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About SEVENTEEN by SIX

We are driving from Mexico to Argentina in our VW Eurovan, which we bought in the US in 2011. We are both journalists from the UK – we’ve been working a little on the road, and we have no plans for what will happen at the end of this trip, in 2014. We’ve been broken, stranded, stuck and lost, and so far had the time of our lives.

Trip Start: Trip End: 2014-12-31 .

Author Archive | SEVENTEEN by SIX

A transmission tragedy – abridged

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by Paula
You might have wondered how a broken van could possibly take 11 months to repair. We’ve frequently pondered that too. Now that we’re happily on our way again, lazing on a sun-kissed Peruvian beach, let’s have a little flashback. If you are not remotely interested, step away now because it’s not going to be pretty.
There’s a US…

There’s no place like home

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We did it! Making it to Peru was a massive relief

The beach, Peru
[by Paula]
When we blogged last week, to say that our van was back in the game after 11 months off the road, we mentioned that we had another enormous challenge to face before we could really get back into the road trip part of this…

The post you thought we’d never write

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Safe to say that mechanic Juan Carlos and owners Lothar and Lothar Ranft don’t ever want to see us again, nor us them.

Quito, Ecuador
[by Paula]
We’re back on the road again. No, we can’t believe it either! After 11 months off the road, the van is finally purring away happily and getting ready to turn south again.
Having…

Strictly come dancing

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Cuenca, Ecuador
[by Paula]
A great many things have happened on this trip that could not have been predicted. In fact, the majority of happenings were not foreseen, but some are more surprising than others.
So when I was standing watching Jeremy change from his jeans and t-shirt into an 11-piece Bolivian dancing outfit, including big flappy woolly Andean trousers,…

The little things in life

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Anyone fancy a wee cerveza?

Jupapina, La Paz, Bolivia
[by Paula]
I was a bit of a geek for miniatures when I was younger. While others had cool bedrooms crammed with music posters, Pacman games (yes, it was the 80s) and normal teenage paraphernalia, my shelves were lined with tiny little versions of just about anything I could get my…

Potosí: The saddest place in South America?

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Candelaria mine, Cerro Rico, Potosí, Bolivia. The mines – which have claimed millions of lives – are still being worked today.

Jupapina, near La Paz, Bolivia
[by Paula]
We’ve just spent our third Christmas and new year away from home. As we’re living in a proper house and have been temporarily adopted by Emma, Rolando and family, it was more…

Wrestling with nature

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Shop in La Paz, Bolivia

Jupapina, near La Paz, Bolivia
[by Paula]
I’m not going to get all earth mothery on you, but our recent voluntary work in Bolivia is teaching us a hell of a lot about what it takes to manage a piece of land in a place where the weather can be brutal and the terrain unpredictable.…

Rock ‘n roll nights

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Multi-coloured  Valparaiso.

Jupapina, nr Mallasa, Bolivia
[by Paula]
We spent a day trying to decide where to go for the last portion of my brother’s visit. We could still make it to Peru for some trekking? Maybe pop over to Argentina?
After Derek left, Jeremy I were either going to be scooting back up north to Ecuador to collect our…

UnBoliviable

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Yay, it’s snowing! No wait, hang on, this is salt.

Jupapina, nr Mallasa, Bolivia
[by Paula]
Not for the first time, I was sorely tempted to get down on all fours and lick the ground.
Could it really be a 12,000sq km blindingly-white desert of salt we saw before us? It was reminiscent of one of those movies where they…

Overdosing on superlatives

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Er, bit dry here in the desert isn’t it? Pan de Azucar National park, Chile.

La Paz, Bolivia
by Paula
We’ve been over-doing things recently, in the best possible way. What with our marathon journey south to meet my family – the Jollys – in Chile, and the ensuing five weeks of astounding sightseeing, travelling and general Jollity, we’re all…

Plan Z

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Backpackers again (for now)

Arequipa, Peru
[by Jeremy]
Travelling South America’s coastal highways and precipitous mountain roads, you experience a series of dizzying twists and sharp turns. Our own journey over the past few weeks has been more a series of switchbacks, diversions, u-turns and a few dead-ends.
Next week we are meeting Paula’s parents in Chile. We are in…

Getting a life

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Weekend park life in Quito is busy and atmospheric.

Quito, Ecuador
[by Paula]
We’ve been getting a life recently. The more and more time we spend in Quito, the more it starts to feel normal to be living here.
When we finally get back in the van there’s going to have to be a period of re-adjustment, but it’s one…

Chasing robbers

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Quito, Ecuador
[by Paula]
In the last couple of weeks, we’ve been chasing two types of robbers.
The first, Ecuadorian customs, we are trying to outwit using the powers of logic, justice, and tenacity.
The second, an actual daylight robber, we chased off a bus, down the street, then pinned against a wall before handing her over to the police.…

Illegal aliens

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Quito, Ecuador
[by Paula]
As of midnight tonight we will be – for the first time in our lives – so-called illegal aliens. We should be in Peru by now, but we are still in Ecuador, and have exceeded the 90-day time limits on both our tourist visas and car permit.
Unlike most other Latin American countries, those permits are…

Not pigs, not from Guinea… but they are tasty

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Making sure the skin doesn’t burst, roasting cuy (guinea pigs) at the market, Gualaceo, Ecuador.

