Showing posts from 2012

Happy New Tango Year - and thank you

I would like to thank everyone who reads this blog for their following!! and their comments in 2012. It has been an interesting year in tango in Australia... we have had many visiting teachers with many more to come in 2013; I have been to Argentina, briefly this time, for the 5th time; had some great dances - and some not so great ones; run some fabulous milongas and had such small numbers at others that I have wondered whether I should continue; wondered about doing workshops and done a few and loved the many conversations I have had with tangueros/as over the year (one of the reasons I keep going!).  Thank you to those who come to our milongas - and keep coming back! And to those who appreciate the TangoAustralia Website.

Manners, respect and tango

My parents taught me, and I taught my children, not to interrupt conversations but to wait politely to be included. These days with mobile phones this just doesn't happen. If the phone rings it is generally answered mid-conversation - and often that conversation takes off. I find that offensive and I don't answer my phone in this situation but call the caller back asap. As I am no longer of the corporate world I don't know if this happens there, but I find it offensive if I am talking to someone at a milonga, just the two of us, and someone walks up, says hello to the person I am talking to, and sometimes to me (though not always) then asks that person to dance - and they both walk away. I find it particularly offensive if I am talking to a man - I could be hoping that he will ask me to dance (not always but sometimes I am) or I could be having a meaningful conversation. Are these women so afraid they won't get a dance with this man that they have to spirit him away at

La Yumba milonga and Pugliese's birthday

If he was still alive Pugliese would have been 105 this December, as it was he lived for 90 years and his influence on tango was enormous. He was a legend in his lifetime and was honoured by a special concert at the Teatro Colon in 1985 (see below). Osvaldo Pugliese brought a sophistication and syncopation to tango music that raised it to another level. His music is loved by many dancers and is usually played as the night reaches a climax, or draws to an end, because it is so dramatic. 'La Yumba' milonga at Willoughby is a tribute to this great musician. 'La Yumba' is one of his most famous pieces, the name comes from the word Pugliese used to describe the sound like a deep gasping from a bandoneón. I love 'A Evaristo Carriego' - it is one of Pugliese's most evocative pieces. Here he is playing it with the orchestra at his tribute concert.

Dancing to tango music

My recent post on dancing 'tango' to music that is not tango has led me to read more widely on what dancing means to those who love tango and I have found some inciteful and thought-provoking stuff. Tango Commuter wrote recently about the days when dancers went to milongas with live music. He (i use 'he' as the blogger appears to be male but has no stated gender) makes the point that there was an excitement about live music that just isn't there today when we dance to recorded music, even when it is digitally enhanced and played on excellent sound systems. 'Imagine the anticipation of going to a milonga knowing that Di Sarli would be there in person' he writes.  I have imagined this as I have been fortunate to dance with men who have done just that. One of these men was a favourite partner until he passed away last year, and if we were dancing to an orchestra he had danced to live in his youth, he would get a distant look in his eyes and describe how movi

Watered down tango - really?

Argentine Tango is more than dance, it is more than the music… it is a culture. It has a rich history and it takes a lifetime just to scratch the surface of the great musicians and dancers that gave it the credibility to be named by Unesco as part of the world's cultural heritage in 2009. So why would you want to water it down? Why would you want to dance the movements of tango to pop music, or classical music? Why do some people think they can 'improve' on tango by dancing a form of the dance to Mozart, or folk singers, and say they are dancing tango. Don't get me wrong I have no objection to people dancing to Monty Python, George MIchael, Bruce Springsteen or Beethoven - on the contrary I think it is great…but I am at a loss to understand why they would call it 'tango'…. or tango fusion or anything else with tango as the adjective or noun. The tango music that was created at the height of the great composers, musicians and orchestras from Gerardo Matos Rodri

A Good Tango Teacher

Just because you can do something well, doesn't mean you can teach it well. The ability to teach is a very special gift, and not necessarily one that can be taught. I for one, turned down a Teacher's Scholarship to university when I left school!! (in those days many of us did) then I tried to teach  (not dancing, my profession) many, many years ago when I was a young, inexperienced mother in need of part time work. Big Mistake! I wasn't self-confident, I doubted my knowledge and I was easily intimidated by the students. I have never tried again. Partly because of this experience and partly because I am older and wiser. It is quite easy to be a tango teacher - all you need to do is hang up your shingle. There are no qualifications you need to have, and no associations you need to belong to. It has been suggested that you need to be a 'perfect' dancer in order to be a tango teacher - I fail to understand why. Recently I discovered this blog about tango teachers a

