July 31, 2010 Back in New Jersey
I guess this is the official end of this trip, journey, lifetime experience. But, it’s not the end for us, or 2 Backpackers. We will let you know what our plans our moving forward in an upcoming post. We are going to close the Daily Journal since the trip is over and we figure you don’t really want to know about us living in my parents basement, however if you do, let us know. The Daily Journal will be archived, but we will begin another one as soon as we start traveling again. To find out what we are doing and how we are adapting to life back in the US, check out our Fan Page on Facebook! We have 100 hours of video and another 2,000 pictures to edit, so please stay tuned, the content will only be getting better!
July 30, 2010 Wedding Chores
While my family went to the beach for their last day in Myrtle Beach, Aracely and I tried to get some wedding stuff done. We researched flowers and cake. We discovered that they charge a ridiculous amount for flowers and even rentals, so we are going to buy a bunch of mums from Home Depot for the beach wedding. In the evening we ate the best burgers at Fuddruckers. I love the burgers here. I can’t remember the last time I had a vegetable. I need to eat healthy once we return home. My family left tonight on a plane to Atlantic City. We leave early tomorrow morning.
July 29, 2010 Burnt Building Sand Castle
I spent most of the day building a big sand castle for my nephews. Actually, I would have built it for myself, I do enjoy this sort of stuff. But, even after putting on lotion, I still got fried by the sun. Not good. Aracely also burnt her legs. I didn’t quite get to finish the entire project because a big rain storm moved in around 4:30pm and washed the big castle away. We have been calling around to different caterers for the wedding.
July 28, 2010 With Family
We are enjoying some good food, plenty of food and more food. It feels like 100 degrees, so we spent some time in the pool playing with my two nephews. In the evening we had Tony Romas again at Broadway At The Beach. We just recently had Tony Romas in Quito, Ecuador. They have awesome ribs. After spending so much time in the sun each day we become exhausted pretty early and head to bed.
July 27, 2010 Finally, the Truth
We were in Bogota, but we were never returning to Ecuador. We arrived in Myrtle Beach, SC late last night and spent the evening in a hotel. This morning we surprised our family on vacation in Myrtle Beach. We walked up on the beach and just sort of stared at them with the video camera. It was very funny. We are now enjoying vacation with my brother’s family and my parents. The story is much longer, but I will save that for a post.
July 26, 2010 Last Day in Bogota
Today was a lazy day in Bogota. We walked the streets taking pictures and videos, enjoying coffee, tea and pastries in cafes and testing out various empanadas. Tomorrow, it’s back on the bus for 30 hours of traveling. Once in Ecuador I will continue my Spanish classes.
July 25, 2010 Exploring Bogota
We had a very hard time falling asleep last night with the night club next to us playing live music till 5am. The ear plugs had no effect over the vibrating walls. At noon we met back up with Jeff from CareerBreakSecrets.com and enjoyed some Colombian lunch and Juan Valdez coffee. We attempted to search for wedding dresses, but the stores were all closed. Searching or shopping for things in South America is simple in large cities. All related products are sold in the same area. For instance, if you want a haircut, visit the right street and you can usually chose from over 20 of them. I know the United States has garment districts and jewelers’ row, but this is more complex than that. In Bogota all stores related to refrigeration are on two streets. Eye glasses, computers, athletic stores, the list goes on. I find I like the organization. We said goodbye to AlmostFearless.com, since they are now heading north to Medellin to visit with more digital nomads.
July 24, 2010 Interview Day
After eating breakfast, Christine, Drew, Cole, Aracely and I boarded a bus to Zipaquira, Colombia, a town 1.5 hours from Bogota, famous for it’s salt mines and salt cathedral. We arrived to a pleasant colonial town with a grand plaza surrounded by beautiful architecture with dotted palm trees. A perfect location for the interview. We are honored to be one of many digital nomads meeting Almost Fearless and hopefully being able to contribute to the documentary project highlighting the digital nomad lifestyle. With Christine calling the shots, Drew working the camera and Cole chilling, it made us feel like quite the celebrities. It was a great time for Aracely and I. We really enjoyed their company and passion for their project. In the evening we met up with Jeff Jung from Career Break Secrets and discussed his current project of developing video travel guides over a nice dinner at 1492 Restaurant in the T-bone district.
July 23, 2010 Back in Colombia
This was our longest bus ride ever. We left Quito at 7:30am on Friday and arrived in Bogota, Colombia at 1:30pm on Saturday. The one nice thing about the trip was crossing the border, which gave us an opportunity to walk around for over an hour. When taking these long bus rides, the bus does stop for meals. We arrived to our hostel and was greeted by Christine of Almost Fearless, her husband Drew and their 4 month old son Cole. After cleaning up with a shower, we all headed out into town for a stroll of the colonial neighborhood. It looks like tonight is going to be a very active night in the city, but we are just too tired. Tomorrow we plan to get up early to visit some other nearby attractions and also meet Jeff Jung from Career Break Secrets.
July 22, 2010 30 Hours on a Bus
We are currently on a bus to Bogata, Colombia for the weekend. We arrive Friday.
Check out our most recent interview by Michael Glass of TravelByU.com.
July 21, 2010 A Year Overdue
We haven’t had our teeth cleaned in well over a year. We asked our hostel owner if she could schedule us an appointment at her dentist. It would be cheaper to get our teeth cleaned here, since we don’t have any insurance when we return home. This dentist office was state of the art! I was so impressed. They had a camera wand that they put in your mouth and you could watch the video on an LCD screen in front of you. The plaque build up was a little gross, but I still enjoyed the technology. We now have clean teeth again and no cavities! Spanish class is still moving along well, but I didn’t want to bore you with the same details everyday. Pablo, my afternoon teacher took us to an wonderful lookout point overlooking the city. Since today was the first perfectly clear day in weeks, we jumped on the opportunity to take some pictures. You can find those pictures on Facebook. Tomorrow, we leave for the weekend to visit the capital city of Bogata, Colombia. It’s a 24 hour bus ride and a border crossing, so I am taking off class Thursday, Friday and Monday.
July 20, 2010 The Big Day
I imagine they were both a little nervous, but what about me, the guy that is marrying her that doesn’t yet speak Spanish? I guess we were all a bit nervous. Aracely’s Father and his daughter Gina arrived at 7:15am. We all sat in the hostel living room and chatted for several hours before making breakfast. Then Mariana and Aracely’s Aunt and Uncle showed up. It was a family reunion in the hostel! It was probably quite the site for the other hostel guests. I then left for class and everyone continued to catch up. After class it was just Aracely, her Father, Gina and I. We toured Quito showing her family around and enjoyed some lunch. After taking a few pictures of the family we had them printed quickly at a kiosk so they could take them back to Chone, Ecuador with them. It was a very special day.
July 19, 2010 Visiting Friends & Family
Aracely’s friend from home, Mariana, is in Quito on a personal project and visited with us today. It was a great thing for them to spend time together. In addition, Aracely had lunch with her Uncle and Aunt that she hasn’t seen in 6 years. Her Uncle was here for a lawyer conference and they connected. This was the great news. The bad news is that we picked up our wedding outfits from the tailor. Her dress was pretty bad. There isn’t even a chance to fix it. My jacket, however is perfect. The tailor obviously knows how to make suits, but he never mentioned he had no experience with dresses. We just wish he was honest with us from the beginning, but I guess he just wanted to opportunity to make some money. We gave the dress away, but kept the jacket. $-170USD 🙁 Anyone want to make Aracely’s beach wedding dress? We have a picture from the Internet. If it’s good, we will give you a great shout out! Tonight Aracely’s Father returned her call and let her know that he will be taking the bus overnight with his daughter to see Aracely in the morning. Aracely hasn’t seen her Father in 6 years.
July 18, 2010 Dinner And A Movie
This weekend is turning out to be very expensive. Today we went walking for 2 hours in search of the Organic Chocolate and Coffee Cafe and the Italian Deli, but we never found it. These were places my teacher, Pablo showed me when we went walking the other day. Apparently, I was focusing so hard on speaking Spanish (yea right) that I didn’t recognize where we were. Then we went for a stroll in the park again. We didn’t rent bikes because the weather stayed cloudy most of the day. Tonight we ate at Tony Roma’s in Quito! We splurged. I ate the babyback ribs, which were incredible and Aracely had Mahi Mahi blackened. The ribs were delicious, but a little too sweet for me. Everything in South America is sweeter with a lot more sugar in all their sauces. Too bad it was Sunday, or we would have enjoyed some fancy drink specials too. Sunday is a no sell booze day in Ecuador. The movie we saw, by request of Aracely , was the next Twilight. I am not a big fan of these teenager movies, but it was better than the previous two.
July 17, 2010 Visiting Otavalo Market
Up by 5am and trying to catch a cab before the sun rose, we were on our way to visit one of South America’s greatest indigenous markets. We were impressed to say the least. We first walked to the animal market to catch the action before it died down. Then after watching pigs squeal and chickens dangling from women’s hands, we walked to the main square to begin our journey through the maze of vendor stands. The colors of the clothes and tapestry were stunning, as was the jewelry too. We also enjoyed a great breakfast / lunch in the market cafeteria area. There were greater plans for visiting Otavalo that included beautiful waterfalls and a lake under a snow capped volcano, but the rain never quit so we decided to return home. Tomorrow we are hoping the rain holds off long enough for us to rent some bikes and ride them around the park. For over a week now it has rained everyday in Quito.
July 16, 2010 A Stroll Through Gringolandia
During my second class, which is 4-6pm, Pablo, my instructor, took me out for a stroll around Gringolandia / La Mariscal. This is where you can find international restaurants, unlimited bars, night clubs and upscale cafes. We walked past an organic chocolate and coffee shop and I peered into an Italian deli. Aracely and I will be visiting those two places for sure. I get my favorite slimy meats on a hoagie roll and she can have some good chocolate from the jungle. Pablo and I enjoyed some coffee in a cafe owned by an older guy from NY City. We attempted to read the paper, actually Pablo read the paper and I just said, “Si, si.” If you want to be seen in Quito, Gringolandia is the place. Half the people are tourists enjoying the upscale atmosphere. Aracely and I haven’t gone out much this time around in Quito, we have been keeping the budget tight as our travels wind down.
July 15, 2010 New Advertising Rates
Today we launched a new advertising strategy on 2backpackers.com. Before the update we typically charged one price for each type of ad. If an advertiser didn’t want to pay that price we didn’t have any other option for them other than saying, “Sorry.” Now we have tiered pricing in hopes that we can offer several options to fit an advertiser’s budget. If they can’t afford the home page, they can advertise on secondary pages. If they can’t afford that, they can advertise on a single article. Hopefully this new approach will help us close more deals, because right now the graphic ads are all commission based, which doesn’t yield much money at all. Marketing representatives also contacted us from AXE grooming products. They have offered us 5 grooming travel kits to distribute in giveaways. This is exciting for us, because it allows us to give something back to our followers. Comment on Aracely’s new post, Discover Chone Ecuador My Hometown, telling us what your favorite Latin American food is and you will be entered into our drawing. Good luck!
July 14, 2010 Learning Spanish Internet Terms
I have been meeting with a new teacher in the morning whose name is Andres. As I stated before, most of my learning now is in the form of conversation only. Andres is interested in our Internet business and I am interested in learning how to describe it in Spanish. It works out well for the both of us. Aracely went jogging for the first time in 5 days. It was very difficult for her. I think the change in altitude from this past weekend on the coast has had an impact. It’s not easy running at high altitudes. You get winded quickly. If you haven’t seen our picture of the day, check it out. It is one of my favorites.
July 13, 2010 Bad Luck In Latin America
It’s not Friday the 13th, it’s Tuesday the 13th in Latin America. That is bad luck or “mala suerte”. I didn’t have any bad luck though, so it was a good day as usual. Well, almost. We had a visit with our tailor again to check on my jacket. We were supposed to visit yesterday, but we called, and it was a good thing we did, because he asked for another day. We arrived, and again, we had to wait. Then he asked us to extend the due date for Aracely’s dress. I was so frustrated, because he said he needed 4 more days. The truth is that he will need more than 4 days. He will probably need a week more. It’s okay, we have the time, but what if we didn’t? As our friend Troy would say, “TIE.” And we have no other explanation, but, “This Is Ecuador.”
July 12, 2010 A Safer Return to Quito
During our drive to Chone, I had mentioned it was scary as hell. Well, thankfully our return to Quito was a much safer ride. This conductor actually cared about the well being of his passengers. I ate the yucca bread Aracely’s Aunt made us early that morning before she left for work. Yucca bread has been my favorite, but you can’t get it here in Quito in the highlands. Her family was incredible hosts during our 3 days of visiting. We are extremely grateful. Aracely and I got caught up on emails, since we were able to connect to the Internet for the first time in 4 days. Tomorrow is back to school day.
July 11, 2010 Gastronomia of Ecuador’s Coast
We continue to explore and taste the food of Ecuador’s coast while visiting Aracely’s family in Chone. Today, we tasted the meat of the pig’s head in a dish known as Cazuela. Honestly, it reminded me of meatloaf. I love meatloaf, so I also enjoyed Cazuela. Plantains are the main filler, which applies to most of the food here. Sunday is the busiest day of the Chone marketplace, so her aunt and uncle drove us around to see all the action. Afterwards, we drove outside of town to enjoy some Coco Helado. Coco Helado is usually sold on the side of the country roads. Fresh coconuts are kept cool until you drink them. With a machete, the owner cuts off the tip and creates a hole for your straw. When you finish the cool coconut juice, he then cracks it open for you to scrape off the soft, white coconut. It’s perfectly refreshing in the coastal heat. That evening we ate Morcilla for dinner. I have tried Morcilla several times during this trip and haven’t always liked it. Morcilla is translated as blood sausage. It’s a black pork sausage with pig’s blood. That is why it turns black. Of course, it was tasty. Desert was also a treat, with creamy, cheesy ice cream on top of tropical jello. Yes, the pounds keep adding on. We watched the World Cup Futbol championship game in the afternoon. We had some big concerns initially when the power was out and therefore no game, but, it only lasted about 10 minutes. I cheered for Holland, but Spain won it all.
July 10, 2010 More Eating With Family
We woke up to a breakfast of fresh watermelon juice, grilled plantains, ham & cheese omelets and more yucca bread. Later that afternoon another of Aracely’s cousins arrived home from college and her Uncle returned from the farm with a dozen mandarins and oranges. That meant fresh orange juice for lunch. We also enjoyed cheese and plantain soup, rice with calamari and sautéed fish. We ate fruit all day, even some star fruit pulled from the tree in the yard. I watched Uncle Limbert hack away at a fresh pig’s head. Sounds pretty disgusting and it looked that way too. Tomorrow we will have traditional Ecuador cazuela, which is made from the pork of the pig’s head. This might top the cuy we ate in Latacunga, although I didn’t like the guinea pig. It’s been raining the last two days, but at night it cleared up enough to go get some local empanadas. The cheese empanadas are fried right on the street. They aren’t the healthiest snack, but they are delicious. I have been practicing my Spanish a little bit, but it’s not enough to be able to talk with the family. Maybe next time we come visit I will have learned enough to have some good conversation.
July 9, 2010 Arrive in Chone, Ecuador
After a 6 hour bus ride, we arrived to Chone at 2:30pm. The ride was scary as hell. Our bus driver from Reina de Camino was one heck of a crazy driver. The roads twisted down the jungle filled mountains until we reached the flatlands near Chone. Ecuador is undergoing huge road development, a gesture often made by Presidents trying to attract votes. The problem is that the President defaulted on all Ecuador’s loans in order to pay for the development. That’s another topic for another day. Aracely’s Uncle, Aunt and cousin Jr. met us at the Chone bus terminal. We last visited during the Christmas and New Year holidays, when it was very hot and dry. It’s very green this time of season, a much different environment. As soon as we sat down in the house, Grandma and her Aunt were already serving us food. It’s so great to enjoy home cooked food again.
