Our friends and hosts Tara and Ashki were very lucky today: they managed to score two free tickets to tonight's Red Sox baseball game, here in Boston's Fenway Park! Normally, Red Sox tickets are virtually impossible to obtain unless you're a club member with a season pass — and even then, you're looking at a minimum of $200 a pop. However, they happen to be best friends with another couple, who are club members, and who do have season passes, but who realised at the last minute that they wouldn't be able to make it to tonight's game. So their friends were kind enough to donate their tickets to them. Not a bad deal at all.
You can't say you've been to Argentina (or to South America, for that matter), until you've seen some live fútbol here. Tonight, I went off with the Clan crew to fulfil this sacred Latin backpacker's duty: we visited the stadium of the famous Boca Juniors, and watched Boca kick the a$$es off of São Pablo (a Brazilian team). It was a pretty easy victory for Boca, who beat their Portugese-speaking rivals 2-1. And as for the fans, with whom we were packed in at one of the (standing-room only) spectator areas: they were absolutely wild. Even if you're not crazy about fútbol, you still gotta go and see a Boca's game — it's a sight in itself, being chucked into the middle of a crowd for whom fútbol es la vida, y la vida es fútbol.
I'm staying here in Bariloche for a full week: and from today until next Saturday, I have seven days to spend on the snow at nearby Cerro Catedral, one of the biggest ski resorts in South America. Now, as anyone who's been to a ski resort in the past 10 or 15 years should know, these days skiing is only half the fun on the mountain. The other half of snow-goers are now ditching their skis, and doing snowboarding instead. I've only ever been a skier up until now; but this week, I'm trying snowboarding for the first time. Today was an interesting day: very slow, and very sore; but fun nonetheless.
Patrick and I arrived in the teeny (yet bizarrely touristy) village of Chugchilán this afternoon, after having been to see Laguna Quilotoa. We found the lovely Cloud Forest Hostel, which we checked into straightaway. I also joined in a game of volleyball, which was being played in the village's central square — by a mixture of local boys, and fellow gringo backpackers (mainly Dutch and French people). Had great fun, although all us tourists were no match for the locals (lucky that both teams had a nice even mix).
Since today was my last complete day in Huacachina, I decided to not spend the entire day relaxing by the pool, and to make the most of it by getting in some more sandboarding. The last sandboarding day in Huacachina was wicked, and I've been itching to do some more. So I hired a board for a few hours, in the middle of the day, and went up and down the massive dune on the western side of the oasis (behind our hostel, Casa de Arena). Unlike on Wednesday, I actually managed to get down standing up — and with just a hint of style (but not too much, mind you) — rather than head-first, and flat on my stomach.
This is probably news to everyone outside of Latin America, but for the past few weeks, the Copa América soccer tournament has been going on in Caracas, Venezuela. And everywhere that I've been lately — i.e. Bolivia, Chile, and Brazil — it's been the No. 1 thing on everyone's mind, and the one-and-only thing on every television in the continent. Well, this afternoon we finally had the grand final, between Brazil and Argentina: the way it turned out was that Argentina got slaughtered, and Brazil won the game 3-0.
For a nice little spot of adventure, myself, Chris, Leila and Christina went sandboarding today, at the dunes near San Pedro de Atacama. First time I've ever tried sandboarding — or boarding of any kind, really (the girls, on the other hand, are keen snowboarders) — and despite the annoyances and the post-activity aches, it is totally kick-a$$ fun. It's definitely got me inspired to try snowboarding, sometime this year.
Chocco is a small and impoverished town, that lies about 20 mins out of Cusco (by taxi). This afternoon, my friend Wil invited me to come with him and a group of his friends from Hampy, to go to Chocco for an informal tour of the town, of the kids there, and of the volunteer work that's being done there to help them. It ended up being a fun, social, and intriguing afternoon. It also resulted in me (most likely) becoming a part of the volunteer effort that is Hampy, for at least some of the time that I have left here in Cusco.
Last Thursday was the 5th birthday of Amigos; and today was the school's birthday party extravaganza. We celebrated by going to the park this morning, and having some heated high-altitude games of fútbol (soccer) and basket (basketball). This was followed by a big, tasty lunch at a good polleria (BBQ chicken restaurant) and some really good, really chunky torta (cake). Then, the party continued at night, over more than a few alcoholic beverages, and then on the dance floor.
Yesterday I went skiing at Grouse Mountain. But today I had another day to kill. And one day of skiing isn't enough, anyway. So today I tried Vancouver's other ridiculously-close-to-the-city ski park, Cypress Mountain. As with Grouse, this place has great snow (even at the end of the season), great terrain (and more of it than Grouse), and great convenience.