A bloco had gathered on Roberto Silveira, the main avenue. A trio-eléctrico (huge truck with speakers, a sound system and singers on top of it) was blasting cheery brazilian music and the drummers behind were setting up a rope-off area. The truck started moving, the drummers started playing and we all followed in the street of Paraty, dancing all night long to the sound of the samba of the Carnival.
The owner of the internet café was Brazilian. He asked us where we would spend the Carnival, and at the time, we were not sure. He told us to check out Paraty, a small city four hours from Rio de Janeiro. We did not know anything about it. Yet, we went… and we were not disappointed.
In Brazil, my mind is perpetually trying to make sense of of things, using languages that I speak. “Nome” is “name” in English, and of course “nom” in French. “Peixe” equals “pescado”, from the latin “pesci”, also “poisson” in French, and “fish” in English. “Cafe da manhã”… okay, “manhã” looks like “mañana” in Spanish, and “cafe” is obvious. So “morning coffee” is… yep, breakfast. “Hoje” is close to “hoy”, although not the pronunciation — but it still means “today”.
¨Everybody gets off! For the immigration office, walk two blocks that way, turn left, then right, and then you will see another street. Well, it´s not that one, but the next on the right.¨ What the fuck? ¨Oh¨, the driver added, ¨hurry up because you have to take the Porto Alegre bus at 1:00 pm… from the other station¨.
Resting on lovely Uruguyan beaches before the big Portuguese-speaking country!
Montevideo was much quieter and much smaller than Buenos Aires, but a great place to relax. The city center, where we stayed, had a lot of colonial buildings, some falling apart, some wonderfully restored. The seaside was equally nice: we walked along the shore, looking at people fishing and kids playing in the water.
Not yet tired of Buenos Aires, its huge steaks and great nigtlife, we nonetheless decided to travel further, to Uruguay, a country we had never been to. Montevideo was supposed to be a great capital, small and safe enough to be traveled easily, yet very nice to visit.
I find Argentina´s national psyche fascinating. Of course, as an outsider, it is difficult to define, pretentious even. But as a former European, I feel a connexion with this country. Argentinians like to eat (late), drink (good wines), smoke, dance, listen to music, talk and hang out in groups, seem to value their family, and love kids.
Everywhere there are signs: “¡no hay moneda, no insista!” (we do not have change, don´t insist). So instead of receiving, let´s say, 25 cents for change, you will get a bubble gum or a candy. Great. But we still don´t have change.
We arrived late the first night and we figured we would have to starve until the next day, because nothing would be open. Yeah, right… We found an hostel in the microcentro, right by Avenida 9 De Julio (the widest street in the world!) and we barely had to walk ten meters before seeing bars, food, bookstores, cafés… What a sight!
Working class “La Boca” is a barrio of Buenos Aires, famous for its colorful houses and home of the Boca Junior soccer team. Italian immigrants settled there, at the mouth (“boca”) of the Riachuelo river, giving the place a strong European feel.
Bus rides are pretty tiring. We try to sleep as much as we can, but between the police check points (“Señores passajeros, por favor, su pasaporte o su cedula de identidad…”) and the many many stops, it is hard to doze off for more than a few hours. Not to mention that at every stop (including gas stations), the driver will yell “cinco minutos, no más” and that we will jump on our sits and run outside for fresh air, a smoke, bathrooms or a snack.
As the sun hit the face of the glacier, around noon, we witnessed several huge chunk of ice collapsing in the Canales de los Témpanos (Iceberg Channel). Enormous blocks suddenly crashed into the water, causing a huge wave, temporally clearing the water of other icebergs for a few minutes.
The boulders were not stable. We stepped on rocks that would move downhill, avalanche like. Other rocks appeared huge but offered little help, because they were unsteady. I was quite scared to be honest. We were high in the mountain with no help whatsoever, no trail, we were tired and worse of all — we would have to make our way down, which I was afraid we might not be able to.
Traveling to the Southernmost city in the world is pretty exciting. Sure, it´s a silly symbol, but it´s fun to sit by the seaside and imagine Antarctica is right there, barely 1,000 kilometers away. To know that Canada is 13,000 North. To reach the end of the road, literally.
We were not prepared for how bizarre and expensive was Ushuaia though.
Patagonia? Neh. Not Far enough. We decided to reach Ushuaia, the Southernmost city in the world, located in Tierra Del Fuego, Argentina.
Going to the fin del mundo is an adventure in itself.
We left from Punta Arenas at 6:30 am. Another short night… Literally, considering it was only really dark at midnight and that it was already very bright when we got up.
For us, Patagonia started from above, in the plane. It was almost empty and we had secured a window seat. Huge mountains, rivers of ice, snow, clear blue lakes… The wind was very strong and the ride was rough. We flew above the Pacific Ocean as the pilot was trying to land and we dropped dangerously low. I kept my eyes open, half amazed and half scared. We made it.
We took the bus from the airport, still half sleepy. I felt like I was in Europe: cobblestone alleys, streets names like “Paris” and “London”, newspapers and cigarettes kiosks, parks, fountains, kids playing around… An overall relaxed atmosphere, which made the city very welcoming.
Travelling is always an adventure. Whether you are across the world or just across town, there are little anecdotes to be told. Let’s share them!
I’d like to ask a few travellers to tell me their best anecdotes on the road or abroad.
After La Paz and the Bolivian highlands, Arica, our first stop in Chile, was quite a shock. Imagine a city, actually more like an oasis, bordered by the Pacific Ocean and the desert. Imagine, 30C all year round. Imagine quiet streets, cars that actually stop at red lights and a supermarket. We were in shock, after Bolivia.
We got up at 4:45 am, cold and tired, having slept barely a few hours. We packed in the dark. I brushed my teeth quickly and decided to skip washing my face with some expensive French product, for once. The water was freezing and of course, no hot water.
We got to the bus station sleepy and cranky. Once the “use of bus terminal” fee paid, we had just enough bolivianos for a bottle of water. We boarded the bus, still dark outside, leaving La Paz behind us. Crossing the Andes, again, to Chile.
I’m cold, I’m tired, my clothes are dirty and I can barely breathe. One of these days I guess.
Soon enough, our bus was blocked by a demonstration. A common occurrence in Evo Morales´country apparently. We stayed stuck for a good hour before the driver finally gave up, parked the bus and let us go. Feng and I took a few minutes to read the map and figure out where we were (hint: in a dodgy neighbourhood).
The scenery was beautiful. The huge lake, 3,800 meters above sea level. The clouds, so low, us, so high that we feel we can touch the sky. The burning hot sun during the day and the chilly nights. The local dish, trouts, huge fishes cooked with lemon and tomatoes.
Our bus stopped in the middle of nowhere (literally) and we had a chance to take pictures of the lamas and the alpacas, as well as flamingos. We could barely breathe: at 3,000 meters, oxygen is scarce. Just walking a few meters is hard (smoking not, funny enough – yes, I know).