Friday, April 8, 2011

Thanks friends, see you soon!

Few days I'm back and nostalgia already kicks. Unfortunately, beautiful things are always bound to end and this journey around the world does not disprove the rule.
I feel only to say thanks to all the persons met during this travel: the memories you've created in my mind will last forever. You did my trip. My dream is to see you all again soon.
Thanks to everybody who has followed my steps from this page, I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Thanks to who commented my posts keeping me company along these months (and in particular Ania, Tonio, Elettrico). Thanks for having voted me a "modern hero" (I definitely don't deserve it but sounds good!), for having supported the blog, and for having shared with me 8 months of life.
New challenges are waiting for me at the horizon, challenges much tougher than those faced during these months spent traveling. I have no clue how long will I resist before a new journey to come, but for sure, sooner or later, the road will call me again. If there is something I have understood from this trip, this is one.
Time to turn the page now.
And as usual, as I hate to say goodbye, I strongly hope to SEE YOU SOON!


"To tell, to speak, it is very difficult. It's always hard to get so close to the essence of life and then, later, to go back and feel trapped in the constraints of language - something completely inappropriate to translate into symbols the concepts and the totality of the experience lived.
A long and painful experience that allowed me to understand a fundamental truth:
at the base of everything, in every action that men do, there must always be Love."
(Renato Casarotto)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Ghemme, Italy

As I wrote on my previous posts, time to go back was come. Not because of the robbery suffered (I don’t give a shit to that ‘cause hopefully the insurance will refund me and the economic damage will be little therefore) but because ending the journey in Buenos Aires, in such way, was the only way to end it with a thrill, with meaning. And it’s better to listen to what destiny says when is trying to talk you: few weeks ago I bought an open ticket from Buenos Aires to Milan via San Paolo, then my plan changed and I thought was cool to get it directly in San Paolo, just to visit Iguazu falls and Rio de Janeiro, but anyway the flight I booked was from Buenos Aires. Moreover, I walked all La Boca also the day before the robbery with no troubles at all, I decided to get back there again at the end of my stay in Buenos Aires because of the sun and some nice shots to take. That’s it, this meant time to get back to me.
So I jumped on the first available flight off the “old world” (which still remains my favourite continent indeed) and I landed at Malpensa international airport, 40 km far from the city centre of Milan. That was the second flight took for the whole journey, just to cross the Atlantic ocean. Instead of reaching Milan, I decided to take the way of Ghemme – a small countryside town not far from the Alpes – because I wished to close the line drawn around the world here and, even if I grew up in Milan, because the time spent in Ghemme has been much more valuable (above, a picture I took of the local river; on the contrary, to see me dancing naked on mountains you gotta wait for summer, too cold at this time! ). Few days here will also help me to realize that the dream is over and it’s time to get back to reality… After 8 months of travel I need some money to earn now. I gotta get a job for a while but I will be back, hopefully soon. I realize that all of my life has been beaten out by the rhythm of travels: when I was 18 the first glorious journey ever travelling by car from Milan to North Cape and back; when I finished university hitchhiking from Alaska all the way down to Mexico; now this big loop around the world… What I’m saying is that the issue ain’t if Lonelytraveller will hit the road again or not, but just when and where.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

When the wind change his way

When I was hiking in Torres del Paine and the wind suddenly changed his way blowing my sunglasses and cap 100 meters off the cliff, I realized that was in reality just a metaphor of everyday life. Same as yesterday’s robbery. Even just one unexpected gust of wind can bring you away in few seconds all you have the dearest, all you give for granted. You never know when the wind will change his way, but one thing’s for sure, sooner or later it will, for all of us. The only thing we can do is being prepared to accept that moment, being ready to lose everything. Because you cannot fight the wind, the invisible, the fate.

"Ed è proprio quando arrivo lì che già ritornerei,
ed è sempre quando sono qui che io ripartirei,
ed è come quello che non c’è che io rimpiangerei,
quando penso che non è così il mondo che vorrei.
Non si può fare quello che si vuole,
non si può spingere solo l’acceleratore,
guarda un po’, ci si deve accontentare…
qui si puo’ solo perdere.
E alla fine non si perde neanche più."

(Vasco Rossi, Il mondo che vorrei, 2008)

The bitter End: Buenos Aires, Argentina

Statistics say that most of the mountain accidents happen on the way back from the top - not while climbing up - when the attention and the awareness of the climbers is lowered by the succesfull reach of their own goal. Maybe is exactly what's happened to me, just couple of days after declaring that the journey was over. A Canadian girl in Ushuaia told me about Buenos Aires saying "your journey's still not over, man...". She was right. I've just been assaulted and robbed by two guys with a knife in the shitty Naples-style area of La Boca. They stole me the full backpack with camera, 2 lenses, 3 memory cards (with the pics of Valdez peninsula, Mar del Plata and Buenos Aires forever lost), 1 portable hard disk with all the pictures of my journey, my glorious jacket, plus some money... Maybe was fault of mine, maybe just misfortune, but I better think it's just a sign of fate, it means that now that the "mission" is over and the journey done, there is no more reason to keep traveling: it's time to go home. Now. I've been robbed at 5 pm, under a strong sun, in an open-air square fulfilled by hundreds people, in the middle of the road... just think that 4 or 5 cars had to stop their way waiting for those guys to finish their job on me. Of course, nobody did anything, they didn't even watched disappointed or disgusted to all that scene, just ordinary life for them, just routine. Absurd. Exactly like humanity is: pure absurdity.

