Category Archives: Traveling the Americas

Our adventure to the real Valle de Cocora

There’s so much beauty to see in Colombia and on top of that the people we met were fantastic.  cocora-7

Off to the coffee plantation with our great friends, Bernardo and Krystina.  First of all, I would like to thank Christian, one who can’t stand the smell of coffee for doing a tour with me here.  I looked online to find a tour and with some luck I found one outside the cutest town, Salento at the base of the Valle de Cocora.  We took the tour and a million pictures to capture the moment of sipping this fine cafe in the coolest cup.  (The cup made many appearances in the show Narcos, so it had to be genuine.)  Here are some pictures of the cafeteros(coffee plantation towns) and Valle de Cocora.

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Salento, Colombia

While we were in and out of the cafetero towns we slept at a cafe/rest stop in the middle of the highway for five nights.  They had wifi and clean bathrooms, which has a huge appeal these days.  We spent a day visiting the town Salento that sits just above the Valle de Cocora.  Later that evening a local shared invaluable information about a road behind his restaurant that would take us from Salento to a town called Toche.  The drive between the two towns is untouched and has an exuberant amount of Cocora wax palm trees, the tallest palm trees in the world.  The touristy Valle de Cocora had nothing on the amount trees we saw on this drive, for miles it’s all one could see.  It would take us about a week to go thirty-five miles through this portion of the Andes Mountains over a gravel road, the views are out of this world.  We went camping for a night in the touristy portion of Valle de Cocora and hiked through it the next day.

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Our beautiful drive through farms, mountains and the Cocora palms
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Colombian jungle
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You can not beat a drive like this

The next morning we stocked up on food, water and essentials for a new adventure to find where all the real wax palms lived.  The road was not in our GPS so really we were just going off of what this stranger told us almost blindly.  We were with our friends and traveling as two vehicles feels safer and gave us all the confidence to do it.    The first day we got a late start and probably only made it seven miles where we found some space off the side of the road to camp for the night.  We parked over tons of wood, made a huge fire after dinner and tried to come up with ghost stories.  It was pitch black out, no one around for miles and then in the trees behind a vehicle we heard a woman’s voice.  Everyone jumped and we all turned on our bright LED lights, Christian of course grabbed the machete.  I told them “I know I heard it from inside their camper.”  So Bernardo took an axe and went in to investigate.  “AHHHH, I mean Oh it’s the bluetooth speaker turning off.”  The ghost stories seized right there.

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Rickety-shoddy bridges make me nervous

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Local Colombian Farmer explaining who knows what

We all got up pretty early the next morning so we could make the long trek to reach this minute town called Toche.  When we arrived we asked the local store attendant where we could camp and sleep for the night.  He invited us to stay on to his farm that was next to a river.  It was perfect for us, other than when he wakes up for work he blasts dance music at 5:30am like his is dj’ing for a wedding.  The guys went trout fishing in the river and chased after the farmer’s chickens with a bow and arrow around the farm.  It couldn’t have been more relaxing, so we stayed for three nights.  Relaxing eventually gets one restless so we figured lets head up to the Volcano and check out the hot springs here.  The four of us piled into The Globe Trol up a mountain and over the worst road ever we went.  We spent the day hiking and after we tried to relax with a dip into an odd concrete thermal pool off the side of the road.   The goal is to always make it to camp before sunset, it was about that time.  Sunset was on our heels so we piled back into The Globetrol and down the gravel road we bounced until I asked Christian to pull over.  I thought our friend’s dog was acting weird and possibly needed to go to the bathroom.  We hopped back into the van, immediately Christian noticed the check engine light was on and the oil pressure dropped to nothing.  He ripped the keys out of the ignition parked us in the middle of a one lane road on a mountain.  Our oil pan had met a piercing rock and every drop of oil lead to a trail up the road to the culprit.

We were stuck; miles from the country’s smallest town, in the dark and blocking the road.  Christian waited hours for the engine and oil pan to cool before he tried to repair it enough for us to make it to the closest farm.   The plan was Christian was going to try and seal the oil pan with silicone and put our old oil that we just so happened to be lugging around with us, back into the van.  Then he could drive the van just to the closest farm and park it for the night to wait for morning and make a new plan.  Krystina stayed with Christian in case he needed any help with speaking spanish to a nearby neighbor. The father of the family took Bernardo and myself on his tiny motorcycle back to their vehicle parked at the farm near the town.  Bernardo and I were going to brake down camp by the river in the dark and bring their camper up to where The Globe Trol was.  This all played out until we woke up the next morning and Krystina and Bernardo had a flat, so we had another farmland repair on the spot.  The silicone held up throughout the night, the guys fixed the flat and off we went.  If Christian would have waited another ten seconds to turn off the vehicle, our engine would have seized up and it would have been the end of this adventure.

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Through the Valle de Cocora
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No one was injured during this bright idea

The Globe Trol makes it to South America!

We arrived to Cartagena, Colombia, South America the same night that The Globe Trol did.  The very next morning we started the grueling task of retrieving our vehicle from the port.  Mounds of paperwork and back and forth in taxis all over this city, two eight hour days later Christian is at the container with his hard hat on and watching the doors open to find our beloved rolling home in one piece.

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We spent the next few days hanging out in the boiling hot colonial city of Cartagena, it was more perfect than I imagined.  If this was any indication of what Colombia was going to be like, we were going to have the time of our lives exploring the rest of the country.  On our way out of the city we get pulled over right away, which is nothing new to us.  They pull us over to let me know my bikini is on the hood of the car and about to blow away.  Whoops, I told them I was air drying it.

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Our next destination was Medellin and it was going to take couple of looooong driving days to get there.  We found a cool campground outside of the city high up in the mountains that overlooked the valley where Medellin sat.  We stayed there for over two weeks relearning a new slimmer budget due to the insane cost that it takes to ship yourselves and the vehicle from Panama to Colombia.  Outside the cost of camping which was extremely low we budgeted out our daily allowance to $12 for the two of us.  So each day we would come up with a strict grocery list and walk over to the market and only pick up three meals worth at a time.  By the end of the two weeks we saved a few dollars to take the bus to the national park nearby and ride the gondola down to the city for sightseeing, pictures, gardens, the center plaza and street food.  A few days later our friends that we met in Guatemala, Krystina and Bernardo (bkexplore) came to the campground and we traveled the rest of Colombia with them for about a month and a half.  At night up at the campground where we had wifi we would pull out netflix (thanks to my brother for sharing his acct) and watch Narcos season 2.  I mean we were there and its kind of like the city’s history.

Just a couple hours away from Medellin is a majestic lake called Guatape with a colorful quaint town.  We boon-docked here for a few days, made cute dinners together and we even made chocolate chip cookies out of the dutch oven.  It shocked me how perfect they came out.

