South America – Wrap Report

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So back in the PR world whenever I finished a campaign or project for a client I’d have to put together a report summarising our activities and the outcomes, so I thought it only fitting that I do something similar for my South American adventure. So here it goes:

In three months I travelled through five countries, stayed in 29 different towns/cities, slept in 12 hotels, 17 hostels, one jungle lodge, one mountain lodge, one salt hotel, a desert shack, a beach shack, camped for three nights and took seven overnight buses.

So, what were the highlights I hear you ask? Well, I’ve narrowed it down to my five favourite experiences:

1. Inca Trail/Machu Picchu, Peru – Completing this four day trek and finally arriving at the wondrous place that is Machu Pacchu has to be the absolute highlight of my trip. The trek was really hard but, as I’ve said before, I enjoyed every minute of it and walking into the lost city filled me with such happiness at the thought of fulfilling a life long dream.


2. Horse riding in the Cochamo Valley, Chile – anyone who knows me knows that I love horses and that I love riding, so being able to go trail riding in the Chilean mountains was something I really wanted to do while I was travelling. This 2-day ride was like nothing I’ve ever done before. The trail was incredible; forest, rivers, and mountains and the horses were amazing; sturdy, strong and courageous. I was absolutely blown away by the spectacular scenery and once again loved every minute of the experience.


3. The World’s Most Dangerous Road, Bolivia – My mum actually forbid me from doing this before I left on my trip but I knew that if I didn’t do it I’d really regret it. The 64 km downhill bike ride on what is considered the most dangerous road in the world was absolutely exhilarating. It was so much fun that I had a smile on my face for the whole ride and the scenery was spectacular; waterfalls, forest and of course the huge cliffs that drop away from the side of the road.


4. Bike riding in the vineyards of Mendoza, Argentina – I’m not much of a bike rider so it’s kind of funny to see that two bike rides made it to my top five list, but this one also included one of my favorite things in the world; wine. This was just one of those days where you have so much fun that the next day you wake up and think, ‘wow, that was perfect!’ Combine delicious wine, riding a bike on a glorious day through gorgeous vineyards with the spectacular Andes in the background, and fabulous company and you have one stellar day.


5. Rio de Janeiro, – Rounding out the top 5 is the coolest city I’ve ever been to. I loved everything about Rio; the amazing sights such as Christ the Redeeemer and Sugarloaf Mountain, the stunning beaches, the crazy nightlife and most of all just the fantastic vibe the city has. I’m so glad Rio was the last place I visited because it was the perfect ending to the most amazing trip.

So there you go, five places/experiences that absolutely blew me away. It’s good to see that there is one for each country because I loved all the countries I visited, they were all so different and I was lucky enough to have incredible, unique experiences every place I went.

Of course, one of things that really made this trip what it was is all the amazing people I met along the way. I was lucky to have a group of fantastic people in my tour group in Peru and then once I was by myself I was able to meet some great people to hang out, party and travel with. Thanks to all those people who I met, you made this trip the greatest thing I’ve done in my life!

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Buzios, Brazil

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I had planned to stay in Rio for the last five days after I returned from Ilha Grande however my friend Greg asked if I’d like to go with him to Buzios, a small beach town a couple of hours north of Rio. I thought it sounded great so we headed off on Friday morning with the plan of staying two nights and then heading back to Rio.
It was an absolutely gorgeous town and you could see why so many Brazilians go there for weekends away and summer holidays. It wasn’t a big place and was mainly made up of accommodation places, restaurants, shops and bars. Pretty much all the things I like in a town!
When we arrived we headed down to the small beach right next to the town and went for a dip. That night we headed out to one of the great restaurants in the main part of town. There were so many great places to choose from but we ended up going to a fantastic place owned by a Frenchman, so Greg felt right at home. We had the local specialty which was a huge seafood soup and it was delicious!


The next day we went to another of the many beaches around Buzios. It was absolutely packed with Brazilians. Here we were able to hire an umbrella for the day (to protect my delicate Australian skin) and had a lady who would bring us anything we needed, which included beers, coconuts, and roasted cheese on a stick (mmmm yum!)

