Category Archives: South America

Salvador! (Not to be confused with the country of El Salvador, or that weird-moustached painting dude Salvador Dali)

Brazil is a bloody big country – you couldn’t walk across it in a day, that’s for sure – and boasts a diverse range of environments and cultures. With time running out on my South American adventure (this leg of it, anyway, because it looks like I’ll be back there before anyone has a chance to miss me) I flew far up the coast from Rio to Salvador, the capital of Bahia. On its golden beaches I found a very different Brazil – wilder, noisier and rawer. The sun beats down, the drums beat loud and you could be forgiven for beating yourself off on the beach because there are so many bikini babes around. I didn’t do that, though, in case any Brazilian mobs are reading.

Unlike Floripa, which is relatively modern and western, Salvador feels like it’s straight out of Africa. As the beating heart of Bahia, where the descendents of Brazil’s black slaves are the overwhelming majority, Salvador feels a long way from the western world. After travelling through Chile, Argentina and Uruguay, which all wear their European histories with pride, it was a culture shock to jump into a city that’s as far removed from Madrid or Lisbon as you could possibly imagine.

Salvador’s Old Town is truly beautiful – at least from a distance. Brightly-coloured towers cling to the rugged cliffs, overlooking the glittering Atlantic Ocean. People scurry through the streets, selling fruit and vegetables. The crumbling Portuguese architecture shines under brilliant blue skies. There’s no doubt that it’s pretty, but Salvador is drenched in the ever-present feeling of danger, because it’s one of the most dangerous cities on the planet. If you want to rock up and take heaps of selfies, don’t be surprised if some dude in a Neymar soccer shirt snatches your brand new iPhone out of your hand and kicks you into the gutter.

The bizarre Elevador Lacerda is the most curious thing to see in the Old Town, joining the upper and lower sections via an 85 meter elevator (just in case the name didn’t give it away). It was built way back in 1873, but I honestly don’t know what the point of it is, since a decent set of stairs would do the job better. As it is, locals line up around the block to travel up and down, and a trip in it is the best way to experience the overwhelming stench of 45 sweaty Brazilians at one time.

Salvador is famous for it’s beaches, and the best of them are a decent bus ride from the inner city. With the standard of buses in this part of the country, I decided to save myself the hassle and check out a couple near my hostel. Praia do Porto is the most famous, and is crawling with tourists, locals and beach vendors flogging everything from sunscreen to cocaine. I’d never considered taking up a crack habit, but I was bored and the bloke selling it had a winning smile and a charismatic attitude, so now I’ve been forced into prostitution to cover my $1200-a-day habit.

The strangest thing that happened to me during my trip to Salvador occurred within hours of arriving. I scraped into my hostel around 1am, tired and grumpy after two days of travelling, and dreaming of 12 hours sleep. Fernando, the little bloke who checked me in took a shine to me, however, and strung out his tour of the hostel as long as possible, including an in-depth seminar on the cultural history of Salvador. When he showed me to my room, he lingered for a while, looking at me shyly. I thought it was a bit weird, but was glad when he finally gave me my key and fucked off. That wasn’t the end of it, though.

As I was undressing, there was a knock on the door, and when I opened it Fernando was standing in the moonlight with his hands in his pockets. He flashed me a toothless smile, and spat something dark and slimy onto the ground.

“I finish at two,” he whispered. “After that I’ll be in room 16.” With that, he flittered into the night.

I was relieved to finally have a chance to pull myself off sleep, but as my head hit the pillow there was another knock on the door. When I opened it, Fernando was there again, flashing me an impish grin.

“Would you like some chocolate?” he asked softly. When I told him I was on a diet he looked crushed.

“I wasn’t talking about that kind of chocolate…” he said sadly, caressing his dark skin, before disappearing into the moonlight.

It wasn’t until the next morning, when the sun was up and I wasn’t three-quarters asleep, that I noticed the rainbow flags and erotic male-on-male posters decorating the hostel. Turns out the Delicioso Doodle Hostel caters to a certain demographic, and turning up there as a staunchly heterosexual man was like waving a juicy steak in front of a hungry vegan. Oh well, Fernando, I’m sure someone will want a an arse and a half of your full-cream dairy milk!

