To South America and Back

Saturday, June 24, 2006

The Finale

Since we've been home, so many questions have been asked of us regarding our "favorites". We've found some of these questions difficult to answer, while others are quite simple. Mostly these questions made remembering our adventure gratifying. So we decided to post some of these questions on our blog to give it some closure...and to answer any questions that are left hanging out hope it inspires you to get your ass down there...

• Favorite country?
Aimee: Argentina
Jabber: Because of the variations in not only climate, attitudes, people, food, and environment...Argentina would have to be my favorite.

• Favorite city?
A:Mendoza, Argentina. Closely followed by Vilcabamba (Ecuador), Montevideo and Piriapolis (Uruguay).
J: Although Mendoza was a sight for many good times, food, and the like, Montevideo is a city that I greatly desire to return to.

• Best change of plans?
A: going to Colombia
J: deciding to do some camping

• Worst change of plans?
A: going to Puerto Montt, Chile...twice
J: None...everything worked out in the end

• Where do you wish you would have gone?
A: Tierra Del Fuego...and Brazil...damn Bush
J: Somewhere enjoyable in Chile

• Where do you wish you would have skipped?
A: Puerto Montt, Chile
J: Chile

• Of the cities that you visited, where would you be psyched to live?
A: Mendoza, Argentina or Vilcabamba, Ecuador
J: Montevideo (Uruguay), Mendoza (Argentina), anywhere in Patagonia.

• Most romantic moment?
A: Kissing J atop a mountain I swore I couldn't make it to the top of
J: La's a tie between that and doing yoga beside a stream while trekking in Patagonia outside of El Bolson.

• Funniest moment?
A: way too many...pushing an ancient Toyota Land Cruiser underneath the massive Bolivian sky at 4:00 in the morning wrapped in blankets with two Brits, two Bolivians, a South African, and Jeremy...well, it was funny later.
Or that picture of Chrissy..or really anything that she said...and when she locked us in our hotel room by accident and left for Buenos Aires.
J: Anything with Barny and Caroline

• Scariest moment?
A: Climbing the last ten feet of a mountain in snow...with my bare hands...and no one besides J for miles...and miles
J: Dealing with a dishonest cab driver while driving 90 miles an hour at 4:00 am in Quito.

• Favorite dog?
A: "Mendoza" (see below) and the One-eyed white dog in Ecuador that followed us into every store and internet cafe for a full day
J: Our little tag-along, "Mendoza"...who followed us for about three hours.

• Favorite food?
A: These fried dough balls in Colombia
J: All the interesting spiny-looking bright-colored fruits that we had never seen or heard of before.

• Favorite beverage?
A: alcoholic...Caipirinhas, Medio y Medio, and Malbec (not together;)). nonalcoholic...Inca Cola
J: Patricia (a Uruguayan beer) or sugarcane alcohol, or licquados durazno

• Favorite restaurant?

A: La Mora in Mendoza, ARG (see below) and the french place at the Santa Clara in Cartagena, COL
J: The french restaurant in the Santa Clara that Buzz took us to.

• Favorite bar?
A: The most awesome bar I've ever seen was in La Paz, Bolivia...decorated with machine parts...looked like it was created by Tim Burton
J: The one in Potosi, the one in Quito, and the one in Vilcabamba...or the one on the island in Colombia

• Favorite movie theater?
A: in Tucuman, Argentina...old and huge with industrial fans lining the walls
J: Tucuman...where we saw The Producers

• Favorite hotel/hostel?
A: Quinta Rufino in Mendoza, AR
J: Izcayhluma in Vilcabamba, Quinta Rufino in Mendoza, and the one in Tucuman...Hotel Petit, though he ripped us off.

• Most satisfying meal?

A: Pizza at Bostonian-owned place in Uyuni, Bolivia after the Tupiza terror Tour (see below)
J: the pizza we had in Bariloche, Argentina after we got back from our trek.

• Best transportation moment?
A: Leather seat bus ride in Peru when we finally got the front seats on the top level...except the rice meal with the lining of a cows stomach in it wasn't so tasty
J: Flying to Santiago, Chile...being in the air for New Year's with all the free drinks you can drink

• Worst transportation moment?
A: The 90 degree ride from a Bolivian border town to Tupiza with 100 drunk Bolivians after celebrating Carnival and one weird French guy.
J: Riding a luxury Argentinean bus and then switching to a broken down school bus in Bolivia...tied with the Tupiza tour

• Most memorable person?
A: South American- a Colombian taxi driver...traveller- (two actually) Barny and Caroline
J: Alex, Chrissy, Barny & Caroline, Javier...

