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23 replies
Unenthused about South America
AmyMN
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OK, I know a few of you "Rest of the World" travelers have been to SA. I do plan to go but for some reason I can’t get excited about it like I can for other areas of the world. Help me change my mind and tell me your favorite country, city, town, or site in SA. You don’t need to include an explanation (unless you want to…I’ll definately read it) as I like the thrill of the research. Thanks! ~Amy

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The only place I have visited in South America is Rio de Janeiro, which is, hands down, the most beautiful city on earth. Impossibly steep, emerald-green hills rise spectacularly from the sea, and in between them are the world’s best urban beaches and the world’s largest urban rainforest (one of only two in the world). Locals here are warm, friendly, and very sexy. These colorful people are among the poorest in the world, but as long as they have the beach, futbol, and samba, everything is a big "thumbs up."

In less than three weeks I leave for two weeks in Peru, including the 4-day hike to Machu Picchu, a pilgrimage I have wanted to make for much of my adult life.

Further north but still in "Latin America," I was enraptured by an eye-opening ten-day trip to Guatemala earlier this year, and I always enjoy returning to my favorite colonial towns and cities in central Mexico.

Europe’s great, Amy, but Latin America blows Europe clear off the fucking map. I love it!

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AmyMN
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quote:Europe’s great, Amy, but Latin America blows Europe clear off the fucking map. I love it!

Lol, Thanks Homeskillet…with sentiments like that I will definatley have to go. I have also considered central america. Wouldn’t it be great to backpack all the way down starting in South Texas and ending at Tierra del Fuego?

Hope thanks for links…Kahunna’s pics are great as usual and Meredith’s blog very informative. I am definately feeling more enthusiastic about SA. I think I should get out my trusty atlas and do some route planning. ~Amy

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I highly recommend Bolivia. It’s one of those places where you just know you’ve gone somewhere different. Shepards in desolate countryside, highways across the top of the Andes, young women in petticoats and bowler hats already looking old…the whole place was just evocative for me. Lemme know if you have any specific questions. I wandered around quite a lot of the continent (though not to Brazil, which seems to be a highlight for a lot of people).

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I did the Inca Trail to Macchu Picchu and spent a week in Cuzco, Peru. My favorite trip ever by far and I’ve been all over Europe. I remember my very first thought when I landed was "why did I not get here earlier? what was I doing going back to Europe over and over when I could have been here!?". Also, if you’re coming from the U.S., no jet lag!

AmyMN
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Yeah Meredith, Photos of Bolivia have always intrigued me. I want one of those hats! Germanyamy, I felt the same way when I went to Asia. I too wondered what took me so long. I had been to Europe 6 times by then and never to Asia…so I know what you mean. I’m guessing that I will feel the same way after arriving in SA. I guess that since I liked Asia so much that I really want to go back and explore more. Maybe that’s what’s dampening my excitement for SA. Thanks again all! ~Amy

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So if you’re not enthused about SA but you’re intrigued by Asia, why exactly are you going to SA?

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I insist, WHERE THE HELL DO YOU PEOPLE FIND THE TIME TO TRAVEL???!!!!!!! 6weeks??? 3 weeks???? I’m getting 9 days on Christmas, and those days will be taken off my vacation next year $%&#!!!!!!!!!

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I can’t speak for the others, but I don’t get any substantial time off till I quit my job next summer. I guess I could manage 3 weeks off at one time, but only if I was willing to use every last vacation day at once and come back to a terrifying pile of work.

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Regarding vacation time, I have an understanding boss who throws in a few extra days here and there in return for my working the occasional weekend, for never taking any sick days, and for underpaying me. That said, many of my trips are limited to 4-day weekends. This is why I travel frequently to Mexico (for example), a four-hour flight rather than a 12-hour trans-continental jaunt. For what it’s worth, I haven’t been to Europe in five years…and going anywhere for more than two weeks is out of the question.

