Category Archives: South America

Sandboarding Instructions in Peru ccImage by Palegoldenrod on Flickr

South America for Adrenaline Junkies

Guest Article by Max Walsh

Backpackers heading to South America are in for a treat. Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires and La Paz are some of the world’s most famous and intriguing cities. And the beaches; everyone goes for the beaches. But the life of a backpacker is more than sightseeing and sunning yourself on the beach; any trip has to be the adventure of a lifetime.

So, there’s bungee jumping, skydiving, and snowboarding in New Zealand and Australia; but what does South America have to offer? Here’s what.

Mountain biking the death road, Bolivia

Riding the Deathroad in Boliva cc image by Wanderlass on Flickr
You may be a mountain biking specialist, knowing all there is to know about Shimano shoes and Specialized bikes, but that won’t necessarily prepare you for cycling the death road in Bolivia. Don’t worry you won’t just be grabbing any old rusty bike and taking your chances on your own; it’s one of the biggest attractions in the country. That doesn’t make it any less scary though!

Descending 3,400m from a high mountain pass near La Paz to the tropical lowlands of Coroico, the North Yungas Road is said to be the most dangerous in the world. Prior to the new road being constructed in 2006, the narrow unpaved highway was responsible for hundreds of deaths every year, with cars and busses toppling over the cliff sides at the rate of one each week. Nowadays you can throw on your cycle clothing, jump on the back of a bike and ride hard with one of the many tour companies offering trips.

Sea kayaking the Patagonia, Chile

This is a haven for extreme sports junkies, with climbing one of the biggest draws here. Coming in a close second is sea kayaking. Travellers will find hundreds or glacial lakes and crystal clear waters traversing the Andean Mountain Range and the fjords. The scenery is awe-inspiring. Get yourself on a tour (ranging from 2-9 days) as much of the lakes are un-spoilt, so a guide is essential.

Sandboarding in Huacachina, Peru

Sandboarding Instructions in Peru ccImage by Palegoldenrod on FlickrWhen you mention getting on a board in South America, snowboarding in Argentina probably springs to mind; but for those heading to Peru there’s the chance of some adrenaline fuelled action without the snow. Sandboarding in the large dunes found in this spot 5 hours outside Lima is the perfect alternative for those winter sports lovers dying for their fix. It’s not as fast, but it’s still cool.

Piranha fishing in the Amazon, Brazil

OK this one may not involve throwing yourself down a sand dune or pushing your body to the limit, but piranha fishing is still pretty damn scary. Your guide will take you out in a boat on the Amazon while you drop a line for these feisty fish.

Other favourites include ziplining in Ecuador, Bungee jumping in Brazil, kitesurfing on the Brazilian coast and canyoning in Mexico. What will you choose? 

Iguassu Falls ccImage courtesy of Claudio Mufarrage on Flickr

Getting the Most Out of Argentina

Guest Story by Vera Petryk

The Stunning Landscape of Argentina cc Image courtesy of Mazzallmadi on FlickrA trip to South America cannot be complete without visiting the brightest and the most interesting country – Argentina. Argentina is the country of contrast, a country of hot sun and golden beaches and ice-cold Patagonia, beautiful gardens and mighty Andes Mountains, deep canyons and glacier lakes.

Argentina starts in its capital Buenos Aires – a city of charming architecture and a passionate tango. Second Paris or the most European city in South America is one of the most elegant cities in the country. It has great entertainment, interesting people and vivid La Boca. La Boca can be described as an architectural rainbow of the city. Here you will find numerous multicolored buildings, street tango dancers and a wonderful museum of football. You can stay in a nice hotel Adelai, where you will be fed and taken care of.

Once you explore Buenos Aires I suggest you take Route 40, which is an analogue of route 66 in the USA. It is the longest road in South America. This road is the most interesting and at the same time it is the most extreme way to explore Argentina. Route 40 (Ruta 40) is divided into 2 parts: southern and northern. Once you hit the road be ready to numerous adventures. The first stop that you should do is Mendoza – it is a beautiful province filled with vine yards, charming landscapes and friendly people. Though it is a rare case to find somebody who speaks English you won’t feel left out. Mendoza citizens are very tolerant and open-hearted they will surely make you try delicious Mendoza vine. There are also many interesting festivals. They are held throughout the year and include a tasty food, a folk singing and all night dancing.

 Iguassu Falls  ccImage courtesy of Claudio Mufarrage on FlickrMoving forward you will get to the most powerful place in Argentina – Iguassu waterfall. Not everybody knows that it is higher than Niagara and wider than Victoria. But it is not the size that attracts thousands of tourists to this place every year- it is an incredible beauty of the nature. There is also a great museum dedicated to different types of trees, which I highly recommend to visit.

