A Family RTW Travel Adventure (2008-2009)
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Posts from — September 2008

It Takes Two


I expected – even hoped – there would be many “teachable moments” on our trip.  But I never imagined one would occur at a tango show in Buenos Aires. Given the history of the tango, I should have known better.

The Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges, a tango enthusiast and amateur music historian, wrote: “My informants all agree on one fact – the tango was born in the brothels.”

Borges was one to never let the truth get in the way of a good story.  While no one can pinpoint the tango’s exact birthplace, it did develop among the portenos (the people of the port area of Buenos Aires) in bordellos and bars.

Like rap or hip-hop today, it was urban music, forged from a range of musical influences, and carrying a subversive undertone.

In its early form, the tango romanticized the life of bohemian knife-wielding womanizing thugs.  Dances had a threatening, predatory quality – and often depicted a possessive relationship between two men and a woman.

Of course, I knew none of this when I signed up to take my kids to a tango show.

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September 29, 2008   2 Comments

Observed in Buenos Aires II


Friends know my humor runs to the scatological. As you can imagine, I fell off my chair laughing at this sign on the Buenos Aires subway.

Roughly translated: Keep the window open to avoid bad odors.

And notice the international symbol for “no flatulence” on the left hand side of the sign.

September 28, 2008   Comments Off on Observed in Buenos Aires II

Observed in Buenos Aires


A peacock struts his stuff at the Buenos Aires Zoo.  More pictures from this amazing city are posted here.

September 25, 2008   3 Comments

Cash Only


“In Argentina, we have a financial crisis every five years, and after each one, we are a little worse off.”

We had wandered into Alejandro’s tour company looking for information on a few day trips from Buenos Aires; the history lesson on the Argentine economy  was a bonus.

“Our last crisis was about five years ago,” he explained.  “My wife had the equivalent of ninety thousand U.S. dollars in the bank.  There was a run on the bank and a devaluation of our currency. Some people lost everything.”

“My wife received a bond that matures in 2013.  It will be worth thirty thousand U.S. dollars – if the government can pay it.”

“Her money vanished, and was replaced by a vague promise. That’s why people here don’t trust banks.  Businesses want to be paid in cash, and when people have cash they either buy property or hide it in their mattresses.  It makes things very difficult,” Alejandro said.

Difficult indeed.

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September 23, 2008   3 Comments

ADIP: La Recoleta Cemetery

A Day In Pictures
La Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires


Interesting story: When Evita Peron died at age 33, the Argentine military was so afraid of the iconic power of her corpse that they hid her body in tomb in Milan, Italy for 16 years.

Twenty years after her death her body was returned to Buenos Aires in the dead of night and laid to rest in her family’s tomb in La Recoleta Cemetery, despite strong objections from the country’s elite.

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September 19, 2008   5 Comments

No Excuse For Not Looking Good


One of the first things you notice in Buenos Aires – OK, one of the first things I noticed – is how attractive the people are.

And not just good looking – really put together too. Women and men. Young and old. Taxi drivers and ladies who lunch.

I was already feeling a bit self-conscious, having worn the same clothes for about six weeks. Walking through the Recoleta I felt positively dowdy.

I finally had a chance to ask someone about this rather delicate subject when our landlord came to return the security deposit we left for our first apartment.

She appeared to be in her late fifties, trim, with a stylish haircut and expensive taste in clothes. She had the presence of a person used to having money and getting what she wanted. Her English was quite good.

After a bit of small talk I felt I had an opening to ask the question that had been nagging me: “Is it my imagination, or is everyone in this city very attractive?”

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September 17, 2008   8 Comments

Our Time in Peru


Machu Picchu was undoubtably the highlight of Peru for us; it’s place that has to be seen to be believed. But there is so much more to this fascinating country – it’s a place anyone could enjoy visiting.

We’ve posted our report on our time in Peru here, including some advice on an itinerary for visiting and other recommendations.

September 15, 2008   6 Comments

Ode To Red


Of the baseball caps I have accumulated over the years, there is just one that fits right, no matter how sweat-stained and faded.

Maybe you have one like it: The one you reach for on a bad hair day, the one that doesn’t puff up too much on top, one that your friends identify as your look. A signature cap.

