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Camping in South America

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A regret – Camping in Central America – Expensive campsites – Camping in style

Our only regret on this trip is that we haven’t camped much. Camping because its beautiful, not camping to save money, that is. There’s a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ about setting up the essentials in a place of beauty. Eating fine food in the shadow of the Andes. Sleeping on the shores of a turquoise blue lake. Some things are just better appreciated outdoors. I don’t particularly care for peanut butter jelly sandwiches, for example. But, have them on a hike after a few hours of exertion looking out over mountains fringed by araucaria trees and they are like manna from heaven.

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Lago Chico

I ask little of campsites. The surroundings should be beautiful (otherwise why camp?) and there should be serviceable toilets and a water supply, if in a populated area. (Interestingly, I am perfectly fine with using a spade and the great outdoors while backpacking, but doing the same while car camping feels like slumming). Until we reached Chile and Argentina, we found nice campsites few and far between. One explanation of this could be that there is not much local demand for camping. So the campsites that do exist can be an amazing outdoors experience or one that can leave you traumatized for days :)

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Chile and Argentina, however, is a completely different story. Campsites are always to be found in the most beautiful spots. They are primed to ensure privacy while camping, have clean toilet facilities, hot water for showers and even a ‘comedor’ or restaurant if you don’t want to cook. We even stumbled upon one right at the edge of the lovely lake Colico with camping spots the size of a large apartment, sheltered kitchen and dining area, private bathrooms and electric outlets to plug in your microwave, juicer, blender, and whatever else you cannot do without. When we heard the price, we gaped (USD 44). This must be the most expensive campsite in the world.

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People camp for different reasons, and I have learnt to appreciate them. Whether you are camping because you can’t afford your hotel or you are bringing your house with you, being outdoors can be exhilarating. Shreesh recently saw a show on TV where this guy was preparing a wonderful three course meal with a dramatic backdrop of snow capped peaks under brilliant blue skies. This has inspired Shreesh and he is busy planning how to outfit the car to carry a dining table, a cutting table, stove, gas cylinders, his Le creuset pots, two fridges (one for wine and one for perishables), his favorite set of kitchen knives and of course, fine china and Riedel wine glasses.

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Of course, nature has a way of spoiling the best laid plans. Brilliant, sunlit days can turn cloudy and cold instantaneously. A few days ago we discovered that our rainfly leaks, inspite of generous application of seam sealer. This led to various on the spot permutations and combinations of the tent, rain-fly and a tarp to prevent leakage. I am still not sure we would be safe in a heavy downpour. But the payback was enormous. Chilean wine paired with beans in black mole sauce from Oaxaca for dinner. Indian tea, fried bread and a can of juicy, lemony sardines for breakfast. I am curious to see whether canned sardines will taste just as yummy at home in San Francisco.

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6 Responses to “Camping in South America”

  1. fred says:

    When you say a campsite is the size of a large apartment, that makes me wonder what that means, given the teeny tiny cells you folks consider adequate living space! :)

  2. Neena says:

    Hello Fred,
    Well you could have 2 huge 8 person tents, a gazebo, 2 cars, a boat, a fixed dining area, and kitchen with space left to spare. I know because our neighbors had this set up!
    Oh bathrooms were separate. Like I said, each camping spot had its own bathroom, shower and clothes washing and drying area!

  3. Steve says:

    HI Neena —
    Happy New Years to you and Shreesh. Its always nice to stop by your blog and experience an alternate reality. My family is doing well. Mom is getting ready for Lunar New Years (Jan 26th is NY’s day). And the world awaits PEOTUS. Celebration abound and the juxtaposition of MLK and the inauguration is producing some fun events. While there is certainly the stench of “that guy” leaving, the economy and the wars, there is also much hope.

    I never thought i would live to see these days.

    Take care…. looking forward to reading more.


  4. Suhasini Taskar says:

    Shreesh and Neena,
    Lovely pictures. The luxurious campsite seems interesting. The goal to camp at this site will be to enjoy nature in the open air with many amenities to go with it. Obviously, not to save money.
    We are in deep freeze at Minneapolis. Temp. plummeted to -22 0F with a wind chill of -35 0F. It stayed below zero for straight 90 hours and then went up to 3 0F. Chicago was equally cold with lots of snow.
    Hopefully, it will get better hereafter.
    It was nice of Vinay to carry some Indian snacks and also some books. How long does plan to spend with you? What are your plans about Antartica? Please let us know.

  5. Well what we found typical of Argentinean campsites [different budget category than yours though]: The Argentineans have an interesting priority: they know how to take care of their asados – bbq spots are per definition present and in general in good condition. That most certainly doesn’t always work for sanitary facilities!

    Ah yeah, we read about the border crossing Mendoza – Santiago in the newspapers. Endless line. High season for the locals to travel! When we crossed last year in September it was not so bad.

    If you come in the vicinity of Córdoba – let us know [beautiful Jesuit Estancias to visit, among others]. We’ll be near the town of Jesús María [north of Córdoba town] for the next two months or so.

    happy landcruising,
    Karin-Marijke and Coen

  6. Shreesh says:

    Hello Aai,

    Vinay was with us just for a few days. It was great of him to come all the way to visit us and each day with him was a cherished wonder. Many times we stayed up into the night discussing or arguing about some obscure topic.

    Our current thinking on Antarctica is that we will go if we can find a good deal, otherwise it will have to wait for another day.

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