Life on the Farm: Lago Rupanco Edition

It’s been two weeks since we last posted on the blog, mainly because we’ve had a lot going on and very little access to internet.  Karen and I left Cusco made our way all the way down the coast of Chile from Arica to Santiago (almost 1,300 miles). We rented a car in a beach town named Iquique and enjoyed driving through the vast beauty of the Atacama Desert and the Pacific Ocean, one or both of which bordered us at all times.

After spending a couple of days in Santiago, we flew south to Puerto Montt to begin our next mission: working as farm hands!  We flew into the city and stayed one night before having the once-in-a-lifetime experience of picking up our Chicago friends at a Chilean airport.  My former Red Frog co-workers and incredible friends Clayton, Emma, and Katherine all made their way to southern Chile to work with us on a farm near Lago Rupanco for the week.  The farm was about a four-hour drive from Puerto Montt, tucked deep into the wilderness with immense beauty in every direction.

The farm's #1 fan.

The farm’s #1 fan.

Continuing the trend of crazy travel adventures for the Kimbles, the journey began with a little miscommunication at the airport car rental area.  Our crew had reserved a van so there would be room for the five of us, Sofi and her extra-large crate.  However, we didn’t arrive at the time listed on the reservation, so they gave away our rental to somebody else!  We didn’t have many options after that since the majority of the companies there were completely out of stock.  Fortunately, Karen speaks good Spanish and was able to converse with a local rental company to get us a slightly smaller utility vehicle.  With some clever positioning of Sofi’s crate and a complete removal of leg room for all of us, we were able to fit!  So, the five of us (plus Sofi) embarked in the direction of the farm.  To add to the excitement of our adventure, we didn’t actually know where the farm was located.  Due to our lack of internet and inability to regularly communicate with the owner of the property, Greg, we just headed towards the area and hoped for the best.

Following a couple of hours driving we were able to make a pit stop at a cafe in Osorno.  There we tried to call Greg for directions and were unable to succeed, but we got a few screen shots of maps to help us navigate further into the area.  An hour later after some more stops we were able to get wifi and grab the step-by-step directions to the farm.  We continued on as the sun was setting and headed off into the darkness.  Another couple of hours twisting and turning down a gravel road, getting out of the car to open fences, and getting deeper into the darkness, we happened upon the barn where we would sleep for the next two nights.

The Osorno dream team!

The Rupanco dream team!

We spent two nights camping out inside the barn and loving every second of it.  The lodge we’re currently staying in became available two days into our stay, so we moved in there after the short accommodation at the barn.  Sofi has spent nearly 100% of her time chasing sheep, swimming and running around with the other dogs.  When we arranged to work at this farm (through an online forum called “Workaway”) we had no idea how many awesome people we would meet.  There are many other volunteers from various countries all over the world, including Canada, Germany, and the United Kingdom.  Our group definitely had a special connection when we met, as everyone seemed to click together.  We would work all morning beekeeping, building fences, caring for chickens and ducks, installing windows in the barn, picking berries and doing other tasks on the property; then, in the mid-afternoon, we would go on hikes, walk down to the beach or just play games together at the lodge.  Every moment was a tremendous blessing and we’re so thankful that we met the group of people that we did!

Katherine and I in our beekeeping suits!

Katherine and I in our beekeeping suits!

Fast forward to today.  Our friends have left (sadly) but Karen and I are still spending another week on the farm before we leave for Rio.  We’ve continued to meet amazing volunteers from places like India, Lithuania, Portugal, and Uruguay.  It’s funny that we can come to a remote farm in southern Chile and meet people from anywhere but Chile!  The people are tremendous and we are happy to do a little part to help move this farm forward.  They hope to become completely self-sustainable in the near future, living off the land in a way that teaches people how to treat the environment with total respect.  From solar energy and water reclamation to organic gardening and farm-raised animals, their mission will go a long way to exhibit how important it is to understand how our actions affect our surroundings.  It’s great to know that Chicago has placed a permanent stamp on the hard work being done here!

