My South America Journey Update - Part 4.
First, a recap: Part 1 covered leaving Colombia, about 2 1/2 months passing through Ecuador, where I found one town, Puyo, that I like as a potential new home, and about two months passing through Peru, where I found one town in particular, Moyobamba, that I like. I narrowed down the list of towns in those two countries after my second trip through them, revisiting many towns, and finally came to having those two towns on my list of potential new hometowns.
Part 2 of my journey picked up upon entering Chile:
I entered Northern Chile on March 24. This part of Chile is all Atacama Desert and it is boring, bleak, and brown. From there I went to San Salvador, Argentina, and arrived on March 31. Argentina is green and beautiful, but the towns are not such great places. After visiting many towns in northern Argentina I took a bus southwest to Formosa on the Argentina-Paraguay border. Formosa is very pretty and appears to be very much a walking/running/cycling-friendly city. This would be my first choice for a place to live if I were to choose to live in an area with four seasons. To enter Paraguay from Formosa one could take a bus north and cross into Asunción, or do as I did and take the small ferry across and up the river a little ways to Alberdi, Paraguay.
Part 3 picks up in Paraguay:
I entered Paraguay on April 22. In Paraguay, I found the area outside of Asunción particularly beautiful, and there are the towns of Itá, Itaguá, Areguá, and San Bernardino. But, I didn't care much for Asunció. Then I crossed the country to the east. On the way, I visited a couple of towns, one is called Villarrica and it too is very nice, a town that I liked. Further east, at the border with Brazil, is the city Ciudad del Este. I found it to be ugly and dirty, with awful traffic, and it has absolutely nothing of interest in the city. The city was never properly planned and it shows. One website that I read, an official government site but I don't recall which it was, said Ciudad Del Este was an accidental city. From there I headed south to Encarnación, a small city that I really liked, as in enough to live there, again, if I were to choose to live in a place with four seasons. I liked Paraguay, but I did find the version of Spanish they speak in Asunción and across to Ciudad del Este to be difficult to understand. They speak a mix of Spanish and Guaraní, but this isn't the case in Encarnación. Because it is directly across from Argentina the Spanish spoken here is more of what we might call "typical" or regular Spanish. In northern Paraguay, you can find a town called Filadelfia where you're more likely to hear German or English than Spanish.
From Encarnació, on May 16, I crossed into the town of Posadas, Argentina. To get to Uruguay one has to cross through a bit of Argentina. So, I headed due south to the town of Santo Tomé and crossed into São Borja, Brazil. Now, I could have gone the route south staying in Argentina and eventually crossing into Uruguay at Concordia, Argentina, and into Salto, Uruguay, but I chose to go through a bit of Brazil. That allowed me to explore the Uruguay/Brazil border area.
Now, I've read many websites that say in Brazil they speak some Spanish, but don't believe them. According to what I found on some linguistics websites, the Spanish language is spoken by less than one percent of the population of Brazil. And that includes here in the border towns along Argentina and Uruguay. In fact, in the towns of Quaraí, Brazil, and Artigas, Uruguay, you will find a definite division - Spanish on one side of the invisible border and Portuguese on the other. I wrote invisible because the two towns are one commercial area with shared urban and suburban neighborhoods, and no wall, no fence, no nothing separating the two countries. People are free to cross back and forth at will. If one wants to continue further into the countries they need to check into the immigration office. I arrived at said office at 6 pm on a Saturday and it was closed for the night. So, I then had to find a hotel for the night in Quaraí, not what I planned on or wanted to do, but so it goes.
I struggled with the language barrier in Brazil. Now, both Portuguese and Spanish are romance languages and are related in many ways, but in this southwestern region of Brazil has a dialect that makes them even harder to understand. There is a dialect called portuñol which is a mix of Portuguese and Spanish, and many people in this region speak it. And, when I spoke to people in Spanish, and I tried to use a little Portuguese or asked for assistance, they gave none, no help whatsoever. If they figured out what I was asking about or talking about they responded in their hundred-mile-per-hour Portuguese. I found the experience in southwestern Brazil to be a bit on the frustrating side. I hadn't experienced anything like in any of the other countries I had visited.
