We both loved our trip in Central and South America. And now that we are home again in Canada, we thought about it: what were the best places, the best cities that we saw… and what were the worst experiences?
We loved most countries we have been to. That said, we could have done without a few experiences… see which ones!
- The contrast between old colonial buildings and brand new skyscrappers in Panamá City.
- The quiet city of David, less dangerous than Panama City and quite picturesque.
- Casco Viejo in Panamá City: It’s an old district (hence the name) downtown the capital. It’s safer than it used to be where we were there in 2002, and if you stand on Plaza De Francia, the view is quite amazing.
- Not being able to walk around freely, especially in the evening or at night, because a lot of places are quite dangerous in the capital.
- The overpriced hotels in Panamá City: the value isn’t that great (buildings are old).
- Ordering food in restaurants in Panamá City. Everything is so s-l-o-w… think 20 minutes to get the menu, another 20 minutes before someone is willing to take your order, one hour wait for the food (assuming you only ordered simple stuffs like chicken or eggs), another 30 minutes to get the bill, plus additional time to get your change back.
In Costa Rica
- Beaches on the Pacific Coast and the beautiful sunsets.
- The wildlife (we saw monkeys, iguanas, parrots…).
- The canopy experience in the cloud forest in Monteverde. A great adrenaline rush, plus the views are amazing.
- The border crossing between Costa Rica and Nicaragua, with its endless lineup and the chaos.
- Food is really overpriced, and going to the supermarket in beach towns along the Pacific Coast made me feel like I was shopping in a convenience store (expensive and useless junk ).
- The chicken bus rides on unpaved dust roads (think the bus ride from San Isidoro to Manual Antonio National Park)
- Lima, quite safe and nice now, compared to seven years ago.
- The city of Arequipa, lost in the mountains, with its church and the huge monestary.
- The road from Perú to Bolivia, in the altiplano, where you can spot lamas, mountains and highland lakes.
- The popular salchi-papas snack: fries with sliced sausages on top. Er… no.
- Trying to sleep in Hostal Belem in Lima, giving up at 5:am. Thanks mosquitoes, thanks bar downstairs.
- The smell of bloody cow heads at the local market (especially at 9 am).
- The boat ride from Copacabana to Isla Del Sol. A sunny day on the Lake Titicaca, beautiful clouds and feeling like we are on top of the world (well, actually, we were).
- The colorful markets and the traditional dress worn by women.
- Hearing people chatting in Quechua in the bus.
- Guys who pee everywhere… sorry, that´s gross.
- Soroche, or altitude sickness. At over 3,000 meters high, breathing is hard and we had a constant headache.
- La Paz, chaotic and ugly. I’m sure some people love it, but I didn’t.
- The border crossing between Chile and Bolivia, starting at over 5000 meters and going to to sea level. The views are awesome: imagine snow-capped mountains, an endless stretch of road, and wilderness around.
- The Torres Del Paine National Park in Tierra Del Fuego. Climbing to see the Torres was very hard but it was worth it.
- Santiago, a South American city with a European feel.
- The afternoon “siesta” (nap) time. Great if you feel lazy, not so great if you are hungry or need to buy something, since stores are closed from 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm (not in Santiago though).
- The currency, which comes in thousands ($10 is 6,000 peso…). Everything looks very expensive at first! Especially for maths-challenged people like me.
- Landing in Tierra del Fuego: with the wind, you are in for a crazy ride!
- The natural wonders, such as the Perito Moreno Glacier and the Foz waterfalls.
- Buenos Aires, cheap, relaxing and safe. It has everything, from colorful neighborhoods like La Boca to great nightlife. It’s also a great city to sample the Argentinian cuisine…
- The Argentinian culture, whether you are a football fan or have an artistic side, whether you love food or are into history, there is something for everyone.
- The lack of change! It’s a real pain everywhere in the country, but especially in Buenos Aires.
- In Patagonia, the cost of living. Ushuaia is very expensive, and so are the bus rides around. On one side, visiting Patagonia and Tierra Del Fuego is an unforgettable experience, on the other side, be prepared for long and expensive bus rides, and overpriced accommodation and food.
- The Argentinian accent! Well, I’m half-joking here… but it did take me a while to get used to. For example, Argentinians pronounce the Spanish “ll” as “sh”, instead of “y”. So “la calle” (the street) sounds like “la cashe”, “la llave” (the key) sounds like “la shave” etc. When we first crossed to Argentinian, I grabbed a Coke at the bus stop, and the woman asked me: “para shevar o para tomar asha” (“para llevar o para tomar allá” — to go or to drink here), and I thought she was speaking Portuguese! I wasn’t used to the sound.
- The boat crossing on Rio de la Plata, the chocolate-color river.
- The amazing beaches along the coast. I wasn’t sure what to expect and it turned out the beaches were almost better than in Brazil!
- Montevideo, relaxing and beautiful. If you are in Argentina, it definitely worth a few days (or more!) of your time. Plus, traveling within Uruguay is easy.
- Lack of accommodation in Montevideo… maybe we were just unlucky, but it was hard to find a place to stay!
- The uneven pavement in Montevideo… I still have a scar on my leg! Okay, I should not wear sandals to walk long distances… I know.
- The hostel in La Paloma: overpriced for a very crowded 10-beds dorm.
- The Carnival, whether you celebrate it in Rio de Janeiro, or elsewhere… like us in Paraty!
- The beaches, long stretches of white sand in a paradisiac setting.
- Rio de Janeiro, a beautiful city with Copacabana and Ipanema, the Sugar Loaf, the Corcovado… and it always looks better when you see it with your own eyes!
- Big cities are not exactly safe, and it’s not advisable to hang around at night.
- It’s hot, hot hot, especially around Rio de Janeiro and Porto Alegre. Seriously, you start regretting Canadian cold…
- The border crossing in Chuy. Sorry, but not being able to find the border…!
All in all, we had a great trip though!