Adios America del Sur : Goodbye South America

Trip Start Dec 28, 2010
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Trip End Jul 15, 2011


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Flag of Chile  ,
Monday, February 28, 2011

I`ve never felt quite right with being described as a backpacker. A backpacker to me is someone with dreadlocks, weird patterned trousers and a fluffy beard! And they exist! Me - Iīm a flashpacker apparently! When David & I cooked dinner for ourselves in a hostel the other day - only my second hostel meal in 2+months in South America, someone described us as flashpackers. This is someone who travels the world, and although stays in hostels; doesn`t really live the budget lifestyle - cooking for themselves every day and spending several days just sitting in the hostel lounge to save money. Donīt get me wrong, I am now accustomed to hostels, sleeping in shared dorms, travelling endless hours on public transport and looking for bargain food. But at the same time, I believe travelling means eating out and being out & about every day rather than hostel slouching!

However, in the spirit of backpacking David and I skipped the expensive option of flying to the mighty Iguazu Falls and instead opted for the 38 hour round trip bus experience. Yep, 19 hours one way from Buenos Aires to Iguazu. To be fair, Argentine buses are excellent. If you travel 'cama' class you get leather seats, tons of leg room, films in English, food and even free champagne!

After the mammoth trip to Iguazu, it was straight to the Falls themselves. Apparently, they are twice as big as the Niagara Falls on the US/Canadian border, and the 275 individual waterfalls here straddle three countries, namely Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. Very impressive and the best part is that you can literally stand beneath them...and get soaked.

The highlight of Iguazu was not the Falls though. According to David the true highlight was my experience with a crazy Peruvian tourist. There I was sitting quietly on this little train in the Falls park, and I noticed this woman starring at me. She summoned the courage to ask where I was from, then when I said I was British she had some kind of celebrity induced epileptic fit! Not literally (!) but this woman was totally convinced that I was the spitting image of Hugh Grant! Now apart from the hair colour and the accent, I can`t see the resemblance. But this lady was so excited - as if I actually was Hugh Grant! She kept looking at me, tilting her head and smiling! She was batty! According to her I should look into a living as his lookalike! After a very embarrassing 10 minute train journey! (during which David almost killed himself laughing) I escaped. Of course, not before she had taken no less than 4 photos of me with her and her equally embarrassed 13 year old daughter! Ah, the life of a Hollywood celebrity is never easy.

After returning to Buenos Aires briefly, the next stop was the wine producing capital of Argentina - the western city of Mendoza.

Argentina is now the world`s fourth largest wine producer and much of the country`s red wine (vino tinto) comes from the huge vineyards around this city. A beautiful city, and when we arrived (after a now manageable 15 hour bus trip), a place celebrating its famous export with a huge wine festival. Talk about good timing.

On our second day there, we decided on hiring out some bikes and touring some of the vineyards. For a small amount of money at each vineyard, you get several generous samples of the different grapes. Riding a bike home after a day wine tasting is a skill I can tell you! But for me the wine was topped by an experience with one of Mendoza's fine police officers. I saw this police motorcyclist approaching us whilst on our bikes and thought he was about to give us a telling off for something. Instead, he gave us a police escort (with blue lights) to a beer and wine garden that we couldn`t find! What a dude! That made my day!

On that evening, as if we hadn`t consumed enough wine, we just had to attend the Mendoza Mega Tasting Wine Festival. A huge celebration in the main plaza with wine samples, food and crafts. I think in Britain giving away loads of wine would be dangerous! But this was a relaxed, family affair and just brilliant to experience. The firework display would have challenged anywhere in the world.

So now it`s time to say goodbye to South America. From Rio de Janeiro to Santiago, I`ve experienced Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Uruguay and Chile. Every country and every town and city has offered something different, interesting and memorable. Diverse landscapes and cultures separate places, but commonly through this continent you will find helpful and hospitable people. The food is terrific, the cities energetic and each day has been an experience to remember.

It`s difficult to say where my favourite place has been. I think I`ve felt most comfortable in Argentina. Buenos Aires was a beautiful, lively city, whilst Mendoza was laid back and classy. New Years Eve on Copacabana beach in Rio will live long in the memory bank. Machu Picchu in Peru was an incredible sight to behold.,whilst Punta del Diablo in east Uruguay lived up to its Lonely Planet billing as one of the most ideallic beaches in South America. Even the developing Bolivia gave me the wow factor - the Salt Flats were awesome and unforgettable.

A new chapter and a new continent awaits now though. I fly to Auckland, New Zealand tonight. Time to say goodbye to my New York buddy. Iīll see you in the Big Apple, David. Itīs been brilliant travelling with you.

My adventure 'Down Under' starts here.....
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Comments

Ridge on

Top three things to do in New Zealand:

3. Eat a White Lady hamburger
2. Visit Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamatea haumaitawhitiurehaeaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhen uakitanatahu
1. Have a dirty pie (not sure about this one.....)

I expect the next blog to say you've done all three..... enjoy.

Nick on

What a trip! New Zealand is supposed to be pretty awesome too. Wales will be crowned world champions in that very country later this year. It's virtually a certainty. Maybe.

In London, it's cold and raining! And everyone's being made redunandant! Who'd have thought Lloyds would go under too?

Take it easy amigo! And enjoy every minute!

Robin on

You've made me feel quite emotional reading that...not like the other two muppets above :-)...and I'm not even joking either! End of stage 1 - end of a chapter! And now onto to get beaten to a pulp by friendlt Mauri's!

Foley is right about Lloyds though - apparently it was the cold and flu section underperforming that was the straw that broke the camels back...

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