A backpacker’s flow through South America

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The beautiful colonial city of Paraty, Brazil.

Salvador. Humidity, palms, coconuts. I am dressed like a tourist. Nobody has white shoes here. Kev appears while I am sleeping. He’s from London. We are walking in flip-flops all day. My big toe is soared. Sunsets. Amazing sunsets. Every fucking day. How is it even possible? Street art, drums, samba. Rio de Janeiro. Got a brand new pair of Asics. Let the games begin! Hiking up to Christ the Redeemer. Tourists, tourists everywhere. Then, suddenly, a girl, a bird, the quiet. But it can’t last. Trail running. Lapa. An Italian mate I know from back home. He’s got bad shoulders too. And Kev of course, again. Fucking Uber took my money and left without me. I am walking like crazy. Now I’m running. Soldiers everywhere. I’m on top and the view is just a m a z i n g. We walk down through the favela. We try to be careful. A girl comes up in the backseat of a scooter, screaming and smiling at the smartphone on the selfie stick. It’s all about perception after all. My first bus. Paraty. I am in love with it before even getting there. Then I eat at Manué, and I am taken forever. I wake up in a painting. Bright colors. I hold my camera excited. I don’t know where to shoot first. Kayaking, hiking, running. Wild, long and empty beaches. Rice, beans, fries and a little salad on the side. The usual lunch. The usual dinner. But breakfast is special. Jugo de maracuja and Raphael’s home-made cake on a pier with the rising sun. Is this heaven? I think so. Sao Paolo. Risotto and wine. This city is huge. Like huge, huge. It’s Saturday, it’s sunny and everyone is on a good mood. “Can I take a picture of you two?”. Wow. A café in a book store. “What’s the track playing?” — “Bonobo — Kong”. Iguazu. Border crossing. In-out. Out-in. In-out. Out-in. Stamps all over the place. A massive amount of water. Massive energy. I can’t quite believe it. 1..2..3..”WHOHOOO”. Give me a hot shower now, please. I am making pizza with Danielle. I hope I can deliver something decent. It’s good, thank God. I feel at home here, but Buenos Aires is waiting. And it’s bloody freezing. And raining. Not what I was expecting. But what was I expecting? I don’t really know. There is a percussion show. It’s incredible. It’s over but there is an after party. At the corner of the street. We are dancing like an ancient tribe under the rain. On a Monday evening. Whattheffuckmaaan! I am changing my plan. Let’s go straight up North. 24 hour bus ride. Semi-cama way of life. Salta. I’m in love with the receptionist. And a vegan restaurant. I need to buy a jacket. The Atacama desert is waiting. Crossing another border. At 4320 mt. I think I need to throw up. Eventually, I don’t. I meet Adrien instead. And Kiki. They follow me. They trust me. We rent bikes together. We have a lot of spaghetti together. We meet Rodriguez. Wait, I know Rodriguez. Wait, his name is Rodrigo. Geysers, moon landscapes, red rocks, lots of dust. We cross the desert. Bolivia is rough and beautiful. These coca leaves aren’t really helping though. Spanish love songs. Spanish love songs. Spanish love songs. Jesus fucking Christ, I am going to lose my mind. Then Gigi D’Agostino. Bla Bla Bla. In the middle of the bloody salar. We burst out laughing. Wait, did I mention the cold? Sucre is a nice city. Take my bolivianos and get me that sick queso empanada for a starter, would you? Night buses. They are so great. Just close your eyes and pray you won’t die. I wake up in La Paz. Estefania is already there, having breakfast. She does some pretty cool video. I’m inspired. Eating at the market. Everybody is looking at us. What? Don’t we look like middle-class Boliviano workers? In the minibus for Copacabana. Me, Gjis and Maurizio Costanzo. I am dreaming about highways. I would never had bet I’d miss highways. But I do, Bolivia. I do. Oh shit. I got sick. But I’m still climbing to the top to see that sunset. Never miss a chance to see a sunset, man. Arequipa is a blessing. Back to comfort for a little while, before heading to the coast for some farm work. I am walking in the deepest dark. The only light is my phone torch. No internet data. No gps. I don’t even know if someone is gonna be at the end of the road waiting for me. I stop, in the dark. In the silence. This is insane. I start laughing alone in the middle of nowhere. It’s fan in a way. Working is not that fun though (lol), so I’m back on the road. Cuzco. Los Pollos Hermanos??! I gotta take a selfie. Time to hike for real. A rainbow mountain. Chocolate and Margarita biscuits. I don’t even know how many I had already. Not to talk about bananas. Aguas Calientes. Machu Picchu. The reason I came here in the first place. There is no feeling like making your dreams come true. Like taking a selfie with a llama, for instance. Should I see a shaman? I’m throwing up everything I have inside. I feel like shit. I think I got my answers. It’s time to move on. Huaraz is a mess at night. Why do they honk this much for Christ’s sake? Rocks, trees, lagoons, glaciers, clouds. God I love nature. Nature is God. The colors here blow my mind. Almost as much as the avocado-cheese-egg sandwich I got earlier. Yesterday I almost broke my leg walking around the city. Now we are walking in lines and sleeping in tents. I’m sharing mine with a 17 years old Peruvian guy. He is in love. Very much. He only thinks about his new girlfriend. God, I would like to tell him that that’s not love, but why would I? He is going to learn it on his own. It’s so cloudy we cannot see the mountains. The big show is ruined. But what about the intimacy of sharing a meal in the cold, warmed up only by a candle and human heat? That’s priceless. I am back in Lima. Kev, again! And a new mate. And a great dinner. Miraflores is so relaxing. What an ending. And the jungle? Next time. This is not a goodbye. I’m on the plane to Europe. Please tell me that the meal was included. Yes it was. With cheesecake for dessert. Thank you very much. I’ll try to rest now.

Author: Dario Villirilli

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