Alaska to Argentina

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Alaska to Argentina

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This is just a quick summary of my 3 years travelling from Alaska to South America, for a more detailed account there are links to my blog and my ebook at the bottom of this page.

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This trip was supposed to be a 16 month break from the “Real World” before I settled into the Matrix but I got the travel bug and it ended up being much longer aswell as the start of my transition from tourist to traveller. Me and my friend from Uni decided to travel together and since I had always been intrigued by South America and him by Alaska, we just joined the dots, got some guide books and planned a trip.

1.1 North America Bigge

The route I took through North America

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The view from the plane over alaska was mesmerizing

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We started with 4 weeks in Alaska, a time in which I did quite a lot of adapting to life on the road but had some 1st class experiences such as

  • Flying over Alaska seeing aerial views of glaciers, mountains and lakes
  • Hiking around Denali National Park drinking purified river water and eating posh dog food
  • Interacting with bears while climbing up alongside the Exit glacier to see the Harding Ice Field, an area of 1100 square miles full of Ice and glaciers.

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Hiking along the river in Denali Nat.Park

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the viewpoint over the Harding Ice Field

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We took the Alaska Marine Highway Ferry down the coast to the tiny capital of Juneau, from where we hiked off trail to find a hidden ice cave under the Mendenhall Glacier, before continuing down the coast on the Ferry to the ”Lower 48” – which is how they describe the rest of America up there.

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Going into the ice cave we found

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My uni mate on the ferry

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The glorious scenery from the ferry

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Our little babe-mobile

It was very pleasant sailing past the arctic scenery with an endless supply of mountains and glaciers, then the ferry dropped us in Bellingham, Washington State, where we bought a car for $1100 rather than several thousand to hire one for 3 weeks. It turned out to be a shrewd move as we later sold it for $800 after using it for 5 weeks to cover a distance of 7020 miles.

We got ourselves a National Park Annual Pass so we could tour as many parks as possible in the states of Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona and it turned out to be a cool roadtrip full of some great experiences. Some of those that stand out would be Climbing Mt St Helens (a fascinating place where you can see the aftermath of the eruption in 1980), visiting the 1000 year old Redwood Trees in Northern California, the beautiful National Parks of Utah, as well as some random events such as when a guy saved our necks by fixing our car with a pen and we were kicked out of the Mirage Casino in Vegas.

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Standing next to a huge redwood

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the eruption side of mt st helens

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bryce canyon in utah

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sleeping on my dads floor

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We stayed with my dad in Los Angeles for 3 weeks enjoying the sun, the flat floor after sleeping in the car so much and a few touristy things such as watching the filming of ‘The Weakest Link’. I loved seeing how false TV really is, we were the only members of the crowd not being paid to be there and the host was a right prick.

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From Los Angeles we took 3 flights to arrive in Chihuahua, North Mexico where we began the Latin American part of the trip and where we spent a couple of days trying to get to grips with not understanding the locals when they spoke. I was introduced to travelling in the 3rd world when I took a taxi and had to squeeze in with 8 other people and then my bag got soaked in piss when we had to sit next to the toilet on a night bus.

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Mexico City was a great place to hang out for 5 days – we were there for the dia de la virgin de Guadalupe so witnessed people on a pilgrimage to a church on top of a hill with street parties and plenty of people celebrating. We also visited the amazing pyramids at Teothihuacan, some immense structures that maybe me think the Mayans must have been pretty advanced.

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Teothihuacan

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Chichen itza

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We spent 3 days in Puebla and visited Cholula with its 100’s of churches, there’s even one built on top of a huge uncovered pyramid. We spent Christmas 2002 sun bathing, chilling, sleeping in hammocks and watching brilliant sunsets, then in the new year we saw more sensational Mayan ruins in the jungle at Palenque, Chichen Itza and Tulum.

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Belize City was ok, it was nice to speak English again and our visit to see the skeleton of a young Mayan girl surrounded by pottery a kilometre inside a cave was really cool. Just across the border Tikal in Guatemala was amazing – ruins and pyramid temples in the middle of the rainforest. I remember a brilliant moment sat on top of a temple listening to howler monkeys and the noise of the jungle, watching parrots fly around us. We spent a month in Guatemala floating down a river in big tubes, exploring lago Atilan (a crater lake) on kayaks and we climbed Volcan Tajamulco, sleeping the night before 200m from the 4200m summit with a big fire and plenty of stars to look at.

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My guatemalan flakes at lago de atilan

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me on one of my guiding dives

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the view from a Nicaraguan volcano i climbed

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We crossed into Honduras, spending some time in the nicer of the towns, Antigua and Copan, taking it easy and trying to learn some Spanish. Then I went to the island of Utila, a Carribbean island off the coast where I stayed for 3 months. During this time I dived 121 times, became a professional diver, worked as a dive guide and saw such things as whale sharks and sea horses. From Utila I continued travelling on my own, spending a month in Nicaragua and 3 weeks in Costa Rica, diving and partying mainly before I flew down to Peru via the U.K – I flew back for 2½ weeks to see family, the ticket was a gift from my mum.

