Bribing at border, trouble in El Salvador and Mexican Wrestling

Well slept in the lap of luxury, a full tank of fuel gifted by Casa Pellas and 4 brand new wheels for our Forrest gave us a high spirited start

Forrest being towed on a truck through El Salvador

Forrest being towed on a truck through El Salvador

the following morning from Nicaragua on way to the Honduras border. One of the staff members was instructed to escort us to the Nicaragua-Honduras border. We reached the Nicaraguan side of the border in a couple of hours and confidently walked up to immigration for our exit stamp. They scanned our passport carefully and then asked,
“Where is the Honduras visa?” the nightmare started.
“We have a US visa, we dont need a Honduras visa” I replied. We had checked online and were sure that if we had a US visa, we could enter Honduras using it.
“Sorry, you cannot cross Nicarauga and enter Honduras without a valid Honduras visa. You have to go back to Manauga (capital of Nicaragua) and get the Honduras visa” the officer replied.
Nonsense. Managua was a 5 hour drive, it was already afternoon and there was no way we could come back with the visa the same day or even the next day. The Casa Pellas employee who had accompanied us at the border asked us to step outside. We went outside and typical of us, we saw a food stall and sat down for lunch.
“Let’s eat lunch” Sanjay replied. He has a knack of difusing any level of stress or worry. Here we were arguing and trying to get out of Nicaragua and enter Honduras, custom officer’s were giving us trouble, and all Sanjay said was, “Let’s each lunch”
“It’s not in our hands. Casa Pellas guy is helping, he is talking to them, let him handle it, what can we do? The food looks delicious, we all are hungry, just chill” he said casually.
“They are asking for 300 USD as bribe” the Casa Pellas guy announced to us after 30 minutes.
“What? 300 USD? For what? We are not paying that, its rubbish!” I said
“Well, they are saying that they will get you special transit visa to go to Honduras but that will cost 300 dollars. This is the only way they will let you go, otherwise, we have to go back to Managua” he replied
There was nothing we could do. The frustrating part was that we would only be trasiting through Honduras. We would be driving for maximum 2 hours in Honduras and then enter El Salvador. So basically, we were being asked for 300 USD for a 2 hour transit through Honduras. What did we do? We paid it. We paid 300 USD and received a receipt for 9 USD!

After wasting 3 hours and 300 dollars, we finally bid goodbye to Nicaragua and entered Honduras. “Be careful in Honduras”,

Exiting El Salvador

Exiting El Salvador

“Dont stop if anyone asks for a lift”, “Dont stop in any remote areas”, “Get out as soon as possible”. These were the usual warnings that we had received when we had told people that we were going to Honduras. The country looked very poor, at the border, everyone was trying to sell us something. Water, food, sim cards, insurance, sunglasses, hats, vegetables, fruit, cold drinks, you name it.
“Where are you guys going?”one man walked out of his van
“El Salvador” I replied
“I am also crossing Honduras and going to El Salvador. I live there” he replied
“Great, can we follow you till the border? You are the only person who speaks in English and everyone has got us worried about crossing Honduras” I said
“Sure, you can follow my van, I will keep a lookout for you”

He seemed someone who could be trusted but we still decided that if he goes off the highway at any point and expects us to follow him, we wont. We would carry on and stick to the highway. We completed the border formalities and hit the Honduran highway which was full of potholes so we carefully dodged our way and continued towards the Honduras-El Salvador border behind our escort van. The country side looked average, people looked like they were struggling to make a living, road signs were non existent and now we were thankful that we had an escort.
“Without the van ahead of us, it would be very difficult to be sure if we are on the right highway” Sanjay commented

In exactly 2 hours time we reached the Honduras-El Salvador border. We exited Honduras without any drama and also entered El Salvador swiftly.
“Wow, entering El Salvador has been the quickest border crossing” I said. A comment that I should have reserved till the vehicle custom process was done. At most borders in South and Central America, we had to go through 2 processes. First, get the immigration done and passport stamped. Second, get the temporary import permit for the vehicle from the Custom office at the border. Our immigration in El Salvador barely took 5 minutes and we were told to drive for a few kms further to get the vehicle permit from the Customs officer. The van guy who escorted us through Honduras somehow felt responsible to take us to the Custom office so we continued following him till we reached the Customs office. I walked to the Custom officer and was given a form to fill. All standard practice. I kept filling every item and noticed one question which seemed a bit strange.
“Where is the steering wheel located in your vehicle? Left side or Right side” Hmm, this question was never asked before. I ticked ‘Right side’ and gave the form back.
After 15 minutes, I was called inside the office and nightmare number 2 started
“Sorry, we cannot let you drive in El Salvador because our rules do not permit vehicles with steering wheel on right side into our country” the El Salvadorian Custom officer delclared firmly.
For a minute, I did not react. Sanjay was not allowed to come inside as the car is my name so I was on my own. My mind was already racing. Cannot drive through El Salvador? What will we do? Go back to Honduras and drive around El Salvador to enter our next country? No, we cannot go back to Honduras! They may again ask us for 300 dollars. But, what do we do now?
“What do we do now?” I asked the officer.
“You have 2 options. Either go back to Honduras and drive around El Salvador and enter Guatemala. Or, put your car on a truck and cross El Salvador on a truck” he replied.
“Officer, we have driven through 4 continents and more than 20 countries and never had a problem, we are only transiting through El Salvador, we will be out of your country in less than 24 hours anyways, please, we are on a world trip, can you not let us drive for just a few hours?” I pleaded, almost begged
“Sorry, it is the law. I am cooperating with you by allowing you to take your car on a truck. For that too, I can only give you a maximum of 24 hours starting now. Within 24 hours of now, you should be out of El Salvador with your car” he replied.
“And ya, your car will remain here in our parking lot now. It will go from here only on a truck. So please arrange a truck and come back to take your car” he concluded

It was already 10 in the night. Where do we get a truck at this hour? In El Salvador? Another country about which everyone had warned us? Be careful, never leave your car abandoned in a public area, dont drive at night, dont stay out at night, there are lots of gangs in El Salvador, you will be easy targets. Phew! All these thoughts were now echoing in my head. I went outside the officer and explained the entire situation to Sanjay.
“Let’s find a hotel and check in for the night. We can call Mr Pellas and I am sure he will have some contact in El Salvador who can help us find a truck” Sanjay replied

Mr Pellas was right on it. He gave us contact details of one of his associates in El Salvador and we called him. He had already received a call from Mr Pellas’ office and his words comforted us
“Dont worry, arranging a truck is easy. I will do it first thing in the morning and call you back. “

Entering Guatemala at night

Entering Guatemala at night

We found a small motel and checked in for the night. We were a bit worried with this sudden turn of events but at the same time we knew that we will find a solution. If we had to cross El Salvador on a truck, then be it so. We just hoped that it wouldnt cost that much. In the morning, our local help called us and declared the good news,
“The truck has been arranged and it will reach the Parking lot of the custom office in 2 hours. They will load your car on the truck and take you straight to El Salvador-Guatemala border. The truck will charge 500 USD but dont worry, Mr Pellas will take care of the expense”
Mr Pellas will take care of the truck expense? Why? He didnt have to! It was a massive relief for us, the truck was arranged and the entire cost was paid for by our guardian angel, Mr Pellas! There are such kind, giving, selfless people in this world even today, we didnt know how to react, how to thank him, we were just grateful, very grateful.

