Saturday, February 23, 2008

Sao Paulo

Approximately 96 moons ago, Jez met a Brazilian called Michel on a kibbutz in Israel. They bonded over their shared love for music, food, Israel and above all ye old hubbly bubbly. Although their time on the Kibbutz lasted only 6 months Jez spent the next 6 years lamenting the absence of his Brazilian friend and vowed to reunite when we travelled to South America. But 6 years is a long time and neither could be sure that their friendship truly stood the test of time. Nevertheless, Michel very kindly offered for the JeTZ to stay with him...and his beautiful new fiance Ulli.
...and their two cats "Uncle Leo" and Bia. They took a little longer to warm to us.
It was nice to know that some things hadn't changed at all. Ye old hubbly bubbly was still a favourite, only now Michel had his very own.
Sao Paulo is home to the second largest Japanese population outside of Japan. Consequently, some of the most superb Japanese food can be found here and Michel knew exactly where that would be. Not long after receiving a sumo sized serving of sushi, sushimi and other Japanese specialities, Michel, Ulli and TZ gave up the ghost leaving Jez to take a lot of raw fish for the team. 
In Brazil we made a very interesting discovery. The shell of coconuts, unlike the coconuts we know in South East Asia, are completely hairless.
This discovery lead us to question whether in Brazil it was the coconuts and not the women that were recipients of the "Brazilian wax".
Incidentally by the time we left Brazil we calculated that Jez had drunk over 50 coconuts. After which he declared that hairless (coconuts) was the way forward.
It had been about 1.5 years since we had been anywhere near a beach (our disastrous trip to Mallorca not counting). We could not have landed on softer (or squeakier) sand when Michel whisked us away to the family beach house and showed us a beach more beautiful and quiet than any other we had ever seen.
Here you can see our patio and in front of it our white tent where we spent our days luxuriating and dreaming of buying a beach house next door.
In the late afternoon we would walk all of two minutes from our white tent on the beach to the pool to wash the sand off.
After building up a hearty appetite, Michel cooked us the mother of all barbeques.
And here you can see just how much Jez enjoys a good piece of steak...
After a tough day in the office, the boys passed out.
IMG_4866 IMG_4870
The following morning we crept into Michel's room and serenaded him with a wake up call. Our day on the beach would start all over again...

Michel insisted that we could not leave Sao Paulo without seeing a soccer game. So on our last day there we went to see
Michel's team Corinthians_simboloplay the dirty, stinking100px-Palmeiras_logo_svg.
It is claimed that Corinthians have 24 million supporters, meaning that when Corinthians lost in 0-1 in the 85th minute, there were more pissed off Corinthians than there are Australian citizens!
The police presence was very heavy but mainly served to ensure that the supporters from each team took separate roads leading into different entrances into the stadium. Inside the stadium the supporters would continue to be be safely divided by a fence so as not to kill each other.
As you can see below, some supporters were very passionate! Meanwhile the Aussie contingent was interested to know why no one was sitting in their allocated seats. In the end we decided it wasnt safe to interrupt the crazy Brazilians in our seats who were performing black magic rituals against the opposition and ask them to kindly move.

And so the question of whether their friendship had indeed stood the test of time was clearly answered. Jez and Michel vowed never again to wait 6 years between drinks.
P.S Michel and Ulli will be married in August this year. We wish we could be there, but on the other hand Jez has a strong compulsion to jump into their photos which could be a little awkward during the wedding photo shoot...
Uncle Leo and Bia finally accepted the JeTZ into their home on the premise that at night they could play chase the invisible mouse across the bed.
But only Michel and Ulli were ever given any real affection from the cats. The JeTZ renew their commitment to only ever get dogs!
Coming up,  we commence research into the ever declining ratio of bikini to body mass starting on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro. Of course this is a  mammoth task and so two extra researches were brought in all the way from Australia to help...