Pugliese - a musician of the people

I frequently surf around buddhist sites - I love yoga and I love what little I know about Buddhism. Today I discovered this article about Pugliese written by Daisaku Ikeda, the former president of SGI, an Buddhist organisation.  Ikedu met Pugliese in 1989 and was so impressed that he wrote an article about the man and the meeting for the SGI's online magazine. Writes Ikeda: "Pugliese's serious, scholarly demeanor disguised a soul burning with powerful emotions. He once told the members of his orchestra: "We are sailing on the vast ocean of tango. The important thing is to know the currents that will lead us to the harbor of the people's hearts. . . . Tango must always be interpreted in terms of human emotions. It has a human voice. That is why we must bring forth a sound that accurately expresses those emotions." This offers us a glimpse into the secret of Pugliese's long musical career. As a tango player, you need to keep your ears tuned to t

Melbourne Tango Photo Competition 2012

Last year's Melbourne Tango Photo Competition produced some superb entries  - the winner being Kylie O'Brien's at left - and some of the other prize winners are below. (Sorry they are badly arranged  - no time to arrange the photos but want to get them up). It is open to photographers around Australia - it would be great to see this as a national competition. The 4th Annual Photo Exhitibion, which includes a “People’s Choice” award closes on Wednesday the 31st October all the work will be displayed for thosei nterested to come, view and register your vote. The “Awards Night” will be on Friday 2nd November. Find out more

Daniel Nacucchio dances for his birthday

Thank you to Janis for posting this video in response to my posting about visiting teachers not socialising when they are being paid to be at a Festival and milonga. Earlier this year we had the honour to host Daniel and his partner Cristina Sosa - and they were absolutely delightful. They did not expect to be treated as celebrities and they were warm and friendly with everyone. So I am not surprised that Daniel danced with everyone for his birthday - he danced with students here. I just wish this was not an exception... STOP PRESS! Very excited to add that Daniel Nacucchio and Cristian Sosa will be our guests at the Milonga de Mis Amores on October 27... it's also an anniversary milonga for us! So we are planning a very special night with a little bit of Halloween.

The essence of tango

FYI...   Mas que milongueros, bailarines de verdad, son los que nos heredaron lo mejor de nuestro tango bailado: Enriquito y Lidia Alvarez, Jose y Mary Da Fonte, Roberto y Susana Grassi, Antonio y Susana Da Vita, OSvaldo y Nora Lopez, Eduardo y Sandra Giarnelli, Finito y M. Teresa, Victor y Tota Cruz. De la pelicula de 1988 Tango Bar. which translates roughly as (please excuse my mistakes)  Milongueros, true tango dancers, are the ones from whom we have inherited the best tango dancing: Enriquito and Lidia Alvarez, Joseph and Mary Da Fonte, Roberto and Susana Grassi, Antonio and Susana Da Vita, Osvaldo and Nora Lopez, Eduardo and Sandra Giarnelli, finite and M. Teresa, Victor and Tota Cross. In the 1988 movie 'Tango Bar'.

The role of the visiting tango teacher

I was sure I had broached this subject before, but it hasn't come up in a quick search - so here goes! It is timely because in the last week of attending milongas just about every night, the common topic has been the 'arrogance' of the masters at the recent Festival. By 'arrogance' I am referring to the fact that they do not get up and dance with their clientele. I am fully aware that they do not do this in Buenos Aires - how could they? After teaching and practising for hours they go to a milonga to enjoy the company of their friends - and dance the occasional dance with each other. But when they are guests in another country - and being paid to be here - the general feeling is that they need to be more sociable. It should not be about how they feel, but about pleasing the customer. I was disappointed that even those, who had visited Australia a number of times before, did not join the floor with any of the locals except the organiser. Australia is not Buenos Ai

