This morning (or afternoon local time) we landed in Cape Town, South Africa and I couldn’t be happier! I first came to South Africa 4 years ago to volunteer at the Vervet Monkey Foundation in the northeast province of the country. I fell in love and have been dreaming of coming back ever since, especially to visit Cape Town about which I had heard so many wonderful things. So it’s quite amazing that 4 years later I am here celebrating my 27th birthday with Nick. We chose this city to once again use our Hilton rewards points, so we’re staying at the Hilton Cape Town City Centre hotel for two nights in an incredible two bedroom suite with a view of the Atlantic ocean and Table Mountain.
We feel like kings right now and I can’t emphasize enough how happy I am to be back in South Africa to explore more of this beautiful country and the continent! We will make our way along the coast to the Eastern Cape and then up to the province of Kwazulu-Natal on the eastern side of the country to volunteer as WWOOFers at an organic farm.
But now, our last post on the Americas…
As you remember we had a tiny bit of a rough start when we arrived in Buenos Aires, but the rest of our time was terrific. The city is vibrant, lively, and colorful and we could easily have spent a few weeks there if we’d had the time. We ate lots of great steak, indulged in the famous Malbec, checked out the local music scene, and biked through the northern barrios of Palermo and Recoleta.
Buenos Aires is a huge city, with barrios (neighborhoods) with personalities all their own. Imagine New York but with less sky scrapers, more space, and wider avenues. They call BA “the Paris of South America” because of the European colonial architecture scattered throughout the city (this was really the only relationship to Paris that we saw). There are Argentine parillas everywhere, and it’s true that the typical Buenos Aires resident eats a huge meat filled dinner around 11 pm. We adjusted to the late dinners pretty easily because the sun doesn’t go down until around 9, and the restaurants don’t get busy until late. We went to eat at 10 pm at one of the popular parillas in our neighborhood, and when we left at 11:30 there was a line out the door! We also slept in quite late while we were in Argentina because when you eat so late, it’s not like you can go to sleep right away. It was definitely a change from our earlier schedule, especially in Central America where people live by the sun.
The highlights of our trip to BA were the Recoleta cemetary where Evita Peron is buried, a bike tour, the San Telmo Sunday flea market, and the barrio of La Boca. Recoleta is the name of a barrio but also the well-known cemetary for Buenos Aires’ rich and famous. I was blown away by the cemetary- I had never seen anything like it before. The elaborate tombs are above ground buildings which make the cemetary seem like a city all it’s own. Many of the caskets inside the tombs are in full view on the other side of a glass door. Kind of unnverving when you see it for the first time.
We went to Recoleta on the bike tour with Biking Buenos Aires which was fantastic. Our Finnish guide Karri has been living in BA for a while and did a terrific job touring us around the northern barrios of Palermo and Recoleta. BA is a very bike friendly city and was not scary at all to bike around. Doing this tour made us want to do more bike tours in the cities because it really is a great way to see parts of the city you wouldn’t otherwise see on foot.
I did my Christmas shopping for my parents and sister at the San Telmo Sunday flea market which has to be about 1 or 1.5 miles long down one of the pedestrian streets in the San Telmo barrio. We’d been told it was just an antiques market, but there were leather goods, crafts, food, music, street performers, and clothing in addition to antiques. It’s a must see if you’re in BA! We spent all day wandering the market, eating chorizo sandwiches and watching tango and music shows.
On our last full day we went to La Boca, the original city port. The neighborhood is known for it’s brightly painted buildings in the Caminito district and the sidewalk cafes with ‘free’ tango shows. It’s basically a tourist trap but it was worth going to to see the colorful buildings and catch a little show while sipping some Malbec. Much of the artwork you find in the markets is of the La Boca neighborhood because it’s so colorful.
Here is a video of the folk band we went to see one night. I wish we knew the name of the band because they were awesome! (apologies for the dark video):
We’ll leave you with a recap of Central and South America by the numbers:
Water Taxis/Ferries: 9
Subway rides: 12
Longest bus: Mendoza-Buenos Aires 15 hrs
Longest train: Santa Cruz-Yacuiba 20 hrs
Longest flight: Panama City-Lima 3 hrs
Cities visited: 22
Countries visited: 8
and our Favorites:
Cities: Flores, Guatemala and Buenos Aires
Countries: Costa Rica and Bolivia
Tour: ATM cave in San Ignacio, Belize
Food: bife de lomo (filet) in Argentina and gallo pinto (rice and beans) in Costa Rica
Drink: Malbec in Argentina and the fruit smoothies in Belize
Most expensive country: Argentina
Least expensive country: Bolivia
Thanks Latin America, it was real!