South America & Antarctica – Summary and “Best of” (Day 745)

Over a year ago I wrote a “summary and best of” post of my travels through Asia, Australia, and New Zealand (which I have been calling Part 1 of my world tour).  I had so much fun doing it that I’ve decided to do the same for “Part 2” of my trip:  9 months in South America & Antarctica.

Damn, where do I even start this?  Just when I thought things couldn’t get any better, I hit South America & The White Continent.  Wow.  I had more good times than I can remember.  This post won’t even scratch the surface of it all, but what the well, it will be fun to try.  So, what did I do during Part 2?  Without taxing my memory too much…

I trekked through the jungles of Colombia in search of lost cities, learned Spanish, spotted endemic blue-footed boobies and saw what Darwin was talking about on the famous Galapagos Islands, climbed to the point on Earth closest to the Sun, stared at the nothingness that is the Salt Flats of Uyuni, skied the sand dunes of the Atacama Desert, biked down The Most Dangerous Road in the World, seen stunning Machu Picchu with my own eyes, held lit dynamite in my hand (yikes!) and descended into the hellish mines of Potosi, got drunk on a cycling wine tour in Mendoza, and spotted Aconcagua, of Seven Summits fame.  I spent 8 days trying not to get blown away on the classic Torres del Paine Circuit, visited my 7th continent, took the Antarctic Plunge, herded cattle on horseback at an Uruguayan ranch, been stunned by the sight of Iguazu Falls (both sides), and rarely found the trail markers along the most southernly trek on the planet, at The End of The World.  I checked out the montrous Perito Moreno Glacier, been on an interminable bus ride on infamous Route 40, wondered if aliens built the mysterious moais on Easter Island, fished for pirahnas in the Amazon, then spent 4 days floating down that great river, all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.  I have gawked at Angel Falls, the highest waterfall on the planet, trekked the bizarre table-topped Roraima, had my zodiac boat attacked by a leopard seal in The White Continent, watched giant leatherback turtles demonstrate the circle of life in French Guiana, and ate the best meat of my life in Argentina and Uruguay.  This list goes on…

For my numerical friends, I travelled for 273 days (about 9 months) and visited 13 countries:  Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil, French Guiana, Suriname, Guyana, and Venezuela.  Plus Antarctica.

Your going to ask me what were my favourite places were.  I was afraid you would.  As I’ve said before, this is a nearly impossible to answer.  First, there are so many highlights to choose from.  Really.  Next, one’s experience at any one destination depends on countless factors:  such as the weather, how you are feeling that day (were you puking with food poisong the night before?  Are you hungover?), the people you’re with, the overall “feel” of the place, etc.  But, because I like you guys, I will give it my best shot anyway.  Each list is in a random order.  Also, some experiences appear in multiple lists, that is just the way it is, they are that good.  Here we go:

Jaw-dropping landscapes

1.  Antarctica.  Specifically, Paradise Bay and Neko Harbour


2.  Salt Flats of Uyuni, Bolivia
3.  Torres Del Paine Towers at sunrise, Chile
4.  Machu Picchu, Peru
5.  Atamaca Desert, Chile
6.  Valle de Frances, Torres Del Paine, Chile
7.  Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina
8.  Tongariki Ahu, Easter Island, Chile
9.  Mount Aconcagua from Plaza Francia, Argentina
10.  Iguazu Falls (I prefer the Brazil side)
11.  Grey Glacier, Torres Del Paine, Chile

Treks

1.  Dientes de Navarino Circuit, Chile
2.  Torres Del Paine Circuit, Chile


3.  Nahuel Huapi National Park, Argentina
4.  Mount Ausangate, Peru
5.  La Cuidad Perdida (The Lost City), Colombia
6.  Mount Roraima, Venezuela

Other Adventures

1.  Climbing to the spot on Earth closest to the Sun, Mount Chimborazo, Ecuador


2.  Mountain biking down the most Dangerous Road in the World
3.  Sand-skiing in Atacama Desert
4.  Mountain biking down Mount Cotopaxi, Ecuador
5.  Cycling wine tour in Mendoza (doesn’t sound like much, but trust me, after too much wine, biking home is definitely an adventure)

Food

1.  Parilla (grilled meat), Mercado Puento, Uruguay


2.  Asado (Argentinean BBQ)
3.  Fruit in Colombia – an explosion of flavor
4.  Patagonian lamb, Chile
5.  Cheese grilled on a stick, Salvador, Brazil
6.  Every meal I had on my Antarctica ship, it was incredible
7.  Empanadas in Argentina and Chile
8.  Choripan (“chori” = sausage, “pan” = bread), ubiquitous in Argentina and Uruguay
9.  Bandeja Paisa (from Antioquia, Colombia) – Beef, sausage, beans, rice, fried banana, fried egg, pork, and sometimes french fries.  Best enjoyed with an Aguila beer.  Bring your appetite.

Beer

1.  Quilmes Red Lager, Argentina – simple, the best tasting beer I had in South America.  The stout is also good.


2.  Aguila, Colombia
3.  Cusquena Negra, Peru
4.  Salta Negra, Argentina
5.  Beagle Beer, Ushuaia, Argentina
6.  Cerveza Patagonia, an amber that lives up to the mighty mountain range it is named after.  Argentina
7.  Manta Red, Uruguay
8.  Antarctica Beer, Brazil, just because I like the place it’s named after :)

Other drinks

1.  Auguadiente, Colombia.  Buy a bottle and share with friends.  Very social.
2.  Planteur, some kind of rum and fruit mix they do in French Guiana.  Best enjoyed sailing a reach on a boat on the way back from the Iles du Salut, listening to U2, and chatting about life with the captain
3.  Sucos (fruit juice), Brazil
4.  Jugo naturales (fruit juice, again, it’s good stuff), Colombia

Places to Party

1.  Parque Lleras, Medellin, Colombia – buy some Aguila´s, hang out in the park, and watch the beautiful paisas go by
2.  Dancing on the bar at the Wild Rover, La Paz, Bolivia
3.  Irish Pub in Cuzco (highest Irished-owned in the world)
4.  Cali, Colombia – order the bottle, but don’t try to drink it all yourself
5.  Buenos Aires – in my case, watch Team Canada win gold at the Oympics!
6.  A dance party, to Russian music, on the aft deck of my expedition ship, under the Antarctic sky, with glaciers and icebergs watching over us

(This is one of those pictures that is too good for me to have taken.  Fortunately, there were some real photographers on my Antarctica trip who were generous people and shared this one.  This is from Silvia S.)

