I thought I would start writing down some thoughts as our time in South America is nearly at an end. I have loved nearly every minute of South America and those minutes I haven’t loved I could appreciate as they have usually involved something that is so foreign to our everyday lives that it is seen as an adventure. Looking back over the 3 months I am blown away by the extraordinary things we got to experience. From Pacu fishing in the Amazon to trying to climb a giant mountain!
What ever you do, don’t challenge Tim and I to a game of charades as we will whoop your butts! I am the queen of communicating via hand signals and pigeon Spanish. It is amazing how much communication can be achieved via body language.
I will never again be ungrateful for tap water that is drinkable. I did not realize how much of a privilege it is to have safe drinking water! Amazing!
The hight of luxury is a shower that is both hot and has pressure! Cleanliness comes in at third.
The level of hygiene over here is quite different to what I am used to. Now Australia’s hygiene laws are probably too strict but south America especially Bolivia’s are non existent! It is amazing what you will get used to after a while. Eating at a busy market stall with dirt floors and questionable hygiene over here is the norm now because at least with the market stall you know the food and produce is cooked fresh as the ladies run out everyday.
I have always been a bit precious with smells and I have to admit that I have smelt some of the most horrible smells and used some of the most disgusting toilets I have ever seen in the the last 3 months. But I have quickly realized that when you need to go you will go anywhere. This also includes peeing behind a Land cruiser full of people and in a bucket.
One of the saddest things to see is the amount of rubbish everywhere. Whole rubbish tips in waterways, streets and in the middle of nowhere. People just throw their rubbish in the street, you see it all the time. When we are on our hikes we try and pick some up but when you turn a corner there is more and we quickly realize we will never win the war. It’s really sad to be in an amazing place like the sand dunes in Peru and watch the plastic bags continually float by.
I don’t know where the term Amazon women comes from to describe a tall woman because everyone is short here. Well Brazilians and Argentinians were not so bad but Chileans, Bolivians and Peruvians are all really short! I had to buy men’s hiking pants as I couldn’t find womens to fit me.
Bartering is a concept that is foreign to me and I suck at it. I find it very difficult to say a really low price for fear of insulting them! Yes I know it is all part of the game but I just can’t get my head around it! I have a tendency to just walk away if I don’t like their first price and sometimes they will yell at you a much better price or the stall next door will offer you a better price.
Kids over here seem a lot better behaved in general. I think we may have seen one or two tantrums the whole time we were here but that was it. We used to roll our eyes when we got on an overnight bus and there were kids around us but we never heard a peep out of them. They are also a lot more street wise from a younger age. I don’t know if that is a good thing or not as I think it has been born out of necessity. We witnessed a little girl no older than 10 navigate the market with her little sister and then catch a public bus back home! It’s also quite refreshing to not see every kid with a mobile phone or game console and instead are entertaining themselves the good old fashioned way.
Dogs are everywhere. Especially in the poorer areas. I could have taken home so many! The funny thing is I tried feeding some a few scraps of food and they are very picky. You would think beggars can’t be choosers but that obviously doesn’t apply to stray dogs!
We have met our fair share of traditional back backers since being on the Gringo trail (Bolivia and Peru) and I must admit we have had mixed experiences. I think that is due mostly to the age difference as most of them are in their early twenties. That is being very stereotypical but man they can be so annoying! We have both said we are so glad we did this sort of trip at the age we are now as a lot of them just don’t seem to be having a great time and don’t seem to get as much out of places. Again that is being very stereotypical and just our opinion.
Brazil now seems so long ago! A country we barely touched the surface of. Things I remember vividly are the wonderful people. All so friendly and willing to help even if we couldn’t communicate with each other. There is definaetly a distinct gap between the rich and poor. Rio although an amazing city has a very dark underbelly that I am very glad we didn’t experience. The multiculturalism of the country is amazing. It is definitely a place we are coming back to. So much to see and experience.