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I Go To Rio

Travel blog-writing wankers with sticks up their arses will tell you that you can’t experience everything Rio de Janeiro has to offer in just five hours, but they’re wrong – very fucking wrong. With my bus from Floripa taking six hours longer than it should have, and a flight to the northeast of Brazil booked for the same night I arrived, I had barely any time in Cidade Maravilhosa (roughly translated as… I dunno, something about cicadas), but I saw it all. Every last bit of it.

So bloody well take that.

Yes, just like dancing gay champion Peter Allen did several decades ago, I gave in to the rhythm and let my feet follow the beat of my heart as I strutted down the streets of one of the world’s biggest cities. Unlike poor old Pete, I didn’t go around shaking other blokes’ maracas, so I might escape his tragic fate.

Here’s some of the cliche sights I saw during those 300 minutes. Big-arsed sheilas in tiny bikinis:

Some dude taking a shit in the street:

Dickheads dancing the Macarena:

A street- wise youth gang busting a groove in a favella:

I even visited the world famous Copacabana Beach, and thought it was a pretty bloody nice place indeed:

All of that stuff was great, but while in Rio I really wanted to see the city’s Big Thing. Coffs Harbour has the Big Banana, Nambour has the Big Pineapple, and Rio has the Big Christian. I knew he was on top of a hill that could be reached by cable car, so when I saw one, I hopped on. The ride to the top of the Sugar Loaf (if there’s a better name for a hill anywhere, I’ll eat my undies) is truly spectacular, and Rio is one of the most incredible and unique cities around. Massive mountains climb out of the rambling buildings, with golden beaches providing breathtaking decoration.

When I got to the top, I eagerly looked around for the Big Christian, but couldn’t find him anywhere. He’s 30m tall, so it’s not like he was hidden behind a palm tree or something, so I asked a little bloke who works there where the statue was.

“Estúpido gringo,” he laughed. “You’ve come to the incorrect hill. Christ the Redeemer stands proudly atop Corcovado, several kilometres from here. If you look behind you, you’ll see him. He is quite majestic.” And then he shoved an empanada in his gob and sauntered off.

But when I looked around, the Big Christian wasn’t where he was supposed to be. There were just clouds. The weather had fucked me again! I was devastated, and lined up with hundreds of other to take a selfie in front of a whole lot of nothin’.

While I was doing that, some self-obsessed creep who was hoping for the perfect Instagram snap started going berserk, ranting about the weather and knocking food off people’s tables. He was so enraged that he almost stepped on a marmoset! He was coming my way, waving his selfie stick around carrying on like a pork chop, but as I turned to run I slipped on a banana peel and went sprawling on the ground. I scraped my knee and started crying, when a fat little brown bloke with a gap-toothed smile and a goofy haircut trotted over to me.

“Such grace! Such courage! Such ability to fall over for no reason and pretend you’re hurt! You’re exactly what the Brazilian soccer team needs to win the next World Cup! Are you available over the next two months or so?”

“Who the fuck are you?”

“Why… I’m Ronaldo! The world’s greatest soccer man! I’m famous!”

“Yeah, yeah, maybe in Brazil. But in Australia people would walk right past you to get an autograph off Super Hubert. Look, I don’t have time to join your pub soccer team. You’ll just have to go and win your World Cup thingie without me.

Praia do Rosa: It’s bloomin’ good!

Santa Catarina, in the luscious south of Brazil, has so many beaches that you’d go mad if you tried to drink a beer on even a quarter of them in your lifetime. So when it came to organising a romantic weekend away, I allowed my Brazilian lady friend to choose the destination. She has fantastic taste in men, and also proved to have fantastic taste in beaches, and thus we ended up in Praia do Rosa.

The beach is just 80km from Florianopolis and its million inhabitants, but it really feels like it’s a world away from the city (and not just because the journey takes hours by bus). Praia do Rosa is incredibly rural, with chickens and cows roaming the dirt tracks. It’s a place where time moves slowly, and that’s a good thing because the views are pretty bloody good.

