Friday, October 27, 2006

Puerto Madryn

Whales, seals and sea-sickness...

THERE'S ONLY one real reason to come to Puerto Madryn - to visit the Peninsula Valdes, which hosts some cool wildlife. It is for that reason I have found myself at Los Choiques Hostel ('The Ostrich', I think).

My day trip starts at 8am. It's an early start for me after Buenos Aires, and I'm still digesting a weird pizza I had last night. The guys on my trip (a little mini-bus of us - oh, being a tourist!) seem pretty cool. Maria, our guide, immediately starts quizzing us on our wildlife knowledge of the Valdes Peninsula. She then finds out our names and asks us what someone else is called. Cruel. A hungover fellow from England called David struggles with Maria´s questions, although he gets his own name correct. David is one half of a couple with an American woman called Gretchen. They are good people and let me befriend them for the day, which is nice as the 12 other people in my group, including David and Gretchen, are COUPLES. I learn that David and Gretchen are in fact fishermen, or fisherpersons, who work out of Seattle. They have done some varied travelling before including an overland trip in Africa which sounds interesting.

The Peninsula Valdes is home to several different species that go there every year to breed. First up for us is some whale watching. The Southern right whale is a curious creature and does not seem to mind a boat of people moseying up to them while they try to get some breeding done. This was a pretty incredible experience. The whales come right up to the boat and we can get really close to them while they're, er, courting with each other. My pictures weren't particularly brilliant, to be honest, but it's again one of those things where pictures don't quite do the situation justice.

I was enjoying it all very much until about 20 minutes from the end of the trip. We'd been out about 45 minutes and the boat was VERY choppy. I began to feel the feeling of one who feels very sick. Initially I thought I had it under control. But I didn't. I ran to the back of the boat to release unto the sea my breakfast, which included some nice pastries. A middle-aged woman patted my arm in a sweet way. I told her I'd eaten a bad sandwich. She nodded. She understood.

After the whales we drove for a bit to see some penguins and elephant seals. The penguins really don't seem to care about people being around and just go on doing their thing, waddling around. They really are very funny when they walk around. They live on the beach this time of year and have little houses in the hard sand that they emerge from and disappear into. The elephant seals are pretty cool, although in my pictures it just looks like I've been taking photos of slugs in a sandbox. Elephant seals also move around in an amusing way , a bit like fat, drunk snakes trying to get into bed. We didn't see any Orca whales on this day but I am told that Orcas do hunt seals and pick off the babies. I remember Attenborough narrating just such a scene on Blue Planet. I mean, Free Willy was cool and everything, but Orcas are cruel creatures, in Blue Planet they were throwing a seal's carcass between them like some KIND OF GAME. No shame, those Orcas. They make me sick. I Had a nice lunch at a restaurant nearby.

It was then time to see some sea lions, who as it turns out, aren't actually related to lions at all! Again, they are high on the cute-animal-o-meter, right up there with penguins and baby polar bears. Again, they were cool, but don't really do much. All the seals we saw today were kind of sun bathing on the beach, occasionally wriggling down to the water to cool down. Why weren't they fighting for the attention of females as they were suppsed to? Never mind, still good stuff.

All in all, a good day, despite the sickness. Speaking of sickness, I am quite hungover as I write this. I met up with James again, who is in Puerto Madryn before going to El Calafate to see glaciers. We went out with an ozzie and a nice girl from Scotland. I felt ok, but I think we had super-strength caprinhas and I got back at 4am. I haven't been sick, but I feel quite unusual. I have a bus ride to El Bolson in 3 hours. It's gonna be tough, especially as I have elected for Comun, the lowest class of bus, just to try it out. When I get to El Bolson there are a number of places that are good that I might stay in for my second night onwards, but my first day I amstaying at a lodge type hostel which is only 10 pessos a night. That's one pound eighty. Practically free, so I'm not expecting luxury. We'll see.

The hostel I'm in in Puerto Madryn is small but nice. Everyone here seems to stay at the HI hostel, El Gaulicho or something, but this joint is ok. Comfy beds. And nice staff. I have befriended Claudio who is one of the guys who works here. He has taught me much about Maté and I even made dinner the other night. Crazy. Also, I am the only person here whose first language is English, which is interesting!

