Fix yourself a drink and get comfy - this one is a bit wordy...
I can’t believe it’s been 4 months since we arrived in South America! After a month in Buenos Aires (a questionable decision in hindsight) we’ve been on the road pretty much non stop. The longest we’ve stopped anywhere in the last 3 months has been 10 days and it’s normally between 3 and 6 days. We’ve covered some serious miles and I will admit I am sick of the sight of my stupidly big and heavy suitcase. We’ve been to 5 countries so far if you include a mere afternoon in Paraguay. We managed to see a reasonable amount of Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Brazil so I’ve been busy ticking off a lot of long held bucket list items and, overall, it has been amazing. All things considered our travels have been pretty hassle free and we are both probably a bit too sensible for our own good – Chris is not making any progress on the pony tail (in case you were wondering). Anyway I thought it seemed like time to write a little summary of the travels so far, especially given how slack I have been with blogging lately...
We ran around like headless chickens in Buenos Aires, often doing things purely for the sake of having content and photos for the blog and I found myself writing posts about all the things to see and do. Listicles and things I figured might be useful to someone, but I didn’t particularly enjoy it ( the blog part - I enjoyed the city). Yawn. I also refrained from admitting things like how I had some of the worst food I’ve ever had in Buenos Aires. Chewy steak, overcooked pasta and the most revolting pizza I’ve ever had the displeasure of tasting ( those are three things Buenos Aires is meant to be famous for). But on the bright side, the month in Buenos Aires quickly helped me realise that I didn’t want to travel for the sake of blog content, but to enjoy the travel, and blog only as an afterthought ( which has turned into a waaaay afterthought - I will try to catch up). I realised that the advertorial style of writing, typical of many money making blogs, is not for me. It’s not that I don’t want the blog to be able to make money, but I don’t want to find myself in a position where I can’t write what I find to be true because someone is paying me to write glossy tourism board copy. That said, I probably could write tourist brochure worthy content about Chile and Brazil because my experiences have been so amazing in these countries (I’m way behind on sharing about these because we’ve been travelling so much but stay tuned). The other thing our early travels made me realise was just how important good food is to me ( you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone – thanks Argentina). For many people trying the local food is one of the fundamental parts of travelling. Being able to visit local markets, finding places where locals actually eat, and trying traditional foods is fundamental to experiencing a culture and it is hands down the easiest way. It’s not always easy to engage with locals when you travel. I’m lucky in Latin America that I have enough Spanish and Portuguese that I can chat to people but also, a lot of the time the only people who want to talk to you are the ones who want to sell you something so it’s pretty hard to have a good conversation. Food is an open door into foreign cultures and there’s a story behind every ingredient and every dish. So with that in mind I decided to take the blog in a slightly more food oriented direction going forward ( Chris is now busy working on his own projects).
But enough about the blog, more about the travels. We have been getting up to some pretty awesome things. We have had so many mind blowing moments that make us pinch ourselves and reaffirms why we sold all our stuff, quit our secure jobs and ran off into the unknown for a while. Don’t hate me, but I'll admit I have had several moments while floating in pristine, warm waves when I have thought of people back at home in the office and just thought to myself “I can’t believe I am here on this amazing beach with no where else to be and no one to answer to”. Other times, like yesterday, we took a ferry from Salvador da Bahia to the island Morro de Sao Paulo, from where I currently write, and I became terribly sea sick. It was two hours of sheer torture. I had to focus 110% on not throwing up and I dramatically sobbed to Chris “I just wish I was sitting back at my desk at the AFL, I don’t want to do this anymore!”. It was like someone strapped me into a roller coaster (I HATE them) that went on for two hours straight and I couldn’t get off. Yuck, I feel sick just thinking about it and I’m going to have to live out my days on this island because I never want to get back on that ferry! So, please come and visit me. But tomorrow when it stops bucketing with tropical rain (fingers crossed) and I go for a swim in the sea it will probably all be forgotten. And that’s what traveling long term is. It’s a back and forth of sheer wonder and delight, balanced with the misery of getting food poisoning the day you have to get a 5-hour bus ride when you can’t afford to be away from the toilet for more than 5 minutes (one of the worst days of my life to date).
After Buenos Aires we flew to Mendoza for a bit of wine tasting before taking a bus through the Andes to Santiago. Chile is AMAZING! It’s much more modern than you might expect and is full of a certain rugged charm. We loved Santiago and Valparaíso both so much we stopped for 10 days in each city. You don’t need that long at all, 3-4 days would be plenty but we were enamoured. Santiago has an odd and fascinating blend of very different architectures and leans towards being a bit grungy but it’s still very clean in most parts and has a great dining scene and a youthful, artsy vibe. Valparaíso is pure grungy filth in the most likeable way. Its winding labyrinth of hilly streets covered in bright street art beckon thorough exploring. Valparaíso needs to be seen to be believed and it is an absolute must do on a trip to Chile. If you didn’t know, Chile is one of the best spots in the world for star gazing. From La Serena we went on an excursion up to the Mamalluca Observatory and were blown away. Similar to New Zealand, Chile’s biggest draw card is its spectacular natural scenery. If the San Pedro de Atacama Desert is not on your bucket list, you need to add it ASAP because it is unreal. It’s the driest desert in the world and is so vast and beautiful you have to see it for yourself. There are geysers, salt flats, salt lakes, thermal pools, volcanoes, vast expanses of multi coloured valleys and the cutest little adobe house village (and more). After San Pedro we drove back through the Andes to have a look around northern Argentina’s Purmamarca (rainbow coloured mountains), and were again blown away by mother nature’s masterpiece. Then came the Iguaçu falls, one thing I have managed get around to writing a bit about. All these places are so grand and spectacular that you have to pinch yourself to believe you are really there at the foot of them. Pictures will never do them justice; you have to go!
Those who know me well know that Brazil and I go back a long way. I am pleased to report that Chris is loving it here, which is lucky because those who know me also know that I perpetually bang on about how amazing Brazil is so I had built his expectations up high. It took me 12 years to get back here for a second time and I love it more than ever. We went from Iguaçu to Porto Alegre in the far south then all the way up to the far northern city of Fortaleza and have been making our way back down towards Rio in time for my lovely friend’s wedding in July. We are essentially going from one beach town to the next and are now finally doing what we always dreamed of, spending lots of time at the beach (Chile was bloody freezing). We are finally doing what our friends probably thought we’d been doing the whole time; drinking coconuts, lounging in hammocks and swimming in the sea. Brazil’s natural beauty knows no limits and while the country has its share of issues, don’t believe the media scaremongering. Come to Brazil and experience it for yourself! The water up in the north east is so warm and clear, the beaches are so beautiful, the people are so friendly and the food is fantastic! Plus, the island we are on now has a flying fox that goes from the lighthouse on the hill above and drops you into the sea! Fun!
We still have a while longer in Brazil to enjoy. Another week in Bahia with a few more beach towns to visit before we fly down to Rio. I'm casually popping up and across to Hawaii with my BFF Tara for a girls getaway in late July and leaving Chris on the gringo trail in Rio state for 10 days. After that it looks like we'll make a few more stops in Brazil (maybe even the Amazon but that's TBC), then we'll be heading up to Colombia/the Caribbean although we are not booking much in advance. I hope to write up some more useful and detailed blog posts about the best places we’ve been over the last three months soon so stay tuned.