All these five suggested trips are, to varying degrees, totally mad. However, they are all perfectly possible to arrange for wannabe modern day explorers / adventurers.
Follow in the footsteps of the Spanish Conquistadores, modern day explorers or indigenous pilgrims - any of these five suggested Latin America trips you’ll never forget.
1. Up the Amazon River to very rarely visited indigenous territory
Marubo tribe longhouse - way off the beaten track in Brazil’s Amazon.
Most people (myself included) who’ve visited the Amazon head to either Manaus or Tefe (Brazil), Leticia (Colombia), Iquitos (Peru) or Tena or Coca (Ecuador) to arrange a trip to the vast Amazon region. However, real adventurers need to head further afield into the depths of the Amazon for the most authentic travel experiences. You could follow in the footsteps of Bruce Parry’s and his amazing BBC documentary “Amazon”, and head to some seriously off the beaten track parts of the Amazon. One of the most rarely visited and remote parts is the Vale do Javari Indigenous Reserve in Brazil. The easiest way to get there is to fly to either Tabatinga in Brazil or it’s neighbouring city Leticia in Colombia. From either you can charter a boat - the Matis tribe could be easily visited in a long day trip, but if you’re a real adventurer head way up the river Javari, which runs the border of Peru and Brazil. The Marubo village of Parana is various days upstream, but a seldom visited place where you’re likely to be received like royal aliens (this is where Bruce Parry visited and filmed - more info here). Expect plenty of shaman rituals, inquisitiveness and war dances. Don’t expect that such a trip to be easy to arrange - you’ll almost certainly need prior permission from the Vale do Javari’s Reserve’s authorities before you visit.
2. Camino Real Trek from the Pacific to the Caribbean in Panama
The Camino Real Trek is one of Latin America’s newest, trendiest and most hardcore treks possible. You’ll spend 3 nights in tents doing this rainforest trek through remote territory of the Chagres National Park in Panama. The trek lasts four days as you travel from the Pacific Ocean all the way across Panama to the Caribbean Sea, at times following the Camino Real (or Kings Road) from the 16 Century Conquistadores, at other times following the now overgrown railway tracks used for the construction of the Panama Canal. This is an organized trek, with fixed departure dates about once every month or so - various tour operators can sell it to you, but you’d be best of booking directly with Ancon Expeditions who actually organize the expedition.
3. Pedal Bike from Uyuni (Bolivia) to San Pedro de Atacama (Chile)
Bolivia - Across the Salar de Uyuni and beyond.
South West Bolivia is an out of this world lunar like landscape consisting of freezing cold deserts, volcanoes (some are active) and multi coloured lakes at over 4000 metres in altitude. It’s a remote, barren and amazingly beautiful landscape, and one of Bolivia’s most popular tourist destinations. Many travellers do this route by Toyota Landcruiser (plenty of tours depart every day), but if you’re a real adventurer, consider doing it by pedal bike - I’d guess it takes a little under a week. I know this is possible, as I saw one lone cyclist in the middle of the desert doing this route a few months ago. Respect!
4. Trekking the Darien Gap
This option really is totally mad, but I though I’d through it in anyway. The Darien Gap is a huge swathe of untouched, primary rainforest in Southern Panama / Northern Colombia - it stretches the entire width of both countries, from Pacific to Caribbean coasts, and has no roads in it. There is no overland route from Panama to Colombia - only “the Darien Gap”. It’s a really dangerous place - to a large degree because there’s a lot of guerillas, drug smugglers and bandits in the remote area. If you’re a real nutcase, try to find a local prepared to guide you through the jungles - either by trekking, of even by motorbike. I believe it’s also been done by Humvee.
5. Run the Entire Length of the Americas
Respect to anyone that tries the organized Tierra del Fuego to Alaska Run
The “Peace and Dignity Journey” is a spiritual run organized every four years by indigenous groups from across the Americas. Participants are advised to be “warriors” and are normally indigenous people, that run for anything from one day to months on end. The true “warriors” run from Tierra del Fuego, the Southernmost point in South America, all the way to Alaska in North America. The idea of the event is to promote indigenous rights and solidarity in the Americas. The event is open to runners from across the continents (though if you’re from elsewhere you might be able to participate I would guess?). That would be a serious adventure…