Sydney Tango Salon Festival Milongas

As I write this I am wondering if Anonymous from Brisbane? came to this year's Tango Festival. He wrote a very interesting critique of last year's event on this blog and I would love to hear his assessment of this year's. In the meantime here are my impressions of this year's milongas - well 2 of them. I didn't go to the Welcome milonga for reasons I won't go into here. And I find I am unable to do workshops and milongas in the same day - I just can't last the distance. Last night (Saturday) and (Friday) the milongas were held at the South Sydney Juniors Leagues Club in Kingsford. This is a venue that is not used by Sydney milonga organisers because it is huge! but it is perfectly suited to the Festival milongas. A huge parquet floor, a stage and a low ceiling are a good canvas to work with. Soft lighting, not too low, not too bright, some spots to give a bit of vibrancy and lights over the supper table are enough. The layout is long tables at right angles

Still on about seating

Following on from my last post over the weekend I attended four milongas - including the Saturday night one at Marrickville. This has to be one of the best milongas in town - the DJ, Fabian has a great knowledge of Golden Age tango and the floor is one of the biggest and best - and the hosts are unassuming and delightful. But the seating leads to a huge mob of people clustering at one end around 3 long tables and the rectangular tables down the side being virtually deserted. I don't believe this venue has smaller tables and therefore I can't see a solution, but it was interesting, given my current interest in seating, how it unbalanced the milonga. I would like to know what Sydney people feel about it - or don't they care? At Saturday's Milonga de Mis Amores you will find the small tables facing the floor.

Why it is important how you place tables at a milonga

The layout of the tables at a milonga makes a huge difference to a milonga - so I have learnt after many years of organising and attending milongas. You can't line chairs up against the have to have tables. Many organisers will simply use the tables the way they are set out by the venue. This is usually using rectangular tables with the one short end at the floor end - meaning there is a line of people facing each other at right angles to the floor. Some venues will offer circular tables - which means that at least 2 people have their backs to the floor. Not good I have decided after trying to make it work at a previous venue by removing 2 chairs from each table. In Buenos Aires small tables are the general thing and even when the table seats 6 or 8 everyone faces the floor - there are no chairs with their backs to the floor. With the new venues we are using we have small tables - that seat 4 people. And instead of having 2 on each side we are facing the tables to th

And the Stage Tango World Champions are...

The 2012 winners of the Stage Tango Championship are Cristian Sosa and Maria Noel Scutio. See entry below for the Salon Champions. The locals will be pleased that the 5 couples in the finals were all Argentinians. When the winners have not been Argentinians there has been quite a bit of controversy in the tango press - no doubt this time there will be discussion about why there were no couples from outside the host country!

It's World Tango Championship time again

Each year it seems to come round more quickly. This year the salon Tango champions are locals - which will please the Argentinos!In fact the top 4 couples were all Argentinian. Facundo de la Cruz Gomez Palavecino and Paola Sanz, who are couple in real life as well, won with a score of 8.81 from the jury of seven. There were 491 coupls from 32 countries (not Australia) in the competition and 42 couples made it to the final. This year the festival also paid tribute to Astor Piazzolla, whose orchestral tangos are loved by many outside the world of tango dancing - as well as within. Piazzolla's grandson, Daniel Piazzolla, brought together an octet in the style of the Electronic Octet, a group Astor Piazzolla established in the 1970s. Here is a video of the winning couple performing at the famous Salon Canning this month.

why run a milonga

I run milongas and I don't teach - to some this makes me a pariah - I am not sure why. I suspect they think I make pots of money from the milongas, or that I do it to make others lives miserable! On the contrary I run milongas because I love organising events, I love putting together playlists of Golden Age, I get a real buzz when people tell me they have enjoyed the night and it is a great social occasion for me. Today I was reading an article about tango in Buenos Aires in relation to the ongoing Festival/Championship and there was a very well-thought out paragraph on the roll of the milonga which said: "Milongas have always been the lynch pin of tango culture. However they are independently financed and generally receive no financial subsidy from the government. Coordinating and sustaining a milonga is a precarious business. The organiser must rent a salon, hire a band, and pay to market the event. Often the salon owner takes all the money from the bar, leaving only the mo

Cortinas - getting them right

For those new to tango the cortina is the snippet of non-tango music that goes in between the brackets of tango, waltz and milonga and allows couples time to change partners or leave the floor. A cortina is generally between 30 and 60 seconds. For me a cortina needs to signal the end of that tanda without being intrusive, or inviting people to dance (as a piece of cumbia or salsa might do). I also like to choose my cortinas from the same era as the music I play - which is 95% Golden Age. I have a huge collection of popular music from the 1920s to 1970s and have no trouble finding a cortina that I believe does the task. In fact I have had frequent comments on my cortinas which often echo the theme of the evening. Our themes are usually pretty low key but when we did a Ritzy evening I used Fred Astaire singing 'Puttin on the Ritz', and I frequently use Django Reinhardt, Fats Waller and Al Bowlly. That's me. Others use something quite different. Loud, club music was a recent

