Click here to see my lovely Travel Map at Travellerspoint. It’s still a work in progress. So many places I’ve been that I still need to add (mainly Europe). Still so many more places to see. Travelling makes me happiest.
A summary of the most memorable moments of my adventure through South America (in no particular order of importance, simply memories that stand out)
I feel as though I’ve been falling a bit behind in my blogging lately. I guess that means I’m having too much fun! Its almost time to go home, so here is a summary of my final days in South America. All the love in the world for South America, but I am so happy to be going HOME!!!!
- Fun in Mancora (Peru) – Few words are needed to describe this point. Going back to Mancora felt like I was going back home. Back with our little family of travellers. Hayley and I were happy 🙂
- Traveling back to Quito (Ecuador) via every form of transport possible – A collectivo (minivan) from the bus stop to the town where nearest to the border, squished between some sizely humans and the lady who booked the bus tickets for us (lets call her “Maria”. Then, we hopped into Maria’s friends car, along with Maria and her hubby, and the 5 of us drove to the border like a happy little family. At the border, Maria’s friend left, Maria and hubby stood with our backpacks while we went through passport control (they didn’t go through passport control????), then Maria, hubby, Hayley and I got a taxi to the town on the other side of the border where Maria made sure we were at the right bus terminal to then get a shitty bus for a whole long many hours from that mystery town to Quito bus terminal. At Quito bus terminal, we then got a taxi to our hostel, and pheeewwww, we finally made it. Hello cool weather in Quito. I never thought I’d be so happy to be cold.
- A chilled night in Quito (Ecuador), a little bit of wandering around (mainly to find a bank that worked with my bank cards, but also to the ECUATOR!!). – Here’s a tip for travels in South America in general: Always have a VISA bank card. I had one, but it got eaten by an ATM in Cusco, but nonetheless, its a necessity, otherwise you ill continuously be fighting with various ATM’s to try get your hard earned money out of the machine, and into the world of spending cash!
- Time to fly back to Buenos Aires (Argentina) – I didn’t plan on going back to Argentina this soon. I though I still had another few weeks to travel up to Colombia and see the beautiful Caribean cost but….flights in South America are soooooo expensive. While I was looking at different options to fly back to Buenos Aires (Argentina), I found that the cheapest option was to fly from Quito (Ecuador). Therefore, I never made it up to Colombia (but I will be back someday I promise!!), instead I hopped on a 6 hour flight back to the land of good wine and beautiful people.
- Iguasu Falls (Argentina and Brazil) – Met up with a Belgian friend, Salvatore and we hit the road on an 18hour bus ride to the border of Argentina and Brazil to go see the magical Iguazu falls. We saw them in Argentina then crossed the border and saw them from the Brazilian side too. Both sides are a must! Soooo much water!
- Home Sweet Home (South Africa) – The long flight home with the most crazy turbulence of all time. But now I’m home and happy and adjusting… The adjustment is weird but seeing everybody is great.
So many buses later and we finally made it to Bolivia. From Mendoza we had a 17 hour bus ride to Salta, where we stayed at the Loki hostel for a couple of days and formed an amazing group of new friends. Together with our new friends, we travelled to for 8 hours on a bus to the border of Argentina and Bolivia. I’m so great full that we had some guys traveling with us, because arriving at the bus terminal on the Argentina side of the border at 5am was a frightful experience.
The Argentina side of the border is called La Quiaca. It’s a dingy bus terminal where there are heaps of people bundled up in blankets sleeping on the floor trying to stay warm while they wait for the border to open at 7am. We all huddled up, hungover and grumpy, with our backpacks very close to our sides, and sat out the wait. Eventually it was time to try navigate our way to the border, so in my best Spanish (which really isn’t very good at all), I asked for directions. The border crossing itself was fine. Passports stamped. HELLO BOLIVIA!
Finally a culture shock. Argentina was nothing special, the landscapes are similar to at home, cities are cities wherever you go. But Bolivia. Amazing! The ladies are all dressed in their traditional attire, with long pig tail braids down their sides, carrying all and everything in hand woven, multicolored blankets on their backs.
With our pack of friends, we managed to get a minivan taxi to take the 10 of us (plus a few locals and a dog and our backpacks strapped to the roof) to a town called Tupiza (2 hour journey). A night in the hostel there and a fresh shower, then Sam and I separated from the pack, and took yet another bus, to Uyuni. The scariest bus ride of our lives, praying to every higher power in existence that we would arrive alive. A dirt road for 7 hours, no toilet, most likely a drunk driver (as is common in Bolivia) and lots of swerving to get back on the road. We arrived alive, only just, at 1am. Another town. Another hostel. Another shower. Hello Salar de Uyuni. The famous salt plains. Words cannot describe.
