12 yr old Girl at a bus stop: Excuse me, where are you from?
Girl: Whats your name?
Girl: Wow, are you the man in the dinosaur suit?!!
Me: Erm, no its just my name.
Girl: But you used to be the man who played the dinosaur?
Me: No, its just my name.
Girl: But your parents did name you after the dinosaur, right?...
Aah the joys of explaining my name in a foreign language, normally I just
say its the same as Homers (or Homero here) drunk friend in the Simpsons and
then they start laughing at me. Which funnily enough is bang on the money as
this last month has been one of the drunkest Ive had in a long time.
When I left you I was about to cross the Brazilian border into Paraguay and
after I'd forged my visa to give me a such a long stay in Brazil I was
bricking the crossing. However, I needn't have worried as in beautifully
laissez faire Latin America style the officer didn't even ask me about it an
let me thru no problems...
I really quite liked Paraguay, despite being bordered to South America's 2
biggest countries it still manages to maintain a really quite unique
culture. Its a lot poorer than both Brazil and Argentina, has one of the
most tragic histories in the world and receives virtually no tourism. None
the less I really enjoyed being somewhere a bit less developed. Perhaps the
only downside was the people were noticeably less friendly than they were in
Brazil (where the people are v curious at foreigners), however I got in a
convo with a guy in a bar about this and he said "Well the people are
probably quite scared of your (pierced/tattooed) appearance" so I only have
myself to blame.
When I crossed into Argentina I instantly fell in love with virtually all
aspects of the culture. From the fact its the latest country in the world
(Ive been to happy hours from 4 to 5. In the morning!) to the importance of
food to the fact you struggle to get beers in less than a litre it is all
awesome. The people have a reputation as being arrogant and unfriendly but
Ive found this to be completely untrue, wherever Ive gone Ive managed to
hook up with locals and have made some friends along the way.
This has been well timed as after 5 months on the road I really went off
speaking to gringos, there really is only so many times you can be bothered
to listen to the drunk stories of the Aussies or stomach the racism of the
My first port of call in Argentina was in the north of the country in an
area called La Quebrada Humahuaca, a truly stunning (see photos) mountainous
area running along an old river bed. I met an Argentinian guy called
Guilermo in a thermal springs and we stayed with an indigenous family for a
few days. it was great to be able to step into their lives so to speak and
my Spanish improved dramatically during this period. After a wk traveling
around local villages we had to drag ourselves away and onto the beautiful
city of Cordoba. In theory I should have been taking Spanish lessons during
the day but really wasted them in truth as not wanting to break an old habit
turned up to most of the lessons well under the influence. This was cos the
nightlife was simply spectacular, in a week of going out every nite the
earliest I went to bed was 8am and ended up sleeping something like 15 hrs
in a week. The pattern was the same every day, start drinking about 9 and
then go out to a bar at 2 b4 moving onto a club at 5.30/6. Amazing week.
I could only stay a week as I'd arranged to visit Guillermo in Argentinas
2nd city of Rosario. I didn't spend much time with him however, as he spent
most of his evenings comically meeting his internet girlfriends. His
flatmate (Seba) however was an absolute legend, something of a Flufyesque
character (if that means anything to you) he smoked about 50 a day and had
been at university for 8 yrs and still hadn't graduated. We got on well.
There were too many amusing incidents and unforgettable nites out to list
here but I had my proudest moment of Spanish when after having drunk 3l of
beer and half a bottle of vodka I managed to talk the police out of
arresting Seba for being drunk and disorderly in the city centre.
The culture is also spectacularly macho here, the blokes can say pretty much
what they like to any girl above the age of 12 and its seemingly fair game.
Nites out with girls are fun but with the lads they are spectacular. I found
myself just laughing for entire nites at things they would say to the girls,
which an Englishman simply is not used to hearing. Whilst I found the blokes
very friendly the women are a lot less so and kind of similar to Italian
women in that they literally wont give you the time of day unless you have a
good reason to ask them. However, I got into a conversation with a couple in
a bar about this when the girl stopped me dead with "Well, I think they
would speak to you its just you're so well, ugly" Ouch. Harsh but in a
country where the man are as good looking as Argentina, fair enough.
To rebuild my shattered self esteem I did the only thing I thought possible
and visited the "worlds least visited world heritage site", some Jesuit
missions in Paraguay. I also went to see the worlds largest dam (Itaipu) in
what is pretty much Paraguays only claim to fame. The city that supports the
dam is one of the most corrupt places Ive ever been. Its on the triple
frontier with Argentina and Brazil and serves as nothing more than a site to
traffic drugs and other contraband. Hookers cost just $10 and you could buy
shotguns from street stalls. Crazy.
On the way to Carnaval I stopped off at the Iguazu Falls which is regarded
as one of the most wondrous natural spectacles in the world. I cant say it
did it for me however as there were simply too many tourists to enjoy it
properly altho you do get spectacularly close to the 200+ cataracts that
make up the falls. For Carnaval I'd decided against one of the big centres
of Rio or Salvador from a financial standpoint as I didnt think $60 a nite
for a bed and beers at twice their real price were worth it. I therefore
went to a tiny place on the coast in the south and had a beautifully
hedonistic week. I hooked up with a group of lad from Sao Paulo, 2 of whom
listed their occupation as "drug dealer" but they were an awesome set of
lads and really got into the Carnaval. We'd spend most of the day drinking
and then about 10 the carnaval would start and you'd be dancing to the small
hours to some fantastic songs. My favorites ones were when the boys were
ordered to 'Levanta las camisas' (take off your t-shirt) and 'atrevete, tome
abajo las miniskirts' for the girls (which I'm not translating here). Despite
hemorrhaging money twas well worth it and made some gt friends there.
I really had loved Brazil with the warmth of the people and the ubiquitous
fun atmosphere making traveling there an absolute pleasure. The only
downsides were perhaps the surprisingly expensive costs and the Portuguese
which I never really got a handle on.
After Carnaval finished I took a bus down to Uruguay but have got very
little to say on the place. Nothing of note in terms of sights and the
culture is virtually identical to Argentina, I really couldn't call any
differences between the place. I did like it though with Montevideo in
particular being a surprisingly pleasant city with a beautiful oceanside
I'm now in Buenos Aires where predictably I can't get the Evita soundtrack
out of my head and then from here will head on South to Patagonia. I
appreciate this has been a bit of a rambling one but its been that sort of a
Let me know how life treats ya...
From Buenos Aires