A South American Travel Journal
by Bill Sundstrom

December 2001 - June 2002
From Minnesota to Southern Chile and Back
Flown in My Single-Engine Beechcraft Sport Airplane

Date Subject Date Subject
15-Jan-02   Mexico 1 10-Apr-02   Past week in Santiago
17-Jan-02   Cuernavaca 12-Apr-02   Not much
23-Jan-02   January 16 - 22 14-Apr-02   Concepcion
29-Jan-02   Three weeks so far in Mexico 16-Apr-02   Valdivia
31-Jan-02   The last couple of days 16-Apr-02   Peurto Varas
04-Feb-02   Flying and A quiet few days 23-Apr-02   Chiloe
07-Feb-02   I love Cuernavaca 27-Apr-02   San Carlos de Bariloche
17-Feb-02   Guatemala, etc. 29-Apr-02   San Martin de los Andes
20-Feb-02   Tamarindo and the Arenal Volcano 02-May-02   Peninsula Valdes and Necochea
23-Feb-02   Monte Verde and Montezuma 05-May-02   On to Mar del Plata
26-Feb-02   More days in Montezuma 11-May-02   Buenos Aires
02-Mar-02   To Ecuador 16-May-02   Wine, Soccer, and the Tango
04-Mar-02   Weekend in Playas 20-May-02   TANGO - dancing the nights away
04-Mar-02   Back to Guayaquil 23-May-02   Number 4 from BA
05-Mar-02   Dragonflies 26-May-02   Farewell Buenos Aires
06-Mar-02   In Peru 30-May-02   Iguazu is Magical
08-Mar-02   Getting to Peru 05-Jun-02   Rio de Janeiro and more
13-Mar-02   Lima and the way to Cuzco 06-Jun-02   Party July 6th
15-Mar-02   More from Cuzco 09-Jun-02   Morro de Sao Paulo
18-Mar-02   To Machupicchu and back 17-Jun-02   Northern Brazil and the Guyanes
23-Mar-02   Lake Titicaca 20-Jun-02   Venezuela and Bonaire
29-Mar-02   Exiting Peru and on to Chile 25-Jun-02   Coming to Florida
31-Mar-02   Viqa del Mar and Valparaiso 28-Jun-02   The final entry - Reflections
04-Apr-02   Talagante and Santiago


Main Plaza of Antigua
Main Plaza of Antigua

Subject: Guatemala, etc.
Date: Wed, 17 Feb 2002 18:43:21
From: Betty Cassady
To: Bill Sundstrom

Some thoughts on Guatemala as I prepare to leave tomorrow.
This is a beautiful land with beautiful people.
The mountains and volcanoes are magnificent. Antigua has been preserved as an old classish colonial city, right down to all the streets being rough cobblestone. Even with its very old look, it is quite modern inside. Internet cafes are everywhere - probably to serve the thousands of student who come here to learn classish in the hundreds of language schools here. Interestingly enough the majority of students are from Europe.
The people maintain a great cultural heritage. They still port item on their heads. The weaving is colorful and intricate. It can be purchased everywhere on the streets for next to nothing.
To give you some of the flavor, I will try to attach a photo from the street in front of my hotel.

The dollar goes a long ways here. I could live here for less that $20 a day - and that includes everything. People say that Guatemala isn't a safe place to be. I could not see any reason to believe that. I would say it's a great vacation spot. I hope to come back some day and spend two or three weeks here.

I got a chance to meet Brian and Judy's friend - Liz. She lives here off and on during the year.

Everything seems to be set for Belize. I will meet Paul there tomorrow.
Please, forward this to my mail list.



