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Up and Over

Posted August 11, 2013

PART 15 (DAYS 33-35): “How’s everything here?” I asked Chris, the manager at Southern Laughter Lodge, when I arrived back in Queenstown for a day in order to catch a homeward bound flight early the following morning.

“Oh, it’s quiet. It’s finally slowing down,” he answered.

“Oh, is the ski season over?”

“No, the season can go all the way until October,” he told me. “But all the Aussie kids have gone back to university.”

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The Fellowship Of The W

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Chill Out In Chile"
Posted January 04, 2011

DAY 12:  “Shit, there’s a hole in my sleeping bag,” John said, waking up in our tent with literal cold feet that morning.  “Well,” he said, clearing his mouth of morning grogginess, “that’s what duct tape is for.” 

Not only did he tape his sleeping bag closed, but the plastic trash bag we kept stuff in, to waterproof our things within our backpacks.  He was truly a Mountain Man out there in Patagonia to rough it — a Mountain Man without a shower I may add.  Perhaps his stench was what denied him a hot breakfast from the mess hall in the refugio, even though he got there within breakfast hours.

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127 Minutes

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Chill Out In Chile"
Posted January 03, 2011

DAY 11:  “Where’s Felix?” I asked the missing German’s other half, Simone. 

“I don’t know,” she answered with a bit of worry in her eyes.

“FELIX!!!” the others called, looking for him in the Valle Frances, nestled in between the Cerro Paine Grande and the peaks famously known as Los Cuernos (The Horns).  A small search team went out up and down the trail; we didn’t know if he was ahead or behind us after he had strayed off the trail to go rock scrambling towards a waterfall.

“[If he’s gone,] here’s his last picture,” Florin said to Simone, showing her a photo off his DSLR. 

She chuckled with optimism.  “[Felix trekking in Torres del Paine.]”

“No,” the wisecracking Romanian said.  “He will be anonymous.”

We trekked on, hoping the German attorney from Stuttgart would turn up soon.  We looked behind us down the French Valley, and asked trekkers coming from the opposite way if they’d seen him.  The problem was, he was sort of hard to find, being in camouflage.

“Have you seen a German wearing all tan?”

“No.”

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Eat What You Like

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Chill Out In Chile"
Posted January 03, 2011

DAY 10:  Everyone in camp was still asleep when I awoke around eight in the morning, which gave me a moment to myself.  I walked down to the overlook of the Grey Glacier to admire it, alone with my camera, as a gentle Patagonian breeze passed through.  This is nothing like I’ve ever seen before, I thought to myself.

And then, across the sky, near a break in the overcasting clouds, a grand rainbow appeared — a glacial rainbow all the way — which not only thrilled me, but inspired me to make a parodic home video.

What does this mean?

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I’m Dreaming Of A Grey Christmas

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Chill Out In Chile"
Posted December 30, 2010

DAY 9 (CHRISTMAS DAY):  It’s funny how most of the Christian world embraces the snowy image of Christmas, regardless of the fact that that many Christians live in a tropical climate zone or in the southern hemisphere where it’s summer in December, and that Jesus Christ was born in the desert.  In Santiago, I saw many images of Santa Claus and snowmen in the pedestrian malls, all on a 70°F day.  Fortunately for Chile, there exists a region of ice and snow within the country — part of the second largest continuous ice sheet in the world (after Antarctica) — and I was determined to get there by day’s end for a truly unique “white Christmas.” 

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Die Hard With A Christmas

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Chill Out In Chile"
Posted December 29, 2010

DAY 8 (CHRISTMAS EVE):  “I’m Chris,” said a young, blonde outdoorsy North American guy at Base Camp, a combination tour office, information center, camping equipment rental store, and recycling center in Puerto Natales.  “I’m the expedition guide here on the Base Camp side.”  We were in the building next to Erratic Rock, the popular American-run hostel I’d moved to, across the street from the Plaza O’Higgins.  Chris was leading the daily three o’clock information session for anyone in town wanting to learn about trekking in Torres del Paine National Park, which many believe conveys the quintessential southern Patagonian experience in a short period of time. 

In the room with me were five Americans (including my new friend John), three Germans, one British guy, one Argentinian, one Indian, one Romanian guy (with a French passport), and about a dozen post-army-service Israelis who were planning to trek in the mountains of Patagonia instead of going out for Chinese food and a movie on Christmas.

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25 South

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Chill Out In Chile"
Posted December 24, 2010

DAY 7:  “Excuse me, are you going to Puerto Natales by any chance?” I asked the lone gringo waiting by the curb at the small airport in Punta Arenas, Chile, around dusk. I reckoned he spoke English with his baseball cap and The North Face bag.

