To avoid the hurricane season in the South Pacific, we make a Plan B. We leave Luci behind to explore more of South America by bus with our backpacks.

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Puerto Montt (CHL) – Copacabana (BOL)

“Check out the sun and blue sea,” Floris says, looking at stunning pictures from fellow sailors. They left Puerto Williams with us, but crossed the channels in half the time and are now in French Polynesia. “They are on our original schedule to reach New Zealand before the South Pacific hurricane season,” Floris continues. “Well, these islands will still be there next season,” Ivar replies. “We may have missed this year’s Pacific season by choosing to sail as much as possible through Patagonia, but now have time to execute Plan B!

Blogs, Vlogs and Website

Plan B means South America! But first we need to catch up on the digital front. While Ivar writes new blogs and edits videos, Floris takes a deep-dive into wordpress to update our website and give it a fresh, new look. Before we know it, we’re on our laptops every day. “I’m not sure I like our new lifestyle,” Floris sighs. “It feels like we’re back in the office.”

We spend our days brainstorming, building templates, converting content and testing changes in the “staging site”. Short trips to town for groceries and firewood provide welcome breaks to our daily routine. Fortunately, the weather doesn’t’ tempt us to go outside: it’s cold and wet, consistently. Three weeks later, the new website finally goes “live”. Curious? Check it out at: https://sailorsforsustainability.nl

Buses and Backpacks 

Having refreshed our digital presence, we can execute plan B and explore more of this continent. On the way we also want to discover inspiring sustainable solutions that we can’t reach by boat. As trains are as good as absent here, we decide to travel by bus to minimize our COfootprint, despite the long distances and travel times compared to flying. “We’ll also save money and see more of the countryside,” Floris smiles. It feels a bit awkward to leave Lucipara 2 behind, but harbourmaster Rodrigo and our friend Willy from SY Pazzo promise to keep an eye on her. Also, the pontoons are firmly constructed, there’s 24/7 security and the marina is sheltered. Enough to convince Ivar that it is safe to leave Luci alone.

Still, changing from life on our own boat to one on buses and with backpacks is easier said than done. Until the last minute, we are busy ticking off items on our to-do list, including cleaning out the fridge, taking down our flag and stuffing things in our backpack. It all takes longer than planned, so the only reason we still catch our long-distance bus to Argentina is the light Sunday morning traffic, through which the minibus to the bus station rushes in no-time.

Bariloche and Beyond

“I can get used to this,” Ivar says while sipping from a coffee the bus steward just brought. Sat in comfy seats, green hills and forests flash by against a background of snow-capped mountains, at a speed that we haven’t experienced in a long time. Closer to Bariloche, our first destination, lakes dominate the landscape and the sun begins to shine. What a warm welcome back to Argentina!

We arrive in Bariloche, a resort that is popular for hiking in summer and skiing in winter. It’s in-between the peak seasons, so we don’t see many other ‘gringos’, foreign tourists, but during a hike at the nearby lakes we meet Belgian couple Tim and Jorunn. With them we enjoy the area’s splendid natural surroundings, as well as some of the bar scene.

A few days later we bus our way north through Argentina. Remarkably soon after leaving the lakes region the blue and green landscape turns dry and barren. In-between our stopovers in Mendoza, La Rioja and Salta we come across out-of-this-world landscapes. The enormous Andes mountain range impresses us, especially the Aconcagua. With its 6,962 meters it is the world’s highest peak outside the Himalaya, yet it doesn’t even stand out next to the other mountain peaks. Further north, in the Talampaya National Park, the elements have sculptured the most curious rock formations over eons of time. We feel tiny next to the steep, bright orange rocks that rise like cathedral walls from the desert.

As we approach the border with Bolivia we see more descendants of indigenous people and traces of the ancient Inca culture in the way their culture and dresses. We also feel out of shape. Even small hikes exhaust us. It’s a sign that we’re not yet adjusted to life at altitudes of more than 3,000 meters.

