At the beginning of this adventure, we wrote that we were most excited about meeting new people, particularly locals. Of course, we love meeting fellow backpackers and sharing best hostels, hikes, and tales of mishaps and muggings but you can’t beat spending time with people who hail from the countries you’re striving to become culturally immersed in.
Tucked away in the Andes of Patagonia, Pucón is a sweet little city which booms with tourists in the summer months. It’s a mecca for adrenaline junkies and the perfect base for an action-packed holiday; think Queenstown, Taupo, and Tahoe. For the four days we were there, we felt a world away from South America and more like we were back in New Zealand!
This post doesn’t really need an intro. When you hear Patagonia scenes of huge jagged mountain tops, glaciers, lush green forests and fjords spring to mind…and maybe the odd rain jacket too.
Whoops, we’re only running a month late with our posts.
We arrived into San Pedro de Atacama, Chile, the driest desert in the world, just in time for Christmas. The border crossing was, once again, a bit of mission. Thankfully there were no hidden costs to this one but we did park up at a huge market for an hour so the driver of the bus could do some last minute Christmas shopping! Classic South America, we’ve discovered.
Crossing the border into Bolivia was a bit of a mission. It was supposed to be a 7-hour journey but ended up being closer to 11. The reason wasn’t the border crossing, which was relatively painless but the non-disclosed stops along the way.
We divided up our journey to Arequipa with a stop in Nazca to visit the Lîneas de Nazca. These mysterious geoglyphs were on both our bucket lists for South America so we were excited about the scenic flight we’d booked that glides you over the desert for panoramic views.
Remember when I mentioned that it’s not always good to set the expectations too high?
With our three months in Ecuador drawing to a close, we decided to soak up a little more of its culture before we headed to Peru, and ordered a traditional Ecuadorean meal at the airport. We haven’t written much about the food in South America because let’s be honest, it’s not that exciting to read (kind of like those insta-foodie accounts) but it’s actually one of the things we will miss the most when we leave here. So what the heck, here are some of our food highlights so far:
Our decision to go to the Galápagos was a bit of a mistake actually. It’s well known to most backpackers that adding these islands to your itinerary cuts a big chunk out of your budget, even if you do hang out for the last minute cruises. One evening, however, we stumbled across some ridiculously cheap flights online with Avianca Airlines, from Guayaquil to Santa Cruz Island, which seemed too good to be true.
Once considered the “hidden paradise” of Ecuador, Montañita is now a favourite tourist destination for thousands of young people from Europe, the United States, and Latin America. If you Google the town then you’ll read about all-night fiestas, cheap eats, consistent, surfable waves, readily available drugs, and the famous ‘Cocktail Alley’ where the music never stops ringing. It’s also home to the 52nd best club in the world! Now there’s a claim to fame.
Sadly, you’ll also read about the two Argentinian tourists who were murdered on the beach in 2016. To say we were a little apprehensive about spending a month there – especially as I was signed up for a Yoga Teacher Training course – was an understatement.
But, it wasn’t all bad.