Trip Start Feb 22, 2007
Trip End Aug 22, 2007

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Flag of Argentina  ,
Monday, June 11, 2007


Everytime I log-on to write one of these things I notice our trip profile page.

Start of travels: Feb 22, 2007
End of travels: Aug 22, 2007
Status: Public
Entry Comment Moderation: Self-moderated
Entry Comments Status: Open
Accepting Donations? No

¨Accepting Donations: No?¨

What, we can accept donations? Well, this changes everything. You guys have been getting a free ride for too long.  

C´mon, I´m sure everyone could pinch a few pennies for a good cause. In fact, some people have already started to send cheques. Just listen to what they´ve been saying:

¨I was thinking about giving to cancer research, but Steve´s flying from Buenos Aires to Rio de Janeiro on Saturday and could use the extra scratch.¨  

¨This is my former sponsor child from Sudan. I kept sending him money, but look at how boney he still is. I didn´t think my money was being put to good use, but with Steve, well, just look at that adorable smile on his face. Besides, my sponsor child´s been moaning about a tapeworm for weeks. I know if Steve gets worms he´ll just tell another hilarious poo story.¨

Good thinking people. Keep the donations coming. And this Christmas, be sure to remember to redivert all canned goods to my new apartment in Toronto. All this traveling is making me hungry.

Anyway, to the business at hand. My mother and brother joined Sara and I in Argentina between Sunday, May 20 and Saturday, June 9. Here´s a daily rundown of the trip´s highest and lowest points.

Day prior to mom and bro´s arrival

Sara and I arrive in one of the world´s most beautiful cities. The air´s crisp, the sun´s shining and locals are eating, drinking and laughing their weekend away in lovely sidewalk cafes. We decide to join them for some lunch.   

I order steak, Sara has pasta and we share a bottle of red wine. What could be better? Free basket of french bread, okay, that´s better. We´re laughing, we´re loving life, then Sara says...

¨It felt like something just hit me.¨ 
 ¨What´s that?¨ 
¨I think I´ve been shit on!!!¨
¨Oh, right on the head.¨

Pigeons. Usually I hate them, but in this case, I appreciate the target they chose. Unless this is some kind of bad omen, of course. Nah.

Day 1

After a long flight, my mom expresses a desire to return to the room and relax. So, naturally, we whisk her away to the nearby suburb of Quilmes for a soccer game.

One side of the stadium rabidly cheers for the home squad, while the other shouts for Argentina´s most popular club, Boca Jr. We sit in a rather neutral area upon the advice of a helpful security guard. The hundreds of riot police suggest that this was a good idea. 

Just the holiday my mother was looking for.

Day 2    

My mom surprises me by telling us all that she took a few spanish courses in University. And wow, some things you just don´t forget I guess. Here´s a snippet of an actual taxi cab conversation.

Me: ¨Tu tienes familia aqui?¨ (do you have family here)
Cabbie: ¨Mi hermana vive en Buenos Aires, tu entiendes?¨ (my sister lives in Buenos Aires, you understand)
Mom: ¨His sister has bursitis?¨

That is not made up in the least.

Day 3

A very special day, it´s my mom´s 53rd birthday. Oops, I guess I wasn´t supposed to let that slip. Anyway, like most days it seemed more like my brother´s birthday.

After scoring a leather coat and wallet on day 2, he supplemented them with an Argentinian soccer jersey on day 3 and almost bought a leather cowboy hat, causing the birthday girl to exclaim, ¨I´m going to have to cut that child off.¨  

While my brother did slow down, he´s a mooch at heart you see, and by the end of the trip, he added leather shoes and another wallet to his collection. Not a bad haul. He even remarked at one point that all he was missing was leather assless chaps.  

My mom wasn´t entirely forgotton, however. She was treated to dinner at a fancy steak house that night. Like the locals, we arrived for dinner at 10pm. Unfortunately, we didn´t have a reservation and my mother found herself sawing through a giant striploin at midnight.

Happy birthday.

Day 4

We take a boat across to Montevideo, Uruguay. The city was clean, modern and well, all I can remember from this day was eating lunch. Myself, Scott and to a lesser degree Sara, polished off a complimentary bread basket in about three minutes. Only one problem, my mom, yet again, failed to grab a piece in time.

And in an accent that 30 years of living outside Newfoundland just won´t rub off, she raged,

¨I just sit down and all the bread is gone.You guys are like bloody savages!!!¨

¨Bloody savages.¨ That´s too good. I´m going to add ¨bloody savages¨ to everything my mom says from this point forward. 

