Now that it's been a month since I came back to Canada, I decided that was enough time to let the questions simmer in my mind. Here are the answers to the questions collected previously. You are welcome to ask more questions, though I cannot guarantee a speedy reply.
Questions from Ian
> How many different travelmates did you have?
Oy vey.. I guess it depends on the definition of a travelmate. (And I shall only count the more memorable names that I had some meaningful interaction with.) If it is defined as someone I travelled from one city to another at least once, it is probably around 30. If it includes strictly more than 1 day of hanging out in the city together, it is anywhere between 50 and 100. If it includes one day and up, ...I give up. Demasiadas personas.
> Can you count the countries you visited on your fingers?
Yes. In vague order of visit, it goes like this.
1 - Argentina
2 - Brazil
3 - Uruguay
4 - Chile
5 - Bolivia
6 - Ecuador
7 - Colombia
8 - Peru
> Was it odd to think of North as warmer when you were South of the equator?
Not really. I just think more tropical closer to the equator. Does that mean I am just that global minded? :P Mind you, when I was in Colombia and the northern Caribbean parts were much much hotter then the south, that kind of broke me momentarily. But once you get over the initial shock of going from -30 (Toronto) to +30 (Buenos Aires) in February, nothing really feels all that strange.
> Did you ever count the number of bug bites you got? If so, what was your highest tally?
Didn't count. But my legs and arms looked like quilts. At least 100-150 bites on me at the highest point, I am sure.. (mix of mosquitos, sandflies, and bedbugs)
> Did you see any dangerous predators?
Caimans count, right? Salvador Lake in Manu (Peru) alone has about 300 of them. (Saw some more gators in Bolivia before that too.) I think the giant otters were technically also very dangerous. Despite my heart's dire desire, my group did not see a jaguar during my 9 day Manu jungle tour. *pout* Actually, of all things, the while lipped peccary hoard I did run into during a trail walk in Manu gave me a bit of fright. (Wikipedia says: There are many reports of jaguars being killed and ripped into pieces by angered peccary herds, and even some humans have been killed.)
I went pirana fishing. I guess they're dangerous technically.
Oh, of course, I should add the con-men everywhere, in particular around Retiro (Buenos Aires' long distance bus terminal) and Peru-Ecuador border.
> From an environmental standpoint, did you notice any particular "green" things that places were doing that Canada does not?
Absolutely nothing. I had such a hard time getting used to the ungodly amount of plastic bags they forced on me everytime I went to buy something as well as the overall lack of recycling facilities. The concept of being environmentally friendly is sadly very foreign. It makes me cringe even after 6 months. Dirty diapers are the new scurge of Peru, as my Manu tour guide aptly put.
> What was your favourite verbal accent?
Bolivia's addition of -ito/a after everything. Gringito, bolsito, bananita... They speak slowly too, which is also a plus in my books.
> Were you able to get by okay with English, or were there times that you had to know at least some of the native language?
Oh, not knowing any Spanish is a definite hindrance in Latin America. You could probably get around, but you will miss much and take a long time to get there. I wish I had learned more Spanish before arriving. Don't even get me started on not knowing Portuguese in Brazil. It is, however, amazing how long and far you can get with yes/no, hello (oi), good morning (bom dia), one (uno, usually accompanied by the index finger to make it extra clear), smiling, pointing and nodding.
> What was your longest flight/ride?
In a single shot, around 21 hours. It is a four way tie between Tucuman - Iguazu Falls and Iguazu - Rio de Janeiro. Also Ipiales - Bogota and Medellin - Ipiales were 21 each as well.
Allowing for combination, Medellin, Colombia - Ipiales, Colombia - Cuenca, Ecuador wins with 36 (21 + 15) with only 1.5 hours inbetween the two rides. (Had to cross the border.) To think I could have added 4.5 hours on to that straight to Tumbes, Peru after getting to Cuenca! (Then I could have stayed in Medellin for an extra day too. You have no idea how bitter I was because of the wasted time.)
> Do people have cats there?