• Where would you send your best friend?
A: Anywhere in Argentina
J: I guess probably Mendoza

• Where would you send your worst enemy?
A: Puerto Montt, Chile
J: Puerto Montt

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Pais de Ruiz

We loved spending time in Vanessa's homeland and were amazed by the differences between it and other countries we visited. Right away, in the Bogota airport, we noticed women in Deisel jeans carrying Louis Vitton bags and eating Dunkin Donuts. I hadn't seen an expensive peice of attire in three months and it was quite a shock...that goes for the presence of a Dunks as well! Plus, as crude as this may sound, I hadn't seen a woman with curves in three months either! Our British friend Caroline once told us a story of her trip to Thailand where she was met by women approaching her and just grabbing her breasts. They were completely amazed that breasts could be that large as women in southeast Asia generally have small chests. This is almost the feeling I had when arriving in Colombia (of course I restrained myself though!). The women that we had been used to were quite petite with small figures. Here in Colombia, women were much more curvacious and often dressed to impress! I'm not implying these woman were sluts by any means but we had been used to a much more modest style of dress. Plus, we both commented on how gorgeous the women in Colombia were! We both agreed that Colombia gets the vote for best looking (second being Argentina).

The food is also very different...our favorites being the variety of fried items sold at stands on the streets. The fruits are also amazing and consist of the strangest shapes and colors. Vanessa clued us in to many foods and we tried our hardest to locate them all. We got to try the Aguardiente (an anise flavored liquor that Colombians drink like it's going out of style). Their national beer (Aguila) was one of our favorites but also weird in that it only comes in small cans and bottles...everywhere else in South America you practically have to buy beer by the litre.

Then there are the Chivas...yes, it means "goat" but it is a famous pasttime for Colombians to ride around in brightly colored, openair busses, loud music blasting, and swigging Aguardiente...if you really want to party, you jump on one of these, get the night started, and end at a discotech.

Another notable difference in Colombia is the strong presence of fear among travellers. People seemed to be shocked when we said we were travelling there and we were often told that Americans seldom visit. The Colombians we met while there were some of the nicest people and seemed so thrilled that we wanted to visit and that we actually knew some Spanish. It was, however, quite sad to be watching Colombian news stations and see children in tears talking about their friend who was killed during the bombing of a public bus by the FARQ. It was the first time we ever really stayed in a country that was currently suffering from that severe of political strife.

On a lighter note...our experience was wonderful and I can only hope to convince more people to brave the trip because the experience is more than worth it. We really enjoyed Colombia as we celebrated the last day of our trip walking along the beach at sunset, indulging in our favorite pizza atop a mosaic-lined pizzeria looking at the lights of Cartagena, and sipping caipirinas in the Hotel Santa Clara (pretending that we actually have money). We retired that night completely satisfied with the finality of our last hurrah and giddy for our homecoming!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Travels with Buzzy

Jeremy and I have tried hard to keep to our daily budget, spending hours hunting down the cheapest hostels, gorging on free breakfasts to last us to midday, looking longingly in store windows and walking on, and opting out of backpacker-famous tours. We even spent our last pennies...and then the next day Buzzy showed up! From then on we lived like kings and queens! My Dad spoiled us rotten and we enjoyed every minute of it. We dined at the most expensive hotel in all of South America (the Santa Clara in the Old City of Cartagena), we had a hotel room with air condioning and a tv, we ate three meals a day, we took taxis and went on tours! It was the best way to end our trip and we are so grateful to good ol' Buzz! More than just my father's donation to our cause, we so enjoyed having a friendly face, a fellow English speaker, and someone to join in our exciting adventure! We loved every minute of it...well maybe not the "death boat"'s a little peek at what the eight days entailed...

Shirley- our tour guide to the spectacular Hotel Santa Clara and to the fruits of Colombia

The best dessert in the entire world!!!

City tour of Cartagena

Jeremy's favorite animal

Buzzy enjoying a wonderful Colombian meal

A mud volcano that supposedly does wonders for your skin though we just loved bouncing around

Dixie's Colombian cousin

Isla del Pirata...where we stayed for three days, snorkelled, lounged around in hammocks and...

...played many rounds of bocce ball while sipping cervezas and rum and cokes

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Here´s Mud In Your Eye!

¿Come on you don´t think that just because we are going home in a couple of days that we don´t have any andventures left do you?

