Exit USA, Enter South America

Two weeks have passed since my last post and a lot has happened since then. I’m not sure where to start, so I think chronological is best. As usual, you can find visual reference on my Facebook here and the highlights below.

Portland, Oregon

I went to Portland for the Oregon’s Brewers Festival, where 81 breweries from across America let you sample their latest beers. I had espresso beer, chili pepper beer, raspberry- and watermelon flavored beers – lots and lots of beers. Between the six of us who went there, we had tons of fun. We didn’t even go all 4 days of the festival, in the weekend it was too busy and we would go explore Portland. The city is a mix of Vancouver and San Francisco, and is extremely livable with lots of natural beauty (river, rolling hills, huge snowcapped peak overlooking it all), all sorts of entertainment, and filled to the brim with people that are open, friendly, and inviting. We were crazy, loud, zany (and often drunk) and people went along and even joined in on it.

A highlight for me was when Patrick and I ran around the festival highfiving people. We did that for an hour and must have highfived about 1,000 people.

As a sidenote, I will never fly standby as a ‘buddy’ again. From Memphis to Portland took 20 hours, back took 18.5 but included an overnight stay at the Minneapolis-St Paul airport floor.

Memphis: Graceland 2

On my last night in Memphis, Jeremy and I drove into middle-of-nowhere Mississippi for a late night visit to Graceland 2, an Elvis tribute museum run by a 70 year old nutcase who pledges to be open at all times. We knocked on his door at 1am, and after we managed to wake him up, got an hour-long tour. His house is stacked top to bottom with Elvis memorabilia, and the tour guide is obsessed with three things: The King, money, and pussy. How great Elvis was, how much this particular record was worth, and how much he loved sex. Our tour would revolve around those three subjects, and as we went deeper into the house it became less and less about Elvis and more about what crazy sexual antics women had pulled off in his house. Occasionally he’d grab your arm and look you in the eyes and yell ‘yo! yo!’ before continuing his monologue. It was completely weird, sometimes disconcerting, but also absolutely hilarious and definitely a must-see for anyone in the neighborhood.

Miami, Florida

I stayed at Miami Beach for a few days with Roni, and it was great. I didn’t expect to like Miami very much (I expected to be put off by its superficiality) but instead I loved it. We’d go out at night, and thanks to Roni’s connections we’d get in for free, drink for free, offer other people free drinks, and all in all have a great VIP night. Then during the day I’d chill at a hotel pool with newfound friends, or go down to the beach. The temperature was locked at 30 degrees at night, and 35 degrees during the day – absolutely perfect with the nice breeze.

Bogota, Colombia

Going from 30 degrees and sunny in Miami to 14 degrees and rainy in Bogota was downright depressing. Thankfully the weather cleared up yesterday and the city showed its charm. The downtown area is right at the bottom of a steep mountain range, and a cable car takes you up to the top of this mountain. The view from there is crazy: behind you there is no life at all, only inhospitable forest along steep ridges. In front of you, in a giant flat bowl surrounded by hills, you can see the homes of over 8 million people.

I was also very much surprised by the pleasantness of the backpacking experience. The hotel sucks (cold showers, no heating, small beds, etc.) but the fellow travelers are great. They’re not greasy hippies busting out guitars at campfires, but instead everyone seems to be perfectly normal and well-adjusted. Perhaps it’s because the difficulty level of backpacking in South America is quite high, which puts off the less determined people. It’s also fun how fast you bond with people – two days here and with some of them it feels like we’ve known each other for ages.

Here’s some pictures:

Tomorrow I’m flying to the north of Colombia, to a town called Santa Marta. From there, I’m going to explore a national park, Parque Tayrona, and possibly do a PADI course in scuba diving. After that, it’s on to the old Spanish colonial town of Cartagena, where I will probably stay for two weeks to take a language course. My phrasebook alone won’t cut it here, I think.

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