Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Hello Old Friends

Welcome back!
I am planning to keep writing here as I transition from South America adventures to NYC.

Hilarious article

I had an amazing time in South America, and if my life weren't filled with so much excitement I might be lamenting the fact that I'm gone. However, I can say this is currently one of the best periods of my life and looking back on South America I have only fond memories and no regrets.

Today I bought a plane ticket for New York City leaving a week from today! I am bring two suitcases and a head full of wishful thinking and big dreams. Thankfully I have a lot of people that want to help me succeed so I believe I am as ready as I'll ever be. As Henry Gondorff said in The Sting "All it takes is a little confidence". Shameless plug/ However I am currently looking for a job and a cool roommate so the more leads the merrier. kyleclift@gmail.com /Shameless plug

Natalie's visit will go down as 3 of the best days of my life. I loved getting a chance to show her all the places that make Austin so special to me. We had such a great time together and I feel so comfortable when I am with her. Crazy to think that we met randomly in a hostel in Buenos Aires. I look forward to her recipricating and showing me around Chicago this summer.

Matt and Tiffany's wedding took place at an amazing place on Lake Travis. Too bad my party of five showed up right after the wedding ended. However we did get to crash the reception, which was definitely the best reception I think any of us have ever been to. It was great to have a final blowout with all of my best friends before I head out.

Here are some final pictures of South America and some of Austin:

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Dude, you better hurry up and finish that...

I'm probably going to get us kicked out. -Alex from New York to me last night as I was eating at Bangalore.

So 150,000+ acres of forest are on fire in Tigre, a city 20 miles from here. Last night the entire city was covered in a horrible smokey cloud and we were the only people dumb enough to try and drink outside at Plaza Serrano. A $20 peso cab ride later we learned that it was no dice. Today thank God there has been a breeze so it has cleared up considerably. Apparently Rodin's the Thinker is literally 50 feet from the hostel, so I am going to go check that out in a little while.

sap on/ It's my last week, and I probably should be feeling sad or something but instead I feel awesome. I have done so many amazing things and met so many great people that I am able to look back over the last 3+ months with no regrets and so many good memories. I now have new adventures to conquer back in the States and new places to visit the next time I return. One in particular is summitting Aconcagua, the tallest mountain oustide of the Himalayas. /sap off

I met a really cool guy at Estoril today who lives in Brooklyn and works for Deutsche Bank. He gave me a ton of great info on locations to live and how to get a job, he even gave me the info of a head-hunter he used to get his job. He must be good at his job, because I was 99% leaning towards Manhattan and am now considering living in Brooklyn. I am looking forward to the next 3 months probably as much as I looked forward to the past 3 months.

So it's back home Monday morning and back to Austin on Wednesday. Pretty surreal to think it is almost over. Balls to the wall the next 3 days. Sigue la vaca for dinner tomorrow, Boca game Saturday, petting lions and tigers at a crazy zoo, La Cabrera, yada yada yada. Best city in the world and I've got 3 days to paint the town burnt orange. I'll talk to y'all when I get back.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Bariloche, you're breaking my heart

It is raining in beautiful Bariloche, so I am heading back up to my favorite city in the world, Buenos f'n Aires. I guess I have a lot of updating to do so I will start from the beginning.

World's Deadliest Bike Ride- Man what a rush. Over 200 people died a year from their vehicles falling 400+ meters like the O'doyle family in Billy Madison until the road was closed in 2006. I along with 14 other people decided it would be a great idea to hurl myself down the road at 40mph inches from the ledge. It was more dangerous to break on the gravel than it was to just keep going, so it really was a near deadly ride. 3 people on my trip crashed, but luckily they crashed into the mountain and not the abyss.

Machu Piccu was a once in a lifetime experience. It was nice to see my dad and bro, and my brother's friend Steve. The people in my group were all super chill and I made some good friends from the trek. I highly recommend visiting if you get the chance, I've never seen anything like it. I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

I climbed a 5,830 meter (19,000+ feet) volcano in Arequipa, Peru. It was probably the hardest thing I have done in my life. My dad accidently took my camera battery charger so I don't have any pictures, but I did make it to the summit, even though I have no proof. I definitely have some good stories from the journey, mainly due to my guide's complete lack of interest in safety. After trekking for 6 hours on day one we camped and went to bed at 6pm. We woke up at 1am to begin our next days hike to reach the summit. All five of us began, and like a bad horror movie, one by one everyone dropped off until only my guide and I made it to the top. The first victim felt sick an hour into the journey and was told to return to base camp. It was pitch black outside. She never made it back to the base camp...