“Yeah,” he spoke in his American accent.  We were both seemingly stranded, with the look of hopeful uncertainty in our eyes, wondering if there was in fact a bus to Puerto Natales, about three hours northwest of Puntas Arenas airport (the only major airport in the southern Patagonia region on the Chilean side).  So far, all the taxi touts were asking us if we needed a ride into the city of Punta Arenas twenty minutes away, trying to psyche us into thinking we had missed the last bus to the other town.

“No gracias,” the new voice said in a semi-American-accented Spanish.

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Goldilocks and the Three Wineries

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Chill Out In Chile"
Posted December 23, 2010

DAY 6:  When the original Italian winemakers came to Argentina — a century before escaped Nazis from Germany made home in Argentina — they probably had no idea that in the future of the 21st century, tourists would flock to the Mendoza region to choose from several competitve bicycle rental companies so that visitors could be drunk on wine while attempting to ride from vineyard to vineyard without wiping out.  The most known bicycle company is “Mr. Hugo” because everyone and their mothers recommended it — secretly because they were all getting a commission — in what a simple Google search result said was a shady racket. 

“Apparently Mr. Hugo is the only thing that exists,” Emily said sarcastically after hearing Mr. Hugo’s name a sixth time that morning.  “Fuck Mr. Hugo!”  We were determined to give our business elsewhere, and thankfully a travel agent in town named Ana mentioned that there are several bike companies to choose from (after recommending Mr. Hugo of course, but admitting her commission).

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Adopted Families

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Chill Out In Chile"
Posted December 22, 2010

DAY 5:  “[When you go to Mendoza, go to this restaurant called ‘Petrona,’]” said this American college kid who had been studying abroad in Mendoza, Argentina.  Emily and I had met him as he was on vacation with his Minnesotan mother and sister at the empanada place in Viña del Mar.  “[Look for a bearded guy named Mathias and tell him you met a guy named Robert.  They sort of adopted me as their son.  They’ll be excited that you met me.]”  Robert gave us an address and I said we’d look his adopted father up when we journeyed into a bonus country on this “Chill Out in Chile” travel blog: Argentina.

Not that it is a completely different country; without political borders, regions are regions, and Mendoza, Argentina isn’t too far from Santiago — Chile is a thin country after all.  Emily had intended to go eastbound through Mendoza to meet her friend Ina and eventually work their way to Buenos Aires for New Year’s — while I headed south to Patagonia — but we had such a great rapport that me going with her to Mendoza for a quick jaunt into Argentina only made sense. 

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Speaking Spanish By The Seashore

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Chill Out In Chile"
Posted December 22, 2010

DAY 4:  After breakfast, Emily intended to ask Enrique, our host, how we could take the bus from Valparaíso to the resorty beach town of Viña del Mar (just a few miles north along the coast) to the best of her non-Spanish-speaking ability.  However, the only thing that came out was, “Uh… autobus?

I interjected and asked with the best of my I-only-know-the-present-tense-of-verbs Spanish, what was the best way to get to there.

“[The metro is the best way,]” Enrique told us in Spanish, giving me his electronic rechargable Metro card.  “[Here, take my card.  It’s one thousand pesos per person.  One thousand for you, one thousand for you.  Put two thousand on the card and then swipe in, then pass the card to her.  It’s the best way.  Just give me the card when you’re done.]”  I translated to Emily.

Vamos!Emily announced.  “[You] like that?”  We smiled.

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Chilean Graffiti

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Chill Out In Chile"
Posted December 20, 2010

DAY 3:  “Take a picture of that one,” Emily requested as we strolled along a side street on a bright, sunny day in Santiago. 

“I got it,” I replied, snapping a picture with my Cybershot TX-5, which we agreed was the better of our two point-and-shoots.

She was referring to a rundown corner building with graffiti on it that she found interesting — one of many interesting works of street art we found as we spent the first part of the day seeing things in the Chilean capital that she’d missed since she arrived a day late.  Little did we know at the time that the street art in Santiago was pale in comparison to what we’d see later in Valparaíso. 

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Chilly, Chili, Chile

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Chill Out In Chile"
Posted December 19, 2010

DAY 2:  “Oh, it’s a little cold here,” Emily said, only wearing a sweater and a scarf when we went out for dinner in the evening around 10:45, merely an hour after she had finally arrived at the hostel (after being in transit for close to 40 hours).  She had been sitting down for so long on the plane that all she wanted to do was go out and walk.

“It’s chilly in Chile,” I said with a smirk, acknowledging the pun.

“That was pretty bad,” said Jay, our welcomed third wheel of the night that we met at the hostel.

“That’s actually my Facebook status right now,” I said.  “That I traveled all the way to Santiago to confirm that pun.”

