Last Saturday was Okinawa Day in London and I was commissioned to photograph this annual culture and tourism promotional event sponsored by the Okinawa Association UK. Okinawa is a 1,000 km long cluster of islands south of Japan’s main island also known for the controversial presence of US military bases there. It was a day of music, dance, art and food all in Okinawan style. A karate demonstration was also held as this martial art is considered to have begun in this archipelago. traduci >>
I haven’t updated the blog for a while as I haven’t been traveling since I came back from South America last December and although this latest trip was actually to my home town I thought it deserved a page here.
Last weekend the city of Bergamo hosted the annual gathering of the Alpini, the Italian Army Corps funded in 1872 – where I served for a year myself during my military service – and saw for 3 days an invasion of about 500.000 people from Italy and abroad parading and singing in the streets.
Alpini derived their name from “Alpi” (the Alps, where they are mostly based) and have a very strong sense of belonging – particularly among the more elders – for many reasons such as the pleasure of remembrance for “the early days”, the financial and social commitment to devastated communities, the companionship established during strenuous physical and psychological experiences, the stunning sceneries amongst which they have served and for being drinking water abhorrers. The latest due to a peculiar attraction to wine, grappa and the typical singing sessions that always follow a few cheers.
I loved seeing my home town, normally laborious and conservative which also hosts some of the most troublesome football hooligans in Italy, being filled with half a million people of all ages having a great time, together, peacefully.
Here are some images I took while wandering around when not busy holding a cup myself.
Salute!!! traduci >>
I didn’t last long in Buenos Aires. Just enough to meet my old friend/colleague Bjoern for a good catch-up who’s also starting his American adventure but on his motorbike. I did like the city but the hot weather and the beaches of Uruguay being so close…well, what would you do? And Punta del Diablo is a really nice spot, relaxed, traditional, with not too many gringos at this time of the year. I took a few shots the first day but the second one was too good not to go to the beach.
So this is the end of it. When I bought this ticket this day was like a vague date somewhere light years away and now here we go, time to catch my flight!
Adios America Latina, asta pronto Europa! traduci >>
I have finally made it the southernmost city of the world, Ushuaia, also capital of Tierra del Fuego province.
Unfortunately I got there only 12 hours prior my scheduled flight to Buenos Aires and managed just a glimpse of these amazing views. Every time I had looked at the map of South America my eyes were “falling down” right to the very bottom of the continent and I had always wondered what it could be like “down there”.
As soon as I dropped my luggage, I took my camera and rushed out. I bought myself a bottle of beer and stopped a taxi. I asked the driver to take me to the best viewpoint reachable before sunset and pick me up one hour later. So he did. He told me he was going to drop me off to a nearby panoramic hilltop where I could mirar la fin del mundo (see the end of the world) as this region – once a penal colony – is known.
It felt so surreal being there and picturing myself at last in this incredibly remote part of the globe. I sat on a rock in front of a lighthouse derelict, sipping my beer, taking pictures and observing the sun rapidly disappear behind the mountains. The city slowly started to glow and take over the magic of the place. I couldn’t stop thinking that beyond those lights and the towering mountains, right “on top of me”, was the whole world.
