Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

A long day in the Andes

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2019

In the PunaPuna

Saturday morning Claudio showed up as planned about 8 AM, and we set out for the mountains. Calama is at an elevation of about 7500 feet, and our birding expedition would take us up a good bit higher. As we climbed, we followed the course of the Rio Loa, which brings snowmelt water down from the high peaks to Calama. Our first stop was at Laguna Inca-Coya, a little sinkhole lake near the village of Chiu-Chiu, at an elevation of about 8000 feet.

At Laguna Inca-CollaClaudio points out a bird at Laguna Inca-Coya

Our first new bird of the day was an Andean (=Slate-colored) Coot. Shortly after we saw that, an Andean Gull flew over. Two lifers at the first stop, not too bad.

Church at Chiu-Chiu
Church at Chiu-Chiu

Next we headed for the geyser field, which entailed driving on some really bad roads. Hamner was up to the task, though, as he continued to be throughout a very long day. As we climbed, the terrain began to change. Clumps of grass abound at the higher elevations, an ecological zone known as Puna. The grass supports a lot of wildlife, including wild vicuña and guanaco.

In the Puna

While you can go to the main geysers and pay an entrance fee, Claudio had another idea. He guided us to a place with a lot of very forbidding signs saying that we weren’t allowed in; it seemed that there weren’t a lot of cops around, though, so we ignored them. We parked, and just down a slope was a geyser of mud, belching sulfur-scented steam.

Mud Geysers
Me at the mud geyser

Just beyond the mud geyser was a marshy seep, where Claudio and I saw two species of Cinclodes and an Andean Negrito. This spot was the highest we went all day, at about 15,000 feet. I had to take two breaths per step most of the time. Next we continued in the Puna to the Rio Putana, to a wide bend that forms a shallow wetland area. It was full of waterfowl such as Puna Teal, Giant Coot, Crested Duck, and Andean Goose, and we also saw a Plumbeous Sierra-finch and a couple of Gray-breasted Seedsnipe.

Puna Teal
Puna Teal

From there, we stopped at a place called Machuca, which had some shops that were all closed. There were, however, several more bird species to be seen, including Greenish Yellow-Finch, Cordilleran Castanero, Gray-bellied Shrike-tyrant, and Black-hooded Sierra-finch. An Aplomado Falcon flew over in a surprise appearance as well. The landscape of the Puna is amazing. The elevation and lack of rain make it an exceedingly difficult place for anything to survive, yet it’s full of beautiful plants and animals. And of course, wherever there is water such as the Rio Loa or the Rio Putana, which carry snowmelt from yet higher peaks, animals congregate. And many of these animals are unique to the region, including of course a lot of the birds – as you might guess from all the ones that have names starting with “Andean” or “Puna”.

Lupine in the Andes
A lupine of some sort


We continued on, later seeing a beautiful adult Mountain Caracara, and finally made our way to San Pedro de Atacama, where we had dinner with Claudio and saw some of the festival of San Pedro — the streets were full of people in costumes dancing and parading. We drove back to Calama in the dark, and Hamner had put in a good 10 hours of driving, much of it on dirt roads in the Andes. He deserves a medal. Meanwhile, I had 20 lifers in one day.


To the driest place on Earth

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2019

On Friday (June 28) we packed up our stuff, Hamner maneuvered the SUV out of the exceedingly cramped underground parking, and we set off eastward into the brown mountains.


Train between Calama and Antofagasta

Train in the Atacama desert

 Robin always tells how she and her siblings had a game they played in the car when driving from Calama to the coast for a vacation.  The first one to see any kind of green plant in the distance would yell “I see the river!”   She wasn’t kidding.  For long stretches there is nothing but brown, gray, and reddish dirt to be seen.  The shapes of the mountains are like giant elephant’s feet, contours unspoiled by growth of anything alive.  It gave us all  a bit of perspective into Robin’s mother, Betsy, who grew up on Staten Island.  Anaconda Copper transferred Robin’s father to Chuquicamata in 1942, and the shock never really wore off. Nevertheless, our apartment in Calama is in a very nice building with a lovely view of the sunset.  

Sunset in Calama
View from our balcony in Calama


We called our guide, Claudio Seguel Huidobro, whom I’d been corresponding with for a few weeks, and he showed up soon after.  We had some bread, cheese, ham, olives, and wine, and discussed our plans for the couple of days we’d be there.

