One of the biggest decisions I had to make was whether to approach South America clockwise or anti-clockwise from Sao Paulo. I had sleepless nights about this. Anti-clockwise meant that I could tan and scuba dive a lot during the summer on Brazil’s coast, and I could do Carnival in Rio. But it would also mean that I would have to tolerate Portuguese and lose what little Spanish I’ve learnt, because Brazil.
Clockwise would mean a lot of non-coastal travel, but I would get into Spanish-speaking territory sooner and I could hit southern Patagonia and Chile during summer months which means more daylight hours and potential diving at the Beagle Channel et al.
I’ve settled on clockwise now, and I’ll spend a few days in Sao Paulo before beelining through Paraguay to Iguazu Falls. Then, I aim to get to Buenos Aires via Santa Fe and Cordoba (and a detour to here), from where I’ll head to the east coast of Argentina to Puerto Madryn.
Puerto Madryn is where the marine biologists hang out, and here I want to spend a fair amount of time (a month?) to work on my Spanish, to interact with some ocean conservation organisations and build up diving connections. Maybe someone will be doing extended diving on the east coast during this time and invite me along. I’ll be flashing my media credentials, my smile and my accent (whatever it takes, really) to get in there.
I don’t know how much of Patagonia I’ll really get to do. My dad says I’d be crazy to skip Ushuaia, but it gets expensive the further south you go, and I can’t blow my budget this early in the trip. My best bet is to look for cheap last-minute flights from BA or Puerto Madryn. A road trip might mean that I won’t make it to Santiago on time.
From Puerto Madryn I’ll head down to Comodoro Rivadaria and then straight west to cross the Andes into Chile. It should be March by this time. Down here I have to see the Marble Caves, and then I’ll jump on a train/bus to get to Santiago by 4 April so that I can watch my. Favourite. Band. Of. All. Time.
(So much to see on the route from southern Chile – horse-back riding on the Andes – and I may be tempted to hop over the border into Argentina a lot. The Andes are flanked on both sides by the world’s most unforgettable natural attractions. Some cool dude posted a Google map of all the border crossings between Chile and Argentina, which I’m taking as a sign.)
After Lollapalooza, I need to get out of Chile as quickly as possible, because it’s almost halfway through the trip and I’d have seen only three countries. Chile and Argentina (and Brazil) are also the most expensive South American countries.
Looks like I’ll be heading to Bolivia next and approaching it from the south – salt plains, Amazon basin, La Paz/Titicaca, the Yungas and then into Peru for Machu Picchu. I’d have loved to do the Inca Trail but at US$700 it’s a little rich for my blood. I found a rather intriguing alternative route on Reddit, which I may or may not attempt (not sure yet how this actually saves you money if you’re not doing the trail in the first place).
By now it should be July, and I’ll have done very little tanning and diving and swimming and beachcombing. So Ecuador’s west coast it is – and crossing into the Northern Hemisphere!
From here I intend on sipping cocktails, tanning and swimming all along the coast, to Colombia, and then Venezuela (I can not miss this but I have no idea how to get there or how much it’ll cost yet – again, I’ll flash things to find alternative ways in).
I’d like to float down the Amazon River back to Brazil via Manaus (trance party perhaps?). The idea is to have the ass-end of 2013 for Brazilian revelry. I hear the northeast is amazing for diving and the sights are superb, and I can travel south through Rio to get to Sao Paulo by early January, when I’ll return to Africa via Dubai.
Looking forward to having my plans upended in all kinds of interesting ways. You can follow my progress here.