I get a lot of curiosity in travelling the world and no more so than my most recent travels. Here's the most common questions I have been asked on this adventure:
1.So…South America, dodgy as hell? Get mugged? Amazingly no, and try not to sound so xenophobic, jeeeeezzz!! Despite previous encounters with any Latin countries usually resulting in a missing wallet or at least something being stolen (oh my aching heart, those wonderful Latino ladies!) in the entire trip nothing got stolen apart from where it shouldn’t have! In Guatemala they broke a headlight, my radiator and my handbrake and they stole some tools. Why shouldn’t it have got stolen and who ae ‘they’? Because I shipped the car in a shipping container which is more secure, but when the stevedores and shipping staff pulled the vehicle out of the container without me being present (something I wasn’t happy about) they then went to town.
2.What about danger? Gun in the face? Lots and lots and lots of people have big guns. No, that's not a euphemism. Big ass shotguns slung over the shoulder is the way to go in South and Central America. But every one of the carriers was extremely polite and none of them threatened to shoot me. I consider every day that I don’t get shot at or threatened to get shot at ‘a good day’
3.So you were never in danger? Well no, apart from when I locked myself out in Bolivia Salt Flats about 70km from civilisation . . . and having to stay in the drug-running border-region of Guatemala and Mexico where I was shitting myself with the prospect of being used as some kind of mule. And that time in Belize where I probably should have gone to hospital with food poisoning (from Guatemala), so literally shitting myself.
4.Bribery? Yeah it happens, it’s just something that occurs as part of the culture. But look at it this way – you have more money than they ever will have, and they do a job with very low income if any income at all. Of course they’re going to try and earn some dollars. $5 or $20 means nothing to you, but it can mean a huge amount to them. However, as soon as you do start paying them, they’ll continue to hit up foreigners every time they see them, making life more difficult, stressful and turning foreigners away. Not to mention that they may phone their friend 50km down the road who will stop you again for the same bribe. The best you can do is negotiate or not pay. In the entire trip, we paid 5 Bolivars, which is about $1 US. Despite travelling solo for most of the trip, my friend joining me for a few weeks relented to bribe a military checkpoint at some late-night Bolivian border crossing. I think in total there were about five times we were stopped and asked for cash by police or military, but have three things on your side which will do you well:
5.Best bits? I adore landscapes and animals, so if you like birds, guanacos, llamas, foxes, orcas, monkeys, seals, penguins, jackals and caiman, then you’ll love South America! As for the landscapes, I’ve generally not seen as many beautiful landscapes as that of Chile and Bolivia. Simply stunning. If you’ve ever been to New Zealand, one of the most incredibly pretty countries I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting, then Chile is very similar: glaciers; snowy mountains; turquoise lakes.
6.Worst bits I meet so many people and read so many posts where people complain of being overcharged by a few dollars or hate that no one speaks English. When I’m travelling I realise that 99% of the world will never experience what I’m doing, so armed with that perspective it’s very hard to wish to be anywhere else. But in saying that, Guatemala and entering Mexico were a pain in the arse. Also, I had planned on shipping to Nicaragua and driving through there which would have avoided me a lot of the hassle of dealing with Guatemalans, and yet their country fell to shit as I was nearing. Am just thankful I wasn’t there at the time.
I have a tonne of others, will post them as I collate them. Hope that helps!
The blog will be a record of everything - from idea conception to old age in making this adventure happen
You can find the excellent 2006 Antipodean Adventure blog by Dwyer Rooney here