Last but not the least stop on your Ruta 40 journey is a severe Patagonia. Patagonia is the coldest province in Argentina with deep canyons, glacier lakes and breathtaking Ushuaia – the most southern city in the world. Ushuaia is the place where the time stops and all you see is nature. You will see hundreds of penguins, whales and different birds. Don’t forget to take a tour on the “End of the World train”, which will take you to enormous national park “Tierra del Fuego” (Fire Island).

If you dare to travel more, prepare that the road can get really rocky as most of the rest roads are not paved and some will not fit a car. In total, travelling in Argentina is a lot of pleasure. The only tip is to learn a little bit of Spanish and prepare to sleep less to see all of it.

Galapagos Wildlife Cruise

A Magnificent Galapagos Cruise

By Melissa Ruttanai exclusive for Vagobond

Galapagos Cruise“There is no predation here.” My guide Rafael Pesantes swept his arm across the landscape on our Galapagos Cruise. “Animals are not aggressive because there is no need to fight.” On the beach, sea lions lounged on organic, white sand, soaking up the equatorial sun. Iguanas clustered near by. Red crabs scuttled across black rocks. In the Galapagos Islands, everything was peaceful and quiet. As I made my way along the marked path, blue-footed boobies barely opened an eye to question my presence on their nesting grounds. Animals live in diverse communities, accustomed to each other and the occasional curious human prowling through the brush. And so, I got close, real close to the wildlife.

Yellow land iguanas moseyed past me on a path. Giant tortoises mashed grass in their ancient jowls. At night on the boat, I witnessed sharks, sea lions, and pelicans swim to our ship, drawn by the white lights off the bow. Baby albatross chicks cocked their heads at me focused on my camera and red-breasted frigates puffed out their chests, enticing females around them. The Galapagos is the perfect place for tight portraits of wildlife. With a 200 mm lens, I was able to zoom in for detailed shots.

But the best scenery was underwater.

Scuba in the Galapagos“Snorkeling here is a good way to see how you handle the water.” Rafael leaned over the side of the dinghy, called a panga. To the right, a black rock promontory rose from the ocean waters. Ten-foot waves slapped against it, spraying white water halfway up the precipice. “Just be careful of those rocks.” He shrugged, and one by one people around me plunged into the choppy tide.

Even with a life vest, I was tossed against the waves. In my head, Rafael’s words rattled around: be careful of those rocks. Water swelled and dripped into my mask, slid down my air tube, and pooled in my mouthpiece. I’m a terrible snorkeler and harbor a fear of drowning as well.

But I’m also a decent actor. I kept up with the group, followed the guide into the waves, and forced sweet smiles as we saw multi-colored fish and neon coral. After twenty minutes, four swimmers called it quits and signaled the panga. Seeing my opportunity to retreat with honor, I allotted myself two more minutes before joining them.

“Come! Follow me!” Rafael said as the others obeyed and my husband encouraged me to swim on. The panga remained where it was, with four swimmers lounging in the sun. As I spotted the guide, I saw that he was leading us directly toward the rocks. I hesitated, still contemplating my escape. But then I heard: “This is amazing! It’s my favorite place!” Rafael pointed. Past the jetty of rocks, a black cave emerged from the surf.

Underwater GalapagosI hesitated. I locked up and leaned into my life vest. I’ve snorkeled in a cave before and didn’t like the claustrophobic memories. Other snorkelers moved into the mouth of the cave, swallowed by darkness. Then, Rafael was beside me. “Give me your hand.” I trusted his smile and clutched his palm. Together, we cut across the water and entered the darkness.

My eyes adjusted. Green rocks lined the cheeks of the cave. Waves pummeled stonewalls like thunderous applause. But when I submerged my head, everything muted. Underneath the surface, thousands of fish fed on the stone floor, swirling in the current and clustering in a knot of yellow tails and blue fins. Rafael released my hand. Unafraid, I floated atop the tide and swam with the fish in their underwater world.

Visiting the Galapagos
Visitors to the islands have two options: a multi-day cruise of the Galapagos Islands or an island-hopping trip.

Prices vary greatly depending on the service level you choose. The cheapest cruises, a four day trip on a tourist-class boat, start at around $1,300. Diving, sailing or luxury cruises can cost many times that.

Although most people arrange their Galapagos cruises in advance, it is also possible to arrange a flight from Quito or Guayaquil to the Galapagos and organize your trip once you arrive.