An interview with Mel, Viva's stupendous tour guide
Saul Greenland | 10 September 2018
We quickly interviewed Mel, our tour guide, to find out what it was actually like on a Viva holiday
We quickly interviewed Mel, our tour guide, before she zipped off to start our Enchanting South America tour. Mel answered some quick-fire questions to find out what it is actually like to travel on a Viva's tours and our overland truck - Esperanza!
The full interview can be watched below.
How long have you been with Viva Expeditions?
5 years with Viva here in South America but I have worked in the industry in Sth Am, Africa and S E Asia for about 16yrs.
Mel and a group that joined our Enchanting South America tour
How long have you been guiding these trips in South America and how did it all start?
I first came to South America to run camping based adventure travel tours in Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia in the early 2000s, but I think my career as a tour leader started way back in the late 90s when I got a crazy job with a friend driving an older American gentleman from NY to Mexico City via the grand canyon. We drove a 40ft Winnebago campervan towing a chevy blazer 4wd and stopped at every National Park that we passed along the way. It was a great experience, especially when we crossed into Mexico, all I knew was hola and 1-10... You become very good at charades very quickly!
How many Kms have you travelled?
I was bitten by the travel bug right out of school and I've covered many kms independently but in my role as a Tour Leader Id say at least 500,000+ or = 12 times around the world.
What’s it like on the road in Esperanza – what do you get that you don’t get on other types of journeys?
Overland travel gives you a sense of just how big the South American continent is. Having the chance to see feel and experience the diversity of landscapes is wonderful. Stopping for morning tea in the Patagonian steppe with just a wide expanse and the wind whistling in the air is magical.
What is your favourite most undiscovered area in South America?
Northern Argentina is a fantastic area that is often overlooked - ourNorthern Route 40 Tour is a road trip likened to the US route 66 although this one goes north to south travelling through changing scenery, a rugged beauty... It has a wild west, red earth and cowboy feel to it, but also encompasses an indigenous element with historic ruins and ceremonial sites. An additional favourite on this route is Argentina’s famous wine region of Mendoza - although I’ve been there many times I’m sure there is a winery or 20 that I still need to discover.
The big famous walks in Chile and Argentina's national parks are great for those with hiking experience but the Carretera Austral along Chile’s fjord coastline offers short hikes amongst the temperate rainforests with lush green vegetation and snow-capped peaks in the distance.
We have so many fantastic days on our tours, but crossing the straits of Magellan on a barge ferry - truck and all - brings a smile to the faces of our passengers.
Another amazing experience is our local estancia visit in Uruguay - on our Highlights of Argentina & Uruguay we stay with a local family on their farm, help out with their everyday duties and enjoy their onsite adventure activities. That feeling of genuine, homestyle hospitality certainly stays with you.
What is your greatest piece of travelling advice for an overland journey?
Pack light but pack well. Although you hope your journey will be blue skies and sunshine everyday invest in a good rain jacket, sturdy walking shoes and layer clothes that you can mix and match.
Another key point - is to always bring some cash with you - USD is the international currency and although we live in a world of plastic cards at home they don't always work while overseas, having a stash of hard currency with your passport and important documents me and you won’t be caught out.
For more information on our group tours in Latin America, perhaps guided by Mel, please click here.