We checked out and went back to the custom office. While approaching the custom office, i had my fingers crossed because I was worried sick that the car wouldnt be there. It was the first time since we started the world trip that we had left our car in a public parking that too in El Salvador. The only solace was that it was parked in a goverment compound which had tight security. As we reached the Custom office, I literally ran towards the parking lot and I saw Forrest. Phew! It was parked in exactly the same way as we had left it. No damage done, it was intact, just the way we had left it the night before. We met the same Custom officer and told him about the truck. He didnt waste anytime in issuing the permit and as soon as the truck arrived, we didnt waste anytime in loading it up. The car went on the truck and we went inside the car. After the car trouble in Bolivia, this was the second time that we sat in our car while the car was on a truck. Only this time, the car had no problem. It was hot, so we switched on the ignition of our car to get the air-condition running. It felt weird but funny. 3 guys sitting inside their car on a moving truck with ignition on and cruising on the El Salvadorian highway. These unplanned situations, these unusual experiences, these spur of the moment decisions are what make this journey a journey of a lifetime.

We were on that truck all day long and by evening we reached El Salvador-Guatemala border. The truck was unloaded, paperwork

With Rajeev and Duniya

With Rajeev and Duniya

done and we were free to cross the bridge between the 2 conutries and enter Guatemala. But a word of caution from the El Salvador personnel before we left El Salvador:
“Guatemala is a dangerous country, be very careful, dont give lift to strangers, dont stop if anyone signals, dont park your car in public etc etc etc.”ya, ya, ya we had heard it all before, the next country is always more dangerous than the one we were in currently. I dont mean that we took these warnings or suggestions lightly, but it was strange that nobody claimed their own country to be dangerous but only cautioned us about the neighbouring country!

We entered Guatemala at night time and after a night stop in a small motel, we hit the road the following morning. We were tired of doing so many border crossings in such a short period of time. We decided to skip doing any sightseeing in Guatemala and headed straight for Mexico. The country side in Guatemala didnt look much different from El Salvador. It was green, it was scenic, it seemed raw, untouched but it seemed poor and undeveloped. In contrast to Costa Rica and Panama, which appeared very affulent, the other Central American countries seemed to be struggling. We reached the Mexican border and after a smooth border crossing, we were in Mexico!

Kapil, the owner Naans and Curries in Costa Rica had told one of his friends Rajeev, in Mexico about us and Rajeev had made arrangement for our stay. We reached the apartment where he lived with his Mexican girlfriend called ‘Duniya’, I know we also made the typical jokes about her name but she had heard it all before! Rajeev works at TCS and with a limping foot due to a football injury, he walked out to greet us.
“Welcome to Mexico. First things first, let’s go eat some local street food” he said. It was almost like he read our minds. If you go to Mexico and don’t eat the street food, seriously, dont bother going at all. The smell of the sauces, the spicy rice, the burrotis, the tacos, the meat, the smoke from the grill, the music blaring out from the street vendors shops, you will need to time check how long you ate because there is no way you can keep a check on your stomach in Mexico!

A 'Luchador' Mexican wrestler

A ‘Luchador’ Mexican wrestler

Have you seen the film “Nacho Libre”? Its about a monk who follows his dream to became a ‘Luchador’ (Mexican wrestler). Since the time I had seen that movie ages ago, I had always been fascinated by Mexican wrestling known as ‘Lucha Libre’. In my ‘Mexican checklist’, there were 2 things, eat food and watch a Lucha Libre wrestling match. All I had to do was tell Rajeev and he had booked tickets for us to go see a Lucha Libre match. Mexican wrestling is characterized by colorful masks, rapid sequences of holds and maneuvers, as well as “high-flying” maneuvers, the wrestlers wear colorful costumes and masks and are very flexible in acrobatic moves. The whole event is organised to be highly entertaining. Bikini clad women walk on the ramp to introduce the wrestlers, each wrestler would come out in a dramatic fashion to either the cheers or the boos of the crowds. The crowds sit around the wrestling ring and feed themselves on popcorns, nachos and spiced up Mexican beer! The wrestlers are dressed in different characters, one came out dressed as a spiderman, others had their own style. There was this one wrestler who called himself ‘Shocker’, he was above 50 years old but seemed like the crowds favourite. Another one called ‘Marco’ was definitely the favourite amongst the women in the crowd. He was close to 7 feet tall, had an 8 pack, very chiseled body, handsome guy, and every few minutes, he would stop and do a slow pelvic move for the ladies. The screaming and the shouting at his pelvic move could put football fans to shame. One of the ladies kept screaming, “Marco, I want to have babies with you, Marco please, please, please” But, Marco wouldnt listen! The wrestlers came out in teams of 2 or 3 and two teams would compete against each other in the ring. Any wrestler would easily lift a 150 kilo man with absolute easy and just throw him out of the ring. Or climb on top of the rope surrounding the ring and just dive down landing straight on the opponet crying in pain on the floor. It was all staged but still conduced with so much skill, that it seemed more difficult and more dangerous than any real form of wrestling.

At the end of the match, we requested Rajeev’s girlfriend ‘Duniya’ to speak to the orgnaisers and try to make us meet one of

The women introducing the wrestlers

The women introducing the wrestlers

the wrestlers. She didnt think twice before walking to the organisers and telling them about our round the world journey.
“Which wrestler would you like to meet?” she asked.
“What, we have a choice? Umm, ok Marco or Shocker” I replied.
Ök, they will check if anyone of them is available”she said and we were taken to a waiting room. We were all very excited and I was a bit nervous too. I was gong to meet one of the biggest wrestling stars of Mexico. What will I ask him? What will be talk to him about? I hope he doesnt lift me up and throw me out of Mexico! That would be very easy for any of these huge wrestlers.

