Summary of the trip: Americas

I was always going to give some awards at the end of my trip, but so they stay relevant I am going to do some as I go along. So I’m going to split my trip into thirds. Firstly the Americas, then Oceania and Japan, and finally mainland Eurasia. Then finally I’ll sum up the whole thing.

Best site

Iguazu, Argentina and Brazil, although Machu Picchu was pretty special out didn’t quite take my breath away in the same way.

Honourable mention

Machu Picchu, well that much is obvious. It is an epic site.

Best museum

The Holocaust Museum, Washington DC, it tried so hard to just give the facts. I learnt a lot about the recent history of the Jews and that reflects heavily on the middle east today. Well worth a visit.

Best tour company

Layana, San Pedro as they gave detailed explanations in English of the sites we were seeing. They also weren’t too pricy.

I have to admit in general I haven’t been too impressed and was going to give it to the Sinh Cafe from my last trip to Vietnam.

Best city

New York for it’s incredible range of stuff to do in the day. having half decent nightlife as well and also having excellent transportation.

Honourable mention

Santiago, a hidden gem that I didn’t expect to be great. But aside from all it’s attractions seemingly shutting on Sunday and Monday every week it is actually a pretty nice place. Though its worth noting that even in Providencia it does have a sinister feel sometimes, especially after dark (though nothing personally happened to me or anyone I know in Santiago).

Best non-family accommodation

I’m not ranking my family/free accommodation as you all looked after me well so I’m picking the best accommodation I paid for.

Sunny Days, Arica Chile provided all you can eat breakfasts, excellent rooms and good advice on the city as well as a kitchen and lounge area with good cable TV.

Best food for under US$25 (excluding service)

Just in case I get taken to the local equivalent if La Manior I’ve stuck a price limit on this but the winner is Steak in Buenos Aires at a small restaurant at Defensa and Independencia which was above and beyond anything I’d had before.

Honourable mention

Pacha Papa, Cusco for it’s excellent food and exquisite service.

Best nightlife

Chicago, Buenos Aires is close but frankly it’s too late for me to start clubbing at 2am.

Friendliest People

El Soberio. After falling ill I was looked after really well by the people of El Soberio. And I improved my terrible Spanish a bit too.

Best transportation company

Via Barriloche, Argentina for providing good food, drink and comfortable seats for only a little more than the competition.

Most useful material possession

iPod Touch for letting me write these blog posts when on buses and public transport and having lots of other useful information on it.

Best bargain

Plastic playing cards in Cusco for US$0.67 that are fully plastic so should last well.

Biggest rip-off

Postada la bonita for accommodation worth a generous US$10/night costing US$100/night.

The Patrick Levy award for cinematography

When I went to South East Asia my friend Patrick (who doesn’t need much sleep) would watch films before going to sleep in the evening. Therefore I am dedicating this award to him. However even though films you watch while travelling are usually bad I’m giving this award to the genuinely most entertaining film.

And the winner is SHOOTER which was an excellent and clever movie about a presidential assasination. I really want to see the end of it as we arrived in Tacna so I missed it.

Honourable Mention

Don’t mess with the Zohan I quite enjoyed this movie about the Israeli superspy Zohan but my friends I was with thought it wasn’t that great.

The Rest of Arica and San Pedro

So on my last day in Arica I headed to a nearby archeological museum. To get there I cycled up the valley, which although the gradient uphill was subtle it was still hard work. Also I couldn’t get the highest gear to work which I usually use practically exclusively which slowed me down. The scenery on the way was also nice. The museum (aside from some noisy school children who I shared the museum with) was very interesting and had a full English translation.

Then that evening I caught the bus to San Pedro, the journey was more complex than I’d like as the police checked our ID and bags in the middle of the night.

After arriving in San Pedro I had a lasy day and saw their pre-columbian museum which was also excellent. Then the next day I went on a tour to the south of San Pedro and saw Flamingos on the salt plain which I have some great photos of, a pair of fairly saltly glacial lakes and part of the original inca road to Cusco (so if you had 3 months and a huge amount of water you could walk to Cusco) which was still a clear path through the desert.

The next day I went Sand boarding which is like Snow Boarding but slower and on sand (we went down a slope almost straight away which would definitely be a red run for skiing). I did fall over lots but am now unhurt but tired.

I’ve got some more time here in San Pedro to explore the nearby Geysers (but now we are on summer time you’ll leave at 3am!) and the nearby Moon Valley for sunset and possibly the nearby observatory if I go a day later to Iquipe and essentually miss it. Though money is a definite issue here, its almost as expensive as Oxford!

America

Firstly a boring economic note to my UK readers. The pound has weakened quite dramatically against the US dollar since I’ve been away and by xe.com there are currently only 1.75 US dollars to the pound. If Obama wins the presidency so this continues I might even make some money when I convert my US dollars back into pounds.

After paying an excessive amount (US$12 including “taxes”) to enter Chile from Peru by collectivo (ironically the driver seemed to be very trustworthy) I made my way by foot to my accommodation in Arica. It was dark but the area around the bus station was safe (though it wouldn’t have been if it was in Europe). I was then famished so I went to the local chicken and chips shop for some food. Now chicken and chips is also popular in Peru but with all the other specialites to try I’d managed to avoid it. In Chile, or at least Arica, it is a massive phenomenon available in every restaurant.

Anyhow the next morning at 10am I got up and headed to the supermarket to get some Chilean money and water. The currency in Chile is wonderful actually as there are almost exactly 1000 chilean pesos to the pound so I can really easily see how much stuff costs here. The supermarket was also pretty much like a typical US or European supermarket. That is to be expected as Chile is pretty rich and Arica at least reminds me of the USA. This is how I expected Argentina to be.

So I had a wander around Arica yesterday and had lunch in a Chinese restaurant (they are also good here) and saw lots of buildings in the centre designed by Effel. They were very striking and reminded me of the buildings by Lloyd Wright in Chicago.

At dinner I had some delicious fish (and I don’t mean in a sarcastic way ;)) with an Australian woman travelling around South America. We also had some interesting discussions about our previous travels.

This morning I headed into the mountains above Arica on a tour with my hostel. It was a bit touch and go as to whether it’d be on but in the end the car was full. So we headed slowly up into the mountains through the coastal desert all around this region. After being in the south of Peru for several weeks now I am pretty bored of it to be honest though we did see attractive Grand Canyon esq scenery on the way up. It was amusing as by half way up the mountain my Australian friend had caught up with me on a coach tour.

As we were ascending from sea level to 4500m in a single day we were given Coca tea as well as leaves to chew. Unfortunately the leaves are disgusting and the tea was very poor quality but coupled with my long stay in Peru at over 2500m I was OK.

Then half way up the mountain at our “breakfast” stop our car lost power to it’s electics. I should add that it was a fairly modern Kia and not a run down old banger so we had to get into the coach instead. We then headed up into the park above Arica. It was interesting and we saw a lot of wildlife as well though we didn’t spend long in the park and were soon returning to Arica.