3 Months in South America – A Reflection
It is hard to believe that we are concluding our three-month journey in South America covering eight countries and 27,000km NOT including the 17,000 from Darwin to Santiago in Chile.
People, customs, food and cultures make up one aspect of our travel enjoyment. Viewing plants and animals (flora and fauna) that we don’t see in Australia and then some plants and animals that we do have in Australia (bougainvillea and geckos) are another and then iconic natural wonders like mountains, deserts, glaciers, jungles and more followed by structures built by humans that feature in our world iconographies like Machu Picchu, Christ the Redeemer and more.
Education is the by-product of travel. Perspectives, world views and other fence-like structures in our minds are always adjusted when we travel. For most people, it involves opening the gates to paddocks of different thoughts based on their experiences with travel. You may choose to close the gate to that paddock after your travel, but at least you will have sampled the grass to find out if it indeed is greener.
I have written much and taken more than 10,000 photos and shot hours of video. Rather than sit in front of a computer typing and editing when there are places to visit, I will save the publishing of those stories for another time and by then ChatGPT might have written the blogs for me… in the meantime, mistakes and all, the words and pictures are all mine.
So, from the 8 countries visited, three photographs per country with a sentence or two to summarise an impression of the moment about that country. I say “of the moment” because when you revisit words and pictures of an event later, your impression may change to be deeper or more complex – rarely the opposite.
We were certainly out of practice with our international travel before we left for South America and as a result had a few more anxious moments due to that lack of travel “match fitness” and also due to the fact we organised travel, tours (as such), accommodation and other logistics ourselves, so we had to be very situationally aware at all times. Some might disagree with that as a holiday style, however, it is like a computer game in real life, with every country being like a game level, posing similar challenges and some new challenges with the reward being the travel enjoyment nuggets I described above. Of course, it is real and a mistake doesn’t mean you “die”, however a mistake, not rectified can have troublesome consequences.
Planning, decision-making, critical thinking, collaboration, curiosity, flexibility and probably a bunch more traits that our school curriculum aims to teach through integration into school-based activities are all present when you become a stranger in a strange land, as we have been these last three months.
We have strolled in front of the Perito Moreno glacier in Argentina and overcame park blockades by striking park rangers to reach the towers of Patagonia in Torres del Paine. We have wondered at the colours of the Atacama Desert and experienced the altitudes of 5000 metres crossing the Andes from Chile into Bolivia. I Fell in love with Lago Colorado with its amazing flamingos in the red algae-coloured water and photo-bombing llamas strolling into the shot.
Wondered at the white expanse that is the salt flats of Uyuni with its strange island covered in massive cactus plants. Forged friendships with strangers that last well beyond this short journey. Witnessed ladies wrestling in traditional garb from La Paz in Bolivia.
Experienced the birthplace of the Incan empire on Isla del Sol while viewing the world’s highest navigable lake in the world, Lake Titicaca. Travelled on reed boats and met locals living on islands made of reeds at Lake Titicaca.
The cultural richness of Cusco and Ollantaytambo in Sacred Valley prepared us for the train ride to Machu Picchu and its magnificence in location and structure. Climbing the Rainbow Mountain and the mountain behind Machu Picchu, Huayna Picchu.
Travelling to Lima and enjoying the coastal esplanade and then experiencing the removal of the President of that country. Flying in a motorised paraglider over the southern beaches of Lima.
Accidentally crossing the border illegally into Ecuador from Peru before making our way across the Pacific Ocean to the Galapagos Islands where no matter where you turned, an animal surprise was there for you with the highlight for me being swimming with Sea Lions on Isabela Island.
Balancing an egg on the equator just outside of Quito and just being at a place that said 0,0 on the compass and appreciating the accuracy of Incan astronomers and the structures they left to prove their accuracy and knowledge.
Having a local experience with a dear friend in Colombia where we were part of her engagement ceremony and then participated in a road trip through areas of mountain jungle in the past associated with Pablo Escobar and now associated with modern progress. Losing my new GoPro to have it found and returned by our hotel manager in La Dorada. A true ambassador of integrity. Participation in the festival of the devil in Rio Sucio combines festival, literature, acting, costumes, family and culture in an exciting event.
Travelling to the Amazon and experiencing the natural enormity that impacts not just the local environment, but the entire planet.
Travelling to Rio de Janeiro, the most pretty of cities with a party vibe and scenic vistas from Sugarloaf to Christ the Redeemer statue, Copacabana and through the streets of Gloria aboard a historic yellow tram.
Journeying to Buenos Aries to witness tango dancing at its finest, crossing the massive waters of the Rio Uruguay (Rio means river in Spanish) to visit the colonial beauty of Colonia in Uruguay.
Travelling 19 hours on a bus to view the stunning Iguazu falls and the animals like the toucan that make this jungle paradise home. Then a return to the capital of Argentina to prepare for our European adventure. More levels, more challenges, more wonder, amazement and yes, education.
There is of course much more detail to the journey than this short post contains, but I trust the sense of variety and memory along with its relevance to the education of all – students, teachers, administrators, and parents is not lost on those of you who make the connection between this kind of experience and improved capabilities of all who take this path.
Adobe Express Edits
Many of the photos here were edited with Adobe Express. The following images were edited in offline mode while travelling on planes or waiting in locations for transport with time to spare. I used Adobe Express as a collage creator and label or sticker adder for photos. In no particular order are some of the Adobe Express Doodlecomps (a doodle composition with no set goal in mind) I created during moments of relaxation.