One Couple’s Journey from Canada to Argentina in Their Sprinter
In 2014, Nikki and Jakob Celnik left their corporate jobs in New York City and bought a used Sprinter. They spent the following seven weeks designing and building the van, and then planned a two-year drive from Canada to Argentina. Highlights include mountain biking throughout Canada, climbing in Mexico, getting caught in one of the worst hurricanes ever to hit Baja, and staying with a local family in Colombia. They returned to New York in October with lots of photos and stories to share.
Photo: When the weather was good, we’d swing the back doors open. It was as if we were camping in a tent without having to set anything up. This was the view from our first night camping on the Pacific Ocean, just north of Squamish, British Columbia.
Camping at an altitude above 14,000 feet at the end of the road on Illiniza Sur, Ecuador.
Our first night in Mexico. People told us it was too dangerous to drive through Mexico, but it turned out to be one of our favorite countries. I remember sitting there, drinking Tecate, taking in the tranquility.
Having a dog to walk forced us to stop the van, stretch our legs, and take in the view. It also made traveling a lot harder at times. Long hike? Not unless it’s dog friendly. Lunch at a restaurant? Sure, but make it quick. Leika was a champion when it came to traveling: she’s well-trained and has a great temperament, and we could trust that she wouldn’t destroy the van or run away.
Laguna 69 in Peru is one of the most spectacular hikes in the Cordillera Blanca.
It wasn’t always smiles and sunshine on this trip, but it brought us closer than we could ever imagine. We’ve certainly tested our relationship in tough situations and under stress. It’s hard to hide or ignore your differences when you live in a van and spend nearly 24/7 together. We saw the good, the bad, and the ugly very quickly and were forced to confront our issues. Somehow, it worked out for the best. We still fight but keep improving on our communication and patience with each other.
Evenings were the best: a chance to process everything we’d seen and done during the day. Camping at 14,000 feet started to become normal for us.
Trip 17: People told us we were crazy to drive a two-wheel-drive car, but we’d often see a local in a 1988 Honda Civic going up the same roads we’d been told were impassable without a 4×4. And when in doubt, help never seemed too far even in the most remote locations. Here, we’re driving through the Southwest Circuit in Bolivia at about 14,000 feet.
Reaching the border of Argentina and Chile was bittersweet. After hundreds of miles of dirt roads and remote deserts, you feel like you’re entering a different world, shopping malls included. We drove toward Chile and spent a few days in the Atacama Desert watching the red sunsets.
The Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia. Magical place. We spent a full day just joking around and taking pictures. We never knew exactly how long we’d stay in a place, so we carried plenty of water (18 gallons was full capacity) as well as dry and canned goods.