Awandering

 
 

I'm now in Singapore which is crazy different.  I'm still trying to wrap my head around it.  I'll write more once i've been here longer, but for the moment I'll say that I haven't seen a single caucasion person in the neighborhood i'm staying (they stick to the touristy areas) and the people i'm staying with don't use toilet paper (water?).  Also, multiple people have told me that Singapore is a fine city - they hand out fines for lots of behaviors. 
 
Meanwhile I thought I'd tell you about the 2nd part of my visit to Australia
 
Sydney
I went to the fish market auction early this morning.  It's a computerized dutch auction;  there is a giant clock-like counter that runs the price down (it starts at a price they're sure no one is willing to pay) until a bidder presses a button on their keypad.  The fish is sold in about 7-20kg boxes.  If there are multiple boxes, the highest bidder in the first round can take more than one (usually limited to 10 or 15, but there weren't more than 30 boxes of the same fish from the same seller).  If there are boxes left the next auction starts $1 above the winning price of the previous one.  I'm curious how the having multiple boxes and allowing people to take more than one affects the theory.  (If people weren't gaming the system you'd expect the price to drop on each successive box as they go to bidders who value it less and less).
We talked to one of the bidders.  He said (though clearly repeating something he'd been told) that the dutch auction was the fairest because in a regular auction you could bid prices up to stop competitors from getting things.  I question the logic since in theory a standard (first-bid) auction could be anonymous.  Also, usually the primary concern of auctioneers is profit, not fairness.
I saw the standard sights of sydney and had fun hanging out with some couchsurfers (people I met through couchsurfing.com).  I have to say I didn't particularly like the city.  Some pretty bits, but pretty unremarkable - maybe I didn't see enough outside of downtown.  The opera house (one of sydney's landmarks) was impressive, but with $100m I too could build something impressive.
 
 
Melbourne
I stayed with friends first in Mt Eliza - a wealthy beach suburb and then in Fitzroy - a young hip neighborhood.  The main drag was almost entirely restaurants and boutique like clothing stores - with the occasional bookstore.  Some of the stores were only open from 11am to 4pm!  What a life.
 
(since this part was written during, rather than after, it's a little all over the place)
 
I met a couple of Europeans who said they had the impression that Americans marry young; that living together (and having sex) before marriage are less acceptable, plus the idea that 30 is 'old' to be single make people marry earlier.  I wonder if there's any truth to it.
 
I went to a movie and there were a bunch of government sponsored/mandated ads at the beginning.  One against drinking irresponsibly, one against driving irresponsibly, and a terrible one about worker safety where a girl in a bakery gets her finger cut off because she doesn't want to ask again how the slicer.  Made me wish I'd been late.
 
The 'Acting Prime Minister' was quoted in the paper today.  Apparently the deputy becomes acting whenever the prime minister leaves the country or goes on holiday.  It makes the whole big deal about Bush having anesthesia for a couple hours for a colonoscopy seem all the more ridiculous.
 
 
I had a great dinner and tour last night with B and J.  B is an American who has lived in Melbourne for many years who offered to take me on a mini-tour/ history lesson and dinner at one of the old clubs.   J is an Australian who's interning at Barry's office.  While we had a drink B explained some of the history of the founding of Melbourne.  We walked down to the old custom house so we could see where the docks used to be. 
Then we went to a really nice dinner at the RACV club. These clubs considered part of Australia's history - there used to be a lot of political connections/discussions/ties that went through them.  That's not the case any more, but some of them are still men only (during the day - members can bring women to dinner) which causes a lot of controversy.
 I had steak and a chocolate dessert, but got to taste some roo (as in kanga-) and pavlova which is an Australian meringue based dessert.  After finishing the history lesson we talked about differences between Australia and the US (mainly alcohol policy and local/international-ness).  Barry recounted lots of anecdotes about his travels in the outback.  Deserts with small stones as far as the eye can see.  Farms with a million acres per person - if you stop animals will gather out of curiosity.  White attracts emus.  Asking directions to the most beautiful spot in the area and people not knowing where it was.
 To exemplify the local-mindedness of Americans, Barry asked how many cities I could name in Illinois.  To my defense Chicago is big (landwise) so in other places its neighborhoods would be suburbs, but I could only name 4 – Chicago, Springfield, Evanston and Deerfield (and Gary, which should be in Illinois).  He then asked how many I could name in Victoria (the state Melbourne is in) – I got 5 or 6 quickly. 
Afterwards we went on a tour of the Australia club (they weren't open for dinner).  The bar, the dining room, the 'reading room (mostly newspapers), the 'strangers' room, the long room, the toilets – the men's room had a scale where you sat instead of standing and a very decorated toilet seat cover.  The billiard room had 3 enormous tables and racks with cases where you could store (and lock up) your cue and a little table/stand thing for scoring.  Unfortunately I didn't take pictures.  There were also reception rooms- which faced the streets so you could be seen. One of the rooms had lots of bookshelves and B pointed out a collection of large books (20"x30") done by one of Audubon's students that catalogued birds of Australia.   The top 2 floors were hotel rooms – for members and their guests – apparently only about $110 a night.
My last night there I went to a Bye Bye Bush Bash.  Which was mostly Americans or people connected to the states.  Seeing the all the American paraphernalia with cricket on the TV was pretty funny.
 
