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Published: June 29th 2017
Geo: -38.0592, 145.409
Well, we've been home a month today. It feels like yesterday and forever since we dragged ourselves through customs in Melbourne and headed straight for Cardinia Medical Centre. It's disturbing how quick you readjust to your routine and reality after such an adventure. You get a day or two before it feels like you never left.
South America was never a priority travel destination for me. Not sure why. I guess I didn't know a lot about it or many people who had been there. Having loved Africa so much, I think I kind of expected similar demographics, some beautiful natural scenery, wild animals and some culture shock. It wasn't too far from what I expected. We certainly got a fair taste of the continent and took in a lot of experiences across the 7 countries we visited. Having reviewed our adventure, I identified my favorite 40 memories. Here they are as a countdown from 40 to 1.40. La Sebastiana (Pablo Neruda's House), Valparaiso, Chile.
Worth the hike. Sitting high up in the hills of Valparaiso, this place offers spectacular views from outside, and from every room within. Fascinating architecture and an engaging and interesting audio guide made for an enjoyable
experience. 39. Funicular to Cerro San Cristobal, Santiago, Chile
An extremely steep little cogwheel train, set into the hill of San Cristobal. Stops off at the zoo before taking you up to the summit of San Cristobal where you can enjoy spectacular panoramic views of all of Santiago.
38. Q'Engo Ruins, Peru
One of many sets of Inca ruins we visited throughout Peru. Sadly, this one was largely desecrated and destroyed by the Spanish during their conquest of the area. Most memorable was the unsettling sacrificial altar we found inside a cave. Freezing to the touch.
37. Puka Pukara Ruins, Peru
An old Incan Fort, used as a rest point and lookout between destinations. Offers spectacular panoramic views.
36. Bus Tour of Montevideo, Uruguay
I was certainly surprised by just how modern, clean and Westernized the city of Montevideo was. Getting around here by bus gave us a good overview of the city with plenty of chances to hop on and hop off and explore. The highlights were the Palace and Arch in the city centre.
35. City of Aguas Calientes, Peru
A little on the touristy side sure, but a really nice tropical jungle city at the base of Machu Picchu. End of
the line for the Inca rail. Lots of nice little shops and cheap restaurants around. The hot Springs here were okay, albeit a little simple. 34. Bus Tour of Buenos Aries, Argentina
With only a couple full days here, catching the yellow hop on, hop off buses was a great way to get around the city and explore. Okay so the audio guide was absolute rubbish and broken, but we got to see the majority of the city in a really quick period of time.
33. Cusco Cathedral, Cusco, Peru
Wow, I wasn't expecting to find a place like this in the heart of Peru. Really felt like this cathedral was picked up out of Spain and dropped here. Beautifully decorated and ornate. Let down by an extremely boring audio and video (But why watch video on a tablet when the content is right here?) guide.
32. Iguazu Zoo, Foz do Iguacu, Brazil
A free little zoo, just 5 minutes walk from our hotel. Okay, so the cages were a little small at times, but the animals seemed relatively happy and healthy (except the turtle stuck on his back). Some interesting and exotic animals on display, some who put on a show for
us. 31. Waiheke Island, Auckland, New Zealand
Beautiful tropical island, just a short ferry ride from Auckland pier. Really had its own little micro-climate happening. Some lovely beaches and great wineries to enjoy.
30. Punta del Este, Uruguay
Enjoyed a scorching hot walk around the beaches of this peninsula town. Stopped by at the famous Fingers monument and even had the privilege of a visit from a friendly sea wolf.
29. City of UshuaiaThe worlds most Southern City, sitting right on the tip of South America, beneath a spectacular backdrop of towering white-capped mountains. The architecture and city itself was memorable to walk through.
28. Buenos Aries Zoo, Buenos Aries, Argentina
Not the first or last zoo you'll see on this list. Fairly impressive zoo with a wide variety of animals, some particularly interesting and unusual. Take the Maras and that weird, free range beaver thing for example. Decent standard of enclosures.
27. Sailing the Fjords of ChileCertainly a memorable experience. Winding fjords, towering cliffs and glacier after glacier after glacier. Even throw in some jellyfish, dolphins and cormorants for the animal enthusiast.
26. Petrohue Rapids, Puerto Montt, Chile
A nice day excursion out to these rapids at the base
of Volcano Osorno. Ice blue water rushing through chasms below surrounded by towering cliffs. 25. El Brujo GlacierThe most spectacular Glacier we saw throughout the Fjords of Chile, in the Peel Fjord. Massive and brilliant blue in color. We even managed to enjoy cocktails served up on this incredible ice.
24. Santiago Zoo, Santiago, Chile
This zoo comes with a free comprehensive workout session. An unusual design, built actually on a steep hill on San Cristobal. Great views, huge range on animals and good quality exhibits.
23. Sky Tower, AucklandYeah, there's sky towers of its elk all around the world, but this one was pretty spectacular. A needle piercing the sky, spectacular during the day and how its lit up at night. Great views and nervy walking on glass bottomed floors up on the sky deck.
22. Ccochahuasi Animal Sanctuary, Peru
An unplanned visit. Just happened to be on the way from Ollantaytambo to Cusco. An impressive zoo/sanctuary where injured animals are looked after and breeding programs instigated. Amazing chance to see and get up close to condors.
21. The Sacred Valley, Peru
A beautiful region in Peru's highlands. Enjoyed plenty of spectacular views and experiences with local
artisans (pottery, weaving, cooking).
