In joyful strains then let us sing,
"Advance Australia fair!"
Jan 26th — Happy Australia Day, folks!
We may not know all the words to our national anthem (and some even deny the existence of a second verse). We may have less respect for our politicians than for a skunk in rehab. But there's one grand tradition for which us Aussies do hold national pride: we know how to put on a good BBQ! So, to celebrate this momentous day — when, 220 years ago, an English dude landed on our beloved soil, whacked a Union Jack into the ground, and promptly impaled several tribes' worth of Aborigines upon it — the Aussies of Ko Tao pulled out the grill and sizzled up some sossies. The fine folks at Chopper's (the one-and-only Aussie bar on the island) offered a free BBQ for 2 hours this evening: all you had to do was purchase a beer, and a generous plate-full of meat 'n' salad was on the house. Aus-tra-li-a, F$#% YEAH!!
When we returned from our Dos Rios hike this evening, the Italian guys invited us back to their guesthouse, for some drinks and a barbeque. Well, as with today's hike, the get-together turned out to be as late as it was chaotic: but in the end, it happened, and it was a great night out. All six of us from the hike showed up, as well as my mate Tom, and Larissa (who was feeling better by the evening), and a few other random friends of the group.
I told myself that after Argentina, I was done with massive all-you-can-eat barbeque dinners. Well, so much for that — tonight's sizzling grill at Aquario was simply too good to resist. Juicy cuts of steak, phat chorizo sausages, and blackened local fish was just the beginning — we also had a line-up of every accompaniment you could ever ask for, and more. My final bottle of Argentinean Malbec red wine went down great with the BA girls. And the free caipirinha went down great with me.
This evening at the Hostel Inn, I stuffed myself silly on the delicious all-you-can-eat BBQ dinner, I slurped away on the giant bucket of serve-yourself capirinha (after all, this is almost Brazil here), plus I enjoyed the great Tango show that they put on after the meal. Since I booked a tour to the falls for 9am tomorrow, that should have been all I did for the night. But I was silly enough to convince myself that I was being told the truth, when an Irish guy suggested that we go into town for "a few quick drinks". Hah: Irish — drinks — "a few" — "quick" — who was I kidding?! Anyway, I can't say it wasn't fun, staying out at the pubs of Puerto Iguazú until 4am; but as for tomorrow morning — that was Not Very Fun At All™.
It seems that wherever I go on this continent, I simply cannot get rid of the guy. When I walked into The Clan this morning, who should I meet yet again, but my old travel buddy Chris! Nah, actually I was really happy to see him — it's been a while since we parted, back in Lima, and plenty has happened in between. Chris will be in town for a few days, before he heads off to explore various other places in Argentina. Today was also a day of reunion with Oly, who I last saw not that long ago in Quito, and who's going to be down here in BA for the next few months, trying to get some freelance web design work. Plus, I bumped into various other people that I haven't seen for a while — such as one guy that I met back in La Paz, and another that I met in Cusco. Seems like all the '07 PEB veterans have come down to Argentina — time for a big reunion party!
Had an unexpected but most welcome surprise tonight: the staff at Hostal de Sammy decided to throw a free BBQ for us! Great first night in Santiago: lovely home-cooked dinner of steak, salad, and chips; and an esky (or, as the kiwis working there called it, a "chilly-bin" — sorry Honour! :P) full of cold beers. The barbeque took place out on the back patio of Sammy's, where the guests and staff alike were able to sit and shmooze, in the pleasant (although slightly chilly) atmosphere of the Santiago evening.
Had the Casa de Arena all-you-can-eat chook-and-salad plus all-you-can-drink Pisco Sour / Cuba Libre deal tonight, for the second night in a row. It's a pretty good deal: great food, lots of it, plenty to drink, great crowd, and a low price tag. But there's only so much of that you can handle. Feeling really full-up right now, and I have a feeling that I'll stay full for a while. Might need to take a break from the barbeque tomorrow night, and find a regular just-whats-on-the-plate kind of restaurant.
Like most of the places to stay in the oasis of Huacachina, Casa de Arena is a very chilled-out resort-slash-hostel affair, with a nice swimming pool (a bit cold this time of year), a poolside bar, and a buffet BBQ every night (not only with all-you-can-eat chicken and salad, but also all-you-can-drink Pisco Sours and Cuba Libres!). Pretty good value, too — as evidenced by the abundance of (stoned) Israelis that stay there. Not sure when I'm going to leave this place, but it ain't anytime soon. :P
Maria (known as "Meli") is a lady who lived in Sydney for quite a number of years, and who worked (as a nurse) taking care of my mother's partner's father a few years back. She's now returned to her home of Arica, Chile, where she's living with a crazy Pommy ex-pat called Phillip, and his family, and where she's retired. Today, I dragged Chris along for a Sunday lunch with these people, and we had a great day of eating, chatting, and hanging out.