The long way to Panama and beyond...
What a wonderful site!
My name is Dave and my travel partner and love is Cheryl. We have a travel tested 20 year old Chevy van; looks like a beater on the outside, but we have built in some basics, like a double bed with storage below, a 1.7 cu ft AC fridge and the accompanying deep cycle battery w/ 1000kw inverter, custom mosquito netting, solar camper shower, 3 gal. ice and water jug, and a bunch of techno-slick gear not visible from the outside and easily pitched out of sight when the vehicle is unattended.
For security, along with a bunch of tiny hiding spaces, we even have a 5' x 11" x 18" depth-perception deception hiding space to store laptops, copies-of-copies of this and that, and so on. It has a 'loose board' cover so we can open it for the military and at borders.
We have a Garmin navigator and are acquiring all the maps.
We have a complete kitchen setup; 3 burner, propane, table-top stove, folding table and chairs, mini-microwave, dinnerware for four, French Press, and such, all of which packs away under the bed. We plan to take most of our meals at local venues.
We expect to be charmed along the way and take apartments to stay here and there for extended times. Furnished or unfurnished; we're OK because we can bring what we need inside, from bed and fridge to to kitchen appliances.
Anyway, I've written all this so you might understand our level of preparedness.
We are in the Seattle, WA area and would like to drive to Panama and beyond, to Ecuador. Peru, and/or Bolivia.
Cheryl and I are in our mid to late 50's. We are sensible travelers in that we have no interest in struggling or gambling with our lives and health just to see something.
Finally, our question is; does anyone know the in's and out's of the drive? The best, easiest and safest routes, border crossings, tricks and tips... remember, travel time IS NOT of the essence. No rush on this journey.
Look, thank's a lot for taking the time reading all this dribble. If you can help it would be greatly appreciated.
Dave and Cheryl
Only thing I can say, having travelled by public transport from Guatemala to Costa Rica, is that on the whole, the local people are extremely welcoming. As in every city in the world there are problems, just be travel safe and i'm sure everything will be fine.
The only issue you may have is getting from Panama to Columbia or Ecuador, I'd definitely research it before you get there, it can be quite costly to get a motor bike over there, let alone a van.
Good luck to you, it is amazing in Latin America.
I'm not sure I understand your comment, "I've heard some stories of people over taking on a split,
not a solid,..." I may be too old for modern jargon. What is over taking, a solid, and a split.
As to the bribe, I have just spent 5 months in Baja California and never once did I have a problem with any type of bribe or threat. I've crossed the border into MX at least 20 times thru Mexicalli. I've been stopped at military inspection points about 100 times and never was treated any way but politely and respectfully.
BTW, the military inspections are limited to looking for guns and drugs, which we Americans gleefully sell and buy, in that order. The biggest problem Latin America has is OUR illegal gun sales to the drug lords so they can fight in the drug war we finance to stop them from selling us the drugs we demand and love so well. It's an idiotic...that's idiotic, not ideological, concept, an imposition, that disrupts lives in every country south of our border.
As in every part of the US and the world, there are places where bad, desperate, ignorant and/or fanatical people live where honest folk should not go. I'm just hoping to find the real hot spots to avoid, as apposed to the pandering and fear mongering of U.S. media, and our hate and paranoid groups.
My only advice would be to make sure your GPS has the cities you're going to pass through because, even being from Peru, we've gotten lost quite a few time when passing a large town or city along the Panamericana, which runs next to the sea along the South American Pacific Border. I've travelled with my family along the Panamericana from Lima to the Ecuador border many times now and its a very pleasant journey, but you do have some traffic to worry about, as truck drivers can be quite reckless.(If you do get a ticket or are stop by the police, they may want you to bribe them) You may also want to check the local news for strikes or construction that may block the highway. For the border crossings, i don't believe you need your passport but i can`t tell you for sure
As long as the coast is concerned, you've got plenty of interesting places to stop along the highway. I'll name some from north to south inside of Peru (hope you ever get this far!)
Punta Sal and Mancora - The greatest beaches in our coast, they are the tourist hotspot for the locals, but not so known with foreigners
Piura - Great city to spend a few days on. Very warm both summer and winter
Chiclayo - Many archeological sites
Huanchaco - If you want to surf on totora horse (straw surf board-like )
Trujillo - Even more archeological sites (best are the ruins of the Chan Chan Citadel and the Huacas of the moon and the sun. Also a nice city to spend a few days on.
Lima- Lots to do here, round the Plaza de Armas, walk around the tourist zones and parks , many close activities such as rafting, birdwatching, trrekking, going to the more than hundred beaches in the summer. You can find a small house or apartment in a nice area here
Ica - Sunny place, you can rent a place and there's plenty to do: visit the wineries and Pisco distlleries, get to know the people, sandboard, visit the Paracas natural Sanctuary..
Arequipa - Would be great to rent a place, maybe some days in the city and some days near the beach in Mejia. Very fun during carnival. Lots of beautiful architecture and Natural beauty. A small yet increasingly modern city, would be great to know the people as 'everybody knows each other' My dad's from here. A great place is the deepest canyon in the world, the Colca.
From then on to Chile, or if you decide to go into the highlands, to Bolivia, in which case you will pass through Puno and lake titicaca, where there´s the floating islands of the Uros.
You are not very likely to get robbed in the highway, but make sure you always park in a safe place.
Hope this helps
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