In my mid-twenties I travelled for six months in Central and South America, variously catching buses, trains, trekking, sometimes hitch-hiking and catching a few flights when needed.
Each country in South America has its differences but certainly my two favourite countries to visit were Peru for its amazing landscapes and Machu Picchu and Brazil for its style and vibrancy and particularly ‘Carnivale’ in Rio. (See Brazil on this website)
Just as the USA has the Rocky Mountains running as a spine down the west side of the country, here in South America there is the Andes, a 9000 kilometre long mountain range that runs from the Caribbean in the north all the way south to the tip of Argentina. In Spanish it is officially called the Cordillera de los Andes and it separates a strip of land that is mostly desert on the western, Pacific Ocean side from the ‘Altiplano’- high altitude plateaus to the East.
In some places the Andes are up to 80 kilometres across with high mountain passes and a number of high peak mountains, some snow capped at various points along its length.
Along the Pacific Ocean coastline there is the Pan-American Highway – a series of highways that loosely connect Prudhoe Bay in Alaska to the tip of Tierra del Fuego in Argentina, though the Highway goes under many localised names along its course and then there is break between Panama and Colombia, called the Darien Gap.
Here in Peru the Highway runs along the entire coastline of the country, mostly travelling through the deserts.
I hitch-hiked from Ecuador in the north through the desert in the north, the most memorable part of this journey being sitting on the back of an open semi-trailer truck with my backpack and two goats with their legs tied together to keep them from jumping or falling off.
I got sun-burned in the process, but sitting there and watching the ribbon strip of roadway behind us and the desert on each side was an amazing journey.
Wherever you are reading this – look around you and you will see the world is full of colours, but there in the desert sitting on the back of the truck there was only the blue cloudless colour of the sky, the colour of the road and then the colour of the sand. By stripping away the colours, what I then saw was the shapes in the sand and dunes and the interplay of light as it changed from the morning sun to midday and the afternoon. From a design view, I learned from this journey, the power of shape, light and shade, and even today when I take a photo or design something I also look at ‘shape’ in determining what will look best.
Deserts are incredibly harsh environments to live in and at one point the truck stopped briefly at a small pueblo. Here looking down there was a small field with some goats and not a blade of grass. The fence around the field was made up of thorn bushes, while nearby was a cactus, where a small girl could be seen gently rocking a baby in a hammock. For me, this whole scene with the thornbush fence and the girl and baby under the cactus was a truly humbling experience. They lived and survived here, whereas a Gringo like me, only looking on, knew that it is doubtful that I could last living here in a pueblo in the desert for more few short days.
Peru is a land of great contrast, from the deserts to the high plains, the mountains to the jungles and it also has tremendous history and ancient ruins including pyramids too, so there is a lot to see and do here, the highlights to me being seeing Machu Picchu and also Lake Titicaca.
Here on these pages, I have set down some information that I hope will help you learn more about the country and enjoy an even better travel experience when you are here.