'The Amazing Race' Pit Stop Fiver: Argentina's Got Nuclear Fusion and Ducks
Friday, February 26, 2010
After two legs in Chile, we are headed to Argentina--another country where Brazilian reals are not accepted. I think. That's how logic should go, right?
Anyway, I'm here again, with Wikipedia on one window and Microsoft Word on the other, setting you up for what you might expect on The Amazing Race this Sunday. Spoilers have suggested we're headed to Bariloche in Argentina, which should be as beautiful as Puerto Varas in Chile, because...
It isn't a very long trip. Saw the maps? Bariloche, on the southeastern side of the country, is almost beside Puerto Varas. I think it's just a bus ride or something. In fact, the city is also settled by the same German immigrants who settled into Puerto Varas in the mid-19th century. (It even was a haven for Nazi veterans at one point.) Goods from the Chilean city of Puerto Montt usually end up in the city.
Argentina almost had nuclear fusion energy first. Almost. Bariloche is also home to the Huemul Project, a discontinued fusion reactor in an island not far off the city. Austrian scientist Ronald Richter told then president Juan Domingo Peron (go on, sing "Don't Cry For Me Argentina") that he can create a fusion reactor in the country. Alas, the technology wasn't in an advanced state yet, and the project was discontinued in the late 1950s. Despite the huge costs of the project, though, it didn't impact Argentina's economy that hard. The Huemul Project is now a tourist attraction, sitting nicely alongside the city's ski slopes.
Want some mate after your ski run? Mate is considered as Argentina's national drink, and is pretty much like tea: dried leaves of the shrub yerba mate is steeped in hot water. You'll often see this being drunk by Brazilian gauchos, but Argentina claims to have first dibs over this. It's drunk in a special way: with a calabash gourd, using a special straw. There's a lot of rituals surrounding this, especially considering its health benefits.
They love playing with ducks. Well, it used to. While Argentina is known for being a soccer powerhouse and giving Manu Ginobili to the NBA, the national sport is pato, which is an odd mix of horse polo and basketball. Teams fight for possession of a ball, and have to score as many points by shooting it in goals. Pato is the Spanish word for duck: in the past, instead of balls, they used ducks to score--imagine ducks being hit by polo sticks and being trampled by horses! No wonder it was banned before.
And, since I'm a radio geek... Argentina is home to the world's first formal radio station, the world's first radio opera, and the world's second radio broadcast. Only twenty people received that transmission, back in 1920.
You should've seen the promos: we have wooden horses. That's definitely pato, right? Right. Let's just hope nobody gets trampled to death by... wooden horses. And they're talking about someone visiting the emergency room...
(Image courtesy of longhorndave on Flickr/Matador Sports)