As we were leaving we noticed a place that offered surf lessons, which Greg was really keen on doing, so we decided that we’d come back the next day and stay another night in town.

The next day we hit the beach again, Greg in his surf shirt, and me on my deckchair, under my umbrella. While Greg did a few practice runs, I grabbed an acai (a local berry drink) and sat back ready to watch.


And the boy didn’t do too bad! He was up on the board looking like a pro on a number of occasions. After a quick break and some more energy food (more roasted cheese on a stick) he was back out there and carving it up. I took on the role of official photographer, but after a while I had to head back to my umbrella, I was starting to feel the burn.


After a while he felt he had sufficiently conquered the waves so he came back in and we headed back to town. A successful day for Greg and quite a relaxing one for me.

The following day it was back to Rio after a couple of beautiful days in Buzios. It was such a gorgeous place , so peaceful with spectacular beaches and fabulous food. I think it would be crazy-busy during Summer though so I’m glad we were able to go when it was a little calmer. Thanks Greg for the invitation!

Ilha Grande, Brazil

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Ilha Grande is a beautiful island a few hours south of Rio. After a rough and wet journey over on the boat I arrived at the Che Lagarto hostel that overlooked the main beach on the island. When I arrived it was a bit cloudy but the weather forecast said that it was going to be sunny for the next few days, and luckily it was spot on!

Main beach the hostel overlooked

The next day I wandered around the island and stopped at the next beach and spent the day relaxing and reading on the beach. After lunch I hit up the self serve ice cream store where you can choose however many flavours you like and they charge you by weight.

That night a big group of us went into town to have dinner and on the way back we came across a group of people drinking around a fire on the beach. After grabbing some supplies from the hostel we joined them and a couple of the guys commandeered the guitar and serenaded us all. The stars were absolutely amazing and although I proved to be hopeless at spotting shooting stars it was almost surreal to be sitting on the beach of a beautiful island in Brazil around a fire and gazing up at a perfect sky. Definitely a night to remember.

The next day we caught a boat over to the surf beach called Lopez Mendez. It was an absolutely gorgeous day to be sitting on a beach, watching the boys try to surf , and taking the occasional dip to cool down.

That night we went to a BBQ at a nearby restaurant where you could choose between different skewers of meats, cheese or a couple of varieties of fish. While it took almost two hours for our food to arrive, and we had drunk quite a few caipirinhas by that time, the food was absolutely delicious! Capped of by the fact that once again we were located on a gorgeous beach under the stars on a perfectly warm evening.

I was meant to leave the next day however I decided to stay on one more night because the weather was absolutely perfect, there were some great people staying in the hostel, and there were still so many beautiful places to explore on the island. A small group of us decided to go on a boat tour around the island that visited six beaches and a couple of lagoons where you could snorkel. We were picked up in an awesome speed boat and spent the day taking in the beautiful sights of the island and swimming in some absolutely gorgeous beaches and lagoons. Although, one of the best parts was the speed boat ride in between the stops because it was quite choppy out on the open water making the trip a bit like a roller coaster ride. Another amazing day!

The next morning I took the boat back to the mainland and a bus trip back to Rio. It had been an amazing few days with perfect weather, beautiful beaches, delicious food and amazing people. If you go to Brazil definitely visit Ilha Grande, it’s the perfect place for a romantic getaway but is also lots of fun if you’re by yourself or with a group of friends. It can be as relaxing or as action packed as you like.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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I have been to some incredible cities while on this trip but I think Rio would have to be the most incredible city I’ve seen. The way that the city is designed is just amazing, huge skyscrapers built amongst mountains right next to spectacular beaches. From above the views of the city are just jaw-dropping.

I stayed in a hostel called Che Lagarto which is one block back from Ipanema beach, one beach over from Copacobana. It was a fantastic hostel and the people who work there were absolutely lovely. They also do open bar on Thursday nights which is always great fun as I found out with my new Aussie friends Harry and Giles, my French friend Greg and Norwegian friend Hanne.