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Cafeteros (coffee plantation towns) where next on the Pan-Americana road going south.  Home to hundreds of coffee plantations set in the Andean Mountains and in the middle of Colombia.  Coffee is one of the top three things that I love second only to red wine and chocolate.   I was stoked to go out for a tour and drink the best coffee on the planet.  On our way there we were going to stop at some thermals, it just so happened to be Colombian Valentines day so the thermals were packed and we were not going to be able to camp there for the night.  Instead on the way we saw a family off the side of the road near a river and with our tight budget we asked if we could park and camp next to them.  They were happy to have us and we drove onto their land and found ourselves in the muddiest place on earth and surrounded in cow meadow muffins.  The next morning they took us on a tour of their property on the other side of the river where I experienced my first mini jungle tour.  We bathed in the ice river that we camped next to and overall enjoyed ourselves for free in this mud-hole with the sweetest family.

Just before the coffee plantations was the Valley Cocora where the tallest palm trees in the world live.  It’s a little touristy but worth the visit, it also had a sweet little town called Salento outside of it.  Stay Tuned for the next chapter in Colombia, it only gets better.

San Blas Islands, Y’all.

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Birthday dance party on a Boat!

(I’m sharing a ton of pictures from this trip, don’t miss out)

One can drive from Alaska/Canada all the way to the most southern tip of South America along the Pan American Highway all for one minor interruption called the Darien Gap in Panama.  It’s a deep forested jungle separating Panama, Central America from Colombia, South America.  For us, other overlanders and all other travelers going south or coming north one has two options; fly from Panama City to Bogota, Colombia or sail a portion of the Caribbean Sea along the San Blas Islands Archipelago to reach Cartagena, Colombia.  We put our van in a container and it would take about a week for it to make it to Cartagena, now what to do with ourselves.   I could dream all I wanted to sail along perfect islands but to have the stars align in order for everything to workout; timing with our vehicle, Christian agreeing to this and it falling on my birthday was just never going to happen.

We had an insanely strict timeline for our vehicle because we shared a container with four guys from Argentina in a combi.  We dropped off our vehicles at the same time and we absolutely had to be at the port together in Cartagena to unlock and pick up The Globe Trol.  Christian and I researched how much flying out on short notice, booking hotels for six days, eating out every meal, taxis and buses to get us around because we would be waiting for our van to arrive compared to an all inclusive sailing trip.  It wasn’t a huge savings to not jump onto this once in a lifetime trip within an already great adventure.  While sweating in Panama we just had to find the perfect boat that would line up with our vehicle shipping dates, dammit.  Most people would consider me as positive and hopeful person.  I usually just know “something will workout, if not it wasn’t meant to be.”  But this time this dream was just to good to be true.  One hundred things could have gone wrong to keep us out of the water and put us on a plane.

Instead of flying we found the perfect outgoing boat with impeccable timing and for the cherry on top a magnificent group of people were grouped together.  Christian and I packed a backpack each and brought a box loaded with beers, wine and snacks.  A cab found us and we took a two hour ride out to a remote tiny village immediately after we said goodbye to the van.  We met the captain and chef at a palapa restaurant on the water and waited for the eight other travelers to arrive.  Late that night we hopped on dingys to take us out to our new boat-home for the next five days.  Christian and I had no idea what to expect and what the next week of our lives would be like, but these days we’re quite adaptable.  The next five days blow the hell out of our expectations, we kept checking in on each other to see if we were sailing through a dream or not.

That night Jari, our captain stays up all night and the next morning to sail us fifteen hours to the first island where we pay our ecotourism island fees to the Kuna Yala Island Tribe and pick up some supplies ( as in 128 beers, 7 bottles of rum, 3 bags of cookies, 4 bags of chips and any chocolate in their tienda/store they had available) The guys ran out of beer and we all ran out of rum by my birthday festivity.

Cesar, our chef whips us up some pancakes and a fruit salad while we all try to block ourselves from the intense sun that morning.  Jari tells us that we will visit two islands per day until the last day where we will sail onto open water for the last leg of the trip to get to Colombia.  We didn’t take all of these pictures, our new friends Dan and Luke shared their photos with us, thank you guys. img_3761img_3730img_3772

At our disposal we had a kayak and snorkeling gear available to us to for added exploring since there’s 365 islands here.  Sometimes we would pull up to spot in between seven small islands.  Some islands were inhabited with a one hut or a few or just a few palms.

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Chilling in our hammock on the deck

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For our second night Jari told us another boat was having a birthday party bonfire, so we all took the tiny boat out to a third island and met easily 50 other travelers either camping for a few days on the island or other sailors on a similar trip.  They had a huge cake that they shared with us and passed around.

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Christian and I talking with Luke

The following day we were brought to another small island where Cesar was going to grill up five different types of meat in a grill-hut with the most insane spread while we played volleyball and ran around the beach.

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One afternoon spent here, probably one of our favorite days
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Volleyball and a cookout on our own island
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The Meat Hut: Cesar spent two hours in here and it was about 100 degrees outside!
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our spread and lunch with the group

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Local Kunas would paddle out to our boat to sell Lobster, handmade jewelry, fabrics or weed basically anything you wanted or needed.  img_3813

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Lobster delivery
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Cesar prepping our Lobster dinner
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blowing the horn to leave the island

The next day was my birthday and our last night Island hopping, time to party.

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a perfect night

Everyone partied their butts off with us for my birthday, danced the night away on the boat, swam in the perfect temperature water and blasted music for everyone to hear.  While we were having our party a small boat pulled up with a bottle of rose champagne and asked if we would care for some?  “Are you kidding me?!  A Colombian angel wants to join our party and he is bringing my favorite birthday drink?!”  “Get the hell up here!”  So Pablito who was going to college in the U.S. along with his cousin, had perfect English with the cutest Colombian accent and the generous charm of any Colombian.  They were the perfect addition to our night.  No one held back that night, plus it was our last night to hang because the next morning and for the next 32 hours we would be out on the open water with some slight rough seas.

The next morning half of the group maybe more had their heads hanging out the back overthrowing breakfast, dinner from the night before and what was left of their dignity.  I being the most matured and the eldest on the boat was able to hold my own.  I grabbed my kindle, sunscreen and read the day away like a cool cucumber while the late twenty somethings who I had fed tons of rum the night before ralph’d away.

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This dream was coming to an end.  Soon we would have to hunt down the van in a city…

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After five dream-ful days on a sailboat we found Cartagenga, Colombia in our horizon

Panamá

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A hike up a hill in a jungle within the city, can you even believe this is what Panama City looks like?

 

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Our first night in Panama

We found free camping for our first week in Panama right on the beach.  It was hot, but there was a consistent breeze from the ocean.  A bit of rain everyday also would cool off our day and night.  Our second night in Panama we met a traveler from Argentina who helped us find someone to share a container to ship our vehicle over to South America.  This was weeks before we thought we would find someone to share a container with.  We figured if it was going to workout this quickly that we should go with the flow.  It was working out so smoothly and quickly that I started to second guess this process.  For as long as we had planned on this trip we were ready for the biggest headache yet, shipping our vehicle across the Darien Gap.  You drive your vehicle four hours from Panama City to Colon, Panama a massive port city, pray all of your paperwork is in order and kiss it goodbye.  For a week we crossed our fingers that we would reunite with The Globe Trol in Cartagena, Colombia, South America.

