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Travel in music: Chapter 9 - 1999, South America (a road trip)

2020, the world is in confinement because of a corona virus. I have used this time to reminisce on my past through a musical blog series. They will take you through my peregrinations on this tiny, unique earth, in chronological order. Click on the song, use it as soundtrack, and enjoy!


1999 Chapter 9 | The next one is an itinerant chapter. Towards the end of my stay in Chile, I felt serious job fatigue. I had been working on the same project for three years and it was reaching a natural end. I started dreaming of a long trip through South America. One afternoon, while bored at the office, I sent my cousin an e-mail. Just a few lines with a rough itinerary laid out and a question: “are you down?” I got his enthusiastic reply within 30 minutes and the trip went from being a daydream to a concrete plan. We checked our savings, set a date, quit our jobs and off we went. In the few weeks it took to prepare, his sister got wind of our plan and decided to take a semester off her studies and join us.

The decision to just dump everything and travel had been very spontaneous and that spontaneity permeated the journey. We had an idea of where we wanted to go but destinations were rarely set more than few days in advance. We traveled on a shoestring budget, going wherever our feet (and the advice of people we met) took us. The freedom you feel on a road trip of this nature is addictive. I had crossed the USA from coast-to-coast on my own over a few months in the summer of 1993 and here I was again, drunk on adventure, high on South America, immersed in a continent that had me bewitched.

I wrote a travel diary and recorded every step faithfully until a thief vanished with it on the shores of Lake Titicaca. Discouraged, I did not take up the pen again until we reached the Amazon, several months later. In any case, there is no way I could summarize in a few paragraphs all the memories and experiences so I will just describe the itinerary: We took off from Santiago and headed straight up north along the Andes, the dorsal spine of the continent, through Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia. Once we reached the Caribbean shore, we turned east towards Venezuela and crossed the Amazon jungle all the way to Manaus. We then took a ferry downriver to Belém and followed the Atlantic coast southwards to Salvador, Rio de Janeiro and finally Iguaçu Falls, where the borders of Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina intersect. With our finances dwindling and time running short, we rushed to Buenos Aires. From there, I carried on back to Chile on my own, crossing the mighty Andes just west of Mendoza and back to my beloved Santiago.

In total, it took seven months on foot, buses and trucks to complete the loop.

Impossible to summarize and harder still to express the love for the continent this journey fostered. Therefore, I will let Calle 13 do it for me. Who better than a Porto Rican rapper, flanked by Peruvian, Colombian and Brazilian legends to squeeze out Latin America’s soul in a few verses.


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