Spotlight on South America – by Gemma from Two Scots
We’re that annoying couple that sold our stuff, downed tools as teacher and tradesman, and flew to the Americas to travel for 18 months! In the past eight months we’ve ate Po’ Boys in New Orleans, partied at SXSW in Austin, trekked in Peru, cycled Death Road in Bolivia, drank coffee in Colombia, dived in Cuba, and set up a (temporary) home in Canada! This article is going to share our highlights of the South American leg of our trip.
Everyone that travels around Peru, does a trek to Machu Picchu. The most popular trek is the Inca, however there are not only alternative treks to the seventh modern wonder of the world but also other fascinating treks in Peru! The Lares Trek (the alternative we opted for) was not actually our favourite hike in Peru! We preferred the three day two night Colca Canyon trip.
From ‘the white city’ Arequipa, the hike started after a three hour bus ride and breakfast stop. On day one we hiked into the canyon, surrounded by the yellows and lush greens of nature with condors swooping near by. Our group was packed with lovely travellers, all very like minded, kind, and fun! That night we dined and slept at a Peruvian family’s home who had converted their spare rooms for trekkers.
On day two, we climbed up out of and then into the canyon again! It only took a couple of hours in the morning which meant we had the afternoon by a swimming pool! However, an early night was recommended as we were up at 4am to beat sun as we hiked out of the canyon on day three. Really the highlight of the trek was our guide, Juanito. He had an electric personality, he was always happy! You’ll find that’s the case with lots of South American tour guides, they really are great at their jobs.
Craig and I have different opinions when it comes to the highlight for Peru’s neighbouring country, Bolivia. He found cycling the World’s Most Dangerous Road, La Carretera de los Yungas, athrill. Let’s just say my nerves didn’t agree with him! The trip left from La Paz, then we cycled down a paved road for the morning which was smooth and the views were stunning. Then we hit Death Road proper, which is not for the faint hearted! I only took my hands off the breaks once! Craig zoomed down, completely in his element. People have died on this road, pick your tour company carefully, safety over budget is an absolute must!
My preference was our day trip to Salar de Uyuniaka – Bolivia’s Salt Flats. The extended horizon makes for hilarious comedy photographs and as sunset falls over the Flats, perfect romantic and creative shots! We had pushy Korean girls in our group and I am thankful for their playful nature because, regardless of the language barrier and a grumpy tour guide, we made magical shots!
If you look at map of South America, you will wonder why Colombia is third in our list. It has absolutely nothing to do with hierarchy, Colombia was our favourite country to backpack around, it just wasn’t on our itinerary before we left. Why? Obviously because somewhere in the back of our subconscious the media reports of drugs and gang lords told us not to consider it whilst planning…
Then every traveller we met who had travelled down through Colombia to Peru and Bolivia urged us to go. So we did, and we’re so thankful of having the flexibility to do so! It’s tough to pick a highlight, the very recent history is fascinating, we learnt a lot in Santa Marta (staying in an ex cartel mansion) and in Medellin (do the Real City Walking Tour, tell Pablo we sent you!) The beach towns of the northwest – Palomino, Costeño, and a visit to Tayrona National Park are a must. Don’t miss Minca, treehouse hostels in the Sierra Nevada mountains. If you like coffee, Salento and the coffee triangle is for you.
The bright and beautiful walled city of Cartagena is also a UNESCO site and had lots of cool things to do inside the colonial walls. Street art lovers shouldn’t miss the capital, Bogota, even if it does rain every day! Regardless of the occasional downpour, Colombians always have a sunny disposition and that’s what makes the country our best pick for backpackers!
Check a map again and you’ll notice that there are more than three countries in South America, correct! And we’ll be back to taste the wine of Argentina, drive in the Chilean desert, spot the beauty in Brazil, and sip mate in Uruguay, to name but a few! This was purely a spotlight on South America, what was your highlight?
Two Scots Abroad (Gemma and Craig) have downed tools as teacher and tradesman and are traveling the Americas and Europe on an 18 month career break. They are currently living in Vancouver after four months of fast paced travel in South America and Cuba. Join them as they ski in B.C, surf in Nicaragua and party in Ibiza very soon!