Friday, June 29, 2007


Its the Final COUNTDOWNS

so with 4 days left here in Santiago (and only 1 with internet acess) I figured nows the time to wrap this thing up, and what better way than with countdowns...if it works for vh1 when theyve got nothing else to show (namely, all the time) ¿why not here? most of these things have previous entries and photos if you go back through the blog...

top 5: cities

honorable mentions: Valparaiso, Chile- too much dog poo to crack the top 5, but a cool city nonetheless; Cuenca, Ecuador- pretty little city but i sort of raced through it...nice hats

5. Lima, Peru: a surprise entry, after tons of people made me expect it to be a crapfest, I only spent 1 day there, but it seemed lively enough and people were jumping off cliffs on hanggliders.

4. Santiago, Chile: Pretty good, pretty pretty good. not too much to say about it, a bustling city with some cool streets/neighborhoods, not the most interesting place, but immenently liveable

3. Quito, Ecuador: where this whole crazy trip started - stuck up in a valley with a beautiful historical center, lots to see and do, and unlike everywhere else, really close to the rest of the country

2. La Paz, Bolivia: now, i only spent a couple days here, but this city was CRAZY, if there is one word to describe it its syncrotism: in the shadow of glass skyscrapers, a witches markey selling pickled or dried llama fetuses (feti?). say no more

1. Cusco, Peru: Those Incas really knew a thing or 2 about city planning. Designed in the shape of a puma with the impressive Sacsayhuman temple at the top, Cusco is all old stone buildings, plazas, windy streets, and shortness of breath - the most beautiful and culturally interesting city I've seen this trip.

top 5: the great outdoors

5. Salar Uyuni (& environs), Bolivia: this part of SW Bolivia has a dried up former inland sea (the Salar), volcanos, mineral laden lakes, hot springs that stink of sulfur, odd rock formations and geysers, essentially, the land before time

4. Galapagos, Ecuador: Just a few little volcanos jutting out of the pacific with some wierd animals on them, whats the big deal? Darwin, Evolution, blahblahblah...

3. Amazon, Ecuador: I barely got into the Jungle (really just beyond the bottom of the andes) but from what I did see, WHOA.

2. Perito Moreno, Argentina: here my taste for winter over summer becomes evident, but this, the largest glacier in South America, is a truely awesome sight.

1. Torres del Paine NP, Chile: Chile's all star attraction, this national park has to be one of the most stunning places on the planet- special mention to the french valley, with forests, glaciers, mountains, a river, lakes, and an amazing view down over the park.

top 5: swimmin' holes

one of the things i've missed most about VA is the swiming - but there are a couple not to shabby swimmin' holes down South America way...

5. Piscina Tupahue, Santiago: ok, ok, its a pool, but still, theres a huge bolder sticking up out of it. cool & popular pool with a view over the city

4. Hot Spring, Salar Uyuni: the highest elevation swim, bublling hot water inside freezing 5am altiplano air outside, needless to say, i didnt want to get out

3. Anakena Beach, Easter Island: do beaches count as swimmin' holes? whatever. this is the archetypal polynesian beach: white sand, palm trees, ancient Moais in the background...water was a bit chilly, but even so, a spectacular swim.

2. Snorkeling, Galapagos: seeing sharks and all sorts of fish was a bonus, but the swiming alone in some parts the Galapagos was tight...beaches, rocky coves, sea lions, warm water...mmmmm

1. Random waterfall, Rio Napo, Ecuadorian Amazon: the only traditional swimmin' hole, but probably the best one in the world. a slow water fall leads into a natural depression that has filled up making a 8ft deep pool. rocks on the side to jump from, the upper part of the fall can be used as a slide, the lower half continues down into the rio Napo, amazing butterflies and humming birds in the trees above. shame its sort of out the way.

top 5: walks

5. Pichincha, Quito: the volcano that you can see from pretty much anywhere in Quito - a gondola takes you up to near the peak at from there you can just wander around with a huge view of the city sprawling out below

4. Colca Canyon, Peru: a walk I did along this canyon in southern Peru - changing scenery, cactus in the forground, glaciers on the peaks on the other side, a nice, if bone dry little walk

3. Quilatoa loop, Ecuador: got soaked the day before walking down to the shore of lake Quilatoa - in the basin of a volcano, but the walk around the rim was spectacular what with the sierra on one side, the flatlands down to the coast on the other, and the patchwork of the small farms on every peice of non vertical land.

2. Inca Trail, Peru: some hard work on this one: the second day up and up and up to 4200m above sea level at Dead Woman's Pass then almost harder, down and down and down...but with amazing views, tons of history, and the Machu Picchu as the final destination, this was an amazing 4 day stroll.