Right, I may add more later, but right now I need a lie down and then get some food for the bus trip. 13 hours. I don't think there will be bingo or red wine on this journey.

Oh, and here is a map of Peninsula Valdes. The sizes of the animal drawings are not accurate.

Buses in Argentina

The long, empty road...

I'D LIKE to do an entry about transport in South America. The distances here are unreal. Maybe if you come from, or have spent a lot of time in the US or Australia you'd used to it. But then I imagine there most distances of note are covered by plane. Not here. Here it's the open road, as Britain's third best songsmith Gary Barlow once sang about.

Travellers think nothing of 10, 20, even 30 hour bus journeys. Literally living on a bus for a couple of days. The longest one I've heard of is 56 hours from Rio de Janeiro to Santiago. That crosses the entire continent. Madness. Who travels on these trips? I wonder what is the longest bus journey you can do, with no stops or changes. I'm going to look into a Santiago to Los Angeles bus. I estimate it would take about 200 hours. Which sounds like insanity personified but think - that passes through over a dozen countries. That's a lot of stamps.

But back to reality, so much as I've been calling it these past few weeks. My bus to Puerto Madryn from Buenos Aires left at 7.30pm on Monday night. I got a taxi with a nice canadian guy called Rob to the bus station. I panic and begin to perspire heavily when I try to get on the wrong bus. Do I want to go to Mendoza? Not today. Where is my bus? Finally it arrives. My company is Andesmar. A group of good reputation, although James tells me they serve rubbish food. But more of that later. First a goodbye to Rob, who is going to Puerto Iguacu (where the National Park and waterfalls are). His is also a 16-18 hour journey. I estimate that within 24 hours we'll be over 2,000 km away from each other, as we are going in opposite directions. In Argentina there are 4 classes of bus transport; Executive, Cama (bed), Semi-Cama and Comun. Executive is for business men and the like. Most travellers and normal people get cama or semi-cama buses.

My bus with Andesmar is semi-cama, meaning the seat reclines most of the way in order for you to get some sleep. I've heard a lot about buses in Argentina, that they are part of the fun of travelling. I thought the buses in Brazil were pretty good, as they have a similar type of system. Well, when I get on my Andesmar semi-cama I am immediately pleased - I have the best seat on the bus. The top tier of the bus has two seats on the left of the aisle and one on the other. I have the single seat AT THE FRONT OF THE BUS. I used to be happy getting that view on the bus to school or into town. Now I have it for 16 whole hours. Excellent. Good start.

I have been suffering from a bit of a cold for a few days and am pleased to notice blankets and pillows on the seat and a passable airplane style meal is served by a man Julian calls a 'feederplayer'. He is called this as his job is not to drive or navigate or anything, but to give you food and play dvds. Speaking of dvds, our 'feederplayer' puts on Mr and Mrs. Smith. Which is technically brilliant but the emotional centre of the film between Pitt and Jolie leaves me cold, and I make a mental note to join Team Aniston as soon as possible.

I read for a time. My latest is I Flew For The Fuhrer, a diary of German WW2 fighter pilot Heinz Knoke. Interesting stuff. He shot down about 52 enemy planes. In the book, one German pilot remarks that "swearing is the laxative that purges the soul." It's an amazing line. Unfortunately the pilot dies shortly afterwards, shot down by 'Tommy', thus robbing us of any other philosophical gems.

After dinner, our feederplayer brings round some vino. Intrigued I forgo my usual travelling beverage of Coca-Cola for a glass (or cup) of lovely, ice-cold RED wine. On first taste I am shocked. But, you know, it wasn't actually too bad. Around 12ish sleep descends over me like some kind of comfy blanket - courtesy of Andesmar no doubt! I wake. I feel like I've been asleep for ages. It must be midday. I check my watch. 7.33am. Twelve hours since departure. Still a way to go. Breakfast is merely some crackers and biscuits. Dissapointed, I glare at my feederplayer, who shies away, probably from the shame of the rubbish breakfast. He then further dissapoints me by putting on a boring war film starring Clint Eastwood, who doesn't even kill anyone that I saw. Rubbish.