Come and Dance at Willoughby on Friday

If you like dancing to Golden Age tango on a well-sprung wooden floor, if you like a milonga set up as they do in Buenos Aires with small tables facing the floor, if you like yummy home made cakes with your coffee and a huge car park at the door - and if you like a friendly crowd - then there's a good chance you'll like the Club Willoughby milonga this Friday. I'd love you to come and join the dancing from 8pm at Club Willoughby, 26 Crabbes Ave, Willoughby It starts at 8pm... contact me - - if you want more info

To teach... or not to teach

This is not a dilemma I have. I have been learning to dance tango for more than a decade and many of the people I first went to class with in Sydney have set themselves up as tango teachers - with varied success, but always with a following. I love tango music - it was that which first drew me to the dance - and I do organise milongas, two or three times a month. Because I don't teach I don't have a loyal crowd of followers who would come to my milongas regardless...I rely on people knowing that we play Golden Age classics and do our utmost to make each milonga special and it is much more difficult to attract customers this way, but all the milonga organisers in BA don't teach - and I don't want to teach something I have not been trained to teach. Why am I writing this post today? Because I have just seen an announcement on FB about yet another tango 'teacher' setting up. It is a good little money earner if you get the expenses right, and I believe that every su

Piazzolla and a Power Failure

Tonight I was going to work on the TangoAustralia newsletter so the August issue could go out on time - but we had a power failure! and with my computer having low battery and no internet connection it was not to be. However we did have power in the family room and so with my cats on my lap I sat and listened tp a beautiful concert of Piazzolla, which was part of the Australian Festival of Chamber Music and being broadcast from Townsville (in far north Queensland for those readers not familiar with Australia). Here it is cold and raining (temp 10deg), in Townsville it is warm (14deg) and it was delightful to listen to the beautiful music as the rain fell on our flat roof, knowing this - it somehow made me feel warmer! The program was played by the Camerata of St Johns and the Storioni Trio and their Piazzolla was world class. They played some of the great Piazzolla favourites including ' Milonga del Angel' and 'Libertango' and one of my very great favourites 'Milon

Back to business

When I do a milonga I want it to be special. And with the performance by Daniel Nacucchio and Cristina Sosa at our Friday Willougbhy milonga I was determined to do the best I could. I think it was a huge success - but my patrons will be the judge. I hope they return to Club Willoughby on the 2nd Friday for our milongas, now they know that it is a beautiful, if fast, floor and that it is very easy to get to - and to park once you get there. But most most all because they like the ambience and enjoy dancing to my music! For me the highlight of the night was not the dancers, though they were superb, but the compliment paid to me by one of Sydney's two top DJs. For years I have listened to his music and attended his milongas with pleasure and to be told that he enjoyed the music so much he couldn't stop dancing was Fantastic!! So I am coming down... and getting ready to do a milonga at North Sydney Leagues Club on the 28th July. It is interesting how little things can make one feel

Busy busy tango scene - next Daniel and Cristina

Friday night we ran a milonga at Willoughby - small crowd, good dancers, delightful vibe - but running a milonga is always tiring. Last night I went to the milonga at Concord RSL run by Tango Synergy - a big night, with the tango band Fuego Blanco performing (extremely well) and performances by Hosanna Heinrich and Anibal Montenegro who will be touring Oz in the next month or so. There is much happening... which is always good. The next big thing is the 6 days that Daniel Nacucchio and Cristina Sosa (left) are in town. This couple have visited Oz before and, as one-time World Tango Champions, they are hugely popular as teachers and performers. During this visit to Sydney they will give a practica and workshop on their first evening here with Tango Embrace, then on the weekend they will perform at our milonga! at Club Willoughby on the Friday night and again at A Little Buenos Aires Milonga at Petersham RSL on the Saturday night - both performances will be different. I am very excit

Thank you Mauro and Karina - and my tango community

A belated thank you to everyone who came to the Milonga de Mis Amores on Saturday at the North Sydney Leagues Club. It was a great night with lots of locals and a few from interstate and abroad, and 3 beautiful performances by the visiting dancers Mauro Caiazza and Karina Guillén. This is late because I wanted to accompany it with the video of two of the numbers they danced - Fresedo's 'Pampero' and Donato's milonga 'Sacale Punta' - but I am struggling with iMovie and until I get it right I can't post it... Meanwhile we are getting ready for this Friday's milonga for Red Nose Day at Willoughby and for the special milonga in two weeks with Daniel Nacucchio and Cristina Sosa...