That's it for now.  The university cafeteria has great fruit juices for USD$1 (i assume it's subsidized, the food is also very cheap) so I'm going to see if I can get another one to take with me.

 
 

This is a long post since I haven't written in a while
 
Last few weeks in S America:
I went pretty far south (though not all the way to Ushuaia).  The scenery was amazing, especially the glaciers.  http://www.flickr.com/photos/awandering/sets/72157610386188785/show/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/awandering/sets/72157610474117811/show/
Besides the scenery there isn't much there and it's all overpriced because it's such a touristy area – at least on the Argentinean side.  I didn't want to do a 30hr bus trip from Calafate to Bariloche so I stopped in Rio Gallegos and Comodoro Ridavia.  It was a lot of catching up on sleep and getting over my cold (there isn't much to see).  In C. Ridavia (it's always written that way even though people refer to it as "Comodoro" which confused the hell out of me) I stayed with M who was very friendly and whose mom made kickass empanadas.
 
Bariloche was great.  It reminded me of Switzerland – both the architecture and the mountains/lakes.  I rented a car with some people I met in the hostel and drove up to San Martin de los Andes (to differentiate it from the other city called San Martin – he was pretty popular).  The lakes were beautiful, though my first time driving extensively on unpaved roads was a little stressful.  San Martin is as beautiful but less developed and touristy than Bariloche.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/awandering/sets/72157612631070934/show/
 
From there I went up to Mendoza, which is wine country.  I went on a tour of 2 vineyards, an olive oil farm/factory, and a chocolate/liqueur factory.  It was great!  The tastings were all good and learning about the process was really interesting.  The chocolate/liqueur place is entirely family run and the woman was a wonderful guide.  She had a funny story/anecdote/line to go with each part of the explanation. "It's stronger than it tastes, maybe that's why..." or "My mother-in-law thinks it's a cure for everything: headache, have a swig, stomache, have a swig..." The tastes were also good, though liqueur is kind of meant to be mixed with things, not drank from shot glasses.  The flavors were intense.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/awandering/sets/72157612631046834/show/
 
The bus ride across the mountains to Santiago was beautiful, though the 3.5+ spent at Chilean customs was not.  In Santiago I stayed with B who was great.  We had a lot of fun – even though many things were closed for the Saint's day.  Santiago is a really enormous city.  It's kind of overwhelming.  The museums and churches mostly like everywhere else, so I'll mention 2 other places. 
La Piojera
B recommended that I go to La Piojera for lunch.  She'd never been there, but it was supposed to be very 'Chilean.'  When I sat down a waiter asked what I wanted to drink - there wasn't a menu.  I ordered a terremoto (earthquake) which is ice cream and white wine - might not be bad if made with decent white wine. I was one of about 3 women in there and the only who wasn't there with a guy.   I later asked what they had to eat, but there were only 2 options and both had pork.  Not a very successful lunch, though quite an experience.
Sandwich Shop
I stopped in a small place for a sandwich.  Shortly after, some people came in with Tupperware containers.  I thought maybe they were buying drinks, but the store also sells a microwave service.  I think it was 100 pesos (15cents) to have your lunch micro-waved.  Where there's a demand….
http://www.flickr.com/photos/awandering/sets/72157612579834065/show
 
 
I wrote a little bit before about Michael and my explorations around Melbourne and trip up to Sydney.  It was nature heavy. We spent a few days in the Blue Mountains which included a trip to the Jenolan caves – thought to be some of the oldest on earth.  The formations are really amazing, especially when you realize how slowly the stalactites and stalagmites and whatnot form (I think the guide said an inch every 1000 years, but I don't remember). We arrived in Sydney Sunday morning and left for the airport that evening (to sleep there for an early international flight).  Just the right amount of time for Michael to spend in a city.  Pictures are
http://www.flickr.com/photos/awandering/sets/72157612579542241/show/
 