I open the curtains to my makeshift bedroom to admire the scenery. I am met by complete nothingness on all sides. Just wide, open grassy plains. This means one thing - we have arrived in Patagonia! When a truck goes by it is a mini event, met with waves from our driver. The view remains the same for the rest of the journey. Shortly before the end of the trip, another event famous among travellers with tales of this company - the Andesmar bingo! Everyone ticking off the numbers down that our feederplayer reads out. In Spanish. I didn't win, so I don't know the prize. More crackers, possibly. Still, I make a mental note to suggest it, when I get back, to National Express whose lack of bingo on their buses is all too apparent.

Finally, around 1.30pm we arrive into Puerto Madryn. Collect bags. Grab taxi. Arrive at hostel.

And that's a note about buses in Argentina, although I intend to try out the (possibly very uncomfortable) Comun buses soon, just to see. Also I'm sure Bolivia will involve many buses with chickens and people sleeping in aisles and such so I wouldn't like to say Andesmar are indicative of all South American buses.

Anyway. That's all about buses for now. I'd just like to make an additional note that someone left some converse trainers in a dorm room I was staying in. From the look of them I'd say they were aged between 6 and 8 months. Coincidently they were size 10. My size, fate! I've been wearing them although this brings up my footwear count to FIVE, which is probably more shoes than I've ever actually had in my life. May have to leave them. Maybe that is what has been happening to them . Maybe they have been all over the world, constantly rejected for durable Merrells. Excitement and fun versus durability and reliability. A metaphor for relationships maybe? Except I don't know anyone making this kind of decision who has three OTHER pairs of 'shoes'.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Colonia, Uruguay

Last few days in Buenos Aires and I have an idea which leads to a new stamp in the passport. Not an original idea, but an interesting one nonetheless.

OK, I WAS in Buenos Aires when thinking of things to do and it hit me - day trip to Uruguay! I had been enjoying BA very much but was tiring of staying out or up til 5, 6 or 7 in the morning (as is normal in the city). This leads to sleeping in til 1,2 or 3 afternoon. Bad pattern to be in. I wanted to have a good, constructive day. So, for $117 (pessos) I took the 'Buquebus' ferry for the 3 hour trip across the Rio de la Plata to Uruguay.

Nobody much goes to Uruguay, and it's a shame. They are friendly people and have some beautiful coastline. If I had time again I would have gone for a few days and worked my up to the capital, Montevideo, and back again. Alas, I had only a few hours in the city of Colonia, and I had to make the most of it.

My transport, the Buquebus, is a glorified floating brick (albeit a very comfortable brick). I half-suspected swimming would have been a quicker option. But no matter. By 8.30am I had been stamped out of Argentina and into Uruguay. At least I hoped it was Uruguay, I couldn't make out the stamp perfectly. It was fine though, and I really quite enjoyed relaxing back in the seats as we took off. It felt like we were flying toward the sun, lying back in those seats. Maybe this is how planet Earth will ultimately end, J. G. Ballard-style with hundreds of Buquebuses taking of towards new Colonia's in space. It would be cool. Especially if you got an interplanetary stamp.

We arrived at noon and after much confusion over what bus to get on and where to go I found myself onto the English speaking tour. Colonia has a lovely historical quarter where it's nice to take a stroll around town. I was shown the most famous street in Uruguay. Why was it so famous? I have no idea.

A pecularity of the day was bumping into Brad, a guy I met in the Pantanal in Brazil. Bizarre. He had been working his way down from Montevideo. It is always a nice surprise to see a familiar face. Sadly, I couldn't stay to talk with him for very long before being forced to go, lest my tour bus leave without me.

On the tour I met one of the coolest stereotypes so far on my travels. A bulky, friendly American shook hands with me. I was relly hoping he was called Bob or Chad. He said, "Hello, there Andrew, my name's Chuck." Even better. Chuck was from Arkansas and works with cattle. He was in his fifties at a guess and he just fancied seeing a bit more of the world I think. Cool.

Colonia is a nice place, but where we were it was a bit saturated by tourists. I must include myself in that number, I suppose. So I shouldn't complain too much!

