Now that we're on our North America leg I've really come to miss South America. I miss it for all it's uniqueness and vibrancy. We spent three months there in total but this isn't really that long when you consider we visited 6 countries which equates to only about 2 weeks per country. How can you possibly say you've come to understand a place in 2 weeks? I do feel that we managed to cover the most important places to us but there are certainly places we felt we cheated and plan to visit on the next trip.
Brazil (March 2013)
In total we spent 3 weeks here where we mostly flew from city to city. I think that this was a good amount of time here consider how large the country is. It was the most expensive country we visited so staying too long can really squeeze your budget. We started in Rio and spent 4 days there. It was a great place to start the journey and there was so much to do there. We saw Christ the Redeemer and visited the famous Copacabana and Ipanema beaches. We then made our way by bus to Paraty which was nice but the beach wasn't that great and I would have preferred to have gone to Ilha Grande which we heard many good things from other travellers about the beautiful beaches there. Another bus to the historical town of Ouro Preto where we spent two days, mostly taking photos of churches and walking up hills. We then visited Sao Paulo for four days. This a frenetic and over populated city where we had a great experience meeting some lovely locals but otherwise didn't find much to love about the acutal city. We then took a bus to Bella Horizonte then a flight to Salvador in the Northeast of Brazil. Salvador was one of my favourite cities and we spent 5 days there exploring the Afro-Brazilian culture and spent an extra two days in the small nearby beach towns of Imbassai and Praia do Forte. I'd skip the former but loved the latter, even though it was super touristy. We then flew all the way across to the Cuiaba where we started our 3 day tour into the Pantanal, large wetlands area known for wildlife. Due to it being the wet season (March), this was a dissapointment as there are more chances of seeing Jaguars and other cool animals in the dry season. I wished we'd saved our money instead and went to Bonito instead to see the wild macaws and do the fish swim instead. We then flew to Iguassu Falls and spent one full day on the Brazilian side and the next on the Argentinian side. Do both sides and do the boat ride as well. It's really really fun! Note: We applied for our Brazillian visa's in Australia a month before leaving.
We spent 8 days only in Buenos Aires which was a good amount of time. We planned on spending some of that time in Mendoza, wine country. But since we absolutely fell in love with the food and culture of BA and don't love wine we ended up going straight from BA to Santiago. This was a 24 hour bus ride but going over the Andes along the way made it feel like more of a scenic tour and definitely recommended even if going through Chilean customs takes ages. We would love to come back one day and see more of Argentina and do Salta and Mendoza as well. We hear they are both lovely. But I would still go back to BA for some more amazing steak. Note: You have to pay a $100 reciprocacy fee and print out the receipt before entering the country.
We spent 12 days in Chile, 5 of those in Pucon. Stunning volcanoes and lakes with amazing friends, we had such a good time and I just wish we had more time to go further South to Patagonia and do the W trail in Torres del Paine but I hear that is a trip in itself and by April it would have been way to cold for unprepared travelers that we are. We also spent four days in the northern tip in San Pedro doing daily tours in the Atacama desert. Our favourites were the salt lagoons and the Space tour. From there we started our four day tour to the Bolivian salt flats.
I couldn't really enjoy Bolivia due to altitude sickness but the tour to the salt flats had some stunning scenery and of course the salt flats themselves are so special. We also then spent 2 days in La Paz and 2 days in Lake Titicaca. This was enough and I really can't say I overly enjoyed htis part of the trip.
We spent just under 3 weeks in Peru and honestly I could have spent more. Such a stunning country with so much to do and great on the budget too. We spent two days acclimatising in Cusco before doing a 5 days Inca Trail trek with G adventures which was hard but infinitely rewarding. Another two days in Cusco afterwads recuperating and then two days in Lima, exploring the ceviche in Miraflores. We spent two days in Ica visiting the oasis town of Huacachina and sandboarding (exhilirating) and one day in Paracas looking at sea lions and penguins. Then another two days back in Lima, this time in Barranco district which is a bit less touristy and more interesting then Miraflores.
A 28 hour bus from Lima is the city of Guayaquil where we booked our Galapagos tour. This was such a stress point for me but worth it. We originally wanted to squeeze Columbia in before we went to Galapagos but realised that we wouldn't really be giving Columbia the days it deserved plus we weren't sure how long it would take to find a good Galapagos tour and didn't want to risk not having enough time to do it. So Columbia went on the 'next time' list. We spent two days organising the tour, one exploring the city and two days in Playas on the beach and checking our dolphins in the mangroves at El Morro. Honestly, with all the amazing wildlife and beaches that awaited at Galapagos we could have skipped Playas but we had time to kill. We spent 2 weeks in Ecuador but the best part was the Galapagos, the only major tour we did that not only met but far exceeded expectations. We spent 7 days at Galapagos with two of those in transit on flights. This was the perfect amount of time that allowed us to see everything without getting excessively expensive and repetitive. We only had one full day in Quito to visit the equator for a science lesson before we flew out to Los Angeles, USA.