I'm not kidding. She wondered around the mountain for 10 hours never finding the base camp. She was puking the whole time, and she said she slept on the side of the mountain for 5 hours. I am currently laughing at the ridiculous sounding nature of this, but every word is true. Scout's honor. My guide was frantic when we returned to base camp and she wasn't there. After an hour of running around the mountain screaming her name we found her. It was definitely not her fault, as our camp was 3 tents hidden by some big rocks on a huge mountain. Trying to find that with a little flashlight at 2 in the morning is like expecting the Rangers to finish above .500 this year. The next victim, who I thought was a goner from day 1 was a 60 year old Indian (feather not dot). I made it to the base camp 3 hours before him on day one, and actually trekked down for 45 minutes to carry his bag to base camp (while my guide chilled). While trekking on day 2 we were given no flashlights, so I used my own. Cool old Indian guy (COIG for short) was lagging behind really bad on day two. It could be because HE DIDNT HAVE A FLASHLIGHT. COIG was climbing the mountain in the middle of the night blind as a bat, and I was the only one who seemed to notice or care. I felt like I was taking crazy pills. I seriously thought he was going to fall and die. It wasnt incredibly steep or anything, but come on! My guide eventually made him sit in open space and wait for us to meet up with him after we made it to the top. I was just happy he lived. The last victim almost made it but she passed out 200 meters from the top. VICTORY IS MINE! What a trip. It was awesome to look down into a crater of an active volcano and see smoke billowing out. The volcano erupted 250 years ago and Eduardo'd* Arequipa. Cool to learn a little history while staring down into the heart of the beast. No pictures though, small tear emoticon. The best part was getting down. The fastest option is to slide on your ass straight down. It was really fun and effective, I managed to decend 600 vertical meters in about 5 minutes, but I completely shredded my jeans on one of the 100's of rocks I ran over on my journey to the bottom. No worries, it was worth it. So we all survived, and I spent the next two days recovering.

I am now in Bariloche, a beautiful town on a huge lake in the Patagonia region of Argentina. I took a Hurculean (sp?) bus journey to get down here, with a quick stop over in Mendoza for some life sustaning wine drinking. It was 12 hours from Cusco to Arequipa, 7 hours from Arequipa to Arica, Chile, and 34 hours from Arica to Mendoza. Add another 18 from Mendoza to Bariloche and in less than 10 days I spent three entire days on South American buses. Balls. However air travel was not even possible, so it had to be done. Yesterday I rented a car with some badass girls from NYC and a cool guy from SanFran. It reminded me of one of those bad Coca Cola 2 minute ads you see before your movie starts of some cross country trip in a Volkswagon. We put over 600 kilometers on our Little Red Coochie (the name of our VW) driving all over the lake district. It was honestly some of the best scenery I have seen in my life. However my favorite part was the advice I got about New York. I am so stoked to move there, it has now become this fire in my belly, this unshakeable feeling in my bones telling me that I need to be there. Have to be there.

Less than two weeks until I am back home. The time has really flown by and there is so much I still want to do. I guess I'll need to make a return trip in a few years. Natalie is coming to visit in Austin, so I am wayyyyy too excited about that. Poor girl has no clue all the exciting adventures I have in store. I think on the 24th I am going to plan a little meet and greet reunion at Crown and Anchor, first pitcher of Fireman's is on me. More details to come later. I lost my toiletries bag sometime during my 72 hours of bus journies and am currently about 2 weeks into a pretty awful molester-stauche. I am definitely looking like someone that Chris Hansen would ask if I take a seat over there, and will probably rock it until the end of my trip.

picture time

''I wouldn't trade one stupid decision for another 5 years of life'' -LCD Soundsystem 'All of my Friends'

Friday, March 28, 2008

San Pedro Prison

So I have fallen behind on my updates...

