After almost two weeks here, my dad and I are finally saying goodbye to the cousins (and to each other), and leaving Boston. To farewell us in style, the Goldsteins took us to The Cheesecake Factory — a fine restaurant not far from Newton — for a Sunday brunch. The strawberry pancake thingies were sensational: although they were so big that even I, pig-out waste-nothing shoestring-backpacker that I am, couldn't finish mine.
Well, that's it. After six long and incredible months, I'm done with South America. Today was my final (half of a) day on this continent, and I spent it most unspectacularly, performing a convoluted three-legged flight that got me out of here: São Paulo to Lima; Lima to San Salvador; and San Salvador to New York. After sleeping in São Paulo airport last night (got in about an hour or two of shut-eye — wasn't that bad), my first flight took off at 6:30am. My third flight didn't get in to New York until 11:30pm — over 16 hours later. Wasn't the quickest or the most convenient way to fly north: but the airline — TACA Int'l, the same guys that I flew from Quito to Santiago with, about 6 weeks ago — was quite good; and the ticket (which I bought before I left Sydney) was pretty cheap.
I've had a really enjoyable few days on Ilha Grande; but sadly, my flight out of São Paulo leaves tomorrow morning, and if I miss it I'm royally screwed. So this morning I had to say goodbye to this island paradise, and to begin making my way back to the mainland, and over to South America's biggest city. It took a full day — a ferry ride all morning, and a bus trip all afternoon — but after a great deal of time spent sitting on these various vehicles, I got to São Paulo. Now it's more sitting, and sleeping, as I wait for my plane.
After almost two weeks in BA, staying at The clan, my time here has finally come to a close. This afternoon, I had my final lunch with Oly, my final chat with the Swedish chick, and my final bit of hanging out at the bar. I've had a blast here, but I think it's also about time I was moving on. And now that the Jewish New Year events are all wrapped up, there's nothing holding me here anymore.
Tonight was my last night in the Big City of Argentina, and it was a good one, too. Had a big feed for dinner, following the long day without food. And enjoyed the big party that they threw on the rooftop terrace of The Clan this evening, where there was a live guest DJ, a crowded (albeit concrete patio) dance floor, and plenty of drinks to go round. When your hostel does gigs like that, who needs to go out? Indeed, I didn't end up making it to the clubs tonight, as the Clan party went on until at least 4am, conveniently located... well, upstairs :P.
After nine nights at this place, I finally checked out and said goodbye to Patanuk today. I'm very sad to be leaving: it's the cosiest hostel I've ever stayed at, and I feel like the staff and guests that I've been with over the past week have become my family. It's also sad, because quite a few people are leaving today or tomorrow: Sarah and Jordan, along with Simon and Anna, are heading off west to Chile (yeah, I know — why? :P); and Ed is following my tracks to Buenos Aires pretty soon. So Patanuk is going to be a house with all the children gone. Ah well, I'm sure they'll have a whole new family of guests by next week. Chao, Patanuk: it's been great!
Tonight was, sadly, my last night in Bariloche, and my last night at the amazing hostel of Patanuk. But tonight was also time to celebrate: and we did so with an enormous dinner of roast beef. One of the Spanish-speaking new guests in the hostel cooked this sumptuous banquet, which almost all of us feasted on with delight. Juicy meat, crunchy roast veggies, and mountains of salad got polished to the bone. I sure ain't leaving this town hungry.
All good things gotta come to an end, and what a lovely end it was. Today was my 7th and final day of snowboarding, here at the alpine resort of Cerro Catedral. Considering how crap the weather's been all week, I wasn't expecting much this morning: but I was rewarded for my week of perseverance — the sun was shining down on me today! Lovely weather, slightly less crowds, and the best snowboarding so far, all combined to make this about as good a finale for the week as I could have hoped. Got some great piccies today, did plenty of runs that I've never ventured down before, and finished the week with enough bruised body parts to keep me sore for a while, but luckily with no broken bones.
It's been a fun few days of rafting and — err, and not much else — here in Tena, but I'm afraid the time has come to depart. The weather is nice and warm here (if a bit rainy and humid), and the town is small and laid-back (if a bit of a dump), but I have to return to big-city life once again. I'm sad to leave Tena, as it was probably the last river rafting spot on my trip. Anyway, I'm sure I'll find more rafting to do, somewhere, sometime. Hopefully not too far off in the future, 'cause it's really daym fun.
Since Máncora is only 2 hours south of Tumbes (Peru's northernmost major town), you would have thought that it would be fairly easy to find some transport from one to the other. But apparently, on Sunday afternoon, this is not the case. Einat and I ended up waiting over an hour for a combi, and even then, we only just managed to squeeze onto one (it was already ridiculously overcrowded, and we just made it worse). There were also no afternoon buses to be found. Anyway, at least we eventually made it out of this funny little beach resort town, and got to Tumbes, which is the gateway to Ecuador.