Celebrating 6 Years of South America Travel

South America Travel Specialists - Knowmad Adventures

I came across this lovely little verse the other day and confused emotion swelled within me. We talk a lot about experiences, adventures and journeys here at Knowmad Adventures and it’s likely that we’re referring to a week or two in South America. Frankly, for us this has become almost commonplace as we have the fortune to build these adventures everyday and live vicariously in the post-trip glow through returning travelers telling their tales.

Today it’s only appropriate to talk about a different kind of journey. The journey filled with hope, the journey filled with fear. The journey that is your teacher, that helps you grow. The journey that is Knowmad Adventures for Jordan and I. Six years ago and newly married, we found ourselves on a road to Patagonia. We knew little of where we were going or what we were doing. Our travel company was nothing more than a name.

Knowmad’s Journey

I think we both felt a strange mixture of invincibility and despair that year of our lives. We were next to broke, but then again we had nearly no monetary responsibilities either. We were technically unemployed, but who needs a job when you have an idea? There was no “This is How You Start Running Trips in South America” manual, but we knew the lessons we were living would teach us so much more.

South America Travel Specialists 

Today, as “write Knowmad’s anniversary post” reaches the top of my to do list, it makes me smile to look back at musings from six years ago while we were living in Chile. Knowmad has grown to become a being beyond us, something we never could have imagined. We’ve expanded from a team of two working at the same desk (that doubled as a dining room table) to a team of seven in the main office and a network of colleagues throughout South America. Our first mini-Knowmader, now almost two-year-old Trey, joined the troupes.

Life has gotten busier; I find myself constantly trying to carve out time. We may not be as young or as lean, but we’re still in search of the same moments, the same essence of really living like Jordan describes here:


October 17, 2009 – Chile

Sitting next to Geoff, one of my longest and best friends, we bound along up and out of Santiago, into the exhilarating switchbacks that ascend so rapidly they might as well be an elevator. Santiago sits near sea level and snow-capped Andean peaks loom as high as 18,000 feet not far from the capital.

Geoff and his wife Jess are on their honeymoon and have backpacked for the past month in Peru and Bolivia before coming to Chile. Their timing is less than desirable, our feet still burning from hitting the ground and having more unfinished business than a wartime president, but we’re happy to see them and suck in some adventure.

Cajon Del Maipo, or the Maipo Canyon lies just east of the city towards the Argentine border. It’s pretty and convenient for getting out of the Santiago bustle. After a nice evening barbeque in a cozy cabin we’re ready for some adventure and opt for a horseback ride. Rather than pay the entrance fee for an on-the-map nature reserve and an overpriced ride I get a contact from the cabin owner for a campesino, a true caballero that does horseback rides in the next town. We call Juan Pablo and he’ll be ready with the horses in an hour.

A bit lucky, in a matter of minutes a bus passes on the little-used mountain road and brings us to San Gabriel, which turns out to be one hundred percent off the map and looks to have no facilities.

South America Travel Tours South America Travel Knowmad

Juan Pablo meets us at the police check point – think old west border town – and leads us to his humble but picturesque cabin at the foot of the mountains. He and his wife Carol are heading for Santiago to buy supplies so we’ll go with his good friend Luis. We make small talk about Chile, cowboys and what we’re doing at Knowmad. He realizes, as I had with a bit of trepidation upon arriving, that we’re going to ride until near nightfall if we climb to the mesa and will have no way out of San Gabriel, buses running only during the day.

“Donde van a alojar para la noche?” he asks.

I tell him I really have no idea where we’ll spend the night, this is an exploratory adventure and we’re prepared to roll with the punches. He doesn’t hesitate and offers us his cabin for the night with no mention of money. I immediately accept and am relieved to not have to tell the group we’re between a rock and a cold place and that’s how we’re going to pass the night.

Mounting up with Luis we climb thousands of feet to a mesa overlooking the valley. The air is crisp, the sky clear, the horizon vast. Returning just before dusk, Luis’s eight-year-old son unpacks the horses.

“Mi hijo te acompana al mercado,” says Luis.

“No need,” I reply. It’s a small town and I’m sure we’ll find the market.

“Es mejor que te acompane,” he replies without being pushy, but leaving no room for disagreement.

So we’re led through the pueblo, which is really just a collection of small dwellings and a liquor store that doubles as the town watering hole, a pinto and a buckskin reined outside. We grab some wine and beer before being led on by our young companion.

He leads us through a gate and I notice a small, hand-painted sign lying on the ground shyly announcing that this house is the town market. I smile understanding Luis’s persistence – we never would have found this.

Over candle light we sip wine from the valley just south of us and devour grilled pork ribs, good friends recounting past adventures and reveling in how the day has played out. I recall my frustration at the automotriz and throughout the week, reminding myself that as in any great adventure, there will be broken toilets and radiators, but there will also be moments like this.

“What if I fall?” will always threaten to edge into our thoughts. But the possibilities, the friendships made, the mission furthered – those will soar.


Un Beso, Tara

South America Travel Tara HarveyTara is the Co-Founder, Marketing and Operations Manager at Knowmad Adventures, a company dedicated to creating unique, private and custom trips in South America. She first traveled to South America in college and is endlessly inspired by the cultures, food, colors and idiosyncrasies she discovers there. Read Tara’s biography and more about the Knowmad team.