The Best and Worst of 3 Months in South America

We're over a quarter of the way through our trip!  I can't believe it.

After three months of traveling through South America, we thought it would be fun to recap the best and the worst of our experiences. 

Here goes:

Length: 95 days

Number of Countries Visited: 4

We started in Colombia and traveled overland through Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia.

Total Spent for 2 People: $13,225.05

Number of beds we've slept in: 26

My enormous bed in a hostel in Lima.

My enormous bed in a hostel in Lima.

Flights Taken: 6

Buses Taken: 13 (4 overnight)

Trains Taken: 3

On the train to the salt flats in Bolivia

On the train to the salt flats in Bolivia

Number of Nights Camping: 3

Number of Times We Got Ripped Off: 3

On a night bus in Ecuador, our conductor claimed our tickets were for the wrong day.  Regardless of already having paid, he insisted we pay again despite it being the company's fault for writing the wrong date.  We argued for a few minutes, but it was 3 a.m., and we didn't want to lose our seats, so we coughed up the $30 again.  

In Copacabana, Bolivia, we used a "fixer" (a local that often meets tourists off buses/plains and offers to set up transport and tours for the duration of their stay).  While he was nice, he booked us for a boat ride all the way out to a remote island only to have us realize once we arrived that we had no return boat.  We paid a driver $40 (tickets there were $1.50) just to take us back to the dock and yell for the last returning boat.  We spent no time on the island and basically just road a boat all day.  

Annoyed waiting at the Bolivian Consulate... AGAIN

Annoyed waiting at the Bolivian Consulate... AGAIN

Finally, took the advise of the same fixer who said we shouldn't risk getting our Bolivian visas at the border like we'd intended to.  Instead we braved the consulate where we encountered so many extra hoops, we ended up very frustrated and making four separate trips by taxi back to finalize the visa.  Lessons learned.

Number of Times I Puked: 2

Scuba diving in Colombia I got sick off the boat (wah waah).  

Then in Cusco Nate and I visited the Pisco Museum.  Turns out, it was just a bar.  We met a couple from Miami and proceeded to have an epic night out visiting discotecs and drinking cheap liquor.  Needless to say, I was not a happy camper later.

Pisco tastings lead to bad decisions.

Pisco tastings lead to bad decisions.

Best Money Splurge: Inca Trail ($700/person)

Nate at Machu Picchu

Nate at Machu Picchu

Our four-day trek was definitely one of the highlights of our time in South America.  Challenging, fun and breathtakingly beautiful!

Biggest Waste of Money: Cabbing into Lima during our layover

On our way from Bolivia to South Africa, we had a flight through Lima and a 12 hour layover.  We decided it would be fun to take a cab into the city and spend the day enjoying the sun, coast and ceviche.  Instead we learned that we would be charged $60 to leave the airport and then blew another $40 each way on a cab, which sat in traffic for almost an hour each way.  The weather was also cloudy, which meant we basically walked around bored for a bit and then headed back to the airport.  

Scariest Moment: Flipping my bike on Death Road

I had the unfortunate luck of flipping my bike TWICE on this 60km+ downhill ride along a cliff outside of La Paz.  I was so timid after the first wipe out that I was probably even more jumpy than I needed to be!  

Ouch

Ouch

Most anxiety of the trip: first night in colombia

The trip had literally JUST started, and I was so overwhelmed.  I knew I was supposed to be over the moon having finally made it to our first country, but on the first night instead of sleeping, I just laid in my hostel dorm bed crying.

Number of courses of antibiotics: 2 

In Ecuador, we both felt terrible.  Luckily Cipro is sold over the counter there! 

Number of US TV/radio appearances in the us: 6

We've had a blast skyping back into a few morning shows to update friends/family back home on our trip. Check out our press interviews here

Number of Days We Spent Alone Because We Were Sick of Each Other: 5

Spending every waking hour with your spouse can be trying.  We love each other dearly, but more than once we've had to admit that we'd both feel better with some alone time.  We've gone on separate tours, taken classes separately and shared a handful of meals at different restaurants.

Loving alone time in Lima!

Loving alone time in Lima!

Worst Fight: Valentine's Day in Cuenca

Ohhhh Valentine's Day... In a nutshell, I wanted to go to this fancy hotel for a cheesy dinner.  Nate begrudgingly agreed, but I could tell he hated the restaurant and how much money we were spending.  We went on to have a lengthy argument over dinner about the importance of debating with your friends (because I dislike heated debates and Nate loves to argue).  We finally just went to bed and felt better in the morning.

Favorite Place We've Stayed: Medellin Apartment

Our private patio

Our private patio

We paid just $42/night for this three-story apartment in Medellin's lovely Poblado neighborhood.  Awesome airbnb find!

Worst Place We've Stayed: A hostel in Cartagena 

Also known as Bed Bug Palace, this place was not so great.  The first hostel we stayed in, and the only dorm we booked before realizing we're not 21 anymore and need personal space.  

Best Tour: Medellin Free City Walking Tour

Our guide was born and raised in Medellin and had a fabulous attitude.  Tourism is a growing industry in Medellin largely because it's been unsafe up until now.  That means that locals will approach tour groups, walk right up to guides and ask in Spanish what they're doing.  Our guide was so nice and explained in Spanish that we were tourists from other countries wanting to learn about their city.  He encouraged them to say, "Hello," to us in English which often made them giggle.

Worst Tour: Pablo Escobar Tour in Medellin

The apartment building where Pablo Escobar was eventually found and killed.

The apartment building where Pablo Escobar was eventually found and killed.

Our guide had a major attitude and hated that people loved Escobar.  She grew up when there was heavy cartel fighting in Medellin so treated the entire narcotrafficking subject seriously, which was fine, but she also shamed anyone on the tour that liked shows like Narcos.  Informative, but not fun.

Best Street Food: Ceviche on the Beach in Mancora, Peru


Despite the ups and downs, we had an amazing time in South America and have already started a list of places we'd like to see when we go back!