Oh USA, how irritating you are

I am back in the USA for the moment… in San Fran. Pretty much the instant I entered the US, in Miami on a stopover, I quickly remembered why I hate being in the US. Loud, obnoxious, irritating Americans everywhere… almost all of them 300 pounds +… I don’t know if it is just because I don’t understand a lot of what the Spanish people were saying in South America or not… but man listening to their conversations here is SOOOO irritating (which you are forced to do on airplanes etc.. and they talk so loud here you here their whole aimless conversation)… man, I can’t believe what shallow, self centered, pointless lives all these people live here… and talking about money constantly… “i bought this”, “i want to buy that”, “if i were rich…”… and interspersed with “gotta support the troops”… oh man.

And I forgot how ridiculously expensive it is here. I had a crappy cafeteria breakfast special at the Miami airport for $10… in Buenos Aires I could have had an excellent steak dinner with salad and wine in an upscale restaurant for the same amount… granted it was at the airport, and airports are always a rip off…

But even taxis are ridiculous here. The fare meter starts at the same amount that most of my South American taxi rides cost total. The taxi in Buenos Aires from downtown to the airport is about a 45 minute ride… and is over 50 kilometers… total cost, $15. Here I hopped in for about a 5-10 minute ride and it cost $20!

Anyway… there is some positives… it is nice to have english tv and books and stuff again… and the weather is nice here… but I will likely not stay too long as it is already irritating and I have only been here 1 day.

South American Wrapup

After finding out I needed to get a visa (1 or 2 days) and ALSO needed a yellow fever vaccination (and then have to wait 10 days until the vaccination is in effect… the reason they demand the vaccination is because I have been in Colombia and Peru in the last 90 days) before going to Brasil, I have decided to take off in a different direction.

I looked at all my flight options and none really made sense except for just taking off of this continent. I wanted to see Paraguay and Uruguay, but I would then have to fly basically back to Buenos Aires to go somewhere else… and I hate backtracking (besides I already flew from BA to Rio and back to BA all in one day, so have had enough of that).

And besides, I am pretty sure I will be coming to Brasil in November or December to possibly live there for a while, and I can take the short trip to Paraguay and Uruguay then.

So, tonight (Thursday night) I am taking off to San Fran, flying through Miami. It is a killer long flight… 8 hours to Miami, 3 hour layover and then 5 to Phoenix and 1.5 hours to San Jose!!! But almost ANYWHERE from Buenos Aires is a killer. Do you know where Buenos Aires is?? Well, think somewhere near the South Pole, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean… it is 8-18 hours to anywhere off the continent from here… I was hoping to cut the trip out of here a lot shorter by stopping in Brasil, but my lack of yellow fever immunity thwarted that for now.

So I thought since I am waiting for my late flight this evening (11pm) I might as well wrap up and do a summary of this continent now that I have seen a lot of it (well, almost all the major cities anyway… not much of a waterfall siteseeing tourist).

Actually, I just realized I never really summarized Mexico and Central Am, so let me quickly do that:

Let me state for the record that probably the places I had the most fun and liked the most were in Mexico… Acapulco and Huatulco were great… Mazatlan was totally fun… I had no idea what a giant place Mexico is, and the diversity of places within it… and the diversity of people too… some very fun… very cool… very interesting people there.

Guatemala: Didn’t really like Guatemala much… but was only there 2 days. Elsie and I did visit Antigua and Antigua is very cool… a city high in the mountains/volcanoes, full of people from around the world, mostly all learning Spanish there… if you are looking for a cool, small neat place to learn Spanish for a month, Antigua should be on your list

El Salvador: From what I saw of El Salvador (the bottom of the ocean… and the capital of San Salvador) I didn’t really like it either. Their “really nice shopping area” was sort of the equivalent of a warehouse area anywhere else.

Costa Rica: I only was in the capital of San Jose, and in the very touristy beach area of Jaco Beach, so I didn’t see a lot of Costa Rica… I heard there are a lot of really cool spots. Costa Rica is definitely different from Guatemala and El Salvador… much nicer… I had a good time in Jaco… but the beach isn’t really scenic at all.

Panama: Panama City is an interesting city… quite Americanized… and a lot of black people… which separates it from most of the other countries in this area… not sure what the deal is with all the black people… i am sure the internet can tell you if you ask it

To sum up Central America and Mexico, if you are looking for interesting, fun places… Mazatlan, Acapulco, Huatulco (small but cool) and Jaco Beach in Costa Rica were the places I had the best times in.

Ok, on to South America:

As you may have read previously, I was pretty shocked at the changes from Central America to when I got to Bogota Colombia. It felt very European all of a sudden, and all that Central American sorta scum and poverty didn’t seem nearly as evident.