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Off to the end of the road on the North American continent

So if we only had two weeks before leaving North America we should probably drive to end of the road, just to say “we did it!”  It was a long and kind of boring drive to get to the end, long as in six hours of nada.  Yaviza is a dinky town where the Pan-American Highway ends and turns into a scary jungle by foot.  Very few people on this planet have attempted to reach Colombia this way and even fewer have lived to tell the story.  We choose the path that was a road and a few have traveled for a picture next to a sign.  After this tiny side trip we headed back to Panama City to start our paperwork to ship the van to Colombia, South America.  We found a free spot on a road between a soccer field and the beginning of the Panama Canal on the Pacific Ocean side.  At night from our van we could see the lights of large container ships heading towards the Miraflores Locks.  pan-8

We hopped on a city tour bus for a ride around the city and to quickly see as many Panamanian places as possible.  Top of our list was the Panama Canal Locks, the city and old town.  I dedicate this portion of my trip to my dad and my brother…The Panama Canal. From the point where you see the barges lining up until the third set of locks releases the barge is about forty minuets.

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barges lining up, at the bottom of the picture is the one of three locks
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and down she goes
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the second one arrives

You can see these tiny little locomotives pulling the barge by chain towards the first set of locks.

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and she gone

There’s two lanes here and the first orange ship is released beyond the third lock wall after forty mins and off to the Pacific Ocean.

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sinking, this part of the process only took 8 Mins

This is the second ship we watch come through and it drops the water level as fast as eight minuets.  This was a much large vessel than the first one we saw come through and I’d bet that the sides were within inches of these walls.  So impressive.

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mucho bananas, Chaquita

At the tail end of this vessel was a stack of about 58 trailers of Chaquita Bananas.  That’s a lot of bananas!

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like a glove
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Panama City

Looks pretty doesn’t it, worst traffic EVER.  One mile took us almost three hours.  It was extremely time consuming to get anywhere after 2pm and frustrating when we were trying to get our vehicle inspected, and millions of copies made to ship it  over the Darien Gap.

 

The wild Animal side of Costa Rica

Costa Rica was the perfect country to find oodles of animals.  Whether we were camping on the beach or deep in the jungle we would hear or see wild animals all around us.  Only once did a raccoon try to rob us, but a little american boy played vigilante for us.  Costa Rica was by far the most expensive place that we have visited, it reminds me of a tropical California.  Unlimited things to see and do, but it’ll cost ya.

We went on a three hour hike with 700 dogs at Territorio de Zaguates.  I had been following this dog sanctuary on facebook for at least a year maybe longer.  It seemed crazy but I wanted to see this place for myself, how it could exist and it what state.  Our dog is in the Midwest with Chris’ brother so we were in need of some pup-time.  There’s so many dogs here its one thousand percent overwhelming.  Overall it was a decent experience, while you are going for the hike with these dogs you can’t help but wonder what’s the deal.  The owner is a vet who used to have a cow farm and started taking in strays.  People from the area drop dogs off at the gate daily.  Eventually the vet sold his cows and turned his farm land into a home for strays.  Even though he is a vet he is not aloud to treat any of the animals at his sanctuary or he will lose his licence.  In July 2016 the month that we visited they had 160 successful adoptions and almost 6000 since they have been opened in the last four years.  This was relieving to hear because for a minute while you are there you wonder if you just found the craziest dog hoarder of all time.  Here’s their facebook page if you would like to donate and help out.  Territorio de Zaguates

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It’s hard not to smile

 

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Christian was serenaded buy a local with our guitar
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white face monkey

We parked and camped on the beach near Manuel Antonio National Park for about $3 a day.  The monkeys showed up in the morning and stole everyone’s fruit, they mostly were stealing mangoes and mamoes.  To the locals these adorable creatures were a nuisance but I just couldn’t get enough of them.

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Tiny Titi Monkeys snatching up bananas very quickly
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titi monkeys, one could fit in a coffee cup

We were camping in the southwest corner of Costa Rica and while we were doing our chores you could hear this tiny squeaking like sound from a bird, bug or a chipmunk.  We sat outside the van under the awning and I could see tree branches bouncing around, so we stood still.  Yes! They started jumping out of trees and flying from one branch to the next.  There was a little girl throwing pieces of banana out in the garden and the tiny Titi monkeys were coming out of the woods for it.

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Our first Sloth sighting

We were walking about five minutes through Manuel Antonio Park and way up in this tall tree was the cutest sloth taking a nap while smiling.  How ridiculous is that guy.

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Manuel Antonio Beach

The beaches in Costa Rica are not just picture perfect, they are exactly what you imagine when you’re in the states battling terrible weather or having a bad day at the job and you have to “go to your happy place.”  The natural scenery is colorful, alive and wild.  The water is warm and all shades of blue and green.  Don’t miss out on Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica, the picture of the first sloth on down are all taken on our hike through this awesome park.  Pro-tip: bring your bathing suits on this hike, we did not because we had no clue what we were walking into.

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Momma and her infant
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the stripe down her back denotes a female sloth
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slow down
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Manuel Antonio National Park
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snack time
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Manuel Park Beach

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Until next time Costa Rica, you are amazing!

Off to the captivating Costa Rica and through the jungle by zipline.

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Driving towards the coast

We spent our first week in Costa Rica hunting for the best beaches, little did we know that the first beach we found would be the best and our favorite.  Pro-tip: Look for Hotel Playa Conchal just southwest of Playa Brasilito, drive down the beach access road until it ends and opens up in a beautiful cove.  The drive to beach was anything but dull right off the highway.  The road turned into a rugged dirt route quickly and here is where we met our first of many river crossings.  We would let the dinky cabs pass us first before diving the van into the river, all went well.

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Our first camp-spot in Costa Rica

We showed up here late Sunday afternoon which is a noob-move and we knew that.   The beach was packed until sunset, after the sun sets it completely empties for the week.  We pull up to the beach careful not to hit the soft sand and then we dug in.  As soon as we woke up the next morning we slid the sidedoor open to the water and we have the beach to ourselves.  This van has a room with a view like none other.

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Playa Conchal.  Pura Vida

My favorite moment here that sticks out in my mind is probably our third day on the beach.  Christian and I split the day by staying in the shade under our awning or dipping in the bay for a swim to cool off.  Off in the distance we see a family of four kayaking right towards us from the other side of this bay.  The mom approaches us under the awning and asks us “how much are ya’ll renting four-wheelers for?”  Christian replies very nicely “Mmm I am not sure how much they are but I think you can rent them down the beach at the hotel.”  Lovely mother of two replies “Ugh, so you’re what are doing then, just sitting here?”  She was damn right, we were just sitting and soaking up this kick-ass place while not doing a thing.  She thought quite highly of us thinking that we were running a four-wheel tour company out of our van though.

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This place is free
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Let’s never leave
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We found this awesome waterfall on the side of the road

Our drives through this country were Christian’s favorite part of Costa Rica, pull over anywhere and you are guaranteed to see at least a waterfall.

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Driving through Costa Rica

MonteVerde National Park, Costa Rica

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I was feeling brave and excited when we arrived to Monte Verde, Costa Rica.   On our PanAmerican-Highway Trip Bucket List is another box I was ready to check off, zip-lining above the Rainforest.