 
Michael and I met mom and dad in New Zealand for 2 weeks family vacation.  It was also very nature-centric.  We didn't go in a single church or museum.  We did a 4 day hike through the rain forest to Milford Sound, which is a bay surrounded by steep mountains/cliffs.   There were lots of pretty waterfalls, though many of the views were blocked by clouds, mist and rain. We drove across the mountains – gorgeous views – to the west coast of the island. 
 
We took a helicopter onto a glacier and got to walk around a bit before the clouds lowered and they had to rush us out of there.  (They don't like landing the helicopters when visibility is about 15')  The glacier was really incredible.  It's very hard to have a sense of size.  You see pinnacles that could be 5 feet tall or 50 feet tall. You can occasionally here ice creaking since it's constantly moving – I think about 10 feet a day, but you don't see a difference unless you go back multiple times – like the guides do.  They make a different path each day.
 
We continued up the coast.  We saw the pancake rocks which is limestone where some layers are softer than others so they erode and it looks like a stack of pancakes.  We went in the Nile River Caves.  In addition to cool formations, they had glowworms!  We got to see one trap a mosquito.  It's the only light production known to man that doesn't create heat. We also went horseback riding, which was awesome.  The other experienced-ish riders and I got to do stretches of cantering which was fun and at the end we galloped down the beach. 
http://www.flickr.com/photos/awandering/sets/72157612630526552/show/
 
 
I'm now back in Australia, but I'll write about that later.  Except:
1. I've started learning Hindi and it's awesome :)  I miss college.
2.The problem with traveling is the only hugs you give/get are goodbye hugs.

 
Australia 12/16/2008
 

The time to write is a mixed blessing, or maybe I should say mixed curse, since it’s mostly bad.  I left m passport in the glove compartment of the avis car we returned this morning and by the time I returned 45 later, they’d rented it out again.  The woman won’t be back in the city until this afternoon.  I guess I’m lucky it wasn’t a multiday rental to some other city.  

The road trip is very end heavy – things we really want to do at the beginning and a couple days worth o stuff a the end.  So most of Wednesday and Thursday will be spent driving.  It should be a pretty route.

I arrived in Melbourne last Thursday and have managed to pretty much avoid jetlag, though I haven’t had a chance to recuperate from my traveler’s tiredness.  It’s a little odd to be back in an English speaking country.  I definitely started a couple questions in Spanish before realizing the person had no idea what I was saying.   That said there’s plenty about melboune that’s different
When you go in a restaurant they bring a pitcher of water right away – I love it!
No one on the stram makes sure that you pay when you get on – There are probably random checks and there’s an ad campaign about how you’re a jerk if you don’t pay.
The maximum sped limit I’ve seen is 100km, and people mostly follow it.  Europeans (at least the French) who go to the US are amazed at how slow we drive, but Australia is far slower.  There are billboards on the high way saying things like “Slowing down won’t kill you” and “Microsleeps can kill – take a power nap”
They drive on the left.  This is obvious, but there’s a lot that goes with it.  The windshield wiper control and the lights control are swapped.  You have to look over your left shoulder when backing up (in a manual car you have to shift gears with your left hand).  People also walk on the left (on a trail, escalator, etc).  
The tap water gets truly hot – ie scalding – and quickly.  
The toll roads scan your license plate as you drive on.  There are no tollbooths.  You have to call and give you’re credit card number and plate number to pay the toll.  (If you live here you have it set up so it works permanently.  
They have one and two-dollar coins (not that weird), but the 2 dollar coin is tiny – between the size of a dime and a nickel and the dollar coin is the size of a nickel.  Very confusing.
Christmas is in summer.  This was true in S America as well, but somehow hear I notice it more.  They don’t have a 2007-2008 school year or a summer 2008.  The school is just 2008 and they just refer to the ‘holiday’ not the summer.  
They’ve had a drought for a number of years here and there are water restrictions usage goals set by the government.  It rained a lot this weekend and I think we’ve been present for about half the rain that fell all year.  


