South America: Top 10 Things to Love (…or at least be amused by)

We’ve really enjoyed traveling in South America. We’re only in our third country so far, but we’ve definitely noticed some things that make us smile, laugh, and/or curse under our breaths while still chuckling. In no particular order:

  1. Shopping. Need Q-tips? Batteries? A blender? Socks? Then you’re in luck! Just walk down the block and you’ll find someone selling all this and more! Don’t bother going to any stores; pretty much anything you can think of is sold on the street. All you have to do is stroll around town and in no time you will have found anything you need, at a very good price of course!
  2. Rosanna's Worst Nightmare
    Rosanna's Worst Nightmare
    Fruit. Fresh fruit is everywhere, and it’s delicious. The selection of fruit at most markets is better than any you’d see in a store in the U.S. Freshly squeezed fruit juice is the norm for breakfast every day. Some of our favorites have been maracuya (passion fruit), piña (pineapple), and mora (similar to raspberry, and yes, related to the plant that was the bane of our existence in our volunteering experience in the Galapagos). In Colombia especially, sliced fruit was sold on every street corner. Mango with salt, coconuts sliced open and served with a straw, bananas galore…
  3. Bakeries. The tempting and delicious smell of panaderias fills every city. You’re not even hungry, but you walk by one, and find yourself buying a roll or empanada anyway (after all, they cost about ten cents each). Unfortunately, almost all the bread is white, but it smells so good that we’ll forgive that.
  4. Thanks for the Reminder
    Thanks for the Reminder
    Chicken. Everyone owns a few, and everyone knows how to cook them really well. You’re in the middle of a city, yet you still wake up to the sound of roosters at 4 am. The good news is, those huevos and pollo you’re eating could not be any more local!
  5. Ice Cream. Everywhere. All the time. We saw a family of four carrying five cones, which just about sums up South Americans’ love for ice cream. It is sold everywhere: the park, the bus station, every corner store, ladies with coolers who board the bus every time it stops to sell you a popsicle. It’s hard to go a whole day without buying a cone.
  6. Karaoke. Wow, people in Ecuador love to sing. They sing with all their heart, mostly Spanish love songs, at all times of the day and night (it’s happy hour somewhere, right?). It makes them happy, and I love them for it. (And I’m glad they’re behind the mic instead of me!) While we’re talking about music…
  7. Salsa, Reggaeton, and Bad Covers. It’s 2 a.m. You’re on a 9-hour overnight bus. You can’t sleep. Why? Because either salsa or reggaeton is blasting through the speakers. No one seems to mind, except you, and the one or two other gringos on the bus. If you’re really lucky, the occasional reggaeton is remixed with American 1990s hits, such as Ace of Base, or that “I Got The Power” song. Or, if the bus driver is feeling mellow, you’ll get a to hear a CD of American love songs covered in Spanish.
  8. Action Movies. Speaking of bus rides, the other reason you probably aren’t sleeping on a South American bus ride is due to the loud straight-to-DVD-Spanish-dubbed action movies being shown. As I write this, I am on a bus, and Cats vs. Dogs II: The Revenge of Kitty Galore is blasting. If you’re wondering what happened to Chris O’Donnell’s ‘career’, I believe this may have been the end of it.
  9. ‘Express’ and ‘Direct’ Service. All buses in Colombia and Ecuador are both ‘direct’ and ‘express’! It’s awesome. Until you realize after a few bus rides that they all stop everywhere, for anyone, and there is no such thing as ‘direct’ or ‘express’. It doesn’t matter if the bus is full, people will board from the side of the highway and stand for the duration of a 4-hour bus ride. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, the kids squatting in the aisle next to you will get motion sickness and start throwing up. It’s all part of the adventure… (Note: Peru has some of the nicest buses I have ever seen. The seats recline all the way, there are foot rests, there is a hostess serving you snacks, and when they claim to be an ‘express’ service, they actually are!)
  10. Landscapes. The sensory overload on most bus rides is enough to keep anyone busy/insane, but the real treat is the stunning scenery out your window. Almost every drive has been pretty– beautiful mountains, valleys, and rivers have provided for gorgeous backdrops to these rides. It’s like watching a postcard from your seat.

    Bus Ride from Riobamba to Cuenca, Ecuador
    Bus Ride from Riobamba to Cuenca, Ecuador


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