Warm, friendly - and delightful dancers

Sydney is currently hosting two dancers new to our community - Mauro Caiazza and Karina Guillén. They are two of the most friendly and delightful dancers we have had teaching and performing in our community over the last few years. The organisers at Tango Reo, who are relatively new in the Sydney tango community, decided to put together this Tango Week of workshops and performances with very little time up their sleeve. The workshops have had great feedback and Mauro and Karina are giving and talented teachers. On Sunday I enjoyed their performances at the Artarmon milonga of A Little Buenos Aires - and I am delighted that I will get the opportunity to watch them again at the Milonga de Mis Amores at North Sydney Leagues Club on Saturday. If you are in town do come! You won't be disappointed. You can watch their performance last Friday at Tango Pasion's milonga on Facebook where you will also find details on the remaining workshops - I believe there is actually a short

Small milongas, Big pleasure

Over the last 3 nights I have been to what some refer to as 'boutique milongas' - the smaller milongas in Sydney where there may only be 30 or 40 dancers but where the floorcraft is good, the standard of dancing is good, the music is good to excellent - and the company is good! I didn't dance all night, but the dances I had were good - at least 2 tandas were memorable. Following on from my last posts about raising the standard, it is good to be reminded that you can still have a memorable tango experience in Sydney. I could go dancing again tonight, but I think I may be pushing my luck - though there is one I would love to attend, it is cold and wet! I will savour the dances of the last few nights - and stay in with a good glass of Aussie vino!

How women affect the standards on their tango scene

The quote that follows comes from a comment made on my last post about raising my own standard of tango... Patricia wrote :"Some women choose to dance with men who pull & push them around, have poor floor-craft, whose personal hygiene is wanting, etc. What incentive do those men have to "lift their game"? Possibly very little. I'll be blunt. Those men are being rewarded by women for anti-social behaviour. Dare I say, we ladies CAN influence standards. We just need to be determined to do so and simply not accept this." How right she is. This is definitely a problem - and more so at some of the milongas I attend than others. The problem as I see it at the milongas where women dance with men who progress through the ronda as if they were pushing shopping trolleys or dancing the polka, or where they have remarkable BO problems, is that there is a drastic shortage of men and the women who dance with these 'leaders' do so simply to get a dance/danc

The desire to improve one's tango

Yes I would love to be a better tango dancer... yes I know I should do more classes/workshops/privates...I am simply coasting along in my tango. One of Sydney's better tango teachers told me this week I was 'very nice to dance with' but I know I would love to do better. So what stops me from doing something about it? I have decided to take a couple of small  steps to improvement. I have enrolled in 2 forthcoming workshops - and I may do more. I know I really need to do privates with a good leader as well. Possibly what stops me is what stops many. Time. Tango is hugely time consuming. You can give it every moment of your spare time and still not feel satisfied. I think it is what keeps so many of us coming back for more. I have an extended family, a part-time job and I'm a freelance writer. I love to cook, to read and  to walk every day and I do yoga at least twice a week. Throw in a few coffees with friends, the occasional trip to the theatre - and there's not a

Inspiring dancing - and some good news

As one who took up dancing after their children had long grown-up I find this performance by Mathilda, delightful and inspiring... maybe you have seen it before it is one that puts a smile on your face. And a codicil to my last post... we have found a venue! And our next Milonga de Mis Amores is May 26 (Sat) at the North Sydney Leagues club - if you are in town please join us!

