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A Year in Latin America

These are the original emails that we sent to friends and family as we travelled from Los Angeles to Southern Chile and Argentina and then back up the other coast. The trip took a year and was completed almost entirely overland. We hope they will offer you some insight and inspiration to travel in this remarkable region. The Trip Guide also on this site has some details of hotels, transport, restaurants and other things of interest to a traveller. Please remember that this trip was in 2004-2005 and things obviously change.

Oaxaca trip through Mexico and Latin America blog

In the hostel in Hollywood there was a backpacker magazine that I read while our room was being tidied. In it there was an article by a Californian who went to India for 10 days and was giving out wisdom. I have spent over 2 years in India and have a reasonable insight into the country. What I am about to do is about as ridiculous, as I have deliberately avoided going to America before. After all, I knew everything about America from such cultural enlightenments as Jerry Springer and feel confident I can spot a trans-gender person who is having an affair with a loaf of bread called Cecil from 3 blocks.

Our security experience started at Auckland Airport with the Samoan check in operator warning us that America was on high alert and that even the slightest spelling mistake could have us thrown in jail until we could get deported. He conspiratorially came around the counter and told us about a man who had flown to the US, had made a mistake and been handcuffed for three days with the cuffs under a knee, only fed fluids before being sent back to NZ! I nodded sympathetically. "What is the world coming to?" written on my face while thinking the guy probably was pissed out of his tree and was getting smart to the security and it might just be a good wake up call for him.

Security at Tahiti was ridiculous. We had to walk to the terminal and queue for over and hour, have our shoes, belts and bags x-rayed before immediately re-boarding. I was waiting for LAX to be worse. It wasn't. While others were fingerprinted and photographed we waltzed in, claimed to be going to Disneyland and went straight through. Maybe we looked that lobotomized by that stage that Disneyland looked like a plausible option.

George W Bush Blow Shit Up

The 'shared van' (like a minibus service) was a dark red, '80's vintage affair. Inside the huge, soft, purple seats swallowed us. Under the tinted windows the inch-thick oak panels had gigantic cup holders and battered speakers. The trip through LA to Hollywood was interesting. Street upon street of run down houses and businesses falling to pieces.

As soon as we checked in we were off and exploring. We were both amazed at the tackiness of Hollywood. It wasn't that we weren't expecting the souvenir shops, it was just all the shops selling stripper outfits, bad food and rubbish not worthy of the $2 Shop. The good news was all we needed was a camera and a new PowerBook and we found my best shop in the whole world. Four stories of cameras and computers all at amazing prices sold by helpful but not pushy staff. So one PowerBook and new camera later and the credit card given a damned good thrashing we went loaded with gifts for the first bandito that asks.

For lunch, while our new laptop was downloading software updates, we went to the Farmer's Market, and had Gumbo Ya Ya, a Louisianan speciality consisting of a spicy stew of beef and prawns on rice with corn bread. Delicious!

Two days later after seeing China-town, some street markets, downtown and doing a tour of the "Stars' Homes" (read, homes that rich people buy but don't live in - interesting architecture) and the Hollywood sign we caught a Greyhound bus to El Paso, Texas via Arizona and New Mexico taking 22 hours. The landscape as we crossed Arizona is particularly breathtaking with lots of large cacti, desert and mountains. The real travel was about to begin.