For many years, people I know have been urging me to go and explore Vietnam. Finally I made it this year. Initially I thought that 3 weeks of travel time would give me adequate time to get to a good range of sites and regions – until I started to do my research! Vietnam, like many countries, has its set of ‘go to’ traveller picks. It is easy to fall for the easy option when planning journeys and stick to the places that always hit the top of the lists on generic itineraries. But this is always something that I seem keen to sidestep in some way. A little of that is travel snobbery – it’s true, can’t lie! – and a lot of it is that desire to see a more authentic side to a culture. However, if you are like me and don’t have endless months to sit and soak up a place at whim, there is always the restriction of time. Alongside that is the fact that, whilst I am brave enough to travel solo, I don’t like to go without good plans in place. So how did I choose where to go when I am plotting a future journey?
The beginning of my recent, incredible journey through Sth America saw me landing on the edge of the Atacama Desert in far northern Chile on the border of Bolivia. The greatest physical challenge here is altitude. This is the commencement of nearly 3 weeks above 2400m. My first point of call was the vivacious little town of San Pedro de Atacama which sits at a healthy 2408m above sea level, overshadowed by Volcan Licancabur and surrounded by red dirt. What a place to adjust?!
The start of a journey into the unknown, especially as a solo traveller is always a little easier if one can arrive in the new place and feel a sense of connection. Reflecting on the beginnings of my recent trip to Sth America, I got off to one of those starts! Right from the landing in Chile, all set to head north into the highest desert of the world and across into the wilds of the Bolivian south-west, I felt at ease.