Off into the sunset…


For the past couple of weeks we’ve been catching up with family and friends in New Zealand, preparing resumes and planning our next move—so sadly I think this will be our last post…

It’s taken us over a year and a half to drive 50,000 kilometers on the Pan American Highway. Marlin, the little red battler, our unbeatable 1991 VW Golf is safely parked and our Joydrive to South America has been completed.

It has been an awesome adventure, we’ve met some exceptional people and seen some equally remarkable things. We have at times been completely outside of our comfort zone and our understanding of this world has grown considerably.

We would like to thank everybody who helped us along the way, anyone who shared in our Joydrive online and the host of generous, helpful and friendly people that have coloured our roadtrip with their goodness. We couldn’t have imagined a more amazing adventure!

If you are driving to Latin America and have questions, feel free to contact us or check out our site Drive the Americas for great tips and advice for driving the Pan American Highway.

Once in awhile, in a rare occasion some cosmic forces collide and by sheer coincidence you end up meeting some people who you know will be your friends for life. We were extremely fortunate to meet up with Kristin and Chris by chance in Puerto Escondido, Mexico and continued to meet up and hang out with them on our long driving adventure.

From Mexico to the end of the world we have managed to:

  • share ridiculously small spaces and not kill each other (5 weeks, 4 adults, 120 square feet and a cold shower
  • listen to the most amazing music mixes including Jolene and Dreadlock Holiday
  • ship cars from Central America to South America and have them arrive to the right port
  • deal with inane border bureaucracy smoothly
  • work the system to find the best accommodation deals
  • stumble through language issues with the locals (between 4 of us we managed)
  • survive unsafe handling of fireworks
  • sample as many wines as possible in South America
  • create the best website about driving the Americas
  • whine about what we miss from home
  • handle long blamming drives
  • laugh through every crazy and funny bit of it!

These two have made our trip all the more special and saying goodbye (only for now) was pretty sad but all of us know we will meet up again soon…Carnaval 2011 we hope!

Some delightful pics of our amigos we like to call “Los Rubios” (the blonde ones).

Who the hell is Vesper?

After a relaxing week on the coast we headed into Argentina’s biggest city, Buenos Aires, home to 13 million porteños (“people of the port” – residents of BA).  With an interesting political history (which is a dangerous topic to begin with) and a huge economic crisis in 2000 – BA has become one of the most touristed cities in South America even more so with the US dollar getting an exchange rate of 3.8 pesos making it a rather affordable cosmopolitan destination.

European architecture mixes with Latin vibrancy, descendants of Italians, Spaniards, Ukrainians and Jewish to name only a few intertwine to create a very diverse population in this massive city.  Argentine Spanish is spoken with an Italian lilt to it and throughout the city you will hear snippets of expressive and passionate outbursts adding to the unique flavour that is Buenos Aires.

Checking out the crowds

Checking out the crowds

I have been waiting to see this city from the moment I read about it and the “Paris of South America” did not let us down.  To make our trip to the city even better my parents dropped in for a two-week vacation to help us celebrate the end of our drive to the bottom of the world.

The rents in Colonia, Uruguay

The rents in Colonia, Uruguay

Buenos Aires is bursting at the seams with things to do and see so we compiled a few of our highlights:

Argentinians are mad about futbol (soccer)….perhaps obsessive is a better word.  One of the first things you get asked by locals is “what team are you?” meaning which team are you a fan of.  We bought tickets to take in a game at the River Plate stadium, one of BA’s largest stadiums.  Arriving early to get seats we thought the stadium might remain pretty empty as the game being played wasn’t one of too much importance.  Turns out it doesn’t matter whether it is a play-off game or not people come out to support their teams.  The away team fans were sequestered in their own section complete with their own exit, barbwire fencing and security guards – they take this futbol thing very seriously.  Loads of  inappropriately worded songs were thrown back and forth between opposing fans – my folks asked if we could translate but sadly (or thankfully) we could only explain that they involved rather unsportsmanlike words.