Yes! I finally reached Puerto Natales! What a never ending journey though! Fortunately the bus driver was a smoker like me and allowed me to have a cigarette with him every now and then in the front cabin. I managed to see Torres del Paine, Perito Moreno (the day after) and got to Ushuaia 12 hours before my flight. Perfect! A bit hectic but it was all right. I now have five pages of my passport with Chilean and Argentinean stamps. So here’s the result: traduci >>
From Esquel I wanted to go across Chile again through Palena but it wasn’t possible for some reason. As one guy at the ticket office put it, the bus simply didn’t go there. Full stop. Ok, thank you very much. And now what? I asked about 10 people from 10 different transport companies and I finally found an alternative passage via La Balsa stopping one night in Futaleufú, Chile. I had to wait about 5 hours at the bus station but fortunately they had a travel agency there so I was able to book a flight from Ushuaya to Buenos Aires leaving in about a week time. Once reached Futaleufú I ended up in a hostel with Patrick and Claudia, a couple from Zurich with whom I was also sharing part of my itinerary, and Patricia from Lisbon. The day after we took the 6am mini-bus to Villa Santa Lucia and we got there in about two hours. We were left in front of another mini-bus but the driver was going to come back from another service sometimes in the afternoon. Ole’! And now what? We were all facing the same problems along this route: lack of cash machines and random public transports. We tried with some hitchhiking but no one had room available for 3 people plus luggage. So we waited along the road playing with an hyperactive dog, with loving horses, photographing cars and trucks and having coffees at a lady’s house which also functioned as the only café in town at the time. Finally our bus driver came back so we could travel a bit further, up to La Junta. Not much but I was getting closer. I wanted to see the national park of Torres del Paine (Chile) and glacier Perito Moreno (Argentina) before catching or missing my flight from Ushuaya. We got there in a couple of hours. There was supposed to be a cash machine at the petrol station but guess…it didn’t work! I had no pesos left and I thought “and now what?” Fortunately I had some dollars left somewhere in my bag and I bought some swiss chocolate (Patrick and Claudia were happy) with 2 bills of 20 and got change in pesos. So now, in order, my priorities in life are: oxygen, water, food, dollars and love. The day after I said goodbye to Patrick and Claudia and got to Coyhaique from where I had heard you could get better connections to southern Chile. I got a 24-hour bus which crossed over to Argentina, went all the way down to Rio Gallegos then passed the border with Chile again to Punta Arenas and Puerto Natales. I really wished I had more time to spend on the Carretera Austral though. I liked the slow paced atmosphere of the villages and their people, the gravel roads and the stunning sceneries around. It’s probably because of the limits of infrastructures and transport services that makes traveling on this road so much fun. traduci >>
My next pin on the map was on Bariloche, my first step into Argentina. I was going to start my “slalom” all the way down to Ushuaya as all my destinations were close to the border Chile-Argentina. I got there after an 8-hour journey on a bus from Puerto Montt and, in my opinion, unless you’ve never been on the Alps or you’re not up for some trekking, rafting or shopping, there’s not much point of visiting this place. Here are a couple of shots including the one of the monument of not-so-popular Juan A. Roca
The day after I left for El Bolson. Many shops around town have signs also in hebrew and the girls at the Tourist Office have name tags also in hebrew. I had only two hours before my next bus to Esquel so, instead of taking hebrew lessons I decided to walk up to a mirador (view point) and to get lost in the woods on the way back but I still managed to get my bus.
I got to Esquel around midnight. I had booked a room at the Hotel Argentino which you access from the bar which is open till 6am. The whole place could be a set for a Tarantino’s movie. Wooden floor, pool tables, smokey bar tenders and 4 customers. My room was old and dirty but – as the host put it when I asked for a discount – that was the worst but cheapest hotel in town. So I took it. traduci >>
After “Valpo” it was time to either catch the boat from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales or visit Chiloé. I went for option two as I was also interested in the Carretera Australe so after a 13-hour journey I got to Puerto Natales where you have connections with the island. So I went to Ancud, Castro and Dalcahue. Very Scottish-like looking, very nice. Here are the pics. I hope you like boats! traduci >>
This is a quick update from Puerto Natales, Chile. I’ve been rushing down here through half of the Carretera Australe. It’s a beautiful journey but unfortunately transports along that route are just too slow for my schedule and I had to cross again to Argentina to speed up the transfer to southern Chile, where I am now.
So, after passing the Bolivia-Chile border we stopped in San Pedro de Atacama. After some chill out, sandboarding and BBQs I started the descent towards Valparaiso with Michele. We stopped briefly first in Bahia Inglesa
and then Santiago before reaching Valparaiso and the long awaited re-union with my old friend and ex work colleague Claudio. He took me for a walk up and down the cerros (hills) where you have innumerable stairs, graffiti and tin-covered colorful houses
We also visited the old prison that was closed about 15 years ago. There used to be up to 3 times the supposed number of inmates, about 1500 and there are plans to refurbish the building to host various workshops but now this is what it looks like:
I’m on my way to Ushuaia in the morning after about 4 border crossing Chile-Argentina to visit among other places, Chiloe’ Island, Bariloche, Glacier Perito Moreno and the National Park Torres del Paine. I hope to be able to upload the images from Buenos Aires in a few days time. Asta pronto!! traduci >>