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Christian in the first part of the mile-series lines
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Superman over the jungle for a mile

I am a nervous wreck when it comes to heights, I get dizzy standing on a chair or using a short ladder.  I can’t even watch someone cliff-dive on TV without getting butterflies.  Zip-lining over the tree-tops is way beyond pushing my comfort zone.  Honestly I loved this, it was dreadfully marvelous.

After MonteVerde we camped down at Lake Arenal for a few days making our way around Costa Rica.  We had a lot of rain here so working our day (finding groceries and a bank) around the down pours was our only qualm here.  Two blocks from this camp spot into town was a German Bakery that sold all things delicious.

We received insider information where we could find free thermal springs right across the street from a pricey Hotel Spa.  The directions were iffy but I mean what else do we have to do, nada.  We brought nothing with us beyond a go-pro, yet again another novice move.  What’s our deal, right?  Next time…cold drinks, snacks or a cooler full of hot springs items at least.  This gem was found underneath a small highway bridge.

Save the Best for our Last Week in Antigua, Guatemala.

I forgot to mention that when given the oppotunity, I am a beauteous boot designer!

There’s a nifty little town outside of Antigua called Pastores and it’s a boot-lover’s heaven.  After gawking for months at all the original and unique footwear in town I had to find out where and how?  Christian and I took a skooter ride 15 mins outside of town to Pastores.  There’s no short of leather or boot shops along the main strip of this small town.  I spent the last week dreaming up of ideas on how to make my very own boot from scratch.  I complied all of my wildest boot doodles together on one dream sheet consisting of color preferences, shape, heel type, calf-height, texture, closuers, and stitching patterns.  All for a chance to make my boot-dream come true, and now my only hurdle was communicating this in spanish.  I bounced and skipped from one shop to the next trying to decide which shop I wanted to entrust this boot-dream to.  I found a pink shop that had boots  in the window that I really liked with similiar desireable features, this was the spot.  I carefully flipped through piles of different materials and leathers and then in my new spanish and dream list I tried to explain exactly how I wanted the pair of boots made.  The shoemaker took down a few notes and said see you in 7 days!  By the time I walked away from the shop I was ecstatic and found the expericence so charming.  It didn’t really matter how they turned out I just hopped that they would fit.

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For a week I would wake up excited wondering how my handmade boots were coming along.  For around $50 usd I created from scratch my very own unique boot sewn together by a small local family shop, just for me.  Too Cool!!

Finding a good pizza that fit our budget in Antigua wasn’t easy, our neighbor Ben showed us how to make an awesome homemade pizza  from scratch.  He even showed us how to save an extra few dollars by making the mozzerella at home, what?!  A few days later we learned how to make an artisianal bread in our dutch over that turned out incredible.  “Hey Ben, any homemade butter around for this insane piece of bread?”   “Yes,” he said.  “Wow, alright! Do you by chance know a guy who would want to buy our scooter and take care of all of the paperwork?” ” Yes,” Ben said “my old boss.”  And then the day before we left Antigua, Jose his old boss bought the skooter from us.  However, not before we took our last skooter ride to pick up my one-of-a-kind new boots (designed by yours truly, Jennifer Ruth).  It was slightly emotional for me, I was on my last skooter ride through a favorite town to pick up my dream boots.  I put my boots on, blushing and ready to show them off to my friends for a fiesta during our last night in Antigua.

Goodbye (for now) Fiesta

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Start the night off with some Golf, por que no?
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Meeting up with 5 other overlanding groups, swapping stories
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Josh after tequila to the face, no hands
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tequila shot in the eyes for Jenna
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Never stop dancing together
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Whiz-Bang Chicas

Bucket list: Hike a yuge Volcano in Guatemala, check.

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Volcano Acatenango reaches 13,044 feet Christian and our friends Josh and Jenna (travelamateurs) thought hiking up it would be great fun.  I had already decided that I would prefer to skip out on this great adventure, because I tend to have bad timing.  Volcano Acatenango is part of a two peak volcano, you hike up the taller one at 13,044 feet (3976m) and you look down at the very active Volcan Fuego.  It has a loose schedule of off five days and on fire for five days, the hike was set for an “on” day.  My worry was that I would do this insane hike up the volcano in all types of weather and I wouldn’t be able to see the Volcan Fuego erupting.  I love hiking but there needs to be some sort of pay off; travelamateurs.com Give me a view, cave, river, waterfall, lake or an erupting volcano next door.  The night before Josh called Christian and they had the trip all set with a local guide.  “What if I want to go?” I said.  It was go time and I got a serious case of FOMO (fear of missing out).  If I didn’t go then the volcano would erupt in perfect plain sight and I would miss out on the awesome opportunity with our friends.  The next morning I put my game face and big girl pants on.

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Our guide tells us at the head of the trail that the first 45 mins are straight up and tough but the next five hours would be easier.  Jaime, our guide carried all of our food and cooked our meals for the trip up on his broken backpack tied to his back with a rope.  I was the rock-like caboose during the entire trek.  We also brought along our friend’s giant white german shepard and at first everyone was worried how he was going to do.  I had a feeling that if I could survive this quest that this fearless pup would run circles around me and he did.  Up and up we climb arriving at base camp just an hour before sunset, I would venture to say it was about 30 degrees cooler at basecamp.  We were surrounded in clouds and the wind had picked up,  Jaime points to where we should see the other volcano.  He in a hopeful attitude says “it is going to rain tonight and that’s good news because after the rain the clouds will clear and open up for a great view!”  The plan is to go to sleep early and wake up at 3:45am and hike to the summit for the sunrise and an erruption.  That night Jaime makes us some hotdog-spaghetti and beans for dinner with hot chocolate.  The weather is a wee bit intollerable at base-camp so we all retreat to our tents and inside our sleeping bags.  Off in the nearby distance we can hear and feel Volcan Fuego errupting.  The clouds open up for a breif moment and we all catch a glimpse of the volcano shooting fire into the sky and the lava river flowing down the side of the mountain.  It was too cold to peep out of the tent for longer than a split second so we try to go to sleep while hearing the fire rage out the top of the neighbor volcano and hope for better conditions in the morning.  The rain is whipping around our tents and Jaime was climbing up trees and macheting down branches to make tarpaulin from scratch for our tents to keep us all dry throughout the rainstorm.

3:45am on the dot Jaime is at our tents “Guys, Vamos!”  It’s pitch black out, cold, windy and time to finish the hike up volcanic gravel for an hour or two.  We take our headlamps and try to stay on the thin trail in the dark, two steps up and one slide down.  Eventually we make it to the summit and we can barely see ten feet in front of us, let alone the other volcano.  It’s so close we can hear and feel the rumbling but our timing just didn’t work out and the weather was a thrashing winterlike storm.  We couldn’t stand it for much longer than a few photos and Jaime said it wasn’t going to get any better.  Behind the clouds the sun was trying make an apperance, but we never got a clear shot it just lit the way down back to base-camp for us.

Here we are at the chilling summit in a monumental moment together during our last week in Antigua, Guatemala.

Antigua part 1

Hello Antigua, Guatemala home of Laurel Baker!  Eight years ago Laurel/Lori left Chicago to “visit” Costa Rica for awhile.  She made her way north eventually landing in Antigua, Guatemala and has been there ever since.  Eight years ago I promised my great friend that I would visit her someday.  After a move to Sitka, Alaska and San Diego, California Christian and I built a van and drove six months and a few thousand miles for a long overdue reunion.  Within hours of arriving to her city I was on her bar/restaurant schedule for a full weeks worth of shifts.  The same day Christian signed himself up for spanish classes and was looking for temporary housing for us.

