Tag Archives: travellife

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!

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Ometepe Island, Nicaragua.

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We took The Globe Trol on a ferry to head to Ometepe Island, Nicaragua
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Islandtime in Nicaragua

We had about a week left in Nicargua before we had to be at the border to cross into Costa Rica.  Without hesistation we decide we should ferry over Lake Nicaragua and spend our last week on Ometepe Island.  Ometepe is an island formed by two volcanoes in the middle of Lake Nicaragua.

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This was our first stop on the Island is located in the isthmus at Ojo de Agua.  This was/is one of my favorite places that we spent any time at.  We again had zero expections driving up the dirt road wondering what was going to be at the end, the pictures above is where we found ourselves.  We spent the whole day here swimming in the these natual fed spring pools surrounded in the jungle.  Monkeys came out for a visit when the sun was setting and pretty soon we had the place to ourselves.   The next morning we left this paradise looking for garden to spend the next few nights at.  We drove towards Volcan Manderas, the smaller of the two where we found a hippie-garden-farm.  It’s run by an ex-pat couple who have nightly family-style dinners and cocktail hour before dinner.  Thier space was beautiful and The Globe Trol was shaded by fruit trees, flowers and herbs  perfect enough for us.  They called a guy down the street and got us hooked up with a dirt bike to rent within an hour of being there.

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We rented the dirt bike for the day and took it around the entire island.  It took us over six hours to ride around both of these islands most of the way the road is dirt and in terrible shape.  We took our time and stopped several times to take in all the great views, passing countless farm animals, plantain and banana plantations and a stop for lunch halfway around the island.  We stopped for lunch at a mexican restaurant in Nicaragua owned and run by an ex-pat African.

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Hiking up the volcano towards the waterfall

The following day the hippies’ neighbor offers to take us up the smaller volcano for a waterfall hike.  It was an interesting hike, she takes us through locals yards where we are interrupting their family lunch to ask if we can pass but apparently this was her usual route.  We walk past a small coffee plantation, cocoa trees, all types of fruit trees and underneath aggitated howler monkeys.  Halfway up about an hour and a half she looses the trail and we were in someone yard again.  For about fourty-five mins we are walking back and forth through this persons land looking for a specific trail.  From this yard you could find at least eight split offs and finally we just pick one and go.  Another hour and half go by and our neighbor-guide is iffy on the trail the whole way until we find the waterfall or whats left of it.  It was wiped out by an earthquake a few weeks before and barely anything was left of it.

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one of the volcanoes on the island

We had some beautiful weather during our stay on Ometepe Island and stunning views.

Where to next: El Salvador and a drive through Honduras, visa deadline coming in hot.

We spent over two months in Guatemala most of that time was spent in Antigua where we were taking spanish classes and I was catching up with good ol’ buddy.  When we entered Guatemala we were given a 90 day visa for four countries called the CA-4, which includes Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua.  We had to do some trimming and quick moving to get to Costa Rica in three weeks.  I had a list of to do’s that I wanted to check out in Nicaragua and two weeks was barely enough time.  The plan was to spend about four nights on some beaches in El Salvador and drive through Honduras in one day in order to get to Nicaragua in five days.

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El Tunco, El Salvador.   A black sand beach.
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Sunset at El Tunco
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The night Christian wanted a van-kitten

When looking at the map and our route we had to stay on the Pacific side in order to make this timeline.  After a little bit of research it looked like all of the cool places and things to do in Honduras were all on the Carribbean side.  Unfortunalely we spent only four hours in Honduras and stopping once for gas.  Most of our time in Honduras was spent driving to and through the two borders or waiting in lines.

We arrived in Leon, Nicaragua after a nine hour drive from El Cuco, El Salvador driving through Honduras while crossing two borders and three countries in one day.  Here in Leon, Nicaragua we found one of the hottest and most humid places on Earth.  Let’s find a parking spot and a very cold drink, like one that has ice in it!

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.

Part 2 Guatemala Adventures continue to… TIKAL

Just a short two day and eleven hours northeast from Antigua is Tikal, now a National Park that was once a Great Mayan City set way back in the jungle.  Cheers to Guatemala City for showing us the worst traffic that we have seen in five thousand miles.  We got so far behind schedule that it turned dark before we could get anywhere safe to stay the night, for hours we were in the middle of nowhere.  We did our first nighttime drive for three hours and with great luck the road was in decent enough shape to make it ro Rio Dulce without getting a flat.  I was stressed!

We finished the long drive to Tikal the next day early afternoon.  We found a great little spot to camp just outside the park gates to rest up for an early sunrise hike in the morning.  5:15am still dark the alarm goes off and I hear the jungle breathing above the van.  We gathered the camera, a fresh made thermos of coffee and a couple of granola bars to make the long trek through the jungle alone and looking for the tallest ruin.  There’s no short of wild animals on our walk; greeting us right away were a couple of coatimundis wrestling eachother on the trail, then a colorful wild turkey guarded the restrooms, and a couple of monkeys accidentally I assume drop mangoes a foot from our heads.  After an hour and a half through the mayan city, Tikal we arrive to the tallest ruin Temple IV there standing 212 feet high.  We climbed the side of it, grabbed a seat at the highest step, opened the coffee and took in the unprecedented view.  We were sitting above the clouds and waiting for the sun to appear while toucans were flying below our feet.  Virtally we had this park to ourselves, there was a quiet moment had while listening to the howler monkeys travel around us and off deep into the jungle.