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


Stumbling through Peru, we got a brief introduction for what was to come...we caught the movie Creep while in Piura, Peru. Ok, the bad acting and torture chamber amidst an underground subway was not in our future but Franka Potente prepared us for the mass of Germans that Ecuador had in store for us.
Vilcabamba is a small town in southern Ecuador nestled within the Andes. It is also known as "The Valley of Longevity". We heard different stories of the oldest person ranging from 100 to 130. Eighteen percent of the population is over 65 whereas the States can only claim 9%. Everything from this valley is supposed to make you live longer...the water, the air, the food, the coffee, even the cigarettes. The population is about 1,000 (made up of some of the friendliest people we've met along the way), the mountains are lush and green, and the temperature changes by one degree year round. It's the absolute perfect environment. To make this area even more spectacular, we found the nicest hotel started by two Bavarian brothers. As Eddie Izzard would say, the Germans are always working and creating the best things. These guys have constructed a hotel atop a hillside overlooking this gorgeous valley. Their well-designed and spotless cabins go for $30 a night and include a nice balcony with a hammock and table perfect for evening games of Shithead. The food is absolutely scrumptuous (including the best breakfasts we've been offered on this trip). They feature a pool, ping pong, billiards, 100s of DVDs, a bar, and our favorite...Scrabble. They also offer a range of massages and scalp treatments (including a one hour, full body massage for $12). It's easy to understand how we stayed here for eight nights...our longest stay besides our current residence in Cartagena, Colombia.
As I mentioned above, this country is teaming with Germans. Argentina may have all the Germans who fled Germany in the 40's but now it seems they much prefer Ecuador. Ok, perhaps it was the hotel we were staying at but Quito seemed to filled with German travellers as well. So, we spent eight days with some fabulous fun-loving Germans as well as many wonderful Ecuadorians. Here are our favorites... A funny little monkey
Peter (of owners "Peter & Deiter) who has inspired us to start a hostel in some new exciting land, taught us extra long German words, introduced us to the "suck and blow" shot formerly known as "the gas chamber" (not such a good name for a German to have when Israelis are roaming the continent), shared stories of stupid Americans, and helped us to cover the beautiful green terrain of Vilcabamba.

Sobeda (receptionist) who became our greatest friend at Izhcayluma, named after a character from Arabian Nights. The much loved LeicaA hilarious German named Frank and his posse...Frank, reminding me much of a character from Snatch, whose famous story with us was when he was once filming an interview with Condi Rice, he went to retrieve the mic from her and whispered in her ear "bitch of the devil". Fabulous ping pong player but not so good at the "suck and blows".

Jeremy's fuzzy friend

German brother and sister (this picture is only a respresentation as we did not capture them on film...this one will just have to do) who taught us Uberfahrt and kept the German influence strong.

...oh by the way, the title of this post means: "company of the captains of steamboats of the river Danube."

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Mine Tour in Potosi

After travelling to Potosi, Bolivia (with our favorite Brits of course) we decided to do the famous mine tour. The life of a miner was never conveyed as being easy but after seeing it first hand, we all love our jobs (or in my case, the jobs I once had). Here we go...

First Stop: Buy Coca leaves, cigarettes,
and 90 proof alcohol in the market to give to the miners.

Second Stop: Buy dynamite and other assorted chemicals in order to create a bomb.

Third Stop: Suit up. (there was a kung fu theme that day)
Presenting the famous Barny & Caroline.......

Fourth Stop: Blow stuff up.

Fifth Stop: Meet miners resting outside of the mines.
Proceed to drink the vicious alcohol that they consume.
Pour one splash on the ground for Pachi Mama,
another splash for the mine spirit (see pic below)
and then take a chug...mmm rubbing alcohol!

Sixth Stop: Enter the mine..."what's that smell"...Santo simply replies "arsenic"... mmm arsenic!

Seventh Stop: A visit to the colorfully decorated
and well endowed mine god. It is at this spot that twice
a year they drag a llama down to sacrifice to the god. There
are companies that also sacrifice fetus' as well but once you
make the sacrifice you must come back and make the same
sacrifice every year in order to maintain your luck in the mines.

S.A.L.T. Capacity

So, the Tupiza tour was terrible but after days of arguing and two nights free lodging, we filled our bellies with Immodium to endure one more day of Milton's cooking and headed to the Salt Flats...finally. It was absolutely amazing! Milton also tried his hardest to make the best of it and luckily we had a new cook as well as a new truck....this one actually was "muuuy bien"...

We got to reennact the pushing
and beat up Milton too.