Memorable journeys

1.  Drake Passge, in Force 10 winds, water icing up the deck.  Antarctica

(Yet another great contribution from Silvia S)
2.  The Most Dangerous Road in the World, Bolivia
3.  Driving across the wide-open Salt Flats of Uyuni, Bolivia
4.  Floating for days down the great Amazon river, Brazil
5.  36-hour bus ride down Ruta 40, Argentina
6.  Motorcycling around Easter Island, Chile
7.  Hitchhiking through Northern Uruguay, sometimes with hours going by before we saw another car
8.  Bicycle touring around vineyards of Mendoza, drunk as a skunk

Scariest Moments

1.  Holding a stick of dynamite, with the fuse lit!  … and posing for a picture.  Potosi, Bolivia.


2.  Getting prepared to mountain bike down The World’s Most Dangerous Road and seeing a sign that says:  “43 dead this year.”  Bolivia.
3.  Being a foot away as a 500 pound leapord seal comes up from the deep, its huge jaws open, clasping its teeth around the hull of my zodiac boat.  Antarctica.
4.  My bus breaking down on the desolate Ruta 40, far, far away from anything anybody would remotely consider calling civilization.  Argentina.
5.  Getting knocked over by the wind in Torres Del Paine, and hoping my tent hasn’t been blow halfway to Buenos Aires.  Chile.
6.  Being stuck at a remote border crossing between Ecuador and Peru, thinking me and my 5 travel companions would all have to try to spend the night in my tent, surving on the 4 cookies in my pack
8.  Seeing small chunks of ice float by as I get ready to take the Antarctic Plunge, and realizing that there are too many people watching for me to chicken out.  Antarctica.
9.  Being handed an alligator and hoping it doesn’t bite me.  The Amazon, Brazil.
10.  Getting ready at 11pm, ice axe hand, to climb 1300m through the night to the top of Mount Chimborazo, 6310m.  Oh, shit…

As I always like to say:  “It’s not where you go, it’s who meet.”  South America & Antarctica were no different.  I met all kinds of great people, more than I could possibly ever keep track of.  I love travel friends.  I think part of it is because you both have something very important in common:  you are both a long way from home.  It’s probably a little more for me than for you, but I made a photo album of just a few of the good people I met in South America & Antarctica. Unfortunately, there are dozens more travellers I did not get any pictures of.  I recently got to visit some of these people this summer in Europe, but, to be honest, most I will never see again.  Sad, but that is just the way these things work.

That is how it was in South America & Antarctic.  These days, I am still rocking Turkey, trying to get away from the rains that are following me around the country…

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10 Responses to South America & Antarctica – Summary and “Best of” (Day 745)

  1. Katie Mac says:

    Hey Shawn,
    I sit in my hotel room in Yangshuo China with my roommate from Malaysia as we just finished reading both your blogs; ‘the best of…part 1 and 2’. You no doubt amaze me and your sense of adventure around the world is unstoppable. I too am traveling but not really the way you are. I am working for Dragonfly (the company Kevin worked for) and have been in Asia for almost 2 months now. I spent a month in Hong Kong and now i’m here in Yangshuo. It is a pretty amazing place with the tower karst mountains surrounding us, and I am happy be be here to really get to know the place.
    I will be back in Whistler come December and I hope to see your smiling face soon back there.
    All the best in Turkey!
    Katie

    • smartelo says:

      Katie Mac! Great to hear from you. Yangshuo is indeed stunning. I am jealous you will get to spend a solid amount of time there. Nice! I will definitely see you back in Whistler at some point, although you might beat me there by a little bit. I look forward to it. Btw, I love Malaysia, tell your roommate I said, “Selamat siang.” Be cool, be safe, enjoy China!

  2. Arun Theivendirarajah says:

    I will call you Sir Martelock from now on. If I can even do a 10th of what you did I will be a happy man.

  3. Beau Evans says:

    Wow! Your like a motivational speaker for traveling. Consider me motivated.

    It’s been a while since we played Merlin’s hockey (Champs) in Whistler and I can see you’ve made the most of your time since. I’m planning on being in Rio for Carnival and then cruising around Argentina. Thanks for the travel tips.

    If your ever in Banff, Whistler, or Toronto, drop me a line. We’ll shoot some pucks or shred some snow.

    Cheers, Beau

    • smartelo says:

      Beau, right on! It has been a while since our hockey days. Can you believe I have not played at all since that championship game? I miss it. It is one of the great sacrifices of being a traveller. You bet, if I am ever in your neck of the woods (any of them), I am going to take you up on that offer. Party like a rock star in Rio, and enjoy Argentina, it is one of my all-time favourites. Suerte, amigo!

  4. Pingback: Summary and Best Of: Europe, the Middle East, and Africa | Shawn Was Here

  5. Lou says:

    YOU SWAM IN THE ANTARCTIC WATERS????

  6. Lou (Linda) says:

    Your real estate just jumped tremendously in value… :-)

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