Nine months, nine countries – South America in photos and stats!

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.

Nine months, Nine countries. Our Family Gap Year journey so far...

Nine months, Nine countries. Our Family Gap Year journey so far…

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!).

We’ve taken:

16 Flights
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…

The lovely colonial streets of Paraty

The lovely colonial streets of 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…

Friends on Boipeba !

Friends on Boipeba !

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…

Final stretch at sunset as we approach Nuevo Rocaforte, Ecuador

Final stretch at sunset as we approach Nuevo Rocaforte, Ecuador

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…

In one of the lovely plazas of Quito's historical centre with the winged Virgin

The girls Quito historic centre with the Winged Virgin!

November 2012  Living in the Galápagos, going to school and volunteering in San Cristobal…

Sealions take over the waterslides on the Malecon in San Cristobal

Sealions take over the water slides on the Malecon 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…

In the clouds early morning at Machu Picchu

In the clouds early morning 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…

Lara gets a carry from 'Mama' up the hill to her home on Amantani, Lake Titicaca.

Lara gets a traditional carry from ‘Mama’ up the hill to her home on Amantani, Lake Titicaca.

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…

Before the drenching under the Iguazu Falls!

Before the drenching under the Iguazu Falls!

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’ !

King Penguins at Volunteer point, Falklands.

King Penguins at Volunteer point, Falklands.

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…

The lovely Termas Geometricas near Villarica National Park - with 20 or so pools along the gorge - ahh!

The lovely Termas Geometricas near Villarica National Park – with 20 or so pools along the gorge – ahh!

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 ….

Accommodation:

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 

Martin

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

Mo

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!

Ben

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

Zoe

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

Lara

Highs :
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!

15 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Bill Cook
    Apr 16, 2013 @ 18:33:14

    Brilliant resume! Best wishes to all of you on the next phase of your travels.

    Reply

    • Mo
      Apr 16, 2013 @ 21:29:10

      Thanks Bill, we´re sad to be saying adios to SA but very excited about exploring the Pacific! Hope all good with you guys – is Spring finally on its way or is it still snowing?

      Reply

  2. Heather
    Apr 20, 2013 @ 07:00:29

    How fantastic, we are green with envy! Currently trying to work out if we can afford to do a trip and follow our dream but it seems prohibitively expensive for 4 of us. Do you know roughly how much your trip in S America has cost? Rough daily rate for each country? We need to make a decision soon!

    Reply

  3. Julia
    Apr 22, 2013 @ 11:11:43

    Best post to date 🙂
    Wow!

    Reply

  4. Trackback: Patagonia trips | South America travel | Tours to Argentina | Rough Guides « Dr Alf's Blog
  5. globalnomadfamily
    Jul 13, 2013 @ 22:49:38

    We are an expat family living in Prague and loving it! We are thinking of moving to South America, possibly Quito whenever we are ready for a new adventure…so it is great finding your blog! Were there any places you’d consider living in SA?

    Reply

    • Martin Clark
      Jul 14, 2013 @ 02:33:58

      If you are going to S America you should start learning Spanish in advance, it will really help. Where to live is a question of city or countryside, if you need fast Internet, schools, budget and danger level you are happy to exist with? We liked Quito and stayed for 5 weeks, Ecuador has a sizeable expat community as cheap to live and there are modern amenities. The downside is the crime, living behind big walls with barbed wire and not walking after dark. You do get many of the same issues in other SA cities though. Unless you can work from anywhere work visas will be difficult and therefore jobs hard to come by. Buenos Aires and Santiago are like European cities if this is what you want. We liked Cusco a lot and if you are after the experience you could live on the Galapagos for a while? The best advice is to visit a few places and stay somewhere you like. As long as you stay in one place for a month you can get decent accommodation rates, personally I would want to do this in several countries as it is a big continent and you can’t pop around as easily in Europe.

      Reply

      • globalnomadfamily
        Jul 14, 2013 @ 13:31:49

        I like your idea of spending a month in each country to get a feel for it. What’s the crime situation in Ecuador? For example, in Prague, the crime is just pickpocketing and car theft and the occasional burglary…but very little violent crime. We’ve learned to watch our bags, don’t own a car, and don’t have anything of value to steal from our home:) I like your idea of living in the Galapagos…I was there briefly but it was 20 years ago! I’ll be reading your posts to learn more about it. I hadn’t considered Cusco, so I’ll check that out, too. Thanks for the reply!

      • Martin Clark
        Jul 14, 2013 @ 23:54:29

        We did not directly experience any crime in Ecuador but met others including locals who had but we tend to be careful and not flaunt wealth, cameras etc.. It is no different to other SA cities, some areas are no go especially after dark or on foot. More expensive accommodation will be safer as in better areas with more security. The local Starbucks equivalent had two armed guards with pump action shotguns! Many expats live in Banos or near Otavalo which are safer. Shopping malls are safe, like anywhere on the planet and tourist attractions well policed.

        I think a lot depends on your mindset, can you relax and enjoy a place while keeping up your guard and being careful. And if you do get your bag snatched will you need therapy or replace and carry on as this is the cost of doing business, you can’t always be lucky!

        The violent crime I heard about was tourists resisting while being mugged which is generally not a good idea.

        Best to go and if you like it and feel safe on the ground stay longer.

      • globalnomadfamily
        Jul 30, 2013 @ 22:38:50

        Sorry I took so long to reply! We’ve been traveling:) Thanks for all the great feedback. I spent some time looking at websites for Cuzco, Banos, and Otavalo. I think we’ll have to check them out ourselves…whenever our European adventure comes to an end.

    • Mo
      Jul 14, 2013 @ 07:05:58

      Hi GlobalNomadFamily, Nice to hear from you:) if you are keen on Ecuador, it may be worth looking at Banos, Cuenca or Otavalo as options. I agree with Martin about Cusco being somewhere worth considering. Peru is wonderful – read more about Cusco in our blogs and in raisingmiro.com – lovely mum and son slow travelling the world and based there currently. We were also pleasantly impressed with Lima, though only there briefly. What are you looking for?

      Reply

      • globalnomadfamily
        Jul 14, 2013 @ 13:26:05

        I was in Ecuador twenty years ago and loved it. I was in Banos, Otavalo and Quito. The crime situation described by Martin doesn’t sound very encouraging, though! We are teachers in an international school, so we are looking for a place where there’s an international school to find work in…or at least a good national school with a friendly atmosphere. Smaller cities are preferable. I’ll look forward to reading your posts and also checking out raisingmiro.com. Any other suggestions are welcome!

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