Manual Circle to Circle. A Journey Through the Americas and Beyond

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This whirlwind trip packs a great mix of wilderness escapes, wildlife encounters, history, culture and stunning architecture and is considered a wonderful in-depth introduction into the best of South America travel. Add a few more days to your big-five journey and you can also include a visit to Chile, arguably the fastest-rising star in the South America travel scene. Start your journey in Santiago and explore this bustling, modern and very beautiful capital before visiting the colourful coastal town of Valparaiso.

The perfect way to end this stunning itinerary? A 3-day jaunt into the Ecuadorian Amazon Rainforest , where the next few days will be filled with daytime walks through dense rainforests and nightly canoe rides to spot nocturnal wildlife. If you have shorter vacation time for your South America travels or a smaller travel-budget, you can save both time and money by simply foregoing a cruise to the Galapagos Islands until next time!

You can easily soak up the delights of Rio de Janeiro , Iguazu Falls , the Amazon Rainforest and Machu Picchu in three weeks, including a springboard visit to Buenos Aires and a glorious island-hopping trip to Lake Titicaca , not to mention sightseeing excursions to the Sacred Valley of the Incas from Cusco and a city tour of Lima , all before ending your journey in Santiago de Chile. The Gringo Trail tour of South America takes you on an altogether different path, one that hones in on the very best of Argentina, Peru and Bolivia and includes an epic road trip.

Ironically enough, the Gringo Trail takes you off the usual tourist path, exploring the remote northern Argentinian region of Salta and its ethereal rugged landscapes after starting in Buenos Aires and visiting Iguazu Falls , before continuing to the Bolivian Altiplano , known for its otherworldly landscapes and the magical Uyuni Salt Flats. This wonderful itinerary includes an overland journey through the high-altitude desert landscapes of the Jujuy Province of Argentina, through the southern border with Bolivia and straight up into Salar Uyuni.

We suggest a swift entry into the continent in Buenos Aires , the ideal springboard for a visit to Iguazu Falls and Rio de Janeiro , before jetting off to the high Peruvian Andes, where you can spend a few days delving into the ancient Inca culture, exploring the Sacred Valley and visiting Machu Picchu by train.

Arriving Home

A titillating taste of the best the continent offers, on an itinerary that runs just short of two weeks — perfect as an introduction to South America or as an add-on to longer adventures. If you do have the luxury of more time but wish to spend less, then our tailor-made South America on a Budget Tour is for you. All you need is an experienced Chimu travel-guru to help you plan your ideal journey.

Organised and fully-guided group tours offer a myriad of benefits both for solo travellers and those travelling in company especially when it is done just right. As Steves read, he interrupted himself again and again with great shouting honks of laughter, and I cackled right along with him. Then, suddenly, with almost no transition, we would find ourselves deep in earnest conversation about the nature of true happiness or the dangers of ambition. And then we would suddenly be cackling again.

And of course there were many, many more descriptions of getting high itself. At some point, he looked up from the journal. Because this is me.

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He shook his head. An earlier version of this article misstated the size of a bus Steves used in his early tours through Europe. It was a nine-seat minibus, not a nine-foot minibus. When my wife and I were married, my mother-in-law told us she had a special gift for us. In Sweden, on an island, in the forest. As with all magical places, getting to the island in Sweden requires some effort particularly as my wife, son and I live in Los Angeles. After the plane, the train and a car ride to the countryside, a boat ferries us across the lake from the mainland.

There are only a handful of cottages — with no electricity or running water — on the island.

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Distances walking in the forest are hard to determine. You spend so much time walking over, under and around branches, brush and fallen trees that a simple hike can quickly become a disorienting journey. There are no straight lines in a forest. In Sweden, mushrooms are like gold. Specifically chanterelle mushrooms.

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Aside from their high cost and their subtle earthy flavor cooked in butter and served on toast , their value is enhanced by how late in the season they grow. So Swedes are extremely protective of their chanterelle patches. The day my mother-in-law took us for our first walk, everything seemed slow and quiet besides the buzz of the mosquitoes. I listened to her tell stories of playing here as a child; exploring it made me feel young, and nostalgic for a past I had never lived.

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I marched behind my wife and was careful when stepping over fallen trees or catching branches she bent back to allow me to pass. Some mushrooms you can eat, and some can make you very sick. Animals know this, and people who spend lots of time in the forest know this. My mother-in-law knows. She took us to a clearing among some trees, looked around a bit, then stopped and bent down.

She said she had given each of her children a patch in the forest where she found that mushrooms consistently grew each year.


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The whale sighting happened right away, minutes into Day 1. Jon, Dave and I had just been dropped off on a remote Alaskan shoreline, an hour and a half by boat from the closest speck of a town. Jon was working as a sea-kayaking guide that summer in Glacier Bay National Park, and he had invited us up for a seven-day excursion during his week off. As the boat that delivered us vanished, the drone of its engine dampening into a murmur and then finally trailing off, it became unthinkably quiet on the beach, and the largeness and strangeness of our surroundings were suddenly apparent.

It was a familiar phenomenon for Jon from the start of all his trips: a moment that people instinctually paused to soak in. We were on earth — finally, really on earth.


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We were only starting to move around again, packing our gear into the kayaks, when we heard the first huff of a blowhole, not far offshore. Jon was ecstatic. It seemed to him as if the animal were putting on a show, swimming playfully in the kelp, diving, resurfacing, then plowing its open mouth across the surface to feed. He took it as a good omen. Though I had no idea at the time, he was anxious that Dave and I might feel intimidated about making the trip; such a big payoff, so quickly, would get us excited and defuse any apprehensions.

For Dave, the whale-sighting had exactly the opposite effect. Once, when he was a kid, his dad took him scuba diving with dolphins. They were friendly, awe-inspiring creatures, purportedly, but they terrified Dave instead. He could still conjure the feeling of hanging defenselessly in that water while the animals deftly swirled around him, less like solid objects than flashes of reflected light, while he could move only in comparative slow-motion.

Ever since, he had harbored a fear of large sea creatures — a niche phobia, particularly for a young man who lived in the Bronx, but a genuine one still. And so, even as Dave understood that a chance to see whales up close like this was a major draw of a kayaking trip in Alaska, and though he feigned being thrilled, some second thoughts were kicking in: We were going out there, he realized. The whale left me exhilarated and gleeful, like Jon; but deeper down, I also remember feeling shaken, like Dave.

Nothing about the animal registered to me as playful or welcoming. It just appeared in the distance, then transited quickly past us, from left to right. Watching it made me feel profoundly out of place and register how large that wilderness was, relative to me. At the time, I was working at a literary magazine in New York City called The Hudson Review, picking poems out of the slush pile and mailing them to an outside panel of editorial advisers.

I was trying hard in my letters to impress one of them: Hayden Carruth, a gruff and irreverent year-old poet who lived far upstate.

Never then or now have I been able to look at a cloudless sky at night and see beauty there. A kind of grandeur, yes — but not beauty. The profusion and variety of celestial lights have always frightened me.

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Why are they there? Why these instead of others? Why these instead of nothing? That was how I felt, watching the whale from the beach: afraid that everything was accidents.