Now for the caveat…although we have an itinerary, and a general sense of where we might be when, we are also open to any and all possibilities that might present themselves once we are there. A plan is only needed so that it can be abandoned or altered at any point!
We are planning 3 months to travel through Peru, Chile and Argentina starting at the beginning of June 2009. Although this does put us into the SA winter season, it fits well with the rest of the trip’s weather patterns and allows us to be in Peru during the best time to hike the Inca trail to Machu Picchu.
Three months is not very long to spend in this area, especially with our mandate to travel at a fairly slow pace in order to relax into the rhythm of a place. This meant concentrating on a few countries rather than trying to get to them all. Peru is a must and seems to have so much to offer. Bolivia was struck b/c of potential unrest in favor of Chile which is known to have good wine. Argentina will allow us to get our protein stores back up and maybe learn a dance step or two.
Our first stop in Peru will be Lima where we will find some longer term accommodation as we intend on spending 3 weeks here. It’s here that we plan on taking Spanish lessons and settling into a ‘traveling routine’. We’ll explore the sights of Lima and do day trips to some of the outlying towns and villages.
From Lima we’ll fly to Cusco in the interior where we’ll acclimatize to the altitude for a few days before embarking on a 4 day Inca Trail Trek. This we’ll have to book from here before we leave as it is impossible to just show up and expect to trek.
The Amazon jungle protrudes into Peru on it’s eastern side so we hope to take a trip from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado to take part in a 4 day jungle tour. This is a little up in the air though as my immunization status may stop us. The Amazon is Yellow Fever country and there is a chance that I cannot be vaccinated due to the immuno-suppressive drugs I take for Crohn’s Disease. It seems as though this is the only part of the whole itinerary that might be affected by this so, although it would be disappointing to not see the jungle, I’m pleased that it is only this piece that may have to be skipped. I will be discussing this further with an infectious disease specialist before making the final decision. After the jungle it’s back to Cusco.
To move south from Cusco, we’ll start the Peruvian bus transportation experience catching a bus down to Puno. Puno is the base for Lake Titicaca, a large lake that houses it’s people on islands made of reeds.
After Lake Titicaca we’ll bus further south to Arequipa and spend about 6 days exploring the city and Colca Canyon nearby. Colca Canyon is the deepest canyon in the world – I have always thought that seeing the Grand Canyon would be cool, so I imagine this will only be cooler! We plan on hiking here and hopefully seeing some of the famous condors that inhabit the area.
All in all, it’ll be about 45 days in Peru – that’s 1/2 our expected time in South America! Also, after Lima, we are on the road quite a bit so the plan is to slow it down a bit for Chile.
The plan through Chile is pretty loose and won’t be terribly long – only about 2 weeks. We’ll travel by bus down from the northern border with Peru for 4 or 5 days, stopping wherever looks interesting. The goal for this part of the trip is the Salar de Atacama, the salt desert in the central region of the country. We’ll spend 3 or so days exploring the salt flats and watching for flamingos. Then back on the road, hopefully visiting the coast before hitting Santiago. Four days exploring Santiago should complete our brief visit to Chile.
From Santiago, in Chile, we’ll board a bus again and cross over the border, and over the Andes into Mendoza, Argentina. Here we’ll settle in for 4 days to discover the wines of the region and to introduce ourselves to the renowned beef. After this, it’s back on the bus to cross the country to Buenos Aires – this should take 5-10 days depending on what we discover along the way. I had thought that we would do our long stay in Argentina in Mendoza as it is a smaller city, but we have heard such wonderful things about Buenos Aires that we have decided to do our long stay there instead. We hope to rent an apartment for our 2 or 3 weeks here and really get to know the neighborhood. One, long side trip from here will be a trip to Puerto Iguazu for a few days to see the tremendous waterfalls there – I hear they are not to be missed.
Three months will go by very quickly, and we’ll have only touched on all that South America has to offer.