Yes. Stray cats and dogs are everywhere, though more dogs than cats. The highest concentration of cats, I found, was in Taganga, Colombia. It is a fishing village, so maybe that's why. Supposedly, the cats going on to the beach at sunset every evening is a sight to behold, though I unfortunately never did catch it.
> Are you sad or glad that your globoing is almost done?
> Will you ever do this again?
I damn well hope so. I am going to sell my condo after masters to fund my next trip, I think.
> What's next for you?
Grad school in the fall. After that, for now, I plan to go from Yukon, through Central America and down to Chilean Patagonia before jumping off to Southeast Asia and then (funds and time allowing) Africa, taking 2-2.5 years for the whole trip. But we'll see, as Eastern Europe, random other parts of Asia, Middle East and India also need to be seen. Strangely enough, not too much ambition to go to Western Europe and Australia.
Questions from Pounder
> What was the best meal you ate?
The two meals in Cicciolina in Cuzco. The hostel BBQ in Medellin. The spinach soup with turkey meatballs I made in Santiago. The dinner I cooked with Paul for the rest of the [very small] hostel guests next night. The first meal after the jungle tour in Bolivia (haha.)
> What was the best drink you had?
There was this one wine in Mendoza.. Olda's Ecuadorian hot coladas & quacker at the farm. The first beer after the jungle tour in Bolivia. (But not the last cocktail that night. That was horrible.) Colombian fruit juice which is actually more of a smoothie. Acai con granola in Brazil. (This is actually a smoothie as well.) Fresh cane juice with lime. (Brazil)
> What was the most beautiful thing you saw?
The clear night skies. The constellations, the milky way, the black constellations of Incas. You can see them all. It blew my mind every single time.
-Sucre centro in sunlight.
-Andes, in particular the El Chalten and Cordillera Blanca mountains. (I will do the 8 day trek through Cordillera Huayhuash if it kills me, damn it.)
-The reduction in my belly fat after the Inca Trail (which sadly did not last).
-The glass-like calm waters of Pampas in Bolivia.
-Various sights in Manu: Toucans. Parrots and macaws at the claylick. Giant otter family hunting and eating fish early in the morning. Capped heron.
-And, of course, some delightful human creatures that shall remain nameless.
-La Paz at dusk. The steep and deep valley is densely dotted with the matchbox houses so tha the line between electric lights and the stars is blurred. It's not your traditional beauty. but I was madly in love with the scenery.
> What's the closest you came to disaster?
-Crossing the border from Peru into Ecuador. I was sick and tired. I hadn't travelled alone-alone for a month and a half (since Argentina). In the end, I got scammed USD40 and wasted a day or two in the end. Could have been worse, I suppose.
-Getting accused of shoplifting a bottle of water in Bogota and being escorted into the back office for my documents and whatnot. YOU try frantically explaining your innocence in Spanish.
-Finding out my reservation was cancelled after getting to Bariloche on the two day Ruta 40 trip. It is the busiest tourist center of Patagonia, and it was a nightmare trying to get a room for the night. (It was well after 9 pm when I arrived in the city.)
-Leaving Lima to go back home to Canada. My flight was at 10 pm. At 7:15, the airport shuttle service (just a taxi arranged by the hostel) called to inform me that it had been in a crash and will not be transporting me and my bags after all. A lovely hostel staff helped me get a cab to the airport easily enough, but the taxi driver made me pay early and went through some sketchy industrial neighbourhood which made me pray "Please don't let me get robbed on my last day, in my last hour, in my last taxi ride of the trip." All was well in the end.
> If you had to live in one of the countries you visited for the rest of your life which would you pick and why?
Colombia. Just all around amazing. The nature, the people, the weather, the infrastructure, the culture, the nightlife, the ruins, the beautiful cities, the museums. You can have ALL of it, including a very large supermarket chain. (Exito!!) Paragliding, rafting, scuba diving, salsa, trekking, AND all manners of deep fried street snacks. How can you lose?
And of course, who could ever forget the Colombian fruit juices.
