Jef Leyssens

King of the Road

Jef Leyssens

I'm not so good at sticking to a same place and occupation, which has the nice side effect of encountering all sorts of places and people. Work serves travel, which serves as candy for everything in my body and mind. I'm a man of means by no means, and it's a fine life. Currently I'm walking around in South America. It will take some time to develop my pictures, so I'm stealing some from friends for the moments. As from July, my own images will go with these words. I intend to document previous trips in the near future. For now, there's something over the hill that i've got to see.

South America June 25th 2009

Since my bag got stolen, i´ve lost my book with contacts. if any of my recently encountered fellow travellers happens to read this site once in a while, please send me your email address. thanks! Es una lastima, pero me roban el bolsillo, y mi libro con direcciones y datos de la gente que encuentre fue a dentro. Entonces, estoy tratando de buscar todos mis amigos viajeros de nuevo. No se si ustedes pasan por aca, pero de ser asi, seria rebien de me enviar los emailes perdidos. gracias! Alors, quelqu´un m´a volé mon sac a mains avec mon livre de contacts, et je suis en train de les chercher de nouveau - ça sera trop bete de ne plus pouvoir se rencontrer seulement parce qu´un con me prends mon sac. Si vous - chers amis ... read more

South America » Argentina » Salta » Calchaquí Valleys June 16th 2009

After taking a bus from Salta to the extremely polished and clean -though pretty- village of Cachi, i had a problem. I was in a perfectly beautiful region, with high mountains, exploreable surrounding towns, a legendary valley to venture into and more, and i felt indifferent. Perhaps it's the 'last days syndrome' kicking in: i look forward to being back, but at the same time i want to keep on going, and i want to make these last weeks as impressive as possible. This pretty much immobilised me: what to choose between taking your time, or to fit in more sights? I solved the problem by ordering a beer and tasty provoleta, on a sunny terrace, with Mario Vargas Llosa's 'El pez en el agua' to accompany me. It's -like alway with Vargas Llosa- a fantastic ... read more

South America » Argentina » Jujuy June 11th 2009

Continuing its marvellous landscape-shifting capacity, Argentina caught me off guard with the Yungas: at only 50 kilometers east from the arid Quebrada de Humahuaca, lush rainforest rules supreme. After coming back from the Puna, i spent the night in a shady pension in San Salvador de Jujuy, where there's not an endless list of things to do. Bussing to Ledesma, the surroundings started to change. Soon, fields of cane sugar and misty forest-covered mountains appeared. From Ledesma, i started walking to Parque Calilegua, 10 km further. It was Sunday, so no buses ran. On my way, i stopped to buy some wine for the night (it's wilderness, but it does not have to be uncomfortable), which led me to a long talk with the shop owner, who thought camping was way to uncomfortable. I told him ... read more

South America » Argentina » Jujuy June 8th 2009

The northwest of Argentina is known as the local Siberia - at least in winter. It is winter. The puna is a series of high plains (3500 meters and up), populated by lamas and small shepherd communities and surrounded by mountains. I spent the night of the 4th of June in a shabby and very cold hostel in the town of Abra Pampa, before taking the bus to nature reserve Laguna Pozuelos the next day. In the terminal, someone sold huge cups of hot coffee, which blew away my horrible 'i nearly froze overnight that friggin hostel should get some isolation i keep losing stuff and what kind of ridiculous town is this anyway'-feeling, and the trip was quite amusing, with the bus breaking down about 5 times. Laguna Pozuelos is a huge lake in the ... read more

South America » Argentina » Salta » Iruya June 4th 2009

Irúya has the most perfect location ever, in an isolated valley, surrounded by imposing mountains, with the river running steadily below. It is the centre (well, with around 800 inhabitants) of a range of small indigenous communities in this part of the Andes. The town itself is charming with its very ancient architecture and steep streets, surrounding by terrace fields on the flatter parts of the mountain slopes. Earlier on, this was a region where terrace agriculture - exisiting here from before the arrival of the incas - flourished and on the mountains you can still see the rests of this brilliant way to make the best of a terrain as difficult as this. I went here with Barbara from Paris and Julien from Montreal, whom i met on the shabby bus that needed 3 hours ... read more

South America » Argentina » Salta » Salta June 4th 2009

I visited Salta with Etienne from Switzerland and Valerie from Germany, and enjoy it we did. Salta is a pretty, very atmospheric town, with a completely different vibe of that other big city i visited in Argentina, Buenos Aires. The European appeal is completely gone here. A very lively town, full of small shops, pretty churches and plaza, and a population of indigenas and mestizos, Salta offers yet again a different look at this country. We only spent two days here, i intend to come back for another day. On our first afternoon, we went eating in the indoor market, the first floor of which holds tens of small restaurants, where people without money go to (we did not spot a single tourist, bueno). I had a very tasty humita (corn leaves filled with a paste ... read more

South America » Argentina » Jujuy » Humahuaca June 3rd 2009

On first sight, Humahuaca and it's beautiful valley looked like my stereotypical idea of andean South America: dusty roads, abandoned railroad stations, 19th century houses, a whole lot of indigenous old women and massive coloured moutains with cacti. After spending some time in this town, it's over-authenticism started to annoy me though, i suppose Unesco declaring this region patrimony of humanity has triggered a tourism so massive that it has destroyed most of the essence of this patrimony. Humahuaca is very pretty and has a not too fake vibe, but it lives off tourism, and the centre is one big shopping centre for artesania (yes, i did buy lama gloves). That being said, the setting is still breathtaking, and to enjoy it to it's fullest, camping Carolina is a fine choice. I put my tent in ... read more

South America » Argentina » Misiones » San Ignacio May 28th 2009

Misiones is a region of red sand, palm trees and hot hot heat. Everyone takes a bus through it to see the world renowned and mightily touristy Iguazú falls, which i decided not to do. Instead i headed for San Ignacio (not exactly non touristy, i admit, but at least not disneyland), known for its ruins of Jesuit missions. Nearby, there's more ruins at Santa Ana, which i visited with the ticket of a friendly frenchman. There's not a lot left of the missions: the outline of the town is still visible, some impressive walls stand and the stairs of the old cabildo are very nice. The most impressive part - to this man - was the old graveyard: Almost all the graves had collapsed, showing open holes leading into the dark ground. The mausoleums had ... read more

South America » Argentina » Corrientes » Corrientes May 26th 2009

Since there's not so many Argentines knowing about this park, it didn't surprise me that most people reacted with 'you're going where?' to me explaining my plans of exploring this small park of lively lagunas, palmtrees and difficult roads. Parque Mburucuyá was created out of two former estancias (large farms and their land), holds magnificent animal life and fine scenery sights. My first stop on the way to the park was Saladas, a town with a bus terminal. Wandering around there, i asked a girl in a ticket office for directions, and if i could leave my backpack there. She looked at my luggage, asked whereever i came from, and upon my reply shouted out 'impossible! And you're here in Saladas! Come in and have mate, you need to tell me all about your life!' That ... read more

South America » Argentina » Corrientes » Mercedes May 22nd 2009

Corrientes might be the finest province of Argentina: the scenery is overwhelming, there's wild animals everywhere and fruit growing whereever you look and the correntiños are probably the nicest people on earth. This region is very poor, for the first time Argentina has shown me it's not a first world country. People live in improvised houses, often made from wood and mud, and eat what the land gives them. Gauchos (the local cowboys) roam the fields. No one is working for a nameless man twenty levels above them: work doesn't serve this strange purpose of winning the game where you strive at being the one that has the most money when he dies. It serves life, working the land that gives you food, building houses, taking care of people. It seems a very natural way of ... read more

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