Crossing the Andes to Mendoza, Argentina

15 February 2013. Our whistle-stop city break in Santiago is done. We ride the Metro for the first time to find yet another sushi restaurant. Its our first subway ride in S America and a bit of an adventure.

Underground and overground - last morning in Santiago.

Underground ,overground – last morning in Santiago.

We stop for sushi, grab Starbucks coffee, then back at the hotel to collect luggage but find it’s locked in a room with a sign on the door :

‘Gone to lunch-back in an hour’ !!

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Speeding south through La Serena to Santiago

Chile. 11 February 2013.
Seven months today since we flew to South America to begin our family gap year and we arrive in La Serena, Chile, our first taste of coastal Chile, on a rather uncomfortable, but bearable 16 hour overnight bus south from Calama, dropping down 2400m from the heights of the Atacama desert. We’ve finally escaped San Pedro and the floods having missed all the amazing trips we’d hoped to do and having to head back through Calama, seeing evidence of where the road was washed right away as the bus queues to get around the missing carriageway.

Th San Pedro to Calama road is washed away

Th San Pedro to Calama road is washed away

The challenge of how to cross the Andes to Argentina

The challenge of how to cross the Andes to Argentina

Plan A had been to take a bus from San Pedro to Salta – we’d even bought our tickets but got a refund when we knew the pass was going to be closed at least a week due to snow. Plan B is to try our luck with the pass from La Serena to Mendoza.

We had ‘semi-cama’ seats (meaning half-bed). Not exactly what I’d call a half bed but they do recline quite well – and are smart by the standards we’re used to. The kids and Martin (sleep anywhere) slept happy enough –  Erika and I found it a bit tough and feel stiff and sleep deprived! ‘Cama’ is a bigger, better recliner, often in the downstairs with semi-cama upstairs. We’re looking forward to trying cama! Maybe next time!

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Journey from La Paz to Uyuni

Rewind to 1/2/13.

I’m sitting on a train, as we make our way south on the 7 hour train journey through the spectacular southern Altiplano to Uyuni, Bolivia, catching up on blogs and diary in between looking out at lakes full of flamingos, small farms and villages and the occasional distant snowy peak! Martin is catching up on sleep and the kids are watching Mr Poppers penguins in Spanish. Everyone is happy!

Beautiful lakes which we cross on the train.

Beautiful lakes with flamingoes which we cross on the train.

The peaks of the Andes, seen from the train

The peaks of the Andes, seen from the train

We’re in executive class with More

Flat Stanley’s Andes Adventure

Flat Stanley has travelled with me in South America for eight months now…..

We said goodbye to Miss Jane, Mrs M and Miss Place at the end of year 2, last July, spent our summer hopping around in Brazil , journeyed the length of the Amazon to Columbia, Peru and the Napo River to Ecuador!

We took a bus way up into the Andes Mountains to Quito, the capital of Ecuador, where we learned Spanish and then flew out to the Galápagos Islands.

Quito and Waterfall near Otavalo, Ecuador

You might remember these photos in Quito and at a waterfall near Otavalo, Ecuador

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Travellers In(n) Quito

We spent almost a month in Quito (a big chunk of our family gap year), busy attending Spanish school and enjoying just being in one place. Here’s the account of our arrival and  first two weeks staying at the lovely Travellers Inn…..

Monday 8th October 2012

We leave Coca and the Amazon rainforest on a bus that leaves at 12.30pm and is supposed to take around  7 hours, climbing up into  the high Andes, from little above sea level to nearly 3000 meters.  When I bought tickets two days ago, why, oh why didn’t I make sure this bus went via  Loreto, South West of Coca, and not Nueva Loja, North East of Coca and up near the Columbia border? (Martin reminds me that I went for the $9 bus fare rather than the $10 one!)

In the shiny new Coca bus station going from booth to booth, I clear forgot to check the route although I asked what time it arrived in Quito and was told 8pm which sounded pretty good to me!

We board to find no air con and no working toilet but the seats are comfy and there’s hardly anyone on board – excellent!

Not excellent.

The girls snooze on the long journey!

The bus pulls out of the terminal and immediately pulls over for half of the population of Coca province  to board. Then it proceeds to drop off and pick up passengers every hundred meters or so for approximately 2 hours. Often vendors get on and sell sweets, empanadas, fruit, pens and some get on and stand at the front and seem to be preaching to anyone who’ll listen, then they hand out sweets, no doubt to the converted! More

My World School – four months in, at school in the Galapagos!

My Mum’s cousin Val is the head teacher at a school back home. She’s read some of our blogs and showed some of our photos to all the children in assembly.

They sent us some questions and these were mine :

Zoe – What do you do when you get bored? What games do you play? We are all jealous that you don’t have to go to school. How is World School school going? Have you been on any more adventures like your jungle journey to the beach?

We decided to use the questions to do our next blogs!

When I get bored, I have a Kindle so sometimes I read. I really like to draw or make stuff and now I have just got some new paints. We have pencils and paper. In Quito we got some scissors, sellotape and glue and more drawing paper!

Reading on a long bus trip – once I thought I lost mine on a bus which was awful but we found it  safely put away in Dad’s bag!

I have beads and elastic too and we make necklaces and bracelets – sometimes for ourselves but often as presents. we got more beads in Otavalo,where we visited a massive craft market. Its a place where lots of people wear traditional clothes.The men even have long black plaits!  I have got quite good at plaiting! We play on iPhone apps too, or play travel games like Rumicub, Snakes and Ladders, Ludo and sometimes cards.

This traditional lady in Otavalo was as interested in us as we were in her and she wanted to touch our hair!

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