A Latin Affair
Growing up in Christchurch, my desire to travel was first awakened when our next-door neighbour travelled to Kingston, Jamaica for the 1966 Empire (Commonwealth) Games. He worked for an airline, and I thought “how amazing”! I decided then and there, at the age of 12, that tourism was going to be my future. So I joined NAC (Air NZ Domestic operations in those days) as a management cadet in 1972 and after graduating decided to follow my two passions, travel and archaeology.
In the mid 1970’s almost all young Kiwis undertook the ‘Hippy Trail’ through Asia to Europe, as Kathmandu to London was des rigueur at the time! But I had always had a fascination with the Aztec, Mayan and Inca civilizations, and thus wanted to visit Central and South America. At the tender age of 20 and with a pack on my back, I left NZ for the first time and flying to Los Angeles, beginning a 12-month epic journey backpacking through Latin America. It was a life changing experience, and began my absolute love affair with that part of the world that remains a passion today.
In those days, almost every country in Latin America was under strict military rule or some other form of dictatorship, completely different to the democracies that flourish there today. Indeed, I was caught right in the middle of a military coup d’etat in Ecuador on 1st September 1975 – incredibly exciting for a lad from the South Island.
During my travels, I dug at archaeological sites in Mexico and Peru, was a competitor in a World Surfing Championship event on the north coast of Peru, and travelled by bus and hitchhiking on a budget of US$5 per day through a total of 12 Latin American countries. Luxury it was not! It was interesting to note that during the entire year I travelled in this region, I met only two other Kiwis. It was simply not somewhere we travelled to in those days.
By now I was bitten by the Latin bug with its colour, craziness, wonderful people, great music, history and culture. On my return to NZ, I immediately hankered to go back. As luck would have it, I got a job with a new travel company that needed a South American specialist as they could see this was a destination of the future, and I was the only applicant! This began a 45-year career specialising in my beloved Latin America and despite visiting well over 100 countries worldwide, if I had to choose my absolute favourites, they would be Ecuador, Brazil, Guatemala and Cuba.
Top of the list is Ecuador, geographically almost identical in size to NZ and like us, offering incredible diversity. The colourful Indian cultures in the Andes, beautiful colonial cities like Quito and Cuenca, incredible Amazon jungle experiences and the ‘jewel in the crown’, cruising the Galapagos Islands, make this extraordinary country an absolute must see. It is also ideally situated right next to the Inca treasure that is Peru.
Of course the travel bug has also lured me to other corners of the world, and I’ve particularly enjoyed time in the Kingdom of Bhutan, Antarctica, along the ancient Silk Road, in Southern, East and West Africa and most recently Ethiopia – a whole different kind of Africa!
Collectively I have spent nearly six years of my life in Latin America, and so know it intimately. If you have any interest about visiting this part of the world, I would be more than happy to sit and talk it over with you. In the meantime, I am waiting with baited breath for borders to reopen and vaccines to take effect. I will give you one guess where I am headed as soon as they do….!
To view Chris’s latest South America brochure CLICK HERE>