A Travellerspoint blog

Season Finale

The Highly Anticipated Conclusion to Canada's Conquest of South America!

Dearest Readers,

As I write this, I sit in the airport waiting to begin my trip back home. It's been a great adventure, and I thank you all for sharing it with me through this account of my travels.

Our time in Huanchaco was the perfect end to our South American adventure. We met up with Erin and Jordyn after being apart for a week, which was long considering we had spent nearly every waking hour together since I arrived. It was nice to have our group together again, and finally we were able to play kaiser again, hurrah! Although Jordyn and I then began a losing streak where we lost about 10 out of 13 games... by embarrassing amounts most often. But I'm sure you aren't interested in hearing about our kaiser rivalry, so back to Huanchaco. Huanchaco is a nice little town on the coast of Peru about eight hours north of Lima. I'm not sure how many people live there, but it must be small because there are no big stores, just the usual scattered tiendas selling random collections of goods. We didn't do a lot, my dear readers, but that was exactly our intention. We spent several hours a day lazing in the sun, playing cards, and timidly courting the ocean. Unfortunately about 3 meters into the water the sand turned into big, uncomfortable rocks. The rocks made for uneasy footing, and so when the waves came in it was very hard to stay upright. So we mostly stayed in the sand, enjoying the hot sun and visits from stray dogs. Actually, most of the dogs were really unpleasant to be around. Without trainers, they seem to lack any manners whatsoever. If they weren't kicking sand on our towels, they were prowling the female strays in heat, often coming into conflict with one another. There was one dog in particular (squat, but with the coloring of a yellow lab) that was incredibly confrontational. He would periodically plant himself in the middle of our staked out area and bark at us. His tail was wagging so he didn't seem aggressive, but paired with his incessant barking he had the behaviour of a rabid lunatic. Man I hate that dog. We prayed for some valiant beast to come and chase him away, perhaps a Clifford or a Marmaduke, but nothing came. We would just get up and run away screaming any time he came near, getting laughed at by the locals and feeling ashamed of ourselves. I don't regret it though, I was not about to get a series of syringes to the stomach as a result of confronting a psychotic and rabid dog. Luckily though, that bastardly canine was the only bad thing I can say about Huanchaco. We went surfing the one day for a couple of hours. Our tutors were excellent, and a few times I managed to stand up and ride until the momentum of the waves petered out. My shark paranoia was not out of control either, although any time I stepped down into rocks that felt at all pointy I immediately searched my foot for any bleeding cuts. I did not want a repeat of my snorkeling mishap in Thailand (if you don't know the story you can read about it in my Thailand blog here: ). We also attended a lovely tea party hosted by a local Dutch woman, one of the nicest people we met on this entire trip. Eight days seemed to just fly by there, but we were ready to leave when we boarded the bus that would take us back to Lima.

We only spent one night in Lima. The three girls all fly back on the 3rd, so they didn't want to come much earlier than that. It was a pretty uneventful 24 hours in all. We basically ate, wandered around, slept, wandered around some more, and then it was time to leave. I did encounter my first mugging though... by the hands of a three year old girl. Georgia and I were eating our last meal at a nearby cafe and a pair of girls came up to us begging for money. They looked to be about three and six years old, but didn't appear very grubby or in need so we didn't give them anything. But after I said no, the youngest one grabbed my Coca-Cola off the table and started walking away with it. I didn't really know what to do. I certainly wasn't about to chase after a toddler for half a bottle of Coke, and so I just laughed. Her sister caught her though, and made her return it to me. Shortly after a waiter chased them away, and the whole ordeal was over. Not too bad though right? The only theft I experienced on the entire trip was simply a half bottle of soda that was returned shortly afterwards. Quite successful in all I must say. After the not-so-traumatizing mugging, I bade farewell to Erin and Jordyn, and Georgia took a taxi with me to the airport. Once all was in order, Georgia headed back to the hostel and I found my gate. And now I sit at my gate, waiting to get on a plane to Newark, then to Chicago, and finally to Winnipeg. The whole airport/airplane process is going to take nearly 24 hours, so I'm just jittery from the excitement. I spent about an hour writing this, so I guess I've got another 23 to go.

So that's it everybody, that's the whole trip. It was a spectacular experience, these three months. I truly hope that you enjoyed reading about my travels as much as I enjoyed writing about them.

The End.

Posted by soupy 21:41 Archived in Peru Comments (1)

A Full Circle

Back in the Land of Potatoes

Dearest Readers,

Heading back into Peru has brought back many familiarities... both good and bad. For example, things are once again cheap as can be, but I had nearly forgotten how Peruvian pan flute music is about as pleasant as an inner ear operation would be were it performed with a chainsaw. But, all things considered it has certainly been more pleasant, and even some of the annoyances seem slightly endearing.