1. The 'W', Torres del Paine: we got really lucky with the weather on this one, and hardly any rain on this 4 day walk through what ive already called one of the most amazing national parks on earth - the pictures hardly do it justice,words (well, mine at least) certainly wont

top 5: bike rides

the combination of the altitude and distances in the andes make riding uphill a nightmare, so most of these rides reflect the, catch a bus to the top and ride back down approach

5. Cotopaxi, Ecuador: terrifying. a bumpy hairpin gravel road down the side of this picturesque volcano that ended with a much calmer ride out through the grassland surrounding it.

4. Baños > Puyo, Ecuador: probably the fastest ive ever moved, the paved road drops down fron the town of Baños way up in the mountains, to Puyo, just on the edge of the Amazon, the change in scenery is only matched by...

3. the Death Road, Bolivia: hyped up as ¡THE MOST DANGEROUS THING EVER! this has become one of the 'must do's' of South America...the ride drops from La Cumbre, above La Paz (where there are llamas, a frozen lake, snow etc) down 3600m in 64km (with sheer drops on one side and loose gravel on the road) to Corico, a small town in the Yungas, the part of Bolivia between the Sierra and the Jungle, where all the Coca(ine) comes from....

2. Cordillera Blanca, Peru: this was the only ride that didnt involve taking a bus, basically I rode out from the town of Huaraz up and up and up to the where the cordillera starts to get properly steep, through farms, villages, and dog attacks and then back down around into exhausting ride

1. Sacred Valley, Peru: a 2 day trip through some of the Andes' most amazing scenery - wow.

top 5: food

this reflects how being vegetarian & travelling in South America prooved too dificult - an omlette a day (the only veggie alternative), would not keep the doctor away - so, i got to try some of the regional "specialties"

5. Cui/Guinea Pig: the official food of the andes, turns out its not actually that good, just the shock value of seeing a fried guinea pig with eyes and paws in front of you is a strange culinary experience.

4. Ecuadorian Shrimp Curry: the coastal food in ecuador was amazing, tons of fish with a significant carribean/african influence to it...the coconut shrimp curry down there was delicious.

3. Puerto Natales Mussles: enormous mussles fresh from the market/ocean in a tasty white wine sauce made by the amazing cook in the small little hotel we stayed in Patagonia...all you can eat too!

2. Empanadas: the official snack of chile - most often meat, but also cheese (but really could be anything) wrapped in pastry and backed...tasty, convenient, and omnipresent.

1. Ceviche: who knew raw fish was so good? (the Japanese, thats who) Ecuador, Peru, & Chile all have their own variations on this dish (all good) but basically the idea is fish (or shrimp or oysters)marinated in lime juice and onion with a bit of cilantro. SO GOOD! If i die in the first few days im home its from food poisoning trying to make this at home.

top 5: drinks

5. Escudo: Chile's cheap crappy beer. Omnipresent like the empanda, an old standbye.

4. Cola Morada: hot blackberry juice - an Ecuadorian specialty that is the traditional drink of the day of the dead...nice on a cold sierra evening

3. Pisco Sour: Peruvians and Chileans argue about who invented this drink, but its basically pisco (grape brandy) with lime juice & egg whites...sound wierd? it is, but its pretty good.

2. Coconut Juice: sold by 100s of people walking up and down the beach in Ecuador, possibly the most refreshing thing ever?

1. Carmenere: a sort of red wine that Chile specializes in, lovely stuff.

top 5: books by south americans i read while in south america

5. 20 love poems and a song of despair - Pablo Neruda: People wouldnt shut up about this guy in Chile, so I gave it a go...really though, spanish above my level, and even though i dont know what it all means, it certainly sounds nice

4. The Tunel - Ernesto Sabado: Argentina´s answer to Sartre's No Exit - funny, manic, and a brilliant character study.

3. House of Spirits - Isabel Allende: Much better than it was when i read it in high school...

2. Ficciones - Jorge Luis Borges: I love the premise of these short stories: writting books is cumbersome, better to just pretend they've been written and write fake reviews of them - not really doing it justice, but these are some great stories

1. 100 Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez: without a doubt my favorite book. if you haven't read it, get the hell of the internet and get some culture!!!!

top 5: overall

last one i promise, i'll keep it brief (click links for more...)

5. Easter Island: what a wierd place

4. Amazon: In the jungle

3. Inca Trail: getting my walk on

2. Patagonia: HOT DAMN!

1. Galapagos: look! a tortoise!

Now all thats left is to pack my bags, sell my bike, and head home for the shock to my system that will be the 4th of July. ARGH


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