On March 27th, Brett and I checked into the Lighthouse B&B in Miraflores, Lima for the 3rd time. During our last four days in South America, we watched every sunset on the cliffs, finally ordered the gigantic ice cream, brownie, strawberry-filled crepe we’d been dreaming about, and almost lost all of our clothes. Really, we have our friends Zach and Randi to thank for the fact that our wardrobe made it to New Zealand; while we were FaceTiming with them, a story reminded me we hadn’t picked up our laundry right at closing time. Brett and I rushed over as the lady was locking up, and after a bit of begging (and some cash) were able to convince her to reopen to give us our clothes. Beyond that small thrill of a near-loss, we had a lot of time to reflect on the last three months. What have we really got out of all this? What are these 14 blog posts not telling you? Despite how unnecessarily long a lot of them were, I know I missed a lot. Chalk it up to my novice journalism skills.
The best way I can think to organize my very frazzled, and frankly, 42-day-old reflections on our time is via some self Q&A. Here goes nothing:
What has been the hardest?
I’ve really struggled staying organized; I’ve lost a dumb amount of things, for only having a backpack’s worth of belongings. Unpacking and packing nearly every day is annoying, and Brett and I are both sick to death of zippers.
What surprised me?
Most of all, American culture’s pervasiveness. In some obvious ways, like that you can’t walk into a restaurant, store, or plaza ANYWHERE without hearing Michael Jackson or Taylor Swift blaring. Or people could only understand my name once they connected it to Britney Spears (I seriously cannot count the number of times I heard this: “O, Brittney como Britney Spears!”). But also in unexpected ways, like the way that Chileans celebrate Valentine’s Day or how a German girl I met made an offhand Gossip Girl reference. And then in serious ways, like how we’ve had a hand in their politics or what girl’s think is the ideal body image. I know that on some level I already knew how omnipresent Hollywood and the American music industry is, but seeing Toy Story posters on children’s stores and Matt Damon’s face on every salon made it feel…realer? Or weirder. Yeah, it’s just weird when you see a quechuan girl who walks three miles up a mountain every day carrying an Elsa doll.
Was it expensive?
In general, yeah, probably a bit more than we anticipated. In Chile, we generally could find private rooms in hostels for around $50/night, and a decent meal out averaged about $20pp. Peru was much more affordable, at about $30/night for a room and $10-15/pp for a super delicious meal.
How is my Spanish?
One of my goals for our trip was to end up feeling confident putting “conversationally fluent” on my resume next to Spanish, and I can confidently say that I won’t be doing that. *However,* I improved, and by the end of the trip was definitely holding my own in pretty much every situation. I still struggling with the speed at which native speakers talk, and colloquial dialects.
What was my favorite place?
In terms of country, Brett preferred Chile; he felt like it had a more fascinating history and appreciated the resilience of the people. I loved Peru; the food was incredible, the Spanish was slower, and the price was right. But for the city we both have to say: Bariloche, Argentina. We visited Bariloche on a whim; we didn’t have plans, and we just kept hearing people say “good chocolate” and “awesome bike trail,” which was enough of a sales pitch for us. After going there I’d hype it up a little bit further: “crystal clear lakes, pine-scented mountains, the richest, best chocolate ever, and the most gorgeous brewery I’ll ever see my entire life.” You could throw in “great hikes and biking” if you still need convincing.
Would I go back?
As Brett would say, “Oh, hell yeah“. I’m not going to lie, I was really excited to get to New Zealand and drink water from the faucet, eat all the vegetables, and find a kind of cheese beyond “queso.” But now it’s a month later, and I miss it like crazy. I miss freewheeling around new cities, each completely distinct and full of character. I miss challenging myself by trying to engage in conversations with locals, or maybe just order my food correctly. I miss learning the local words and cuisine and figuring out how to get around. Every day was like a puzzle, and it was exhausting, but it was also the most fun I’ve had my entire life.
We arrived to New Zealand on April 1st, so I’ll provide our final March round up here:
- Places Visited (anywhere we spent at least one night): 15
- Beds Slept In (including 2 overnight busses): 23
- Approx Miles Hiked: 71
- Long Haul Busses Taken (any over 2 hours): 7
And with that, our South America blog-chapter comes to a close.