Insight into South America after 3.5 months...

Trip Start Jan 12, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Argentina  ,
Thursday, May 4, 2006

I wanted to take some time to give some insights into this fantastic continent after 3 and a half months. This entry has no structure, purely a dump of my thoughts.

I have travelled a lot of the world including Africa and Asia and have seen a lot of poverty, South America has shocked me in the struggle for survival some of the poeple living here are suffering.
In Brasil people will sell anything anywhere to make a buck. On buses, at traffic lights, at bus stations and in the streets people will sell anyhting, wiper blades, TV antennas, socks, fruit, pastries, mobile phone covers, bread, drinks, sweets, lotteries and even steak knives and nail clippers!! The average earnings are A$6 per day. When i see them in the streets with a handful of stock and think that the most they could make even if they sold it all would be less than A$5 it shocks me.

Poverty and the responsibilities on young children....
One thing that did hit home was the poverty in Peru. Amazing to see the responsibilities children at the tender age of 4 or 5 have, from shoe shining, selling all types of goods, bus attendants where they scream out the destination of the mini van and collect cash and herding animals by themselves. These kids age at a phenomenal rate.

Cheapest fuel i have ever seen in my life was in venezuela but you could wait up to 6 hours to fill a tank!!! Right on the border with Brasil is Santa Elena, here fuel is USD$0.03 per litre! Amazing. The wait is due to the Brasilians coming accross the border to fill up and go back where it costs as much as it does at home for us. They modify their cars so that the tanks hold 200+ litres and come over to fill up.

I had the most dangerous bus ride of my trip. Imagine a small bus, imagine the battery for the bus underneatht the seat of the driver, imagine a 10 litre drum of petrol beside the battery!!!! YES, petrol + battery spark = KAABOOM!!! These people have no idea! Check out the photo!!!
Constructions sites are a classic. A man with a jackhammer breaking cement on the footpath, bits of cement flying everywhere and pedestrians and cars passing without any idea of the danger until an eye is lost!!

Check out the safe electrical cable extensions to the generator in the picture named electrical safety! If you zoom in you´ll see the conection of the different coloured cable is with sticky tape (or cello tape for the USA folks!) and can i add it started to rain as i was leaving!!!

I have never seen such a nation that believes that one day they will win the lottery. It is the only hope some people have. I didnt understand it at first but completely do now. They will never become rich working day to day and earning enough only to survive, lottery is the saviour.

´Deus´(god) is everywhere. Bumper stickers, t-shirts... everywhere. if the lotteries dont save them then Deus will.......
It is not uncommon to see passengers on a bus make the sing of the cross before they begin their journey. The same is done as they pass churches and cemetaries..

You jump on a bus with a pile of books or shopping, there are no seats but you can guranatee that someone will hold your things on their lap till you get off or they do. Nice. Wish people were like that at home.
On another note people are rude when it comes to queuing, pushing in or talking over someone else is common. Want to survive here? You need to learn to do the same.... i am glad most people DONT do this at home.

Toilet Paper
Imagine you had to put ALL your toilet paper into a waste basket after use. Cant imagine it? Welcome to South America where you cannot put hygenic paper into the bowl. It MUST go into the bin.
Think it a priviledge to turn a tap and have hot water. Most houses and hotels in most of South America have this contraption on the shower head that has electricity running to directly to it, the unit heats water as it passes through the unit!!! You have 2 options on the unit, 1) cold and 2) BOLING hot!!! the temeprature of the water is controlled by the water flow, more water = cold water, less water = hot but a very weak shower! Oh and yes, electricity + water does = SHOCKS!!! See the pics.
On the subject of hygiene check out the tattooing video. This is in the middle of an esplanade in the city!!! Serious health risks with all the pollution as needles penetrate your skin, and who knows how many times that needles been used.....