At the end of the 3 hour ferry ride back, we arrived back into Buenos Aires at night. It's a beautiful city lit up in darkness and it felt quite special to see it. People took pictures. Maybe they knew that the photos would never come out in the dark. Maybe they didn't care.

I left Buenos Aires after 10 days. I never really took to the Milhouse Hostel. I'd been hanging out quite a bit with James and an Irish guy called Steve at Estoril Hostel and I think I'd spent more time there after I left than when I was staying there! The Milhouse was fine, I just felt more at home at Estoril. At Milhouse, you have to party, party, party at night. Sometimes it's an effort to try to meet new people every night when it's a bit noisy and everyone's going ker-azy. Also I think when a hostel has a reputation for being a 'party hostel it can attract a, er, 'special' crowd. Most of the people I met were nice, but you know when you just can't be bothered with some people? I think I' recommend Estoril to anyone staying in BA. It's nice, clean, warming, friendly staff, good location. Lot's of pluses.

Anyway, Buenos Aires was really good. restaurants, cafés, parks, football, some nice people. It is a fast, chic city, but somewhere it's easy to slow down the pace, especially on a Sunday. On Sunday I had a lovely day firsty walking around the antique market in San Telmo, one of the older barrios (neighbourhood's) in the city and walking around La Boca, seeing the famous colourful house on Caminito Street. The houses were an idea by, er, some guy at...some point in history. I'm not exactly sure. It's in my Lonely Planet but I've forgotten. Google it. It was cool, but still saturated by tourists and locals just trying to sell you things. I prefered just walking to San Telmo through La Boca. At night I imagine it's quite dangerous but on a sunny afternoon it felt fine. San Telmo and La Boca are areas of the city where the upper classes moved away from after the cholera or yellowfever outbreak in 18something (again, Google). This means that this areas still have original colonial architecture from the olden days, except it's all run down and crmbling. Still, looks cool and has loads of character.

I think I went to a couple of really good places for steaks. I think the city, and probably Argentina as a whole, deserves it's reputation as an amazing place for meat. Some people say this is because of the fertile soil of the Pampas where the cattle graze and the lack of intensive farming. But I prefere to believe the 'Happy Cow' theory, which states that a content cow ambling around grazing in plenty of space and with lots of freedom to roam makes a better steak. So basically happy cow = tasty meat. There's no scientic support to empirically validate this idea. Not yet at least. But it' s the theory I like.

So it´s goodbye to Buenos Aires, and onto Puerto Madryn to see some wildlife at Penninsula Valdes. First, of course, a 16 hour bus trip.

Monday, October 23, 2006


It´s just like Indiana Jones. Kind of.

I HAVE decided to draw a map to show where I´m at. I have included a South America map, and also a world map to get the 'Big Picture'. For extra detail, I have included a key to show different modes of transport, although I don´t know if I´ll be going on many boat trips, to be honest. Oh, and just to get some perspective, one tiny little orange line is a mammoth 20 hour bus journey.

Friday, October 20, 2006


A street mural of one of Argentina's two BIG clubs, Boca Juniors, in the run down area of La Boca. This is the team Maradonna played for and he goes to watch them frequently. Apparently he acts like a cheerleader winding up the crowd. I couldn't see if he was in his box when we went to watch Boca v Newells.

The colourful houses on Caminito Street, La Boca.

More colourful houses.

A wedding or something at a nice Buenos Aires church. Night, obviously.

Some local boho looking youths enjoying some Maté and a chinwag. Colonia, Uruguay.

Ahhh. Late afternoon at a beach in Colonia.

The area of Rio de la Plata separating Uruguay and Argentina. Zoom in for a geography lesson! But bare in mind that this is merely a tiled picture, drawn by an artist, not an educated person.

The Sunset over Uruguay. Or Argentina, I'm not sure. Anyway, it's on the Buquebus.

The living room at Estoril Hostel. That's Irish Steve on the right, with James lurking behind him.

Well, at least they're honest. An upmarket shop, near the Milhouse Hostel. Also, is it me or does the man in the car in the foreground look like a computer avatar?

