Almost 48hours back in London. Second day in the office.
We landed on Monday in a cloud of typical London rain and low hanging grey clouds; we had not seen rain in 5 weeks. When not sleeping on the flight I kept thinking about our trip; the good, the bad and the ugly. Before I forget here’s my attempt to summarise key points.
Best place we woke up at
A deserted beach with no name by Lake Titikaka. We were woken up by the sound of the fishing boat’s engine as he was taking his boat out to pick up the net he’d laid out the night before. The stillness and quietness of the morning and the vastness of the lake.
Worst place we woke up at
Without a doubt a construction site behind a petrol station (it keeps getting better) at about 4200m as we were crossing the Andes going from Cusco to Arica. It had not stopped raining all night and I REALLY needed to use the bathroom.
Best food we ate
The asado Andy made in San Juan (Argentina). We bought the meat at the local village were we patiently waited for the shops to open at 6.30pm after their siesta. Andy handled all the discussions with the local butcher and cooked the meat at the grill provided at the camping ground on the foot of the national observatory.
Also not to be forgotten is our impromptu 5 course lunch at the Septima vineyard.
Worst food we ate
Tough call. The curanto at Chiloe definitely makes the list of top three. The banana and tuna lunch Andy made for a post surfing session would also make the list had i eaten it but still deserves a notable mention here. Other than that there’s been a lot of instant noodles and Knorr soups consumed as well as plain half boiled pasta. Once again all the things you never see on social media but definitely happen behind the scenes.
Needless to say there are no pictures for these 🙂
The books I read. The time I had to really read them, think about them and fully digest their meaning. The 100 year life weighs heavy on my mind now. If I have to work until I am 70-80 what would I want that life to look like? Where would I live it and who would I want around? If I live to 100 years that 65 more years on this planet. That’s a long time to spend doing something that you kind-of like and surrounding yourself with people that you kind-of get along with. I now know that I am an ambivert (yes that’s a word) and that I need to build safeguards so that my extroverted nature does not take over, that I need to save some of my energy for my weekends and the people I love.
Sleeping in a small bed and ‘surviving’ on a suitcase’s worth of clothes. I came back to find a box of exercise gear at home. A whole box. I spent 6 months with only a pair of leggings, a pair of shorts, a couple of t-shirts and sports bras. Why do I need all this stuff? I am looking forward to going shopping in my closet and not buying anything for a while (I reserve the right to change my mind the moment I walk past Zara).
The calmness. Over the last couple of weeks as the return day got closer and closer I got more and more stressed. My list of things to do in London got longer and longer. From minor things (cancelling Sky subscription and going to the dentist) to more complicated stuff (eg how on earth will we fit all of our possessions in NH); the weight of London life at times feels unbearable. Life can be a lot simpler and I need to remember that.
Andy’s excitement for photography, his unbelievable patience (with me and when it comes to waiting for weather conditions to change) and relentless pursuit for deliberate practice when learning something new.
Almost two months into this trip and there’s a lot I have learned. Thought I’d write down tips and advice learned the hard way when I chose to leave my pristine Notting Hill flat and sizeable shoe collection behind and travel around South America in a van with an anosmic.
Keeping everything clean
Turns out the dad in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” was right. Windex does cure everything. So stock up on gel soap and make up remover wipes. Not because you will be wearing make up but because you can use said wipes to clean everything. I have recently used them to clean
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.
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 :).
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.