Let me tell you - at the end of my world journey - that there is no way out for many populations around the world, because it's not just matter of poverty, it's a cultural problem. They will never change until they change their behaviour, their lifestyle, their culture: poverty is just a consequence, just an easy excuse. Look at Germany, for instance, after 2 world wars they were completely down but few years later they're among the richest countries in the world. Nothing else but culture the reason why South America is third world while Europe is first.
By the way, the city of Buenos Aires sucks.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Tourists? Bah! (Part 3)

-Where are you from?
-I'm from England.
-Hey, look here, I'm much more English than you, I'm traveling with an umbrella! A broken one...
-Don't say that in Northern England, otherwise they could think you're gay!
-Why? Because of the umbrella?
-Yes, only fags use it...
-So what do you use when it's raining there?
-Nothing, real men get wet under the rain.
-Oh, yeah, sure. Sounds very smart, even more if considering the English weather...
-Think that yesterday it was raining here and I was completely wet when one guy with an umbrella came to me asking if I needed it... Oh, my God! I was so embarassed! I was thinking, please go away, go away!
-Yeah, you better stay far from umbrellas, they can infect you. But, hey, don't you travel with a backpack? Your luggage looks pretty big...
-It's my mom's fault! She has putted inside lots of useless stuff, lots of things, something I won't ever need... look!
-And what's that item?
-It's the web camera I've just bought to call my mom via Skype.
-How old are you?
-You rock, man. You rock...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Mar del Plata, Argentina

Few people knows that my grandpa was living in Mar del Plata. Few knows it because I met him only once, for few days, just before he died. I was around 20 years old when he shown up in front of our house, without a notice nor a call or a letter sent previously. He just rang the doorbell and said "That's me, here I am...". Few days later he then flew back to Argentina, and that's all I knew about him.
I've had relaxing times these days and time enough to think about many things as for the direction to give my travel. I realize I could keep traveling for many many more months, maybe years, but it would be just pointless at this time. I feel that here - Mar del Plata - is the most logic and meaningful place to say my journey's getting over. Few more stops, but I officially started the way back home.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Puerto Madryn, Patagonia

I'm on the way back from Tierra del Fuego and I had a stopover in Puerto Madryn, a port town settled 145 years ago by Welsh emigrants. Nowadays the town is growing very quickly as it's experiencing an economic boom which is bringing 7 new citizens per day, moving here from the main Argentinian cities to work and to find their own fortune. For me, the main reason of the visit is related to the world famous natural reserve of the Valdez peninsula, which Puerto Madryn is the only gateway. Peninsula de Valdez is a real wildlife sanctuary, with whales, sea lions, sea elephants, penguins, foxes and the majestic killer whales. I remember I saw a couple of documentaries films on it by National Geographic. Unfortunately, this time of the year just few animals populate the peninsula and, unfortunately, no discounts on the crazy prices to get there even if animals are few. Yeah, Argentina is definitely an expensive country, all the prices increased dramatically since the last year and a half... lucky me. To overcome this bad situation for my budget, the food I'm eating daily since I'm in Argentina has become more genuine, energetic and cheap, in other words extremely "basic": bread and "dulce de leche" mainly (dulce de leche is the popular Argentinian spreadable cream made by milk and tasting like caramel).
Anyway, I'm gonna leave Patagonia tonite. In all honesty, I was expecting Patagonia a little different, more wild, more scenic than what is it. The road I crossed through all Patagonia reveals its monotonous landscape: an endless desertic flat of steppe with no trees, mountains, or anything else. All the fields along the road are fenced which means they're private properties to breed the cattle, not as wild as expected. Tierra del Fuego is well different instead. Charles Darwin, Antoine de Saint-Exupery, Luis Sepulveda, Bruce Chatwin: all people who travelled here contributing to increase the myth of Patagonia itself. By the way, Patagonia still remains for me one of the main South America's highlights, together with the area included between South-West Bolivia, Atacama desert in Chile and Northern Argentina.
Bye bye penguins.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Tears in the rain

Graham Greene wrote that "once your passport is stamped, life won't ever be the same", exactly what a Frenchman in Uyuni said to me: "After a travel like the one you're into, you'll be happy to be at home and to see your friends but just for the first days. Then your thoughts will be quickly focused far away from home."
I start thinking they're both right.
Two days ago, in Ushuaia, I was walking up to a glacier into a misty fog and light rain. The silence was that kind of silence so loud to blow your mind, my steps the only listenable noise within kilometres. At the horizon, only foggy shades of trees painted grey. It reminded me Alaska, once more. I felt so happy and glad to be there that I wanted to cry. But then I realized that sooner or later the dream has to come to an end and will be time to go back. So I've thought of Milan and all the other big cities - modern watchtowers on human ignorance - and the people there, happy just to survive instead of living a real life. I've thought to those with no time to talk, to listen or even to smile, while ending to waste hours stucked in traffic jams. I've thought to all the contradictions and the hipocrisy of that society: the need of becoming richer and richer to buy brand new cars just to show the others as a proof of status (but revealing in reality only poor self confidence), the need of fashionable clothes to cover up the emptiness of the person inside, the need of a fast-growing career to feed a fast-growing ego and so on. It took 2000 years to build such a society. All those thoughts depressed me greatly. So, the only reasonable thing to do at that point was to celebrate the last few hours at the "world's end" with a bottle of red Argentinian wine and one black beer, in company of 3 Dutch girls and 1 Danish from the hostel, just before boarding on a 30 hours' bus to Puerto Madryn. I love Ushuaia and Tierra del Fuego.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego

Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, "the end of the world" as the commercial slogan defines it - a pretty colorful town setted in a bay between mountains and the oceans. It looks much closer to a Norwegian or an Alaskan city than a South America's one. I remember I was freezing under an icy rain in front of the Niagara falls, sheltering myself into an empty deserted house, when I first started thinking to reach South America overland. It seemed to me a crazy idea, almost impossible to realize, something ambitious and dangerous at the same time. Well, I had a very long long way from Usa down to here. Now it's easy to talk about it but the effort I had to put into this thing has been extreme: (many times I was close to quit, totally disappointed by how things were turning, down or simply tired. Travelling alone all across those countries with almost no knowledge of the Spanish language) has been phisically and mentally challenging. I love to say it now I succesfully did it, it's a personal victory for me. Looking back to those crazy days when I was living into the bus stations of North America, from the frozen Montreal in Quebec down to Tierra del Fuego, from New York City to Patagonia, across all the continent, through Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costarica, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru', Bolivia, Chile, Argentina... I still can't believe it. Now that the whole thing is over I look back to my steps and I feel extremely proud, with such a huge stock of incredible memories, images, people, flavours, adventures, stories to tell and to share for the rest of my life.
I feel now that the circle opened five years ago in Alaska - hitchiking from the Arctic Circle down to Mexico - has come to the end, maybe the most obvious but even the best one. All the signs are bringing me to that feeling: Ushuaia looks like an Alaskan city; when I was in Alaska was the end of summer/beginning of autumn exactly like it's now here; then it was snowy, rainy and cold, same as the weather which welcomed me while entering Ushuaia. Alaska is still well present in my mind and thoughts, the unforgettable adventures I lived there cannot be described briefly as they changed my mind and life, but that's a different story. The road finishes here, no way to go South any further from Ushuaia. Anyway, it's still not the right time to go back the so called home. My journey goes on, stay tuned.

Lead singer with audience

This picture is dedicated to all those who sing out of the choir, who live out of the patterns, who think independently and against the tide. It's dedicated to all those who pursue the truth, to those who search for the real freedom, the knowledge in his deeper meaning. Is dedicated to all those who follow their dreams with no compromises, who fight for them till the end and don't care care about the labels the other people put them on.
Is dedicated to all those "crazy" personalities able to change the world. To those people proud to die for something instead of living for nothing.

Monday, March 14, 2011

End of the road?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Tourists? Bah! (Part 2)

A group of aged Italian tourists in the middle of a tragic organized tour of Patagonia meet Lonelytraveller:

- ...and where are YOU travelling?
- No, please, don't use the plural, I'm alone. It's 7 months I'm travelling, quite a long story.
- And what about your mom??? She must be really worried for you! 7 months far from home! Isn't she???
- I don't think so.
- How is it possible she's not worried?!?!?!
- She's dead.
- Ah! That's ok! That's the reason why she's not worried! Otherwise she would have been really really worried!
- Excuse me, Madame, can I ask you a favour?
- Sure!
- Could you tell the hamster you have in your head instead of a regular brain to stop makin' noise out of your mouth?
- What... what... you mean... hey, you're just a boor arrogant guy!
- Thanks. And you're just an old ugly slut. Don't forget to feed your hamster with a bullet, please.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Puerto Natales, Chile

Imagine one mountain - a beautiful mountain - settled in the middle of a beautiful area full of lagoons, glaciers and wildlife. Then imagine to start building roads to connect all the points of this beautiful area, allowing buses, cars and everything else to land to it. Then imagine to make this area National Park, to start charging 30$ just to get into it, and imagine to see tourists flowing there as a river. Imagine that the tourists arrived are only "hikers" (average age 19 to 23) or those of the organized tours (average age 78 to 88). Imagine all these hikers queueing at the entrance of the park, all together squeezed to follow the same trail like diligent students, and imagine they do this in the middle of Patagonia, a region bigger than a European country and one of the less populated areas in the world. Imagine to promote the image of this park with very efficient territorial marketing tools, with the result that it's easier to hear speaking Hebrew more than Spanish; then imagine also, in the nearby town, to start writing signs, building hostels and tour agencies just because of the huge number of tourists from Israel. Imagine that Lonelytraveller didn't plan to go there but then he decided for a one day detour there, but imagine that he found such a shitty rainy day, with an unbelievable cold wind hard to describe and difficult to understand. Imagine that for all the reasons above (plus the fact that one gust of wind blown him away his precious sunglasses and cap...) he ran away that place angry like an ape.
Well, the mountain you have imagined is Torres del Paine, and I'm glad it's in the Chilean side of Patagonia. So, all these "tourists" will continue to come here ignoring the beauty of Italian mountains, and I will continue to enjoy the majesty of those peaks higher than 4000m in total wilderness and solitude.
The best deal for me, isn't it?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

El Chalten, Patagonia

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Bariloche, Argentina

Take Italians, mix them with Spanish and a little bit of Germans and Swiss; pour some easy going American lifestyle and put everything in a country similar in many ways to Northern Europe. That's Argentina! It's a very nice country. Because of its history, Bariloche has a true European taste, the South America I lived on the Andes seems so far million miles away. The indios didn't settle here as well, which means that their colorful clothes, lifestyle and Quechua speaking cannot be heard anymore. Bariloche is a very touristic city, as for skiing over the surrounding mountains as a gateway to Patagonia. Well, I've spent 2 days here in Bariloche, in the lake district, and it's such a relaxing place! Nature is gorgeous here. The first day I had a nice 30km mountain bike excursion along the so-called "Circuito Chico" before climbing up to the summit of a small mountain just to watch the sunset from there, while yesterday I had a very interesting day off, just drinking beer all day long from 10 am to 2 am... Well, when company is good is such a pleasure wasting time in a such way, in front of loads of genuine refreshing beers from Patagonia! Yeah!

