Volunteering at La Senda Verde Wild Animal Refuge

Last year, I had spent an enthralling week volunteering at the Elephant Nature Park in Thailand. So, during my brief stop off in London in January, I spent more time researching volunteer schemes in South America than any other travel planning task. Funnily enough, even with all that time spent, I hadn’t come across La Senda Verde. Instead, it was a tip off from another traveller who had heard from another traveller about the animal refuge, that gave me the pointer I needed.
After a read through the wealth of information on their web site, I dropped Vicky (one of the owners) an email and a week later I was walking across the beautiful bridge entrance into the eco reserve. As a volunteer, I would be spending two weeks caring for wild animals ranging from tropical birds, tree-climbing bears, astoundingly smart monkeys and head butting tortoises. […]

The Unbelievable Scenery on the Salt Flats Tour

After Patagonia, I headed north by boat and plane to the Atacama Desert and onto Salta. I’d write up both journeys and cities in retrospective posts, but in summary, the final resting place was a small town called Tupiza, in the South of Bolivia near to the Argentinian border. Tupiza is the town where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were eventually caught and provided the perfect rest before embarking on a 4 day trip around the Salt Flats area. 
The Salt Flats tour involves jumping in the back of a 4×4 and driving around the area on dirt roads and offroad taking in the scenery during the day, staying in refuges by evening and finishing up in Uyuni for onward travel. As far as scenery goes, it is truly unbelievable. The region is high altitude (3500-4800m) hills and plains packed full of minerals. So we’re talking deserts, mountains, lagoons and salt fields all close together. Of course, the most sought after attraction is the Salar de Uyuni (the Salt Flats in the cover photo) which is planned on most tours for sunrise and the early morning of the final day.
Having the luxury of travelling from Salta to Tupiza with four other backpackers, we were able to book ourselves in on our own private car. Five friends, a driver and a translator made for an awesome 4 day trip. 

The Big Ice Hike over the Perito Moreno Glacier

When I visited New Zealand in January, after reading Jeremy@TravelFreak’s account of hiking the Franz Josef Glacier I was looking forward to a similar experience. Unfortunately, with a tight day-by-day schedule and weather too poor for the glacier company’s helicopter to fly me up to the glacier on the day I intended, I had to leave New Zealand empty handed on the glacier front. 
After I got back home to London briefly at the end of that month, I pondered where I could see another glacier on my next travels. Looking at my A Year of Adventures book for travel inspiration, I found that the Perito Moreno Glacier was a prime candidate. It’s one of only three Patagonian glaciers that is growing and it’s so big, the icefield is the world’s third largest reserve of fresh water. 
The town of El Calafate is the best jump off point for visiting Perito Moreno and so as soon as I arrived, I found that Hielo y Aventura were the stand out people to visit the glacier with. I booked a “Big Ice” hike and packed my bag for the early start needed. Here’s how the experience of hiking the Perito Moreno Glacier was like…

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    The Incredible Scenery on the 8 Day Full Circuit Trek in Torres del Paine, Patagonia

The Incredible Scenery on the 8 Day Full Circuit Trek in Torres del Paine, Patagonia

After several days of a heavy social scene in Buenos Aires (BA), I took an afternoon on a set of couches high above the common area of my hostel to remind myself what I wanted to do while I travelled. Don’t get me wrong, the social scene is a big part of travelling and BA definitely had it. There I was, floating through the busiest hostel, knowing most people by name, stopping for plenty of small talk, piecing together the night before – it reminded me of the good times of university.
The problem was, what was meant to be a great byproduct of travelling (the social), was taking over. I had planned to stay in BA for two weeks to learn Spanish and tango, but instead, after a week, I had only managed a couple of hours of each. There’s always the option to stay at an apartment or a quieter hostel, but I could still find myself getting distracted. Then, when I spent some time to read into my next destination, Patagonia, I noticed that it was coming to the end of the dry season. My mind forward-wound a week and I realised I could also be missing out on a final weather window. I booked a flight to El Calafate to leave a couple of days later. A certain sense of relief.
Whilst my time in El Calafate and El Chalten justifies a blog post later, I felt like the 8 days I spent in Torres del Paine deserves to be described first and foremost. The 8 days were spent hiking and camping along a route called the Full Circuit in the Torres del Paine National Park in Chile. The scenery was simply unbelievable and by practically winning the lottery in terms of good weather, the photos I took were able to capture much of it too. 

Hiking up Pedra da Gavea

When I was planning my South America trip, I made sporting activities a priority. I didn’t realise how much I loved it even when I travelled.
Rio de Janeiro was my first destination in South America, and whilst Rio’s culture of extremes itself was an amazing experience, I had my sights set on some hiking too while I was in town. 
Although there were many hiking options to choose from in Rio, in the end, I opted to hike and climb up Pedra da Gavea with a company called Nattrip. Pedra da Gavea is one of the tallest mountains in Rio da Janeiro, standing at 842m high, with undoubtably the best panoramic views over the city.  […]