 

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Our plan was to park the van and stay in Antigua for about a month.  We found a cool communal spot to live in called La Casa Gitana (The Gypsy House) with every wall painted a different color and four other housemates.  It was a six minute walk to work and a ten minute scooter ride to spanish classes. Two weeks later I signed up for classes as well while contining to work.  Classes took place in a garden and we each had our own private teacher.  I loved the scooter ride to the garden five days a week down the cobblestone roads, pass the ruins from an 1877 earthquake all the way to the garden.  We spent twenty hours a week with a private teacher, Christian took seven weeks and I took five.  Halfway through we talked our teachers into a Nacho and Micheada party for a class.  We convinced them that with a little alcohol we could speak a way better spanish, and they went for it.  It ended up being more of a party with five students and five teachers joining in.  Mostly the party was in spanish until the class moved to a nearby pub with more beer, more nachos and tons of dancing.  With that recipe we all started speaking some rediculous spanglish.

Weeks before Christian and I made the descion that Antigua was where we will drag the scooter up to and try to sell it.  The weight of the scooter was destroying the van; shredding the back tire, ruining the suspension and breaking the shocks.  So for our last few weeks  we took it on many mini adventures through the colonial city, up to tiny mountain towns, through the nearby villages and out to organic farmers markets with live music.

We were able to meet up with a handful of friends here since we stayed put for ten weeks: Micheal and Izabella (kocovnici kocovni), Josh and Jenna (Travel Amateurs), Miles, Aaron and Nietzsche (Totoro the Van), Joe and Josee (Joe and Josee’s Journey) along with making new friends from school and housemates.

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Several times a week we would take the scooter to the mercado for some fresh fruit and veggies, which was always a colorful errand.  I didn’t want to forget to share the chicken busses here, they are retired american school buses that are bedazzled to the nines and take on king of the road role, however because we had the scooter we missed the opportunity to take a ride in one.

On to Guatemala, it only took 4 months

We took a two hour drive from San Cristobal to get to the chaotic insane small border of Guatemala, after spending four months in Mexico.  The border town was wacky and swamped with vendors leaving us barely enough room to squeeze The Globe Trol through.  It it two days to get to Lake Atitlan.  Our midway stop along the highway was at a fancy hotel’s gravel parking lot for the night.  In the morning I watched their gardener mow the entire site with a weed wacker for hours.

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I read ahead and told Christian that the road down to our next campground in San Marcos, Lake Atitilan might be narrow, steep and in complete shit condition.  So we decided right before it goes to shit we will take the scooter down and drive them seperately.  I was more than nervous to drive the van-haus so I opted for the scooter.  OH MY LORD!  Driving the scooter down a mountain covered in trees, surrounded by Volcanoes heading towards a lake…was phenomenal to say the least.  On top of that I was manuevering around pot holes a foot-two feet deep some the size a small car could fit into.  Total breeze on the skoot-skoot.  An hour later we make it to a sleepy little town called San Marcos and head just outside the square down some “road” of holes and gravel to a incredible campsite with an even better view.  The owner of the grounds Pierre sells steak, prawns and a great priced wine.  Sweet we never have to leave.  The next afternoon we hopped on a water taxi and shimmied off to another little hippie town called San Pedro that you could tell had been overran with gringos.  Ah whatever lets buy some souvenoirs and grab a drink on a deck.  It rained everyday we were there and we could just barely see the volcanoes that surrounded the lake.  After a few hours we hopped back on the water taxi and rushed to take shelter when the storm came in.  The storm was here for the night so we grabbed a bottle of wine, sat under the awning and binged watched on some Game of Thrones.  After three more days of dodging the rain we were ready to head to Antigua and finally meet up with Lori, eight years waiting to visit her here.

Our Last Bit of Mexico, Chiapas

 

We left the insanely hot beach of Oaxaca, Mexico and headed straight for the Aguacero Waterfall in Chiapas.  It’s 742 steps down in 98 degree weather to a creek bed.  We walked through and across the creek bed and looked up at a breathtaking waterfall.  It pooled in several places covered in moss, plants and purple flowers.  The water was crisp and cool.  “We found Fern Gully!”  Christian gave me a hand and helped me up the slippery moss covered boulders to make our way to the bottom of the cascada.  We played under the chilling fall until our feet went numb.  Okay Chiapas, you got our attention, you are beautiful.

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That night we took a short drive to find the Sumidero Canyon.  We arrived after dusk and when everything was closed so it was diffilcult to find secure parking right away.  After an hour we found a locked gate fence where some guys where chatting under a street light near possibly the opening.   They figured out what we needed through some rough spanish and whislted for the night guard to let us in the parking lot of the canyon because we wanted take a boat ride the next morning.  We read other overlanders had done the same in the past and it seemed like a safe camping option for the night.  The next morning we headed down to the dock for a giant speed boat tour through the canyon.

The walls of the canyon were towering above us at 3,280 feet in some places.  This canyon is thought to be as old as The Grand Canyon.  The canyon was started by cracks in the earth’s crust and the Grijalva River dug its way for 35 million years.  Flying through the canyon our captain would abruptly stop for wildlife and the first stop was “Vulture Island.”  I don’t know, but to stop for a hundred vultures at once was probably the least appealing thing for me.  Moving along our next stop was a tree where two monkeeys were wrestling and showing off.  This was our “first monkeey sighting of the trip!”  Half way through the two-hour tour I notice that all of our life jackets have crocodiles on them and we haven’t seen one yet.  We get all the way down to the dam and pull up to a boat that is selling fruit, chips and soda.  Latin American culture “never miss an oppotunity to sell something” I believe is their moto.  For the return the captain speeds back through the canyon and then all of a sudden we come to an aggressive hault and a sharp turn.  I’m thinking “Hell yes, this must be it, the Crocs!”  This captain has laser eye sight or something?!  He pulls the boat right up alongside the croc so we all can bend over the side and take a million pictures, and nicely enough the crocodile stays motionless.  “How cool, it’s like he is posing!”  Them we speed off and head to another favorite spot for the captain where the next croc is out of the water and is also posing for more pictures.  A few minuets later a crocodile is actually moving and he swims by our boat for 10 seconds and then poof, gone.  The group is now satisfied and we head back to the dock.  When we got back I couldn’t let go of how strange our crocodile show was and I mentioned to Christian ” Do you think those crocs were real or staged? ”  Oh well if they were fake, they were really good ones.  Weeks later we ran into friends who had also done the tour a week prior and we compared our photos and had the exact same two crocs, same spot, same pose, same same.  However they never saw a crocodile swimming, Yea we saw a real one.

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Our last stop in Mexico was a spanish colonial town called San Cristobal de Las Casas.  It’s set way up in the mountains so the air was a lot cooler, and less sweating for us.  It rained a few hours every late afternoon, just enough to cool you off.  We found a campsite a mile outside of town and took the scooter back into town for sightseeing, groceries, chocolate and beer runs.  Our campsite was underneath tall evergreens, I absolutely loved it here.  I loved being in the woods but also only a mile to town, five days here flew by.   Chocolate shops, cheap decent wine and coffee everywhere, my little heaven and not a bad spot to spend a few dollars and a couple of days.

