Well the question should be “why have you not been?” Or if you have then “why am I looking at this when I should be booking tickets for my next trip?” – Ok ignore the last one, please keep reading if you haven’t already been you may find some useful tips.
Ok really why should I go?
South America has one of the diverse landscapes you can visit; from the chilling blue of Perito Monero Glacier in the Argentinian Patagonia, the moonesque terrain of the the Atacama Desert in Chile, the unspoiled coastline of Tayrona national park in Columbia and let us not forget the Amazon.
This vast continent is extremely well connected by a surprisingly reliable and comfortable bus network. Hey, we even got served wine on the overnight route from Buenos Aires to Mendoza. With the exception of Brazil, every country speaks Spanish which should make your life easier if you speak the language. We don’t. (Did we mention this trip was planned at the last minute?!) We survived five months with our stock phrases, gestures, and what Joey calls ‘The Maxwell Charm’
South America has an edgy reputation which we didn’t feel was justified these days. Like all places if you are sensible, don’t flash your fancy goods and stay comptus mentis then you should generally be fine. We only had one dodgy experience where Joey got mugged. I like to add a little drama here and there to keep things interesting, actually what happened was we’d just got off a bus at 9pm in La Serena, normally this late at night we would take a taxi but the taxi driver actually refused to drive us to our abode as it was only a 5 minute walk. We encounter a group of men and they said something in Spanish (like I said we don’t speak the language) anyway Joey got the vibe that they wanted his cigarette and as it was dark and they outnumbered us he was more than happy to give it to them. We walked fairly quickly in the direction we thought we needed to go after that point.
TOP TIP – Always have a vague idea of where you are going when you get off the bus. I have a crap sense of direction and always end up taking us the wrong direction (seriously – if I navigate us somewhere without taking a wrong turn I think we should crack open the champagne). Remind me to tell you the story of when I navigated us to the WRONG cemetery in Paris….
After the first night bus to Mendoza we arrived in a sketchy area (why are bus stations always in sketchy areas?!) and we quickly realised that we didn’t have a clue where we were going. Cue the first argument of our trip. (unless of course you count the argument at Heathrow where we nearly missed the plane because Joey couldn’t find his passport). This was a valuable lesson as after a stop in a cafe to get WiFi (and some much needed coffee for me) we vowed to always take screenshots of where we going after that and have a compass so we knew which direction we actually needed to head it. I’m useful for remembering road names that we needed to pass before turning so that’s my job now.
We learnt our lessons quickly and somehow survived in tact.