Sometimes the grocery stores do not carry fresh vegetables, fruit, meat or poultry because everyone in town purchases these from vendors at the street markets. Shopping at street markets is always an adventure. In addition to the vegetables, fruit and freshly butchered meat, you can purchase all sorts of unusual things ranging from dried llama fetuses for witchcraft to handmade clothing to iguanas. One market we visited in La Paz, Bolivia spanned more than 100 blocks. With regard to drinking water, we have been using bottled water for drinking and cooking since we left the USA. It is readily available everywhere in one gallon jugs and our truck has space to carrying up to eight of the jugs.
TCM: How do you find places to dump?
Brad: This is an important environmental consideration faced by all over-land travelers. In urban areas, we have secured permission to dump in sewers or septic systems of hotels and restaurants, or even into porta-johns.
In rural areas we search out remote locations, often using our rigs four-wheel drive capabilities, to find dump locations situated far away from human residences, creeks, rivers or other potential local water sources.
We treat our waste to eliminate harmful organisms and use special RV/marine biodegradable toilet paper.
TCM: What do people in South America think of your truck camping rig and your adventure?
Brad: It is an understatement to say that our truck camper is loved by almost everyone who sees it. This was a surprise to us. South Americans of all ages routinely wave to us as we pass and all the truckers give us the thumbs-up as we drive along. Every time we stop our truck camper, people come up to take photographs and seem amazed when we explain our adventure.
I have gotten into the habit of slowing to a crawl each time someone on the street whips out their camera to take a quick picture as we drive by. In Central America, many regions where we traveled were economically depressed and many people did not own automobiles or even bicycles. Many of their homes had dirt floors, no electricity & no running water, so the extravagant concept of a truck camper or any type of RV was actually beyond their imagination. They still reacted very enthusiastically to the physical appearance of our truck camper, but often could not bring themselves to fully believe that we slept in it or that it had a bathroom.
TCM: What would you tell yourself if you could go back in time to the very beginning of your trip?
Brad: Considering the limited amount of time we had to prepare for this trip, we did a very good job. However, if I could go back in time to the very beginning of the trip, this is what I would tell myself:
1. Do not be so nervous about personal safety; security is achievable with good planning and decision making.
2. Walking through towns and villages is as important as visiting major attractions.
3. At restaurants, make an effort to try the local cuisine.
4. Bring folding bicycles because bicycles hung outside the camper require tremendous maintenance as they get covered in dust, mud, snow and ice; plus they attract a lot of unnecessary attention.
5. Bring pants with zip-off legs because they can be used in a variety of climate conditions.
6. Pack lots of warm blankets for cold winter nights.
7. Installing low-amperage marine fans in bedroom of camper for hot tropical nights.
8. Install two additional deep-cycle batteries for the camper to increase available power.
9. Install a transformer with sufficient amperage capability to step-down the 220-240 volt electricity in South America so it works with the 110-120 volt systems that are standard in USA truck campers.
10. Bring a second laptop for LJ.
11. Bring five thumb drives to store digital photographs and so you can compose emails in the camper and then quickly and easily transfer the data when you reach an internet café.
12. Get good road maps in advance, because there are no readily available maps in Central or South America.
13. For accurate mapping in the middle of nowhere, purchase the amazing Touratech QV 3.0 GPS software for South America.
14. To save space and to have English-speaking entertainment, load lots of music and movies onto an MP3 storage device.
TCM: After your experiences, do you think you could ever live a so called normal life in a stick house back home?
Brad: We love our “Casa Rodante” (Spanish for “Rolling Home”) and our life on the road; however, we plan to sell our truck camper upon returning to the USA in late-August, 2007 and we look forward to getting back to a “normal life”.
We are anxious to see our families and friends, to move into a house that does not require oil changes, and to return to our professional careers. The new daily experiences and challenges we have faced during this trip have opened our eyes to the potential of over-land adventure travel and I predict this will not be our last expedition.
If LJ is willing, in 10 years time I am dreaming of putting together another truck camper to do a complete circumnavigation of the globe. It would be an amazing journey to traverse all the major land masses on the globe and see firsthand the sights in Africa, Europe, the former Soviet Republics, China, India, Australia, etc.
TCM: Is there anything that I have not asked you that you would like people to know about your adventure?
Brad: Anyone planning to bring a truck camper to South America should keep in mind the seasons are reversed. It is now early June as I write this and the winter season is rapidly enveloping the southern hemisphere.
Every night the air temperature drops below freezing and during the day we drive through snow, ice, and freezing rain. Ironically, in six weeks we will be back in the northern hemisphere in Central America and will face some of the hottest days of their summer season with temperatures soaring above 100 degrees.
This type of travel requires a great deal of flexibility, but the sights we have seen and the people we have met have made it worthwhile and have provided us with a lifetime of memories.