We crossed the border and immediately bused to Arequipa, a lovely little town on the west coast. We stayed for four days at the best hostel we've seen yet. Its only shortcoming was the radio station that played twenty four hours a day. It cycled between Rihanna, Maroon 5, and Bruno Mars, playing each of their hits several times every hour. You need only Youtube Bruno Mars' "Lazy Song" for you to understand the torture we went through. I'm not even sure what type of analogy would be fitting seeing as it's a thousand times more annoying than pan flute music... maybe getting your brain pulled through your auditory canal with a rusted meat hook. Aside from that, our time in Arequipa was lovely. We made a delicious Easter dinner in our hostel's kitchen, complete with chicken, gravy, and mashed 'tatoes. Through our hostel we were also able to go whitewater rafting the one day. The day we went it was absolutely pouring rain which apparently makes rivers get a little crazier, and as a result we were all fairly nervous as we pulled on our wet suits. For some inexplicable reason, the guides made us put on the most shapeless and unattractive shorts and sweaters made of canvas. So we waited wet, cold, nervous, and looking like complete idiots. But we survived my dear readers! And not only that, we did splendidly! We didn't even capsize once, nor did anyone fall out. I've always wanted to shout a hearty "man overboard!" but I wasn't too disappointed at the lack of an opportunity. It was a very invigorating experience, and there's something about outdoor sports of those kinds that are just an obscene amount of fun every single time.

As our time in Arequipa drew to a close it was decided that our group would split up for a short time. Erin and Jordyn wanted to head to the beach town of Mancora to soak up the suns rays on a white sand beach, whereas Georgia and I wanted to make several other stops before heading to the other beach town of Huanchaco. So we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways for the next week.

Our first stop was in a very tiny town (about 200 people) that goes by the name of Huacachina. You may not know that as well as being home to parts of the Amazon rainforest, beaches, and mountains, Peru also has a big desert in the middle of it. Not some shitty desert with hard clay and bunny rabbits, I'm talking about a real, sand dunes towering over your freaking head kind of desert. Now, within this desert that would suck every drop of water out of you if you gave it half a chance, there is a legitimate oasis... the kind that you would see in a Disney movie, and around this oasis there is a town named Huacachina. I must say, this was probably my favorite destination on this entire trip. It's breathtaking, and I could hardly wrap my head around its existence the majority of the time. We spent most of our time there lying in the beautiful sand until we got hot, and then jumping into the cool, clean oasis water. We even went on a dune buggy expedition one day where we catapulted through the dunes (often times at near horizontal angles) stopping at several where we would hop out, lie face down on snowboard-like slabs of wood, and went sandboarding down the dunes! Yes, I kid you not, sandboarding is a legitimate activity in the desert. I could have spent weeks there, but after four days we had to move on.

Our next destination was to a very uninteresting town called Pisco (which is also the name of a Peruvian brandy distilled from grapes). Unfortunately, 80% of the town was destroyed in a 2007 earthquake, and it was clear that the town had not fully recovered even 5 years later. What drew us here were theIslas Ballestas, a cluster of islands that have been dubbed "the poor man's Galapagos." So we woke up bright and early our first morning there after being kept up all night by what seemed to be a birthday party, and headed to the islands. It was difficult to fully enjoy the experience being completely exhausted and feeling quite grumpy, but it was still very interesting. There were thousands of birds, including Humboldt Penguins and Peruvian Boobies. Scattered amongst the rocks were also a whole bunch of sea lions (fun fact: a group of sea lions is called a raft). They were just lazing about, perched on the cliffs as if they had not a care in the world. After observing the wildlife and hearing our guide explain how the harvesting of bird poop was done, I fell asleep as we cruised back to Pisco.

We left the next day since there was nothing interesting to do in that town, going through Lima before arriving in Huanchaco (not to be confused with Huacachina). It is here that the last leg of our trip has been taking place, but Huanchaco I will save for another entry... one that will likely be my last for this trip.

Posted by soupy 21:46 Archived in Peru Comments (1)

The Sound of Music

Lollapalooza and Other Adventures in Chile

Dearest Readers,

We left our spectacular apartment in Buenos Aires and headed straight to Chile. The bus ride was long, but it was bearable since we had been immobile for two entire weeks. We arrived the day before Lollapalooza began only to find out that our hostel had mangled our booking and it appeared as if I had nowhere to sleep for the weekend. Luckily, our dear friends Kirsten and Donovan had met a Chilean and were staying at his house in Santiago for the weekend. With a bit of shifting around we all had somewhere to stay which was very fortunate because most hostels were booked up due to the music festival.

