There to Here - A Love Affair with South America

Once again we mention that as we move towards another major lifestyle change, you might find it odd that we’re continuing with our From There to Here series, but we see it differently. Our blog is about life’s adventures and how we choose to live them. There to Here represents our cruising life and how we progressed from “newbies” to circumnavigators ... and it only took two decades! It’s a tale of travel, sailing, sometimes exasperation, most times exhilaration and sheer wonder. Our adventures might be a little different in the future, but we guarantee, we’ll keep you entertained. Stick around!


 Hot, sweaty long transit of the Panama Canal ... Bridge of Americas which "connects" North and South America is in the background ... the gateway to the Pacific Ocean.

Hot, sweaty long transit of the Panama Canal ... Bridge of Americas which "connects" North and South America is in the background ... the gateway to the Pacific Ocean.

Picking up from where we left off ... we did indeed take a left out of the Panama Canal, sailed about 700nm south, crossed the Equator and arrived in La Libertad, Ecuador. If you followed our later travels, in fact, you’ll find that we did this twice … but for now, let’s talk about getting to Ecuador the first time. Our limited visits to Venezuela and Colombia while in the Caribbean whet our appetites for more exploration of “the other America”. For sure, we had never given travel in South America much thought until I read the sailing magazine article about Ecuador. From the moment we arrived, we were hooked. What a splendid continent, rich in diverse indigenous cultures and Spanish heritage.

There was work to be done on Cups (but, of course) and we found the haul-out fees, skilled labor and labor rates to be just what the boat doctor ordered. While David worked on the boat, Marcie worked on sewing projects and her Spanish and, with the help of marina management, began teaching an English class for the local marina and hotel staff. It was a toss-up as to whether the students or Marcie gained more from the experience, but lasting friendships were made … and, thanks to David’s effort, the teak deck was repaired.

We took the time to do extensive inland travel midst the boat chore schedule. With just packs on our backs, we bused it to Ecuador’s capital city, Quito, toured the Valley of Volcanoes, rode on the roof of a train to Riobamba, bought Panama hats in Montecristi, visited one of the world’s largest and oldest markets in Otavalo, cast our eyes on magnificent Mount Chimborazo and sighed in awe at the blue cathedral domes in Cuenca. There was more … so much more to see and do and the more we saw and experienced, the more we wanted. Our earlier concerns and reservations about travel in South America on a bus, by ourselves, flew out the window like so many dragons we’ve met along the way. This was the travel we longed for.

 Cathedral domes in Cuenca, Ecuador

Cathedral domes in Cuenca, Ecuador

Our base in La Libertad afforded us good access to Peru as well and we sought to venture further and further. A bus to Lima with stops all along the northern Peruvian coast was a good introduction to Peru’s ancient civilizations, those much older than the Incas. We stopped and toured often, favoring small towns and local hotels and restaurants, meeting locals and soaking it all up.

Arequipa, previously unknown to us, is on the “1,000 Places to see before you die” list. What a marvelous city with its beautiful cathedral, plaza and Santa Catalina Convento block. It’s also the gateway to Colca Canyon, the Grand Canyon of South America where we watched the condors soar. We experienced altitude sickness for the first time and were given coca tea as a local folk remedy … it worked.

 Cathedral in picturesque Arequipa, Peru

Cathedral in picturesque Arequipa, Peru

On to the floating islands of Lake Titicaca and then to La Paz, Bolivia, the highest capital city in the world.

 Floating islands of Uros in Lake Titicaca are constructed of the local totora reed.

Floating islands of Uros in Lake Titicaca are constructed of the local totora reed.

The highlight of the trip … the Incan city of Machu Picchu. We arrived at dawn, climbed to a high perch and watched in awe as the mist cleared and the city spread below us. It was spiritual … other-worldly, a feast for the eyes and the spirit.

 Machu Picchu - it takes your breath away!

Machu Picchu - it takes your breath away!

After six weeks on the road, we needed to return to Cups and Jelly, both waiting patiently for us back in LaLibertad. These inland forays were to become the norm for us as Marcie’s negotiating skills with the captain were sharpened … some work and then a trip!

Boat work complete for the time being, we splashed Cups and sailed with our friend, John, to the Galapagos Islands for a memorable three weeks at three different islands. We can imagine Darwin’s delight and awe as he discovered the giant tortoises, water iguanas and other endemic species, previously unknown.

 Meeting up with the famed giant tortoises of the Galapagos Islands

Meeting up with the famed giant tortoises of the Galapagos Islands

The plan was to sail to Easter Island and then on to Chile. We made it to Easter Island and enjoyed nearly two weeks there, but the trip to Chile was a disheartening one, fraught with storms, adverse winds, and boat problems. Midway back to the mainland, we turned around, headed downwind back to Easter Island, dropped off John, and then, with neither engine nor autopilot, fought our way back north for 30 days to Ecuador ... to fix all the things that were broken. In retrospect, it was a good experience. It taught us to sail, depend upon each other and be innovative and self-reliant. All these life lessons compliments of Neptune.

 What do you say to a moai?   WOW!

What do you say to a moai?   WOW!

Back in LaLibertad, we hauled Nine of Cups once again and alternated work with short trips until the work was complete. Nine of Cups was safe and sound and back in the water once more and we were ready to head across the Pacific … or maybe south? Cruising World published a short article about us and a sailor in Lima happened to read it. Gonzalo contacted us and invited us to Yacht Club Peruano. Heck, it was just a little further down the coast (another 700 nm), albeit in the wrong direction for winds and currents. With one foot on the land and one in the water, we sailed, with difficulty, to Callao, Lima’s major port and Yacht Club Peruano.

 Beautiful and most hospitable Yacht Club Peruano in La Punta, Peru

Beautiful and most hospitable Yacht Club Peruano in La Punta, Peru

It was worth the trip. We were treated like royalty with a free mooring and invitations to everything from breakfast, lunch, dinner and cocktails, to birthday parties, outings and sightseeing tours. We’d missed seeing the Amazonas region on our previous Peru trip, so this time we flew to Iquitos and spent a week exploring the greatest river in the world.

And when it was time to leave Peru? Well, Chile’s first port, Arica, was only another 629 nm and then it was mostly day trips and port-hopping down skinny Chile’s coast to Puerto Montt, so why not? And we’d come so far and the gateway to Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego was right at our doorstep! And our Spanish was improving and the Pacific would still be there if we delayed our crossing. And maybe while we were at the bottom of the world we could sail around Cape Horn? Nah … that’s crazy talk!

 Nine of Cups berthed at Club Nautico in Puerto Montt, Chile

Nine of Cups berthed at Club Nautico in Puerto Montt, Chile