Chapter 11 – South America (Chile, Ecuador, Peru, Costa Rica)
Buenos Dias, Buenos Tardes, Buenos Noches, Pura Vida!!
South America was so amazing and we only had a chance to experience a sampling of the diverse activities and cultures here.
Chile – we stayed at a magnificent vineyard – Vina Vik – a unique architecture of titanium (similar to the Edmonton Art Gallery!) with 20 individually themed rooms all with original art and design. We had the owner’s suite which had a carbon fiber bathtub in the shape of a hammock suspended between 2 walls. Our stay included sampling amazing wine and food, rode horses thru the vineyards and picnicked on a hill overlooking the entire winery estate. We toured Santiago and learned about Chile’s history (which was an eye opener!) culture and of course more great food and wine!
Ecuador – we toured Quito and straddled the equator with one foot in the Northern Hemisphere and other in Southern Hemisphere. We stayed in an eco-lodge in the Amazon Rain Forest where we came within inches of tarantulas, snakes and various insects; walked thru the Rain Forest at night (as in pitch black!), watched howler monkeys from a platform above the forest canopy, canoed and kayaked in a lake with caimans (small crocodiles), piranhas, and large fish that measured over 5m in size – we could have also swam in the lake but chose to relax on the dock with a good bottle of wine instead. Then off to an 8-day journey through the Galápagos Islands which was mind blowing! We snorkeled with baby sea lions, sea turtles, sting rays, eagle rays, multiple types of fish and of course with sharks (white tipped, black tipped, hammerhead and Galapagos ones). We came within inches of blue footed boobies, red footed boobies, an albatross, land and sea iguanas, and sea lions. A great time was had with 11 passengers on our boat including playing charades one night after several (you guessed it) glasses of wine and beer! The Galapagos is truly a must see!
Peru – the whole reason this trip started in the first place – hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. This truly was a dream come true! We started by acclimatizing in the Sacred Valley altitude by trekking and walking through various Inca ruins, towns, and salt mines. On the 4th day we began our assent on the Inca Trail – 5 days/4 nights and camping. We trekked up and over 2 passes, the highest of which was 4200m/13,800ft (which for those in western Canada is higher than Mount Robson by 200 meters). The trail has over 2800 stairs carved and built by the Incas over 700 years ago. Our guide (David Palamo – was amazing, and our 6 porters helped make the experience one we will never forget). On our third night, we camped at the top of a mountain that was literally above the clouds – thanks to our porters bringing us hot Coca tea in the morning and some great meals including a baked cake (not sure how they did this) we were able to finish the trek – make it to the sun gate and gaze upon Machu Picchu as we hiked down on the final day. Descending from the Sun Gate and seeing Machu Picchu for the first time was totally surreal! Words cannot properly describe what we saw when the clouds parted – you just have to go yourself!! Never thought a hot shower would feel soooooo good! This was by far the most challenging activity we both have ever done – but well worth it!!
South America was truly incredible and we will be back. Final destination for the trip was Costa Rica. Relaxing at an eco-lodge provided the opportunity to reflect on our journey over the last 8 months and rest our weary muscles from the hike. As in classic Shields adventures, our first night in Costa Rica was welcomed by a white faced monkey who decided to open the door, help himself to a beer and chocolate bar from our fridge before Steve shooed him out. The next night was a “Costa Rican” Stand-Off between Steve and a large red crab in our shower!! What a year for becoming one with the animal kingdom!
- The South American people are lovely – friendly, at times shy, quick to smile, and always willing to help
- Hiking the Inca Trail was the starting point for the whole trip and it exceeded our expectations in the beauty of the place, the difficulty of the challenge, and our determination to make it happen
- The Galapagos is like no other place, the animals there see us as just another funny looking creature that poses no threat to them
- The Quechua people of Peru, who live in the highlands, must have the biggest lungs in the world as they are the ones who are the porters carrying packs of 45kg or more and at times running sections of the Inca Trail. There way of life is changing as the younger generation is slowly migrating to the big cities which risks ending a way of life that has lasted hundreds of years
- Steve celebrated his birthday on the flight from Lima, Peru to San Jose, Costa Rica. His B-day gift was selected from the onboard duty free magazine and the flight crew wished him happy birthday over the intercom to cheers from the passengers. Steve thinks he is still 40!
- We got to experience health care in a 3rd world country by touring the inside of a private hospital due to a lung infection Fran developed on the hike – was actually a great experience! We could learn from some of their simple processes!
- In Costa Rica, we came across the term “medical tourism” for the first time – people from Canada and the US travel here to have medical or dental procedures performed and then use the opportunity to tour around and see some of the country
- Hard to believe we are coming to a close – 8 months flew. For those of you who have followed us along our journey, read about our adventures – we are so appreciative – stay tuned for our final Blog which will come out in a couple of weeks!
Below is our updated ratings chart;
Gallery – Chile
Gallery – Costa Rica
Gallery – Ecuador
Gallery – Amazon
Gallery – Galapagos
Gallery – Peru
Galley – Inca Trail
Making it So,
Fran and Steve