A Travellerspoint blog

August 2016

Off to Paraguay


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Off to Asuncion, Paraguay today!

I was up around 7am this morning for some reason, despite going to be so late last night. I was still on cloud 9 from spending time with Ryan. I sent him a text to see if he and Sarah wanted to meet for coffee before I left for the airport, but I unfortunately didn’t hear back from him. I spent the morning packing and getting ready.

My airport shuttle arrived on time, which I was thankful for because I had read several poor reviews on Trip Advisor, complaining that the service was habitually late or failed to show up. The first flight was quick, though the turbulence when flying over the Andes Mountains was rather intense (far more so than when I flew to Santiago). The view of the Andes Mountains from the plan was spectacular though.

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I had a layover in Buenos Aires this evening, which flew by, thankfully. I noticed on Facebook that Sarah, whom I had met at Iguassu Falls a few days ago, was also at the airport. As I was making my way to my gate we passed each other in the hall way (and this at a very busy, crowded airport)! We stopped for a short chat and decided to grab a quick drink as well. Sarah bought us each a glass of very delicious red wine (and the glasses were HUGE). She was on her way back home to Ireland; she was leaving tonight (Sunday), flying to Miami, then Charlotte, then Dublin; she wouldn’t reach home until Tuesday! I had to quickly drink my wine as I needed to run to make my flight. It was really great running into her at the airport!

I slept during the flight to Asuncion, which was another quick flight. Towards the end I woke up and got a splitting headache right behind my right eye; it was a very sharp, stabbing pain. It has mostly subsided by now, but it was incredibly painful on the flight. I think it was due to the fact that I am still recovering from my cold and the change in pressure as we were descending into the city.

The hotel shuttle was waiting for me and we headed off into the city. It was nearly 23:00 by this point and starting to storm. As we reached the city center the traffic became horrendous – it was like rush hour traffic! Tons of people were out wandering the streets, coming from or heading to bars or clubs. I was really surprised by the amount of people that were out and about, especially on a Sunday night.

The hotel is very nice – possibly the nicest hotel I’ve stayed at so far on this trip. I don’t generally splurge on lodgings, but I did here in Asuncion, mostly for safety reasons.

Posted by Glichez 14:41 Archived in Paraguay Comments (0)

Andes Mountains... and a date!


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Yesterday was another amazing day in Chile. Today’s agenda included a day trip into the Andes Mountains to Cajon del Maipo.

I was picked up from my hotel around 8:15 and found that there was a couple from Brazil and a couple from Scotland on the tour as well. We made one last pickup and two people from Colorado joined us! Their names were Sarah and Ryan; Ryan is from Parker and the three of us were able to chat a lot about Colorado, our travels, etc. My first impression was that Ryan was VERY cute! :-)

We headed out of Santiago and made our first rest stop at a small restaurant where we were served tea and coffee. Our tour guide, Josefa, also picked up a couple bottles of wine for us to enjoy later on. The main reason for the stop was to collect the food for our snack once we reach our destination.

After leaving there we made two quick stops along the way to admire the beauty of the Andes Mountains. The views were stunning as we were surrounded by the snow-capped peaks; we even got to see a glacier on the top of one of the mountains.

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We drove on for a while more before reaching our destination: a dam and made-made lake nestled in the mountains. The area was packed with locals who had headed out of town for a short day trip and we had to walk much of the way to the best vantage point. The road was a small dirt road and all of the cars arriving created some chaos.

The walk took us along some snow and ice covered parts (and I even slipped and fell at one point coming back!). The lake was gigantic and was nestled right up with the snow on the mountains. It was very serene and peaceful as well. The weather wasn’t too bad, slightly chilly with a light breeze, but not nearly as cold as I had expected. We spent some time hanging around and enjoying the view before heading back to the bus.

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We drove part of the way down the mountains before pulling over near a small stream to have our wine and snack. The snack consisted of two types of cheese; chocolates; bread with avocado, dulce de leche, and a local Chilean green sauce. We also had the two bottles of local red wine.

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I tried everything: both wines were quite good, the avocado was amazing, and even the green sauce was tasty. I was also a fan of the dulce de leche, but the other Ryan didn’t care for it at all. During our break along the stream we saw three condors flying around the mountain tops and they eventually descended and got quite close to where we were sitting.

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Before leaving we took a group photo:

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Along the drive back we made one last stop at a local restaurant for some local beer and empanadas. I had one with beef, cheese, onions, and a boiled egg. It was delicious!

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Sarah and I teased Ryan about the beer because he wasn’t a fan of beer in general. He had one though and even finished it too! During most of the drive back from the dam I had spent time chatting with them both, getting to know them better. Finally, I asked them if they had plans for the evening and if they’d like to grab a drink. They said yes and invited me over to their hotel: they had bought some beer and Pisco the night before and we planned to drink that.

We reached the city and their hotel shortly after 18:00. Our first order of action was to find ice for our drinks; Ryan and I searched the entire floor and could not find the ice machine (this despite the fact that the hotel provided an ice bucket in the room). We decided to just have our Pisco with Coke (what the Chileans call “Piscola”). The Pisco smelled like Tequila, but when mixed with Coke it tasted just like a rum and Coke. Ryan and I had a couple of those to drink; the second (or third) that he made for me was quite strong as he was determined to finish off the huge bottle of Pisco before they headed back to the States the following evening.

I was strongly flirting with Ryan during the evening – I had been correct earlier when I thought that he was gay. He was somewhat shy and quiet, but would smile and blush a lot (plus he has a very cute, a VERY slight stutter that was adorable).

We also had some instant coffee to help us all wake up at this point; it was some help. Around 21:30 we decided to head out and grab a bite to eat. I was going to take them back to the restaurant that I ate lunch at the day before, but since it was so far away, we went to a local place near the hotel. I’ve no idea what food we ordered, but it was like a stew that was spicy and served with bread.

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Sarah and Ryan each had a Chilean Pisco Sour while I had a Chilean beer with the meal. Ryan and I sat next to one another and I asked Sarah to take a few pictures of us. Ryan reached over to put his hand on my leg, which he seemed nervous to do at first, but I told him it was ok. LOL

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After finishing our food, we headed back towards the hotel. There was a Wendy’s nearby and Ryan wanted some fries, but we arrived right as they were closing and thus couldn’t get anything. Back in the hotel we had one last drink. Sarah went to take a quick shower, leaving Ryan and me together alone – finally! We chatting for a couple minutes and then we just made out for a little while (and he's a great kisser!). It was fantastic and the perfect way to end the day!

