This is perhaps one of my more personal books because it tells of a special time in my life, living the adventure of an extraordinary continent with the openness and sense of uncluttered excitement you get when you’re young still, and far away from home. It is based on diaries I wrote while I worked as a journalist in Buenos Aires, a good point of departure for further travels around South America, from the Amazon jungle to Tierra del Fuego, via prairies, and glaciers, and across the Andes.
While the diaries were kept during the 1980’s-a period when South America remained a victim of the Cold War and remained ruled mainly by military dictatorships-their thoughts and observations produced, I hope, a timeless narrative, made up of memorable characters and enduring landscapes and cultures. I believe that South America remains one of the world’s least discovered continents. Travellers’ tales may enrich our understanding, but they have not tamed it. There are people I met who seemed to straddle a strange world between reality and magic, like Tina, the White Duchess of Platinov, and Sixto Vazquez, a man who held the key to the mysteries of a lost tribe. Along the way I found myself in situations not easy to forget-lost in the treacherous depths of a Bolivian tin mine while following the spirit of Che Guevara, taking a steam train up the Andes, shadowed by General Pinochet’s secret police in Chile, celebrating a wild New Year on a Pacific beach, near the Equator.
With this book, I want to take the reader with me, tracing the footprints of history-conquest and subjugation, defiance and hope-and encountering at each turn the unexpected.