Paige’s South American Road Trip Diary

empty pavement between forest

South America, a vast expanse of diverse landscapes, cultures, and histories, beckons the intrepid traveler with promises of adventure and enlightenment. As the wheels of my vehicle rolled across borders, from the vibrant rhythms of Colombia to the mesmerizing vastness of the Atacama Desert, I was not just journeying across a continent; I was traversing stories, epochs, and the very soul of this enchanting land. Herein lies the chronicle of my road trip, a tapestry of experiences, that paints South America in all its glorious shades.

Day 1: Crossing into Colombia

The early morning sun hinted at the warmth of the day as I crossed the border into Colombia. The vibrancy of the customs station, with its painted murals and friendly officers, set the tone for what would become an epic road trip. Cumbia music played faintly from a nearby vendor as I began my journey through this diverse continent.

Day 5: Medellín, Colombia

The city of eternal spring did not disappoint. The streets were filled with color, and the views from the “Comuna 13” escalators were simply breathtaking. A local family hosted me and introduced me to “arepas”, which quickly became my favorite breakfast item.

Day 12: Ecuador – Quito

Descending into the high-altitude city of Quito was like stepping into another world. The city’s architecture was a mesmerizing mix of colonial charm and modernity. A visit to the equator at “La Mitad del Mundo” was an absolute must. There, I balanced an egg on a nail, proving the unique gravitational forces at play.

Day 20: Peru – Lima

Lima was a clash of ancient history and coastal beauty. The culinary scene was divine – ceviche and Pisco sours quickly made their way to my heart.

Day 24: Cusco & Machu Picchu

Reaching Machu Picchu was both challenging and rewarding. The Sacred Valley took my breath away with its history and landscapes. The ruins whispered stories of a past civilization, and the sunrises were like paintings come alive.

Day 33: Bolivia – Salar de Uyuni

The salt flats were surreal. It felt like driving on a mirror. The vast expanse, reflecting the sky, played tricks with perspective and depth. At one point, it looked like the clouds were under my feet.

Day 39: Paraguay – Asunción

The subtlety of Asunción was a nice change from the overwhelming landscapes of the past week. The warm-hearted people and local markets made the experience even more enjoyable.

Day 45: Argentina – Buenos Aires

Tango, wine, and steak. Buenos Aires was a cultural and sensory explosion. The nightlife lasted until the morning, and the city’s passion was tangible.

Day 52: Chile – Santiago & Atacama

From the urban jungle of Santiago to the otherworldly landscapes of the Atacama Desert, Chile was a land of contrasts. The Atacama’s starry skies made me feel both insignificant and deeply connected to the universe.

Day 58: Uruguay – Montevideo

A smaller, often overlooked gem. Montevideo’s calm beaches and colonial streets were the perfect place to relax and reflect on the journey so far.

Day 64: Brazil – Rio de Janeiro

Carnival! The timing was perfect. The samba, the costumes, and the sheer joy of the people were infectious. Christ the Redeemer overlooked the festivities, his arms outstretched in a perpetual embrace.

Day 70: Guyana – Georgetown

The untouched nature of Guyana’s interior was a refreshing experience. Kaieteur Falls roared with life, and the rainforests felt ancient and alive.

Day 76: Suriname – Paramaribo

A mix of Dutch colonial history and local culture. The Central Market was a hive of activity, and Javanese, Indian, and African influences blended seamlessly.

Day 79: French Guiana – Cayenne

The final stop. The Guiana Space Centre was an unexpected high-tech marvel in the midst of such natural beauty. The juxtaposition of the wild Amazon rainforest and space-age technology was the perfect end to this journey.

Day 83: Reflecting

As I looked back, the sheer diversity of South America left me in awe. Each country was a unique tapestry of cultures, landscapes, and histories. This road trip was more than just miles covered; it was a journey through time, nature, and the human spirit. I can’t wait for the next adventure.

Here are my 30 tips for road tripping in South America

  1. Plan Ahead but Be Flexible: Have a rough idea of your route, but allow for detours and spontaneous stops.
  2. Emergency Kit: Always carry an emergency kit in your car which includes first-aid supplies, jumper cables, a flashlight, and basic tools.
  3. Offline Maps: While GPS is great, having offline maps can be a lifesaver in areas without cellular service.
  4. Pack Snacks and Water: Stock up on non-perishable snacks and water bottles to avoid being stuck hungry or thirsty.
  5. Entertainment: Download audiobooks, music, and podcasts. They can make long stretches more enjoyable.
  6. Rest Up: Make sure you’re well-rested before long drives. Drowsy driving is dangerous.
  7. Fuel Up: Don’t let your gas tank get too low. In remote areas, gas stations can be far apart.
  8. Stay Connected: Carry a car charger and, if possible, a portable battery pack for your devices.
  9. Spare Key: Always have a spare car key. It’s easy to accidentally lock yourself out during a trip.
  10. Accommodation Research: If you’re not camping, have a list of potential motels or Airbnb options along your route.
  11. Local Cuisine: Don’t just stick to chain restaurants. Try local diners and eateries.
  12. Pack Layers: Weather can be unpredictable. Having layers allows you to adjust to different conditions.
  13. Document Your Trip: Keep a travel diary, and take lots of photos.
  14. Know Local Laws: Speed limits and traffic rules can vary. Be aware of local driving laws.
  15. Backup Funds: Always have some extra cash or a backup credit card in case of unexpected expenses.
  16. Comfort: Bring along neck pillows and blankets, especially if you’ll be switching drivers and resting in the car.
  17. Regular Breaks: Stop every couple of hours to stretch, rest, and revitalize.
  18. Know Your Vehicle: Familiarize yourself with your car’s functions. If renting, spend some time getting to know the vehicle.
  19. Car Maintenance: Check your car’s oil, tire pressure, and brakes before setting off.
  20. Weather Check: Always check the weather for your route. It can affect driving conditions significantly.
  21. Local Recommendations: Talk to locals for recommendations on sights, food, and hidden gems.
  22. Health Precautions: If you have specific health needs, make sure to have all medications and necessities.
  23. Camping Prep: If you’re camping, make sure to have all gear, and always check if you need reservations or permits.
  24. Toll Preparedness: Some routes have tolls. Research beforehand and have change or a toll pass ready.
  25. Time Management: Factor in rest stops, meals, and sightseeing. A 6-hour drive can quickly turn into 9 hours with stops.
  26. Stay Informed: Bookmark news websites or apps to keep informed about conditions or events that might affect your trip.
  27. Safety First: Avoid driving at night, especially in unfamiliar or remote areas.
  28. Hygiene: Carry hand sanitizers, wet wipes, and other basic hygiene products.
  29. Packing: Use packing cubes or bags to organize items. It makes accessing things much easier.
  30. Stay Inspired: Read about places you’re visiting. Knowing the history or significance of a place can make the visit much more enriching.

End of Diary

Was it worth reading? Let us know.