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No Worries 'Mas o Menos' 2 years on the road, travelling South East Asia, China, South & Central America and who knows where after that... Photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/dojo77/collections/

Summing up the South

WORLDWIDE | Sunday, 17 October 2010 | Views [1819] | Comments [2]

We can speak Spanish. Not fluently, but yes, we can make ourselves understood, even if it’s not grammatically correct and we stumble over pronunciations and tenses, we do get there in the end. We’ve had a great time in South America with plenty of highs and some lows too, so here’s a summary, mainly to help us get our head around the huge milestone in our trip we have just reached by crossing into Central America.

Brazil

Expensive. That’s the first thing I remember about Brazil, but then we were comparing the costs to Asia when we arrived. It was of course cheaper than Europe, but only just. The Brazilians have a good standard of living but then, just to shock you, there is the complete contrast and danger of the favelas you can’t ignore. We would have liked to have seen more of the country, just to get a more complete view of what it has to offer, but what we did see we enjoyed. The fact that any face can fit into Brazil, anything goes on the beaches of Rio, the rhythm of the music makes even the most left footed dancers want to start swaying their hips shows that Brazil is full of energy and, yum, churrasco.

Best moment: Visiting Senna’s grave for my brother

 

Uruguay

There is nothing to see or do here. It’s true. In comparison to the other countries Uruguay has nothing spectacular, outstanding or world class to see, but that is what makes Uruguay what it is. A really mellow, friendly, 'take us for what we are', mate addicted nation. It’s a ‘pleasant’ place, with ‘nice’ beaches, parks and plazas and if that’s what you need at the right time, Uruguay is perfect. We loved it there for the fact that sometimes a country doesn’t have to have anything to offer you for it to be worth visiting. It’s a country to feel completely safe in and a place to just see ‘normal’ life for a change rather than travelling to find something extreme or completely different to back home.

Best moment: Going back to school to learn Spanish

Argentina

We had a love/hate affair with Argentina, but that’s not Argentina’s fault. We got sick, sick again and sick of travelling and we kind of took it out on Argentina in the end. We hit the backpacker wall and had to really fight to get past it. We had been travelling for a long time and were constantly asking ourselves whether it would be best to stop travelling completely or carrying on travelling with no enthusiasm. But, looking back now, I have forgotten the low times and only have affection for Argentina. There’s Buenos Aires, the one huge tango’d and busy city with everything on offer, but once you leave there everywhere else in Argentina is calm, peaceful, moving at a slow pace and is a very long distance from anywhere else you want to go! We loved the comfort of the sleeper buses, dulce de leche, your dinner plate turning up with just a huge steak on it. When I think of Patagonia I can only sum it up with ‘There’s nothing out there!’ it’s a big, wide, silent, barren land but it’s stunning. Ice trekking was unique and filling the lungs full of clean air to reach fantastic mountain views was so rewarding. It’s a place to enjoy all things outdoors and the good things in life, plus some more dulce de leche.

Best moment: Opening the door to the Otto Meilling Refugio on Mount Tronador realising we had beaten the battering winds and made it to an unexpectedly chilled out haven

 

Chile

Thanks to Chile we also had an excuse to visit the South Pacific as part of this trip, we were intrigued by those stone statues and imagined them trying not to break into big smiles when no one was looking at them. It seemed hard to find Chile’s heart and soul. The towns are rather drab and lack any outstanding cultural features, the weather was either bleak, smoggy or blisteringly cold, but being hugged in the pouring rain by a mother and daughter combo who were complete strangers to me less than 2 hours before made me feel all warm and fuzzy and showed be that maybe Chile’s personality lies in the heart of it’s people, and the recent mine rescues seems to prove my point, even if they do talk at a speed of a million words per hour.

Best moments: Sunrise on Easter Island and playing with Pepe

 

Paraguay

We get frustrated when we ask ourselves “Why didn’t we visit Paraquay?” We planned to and then cut it out because we thought we had to ‘push on’, which is rubbish because you should just go where you want to go, you’ll reach your final destination in the end. Oh well, I guess another colonial capital wouldn’t have made that much impact to our view of South America and the only way to cross the country is on a night bus, so we wouldn’t have seen anything anyway. However, if you remember back to February, we did actually step foot on Paraquay’s soil when we visited the Itaipu Dam, the joint venture with Brazil, so Paraguay can be ticked of the list, if not really done and dusted.