By this point it was nearing 23:30 and I needed to head back to my hotel. After saying goodbye to Sarah, Ryan walked me to the elevator and we spent a minute making out some more before I had to leave. The walk back to the hotel was quick, only about 15 minutes. There were many people on the street and I felt quite safe (we were also staying in the safest part of the city, which helps). After getting back to my room, I sent Ryan a quick text and then called my friend Jake in Seattle (via Google Hangouts). We chatted for a while and I told him all about the amazing day I’d had, especially with Ryan. I finally went to bed around 2am (Chile started Daylight Savings Time at midnight, so the clocks had jumped ahead by an hour).

It was an amazing day, especially getting to meet and hang out with Ryan. It was an unexpected highlight of my time here in Santiago. I never expected to meet someone who I'd get to spend such a great time with, let alone someone with whom we'd develop a mutual attraction. It was also nice to make new friends. I really hope that I'm able to see Ryan again once I get back to the States!! :-)

This morning I’ve spent hanging around the hotel, packing and getting ready to fly out to Asuncion, Paraguay today!

Posted by Glichez 06:32 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

It's delightful, down in Chile


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11 AUGUST

Yesterday was another long travel day as I headed from Puerto Iguacu to Santiago. My flight was not until 13:45, so I spent the morning relaxing at the hotel and reading by the pool. I've been so busy over the past week and I needed the time for relaxation. I was somewhat worried about the airport transfer that I had arranged: they never reconfirmed the pickup time and I had tried contacting them several times. Thankfully they arrived on time and I arrived at the airport in plenty of time.

My flight plans for the day involved a layover in Buenos Aires, where I would have to transfer airports (from AEP to EZE), which I wasn't really looking forward to having to deal with. However, the gentleman at the check-in counter managed to change my flights so I no longer had to change airports - and the new flight arrived 15 minutes earlier than the one I was originally booked on! The airport at Puerto Iguacu was very small, with only a few gates.

The flight to Buenos Aires was quick and smooth; they served a light snack of sweets that was quite delicious. Upon landing I stopped to grab a bite to eat for lunch at the small food court located just outside of the international departures area. I am glad that I decided to eat there rather than going through the international security: there was no food service beyond that! I had a 5 hour layover and we finally left for Santiago around 20:20. Again, a rather uneventful flight, arriving in Santiago around 21:45.

I had arranged my transfer to the hotel before leaving the States, but I was unprepared for the chaos that was the Santiago airport. The shuttle company had a fleet of shuttles constantly going to different parts of the city, with a central dispatcher coordinating everything from curbside. I had to wait a few minutes for a driver to arrive that was going to the Provedencia area (where my hotel is located). I finally arrived at the hotel around 23:00 and was exhausted. I checked in and went right to sleep.

12 AUGUST

Today I had two walking tours of Santiago, both arranged through the local company Tours 4 Tips. I had to take the metro (subway) from my hotel to the tour meeting point. The metro itself was straightforward, as any metro is, but buying a ticket was slightly confusing. The is a fixed price for a ticket, no matter how far you are riding the metro; the price changes depending on the time of day. There is a lighted sign at most stations that notifies you what fare is currently in effect: high, medium, or low (the color on the tickets correspond to these sings).

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The first tour was the "Santiago Offbeat" tour, which focused on the local life of the city. Among those on the trip was a couple from San Diego and a young guy from Atlanta. We began by strolling through several local markets that are hot spots for locals. There were specific markets for different types of goods: fish, flowers, meat, vegetables, etc. Within each market were numerous little restaurants, often with only a handful of tables. The people were friendly, welcoming and it was very nice getting to walk around and enjoy the "real" Santiago.

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Along the way we stopped and had a quite bite to eat from one of the many street vendors. We had a sopapilla with sweet ketchup and a local sauce which was quite delicious. Our next stop had us take the metro up to the cemetery where we explored and were told about the burial practices here in Santiago. Everyone is buried in niches throughout the cemetery and the families either rent or buy them and often use them for several bodies (the most bodies in one is currently 12).

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We made a lengthy stop near the grave of former president Salvador Allende, who was overthrown in September 1973 by Pinochet. At this stop we were given a very objective retelling of the events that happened during the coup that brought Pinochet to power, along with the conditions of his 17-year dictatorship. The guide explained that opinions on Pinochet are still heavily divided between those people who only experienced the benefits of his rule and those who suffered.

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The final stop took us to a local bar where we were treated to the Terremoto Drink (Earthquake Drink): sweet wine, grenadine, and pineapple ice cream. It was rather good and I was one of the few people to have seconds on the drink. By this time it was 13:30 and the next tour started in 90 minutes. After saying goodbye to the guide and tipping him well (he was a fantastic guide!), I made my way back to the metro. The guy from Atlanta joined me and we chatted for quite a bit; he exited the metro to head back to the markets while I continued on to the area around the meeting point.

I decided to grab a bite to eat before the tour and stopped in a small restaurant. I ordered Chorrillana, which is a dish of sliced beef and onions, served over fries and topped with two fried eggs. Needless to say, the food was delicious!

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I had local beer with my lunch as well. I asked the waited to make a suggestion and he brought me a very good Kuntsmann beer, of which I had two with my meal.

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Speaking of the waiter, he was most definitely giving me flirty eyes during the entire time I was there. He even winked at me at one point - and it was a very flirty wink. He was very cute (the first cute guy from South American that I've seen so far) and I wish we'd been able to actually chat. Sadly, he spoke no English and my Spanish was too shitty for us to have any real conversation. Ok, let's be honest, my Spanish is just fucking awful. LOL

By this point it was time for the second tour, the Santiago Highlights tour.

This tour focused on the main sights of the city, of which there are but a few. Again the guide was outstanding and provided some awesome commentary throughout the tour. We first stopped by where the military once head its headquarters during the Pinochet years, which was also the location that Allende hosted a UN convention just prior to being overthrown.

