My Life on the Road Makes Waterfront Living a Reality

If you ever look at real estate you will notice that Waterfront Living, Water Views, Lakefront, Ocean View, or even Ocean Glimpse, are big selling points. This is especially true in Australia, where the majority of people live by the coast.

For as long as I can remember I have wanted to live near the water; to watch sunset lights reflecting in it; to go to sleep listening to the rush of waves on the sand or the soft lapping sounds of a river or lake; to wake up in the morning to its clear, clean brilliance.

Byron Bay, Australia: this is the area we like to call home when we're in Australia. We often tell people that we don't spend a lot of time going to the beach when we're travelling, because Australia has the best beaches in the world. Not many disagree.

Byron Bay, Australia: this is the area we like to call home when we’re in Australia. We often tell people that we don’t spend a lot of time going to the beach when we’re travelling, because Australia has the best beaches in the world. Not many disagree.

As I sit here watching the morning on a lake in Uruguay, I realise how often in our travels I have done exactly this. We have parked and slept by oceans, rivers and lakes, always parking so the best view is out of the big window next to the table. Many times I have woken up, sat at the table and sipped my morning cuppa watching the water.

This is a water view I could look at every day. The horses come to graze and drink at the lake of Balneario Ipora, near Tacuarembo in Uruguay.

This is a water view I could look at every day. The horses come to graze and drink at the lake of Balneario Ipora, near Tacuarembo in Uruguay.

On our first trip from Alaska to Patagonia , we spent a lot of time in campgrounds. We were not used to the idea of free camping (or boondocking). We didn’t make very much use of it whilst in North America, except for the occasional Walmart! Once we got to Mexico and Central America we were even more loath to try it. Nevertheless, some of the places we paid to stay were close to water and very beautiful, natural locations.

In Mexico we often went to campgrounds which were right on the sand next to the ocean. This one on the Yucatan peninsula came complete with coconut palms.

In Mexico we often went to campgrounds which were right on the sand next to the ocean. This one on the Yucatan peninsula came complete with coconut palms.

We spent a lengthy period in Panajachel, Guatemala parked directly by Lago Atitlan . It was on the property of a hotel and we paid a token to stay there, but it was a wide open space that we usually had completely to ourselves. There was a stunning view across the lake to the mountainous terrain. For 4 weeks, we went to Spanish school in the town every morning, and returned to the tranquillity of the lake front to spend our afternoons and evenings.

Our lakeside home for a month while we studied Spanish in Guatemala. Lago de Atitlan by Panajachel. You can't beat a view like that.

Our lakeside home for a month while we studied Spanish in Guatemala. Lago de Atitlan by Panajachel. You can’t beat a view like that.

The coast of Costa Rica was one of the first places we found where we were not only allowed to free camp at the beach, but seemed to be encouraged to do so. Coming from Australia, where it is definitely not allowed and is policed quite strictly, it was a very pleasant surprise. I remember a place where we parked very close to the ocean. During the night I woke suddenly and jumped out of bed to check if we were being inundated because the lap of the waves on the sand sounded so close.

After Costa Rica we became more confident looking for free camping situations and they often came with a water view.

Since our return to South America in 2014, we have made it a habit to look for free camping places. We always look for places along water first, if there is any around. This has brought us to places so quiet, beautiful and even remote, that we have stayed for a few days; or even longer if we had enough supplies and no pressing engagements. Our stay (March 2016) of more than 2 weeks at the Balneario Iporá lakeside, after the Tacuarembó gaucho festival , is a good example.

Waterfront living: we spent over 2 weeks at this lake after the Gaucho Festival. Balneario Ipora outside Tacuarembo, Uruguay.

Waterfront living: we spent over 2 weeks at this lake after the Gaucho Festival. Balneario Ipora outside Tacuarembo, Uruguay.

One such place we found on the banks of Rio Alumine in Argentina by sheer chance. It had been a long day, up and down winding mountain roads on the less-travelled and rough Ruta 23. Finding a level spot to park, right next to the river was a godsend. It was so pleasant, with very little passing traffic and only the sound of water babbling over rocks, that we stayed the next day just to relax.

A chance encounter with a perfect camping place. Rio Alumine provided the perfect waterfront sleeping place at the end of an exhausting day on one of Argentina's back roads.

A chance encounter with a perfect camping place. Rio Alumine provided the perfect waterfront sleeping place at the end of an exhausting day on one of Argentina’s back roads.

Most of our ocean view places to date have been along the Chile coast. New Year’s Eve 2014 gave us a beautiful sunset over the ocean. We were about 20Km south of Constitución, near the small town of Las Cañas.

New Year's Eve 2014: after sunset the sky lit up. There was no need for fireworks. On the coast of Chile, south of Constitucion.

New Year’s Eve 2014: after sunset the sky lit up. There was no need for fireworks. On the coast of Chile, south of Constitucion.

Sometimes our waterfront living places can be close to, or even in, a city. I’ve forgotten how many times we’ve visited Valparaiso . We love this old city which climbs all over several hills and is a huge street art gallery. There is a parking lot overlooking the ocean just a few kilometres from the centre of Valparaiso, which we have used for a sleeping place on several visits to this wonderful city.