I’d been recommended by various people to use a tour company called Red Planet to take us on the tour of the Salar. We thought it’d be quite pricey with them, but it turned out to be one of those perfect days where everything just worked out perfectly for us. Red Planet had two spaces free on their day trip of the Salar with an English speaking guide inclusive (this is very rare and normally comes at a hefty extra fee) and it didn’t even cost that much, not nearly what we were anticipating. We hopped in the jeep and the rest is history.
The intense brightness on the salt plains is something that cannot be described. If you take your sunglasses off, your eyes scrumple up and burn from the brightness. Unfortunately it’s not rainy season at the moment so we didn’t get to see the mirrored reflections, but still we got the photos. You know, those photos playing with perspective. The vast white background. You know, the ones with toy dinosaurs chasing people. People seemingly eating each other off spoons etc. if you’ve been living in the dark ages and don’t know what I’m talking about… see more pictures on the Purple Wanderlust Facebook page 🙂
Another bus ride… 8 more hours. At one point the bus was driving us at 5000m above sea level! Again no toilet and no toilet stops either. My bladder isn’t built for this. But now we’re in Sucre.
I’m sitting at a lovely restaurant overlooking the plaza, waiting for my Bolivian soup to arrive. It’s beautiful here. In the plaza, all the colonial buildings are white, in fact, most of the town is painted white. The town was developed as a warmer place, at a Lowell altitude, for the rich miners of Potosi (a town nearby where they mine silver) to live.
We’ve started formal Spanish lessons, and I plan to stay here a week or two to get my Spanish to a reasonable level. I can get by, but I really want my Spanish to be great. When I lived in Spain in 2006, I hardly picked up any Spanish, and it’s one of my biggest regrets to date. So now is my time.
We really had no idea what to expect when we arrived at the bus station in San Rafael (Argentina), hoping to be picked up by the man who’s farm we were going to work on for the next 10 days. So far on this trip though, everything has fallen into place so easily and this is yet another example of how perfectly things worked out.
Our friend Gabi, who we were working with at the hostel in Córdoba, travelled with us from Córdoba to San Rafael, as she had also gotten a job on a finca (farm in Spanish) in San Rafael. Her farmer had told her to catch this bus then that bus then walk here and hitch hike there etc. to find her way from the bus station to his farm. Our farmer said he’d be waiting for us at the station. We arrived and waited outside for about 10 minutes. Along comes Mike. Our farmer. As we all know, this world is so small in so many ways, so of course it turns out that Gabi’s farmer, Robbie, is friends with our farmer, Mike, and their farms are opposite each other. Maximum 2km apart. Mike kindly gave Gabi a lift to her farm and saved her the torturous journey of lugging her 3 huge bags across the town… and the rest is history. Visits to each other’s farms every second day. Swims in our pool. Asado’s (an Argentine braai/barbeque). A day trip to Valle Grande, where we got horribly sunburnt (WHY DO US GIRLS NEVER LEARN OUR LESSON EACH TIME THIS HAPPENS TO US?). And apart from all the fun things, we worked, and boy did we work hard.
In the 10 days spent at Finca Andes Lands, I’ve learnt so many new things, gained new skills, and done some arbitrary things that I’ll probably never have to do again in my life. These skills and arbitrary things range from plastering the quincho (the braai area), sanding and varnishing new furniture and learning new ways to live more sustainable to ironing, cooking, herding cows, stripping bamboo, cleaning the pool, watering the lawn, watering the tomatoes, building fires, chopping wood and getting a ridiculous amount of thorns, scratches and nettles in my hands and arms. Life on a farm. We’ve worked long and hard hours, but it’s been great. It’s taught us what we can achieve when we put out minds to it and how much physical strength we really have.
Finca Andes Lands is over 100 years old and is run by an Anglo-Argentine couple, Mike and Vicky. They are the genuinely the most lovely people we’ve ever met. The farm has been in Mike’s family since the beginning of time with a huge old farmhouse that has expanded over the years. The house spreads out onto a huge lawn with a massive pool, The farm runs as a B&B, and then they have volunteers such as ourselves to come and help out with the general upkeep of the property. If you have a moment, go take a look at their website. www.andeslands.com
It has been an absolutely magical soul nourishing experience, and I am so glad that websites such as www.workaway.info and www.helpx.net exist, the help facilitate such opportunities. I wouldn’t change my experience on this finca even slightly.
