It’s happened; we’ve passed the 3/4 point of our adventure! We’re not exactly sure how we feel about that. We feel sadness that we’ve left South America behind. Disappointment that we did not get to visit Central America. Excitement about what still lies ahead, and nervous anticipation of our return home.
Here’s a few stats from the past 225 days:
- 24,010 km driven
- 3,846 L of fuel consumed
- 8 countries visited
- 3 oil changes
- 2 flat tires
- 3 bribe attempts
- 0 bribes paid
We’ve experienced a lot in these past seven and a half months. Since passing the halfway point we’ve travelled through Ecuador and Colombia. Both of which left lasting good impressions. We were satisfied with our month in Ecuador, although we would not rule out a third visit there in the future. Our month in Colombia however left us wanting more. A lot more. We had to speed past more than a few attractions in order to meet our shipping timeline and wished we could have lingered longer in some of the amazing places we visited. We’re at peace with that. We know we can return again one day. Perhaps when we finally get around to visiting Central America.
Perhaps the most exciting thing that transpired for us in the last few months were the visits from Rob’s brother Pete and mother Betty. Pete hung out with us in Ecuador for a week, including some sightseeing in Quito and a visit to the Amazon (read about it in our Ecuador Blog). He took off to the Galapagos before meeting us again for another week on the caribbean beaches of Colombia, near Tyrona National Park. Immediately after that we were treated to a visit from ‘Bamma’ (Grandma) in the amazing colonial city of Cartagena. It was s fun reunion. The kids were thrilled to have her explore with us, and we knew she’d also been missing the kids.
Although we made the decision to skip Central America many months ago, it was only recently that it became a reality. We were still very comfortable with that decision. Our 300-day timeline was simply not long enough to move at a comfortable pace over so much distance (600 days might have worked). Additionally, the recent outbreaks of civil unrest, first in Honduras and then in Nicaragua, made us very glad not to be adding that type of stress to our travel. We arranged shipping of the van out of Cartagena, Colombia to Veracruz, Mexico using a British agency (IVSS). It did not go exactly as planned, of course. The vessel was over four days late into Cartagena and then an extra day late into Veracruz, which left us homeless for an extra week.
Our family is still struggling a little with the vanlife. We definitely take comfort in the routines we’ve developed but there are still plenty of “bad days” mixed with the good. One of our theories was that we lash out at one another because of our perpetual lack personal space and privacy while living in the van. However, even while spending a week in a two-bedroom house in Veracruz we still seemed to be on each others nerves a lot. The good news is that Liam is settling down somewhat and his behaviour is now mostly appropriate for a nearly-eight-year-old. We’re not sure if this is because he’s finally becoming comfortable with our new lifestyle, or because he sees that the end of the trip is near. Maybe, just thinking about Disney Land is keeping him in a better mood.
South America’s Most Popular Vehicles
Something we’ve noticed while driving through South America is that each country seems to have a “favourite car”. A car that turns up in our mirrors at an uncanny rate. Call us paranoid, but they also seem to even favour a specific colour for that vehicle. Sometimes it was so predictable it made us laugh. We’ve made a list of the cars that we think epitomize each of the South American countries we visited. Unfortunately we did not think to take pictures of these “favourite cars” while we were there so we’ve had to steal a few pictures off the internet (our apologies for the gratuitous copyright infringement).
Chile: Toyota Hilux, Red
These legendary trucks are everywhere, and we don’t blame them. The “original” 4-door ute’ has a solid reputation. Rob has wanted one ever since he saw them in Asia nearly 20 years ago.
Argentina: Volkswagen Amarok, Silver
We have mixed emotions about these trucks. Rob really wishes they were available in Canada because he figures he’d probably like to own one. One the other hand, we had so many bad experiences with the uber-aggressive drivers in Argentina that we also hope to NEVER see one of these trucks ever again! Like ever.
Uruguay: Renault Oroch, Green
Uruguayans really like their car/truck things, but the Renault version was the most prevalent. They seem like a sensible fit for Uruguayans; plenty of space for family and work.
Bolivia: Collectivos and Tuk Tuks!!!
We still have nightmares about the hordes collectivo buses and tuk tuks swarming around our van, honking incessantly, as we try in vain to cross any intersection in La Paz. Seemingly so close in every direction that you could reach out and change their radio station for them! Argh!!!!
Peru: Toyota Corolla (wagon), White
These were used all over Peru as taxis, family cars, delivery trucks, schools buses, and tractors. Although Toyota only thought to install 5 seatbelts, they were really downplaying the passenger capacity because we’ve seen these loaded with 10 or more people, easy.
Ecuador: Chevrolet LUV D-Max, White
This is one example of the many Isuzu (and Suzuki) vehicles that Chevrolet markets in South America. Interestingly, we think we’d like it more if it still had its Isuzu badge on it.
Colombia: Renault 4 Master
It was too difficult to pin down the “favourite car” in Colombia, but there were actually several very unique, and relatively common, vehicles that stand out in our minds. For instance, the huge colourful Chiva buses that still transport people in the rural areas, or the classic Willy’s Jeeps that are used as taxis in the mountainous Coffee Region. However, the one that we give our award too is the charming Renault Master. It was actually produced in Colombia from the ’70s until the mid ’90s and remains one of the most popular cars in Colombia, earning the nickname “Amigo Fiel” (Faithful Friend). Fun fact; because of its suspension design, it actually has a longer wheelbase on one side than the other!