Tired of Stress-Free Travel? Cross an International Border with the Kimbles!

Wow. Has it already been two more weeks since our last update? We’ve been in Rio de Janeiro (Copacabana area) for three days now and are staying at an AirBNB with great wifi, which means…more frequent blog posts!  The first morning after we woke up in Rio, our hosts asked us if we would travel with Sofi throughout South America if we were given the chance to do things over again.  We both looked at each other and answered the same way: yes!  In spite of the interesting and often difficult challenges of traveling internationally with a large animal, we’ve successfully crossed three international borders and only ended up homeless on one occasion (more on that later).

The most recent adventure started in southern Chile as we prepared to fly from Puerto Montt to Rio de Janeiro, with a layover in Santiago.  Given that Puerto Montt is a fairly small airport, there were no direct flights to Rio.  Knowing that we had some additional paperwork to handle for Sofi, we took her to the vet the evening we arrived back in Puerto Montt after working as farmhands for three weeks.  It was a Friday and we were scheduled to fly out on Monday afternoon.  The following morning we went to the airport to speak with some people in the cargo terminal to find out the additional details of what we would need to get Sofi to Brazil.

Sofi noticed Brazil is a bit more humid than the rest of South America.

Sofi noticed Rio is a bit more humid than most of South America.

On the way to the airport we were waiting at a red light and wanted to ensure we were taking the correct route (since we’ve had to navigate during the trip without GPS or cell phones…anyone grow up when those things didn’t exist?!), so Karen rolled down the window and spoke to the gentleman in the car next to us.  He happened to be going to the airport, so he told us to follow him there!  We were still a solid 20 minutes away, so it was definitely a Godincidence that we happened upon this man.  We followed him all the way to the airport and proceeded to follow him to the cargo area, which is where we needed to go to talk with the airline company that would be handling Sofi’s transportation to Brazil. As luck would have it, this man happened to work for the very company (Lan cargo) we were looking for and after mentioning that we were there to ask questions about flying our dog across the border he responded by asking “are you Adam?”  Amazingly, this guy was a world-renowned scientist of telepathy!

…just kidding.  I had sent several emails to them prior to our visit and he had been filled in on the situation.  So, THIS was the man Karen randomly flagged down when we were still a long way from the airport?  Incredible.

At that point the fun really began.  After speaking with our new buddy, we found out about additional paperwork we would need that was never mentioned before.  There were two agricultural-type offices (Aduana and SAG) which needed us to complete forms, and neither of them were open on weekends.  Given that we flew out on Monday, we decided to take our chances with filling out the paperwork once we arrived in Santiago.  So, we booked Sofi on a flight to Santiago and then planned to locate these offices at the Santiago airport once we arrived on Monday afternoon.

Fast forward to Monday.  We arrived in Santiago with four hours until our connecting flight to Rio.  For once I was really glad that I had a long layover!  The rest of the day can be summed up like this: we pick up Sofi from the cargo area, walk all over every office outside of the airport, Karen speaks to the Aduana and SAG folks in Spanish to get all of the paperwork done, I sit with Sofi all day until we are told the SAG office only accepts cash, they’ll be closing in 15 minutes and the nearest ATM is located at the airport (luckily I don’t mind running every once in awhile), and finally, we arrive at the Lan cargo office to book Sofi on a flight and are told that there are no other flights going to Rio until the following day.  We had gone into the day with the mindset that things would be crazy, unlike our initial experience in Lima, so surprisingly we were both feeling pretty good about the progress from the day.  The only upsetting thing was missing our flight to Rio and having to pay to re-book it for the following day.  As the sun set and things were winding down at the airport, we knew we had to be back in less than 12 hours to get Sofi on the same flight as us the next day.  Rather than book a hotel and pay for such a short stay, we decided to go the cost-efficient route and rent a car instead.  Little did the car rental company know, they were renting us a car and a place to sleep!  We got some late night pizza and found a well-lit gas station close to the airport where the three of us slept all night.  We’ve slept better, but we’ve also slept worse!

