I have been putting this off and I know that if I delay much longer, I will forget some of the most wonderful aspects of my trip.
First off, I believe that New Zealand is probably the most user-friendly country to travel in. The people are so friendly and willing to accomodate questions and suggestions. They will set up bus tours and book hostels for you. Basically, you show up and they do everything for you. They offer a free tour of Auckland through the KIWI experience to showcase their travel company and show off the largest city in New Zealand. Auckland is not that great, however. I met many kiwi's that recommended staying for a few days and then heading south. I took that advice and felt so comfortable relying on the people to maneuver the islands.
The worst drivers have got to be in Australia. They have signs that say--CAUTION CARS. As you can see, as a pedestrian, you have few rights and so I recommend that if you travel to Australia, seriously, WATCH FOR CARS. They speed up if you attempt to walk in front of them.
The best airline would definitely be TACA since they put my in first class for no apparent reason. I loved sitting in first class and wish that I could fly that way every time I travel. I was the only female and definitely the only traveler. The rest of them were businessmen and I stood out with my attire and lack of jacket. It felt great to be treated like royalty.
South African Airlines was also quite nice. I flew from Joburg to Cape Town and back and experienced the generosity of that particular airline. They served a meal on an hour and a half flight. It was weird since it was such a short distance, but they served a full meal in flight.
The best bus, in terms of comfort, would be Argentina's Chevallier. They served a snack, wine, meal, breakfast and entertained us with music from Mana, in addition to two movies. Of course, the ride was 19 hours and so comfort was necessary. I experienced 3 different bus lines and so not all were as fantastic as Chevallier. I enjoyed the idea of a semi-cama where the seat would recline back. However, I couldn't do anything about the fact that my legs were still cramped in the space. After riding for 19+ hours, I would experience severe swelling in my ankles and knees...i felt like i was pregnant or something. I hated that sensation and so I opted to avoid long bus rides while in Chile. Plus, in Chile, I heard a story from a couple from Scotland that spent 22 hours on a bus that had a broken wind shield. They stopped to wrap the glass in plastic, cover it with a blanket and then continue. The girl told me that she kept thinking that they would stop, switch busses and continue. Instead, the bus continued until the destination. They didn't die, but the girl said she believed that they would since the driver couldn't see out of the window.
I believe the best food was in Argentina. They have fantastic pizza and italian food. For steak lovers, you too, would be pleased. Obviously, for me, it wasn't an attraction. I could have spent a year in Argentina, alone, with the value of the dollar and the food that was available. They have cafes everywhere in Buenos Aires and they are open all night. I loved walking around Centro and finding random gems that were family owned and fantastic. I would love to return and explore more.
Best book stores--Australia and New Zealand. I loved walking into a store and reading a book without being asked to either purchase it or leave. I am a speed reader and several times, the hostels had a poor selection of books and so I would go to a book store and peruse the inventory. I didn't care for the prices of books there. They were exorbirant in both countries. I cannot see buying a book for more than I can find it in the States. I also loved reading the pop culture magazines. Every country follows Tom Kat, Brangelina and the Beckhams. It was nuts to see how much press these morons are given. I would read in airports or while in bookstores. I wasn't too choosy on my readin, either.
Chile had Starbuck's-my salvation--but New Zealand had fantastic, non-chain lattes. I loved the coffee in New Zealand and became spoiled by it. In Australia, it tasted different and so I opted to detox the caffeine from my system.
I met the most interesting people in Australia. I enjoyed the natives and the travelers alike. I was fortunate to meet Teja in Melourne and Apollo By who was from Slovenia, Petra in Melbourne, who was from Germany and of course, Ilona who lives near Sydney. I met wonderful people in Western Australia too. I enjoyed volunteering at Govinda's and really liked Perth. I would like to return to Australia to check out the Gold Coast, spend more time in Melbourne and Sydney and see my friend, Ilona. I think I will avoid the West this time since I have my lovely little reminder from New Year's Eve still giving me grief!
This is the beginning of the best of. It is a teaser since I know that there is so much more that I discovered while traveling the Southern Hemisphere. I urge you to consider a trip abroad today. Why not? What do you have to lose?