"Now I know, accepting it almost fatalism, that my fate is to travel (...) Perhaps one day, tired of traveling around the world, I come back to live in this land of Argentina, and then, if not as a permanent dwelling, at least as a place of passage to another world view, I will visit it again and plan to live in the lakes area of the Cordillera."
(Ernesto Che Guevara, The Motorcycle Diaries, 1996)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Cordoba, Argentina

Cordoba depresses me. I arrived Sunday morning and the city was ghost town until noon. Many people suggested me to come here, because Cordoba is a great city, the 2nd biggest in Argentina, and blah blah blah. Bah! It's not the first time that happen something like this, that the place isn't above the average but everybody seems enthusiast of it... Maybe it's something wrong with me, but I guess it's only matter that once you've tasted Champagne water doesn't appeal you anymore. Many times I think back at the 2 years I lived in Rome. Rome was an incredible city: full of history, culture, tourists, fun... According to what a Frenchman met in Uyuni said "Rome is the most beautiful city in the world". I agree. Sometimes, travelling all around South America, I ask myself if is it worthy to travel for entire days just to visit newborn historical sights or nasty cities, when you can see much more interesting and rewarding historical things in just one afternoon's stroll in Rome. Living there was amazing, even if tough for many reasons. I could say that for some short moments I felt something closer to what is called happiness. Then everything quickly drowned away, but I'm glad to have lived that experience, at least to understand the meaning of the word "richness": to feel rich, to feel the need of nothing else, even with an empty pocket.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Cafayate, Argentina

Well, the point is extremely easy: I had the first "bife de chorizo" in my life and I've fallen in love with it. Just when I was thinking to have done and tried almost everything during this journey, I've found a shack near the bus terminal offering "bife de chorizo" at low prices to make me change my mind... Yeah, I still have many things to learn indeed. But you really cannot understand until you try how perfect, how delicious, how incredible, how sexually exciting, a t-bone can be in Argentina! While you chew it and it melts slowly in your mouth and explods into a tasty kaleidoscope of undescribable flavours! And the chilly glass of local white wine served with it's the perfect complement for such king's lunch. Well, I always thought deeply if it was right or not to kill animals just to eat their meat, and watching all the waste of meat people usually do without thinking a minute about animal's life made me even more doubtful. But now I know that those animals are killed for a good cause! I loved that slice of dead cow in my dish as much as I wouldn't ever have done it if he was alive... I will always remember that bloody wonderful cow. And I must admit it was also a great deal if compared with the quality offered: just a little more than 5$ for a full dish with french fries and one glass of wine, maybe the best deal I had uptill now. Well, in Bolivia I had many cheaper meals but the quality wasn't higher and the last day before leaving Bolivia - you still don't know this - something I ate made me suffer the pains of hell for one night, and the common bathroom of the hostel obviously had no current water for that occasion... But it was obvious he had to happen sooner or later, for sure. I didn't have any other stomach trouble since the first days in Russia and I was pushing myself to the very human limit, eating almost any kind of crazy food on the streets, in just-for-locals shacks, or any shitty place you can imagine. Epic was the lunch I had for 80 cents in La Paz (1 soup, 1 main dish and 1 drink), the 1$ meal I had in a Chinese restaurant in Cuzco, or the 30 cents dish of meat to eat with no forks (aka with the hands only) had in Puno. Ok, after eating in those places at such prices, the only next step available would have been a meal directly into the sewers, I thought.
Anyway, the news of the day is that I'm still alive after having travelled along one of the most scenic routes in Argentina and, maybe, the whole South America. Because of that route I reserved a ticket for the front seat on the upper deck of the bus: was the first time I ever had that place. Everything was fine until that stupid driver hitted with the upper deck of the bus a tree branch, exactly in front of my head... I've seen a tree hitting my head. The glass shattered, some splinters explodes on me but, for my luck, the glass didn't fall out, otherwise I would have been in serious serious troubles. Fuck off bloody fate, is that all you can do??? Ah!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Tourists? Bah!

-Where did you travel before?
-Well, let's say something like around the world... it's almost 7 months I'm on the road.
-What? Alone? You've been really lucky that nothing bad happened to you! You could have been killed, you could have been slaughtered!
-Maybe the vampires out there don't like the taste of my flesh...
-But how... how could it possible you did it???
-If you want, you can.
-Mmmmmh... are you son of a rich?
-Maybe. What about you, are you son of a bitch?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Tilcara, Argentina

