When we planned this adventure we decided that in general we were going to drive south, we’d stick to the west coast to take advantage of both mountains and beaches, and we’d definitely spend some time in Patagonia, but we never specifically had a destination. Our intention was to enjoy the journey and not focus on the destination. However, we knew that technically the southern end of the Pan-American Highway is in Ushuaia, Argentina, and that Tierra del Fuego was beautiful, so we had in the back of our minds that it would be awesome to go all the way to the end of the road. At one point we weren’t sure we’d make it that far south. The endless washboard roads have been taking their toll on the van and on our nerves and we considered just stopping somewhere nice to hang out for a while instead of pushing further south. But we kept moving on. When we finally pulled into Ushuaia, just five days shy of one year on the road, a fiercely cold wind was blowing the rain sideways and the world was gray, but we couldn’t stop grinning from ear to ear. We had made it all the way south. And it was a fantastic journey.
Bolivia was a country we knew almost nothing about before we entered, but it turned out to be spectacular. The scenery astounded us at every turn. The laid back beach town of Copacabana on the shore of Lago Titicaca, the interestingly-located and bustling city of La Paz, the deceptive white expanse of the largest salt flat in the world, and the brilliantly-colored lakes teeming with flamingos in the mountains of the southwest absolutely blew us away. Although we spent only about two weeks in Bolivia, we left with hundreds of amazing photos and a sense of awe from the incredible scenery of the altiplano.
Although Ecuador is small, as far as South American countries go, we still filled up a full month of exploration and enjoyment in this great country. We camped on the side of massive snow-capped volcanoes, strolled the historic streets of the capital city, played disc golf through a field of horny llamas at over 11,000′, hiked down to touch the frigid turquoise waters of a crater lake at high elevation, soaked our weary bones in scalding hot springs, hiked lush jungle trails, adopted another dog for a week while we boondock camped on the beach and surfed the perfect waves, and climbed impressive granite walls along shelves of agave and orchids while cows grazed around the van.
Our first visitor and good friend, Elizabeth, was Chimera’s saving grace. Within only a few days of her arrival in Bogotá we were back on the road and headed off on more adventures. We drove straight to the charming town of Villa de Leyva, where we enjoyed some leisurely hikes and an amazing market. Then we hit up the Zona Cafetera, the gorgeous coffee region, where we indulged in the locally grown, freshly roasted beans, showered in waterfalls and swam in hot springs, hiked through a fantasy land of wax palms, and made explosions.