The following day we headed to Lan cargo to finish Sofi’s flight booking and then we were off to Rio.  You would think it would be simple enough to collect an animal on the same flight as you, but since Sofi is too large to be checked as baggage, we have to fly her cargo.  That means they send her to a completely different part of the airport and we have to collect her there.  After we made it through customs, we initially tried to rent a car big enough to hold her crate.  Fortunately for us, there were no rentals available.  We wouldn’t find out why that was fortunate until a few hours later.  This meant our only option was to hire a taxi. Once again we became best friends with our cab driver, Edson, much like our friend Raul from Lima.  He is a Portuguese man who spoke a little Spanish and was able to communicate enough with Karen to let her know what was happening.  Ultimately, we spent about four hours at the cargo area trying to locate Sofi.  There was some missing paperwork that Lan had taken to a different office and some miscommunication which delayed being reunited with her, but we were able to finally get her on Tuesday night just 24 hours after we were supposed to arrive!  Edson even helped us avoid some “taxes” (also known as bribes) from the cargo warehouse.  Having a Portuguese man on our side was exactly what we needed, and had we rented our own car, the events of Tuesday night likely would have been drastically different.  Once again, it can’t be stressed enough: everything happens for a reason!

Now we’re settling into Rio and enjoying the warm weather, nice beaches and beautiful scenery.  We’ve got some awesome hikes in our future, including one to the well-known “Christ the Redeemer” statue.  More updates to come over the next week and a half!

A nighttime view from the beach in Copacabana.

A nighttime view from the beach in Copacabana.

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 Sacred Valley, Quillabamba, Machu Picchu, Oh My!

Two days after our travel companions Dan and Nichole arrived last weekend, we embarked on an epic four-day adventure culminating with Machu Picchu.  Now, it’s important to know that there are a variety of options for visiting the sacred Inca site.  You can do it simple and cheap via a one (albeit long) day trip on the train. You can schedule a much longer trip, oftentimes seven or eight days, in which you visit all of the Inca ruin sites from Cusco all the way to Aguas Calientes, the city nearest Machu Picchu.  Or, you can do a private tour in which you determine the length of your journey, as well as the stops along the way.  The best choice for you will depend on your agenda, the time you have available, and your preference for a more or less rigid schedule.

For us, we determined that a four day trip made the most sense and we knew we wanted to visit Machu Picchu in a less conventional way.  This meant that we were going to take the private car tour.  Our host’s father, Daniel, has long been a tour guide in Cusco and he has a wealth of knowledge regarding the Inca (or more accurately, Quechua) people.  So, the five of us (and our driver, Carlos) left early on Monday morning to head to a few sites in the Sacred Valley. We visited Chinchero, Moray and Ollantaytambo during the day before heading to the jungle of Quillabamba on Monday night.  We spent all of Tuesday in Quillabamba and stayed for one more night before heading to our next stop in Cocalmayo/Santa Teresa on Wednesday afternoon.  At this point in the journey, we left our vehicle and hiked from Santa Teresa to Aguas Calientes on Wednesday evening.  This set us up for a beautiful Thursday morning at Machu Picchu, followed by a long trek home that night.

The four days we spent on the road seemed like a month because of the immense activities we experienced.  Since we don’t have a month to read about it, let me sum up why the Kimble-Rudenga itinerary was perfect for us (and may be perfect for you, too!):

1. Flexibility.   You aren’t tied to a specific timeline through private car transport.  There are options to stop off somewhere for lunch, spend extra time at certain sites and even pull off of the road if someone is getting carsick.  A private tour puts you in control of your schedule.

2. The ability to travel off the beaten path.  More than half of our four days was spent at sites that the train surpasses on the way to Machu Picchu.  The jungle in Quillabamba and the natural hot springs at Cocalmayo are “must-sees,” and you wouldn’t get to see them taking a direct route!

3. Enhanced knowledge of the Inca sites.  Daniel was constantly dropping knowledge during the car ride and at all of the archaeological sites.

4.  A more personal experience.  There’s definitely a different feeling when you have one tour guide for four people versus a large group.  Everything was so interactive (like climbing trees to pick your own avocado!) and being in a smaller group allowed for us to ask questions and really understand the culture and history.