July 8, 2010 Packing For The Weekend
Aracely and I visited the tailor today to get a first look at her dress. It looks nice, but it was a real rough draft. He made a bunch of adjustments with pins and we are going to return on Monday evening for another look. We were a bit concerned when we first arrived because he delayed us one day. And he also delayed us 45 minutes today. I don’t like when people keep pushing your scheduled meeting behind. It looked as if they were rushing to get it done when we were there. But, after she put the dress on, it seemed fine. We told him that we needed it early, just in case he doesn’t hit our deadline. Hopefully, I can get a first glimpse of my jacket on Monday too. I won’t be having class tomorrow, because we leave for Chone, Ecuador in the morning on an 8 hour bus ride. We are visiting Aracely’s family for the first time since the holidays. We haven’t packed up in a while, it almost seems confusing. Torn between leaving all of our equipment in the empty hostel room or taking it with us, we decided on the latter. We really aren’t sure what is more safe. The bus or the hostel room. It’s funny, how after 10 months of travel, we are more scared than ever to have our equipment stolen. We are so close to the finish line and everything has been perfect up to this point. We are lucky.
July 7, 2010 The World Cup Is Set
Germany lost to Spain! We didn’t expect that, nor did I want that to happen. I really wanted Germany playing Holland. Oh well, I guess it doesn’t matter that much considering the US is nowhere. I made a nice dinner tonight. Shrimp and pasta in a white wine and lemon sauce. It was good according to Aracely. Our article on The Good, Bad and Ugly of Travel has been a success. Nice job Aracely!
July 6, 2010 Futbol Again
Today we watched Holland defeat Uruguay. It was expected, but we cheered for Uruguay anyway, since they were the last team from South America. Aracely is working this week, and I am continuing to study hard. I have a new teacher also, and we are conversing much more than I did last week.
July 5, 2010 A Slow Process
The school manager noticed that I still wasn’t able to understand what people were saying around the hostel when they were speaking in Spanish. I guess its sort of a disappointment after 2 weeks of classes. I can handle the exercises on paper with ease. I now remember many verbs and phrases, however I am not able to identify what people are saying when it’s spoken verbally. My hearing is terrible. So today, we started class with an hour of attempted conversation. This is how we will proceed. Less grammar and more conversation. Honestly, unless I was going to be here for 3 months, grammar isn’t that important to me. I just need to be able to converse! We purchased The Godfather II next door and watched it tonight. Another great movie, although Aracely prefers the first Godfather.
July 4, 2010 A Stroll in the Park
Eager to get out of the house, Aracely and I spent the afternoon walking around “New Town” and the Ejido park. Rio Amazonas is the main street through Gringolandia and leads straight to the park. The street is closed to car traffic on Sunday and the city and other organizations sponsor a bicycle day. It’s a great thing to promote in the community. You can have free water, rent a bike or even get a tune-up for free. By the time Aracely and I arrived it was too late to rent a bike, but we plan to revisit again in a few weeks. While walking through the park we also found some great linen beach shirts that the groomsmen in our wedding can wear. At $9 a shirt, I will be picking them up for the wedding party. Tonight we watched The Godfather, a movie I was shocked to hear that Aracely has never seen.
July 3, 2010 July 4th Weekend at Home
It’s rare, but sometimes we do get a little homesick, especially during the Holidays. It’s the big July 4th weekend at home in the United States. Not only do we know everyone is getting together with their friends and family to celebrate, but we also read it and see photos of fireworks on Facebook. This is one of those situations where you wish you didn’t have access to what your friends and family were doing. Well, we have fireworks too! So hah! Unfortunately, they aren’t lighting up the sky, in fact, we aren’t 100% sure they are even fireworks. But, we do hear them every night. Enjoy your holiday weekend, we miss everyone!
July 2, 2010 Awesome Futbol Matches
The highlight of yesterday was watching 2 very exciting futbol matches. The big upset by Brazil was shocking and Ghana lost on an unfortunate penalty kick miss. In between classes we visited with our tailor again and showed him a sport coat I want made for the wedding. He said he could make it, so we then went shopping for the fabric. I was looking for a light colored tan linen, to which some store owners explained it wasn’t very popular here. We found some great linen in a suit fabric store. He is going to charge $50 to make the coat and it cost about $50 for all the fabric, liner, buttons etc. $100 for a linen sport coat isn’t too bad.
July 1, 2010 Jason’s Wedding Outfit
I am not going to where a suit with a tie, since this is a beach wedding. We want a casual, cool atmosphere. I mean, let’s be honest, I will be cool regardless, but it can’t hurt to try to look cooler than usual. While looking on-line at sport coats, I found a modern or euro looking jacket. It has 4 pockets. Two pockets sit low and two sit high on the chest. On-line it costs $1,000 USD. I would never spend $1,000 on a piece of clothing, its just not my thing. So, I printed up a bunch of pictures and I too am going to go ask our tailor if he can make me a linen sport coat. We didn’t have the chance to get out of the hostel today, so maybe tomorrow we can go visit him. The Spanish classes are still frustrating me, because I can’t understand what people say still. The problem I have is dissecting a sentence. I can’t tell where the words break, nor what the words mean. Sometimes I wonder what a word is, only to find out its 2 words that I know separately. It’s tough. And I seem to be slower than everyone else around me. Learning languages is just not what my brain is good at. World Cup is back on tomorrow!
June 30, 2010 Wedding Dress
We had considered having Aracely’s wedding dress custom made here in Ecuador, but weren’t too sure how to go about getting that done. First, we spoke to some of the teachers at my school. The first lady wanted to sell Aracely her unused dress. Another lady possibly knew someone, but couldn’t give us any ideas on prices. Lastly, we asked the school manager. He suggested we visit the garment district in old city. We hoped in a cab with our photo of a dress in hand and drove to San Francisco Plaza. We walked into several fabric store and asked if there was anyone they knew who could make a wedding dress. In the third store, when we asked, they pointed to another customer in the store at that time. He was a tailor that was buying fabric for another project. It happened so quickly. He looked at the photo and started showing Aracely some fabrics. After purchasing the fabric for the dress, we headed over to his workshop for measurements. On July 7th, he will have his first sample for Aracely to try on. He is charging us $120 USD to make the dress, not including the cost of the material. No bad huh? Well, we will have to see how it turns out. By the way, we can watch Two And A Half Men here in English. What an awesome show! We just sealed a 3-month deal for another text link ad on our homepage. Slowly, things are growing.
June 29, 2010 16 Teenagers Arrive
Our peaceful home has become a loud English teenager hangout. A large tour group of 16 or so kids between the ages of 17 and 18 have arrived at the hostel for a week. It was so quiet and we had the living room and TV all to ourselves. Well no more. They are served breakfast and dinner in the hostel and pretty much take up a lot of the room. They are just having fun, not causing any harm, but it was nice when we were alone. Aracely is up to 6 miles in her training. And I am up to 200 verbs in my learning. Except, she actually runs the 6 miles and I only read the 200 verbs. I have no idea how I am going to memorize these. We sold another subscription to Travel Blog Success! That makes 3 sales for us. It would be nice if we could sell 10, but I don’t see that happening. I still use the community today. Their forum is a great place for all us travel bloggers to ask questions and provide feedback. If you want to be a travel blogger, I recommend Travel Blog Success and actively use it today. Oh and tomorrow is the last day for the 20% off sale.
June 28, 2010 Mondays Are Mondays Again
I remember way back when I had a full time job and Mondays sucked. Well, Mondays suck again. I have Spanish lessons during the week and that means I know what day it is again. It’s been a long time since that has happened. Typically, we can’t tell the difference between a Monday and a Saturday, but that’s no more. Funny that I say that considering I am only in class for 4 hours and spend about 2 hours a day studying. That still doesn’t really match the full time corporate job. But, I guess it’s the closest thing to it that we have had in a long time. Tonight we watched Jumpers on DVD. It was an interesting SciFi movie. I tend to like those types of movies. We had planned to venture out on the weekends and visit some nearby places, but we realize World Cup Soccer games are played on the weekends. I am not sure if we are ever going to make it out of town. We have made plans to visit with Aracely’s family in Chone next weekend. I can’t remember how long that bus ride is.
June 27, 2010 Lazy Day in the Hostel
I was up until 2am last night on the computer, so it wasn’t an early morning. Aracely, however, had already finished showering from her morning run, before I slowly crawled out of bed at 10am. We enjoyed breakfast and then got comfortable for the Mexico vs Argentina soccer match. Cheering for the underdog, Mexico, didn’t go well. They lost to Argentina. After the game we walked to the grocery store and stocked up on this weeks food. Then it was study time for me. I am not looking forward to going back to school tomorrow, but it’s better than going back to work, right? Today, I also added affiliate marketing ads to our site to experiment with more possible revenue streams. Affiliate marketing is basically earning a commission when one of our readers purchases their product by first clicking on the ad on our site. For instance, we have added a HostelWorld.com ad under each article. If our reader clicks on the ad and then books a hostel reservation we get $3. It’s pennies, but each penny helps. We personally use both HostelWorld.com and HostelBookers.com while traveling. But, we didn’t see an affiliate program for HostelBookers. We are also trying to get approved for an REI affiliate program. We love REI and have purchased much of our gear and clothes through them. So the key is… purchase products and book your reservations through us! Please.
June 26, 2010 USA Bid For World Cup Ends
We woke up and watched the first soccer game, where Uruguay defeated South Korea. It’s 1 hour earlier here in Quito than EST. The winner of this game would play the winner of the US vs Ghana. Between games we went out and had some coffee and churruos. Aracely also got a $3 eye exam and purchased some new eye glasses. The hostel we are staying at is like our own house. No one is here and it is designed like a house. We have the kitchen and direct TV all to ourselves. Unfortunately, the US couldn’t keep up with speedy Ghana and we lost in overtime 2-1. Ghana knocked out the US in 2006 too. Today was my first day of no studying Spanish, although we did practice while walking the streets. Saving money isn’t fun, its very boring. We area little jealous of all the travel bloggers in NYC for TBEX. Sounds like one big party! Hopefully next year we will be able to join.
June 25, 2010 Vegetable Overload
We have been cooking breakfast, lunch and dinner at the hostel since we arrived and its been all vegetables. We did need some detox, but the healthiness has gone far enough. Chicken for next week! I am in language overload and that’s not good considering I don’t learn languages well. What does that mean? It means, I study more than most people and am around Spanish all the time, yet I can’t understand a word people are saying nor can I speak a sentence without thinking about it for a minute before I open my mouth. I need the weekend break, my brain is fried!
June 24, 2010 Studying & Running
These next few weeks are going to seem the same in regards to our journal writing. I am in class for 4 hours a day. The first session is 11-1pm and the second session is 4-6pm. In between classes I study and we make lunch. After class I study and we have dinner. We also keep abreast on the soccer games. Aracely is doing her marathon training while I am in class and grocery shopping when we run out of food. That pretty much sums up our weekdays here. We will try to make the weekends a bit more exciting. Aracely also experimented with Twitter today. I am usually the one on the social networking sites, but with me having to study, Aracely is taking control. And she did awesome. She was tweeting with all our travel blog friends in a great discussion. Way to go Aracely! Twitter is an essential networking and traffic building tool that we use to accompany our blog. We have met other travel bloggers, got hostel and food recommendations and spread our 2 Backpackers brand through Twitter. I am endorser of the tool.
June 23, 2010 Start Spanish Lessons
Today was my first day of Spanish lessons at the school (Cristobal Colon Spanish School) located within our hostel (Hostal Tutamanda). It’s different compared to the classes I took in Antigua, Guatemala. There my teacher spoke perfect English. Here, my teacher doesn’t speak any English. This might turn out to be a good thing for me, because I had some long conversations with my Guatemala teacher in English and it probably took away from some of my teaching time. Although, I can also see where the language barrier may not enable me to ask some complicated questions about the material. Regardless, I have a lot to learn. Today was 2 hours of class, but moving forward it will be 4 hours a day. Aracely began running today. She is training to run in the NY City Marathon, so she will be busy too. And, most importantly, GO USA! A last minute goal scored by Donovan propelled the United States into the second round. Hopefully we will start to play better, or it will be a beating.
June 22, 2010 Arriving to Quito, Ecuador
The day started early in Cusco. We awoke at 5am to catch a cab to the airport and fly to Lima. We flew Taca airlines, which was an enjoyable experience. The seats are large and roomy, and you always get drinks and usually food on any flights in Latin America. The drinks include wine, beer and liquor. Once we landed in Lima, we changed planes to fly to Quito, Ecuador. We are visiting Ecuador for the second time during this year long trip. We had decided on Quito for our return because the city is large and close to some adventure in the Andes. We are still tempted to summit Cotopaxi. Cuenca, Ecuador, in our opinion is a more beautiful city, but its not near the Andes, thereby lacking some great adventure tours. We don’t plan on leaving Quito until we leave for home, in the end of August. Our goal here is for me to learn Spanish and Aracely to start training for the NY City Marathon. Settling down will be a nice change of pace for us, but too bad I can’t work on videos. We went food shopping tonight and stocked up for a few days. We will be cooking to save money. We have to make up the $1,000 that the flights cost us to get here. That means eating in and saving money.
June 21, 2010 Last Day in Cusco
We did our usual routine of getting up, eating our free breakfast and heading to the cafe to watch the soccer games. It seems boring, I am sure, but we do enjoy watching the World Cup.
June 20, 2010 Work & Festivals
This entire week Cusco has been celebrating Inti Raymi, Festival of the Sun. Parades of people in costumes march and dance around the plaza. Unfortunately, loud fireworks go off at 7am each morning. This usually signals the beginning of the practices or celebrations. Our days have been the same lately. We get up and eat our free hostel breakfast at the plaza at 9am. Next, we go to a cafe to watch the first soccer game and have a few beers. After that, we visit a WiFi cafe to check the Internet and Aracely usually does some work. Then we go to a bar to watch the second game. We are eager to move on, after being in Cusco twice, although we still love the beautiful town. Our flight leaves Tuesday, back to Quito, Ecuador.
June 19, 2010 Soccer Games
We jump from cafe to cafe searching for the soccer games and WiFi. Aracely has been doing a lot of work lately and I just play on the iTouch. I miss my computer so much. Withdrawal, yes indeed.
June 18, 2010 Wedding Planning
Another day spent on the computers. With our wedding early, in October, we need to start working on getting things planned and scheduled as soon as possible. We sent our Evite out today with all the details. We researched accommodations, transportation, marriage licenses, chair rentals, car rentals and lots of other boring stuff. This is definitely not the fun part of getting married, at least not for us. As you can see from the homepage, advertising deals are starting to come through. This is exciting for us, and the start of our future business. We believe that if you want something enough, you can make it work, but it takes a lot of hard work, patience and reasonable expectations. You can make money travel blogging, but don´t expect to get rich.
June 17, 2010 Booked Flights Home
Yes, we woke up very late and missed our free hostel breakfast. At noon we ventured out for some breakfast/lunch and then found an Internet cafe to research flights. We booked so many flights, it seemed crazy. First, we leave Cusco on Tuesday for Quito, Ecuador, where we will settle down for 2 months. Here, I will learn Spanish and we will visit with Aracely´s family some weekends. The next flights booked were those to go home, back to Miami to visit with Aracely´s Mom. Then from Miami we fly back to NJ, where my family lives. In October, we fly to Myrtle Beach for our wedding and then back to NJ. The credit card was burning red after all flights were booked. Now we just need some mega advertising revenue to pay for that all. Any takers?
June 13-16, 2010 Hiking to Machu Picchu
It was a complicating trek to say the least. We boarded a bus from Cusco at 4:30am and drove 4 hours to where we would start our trek. After breakfast, the guides told the two groups that we had a decision to make. Transportation protests were set to begin on Thursday at 12am and possibly last 2 days, maybe more. Our trek was originally scheduled to return Thursday at midnight. We had to decide whether we wanted to shorten our trek by 1 day or possibly extend it by 2 days. We would have to pay for our own food and accommodation in Aguas Caliente if we stayed for 2 days longer, and it´s expensive there, since that is the town that rests at the foot of Machu Picchu. Aracely and I decided to shorten our trek 1 day. This meant the two trek groups would have to break up on the third day and we would need to hire someone to drive us from La Playa to the Hydroelectric Plant on the third day. The fourth day would be spent in Machu Picchu. The Salkantay Trek was a challenging one. At this point in our journey, we are tired, and beginning to get burnt out. Four days of heavy trekking definitely tested our mental strength as well as our physical strength. We made it, but we really had to stay positive and focus on one step at a time. Machu Picchu is an incredible display of ancient Inca life and construction. It´s massive, highly intact and visited by thousands a day. Aracely and I tried to take the best pictures we could with the equipment we had. Her lens is really dead this time. It won´t focus automatically, so we struggle to focus with the natural eye. Returning to Cusco was a mess. The train from Aguas Caliente departed at 10pm and dropped us off well short of our destination. The trains were worried about the road and track blocks starting at midnight. From the drop off point, over 200 people boarded shuttle buses that began to take us towards the location where the train was originally going to drop us off. We got stopped by a road block at 12:30am. The 25 or so buses waited 45 minutes until police arrived and allowed us to move through. From there, the buses drove on top of the train tracks to the next station. Yes, the buses drove on the train tracks. Once there we boarded another bus, which was originally scheduled, to Cusco. We again, drove on train tracks and back roads to avoid road blocks. We arrived to Cusco at 3:15am. Tired, we limped to our hostel. Still dirty from that days trekking, I showered and went to bed around 4:30am. It was a long day, but we did get to see the great Machu Picchu.