Like many places along Santa Catarina’s coast, Praia do Rosa is like a little slice of Bali. There are Buddhas all over the place, bamboo shacks, and beer that’s every bit as cheap and refreshing as Bintang. Hell, I even found a bar called Lombok (nobody was getting their arms hacked off with machetes, though, as far as I could tell). If I had little blokes racing up to me every five seconds trying to sell me pirated X-Men DVDs and dodgy Rip Curl shirts I would’ve forgotten where I was.

If you’re staying in Praia do Rosa, make sure you get a place overlooking the ocean, otherwise you’re wasting your time (right, that’s my travel blog advice for 2018, see you next year). The sunrises are spectacular, and if you’re back from the beach you’ll feel like you’re camping in a farm. There are also a few other beaches within walking distance, such as Vermelha and Luz, and I can say from experience that the trek is much more pleasant if you bring along a woman with a nice bottom and ask her to walk in front at all times (two bits of travel blog advice in one year. I might need to have a lie down).

So that’s it. I had a top time in Praia do Rosa, saw some awesome places, spent most of the time drunk, ate grouse food that cost less than a packet of chips back in Australia, lay around in hammocks with a pretty lady to keep me company, and basically continued my quest to never act like a responsible adult. Sometimes life can suck balls, but if that’s the case, just head to Praia do Rosa and have a caipirinha on the sand, it’ll sort your shit out quick smart.

Floripa Madness!

There are certain places on this big fuck-off blue ball called Earth that I truly believe I was drawn to. Whether to meet someone who would touch my soul or to experience something that would change my life, I didn’t choose to visit these destinations – they chose me. Florianopolis, in the south of Brazil, is one of those very special places. I stumbled in for what I thought would be three nights and now I’m regretfully stumbling out 15 days later, feeling as though I’ve experienced a lifetime in a single fortnight. Yeah, Floripa is a pretty damn cool place.

It was by pure chance that I ended up visiting the island. As well as boasting some of the greatest surf breaks and paragliding sites on the planet, Florianopolis was also at the centre of a major international drug smuggling ring for many years. The story of drug runners and millionaire kingpins was told in Kathryn Bonella’s fantastic book Operation Playboy, which my old man read a few months ago. He told me to read it, I did, and the picture painted of Florianopolis meant that I had to include it on my trip through South America. And they say drugs aren’t good for anyone!

The actual city of Floripa is nice enough, straddling the coast of Santa Catarina and the edge of Ilha de Santa Catarina, but the true beauty comes from some of the further flung spots. There are 42 beaches on the island, and most of them are spectacular. I set up camp in the hills overlooking Barra da Lagoa, a fishing village lined with palm trees and golden sand. It’s a peaceful place that reminds me of Bali, with monkeys swinging from the trees, bamboo houses, open-air bars and restaurants, and a good vibe. As I walked down the beach for the first time, with emerald hills rising above me and the azure waves crashing at my feet, I already knew that three nights wouldn’t be enough.

People check out Drunk and Jobless for the naked photos of me humping statues and wild stories of alcohol-fuelled debauchery, so I’m not going to post an entry that reads like a teenager’s diary, but I was fortunate enough to meet someone wonderful on that mystical island off the coast of South America. Someone who showed me the beauty of Brazilian culture, taught me that beer belongs in the freezer even when it’s cold out, didn’t judge me for wearing skin-tight womens leggings in public, and introduced me to the magic of caipirinha and the kilo lunch. We spent enough time together that I now wear thongs inside and wash my underpants in the shower, like a true Brazilian. Floripa is a place anyone would enjoy, but one person made it truly incredible for me.

Right, the mushy stuff’s over, somoving on. Florianopolis is a magical island, and if you’re drawn there, don’t fight it. Go snorkelling, hike up mountains, drink cheap beer in great bars by the water, sit in the sun and smile, perve on stunning women wearing G-bangers, wear a G-banger yourself and not feel like you’re being judged for doing so, lie in a hammock and watch the world roll past, gorge yourself on pizza for three meals a day, enjoy strolling through the crime-free streets, visit the nudist beach, get caught in a Brazilian truckers strike and not be able to go anywhere because there’s no petrol, swim in crystal clear waters, kayak past the most incredible waterfront houses you’ll ever see, dance the samba with locals, end up with lots of useless change in your pocket, and watch the sun set over the water with a good bottle of cheap wine. Fifteen years wouldn’t be enough time there, let alone 15 days, so there’s a pretty good chance I’ll be back. Put the Brahma in the fridge!

