Wednesday, 18 March 2015

The Best Hostel I Have Ever Stayed At - Penthouse 1004, Bariloche

Now, I've stayed at a lot of backpackers over my travels. From dingy basements in Thailand and Cambodia to virtual tropical resorts in Bocas del Toro, Panama (post about this tropical hostel is soon to come).

None were better than Penthouse 1004 in Bariloche, Argentina.

Firstly, the location. Penthouse 1004 is, pretty obviously, on the top floor of a big apartment building. It has panoramic views of the whole town, which would be impressive in any city, but Bariloche is a place that must be seen to be believed. Along with the old city in Cartagena this, for me, is the most beautiful city in South America. Luscious deep blue lakes well at the bottom of towering white-capped mountains and low rising clouds. It's typically pristine Patagonia.

The view from Penthouse 1004

Secondly, the staff are incredible. They were more than happy to practice speaking Spanish with me and tried to put on less of an Argentinian accent so that I would understand better. They knew everything about the town: what there was to do, how to get there, where the supermarkets were (essential) etc. They were always super friendly.

The facilities were also amazing. The beds were big and comfortable with plenty of linen to get you through those cold Patagonian nights. The rooms were spacious, the lockers very secure and the kitchen was gigantic with plenty of fridge space, which is (as I'm sure many of you know) a rarity at a hostel. Not only that, but there was freshly baked bread provided for you every morning which, by Argentinian hostel standards, is pretty damn good. Normally, you just get injected with sugar: dulce de leche and media lunas (aka croissants).

My girlfriend, Tam, getting blown away by the beauty of Bariloche

The vibe of the hostel was unrivaled. Everyone (when I stayed there at least) was sociable and friendly but also extremely relaxed. While this is certainly not a party hostel, you're always more than welcome to stay up and hang out with people in the common area which is far enough away from the rooms not to be noisy.

All in all, a great spot. Trust me, I'm not getting paid to do this. Now there's a dream, getting paid to blog...

Monday, 16 March 2015

New York Concrete Jungle

Note: This blog post is obviously not about South America... but I went to New York on the same trip! So there's a few posts lined up about NYC.

There are some interesting social hierarchy dynamics in New York. It is a city which accentuates capitalism's class division and highlights the wealth inequality problems of the USA. It is, after all, the peak of capitalism's empire.  It's the modern version of Ancient Rome or Athens. It's the top of the rock. An extended metaphor seemed necessary:

The concrete jungle at its finest hour.

The pumas and jaguars rule the concrete jungle, rarely seen on the forest floor during the hours of daylight. Instead they hide out in the canopies - comfortably observing. In the early hours of the morning and evening they speed through the shaded trees, virtually unseen.

The anteaters spend most of their day in the canopy. They pray  on the ants, the commoners, and exploit their nests for all they're worth. Their hunger never subsides.

The ants navigate the forest floor during the daylight hours. They work until they die, either from fatigue or eventual consumption by the anteaters. At sundown, they scurry to their homes which are nestled in the canopies below where the puma rests. They live in the middle sized, poorly constructed trees, which are often breaking and crumbling. Many are subtly exploited by the anteater, even when they are in their nests.

The bird worries little about these dynamics, migrating to the rainforest at the best time of year. It observes, but rarely interacts with the puma, anteater or ants. It parks itself in the most lush part of the rainforest, among the puma in the highest, most central canopy. The bird, however, cannot afford to stay in such a well sought after area for long. Soon it will migrate home where it will spend the rest of the year. At home, the bird struggles for food in the local park, dreaming of the luxuries that their migration to the rainforest provides.

Occasionally, you will spot a pig in the rainforest. Confined to the forest floor, the pig longs to be among the canopy. The pig stinks, as pigs tend to do. It is avoided by the ants, the anteaters, pumas and jaguars. It bothers the migrating birds with its relentless cries for help. The foreign birds, unlike the local animals, are not used to hearing these horrid cries. While the ant, anteater, puma and jaguar have learned to ignore the pig and avoid its gaze, the touring birds still startle easily at the sight and sound of a pig.

The pig is reliant on the scraps of others. Unable to reach the canopy's fruits, it relies on the sympathy of the bird, who occasionally drops food for the poor pig.