Relentlessly Forward

Like Farid said in a blog comment (and now my favorite quote): But overall this unrelenting capacity to go forward!

Or, like Scuffy the Tugboat: there is only one way to go and that was with the rushing river

On Friday, April 26, we sold the camper.  The man who bought it did not have a vehicle big enough to tow it so we towed it to his work, which was a well drilling company, and spent two more nights in the camper.

On Saturday, we went to Fantasialandia!  Fantasialandia was a great amusement park that was modern, clean, had fabulous rides and there were NO LINES.  We rode rides, had ice cream, generally a fun day.

Jack, Tinkerbell, Latin Peter Pan and Sylvia

On Sunday, we began the task of leaving.  Everything came out of the camper and the van.  We made four piles – trash, stuff to give away, things we were shipping in the van and what we needed for the last month in South America.

We ate what was left in the camper, a weird celebration lunch of soup, refried beans, apple pie filling and other camper food
Everything came out of the camper and the van
In the end, everything fit into 8 plastic tubs plus the blankets from Shana, tools and the generator

After a very long, long day, the van was packed up and the camper was empty and 8 different colored LLBean duffel bags were stacked outside.  We went to town and bought champagne and ramen and a cuban cigar for a celebratory dinner!

Last dinner in the camper – ramen, salchis and extra brut sparkling Chilean wine
and even Ryan is smiling!
Ryan poses with a cuban cigar

The next morning, we packed up the van with 8 duffle bags, 8 carry on bags, 2 dogs, 2 dog kennels and 8 people and Mark dropped 6 of us & 2 dogs off at the Santiago International Airport.  We had done some recon there a few days before and Jack had picked out a place that was tucked away in a loft with a wide open space and no people.  We had some kind of flatbed thing as a table and 6 seats. It was perfect.  We carted all the stuff, dogs and children to the spot and promptly made a fort of duffel bags and hung out.  We played travel Monopoly, Quibbler, Memory, Magic and Boggle.  We colored.  We played with little cars.  We played Mother May I and Red Light/Green Light.  We had a picnic lunch.  For 17 hours.

The best airport spot ever

Meanwhile, Mark & Ryan went back to the camper and loaded 8 plastic tubs + all of our blankets Shana made us into the van.  They drove to Valparaiso to meet with Sergio, our freight forwarder.  They spent some time doing paperwork and then drove the van to the staging area so it could be loaded into a container.  The city is built around the shipyard in Valparaiso but the logistics part is through three mountain tunnels on the other side.

Valparaiso – Driving the van over the mountains to the staging area where it would be loaded into a container

The van was supposed to fit in the container with less than 3” to spare wide and 1” to spare on the top (with the front bumper and light removed).  But of course we didn’t really know as we have never driven the van into a container.  At the shipyard, the men didn’t think it would fit.

We measured the van like 1000 times but it didn’t look like it was going to fit and the guys at the shipyard didn’t think it would fit


Mark had already taken off the front bumper (3″ shorter now) and remover the safety light while the container was craned over

There was a lot of measuring and then they got a ramp with a long straight run so the van would not hit the container at an angle and Mark drove it in – and it fit!

One of the best photos of our entire trip!

The van shipped on the NYK Lodestar.  It left Valparaiso on May 2.  You can track it here:;jsessionid=15YVRGdVL5DJ7mL3gFQ8gnLnTbn1mG2P6svPqqCgS12hl1r0Qys5!1874080284!-1759416271?lang=en&country=USA

We could only use a container because we had a back door on the van, otherwise you would be trapped inside the vehicle you drove in. Mark and Ryan made a quick stop at a grocery store for essentials we knew we couldn’t get in Peru (coconut milk and chocolate bars) and then hopped a bus to the airport, which is a 2 hour drive away.  They arrived at the airport around 7pm – it is a 2 hour drive from Valparaiso to Santiago.

Then – it was date night at the Santiago International Airport!  Nescafe and a pastry and 30 minutes of adult conversation.

One problem with the airport was that no internet worked, our smartphone didn’t work and no place had wifi.   We had things we needed to do but we needed internet! At about 11pm, Sylvia began to throw up.  Of course. At 2:25am, we were able to check the dogs and our bags and head to the plane!  We flew on LAN which is a very nice airline with free movies and games and food and drinks and it’s fancy.  Sylvia perked up and seemed to feel better as she ate her entire breakfast.  They let her keep the LAN blanket because she told the flight attendant it was so so beautiful.  It’s solid orange. We arrived in Lima and proceeded smoothly through customs.  We had to wait for the vet, who was late and arrived highly caffeinated.