Punta del Este is the best(e)

Celebrities such as Paris Hilton, Marky Mark and Paul ‘Fatty’ Vautin flock to Punta del Este each summer like flies to shit. The beaches are packed with bronzed bodies and the nightclubs are pulsing with techno music. Uruguay’s second city is one of the world’s great party spots, so I was surprised when I rocked up with a box of glowsticks, a pocket full of disco biscuits, and my Best of Eiffel 65 CD, only to find the place almost deserted.

A vagrant informed me that Punta del Este is incredibly busy for a few weeks in summer, but basically empty for the rest of the year, which seemed to make sense. Then again, the dude was hunting through banana peels and used condoms for a feed, so there’s as much chance that Punta del Este had actually been taken over by a plague of zombies. Whatever the truth is, there’s not much action for most of the year, but it’s still a really nice place.

Punta del Este is referred to as The Monaco of the South, The Pearl of the Atlantic, The St. Tropez of South America and The Woy Woy of Uruguay, and it’s easy to see why. The views are spectacular and the golden beaches are decorated with expensive restaurants and trendy cafes. Huge towers loom over the water, and everything feels pretty safe and clean compared to other parts of South America. I reckon Ms Hilton could even pass out under a palm tree after a night on the goon without worrying about getting her phone pinched.

As well as natural beauty, Punta del Este boasts some awesome touristy things to see. I found some evil battle robots down a side street, a scale replica of the Statue of Liberty outside a pizza shop, and the world’s hugest hand emerging from the sand. You’d be cranky if you found out your girlfriend’s ex had fingers like that. My verdict is that Punta del Este is tops any time of the year, but if you want a chance of rooting one of the Olson Twins, go there in summer. When the weather’s cold and windy, you might have to settle for a homeless fella with two teeth in his head.

Estadio Centenario: Pretty cool, even though it smells like soccer

Back in 2001, Aussie soccer fans were left in tears when the Socceroos were bundled out of the World Cup qualifications after a heartbreaking 3-0 loss to Uruguay in Montevideo. I laughed my dick off because soccer is a game for teenage girls and the physically handicapped, and Aussie soccer fans are the sort of ponytailed wankers who deserve to be tipped into bins, so when in Montevideo I just had to visit the scene of the hilarity.

The Estadio Centenario was built in 1930 for that year’s World Cup, and doesn’t look like it’s been renovated since then. The stadium is old fashioned, run down… and utterly fantastic. Despite being an oval, every one of the 60,000 seats has a great view and is right on top of the action. There are no corporate boxes, the seating is basic, there’s no roof, I couldn’t find any toilets and the Wifi is rubbish, but it has more character than any billion-dollar modern stadium. The atmosphere would be awesome during a big game (as long as you ignore the soccering happening on the pitch).

The razor wire and security moats that separate the various sections of the stadium give some indication of how wild things get during matches, but when I was there on a Monday arvo, the crowd was reminiscent of a Central Coast Mariners game. There were about six other people in the stands and a dozen or so bored-looking birds hunting about on the grass, and the only flares I saw were being worn by a fat bloke with an afro.

In the bowls of the stadium is the Museo del Futbol, which is full of photos of soccer players and World Cup trophies and other stuff I couldn’t give a shit about. I guess if soccerballing is your thing, you’d love it. Apparently the two World Cups Uruguay have earned are housed there, but fucked if I could work out which ones they were amongst the memorabilia, so here’s a trophy that may or may not be one of them.

As I wandered through the displays wearing my Kangaroos jersey, a couple of the workers started taunting me about how rubbish the Socceroos are and lisping “One-nil! One nil! Harry Kewell suck so bad! Juan Aloisi has faeces on his boots!”

“Boys, you need to settle down,” I said, pointing at the badge on my chest. “I don’t waste time watching limp-wristed tossers pretending to be hurt and biting each other’s dicks. I follow rugby league and the Australian Kangaroos, and we haven’t won just two World Cups, we’ve won 14 of the bastards.”

