Travelling basically guarantees that you will meet the most unusual people, who often make the experience. Here are a few, each with a story. I hope they don't mind being pictured but they all made some sort of an impression.
Pervy bus man
Oh, pervy bus man. While messing around, this chap very obviously smiled at Claire [opposite me], waved and licked his lips at us. That is until she started eating. The power of a girl eating a good sized meal seemed to put him off. But as soon as she put down her fork, he was all eyes again. The mind reels...
Upon arriving in the fantastic Mendoza, we went to explore the many parks and plazas it has to offer. Upon stumbling into the city's largest park, we were met with a surprisingly enthusiastic crowd of women doing the Mambo and Salsa in front of these 2 fellas on a stage. It was to promote fitness through dance and I can't even describe how passionately these two men danced. We were amazed watching them. Until the older chap in the navy suddenly ....ummmm.. got a bit too excited. Didn't know where to look then....
Mendoza Pub Lads
These two chaps greeted us in the only Irish pub in Mendoza and while the gentleman on the left enjoyed a hearty discussion with Orla, the gentleman on the right was a little bit too persistent about his intentions with Claire, who has a boyfriend of 5 years in the American Army. This picture shows Orla explaining to him in Spanish that he ought to back off before her bf ripped his head off. Bald man was unaware of this hence his confusion, persistent man is fighting his case and Claire is just damn well confused.
One of the three English lads we met in Mendoza the first time around, Sandy here shows us how English men are supposed to sit while drinking tea. A guide all should follow. Subsequently Leinster [Irish rugby team] beat Northampton [their English rugby team] in the Heineken Cup Final and they demonstrated how NOT to take defeat gracefully...
Tom, the Irish vineyard owner
After said rugby match above, we went to leave when this gentleman entered the "Liverpool Pub" in Mendoza. There was a few seconds of absolute silence while we sized him up and he sized us up until it was clear that none of us were from Argentina. Tom here broke the ice by asking us in a big Dublin accent "Great match, eh?". Turned out he was running a bodega or vineyard in Mendoza from Dublin and was just popping over to see how things lay. Legend.
Amazing child on bike
Driving around the park, wind in his hair and his electric pink bike under his feet, this kid was living the life. Except every time he passed us he gave us a look of wisdom beyond his years. At one point, he fell from the bike onto the pavement. The normal reaction would have been to cry or at least brush oneself off and get back on. Nope. Not this kid. He literally just lay there in the same position, legs still on the bike and arms askew, patiently waiting for his Dad. We were in fits of laughter.
Joe is unlike many British travelers we have met. Most are 18 or 19 on their gap year before University and have had Mummy or Daddy pay for their experiences. Some are nice, some are intolerable but Joe was one of a kind. He is 18 and from London and he saved up for 5 years to travel South America on his bike. Starting from Tierra del Fuego and the most Southern city in the world, he is slowly cycling up to Bolivia over 5 months. Once a month he stays in a hostel for a warm shower and laundry services. Then off he goes again. The rest of the time, he camps alongside the road. What an inspiration.
Edu and Maty
Edu and Maty
The Mendoza hostel had a most entertaining staff with whom we bonded with like set jelly. Edu, brown eyed boy, and Maty, the cap-wearer, were both working on our first night and after their shift ended, joined us for a game of pool [Edu and I so very nearly won] and a bottle of wine. They brought us to the Irish pub and on a fruitless search for an open nightclub [Sunday! We forgot]. We gave up and returned to the hostel bar where we played a fantastic game of Ring of Fire in Spanish and though we did not have alcoholic beverages on us, Maty used his power as bar man and helped us out. It wasn't till the next day that we realised that they had not charged us for a single drink. What dotes. They were so funny and welcoming, particularly Edu, that we returned a week later and have plans to go back again. Legends.
Sam, M16 man
We met Sam on a bus heading towards the Andes. Originally a Leeds man, Sam now lives in London and works for the British government. He said he was an analyst but also knew some pretty top secret stuff. Obviously, we presumed MI6...
Jorge was one of the legends who brought us horse-riding at dusk in the Andes - an absolutely astonishing experience. While Guille actually guided us, Jorge made sure the "asado" - "barbeque" - was rearing to go when we arrived back down to the base. Lovely man by all accounts.
New Zealand roomies
This bunch had the privilege of bunking with us in Mendoza and though Orla originally thought they were New Zealanders, they were actually an English chap and an Australian girl and her New Zealander boyfriend. Really lovely and told us anecdotes of their Wine Bike Tour they took through the vineyards... probably not the best combination in the world considering one girl fell off her bike after a few vineyards and cracked her jaw open!
A gaucho is the term for an Argentinean cowboy, men who dedicate their lives to horses and the flat plains of central Argentina. This man, a modern day gaucho, helped Guille to guide us through some novice hills in the Andes. Whenever he whistled, the horses would break into a run. Exhilarating, yes. But not when your handbag is after snapping and you are trying to put it back together without falling off!