One particular point of interest was a set of door handles of two fists. Originally, under Allende, they were pointed up in the sign of solidarity and defiance. Under Pinochet they were turned upside down and looked as though they were handcuffed. Now they have been restored to their original setting.

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Our next stop was La Moneda, the presidential palace. This was the location that Pinochet had bombed during the 1973 coup and where Allende made his last stand (and later committed suicide). The palace has been restored and continues to serve as the presidential palace. In the same square was a statue that had a bullet lodged in its cheek from the day of the coup. Another fun fact: the mobile game Pokemon Go had recently made the square a hot spot and thus it was filled with people on their phones playing the game!

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We headed to the Plaza de Armas, which is a massive square filled with people, many of them selling their goods along the sidewalk.

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Our final stop took us to the Belles Arts metro station where there were two amazing murals painted on the sides of the buildings around it.

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I headed back to my hotel after the tour and went to grab a drink in the bar downstairs. I had received a complimentary drink voucher when I checked in and decided to have a Pisco Sour, a local drink. The waiter seemed surprised that I would want the drink since I'd never had it before. However I found the drink very pleasant! It was indeed quite sour, but refreshing at the same time.

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Posted by Glichez 17:34 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Iguassu Falls


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I managed to get a very good night's sleep and woke ready for a long day of sightseeing. The breakfast at my hotel, the Yvera Cataratas, was simple but delicious: bread, meat and cheese, along with a variety of pastries. I hurriedly ate my breakfast before the shuttle picked me up at 7:30. We made the rounds picking up additional people and then we had to switch to a larger bus before we were off to Iguassu Falls!

Iguassu Falls are a series of massive waterfalls that straddle the Argentina-Brazil border. They are some of the most famous waterfalls in the world. The James Bond film "Moonraker" features a scene filmed at Iguassu Falls (yes, the same movie that filmed at Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio!). Again, I failed to find Bond, Jaws or Hugo Drax. Hrm...

On the way to the Argentina side of the falls, our "guide" Carlos gave an overview of the day - but it was just a full day tour of the Argentine side, nothing about visiting the Brazilian side. The tour I booked was supposed to visit both sides in one day; I began to panic and thought that I had boarded the wrong bus! Finally another gentleman on the tour asked about the Brazilian portion and the "guide" said that those of us going to Brazil would split off from the group later on. (I'm using the word "guide" as such because he was truly awful).

Upon arrival at the entrance to the park, Carlos said that the entrance fee had to be paid in cash - no credit cards. Nothing mentioned this prior to reaching the falls nor during the trip booking process. Thankfully there was an ATM that several people were using. I told Carlos that I needed to use the ATM and then buy my ticket. When I finally did have my ticket, I found that Carlos had take then rest of the group and already ventured into the park! Despite knowing that he had people still getting tickets, he left us. I literally had to run to catch up to them, mere minute before the train to the Devil's Throat left.

The train to the Devil's Throat was pleasant and quick; I met a very nice woman from Ireland named Sarah; she and I basically partnered up for the tour, which was really nice. It was fun getting to chat with someone throughout the day!

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The first stop was the Devil's Throat, which is spectacular.

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We then took the train back and walked along a path that revealed many more amazing waterfalls for us to see. Each turn in the path revealed more breathtaking sights. It was tranquil and relaxing. The weather was perfect as well: sunny, clear and cool.

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Carlos did not truly lead the group during this; he would walk on and not even attempt to round up the group to make sure that we were all together (this despite the fact that the area was full of tourists). After we finished with the second path it was time for the other guy and me to leave the group; we headed over to the Sheraton hotel, which is inside the park, to wait for our ride to Brazil.

Our guide for Brazil, Miguel, was the total opposite of Carlos. He was attentive, friendly, outgoing and made sure that we all knew the plan and stuck together. He explained things throughout the park as well. Crossing back into Brazil was simple and soon we were at the park. Miguel handled the buying of our tickets and then we took the bus into the park itself.

The Brazilian side is smaller, but provides equally stunning views. At one point there was a walkway out to the Devil's Throat right near the base of one of the falls; I got soaked walking out there, but the views were worth it.

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After a long and very busy day I made my way back to the hotel around 7pm. Time to relax, watch some of the Olympics and get some sleep!

Posted by Glichez 16:22 Archived in Argentina Comments (1)

Farewell Rio, Hello Argentina


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Once again, an early morning for me today. I arranged to have a driver pick me up at the hostel at 6am so I could reach the airport in time for my flight. Today's trek took me from Rio de Janiero to Puerto Iguazu, though the path there was rather long. I flew from Rio to Sao Paolo, where I had a somewhat lengthy layover (though thankfully not as long as the one on my flights to Rio last week).

I spent time on the flights and during my layover reflecting on my time in Rio and at the 2016 Summer Olympics.

I went to Rio expecting the worst: I thought that I would get mugged, get lost trying to reach the Olympic venues, etc. I had spoken to several people over previous trips who had come to Rio for the 2014 World Cup event and they were all mugged (big event = more tourists = more targets). I came prepared for that should it happen and I came with my guard up against anything. As I got to know the way of the city (ok, the area that I was staying) I began to relax a little bit and really enjoyed myself. Rio isn't a city that I would like to visit again though; there's not much of a draw for me to that area. I'm not a fan of the beach, so the attraction of either Copacabana or Ipanema is lost on me (speaking of which, I never got the chance to visit the beaches, but others at the hostel did and they said they were packed beyond reason - possibly because some events, like beach volleyball, were held at the Copacabana beach).

The Olympics amazed me and I am very, very happy that I decided to attend this year's Games. I decided last year to buy tickets and I remember the initial lottery offering began in late April 2015 - while I was touring Iran! I got the notice while in Iran and frantically emailed my sister to have her enter my name into the lottery as I wasn't sure if I would be able to do so myself from Iran. I have her to thank for getting me entered into the lottery and thus my tickets to fencing, archery, and gymnastics! Back then the Summer Olympics seems ages away: I had two more international trips to plan before then! The Games came and flew by far too quickly.

Archery was an amazingly enjoyable event, one that I hadn't expected to enjoy as much as I did. I've long yearned to take archery lessons (I'd gone so far as to find a local place in Raleigh that offered lessons, but by then I'd already settled on moving to Chicago and so I've decided to wait until then to take it up). The matches were fast, but energetic and intense, which is why I decided to buy the ticket to the afternoon session that day.

