Once we decided on a road trip, the search was on for a reliable 4 wheel drive vehicle that would be able to transport us (in relative comfort) 11,000 kms over mountains, through deserts and on a wide variety of roads, ranging from smooth asphalt to washboard gravel.
We decided we would purchase a vehicle in North America and have it shipped to South America - this would give us some familiarity with the car, and some time to "break it in". Simply put, buying a used car on the spot in a foreign county where your Spanish language skills consist of "My shaved monkey will pay" is a recipe for disaster. In the coming weeks and months, we will relate our experiences on shipping our vehicle to Colombia, which promises to be an adventure in itself.
The most important factor when car shopping was to find a vehicle that we would be able to service in South America - after reading a lot of overlander blogs, we learned that finding compatible parts for a North American vehicle is often a challenge.
That brought us to two choices - either an early 2000's Toyota 4Runner, or a Nissan Pathfinder of the same vintage. Five weeks of scouring Auto Trader and Kijiji and a dozen or so test drives in Winnipeg gave us an idea of what the local market held for these types of automobiles - slim pickings...
David would often take his nine year old son Daniel along on the test drives, and Daniel would give his (brutally) honest opinion on the car directly to the seller. This good cop, bad cop routine went on for a few test drives, until Daniel gave his opinion on a particularly beat up 2000 Nissan Pathfinder to the heavily tattooed, 300 pound biker who wanted to sell his vehicle. After that point, Daniel was told that his opinions should be stated quietly to his dad.
Finally, the right vehicle appeared in mid-March - a one-owner 2002 Nissan Pathfinder SE. After some appropriate haggling, we had our vehicle! Bob graciously offered to drive the vehicle over the summer in order for us to find any niggles or quirks, and the vehicle continues to perform well, after another 10,000 kms.
The most important part of our story fell into place quickly - what were we going to name our vehicle? Adam swiftly came up with Manuel before he even saw the Pathfinder. The Spanish play on words with Manual transmission seemed like the a natural choice, especially since the vehicle is an automatic! So Manuel it is....
The final piece in the puzzle was a personalized license plate - as you can see, nothing screams "TURISTA!" more than a license plate that says GRINGOS. The plate has already garnered some laughs (and even a selfie) and is definitely a conversation point, especially with people who speak Spanish.
Here's hoping Manuel can carry us through South America safely and easily!
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”
- Mark Twain