During the course of this expedition, there was some gentle ribbing given to Pete and me about our use, or rather overuse, of the word “epic”. But how else to describe a journey that has encompassed so much?
For those of you who have been following the blog during our journey, I hope it has given you an idea of what we have seen and done along the way – but it is hard to put into words or even pictures the overall experience of travelling around South America for 6.5 months in a big blue and orange truck that becomes your home, with a group of strangers who soon become your travelling family. There have been a lot of laughs, a few tears, but above we have been united by the shared purpose of exploring as much as possible of this fantastic continent. And explore it we certainly have! Over 36,000km later, having travelled through Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Paraguay (well, for a couple of hours anyway!), Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia we finished up once again in Buenos Aires, where it all began at the end of November 2012. Returning to the same hotel felt strangely like a homecoming in itself – memories of pre-trip nerves and meeting each other for the first time came flooding back, but here we were, with a huge catalogue of experiences, memories (and photos) in hand, with the only thing left to do being to say farewell to an epic journey with a great group of people.
So, how can I summarise the last 27 weeks? For me, South America is a continent of incredible diversity offering an array of experiences more varied than those found in Africa or Asia, and so, for want of a better way to summarise things, I looked back over the contrasts that have come to light in the last 6 months…
– We have been hot and sweaty on the beaches of Colombia, and freezing cold in southern Argentina (who can forget the now legendary first bushcamp, complete with a downpour and icy wind, leaving many of the group wondering what they had let themselves in for!)
We have been wet and we have been dry – the rainy season in Brazil came late, but we managed to find it in Ouro Preto where the streets resembled rivers, meanwhile in the southern Pantanal, amazing concentrations of caiman, the local crocodile species, were seen congregating in the ever-shrinking pools of water
We have been high and we have been low – from sea level to well over 4,000m above sea level in the Andes and Bolivian Altiplano, and everything in between!
We have wrestled caiman and cuddled puppies – Mikkel’s wildlife capturing exploits peaked when he walked into camp one night holding a rather large caiman; the rest of us were more content to get up close and personal with the cuddlier critters we came across along the way!
We have eaten feasts (Bife de lomo anyone?), learned the finer points of wine tasting (Chile & Argentina), drunk bars dry (Venezuela) and partied like we never thought we could (Carnival!)
We’ve seen countless World Heritage Sites, natural wonders and ancient ruins
We have seen amazing wildlife, and gone a bit wild ourselves
We have seen sunsets and sunrises, and explored by day and night
We have bounced down dirt tracks and glided along smooth tar
We have taken countless photos, and had countless photos taken of us!
We have read, listened to music, blogged, watched movies, sorted photos, played games and watched the world go by out of the windows in the truck
We have talked rubbish, and shared our innermost thoughts
We have chilled like it was an Olympic sport, and pushed ourselves further than we thought possible
We’ve seen poverty and wealth, and frequently been reminded how privileged we are to have the opportunity to travel the world.
We’ve had sad farewells, and joyful reunions; celebrations and commiseration.
We have walked, hiked, run, paddled, cycled, motorbiked, flown, helicoptered, cruised, glided, swum, cable-car-ed, snorkelled, ridden horses, zip-lined, tubed, pedalo-ed, sandboarded, rafted, climbed, dune buggied, trained, bussed and of course trucked
We have had days that have gone like clockwork and others that have just not gone to plan at all
We have laughed and cried; joked and bickered; shared many experiences and enjoyed others alone
But above all, we have been overlanders (of the Odyssey variety!).
A huge thank you goes to EVERYONE who has made Odyssey’s first expedition in South America such an amazing experience.