As soon as I crossed the border to Argentina and I've seen all those Fiat cars running, one guy with the slogan "Napoli siamo noi" printed on the t-shirt and another one wearing the Juventus jersey, I realized that Italy is not too far from me now, that my journey is not too far to the end. It's two days I'm in Tilcara, a small town in Northwestern Argentina, in the Jujuy region, in the middle of the Quebrada de Humahuaca - a world heritage site famous for the vivid shining colours of its mountains. I came here upon suggestions of an Argentinian couple met in Quito who strongly suggested me to see it, so here I am! I've visited many small interesting Quechua-speaking mountain towns during these days: Purmamarca, Humahuaca, San Salvador de Jujuy and Iruya, an incredible isolated tiny town at 4000 metres high, reached only by a gravel unapproachable road. Was definitely worthy to be seen. The only shame there was a bonehead guy into the ticket office who made me miss the bus because he had no change! Yeah, you understood well! I missed my bus because he didn't sell me the ticket because he had no change for my money! What the hell??? By the way, the geographical area included within the boundaries of Southwestern Bolivia, Northern Chile and Northwestern Argentina is really stunning, I didn't expect so much: higher mountains, geysers, salt flats, unbelievable colours, there's all. Here the landscape is similar to Arizona and Nevada, it looks really close to those US states, except by the fact that there are no tourists at all here! Well, to be honest is not spectacular and deep like the Grand Canyon, the Bryce National Park or the Death Valley, but for sure it's similar as well as amazing. The morphology must have been the same as the colours, the rock formations and the cliff shapes are identical.
Anyway, after some weeks spent on the Andes in 5 different countries, tomorrow I'm gonna leave this mountain range. Now I can say with no doubt that the Andes are higher, wilder and bigger than the Alpes, but the Alpes are definitely much much much more beautiful. Word of Lonelytraveller, Amen.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

Third desert I'm facing during this journey: after Gobi desert and Nevada desert, it's time for Atacama desert in Chile - the driest desert in the world. Two days I'm here and I must admit I had stunning times. Unbelievable has been the first day while crossing the border and passing from the snowy freezing cold of the Bolivian mountains down to the hot desertic sun of Atacama in just 1 hour's bus ride - 45 kilometres only! The feeling I had was the same one I felt passing from China to South Korea: two countries geographically closed but distant many years in reality. Back to civilization, I thought! Even Chilean people is truly different from Bolivians. All the persons from Chile I've met on this journey are really nice and friendly - truly good people - while the Bolivians (but it's better saying the indigenous poupulation of the Andes) are friendly and nice like an early morning kick in the balls... San Pedro de Atacama is a small "tourist resort" in the middle of the Atacama desert, settled at the altitude of 2800m. It's like an oasis for tourists, a Chilean version of Las Vegas without all those stupid casinos and entertainments for adults that the City of Sin has. I like it, even if prices are overcharged and you can see only tourists walking the road. But the nature is really stunning, many interesting sites to visit that I reached renting a bike for both two days: the Moon Valley, the Death Valley, the Pukara, the "Salar de Atacama" which is the third largest salt flat in the world... I loved to cycle into the loud silence of the desert with the warm sun taking care of my skin. One bicycle and one desert, that's all I need to be happy like a kid.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Uyuni, Bolivia

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Tupiza, Bolivia

I spent one day in the cozy town of Tupiza and I had the feeling to be back in United States. The landscape is really similar to the American one, with red rocks and mountains which remind me suggestive states like Arizona, Nevada or Colorado. Maybe that's the reason why the two famous thieves Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid moved here to end their "careers", as Butch Cassidy was killed here in Tupiza. Nowadays, Tupiza is a nice place to spend one day or two, for enjoying slowly the beautiful nature on a bike or an horse. And, yes, after more than two weeks I've finally seen again the rays of the sun! Then I moved to the small town of Uyuni by bus, the roadtrip to Uyuni has been the real highlight of the day and totally justified the detour I had from Potosi to Tupiza: almost 7 hours on a narrow gravel road up on incredible colorful mountains and gorgeus sceneries, for 4 euros only then! I was dreaming how beautiful should be to ride it on a bicycle, but honestly was unbelievable also from a giant bus on those small tracks...
Tomorrow I leave for a 3 days tour to the Salar de Uyuni, the biggest salt flat in the world.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Journey to hell: Potosi, Bolivia

Today I've had one of the most memorable, valuable and interesting experience of all my journey. I'm in Potosi, in Southern Bolivia, the highest city in the world at 4070m, a city that lives today's present on the same mining "industry" which gave it a glorious past (in the early 17th century Potosi was the most populated city in the world with 160,000 citizens). There are more than 450 mines around the city and the conditions the mineworkers are subject are among the most subhuman in the world. As I hopefully will be never a mineworker, I thought it would have been a remarkable experience to have a tour into those mines to understand better what it means working in such places. Well, Dante has probably took the inspiration from a Bolivian mine to write his Divine Comedy: that's the hell on Earth, for sure. Let start saying that into those mines are employed about 20,000 workers, a couple of thousand of which are between the age of 12 and 16. Bolivian law forbid underaged workers but there are no controls, so nobody cares about their rights. The life expectancy for the adult workers is 42 years old, which dramatically decrease to 28-30 for people who starts working at younger age. They work 8 hours a day, 6 days a week, 50 metres below the ground at a temperature close to 40 degrees celsius. Moreover, outside the weather is awfully cold and in wintertime it can be minus 20 degrees. As this wouldn't be enough, the houses have no heating system and hot water is a real luxury... The average salary? 200 US dollars per month. To survive (just for few years) to this impossible conditions, they chew coca leaves all day long, starting early morning, and they drink pure alcohol at 96%.
Having a tour into one of those mines just for few hours has been eyes-opening for me. Once more, it was the closer thing to hell I've ever seen. Walking (but it's better say crawling) those narrow dark labyrinth of tunnels, with mineral's dust making the air unbreathable and the hot climate making you sweat for each single step, into the mud, along arsenic-covered rocks, potentially dangerous gas and an endless effort required, made me definitely understand I'm a very lucky one. I cannot ignore that.Before leaving, the guide (which is working as a miner as well) told us not to forget to have children, as it's the only important thing in the world. His life expectancy gives him no hope: just few more years left, if he's lucky.
For sure, I'm gonna leave this place with less energies but a little bit more of consciousness and wisdom.

PS: The picture above shows you all the consciousness and wisdom I was talking about... Just a stupid tourist who plays with dynamite!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Dead Calm...