June 12, 2010 Prepared For Trek
Today, our last day before our hike to Machu Picchu, we ran around getting some last minute items. Aracely got a new small backpack, we picked up our rental equipment, purchased another SD memory card for our new small camera and another 500G external hard drive. We need the hard drive since my MacBook Pro died. We have no place to store our video or pictures since Aracely’s work computer only has 3G of memory available. The US played England today and we had front row seats on a couch in an empty lounge. It was a great place to enjoy the game, however the US looked pretty bad. We tied England, thanks to a grave mistake made by their goalie. Hopefully we will improve in the next match. We are going to bed early tonight since we have to catch a 4am bus to begin our trek. Talk to you in 5 days. Machu Picchu, here we come!
June 11, 2010 Booking Our Trek to Machu Picchu
As we headed out to book our tour, we were greeted by hundreds of people in costume parading around the Plaza de Armas. Today is the Corpus Christi festival and they are carrying statues of saints and virgins all around town while bands play and dancers entertain. I would say it most resembles the Mummers parade in Philadelphia, with a few religious statues. We captured some awesome video and photos. In January we booked our trek through Hiking Peru, a tour company we choose after doing a lot of research and bargain hunting. We headed back there this morning and booked the same trek that was cancelled due to the severe flooding that occurred in January. We leave at 4:30am on Sunday and return at midnight on Thursday. The trek is called the Salkantay Trek and is a 5-day alternative route to Machu Picchu. We opted for this tour because it is less crowded and much cheaper. The traditional Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is flooded with tourists everyday and a lot more expensive. After leaving Hiking Peru, which is located on the main square, we searched for a place to rent sleeping bags and walking sticks. The cost adds up unfortunately. We are also looking to purchase Aracely a new small backpack, because hers is falling apart and she needs something decent for this trek. There are many North Face and Colombia knock offs here, we just have to find one that is half decent. Adding a little bit of stress to our lives we have also begun to plan our wedding.
June 10, 2010 Back in the Ancient City of Cusco
It was a long bus ride, but we are finally back in Cusco to trek to Machu Picchu. The bus arrived at 8:30pm, just enough time to get settled into our hostel (Pirwa Bed & Breakfast Hostal) and get some touristico food. We splurged, and sat at a nice table overlooking the beautiful Plaza de Armas. This place is just so perfect, I would consider it one of the most beautiful plazas in all of Latin America. Although I haven´t been to them all.
June 9, 2010 Exploring La Paz
We woke up at 10am and after showering went down to the hostel reception to book our bus ride to Cusco. We missed any buses already leaving today. All rides to Cusco leave at 8am since it’s a 12 hour drive and only 3 hours to the border. If the buses leave later or overnight, the border will be closed. She also told us that it’s probably not a big deal that our tourist card will be expired by a day. We are taking her word and booked a bus for tomorrow morning. Worst case scenario is that they ask us to pay some money. Glad we had a full day to now explore La Paz we headed out to walk the streets. We were in La Paz for a day many months ago when we attempted to ride bikes down death road with our friend Chuck. The tour was canceled due to some road protests, and we had to quickly leave in order for Chuck to make it back to the airport. So, even though we have been here before, we never really got to see much of the city. Today we did, and what a diverse city it is. Similar to Lima, Peru, you can find restaurants of many different international cuisines, cobblestone streets and plenty of plazas. We can add La Paz to our list of cities we wouldn’t mind settling down in for an extended period of time. Lima and Medellin are also on that list. We obviously enjoy big cities and all they have to offer. For dinner we had sushi, and it was the best sushi we have had on this trip. As I have said before, there isn’t many varieties of fish when having sushi in Latin America, so your choices are limited. Usually just shrimp and salmon. Tonight we had trucha (trout), but we think it was salmon, octopus and shrimp. It’s pretty chilly at night here, but they gave us a propane tank with an attached heater on top. It burns the eyes a little bit. Hopefully we will wake up still alive. We have an 8am bus ride to Cusco tomorrow. We are looking forward to hiking Macchu Pichu, since our trek was canceled due to the terrible floods that occurred last time we visited.
June 8, 2010 Tourist Card Expires
We arrived to La Paz after 8 hours on a cramped bus. My legs were killing me. The big news is that during our ride, I noticed that our Bolivia Tourist Card expires tomorrow. This is a problem considering we just arrived to La Paz and wanted to spend some time riding down death road on bikes and getting familiar with the city. A tourist card is just a piece of paper that many countries give you in addition to the passport stamp. You have to carry it with your passport when traveling within the country. We also had to purchase a $130 visa as an American citizen. The visa is good for 90 days, so we figured our tourist card was too. We were wrong. It’s random and we didn’t pay attention to it when we received our cards. Some have 90 day cards and others have 30 days. We spoke to the receptionist at our hostel in La Paz and she said we could board a bus tomorrow for Cusco, Peru. Looks like we won’t be spending any time in La Paz. We could visit the embassy, but we really don’t feel like dealing with the hassle and we do want to get moving quickly back up to Ecuador. We are staying in a dorm room tonight (Hostal Republica) and the hostel across the street is blasting music. It’s going to be a long night.
June 7, 2010 Work and Market
Aracely had to work today while I watched t.v. since my computer is broke. We spent most of the day indoors except for when we went back to the market and purchased a new point and shoot camera. We purchased the Panasonic Lumix TS1 which is waterproof and shock proof. We are hoping that this will survive the various environments as well as our carelessness. We also purchased our wedding bands today! Tomorrow morning we are planning to take an early bus to La Paz.
June 6, 2010 Searching the Market for Electronics
We didn’t sleep well on the bus last night. There was a lot of winding and dirt roads. We arrived before sunrise, so we waited in the bus terminal for the sun to rise before going out looking for a hostel. After getting settled in, we headed straight for the market, where we heard we could possibly get a new point and shoot camera and possibly a netbook computer, since the Apple died. We had heard the prices would be fairly comparable to those in the US, but unfortunately, they were still high. We will return tomorrow to check again. We found an excellent cafe that served sushi! Our favorite. It’s been a while since we had sushi, so it was a nice change. Salmon was the only raw fish and all rolls get cream cheese, so it was far from great, but still pleasant. Next door to the cafe was an ice cream shop, so there was no way we were passing that up. So far Cochabamba doesn’t impress us too much, but the gigantic market is an experience to be had.
June 5, 2010 Last Day in Sucre, Bolivia
After 2 weeks in Sucre we are saddened to leave. It’s a great city to easily feel comfortable in. We spent time walking around capturing photos and videos and picking up some last minute souvenirs. Our last dinner in Sucre is appropriately in Florin Cafe, our favorite restaurant with WiFi. It’s 7pm and we are just about to catch a taxi to the bus terminal for our overnight ride to Cochabamba. It’s a bigger city that Sucre, but we have heard there isn’t much to do. We need a new compact point and shoot camera and maybe a cheap computer to get us through the rest of the trip. We were told that Cochabamba is the place to get electronics from the US. The roads are supposedly bad and bumpy, which means not much sleep. Talk to you tomorrow after we find a hostel.
June 4, 2010 Dooms Day For the Mac Laptop
We have always had problems with the cameras, but never with the MacBook. It’s bad. Late last night I tried turning the computer on and nothing happened. The light illuminates for 3 seconds and then shuts off. The screen doesn’t even light up. The Macbook Pro is old and beat up. I bought it in early 2006 and it has traveled with us in a backpack over the last 9 months. It was a matter of time before it crapped out. Unfortunately, it was a bad time. We haven’t backed up the photos in over a month. the video footage is all backed up on hard drives we carry and all the photos, except the last month, are all on hard drives we have sent back home to the states. As far as producing blog posts moving forward, it will be very difficult, because there won’t be any photos to accompany the post. Articles don’t do well without photos. And I can’t create any more videos because the MacBook is the only computer we can do it on. Aracely carries a work computer, but its for work only. We aren’t able to install software on it, not even iTunes. So, yes, its very depressing considering we have now made blogging a major part of our journey. We will be in La Paz, the biggest city in Bolivia, in a few days and will see if we can find a computer repair shop to take a look at it. At the least we need to know if the hard drive failed or possibly the Logic Board. A logic board failure would be better than a hard drive failure, because it would mean we could still get the photos off the hard drive eventually. However, a logic board failure is a major breakdown and would be very expensive to fix, probably not worth it. In addition, to have one of the boards shipped here would probably take forever, time we don’t have now that we are trying to get back to Cusco to hike Macchu Pichu. Tomorrow night we leave for Cochabamba, a bigger city than Sucre. We may end up looking for a cheap notebook computer to buy in order to continue to have a place to store photos and work on the website. We said goodbye to Randall from Condortrekkers tonight. He leaves for a multi-day trek tomorrow early morning. We will miss him. He is an honest, genuine guy that we will remember.
June 3, 2010 Back at Randall’s House
We went back to Randall’s house today to finish up on with the website. Aracely is currently busy with her real job. I finished uploading all the photos from past treks and tomorrow I will spend time training Randall how to use WordPress, so we can do a hand off. Today we released an entertaining article. Aracely put together some fun pictures and lessons learned over the last 9 months of traveling. Take a look and enjoy the fun reading!
June 2, 2010 Becoming Lazy
I had trouble falling asleep last night, so I slept in pretty late. Actually, I never got out of bed until 5pm. I was working on the computer, the entire time, but not moving around much. Sometimes its great to do nothing all day. We posted an article today by Colby Brown of www.colbybrownphotography.com. He and two others are creating a five year photo documentary project whose aim is to keep the focus on the ongoing struggles of the Haitian people and the NGO’s that truly are making a difference. We are supporting it by spreading the word through a post on our site. Read it here. Our hostel often shuts down the wifi at night, I guess to save power, but the last two nights we have been lucky and they left it on. This allows us to upload photos and more importantly download new episodes of The Office, our favorite show. The wifi is not great during the day, when everyone is jumping on-line. We are still progressing on the Condortrekkers site, but I expect we will be leaving wonderful Sucre on Friday evening.
June 1, 2010 Back At Work
I woke up feeling good today. We have been sleeping in late almost everyday recently, so we never have breakfast. We met Randall from Condortrekkers at our favorite vegetarian lunch place. It’s a great meal for only 10 Bolivianos or $1.50USD. Includes a super small salad, soup, main course and small desert. Can’t beat that! Then we went over to Randall’s apartment and worked on uploaded trek photos for the Condortrekkers website. It’s 1:30am, so my guess is, we will be sleeping in late again. Aracely released an article today that she put a lot of thought and time behind. Please take the time to read it and if it interests you, we highly recommend renting the movie, “A Devil’s Miner.” You can find the details in her post. Ethics of Tourism: Mines of Potosi, Boliva
May 31, 2010 Stomach Virus
Last night was dreadful for me, Jason. Ever since we arrived at the market yesterday I have been feeling short winded. The taxi driver had suggested it might be the altitude, since we had risen higher to get to Tarabuco. The shortness of breath seemed to originate from stomach. I was sort of hunched over with cramps, but not the kind you get when you think you are going to have diarrhea. I can say that word easily, since its a reality that it happens often while traveling in foreign countries. By the time we got into bed I was curled in pain and had already had diarrhea. I know my body wanted me to vomit too. I hate vomiting, so I resisted for hours until about 2am. At this time I let it go, considering I wasn’t able to sleep at all. Of course, my body was right and it helped the pain subside. I slept in since it was a late evening, but I also didn’t feel well still. Aracely and I laid in bed until lunch time. I know I had to try to eat something, but it’s the one thing you really don’t want to do in fear that you will just vomit it back up. We ate and the food stayed down. Still feeling tired, we stayed in and watched another movie on the computer. Tonight we watched The Blind Side with Sandra Bullock. We really enjoyed the movie and thought Sandra was awesome in it. Hopefully tomorrow all will be healed and we can get back to work on condortrekkers.org.
May 30, 2010 Visiting Tarabuco Market
Ever since we visited the Indigenous Art Museum in Sucre and observed the women doing their traditional weaving we have wanted to visit the Tarabuco Market. The market occurs every Sunday about 1.5 hours outside of Sucre in Tarabuco. Here, much of the local tapestry is sold. More than the tapestry, however, the market is essential for all the campesinos (mountain peoples) to conduct their weekly bartering and purchasing of goods. It’s like walking back in time to discover how the tribes traditionally dressed. You can see that the traditional dress is loosing it’s appeal amongst the young, especially the men. We were running a little late this morning and on the way to the bus stop, our taxi driver offered himself as a guide for the day and a taxi ride to the market rather than a bus. He was a professor at night and had a stack of brochures to attest to his knowledge of the area and cultures. He was fluent in Quechua and a taxi ride would get us there a lot faster than a shuttle bus, so we accepted. Jorge was the perfect guide for the day. He answered all our questions, helped us capture some colorful photos and was as knowledgeable as we could want. If you are in Sucre and looking to visit the Tarabuco Market or other surrounding sites with a knowledgeable guide (Spanish speaking) contact Jorge Velasco Quiroz at 6443350 or cell at 77135559. Even contact him for a taxi ride. Aracely put together a photo essay from the Tarabuco Market, check it out here.
May 29, 2010 All Day in Florin Cafe
Our favorite cafe, less the smoking, is Florin Cafe located one block from the main plaza. We decided to give Randall’s house a break and do our work at the cafe today. That means larger than normal breakfast and lunch bills, but the food is so worth it. I had Ted’s Pick Me Up Egg Sandwich, which is like an omelet with lots of flavoring laid over french bread. The bread is so soft and the eggs were tasty. For lunch, we split our dishes. Aracely ordered a salad with fruit and walnuts and I ordered the Mexican Meat Lasagna. Again, the food was delicious. We got a lot done on the Condortrekkers website today. A Flickr account is created and the Facebook fan base is growing. Each trek now has it’s own page and photo. We still have the challenging task of integrating Flickr with the entire website in order to share the trekking photos online. Tonight is movie and a pizza night. We watch the DVD on our computer while laying in bed. The movie was “Hurt Locker,” which neither of us thought was too impressive for an Oscar winner.
May 28, 2010 Our Turn to Cook
We are feeling so lazy, physically. Everyday we spend about 10 hours on a computer working for Condortrekkers. It will be rewarding in the end if we can help Randall gain some more business and volunteers. Every night someone has cooked at the house, so we felt it was our turn. We took a trip to Sucre market to figure out what to cook. We purchased large peppers, chile peppers, quinoa, onions, garlic, oregano and eggplant, so the decision was to make stuffed peppers. Oh and we drank two smoothies. Every visit to the market involves smoothies considering they have one courtyard with about 20 smoothie stands with every kind of fruit found locally. You get two glasses for 5 Bolivianos. Not bad for under $1 USD. Aracely did most of the cooking, except mincing the garlic, which is my specialty. Dinner was delicious for everyone. The night probably continued on for the group at Randall’s house, but we were beat from getting to bed around 1am every night. Dinner has been around 10pm the previous nights.
May 27, 2010 Developing Condortrekkers Website
Aracely and I have committed to helping out Randall and Condortrekkers, so we expect to be at his house almost everyday for the next week. There are two challenges for us. WiFi access and speed. The WiFi in our hostel is intermittent and weak. Randall has WiFi in his house, which is why we need to go there or to a cafe. Cafe’s will cost more, so Randall’s house it is. Even there the Internet is not great. Some times during the day it is non-existent. The infrastructure is still weak hear for Internet. We are building the site using WordPress, hoping this will be easier for Randall and other volunteers to manage. It’s also quicker, considering we don’t have much time. We enjoyed dinner together as a group tonight. It always good homemade vegetarian meals.
