The adventure began in Rio after I’d crept into a hostel in the dark. I was eighteen. It was my first time out of Europe. Over the next few days friends and I explored Ipanema and Copacabana beach, with their beautiful volleyball players and men with tiny barbecues selling cheese on skewers. We travelled the escalators to Jesus and took in the view from the top of the Sugar Loaf – which up until that point, I’d known only as the name of a pub in Bristol.
Next, we took a bus past the favelas and out of Rio to the Iguazu Falls. Here we saw lush green jungle and waterfalls that looked like something out of Jurassic Park. There were brightly-coloured tropical spiders. A flock of toucans flew overhead (I missed this but my friend assured me it was magical).
At Iguazu, we passed into Argentina and travelled on from there to Buenos Aires. Here there were tango dancers on the cobbled streets of San Telmo and the Sunday antiques fair, there were Frida Kahlo’s in the Museum of Modern Latin American Art. There was delicious steak and wine. There was Recoleta Cemetery, with its streets of impressive mausoleums to the dead and its many, many cats. We traversed La Boca, with its colourful corrugated iron-fronted buildings. When my friends left, I rode the Metro underneath the city, with its shrines to Our Lady of Rosario Basilica, and sat in green parks writing as dragonflies flew by.
I took 18-hour bus journeys through the Patagonian landscape to visit the vineyards in Mendoza in the north and the lakes and mountains in Bariloche in the south. Next I headed over the Andes on a night bus to Chile, sharing maté with the woman behind me who spoke no English but smiled warmly.
Years later, Buenos Aires is still my favourite city away from home and one day I would like to live there for a time.
Recently I joined representatives of LATAM airlines in London – at Floripa (which if you’re in town you must check out – they do a particularly good Brazillian roast on Sundays). There, they announced a competition which YOU can enter to WIN a trip to the wonderful continent…
LAN and TAM Airlines are searching for three lucky people to explore Latin America. The competition will be open until 22nd February 2016 and the prize will include up to 3 months in Latin America. International and some domestic flights will be included, as well as a monthly allowance of £1,300 PLUS an explorer kit thing.
Anyone can enter. To do so, send a description of your dream trip to Latin America and why you would be the ideal candidate. Register on the website: http://www.nextstoplatinamerica.com/be-an-explorer/