15 best under-the-radar moments in 15 weeks of travel in South America with Oasis Overland

So, in the last post I talked about the BIG highlights – the epic destinations/activities that get the most airtime on the blog or on Instagram. But the real beauty of 15 weeks of travel isn’t always in the big stuff… but in the under-the-radar wonders that get under your skin and stick with you for a long time. The stuff that people don’t talk about as much, that changes you in more subtle ways. There aren’t as many WOW photographs for this section, but trust me when I say the were epic in their own right. Andddd also, most of them are food-related. We love food, okay?!

Here are my 15 best under-the-radar moments from 15 weeks of travel in South America with Oasis Overland:

1 – Discovering acai (with granola and bananas especially) in Brazil… and never eating anything else. Shoutout also to the sellers of ‘Skol Beats’ on Sambadrome night – their constant cries became the refrain to our evening

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Doesn’t look like much… but this was the nectar of the gods

2 – Buying my personalized South America journal in San Telmo market, Buenos Aires. The man who owned the stall customized it just for me, and I love it. Sometims I am reluctant to buy things (especially as we have to lug them home!) but this was the perfect souvenir.

3 – Swimming under an Iguazu Falls waterfall at the end of the Macuco trail – while the main falls were, of course, the big attraction, it was nice to get a bit off the beaten tourist path and to refresh in the lovely water

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4 – Cooking our own steak in Argentina directly on the coals in the hostel in Puerto Iguazu, Argentina. Going out for dinner is nice and all, but sometimes nothing beats a bit of homecooking. And the steak from the supermarket was so cheap and absolutely delicious.


5 – Coming up with our own ‘truck songs’ around a campfire with our resident former-rock-star, and singing them loudly at every opportunity (confusing anyone who happened to hear). Favourites included ‘Dos Banos con Hobos’ (inspired by some… interesting campsites with special residents), ‘Why don’t you come on over, Pascaline’ (to the tune of Valerie) and ‘Andy’s Full of Meat Again’ (an ode to our closest near-death experience)


6 – Llamas. Llamas everywhere. Baby llamas in the arms of cholitas. Big llamas on Machu Picchu, minding their own business. With such big beautiful eyes, they totally made my heart melt.

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7 – Random karaoke nights in El Calafate, Argentina and Otavalo, Ecuador which led to singing and dancing with locals


8 – Campsite pets – peccaries (Pantanal) and doggies (everywhere). South America is not the place to travel if you dislike dogs. At some point they were like our personal bodyguards, accompanying us to and from our campsites!

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9 – Designing our own truck T-shirt. This was great fun, and a great memory too! We were able to put together a design for a truck T-shirt (Eat, Sleep, Truck, Repeat) which was properly drawn by our resident costume designer, the incredible Pascaline (who was also the oldest traveller on board – overlanding not just for the young’uns!). Not pictured: the back, which is a ‘word map’ of our destinations in South America designed by Lofty!

Me wearing the truck t-shirt on the equator

10 – Chilling out, watching some amazing sunsets with a beer or pisco sour – over Rio and Arequipa especially

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11 – The awe-inspiring frescos of the Huaca de la Luna/ Temple of the Moon, Peru – The Mochi culture was one I hadn’t heard of (much more under the radar than inca) and it was fascinating

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12 – Truck BBQs on bush camp days – even in a quarry in the middle of nowhere, we still managed to eat incredibly well – thanks to the BBQ skills of our driver, Gareth and tour leader, Kim!

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13 – An unexpectedly beautiful fountain show in Lima – a bit of Disney-like Magic to spice up our evening


 14 – CANCHA, the unpopped popcorn snack of Bolivia/Peru/Ecuador. Gluten-free and salty… it became the ultimate snack

  
15 – Lack of wifi on drive days… which led to LOTS of reading, games of Mafia, Uno and looong euchre tournaments – my favourite card game – I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed playing silly boardgames with people

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Okay, okay – I bet you’re all so bored of the good times… what about the bad times?

“Top” 3 lowlights of the trip:

1- THE BUGS. It’s to be expected when visiting the Amazon, but Lofty got properly eaten alive. I think we counted 70 bites on one lower leg alone. And they were ITCHY.

2- Bush pooing. Nuff said.

3- Traveller belly on drive days. Rather inevitable, and this is probably ’nuff said’ as well, but it wasn’t pleasant!

But considering all the amazing times… it was nothing we couldn’t handle!

Thanks for everything, Oasis. You were swell ūüôā

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15 highlights from 15 weeks in South America – Oasis Overland Kingdoms & Carnivals

It’s almost impossible to believe, but fifteen weeks travelling with Oasis Overland¬†are now over! We have arrived in Quito, Ecuador¬†and are settling in to life off the big yellow truck. It’s a bittersweet¬†moment – we know we have some great times ahead, but leaving the group behind¬†is going to be really tough.¬†If there was any room in our backpacks, we would tuck them in and take them with us for the next stage of the adventure!