Dance floors disappearing fast in Sydney

The last couple of weeks I have spent much of my spare time looking for a dance floor - not a portable one, or one the size of a small dining table; not one that is long and thin like a fashion runway, or one that is buried under restaurant tables - just a wooden floor at least 7metres square if it is surrounded by carpet - or a room with a wooden floor the size of a large double garage. I can tell you that they are very, very scarce in Sydney. For the last four years we have run a Saturday milonga at an RSL in a function room that had a reasonable dance floor,  a reasonable sound and lighting system and space around the floor for tables and chairs. But the cost of keeping on staff till midnight forced the management to rethink our regular booking and we must now look elsewhere. Ten years ago, when I first ran a milonga in Sydney, there were many more clubs, many more dance floors and fewer restrictions caused by staffing costs. Many of these clubs no longer exist, or now use the roo

Are you up with the latest news?

Today we emailed the May newsletter for TangoAustralia - a busy year just goes on getting busier! As well as news about the closing down of one of Buenos Aires' most famous milongas, we've got an exclusive on the teachers for this year's Sydney Tango Salon Festival to be held at the end of September/beginning of October, and information on teachers and performers who will be coming your way (hopefully) in the next few months. It is fabulous to have so many coming our way and if you are anything like me you like to know so you can budget to include workshops with at least one teacher! I'm trying hard to get back on track after my month travelling... so now I've done the newsletter I plan to write more blog posts.

The tango wow factor

We are back in town - and back into the tango scene. Not dancing for 3 weeks, we also went the night before to get in a bit of practise, but I was still wobbly at the beginning of the night. And after watching last night's performance by Carolina Bonaventura and Francisco Forquera I wish that we could do the workshops with them this weekend - or even take off to South Australia for Buenos Aires in the Vales which we had originally hoped to do. But work commitments have got in the way!! Last night's performance was brilliant tango. It had all the elements, fine technique, clever and precise footwork, originality, passion and beauty! Carolina's footwork is faultless, and looks effortless, and Francisco's disassociation amazing. Sitting next to me, Monsieur Botton Hole, was in awe of his leading and pointed out a number of times when he led very difficult moves. They danced three numbers - sorry I forgot to write down the first 2 - but the last was Tango Negro. I check

Our Amazon Adventure

You guessed it - another early start. We left Cusco, where the night before we ventured from our hotel in pouring rain, to buy a few rain ponchos and get a meal. We almost missed the flight to Puerto Maldonado thanks to the incompetence of the airline staff. Puerto Maldonado is at sea level (so no need to suck coca sweets which seem to bear a close resemblance to boiled lollies made of grass clippings). We were met by our guide Josie, who turned out to be an amazingly resourceful and knowledgeable young woman, and joined by an American called Randy who fitted in to our group like he had always belonged. We drove for about 3 hours through shanty towns of gold miners who are steadily destroying the jungle, to our first boat ride. 10 minutes across the water and we clambered into 2 more vehicles for a 45 minute drive across rough dusty roads to the Madre de Dios River. Here we met another boat - this time with padded seats and life jackets, for our approximately 4 hour ride to the M

Riding on the Andean explorer

I love trains and boats and we have had some great excursions on both on this trip. The Andean Explorer goes from Puno to Cusco, through the towns of Puno and Juliaca and up into the Andes. It takes about 10 hours to do the trip and is much slower than any other form of transport - but that is hardly a drawback unless time is  important. It is a superbly comfortable way to travel and see the country. We departed Puno station at 8 a.m. comfortably ensconced in our armchair seats and ready for a day of sightseeing. It is a single track railway and the train slowly chugs through the towns, especially the markets in Juliaca which seem to go for miles and actually cover the tracks, so the train is forced to blow it's whistle continuously warning stall holders to remove their goods and themselves from the tracks as it comes through. Awnings and merchandise, small children and dogs are dangerously close to the train, but it passes without incident and to the amazement of the passeng

Lake Titicaca and Puno

Sorry for the delay in posting - no internet in the Amazon and we have had such a hectic schedule! We arrived in Puno by plane ( my very least favourite form of travel, I even prefer the car!) A short trip from Arequipa the plane comes into the market town of Juliaca and then it is a car trip of a couple of hours to Puno. Our last trip, way back in 2003 was a frightening experience, when we were met by a violent soccer crowd angry because Juliaca had lost a match, and our bus had to take a detour over fields and back tracks to avoid being stoned. This time the roads were smooth and so was the trip. Our guide took us to Sillustani on the way. This is an Incan and Chechuan burial site consisting of silos of stone where important members of the community were buried with worldly goods and prepared for their journey into the next world. It is on a high hill next to a beautiful lagoon. Our guide was a from the indigenous community and he explained many of the rituals and beliefs associa