Cars and speakers
I though Sydney was bad when it came to the investment in car stereos, some Brasilians put them to shame. Whilst the ´hero´s´(as my friends and i like to call them) in Sydney keep the sound in the car, Brasilians keep it outside of the car. They will fill the boot (trunk) of a car with speakers and amplifiers and face them all outward and drive around with the boot open. You serioulsy cannot hear yourself think!
Want to blow an eardrum? Jump on a local bus!!! The engines are at the front of the bus and make such a racket you cannot think! I hate to image the hearing of those drivers.
Check out the pícture of the bolivian steering wheel modification!!! jJapanese imports where the dashboard is not changed so the speedo is on the passenger side!!!
They take advertising to the extremes, watch the video clip of a van that drives around all day blarring advertisements...

Check out the safe taxi we took to the mud baths in the picture called Blue Taxi. Dont know how this car is able to be on the road! Clasic!

I love the micros in south America, i would rather travel in one of these hot, squeezed, bumpy, noisy mini buses than any other means of transport. No lie.... i cant imagine any other way you can really experience south American culture at its rawest than in one of these mini buses. You get all this culture for 1 soles (USD $0.30). You hear the language, speak the language (when you can make a friend), see the locals doing their daily thing, see all sorts of stuff taken on board and the best part of all get to see the back streets.... and it is completely safe. HIGHLY recommended everywhere in south America..

Say Oi at home and it is a rude term (unless of course used with (Aussie, Aussie, Aussie). In brasil you say Oi when you answer the phone, want someone to repeat themselves, need someone attention.... the list goes on.

Servos (service stations) just like home
Shell, Mobil all most other petroleum providers are alive and well. I was suprised to see a Shell centre just we have at home with bakers and hot chickens and mini markets. I truly did not expect them to be so modern.

Vehicle registration
none existent! Tracktors, horses, horse and carts, mini bikes all on the on roads without any type of registration. Wicked!! AI was suprised to see that in some cities (yes cities) Horse and carriages are still a primary means of transport.
Also motorcyclists in Medellin in Colombia MUST wear a flouro safety jacket with their bike registration number on it. Impossible to look cool on a bike!!!

No fishing license required.

Mate - they drink it religiously!!! Herbs with hot water and truckloads of sugar (to make it drinkable i guess). I tried it in Paraguay (without sugar) and nearly threw up, i tried it again in Argentina and it wasnt too bad, but i have to admit the person who made it filled the cup with sugar.... not pleasant. They even having hot water vending machines at service stations so you can top up at any time!! See the picture.

Was suprised to see many recycling programs in many of the countries in South America. In Paraguay they have these 4 multicoloured bins for paper, glass, cans and waste. Whether people use them or not is another question. I think they have been given grants and these bins are a facade. Brasil has cartineros (cardboard collectors) who run the streets at night collecting carboard thrown out by businesses, they then sell it to recyclers, see the pics.

The ignorance of the Peruvians on Pollution amazes me. Burning tyres everywhere, trash is thrown out car windows without a secnds thought, ruins are covered in trash and lets not even talk about the rivers and beaches.... It kills me how these people pollute the very rivers that give them their water..... just a plain lack of awareness..

What`s Cheap?
How about 4 kilos of dirty laundry for $1.20! And back in 5 hours!!!

There was a referendum on the weekend i was due to leave La Paz Bolivia which meant a complete freeze on all ground transport!!! Why i hear you ask? Aparently on voting day people would travel to other voting stations to cast multiple votes so they freeze all transport to prevent this. There is also a 3 day alcohol ban to ensure voters are sober!!!

Can you belive they mail stuff in a linen bag that is stiched up on either end??? True. Cant wait for my family to recieve my latest package!!! Classic.

I´ll continue updating this section with random thoughts.
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familyhaiwiki on

Thank You
All your quirky info and videos were very informative! Thank you! Could you tell me if you had the Yellow Fever vaccine or not and if you have known anyone who has gotten side effects from it.

livingthedream on

yellow fever response

I did have the yellow fever vaccine and had no side affects. Best to consult your doctor regardless, especially if you are sensative.

Enjoy your trip, South America is spectacular!

Be very careful in Quito, I am the most cautious of travellers and got robbed of everything in Quito. Be very careful, they are very skillful theives!

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