Category Archives: vanlife

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New Directions : Argentina

I’m so glad that our most southern campsite was close to perfect, it seemed fitting somehow. Stepping out of the van in the morning, our breath was visible in the air and the frozen grass crunched under our feet. It was time to finally head north, the race was on. We had to get Oscar to his new owners in Uruguay, and pronto.

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Back in Argentina, the driving days were relentless.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADriving, driving, driving

Still, we found some pretty nice spots to pop the top.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Bridge camp – Rio Chico

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA gallant effort, but the wine to workout ratio is still about 100:1

The days weren’t without incident. We had our first legit flat tire in over a year. Changing the tire with our tiny jack, in the blustering wind and with trucks ripping past, was a balancing act to rival my high school gymnastics prowess.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALong days

We were ooohhing and ahhhing when we were finally reached the coast again. The startling blue colours of the ocean were a sight for sore eyes, after the monotonous landscapes along the Ruta 3.

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The Peninsula Valdés was a well timed reprieve from the boring miles. The marine animal life in this nature reserve is amazing! The magdalena penguins had just starting arriving for their mating season, so we were lucky enough to catch sight of some of the early birds.

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The elephant seals were a crackup. The big fellow in the photo below was making his move towards the little lady, but it took at least five attempts. He had been cruising past, hooting and hollering and flaunting his masculinity, but no one really seemed to care. He was left to try a more direct approach. From what I could gather though, she still wasn’t very keen. In the animal world, I guess size does matter.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Big ol’ poser

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe called these guys (Rhea) ‘moo moos’ because they look like the aussie emu. Not to be mistaken for cows.

After dinner we drove in the dark to a deserted carpark just outside of Puerto Pirámides. When we got up in the night to wee, we could hear a hollow blowing sound coming from the ocean… could it be the whales? In the morning, just as the sun was rising, we walked with our breakfast and coffee down to the viewing platform. We watched maybe 10 southern right whales with their babies cruise past, I have never seen so many whales in one place. It was a very special moment.

There was also a very noisy, and very entertaining colony of seals.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAToo early!

As we were walking back to the van, Mark suddenly took a knee. He was a bit wobbly and off balance, so it was a very cute and funny moment! After I stopped laughing and realized it was actually a proposal (in Spanglish) and not a joke… I said yes. After spending everyday (and almost every hour) together for over a year, I love this guy more than I thought possible. We are so happy and excited to be moving onto the next chapter of our lives.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFiancé’s

As we gradually edged closer to the Buenos Aires city limit, the scenery changed dramatically. After a long night of driving in the dark, we awoke surrounded by the welcomed greenery of the Argentine pampas. We were a bit shocked to see so many people out and about, the Ernest Tornquist Provincial Park seems to be a popular hiking getaway for people from the big city.

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It was hard to believe that we’d be back in Australia in just over a week, and that we only had Oscar for a few more days. I was definitely aware of feeling sad, but we were mainly preoccupied with selling the van and filled with excitement about the things to come.

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The Volcano Curse : Pucón, Chile

Pucón in Chile seemed to us like a clone of Banff in Canada. It’s very beautiful and very touristy. I think that winter is a more mellow time to visit, which suited us just fine.

We have been wanting to do some ski touring for a while and hoped to break our ‘volcano curse’ by tackling Volcán Villarrica. Every time we have visited a volcano on this trip, things haven’t gone as planned.

We arrived in Pucón to rain and clouds, found the only shop in town that offers ski touring on the volcano, and booked a trip for the next day. We woke up at the crack of dawn to totally clear skies. The volcano looked so beautiful and ominous smoking in the early morning light. Lucky for us, the conditions were almost perfect for attempting the summit.

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And so we climbed… and climbed… and climbed. It may have been slightly ambitious for my first ski touring attempt. Going straight up was fine, but turning on the steep slopes was a bit of a debacle for me. It requires almost doing the side splits, then bringing one long loosely attached ski over to meet the other. Very tricky for the flexibility challenged!