Fencing was enjoyable, though I think I would have enjoyed it more had I better understood the sport. Once representatives from countries that I cared for (Germany, France, Russia, USA) were up, it was far more enjoyable and I really got into it. If there was one event that I was disappointed in from the Games it was table tennis. There was little announcing done throughout the matches and it was near impossible to tell what was going on at the far end of the venue. By contrast, at the Vancouver Winter Games in 2010 I saw men's curling which also featured four simultaneous matches; they managed to get the crowd equally invested in them all. Again, I think this suffered for me because I didn't care for any of the match-ups, save for the North Korean, but she was at the far end where I couldn't see. I bought the ticket as a "filler" between fencing and gymnastics, and I'm quite happy that I went. It was fun to see different types of sports.

Gymnastics was weird and still feels weird to me. The lack of focus throughout the event was the truly surprising part; it felt disjointed and it was difficult knowing where to pay attention at each moment. Happily I just heard on CNN that the USA women's team (which I saw compete) won the gold medal tonight!

The aquatics day was truly the highlight of the Games for me. Water polo (another "filler" event) was the bug surprise for me (much like curling was in Vancouver). I loved the game! It was fast, action packed and I was invested in the matches. This is definitely a sport that I would love to watch more of in the future. The swimming event was spectacular, as expected. The time flew by and I wished that there was more. The added bonus of getting to see Michael Phelps swim was fantastic.

Diving. This event stole the show for me. If I could go to only one event at the Olympics, this would have been it. I found the ticket to this event (and swimming) during my lunch break at work one day. I vacillated over buying the tickets or not; I wasn't sure who would be diving, but I thought "What the hell!" and bought them. I quietly hoped to see Tom Daley, but I didn't get my hopes up.

I still can't adequately put into words how incredible those 90 minutes were last night. Seeing Tom's name come up on the board prior to the start got me very excited and that excitement only grew as each round of diving went by. I was giddy when I saw the teams walk out (ok, just Tom). Tom is one of the few LGBT athletes who is "out" and I've heard a lot about him over the past couple years. Seeing videos and reading articles online is nothing to getting to see him dive in person.

I can still feel the elation when the scores were announced and they won the bronze: the crowd erupting with cheers, the Team GB fans going crazy, and of course Tom and his diving partner's awesome reaction, which truly captured the Olympics in that moment. I still feel like I am riding on cloud 9 from last night's event. I wish that it could never end, that the diving would just continue on and on... but of course it did have to end... but there will be more events to go and see. I still wish that I was back there in the stands though... it was magical. That's the only way to describe it. It was unique and beyond words. I doubt that anything else on this trip can match the diving in terms of how excited or happy I got (save perhaps getting to finally visit Red Square!

I've so enjoyed these Olympics and the Winter Games in Vancouver; I'm giving serious thought to timing trips with the countries that host each Olympics - and even trying to volunteer at the Games! But, on to a new adventure... I'll always have the memories from the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics. Tchau, Rio!

After grabbing a bite to eat at the airport, it was time to flight to Foz do Iguacu... Iguassu Falls!

The Iguassu Falls lie on the border of Brazil and Argentina; there are two cities and airports that service the Falls, one on either side of the border. Further up river is a point where Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay all meet; technically one can reach the Falls by flying to Paraguay, but then would have to go through Brazil or Argentina to actually get to the Falls. Foz do Iguacu is on the Brazilian side, Puerto Iguazu on the Argentinian.

My hotel is on Puerto Iguazu and I arranged to have a shuttle take me from the airport, across the border and to my hotel. Crossing the border was a painless and simple procedure: the driver simply took my passport into the office, they stamped it and we drove on; I didn't have to get out of the shuttle at all! Thankfully, earlier this year Argentina suspended the requirement that Americans obtain a visa to visit the country; this saved me the hassle of getting one, plus it saved me the $160 fee!

Driving into Puerto Iguazu I was saddened to see that the city was rather run down. I had hoped that the huge tourism draw of the Falls would bring in money and allow the city to improve itself. However, the shabby outer look is overshadowed by the incredibly friendly people living here! This was my first time visiting a Spanish speaking country and I was excited to see if I could remember any of the Spanish I learned (hell, I made into Spanish National Honor Society, you'd think I'd remember something!). I remembered many words and phrases, as well as verbs; I could get my point across (barely), but I could not carry on a conversation.

The woman who checked me in spoke fragmented English, just as I spoke fragmented Spanish, which we both found rather amusing; thankfully we could communicate enough in either language to get the main points. The hotel is rather nice: the room is huge with a comfortable bed, spacious bathroom. The focal point of the hotel is the gorgeous pool in the courtyard, complete with a waterfall. I plan to take advantage of the pool either tomorrow or the morning after.

I still had a couple hours of daylight left and I decided to go for a short walk down to the riverfront where the borders of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay meet. As I was heading out of the hotel a different employee stopped me to explain about the city, the hotel, etc. His name is Miguel and he was very friendly and outgoing. He spoke far better English than I spoke Spanish too. He gave me directions to the riverfront and I headed out.

The walk was short and I found a rather large plaza with many smaller craft shops along it. There was an terrace overlook area with three levels and I was greeted with an amazing view. The river is massive and the jungle all around is stunning. Each country has a small monument on display with their national flag painted on it. I spent a few minutes relaxing and enjoying the view.

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Suddenly I heard someone calling out to me and I found Miguel on the terrace level above me! He came down and explained that he was supposed to meet a group of tourists there and take them back to the hotel. We spent some time talking and he explained about the different things on each side of the river. He is originally from Paraguay, but he now lives in Argentina and his father is from Brazil!

A boat drifted by that the tour group was supposed to be on, but it was empty and Miguel said they must not be coming. I wonder if that was a story he used so he could hang out and practice his English (he said earlier that he was studying English). It didn't matter because I enjoyed getting to hang out with him. He showed me an older monument that was somewhat hidden away that pointed to each of the three countries. Then we made our way down a rugged trail towards the riverfront (the terrace was quite high up and the path down was steep and rocky). We didn't go all the way down, but stopped at a little stream that ran nearby and ended in a waterfall that fed the river. We sat down at the top of the waterfall and enjoyed the view; I was surprised at how high the waterfall was given how far it seemed we had walked down already.

