Backpacking in South America with Kranthi Kiran

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Sustainable Experiential Travel, in short. Sustainability, in terms of creating livelihoods, protecting environment and preserving culture.

The Traveler

The Journey is You. The Destination is Us. – Kranthi

Kranthi Kiran, an IIT-IIM alumnus and currently leading the Business Excellence projects at a German conglomerate, believes in lifelong learning and sharing. He likes to experiment with his own views on life and leadership, through meeting people with varied backgrounds and exposing himself to unfamiliar surroundings. He loves a hands-on approach to problem solving and working in diverse teams. He likes navigating through chaos and finding creative ways to thrive amidst it.
Kranthi pursues an active lifestyle; manages his energies using breath as a medium to connect his body to mind. He doesn’t try to balance the professional and the private life instead he aims to create harmony between them.
He is an ardent traveler, thrill seeker, Yoga Practitioner, dance enthusiast, doodle artist, instant photographer and an avid blogger.
In this episode, we chatted with him on his solo 30 day backpacking trip to South America that he did in the off-peak months of September and October in 2016.

Podcast Summary

00:00 – 05:54: Introduction
Philosophy of traveling, why backpacking, why South America?

05:55 – 14:15: Pre-trip preparation, itinerary and tips.

14:16 – 28:02: Peru
Lima. Cusco. Inca trail trek to Machu Picchu. Local cuisine. Interaction with the Incans. Iquitos. Amazonas. Interaction with the tribes. Ayahuasca ritual.

28:03 – 47:42: Colombia
Leticia. Speed boat ride. Tres Fonteras. Tanimboca -> Zip lining over the forest canopies. Santander. Tabatinga. Cartagena -> Gabriel Garcia Marquez memorial. Rosario Island Trail. Playa Blanca. FARC rebels peace treaty. Medellin. Pablo Escobar. Salsa. Dancing. Impression of India. Bucaramanga. Barichara. San Gil -> Rappelling, Spelunking (Caving), Mountain Biking, White Water River Rafting (Rapid 5 in Suarez river). Tejo – traditional throwing game.

47:45 – 52:01: Argentina
Buenos Aires. El Calafate (Patagonia) -> Perito Moreno glacier. Upsala Glacier. El Chalten (Patagonia). Mate tea. Tango. Argentinian steak and wine.

52:01 – 59:35 : Conclusion
Some more tips and info.

The Trip: Latin American Diaries

13th Sep to 13th Oct 2016

10 Compelling reasons to visit South America

I am Kranthi Kiran Chitithoti, a globetrotter with a bucket list that has every place on the map! I travel to spread happiness, share smiles and bring hope to humanity, despite differences and boundaries. I recently travelled to South America for a month, fell in love with Latin Americans, and discovered for myself many reasons to visit South America. During this trip, I carried a Fujifilm instant camera to give away pictures to all the locals. It was amazing to see how this simple act of sharing pictures brought joy and care. It forged new friendships and got people together. Travelling is to see yourself in everyone you come across. Travelling is living.
Here are some of the pictures and stories from trip to South America; of Peruvian Cuisine, Colombian Culture and Argentinean Landscapes. If you need reasons to visit South America, here is not one, but 10 real reasons to.

13th – 14th Sep 2016 – Bengaluru to Lima by Flight via London


14th to 23rd Sep 2016

1.    Expose your taste buds to a wild ride in Lima (14th – 16th Sep 2016)

First things first. Try the Ceviche, Tiraditos, Arroces and have your friends for company to make it taste even better. Ceviche is what happened when the Spanish came in touch with Peru; they brought in the element of citrus into Peruvian dishes.  The classic ceviche combines seafood with lime and spicy chilies, topped with a pile of tortilla chips – one of the plenty reasons to visit South America. Do not miss the native fruit of Coastal Peru, Lucuma. Life is a cocktail and in Lima, it has a name – Pisco Sour. Go for it. Top it all with Picarones. In short, try everything that comes your way and your taste buds will thank you for it. 

2. Trekking to Machu Picchu, Peru (17th – 20th Sep 2016)

What’s a trip to South America without visiting the Incan Ruins at Machu Picchu? But do not hurry it. Explore it the way it was discovered. Through the mountains, meeting the indigenous population, eating the potatoes of all kinds and taking in the coca leaves, sleeping under the moon and walking with the Alpacas. Do it the way it must be done. Discover Machu Picchu. Get lost on the way only to find yourself amidst the vastness of nature. The best journey is the one that brought you here and now.