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My route around South America twisted and turned all over the place, dictated by visa lengths and funny shaped countries, causing me to go to some countries many times. I spent 4 months in Peru, 3 in Bolivia, 6 in Argentina and 5 in Brazil, then 3 weeks in Uruguay, 2 in Paraguay, 6 in Ecuador and 6 weeks in Colombia. I went from Peru to Ecuador back to Peru again to Brazil to Bolivia, back to Brazil then Argentina before the UK (to do the cycle), then back to Argentina, to Bolivia, back to Argentina to Uruguay to Brazil to Paraguay to Bolivia to Peru to Chile to Argentina to Brazil, back to Argentina to fly back to the U.K. It’s better on a map but you get the idea, a twisty, turny route.

1.2 South America

My route around south america

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Machu pichu

Once in Peru I took a bus straight to Cusco in order to join all the other tourists hiking the Inca Trail, a fantastic experience particularly the last day when you hike to Machu Pichu in the early hours of the morning. The Floating Islands on Lake Titicaca where fascinating, seeing how people create islands to float around on and from Arequipa I went on a 4 day, 3 night trek to an oasis down in the Colca Canyon with massive condors circling overhead. I then took a night bus to Nazca and flew over the mysterious Nazca Lines, which is where my fascination with more escoteric explanations of ancient sites around the world began.

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the view as i descended down to the ruins

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the floating islands on lake Titicaca

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At this time in the trip I felt like getting away from the places accustomed to tourists so I travelled into the mountains to meet people happy to meet me, rather than those just wanting my money. I spent 3 weeks in Huancayo getting to know the community and at the same time practising some Spanish, the locals were very friendly and intrigued by me so I met lots of people. One woman stopped me in the street and asked me to leave a message for her (in English) on the answer phone of some of her relatives living in the U.S. I left the message then she insisted on having me over for lunch to say thank you. I really liked my time in Huancayo, there was a real community spirit and lots of cute touches, like when couples were walking along the path the males would always walk next to the road to protect the females (sexist to some but a nice touch to me). I went for dinner at a judge’s house, visited schools, I visited the prison, went to a UFO conference, visited local manufacturers and I sleighed down a nearby glacier. I went to an art gallery and met the artist’s wife who found out I studied genetics and asked if she could interview me on her radio programme, which I found out, about 15 minutes before I went on, was live and an hour long, needless to say I made a fool of myself.

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Me sliding down the glacier

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a photo with the family who insisted on having me over for lunch

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on the trail in the andes

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The ruins at chan chan

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Back on the Gringo trail I went to Huaraz, a little town set in a beautiful valley wedged between the Cordillera Blanca (permanent snowcapped peaks) and the Cordillera Negra (non-permanent snowcapped peaks) and from here I hired a guide and a donkey to spend 3 days Trekking deep in the Andes Mountains in the Huayhuash National Park. I stopped at a few more ruins on my way to Ecuador, those at Chan Chan were pretty impressive but I was having health issues so my morale was a little low and I didn’t do that many exciting things during my 6 weeks in Ecuador. Banos was a little town where it rained ash due to its close proximity to an active volcano, where I spent some time cycling through the Jungle, did some White Water Rafting and also went to Riobamba to Ride the Roof of the Famous Devil’s Nose train.

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i witnessed some students getting tear gased in ecuador

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riding on the devils nose train

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all the hammocks on the boat leaving iquitos

After a quick visit to the States for Christmas I flew back to Lima then pretty much went straight to Iquitos in the jungle to start 2004 with a trip down the amazon river. I spent a couple of weeks cruising downstream sat in my hammock stopping in Manaus, where I paid $0.87 for a Night in a Hotel/Brothal before taking my third boat down the river Madeira towards Bolivia. I enjoyed this part of the journey the most as the river was thinner and you get a much closer look at the jungle, although I contracted Jungle Fever and spent a few days in bed.

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My first time in Bolivia started with an eventful 41hr Bus Ride, with a few hours trying to get through massive mud puddles on the dirt-road and a 12 hour extension when the bus broke down and we were all made to sit on planks of wood on the back of pick-up trucks. I visited the Jesuit missionary towns in the Northeast of Bolivia, then crossed into Brazil to visit the fantastically scenic swamp, The Pantanal.

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The bus that broke down

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a spider that entered our camp

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the sun setting in the swamp

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one of the many street parties

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Hang-gliding over Rio

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I rented an apartment for 2 ½ Weeks in Rio de Janeiro and was joined by two friends from back home. It’s a fantastic city with a great night life, beautiful beaches and plenty to see, especially during carnival time, and hang-gliding over the city was an exceptional experience everyone should try. After the boys left I stayed in Rio for a few more days so that I could join hundreds of thousands of other people on the beach to watch Fat Boy Slim DJ. I spent a week on the pretty island of Ilha Grande before staying with a friend in Sao Paulo.

