Day to day challenges of life in South America
In many South American countries, the goods available at supermarkets, especially in the countryside, can vary quite a lot. Back at home I would usually decide in advance what I was going to cook for the next few days, make a list of what was needed and then simply go and get the items from the supermarket. Over here, it's a whole different ballgame. I've now learned to go to the shop first, see what's available on the day, and only then deciding what we might cook. I can't store much food either, due to the limited space available in our camper, which only has a small fridge and no freezer. Grocery shopping is also very time consuming, because different products are sold in individual shops; meat from the butchers, bread from the bakery, fruit and vegetables from their own shop etc.
It's starts getting dark at around 5pm here, and by six it's completely dark outside. I gladly carry a torch with me when we're walking about on the grass or using the shared facilities of the campsite, like the showers etc, especially after noticing two hairy tarantulas in the cooking shelter. Showers in themselves are a luxury, although it's very typical for the water temperature to be fixed, without any way to alter it. Usually the water is cold to begin with, but heats up to boiling temperatures, so to avoid burning I tend to start washing while it's still on the cool side. I always carry some toilet paper in my pocket, because it's not available at any public toilets. Flushing it is not allowed anywhere in South America, so the used paper gets put into bins. The real problem arises when there's no bin available!
The seven hour time difference between here and Finland makes keeping in touch with family difficult. What makes it even harder though, is very limited access to the internet. I've tried to solve the problem by always getting a phone and internet card as soon as we have arrived in any country, but getting our hands on them can take some detective work! They're not sold at mobile network providers, but at all sorts of curious places, such as chemists and specific corner shops. Activating said cards can also require a visit to a post office or even the customs! In Brazil for example, it took six hours for us to get through the whole process!
Finding a place to camp overnight can prove challenging at times too, because campsites are pretty hard to come by and “everyman’s right” does not apply here. Questions over the level of security in certain countries, force us to be even more selective about where we choose to stay overnight. Armed robberies into lorries and camper vans have been known to take place at service stations etc. The iOverlander-app has proved itself very useful at times, since it's all about other caravaners sharing their recommendations on places to camp and providing coordinates to them too. Good old word of mouth amongst other travelers has worked pretty well too.
The biggest challenge we've had to face so far, arose once we'd used up our first set of tires. We tried to find compatible tires from several countries and cities, but it turns out that the specific size and type of tyre Epeli needs is more or less nonexistent in the whole of South America. We went ahead and ordered a set from Germany, and prepared ourselves for the 8-10 week waiting time we were given upon purchase. Two months have gone by and after numerous calls to the company we've found out that the tires are still sat at the departure doc. All we can do now is wait patiently. Thankfully, all the little challenges of day-to-day life in South America have grown our patience quite a bit over the last six months, and we've learned to embrace the local saying ”tal vez mañana” – maybe tomorrow!