- You Don’t Have to be Rich to Travel the World (whiletravelingabroad.wordpress.com)
- An impromptu Argentinian homestay – San Rafael, Argentina (travelpod.com)
Long bus trips around South America are a pretty common experience. The continent is so vast, and the buses are relatively inexpensive. The climate ranges from beautiful tropical beaches in Columbia to the worlds largest salt flats in Bolivia, and there’s even the option of skiing on the Andes Mountains in Argentina and Chile.
Yesterday morning we completed our second long bus trip so far on this journey through South America, traveling within Argentina, from Córdoba to San Rafael. A casual 12 hour overnight bus trip. I woke up in the middle of the night on the bus, body shivering and bladder bursting. Damn they really know how to crank up the air conditioning on the busses. But luckily I woke up, because I got to look out the window and see the nature in all its magical glory. As the bus cruised along the flat landscape, the sky lit up for a few seconds at a time, then the blackness would engulf us again, then more brightness and so the pattern continued. There are many fires in this region around spring so the rain is much appreciated and the lighting really put on a show for us to watch. It was a beautiful way to observe the landscape passing us by and spend time reflecting on our journey thus far.
There’ve been some people we’ve met that have truly touched our lives and a few of them who deserve mentioning. These include our wonderful spiritual mother Elizabeth, who guided us and taught us incredible lessons about life. She’s been through the toughest life possible and yet, the radiance still shines through her soul. Another kind soul we met was Damian, an Argentinian guy. His English is as bad as our Spanish, yet instantaneously upon meeting him, it was clear that he was an earth child of the same mindset as ourselves. Although sometimes it was infuriating to only be communicating with hand signals and clicks and frustrated nothingness, we still connected, and it’s a beautiful thing to see that language is not the only way to communicate. Music brought us all together and his great taste in music allowed us all to communicate on a deeper level. He will hopefully join us later on in our travels, and it will be an incredible experience to be able to actually converse with him (when our Spanish has improved somewhat, and the same goes for his English). I could go on mentioning beautiful souls for days on end, but that’s not too interesting to read about if you haven’t been there to absorb the experience. Nonetheless, there is one more person I have to mention and that’s our dear friend Freddy. He is a Columbian guy who took us under his wing from day one and treated us like his little sisters. We will definitely be meeting up with him again on this journey, as he is also going to be winding his way home to Columbia. Our paths will undoubtably cross again and I’m so grateful to have met him.
…and so here we are now, safely in San Rafael, in Mendoza Province, Argentina, the beautiful wine region filled with fresh air, nature, and smiles all around. We’ve finished our second day of work on a farm called Andes Lands. We’ve painted a well, been grocery shopping and helped prepare dinner, stripped many branches of bamboo, helped sand down raw timber to construct new pool deck chairs, started painting a mural on one of the walls in the house and even driven in the most broken down pick up truck know to man. We couldn’t be happier. Tranquilo.
Pretty much everybody I know is at the most epic music festival that South Africa has to offer. It is called “Rocking the Daisies”. If my time difference calculations are accurate, Alt-J ∆ is busy performing for thousands of very happy people right now. So my contribution to the festivities is to sit here in Córdoba (Argentina) with my daisy headband on and watch various Alt-J ∆ Live sets on YouTube. It’s as close as I can get to the real thing. But anyway, who needs FOMO. I’m living the dream right here, right now.
We have one week left in Córdoba, and then we are hitting the road to further our travels. Córdoba is a student city and considering that there are seven Universities in the town, there are ample young people around and the nightlife is always great. During the day, the city itself is a bit of a dud. The colonial buildings and mass amounts of churches are beautiful to see, but the main reason to come to this city is to use it as a base and then take day outings to various towns in the surrounding Sierras. It’s been a great stay here and Turning Point Hostel has become our pseudo-family. We will definitely miss them, but at the same time, we’re both rather excited to move on to new experiences. We’ve got a 13 hour bus trip ahead of us to San Rafael (Argentina) where we will be working on a farm at the foot of the Andes. On the farm we will be helping out with gardening, going horse-riding, helping out with their Eco-Project, and always, everywhere, no matter what, trying to learn Spanish.
It’s now almost (only) been one month since we set off on this journey. Still so many great things coming our way. Life is perfect. Wanderlust.
- Watch: Rocking the Daisies Promo Ad (feedbackmusiq.wordpress.com)
- Argentina – Cordoba (meanderingandmalbec.wordpress.com)
I’m sitting writing this with my Spanish Audio tapes playing in my ears. We seriously need to brush up on our Spanish ASAP!
