The Aconcagua National Park

IMG_0235 It was in the middle of the summer, the Argentine summer of 2014 when I visited the ‘Parque Nacional Aconcagua’. The Aconcagua is the highest mountain in the southern hemisphere (a 1,500 m.less than the Everest).

We set off at 9.30 from Mendoza city in a private tour and headed northwest following the guidelines of the ‘Circuito Alta Montaña’ offered by the local travel agents.

If you’ve never been to Mendoza and love being on your own, with time enough to take pictures, stroll around or even do some guided trekking to the Aconcagua base, it’s better to hire a ‘remis’, a kind of cab that comes with a driver. Be sure to ask for one in your hotel reception and compare prices with other private tours. We were lucky to have a good chauffeur with ‘connaissance’ or know-how of the different spots worth seeing: “dique de Potrerillos”, Uspallata, Punta de Vacas, Puente del Inca, Las Cuevas….

What really amazed me was the varying and rich topography as we moved along the national route 7. The first stop-over was the ’embalse de Potrerillos’ (a reservoir). As you reach Potrerillos in mid-morning, you start marvelling like an artist would in front of a masterly finished oil-painting: the soil has turned to a reddish-brown colour, the lake glows in silver, turquoise and pink hues at the margins, and you see patches of green here and there, involuntarily scattered, as if to justify the need for a break against the intense blue and to highlight the red.

Heaven knows you can’t dismiss the sensation this has been put in front of you to admire, and in doing so, you’re completely alone. Just you and probably your partner, but not a sound of anything else to distract your observation. This is the Beauty of many increadible sites in Mendoza.IMG_0167

Moving to the second stop-over, you see the changing of scenario: from the ‘pre-cordillera’ you slowly move to the ‘cordillera’ and you start crossing tunnels…

And the road starts going up and your ears start getting blocked….IMG_0172IMG_0179

 

 

By midday we had reached the Aconcagua Park. stepped out of the car and headed to the tourist office to pay for the entrance tickets. At the office, packed up with climbers we could read very interesting info about the different ways to climb the Aconcagua and the variety of species to be found.

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Also, what most caught my attention was the very detailed explanation of how these mountains had been formed and one of the most famous expeditions ever carried out, the San Martin’s cross, to free the Chileans from the Spanish regime in 1817:

IMG_0194IMG_0195 How could these men, in such poor equipment, have achieved such a feat, when today, looking at all that it takes for a good trekking down the path of the Park (no even  ‘climbing’ the Aconcagua) you need an array of cold-protective garments, glazier sunglasses, special backpacks and boots and whatnot!

And then, we started our 1 hour and a half trekking along the paths, around the ‘Laguna de Horcones’ and down to see the breathtaking view of the Southern Face of the Aconcagua…

DSC_1034and also started taking innumerable pictures, but hold on! Off the beaten track, this is what we found…marching peacefully, as the rough cold wind was blowing (chilly summer wind)…

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Playerito unicolor

the most caring mother, followed up by these…as they turned out to be- the ‘playerito unicolor’ (Calidris Bairdii) babies, which can seldomly be seen in the ‘Laguna de Horcones’…

IMG_0206So, we were the ‘lucky few’… other tourists simply passed by inadvertently…

“Laguna de Horcones”, just in front of the Aconcagua, is another place worth admiring…the colour shades and contrasts would honour more than one poem or canvas…And the solitude, the peace!

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laguna de Horcon

 

 

 

 

 

 

That’s what you can see to the left of the Aconcagua, but there’s more to the right: a tiny brook in summer, the river Atuel creeps down the Andes. It’s the source of the Atuel. Little as it looks, farther down becomes one of the most important rivers in Mendoza (together with the Diamante and other 8 rivers) which will hold at least 2 electrical power stations (‘El Nihuil I’ and ‘El Nihuil II’)

the source of the Atuel river

Then, as you walk till the end of the path where it goes back, the most impressive view of the Aconcagua can be seen, with all its magnificent glaciers. If you have a good camera with a potent lens, this is what you get (on the right). But even if you have a mobile phone, you can get a good pic too (on the left).

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cold wind blowing NS in the Aconcagua, 5 Feb.2014

glaciers at the Aconcagua, summer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To finish off, there were more stop-overs still waiting for us, more wonders to see, listen to and taste, on our way down ‘ruta nacional nº7′, which are worth a description. So, I’ll tell you about them  in my following entry: Mendoza, the Andes’ circuit. Hope there were more words to describe the feeling of joy this Aconcagua scenery brings, but if I have to put it into just one word I would say simply, magnificent.

The embrace

Dancing at Gricel

Dancing at Gricel

There is a whole issue about embracing in tango. And it’s not a question of taste but of style. It should neither be too tight or too relaxed, too commanding or too easy. The same as with everything in life, it has to have a balance, a measure…that leads to pleasure. To a pleasant dancing between two artists.

Here I will call the embrace between ‘artists’ and not just tango dancers. Because a good embrace is the starting point of a good dance, and that is Art in its pure sense. How he, the leader, should position his arm around the female and how he should ‘offer’ his hand, the palm of his hand to her. And how she, accepts the palm and also embraces him around his right scapula. How, that’s the thing. A good ‘how’ at the beginning of a dance will actually set the tone for the rest of it.

