Ecuador · Peru · Photography · South America · Travel · Writing

Surviving South America.

Rather than trying to recapture all the details of my trip through South America (as I have been unsuccessfully attempting since I returned), I’ve decided to share my top memorable moments and favourite shots while backpacking through Peru and Ecuador this past September. Spending half my trip with my partner in crime and half of it backpacking solo for the first time was an experience of a lifetime.

Although  I haven’t conquered it all even after traveling without a map, technology, a Spanish dictionary or a plan really, and I don’t have answers to the problems I attempted to flee from, surviving life drastically different and substantially more dangerous than my own gives me courage to confidently face my life, rather than run from it.

My biggest lesson from this travel; always challenge yourself in ways that terrify you, because that is when you allow travel to truly transform and evolve you to a better version of yourself.

Break out of your routine. Test your limits, LIVE. Who knows…. you may just survive.

Enjoy Amigos!

xx

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Top Memorable Moments traveling through South America

1. Staying at a hostel in Cuzco with no heating, no warm water, no other guests and TV from the 1970’s that has 4 channels – local Peruvian language only.

2. Ordering a 3 course meal for 4 soles –> $3 Canadian.

3. Getting pick-pocketed in Peru. Man only steals map back to hostel, can’t find way home.

4. Homeless people rejecting food offerings. Woman says ‘gross’ when we hand her a cooked banana.

5. Renting a bike to explore Banos solo – provided with tools to fix the bike in case it breaks during my trek. No instructions on how to use these tools, only a phone number if I have trouble. I get lost and end up on a steep path with jagged rocks, thinking I will die the whole time. There are no pay phones and I have no cell phone.

6. Head to cafe Ali Cumbos in Banos for the afternoon. Get to the cafe and its closed. Columbian stranger Damien sees me standing outside and begins to tell me its the best place in town. He then claims its ‘destiny’ we’re here at the same time and asks me to go for a cup of chocolate. We talk over drinks and discover we both like writing, he says ‘it must be destiny’ and begins calling me ‘Princessa’.

7. Spanish speaking police harass me for my passport on my 8 hr bus ride back to Guyaquil. I lie in broken spanish “lo siento, pero no lo tengo. Mi passaporte con mi pedro a l’aeropuerto. Yo voy Montanita ahora”

8. Trek up a volcano in Banos with my Dutch and American roommates. Climb for hours in the splintering heat, no pathway, no other travelers, no food or water along the way. We make it to the top – a deserted restaurant with one broken wooden table on the rooftop. We pay some locals to drive us back down. Go back to the hostel, starving, too tired to find vegetarian food in meat city. While I get ready my amigos go on a hunt and bring me some delicious vegetarian food.

9. Walk all around the Columbia airport in a confused daze searching for my gate to catch my connecting flight back to Toronto. Ask plenty of people where to go, everyone directs me to somewhere different. Green eyed  European stranger who speaks english sees me and escorts me all around the entire airport until I find my luggage, and gate, ensuring I don’t miss my flight home.

10. I make it back home in one piece. My spirit is strengthened, and I feel closer to the fearless woman I hope to be. Those strangers I met along my journey go with me wherever I go, sweetly reminding me of how enormous the heart of the world can be when you give it a chance.

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Kite Flying with the locals on Tequile Island
Camping out at Juliana's house for the night in Cuchibamba
Busy morning at the Sunday vegetable market.
Amigas relaxing over brunch.
Calling in the ninos for Cenar.
Wandering the streets of Cusco.
Grocery shopping with the ninos for the week.
Taking a break after a long day's work on the field.
First lama sighting at Macchu Picchu.
Local Kechwan waiter on Tequile Island.
Biking around Banos.
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201 thoughts on “Surviving South America.

  1. What a wonderful story!

    Bravo to you for your bravery and sense of adventure. We could all take a lesson from this.

    Thank you for sharing (your pictures are lovely as well)!

  2. You’re pictures are great! You seem well on your way to becoming a better photographer, I look forward to seeing where your journey takes you through the rest of the year!

  3. Wow. The pictures are beautiful!! I agree with #1. I went to Lima, Peru last summer (winter there) and I was told it is hard to find heated hotels. It was shivering day and night. 🙂

  4. I bet that was such a wonderful journey! and I know exactly what you mean about being a vegetarian in a meat city..
    🙂

  5. I love latinoamerica! I spent a few years between Venezuela and Chilé. The people (for the most part) are so warm and inviting. But, I know what you mean about some homeless turning their noses up at food being offered them.

    Once while at a bus terminal in Puerto Ordaz I was eating a bag of mandarinas when I was approached by someone who asked for money for food.

    I really didn’t have anything on me so I offered to give them the rest of the unpeeled mandarins I had been eating. “What would I do with those?” was the response.

    1. Amman – it is definitely quite ironic – but to each their own! The best we can do is offer 🙂 Thanks for tuning in!

  6. I spent a month in Peru as a teenager and it really changed my life. I am so in love with the culture there. I long to go back some day, although I doubt my husband would be ok with that 🙂

  7. this is amazinggggg!! that sounds like quite the journey and i’m glad you found your way home 🙂 awesome pictures!!