Buenos Aires was a bit of a whirlwind trip for Sam and I because we were still coming to grips with what we are actually doing. We’ve quit our jobs, sold up our lives, and set off on this adventure, and now we are actually here. We are in Argentina!
The first two things we noticed when we got off the plane were the beautiful people and the hot muggy heat. Everywhere you look, you just see beautiful faces. Everything you feel is hot and sticky. So, with our grubby faces and sweaty clothes, and lots of eye candy all around us, we set off on a mission to find the local bus that takes you into the city (no luxury taxi’s for us, we are travelling on a VERY tight budget).
If you get the local bus into the city, it only cost $4 pesos (which is about R8.00 and less than US$1). The catch is that it’s a 2 hour bus trip, and after a 12 hour flight, it’s not exactly ideal. For the bus, you need coins, and I’m not sure why, but coins are hard to come by in Argentina. There is a Cambio (currency exchange place) in the airport and you just need to cross your little fingers that its open so that you can get your trusty coins. Then you’re good to go. Bus number 8 takes you right into the city. We weren’t to sure which stop we had to get off at, so of course we ended up going way to far, then having to walk back to our hostel, fully loaded with backpacks, but we made it eventually. All part of the adventure. Let the fun begin.
Milhouse Hipo Hostel has the reputation of being a crazy party hostel, and one of the most highly rated hostels in Latin America. After a couple drinks with some new friends, we ended up sneaking off to bed relatively early. In Argentina, dinner is only at around 9pm, then pre-drinks start at 10h30pm, and people only go out to nightclubs at 2pm! It’s madness. So you really have to be on your top game to endure a long night out. I sound like I’m getting old. I’m not I promise. I’m blaming it on jet lag seeming as we did gain an extra 5 hours to our day from the time differences.
On the second night we had our first Couchsurfing experience at an Argentinian guy’s house. His name is Emilio, and he was such a wonderful trusting host and gave us so much advice. He was also such an interesting person to chat to. Really cool guy. Our first couchsurfing experience!
We didn’t do any of the typical tourist things while in BA as we are anticipating that we will do these all on our final return flight when we do eventually leave South America at some point. Some things we did do though included going to Florida Ave and the surrounds, changing our dollars on the black market at a cueva (pronounced kwe-va), eating many empanadas (AMAZING!!), drinking mate (pronounced ma-tey), having dinner in San Telmo, seeing lots of beautiful graffiti and just exploring and getting very lost in the streets of Buenos Aires.
Such a lovely city and I will be back to explore it properly, but it was a great way to start our adventure. Next stop, a 10 hour overnight bus trip to Cordoba, where we will be for a month, volunteering at a hostel (this includes free food and accommodation).
Much loves to all. ❤ Oh and one last thing… the men in Argentina are BEAUTIFUL!!!!
For more photos of our time in Buenos Aires CLICK HERE
The past few days (and those few still to come) have been filled with bitter sweet goodbyes. I hadn’t felt any sad emotions about my impending adventures until Saturday night, when a friend hugged me tightly and told me that I’d be sorely missed. That was the moment that it actually hit me. I’m leaving my beautiful Cape Town and all my incredible friends and family.
I’m so beyond excited for this adventure, but goodbyes are really tough.
This morning, a friend sent me two lovely quotes.
Why can’t we get all the people together in the world that we really like and then just stay together? I guess that wouldn’t work. Someone would leave. Someone always leaves. Then we would have to say good-bye. I hate good-byes. I know what I need. I need more hellos.
~ Charles M. Schulz
Happy trails to you, until we meet again.
Some trails are happy ones,
Others are blue.
It’s the way you ride the trail that counts,
Here’s a happy one for you.
So tonight is my final farewell with all my lovely friends. Tomorrow I finish packing. Tuesday night I’m having a family farewell dinner. And Wednesday morning I leave at the crack of dawn to fly to Johannesburg to meet up with Sam, and then we’re off to Buenos Aires.
Let the travels begin 🐞
10 sleeps until Sam and I fly to Buenos Aires. I am beyond excited. All my unimportant things have been sold. I’ve only got my backpack of things to take with me, and one trunk of belongings I’m leaving at home. And that’s it.
We’ve been so lucky. We’ve already organised a job at a hostel in Cordoba from 15th September, and another job at a hostel in Bariloche thereafter. Now all we need is to find a couch to sleep on in Buenos Aires for two nights upon arrival in Argentina on the 11th September. Yes, 9/11.
I cannot express how excited I am for this journey to begin.