They were curious about what I meant, so I turned on the nearest Commodore Amiga and pointed them towards a few rugby league videos on YouTube. The fellas started hootin’ and hollerin’, slapping each other high fives and pretending to tackle each other. As I looked at some more displays, the crowd around the computer grew, and I chuckled as one little fella wondered out loud, “Why have we been wasting our time with soccer all these years?”

Pretty soon every computer in the museum was blasting out YouTube clips of the NRL’s biggest hits, the 1989 grand final, or Tina Turner’s old Simply the Best ad for the Winfield Cup. One bloke was getting pretty worked up over a compilation video of Nathan Hindmarsh losing his shorts. Another was using the 1928 Olympic trophy as an ash tray and trying to replicate ‘the bubbler’ as he watched some of Todd Carney’s career highlights. As I left I saw one of the fellas pulling down a photo of Diego Forlan and putting up a photo of Johnathan Thurston that he’d hastily printed off his Amstrad computer, saying, “Uruguay is a rugby league country now.” Expect the Montevideo Mud Crabs to join the NRL any minute now!

Montevideo: Worth visiting for more than a day-o

My first impressions of Uruguay weren’t great. After climbing off the bus late at night in the middle of Montevideo, the first person I saw was a crackhead shitting in a park. When I made it to my hostel, in the historic Old Town, it was an absolute slum. Animals wandered the delapidated hallways, the whole place smelled strongly of farts, and an emaciated homeless man was passed out on the floor in front of my room. I thought I’d walked into a nightmare, but luckily I gave Montevideo another shot, because I ended up discovering it’s a really cool city – especially if you spend most of your time in the Pocito district.

Before getting into the delights of Montevideo’s beachside suburbs, I need to stress that the Old Town (Ciudad Vieja) is absolutely horrible, and should be avoided at all costs. In most places around the world, the historic centres of cities are full of bars, coffee shops, hotels and culture, but that’s not the case in Montevideo. This Old City is home to abandoned shops, junkies and pools of vomit on every corner. It’s depressing, scary and dangerous. It’s a shame, because this area of Montevideo has some really nice old buildings and parks, but they’re all painted with a coat of misery and suffering. Do yourself a favour, drastically reduce your chances of being butt-raped by a toothless meth addict and stay the hell away.

You don’t need to walk far out of the Old City before things really start to improve. You’ll even be able to put down that big stick you’ve been using to fend off attackers. Grimy buildings and congested streets give way to quaint houses and tree-lined avenues, with a more European ambiance. Closer to the coast, Montevideo can be quite lovely, with small beaches and swaying palm trees. The weather’s pretty shocking in May, but I imagine it would be a particularly nice place to visit in summer, when the skies are blue and the nights are warm. Outside of that, pack a raincoat.

The real star of the show is Pocito, with its sweeping beach and seemingly-endless rows of towers that look out at the ocean. It’s the liveliest part of Montevideo, and has heaps of bars, restaurants and clubs, and very few people shooting heroin into their eyeballs. There are all sorts of shiny towers and pleasant gardens, and there’s no dubting that all of the money that used to be in the Old City is now in Pocito. It’s certainly a top spot to get hammered whilst looking at all the pretty Uruguayan senoritas. So of course I said goodbye to the awful MVD Hostel, bid a fond farewell to my homeless housemate, and relocated to trendy Pocito at the first opportunity.

From then on, my life was flipped turned upside down, and I started loving Montevideo. I befriended the locals (several times, actually) and settled into life in this buzzing South American metropolis. Before long, I was basically a Montevideoperson… except for the fact I can’t speak Spanish and everyone looks at me like I’m a fucking idiot when I can’t understand what they’re saying. It was all good, though, because as I flounced through the dappled sunshine, I found a really big gun in a park, and hung off it like a teenage nymph hanging from Ron Jeremy’s oversized wang.

