September 1st 2016 - March 22nd 2017
When we first went backpacking in 2011 we dreamed of going to South America. By the time we organised our travel itinerary including a flight to Beijing, a stop in Hong Kong, a whirlwind trip around Southeast Asia, three months in Australia, a month in Fiji and all the adrenaline activities in New Zealand we had run out of budget. Our eight month adventure cost us roughly £10,000 in total; around £4000 prepaid for flights, a 16 day tour of Laos and two months camper van hire in Australia and £6000 spending money. We managed a lot on our budget, especially considering how expensive Australia had got since I visited on the holiday of a lifetime in 2006. Much appreciated help came our way in the form of my wonderful mum and her friend Jo who visited us in Australia, putting us up in apartments for nearly three weeks, a week staying with my mums dear friend Reva in her hometown of Adelaide and a surprise visit from Craig's mum and dad who generously hired a camper van for three weeks in New Zealand where we toured both islands with them. If it weren't for our loved ones helping us out we wouldn't have been able to do everything we had done on the trip, a sky dive, a canyon swing, a glacier hike, eating food that wasn't baked beans on toast. Our trip was amazing but our adventure lacked one thing, a taste of South America.
We met people on the road who were off to South America and I was extremely envious, the continent offered so much and we wouldn't be able to afford to get there. What followed when we returned home was years of working in a job I wasn't passionate about to save. I wasn't sure yet what I was saving for, a house deposit maybe? Another stint at university? Travelling? Craig worked very hard in his job and to further his skillset enrolled in an evening carpentry course, I had taken a break from work for a year to complete an MA in Fine Art as I desperately missed university and a daily art practice. More time passed and with South America calling our names we decided to go for it and book a one way ticket to Rio de Janeiro, it was exhilarating but scary. Another big trip, maybe even bigger than our last one. As the months rolled on the excitement built. Questions were asked, how long are you going for? Where in South America will you be going after Rio? The truth was we didn't know, and thats how I liked it. Our last trip had been so meticulously planned, flights were already bought and paid for, tours in place and an end date pencilled in. This time we were keen to keep our plans open ended, if someone recommended a place then we'd have the freedom to go there too, and if we didn't like a place then we could scoot on with our trip without issue.
So, with £12000 each in our bank accounts we flew to Rio and over the course of six and a half months we travelled completely overland (by coach and public bus) down to Ushuaia on the most southerly tip of Argentina all the way up to Colombia's Caribbean Coast. It felt like such an achievement. Some of the journeys weren't pretty, we were sat on one coach for 34 hours in Chile/Argentina. I kept thinking how crazy far away I thought Scotland was from my home in Hampshire, eight hours in a car seemed like a lifetime but now journeys less than 20 hours were considered short.
On our journey we visited Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia. Apart from Portuguese speaking Brazil all were tied together by the Spanish language but all different in a myriad of intriguing ways. In commemoration of our wonderful tour of the continent I have listed our best moments and our not so great.
The Best of Times
- Spying the imposing rock towers of Mount Fitz Roy shrouded in whispy cloud on our nine hour day hike in Argentine Patagonia
- Cruising downhill by bike on Bolivia's infamous 'Death Road'
- That first glimpse of Machu Picchu and Peru's Sacred Valley
- Walking through a snowy landscape to see the towers of Torres del Paine in Chile
- Gliding over the mysterious Nazca lines in a tiny plane in Peru
- Getting drenched under a waterfall at Iguazu Falls and seeing the falls from both the Brazilian and Argentinian sides
- An hours bike ride around Rio de Janeiro's Lagoa at the start of our adventure
- Seeing ice calve from the Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina
- Hot chocolate after walking in deep snow to a lake and back near Ushuaia, Argentine Patagonia
- Every walk we took in Bariloche, Argentina's lake district
- Reaching the Punta Union Pass on our 3/4 day hike in Peru's Cordillera Blanca
- Staying with locals in Lima and experiencing Peruvian hospitality at its best
The Worst of Times
- Rushing Craig to hospital in La Paz, Bolivia with severe altitude sickness
- The theft of our camera and money in Ecuador
- The unavoidable bed bugs and mosquito bites
- Disappointingly missing out on seeing The Amazon
The best times severely outweigh the bad and now that we've had some distance from the continent I'm starting to forget the worst days and completely gush over our time there. We travelled the continent quicker than we expected to, and that was while taking our time especially in Argentina and Chile. Patagonia turned out to be our favourite region and also the most expensive while we weren't as keen on pricey Uruguay. Luckily for us, our trip hasn't ended in Colombia. While in South America we decided to go to India via all the Central American countries with a little stop in Cuba and New York for good measure too.
One things for sure, I'm so glad we decided to put our hard earned money towards this adventure. It has come with so many challenges, difficulties and a few disappointments but the places we've seen, some of so much outstanding beauty will be etched in my mind forever.
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