Argentina has some of the most if not the best scenery I have ever seen yet sometimes the country felt a bit arrogant. Hard to explain but out of all the South American countries we felt less welcome here. Though we had some of the best experiences in Argentina so there you go! We also didn’t “get” Buenos Aries. I think it is a place where you have to live to fully appreciate it.
Chile puts a smile on my face. The mischievous little brother of Argentina. It has accepted what it is and revels in it. The people are cheeky and lovable and hospitable. The scenery rugged and beautiful! Our first real taste of indigenous America as well.
As soon as we crossed the Bolivian border I felt as if I was entering into the South America I had imagined. The majority of the population is indigenous so there was a much less Spanish look to the people. Their features are beautiful, especially when you can get them to smile, which sometimes takes a little while. Their traditional dress is just amazing and the colors in their textiles simply are beautiful. People are poor here. In the cities, outside the cities, in the middle of nowhere there is mass poverty in a scale I have never seen before. I know we mentioned plenty of times that there where a lot of beggars in North America and here there are too, but the standard of living here is so low I just don’t think the majority of the population are actually making ends meet. Not the minority, the vast majority. I feel as if the whole country is half built. Everywhere you look here there are buildings in construction or had been in construction or have had a wall fall down or something. Our friend Lucie said that it is because there is a house completion tax. This may explain some of the half builds but most still are unlivable.
Peru for me was what Bolivia will be like in 20 years. They have figured out the tourist trade and are trying to milk you for every dollar you are willing to part with. In the tourist areas you are constantly asked on the street whether you want to go on this tour or that. People stand outside of each restaurant and yell at you to come in. You feel more like a number to them. In saying that we still had an amazing time and are definitely coming back to finish off the Northern area. The scenery again was breathtaking!
What this trip has taught me:
I have been blessed with an amazing life. Now I always knew that and in my travels previously I have seen a lot of people far less well off but I suppose when you see it on a much grander scale it really gets you thinking. Every day I am here I thank my lucky stars that I have never wanted for anything, I have always been well fed, shelter over my head, I was safe and have been given access to great education and healthcare. Australia certainly has its flaws and is very much a nanny state but man we live in a really fabulous country.
I still love a good coffee in the morning. I broke the habit while in America of having one every morning but every time I woke up I still craved coffee. It made it worse when I convinced Tim on some mornings that we should get one and we pay too much and it is horrible!
So you go without a lot of things with long term travel and it makes you realize how much of it we really don’t need. But there has been one thing that I realized I miss greatly. I love eating good food in great restaurants. Some women go shopping, I would much prefer to spend my money eating in fancy places. Again we haven’t been doing a lot of that obviously but when we do it brings me so my joy!
I honestly thought this trip would help me decide what I wanted to do. Unfortunately it has shown me what I definitely don’t want to do but has opened up more questions than answers in what I actually want to do!
I was worried before I left that I wouldn’t enjoy being away for so long and that some of the places would be too intense or crazy for me to enjoy. I can honestly say that that is not the case! I miss our dogs terribly and I worry about them a lot and I get the guilts for leaving them for so long. I also miss my family but technology now days is fantastic and i can keep in touch with my mum and dad just as much as I did before we left. It may be written word rather than spoken with a weekly or fortnightly FaceTime call but the communication is still there. Other than that I haven’t wanted to go home at all. Though I am very much looking forward to unpacking my bag for a while in Breckenridge!
When we told people we were going on this trip a lot of people would say “won’t you get sick of spending day in day out with each other”? This never even crossed my mind (as it shouldn’t!) My reply to this apart from the obvious of he is my best friend and I couldn’t think of anyone else I would rather do this with, was, we owned a restaurant together. If we survived that then traveling the world together would be a piece of cake!
There are some days when it might have been nice to have a little bit of time to yourself but those were rare. Also it is amazing what ridiculous conversations you have when there is just the two of you with no outside stimulants like TV and you are 3 hours into a 9 hour hike with no one else around!
As I said earlier this has been such an amazing life experience and I am so so grateful that I have gotten to experience this with the best husband a girl could ask for. S