Best moment: errmm, we only had one moment

Bolivia

Bolivia, Bolivia, I think I left my heart in Bolivia, in a bowler hat somewhere in the high altiplano. I LOVED Bolivia from start to finish and would return there in an instant. Bolivia gets such high praise from us as it seemed to save us from our traveller woes from Argentina. We needed a complete change of scenery, food, way of life and Bolivia threw it at us at full force with an added back-handed slap just for fun. We hadn’t felt happier than when we were bouncing around in a suspension-less bus along a bumpy road getting covered in dust. No it wasn’t semi-cama, but it was a first-class backpacker ticket to travel heaven. We couldn’t stop smiling. We met such good people including the Sucre teachers and the kids we helped to learn a few new words of English. We all know they taught us much more. We saw harsh living and working conditions and marveled at how people just take it all in their stride. The traditional costumes that fill the land with lines of pink, purple, blue and green along with the premature ageing lines, the wind burnt, coca filled cheeks that represented the highest heights of the Andes. The noise of the brass bands, firecrackers and protests and the calm still waters and pan pipe mellow tunes of Lake Titicaca. What more can I say.....loads more if you want to listen!

Best moments: Tupiza tamales, sunrise on the salt flats, Potosi parades, settling down in Sucre, lazing in La Paz, trekking in Titicaca.

 

Peru

If there’s only one attraction people can name for South America it would have to be Machu Picchu, that mother of all things Incan and boy did it live up to the hype. We found ourselves dreading the visit there, but it was beautiful. Fill it with 2000 visitors and it doesn’t change, it’s still stunning. But there’s more to Peru’s empire than just Machu Picchu. It has it’s own flavour, maybe even the best culinary delights in South America, along with the most stunning section of the Andes, towering sand dunes, long surf pounded beaches, and windswept deserts, not forgetting all the other ancient cultures that left there mark here long before the Incans arrived. You could get a taste for all things South American in this country alone, it seems to have it all.

Best moment: Realising we were the first people to reach the Caretakers Hut for the picture postcard view of Machu Pichhu

 

Ecuador

A magical country that was full of big ticks for us. The Galapagos Islands were unique, inspirational and full of wonderful wildlife encounters and were even worth facing my boat fears by living on a yacht for a week. The Amazon was much better than we expected and left us in awe of it's size and complexity. How do you stay calm when your guide finds a tarantula in the jungle? You just do even though you always thought you would freak out and run. South America is full of once in a lifetime opportunities and if you take them in Ecuador it just makes you adore everything you do even more. I felt sorry for the poor shoeshine kids in Loja, I felt a bit too scared in the streets of Quito and I felt sorry for myself in Banos, but I’m certainly not sorry I went to Ecuador.

Best moment: Swimming with sea lions and turtles in the Galapagos

 

Colombia

I have just decided that all great things begin with a C; Chocolate, Coffee, Caribbean Coastlines and Coconut Cocktails, and guess what, all of them can be found at the highest quality in Colombia. The only other country we have visited with as much military presence as Colombia was Burma, so it was refreshing to find that here they help to keep the peace rather than create the suffering. Colombia is: green and khaki camouflage uniforms covering the rolling hills of the south, glistening gold in the museums, coffee plantations on misty hummingbird filled hills, 'con mucho gusto' repeated a hundred times a day with meaning, check point after check point, azul seas lapping the golden beaches lined with swaying palms, dynamite pub games, friendly faces, big smiles and a firm handshake welcoming you to their land. Te Quiero Colombia!

Best moment: Final day swimming at sunset with lots of fun happening around us on Capurgana beach.

Venezuela

Why didn’t we go? We just didn’t fancy it and from what we’ve heard on the road, it’s not really a pleasant place to visit. The people aren’t friendly, the police are corrupt, the capital is Dangerous and the currency isn’t good value for foreigners unless you carry wads of dollars into the country to exchange on the black market. Over half the population abhor their egomaniac president, so we don’t regret rescheduling our planned two weeks there to have more time in Colombia.

Guyana, Suriname & French Guiana

You just can’t do it all, maybe we’ll save those for a later time and date.

Goodbye South America, it’s been a wonderful 9 months.

Jo y Ryan

 

Tags: argentina, bolivia, brazil, chile, colombia, ecuador, paraquay, peru, south america, uruguay

 

Comments

1

nicely done guys. I've enjoyed all of your stories, as you know and I look forward to reading about Central America. Oh, and very well done for doing the Darien Gap. You're only about the 3rd group that I've ever heard of crossing it. Nice

  Len Oct 28, 2010 4:22 PM

2

Looks like you guys are leaving South America :( It was a pleasure meeting you both and I hope we see you again. We have Argentina left and then we head to New Zealand. We decided to save Bolivia for another time since we were running short of time ... what a bummer as I was looking forward to it, especially from your stories. Thanks for sharing!

-MuiMui & Boris
www.meandfrenchie.com

  MuiMui & Boris Oct 31, 2010 1:05 AM

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