I've always had the desire to travel to South America, especially Brazil. A few years back I'd even made plans to do a trip there, Doing a lot of research and looking into flights and hotels. I was fairly close to pulling the trigger on the trip, only to postpone it once I learned that a coaster club was planning a trip there in the near future.

Fast forward to late summer 2011, I was chatting with my friend George Greenway about future trip ideas. He mentioned that he was reaching a major milestone--his 2000th coaster--and wanted to achieve this magic number on a unique coaster. For someone who has ridden that many coasters, it's kind of difficult to find a standout that would do justice to this achievement. After throwing ideas between us, he suggested that he would like to go to Colombia to ride a rare Schwarzkopf coaster there. His next question was, Would I like to join him? I thought long and hard about this-- approximately five seconds-- and replied, "Yes"

George's initial idea was to go for a long weekend. I started doing some research. Looking into flights, it became clear that this wasn't going to be cheap. Liaising between us, I told him that to justify the cost we should increase the length of the trip and add another country. He agreed.

Back to the drawing board. Staring at the map, I was looked for nearby countries that could be twinned with Colombia. Brazil was one option, but we couldn't justify adding it as that would be a two-week trip by it self. Another option was Peru. The problem with this was that a trip to Peru would not be complete without an excursion to the awesome Machu Picchu ruins. But January and February, the time we were targeting, is the rainy season in the mountain around the ruins, and the Inca Trail is completely closed during February due to it being the off season.

With those two counties out of contention, it got more difficult to twin Colombia with a nearby country. With all the sensible options out of the window, it was time to look further afield--to the other end of the continent--to find what we been looking for. Yep Argentina. A quick check on flights confirmed that it was possible to combine both. The other benefit of including Argentina was that it gave us a bonus stopover in Santiago, Chile, which we took full advantage of (how could we turn down such an opportunity?).  I put the idea to George of combining Colombia with Argentina and Chile and got his approval.

On my last few trips, I've always included a major local attraction in the plan: bridge climb and opera house tour in Sydney, Colosseum and Vatican City in Rome. Iguassu Falls are a massive attraction in Argentina, situated on its border with Brazil and Paraguay. Having always wanted to visit the falls, I included them in our trip. To fully appreciate the falls one should view them from both the  Argentinian and Brazilian sides. Both are served by separate airports. The initial plan was to fly into one airport and out of the other to save on borders crossings. (That idea failed miserably, as we ended up doing more border crossings than anticipated, but more on that later.) Flying into IGC (the airport on the Argentinian side) was perfect but getting a flight from IGU (on the Brazilian side) to Buenos Aires proved to be more difficult than expected since most flights connected through Sao Paulo or Rio with a long layover. Just when it seemed that we'd have to cross back into Argentina and fly back from IGC, I came across a Pluna flight to Buenos Aires via Montevideo. The flight was cheaper than a return flight to IGC and it gave us stopover in Uruguay, which had one park. Need I say more?

The next country to be added to the  pot was Paraguay, once I realised it had a dam near the border area that could be done in a few hours. A chance to visit a non-coaster country was too great to turn down, although it completely blew our plan of minimising border crossings.

A final country was added to the mix was due to us coming up with a spare day in our plan.
As I mentioned above, George wanted to ride the Schwarzkopf as his milestone coaster. We had pencilled in five days for Colombia. George needed five or six more coaster to get up to 1999. We worked out a few different routes to get us to Parque Nacional Del Café at that number. There was an element of risk involved in all of them:  coasters not working, adults not allowed to ride a coaster, ect. We came to the conclusion the safest option was to put Parque Nacional Del Café on Day One and George would have to get to coaster 1999 on other trips before the start of this trip. By putting Parque Nacional Del Café at the beginning of the trip, all the other parks fell nicely into place, leaving us with a spare day.

The sensible option would have been to use this day to visit a tourist attraction, or even just relax for the day, but the word *sensible* doesn't exist in a coaster enthusiast's dictionary. Another check of the map showed that Colombia'a neighbouring country Ecuador had a park in Quito with three coasters. Flight times were perfect for a day trip to Quito from Bogotá. So Ecuador was the seventh and final country added to our itinerary.

Parque Nacional Del Café

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