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Finally we made out way back up along an old set of stone stairs which brought us back up to the terrace. We walked back to the hotel together, chatting quite a bit. Miguel is a very friendly and helpful young man - and was very interested in the United States. When we got back to the hotel, I came back to my room to take a shower.... Confession time: this was the first shower I had since the night I arrived in Rio. Yes, yes... disgusting... I know! BUT, the communal showers at the hostel weren't that great and I just couldn't bring myself to use them after that first night. So, just keep that in mind when you look at all my selfies from the Olympics! :-) You can imagine how wonderful this shower felt.

I planned to head out to the courtyard area and read for a bit before bed, but I found that the sun was nearly set and the hotel didn't have lights in that area. Instead I've relaxed in my room. I don't mind hostels, but I do love having my own room. The peace and quiet is wonderful! We had a group of three girls from somewhere staying in my room the past three nights (they spoke Spanish and spoke to none of us in the room). They would get dressed up (read: whored up) and head out around 11pm each night, returning well after 3am. I do not exaggerate the "whoring it up" that they did - they literally looked like street walkers. They would make tons of noise before they left and when they returned, which drove us all crazy. Tonight... I'll sleep well!

Miguel just brought me confirmation for my guided tour of Iguassu Falls tomorrow - huzzah! I'll be picked up at 7:30, giving me time to each breakfast here at the hotel. (I'd not been able to eat the free breakfast at the hostel in Rio because it began at 8am each morning; I had to leave by 7am to make it to my events each day.)

And finally, here's the video of Tom Daley that I took as he prepared for dive # 5 last night (I finally got YouTube to upload it).... I make no apologies for this. :-) Please to enjoy...

Posted by Glichez 15:07 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Aquatics Day in Rio... and TOM DALEY


View World Tour 2016 on Glichez's travel map.

The final day of my Olympic adventures!

Another early morning as I made my way back to the Barra Olympic Park; thankfully all three of my events were located in the same Park today, so I didn’t have to worry about rushing between parks, dealing with multiple security lines, etc.

MEN’S WATER POLO

Water Polo was a late addition to my Olympic plans; I originally just had two events planned for today, but I decided to add in another event to fill time in the morning. It was well worth it! The game turned out to be much more interesting than I had planned – and it pulled me right in! Best of all: I had front row seats to the event!!

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HOWEVER, before the water polo began, there was a practice session for the diving teams going on. Diving and water polo are held in the same arena; the two pools are right next to one another. Needless to say, I was glad that I arrived early so I could check out the divers… I mean, the diving. Yes, the diving… I couldn’t make out who was who, but I enjoyed watching them practice. Their talent is amazing!!

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Serbia vs. Greece
9 – 9

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Up first was Serbia vs. Greece. I was surrounded by Serbian fans and I was surprised at how many of them had made the trip to Rio. To the left of me were some Greek fans and it was an interesting dynamic hearing cheering from either side of me, depending on who scored, etc. I found myself cheering for the Greek team, for no real apparent reason. The game was very close throughout the four periods and ended in a tie.

Italy vs. France
11 – 8

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I was very surprised and pleased when I saw the French team come out to face off against Italy. Before each match, the anthems of both teams is played and I felt a surge of pride and joy when La Marseillaise began to play! The match started off quite well with France performing quite well, but Italy soon began to dominate the match. Their offense was aggressive and the French could not keep up. Despite the French losing the match, it was still exciting to watch.

USA vs. Spain
2 – 4
(after the first period, when I left)

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After the second match concluded I was starting to get pressed for time as I had tickets to swimming that was due to start within an hour. Another surprise greeted me when the US men’s team came out to play against Spain. I decided that I could stay for the first period before having to leave for my next event. There were quite a few American fans there to cheer them on. By the end of the first period, the Spanish were leading and sadly I couldn’t stay through the remainder of the game.

SWIMMING

I left water polo and made my way over to the swimming arena, which was a massive complex on the other side of the Barra Olympic Park. It was a very nice arena. My seats were in the “nose bleeds” – two rows from the very top. However, it did give me a good view of the entire arena. Sitting in front of me was a group from the UK, cheering on their team with gusto. I arrived early enough to watch the swimmers during the warmup session.

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Women’s 200m Freestyle
6 heats

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The first round of heats was for the women’s 200m freestyle which was rather fun to watch. Some of the heats didn’t have a full complement of 8 swimmers. The UK swimmer that the group was particularly cheering for did well enough to advance to the next round. The Americans did quite well too.

Men’s 200m Butterfly
4 heats

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The men’s 200m butterfly was dominated by one man: Michael Phelps. The crowd was anxiously waiting for him to appear, but we had to go through a couple heats before it was his turn. The crowd when crazy cheering for him when he walked out and it didn’t let up until after he left. He electrified the room and I felt rather excited to see him swimming in person again – especially at the Olympics! Back in 2004, after the Athens Olympic Games, the USA men’s swim team tours the US and performed; when they came to Seattle I went to see them and that’s when I first saw Phelps swim in person.

Michael Phelps did very well, though he didn’t come in first; he did easily advance to the next round though. The roughly 2 minutes that he was swimming flew by and I wished that he could come out and swim additional heats.

Women’s 200m Individual Medley
5 heats

The big excitement from this round of heats was that a new Olympic Record was set by the Hungarian swimmer, Katinka Hosszú. She came in at 2:07:45. Needless to say, when she beat the old record everyone erupted with cheers!

MEN’S DIVING
10m Synchronized FINALS

THE BIG EVENT! I spent the most amount of money on this ticket – it cost more than all of the other tickets combined… and it was worth it! Once again I was able to watch the men’s team practice before the event began. I found that the event was actually the finals, which meant that the teams would be competing for the medals this round!

To make the event even better, I discovered that TOM DALEY would be diving for Great Britain. I’d bought this ticket hoping that he would be diving, but there was no way to know that beforehand. I was elated when I saw him name on the lineup! More on Tom later…

To make everything even better, I had front row center seats for the event. I couldn't have asked for a better seat for the event (other than sitting with Mr Tom Daley, of course...).

