7 June 2014

South America: No plans make you dance!

Sunrise at Macchu Picchu

A few of the trips I've done have been to places that I've told myself I'm not brave enough to do on my own. That includes any country in the whole continent of South America! But as circumstances change and my urge to challenge myself just that bit more grows bigger, I've ventured out yet again to see it for my self.

Laguna Colorado in Bolivia

No guts- no glory
Because of the little reading I did in Lonely Planet, horror stories from travelers and the general opinion of most of the people I surround myself with daily, I spent two months in what are some of the notoriously safest countries in South America(Uruguay, Chile, Argentina, Bolivia and Peru), watching over my shoulder, clutching my valuables every waking second and sleeping with one eye open; vigilance bordering exhaustion. We all hear stories. Fellow travelers being robbed and held at gunpoint, kidnapped and executed, drugged and abused. Then there are safe and unsafe countries, cities and areas. All these thoughts add up to lots of worries, and made me put off South America for years, even thinking that I might not even go there at all. If you think about it though, you wouldn't go around in dark alleys or empty streets at 4. am. by yourself anywhere, not in Buenos Aires and not in Oslo. In the end I decided to stop worrying and start living instead!

Colourful Valparaiso in Chile

No plans give you the freedom to dance!
Chile was a given. I wanted to see the snow-covered Andes, vibrant Santiago and colourful Valparaiso that I had heard so much about. Then the snowball started rolling, and I soon had a tango show in Buenos Aires, the astounding Iguazu Falls and the wine capital of Mendoza, on my itinerary. And my American cousin currently lives in Uruguay, so I couldn't not see her. Finally Macchu Picchu in Peru, my number one Bucket List item for all the obvious reasons(Wonder of the world and all that), and an apparently awesome beach in North- Peru, Máncora, to advance my surfing skills (almost non-existing). On the way I met some wonderful people, and as always when one has no definite plans, the travel usually takes a different direction. It took me to San Pedro de Atacama, the driest place on Earth(seriously, my skin was like a raisin's after a day). And from there it was just a hop and a skip to Bolivia. Three weeks in Bolivia also meant I only had five days in Peru, and Máncora would not happen after all. At least I know where to start when I go back!

Cholitas in Bolivia

No Spanish- lots of anguish
Apart from being unnecessarily paranoid about my belongings and strangers, what I found most challenging in South America was my lack of Spanish. I studied a little bit in high school and a bit more before I left home, but it wasn't close to good enough to understand all that was going on. It was so frustrating not to be able to communicate comfortably. I met wonderful people who I desperately wanted to get to know, but with them speaking only a few words of English and my basic Spanish, it just wouldn't work out. What was worst is that Argentinian and Chilean are different from other countries like Bolivia and Peru, both in pronunciation and grammar. You don't learn that from a Spanish lesson in Europe, I'll tell you that. That being said, you don't absolutely have to learn Spanish to survive in South America if you follow the typical backpacker gringo trail. But it will be a whole lot easier and pleasant, especially if you're remotely interested in getting in touch with locals. I did do Spanish lessons for three days in Sucre in Bolivia, but even though it helped a little, it also made me realize what a complex language Spanish is!

President Juan Peron and soccer- superhero Maradona
Looking back on February this year, I can't believe I almost decided not to go to South America. What an amazing trip! And if you wondered, I got back from South America without as much as a scratch, with all my belongings intact!


  1. Wow, Sounds like you had a blast! It's exactly what I was looking for, I'm definitely traveling to South America one day! Thank you for sharing!

  2. Good overview, igniting in me a fire about South America where I never went. This shall surely be changed now, because you made me want to go there. I am already doing a tiny bit of Spanish so give me a few months more and I will be ready on that count. Such a diverse and baffling place it is! South America - here I come!