So we did this for Central America and kind of enjoyed it. It was also a good way to pass a bus journey. Some things were impossible to pick, some an absolute piece of cake. We did not fall out about any of these, honest.
Top 10 Cities (in no particular order):
- Buenos Aires, Argentina.
- Bariloche, Argentina (Definitely a town not a city, but it has an airport so shhh).
- Pisco Elqui, Chile (Ok this is a tiny village).
- Ilha Grande, Brazil.
- Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
- Valparaiso, Chile.
- Mendoza, Argentina.
- Cartagena, Colombia.
- Florianopolis, Brazil
- Arequipa, Peru.
Top 10 Experiences (in no order):
- Standing in the Devil’s Throat at Iguazu Falls getting utterly soaked.
- Pre-Carnaval in Florionopolis and Rio.
- Seeing bottle-nose dolphins off Isla Damas in Chile
- Visiting the penguin reserve in Puerto Madryn, Argentina
- Seeing the clouds clear over Macchu Picchu, Peru.
- Sunrise at Uyuni Salt Flats, Bolivia
- Visiting the vineyards, the Andes and Aconcagua around Mendoza, Argentina.
- Stargazing in the Elqui Valley, Chile
- Seeing the world’s largest flying birds, condors, in the Colca Canyon, Peru.
- The Gray Glacier in Torres del Paine, Chile.
Top 10 Meals:
- Steak at Alto El Fuego, Bariloche, Argentina.
- Five course lunch at Bodega Domaine Bousquet, Mendoza, Argentina.
- Ridiculous steak lunch at Bodega Lopez, Argentina (There is a theme developing here isn’t there?).
- Picada lunch at Mendoza, Argentina.
- Hungover steak in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
- Street BBQ in Florianopolis, Brazil.
- Oysters in Florianopolis, Brazil.
- Fabiano’s Pizza in Cuenca, Ecuador
- Ceviche and Sushi at Jack Fish, La Serena, Chile.
- Moqueca in Salvador, Brazil.
Top 10 Regional Foods:
- Acai: The best thing ever. All over Brazil (and mystifyingly nowhere else).
- Acaraje, Bahia, Brazil. Spicy prawns in a deep fried bean roll, utterly filthy street food.
- Ceviche; Chile, Peru and Ecuador. These three countries squabble over who makes the best (especially the first two) but honestly they are all pretty damn good.
- Corviche, Ecuador. Admittedly we only found this in one place, but it was a deep fried plantain ball filled with either prawns or fish, served with coleslaw and spicy aji sauce.
- Empanadas, specifically baked ones. These are everywhere all over SA but Argentine ones took the metaphorical biscuit.
- Stuffed arepas, Colombia. A Thick, grilled corn tortilla, filled with guac, cheese, spicy sauce, sour cream… pretty much anything you can imagine.
- Moqueca, Bahia, Brazil. Spicy seafood curry. Best served sizzling with a limitless side of beer.
- Morcilla, blood sausage, Uruguay and Argentina.
- Coxinha, mashed potato balls stuffed with chicken and breaded. Sound disgusting but they are brilliant road-food.
- Fusion sushi, Peru and Chile.
Top 5 Hostels:
- La Cupula Hostel, Copacabana, Bolivia.
- The W Circuit Hostel, Puerto Natales, Chile.
- Casa de Mathilde, San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.
- Hostel e Pousada El Shaddai, Iguazu Falls, Brazil.
- Hostel Achalay, Bariloche, Argentina.
Top 6 Historic Centres
- Cusco, Peru.
- Colonia, Uruguay.
- Pelourinho, Salvador, Brazil.
- Cuenca, Ecuador.
- Cartagena, Colombia.
- Bogota, Colombia.
5 Worst Experiences:
- Food poisoning, Bolivia. When your chef is also your driver and he uses “Inca toilets” without hand sanitiser, you should be wary of your food. We suffered the consequences of this and felt crap for weeks.
- Sadie’s useless tooth. A persistent infection coupled with drastic changes in temperature and altitude does not a good combination make. Thank god for cheap over-the-counter antibiotics.
- Cancelled flights. Take this as life advice: NEVER FLY WITH VIVA COLOMBIA. Our first flight with this airline was cancelled without our notice at all, we actually made it to the airport to find it simply didn’t exist. Our second flight was cancelled 12 hours before we left for the airport (how courteous of them), and took forever to sort out. An absolutely useless, shambles of a company.
- Getting to the top of the Salkantay Pass and seeing precisely bugger all. 2 days of hiking up to the 4700m summit revealed a view of, well, fog. And drizzle and sleet.
- Getting washed out of the Torres del Paine National Park. This 5-day adventure cost us an absolute fortune and for the first 4 days of it it rained endlessly. There were landslides, path closures, raging rivers where trickling streams used to be, the works. In fact, it was the worst in-season rainfall in over a decade. Lucky us.
It’s been emotional.