5.  Better bang for your buck.  The price of the train ticket alone (not including entrance to the sites) is about a third of the cost of what we paid for our four-day excursion.

6.  Cultural experiences.  We made various stops at fruit stands and markets along our route, giving us an opportunity to try so many new things (ever tasted a pacay?).  Not to mention we were able to visit local farmers in Quillabamba and enjoy organic coffee, fruits, meats and vegetables!

7.  You can bring your dog!  Sofi experienced every bit of our four-day trip with the exception of Machu Picchu, so she definitely recommends a private car.

8.  Insane scenery.  Our route to Quillabamba allowed for a pass through the snow-capped mountains at over 14,000 feet!

9.  Working off the “car” legs.  The mountains don’t allow for cars to make it past Santa Teresa, so we enjoyed a 10-kilometer hike to Aguas Calientes.  The path follows the train tracks and gives a little sneak peak of Machu Picchu near the end of the trail.

10.  Memorable videos.  Daniel encouraged us to take time for pictures and videos, so we never felt rushed.  See below for a video of our journey from start to finish!

So Many Smells (A Look at Cusco from Sofi’s Perspective)!

What is that smell?  Who is this stranger carrying my crate?  Where are Mom and Dad?    These were some of the many thoughts that bounced between my floppy ears last week.  After I was carried out of the long pointy car that flies in the sky, the strangers brought me to an open area to wait.  I sat there until they moved my crate towards a big door and…I SAW MOM AND DAD!  I was beginning to think that the long pointy car was my new home, so I was wagging my tail like a propeller when I saw them.

After we were reunited, we jumped into a car and drove away.  “Oh no,” I worried.  “The last time I got into a car I ended up in the sky!”  Fortunately, we just drove to my new home where I share a room with my parents (which is way cooler than it sounds).  I was super tired from all of the unexpected events that took place, so I went to bed and dreamed about running down the streets of my new home.

I awoke the next morning refreshed and with heightened senses.  Holy smells!  My family had moved before, but this was unlike anything else.  Let me tell you a few tails (pun intended) about my experiences.

The first thing I noticed is that the other dogs don’t wrestle with me.  I used to wrestle all day long with my golden retriever friend, Buster.  But now, every time I try to wrestle with new friends they either growl at me or run away. Plus, they eat garbage all the time!  I mean, don’t get me wrong, I like garbage too.  But I mostly eat it because I’m bored.  I should really share some of my Pro Plan with them.  They don’t know what they’re missing!

Did I mention that there are some creatures here that I’ve never seen before?  On one of our first days here, I walked around town and saw a big pink dog who snorted a lot.  Mom told me that this dog’s name was Pig. When I went up to greet her she squealed and ran away.  I guess she was in a hurry to get somewhere!  I also met a big black and white creature with horns.  I was walking down a dirt road when we first saw him.  He didn’t speak canine and I’ve never seen anything like him before, so I tentatively approached.  We sniffed each other and I thought things were going well until he decided to lower his head and point his horns at me!  Just like me in my crate every morning after Mom and Dad get up, I shot outta there.  My last crazy encounter was with a little human.  Sometimes I’m unsure of how to interact with them because they don’t pet me, so we typically stare at each other until I bark out of confusion. So, when I met one on a walk in the town, I didn’t want to give a bad impression and start things off on the wrong paw.  This tiny human was sitting on a small plastic car with wheels. He saw me and stopped in his tracks. The stare down began. Instead of barking at him, I decided to mix things up and give him a friendly lick on the face (our version of a handshake), and do you know what he did? He scrunched up his face and water droplets starting coming out of his eyes! Why are the little humans so hard to understand?

Lastly, I am getting to go on some really fun rides.  I recently rode in a bike car with no windows.  Mom and Dad kept calling it a “tuk tuk.”  For my doggie friends reading this post, believe me when I say that my jowls were flapping in the wind without putting my face out the window!  Jackpot.

And that’s just the beginning.  Who knows what tomorrow will bring!  Every time I set my paws on the ground outside, a new adventure begins.  Whether I’m stepping in a bucket of peppers at the market or running up the mountains behind our house, I’m always having fun.  I hope you are, too!