From the pounding surf of Rio de Janeiro to the driest desert on the planet, crossing South America is an incredible experience which packs in more natural wonders than anywhere else on the planet. In just seven days you can feel the spray from the world’s largest waterfall, walk through multicolored mountains and gawp at high altitude lakes en route through three incredible countries.
However figuring out a route across this diverse nation wasn’t easy. With a limited transport network and a surprising lack of information online, it took hours of trawling online forums, poring over maps and baffling bus timetables to work out the best way to travel from East to West.
So to save you going through the same headache, we’ve shared our seven day travel itinerary for crossing South America via some of the most spectacular and diverse landscapes on the planet.
We slide open the camper door and step barefoot onto dewy grass. It’s early but the sun is already slicing through the tree canopy, mottling the ground beneath us in light and shadow. We pick our way carefully along the overgrown path to the empty riverbank. Steam rises from the water and hangs in white fluffy clouds, illuminated in the hazy morning light. It looks like a witches cauldron. Eagerly we step into the warm water, comforting in the crisp morning air. As we settle in, neck deep, beside a small sun dappled waterfall a solitary tramp emerges from the steam, towel and soap in hand and offers a friendly wave before disappearing into the trees. This is the weirdest and most magical bath time I’ve ever experienced!
Back in England, if someone had asked me to sleep in a campervan for three weeks and bathe in the river with a tramp I’d have laughed in their face! But this is New Zealand where the rivers are geothermal hot pools rich in healing minerals, tramps are as nice as pie and campervans are the way to travel! What other mode of transport allows you to slip out of your bed and straight into a hot spring in the wilderness?
Melbourne made us giddy. From the moment we set foot in Federation Square, surrounded by shiny high rise buildings and hip cafes we were possessed by a strange energy. Maybe it was the heady coffee aroma which permeates every street corner seeping into our bodies, or maybe it was the influence of the fitness obsessed Melbournians rubbing off on us. Either way, Melbourne has a cool electricity which, like the current of the Yarra river which runs through it, is impossible to resist.
However, every backpacker knows that visiting cities on a shoestring budget can be tricky. Like a poor kid in a sweet shop we press our noses to the restaurant windows gazing enviously at the heaving plates of gourmet food or avert our eyes as we pass shop menequins draped in designer handbags, before trudging back to our hostel for a third night of beans on toast.
The good news is Melbourne has plenty to offer even the most financially challenged backpacker. Check out our list if the top ten free (or cheap) things to do in Melbourne. Continue reading
Jetlagged we stagger out of our hotel lobby onto bustling Av 9 de Julio, squinting in the Autumn sunshine. A steady stream of office workers pass by, effortlessly glamourous even at this early hour. Towering above us a powerful black and white image of Evita is painted onto a scruffy concrete high rise, looking out proudly over her city. This is Buenos Aires.
The sultry Argentine capital was our first stop in South America and marks the moment we fell in love with this fascinating and mesmerising continent. Colourful, raw, passionate, gritty; Buenos Aires has a lot to offer travellers besides amazing food and nightlife. It’s varied neighbourhoods showcase the different sides of the city and deserve thorough exploration.
While city breaks can be tricky for backpackers travelling on a shoestring and Argentina certainly isn’t the cheapest South American nation, we found plenty of budget-friendly things to see and do in Buenos Aires.
Here are our top tips for visiting Buenos Aires on a budget. Continue reading