We have now joined up with the rest of the people on the trip which actually started in Quito, Ecuador 54 days ago with 3 people. Another 9 joined at various places along the way and then 11 more joined in Santiago. There are now 23 of us plus a driver and tour leader. It’s a pretty even split of male and female and we have 11 different nationalities aged from 17 to 70 with every decade represented!
Our transport is a 3.8 metre high, 10 metre long purpose built yellow Scania overland truck. It is called “Didingo” no one seems to know why? We have storage compartments under the seats for our luggage and outside are lockers for tents, stools, cooking equipment and water as well as tools for mechanical issues. There is also storage for food staples such as rice and pasta as well as a few spices. We buy other fresh food from local markets and supermarkets. We are split into 5 cook groups and so with the odd meal out we should be cooking for the group once a week. We are both hoping there is a Gordon Ramsay or Nigella Lawson in our cook group as there is no microwave for Sarah to use and people could go hungry!!
We have been on the bus for a couple of days and so far it’s going really well. The seats are arranged around the outside of the bus, so everyone is facing inwards, which is great for conversation and getting to know the other passenger. The first day was a 500 mile route which took us South from Santiago to Pucon. The day went really quickly, with a few stops for coffee and toilets and a longer one for lunch. It was good to see those who knew the routine get out tables, and kitchen equipment, prepare some salad and demolish several chickens into a large bowl and in a matter of minutes we were tucking into chicken salad sandwiches, sat on stools at the back of a roadside service area.
Didingo rolled on, some people slept, some people chatted and 12 hours after setting off we were in Pucon, where we put up our tents and then 12 of us walked into town to be fitted out for the next day’s activity. We bought a cooked chicken and some hot mash and ate at a camp table with Andreas, a Swiss guy who gave up his job as a CEO of a company in Switzerland to travel until he has had enough. We are definitely the norm on this trip and certainly not the exception. At least half of the people have quit their jobs in order to travel, some for a few months and others for longer.
All in all we feel we have slotted in quite well and any apprehensions as to whether or not this style of trip is right for us are quickly disappearing.