Saturday morning we awoke bright eyed and bushy tailed, ready to see some live music. We started the festival watching some random South American artist bounce around stage to some salsa kind of music clad only in a pair of overalls. We left for another stage before he apparently removed his overals and proceeded to dance around the stage completely naked... it would have been quite a sight, but we had more important things to see. Gogol Bordello played next, and even though it was over 30 degrees, they put on their usual incredible and enthusiastic performance. After that, Cage the Elephant played very nearby. I haven't listened to them much before, but it was a splendid show. Their lead singer was very energetic... and and so intoxicated that he nearly fell off the stage on several occasions. We spent some time after that eating, wandering around, and checking out other random acts before the Arctic Monkeys began their set. Some members of the group were excited about seeing them, but I could only tolerate a small amount of British sing-talk before having to leave. Besides, Bjork was up next and I wanted a good spot to see her performance. Her performance was breathtaking. She had a choir of about fifteen Icelandic women singing and dancing with her, some sort of weird lightning machines, and very interesting visuals on the big screens. The visual aspect was entertaining, but the music was just incredible. I hadn't listened to her a whole lot leading up to that weekend, but I certainly will now.

Nothing started very early on Sunday, so we made our way to the park in the early afternoon. Our first stop was Band of Horses who played a lovely, relaxed set to begin our day. TV on the Radio followed them, and then we went back to the other stage to see Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. I was amazed to see Joan Jett performing so well, and still able to wear a black leather outfit without spilling out of it. Watching her perform so many of her classic songs was something else, but maybe half an hour into her set she announced that she would be playing some new material. I was already a bit worried about what was coming next, but I nearly ran out of the crowd with my ears plugged when she announced that the next song was titled T.M.I. I don't want to ruin Joan Jett's music for you my dear readers, but it was bad. I haven't lost respect for her, a pioneer of female rock and roll artists, but dear god was it bad. With the melody of T.M.I. still haunting me, we went over to see our first Canadian show... Peaches! Peaches was probably my favorite show of the entire festival. Even though I had high expectations for her performance, she greatly exceeded them. She came on stage wearing an outfit covered in breasts, but with decapitated Barbie heads where the nipples should have been. She awkwardly danced around between the front of the stage and her mixing board, sporadically spraying champagne on the crowd below. She also had two dancers who came on stage in different costumes, blowing fire, getting into fist fights, and other bizarre acts. I left the show invigorated and slightly confused. That was basically the last show I watched, and a grand finale. We listened to Skrillex for about five minutes, but I just couldn't stomach the show. We saw about ten minutes out of the Foo Fighters two and a half hour set, but once again, I just wasn't into it.

So that ended the festival for us. I had been deprived of live music for the whole trip leading up to the festival, so we all left feeling very satisfied. We had another day to hang out in Santiago after the festival, but we were all tired and didn't do much at all. We took an overnight bus to Iquique on Tuesday where we spent the next few days. Iquique is a nice little town on the coast of Chile, so for the first time of my trip we were finally on the beach! Unfortunately the water was freezing and full of jellyfish, so I spent virtually no time in the ocean. The beach was lovely though, and it's no surprise that I left Iquique with a massive sunburn on my back which is now peeling off as I write this. In my defense it appeared to be cloudy, but I guess the sun works a little differently down here. We didn't want to spend any more time in Chile because it's about twice as expensive as Peru and Bolivia, and so sunburned and content, we headed back to where I began my trip.

Posted by soupy 18:00 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Our Home Away From Home

Two Glorious Weeks in Buenos Aires

Dearest Readers,

Once again I apologize for the delay in this post. Internet access has been plentiful and I simply cannot make any legitimate excuses. In other words, I just got lazy and didn't feel like doing it. But here it comes, a detailed account of our two week stay in the capital of Argentina!

We took an overnight bus from Salta and arrived in Buenos Aires on the 14th of March. We immediately found our apartment, met with our landlord, and removed the heavy packs from our oh so weary shoulders. Our apartment looked exactly as it did in the pictures. A wonderful two bedroom, fully furnished, air conditioned apartment with a kitchen, cable television, hot water, and a toilet you could actually flush toilet paper down! It may not seem exciting to you pampered North Americans, but after a couple of months in South America such things were luxuries. We were so comfortable my dear readers. We seemed to melt into our beds, the cool air blowing through our clean (for the first time in months) hair, feasting on home-cooked meals made with ingredients bought from legitimate grocery stores. We all sighed relief as we once again had access to all the pleasures of the first world. In fact, we got so comfortable that it became slightly difficult to motivate ourselves to leave the apartment at all! There was not a day where we managed to leave our home before two in the afternoon, and to be honest, there were several days where some or all of us didn't leave at all. Listen to this tale my dear readers of the first world! Trust not the comforts of your homes, for they plan to draw you in and hold you there until all motivation and passion has left what will then be a obese and bedridden body.