We’ve seen some cool sights.  We went to a wildlife sanctuary where, despite the rain we saw lots of different species of Australian wildlife.  I knew that they have Kangaroos and koalas and wallabees, but even the smaller and more mundane animals are pretty different from what we have.  It’s wired when the common rodent you see scurrying is something you’ve never heard of.  Sunday we drove the Great Ocean Road wheich is a pretty stretch to the west of Melbourne.   Koalas are fairly common, so it’s not hard to see them, but they spend so much time sleeping that it’s hard to see them being interesting.  We saw one that was climbing up and down branches, eating. We even saw it ump from one branch to another.  There were also some semi-tame colorful birds.  I managed to get one on one of my hands and then put it on my head, which was pretty funny.  We saw the Twelve Apostles, a famous rock formation off the coast (I only counted 10) and at another spot saw a koala with a joey (it’s young) on it’s back.   Yesterday we went to Phillip’s Island.  We went for a hike ot the highest spot on the island.  It wasn’t very high, but the hike was great.    Today we’re going to Wilson’s Prom, the southern most part of continental Australia.  It should be beautiful.  

 
Knowledge 11/22/2008
 

A friend of mine from UofC who is doing a similar trip mentioned at some point that all the birds he was seeing made him wish he'd paid more attention to bird watching friends/family and knew more about them.  I feel the same way, except not just about birds, but about pretty much everything.  Birds, other wildlife, flora, history, geography, astronomy...
I'm learning a lot about different things, but there are lots of things that the trip makes me curious about, that I'm not in a position to learn.  The parks and museums have some information on the local nature, but not a lot and since it's in Spanish the names of birds and other animals are a lot less helpful.  (I have to later look up the word to find out that it was a such and such eagle as opposed to a hawk or vulture).  There's a lot of history that many museums assume you know.  Wikipedia has been some help, but I have to remember my questions and find the internet time to answer them. 
Astronomy my seem a little out of place on the list, but the phases of the moon are different in the Southern Hemisphere.  I kind of figured out why, but it made me realize that I don't really understand the phases of the moon in general - when there's a new moon (or almost new) shouldn't it be visible almost exclusively during the day.  Each answer brings more questions...

 
 

The public workers in Chile have been on strike for about a week.  They want a 14.5% pay adjustment (I think they call it an adjustment and not a raise because the idea is that it just compensates for inflation).  It seems to affect different places to different extents.  In Santiago there was no trash pick up, but I haven't seen that problem else where.  Lots of students go to private schools, but it seems that most of the public ones are closed.  National parks generally have 1 person a the entrance saying to enter without paying (an upside), but there are no maps and the bathrooms are closed (decided downside):  Some tourist offices are closed, bu others are open.  It seems most municipal services aren't offered, but it's hard to know, since I don't use them.  So far the customs seem to be functioning, but there is the fear that if you leave you won't be able to come back.

Pucon
The main thing to do near Pucon is to hike the Volano Villarrica, but I decided I didn't need to pay a lot of money for a cold, strenuous, hike that may or may not have a great view (on foggy days visibility is only a few feet).  Instead I went to the Parque Nacional Huerquehue and did a fairly long hike up to a group of lagoons.  There were good views of the volcano and other mountains and the lagoons were very peaceful.  It was great except for the HUGE spider I saw walking along the path.  It was at least,2, I think closer to 3 inches long and hairy.  Someone else I saw said he'd seen a few of them.  <shiver>  Earlier in La Serena someone told me that the good thing about Chile was they didn't have any poisonous snakes or anything (he was giving me a  ride around a field I'd been thinking of cutting through). I could only hope that extended to the South of Chile and to Spiders.
It was tight catching the bus to Valdivia.  I knew when I bought the ticket that there was only 25 minutes, but there was no later bus.  It ended up being 5min, but I made it.  Apparently Friday is a bad time to travel.  Buses are crowded and tend to run late because everyone who works or studies away from home for the week is going home. 

Valdivia
The south part of Chile, particularly from Valdivia down to Puerto Varas has a lot of German influence.  When Chile finally won it's independence, they were worried about keeping control because there were few settlers in the area (and a fair number of indigenous people).  They actively encouraged immigration, sending people to Germany - where many were disappointed at the recently failed revolution - to recruit.  The influence can be seen in the architecture, the German language schools, the coloring of some people and the food (especially the chocolate).