Next stop…Guatemala here we come.

Zipolite, I can’t quit you

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We rolled up to this mystical beach late one hot mexican night.  Looking for a perfect spot to set up shop for maybe two or three days we lucked out and found Habana’s Cabanas.  Ok, sounds kinda cool let’s go talk to the boss.   For $7 USD a night, you can park behind the cabanas 100 feet from the Pacific Ocean, a few feet away are the bath/showers, WiFi incl, cold beers and water in the office and shade underneath the cabanas.  That’s not all, our hammocks hung underneath the cabanas and fresh food will walk-by you just in case you’re too lazy to move to get snacks or dinner.  A margarita guy will pass-by, the ice cream man delivers and chocolate croissants show up at just the right time.  Pizza calzones, taco lady, herbal pastries  you name it, they make it and deliver to your hammock all day long.

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This place made it feel like we were on vacation, not a trip that takes a lot of work; straight-up, kick-back.  We took long walks on the beach, starred at the sunsets, laid in the hammocks for hours reading, telling jokes and stories.  Oh did I mention this was a clothing-optional beach, we may have tried it out or not.  We planned on two nights and it quickly turned into ELEVEN awesome days.  Friends were made here and other friends joined the scene a day later.  With nothing but time on our hands I decided that I would try making almond milk from scratch, after ton of messy work it turned out great.

Christian loved catching happy hour everyday and taking a walk down the beach for a brick oven pizza or a plate of Al Pastor tacos for about $1.  On semi-windy days he would bust out the kite and attach the go-pro to it for our make shift version of a “drone shot” along the beach.  It’s been a few months since we were here but this is a place we will return to.  We still talk about our time in Zipolite, in our six months of traveling this ranks as top 3 favorite moments.

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A few times we took the scooter out for great adventures and sightseeing, why not.  We headed out on the scooter for a gorgeous twenty minutes ride towards a lagoon called La Ventanilla Mangroves where we tour a small boat tour to check out some crocodiles, birds, Iguanas and turtles.   The next day we went to the Turtle Sanctuary in Mazunte the town over from Zipolite with our friends in a teeny tiny taxi and 6 of us crammed in an almost clown car while it was around 100 degrees.

The rest of our day was filled by sitting in our hammocks and people watch.  Naked old  guys would wear flip flops and a back pack, nothing else.  One occasion a chic was holding hands with two guys one on each hand and making the men walk backwards naked the entire length of the beach.  So as you can see we were entertained sitting on the beach for a short eleven days.

 

 

 

 

Oaxaca City, Mexico…mucho culture

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Oaxaca City, Central Park

A walk through the park on a Wednesday afternoon looking for our friends and we stumble upon this lovely orchestra performing.  This city was beautiful and full of handicrafts of all kind.  However, by the time Christian and I arrived we were over crowded cities.  We just didn’t have the energy to explore more while we were here, so we looked for a camp spot nearby.

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Wednesday afternoon in the park in Oaxaca.

We had two choices here in this area for camping.  We could park in a gated gravel lot in the middle of the lively city with no shower or bathroom.   The other option was a campground twelve miles outside the city that had WiFi and a bathroom however it was located between abandon buildings and in the middle of nowhere.  We chose the latter.  The next morning with our WiFi we found out there was a small public water park within walking distance.   PERRRRRFECT it was 100 degrees with no wind, and we were in the dessert.

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On top of Monte Albán, alone!

Now that we are seasoned tourist of Ruins, we got to the top of a small mountain range where we found Monte Albán before it opened.  Monte Albán sits 1,300 feet above the valley of Oaxaca and it’s City at an elevation of 6,400 ft.  This humdinger was inhabited for over 1,500 years by at least three different civilizations who literally chopped off the top of the mountain, almost as it stands today.  This site contained tombs, temples, inscriptions and it even had a ball court!

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friends buying crickets-snacks at the market

This is Josh and Jenna (from Travel Amateurs) they are our overlanding friends that we met along the way.  So glad we did.  While in spanish classes in Guanajuato they heard that crickets are a greeeeaaat protein (as Tony the Tiger would say).  Some really took this info to heart, like Josh and Jenna.  On the other hand Christian and I decided that if chicken or any other food was more accessible that we would choose everything else.

The next day six of us overlanders went up a 10,000 ft mountain for the Oaxacan experience.  The six of us hiked for four days and did 35 miles at 10,000 to 8,000 feet depending on the next town’s destination.  I wish that I could say that hike was glorious and maybe for some of the other five it was. My experience was…”Stay alive, don’t fall it will hurt, eventually this will end!”  One day for about 1,000 ft we slid down a “trail” with 40lb packs on our backs.  Tons of Fun.  This hike wore us all out so much that we never had the energy to check out the waterfalls, caves, and view points.  Pro-tip: Drive to the small Eco-towns and hike to the cool stuff.  Ex-pro Tip: Anything tastes better than crickets, like CHIPS or peanut butter or real trail mix.

Retreat for a quiet Easter weekend.

It was Good Friday and we thought that we should skip Mexico City because it would be way too crazy during Easter weekend.  So we headed southwest to look for some water to cool off and a quiet place away from the crowds and craziness of Mexico’s biggest holiday of the year.  We found out later that the best week to visit Mexico City is Easter weekend because everyone leaves the city and heads towards the beaches.  Pro-tip: Visit Mexico City on Easter weekend, perfect we wanted to come back soon anyways.

We got another pro-tip from fellow travelers that there was a quiet swimmable river on the way to Oaxaca City.  It turned out that we made a right instead of a left at that quiet river, however we only paid 50 cents per person to enter the river area to camp during the holiday.  Sweet, that’ll work!  We nestled in a perfect corner of the river and improvised some slow-cook rib recipes in our dutch oven that Christian would tend to for four hours.  After an hour of rib-nurturing a large front and backhoe loader crawls over our campsite/home for the weekend.

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Let’s slow cook some meat

We love cooking in our dutch oven and just cooking in general.  The night before we fit an entire chicken in this dutch oven and had an awesome kick-ass meal. Saturday we had slow-cooked ribs and potato salad very “‘Merican.” We shared a plate with locals parked next to us.

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INCOMING…!!!

However the river and its tractor conductor had a different plan for our Easter.  The regulars and tractor conductor decided that in front of our site was the PERFECT place for a new hole, GIANT HOLE!  At this point we spoke very little to no spanish, the conductor of this machinery said little to us and laughed.  A kind family walks over to us and says “he is going to dig up this area and put it on top of your dinner, you should move it.  He wants to put a giant hole right here.”  It felt intentional and we weren’t  sure if we were intruders at this point or if they were trying to force us out or not.  By this time the river was packed with a hundred or so people who came here every year for this weekend.  We had set up camp in the prime spot and also the place where everyone wanted a large swimming hole placed.  Not going to lie, guilt started to swell.

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The Aftermath 1/2 way done.

