Expedition: Wilderness Explorer 2 – South America
Date: 13th October, 2006
Countries Traversed: Argentinia – Uruguay – Brazil – Paraguay – Boliva – Peru – Chile
Report by Thomas Foo (aka Tango)
SOUTH AMERICA, discovered by the modern world in the late 14th century by the Spanish and Portuguese, is truly a melting pot of cultures, colours, ethnic native groups, immigrants, sights and sounds all rolled into this very vast, beautiful and contrasting continent.
This vast landmass houses the countries of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, Suriname and Venezuela. Situated mostly in the southern hemisphere, bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean, north and east by the Atlantic Ocean and North America and northwest by the Caribbean Sea, South America has an area of 17,840,000 square kilometers and home to more than 380 million people.
In 1494, Portugal and Spain, the two great maritime powers of that time, signed the Treaty of Tordesillas, by which they agreed that all the land outside Europe should be an exclusively ruled by the two countries. Thus, the Spanish language is spoken in all countries of South America, except Brazil who speaks Portuguese. Besides the two main languages, Quechua, Aymara and Guarani are the main Indigenous languages spoken mainly in Peru, Bolivia and Paraguay respectively.
On 13th October, 2006 a group of 40 adventurers made up of mostly Malaysians, Dutch, Norwegian, Argentinians and a Paraguayan in a convoy of 13 units Expedition modified 4x4s and 4 units Dual Purpose motorcycles, was flagged off from Buenos Aires, by Her Excellency Dato’ Rohana Ramli, the Malaysian Ambassador to Argentina, to embark on a 2-month expedition of Peace, Goodwill and Friendship to 7 countries in South America. The route covered 22,700 kilometers through Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru and Chile.
The route covered 22,700 kilometers through Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru and Chile.
THE ATLANTIC COAST
The Expedition headed north-east from the capital of Argentina, crossing the River Plate delta to Uruguay along the Atlantic Ocean coast to Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay and on to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.
From Rio, the convoy went westwards inland towards the Parana River bordering Brazil and Paraguay, visiting the UN Heritage site of the mighty Iguazu Falls shared by Brazil and Argentina.
On entering Paraguay, the adventurers visited the 2nd largest engineering project in the world at Itaipu Dam spanning across the Parana River, which generates 12.6 million kilowatts of electricity for Brazil and Paraguay.
From Asuncion, the capital of Paraguay, the friendship expedition crossed northwards to the Chaco Desert, which only receives a few inches of rain a year, to enter Bolivia, following the Che Guevara route passing through the Indigenous Regions of Sucre, Potosi and Oruro on the way to 4000 metres highland plateau of the Altiplano city of La Paz, the capital of Bolivia.
Taking a ferry across Lake Titicaca, the highest navigatable fresh water lake at 3,812 metres above sea level, the expedition arrived into Peru, heading towards the Sacred Valley of Cusco, the gateway to the world famous UN World Heritage site of Machu Picchu complex of the Incas, which was lost for more than 500 years, only to be re-discovered in 1911 by the American Explorer, Mr Hiram Bingham.
The legendary ‘Lost City of Machu Picchu’, built more than 500 years ago is the most important tourist attraction in Peru and one of the world’s most impressive archaeological sites drawing some 500,000 foreign visitors a year.
Built by the Incas on the summit of “Machu Picchu” (Old Peak), the whole archaeological complex covers approximately 5 square km overlooking the deep canyon of the Urubamba river’s dense jungle, 120 kilometres from the city of Cusco and at 7,000 feet above sea level. Machu Picchu, which is the Inca’s best kept secret, was probably the most amazing urban creation of the Inca Empire at its height, with its giant walls, terraces and ramps, which appear as though they have been cut naturally in the continuous rock escarpments.
The building style is “late imperial Inca” thought to have been a sanctuary or temple inhabited by high priests and the “Virgins of the Sun” (chosen women). Excavations revealed that of the 135 skeletons found, 109 were women. No signs of post Conquest occupation were unearthed.
Traversing further west, the Wilderness Explorer 2 – South America Expedition, organized by Asia Offroad Centre led by Thomas Foo and Steven Ng, both veterans in numerous expeditions over the last 15 years around the world, headed towards the mega metropolitan city of Lima, the capital of Peru, situated along the Pacific Ocean coast.
THE NAZCA LINES
Going 400 kilometres south to the Nazca Desert, the Nazca plains like a giant map or blueprint left by ancient astronauts, lie the famous Nazca Lines of Peru, associated with the Inca Civilization who many link with alien visitors who still interact with local people to this day. The high arid plateau covering an area of approximately 450 square kilometres, of sandy desert as well as the slopes of the contours of the Andes has about 300 figures made of straight lines, geometric shapes most clearly visible from the air.
No one has proof on who built them or why. Since their discovery, the Nazca Lines have inspired fantastic explanations from ancient gods, a landing strip for returning aliens, a celestial calendar created by the ancient Nazca civilization — putting the creation of the lines between 200 BC and 600 AD, used for rituals probably related to astronomy, to confirm the ayllus or clans who made up the population and to determine through ritual their economic functions held up by reciprocity and redistribution, or a map of underground water supplies. Some of the more clearly visible geometric shapes are a Killer Whale, Wing, Baby Condor, Bird, Spiral, Lizard, Tree, Hands, Spider, Flower, Dog, Astronaut, Triangle, Star, Pelican, Hummingbird, Monkey, Llama and Trapezoids.
From The Nazca Desert, the expedition crossed the Andes Mountains the 3rd time at the Sajama Volcano mountain pass back into Bolivia. The Andes run the entire length of South America, from the humid tropics of the Caribbean to the ice fields of Patagonia.
The longest north-south mountain range in the world, the Andes encompass a tremendous range of ecosystems and are home to a rich variety of plant and animal species and human communities. This rugged chain of volcanoes, grasslands, deserts, high altitude lakes and lush forests are home to some of the most diverse habitats on earth. More than 30 spectacular volcanoes occur in the Andes Mountain range with heights ranging from 15,000 to 20,000 feet.