Including Canada, we’ve now been on the road for 10 weeks, a nice round number, and a number large enough to provide material for some reflecting. What has gone well, not so well, and what has surprised us?
Overall, things are going very well. Saying that things have gone well, much less making a list, is a direct challenge to the travel gods. And we all know how the travel gods react to a challenge. However, Karen and I will sacrifice a small goat, or ram, this evening to appease them. (Karen is currently reading the Bible from cover to cover, and often reads aloud from the list of sacrifices that God demanded in the Old Testament…).
Travelling has been easier than anticipated. We both thought we would be more tired, dirtier, crankier, etc., than what we have been. (The travel gods did hear us: the day after we wrote this, we had a very sucky day, see our campsite below…)
On a related note, activities of daily living – sleeping, eating, staying clean, going to the bathroom – have been easy. Sure, there has been a shower or two where flip flops were not optional, and I will never enjoy a squatting toilet, but overall it’s been better than expected.
We’re getting along well. Karen and I spend most hours of every day together, and enjoy it. If you’ve read a previous blog post, you will know that most of these hours are not spent in deep and meaningful conversation, but somehow it works. We had both thought that we would need more time alone, but so far, this hasn’t been much of an issue. Again, this may change further on down the road, especially as we get to fly fishing territory…, but for now, we’re good.
We miss our kids (SOPHIE, ERIK, ANNA & KATRINE – there, satisfied now Anna?) and have a harder time communicating with them than we expected. Internet access via wifi is rare, and we also have four different time zones to contend with.
The travel highlights, so far, are all places that we did not have on our “prepared” itinerary; traveling slow opens up the doors to places that may, at most, only be a side note in a guide book, but which we enjoy tremendously.
Overlanding is the ideal way to see a country if most of your time is spent in National Parks and small towns. Overlanding loses some of its advantages in larger cities, as the choices here are to i) camp far outside of town, and thereby miss most of the evening/night-life (driving back to camp at night is too scary); ii) take a hotel room, in which case you need a hotel that has a parking lot large enough for our vehicle (and why overland in the first place?) ; iii) find a hotel where we can park and pay a minor fee for a bathroom/shower, which can take time to find. We need more practice on (iii), as this is what we prefer.
Not once have we wished for a larger vehicle. There has been a time or two when a smaller vehicle would have made driving in a city easier though. In particular, I wish the casa were 3 feet shorter and had a better turning radius. The pop-top camper concept is great: we have driven down streets and camped in places where a “normal” truck camper wouldn’t fit.
Our bed rocks. The north-south arrangement of our bed was a major driver when we were selecting our vehicle. In hindsight, a good call. Also, high quality sheets and pillows, and a very cozy down comforter for when it gets cold, make sleeping a joy. As a side note, we have slept in night time temperatures ranging from 35C (95F) in the Chaco, to 5C (41F) here in Potosi. As a second side note, these notes are being typed in Pub 4060 in Potosi, located at 4,060m., 13,400 ft, altitude; a personal record for both drinking and sleeping.
Propane has not been an issue. From the blogs and journals, propane is a weighty issue: how much to carry, where to fill up, how to fill up, what adapters to bring, etc. We took some of this to heart when we selected a compressor type fridge, which uses electricity instead of propane. We also use a tea kettle when we can to heat water for coffee and washing dishes. Thereby, we only use propane for cooking, the very occasional shower, and for doing dishes during the times when our solar panels can’t keep up with the electricity demand from the fridge. Through the first 6 weeks, we’ve used less than 15 pounds of propane, and we carry 40 pounds. Our propane usage may change later, in e.g. Patagonia, if we need to start running the heater in the camper.
While we have only taken perhaps 10 showers inside the camper, knowing that we have access at any time to a shower – with hot water – is invaluable. The same goes for the toilet, but without the hot water…
Internet is difficult to access. Locutorios, “internet cafes”, are ubiquitous. In a locutorio, you pay a minimal fee, and then you have access to a computer. However. both Karen and I brought laptops, and our preferred approach is to find a Wifi network and use our own computers; this makes it easier to skype, synchronize emails written off-line, upload blog docs written off-line, etc. Surprisingly enough, there are very few cafes, pubs, restaurants, that have Wifi. And no Starbucks or McDonalds, staples for the Wifi starved business traveler. We may have to change our approach.
There are very few people doing this. When we were preparing, it seemed like there were 1,000s of overland vehicles in South America and that we would run across fellow travelers on a frequent basis. So far in South America, we have met six different travelers/couples, three of them at Iguazu. (Of course, we ran into another one the day after this was written…)
In re-reading the above, and at the risk of further irritating the travel gods, so far we don’t have any items on the aren’t-going-well list; perhaps another ram will be thrown on the sacrificial pyre…