Words cannot begin to describe how chaotic, energetic and diverse the epic city of New York is. You have to experience it to understand; you must visit at least once in your lifetime to embrace all that makes this city so awesome. The dense streets of this concrete jungle encapsulate more cultures, art, entertainment, business, money, and food than anywhere else. The thought of how to fit everything there is to do here into our measly four day stay was beyond overwhelming. From the bright lights of Broadway, visiting iconic buildings, cruising the rivers, shopping, drinking, eating, there is so much to learn and explore in this great city. Where do you start? In the centre of it all, Manhattan!
The Andes is a magical place. With striking landscapes and traditional communities that live and thrive here, it is the heart of indigenous South America. Nowhere quite compares to the mountain villages nestled between the looming volcanoes in Ecuador and the picturesque town of Otavalo, home to one of the largest handicraft markets and the most beautifully dressed locals on the continent. Our last visit to the Andes was at the tip of South America in Argentina, and the last time we had experienced such colourful cultural customs was in Bolivia and Peru back in October 2012. It was a refreshing change of scenery to arrive back in the Andes. We were so excited to be a part of this world all over again.
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.
As a land locked country Paraguay certainly doesn’t suffer from a lack of water. Lying to the north-east of the country, and shared with Brazil, is the world’s largest wetland, the Pantanal. Dissecting Paraguay in half is the immense Paraguay River, the great drainage system of the Pantanal which empties its waters thousands of kilometres away in the Atlantic Ocean. The Rio Paragauy is the lifeblood of this isolated region of northern Paraguay, acting as the primary source of transportation for people, animals, food and goods to the communities spread along the river banks. To experience this alternative way of life we jumped onboard an old, very slow, rickety river boat called the ‘Aquidaban’, the only commercial trade and passenger boat which traverses these remote waters, to visit a small community called Fuerte Olimpo. The days ahead would require patience and a cool head in an otherwise steaming hot environment – a challenge of our resolve to travel like locals.
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?
Over the past few months our travels have predominantly been spent in hot, dusty, arid destinations with endless blue skies, so it was a shock to the system when we awoke in the morning on our overnight bus journey from Santiago to luscious green fields and rain, lots of it. We had finally begun our journey south towards Patagonia.
The Chilean Lake District is a large region some 800km south of Santiago. Pleasant towns and quaint villages lie scattered through fertile fields and hugging the shorelines of vast pristine lakes at the foothills of the Andes. In the 1850’s the Chilean government underwent a major immigration drive encouraging German’s to colonise the undeveloped lakes region to exploit the abundance of agricultural opportunities. Due to this there is a strong German influence in the architecture and cultural makeup of the villages dotting the landscape. Coming from the desert, as well as Bolivia and Peru, this wonderful European charm was a welcome change of scenery.
Argentina is famous for three things; Wine, Beef and Football, and Mendoza just happens to be pretty good at all three. Mendoza is a sprawling, cosmopolitan city, in the heart of Argentine wine country. They say the best wine in the country is produced here, and so of course we had to come and find out if this is true by exploring the vineyards to sample fine wines, and get a taste of some local gourmet food and of course we hoped to catch a football match – Iain needs to get his fix of his beloved sport.
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.