Here’s what we’ve been doing for the last three weeks in Chile. We’ve had some unbelievably unique experiences and met lifelong friends. We’re so thankful to God that we ended up here!

14 Tips For Having the Most Romantic Valentine’s Day Ever!

Last Friday morning we officially said our “see ya laters” to Cusco and began the first portion of the journey that would lead us to Chile.  It was bittersweet to leave the first stop on our RTW journey, but we were very excited for what awaited us!  The itinerary went as follows: drive with friends of our host from Cusco to Puno (an estimated five hours), and then from Puno to Tacna (an estimated ten hours), the southernmost city in Peru.  Everything was planned a little bit last-minute as we had a busy week prior with our friends Dan and Nichole visiting.  We had nothing planned after that but knew we had to make our way from Tacna across the Chilean border to Arica.  That gave us almost entire week to make it down the coast of Chile to the capital of Santiago, where we will fly even further south to Puerto Montt this upcoming Friday.  Now, back to us leaving Cusco.  We had absolutely no idea that one of the craziest days of our lives lay ahead of us on the only day we had actually planned out over the course of the week. As you also know, Saturday was Valentine’s Day.  To help capture the essence of the events that followed our embarkation on Friday, Karen and I are happy to present to you the simple process for creating an unforgettably romantic date chock-full of cupid’s arrows.

Tips For Having the Most Romantic Valentine’s Day Ever:

1.  Hire a private driver to take you from Cusco to Tacna. Make it to Puno (the first stop on the way) and hear your driver tell you that you are ahead of schedule and only have six more hours to go.

2.  While in Puno, treat your lady friend to some ice cream and enjoy it on a sunny day in the central plaza.

3.  Take the “shortcut” from Puno to Tacna, which will “save time” getting you to your destination.

4.  Roll through an assortment of very small mountain towns, in which every person gives a completely different answer as to the length of time remaining on your journey.

5.  Drive through “detours” on the route, which include fording streams (Oregon Trail style) that are deep enough to allow water into the car and begin soaking your feet.  Watch as local llamas are wading through the waters with their legs completely covered.

6.  Every hour or so, ask your driver how much time is remaining and receive the same answer of “about three hours.”

7.  Drive up to the top of a snow-covered mountain at 14,000 feet, drive your station wagon through the cake-like mud and putter out in a giant water-filled crater.

8.  Try various strategies for over an hour to get the car removed, only to soak through every pair of dry socks that you have, lowering your body temperature enough to begin shaking.  Teeth chattering yet?  Perfect, you’re setting the mood nicely.

9.  Run out of feasible options (with no cell phone service in the mountains) around 1:30am, and huddle together using your dog’s body as a temporary blanket.  Turn off the car to go to sleep and wait for help to arrive in the morning.

10.  Within the hour, awake to hear a truck coming up the mountain and yell “CAR!”

11.  Get towed out by the truck, only to begin silently weeping as your car battery stalls.  Watch the battery turn over just in time to catch up to the truck.

12. Drive over a rock plateau and get stuck again after the truck has already left.  Watch as your wife spends Valentine’s Day chiseling rock from underneath the car at 4am.

13.  Take one more cat nap in the car before cruising into Tacna just 12 hours after your estimated arrival time.

14.  Remember that you’re together, everyone is safe, and everything will be all right!

In our minds, we had a timeline for how and when we would arrive in Chile.  However, God’s timeline was much different than our own!  But the most amazing part is what ensued after the madness.  We arrived in Tacna fairly early on Saturday morning.  From there, we met a driver (he also happened to be a police officer) who was not only able to get us across the border to Arica with Sofi’s crate, but he even made a call to a friend to find out every detail we needed to get Sofi into Chile.  He drove us to a couple different offices to get the necessary paperwork to make the following day a breeze.  On top of that, this man introduced us to another friend who ended up driving us from Arica to Iquique, our second stop in Chile.  And, wouldn’t you know it, this gentleman was a bus driver who had permits for securing Sofi’s crate to the top of his car.  God’s timeline was certainly different than our own, but it was perfect.  Everything happens for a reason!

