4th November 2014
There are many things I will remember from this trip to South America: the power and beauty of Iguaçu Falls, the sunset over the Atacama Desert, a night panting for breath in what must surely be, at 4600m, the world's highest hotel, crawling down a silver mine and the magic of Isla del Son on Lake Titicaca to name but a few. I’ve been lucky enough to stay in some great accommodation and eat some wonderful food. I have also had the great pleasure of meeting many interesting people who live among this varied land.
But I think the thing I have enjoyed most about travelling around South America is the multi-dimensional layers of time of which you are constantly being reminded.
Whilst stargazing in the Atacama Desert, I was reminded I was looking at light that had left the star when dinosaurs were on the earth and that some of the stars I was looking at didn’t even exist anymore. When driving across the altiplano, we passed the exact point at which the region's tectonic plates collided 95 million years ago, which in turn, gave rise to the Andes. In Sucre, I witnessed dinosaur footprints dating back 65 million years, and in Uyuni, the salt flats, which were formed 25,000 years ago.
And then there is the human side of things that dates back past the Spanish and the Incas to the Tiwanaku Empire; a socially and scientifically advanced kingdom that stretched from Argentina to Peru – with its headquarters just outside modern day La Paz – that lasted over 1500 years. Indeed, even beyond that, to the mummified bodies we saw in the cave above the salt flats; members of the Uruquillas tribe that legend says made their way overland from Mongolia 2500 years ago.
It all just has you thinking way beyond normal history and into the life of the planet itself.
From this trip that has lasted nearly four weeks and seen me visit – albeit briefly in the case of Brazil – five countries, I will take back to the office some useful information about routes, hotels, restaurants, timings of journeys and the best time to visit certain sites – all of which is key to our recces. But personally my overriding memory of this latest adventure will be having a much greater sense of history; the history of the planet, of this particular continent and the people that have lived here and helped shape its evolution.
Back in the office on Monday!