Today is the first day I’ve been alone in 8 months. Eight months. And perhaps it’s not a great idea because I ate a chocolate brownie for lunch and have drunk so much coffee that I’m bouncing off the walls like a pinball.
So why have I been left unsupervised? Well, Fish’s brother, Peckers, has been hanging out with us for the last couple of weeks and Fish has just popped out for a couple of days to escort him to his next destination (Uyuni, Bolivia). I was so damn over long-haul bus trips that I politely declined joining them and opted to stay in the quaint northern Argentinian town of Salta instead.
Sorry, the sugar and caffeine has got to my brain and I’m getting all Tarantino on this blog post. Instead of talking about Peckers leaving us, I’ll go back to the start and talk about him joining us and the adventures that we’ve had over the last little while.
We finished up in Patagonia (it was stunningly beautiful but we were looking forward to being able to wear flip flops again) and flew up to Buenos Aires. Peckers had just spent a week in Peru trundling up the Inca Trail and also flew into BA to meet us.
We haven’t seen family or friends (from home, anyway) in over 6 months so it was pretty exciting to see Peckers. Even though it didn’t seem that way. If Fish and Peckers had their way they would’ve met at Arrivals, nodded to each other, and got in a taxi. As someone who will hug anything that will stand still long enough, I made sure that there was a little bit of emotion in the reunion. Or awkwardness. Either way, I made sure hugs happened.
We had a great 4 days in Buenos Aires. It’s one of those cities where you pronounce the name differently every time you say and you’re never quite sure how you should be doing it. Then you learn that it’s ‘bwen-oss aye-rez’ but saying it like that makes you sound like one of those wankers who goes to Hungary once and comes home saying ‘Buda-pesssssht’ and you’re almost inclined to just go back to saying it like a dirty gringo. Anyway, we loved Bwenoss Aye-rez.
It’s pretty, there seems to be more parks than people, the buildings look all European, they’ve got red English post boxes, the streets are all wide and tree-lined. There’s not much not to love. We walked a butt-tonne. Peckers’ legs were sorer after our few days of meandering around the neighbourhoods of BA than they were after the Inca Trail. That says a lot.
There wasn’t a firm plan in place for what we’d do with our time with Peckers except that we’d head north, visit Iguazu Falls, and make sure he got to Uyuni in Bolivia for a Salt Flats tour.
Uruguay is just a hop, skip and a jump from BA – it’s just a 45 minute ferry and a 3 hour bus to the capital. ‘Why not?!’ we asked ourselves…
That question was answered when we got to Montevideo, Uruguay’s capital.
Uruguay is renowned for being a progressive, stable, got-its-shit-together South American country. The last president was a dude. He wore shorts and flip flops to work (i.e. frickin’ Parliament) and drove his VW Beetle in from his farm each day. He legalised weed, abortion, and gay marriage. So I was expecting some kind of leftie Utopia when we got to Uruguay. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not shit, I just had impossibly high standards.
There was a lot more disrepair and dodgy characters on the streets than a lot of other places we’ve been (a hooker actually propositioned all three of us on the street outside our hostel at 11am), so I guess I was just a bit disenchanted.
Now, we only spent three days in Montevideo which is not enough to cast judgement on the entire country. If someone went to Canberra for three days and said ‘Australia has a lot of lawn, lots of pigeons, and not many people’, despite being kinda correct, I’d be offended and label them a knobhead. So I’m not willing to write Uruguay off completely.
We did a nice bike ride along their boulevard, joined an amusing walking tour, and generally relaxed in our lovely guesthouse. And that was about it. Everyone says how ‘relaxed’ Montevideo is. There’s a fine line between ‘relaxed’ and ‘comatose’.
I think if it was just Fish and I moving at our usual glacial pace it would’ve been cool to just hang about there for a while, but Peckers had precious little time with which to squeeze in some South American highlights, and Montevideo probably shouldn’t have taken priority.
The probably-not-the-best-use-of-time feeling was heightened when we put two and two together and realised that Peckers actually had one less week with us than we assumed. Suddenly we had one week to get up to Iguazu Falls and over to Bolivia. And we were stuck in Uruguay.