From Sao Paulo I went to the Beautiful Iguazu Falls, where the Iguazu river forms the border between Brazil and Argentina and plunges over the edge of the Parana Plateau creating a series of 275 different waterfalls. I visited the lower section on the Brazilian side for a close up of the huge Devils Throat where the river twists and creates a massive gushing fall with loads of mist.
I crossed into Argentina and went straight to Buenos Aires to fly home and see loved ones, as well as spending a month cycling from John O’Groats to Landsend, one side of the U.K to the other.

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the iguazu falls

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they were always Protesting in buenos aires

On the 20th July 2004 I flew back to Buenos Aires and spent 5 of the next 6 months in Argentina developing my Spanish and being a socialite. I went out all the time, enjoying the lovely yet cheap wine, cheap beers, fine yet cheap steaks and I met some excellent people. Most nights I would go out at 10pm and on a bad night I’d get home at 8am and on a good one more like 2pm the next afternoon. The night life was brilliant, particularly in Buenos Aires but also Cordoba where I spent 2 ½ months going out and making friends with some of the 100,000 students attending university in the city.

My favourite day in Buenos Aires entailed going to the South America Cup Final between Boca Juniors and Bolivar then after the match getting in free to the VIP section of an exclusive club and dancing until 8am. Boca won the game, the fans were crazy, jumping up and down even though crammed in like sardines, I had to stand on one leg for about half an hour. Maradona came on at half-time and said hello to the crowd, I got a little burnt as people in the crowd kept letting off flares and holding them above everyone’s heads. The fans were so passionate, two hours before kickoff we were 4 blocks away from the stadium queuing to get in and the line was chanting and jumping up and down as if everyone had pogo sticks.

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During the 6 months I had to leave the country as my visa was running out so I decided to visit the South of Bolivia, the highlight of which was Potosi, a mining town where you can tour some of the Mines and meet 13 year old boys working 10 hour days for less than $2, we also bought some T.N.T from a local market and blew up some rocks.

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salt flats in Argentina on a roadtrip i went on

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me holding the t.n.t

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kids at work

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the beautiful array of waterfalls

After another 3 months socialising in Argentina I crossed the Rio de la Plata to Uruguay, where I spent 3 weeks mixing with the fabulously friendly people. I jumped around the coastline spending 8 days in the beautiful Cabo Polonio, a peninsula where you stay in wooden huts, before I crossed into Brazil. I didn’t stay long in Brazil, enough time to drink more alcohol in the Florianopolis area and spend some time in hospital due to a bad hypo, then I went to see the Iguazu waterfalls for a second time, only this time for a different angle than the year before.

I carried on into Paraguay but only spent 8 days as there didn’t seem like there was much to see and there wasn’t much in the line of tourist facilities. I visited some old missionaries, spent 4 days in the Capital, where I walked around, had some corn flakes and spent one of the most boring days of my life: Sunday in Asuncion, painful. I spent a few days in Filadelfia, a place in the middle of nowhere with signs in German and Spanish due to a high population of Mennonites but soon crossed back into Bolivia to visit the region where Che Guevara tried to start a South American revolution. Sadly his timing was bad and he didn’t know what he was up against but certainly a hero of mine for his spirit and his heart.

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a sign in filadelfia

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the town where che was killed

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a homage to che

M3361S-3034

the worlds most dangerous road

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on the worlds most dangerous road

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A friend flew in to meet me in La Paz for a 2 week holiday, his adventure started when we both cycled along the Most Dangerous Road in the world. We visited the ancient ruins of Tiwanaku, with its precise stone cutting and funny alien-looking skulls, then we started a brilliant tour of the Salt Flats of Uyuni.

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travelling around the salt flats

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a beautiful lake coloured by minerals

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a red lake near uyuni

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After that I continued on solo, passing through Peru to reach Chile and spend time in San Pedro de Atacama, a desert area with scenery similar to Salar de Uyuni, only different colours and shapes; simply amazingly amazing scenery.

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some geysers in san atacama

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the indigenous village

I crossed back into Argentina to fly to Colombia, where after some time in Bogata I flew north to Santa Marta and arranged to go on a 6 day jungle trek to la Ciudad Perdida, the ruins of the lost city. This was an amazing trip in which I visited a cocaine factory (where we were given a demonstration on how to make cocaine), an indigenous village and of course the hidden city in the jungle.

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the cocaine farmer giving us a demo

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la ciudad perdida ruins

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After that I spent 4 days camping in Tayrona National Park before moving on to the pretty colonial town of Cartagena, from where I visited a really cool Mud Volcano that you can bathe in. I spent 9 days in Cali and 4 in Popayan and used this time to meet people and practice my Spanish and like the last time I did that in Huancayo I again ended up in a random situation when I Modelled in a Fashion Show live on TV.

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posing with the designer at the fashion show

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Tayrona National Park

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me in the volcano looking like a malteser

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one of the last places i visited in brazil

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After Colombia I flew back to Buenos Aires, visited a friend in Brazil and then flew home to the U.K for about a month before moving to New York.


For More Details
My Travel Blog Link

For A country by country look at this trip with bigger photos

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My Book Link

diary extracts from this trip and all the other trips I went on in my 1st 10 years

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