South America…

So, Adios South America.

Here’s the math: One continent, 85 days, 8 out of 14 countries*, 33 hostels, 200+hours buses/boats, 6 flights, 31 blog posts. All equals = A whole lot of fun + hard-core traveller bragging rights, I recon.

*Lets be fair no one really counts those three random countries at the top (The Guianas).Venezuela is trouble (apparently.) And Paraguay, well I still don’t know what happens there, it remains a mystery.

Here’s a roundup:

Loved: Cusco, Huacachina, Cartagena, Puerto Iguasu, Quito, Aguas Calintes.
Liked: Valpa, Sucra, Bogota, Arequipa, La Paz, Buenos Aires, Tayrona, Santiago.
It’s not me it’s you: Montevideo, Lima, Salta, Uyuni, Taganga, Copacabana.
Wish i’d got round to: Mendoza, Medallin, Boca, Otovalo.

Top 5 things I will miss…

1)  Llama jumpers, llama leg warmers and/or all associated llama paraphernalia. UK Autumn/Winter 2012, get ready for this. I’m bringing it back.
2) Inka cola. No other sugar rush like it. It gave me the energy to haul my ass out of Colca Canyon. Even better when introduced to it’s new best friend; vodka.
3) Peruvian/Chilean Pisco Sours
4) Sandboarding in Huacachina/Rafting in Arequipa. It’s an extreme sport tie.
5) South American partying: Quito, Colombia, Cusco, Santiago; you know who you are.

And some I won’t:

1) Having at least 10 different ways of finding the @ sign on a keyboard, none of which are logical. ‘Alt 64’ is my fave. Who would know this?
2) Latino music. Sorry Shakira/Don Omar. I’m so over it.
3) Peruvian elections and the effect they have on border crossings.
4) The Spanish language.
5) Nightbuses. Although some could teach Ryanair a thing or two, come on South America, take a leaf out of Air Asia’s book and get on the budget airline bandwagan por favour.

Where I stayed:  (*Italics for the really great ones)
Millhouse Avenue, Buenos Aires, Argentina/Posado del Puerto, Montevideo, Uruguay/El Viajero, Colonia de Sacramento, Uruguay/Marco Polo Hostel Puerto Iguazu/Albergue Paudimar, Foz do Iguazu/Iguazu Falls Hostel, Puerto Iguazu, Argentina/Hostel del Centro, Salta, Argentina/Hostel Valle Hermoso, Tupiza, Bolivia/Salt Hotel, Uyuni, Bolivia/Companione de Jesus , Potosi, Bolivia/Hostal Amego, Sucre, Bolivia/Wild Rover, La Paz, Bolivia/Hostel 6 de Agosto, Copacabana, Bolivia/Wild Rover, Cuzco, Peru/Los Caminantes Hostel, Aguas Caliantis, Peru/Hostal Magico, Cusco, Peru/Wild Rover, Arequipa, Peru/Oasis Bungalows, Colca Canyon, Peru/Desert Nights, Huacachina, Peru/Kokopelli Backpackers, Lima, Peru/Flying Dog, Iquitos, Peru/Cucumbera Lodge, Amazon Jungle, Peru/Hostel Manguere, Leticia, Colombia/Hostel Martinique, Bogota, Colombia/Media Luna, Cartagena, Colombia/Casa Felipe, Taganga, Colombia/Hammock 11, Cabo Beach, Tayrana National Park, Colombia/La Brisa Loca, Santa Marta, Colombia/The Secret Garden, Quito, Ecuador/Hostel Luna Sonrisa, Valparaso, Chile/Hostel Andes, Santiago, Chile.

Santiago, Chile

No one really raves about Santiago, so I thought it would be one of those ‘meh’ non-descript ones. Turns out its great. Kind of hard to peg, but pleasant. As I’m liking the sweet metaphors at the moment, this place is a Quality Street Hazelnut swirl. It’s gorgeously autumn here; even the infamous smog adds a nice romantic mist to everything. In fact, if there’s one surprising thing I’ve liked about South America it’s the climate change. Not boo- hiss climate change obvs, but you know what I mean – the 4 seasons in one day thing. Yes, even snow; we are surrounded by the Andes.

Santiag-ians get involved. I’ve seen huge (peaceful) student protests the last few days that put ours to shame. We’re all singing from the same hymn sheet however, boo to Education cuts and all that. It’s also Chile v’s Uruguay in the Copa America Cup tonight (read: big deal across SA) so everyone’s dusted off their vuvuzalas and are getting on it. I was cheering for Colombia a week ago, but have now obvs switched my allegiance. So fickle.