May 26, 2010 Hanging at Randall’s Apartment
We are planning to spend some extra time in Sucre for two reasons. One, we really enjoy this city and it’s cheap! Two, because we would love to help Randall grow Condortrekkers in Sucre. Aracely gave some English lessons to Henrry, a local guide for Condortrekkers. We are also helping to build up the Condortrekkers Facebook and TripAdvisor.com Profile. Condortrekkers is a good organization that will give back to the community and we feel good about helping out.
May 25, 2010 Sucre Hike Day 3: A Long Truck Ride
Even though it was very cold in the night, we did get a lot more sleep last night. We had to leave the campsite at 6:30am in order to arrive at the truck pick up spot by 10am. Aracely and I were both aching at this point. My calves were killing me and Aracely was tired of trekking long days. For 3 hours it seemed like an endless landscape of hills that we continued to climb up and down until finally reaching a flat riverbed that led to a dirt road. Some locals were waiting for the truck ride into the city of Sucre also. Two trucks arrived, one for people and the other full of desks, chairs and mattresses. As the trucks parked near the riverbed, donkeys were arriving at the same time to haul the furniture through the mountains to a school. Schools in the mountains will usually provide dorms for children that have to commute very far. We boarded our truck with little optimism about enjoying the 4 hour scenic ride back to Sucre. Luckily, the truck never got too crowded and some of us alternated sitting and standing. One eventful moment came when the driver stopped and yelled something back to the crowd. Men, women and children all jumped off quickly, grabbed rocks in their hands and started pelting the mountainside. They were trying to kill a snake. The snake had no chance. After falling to the ground they proceeded to cut it open and remove it’s skin. It’s bad luck to pass a snake in the road. They believe that if you don’t kill it, something bad will happen during your drive, walk or bike ride. To be positive about the situation, we prefer to view it as ensuring we all had a safe ride back to Sucre. That evening we all met up at a local cafe/bar, Florin, and enjoyed drinks and dinner with our hiking crew. Thanks to Randall and Henrry, our guides from Condortrekkers for a challenging, but enjoyable hike. And we were glad to have met Robert from the UK, Nick from Canada and Paul (guide in training) from San Fransisco.
May 24, 2010 Sucre Hike Day 2: Crater of Maragua and Dinosaur Footprints
It wasn’t the cold weather that kept us from getting a good night’s sleep it was the roaring winds all through the night. It felt like the tent was going to blow apart. The wind had settled by breakfast and we enjoyed some warm oatmeal with apples. We packed up and began trekking towards the crater of Maragua. Maragua is a small village where many farmers in the region send their children to school. School was actually in session when we passed by. From the village you can scan the crater surrounding the area. It’s an impressive natural crater with unique rock formations that have appeared to be pushed out of the ground in coordinated measurements. We climbed over the crater ridges toward Ninu Mayu, where the dinosaur footprints exist. We were exhausted after hiking for 5 hours and our arrival to the footprints was not as exciting as you might think. After enjoying a nice refreshing lunch and resting for quite some time, Aracely and I grabbed our cameras and began to realize how awesome these ancient footprints from 60 million years ago were. You could actually sit in the Brontosaurus tracks. Three hours later we arrived at campsite #2, which was a terraced mountainside. We switched tents that evening in order share the larger, warmer tents with others. The tent we have tonight is smaller and only a 3 season tent, so it was a bit chilly.
May 23, 2010 Sucre Hike Day 1: Inca Trail
We began by meeting at the Condortrekkers office at 8:30am. Everyone packed their bags and shared the weight of the food, dishes and water, however the guides still carried the most weight. We boarded a bus that drove us 15 minutes to the outskirts of town. From there, it would get interesting real fast. We jumped into the back of a large truck with high wood panels. There must have been 70 people in the truck. What an interesting way to travel. After an hour and 15 minutes we arrived to Chataquila, where we began our trek on an original Inca trail. Lunch included fresh vegetables, the best bread rolls I have had on this trip and some fresh cow cheese. The first day included 7 hours of hiking, a difficult challenge for us considering we haven’t hiked since Torres del Paine. The sun had already set and we were hiking mountain ridges with our headlamps on. Shortly before arriving at our campsite I had to tackle one of the most difficult sections of hiking I have ever seen. Fear overcame me and I was cramping up with tension. There was no light and we were scaling the side of a mountain with loose gravel. It might have been the darkness that scared me most. There was nothing to grab, no rock, no cliff and no branches. If you put your hands above you on the mountainside, gravel rocks would fall down on your feet. I couldn’t see how far down I would fall if I lost traction and that was probably what caused the most fear. Everyone else seemed to scale the mountainside easily, so I am not really sure what happened to me. I was just as scared for Aracely as I was for myself, but she seemed to accomplish the section fine, as did everyone else. Half way through the section, Randall our guide, grabbed my bag to ease my fears. The relief of the weight helped, but I feel like I aged 5 years from the stress I endured. We arrived at our campsite relieved and hungry. Pasta and homemade sauce warmed our stomachs as we prepared for a cold night in tents.
May 22, 2010 Preparing For 3-Day Trek
Today we said goodbye to Richard, he is headed off to some nearby villages and then La Paz. Aracely and I went and visited Randall from Condortrekkers here in Sucre to get an idea of what type of volunteering they might need. Their standard volunteers are their guides who commit for 3 months. Volunteer guides enable them to give more money back to the community. Unfortunately, Aracely and I aren’t here for that long. We are still undecided on how we can contribute. We did, however, decide to sign up for their best 3-day trek that begins tomorrow. Dinosaur footprints and craters are on the list of things to see. Randall also invited us over to help prepare the meals for the trek. After leaving Randall’s office, we went to Florin Cafe again and spent several hours working on-line. I have been coding advertisement slots in preparation for the ad offers we have been getting. It’s ugly right now with all the open green advertising boxes, but that’s just temporary. I will take a few screen shots for advertisers and then replace the ads with photos until we sell those slots. The Champions League Soccer final was also on TV, so it was a packed cafe. Italy beat Munich 2-0. Around 7pm we arrived at Randal’s apartment to help out with the trekking food preparations. It involved tons of cutting of vegetables. The food will be vegetarian. At 10pm we returned to our hostel to clear SD memory cards and charge batteries. It’s 1am and we have to get up early for the hike.
May 21, 2010 Museum of Indigenous Art
We woke up with the mission of finding a new hostel with better WiFi, visiting Condortrekkers and exploring the Indigenous Art Museum. We accomplished one task, the art museum. We began our day with an incredible breakfast at Florin Cafe. It’s for tourists yes, but it’s a hearty breakfast with sausage, eggs and American bacon. Aracely had the homemade yogurt and fruit. What’s especially great is that they have real natural orange juice. After breakfast, we went searching for a hostel we researched on-line. There seems to be only one other hostel with WiFi in Sucre. After searching for an hour unsuccessfully, we ran into an internet cafe to check the address again. The website we originally took the address from was wrong. We were on the wrong side of town. We walked back across town and found the hostel, but no one was tending the reception. Frustrated, we headed back home to rest and watch some of The Office episodes on the computer. At 2:30pm we met Richard at the Indigenous Art Museum, where tapestry from many of Bolivia’s tribes are on display. This was some of the most amazing weaving I have ever seen. On average it takes them 3 months, 8 hours a day to build a tapestry that is 3.5ft by 2ft. The different styles between the different cultures was astounding. Some were colorful and highlighted animals, while others were black and red or orange and resembled the devil. There were two women weaving for demonstration purposes in the museum. Aracely spoke with them for quite some time after they had asked her to stay and keep them company. The museum sells their work, but we also found out what villages they are from and that most all the women weave. We plan on visiting their villages to see all the designs and make some purchases of this amazing work. Dinner was local food again, so it was unhealthy. Tonight’s dish included, hot dog slices, fries, rice and thin beef with a fried egg on top. All this is piled on top of each other. You can eat healthy here by either eating at a tourist restaurant or making your own in the hostel kitchen. It’s a tough decision when eating out at a local restaurant for two people is only $5USD. Tonight we watch the second Twilight movie. Aracely’s choice of course. We found it today on the street for $1USD. I am not kidding, we are still blowing blood dried snots.
May 20, 2010 Camera Dilemas
Finally, there is a camera cleaning shop in town! Other travelers have informed us about this place and Richard has already dropped his point and shoot camera off there to be cleaned. All three of us visited the corner Kodak shop on the main square. Aracely and I were dropping off our cameras, the camcorder and SLR, while Richard was picking his up. Richard’s camera wasn’t finished, so we walked to the Mirador in the Recoleta neighborhood. This is a beautiful look out point providing great views of Sucre. On our walk back we enjoyed several freshly squeezed orange and grapefruit juices. In Sucre, many sell fresh squeezed juices in street carts. For $0.40USD you can watch your juice squeezed. Once back to the main square, we discovered school children hosting individual stands highlighting Bolivian cities and villages. Each stand had food, vegetables and music from the area. Each child working at a stand gave you information on their particular subject. One child would tell you about the animals there, while another knew their clothing. It was very creative with some 3D landscapes created with construction paper and plaster. We returned to the camera shop to pick up Richard’s camera. Unfortunately, his camera no longer worked properly. It worked when he dropped it off and now it wouldn’t stay on. He just wanted the sand cleaned from it. The owner of the store said that it stopped working when they cleaned it and that it wasn’t their fault. Aracely and I immediately took our cameras back. Ours are a lot more complex than Richard’s camera, so we didn’t feel good about having them clean ours. Richard was now out of a camera and so were we, since Aracely’s still didn’t work. We visited the markets and starting pricing a new point and shoot camera for us. The markup from the states was about 30%. Also, while searching for a camera we discovered many music stores selling CDs, games and DVDs. We ended up buying lots of music and Star Trek the movie. I know all these are copies, but you really don’t have another option here. They all sell copies here. Each CD or DVD was about $1.25USD. We returned to the hostel to compare cameras on-line and watch our new movie. I enjoyed the new Star Trek movie, a thumbs up. Tonight, dinner was local food. I had the Milanesa, which is thin breaded beef over french fries. Aracely had Lomito, which is thin beef with rice, tomato and french fries. It’s not very healthy. Add the beer to that for me. And the beers are big, probably about two beers. Later that evening we continued to try to figure out what was wrong with Aracely’s camera. She realized the camera only worked on manual focus, so we determined it was the lens. It would not auto focus. But, even in manual mode she could not focus it, but it would still take a picture. The camera would zoom, but not focus. I said there must be a rotation focus on the lens. On the very end of the lens was another set of grips, as if you could rotate it. It wouldn’t move. She didn’t want to force turn it, just in case my assumption wasn’t correct. I forced it and POP, it made a frightening sound. She yelled, “You broke it!” I said, “I did, I am so sorry.” Then she pressed the button to take a picture and the end of the lens turned back and forth and snapped a photo. It was the focus rotation on the lens and it appeared to be jammed with sand. It’s free to move now, but you can still hear the sand grind in the rotating cylinders. So did I fix it? Yes, but with some luck. Now we have a working camera again, but the internal lenses and sensor are still dirty.
May 19, 2010 Evening Ride to Sucre, Bolivia
We enjoyed breakfast at Koala Cafe, which is adjacent to and owned by Koala Tours. The breakfast was delicious, filling and included natural orange juice. After that we spent several hours walking around town, exploring neighborhoods we hadn’t seen. We even found a new, modern grocery store. We went in and bought some wine from Trapiche Winery. This was one of the wineries in Mendoza that we visited. Then we went to the market to get some fresh goat cheese and grapes. there were no grapes, so we substituted apples. Back at the hostel, we enjoyed wine, olives, goat cheese and apples. It was delicious. In the lobby of our hostel was a feedback box. We were both interested in leaving some feedback, so we followed the instructions on the box and asked the reception desk for a questionnaire. She said, “No, we have none.” That’s it, nothing more. Our experience at Hostel La Casona was not the best. They weren’t very nice, they charged us to watch a DVD movie, and they advertised a kitchen, but had no utensils or cups for use. Besides those items, we also had some suggestions. We grabbed our own piece of paper and slipped it into the box. At 5pm we boarded our bus for Sucre. The bus was very new and comfortable and all the roads were newly paved, so it was a very pleasant 3 hour ride. When we arrived to Sucre, we took a cab to hostel Pachamama, where Richard was staying and had reserved us a room. As soon as we dropped our bags off in the hostel, we all went out for some delicious pizza! We are paying $13USD for a private room with bathroom. We are loving Bolivia’s prices! We realized that the WiFi is terrible in this hostel as well, but we understand it’s not a lack of effort by the hostel, it’s just poor infrastructure in Bolivia. Even Internet cafes are slow. We won’t be uploading pictures for a while. We have plans in Sucre to do some trekking and volunteering with Condortrekkers. While in Nicaragua, we trekked with Quetzal Trekkers, the same organization. This not for-profit organization has volunteers run their treks and they give back to the community through helping children. In Nicaragua they ran after school programs and fed the kids. The organization here in Sucre is new and we are hoping we can spend some time helping them get started. Also, I know this sounds disgusting, but we are still seeing blood in our tissues when we blow our nose.
May 18, 2010 Potosi Mines
This was a difficult day, in many ways. We arrived to Koala Tours for our visit to the Potosi Mines today. This is what Potosi is all about. Their entire town is founded on mining, specifically Cerro Rico, or Rich Mountain. Our first stop was the miners’ market, where we purchased gifts such as dynamite, soda and gloves for the miners. Next, we drove to where they store the protective clothing for us. Rubber boots, pants, jackets and a hard hat with battery powered lamp. Then we drove up to the Cerro Rico Co-Op mine where 12,000 miners work. I can’t explain all that occurred in the mountain, it will have to be said in an article, so look for it soon. There were many emotions and challenges endured by us in the mines, none of which compare with what a Potosi miner endures everyday. We visited one mine for 2 hours. During that time we crawled down 4 levels, spoke with some miners, helped shovel some minerals and watched them pull 2-ton wagons of minerals on rails. We wore bandannas over our nose and mouths, but it wasn’t enough to filter the dust. We coughed, breathed heavily from altitude and sweat 4 levels deep. While carefully moving down a level on our butts, Aracely lost traction and slid on her butt 10ft fast. It was frightening for both of us. She cried, from fear mostly, and I contemplated whether or not I could continue in this claustrophobic environment. We finished the tour, and were glad to have witnessed the miners working, but saddened by the reality of a Potosi miner’s short life. We returned to the hostel covered in mine dust. The smell made me ill to my stomach. It reminded me of metal, like putting a penny in your mouth. Even after showering I couldn’t escape the smell. It’s on my baseball cap, under my nails and in my shoes. I can’t decide if the smell makes me sick because it reminds me of the sad feeling I get when I remember the miner, or if it’s the same effect hard boiled egg smell has on me. Aracely lost her voice for the day from the dust and we are both blowing our noses and seeing blood in our snot. It’s nasty, but it’s the effect of just 2 hours in the mines. A miner will be in that mountain for 12 hours, with no mask. That evening we cleaned our cameras and discovered that Aracely’s SLR is officially dead. It won’t snap photos anymore. Hopefully, we just need it cleaned. Maybe Sucre will have a camera shop where we can both get our cameras cleaned. The mine dust was the final straw. This evening we also watched the movie The Devil’s Miner, a documentary produced in 2005 about Cerro Rico and it’s miners. We highly recommend watching this movie to get an understanding of the miners, which we will never be able to convey.
May 17, 2010 Dusty Ride to Potosi, Bolivia
We boarded an old Bolivian bus to Potosi this morning. The wind blown desert outside of town made visibility 0 sometimes. Sand seeped in from every seam in the bus. We were covered in dust from head to toe, including our noses and ears. This bus trip made me realize that Bolivia is the most rugged, desolate landscape I have ever experienced. The fact that there is human life out here is a bit concerning. Life is hard in the poorest country in Latin America. We arrived to Potosi, 13,000ft / 4,000 meters and took a cab to Hostel Casona. Richard, the traveling retiree, was at the door at the same time we walked up. Aracely and I tested the first WiFi we have come across in Bolivia. It wasn’t that good. Facebook seems to be blocked and Skype is pretty bad. We still can’t upload any photos. We went out for dinner with Richard and booked our tour of the mines together for tomorrow. This will be a difficult thing to see, and we may even see some children working, but it’s their way of life in Bolivia.
