Destination: South America

amazing road and riverSouth America, was our first destination continent…even though I had travelled to South America before, I wanted to share this love of the continent with my family and to explore even more of it.

We gave ourselves an initial 6 months with a flight outbound to London. Most countries will not let you enter or leave without an exit ticket. Our ticket was valid for one year and could be changed based on flight availability. I wasn’t particularly excited about road travel with our youngest son, but we were open and flexible to see how it would all go and we could follow the warmer weather once autumn/winter hit.

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The view of Santiago

So where to start on this continent?? Given that my previous experience of Chile was all of about 5 days, it seemed strange to chose this as our first port of call… However, it was an easy and direct flight to the capital of Santiago from Melbourne Australia(17 hours was long enough!), and we discovered that not only were cars reasonably cheap to buy in Chile but as a foreigner the paperwork was easy enough and we could cross borders with a Chilean registered vehicle.

It seemed like a good place to start our journey. We weren’t sure how far our travels would take us or how long we would remain in South America – time would tell… … I remember backpacking in my 20’s through South America. In 6 months I had been through a number of countries, catching overnight buses and flying between destinations easily (as a single person) – I got to see many of the cities and famous landmarks…I tangoed, salsaed, sambaed and fo hoed my way around the continent.

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Ruta 40, Argentina

This time we have travelled the distance as a family and this time around we have seen more countryside than cities. While we have not seemingly progressed very far in terms of map distance we have still during four months covered about 12,000kms…every kilometre we have driven ourselves… we thought it to be slow going, but at times we were travelling at the same pace as other single/couple road travellers who were on the same route as us…. We saw the boring bits as well as the exciting ones, we didn’t just plonk ourselves in the middle of somewhere – we got to it..

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Amazing volcano country

.In my 20’s if I had landed in Chile I would’ve flown straight to Torres del Paine, or Puerto Natales or even further to Ushaia and that would’ve been my Chile Patagonia experience. Not that there’s anything wrong with that…. but after driving and reaching Torres del Paine, and as beautiful as it was…. we found Chile had other national parks that were less visited and less famous and that were just as stunning, or even more so and much more family friendly……

After four months on the road and coming to the end of summer, we contemplated how much further we wanted to go – we had only travelled through two countries in South America (through Chile and Argentina), yet there was still Bolivia, Peru and Brazil….not to mention the north of South America…… We were very mindful of health issues, particularly for our little ones……. we wanted to avoid high risk areas of yellow or dengue fever, malaria and possibly other rainforest borne diseases. It’s always a hard one as a parent….assessing the risks and the advantages…..

We discussed flying to some of these countries, as we were tiring of the car travel, particularly with our youngest son who wasn’t so fond of being in the car…..(we had good days and bad days), but even flying was costly as a family to even our nearest neighbour Peru or Brazil….

So just as we were starting to feel a bit like our tent – worn out, we decided to ditch the car travel. We were over dusty roads, boring bitumen ones, strapping kids in when they just wanted to play, noisy traffic, rude drivers, and the enormous kms we would need to cover……to cross countries not just the continent… sure we could do night drives and early morning starts to cover the kilometres but did we really want to? My one and a half year old, was never so great with car travel, even as a younger bub, he slept less in the car than when in a bed – my older son could go two hours napping in the car at the same age. At that time, we had done road/camping trips in Australia, but for a kid sitting in the front seat of a land rover between his parents was a lot more fun than in the back seat. Being squashed in the middle of the back seat wasn’t always so much fun for me either – try breastfeeding too.

We didn’t quite find the “perfect” way to road travel.. Camping was great fun and a wonderful experience for the kids and us… However, it wasn’t a  long term solution, even when intermingled with other accommodation, which then gets expensive. We had tried and decided that a motor home was not for us, which left little other options for car travel for a family of four… Surely, there could be other ways to travel as a family….. we tossed around the options of walking and by boat…. maybe one of these could be for us….but how and where could we start this new trip??? Two weeks after selling our car in Santiago, the place where this all began, we boarded another flight. This one was going to London, UK via Toronto…. where a new adventure awaited us….

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Possible  South America vaccinations/ health risks to be considered

Hep A and B, Typhoid (off the beaten path) – not available for kids under two years old in Australia.  Tetanus, Pertussis, Diphtheria, MMR,  Chicken pox Influenza, Malaria, Dengue Fever,  Yellow fever, Rabies,  Chlorea (Peru) Altitude sickness (Peru/Bolivia)

 

 

 

 

 

The mother of all checklists

imagesCA1RG92QThe do list before heading overseas

I have to admit, I love check lists. I love writing them mainly because  I like to see all those ‘things to do’  summed up in a few practical words and partly because I’m a procrastinator.  Having made a check list I feel like I’m halfway there to getting the jobs done….!  However, what I find the most satisfying is  drawing a big bold line through each one – mission accomplished….(until the next one..)