The Indian meets the Incan. 
In total harmony with nature. the land of mysticism and magic. on my trek to machu pichu. my spiritual pilgrimage. Buenos dias y muchas gracias.

3. Contacting the un-contacted at the Peruvian Amazonas (21st – 23rd Sep 2016)

Go and immerse yourself in the lap of the Amazonas Rainforest, home to the most exotic of species. Cruise along the world’s longest Amazon river and get amazed by the abundance of life all around. Go far and deep into the jungle and shake hands with the Indian tribes. Try their blowgun used to hunt the wild and mesmerize the tribes with your sharp shooting skills. Don the rubber boots and get carried away in the dense forests. Discover the Ayahuasca rituals and experience visions. Make friends with the mototaxi driver and see life from his point of view. Try the exotic amazonas cuisine, always fresh and cooked live – one of the compelling reasons to visit South America. Look back into the past, study the rubber trade and the war over the wood and laugh at the continuing greed of the humans. The nature of a human must be in sync with the nature that surrounds the human. We are losing contact with ourselves and our nature. Time to get back closer to ourselves.

Encouraged by curiosity, i went deep into the forest as if i was running away from man’s presence, to meet this wonderful world. i became engrossed in my thoughts gazing at that great diversity of plants. i was surrounded by so many beautiful things, that it was impossible to see them all at once and embrace them as a whole – Antonio Raimondi, 1874.

Life in the jungle is all about symbiosis. there is harmony with nature around and within. the indigenous culture is based on respect and conservation of the environment. they developed the ability to change without destroying, to use resources without exhausting them, and to open small wounds in the forest that could be healed.

Amazonas – the river, the forest, the natives and the non-existent i.
light to see, air to breathe, space to sleep, water to live…..the richest is the one who needs the least


24th Sep to 5th Oct 2016

4. Pass through three countries at once in Tres Fonteras (24th – 26th Sep 2016)

Take a 10 hour long boat ride with the locals from Iquitos, Peru to Leticia, Colombia and enter the borderlands. Center yourself in the center of the triangle of countries and show off your skills to the other travellers. Leticia (Colombia) on one side, Santa Rosa (Peru) on  the other and Tabatinga (Brazil) on the third side. Laugh at the borders that we have created on the maps and experience the convergence of it in the river of humanity called the Amazon. Freedom is in having no boundaries and going limitless. Once in Leticia, go climb the 35 meter high trees and get on the canopy. Experience how trees see and live in the rainforest. Take the zipline, go canopy hopping and understand evolution of humans from the apes. Make friends with the Colombian at the hotel and share bollywood and yoga. Get out at 5:00 PM everyday and be amazed by the thousands of birds coming to show us what freedom feels like at the parque santander. Take the motorbike taxi and Cross the borders at will to experience the samba on the Brazilian side. End your day with caipirinha, the national cocktail of Brazil. Freak out on boat rides,  at the freedom that this place offers. By the way, Do not miss the mojojoy’s, the fried worms. It can’t get as exotic as this.

tempt fate, taste life. fill your soul with adventure. go on an unfamiliar quest, explore the unchartered lands, intrigue yourself, be a child of circumstance. live your dreams. share your stories.
” not he who lived long know, he who travelled much knows.” – A turkish proverb

5. Realismo Magico in the walled city of Cartagena, Colombia (27th – 30th Sep 2016)

First things first. When in Cartagena, pay your respects to the Nobel Laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez at his resting place. Gabo, as fondly called by his fanatics,  has expanded the definition of reality to include fantasy and magic that is beyond the scope of human mind. To live upto 150 years or claiming to have 65 wives is not so uncommon in Colombia. Exaggeration is never underplayed, rather it is elevated to allow our minds to see and view this world in a larger sense. Experience the fusion of Caribbean, Amazon Indian and Spanish in the cuisine, in the color of the skin and in their fused approach to living. Buy a Caribbean Colombian straw hat and be larger than life yourself. Go mud bathing in the volcanoes and cleanse yourself of all the filth outside and inside. Get scrubbed by the local colombian women (my friend was called Margarita) and get your skin a glowing look. Surely one of the most fetching reasons to visit South America! Spend an entire day strolling around Getsemani, my most favourite neighbourhood in the world.
Get amazed at the larger-than-life art on the walls and in the streets. Go to Playa Blanca, the best white sand beach in the world and bathe in the tranquility of the turquoise waters of the caribbean. Walk all the way from the old city to the Castle of San Felipe to marvel at the underground passages and also take a picture of the  giant Colombian Flag. Take an off-the-beaten track and jump into the sonnet shoes of Don Luis Carlos Lopez. Meet the Locals and showcase that all humans are the same when it comes to having fun and sharing happiness. In Cartagena, discover magic that lies within you and around you. Magic is no more just a word. Magic is life itself. Real and surreal at the same time. Note: Read “one hundred years of solitude” by Gabo before you venture into this land. Thou shall not experience magic or reality without this. 