May 16, 2010 Cementerio de Trenes
We awoke this morning to huge snowflakes… it was snowing! It was really beautiful for the first minute, and then we realized how cold it was. We left Patagonia in order to warm up, however in Bolivia, it continues to get colder. It’s winter here, and at 4,000 meters above sea level, it is pretty darn cold. We tried to make the best of it, by walking 3km outside of town to the Train Cemetery. Here old locomotives rest and rust. I figured with the giant snow flakes we could get some great photos with old rusted train cars. By the time we arrived at the site, the snow had stopped. All that was left was white out skies and a wet ground. We still climbed in and out of some and snapped photos and shot video. In other more exciting news, we closed on our first advertising / sales deal on our website. It’s exciting for us, because it’s a glimmer of hope that our website activities can someday support our travels. You can find the ad link on our home page just below the photo of us. It’s an ad specifically for backpacks, every brand you can imagine. The website specializes in all outdoor equipment. Click on it and take a look at our first advertising partner. Tomorrow we take a bus ride to Potosi, the highest city in the world.
May 15, 2010 Bolivia Tour Day 4: Uyuni Salt Flats
After a night of polishing off some Bolivia wine (tasted like grape juice) for today’s props, we woke up at 5:30am in order to get on the flats and watch the sun rise. We raced onto the endless salt flats and found a location away from other tourist groups to watch the colors unfold behind distant volcanoes. Next, we drove to the main island, Incahuasi, where most tourist groups stop to climb for a panoramic view of the flats. The interesting fact about the island is that it’s made of coral. The salt flats were once a gigantic lake and now it spans 12,000 cubic miles. The islands that exist on the flats are all coral rock. After some great views, our guide drove us to the middle of the flats for some fun photo opportunities. With a complete white and flat surface, you can take many interesting perspective photos. We took tons! It was the most entertaining part of the day and probably the trip. In the afternoon our truck arrived to the town of Uyuni, signaling the end our our tour. With 700 more photos to review from the past 4 days, we will be busy even after we get back home. We plan on staying in Uyuni for another day in order to visit the train cemetery, then we will take a bus to Potosi, the highest city in the entire world! We also said goodbye to other travelers, Emmanuel and Xavier, who live in Paris. We really enjoyed their company. They were traveling in the second truck of Tupiza Tours.
May 14, 2010 Bolivia Tour Day 3: Huari Accommodations to Salt Hotel
Today we spent most of the time viewing different lagunas (lakes). The first lake was the most significant lake in Boliva, Laguna Colorada. We saw flamingos and seagulls in the red lake and steam rising from it’s hot springs along the edge. Normally, the lake glows a rich red, but clouds prevented the sun from shining through. After Colorada, we visited many more lakes, probably too many, since we began to lose interest. As we drove through different deserts, the sun began to appear and expose tons of volcanoes during the drive. Our guide stopped at the base of the a few volcanoes, where we climbed volcanic rock formations that dotted the landscape. Wind has deteriorated most of the volcanic rock, leaving some awesome shapes that begged to be climbed. That evening we arrived to the Uyuni Salt Flats, our final destination. Tomorrow, we will actually visit the flats, but tonight we are sleeping in a motel made of salt. And, we also have electricity for few hours from a generator to charge some camera batteries. We also enjoyed a much needed hot shower.
May 13, 2010 Bolivia Tour Day 2: San Antonio de Lipez to Huari Accommodations
I ended up getting a terrible headache during the night due to the altitude and didn’t sleep . We are hovering around 5,000 meters. The desert gets well below freezing at night, so we were very cold. Tonight should be worse, maybe -8 degrees Celsius. Today was incredible! We visited too many colorful lakes to keep track. A red, white and green lake. We are not exaggerating, the lakes are actually colored from certain minerals. The last natural wonder we saw was the Sol de Manana geyser field. These were different compared to the geysers we visited in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile, so we really enjoyed taking pictures and walking around the bubbling sulfur mud. The day was no only eventful because of the amazing things we saw, but also because we got a flat tire and the fuel pump failed. These guides really know how to work on these old Land Cruisers. After about an hour, they rigged a wire from under the rear seats to the battery. The fuel pump worked when we bypassed whatever short occurred in the vehicle. The fuel gauge also stopped working, so some short exited and it wasn’t a simple fuse. We are waiting for our dinner now, it’s 7pm and we are exhausted. A cook also travels with us.
May 12, 2010 Bolivia Tour Day 1: Tupiza to San Antonio de Lipez
We departed Tupiza today with Tupiza Tours in our 4×4 Toyota Land Cruiser. Milton, was both our driver and guide. Two others were included in our tour. Richard is traveling indefinitely, while enjoying retirement. Richard is originally from Oakland, California. And Draga who lives in Brussels. The first day involved visiting several villages in the Bolivia desert, including Nasarenito, Polulos and we slept in San Antonio. San Antonio had basic accommodations, no outlets, no heat and no showers.
May 11, 2010 Horseback Riding
For only $13 USD each, we did a 3 hour horseback riding tour around Tupiza´s desert surroundings. It was lots of fun, but I wish we knew how to ride a horse so our butts didn´t kill us. Every now and then we reached a galloping speed which felt pretty awesome. I now want to take riding lessons. Maybe when we are in Ecuador, it should be much cheaper than in the States. We found an Internet Cafe that can actually load Facebook, so we are doing some automation for the next few days while we are touring the Boliva desert and salt flats on 4x4s. The tour is 4 days and involves driving in Toyota Land Cruisers for most of the time. Each night we will be staying in basic accomadations with no electricy or showers and below freezing temperatures at night. Did we ever disclose that Aracely hates cold weather. I mean seriously, she can get pretty angry. So she is renting a sleeping bag to accompany her in the hostels. I opted not to rent one in hopes that blankets will be enough. If they aren´t enough, then I have made another mistake trying to be manly. We are expecting to see some amazing landscapes! We are booked through Tupiza Tours. It´s a one way ticket to Uyuni, we won´t be coming back to Tupiza.
May 10, 2010 Arrived in Bolivia
After watching Iron Man 2 last night, which we give a thumbs up, we boarded our bus to the Bolivia Border. The border crossing was very simliar to all the other borders less Chile to Argentina. We walked over a bridge connecting the two countries and then stood in line for 30 minutes waiting for our stamp. The immigration building looked like a wooden shed on the side of the market-like street. It was very basic, but did include a calendar highlighting bikini clad women on motorcycles. Seemed rather fitting for a immigration office, right? We walked half a mile to the next bus station and boarded a beaten down dust covered bus for Tupiza. After 3 hours of gravel roads we arrived to Tupiza. We are staying at Hostel Pedro Arraya with no internet. We asked around town, and there appears to be no WiFi, anywhere. But there is some Internet Cafes where local kids pile in to play computer games. The Internet is very weak, so we will be relying on our buddy Bray, back in the States to post our Facebook pictures. There is no automation for that yet. The town reminds me of an old American Western movie. I like it. We are going to be saving some money here, with $2 lunches and free breakfasts. We booked a horseback riding tour around Tupiza for tomorrow. We haven´t done horseback riding yet on this trip.
May 9, 2010 Last Day Couchsurfing in Salta
It feels like forever since we have boarded a bus for another city or country. Leigh, Noah, Lila and their puppy Mani have been the most welcoming family we have met on this trip. Our stay with them has been fun, educational and relaxing. We have met a few other travel bloggers while staying here, which has been icing on the cake. We are just about ready to head out and see Iron Man 2 with the family and then they will drop us off in town. Aracely and I will probably hang out at a cafe until our scheduled bus ride at 1am tonight leaves for the Bolivian border. The bus is expected to arrive at 9am, at which time we will cross into Bolivia on foot and look for another bus to the city of Tupiza. It will be a big change going from the great infrastructure of Argentina to Bolivia. No more luxury buses.
May 8, 2010 International Food Couchsurfing Get Together
This is one of the reasons we decided to stay with Leigh and Noah until Sunday. They had let us know that Saturday night they were hosting a big Salta Couchsurfing get together for International Food night. This was actually the first event here of that kind and it was Chinese food. We love Chinese food. Surprisingly, two Chinese women travelers found the even on Couchsurfing.com and asked Leigh if they could join and help cook since they happen to be in Salta. It was 18 people total, which meant a crowded kitchen. Everyone pitched in, either cooking, doing dishes or moving furniture around. The two Chinese girls worked the stove like it was a Chinese restaurant. One of our favorites was the homemade dumplings. I will have to try to make that when we get back home. The fun went until 1am last night. We had an incredible time meeting Couchsurfer participants from all over the world.
May 7, 2010 Work Day
It’s been raining lately as winter falls upon us in Salta, Argentina. Since we are below the equator, our winter is your summer. Interesting huh? Well it is for me. Aracely and I worked all day on her new post that will come out tomorrow. It’s a reflective post, and I think we will be writing more like this in the future. Most of our writing has been about places, not feelings. We need to start including both.
May 6, 2010 Work Day
Unfortunately, we didn’t wake up early enough to say good bye to Craig and Linda of Indie Travel Podcast and their friends Angela and Jeanine. They are renting a vehicle and driving south to Cafayate, similar to our road trip. I (Jason) had a bit of headache from drinking too much. I knew, right when I switched from wine to beer last night that I was drinking too much. Aracely and I are getting a good amount of work done on the blog. I edited over 50 pictures today and she has Photos of the Day completed through May. Aracely is also doing some work. We went for a nice bike ride since the weather was beautiful. My shirt was drenched, mostly alcohol sweat. Aracely is currently on a “The Office” binge and is watching a season every 3 days. Yes, I believe she has a serious addiction and I am not sure how she will react when she has completed watching all the shows. There will be some serious withdrawal. My bet is that she will move her focus to “Family Guy.” She is downloading them via iTunes. So if you want gift ideas for us, iTunes gift certificates are a winner. We asked Leigh today if we could stay through this Saturday and she said it was no problem. It seems rather strange to be staying with them for so long, but at the same time it feels very comfortable. They are an extremely kind and welcoming family. Tonight we enjoyed real hamburgers. This is only the third time in all our travels that I have had a real hamburger. And to make it even tastier, it was topped with blue cheese. Time for bed, hopefully this giant fly that is buzzing around will go to bed too.
May 5, 2010 Argentina Asado
An asado in Argentina is like a barbecue in the States, except it requires a gigantic grill. Leigh and Noah have one of those built with bricks in their backyard, as do most homes in Argentina. Everyone pitched in and we had mashed potatoes, kabobs, chorizo, salad, red hot chili peppers and lots of wine and beer. See the pictures here. At this point there are 7 couchsurfers staying at their house including us! Sounds crazy doesn’t it? It’s such a wonderful experience making friends and chatting with everyone.
May 4, 2010 Couchsurfing With Many
Leigh (The Future Is Red) and Noah’s house is a revolving door for Couchsurfers! It’s really been an incredible experience for Aracely and I to spend time getting to know people better and making friendships. I know it sounds cheesy, but typically, when traveling, we meet people for a few hours or maybe a day. And those meetings are very basic. Where are you from, where are you going etc. Now we have the opportunity to have great discussions, eat big meals together and socialize openly since we have become friends. Today, 4 others showed up to stay with them. This includes Craig and Linda from Indie Travel Podcast. Tonight we enjoyed another incredible home cooked meal. Aracely and I catching up on website work. Check out our latest video episode, Monterrico Beach, Guatemala.
May 3, 2010 Bed Bugs and Couchsurfing
We found an incredibly great hostel for a great price. $100 ($30 USD) pesos for a private room, private bathroom, cable TV, WiFi and a stocked kitchen. We figured we could stay here all week and get our work done and save some money. But, Aracely woke up with bites all over her face and some on her body. It looks like mosquito bites, but its hard to know. It’s probably bed bugs since there were no mosquitoes in the room. Now we were going to have to search for another hostel again. About this time Leigh emailed us inviting us back to Couchsurf at their house. Awesome news! We met up with Noah at 6pm while he was in town picking up Lila from school. Tonight we had a delicious Chinese dinner. It had to be homemade Chinese considering there isn’t any Chinese here. We haven’t had Chinese since we left the United States. Honestly, it was delicious!
May 2, 2010 Work Day and Goodbye to Uncornered Market
It was Dan and Audrey’s last day in Salta, so we met up with them for lunch in one of the town plaza cafes, Victoria Hotel. After saying goodbye Aracely and I returned to our hostel for some picture editing, movies and a healthy dinner. We have both put on weight since arriving to Argentina. This is what happens after unlimited beef, wine and empanadas.
May 1, 2010 Lila’s Birthday Party Celebration
We were a little nervous about returning our beat up car today. The rental car lady met us at the parking garage and we could see the look on her face as we drove up in the dust covered muffler roaring vehicle. Jason tried to play it as cool as possible for a while. The lady thought the car sounded strange and wanted to take it for a ride. Upon her return, she had a local mechanic in the passenger seat. We thought to ourselves, this isn’t good. He looked underneath the car and spotted some rock damage. Jason continued to argue the $500 pesos she wanted to charge us, since they told us to drive on gravel roads to get to our destination. But then, the women began to show tears, saying that her boss would deduct it from her pay. We crumbled and agreed to $300 pesos or almost $100 USD in damages. It was another expense to our growing budget deficit. Noah then picked us up from the town plaza and we returned to his beautiful home for Lila’s Birthday Party! It was a new experience for both us and Noah and Leigh, since they hadn’t had a child’s party like this in Argentina yet. There was probably over 20 kids and that was small for a Salta Birthday party. We had a great time. Leigh and her Mother made some incredibly delicious treats, including Magic Bars, which were our favorite. Lila seemed to enjoy her friends, some clown magicians and great face painters. Noah drove us back into town to our hostel for the evening.
April 30, 2010 Siesta Complications
We arrived in the city of Jujuy after several stop overs in small towns enjoying markets and homemade empanadas as usual. We heard Jujuy wasn’t a great city, but it was close enough to Salta in order for us to spend one last night before returning the car back to Salta by noon the next day. When we attempted to check in to our hostel, the receptionist mentioned to us that it was Labor Day tomorrow. Then it dawned on us that the rental car company might be closed. We didn’t want to have to pay for an extra day so we tried to call the rental car company. Silly us, it was 2pm in the afternoon, which means everything is closed for Siesta! Siesta is serious business in Argentina and almost everything is closed until 5pm. At this point we didn’t want to check into the hostel, thinking we may have to drive the car back tonight, so we spent 3 hours in a cafe with WiFi. Even after 5pm we had trouble getting in touch with her. Audrey succeeded with a text message on her phone. They are closed tomorrow, but the lady will show up at noon to meet us and return the car. It was great news. We could now relax and enjoy the rest of the evening without having to rush home.
April 29, 2010 North of Salta in the Jujuy Province
After a typical breakfast of bread with jam and dulce de leche, we got back in our car and began our journey for the first time north of Salta. Originally, we had planned to rent the car for only 3 days, so we have been calling to extend the rental. The beginning of the drive resembled the Pampas plains in southern and central Argentina, except we did have mountain ranges on both sides of us, something you will rarely see when driving from southern Argentina to the north. Our main attraction for the day was the Salinas Grandes (Salt Flats). We took some fun pictures of us hanging out on the endless white salt bed. It was a unique experience. We returned to our vehicle and drove out of the salt flats. The landscape began to change dramatically as we entered the mountain ranges driving through twists and turns at high elevations. Our ears popped a few times and then the road landed in a narrow valley with farms and small villages. Some of the villages we visited were Purmamarca and Humahuaca. We are spending the night in Churita Hostal in Humahuaca. Both of these towns were lined with cobblestone streets and single story buildings and of course indigenous markets for tourists.