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quote:
Regarding vacation time, I have an understanding boss who throws in a few extra days here and there in return for my working the occasional weekend, for never taking any sick days, and for underpaying me. That said, many of my trips are limited to 4-day weekends. This is why I travel frequently to Mexico (for example), a four-hour flight rather than a 12-hour trans-continental jaunt. For what it’s worth, I haven’t been to Europe in five years…and going anywhere for more than two weeks is out of the question.

Thanks, I’ve only been here for a month, so I can’t ask for a few more days off just yet. Maybe after a while of being here every day and sticking to the end of the day even when there’s nothing to do, maybe then can I ask for a few more days, so Europe, Asia, Egypt are out of the picture for a long time sigh

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Just sit back and watch, "Motorcycle Diaries".

Even if you don’t, be prepared to see some of the most captivating, most beautiful scenery in all of the world. Add to that, you will surely meet some of the nicest people on the planet.

Have fun.

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quote:
Just sit back and watch, "Motorcycle Diaries".

Even if you don’t, be prepared to see some of the most captivating, most beautiful scenery in all of the world. Add to that, you will surely meet some of the nicest people on the planet.

Have fun.

Oh, I watched it, leaving the movies there was a motorcycle parked, and it was so tempting……. The second half of the movie didn’t tickle my fancy very much, but the first half was great, and the photography……… aaaggghhhhhh…….

Syd Barrett
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quote:
quote:
Just sit back and watch, "Motorcycle Diaries".

Even if you don’t, be prepared to see some of the most captivating, most beautiful scenery in all of the world. Add to that, you will surely meet some of the nicest people on the planet.

Have fun.

Oh, I watched it, leaving the movies there was a motorcycle parked, and it was so tempting……. The second half of the movie didn’t tickle my fancy very much, but the first half was great, and the photography……… aaaggghhhhhh…….

What "second half" do you mean, exactly? Are you referring to the Leper Colony portion and Ernesto’s change of perspective(and hence, career)? Just curious. I loved the movie.

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Yeah, the Leper Colony, that part was just too long, but regardless of that, I still loved the movie.

AmyMN
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quote: So if you’re not enthused about SA but you’re intrigued by Asia, why exactly are you going to SA?

Well, I’ve been to Asia and while I know I will go back I am always looking for new areas of the world to visit. I have read many great things from other travelers about SA but for some reason (until recently) was never as excited about going there as I have been for other places. I should clarify that I do not have a ticket to go or don’t know exactly when I will go but I have been doing some research trying to determine where to go on the next "new places" adventure. Like many, I have a list: South America, Central America, and Russia/Mongolia/China/Tibet are at the top. SA and CA are tempting because I speak Spanish (not fluently, but well) and I love mountains. I recently saw Motocycle Diaries and the scenery made me drool.

As for time off, for our RTW we quit jobs and sold the condo. My husband and I both work for ourselves so we can take time here and there. When we go, we like to go for longer periods of time which means more $$$. Yes the vicous work & save/travel & spend cycle is one we are familiar with. ~Amy

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I too am fond of SE Asia.

If I had to name my worst trip, though, it would be Peru. I too, was not all that enthused about SA, figuring I’d get into it more once I got there, but right now, other than the Galapagos Islands, returning to the SA continent is really, really low on my list. The only reasons I went there was because like you, I’d already seem many other parts of the world and also because my bf wanted to go along, so I had to go somewhere my airline flies to.

I do think that having a conversational grasp of Spanish would’ve made the trip much more enriching. I’ve never had a language problem in other places.

I’ve met many travellers who are absolutely wild about SA, but I still just can’t get excited about returning although there are a few places I’d like to see. However, until the governments take steps to make some of their countries a little safer, I doubt I’ll be going back.

