Ten years, almost. Ten years since I first got on that plane, stepping into the unknown, finally fulfilling my lifelong dream of travelling to South America. All those years of looking up flights, poring over maps, dreaming of places I’d maybe never see. Until there was someone who shared my dream, encouraged it, searched the internet for months researching how we could plan our trip without spending a fortune. That first time saw us diving into the infinite green wilderness of the Amazon in Brazil, eating fish the size of our heads, spying sloths slung lazily across the very tops of trees.
Then heading up to the Venezuelan border, one of those epic South American bus journeys, in search of one of the ultimate travel icons; Salto Angel or Angel Falls. Its relative inaccessibility and the story behind its discovery had always fascinated me and our own journey didn’t disappoint. Walking behind and on top of waterfalls at Canaima, then heading upriver in dugout canoes, leaving the boats to cut across land at one point as the crew tackled the rapids, tepuis (table mountains) looming overhead.
‘Be mindful of what you’re getting into: South America can be a lifetime addiction’ – Lonely Planet (Regis St Louis)
I didn’t know, when I took my dream trip, that it would spark a curiosity about and love for South America, from its dazzling landscapes to its fascinating cities, that is still going strong ten years later. Even now, after being extremely lucky enough to have made five trips to this diverse, unforgettable continent, I know that if you offered me two free tickets, one to somewhere I’d always wanted to go, like Japan or a Silk Road trip, or a flight almost anywhere in South America, it’s the second option that would make my heart sing.
Every trip offers something different, but there’s always a common thread; sweeping, dramatic landscapes, mega-cities which don’t forget their past while rapidly looking to the future, an attempt to use my rusty Spanish (and practically non-existent Portuguese). The chaos of lives lived out on the street, drinking an ice cold chopp on a humid Brazilian night, listening to howler monkeys sounding like a distant storm across the jungle.
As I look back over the past ten years, I’ll be sharing my favourite cities, landscapes and quirky things I love about South America in a series of posts. I’ll also be updating my trip planning post and hopefully adding more helpful ‘How to’ guides like this one about how to book bus tickets in Brazil.
And in December we’ll be off to South America again for two weeks, flying into Rio for a couple of nights before heading on to Argentina and eventually the region around Salta in the Andes – so excited to return to a region I loved back in 2009!
As always, let me know if you have any questions about travel in South America and I’ll do my best to help :)