2016: our Year of South American Travel in Review

 
 

July

During June and early July we stayed in the same sleepy little beach side town on three different occasions: Barra de São Joãa. There’s nothing really special about this town; it’s probably not really on the tourist radar, but we found a lovely parking lot on a peninsula wedged between the beach and a river mouth, where we watched the fishing boats come and go… For us, it was a perfect spot to collect our thoughts and feelings, and also get some internet work done.

The atmosphere and some of the old houses in São João reminded of Paraty. We really enjoyed staying on this small parking lot overlooking the river.

The atmosphere and some of the old houses in São João reminded of Paraty. We really enjoyed staying on this small parking lot overlooking the river.

In between, we headed inland through another part of Brazil which is strongly German and Swiss influenced. Near Nova Friburgo we even found a Swiss cheese making school (mmm – yummy cheese and chocolate on sale!). Our destination was Teresópolis and the nearby P.N. Serra dos Orgãos, a remnant of the Atlantic Forest. We stayed a few days longer to witness their annual meeting of historic cars .

At the historic Car Meeting in Teresopolis.

At the historic Car Meeting in Teresopolis.

Later in the month we drove all the way up to the northern tip of the Espirito Santo state, a trip we only mentioned in our post ‘6 Places and Experiences we didn’t write about in 2016’ .


August

On the 1st of August we had to be back in the São Paulo state because I had an appointment for laser eye treatment in Campos dos Goytacazes. Finally, towards the middle of the month, we decided that we had to get back to some ‘serious travelling’ – we headed inland to the state of Minas Gerais.

Rural landscape (note the small fields) along a small road, just before we reached Minas Gerais.

Rural landscape (note the small fields) along a small road, just before we reached Minas Gerais.

There were so many historic towns to visit, many of which are World Heritage listed , that later we thought we should have left the coast weeks earlier… Between the historic towns of Ouro Preto , Mariana, and Diamantina we also visited a completely different sight: the botanical gardens of Inhotim . To this day we really don’t know how to classify this place in two or three words. It’s so much more than a collection of rare plants – you have to experience it yourself (if possible, allow 2 days – we didn’t, and we regret it)!

Inhotim Hélio Oiticica – Magic Square #5, De Luxe: colourful squares in open space to wander through and around.

Inhotim Hélio Oiticica – Magic Square #5, De Luxe: colourful squares in open space to wander through and around.


September

The month of September was characterised by some long driving days as our already extended visas were running out. The west of Brazil is more sparsely populated; the hilly landscape is dominated by dry-ish low scrub land, grain and cattle farms.

Further west into Brazil it became boring: long distances, large mono-cultures (here cotton), and an uninspiring landscape.

Further west into Brazil it became boring: long distances, large mono-cultures (here cotton), and an uninspiring landscape.

In between we stopped at more historical towns, some of which are also World Heritage listed . And let’s not forget our week in Brasilia! For a long time we had thought it would be too far out of the way, but in the end we were very pleased that we went and got to see all the futuristic Oscar Niemeyer buildings .

Our final destination in Brazil was the North Pantanal, the famous wetlands which are also a listed WHS. On the 27th we crossed the border with Bolivia.

We left the Pantanal just a bit disappointed.

We left the Pantanal just a bit disappointed.


October

Although Bolivia’s population includes many people with recent European roots, it felt very different to Brazil. Santa Cruz was the first province we came into; it is probably the wealthiest and has long aimed for independence from Bolivia. Initially it meant for us a lot of dusty dirt roads, through tropical vegetation and huge cattle farms.

The endless cattle estancias in Bolivia were a bit boring. It made us sad to see this fertile rainforest land cleared for meat production.

The endless cattle estancias in Bolivia were a bit boring. It made us sad to see this fertile rainforest land cleared for meat production.

One UNESCO World Heritage listing makes it really worthwhile to visit the east of Santa Cruz: the Jesuit Missions of the Chiquitos . The five (of six listed) missions we visited were the most interesting sights during our trip so far, particularly since they completed the impressions we had gained during visits to other Jesuit sites last year .

One of the stunningly restored Jesuit missions in east Bolivia.

One of the stunningly restored Jesuit missions in east Bolivia.

We continued the month with three more WHS locations, which couldn’t be more different: ‘El Fuerte’ in Samaipata, the historic town of Sucre, and the mining town of Potosi. Read about these UNESCO World Heritage Sites here!


November

On the 1st of November we arrived in Uyuni, which is famous for its Salar, now a Dakar destination. By that time we had decided, for various reasons, to cut our visit to Bolivia short. We crossed the Salar de Uyuni with the intention of returning to Chile. Little did we know that the border shown on our maps was one without border facilities .

The next few weeks were spent in Iquique and Arica, waiting for our Brazilian friends Bia and Paulo to catch up with us (see June! In the meantime they had overcome their ‘parked overlander syndrome’ and had started the second leg of their trip to Alaska). This wasn’t meant to happen; the day before they would have caught up with us (for Yasha’s birthday on the 28th) their car was broken into and most of their documents stolen.

One of the old houses in Iquique; most were built during the Saltpeter boom.

One of the old houses in Iquique; most were built during the Saltpeter boom.

We spent most of the time relaxing, sorting photos, writing some posts, and re-visiting the historic centres of both towns, Iquique and Arica. (Yasha has written a post covering our time in North Chile, which will be published soon.) On route between the two cities we also visited another WHS, the saltpeter mines of Humberstone .