Question from Alison
> What inspired you to go on the trip in the first place - I never really knew why you were going and what your overall plans were! What about South America interested you in particular?
Well, it's actually not a very interesting story at all.
I was tired of my job and wanted a change. I knew I wanted to travel, and I heard good things about Peru. I had been joking about quitting my job and running off to Ireland for years, but when the decision time came along, Peru sounded like more fun and more suitable for my outdoor-geared interest in this particular trip. Plus, Europe is more wheelchair accessible, so I decided I was going to save it for my later years. And then when I was thinking about going to Peru, I found a very good seat sale for Buenos Aires. So I bought tickets to go to Buenos Aires, Argentina and to come back from Lima, Peru. The rest is history. I hadn't realized that this was going to be exactly the type of trip I needed and wanted.
Questions from Christine
> How has this trip changed your perspective of life in Canada?
It is cushy. But having come from a Third World country and having traveled to some other comparable ones already, I knew that. Canadian life is definitely glossy, more packaged and polished. Sheltered. Convenient.
Nothing too drastic as far as my perception goes.
> What aspect of long term travel was the biggest hassle for you?
Having to carry the clothes for all four seasons! Carrying too many kinds of gears but not enough for anything.
> At any point did you change your plans drastically?...
Thankfully, I had fairly vague plans to start with, so any change I made was by default not very drastic. The closest to drastic measures I get would be the time I decided against going to Nazca with 4 hours to go until the bus and ran down to the station to go straight to Huaraz. I guess not going to Galapagos in exchange for Colombia was pretty drastic too. But I had more than two months to contemplate that decision.
Questions from TJ
> how many times did you miss sleeping on a comfortable bed?
Oh, once or twice.. or six.. You get used to varying qualities of beds and learn to tolerate without invoking nostalgia.
> what was your favourite fruit and why?
This is a toughy. There were so many! Huandos (I think) - tangelos - in Huaraz were wicked good. Granadillas will always have a special place in my heart.
> if you were to recommend a specific attraction to someone what would you recommend and why?
Given the wide spectrum of the places in South America, this will really depend on the person. I suppose Sacred Valley in Peru is a good choice regardless.
> did you get a tan in all that sun?
Oh, did I ever. I have a WICKED sandal tan.
> how much is your back yelling at you for all this backpacking?
Not that much. My back started hurting more after I got back and started not moving around as much.
> how many times did you miss your physiotherapist during the trip?
0. I was just fine.
> what was your favourite animal and why?
Puppies!! All those beautiful animals in the jungle.
> how likely are you to answer >90% of these questions?
I'm glad you didn't put a time limit on this. Then it would have had a likelihood of 0.
> are you gonna answer these questions honestly or pay someone to do it for you?
Don't be silly. I'm too poor to pay someone to do this.
Question from George
> Did you have Yerba Maté?
Yes! I quite like yerba mate. A notable occasion was on the bus to Bariloche when the driver and his assistant were semi forcing us gringos to drink rounds and rounds of mate. Good times.
Question from Justen
> What was one thing you didn't do but wish you had?
The 8-10 day Huayhuash trek. I'm going to go back for it.
-The 6 day lost city trek (ciudad perdidad) from Santa Marta (Colombia)
-The mud volcano tour near Cartagena (Colombia)
-Rafting (Peru, Colombia)
-Galapagos Islands (Ecuador)
-Visit the coffee plantations (Colombia)
-Hike in Torres del Paine (Chile)
-high quality steak dinner in Buenos Aires (Argentina)
-stay in Florianopolis one more day so I could have made it to Vanessa's mother's lunch (Brazil)
[note: Vanessa and I met up during her Vancouver visit few weeks ago. We joked how I was making up for the missed lunch.]
-go out in La Paz, Medellin, Bogota (Bolivia, Colombia, Colombia)
-Asungate and Choquequirao treks (Peru)
-Visit Copacabana (Bolivia)
-Climb Cotapaxi (Ecuador)
-Sail up to Panama from Cartagena on a sail ship
-brought rechargeable batteries
-brought iPod speakers