While I was studying overseas for a year, I had the opportunity to travel to Perú, Bolivia and México, where I visited friends, explored nature and had the chance to see some of their rich culture and history.
Perú was a magical place filled with history and an amazing energy. After a brief stay in Lima, a beautiful coastal city, I headed to Arequipa where I met Gonzalo, a friend I met in Colombia, who took me to see Monasterio de Santa Catalina – a beautifully decorated monastery lined with flowers, built in the 16th century, that houses nuns to this day.
Without a doubt, the highlight of my trip to Perú was the Salkantay Trek and Machu Picchu. The five-day trek started high up in the white snow-capped mountains. As per my friend’s recommendation, I decided to do trekking – I had never gone hiking before and I have only had worn out sneakers with me at that time. Luckily, I made it through the slippery snow without injury. As we made our way down, we were captivated by the luscious green landscape and a cool, rainy climate. On the final day, we experienced the hotter side of the tropical climate, we also came across banana trees and palm trees, complete with views of waterfalls and rushing rivers. It was truly wonderful to be in nature and to see the huge variation in climate from day to day, and to see the ancient city of Machu Picchu. The energy, the air, the surrounding mountains were breathtaking.
While travelling throughout South America, many people were generous and kind and helped me in unexpected ways. One of them was Elisban, our guide on the trek who took me to see Cristo Blanco in Cusco. Elisban also accompanied me to the bus station to bid me farewell I left Perú.
In Bolivia, I was very lucky to meet many kind people. I spent Christmas in La Paz with Leonard and Carola and her lovely family. We ate turkey, played charades and watched as they danced traditional Bolivian dances.
I also went on a lovely date with her grandmother, who told me about Bolivia and a fascinating story she was writing about. From the chaotic city of La Paz, I visited the Salar de Uyuni. From there, I headed to the relaxed and sunny capital of Sucre, where all the homes and buildings in the historic centre were painted white and had red rooftops. There, I welcomed in the new year with Erika and her friends.
From Sucre, I embarked on a day trip to Potosí. My day in Potosí started bad. It was cold and raining, and I arrived very late. Five taxis declined to take me, so I hopped on a a mini bus to the Casa de la Moneda, where I met Mario a teenage boy and his little sister. We toured the museum together and took lots of photos. It was very interesting to see the religious artworks that had combined the Catholic faith and the faith of the indigenous people who believed in the Pachamama.
After the tour, they ended up taking me to Cerro Rico where the famous silver mines were. We arrived just as it was beginning to get dark. There was not a single tourist in sight, only big trucks and some miners (who looked at us oddly). Despite feeling somewhat afraid, we climbed on to see the entrance of one of the mines and walked back down hastily as it was getting dark. It was intriguing to visit the museum and the Cerro Rico, as I had studied the historic importance of these silver mines to the economy while studying the course American Colonial History.
After completing my second semester in Colombia, I travelled to México in July. It was lovely to see the friends I made in my first semester of exchange again, and to travel around México with them. My trip which was filled with history, culture and many many delicious foods to try.
I stayed with Carla, her family and Luis. They came down from Chihuahua just to see me. We visited the surrounding attractions such as Puebla, Morelos and the ancient city of Teotihuacán. It was awesome to be able to climb ancient pyramids that were only an hour away from a modern megacity, to visit the Pueblos Mágicos that still conserved their old buildings and streets, and to see the many beautiful cathedrals. I loved seeing the works of Mexican muralists such as David Alfaro Siqueiros and Diego Rivera in the Palacio Nacional, Palacio de Bellas Artes and North America’s only royal castle, the charming Castillo de Chapultepec, as well as the gorgeous Casa Azul.
After a sad farewell and promises to see each other again, I flew to Guadalajara. The centre of Guadalajara had a town-like atmosphere, with many impressive colonial buildings to see, a gothic style cathedral called Templo Expiatorio and the Teatro Degollado. At the hostel, I met a group of nice Korean girls who had just finished their exchange in the USA. We had a delicious Mexican dinner together. The tour of Tequila, a Pueblo Mágico, was a really fun way to end my year in Latin America. We saw fields of blue Agave plants, danced to Mariachi music, and tasted lots of tequilas. In summary, travelling alone to Perú, Bolivia and México was an unforgettable experience left me with many precious memories.
Though I have had my doubts and fears, I am grateful to have met so many beautiful people that guided me on my journey and taught me many valuable lessons.