Check lists seem to become even more important once you have kids.  Being able to remember what it is your meant to be doing  (did preggie brain ever go?) and  getting to finish what it is you started  doing can take days, months or even a lifetime.

Check lists make multi tasking easier   e.g. …I need to go  to the shops to get some milk..let me see if there’s anything else I need while I’m there… yes of course… I can   book some plane tickets, organise my banking, sort out travel insurance and get a couple of jabs…… now there’s efficiency for you…!!

So you can imagine my check list of things to do before leaving on an extended and indefinite time overseas… My life was one huge check list made up of several smaller ones…  such as:

  • Preparing our home for rent
  • Packing up our life and belongings –organising and spreading our stuff to be stored   amongst helpful family and friends, and getting rid of lots of stuff – garage sale, charity donations and  passing on some good stuff  to our family and friends
  • Travel related; insurance, tickets, vaccinations, international drivers licence, passports for kids, buying any items needed for our travels, research
  • Tax and other paperwork: wills,  redirection of mail (organised mostly e-statements), closing/opening accounts, power of attorneys etc
  • Miscellaneous… anything and everything else..including getting a vasectomyI have to admit that even with a check list, I forgot a couple of very important things…

INTERNET OVERSEAS BANKING

My husband and I hold accounts with two different banks.  When I went to talk to my bank about going overseas not much happened..  They  were too busy oohing and ahhing about the trip to  offer me any real advice or assistance.  And I was too busy  telling them all about it that I didn’t do enough asking…  I’m sure they noted a few things like – so and so is going overseas so don’t put a stop on her account when she uses an ATM somewhere in South America, and they probably highlighted our account as a possible  mortgage default risk.

However, I wasn’t offered any thing useful to potential problems like.. ..what can I do when my SMS security code fails because Chile is NOT one of the 200 countries my phone network offers  international roaming  to.  My husband would like to think I was multi tasking on my “bank visit” day appointment due to my lack of success…  See scenario.

 

HIS Bank                                   vs                                         My Bank

Gave him a security key tag                                                I was still on mobile phone sms setting  to provide him with a security                          I couldn’t change anything online with code accessed anywhere in the world                   contacting the bank first

Bank offered travel card  for reduced fees                My bank didn’t have such a thing

So my trip so far has been spent telephoning or  skyping the bank every time I need to make a change online, e.g. add a payee, change my transfer limit, change my withdrawal limit, do an overseas transfer etc… it has been so frustrating and an immense pain in the butt, especially as my account had most of the initial funds…

Some things to check: usability of your cards overseas, expiry dates, bank charges/fees, any minimum balances on accounts, travel cards on offer, set up of overseas bank transfers, security codes for online banking. 

example of bank fees (in Santiago):

travel card: $2

$16.95 (from one bank – didn’t tell you beforehand)

$6.00 (santander – confirms with you first)

MOBILE PHONE

 

I didn’t really want to take my phone as the whole exercise of going overseas is to leave the consuming consumables behind, but I did, and I even organised international roaming… Unfortunately not even the customer service person checked to see whether the countries we were travelling in was on their provider’s list…so my phone became pretty useless quickly.

imagesCAOW12VQCARDS

Don’t be shy about bringing bank cards.    Between my husband and I, we brought several different  cards: mainly debit cards including a travel card each and credit card each for emergency’s.   Always useful  in case one card may not work, you lose your purse or there is a delay in transfer of funds.

TRAVEL INSURANCE

Sounds like a gimmick or an advertising line… but I wouldn’t travel without it…we organised medical cover only, everything else is replaceable..

TRAVEL VACCINATIONS

The list is endless.  You will be recommended lots of   vaccinations.  Your doctor will probably make a schedule that’s longer than your own check list determining which vaccine goes with what  and how many doses are needed and how far apart these need to be.  In some countries they may offer a vaccination service on arrival but I wouldn’t rely on this!   Give yourself time to get these vaccinations done (not in the last week of departure!) especially with kids as you may not know if there is a delay reaction/fever etc for the younger ones..

Its your choice (hopefully an informed one) about which ones you chose to have. Some are essential (e.g yellow fever) others are worth researching what the  risk factors are.. e.g. pneumonia and rabies..  We discovered that anti rabies vaccinations are readily available in some of the countries we would be travelling in.   Most vaccinations are available to infants, although our son was too young to receive the  typhoid injection (need to be over two years).

SAYING GOODBYE

Organising a farewell or goodbye is probably the nicest and most important of all the above… and most importantly its the easiest… choose a location, send a text to everyone with a BYO picnic message and turn up!  I’m not so great with group farewells and it may seem like another thing to organise but its well worth it and lots of fun for you and your kids to have one last play and RELAX…. Instead of running around for one more afternoon with check list in hand, do some sitting around and socialising instead… and if it hasn’t been crossed off the check list yet – RUB it out!!!!