August 1, 2013: O Cristo Redentor

Friday, August 2nd, 2013

Peggy and Robin with the view from the Cristo

Peggy’s one big wish for Rio was to go to the top of the mountain and see the Cristo Redentor. We also wanted to go to the top of Sugarloaf (Well, some of us did. I find the prospect of riding the cablecar terrifying in the extreme, but whatever), so we decided to start in the morning, go to the Cristo, then Sugarloaf. As it turns out, it’s a very long trip from Arpoador neighborhood to the Cristo — altogether it takes two city buses and two vans to get to the top, and by the time we’d stood in various lines, etc. we were pretty beat. So we had a beer at the feet of Jesus (there are two different cafes on the way up), and then climbed the steps to walk around the statue and join the crowds of people taking pictures of each other holding their arms out.

The view from up there is spectacular. In the panoramic shot above, you can see Copacabana beach (on Peggy’s side), then Ipanema beach (with Arpoador in between — that’s where our hotel is), then Leblon beach. The big lake is the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, where we saw Cocoi herons, common gallinules, neotropical cormorants, a Ringed Kingfisher, and the Southern and Yellow-headed Caracaras. The Jockey Club racetrack is visible to the right of the Lagoa, and the big green area to the right of that is the Jardim Botanico, where we also went the day before.

Today was not much of a birding day, but while drinking a beer near the top of the mountain, I saw a black bird in the trees. It turned out on closer inspection to have a pale blue bill, a slight crest, and white flashes in its wings when it flew; it was a Velvety Black-Tyrant, and my one lifer for the day.

We reversed the whole process getting home, though I was able to find a way to use only one city bus instead of two. After collapsing for a while, we wandered out and found a restaurant where we all had grilled salmon and salad for like $15 each — a great deal and more food than we could eat.

Back to Belo Horizonte tomorrow!

July 31, 2013: First (very) full day in Rio

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

Yesterday was a travel day, and we were pretty wiped out by the time we got to Rio. So we went to a microbrewery pub and had beer and burgers, and then sat out on the patio behind our hotel and watched the stars and the ocean. We’re staying at the Arpoador Inn, which is a major coup on Robin’s part — very reasonably priced, and right on the beach; strictly speaking Arpoador beach, but it’s really part of Ipanema. Our room has a gorgeous ocean view, and the beach view isn’t bad either.
Tangara cyanocephala - Red-necked Tanager
Red-necked Tanager: photo by Arthur Grosset

This morning we resolved to do some birding, and we’d planned to meet at the hotel restaurant at 8. I woke up early, and decided to watch the sun rise from the Garota de Ipanema, i.e. the big rock just to the east of our hotel. I looked out the window and the first thing I saw was a life bird, the kelp gull. I then proceeded down to the beach and to the Garota, where I watched the sun come up and also saw a South American Tern.

After breakfast, we walked to the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, a saltwater lagoon just inland from the beach. There were Magnificent Frigatebirds and common gallinules, a pied-billed grebe to make us think of home, and then we saw a raptor with white bands in its wings fly into a palm tree. We spent a good bit of time studying the bird. First problem was that there was another raptor in the same tree, which turned out to be a Southern Caracara. We argued a good bit about the first bird, and the appearance of another of the same species didn’t really help much. Finally, we tentatively settled on Yellow-Headed Caracara, though the colors in my book didn’t look right. That’s often the case, and later I checked on the web and we clearly had the right bird.

Our next goal was the Jardim Botanico do Rio Janeiro; Google Maps has it in the wrong place, which didn’t help, but we eventually got there. It’s a beautiful park, with lots of streams and little waterfalls. The orchidarium and the bromeliad house were both closed for renovation, and the hummingbird garden was out of season. Nevertheless, we found some very cool birds, including the Rusty-margined Guan and the Red-Necked Tanager. I’ve included a photo of the tanager (again, not mine — I didn’t bring fancy lenses). It should be called the holy shit tanager, I think, based on what I kept saying while looking at it.

After about 3 hours in the Jardim, we were toast, and we still had to walk back. Thought I was gonna die. We had to stop and have a beer on the beach about a mile from our hotel. I counted up our birds for the day and realized I had 14 lifers total. This, of course, warranted a chicken dance.

