In what would become a highlight of our entire trip we decided to spend the final days of our journey driving across the Canadian Rockies from Vancouver to Calgary. The route is an iconic one, following Highway One out of Vancouver and up into the mountains of British Columbia. Although it’s possible to divert via the Okanaga Valley to the south or Jasper to the north we decided to take the most direct route through the middle. After many months of travelling we were weary and keen to minimise time spent in the car.
That said the journey was still 1,000km long and after a fair amount of research and discussion with family in Vancouver we decided on the following itinerary:
- Day 1: Vancouver to Salmon Arm (462km)
- Day 2: Salmon Arm to Canmore (411km)
- Day 3-4: stay in Canmore
- Day 5: Canmore to Calgary (112km)
- Day 6-7: stay in Calgary
- Day 8: fly back to Vancouver
Our route across the Rockies
Mexico was added as a destination on our journey very much at the last minute. We had originally planned to fly direct from Costa Rica to Canada but for a variety of reasons we decided to opt for a route that would give us a week in Mexico City. We’d heard from a friend that it was a great place to visit and although many link the country with an incredibly violent drugs war and high levels of crime, from our research (which was admittedly just a couple of minutes on the FCO website) we were comfortable spending some time in the capital.
We landed on the evening of 26th March in slightly chaotic circumstances. Towards the end of our flight we had started to read some interactive books to Amber on the iPad. What we didn’t expect was for the interactive nature of the books to induce a significant bout of travel sickness for all of us, but none so much as poor little Amber. As we made our final approach, she decided to show everyone what she’d just had for dinner, proceeding to vomit profusely over both of us. Fellow passengers around us were incredibly considerate as we became ‘that’ family, proffering tissue packets and toilet rolls (which Claire tried to return afterwards, only to be met with polite refusals).
Amber was understandably upset and as is the way with a toddler, anger and frustration followed the tears, manifesting itself in a point blank refusal to allow us to change her trousers. So, not only were we ‘that’ family with the vomiting baby on a plane, but we were also ‘that’ family with the vomiting and crying baby wearing only a nappy, the very last in a long queue waiting to get through Mexican immigration.
There was once a more innocent time when our (my) clumsiness resulted in the mere destruction of a glass table or the loss of a toy dog. Well, those days are well and truly over. The start of the new year coincided with a significant escalation in items we have lost or broken. We also regrettably introduce a new category for this round of confessions – theft. The only good thing about that category is that I am not completely at fault for it, and instead am the victim of the actions of an external party.
So in a continuation of our confessions from last year we present the latest update of how clumsiness has continued to blight our travels.
While planning our trip we knew we would spend the bulk of our time in Chile and Argentina. But after that we really didn’t know what we would do, and still didn’t until we came close to the end our stay in Chile in February. Countries like Peru and Bolivia are arguably at the top of many people’s lists when they travel in South America, not least as they house some of the continents’ quintessential attractions. But for us with Amber, the altitude at which much of these countries reside and the remoteness of some of their destinations were concerns.
That said, we knew we needed to head roughly north and furthermore we had planned to meet up with friends in Costa Rica in March, so we looked for somewhere that could act as a stepping stone to Central America. Peru was the choice, with direct flights from the capital Lima to and from both Chile and Costa Rica. We would only have around two weeks in the country, and after what had been an incredibly busy period in February, we decided we would only visit one other place aside from Lima. With highlights of the country like Cuzco, Machu Pichu and Lake Titicaca all sitting at well over 3,000m above sea level it simply wouldn’t be responsible to visit these places with Amber without spending time acclimatising and that was time we just didn’t have. So we decided to stay at the more sedate altitude of 2,400m (still nearly twice as high as Ben Nevis it should be said) in the historic city of Arequipa. What we didn’t know at this point was that these two weeks in Peru would end up being the most challenging and intense period of our entire trip.
Exploring Lima before it all went wrong
After spending January in Santiago the rest of our time in Chile was largely spent with friends and family exploring the central coast and south of the country. Like me, Chile is very long and so we always knew it would be impossible to see all of the big highlights in one visit (again, like me). The Atacama Desert and Chilean Patagonia in particular were two such places that logistically, and particularly with a baby, we just couldn’t do. That said, what we did see over the final few weeks really enhanced our sense of the country, and in the case of Chiloe in particular, gave us a wonderful insight into a distinct and unique side to Chilean life.
