South America – A Summary
Between big contrasts, small obstacles and many beautiful moments!
When we talked about our traveling route before, then there were usually two reactions. The first one was, „I really want to do the same“ and the second one, „What about the security in these countries?“. In South America we often heard the second question. The first thoughts about South America are drug wars, corruption, muggers and Machu Picchu. But how could it be otherwise, when this part of the world is showed in the media only with blood and thunder, robbed tourists and large bus accidents.
„Travelling is to discover
that everybody is wrong about
what they think about other countries.“
– Aldous Huxley –
What many people are not aware of is the beauty of this country. Apart from the scenic diversity of snow-capped mountains, deep canyons, vast plains and dense rainforest you can experience some old customs and traditions at first hand. Especially women in their traditional dress and the children on the back are part of the image of the country. The use of herbal medicinal plants is still widespread, not only in rural areas but also in cities. Here you get a cure for every little complaint, natural history combined with a little magic. Who thinks of an underdeveloped medicine now is far from it and should even think of the constituents and ingredients of our medicine. Not without reason pharmaceutical companies have a great interest in the world of plants from the jungles of South America.
Our daily travel
Our main mean of transportation was the bus. So we had to think about a goal, get a ticket and go on the trip. Large distances we covered with the night bus. Thereby we did not only save the money for a hotel but often also a day that we could use for activities. We booked our accommodations in advance so we mostly knew where we stay in the night and we didn’t have to walk with our entire luggage – like in Cusco – through the area. And then there are the everyday things like washing clothes. This we completed in the hostel, where we could leave our dirty panties for a few pesos and we got them back clean and dry mostly. :)
As we do not travel like 20-year-old backpacker and live in absolute low budget, the researched 20-30 euros per person as a daily budget were not enough. In addition to cheap street food and local places we sometimes enjoyed a nice restaurant, a decent piece of steak or a sweet café. Normally we didn’t cook by ourselves in South America. Moreover as a couple we didn’t stay in dorms or in the cheapest hole and if you want a tour with smaller groups, quality and sustainability, then you have to allow a little bit more and need 40-50 euros daily budget per person.
We love the food from the street, our restaurant choice was usually decided when we saw smoke in the sky rising and we then followed the smell of a barbecue. Even with the combination „dilapidated place“ – but „full of locals“ we never went wrong. Our morning meals mainly consisted of toast, strawberry jam and eggs. After two months of South American breakfast we don’t take the German art of baking with their grains-carrots-spelt-rolls for grant.
As you come from the ordered Germany with its traffic lights, zebra-crossings and lanes, you jump into a country where you have to pay attention even with green lights because of the rushing cars. Normally the South Americans are quite relaxed, enjoy life and can sometimes let five be straight, but when they are behind the wheel, every second counts. It does not even disturb the driver if he overtakes a car in a bend with dim lighting at night. Now you may not think that they do that without safety measures. After all they have announced there doing shortly before with wild honking. They love the horns. Whether for greeting, to view other traffic offenses or as an announcement of own things the horn is there and so it is used extensively.
We were really shocked how particularly Bolivians deal with the environment and the waste. We had the characterized experience on the road from Potosi to Uyuni. There was a woman sitting a few rows in front of us on the bus sipping her drink through a straw from a plastic bag. After she had finished she opened the window and threw everything on the road. We could hardly believe it, but unfortunately this woman is a good example for many residents of Bolivia. But how should they learn it if even the government developed plans to flood the protected Madidi National Park by a dam project largely and destroy all life in this area. In our view in Chile and Argentina the higher education leads to a basic understanding for environmental protection. People do not drop their trash immediately if they want to get rid of it. The financial situation in the countries makes it possible to spend money on an orderly garbage disposal. But like in our home not everything is perfect here by far.
Tourism in South America is very strong, and thus an important source of income for the country. Since Chile and Argentina are quite wealthy countries, one gets each amenity like in Germany. Since Bolivia is one of the poorest countries in South America, everyone wants to get a piece of the „tourist“ of course. For that reason you will be asked to give some money at almost every corner and for the most dubious things in Bolivia. You have to give a fee or tax for every little thing. On the Isla del Sol for example, we had to spent money three times. Upon entering the island we were charged for the first time, two more times while crossing the island. In Rurrenabaque we couldn’t believe what happened. When we had given up our luggage they asked us to pay the airport tax of seven Bolivianos at the next counter, with puzzled look we did what was required of us. But no longer we could take it as we were directed to a provisionally built counter and there we had to pay a small amount for what – probably because tourist – to pay again. We are really talking about peanuts but many pennies make a dollar, too. And whether you call it business-minded or brazen rip-off is up to you.
South America is a continent of contrasts and sometimes a bit overwhelming for a traveler. But if you, like did, embark on the people and the respective customs, then you can enjoy the beauty of the country to the fullest.
Salute from far away,
Tina and Andi from Itchy Feet