July 29, 2013: The Bird Park and the Dam

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

Itaipu Binacional. For scale, note the 5-story building just above the cooling water flow about 1/4 of the way in from the right side of the picture. Spillway water flow is on the left.

Today was a big day, as we planned two separate outings. Our hotel is conveniently located just next door to the Parque das Aves, a bird rescue center and aviary, and we had to check it out. It’s a good-sized place, with a concrete path leading past enclosures for various birds and through several large aviaries where you can get right next to the birds. They have a great collection of parrots and macaws, mostly recovered from illegal smugglers. There are some endangered species that are breeding in captivity here as well. We walked into the first aviary and a Red-Legged Seriema walked up and grabbed my map out of my hand. At about two feet tall, he was a little bit daunting, but I got it back. Turns out the nearest relatives of the Seriemas were the extinct Terror Birds, ten-foot-tall carnivores that were the largest predators in South America after the dinosaurs died out. I guess I was lucky. That guy looked mean, and when we were leaving he kept reaching up and trying to grab the door handle.

Another aviary had a huge assortment of macaws and parrots in it, who apparently express their dislike for mammals invaded their enclosure by buzzing your head – I had a Hyacinth Macaw pass so close I could feel the breeze. It was a little frustrating seeing all these cool birds that don’t count for your life list, being captive, but many of them we’d never have seen any other way. And while I’d seen two Toco Toucans the day before, in the Parque I was able to see one quite a bit closer. And a macaw closer than that.

Me and Macaw

After the bird park, we headed back to the hotel. Robin wanted to rest a bit, and we had about an hour and a half before leaving on our next outing. I, of course, went out with my binoculars. Instead of taking the nature trail behind the hotel, I followed the dirt road past the staff’s houses, and hit the jackpot – I found the hotel’s sewage lagoon. I wish I’d found it a couple of days ago, but even with just a half-hour to spend, I was able to see two new birds – hooded tanager and white-banded tanager, eating caterpillars in the same tree.

Made it back to the hotel and joined our little group, as our car had arrived to take us to Itaipu. At the city of Foz do Iguazu, a few miles west of our hotel, the river Paraná is dammed to form an enormous reservoir. The river is the border between Brazil and Paraguay, and the two countries made a treaty agreement in 1975 to build the Itaipu dam and power plant. It’s the largest water-power plant in the world; maximum capacity is 14,000 megawatts (that’s 14 gigawatts, enough to power 11.5 Delorean time machines). It provides 75% of Paraguay’s electric power (and almost all the rest is water power as well), and 17% of Brazil’s. We paid extra for the Special Nerd Tour and got to go inside the dam and see one of the 20 turbines in operation. It’s an incredible engineering project – it just dwarfed us. On the main floor just over the generators, workers rode bicycles or drove golf carts to get from one end to the other. Outside, we stood on top of the dam and saw the huge lake to the north, and the river to the south. The water was high, so they had some of the spillway gates open to drain the excess. The amount going out (with 5 of 14 gates open) was approximately the total flow of Iguazu falls. At peak flow, it can be 40 times that.

Of course, I was looking for birds when we were outside, and I realized that two nondescript brown birds walking around by the reception center were new to me. I took notes, and when I got back I looked them up and found that they were Rufous Horneros. These guys make mud nests up in trees that look like clay ovens; hence the name, as “horno” is Spanish for “oven.” There was a nest in a tree outside our hotel.

Exhausted, we got back to the hotel, had a light dinner and a couple of beers, and went to bed early. Our flight to Rio leaves the next morning at 6:55.

July 28, 2013: Iguazu falls

Monday, July 29th, 2013

Iguazu Falls

You can read all about Iguazu Falls in Wikipedia, but seeing it in person is absolutely stunning. Niagara has more water, but Iguazu is much wider. It just goes on and on. Our hotel is walking distance from the park entrance, and that’s what we did; once you get into the park, there’s a free bus that takes you to the falls trail. From there, you walk a total of about a mile on paved path with occasional steps, interrupted by about a thousand photo op sites, where you have to wait for the people in front of you to get through mugging for each other’s cameras so that you can do the same.

