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.
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.
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..
.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….
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)