Sunday, 23 May 2010

Moises Ville, A Family Detour

Looking at the map of Argentina, checking were I am. According to the time schedule of the bus, and the rough turn to the left, its 10 more minutes to my grandmother´s town Moises Ville.
Staring outside the windows, sure to find some sort of clue to what was here 70 years ago, but its night time, and dark outside, I can´t see anything but bike riders ridding on the road.
Stepping of the bus, already smiled from seeing the known name of ´Habaron Hirsch´ on a street sign, I knew I was in the right place, and not because I saw any better, but just because my heart started pounding inside my chest, and tears started emerging. Just before the first teardrop, I managed to ask a nice local girl if she knew where ´25 de Mayo´ street is (the address of Bebe, cousin of my grandmother, still living in Moises Ville).
Walking towards Bebe´s house, emotions flying all over, I saw ´Banco Comercial Israelita´ my second sign of the past.
Found the house. After knocking and ringing the bell, twice.. behind me appears a dark figure, answering to the wanted name.
Not thinking about anything but ´Finaly, I´m home.´ all that came up to mind, was to give Bebe a big hug. After seeing his surprised face, I didn´t do it again.
Bebe left me alone in the house (offered me Asado with his friends, but my head was full of thoughts, and my stomach wasn´t hungry). I asked politely to use his computer, and rushed to write a message back home.
The next morning, it took time before I believed where I was. Bebe did not let me do anything around the house. Made me coffee, we ate breakfast, and went out for a tour a round the town.
The sun was shining, showing me the beautiful people nodding their heads for a local ´hola´, to me or Bebe, or maybe the both of us. some stopping to ask who´s the new face. Not rude of course, in a small town like Moises Ville (1,500 per.), you would expect everybody to know each other. Some of the greeters where Hebrew speakers, and were thrilled to practice their Hebrew with me.
The first stop was Escuela Fiscal, the school in which my grandmother, Nejama (Anita) Menis, learned. More than 80 years have past since she started her studies, and the school is still active. The entrance was familiar, but that was that. lots of curious children watched over the corner of the walls to see the unknown visitor. Entering a classroom, I felt it was THE class room. Sitting on a chair in that classroom, I knew it was THE chair. I felt her presence with every step I took. The chairs, blackboards, doors, windows, a piano in the main hall, nothing has changed. children in the year 2010, are still learning in the same school my grandmother learned in. The school was built with the foundation of the village, so it must be 120 years old.
In the school´s backyard, still stands a very big tree. One which Bebe pointed to and said ´sacar un foto´ (take a picture). I did. I later heard from my mother (on the phone) that the tree was the one my grandmother used to climb on with her friends and family.
We continued our tour. Watching the buildings of the past. Synagogues, The Library, The Theater - yes, a theater. There where once 6,000 people in this village, all Jews, and Jews like their cultural activities.
Another building was the Jewish Theacher´s Seminar, now the Jewish school (with less then 10 students, all ages). In that same building, my grandmother got her teaching diploma. We kindly entered and asked to see, and photograph the 4 students attending.
Later that day, Bebe introduced me to ´Bat-Sheva´, a local tourist guide, who speaks Hebrew. She has the keys to all the public buildings, and to the cemetery.
First, to the tombs of my ancestors. A long list, mapping the graveyard, directed us strait to my relatives. Tuvia Menis (Father of my grandmother) and Heniya Menis (her sister, who died at the age of 13).
We returned to the village (the cemetery is 3 km from it), and entered the rest of the public buildings. In the library we met a former student of Leha (my grandmother´s sister, who was last to move to Israel and was an active teacher in the Seminar). The Theater is now a meeting hall, where the villagers celebrate graduations, and screen movies. Bat-Sheva said the Jewish community (now 300 people), celebrate Pesach here. Last stop on my guided tour was the Moises Ville Museo. I learnt a lot from the Hebrew speaking manager of the museum.
The next day Bebe showed me the Menis house, were my grandmother grew up. We went again to the cemetery, to see Monky´s grave (Manuel Menis, brother of Bebe), which we coudn´t find the day before.