At the Jorge Chavez International Airport in Lima at 7am with 4 carts

We found a beach house south of Lima to rent.  But, like all South American things, it was very casual and that was not reassuring.  No deposit.  No confirmation number.  Not even an address.  The woman we rented from, Karina, was very nice and told us someone would meet us at the airport – which is in Callou, 35 miles away. We walked out of customs with 4 carts, 6 kids, 2 dogs and we were exhausted – and a guy was standing there with a sign that said Michel De Corz, and I knew that was us!  He took us to a van, we all piled in and we began a slow, slow, slow drive. Here is a fun fact we learned last time we were in Lima: most taxi drivers don’t know Lima.  They move from very rural places, where they never had a car, to Lima and pay to share a taxi with relatives and they take turns driving 24/7 but they don’t know where anything is.  This was the case with our van driver.  Even we knew shorter ways to get around Lima.

Part II: From Lime to Peace (Lima to La Paz)

We were feeling kind of pressed for time because, well, this is a long story too.  Once we knew we were selling the camper in Santiago, we needed plane tickets back to Lima.  We had already bought plane tickets out of Lima in February.  Plane tickets to Lima were expensive but tickets to Bolivia, which route through Lima, saved us more than $3000.  We bought tickets with a 16 hour layover to make sure we could get all our bags off the plane.  Tricky thinking, eh?  Then we started thinking about actually going to Bolivia.  We decided that Ryan, Jack and Michelle would go to Bolivia for a week, take a bus to Puno, visit Puno friends, take a combi to Juliaca and fly back to Lima.  In order to do this, we needed to make it to the beach house, help everyone get settled, make hotel reservations in La Paz, find a 4cm passport photo for me (required for entry and I didn’t have one but Jack and Ryan did) and get back to Callou at the airport. The beach house was better than we imagined.  It has three bathrooms!  Like a palace, a mansion, so much space, and a pool!

One of the bedrooms at the new beach house

We were so tired, you cannot imagine.  Mark, Ryan and I were now at 30 hours without sleep.  In order to make hotel reservations and find a passport photo place, we needed wifi so Ryan and Mark left to recharge the trusty old Claro stick.  They returned, we checked email but no confirmation on our reservation.  We had to call, which we did. Now there is another little issue with Bolivia.  When I made the reservations, I was only concerned with getting to Lima.  If we get into Lima at 7am and have a 16 hour layover, our plane to La Paz leaves at midnight – and arrives in Bolivia at 2:55am.  This is a bad time to arrive.  Especially since the airport is actually in El Alto, the notorious barrio with more than 2 million people.  I really wanted a hotel reservation, you know? We called our hotel, La Joya. Our conversation went something like this:

“Did you get our reservation?”

“No, we have internet problems.”

“Could we make one?”

“Yes sure see you then.”

“Wait!  Do you need the dates and our name?”

“No it is no problem”

“But we arrive tonight”


“Yes tonight”

“Ok. No problem, see you tonight”

“Wait!  We come in very late”

“Ok. No problem, see you tonight”

“We come in at 3am”

“Ok. No problem, see you tonight”

“How do we get to the hotel?”

“Ok. No problem, see you tonight”

“Do we take a cab?”


“How do we get there?”

“We will be there”

“At the airport?”

“Ok. No problem, see you tonight”

“OK!  You will pick us up at the airport tonight at 3am?”

“Late tonight or early tomorrow morning?”

“I am sorry. I don’t know what you mean”

“Ok. No problem, see you tonight”

Skype drops the call.

So we took showers in the beach house but there was no hot water.  We called to ask how to turn it on and the Karina’s husband came over.  He said there were no water heaters, was that OK?  I said no, it was very cold water so he said ok, we will put in a water heater.  And they did! As we walked out with our bags, we asked Karina’s husband where to catch a bus to Lima.  He said he would just take us so we climbed into his car and headed to Lima.  Karina’s husband likes to surf.  We talked about surfing.  He took us to his office and called us a radio cab to the airport in Callou.  It took over an hour to drive the 14 miles.  We got to the airport and found an IPeru office where they gave us the address of a photo place.  We put our one bag into bag storage, took a taxi to the photo place and got there just before they closed.  We ate dinner at a little restaurant and then headed back to the airport, retrieved our bag, checked out of Peru and boarded our plane.  38 hours without sleep.

