Come on, you knew it was coming, after all Microsoft Excel geek is my job title! So since last September when I left the UK (which seems a very long time ago now) I have travelled over 31,000 miles through 9 countries over three continents not including the start and end points, England and Australia. Ok so two of those countries – Brazil and Uruguay - were only day trips but still got the passport stamps! It would be ten countries if you count the fact I was in US waters at one point, but that is pushing it! I have now visited a total of 34 countries - 35 if you count the US...and 36 if you count the People's Republic of Tooting! See map for full route
I was away for almost four and a half months, which was 19 weeks or 135 days. By Andy McBean’s calculations (see earlier blog entry) in that time I would have spent over 40 hours going to the toilet! And you probably don't want to know this, so apologies, but three of those were in one session in a hotel room in Cuba, something that could be verified by Wim, my Belgian roommate, who could hear the whole episode through the wall. Poor guy is probably still mentally scarred.
I took a total of 14 flights, quite an impressive carbon footprint, and countless bus rides. The longest bus ride was only 23 hours which is pretty lame really compared to some of the rides that can be done in South America. Its bizarre, in the UK there is pretty much no way I’d even contemplate travelling by coach under normal circumstances, yet double figure hours duration journeys became the norm. The buses are better certainly in Argentina and Chile though.
Bolivia was my favourite place – did some enjoyable things you can’t really do anywhere else and met some good people. Chile was probably my second favourite place as really enjoyed San Pedro de Atacama, Torres Del Paine and Pucon. But there wasn’t anywhere I actually disliked.
I wouldn’t pick any one moment as being the best, but highlights would probably be
- Canada – the wapiti having a wander round our bus - Cuba – the whole time was just great fun with a great group
- Costa Rica – carrying the baby turtle to the water, and getting variously attacked by monkeys and racoons was pretty funny
- Ecuador – getting to the top of Cotopaxi, riding on the roof of the train in Riobamba, and the first day in Galapagos seeing so much stuff
- Bolivia – the slat flats trip was amazing scenery all the way and the mine in Potosi while scary was not something I’ll ever forget
- Argentina – the atmosphere at the Boca game, and in town when they won the title and the spectacular view when you first see Iguazu (although that was from Brazil!)
- Chile – sandboarding in San Pedro, the scenery in Torres del Paine, and Pucon generally from the people who were there to sliding down the mountain to the relief of finishing the hydrospeeding.
And travelling on my own was brilliant too. Won’t deny I wasn’t a little bit anxious about it before I went away, but ended up meeting so many people; barely spent any time without someone to talk to. Staying in hostels it’s pretty impossible not to meet people if you want to, although you do end up drinking too much because you inevitably end up drinking with whoever you meet! It was just really good meeting and talking to so many different people all the time. There are disadvantages to travelling alone but these were vastly outweighed by the good stuff.
Was also a bit anxious about not speaking any Spanish when I left beyond yes, no, please and thank you, but getting round was also much easier than I thought. I probably had get-by Spanish by the end in that I could always sort out what I wanted – food, accommodation, bus tickets….haircuts – without any major problems. English was spoken by some but I tried to have a go in Spanish in the first instance when I could. And at no point did I have to shout loudly in English about three inches from someone’s face to get them to understand me, a tactic that has been known to work in Europe (because everyone understands English if its spoken at the right volume) but with limited success in Latin America!
Now I just need to get used to not travelling, i.e. it's no longer ok to wear the same clothes for several days. On a couple of occasions when I was getting laundry done having not done any for a couple of weeks, I would have seven or so t-shirts that needed washing, yet could only find two pairs of boxer shorts that needed washing. Oops!
So the whole thing was great and really enjoyed it (and is much better than work!) Will have to start thinking about where to go next now!