The End of the Beginning & Our South America Recap

We spent our last few days in Brazil on Ilha Grande, an island south of Rio de Janeiro. We hopped on a ferry from the mainland and an hour and a half later, we were on the shores of Abrao, a small beach village on the coast which prides itself on not having any cars or ATMs. We spent three days hiking to Ilha Grande’s many beaches, including Lopez Mendes, one of Brazil’s “top 10 most beautiful beaches” (and Brazil has a lot of beaches).Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t cooperating with us and it rained for a good portion of our stay. We still had a great time walking around the small beach town, drinking the delicious local juices, eating the best burgers we’ve had on our trip and playing poker with our hostel roommates.

From Ilha Grande, we took a bus to Sao Paulo where we stayed for one night to catch our flight the following morning. We both LOVED Brazil and most definitely will be back again.

South America Recap:

After an incredible 99 days traveling through South America, we are headed to Africa!  Before we do, we wanted to do a quick recap of the past 3+ months and highlight a few trip stats as well as our favorite highs/lows.

  • Days traveled: 99
  • Countries visited: 8 (Ecuador/Galapagos Islands, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Brazil)
  • # of Different beds slept in: 44
  • Flights within South America: 3 (Galapagos, to the jungle in Rurrenabaque, Bolivia to Chile)
  • # of Buses: too many to count

Favorite Country: Bolivia! There are so many incredible things to do and see, we could have spent months in Bolivia alone. They have it all – mountains, jungles, beautiful lakes, big cities and quaint remote towns. It was cheap, we ate incredibly well and stayed in some wonderful places.

Favorite City: Rio de Janeiro barely beats out Buenos Aires for our favorite city in South America. The gorgeous beaches, weather and lively culture pulled Rio to the top of our list.

Favorite Activity:  Our trip to the Galapagos Islands, the Uyuni salt flats in Bolivia and hiking Machu Picchu all tie for our favorite activity. The Galapagos offers an up close and personal experience with wildlife while Uyuni transported us to a place that was so surreal we no longer thought we were on Earth. Machu Picchu was incredible because we’ve always wanted to hike the Inca Trail and it definitely lived up to our expectations. They were all unique and amazing in their own ways and the things we saw at each place were completely unreal! Honorable mentions go to the Potosi mine tour, the River Plate football match in Argentina, and our trip to the jungle in Madidi National Park, Bolivia.

Best Meal: Hands down, the best meal we had was at La Cabrera in Buenos Aires. The steak and chorizo was so good we ended up coming back again two days later for more. Plus, with 40% off all food and wine, it was a steal. Argentinian steaks definitely live up to the hype!

Best Snack: In Mancora, Peru, a woman wearing a big sun hat and pink skirt would walk up and down the beach selling homemade empanadas. The first day we bought one, the next day three and the last day we bought five. We’d impatiently eye her from across the beach with a soda in hand just waiting for her to come our way. The empanadas were hot, doughy, brushed with garlic and butter and packed with mozzarella, basil and tomato. So good.

Worst Food:  After hiking in Peru’s Colca Canyon for three days, we went to splurge for our first pizza in South America. We sat in a lovely restaurant overlooking the town square and were served the most disgusting pizza we’ve ever eaten. We didn’t know it was possible for pizza to be so bad. The dough wasn’t completely cooked, all of the toppings came from a can and the cheese and tomato sauce was foul. It was such a disappointment and the most expensive meal we’d purchased at the time!

Best Accommodation:  The hostel we wanted to book in Banos, Ecuador was full and they recommended that we stay at D’Mathias, a brand new hostel close by. For $6, we had a brand new private room and bathroom, TV, great in-room WiFi, balcony views, free tea and coffee all day and daily room service. We extended our stay from three nights to six nights because it was such a good deal.

Worst Accommodation:  We spent one night in Guayaquil, Ecuador, before heading to the Galapagos Islands. We found a hostel close to the airport and as soon as I saw our room, I wanted to bolt. You had to climb a narrow and dilapidated fire escape to get to our room which had eight beds and my bed had a cockroach crawling out of it. There weren’t any lockers for our belongings and the door to the room didn’t lock. The bathroom didn’t have a sink and the entire hostel didn’t have soap…of any kind. It was horrible.