Subject: Tamarindo and the Arenal Volcano
Date: Wed, 20 Feb 2002 09:22:01
From: Bill Sundstrom
To: Betty Cassady

Sunday: It was a dry, dusty three kilometers into Playa Tamarindo. We started to walk but quickly decided to grab a taxi. The beach had a lot of black volcanic sand as well as the normal white sand. There is also black lava on the beach. It was extremely hot. We swam in a great surf. This is a surfing area. On the beach we met a Venezuelan family that moved here a while back.
They gave us some ideas on places to go. Later we stopped to get out of the sun in beach bar and restaurant. We just hung there and met a nice couple from Holland - Maud and Elko. Finally we headed back to our hotel, this time on a bus.

We flew back to Liberia as promised. We decided to go to San Jose, because it would be safer for the plane and easier to get permission to fly locally. We rented a car. Paul changed his ticket. I got permission to fly to all the Costa Rican airports. After all the hassle on Saturday, it was a breeze - because we were in the right place and the right time. That was the Civil Aviation Administration building in San Jose.
The drive north was one of the most beautiful that I have ever taken. This part of Costa Rica is a vision of Shangri-La. It is so green, verdant hills, grass everywhere, deciduous trees with huge canopies, flowers, papayas, cows - even Holsteins, friendly and beautiful people along the road. It reminded me of pictures from Switzerland. We have seen and heard many types of birds from all over North and Central America. About 6:00 we found a very nice motel to put down for the night.

Water Falls
Water Falls

Tuesday, 18 February 2002:
We went to a waterfalls in the late morning. It has a 70-meter fall. We hiked down about 85 meters to the pools below the falls. (See the attached photo.) We went swimming in the fairly cold water. Paul even went into the main pool and swam. It was like a hurricane that pushed him away as he tried to swim toward the falls. The hike up was a killer. Both on the way to and from the falls we picked up walkers. There are lots of backpackers here. We took a break because we were so zonked. In the afternoon we headed for the park, but the ranger had closed the gate early. Maybe tomorrow. We went to a hot springs for over an hour of soaking. It is much like a series of gigantic hot tubs only there is a lot more water moving at a pretty good clip.
At diner we met two American's and a Norwegian: Lauren, Jessimin, and Alvin. After diner we went with them to a local bar for a couple of beers. When we came out around 10:30, there had been a light rain. It rained during the night also. Compared to the cost this area must get a lot of rain, because it is so green.

Instructions for sending this out to my old list and to me:
Open my old message and do a reply to all.
This is very important: Add my new address to those you are sending them to.
Delete my old message and subject line.
Copy this message to the body of the new message.
Copy the subject line to the subject line.
Press send.
Don't worry about my glasses.
Yes I would like a new pair, but it is probably a big hassle.
Wish there was a Lenscrafters along the way.
Well maybe there is.
By the way, I cannot imagine flying to Cozco in Peru; its altitude is more than 10,000 feet. We will take the train from Lima.
I will write again soon




Arenal Lava Flow
Arenal Lava Flow

Subject: Monte Verde and Montezuma
Date: Sat, 23 Feb 2002 17:13:10
From: Bill Sundstrom
To: Betty Cassady

Wednesday - the 20th:
Started out slow, but finally made it to the lava flow and the base of Arenal. I wonder what it looks like hot. The drive around the lake and to Monte Verde took all day long. It sounds crazy for about 100 kilometers, but the driving was slow. We saw howler monkeys and Koromundi along the way. The lake is wonderful, and the climate around it if very comfortable, except on the far west side where the wind is incredibly fast. This would be some of the best wind surfing on the planet. On the long south side of the lake we hit dirt roads with ruts, pot-holes and bumps as big as a person. We were good to go 10 kph. The rolling hills and valley were spectacular. It also started to cool way down. In Monte Verde it was down right chilly, long pants and sweater weather again as I am sure it was in the low 60's.