The Best Ships…Are Made of Friendships

For those of you who know me, you’ve likely heard the punchline of this toast before (credit to BP).  The funny thing about Cusco, is in spite of the fact that we’re inland, we’re constantly reminded of all the (friend)ships around us.  We knew that one of the hardest sacrifices of making a RTW trip was going to be missing our family and friends back home.  Fortunately, with the use of “Viber,” we haven’t missed a beat!  The application allows you to call, text and video chat internationally for free.  In fact, we’ve been communicating (when we can get wifi) with a lot of our family and friends even more than when we were in the US!  It’s funny how that works.

So, the fact that our contingency from home is “with” us has been great.  But we’ve felt the impact of friends in a significant way here as well.  It started with our host, Manuel, and his family. Since we’ve been a part of their home for three weeks now, they regularly use the phrase “you are family now.”  And they mean it.  What’s theirs is ours, and they truly want us to feel as though we are blood relatives.  One thing I’ve noticed about Peruvian culture is they don’t issue empty sentiment.  If they say something to you, it’s authentic (unless they’re trying to sell you something on the street).  Last week we celebrated Manuel’s birthday with a special breakfast and they had a barbeque in the afternoon.  Karen and I couldn’t attend the barbeque, so the family set aside full plates of food for us when we returned home from volunteering.  Gestures like that really help one to know that family and friends are always near.

We’ve also picked up friends in some more unusual circumstances.  In the middle of last week we were walking down Avenida El Sol when a furry friend from the street happened upon us.  He had a limp in his step, but for some reason decided to trot next to us on our walk to the bakery and cafe.  Well, wouldn’t you know it, he continued to follow us for almost two miles before we stopped into the bakery.  At that point, he laid down and waited for us to order.  We completed the order, he got back up, and we continued on to the cafe.  This continued for the better part of an hour, until he finally got caught up with some other dogs and lost track of us.  We looked out from the cafe and saw him looking around for us even after we left. Manuel’s theory was that he “picked up on our good energy.”  I felt the same way, because I tried to feed him food and he wouldn’t have it.

A similar occurrence happened at our volunteer job late last week.  We were winding down towards the end of our shift, and the little niece of the head cook at the cafe was walking around looking for something to do.  I was washing some dishes and when I looked up, she and Karen were sitting together at a table laughing with one another.  They were looking at videos and even busted out the Photobooth app on Karen’s Ipad.  Within minutes they were making silly faces and crying from so much laughter.  I think God just wanted us to know that friends are all around us in many different forms.  Sometimes it’s in the obscure form of an animal or a little Peruvian girl, and other times it’s more palpable.

A more palpable occurrence happened last week when we received our first piece of mail in South America.  Mail is fun to receive when you haven’t had any in awhile, but edible mail provides another level of excitement.  The adopted mother of the Kimble family, Phyllis Keenan, sent us a box full of cookies and butterscotch bars, our absolute favorite treats!  We originally met Phyllis through her daughter Katherine, who is one of our best friends and my former co-worker.  She has been an incredible supporter of our journey and an ever constant reminder of the love of friends all around us, wherever we go!

To top things off, our travel companions Dan and Nichole Rudenga joined us on Saturday for a week full of adventures!  We spent some time in Cusco before we will head to Machu Picchu, with intermittent stops in the Sacred Valley, Quillabamba, Cocalmayo, and Aguas Calientes.  Thanks to our friends Mike and Alaina Smith, we will be joined by some wonderful travel prayers and protection sent via mail!   It’s certain to be an unforgettable experience.

Check out our week three recap video below!