Day 5

Bussed over to Colonial, Uruguay, a beautiful cobblestoned village in the....well, again, all I can recall is me doing something jerkish, then this:

(Remember the Newfie accent) ¨Sara, I don´t know how you put up with this shit for 3 months because I tell you, I´m bloody sick of it... (and this bloody savage).¨

Colonial was quite nice though. We even saw a bus with the name ¨Berutti¨ painted across the side of it. From then on, Scott and I only referred to Sara Brunetti as ¨Berutti.¨ And because of our consistency, my mom even slipped up once or twice.

Day 6

We return to Buenos Aires with our day packs. We´re planning to leave for Iguazu Falls in northern Argentina/southern Brazil on the bus that night. The trip takes 18 hours, so we decide to grab some dinner first. We walk by ¨El Museo de Jamon¨ or ¨The Ham Museum.¨ It looks nice and with a name like that, we have to check it out.

Because it´s only 4pm, the place is completely empty, maybe two other diners maximum. We throw our bags down,  look through the menus and are about to order when the waiter suddenly starts talking to Scott in spanish.  I pick out the word ¨bolsa¨ or ¨bag¨ and tell Scott that the waiter wants him to move his backpack from the table.

Scott: ¨No, he´s telling me he moved it already.¨
Berutti (pointing behind the two of us): ¨Our bags are all over here.¨
Mom: ¨Scott´s isn´t.¨

Waiter again starts speaking spanish, I again pick out the word ¨bolsa,¨ but this time he´s making a grabbing motion.

All four of us in panicked unison: ¨Somebody took the bag?¨
Waiter: ¨Claro¨ or ¨Clearly¨ or ¨Of course you stupid gringos, I´ve been trying to tell you that for the last two minutes.¨

Scott´s bag is gone. Apparently two guys came into the restaurant, sat behind us, were brought bread by the waiter (even thieves love the free french bread) and promptly bolted with the bag Scott had resting on the table leg. Items stolen: pair of contacts, clothes, the first of three wallet´s my mom bought for Scott and his iPod (thieves love the iPods).

Mom:  ¨I thought it was weird that those two guys would sit beside us in an empty restaurant.¨
Berutti: ¨Yeah, I was wondering why two people would sit at a table of six.¨ 
Me: ¨Why didn´t you guys mention any of this, it seems pretty damn obvious.¨
Berutti: ¨But you didn´t even notice the guys and they were sitting right in front of you.¨ 
Me: ¨Yeah, I guess you got me there.¨
Mom: ¨(Bloody savages.)¨
 Day 7

Arrive in Iguazu Falls after an 18 hour bus ride in which Scott and I sat together.

Mom: ¨Jesus Murphy, all you two talk about are your bowel movements!!!¨ 

 Day 8

My mom got bit in the ass by something. She wasn´t sure what, so she hiked up her shorts and asked a poor park ranger to examine her bottom. His diagnosis: ¨Pull your shorts back down grandma.¨

Oh yeah, and we saw Iguazu Falls. They are much, much better than Niagara Falls.

Day 9

Because there´s no direct route and the roads are terrible, we pay a guy to take us to Parque Nacional Iberra in his SUV. There´s hardly any tourist information about this place. Travelers never heard of it and the locals could only offer brief descriptions. From what we´ve read, it sounds like my mom and Scott´s best chance to see the jungle.

Well, while there were alligators, it certainly was not the jungle. Probably more like a wetlands I guess. Except, it was absolutely freezing in the boat. I had to listen to Scott keep repeating, ¨Someone said jungle, I know I heard jungle.¨  

Day 10

Still at Parque Nacional Iberra. We see far fewer monkeys than expected, but do spot the world´s largest rodent, the carpincha. It looks like a big hamster. Sadly, I did not sample its delicious meat. We also saw tons of deer. Great, what is it this time Scott?

¨So we came from Canada to see deer? Someone said jungle, I know I heard jungle.¨

Day 11

We arrive in Corrientes, our pit stop between Iberra and Mendoza. We decide to go for dinner at a popular local steak house (or ¨Parilla¨ as they call them here) at 7pm. Only one problem, the place doesn´t even open until 8pm.

So after Scott and I finish losing $100 at a nearby Casino (Sean would be proud), we return an hour-and-a-half later. The place is still almost empty. My mom decides to give spanish another twirl while ordering her steak.

Waiter: ¨y para ti?¨ (and for you)
Mom: ¨Bife Chorizo. Al puta.¨ (New York Striploin. Whore)
Me: ¨Ah mom, it´s ´al punto´ that  means medium-rare, ´puta´ means whore.
Only slightly exagerrated.

After finishing our giant plates of meat -- Argentinian ¨Bife Chorizos¨ are routinely over three inches thick, sometimes four, they´re massive-- we notice the place is finally starting to fill up. It´s 10:30pm on a weekday and people are bringing their kids out to eat, we even saw a high chair. This amazed my mom.