The condor passed - or el condor paso

Our bus and driver arrived early for the drive to Colca Canyon where we would overnight before a very early start to drive to the viewing place in the hope of seeing the mighty condor. On our previous trips to Peru we had missed this trip because it is not easy to get to. The sun shone as we drove through the honking, haphazard traffic that still frightens and amazes us and into the rolling hills of the Andes. The drive would take us to around 5,000 metres above sea level so we seriously chewed on Coco and Maca sweets and drank heaps of water in the hope of avoiding altitude sickness. You never know when this complaint will strike.  This is my third trip to the Andes, I experienced nothing the first time - though we did start in Arequipa, drink lots of Mate and take it easy; the second time I felt quite ill by the time we got to Urubamba; this time I experienced it slightly when we up around the 4,200 mark to see the El Tatio I was taking all the precautions I could. Th

Arica to Arequipa: we travel to Peru

Being beside the sea in Arica was invigorating - our hotel was right on the water's edge and the crashing of the surf at night is something I have always loved. But it was time to explore again. None in our small party was keen to spend another day on the road travelling through the desert but we were all looking forward to Arequipa. Our bus was late because of the danger of land mines! Pretty serious reason. The Chileans laid many land mines half a century ago in their fight with the Peruvians over land on the border. It was believed they had all been found until recent unusual rains exposed two - one on land and one that floated down to the sea and so there has been a serious search to find any more. The border was shut and our bus was coming from Peru. So when we finally did go through the long process of checking out of Chile and into Peru we couldn't help but feel a little apprehensive. The desert in this part of world is like an endless moonscape and makes you aware j

The driest place in the world and an amazing village

Driving across the Atacama Desert is the type of trip you only want to do once in a lifetime - unless you love deserts, which I don't. I have never driven across the Australian desert, but it is not on my wish list - now I have driven across the driest desert in the world. It is so dry that there are no glaciers even on mountains that are around 7,000 metres!! And it is seemingly endless. We left San Pedro early in the morning as the sun rose and headed across the desert to C and then north towards our destination of Arica. What was planned as an 11 hour drive ended up being about 14 hours because of stops to see geoglyphs (large designs made of stone and drawn on the sides of mountains and hillsides as 'signposts' to ancient travellers and traders) and to visit the absolutely fascinating town of Humberstone - which made watching desert go by for hours on end, fascinating. I love history - especially social history - and this ghost town is in an amazing state of preserv

Chile: the Atacama Desert

We've left Buenos Aires behind and on our first full day staying in the Atacama desert we started the day with a visit to the Moon Valley (Valle de Luna). Moon Valley is aptly named - it is a surreal landscape of rock, clay and salt pans. Huge mountains shaped like the spine of a stegosaurus, folded like the pleats of a kilt or precariously balanced boulders form this environment. A harsh environment where very little lives - an occasional butterfly fluttered by - it has a strange beauty. The village of San Pedro where we are staying is situated in one of the oases that make it possible for humans to live here - and for the huge copper mines to function. In the late afternoon we travelled to the Atacama Salt Flat. It is possible to hike, horse-ride and bicycle in this environment, but it is incredibly hot and our choice has been to go by car. This trip took us briefly to the village of Tocanoa, which has recently been inundated by a flood! that swept away a number of houses an

Cafe Tortoni, the tourist bus and the Atacama desert

I am writing this from our hotel in the Atacama Desert. We flew here via Santiago on the next stage of our South American adventure. Our last 2 days in Buenos Aires were spent welcoming the newbies to B.A. The flight from Oz on Qantas is bad enough, especially travelling in economy but when it is discontinued at the end of this month and the choice is either to fly via Santiago with Qantas or direct with Aerolineas or LAN it is going to be a difficult one! I for one will probably think twice. On the day that the new members of our party arrived we took them for a welcome coffee to the magnificent Cafe Tortoni. Unlike Confiteria Ideal Cafe Tortoni has been preserved. It may still have the furniture and decor of the 1850s but it is in excellent condition. It was full, but not crowded and we all soaked up the history and atmosphere with our cafe con leches. Then it was time for a rest before the evening's pleasures. A tango show is always offered to visitors to Buenos Aires by ou