With Shocker, one of the stars of Lucha Lubre

With Shocker, one of the stars of Lucha Lubre

After 10 minutes, Shocker entered the room. A huge guys, white hair, a chest 3 times my size, biceps, 10 times my size and greeted us with a very warm smile. It was a bonus that he could speak english.
“Welcome to Mexico guys, did you enjoy the show?”he asked
Ümm, yes can we call you Shocker?” I asked feeling awkward
“Call me anything you want”he replied smiling
We kept chatting with him for a few minutes and I asked him to show me a wrestling move. He suddenly came close to me, went behind, grabbed by hand and twisted it in such a way, that my entire body locked and I could move at all!
“Cmon, Tushar, get out of the freeze”he said and started laughing loudly
What an idiot I am, but I asked for it!
“You really think I am going to even try to force myself out of your grip and break my body into pieces” I replied smiling. He was a great guy who was obsessed with his biceps and his face.
He would kiss his left bicep, then his right bicep, then lift up his chin and touch it with the back of his hand and say, “Look at this face, look at me, I am the most handsome wrestler ever born. I don’t wear a mask, you know why, cause how can I deprive the ladies from seeing this handsome face?”. I think I will stop at that.

Mexico was highly entertaining. The food, the wrestling, the city tour with Rajeev and Duniya’, we were in the city for only

Chocolate Chicken, a local dish in Mexico!

Chocolate Chicken, a local dish in Mexico!

one day but during that one day, we got a great idea about this high spirited, food and fun loving country. Central America was done. Now, we had to start driving towards the United States of America. We started our engine in Mexico City right at 3 AM and headed straight for the Mexican-US border which was around 1000 km away. We drove all night (which we were later told was a stupid thing to do), and reeached the border in the afternoon the following day. We were cleared the Mexican side of the border easily and drove towards US border. We were getting a bit nervous. Everyone knows that US airports, immigration and customs can be very difficult. They ask a lot of questions, they check everything, they take there own sweet time to make sure you are not a trouble maker, so the checking at a land border, that too a Mexican-US border crossing, and on top of that when you are driving an India registered vehicle into USA, has to be impossibly difficuly. Right? Wrong!

We were asked park our car in a bay and come out with our passports.
“Are you carrying anything in your car that needs to be declared” one custom officer asked.
“No sir” we replied.
“Ok, go to the immigration office and get your passports stamped please” he replied casually. We walked into the immigration office, got finger prints done and within 15 minutes our passports were stamped.
“Welcome to United States of America” the immigration officer said.
“That’s it? Umm, officer, we are driving. We are driving a car from India. Dont we need a special permits, like a temporary permit to bring a foreign vehicle into USA?”
“Umm, not that I am aware of. Maybe you can ask the custom officers outside” he replied.
We walked outside to the same custom officer who we had met before.
“You got your passport stamped?” he asked
“Yes, sir, we did” I replied
“OK then, you’re good” he replied
We are good? What does that mean? We are free to go? That’s it? Atleast check our car, check our bags, ask us something, anything!
“Umm, sir, you mean we are free to go now?” i asked again
“Yes, you’re good” he replied again
“Don’t we need to get any documentation, permits, permissions, anything for the vehicle? I mean it is a foreign vehicle that we are driving all the way from India, don;t you need to make a record or an entry somewhere?” Could I be clearer than this?
“You’re good. Drive safe and enjoy the United States of America”

Panama Canal, Curry in Costa Rica and the King of Nicaragua

We left our vehicle at the Indian Embassy in Bogota and flew back to India to get our visas for Central and North America.

Boarding the flight from Cartagena to Panama

Boarding the flight from Cartagena to Panama

Forrest was safely parked in Bogota and after getting our visas and managing to raise enough money to fund the next leg of our journey, we flew back to Colombia. The time in between continents when we return home is always filled with mixed emotions. We are absolutely delighted to be going back home for a few weeks but at the same time, we have to use that time to somehow arrange for enough money to fund the next leg. Borrow from friends and family, go from one bank to another, try to sell our tours or try to sell some asset. It is always a mixture of all of the above. A lot of people ask us, “how are you funding this journey?” Well, the answer is hidden in the above lines. No gimmicks, no 6 figure cheques from big companies, it’s all blood, sweat and tears! And our tears I think helped us convince Air France to give us free tickets and also to upgrade us to Business Class.
“Tushar, I saw a light in your eyes when you were telling me about your world trip and just for that reason, we will give you free tickets” Said Hicham, country head of KLM India.

We landed at Bogota Airport where a car from the Indian Embassy was waiting for us. “Hmm, The Embassy car has come to pick us up, we must be doing something right!” Sanjay laughed. The Embassy had organized another get together to welcome us back to Bogota. We reached the Embassy, met the Ambassador and Mr Ravindra, the First Secretary.
“Welcome back boys, we ran a contest on your journey and a few girls from Colombia who won the contest will be coming to meet you in sometime. They are your fans, please spend some time with them” he said to us
“Fans? We have Colombian girls as fans?”
People started gathering in the Embassy and when it was time, we entered the conference hall amidst an applause. Sanjay, Prasad and I gave a speech on our experiences and then got chatting with the people who had come to meet us.
“You are my hero!” one of the girls who had won the contest said to me with a big smile.
Ümm, what? ok, thank you so much, umm, that is very sweet of you to say.” how do you react to a comment like this? I was embarrassed!

We bid goodbye to everyone and finally went down to the parking lot where Forrest was still parked in the same place where we had left him. We loaded the car, started the ignition and slowly pulled out of the parking lot. After an 18 hour flight from Delhi to Bogota, a function at the Embassy, we didn’t waste any time before starting our 1100 km drive towards Cartagena. We were in a rush to reach Cartagena because we had to put our car on a ship for Panama. Even though Colombia is connected to Panama by land, but an 80 km area known as the ‘Darien Gap’ is inaccessible by road. It is the only break in the 24000 km long Pan American Highway because of which anyone wishing to drive from South America to Central America has to ship the car over the Atlantic Ocean from Colombia to Panama.