It's always good to find a place to park within easy reach of a city. This parking lot, overlooking the ocean, is only a few kilometres to Valparaiso, one of our favourite cities in Chile.

It’s always good to find a place to park within easy reach of a city. This parking lot, overlooking the ocean, is only a few kilometres to Valparaiso, one of our favourite cities in Chile.

There were many other places along the Chile coast where we enjoyed an ocean view, between Antofagasta in the north and Valdivia in the south.

But Valdivia is not on the coast. It lies on the confluence of 3 rivers about 15Km inland. There we had waterfront living at its best: almost in the centre of the city and right on one of the rivers. It was just a normal parking lot that allows self-contained travelling vehicles to overnight. Not the most salubrious surroundings, but the space they gave us was right by the river and the views were perfect. We were able to walk around the city, checking out the architecture that Valdivia is famous for, knowing Berta was in a secure place.

Sunset on the river - right in front of our camper

Sunset on the river – right in front of our camper. See why we loved the location for a parking lot?

More recently we have visited Montevideo on several occasions, and we always slept in the place we found on our first visit in 2009. This spot is near the lighthouse at the tip of Punta Carretas, right on the Rio de la Plata. It is also offers easy access to all parts of the city . From our window we could see the cruise and cargo ships coming and going from the port. We also enjoyed some beautiful sunsets, right over the river.

Quite near the centre of Montevideo there is a light house on a peninsula which juts into the Rio de la Plata. This is our waterfront living place when we visit the capital of Uruguay.

Quite near the centre of Montevideo there is a light house on a peninsula which juts into the Rio de la Plata. This is our waterfront living place when we visit the capital of Uruguay.

The time spent in the lakes districts of both Chile and Argentina gave us waterfront parking almost every night. I remember Juergen’s delight when we found our first spot on the shore of Lago Ranco in Chile. His delight was the grass – for so long we had been staying in places that were either sand or dusty dirt. This place pleased us so much that we stayed for several days. It had the advantage that it was a short walk to the shops in the village of Lago Ranco, so no problem with having enough supplies to stay a while.

For once a nice GRASSY camping spot at Lago Ranco

For once a nice GRASSY camping spot at Lago Ranco

There are many other lakes where we have spent a night or two, or even more.

camping at Lago Agrio

camping among Araucarias at Lago Agrio

After one of our shortest driving days ever - 2 Kilometres, I think - we stayed on a level spot with this spectacular view down to Lago Budi in Chile. The other attraction was a mobile tower, which provided us with an internet connection.

After one of our shortest driving days ever – 2 Kilometres, I think – we stayed on a level spot with this spectacular view down to Lago Budi in Chile. The other attraction was a mobile tower, which provided us with an internet connection.

This is definitely 'a room with a view'. Sunset over Lago Alumine from our camper window. Another of the lakes we called home for a night or two in Argentina.

This is definitely ‘a room with a view’. Sunset over Lago Alumine from our camper window. Another of the lakes we called home for a night or two in Argentina.

Sometimes the lines blur a little between lakes, dams and wetlands. We don’t mind as long as there is somewhere level to park and a great waterview.

Embalse Potrerillos is a place that Berta has frequented a number of times. It’s a dam between Mendoza and Uspallata in Argentina, close to the border crossing to Santiago de Chile. Given the number of times Berta has been across that border, it’s hardly surprising that this particular spot has become one of her favourites.

Embalse Potrerillos is a reservoir between Mendoza, Argentina and the border crossing to Santiago de Chile. It provides a quiet place to spend the night and a beautiful view to enhance the pleasure. Here we were watching a storm across the mountains at sunset.

Embalse Potrerillos is a reservoir between Mendoza, Argentina and the border crossing to Santiago de Chile. It provides a quiet place to spend the night and a beautiful view to enhance the pleasure. Here we were watching a storm across the mountains at sunset.

Travelling across Argentina in September 2015 we stopped at Laguna Mar Chiquita – literally ‘small ocean lagoon’. It seems to go on forever and the only way to know it is landlocked is to check your map. Here we were gifted one of our most beautiful sunsets, followed by one of our most frightening overnight storms.

Laguna Mar Chiquita at Miramar is a very large inland 'sea' in central Argentina. It gave us one of the most beautiful sunsets on water that we have seen.

Laguna Mar Chiquita at Miramar is a very large inland ‘sea’ in central Argentina. It gave us one of the most beautiful sunsets on water that we have seen.

Our first entry into Brazil this trip was through Chui from Uruguay in October 2015. The road passes through a beautiful wetland between Lagoa Mirim and Lagoa Mangueira. There is lots of bird-life, and capybaras everywhere. We stopped for the night beside the lake, near the small town of Taim, just as we had in 2008 on our way out of Brazil to Uruguay. This is another lake that looks like it goes on forever.

Travelling into Brazil with some German friends, our first stop was on the shore of Lagoa Mirim. It looks just like the ocean, but it's actually an enormous lake that crosses from Brazil into Uruguay.