We almost cancelled our trip after reading Meredith’s encounter of getting jumped in Puno. Just about every traveller we met had a story of having something stolen or being assaulted in some way. As long as I’m a walking dollar sign essentially subject to "looting" by any local short on cash, camera, or whatnot, I’m not going back. Keeping my guard up all the time really wore me out. I was travelling with my bf at the time, so it wasn’t like I was an easy target solo female.

The moment I let my guard down (ear the end of my trip) I had my boots stolen on the bus from Lima to Pisco. A few days earlier on the Inca Trail, I sprained my ankle. After the flight to Lima, my swollen feet and ankle were really killing me, so I took my boots off and put them underneath the seat in front of me, and the guy seated in front of me aparently reached under and swiped them! And I’d really like to know if one of the hotel staff in Cuzco made off with my full of sentimental value pocket knife, ‘cause that’s the last time I remember having it.

After a coworker raved about Macchu Pichhu, and after I hiked 4 days to get there, I was really underwhelmed by it. Part of it I blamed on the tour operator, who more or less held us hostage upon arrival and made us trudge through a boring guided tour around the site instead of letting us enjoy the "magic" of first seeing MP. Upon my return, my coworker admittted he didn’t think it was all that great either, but he didn’t want to spoil my trip. (He’s a native Spanish speaker and met his wife on that trip about 25 years ago)

That being said, I do know that lots of folks have a grand old time in SA. If I went back, I’d pack really, really light, bring a really cheap camera, and make sure my health insurance would cover me if something really bad happened. Central America maybe but SA, not for awhile….

Near the end of our recent trip to Laos, my bf made a comment along the lines of how the Catholic religion really didn’t seem to have the same effect on people in SA is the Buddhist religion did on the people in SE Asia. With the exception of Phnom Penh, I’ve always felt relatively safe in SE Asia.

Sorry I’m not enthusiastic here. Peru was the first time EVER I returned home and wasn’t bubbling over withe enthusiasm. I had a hard time admitting that I didn’t have an awesome time. After a few weeks of anguish I posted something on LP TT and was both thrashed and applauded for my views. It’s a tough crowd over there.

In the meantime, brush up on that Spanish, I think it will make a huge difference.

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I share a lot of Sailor’s sentiments, except for those about Macchu Picchu. If I had done a lot of hiking before, I might have been underwhelmed by the crowded trail and lack of physical challenge. But as it was, I’d never done any serious trekking and the physical challenge of arriving there made it special to me. Since I was so far behind our group, I got to stand still and look down on the city for quite awhile. Our guide also wanted to drag us through a guided tour, but I skipped out.

Over all, I think the poor safety situation detracted from my enjoyment of the trip. There are very developed backpacker’s ghettos in all the major tourist cities. These places are safe because hotel and restaurant owners pay for extra security. However, as I discovered, once you walk out of these places, the safety situation changes dramatically. In Puno, I was walking down a busy well-lit street when 4 guys jumped me, dragged me into an alley and tried to choke me and steal my possessions. I was lucky that they freaked out when I fought back (decide for yourself whether that was brave or stupid — for me it was instinct), so I didn’t lose anything. You hear horror stories no matter where you travel, but they are true for South America.

HOWEVER, Bolivia is a huge exception to this. Although it is one of the poorest countries in the world, its violent crime rate is similar to the United States. The people are so kind and friendly, and so eager to talk to foreigners who can speak even a little Spanish. Sucre, on of the capitals, looks like 16th-century Spain preserved. La Paz, the other capital, is grittier but it draws you in. The country women in their shawls and bolwer hats, the witch market, the bustle in even the worst neighborhoods…I spent a total of 2 weeks there and loved every minute of it. I entered the country via a 3-day road trip through the Salar de Uyuni, a region of deserts, strangely-colored lakes and salt flats. Uyuni, the town at the end, got dull reviews from other backpackers but I loved wandering around its backstreets. Seeing people living at what felt like the edge of the world was intriguing. The last thing I did in Bolivia was a rainforest trek. I don’t know if it’s as visually spectacular as places you could go in Peru, but there aren’t nearly so many tourists. I got to sneak up on an anteater, see crocodiles and macaws in their nesting place. On the way back, our guide took us to some little-known Inca carvings. Bolivia ranks with Egypt as one of the most fascinating places I’ve ever been.

