Category Archives: city

IMG_3090

Parts and Recreation : Santiago, Chile

“We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us… Only when this is recognized can the blown-in-the glass bum relax and go along with it. Only then do the frustrations fall away. In this a journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.”  – John Steinbeck.

Sometimes we have to remind each other that even though our plans change, we can still have fun in the moment.

We only planned to spend a few days in Santiago, get a few repairs done on the van, buy some spare parts, and then get the hell out. This was pretty optimistic. Ten days later, we are finally ready to hit the road again. We fluctuated between frustration with the current situation and making an effort to enjoy ourselves.

Mark spent most of his time like this …

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

On the other hand, my time was spent a bit more like this …

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACruising the ‘burbs’

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWarming park benches

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACoffee shop hopping – at my second favourite place, Faustina

Mechanically, the van was still running great, but we tend to push it harder than most vintage car owners. The brakes are now in good working order and Mark fixed lots of the little annoying things that have been on the ‘to do list’. Luckily, Santiago is a gold mine for VW parts. Thank you Velizwagen!

Mark and the mechanics replaced all the shockies, the brake cylinder, and the busted engine mounts. Then, we discovered that the transmission mount was also broken. This part is held on with two pathetic little bolts and looks like it should be simple to replace. As it turns out, it is a really difficult job. When the threads in one of the bolt holes stripped, they had to remove the entire engine to finish the job.

IMG_3090The boys at Retro Garage  – mechanics numero dos.

We have been dreaming of wilderness camping and cooking over an open fire, so the big city isn’t exactly where we want to be right now. It didn’t take us long however, to realize that Santiago is a pretty nice place to be stuck. On a clear day, you can see the Andes as they rise up in all their glory above the city.

Santiago is very live-able by our standards. It is really bike friendly and has fantastic parks everywhere. The weather was perfect, so we were able to make the most of being outdoors, exploring our neighbourhood with morning runs, afternoon bike rides and leisurely strolls.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA IMG_3086 IMG_3077 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There are some pretty old buildings too…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMuseo Nacional Bellas Artes

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPalacio de Moneda

We have a hard time being budget conscious in cities. There are just too many tasty temptations.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFavourite coffee shop

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Benevento – our local 

IMG_3080BACO – getting awkward with oysters

Still, we did try to balance things out with a few hotel room picnics at Posada del Salvador in Providencia.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’m usually not a big hotel fan, but this place was great. It’s in a good location, the staff are super friendly and most importantly, they have parking. It was pretty cheap by Santiago standards, especially since we got a little discount for having a VW bus. Also, it was just a short walk from lots of yummy restaurants, like La Gloria (sandwiches) and Liguria (fancy pub food).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe view from our room with Mark’s thrifty finds

Steinbeck was right. This trip has definitely developed a personality all of its own, and it has taken us on one royal ride. It has ebbed and flowed and changed with our expectations, and despite them. Sometimes we are all in sync and life is a dream, other times our personalities are clashing like titans.

As we move into the last month of our travels, it is hard not to have mixed feelings. But for now, we are just happy to be on the road again.

Posted from: Chillán, Chile

Warm Welcomes : Cochabamba & Sucre, Bolivia

After reading about Bolivia and chatting to some other road trippers, I expected Bolivians to be stand-offish, suspicious and reserved. The people we’ve met however, have been the complete opposite. I am realising more and more just how individual a travelling experience is. We have to take advice with a grain of salt. For us, so much depends on timing, luck and our mind-set at the time.

Our first day in La Paz, we were parked outside a cafe, when a fellow VW enthusiast tracked us down. Juan had soon invited us to visit him in Cochabamba. At the time this wasn’t on our planned route, but the offer was too good to refuse, so when we left La Paz we headed that way.

We had a great couple of days spending time with Juan and his wife, who coincidently is also a Rebecca. They showed us around Cochabamba (and the world’s tallest Jesus), and were extremely helpful and patient as we bumbled along in Spanish. Beccy is an amazing cook and we were treated to more delicious Bolivian home cooking. To top it all off, we camped at their apartment building with access to the hottest showers we’ve had in Bolivia.

Cocha 01Cocha 02 Cocha 04Cocha 13

We followed Juan and his immaculate Westfalia around the city, accomplishing in half a day what would usually take us three. We got the brakes checked, indicators fixed and brand new tires. There is something about VW people, it’s like having family all over the world.

Cocha 05 Cocha 07Cocha 06

Returning from lunch in Cochabamba one day, we found a note waiting for us. I guess the van had another fan, as did our matching denim outfits that day. We accepted the invite to meet with Daniel at the pub, he spoke better English than us, and reminded me of some of our friends from home (Canada and Australia) I’ve been missing.

Cocha 08 Cocha 09

Sucre is another amazing destination that wasn’t initially on our to do list. Everyone we’ve met whose been there says “Sucre” in this wistful, dreamy voice. Obviously, we had to check it out. Sucre is very easy on the eyes, with its colonial white buildings and pristine main plaza. This is not the kind of city I expected in Bolivia, but then Bolivia has been proving most of my expectations wrong.

