The Ins and Outs of Overland Touring

Top 5 Overland Touring Frequently Asked Questions & Travel Tips

New Years is a special time. A time to reflect on not only where we’ve been but where we’re headed. To examine what we got right and what we could’ve probably done a little better. Or, if not better, at least, differently.

For us, the list regarding where we’ve been is rather extensive. Almost ten months of a one year trip complete, and I have hardly a clue as to how many kilometres we’ve covered since first arriving into Santiago last March.

But I do know this much: every one of those circuitous, counter-clockwise kilometres (through 8 countries and counting) were accomplished via South American busses.

And as we most recently crossed the Peruvian/Ecuadorian border for wee morning hour border formalities, let’s just say it was all beginning to get a bit old.

Which probably explains why we’ve been more than content to set up camp here in the Montanita area of coastal Ecuador over the Christmas and New Year holidays.

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Home sweet home. Paracas, Peru

And, even more telling, why by southern Peru, I couldn’t help but notice all the intrepid overland touring vehicles and their equally adventurous owners whose orbits we seemed to be increasingly finding ourselves intersecting.

None more so than that of a young 20 something Argentinian couple of Juan and Lucia who are early into their ambitious year and a half journey from Buenas Aires to Alasksa compliments of their small Toyota van.

We’d first met Juan and Lucia (also known by their Instagram feed of Troncos Viajeros) back in Aguas Calientes on the doorsteps of Machu Picchu before other mutual stops in Paracas and Huanchaco, Peru would follow. Meetings that would lead to shared meals and drinks and, eventually for us, an increasing curiosity surrounding their world of overland touring.

An alluring world that seemed to me both carefree and liberating as it was cloaked with what I assumed had to be its own fair amount of stress and uncertainty.

So eventually, my curiosity got the better of me. And something told me, I probably wasn’t alone. As I told Juan and Lucia, there had to be a fairly common theme regarding the questions that they found themselves always answering.

And I was right as apparently there’s five main tip and general information related topics they’ve found themselves forever discussing since first departing Buenos Aires last September.

So, without further ado, I present you this:

The Troncos Viajeros Top 5 Overland Touring Frequently Asked Questions &Travel Tips

Buying your car.

Apparently Chile is the country for doing the deed of picking out your trusty stead. The paperwork

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A long way to go…

issues are much less daunting than doing so in other South American countries and, more importantly, you are allowed to leave the country with your car whereas other countries such as Argentina, for example, do not allow it.

Next, when shopping around for your vehicle, along with the issue of fuel efficiency, seriously consider the issue of spare parts. That said, Juan and Lucia suggest Toyota or Hyundai, two popular makes in South America where spare parts are readily available.

Where to get the information you need?

From finding the best used car to buy before setting out, to issues revolving around vehicle shipping, routing, refuelling, road conditions and safe cheap and, even free, places to park for the night once underway, there is no shortage of big questions for aspiring South American overlanders.

But thanks to the internet, according to Juan and Lucia, it’s never been easier to find the information you need.

Drivetheamericas  and the Pan American Forum are apparently two primary web sites that provide a thorough overview of the ins and outs of overlanding through the Americas.

Once underway, Juan and Lucia suggest the apps Maps.me, Fuelbuddy and IOverlander.

Maps.me, as the name suggests, is your convenient global road atlas. Fuelbuddy is a one stop service for tracking fill ups, services, expenses and milage. And then there is IOverlander which, for all intents and purposes, is the bible of those attempting to get between exotic points A and B with their own automobiles.

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Juan and Lucia and their dream mobile.

It’s a daily updated, global database of information ranging from where to find everything from propane refills to addresses of locals offering property to park for the night and everything in between.  One look at the website and it’s clear, about the only thing IOverlander doesn’t offer access to is heavily armed, ex French Foreign Legion merceneries for personal safety concern issues.

Answering Nature’s Call

While this wasn’t one I had anywhere in my personal top five questions, where to do your business was a hot topic for many others who’d crossed paths with Juan and Lucia. Apparently, the notion of small chemical toilets are as foreign a concept for many South American travellers as is the idea of not being able to flush your TP. About the only thing I found somewhat surprising about these options are their incredibly compact nature (as Juan and Lucia’s Toyota is every bit of small).

But then, once you’ve spent any amount to time in South American toilets, the advantage of being able to drop the kids off at the pool in a box resembling the dimensions of what Shaquille O’Neil’s shoes come in becomes an convenience to truly cherish. Especially, as Lucia was quick to point out, for families travelling with small children.

The Issue of Money

The truth is doing what Juan and Lucia are doing can be incredibly expensive. Especially if you opt for all out luxury in a newer all-terrain 4×4 shipped in from overseas to the popular, convenient port of call of Uraguay.

But Juan and Lucia are here to tell you it doesn’t have to cost the world to fulfil a trip of a lifetime such as theirs.

In fact, with the big purchase of their van out of the way, their monthly budget is less than what free spending millennials wouldn’t blink at dropping for accommodation, food, drinks and tickets for a long weekend music festival.

They do this by optimizing their fuel and utilizing various work exchanges and couch surfing opportunities as well as selling things such as postcards along the way.

No, these guys aren’t stretching out in the overlanding equivalent of the Four Seasons Resort and

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Paracas sunset meeting of the minds.

Spa but, when all is said and done, it’s them who’s on the road and their facial expressions didn’t suggest they were regretting having set out in the first place.

Which brings us to point number five…

Why They’re Doing What They’re Doing and How Did They Work Up the Gumption to Set Out

For me, this was the one that matters the most. Because the truth is, if you offered ten small groups of individuals a tripped out rig and a decent amount of spending money to use for a year on the road, chances are good 8 or 9 would find a plethora of reasons NOT to take advantage of the opportunity.

Societal expectations are strong and Juan and Lucia both admit, they were forced to confront questions surrounding their jobs and careers and what friends and family would think of their grand, ever emerging master plan.

And still they decided to go for it anyway.

They prepared themselves by first setting a departure date. They read blogs of other people and they met up with one or two families doing what they themselves wanted to do.

In doing so they got many of their questions answered. Questions that help put many of their fears to rest.

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No Kaia, you have to stay with us.

Then, came the really hard part. The point of no return. The moment of truth when they’d do the deed and lay out the money for a car. And one in a foreign country next door. It’d be the moment when all the new questions and second round of second guessing reintroduced itself.

Today, that moment and their first few days on the road seems so long ago. Definitely much longer than the four months it’s really been. Four months of, as Lucia is quick to describe as, “simply living each day for the moment.”

She then goes on to talk about how in the end they’ve come to put this ongoing year and a half odyssey into perspective. People, she says, often spend years saving their money for investments. Money maybe for new electronic equipment, a new car or a new house.

In the end the couple just decided that this trip was going to be a gift.

“A gift to ourselves,” says Lucia.

And it’s a sentiment we couldn’t agree with more.

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One Comment

  1. Frank Bua January 8, 2017 Reply

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