Costa Rican Racoons
Costa Rican Racoons

We did the canopy tour in the morning in the cloud forest. It is so high up the clouds are in the hills. There are very few if any pines here. It is a deciduous forest. The canopy tour put us on cables, flying in the treetops.
We thought that we might see wild life but we did not. Later we hiked in an area were if it had been early morning we would have seen quite a bit. Driving down the other side was just as tortuous as driving in. It took two hours to get out on to the highway. I use the word highway sparingly. It took 3 hours to get to San Jose on this road due to very heavy traffic of mostly semi rigs.
We had hoped to go out, but Paul was entirely to zonked. By the way, San Jose is nice - but accommodations are expensive and hard to find compared with the rest of Costa Rica which is not cheap in and of itself.

We did some business in the city and headed for the airport. I flew to a small airport in Tambor on the south end of the Nicoya peninsula. The last 12 miles on the bus took an hour compared with 45 minutes to fly the 60 miles from San Jose.
Montezuma is on the east side of the tip of the peninsula. It is so hot and humid here that I can hardly believe it. The area is full of travelers but it is also a very small village. We met two Swedes, Mikael and Lotta, and had a couple of beers with them as we watched the waves roll in. After dinner we went down to the center, bought beers in the grocery store and drank on the street. There we met Javier and Charlotta from Argentina. Later we went in to the bar and danced and drank far to late into the evening. We were so hot and sweaty it was the cold shower before sleep. We swore to move to a room with AC and we did today.
One thing the Swedes told me about was a new vaccine (?) for travelers' diarrhea, called dukoral. Please check it out ASAP. It is taken by twice by tablet one week apart. If you do the research and it sounds good let me know. I will look for it here.

Until you send me the entire list on one of the old email, I must ask you to forward this to everyone. Get Dain to help you.
Will call tomorrow.




the Beach in Montezuma
Beach in Montezuma

Subject: More days in Montezuma
Date: Tue, 26 Feb 2002 12:03:12
From: Bill Sundstrom
To: Betty Cassady

Saturday the 23rd:
It was an overcast day. We really enjoyed it because it was so much cooler. It made me wonder why we moved to a room with A/C, but not for long because it got really hot again yesterday. Paul and I got split up and ended up at different beaches. Later we shared what we had found. We set out for an early diner and ran into folks we had met other places in Costa Rica: Shelly and Christy from Fortuna, and Tomas and Haike from the Monte Verde Canopy Tour. Haike is traveling with Bjorn and Thomas with Sylvia. There is dance bar in town; I watched the action there and on the street until mid-night.

Haike and Paul did a dive. I headed off to the nature reserve at the end of the peninsula. I hitched there and back. The hike in the reserve was tough, but I was out there about three hours. I saw some wild life. The height of which was a family of howler monkeys.
When I got back to Montezuma, I found Paul looking for me on the beach. We swam a bit in the gloriously warm seawater. While on the beach we met Zocha, an Israeli woman. After a beer and diner we went to cool off in our hotel room. We were so tired we both crashed before 8:00 PM.

Monday the 25th:
We had decided to stay in Montezuma, because we just did not have the energy to set up in another place for just two days. We thought we would go to the other side of the peninsula, but ended up taking a road that is only suited for walking. The walking was to tough due to the heat and we went back to the beach in Montezuma. We sunned, swam, snorkeled, and observed some beautiful Italians sun bathing and swimming. After the beach we headed to a nearby fresh water pool to rinse off and swim a bit more. It was great. We ran into those Germans again and we met some interesting people that are camping here: Mark (Memphis), Chaling (Taiwan), and Sheena (BC, Canada). We had a great dinner at Los Artistas and met another interesting couple that was sitting at our table. The couple were young, in-love and at the very beginning of a relationship. She was a Tica and he a Chicagoan that was originally (as a boy) from Pakistan. I had the Red Snapper and Paul had the Barricuda.

Today I will mainly be getting reading to go to Ecuador. The general plan is to drop Paul off in San Jose tomorrow, then fly to Panama City. Paul will fly to Belize and then home on Thursday. On Friday, given good weather, I will put off for Quito. I will have to make a single fuel stop in Columbia. The thought of flying in South America has my apprehensions up, due to all the hassles in Central America. Costa Rica did end up being great to fly in even though I didn't do that much. Internal fuel is very cheap ($2/gal.) and when leaving it even costs less.