We managed to reach Cartagena just in the time to book our car on a Panama bound ship and decided to spend a couple of

The famous Panama Hats hanging from a ceiling

The famous Panama Hats hanging from a ceiling

days looking around Cartagena before flying to Panama to take delivery of Forrest from the port. Cartagena is a historic colonial town where you can see the old Spanish architecture in the form of museums, theatres and churches. It is also a beach town where you can go for a dip in the gorgeous blue waters of the Atlantic ocean. While walking along the beach front, we met some very friendly Colombian people who were having a leisurely evening with their girlfriends.
“Hey guys? How you doing? Come join us” one of the guys said to us. We walked up to his group of 2 guys and 2 gorgeous Colombian women.
“We are just enjoying the weekend with our girlfriends. But…our wives are in another town. In Colombia, it is common, we have wives and we also have girlfriends” he laughed and told me.
Ümm, ok, so what did you tell your wife? I asked him curiously
“That I am going for an important conference for a few days!” he replied happily. Not knowing how to react, I simply smiled and he continued doing most of the talking. He kept taking pictures with us and when we finally realised that he was absoutely drunk, we excused ourselves and went to take a dip in the ocean. It was one of those rare days when we were not driving and had some leisure time. We also got to spend a couple of nights at the Hilton, one of the most expensive hotels in Cartagena courtesy of a call made by the Indian Embassy to the General Manager of The Hilton, an Indian guy!

We flew to Panama after a couple of days and as expected, the vehicle delivery was delayed by a few days. Not wanting to waste any time, we took a city tour of Panama and were amazed to see the tall skyscrapers all around in the city.
“All these buildings have come up in the last 10 years. Panama is thriving and business is good.” A local tour guide told us. He also took us to visit the most important landmark of Panama, i.e. the Panama Canal. Nothing, just nothing can come even close to the engineering marvel of the Panama Canal. The canal is the only route between Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific ocean. The Americans build it over a 100 years ago by cutting through the narrowest stretch of Panama which has Pacific Ocean in the South and Atlantic ocean in the North. It was a treat to watch the massive cargo ships being lifted to the level of the canal by simply raising the level of water and then carefully manoeuvre through the narrow stretch of the canal to cross over from one ocean to another. We saw 106 feet wide ship pass through the 110 feet wide canal, that requires a massive amount of skill!
“It is amazing the places we get to see during this journey, people make long plans to come visit the Panama Canal, and we came here just like that…just because we happen to have a free day while the car is being prepared for delivery!” I said to Sanjay

With Mrs Shamma Jain, Indian Ambassador to Panama

With Mrs Shamma Jain, Indian Ambassador to Panama

The car was still not ready and we decided to go say hello to Mrs Shamma Jain, the Indian Ambassador of Panama.
“It is a pleasure to meet you guys and I must say you are making us all very proud. Ok listen, I am in a rush and have to go to this Indian Womens’ meet right away, why don’t you boys come with me and meet them?” she smiled and said to us when we went to see her at the Embassy
“Umm, sure, why not?” We had no clue what this meet was about, but there was no way we were going to turn down an invite from the Indian Ambassador! In the next few minutes, we were sitting in a luxury Diplomatic Chauffer driven Mercedez Benz that belonged to the Ambassador and were driving with her towards the venue of the meet.
“Why don’t you wait in the lobby while I go and tell the organizers about you. Someone will come and get you from here” she said and walked inside the banquet.
A few minutes later, 2 ladies came smiling and asked us to follow them inside. As we walked inside, a room full of around 200 women stood up and started clapping. We had no clue what to do. We were standing and smiling and feeling a bit embarrassed.
“Umm, what do we do?” I whispered to Prasad. A lady came to us and asked us go to the podium and start talking. One by one, Sanjay, Prasad and I started sharing our experiences with a room full of women where we were the only 3 guys. “Are you all married?” “What do you do about your laundry?” “Don’t you fight with each other?” were some of the questions that we were asked. After we were done, the ladies’ walked up to us for pictures. Since there were so many of them and all of them wanted pictures clicked, it was a great feeling to see that they were actually waiting and had almost formed a queue to get clicked with us! I think we are living a dream life, moments like these are not easy to get.

We sometimes go hungry, we sleep in cheap motels with shared bathrooms, we don’t bathe for days and drive overnight to avoid spending money on hotels, but when we meet people, it all seems worth it. The look in the eyes of those ladies and of everyone else who we talk to about our journey, is full of awe and admiration and even pride. That look keeps us going and no matter how many times we are asked to talk about our journey or explain the route or tell people what was the best and the worst experience so far, we do it happily because we know that it is the only time that we will get to talk to all these people in various countries during our journey.

After spending a few days in Panama, we went to the port in Colon and finally saw Forrest being driven out of the

At the Indian Women's meet in Panama

At the Indian Women’s meet in Panama

container. Every time we see Forrest come out of a port, it gives us a feeling of completeness. Without him, we feel handicapped, lost and low on energy too.
“We feel we are doing the world trip, only when Forrest is with us” Sanjay had commented. He was absolutely right. Our journey is all about seeing the world through our windscreen.

We took the car from the port, gave it a nice scrub, loaded up our bags and finally started driving from Panama towards Costa Rica. Leg 5 of the Great Indian World Trip began! Countries in Central America are fairly small in size and it is easy to drive through each one of those in a matter of days…sometimes, even a matter of hours. We hit the highway and were carefully heading north towards the Costa Rica border. We had planned to drive overnight from Panama to Costa Rica but once we reached the border around 11 PM, the barriers were closed.
“Sorry, you are late, please come back at 7 AM to go to Costa Rica” the border guard told us. We spent the night in a small hotel near the border and were back at the border at exactly 7 AM the following morning. The border crossing was chaotic and volunteers were sending us from one window to another. For a moment, I felt they were just having fun playing ‘human football’ with us. “Human Football!” Did I just say that? I have no clue if that even makes sense!

