My South America Wrap-Up: The Best, The Worst, and the LOLs
That Backpacker July 9, 2016

South America Wrap-Up!

And just like that, our 5 months in South America flew by! I wanted to do a re-cap of everywhere we went and everything we did, but that could have easily turned into a 10,000+ word post, so instead I’ll just be sharing 3 memories from each destination we covered: the best, the worst, and the funniest (to me at least). I hope you enjoy!

Lima

Best: The food! I bring up food every time I talk about Lima, but seriously, this is the place for foodies. My mouth waters every time I remember the ceviche. 

Worst: A solid week of fog. It got to the point where the first thing I would in the morning was run to the window and pull back the curtains hoping for blue skies, but no, it was grey, grey, grey.

Funny: When three flight attendants came up to us at the airport because they recognized us from our YouTube videos. Say whaaat?!

Cuzco

Best: Just wandering around on foot. My last visit to Cuzco was 7 years ago, so I felt like I was seeing the place anew.

Worst: Rain, altitude sickness, and some confusion with our tour booking meant we didn’t get to visit the Sacred Valley.

Funny: Getting caught up in what we thought was a parade, but then discovering it was a massive protest. To be fair, I’ve never been to a protest where people dressed up and played music.

Machu Picchu

Best: Walking the Inca Trail and seeing the ruins of Wiñay Wayna with hardly a person in sight!

Worst: Reaching Machu Picchu in the pouring rain and shivering for a few hours while we waited for the clouds to blow over.

Funny: Watching young Argentinean backpackers as they tried to pick up girls by offering to take their Instagram pictures. These boys wasted no time; I watched them swap emails and Facebook contacts in less than 5 minutes! Smooth.

Puno

Best: The morning we checked out of our dinky hotel and moved across town to a much nicer one.

Worst: When the dinky hotel lost our room key while we were out. The young girl working the reception had to climb 4 floors with a bag full of keys and try over a hundred of them (I seriously don’t know why they had so many random keys that didn’t even belong to the doors!). Since none of the keys worked, we then had to spend a few hours waiting for a locksmith, while she rolled her eyes and made it seem like it was huge inconvenience for her.

Funny: Sam and I were walking down a pedestrian street doing some last minute shopping when all of a sudden a cholita pulled up her skirts, hovered over a grate, and went pee right in front of us. We were horrified, but she didn’t seem to notice our presence.

Lake Titicaca

Best: Doing a homestay with a local family on one of the islands. Seriously, if you have the time, opt for an overnight stay instead of a quick half-day trip. 

Worst: Pricking my finger on some plant that made it feel like my hand was on fire.

Funny: When my host family decided to dress me up in their traditional clothes for a party. 

Copacabana

Best: Booking ourselves into the coolest cottages in the whole town.

Worst: The food! My worst meal was a toss up between overcooked spaghettis in a watered down tomato sauce, or the nachos with dip which were really Doritos out of a bag with a bowl of ketchup.

Funny: The car blessing ceremonies outside the church. People drive here to have their cars blessed. The cars are pimped out with party hats and flower garlands, and then the drivers spray their cars with a bottle of bubbly.

Isla del Sol

Best: The views from the top of the island.

Worst: Nearly missing our boat back to Copacabana. Our captain made it seem like we could hike across the island in 2.5-3 hours, but going up and down those endless hills in the desert-like heat took closer to 4 hours. We were beyond beat by the end and our boat left 5 minutes after we sprinted into the harbour.

Funny: Our captain using his mouth to syphon fuel into the boat’s tank, and steering the boat by foot rather than with his hands.

La Paz

Best: Going to a Cholitas Wrestling match. Best entertainment ever!

Worst: When our AirBnB host forgot to show up and let us in to the apartment. We spent close to 2 hours trying to make phone calls and sending messages from an internet cafe while the sun went down in a sketchy part of town.

Funny: Our apartment was a comedy of errors where nothing worked. I wanted to warm up my food; the microwave was broken. I wanted to fry some eggs; the stove was out of gas. I wanted to turn the heat on at night; the heater was broken. I wanted to take a hot shower; it was lukewarm at best. Everything that could go wrong went wrong, and while it was frustrating at first, it was so bad that we couldn’t help but laugh.

Arica

Best: When we found an amazing Peruvian restaurant and proceeded to eat there every single day of our stay. Did I mention we were in Chile? But seriously, if you’re ever in Arica you need to eat at El Chalan; they had the most amazing shrimp risotto and their ceviche was out of this world!

Worst: Taxi drivers trying to charge me the gringa rate. That ain’t happenin’!

Funny: To be honest, I can’t recall if anything funny did happen in Arica. It was a short visit!

San Pedro de Atacama

Best: Geysers, flamingos, and lagoons, oh my! The landscapes in the Atacama Desert were out of this world!

Worst: The hot, hot heat! Our apartment had a heater, but not a single fan and it was hotter than Vegas in the summertime.

Funny: The bus drive out of San Pedro. The couple in front of us decided to lean their seats all the way back and then proceeded to have an intense 20 minute make-out session right in front of us. Umm, awkward.

Salta

Best: The landscapes outside the city. There red valleys of Cafayate are out of this world.

