For me, few continents elicit such envy, and provoke such passionate pleas of "take me with you", as does South America.
For Australians, this is the last unexplored land. From my first foray into this continent in 1970, when I undertook an expedition for 11 months with my own mini bus, until now, I have always found this dark and exotic continent, swathed in mystery, to be effervescent with excitement and deserving of every travel cliche in the book. It is probably the most underrated, and wildly misunderstood, destination.
South America is a huge continent, two and a half times the size of Australia: a potpourri of cultures and traditions, from primitive tribes who have rarely seen white man, to the oldest European graciousness that is the legacy of the Spanish and Portuguese colonists, along with the evocative remains of some of the world's most magnificent civilizations.
While travelling recently in South and Central America, visiting new regions that I feel will be of interest, I was delighted to be awarded the honorary position of Mayor of Peru for one year, and to be presented with the Varayoc (Mayoral Staff) by the President of Peru. It is with this experience that I have returned to Australia, and now with even greater gusto I am promoting this last unexplored land as a fascinating (and safe) area for Australians to travel through.
However, one is not so naive as to believe that South America is merely a land of bowler hatted Bolivian women, toting their offspring in shawls, or young shepherd boys leading llamas by the nose. The sophistication of Argentina, the sultriness of Brazil, the colonial loveliness of Peru, with the mystique of Machu Picchu and the awe inspiring views of the Canyon de Colca (twice the depth of the Grand Canyon), and the heart stopping beauty of Bolivia's capital by night are unique experiences, and ones worthy of a flight to the other side of the world.
South America, however, is not a continent for everyone. If you feel uncomfortable when faced with other people's hardships, if you have no patience with other races, religions or culture, it is not for you. In a word, South America can be fabulous and frustrating, exciting and exasperating. A South American five minutes bears no resemblance to an Australian five minutes. If you want 24 hour room service, the customs, habits and standards of the western world, find another destination.But if you want to experience a life quite removed from any other, where the unusual is the everyday, then pack your tolerance, patience, understanding and a hefty measure of good manners and head for South America, the land of the samba, smiles, sun and fun.
We invite you to learn more about this wonderful continent. Travel arrangements are varied to provide overland sectors by bus, train and launch where these do not unduly increase travelling times. We feel it is far better to enjoy the scenic delights of the country than to spend a few extra hours in a major city.
If there is travel in your blood, then South America is the ultimate destination.