Saturday, March 13, 2010

Part I of this trilogy is nearly over: 4 months in Latin America, time to wrap it up

Writing this blog at Paramaribo

It's time to summarize my travel through Latin America and head back to sweet home. What have I encountered and experienced during these 125 days through 35 American countries (including USA) ?

- I took 0 anti-malarial pills during the trip and so far haven't had any symptoms of malaria
- I was afraid once (1 time) (see below)
- I was having sauna 2 times (at La Paz, Bolivia and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic)
- I studied spanish 3 weeks with fabulous teachers
- I was travelling 4 months, it has been long and tough but rewarding and amazing trip as well
- I was talking with only 5 Finnish people (at Quito, Ecuador and Georgetown, Guyana)
- I bought the map of La Recoleta cemetery at Buenos Aires at 6 pesos. (e.g. Evita Peron is buried there)
- I did snorkeling 7 times (at Galapagos and Antigua)
- 8 hours was the longest delay of flight (Insel Air flight from Miami to Curacao). I had connecting flight to Valencia, Venezuela, where I arrived at 3AM in the night searching a hotel room, because I didn't had any reservation to any hotel. That was not the most safest and pleasent experience. My advice is to avoid Insel Air if possible, 3 flights out of 4, which I flew with them were delayed. Insel Air is based on Curacao.
- 9 blocks was the distance of my family's home from the spanish school at Heredia. There are no street addresses in use in Costa Rica, but the address will be told like: three blocks south from the Hospital, two blocks west towards the Jose Duarte park, opposite of the Domino's pizza restaurant, chalet Esperanza :)
- I visited 10 islands at Galapagos and saw how evolution works in practice... Impressive!

- Longest bus ride was 15 hours, thanks Ticabus for safe and enjoyable ride

- I flew alltogether 45 flights with 17 different carriers (KLM, Mexicana, Copa, Avianca, Tame, Lan Peru, Star Peru, Lan Chile, Aerosur, LAN Argentina, TAM, Air Caraibes, Caribbean airlines, LIAT, JetBlue, American Airlines and Insel air) and visited 35 countries in America (not Canada and Cuba).

- The cheapest accommodation was 8 USD at Mexico and most expensive 175 USD at French Guiana.

- I took 2184 photos and couple of videos as well. Check some of those videos from here.

- I wrote 44 blog posts (including this one).

At bus in Curacao. Benches were like from the park and the bus broke after 1 kilometer drive :) We had to wait another bus to pick us up...

I have seen the most perfectly shaped bottom on this planet at Cayenne, French Guiana. When this bottom was combined with long brown gazelle legs, it was just perfect. I have tasted the godly coctail, bushwacker, at Paramaribo, Suriname. The secret part of this coctail is ice cream, which just gives it the soft taste under the palm trees, when you feel the warmth of the subtropical climate on your skin still at dusk. I have had a chance to be taught spanish at Heredia, Costa Rica by the most professional teacher I have seen so far.
Was I afraid during the trip through the countries, which were rated the most dangerous? I would lie if I would say no. The amount of shotguns visible at San Salvador, El Salvador is just unbelievable. You can't prepare yourself to meet people who are carrying M15 shotguns at shops, petrol stations, bus stations, everywhere. The most scary moment I had in Guatemala, when I was going to Tikal. Tikal is in the middle of nowhere, in the jungle and I took a taxi to take me there late in the evening. It was dark and rainy when taxi driver stopped 40-50 kms before Tikal on the last village and said to me: "At this time you can't get anymore accomodation at Tikal. These are the last hotels, where you can stay overnight". When I insisted to drive up to Tikal, he left the car and went to ask from somebody. When he returned he took off all the signs of taxi and started quietly drive on dark and rainy road towards the jungle. I realised he went to ask, if it is safe to drive to Tikal at this time, because there has been robberies and murders on these remote roads. At that time I just wished if I could have been somewhere else, but fortunately we arrived to Tikal at 23:00 safely.
I remember, when I arrived late at St. Kitts airport and took the taxi to my hotel. Taxi driver was pastor Samuel Bradshaw, from pastor Taxi service. When he heard I was first time at St. Kitts he drove slowly through the streets of Basseterre and explained to me every building on the way. His accent was a bit hard for me and I understood roughly half what he said. Anyhow the taxi ride was pleasent sightseeing. God bless Samuel.

I remember the hospitality of the Riverside Retreat accommodation at Orange Walk, in Belize and the owner's story of his son, Raul, when we were talking in the morning at the terrace with the breakfast.

The picture of funeral procession at the street of Haiti will stay at my memories forever. It was just like from the James Bond movie, Live and let die. There were players playing the drums and trumpets and lots of people were walking to escort the body on his/her last trip.

I can't forget the great service and athmosphere of Calibishie Lodge in Dominica and lovely owner's Linda and Chris from Belgium. If you have stress at work and want to relax and spend some time at lovely Dominica island, this is the place!

I even managed to learn some spanish, which was one of the reasons why I made this trip. I'm grateful to my teachers at Heredia, Buenos Aires and Montevideo as well as other students at my class. Discussions were great and opinions sharp and diverse. A mi me encantaron las classes de discusion.

Now I have a family at Costa Rica and Montevideo and I had a chance to share with them many unforgettable moments. Hopefully we will see in the future!

I'm going to miss the athmosphere of "collectives", vans, which were full of passengers and the reggae music was played loud. Young girls and boys were singing at the same time when watching those music videos from the screen at the front of the van at Grenada and St. Vincent.

Restaurant with sea view at Curacao

I have seen so many countries and places, have met great people and have experienced so much. There would be dozens of stories to be told, but I'll keep them on my own. Now I know where I want to return and experience more... I have got a very good overview of Latin America and it's countries, people, culture, nature, food, touristy spots and less traveled paths. If I would need to quickly categorize these countries I would do it in the following way (Sorry, this is just my own classification for myself based on the experiences I had during this trip. Don't use this as basis on your own decisions, do your own list and visit these countries by yourself (This list is my propaganda)).

Countries I definitely would like to visit again :
- Belize, Costa Rica, Argentina, Uruguay, Suriname, St. Vincent and Grenadines, St. Lucia, Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominican Republic

Countries I could visit again :
Guatemala, Nicaragua, French Guiana (with my driving licence), Guyana, Barbados, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, Haiti, Bahamas

Countries I don't want/need to visit again :
- Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, Panama, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Bolivia, Paraguay, Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Venezuela

As Bob Marley said "I don't need to have home as a material somewhere, I have home in my head". When I close my eyes I can be at the Subte in Buenos Aires, at golden beaches of Galapagos islands, at the top of the Maya ruins in the jungle, sitting on the beach restaurant at sunset on Caribbean, etc... The whole Latin America is my home from now on and it's all in my head and my memories. This trip was one fleeting moment on my path, but I'm sure this has been written into the stars, it was part of my destiny and I just had to do it right now and this way.

Short part of the travelled path
When I was coming to Paramaribo last night I felt like coming home. I said to taxi driver and hotel receptionist the same and I wonder how some places just feel cozy and home, although you haven't spent much time there. Although I have to say goodbye to Latin America, it will always be part of me and with me in my heart. Me doy las gracias a ti, Latinoamerica. Nos vemos y buen suerte!

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