I remarked how amazing the service was at this little, cheap restaurant I went to (it was like being in the most glamorous restaurant in New York)… unbelievable service. Well, the one thing I have now realized is that this is totally the same EVERYWHERE I have been in South America… they must really appreciate good service here or something… but everywhere you go, the service at any restaurant is almost always top notch… and the quality of the food, and preparation at most restaurants is incredibly good too.

Prices differ from country to country, but in general it is quite cheap in South America to have a good meal and some wine… I’d say on average I spent $10-$15 for TOP NOTCH, exquisite meals, with a glass or two of wine… this usually includes tax and many times includes tip… which is what I really liked… I HATE America, how everyone puts their hand out if they even open a door for you… I much prefer places where they give good service as a matter of it just being the way they do their job… not to make a bunch of money.

Here is a quick rundown of each country now that I have seen them all:

Bogota: Interesting, beautiful city built right into the surround hills. One downside of it being high in the hills though is it has a very cool climate… averaging 20c pretty much every day of the year, and getting quite cool at night. The Zona Rosa section is very cool, trendy and full of great restaurants. As far as the nightlife (discotheques), it wasn’t that great in my opinion… Maybe I never found the really good ones… but the ones I went to all reminded me of Granville Street. At one, some guy even puked on my shoe… not exactly “classy” nightlife there.

Quito, Ecuador: I laid pretty low in Quito, as I was pretty tired from Costa Rica, Panama and Bogota… Quito is also very high in the hills and has a similar climate to Bogota. They have a sort of touristy area that is kinda neat… one neat place there was this internet cafe/restaurant/pub which was pretty much full 24/7 with people from all over the world. The nightlife in general wasn’t that great there too… although I did go to one cool club… and the busy touristy club was kinda neat in that all the girls that work there are all kinda on stage and are always dancing and doing a show(they lit the whole bar on fire at one point… fire regulations??” while they get you drinks and stuff…

Lima, Peru: Lima is kinda neat… I would really like to see it in the summer as the downtown section is on a HUGE cliff(I mean friggin huge… never scene a downtown like that before) overlooking what looks like it would be a beautiful beach in the summer. Lima is quite south so in the winter it is quite cool… definitely not beach weather when I was there. Again, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend the nightlife, although there was a few okay places I went to. Again though, I bet it is a lot better in the summer (and am told it is from some people I met there).

Buenos Aires: I have commented a fair amount about Buenos Aires bizarre nightlife hours… I have also spent the last few days wandering the city quite a bit. Buenos Aires seems to have the most history, culture and interesting backdrop of all the cities I have been in, in South America to date. Their main street is huge. If someone blindfolded you and dropped you on this street, the first thing you would say is “5th Avenue, New York??”… it looks a lot like it… massive… surrounded by large buildings… also quite a bit of large sculptures and artwork. Apparently Argentina is quite known in South America as being the “richest” country… but their currency devalued 3 to 1 a few years ago (which explains somewhat why things seem so cheap here… had McDonalds today… Big Mac meal with fries and coke, worked out to about $2 USD). There is 13 million people in Buenos Aires, so this is a major city. As for the nightlife, I actually didn’t like it all that much… there are TOOONNNNSSS of places to go… every night of the week… but they don’t even really get going until 1 or 2am, which is usually when I am about ready for bed… there are a ton of interesting venues here, but in general the crowd wasn’t really what I liked. But it was definitely interesting… if you are in the area, BA is definitely worth checking out… oh, actually, the best thing about BA is the food! They love their meat here… and man I can see why, it is reaaaallllyyy good. They have this thing called Parilla here… if you order it, they bring over this hot place over a fire, and on top is literally 5 or 10 pounds of every kind of meat you can think of… and many I have never seen before… and even that won’t cost you much more than $10.

So, I guess thats it. I think the highlight of this whole tour would have been Brasil from what I hear from everyone, but it will have to wait until December or so now… In closing, if you are looking for a neat vacation, definitely check out South America in the summer (their summer). The flights in between each of the cities I listed above were generally $100-400 each… you can generally find a very nice hotel (like Sheraton) for $100/night and if you want to go on budget, can easily find nice (Best Western etc) for $50-60/night… the drinks and food are very cheap by North American standards…

That’s it… off to North America for maybe a couple weeks, then likely Europe.

**ps: I just wanted to state for the record that even though I didn’t really like the nightlife in most of the places in South America, I still had a great time… it was VERY easy to meet people… and almost everyone is nice and friendly. And in almost each case I very quickly met very nice, beautiful, fun girls… but in general, I preferred the crazy/cool nightlife of Acapulco (although it is harder to meet people there) and the fun/touristy (Mexican tourists though, not Canadian or American) nightlife of Huatulco to most of the South American discotheques. But again, for those who are looking for this sort of thing, I am sure you would have a good time in ANY of the places I have been in Central or South America… especially in the summer in Lima and Buenos Aires I am sure. If you are planning a trip to any of these places, let me know and I can give you more detailed information depending on what exactly you are looking for.