Sketchiest Moment:   A popular South American scam occurs when an offender throws fecal matter or something foul on you and/or your bags. Another culprit, who appears to be nice and helpful, offers to clean off your bags. While you are distracted by cleaning yourself off, they rob you of your bags and belongings. Well lucky us…when we were walking to the bus station (which are always located in shady areas) to leave Buenos Aires with all of our baggage, a nice looking woman tells me I have paint all over the back of my pack and jeans. It took a moment to realize that we both had white goo all over our clothes and bags. Another man starts pointing and laughing at us while other people start coming over with napkins to help us clean the mess off. I looked at Chris and said, “these people are about to steal all of our stuff – just keep walking.” We walk straight through the crowd and into the bus terminal while ignoring the commotion.  Once safely inside, we cleaned ourselves off and successfully made it on to our bus without any problems. We were mad that these people did this to us, relieved we had escaped with all of our stuff, grateful that we knew what was happening before something bad happened and thankful the “paint” turned out to be a good smelling shaving cream and not something worse!

Wow – what an amazing start to our trip. We can’t believe how quickly these first 3+ months have gone! We have had such an amazing time immersing ourselves in the South American culture. Thanks for all of your love and support over the past few months, it means the world to us that we have such amazing friends and family to come back to at the end of this journey. We are still happy to be traveling and look forward to the next chapter!

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One Week Chillin’ in Chile

After three amazing weeks in Bolivia, it was time to head south to Chile. Due to unforeseen events, we ended up flying from Calama, in northern Chile, to Santiago. We sped up our itinerary to make it to Santiago so we could meet our first travel buddy, Kenny Roa, who will backpack with us for the next two weeks! I met Kenny while working at Edelman Chicago and have kept in touch throughout the years. Chris and Kenny share a love for football, Dave Chapelle and making fun of my no bueno espanol. It’s been so nice having another person along for the ride!Once in Santiago, we checked in to our hostel, H Rado, which resembles more of a boutique hotel than a hostel (think Hard Rock Hotel’s little brother). Our room was incredibly spacious, clean and tastefully decorated. In fact, the entire hostel is adorned in contemporary paintings and artwork – it is so awesome!One of the best parts of the hostel is the huge rooftop deck with comfy couches, umbrellas, loungers and a grill! We met some great people at the hostel and decided to have barbeque one night to take advantage of the rooftop deck. Chris grilled up some chorizo, steak and hamburgers while we downed some local beer and wine. It felt like we were at home grilling with friends again – what a great night!If you are looking for a cozy and clean place to call home in Santiago for a few days, H Rado is amazing. Perfectly located, fully equipped kitchen, wonderful rooms and atmosphere, H Rado might very well be the nicest hostel we’ve ever stayed in. It’s not surprising that H Rado is the highest rated Santiago hostel on HostelWorld. The owner, Pablo, and his staff will do anything to make you feel welcome.

Conveniently located a few blocks from H Rado is a bike shop, Bicicleta Verde, where we rented bikes to explore Santiago. Chile has a large population of street dogs and during our bicycle adventure, we adopted a black boxer mix who ran the entire way (roughly 10-15 miles) with us.When we returned to the bike shop, we met the owner Mac who invited us  to celebrate Fiestas Patrias with him and his friends. Everyone we met was so incredibly nice and renting bikes was a great way to multiple parks and neighborhoods within just a few hours.From Santiago, we were westbound for the Chilean coast of Valparaiso. Valpo quickly reminded us of San Francisco. The city is set within a bay where you can find a colony of sea lions and the houses are set on the steep hillsides.Our first meal was a plethora of incredibly cheap but fresh seafood.Valpo is a colorful labyrinth of elevators, staircase and hilltop houses covered in street art. We’d heard mixed reviews about Valpo. Many backpackers from Santiago come to visit just for the day, but we loved the unique, laid-back, bohemian vibe. We were there for two nights and could have stayed much longer.

Our time in Chile was short and sweet. From here, we are making our way east to our next country – Argentina!

Disclosure: We received complimentary accommodations at H Rado and a discount on our bicycle rental from Bicicleta Verde in exchange for our review. However, these opinions and thoughts are completely our own.