On The Road Again

on the road again - here Ruta 23 in Argentina

on the road again – here Ruta 23 in Argentina

On December 19 I left Santiago and was officially ‘on the road’ and since then life has been very different. I want to compare and contrast this life with the 10 previous months living in Santiago .

Views and Vistas

the 'view' from our apartment in the city of Santiago

the ‘view’ from our apartment in the city of Santiago… privacy? none!

view from our camper

the view from our camper on New Years Eve 2014/2015

 

In Santiago I lived in 3 different apartments. The first had a view over the roofs of the city centre, which looked a bit grotty, but also included some attractive older buildings and a view to the mountains. The second, which Juergen and I spent the winter in, had absolutely no view at all as we looked down from the 12th floor to an enclosed parking lot. The third had a cityscape view of the lights of Manquehue at night, and during the day I could get a glimpse of Parque Araucania, and a view to the mountains. None was particularly inspiring. I NEVER get tired of the view out of the camper windows and now I get a view of the mountains as we drive through them. We park in some amazing and varied places. Sometimes our camping places are little better than rubbish dumps, but they are also curiously often the quietest places to sleep. At other times we have discovered amazing places with incredible views. Our favourites almost always include water, whether the ocean, a river or a lake.

Sleeping Well – Light and Noise

The most important thing to me, wherever I am, is that I can sleep well. I love sleep and I don’t function well when I don’t get enough. For the first 3 months in Santiago I lived in an apartment building that was very noisy – music played loud, televisions at full volume, the lift through the wall at the head of my bed, and even a very bad trumpet player trying to perfect his art! The other thing that disturbs me a lot is too much light. In that particular apartment my bedroom window looked out on the windows of the stair well, which had lights on all night. My blinds were totally inadequate to keep it out. I felt like I was sleep deprived for most of the time I was there. The other two places I lived were almost perfect in comparison. But nothing beats a night in the camper where the only noise is maybe from the water of the river, lake or ocean nearby, doing its thing, and no light except the stars. This doesn’t happen all the time. We do have nights disturbed by noise or light, and sometimes both. But the difference is, it’s usually only one night and then we move on. But if we find a perfect sleeping place we have the option to stay and luxuriate in the perfect night’s sleep by repeating it.

Trees – National Parks and City Parks

Santiago de Chile: Parque Araucania

Santiago de Chile: Parque Araucania encroached by modern glass towers

Santiago has many parks and plentiful trees. I enjoyed the autumn colours and later, when the spring came, the buds and flowers. I walked around the city a lot as part of my daily routine as a teacher, going from class to class, and I always appreciated the parks and tree-lined streets. Since leaving Santiago we have spent very little time in cities. We prefer the less-travelled roads and search for interesting places, mostly in nature. In our quest for these places we have visited several national parks. These are often our favourite places since they have concentrations of unusual plants and trees, like the palms of La Campana and the monkey puzzle trees of Nahuelbuta . Or they have other attractions based on landscape and geography, like the incredible waterfalls of Las Siete Tazas (the seven cups).

Smog and Dust

the typical smog layer during sunset in Santiago de Chile

the typical smog layer during sunset in Santiago de Chile

driving 'ripio' - dust cloud instead of smog

driving ‘ripio’ – dust cloud instead of smog

 

One thing that disturbed me deeply, living in Santiago, was the air pollution. The layer of brown smog was obvious, most of the time, and the skies were hardly ever clear blue, even though there was no cloud. Only after heavy rain did we see the clear blue sky, and then for about half a day, if we were lucky. One of my students said to me, on one of these rare days: “It’s like seeing everything in HD!” and I thought that was a very apt comment. I spent most of the winter with a bad cold and a persistent cough, which sometimes seemed to get a little better and then relapsed into something worse which sent me to bed and kept me from my classes. Out on the road we face a different problem. As I have said, we prefer to follow the roads less travelled, and in Chile and Argentina this usually means ‘ripio’ (gravel) or ‘tierra’ (dirt). With either of these comes the inevitable dust. In most places it is so fine that it compares well to the bulldust in outback Australia. Our camper is fairly dust proof, but the truck has lots of gaps for it to get in – dust the dashboard one day and the next day it looks the same. I must say, I prefer to breathe dust than Santiago smog; I prefer to breathe the dust than miss some of the most interesting places; and we often prefer to breathe the dust to paying the huge tolls they expect us to pay on the highways, since they charge us truck rate.