Steve wanted me to buy him a hat in Panama. The price range is huge, so I may call him tonight to get his had size and how much he wants to spend.
Sent me your flight info again for Lima. Do you know what John's plans are? We will need to connect with him. If we are going to take the train, we will need very light cables and pad locks to tie our bags down. It is not likely that I can fly to Cozco but it is a remote possibility. Even so if we take the train to Bolivia, the cables are a security must on the train. Please, pack lightly and out of one bag if possible - it will be a bitch if you have more than 25 lbs of gear. Take it from me who has way too much stuff. At least, I can leave some of it in the plane if the airport is secure.
I will write from Quito.

Take care and much love,



Subject: To Ecuador
Date: Sat, 02 Mar 2002 15:47:45
From: Bill Sundstrom
To: Betty Cassady

Thanks for sending me all the email adresses.
Alot but not all of my last distribution list has been restored on the hotmail server.

Wednesday the 27th:
Paul and I were up early. We ate and headed for the bus. We bade a found farewell to Montezuma about 8:15. More than one hour later, we got off the bus and walked the 100 meters to the N5112R. We flow down the cost less than ten minutes before we were over Montezuma then off to San Jose. I left Paul there, and proceeded to Panama City. It was the same old stuff at the airport. But soon I was in a great hotel (yuk), my room smelled so strongly of mothballs it was beyond believe. I planned my trip to Ecuador.

Thursday the 28th:
I was up early, or so I thought, because I had lost an hour as I entered the Eastern Time zone. At the airport, before I left - I discovered that I must have permission to enter Ecuador before leaving. So, I waited as the request was made and received. With some guarantees that all was well, I left with favorable winds directly for Esmeraldas. It was the longest and the furthest out to sea that I have flown. But it was necessary if I was going to by pass Columbia. Four and one-half hours later I was down in Ecuador. But not all was all right. They have no AV gas. The next day I would have to get SUPER car gas and give it a shot.
I got a ride into Esmeraldas. It is across the river, but the bridge is more that ten miles up river. The country was brightly green from all the rain and very beautiful. It is so humid here, like a hot Minnesota summer. I have never seen such poverty before. Esmeraldas was very uncomfortable to see. Accommodations and food are very cheap here: $10 for a room with AC. Meals cost $2 to $5.
Friday the First of March:
It the morning when I looked out at the low overcast, I knew Quito was out of the question. Even with clear skies, I would be able to get there - but I began to question whether or not I could climb fast enough to avoid the local terrain. I decide to skip Quito. When I called the airport they said I could go to Manta on the coast for AV gas. I figured five more gallons of gas would get me there with what I had left from the day before. The person who brought me the day before to Esmeraldas picked me up at 8:00 in the morning. We hunted all over for a new, clean container and finally acquired one. We filled is with SUPER and headed back to the airport. I paided Jorge $15 for all his trouble, and I think that he expected more. Then there were more problems. First, they said: ?Sorry, no AV gas in Manta.? Well 5 gallons more would not get me the 190 miles to Guayaquil - where there was AV gas. So now I was stuck again. It was Jorge's day off and no one would bring me for less than $20. I was going to take the bus for more gas when some one said they would to it for $12. The 5 gallons cost another $8. But finally I was ready to go. And the weather was cooperating. I climbed through and above the clouds and proceeded to Guayaquil. Two hours later as was down and safe.
Once under the clouds the landscape was fantastic. I flew over a huge lake then a river plane full of overflowing brown water, farms, rice patties, and green for as far as the eye could see. Later, I spent a lot of time at the airport trying to prepare the paper work to enter Peru. There may be some problems. It takes a lot of time to get approval and once again it is very hard to get the faxes off.
I decide not to stay in Guayaquil. It is the biggest city in Ecuador. I wanted something smaller and easier to handle on the weekend. So, I took a two-hour bus ride to Playas. It is a sleepy resort town. I swear the woman next to me on the bus was trying to come on to me. That is the first time that has happened to me on this trip. Anyway, I got in about 9:30 and found a cheap hotel across from the beach. I?ll stay here a few days why I try to iron out the permission problem.

