Yes, I decided to do something in this boring life. I started working in November 1999 after graduating at the University in Leuven, Belgium. Interesting job and a lot of possibilities. But a year and a half later I started thinking about doing a trip to South America. You know how these dreams come and are always there, but you never actually start working on realizing them. I think I already had this dream since I came back from Barcelona, where I studied 11 months, with the Erasmus program. But then you try to find a job, try to start a working life, and start making some money... So in May 2001 I was talking with my dear friend Sofie, who I've met in Barcelona. She was finishing here extra year of studies, also in Leuven, and was wondering about the near future. What am I going to do when I get this diploma at the end of June ? So after a few glasses of wine, I said we should do this trip to South America, to realize a mutual dream. Now is the time to do it. One month later we really decide to start planning and in the beginning of August, the tickets to Caracas Venezuela were booked. At the moment I'm working in Milan, Itally, but I will go back to Belgium at the end of October to prepare for the trip.
We made a rough planning, to see most of the South American continent. We start in Caracas Venezuela on the 13th of November 2001. We come back from Caracas on the 31st of May 2002. So we have 6,5 months to make our circular trip around the continent. We will try to go from Venezuela to Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Brazil. At the end we will have to fly back from Caracas, so we might relax a few weeks on some Caribbean island, before turning home to the European mainland.
We organize the trip ourselves. We will not use any pre pay packages that you can find in any tourist office these days. We will off course step in some locally organized trips to get into some adventures on bike, horse, parachute, ... But our main goal in the organization is being free to stay or move on whenever we want, and wherever we want to go. The goal of the whole trip is not to be the rich European tourist checking out the main attractions and sleeping in comfortable hotels. We want to live budget, mix with local cultures, and see the main attractions of these cultures, wildlife and beautiful sceneries. Our goal is to understand their cultures and habits, to enjoy the beauty and wildness of nature and to realize that the world and life as we know it (Europe), is not the only one and not they only way of living.
These pages offer an outlet to me and Sofie to post some of our stories and adventures that we will encounter during our trip. We will try to send some stories and pictures whenever we can find some time and an internet point.
A lot of thanks to Mattias and Audrey, for giving us this space and editing and publishing our texts on the hiking.be website web site. I hope our stories will make a nice addition to the already existing hiking stories on this web site.
It is the first time that me or Sofie go on a trip like this. Therefore we had to prepare quite well. Most of the necessary information can be found in books like Lonely Planet and the South American Hand Book. For medical advice we went to the University hospital of Leuven. They have up to date info on what risks you have and what the adequate protection is for our specific itinerary. Off course other travellers and friends gave some interesting tips and hints too.
Vaccinations and medication
I didn't get any vaccine shot for a previous trip so I had to check what was necessary. In August I got the first shot for Hepatitis A and B (combined). A month later it was repeated. And within the year I can get a third shot to be protected for 10 years.
The countries in the north, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador and Brazil are potentially dangerous to get malaria. A malaria vaccine does not exist but there are several types of preventive medication available. We take Lariam, only to be taken once a week but with some potential side affects. In the beginning of October we took a test pill to see if we would have problems with stomach, are sleeping. We didn't encounter any problems so we hope the medication will suit us. As our trip will go from north to south and back again, we will be able to stop the malaria medication for some months. After leaving a malaria risk area you still have to take pills for four weeks, and before entering you also have to count two weeks. This means no pill for us from entering Bolivia to the middle of Brazil.
Yellow fever, typhus, tetanus, polio...
Also yellow fever and typhus vaccination is necessary for South America. We also took a repetition of tetanus and polio. Sofie also got the rabies vaccination.
In the medical kit we put malaria medication, anti biotic for diarrhoea, pills to relieve mountain sickness , imodium, pain killers (one type paracetamol based), sticking plasters, dusting powder and anti funghal cream (for feet problems), disinfectant, sun cream, bandages, water purifying tablets, ...
Trekking material and clothing
We are not planning to camp so we did not take a tent or camping gear with us. The most important is the backpack, clothing and shoes. We both bought most of our material at Decathlon. We also took a sleeping bag in case the budget accommodation we take does not have enough or clean blankets. Some special clothing we bought includes a breathing rain jacket, breathing sweater, rain pants and fast drying socks. Off course we also took a mosquito net.
Keep on tripping,