Sunny days and windswept chilly nights
South America has always fascinated the average traveler and I'm no exception. As a kid, I would read books on South America and it was my childhood dream to one day visit this huge continent. After I finished my European Odyssey in 2009, I was debating whether to plan a Safari trip to Africa or do South America. Both continents are vast and steeped in their own culture and mystique. After much thought, I decided to do South and Central America ahead of Africa. This was purely because of the vast cultural and archeological heritage that abounds there. The Incas, the Aztecs and other Indian tribes that inhabited this vast continent were known for their architectural and town planning skills, as is evidenced from the discovery of sites like Machu Picchu in Peru, Chichen Itza in Mexico and Tikal in Guatemala, just to name a few.
My dream became a reality in August 2011 when I was privileged to spend around 4 months in this lovely continent and see most of its highlights. My travels commenced from the urban sprawls of Rio de Janerio and Sao Paulo and slowly eased me into the interiors of the continent.
Vow! What a continent!! Massives rivers, gushing waterfalls, spewing volcanoes, bubbling hot water springs, tall rain forests, chilly deserts and the snow clad Andes. To add to all this were the huge glaciers in Southern Chile and Argentina, beautiful beaches, natural lakes and of course the many gorgeous valleys that dot the length and breadth of this big continent.
Apart from the natural and scenic wonders, there was also a strong semblance of indigineous cultures and time tested ways of day to day life. I found indegenous communities in Bolivia and Peru that have preserved age old cultural traditions, languages and of course unique food habits.
This is a continent that has it all. If I had to pick one country as my top preference, Bolivia would have to be it! It has beautiful scenic wonders, not to mention a strong cultural and culinary tradition. In terms of pre-hispanic architecture and archeological sites, my top pick would be Peru with Machu Picchu and Sipan as clear highlights. If the measuring yardstick was Spanish colonial architecture, it would be hard to pick one country or city as a clear top pick. The cities that stand out as highlights would be Cartagena, Quito, Antigua and Cuzco (not necessarily in any order).
I have tried to capture some really captivating and breathtaking images from natural wonders of sites like the waterfalls at Iguassu, the massive salt flats at Salares de Uyuni and the desert oasis of San Pedro de Atacama. Alongside the natural wonders are sites of contemporary manmade development such as the beautiful Uruguayan beach city of Punta Del Este and the Argentinian capital Buenos Aires which is popularly regarded as the Paris of the South American continent and of course the numerous sites of indigenous historical and cultural significance.
Hope you enjoy the journey as much as I have!
And we'll meet again in a couple of years in the vast expanses of the African continent!!