I discovered the Centro Nacional de Disfunción Eréctil, which I soon learnt is the National Erectile Dysfuntion Centre. Appropriately, it’s housed in a penis-shaped building, and when I walked through the doors I was met by a handful of depressed-looking blokes who were milling around with their hands in their pockets, kicking stones. I swaggered up to the front desk, winked at the sadsacks around me, and loudly proclaimed, “I have an erectile dysfunction,” before pausing for dramatic effect. “That’s right, I can’t stop getting boners and I can’t keep women off my boners.” I think it would’ve been more effective if anyone inthe room could understand what I was saying, but I reckon it was fuckin’ funny.

I didn’t want to spend all day in a clinic for fellas with dodgy doodles, so I decided to head off for a spot of shopping. The Punta Carretas centre is built in the remains of an old prison (the front gate is still there, but not much else remains of the bad boys home), and is a good spot to visit if you need a new tunic or a boob tube or something. I actually found my favourite shop in there:

While walking through a park, I saw a few dozen locals swarmed around some sort of metal structure. They were taking turns trying to climb up the weird contraption, so I tiptoed over and asked them whether I could have a crack at it. One bloke with a monobrow and a limp told me it was called el juego de escalar pene, which translates to the penis climbing game, and it’s the Uruguayan national pastime. The goal is to climb to the top as quickly as possible and sit on the pole. I’m not a fan of shoving poles up my blurter, so I just climbed as far as I could and called it a day.

As for food and drink, those little Uruguayan champions sure know what they’re doing. Patricia beer sounds like it’s been named after an English poet and academic from Exmouth, Devon, but is cheap and delicious. Uruguayan wine is great, and available all over the place. The food is awesome, with massive steaks, bulging sausages, and perhaps the greatest meal of all time, the legendary chivito, which is a sort of steak burger with cheese, tomatoes, bacon, eggs, ham, and anything else you can think of. It’s worth getting fat for.

Montevideo has certainly surprised me. When I arrived, I thought it was only slightly nicer than Huddersfield, which is to say I thought it was rubbish. But over the past week this city has revealed a wonderful, exciting, fun side that I’ve come to love. I’ve spent longer here than expected, thanks to a number of factors, but I’m really getting into the swing of things. Video might’ve killed the radio star, but Montevideo killed all my expectations (alright, that was rubbish).

Colonia-oscopy

Argentina is a beautiful and diverse country, but after drinking their beer and climbing their hills it was time move on to a nation best known as the punchline to a Simpson’s joke, Uruguay. The historic township of Colonia is only one hour by ferry from Buenos Aires, so I jumped on one and headed off to country number 55 or 56 or whatever I’m up to now. The ride over is fairly boring, with very little to look at, but it was worth it simply for the name of this ship I saw once I got to Colonia.

The town was founded by the Portuguese back in 1680 and traded between them and the Spanish for centuries. It shows, because the Old Town of Colonia feels like it should be in southern Europe, with cobblestone streets and outdoor cafes. It’s a favourite weekend getaway for people from Buenos Aires and Montevideo, and with its laid-back atmosphere Colonia is the perfect place to kick back with a beer and a slice of pizza.

The Old Town is small enough to wander through in a matter of minutes, and there are some pleasant parks and (presumably boring) museums to check out if you want a touch of culture. A bit of a warning, though; I saw this pervert trying to lure children into his sex grotto and when I stormed up and asked him to explain himself, he wouldn’t say a word. So watch out.

As far as interesting historical sites go, the Colonia del Sacramento Lighthouse is the best there is. It was constructed in 1855 after dozens of ships were wrecked off the coast of Colonia, and it still stands proudly today. The cost to climb it is a very reasonable 25 pesos, and after paying the surly guard at the front door I struggled up the narrow, winding staircase to the top. The view isn’t exactly spectacular, but does provide a different perspective of the town, as well as a look back at distant Buenos Aires, across the murky Rio de la Plata.

I assume it would normally be quite pleasant up there, but the mood was ruined by a fat girl who was sitting on the railing, taking selfies and working her way through a garbage bag of chocolate-filled empanadas. Or maybe they were shit-filled empanadas, because the farts she was letting off could’ve killed an Arab. I couldn’t take it anymore, so I headed back to street level.

