NOVEMBER 4th: So here I am back in Santiago again one month after I was last here. This is simply a sandwich stop for me in between flights and I`m taking it easy today as I`ve already seen all of this city. This is a bit of a reflective blog on my 72nd and final day in South America. Its been a fantastic 2 and a bit months but I`m ready for a change of scene and looking forward to being back in an English speaking country in the shape of New Zealand. After 68 days on tour it seems weird to have left some of the people I`ve travelled the whole way with. When you`re in such a small group you get to know people well in a short amount of time. Me & Alison completed Lima to Rio, and Louise, Jenny, Caroline and Lilo completed the even longer 83 day Quito to Rio marathon.
I think my favourite leg of the tour was the 1st part through Peru. We had a lot of included excursions and activities on this leg and were busy every day, so its something I`d certainly strongly recommend. Peru has also been my favourite country. There is so much history there from the Incas, and that history carries right through into the modern day culture of some of the citizens there, particularly those who still live primitive lifestyles high up in the Andes. There, and in Bolivia, the culture was so far removed from the western world and that was really interesting to see. Here in Chile things are very weternised, and the same can be said of Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil. Sometimes that can be a bad thing. I have found the citizens of Argentina and especially Brazil to be so much ruder and aggressive than the humble Andean folk. Brazilians especially seem to possess such a threatening demeanor, and they are so loud and rude. Their whole culture, even amongst girls, is to look and act hard, and I think this is partly why Brazil has a reputation for being dangerous. Everyone was much more City of God than Rubens Barrichello sadly! I must admit though Rio was probably the most dangerous place we`ve visited, but that isn`t saying much. Cities like Santiago are as safe as European cities, but in Rio and Brazil in general poverty is much wider spread than in Chile, Argentina and Uruguay. I certainly wouldn`t like to live in Brazil because of this. Perhaps the most liveable country then is Uruguay. It lacks the natural wonders of the other countries and is only small, but it had somewhat of a homely feel about it and the people were very pleasant and relaxed.
What has set South America apart though has been the scenery. It is simply so diverse. From Machu Picchu to the Uyuni Salt Flats, and from Iguassu Falls and the Atacama Desert to the Costa Verde of Brazil and the volcanic mountains of Northern Patagonia, I have seen so many beautiful places. The stand out highlight for me has been the splendor of Machu Picchu, closely followed by the power of Iguassu Falls and the other worldly landscapes of Uyuni and the Bolivian desert. In terms of cities, although Rio was by far the most beautiful, I would prefer to live here in Santiago or in cosmopolitan Buenos Aires, which had a really good vibe about the place. The craziest city has to be La Paz in Bolivia, although its run close by Ciudad del Este in Paraguay. Both these places were bustling with activity, noisy, polluted, congested, and crammed in, but there is something rewarding about having experienced them, and I would definitely put La Paz on a list of places to see in South America for this reason.
New Zealand and Australia will have a lot to live up to following my time here. Strange to think though that my tour of South America is longer than my tours of India, Australia and New Zealand combined, and I have less than 5 months travelling remaining. Feels natural though that I should be coming home now, but alas I have a 13 hour flight to Auckland leaving tonight at 11.10pm. Traversing the international date line on this flight I completely lose the 4th of November and will arrive at 4.20am on the 5th - crazy! Hopefully it will run smoother than my flight here yesterday. It was a sickly 55 minutes circling up from Rio and then down into Sao Paulo, where we had a scheduled stop. Santiago passengers were bizarrely kept on the plane for the hour wait whilst cleaning crews operated around us! After everyone else had boarded we were then told the flight would be delayed 45 minutes due to a maintenance check, which I have a feeling had something to do with the scarily loud vibration sounds than occured as we came into land. I was a little unnerved at the time and even more unnerved to find maintenace crews underneath the plane as this confirmed there was some sort of problem. But thanfully we made it OK from Sao Paulo to Santiago in a little under 4 hours. Sharing the plane with me was the Rio based Fluminese football team, who were travelling to Santiago to play Universided de Chile in South America`s equivalent of the Europa League. I was seated next to a typically crazy young coach. Although he spoke no English he understood that I knew Fluminese`s last 2 results and I think he was impressed by this! Fluminese are a big club in Brazil and boast ex Lyon striker Fred amongst their ranks, but they are battling relegation this season despite a successful season last year.
Anyway that is it from me in South America. Not much planned now for the rest of the day other than ringing home for the first time! I plan to get the metro and bus out to the airport this evening and then I shall be off. Next stop New Zealand! Thanks for reading.