Happy New Year to all our readers ! Lois and I sincerely hope you enjoyed the Christmas season as much as we did.
As of our last post we were leaving Bogota and preparing for a 4 week trip back to Canada to spend the holiday season with friends and family. The trip back to Canada, and our month spent there, could not have gone more smoothly; the return to Bogotá – well, more on that later. Let’s just say we would not wish the last few days on anyone !
Flights back went smoothly, all were on time and it was wonderful to see everyone, catch up on news at home and share a few of our own tales from the road. Almost 8 months into our Pan American adventure and comments from those we speak to are about evenly split – either “You must be nuts”, or “What a fantastic experience” ( with likely a good percentage of the latter group probably secretly thinking “They actually must be nuts” ! ). Hey, we get it….it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.
While the social side of our time away occupied most of our time, some time was spent shopping for essential new items (and a few replacement parts ) for the camper ( what did we do before Amazon ? ). I also had to get some further training on blogging ( readers may notice we upgraded the website ) and flying the drone ( nearly lost it last time I had it in the air ). Many thanks to Sue Ross, my amazing WordPress coach, and to Chris Woods who braved a freezing cold day to set me straight on the finer points of flying a Mavic Air !
While things have, touch wood, been going generally smoothly with the camper, we’ve managed to get a few holes in the gauze screens, worn out our toaster and lost a few special screws from our SMEV stove. In addition we had completely broken one of the two roof top vent lids ( message to self – don’t leave them wide open on really windy days ) and had to replace one of our two, 100 watt flexi solar panels. Procuring the latter two items in a size to fit the existing spaces proved quite challenging ( our camper now approaching 5 years old ) but we managed in the end ( Andy, thanks again for the custom trimming on the solar panel ).
In addition to replacement parts, we made a few additions. With almost 80,000 kms on the original brakes, much criss-crossing of the Andes ahead and our vehicle not exactly being ubiquitous in South America, a replacement set of brake pads seemed a prudent move. Power supply will also soon be an issue – once out of Ecuador ( our next stop ) the voltage changes from 110 ( with North American style plugs ) to 220 ( with different plugs ). To date, on the rare occasion we need to charge with shore power it has been a simple matter of plugging in to any standard outlet ( which are all just like home ). That luxury stops when we cross into Peru so, like any good Boy Scout, one best “be prepared”. Rather than a heavy, and expensive, step-down transfer, ( for something we will rarely need ) we opted for a lithium-compatible battery charger with the option of a 220v input ( the adaptors we have already ). This should ensure that on the rare days where we have no sunshine ( for the solar unit ) and the vehicle alternator charge is inadequate, we can still get a full charge into the battery. One must have one’s creature comforts !
Thus equipped, and with 4 weeks having flown by, packing began for the return trip. While the weather had been unseasonably mild during our time in Kelowna ( generally in the mid single digits – positively balmy for Canada in December ! ), Monday delivered the leading edge of a cold snap, and a heavy snowfall that swept the country. That would be just the beginning. Our route back called for a stop in Calgary, overnighting and then an early connection to Toronto Tuesday morning and on to Bogotá arriving in Tuesday night.
Turns out the small Dash 8 that took us to Calgary had a weight and balance issue – as luck would have it our three bags were included in those that got left in Kelowna. Air Canada would put us up in a hotel and our bags would meet us in Toronto or Bogotá. No such luck – “weather” it seems, is the escape clause airlines use to avoid comping passengers for a hotel, so we were on our own. Sadly, Tuesday was lost as a travel day too, since our bags could not get to Toronto in time for the flight to Bogotá – a day lost as a result.
Wednesday looked great – all passengers boarded the plane and it appeared it would even depart early. Then the captain advised that we had an “unusual” problem and would all have to get off the plane. He advised that the captain who had parked our plane the night before had left the “flaps” down when they should have been up ( or was it vice versa ? ) and that, with all the ice in -10 degree weather they could not move them.
Long story short, our 07:30 flight left at 10:41 arriving in Toronto just in time for us to miss the connection to Bogotá. Ughh ! Another night in a hotel, and again, “on our own” since Air Canada also deemed it “weather related”. So, tired, and frustrated, we took another hotel and waited yet another day.
Things started turning up Thursday – we were assured our bags were indeed now in Toronto and re-tagged for the Bogotá flight. The flight left on time and this time actually arrived 12 minutes ahead of schedule ( a nice change ! ) – we were, finally, back in Bogotá. Twenty minutes later we had our bags, and solar panel in hand, shuttled to the hotel. Feeling a little sorry for ourselves after a long and tiring trip down we splurged on a Hilton – hey, there would be plenty of nights ahead in a truck camper !
The weather in Bogota was perfect – sunny and 25 degrees, which almost tempted us to stay another night but we were anxious to get back to Villa de Leyva, to our vehicle, so we could unpack, install our new parts, and generally get ready to hit the road again. The truck/camper was found just as we had left it, much to our relief.
With a weekend ahead to get re-established in Villa de Leyva, get repacked and do some minor repairs, we would, with any luck be ready and very happy to finally get ( please excuse the Willie Nelson reference ) “on the road again” !