It’s hard to believe that one year ago I left Australia on a one way ticket to South America with nothing more than a backpack and an open mind. With no real plans, no expectations, I set foot on my 6th continent arriving first in Santiago, Chile….12 months, 8 countries, thousands of photos, hundreds of amazing people and countless of incredible experiences later, I find myself here in Peru taking some solo time to reflect on one hell of a journey! I hope you can appreciate that over 12 months I have racked up an obscene amount of amazingness and cant even begin to explain them all here. That doesn’t for one second mean, that one experience or one person was less important than another. I am grateful for each and every moment of this journey, whether they felt particularly positive or not, I have learned, grown and experienced it to the fullest. I hope you can enjoy this even a fraction of what I have!!
From my first month in Chile studying Spanish and exploring the north, I felt that things were going to work out just as they were meant to. Substantially earlier than expected I found myself freezing and questioning my original plan (note to self, NEVER PLAN) and so I bought the next flight to Colombia where I was greeted with sun, overwhelming friendliness and one festival after another! I’m sure you have gotten the hint, that Colombia is one of my favourite countries in the world and I could quite possibly go on for pages about this gem. From the Edge of the Carribean Coast to the Lakes of Guatape, Zona Cafetera and the spicy salsa scene of Cali, I was constantly amazed by the environment, culture and beautiful people making me fall hopelessly in love with Colombia. Not surprisingly, I will be returning to Colombia in just a few short weeks to live, work and love up just a bit more of this incredible country! Working with A Wold of Sailing between Cartagena and Panama will inevitably not disappoint and certainly bring about several more posts and explicit photos! Stay tuned!!
After teeth pulling, a pricey visa extension, a few tears and far too many Colombian rum and cokes I finally made my way across the border into Ecuador and was immediately swept up in yet another SPECTACULAR country… and in shock at the sheer value of the dollar!! Though I found myself on a less than desirable time frame, 6 weeks (far more than any backpacker I had met in Ecuador) I stuck to a rather structured schedule and was pleasantly surprised to get in everything I wanted and more! While extended time snorkelling with sea lions and turtles in the Galapagos islands was the absolute highlight, I also managed to enjoy time volunteering with children, hiking the Quilotoa loop, cycling the waterfalls from Banos, rafting through the jungle from Tena and marketing my way around in between! I blinked and my time in Ecuador was over, satisfied and smiling, I am still looking forward to a bit more!
Without a moment to acknowledge the void, it was next stop Argentina, where Marc Passion Travel and I took on Buenos Aires and the wine country of Mendoza with a vengeance! With hardly a second to collect myself I was met by my bestie, the beautiful Jillian Curry, for my birthday celebrations, beach bashing in Uruguay and more Buenos Aires mischief! We even managed to score a spot at the epic stadium of La Boca cheering our way into oblivion (and yet another asado and round or two of cervezas!) I am eternally grateful to have been joined by two of my best friends and travel companions on this incredible journey! Thank you and hope to see you soon!
After all the energy of good friends and over the top fun, I set out on a more solo mission in a Yoga Park to recuperate and prepare for my Patagonia adventures! A perfect plan I must say, because from the moment I arrived in Bariloche, I was on a mission hiking, climbing and soaking up some of the worlds’ most spectacular landscapes! While my time in Patagonia fell over the holidays, a time when friends and family seem to really mean the most, I was certainly not disappointed and only on my own when chose to set out solo. Exactly what I needed! From the majestic Mt. Fitzroy of El Chalten, to the dramatic Perito Moreno Glacier of El Calafate and a few too many vinos in between, I was wowed and inspired daily!
Next, I hitchhiked back across the border to Chile to take on Torres del Paine and explore more of the deep south. Though we were faced with an enormous fire the day we arrived in the park, we managed 3 days of full on hiking and an experience I could not have planned if I tried! I returned to Puerto Natales just in time to ring in the New Year with my wandering kiwi mates, terromottos and perhaps a little too much cheer! I settled in for a little R & R and 10 days of volunteering in Erratic Rock, one of my favourite hostels in South America!
I quickly flew back to Argentina REJUVENATED AND READY to take on an epic road trip of the Northwest only to find that my last remaining debit/credit card had been completely emptied by the notorious ATM thieves. Not to worry though, with help of the amazing staff at Hostel 7 Duendes I was on the road in no time and joined by 4 new friends and top-notch road trip buddies for a photographers dream adventure! From Pumamarca to Cafayate and every stunning sunset in between, this was one unforgettable week, with amazing people, delicious wine and too many belly laughs to count!
Onwards I pushed back east across the north of Argentina where I was pleasantly surprised by the less travelled little gems of Tafi de Valle and Carlos Paz, and felt right at home in the smaller version of BsAs (and better looking locals) in Rosario. Even though I had my bag snatched in Cordoba, I still look back and smile at the fun times, the great Couch Surfing experiences and the beautiful city that it is. Admittedly ready to move on, I finally took on the overwhelming, monumental experience that is the Iguazzu Falls and prepared for my entry into Brazil!
