Category: South America

“It’s a problem of the past, there used to be robberies of buses but not anymore”. The taxi driver reassures me that the night bus ride to Popayán is safe. “I always used to carry a second wallet with just a little money, I would give that wallet away. They were always in a hurry grabbing some things and leaving quickly”. He sounds as if he was travelling numerous times on buses that got robbed. Fortunately, Colombia’s decade-long armed conflict between government forces, leftist guerrilla groups and right-wing paramilitaries has lost a lot of its intensity. […]

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The first task after crossing the border is to find transport to the small town of Zumba. I need to get there in time, I have seen all the games of Germany in the Football World Cup so far. We are playing France today in the quarterfinal and I want to see the game. I have managed to be in South America at the time of a World Cup being played in a South American country. Six out of the ten Latin-speaking countries in South America were qualified but I managed to spend most of the time of the World Cup in Peru, which was not qualified, and only reached Ecuador after their team had been eliminated. A TV can be found, Germany wins and I can move on. […]

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To see the Nazca Lines at their best, you have to take a plane. Small, four-seater aircraft leave every half-hour. To allow everyone a perfect view, the plane turns once to the left and once to the right while overflying the giant geoglyphs. They were created by removing the top layer of reddish-brown pebbles and thereby revealing a yellow-grey subsoil. In the arid climate of the Sechura desert the lines have remained undisturbed. As they were hardly visible from the ground (they can be seen from the foothills though) they went unnoticed for a long time. […]

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Half a year earlier, I had visited the Brazilian Amazon travelling on a boat from Macapá to Sanatarém. Back then, I had learned that some ocean-going vessels can navigate the Amazon up to Iquitos about 3,600 kilometres inland. The Amazon is a river like no other, its average outflow is five times higher than the second mightiest river on earth. The Amazon Basin is huge, covering 35,5 percent of the South American continent. Although mostly associated with Brazil, the basin also covers Bolivia, Peru, Colombia and smaller parts of Venezuela, Guyana and Suriname. […]

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Traditionally, Peru is divided into three geographic areas. The highlands of the Andes, the low-lying coastal areas and the Selva, the forest, the Peruvian part of the Amazon basin. I enter along the coast but immediately take a bus to the highlands. After mostly spending the last months close to or at sea level, I have to get myself used to the altitude again. […]

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On my way north, I stop at the beautiful Elqui valley with its vineyards producing some of the best pisco in Chile. Pisco is a specialized form of brandy produced in Chile and Peru. Mixed with juices it is pretty tasty and can be bought widely across Chile. In the Elqui Valley, the desert is announcing itself. The valley floors, with irrigation, are fertile but the hillsides are dry and barren.

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Easter Island is small. Shaped like a triangle it is about 25 kilometres long and 13 kilometres wide at a maximum. At 163,6 square kilometres it is about the same size as the country of Liechtenstein. But unlike Liechtenstein, which sits right in the middle of Europe with connections in all directions, Easter Island is one of the most remote places on earth. The nearest inhabited land with around 50 residents is Pitcairn Island, 2,075 kilometres away; the nearest town with a population over 500 is Rikitea in French Polynesia that is 2,606 kilometres away; The nearest point in Chile, to which Easter Island belongs, is 3,512 kilometres away. […]

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I have to start with a confession: Despite calling this post Central Chile I am still, at least at the beginning, in Patagonia. My next stops, the island of Chiloé, Puerto Montt, Puerto Varas and Pucón are all south of the Bio Bio River which marks the end of Patagonia. I grouped them into the Central Chile post as for me, personally, I had left Patagonia behind as I was crossing from the Carretera Austral to Chiloé. And anyway, my post on Patagonia contains enough highlights. 😉 […]

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Punta Arenas is the world’s southernmost city with more than 100,000 inhabitants. Established in 1848 as a tiny penal colony, it was a modest harbour that served ships crossing between the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean. Before the opening of the Panama Canal (1914) the Strait of Magellan, along which Punta Arenas is located, was the easiest way to cross between the Oceans. A gold rush in the late 19th century let the city grow and a bit later the sheep farming boom on the Patagonian steppe brought prosperity. Several mansions in town are reminders of that era. […]