So, they got their swimming hole and fifty people ran towards it as soon as he finished and were jumping off large rocks into it.  On the plus side he made us a wall so we didn’t have a view anymore but it lead to a teeny bit of privacy.  We manufactured a new fire for our slow-cook dutch oven ribs and continued our own celebration among our fellow Overlanding friends (Here Until There) all while laughing at the situation. The family next to us brought us a “typical Mexican dish” for us to try which consisted of rice, beans, mole and chopped up hot dogs.

Teotihuacan, our first Pyramids and ruins.

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Pyramid of the Moon

This photo was taken from the top of the Pyramid of the Sun (third largest pyramid in the world) looking across the way towards Pyramid of the Moon which mimics the Mountain Cerro Gordo that rests behind it.  The Pyramid of the Moon (151 feet high) is actually seven pyramids built on top of each other which kept growing and growing and now is filled with tunnels and human sacrifices laid into the walls.  Hundreds of years separate each stage of construction.

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Early birds, get better photos.  Behind us is what remains of the Plaza of the Moon.
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Behind me is part of the Avenue of the Dead and The Moon Pyramid.  8 days sick here, still worth it.

This was when I first got sick the first time.  The nights before leading up to this day were awful and many rough days and nights followed this moment.  I was so weak here, climbing this pyramid was no easy feat.  I suspect I picked up salmonella or E.coli from the town before this and it lasted about ten days.  The morning of and the night before Christian and I were trying to figure out our plan of action in order for me to not miss this opportunity.  I decided I wasn’t going to miss these pyramids, I would suck it up and do as much as I could stand.  I climbed both of the Pyramids and then headed straight to bed which we conveniently parked right outside the gate.  I’m glad I did because I get to keep that memory forever and soon I’ll forget being sick and the terrible feeling.

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Pyramid of the Sun (246 feet high) and the Avenue of the Dead.

Teotihuacan

A beautiful Mesoamerican city located just outside of Mexico City was thought to have been built here around 100 B.C.  Some believe it was the sixth largest cities at its peak with a population of around 125,000 people up to 250,000.  This site was around thirty sq miles, we had to drive twenty mins to get around to the other side to get more exploring in.  We arrived before the gates opened because of a couple of reasons; One, this site will bring in thousands of tourist just that day and also to beat the extreme heat at midday.  We arrived there an hour before it opened and we were still the tenth car in line.  At this site there are two overwhelming-monstrous pyramids that will have you gasping at their incredible size and beauty.  Our imaginations ran wild standing in the middle of the Avenue of the Dead just conceiving how busy and lively this place was just a few short thousand years ago.

 

A tale of two cities, Morelia y Guanajuato.

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Our dear friends who are traveling faster than us mentioned that the city of Morelia is beeeeeautiful!  With their advice The Globe Trol hastily heads towards the gorgeous city that fell straight out of the 17th century Europe and place perfectly in the middle of Mexico.  This city is as far from home as I have ever been, I love it and it’s only been fifteen minuets.  We rushed to find a hotel and park the van-haus so we could get the skooter detached and start exploring ASAP.  We drove into a hotel where you park inside their courtyard and pull up next to your hotel room door.  We backed the kitchen right up to our room, how cool is that?!  A hop onto the skoot and we were off, off to tour this historic and enchanting place.  Morelia has the facade of a city and the heart and pace of a small town.  I was prepared with my guidebook covered in highlighted notes of every place on a long to do list.  “Ok, Christian get your game face on, we have a lot of skooting to do!”

First the Chocolate Museum for tons of treats, down the road a walk hand-in-hand along Lover’s Alley, and a stroll through the Garden of Roses where local artists were displaying their work.  All of the buildings were well preserved and some with new purposes.   The Cultural House used to be a former monastery established in 1593 and now houses multimedia artwork.  We found churches on every single block and corner and on Sunday at 5 o’clock we found ourselves at The Cathedral that was built in 1577 at the start of mass.  The Cathedral has a working organ of 4,600 pipes, however we weren’t’ fortunate enough to catch a song.   We drove the skooter the length of The Aqueducts while waiting for the sun to set and light up it’s 253 arches. Christian spent hours trying to capture its beauty in a photo that we were blessed to witness.

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After an awesome weekend we headed north to meet up with some fellow overlanders in Guanajuato.  We were told it’s a “must-visit” type of town like no other.  We navigated ourselves through the hills and tunnels of Guanajuato to find our new home for a week.  The Globe Trol forges up the narrow, steep and winding road before arriving to Morril RV Park.  We exercised the skooter daily here like it was training for a marathon along a road called The Panaramica.  Our fifteen minute ride on the skoot to spanish school started the very next day.  That night Christian was concerned, “I can’t believe we are setting an alarm for school!”  “C’mon, our classes down start until 10am.  I think we can make it” I said.  He lasted ONE day, I may have finished an entire week.  At school we learned that we arrived on a fantastic week in a few days begins Dia de la Flores (Festival of Flowers).  This festival is significant solely to Guanajuato and is also the kick-start celebration for Palm Sunday and Semana Santa (Saint’s week/Easter).  A group of us head to the center of town to observe mesmeric chaos that unfolds the night before.  On the hunt for Mezcaleria’s we find the streets to be packed with baskets of painted eggs in every color filled with confetti.  Children were running around smashing them onto each other’s for colorful explosions.  Hundreds of vendors lined the streets and flowers real and fake filled in the gaps.

I dragged Christian to visit a gory mummy museum, which was a mistake.  I pictured a place out of classy museum like ones I have been to before where you visit ancient Egyptian mummies.  Instead it was a dark place where the towns people dug up their late townsmen to make room for more.  What they dug up were mummified people and babies and they placed them in a building for people to pay money to see.  The Mercado (market) was located in a train station that was never used for trains and instead housed a place where you could get a tasty cuban sandwich, buy a chicken, t-shirts, crickets, fruit and veggies and hear the locals giving speeches who were I assume running for office.  The day before the festival of flowers the locals arrived early in the morning to the Mercado buying as many flowers as one could hold to decorate their home with.   Pick up trucks would deliver flowers stacked ten feet high and drop them off to vendors and return with another load thirty minuets later, an incredible site.  To say the very least Christian and I felt after spending a week here that we got a sampling of rich community that was tough to leave.

Our Adventure to the Butterflies

We start the week off at a warm, beautiful place before a long drive to get to the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary in a tiny town called Jocotepec off of Mexico’s largest lake Chapala.  We had another 7 days or so before the Monarch Butterflies were to leave and fly off to another land.  Seeing the butterflies was one of my top 5 things that I put on my to-do list for this trip.  Couldn’t wait!!!

