11th April 2013. Nine months today since our family of five touched down in Rio de Janeiro on a BA flight from Heathrow, London to begin our Family Gap Year travelling around the world.
Our journey so far…
We’ve almost done a (kind of squashed) figure of 8 around the continent, flown or boated to islands in the Pacific and Atlantic and are now in Santiago, enjoying our last days before flying to Easter Island (part of Chile) and then on to Tahiti in French Polynesia.
We’ve been to 9 countries (Brazil, Columbia, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay) and one British territory, the Falklands (or Argentinian Malvinas if you ask in Argentina!) including 8 capitals (Brasília, Quito, Lima, La Paz, Santiago, Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Stanley)
We’ve made 25 border crossings (29 for Martin as I as we crossed Brazil to Paraguay and back for a second day to get US dollars!).
24 Bus journeys (long distance)
19 Boat journeys (those that are part of the journey)
1 Train journey
…as well as travelling on bicycles, taxis, hire cars, small boats on day trips, local buses, minibuses, funicular, cable car, husky dog cart, metro, jeeps and pickup trucks.
Highlights have included visiting Cusco and impressive Machu Picchu, journeying the length of the mighty Amazon, seeing the otherworldly Salt flats in Bolivia, the imposing 4km wide blue-white Perito Moreno glacier, huge penguin colonies in Argentina and the Falklands, the spectacular Iguazu falls, living, volunteering in and exploring the gorgeous Galápagos and cruising the Chilean fjords of Patagonia to name but a few!
We’ve grown as a family and watched the kids become each others best friends (at least when they are not busy fighting and killing each other) watched them grow in confidence, learn to interact with others in spite of language barriers, learn Spanish, learn about different cultures, cooking, fishing, history, politics, war, geology, palaeontology, human rights, exchange rates…. We’ve learned an awful lot more about parenting and how hard, fun, different, full on it can be on the road. Sometimes we love the time, closeness and laughter together (and sometimes we hanker for a bit of time alone!). We’ve wondered once or twice what the hell we were thinking off setting off on this adventure but more often have to pinch ourselves to believe we’re actually on it! There are ups and downs just like life at home. South America has been amazing but as we get more into the groove, I can’t wait to continue on to the next part of the journey.
We’re more than a few blogs behind since accelerating the travels over the past month or two. We’re trying to catch up in date order but to mark the 9 months point and arrival back in Santiago, we decided to share some facts and figures, highs, lows, and challenged ourselves to choose just one picture for each month!!
July 2012 We flew into Rio de Janeiro, had a relaxing break in the lovely Isla Grande and a few days in beautiful colonial Paraty…
August 2012 A quick flight to the interesting capital if Brasília, only 50 years old, then to Salvador one of the oldest cities, from where we headed to idyllic island Boipeba and laid back Morro do São Paulo…
September 2012 A month up the Amazon from Belem to Iquitos, Peru then the Napo river to Coca, Ecuador on cargo boats, speed boats and little pekipeki boats, camping in Amazon villages…
October 2012 Back to civilisation and a pause in Quito, learning Spanish, an all too brief meeting with our first gap year family the lovely Holletts…
November 2012 Living in the Galápagos, going to school and volunteering in San Cristobal…
December 2012 Exploring the Galapagos with Oma (Martin’s Mum) then flying on to Peru, spending Christmas in Cusco and New Year at Machu Picchu…
January 2013 We headed to Lake Titicaca and into Bolivia, where three of us went to Coroico the cloud forest to have a break from high altitude then back in La Paz met our wonderful new gap year friends the Bremners…
February 2013 Went south by train to Uyuni and the vast white salt flats, crossed the Andes to northern Chile and San Pedro where we were flooded in the Atacama desert! We headed south via La Serena beach to Santiago then back across the Andes to Mendoza and the vineyards of western central Argentina. Then we flew across to Iguazu and had a fab time at the falls plus a couple of day trips into Paraguay and Brazil…
March 2013 Down to Buenos Aires for some history, culture and tango, a side trip across the river Platos to Uruguay, then south to Peninsula Valdez to see some amazing wildlife, on to the spectacular Perito Merino glacier and from there to the ‘bottom of the world’ before heading back into Chile and flying off to the Falklands for a few thousand penguins and a good fix of everything ‘British’ !
April 2013 We travel up the coast of Chile, on the passenger ferry Navimag for 4 days then via snowy volcanoes, hot springs, a husky dog ride,the gorgeous Lake District and finally back to Santiago…
So difficult to choose a photo a month – so much left out but you’ll just have to ccheck out our past and upcoming blogs !
Nine months in figures ….
16 Apartments/Aparthotels (103 nights)
1 Beach houses (10 nights)
41 Hotels/hostels (119 nights)
1 Home stay (1 night)
7 Camping spots (8 nights)
1 Jungle lodge (2 nights)
1 B&B (7 nights)
Number of other gap year (or longer) families met – 7 (2 British, 2 US, 2 French, 1 Swiss)
Teeth lost – 7 All belonging to Ben or Zoe, Lara is desparate to lose one!
Fish caught – 14 (1 eel, 12 piranhas, 1 mullet)
Pairs of sunglasses lost/broken – 15
Pairs flip flops bought – 11
Lost items – 3 socks, 1 iPhone, 1 iPod, 1 Bag of Easter eggs, 1 pair flip flops, 3 sun hats, 2 pairs sunglasses, two credit cards,
Found items : 1 pair flip flops, 1 can of beer, various coins, bits of rock, stone, shell! 1 mini Easter egg
Stitches needed – 7
Parasites acquired – 2
Toenails lost – 2
Most number of plasters needed at one time for mosquito bites – 48
Thefts – 1 (my iPhone snatched out of my hand in a restaurant in Mendoza, Argentina)
Card fraud – 1 (someone in New York managed to have a £10k spending spree on my debit card over 3 days even though it was safely zipped in my pocket in Argentina and Uruguay!)