April 28, 2010 Racing Towards Tren de Las Nubes
Much of the driving today was on dirt and gravel roads which caused a small gash in our muffler underneath the front seats. It now sounds like a race car. Sounds are coming from the wheels that don’t give us much confidence in our Chevy Corsa lasting much longer. We also had to race the car through a river that was about a foot deep. As we made our way toward the famous picturesque bridge of the Tren de Las Nubes, we began to see the train riding beside us up on the mountain. We could possibly see the train go over the bridge we though! With about 30 minutes left, Jason floored the car through dirt road twists and turns. We beat the train to the bridge, but still had to walk switchbacks about 100 meters up at high altitude. We raced up, or walked up until we reached the top and our lungs were on fire. It wasn’t easy. Surprisingly we beat the train and waited for it to arrive with all it’s tourists. That evening we backtracked 45 minutes back to the last town we passed and searched for a place to stay. After searching 4 places, we finally found a nice guesthouse that served us a wonderful dinner for only $25 AR Pesos.
April 27, 2010 Cafayate to Campo Quijano
Just after leaving Cafayate heading north towards Salta, the scenic rock formations begin. The formations resemble another planet, possibly Mars with their rich red and orange colors. We took many photos, climbed many rocks and drove many miles to our next destination, just southwest of Salta. Our rental car is completely covered in desert dust including the inside and trunk. The car doesn’t sound so well and we are hoping it stays together for the remainder of our tour.
April 26, 2010 Wineries and Ruins
Our first destination was 1.5hrs outside of town, the Quilmes Ruins. The Quilmes people were defeated by the Spaniard Conquistadors after 130 years of resistance. The story was tremendously sad and devastating to their civilization. After visiting the large ruins, we made our way back to Cafayate and stopped at a few wineries along the way for some tours and tastings. Tonight we participated in the hostel’s asado dinner. Asado includes beef, chorizo, salad and wine.
April 25, 2010 Sunday Scenic Drive
Today was all about beautiful landscapes. The plains turned to mountains and the mountains turned to incredible rock formations. The weather has been perfect and we have been nothing but extremely grateful for what we have seen. We are spending the night in Cafayate. This evening we tasted many artisanal beers and some local pizza at Rusty K Hostel.
April 24, 2010 Saturday Lucky Experiences
On the first day of our car rental through Northern Argentina with Audrey and Dan of Uncornered Market, we were lucky. Lucky to have driven into perfect blue skies once we entered the Andes mountains. Lucky to have noticed a roadside banner that advertised a once a year festival in a small village en route to Cachi. Lucky to have walked in on a lady in our hostel making dozens of homemade empanadas for her 3 children studying in the university of Salta.
April 23, 2010 Friday Renting Our Vehicle
Noah made us awesome omelets with bacon and blue cheese. We miss omelets considering most breakfasts in South America consist of bread and jam or dulce de leche only. We packed up our bags and headed back to the same hostel we first stayed at when we arrived at Salta, Hostel Siete Duendes. After resting a bit and getting settled in we went walking towards the town plaza to rent a vehicle for the next few days. Later that evening we got the chance to meet Leighs parents, who just arrived from Atlanta. Noah, Leigh, Lila, Leigh’s parents, Dan, Audrey, and us enjoyed a wonderful dinner in the night life neighborhood of Salta.
April 22, 2010 Dinner Served By Uncornered Market
Tonight we enjoyed a wonderfully delicious dinner served by Dan and Audrey. It included lots of fresh vegetables and chicken, a nice change of pace from all the beef we have eaten in Argentina. It rained most of the day, so we stayed in and enjoyed wine. It was a perfect night.
April 21, Enjoying Salta With Friends
Dan and Audrey have arrived and bam!, we have WiFi. They carry an Airport Express from Apple that plugged right into Leigh’s computer making WiFi available for everyone. Now, all the bloggers are able to do their work. In the evening, Noah and Leigh took us to their favorite place for empanadas. Beer, wine and empanadas all around, and yes beef! When in Argentina, eat all the beef you can.
April 20, Our First Couchsurfing Experience
We had hosted a Couchsurfer back in Hoboken, but we have never been the guests. Leigh’s husband, Noah, picked us up in town at the same time he was picking up their daughter Lila. They live about 15 minutes outside of Salta in the beautiful countryside. They are extremely welcoming and it will be a great time chatting with them over the next few days. Another pleasant surprise is that Dan and Audrey from Uncornered Market will be Couchsurfing with Leigh and Noah also. They arrive tomorrow. We are expecting a lot of travel blogging discussions.
April 19, Searching For A Hostel
We arrived early, 8am, and walked to Hostal del Centro where we had booked our reservations with HostelWorld.com. They explained that it was too early and that we would have to wait a while in the lounge area. We waited about an hour and then learned they didn’t have space for us. This happens occasionally, even with a reservation through one of the big sites. The staff was completely confused, and then asked if we would take a room at one of their other hostels. So, we took a taxi, much farther away from the town’s center and walked into the other hostel. This hostel didn’t have WiFi and Aracely needed to do some work on-line. We explained to this hostel manager that we needed WiFi and we had originally booked at the other hostel. He was surprised that they had sent us here. So, they sent us back to the original hostel. We sat around for another 30 minutes and they said they couldn’t help us, but did give us the name of another hostel. We walked to another 3 hostels before finding one where we could spend the night. Salta was all booked up. That evening we also researched a Couchsurfing.com offer from another travel blogger, TheFutureIsRed.com. Leigh offered to host us for the next few days!
April 18, Full Travel Day
We boarded a bus this time at 1pm, but it was a cheaper bus, since we blew our money on the missed bus. This entire day was spent sitting on a bus, we expect to arrive tomorrow early morning in Salta.
April 17, 2010 Work Day
As we mentioned before with Kevin gone, we need to catch up on business. We both are accomplishing a lot and we do make it out everyday for lunch and a nice hour long walk around town. We are all packed up now, ready for our 14hr overnight bus ride to Salta, in northern Argentina. From Salta we can do loads of trekking! We need the exercise and clean air after spending the last few weeks in cities. Oops, we missed our bus. After 8 months of traveling we got confused on military time (24hr time). 20:00 hours is 8pm, not 10pm. Mistakes happen, but this one was very costly. No refund on these bus tickets.
April 16, 2010 Parque General San Martín
It was cloudy the early part of the day so we stayed inside until the weather seemed half decent. We walked to the Parque General San Martín, the largest park in Mendoza. As we approached the park on foot, the weather began to improve and we enjoyed lunch at a cafe overlooking the park’s lake. The lake was very busy with crew teams and casual row boats. The park was built in the late 1800s and early 1900s and consists of many different elements including sculptures and arenas.
April 15, 2010 Another Work Day in Mendoza
With Aracely having to do some work for her employer I am trying to get some work done on the blog. It’s a sunny day in Mendoza, so we left the hostel for an hour to do some grocery shopping. Since Kevin, our friend from the States has left, it is time to save some money and cook at home. Not only our we cooking at home, but we are trying to eat a little healthy since our splurge. We released a new post today about the Adventure Town of San Pedro de Atacama which lies in Chile’s northern desert. The town is very unique, reminds me of an old American Western movie. We have decided to travel 20hrs south on a bus to Bariloche, Argentina. It was a tough decision since we have to come back up north, but we are eager to do some hiking and missed the lake districts in both Chile and Argentina in our rush to arrive to Buenos Aires to meet Kevin.
April 14, 2010 Kevin Returns Home
After spending two weeks with us in Argentina, Kevin flew from Mendoza to Buenos Aires and then back to the States. It was nice having some familiar company during that time, but now, as is usually the case when visitors leave, we have to get back on budget. We will avoid flying again and start cooking in the hostel kitchens. It’s okay though, because we have really enjoyed some fine dining over the last few weeks.
April 13, 2010 Bike Riding Wine Tour
After catching a 40 minute bus from Mendoza to Maipu, we rented some bikes and began visiting some wineries and chocolate and liquor homemade shops. Unfortunately, the weather was chilly with overcast which prevented us from seeing any great views of the Andes mountain range. We were able to visit 3 places and enjoy a wonderful lunch on an elevated deck overlooking a vineyard. Today was very educational for us and lots of fun.
April 12, 2010 Flight to Mendoza (Wine Country)
Finally, Mendoza! We have heard so many great things about this place. And this is what we needed… more wine. Jason captured some glimpses of snow capped Andes mountains as we landed near Mendoza. Our taxi drove us to our hostel (Hostel Savigliano) and we quickly ventured out to walk the city streets. All of us had completely different views of what to expect from Mendoza than what we experienced. Mendoza is a city, just like other cities, nothing special except for many tourist restaurants. It was somewhat disappointing, but we were still thinking positive of the wineries, which may be what everyone must have been referring to when they say Mendoza is beautiful.
April 11, 2010 Sleep In
Yes, that’s right, every now and then you need to sleep in, in order to recover from a late night of drinking. It’s not often we do this, actually it’s almost never. But, when we have visitors from home, we need to celebrate and enjoy the nightlife of other countries. If we did it Kevin’s way, we would have been out until sunrise, but instead we went home around 4:30am. And there were still Argentinas just arriving at the bars. It’s crazy how late they socialize here. After sleeping in late, Kevin explored the city on foot by himself and Aracely helped Jason file taxes. We enjoyed Sushi tonight. It was at the most exclusive Sushi restaurant in the city, but most Sushi places in Hoboken, NJ would be considered better. I would consider it average at best, but that’s why they tell you to eat steak when in Argentina!
April 10, 2010 A Walk Through Buenos Aires
Did we mention that they eat dinner between 10pm and 12am here? Yes, just like in Spain. So we finished dinner at 12:30am and then strolled around on the waterfront for an hour. We didn’t get to bed until after 4am, so there wasn’t an early morning. Around 1am we left the house for some breakfast, I mean lunch. Palermo is a large neighborhood where we are staying, but it’s also made up of many smaller hip neighborhoods. We spent several hours strolling around Palermo Hollywood, and Palermo Viejo, both full of outdoor cafes, bars and restaurants lining the streets. We plan to go to Plaza Serrano tonight for some bar hopping for as long as Jason lasts.
April 9, 2010 Paraná Delta
In an effort to explore the surrounding areas, we boarded a train to the muddy waters of the Delta Region. The Paraná Delta has an area of about 14,000 km2 (5,405 sq mi) and starts to form between the cities of Santa Fe and Rosario, where the river splits into several arms, creating a network of islands and wetlands. Here you can find houses of local islanders on stilts and mansions of the rich and famous that work in Buenos Aires. We boarded a zodiac inflatable motor boat and toured various canals of water stopping for another great steak dinner on the river’s edge. In the evening we returned to Buenos Aires for one of the greatest upscale dinners I have ever had at Cabaña Las Lilas. Again, more steak. Jason’s grilled onion with real honey was incredible, but the filet mignon was still the best. The absolute best he has ever had.
April 8, 2010 Iguazu Falls, Brazil Side… Not
Kevin arrived at the Brazil Embassy at 7:45am to attempt to get his Visa to enter Brazil to see the falls for one day. Aracely and I had Visas already from a trip back in March of 2009. It’s supposed to be possible to get a visa in one day according to the embassy office and our hostel, but apparently things have been pretty bad lately. There were others that were on day three waiting for the visas and the return of their passports. Kevin spent the first 5 hours meeting all the requirements and getting all the right documents, but his visa never arrived. We decided to walk around town and relax at our hostel before catching a late flight back to Buenos Aires.
April 7, 2010 Iguazu Falls, Argentina Side
Today we walked all the trails and suspended walkways on the Argentina side of the Iguazu Falls. It’s truly an amazing park to visit. The weather couldn’t have been better and our pictures look like postcards. Kevin was in awe as he took it all in. It’s definitely been the highlight of his trip so far. Even though this is our second time visiting, it was just as great and the weather was better and tourists were fewer.
April 6, 2010 A Plane Ride to Iguazu, Argentina
After exploring Buenos Aires on a double decker tour bus we boarded a plane to Iguazu, Argentina to see one of the greatest waterfalls in the world for a second time! Our friend Kevin, who is visiting for 2 weeks has never seen the falls, so we didn’t mind going a second time. Even on an hour and 45 minute flight you get a meal. What happened to the great airlines in the States? They stink compared to the excellent service you get when you fly here. Oh and free wine and beer too.
April 5, 2010 Aracely Works, Kevin and Jason Search for Tickets
It’s the beginning of the month so Aracely had to stay in and get some work done, so Kevin and Jason had to put their Spanish to the test. It wasn’t good. Our first task was to find the airline ticket office and pay for our reserved tickets. It was more than we thought it would cost and we really don’t know why. That would take more Spanish conversation. Next, we took a cab to the soccer stadium to buy tickets for a game. Unfortunately, the team is away until next Wednesday, and Kevin will be flying home that day. We took a cab ride back and almost paid double compared to what it cost to get there. Again, not speaking much Spanish made it tough. Tonight we get to watch Duke attempt to win the NCAA National Championship! Jason is extremely excited that we found a bar playing US sports. Let’s hope they win!
April 4, 2010 Explored the Retiro Neighborhood
We took the subway down to the Cathedral station and explored the market and antique shops. This area was incredibly beautiful. Street performers lined each side of the street and we even watched Tango performed in the plaza. That evening we relaxed in a local put that serves Thai food.
April 3, 2010 Sickness For One, Exploring For Others
It seemed like Jason got food poisoning from the night before and spent the entire day inside, specifically inside the bathroom. Aracely and Kevin explored the great cemetery and enjoyed some outdoor dining. After taking several Cipro pills and keeping hydrated it seems that the illness has passed, just in time to enjoy Duke beat West Virginia to make it to the final game. We released a new video today, check out Episode 9.
April 2, 2010 Arrive to Rented Apartment & Bottle of Wine
After 21 hours on our overnight bus, we arrived to the apartment that our friend Kevin, from back home, is renting in Buenos Aires. He also had a bottle of wine waiting for us. The apartment is beautiful and located in upscale Palermo. It’s a nice change of environment for us and we will be enjoying it all we can. Our own bathroom with real towels! It’s the simple things in life. In the evening we headed out to try our first piece of good steak. We found an excellent place to enjoy some wine and parrillada. The steaks were incredibly huge and juicy. I have never seen normal steak so gigantic. We were so stuffed by the time we left the restaurant that our walk home was even difficult.
April 1, 2010 Leaving for Buenos Aires
Another work day for us editing photos before our bus departs for Buenos Aires at 6:30pm. We will arrive to a posh apartment thanks to our friend Kevin from NJ. Kevin is going to spend 2 weeks with us in the Buenos Aires area and he has rented an apartment during that time. Sweet! That gives us money to spend on wine and steak! A huge thanks to all our fans for making yesterday the most visited day to our website ever. 332 people visited our website yesterday, most to view the Perito Moreno Glacier Photo of the Day. It did help that Lonely Planet tweeted it for us. We will take whatever help we can get. Remember, our success depends on website traffic. Please spread the word and share our photos and articles. Another big thanks for helping us win Tripfilms.com March Video of the Month with “Climbing Volcano Pacaya”. This is one of our favorite videos.
March 31, 2010 Work Day
Another work day for us editing the many pictures from the Torres del Paine trek. We are staying at the Chepatagonia Hostel in Puerto Madryn. After 6 days here, we can honestly suggest this place as a must stay in Puerto Madryn. The hostel is very open, extremely clean and some of the most friendly owners we have met. You can book your reservations through Hostelworld.com or Hostelbookers.com or call them directly. We drank two bottles of wine again yesterday. These Malbecs are so delicious!
March 30, 2010 Work Day
We don’t meet our friend Kevin in Buenos Aires until April 2nd, so we have a few days to spare. We are using this time to catch up on internet work. Since Chile, we have over 1,000 photos to edit and post on our website. And continuing to provide a photo of the day is an endless task. For the first time we enjoyed the beef in Argentina. Not only is it good, but it’s cheap, just like their wine. We cooked up some beef and wine sauteed onions and a salad for a great dinner. We are now doing 2 bottles of wine a night. It’s just so good and cheap. All Malbecs.
March 29, 2010 Southern Elephant Seals Up Close
Today we visited the much anticipated Punta Ninfas to get up close and personal with the Southern Elephant Seal. This is not a national park, so there is no controls in place. We drove our rented car with Tanja and Reto from Switzerland 1.5 hours, all on dirt road. With sand and gravel dust kicking up in our rear view mirror, I tried hard to get their fast while not sliding all over the road. The payoff was well worth it. We climbed down about 50 meters to get to the reef covered beach. Once down, we crawled on the ground like elephant seals trying to get close to the real seals. We spent over 2 hours taking photos, videos and just having an amazing time being so close to these large friendly looking creatures. We never passed another car or saw any other person during our trip. It was out there!
