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Dune (Huacachina, Peru, 2013)

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Huacachina, Peru is a small, local tourist town in the desert that’s known for its sand dunes. It’s really hot during the day and gets pretty cool at night. Kenny and I were looking for some local Peruvian flavored adventure, so we took a 3 hour bus down from Lima to Huacachina.

We took a cab from the bus station (which was an interesting ride … more to come on this) to our hotel. The cabbie came back the next day to take us fucking sandboarding. On a Dune. 

Sandboarding is basically: a Peruvian guy drives you in a dune buggy that goes really fucking fast over the dunes. Then he drops you off on a really tall dune and you surf / bellysurf down while trying not to faceplant. It’s awesome. A few rounds of this and you really start empathizing with the Fremen in the book Dune, I mean my face was starting to crack and my lips were dry as shit. Also the asshole buggy driver would drop us off at the lip of a huge basin and wait for us pretty far away, and just watch and giggle at us as we struggled through the sand to get to the buggy.

But seriously, Huacachina was one of the highlights of Peru. Pristine beauty. The town itself is a little shady and there’s not too much to do (you can always shack up in a local bar and find a burned out expat to have a depressing conversation with). The dunes are absolutely amazing though.

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Getting Confused For Israelis (all over Argentina, 2013)

Ahhh Argentina… land of beautiful women, pristine nature, and denizens who’ve never seen brown people before. Kenny is Sri Lankan and I’m Indian (Doug is a white man). We were confused for Israelis on multiple occasions.

  • In Bariloche, Argentina (beautiful, beautiful place) we were chilling in our favorite lunch place waiting for our meal. The waitress comes over and plays the “guess the nationality!” game. “De Israel??” Nope! Haha. We ended up signing their guest card in like 3 different languages to prove it.
  • Igauzú Falls, Argentina. One of the famed natural wonders of the world. This time it’s Kenny, me, and John (half asian). We were inside the park that leads to falls, and went up to purchase some tickets. Right before we approached, the woman looks to her partner and furtively excitedly whispers “Ah, chicos de Israel!”
  • So we actually met a couple true blue Israeli’s on our journey. One of them definitely didn’t look like us at all (in Bariloche, at the Las Moiras Cult Hostel). Another Israeli dude, Roy, we met in Buenos Aires. He had a really triangular nose with giant nostrils. Sorry, I had to get that one out. I straight up asked Roy if Kenny and I looked Israeli. He checks us out… and is like maybe you (points at me) but you are definitely Indian (points at Kenny). John got left out.

We later learned that Israelis frequent South America a lot for adventure traveling. So maybe when you take two brown dudes and one fair skinned dude they average out to Israeli.

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“Don’t Worry, It’ll Go Around Us” (Buenos Aires, 2013)

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(Me, Doug, Kenny, and Ari trapped in a drenched, packed bus near the BA Playa)

We met up with Ari outside our Aguero apartment in the afternoon. The plan was to go for a long walk, just hang out, explore, and learn a bit about Buenos Aires. We stopped by a cafe and had some lunch. It was here that we got our first clue that no one in Argentina knows what an Indian person looks like (more on this later. the owner/server guessed that we were from “Arabia” or Israel).

After a few hours of urban exploring, we end up near the Buenos Aires Playa. The beach is near the outskirts of the city and requires an adventurous walk to get to. So there we were, among the plebes in the outskirts of Buenos Aires, just shooting the shit. It’s worth noting that the “Buenos Aires Goggles” that afflicted us in the city seemed to have faded as we made it to the outskirts.

So we’re chilling on our beach chairs… and we notice the clouds start to darken. “It’s ok,” we think. “Everyone else is just chilling here…” So we wait, continue just shooting the shit and enjoying the sand. We look up again, and see this: Image

Oh shit. Ok. Time to leave right?

NOPE. Doug, our trusty Bear Grylls-Survivor-Man-Outdoorsy-Fanatic, looks up and is like “Nah, don’t worry guys, it’ll go around us.” 

Yeah he was fucking wrong.

In about 5 minutes, an insane downpour was upon us. We just ran back the way the way we came with no plan — we were really, really far from the city center and needed to find a bus, but where were the busses? It actually felt like the wrath of Thor was upon us. The rain pelted us like little bullets. As I sprinted along, I could feel my nipples crying out in pain, my shoes flooded with water, my hair matted to my head…

Finally, we spot a little bus. It’s filled to the brim with soaked people. We manage to squeak inside. We ended up camping out in the bus for about an hour with our hands on our valuables. The bus was PACKED. I was afraid that if it made a turn, we’d just tip over. Oh well. The bus driver started up and got us out of the Playa.

… and it was another 2 hours of frantic bus switching, avoiding HUGE currents of floody water in the streets, trying to piece together a ripped up, soaked map, etc before we made it home.

Whew. But wait: that’s not the even the worst part. Doug didn’t wash his wet stinky clothes for a WEEK. Haha. The apartment smelled like rancid mold.

Sometimes while traveling, the most random, serendipitous events can lead to the exhilarating adventures you remember most.

 

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Four Butts (Buenos Aires, 2013)

 

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Argentine women are beautiful, and their men know it. The cultural centre of Argentina decided to turn it’s efforts towards an artsy play celebrating the butts of Argentina, called “CUATRO CULAS” which literally translates to “Four asses.” 

We stayed at the Obelisco Hostel in Buenos Aires for about a week. Right outside our hostel there was a HUGE poster for Cuatro Culas. Every night we’d walk back right beside a giant, 50 ft photo off a girl showing off her butt. The Argentine cula is a thing of legend, even within their own country.

