And we’re off! Right now Lea and I are sitting in the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport waiting on a jet plane, don’t know when we’ll be back again. Lots of our friends have been excited about our trip, have wished us luck, and even put us in touch with people we can meet along the way. Meanwhile, a small minority has responded to our plans with some variation of, “You guys are crazy! Backpacking for a year around South America? You guys are going to get killed down there!”
In honor of that sentiment, here follows a list of all the ways we plan to get killed while traveling around South America. Friends, this is for you.
“You know, every frame of this movie looks like someone’s last known photograph.”
-Joel Hodgson, MST3K Experiment 524: “Manos, The Hands of Fate”
Ecuador: Explosive Decompression
Assuming we don’t burst into flames as soon as we leave the United States, we’ll be landing completely unprepared at the Mariscal Sucre International Airport outside Quito, Ecuador. Nestled in the Andes, the second highest mountain chain on earth, we’ll be disembarking at an elevation of 7,874 feet above sea level with an atmospheric pressure of a mere 10 PSI. Now I can’t speak for Lea, but as someone who grew up at sea level in the lowlands of Louisiana, I fully expect to explode like Arnold Schwarzenegger on the surface of Mars in Total Recall.
Peru: Alien Abduction
One of the places I have to visit while we’re in Peru are the famous Nazca Lines which, as Erich Von Daniken’s classic text Chariots of the Gods informs us, are landing markers for alien spacecraft. Now if you get scooped up by a flying saucer while driving through the backroads of Alabama you can’t really be held accountable, but if you go to Nazca you’re practically begging for it.
Now this is kind of a cheat because I don’t expect the aliens to kill us. However, due to the effects of time dilation and the distance to the aliens’ home planet, I expect all of you to be long gone by the time we get back so it’s really all the same.
Bolivia: Death Road Bus Crash!
This one is almost too easy. It is a well established fact that no one has ever survived a bus ride over the Andes Mountains into or out of Bolivia. The only thing in question is whether or not someone will be there to film the event and how awesome it will look on television. Will our bus tumble sideways or do cartwheels as it plummets over a sheer cliff? Will we land with a thud or explode like every car that ever ran off a hillside in 70s and 80s television? Place your bets now, amigos!
Chile: Dehydration, Desiccation, Mummification
After having been killed crossing the border from Bolivia, we’ll enter Chile via the Atacama Desert, the driest place in the world. Of course, we will forget to bring water bottles and die of thirst while baking in the sun waiting for the next bus to come by. Here’s the cool thing about the Atacama: it’s so dry that if you die there and no one moves your body, you will be naturally mummified. According to Bernardo Arriaza’s Beyond Death: The Chinchorro Mummies of Ancient Chile, the oldest naturally mummified body found in the Atacama has been dated to 7020 B.C.
Patagonia: Consumed by an Elder God from Beyond the Shores of Eternal Darkness
In 1997, an ultra-low-frequency underwater sound referred to as “The Bloop” was detected at approximately 50⁰S 100⁰W, a remote location in the Pacific west of the southern tip of South America. The sound was loud enough to have been picked up by sensors up to 5,000 km away. It resembled the profile of a noise made by a living creature, but far more powerful than any ever measured on earth. Since then, scientists have “attributed” the noise to that of a large icequake. However…
What no one in the scientific field wants to admit out loud is that the location of the signal corresponds very closely to the suspected location of the lost sunken city of R’lyeh, prison of the dark entity known as Cthulhu. Lea and I plan to be at the southernmost tip of South America on the longest day of the year. What better time for a monster from before the dawn of time to rise from the deep and eat us all? If you gotta go, you gotta go.
Argentina: Trampled by Drunken Cattle
From the research I’ve done on Argentina (which honestly boils down to watching food programs on the Travel Channel) I gather that all they do down there is slaughter cattle, eat red meat, and drink wine. It doesn’t take a stretch of the imagination to know that sooner or later the cows are going to turn the tables on their Argentinian gaucho oppressors. It’s just our luck that we’ll be passing through the country’s scenic ranchlands when the cattle finally snap, break into the wine barrels, get thoroughly boozed up, and go on a rage-fueled rampage killing everyone in sight.
Uruguay: Sand Blisters
Our plan for Uruguay is to spend a lot of it on the beach. We’ll be there in one of the hottest months of the year, so it stands to reason we’re going to scorch our feet. We’ll consider heading back to Montevideo for medical treatment, but it’s such a long walk to the bus station and that beachside tiki bar will look soooo inviting. We shrug our shoulders and instead of getting proper care we numb ourselves with mojitos and margaritas until we pass out. Our blisters get infected overnight, and we die.
Brazil: Eaten by Everything
Ah, the Amazon. I hear Brazil has been making great strides to chop it down and turn it into Wal-Marts, but I understand that a great deal of it remains. No doubt at some point Lea and I will find ourselves hiking through dense jungle and accidentally step into a nest of bullet ants. Since the sting from a single bullet ant is the most painful of any insect on the planet, and we’ll be covered in the little bastards, we’ll lose our minds and run screaming for the nearest body of water in an attempt to get them off.
On the way to the river, we’ll trip over a giant anaconda. This will piss the snake off enough to wrap around both of us at once and swallow us whole. It will be so sluggish while digesting us live that it will be easy prey for the hungry jaguar that pounces on it from the trees. The jaguar will get a few good bites, but in their struggle the jungle cat and the snake will both fall into the river where they, and us, will all be eaten by piranhas.
Columbia: Old Age
The great thing about Columbia is that it’s the one country in the world where nothing bad has ever happened to anyone. Lea and I will love it so much that we’ll decide not to come back. She’ll teach English and I’ll set up a snow-cone stand. The climate is so excellent, the mountains are so beautiful, the seaside is so lovely, and the people are so friendly that we’ll spend the next five decades in blissful semi-retirement until finally uploading our brains into shiny new android bodies, the Matrix, or robots exploring the surface of Mars (whichever becomes viable first).
We lived happily ever after, and were never heard from again.