That said, I do speak pretty good Spanish, so I was able to have some really interesting conversations with our tour guides. I know I got things cheaper because I could negotiate in Spanish and no doubt it deterred people from ripping me off as well. One of the best moments of the trip was calling out a tour guide whom I caught making fun of me!

Anyway, if you do want to go to SA, I totally recommend Bolivia and a Spanish class Smile

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As you know from a new thread in this forum, I just returned from two weeks in (mostly) Peru and (3 days in) Bolivia. This is not my first trip to Latin America, as I was in Rio de Janeiro in Spring 2002, in Guatemala earlier this year, and in/around Central and South-Central Mexico on 4 separate occasions.

I love Latin America. The colors, sounds, smells, and wildlife are, by-and-large, not found anywhere in the US or in Europe…and you have colonial cities, pre-Hispanic ruins, and warm ocean waters to boot! Tolerating the souvenir hawkers can get tiring, but with the right attitude it can also be fun, especially if the hawkers are children. I always return from my travels to Latin America and chuckle amusedly at all of the crap I managed to buy from these vendors. Taxi drivers are, by-and-large, wonderful.

Other things to know: Travel in Latin America takes patience, especially if you travel by bus. In the coastal and jungle regions, you can expect muggy weather similar to SE Asia, and it’s not uncommon for the extremes in temperature to wipe you out physically. Public bathrooms are best not even being mentioned, except to say that you should carry your own roll of TP. Buses are universally crowded, especially the local "VW minivan" buses. I always enjoy riding them for the experience, but note that you may have to share your seat with someone else or at least let them use your knee as a makeshift chair. A rudimentary knowledge of Spanish helps, although you can get away with just a few words in beach cities and tourist hubs. I was surprised to find that no one spoke English in such a grand city as Rio, but almost everyone in Lima and Cuzco seemed to want to practice their English. A pleasant surprise!

With regards to safety, I’ve heard all the horror stories and was even mugged myself once (in Rio, but they were kids who didn’t have any weapons and therefore didn’t get anything). But except for that incident and for a couple of late-night bus arrivals, I have always felt safe. I’ve met many solo women backpackers who have never had problems. My advice is to carry a copy of your passport with you and leave the real passport behind, locked in your hotel safe or at least buried in the bottom of your bag. Also, spread out your currency among different places—leave some behind at the hotel, carry some in pocket A, carry some in pocket B, and carry some in, say, your shoe. Don’t take night busses if it can be avoided, and before you take that hike up the hill to the local mirador with a cross and a grand view of the town below, read up on it and certainly don’t go at dawn or dusk.

I really hope you decide to go, because I’m certain that many of your (or any traveler’s) negative, pre-conceived notions will fall by the wayside.

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AmyMN – if the scenery in Motorcycle Diaries made you drool, wait till you actually GET to South America – you’ll need buckets to catch it all up! and minimum of a bucket a day Wink

I just got back from 5 months traveling South America (started out with 3 months, but extended the trip. would have stayed even longer, but had a wedding to be back for).

If amazing scenery catches your fancy, how about jungle, mountains, dessert, beach, lake,…all possible to see within a 2 day bus trip. Literally. Try the largest salt lakes in the world, The Amazon, the Andes (I have list of treks I’d like to do, just in Peru alone, to last 3 months straight of travel!). Try "lost" cities of amazing ruins, glaciers, volcanoes, craters, the hightest navigatable lake in the world, cities that are only reachable by boat or by plane, vineyards, coffee plantations, quenching your thirst by picking cocunuts and drinking the water inside, sand boarding, mysticism, mystery, history. Just a few things possible in South America! As you can see, I’m very passionate about the continent. Have my next 10 trips planned out – all back to that continent! That continent has everything I’m convinced. you want European cities? You got em. You want to see people wearing the same exact clothes they’ve worn, down to the stripe, for centuries?? You’ve got it. Wildlife? You’ve got it. Treking? Mountains? Believe me, you’ve got it. Music? You’ve got it. Tons of really amazing travelers with really amazing stories and lives and histories? You’ve got it. Incredible volunteer opportunities? Amazingly fresh fruit? You’ve got em. paragliding? Biking? Hangliding? Horseback riding? Kayaking? Yup. I could go on, but I don’t want to start drooling on my keyboard or spend what money I have left in my account buying a plane ticket. Smile