When I was on the catamaran to Colombia, in the middle of the open sea, for a couple of times I've thought at the movie "Dead Calm" (Ore 10: Calma piatta, 1989). I was thinking what the hell I gonna do, in a such place, if someone goes crazy? That was the kind of thoughts everybody does, but everybody knows it's just a stupid thought resulting of the too many movies we have watched in our lives. Well, sometimes imagination is closer to reality than what you ever may think. Especially when me is involved.
The captain wasn't the friendliest person on Earth, but I must admit he has been almost always kind with me. He taught me the first steps how to swim, he gave me as a present an (half) bottle of rhum before leaving, and he asked me if I wanted to help him on the boat for the next month. What if I said him "yes"? What if I decided for living that experience in the Caribbean Sea?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

La Paz, Bolivia

It's a long time I'm dreaming about traveling in Bolivia. Now I get it and I'm quite disappointed. I'm in La Paz, whose full name is Nuestra Señora de La Paz, and is the highest capitol of the world setted at 3600 mt on sea level. The urban sprawl is huge and even if the mountains surrounding the city can be charming for some views, many neighborhoods are scary as the poverty rate is really high and crime out of control. The main thing that shocked me is watching to all those working kids on the streets, on the buses, everywhere: they sell ropes, clone cds, coca leaves or they shine shoes. Underaged work isn't allowed, but authorities are probably unable to do anything when poverty bring population to this point. Ok, Bolivia is the poorest country in South America, but I didn't expect so much, honestly. I mean, if I hadn't travelled all those previous third world countries maybe I would be scared now to walk down the streets of La Paz, as some areas look more like dangerous favelas. More news soon to come.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Sad news from Panama

God, that`s too bad and it`s not a joke as I was thinking at a first glance.
Jean Pierre Bouhard, the French captain of the boat I took from Panama to Colombia, has been found murdered last Saturday, thrown into the ocean with the body tied up with chains and an anchor.
Javier, the Spanish guy who asked us 60 dollars each at the hostel the day before sailing (and the same one who Jean Pierre reported as a scam on us), he`s supposed to be involved in the crime.
At the moment, Don North - the owner of the catamaran Levante - and the boat itself are missing.
You can read the full articles here:

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Lake Titicaca, Perù

At a first glance Puno scared me, then it was fine, and at the end I loved to walk its suburb... Puno is settled on the Peruvian shores of the Titicaca lake - the highest navigable lake in the world - at an altitude of 3600m. At night it's awfully cold here. The city is in huge partytime because of the Candlemass holiday: people is playing and dancing and making shows in each corner of the city, almost all night long. It's really interesting to see how happy and full of life they are despite of the tough weather conditions (think here is summertime now, I don't even wanna think how awfully cold it should be in winter).
As the weather was cloudy but not rainy, today I've been to visit the amazing floating island settled in the Titicaca. The floating islands are an archipelago of about 50 small islands created by Uros indios by using a layer of ground and multiple layers of plants, which allow the island to float for about 10 years if well preserved. Imagine these guys, wasn't too much isolated for them to live on the Andes at 3600m, they wanted to move living in the middle of the lake! Well, the reality is that they started building these floating islands to escape from the Spanish conquistadores in Pizarro's era, then it become tradition living there.
Anyway, as usual, with the first cold winds and bad weather, my throat start to be sore. As I'm running out of the cheap medicines got in China, I went to a local pharmacy to try to get some Amoxicillina. I'm saying "trying" because all over the world is sold only under medical prescription. Well, for the guy into the pharmacy there was no problem at all to sell it for few "soles". I only wonder what else he sells with no prescription... Mmmmmh, maybe is this the business I was looking for? eheheh

Monday, February 7, 2011

Arequipa, Perù

I'm back to Arequipa from a 2 days trip to Canyon del Colca, which is the deepest canyon in America (more than the Grand Canyon) and the 3rd in the world. Rolling mountains up to 4900m, lamas, alpacas, vigognas, cheap traditional food among locals: I loved it. The weather was unpleasant (like everyday here, regular weather till noon then rain) but the scenery was definitely worthy the effort. I'm talking about effort because sleeping at 3600m with no heater, when rains turning slowly into snow it's not properly a joke... But I don't regret at all, I've been lucky and happy to be there 'cause I've also seen the Andean condor in action, a bird close to extinction, with more than 3 metres' wings and around 12 kilos' weight, which make the Andean condor the heavier flying bastard among the animals. Cool, uh?
Anyway, you gotta know it's pretty funny for me to keep record of the all strange mutations my name has when printed on a bus ticket here in South America: Mateo Doncelli, Matted Donceli, Mattheo Donicelli... Well, today I've got the brand new "Mateo Gonzales" which is my all time favourite. Mmmmh, maybe this is also a sign of fate... Maybe it means that from tomorrow I gotta change my life into a new me, into a new relaxed one, into a Mateo Gonzales? Maybe, why not.
Tomorrow it's my birthday. Will be exactly 6 months I'm on the road. Many memories, places, cities, adventures lived, persons come and gone. The time of my life? I'm celebrating it moving to Puno, on the gentle shores of lake Titicaca.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Machu Picchu, Perù

