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Rio de Janeiro to Quito - Itinerary

Week 1: Brazil's Rio de Janeiro; Carnival & New Year’s Eve celebrations are great times to be here and party.

Other sights in Rio are; the statue of Jesus Christ overlooking the city, map-like below, and the famous Copacabana & Ipanema Beaches.

Near Sao Paulo is Parati, in Brazil's Costa Verde on the Atlantic Coast, relaxed historic coastal village without cars; take a schooner to the nearby islands.

Week 2: We head north west to Bonito; where you can swim and dive in the crystal clear river and lakes and hike into forests to search for wildlife. The Pantanal is a large tropical wetland- organise treks out into the vast wetlands, home to birds and fish.

Week 3: We leave Brazil for Argentina at Iguassu Falls; one of the biggest waterfalls in the world, spreading over hundreds of cascades.  There are rainforest walkways below the falls and boats dart into the cascades below.

We follow the Parana River, its South Americas second longest river, after the Amazon. Visit the Jesuit Missions, these missions were built as part of the ‘Jesuit Reduction’ in the 16th Century; a gathering the Indians into areas to; ‘save’ control, tax and Christianise them.

These mission stations featured in the film The Mission, with Jeremy Irons. We see the ruins of San Ignacio Mini.

Week 4: Buenos Aires, we have a couple of days here to eat steak till you moo, go night clubbing and drink till you dance the Tango.

Uruguay; Optional ferry across the River Plate for a visit to Montevideo.

Week 5 We cross the Pampas, a long flat plain; home of the famous Gauchos and big cattle country.  On the Atlantic coast we stop on one of the sandy beaches near Bahia Blanca. Valdez Peninsular is a marine park with sea lions and elephant seals.  We follow the coast to Punta Tombo Park where half a million penguins nest right on the beach.

Week 5: Weather permitting; we cross the Straights of Magellan to the most southern tip of the habitable world - Ushuaia town in Tierra del Fuego or in English the ‘Land of Fire’ which is an island group at the southern tip of South America, split between Chile and Argentina.  You can take a boat to the Island of the Wolves in the Beagle Channel. 

Week 6: In the Torres del Paine Park (Towers of Pain) are immense granite towers, which rise vertically 2,000 metres above the national park.  We go hiking around the trails surrounding the peaks.

Week 7:  In Los Glaciares Park is the massive Moreno Glacier, 60 metres high and five kilometres-wide, advancing slowly into Lake Argentinio.  Twenty story high chunks of ice sporadically break from the ice face and tumble and roll into the lake.  You can walk across the top of the glacier and take a boat trip thru the lakes in front of it and other glaciers.

We cross to the Andes to Bariloche alpine resort, it’s a beautiful area for hiking and chocolate super markets, for those the chocoholics.  We head north through the vast grasslands of Patagonia.

Week 8: We enter Chile, and head north, past vineyards and wineries to Pucon Lake District. You can hike up an active Villarica Volcano, (gas masks at the top), go white rafting then relax in thermal springs to Santiago, set against the backdrop of the snow covered Andes, for a short break.

Week 9: We cross the Chilean Argentina border, first visiting the city of Salta and on to Cafayate and Mendoza. In this wine growing area you can do a wine tasting tour on push bikes.

We cross to Bolivia, and the Uyuni Salt Pan, which is the largest in the world and so is the biggest slab of salt known, some ten billion tons of the stuff.  In the dry season you can hire jeeps for 2 days to cross.

We cross the stark, high country of the Altiplano and Potosi where a tour of the silver mines is a must.  Mining is still carried out deep into the earth as it has been for over 400 years since the Spanish opened it.

Week 10: Set dramatically against the mountains of Bolivia, high in the Andes, at 2,100 feet is La Paz a magnificent Andean Indian city, surrounded by snow-capped mountains.

Week 11: Into Peru and Lake Titicaca; we take boats to visit the Indians living on floating reed islands on the lake. The Inca believe they and the sun were born, or arose from this lake

We drive across remote passes in the Andes to Cusco, the Incas Holy city; it’s the archaeological capitol of the continent.  The Spanish colonial buildings are built on the indestructible rock foundations of the losing Inca, as are many cities throughout the Americas 

We spend time among the ruins of the Sacred Valley of the Incas.  You can hike for four days along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, or if you prefer take the train in a day.

Machu Picchu was lost to history around the time of the Spanish invasion; most likely everyone died from the smallpox which travelled with the invaders. The city was rediscovered with the idols left intact, unlike all the other cities in the regions where the Spaniards destroyed non-Christian imagery and statues. The discoverer of the city in 1911 was Hiram Bingham III. From him it’s thought the Indiana Jones character was developed. Bingham was actually led to the ruins by an 11 year old Indian by who famed nearby, so perhaps the city was never actually lost.

Some 40,000 objects sent to Yale University in USA, have now mostly been returned to Peru, displayed at the La Casa Concha Museum in Cusco

Week 12: The Colca is the deepest canyon the world, we stand on the edge and watch Condors soar above us on the thermals, rising from below. On the fields by the road, we see Llamas also their relatives the Guanaco, Alpaca and Vicuna. 

In the Andes to Chivay Hot Springs.  At Arequipa a beautiful colonial town overlooked three old volcanoes. 

Week 13: The Nazca Lines are a series of enormous drawings of animals, geometric figures and birds.  They seem as though they are drawn in the desert by a giant hand, from the air.  Opinions as to their mysterious origins over 2,000 years ago vary; from space craft landing sites to astrological calendars.

You can take a boat to the Ballestas Islands, to see the sea lion colonies and penguins

We visit Lima, which was the centre of the Spanish conquest of South America

We visit Chan Chan - a pre-Inca imperial city; the largest adobe city in the world surrounded by a nine mile long wall.

Week 14: We enter Ecuador, the heartland of the Incas.  On the Pacific Ocean desert coast surf beaches, and oasis towns.  Here the locals still fish with traditional reed boats. 

Ingapirca is the first of the Inca stonework and ruins we see and are the most important Inca site in Ecuador.  We leave the green highland of Ecuador and descend to the barren coastal deserts.

On the side of a nearly tame volcano is the spa town of Banos, which is popular with Ecuadorians who come to the hot springs.  There are massive gorges and white water rafting on the rapids of the Rio Loco.  At Alausi you can take the Devils Nose Railway down the mountain then on to Cuenca, an old colonial city.

Week 15: Ecuador:  At the river port of Misahualli on the Rio Napo; a tributary of the Amazon we stay in the jungle to canoe and walk with local guides to explore the eco system of the surrounding forests.  You can try your hand at catching piranha.

Taking the mountain roads over the Andes we leave the Amazon basin. We cross the equator to the Otavalo Indian markets.

Quito, the end of our journey, is a beautiful heritage city nestled in the mountains. 

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