By the way, I ended up owing Paul $35 on our shared expenses. So please pay him for me. He should be contacting you soon. Better yet call him ASAP. He tell you about some other stuff that I need.
Did I mention the shoe inserts? A small tube of antibiotic cream. I don't know what they have here.
Well that's it for now.




Subject: Weekend in Playas
Date: Mon, 04 Mar 2002 11:55:13
From: Bill Sundstrom
To: Birgitta Sundstrom

I am breaking the email list up.
Thats why Gitta is the recipient.
Whats with you and TIMM?

Saturday the 2nd of March:
Quiet but not that quiet, Playas is a very small resort town for mostly Guayaquilenos. I believe that I am the only North American here. I spent much of the day trying to prepare documents to fax to Peru. In the end the fax never got sent. I will go to Guayaquil on Monday and find someway to get the stuff to Lima, even if I have to use UPS or DHL. I all so verified the fax number and got the name of the person who is in charge of providing permission. The person that I talked to made it clear that I would probably need to send copies of several documents and an explanation of my intentions in Peru.
I also did many of the mundane things one must do on a trip that I never write about: checked my spending, wrote an email for my email journal, called and talked to Birgitta and you (it was great), I got my clothes laundered, and I got a hair cut. While waiting to get the hair cut, I wandered onto the town plaza.
Crazy as it seems, the town drunk, Diego, spoke very good English - practically the only one that I have met in Playas who could. What a hard luck story! If it is to be believed: He was a doctor just four short years ago. His wife and child died, then his sister got skin cancer and died. His father moved away to Houston. He has been drinking like a fish - no longer the doctor. He's had the DT's and his liver swelled up and still he is drunk. He said that I looked like Earnest Hemmingway and asked my age. When I told him 54, he asked me how old I thought he was. I said 44; he said no - 34. He asked me how he was going to get out of it. I told him that he needed to see himself someplace other that in a coffin, because that surely must be his vision for the future - dead like the rest of his family. George was the barber. As gay a blade as I have ever seen. He came recommended, but he still cut my hair so short that I look like a boy. At least, that is how long it has been since it was this short. The day sounds busy, but I found it relaxing compared to all the travels days this past week. I took a nap from 6:30 to 10:00. Then rinsed off and went out for an hour to watch the people and eat a burger. The little plaza and all the streets around it were full of people. A bandstand entertained people, some ate in the plaza and vendors sold their wares. I walked by a dance club, but just didn't have the energy to go in. I guess I was just set to continue the laid back day.

Sunday the 3rd:
I slept late. The bug bites or rash I noticed the night before had greatly dissipated. After breakfast, I read the Clive Cussler book that I am working on. I went looking for another pair of clip on sunglasses. No luck, in fact, sunglasses have been hard in general to hang onto during this journey. Later at the beach I did get a pair. I really haggled just like Lenin taught me; they went from $15 down to $5.
I hit the beach to do some sunning and swimming around 12:30. Much to my surprise, what was almost empty at 5:30 the night before was full of people.
In the mile or so of beachfront there were at least 20,000 people! I say at least because there could have been 30,000. Little tents littered the higher up part of the beach. The beach was way down from Saturday with a hard-packed sand exposed. Most surprising was that at least a third of the people at the beach were in the water; yes, 7 to 10 thousand people in the water. The people on the beach are like the people of Ecuador: white, black, two indigenous peoples and ever sort of mix you can imagine. The people here were happy and well nourished. Most have jet-black hair, save some of the women - were some are getting color from a bottle.
I ate a fresh oyster ceviche made right in front of me from fresh rock oysters. It was great. I hope there are no bad repercussions. Some young thing showed me her tongue and wiggled her ass at me. I couldn't believe my eyes, it was all that I could do not to break out laughing. Unlike Costa Rica, I am not invisible here.