Eight teams performed in the finals:

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When the event began, all of the teams walked out and lined up right in front of where I was sitting so they could be announced! They were facing away from us, but would turn around as their names were announced. I was eagerly waiting for Tom to be announced and had my camera all ready to go... when a fucking cunt douche woman from the US walked right in front of me!! Fucking bitch saw me leaning forward with camera ready and she just barged her way down the row. I swore loudly and she just looked at me. A woman behind me (also from the USA) tapped me on the shoulder and told me how sorry she was for what happened. She could clearly tell that I had a thing for Tom and she reassured me that there would be plenty of opportunities to get pictures. It was very, very kind of her to say that. I did manage to get a good picture of the USA men's team greeting the crowd.

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Each team performed six jumps throughout the event. It was amazing to watch these men jumping and flipping through the air with such relative ease. The Chinese team dominated the event: their dives were near perfect. They were in perfect sync throughout and everything was flawless. The crowd loved everything they did. The Mexican team had an enormous fan base at the event, which surprised me (I'm not sure why it did, but it did). The Mexican team did well, though they did have some issues during their dives. The Brazilian team had significant support from the crowd, obviously, but unfortunately they did not perform as well as the other teams. The teams would slowly make their way up the diving platform as the teams in front of them would go. There were four levels: top level for those currently diving, second level for those next up, and so on.

The Russian team:

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The German team:

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Team USA was the second powerhouse during the event and garnered tons of cheers each time they performed. The two divers blew me away. I just watched in awe as they would dive time after time. They gold and silver medal spots were between China and the USA, no other team could come close to their scores.

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Then there was Tom Daley...

The Germans and the British were battling it out for the bronze medal position throughout the evening: one team would pull ahead one round and the other would come back the next. The tension it was building was incredible! I kept snapping photos of Tom as he would prepare to dive and I managed to get several truly great photos. This was the one time that I was hoping for Germany to screw up because I wanted Tom to win a medal.

Fair warning: I took an insane number of pictures. And yes, this is but a fraction of what I took...

Dive #1...

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Dive #2...

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Dive #3...

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Dive #4...

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Dive #5...
I have a video that I'll upload for this later. YouTube won't process it right now.

It all came down to the very last dive of the night, which was for Team Great Britain as they were the last team in the lineup. Germany had done quite well in their final dive and the difference in points between the two teams was down to mere fractions of points.

Dive #6...

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The dive was phenomenal, but would it be enough to secure the bronze medal?? Tom and his teammate waiting anxiously at the edge of the pool for the results...

THEY DID IT!! TEAM GB WON THE BRONZE!!
The crown erupted with cheers and I was ecstatic! Tom threw his arms around his diving partner and they fell back into the pool in a great display of the joy they were feeling. I looked down to the family seating area and saw Tom's fiance run over to him and give him a hug; it was sweet and wonderful.

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Medal Ceremony

The final part of the event was the medal ceremony. The kind woman behind me pointed out that the medal podiums were at the far end of the arena; she told me to rush over there so I could get some great pictures. I thanked her for her wonderful help and advice before running over.

The medalists appeared on stage shortly thereafter and received their medals. Cheers were heard for all three teams: the crown was genuinely happy for them all.

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After receiving their medals, the divers walked around the arena so the entire crowd could see them well. Their final stop was with the press, which just happened to be below the seating area I had moved to. I stayed and snapped some more photos before the ushers told us that we had to leave.

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By this point I was beaming with happiness! I had just seen the one Olympian that I truly wanted to see perform and he had done a tremendous job. It was incredible! Amazing! Outstanding! It was the perfect way to wrap up my adventures at the Rio Olympics. It was the best event of the Games and there was nothing that could match it. Walking back to the bus station I was just overcome with such incredibly happiness; pure happiness that I've not felt in a long time. It was a happiness that nearly brought me to tears for whatever reason.

But now I'm back at the hostel, packed up and ready to leave Rio tomorrow. I am off to Iguassu Falls on a 9am flight!

I close with a few pictures that were taken by the pros during the final moments of the diving match. Just amazing. :-)

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Posted by Glichez 16:46 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Fencing, Table Tennis, and Gymnastics!


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Day two of my Olympic adventure here in Rio!

Another early morning as I had to make my way to the Barra Olympic Park by 9am for fencing. I had to take the Metro Line 4, which is brand new (it opened to the public a week ago and it was built for the Olympics – nothing like cutting it down to the wire!). After taking the metro, I had to transfer to the BRT bus; thankfully they had an express bus from the metro station to the Olympic Park. All told the transit time was just under 90 minutes. After arriving at the Park, I walked across the makeshift walkway they had built for the Games: basically scaffolding with platforms to walk on.

Security to get into the Park was rather easy and quick, though it helped that I arrived so early in the morning. The Park is HUGE with multiple venues spaced all around. I was truly impressed by what the Brazilians were able to pull off with the Park.

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FENCING

My first event of the day was men’s fencing. My seat was over to the far side of the venue and provided a decent view of one match, while the others were too far to see much. I initially found the sport difficult to follow as I knew nothing about it, but it didn’t take long to catch on. The match closest two me features a Brazilian and the crowd was going crazy each time he scored a point.

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I saw several matches during the 2 hours I spent watching fencing. Towards the end I got to see Germany play against France! I had worn my new “Deutschland” t-shirt today and it was great to be able to support Germany. The match was incredibly intense: one side would be up a few points and the other would close the gap. Thankfully Germany prevailed!

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The final match up that I saw was Russia vs USA. There was a very large crowd cheering on the Russian side and a decent amount of American fans. Several times throughout the match the fans would get into shouting competitions: who could chant “U-S-A” or “RO-SI-YA” the loudest. Despite some serious effort by the Americans, the Russians won.

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One funny moment happened when an American fan yelled out “Just the tip!” to encourage the US fencer.

After I left fencing, I had to make my way over to another venue park, the Riocentro Park, for table tennis. The park was about a 30-minute walk away, again along the makeshift walkway. The views of the city were rather beautiful. Then the smell hit me. There was a waterway running along the road and… the smell was beyond describing. It reeked of shit. Literally, like shit. It was like 1,000 people all just took a crap in the water and left it there. To top it all off, the breeze was blowing the smell toward the walkway! Joy!

