IMPRESSIONS FROM SOUTH AMERICA
Mate and asado. Lamas and toucans. Tango and football. Crowded buses and vast space. Deserts and glaciers. La Boca and Valparaiso. Ceviche and wine. Inca Kola and a backed guinea pig…
Translation from summary written by Łukasz.
Three months in South America is a lot and a little at the same time. Even when you visit only five countries as we have done: Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Peru. All are on the same continent and all have a similar history. First there were Indians there, then came the Spanish, the Portuguese and the English. When the colonization era ended the countries gained independence. One history, one language (except for Brazil) and a lot of similarities. And yet, each of these countries is unique. From each of the ones we’ve visited we have different memories and emotions. Each one has its own charm, soul and character.
We have seen Brazil for a short moment only so our impressions are not complete. We have not seen a true Brazilian samba nor a football game on Maracana. Yet what we’ve seen was enough to say that this was the most Latino country we’ve visited so far. Brazil for us means noise, fast pace, and some kind of tension. It is not a calm and easy place. You won’t find too much of the famous tranquilo or mañana. Even the most beautiful beaches are accompanied by skyscrapers and a busy downtown. Brazil is life! This is a hot country, which seems to be running ahead and swallowing on its way those who don’t keep up. It’s not easy to comprehend it as it’s so huge and so diversified. Each Brazilian looks different. For those reasons, Brazil reminded us of a speeding train in which the driver entertains the passengers in the food wagon and lets the machine go without stopping at any of the stations.
If Brazil is a speeding train, Argentina is a proud sailboat carrying a big load of gold, which has to fight too big waves at the moment. This country is also very big and has a very diversified nature. The most beautiful places we’ve seen – the glaciers or the waterfalls – are there. Its culture is very characteristic and very expressive. Take the custom of drinking mate for example, or Argentinean love for meat and asado (even for Christmas!). When you add tango and gauchos (Argentinean cowboys) to it you see the most important aspects of the traditional life. The people are very hospitable, open and curious about the world. However, Argentina is less Latino and more European.
Continuing with comparing the countries to vehicles we would describe Chile as a good car produced in Germany. It is the best-organized and the cleanest of South American countries we’ve visited. It is a place where the capital is very modern (Santiago de Chile), the seaport cities are beautiful (Valparaiso), the mining has a long tradition, and where some parts of the country look similar to Bolivia (Atacama). Chilean people are very nice and they seem quite pragmatic. They know what they want and they are rather calm and not much emotional. It is a rich country not only moneywise but also in terms of the nature. Atacama desert is one of the most beautiful places we’ve seen in our lives and also one of the most diversified. So Chile is quite an expensive car but definitely worth its price.
Entering Bolivia from the Argentinean-Chilean lands is a moment of trespassing from the material, pragmatic world into the spiritual and emotional one. This was the first country on our route where we could still experience the culture that was there before the Europeans arrived to South America. You can still hear people speaking the Aymara and Quechua languages. You can meet women dressed in traditional, colourful clothes and wearing elegant bowler hats. It is a poor and cheap country when you take the money into account, yet it’s amazingly rich when you think of the nature it has. Bolivian Altiplano and Salar de Uyuni are magical places. There is also jungle and plains full of animals and wild nature. This country has two faces: the traditional one with Aymara, Quechua and coca leaves and the modern, developing one, aspirationally looking up to the West. Bolivia is neither a luxury car, nor a speeding train. It’s a caravan of people walking through the mountains with their lamas and chewing coca. Poor but rich.
We associated Peru with Lima and Incas. Both seem complicated. The capital has everything from rich and modern Miraflores crowded with skyscrapers, through poor Callao to small, unfinished houses on the hills. It is the world from books of Mario Vargas Llosa with delicious ceviche around the corner. You’ll find here the impressive Andes, Inca ruins, old superstitions and a baked guinea pig. Peruvian handicraft is a high-quality, colourful, Inca-style design with lama motives here and there. Peruvian people speak Quechua, believe in their devils living in the mountains and pray for the Pachamama (the Mother Earth). In order to understand Peru a bit you need to spend there some time in this beautiful country. Talk to people, drink some coca tea, go to Machu Picchu, see the Nazca Lines, wander around Arequipa, observe the life in the capital. Peru is not comparable to any other country. It seems too complicated. Maybe therefore it’s one of the most interesting countries on this continent?
After spending three months in South America and traveling through many thousands of kilometers we say good bye to this continent for now. Will we come back? Very probable as we still haven’t seen many of the northern countries.
But for now – ADIÓS!