But I did survive the world's deadliest road and 65 kilometer hike to see Machu Picchu, so yeah me!

San Pedro prison in La Paz was the most surreal 3 hours of my life. On my way to La Paz some Aussies on my bus were talking about things to do in LP. They recommended looking into going to San Pedro. When I arrived I asked the girl at the front desk how to visit San Pedro, so she gave me two numbers to call a man named Kenneth.

I called Kenneth, who as it turns out is a South African prisoner in jail for large amounts of drug trafficking. He arranged a tour for 6 of us from my hostel. He told me to bring 150 bolivanos and a goodie bag full of cigs, deodarant, and toys for the kids inside. Yes, there are kids inside of the prison. So we did as we were told and walked to the prison. Once arriving we walked through a metal detector that with 100% certainty was not working, and walked right past the guards. They didnt check our bag of goods or pat us down or anything. I could have brought 6 sub machine guns, a couple of stun guns, some grappling hooks and a Chipotle burrito and they wouldn't have noticed. Once inside we were rounded up into an apartment type room and given a brief overview. Another South African would be leading our tour through the prison. About the apartment, they dont have cells in the section we are in, they have different properties, which can be bought and sold Monopoly style. The rich live in what amounts to a crappy dorm room, while the poor cram into what the engine room workers on the Titanic would sleep in.

There are no guards inside the prison, the prisoners elect leaders who run the security and make sure things stay under control. There are 8 sections in the prison, the section we were in had 90 prisoner and plus or miuns 15 women and kids, overall the prison has 1100 or so prisoners. I visited the nice section, meaning many less stabbings and assorted violence. The prison as a whole averages 4 deaths amonth, some are natural and some are chalked up to ¨accidents¨. We walked through the courtyard where kids were playing soccer, visited some different apartments, and hid in the gym while our group leader sorted out some two year old beef with another guy who didn't like tourists. We visited zona roja, the area where all of the junkies elect to live. I talked to ¨Superman¨for awhile, a 49 year old Canadian who smokes 20 grams of crack a day. INSANE. When I looked around where I was inside of his room I seriously thought I was living in a dream world. I saw him and some buddies make some crack and smoke it, Jesus Mary and Joseph that was nuts. The prison is said to have the best cocaine in all of Bolivia, which would make sense seeing that 75% of the inmates are there for drug related crimes. After the tour we went back into the apartment where we originally started and were offered a chance to order a cornocopia of different products for sale. Since it was St. Patty's, I shared a bottle of whisky with some buddies from the hostel. After 3 hours I walked out wide-eyed and forever changed. I honestly can't explain what was going through my head throughout the experience, other than a lot of Torbush's.

p.s. The Machu Piccu hike was great. More on that later.

Torbush- http://www.utexasclan.com/images/wow.gif

Song of the moment- Sufjan Stevens- Chicago http://www.seeqpod.com/search/?plid=c29bfe9d21

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

I went to San Pedro prison yesterday on an unoffical tour. Most surreal experience of my life. Here is a brief synopsis on BBC News.
It cost $150 bolivianos to get in and you had to bring a goodie bag of toiletries and cigarettes. I will go in more detail on my next posting, I am still trying to wrap my mind around the whole experience.

The St. Patty's Day party at the hostel was insannnnnnnnne. Had a blast, and met some really cool people. It is supposedly the highest st. pattys day party in the world (3748 meters above sea level)

At 7am tomorrow I am waking up to bike down the worlds deadliest road. I can't wait. I get a free picture c.d. included so that is sweet. The bikes are really nice, so I feel as safe as I can.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Bolivia holla!

So the last week I have been travelling around Bolivia. I left Salta at 7am on Monday (terrible idea to leave that early) and made it to the border at around 2pm. I sat next to a

mouth-breather who decided to read every word of the paper out loud. I could not stop thinking of different murder-suicide methods throughout the 7 hour trip. Upon arriving at the border I got to deal with the long dick of Bolivian customs, as Bolivia has now placed a ridiculous amount of requirements for Americans to enter the poorest country in South America.

