Half way through – and what have we learned?

31st March 2018

Here we are, three weeks through a six-week odyssey around the left-hand side of South America, and we’ve seen Santiago, many bits of Patagonia in Chile and Argentina, and Easter Island. Obviously, we’ve learned a vast amount about the history, geography and climate of these areas, but what about the other stuff, the tacit learning that you pick up as you go along, rather than have explained to you by a tour guide?

  • Internet access is normally very slow. The UK media give the UK a bad rap on internet access speed. They should come here before doing any more criticising.
  • It is possible to live without constant internet access. Even for a whole week. No, really.
  • It’s surprising the extent to which English she is not spoke – not only by residents, but also tourists and the people there to serve them in hotels, on tours, etc. This is more a reflection on my arrogant assumption that foreigners should speak my language, based upon years of travel mainly around Europe, where, largely, they do. But I was surprised at how rarely I heard English being spoken around me.
  • Even with people who do speak English, it pays to be considered and careful in expressing yourself. You will almost certainly be misunderstood if you don’t.
  • The Chileans are even better at queuing than the Brits. Just as well, as life seems to present them with plenty of opportunities to practice.
  • If you are a wearer of spectacles and are going away for 6 weeks, take a spare pair. I nearly broke mine in week one (hands up, yes, I walked into a plate glass window), but fortunately was able to bend them back into approximately the right shape.
  • If you are a wearer of spectacles and your holiday might involve swimming/snorkelling, remember to take a robust case for them. In my case, I thought to acquire and take a waterproof camera, but forgot the case for my specs.
  • It’s a pleasant surprise when the local bank’s ATM doesn’t rush you several quid for a withdrawal of cash. So far, the typical charge for taking out £50 of local currency has been about £6.
  • Currency is a bit of a puzzle. Many, but by no means all, places in Chile and Argentina will take US dollars. Many, but by no means all, will take credit cards. It’s not easy to know which is which, so there’s a danger of walking around with multiple currencies. Not a big problem. But, still…
  • Two days on Easter Island fills your head to bursting with information about the place. What’s a week in the Galapagos Islands going to be like, for heaven’s sake?
  • You need normal shoes for Santiago, proper waterproof walking boots for Patagonia (and, as it turned out, the Galapagos, where water shoes are also useful), and trainers for Easter Island (I used here the Teva sandals I packed for the Galapagos and they were OK but not comfortable). That’s a lot of packing space for footwear.
  • My estimation of Salomon as a provider of footwear has plummeted. I spent a lot of money on a pair of Salomon hiking boots, and they lasted less than two years of moderate mileage before (1) springing a leak and (2) having the uppers peel away from the soles. Of course, this only happened once I had left the UK. I shall be complaining upon my return. I realise I shan’t get my money back, but a good moan is pleasingly cathartic.
  • It seems a fairly rare occurrence that anyone takes any notice of hand baggage size restrictions or that South American airlines enforce them.
  • We’re halfway through the teabags we brought with us (plus the ones we’ve harvested from various hotel breakfasts). Extreme care is going to be needed to eke out the remainder, as that major staff of life, Earl Grey tea, is by no means as ubiquitous as any civilised nation needs to realise that it should be.
  • There is no Marmite on hotel breakfast buffets. Rarely is there bacon.
  • And, finally, half way through the longest holiday either of us has ever taken, we are still (a) enjoying everything and (b) talking to each other, so there is a pleasing prospect that the other half is going to be equally enjoyable.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *