“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us” – unknown
We are Bruce & Rebecca and The Yellow Van. We had been married for 15 years, living ordinary professional couple lives, but, for the last 10 of which, we had cultivated a dream (frequently feeding it with good bottles of wine) to take time out for an epic road-trip. In the summer of 2014, we turned the dream into reality, giving up our “good” jobs, getting rid of most of our accumulated stuff (putting the rest in storage), renting out our house in Oxford and moving into our converted yellow VW T4 – “The Yellow Van”. In October 2014 we shipped the van from London to Montevideo, Uruguay, for the start of our overland adventure in Latin America. You can see where we’ve been on our route map page and read our postcards home, accompanied by lots of photos. There are more frequently posted Facebook updates here. We are also doing occasional blogs on some themes of the trip (such as wine tasting, rock climbing, …) under the heading topics. Having been all the way south to “the end of the world” (Tierra del Fuego) and on to Antarctica, our original idea was to drive all the way to Mexico, but we slowed down as we travelled and took our time to enjoy what we were seeing and experiencing. Over time, it became less about going somewhere and more about being somewhere. So we finished our driving trip with a long exploration of Colombia and returned to the UK from Cartagena in January 2017. The picture above was taken in front of the Torres del Paine in the far south of Chile in January 2015.
When we arrived in Buenos Aries at the start of our trip, we were very excited to see Monk Parakeets strolling around the lawns. Half an hour, and many photographs, later we had noticed that everyone else was ignoring them because they are so common! That was our introduction to a group of birds (parakeets, parrots and macaws) that we grew to be very fond of over the course of our journey. The sound of a flock of parakeets flying overhead became something of a home comfort to us. Continue reading
There are so many places to see birds in South America, covering a wide variety of habitats and ecosystems. In the second part of our blog about our experiences of birding in South America, I will talk a bit about some of the places we visited. To make it a bit more cohesive, I have roughly grouped them into seven themes, each with its own accompanying gallery of some of our favourite photos. Continue reading
The sarcophagi of Karajilla
[June 2016] After May’s events, June could only be an improvement. With the van running well after all the repairs, but nervous as to how long that would last, we nevertheless decided to stick with our plan to drive north to the border with Ecuador through the mountains of Peru and we are very glad we did… It was a spectacular few weeks, taking us along dramatic roads between historical towns and through the beautiful landscapes of the romantic Cloud People. A few days into the drive, we got news of the birth of my little niece – a little bundle of joy to cheer up June! This blog is a picture story of this wonderful journey.
[May 2016] By the end of April, after our successful trip to the Amazon, the rainy season in the mountains of Peru was over, so we turned back south again to go and explore the High Andes of Peru. However, we hadn’t got far when I got the sort of phone call that everybody dreads, especially when they are a long way from home – my father had been taken ill and had been admitted to hospital. The first days of May became about getting me onto a plane back to the UK. Bruce stayed with the van in Huaraz and, for him, that two week period rapidly degenerated into a cascade of interrelated mechanical problems and then culminated with him, on the day I was travelling back out, taking an unusually bad fall while rock climbing and giving himself a concussion! June could only be an improvement…
At the recent (September 2016) 10 year reunion of my MBA class in Oxford, I was asked to give a “TED-style” talk about our trip. I’ve turned the slides and the script I used into a PDF document to share it here.
One thing that Becca has repeatly said during our trip is that she would like to see an opera at the opera house in Manaus. Manaus is right in the middle of the Brazilian Amazon, on the confluence of the Rio Negro and the Amazon, and emerged as the capital of the rubber boom in the late nineteenth century. When things were going well, it was such a rich city that building a grand opera house, importing marble etc. from Italy, seemed a reasonable thing to do! Manaus is down stream from Iquitos in Peru, so once we had done our conservation trip, we thought it would be an interesting experience to travel down the Amazon by boat to get there.
Something like a third of South America is taken up by the basin of the river Amazon. The outflow into the Atlantic is greater than the next seven largest rivers in the world combined and accounts for 20% of the freshwater flowing into the world’s seas. So we just had to visit it at some point on our trip. After spending the last week of March 2016 with a bit of a beach holiday in Zorritos on the north coast of Peru, we flew to Iquitos on Friday 1st April to start our Amazonian adventure with a conservation cruise up river of Iquitos. Part II of our Amazon blogs will describe our journey down the Amazon to Manaus in the heart of Brazil. Continue reading
As two biologists who both studied evolutionary biology, the Galapagos Islands are an iconic destination and one that we had every intention of doing thoroughly! Indeed, when we were in the early planning stages for our South American adventure, even before we had thought about what sort of vehicle we would get, we had a line in our budget for our visit to the islands. On the 6th March 2016, after about 40,000km of driving round South America, we finally touched down. Our time there was spent mostly on two boat tours – a diving trip to the excellent diving locations around the remote northern islands of Wolf and Darwin, followed by a more traditional naturalist cruise round the western islands. Continue reading
We wouldn’t exactly describe ourselves as foodies, but we do like our food and enjoy eating out regularly. Learning about and trying the different foods we have, and are yet to, encounter on this trip is an important part of the travel experience for us and we suspect we are choosing to spend more of our budget on dining out than many of the other overlanders we meet on the road. Given that, we arrived in Lima (on Tuesday 16th February 2016), dubbed the food capital of South America and one of the world’s great dining destinations, with high hopes for some gastronomic experiences. But a good meal (or two) every day for six days was more of a splurge than even we had anticipated! Continue reading
To drive along the coast of Peru is to journey through numerous cultures spanning more than 6,000 years, charting the rise and fall of civilazations. As we travelled north up the coast in February 2016, we visited as many archaeological sites as we could to try and get an understanding of the pre-Columbian history of this fascinating country, as well as taking some time to appreciate the rich coastal sea-life. Continue reading