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A Day Without Steven Slater

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Chill Out In Chile"
Posted December 17, 2010

DAY 1:“The flight’s been canceled,” said the distraught voice on the other end of my cell phone, as I stood in line to board a flight at JFK International Airport in New York.

“What?! What happened?” I asked.

“There’s a plane malfunction.” 

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A New Trip for an American, Expressed

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Chill Out In Chile"
Posted November 30, 2010

IT HAS ONLY BEEN SEVEN MONTHS since The Global Trip’s jaunt through Asia, which might not seem long, but when you live in the hustle and bustle of New York City, seven months can seem like an eternity, just like how microwaving popcorn for four minutes seems like an eternity when you stare at it.  As lively as the Big Apple can be, it certainly can drain you; such is the love/hate relationship with the self-proclaimed “Capital of the World”.  Also, that last TGT adventure mainly focused on city life in Asia — and some of the unique (and squirming) culinary treats they offer — so it really feels like eternity since I’ve been out in the wild, wide world (for you, the long-time TGT reader as well I’m sure).  Solution: this holiday season, it’s time to Chill Out in Chile, get outdoors and go au naturale in Patagonia and Easter Island.  And by that I don’t mean without any clothes; it can get pretty cold on those glaciers I’m told, and not everyone out there is well-informed about “shrinkage” (if you know what I mean).

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Going Backtracking

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Chinese Leftovers and Other Asian Appetizers"
Posted May 09, 2010

DAYS 17-18: “Qiu-qiu!” (pronounced “tcho-tcho!”) I cried out to the cute little puppy face greeting me outside of Juju’s Peugeot back in Shanghai (picture above).  I had greeted Scott and Juju as well when the three of them picked me up from the Maglev station after I’d flown back to Shanghai from Seoul for an overnight layover.

“She’s excited,” Juju told me, which led to one thing:

“I think she peed on me,” I reported.  I checked my pants; she had peed right on my crotchal region.  “It looks like I peed.”

“Welcome to China,” Scott joked.

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Not Forgotten

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Chinese Leftovers and Other Asian Appetizers"
Posted May 09, 2010

DAY 16:  American Korean War veterans often cite their war as “The Forgotten War,” for other wars have taken the spotlight in the the long history of American warfare.  Perhaps more media attention goes to World War II since America and the Allied Nations “won” that war.  Perhaps more attention goes to Vietnam and Iraq to point out America’s “blunders.”  (Both “won” and “blunders” are in quotes depending on your political sensitivity.)  Perhaps the Korean War takes a back page to others because it ended in a stalemate, the result being the fact that there are now two countries: a Socialist North Korea (officially the DPRK or “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea”) and a democratic South Korea (officially the ROK or “Republic Of Korea”).

To the mainstream consciousness (or perhaps just mine), the most attention the Korean War has gotten is the fact that it served as the backdrop for the film-inspired 1970-80s TV sitcom series M.A.S.H. — cleverly starting its television run as a commentary for the then current Vietnam War — where, to the memory of my too-young-to-really-remember-anything childhood knowledge, the Korean War was the one where Jamie Farr went around and dressed in drag all the time.  (Cue laugh track.)

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Korean Things On The Other Cinco De Mayo

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Chinese Leftovers and Other Asian Appetizers"
Posted May 07, 2010

DAY 15:  In the United States, Cinco De Mayo, which translates to “fifth of May” (or alternatively, “five of mayonnaise”), is a day in which happy hour-going yuppies and college kids imbibe buckets of Coronas during a long drinking binge, while Mexican busboys wonder what the big deal is; it’s not even a real national Mexican holiday.  In South Korea, the fifth of May has nothing to do with Mexico (or mayonnaise for that matter) for it is the national holiday of Children’s Day — the opposite day of Mother’s Day or Father’s Day — where Korean parents take time off to spend with their kids.

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Seoul Man

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Chinese Leftovers and Other Asian Appetizers"
Posted May 05, 2010

DAY 14:  8:49 p.m. South Korean Time: A BMW 5-Series rolled up to pick me up at the Inter-Continental Hotel in the heart of downtown Seoul.  However it was not as chichi as it seems, for I was not staying at the 5-star luxury hotel (it was only a meeting point), nor did the Beamer belong to the person driving it.  (It was his mom’s.)

Behind the wheel was Hong, a friend from back during my days working at a particular interactive agency in New York a couple of years ago, who was now living in the capital city of his home country, South Korea.  Hong was the same as I remember him, with his American voice, kind demeanor, and hip sense of style.  “Welcome to Seoul,” he welcomed me.  “How was your flight?”  He put the Beamer in drive and we head out onto the streets, filled with the twinkling red brake lights of night time traffic.