Wander the walled city of cartagena on foot and make friends at every turn. dance to the carribean calypso and join the rhythm. get carried away by the color and charm. feel the city on your skin and in your heart.
travelling is about sharing your happiness and spreading smiles along the way. travelling is about meeting yourself in everyone you come across. travelling is finding the universal in the individual. travelling is living.
travel to experience the unknown dimension of life. beyond this visible space and time. into the world of magic and fantasy. into the realm that is not yet touched and reached by the human mind. into non-existence.
you gotta be zero first to experience infinity. only nothing can hold everything.

Volcano bathing in Volcan Del Totumo, Cartagena, Colombia

Get Muddy, Get messy. Dive into the volcano of life. Into itz myriad hues and flavours. Into its various shades and shadows.  Into its multiple depths and heights. Into its ever changing centers and circumference. Explore the extremes. Experience the edges. Find your center. There are no accidents in life. There are no opposites in life. 

Take an off-the-beaten track and jump into the sonnet shoes of Don Luis Carlos Lopez. At the base of San Felipe Castle, the Old Shoes Monument
(Los Zapatos Viejos). 

6. Narcos and Nightlife in Medellin, Colombia (31st Sep  -2nd Oct 2016)

Notorious for being the heart of the cocaine trade and famed for being the city from where Pablo Escobar ruled his drug empire, Medellin is a city your curiosity will not allow to miss. Growing to be a global city, with tempting local cuisines, bandeja paisa being the most authentic of the Antioquian region and local handmade chocolate to tease your taste buds,  Medellin has many things to offer for a traveller. Take the Colombian Style salsa classes at Santo Baile and show off your skills in one of the many nightbars in Parque Lleras, my favourite being the most local La Ruana de Juana. Take a taxi and go all the way to the top to Pueblito Paisa to have a great view of the city and the green landscape that surrounds it. A trip to Medellin is incomplete without admiring the voluminous art ( fat figures ) of Fernando Botero in the museum dedicated to his work. Go find out the philosophy of Botero and understand the difference between “volume” and being “fat.” Well, I got my answers in my question itself.

Botero and his fat art

Medellin  is a special place for me for having been a witness to the nationwide voting for peace treaty between the government and the FARC rebels. The nation voted against it but to be part of an almost historic moment is a special memory.

The Historic VOTE

7. Rush your adrenaline in San Gil, Colombia (3rd – 5th Oct 2016)

Rafting through the Suarez river with class 5 rapids is a near-death experience and is a strongly recommended activity when you are in San Gil. Clinging onto the raft as the waters splash all over you is something you must go through to evaluate how much you “let go” of yourself. Life is one balancing act and one must know how much to hold on to and how much to let go of. By the way, giving up is not the same as letting go. So just wear your lifejacket and move on. Explore the dark underground life in the caves and come face to face with bats upside down as you navigate through the smelly and chilly waters of Cave de la vaca. Try the “Hormigas Culonas” ( fried ants ) for snacks and forget your dinner for the day. As the nights begins, get out with your hostel mates and try your hand at the game of Tejo, Colombia’s national sport. Show some bollywood moves to add fun and flavour to the event. Take one day out and go to Barichara, the world’s prettiest village. Admire the views from this place as you walk around the place and the dreamy atmosphere that dawns upon at the twilight hour.

Rapid 5 rafting in Suarez river
Spelunking (Caving) at Cueva de la vaca in San Gil, Colombia
Try your hand literally at Tejo, the national sport of Colombia


(6th to 12th Oct 2016)

8. Find Paradise on Ice in Patagonia, Argentina (6th – 8th Oct 2016)

Trek through the Ice on the most visited Perito Moreno Glacier and say to yourself, “ Yes, Peace is white.” Take a day out to the Upsala glacier and thank the Gods for creating magic in front of your eyes. Visit the Parilla and treat yourself to Grilled Patagonian lamb with french fries and the local patagonian wine. Patagonia is a white wonderland and fulfills your longing to discover magic. Yes, Magic is white too. Before you leave Perito Moreno, do not forget to bow down to the creator for the magnitude and grandeur that surrounded you all through your stay.