A lovely fountain on Av 9 de Julio. It's near a café I had pizza in at 5.30am. Very cool. The fountain I mean. Although pizza in a café at half 5 in the morning is also cool.

The Congress building 5 minutes from my hostel on Av. de Mayo.

Centre of the Plaza de Mayo.

Catedral on Plaza de Mayo.

Casa Rosada on Plaza de Mayo. This is where Eva Peron did her famous rallying in the 1940´s. It is also the president´s building and was painted pink to try and symbolically apease the two rival fraction parties (whose names I forget) but whose colours were red and white. Making pink, you see?

Museum on Plaza de Mayo. Bet it´s got lots of lovely art in it.

Eva Peron´s family masoleum in Recoleta Cemetary. Evita is buried 7 metres down under concrete to stop people stealing her remains!

Someone else´s masoleum.

Me and Cesar, the Brazilian bear, in our dorm at Estoril hostel.

Me with Michael and Anat at Estoril.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Buenos Aires

After almost a month in Brazil I make it to Argentina.

IT TOOK A total of 9 hours including a taxi, plane, bus and taxi again, but finally I made it to the ´city of good wind`, as Buenos Aires may or may not translate to. Panic ensued at the Airport. Flight 247 from Sao Paulo to Buenos Aires contained a school hockey team, unaccompanied children, a man afraid of flying and a honeymooning couple. Every disaster movie I´d ever watched told me this meant only one thing - snakes on the plane!

Deep breath. I calmed down. Checked in. Got ON the plane. Thankfully it was completely safe. In the end I´m not even sure there were any snakes on the plane. In-flight I watched Hollywood´s Jennifer Aniston in The Break-Up, which was enjoyable, but still pretty average.

I have been staying at Hostel Estoril. It´s top rated on and I can see why. It´s clean, comfy, and has a lovely colour scheme that emphasises WARMTH. Mine is a 6-bed dorm and I have been sharing with a collection of interesting characters, including Cesar, who is a big hairy Brazilian bear who can speak only Portuguese and Spanish. Of course I can only speak Inglés, so our conversations have never risen above the rudimentary levels. He is however, incredibly friendly, and wants to talk anyway!

Another surprise on arriving at the hostel was seeing James from the Pantanal. I have said goodbye to him twice but am getting used to bumping into him. He has not ventured onto a horse since the Pantanal and seems more together and in command of things in an urban jungle.

Buenos Aires is a complete change from Brazil. Apparently this place "looks like Paris, tastes like Italy and moves with the pace of New York," if my Lonely Planet guidebook is to be believed. On the evidence of the last week I´d pretty much agree. I loved Brazil and the way nothing happened on time (if it happened at all), but Buenos Aires is a different kettle of fish. It´s clean, sophisticated, safe. People here put a lot of effort into the way they look. I fit right in.

There aren´t as many touristy things to do here. One of the biggest tourist attractions is the Recoleta cemetary. No, that´s not a joke, because it´s unlike any cemetary I have ever seen. It´s not graves but masoleums, big tombs with crazy designs and architecture. It´s fascinating...and chilling. The place is massive and looks like a city. OF THE DEAD. It even has streets and avenues, whcih I´ve just realised may also be streets. I remember thinking that the masoleums looked like little houses and inside there are spaces next to the coffins given the impression of a bedroom. Creepy. Almost as if the coffin might open any time and the occupant fresh-up ready for- actually I don´t know what I´d do if I was in their position. Anyway, it´s really interesting and I can´t help wondering what the price of real estate is in the best areas. Some tombs are just by-passed completely by visiters. Sad. I saw Evita Péron´s family masoleum, where she is buried 7 metres down. Flowers. Tributes. Tourists.

The 67m Obliesk on Av. 9 de Julio commemorating 400 years since the city was founded.

The big draw of Buenos Aires for young hipsters and scenesters is the nightlife. We went to a club called Mint on Friday. Apparently it´s where all the cool kids go, so I fitted right in. It was like stepping into the future inside. Big sunglasses and dancing I´ve never seen before. It was a pretty crazy, long night. Everything in Buenos Aires happens later. You don´t go out to dinner before 10 or 11, which I think is great but means that clubs don´t open untill 2. When we went to Mint I got back at 7am. I was the first to leave.

