In January I began my southern migration. I escaped the constant 60 degrees of San Francisco for the sun and summertime of South America. I was excited to begin work on improving my Spanish and I was ready to live and travel through countries and cultures of which I had only a cursory knowledge. The plan was to roam from city to city with an open mind, a loose pocket book and a constant curiosity to explore and enjoy the differences in these countries. After four months of adventure, Carmen and I would return to California ready to embark on another journey.
Our trip began in Buenos Aires with food, activities and cultures that stood up to any great city. The fugazza pizza was deliciously unique with thick doughy crust, creamy cheese and heaps of oven caramelized onions. El Cuartito was the best, and I think Rick agreed. I would return for the pizza and empanadas and all the beautiful streets that BsAs has to offer.
We traveled through Uruguay and into Brazil. Rio de Janiero was everything that I love in a travel destination. Beaches stretched endlessly with the urban landscape pressed right up against the sand. The culture is vibrant with dance, music and tropical foods. The açai and fresh fruit drinks stand out as an epitome of fresh summertime delights. The country is a mix of indigenous, Europeans, Africans and Asians, a familiar mix to the United States so we felt welcomed as foreigners. We could swim, climb a mountain and go dancing all in one day. I enjoyed gaining a better understanding of the favelas as well as peering down into the city from the many vistas.
We worked our way through Brazil’s vast landscape. We visited the breathtaking waterfalls in Iguazú that roared unbelievably over the cliffs edge. We baked in in the sun on Ihla do Mel on coastal Brazil and we jointed friends in Santiago Chile. We bussed our way over the Andes into Mendoza for a day or two (or three) of wineries, biking and empanadas. We explored German settled villages and the bigger cities of Córdoba and Salta. It was the canyons that really captured my heart.
Another one of my favorite cities was the charming Cafayate in Argentina. We sipped wine at several walk able bodegas. We hiked through beautiful canyons and cliff formations. And most often, we enjoyed strolling through the cozy town. With a simple town square and food market our time here was relaxing and satisfying.
Another bus brought us into Bolivia. The country is poor with struggle, but thriving with cheap delicious food, unforgettable sights and nice helpful people. One of my favorite experiences of the entire trip was the four day trek into the Salar De Uyuni.We visited brightly colored lagoons, spectacular volcanic rocks and salt flats that made us act silly with our new friends. The home-cooked Bolivian food was excellent and every day I wanted to take the little woman home with me to teach me everything she knows in the kitchen.
We continued high into the mountains. The cities of Potosí and Sucre were wonderful places to learn about Bolivia, South America and the indigenous people that lived here for thousands of years. La Paz contained the best market that we experienced in South America. This was because the stalls could not be contained by any building and instead flowed out on the streets in every direction. It was mayhem and delight simultaneously. I loved it!
We biked down mountains in La Paz and hiked islands of Lake Titicaca. A festival in Copacabana engaged our feet and sent us running for cover from fireworks. Bolivia has a rustic, untamed, and raw quality to it that flaunts colorful traditions with people that are genuine and kind.
When we had finally made our way into Peru our bellies began being stuffed to the brim with constant feasts of amazing food. Arequipa was the best food city we went to in South America. There was ceviche, alpaca, rocoto rellenos, chicharrones and fresh fruit smoothies. We found something delicious everywhere we went. The city had beautiful architecture and the nearby Colca Canyon was great for hiking.
Our history lesson continued when we finally arrived in Cusco. The city is packed with nearby ruins and a brutal history where the mighty Incas were decimated by the Spanish. One downfall of Cusco and Peru is that very few sights have accessible tourist information. There are an abundance of guides, that costs, entry fees are high and there are many sights to see which makes Peru a challenge for tourists on a budget. But with friends it is all worth it.
On our Machu Picchu trek we went all out with excellent cooks, porters, equipment and a guide. I think I liked the walking and hiking just as much as the ruins. We walked for six days climbing snow covered passes, jungles and high altitude wetlands. We stuffed ourselves on Peruvian favorites and we laughed until we hurt playing card games into the night. We wondered around countless ruins out doing one another in jumping photos and we caravanned up and down the mountainsides. Machu Picchu in itself is a spectacular piece of history and archeology. We combined it with Salkantay, the Inca Trail and friends for an unforgettable adventure.
Our final city in Peru was Lima. The time spent there was brief, but the amounts of ceviche consumed copious. Ponte de Azul ceviche stands out as one of my favorite meals. The fish was firm and fresh and the juice sour and spicy. In the blink of an eye Lima was over and we were boarding a plane saying goodbye to this Lima, Peru and South America.
Every vacation involves exploring new places, having adventures and creating memories. The challenge and fun of any vacation for Carmen and me is that we leave with a longer list of places to see and immerse ourselves into next time. Our next trip to South America would focus on exploring the natural side of this continent. Patagonia tops our list of “must sees.” We did not want to lug around our carpas and sacos de dormir (tents and sleeping bags) this trip. So next time we plan on several weeks of hiking and back-country camping. We want to see the coasts of Peru and Colombia known for beautiful beaches. And finally we want to see more of Brazil- Belem is supposedly vibrant and bountiful with Amazonian foods and culture. In no way did we calm our enjoyment of Brazilian rhythms and dance; we want more samba!
There are so many places to visit; each city or village opens new possibilities of adventure. We walk everywhere and we eat everything; that is what 4feet2mouths is all about. Our love for travel has taken us to the other side of the world. And as fall sets on South America we land in Los Angeles ready for new adventures, more exotic countries, more tiring hikes and street food that will leave our mouths searing and tingling. Traveling is too much fun to stop now. Do you want to join us?