Flights delayed due to medical emergency – 1 (Ben had asthma when we were flying to Cusco and realised his puffer had run out as we sat in the departure lounge. Rubbish Mum and Dad realised all spares were headed to the hold but allowed Martin to go through to the plane, locate one of our bags and find a spare making the plane rather late! The good thing was that Ben was fine, even arriving from sea level to 3700 m above sea level and breathing very thin air! )
Number of times oxygen needed at altitude – 5 (Oma had to request oxygen in Cusco, Puno and La Paz, after she really had a bad time with breathing at altitude. oxygen provides an immediate relief. Zoe needed it too when we were on the Salt Flats in southern Bolivia when she was under the weather anyway and the high altitude just wiped her out!
Personal Highs and Lows
Highs : Every time I see the kids buzzing, bursting with energy, engaging other people, learning and having fun
Fave Country : Peru
Place : Volunteer point in Falklands where the king penguins live
Best place stayed : Santa Clara Pousada, Boipeba
Best food : Tomato water in Astrid y Gaston (restaurant in Lima)
Greatest achievement : Spending time with my kids before I become seriously old and uncool.
Low points : Sea level… Realising we have to go home at some stage, don’t we?
Most missed : My kitchen larder, errr… that’s it
Highs : Actually spending this time together and living a very much uncluttered life, getting to relish those moments when the kids are actually loving each others company, asking a question, saying or doing something that makes me realise just how much they’re taking in and think ‘this is what its all about’!
Favourite Country : Chile but have loved them all and each one has different highlights for me.
Best Places : Salt Flats in Bolivia, or swimming with turtles in Galapagos maybe Penguin colonies in Falklands
Best Place Stayed : Our apartment in Buenos Aires was gorgeous, but the places the others have chosen are all in my top 5 along with the apartment in Quito, Casa Rosada on the beach in Isabela, Galapagos and the Travellers Inn in Quito
Best food : Steak cooked by Martin at our apartment here in Chile, closely followed by steak in Chateaubriand sauce in El Quincho in Puerto Iguazzu!
Greatest achievement : teaching a grade 4 class on my own, for a week, in Spanish after discovering they had me drafted as more than a classroom assistant !
Lows : Worrying about Ben on the riverbank of the Napo river, knowing we were days away from even a phone signal, although getting through this as a family and seeing him bounce back to appreciate eating again turned it into a high. Frustration of imperfect parenting, our fairly hopeless home/road schooling and family squabbles and fights that come from being in each others pockets 24×7! Life’s not always rosy even when you’re living the dream! Losing my iphone – grr, Splitting my knee open on the pavement in the Galapagos! Could’ve been worse but disappointed it stopped me in my tracks for regular running – still trying to motivate myself to get back into the running routine properly.
Missing most : close friends and roast dinners!
Highs : Making many new amazing friends (though its sad to say goodbye)
Fave Country : Falklands & Galapagos
Best place stayed : Buenos Aires Apartment
Best food : steak al la pimenta at Coca La Mision, after a month on the river and getting better from a very bad stomach bug!!
Greatest achievements : learning Spanish (not fluent yet but always complemented) , climbing for 90 minutes without stopping to go back and forth 100 time on a climbing wall in Buenos Aires, for a bet with Dad, being first to slide down a 20 meter rock slide into icy water! (Mum and Dad wouldn’t do it !) running the length of Lopez Mendez beach with Mum – about 5km
Lows: Getting sick on the Napo river and losing all my Easter eggs because I left them at the bus stop on Easter morning
Missing Most : roast dinners and best friends
Highs : Having fun with my family
Fave Country : Ecuador or Falklands!
Fave Place(s) : Boipeba, Iguazu, Falklands…. Everywhere !
Best place stayed : Santa Clara Pousada in Boipeba, Brazil, or the Casa Rosada on the beach in Isabella, Galapagos.
Best food : Bolognese in El Delfin restaurant in Isabella, Galápagos (and we never went back for more even though I kept asking to!)
Greatest achievements : eating one whole chilli and one whole slice of lemon including rind for bets with Dad, swimming 100m in Falklands pool, climbing up Mount Tumbledown without stopping (and some other tough climbs and treks)
Lows : mosquitos and homesick moments, having my ipod stolen after only a month of getting it for Christmas!
Missing Most : school and friends
Fave Country : Brazil
Top 3 Place : Iguazu Falls
Best place stayed : Beach house in Isla Grande
Best food : self service – chips and sushi at Biergarten in Isla Grande or maybe McDonalds on her birthday in Cusco(!)
Greatest achievements : possibly youngest ever to slide down a 20 meter rock slide into icy water near Paraty Brazil! Swimming 50m at the pool in the Falklands, counting to 29 in English and 10 in Spanish
Lows : She really couldn’t think of any! Mum reckons it was getting a two week ban from sweets and treats for being an extreme pickle! She had to work very hard to earn Easter ‘back’ luckily she managed it and was very sweet offering to share, even give, Ben her eggs when he lost his !!
Missing Most : My teddies and Helena
Our next phase is the South Pacific. In Tahiti (aka French Polynesia, we’ll have to switch to French – I’ve just downloaded a selection of French language apps on my iPod so I can start to reacquaint myself after months of Spanish! And get the kids learning it again too!) After that we’ll be spoilt with English in New Zealand and Australia and then its time to start planning replanning our Asia adventure as we begin to head back toward home!