Tag Archives: backpacking

The Tour of Annecy

“Put your clothes on and get the fuck out of my house! And please remove my turnip strainer from your anus!”

Just another day in the home on paragliding, Annecy, France. I opened my eyes to see a very bashful, very naked Hamster hurriedly throwing his clothes into his bag. His arms and legs were heavily bruised, and he had bite marks on his abdomen. The owner of the slum we were staying in, Adrian, was waving a carving knife around violently.

“We have to leave right now,” Hamster wept. “I think I’ve made a social faux pas.”

The apartment looked worse than I remembered, which is saying something. Empty beer bottles, blood in the walls, a TV-shaped hole in one of the windows, that sort of thing. I couldn’t really blame Adrian for kicking up a stink. I had a crushing hangover and felt like Antifa had spent the night kicking my head in, but when Hamster says we should vamos, we vamos, so that’s what we did.

I thought we might have to suck dicks in exchange for accommodation but Hamster, as always, had a plan up his sleeve.

“I met a bloke last night who has a tent we can sleep in,” he slurred, and I put plans for prostitution on hold. “He was wearing pants made out of hemp and had a man bun, but how bad can his place be?”

And that’s how Hamster and I ended up sleeping in a tipi in the middle of a hippie commune.

The farm ended up being absolutely wonderful, with wide open fields far below the peaks of the Alps. Accommodation is bloody expensive in this part of the world, so camping is definitely the way to go unless you’re made of money. After settling into the tipi and struggling through a sun worshipping ceremony and 90-minute yoga session, I was keen as mustard to get up the hill and go flying, but Hamster had other things on his mind.

“I’d like to harvest some carrots and then cook a vegan casserole,” he told me, already inspired by his new surroundings. “And Pierre has an interpretive dance workshop that I’d hate to miss, so can we put a pin in the paragliding thingy for now?”

Hamster has a history turning into a hippie for no real reason, so I know the only way to snap him out of it. I slipped a few shots of rum into his kale and quinoa smoothie while he was hugging a tree, and soon he was pulling out man buns left, right and centre and munching sausages in front of horrified vegetarians, so I chucked him in the car and took him up to launch.

The conditions were even better than the day before, and our luck got even better when paragliding guru Marque and the gang rocked up. I’m telling you, the paragliding community is so warm and inclusive, and there are plenty of people willing to share their time and knowledge without expecting anything in return. There were hugs all round, then Marque took us aside with a serious expression on his face.

“I truly believe that you two have what it takes to be legendary gods of the sky,” he said honestly. “Perhaps it is the way you take to the heavens with confidence and skill. Perhaps it’s the way you can drink cheap vodka upside down without vomiting. But today you will take the next step in your training, by completing the Petit Tour du Lac.

The Petit Tour du Lac is the beginner’s circuit around the bottom half of Lake Annecy, and provides a good challenge without the complications that come with going the whole way. It’s not an easy task, but with Marque’s smooth voice wafting through our radios, Hamster and I launched towards our destinies.

I’m telling you, it was rough as guts up there, but we were soon getting great height as we climbed towards the 50 or 60 gliders above us. Once we pulled in 1800 metres of height we jumped over to the next mountain range, and I was close to filling my pants as I sunk out, got thrown around, and generally had a tough time of it. But I made it, Hamster made it, Marque made it, and the view was unreal.

We thermalled up to 2100 metres and then cut across the lake, and that big, blue bugger looks beautiful from a couple of kilometres up. We made it across easily, and soon we were riding above ancient castles and cobblestone streets, before racing along a steep ridge. The view from the top of Doussard was superb, and soon we were spiralling down into the valley, thirsty for an ice cold French beer or 18.

Of course, Marque and the gang got us roaring drunk, and when we were at the point of starting fights with pot plants, the big man took us to the side once more.

“You boys really proved yourselves up there today,” he slurred whilst holding onto the bar to prevent himself falling over. “I think it’s time for you to meet Gabrielle.”