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Punta Arenas

Punta Arenas was the southern most point in our travels and by far the coldest place we have ever been. Our only reason for going was to visit a penguin colony that lives on Magallanes Island off the coast of Punta Arenas.
On the way to the Island there was an odour most foul followed by the sight of hundreds of sea lions frolicking on a very small land mass.IMG_4609
They were very hospitable and put on a good show for us swimming near the boat and playing up for the camera.
On reaching the penguin island we couldn't believe just how many there were. It was like prom night at the beach.
It was clear that the penguins had been very busy making new ones. And it wasnt hard to tell which were the babies and which were the parents as they were the skinny ones that selflessly ensured that their chicks were very well fed.
The island has a path for humans to walk around and big warning signs to advise against crossing over. The penguins seem very well aware of this and are very cautious about crossing over the path. They look  left, right and left again before making a dash for it if the coast is clear. This little one took a calculated risk and decided Jez was not a threat.
The island is covered in penguin burrows and at first glance they all seem to be the same. One wonders how the penguins could possibly remember which one is theirs. We never saw any streets signs or burrow numbers...
And yet...look what happens if a penguin accidentally goes into the wrong burrow.
Most penguins were on guard and not interested to stop for a chat about life the universe and everything but we did find one that was most curious about TZ...
And the curiosity was very clearly reciprocated. Click to see how this scene plays out...

We left Punta Arenas and headed up to a much warmer city, Santiago. There we would waste an entire week waiting for our Brazilian visas.
Coming up, the JeTZ pack away their wet weather gear, beanies and gloves and bring out their bathers and sunscreen as they head for the coast of Brazil...

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

El Chalten - Ice Hike

El Chalten is Argentina's newest town. In fact, it is so new that its cemetery is just a vacant plot of land. It is near this town that we were told was some of Argentina's best ice hiking action. We wasted little time getting down there stopping only at a tea house for cake, hot chocolate and a photoshoot with the resident (and very friendly) guanaco.
In order to get to the glacier we had to hike for several hours but we hardly minded, look at the backdrop!
Just to keep us on our toes...or off for that matter, we took a flying fox across this river.
IMG_4473 IMG_4481
Here you can see our first view of the glacier...
We just had one little problem...
With our crampons securely fastened to our boots, we were ready to kick some ice.
Although significantly easier to climb the icey hills in crampons, we all needed a helping hand crossing the ridges.
The glacier was a lot less flat than we were expecting. It looked a bit like a rough sea that had been snap frozen in time...
IMG_4513 IMG_4518
But not all of it was snap frozen. We could clearly see icey blue water through the cracks in the ice, although we couldn't always tell where the cracks were or if we going to create some ourselves.
We "duck walked" down a steep decline and landed up in a rather deep section of the glacier looking up at tall thick walls of ice. The only way out was to scale the walls with ice picks.
Here Jez makes it looks easy...
IMG_4523 Glacier Scale
We still had a full day in El Chalten and decided to check out Mount Fitzroy (a rock feature similar to Torres Del Paine). Unfortunately we had a few problems the night before. We had picked up some bed bugs from a hostel we had stayed in El Calafate and unknowingly carried them with us to El Chalten in our clothes. They came to feed on us at about 3:00am (as they had done for the past few days) making sleeping a bit of a non-event. Naturally we weren't so excited to wake up bright and early the next morning to see Fitzroy.  When we did finally get our act together we realised we were never going to have time to go all the way there and settled for a hike to a view point only a few hours away.
As usual, the high speed Patagonia winds paid us a visit. See the cap fastened to TZ's jeans? That was the last time she saw it before the wind ripped open the Velcro and carried it away. (p.s not that anyone is counting but this was the 5th hat that had to be replaced...)
When we reached our viewpoint, Fitzroy was mainly shrouded in a thick cloud...
This was rather disappointing of course and so we turned around and headed back to the town to consol ourselves with something yummy...
The topping on the waffles is actually made from a special kind of berry which is found in El Calafate and aptly called Calafate Jam.
Stay tuned for our visit to the penguin colonies of Punta Arenas, our last stop in Patagonia.