¨Those kids should be in bed,¨ she said. ¨(Bloody savages).¨

Day 12

Get up to catch a 6:30am bus to Mendoza. We´ll arrive at 8:30am the next day. The bus ride will take a whopping 26 hours.

Luckily for us, we´re not dealing with Greyhound here. If you take Cama or Premier VIP class (which for a 26-hour bus ride still costs less than $100 US), you get big, comfy seats that can be lowered all the way down for sleeping. You receive pillows, blankets, lunch, dinner, wine with your meals and yes, even champagne. It´s like the Madden Cruiser minus all the discarded Turducken wings.  

It´s class all the way. Well, most of the way. The entertainment is a little week. On one trip we had to deal with both Ricky Martin and Michael Bolton music videos. And on this one they played two Kevin Spacey movies, one of which was Pay it Forward. I was a ¨Life of David Gale¨ screening away from putting myself into a Gravol-induced coma. 

Day 13

Finally arrive in Mendoza. We go to yet another steak house. While sipping her wine, my mom remarks, ¨This is the best meal I´ve had in Argentina. I didn´t care for that place we went in Corrientes.¨

¨But two days ago you said that was the best meal you had so far¨ replies Scott. ¨Yeah, remember you had that steak in mushroom sauce,¨ adds Berutti. 

¨Oh yeah. That was good,¨ says my mom.

I demand to see a birth certificate. 53? I think my mom´s being about as honest as a latin ballplayer.

Day 14  

We take a tour of the surrounding mountains, but perhaps of more interest, was the hotel we stayed in.  It had 1-star. I know, pretty snazzy. Sara and I stepped it up during my mom´s stay, going as high as a 2-star palace in Buenos Aires.  So much so, that I kept picturing my mom in a Showcase Showdown on the Price is Right.  

Bob Barker (in his final appearance): ¨What do we have for her Rod?¨
Rod Roddy (exhumed corpse): ¨It´s a ´you pay all expenses´ trip to beautiful Argentina. And no need for a brand new car when you´ll be taking multiple overnight bus rides across the country. While in Mendoza, you´ll stay at the luxurious 1-star Hotel Petit in a single bed beside your free loading sons who´ll treat you to a daily barrage of sarcastic comments. How does that sound Joyce?¨
Mom: ¨I´ll pass Bob.¨
Bob Barker: ¨Joyce, you can´t pass, this is your life.¨
Mom: ¨Go neuter yourself asshole!¨ 

Day 15

We begin the day by white water rafting in Mendoza´s freezing rivers and end it with a horse ride through the mountains that scared the living shit out of mom. But like most of the activities throughout our three weeks together, my mother participated without complaint (maybe a few complaints). She was a terrific sport and a great travel partner.

I think I´ll have to add travel-enthusiast to the growing list of similarities between us. While it´s usually women who end up turning into their mothers, this list I compiled on the same day proves I´m well on my way.

Mom exits hotel and turns the wrong way (Bad sense of direction-CHECK). Mom gets mad at Scott and I for taking a questionable photo (Short temper-CHECK). Mom orders bottle of white wine to herself at dinner (Likes booze-CHECK). While standing in my room, mom breaks wind (Gassy-CHECK).

I think I´m literally writing myself out of her will as I go. I´m kidding. My mother is not gassy.

Day 16

Scott and I rappell down a 45m cliff during a two hour canyon trek. Sounds pretty impressive until you hear what Berutti did. She got wasted on a fancy wine tour because my mom kept giving away her reds, which apparently give her headaches. She even had one when she returned.

Mom: ¨I have a headache.¨
Me: ¨That´s because you're drunk.¨
Mom: ¨I´m not drunk and don´t you dare say I was in your blog.¨
Me: ¨I´m going to write that you puked in the waiter´s shoes.¨  
Mom: ¨(Boy, you´re a bloody savage with that pen.)¨

Day 17 

Scott and I attempt to go skydiving. Only he succeeds. All day we were told because of our excessive weights (100kg and 104kg respectively) that we would need a strong wind to jump.

After two other smaller people went, it was Scott´s turn. There was absolutely no wind, but he got to go. I was up next. Six hours of pure boredom at the airfield would culminate in the best adrenaline rush possible.

