ran the road down and back into town. The only tricky bit was running on ice on the higher parts of the road. Very slippery. I look forward to attempting to run this road up. Great fitness challenge to be able to run 90% of it - at least - by the time I leave. Nice in places, steep lower down. I met two St Bernard dogs. I think they live at the ski place next to the road down. They came up to me to say hi and leaned against my leg while I petted them. Very sweet. I saw a big St Bernard and a puppy yesterday. Suitable and evidently popular dogs for this area. Oooohh... the huskies would absolutely loooovvveee this place!

High up on the road. Where the car tracks are... that's ice, not dirt. Safer to run on the snow. Crunch-crunch.
Also what makes this place so great is that aside from the main roads in the central part of town and the main routes along the lake, the rest are DIRT. That's right. DIRT. I did say HEAVEN, didn't I?

Where I'm staying. Bariloche stretches long along the lake but this here is the main town 'centre'. I'm staying a few blocks above the centre of centre of town.
These photos are to make you TOTALLY envious. I would be. Except I'm not. Because I AM HERE!

This afternoon I went to check out my Spanish school - it's like two small blocks from here. I start lessons at 09h00 Monday morning. So very excited!

Excitement is... learning Spanish in a Spanish-speaking country!

In the news here too. In the local Bariloche newspaper from today, 16 June 2013. A few people in BA asked after Mandela's health too.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

I did good

This morning I successfully caught a bus. This sounds like a minor, routine thing but I find it more daunting than catching a flight. The staff at the hostel told me the bus number and the road intersection (two blocks from the hostel) to catch the bus to the domestic airport, which is just North of the city centre, on the river. So, last night, when I went out walking, I went to watch the buses at this intersection because I didn't know where it would come from or where to stand. I got it figured out and made the successful connection.

What I didn't know is that these city buses don't take cash - it's an electronic card or coins, put into a 'slot machine'. I had 2 pesos in coins and a 10 pesos note. The fare was 3.50 pesos (they write pesos with a $ sign - if the amount was US Dollars they'd add US). I asked a young woman if she had change and she kindly swiped her bus card, giving me a ride. Very sweet. I obviously looked very out of place with my luggage and I-don't-know-what-to-do expression.

City centre of Buenos Aires from the air. Yellow circle is the obelisk and the pink x is where I was staying.
On my walk last night... I went to the port area, to the left of the pink x. This is the second of three ports built for BA (this one in 1890). But, they made the docks too small for the ships so it wasn't used and the current main port was built (bottom of photo). It is a fancy area now with restaurants, nice new office buildings, hotels and apartments. They've got two historic ships that you can look around - I'm going to do this when I come back to the city. Great area to walk around and I saw some runners too.

As for Barlioche... My feet started itching just looking at the open, far-South-looking terrain. Oh golly. Not much accessible but just open and expansive and lovely. It is chilly but was a clear and beautiful afternoon. Icy wind that howls across the lake. Mountains visible with snow-capped tops. Definitely snowing the other side of the lake today. White horses on the lake.

Approaching Bariloche. My first view of the Andes. Snow on the mountain tops.
The town is really cool. A bit of sweetness and cuteness mixed with ski-town-tourist-trap - but overall a nice feeling to it.

I did real good to choose to come here instead of staying in the city. I'd go crazy there.

My hostel here is very homey and warm and welcoming - very different from the huge one in BA. They even bake their own bread for breakfast! Big, welcoming kitchen.

Not much in the way of English speaking peeps, which is just what I need ;) Very friendly people. I'm going to have fun practising my Spanish on them - very accommodating.

I'm in a four person dorm - I haven't seen my roomies yet but I think it is two guys. Not as messy as the girls from the BA dorm!

I'll write more tomorrow to give you an idea of the cost of things here etc.
Rio de la Plata - the domestic airport in BA is right on the river, which was quite whipped up by the wind on Saturday.

Walking around a part of the Bariloche town. That's snow happening in that storm across the lake. It seems like there are a few flat roads near the lake and then they go up steeply. During a run on Sunday I'll check out the place more.

OMG - yarn bombing in town! There are a couple of trees wrapped in yarn. This means that there is a group of knitters / crocheters in town and to do stuff like this it means that they probably get together at least once a week... now to find them. Would be fun to join their group, hablo espanol y crochet. The hunt is on!