Tourist Visa Requirements for U.S. Citizens Enteringinto Bolivian Territory via Airports and at Border Entry Points
1. The sworn statement for visa application form

2. A passport valid for six months

3. Hotel reservation or invitation letter

4. Photocopy of roundtrip ticket or travel itinerary

5. Economic solvency

6. Payment of $100 visa issuance fee

7. International yellow fever vaccination certificate

what a pain in the ass.

So after scrambling around La Quiaca, the Argentina border town I managed to compile all but number 4. It turns out that they didn't care one iota about any of the requirements except for the $100. Nice little money grab they have running here. After entering Bolivia I ran into a British couple Hannah and George who were staying at my hostel in Salta. They helped me figure out how to get to Tupiza and filled me in on all the details of the Salt Flat tour. I stupidly left my ATM card in the machine in Villazon so I am currently down to a credit card and my dashing good looks. After taking the bumpiest road in the history of man from Villazon to Tupiza I was able to relax in a nice hotel surrounded by the Andes.

On Wednesday I began my 4 day tour of the Bolivian Salt Flats, one of the best trips of my life. Unfortunately I don't have a camera, so I am relying on the charity of fellow tour mates to hook me up with some pictures of our trip. I was in a 1985 Toyota Landcruiser with Hannah, George, two other British birds, Samuel the driver, and Archie our awesome english-speaking guide.

I guess the easiest thing to do would be give a run down of the days.

Day 1: Begin in Tupiza and drive through some impressive mountain passes. We saw routes that Butch Cassidy and Sundance used to avoid the law, and ate some llamales (tamales filled with llama meat). At night we stopped in a remote village that was over 4200 meters in elevation. I had the genius idea of rounding up about 8 of us gringos to challenge the local kids in futbol. Needless to say we lasted about 5 minutes before we were doubled over and tasting blood in the back of our throats. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life. Because the kids thoroughly destroyed us, we had to buy them 2 large sodas.

Day 2: We rose at 4:30 am to see the sun rise over the mountains. It was amazing terrain, however it was a really long day. We saw the landscape that Salvador Dali used for his background in ¨Melting Clocks¨ and also saw some cool lagoons all of which were a variety of colors. We also drove onto a volcano and got out and walked around active geysers. This was absolutely in no way safe. I mean, we were walking on 6 inch ledges with boiling water to both our left and right, and steam hissing from underneath or feet. I was glad that we escaped with all of our limbs in tact. The place we stayed was in the middle of nowhere which made for the best star gazing opportunity I have ever had. I think we were able to identify at least 3 planets and a ton of constellations. It was an incredible view, and even though I was freezing, I didn't want to go inside.

Day 3 was fun as we climbed on some huge rock formations and got some good group pictures. We had lunch by the ¨stinky lagoon¨ a pond with thousands of flamingos and a lot of domesticated llamas. At night we stayed in a hotel made completely of salt blocks. You could actually lick the walls. It was quite a unique experience.

Day 4 was my favorite as we drove to the middle of the salt flats to watch the sunrise. It was probably the best sunrise of my life. The pictures I have really do not do justice to how big the flats really are. The guide said they are the same size as Belgium (hi Talie!). We had a lot of fun taking pictures and hanging out, soaking in the last little bit of our time together. We finished the trip in Uyuni, and had a few drinks at a crazy tourist bar before we headed our seperate ways.

Last night I took an overnight train for La Paz, and arrived safely at 7 this morning. I haven't done to much today, but I needed a day to recover from the salt flat tour. Tomorrow is St. Patty's day and my hostel is having a huge blowout. Hopefully it is a lot of fun. I think on Tuesday I am going to bike down the world's most dangerous road. Wish me luck.

Salar de Uyuni (Salt Flats)

View of Tupiza from my hotel

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Some new pictures

Talie and I hanging out in Plaza San Martin, BsAs

Butting heads before we go canopying

Natalie rappeling by a waterfall

Look at that form

Delicious Malbec infused vanilla helado.

Amazing view of where we were hiking/rappeling/rafting/canopying

Our last meal together

Having a great time at a bodega in Mendoza

Amazing wine grapes

Enjoying a cold one after 3 hours of rafting.

View from the hill that we summited

Me going upside down over the lake, it was incredible.