Tag Archives: Westfalia

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Desert, Ice and Snow : Patagonia, Argentina

We crossed the border at Chile Chico, and our first stop back in Argentina was a panaderia (bakery). Argentina’s baked goods are phenomenal… we are obsessed and of course always overdo it. Still, it’s a struggle to spend over $5.

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We tried to move as quickly as we could, though the flat and barren scenery. The weather however, kept things interesting. We had snow, rain, hail and shine. The only constant was the howling wind. Mark and Oscar were in a never-ending battle to keep us on the road, and I’m still amazed that we weren’t blown over.

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We were so travel weary at the end of each day that we’d just find a quiet gravel road and pull off to the side to camp. And I mean, just off to the side. One of my favourite things about Patagonia is the isolation. We only saw one other car the entire time we were camping roadside.

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Our spirits soared when we finally caught sight of mountains on the horizon, as they rose up gallantly to puncture the seemingly endless farmland. Mountains and glacial lakes are nature’s perfect match, and they suddenly exploded in abundance as we drove along the road towards Los Glaciares National Park.

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We stared wide-eyed and mouths agape as we approached the awe inspiring Perito Moreno Glacier. The size, colour and beautiful setting alone are enough to impress, but what stuck with me was the immense power it seems to emanate. The sound of the shifting, cracking and breaking ice echoed eerily as we walked around the viewing platform, giving me butterflies.

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We found ourselves a sweet wild campsite just off the main park road to the glacier. Life is pretty cramped these days as we barely pop the top in the relentless Patagonian wind. We have to make an effort to go outside, rugged up against the elements. Turns out ponchos are a bit breezy.

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We pointed the brown bus towards Chile for one last time, but Argentina wasn’t going to let us leave that easily. There was fresh snow on the roads and some very icy sections. At one point we thought we might have to turn around, but as we pushed on the roads gradually improved.

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A feeling of excitement was building gradually between us, we’d be reaching the end of our road somewhere in Chile. But where? We hadn’t quite figured that out yet.

Posted from: Buenos Aires, Argentina

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Pools of Love and other things

Our love affair with Colombia continues. I can honestly say that I haven’t felt this way about a country since Mexico. I am head over heels. Colombia has pools of love for us too, “pozos del amor”. These hot pools of love are part of the hot springs of San Vicente, recommended by our friends in Chinchina. Although open to the public, they haven’t been over developed and have retained much of their natural beauty. We spent a few hours soaking in the warm water, while the rain fell steadily and hummingbirds fluttered overhead. Amazing!

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Exploring upstream, looking for hotspots.

pozos amor 04At the main pool.

Two wrinkly prunes finally emerged from the water and we hit the road again. We didn’t make it far though, stopping often for snacks or to admire the views.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Chocolate con queso, so good. It would be a rare day that we don’t stop for this.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADream home.

We arrived at Valle de Cocora after dark and in the pouring rain. The next morning we awoke to the sound of horses clip-clopping down the road. We stepped out of the van into a lush green valley shrouded in mist. Majestic, lithe palm trees towered above us.

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As I was packing up our bed, like I’ve done 100 times before, I twisted in a way that seemed benign, but made my back very angry. It wasn’t long before I was in a fair amount of pain. Loaded up on painkillers I felt a bit better and sitting around was making the pain worse, so I decided to try and hike. Gingerly, I hit the muddy trail.

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We hadn’t gone far when we met Jorge and his wife Gloria, a lovely couple from nearby Pereira. Jorge, a retired doctor, told me about some good over the counter pain meds and gave us lots of tips for the remainder of our time in Colombia. He was happy to have the opportunity to speak to us in English, as he’d done a high school exchange in the USA.

We hiked with them up to the hummingbird reserve, where they treated us to chocolate con queso. They were great company on the trail and gave us their contact details if we needed help or were coming back their way. We were once again blown away by the friendliness and generosity of the Colombian people.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMark is going to be a hummingbird photographer, if engineering doesn’t work out. 

I didn’t think it was a good idea to go much further, so I think we missed the most spectacular of the views. Nevertheless, it was breathtaking scenery and we met some great people along the way. The cows were pretty damn cute too.

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That night we popped the top at La Serrana in Salento, a popular hostel that also has a campground with amazing views. My favourite part was the veggie garden out the back. We were welcome to help ourselves… so we did. I was most excited to find some chilli’s, they have been hard to come by in Colombia and I have been missing spicy food.

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As usual, we wish we had more time here, but we have to keep moving towards the border.

Posted from: Mocoa, Colombia.