The time has come to close the book on my South American adventures. A fantastic continent where I first discovered proper travelling, and it was undoubtedly the best thing I have done in my life. I would urge anyone who has the time and funds to choose S.A. for a big trip. If you have an open mind and are prepared that things will go wrong, expect the unexpected, and understand sometimes you’ll have to throw your best laid plans out the window, then you will have an awesome time.
On our travels in Latin America we met many street dogs, and most of them were very friendly. Street dogs get a bad rap because of rabies, but we found the majority of them (with a few exceptions) were actually in very good shape. And if you showed them even the slightest attention, you would have a canine companion for life. Or at least for an hour or so until you got on the next bus. This post is dedicated to them.
This one we met in the sea at Colonia de Sacremento (Uruguay), who insisted on fetching rocks from the water for us. In 30 minutes of splashing about he’d piled up a small wall of stones on the beach.
Going surfing is an activity that’s almost an obligation on a visit to Costa Rica. Mandatory even. On pain of death. Many people go there solely for its epic breaks and beautiful beaches. In my 30 years on the planet, I had yet to try it, so this seemed like the perfect time. I’d done a bit of body-surfing (catching waves with no board- the poor man’s surfing), but that pales in comparison to the speed you get on a board.
Looking back on Tuesday the 3rd of April, I can still say it was one of the best days of my year. This is the day I went white-water rafting for the first time on Costa Rica’s Rio Pacuare. The rapids are classed as III-V which is pretty high on the scale (VI is the highest), and the route takes you down a beautiful stretch of the river with jungle covered banks filled with monkeys, waterfalls and numerous birds (including the photogenic toucan). But we didn’t spend too much time birdwatching, as there were some mighty rapids ahead, and the adrenalin was pumping!
Our bus arrived in San Jose, and we jumped in the nearest taxi to another bus station. We hadn’t heard anything good about Costa Rica’s capital, and we didn’t want to waste a night in the place. Our next trip was a tour ride into the green coffee covered hills to the east, where volcanoes, ancient ruins and white-water rafting on the famed Rio Pacuare lay.
It was with no small sadness we left Colombia (and South America) behind. What a magnificent place! But next was Central America, with our first stop being the thin strip of land joining the big southern continent to its northern neighbour, aka Panama.
Our trip time was running out and we were faced with a difficult decision: should we spend some quality time in Panama at the expense of Costa Rica? Or should we just use Panama as a stopping point, and head straight on to Latin America’s adventure capital? Famous for its canal, its hats, and not much else, we didn’t know what to expect… Lucky for us, Panama City was a sport and helped make our minds up for us by being, well, pretty damn awful basically.
When you first arrive, you can’t help being impressed by the skyline.
1. In Bolivia it’s considered good luck to run over a cat. The brutal balance is restored by making it bad luck to run over a dog.
2. Sadly a ‘Ferreteria’ isn’t a shop solely devoted to ferrets, just an ordinary hardware store.
3. Paying 1 Boliviano for the toilet doesn’t necessarily mean that toilet will be better than going behind a bush. In fact it pretty much never means that.
4. Just about every single car in Bolivia and Peru has a ‘taxi’ sticker on it. This does not mean it’s an official taxi or in any way roadworthy. You can buy these stickers for nothing from the local markets!
5. There are more donkeys on the Isla del Sol than the rest of South America. This may or may not be true, but it certainly seems that way when you’re woken at the crack of dawn by the bleatings and nayings of these demented beasts. Don’t be fooled by this picture, these woolly mammals are a menace!
Following on from my last post, I decided to devote an entire article to Bogota’s graffiti. Why? Well because it was some of the most impressive I’ve ever seen, anywhere in the world. This was all taken in and around La Candelaria neighbourhood, the lively spot where we spent three nights. Hope you enjoy the images…
This first one is the larger version of my current blog header. Pretty striking! The devil is in the detail, there is so much going on in this picture you could look at it for a full 5 minutes.
I’ve always been interested, at least on some level, with graffiti. On my trip around South America I came across such a wide variety, I decided to start taking pictures of it. At it’s best, graffiti is thought-provoking, funny, shocking, political, controversial, and sits with the best art around. It’s art at street level, it’s not meant to sit in a fancy gallery for an elite cultured aristocracy. It provides a voice for the voiceless, a creative outlet for people who may not have the means to communicate any other way.
Of course, not all graffiti reaches those heights, some is just nice to look at, and some is totally bland and uninspiring. The pieces I’ve added below have interested me in some way, whether it’s the message behind them, the technical skill of the artist, or just a striking composition. First up is Bolivia, and the little town of Copacabana on Lake Titicaca. This piece is a bit of a cross between graffiti and indigenous art.
For our final overland journey in South America (Cartagena to Bogota), we decided to take one more long distance bus. I suppose it was fitting then that the bus should be delayed for ten hours thanks to three accidents, countless roadworks and the drivers getting lost. The first of the accidents involved the earlier service from the same company we were travelling with, and we picked up those passengers at the side of the road. Several of them were crying but we never found out what happened. Ah South American buses, how we will miss you.
By the time we arrived in Bogota, it was nightfall the next day. As they opened the hold and handed out the bags, the bus driver picked up a box, the handle snapped, and a pile of dead fish in water fell out on the street. Needless to say, we were glad to get in a taxi and leave that bus behind! We slumped into bed knackered, and piled on the thick blankets against the first cold night we’d experienced for some time. The next day we took a cable car up the steep side of Cerro de Monserrate to view the city from above. The city is 2,625 metres above sea level, and the top of this mountain takes you up to over 3,100 metres. So it’s a pretty good view!