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(If you’ve been following the blog, you’ll have guessed that I’m several weeks behind on the itinerary but I wanted to write this post while it was still fresh in my mind!)

For new blog readers, I’ve been¬†travelling with Oasis Overland on their Kingdoms and Carnivals route from Rio-Quito. Visiting six countries and driving over 21,496km, it was one heck of a trip!¬†There were definitely ups and downs (mostly because of the number of times we¬†needed to cross the Andes!), plenty of extreme highs and some gut-wrenching lows but that’s what this kind of travel is all about – and I¬†wouldn’t change it for moment.¬†We’ve faced thefts, a (minor) stabbing, a disappearance, several near-death experiences (choking, seizures, falling down glaciers, face-planting on bicycles),¬†a few incidents of dengue fever, a fractured elbow,¬†a bridge collapse and been stuck in the sand… but we’ve also had too many perfect moments to count: camped night after night under a crystal clear Milky Way, watched stunning sunsets by the dozen,¬†visited cultural and historical sites way off the beaten¬†path,¬†eaten fresh fish straight from the sea, skinny-dipped in¬†fjords, hiked to¬†thundering waterfalls,¬†seen lava bubbling and glaciers¬†collapsing and condors flying and poison dart frogs jumping… it’s been amazing.

I’ve struggled to choose but here are just fifteen highlights of the fifteen week tour:

1) Paragliding over Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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As a city, Rio at Carnival was everything I expected: hot, crazy, colourful, loud, chaotic. But even though we had loads of fun in Rio – at Sambadrome and touring Cristo Redentor – my favourite moment was¬†paragliding high above its stunning beaches. From the air, it was so peaceful and I could really appreciate Rio’s deep connection with the mountains and the sea.

2) Snorkelling down Rio da Prata in Bonito, Brazil

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Some experiences you have no idea about, and so when they happen, they absolutely blow you away. For me, this was snorkelling in Rio da Prata in Bonito. The river has absolutely crystal clear water and myriad fish with absolutely no fear. It was mesmerizing.

3) Fuerza Bruta and Tango in Buenos Aires, Argentina

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I don’t want to post too many pictures of the Fuerza Bruta show in Buenos Aires because the surprise was part of the fun. It’s a touring show so we were lucky to see it – and for $12 a ticket it was an absolute bargain. This might be the best live theatre experience I’ve ever had. I won’t say more but if it visits your city, GO. The tango show was also brilliant, but in a different way – it was eye-opening seeing the acrobatic skill of the dancers, legs flying everywhere, and learning about the history of the dance. Add an amazing steak dinner and free wine on top, and you have a winner!

4) ANTARCTICA

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I wrote a series of four posts explaining just HOW amazing this whole experience was – if you want to find out more about my last minute trip to the seventh continent with G Adventures Expedition, I suggest having a read!

5) Completing the W-trek, Torres del Paine, Chile

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The whole W-trek was amazing, but there was nothing like celebrating in the posh Hotel Las Torres at the very end with a HUGE pizza and amazing cocktails. We were pretty merry by the end, but it felt like a huge accomplishment.

6) Turning 30 in Futaleufu, Chile – the white water capital of South America

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I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday, and Futaleufu was the perfect destination! A campsite with beautiful cabin upgrades (of course we had to upgrade from the tent for my birthday), a fire pit, sauna and some amazing white water rafting… it was pretty perfect.

7) Seeing lava in Pucon, Chile

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Hiking the Villarica Volcano was always on the top of my ‘to-do’ list, especially after watching it explode on the news last year. It was one of the hardest hikes I’ve ever done, but thankfully we were rewarded at the top with boiling, bubbling, bursting lava. EPIC.

8) Wine Tasting and Wine Ice-cream in Cafayate, Argentina

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I’m not the biggest wine drinker in the world, but¬†even I can get on board with a bit of wine ice cream! Cafayate in Argentina was a beautiful stop on the itinerary, home to dozens of bodegas (wine cellars) and heladarias. Their speciality is ice cream made from Torrentes (a delicious form of white wine) and Merlot (red wine) grapes. Very refreshing on a hot day! The Torrentes wine itself isn’t bad either… in fact, we may have picked up a bottle or two (or eight) to drink during the rest of the trip! The Nanni Torrentes (pictured above) was my fave.

9) Uyuni, Bolivia Salt flats day trip

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What can I say? This was another expected highlight that more than lived up to those expectations. This was so much fun!