Beautiful Bolivia 

Even without the border crossing, the change of country is obvious by the people and dress codes. Almost everyone in Bolivia seems to have indigenous ancestors, and many women around us wear colourful textiles and bowler hats. Life on the street has a laid-back feel, which we notice in particular when no-one but us worries about our bus to Uyuni not arriving. An hour after our scheduled departure, we find ourselves in a cramped minivan to the next town, where an out-dated long-distance bus is waiting for us. As if the locals knew, we still get to Uyuni without much delay.

The town itself is underwhelming, scarred by years of rapid expansion. But we didn’t come for the architecture. We go on a tour of the world-famous salt flats just outside of town. Their whiteness, saltiness, and size are out of this world. So we are not surprised when our guide Nilser tells us that scenes of the latest Star Wars movie were shot here. The tour continues deep into the national park with its diverse and breath-taking landscapes of volcanoes, lagoons, and geysers, as well as countless vicuñas, flamingos, foxes and other wildlife.

Bringing the Ecosystem Back

Next on our itinerary is the old Bolivian capital of Sucre, a town with a distinct colonial centre. Its white, stylish buildings and green squares are a stark contrast to the surrounding brown and dry hills, many of which are overtaken by urban sprawl. An hour’s drive away it’s different story, thanks to human intervention. Old pictures of Cajamarca show that it was once a deforested and dry area. Reforestation efforts have turned it into a lush forest, which also hosts an organic farm and eco-lodge. “Students come here to learn about nature and organic agriculture, hence the name Centro Ecológico Juveníl,” Ronald explains. He is the centre’s manager and explains the reforestation efforts over the past 20 years have also led to more rainfall. This has allowed the organic farm to flourish. On a tour of the farm, we learn that the centre’s staff planted many different native species to stimulate biodiversity and use both plants and animals to close the nutrient loop. Most food for guests, who can stay in cabins built from local materials, comes from the farm, and we get to taste how delicious it is that same evening. The centre is a wonderful demonstration of how to bring back an ecosystem and teach children and tourists the benefits of nature conservation and organic agriculture.

Bright Start of the Andean New Year

It so happens that when we are there, Cajamarca is fully booked for a holiday weekend. According to ancient Inca tradition, Inti Raymi or Andean New Year, is celebrated at winter solstice on June 21st. The festivities start the evening before and culminate at dawn, with the first rays of the sun (Inti in Quechua). All night we sit around the campfire, while cups of an alcoholic corn drink are passed. Before each sip, drops are spilled on the ground to honour Pachamama or Mother Earth. With each hour the alcohol percentage gets higher, and more people sneak into bed. We too retreat to our sleeping bags before sunrise and only greet the sun once it’s high up in the sky. Nevertheless, we wish everyone a very happy and bright year 5527!

Brilliant Transport Solution in La Paz

An overnight bus takes us to La Paz, where impressions are overwhelming. Entire neighbourhoods look like giant open-air street markets, hectic and buzzing. The city spreads out over many hills and road traffic is omnipresent, often moving slowly because of congestion. Yet the city is working on a brilliant solution. Numerous modern cable car lines provide comfortable and cheap public transport. They are partially powered by solar panels mounted on the cabins. The locals we meet in the cabins are enthusiastic about them and tell us that they are gaining in popularity. It solves both traffic congestion and air pollution, while also offering scenic city views! Floris keeps on looking back at the cabins when we exit. “I keep thinking that I have to take my skies,” he says. “They do remind me of the cable cars in Alpine ski resorts.”

Beyond the Lake

Our final stop in Bolivia is Copacabana, a popular holiday destination at the banks of Lake Titicaca. From the balcony of our hostel we enjoy the sunny weather, the summertime temperatures and an amazing view of the dark blue lake. Wintery Puerto Montt is far away. And with all the impressions we’ve seen until here, it feels like we have been away longer than four weeks.

In the evening a WhatsApp message arrives: “All is well on board Luci,” Willy writes. Now Ivar can fully relax, too. “We may not be in the Pacific, but I wouldn’t have wanted to miss this for the world!” he smiles. “And we’re only half way of our buses and backpacks tour,” Floris answers. “At the other side of the lake, Peru awaits!”

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