About an hour on the Metro is the famous Concha y Toro winery, in the Maipo valley. Check your Tesco labels; they are the big mama’s of the wine world. A group of us spent a lovely time guzzling Chilean reds in the sunshine in a serenely picturesque vineyard. This counts as culture right? A little sozzled I then popped to the arty ghetto that is Bellavista, to Pablo Neruda’s second house; Las Chascona. Told you I heart this guy. My own tipsiness added brilliantly to the trippyness that is his decor. He was so obsessed with ships he had the floor of his library built at an angle, as if at sea.  Gotta love his GSOH.

As per, I ended the night on a debourcherously messy one with my French boys Mark II; Octave and Charles, off of Valparaiso. We went to the very cool ‘Clinic’ bar in Belle Artes. Lethal pisco sours.

Appendix…(One day later – aka my last in South America…)

This will teach me to blog too early…I should know by now that an opportunity to be led astray is always around the corner. So I posted the above about 6pm (or 2.13  according to wordpress – I don’t think we’re in the same tie zone) My flight was at midnight. Silly me only went and met some scoucer boys, enough said, who dropped this little enticer into conversation.  They’d spent the previous night watching the football in this famous Chilean bar drinking Terremoto, & they could really murder another one… Red rag to a bull really. It translates to ‘Earthquake’ – drink 1 and it’s great, drink 2 it’s an earthquake, drink 3 it’s a Tsunami, i.e. you are wiped out. I’ll tell you for why. A) Pint glass b) Wine c) Pisco d) Pineapple Ice Cream.  I’ll give you a few seconds to take that all in.

We of course had two each. In normal circs fun, perhaps not the brightest when about to board an International flight. Two hours later, we’d said goodbye all our new local friends and half of Santiago’s Bella Artes district, and this is where you would think I caught my plane. Wrong. We found ourselves in some blacked out window Spearmint Rhino establishment – apparently called ‘Coffee with Legs.’ It’s more innocent than it sounds. Kind of. The waitresses are in bikinis, but weirdly there’s no music and the only thing they serve is coffee. No dancing, no alcohol, nothing.  Just a load of old Chilean men playing chess? Plus us three.  So when I should have been stood in Arrivals at SCL, I was having a lovely conversation with a waitress in swimwear about hair extensions. I think I was the only girl to ever go in there. She loved me. Then we came up with the great (at the time) idea, that she should take my ticket! She desperately wanted to go to New Zealand, in my tipsy state I desperately wanted to stay there. (South America, not literally start a career in the X rated Starbucks.) I think we all realised it was probably time to leave at this point, and a very blurry Metro & Bus across town later, I made it to the gate with 10 mins to go. God I’m gonna miss SA.

Valparaiso, Chile





An absolute oxymoron if ever there was one. ‘Valpo’ is intriguing bohemian beauty and/or utter shithole. Either, both.  It’s the Barcelona of South America, a merchant port town, from it’s heyday at the turn of the 20th century.You would recognise from it’s iconic postcard image of ‘funiculars’ (elevators) that tilt-shift up the mountainside.

In reality it’s London blitz, meets absinth, meets the in inside of Amy Winehouse’s head (I imagine). Shattered by an earthquake in 1906, or last week you would be forgiven for thinking, the streets wind round like psychedelic rabbit warrens. The sepia camera settings are definitely off, it’s like being inside a bag of skittles there is so much colour, every house is pastel, every inch graffiti clad.

Everyone is a filmmaker, architect, artist, photographers. Fashion wise, think Greenpeace campaigner come junkie.

It has that desolate sadness of all seaside towns out of season, which indeed it is in July (winter). It’s chilly in Chile. Packs of wolf dogs roam the streets like coyotes. Yet it’s full of chic sushi bars, artist’s workshops, hippy cafes. The place is a head f*ck.

Either way, I am grateful to Valparaiso for introducing me to La Sebastina, filled with a lifetime of beautifully eclectic things from Chilean poet and noble prize winner, Pablo Neruda.  I am a huuuge fan.

“In which language does rain fall
over tormented cities?” (From the book of Questions.)

Quito, Ecuador

I bloody love this place.

I ended up here for 3 days purely to catch a flight back down South. It was either 7+ days of buses vs. £250. No brainer.

I’m writing this on an overnight LAN plane bound for Santiago Chile. The clouds below are all wispy, the mountainside city lights all twinkly. Sweeet. It’s a higher up version of the view I’ve had all week, hanging on the gorgeous rooftop terrace of The Secret Garden hostel. Even without kittens, this is one of the best places I’ve stayed.