10) Cycling Death Road in La Paz, Bolivia

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This activity? I was actually quite scared about. I’m not exactly the world’s best cyclist and I was nervous about how I would handle the challenges of the infamous Death Road. But it turned out to be so much more fun than I thought! Yes, there were scary bits (and some people did hurt themselves…) but if you allowed yourself to trust the bikes then it was not too bad at all. Huge thanks to Mo at Gravity for making it a great day out! I also enjoyed that at the very end, we were taken to an animal sanctuary where we saw an ocelot – so cute!

11) Finishing the hike to Machu Picchu, Peru

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Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu was bloody hard work – but once again, finishing was the best reward! This was another one of those ‘classic’ destinations that fulfilled its promise. You can’t help but feel the mystical powers of this wondrous place – and combined with later trips to the Nazca line and the Chan Chan ruins, it really gave me an appreciation of South America civilizations that I never knew about before.

12) Sandboarding in Huacachina, Peru

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Adrenaline, bbq, unlimited pisco and a night sleeping out under the stars? Amazing. This was one of those perfect days which made the whole trip feel worthwhile.

13) Perfect beaches in Punta Sal, Peru

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After leaving Lima, we spent almost a week camping along the Peruvian coastline. With condors soaring overhead, wild surf and beautiful sand, it was an idyllic place to relax after the adrenaline packed activities of the weeks before.

14) Zip-lining, swinging over the end of the world and bridge jumping in Banos, Ecuador

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Okay, let’s face it – I love the adrenaline! My proper ‘daredevil’ moment was a bridge jump in Banos (it didn’t hurt, but I looked like a broken rag doll!). Ziplining on the other hand was just pure fun – and I even got to do it upside down and as a couple!

15) Spotting a poison dart frog in the Amazon, Ecuador

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Finally, the Amazon jungle! My sole request to the universe was to see a poison dart frog and, to my surprise, the universe pulled through! The whole trip to the Amazon basin was wonderful – we went tubing down the river and did several night walks through the jungle to see snakes, spiders and other weird and wonderful creatures. Word to the wise: watch where you put your hands! You do not want a bite from a bullet ant.

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Cape Town and Farewells

Cape Town is the end of the road for half of the people I have been travelling with for the past two months. There are so many people I am going to miss, and so many people I am going to see in the future… without our resident funny man Chris or Tash’s famous laugh or Isabel’s hugs, the trip just isn’t going to be the same. It does mean more space in the truck for the rest of us though!

Travelling overland is like being thrown into a pressure cooker. Life is condensed into a tiny space, where personalities jostle and collide. Our experiences – these new, fabulous, unique experiences – are shared with each other. Life is surreal when you travel; it is reality the way we wish reality to be. It is why so many people find it addictive. It is also why some people can’t wait to get home and back to the regular. There is something highly charged and magnified about life right now. Senses are heightened. Emotions. It is easier than life back home. It is much more difficult than life back home. Travelling is always a challenge, and that’s why I love it.

Cape Town weather has been somewhat of a disappointment, but it improved remarkably for today. Trying to cram everything that this city has to offer within two and a half days is impossible. We tried. On the first day, as it poured with rain, I made my way to the District Six museum. I have never been to a place like this before – a museum that is not designed for visitors but for the people who actually lived through these events. This was not a museum of facts, but a museum of life – people’s life stories were plastered up on the walls next to giant murals of a thriving corner of the city that existed 50 years ago – but does not exist now.

The next day I took a hop-on, hop-off bus around the city to see the best of Cape Town. Sarah and Mike were also aboard. It took us around to District Six itself and allowed a glimpse of the reality the museum had told me about. It was scary to compare the grassy hills to the bustling streets that were once there. The bus took us up to the Table mountain lower cable car station, but due to high winds we were unable to ascend. Then back through Camps Bay and Clifton’s Bay – truly spectacular parts of the city that I wouldn’t have glimpsed without taking the bus.

Today, I pulled the curtains open to sunshine streaming into the room. Finally! After breakfast on the balcony outside my room, overlooking Long Street, Sarah and I ventured down to the train station to head to Boulder’s Beach – the home of the penguins. One train, one bus and a minicab later, we arrived to the most gorgeous of beaches and crystal clear turquoise water. We yearned to swim but we were short on time – we had left Cape Town just in time to see cable cars start their climb up the mountain! But by the time we got up there, once again it had closed due to high winds. We will try again tomorrow morning, before the truck leaves.

Now I am about to head to Robben Island, and I am back down at the Victoria and Albert Waterfront. The waterfront is my favourite spot in the entire city – and so far I have three pictures of the exact same spot (day one – no table mountain visible, day two – table mountain visible against a grey sky, day three – beautiful sunshine behind table mountain!) It has been lovely to relax for a few days, and terribly sad to say goodbye to everyone. How can you feel like you’ve lost so much when you’ve only known people for two months?

Australia is fast creeping up on us… only two weeks now to the next part of my adventure. I can’t believe that soon I’ll be writing in a different continent, but it will be happening sooner than I believe.

Africa will be hard to beat.

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