This is winter, and the dry season, so the flow of the falls is at its low end right now. All I can say is it’s hard to imagine it at its peak in that case. We passed on the opportunity to take a Zodiac boat trip up the river to the base of the falls. Temps were in the low 60s when we arrived, and it’s clear that you get totally soaked in one of those boats. We were content to walk up the trail; at its end it has an observation deck that comes right to the edge of the biggest fall, the Garganta do Diablo. We wore ponchos and still got pretty damp from the spray. There’s a nice restaurant at the top, where we had a buffet lunch before coming back.

At the restaurant, as at every stop along the way, tourists are assailed by coatimundis, who climb into the garbage cans and beg from the passers-by. Peggy and I watched one coati following a little girl, who must have looked to a coati like the kind of person who’ll drop food. She turned around and saw it and let out a shriek, but she was the only one scared. The coatis have seen it all.

While there wasn’t much birding to be done at the park, Peggy and Robin and I did get out by the pool this morning; the big find was a pair of toco toucans that flew into a big tree just as I walked outside.

Today’s list:

*Toco toucan 2
Red-Rumped cacique 10
Ruddy ground-dove
Plush-crested jay 5
Yellow-fronted woodpecker
Yellow-chevroned parrot 2
Great kiskadee 2
House wren
*Violaceous euphonia
*Green-headed Tanager 2
Sayaca tanager
Pale-breasted thrush
*Scaly-headed parrot 4

*Eared dove
Black vulture 40
Turkey vulture
Neotropic cormorant

*As usual, lifers marked with the asterisk.

July 27, 2013: A birding day

Saturday, July 27th, 2013

Melanerpes flavifrons
Yellow-fronted Woodpecker: Photo by Arthur Grosset

Hamner having been sick the day before, we decided in advance that today would be a rest day so Peggy could stick around in case he needed something. So I got up before dawn and went out to see what birding could be done on the grounds of our hotel. It has a pool, then a soccer field, then woods with trails that lead all the way back to the Rio Iguazu.

I’m not used to it being winter — the sun didn’t rise till after 7. In the meantime, all the birds woke up and starting twittering, squawking, chirping, and shrieking according to their individual tastes. At home, say, at Maintz Wildlife Reserve, I’d know what pretty much all the sounds were. Here, I know squat. It’s a bit disconcerting. I quickly realized there was no point being back in the woods until it got good and bright, so I wandered out front and watched in the better light out in the open. A group of parrots flew into a tree near me, and I was able to identify them as maroon-bellied parakeets, for instance. Eventually I did head back in the woods, and wound up seeing quite a few birds. My big triumph was following the sound of hammering on a tree to get a good view of a lineated woodpecker. If it were in Missouri, it would be a slightly peculiar-looking pileated woodpecker; a really big bird and very striking.

When I came back out and walked into the pool area behind the hotel, I felt a little foolish, because it was just alive with birds, including a very cool yellow-fronted woodpecker. If the lineated is a pileated that’s a little off, a yellow-fronted is a hairy woodpecker that somebody has taken a set of paints to.

Robin, Peggy, and I had breakfast. The hotel puts on a pretty good buffet for breakfast, with excellent coffee. Afterward, while Hamner was resting, we went back to the trail to see if we could see the river at the far end. We saw a number of birds walking in, but they didn’t want to take too much time, so we kept moving. It’s about a kilometer walk back there, and when we got to the little observation deck, there were black-capped capuchin monkeys frolicking in the trees by the riverside. The Rio Iguazu seems surprisingly placid there, apparently unaware that it’s about to fall off a bunch of cliffs.

At the Rio Iguazu
Robin and Peggy at the observation deck.

Peggy and Robin headed back and let me dawdle and watch birds at my leisure, to rejoin them later. I’ve found in the past few days that there are so many unfamiliar birds (even though I’ve studied the likely ones) that I have to use the recording feature on my iPhone and just dictate notes about them and look them up later. I’ve been pretty fortunate in spotting the definitive features and noting them, although there are still some mystery birds remaining. Still, I had 15 lifers today, which is pretty good for never leaving the hotel.

The three of us spent the afternoon sitting out by the pool and playing sheepshead, and then we got Hamner and went to the hotel bar for a late snack. He’s feeling much better, so tomorrow we plan to go to the falls.