I never like male dancers who ‘strangle’ me, who oppress me in such a way that I want to finish the dance and go directly to my seat, away from any other interaction with ‘the creature’. But also, the ‘too laxed’ view of it is equally disgusting. ‘Why are you here sir? Didn’t you have anything better to do at home? Are you ‘doing me a favor’ by taking me out on a dance?’ That’s what it says. ‘I’m not interested’, that’s the message they convey.

Also, I have detected huge differences between the Argentine’s and  the European’s embrace. In London, dancers position themselves more ‘far apart’, which I find hard to dance to. I can’t understand their signals, I can’t understand their codes because this lack of ‘contact’. But, again, a friend of mine who runs a milonga in London told me: ‘Don’t be disappointed Anna’ ‘Leaders should be leaders and hold you correctly, if they don’t it isn’t just because they’re Londoners, it’s because they really don’t lead, and that’s a mistake. I often tell my students the importance of a good embrace.’

So, having said so, let me show you what the position for a good embrace should be. And hope that, when you nod to a female to ask her for a milonga or tango, you bear this in mind….’grab her correctly, boy!’ ‘let her breathe and be relaxed too!’ Amen.

An Introduction to Argentine Tango

Alberto Castillo, a famous tango singer, best defined the idea when he sang:

(as from 0:57)

Así se baila el tango, sintiendo en la cara

This is the way to dance the tango, feeling in your face

la sangre que sube a cada compás,

the blood that goes up at each beat,

mientras el brazo, como una serpiente,

while the arm, like a snake,

se enrosca en el talle que se va a quebrar.

Is wound around the waist that is going to twist.

Así se baila el tango, mezclando el aliento,

This is the way to dance the tango, mixing the breaths

cerrando los ojos pa’ escuchar mejor,

eyes closed to listen best

como los violines le cuentan al fueye

how the violins tell the bandoneon

por qué desde esa noche Malena no cantó.

Why from that night Malena stopped singing.

There are 3 basics rhythms in Argentine Tango: the ‘tango’, the ‘milonga’ and the vals’ (Eng.waltz).

Want to read more? Go to Tango

The top 5 difficulties when teaching EFL to adults in Catalonia.

Who says that teaching EFL is easy? Nobody. But it’s surely challenging! Every country has its own way, its own cultural load and so it’s fairly tricky till you -the teacher- discover what is behind all that and how to accomodate to the new reality. Here are some tips.

 mind map

 1. Motivation

An Adult student comes to our EFL classes with different motivations but I’ll speak mostly of the students who attend the EOI Language Schools which do serve as reference for other language schools.

These ‘Escuelas Oficiales de Idiomas’ are spread around Spain. Students’ ages range from 16 to 70 and they come from all walks of life – from school leavers to housewives, few retired professionals who seek personal progress, some businessmen and women from different trades, but a good percentage of those (I would venture a third) are teachers or teaching staff who need their English to further up their curriculum. Their motivation will be, mainly, to learn fast, effectively and eventually get the certificates which will in turn give them a raise in their salaries.

 2. L2 Exposure

The younger the learner the more probabilities he’s had English tuition previous to his first course at the EOI. This does not mean he has learnt it well. Differences in levels within the same course are tangible in 2n. level……

want to read more? Go to EFL Methods …

Caminito, Barrio de La Boca, Buenos Aires

I had lived in Buenos Aires for more than 30 years and never been to La Boca or Caminito. Then, when I was living in Catalonia and came to visit my homeland, I gave it a try. I took a touristic bus (hop-on-hop off) which leaves you right at the entrance of the ‘strip’ called ‘Caminito’, in the La Boca neighbourhood. Caminito takes its name after the famous tango composed by Juan de Dios Filiberto which was inspired by Peñaloza’s lyrics.

What catches your attention immediately is the colourful scenario: houses painted in the richest and most lively colours and shops with their names embellished with filigree decorations typical of the Argentine artistic tradition of the early 1900’s.

Want to read more? Go to Caminito, Barrio de La Boca, Buenos Aires

“Victus” to be translated into English

I agree with the reviewer: it’s a potent and agile tale which takes hold of your mind for as long as your reading lasts.

literary rambles

This week [early June 2013] it was announced in the news that Harper Collins will publish the English version of the best-selling Spanish (and recently Catalan) novel on the siege of Barcelona in 1714, Victus by Albert Sánchez Piñol, in time for the third centenary of the events.

The publisher’s [La Campana] publicity for the novel is the following (their website has an impressive list on all the news on the book in the Spanish and Catalan press):

«I will tell it all! How they screwed general Villarroel, how they defeated our victories. Because, until now, of this war I have only heard the versions of those above or of the enemy.»

Victus is a historical novel that narrates the War of the Spanish Succession, a conflict that could be considered the first of the world struggles and that ends on 11 September 1714 with the apocalyptic assault on Barcelona. It…

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Victus, Barcelona 1714

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The starting point of this novel is a question, a simple question formulated by the mature voice of its main character, Martí Zuviría: “what impels a man to fight when he knows himself to be weak? Why do the weak fight the well-armed and powerful? Why do the small resist the big? He knows the answer, he will give you the answer, but you will have to put up with three chapters and more than five hundred pages of good reading.

 Want to read more? Go to Victus’ review