Cocha 10 Cocha 11 The road to Sucre

Sucre 09Sucre 13Sucre 10Sucre 11We camped in the courtyard at Pachamamma Hostal – a great recommendation from Arjan and Leontien

We only spent one full day here, so really weren’t able to explore as much as we would have liked. What we did find though was another couple, Arthur and Yana also traveling in a VW van, and had a great time sharing stories with them. They told us about the Mercardo Central, one of the best markets we’ve been to so far. We spent hours here, eating soup (less than $1 a bowl), snacking on peanut butter cookies, drinking smoothies and loading up on supplies before heading out into the desert.

Sucre 02 Sucre 03 Sucre 05 Sucre 08 Sucre 12Sucre 06 Sucre 07

So far lady luck has been well and truly on our side, but she has some different plans in store for us next …

Posted from: my sick bed in Uyuni, Bolivia.

Friendly Faces : La Paz Bolivia

We spent our last night in Peru camped along the shores of Lago Titicaca and got an early start to cross the border into Bolivia. Country number 13.

La Paz y mas 01  Views over Titicaca, from the Bolivian side

La Paz y mas 02 Ferry crossing, Lago Titicaca

La Paz y mas 03 Hitchhiker

After an uneventful stay in Copacabana we braved the mad rush of traffic as we entered La Paz. We’ve met quite a few people lately who seem to get lost in large cities when they follow their GPS. Since we don’t have one we have to use our intuition and ask directions from locals, which has been working fairly reliably. We made it to our destination quite easily, unfortunately the address we had was totally wrong, but nothing a little time in an internet cafe couldn’t fix.

La Paz y mas 04 La Paz y mas 05 La Paz y mas 06 Valle de La Luna (Valley of the Moon) and our cozy campground

La Paz is set in a high altitude valley surrounded by crazy landscapes and towering glacier topped mountains. There is a strong contrast throughout the different nieghbourhoods, of old and new, rich and poor, but throughout it all there seems to be a lot of energy and character.

We spent a day or two wandering the city, checking out the markets and testing out all the street food while we made arrangements for our Huayna Potosi climb.

La Paz y mas 07La Paz y mas 08 La Paz y mas 09 La Paz y mas 10 La Paz y mas 11 La Paz y mas 14La Paz y mas 15La Paz y mas 16La Paz y mas 17

We left the van in the campground for a few days while we set off on the mountaineering trip. When we returned, we found ourselves in the middle of the celebrations for the anniversary of the foundation of La Paz. This is a big deal here, the entire downtown was taken over by marching bands, parades and partying in the streets.

La Paz y mas 12 La Paz y mas 13 La Paz y mas 21 La Paz y mas 22 La Paz y mas 23Chuflay – hot frothy spiced milk with a hit of singani liquor. Sounds weird, tastes amazing. 

The geography and demographics in La Paz are a bit of an anomaly. Due to the bitterly cold winds up on the altiplano, the good views are all to be had in the poorer suburbs. People with more money can afford to live in the bottom of the valley where the weather is more agreeable.

A cool new project that has just been completed in La Paz is the teleferico between the centre of town down in the valley and the densely populated El Alto neighbourhood way up high in the altiplano. It has only been open for a few months, but already thousands of people are using it everyday to commute, instead of taking the dirty old buses which struggle up and down the steep hills. For a few cents we took a ride, which only made us more excited about the upcoming ski season as we travel further south.

La Paz y mas 18La Paz y mas 19La Paz y mas 20

The biggest highlights of our time in La Paz have actually been the great people we have met. We never feel lonely when we are camped out in the wild, but have often found cities to be lonely places when we don’t know anyone.

This was definitely not the case in La Paz.  We met a bunch of great people at the campground, mostly Europeans who are travelling in the other direction overflowing with tales of summer in Patagonia. This was also the perfect crowd to join at the pub for the world cup finals.

To top it all off, amidst a flurry of emails from interested buyers for the van, we found that what we were looking for was right in front of us. Leontien and Arjan had dreams of finding a VW Westfalia to take home to Holland… this dream will soon become a reality when we meet them again at the end of our travels.

La Paz y mas 24 Celebratory beers with the soon to be new owners of Oscar.

La Paz y mas 25 German party

La Paz y mas 26 Gooaaaaaaal – Germany for the win. (I think I was the only one hoping for an Argentina win)

We also had the honour of meeting up with our Bolivian friend’s Mum while we were there. The timing was perfect. Since it was a public holiday we were invited over for lunch, and also met some lovely members of the extended family. As Estela met us at the door she said “Please come in. My house is small, but my heart is big.” The way it should be.

She made us a delicious lunch (I still think about the quinoa bake) and we sat around chatting for the afternoon. Hopefully we will be able to catch up with her in Australia next time she is visiting her daughter, so that we can repay the favour.

La Paz y mas 27

And so ended our time in La Paz. We arrived with the plan to get in and out quickly, we were feeling a little rushed about our schedule and a little stressed about finding a buyer for our van. After spending over a week here, we left with excitement for the road ahead, no stress about the van, and a bunch of new friends.

So far, Bolivia couldn’t get better… or could it?