As massive as Brazil is, and to save on my ever diminishing budget, I decided to limit my stops and thus, barely scratched the surface, but with the help of Couch Surfing I was able to live like a Brazilian in paradise for 2 months!! After a week of basking on the beaches of Florinapolis I was unfortunately bag snatched yet again, this time leaving me with nothing more than a bikini and a defeated heart. Faced with the choice to throw in the towel before I lost anything more or to press on to gain everything more, in true Journey with Jess Jones style, I set out direct for Salvador, Bahia for the lead up to Carnaval! With an amazing Couch Surfing host, I had the perfect local experience and quite possibly the BEST Carnaval imaginable!! From dancing my way down the street Brazilian style (or as close as I could) next to the trucks, to getting a cheeky invite to dance on top of the moving party truck and even spending an evening in the fancy all inclusive camarote, Carnaval Salvador proved to be a second to none festival full of caipirinhas and stories galore! Thanks again Amon!
After one LONG week of festivities I recharged with a few island stops and then was Rio bound for more reunions and incredible beach times (and inevitably, too many caipirnhas!) As you know, Rio stole my heart one beach, hike and beautiful person at a time! I ended up passing 5 weeks covering more of the city than most locals or tourists even consider and literally had to pull myself away to continue my journey. For me Rio offered the perfect balance of nature, culture, fun, sun, and sense of home that led to my most heart wrenching travel romance to date! Rio, I WILL BE BACK!
I’ll be honest, after Brazil I wasn’t exactly looking forward to moving on to Bolivia (except of course the drastic decrease in prices!)In fact, the first week and a half I went into an unusual antisocial bubble, steered clear of drinking, stayed busy, moved quickly and kept to myself. After a few brief stops, I settled into Sucre in a homestay, living in my own granny flat and instantly fell into a much needed routine. I was studying, volunteering and going to the gym daily, regular trips to the local markets and cafes, cooking heaps, and genuinely felt like I was right at home! Then I ran into a friend I’d met 5 months back who had also settled into a similar routine. Occasionally we would let our hair down mixing things up and hit the pub (where I finally found cider!!) or the karaoke (long story!) But before the complacency really took over, we jumped out of the comfort zone and straight into one of South America’s biggest tourist highlights, SALAR DE UYUNI! Although neither of us felt particularly well (to say the least) we had an amazing time, took hundreds of photos and were equally ready to get out of there!
We were pleasantly surprised on our arrival to La Paz. Not sure if you’ve heard, but this gigantic city some 4000m above sea level gets a bad wrap! We laid pretty low recovering, took in a few sights and then we took on the beast that is DEATH ROAD! It really was an incredible day and one that should go on your Journey List! Up until the last 10 minutes Richard and I were leading the way more or less the entire time until I lost control, flew over a rock, landing on my head! While it wasn’t nearly as bad as it sounds (or could have been)WOW was I grateful for a full face mask helmet and for NOT being solo on this adventure!
Bruised, battered and bitten (sand flies) it was off for a little R&R on LAKE TITICACA! One of my Perfect Days in South America…the sun was out, the lake was sparkling and we jumped in a kayak to soak it up! Then we cruised up the mirador to check out Copacabana and catch the sunset over the world’s highest lake! PERFECTION! Ok so much for R&R but the real tranquillity came when we arrived in Isla del Sol staying right on Bolivia’s only beach just in time to celebrate Richard’s birthday! We wasted no time, between the Fernet and wine on the beach, the scorching sunshine , fresh trout and chocolate chip cookies, we were in our own little bubble! Yet another perfect day in Lake Titicaca!
I swear I blinked and I was out of Bolivia and into Peru; but I suppose time flies when you’re sharing it with someone else! Peru brought a few pleasant surprises for us, such as hmm, organization, a bit more confidence in the food and less weird and wonderful tummy issues. From coffee’s in the plaza to horse-riding over the city (note to self, NEVER go horse-riding again) for the most part Cusco was very tranquilo. In the lead up to an ULTIMATE HIGHLIGHT and my final week of YEAR ONE…Machu Picchu and the Jungle Trek! The full write up on this adventure and Journey List highlight is in process so stay tuned. But just a sneak peak at our blissful fun…
Being among the first few people to take in the views was awe-inspiring, particularly the views from Waynapicchu and the energy we felt from this sacred place really did take my breath away! I cant wait to share more photos and the full write up with you next week!
Now, picture this: I am sitting alone in my bungalow surrounded by palm trees in the immense depths of the Colca Canyon, listening to only the rushing river and hand writing the final touches to my year in review by candle light in my journal…If you asked me last year, oh hell, if you asked me last week where my journey would lead, I wouldn’t have had a clue, but certainly couldn’t have imagined this!
I have come to love the elements of surprise, SPONTANEITY and some may say, FATE, that have played such an important role in moulding this journey thus far. I’ve learned to let go of the “what if’s,” understand that everything has happened just as it was meant to. I have learned to appreciate these moments for all they’re worth, as all too soon my journey will inevitably change course and continue to unfold….BECAUSE LIFE IS A JOURNEY, NOT A DESTINATION:)
“You’ve crossed a bridge, but your JOURNEY is just beginning. The path before you is paved with uncertainties, trials, triumphs and achievements. Somewhere beyond the horizon is your future…”
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Health, Happiness, and Hugs from South America,