Ready to watch some futbol!

BA chic!

Although cliché for Buenos Aires we were wowed at the quality of El Viejo Almacen’s tango show.  Tango shows are advertised everywhere and I had figured that it might be overdone but watching six dancers and their complicated footwork perform on a stage not much bigger than a large dining room table was very impressive – we left suitably satiated by the tango.

Ok, my parents might not agree about this but the Cuidad Cultural Konex, BA’s cultural centre, hosts a fantastic drumming show every Monday night for 20 pesos/person.  La Bomba Tiempo is a group of about 12 percussionists who show up and perform to a very cool crowd of under 30s – neo-hippies, highschool kids and foreigners fill in as the evening wears on and dance to the drums as long as the guys will play.

Buenos Aires from Kels M on Vimeo.

Buenos Aires is abundant with small, locally designed clothing labels.  Even better , the clothes are priced really well for those of us travelling on North American currencies.  I had been starving for fashion and after months of wearing the same clothes Palermo was little piece of heaven. The neat thing about Buenos Aires is that one store will house around 20 or so individual designers who rent a small bit of space to showcase their labels – so each rack you look through belongs to someone different.   There are a few questionable fashions happening in BA at the moment (like a horrible MC Hammer/harem poop pant combo and toe-less boots) but there are definitely some great longer t-shirts, funky belts and amazing leather goods to be had.  In fact the ‘rents bought 3 custom tailored leather jackets for less than $600!

Taking a break from shopping...with beer

Taking a break from shopping...

Tom and I are big city walkers…probably because I love to people watch and wandering around BA gives you a great insight into how porteños live.  In La Boca you see the futbol team’s colours worn proudly by all the residents, in Palermo ex-pats mix with upper middle class locals in trendy cafes and restaurants, in the city centre suits rush by on their way to the office. Down in Recoleta the rich retire to posh apartments and visitors take in the amazing cemetery searching for famous (or infamous) Evita’s grave and San Telmo’s Sunday antiques market brings out the hordes of those looking to find a hidden gem along the cobble-stone streets.

Recoleta's Amazing Cemetary

Cruise through Recoleta's history

MEAT and other tasty treats
Yup… bring on steaks that can feed a family of four.  We ate our way through Buenos Aires from huge cuts of beef for about ($7 or $3.50 per person because they are big enough to share) to morning café con leche, croissants, picadas (snack plates), deli sandwiches, ridiculous amounts of ice cream and, of course, a LOT of wine.

This is one serving!

This is one serving!

For a really good steak we recommend La Brigada in San Telmo – order your steak en punto (“on point” which is medium) and enjoy a  great meal, great service and very nice wine, the Argentine Malbecs are great!

Kels hearts wine

Everything I learned was from my folks!

We were talking about the best travel accessories the other day and for me, before the travelling alarm clocks or the plastic ziplocks is a pair of all star canvas chucks… They’re light, they pack down easy and they look better with wear – they breath well and they’re durable. Our Chucks have seen some wear – they’ve been put through their paces and they’ve served us well.


When we were in Otavalo, a short drive south of the Colombian border, I spotted a wool shop that I wanted to check out and then promptly forgot the following day.  Fate must have been thinking that I was in need of a new jacket because Casa Helbling, the hostel we stayed at in Quito, was directly across from the exact same store, Hilana.  Not only do they sell beautiful wool, they make a well-designed selection of wool jackets, slippers, scarves, mittens and much more.  I believe the designer is French but all the materials are sourced from Ecuador.

It was actually Tom who spotted this jacket and suggested I try it on.  The sleeves were a tiny bit short but with a bit of chatting the lady at the shop managed to get the sleeves lengthened in 24 hours.  And I came away with a custom tailored, 100% wool jacket and a couple of skeins of lovely Ecuadorian yarn for $60 USD.

Jacket from Hilana

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