During my stay in Moises Ville, I read the book ´A Pigeon and a Boy´ by Meir Shalev. It was the perfect one for the job. It is all in first person, writing to his mother, who died not so far ago, and now he is alone, making her wish for him, come true.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Buenos Aires, Capital of Tango, and Paris of South America!

Don't know shit about dancing, and haven't been to Paris, but I thought to try Buenos Aires out anyhow.
The next day (still in Bariloche remember?), I got on a bus to BA. I was promised a 21 hours ride, and right away, I knew I would surely love a Cama sit on the way.
driving around South America, you always have to make a decision:
Semi-Cama - the regular bus sit in any other bus in the world (that slightly shifts back words).
Cama - more space for your tushy, and the back of the chair shifts back up to 45 degrees.
Cama-Suite - space for the tushy, and a hole 180 degrees bed if you want.
Not all the buses and all the companies have all the options. And sometimes the prices jump way up from each different option to the other.
Choosing the Cama option, I knew I would manage to get some sleep on the bus, and that way save a day once getting to BA.
The center of each town I've been to, until now, was the place with all the interests, all the Internet stores, restaurants, mini markets, ext...With BA, It's different. people come here to 'go out', and the places to do that, are located in 2 particular neighborhoods: Palermo & San-Telmo.
Not knowing that, I picked out the most centered (cheapest), Hostel I could find from the Lonely-Planet book I've got.
The place was great, good people, good atmosphere, good guests at the time, good breakfast. Far away from all the night action.
On my arrival day I set of to a center tour. got to know the great 'Florida' street, always occupied with endless population, not really knowing were to go next...(them, not me)
Day 2: ''you've got to see the Recoleta cemetery'' says everybody. To Recoleta we go. If it wasn't Evita's Birthday, it wouldn't be as exciting... but it was better than I thought it would be. Big Fu#@% tombs, of very important/rich Argentinian persons.
Went around the rest of Recoleta, the big buildings (with live people inside) are much more exciting then the tombs.
After Recoleta, I thought seeing a bit of nature would be good for me, and walked my way to the National Park. A dry and flat area on the shores of the 'La Plata' river, meant for just one reason - so that city people could have a cheap (its free) way to go running, bike riding, and make out, with out the risk of getting hit by a car in the process. I tried to get out of there as fast as I can...
Day 3: Palermo! The neighborhood of the rich. Took the Subte, a fun and claustrophobic experience, from the land of the streetrats, and to the land of pure fashon, dogs, and pretty women (usually all together). Seeing the difference between the neighbohoods is amazing, here they have a Botanic Garden, a Japanese Garden, a Zoo, a Rose Garden and lots of other Gardens I didn't have the legs to see... It was Saturday, which means everybody was out. skating, bike riding, and taking the kids to the local zoo. Understanding I already saw most of the animals either in Tanzania last year, or I'll see them in the upcoming year in the wild! mixed with the fact that I haven't heard anything about this small zoo, and the 'round the corner' line of screaming children. Thanks, but I'll pass.
Walking away from the zoo's entrance, my eye's caught an enormous amount of people standing at the other side of the street. Searching the map, I couldn't find any zoo explanation for it... and crossed the street to check it out. Turns out it was the local 'book fair' (יום הספר ) and as I approached, I saw that they were not gathered around, but stood in a long line. following that line (to check out the books!), I found out that it's at least 3 blocks long! At that point I got back to the Subte station, and gave up.
Or, as a greater singer said:
בפלרמו,עיר הקיץ הקסומה,
יש קטלוג תנופת בנייה גדולה!
תיקח את עצמך מכאן,
ותיקח את עצמך מכאן עכשיו,
ולך לישון!

