Ecuador, the home of some of the world’s most unique features including the rare wildlife of the Galapago Islands, South America’s tallest volcano, Cotopaxi, and a huge monument marking 0°0’0’’ at the earth’s equator. We have good friends who live in Quito, Ecuador, so we were very excited to visit our friends and enjoy the luxuries of staying in a house for a couple weeks. First on the agenda was to check out the Cotopaxi volcano. As volcanoes and mountains are infamously known for, the weather can change within seconds and before we had even taken 5 steps, the clouds closed up, created a white ceiling of fog, and it began to hail. We welcomed the excuse to find a rock and rest, because even at the bottom, you could feel the high altitude effects.
After 5 days crossing the ocean, our sailboat pulled into Cartagena, Colombia… we made it to South America! Colombia was especially exciting for us, because it is known for two things we love: coffee and salsa dancing. We planned our route, looking forward to touring Cartagena, Medellin, and Cali. Not only were these cities electric, vibrant, and full of energy, but the locals were extra friendly and welcoming. Colombia exceeded our urban expectations, but what we did not expect was it’s breathtaking landscape.
Did you know there is one section of the Pan-American Highway that is NOT connected by road and literally just a thick, un-drivable swamp??? It’s true. The Pan-Am is a system of nearly 20,000 miles of roads and highways starting in Alaska reaching down to the tip of Argentina, except for one stretch of 60 miles, between Panama and Colombia. This uncharted, unregulated, swampy jungle, impossible to cross by land, is called ‘the Darien Gap’. In order to continue traveling to South America, overlanders are required to send their vehicle across the ocean in a shipping container and send themselves over either by boat or plane. Mind the gap.
“¡Pura vida!” When visiting Costa Rica, the number one phrase you have to learn is “Pura Vida.” Although it literally translates to pure life, it is a way of saying that something is cool, something tastes great, and even a way to say hello. But to the ‘ticos’, it is way more than a phrase, it is a way of life. This costal culture is very relaxed, easy-going, friendly, no worries, no stress! Since life on the road can be challenging, we were 100% prepared to take on this way of life.
We needed to be strategic about the next few countries, as there was reported political unrest and protest due to a recent election in Honduras. We were advised to not stay the night in the country and just drive straight to Nicaragua. We were pleased to still be caravaning with another fellow 4x4 overlander with a roof top tent. We calculated that in order to cross two borders, drive 350 km straight through Honduras, and arrive safely at our campsite in Nicaragua, we would have a 4am take-off goal. We generally don’t like to drive at night, but we had installed extra front fog lights that we would use before the sun started to raise around 5:30am. We had a plan. We went to bed early, set our alarms, and crawled into our Skycamp tent.
El Salvador, home of delicious ‘pupusas’ and beautiful Pacific beaches. A pupusa is a thick homemade corn tortilla, stuffed with a variety of delicious options such as cheese, beans, and pork, and served warm. Driving into El Salvador, ‘pupusas’ were our first priority.
A circle of camping chairs formed, bottles of wine poured, and there was lots of chatting late into the night. We were honored to be surrounded by new friends from around the world, sharing ideas and food together. It was a new way to celebrate thanksgiving, and we were very thankful. When your entire house is your car, you miss having people over for parties or events. Under our awning make-shift living room, it felt good to ‘host’. We could tell this trip was going to be a good one.
¡Bienvenidos a México! Welcome to the land of street tacos, white-sand beaches, and joyful festivals marching through colorful little towns. After a few days in San Diego with friends and family, we crossed south to Tijuana, and headed down the famous Baja California Peninsula, where hot desert and pacific paradise meet. After miles of hot desert, we turned the bend to find this small pristine beach, Playa Santispac, and dipped our toes in crystal clear water.
After two full years of saving and planning, the day had finally come, October 9th, 2017, our take off date. We installed the Skycamp just 5 days prior, before really having a chance to test it out, but we didn’t want to wait any longer. We had vacated the apartment, left our jobs, and said our goodbyes. We started living off our savings and the clock started ticking. We scheduled visits with friends and family along the way, stopping at Nashville, Huntsville, Kansas City, Denver, camping in National Parks in Utah, then more family/friend visits in LA and San Diego.
A traveler we met once told us: “Your journey started when you started preparing for it.” Now we would like to take a step back and talk a bit about how to prepare for a trip across the continent. The planning stage was such a big portion of our experience, as it spanned 3 years leading up to the departure date.
This post is the first in a blog series showing #ikampercrew members on an adventure with the Skycamp. Enjoy! Meet: Vueltamerica, a couple who left their jobs in Ohio, got in their Toyota4Runner and iKamper Skycamp, and are currently driving down to the end of the world, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. ‘vuelta’ in Spanish