Backpacking through South America - Part 1

Backpacking through South America - Part 1

An understanding boss and a freelance job made the dream of backpacking through south america possible. Now we can be one huge experience richer before adulthood and the responsibilities that come with it really hit.



When you are preparing for a 3.5 months long trip to South America, there is of course a lot of preparation. Still, we were a bit shocked when we walked out of the airport in Lima, Peru at 7:30 in the evening. We panicked about the temperature: "How can 14 degrees feel so cold?!"

Friends, acquaintances and internet blogs had all warned us about the cold in Peru, but surely it couldn't be worse than the autumn weather we have in Denmark?

After a classic - almost obligatory - exchange scam from the first taxi driver you meet in a new country, we arrived at our hostel in Lima's lovely Miraflores district. But as soon as we step into our room, we feel a temperature identical to the one outside... We looked at each other: "Did we pack the right clothes?"


We - Katja and Nikolaj - are 29 years old and both journalists. We've been on several small trips together around Europe, but for many years we've dreamed of a big backpacking trip in South America. A continent neither of us has been to, but one we've heard a lot of great things about - everything from magnificent nature and wildlife to beautiful cities filled with lots of culture and history that is so different from ours here at home.

An understanding boss and a freelance job made that dream possible. Now we can be one huge experience richer before adulthood and the responsibilities that come with it really hit.

Back to the hotel room: it turns out that almost no buildings in Peru are insulated or have heaters installed. So what do you do 10,000 km from home? We wrapped ourselves in all the LOOW clothes we could. Merino wool from head to toe, and poof, we survived the first night in (surprisingly) cold South America and even had to take off some clothes during the night!

THE ADVENTURE SO FAR

Our trip has now lasted 14 days and we have traveled from Lima to Cusco. The theme of the three highlights so far is animals and nature.

First a boat trip from the port city of Paracas out to Islas Ballestas, also known as the "poor man's Galapagos". This relatively small island is home to some amazing wildlife, including sea lions, penguins, pelicans and all sorts of other birds. What a start! Just five days after touchdown in Peru we had such a great experience.



Next, we must mention the desert oasis of Huacachina. Just like in the cartoons and movies, a small lake with palm trees and bushes wedges in between 100-200 meter high sandbanks in the Peruvian desert. A guide explains to us that due to various weather conditions and Peru's location with the Andes mountains as a wall in front of the Amazon jungle, the country is quite dry. Unfortunately there is no explanation of how the oasis came about - but the locals know how to exploit it. Every square meter around the lake is covered with hostels, souvenir shops and restaurants. Hardly charming, so we brave the desert in a sand buggy. The driver drives quite briskly as he transports us from sandbank to sandbank. We then have to "sled" down them, lying on our stomachs and head first on an old snowboard. It was a lot of fun!



After finally experiencing some warmer temperatures (up to 28 degrees in the desert) we hop on a night bus to Arequipa, from where we hopped on a minibus heading up into the Andes. We are going to see condors. The sacred birds of the Incas. On the first day we pass countless hairy-necked eagles, wild alpacas and llamas, and feel the thin air at 4,910 meters during a lookout stop. The day ends with stargazing arranged by a nice Spanish guy who invites us to the planetarium in the small mountain village of Chivay. No light pollution = Milky Way and Saturn in sight!

Here in the Colca Valley in the Andes, where temperatures range from 20 degrees during the day to -2 degrees at night, we finally see the big majestic birds on the second day. Wow, what a sight!

HOW DID WE GET READY?

It's always a big dilemma how much clothes to bring. We've backpacked before, but this time we want to be some of the smart ones from various hostels whose bags' zippers aren't bulging already on week two. A good tip we got: take out everything at home that you want to bring - then cut off at least 1/3. And close the bag when you still have 1/4 space at the top.

We tried that, but as usual, the bags might have been a bit too full. But here's what we took in outline:

  • Hiking pants + regular pants
  • Swimming shorts and general shorts
  • 7 t-shirts (3 merino wool)
  • 7 pairs of underpants and socks (1/4 merino)
  • Two sweaters (one merino)
  • One shell jacket, windproof and waterproof
  • Hiking boots, sandals, one pair of shoes
  • Three shirts/dresses
  • Electronics and toiletries

After 14 days we haven't washed yet, because it turns out (as so many times before) that you wear the same clothes a bit more days than you do at home. So when we take a look in our laundry bags, there's actually not much in them. In fact, we've mainly been using LOOW products, and you can easily do that for several days in a row - regardless of the climate.

So we have to admit that we brought too many clothes and the packing list will be a bit shorter next time.

FOLLOW ALONG

We are already completely full of nature experiences and impressions in just 14 days. But we are ready for much more adventure! We'll write more about that on the site.