A ship crossing the Panama Canal

A ship crossing the Panama Canal

After a couple of hours of ‘window walking’, keeping a smiling face, and keeping our cool, we crossed the border and entered Costa Rica. No visa was needed because we had a US tourist visa. My first reaction on seeing Costa Rica was its gorgeous landscape. Mountains, lakes, ocean and beaches; Costa Rica is all about outdoors. We continued driving swiftly towards San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica. Someone had put us in touch with Kapil, owner of an Indian restaurant called “Naans and Curriess” Finding the restaurant was easy, we used our “sense of smell” and followed the aroma of the spicy Indian curries in the restaurant! Naah, we were given regular instructions on the phone by Kapil. The restaurant was tastefully decorated and looked expensive. Correction. It cant be expensive if it is free, can it?’Kapil had invited us hungry souls to feed us some Indian food which we were craving for.
“What would you like to eat?” he asked. Sanjay, Prasad and I looked at each other and smiled at the question. “Umm, anything” I replied
“OK, let’s start with some kebabs followed by rogan josh, butter chicken, dal makhani, garlic naan and mutton biryani. Will that be ok?”. Kapil smiled and said.
We didn’t have to respond to that question! Burrrp. After eating 3 times my normal diet, all of us had to put in all the effort to stand up and walk with Kapil to meet with the staff of the restaurant.
“So tell me something strange about Costa Rica”, I asked Jose, the bar tender
“”Homes in Costa Rica don’t have addresses” Jose said casually.
“What? What do you mean? I mean, if you don’t have address, how can your receive your mails or bills?”I asked
“We have to always explain the directions on how to get to our homes”he replied
“I don’t understand, ok, so I wish to write a letter to you, what address should I put on the envelope?” I asked
“Something like this…go to street number 5, you will see a red building, take the first left from that building, go 100 metres, turn right, it is the 3rd house on the left” he replied seriously
“And that is the address that I will have to put on the letter?” i asked in disbelief.
“Yes, it is” he replied casually
“Honestly, will the letter reach you” I ask so many questions
“Umm, it may, it may not. There is no guarantee”
Öf course, there is not guarantee, what happens when they decide to paint the red building in blue color?” I laughed

After lunch and chit chatting, Kapil took us for a quick round of the city and then guided us to the highway that we would need to take towards Nicaragua, our next country. We thanked him for the food, for the hospitality and for simply making us feel so welcome in Costa Rica. Another country, another act of kindness.

We spend the night near the border and the following morning, crossed the border and entered Nicaragua. “Be careful and never let your guard down when you visit Nicaragua” was a warning that was given to us by many people in Panama and Costa Rica. What was about to happen to us was not something anyone had warned us about. We landed in the “Lap of Luxury”. Let me explain how!

Mrs Shamma Jain, the Indian Ambassador to Panama? Who took us for the Womens’ meet? She called the Consulate General

Climbing up Cerro Negro for Volcano Boarding

Climbing up Cerro Negro for Volcano Boarding

of India in Nicaragua and requested him to give us any support we required when we drive through Nicaragua. She set the ball rolling. Mr Silvio Pellas, The Consulate General of India in Nicaragua is a billionaire. I don’t know if she was aware of that, we certainly were not. Before we reached Nicaragua, I received an email from Mr Pellas’ office welcoming us to their country and asking us what we needed. I had replied saying that we wanted accommodation for 1 night and also wanted to experience ‘Volcano Boarding’, a unique sport where you climb to the top of a volcano and then slide down on a sand board. This sport is unique to Nicaragua which is home to 52 volcanoes! The very next day, I received a reply from Mr Pellas’ office saying that they will be happy to arrange a hotel for us and also organise Volcano Boarding. Great. We still had no clue who Mr Pellas really is. We crossed the border and drove for a few hours’ to a point where we were going to meet with the ‘team’ of Mr Pellas’ office that would take us for Volcano Boarding. 3 guys wearing ‘Çasa Pellas’, the company jackets were waiting for us.
“Welcome to Nicaragua. You all are special guests of Mr Pellas and we will make sure you have a wonderful time here” replied Lester, the senior member and a loyal employee working for Mr Pellas from the last 14 years. They took us for volcano boarding to a mountain called “Cerro Negro”which stands for Black Hill. An instructor was already waiting with the sand boards. So 4 people were on standby to take us for volcano boarding. We climbed up the completely black burnt volcano which had last erupted in 1999. I had never seen a volcano so up close and personal before. The 1 hour climb to the volcano was tough but very exciting. Holding our sand boards, all of us climbed up the Cerro Negro volcano.
“The volcano once erupted in the 60s and the lava and the rocks from the volcano were so hot, that they kept burning for 30 years till the early 90s”, Lester told us. As we reached the summit, the wind became extremely strong. It was so strong that I had to plant every step very firmly in the ground fearing that otherwise, the wind may just push me off the volcano. The instructor gave Sanjay and I overall suits, protective glasses, gloves and then he positioned me on the sandboard, gave me instructions on where to keep my hands and legs during the slide, and then he pushed. I started sliding down, slowly at first, but in a few seconds, the sand board picked up speed and before I knew, I was sliding down an active volcano at a speed fast enough for me to be able to keep a control on myself. All I remember is that the burnt mud was flying on my face, in my hair, inside my overalls too and for a few seconds I thought that I will topple. After 30 seconds or so, I kind of got the hang of it and I started enjoying the momentum of the sand board speeding down from the volcano. I was screaming, I was laughing, my heart was beating fast with the adrenalin rush and I didn’t want the slide to end. Halt. Within 2 minutes, I was at the bottom of the volcano which had taken us 1 hour to climb. Sanjay followed behind soon and he too like me, was screaming and laughing with excitement.
“We hope you enjoyed the experience. Let’s get to the hotel, you can freshen up and then we will take you for dinner” Lester said.
The hotel was no ordinary hotel. All 3 of us were given separate rooms (a massive luxury in our world) in the most
With Lester (extreme lft), tasting Fora de Cana Rum

With Lester (extreme lft), tasting Fora de Cana Rum

luxurious hotel of the town. After cleaning up, we were taken to the fine dining restaurant of the same hotel where Lester made us taste an 18 year old ‘rum called ‘Flor de Cana’.
“This rum also belongs to Mr Pellas’company, it is also the most consumed rum in Nicaragua” Lester said proudly.
“You have to experience this rum using all your senses. First see the beautiful color of this rum, then smell it, then just swirl it around in your glass and see how it sticks to the glass while sliding down. “he continued. Then he made us do something unusual. He made us pour a few drops of the rum in the palm of our hands and rub it in both hands like a moisturiser.
“See? It’s not sticky at all. Doesnt it feel smooth and soft in your hands?”Lester was very proud of the rum and we did enjoy this unusual experience. Oh yes, finally we did get to drink the rum too!
You may be wondering where was Mr Pellas in all this? He was out of town. We had never met him, we had not even spoken to him. We were 3 strangers who were being treating like VIPs by him simply because he was made aware of our arrival in Nicaragua. “Lester, I would like to speak to Mr Pellas and thank him for his hospitality” I said
“Mr Pellas is a very busy man, but I have his hotline number. Let me message him and then he will tell me a good time to call” Lester replied. He messaged Mr Pellas and within a minute got a reply to call him back. I was put on the phone.”I thanked Mr Pellas for everything he had done for us and told him how grateful all of us were. His reply was very simple.
“Tushar, I am proud of what you young guys are doing. Don’t thank me, who knows, some day I may need your help? If I do something nice today, you will do something nice for me someday when I am in need, wouldn’t you? Always help strangers Tushar.” Is all he replied. He further told me that his company will also give us a full tank of fuel and that we should not hesitate in asking for anything else that we require. And we didn’t. Sanjay and I joked that the tyres of our car were last changed before we started the world trip. They had done 50000 km and had to be changed very soon.
“Should we ask Lester if they can give us new tyres”? Sanjay said
“I guess we can, I mean, worst thing is that he will say no” I replied
“Ok, let me talk to the boss about it”Lester said and called Mr Pellas. He put the phone down in 1 minute.
“Done, Mr Pellas would like to gift you 4 brand new tyres and also fully service your vehicle tomorrow morning before you leave for El Salvador” Lester replied smiling