Oh Felipe. What a character. As our "Free Walking Tour" Guide, we encountered him in Plaza de Armas in Santiago. On first impressions, he seemed to be very passionate about his city and took no bullshit. He told us the real life situation in Santiago, what the government is really like and the injustices that exist along with the highlights of the city. As a tour guide, he was very good whenever he stopped dragging on cigarettes between sights. But after taking him up on his offer of a few beers, we quickly realised that this actor had a bit more going on than we realised. Forever with a pout on his face and his tendency to enjoy any brief form of physical contact with us four females, we began to suspect that Felipe liked having ... ummm...intimate relations... At any rate, he was good company [as long as you sat at a distance] and though he tried to come back to our hostel, he was refused entry. Que pena...
Best waiter in Santiago
We had been told that the Chileans are very friendly people and this waiter on our first day in Santiago just reinforced this thought in our minds. He served us straight away, laughed at our poor jokes in Spanish, took a picture of us without us asking for one and didn't mind breaking up our money into separate change. We commend you Sir for an excellent lunch!
Gabi and Dan
Never has a cuter, dorkier couple existed than Gabi and Dan. She's from California and Dan is from Oklahoma. Happy in love, they are travelling the Southern continent to find themselves. Gabi was talented at crochet and had a genius idea of setting up shop on the Santiago streets to surprising success. Dan was a mad dancer and had an amazing knowledge of drinking games.
German and Paki
German and Paki
Meet German and Paki. Actually, they are two Israeli lads we shared a room with in Santiago, a trip to Valparaíso and a return trip to Mendoza. Great travel companions, they taught us how to swear in Hebrew, how much better Bariloche is than the Andes [lies] and how to cook traditional Israeli dishes for dinner.
Rudolpho would melt your heart. Or so I'm told. For I had one too many Piscolas the night of our encounter but what I do know is that the Brazilian barman spoke excellent Spanish, was able to decipher my efforts, has modeled since the age of 6 and very generously poured our drinks higher than they should have been. He was a pleasure to talk to, quite a laugh and had an excellent geographical knowledge of Santiago. Orla probably knows more though as she had considerably less to drink.
Wise Valparaíso Man
Wise Valparaíso Man
This shot is credited to Orla. We didn't meet Valparaíso man as such but look at the wisdom in those eyes. That's South America. Right there.
Lucas, lucas, lucas. The night receptionist in our Mendoza hostel, he was an enigma. Classic dark, brooding, poetry-writing, 1970's Americana/Rock lover type, he also took a shine to Claire. That was oh so funny to watch as I was used as the buffer but in fairness to him, we exchanged music [I introduced him to The Specials] and we helped him make breakfast every morning at 4am by glazing and cooking the croissants in the kitchen. We also snuck him beer while the Friday night BBQ Party was pumping in the adjacent bar. God bless his heart. All he wants to someone to love. Anyone out there able to help him glaze croissants? Be the sugar to his early morning coffee?
The nicest English person I've ever encountered, Luke here had just explored the wild plains of Africa [including one abduction and a near miss with a pack of lions] and had turned his hand to South America. Don't be deceived by his 18 year old face; he's actually an old man... Lovely chap, laughed at his near death experiences like I would at a "Knock Knock" joke and had an excellent knowledge of Geography. He was an excellent companion, albeit for a short 72 hours. Also ruined the word "Sorry" but changing it to the insincere "Sozzles".And he doesn't have freakishly white teeth - they are just fake vampire ones.
Irish Setter Man
We came across this man in Valparaíso where he had dressed his 9-month old Irish Red Setter against the cold. He had not a biiit of interest in the fact we were Irish and knew the breed well. Ara, sure we were appreciated elsewhere.
This picture doesn't need words really.
And there I leave it. You must be all very bored. But I suppose I don't know what else I'd write about if it weren't for the people I have met. It's more to give people who have never been to South American before that the subconscious stigmas and prejudices we have, are not true in the vast majority. I have found myself at fault for some of these too but South Americans are just the most welcoming and diverse people. I didn't know what to expect coming here and everyone we have met has just blown any expectations I might have held, out of the water.
There were others too; the two Australians, Sean and Liam, the playfully racist Australian [only to Irish people though], the dancing Germans and Sven, Vin Diesel [the bus waiter], the thumb massaging waiter in Mendoza [who had special eyes for poor Claire again], Iggy [Pop], the Santiago Hostel Crew, the tour companions, Mateo [the other drop dead gorgeous and sound bar man and Rudolpho's friend], Julian, Fran the fab waiter in the Irish pub, Guille [our horse-riding guide and an all round funny man], Pablo HI MAN, Lauren [who tried coming onto me apparently], Rip off taxi man in Santiago, the two lads who took a picture of us outside our bus to Mendoza from Santiago after we ran 2 metro stops for our bus and made it with only a minute to go and the wisest indigenous man of the Mapocho tribe in Valparaíso who serenaded us with his Spanish guitar and wise blue eyes.
Stay tuned for what we got up to next.