AFTERTHOUGHT – South America
Before the trip, we have read and heard so much about other travelers’ awful experiences in South America: pickpocket during street events, robbery under gunpoint in broad daylight, caught in gunfire between guerrilla fighters and the military, tricked by dishonest tour operators, frustration over bus and flight delays, bribery demands from border officials, nasty storms in Patagonia, high-altitude sickness on the Andes, travel disruptions caused by violent protests and civil strikes, etc. However, except for a protest at the border crossing between Bolivia and Argentina, and a 28-hour flight delay in Ushuaia caused by a strike at the Buenos Aires airport, we can hardly recall any notable trouble or dodgy moment during our 3-month journey. After a few days into the trip, we began to shed off many of our worries, and started to enjoy ourselves in this diverse continent. We consider ourselves fortunate for meeting many kind people along the way, from honest taxi drivers, environmentally conscious tour guides, encouraging fellow trekkers, young fisherman showing us photos of his catches, skilful and responsible jeep driver, talented musicians on local buses, to a generous driver willing to take us along for an 1.5-hour free ride back to the city.
Many have asked us what was our favourite destination. This is a question perhaps we can never answer. There are simply too many lovely memories from almost every stop in our journey. All these amazing experiences together have become an incredible episode in our lives.
For Argentina, we will always remember the joy of tasting the juicy steaks and irresistible helado (ice-cream) in Buenos Aires, coming face-to-face with the Iguazu Falls on San Martin Island, wine-tasting in the mountains of Cafayate in Northwest Argentina, listening to the rumbling roars of ice carving at Perito Moreno Glacier in Patagonia, upsetting our knees to get a close-up view of the majestic Fitz Roy Mountain near El Chalten, and sailing in the pristine water of the Beagle Channel in Ushuaia.
For Brazil, we will never forget the moment we braved the thundering water at Devil’s Throat in Iguaçu National Park, the instant we spotted a magnificent jaguar in the distant bush at the Pantanal, the time we dwelled in the utopian dream of Modernist Brasilia, the evening we wandered aimlessly on the steep and winding streets of Ouro Preto, the hours we stood under the shadow of Christ the Redeemer to share the unbeatable view of marvellous Rio with hundreds of other tourists, the night we spent pacing the flooded cobblestone streets over the splendid reflections of colonial Paraty, and the day we hustled ourselves between cultural institutions and design exhibitions in the hectic metropolis of Sao Paulo.
For Bolivia, we will forever cherish our experiences of hiking the Jurassic fern forest near Samaipata, admiring the white colonial architecture of Sucre from the rooftop of Convento de San Felipe Neri, absorbing the tragic history of Cerro Rico while acclimatizing to 4000m high altitude in Potosi, and confronting the Andean volcanoes, surreal deserts, and colour-changing lagoons on the Southwest Altiplano.
For Chile, the vibrant colours of its landscapes and cityscapes will live long in our heart, including the starry night and crimson sunset at the Atacama Desert, the vividly painted facades of the fairytale-like churches on Chiloe Island, the spring palette of wild orchids and glacial lakes in Torres del Paine, the black and white happy feet of Magellanic Penguins in Patagonia, the eye-popping display of some exotic catches-of-the-day at Mercade Central in Santiago, and finally the wonderful show of New Year’s fireworks in Valparaiso.
Many thanks to all the readers of the Blue Lapis Road.