So we’re back at home base. Settled in to little old Adelaide, South Australia, as if nothing ever happened. And judging by the state of affairs that we have come back to, nothing has.
Adelaide, consistency is both your blessing and your curse.
‘So what did you like best?’ – an understandable question, but one that I’ve had to repeat the answer of about 38 times now. So to shut you guys up, I thought I’d throw down what I felt were the very best bits of South America through this funky guy’s junky eyes.
Top Dog: Colombia
It’s hard to put into words exactly how awesome Colombia is. But instead of just leaving it at ‘fucking’, I’ll have a stab at laying down some actual reasons.
20 years ago Colombia was, in the most polite way possible, a murderous cesspool of shit filled with coked up psychopaths. Escobar’s hometown of Medellin was the most murdery place on the planet in the early 90s – the town of 1.5 million had 25,000 people annually that other people made dead on purpose.
20 years later, somehow the place has turned from hell to freakin’ heaven. It’s always been a beautiful place, but what with the stabby types kicking around, not many people got there. The locals are super aware of the rep, and now that the joint has got back on its feet they are going out of their way to make you feel welcome. Even without the greatest Spanish, the hospitality shone with the light of a thousand spotties. I felt as safe in Colombia as I do on the footpath outside of my Adelaide house on a Tuesday morning.
On top of the mint people, you’ve got the fine-china-white beaches of the Caribbean coast, the mountainous terrain of the Northern Andes, the deserts of Tatacoa and a slice of the Amazon down bottom. It’s just bangin’, alright?
Worth A Peek: Bolivia
Heads up – if you close your eyes and think of South America, you’re seeing Bolivia. Llamas, wonky yet beautiful smiles, and hunchbacked ladies carrying crops, it’s genuine and charming and everything you want from a South American experience. As legit as it frickin’ gets.
Top Dog: Valparaiso
What rhymes with meat fart and is something Fishy really quite enjoys? Street art. AND feet dart.
Gosh, things rhyme lots.
Imagine you’ve got one of those lovely colourful display-style fruit bowls. The ones with the pretty patterns on the inside. Now imagine that you fetch a circular or bansaw, and cut that sucker in half. CONGRATULATIONS, you gots yourself a diorama of Valparaiso.
Valparaiso is a city in a natural harbour in which everyone has a view. 100 years ago it was one of the most powerful ports on earth. AND I’M NOT TALKING ABOUT THE TAWNY VARIETY. That means it’s got some sweet old buildings and history out the wazoo, and the bowl-shaped topography is just the bomb. But what makes the town is what has happened to it since then – namely the mother effin’ street art.
You walk down an alley. STREET ART. You hit up a square. STREET ART. You go for a quiet number 2. STREET ART. It’s everywhere and it’s good looking and it’s cool. But on top of that, the vibe is Mabo as heck. We were there for New Years, which would certainly have helped, but bugger me it just ALL ADDED UP.
Worth A Peek: Medellin
The aforementioned Colombian city is bloody mind-blowing. Imagine a place going from Syria to Sweden in 20 years. That’s the sort of turnaround we’re talking here. And it’s more than just the fact it’s peaceful. El Poblado, where the hostel/party set hides out, is about the most pumping place we had the pleasure to see in our 10 months.
Top Dog: The Inca Trail
‘Well aren’t you just MISTER ORIGINAL’, I can hear you say, ‘you liked one of the seven new wonders of the world’.
For the uninitiated, The Inca Trail is the 45km path that, 600 years ago, led only the highest ranking royalty of the Incan Empire to their holiest site, Machu Picchu. And before you buy a mid-range bike from K-Mart and go get HUFFY, I think that the Inca Trail blew me away in spite of rather than because of my expectations.
The knowledge of its existence was lost with the Incan Empire 500 years ago, and it was only 100 years ago that it was re-stumbled upon. Having not been touched for that long, the path itself looks as good as the day it was built.
And that was what got me about the experience – the feeling of sinking into history. With a daily limit on how many people are allowed on the trail, I felt like I did the bulk of the hike entirely on my own, and apart from the fresh Nike kicks I was burning the trail in, it could well have been 1400 A.D up there.
The views are atrociously beautiful, the ruins are disturbingly immaculate, and how was the fucking SERENITY??
Worth a Peek: The Galapagos
The first day in the Galapagos was, if I was being at-Nana’s-house polite, underwhelming. It’s a lot more touristy than you’d imagine, with towns of a few thousand people on each island. And they happily treat you as a walking coin purse, sneaking a dollar here and a dollar there for the most frivolous shit.
Happily, the moment we got in the water, those cares evaporated like the sweat off a sunbaking sea lion that you have to pretty much constantly hopscotch over out there.
The wildlife is INCREDIBLE. It’s like a really good episode of Harry’s Practice. The sea lions, as well as the turtles, iguanas, boobies and tortoises – they all act like the chillest house pets imaginable. If there weren’t ‘don’t touch the animal’ signs kicking around everywhere I would’ve rode those suckers like Lance Armstrong rides the line of moral judgement in professional sports.
WONKILY BUT WITH GUSTO.
So there you have it. That’s the lot. Pats on the back all round.
Just a quick sidebar – for those who are holding off on going to South America, maybe for fear of it being a little dangerous, it’s just not. More than the nature, more than the history, more than the cultural immersion, it’s worth it for the people. They are genuinely 5 star.
As backpackers who spent nigh-on a year just floating around the continent, valuables loose in our pockets or hanging off our backs, very rarely, maybe once or twice in total, did we feel at all unsafe. And I’ll happily put that down to the fact that as a whole, South Americans are gentle, kind, friendly and just happy to have you there. They’re going to go out of their way to make you feel welcome, even if they can’t understand a fuckin’ word you say.
Get over there, kiddies. You’ll thank yourself.