We sat in the bus on our way to somewhere in South America. The tickets for the bus we bought 30 minutes before departure. I looked out of the window, seeing the half-done houses, the street dogs, the indigenous women with their colorful clothes and I turned to Jakub, saying: „We have to write a last sum up about South America…I don’t wanna forget what we liked so much about these countries…okay, and we should also mention what we didn’t like…“ 😉
So that’s what this text is about!
WHAT WE REALLY LIKED ABOUT SOUTH AMERICA
The uncomplicated and spontaneous planning: you wanna go on a hike tomorrow morning at 7am, but it’s already 6pm? No problem for SA, the tour agency would just call one of their 34 contacts and book you on some transport available
Nature in every kind: no matter if it was the ocean in Peru, the mountains in Ecuador, the banana plantation in Colombia, the lake in Bolivia – everything was breathtaking beautiful
Tradition: the amazing colorful skirts of the indigenous Ecuadorian or Peruvian women, the strange sounding native language as old as the country itself, the music played with flutes and guitars,…so different to our European culture, but simply wonderful to witness
Menu del Dia: wow, where do you get a whole menu including soup, a main dish, dessert and a drink for 2,00 – 4,00$?! Only in SA!
Different food in different countries: Colombia was super famous for its fried platanos, whereas Ecuador served corn, Peru has its potatoes, and so forth. Generally, we rarely didn’t like the food in South America – if so, then it was because of a certain spice…Ellen found out that she doesn’t like Cilantro AT ALL when we ate a soup in Colombia, full of Cilantro 😀
Food markets: whether you wanted to buy fresh vegetables from native women, fresh fish from the ocean or enjoy a good Menu del Dia lunch, the food market was the place to be. This huge variety of fresh fruit and veggies, combined with the smell of 37 food stands cooking delicious things is indescribable.
Street markets: you need headphones? New sunglasses? A North Face windblocker jacket? Just walk the main street and you’ll find everything you need and more 😉 Okay, the North Face jacket might be a fake…as well as the Ray Ban sunglasses…but they look pretty real at least 🙂
Baby transport: most likely every European woman when having a baby spends a lot of money on a baby buggy. In South America, you take a big multicolored scarf, roll the baby in a very sophisticated manner in the scarf and put it on your back. Done. No big deal. No pushing the carriage through crowded streets or trying to get in the packed bus. So convenient.
Transport: we Germans think having the Deutsche Bahn is so handy because it takes you everywhere! So wrong. So expensive. So late. South America is certainly not known for their punctuality, but when it goes to bus schedules, hell yeah – then they know what „departure on time“ means! We’ve had so many comfortable, cheap and friendly bus rides…we’ll miss that, for sure
Public transport system: well…where do we even start?! 😀 First of all, in countries like Peru or Bolivia, basically everyone can be a bus driver as long as you have a mini van or something alike. You just put a sign on the windshield indicating where you go and that’s it 🙂 And wherever people wanna get off they yell the the driver to drop them off at the next corner. So funny. Okay, let’s consider the situation having a normal public bus as we know it in Europe. Honestly, we only saw those in Argentina and Chile, the most developed countries :D. And you couldn’t get off wherever you wanted, no no, only at designated bus stops.
Taxis: mainly because they were cheap, but also because every scooter, motorbike, trike or whatsoever could possibly be a taxi!
WHAT WE COULDN’T REALLY HANDLE IN SOUTH AMERICA
Environmental treatment: unfortunately, most of the people in South America don’t care at all about rubbish in the streets or emissions of cars. We have seen so much dirt in backyards, on the street, next to rubbish bins, in corn fields, you name it…only in very remote villages where people live from their own grown veggies, the nature was clean. Same problem with exhaust gases: the cars are so old or badly maintained that we kept putting a scarf or our sweater sleeves over our noses when we stood at a busy street. Even worse were the buses…they blew so much dirt in the environment that you could feel how little oxygen your lungs got! The dirtiest city among many was probably Guayaquil in Peru. Next to the street, small water puddles were black and sometimes even green from all the dirt! We hope that the education about pollution at some point starts at school so kids learn from early age what a clean environment could look like.
Toilet paper: might sound funny, but the toilet paper in South America doesn’t go in the toilet – it goes in the rubbish bin next to the toilet…might explain the big amount of rubbish they have to deal with
Hygiene standards: okay, when travelling through South America you don’t expect the same hygiene as in your own country, because you know they have less officials controlling these standards. That’s okay and you’ll survive anyway there – maybe with some stomach issues at a certain point, but still alright. 😉 What really shocked us however, were the prices for hygiene products, such as deodorant, shower gel, tampons,…it was so expensive that we completely understand why the poor natives cannot afford any of these!
Organization: We’d say that’s most likely one of the bigger problems as well. Yes, we both do work in a country which is so organized that you have a rule or law for every possible situation, whether it’s business related, daily life or school. 🙂 Maybe that’s the reason why it was especially difficult to understand why for example when boarding an airplane in Colombia, the last row passengers take the stairs at the front door and the first row passengers at the back door…or why 7 men are busy on a construction site, but only 3 are working and 4 are talking,…we could continue endlessly.
Tourist prices: Yes, as a tourist you will be ripped off many times, but they do it so obvious that we sometimes wondered if we should just walk away and don’t buy the bananas…or the street food….or book the trip… we have no problem paying more money on something when we know, the right people who really do need it ask for more. But mostly the ones who already have enough rip you off.
We would say spending a couple of months in South America, especially in countries such as Bolivia, Peru or Ecuador opens your eyes. The poverty there sometimes breaks your heart and if you hear on how much money some people live there a day you cannot imagine you’d ever be able to survive. And still, these people were so happy and friendly! They just see their happiness in other things as we Europeans do. Sometimes we arrived in a hostel and didn’t have hot water or maybe no water at all for a couple of hours. Internet was a precious thing – we just take it for granted in Europe to have water coming out of the grief or high-speed Internet everywhere. But most importantly: you don’t need a lot to be happy. We have our backpacks which still contain the clothes we brought on our trip and it’s totally sufficient! A good Menu del Dia, mountains and nature around you and the right travel companion is all you need sometimes. 🙂