Final Thoughts

It went by in a flash.

Honestly, I didn’t think we would last more than 6 weeks, but here we are about to board our final flight home to Vancouver. A year ago, we made the decision to go on this journey and even as the days inched closer to our departure date, it felt crazy and surreal.  Even during the first few days, it felt like we were just on another road trip. All we did was take it one day at a time and make small decisions each day. Where should we sleep tonight? How much do you want to drive today? When should we cross the border? Does Zoe have enough food?

Before we knew it – it was February and we were looking at flights back home. There are so many moments we want to highlight, but here are a few that we keep reminiscing about.

Colombia

Bogota

If it weren’t for the heat in New Mexico, we would have never made the decision to skip Central America. We also didn’t realize that 6 months wasn’t nearly long enough to go through Central AND South America. Looking back, we’re glad to have made the decision.

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Sitting at 9,000 ft, we fell in love with the cold city of Bogota within a few days. The people are warm, the city is friendly (to Zoe especially), budget-friendly and the food is delicious. We would go back in a heartbeat. We did so much walking around the city and every day we found new neighborhoods to see and explore. The Spanish isn’t easy to understand and even though a lot of people don’t speak English, they are so friendly in trying to help you out.

Barichara

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It has the perfect climate of around 25 degrees all day and then the afternoon breeze rolls in around 3pm, for a cool evening. Frequently rated as one of the most beautiful towns to visit in Colombia (or Villa de Leyva), it was worth the detour to stay there for 5 days and spend it with like-minded people who are also traveling long term. We met up with a Swiss Couple and their dog many times and shared the pains of traveling with a dog. Every day we walked to the small town to get fresh groceries and cooked as a group in the communal kitchen and shared stories.  A fantastic place to hunker down.

Ecuador

Quilotoa Loop

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I was dealing with altitude sickness for most of Ecuador, but the Quilotoa loop was one that took our breath away – literally. You drive, drive, drive up through a hill and all of a sudden you come upon the rim of this crater and see the pristine blue lake below. It is definitely one of our favorite hikes and one for the books.

Bolivia

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People say Bolivia is the last true South American country. It is less developed than its neighbors, and still holds the desolate charm most people look for in South America. The landscape, the people, and the scenery are unmatched. Everywhere we look, it felt like we were on another planet and there is nothing like it.

Chile

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Chile was a stark contrast to the less developed Bolivia. Paved roads, highway rest stops, and credit cards accepted everywhere – it felt like we were back in North America. Our favorite part wasn’t any of those modern conveniences, but the beautiful road trip through the Carretera Austral (Route 7). Rated as one of the best road trips in the world, we were skeptical. But dang – It blew us away. Every 2 minutes our jaws were dropping at the beautiful scenery (including the Catedral de Marmol). It was like all the beautiful national parks in North America were aggregated here.

Argentina

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Argentina was our final country and honestly, it has so much to offer and we wish we had more time here. From Mendoza, Bariloche, Perito Moreno Glacier, to Buenos Aires – it is a country filled with so much culture, love for life, and of course delicious food. We loved it here and the friendly people really made all the difference. If nothing else, they have amazing Patagonian Lamb, and Steak – Albert beef tastes like a sad mock comparatively.

Final thoughts

We are incredibly grateful for this trip. Grateful for the people who helped us along the way. Grateful for the ability to take this trip when we did. Going to the countries we’ve been dreaming about and immersing ourselves in the countries has been amazing. We’ve also met some incredible people who have taught us so much about what it means to travel, learn, and really live.

Our Spanish is only a little bit better than when we left, but we definitely want to keep learning and go back to all of the above countries someday. Some of the things we’ve learned:

  • you don’t really need that much on a day to day basis
  • whatever you see on the news is the worst and not an accurate reflection of the country
  • people are really friendly and willing to help
  • not a lot of Asian people do this, therefore we got more attention
  • take it day by day –  things change so quickly in South America you can’t plan very far in advance anyway
  • travel while you can, don’t wait – you make the opportunity happen
  • take time out of the day for you and your loved ones
  • be grateful for everything

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Last but not least, I am so grateful for a partner who said YES. I probably could have done this alone or with Zoe (a lot of women do this kind of trip on their own), but it was infinitely more enjoyable with someone to share this experience with. Plus he makes me laugh every day – that’s hard to find.

Thanks for following along and reading our adventures in South America and until next time – Hasta Luego!

Love,

Steve, Anna & Zoe

Catedral de Mármol

This is one of those places you see pictures of online and think… that’s photoshopped, right? Too much editing and it’s probably not as nice in real life. You build yourself up for disappointment.

I was so wrong. It’s breathtaking.