In this blog entry we briefly sum up this 3-4 week period before our adventure took us north into Peru.
After spending a month in Buenos Aires in October, we realised the value of longer periods of stability while travelling, not only for Amber but also for Claire and I. As such we decided that following a busy couple of months of travelling in November and December, we would lay low for a bit, try to save some money and generally keep things quiet during January.
Santiago was to be our base. The capital of Chile is often overlooked by travellers who use the city as a transit hub in order to reach Chile’s main draws such as Patagonia or the Atacama Desert. However, the city has enjoyed something of a revival recently, boosted by government investment and a subsequent cultural boom.
We had spent 3 days in Santiago in December while on our way to the Chilean coast for Christmas and had rather giddily / drunkenly claimed that the city was the best place we had ever been to. I think it’s safe to say this wasn’t necessarily accurate and could have had something to do with the fact we knew we were coming back for a prolonged period in January. However, even in this short period, we saw a city that was buzzing with a vibrant, young edge. It immediately felt more down to earth than the somewhat haughty Buenos Aires.
And now, having spent pretty much all of January in the city, our opinion hasn’t changed. We loved it and thought the best way to celebrate our time there was to give people a taste of the sheer variety of things to do. So below is a list of not far off everything we did in Santiago, from bars and restaurants to cultural spaces and viewpoints. It’s all there.
AirBnB has been absolutely pivotal in making our trip affordable and practically possible. All but one of our 18 different accommodations so far have been booked through the site.
Not only are hotels (and indeed often hostels) far more expensive but without the kitchen facilities available in our AirBnB properties feeding Amber and ourselves would be impractical / impossible.
AirBnB has also give us the chance to meet local people and experience neighbourhoods and properties that would otherwise have eluded us. That is not to say it’s all been plain sailing. Putting your stay in the hands of a random punter instead of the professional services industry can lead to problems, some more serious than others. In this post we’ll look back on our accommodation for 2016 and pick out the best and worst that AirBnB has offered.
Award: Biggest property
Winner: Luna Azul, Punta Ballena, Uruguay
For our second week in Uruguay we stayed at this vast 3 bedroom, 3 bathroom detached holiday home (only affordable as we stayed here way out of season). It even had its own name. In a predictable reaction to its size and the quietness of the neighbourhood overall we decided it was haunted. At least we didn’t feel quite so alone if we imagined a ghost making use of the third bedroom.
Amber helps give a sense of perspective in front of Luna Azul (ghost can be seen in top left window)
If anyone has a better pun for the title please feel free to leave a comment.
The arrival of Christmas coincided with our arrival in Chile, having earlier made the decision that the Pacific coastline would be an ideal place to spend our first ever Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere.
We arrived in Santiago on 19th December following our flight from Mendoza. Chilean customs are known for their zero tolerance approach to bringing certain foods into the country. What you are and aren’t allowed seems to be a topic of much debate. As it turned out we lost dried kidney beans, raisins and Amber’s leftover lunch but managed to keep flour, curry powder (phew) and pasta.
The view from our apartment in Santiago. That’s not a fresh morning mist obstructing the view of the Andes, it’s pollution
When we made the decision to go as far south as possible on the South American continent (and indeed the world, Antarctica aside) one inevitable question was what happens after that. What goes down must come up, as they (don’t) say. What we noticed while planning the trip was a direct flight from that most southerly point, Ushuaia and Cordoba, Argentina’s second largest city located in the central / north of the country.
Saying goodbye to the end of the world before our 4 hour flight north to Cordoba
There have been a few constants during our trip despite all the regular change that comes from travelling. Amber’s love for her Bunny is one, persistently exceeding our daily budget is another. What we have also noticed is our relentless ability to break and lose things. Accidents happen but it is a small wonder that our AirBnB reviews remain consistently positive – we ascribe much of this to Amber’s charm as it most certainly isn’t related to the trail of destruction we leave in our wake. And if we’re not breaking things we’re losing them instead – no doubt when you try to carry over 60kg of stuff around South America some of it will go missing, yet we’re still surprised by our ability to misplace.
So, in a slight detour from our typical blog entries here we have listed just a subset of the various items we’ve either broken or lost since August. Note 1: don’t tell our kind AirBnB hosts. Note 2: a reward for anyone who finds any of these lost items.