Psst… have you heard about our #HolaGringo project with video blogger Steve Hänisch? Before he left for his six-month trip down South America’s backbone we grabbed him for a chat about the upcoming epic adventure, plus get his tips for how to travel on the cheap…
Isabel: What inspired you to use video for the #HolaGringo project?
Steve: I was travelling in Chile for a month, and I was blogging for my family and friends. But I had the feeling I wasn’t transferring things in a way that they could understand. I had my basic point and shoot camera, and made some videos at El Tatio, the geysers on the border to Bolivia in the Atacama Desert. So I made some videos of the geysers which were like pfft – pfft – pfft – and it felt like a bit more than just taking a picture.
[With a video] you have a piece of the experience. If you see it, you’re in that scene; you’re there.
I: Where are you planning on going in South America, and what are you looking forward to capturing when you’re out there?
I’m looking forward to Machu Picchu, the Inca Trail. I’m looking forward to seeing all the Inca places that are also on the way, not only Machu Picchu for a few hours.
I: How about cities during #HolaGringo? Which cities are you going to be going through? Are you looking forward to anything in them?
First of all I’m going to Lima, and everyone says Lima is very dangerous. A lot of people tell me “ah, it’s not a nice city to go to,” so it’s just perfect conditions to go to Lima… [both laughing] So I wanna go to Lima and just check out if it’s really bad, dangerous.
I: -(interrupting) Pisco sours…
Pisco sours? Yeah, I’m not sure if they are from Peru, because when I was in Chile everyone told me that it’s their drink.
I: Chile and Peru both have them but they do them really differently.
I: They fight over it, yeah.
So I’m four days in Lima and I want to discover a little bit about the central part of Lima, for me it’s just the start. Two days after the long flight to get into the mood, to talk Spanish. Then I hop on the bus to Cusco.
I: After Peru, where to?
It’s Bolivia. I want to go to la Paz. It’s not a city where everybody goes to, la Paz, just like Bolivia. It’s the starting point for the 40kms bike tour on the Death Road. There’s the Yungas Road, the most dangerous road in the world. Someone told me two people a month die there. But there’s a lot of tourism now. You shouldn’t drink before [you do it]…
Gotje: Remember that advice! Do you deliberately go for quite dangerous experiences?
Yeah! I like adventurous stuff, I like to do active stuff. Not because it is dangerous, I have a fear of heights. But I climbed a volcano, and I also did bungee jumping, and a pendulum last month, and a zipline.
G: When were you scared the most?
When I was in Chile, there was this one night out – I was with Chilean girls and guys I’d met through Couchsurfing. I was with this big group of people, and we were walking around from club to club – slightly drunk… a little bit more than slightly drunk. I was in front of a club, standing there, looking to the left and thinking “Ah, I know that square,” and it was the most dangerous square in the city. The girl from the hostel told me to never go there when it’s dark. I was the only gringo.
The other guys showed up and we just walked to the next club. I was like “is it not dangerous here?” and they were like [serious voice] “yes, it’s very dangerous.” The most dangerous thing in travel is criminal people, not the nature. Sometimes it’s also the nature, but you can control the situation much better.
I: With the kind of stuff you’re doing on the trip, has anyone warned you off doing anything?
My family said: do not go to South America [laughs]. But most people say “ah, I’m so jealous.” Maybe the transfers with the busses. I’ll ride a lot on busses because it’s very cheap, very comfortable – but it’s a different story in Bolivia, in Bolivia there are a lot of accidents. You get robbed, so I have a backup for stuff like that… two DSLRs…a money belt, a wallet that’s only for getting robbed – so I have something to give them. I’ve never been robbed yet, though.
I: After Bolivia, where are you going?
S: To Argentina. A little bit to the east, to go to Buenos Aires for Christmas and New Year’s Eve – and then I want to head south, because the weather is very good. I’ll take January to go to the National Parks in Argentina, and Torres del Paine in Chile, Patagonia. It’s the high season, very good conditions, and you’re there in the national parks for a few days, hiking and camping. It’s the best time to have good videos. You can picture the place like it should be pictured.
I: Jealous! How far south do you get, then?