Today’s list:

Great kiskadee 3
Great egret
Red-rumped cacique 12
House wren 2
*Maroon-bellied parakeet 5
*Lineated woodpecker
Rufous-bellied thrush 2
*Yellow-fronted woodpecker
*Epaulet oriole
*Plush-crested jay 20
Pale-breasted thrush 5
Yellow-chevroned parakeet 4
*Black-tailed tityra 2
Black vulture
*Lesser woodcreeper 3
Rufous-collared sparrow 2
*Boat-billed flycatcher
*Gray-fronted dove 2
*Olivaceous woodcreeper
*Fawn-breasted tanager
*Golden-crowned warbler 5
*Chestnut-eared aracari

July 26, 2013: We arrive at Foz do Iguazu

Saturday, July 27th, 2013

Boyero Cacique
Red-rumped Cacique. Photo by NativeTree.

Our travel from BH to Foz do Iguazu was uneventful, except that Hamner is having stomach problems. We got to our hotel about 3:30 or so, and immediately went for a walk on the grounds. The hotel San Martin is just a short walk from the entrance to the Iguazu falls park, and right next door to the Parque das Aves. It has extensive grounds with a very nice stone-paved trail through the forest, so we were able to get right in there an do a little birding.

The hotel also has a very nice pool, though it’s a bit cold right now, being winter — they just had a cold snap last week with lows in the 30s, though it’s not supposed to get below 50 while we’re here. We were able to go out in short sleeves, in 70 degree temps with low humidity and bright late afternoon sun. I wasn’t able to bird much on this first walk. People will talk, and keep walking, and so on. I did stop and wait for some thrushes to get comfortable enough to come out, and they turned out to be rufous-bellied thrushes. Then I caught up with the group, but on the way back I stopped again to watch what turned out to be red-rumped caciques. I knew they were around because I’d seen their nests. In Portuguese the bird is called a guaxe; we saw some nests at Inhotim, big pendulous snarls of twigs. Claudia says that her mother always told her and her sister that their rooms looked like guaxe nests, and it was years before they actually saw one and understood the reference. Anyway, there were guaxe nests on a tree right in front of the hotel, and sure enough, they were all over the place in the late afternoon.

Hamner and Peggy went back to their room, and Robin and I walked down to the park entrance to use an ATM. On the way we saw a chalk-browed mockingbird. When we started back we walked by the Parque das Aves, where two Southern Lapwings were standing around in the parking lot, walking out into traffic, and generally behaving like idiots. Very pretty birds, though.

Unfortunately, Hamner is still sick. The hotel got a nurse to come and check him out — it’s just Montezuma’s Revenge (well, I don’t know whose revenge it is in Brazil, actually), but he has to watch it because of being diabetic. So we hung around the hotel in the evening and Peggy, Robin, and I had dinner together.

List for the day:

Yellow-chevroned parakeet
*Chalk-browed mockingbird 2
*Rufous-bellied thrush 2
*Red-rumped cacique 6
*Southern lapwing 2
Great kiskadee 6
*Saffron finch 30


July 25, 2013: Ouro Preto

Friday, July 26th, 2013

Robin has a coxinha

We had planned to spend a day at Ouro Preto, since it’s close to BH and is kind of a popular tourist attraction. It was an important gold mining town in colonial times, and was the site of the first attempt toward Brazilian independence from Portugal. The leader of the independence effort was a dentist, Joaquim José da Silva Xavier, known as “Tiradentes” (tooth-puller). He was hanged and quartered for his efforts in 1792. But the town is very pretty, full of old churches and cobblestone streets, with lots of little artsy shops.

We told Claudia that we were planning to go, and she said I should talk to her in the morning about our travel plans. When I got on Facebook in the morning, she suggested that she could drive us. We were happy to accept, since we’d missed a chance to spend time with her the night before because of the crazy traffic, etc. So she came by our hotel and drove us to Ouro Preto.

We stopped at the Casa dos Contos, which is the old colonial mint, now a museum of coinage and local history. The work at the mint was done by slaves, and the slave quarters are part of the museum, along with shackles and various tools used by the slaves. It was interesting, and there was also an exhibit by two artists in the region who make sort of 3-D shadowbox icons out of toothpicks and various other media. It was really cool; I include here a pic of one that had a mermaid in it, for Cabell’s benefit.

