Dan and I are currently putting together a video of our trip however, it is taking much longer than expected with how busy we have been. And although I wrote a post regarding continuing to paint my spirit gold after coming back, I still feel as though I need to provide some kind of recap of what we did. For myself, so that I can accept the finality of it being over and remembering how amazing and life changing it was. And for the trip, because, I owe it that much.
I considered making a list of the Top 5 experiences of our entire 8 months abroad but it felt too difficult and it’s my blog so I make the rules! Therefore, I decided to do a list of my top 5 favorite experiences in South America and in Europe, separately. Since we’ve returned, many people have understandably asked us what our favorite parts, countries, or memories were. To me, it is so challenging to answer because there are too many. However, I felt better lumping South America and Europe into separate categories because honestly, they almost felt like two different trips. South America was the adventure that pushed me out of my comfort zone and past the limits I had previously set for myself. And Europe was the amazing historical and foodie vacation I craved after 6 months of exploration in South America.
It helped to separate the two continents but it was still difficult to only pick 5 experiences from 6 months in South America! We did and saw so many amazing things from living in Medellin to seeing penguins in Chile to spending 10 days in the Ecuadorian Amazon. However, there are five things that stick out above the rest based on how I felt, what was achieved, who was there, and how incredible in general it was.
In order of when they occurred, here are my South America Cinco:
VALLE DE CORCORA. Location: Near Salento, Colombia
Valle de Corcora was to me what Mount Fitz Roy was to Dan. It was that place, that dream that I would stare at on Instagram and scroll through other traveler’s blogs reading about their experiences visiting the tallest wax palms in the entire world. I never imagined that seeing it in person would rival all of the pictures I saw online and exceed all of my expectations.
In order to arrive in this valley, it requires a 3-4 hour hike through some difficult terrain. In addition to this, Dan and I were unsure the entire time if we were going the right away. Then all of a sudden, the path opens up into this incredible valley. Upon seeing these trees, I ran straight to the first one I could and sat there hugging it.
As we sat in the valley, eating our disgusting cat like tuna and Colombian arepas, I couldn’t stop thinking about how it was all setting in. We were doing it! Achieving our goals and seeing these places in real life.
MOUNT FITZ ROY. Location: El Chalten, Argentina
As I mentioned above, Fitz Roy was Dan’s pipe dream. Patagonia was his focus. He would stare at pictures of this incredible mountain day after day, dreaming of being in it’s presence and not clacking away under florescent lighting.
For me, I never looked at any pictures of Fitz Roy and simply trusted Dan. We waited a short day or two in El Chalten to get the perfect weather to complete the hike up. It was slightly crowded on the path because the weather had been awful for a few days and everyone was waiting for that perfect moment.
The final ascent up to Fitz Roy is tough. We were hiking up rocks, a stream pouring down, and with many other inexperienced people and Dan basically decided to start running. His adrenaline pumping, he took off way ahead of me while I was struggling to get up falling rock. Feeling annoyed and wanting the hike to be over as I reached the top, my mouth dropped open to this view below and obviously forgot all about my irritation.
Besides the fact that we accomplished Dan’s main goal for the trip and I was elated to see how proud and happy he felt, I couldn’t help but have the same feelings myself. This picture is not edited in the slightest. This is the purest form of Mount Fitz Roy.
SANTA CRUZ WINE COUNTRY. Location: Santa Cruz, Chile
After travelling for about 4 months just the two of us, we were ecstatic when our great friends Nina and Zach said they were going to join us for a week in Chile. At the end of their week, we choose to spend two days in Santa Cruz which is very well known for its wineries. I had never heard of this part of Chile before but was so excited to check it out and have friends to explore with.
If you read my post on this experience, we had NO idea how non-touristic this place was which meant no good way to get around to all of the vineyards we wanted to visit. However, we all came together, found a driver, and had such an amazing day together visiting 3 wineries.
We had perfect weather, some of the best wine I’ve ever tasted, delicious food, and most of all, excellent company. Seriously, what could be better than that?
QUILOTOA LOOP. Location: Isinlivi, Chugchilan, and Quilotoa, Ecuador.
I loved hiking the Quilotoa Loop for so many reasons. Not to mention the beautiful landscapes and interesting people (local and fellow tourists) that we met along the way, Dan and I really had to come together as a team to complete this.
As I mentioned in my post, the Loop takes about 3 days to complete depending on how fast you go and if you decide to stay over night in any of the towns along the way. The instructions you receive on how to get to the end goal, the Quilotoa Volcano, are hilarious. There was no directions listed (north, south, east or west) or even town names. It was basically, turn right at the eucalyptus bush or walk 20 steps to a big rock. Therefore, we really had to work together to figure out where to go and calm each other’s nerves when we thought we were going the wrong way (some people get lost for hours!)
The reward of the crazy instructions and difficult two day hike was completely worth it.
THE GALAPAGOS. Location: Ecuador.
The Galapagos was so memorable for so many reasons. I don’t even think I can do it justice by trying and explaining it again. I was with my husband and best friends, on an amazing ship, seeing and doing incredible things every day, interacting with animals, and so much more. It was also one of the last things we did in South America so it really sticks out in my mind as the best way to leave there.
Our friends Meg and Al made a video of the whole experience which I believe sums it up better than I can: https://vimeo.com/164458601
Top 5 Europe experiences to be continued…