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Christian descibes the sound of the howler monkeys like this “imagine King Kong angry and ripping through the jungle heading right for you!”  Their sound together is like one giant beast, it was beautiful.  No jaguars were spotted on this adventure.

On the way back to Antigua we stopped at Rio Dulce for a few nights during a monsoon.  However it’s hard to complain when you camp at a place on a river with a pool, bar and restaurant in the jungle.

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.

 

 

 

 

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.

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.

 

 

La Paz, update

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We are in La Paz hoping that Hector(local refrigerator repairman) who we met today will be able to help us with our inefficient “cooler.”  He said he will try to build us a new one that will have a compressor in hopes that it will cut the energy it takes by half or more. We will find out if he can help us tomorrow, keep your fingers-crossed for us. After that we need good calm weather to get on the ferry to mainland, apparently women are not allowed to board during swells. If everything goes well; a magician named Hector will build a fabulous fridge that fits and works properly, the wind will die down, the Sea of Cortez remains calm and this woman can board the ferry in theglobetrol.  We will head to the ferry terminal on Sunday to ask to be put on the TMC to Mazatlan for Monday.
Inner thoughts that I have today, when will I get my next warmish shower in a place that has a drain?  Tonight we will take a PVC-shower on the beach in our bathing suits which is exciting because it has been a few days, but I will still dream about a warm one.  I don’t see real shower in our future for at five or six days.  On the upside after almost a month of irregular showering my hair doesn’t really get grimy as fast.
In the meantime its Carnaval La Paz until Tuesday.

The Globe Trol is finished, but an artists’ work is never done.

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We finally finished our van-haus, at least enough to try to head south. So we set out for our first border crossing on Wednesday and turned around just one mile before Mexico due to some cell phone accounts being swapped, boring story. No worries though, we found a parking spot near the beach in the most southwestern city in the US called Imperial Beach during an insane storm. Early the following morning we arrive at the border where they find our paperwork is inconsistent with our scooter that we have attached to the back of the van. Little did we know that the title we received when we bought the scooter almost a year ago did not match the actual scooter, ergo the registration was also incorrect. It cost us a few hours waiting in Mexico at the border but they escorted us to the US border where they searched us and eventually let us go to get everything sorted out. Straight to the DMV we went to spend another few hours to get the scooter inspected, an updated registration, and a new title that will now take 2-4 weeks to get sent to the Midwest. AGHHH. “Everything happens for a reason.” The new plan: We are going to forge on without a scooter title for now and hope for the best. We are back in San Diego for a few days to work out a few more kinks that we found with the van-haus while staying in it during the storm, nothing major. So Tuesday at 8am is our next attempt to get to and through the border.
Here are some updated pics of our home, enjoy. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them here. mucho amor- tgt

The vehicle…The Globe Trol

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Our favorite little blue bungalow where our street turns into sand a block from our door.

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This is the vehicle that we converted from a family mini van into a van-haus (van-house), that will travel from San Diego to South America.  It’s almost finished and we are excited to get this on the road.  The plan starts with leaving San Diego in early December 2015 and traveling  down the Pacific Coast through Mexico, and then making our way to Guatemala.  From Guatemala on further south to possibly Patagonia in less than a year and back north to The U.S.  We were living in southeast Alaska for a few years and decided “Let’s really travel.”  First lets get warm and hang out in southern California for a bit and start planning an epic trip somewhere.  How are we going to do this?  Backpack?  Sail?  Let’s do this out of van that we can live out of!  Hours of research led us to buy an AWD small van in July.  We gutted it and then started rebuilding a sustainable small living situation out of a 1997 Astro van.

The rebuild has been anything but easy, however I mostly was the photographer and not the builder.  Christian did a lot of the work himself, I was his aide.  Friends helped along the way and we are thankful for every bit of it.  Right now we are in the Midwest visiting as much family as possible before the epic trip down thru the Americas.  Soon we will be back in San Diego in a few short weeks to finish up a handful of projects, and then we move into a van.

We quit our jobs indefinitely to travel until one of us is sick of it, or until we run out of money.  We sold all of our furniture, gave it away, and donated the rest.  We stored non-replaceable and pricey possessions back in the Midwest near family.  I am from Chicago originally and I packed up and shipped myself out for an adventure to Alaska in 2011.  I promised myself then this will be the beginning of life full of adventure, after never traveling outside of the U.S. for 29 years.  Christian was in Florida in the Coast Guard working on helicopters before being stationed in Sitka, Alaska.  We met in Alaska about three years ago.  A year and a half ago we left Alaska to keep traveling, we ferried back to the mainland and slowly drive down the coast from Seattle to San Diego.  We were in no rush since we quit our jobs to start traveling and stretched 2000 miles out for three weeks soaking in the Pacific Coast Highway all along the way.  While in San Diego we regathered and relaxed in a tiny beach bungalow a block from the beach for over a year.  It was easy to fall in love with our new temporary home in a  neighborhood called “OB” where we made great friends.  It was difficult to leave the tiny blue beach house and move just a handful of things into the van-haus.