So after 20,000km, six counties, 12 border crossings and four months on the road we have seen a little bit of South America. We had numerous amazing (and some not so amazing) experiences in this time.
We could write a book on what we saw and who we met, but instead these are some of the highlights from countries we visited. You can also check out our interactive map and photos here.
Valparaiso, Chile. Steeped in history, fun and colourful, great coffee and food. A busy working port and views of the Pacific from everywhere. Clever and eclectic street art covers the walls and public places. The streets are narrow, winding and crazy steep -somewhat terrifying to ride around on but great practice for the Andes.
El Chalten, Western Argentina. Mountains, mountains and more mountains. Great camping, awesome hiking, not (yet) affected by mass tourism, glaciers, the Andean Ice Sheet (which you can walk across at the right time of year), friendly locals, young happy adventurous travellers from across the globe. A place to relax and get away from it all.
Uyuni, Bolivia. An absolute highlight for us was a sunset tour of the Salar de Uyuni – the world famous saltflats. So flat that satellites check their altimeters on it. The rain creates surreal mirror reflections and our guide set up a table, chairs and wine for us to enjoy the most amazing sunset imaginable.
Cuzco, Peru. Ahhh... Cuzco. Gateway to the amazing Machu Picchu but a fabulous city in its own right. History and a deep sense of culture mix seamlessly with a growing tourism industry. We chose to hang out in San Blas with its mix of artisans, yoga studios, vegetarian and vegan restaurants and great coffee shops providing pretty much all we needed for a few days of R&R.
The Amazon, Eastern Ecuador: you haven’t seen jungle till you’ve been there. A solid wall of green, sliced with clear rivers, monkeys jumping through the trees and a cacophony of insects at night. Floating down rivers in tubes, swimming under freezing waterfalls and making our own chocolate from scratch. Fantastic.
Galapagos, Ecuador: these iconic islands were a mixed bag for us but still a highlight. The wildlife, landscapes and sheer wild beauty of the islands are incredible. To swim with hammerhead sharks and turtles, walk up active volcanoes and learn of the hardship of centuries of failed colonists is fascinating. However, the mismanagement of this precious place, the onslaught of low-value mass tourism and the cumulative environmental impact of pollution is appalling.
Medellin, Colombia: no there are not gun battles in the streets, cocaine doesn’t fall from the sky and people don’t steal the gold out our your teeth. We found insanely friendly people (even the cops), a sophisticated food and entertainment scene and a city reinventing itself. Social programs and new infrastructure are bringing the previously marginalised barrio dwellers into the city – with amazing results. We would live here in a heartbeat.
Other special places:
Usuahia, Argentina: the bottom of South America and the official start of our trip
Monte Leon National Park, Argentina: the biggest National Park in Argentina and home to wild pumas, sealions and penguin colonies.
Mendoza, Argentina: cool Italian-influenced vibe, the Tango and fantastic red wine, especially Malbec. ‘Nuff said.
Quito, Ecuador: a surprise for us. The old city, great art scene and passionate locals.
Allague Border crossing, Bolivia: up on the altiplano and 4000m, overshadowed by a smoking volcano and seriously remote.
San Pedro de Atacama, Chile: out in the boiling desert, crazy tourist party town with its surrounding Badlands.
Guayaquil, Ecuador: our crazy wonderful friends from the Guayaquil Motorcycle Club made our stay unforgettable. We love these guys.
Mancora, Peru: our best find – the motorbike friendly hotel by the sea. Fanastic pisco sours and sea food to die for. All overseen by the crazy Italian manager, Leo.
Barichara, Colombia: a perfectly preserved Spanish colonial town nestled in the mountains. Historic churches dominate the flag stone paved streets. Views of the adjoining canyon and laid back feel. Similar to Villa de Leyva and Giron.