The Joys of Backpacking South America | Teen Ink

The Joys of Backpacking South America

November 14, 2008
By Anonymous

Backpacking through South America can be wrought with wonderfully horrific stories from other travelers and even one’s own experience, but somehow provide amazing experiences that will last a lifetime and are unforgettable. I have been backpacking South America solo for the past three months, starting in Argentina, then Uruguay, Chile and finally Peru. At the ripe, tender age of 18 anything can happen that one could have ever prepared for. I plan to make it to Ecuador, where one can buy a monkey in the animal markets, and then Colombia. Who ever said it was glamorous has obviously never backpacked on a budget. So far it has been the most terrible, wonderful experience of my life, but I think that is what makes traveling so fun and addicting. There is nothing like taking a 72 hour bus from Argentina to Chile with no money and no food, only credit cards, and having a rumbling belly through three countries while witnessing the most beautiful scenery ever because the buses only stop in the middle of the Atacama desert at some remote restaurant where they have never even heard of an ATM. Or being so sick from food poisoning, but how many people can say they have tried fried guinea pig in Cusco?
So I find myself now in Cusco, Peru, waiting for the dreaded altitude sickness to go away so I can conquer Maccu Picchu. I have been here three days, but still every time I climb that hill to the hostel, I feel as if I am 50 years old and I am gasping like a fish for air while the Peruvian school girls dash up the hill like it is nothing. But the conversations with the many other travelers here waiting like me to acclimatize are something I would not have been able to experience back home in California, so it makes the wait more than worth it. There is nothing like staying up in the wee hours of the morning discussing politics and the government of the United States with three people all from different countries over a game of cards, or contemplating the complexities of life over café con leche (coffee with milk) with Germans who speak more Spanish than English.
After Cusco, it is off on another terrifying bus through the curvy mountains to hopefully get inspired in the same town Ernest Hemingway was inspired for his book, and maybe try to surf the biggest left break in the world (or at least a town over.) Of course this will entail sleeping at the bus terminal to save money on a hostel because my bus will leave at 4 a.m. and gripping my backpack for dear life because your backpack can be gone before you even know what has happened. But, hey, if this was all easy, it would not be as exciting or fun. This trip has provided me with more life experience that I could have ever gained in the States, and I recommend it to anyone that has a chance to experience it. It allows people to become more open minded and to grow from constantly being outside of one’s comfort zone. Have you ever tangoed the night away in Buenos Aires, or been hit on by a guy that only knows how to say ‘Hello’ in English? What about seeing the largest canyon in the world that is twice the size of the Grand Canyon in Arizona? Well you will here, and these things and many more are what make it so interesting.

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