Rooftop of Basilica Cathedral in Nicaragua

Rooftop of Basilica Cathedral in Nicaragua

I smiled and thought about the several warnings we had received before coming here, “Be careful when you go to Nicaragua, anything can happen there”. You bet.

Machu Picchu, Equator and reaching the finish line in Bogota

We crossed the Bolivian-Peruvian border which is located right next to Lake Titicaca, the highest fresh water lake in the world and entered

The incredibly beautiful Machu Picchu

Peru, the 16th country on our epic journey. Every time we enter a new country, we feel a bit nervous, but are always full of curiosity and excitement about the coming days. As we started driving into Peru, we felt a sense of relief and were in fact laughing about having survived the hardships of Bolivia.
We were on our way to Cusco, one of the most beautiful cities in Peru and the gateway to Machu Picchu. The drive to Cusco was long but when you have a lake as beautiful as Lake Titicaca for company, it is easy to enjoy the drive. We were still driving on the Andes which stretch from Argentina right up to Venezuela. Just like Himalayas, we had developed a relationship and a friendship with the Andes now. We felt that the Andes in every country knew us now and were welcoming us. It seemed like a familiar environment.

We reached Cusco by midnight and stayed at a place called the Loki Hostel where Ravi, who flew all the way from

Cusco Plaza

Cusco Plaza

Argentina to travel with us over the next few days in Peru. The Loki Hostel was his idea,
“It is the best hostel for travellers in Peru. If you don’t stay at Loki, you will miss something unique about Peru” he had said.
He was absolutely right. Loki hostel did seem like a lot of fun. The hostel was jam packed with travellers all of whom were there for one reason. Machu Picchu. The only difference between us and them was that we would be driving as close to Machu Picchu as possible while most of them would be doing a 4 day long trek. We are not lazy, we just umm, didn’t have the time to trek for 4 days. Ya ok, we are a bit lazy too!

After settling down at the hostel, the following day we walked around Cusco city and saw some absolutely gorgeous sights. A fascinating city, Cusco was the capital of the Inca Empire. A UNESCO World Heritage Site with well preserved colonial architecture, you can see the layers of history in Cusco by merely walking the streets. Spanish colonial buildings erected directly atop Inca walls line the square, while the modern tourist nightlife flourishes in their midst.

We took a tourist bus to look around the city but when it came to visiting the monuments and ruins, we had to stay out. We couldn’t afford the entry tickets and sometimes, we bought only one ticket which we would give to Prasad so that he could go inside and do some filming. Sanjay and I were happy staying out and having “Helado” – the local homemade ice cream. Unfortunately, during one of our “Helado” stops in Cusco, another incident happened. We bought ice cream, walked out of the shop and as we were totally focused on eating our “Helados”, Sanjay said,
“Umm, where is my camera?”
“What?” Sanjay’s camera was also gone.
Sleeping bags and camping gear in Argentina, Prasad’s camera in Chile, Vehicle breakdowns in Bolivia and Sanjay’s camera in Peru. What is in store for us in Ecuador and Colombia?
We tried to think of the last time Sanjay had his camera with him and we concluded that he left it in the ice cream parlour. We went back to the shop to enquire, but got a cold no from the owner. There was no way we were going to get that camera back.
Sanjay tried to laugh it off but it was another bad experience that was dampening our spirits.
“What’s going on here, every week a disaster is happening” I said
“Look at the good parts, South America is fascinating” Sanjay was still positive

Eating a Guinea Pig

We went back to the hostel and tried to put the incident behind us by having a drink. In the bar, the backpackers were having a party and it seemed like a good opportunity to do some filming.
“We are doing a show for Discovery Channel and would like to cover your bar in our show”, I told the manager. He was very excited to hear about our journey and offered us complimentary drinks!
“Try the Blood Bomb, the signature drink of Loki Hostel” he said cheerfully.
We were all given a shot each of a “Blood Bomb” a local vodka cocktail, there was a little ritual to follow before you take the shot. The Bartender shouted,
“Loki! Loki! Loki!” and the crowd shouted back “Oye! Oye! Oye!” The screaming was followed by tapping the glass on the table and then gulping down the drink in one go.

After a late night party and a couple of hours of sleep, we were up at 4 AM to do what we were in Peru for. Machu Picchu. A lot of groups were gearing up for the long 4 day trek at the hostel and were being given instructions by their leaders. It was a serious trek and everyone was listening intently as the leader was guiding them through the risks, precautions and what they were going to be experiencing over the next 4 days. As for us, we packed our bags, switched on the ignition and drove for 8 hours as close as the car could go to Machu Picchu. We parked our vehicle at Hydro Electric Plant, took a 20 minute train ride and then got on a 10 minute bus ride that took us right up to Machu Picchu.
“Can anybody be as lazy as us? first the car, then train and finally the bus. We made sure we didn’t have to walk a single step in a place where people walk over high mountains for days just to get a glimpse of Machu Picchu” I said.
“We are exclusive, why do what everyone does? If we trekked for 4 days, we would be part of the crowd but now, we are exclusive!” Sanjay laughed
We spent a few hours witnessing one of the oldest ruins in the world, an entire city built on top of a hill and surrounded by mountains in all directions. It is without a doubt, one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen in my life. Machu Picchu is a 15th-century Inca site located 2,430 metres (7,970 ft) above sea level. We learnt that Machu Picchu was inhabited mainly by the ‘brainy’ lot of the Incas i.e. the doctors, scientists, astronomers who would carry out their research and exploration work here.

