We've had emails asking questions about things we haven't talked about yet on our blog- like food, bugs, weather, etc. Here's a brief snapshot of what we've experienced so far being two months on the road. Let me say upfront that we're really enjoying ourselves but we've just been surprised by certain things.
It's been a surprise in terms of quality especially cleanliness. With a trip like this, even the Nelson's have a budget (some of you won't believe this but it's true). Three star in South America appears to be different than what we are used to in other parts of the world whether it's staying in a hotel or bed and breakfast or renting out someone's apartment. We plan our bookings using Airbnb, booking.com, VRBO (vacation rental by owners), Expedia and Google. What we've found is that there are 'no deals' even when it's advertised as such and it's really what the market will bear. We've had to spend a lot of time searching out good accommodation. All the sites seem to tack on added costs that they didn't have even a few years ago- cleaning, administration fees, additional hotel 'taxes', etc. Here are some examples of where we've stayed so far (from top left clockwise);
It's a bit of a shocker how the rest of the world views cleanliness and home comforts compared to North Americans. Now when we rent someone's place or use some cutlery in a B&B we just clean everything before use and Cathy keeps her flip flops on at all times except in bed.
Food & Drinks
On food, I've been disappointed more than Cathy. We've done local dishes a lot because we had to; there is no such thing as a 'hamburger' on about 99% of menus. Here's a sampling of what we've tried (from top left clockwise);
Churrasco a lo Pobre- beef topped with a fried egg on rice (Ecuador), 2 Bolas de Helado (ice cream no matter what country we're in) and Ravioli de Cordero- lamb ravioli in mushroom sauce.
When we splurged and went to top restaurants for food, the quality was there at about the same cost in Toronto to get the same dinner. I'm personally looking forward to Argentina and Brazil- people we've met traveling say food is better and cheaper in those countries.
For wine, Cathy has not really been enamoured with the wines and when you're in a particular country you can only buy their wine... not like Ontario where you can buy wines from around the world. The wine she has picked is certainly cheaper than what you'd pay in Toronto but I don't think you'll see any Peruvian or Chilean wines in our place when we're back. For coffee, I feel I've done double-up on Lent commitments not drinking Starbucks. There are only a few stores in South America (and I've probably been to most of them) and only one so far sold coffee beans- I've been there 3 times. In Chile especially it's all instant coffee! As for water, being a sparkling water connoisseur, I can tell you their aqua con gas doesn't compare whatsoever to what I've been accustomed to in Canada. As my doctor has told me I shouldn't be drinking this anyway and I think God is telling me something.
Bugs and Weather
Of the 4 countries we've visited so far- Guatemala, Peru, Ecuador and Chile, there have been virtually no bugs. We're doing well on the weather front as we basically planned our travel to coincide with their summers. Chile, where we're at right now, is like August summer weather and we have temperatures in the mid 20's. Our surprise will be next week as we're going right down to the tip of Southern Argentina where Cathy can see her penguins amidst snow caps and cold weather (I didn't win this part of the trip). We'll have to really bundle up as we didn't bring heavy coats. God, I hope she doesn't ask me to climb another mountain!