We’ve spent the last six weeks traveling around South America with a friend of ours. Originally we had thought we would catch long distance buses to move around but decided we couldn’t be bothered with that so we flew around instead. These are our highlights from the past month.
We met up in Cartagena and it was the picturesque start to our trip together that we had hoped for. One day we paid for a return trip across the bay to a popular beach. We had a really relaxing day and met a great family there. At the end of the day, a few minutes before our agreed return time we packed up our things and went in search of our boat driver. Half an hour later we were still on the beach with the driver nowhere to be seen. Welcome to South America, where you should never pay for a return trip because you probably won’t get it!
We flew to Medellin after a few days in Cartagena and took a day trip to the Rock of Guatape where you climb 740 stairs to reach the top and over look to scenery. At a higher than normal altitude 740 stairs actually takes your breathe away and we quickly learnt that anything in altitude is harder than normal. Medellin is also where Mark discovered a girl was trying to pick him up by offering to be his guide.
On our flight to Bogota I met a guy who had lived in NZ to study English and after I told him where we were staying he advised me that it actually wasn’t a safe area. Upon arrival at our hotel we discovered that it wasn’t a safe area very quickly and once we got to our rooms and realised they didn’t lock properly we picked up our bags, booked a room at another hotel and left. Our new hotel was more like an apartment which was perfect because we hosted a dinner party to say thank you to Joel and Carolina for taking us out the night before and for Joel’s advice on where to stay – they did make our time in Bogota so much better!
We spent a day at the beach in Lima and then picked up a hire car and drove to Paracas to spend a few days there while our Brazilian visas were being processed in Lima. Along the way we were pulled over by the police and after 45 minutes of back and forth we were able to reduce our ‘fine’, which was in fact a bribe, to a quarter of what they wanted and then because they realised I was filming them they discreetly handed us the money back and then offered us some advice on police in Peru, even though they had just been asking for a bribe. Nevertheless because we were quite sure they would either follow us or radio the police up ahead we gave them some money as a token of our appreciation for their advice. Safe to say they were a bit shocked and wanted to confirm that it was a ‘gift’. They were quite happy when we confirmed it was and they freely took the money offered. Two days later we woke up early on our 365th day of travel and climbed huge sand dunes nearby and felt super proud that we had made it to a year.
Peru was full of nature for us. We spent 3 hours hiking up Rainbow mountain which was the hardest thing any of us had ever done but at the end it was so rewarding to be able to see how high we had climbed and look out over the mountain range. Surprisingly, out of the 3 of us, I was the only one that didn’t get hit with altitude sickness. Safe to say we slept well that night and 2 days later when we arrived at Machu Picchu we decided our legs just couldn’t take another hike so we got the bus instead and felt super happy with our decision once it started pouring rain.
Arriving in La Paz we were immediately hit with the altitude and pouring rain. It stayed like this for the entire time we were there and this time around I was the one to be hit with altitude sickness and spent a full day pretty much sleeping or not doing anything. We travelled to the town of Uyuni to spend a day visiting the Salt flats which were absolutely amazing. I had never seen anything so flat and white, not only that but because of the recent rains some parts of the salt flat looked like huge natural mirrors! Our day there was definitely the highlight of our time in Bolivia
We arrived in Rio with no energy whatsoever. It took us all a couple of days to recover from what we think was an effect of the constant changing altitudes we had been at. It didn’t matter too much though because we spent each day by the roof top pool which over looked Copacabana Beach and had views of Sugarloaf Mountain and if we stretched out over the ledge we could see Christ the Redeemer. We took a day trip out to visit Christ the Redeemer which is actually a lot bigger once you are standing right below it. The area was packed full of people though so it was difficult to stand still to appreciate it without being pushed from side to side. Sugarloaf Mountain was a lot quieter and gave us amazing views of Rio de Janeiro. On our last day we walked across to Copacabana Beach where we sat and watched all of the people for hours.
We travelled to Argentina for the sole purpose of meeting some of Mark’s relatives that he nor his family in Australia had ever met before but to make the most of our visas we first stopped to see the huge Iguazu Falls that occupy both Argentina and Brazil.We arrived at the Brazilian side of Iguazu Falls and got a taxi to drive us across the border into Argentina. We spent just the day there admiring the huge waterfalls and then early the next day flew to Buenos Aires to meet his relatives where we were welcomed with open arms and they looked after us like they had known us our whole lives. We spoke a weird mixture of English, Italian and Spanish and were thankful when we were able to speak English and have it translated. We were fed amazing Argentine BBQ and home made empanadas and when we left it was once again an emotional goodbye of “until next time”, although no one knows when next time will be we were all sure that there would definitely be a next time.
After a whirlwind 6 weeks of travel we arrived in Santiago and slept for hours and woke up starving but refreshed. After an intense period of travelling we always have to spend a few days planning ahead and looking back at our most recent trip and that’s what we did here in Santiago; planned for the future, and our immediate future holds a trip to Mexico, snowboarding through Canada and buying an RV. Can’t wait for the next few months!
South America didn’t always live up to our expectations. In some moments we were pleasantly surprised but at other times we would travel somewhere and feel like that particular place was letting us down. This is one of the downfalls of travelling for as long as we have. We have seen so much of the world that unfortunately now we know what we like and what we don’t like and this makes appreciating great places difficult because we don’t want to see great, we want to see amazing places. This isn’t to say we didn’t enjoy our time in South America because we most definitely did, but if we are to ever come back we will be very selective about where we go, spending most of our time in Argentina, Chile & Brazil.