March 28, 2010 500 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 2010 500 end_of_the_skype_highlighting,000 Penguins
On our second day sharing a rental car with Brad and Salli from Australia, Brad drove us 2 hours south to Punta Tombo, home of a large colony of Magellanic Penguins and Punta Tombo Provincial Reserve. Since it’s a park, the area is guarded and there are specific walkways for people. But this is Argentina, and Argentina knows how to develop parks better than any other country in Latin America. The walkways put us right next to the penguins. In many cases the penguins would actually stand on the walkways, causing you to walk around them. No one was bit, but I had the video camera ready. With several kilometers of penguins, you saw as many as you ever wanted to. I learned something today… penguins don’t only exist in cold weather, it’s quite warm here. They even migrate further north to Brazil, where it’s even warmer!
March 27, 2010 Searching for Sea Lions and Killer Whales at Parque Faunistica Peninsula Valdes
Up by 5:30am and out the door by 6:30am. We arrived to the Punta Norte area of the park at 8:30am. There were some serious photographers there. I have never seen such telephoto lenses. Probably $20,000 equipment. Anyway, it was a good sign that everyone was expecting some killer whales to show. Supposedly the wind direction and tides were the perfect combination today. It’s not whale season, but occasionally they will show up and feast on the sea lions that beach here. There were several sea lion colonies and a lonely penguin and single elephant seal. It was incredible to see them and their pups, who are only a few months old, playing in the waves. We had to observe from a distance since the area is protected. No whales showed up after 4 hours, so we got back in the car with Brad and Salle and cruised along the coast of the peninsula stopping at every look out point. We were pleasantly surprised to find a colony of penguins! We are going see penguins tomorrow and we didn’t expect to see them in the park. Again, we observed from a distance, but some were as close as 5 feet. After taking some video and pictures we headed back to the hostel. Aracely and I are enjoying a bottle of wine everyday. You can’t beat a $4 bottle of wine from Argentina that tastes awesome! Can’t wait to get to Mendoza! It will be another early morning tomorrow.
March 26, 2010 Making Plans for Parque Faunistica Peninsula Valdes
We arrived to our hostel, Che Patagonia, around 1am, feeling tired and dirty. The hostel is wonderful. Big clean kitchens and bathrooms and a nice TV room for relaxing. The hostel informed us of all our options for touring the area filled with wildlife. Then we noticed a message on the board from an Australian couple looking to split the costs of a rental car and going out on our own for 2 days. We were able to get in touch with them after they returned from watching elephant seals today and the plans are all set. Tomorrow, we will drive out to Punta Norte on the peninsula to watch sea lions and maybe if we are lucky, orcas / killer whales feeding (yes, on sea lions). This is rare to see this time of year, but supposedly the tides and winds are right for such an occasion. We will be leaving early, wish us luck!
March 25, 2010 22 Hour Bus Ride North to Puerto Madryn
Our bus departed Calafate at 12:30pm and then arrived to Rio Gallegos, 4 hours south! Yes, we had to go 4 hours south to then go 16 hours north. The first bus was a small Sprinter van, not comfortable. The bus from Rio Gallegos to Puerto Madryn was a nice bus cama (bed bus) from Andesmar.
March 24, 2010 Perito Moreno Glacier
We awoke early enough to get our free breakfast and catch our 8:30am bus to Perito Moreno Glacier. Breakfasts in hostels consists of bread, jam, butter, juice, coffee and tea. It’s simple, but its free. We usually supplement it with yogurt or bananas we purchased. Our tour to the glacier was awesome. The guide looked like he was recovering from a hangover, but considering the cost, we enjoyed it and had a few laughs. We stopped at a farm on our way there and fed a baby Guanaco some milk, and pet an ostrich and sheep. They roamed around the farm house like house pets. It was quite amusing to experience. As we arrived to the glacier we snapped some photos, only to delete them later as we got closer views. We did board the boat for an up close eye level view and had no regrets about it. It wasn’t crowded and we got some awesome views. From the boat you get a good sense of how tall 50 meters is. It’s big! The glacier progresses 2 meters per day, also dropping 2 meters off per day, which keeps it pretty stable in size. The advantage for onlookers is that you get to see a lot of ice falling into the the Argentina Lake.
March 23, 2010 Leaving Chile and Heading to Argentina
Early this morning we boarded a bus to Calafate, Argentina to go see a huge glacier! We are beginning to feel tired of the cold and breezy weather and are looking forward to Buenos Aires on April 1st. While walking around town, we ran into one of our friends from the Torres del Paine trek, Andreas, and he informed us that he found a tour to the glacier with guide for $80 pesos. That was good news considering we were going to pay the same amount just to get to the glacier through our hostel I Keu Ken. We headed over to the location he recommended and found a tour for even less, $75 pesos each, which is $20 USD each. Tomorrow when we are there we will decide if we are going to spend the extra money to get the money view from a boat. We enjoyed excellent gourmet pizza today. Jason had garlic, olives and anchovies, and Aracely had tomatoes, red peppers and spinach. We were also able to get some Austral Calafate beer again! Our favorite. This town is also loaded with homemade chocolate shops, so, of course we got $7 USD worth. And it was worth it! We like the common area of I Keu Ken hostel, where we are hanging out tonight. Although power outlets would be great, but the fact that they are playing Rolling Stones makes up for it. We are sleeping in a dorm room tonight in an effort to save some money, or actually just to spend it on pizza and chocolate.
March 22, 2010 Work Day
After 10 days without computers Aracely needs to catch up on her work emails and make a few phone calls. Jason will spend most of the day going through 150 emails. We have no more Photos of the Day prepared, so we need to get the 300 photos from our Patagonia trek edited. Too much to do!
March 21, 2010 Aracely’s Belated Birthday Celebration
Since we kicked off our Patagonia trek on Aracely’s Birthday, we never really had the chance to celebrate, so we planned a nice homemade dinner with a good bottle of Chile wine and some fresh pastries from the bakery. We had chorizo and longaniza sausage with sauteed green peppers and onions accompanied with sauteed red potatoes and green beans. It was delicious! We ate half our deserts, saving the other half for tomorrow night. Yes, we bought a lot of deserts. We also picked up our laundry, which totaled $30 USD! We washed everything including coats, fleece jackets, gloves and sleep sacks. I can’t believe the horrid smell actually came out of our socks.
March 20, 2010 Torres Del Paine – Sunrise at the Towers
This morning we woke up at 5:30am to hike up to the towers lookout for a burning orange sunrise. This sunrise was better than any sunset or sunrise we have ever seen. The towers glowed orange and we captured some amazing photos. 6 hours later we were back in Puerto Natales eager to take a nice warm shower. We met up with our trekking friends for wonderful dinner with steak and seafood. Stacey from Montana, Leslie and Erica from Canada and Andres and Jonny from Germany.
March 12-20, 2010 Trekking the Torres Del Paine Circuit
We are out tackling the hardest trek of our lives. Keep hope that the weather stays calm for us, since it’s probably the most influential factor during these 9 days. We won’t tell you all about the trek here, that is what the video and blog are for!
March 12, 2010 Aracely’s Birthday and Torres Del Paine 9-Day Patagonia Trek
Happy Birthday Aracely D Santos! She is 28 years old. Today we begin our 9-day trek around the Torres Del Paine Circuit. We have never done a trek this long and the closest we can compare was our 4-day trek in the Grand Canyon in 2006. Wow, it’s been a long time. We don’t know what to really expect during these next days, so wish us well and hopefully we will enjoy it! We have met up with Itai from Israel and are planning to do the hike with him.
March 11, 2010 Preparing For the Patagonia Trek
After arriving to Puerto Natales by bus from Punta Arenas, we found a hostel and immediately ran around all over town trying to rent and purchase all the equipment needed for the Torres Del Paine trek. We bought some winter gloves, long underwear, socks, face mask, fuel and another water bottle. We rented a camping stove, tent, sleeping bags, sleeping pads and walking sticks. Next, we did all of our food shopping at the grocery store. It’s funny to see so many hikers all buying dry soup and rice mixes. Wow, this is costing a fortune for us, but it’s what Jason has been anxious about since we began this trip. We plan to board a bus tomorrow at 7:30am to begin our trek. It’s hard packing for 9 days of trekking when you aren’t an expert at it.
March 10, 2010 Flight From Puerto Mont to Punta Arenas
After hanging out in Puerto Mont for 5 days awaiting for Aracely’s congestion to clear up, we boarded a flight to Punta Arenas. After arriving to town, we booked our bus ride out the next morning to Puerto Natales, our launch point for the Torres Del Paine trek.
March 6-9, 2010 Work and Rest
We have been resting in hopes that Aracely’s cold goes away so her ears clear and we can get back on a plane. We researched taking the Navimag boat to Patagonia, but it’s just way too expensive. This last day, the 8th, Aracely is finally feeling better, so we booked our flight for Wednesday night. Check out our website, we have been doing a lot of upgrades to improve navigation.
March 5, 2010 Work and Heading to Patagonia
Aracely had work for most of today. For lunch we went to Escula Fronteras to drop of a bag of donations for the victims of the earthquake. One our fans on facebook suggested the place as a drop off point. We donated a sleeping bag, a jacket, a shirt and bought diapers and toothbrushes to donate as well. Our flight of out Santiago to Punta Arenas is scheduled for 8pm tonight. The airport has temporary tents set up while they work on fixing the damages of the earthquake in the original building. Our route was Santiago to Puerto Mont and then onto to Punta Arenas. We had a mishap. Since Aracely is congested from her cold, she couldn’t equalize here ears and was in a lot of pain when the plane ascended and then again and worse when it descended into Puerto Mont. We decided not to continue on to Punta Arenas tonight and disembarked in Puerto Mont. We found a hostel to stay in for the night until we figure out what to do next.
March 4, 2010 Explore Santiago
Today we walked around the city a bit. We visited Parque Metropolitano and road the cable car up to the Virgin Summit for a great view of the city. We also went looking for a place that might be able to fix the camcorder. The shutter doesn’t open automatically and it needs to be rigged to keep it open. We tried three different places until we finally found the Canon repair shop that can fix it but it would take a week for us to get the camera back. We have a flight scheduled out of Santiago for tomorrow so we can’t get the camera fixed. Aracely is still not feeling that well, she still as a cold and doesn’t have a lot of energy so headed back to the hostel to rest.
March 3, 2010 Very Long Bus Ride
We got on the bus yesterday evening at 7:30pm and spent the entire day on the bus. We arrived in to Santiago around 8pm today. After settling into our room at Green House Hostel we went out for dinner, came back to the room and crashed for the night.
March 2, 2010 Work Day
Aracely has caught a cold and is not feeling well. We are resting and doing web work until we have to catch our bus to Santiago tonight at 7:30pm. It is scheduled to arrive at 7:30pm tomorrow night.
March 1, 2010 Tatio Geyser & Cactus Trek
Unfortunately, if we want to see interesting things we usually have to get up extremely early. Today it was 3am. By 4:15am we began our two hour drive to the Geo-thermal field of Tatio. Our tour guide, Ron from Cactus Expeditions made a great breakfast for us, perhaps as a reconciliation for making us get up so early. We had a great day and felt it was a great value especially since Ron was very knowledgeable, shared lots of information with us and kept things entertaining for us. One of the highlights of the tour was bathing in the Puritama river. Click here for photos.
February 28, 2010 Valle de la Luna & Valle de la Muerte Trek
Today we booked two tours. This afternoon we took the Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley) & Valle de la Muerte (Death Valley) Trek and tomorrow we will do the Geyser & Cactus Trek. Our tour left San Pedro around 4:15pm. During our trek witness amazing land formations and a beautiful sunset. At Valle de la Muerte it got very windy and the desert sand was smacking Aracely’s legs. She had t use her hat to cover her face and eyes from being engulfed in sand. Click here for photos.
February 27, 2010 Natural Disaster in Santiago, Chile
We boarded a bus at 10pm last night from Arica to San Pedro de Atacama. At 3am the city of Santiago experienced one of the largest earthquake recorded in history at 8.5 in magnitude. We were well north of the epicenter and did not feel a thing. While on the bus we did hear the news but didn’t realize how devastating the damage was until we arrived at our hostel in San Pedro at around 11am Chilean time and watched the images on TV. We spent the day watching the news in shock. Our sincere condolences to the people of Santiago and all of Chile who have lost a loved one in this catastrophe.
February 26, 2010 Web Work
Today we spent the day on the computer catching up on 2 Backpackers work. Our job with the website never ends and it feels like we can’t ever catch up. Tonight we board a bus to San Pedro de Atacama and will spend a few days there before heading to Santiago for our flight to Punta Arenas on March 4th.
February 25, 2010 Rode Bikes to the Beach
Our hostel provides free use of their bikes so we took them for a 10-mile bike ride to the beach. Arica, Chile is the driest city in the world. We weren’t too impressed with the beaches but it was nice to take a refreshing swim in the middle of a dessert environment. We came back and uploaded Episode 8.
February 24, 2010 Web Work and Work
Jason worked on the blog and Aracely worked on her stuff. We are staying at Surf House Hostel where ther eis free internet and a kitchen where we can cook our meals helping safe some money.
February 23, 2010 Planing the Next Week
We want to escape the high costs of Chile, but realized it is just as expensive to venture into Bolivia and then navigate down to Patagonia for our Torres del Paine. So we will bite the bullet, spend lots of our cash, and travel down to San Pedro de Altacama and then Santiago in Chile. From Santiago we will board a flight on March 4th to Patagonia.
February 22, 2010 Unforgettable Day in Northern Chile
When we left our hostel in Putre, this morning destined for the Salt Flats of Surire, we didn’t know exactly how we would return to Arica. We read in Lonely Planet and heard there was a dirt road from the Salt Flats directly towards Arica that we could take instead of backtracking all the way back to Arica via Putre. However, this road floods often and we were advised to ask the park rangers for some advice. During our drive towards the Salt Flats we encountered some rangers and they told us that we should be able to make the journey to the flats if we used the 4×4 and never hit the breaks through the flooded road portions. We continued on. The rangers underestimated the bad conditions of the road or maybe overestimated the capability of our 4×4 vehicle, because there were a few points where we almost got stuck in 2 feet of muddy water. Only 20 feet into the flooded obstacle, we quickly diverted off the road onto, unfortunately, park area. There is no way we would have made it through the 50 yards of flooded roadway. It was a scary moment. Our arrival to the Salt Flats was rewarded with beautiful scenery including salt lakes, flamingos and vicunas. After getting directions from other rangers we decided to take the direct road from the Salt Flats to Arica. It was the most remote place we have ever been. All throughout our drive we got out to take pictures of the amazing endless mountain scenery. At one specific point Jason got down on one knee and proposed to me. We got engaged while driving back to Arica on the 4×4 adventure in Northern Chile’s Altiplano. We were sure to mark the GPS coordinates, otherwise we might never find that place again. Our weekend included 450 miles of some of the most breathtaking scenery we have ever seen.
February 21, 2010 National Park Lauca
By 9am this morning we were on the road to National Park Lauca. Just 30mins into our drive we encountered wild guanaco and vicuña (camelids) on the hills next to the highway. We also got great views of snow capped volcanoes all throughout our drive. Our final destination was Laguna Chungara where we were super excited to see pink flamingos. On our drive back we spotted a huge condor flying very close to the road so we stopped to take some pictures. It was a great day in the outdoors.
February 20, 2010 Drive to Putre, Chile
The drive to Putre was beautiful. There are views of dessert like hills that seem to go on for miles and the weather was perfect. We made a few fun stops along the way to take pictures and also explored the tiny village of Sorocoma. We arrived to town around 4pm and found a descent place to stay. Although at $28 per night we find it super expensive in comparison to the previous places we’ve stayed at.
February 19, 2010 Arica, Chile
It was a 12 hour bus ride from Nazca to Tacna, the border. From there we had to take yet another bus to take us over the boarder into Arica, Chile, our destination. The Chilean border has been the most sophisticated land border in all of the Latin American countries we’ve visited. We even had to put our bags through an X-Ray machine. Chile is also the most expensive country by a long shot. Our decision to come to Arica was based on seeing Lauca National Park and the Salar de Surire. We decided to rent a 4×4 pick-up truck and drive there ourselves.