We’ll see! At least Torres del Paine, it’s the most southern part of Chile. But then there’s this little part of Argentina where the most southern city in the world is, Ushuaia. You can watch penguins there; they have a very beautiful national park.
I: Are you doing any flying at all, or is it all going to be by bus?
Flying is much more expensive, and the busses are very comfortable. In Argentina, you can’t compare it to Europe, it is so much more comfortable. You get half beds, leather seats. I just made a 34 hour bus ride in Chile from the Atacama Desert to Concepcion, and it was ok. I could sleep, and I was live blogging there…
I: Do you get Wi-Fi on the bus?
No, but it’s also good to get work done and read stuff.
I: Sometimes it’s good to have a cut-off.
Yeah. After five months I might fly back from Ushuaia to Buenos Aires. Maybe I will also take a train in Peru, because they have a very nice train ride from Cusco to Lake Titikaka.
I: Have you got any ingenious tips for saving money while you’re travelling?
What everyone else says: eat the local food, go to markets, cook yourself. Don’t eat that much. The most expensive thing is alcohol. But everything is different in South America, everything’s very cheap, you should step away from the obvious tourist traps.
I: So it’s just, staying engaged with where you are?
Yeah. Do the local stuff, meet the local people, use the slow transport. The slowest transport modes are always the cheapest. When you’re travelling, you should have time.
I: Are you planning on meeting with any bloggers you’ve spoken to but never met when you’re in South America?
Actually, the bloggers I know from South America are in Europe!
I: So you’re doing a little switch.
I’ve heard the travel blogging industry is developing in South America. So maybe when I’m there and I’m using the hashtag (#HolaGringo) and saying “Hey, I’m in Lima”… Everyone can just jump into the conversation using that hashtag. In the future you can use this hashtag to find everything a gringo should do when he comes to South America.
G: I read the flight to South America from Hamburg is 13 hours. Do you have any insider tips for long flights? How do you keep yourself occupied?
When I was going to Chile, I took an 18 hour flight with Iberia with no screen in the seat in front of me, or anywhere on the plane. I had a Playstation Portable with some movies on it.
I have to travel light, so I have no books. I just bought this Nexus tablet for €200 – other bloggers have beautiful articles about South America, so I just downloaded them in PDF – it’s a good opportunity to use the flight for reading. I have very old school stuff like… [dramatically] a pen and paper. This is for when I have ideas or need to do a story board for my videos.
Just keep yourself busy, take stuff with you, also some work. Sometimes at night you can’t sleep, but it’s the best time to work. When I go to bed I have ideas popping up for the next blog post.
I: What else inspires you for your blog posts?
To be honest, a lot of times, other bloggers. A lot of people say don’t read other blogs…
I: Oh, I think the opposite.
The most important one is to go travelling – I can’t say that enough. If you interact with locals, it gives you a lot of ideas.
I: What about video bloggers? It doesn’t have to be other travel bloggers – but which video bloggers inspire you?
This is hard because the video blogging industry’s very young. A lot of people say they do video blogs, but it’s just recording – not producing. Videos are my main content, and to produce it that way, it takes a little more… like, you wanna tell a story, it’s like writing an article but with video. To find that on a video blog, it’s hard.
I: The last thing I want to ask is, what’s the number one thing you want to get out of #HolaGringo?
Money and fame!
I: Of course!
The number one thing I want to get out of it… that’s hard to describe… an idea of South America, maybe. Because it’s a country full of diversity. Chile was so diverse, but it’s just one of the countries. Even if I’ve seen Peru, Bolivia, Urgaguy, Argentina and Chile [after this trip] I still haven’t seen Brazil.
It’s a completely different world, and the number one thing is to get an idea of the place. On the other hand, to bring a little part of the mood from South America. It’s more relaxed. I worked for five years as a consultant, I did business trips – just hop on the flight, everything’s on time – [and from that] you get very stupid behaviour.
You just realise when you’re out of that place, sitting in a café in Santiago for three hours, drinking your coffee and watching people. You realise – hmmm, maybe there’s a little bit more to life than just being in the hustle.
Thanks for the interview Steve – we’ll do a follow up when you’re back from your trip. Stay tuned for Steve’s first #HolaGringo video blog on the HostelBookers Blog, coming soon…