Bolivia is a very interesting place.  The Spanish took all the silver from the mines of Potosi and used it to fund 200 years of Spanish projects, like the Inquisition.  Bolivia got independence in 1825 with the assistance of Simon Bolivar (who would be one person I would love to have dinner with) but civil war erupted and Bolivia has had 198 distinct governments since they got independence from Spain.  Chile took their land that bordered the ocean because they wanted the saltpeter.  You may remember that from the blog post about the battle of Iqueque.  Bolivia appeals every year to the UN to get the land back.  The loss of the sea is a Bolivian tragedy.  They mourn the loss of the sea.  They celebrate the Dia del Mar, a day of mourning and sorrow for the loss of the beloved ocean.  Bolivia now has their first indigenous president, Evo Moreles, who I think is pretty great.  I feel bad for Bolivia, a very disenfranchised country.

La Paz is in a deep canyon at 14,000 feet.  The roads here are very, very, very steep.  The airport is the highest international airport in the world.  Special planes need to land here as there is less oxygen and they need special tires.  Our plane looked unspecial, like a 737.  The guide books say that when you leave from sea level and arrive at 14,000 feet you will get sick.  They say that when the plane lands and they open the door and unpressurize the cabin, people pass out.  Lan carried oxygen for this purpose.  I was not looking forward to landing.  We spent a month in Puno, just a hundred miles away and at 12,800 feet but we got there gradually and I still had some altitude sickness. We fell asleep.  Slept hard.  I tried to wake up Jack right before we landed and he hit me and told me to stop hurting him. The plane landed.  The door opened.  The cabin lost all pressure.  The German tourists all took their sorochi tablets.  And nothing happened.  No one passed out.  Nothing. We went through customs, bought our visa ($135 each), filled out all the forms and they didn’t want my 4cm passport photo because you know what they did?  They bought a camera!  We cleared customs.  We were the last people out, as buying a visa took some time.  Only Americans have to buy a visa because Evo Morales is irritated at the US.  In fact on the second day we were in La Paz, Bolivia kicked out the USAID Program (very dramatically here but on US news it wasn’t even a blip).  The La Paz airport looked a lot like the Bethel Airport but browner, not gray.  Very small.  No place to spend the night if we had to – and it was cold. But there – standing in the airport in the cold at nearly 4am was a man with a sign that said La Joya. I was so happy I actually cried.  We piled into his minivan which had a cholita woman in the front seat and no back window.  They offered us a blanket.  We drove through El Alto and into La Paz and to our hotel where we went straight to our room and went to sleep.

5 Responses

  1. John Quebbemann

    You write very well.

  2. No way. I can’t believe you managed that travel day (s). I have enjoyed following your adventures, from our mild little goat farm in VA.

    • It was quite, a day(s) Kirsten. It took awhile getting the dogs through customs and I (Mark) was pretty certain the van driver would leave by the time we got through. Michelle 4 kids went out first. Ryan, Jack and I stayed with the dogs on the other side of the closed off baggage area. I was pretty thrilled to see them all with the driver when I came out, I have to say!

      After spending seven months in our camper, having the apartment is wonderfully spacious. They dogs are really happy to have space to play. The kids are sucking up way too much TV. We are showering a lot, and washing clothes. It is AWESOME!

  3. Wow, what an amazing story/adventure! You have such an amazing family, and South America adventure I am sure you will not forget! Bette and I enjoyed your blog. However, one cannot wonder how you all would be able t0 survive the relatively relaxed, laid back life in Fairbanks?!? I was just in Fairbanks for a visit and help celebrate my brother Gary’s retirement from UAF. Wonderful visit, but you picked a good year to not be in Fbks in May: it snowed every night, temps with high in lower 30s, and it is currently 24 degrees and snowing!
    I learned that your mom and dad are coming to Fairbanks June 24th. We hope to see all you guys this summer or sometime soon … hopefully in Homer.

    • Hey Glenn, Mark here. We are definitely hoping to make it to Homer this summer. As usual, hard to say when. Once we get back to the states and the house, it will all come together, I’m sure. Sara and Jereon are coming, too! It’ll be another great summer in Fairbanks, if it ever gets there!

Leave a Reply