“Sure thing,” I chirped. “Does she have big tits?”

“No, but feel free to give them a squeeze if you want,” said a handsome man with a shock of white hair. “My name is Gabrielle. Or as my friends call me, The Eagle of Annecy.”

It’s not every day you meet perhaps the greatest paraglider pilot of all time, so I might save that story for next time!

Advertisements

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!

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!

I Can’t Help Iguazu Falls-ing in Love With You

I’ve never met a waterfall I didn’t like – and trust me, I’ve seen a few over the years – so there was no chance I’d miss out on Iguazu Falls during my adventures through South America. Along with Africa’s Victoria Falls and North America’s Niagara Falls, Iguazu is part of the holy trinity of big, wet, splashy things, and it’s absolutely magnificent. If you don’t believe me, just have a squiz at the photos.

Iguazu is 82 metres tall, 2700 metres wide, has 275 drops and woos millions of tourists every year. And ladies, he’s single! The locals reckon the falls were created when some tart named Naipí was meant to marry a god named El Kevin, but she fucked off with some other bloke (probably a Maori) and so Kev cracked the dirts and sliced the river up. I don’t know how historically accurate that is, but it sounds good enough to me.

Half the places to view the falls are in Argentina and the other half are in Brazil, but it’s a short trip between the two sites so it’s possible to check out both. There are three main tracks through the Argie side of the falls, so it takes at least half a day to check everything out, and that’s if you don’t spend too much time stuffing around, oohing and ahhing at all there is to see. I headed out after a 26 hour bus trip from Montevideo and managed to see it all before beer o’clock, so it’s not that much effort.

Circuito Superior and Circuito Inferior both give a good idea of what the falls are all about, with some really pretty spots, but these walks never reach the spectacular highs found at Victoria Falls. The falls are, for the most part, a little too far away, with only the final fall of the Inferior stroll rising up above the boardwalk. Luckily, that’s not the best of it.

Garganta del Diablo, or The Devil’s Throat, is what it’s all about. After catching a fun little train through the jungle, a wooden boardwalk took me out over the gurgling Rio Iguazu, to a bottleneck where thousands of litres of water crashes down every minute. The brute power of nature is astonishing, and I just stood back in wide-eyed wonder as the spray smashed into me and the whole world sounded like it was being torn apart. If this is what the devil’s throat is like, perhaps someone should hand the poor bloke a Butter Menthol.

As has become tradition when I visit waterfalls, I befriended a couple of coloured gentlemen. Reuben and Bert, a gay couple for Suriname, are very much in love and enjoying their honeymoon together. Whilst marvelling at the spectacular views, Reuben declared that the only thing more powerful than the raging waters of Iguazu Falls is one of Bert’s kisses. I dunno about that, because my urge to chunder was pretty bloody powerful right about then.

The comparisons with Victoria Falls are obvious, but I have to say that, so far, Africa’s Smoke that Thunders reigns supreme over South America’s Big Water. Not only is it larger and more imposing (but enough about my penis!), but the tracks offer more variety and allow you to really get up close to the massive wall of water. Don’t get me wrong, Iguazu is superb and truly one of the most awesome things on the planet, but I did feel a tad let down after visiting Victoria Falls.

Going from Victoria Falls to Iguazu is like rooting a chick with big tits, but being slightly disappointed because you rooted a chick with bigger tits the night before. It doesn’t make rooting the chick with big tits a bad experience, but in a perfect world you’d have the big tits first, and the bigger tits second – or in this case, Iguazu for an entree and Victoria for the main course. Sorry, I got distracted by all those tits for a second.

.

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.

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).

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!

El Chaltén to Bariloche bus: Are we there yet?