And you speak Spanish, which is great. Will make all the difference. Open up amazing windows.

Some other specific responses to topics that have come up…
Inca Trail. Echo the complaints, 10-fold. But really it’s all luck of the draw. The company, the guide, the group, the season, the day – everything makes the difference. Can be great company, great group – awful guide. great guide, yet with an awful company. all the guides basically freelance, so all’s up in the air. If I were to do it all over again I’d do an alternate trail to MP and not the Inca Trail. There are dozens of options, and of which usually tend to be much smaller groups. more private, and you won’t get the whole cattle hearded thing. Some really great treks and trails, with amazing variety of scenery and options in general. one trek with hot springs on the way, another where 1 day is spent mountain biking. one that includes other ruins. many possiblities!

Last thing I wanted to bring up: Peru. Everything’s always situational for everyone, as we all know. Which shapes our opinions of a place, city, country. What happens. where you go, who you end up with, who happens to be sitting in front of you. Someone earlier mentioned a very negative personal experience with Peru. I on the other hand, had an amazingly positive with the country. I started my trip with intentions of visiting about 5 countries, extensive time in each, except Peru. Had planned about week there. What ended up happening? 4 months in Peru, traces of time elsewhere. Absolutely fell in love with Peru. The people, the food, the scenery – everything. The country varies so much within each area. Eech region. Each city. Each neighborhood. The food, the people, the customs, the dialect – always so different. Each mile. And Peru’s huge. Mountains, desert, jungle, ocean. Has it all.

Anyway, as you can tell, I’m in love with South America. And in fact, crazily enough, have plans to move there now!
Just got back to the US, and unfortunately am writing this from there, but in 4 months, Peru, here I come! Smile

Questions anyone, let me know…

PS: AmyMN – if you want advice on treking and mountains or anything, let me know – can give you some advice. and hey, do you perchance live in MN??

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Thanks for all the info 8cheerios. Sounds like South America has loads to offer. I’m happy to hear you had such am amazing time. That’s awesome that you will be moving there…We’ve toyed with the idea of moving to SEA or living there part of the year but it’s great you are actually doing it!

When I really get into the planning I may ask you for some sugguestions. Hopefully you’ll still be on ET while living in Peru! (I’m guess that’s where you be?) I lived in MN, (Twin Cities area)then went on a RTW trip (didn’t include SA)and moved to Northern California about a year ago. I miss it there sometimes but there are many things I like about being here too. Thanks again! ~Amy

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yeah Amy – definitely let me know if you at a later point have questions…always fun to give suggestions and be of help! Smile

Anyway, actually not in Peru now/yet – back home in the US…home being the Twin Cities, acutally! Hence the reason I was asking about the MN thing. don’t find many twin citiens around, really (except in Portland, that is!)

"I miss it there sometimes but there…"

The weather, right?! Haha. Although today, first day of October, 81 – go figure!

Anyway, happy trip planning!

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Funny you mention Portland…we were set to move there when we returned from our trip but jobs did not work out. Yes go figure about 81 in October! Actually we made note that the weather was not as bad as it was when we were younger. Global warming! I am actually jeaous of you right now as the colors are about to pop there. We lived in DT St. Paul for the last 6 years we were there and the river colors were always so awesome! Enjoy!