Worst: When I thought I was having a heart attack on a mountaintop. I’ve never been affected by altitude so bad before, but my heart started beating double time, then I puked during a photo stop (my heart went back to normal after that!), however, as a precaution I ended up spending my lunch hour at a local hospital. There were some real hanger vibes happening.

Funny: Our bus overheated on a tour to Cachi and the driver was literally pouring buckets of water down the dashboard to cool down the vehicle. It was straight out of a comedy sketch! Our bus eventually stalled in the middle of the desert, which was hilarious considering nothing had gone right that day.

Villa General Belgrano

Best: Being transported back to Germany! This town looks like it has been plucked straight out of the Alps and placed right in the middle of the Argentine sierras. We drank beer, ate our fill of Sauerkraut and Spaetzle, and walked past souvenir shops selling Lederhosen.

Worst: Trying to use the ATMs. There are a grand total of 3 banks in town, and none of them accepted my cards. Of course, I discovered this at the end of my stay when I had to pay my accommodations in cash. Yikes!

Funny: A man dressed like Gandalf walking down the streets at night.

Santiago

Best: Raspberry mint ice cream from Emporio La Rosa. That flavour is heaven.

Worst: Discovering bed bugs in our apartment rental! I had nowhere else to sleep so I pulled my socks over my pyjama pants, put a hoodie over my head, and tucked my hands inside my arm sleeves. Sam insisted that there were no bed bugs and that I was exaggerating so he went to sleep in his underwear and woke up with red blotches ALL OVER HIS BODY!

Funny: When an entire police squad rolled up to the Museum of Contemporary Art to have a photoshoot on their motorbikes. Maybe it was calendar season?

Valparaiso

Best: The friendliest dogs in the world! We were joined by a large pack of dogs on our walking tour of Valparaiso, and they stuck with us for most of the way.

Worst: I have to say, most of my restaurant meals in Valparaiso were quite disappointing. The food was really bland.

Funny: When we asked the receptionist in our building where we could find the closest supermarket. “Ummm, that is a good question. I think if you go three blocks down and then two over. Oh wait, no. Maybe it’s two blocks down and then two to the left.” We walked out and found a supermarket attached to the building!

Vina del Mar

Best: When we found a sushi restaurant run by a Japanese owner. Best meal ever!

Worst: I dressed for a summer day at the beach and I was freezing.

Funny: When Sam disappeared for a few minutes saying he was going to browse some stores and then returned with cake.

Easter Island

Best: Coming face to face with the moai. See for yourself!

Worst: When the people across from our cottage decided they were going to have a heavy metal party at 2 a.m.

Funny: Renting a car in town. “Car insurance doesn’t exist on Easter Island. Just drive slowly and don’t hit anything.”

Buenos Aires

Best: When my parents came down for a visit and we spent the entire time eating Argentinean food.

Worst: The power outages. We rented an apartment on the 10th floor and then shortly into our stay, we started having problems with the power in our building several times a week. This meant no Wi-Fi, no lights, no hot water, and no elevator – sometimes for 36 hours at a time.

Funny: A wine-fuelled night with our friends Steven and Kristen. Lucky for you, we have video evidence.

Iquitos

Best: Sampling Amazonian food. I’m all about the fish and plantain.

Worst: Seeing all the stray dogs who were in very poor condition. I took my leftovers to feed them because it was so sad to see.

Funny: This sales pitch I overheard from a local in Iquitos, “Smoking cigarettes is bad for you. Want to buy some weed from me?”

Amazon

Best: Seeing pink dolphins in the Amazon River!

Worst: When we tried to hand wash our clothes and then two days later everything was still soaking wet because of the humidity. We had to pack that stuff in our suitcase and it was just wretched by the time we got it to a laundromat.

Funny: When our small boat stalled in the middle of the Amazon and we had to wait for someone to pass by and rescue us. Oh, and our boat was slowly filling up with water too. Piranhas, anyone?

Rio de Janeiro

Best: We took a really fun biking tour with Rio by Bike, which allowed us to cover a lot of the different neighbourhoods in the city. We had two Dutch guys as our guides, but they knew the city like the back of their hand and it was a really fascinating way to learn a bit more about Rio’s history.

Worst: We had dark skies and heavy rains for 5 days straight, which made it really hard explore Rio.

Funny: I went to visit my relatives for a family dinner and there was a point when there was English, Spanish, Portuguese, and German being tossed around the table. Who are all these polyglots?!

Sao Paulo

Best: A fun night out in Japantown with our friends Andre and Dani. We went out to an izakaya run by a sumo wrestling family, then we had the best ramyeon noodle bowls, and we finished off the night with karaoke.

Worst: The congestion. This is the most populated city in South America and it was a bit overwhelming at times. We spent so much time sitting in traffic on our first day there (we swore off taxis after that), and then we barely made it to the airport on time because the whole downtown was at a standstill.

Funny: When our friends suggested karaoke, Sam and I thought we’d be singing in a private room (the way you would in Seoul or Tokyo), but no, we ended up at a bar with an entire audience. I won’t forget the look in Sam’s eyes when we he realized what we had gotten ourselves into.

Where did you travel last?
What was your best, worst, and funniest moment?

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