That may have been slightly melodramatic. In truth we weren't that unmotivated, and we did do a lot of different things. We spent many days just wandering around the city taking in the sights, one of my favorite travel activities. We went to an English movie theatre for the first time since leaving Canada to see The Hunger Games movie. We visited the fancy graveyard full of spooky crypts and mausoleums. We checked out an old movie theatre that had been converted into a bookstore. We visited a Sunday antique market. We visited the local zoo... one of the bears even waved at me! We went shopping... a lot. Being the only man present I also spent a lot of time standing outside shops complaining and demanding attention from my female companions. We attempted to visit one of the most renowned opera houses in the world, but there was some slight confusion about the date of the fee performance (basically, I failed to actually read the date printed on the ticket) and we missed our chance to see a musical venue that in Pavarotti's words was perfect in every way, the only fault being that a singer can hear his every mistake. We spent a lot of time with Georgia's parents who were also in Buenos Aires for a week and a half, and got invited to some of their friends' fancy cocktail party at the most extravagant apartment I've ever seen. And lastly, we played a lot, and I mean a lot, of kaiser.

So there you have it my dear readers. Not only did we relish the comforts of our new home, we also gallivanted about the city taking in the sights, sounds, and flavours of a truly beautiful city. If there is one place on this trip I would most love to revisit, it would without a doubt be Buenos Aires. It's a lovely mix between Europe and South America with obvious influences from a variety of cultures. The only downfall is the rampant inflation that Argentina has been experiencing over the last few years, and thus, it is quite expensive. But still, it was the perfect place to hunker down for a couple of weeks, unpack our bags, wash our grubby bodies, and enjoy one of the finest cities that South America has to offer.

Posted by soupy 10:14 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Bounding Through Bolivia

Mountains! Waterfalls! Food Poisoning! Salt! And so much more...

Dearest Readers,

I apologize for the delay in this post. Internet in Bolivia was hard to come by, and I admit once I began procrastinating, it became difficult to motivate myself to hunker down and write this post. But now we're in Argentina, I have great internet at our hostel, and my female companions are off riding horses so I simply cannot delay writing to you all any longer. I hope you, my faithful readers, can forgive my tardiness... I only hope I am not too late and that you have not simply lost faith in me.

We left the jungle and spent one final night in Cuzco. Drawn by the convenience, we returned to the dreaded Loki, but found it emptier than usual. We were informed by the obnoxious bar manager that February is always slow in Peru because rumors about Machu Picchu being closed tend to spread around that time. We were delighted to have a relaxed night, and got the hell out of there first thing in the morning. We took a bus out east to Puno, a small town on Lake Titicaca that is also very near to the Bolivian Border. I'll just start by saying this: Puno sucks. There are no redeeming qualities to make up for its grubby and charmless appearance. You might say, "but Gregory, surely Lake Titicaca, the mystical lake where Incan creation stories claim life itself began, is a sight to behold!" Well yes, it certainly is... if you can look past the landfill that is the shoreline. We managed to enjoy ourselves nonetheless, because lo and behold, it was the final weekend of Carnivale! Our hostel owner befriended us and brought us along to the town's big final party in something that resembled a town hall. He didn't speak English, and through the bits of his speech we understood, it seemed that we were being sneaked into the party. He told us to put our hoods up because we were "too white." We began to feel uneasy, and extremely uncomfortable. We made it in unscathed though, and proceeded to attract hundreds of confused stares as we were the only four gringos in the entire building, and stuck out like the sorest of all thumbs. Our host then introduced us to his friends, and brought over crate after crate of beer. He wouldn't even let us finish a beer before shoving a new one into our white paws. After a while the Cuzce├▒a lubricated the whole situation, and we didn't feel so out of place anymore. We met a fellow from Florida who was married to a local and he informed us that we had stumbled into the biggest party in Puno, and that we were witnessing "the Rush of Peru" performing on stage. I'll just tell you now, seeing the Rush of Peru is like seeing the Pope of Israel... it just doesn't translate in a meaningful way. It was one of the most bizarre traveling experiences I've ever had. There were children playing amidst their drunken parents, there was a elderly woman in traditional garb passed out in a chair right next to us, there were more crates of beer than in all of Ireland, and the bathrooms were so full of intoxicated Peruvians that most ceased to use a toilet altogether and simply relieved themselves on the floor. And with that strange, blurry night behind us, we bid farewell to Peru.

