Monday, April 25, 2011

Trip wrap up and highlights

Everywhere we went on this trip it seemed like all our fellow travelers were Europeans on 2 - 3 month holidays or sabbaticals. Or they had just quit or lost their jobs and were just traveling around and going with the flow until they decided on their next move. When we told them of our travel plans they just looked at us like we were crazy.

We just don't have the time or financial ability to travel like Europeans, and for that I will probably forever feel that I was born on the wrong continent. American and Asian tourists were few and far between as none of us get long vacations. But also, Steve and I have never been up for the stay in one place sort of vacation. I always feel that if I find myself getting into too much of a habit, I may as well have stayed home. The airplane travel wasn't bad either. The planes were all new (except the flight to Cuzco on TACA, but that is another story entirely) the entertainment included all of the Oscar movies I failed to catch prior to the Oscars, I was able to read up on our next destination while en route, and the wine flowed freely.

Peru was the most incredible part of our trip with the most unbelievable scenery. The people were wonderfully friendly, though at times a bit pushy.  It was also the poorest and least developed country we visited. We left there on the eve of a major election that will likely have huge consequences for the country.

Easter Island had incredible sights but was struggling with the influx of tourism which has really just taken off in the last 10 years. It was not the nicest place to stay but the locals warmed up to us eventually, albeit begrudgingly. The other tourists never did warm up - they were super grumpy to find they would have to share the 28 km island with a bunch of other tourists. But being there and visiting the sights was like walking through an issue of National Geographic magazine. It probably would have seemed even more impressive if we hadn't just come from Machu Picchu.

Lima, Santiago, Buenos Aires, and Montevideo were all similar but distinctive big South American cities. We had a lot of fun in each of them. They each had their own quirks but overall I think the locals would be annoyed to hear how similar I found them to be. Probably it is both globalization and their similar colonial histories. I think that people in North America think of these South American cities as somehow secondary to European and North American cities. This is unfair as each of these cities has fantastic restaurants, cafe culture, and walkable historic centers.  They are all great cities in their own right. I was also taken by how hard people seem to work in South America generally.  Businesses don't close early like they do here, and hours are long (the exception of course being holy week).
 
I do regret that we didn't spend more of the trip exploring the great outdoors as there is a lot to see in every country we visited. But we really didn't have much time to cover any meaningful distances, so we opted to stick to the cities for the second part of our trip. I guess that just means we will have to go back!
 
 

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