Here’s a little Aussie comparison to help you comprehend that: It’s like being in Hobart, needing to get a ferry over to Melbourne, then take a bus up to Coober Pedy, then another bus up to Alice Springs, then another one to Tennant Creek, where the SA/NT border is actually a legit get-out-your-passports-and-let-us-check-your-bags border.
The Freudian nature of my relationship sometimes gets disturbing. Like my father, whose lips purely function to keep his moustache from sliding off his face, Fish’s mouth is purely decorative and is not used for communicating (and considering that both of them are skinnier than me I am certain there’s no food consumed through their mouths either). I shouldn’t have assumed that the boys would’ve clarified something as significant as which frickin’ dates Peckers was leaving and probably should’ve checked that this was all worked out and under control.
The boys weren’t as stressed as I was about this and Fish considered it to be under control anyway. Peckers had the advantage of not knowing what he was in for so wasn’t worried about the coming few days of travel. Then he experienced his baptism-by-fire of the long-haul bus journey…
Getting from Montevideo to Puerto Iguazu consisted of a 27 hour public transport marathon that went a little something like: taxi-bus-ferry-taxi-bus-taxi. It was brutal.
It was made even worse by the fact that arriving into Puerto Iguazu was one of the least inspiring moments of our last 8 months of travel. Despite being on the bus for 18 hours I wasn’t all that keen to get off when we arrived at Puerto Iguazu. It was raining, and the closest comparison I have to that town is Katherine in the Northern Territory. If you’re not familiar with Katherine, all you need to know is: not great.
We ate an early dinner and went to bed pretty flat. Peckers is a laidback guy and doesn’t seem to be phased by much, so when he posted a picture to Instagram with a grumpy caption, we were worried. It rained so hard all night that we weren’t very optimistic for the next day.
We sloped out of bed the next morning and the rain still gave no indication of letting up. It was the only day we had to see Iguazu Falls so we just chucked one our rain jackets and moped on out there.
And – plot twist! – IT WAS AMAZING! Guys, I can’t even describe how awesome our day was!
So, here’s the thing with Iguazu Falls. They’re long. It’s like, a couple of k’s worth of waterfalls. No photo can capture that. And that’s one of the things I loved most about it: there wasn’t just one iconic photo that you had to muscle your way through the crowd to get, then you’re done with it. It was the opposite of that. We spent over three hours walking along the various trails – above the waterfalls, next to the waterfalls, in the spray of the waterfall – and every few metres was a different, stunning view of them. No photo can do it justice, so just trust me when I say that they were great! All expectations were exceeded enormously.
We went back into Katherine Puerto Iguazu and walked out to a point where you can look out over the river to see Paraguay on one side and Brazil on the other. Pretty cool.
And then that was that! One last sleep in a bed before getting on yet another bus, this time 25 hours west to Salta.
Buses for the boys and Salta for me
I opted out at Salta – I’m totally done with buses for a while (‘a while’ being about 3 days because then we’ll have to keep moving and there ain’t no other way to get anywhere!). The boys kept up the momentum and are on their way to delivering Peckers to Uyuni. Fish is such a good brother that he’s doing an epic multi-day round trip over the Bolivian border to make sure Pecker’s gets to his Salt Flats tour safely.
It was so much fun having Peckers with us. It was pretty special to be able to share part of our travels with him, and I hope we haven’t scarred him for life with all the long-haul bus journeys. If we have we’ll never know because he’d never let on, so we can just go on feeling like we were great tour guides!
If you don’t know Fish and his family you might be thinking ‘gosh, they name their children some strange names!’ Let’s just clarify that these names aren’t on the birth certificate. Peckers’ real name is Patrick, and about 99% of people who know him call him that, but the other 1% who know him through Fish (myself included) have only ever heard him called Peckers.
Fish has a tendency to assign his own nicknames to people and they all tend to be about 5 large jumps away from the original name. He rarely bothers with ‘Sizzle’ anymore, it’s morphed into ‘schtitzel’ or, more commonly just ‘siz’. Which sounds an awful lot like ‘sis’ and has led to no less the FOUR situations where we’ve had to correct peoples’ incredibly awkward assumptions that we’re siblings. *Shudder*
‘Family reunion’ by Kid Sister featuring David Banner.