At the beautiful Perito Moreno glacier
El Calafate (Moment of Surrender and Gratitude) during the Big Ice trek (Perito Moreno Glacier)

To understand the nature of god, look for god in nature – Omenka Egwuatu Nwa-Ikanga
Moses saw god in a bush, Buddha realised it under a tree, Prophet mohammed experienced Allah in a cave, Jesus found the divine in the wilderness.

I found it in the sun. I found it in the moon.
I found it in the ice. I found it in the waters.
I found it in the winds. I found it on the land.
I found it in the skies. I found it in the fire.
I found it in the plants. I found it in the birds.
I found it in the smiles. I found it in the eyes.

I found God in everyone I met. I experienced divinity in everyone I laughed with.I found God everywhere. At every turn. In every step. With every breath.
the divinity within me surrenders to the divinity that surrounds me.

9. Chill out in El Chalten, Argentina (9th -10th Oct 2016)

A quaint little town that encourages everyone to discover their own path and celebrate the freedom of not having anyone lead you on a known path. Find many ways to lose yourself and eventually discover different directions to the same goal – be it mount fitz roy or laguna del torre. Make silence your companion and let the serendipity excite you. Listen to the woodpecker making the cavity on the tree trunk. Let the cold breeze and raindrops express themselves on your face as you march forward into the unknown and unfamiliar. Discover the beauty of life in El Chalten. Discover you. 

Reflections at the Laguna del torre.

Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished – Lao Tzu

Trying the Mate tea in El Chalten

10. Two to tango in Buenos Aires, Argentina (11th – 12th Oct 2016)

It takes two to a tango, but it takes one to start it all. So be that one. The one that takes the lead to connect with the other person and move along to the tunes of life. Go shopping for tango shoes and meet fellow dancers preparing themselves for the dance night out in one of the countless milongas in Buenos Aires. If your are feeling lazy, treat yourself to a late night tango show with the most tender beef steak and a bottle of red wine from Mendoza to accompany it. The city never sleeps so why should you? You are the city. Isnt it?

Home is wherever you are. Happy Travelling.

12th – 13th Sep 2016: Buenos Aires to Bengaluru by Flight via London

Appreciation for my photos taken during my Latin American trip

My Speech:
“For me, travelling is living. I travel to meet people. As many as possible. And in this process, I intend to discover various aspects of myself in the eyes of others. I intend to spread smiles and share the happiness of life around. I intend to lose myself in the bosoms of nature. I intend to realize that I am just a drop in this ocean. And yet knowing very well that I can explore the vastness of ocean in this very drop. 
As I travel more and more, I see increasingly a mad rush after acquiring things, after owning something. Meaningful conversations between people are becoming rare. But I am positive that love can conquer everything. And in my photographs, I have captured those small “pauses” in life, the minute “moments”, that will help one to reflect and re-engage with oneself. Thanks to the entire team for nominating me.  It is a special feeling to know that we are all still connected by these “pauses”. Thank you very much.”

Photos selected for the exhibition with accompanying text:

The Souvenir Seller. Playful at Playa Blanca.

A local souvenir and hat seller in Playa blanca. Taking a pause in life to listen to the sound of the waves and the colors of the Caribbean. Life’s beauty and hardships go together. Finding the balance is the key.
This Moment captured at Playa Blanca beach, Colombia.

Mind games and yet unmindful

Two locals totally immersed in the game of chess unmindful of the buzz and chaos at the busy square of Parque de bolivar, Cartagena, Colombia. Mind games and yet unmindful about everything around.
Moment captured at Parque de bolivar, Cartagena, Colombia.

The Smile of Infinity
The Caribbean Colombian. Candies, Craft and Conversations at Portal de Los Dulces.

A local Caribbean colombian woman selling traditional home-made sweets and delicacies at Portal de Los Ducles near the clock tower in the walled city of cartagena de indies, colombia. Her smile is infectious and her affection is boundless.
This moment captured at Portal de Los Dulces, Cartagena, Colombia.

Innocence in the Incan

This kid captivated my attention with his wonder and amazement at everything he sees. Life is pure and pristine.
This moment captured at quishuarani, Peru at 3700 meters as part of my lares trek to Machu Picchu.

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