Highlights as moments…

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Posted by admin | Posted in Nature, South America, Travel | Posted on 30-03-2007

What stand out as some of my favourite moments, on a very personal level:

The moments…”where” – “what”

In Argentina:

  • “La Bombonera, Boca Juniors’ stadium, Buenos Aires” – “…a period of confusion, the Boca keeper had come off his line, the River striker saw his chance and curled off a floaty shot towards the goal. As it was heading to cross the line from my angle I decided it was definitely going in, and, being well impressed with the shot I flung my fist into the air. In a tense situation surrounded by manic supporters who all appeared ready to kill for their club, the following period of time – which must have been about half a second – seemed to pass by over a couple of hours as thoughts, worries and emotions all cannoned through my mind instantaneously. I was sure that I was the only one celebrating this inevitable goal and unsure whether I was about to be majorly embarrassed, slightly strange looking or soon to be pummelled. Anyone in a rational calm state of mind would not have had this moment of, pretty much, panic and everyone would have appeared to react in a routine synchronised way. As the milli-seconds ticked by I was joined by many thousands of fellow River fans and the stand completely erupted with more force than I have ever known of any fans or for any group of humans doing anything…”
  • “Iguazu Falls, Argentinan Side” – “arriving at the top of the edge of The Devil’s Throat – the concentrated part of the huge falls – after a long day exploring the falls and park. The utterly immense natural power hit me hard, not literally luckily, as I watched individual drops and flows take their course down the fall and disappear among the mass of misty spray.”

In Chile:

  • “Portillo Ski Resort” – “Snowboarding down untouched areas of big sweet soft snow and even throwing in some little girlie jumps off rock mounds; the view of the surrounding mountains and lake at the bottom helped.”

In Paraguay:

  • “River Paraguay” – “the 3 day passenger & cargo boat trip up the river on the Brazil border including the week spent stranded in Bahia Negra; a great adventure period with great people (fellow travellers – Irish, English, French and Spanish, locals and military officers) – just a great crack.”

Hitch-hiking (actually in Brazil here) with the others from Paraguay

In Bolivia:

  • “National Park Noel Kempff Mercado” – “floating on my back swimming slowly backwards across the lagoon created by the magnificent waterfall ‘El Encanto’ – my only view in front of me and my ears underwater so completely silent and in my own solitude”
  • “National Park Noel Kempff Mercado” – “drifting along in a dug-out canoe before sunset in a totally serene but wild river and having our first big caiman suddenly leap out of nowhere from the reeds next to us. That was after spending time fascinating a troop of monkeys and having no effect whatsoever on a pair of capybara taking an afternoon snack on a bank.”

In Peru:

  • “A cliff trail near Chachapoyas, Northern Peru” – “being led by some local small children (without asking any help at all, just because they were so joyful and assume with little better to do) to the site of several ancient sarcophagi – like ritually painted coffins – stood scattered across a seemingly inaccessible cliff face. For me the sarcophagi were one of the most amazing historic artefacts I have seen”
  • “Gocta Waterfall, near Chachapoyas, Northern Peru” – “after a good hike, edging closer to the world’s 3rd tallest waterfall via a few roughly-made tree branch ladders and some slippery and thick mud trails. The others including the guide were happy with how close we had made it but, of course, I needed to edge those 15 metres closer and standing in the shocking force of the spray coming off the falls was one of a few truly life-refreshing experiences”
  • “Machu Picchu, Peru” – “Early in the morning whilst the site was still really quite empty we were exploring a set of terracing off in one corner. I, of course, had to go down the terracing as far as I possibly could just to see how far they went on. Doing that though I found a classic perch to sit, on the edge of the Inca wall, with a magnificent drop into the beautiful gaping valley in front to my left and a bit of an unusual view of Mach Picchu ahead that included terracing and other features leading all the way down a slope that – if you didn’t come round to this corner of the site – you wouldn’t even see. Sitting there with the breeze from the gorge, swallows hunting ahead and a tranquil scene of one of the most magical historic sites I’ve been to, was one hell of a moment.”

In Ecuador:

  • “In the jungle of river Shiripuno” – “Marching through the forest on a round of ‘the traps’ and our local colleague-come-guide doesn’t just stop in his tracks but bolts backwards a couple of metres. We then stood and watched an incredible Boa Constrictor – unbelievably thick and about 5m long with such beautiful patterns over its scales with red towards the tail. That was enough to make it into my most memorable moments but to add to the scene a few Monk Saki monkeys (lovely shaggy monkeys that I did not see again; at least not with certainty) came down to low branches completely in view wondering why we were stood in silence below them. Sweet as.”
  • “Isla Isabela, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador” – “It’s tough to pick just one out from our time on this island. Free-diving with a turtle? Watching sharks swim by? Watching rays swim by within a metre if you? Sharing a beach with no one but 50 marine Iguanas? Nope. What sticks out more is when there was some major activity in the sea on the long beach at low tide with birds and sealions feasting. We were strolling along and, getting closer, we saw that birds would suddenly dive underwater having been floating on the surface. They looked like penguins but surely not. Besides, we never see penguins in groups of more than 15 resting and 3 hunting. This was a group of maybe 40 odd! Must be some other common sea bird. As we arrived to where they were fishing I could see for sure they were penguins and not far out at sea. Excited like the child I so often proved I am over the 12 months away, I used a sharp rocky outcrop that led out into the sea to get closer and was able to stand in the sea and watch loads of penguins pass right by me 1 or 2 at a time as they changed hunting sites. It was so cool.”

In Venezuela:

  • “Roraima, La Gran Sabana, Venezuela” – “Sitting by (not quite on as it was one hell of a scary drop) the edge of one of Roraima’s faces doing much contemplation and enjoying a stunning view of the savanna below and beyond.”

As well as all this there were so many other highlights that stick out in my mind but to try and list too many is pointless. Many of you will undoubtedly hear about plenty of the others over many years to come and often over many a pint I’d imagine.

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