Scott: ¨Hey, is that the pilot leaving in his car?¨
Instructor walks out: ¨I´m sorry my friend, you´re just too heavy.¨
Me: ¨But I´m just 4 kilos heavier than him.¨
Instructor: ¨Well, you see, look at the wind, that is the real problem.¨
Me (I see that wind is actually blowing harder than when Scott went): ¨And the fact that you have no pilot.¨
Instructor: ¨Okay, there are two problems.¨

So while I didn´t get to go, at least my brother got to do his first jump. That made the day completely worth it for me. But I don´t want to cheat all of you, so here´s a look back into the travel journal vault at my first and only skydive:

Mass E-mail - New Zealand - Aug 18, 2004
The freefall was the best part. For 50 seconds I was plummetting straight towards earth. But when the chute opened, due to my extreme heftiness, the strap holding me in almost choked me to death.  I could tell the instructer, strapped to my ass in a position that was a cross between tantric and prison cell B, was also in pain. I heard him moaning and grunting (or I hope those were grunts of agony anyway). When I complained that my harness almost circumcized me, he only said in a whisper, ¨I´m not doing too well here either buddy.¨ 

I think my writing´s definitely matured over the years.

Day 18

The four of us rent bikes and ride bodega to bodega for 12kms, drinking three to five wines at every stop.

At the second vineyard, we´re greeted by a charming local who spoke impeccable English. I assumed he learned the language in the U.S., but not true he said.

"I learned by playing the computer game Leisure Suit Larry.¨

For those who don´t know what that is, here´s the Wikipedia version:

Leisure Suit Larry is the title character of a series of adult adventure games  published from the 1980s to the present. The character, whose full name is Larry Laffer, is a balding, dorky, double entendre-speaking, leisure suit-wearing (but still somewhat lovable) "loser" in his 40s who spends much of his life trying (usually unsuccessfully) to seduce attractive women.

Before the Internet delivered porn at your fingertips, men would be forced to take drastic measures to see boobs. This guy even learned a foreign language. Incredible.

Day 19

Arrived back in Buenos Aires after another 14-hour overnight bus ride. Before this trip, Scott did a bit more investigating before choosing a bus line.

Scott: ¨How many movies are you showing?¨
Attendant: ¨Three.¨
Scott: ¨How many of those movies star Kevin Spacey?¨  

Unfortunately, the bus company had the last laugh when they slapped on FlyBoys and Kevin Costner´s The Guardian, films only Katherine Brunetti could love (happy engagement by the way, he´s a lucky man).  

Day 20

Scott and I share the same taste in movies and have an almost identical sense of humour, but while I said earlier that I´m very similar to my mom, I can´t say the same about my brother. 

For example: I was laying on my hotel bed writing in my notebook, probably something like, ¨While riding our bikes winery to winery, my mom was swirving like Billy Joel¨ or ¨Even John Daly´s wife would have trouble cutting through these big Argentinian steaks¨ or something along those lines. Yes, it´s sad I have to keep notes to come up with this crap.

Meanwhile, I notice my brother furiously scribbling on a piece of paper. Curious, I ask what he´s writing. He hands me a piece of paper that might as well of had John Nash´s signature on it.
t = x/g = 3000m/9.8 m-s = sq rt of 300 = 17sec of air resistance.

--  ¨What the hell is this,¨ I ask.
--  ¨Well, I was thinking about skydiving and was wondering what velocity I fell at. But before I did that I had to figure out the air resistance.¨
--  ¨What´s this then? Does this calculation involve Newtons of force?¨
--  ¨Yes. What were you writing by the way?¨
-- (glancing at my notebook) ¨Oh nothing, nothing at all.¨

I might as well have been doodling dirty pictures...or penning a ¨Grey´s Anatomy¨ episode.

Day 21

Before going to the airport, the four of us have a farewell lunch. It´s supposed to be a light meal, but as per usual, we get double the amount of food as we anticipate and end up carrying out a huge doggy bag.  

On the way back to the hotel, we all keep our eyes peeled for a homeless person to give it to.
¨There´s one,¨ my mom says.
To his chagrin, Scott suddenly spots him as well. ¨Did that guy just finish taking a dump?¨
I quicken my pace to get to the area in question. ¨Ah, he did crap, look.¨
¨No leftovers for him,¨adds Berutti. ¨(Bad hobo, bad hobo).¨  

Memories that will certainly last a lifetime.

So, all that´s left are the goodbyes. During which, my mother predictably chokes up.

But what´s this, is that a tear in Scott´s eye as well?

I give him a hug. Scott sniffles, ¨I´m just going to miss those big Bife Chorizo´s so much.¨

¨I know buddy, I know.¨

Dominey Vacation ends

And with that, it´s back to just the two of us again. I was just getting used to having my mom and brother around. I know Berutti enjoyed it. For one, my mom took centre stage in the blog, leaving her completely unscathed (well, mostly). Especially since the video my brother took of her trying to get on a horse mysteriously disappeared.

As for my mom, I know she can take it. She´s the strongest women I know. I just hope she had as great a time as Berutti and I did.

¨Well mom, did you?¨
(sniffle, sniffle): ¨I love you two bloody savages.¨

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