Puerto Varas
The beginning of the trip to the national park didn't bode well.  The road there was under construction and when we finally got there, I found out that the rangers were on strike.  But things got better.  Turns out the main effect of the strike is that they don't charge admission (they also close the bathrooms, go figure).  There was no long hike, but lots of short paths.  The waterfalls reminded me of Iguacu since they were so broken up, but about 1/10th as big in every way.  Another path lead to a small waterfall into a perfect swimming hole.  I hadn't brought my bathing suit, but the place was pretty deserted, so I went for a quick skinny dip.  Very quick since the water was colder than I'd initially thought.  The whole area was really gorgeous.  Really clear water with both wide rapids and very still areas dappled with light. 

Puerto Montt
The bus route from Puerto Montt crosses through Argentina.   We stopped at a restaurant in Arg that accepted Chilean pesos.  I assumed that they wouldn't give a very good rate and planed to use the Argentine pesos I had left, but everything was twice as expensive in Argentine pesos.  Apparently the Chilean peso was strong recently so the changed the prices (so as not to lose money) and hadn't change them back.  The weird thing was the direction of the changes made it seem like the operation was run in Chilean pesos. 

 
 

 Cars:

C, my host in Tucuman told me that most of the cars in Northern Argentina are equipped to run on either gasoline or compressed natural gas. There are  GNC (gas natural com ) stations just like petrol stations (except you have to get out of the car while it's pumped,  which I didn't find terribly reassuring.)  It's better for the environment, but the main incentive is that it's cheaper. It's measure in cubic meters and I couldn't figure out the relative mileage, but while unit difference may fool people in the short run, I think in the long run they probably, get it right (i.e. I believe Carla when she says it's cheaper.)

I've been impressed/surprised with Chileans' driving. In the tiny town of San Pedro, they came to a full stop at each intersection, even at hours when the streets were pretty deserted.  In L Serena and Valparaiso they stop for pedestrians considering crossing the street. Also, the long distance buses have a device that beeps if it goes over 100kph  - more annoying that impressive.  

CO2
People trying to reduce CO2 emissions - whether it's carbon credits or just environmental non-profits - should work in the 3rd world.  Two main reasons why this would greatly increase efficiency (bang for the buck): Less has been done and less will be done. Firstly, because less has been done there is more ''low hanging fruit'' In the US easy/cheap opportunities for reducing emissions have already been taken.  Secondly, despite various international efforts, I don't think 3rd world countries are going to pas policies to reduce emissions any times soon.  This makes it more likely that any program under taken will have a longer lasting effect and is less likely to fall in to the 'would have happened anyway' category.  If the carbon offsets go to a boiler that's twice as efficient and the next year the gov't passes a law requiring that boilers become twice as efficient in the next 2 years, than the offsets only made the change happen a few years earlier - no lasting effect

 
11/12 Santiago 11/12/2008
 

11/ 12 A national strike today was a major inconvenience (as it's meant to be). Both the main museums in Santiago and the funicular up the hill were closed. (I misunderstood where the base of the funicular was so I walked a ways to get there and then another long ways to the teleferico which, being run by other people was open, but don't ask me to explain the difference between a funicular and a teleferico.

I was in Santiago for the day because I missed my bus last night from Valparaiso to Pucon.  Since I felt I'd already spent more than enough time in Valpo, I took a bus in the morning to Santiago and in the evening will get on the bus to Pulcon one stop later.  Those of you who know I'm usually early may wonder how I missed my bus.  When buying the ticket I was hoping there would be one after 11 so I could go to a tango show.  Turbus was leaving at 21:30 -perfect! Except no, that's 9:30 not 11:30.  I didn't realize until 11:39 when I was trying to figure out why the bus station was deserteded :(

 
 

11/5  More San Pedro
The lagoons were gorgeous and the geysers were amazing.  Though most of them weren't what I consider geysers (water shooting form the ground) . The water was so hot and the altitude so great (4200m)  that it was mostly steam (water boils at 85 degrees Celsius).  I'll try to catch up on pictures soon...  

11/6 La Serena
seems like an ok town, though a gray drizzly day is enough to make any where kind of blah. I took a bus up into the valley for a day.  There is a huge amount of grape cultivations.  Most of them are exported, though some are used for making Pisco, a grape brandy which seems to be the alcohol of Chile.  

11/11 Valparaiso
is a cool city.  It reminds me in a lot of ways of Guanajuato, Mexico (though much bigger).  It's on the ocean.  There is a strip a few blocks wide along the coast and then a row of hills.  There are lots of little funiculars running up the hills and also lots of foot paths.  There are definitely some places that it's faster to walk to than drive.   