  8. It is excellent to read about your experiences in travelling. I really like the last image, Biking around Banos, with the bike and the mountain in the background, beautiful scenery.

  9. Nice photos! I spent several summers in Cuenca, Ecuador. Amazing place! I can still feel the cobblestone roads beneath my feet and the chill of the summer in the lightweight Florida jacket I was wearing. Remember your sunscreen when at the beach – the sun is strong at the equator.

  10. Wow! Superb pictures and quaint narrative. Also, us locals really dislike being called “locals”, similar to gringos not liking being called “gringo” even though some of them are the walking stereotype of gringo… and, believe it or not, once you hit the internet, we’re all locals, even if you hail from Toronto and I from La Paz.

  11. Ahh you’re making me really excited for my trip to Peru in April! We only have 11 days and we’re doing the hike up to Machu Picchu and staying in Cuzco/Lima the rest of the time. You’ve inspired me- I’m going to challenge and terrify myself! I completely agree- it’s the best way to grow as a person 🙂

    ps- your pictures are amazing!

  12. This is such a beautiful post and even more beautiful pictures. So glad I found it through freshly pressed. It reminds me of my trip to Peru many years ago and desperately makes me want to go again. On another note, what type of program did you use for the photos? Thanks! Emina

  13. Great photos and your adventure sounds amazing and transforming! I absolutely agree that taking risks/challenges during traveling really contributes to self-growth from the experience. Solo traveling through South America is definitely one of my dream (after I’m done with Southeast Asia). Thanks for sharing!

  14. These are truly awesome moments that are yours forever, and now vicariously mine. I’m headed down to Mexico, Central, and South America on a 8 month backpacking trip in 2 weeks and can’t wait to see what’s in store and what I’ll learn about myself. Great photographs.

  15. Hello, love your phrase “always challenge yourself in ways that terrify you, because that is when you allow travel to truly transform and evolve you to a better version of yourself” so true!! Gorgeous photographs, perfectly orchestrated!

  16. Brilliance! I traveled Brazil summer 2010 and Belize summer 2011. Trying to pick another Latin America or South America country for this summer! I loved reading your posts- Travel should transform you! It’s an experience, not just a visit.

    Thanks for sharing! I post mostly portrait photography… been trying to do better with travel reviews and photos. Thanks for your blog!

  17. wow, it’s must have been the most scary thing, getting lost..I am afraid of getting lost. I’m glad you made it, you are brave. Now, atleast you can laugh about it, you’re having the time of your life, I said that to myself whenever I feel challenged ^_^

  18. hello, traveller,

    first, i appreciate the kind and thoughtful advice, thanks…

    wow photos, as in wow! wonderful series, especially love the one calling the Cenar. am sure the awesome views and the people more than made up for the lack of modern conveniences. ^^

    have spirit, will travel! thanks again. 🙂

  19. I salute you .. coz u’r so brave 😀 Keep on exploring and thanks for sharing your experience.

  20. Having been there, you capture the essence of Peru beautifully. It is hard to put it all in one chapter. It is poor, and they do not speak English that well outside Lima. However, we must keep in mind, that these countries have a long history and culture, we have to appreciate it and not ” Americanize” the entire World. I believe you agree. A beautiful set of photos!

  21. Amazing memories, I can relate to many of your favourites as we have been travelling from Ecuador to Peru and leaving for Lake Titicaca tomorrow.

    You have a great eye with the camera. Keep up the good work.

  22. Congrats, you not only survived South America, you did it in style. #3 made me lol, isn’t it more likely you just dropped the map? Funny either way! Congrats on the FP’ing – does this mean you’ve been published?? 🙂

  23. Nature in Peru is beautiful but being one of the poorest countries in the world can be painful. If you aren’t prepared to deal with that, then its not the place to go for a vacation. Your photos are beautiful and I’m sure it was a once in a lifetime experience, one I would probably never take.

  24. The Pics are really remarkable. But some things you wrote are not…exactly as they are. In Cusco, NOW is difficult, even impossible to find a room as primitive as you wrote you have taken. All the rooms available are reserved, before two or three weeks of arrival. Even for Backpackers, theres no way to find the conditions you wrote. And Yes, Cusco and its people are poor, thats the great challenge we all have in front now. For Cusco was built not for Peru…its a masterwork made stone by Humanity.

  25. I like your article. regards form Peru my friend. I hope to someday you could come again here and visit a wonderful places like the Forest of Stones in Pasco or if you like the beach go to zorritos or mancora. Great Places. Regards

  26. These are gorgeous photographs, I especially appreciate the llama one. I backpacked Bolivia and Peru with 7 friends in 2010 and this post makes me think of how wonderful a hot shower really is 😀 And it’s pretty awesome that you spent half of your trip alone!

  27. Love the photos. I was in Ecuador and Peru and am now heading back to South America for some more adventures… your pics and anecdotes and memories seem so familiar!

  28. Me gusta esto mucho – this is a great account and invokes vivid memories of trekking around the continent in my twenties – nicely done!

