As Nikki is brand new to the Real Gap Experience family, we decided to quiz her on her six months in South America, which she did last year. It's safe to say that all of us who haven't been to South America before are now desperate, and those that have want to go again!
Your biggest must do in South America?
The Inca Trail – spending 4 days trekking through cloud forests, sub-tropical forests and mountain landscapes was both physically and mentally tiring, but the views were absolutely amazing. Along the way you'll see other Inca ruins and sometimes bump in to the odd llama on your way. The route still contains original stones the Inca’s used to pave the way, making you realise how dedicated and passionate they really were. On the last day you have to wake up at 3am, but it’s completely worth it to make it to the sun gate and watch the sun rise above Machu Picchu! There is also a huge sigh of relief knowing that there is little walking left to do!
What was your favourite country of the trip?
My favourite country of the trip was Bolivia. Bolivia encompassed everything I imagined South America to be. The country is so diverse, ranging from the Altiplano of the Andes mountain range to the Amazon rainforest and there was so much to see and do. I was able to see the world’s highest lake, Lake Titicaca, swam with Pink River Dolphins in the Amazon Basin and took a 4x4 tour through Salar de Uyuni. The salt flats are were also a favourite and definitely a once in a life time experience. The culture is so different to anything else I experienced in South America. They have kept to their traditions, which makes the country even more interesting. Learning about different cultures is definitely one of my favourite aspects of travel.
Would you recommend learning Spanish before you go?
I would most definitely recommend learning Spanish before you go, even if it is just the basics. By learning Spanish I was able to engage with the locals and they would always want to try and help you out, whether it is with improving your Spanish or guiding you to the best places in town. I also think learning a language helps you get a great insight in to other cultures.
A travel highlight for you?
Wildlife in the Amazon – As a huge animal lover visiting the Amazon was like heaven, there was animals literally everywhere! I remember waking up to the call of howler monkeys in the morning, seeing sloths hiding in trees and one time one even walked out in front of me! As well as sloths and numerous different monkeys I was also able to see capybaras, hummingbirds, anacondas, macaws, caimans, and even swim with pink river dolphins. The best bit is the Amazon can be accessed from several countries in South America.
Your best tips for travelling in South America?
Pack some warm clothes! I didn’t think about it before I left but quite a large part of South America lies above 3000m., and as a result I was left feeling very cold at times. Especially at night time when I had to camp on the Inca Trail. I went in June (that’s their Winter) and temperatures reached -10C!