After a seven or so hour drive we arrive to one of the more secluded and natural Butterfly Reserves just before sunset after it closes.  We drove up the heavily wooded single road to camp for the night and decide to catch an early tour the next morning.  It starts raining and the wind picks up immediately while we are trying to park.  We quickly make dinner and jump into the van for shelter for the night.  Neither one of us can sleep because we found ourselves in a extreme winter storm.  We are on top of a mountain at 10,000 ft in a closed park, seemingly alone during a hail and sleet storm that is rocking the van.  The temperature drops increasingly and we take shelter under the covers as fast as possible.  To drown the howling winds and current conditions we binge watch some tv shows until we can fall asleep.  Neither one of us can sleeps throughout the night.  We decided since there would be no tour that day that we would head down the mountain for better weather conditions.  We found out that the single road is blocked by at least a handful of  gigantic fallen pines.  The wind is howling so the road is too dangerous to stand still so we reverse about a mile back to the open parking lot.  There was no cell signal so we look for an emergency phone, nothing.  We check the small huts near by and find nothing.  Eventually we see a small native woman in a garbage bag roaming around and we scream for help.  She speaks no English and her dialect of Spanish made it nearly impossible to understand.  She takes us into her hut for some fire, coffee and tortillas.   We were cold and frozen so anything sounded like a dream at that point.  She lives at the butterfly sanctuary by the support of the government along with 40 other locals who sold either trinkets or tacos to the visitors.

With our broken Spanish and her mountain dialect we tried asking if help was coming to clear the road, she said yes or tomorrow.  She gestured that she had made a call for support.  Our cell phone was not getting a signal, I was so stressed.  However I enjoyed sitting in front of her brick oven drying my clothes and warming my toes no matter if we could communicate or not.  We met several of the others who lived in the Butterfly commune, everyone seemed to be checking on each other.  The gringos were throwing them off though.  I would tell them that they needed to speak slower and instead they would scream faster in my ear as if that would help me understand their Spanish.   Meanwhile huge pine trees were crashing to the ground too close for comfort.  I couldn’t take anymore of the screaming so I told Christian I’d rather sit in the van for the night.  Our kitchen is outside and in the rear of the van so in wind, rain or a winter-storm it does us no good.  We chew on some bread and cheese for dinner for the night and split a beer.  The inside of the van reached at least  28 degrees while we were awake so we cuddled as much as possible to stay warm.  We shiver throughout the night as temperature continues to drop, I wake up and start crying “What the fuck are we going to do?!”  It’s a saying that came up at least 20 times between the two of us.

After a very long and cold forty-eight hours a pick-up truck pulls up to our van with fifteen people in it.  We start screaming in joy, “the road is clear! thank god!”   Diego tells us “We leave in about twenty mins, follow my tracks down.  Do you want something to eat?”  He tells us that in a town a few hours down the mountain  he heard two people were trapped up at the top and freezing in their car.  In a pick up truck full of people they brought up a chainsaw and clear the road, hours later we happily meet them.  Diego and his girlfriend Ame take us to their hometown where we get a warm hotel, shower, food and a beer.  “Now that we are safe, I’d still like to see the butterflies tomorrow!” Our new friends tell us “I’m sorry they died in the storm.” I can’t give up that easy, I just sat in a three day storm scared as hell, freezing my limbs off just to see the butterflies.  And that’s it.

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Needing of mention:Snow has not hit this part of Mexico in at least 12 years. The luck we have is immeasurable, after all those days not one butterfly.

Next chapter…Mainland Mexico

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Things have been anything but dull on the road with The Globe Trol.  Our first week on mainland we spent in Mazatlan with some of our favorite fellow overlanders who we traveled with for about a month and a half.  We feel so lucky to have met so many great travelers and locals on this trip so far.

While in Mazatlan we camped on a beach that for the most part we had to ourselves in front of a “pizza” place that only sold coconuts.  At night it had a different vibe, it was an open air place where people sat in the dark with piles of weed in front of them while they rolled and smoked joints all night.  We were never offered any, but we camped there for free.  One person per vehicle was sick for most of those days, strange odds.  We took a golf cart taxi tour of the city together that promoted day drinking.  Since we camped on an island while in Mazatlan we would take a water taxi back and forth to the city for 43 cents per person.

We finally move south down the coast and end up in a tiny fishing village called Santa Cruz/Miramar.  We found a beautiful resort like grounds to camp at for four days.  This place was originally built a few hundred years ago for German miners who stole the land and the natives eventually took it back by force or so the legend has it.  We stayed there for four days, a gorgeous garden with five small pools looking over the ocean for $11.  Awesome.  Time to find some free camping again though.

Strolling down the coast a little further we stumbled upon San Pancho just north of Puerto Vallarta.  The RV camp spot tell us it’s 300 pesos for a dirt lot and cold showers, no thanks!  Well what about the town plaza and for free?   Yes that’ll do.   We end up hanging out in this swanky town where we find 50 cent killer tacos, a free music festival all weekend in our new backyard(great timing), bathrooms and showers at a near by fish house!  What a blast.

We came to Puerto Vallarta to get some major errands taken care of.  Our fridge still isn’t working properly, recharge the a/c and pick up a new credit card because ours was compromised.  Lesson learned: Dont use ATM’s in dark alleys. It’s also been pretty warm here so we decided to get our A/C recharged and find out that the compressor had a leak and needed to be replaced.  Luckily for us we met a mechanic named Jair who spoke great English and had tons of recommendations for destinations while traveling in Mexico.   Jair is almost finished with his law degree and then he said he was going to take the same trip to Argentina was he is done.  He gave us bottle of Don Julio to take down to South America after he fixed our van.

Christian is screaming “I love Mexico, I never want to leave and if that clown Trump is elected I’m buying a house here!”

Food! Food in Baja…

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Everyone loves food!  I would consider ourselves as amature foodies, who also love to cook and creating new drinks.  In our tiny home on wheels we made sure there was enough room for a two burner stove top, sink, full spice rack and the Vitamix.  We also brought a dutch oven along, which is a new for the both of us.  Food in Baja has been great whether we made at home out of the van or gorging on street cart tacos.  Surrounded by water the fresh fish, seafood and shrimp have been plentiful.  So much ceviche! A regular stop for pastries is new to our diet; cherry turnovers, chocolate croissants, cinnamon rolls, cakes, donuts and obviously much more.

Breakfast usually consists of last nights dinner plus eggs and all wrapped in a tortilla.  I figured out a really easy pancake for us and now that it’s turning out consistent I’ll share: I mash one banana (the soft old brown ones are the best) until it is like baby food, add and  whip two eggs with the banana.  Next I throw in about 1/4c of flour (I use coconut flour), a tsp of vanilla ext and sprinkle some cinnamon in and mix it all together.  Chocolate chips are awesome in these  but it’s hard to find chocolate chips here in Mexico.  We have been topping our pancakes with peanut butter and agave maple syrup.

 

 

Cheers to Hector, we have a new fridge!

Researching for a week we found that there’s a man name Hector in La Paz, who works on marine refrigeration.  Christian called every marine store, or refrigeration repairman within all of Baja California Sur.  He called the other two shops owned by Americans and they laughed at him, told us to go back to San Diego to get what we needed.  Hector said he was in Cabo working and that he would been in at the end of the week and he would figure out a way to help.  Yesterday we showed up to his hard-to-find shop, explained our issue and he said he would call us later to see if he could make something.  A few hours later he custom built us a mini fridge that fit our cabinet with a Dan Frost compressor, flipped the door, converted it to a two-way AC/DC  and installed it.  Within the five hours of meeting Hector and his crew we were on our way with a much more efficient and real refrigerator this time.  Amazing, Thank god for Hector and Mexican engineering.  My only regret is that I didn’t get a picture of the magic that happened yesterday.