Just having a drink or three at open bar night at Che Lagarto

Ipanema beach is gorgeous and Copacabana was really cool, although when I was there it was overcast so it didn’t look as spectacular as I’m sure it would on a sunny day.

Ipanema Beach

Copacabana Beach

On my second day in Rio I did a city tour which took us to Christ the Redeemer, Santa Teresa, the Cathedral, Lapa Steps, and Sugarloaf Mountain.

The views from Christ the Redeemer and Sugarloaf Mountain were absolutely amazing, giving a grand view of the entire city including Copacabana, Ipanema and Centro.

At the Lapa Steps we were able to meet Selaron, the artist who created the masterpiece, and I got him to sign a postcard for me. He was a bit crazy but apparently we caught him on a good day because a lot of the time he doesn’t even come out of his house which is right next to the steps.

On another day a group of us went to Barra de Tijuca where there is a beautiful beach. Alejandro, Andrea, Greg and I had an absolutely fabulous day lazing about and enjoying the sun (and a sneaky caipirinha).

Rio is also an amazing place to go out. Twice I went out salsa dancing in Copacabana, then went to an incredible street party in Lapa with people everywhere, cheap drinks and plenty of samba, and on my last night (Halloween) had a great night out drinking in Lapa and then dancing like idiots in Ipanema.

The food in Brazil is also incredible. I tried some sushi (thanks to encouragement from Greg) and it was delicious but the Brazilians really love there meat which means I was very happy. On my last night, Greg, Hanne and I all went out for churasco, which is pretty much all you can eat meat (chicken, beef, pork, sausage) with a side of rice and chips. Accompanied by a nice glass of red wine, of course. It was AMAZING!!

The vibe in Rio is absolutely awesome! It really has a buzz that makes it the exciting place that it is. The people are all gorgeous and aren’t afraid to let you know it. The guys all get around in tiny swimmers (or budgie smugglers as we’d call them in Australia) and the women wear g-string bikinis, most of the time on the beach I didn’t know where to look!

I’m so glad I went to Rio, because it wasn’t originally on my list of places to visit. And despite many people telling me that it can be dangerous, I felt safe all the time I was there. Rio is definitely a city I’d recommend visiting, but be aware that it’s expensive compared to the rest of South America, with prices for most things on par with Sydney or London.

Iguazu Falls

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After another lengthy bus ride (17 hours) I arrived in Puerto Iguazu, the town close by to Iguazu falls which is located on the border of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay.

After arriving around lunch time I headed straight over to the Brazilian side of the falls where you are able to get the grand view of the falls.

I was completely blown away by the phenomenal amount of water going over the falls and just how many falls there were stretched over several kilometers. It was absolutely spectacular!

At one point I was able to walk out on a platform in front of a huge waterfall that was sending up such an incredible amount of spray that I got absolutely saturated. It was such an odd experience because for some reason I felt so happy and I actually started laughing out loud despite being myself and getting ridiculously wet. It seemed that it affected everyone in a similar way because everyone I saw had a huge smile on their face. Apparently it might have something to do with the negative ions in the air but whatever it was it was an incredible experience.

The next day I headed to the Argentinian side where you are able to get more up close to the falls. Once again it was amazing to see just how much water there was going over the falls. I also took a boat ride that goes down underneath one of the falls and you get absolutely soaked. It was amazing to feel just how powerful the water is.

That night a group of us headed to a spot in Puerto Iguazu where you can see Brazil and Paraguay while standing in Argentina. Pretty cool!

Paraguay on the left, Brazil on the right and Argentina at the front. 

Puerto Iguazu was a really nice town and while I was there the weather was absolutely perfect – sunny and hot. The falls are one of those things that I would definitely recommend to anyone traveling in South America, apparently they put Niagra Falls to shame!

Buenos Aires, Argentina

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After an epic 20-hour bus ride from Bariloche I arrived in beautiful Buenos Aires. However, I wasn’t aware that it was actually a long weekend for Columbus Day which meant that all the hostels were booked out. After trying to get a bed in several hostels my taxi driver suggested a cheap hotel nearby where I could stay. It was awful! But I wasn’t going to sit in my room by myself on a Saturday night, my first in Buenos Aires, so I headed back to my first hostel of choice (Milhouse Avenue) so I could book in for the next night and hopefully meet some people. There, I ran into a friend I had met in La Paz and her travel companions so we ended up having a great night of drinking and dancing and the next day I moved into Milhouse where the party continued for the next five nights.