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The Riocentro Park was a smaller area, but still quite nice. There was a covered area that had several interactive exhibits: weightlifting, badminton, volleyball, etc. I decided to grab a bite to eat along with a beer. All of the beers at the Games are sold in yellow commemorative cups; you get to pick out the cup you want as well. I’ve managed to collect three cups: fencing, archery, artistic gymnastics (all events I saw). Today’s lunch was a chicken sandwich with cheese which was rather good – far better than the hamburger I had yesterday.

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TABLE TENNIS

Table tennis was inside a massive arena, but it only utilized part of the building. This event had general admission in your assigned section; I managed to get a good seat to see 2 of the 4 matches that would be played simultaneously.

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Up first were the women and there were several very good players, including one from North Korea! She was playing further away and I couldn’t get a great shot of their match, but it was fun to watch. She managed to beat her competitor.

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The other major match that was going on was between Russia and Belarus. It was a very intense, heated match up and Belarus managed to win – and the crowd went crazy! Each time a match finished the players would walk around the arena and many of them would stop to say hello to fans.

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Next it was time for the men to play. I wasn’t able to stay very long and watch them too much because I had to make it back to the Olympic Park for my final event. However, I did get to see Russia square off against Ukraine. The Russian player was insanely tall and looked somewhat silly hunched over the table as he played.

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I made my way back to the Barra Olympic Park, again walking through the shit-smelling walkway. Security to get in took a little longer this time because the crowd had grown, but it was still a breeze. I arrived in plenty of time and decided to walk around some. I found this massive plaza with people gathered around, eating food from the many stands nearby. The crowd was huge!

Clouds started to roll in and I feared that it would start to rain, so I made my way over to the venue for gymnastics. En route I grabbed another beer (grabbing the fencing cup this time!). When I arrived at the venue they were keeping us in the queue to get in, so I sat down and enjoyed my beer. It started to sprinkle a little bit, but it never actually rained.

ARTISTIC GYMNASTICS

Once they finally scanned our tickets and let us move on, we were herded together outside the venue (but inside the ticket area) and waited for an additional 20 minutes or so; the crowd was getting very impatient, waiting to get in. We were finally let inside about 30 minutes before the event began. My seats were on the third level, almost in the nose-bleed seats. However, this game me a great view of the entire venue! They had the tumble mat, uneven bars, balance beam, and the vault setup.

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The women performed tonight, the highlight being Team USA! The Netherlands also had a full team performing. There were also several individuals who were from countries who couldn’t send a full team (Egypt, Trinidad and Tobago, Iceland, Venezuela). Each group of women would start at one station, have the entire team perform there, and then they would rotate around. Team USA started tumbling, then did the vault, the uneven bars, and finished on the balance beam. The crowd went crazy each time an American did well – it was nice to hear USA being cheered for rather than against.

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Team USA dominated the event and brought the team to first place. This was the quarterfinals and there was still another round of gymnastics to go before it would be known who would move on.

The trip back to the hostel was smooth; the crowds were crazy, but it went quick enough. The walk to the hostel from the metro station, while only taking 5 minutes, was still nerve racking because it is dark and not well lit.

Right now, as I write this, a group of early 20-something Australians are playing a drinking game, being quite loud and very obnoxious. They bought 23 beers (by my last count, though the recycling bin is clearly full of beers they’ve already had).

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One of the guys drinking with them is an American from Colorado! He grew up in Arvada. His name is Chad and he came over to chat for a bit, which was cool. He works on cellular towers around the world and will be heading to some island in the Indian Ocean next month for work.

Posted by Glichez 17:12 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Archery... and a sunburn


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Today was the first day of the Olympics!

Last night I slept rather well… until around 4am when one of the roommates began to snore quite loudly. It gave me flashbacks to the roommate I had throughout my tour of Iran, though his snoring was far worse.

I was up early at 6am to get ready to head out to my first Summer Olympic event: men’s team archery! I made the short walk to the metro station and made my way to the Sambodromo where the event was being held. Upon reaching the venue I realized – to my horror – that I had grabbed the wrong ticket: I had my ticket for fencing, not for archery! In a panic, I ran back to the metro and rushed back to the hostel to retrieve the correct ticket. The metro ride was 30min – one way – and thankfully I had left early enough that I made it back with mere minute to spare before archery began.

Seating was done by sections and within each section you could sit wherever you wanted. For this event I was in the lower section and I scored a very good seat close to the archers. There were four matches during this event.
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PRELIMINARY ROUND

France vs. Malaysia
6 – 2
I was quite pleased to be able to see France participate and even more pleased when they won their match.

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Netherlands vs. Spain
5 – 1
I found myself cheering for the Dutch team for whatever reason. They did quite well against Spain, beating them with a tie in their final round.

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Here's a video I took of Netherlands archer Mitch Dielemans:

Brazil vs. China
2 – 6
The stadium erupted in cheers when the Brazilian team appeared and each time they would score a 10 (bull’s eye). Sadly for the Brazilian fans, the Chinese team easily outperformed them.

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Taipei vs. Indonesia
2 – 6
This match I was not particularly invested in, though it was still fun to watch.

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When the match ended it was only 10:30 and I had thought that the event lasted until 1pm; I was surprised when the announcer bid us all farewell and announced that additional matches would be held at 2pm.

I made my way out of the stadium, grabbing a quick bite to eat at the concession stand. The hamburger was so-so; there is something about either the meat and/or the cheese that I’m not a fan of (I had the same reaction to a McDonald’s burger I had during my layover in Sao Paolo).

I decided to skip my sightseeing event this afternoon (going to see Christ the Redeemer) and instead decided to buy a ticket to see the afternoon archery session. The afternoon would have Team USA perform and I was interested to see how they did. The ticket line was quite short – there was only one person in front of me. I sat in line for nearly 2 hours waiting to get the fucking ticket. At first I thought the person in front of me was being difficult, but it quickly became apparent that the vendors had no clue what they were doing. There were people in other lines having the same issues: the cashiers had no idea how to sell the tickets or use their computers. The language barrier became an even bigger issue: many other people in line (from France, China, Australia) were trying to speak English to the cashiers, but none of them spoke English (this despite all signage being bi-lingual). There was one guy who spoke English and he was quite helpful. When it was finally my turn, it still took nearly 45 minutes for them to actually sell me the damn ticket. Needless to say, I was frustrated and exhausted afterwards (we were all standing around in the blazing hot sun during this entire process). Fuck!