We left Machu Picchu the following day, drove 27 hours straight over the Andes to reach Lima the next evening. Why the

With the Indian Ambassador in Peru

rush? We had a meeting scheduled with the Indian Ambassador in Lima and the only way we could make it on time was by driving continuously overnight. Sanjay and I never have a problem with continuous long distance over night driving, we kept on switching the drivers’ seat, talking to each other just for the heck of it to keep us awake, survived temperature below -7 degrees Celsius on the Andes and finally reached Lima and switched off the ignition at the doorstep of the Indian Embassy. After meeting the Ambassador and the staff at the Embassy, the First Secretary Mr Ajay, invited us for dinner at his place.
“Where are you guys staying in Lima?” Mr Ajay, a short, almost bald, middle aged man, asked us.
“We don’t have a booking yet, if you want, we will come and stay at your house” Sanjay said carelessly.
“Umm, ya, ya, sure, why not, I live alone, my family is in India, you can stay” he replied hesitatingly
“What are you doing? Are we forcing ourselves at peoples’ home now?” I whispered to Sanjay
“It ok, don’t worry, we will save some more, besides he lives alone, we are doing him a favour by staying with him, he must be so bored and needing someone to talk to.” Sanjay had his way with words. We went to Mr Ajays’ lavish apartment where he had invited a few Indians to meet us over dinner. One of them Mr Ravi Krishna, was the Director of the largest hotel chain in Peru.
“Why didn’t you guys contact me before, I would have given you free stays throughout Peru” he said
“Well, we still have a couple of days left in Peru, can you book us rooms in your hotels?” I asked him bluntly
“Absolutely, consider it done” he called his secretary and in 2 minutes we were booked in a luxury resort for our last 2 days in Peru.

With our Peruvian Grandfather on the Pan American Highway

We stayed at Mr Ajay’s house that night and left early the next morning to continue our journey north. We were cruising on the Pan American Highway and after a few hours we stopped for lunch at a small cafe called “Restaurante Balsa at km 347”. It was located 347 km from Lima. We had no idea what we were going to experience when we parked and entered the restaurant. An old man greeted us with a warm smile and after seeing our vehicle, the expression on his face was one of pure excitement. He disappeared for a minute and returned with a scrap book which had messages from travellers who had travelled by car, bike, cycle and even on foot on the Pan American Highway over the last 30 years. Whoever stopped at the cafe would write a message for the old man in his scrap book and would leave a small souvenir behind. He was so proud of his scrap book, and when he asked us write a message in the book too, we all felt honoured. We ate lunch and were not surprised when he refused to take money from us. I dont know what happened, but seeing his warm smile, the kindness on his face, the concern he felt for us for doing such a long journey, I felt very emotional and even got teary eyed
“You remind me of my grand father” I told him. He addressed me as his grandson in Spanish and we hugged. We both were teary eyed. Prasad’s eyes were also wet.
Before leaving, I touched his feet and told him
“We touch our elder’s feet in India as a mark of respect. From now onwards, you are my Peruvian Grandfather.” We hugged once again and bid goodbye. In the rear view mirror, I could see that he continued looking in our direction till our vehicle faded away in the horizon.

It took a few minutes before we all were back to our normal selves. In a few hours, we reached “Casa Andina”, Mr Ravi’s hotel chain. As we reached the resort in a town called Tumbes near the Peruvian-Ecuadorian border, we were given a fantastic welcome by the staff. We were made to try every local drink and the dinner table was laid with every local speciality which included Oysters, Lobsters, Prawns, Shrimp, Sweet Potatoes and a lot more! After drinking to our heart’s content and binging on the sea food, we had a nice sleep on our last night in Peru.

The following day we left early to reach the Ecuadorian border. “This border is considered one of the worst border

On way to Ecuador

crossings in South America” declared Lonely Planet. We reached the border mentally prepared for spending a long time dealing with corrupt officers, street vendors, traffic and chaos, maybe some drug peddlers too. But the border was a bit different. It seemed like a brand new complex, absolutely clean, no people lurking around, very quiet, looked like a corporate office with clear sign boards for various departments.
“I keep saying, everyone is wrong about foreign countries. This is by far the best border crossing we have seen!” I said. It was true, we got our Ecuadorian visa in 15 minutes and were free to go. We had no idea what to expect from Ecuador. We had not had any time to do any research on the country, all we knew was that Quito is the capital city and that we could cross it to get to Colombia. We didn’t even have a detailed road map for Ecuador so by followed a very basic map of Ecuador in Lonely Planet, we continued driving north towards Quito. Ecuador appeared very green, very fertile; it felt like we are driving in Himachal Pradesh. We were still driving on the Andes and as it got dark in the evening, we decided to call it a day in a city called Riobamba where we discovered something that got us all very excited. It was the cost of Diesel. We saw USD 1 written at fuel pumps and after filling up 60 litres in our tank, we thought we need to pay 60 dollars.
“15 dollars please” asked the guy at the fuel pump.
“What? 15 dollars? What?” we could not believe it, 1 gallon is equal to 4 litres and we had just filled up 60 litres for a mere 15 dollars! Welcome to Ecuador, we were already in love with the country. It was the cheapest diesel we had bought in all the countries where we had travelled till now in 4 continents! 1 litre diesel cost approx. Rs 15! That was unbelievable.
“Ecuador is the third largest producer of oil in South America” is what I found later on google. That was probably the reason for the cheap fuel prices.

Quito

Next day, we drove to Quito, capital of Ecuador and also the highest official capital in the world. We stayed at a hostel called “Colonial House” where a middle aged Ecuadorian woman welcomed us. She greeted us with a warm smile and instantly we clicked with her. People in South America love Indians. Every country from Argentina, to Chile, Bolivia, Peru and now Ecuador, wherever we went, as soon as we said we were “Indu”, every person flashed a big smile and wanted to talk to us. We were pleasantly surprised to see that Indians are so well respected and loved in South America. “Ornelia”, the hostel owner in Quito was no exception. We chatted with her at the hostel and told her about what we were doing. She couldn’t speak much English but offered to show us around Quito. She even called one of her staff members Parco, a young Mexican boy who could speak English to accompany us for a Quito tour the next day.