The worst thing about being at the arse end of the world is that it’s a really, really bloody long way from anywhere. So when I wanted to leave El Chalten, in Argentina’s southern Patagonia, I really only had one option – a 24-hour-long bus trip along Ruta 40 to Bariloche. And yes, it was every bit as grueling as you’d expect, with sickening food, stops in creepy towns and police busts.

At least the cops have cool uniforms

If you’re heading north from El Chaltén, the bus is the only way to go outside backtracking to El Calafate and taking an expensive flight to Buenos Aires, so they sell out early. During autumn there are only three buses a week, leaving plenty of people (like me) stranded in El Chaltén for a week or more. By the time I staggered to the bus stop at 10pm, I felt like I was breaking out of prison.

Look how much fun I’m having

Whilst the trip sounded like a nightmare, I boarded the bus with hopes and dreams of being seated next to a pretty European lass. As the Patagonian wilderness rolled past, I’d win her heart with stories of my drunken adventures and by saying that her hair looked pretty, and maybe get a handjob around the 17 hour mark. Instead I climbed on to find a fat German bloke sitting in my seat with half an empenada hanging out his mouth, and when I asked him to move he farted into my seat and said he’d kill me in my sleep. I suppose dreams arent meant to come true.

Expect to look at this for 11 hours straight

The first 10 hours of the trip crawl through the pitch-black Argentinean night. The road out of El Chalten is bumpier than a crack addict’s complexion and there are no towns, villages, windmills, trees or amusement parks to break up the monotony. There’s not even much cow shit to gawk at. With nothing in the way of heating, it was so cold on the bus that ice was forming on the inside of the windows. I was just grateful the bus actually had windows.

The best bit of the trip was when they played a Morgan Freeman film… in Spanish

There are two types of seating; the more expensive cama, with fully reclinable seats and plenty of space, and the cheaper semi-cama, which lean back a little and are a bit shit. I’d recommend the cama every day, but the little bloke at the bus station must’ve picked me for a poor cunt, because he didn’t even give me the option. So, squashed legs and an aching back it was.

Oh yay, it’s a dog! And a crack caravan!

Fortunately, the good folks from Marga serve food on the bus. Unfortunately, it’s of indescribably bad quality and the serving sizes wouldn’t satisfy a Somalian toddler who’d already stuffed his face with rice. Dinner and lunch were identical packages that consisted of some sort of dodgy biscuit, a slice of soggy garlic bread, and a sandwich that caused heated debate between diners regarding the identity of the contents. Some said chicken, some said tuna, I said arse. Homeless arse. Trust me, that’s the worst kind.

You wouldn’t feed this shit to a sex offender

It’s a boring trip with stuff-all to see, so if you think it’s a good way to check out Argentina’s stunning scenery you’re out of luck. Ruta 40 is nowhere near the Andes, and the only thing you’re likely to see hour after hour is dead grass and brown hills. The occasional llama or deadbeat town are the only things to break up the boredom. Well, that and the chance of being caught up in a major police bust like I was.

Wait! There’s a bush!

Alright, ‘major police bust’ might be the biggest exaggeration since I told a girl that I’m often confused with Peter North, but there was still some excitement when the bus was pulled over by the cops. A local woman on board was caught smuggling a small dog in her handbag, which meant our trip was delayed for two hours in the middle of nowhere. Honestly, there are so many street dogs in Argie that she might as well have left her old dog at home and picked up a new one when she arrived. The rude bitch didn’t even apologise!

Take your dog and fuck off, lady

There’s no denying that the El Chalten to Bariloche bus is a tough ride, and as far from the glamorous side of travelling as possible. It’s a never-ending journey for backpackers seeking adventures in far-flung destinations, with the ever-present danger of major delays or breakdowns. By the end I was so tired I could barely pick up a six pack to drink back at my hostel. But there was also something wonderful about being surrounded by people willing to go through such an ordeal for the sole reason of exploring the world. Would I recommend travelling through Patagonia this way? In a heartbeat. Would I do it again? Fuck no, are you crazy?