December

Since we had only been waiting for our friends, we crossed the border with Peru on the 29th. This was probably one of our most bureaucratic border crossings this trip… The first town in Peru, Tacna, is a medical destination for Chileans: dozens of dentists next to dozens of glasses shop; I had some cheap prescription reading glasses made within 2 hours…

Tacna seems to live mostly off medical tourism; Chileans come for cheap dental treatments and new glasses.

Tacna seems to live mostly off medical tourism; Chileans come for cheap dental treatments and new glasses.

We travelled along the barren coast until it was time to turn inland to Arequipa. There our Brazilian friends finally caught up with us. To this day we haven’t written anything about our December in Peru – we will update this page once it’s done.

The coastal road in southern Peru: clear blue water, often steep cliffs, and inland nothing but sandy desert.

The coastal road in southern Peru: clear blue water, often steep cliffs, and inland nothing but sandy desert.


And what will 2017 bring?

Good question! First Yasha’s sister and her husband Bob will come and visit us in January for 3 weeks. We’ll explore the Sacred Valley around Cusco, Lake Titicaca in Puno, and go back to Arequipa. After they leave, we’ll head north through Peru.

Later in the year we’ll reach Ecuador, where Yasha quietly hopes to find a job teaching English in Cuenca, or some other lovely spot to spend some time. If not we might reach Colombia before year’s end and possibly ship back to Europe…

2016 saw us travel in Uruguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, and finally in Peru. We spent nearly half a year exploring Brazil by road. Before that we witnessed Uruguay's largest gaucho festival and 'had a holiday' by the beach. Towards the end of the year the Andean mountains of Bolivia, Chile, and Peru 'took our breath away'. To read about our many other experiences and discoveries during the year PLEASE FOLLOW THE LINK!

PIN THIS for later!

 

Juergen

webmaster, main photographer & driver, second cook and only husband at dare2go.com. Freelance web designer with nearly 20 years of experience at webbeetle.com.au

You may also like...

12 Responses

  1. Gilda Baxter says:

    I am enjoying your blog, it is great some positive comments about my homeland of Brazil. So glad that you have enjoyed your time there. I have recently visited your home country and absolutely loved it😄

    • Yasha says:

      We loved Brazil, Gilda, especially the people. They were very friendly and welcoming. But you have some great places there to see as well. I’m glad you liked Australia and I’ll be checking out what you did while you were there.

  2. For years I steered clear of South America, but in the the past two years I have had the opportunity to visit Ecuador, Chile and Argentina. I have considered Brazil since, and your post and glorious photos are leaning me even more toward Brazil!! All the best in 2017!!

    • Juergen says:

      Glad that we can inspire people like you to consider new destinations. For a short itinerary please see my reply above (to Donna Janke’s comment).

  3. Donna Janke says:

    Looks like a great year with varied experiences. I’ve not travelled to South America at all, but your posts have really piqued my interest.

    • Juergen says:

      Donna, if you’re interested to get a taste of Brazil, then I recommend Paraty, the beaches around Paraty (or Ilha Grande), and the colonial towns of Minas Gerais (plus the botanical gardens of Inhotim, which is en route). In those parts we felt the safest. All have a strong tourist infrastructure, Paraty has a large expat community (often the hotel owners), and you could probably find pre-arranged tours starting in Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo (cheaper to fly to). Just avoid peak summer (December to mid February), best time to visit is the Brazilian spring (from mid August onwards). Without too much stress this could be a nice vacation for 2 weeks or bit longer.

  4. I had never heard the term “overlanders” before… :) Sounds like you are enjoying your adventures in Brazil and haven’t found the country to be a dangerous one to travel through. If you have had positive experiences with the people you have met on your travels, I think that makes all the difference. Happy travels in 2017!

    • Juergen says:

      Thank you, Debra!
      From all we hear we might have missed the most dangerous part of Brazil: the far north. But then again: this might be exaggerated too… Travel experiences are always unique and very subjective.

  5. Frank says:

    Wow, you guys are courageous. We are also slow travellers, but to do it overland and in South America takes guts. Congratulations!
    Some fantastic photos, the Serro do Rio de Rasto is quite something.

    Frank (bbqboy)

    • Juergen says:

      Actually, it’s not as gutsy as many people (who haven’t done it) might think. The vast majority of people are really friendly and helpful. Maybe even more so than in ‘western’ societies. There are a few hot spots for crime, but nothing worse than in gang riddled cities of the USA. This is our second trip and we are still enjoying it.

  6. David and I have been to Argentina, Uruguay and Chile more than once but never Brazil. We have always been a bit nervous of the safety aspect there but maybe one day we’ll pluck up the courage.

    • Juergen says:

      Brazil is really weird in a way. The locals watch all the time reports about gang crimes in the ‘favelas’ and often warned us that overlanding is really dangerous. Yet, if you asked questions which go a deeper, like has ever something happened to you personally, your family or friends, you often get to hear ‘no’, but of course we’re careful. I guess it’s like travelling in the USA or even in Sydney: you avoid certain parts of a city and are careful where you go.
      On the other hand we haven’t met as many friendly and inviting people elsewhere (well, maybe in Colombia, another country many people are still afraid to visit); the Brazilians are really warm and welcoming people!
      We hear and read more about petty theft against overlanders in Chile than in Brazil. Like our Brazilian friends, who were robbed in Iquique – twice within 24 hours! They never experienced something like that in Brazil…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 

There will be more great content like this! On our Facebook Page you can also keep up with where we are and see the latest photos from our journey.
So why not follow us?

Send this to a friend