Paraty

In my excitement to go somewhere new, I rushed to book us seats on a bus out of town at 11am Tuesday morning. Except, once Wolf looked at our receipt, he gently pointed out that I had actually booked us on a bus ARRIVING at 11am. Which meant we got to leave the house before the sun rose to make our 7am departure. Whoops :) I hoped my mistake would be worth a little lost sleep by the time we got to our next stop – Paraty. And I think it turned out well since we had an awesome stay in this little colonial town on the southern coast of Brazil.

In fact, the only excitement related to our bus ride was the driver. The guy may have been driving a huge tour bus, but I’m convinced he thought it was a sports car. The drive from Rio to Paraty along the coast is gorgeous – ocean on one side, lush jungle-covered hillsides on the other – but what will stand out in my mind is how much my fingers ached from holding on for dear life as we accelerated into every turn. I guess maybe his strategy was to have the fewest number of tires touching the road at any given time in order to decrease friction and increase speed. Whatever the goal, we made the trip in what I’m sure is record time.

Poor Wolf arrived in Paraty with a major caffeine-withdrawal headache. After a few days in an apartment without a coffee maker, my poor man was suffering, so we splurged for a cab to take us across the little town to our hotel. We had opted to stay a bit outside of the old town to save some cash and in hindsight we made a perfect choice – our hotel was certainly out of the main town center but also across the street from the beach, very peaceful, and although pretty basic again, it was exactly what we needed.

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… Rio again!

We thought we’d be ready to move on by Sunday evening. But, between checking the weather report for the surrounding areas, and realizing there were plenty of other things we wanted to do in Rio, we decided to stay one more day. And we were so excited to wake up to sunny bonus day in Rio on Monday morning.

We found the right bus and made it to our first stop at Lago Rodrigo de Freitas to rent bikes for a cycle around the lake. Only once we had arrived did we realize that neither of us had brought along an ID to leave as a deposit – hilarious, considering Wolf has a bit of experience with the whole how-to-rent-bikes kind of thing. We haggled with the guy for a while, mostly through a translation app on his phone (which was actually kind of fun), eventually figured out a solution and away we went.

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Rio de Janeiro!

Based on our original, albeit loose, plan for our trip, we should be somewhere on the coast of Central/Southern Chile by now, well on our way to Patagonia, camping on a beach somewhere. Instead, we’re still waiting for our van to arrive and so we’ve made our way to Rio de Janeiro. Not a bad backup plan.

Our flight from Foz do Iguazu was delayed slightly, which was actually pleasant because a group of musicians (umm… a Chorinho? Stephie?), who were also waiting for their flight, spent the time playing some amazing tunes for everyone waiting in the tiny terminal. The prior evening we attempted to book an apartment via Airbnb for our stay in Rio. Our first request didn’t work out so we found ourselves trying again the morning of our flight, and landing in Rio before we knew where we would end up sleeping that night. After a bit of battling with the frustrating Rio airport Wifi, we eventually received a message from our host, in a delightful Portuguese/English hybrid, with instructions about where to go. We attempted to negotiate with a couple of taxis on a rate and then were off on our way to Copacabana beach.

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Iguazu Falls – Part Two

For me, day two at Iguazu Falls was the best day yet. It was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been; I’m so glad we decided to stay a second day.

The Iguazu River forms a border between Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay, so you have lots of options in this area. We stayed on the Brazilian side, so the first day it was easy bopping around on the local buses to get to and from the national park. Day two we planned to travel to the Argentinian side which meant we had to take the international bus across the border.

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Silver Lining

While I’m beginning to think our van may never arrive, the silver lining here is that it feels like we have a luxurious amount of time to spend enjoying and exploring Santiago. The feeling almost doesn’t sit well – I feel equal parts guilty and fortunate to be able to just experience with little agenda. Maybe this is what travel should actually feel like?

Venturing a bit outside of the center we wandered to Barrio Brasil. What we found was a surprising mix of beautiful but crumbling buildings and beautiful street art, all seemingly begging for gentrification. This perfect little square, with its slightly decrepit fountain and cobblestones, surrounded by stately but slightly sad mansions, seemed to capture the feeling well:

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Santiago

Day two we awoke to another sunny day. From our apartment we’re able to enjoy the sunrise over Cerro Santa Lucia, which is an absolutely decent way to start a morning. By the time we left Germany I had just barely recovered from jet lag and had started to get used to darkness arriving around 4:30pm. Now, arriving in Santiago, my body is a bit confused about what time it is and why it doesn’t get dark until around 9pm. For now, it’s nice to be up early to take advantage of the coolest part of the day.

Despite our insistence on lugging a dozen or so Lonely Planet books across the world, the cheesy tourism poster hung in our apartment has become our guide to Santiago.

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the beginning…

One day over breakfast, Wolf started cultivating the idea of a road trip, through the Americas, in a Westy – the classic Volkswagen Vanagon camper vans you might imagine living in down by a river somewhere…

At the time it seemed funny. And fun. So we kept joking about it.

And then we started reading about other people who were doing something similar. Because, you know, it was just fun.

And then we casually checked Craigslist to see what kind of vans were even out there. Just because we were curious. And that, my friends, was the beginning of the end.

From there, it escalated into an all-out, full-speed-ahead, take-no-prisoners onslaught of all Westy, all the time, laser-focused search mode. Our life slowly evolved from fun observers of Westy culture, into hourly scouring of Craigslist ads, obsessive evaluation of mechanical attributes, and evening-long debates about Subaru conversions. We learned about the cult following, and the resultant exorbitant price one pays for a 25+ year old vehicle, and somehow we kept on looking because… it’s a disease. And we are a real life cautionary tale.

Because one fateful day in July 2014, we bought our very own Westy:

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And it was awesome.

And then… we realized what we were getting ourselves into.