Here we go fans, strap yourselves in for a quite bitter final blog because this backpacker is not ready to hang up her bag.
Four months, one new continent, five countries, thirty two cities, eight flights, one train, countless bus rides, from sea level to 6000 metres, from less than zero to forty degrees, booming metropolises and campsites and miniscule villages, mountains and lakes and rainforests and deserts. I’ve made it out of this crazy continent only having lost my SIM card and headphones and sense of personal hygiene, which is spectacularly lucky when everybody else I’ve met has been robbed of valuables and several meals through dirty food poisoning. South America has truly been kind to me.
Apart from the adventures and events I’ve related to you here, there have been so many memories of this trip that feature behind the scenes. For example, we developed a ranking system of toilet on a scale from 0 (bush) to 100 (mum and dad’s ocean view loo with heated floors, a good book and Kleenex standard paper). I find myself constantly constantly asking questions that nobody can answer: how do the women of Bolivia balance tiny bowler hats on their flat heads all the time? What do the women of Peru keep under their enormous skirts? Why does nobody have any change ever? ¿Por qué? ¿Por qué? ¿Por qué? and, more importantly when making decisions, ¿por qué no?
Biggest regrets: not having enough money for Galápagos, the Inca trail or the Sambadrome, not having enough time in Brazil or Colombia, skipping Argentina and Chile, not volunteering anywhere, not learning Portuguese, not bringing a filter bottle or good headphones or buying Spotify premium, going home.
Things I hate (add an expletive before each of these for full effect):
– The bus
– Marco the monstrous
The three best things about travelling are also the three worst.
1. It makes you mentally compare your own home a lot more. In some ways I totally appreciate Australia when I’m away – working Internet, flushing toilets, clean air etc – but at the same time it will never be as exotic or exciting or insane as anywhere over here.
2. Meeting awesome people every day is 50% of the adventure, and there are so many different types of people over here who have inspired me to be more or less like them and taught me a heap. The sucky thing about that is that you have to say goodbye to them and it’s pretty unlikely you’ll ever see most of them again.
3. Travelling to basically anywhere that isn’t Australia makes me realise how ridiculously lucky I have been. I really am the 0.01% on a world scheme. This also sucks because it hurts to look at the disadvantaged masses every day and know that your cushy bed and $1500 laptop are waiting for you across the world… Feeling lucky comes with feeling guilty.
I return with eight whole toenails remaining, a defined watch tan, several hundred mosquito bites including 27 on my face (pretty xx), no dollars and many new resolutions, the biggest of which is to come back. I will miss the disgusting scabby deal-sniffing rat that I have become, rejoicing over dumb hostellers leaving enough shampoo in the shower for me to be clean(ish) and stealing free breakfasts to keep as lunch and accepting that sand will always be in my lady bits and never changing my underpants and ignoring the stench from my washing bag that doubles as my bus pillow and using seawater as facewash and spreading avocado with my fingers when there’s no knife and mixing every liquor with water (tap water if you’re feeling yolo). The messy Ella whose hair falls out and who will eat ants and roll in the dirt and walk around towns barefoot and wear the same uncoordinated outfit every day and not bother with mirrors or looking before crossing the road or making a mess at the dinner table doesn’t really fit in Sydney so I’m going to have to try to leave her on the plane. There will be bits of her that can’t be shaken, and I hope she’ll remember the good stuff she’s learnt (being friendly to tourists, reading more, shouting randoms drinks). A pair of hairy bears from Idaho I met in Quito had driven from Alaska to Ecuador en route to Chile, and they had the secret to happiness pretty close to down. They both had tattoos saying PALS on their bulgy biceps, and in their words I’m going to aim to unboredomify Sydney and “Put A Little Sunshine” in my life. First stop: Bronte beach and sushi.
My adventure has ended with a short (or long, depending on how you look at it) jaunt through the US of A, which was everything I expected it to be and therefore continually hilarious to my jetlagged brain. Who knew grits were a real food item? Slash that customs queue organisers behave like the FBI? Or that Americans will actually tell you, a total stranger, that you’re in the greatest country on earth, where “freedom reigns” and there are more opportunities than anywhere else? MURICA.
I step off my final plane after a 65 hour journey to a comforting “g’day”, and even though it’s no “hola”, it’s probably the next best thing.
Plane food and puffy eyes,