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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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!

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!

Mendoza, Argentina

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The trip from Santiago to Mendoza was an 8-hour bus ride over the Andes with the border crossing high up in the mountains. We’d been told that it was spectacular and worth doing during daylight hours, which is what we did and I’m very glad. The views were just amazing! Driving up through the mountains with snow covered peaks on either side of the road was unreal.

After the border crossing we descended to the other side and into the flat valleys of Mendoza where 70 % of the country’s wine is produced.

The next day we spent wandering around the town of Mendoza, hanging out in the Parque General San Martin and browsing Mercado Central to pick up some goodies for lunch among the vineyards the next day.

In the morning, Alan, our new friend Dan and I caught a local bus to Maipu where all the vineyards are located. We rented bikes from Mr Hugo’s and we were off. Throughout the day we visited around 4-5 bodegas (wineries) and a liqueria (where Alan decided to try a tobacco flavoured liquor – surprise, surprise, it was disgusting).

The wines we tried were mainly Cabinet Sauvignon and Malbec (which I’ve decided is my new favourite wine). The vineyards were all lovely and after paying a small entry price were happy to let us try a generous amount of wine (which we of course spat out like proper wine connoisseurs – NOT!!)

We had a delicious picnic lunch at one of the vineyards which consisted of cheese, prosciutto, crackers, strawberries and chocolate, and was well accompanied by a bottle of the winery’s Cabinet Sauvignon.

At the end of the day we bought a bottle of wine and went and sat among the vines to enjoy the last of the days sun before heading back to the bike hire place (a little wobbly on our bikes) where they supplied us with more wine until well into the night.

Now, I must warn anyone who thinks this sounds like a sophisticated day among the vineyards that it definitely was no stroll in the park. I think we probably ended up riding over 20 kilometers during the day, most of the roads are badly sign posted and a couple of the vineyards weren’t open when we got there. However, it was one of those truly unique experience that only South America can provide and I can honestly say that it has been one of the highlights of the trip so far.

Thanks to Alan (or Al-baby as he is to be known forthwith) and Dan for a great day and for not leaving the slow girl behind too much.

Looking a little worse for wear at the end of the day.

Itinerary

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Three months seems like a long time, but in a place like South America where there is so much to see and do, I think that three months will fly by. So I’ve decided that I’m not going to attempt seeing the entire continent but rather visit a few countries and do them justice.

As I said in my last post, I am flying in to Lima, Peru on the 1st of August and I join my Gap Adventures tour the next day. The tour lasts 21 days and ends in La Paz in Bolivia. I am hoping that I will meet some lovely people on the tour who are continuing their travels through South America that I might be able to travel with.

I’d like to stay a few days in La Paz, I’ve been told the people are very friendly and the markets are a must see. From there, I’d like to head south to see the salt flats in the south of Bolivia and then down through Chile to Santiago. I’m very keen to do a trip to Easter Island from Santiago but I want to try and find a good value tour to go on as it seems very expensive. From Santiago, I think I will travel further south (depending on how cold it is) to the Patagonian lakes district and then across the Andes to Bariloche in Argentina.

Once in Argentina, I am planning to head to Mendoza, the wine area of Argentina and the home of delicious Malbec. I’ve never been a huge fan of red wine but after being persuaded by my friend Helina to try some, I have fallen in love and now I can’t wait to spend some time among the vineyards indulging in some of the finest vino Argentina has to offer.

If Mendoza is the wine capital of Argentina then apparently Buenos Aires is the beef capital and anyone that knows me, knows that I love a good steak. So next on the list is the cosmopolitan city of BA. Buenos Aires is also the home of Tango and after doing one Tango class previously I cannot wait to learn more about this very steamy dance.

From Buenos Aires I want to head to the famous Iguazu Falls which sits on the border of Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil. Iguazu Falls are meant to be some of the most spectacular waterfalls in the world and I’ve been told that you have to see them from the Argentinia side as well as the Brazilian side.

From there, I’m thinking that I might spend some time on the southern beaches of Brazil and hopefully soak up some sun, before heading north to Sao Paulo and then lastly to Rio De Janeiro which is where I will fly out from on the 1st November.

Of course, this isn’t set in stone and there will be many other places visited in between. I’m very interested in hearing suggestions from anyone so please let me know if you think there is a place that I must visit.

Well until next time, adios!

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