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As I relax in the hot pool, I begin to ask myself if I have just arrived to the friendliest country on earth. It all starts on the boat crossing the Rio Uruguay. I anticipate a problem; the boat is small and leaves only every few hours so I do not expect to find an ATM at the point of arrival. I have to take a bus to get to the bus station but how to pay for that bus without Uruguayan money? I ask an older couple if there is an ATM or a money changer at the port. No, there isn’t, I do not really get the rest of their response, my Spanish still has plenty of room for improvement. […]

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I have run out of cash. Argentinian cash to be precise, I have enough US-dollars but no pesos. I had enough to buy my bus ticket but now my wallet is empty. I have just come back from Brazil and failed to change on the black market. I have found the lady at the bus station who I was directed to but she had run out of cash herself. I am ready to forgo my black-market advantage but there is no ATM. […]

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Most South American Countries have good, friendly relationships and usually it is no trouble crossing any borders. Nowhere is this more evident as in the area around the Iguaçu/Iguazú falls which is located where Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay meet. Paraguay got-short changed as the beautiful waterfalls, one of the highlights of South America, are close to Paraguay but straddling the border between Argentina and Brazil. Paraguay has the Salto del Monday, which is a beautiful waterfall in its own right but pales in comparison at the Iguaçu/Iguazú falls. The area has more to offer than just the falls. […]

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Paraguay is often overlooked. I just hasn’t any standout destinations. What springs to your mind if you hear Paraguay? Nothing probably. Bolivia has the Highlands, Peru is famous for Machu Picchu, Brazil is Brazil, Argentina has Buenos Aires and Patagonia (amongst other things). People know Santiago de Chile, Torres del Paine National Park or the Easter Island and Uruguay has at least been world champion in football twice. But what does Paraguay have? Well, not much. […]

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As I cross the border I am struck by the sign “Welcome to La Quiaca – Ushuaia 5121 km”. Argentina is big. La Quiaca is in the far north and Ushuaia the southernmost city on planet earth. I have a long way to go! With your own car you could actually follow Ruta Nacional 40 for most of the way. I’m in Salta and it is around seven in the evening when I start to get hungry. I ask the guy at reception for a recommendation and his first question is “Now?”. […]

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My timing is good. Soon after crossing the Brazilian-Bolivian border, I catch one of the six weekly trains leaving from Puerto Quijarro. The train rumbles over the rails, swinging from side to side as I have never experienced it anywhere else before. The carriage has a TV and it is showing films one after the other. The timing for my arrival in San Jose de Chiquitos is less fortunate, the train arrives at 1:41 in the morning. The hotels are prepared though for late arrivals. […]

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I was never meant to spend much time in Brazil. Although it is the giant of South America as it covers nearly half the territory (8.5 million square kilometres out of 17.8 million) and has nearly half the population (208 million out of 423 million), I wanted to pay only a short visit. It surely is a beautiful country but people there speak the “wrong” language. I wanted to use my time in South America to learn Spanish and exploring Portuguese-speaking Brazil in depth would not be helpful for that. I had a few points though, that I wanted to see: […]

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Fully integrated into France, Guiana is also part of the European Union (we stretch far!). French Guiana is the richest corner of South America and one driver of the economy is the Guiana Space Centre. The earth rotates around its axis within 24 hours. The speed at which we move is determined by the distance we have to earth’s rotational axis. At the poles this distance is non-existent but gradually rises until the equator. In southern Germany earth rotates at a speed of 1,125 km per hour, at the equator that speed rises to 1,670 km/h (40,000 km circumference divided by 24 hours). We do not realize this movement as our atmosphere moves at the same speed. But for a rocket, that leaves our atmosphere, that makes a difference. […]

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If I had to pick my favourite Guiana it would actually be Suriname. I just didn’t really connect with French Guiana and compared to Guyana it seems just a bit nicer and there are more cheap options for an independent traveller. Looking back, I greatly regret not having made use of the village lodges along the Suriname river. In this tourism project you can use the local boats running along the river Suriname and stay in lodges in the small villages. This is a lot cheaper than the expensive lodges that I encountered in Guyana and seems to be a perfect and slow way to get to know village life in Suriname. […]

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