4 months//5 countries
Buenos Aires, Chajari, Puerto Iguazú , El Calafate, El Chalten
The Malbec is plentiful, the beef is grilled to absolute perfection, and the entire country has official rest time each day (Siesta for everyone!). In one month I barely scraped the surface of what Argentina has to offer; from humid Puerto Iguazú to the magnificent peaks of Patagonia, I'm in awe of this country's beauty & history.
The cost of travel here was higher than anywhere else I traveled in South America, but I cut costs by eating at local markets (WAY better than westernized places anyways), camped with my own gear, stayed at budget hostels in rooms of 20 plus people (only a few cockroaches along the way!), and I stayed with family friends for one week in Northern Argentina. A few highlights of my time here included eating my weight in empanadas & steak, learning how to heard cattle by horseback with local Gauchos, listening to the rumble of glacial ice crashing into the water from one of the world's last healthy glaciers (Puerto Moreno), and every single second spent in El Chalten hiking the Fitz Roy Mountain Range #mountainporn.
Punta Arenas, Puerto Natales, Santiago, Valparaiso, Puerto Varas, Pucon, San Pedro de Atacama
Chile quite literally has it all, the landscapes change dramatically if you travel 5 hours in any direction and the people couldn't be prouder to explain why their country is the best (especially if given the opportunity to compare it with Argentina).
Chile held a lot of firsts for me, my first completely solo multi-day trek which challenged me mentally and physically to complete (looking at you Torres del Paine), my first time using a gas mask/icepick/crampons to reach the summit of an active glacier capped volcano, my first time using a crazy carpet to sled down an active glacier capped volcano, my first near-death experience involving an ice pick/crazy carpet/active volcano (sorry mom, may have left this story out of the version you heard!), my first attempt at setting up a cell phone in a non-English speaking country, and my first time stargazing in the driest desert in the world. To say Chile stole my heart is an understatement, I could have stayed and explored for months. But like many travellers, the need to keep moving before your flight home nears, is inevitable!
Salt Flat Tour: Salar de Uyuni, Potosi, Sucre, La Paz, Ventilla, Yanacachi, Semaipata, Santa Cruz
Entering Bolivia was the first time I felt deeply nervous on my trip, my stomach turned as I replayed the cautionary tales about how unsafe Bolivia was for female travellers. With that said, Bolivia turned out to be my favourite country. I fell in love with the authentic and vibrant culture, the hardworking locals who are incredibly kindhearted, and the thrilling adventures along the way. Bolivia threw many challenges my way and I did feel unsafe a few times, including a "small" mishap in La Paz with my passport and a sketchy tour agency, battling terrible altitude sickness while chomping like a horse on handfuls of coca leaves, and hiking at dusk through an active mine followed by hitchhiking multiple times on the side of a rural dirt road (unsure if or when we would ever get back to our hostel in one piece).
Those minor challenges were part of the Bolivian experience, and I wouldn't trade them! Highlights of Bolivia included exploring the beautiful white city of Sucre, swimming under waterfalls, buying avacados bigger than my face for less than a dollar, dancing on bars to Pitbull's latest hits, an endless supply of fresh Mango juice, hiking a pre-Incan trail through the Cordillera Real down into the jungle of the Yungas, meeting an inmate from San Pedro Prison & getting a private "tour" (Shoutout to Crazy Dave!!), sleeping on the side of a mountain in a rock hut with straw floors (usually the sheep sleep in there but we rented the "room" for the night), and finally, soaking in the mind blowing views of the Salt Flats. Bolivia is unreal. Pictures don't do it justice. If you've thought of going, go! If you have written Bolivia off as unsafe, go and like me- be smart and aware in your everyday surroundings!
Cusco, Lima, Huaraz, Trujillo, Huanchaco
I'd heard so much hype about Machu Picchu, it made me not want to go. In fact, I planned on skipping Peru altogether (I know, I know!). Thanks to two lovely Irish folks I met in Chile (Shoutout Ciara & Ritchie!), I decided to meet them in Cusco for Christmas. I ended up moving my return flight back a few weeks so I could stay longer in Peru, I'm so happy I did. Peru is amazing. It is such a diverse country with amazing hiking opportunities, and incredible food.
Highlights of Peru include wandering the cobblestone streets of Cusco, traveling on what I consider to be the TRUE death road (especially when your driver is dozing off at the wheel, maybe this shouldn't be under highlights...), Machu Picchu Mountain for kicking my butt, Machu Picchu itself for living up to its hype, embracing the Christmas madness in Cusco (fireworks in every direction, jump/duck/run or you will be hit), unknowingly eating raw chicken in my sandwich and not getting food poisoning (I repeat, raw chicken, in South America.. not sick, HUGE win.), attempting to blend like a local while eating guineau pig with my hands (sorry little guy), hiking into a stunning UNESCO Biosphere Reserve & World Heritage Site: Laguna 69, for my big 2017 NYE celebration (my kind of party!), eating fresh ceviche with an ice cold cerveza on the warm sandy beaches of Huanchaco, and finally, Chan Chan Unesco World Heritage Site with the best company.
2 weeks is not enough time for Peru, but I got a pretty good taste of what Peru has to offer and I can't wait to come back for more!
Guayaquil, Montañita, Puerto Lopez, Poor Man's Galapagos, Baños, Quito, Termas de Papallacta
Of all the countries I visited, Ecuador is one which I hope to return the most. I only spent 10 busy days here, but at that point in my trip I had decided it was time to chill at the beach and stuff my hiking boots to the bottom of my bag (something I regret now- Ecuador has incredible hikes!!). I spent most of my time in Montañita, a little beach-party town where I learned how to Salsa till 7am with a drink in hand, and get up to do it again the next day (Pro tip: if you don't know how to Salsa, have another drink & try!).From Montañita I also visited the "Poor Man's Galapagos" and had a blast hiking through Blue Footed Boobies territory, snorkelling along the Coral Reef, and Whale, Dolphin, & Turtle spotting. Next, I made my way to Baños, Ecuador's adventure capitol. I Paraglided past active volcanoes (because I am a Condor!), hung out with monkeys in Puyo, and swung on the famous rope swing (a.k.a oh so touristy, but worth the dollar it costs!). My final stop was Quito, where I explored in awe of the cities architecture. On my final day I convinced a group to join me on a rather epic mission to find Quito's famous hot springs. We succeeded, but would all agree the trip was far too strenuous for a day trip. Ecuador is fairly inexpensive to travel, and it's said to be a hiker's paradise, so I will be back one day without a doubt!