Chile

Before experiencing the great country of Chile, for me, it was just a country I had to pass through to get to Argentina.

During the pre trip research, Chile didn’t seem to offer that much, or seem as exciting as its neighbours like Peru, Bolivia or Brazil.

It turned out I was wrong of course. So wrong.

Now, if I had to choose a country in this continent to live in for an extended time, I would say Chile in a heartbeat. Without having to think much.
A land of great scenic diversity, you get flat vast deserts to lovely beaches to amazing glacier wonderlands.
Santiago, the capital, also boasted having one of the better public transportation on this trip. Trains arrived frequently, I felt there were more order, more structure here.

And, I have to say Chile had the best grapes I have tasted, what not to love 🙂

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Bolivia

I have a love hate relationship with Bolivia. Mostly Love.

I love how diverse, how scenery-packed this country is.
I love how I can be at the highest recorded lake in the world one day and low level Amazon jungle the next, or be among lush green trees spotting wild animals lazing in lakes one day and be in the middle of bleached white salt dessert or bright red lagoons with flamingos the next. And that’s just to name a few.
I love how light this country is on your money pocket.
I love how real, generous and friendly most locals are once you start a conversation with them.
Bolivia was the one of the few countries where I experienced such generous hospitality between strangers.
The one who has little has more to give than the rich. How very true.)

Now the ugly side.
Pretty much after you’ve paid up for a tour, your fate hung on the guide’s integrity/deliverance of their promises.
I got stranded at the border of Chile and Bolivia, in the middle of the dessert, after the tour guide woke up late and the bus left even though I’ve already paid for the ride when I bought the tour.

You may have heard about how dangerous and chaotic Bolivia is (or not even know this country exists), and I’ll be honest and say it is a little messy be it the city or the way things work, but weigh out the risks you are willing to take, carry a good dose of common sense and put this country on your “must visit” list, for Bolivia will surprise you endlessly like it did for me, I was left amazed EVERY single day in this country.

They say Argentina, they say Brazil.
But yall, I say Bolivia.

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Peru

One of my top favorite countries in Latin America, Peru is landscape here is stunningly beautiful.

This gorgeous country took my breathe away with its vibrancy and gorgeous landscape comprising of the Andes Mountains and vast lands. So amazed at every sight I was snapping away hundreds of pictures each day, trying to capture all that this country presents to those who pass by.

Steeped richly in its Inca culture and history, Peruvians also hold their heads high when it comes to their heritage and there is just something so attractive about people being proud, real and true to their roots.

To have scaled and seen the famous ruins of Machu Picchu in person is definitely a once in a life time experience, dream come true.
Other cities of Valle Sagrado de los Incas are equal gems.
So sacred and magical, one can only close his eyes and try re-live those quiet, serene man-and-nature’s awesomeness moments again.

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Ecuador

Ecuador – the first time I heard about this country was a few years before landing on this continent, a friend had taught and lived on Galapagos for a few years. It was safe, marine life all around, island life – she said.
The second time I heard about this country before seeing it for myself was in the hostel in Liberia, Costa Rica. Where the French hostel-mate was telling me about her solo travel stories here 10 years ago.
We started on our 25 hours bus ride from Bogota, down to Cali and then on to Quito. Took a day and a half to get there! Here I realized the bus rides are not going to get any shorter. Here I started to appreciate my kick-ass motion sickness blue pill that puts me to sleep for more than half of the long journey.

Ecuador didn’t feel that dangerous to me while I was there, it was a bit rough but pretty sights were everywhere.

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Colombia

With half of the quest (Bussing through central America) completed and a nice rest in Panama, it’s time to take on South America.

First stop – Colombia.
Colorful, peaceful, tranquilo!
It seems to me that gone are the days of violence that we heard so much about. I felt those Hollywood movies of how violent and drug laced this country was portrayed was over-exaggerated.
Yes, the drugs, guerrillas etc still exist, especially near the borders, but it’s slowly cleaning up.
Then again I, being a tourist, probably only saw the surface and not the real undercurrents.
Regardless, I discovered this country to be one hidden gem.

And have I mentioned, Colombia has the best food ! My favorite cuisine and coffee in whole of Latin America !

Definitely one of the places I will revisit just because there are so much more to be explored and the people cannot get any friendlier. They are curious about different cultures, different perspectives, slow to judge and just really welcoming. They do them and they let you do you.
Ah Colombia, you definitely surprised me 😉

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Panama

Panama – Last stop in our Central America trip before hitting South America.

Here we continued the island life, I tried surfing for the first time and had to be hauled back to land by a 10 year old kid named Junior Jorge because I got sea sick after 15 minutes, went further down south to the capital & recuperated at a friend’s house for about 10 days after being on the road for a few months, visited old city of Panama, had Asian food after a few months and it felt so good, jogged at night in the parks and felt safe – which felt liberating after months of heading back indoors once the sun set, swam at night and watched the stars, had a free hotel stay as the airline overbooked the flight we were on, watched the whole 90 episode of this awesome Chinese drama series 步步惊心 in about 10 days – booyah, bought this cute little green umbrella which made it with me all the way to Machu Picchu but think it broke after that, had fresh cerviche here at the fish market, basically really relaxing way to wrap up Central America.
Was a bit hard to go from living in a friend’s apartment with awesome views to going back to hostels again in Colombia but who ever said it was easy eh 🙂

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Costa Rica, Pura Vida

After a lovely time in Nicaragua and leaving the magical Ometepe, we hit up Costa Rica.

The “Pura Vida (Pure Life)” tagline in this land is ubiquitous and I love how the locals happily cheer “Costa Rica, Pura Vida” to almost everything. As ubiquitous as the tagline would also be Gallo Pinto – a traditional dish made with rice and black beans and also found on every menu here in Costa Rica (or Nicaragua where they use red kidney beans instead) . There’s no chicken in this dish despite the name, some say the beans give a spotted appearance to the rice that looks like the plumage of a rooster, so they say.

I crossed borders and went on to Liberia, then down to San Jose (capital) and its surrounding which got a bit too cold for me and went right down to Puerto Viejo, a town by the beach with warm weather,  right down my hood.

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Nicaragua

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Stop 4 : Nicaragua

We skipped past Honduras, stopping briefly to stretch our legs, bus to refuel, grab some bite and went right on to Nicaragua, hitting up Leon, Granada and the magical island Ometepe 🙂

Nicaragua was previously notorious for chaos, internal wars, danger and volcano eruptions. My experience there was quite the opposite.
The country is slowing cleaning up and what I found were quiet calm towns and beautiful scenery, so much so it is one of my favorite places in Central America.

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