Day 5 in Buenos Aires: good food, Ideal and a bit of jazz

Each day begins with a leisurely communal breakfast where we plan our day - and spend some time planning our day. Of the 6 of us, only one has not been to BA before and 4 of us have been a number of times, so we are exploring part of the city that we have not yet visited, or re-visiting favourites. Los Remolinos comes in the last category. A typical Argentinian restaurant on Suipacha which we discovered 9 years ago when we stayed in a hotel opposite for the World Tango Festival. In those days we were greeted by non-English speaking older waiters who proffered sherry when we sat down together with the ubiquitous  basket of bread. Those days are long gone, taking with them the complimentary limoncello at the end of the meal as well. An excellent parilla, together with other typical Argentinian dishes have been joined by a more modern salad (no longer the separate grated carrot, shredded lettuce and sliced tomato). I ordered a Medallion de Lomas , which,  unlike our medallions which are

Jet lag, Japanese garden and paso doble at Los Consagrados in Buenos Aires

Slow postings... my apologies, but I seem to be in an internet fog at the moment and am finding it really difficult to get online much of the time! Jet lag can make it difficult to get the most our of your holiday - and on Friday it really got the better of me. I slept really badly on Thursday night - though I did get a fair bit of my book read in the wee small hours of the morning. We walked to the Japanese garden, next to the Zoo in Recoleta on another beautiful sunny autumn morning. The Japanese garden is a delightful oasis, though it is situated with busy roads all around - so that makes it less tranquil than it could be. The central attraction is a huge lake with a path which wends it way round and Japanese maples, conifers, other typical plantings and Japanese furniture along side. We lunched in the Japanese restaurant in the gardens - which felt rather incongruous, eating Japanese in Argentina. It was not of the standard we are used to at home, but it was reasonable. The wh

Beautiful Buenos Aires and the cold shoulder at Club Gricel

Buenos Aires does sunshine very well - and yesterday (Friday) we had beautiful weather again - max was probably around 27degC and the sun shone all day with a light breeze. I set off in the morning with my very good friend DJ Incredible to visit the famous Zivals (home of Tango CDs and more) on Corrientes and then the Buenos Aires Tango Club - mission CD shopping. It didn't take long to gather enough CDs for door prizes at the Milonga de Mis Amores for the next 12 months and then to collect the CDs on my wants list. I create my wants list throughout the year when I hear a piece I don't have as part of a playlist. Mission accomplished we returned to the hotel to meet up with friends for an excellent wholefood lunch at Alma Zen cafe in Diagonale Norte then off again. This time the mission was women-only - we were off to Comme Il Faut. I have had at least 20 pairs of their shoes over the years (not many compared to other tangueras I know) and knew what I wanted - and that I could

Buenos Aires, Palermo Soho and a great concept in shoes

Day two in Buenos Aires. (no Day one report - I slept!) This is my 5th visit and every time I come I notice changes. Not to the footpaths mind you - they are still as broken up and potholed as they were on my first visit in 2003 - or maybe worse. Nor to the mess left by dogs! (I wonder if the Argentinians will legislate for owners picking up their dog's mess if they ever renew their pavements??). This time prices have gone up again (last visit 2010). However there seems to be more choice - and the food continues to get fresher. Today we wandered round Palermo Soho taking in the shops, the eateries and the atmosphere. A really pretty part of town, many of the tree-lined streets with their streetscapes dappled with sunshine are reminiscent of a European city - or parts of Melbourne! We found a great cafe for lunch - Mama Racha - which I later discover is listed in a Guardian travel article as one of BA's best cafes. A one-time corner store, it has tables outside and in, and a wi

Tango - so much to learn, so much to read

I'm off to BA in a couple of days! For a week - before travelling on to parts of Peru and Chile - some of which I have visited before some I haven't. And today, as I sat in the doctor's waiting room, I read a large part of 'Happy Tango. Sallycat's Guide to Dancing in Buenos Aires'. I'm a convert - don't travel to Buenos Aires to dance tango without having a copy. This will be my fifth trip and I have learnt a heap already. So even if you have been before you will find something in there that you didn't know before - and if you are a newbie, or this is your first visit, it's essential! As I will only be there for a week, one of the best sections is 'The Week at a Glance' - in three sections for Tourists, Traditional dancers and those who want informal, it will save any tanguera/o hours of research and probably many mistakes - as will reading the sections on the cabaceo and codigos. I have had a copy of this book on my desk for some months