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A backpacker's reflections on ethno-ecotourism in South America


Installment 1: Embarking in Peru and reflections on the act of travel

I am writing as I sit on a shady veranda near Lamas, a small city on the mountainous fringe of the Amazon. I gaze out across a lush terraced garden at patchwork hills that are reminiscent of the small mountains of Vermont. But the musical trill of a multitude of birds alert me that I am not in New England. My journey has begun: a five thousand mile trip that will take me from the humid Amazon rainforest to the blustery Andes of Patagonia... READ MORE

Installment 2: Chasing the rainforest

The tree ferns and lianas dangled on either side of the narrow trail that is regularly hacked out of the thick understudy. The tightly woven frenzy of vegetation on the sides of the trail fell away as Juan and I stepped into a small open area draped in the enormous shadow of several trees that ringed the clearing. Juan handed me a package of soda crackers as we stood in the space between the buttress roots of the trees. We ate in silence, peering into the canopy above us... READ MORE

Installment 3: The Condor 

From Lamas I took a short flight to the coast and Peru’s capital of Lima. After the perfect climate of Lamas, I was taken aback in Lima by the noise, rapid pace, chill-damp air and the ever-present cocktail of ocean fog and smog that perpetually obscures the sun. At the airport I met my good friend Charlie McGrail who I had lived with for three years while at the University of Vermont. Charlie and I share similar perspectives and interests, and never having traveled with a companion I was eager to experience the journey with a friend...READ MORE

Installment 4: One River and the Deer

Charlie and I returned to Arequipa after our trek through Colca Canyon. In the city Charlie and I shared a dormitory room with Andre, a Colombian vagabond. One of the most eccentric and animated individuals I have met in my travels.  Andre shared tales from his journeys and tips for how to get by with no money. Living on the road Andre managed to pay for bus tickets, booze, beds, and food by selling crafts made out of recycled cardboard...READ MORE

Installment 5: The “real world”

Looking out the window of the car, on the opposite side of the two lane road we were traveling, the land dropped steeply down, and then climbed up the far side of the opposite wall of the valley. Despite being at a precipitous angle, the soil was hoed into neat rows, and the bright hats and dress of the women working in the fields made them stand out against the earth despite their distance from the road...READ MORE

Installment 6: Loos’d of limits in Patagonia

I was still in a transitory place, after ten hours sitting in the Buenos Aires airport. With a flight to Patagonia the following morning, Charlie and I had decided to spend the night in the terminal after our flight from Bolivia. The hours passed by as I watched the motion and emotion play out all around us...READ MORE

Installment 7: Carreteras Austral

Dry soil worked loose by a backhoe whipped up into a haze of dust, swept over me, and blew into my eyes, nose and mouth. At intervals I would see the wind coming as the brown cloud took flight and sailed over the dry grass until it passed me and drifted down the long straight stretch of road that leads from the outskirts of Calafate to Ruta 40, the highway that heads north to south through Argentinean Patagonia...READ MORE