Suramérica es el mejor: wrapping up

Now that my journey through South America has ended, it’s time for a quick recap, touching on some things that slipped through the cracks in the regular updates, as well as picking my most favorite photos of the trip.

Amount of km spent on buses: 9000 km, not counting the local buses. This translates to about 200 hours of straight busing. Today’s 15 hour flight is a quick hop in comparison.

Best drink: Pisco Sour. Delicious taste, won’t notice the alcohol until you’re a couple of drinks in (and then it hits you all at once), and best of all: no hangover!
Worst drink: Fernet. Argentinian liquor, very bitter, absolutely disgusting. They say you’re supposed to drink it with Coca-Cola, I say you’re not supposed to drink it at all.

Most beautiful (local) women
The obvious answer here is Colombia, but a very close second is the lower-lying parts of Bolivia. Not sure why, but once you drop off the 4,000 meter high Altiplano, the women of Bolivia suddenly become very pretty.

Number of illnesses
Three. Once in Ecuador on the Quilotoa crater, once in Peru in Cuzco, and finally once in Bolivia. All of them were essentially just colds combined with a liquid stomach. The last one was the nastiest as I was unable to hold anything down for two days, including water. A recovery plan consisting of dry breakfast cereal, Gatorade, and special rehydrating powder thankfully got me out of that situation pretty quickly.

Favorite South America songs
Luis Enrique – Yo No Sei Manana. This is the defining song of my trip, and it was played constantly in every country I visited.
Chino Y Nacho – Mi Nina Bonita. A latecomer that I didn’t hear until South Peru, but also awesome.
Shakira – Waka Waka. Became an all-time classic after the amazing fat man’s performance in Cartagena (check it out on Youtube)
Pa Paramericano. No idea who made the original, but it’s so painfully and incredibly catchy and unsingable.
A special mention of the Llama Song, thanks Cynthia!

Favorite unrelated songs
I’ve (re)discovered a lot of songs and albums since heading out on this trip. Sigur Ros, for instance, is perfect when confronted with spectacular landscapes. The new The National album is great to fall asleep to on busrides. For some chilling, Air’s Moon Safari was my go-to music. Finally, the best new track I’ve heard in the past four months is definitely James Blake’s Limit To Your Love.

Llamas etc.
Llamas are the most hilarious creatures. Their facial expression and poses never fail to make you laugh. I’ve spotted all four llama types: llama, alpaca, vizcuna and guanaco. The llama and alpaca are domesticated and everywhere, and I was lucky enough to see vizcunas in two National Parks in Peru and Bolivia. I finally spotted three guanacos in Southwest Bolivia, completing the set.
Also, it turns out that in the colder parts of the continent, llamas sleep in little llama houses at night.

Best food
I’ve had some pretty amazing food in this continent. Alpaca meat is delicious and tender, and the Argentinian steak is good enough to make you want to stay in the country forever. A discovery was cebiche, raw fish in lemon juice. It’s best when had before noon in a fishing town, so the fish is really fresh. I was also really happy to have some quality roti in a Dutch-run restaurant in La Paz. Finally, Margarita cookies (only in Peru) are just about perfect.
But the best food anywhere was definitely in Salento, Colombia. Seven course dinners served by the amazing chef Joseph Romero and his son: absolutely a highlight.

Bolivia’s poverty
This is a subject I did not touch in my updates while there, but it has to be mentioned. There is some terrible poverty in Bolivia. In Cochabamba I was enjoying an icecream in the rich part of town while ten meters away a young boy with scraps for clothes collapsed on the pavement from exhaustion. I saw an elderly couple searching through trash cans for food. The miners in Potosi are working under atrocious conditions for spare change.

Best country
Every country had its own amazing experiences and adventures. My favorite would have to be Colombia. It’s difficult to express why exactly. It has to be a combination of the incredibly friendly people, the great weather, wide variety of sights, and to a large extent the amazing fellow travelers I met in those four weeks. Some of them I saw repeatedly as I moved from country to country, and others I hope to see again when I come home. Second place goes to Bolivia, for the extreme beauty of the place. It contains so much natural splendor, and it’s been a pleasure to explore. Peru and Ecuador follow shortly afterwards. It’s hard to pass judgement on Argentina as I only saw a small piece (ie only Buenos Aires).

Stuff I wish I’d brought
Actually not such a long list. I just wish I’d brought more collared shirts (as a backpacker it’s impossible to be overdressed in any situation, and it just looks a lot better than some beaten and worn sleazy poncho), my headphones, a huge towel (screw this tiny microfiber crap, I want a towel I can wrap around myself three times), duct tape (haven’t needed it yet, but I would feel better if I had it around), and a warm, waterproof and windresistant jacket!

The best photos
Finally, these are my favorite photos of my time in South America, in chronological. Keep scrolling as for a change I’m posting them in full glory, instead of just the thumbnail.

So that was South America! Next stop: Australia. I’ll be visiting Kelvin in Adelaide, and after a week we’re going to the South Island of New Zealand. New adventures await…

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2 Responses to Suramérica es el mejor: wrapping up

  1. Rach says:

    Great America de sur summary AJ! I like the top two song list! See you soon in Australia… you better come with some new clothes :). X o

  2. Loes Evers says:

    Arjan, een prachtig verhaal. Je schrijft erg fijn, en maakt minstens zo mooie foto’s. Wat een gaaf avontuur! En ik kan je verzekeren: van Australië en vooral van het zuidelijke eiland van Nieuw-Zeeland ga je ook non-stop genieten! Heel veel plezier. x, Loes.

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