Light Enough to Travel

OVER the past few years, this blog has developed one or two traditions – the end of year music lists, the new year state of the nation post and any number of good intentions and plans to write more regularly going out of the window.

Certainly things have been quieter than planned since the latest new year missive, partly due to a lack of time and partly due to a couple of A-Z iPod Challenge posts being scrapped or overhauled due to being overtaken by events (another one is on its way, just not on what was planned – it might even be about music. Well, sort of).

Signed off the new year post by promising there would be more regular posts, particularly on travel and overlanding and have been itching to keep that promise and reveal just why that vow could be made so confidently.

This post has been lurking in the wings for even longer, just needed to sort a few things out first before revealing some news. The last of which was handing in my notice at work.

And later this year, that promise will be kept. From out on the roads, mountains, cities, jungles, beaches, wilderness and whatever else we can find in South America over the course of 31 weeks.

Going back for more… the last day on the truck in Africa

Having returned from 10 months in Africa in 2015, my initial assessment was that my days of epic, long trips were behind me. Instead, the travelling was going to be short and often.

Ah well, all plans are there to be changed – have failed to live up to the little and often plan, so why not abandon the no more long adventures idea as well?

That idea was floated on the back of 10 months overlanding around Africa, so maybe there is a bit of an excuse for some weariness with such large scale travel. Reckon that lasted six months – by the time we met up for our first trip reunion just over a year after our return, most of us were admitting we would happily do it all over again.

And when a smaller bunch of us assembled in Nice just over a year ago, the idea of doing another trip was met with pretty much universal agreement. Just not the one which has tempted me back on the road.

The initial plan from three of us was to head out on an overland trip from London to Singapore through the Stans with Oasis, the same company which carried us around Africa on one of its trademark yellow trucks.

In the end , none of us are doing that – one plans to travel on her own, another headed to West Africa yesterday for an overland trip through part of the continent we were forced to go round due to ebola.

And me? For a long time, that trip to Singapore (now starting in Istanbul) was top of my list and a few months ago it was my likeliest destination – followed by heading down to Australia and New Zealand – and would have had me leaving next month. Was within days of booking.

But then something in the back of my mind planted the idea of South America as an option.

It was a tight call. Spoke to people who had completed both trips – as both passenger and driver – who all came down very much on the fence, finding it hard to pick between them.

In the end, having studied the itineraries, it came down to one crucial factor – there were more things on the South America trip which really grabbed me. More potential wow moments.

And so the trip is booked, the lists of things to do are drawn up (and have been redrawn several times) and even managed to make inroads into key things on the Africa prep list which never really got touched – lose weight and get fit.

The weight loss was, originally, far more for health purposes but the target from very early on has not been a certain weight but a size and state of fitness to tackle the rigours of the trip, especially with a less than perfect record of coping at altitude.

My weight loss has been documented elsewhere on this blog and is ongoing – although frustratingly slowly in the last couple of months – while the fitness is making strides in the gym with three weeks under my belt on a Couch to 5K programme (slightly derailed this week by a back problem).

So what lies ahead of a fitter, slimline me?

It is a way off yet. At work until the end of August before heading to the Ecuadorian capital Quito in September, possibly via a few days in the US, which is the start and finish of a circle around the continent which finishes next April.

From Quito we head south along the Andes and Machu Picchu – to trek the Inca Trail or take the train is the first major decision – and on to Bolivia and the salt flats of Uyuni.

Oasis Overland Trans South America

The journey south bounces between Chile and Argentina as we head through Patagonia as far as the world’s most southerly town Ushuaia before turning back north and a few days in Buenos Aires, the Iguazu Falls and into Brazil – our home for, well, ages. Such is the size of the country.

There’s new year in Rio, the Amazon, beaches and an awful lot more to take in before we head through French Guiana, Suriname, Guyana, some more of Brazil, Venezuela (we’ll keep an eye on that one), Columbia and, finally, back to Ecuador and Quito.

And we will do all that on board a big yellow truck with a mixture of camping – often wherever we can find, something which we approached with trepidation before embracing as a trip highlight in Africa – and hostels or hotels.

There’s plenty to be done between now and then, the first jobs on the to-do list are being ticked off and will keep you updated in the coming months and out on the road.

Should be fun.

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