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(Not) Cheating The Scam Fairy (Buenos Aires, 2013)

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Two days before Kenny and I were flying down to Buenos Aires we realized that we basically knew nothing about the ins and outs of the city. We were in NYC at the time, crashing a friend’s apartment. So… one morning I opened up my laptop and googled “Buenos Aires scams.” What I saw proceeded to make me super nervous about anything involving money. We watched a video where a British dude just gets taken by the first cab he gets into.

So, naturally, by the time we get down to BA, I’m pretty vigilant (nervous). I was well informed about the scams. Every time we got into a cab and exchanged money, I made a point to hold up the cash to the sun and scrutinize it (even though I had no fucking idea how to tell apart real money and the monopoly money they scam you with).

Three weeks into our BA adventure and we hadn’t gotten scammed. I had already awarded myself a mental trophy at this point.

Then… one drunken night, three of us (John, Kenny, me) were cabbing back from shenanigans in Palermo to our place in Centro. We were already pretty woozy and delirious by this point. About 10 min into the cab ride, Kenny’s like “WHAT THE FUCK. LOOK AT THAT METER.” Shit was climbing like a monkey. We had been riding 10 min and it was already 50 pesos. We expected the whole ride to be like 30 pesos. We got the taxi guy to just drop us off where we were and ended up walking back to our place.

Lesson learned. You can’t cheat the scam fairy.

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Finding Doug (Istanbul, 2012)

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Istanbul is an insane, insane city. I mean this in the best possible way. It’s home to more than 30 million people, a wide mix of arabs, jews, christians, and everything in between. The city center is pretty damn hip and people stay out partying all night. The old town is a hookah filled Ottoman hangout. And the area where the Women’s Tennis Championships were being held — well, outside the arena there was just… more insane hustle and bustle. A modern day spice market. A bazaar filled with hawkers and peddlers. 

After experiencing the WTC and gawking at how big Serena William’s shoulders are from 30 feet away (another post coming up), I set out to find Doug. He had to leave the WTC early to take a business meeting. We made plans to meet at some cafe nearby that had Wifi around 11:30PM and catch the last midnight train back to where we were staying. It was about an hour and a half commute from our place to Zeytinburnu where the WTC was being held, and the commute involved switching off on trains and all sorts of circus. So I really didn’t want to lose Doug and have to figure out the way back by myself, sans map or internet.

I couldn’t find Doug. I went to the cafe we were supposed to meet at sat around for a few minutes, pretended to look at a menu. All the while I was thinking “fuck, we have to catch the last train back.” I went up to the waiter and tried to describe Doug. “IRISH.. BEARD.” Nope. I looked into his vapid eyes and didn’t see a morsel of understanding. I was getting a little panicky at this point and it was almost time for the last train to leave so I just sprinted to the train station and got on.

There were like 5 people on that train. Me, two Nigerian dudes talking loudly, and two guys who appeared to speaking Russian. The Russian guys were dragging a large body bag with him (it was probably an instrument or furniture… or a body). They got off at the most fucking random stops in the middle of nowhere. I was just huddled in the corner. The train ended up stopping early because the last train doesn’t go all the way, so I hopped in a cab and got out about 20 min from our place next to the Bosphorus. I’m getting pretty fucking worried about Doug at this point, cuz like I’m brown and I can survive in Asia but this is an Irish dude with a RED beard.

Anyway, I’m strolling along and I look up and I JUST FUCKING SEE DOUG STROLLING ALONG in front of me. At this point I’m 50% sure he’s in some Turkish prison somewhere. I’m like WTFFFF and I just casually spring up on him. Both our minds were blown.

(apparently, he waited for me and thought the train was leaving, so got on the train right before me)

 

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The Aguero apartment (Buenos Aires, 2013)

We moved to our second place in Buenos Aires after two weeks in the Palermo Viejo neighborhood. This new place was advertised as being “right in the heart of tango country” and “near the abasto shopping mall.” Ok awesome. Time to get all native and stay away from the hipsters.

A few things happened that made our stay in place #2 pretty fucking miserable. The electricity went out when Kenny was trying to plug something into the wall. Like, the system was so crappy that it literally blue the entire fuse. Oh yeah, the internet wasn’t working either. We were shit out of luck and had to scramble to get Mauricio the building manager to help us out. He couldn’t really do anything so we were just sweating in the Buenos Aires heat for two days.

The Abasto shopping mall was right across the street. We ended up squatting there for the whole time trying to steal internet access from one of the shitty coffee shops. Over the week we spent in place #2 we started noticing some other …. things.

  • Our friend Ari (Argentine dude, BA native) told us he got mugged like right outside our place a year ago. He proceeded to tell us how dangerous the neighborhood is.
  • We noticed some little trouble maker kid shouting at another kid outside of the mall. Big whoop. Then little kid breaks a fucking glass bottle and chucks it at the other kid. The whole thing shatters. WTF.
  • We had to use a key to leave the apartment building. So if the key was out with someone else and you had to leave … you’re shit out of luck.
  • Due to poor planning, we proceeded to run out money two days into our stay at Aguero. Luckily there was a Chinese run parrilla next door that was ridiculously cheap. I mean like, $3 for a poun d of meat. We must have exhausted the food supply there going there for every meal.

On the plus side, the place had these really futuristic locks. Their blue lights zwipped and beeped to make you feel like you were in Star Trek. No but fuck Aguero though. That place sucked.