I was halfway down when I heard an ominous rumbling from above, followed by a scream. The rumbling and the screaming were getting louder and closer, but I couldn’t work out what it was. Suddenly someone screamed, “Oh my God, the fat girl has fallen!” and I was met with the dreadful reality that she was rolling down the stairs towards me, destroying everything in her path. I turned in terror and ran blindly down the staircase, as the boulder of flesh closed in on me.

I looked back to see the tumbling fat blob was only metres away, and I resigned myself to being crushed by her empanada-fuelled bulk. Then I saw a beautiful beam of light in front of me, and dived out the front door towards safety. At that point I saw the painted pervert ready to step inside (probably to kiss children), so I gave him a thumbs-up and told him to go right ahead. No sooner had he stepped inside than the fat girl rolled around the corner, cleaning him up. The pervert was firmly wedged in the fatty’s arse crack, and she was now farting even more regularly due to shock, causing him to start gagging and vomiting up his asado lunch (a type of BBQ that’s a local specialty – see, this is a proper travel blog). It was time for me to catch a bus to Montevideo, so I wished them all the best in their new life as conjoined twins, then sashayed off into the afternoon to get drunk on public transport.

Buenos Aires: City of Beauty

Buenos Aires is home to 13 million people and 13 million ways to spend a warm May Sunday, such as dancing in the streets, eating empanadas and… well, I wasn’t really sure what there was to do, so I just strapped a smile to my face and headed out into Argentina’s bustling capital. This is the story of my one big day in the city of fair winds.

I happily flounced out into the street wearing a singlet and shorts, and the warm weather was a welcome change from the frigid conditions I’d become accustomed to in Patagonia. I was surprised to find a massive street fair right outside my hotel (which is apparently a regular thing on Sundays) and got caught up in the swarming crowds. I encountered some small children in funny costumes who were carrying a flag around. It looked like fun, so I borrowed a beret and got involved, only for some killjoy to snatch my headpiece and tell me to grow up. In Spanish, which was even more humiliating.

Whilst walking along the glamorous waterfront, with expensive yachts bobbing in the polluted water, I found a boat that seemed a bit older than the rest of them. Turns out it was the Presidente Sarmiento, which first sailed in 1897 and is now a floating museum. The 81m-long marvel was built as a training ship and never saw active service, but did circumcise circumnavigate the globe six times. As a mark of respect, I pretended to have sex with one of its cannons. The captain thought it was hilarious, but suggested I leave before he caved my head in.

There are plenty of good sorts in Buenos Aires, but a huge proportion of the heads here are that rough they’d make a sheet of sandpaper wince. This battler was recently judged to have Buenos Aires’ Most Beautiful Smile, but when I saw him he’d shat his pants and was arguing with a pigeon. How the mighty have fallen.

The highlight of the day came when I encountered a homeless man wearing a McDonald’s bag on his head like a crown. I would’ve liked to ask him what the story was, but he seemed to have a chip on his shoulder so I left him alone.

I ended up in the Le Boca district, which is run down and a bit poor, but has its own charm. There are lots of colourful buildings and fun shops, which is nice. I noticed lots of excited little Argentinean blokes swaggering around in blue and yellow tops, and at first I thought they were all massive Parra Eels fans. Who knows, maybe Daniel Wagon and Luke Burt are big names in Buenos Aires. I stopped one of the little blokes and asked him what was going on, and he just thrust his hips and said, “Football, football!”

“Did you see the Raiders game?” I asked him, happy to have someone to talk footy with. “How good was Tapine! I bet you fellas are looking forward to getting a team in the NRL. What are they gonna call them, the Buenos Aires Bum Bandits?” For some reason the dude showed little interest and started shrugging his shoulders as if he was trying to get rid of dandruff. When a round ball landed at his feet and he started juggling it, I realised he was actually a fan of soccer, which was surprising because I hadn’t picked him as a homosexual.

The Argies love their soccer and take it pretty seriously, so the streets around La Bombonera were crawling with cops and heavily-armed anti riot squad members. There were even armoured vehicles. The fans heading to the match seemed to be enjoying themselves, though, with plenty of dancing and singing. Hey, if I knew I had to spend the next two hours watching a game of bloody soccer, I’d make the most of my last few moments of freedom, too.

