Vignettes from a happy man in South America

South America 2005

My travelogue has been a little quiet of late, so I thought I would treat my patient readers with some vignettes from the last few weeks:

First, we find ourselves travelling down a wide river in a speed boat. The sky is a bright cloudless blue and the sun is streaming down on us. We are speeding past sub-tropical jungle on both sides, sprinkled liberally with small golden beaches. Over the deep roar of the engine we can hear all kinds of exotic birds calling. We are soaked to the bone since the pilot took us directly into one of the nearly three-hundred waterfalls to be found along the river. But as we speed away the wind ripples through our clothes and starts to dry us. The pilot is in a playful mood so he turns this way and that, criss-crossing the border between Argentina and Brazil with each curve.

Next we rush back two weeks to Easter Island. Suzie and I are sitting on the west coast of the island looking out onto thousands of miles of empty Pacific Ocean. Between us and the sea are seven moai, staring intently at us. They are silent, their hands clasped in front of them, patiently watching over a tiny village. We are sitting in a field on a small hill; from our point-of-view the sun sits a metre above the moai’s heads. Slowly it falls. We wait an hour or so, helped along by a flask of red wine, until the sun flares up against the water and creates a golden sky. As the sky fades from yellow to red to black we watch the moai. As always they do nothing but sit and wait as the the stars shine so brightly above us. We lie back and star gaze in complete happiness.

And now to only a few nights ago in Buenos Aires. Suzie, Carmen, and I are in the gods at Teatro Colón, the city’s grandest theatre. We are there to see La bella durmiente del bosque (Sleeping Beauty), the ballet set to Tchaikovsky’s music. The first ballerina comes onto the stage: she looks too tall, but dances so gracefully in a flowing green dress that you barely notice. After a few moments of delicate movements the skirt flies up and four hidden ballerinas fly out onto the stage. The first ballerina spins into the air as hidden danseur lifts her by the legs and throws her up. The stage explodes with bright blues and dancers.

Now Suzie and I are walking through Foz do Iguaçu, a small town in Brazil. The heat is overpowering as we heave ourselves slowly up a hill. To escape the sun we disappear into an internet cafe to check our email. Sadness hits us when we read that our old travelling companion, Autumn, has had her bag stolen in Bolivia, leaving her without credit cards, passport, or clothes. Woe is she while she sorts all this out.

Today we find ourselves in Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay. We have travelled three hours by ferry across the mouth of the Rio de la Plata to this beautiful cobbled town. Uruguayans are more relaxed than any other South Americans we’ve seen, and the hot windless day gives us the perfect weather for rambling slowly through the streets, under the rusty autumn trees and past the heladerias and lighthouses. The smooth sea, relaxed atmosphere, hot sun, and quiet streets put us into a lethargic happiness that we never want to end.

And finally, back to the contentment of Easter Island. After hitching up to the northern coast of the island, Suzie, Paul, and I walk in the biting wind and rain up a hill. As with everywhere on the island it looks out onto endless Pacific Ocean. The heavy weather turns the waters a deep, brooding blue. The grass is a mix a green and golden brown, giving the hill a serene rusty look. Horses graze on a cliff precipice only a few metres away. The angry skies add more wild colours to the scene. As I look around I can see only my two friends and the horses: we are alone for miles. I stop and hold out my arms at ninety-degree angles from my body. The wind pummels my tired body. The colours and scenery that my eyes see will stay with me forever, along with the purest feeling of happiness I think I’ve ever felt.

These are just a few of the moments I hold dear from the last five weeks. There are many more I will tell people about until they’re bored stiff. There are some that will find a permanent home in my head and that won’t drift out into anyone else’s. All combine to make up my view of South America.