Cuenca, Ecuador
[by Paula]
Just because we’ve been stopped for a while doesn’t mean we don’t keep learning things – oh no. The trajectory of our learning curve keeps speeding ahead in one direction.
Here’s a few things from the last few weeks: 1. If…

Big boys do cry

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Laguna Quilotoa, Ecuador

Quito, Ecuador
[by Jeremy]
It’s often said to be an endearing quality in a man to be able to show emotion, to be able to shed a tear. It’s not quite so endearing when the man in question is on all fours, clinging to a rock and blubbing uncontrollably.
I am that man.
Before setting out on…

Forks in the Road – read it and eat

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Our virtual overlanding friends – the trio that make up a website and work-while-you-travel lifestyle called Life Remotely – have done something many of us think we’d like to, but don’t bother to try. They’ve written a beautiful cookbook.
We’ve bought one, in ebook form. And we hope you want to too. It would be the kind thing to do…

This little piggie went to market

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Chugchilan, Ecuador
[by Paula]
We have become proficient enough at getting ourselves lost without any help from anyone, so we really don’t need someone telling us that when we’re going north we’re actually going sideways.

Jeremy reacts to seeing the equator by displaying his Ministry of Silly Walks repertoire.

And so it was when we crossed the equator. We pulled…

“Your daughter will suffer”: Colombia’s dark side

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Baños, Ecuador
[by Jeremy]
Like so many other travellers, we have, over the past few months, often waxed lyrical about Colombia’s natural beauty – its stunning landscapes, its warm people, its incredible coastline, its deserts, mountains, not forgetting its delicious arepas con queso.

Colombia’s paramilitaries target trade union activists and community leaders

Unlike most other travellers we are fortunate enough…

Hasta luego Colombia

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Campspot with a view, Tatacoa Desert, Colombia

Otavalo, Ecuador
[by Paula]
Hello Ecuador!
We’d been in Colombia so long we were in danger of starting to look suspicious to the authorities. The last customs official to renew our car permit told us one more month would be plenty to get us to the border. So we took the hint… and…

500 days!

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Today we celebrate 500 days on the road!
People often ask, ‘what have been the best bits?’ Impossible to answer. They range from huge awe-inspiring sights – like hiking an active volcano, gazing at Mayan ruins, or looking a snake in the eye – to little moments that would be lost in translation.
It’s been 500 days of exploring, learning,…

Portrait of a bad day

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Pereira, Colombia
[by Paula]
Life on the road has so many advantages it’s hard to know how to begin to quantify it. I don’t think we need to explain, any more than we have, how it feels to be free – at least for this chapter of our lives.
But despite all the obvious privileges, when you are travelling there…

Is it a bird, is it a plain?

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nr Manizales, Colombia
[by Paula]

Cowboy country, Los Llanos

We’d spent the morning watching a vet shoving his arm up the backside of several cows, then shovelling out the excess manure with a cupped hand before feeling their ovaries for signs of damage. Not for the first time did we pause and comment on how weird our life sometimes seems…

Parts and flowers

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Bogotá, Colombia
[by Jeremy]

Forests of freilejons at the Paramo de Oseta gave it an other-worldly feel.

A typical day at the beach in Britain is characterised by ruddy-faced hardy people huddling together behind ineffectual windbreakers, dressed in thick jumpers, raincoats, thermals and wellies.

It can sometimes feel similar at the stunning white-sand beach of Playa Blanca. At least it…

Ups and downs

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Sogamoso, Colombia
[by Paula]
As we came over the mountain pass we just couldn’t believe the eye-popping views over the Chicamocha Canyon. After several months on the Colombian coast, it was like being in a different country.

Caroline comes to stay

I was equally incredulous when, after a long descent down the other side of the mountain, our over-heated brakes…

Head for the hills

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The blog has been resting while we’ve been enjoying a visit from our friend Caroline. We think she had a great trip that was also a pretty accurate representation of our varied life on the road and of the many contrasts of Colombia. We finally turned south away from the scorching coast and headed into the cooler mountains, towards Bogota,…

Warm front from the south

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Tolú, Colombia
[by Paula]
There’s only one word that can describe the last few weeks. Warm.

Caribbean christmas feast. Cheers!

Yes, as it happens we have discovered whole new levels of sweltering as Colombia’s dry season roasts everything in its path, but – much as we love to obsess about the weather – we’re talking about a different kind of…

Two sides to every story

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Santa Marta, Colombia
[By Paula & Jeremy]
When you live in a house with wheels it can feel a bit counter-intuitive to stay still for long, but there are times when you just have to sit tight and get stuff done.
So the mileage count for the last few weeks hasn’t even reached triple figures, as we continue to potter…

Just a couple of old stick-in-the-muds

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Excuse me, where’s the ice cream shop? Sand dunes, Taroa, La Guajira, Colombia

Taganga, Colombia
[By Paula]
When we were in California buying the van last year, a story hit the news which has haunted us ever since. A couple of tourists, who were healthy and in their 30s, died in Joshua Tree National Park after their car got stuck…

Colombia ahoy!

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[We've fallen a bit behind with the blog. Tsk. And so much has happened recently. So for that reason we took half each and turned this next post into a two-parter. Fellow travellers who want more details about shipping and boat journeys from Panama to Colombia can email us or wait until we get round to posting a separate page…