South America is one of those places that's always been on my travel 'to do' list, without ever quite rising to the top due to reasons of practicality. It's always seemed too big to do justice to on a two or three week trip, and the idea of just taking off on a gap year or career break has seemed increasingly unlikely as the years have passed.

Yet here we are, about to head off on a four-month trip, with sabbaticals generously granted by our bosses, a friend installed in our flat to look after it while we're away, and (hopefully) enough money saved up to see us through till Christmas.

Our plans are perhaps a little ambitious, visiting eight countries in four months. We're more or less following the classic 'Gringo Trail', with a few interesting diversions along the way. We're planning to hike the Inca Trail, journey into the heart of the Bolivian Amazon, and search for flamingos in the Atacama Desert. Our trip starts on Saturday when we fly out to Rio de Janeiro, and ends just before Christmas on the Caribbean coast of Colombia.

Normally on this blog I write about my travels when I get home, weeks, months or even years after the trip. This time I'm going to try and keep the blog up to date as we go, so friends and family (and anyone else who reads this blog) can see what we're up to. I've even bought a little fold-up Bluetooth keyboard, small enough to fit in my bag alongside my Lonely Planet and four months' supply of Imodium.

I think it's an interesting time to visit South America, with a presidential election coming up in Brazil, a refugee crisis spilling out of Venezuela, and progressive movements challenging the traditional authority of the Catholic church in places like Argentina. So I'll try and keep the blog interesting and look for different angles and stories to write about, but I hope you'll indulge me if it sometimes reads more like a travel diary then the usual stuff I write.

All being well, the next time I log in we'll be somewhere in Brazil, but for now it's até logo...