Counterfeit banknotes, super-playgrounds and a lot of food – our week in Mexico

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.

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Glorious Costa Rica

Costa Rica was every bit as wonderful as we hoped it would be.

Before Costa Rica, we had been in Arequipa, Peru, where we had had a difficult time. Already exhausted and travel-weary when we arrived, our time there seemed to be blighted by illness and misfortune. Indeed, Amber became so badly ill that we were unable to travel until she got better, and we had to delay our departure from the country by almost a week. Then, when we finally were able to leave, through an extraordinary set of circumstances (and driven in part by our own foolishness), we somehow managed to miss our flights. A journey that should have taken 12 hours became an epic 36 hour battle, and probably the most intense and stressful experience of our entire trip.

So, when we finally arrived in Costa Rica, we felt like shadows of ourselves, highly anxious and deeply in need of some TLC and R&R. Both of which we got in spades.

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More confessions of the clumsy

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.

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Stomach bugs, ear infections, bad weather and missed flights… living the dream in Peru

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.

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Exploring Lima before it all went wrong

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Chile – why we loved it

We absolutely loved Chile.

It’s not that we weren’t expecting to. But while we knew in advance that we wouldn’t be able to get to some of its most well loved destinations – the Atacama Desert in the far north, Patagonian Torres del Paine in its most southernly tip, and Easter Island way out in the Pacific – we knew little about just what else the country had to offer.

But lots to offer it has. These are our highlights, and just what made our time in Chile so special.

City living

Our month is Santiago will without a doubt go down as one of the best spells of our entire trip. Lively, laidback and with loads to do, Santiago surprised us in how much it has going for it. In our four weeks there, we got properly stuck in, making the absolute most of the bustling bar and restaurant scene, frequently taking Amber to the city’s many playgrounds, soft play areas and interactive museums, doing a splash of hiking, and even getting involved in a bit of volunteering. It was a jam-packed month and supremely enjoyable.

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Amber and Duckie getting to grips with a spontaneous lindy hop lesson in Santiago’s Bellavista Patios

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Central and Southern Chile with Family and Friends

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.

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A night on the streets of Santiago

While we were in Santiago, for two evenings a week I volunteered with a local homelessness charity, Corporación Nuestra Casa (Our House). A Chilean voluntary organisation, it has been providing food and shelter to the capital’s homeless for the past 16 years. The following is an account of one of the evenings I spent with the charity, handing out food on the streets of Santiago.

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31 reasons to love Santiago (and a few not to)

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.

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Sunset over Santiago on one of our first evenings in the city

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Guardian Angels of the Road

When you are travelling and your surroundings are unfamiliar, you often end up in situations that are not immediately obvious to resolve. And some situations, despite having seemingly obvious resolutions, end up being far more awkward and difficult just by the sheer fact that you are a stranger in a foreign land.

On this trip so far, a number of people (and inanimate objects) have crossed our path at exactly the right moment and have helped us resolve such situations. In one form or another, they have saved the day. We refer to them as our Guardian Angels.

We are sincerely grateful for all of them. As such we would like to honour each person (and inanimate object) for the positive impact that they (likely unknowingly) had.

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