While in Buenos Aires I visited some of the wonderful neighbourhoods close to the city including Recoleta, San Telmo, La Boca, and Palermo. Here is a little about what each area has to offer:

Recoleta – here I did a tour of the famous cemetery where Evita is buried. The people who are buried here are placed in beautiful tombs that are elaborately decorated and look like miniature churches. We also wondered around the markets here which have stalls with jewellery, art, clothes and food.

Evita’s grave.

San Telmo – here we visited the Sunday Antiques Fair where there are so many beautiful stalls of antiques and people dancing tango in the streets. We also has lunch in a restaurant where we were able to experience a live tango show. Tango is such an amazing dance and a very important part of the Buenos Aires culture.

La Boca – this part of town is very unique as it is where a lot of the immigrants first arrived in Buenos Aires and built their houses. Paint left over from painting the boats on the nearby docks was used to paint the houses so they are extemely bright colours and give the area a vibrancy I’ve never seen before. People from Boca are also very passionate about their football team, Boca Juniors, so it was great to be able to visit the stadium there and see where the infamous Maradona once played.

Palermo – this is a gorgeous part of town where there are lots of beautiful little boutique shops and large park areas. I spent plenty of time wondering the streets but wasn’t able to explore the parks as it started raining the day I was there. My lovely friend Rachel from back home took me shopping nearby one day and we spent hours looking at a the beautiful leather products on offer. Rachel spotted some great shoes and I ended up buying a beautiful red handbag made of Argentinian leather. A very successful day capped off with a delicious cocktail, thanks Rach!

A couple of other things I enjoyed while in Buenos Aires:

La Cabrera restaurant – I was told this was the best steak restaurant in Buenos Aires and it defiantly lives up to it’s reputation. If you arrive there at 7pm and eat before 8:30 your meal is half price,which makes it extremely good value. A fantastic restaurant with great service, delicious food and beautiful wine.

Tango Show – seeing a tango show in Buenos Aires is a must do in my opinion. We went to one at Complejo Tango where you get to do a tango lesson then watch a show while enjoying a three course dinner and unlimited wine. It was such a great night, the lesson was fun, the food was amazing and the show was spectacular!

Showing off our certificates after successfully completing our tango class.

One thing to keep in mind when visiting BA is that things don’t kick off until really late. Portenos (BA locals) don’t have dinner until 10pm and generally you don’t head to clubs until about 2am. An afternoon siesta is almost a must so you can keep up.

Overall, I had a brilliant time in Buenos Aires and think that it is an amazing city! Beautiful neighborhoods, delicious food and wine and a great night life.

Bariloche

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The only thing I didn’t like about Bariloche was that I was only able to stay one night there.

Bariloche is just over the Andes in Argentina and sits very close by to a volcano which has been erupting on and off for quite some time. You Australians may remember the ash that swept across Australia canceling virtually all the flights in the southern states earlier in the year, well this is the same volcano that caused that. Which means that a lot of the surrounding areas are covered in ash and many of the trees and other plants have died. Bariloche residents were still in the process of cleaning up te last lot if ash when we arrived. It was a beautiful town and the hostel I stayed in (Penthouse 1004) had the most amazing views over the lake.

The view from my dorm room. Not bad eh?

Bariloche is the perfect place to do lots of different outdoor activities such as kayaking and paragliding, but because I was there for such a short amount of time I didn’t really get the chance.

Bariloche is also famous for it’s chocolate and has a number of huge stores around the town where you can buy any kind of chocolate you like by the kilo. So instead of getting into the outdoor activities I got into the chocolate, and boy was it good!

I met a great group of people in the hostel from all around the world and we had a huge cook up before going out partying. It was an absolutely fabulous night, mostly spent dancing, and also provided us with great views from the hostel when we got home at sunrise. Gorgeous!

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