We crossed the border (or lack thereof) into Bolivia the next day and spent a few days in Copacabana, another small town on the shores of Lake Titicaca. We stayed in our worst hostel yet, complete with moldy bathrooms and the most uncomfortable, lumpy, and sheetless beds imaginable. It was a pleasant enough town though. We went rowboating on the Lake, climbed a nearby hill, and ate some atrociously unpalatable food... welcome to Bolivian cuisine. The rest of our companions went out to the Isla del Sol and the Isla de la Luna while Georgia and I stayed behind due to a toe injury that rendered her invalid for a few days. We went from Copacabana to La Paz, but left immediately for a nearby town by the name of Coroico. There used to be only one road to Coroico, and so many people died on it that it was nicknamed "the death road." Luckily, a new road was built recently, and we made it there without careening of the mountain's edge. Coroico was quite possibly the most beautiful place we've been so far. It contains dense jungle vegetation, beautiful waterfalls, and misty mountains. We swam in a nearby waterfall, but aside from that we mostly just sat back and enjoyed the scenery. From Coroico we returned to La Paz, this time to actually spend a series of nights there. We wandered about the gigantic city and visited the local markets. We stopped at the witches market where they sell knickknacks and llama fetuses which are apparently thrown under the foundations of 99% of Bolivian homes for good luck... the fetuses, not the knickknacks. We also visited their largest market and wandered for a few hours only to realize that a good ninety nine percent of the stuff they sold there was absolute garbage... I left with empty hands and sore ankles. We made a stop in Sucre after that, and enjoyed staying in a fabulous hostel for a few nights. It had a wonderful kitchen, so we got to take a break from Bolivian cuisine and eat something that had a flavour in it that wasn't salt. I don't know what it is about Bolivia, they eat so much salt I can barely believe it. The other day we saw a man dumping salt on his salad. We made a day trip out of Sucre to a nearby town with a nice little market in it. While there we also ate some of the worst food we've come across... salty chicken broth soup with french fries in it followed by their quinua dish which was: plain quinua with salty melted cheese on top. We took a rickety overnight bus from Salta to Uyuni, which is home to the Salar de Uyuni, some of the world's most spectacular salt flats. Uyuni is a poor excuse for a town, but the salt flats were absolutely amazing. The ground is a gigantic mass of white salt with about an inch of water on top of it. It doesn't sound like much, but it basically acts as a gigantic mirror reflecting the sky. Look at some pictures of it... it looks like you're walking on clouds. We had a great photo shoot, a little picnic, and salty shoes, but it was really quite something. After the salt flats, we started making our way to Argentina, with just a short stop in Tupiza. The town was charming, and I even took part in a local type of purge. It was so easy, it simply involved eating their food! I left for the border the next day weighing about 20 pounds less... I had left everything in my digestive tract, and I mean everything, in the bathroom of our hostel.

Crossing the border into Argentina was a completely different experience than crossing the border into Bolivia. Apparently the Chilean-Argentinian border was closed due to a discovery of landmines, and so the border crossing we found ourselves at was busier than a Walmart on Black Friday. We waited in line for about five hours in the heat of the day, cursing our luck and the ineptitude of Bolivian officials. At the end of that line was one Bolivian man leisurely stamping passports and chatting with his friend... we were out of Bolivia, but not yet into Argentina. From there we waiting another three or four hours in line to get into Argentina, praying the whole time that the border would not close and leave us stranded between the two countries. We waited, I stepped in dog poop, a little boy peed on the bridge we were standing on, babies cried, dogs fought, and finally we made it into Argentina. We immediately hopped on an overnight bus and headed to Salta. Our day had started at 8 in the morning on the 10th, and ended at about 11 in the morning on the 11th... it was the longest day we've had yet. We're still in Salta right now in a lovely hostel run by the friendliest and most helpful gentlemen, with hot showers, a new kitchen, and beds with sheets. Argentina is just so wonderful it makes me want to cry. Every frustrating thing about Bolivia just isn't an issue here. There aren't people trying to shove worthless goods down your throat, there isn't garbage everywhere, their Spanish isn't a mangled slur, their food is not a salty mass of garbage. Don't get me wrong, Bolivia was great, but it just seemed to wear us all down with time. We leave tomorrow to take a 17 hour bus to Buenos Aires where we have a beautiful apartment booked for the next two weeks.

And that my dear readers, is all for now.

Posted by soupy 08:08 Archived in Bolivia Comments (1)

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