Here are the last pictures...
San Pantana Bay
Pantana do Sul Beach
Rio de Janeiro (Ipanema):
Rio de Janeiro (Other):
And some final thoughts...
Going to South America was fantastic-- it was wonderful getting out; every place I went to had a million appeals, very friendly people, delicious food, beautiful vistas; and it reminded me of all the reasons I adore travel.
But it was also a very different experience from traveling around Europe. There wasn't the same knee-deep history, or architectural treasures, or sprawling museums. The trip seemed the wrong length: both too long and too short to abandon the goings-on of Cambridge, and definitely too short to properly explore three countries. I would have enjoyed sharing it with just about anyone. I expected a similar thrill moving on to each new location, but it wasn't there. Maybe it's because I haven't spent my life dreaming of that continent. In Europe, one of the joys of travel for me was learning to meet new people, and to wade in life without attachments so that I could practice recreating myself. For this trip, that was both easy and unfulfilling-- I'd already learned what I knew of it in Europe, and I didn't travel long enough to take further.
At the same time, I did find something wonderful about each place. My now-favorite city in South America, Neuquen, I would never have visited if it hadn't been for couchsurfing (which was a wonderful experience). And every other place I found myself had something wonderful to discover-- maybe as good as anything in Europe-- I just didn't expect it to. I might have better learned to expect the unexpected, but I rarely knew where to look. Secretly I was sure I'd come back and move to eastern Europe. And it was a real surprise that the trip, point by point, mostly convinced me to return there. South America has everything I need in a continent.
If I'd dreamed more of South America-- read more about it, felt the call to see what I'd read about-- I probably would have gotten more of a thrill. But reading my guidebook did nothing for it. Footprint South America was poorly organized and uninspiringly written, and made some other odd choices (like putting everything in terms of US$). I don't know if other any books are better, but I disrecommend Footprint.