The Ecuadorian Andes will astound you in their beauty; rolling landscapes in every shade of green, jagged gorges, and soaring volcanic peaks. Hiking on this rough terrain is no walk in the park, and at altitudes from 3500m to 5000m above sea level it will literally take your breath away. The Quilotoa Loop is a famous multi-day trek from Quilotoa to Sigchos; a 34km walk over high mountain passes and deep into canyons. This is the best way for getting a glimpse into Andean life in the countryside as you walk through remote mountain villages, passing traditional communities and isolated farmers. After our visit to the captivating town of Otavalo we were excited to be embarking on a three day hike into the wilderness to grasp this quiet, tranquil world beyond the bustling Ecuadorian towns, and to give our legs and lungs a real workout in preparation for climbing Cotopaxi.
Deep within the South American continent lays one of the worlds most fascinating and enigmatic environments, the Amazon Jungle. Bizarre creatures roam the dense impenetrable forest with alien-like limbs and fluoro skin full of poison, alongside uncontacted tribes of primitive Indians. The Amazon is like an ecological war zone with every animal, plant, insect and organism defending itself against one another, battling for air, sun, water and a precarious place in this untamed wilderness. We survived twelve days travelling slowly along the Amazon River, now that we had hit dry land we were eager to launch ourselves into the depths of the unknown to learn how this fascinating ecosystem thrives.
If we told you we were going to take a boat up the mighty AMAZON River you would most likely begin concocting images in your head of a boat passing through narrow river passages, dense jungle teeming with monkey’s, birds and snakes jumping in the boat, and the murky mysterious water where giant anaconda’s and man eating Piranha’s lurk. The reality is the Amazon River is MASSIVE, and quite the contrary to your ‘wild’ imagination. We spent twelve tranquil days travelling some 6000km on two boats along the worlds second longest river from the Atlantic Ocean to near it’s headwaters in the Tri-border region of Brazil, Peru and Colombia, and even our imaginations were taken aback by the harsh reality of this now heavily populated and over-worked region.
The largest city on the planet that did not exist before the 20th century is, surprisingly, the celebrated capital of Brazil, Brasilia; a modern day urban design experiment of astronomical proportions. Designed around the scale of a car – making a walk to the corner shop an hour round trip, or just crossing the road a six lane jog – this futuristic city is a symbol of Brazil’s power and wealth. Constructed on virgin land, over an incomprehensible period of only forty-one months, this young city took over as Capital from Rio de Janeiro at it’s inauguration in 1960, since then it has grown into a wealthy centre of government and commence. With the most outlandish architecture seen in South America – think 1950’s space-age modernism – the pilgrimage to the Capital became a must on our Brazilian hit list.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to reach the end of the world? Well, look no further than Tierra del Fuego the southernmost province of South America and home to the “southernmost” city in the world Ushuaia, Argentina. Everything here claims “southernmost this” and “end of the world that”, it’s all very gimmicky, a nice way to get tourists excited buying up big in the souvenir stores – all that “end of the world” paraphernalia, but, at the end of the day it’s not even the southernmost point, or the southern most city. Across the Beagle Channel in Chile lies a smaller town, Puerto Williams, which is actually the southernmost settlement, and then there is Cape Horn, the southernmost point, and have we just forgotten Antarctica and the Sub-Antarctic islands, people live there too? Whatever the classification of the city’s location, we had reached as far south as we could travel on our amble about the world…or had we?
Oh dear, the Treeny Bomb hit again. Poor, organized, pro-active Iain, was hit with a dose of the queen of chaos, and it all came crashing down on us just hours before leaving. Once again we “thought” we were organised. The last few weeks have been mental for us, between finishing up work/jobs, sorting out accounts, paperwork, medical stuff, the wedding, and saying our goodbyes, there wasn’t much time to actually be productive and get our excessively long “to-do list” completed. So just hours before our flight we were running around like mad men trying to get stuff crossed off the list. At least we weren’t as bad as Treeny has been in the past, we didn’t have to pack in the car on the way to the airport, phew.