9 months of cracking fun
So as I walked down the carriageway to hop on my flight from B.A.’s international airport home, it hits me like a dull thud in the back of the head; this is it, no more South America for me....well at least for a little while. What? I still have Colombia, north and central Brazil to go.
The last 9 months have flown and as I sit on the plane writing this and looking back (as one inevitably does) I can’t help but smile, feel a little choked in the throat and a general rush of warmth spreads through me (good news considering it has been hovering between -1 and 8 degrees in B.A. for the past few days).
Before I get too sentimental about my amazing adventures I need to bring you up to date on the last few weeks. You may have been able to tell I was pretty busy by my lack of blogging. The trip from Lima to Quito is pretty jam packed with travelling and activities, so here goes.
Lima saw me watching a few games of the world cup on the big screen with at least 5,000 other people. Huaraz resulted in me getting groped in the street by a passerby; apparently my thigh was too good to resist (cue involuntary shuddering) while Hunchaco saw me run into an Israeli family (mum, dad, and 3 kids 8,6 & 4) that I had met in Chile on my first trip with Colin.
Then there was my crazy horse going from a gentle walk to a full gallop along the beach in Punta Sal (northern Peru) to the best torso of my trip (yes better than the Brazilian, rock climbing Taylor Lautner body double) and although I only got to touch this one through his clothes the honour goes to Diego, the Manager at the Point Hostel in Mancora.......Humana, Humana.
Next was Cuenca and our first foray into Ecuador...my favourite country. Cuenca is the home of the Panama hat, good leather and awesome ice cream. I had been reading ‘The Panama Hat Trail’; a book by an American dude with an interest in the hat named not for its point of origin but for the place that made it so popular. After reading the book I was really interested to see behind the scenes of a factory and that is what we got when we visited the Homera Ortega hat factory.
Reading about the process , seeing the incredibly fine weave of some of the hats and looking through their back of house gave me a new appreciation for the legend. Definitely worth a visit if you are ever in Cuenca , although you can buy online as well.
And then there was the jungle trip just outside Tena in Ecuador, which saw us climbing up the sheer face of waterfall’s holding on to just a rope while water was drenching us. This was followed by a trip to one of the local communities were the gringo’s (that was us) actually beat the locals at their own game, the world game, although I do think the 4 local kids we had on our side did help enormously.
My belief in the youth of today (cue motherly voice) was restored here when one of my pax, a 19 year old football (aka soccer) fan was so impressed with one local kid’s talent that he awarded him man of the match and gave him the shirt of his back....no so impressive until you understand that this was a Chelsea football team jersey. The smile on the kids face as he took the sweaty, dirty shirt back to show his friends was a treat.
The short ride into Quito was made onerous by the rain and the police rule that no heavy traffic enters the main town after 4pm. So after an hour and many diversions we were parked up and ready for the final stop. A day in Ollytaytambo visiting the markets and buying up followed by a quick stop off at the Equator and my last day at a tour leader was done and dusted.
I could go on and on about all of the things I haven’t included in the blog for days on end and I’m sure I’ll bore a lot of you when we catch up in the next few weeks. But in the meantime there are a few things words of advice about I can give you about South America:
1. You really can’t understand how amazing and beautiful the places I’ve mentioned are or how friendly the people are until you get there, so stop saying ‘i’d love to go there’ and just do it. Return flights direct to Buenos Aires average around $2,100 and once you get there buses and internal flights are reasonable so the continent is your oyster.
2. Take the time to sit in a Plaza and people watch. Cusco, Arequipa and Sucre are good options.
3. Only head to Patagonia in summer. It’s cold enough then let alone in any other season.
4. Set a budget and then add 15%. You’ll always find amazing things to buy and activities and things to do that are not mentioned in any guide books that are well worth doing.
5. Invest in a phrasebook or verb dictionary – it will help you immensely.
6. Immerse yourself in the culture and don’t hold back from involving yourself in festivals and street parties.
7. Don’t believe everything you hear about it not being safe. You do need to keep your wits about you and not flash the cash or jewels, but your biggest problem will probably be counterfeit money.
8. If you are usually a hotel kind of person, break out of the box and stay in a hostel. There are some great hostels and B & B’s around the place and they usually offer single or double rooms with a private bathroom. You meet some great people in hostels and you can share your travels stories and be inspired by theirs.
9. Visit the local fresh food markets. The quality of the fruit, veg, fish and meat is always superb.
10. Consider overlanding as an option. It’s a great way to travel and meet people. I know I’ve made lifelong friends out of it.
So to all those who I’ve travelled with and taken around this great place, thanks for the experiences, and for those of you reading this who have not yet visited South America, I hope I’ve given you enough of a taste to inspire a visit.
Oh and one last thing........
................. did you live vicariously?
P.S. In the next few weeks I will be posting my ‘Top 10 things to do’ in each country series, so keep me in your favourite for a little while longer.