So now you're expecting from me to write how beautiful, unbelievable and amazing Machu Picchu is... No! I won't write it! I was tempted to write that it's just a stupid bunch of rocks on a stupid hill, but it shouldn't be fair nor true. I'm angry because, yeah, Machu Picchu is nice, and if you're an history junkie it can be awesome, but the problem is that the area is a tourist playground with hords of freaks coming from all over the globe to see the astonishing "lost city". First of all, I'm in Cuzco since 3 days and they charge you even for the air to breath, tourists are treated as cashcows. They can do that, because the average tourist in Machu Picchu is the sort of freaky gringo - the rasta peaceandlove one going up there to feel the energies-of-the-universe and stuff like that - the one who climbs the Wayna Picchu mountain with radio turned on, the one who has previously seen only one mount in his life: his mom's mons pubis... Endless queues at 5am, crying babies, loud people, you don't miss anything up there. Second, everything is awfully expensive, too much. I mean, paying 70 bucks for a 1 hour and half return train ticket to reach it (the Inca trail is closed this time of the year), 55$ as entrance fee, and 8 more dollars if you want the bus to bring you directly in front of the archeological site, sounds to me like an insult to all the poor people I've seen on the streets, those selling rope to earn few cents just to survive... In a country where the average salary income is about 200$ per month, it's crazy paying all those money (money which obviously goes in the pockets of the rich politicians in Lima, not to the population). By the way, the view is pretty cool, but it's definitely overshadowed by the crazyness of mass tourism. My suggestion is: come to Peru', visit Peru', skip Machu Picchu... Let's stop the mass tourism madness! Let's give the Inca's lost city his lost dignity's back! And if you're thinking now, yeah, he's talking about avoiding Machu Picchu but he went to visit it, I reply you that it was a mistake driven by that fuckin' Lonely Planet guidebook... Macchu Picchu is considered in that book as the very souuthern America's highlight and I followed those advices, I was slave of Lonely Planet advices, all the travellers are slave of Lonely Planet advices! All the people I met was following the same route suggested by that stupid book: there is no more creativity in traveling, travels are not anymore a personal decision and way to grow, an exciting way to explore the world and living new adventures. No, it's just a matter of following the path shown by Lonely Planet's authors. Lonely Planet is the teacher who says to all his students where to go and what to do...
Well, it's since a long I'm not student anymore and I've always been the only teacher of myself. So I've thrown that supid guidebook away and I've got my freedom back. Now I'm gonna travel only by the advices of the people I meet on my way.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Lima, Perù

Lima, more than 8 millions of population, an high crime rate, and lots of poor people. It's not a nice city, I spent there one day and was enough to see what Lima has to offer. But you know what, it's charming to me. Lima has a huge urban sprawl, with a true middle-eastern taste, dusty gravel roads and mountains surrounding the city. I climbed to the top of Cerro San Cristobal, to see the skyline of the city as well as the poorest neighbouroods: I found them charming, I don't know why. Should be great to walk around those areas catching pics of he people, talking with them and listen to all the stories they have to tell. Yeah, should be great, but it's not time for me to be killed just for few pics and stories, the view from above is enough for now. By the way, on the road heading to the top there was the writing you see in the picture on the left side (which literrally means, Pantani lives on). Pantani was my favourite cyclist ever, when he was attacking the steep uphills of Alpes was such a fun I never had anymore watching a cycling competition, I don't care if he was doped or not, was a great show and a great athlete, that's all. His story impressed me a lot: during his career he has always been extremely unlucky, many accidents avoided him to win as much as expected, and when he won the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France the same year, he was treated in Italy like a living God, everybody was talking about the phenomenal Pantani, the newspapers were writing daily how great he was. Then, the year later he has been disqualified from Giro d'Italia when he was first: nobody talked anymore about him, people started insulting him and saying that all the competitions he won was just because of EPO and the other drugs used. From that point he started his endless way down. The epilogue was dramatic: he was found dead for cocaine and benzodiazepines overdose, alone, in an awful hotel near Rimini, the Saint Valentine's day at the age of 34.
I loved to read that in Peru', a country so far away from Italy, someone still remember him.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Huaraz, Perù

It's the second day I'm in Huaraz, on the Peruvian Andes, and it's the second day of rain. Unfortunately this time of the year is rainy season in the Andes and I better lose the hope for the sun in the very next few days... Huaraz is settled at 3100 metres high, it's close to the Cordillera Blanca and Negra and it's supposed to offer unbelievable views and hiking trails over the surroundings 700 glaciers, the 230 mountain lagoons, or the peaks over 6000 metres. Maybe when the weather is clear it's true, not now for sure. Today I joined a tour to see a glacier at 5000 metres high: I've been surprised by myself 'cause when I was there at such altitude I was hiking quick like on sea level, no headache or breathing troubles at all, I've been the first one to reach the glacier and back without suffering too many efforts. I don't think it's only due to the tea with coca leaves I had before starting... I'm at my turning point: my body is going to be fit again, I'm not 90 kilos anymore like when I started this journey - I guess about 20 kilos less now - and my endurance skills are definitely the one I've always had.
Yes, I'm back.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Trujillo, Perù

Arriving in Trujillo,Peru, is definitely a step back from all the other countries visited recently. Entering the city early morning into seems to be arrived in Africa, or Guatemala at least, because of the dusty gravel roads and all the houses low and adobe (which means built with mud bricks...). Locals suggested me to keep the eyes wide open as Trujillo is considered an extremely tough city. I'll do my best. Meanwhile I go visiting some ruins spreaded near the town, then I have a night bus to Huaraz, on the Andes.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Cuenca, Ecuador

