As we make our way through the murky depths of a London winter where rain and wind are ubiquitous, to get through it, I find myself day dreaming more and more about my South American travels.
I’ll be trudging up Brixton Hill, staring at the grey unevenness of the pavement beneath my feet, the wind rendering my attempts at make-up and smooth hair pointless, just ambling along, ill slip in my head phones and play some reggaeton. And I’m back.
First, I imagine walking on the pure white sand of Easter Islands’ Anakena beach. The warm sand feels comforting beneath my feet as I stare out at the postcard picturesque sea that is simultaneously crystal clear and extravagantly blue. It is perfectly still. Behind me a little in the distance stand seven ancient Moais framed by tall palm trees. To the right of the moais people eat ceviche washed down with mojitos. The heat deliciously drenches my skin and I remember when I first saw Anakena, as I eyed the sand and the sea and the moais all at once, I knew I’d never seen anything so rare, perfect and idyllic before, and I haven’t since.
After soaking up the paradise of Easter Island for a minute or two, I’ll be partying Latino style. Everyone drinks mojitos or maybe aguardiente or straight rum, men’s shirts are unbuttoned at the top, the ladies have gorgeous dark hair and are dressed for the night, people are smoking, laughing, there is caramel skin everywhere. The air smells of smoke, spilt liquor and summer heat. I’m there, of course, looking fabulous yet casual, tanned and relaxed. I’m about 10 pounds lighter and I’m dancing like a local to the salsa music, hips and arse wiggling in perfect time (it’s my day dream afterall).The bar opens out to the plaza and everyone spills onto the pebble stones, drinking, chatting loudly, dancing, lots of dancing to salsa music that is very loud. Always very loud. Everyone is happy.
Then it’s another day and I’m in another tree-lined plaza surrounded by crumbling colonial buildings sitting in an open-air café enjoying a perfect coffee and watching people go about their business. There’s a man with a cart selling lottery tickets and calls by the minute on mobile phones attached to strings. A fat old lady and man sit on one of the plazas many benches watching the world go by. A young couple smile, giggle and flirt coyly under the shade of the trees. People lick ice creams and savour other sweet tweets. The day is warm but not too hot and the air is pleasantly still.
There’s nothing to do but watch the activity in the square which can turn from sleepy Sunday fun to full-on fiesta in the blink of an eye. For the ignorant tourist, like me, the tranquil scene seems to morph into organised chaos within minutes: parades of people pass by banging drums, blowing whistles, dressed in scary-slash-comical masks and bright multi-coloured outfits.They dance together in perfect unison or in tipsy groups making it up as they go along while passing around little bottles of clear liquid. Young kids play instruments, wave flags and sing. It could be a special date in the Catholic calendar or simply just a Sunday. Food stalls dish out delicacies made of corn or sour cheese or some exotic meat or just delicious slow cooked pork. In South America a fiesta is never far away.
This isn’t one place, one plaza or destination but many all merged in my mind, my memories, my endearing memories, that fortunately are mine forever and I can visit them whenever I like. Even while walking up a dreary London hill.
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