Artwork in Ouro Preto

We spent a little time walking on a nice brick path along the river in the town, where of course I looked at birds. My list from Ouro Preto:

House sparrow
Black vulture
Social flycatcher
Sayaca tanager
*Gray-headed tody-flycatcher
*Cliff flycatcher

Peggy got to see the bananaquit this time; she’d missed a couple earlier. She also saw the cliff flycatcher — in fact we all watched it hawking from a TV antenna, catching bugs and returning to its perch. I didn’t figure out what it was until later, but I took notes of what we observed so that I could make the ID from my book.

I was the only one who saw the gray-headed tody-flycatcher. The others walked ahead on the path talking, and I stopped because I saw a bird hopping about in a small tree. This was a pretty easy one, as the first thing I noticed was the bright yellow lores, which is a defining character for it.

We had a light lunch — see Robin above with her coxinhna and coke — and bought a few trinkets. Okay, and Robin bought a sodalite necklace that was a bit more than a trinket. Happy birthday, honey! All in all, a nice day, and on the way home we stopped at Claudia’s house and spent a little time with her, her husband Rodrigo, and their son Max. We all sampled cachaca, a traditional sugar cane liquor. Max gave us presents — mine was a little soapstone bird from Ouro Preto, because I’m crazy about birds.

By the time we got back to the hotel, the fireworks had slacked off to maybe one every fifteen minutes or so.

*Life birds for me marked with the asterisk.

July 24: Big excitement in BH

Thursday, July 25th, 2013

Where to start? First of all, yesterday Hamner’s conference had an outing to Inhotim, which is an amazing combination of botanical garden, sculpture park, and art installations. My friend and former student Claudia, who lives in BH, had contacted us and suggested we go there together, and we’d already been planning to go with Hamner’s group. So we met at Inhotim.

It’s bizarre. One of the installations is a big sort of prison-looking structure with five rooms. Each one has a different light show, music, and furnishings. Like the one with old newspapers projected on the wall, with a floor made out of foot-thick foam rubber, where Yoko Ono screeches bizarrely in an endless loop. Or the one that’s full of hammocks and plays Jimi Hendrix.

Another installation has a bunch of huge girders stuck in concrete at random angles. We spent a good bit of time going around kicking the girders to hear the sounds they made.

There were some birds around as well, though I kept getting in trouble for wandering off to look at them. Or just stopping to look at them while the rest of the group abandoned me.

Great Kiskadee (aka Bem-te-vim, in Portuguese)
Sayaca Tanager
Rufous-collared sparrow
*White-Browed Warbler
*Yellow Tyrannulet
Social Flycatcher
Great Egret
Masked Water-Tyrant
Black Vulture
House Wren
*Nacunda Nighthawk
Neotropic Cormorant
And yet another of these damn birds that really look like Orange-Backed Troupials, but those aren’t supposed to occur here. Fourth one I’ve seen.

*I’m taking Leon’s advice and starring the ones that are life birds for me.

I think the best part of the whole place was an installation in a huge aircraft-hangar sort of building with about 50 speakers arranged all over and a bunch of chairs. A spoken word and musical piece plays, with each individual voice or instrument in its own speaker. It was eerily haunting and moving. Worthwhile.

So we were supposed to meet Claudia and her husband and son to go to a bar and musical show in the evening, but our bus got mired in traffic. The BH Galo soccer team was playing the Olimpia team from Paraguay, and it was the final game for some championship cup. The entire city lost its mind, apparently. We had to give up on getting back downtown early in the evening, and instead we stayed with Hamner at his hotel for a while.

His hotel is how the other half lives — very posh. Peggy, Robin, and I are sharing one room in the Best Western, and it looks like a mini-barracks with three little beds. Anyway, we went to a mall across the highway and had beer and munchies — I had manioc fries, mostly. Then around 10 we got a taxi back to our hotel. The game was starting then, so the streets were deserted. Around 11 there was a hell of a lot of yelling and fireworks outside, and Peggy went downstairs to find a TV with soccer. Apparently the doormen set her up in the exercise room with a big TV, where she watched the game. It was a nail-biter, and the local team won in penalty kicks.

Robin and I, meanwhile, tried to sleep. About 12:30 the game ended and we awoke to a cacophony of fireworks, yelling, honking, and general insanity outside. I turned on a light and read until about 3 AM, when I was tired enough to fall asleep finally. When I awoke at 7, there were still occasional explosions going on outside.