Day 4: As I should have guest, Oren & Liliya showed up. It was Sunday, and I wanted to go to the San-Telmo Market, But they said I should wait for them. And being a good friend, I did. And lucky for me this time... we started by going to Plaza de Mayo (second time for me) to see the great Plaza and the 'Pink House' (the celebrity house from which Madona, Played by Evita, sang to the screaming crowed of her last rock concert, but I'm not sure, so ask someone who cares...). as we were taking pictures, when I say we I mean Oren, two guards where walking in to the big pink think. and they had the strangest tale of people behind them. following and running to shot the great pics, we found ourselves standing in line for a tour around the house.
From the house, to the market! And my first 'wow' in BA! Endless colorful (Oren.liliya told me) market stands, fill with hats, paintings, antiques, clothing and whatnot! all the way from Plaza de Mayo and into Boca (the next neighbourhood). I almost bought a hat.
From San-Telmo, we continued our way into scary Boca. The poverty neighbourhood of BA and the one with the most respect full football (soccer) team in Argentina, Boca Juniors. Sunday, a match! crowd going wild on the streets, singing buses rush by... and Liliya wants to get closer to the 'booms' noises we keep on hearing. The important part is, we made it out of there alive.
Day 5: First Half off the day was a lovely regrouping with Gabi & Achia! then we said our goodbyes and decided to go out at night. Don't go out on a Monday night in BA, we'll leave it at that.
Day 6: Trying to find myself a new pair of boots, no success. walking up and down the Florida street I listened to great street bands playing wonderful jazz, Went Climbing with Liliya, a nice place, just 15 pesos per day of climbing, far away, and we had to rush back to make it to the Tango Show!
A smaller place then shown on the fliers, a loud man with a loud voice, sang very loud. the dancers were great (look up the beginning of this post), and a very strange Indian (well at least he was dressed up as one) thought no one would mind if he would act as though he is playing the playback. The greatest thing about the show, were the orchestra players, they were really worth it all.
The next morning, I took the next bus, to the next stop...The village where my grandmother was born and raised - Moises Ville..

Tips for Buenos Aires:
1. Going out - I didn't, probably because of my hostel's location. if your into going out more then I am, find a place in Palermo or San-Telmo
2. The San-Telmo Market - Go on a Sunday, don't miss it.
3. Tango Shows - you can skip that part. or just see it on the sunday market in San-Telmo

The Argentinian Lake District

Where were we? yeah, right, in Pucon.
Driving the road from Chile to Argentina, one notices the great difference between the Chilian Andes and the Argentinian ones. same for the Parallel Lake Districts.
Being so close apart, only a mountain-side away, the Argentinian lake district is just not the same:
I'll start off, from the border crossing. Next to the Argentinian checkpoint, stands Vulcan Lanin, with all its pride. 3,747 meters above sea level, and only 900 meters taller then the already known Villarrica, but goddamn, can it showoff! the great view we had, made me decide I can skip coming back here and rush all the way (still with Oren.Liliya) to San Martin de Los Andes.
San Martin de Los Andes, welcomed us with opened arms, being empty (without Israelis), and quiet (without Israelis).
Now having the time for it, I booked a tour guided van, going to the Seven Lakes for the next day (the main reason was of course getting rid of Oren.Liliya!).
The tour was supposed to take me around the Argentinian Lake District, seeing, as you might have guessed, 7 lakes. (I counted 6)
There was a very pleasant fellow guiding the tour. Very young, yet with very much knowledge. All in Spanish.
The microphone volume was set way to loud, but nobody except me seamed to notice. maybe speeches you don't understand are more annoying...
We drove in a rainy day, and couldn't see everything I wanted to see, stopped just on planned stops (not in the other magnificent places I saw through the windows). When we did stop, it was for short breaks in Miradors (lookouts), and everyone else did not understand why I was running ans rushing around (to take the best photos I can of course).
At mid day (just as the sun got out of the clouds finally) the van stopped at Villa la Angostura. A beautiful little town, touristic, on the shore of Lago Nahuel Huapi, and with nothing to do there for the 2 hour break we took.
Once going back on the van, the sun hiding again, we rode the last hour of the drive, without stops, until we arrived to my beloved Bariloche.
That night, I said my goodbyes to the Lake Districts (both), with a large stake, at Parrilla Don Alberto.
The main Difference between The Argentinian and The Chilain Lake Districts will be the weather you fall upon. seeing lakes without sun is a shame. they usually have a mirror effect, which will not show on a cloudy day.
The scenery around the lakes, is where the change happens..
On the Chilian side, volcanoes and small towns (almost untouched by tourism), higher mountains and good sea food!
On the Argentinian side, lots of Chocolate, better roads, and great meat!
Except for that, try seeing them both with a rented car, so you could stop when, and where ever you like.
If I had ant other option but the Touristic van, I would take it. Not having a drivers licence or people to share a rented car with, made my decision for me.