  29. Reblogged this on Jose Franco and commented:
    This post shows pictures of people from Bolivia. I went there only one time and that was way back in 1995. I was only 12 years old and didn’t really want to be there. I was really homesick and didn’t appreciate the unique culture and lifestyle my family came from. But what do you expect? I was 12.

  30. How I wish I could visit this place too! especially Cuzco the capital for the Inca Empire if I’m not mistaken.

  31. It’s so empowering to travel alone, especially in a country where you might encounter such crazy things as your most memorable moments. I’m sure it’s an experience you’ll never forget, and you have absolutely beautiful photographs to make sure you don’t. Thanks for sharing!

  32. Your pictures are remarkable! I like that you chose to display the pictures that focus on indigenous people and common events in life there.

    I’ve also had a similar experience of a complete stranger (also European, in the Netherlands) approach me just before I was about to get on a train. She was a business woman. She asked where I was going and then pointed out that was the wrong train, and waited with me to make sure I got on the right one. Random, invaluable kindness. The world has a huge heart indeed!

    Thanks for sharing your story!

  33. What a lovely post, thanks for sharing. You Canucks really get around.

    Just a small comment about hiking up the side of a volcano without water. Um…don’t do that…DUH. 🙂

    If anyone is reading this post and you are planning to go on a hike, ANY hike, yes, even a day hike, you MUST take water with you. Dehydration is a real problem at higher altitudes, but even at sea level a hike requires water. It’s too easy to find a bottle of water and stick it in your backpack not to carry it.

    I’d love to see more of your beautiful photographs too. I went to Mexico last year, and I posted two pages of photos (one is called Faces of Mexico, the other is called Oaxaca) and is available on my photo site, I hope you will check it out: http://cdeminskiphotos.shutterfly.com

    Happy travels!
    Carol

  34. After traveling to South America, did you notice or take note of the differences in the cultures of South American’s and North Americans concerning patriarchy and pressures on women?

  35. I really like that you have found a way to reflect on what you got from your travels by making a top 10. I just finished traveling around the same areas and when I returned home I tried to make sense of it all, not an easy task. I like how you’ve taken your stand out moments and favorite pictures to do this and grasped that the challenge of the whole thing was what made it stand out to you. I think that most people will find when pushed out of their comfort zones they will surprise themselves with what they can endure and accomplish. Great photos!

  36. You are already that fearless woman you desire to be. On your travels you’ve overcome various circumstances that would leave many running for the nearest airfield and yet you handled them with humor and grace, emerging with valuable insight that you’ve shared with us. Very well done.

  37. great pictures, nice stories. i am going to bogota in 3 weeks -staying 3 month and then traveling south america. lets see how i will face my fears. xo

  38. Great post with a great message! I leave for South America in 3 weeks, and this has got me so excited. Good job!

  39. I moved to Spain in 2011 and realized while meeting people from Sout-America that life there must be totally different and chaotic. Nevertheless I would like to visit it one day but couldn’t imagine living there. Your trip sounds a bit dangerous but everything ended up fine it seems! Every trip to a new place is an adventure and I liked your story. http://madrilicious.com

  40. It was a good experience for you ,going by the leads which you have posted.It revs my enthusiasm as an adventurer to set off also. Wow ! the sceneries are wonderful.

  41. AWESOME POST We traveled southern Peru in November, and went to many of the placed in these photos. I’m a vegetarian too, and love hearing that others like to find the best vegetarian food while traveling. Where did you go in Cuzco for vegetarian?

  42. You know what? This is actually true 🙂 Sometimes, people are just confused about this …But I’m glad that people like you make it easy for them 🙂 Cheers to this !!

  43. Such a great article. It reminded me a lot of when I went to Ecuador when I as 19. I took my puppy with me and lived on a farm. I learned a lot but it was actually really tough at times too, the culture there is very different.

  44. Fantastic post! I loved reading about your Peruvian adventure. I myself am hoping for the chance to go this summer–we’ll see what financials say. But your post is inspiring and sounds like you came home with amazing memories; thanks for sharing them! And your photos are beautiful. My favorite is that of the “Amigas relaxing over brunch.”

  45. great pics and place u’ve visited make a great experience. the one that will stay in memory. it’s very brave of you to do the journey alone 🙂

  46. These pictures are amazing. The colors are loud and vibrant. The people have such defined faces. That little boy has the cutest face and cheeks. It’s all wonderful. Thank you for sharing.

  47. W-O-W!!! Evidently, you had the trip of a lifetime! Thank you for sharing. I’ll definitely be backpacking in a country i knew no one of. Hehe.

    Love the photos, too. They are gorgeous!

  48. ahahaha I love your Spanish answer “you don’t have your passport with your Peter? (Peter is the actual version for Spanish Pedro) also liked how Colombians can approach you haha! Keep the travel pasion!

  49. what an adventure! do you think the man who stole your map was lost? i will be embarking on my own adventure in april. although i will be going with habitat for humanity to el salvador to build homes and i will not be alone, i will be out of my comfort zone. it will be the first time i travel to a place where i won’t know anyone. i’m excited and nervous at the same time.

  50. we really enjoy examining on this website , it contains great articles . One doesn’t discover unique lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a really long time. by Andre Gide.

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