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Chinese Things On May Day Monday

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Chinese Leftovers and Other Asian Appetizers"
Posted May 05, 2010

DAY 13: “Any idea what you want to do today?” Scott asked me the Monday morning of the long weekend for International Workers Day (a.k.a. “May Day,” like Labor Day in the USA).  He really had no plans but to run errands on his day off.  I suggested seeing the popular pedestrian strip Nanting Road, and maybe check out some of the markets I’d been recommended.  Also,

“We should all get massages,” I added.  (Why not, at under ten bucks for an hour-long massage from a professional blind masseur?)  He agreed.

Shopping and errand running was a good way to see life in Shanghai as it is, and all of its different people.  We left Qiu-qiu (pronounced “tcho tcho”) at home, grabbed a Starbucks coffee and Starbucks Dragon Roll (a sweet gelatinous dumpling), and took to the streets of Shanghai on what was shaping up to be a beautiful day.

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Crouching Tiger, Hundred Tourists

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Chinese Leftovers and Other Asian Appetizers"
Posted May 03, 2010

DAY 12: “I want to go to here,” I whispered under my breath, tweaking Tina Fey’s now immortal line of bewildered amazement (immortal for any 30 Rock fan anyway), as I gazed upon the Huang Shan sunrise in the magnificent mountain landscape that has inspired many a Chinese painting.  (When you’ve already gone to there, you are “here.”)  Huang Shan’s beauty is so surreal, especially on a misty day, that it served as the setting of the final scene in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Wo hu cang long to the Chinese), where Ziyi Zhang gracefully jumps from the great peak and into the clouds.  However, my magic moment was only a split-second of nirvana — even at the stupid o’clock hour of 5:30am — for I was not alone.

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Race To Yellow Mountain

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Chinese Leftovers and Other Asian Appetizers"
Posted May 03, 2010

DAY 11:  Huang Shan, which translates to “yellow mountain,” is amongst the Lonely Planet guidebook’s “Best Of China” list — one of the reasons for my second trip to the PRC for “Chinese leftovers.”  A glorious mountain landscape that has been the subject matter of countless classic Chinese paintings, Huang Shan’s heavenly peaks — which are even more ethereal when they jut out of a sea of clouds — have inspired many, from ancient Chinese 8th-century poet Li Bai to American 21st-century director James Cameron, who has cited Huang Shan as one of the inspirations for the art direction of Pandora in the mega blockbuster Avatar.

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That Jerk Jackie Chan

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Chinese Leftovers and Other Asian Appetizers"
Posted May 02, 2010

DAY 10: “Jackie Chan,” Juju said during our morning coffee and news session at the Starbucks across the street.  “We don’t like him.”  She continued, saying how while he may be a comedic karate guy in the USA, he was known in China to be a jerk and a womanizer, with kids from different women that he sometimes didn’t claim to be his.  Plus, “His movies are all the same; cha cha cha [action sounds] and a little funny… but his kung fu is only so-so.  Jet Li… he does real kung fu.”

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Strawberry Fields Forever, For The Day

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Chinese Leftovers and Other Asian Appetizers"
Posted April 30, 2010

DAY 9:  Music from the street level was loud enough that it became within earshot, along with a Chinese voice on a megaphone seemingly shouting orders, like some sort of Orwellian sci-fi movie.  “What’s that music?” I asked Juju.

“Oh, that’s just the school,” she answered.  “They exercise.” 

I looked across the way and saw from afar Chinese children in matching jumpsuits marching in single file

And so began the morning of what would be a beautiful sunny day.

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Dog Day Afternoon

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Chinese Leftovers and Other Asian Appetizers"
Posted April 29, 2010

DAY 8:  “I think the dog peed over there,” I told Juju in the morning, pointing out a spot between my guest room and the bathroom. “Because I went to the bathroom in the middle of the night and I think I stepped in it.”  My sock got a little wet in a pee puddle, so I put it in the pile for the cleaning lady to wash with my laundry.  Qiu-qiu the three month old pup shaked her tail and pleaded innocent, although we knew she was the likely offender.  But you could never really get mad at her; I mean, look at that little punim!

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A Shanghai Welcome

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Chinese Leftovers and Other Asian Appetizers"
Posted April 28, 2010

DAY 7: “Can I take your picture?” I asked the soon-to-be familiar face waiting for me outside the arrivals gate at Pudong International Airport.  “I never had anyone hold out a sign with my name at the airport before.”  (Later I learned that she had hand-painted the “Erik Trinidad” with a calligraphy brush, along with the Chinese characters for “Welcome to Shanghai” underneath.)

Okay,” she obliged awkwardly.

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