Tips for the Argentinian Lake District:
1. Rent a Car - you'll good deals from Bariloche, and you can see, stop and make your own rute as you like it.
2. Restaurant 'La-Andina', Bariloche - Cheap, good food (Empanadas, Pizzas, Pastas), and good people.
3. Volcan Lanin - Seeing it on a good day, just worth all the drive. (Check the weather first, its a long drive)

Sunday, 2 May 2010


Back in Osorno, we met Gabi & Achiya again. We all (Oren, Lilya, Gabi, Achiya & I) thought about climbing the great Volcan Puyehue together, but checking the weather it looked as though we are to late in the season. A quick look at the weather status in Pucon helped us agree that we would probably have a better chance at climbing the Volcan Villarica.
One last night in Osorno, a goodbye dinner from Gabi & Achiya (who just returned from Pucon, and now headed for Mendoza), morning packing, buying tickets and we're on our way to Pucon.
We got to Pucon after a long (many stops on the way) drive. Night time. Getting off the bus a pretty lady asks me if I've got a place to stay, I started saying (In Spanish of course!) ''Sorry, I already got a hostel but I can't remember the name...'' (One Gabi & Achiya recommended) As the words slowly come out of my mouth, I see her adv. poster, and recognize the name of the hostel. It was the same one. Maitahue.
On the bus I met Dror & Alek (two bearded fellows whom I already met on the hell bus to Perito Moreno, and again on the Carretera Austral). So all of us went to the same hostel together. 5 people in one night, the lady's face was very pleased!
Walking to a van, with the pretty (& nice) lady, getting in, driving to the hostel (which turned out to be a bit to far from the center). The hostel was full with people, all Israelis, watching TV, using the computer, or cooking dinner. very bad first impression (for a traveler trying to avoid Israelis). But as it turned out, 5-6 of them left 2 hours later, leaving only the 5 of us, with about 3 more Israelis. That's fine with me.
The next day was known to be rainy, and so it was. Knowing that, we went to book ourselves to the Villarica climb, the day after that.
07:30 AM, arriving to 'Gideon's' travel agency all ready to climb. Weather was supposed to be great.
08:30 AM, getting in to the vans (with very loud Israelis), headed to the starting point of the Volcano's ascent.
09:10 AM, Dismounting the vehicles at 1200 meters above sea level. Everyone said that if the ski-lifts work, we should take them (''saves you 400 meters of climb, and cost just 10$US''), they didn't.
09:20 AM, Starting the ascent of the volcano. 29 Israelis, 2 Holland chicks (one extraordinary beautiful), 7 guides (all very much like to be back in Pucon for a very important Barcelona-Inter football match).
For me, the climb was easy. At first. Some other people, those filled with Testosterone, or without, typical Israelis who (from real sentences I've heard on the way...) didn't really know why the hell the were on a volcano, and why the hell did they pay so much for such suffering? If they said it or not, none of them really liked the ascending part.
With 400-600 meters to go, the head-guide announced we can't continue with the climb. To much wind & ice on the top. Two minutes more, and he changed it to ''Just the fit go on from here, and be honest with yourselves''. I went on, already said it was too easy...until then.
The last part of the climb was steeper, and we, for some reason (maybe the football match), walked even faster than before. Then came the last 100 meters.
In which, the smoke coming out of the volcano, swept off with the the summit and in to our lounges. You try climbing up, but there's no clean air to breath. Somehow, we made it.