I'm spending more time than what planned here in Ecuador, but I like it. From Quito I moved to Puyo, a small city in the Eastern side of the country where the Amazonic jungle begins. The only things you can do in Puyo is visiting a small rainforest park, a monkey recovering centre or searching for a shaman to get ayahuaska. As getting ayahuaska needs a 5-day preparation, and I don't have that time to waste, I've chosen for the first two things then I moved away. 10 hours by nightbus later I arrived in Cuenca, considered by many the Ecuador's colonial jewel... First of all, it's unbelievable how many people overestimate the beauty of a place just because they're in holiday mood; so many persons told me that this city is great, something unbelievable, something not to miss at all. Well, I wonder if this people have ever been to Europe (I should say Italy, but I wanna be politically correct), because every stupid city in Europe can be charming as much as Cuenca, or even more. Anyway, for me Cuenca is ok, but nothing more. After all the countries I crossed and the amazing things I've seen, I'm definitely getting hard to please... Personally, I enjoyed much more going to the surrounding indio village of Guacelo (and, of course, enjoying their public markets with all those delicious food which markets always have to offer...) or visiting Ingapirca, the most important Inca site in Ecuador.
Tomorrow I move to the village of Sagaturo, then Peru'.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Quito, Ecuador

Quito, the capital of Ecuador, a city that lies at 2800 mt on the Andes and just few kilometres from the equator line. In a way, this city reminds me Naples, with no sea of course, as it's surrounded by mountains and the colorful houses have a true colonial Mediterranean taste. The colonial centre is pretty and the weather is pleasant, many beautiful churches and really really cheap prices. In the picture, it's me crossing the equator line: one leg in the Northern emisphere, one in the Southern one. The monument was built whereas the French geodesic expedition found the equator in 18th century, but the real equator line (as displayed by GPS) lies about 500 metres from that point. I've been there as well and the demonstration had was stunning: when the water was flushed from a washbasin on the equator line the water was falling straight, just one metre left to the equator, in the Southern emisphere, the water was flushing clockwise, and just one metre right to the equator the water was flushing anticlockwise with an very higher strenght, because of the higher magnetism of the Northern emisphere. Another curiosity: do you know why among all the countries crossed by the equator, it was chosen Ecuador to find it? Easy, because Ecuador is the highest one!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Otavalo, Ecuador

After last days' overdose of beaches, sea and sun, I'm finally back to my beloved mountains: I'm in Otavalo, Ecuador, on the Andes! Only the name - Andes - sounds soooooo exciting to me, as it's one of the 2 words which rebound in my mind since years (the other one is Himalaya) and now I'm here, among colorful indios and peaks over 4000 mt! The way to Ecuador has been pretty scary as I've got a night bus from Colombia and the mountain roads has been approached by the driver too fast for my taste: I mean, 90 km/h on a small mountain road with no guardrails and hundred metres precipice on the left side sounds to me too fast for a giant bus... I didn't sleep too much there, too busy in prayers! eheheh Here in Ecuador prices are finally more affordable than Colombia (in Colombia everything was very expensive and transportation was maybe even more than Europe!), so I've got a private tiny room for 7 dollars with bathroom and - music please! - hot water! It was in Mexico the last hot shower I had... after all this time I was almost forgetting how great hot water is!
People is very friendly here, everybody saying hello, everybody smiling. It makes me think about Milano, where people is afflicted by a superiority complex: they think to be the best in the world because rich and stylish, however, social relations are extremely poor, everybody's suspicious, smiles a species extincted. Here they don't drive Porsche but, hey!, who's the real rich one?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Valle de Cocora, Colombia

Everybody told me how cool Medellin is, I spent half a day there and for me was enough. Maybe because as soon as I arrived the city greeted me with a demonstration of the mothers of desaparecidos, or maybe because of the Botero park full of aged prostitutes fatter than the statues of Botero itself, or maybe because of all the police which was stopping me to suggest me to hide the camera as it wasn't safe to walk there alone, or maybe because of all the transexuals waiting for partners out of each hotel... Well, the only decent thing I've seen in Medellin was the viewpoint over the city from the top of Cerro Nutibara, that's all. So I moved to the "zona caffettera" of Colombia, a countryside area famous for the production of coffee (and coca as well). I reached the lush and green Valle de Cocora for a one day hike over the mountains, among giant wax palms and free colorful hummingbirds, which was really interesting. Then I moved to Salento, a small colorful village in the middle of zona caffettera: the funny story of the day is that when I had a walk to the top of the hill for the viewpoint over the city, I've seen a path through the woods I decided to follow, but after few meters appeared in front of me a paramilitary guy with gun and all the rest, saying me that I wasn't allowed to walk that way... I wonder what he was protecting! Coffee plantations maybe?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Cartagena de Indias, Colombia

After two hours by boat from Capurgana' to Turbo, one day on a bus to Monteria, one transfer to a different bus after crossing by walk a collapsed bridge, one night spent at the bus station of Monteria waiting for the 4am connection service, and eight more hours on the bus, I finally arrived in Cartagena de Indias, considered as one of the fines colonial towns in America. The old city is nice but, in all honesty, there are too many tourists which make me feel the city like a fake entertainment park for gringos in search of cheap emotions. Cocaine sellers are everywhere, everybody has "blanca" in their pockets and weed as well. It seems to me that the main exported product of Colombia worldwide is considered by many people a real must-to-do and not a dangerous drug; a pride for the whole nation and not a shame like it is. Think only that pushers are not afraid to sell their "goods" even in front of a van filled by policemen, think that many t-shirts on sale have printed the face of Pablo Escobar - the infamous powerful drug lord who ruled the country until mid '90s - and even think that most of the tourists here are those kind of "tourists" in search of nothing else but the illusions given by a chemical "fiesta".
Many things to think about... so let's think, let's think.