The Ultimate Panamerican Highway roadtrip review
The start: On the way to Haines, Alaska. On the picture, me on the left and my two best friends.
Me, two years later, in Ushuaia, Argentina. Same gore-tex jacket, same soul, just a bit older.
Panamerican roadtrip photo-journey-review something something
This is more or less a selection of random pictures taking between 2016 and 2019. I figured that some of my readers would love to see more pictures of the panamerican highway trip. At least, I know that my mom would love to see more pictures, so there it is. Bonjour maman.
At the end, I have a list of recommended gear and tips that I discovered through the trip. I hope to inspire others to go off-the-beaten path of life and live life at the fullest. Overlanding The Americas was the best decision of my life and I cannot recommend it enough to anyone thinking about doing it.
Here’s a few things to know:
- It will cost you way more than you expect. I think that I was going to spend maybe $20k CAD on this trip (without the gear and the Jeep). It went over $40k easily with planes, shipping, paperwork, food, hostel…things added up. Just be ready. Thank God I had the best job in the world to provide me with the financial support.
- Go slow. There is no need to be driving after dark. Driving at night is extremely dangerous and should be done only with great care. Drunk driving is a problem in latin america, but also the wild games randomly popping in and out of the road…I remember driving through El Salvador at night, trying to find a hostel. I was looking at my iPhone to change song…I quickly looked ahead of me and the biggest cow on Earth was in my lane. Good thing I was going slow…otherwise this trip would have been over.
– Eat well. I wish I would have known about the keto diet beforehand.
– Rest well. I should have been less cheap and rent hostel more often. Not only you get wifi and shower, but you also meet other fellow travellers and can socialize.
– This trip will be hard mentally. Dealing with South American bureaucracy is painful. Dealing with Central American bureaucrazy is insane. So be patient and think about the cold beer that you gonna have when all is done and you’re park at your camping spot.
– Use iOverlander and booking.com. Found great informations and deals on both.
– Take pictures. I wished I would have slowdown and take pictures of Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua. I think that I took one picture of a road sign in Nicaragua. I hated that country and just wanted to go through.
– You will meet corrupted cops. That’s just going to happen. Maintain professionalism. Most of these cops are making 1/10 of your salary back home, or even less. I never had to bribe a cop in my whole panamerican trip. Do the same. Refuse to bribe. Smile, politely pretend that you don’t speak english nor spanish (francais est une bonne astuce) and just play dumb.
– With that being said, try to never handout the original documents. Make photocopies. Only at borders use the original documents.
– That might not work and the cops will think that you’re trying to screw them over…so I played a game of reversed psychology many times: handout all of the original copies of all your documents and show them respect. They will feel very valued that a foreigner is giving them a Canadian passport in their hand (most of them never see a foreign passport) and will try to be the most professional ever in their job.
– If something doesn’t feel right, chances are that…they aren’t. So get the fuck out.
– Use a pre-paid visa that you can reload using your bank account. Don’t get scammed.
– Do not be cheap on tires. See my article below. Sometimes, you will want to go a certain zone of the city very fast…and having a breakdown could compromise your safety greatly. I am thinking about a time where I got lost in a shady part of Lima…I was able to get out and thank God the Jeep didn’t breakdown or had a flat. Same in Cuenca, Ecuador. We needed to get the hell out of a shady situation at a gas station at night. A breakdown would have absolutely screw us over.
– Do not leave your car unattended.
– At the same time, I parked my Jeep with the top down and windows rolled down from Canada to Argentina with zero incidents. Reversed psychology. “No gringo is too stupid as to leave anything valuable inside.”…Well, I had well over $15k worth of photography gear inside. But I twisted the fabric of reality through something called reality transurfing and made a reality where everything was fine. And everything was fine.
– Always carry a spare jerry can of fuel, filled up. It might not be for you, but for locals. You might run into a local car with six kids at the back and desperate parents trying to get a hitch to the next town to get fuel cause they didn’t plan their once-a-year-trip-out-of-the-village properly. Give them fuel. You will 100% be seen as a god and they will forever see Canadian as the greatest people on Earth. For us, it’s cheap. 20l is $20-30 bucks, but for some of them, that’s a week salary.
And here I am, wondering what’s next. I have driven over 250 000 kilometres (160 000 miles) in the Americas (Canada, USA, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Bolivia, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay) with a Mercedes W140 S320, SE400, S500, S600, Lexus LS460 and Jeep Wrangler Unlimited X. I might have used about 2000 kilometres to get to work, so 248 000 kilometres were spent travelling to new places. I feel that I’ve been everywhere and anywhere. The question I asked myself now is what’s next at 27 years old? Special Forces within the Canadian Forces? Double down and ship the Jeep to Africa or Europe and go to Mongolia? So many questions. Feel free to comment on this post if you have any ideas of life path I could do.
Here are 80 more photos of the trip! Random order, cause that’s how I feel like tonight.
Chile was just amazing. I went there four times: Once with a rented car, the other three times with the Jeep (one time North and twice South). Chile has better wine than Argentina (a fact that many overlanders shared with me), the country is very safe (no police corruption) in a way, but watch out: on iOverlander, Chile has one of the highest report of crime (petty theft: slashing tires, canvas to get into RV, etc) of the Americas.
DO NOT LEAVE YOUR VEHICULE UNATTENDED IN CHILE UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. Okay, this is different if you decide to sleep in the desert or randomly high on a volcano, but forget about leaving an expensive rig on the street in Santiago de Chile or Arica, Chile.
Quick note: If you are going to travel the Americas overland in a 4x4, make sure to get the best tires available. My first set of tires were KM (first edition) by BFGoodrich. These tires were amazing on dry and muddy roads, but downright dangerous on rainy pavement. I switched for KM2 in Bolivia and could not have been happier. I had zero flats with the BFGoodrich tires: they are legend. I cannot believe how I managed to never have a flat…but I suppose a mix of luck and good tires made it possible. I wrote more on my tire change in Bolivia here.
Here. This is the nicest road in the americas. Take the 459 road in a convertible on a blue sky day and you’ll cry at the shear beauty of the Atlantic rainforest. No pictures can represent the awesomeness of this road. There are plenty of craft brewery along the way and fine restaurant. Make sure to spend a day in Paraty Trinidad and pursue your journey up North to Rio de Janeiro de next day.
I could write in great length on my time in Brazil…It has always been such a blast to be in the country. I never been a fan of their food tho.
If you made it this far, you deserve to know where are the best roads in the americas. This is not a buzzfeed article nor a copypasta: This is some real life experience.
I hope you enjoyed this selection of random photos…I have about 10 000 more…and I am keeping some exclusive for my book coming this October, Dancing After The Music Stops.
I carried four stoves with me: a Solo Stove, which was absolutely amazing and underrated, a XGK EX by MSR that I swear by, a Primus green-bottle propane stove that I barely used and a smaller propane gas stove. My favourite was by far the Solo Stove Titan: There is just something spiritual about cooking over twigs and coal. Now, when it comes to make coffee using an italian mokapot/stovetop thingy, nothing beats an XGK EX on the market. Throw some jet fuel (white fuel) in the fuel canister of the XGK and you’ll have boiling water in 45 seconds, 0 to 100. It is the most powerful stove on the market and it is made for extreme conditions. Mine never missed a beat in a decade, despite being abused daily and neglected badly.