From the top, above the clouds, we could see 3 more volcanoes! (the guides said it was a day with bad view, in good view you could see up to 5) Standing on the summit, you can see volcanic crater. You just stand there, so small, and wait for the lava to jump out, just a bit, and show itself.
The three guides left (the weak climbed down a long time ago with the other guides), rushed us off the summit (football match?) after less than 10 minutes. We started the descent. At first on our feet, and about the same height we abandoned the 'weak', we got the order to put off our crampons, and were introduced to a very fun gliding technique. One which helped us descent to about 1600 meters above sea level. A few more steps, another annoying drive with different Israelis (same amount of 'too loud'), and we're back in lovely Pucon.
The next day was Oren's Birthday. He felt just fine, so we had to cancel our planed trip to the 'ants' trek. we found ourselves wondering around the city of Pucon, which has beautiful beaches on Lago Villarica, Lovely street dogs who followed us everywhere, and a secret homey restaurant ('La Picada') recommended by the nice workers from Gideon's. Went to see the lake, played on the beach with our new dogs, and ate at the great restaurant. When asking for 'La cuenta' (the bill, for you Inbal) we were amazed hear (no actual bill) it was very cheap as well (5 $US dollars per person approx.).
The fourth day in Pucon was said to be more cloudy, and Oren still felt fine, so Lilya and I went 'Cannioning' waterfalls (''Snapling'' in rubbish Hebrew). Oren doesn't like heights anyways. Set it up again, through Gideon (because it was cheap, and because we liked the workers there), this time just Lilya, me and a Huver the guide. first drove to the river, dressed up on the spot (diving suit, boxers, raincoat, helmet, diving shoes, and harness), and started walking. 10 minutes later, we were above the first waterfall. The ad said we'll have 4 water walls 15-25 meters high. We climbed down 3, and one had a very unusual technique, we glided on our bellies! It was fun, and the guide was kind of a Ninja, or maybe didn't care for his life too much, I couldn't tell.
Fifth day in Pucon. This time all were feeling well, and on their way to Ojos de Caburgua. Two rivers meeting on one geological step, causing a 300 degrees of waterfalls that could be circled around and be watched from every wanted angle. At total we witnessed 4 major water falls, 2-3 smaller ones, and one Laguna Azul (blue). All spectacular, and just 15 minutes drive from Pucon. From the waterfalls we walked back to the road, and Hitchhiked our way to Caburgua. A small town established on a lake with the same name. Caught a Hitch on the back of a pickup-truck (Oren was very exited for his first ride on the back of a pickup-truck, and smiled like a little girl on her birthday). Walked on the shore of the lake, its called 'Playa Blanca' for its slightly less black sand (all the rest of the sand around here is black from the volcanic rocks). Sun was hot and we just fell asleep for half an hour on the shoreline. Just like in Tel-Aviv.
Next stop, Junin de los Andes, Argentinian lake district.

Tips for Pucon:
1. Gideon is a nice man, and hires very pleasant workers & professional guides. The only downside of my climb was the too many Israelis.
2. Everybody said the Cannoning is only for women. I enjoyed it very much. and as far as I know - I'm all man.
3. 'La Picada' - The secret homey restaurant. Located on Cacique Uruguay #215. But don't tell anyone.
4. Hostal Maitauhe (casa de Andrea) - Cacique Paillalef #965. Clean, cheap, a bit far from town, too many potential Israelis.