Our trip in numbers

I’ve been thinking for a really long time about how to write this, the final post on our South America travel blog.  I thought about posting just photos, or writing some deep and meaningful post about what this trip has meant to me, to us.  I thought about writing a poem (bad idea) or summing up our trip with a review of our favourite moments, a highlight reel, if you will.

But the thing is, you can’t really sum up a trip like ours.  Four months of travel, challenges, new friends, new cities, old buses, lots of laughter and more than a few tears just kind of defies a nice, neat package at the end.

So, instead of a grand finale here on the blog, I’ll leave you with a list of numbers that we’ve composed.  Some of these numbers (the number of countries visited, for instance) come as no surprise at all.  Some of the numbers (the number of photos taken) were a little surprising to me.  It’s impossible to put a figure on what we learned and how much we appreciated being able to take this trip together.  But, we can count the number of bus rides we took.  So, here we go:

Total days travelled: 114
Number of countries visited: 8
Number of bus journeys: 20
Number of overnight bus rides: 5
Number of flights taken: 6
Number of train trips: 1
Number of ferry trips: 1
Number of broken pieces of luggage: 2
Number of things stolen: 2
Number of items lost: 4
Occurances of malaria: 0 (yay!)
Number of pictures taken: approx 3400
Number of dodgy South American haircuts received by Andy: 2
Cheapest meal eaten: US$2 for 2 people
Most expensive meal eaten: US$160 for 2 people
Number of sunburns: 4
Number of windburns: 1
Number of beaches visited: 5
Number of islands visited: 3
Number of volcanoes / mountains visited: 3
Number of canyons visited: 1
Number of doctors visited: 1

The end of the road

And so, after four months of travelling around six other countries, we arrived at long last in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil!  Flying into Rio from the comparatively small city of Montevideo, Uruguay was a bit overwhelming.  From our seats in the sky it seemed like Rio went on, and on, and on… sprawling down mountains and around beaches as far as the eye could see.

In fact, Rio is SO big that it took us more than an hour to get from the airport to the little studio apartment that we’d rented for the week… only two blocks away from Copacabana Beach!  The apartment was small, but it had a little kitchen (thank God!  food is very expensive in Rio!) and a huge roof top terrace with an amazing view of the world famous statue of Cristo Redentor.  We spent many a happy hour sitting on the terrace, sipping wine, listening to music and laughing.

We visited the statue way up there on a very steamy and humid day.  The view from the base of the statue was breath-taking, all golden beaches and deep green patches of jungle interspersed throughout this colourful and gritty city.

We spent another day walking from Copacabana Beach down to Ipanema Beach.  We’d been warned that the beaches could be dangerous and that pick-pockets and other robbers often targeted tourists on the beach.  In fact, one evening we were standing at a crosswalk waiting to cross the street to Copacabana Beach when we watched helplessly from across six lanes of traffic as a tourist had his camera literally yanked out of his hands by a robber on a bicycle.  So, we didn’t really plan to lie about on the beach listening to our iPod or reading on the Kindle.  Instead we did a lovely walk along the edge of Copacabana, through the surrounding neighbourhoods and out onto Ipanema.  Two of the most famous beaches in the world in one sunny walk?  Yes, please!

View from the far end of Copacabana beach

Ipanema Beach

And, since we’d done a fair bit of walking, the next day we treated ourselves to the traditional Brazilian dish of feijoada.  Served only on Saturdays and Sundays, feijoada is really several dishes served together… typically a large pot of black bean and pork stew served with sides like rice, fried collard greens with crackling, roasted cassava flour, slices of oranges and hot sauce.  I’ll be honest, I like pretty much anything that’s made with black beans, but this was amazing… especially since it’s served with a classic caipirinha to drink!

We spent a lot of time talking in Rio.  Reviewing our trip, discussing the many many high points, the few low points, where we’d return, what new things we might like to see if we were to return to South America.  Many months ago, this trip felt like it might be our one shot at seeing South America.  Now, not so much.  I could easily see us returning to several of the amazing places that we’ve visited in the past four months.  And, we both agree, Rio would be at the top of the list of places we’d love to see again.