I found this book one of those lists of best biographies--some list I can't locate now, of course. It is the story of, among other things, a woman's journey across the Andes and down the Amazon in 1769. However, it veers off into a great many other subjects, a little like the way the Internet zooms you from one thing to another with just a click.
A reading of this book will help you understand about the place of women in early South American society, the exploration of the continent by European interests, and the history of early attempts to map out the whole earth. Along the way, you might learn a bit, as I did, about math and physics, nature, early medicine, and the way early scientists learned about gravity.
There is a web site for the book that gives you a further look at some of the documents cited, and which contains some additional photos.