 It's very colorful. There are lots of outdoor murals and many of the buildings are lively colors.  I couldn't help thinking how much nicer it would be if it were cleaned up and cared for.  There were lots of street dogs and the accompanying poo, some of the houses were badly in need of repair.  There was also lots of graffiti.  Some was pretty and almost like the murals, but there as plenty of the ugly black scrawl.  I went to see a tango show.  The dancing was pretty amazing.  The singing did less for me.  I couldn't catch all the words and there was clearly a nostalgia component I was missing - some audience members were singing along.

 
 

I haven't written in a while -  I guess there's been too much fun stuff going on.  I was in Salta, Argentina and from there visited the small town of San Lorenzo.  Really a suburb of Salta, it's only draw is a a stream and valley/canyon around it where there is some hiking.  Very pretty.  From Salta I also went north to Humahuaca Canyon.  There were some amazing views driving through the canyon.  It's enormous.  I don't know how long it is, but one of the towns inside is at about 2200m above sea level and there is a peak on the side that is 4160 m above sea level.  It also made me wonder what the difference between a canyon and a valley is.  Driving along the bottom, it very much looks like a canyon - some steep walls, lots of carved rock - of an amazing number of colors.  But as we climbed up we seemed to come out of the canyon into a valley - sloping hill/mountain sides. 

On the other side of the 4160m peek was a large salt flat.  Which we walked on and saw how the salt is harvested.  Despite the fact that it supports people and vehicles, just a few inches under the surface of salt there's water.  From a hole 1m by 2m they extract a ton (1000kg) of salt.Then they leave the hole for a year waiting for the salt to accumulate before harvesting again.  The surface has hexagonal patterns.  I didn't get a satisfactory explanation as to why the ridges form hexagons (the guide told me 'mud does the same thing when it dries').  Each year the salt flat floods in the rainy season and they have to wait until the water evaporates to resume harvesting.

Now I am in Chile.  I took a 10hr bus ride from Salta to San Pedro de Atacama.  It's a small town that seems to be made up entirely of hostels, restaurants, and agency that organize expeditions.  Normally I would find it annoying, but it's with good reason.  there are day expeditions to geysers, salt flats, canyons, and even volcanoes for the more adventurous (ie in better shape). 

This morning I went horseback riding for a few hours.  The guide was useless (I think he said maybe 20 sentences in 4 hours), but the ride was absolutely spectacular.  First we rode through a valley with a small river that created a strip of green through the red rock.  Then we climbed up one side - giving amazing views of the valley and some distant mountains.  We rode along the ridge for a while - amazing views the whole way.  I had just taken a picture of this hillside of sand (i don't say dune because the other side was rock) when the guide said we were going down it.  The sand was deep and the horses sank in a little bit as they slowly made their way down.  It was amazing.   

 That's all for now.  Later I'm going to watch sunset over the 'moon valley.'  I think tomorrow will be salt flats (including flamingos) and geysers will be on Wednesday.

 
Tucuman 10/27/2008
 

Not surprisingly I've been learn a smattering of S American history as I travel.  Tucuman is where, in 1816, Independence  was declared for Argentina (and possibly Uruguay and Paraguay, I'm not clear on whether those provences were lost to the SpPanish before or after independence was declared).  Apparently (the then independent country of) Hawaii was the first to recognize Argentina's Independence.  Spain didn't recognize it until the 1860s.

Yesterday(10/26) I went with Carla and her parents for a drive through the countryside.  It was great since, without renting a car, there's no easy way for me to see the area outside the cities on my own.  We passd lots of little cattle farms.  We stopped at one to buy cheese.  The couple was pretty poor.  When there is low demand for cheese, they have to sell the milk for .7pesos (20cents) the liter, which at about 20 liters per day per cow, I imagine is barely enough to fed the cows.At the same time, they had 20 cats and about 15 dogs that must cost a bunch to feed.

We saw a monastary in the mountains and the 'cool' christ statue overlooking hte city (cool because he's amking a peace sign).  The view of the city was great.  We stayed as it got dark so I also got to see the night view.

I visited the casa del gobierno - again a private tour (when I got there and asked to visit the guard called the guide down), but this time it only lasted 15min.  I also went to the casa Historica.  Only the one room where independece was declared remains of the original building, but the rest of the building carefully reconstructedwith pieces from the time.

Random:

Twice in the past few days I started reading something and a couple paragraphs in realized it wasn't Spanish (one was Portuguese, the other was French). It's a very wierd experience.

Tucuman has the cheapest strawberries I've ever seen.  2 kilos (for 3 pesos (< 1  dollar)