One Marathon Weekend

I was back in Rio a little over a month after my first visit, ostensibly to take due advantage of my Brazilian visa – one that required four trips to their consulate in BA to obtain. And although that was a strong enough reason to return, in reality, I was there to experience first hand that once-in-every-four-years spectacle, the Summer Olympics.

I can’t remember the last time I’ve cracked open a can of beer that early in the morning, but after having waited in a long line for over an hour, it was the best feeling in the world. And nothing more uplifting than to do so at the morning track and field session at Rio’s Olympic Stadium…


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Diário do Rio

We’ve been in bumper-to-bumper traffic for the last mile or so, but the slow progress doesn’t bother me much. Cosme Velho is an attractive neighborhood; tree-lined streets, the occasional old mansion, and a vibrant street life. The slower speed also means I can pay close attention to the signs. A year plus of Spanish has definitely helped, and I can understand, with some degree of ease, a lot of the words I see. Speaking them out aloud though, is another matter altogether. My first stumbling block – asking my cab driver for change!

Friday 3:15 PM, The Summit.

Most first-time visitors to Rio will end up going to Cosme Velho, if nothing else, than to get up to the storied Corcovado Mountain, home to the iconic statue of Christ the Redeemer.

It’s a short wait for me at the lower terminus of Trem do Corcovado, a rack railway that climbs to a height of 2329-feet or 710-meters. All of 25-minutes long, it’s a spectacular ride to the summit. But nothing, absolutely nothing – no amount of high-definition photos or 360° videos – can prepare you for the incredibly exhilarating views at Corcovado. Get past the hordes of selfie-seekers, claim your share of digital memories, and when that’s all done, pat yourself on the back for having made one of the best decisions of your life – visiting Rio.

Olá Rio! #cristoredentor #corcovado #riodejaneiro #brazil

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The overnight to Córdoba

The demise of long-distance train travel in Argentina followed closely on the heels of the United States. Vastly improved highways, comfortable overnight buses, competitive fares; you get the picture. By the 60s, passenger trains were but a shadow of themselves. So if you were to ask any sane individual today, how they’d get across the length and breadth of this vast country, you’ll probably get “by bus or plane” as their reply.

But there has been a bit of a resurgence in the past few years – new long-distance trains, a revised schedule; and you’d never have expected it, online bookings too! So with an e-ticket in hand, I find myself on Platform 8 of Estacíon Retiro one Friday evening, waiting to board the 20:38 departure of train 269, Buenos Aires to Córdoba.


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Bolivian wanderings, and a slice of Peru

First and foremost, a special shout out to Yesmy and Roxanna, the two amazing women working the reservations desk at the Amaszonas office in Uyuni. Without their efforts, a lot of what I am about to share would never have been possible. The guardian angels of Uyuni, as I like to refer to them, I will forever be grateful.

El Alto landings

The runway at El Alto is almost 4-Km long! Not for nothing though – at that altitude, aircraft land at twice their sea level velocity and need every foot of tarmac available to them. At 13,225 ft, El Alto is also the highest international airport in the world, and a gateway to La Paz, the world’s highest capital city.

La Paz itself sits in a bowl surrounded by the Cordillera Real, a branch of the Bolivian Andes, flanked on its south by the imposing snow-capped peak of Illimani (at 21,122 ft., the highest mountain in the range) and the equally impressive Illampu, to its north. El Alto lies on a plateau some thousand feet higher than the capital, and the drive down from there to La Paz offers some rather dramatic views.


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Andean High

Lest we forget Lima

A low haze hangs over the city, as you near touchdown at Jorge Chávez International Airport. Outside, the air is somewhat putrid and the eyes tend to smart. Traffic crawls along wide arteries and its not even 7 in the morning! You begin to question your very decision to stop over in Lima. But unlike countless others who skip it, in their rush to get to the Sacred Valley, you have in fact made the right choice! Lima’s worth more than just a second look – all it takes is one sunny day to lift the veil of smog, and a little bit of perseverance.

If the city’s new and hyper-efficient Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, and its up-and-coming Metro are anything to go by, the city has a lot to look forward to. Looking back, however, the city’s own past is securely preserved within Centro Historico, Lima’s landmarked historic quarter. A walk along Jirón de la Unión, from Plaza San Martin to Plaza de Armas, is an eye-opener, and a lesson to any civil servant on the preservation and upkeep of historic zones in large cities.

Public squares – no matter their size or importance – are spotlessly clean; lawns are beautifully tended, and pedestrian-friendly streets abound. The historic district is brimful with well-kept heritage buildings, some dating from the 16th-century, in styles ranging from Baroque to Neo-classical, and materials running the gamut from adobe to brick. In between, a myriad of colonial-era carved wooden balconies – no less than 1600 of them – makes up for the lull, if ever there was one…

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