My kids tease me about mine, especially on this trip since I rarely go out bare-headed. Conor says he can’t find me in a crowd without it. They call it “Red.”

I have been looking for a back-up hat for Red in souvenir shops on vacations since our newlywed days. Just in case—well, in case I lost it.

I have tried on hundreds of baseball caps to no avail.

My head must be some crazy “off” size. Childrens’ hats don’t work, nor do Ladies’. The adjustability feature doesn’t help. The ridge comes down over my ears or too much fabric bunches up top. To be sure, I am picky. Nothing looked as good as Red.

Dani & Conor in Quito

But all those years of trying-on-and-not-finding didn’t really matter.

Because I never lost Red. Not in the sea during a windy sail in St. Johns. Not from a New Mexican mesa’s edge in a sudden gust. Not between Galapagos Islands when the wind was blowing over the bow. Not walking the ruins at Ollytantambo when a dust twister blew past.

That hat, my signature cap, seemed practically part of my head. And it wasn’t going anywhere. I pictured myself wearing it over the grey at the assisted care facility one day.

By now you may have guessed the reason for this desperate essay. Red is gone. And not because of some glorious, memorable adventure.

The cap, my little topper, is riding along in some Cusco taxi.

Maybe as blue as I am.

September 12, 2008   8 Comments

Inca Rules


Dani was feeling much better, but still not well enough to take the Lake Titicaca tour.  So the kids and I got up early and caught the bus to the Puno docks to board our boat for a tour of Uros and Taquile Islands.

I’ve been surprised by the number of European travelers in South America, and our group included a Ukrainian couple, a pair of Germans, three Danish co-eds, and a Portuguese father and son.  Two senior citizens from Argentina rounded out the group.

The floating Uros Islands are a bizarre sight.  The Uros people cut reeds and weave them together to form giant floating islands that they anchor to the shallow lake bottom.


According to one legend, the Uros were harassed to near extinction by the Spanish, then devised the floating islands as a way to escape forced labor in Spanish silver mines.



Today, the islands exist purely as a tourist attraction. They have the feel of place like Colonial Williamsburg; you’re surrounded by history, but at the same time, it’s all a show.  Despite the unreality, visiting the islands provides a unique glimpse into an ancient (and ingenious) culture.

From Ilsa Uros we headed to Taquile Island, with  its elaborate walled paths and simple adobe buildings.



The people of Taquile still wear traditional clothing, something neighboring islanders have stopped doing.

As tourism has become an increasingly important source of income, the local elders have worked to find a system to distribute the wealth evenly among all families.

In the words of the elders: “All of us eat the same bread.”

Their solution is for the elders to rotate the families that host tour group lunches.  Each family prepares the exact same menu: Quinoa soup, fish, and potatoes.

As we ate, our host told us a bit about life on the island:

“There are no police on Taquile. No locks on doors. No need. Here we live by Inca rules. Don’t lie. Don’t steal. Don’t be lazy.”

There are more Lake Titicaca region pictures here.

September 11, 2008   6 Comments

Cold Town, Warm People


Dani wasn’t herself on the five-hour bus trip from Cusco to Puno.

In the fifteen years we’ve been married, she’s always been a hearty traveler.  But on this trip she was queasy from the moment we left Cusco, as we made our way across the high Andean plains towards Lake Titicaca.

We had ascended nearly 2,000 feet on the journey, and were adapting to the thin air at 13,000 feet.  We also had to contend with temperatures dipping into the thirties, by far the coldest we’d experienced since leaving home.

After checking in to our hotel we found Edgar Adventures and booked a day long tour of Lake Titicaca for the next day.  Then we had a quick dinner and returned to the Plaza Mayor to turn in early – we knew we had an early start the next day.

A few hours later, I heard an awful noise coming from the bathroom.  When I went to investigate, I found Dani in terrible shape, battling a horrific case of food poisoning.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen her so sick.

And of course, like a fool, I’d left the first aid kit with our antibiotics back in Cusco.

Dani suffered through the night.  Every time it seemed the stomach cramps had eased, they would return stronger than ever.  By the time the sun rose, it was obvious we weren’t going on a Lake Titicaca tour that day.

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September 10, 2008   4 Comments

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