Uganda was beginning to feel more like South East Asia as Big Yellow putted up steep winding roads enclosed by abundant tropical rainforests, banana plantations, heavily cultivated fields and rice paddy farms. We noticed women everywhere working in the fields, shops and markets, doing the heavy lifting and carrying impossibly large bundles on their heads while the men sat around chatting, or pushing bicycles wrapped in bananas up the relentless hills. With the wet season approaching the bad weather made the already bumpy, terrible roads into a muddy obstacle course. Half dirt, half bitumen, broken and crumbling, we peered out of the front window nervously wondering who gets the right of way when everyone just drives straight down the middle. Never-ending road works made the drive slow going, thankfully with Patrick at the wheel we never felt unsafe, with his 15 years experience driving these trucks we new we were in safe hands.
Precariously placed on the edge of a steep gorge, and beneath the ominous monster that is Tungurahua Volcano, lays the bustling Andean mountain village, and adventure Capital of Ecuador, named Baños de Agua Santa. With over 60 waterfalls in close proximity, the mountain town has become a hot spot for tourists – people seem to be attracted to water like flies to people on a hot summers day. Modern day Baños has developed into a lively town of coffee shops, bars and adventure companies ready to push you down a waterfall or over a gorge on a rope. The gushing torrents of mountain water set the perfect scene for watery adventures from canyoning to white water rafting, whilst helping to fill the surrounding mountainsides with steep lush green vegetation. And, at just 60km from the threshold between the Amazon jungle and the Andean mountains, Baños is also the gateway to trips into the Amazon and a viewpoint to see where these two unique environments converge.
There is nothing better than finding a quiet place to kick your feet up and relax. Uruguay has this wonderful laid back feel which you really get a sense of the moment you leave the hustle and bustle of Montevideo. The country, in particular, is all about the slow life, living off the land at your own pace and snoozing the afternoon away during siesta time. There is no reason to hurry here, there really isn’t much to do. We came in search of serene beach villages to relax in, and to travel cross-country from the Atlantic coast to the border town of Salto, observing the peaceful country life amongst the rolling green plains and farms of central Uruguay along the way.
The ten hour bus ride from San Pedro de Atacama in Chile across the border to Salta in Argentina was by far one of the most spectacular bus journey’s we have ever taken. The bus made its way over high altitude lunar landscapes, passed flamingo filled lakes, volcanic peaks, and rolling Andean mountains. As the bus navigated its way down the windy roads on the Argentine side of the Andes, we were mystified by the rainbow coloured mountains and quaint little mud-brick villages. It was certainly worth every penny of the AUS$56 we forked out for the trip. Sadly our faces were too busy being stuck to the window, in awe of the view, to bother taking photos, unlike the guy in front of us who was snapping away constantly the whole trip. Click, click, click!