I rushed back to the hostel to put on some sun-tan lotion, which I had forgotten to apply before I left in the morning (I can already feel the sunburns…). Then I rushed back to the Sambodromo to see the semifinals round.

QUARTERFINALS ROUND

France vs. Australia
3 – 5

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Korea vs. Netherlands
6 – 0
The Korean team proved to be a powerhouse that steamrolled over their opponents. Their fans were all over the stadium as well.

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Italy vs. China
0 – 6

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Indonesia vs. USA
2 – 6
Team USA performed very well and easily beat Indonesia. I was happy to see a few America fans here and there in the stadium, but they were far outnumbered by the number of people cheering for Indonesia. Spectators were cheering for them simply because they wanted Team USA to lose (this would hold true no matter who USA was playing against).

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To me surprise, this particular event included both the semifinals AND the finals (yes, the medal rounds!).

SEMIFINALS ROUND

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Korea vs. Australia
6 – 0
Korea killed it again – they made beating Australia seem like it was nothing at all. The fans in the stadium were going crazy!

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China vs. USA
0 – 6
As with the first match where USA performed, the crowd was cheering against them; there wasn’t any booing, but you could sense that they wanted anyone except USA to win. The Chinese team put up a good fight and the rounds were quite close, but USA pulled out another win – on to the gold medal round!

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BRONZE MEDAL ROUND

Australia vs. China
6 – 2
This was a very intense match and several rounds came down to a one-point difference. I was cheering for the Australians during the match and was happy that they won the bronze medal.

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GOLD MEDAL ROUND
Korea vs. USA
6 – 0
This match was very tense to sit through. The stadium was full of Korean fans, with almost everyone cheering for them except for the tiny pockets of USA fans. I cheered for Team USA quite a bit – they needed all the cheering on they could get. Sadly, it didn’t seem to help much. The Korean team continued their steamrolling and killed it during the match.

Apparently I was on the NBC coverage of the final match as well! My sister was watching and told me that she spotted me! :-)

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Finally, after all of the matches were done, the samba group performed for a little while on the field as they prepared for the medal ceremony. It was an added treat to get to see the medal ceremony – and a great way to close the first day of my Olympic adventures!

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... and yes, my camera does have something on the lens. Try as I might, I've been unable to get it off. The spot on most of the pictures drives me crazy...

Posted by Glichez 16:04 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Sugarloaf Mountain, but no sight of Jaws or James Bond


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The past two days have been incredibly LONG and tiring. To begin with, I had some last-minute change of packing plans, which stressed me to no end. My sister, niece Jane and nephew Jack were in town visiting and I wanted to spend time with them before I left on my trip as well.

All three of my flights were on time and went rather smoothly, though the total time it took me to get from Raleigh to Rio was around 25 hours. I had a 2hr flight to Ft Lauderdale, where I had a 6hr layover; the airport didn't have much in the way of entertainment, so I spent the time watching movies and TV shows on HBO Go. The flight to Sao Paolo left around 9pm and lasted just over 8hrs. I dozed off and on throughout the flight, but I didn't manage to get a good rest. The dinner that was served was some pasta dish that was so-so. I watched the first half of X-Men First Class before trying to sleep again. During the middle of the night we hit some pretty rough turbulence that kept waking me up. We landed in Sao Paolo just before 6am (Brazil time, +1hr from EST). I had another 6hr layover in Sao Paolo before I had a quick 45min flight to Rio.

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Everything went smoothly upon arrival in Rio. The driver that I had booked was there waiting for me and was incredibly friendly. He explained about the safety of Rio as we walked to his car. We left the airport and he told me all about the city and various sights and facts concerning it.

Our first stop was Sugarloaf Mountain, and the primary sight that I wanted to see in Rio. This location was featured in the James Bond film "Moonraker" when Jaws and Bond do battle in and on cable cars. Despite searching all over the mountain, I couldn't find them anywhere!

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However, they did have a cable car on display like the ones used in Moonraker... and I did spot Drax's airfield...

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I took the cable car up to the first mountain and was astounded by the view of the city! I could see the gorgeous bay, the beaches, all of the mountains surrounding the city.

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I waited in line to take the cable car to the top of the second mountain; the line was quite long, but well worth it. While waiting for the cable car, a large group of people came down with one person carrying the Olympic torch! It was incredibly timing!

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On the way up we saw three people climbing the mountain! It was breathtakingly beautiful from the top; I didn't think that the view could get better than what I'd seen from the first level, but it was! From this height I could see all of Copacabana beach, as well as the entirety of Rio.

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I spent 30-40 minutes walking around, admiring the amazing views before heading back down to rejoin my driver.

The next stop was the Escalera de Selarón, which is a wonderful set of steps that are lined with individual tiles. Many of the tiles have pictures or sayings and are all different. It's a popular tourist stop and there were tons of people there as well. The driver was kind enough to take several photos for me, which I am very thankful for.

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Driving through Rio I was surprised by how run down and dumpy the city truly is; I didn't have very high expectations, but this was below those. It was rather sad actually; everywhere I looked the poverty was blatantly obvious. There were several nice parks that we drove by, but the driver advised not walking through them alone. I was able to see several favelas as well, which were in such bad shape. The police and military were EVERYWHERE: on almost every street corner, around all major tourist attractions and transport hubs.

After a quick stop, we headed off to my lodgings: the Cabanacopa Hostel. I've always been weary of hostels as I prefer more privacy and seclusion, but this one was a pleasant surprise. It is very busy with guests in for the Olympics, but everyone seems friendly and the place has a fun vibe. I'm staying in an 8-bed shared dorm room. So far I've only met one of my roommates, a very nice guy from Tunisia (he even gave me a keychain from Tunisia of a little fez!).

Now I am sitting in the lobby/bar area of the hostel, hoping that the Opening Ceremonies will be shown on the television they have here.

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Currently a soccer game is on, but no one seems to be watching it; hopefully they'll change the channel. Several people here are heading into the city to the party/bar/club area known as Lapa, but I do not think that I will be joining them. I've got to be up very early in the morning to make it to my first Olympic event at 9am: Archery!

Posted by Glichez 14:10 Archived in Brazil Comments (2)

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