Travelling into Brazil with some German friends, our first stop was on the shore of Lagoa Mirim. It looks just like the ocean, but it’s actually an enormous lake that crosses from Brazil into Uruguay.

One of the highlights of 2015 was visiting Argentina’s Pantanal – Esteros del Iberá . Unfortunately it wasn’t possible for us to park right by the water because the Municipal Campground has a gateway arch that Berta couldn’t pass under. But we parked just outside the gate and spent a lot of time inside the campground watching the birds and animals, and the sunsets.

A beautiful sunset over Argentina's Pantanal from the Municipal Campground. Esteros del Ibera is worth a few days with its abundant wildlife and peaceful water views.

A beautiful sunset over Argentina’s Pantanal from the Municipal Campground. Esteros del Ibera is worth a few days with its abundant wildlife and peaceful water views.

When we left the wetlands, we followed the Rio Uruguay through the north-east of Argentina. The river is the border between Argentina and Uruguay. We stayed on both sides of it; in Concordia and Salto. It is actually much larger than a river at this point, because of the hydroelectric dam which holds back the water to create Lago de Salto Grande.

On the Argentinian side of Rio Uruguay and close to Concordia, the Peninsula Soler has lots of lovely places to park overlooking the Lago Salto Grande. The lake is formed by damming the river to produce hydroelectricity.

On the Argentinian side of Rio Uruguay and close to Concordia, the Peninsula Soler has lots of lovely places to park overlooking the Lago Salto Grande. The lake is formed by damming the river to produce hydroelectricity.

On the Uruguayan side of Lago Salto Grande there are places like this north of the city of Salto where you can camp among the eucalyptus trees.

On the Uruguayan side of Lago Salto Grande there are places like this north of the city of Salto where you can camp among the eucalyptus trees.

Further down the Rio Uruguay, we visited the World Heritage site at Fray Bentos and were able to stay within walking distance of the complex. It was a beautiful place by the river where we could also watch the horses who occupied the park.

What a beautiful place to spend New Year 2015-16. Rio Uruguay as a backdrop, dozens of horses roaming around, shady eucalypts and walking distance to the World Heritage site in Fray Bentos, Uruguay.

What a beautiful place to spend New Year 2015-16. Rio Uruguay as a backdrop, dozens of horses roaming around, shady eucalypts and walking distance to the World Heritage site in Fray Bentos, Uruguay.

Other great riverfront camping places included more than two weeks in Rapel, Chile. The village was in easy walking distance. Juergen had also spent some time there in 2014 while I was teaching in Santiago.

Riverside camping at its best. We spent 2 weeks watching the river flow by and the horses grazing on the banks. Rapel, Chile.

Riverside camping at its best. We spent 2 weeks watching the river flow by and the horses grazing on the banks. Rapel, Chile.

The list could go on and on. These are some of our favourites, or places we have great photos of.

You often hear it said: ‘Be careful what you wish for.’ It can sometimes come to you in a way you least expect. I can’t believe that it’s taken me so long to realise that one of my long held dreams has already come true.

In my mind, all of these places beat canal frontage on the Gold Coast every time. But if I ever have to retire from this nomadic life, that may do as a substitute.

Yasha

dare2go's human navigator (we're not lost because there's nowhere particular we have to be) alongside our Nexus 7 tablet, writer and editor of our blog, first cook and loving wife. Teaching English as a second language when possible.

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7 Responses

  1. Tom Kowal says:

    That is an amazing variety of parking spots! Great sunsets and water views!

  2. Peter says:

    Beautiful and inspiring! Maybe one day we’ll get to south America. Currently spending as much time as possible touring Europe in a front wheel drive motorhome (yes I know!).. But tonight we’re down a dirt track by a lake / reservoir. It’s dark, the stars are shining.. and the frogs are croaking – loudly! :)
    Best wishes,
    Keep your stories coming,
    Peter and Elaine

    • Yasha says:

      Hi Peter (& Elaine) – thanks so much for visiting and for your lovely comment. And nice to meet you. Funny – I noticed you had opened our newsletter yesterday and then a short time later I found this comment. It made me curious and I’ve been to your page and checked out what you are up to. You do seem to be enjoying Portugal and you also seem to have waterfront living down to a fine art. I can recommend South America – there is so much here to explore.

  3. David says:

    If you were going to live in South America which country would you choose ?

    • Yasha says:

      Good Question! While we love travelling on this continent, we haven’t found any country we would trade Australia for.

  4. David Henson says:

    You have a great blog. We are thinking of looking at some alternatives to the USA and wonder about Uruguay but wondered if you thought one or the other countries in SA to be an easier adjustment coming from a western English environment ?

    • Yasha says:

      Hello again David. If you’ve visited our archives of the 2006-09 trip as well as checked out our current blog, you will have noticed that we have spent a lot of time in South America and visited most countries. Our opinion is that Uruguay is probably your best bet for what you are planning. It is apparently quite easy to become a resident and has a large ex-pat community. And the Uruguayans are very friendly and hospitable people. You can get just about everything that you are used to in the USA, but it is probably the most expensive country in South America. We’ll be interested to hear what you decide. Please feel free to contact us directly through our contact form if you have any further questions.

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