Ornelia and Parco took us to see the Equator which passes a bit in the north of Quito. We had already seen the Equator

At the Equator

in Kenya but in Geography books, Ecuador is considered the centre of Earth and in fact, the name “Ecuador” is derived from the word “Equator”. A lot of our myths were cleared when we reached the Equator. I had heard somewhere that in the Northern Hemisphere, if you pour water in a basin, it will travel anticlockwise and in the Southern Hemisphere it travels clockwise. Absolutely right. The guide at the Equator did the experiment for us and proved it to be true. He also poured water in a basin placing it directly on the Equator line and guess what? Water didn’t go either clockwise or anticlockwise, it went straight down!

At the Equator we also visited an Amazon museum where a lot of statues, pictures and other items were displayed depicting the life of the Amazon tribes. One of the tribes called the “Shayar” tribe had a weird custom of paying respect to their departed ones. When a family member passed away, they would cut off the head, remove the skull and bones from inside the head, pour the hollow face in steam to evaporate the moisture and shrink the face to the size of a ball, fill the hollow space inside the face with a stone, tie it up and wear it around their neck. In case they killed an enemy, the same procedure of baking and shrinking the head would be followed but the head would be placed on top a long stick used as a weapon instead of being worn around the neck.

Another tribe called “Wuaorani” did something even more weird but practical. The region where this tribe was based in the Amazon had very slimy fish in the waters where the men would go fishing. These fish get attracted by the smell of ammonia and would enter a man’s body through his penis. Once it entered the body, it would expand inside and damage the intestines. To avoid this, the men would lift up their penis, point it upwards, tie it with a string strapped all the way around their waist and that’s how they protected themselves from the fish. Both these tribes still exist in the Amazon region in Ecuador and follow their traditions and rituals even today.

2 days were spent very quickly in Ecuador and after saying our goodbyes to Ornelia, we were on our way to Colombia,

With Ornelia in Quito

the last country on our South American Leg. We had only heard negative things about Colombia. “Be careful, a lot of travellers like you are kidnapped and assaulted. A lot of drug trafficking happens in Colombia, never ever drive at night, make sure to be very careful with your belongings” these and many more warnings were given to us by a lot of travellers before we reached Colombia.
“Colombia is safe now. I have travelled there 3 times. First time, our bus went in a convoy of 5 buses, second time, our bus was given a police escort and third time, our bus was given an army escort” Parco, our Mexican friend in Ecuador told us.
“What? And you say it’s safe? Of course you were safe going in a convoy or with army and police escort. We are going alone! We are on our own! Will we be safe or should we take an escort?” I had asked him nervously.
“Maybe you can take an escort, we can check at the border” Ornelia and Parco travelled with us till the Ecuador-Colombia border. We asked a police officer on the Colombian side,
“We need a police escort to go to Bogota, can you help us?”
“What? Why? A police escort?” he looked confused. When we explained to him about our safety concern of driving in Colombia, he felt offended but laughed.
“Please don’t believe everything you hear about Colombia, it is a safe country, there are police and army at regular distances, lot of tourists come here, a few odd incidents can happen in any country, don’t worry at all, you don’t need any escort, enjoy the drive and go on your own to Bogota. I promise you nothing will happen. But yes, do take precautions and don’t drive at night time” he explained

Indian Embassy in Bogota, Colombia

That’s all we wanted to hear. We felt relived and entered Colombia, the 18th country on our journey. The police officer was right, we saw police and army camps at regular distances which did mean that there must be some disturbance but we didn’t feel nervous or insecure at all. Our 900 km drive to Bogota was perfectly safe. We did get stuck in the worst traffic jam in the Andes for 5 hours where we were surrounded by thousands of trucks. After driving through the jam, we were still 300 km away from Bogota.
“Bogota is being very difficult. It is the final driving day in South America, I wish it was smoother, it is like we are chasing a moving target” I said feeling frustrated
Our frustration got worse as we continued passing the toll booths on the highway. Every toll charged 4 dollars on average and we didn’t have enough money. Eventually, all our local currency ran out and when we reached the next toll, they refused to let us go.
“No Passe” the women at the toll kept on saying. She wouldn’t let us go without paying the toll. I went to a local shop and exchanged the last 50 dollar bill that we had on us and cleared the toll. We reached Bogota in the night and finally completed our 15000 km trek through South America.

“If nature wants to support you, it will move mountains” Sanjay had said once. We were left with less than 50 dollars but still had to spend a couple of days in Bogota before we took a break and went back to India. While approaching Bogota, I got a call from the Indian Embassy,
“Tushar, please take down the number of Mr Upinder, he is a very resourceful Indian in Bogota, and as per your request for accommodation, Mr Upinder has taken care of all expenses for your accommodation and meals for the next 2 days. Also, we are organising a get together to welcome your team at the Embassy tomorrow evening.”
Done. We would be going back home with the remaining dollars. We reached Bogota, met Upinder, a 35 year old man from Punjab who had established himself in Bogota and was a very successful garment exporter well respected by the local community.
“I came here 5 years back with 500 dollars, today I have 15 showrooms selling Indian clothes and handicrafts all over Colombia and Argentina. People in Colombia love Indians, I don’t think Indians can command so much love and respect anywhere else in the world”.

On our final day in South America, we went to the Indian Embassy in Bogota, where we were greeted by the Indian

Colombian girls performing Kathak in Bogota

Ambassador, a small gathering of Indians and Colombians and were also welcomed by a group of Colombian girls who performed a “Katthak” dance for us. We received dinner invites from at least 4 families which included both Indians and Colombians. We also met an old Indian man called Arun Pal, who rode a bicycle for 4 years from India to Colombia way back in 1972.
“I reached Colombia after riding my cycle through Iran, Turkey, Eastern and Western Europe, US, Central America and finally Colombia” he told us
“Why did you stop in Colombia?” I asked him
“Because I fell in love with a beautiful Colombian woman and married her” he said smiling.
Our South American leg was completed. We had driven 15000 km from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia to Bogota. As I had expected, South America was the most challenging of all the continents so far. It tested us in all ways, its challenged us, it even broke us down at times, but we didn’t give up, we carried on with a positive mind, we carried on counting our blessings, we carried on enjoying every moment and realising that even the hardships, the breakdowns and the tough terrains would give us stories and make new memories that we will continue to remember for the rest of our lives. South America is by far my favourite destination in the world.
If you haven’t been to South America, you are missing out on the warmest and the most friendly people, the most exotic food on our planet, the volcanoes, glaciers, snowy mountains, deserts, jungles and of course, the biggest smiles and the warmest hugs that would greet you if you are an “Indu” (Indian).