Subject: Back to Guayaquil
Date: Mon, 04 Mar 2002 20:19:16
From: Bill Sundstrom
To: Betty Cassady, Birgitta Sundstrom, Dain Sundstrom

Monday the 4th:
It rained all night. It was the first time that I was super glad to have the canvass tarp for the plane. The temperature dropped too, 22c this morning. I was up about 6:00, got myself out the door about 10 to 7. Five minutes later, a little wet, I was on the bus to Guayaquil. At the bus terminal, which is next to the airport, I grabbed a cab for $3 into the center. I had picked a hotel from the travel book and got a cheap room with no A/C.
Most of the rest of the day, I worked on getting the fax sent to Peru for permission to enter. About 4:00 I got the good word that I was approved to fly to Lima. The controls both here in Ecuador and Peru are horrendous. I suspect that if I was going to be in Peru longer, and I could develop my bona fides things might be a bit different. So, now I can fly to Talara, Trujillo, and Lima. I will try to leave on Wednesday. With any luck with the weather, I will be able to greet John (the 7th at 11:43PM) and you (the 10th at 8:42PM) at the airport when you arrive. By the way, what is your flight number and carrier.
Happy as a lark to get the paper work behind me, I walked across town to the hat shop where I bought Steve and myself Panama hats. Together they cost $100. Steve's was $45. They had a few less expensive. I asked to see the most expensive one. It was $800. It takes six months of handwork to make such a hat. He claimed they sold for $4000 in New York. I am starting to like Ecuador. The weather is like the wettest Junes and Julys in Minnesota, and the heat to match. The people are friendly. The travel book says that they are loose robust people. The little I have seen bears that out.
Had a great dinner and dessert - $8.00 at a fancy Hotel. Tomorrow I will explore the city a bit more and plan my trip to Lima.

Other things to bring:
I have told you most of the stuff, but I was thinking about another tube of Listerine toothpaste. I have not seen any down here.
The stuff that you cannot bring that I want is some clothes that fit better.
Please don't bring anything but those convertible pants that I asked for.
I think I have continued to loose weight, but there are no scales around that I have found. Eventually I will get tired of these clothes and I will have to unload them and get new ones. What I like best is my Bermudas but they fit the worst. You will see. The quality of clothing here is not all that great. So I am at a loss of what to do.

I may be able to get S.Am. coverage on the plane at triple my normal rate. Should I? I feel like I am being stuck up. for 15 weeks of small additional risk to the insurance company. After all I am flying alone.
I will write again when I get to Lima on the 6th or 7th.

Love Bill



Subject: Dragonflies
Date: Tue, 05 Mar 2002 18:24:53
From: Bill Sundstrom
To: Betty Cassady, Birgitta Sundstrom, Dain Sundstrom
Attachment: Guayaquil.jpg' height=''

Today was a kick back day because I am just waiting to go to Peru. I hope the weather tomorrow was as great as today's. The rain gave way to the sun.
The temp jumped up and the humidity bore down.
I walked the waterfront today. They have a beautiful park that stretches for more than a mile. It has tile walkways, delightful gardens, restaurants, a masted sailing ship, towers and more. This place is all about the Guayas river and its connection to the sea. The river is dotted with floating patches of green-green vegetation that seem to move a bit up stream in the morning but was moving rapidly seaward by mid-afternoon. At the end of the walk I rested and cooled off in an A/Ced building. Then I hiked up a huge hill with a street of steps. The area's buildings are being totally rehabilitated. As I climbed the stairs I notice how colorful they were compared to the poor area on an adjacent hill. Perhaps that is why there were swarms of dragonflies all about. At the top of the hill the view was stunning. Turning from the north clockwise more than 190 degrees all I could se is a river a mile or more wide.
The rest of the day was spent getting ready for Peru.



The next journal entry: In Peru