In Uruguay, I stayed alongside the border with Brazil and the climate was reasonably warm, but it was getting towards the end of Fall. Then I went into the interior and visited a couple of towns and at night the temps dropped to as little as 3° C one night, 5° C the following night, and 11° C the next night. I am not used to these kinds of temperatures. I lived in Southern Arizona for seven years before relocating to Barranquilla, Colombia, and both of those areas are quite hot. I was in B'quilla for 9 years before I moved across the country to a valley in the Andes Mountains. So, I am acclimated to a hot climate. When I arrived in the town of Tacuarembó, Uruguay, I started getting very strong hiccups, and they lasted for hours, then stopped for a little while, then restarted, and this went on for two days. It continued when I visited Melo, Uruguay, as well. A person at the hotel told me the weather along the coast is slightly warmer than in the interior of the country, so I went to Montevideo. That person was incorrect. I was friggin' freezing! I caught a cold in addition to the hiccups continuing all of those days. And yes, hiccups can be caused by a drastic temperature change. I'd had enough of the cold weather and decided to start working my way north, so I went to Salto, but just a few kilometers before entering the city, the weather was noticeably warmer, and my hiccups stopped. My visit to Uruguay included five towns (because I cut the visit to Uruguay short). From Salto I went across the river to Concordia, Argentina, then north to Encarnación, Paraguay. I plan on staying here for at least a month, then heading for the Pacific Coast of Chile or Peru.
Now, Part 4, the final stretch:
My return north was quick with a week or so in only a couple of towns for revisits to decide if I wanted to keep them on my top 10 list of potential new hometowns. My second time in Peru, July 16, was very welcomed. However, at the border, the immigration guy did not give me the remaining days from my first 90-day visit entry stamp, he gave me a new 90-day stamp. That resulted in me losing about 22 days of time in Peru. I stayed in most towns only one or two nights, but I stayed in Moyobamba five nights. I like Moyobamba, it's on my list. I re-entered Ecuador on August 29, the immigration guy gave me only the remaining 21 or so days from my first 90-day visit, thus requiring me to apply and pay for the 90-day extension, which I chose not to do as there was no immigration office in any of the towns I was visiting. In Ecuador, I revisited some towns and decided to remove Catamayo from my top 10 list. I spent a week or so in Puyo and still like it. I re-entered Colombia on September 14. Here I have a 90-day entry stamp and will be applying for the 90-extension soon. I traveled alongside the eastern slopes of the Andes Central Range. And eventually returned to Roldanillo, my previous hometown and starting point, on September 25. My original plan would have had my return to Rolda one year from the day I left but with the messed up days in Ecuador, I was at least three weeks early.
The journey has come to a conclusion, but I have yet to decide which town will be my new hometown.
During my travels in Ecuador I visited 36 towns/cities. In Perú, I visited 38; in Chile, only five; and in Argentina, I visited 16. In Uruguay, I visited five, and in Brazil, three. And in Paraguay, I have visited 26. In Colombia I've visited 82, and in the photo album are pics of 61 of those towns. That's 211 towns/cities in South America.
At this point, I am in Roldanillo, Colombia , and will be staying here for the duration of my time in Colombia, most likely. This is my favorite town in Colombia. As for my other favorites, those are Puyo, Ecuador; Moyobamba, Peru; Encarnación, Paraguay; and Formosa, Argentina. Which one will I ultimately choose? I still don't know. When my time here in Colombia comes to a close I will probably head south again, revisiting towns, visiting other towns I passed by, and just enjoying more of South America. And, maybe in my next journey, I will visit more tourist attraction areas, most of which I skipped on this journey.
For new readers, this is my plan: I left Colombia to find another town in another country to make my home. I'm not interested in living in the US anymore because that place has gone plumb crazy, and my pension (Social Security) probably isn't enough for me to live life anything near the life I can live here in South America. And life here is better in many ways, including much less stress, much less Big Brother watching you, none of the Republican BS trying to take away your personal freedoms (what you have left of them), here a person eats a much healthier diet, and the laws are laxer which is both good and bad, but in the end, makes life easier overall because you have more freedom of choice and less likelihood of government poking its head into your personal business. All of that means you have more personal freedom here in South America. So, I'm going to find a town to make my new home, and I don't care too much about which country it's in (more about that below).
On my website, at the very bottom of the home page, you will find a Google map with my journey.
I am enjoying my journey, enjoying exploring all these towns and cities. I have ignored most tourist attractions along the way and concentrated on the cities and neighborhoods, looking to see if a place might call out to me, "Chip, make this town your new home." I have enjoyed meeting many people, both locals, and foreigners, and I have experienced a lot of growth in my grasp of the Spanish language. Granted, my use of verbs is still lacking, but I can converse with local people, and that makes me happy.
I use an app on my phone called Polar Steps. You can follow me on my journey on that app. It's really just a slightly different version of what's already on my website. Here is a link to my profile: Polar Steps: My South American Journey
I look forward to what is yet to come, and I hope you will continue to follow me here on my website.