Here is this week’s ensemble cast of characters;

Lucia (America) My new BF and all round hot chick.
Stefan and Pelle (France/Sweden) Stefan I already met off of Kokopelli Lima. Pelle (28) provides mucho entertainment for us by sleeping with Annie. You’ll find out why that’s amusing in a second.
Annie (UK) She used to work on International Tennis circuit. Just like my fave film; Wimbledon. She has great stories and is great fun. She is also 50 years old. At least. Cougertown.
Kelly & Mai (Dutch) The most overtly bitchy girls we’ve ever met, but funny with it.
Tonga & Kim (NZ/Oz) these sound like made up names to me. Kim is a boy too.
Robert, Austin, Ronan, Lilly – All staff, and all welcomed us into their Secret Garden family.

So day 1, pre making any friends, Jesus and I took a trip to Mitad Del Mundo (Middle of the world) in search of the equator. Imagine a ghost town theme park, whose star attraction is a straight lick of yellow paint pinpointing where Charles Marie de la Condamine measured 0.00 latitude in 1736. Well, if you ignore the sight faux par of a little thing called a compass vs. GPS. Apparently the true line lies 300m North. Upps. I visit both just for good measure, but to be honest both are as underwhelming as each other. It’s an invisible line at the end of the day. I kind of expected to morph from Northern hemisphere sunshine to a Southern hemisphere rain cloud in one leap, but what can you do. A little old couple were taking twee pics of them kissing across the line. I was the lone nutter taking pics with a toy elephant.

Day 2 and I was wandering through ‘Gringolandia’ in the New Town when a flash of inspiration hit; the Academia De Bailes Tropical school of Salsa and Merengue.   In South American clubs, dancing is purely not a spectator sport; you have no option but to get involved. Colombian Lillyanna (Wednesday’s border friend – we were together for 30h straight, it was hard not to be,) told me food/architecture/culture wise Ecuador and Colombia were not so different. “The main difference is Ecuadorian’s are bad at Salsa” she added. Hence the influx of dance schools maybe. I venture in ‘’just for a look’ and next thing you know I’m being flung around by Ecuador’s answer to Patrick Swayze. A gay, teenage version. Funnier still that he kept telling me to look him in the eye, like all romantic and ting. Cringe. Hopefully I’ll be busting these new found skills on a Chilean dance floor in the next week.

Bogota, Colombia

Technically this is Bogotá; revisited, as I was first here for a night after flying from Leticia 2 weeks ago. It’s people are stylish, urban, quirky. There’s graffiti everywhere. It’s streets are arty and edgy, yet at the same time there are immaculate galleries like the Museo Botero. Now I don’t really get art, but this place is fun. The walls are lined with things like this Fat Monalisa by famous Colombian artist Fernando Botero. Made me laugh. There is also a Salvador Dali, which is always worth a ponder for its pure bonkers value.

I then (accidentally) wandered into the Museo Historico Polica. No I haven’t been blog hacked by someone cultured. They were giving out sweets. Before you know it you are ushered on a private tour by one of Bogotá’s finest. Crime must be slow today. It’s disturbing, interesting and dull all in equal measure, but I was too polite to leave. From what I can gather the gist is an exercise in PR for The National Police force. They proudly tell you how many bad guys they’ve shot this year. Which I think is meant to make me feel safe as a tourist here but you can’t help thinking; Inaprops much? They do however have an interesting bit on Pablo Escobar – Colombian drug lord supremo. They have his Harley motorcycle and the bloodstained jacket he was shot in. Again, slight bad taste maybe? It is however a perfect excuse to watch Johnny Depp in Blow, the 2001 film about the Medellin cartel.

Later a group of us headed to the Zona Rosa, the posh area of bars/restaurants just North of centro, and home of the Bogota Beer Company. The specially brewed ales tasted drinking a pint of fabreeze to me, but boys get excited about draft beers, bless them.

Nothing however could overshadow Bogota’s best culinary invention; Chocolate Santafereno. Yes that’s right, hot chocolate with a slice of cheese to drip in. La Puerta Falsa, is a cute ye old bakery in Le Candelaria, has been serving it for over 100 years old. Genius.

Previous Older Entries : The Anantasin is the name of a shipwreck just of the coast of the Sensi Parasise, Mae Haad Bay, Koh Tao, Thailand. It’s one of my many favorite places.

Lit.tle: Just because it’s cute.

Blasts From The Past…

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