Went to the Japanese and botanical gardens yesterday. There are some in every city in the world I think, but they were still nice.

This city is great for meat and wine. The rumours are true. While going out is fun, I think I´d rather spend a few hours getting stuck into some quality tender steak and tasty wine. I´m on a mission to find better and better steak and wine constantly. Due to the strength of the pound (god bless you Gordon) an English gentleman abroad can expect to pay about 4 quid for a good meal and the same for a decent bottle of Malbec from Mendoza (where I hope to visit). In supermarkets you can get good wine for about 2 pounds. How amazing is that? Despite the fact that this is a rhetorical question there is, in fact, an answer. The answer is very amazing.

So I´m on a quest to find the best wine I can. I may even break the 5 pound barrier. I need to buy a shirt and jeans before I can venture into the posher restaurants.

Yeah, so life is good in Buenos Aires. We went to see the Boca Juniors play on Sunday. They won 3-1 althouth I missed the 2nd goal because I was distracted by the fact that when the crowd jumps up and down the stand shakes. It was a good game and I have bought a Boca shirt, although not changed my aliegence (no idea how to spell that) from Plymouth, who are doing very well back home.

I also have started wearing my contact lenses, making me feel loads more confident. For some time now I had an eye condition making me unable to wear my lenses but now it seems from time to time I´ll be able to put them in, go out and NOT talk to any attractive girls. Or ugly girls. What´s the point? Am I being serious or not? Even I don´t know.

Today was very interesting as I awoke from my bed to find my friend Julian standing over me. A bit surreal. He was here for a day before heading up to Bolivia. I´ve been trying to meet up with him for ages but he´s been (literally) at the end of the world. It was nice to spend the day with him today. We went to a restaurant where I had possibly the best meat I´ve had here so far. Fat, thick, juicy, succulant, arrrggggghhhhhhhh. No wine, but then it was 1pm. Then we had ice cream and I got it all over myself, which is normally something he would do. We chatted about Rio, hostels, Patagonia, buses, steak, different countries, South Africa of course, and LOTS OF THINGS ABOUT CATHERINE. We got back to the hostel and had an improvised and extensive photo shoot. The picture I´ve selected here is really quite beautiful.

Tomorrow I check out of Hostel Estoril and move one street to the Milhouse hostel. It´s famous everywhere amongst travellers in South America for being a serious place to PARTY. People have left the hostel, city and possibly even the country from PARTYING too hard there. I´m sure I ´ll fit right in. But in all seriousness, it´s an interesting change.

Just outside there has been a massive protest through the street Avenida de Mayo where I am staying. It is to do with a man who recently went missing after he was a witness against Bad People during the Argentinian Dirty War between 1976 and 1983, when 50,000 people disappeared. Some think he was attacked as a warning to other people who testified against the Bad People. But outside there are a lot of socialist mentalists just making trouble I think. Like the other day they were moving the body of former President Juan Domingo Peron to a new masoleum outside Buenos Aires and it all kicked off majorly, fights and scuffles between different trade unions or something. Now I think about it the BBC might be a better source of information than me.

On the literature front I read Richard E. Grant´s memoirs, Swallowing Grandma (which you´ll remember was described as "warm, witty and honest" in the Sunday Times) and now the plethora of choice at the book exchange library has given me 4 Blondes by the woman who gave the world Sex And The City. I intend to come back a fully fledged metrosexual or something. I´ll find time to read it. On Monday I think I´m heading down to Puerto Madryn in Patagonia, about halfway down the country. Apparently you can see whales that come up to, but do not capsize, the boat. Hopefully it´ll be okay. It´s a 18 hour trip I think, and I heard a lot about Argentinian buses being the best in South America. I´ll probably write a blog entry just about the bus.

But going to the Milhouse Hostel I´m sure I haven´t run out of history in Buenos Aires just yet...

The Casa Rosada in Plaza de Mayo, where Eva Peron did her famous rallying in 1946.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Sao Paulo

Strange days hanging around waiting to change my flights.

