Setting off with one way tickets to Mexico via Cuba (a two-month detour), we set ourselves the challenge of travelling through Central and South America down to the southern tip of Argentina by bus/train/boat.
We wrote and photographed all our adventures, discoveries and passions - food and football, people and pictures, wildlife and walking, books and buildings, mountains and music. We promise you won't read a boring day-to-day diary, just interesting tales from the road.
Plus for our friends with itchy feet, real backpacking tips direct from the backpack.
Jess and James
February 27th 2010
If you love meat you are halfway to becoming a naturalised Argentine. We saw huge lumps of meat served at lunch and dinner tables. It is a national obsession. I am fond of a steak and would eat just about anything at least once. But Jessica will always be regarded with suspicion in the land of the parrilla. "You're a veggie-what???!!!" "You don't eat meat???!!!" "How about pork? Sausage? Fish? Chicken? You must eat chicken!!!" "How about ham? But ham isn't really meat." Parrillas (steakhouses) are found in every part of Argentina. With a population of about 50 million cattle, there is plenty of meat to go round. The cattle roam the millions of acres of lush grasslands in the pampas. Travelling by bus through the pampas, we witnessed the vast expanse and flatness from our ... read more
February 20th 2010
I taught myself to like coffee by forcing myself to drink espressos. It might sound crazy but it worked. I knew it would be coming criminal to pass through famous coffee producing countries such as Guatemala and Colombia without sampling some local brews. The irony is that the high grade coffee produced in these places is actually all exported, leaving the low quality stuff behind for the people of the nation who produce it. That's the real crime. It amazed and sickened me that it would have been easier to get a cup of good dry roasted Guatemalan in Dublin that it was to get in Coban (in central Guatemala), a town where we even visited a coffee farm. Well I suppose it is a buyers market. So James and my new found liking for coffee ... read more
February 14th 2010
It doesn't happen very often, but occasionally I have an instant attraction to a city and I find myself having a "I could see myself living here" moment. About six years ago, Jessica and I spent five days in Buenos Aires. We both loved the city so much we vowed to return. Sometimes a place held in high esteem in my memory can be a huge disappointment upon return. Buenos Aires did not disappoint. In fact it was better. Our newly acquired modest Spanish helped to open many more doors this time round. This and our decision to rent an apartment instead of staying in a hostel allowed us to experience life as a Porteno (resident of Buenos Aires) and gain insight into the Porteno psyche. Ten floors up in our San Telmo apartment, our balcony ... read more
January 30th 2010
It might not look all that historic but it is. Jules Rimet called it "a temple of football" - and he should know, the World Cup was named after him! The landmark imposing grey tower is right out of a communist architects textbook. Somehow out of place and yet defining at the same time. The legendary Estadio Centenario. Eighty years ago, Uruguay hosted the first ever FIFA World Cup. Beating off competition from Italy, Sweden, Holland and Spain to host the event, Uruguay's bid included building a new centrepiece stadium, hence the Estadio Centenario was born. It held 10 of the 18 matches and all 13 countries played at least one match there. On 30th July 1930, the stadium hosted the first ever World Cup final when Uruguay beat Argentina 4-2 (even though Argentina led 2-1 ... read more
January 29th 2010
Take sequins. Add sparkles, glitter and a good helping of all that jazz. Lightly sprinkle with some glitz. Mix with drums, flags and lots of bum wiggling. Put on a high heat for extra energy and throw in as many colours as possible. Serve at night on the crowded streets of Montevideo. And there you go! It's carnaval time baby! From Jess... read more
January 15th 2010
Travelling the way we do is full of uncertainty. When we enter new territory, we are never sure where we will get off the bus or where we will stay the night. It has its advantages and disadvantages, but is always interesting. Arriving into Purmamarca, we didn't need a friendly bus driver or a big "Bienvenidos" sign to let us know we had arrived. A rainbow striped hill gave it away. It is called the 'Cerro de las Siete Colores' (Hill of the Seven Colours), well it couldn't be a more accurate name. To be honest the colours didn't seem real. It was as radiant as technicolour, making everything else look monochrome in comparison. The town itself was highly photogenic too: cobbled streets and terracotta-coloured buildings with mud roofs. A 1,000 year old algarrobo tree gave ... read more
January 11th 2010
One thing I never thought I would find myself doing is banging on the door of a cave looking for champagne. But this is exactly what we did on the eleventh of January this year, as on this day twenty-eight years previous, a terrible beauty was born! (I know she will appreciate the Yeats reference.) This birthday couldn't be more different to that cold snow white morning in 1982 that Joy once told me about. 2010 in San Juan, Argentina was a clear muggy day, roasting hot with temperature of over 45 degrees. A public bus had dropped us close to the cave. It all looked so strange and deserted. We tried the bell a few times but got no answer. A sign read ¨Be patient, it may take a while for someone to answer the ... read more
December 27th 2009
For many Chileans and Argentinians, the Lake District is their main holiday destination. In winter (June to October) ski resorts open for business. The rest of the year (especially January, the annual holiday month) the region's mountains are trekked and climbed, its lakes are swam in and relieved of their fish. It is easy to see why the Lake District is so popular. For me it is some of the most beautiful scenery in South America. There is something about the mix of lakes and mountains that inspire relaxation. Add snow capped volcanoes into the mix and it is picture postcard perfection. The Lake District is huge. It straddles the fiercely guarded border of Argentina and Chile. The two countries are not on friendly terms. In one conversation with an Argentinian man, he stated as a ... read more
December 10th 2009
Valdivia doesn't get that many foreign visitors compared to other locations in Chile but we thought it was a great spot. It is a university town and has that good vibe feel that students bring to a place. Instead of swiftly passing through as planned, we settled in for a few days, deciding to celebrate James' birthday amongst those good vibes. The thing that sets Valdivia apart from other towns with the standard church-plaza combo is its riverside fish market. Which sounds boring and smelly. It was anything but boring (although slightly smelly). Sea lions, pelicans and a whole gang of other birds hang out there, waiting to be thrown scraps of fish. As the fish are being filleted and prepared for sale, the vendors would throw the bones, skin and guts into bins behind them, ... read more
November 23rd 2009
Apart from some feet-dragging politicians who attended Copenhagen, there surely can't be anyone who doubts that global warming is having a huge impact on the earth. Personally I think the human race should be having a major panic about it. In every single one of the seventeen countries we have visited over the last sixteen months, we have witnessed and spoken to locals about unusual weather patterns: our 'Tio' Manuel in Havana who was worried that the hurricane season is becoming longer and more extreme every year; bird-man Malcolm in Honduras who reported changes in bird-migration patterns; the lovely Gregorio in Futaleufu, Chile, who lamented on the flowers that now blossom two months too soon; a sudden hail storm during a bus ride through the jungle in Colombia, so freaky that the other passengers were taking ... read more