The Benson family

In the month or so that we’ve been travelling we’ve met a series of very interesting people.

One that got us thinking the most is the Benson family. We met the Bensons at the end of a 1,5hr hike in Queulat. We had spent a good half hour at the top admiring the glacier, eating copious amounts of cookies and waiting for the light to change so as to take THE picture of the glacier when the Benson family strolled in. 

A family of five, with three boys, there was just something about them. We first bonded over cameras and had the obligatory chat about how long we’ve been travelling, where we are heading to next and exchanged tips on places to go to / avoid. 

And then we ventured into unchartered waters. “Why did you decide to travel?”, a very non-British question from Andy. 

The Bensons have three boys between the  ages of 16 and 10 (I am guessing here – our questioning was not that detailed. In any event they are a quiet, very well behaved and social-media savvy bunch). Dwayne and Rebecca were very open with their life journey and we wish we could have grabbed a beer / dinner  with them. 

Dwayne had always wanted to be a firefighter, his father is one and he could not think of being anything else when growing up. At the age of 17 he prayed and consulted with God about his future. Dwayne says that God asked him if he would give up his dream for Him and he could not come up with a comprehensive answer. So Dwayne became a pastor; settled a church outside Santa Barbara in California, worked a lot with youth programmes but eventually had to move back in with his parents (and his growing family) as the life of a pastor is not lucrative. Dwayne continued to pray and in his early 30s sat his exams and joined the San Antonio (TX) firefighters with God’s blessing. 

Dwayne accumulated all his holidays from 2016 and the family started their long trip down Central and then South America at the beginning of the summer. He still works and flies back to Texas for an couple of weeks every 3 weeks to cover his shifts. Rebecca and the kids stay back, the kids are still in school; Noah (the oldest) seems to have quite a bit of homework to do. Whilst they are heading back for Xmas to see family they intend to travel for another 6months or so in 2017, probably around South East Asia. 

We left the Bensons at the top of the hike, looking at the glacier. On the hour-long hike down, Andy and I talked a lot about faith vs intuition and how we come up with excuses for not doing things. Does praying to God feel the same as a long solitary walk when you think about your problems and come up with a plan? Does believing into something bigger than you bring with it hope that things will be ok? That someone out there is looking after you? 

Huge thank you to Dwayne and Rebecca for their candour. We follow their adventures here: and their Instagram account (kudos for an awesome site name 🙂 ). 

Salgado, Tompkins and life

Yes my friends. This is an existentialist post which one would usually expect from Andy. But here I am wanting to talk about the lives of Sebastiano Salgado and Douglas Thompkins. And soap.

About a year ago now, Andy and I went to see “the salt of the earth“. A movie which was highly recommended to me by my Dad and Deppy who are keen cinema goers. The movie by Wim Wenders, a favourite, chronicles the life of Salgado the illustrious Brazilian photographer who after a couple of years of working as an economist for Breton Woods institutions picked up his camera to tell stories about people and nature. His photos are mesmerising, mostly shot in black and white. His work focused on the impact of industrialisation on people as well as nature before he turned to document the Rwanda genocide. In the film he talks at length about the impact that those trips to Africa had on him and his disappointment in the human race. So much so that he gave up photography to return to his native village only to find it deserted; the deforestation of the Amazon had destroyed the local economy. Undeterred, he and his wife set up Instituto Terra, a foundation focused at replanting the rainforest with local species he and his wife are growing.

Now on to Douglas Tompkins; Founder and CEO of North Face who died last year. A keen environmentalist and conversationalist, Douglas bought 3,000sq km (yes… kilometres) of temperate rainforest in Northern Patagonia and set up Parque Pumalin in an effort to preserve the forrest. It is one of the largest private parks in the world, home to the now active Volcano Chaiten, a glacier and a 4,000 old forest. The Parque is open to the public with a handful of camping sites and marked walks. It’s unbelievably well looked after, you can tell that immense thought and care has gone into setting up and managing the site; it’s a Disneyland for outdoorsy people.

When planning the trip we enquired about working in Salgado’s forest. Unfortunately they don’t welcome unskilled volunteer labour. We have however spent the last couple of days in Parque Pumalin.

Which brings me on to soap. And the question of what am I doing to make the slightest positive mark in the world. Because selling soap (what I’ve been mostly doing for the last couple of years) is not really making a difference in the grande scheme of things…

If you haven’t seen it, do check out “the salt of the earth”. And have a look at the Pumalin website.

Adjusting to life on the road

When we decided to travel around South America for 6 months many were surprised that I’d signed up to camping for most it. How does the girl with the pristine Notting Hill flat and the sizeable shoe and bags collection adjust to nomadic life?

The answer is “relatively easily”. It’s not the shoe collection or the outfits that I miss (though a pair of thermal leggings would be nice). The things that, two weeks in, I am adjusting with are a lot more subtle and complicated.

An alternative working title to this post could be “the princess diaries”. I am well aware that these posts might come across as moaning – it’s a great privilege to be able to take the time off and I don’t take it for granted. But I would not be doing this experience or this blog justice if I pretended everything is rosy; besides that’s what Instagram is for :). 

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Settling in

First proper night in South America. I say ‘proper night’ because on our first night we got into our Lima hotel in a jet-lagged induced daze and then last night we only got into our tiny AirBnB apartment at midnight (still in aforementioned daze) and spent the first 30′ trying to figure out how to silence the alarm.

This morning, after a good night’s sleep we took a leisurely walk down Av Santa Isabella to go find the young Aussie couple whom we bought the car from. Yes we bought a car. More details on how to buy a car and pictures of the car coming soon.

Suffice to say that it took us all day to find a mechanic, have the car checked, negotiate with the mechanic in broken spanish on which of the long list of repairs (totalling £2,000) we would actually go ahead with, patiently wait in a nearby cafe for the agreed-to fixes to take place, and then find a place to safely park our new prized possession. But alas it’s all done, we are the proud owners of a green 4×4 which is surprisingly clean and well maintained given that in the last 4 months it has been driven through Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, down Argentina and then over to Chile again. Name for the car is still TBC – I am sure separate post with full details of its christening ceremony will follow.

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Andy says: On leaving London

One last trip through London town on a cold November evening. The condensation of the bus windows gives dazzling bokeh to the bright lights of this global capital. Slowly we shunt through the traffic, watching the panic buying trinket seekers, satisfying Christmas consumer demands. Crowds of people eager not to miss out.

Now, now we’re off. And I’m mid way through rare beef fillet and a  good way down a fine chateauneuf du pape, mid Atlantic on the BA2239 to Peru.

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