20. Beagle Channel Cruise
Departing out of Ushuaia, an icy cruise through the beagle Channel. Beautiful landscape views of seemingly uncharted terrain, fur seals, cormorants and white capped mountains.
19. Copacabana Beach, Rio, Brazil
We were lucky enough to stay in a hotel right on the beach. The views from the hotel, so iconic of Rio. A huge and beautiful beach adorned with volleyball and soccer nets. Great place to relax and plenty of places to grab a bite to eat or cheap cocktail.
18. Saint Sebastian's Cathedral, Rio, Brazil.
A never expected to find such a spectacular cathedral in Rio. In reminded me a little of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. From the outside, a giant stone pyramid. Inside, a towering ceiling and brilliant stained glass windows. A real architectural marvel.
17. Sacsahuaman Ruins, Cusco, Peru
A giant set of ruins, formed in the shape of a lightning bolt, overlooking Cusco. Complete with altars, giant monolith stones, deep winding tunnels and spectacular views, it certainly made for a memorable visit.
16. Magellans Forest Reserve, Punta Arenas, Chile
Enjoyed a memorable hike through the mountains and dense forests here. A peaceful and rugged trail up to the summit provided spectacular views
of Punta Arenas. 15. City of Cusco
A really amazing city. Mudbrick buildings with orange rooves dominate the skylines. Tight little streets that barely accomodate cars at times, winding alleys, stairways and lanes. Cobblestone roads. Great food. All at 3,400 metres above sea level.
14. Casablanca Wine Region, Chile
Well as you may or may not be aware, I do enjoy my wines. Despite being sick as a dog for our tour of this region, I was delighted to enjoy high quality wines at a couple vineyards along with spectacular scenery of the valley here.
13. Cristo Redentor, Rio, Brazil
World famous statue, perched atop the mountains overlooking Rio. Fairly impressive in its size and grandeur. Extremely overcrowded and painful getting up and down, but still offered amazing views.
12. Penninsula Valdes, Patagonia, Argentina
Flat, windswept barren terrain adorned with tufts of shrubs and grass. Rugged cliffs and desolate windy beaches. Beautifully raw and remote. Was magnificent to come face to face with penguins and elephant seals.
11. Sailing around Cape Horn
A really inspiring experience. We were fortunate to get relatively calm seas and minimal rain. A lighthouse stands by the jagged rocks that mark the end of the continent.
Islands and surrounding terrain feels untouched. Have human feet even touched all of this land? 10. Parque de Aves (Bird Park) Iguazu, Brazil
Being an avid avian enthusiast, this may have even finished higher on the list if we'd had better weather. One of three days of the trip it rained, and it was an absolute downpour. Still an absolutely magnificent layout and variety of tropical exotic birdlife.
9. City of Valparaiso, Chile
My favorite city in South America. Looked another port town after disembarking our cruise, but what a magnificently unique, cultured place I found it to be. Bright, colorful houses built on top of each other covering the mountainside. Nothing was level. A steep twisting maze of alleys, streets, lookouts, monuments and cafes. Amazing food to top it off.
8. Ruins of Ollantaytambo, Peru
An awesome city itself, surrounded by towering mountains covered in Incan ruins. The main ruin complex was a joy to explore. Temples, barracks and terraces adorned its summit, and via a winding track, store houses. At the base, an impressive water temple. Amazing views in all directions.
7. El Yeso National Park, the Andes, Chile.
Beautiful terrain, in the the remote wilderness. Plains, mountains, valleys and vivid
lakes. Beauty untouched, aside from the goats, horses and cattle that call it home. 6. Sugarloaf Mountain, Rio, Brazil
The summit is the most bizarre steep shaped boulder. It looks as if it was placed there. A couple of cable car rides will get you up to the highest point for spectacular views of the city. You'll even be surprised to find there's a little boardwalk up there to explore, fully equipped with birds and monkeys.
5. Pisac Ruins, Pisac, Peru
There's terraces all over the Peruvian countryside, but this was the most spectacular example of them I came across. Dozens of Terraces give way to ruins of the Incan city of Pisac at the mountains summit. Amazing views from the top. Also included a massive gravesite in the adjacent cliff face.
4. Favela Rochina, Rio, Brazil
Probably one of the greatest culture shock experiences of our trip. It's amazing to see the contrast between Western and some third world communities. Tight, steep, winding lanes and shanty homes, spatterings of artwork everywhere, homes built on top of homes, all with amazing mountain views. A memorable adventure.
3. El Plomo Hot Springs
Swimming in natural volcanic hot springs, in the snow, in the remote wilderness.
Not something I'll soon forget. No cafeteria, lockers or Chinese massage available here. It was literally, some untouched pools of water, in the middle of nowhere, deep in the El Yeso National Park. Great spot for a dip and spectacular views.
2. Machu Picchu, Peru
It's arguably the most hyped and raved about tourist destination in the world. It lives up to its reputation. What a marvel to behold. How did the Incans build this place? As huge as it was grand. Really enjoyed mini hikes up to the Sungate and the Incan bridge along a cliffs edge. The location of the site, above valleys and surrounded by mountains was inspiring.
1. Iguazu Falls, Brazil
Well, it's a tough call, and it would take something absolutely incredible to top Machu Picchu, but this was it. It takes the cake because it's all natural. So. Much. Water. Nearly 2000 cubic metres per second Layers upon layers. 2.7 Kilometres wide. It's mind-blowing. So many great viewpoints too, and even the company of wild coatis. I didn't think it would be possible to top Victoria Falls in Zambia, but there you have it.
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