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