City and Country

on the road in Santiago de Chile

on the road in Santiago de Chile

On a secondary mountain road in Chile

on a secondary mountain road in Chile

the typical 'squeeze' in the Metro of Santiago at rush hour

the typical ‘squeeze’ in the Metro of Santiago at rush hour

fresh clean air in nature, here at Parque Nacional Nahuelbuta

fresh clean air in nature, here at Parque Nacional Nahuelbuta

 

There are many cities in the world that I love – Sydney, Berlin and New York are the top 3 on my list. But they are all ‘nice places to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there’! When I decided to come to South America to teach English, I decided on Chile. I had hoped that I might find a job in one of the regional cities but all the responses I received were from Santiago institutes. So I went to Santiago. Living in Santiago was interesting, annoying, stimulating, noisy, beautiful, dirty, and I could go on… Leaving Santiago was a relief. Even though I had really enjoyed my work and the people I worked with, I don’t miss the crowded buses and subways, the people rushing in the streets, the noise, and the constant light. Since leaving we have spent little time in cities – we tend to avoid them as much as possible. As I write this we are parked by a river in Argentina, somewhere north of Bariloche (which we didn’t visit) and south of Mendoza (which we may also avoid). The only sounds to be heard are the river rushing, the wind blowing and the occasional car on the road above. There is sunshine glistening on the river and moonlight at night. I don’t think I would like to live here either, but for a day or two and then on to the next place, it is as near to perfection as it gets for me.

lovely camping spot at Rio Aluminé in Argentina

our lovely camping spot at Rio Aluminé in Argentina, where I wrote this reflection

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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18 Responses

  1. You love living out of your camper for the exact same reasons we do. We will visit cities but we much prefer to be out in the middle of nowhere with a beautiful view. Right now we are parked with gorgeous views all around us and not a soul in sight!

    Ruth

    • Yasha says:

      Hi Ruth, sorry not to have replied and posted sooner – Juergen discovered your post in our spam yesterday, but better late than never! I can see you understand the pure pleasure of always having your house with you, wherever you go. “gorgeous views… and not a soul in sight” – sure sounds perfect to me.

  2. I’ve traveled all over Chile and enjoyed your adventures in this interesting land. Have you been to these places?, http://travelswithcarole.blogspot.com/search/label/Chile

    • Yasha says:

      Thanks for your comment Carole. We haven’t gone so far south this time (to Puerto Natales and Punta Arenas) because we did that on our last trip to South America in 2008-09. If you are interested in comparing our experiences with yours you can find it here:
      http://www.dare2go.com/SouthAmerica2/patagonia02-1.shtml
      Driving the Carretera Austral was also a particularly favourite experience of ours.
      Yes, Chile is indeed an interesting land.

  3. Sounds like you are so well-suited to the camper life~ It’s great that you’ve found a way to travel that you love.

    • Yasha says:

      From the beginning of our last trip I fell in love with the idea of having my bed, kitchen, bathroom and so on available to me at all times. It is really the way to go, in my opinion. And you get to go places that are often not possible without your own vehicle.

  4. Susan Moore says:

    I can so relate to you on the sleep issue – light and noise spoil a good sleep. For the light factor I have gone to the supermarket to buy tinfoil and masking tape – cover up that window so I can catch some zzzz’s. The noise factor I always like to turn on a fan for white noise – not always possible though.

    It’s good to experience city life and get out and enjoy nature especially when visiting another country, it gives you a more rounded experience of the place and the people. Glad you enjoyed your teaching experience.

    Happy travels!

    • Yasha says:

      Hi Susan, I bought an eye mask which helped, although I often wake up and find I’ve taken it off in my sleep. In our camper we have a great exhaust fan that runs very quietly and provides a good cover when we are sleeping in a noisy place.
      Lots of luck to you on your new adventure into the nomadic life.

  5. Compare and contrast! I think you have the better deal now. The view of Rio Aluminé is absolutely stunning. I think I’d want to hang out there a long, long time. Peace Like a River, so apt.

    • Yasha says:

      You are so right, Betsy. There is nothing quite so peaceful as hanging out by a river. Unfortunately we had to keep moving because we need to be in Santiago by the end of February to pick up a new passport for Juergen at the Australian embassy. But after that… no deadlines. Hopefully there are more peaceful rivers waiting for us.

  6. As long term travelers ourselves we’re always very interested to read stories of other couple’s travels and their lifestyles. Looks like there’s no comparison between life in the city and life on the road in your camper van. Your photos illustrate the pros and cons!

    • Yasha says:

      I did actually like my life in Santiago – teaching English is something I love – but there is no contest when it comes to where I’d rather be!

  7. Donna Janke says:

    It sounds as if you are pretty happy to be on the less-travelled roads again. Seeing the picture of your camping spot at Rio Aluminé I can understand why.

    • Yasha says:

      It is great and spots like that particular one are magic. But I have to be realistic – sometimes I need to stop and work! But that’s not all bad – I do love teaching English, too.

  8. I enjoyed your comparison of your two modes of living. I too would rather have a view out of a camper window rather than a high rise overlooking a parking lot! That photo of the towering mountain alone is reason enough to leave the city behind

    • Yasha says:

      I think I’m perhaps a natural nomad! I love a new view every few days, although it is nice to stop in one place for a while, but not too long.

  9. That is interesting that you would NOT want to live in your top 3 cities. Santiago and Chile look like fun places.

    • Yasha says:

      The thing is, Charles, that I don’t really like making my life in a city. But I do love to spend time in them. We lived just outside Berlin for most of 2013 building our ‘casa rodante’, and having Berlin just a short train trip or car ride away was wonderful.

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