March 31, 2015
It’s been two years since we left Houston, Texas. We’ve been back in the USA for four days. We’re still getting used to the idea of being back in our home country. After being outside the US for nearly a year and a half, we’re experiencing an element of culture shock as we view our own culture through a changed lens. We anticipate our reentry will be a process.
While we have profound appreciation for the things that we previously took for granted (the list is long, but right now my favorite is on-demand hot water from any faucet in the house), we’re questioning things that we previously accepted as normal (i.e. the nanny state, there are a lot of rules here that seem unnecessary). No doubt we will experience challenges as we adjust to life-in-one-place in the States while we plan our next adventure.
For now, let’s take a trip down memory lane and reminisce about where we were in the second year of our journey. We celebrated our first road anniversary in Costa Rica, during a visit with my Mom. Click here for a refresher on our first year of travel. In year two, we covered 9500 miles in eight countries (Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina).
After my Mom’s visit, we made a beeline for Panama as we were eager to get to Colombia and out of the oppressive Central American heat. No visit to Panama would be complete though without a stop at the Panama Canal. After working out the logistics of crossing the Darién Gap, we were in South America. Unfortunately the heat and humidity followed us, so we decided to head for the hills and by the end of the month we had our first introduction to the Andes mountains.
We spent May highly caffeinated as we took full advantage of the availability of good Colombian coffee. Despite having 11000 miles under our wheels, we spent the first weeks getting our butts kicked by the Andes mountains. Between the grade of the roads and altitude, they made it clear that making it to Ushuaia was not going to be a cakewalk. This was the first time we were traveling around 10000 feet of elevation. Little did we know how low this would seem in retrospect once we entered Peru and Bolivia! But even with the more challenging riding, we were loving the mountain scenery.
A visit to the Galápagos Islands had always been a dream of ours. We took a 7-night cruise on a catamaran touring the volcanic islands, learning about their geologic history and the incredible evolutionary adaptations of the isolated animals that live there.
The Galápagos in motion, a WanderWheels production:
By July we had officially fallen in love with Ecuador. A small country with remarkable diversity, from the Amazon to the Andes to the sweeping beaches of its coastline. The kindheartedness of its people make it easy to dream about returning to Ecuador to live.
August found us deep in the Peruvian Andes, among Quechua-speaking descendants of the Inca and 2000 year old ruins, tackling the Cordillera Blanca with altitudes over 16000 feet, and all while running from vicious dogs.
We came out of the mountains in September and down to the Peruvian coast, which challenged us in new ways with wind, sandstorms, and mind-numbing desolation of the pampa. The highlight of our time on the pampa was the aerial tour of the Nazca Lines, 2000 year old designs of figures and shapes etched into the surface of the desert.
We hit our 15000 mile mark while in Peru. And then, after a year and a half out on the road, we went home in October for a 3-week visit. It was wonderful to see friends and family and we returned to South America refreshed, recharged, and ready to hit the road.
We felt like we were on top of the world as we climbed into Bolivia, up on the Altiplano. We spent most of the month at altitudes between 11000-16000 feet. The austere landscape seemed not of this world. Bolivia challenged us with extremes; heat, cold, wind, lack of water, and remoteness, which made for some pretty harsh conditions. But riding across the Coipasa and Uyuni salt flats were some of the most memorable experiences of this trip.
In December we rolled out of Bolivia and down to Argentina, where we celebrated Christmas and New Years. We embraced the wine and asado culture of Argentina, which helped pass the days on the (at times) frustratingly boring and windy Ruta 40.
We spent most of January sweating it out in the Patagonian steppe, Argentina’s largest desert. But by the end of the month, our efforts paid off when we made it to the Patagonia Lake District near Bariloche. This was just the beginning of the mind-blowing scenery of Patagonia.
February was packed with some of the most beautiful scenery on this trip as we rode through Patagonia on the Carretera Austral and then on to Mount Fitz Roy and Torres del Paine National Park. We lost ourselves in the dramatic mountain landscape, with glacial-clad peaks, thundering waterfalls, and stunning turquoise rivers.
In March, we left the South American mainland for the island of Tierra del Fuego. We prevailed through the legendary Fuegan winds and on March 10th we reached Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost city in the world and the end of the road. We spent the rest of the month making our way back north to Santiago, Chile by bus and a spectacular 4-day cruise through the islands of southern Chile.
Two years and 20,000 miles separate the two photos below. When I think about how much we’ve seen and experienced, and what we’ve learned about the world, about ourselves and about each other, it’s almost overwhelming. We never could have imagined the intoxicating beauty we’d find in nature, the breadth of kindness that would be bestowed on us, or the friendships we would make along the way. It has been an incredible journey, a wild ride.
If you were along for the ride, please sign our guestbook post. We’d love to hear from you!
The most frequent question we’ve been asked since finishing is, What’s next? The short answer is we don’t know. We have lots of ideas but no solid plan yet. For now, we have some catching up to do with friends and family. But we’re sure it won’t take long before our wanderlust gets the best of us. Some just have to chase the sun.