It's a Wild Life! – Doing Easy Things the Hard Way
Already more than one month in Colombia; time flies when we search for monkeys. Well… not always. You might remember from an earlier blog that we get a bit nervous if it takes a lot of time to find a primate species. But, after 1.5 months in Colombia we already found 20 out of the 46 monkey species. Besides the monkeys, we found our 2000th bird species of our world travel. Pretty cool right? :)
Not only searching for monkeys made us a bit nervous. Also going to Colombia made us a bit nervous. Colombia has a bit of a bad reputation and we all know the stories about how dangerous it was and can be. Therefore we are extra careful. But as soon as we visited the first location we felt in love with this country. The people are extremely kind and always offer us a cup of ‘tinto’; Colombian coffee:). Besides, they also are very helpful. They love to help you. When I asked for a product in a store that they didn't have, another customer walked along to another store far away where they might have the product. In other countries they would laugh about the question. Most often they sent us in the wrong direction because they just gave a quick answer. To give an example: we want to buy waterproof spray to make our jackets and shoes waterproof again. In Ecuador they recommended us to go to a hardware store, the supermarket and even the pharmacy. Of course nobody had the product and pointed towards the ponchos. This search for a waterproof spray is just one of the many examples about how simple things go easy back home and how difficult they can be abroad. Back home you know which store you need to go to, or you simply order it online and you are done in a second.
Another example is doing grocery shopping. We travel on a budget and therefore we want to know the prices before we buy it. In Argentina they didn't have prices on the products. Probably, because of the instability of their currency (and fast changing prices). So we had to ask all the time what the price was and then calculate it to euros to see if we found the product worth the price. In Bolivia there are only big supermarkets in the big cities with cheaper products or normal product sizes. As we are often not in cities we had to go to multiple small local shops to collect all the ingredients for a normal meal. And most of the local stores in the Andes only have potatoes, tomatoes and onions, so you can forget about a healthy variety of vegetables^^ And if we finally found a store or product we liked, we moved on to the next place and had to find everything out all over again!;-)
Many people we speak think we are living one big holiday all the time. But during our holidays we make a route, plan the hotel in advance and arrange most things up front. We rent a car and at the end we return it and go back home. We thought our travel was going to be more like this, but it is not. Don't get us wrong, we experience the holiday feeling a lot of times and we enjoy ourselves a lot! But: travelling the way we do can be challenging, even in the simple things as doing grocery shopping or going to a garage with our car.
About the latter, we love our car Forrest, but we don't like it when he needs maintenance. Back home you go to your own trusted garage in town and they know your car and you trust them that they will do only the necessary maintenance. That’s it quite different from here! During our travel we need to search for a reliable garage every ±10.000km. Toyota 4Runners are not a common car in many of the countries we go to (and is often not even sold there). Therefore they don't always have the spare parts or know the car, which takes more time to figure everything out. We try to go to official Toyota garages, but those aren't always available or only work for clients who bought their car there. So often we end up at garages that others recommended, often just a small workshop where they work on your car on the side of the street. During maintenance we have to question everything they do, as they want to change everything for new parts or use old parts which does more damage than good (that’s how we already had to change our battery and had to replace our shock absorber after two different ‘garage services’).
Luckily, there are also many things that are easier abroad. For example: it often seems that there are no driving rules. Well maybe there are still rules, but nobody follows them. Do you want to stop on the side of a highway? Yes you can. Do you want to pass another car right or left? You choose your way. You make an obvious error? No problem, nobody noticed. Just honk like you knew what you were doing. Sometimes, rarely though, there are policemen who do want you to stick to the rules. We got stopped a couple of weeks back and the policeman wanted to fine us for crossing a double line while overtaking a very very slow truck on a very open and clearly visible part of the road. But in that moment we suddenly only speak 3 words of Spanish, and that seemed to do the trick. Another thing that is way easier while travelling this way is wild camping. Most nights we camp in the wild, and it’s often not hard to find a spot. Nobody cares if you want to sleep in your car parked in a random spot. Another thing that we found strange, but definitely take advantage of every now and then: have a cheap dinner in a restaurant. Many low-end restaurants are fine by you bringing your own drinks. They often don’t even have the drink you want to order and it seems that they are happy they don’t have to search for that themselves. A win-win we would say!
But even though we thought our journey would be more like a holiday, we are glad that it isn’t. You definitely learn a lot about being flexible, arranging things on your own, being out of your comfort zone and just doing it. Besides, it’s the best way to really get to know the local culture, Spanish and even a thing or two about cars ;)