A month down there

From the mystical peaks of the Andes to the tango rhythm of Argentina, South America has an undeniable energy that pervades everything.

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A month down there

Postby actusreus » Tue Jul 12, 2011 1:58 pm

So, I'm from Idaho, and my now ex-wife just rocked my world, and so I'm getting the heck up out of this joint. The tentative plan is to take the entire month of October off, fly to Panama, and then travel south, hitting Venezuala, Bolivia, maybe colombia, Peru, the Galapagos, Argentina, Chile, Easter Island, Tierra del Fuego, and finally, Brazil. I fully recognize I could spend a month in every country alone, but I want it to be a "whirlwind, take my mind off everything else, crazy fast adventure." I speak a fair amount of spanish, and intend to spend the next 2.5 months working my tail off to know more. Here are my questions:

1. Honestly, traveling light, and not needing to stay anywhere nice, how much am I going to need to set aside. I budgeted 20k, but don't know if that's low or high.
2. I know Colombia is iffy. Is there anything there that I definitely need to see that is worth the risk?
3. Are there places I didn't list above that y'all think I should add?
4. Should I use air or bus in between countries?
5. Can you give me at least one, and maybe two "must sees" for each of the places I listed? And any others I haven't?
6. Can I have some tips on packing? I was just thinking I'd pack like, 7 changes of clothes in a big backpack, a couple of pairs of shoes, a first aid kit, get accident and evac insurance, and then buy what I need, if I need other stuff, along the way.

Thanks so much :)

Oh, I'm a 6'4 thin blond american male. Am I looking at a serious kidnapping risk? Is that all overblown?
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Re: A month down there

Postby JaliscoJudy » Tue Jul 12, 2011 6:04 pm

Wow! Lots to think about.

I'd get my tail to the bookstore to buy travel guides for each country and read them. They will help you decide how you want to approach each country. They are all different in terms of infrastructure, cost of living and safety. The books will also help you decide what attractions are must-sees for you and what kind of budget you'll need. Me, for example, I look for nature reserves with wildlife and birds and I enjoy visiting ruins of ancient cultures. I recommend getting to the Amazon basin somewhere in your travels -- could be in Peru, Ecuador or Brazil.

As for safety, a big part depends on you. If you like to drink and party, you increase your risk. If you travel alone at night in the city or off the beaten path, you increase your risk. Most people travel to all these places with no problems. Just make sure you understand the risks and how you can minimize them. Look at joining a Gap Adventures tour in countries that you don't feel comfortable navigating alone. Check out this 45-day Southern Cross trip that covers the Amazon, Bolivia, Brazil, Inca Trail, Machu Picchu and Peru. It's a lot of travel for $5,600: [url]http://www.gapadventures.com/trips/southern-cross-amazon/SJMR/2011/
[/url] There a lots of other great trips that you could add on.

Planning a trip like this is great fun. Let us know what itinerary you come up with.
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Re: A month down there

Postby lorrie jay » Tue Jul 12, 2011 9:59 pm

ditto on the pp advice but check out Lonely Planet's thorntree too.
1. Take a "four corners" approach and go to Galapagos and/or Machu Pichu(100th anniversary), Venezula or somewhere northern, Patagonia, Amazon. Mix it up with a GAP tour and independent travel. You'll spend a fair bit of time on planes with this option. There is an inter-continental bus that goes down the west coast- about 3 days from Lima to Santiago.
or 2. go to one place and immerse yourself completely into the local culture and environment and give your time to a local cause(this will help heal your heart): choose a Spanish speaking country or go wild and try a Portuguese or French speaking country.
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Re: A month down there

Postby envirochick72 » Wed Jul 20, 2011 2:11 pm


so the other thing to consider with your trips are the weather extremes and elevation. I mean in Peru you can get pretty high and you will want to make sure your prepared. With elevation comes other concerns like getting altitude sickness. Sickness anywhere really... something to consider is carrying some across the board antibiotic like Ciporo (spelling) lots of people have needed it.

Another safety tip is to bring rehydration salts ( at least few packets from an outdoor store) because if you get sick ( like most people) and your either getting sick one way or the other, you become VERY dehydrated and these are sometimes the only thing that keeps you for getting worse.

When it comes to your packing, make sure things are multi-functional ie, pants that convert to shorts, shirts that are long sleeved that can roll or button up on the sleeves. Layering is great! In the cold places, merino wool will go a long time without smelling even with all the sweat.

Hope this helps :)
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Re: A month down there

Postby TravelFun » Mon Jul 25, 2011 8:55 pm

Hi there,

Do not dismiss the size of South America and the distances between places within a country, let alone between countries. It seems you need a real adventure and it's not just about going to as many places as you can...trust me, it took me 4 months to cover 9 countries in South America (a mix of independant and group travel).

Here's a few hints and tips to get you started:

1. Draw a line between Santiago and Buenos Aires...now either choose the places above the line or below the line. The weather and season in Oct/Nov will determine what you can do in these two drawn areas.

2. Read up on the countries as suggested. There is so many things to do that highlighting 2 per country will be a hard task to do. You could base it on what you like...is it trekking (moderate or tough), wildlife, nature etc.

3. A budget of £20k is way too high...have you considered Antartica?

4. Buses are pretty good between Brazil-Uruguay-Argentina-Chile but does take time and at times overnight journeys but saves on accommodation costs. Venezuela will be a mix of bus and air travel but Gap Adventures do a great trips so search the options here. Crossing borders between Venezuela-Colombia-Ecuador is difficult by land and is best done by air.

5. If flying then check out the deals with the airlines such as LAN on inter-country deals.

6. Patagonia in October is a perfect time and the treks are a challenge and worth considering.

7. Pack in layers, layers n layers...I pack for the maximum days I will stay in one place. So if it's 3 days max then pack for 3 days with one or two extra items. Alot of the travel clothing is now breathable, quick-drying stuff which really helps.

8. Colombia is not iffy and you will be just fine. Use your common sense as you would at home and yes being 6'4 thin blond american male will make you stand out but always come across as a confident traveller even if you have no idea what the hell you're doing. Plus you speak Spanish and this will be your main asset and will make it easier for you.

9. I'd say pick a few countries and do them thoroughly...'whirlwind, crazy, fast-adventure' will be experienced just in a few places.

South America is awesome and any experience you choose will make you forget about home.

Good luck and if you want specifics for any particular country then just drop another post here and we'll be happy to help.

Happy Travels!
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