Column

Stunning sand sculptures on Copacabana beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Beach Bums in Rio

Rio is unlike any city I’d been in before: not just geographically, where the urban sprawl gives way to fine, sandy beaches and rainforest covered hills with sheer drops down to stunning lagoons, but also culturally as it exudes a vibrant yet laid-back vibe.

Locals having a quick lunch

Ciudad del Este: A Window into Paraguay

Ciudad del Este, Paraguay’s second largest city, is famous. But perhaps not for the more conventional reasons. Set on the tri-border with Brazil’s Foz do Iguaçu and Argentina’s Puerto Iguazú, the city isn’t quite on the tourist trail like its neighbours. Instead, it seems to have gained notoriety as one of the region’s busiest hotbeds for counterfeit goods. With rumours that the city had harboured the likes of Osama bin Laden, it has long held the imagination of screenwriters, featuring on popular crime shows like NCIS and Miami Vice. For our family of three, however, the lure lay in the prospect of experiencing a new culture within close proximity to our base in Foz do Iguaçu—a 15-minute bus ride to the border.

The Mighty Iguazú

Nothing had prepared me for the sheer scale of the falls themselves. I heard it before I could see it. The roar was deafening. As I stood on the edge of the Devil’s Throat, the tallest cataract, I faced a veritable wall of water, cascading down in twisted, frothy jets. It seemed otherworldly, larger than life. I had never seen anything quite like it. The throngs of jostling tourists melted away as I stood, drenched and utterly spellbound, staring into the cloudy abyss.

Montevideo's stunning architecture on display from the rooftops

Montevideo Musings

Despite the late hour and the shuttered shopfronts, the square was alive and pumping. Diners mulled over their meals while children raced around an elaborate fountain, turning a deaf ear to their parents as they ran through the frigid spray. Couples sat entwined under trees as more gregarious groups of friends spread out over park benches. All conversations were centred around the communal mate, as friends shared their gourd around, topping up from steaming thermoses of hot water. We followed the thumping beats of live music to find a group of octogenarians, their faces sallow under the street lamps, but expressions vivid, demurely doing the tango. It was tango danced like I’d never seen before. Groups of onlookers cheered and some even joined in. And in that instant, I was utterly captivated.

Kitschy, colourful souvenir shops in Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay

The Muted Delights of Colonia del Sacramento

I slowly made my way through town in the late afternoon glow, photographing kitschy little boutique shops and old, crumbling buildings harkening an era of grandeur. Diners gathered around tables set out on the cobble-stones, the sharp clink of cutlery cutting through the sounds of laughter and conversation. I migrated towards the buzz of activity by Puerto Viejo the small yacht harbour, where throngs of young people sat around amidst clouds of cigarette smoke, drinking and talking. Someone had put on music, prompting the congregation to sway to the beat. I found myself a low wall and sat down to absorb the vibrant atmosphere. The sun dipped over the horizon, setting the sky aflame and prompting a stupendous round of applause. My confusion must’ve been blatantly obvious as the artist seated besides me leaned over his easel to explain that it is Uruguayan tradition to applaud the setting sun. A fitting response to the climatic finale of my time in Colonia del Sacramento!

A streetside vendor reads as shoppers jostle past at the San Telmo Sunday Market

The Barrios of Buenos Aires: Part III – La Boca & San Telmo

In a serendipitous twist of fate, I found myself living in Buenos Aires. With little over a month and accompanied by my young family, I set about immersing myself in all that this beguiling city had to offer.

The Barrios of Buenos Aires has been split into three parts: Monserrat & City Centre, Palermo & Recoleta, and La Boca & San Telmo. This is the third and last installment in the series.

Stunning murals in Palermo, Buenos Aires

The Barrios of Buenos Aires: Part II – Palermo & Recoleta

In a serendipitous twist of fate, I found myself living in Buenos Aires. With little over a month and accompanied by my young family, I set about immersing myself in all that this beguiling city had to offer.

The Barrios of Buenos Aires has been split into three parts: Monserrat & City Centre, Palermo & Recoleta, and La Boca & San Telmo. This is the second installment in the series.

Even crumbling facades are works of art, Monserrat, Buenos Aires

The Barrios of Buenos Aires: Part I – Monserrat & the City Centre

In a serendipitous twist of fate, I found myself living in Buenos Aires. With little over a month and accompanied by my young family, I set about immersing myself in all that this beguiling city had to offer.

The Barrios of Buenos Aires has been split into three parts: Monserrat & City Centre, Palermo & Recoleta, and La Boca & San Telmo. This is the first installment in the series.

Iglesia Hanga Roa, Easter Island, Rapa Nui, Isla de Pascua, Chile

Hanga Roa – Launching Pad for Visiting the Moai

My eyes fell on a tiny speck on the world map spread out before me. Easter Island. One of the most remote inhabited islands in the world. I leaned in to inspect the map closely and came to a jarring realisation – Easter Island was a territory of Chile, a country that was on my itinerary! In my ignorance, I’d always thought it as a largely inaccessible Polynesian island! But wait! If I was going to be in Chile, was there even the slightest possibility of visiting? And with that seed firmly planted in my mind, I began my lengthy, almost neurotic research on getting to a place I’d only ever dreamed of.

Castillo Wulff Vina del Mar Chile

The Vineyard by the Sea

As our taxi wound its way down the wide avenues of Santiago, our driver, despite his rudimentary English, regaled us with his vacation stories. “Viña Del Mar! Very good! Nice beach! Nice food! I go on weekend,” he announced excitedly, as he fumbled in his pockets while stopped at a red light.

As part of my fortnightly travel column “South of the Equator,” I write about relishing in the serenity of Viña Del Mar.