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I’m not sure how long it took to reach the summit, but they estimate about 4-5hrs. By the time we got there, the wind had really picked up, and we were being blasted by ice and snow. It was pretty amazing being at the top of an active volcano, looking down into it’s smoking crater, only once copping a face full of gas. From the top we could see the snow capped Volcán Lanín, which marks the border between Chile and Argentina.

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Finally, the moment I had been waiting for! There had been a dusting of snow overnight, so I was pretty keen to start the ski down. I clicked into my skis, hit the slope and then tried to make my first turn. Then things got weird… I could barely communicate with my skis. I felt and looked (confirmed by Mark), like I was back on the bunny slopes. I was falling on almost every turn. The touring bindings I was using allowed for a lot of movement, which is not what I’m used to at all. I felt completely unstable and out of control. Soon my confidence was shot. I even had to walk part of the way down.

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At least this guy got some fresh tracks…

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We celebrated at the end of the day with the guides and the rest of the crew, over some rooftop beers and this spectacular view. I’m sure my poor guide was breathing a few deep sighs of relief.

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At first I was just thankful to have made it down without any broken bones. But after a while that wore off, and I was just annoyed. The terrain wasn’t any more difficult than what i’m used to, and worst of all, the volcano curse lives on.

Soaking in the hot springs at Los Pozones was the perfect cure for my aching ego and tired muscles.

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The next day, we leisurely made our way towards the Argentine border. Saying our farewells to the smoking Volcán Villarrica, still visible from the quiet backroads.

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This pretty campsite in the woods was home for our last night in Chile… but we’ll be back, real soon! This country is absolutely blowing our minds.

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Posted from: Bariloche, Argentina.

Inca Life: The Sacred Valley Peru

We had already gone over our ‘time budget’ for Peru, but we couldn’t resist the pull of the Sacred Valley, framed by it’s magnificent snow capped peaks.

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It would be impossible to take a bad photo of the Salineras de Maras, as we wandered through in the fading light of the day. Salt has been farmed here since pre Incan times, and it all starts with a salty water spring nearby. The water flows through narrow channels down into hundreds of handmade drying ponds. The colour of the salt varies once it has been collected. Apparently it takes more time and skill to get the pure white salt. Despite this, I thought that the salt stained pink by the red dirt from the valley was the prettiest.

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And if this place wasn’t already cool enough, they also let us camp in the carpark without batting an eyelid. “Si, es normal“. They just locked the bathroom, telling us it was fine to water the garden.

Sacred Valley 08Sacred Valley 09Mornings with THIS guy, and THAT hair.

Another visual delight in the Sacred Valley is the agricultural ruins of Moray. These massive circular depressions are thought to be the site of agricultural experimentation during Incan times. The different levels would have provided different growing conditions. Walking around, it definitely felt hotter down the bottom, which was also much more sheltered from the wind.

So pretty much, it was a big Incan veggie garden. Although it looked stunning covered in grass, we couldn’t help but wish that it was still packed with fruit and veggies.

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If it isn’t already blatantly obvious, we have loved the food in Peru. This lady, with her delicious road side treats, made our morning. Street food hasn’t been this good since Mexico, and unlike Mexico, we haven’t been sick once.

Sacred Valley 15Sacred Valley 16Rocoto Relleno and our favourite…aji salsa. Aji might be the best flavoured chilli pepper of all time.

On the recommendation of my mum and dad, i.e. “if you go there we’ll shout you something”, we visited one of the weaving cooperatives in Chinchero. It was so much nicer than going to the markets, which are amazing, but are a complete sensory overload. We were able to see the ancient process the ladies still use to naturally dye the wool, and chat to them about their amazing work. They have a judging system, where they grade each others finished products before sale.

Sacred Valley 17 Sacred Valley 18 Sacred Valley 19 Sacred Valley 20 Sacred Valley 21The lady on Mark’s right made this one. Judged to be first class work.

It was time to finally leave Peru. What an amazing time we have had here. They really have it all. Amazing desert landscapes, magnificent mountain ranges and mystical cloud forests. Old and new exist together here, creating a rich and interesting culture. Most importantly though, the food has been a revelation. From the fancy restaurants to roadside stands, Peru has delighted our tastebuds every step of the way.

Posted from La Paz, Bolivia.