 

dsc_0483The entire region used to be a glacier many years ago and the entire lake is a beautiful turquoise color. Not only that, these rock formations have mineral deposits and is made of marble. Over centuries, the glacier lakes have carved these beautiful marble sculptures of caves and caverns. Only accessible by boat, we take a 3-hour boat tour of the region.

The marble walls have a weird texture to them – like beehives? And when you see it, it looks sharp and edgy. But when you touch it up close (because this is South America and you can touch things), it’s smooth like someone has been polishing it.

Surrounded by the 2nd biggest lake in South America, it’s hard to imagine the colors you see, but seeing it in person really put everything else you’ve done in perspective. I mean, it used to be once giant glacier and it melted and became this beautiful lake and then started polishing away the rough rocks into these beautiful smooth marble sculptures.  Once the sun comes out, it sparkles with the turquoise blue waters and it’s definitely something that is incredibly hard to capture on camera – you really have to see it in person.

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The Carretera Austral

For the past 10 days, we’ve been driving through the Northern Patagonia region in Chile. It’s supposedly the most spectacular and challenging road in Chile since it was isolated from visitors until the first section was finished in 1983. Someone we met in Peru described it as the best road he’s ever driven on and he’s driven Argentina and Chile for the past 4 years.

 

We decide from the very beginning to take our time and really enjoy the road instead of driving through it as fast as possible. It’s the last ‘big’ thing we will do before we start heading south towards home, so it’s a weird feeling for us. We start the journey by crossing over from Bariloche, Argentina to Puerto Montt, Chile. We have been warned by others that there are really limited supplies on the route (since everything is brought on boats or grown in the region) and cash is hard to come by, so we stock up on both in Puerto Montt. From there, we drive to Hornoprien and then take a 7am ferry ride for 6 hours to Caleta Gonzalo. From here, we can drive the full 927km road to Villa O’Higgins then backtrack up to Chile Chico or take a ferry down further or do a modified route to Chile Chico at 632km.

Now the entire route drives through countless national parks and natural reserves. You could easily spend probably months doing hikes and camping in this region with no shortage of views and spectacular glaciers surrounding you. But we are limited for time so we are doing the modified route to Chile Chico to cross into Argentina instead.

I won’t list every little place we stayed at, but this is some of the best camping we’ve done in South America. The land is so vast and every 10 minutes we see something beautiful and want to pull over for pictures and stare. We stay put in places until the rain clears, because we are afraid if we drive further we might miss something. The region is covered in glaciers, mountains, lakes, rivers and beautiful scenery that really does make you go whoa-whoa-WHOA. Everyone should do this drive once in their life.

One of the main views

Steve trying his hbd at guitar

Home made bread

Cherries from our campsite

Honestly, we didn’t even get to do the many hikes or side roads to other beautiful places you can do. And all the beautiful parks you can imagine clustered into one semi-paved road. It’s really something you have to see in person.

 

Chile and Argentina

The big 2

After the vast emptiness of Bolivia, we are now entering Argentina and Chile. The roads are better, there are modern rest stops like in the US, and everything is conveniently close – it’s weirdly familiar.

Because the two countries are so close, we will be going in and out of both countries at least two or three times. The plan is to drive down Chile abit and then cross into Argentina for abit and then cross back into Chile to drive the Route 7 aka Carretera Austral. It’s supposed to be the best drive of Chile and as one man we met described it – “every km is like whoa, ooo, ahhh”.

The desert

But first, we drive through the Atacama desert in Chile and then crossover into Argentina to visit Mendoza – the wine heart of the country. We don’t particularly like the heat, so we drive through the vast emptiness quickly. But even then, we see landscapes that look like the moon and stars that litter the night sky. It’s not so bad.

Finally, we cross into Argentina. One of the final countries we will be visiting on this trip. The first thing we do in Mendoza is to obviously go find a restaurant, and we end up at Cava de Caño out of sheer luck.

Since I don’t drink, the food is for me and the wine is for Steve. The set menu is $835 Argentinian pesos per person – after double checking our math – it is $18 CAD. so we nod a hungry yes and get inside. Normally, you need reservations since it’s a set menu and normally, they don’t allow dogs in the restaurant. But it was 27 degrees outside so they gave us a private room with ac so our dog can sit with us while we enjoy a feast that we didn’t even know was coming. It included:

  • 25 various tapas
  • 3 courses of empanada, stewed beef in wine, freshly made pasta
  • A bottle of Malbec
  • Icecream with Dulce de Leche
  • Dessert drinks or coffee
  • Cigars (which we politely declined)

It was a wonderful start to an amazing Argentinian meal experience and hospitality.

What a perfect start to our final months in South America.