I was getting a bit cold, so I chucked on a bright orange shirt, and immediately noticed that more Argies than usual were yelling at me. It’s not possible that I could’ve fucked all their wives, so I didn’t know what was going on, until I noticed a group of hardcore Boca Juniors fans burning an effigy of an opposition player wearing an orange shirt similar to mine. Turns out I’d unintentionally dressed up as a member of Boca Juniors’ biggest rivals, the Palermo Pindicks! I had a giggle and then raced off into the streets before someone beheaded me.

Feeling tired and emotional, I grabbed a few cans of Quilmes and ended up at the San Telmo Street Fair, which seemingly runs forever through the cobblestone streets. It’s the place to go if you want to buy roasted peanuts, magnets, knitted caps, pictures of soccer players, carved wooden sculptures, or any other knick-knack you can think of. I ended up getting quite drunk and accidentally knocked over one of those human statue street performers, who completely dropped his act to tell me to fuck off. I found it completely unprofessional, so I won’t be contacting him next time I require the services of someone who can stand really still for a long time. Buenos Aires, huh? What a grouse place!

Bariloche: bars, bushwalks and bad behaviour

Pictures of Bariloche make it look like a sleepy little town in the Argentinean mountains, but this place can be as wild and exciting as you want it to be. It’s surrounded by monumental natural beauty, but also full of great restaurants, busy bars and nightclubs that run until dawn breaks over the lakes. During my time in Bariloche, I saw a little of everything it has to offer – and trust me, it offers a lot.

I arrived to predictions of heavy rain, so I immediately extended what was planned to be a three day visit to five. It was a good call, because the weather the first few days was atrocious. I still set out into the wind and rain to climb Cerro Otto, a 15km round trip from town, which on a nice day would deliver wonderful views back over Bariloche. Honestly, I should’ve stayed in bed with a box of wine and a good book. I saw next to nothing and just ended up cold, wet and tired, like a nymphomaniac snowman’s girlfriend (yeah I know, I was really reaching with that one).

After drying off, I decided to get my insides wet instead, loading up on cheap supermarket booze before heading into town with a young lass I’d met earlier at an empanada stand. Seriously, nothing turns me on more than a woman who can down a dozen meat-filled pastries in a sitting. If I thought the weather was challenging, it was nothing compared to an evening in Bariloche. We started out at a delightful restaurant where I had my first encounter with a thick, juicy slab of Argentinean beef. No, I didn’t suck off some swarthy Latino bloke, I got stuck into a steak, which isn’t something I often treat myself to because I’m a povo backpacker. I got the small steak, but it was still the size of my head and absolutely scrumptious. Fortunately, the waiter forgot to charge me for my food, so it tasted even better.

Bariloche is known as Argentina’s party capital for a reason, and after dinner I stumbled through a haze of bars serving wide ranges of craft beers, and clubs playing thumping European techno music. At some point, whilst I was having an illuminating conversation with a tattooed bouncer regarding whether or not I had ingested one too many beers, my lady friend slipped off into the night with the bloke from the empanada stand. As I looked out over the warming sun as it climbed over the lakes, with vomit on my shirt, I was just happy I’d made it through the night. It was great to be in a proper city after weeks in remote villages but come on, I’m 35, too many nights like that would kill me.

Fortunately, the weather picked up from there, and I was able to appreciate the true glory of the area. I jumped on a bus out to the waterfront village of Llao Llao, which is the starting point for a number of short but breathtaking hikes. Climbing to the top of Monte Llao Llao (an easy hour’s hike from the bus stop) is a must-do when in Bariloche, and as I sat up there, I couldn’t help thinking that it was perhaps the most spectacular place I’d ever visited. Well, maybe there’s a few places between legs that best it, but it was still very pleasant.

Bariloche is a weird place. It looks and feels much like a European city, but it has enough dirt and grime (and a surprisingly large amount of burnt-out cars) to give away the fact it’s not quite first world. Dogs wander around everywhere, graffiti is splattered across most walls, and little Argie dudes rush around everywhere. But with such a massive selection of bars and restaurants, as well as some of the best scenery you’ll ever see, it really is a cool place. Now I need to get out of here and head somewhere to give my liver a rest. I hear Buenos Aires is nice this time of hear… how could I possibly get into trouble there?