Seriously, what is up with Buenos Aires

I have been in Buenos Aires about 5 days now… I actually left today for Rio in Brasil (a 4 hour flight), but when I got there they asked for my visa. That was a problem… didn’t know you needed a visa. So they put me back on the plane for another FUUUNNNN 4 hour flight BACK to Argentina. I asked them if they could at least send me somewhere new, like Uruguay or Paraguay, so I felt like I did SOMETHING productive today, but they wouldn’t. So, 12 hours after I left my hotel for the airport I was back at my hotel… ugh.

Ya, not in a good mood right now.

But besides that, seriously what is the deal in Argentina?? I have always complained about the North American lifestyle of eating dinner at 6 or 7pm (or 5pm when I lived with my mom and dad!) and then nightclubs and other night spots are all shut down by 1 or 2… but Argentina… seriously, it is crazy here. First of all, I’ve seen a lot of restaurants that don’t even open until midnight. And there will not be ONE person in any discotheques at even 1am… places start to get busy around 2, but still not all that busy… usually people here tend to go to nightclubs at 3 or 4!!!!!!!!!!!!! That is when they GO! I have no idea when they leave because I am not sticking around until what must be 8am when some of them begin heading home!

And this isn’t just on the weekends either… Buenos Aires has a huge nightlife scene, and usually there are very busy clubs every night of the week… but if you feel like going out on a Tuesday night, same thing… won’t even open until 1 or 2!!!!

Well, its only 1am right now so I might as well take a nap until 3 or 4 then head out… lol

Insomniac? Go to Argentina

I took a late flight out of Lima on Wednesday night and didn’t arrive in Argentina until 3:30 in the morning. Argentina is 2 hours ahead of Peru (Peru is 2 hours ahead of Pacific Coast time USA/Canada… so Argentina is essential 4 hours ahead of Pacific, or 1 hour ahead of Eastern time).

There was a big line up at customs, so I didn´t really get to my hotel until nearly 5am.

Driving through Buenos Aires at 4:30am on a Wednesday night was bizarre!! Many coffee shops were full of groups of people… there were a lot of people walking around on the street… I saw quite a few people standing outside of a nightclub… I am not sure if they were leaving or just going in?!?!!

I actually read on the almighty interweb that a lot of nightclubs here don’t even OPEN until 2am??? OPEN!!!!

I am not sure what the deal is here, but if you are a night owl, this has to be your premier destination! I have never seen ANYTHING like this… the atmosphere at 4:30am on a Wednesday night was similiar to what you would see in the average Canadian or US city at around 11:30pm!!!! Or even 9:30 in some of the crappier, sleepier towns like San Fran or Sarasota Florida!

For a second, when I got to my hotel, I considered ¨going out¨, but it just seemed so crazy to ¨go out¨at 5 in the morning, so I decided to go to bed… I’ll check it out tonight and report back.

Lima

I arrived in Lima Friday night… their main area is called Miraflores, and it is actually quite cool.. they have this sort of mall thing built into the rocks of this huge cliff overlooking the ocean… it is actually quite amazing of a view, especially from the downtown section of a major city.

Within minutes of being here I made some new “friends” and have spent most of my time since with them just chillin. Haven´t seen a heck of a lot of the city, but it seems pretty cool. It is winter here now, and the weather is chilly, but I´ll bet this place is off the hook in the summer.

I am off to Buenos Aires in Argentina tomorrow. I hear it is fly. I will likely spend the week there and then I want to head to Brazil to get back into the warm weather. Ever since Bogota I haven´t seen weather above 21c, and as cool as the places are, i much prefer to be in warmer climes… but for anyone looking for a fun cool vacation, DEFINITELY check out South America in the summer… it is a blast in the winter so I am sure it´d be amazing in the summer. But I haven´t even seen half of it yet, so will have more updates on South Am soon… from what I hear the best places are still to come! (Buenos Aires and Brasil!)

Quito, Ecuador

I decided to go to another place I really knew nothing about… in fact, I don´t think I have ever even heard of Quito.

It was actually kind of funny, I got to the airport and they asked me what my destination was. I had booked the ticket online the day before and didn´t bother to print anything out… so, I kind of stared at them blankly for a few seconds… then I said Uruguay. They said they didn´t fly to Uruguay… so then I was like, wait, no, its Ecuador.

They then said what city in Ecuador… and I was like, “I dunno… name some for me”… lol.

