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South America: Great journey on a new continent

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SOUTH AMERICA. Three weeks aren’t much when it comes to discover a new continent. I’ve traveled much, but this was my first journey to South America – more specifically Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and Peru – but I’m certain it will not be the last.

Both these countries are fantastic, in their own ways. Almost never before have I met so generous and friendly people as in Peru. You seem to run almost no risk of getting hurt traveling in Peru, where people in rural areas struggle to make a living, and city folks are subject to a drastically widening spread of income. Where farmers on the countryside get by by walking, riding a mule and harvesting what little crops they can make out of their soil, people in Lima, the capital, drive Porsche Cayenne and fancy the latest fashion clothes. Uniting them seems to be a friendly approach towards foreigners. It is very easy to travel in Peru, with its fantastic sights, nature and rich Inca heritage.

We learned, first hand experience, no less, of Rio’s advantages and disadvantages as well. While getting mugged is not a real risk in Peru, it is very much so in the great carnival city of Rio de Janeiro. Brazil has taken a place on the world stage that it hasn’t had for a long time, and rightly so. People are getting richer (at least the already rich are), the country prosper from its oil and gas reserves, and Rio itself is gearing up to the Olympic Games it will host in a few years.

But this is also a region where millions still live in poor favelas, often controlled by drug cartells, incomes tend to by funelled to those who already have much, and where the price for a human life is dangerously cheap.

We went into one of Rio’s largest favelas, up till a few months controlled by the drug lords. Since then, police and military have managed to take it back, opening up the neighbourhood to visitors to some extent. But while this is a great step forward, much work remains. As our guide told us (NEVER attempt to enter a favela without a proper guide), police now control little less than 20 of Rio de Janeiro’s favelas. Which sounds good, until you learn that the total number of such areas is over 900.

In the weeks and months to come, The Traveling Reporter will publish a row of stories from Rio and Peru, so make sure to check in every now and then. A good way to keep track of what’s happening is to sign up for our newsletter.

This is some of the South American travel stories that are under way:

– Peru: Traveling through Inca-land
– How to spend a week in Rio
– Rio de Janeiro: Visit in a favela
– Lima’s paradox: how care for nature – and destroying it

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The editor of the Traveling Reporter works as a business news editor, and is a frequent traveler. When not doing any of that, he spends time on his boat and tries to figure out where to travel next. Two of his top destinations are the Philippines and San Francisco. Email Erik! Follow the Traveling Reporter at Stumbleupon, Tumblr, Chime In, Pinterest, Google+, Weibo, Storify, Facebook, Traveldudes, Myspace.