SAO PAULO. The biggest city I´ve ever seen. There are almost 18 million people living here. Madness. Although many of those are merely existing. I´m here before flying out to Buenos Aires. I had to change my flight as I was due to fly on the 19th October. I´ve now moved it foward. To FRIDAY THE 13TH. Yeah. It´s at 7am too. Guessing it wasn´t a hugely popular flight.

Sao Paulo isn´t a particularly attractive city so wandering about to see nice buildings and scenery is pretty pointless. And unless you´re here on a weekend (I´m not) then there isn´t a lot of nightlife to get excited about. So I´ve been seeing a lot of art. Went to the Sao Paulo Museum of Art (MASP) the other day. The MASP is quite small, but has some good impressionist offerings, you know, Manet, Van Gogh, etc. And loads of boring 1200s portraits of rich Dutchmen.

Today went to ´Bienal´, a bi-annual art exibition on from October to December - something like that, I´m not sure (a good thing about these blogs is that you can go back and change things, like in 1984. Crazy). Yeah, it was brilliant. Now I always get a bit panicky when I go to see modern art. You see some rubbish in the corner? It´s art. That step ladder by the door? Don´t touch it, it´s art. That woman just sipping her coffee? Is she an installation?? I just don´t know. She asked me what I was doing walking round her. I didn´t tell her I was searching for the artist/art description plaque. It turns out I´d just wandered into the restaurant. I bought a pastry.

The Bienal is loads of contemporary installations of artists from all over the world housed in a building designed by Niemeyer, the famous architect who designed the capital Brasilia. There´s scultures, films, photography, lots of crazy things. Although some of the artists I thought were ´artists´ rather than artists, you know what I mean? I´m not going to lie, some exhibits I found pretty confusing. A long, stationary shot of a boat on a beach? A film of a cat eating a mouse? I don´t know. There was one short ´film´from an ´artist´ of a woman banging a wall with a hammer. It apparently explored issues of feminine involvement in destruction and creation in a patriachal society. Or something. Anyway.

There was loads of really good stuff I enjoyed. Well I enjoyed all of it but some things grab you. There was a good installation (I say good but I don´t really know) of a guy called Simon Evans, an American artist from California. All his work was pictures made from text. Lot´s of ideas. Intriguing. A bit like that Radiohead album sleeve. If you know it.

There was a guy who had built a miniture of the White House and had lots of worms living in it, crawling around and looking gross (sub-text, anyone?). Lots of photography of indigenous Brazilians and stuff of Africa, really, you know, rough places where they don´t have a Subway or anything. (Mental question - what do they eat for lunch?).

There was a city made from sugar (scaled down, obviously). An artist´s impression of a future when we all live in bubbles in the sky. Cool. A computer based visual thematic interpretation of a J.G. Ballard novel. Interesting. Hundreads of photos covering walls looking at Brazilian food and culture. Appetising. A Korean installation of a women´s place in modern society based on how to be a Good Daughter, Wise Mother, etc, complete with shackles and clamps on chairs to hold their legs and hands in the right place etiquette-wise. Creepy.

There´s waaaaay more stuff but I can´t think now. It´s been a long day. Again, I´ll fill it in 1984 style later. Right now an Argentinian guy called Juan is cooking for us. I think. I´m hungry, and all I ´ve eaten today is an overpriced ham sandwich.

I´ve had enough art for the time being. Tomorrow I shall watch something stupid at the cinema. I went the other day to watch Hollywood´s Scarlett Johanssen pout and strutt about in Brian de Palma´s The Black Dahlia. Or, as it´s known here, Dahlia Negro. Or Negra. I can´t remember. Negro sounds funnier, lets go with that. Yeah, and I liked it. I´ve read on IMDB (the source of all great movie opinion!) a lot of people hated it because it wasn´t like the book, or it was too camp, or not tense, or not like it was advertised in the trailers. But these people, I think, are all wrong. That´s the only explanation.

Anyway, if I can understand any of the titles of the other films on (the only one I know is Click, which has Adam Sandler in it, so no way am I seeing that) I´ll hit the multiplex tomorrow.

And this time I won´t allow The Language Barrier to result in my popcorn being covered in BUTTER.

It´s disgusting.