They must have thought I was on drugs or something.

So I got in last night and was pretty tired so just grabbed some food and went to sleep. Today I have spent all day on the net working and taking care of some business. So I really haven’t seen much of Quito… but the internet tells me it is one of the most beautiful cities in South America.

It seems a bit quiet, plus it is early in the week, so I am just planning on recouperating from Costa Rica, Panama and Bogota for the next few days prior to Peru, and then what I expect to be another crazy time in Brazil.

Will update again soon…

Where in the world is Berwink?

Well, I was considering stopping this blog as the occurence of my boat becoming a submarine seemed to have stopped my world tour. But, it has been a few weeks, and I’ve just been kinda travelling around, and its been pretty cool… so I think I will just continue to do this for a while until I find a place I really like, then maybe stay there for a while.

I have spent a fair amount of time on the interweb looking at maps and places and stuff, and it really makes a huge difference flying over sailing as far as time goes! At the rate I was going by boat, it would have taken me 5-20 years minimum to see the whole world… but by plane, heck, I think I can probably see almost every country in South America in the next 2 weeks alone!

I was thinking of going to Caracas Venezuela next, and then either Brazil or Europe (I intend to be in Europe by the end of July), but after looking at flight schedules and a map, I have decided to do a whirwind tour of South America. Next stop is Quito, Ecuador tomorrow… then tentatively Lima, Peru… La Paz Bolivia… then Sao Paolo and Rio De Janeiro in Brazil. From what I have heard about Brazil, I may not want to leave there… but I am pretty intent on doing Europe while it is still summer, then if I want to come back and live in Brazil in the fall I can do that…

As usual, there is no real plan though and I will just follow the vibe… I had a great weekend in Bogota Colombia and highly recommend it if you are in the area.

COLOMBIA! Did anyone know its like this??

I just stepped outside the hotel to grab some food and I am still in shock… even more so every few minutes… this place is amazing.

First of all, has anyone ever been to Bogota Colombia before? If not, what do you envision when you hear Bogota Colombia? I sort of envisioned something like San Salvador in El Salvador… a hot, not too clean, not too great place…

I stand corrected! I don’t even know where to begin and I’ve only been here one hour. Well first, I booked my hotel via the web as always, and this place looked pretty nice… it was one of the cheaper places I could find in an area of town that I heard was nice (Zona Rosa). It costs more than I am wanting to spend ($80 per night… trying to keep it around $40-$60 per night), but wow… this is the nicest hotel I have been in for $80 per night… it looks and feels like the W, but with much more spacious rooms.

I then stepped outside and there is a restaurant right across the street called La Taqueria… I haven’t had a good taco in a while so thought I’d go there… it is nice looking but I wasn’t expecting anything but a fairly regular experience.. the waiters were more professional and attentive than at any 5 star restaurant I have been to! All the food was served on incredibly nice plates and silverware, with cool unique style of its own… and all of the food, down to the homemade corn nachos and amazing fresh salsa that they bring before the meal was completely gourmet and excellent! … And the whole meal only cost me $7…

While I was eating I was still in shock as to how this place is… it is only a 1 hour flight from Panama… and I was expecting more of the same… that central american feel… kinda dirty, but with some nice areas…

I was watching the people and its like a fashion show here… but one of the things I suddenly realized is that everyone is dressed like it is fall… (which I suppose it is.. but it is about 21c and sunny!)… I saw one person with a scarf… and another with a turtleneck.. I then looked down and saw I was wearing my flipflops, shorts and a t-shirt! I looked a little out of place! I guess I’m not in Central America anymore!

Hello South America!!!! I am going to have to spend hours on the net researching this place, and others around here like Peru, Venezuela, Brazil etc… if other parts of South America are like this, I just might stay here…. But I am sure I will have a lot more to write about Colombia! The first really nice surprise on my extended trip so far!

Panama y Colombia!

Wow, I just arrived in Bogota Colombia and I am going to have a lot more to write about this place! It is beautiful… and like a real city?! I haven’t been in a modern, cool, nice European/North American style city in a long time… the last time was probably Vancouver… this place looks and feels a lot like Vancouver… surrounded by mountains, very cool nice areas, nice looking city… people wearing business suits?? I haven’t seen that for months! and la chicas… ay mami

But, I just got in, and wanted to update on Panama as my first night there was definitely not like the rest…

On Tuesday I ventured out on my own and found a bunch of REALLY cool places.. all really happening… and on Thursday it seemed like every restaurant, pub and club was bumpin… definitely not as “sleepy” or “quiet” as I first thought…

I barely slept last night as Panama was pretty crazy and just got into Bogota and am stoked about how this place looks and feels so far, but I need a nap… updates on Bogota coming soon