The High Road

South America

Feb 1, 2005
Outside Magazine

Rocha On! Hoofing it on a Uruguayan playa.

Rafting the Lower Apurímac
Price: $2,500
Difficulty: Strenuous
To reach some hard-won whitewater, this ten-day trekking-and-rafting expedition starts with a six-hour hike down the western slope of Peru's lush Cordillera Vilcabamba. Follow this the next day with a 5,900-foot ascent to Choquequirau, ruins of one of the most remarkable Incan cities discovered to date. Then make history of your own, on the rarely run, Class IV–V Lower Apurímac River, home to parrots, monkeys, cormorants, and countless waterfalls.
High Point: Peering into what guides call the Acobamba Abyss and realizing you're headed for expert-kayaker territory.
Low Point: If water levels are low, portaging a particularly narrow section of the Abyss.
Travel Advisory: This is an exploratory trip, so be prepared for changes and delays.
Outfitter: Bio Bio Expeditions, 800-246-7238,
When to Go: October

Wildlife Watching Price: $2,835 (airfare from U.S. included)
Difficulty: Easy
Picture Costa Rica pre–tourism boom—gorgeous, wild, and practically empty—and you've got Guyana, a new frontier in South American travel. For ten days you'll head from lodge to lodge (some run by local Amerindian communities), exploring savannas and jungles and possibly adding jaguar and exotic-bird sightings to your life list. You can kayak lazy rivers to watch giant otters, venture out with flashlights to see black caimans hunting at night, and stand at the rim of Kaieteur Falls, which drops more than 740 feet, almost five times the height of Niagara.
Outfitter: Journeys International, 800-255-8735,
When to Go: April, August, November

Galloping the Deserted Coastline of Rocha
Price: $1,850
Difficulty: Easy
It's hard to find a beach so deserted you can take a solitary stroll, let alone a weeklong horseback ride like this one, through eastern Uruguay's Rocha region. On this 140-mile journey, you'll visit fishing villages atop South American criollo horses, fuel up on lamb and steak, and gaze at capybaras (the world's largest rodents). Worthy detours include a sea lion conservation area and a botanical garden filled with dozens of orchids.
Outfitter: Boojum Expeditions, 800-287-0125,
When to Go: March to April, October to December

Argentina and Chile
Backcountry-Skiing the Andean Cordillera
Price: $2,000
Difficulty: Challenging
On this ten-day trip, combine volcano climbs with lift-served skiing and snowboarding. In Chile, you'll ascend the back side of 9,318-foot Volcán Villarrica, where you might see lava boiling below the caldera rim. In Argentina, you'll ascend the flanks of Volcán Lanín (12,388 feet) and Volcán Domuyo (15,446 feet), recuperating in the area's hosterías and abundant hot springs.
Outfitter: ATAC (Adventure Tours Argentina Chile), 866-270-5186,
When to Go: July to October