February 18, 2010 Episode 7 is up! And We Head to Chile
Today we finally launched our next video. It’s been difficult to keep up since we were so busy in January due or friends visiting and lack of good bandwidth in order to upload. Click here to watch Episode 7. At 8pm we boarded a bus to the Peru-Chile border. We are expecting it to be a long bus ride.
February 17, 2010 Nazca Lines Flight
We arrived safely to the Nazca Bus Terminal at 5:30am after a smooth night on a 9 hour “Bus Cama” (or Bed-Bus) ride. By 8am we were on our way to the airport to board our Cessna plane and see the famous Nazca Lines. We ended up on different planes. As usual, Aracely got motion sickness and threw up in the plastic bag on the plane after only 5 minutes. Luckily, there was a nice man sitting next to her who took her camera and snapped photos for the remaining part of the flight. Jason on the other hand, couldn’t get enough and wished his flight could go longer than the scheduled 30 minutes.
February 16, 2010 Sightsee in Arequipa and Then to Nazca
We’ve been in Arequipa for a over a week but we have been working the entire time and we have only seen the 5 block radius around our hostel. We decided to get on an open air tour bus and see the city. Tonight we take an overnight bus north to Nazca, where we plan to book on Cessna flight over the famous Nazca Lines.
February 15, 2010 Romantic Valentine’s Dinner
Since we spent Valentine’s Day hiking out of Colca Canyon we were too tired to even have dinner that night, let alone a romantic one. We decided to pick a restaurant with a view of The Plaza de Armas (main square) and enjoy a nice dinner together to celebrate both Valentine’s Day and our weekend accomplishment of hiking the Colca Canyon in 2 days. Dinner was delicious and romantic. Aracely ate seabass which really didn’t taste like seabass and Jason had alpaca in a rosemary alfredo sauce.
February 13-14, 2010 Hike Down Colca Canyon
We came to Arequipa for to hike down the Colca Canyon. Our tour was scheduled for one night, two days. There was an option to do it in two nights three days and we wish we would’ve taken it. The first day involved getting picked up at 3:30am. We hiked for 8 hours, mostly downhill, which was extremely tough on the knees. When we arrived at Oasis, our lodging for the night, we jumped in the pool and enjoyed a few drinks to cool ourselves off. The following day, we woke up at 4:30 am for the ascend out of the canyon which took us 2.5 hours of strenuous hiking. Hiking down to the canyon was beautiful and we have some great pictures of our trek.
February 8-12, 2010 Work, Work and More Work
Aracely was asked to work this week and since this past month we’ve neglected the website and over spent due to our friends visiting, we took the opportunity and worked most of the week. After spending our entire days on the computers, we managed to get out and see daylight once a day for lunch and prepared our own dinner. We tried a few different “Almuerzos”, set lunches and found some great deals. Delicious soup, a main dish and a drink for less than $1.50 each. We are staying at Los Andes Bed & Breakfast which is a quiet guesthouse with a kitchen and our own private bathroom so we can concentrate and get a lot done.
February 7, 2010 Superbowl Sunday
We went out looking for a place to watch the Superbowl in English but were unsuccessful. At least our guesthouse will be playing it on their cable T.V., but it will only be in Spanish, which means Aracely will have to translate for Jason during important plays.
February 6, 2010 Headed to Arequipa
We road the most comfortable night bus yet. The seats were huge, reclined almost all the way back and they provided us with pillows and blankets. This made the 9 hour overnight ride very manageable.
February 5, 2010 Work Day in Cuzco
Our friend Chuck left today and 2 Backpackers are back to traveling a lone. Aracely has to do some work and Jason is beginning to work on Episode 7.
February 4, 2010 Shopping Day in Cuzco
Today we shopped as if we are not traveling for a year. It felt like we were true tourists and bought souvenirs and gifts for our friend Chuck to take back home. In the evening we went to Bull Frogg’s for drinks. The place is well decorated with great food and good music.
February 3, 2010 More Inca Ruins
There is so much more to see around Cusco than just Machu Picchu and our last two days is a testament of that. Today we took another tour and visited two more ruins. The first was Tipon, an archeological site that features well built canals which channel water out of the mountain behind it. The second was a very large pre-Inca development from the Huari or Wari people called Pikillacta.
February 2, 2010 Two Cuzco Tours Lots of Inca Ruins
Our overnight bus arrived to Cuzco at 6am from Copacabana. This was the most comfortable overnight bus we’ve had yet, which allowed us a good night sleep. This never happens on night buses. Since we all felt rested we wanted to take advantage of the full day in Cuzco and began to look for tours bright and early. Hiking Peru was an agency that impressed us while we were looking for a Salkantay Trek, so we decided to pay them a visit for tours. We decided on two tours, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Our itinerary included the archeological sites of Chincheros, Moray and Salinas de Moras in the morning and Saqsayhuaman, Q’enqo, Takapukara, Tambomachay in the afternoon. By the end of the day everyone was exhausted.
February 1, 2010 Festival In Copacabana, Bolivia
The town of Copacabana is celebrating the Virgen de la Candelaria Festival. The streets are adorned with flowers in shapes of hearts and unique designs. Adult bands paraded along the main streets in very colorful costumes and performed typical local dances. We felt lucky to have a chance to witness such a joyful event. We boarded a 6pm bus that would put us in Cuzco, Peru at 5am.
January 31, 2010 Trekking at Isla del Sol, Bolivia
Today we trekked Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun) from North to South. It was one of the most beautiful treks of our trip. During our hike we were amazed to see other travelers sunbathing on the beach in their bathing suits as we walked by in our sweaters and gloves. At one point Jason noticed that someone had left a plastic water bottle along the way, he picked it up. As we continued our walk we saw a few other bottles and began to collected them as we made our way down the island. As we got closer and closer to the south part of the island there were just too many bottles to pick up. We did however manage to collect about 20 bottles and properly disposed of them.
January 30, 2010 Another Adventure Canceled
We woke up at 5am today, got ready and hurried downstairs to the lobby excited about our upcoming adventure. To our disappointment, we found a note for us saying that the tour for the “World’s Most Dangerous Road” was canceled due to local protest. First Machu Picchu, now this. We quickly decided to head to Copacabana the same day. They told us that this tour has only been canceled once in the last year due to snow.
January 29, 2010 La Paz, Bolivia
Today we boarded a bus to La Paz, Bolivia. Our plan is to bike down the “World’s Most Dangerous Road” and then head to Copacabana to visit La Isla del Sol. Unfortunately, that means that as US Citizens we all have to pay $135 each for a visa. The border crossing was one of the most organized we’ve been through yet.
January 28, 2010 Lake Titicaca, Peru
At 6:30am our shuttle arrived to take us to the port of Puno, where we set off in a boat for the famous Uros Islands and Island Taquile. The Uros islands are inhabited by the Uros people that speak Aymara, a pre-Inca language. The Uros are a group of 42 or so artificial islands made of floating reeds (totora, a reed that abounds in the shallows of the lake). Next we arrived at Taquile Island, which has been inhabited for thousands of years by Quechua-speaking peoples who avoid many of the modernities of the mainland and still hold on strong to patriarchal traditions. (Lonely Planet) Their greatest gift is their textile handicrafts, which are only made and sold on the island. We enjoyed lunch at a restaurant located on the top of the steep island which provided incredible landscape views. The wild trout found in Lake Titicaca was delicious!
January 27, 2010 Arrived in Puno, Peru
We arrived in Puno at 5am to find that our hostel shuttle wasn’t there to pick us up at the bus terminal. Apparently, they didn’t write down our reservation over the phone. We took a taxi to the hostel and found some beds anyway. After napping, we walked around town and enjoyed some lunch where we read about Puno in our Lonely Planet guide. We found an interesting section on Sillustani, so we quickly ran to an iPeru tourist office to book a day trip. They had no available slots. We jumped in a taxi and toured the peninsula of funerary towers on our own. A guide would have been nice, but we only had one day to explore. It was a beautiful day for pictures and walking. We also visiting a local indigenous home in Sillustani.
January 26, 2010 Work Day in Cuzco, Peru
Lorraine got up very early this morning to make her several flights back home. She still isn’t feeling well and we hope she gets home and gets all her energy back. It’s a big disappointment that she and Chuck couldn’t get to see Machu Picchu, as I am sure it was for many of the tourists stuck here in Cuzco. Since we won’t be able to do the trek to Machu Picchu we have extra time and decided to head south to Lake Titicaca, which sits 3,812 m (12,500 ft) above sea level, making it one of the highest commercially navigable lakes in the world. By volume of water, it is also the largest lake in South America. We plan to head out tonight on an overnight bus. Aracely has not had much time to get her work done lately so today she spent it catching up on her work duties. Jason is working on networking with our blog. Chuck is napping and playing pool. Seems like we all caught a cold.
January 25, 2010 They Closed Machu Picchu?
Aracely and Lorraine were on their way to Ollantaytambo train station at their scheduled time of 3am. Unfortunately, when they arrived to the train station they saw over 50 people waiting outside a dark and empty station. No trains were running. The rain has flooded nearby rivers and caused a few landslides along the train tracks. Later that evening we learned of Machu Picchu closing and thousands of tourists being airlifted out of Aguas Caliente. Hmmm… maybe they were lucky. It’s still very sad that none of us will be able to hike Machu Picchu at this time. The Tourism Department of Peru has closed Machu Picchu indefinitely.
January 24, 2010 Aracely and Lorraine Fail to See Machu Picchu
Aracely and Lorraine are planning to visit Machu Picchu for the day since Lorraine doesn’t have enough time to do the Salkantay Trek. Thankfully she is feeling better from the altitude. The original plan was to spend the night in Aguas Caliente and head up to Machu Picchu in the wee hours of the morning to beat the crowd to climb Wayna Picchu. Unfortunately, they are having a difficult time getting information on the best way to get to Aguas Caliente. Our hostel, Pariwana Hostel, was not very helpful. Finally they were able to make it to the correct train station, but there were no tickets available for today. They will have to get up at 2am to catch the first train out of Ollantaytambo which is 1.5hrs away. Tonight we enjoyed a tasty dinner at Hierba Buena Restaurant in the San Blas neighborhood.
January 23, 2010 Research Outfitters for the Salkantay Trek
We did a lot of research on-line concerning booking treks to Machu Picchu and unfortunately, you have to do some haggling, negotiating with multiple agencies. It disappointing to have to work so hard to ensure you receive a quality trek with a quality guide. Oh, and it’s raining again.
January 22, 2010 Fly to Cusco, Peru
We arrived to Cusco and are staying at Pariwana Hostel. The square in the center of town, Plaza de Armas is beautiful. It’s very interesting to see the integration of Inca stones into the modern architecture. The altitude is really having an impact on Lorraine. She has had a constant headache and she got sick just as we were about to sit down and have dinner. It’s also raining and very cold at night. It takes a while to get used to the slippery cobblestone and pebble lined streets.
January 21, 2010
Lima is one of the greatest cities we have come across during our travels, so today we wanted to continue to explore it’s riches. We visited the Museo de La Nacion and learned about the many indigenous cultures of Peru. In the evening we traveled to old town Lima again to watch the water and laser shows at the Circuito Magico del Agua.
January 20, 2010 Explore Lima and Celebrate Lorraine’s Birthday
Happy Birthday Lorraine! It’s Aracely’s girlfriend’s birthday today and she is traveling with us for 2 weeks. There will be celebrations tonight! Today Aracely and I took a long walk to the cliffs of Miraflores to enjoy an awesome lunch buffet. We spent the most we have on the entire trip, but it was worth it. In the afternoon all 4 of us took a tour ride on a double decker bus through Lima. We have come to like these types of tours. They allow us to see parts of the city we probably would never get to on foot or in taxis. The human bones piled up in the San Francisco Catacombs were very interesting and creepy. We moved up our flight to Cuzco, Peru to Friday.
January 19, 2010 Lima Rescues Jason’s Video Camera
We actually found a place that can fix Jason’s camera. Honestly, after visiting many major cities in Central and South America, we never thought this was possible. Lima seems like the best option for electronics. We should have the camera back on Thursday. We did some walking around during the gloomy day and worked out some room foul-ups with our hostel Pariwana in Miraflores. This hostel is very cool, with lots of activities, a bar, games etc. Once we got past the fact that they tried to turn us away even with a Hostelbookers.com reservation, we have become quite fond of this place.
January 18, 2010 Trying to get to Lima, Peru
We went to the travel agency that promised us 4 plane tickets leaving to Lima at 2pm out of Piura. When we got there to pay for them, they told us that they just sold the last tickets and that they only had availability on the 6pm flight. We were really annoyed by this since we didn’t want to get to Lima, Peru after dark.
January 17, 2010 Mancora Beach, Peru
Last night we enjoyed the party scene of Mancora Beach. We usually categorize beaches by either a beautiful nature beach, or a bustling, party beach. Mancora is for surfing and partying. We danced and drank until 3am, something Aracely and I haven’t done since Andy and Paulina were with us back in Guatemala. It’s always great to have friends around. After waking up late, we made our way to the beach for a perfect sun filled day. Aracely ended up getting a rash or hives all over her body and had to get a shot from the local pharmacy. It was most likely due to the seafood we have been eating. You can’t avoid the cerviche here, it’s delicious. The shot helped get rid of the rash, but it seems to be coming back now that it’s time for bed. Hopefully it will be all gone tomorrow. We had originally planned to be in Mancora for several days, but plans have changed. Supposedly there is going to be a country protest beginning tomorrow night in opposition to an expected increase in oil prices. When Peruvians protest, they typically block major roadways around the country. This means buses either don’t travel, or potentially drop you off in the middle of nowhere when they approach an angry mob. We already have flights booked for Saturday from Lima to Cuzco, so we have to get to Lima. In order to avoid getting stuck in the middle of nowhere, we are planning to take a flight tomorrow afternoon to Lima. It’s an unforeseen expense, but a necessary one.
January 16, 2010 Ecuador to Peru Border Crossing
We heard that this particular border crossing was uneventful and different from the usual bridge crossing. A typical border crossing involves a bus dropping you off just before you enter another country in order to sign out of the current country. Next you cross a bridge to arrive at the new country’s customs office. After getting your stamp you board a bus to your destination. Today, we had to hire several taxis on both sides of the border in order to complete the sign out and sign in process. We were told that it wasn’t safe enough to walk the 2km between customs buildings, so unfortunately we drove. All ended up okay, and we arrived in Mancora beach before sunset.
January 15, 2010 Cajas National Park
Located an hour outside of Cuenca, Cajas National Park offers both rolling hills and sharp rock facades amongst small rivers and waterfalls. After picking up a map at one of the information centers, we set out on a 5 hour hike. The hike was quicker and easier than anticipated, so we set our sights on some nearby rock formations that spiked into the air on top of a nearby mountain. We took some great pictures of a chilly lake and then returned to the highway to catch a passing bus back to Cuenca.
January 14, 2010 Exploring Cuenca, Ecuador
In the morning we took a walk to the Thursday food market and were very impressed with how clean and well organized it was. Then we headed over to buy some hand made sweaters for Lorraine and Aracely. After shopping, we visited The Banco Central Museum of Pumapungo. It was great to have a guide take us through all the exhibitions and explain to us all the different cultures in Ecuador. In back of the museum there is an archeological Inca site that brought it all together. We then took a tourist bus around the city that allowed us to see all the important sectors of Cuenca. We are planning to head to The National Park Cajas tomorrow morning.
January 13, 2010 Making Our Way South to Cuenca, Ecuador
We woke up and took our time to have breakfast before heading to the bus terminal to hop on a bus to Cuenca. Since there is four of us now, we had to take two cabs. Lorraine and Aracely went in one cab and Jason and Chuck got in another. We had a minor scare because we were dropped off at two different entrances and couldn’t find each other. Everything worked out OK and headed to Cuenca. We arrived in the early afternoon and are staying at El Cafecito Hostel. We enjoyed a great dinner and had drinks over a card game for a relaxed night.
January 12, 2010 Back to Guayaquil
Today we made our way back to Guayaquil to pick up Aracely’s high school friend Lorraine who will be joining us for 2-weeks.
January 11, 2010 Work day in Baños, Ecuador
Today is another workday for Aracely. Jason spent some time catching up on some work. Later in the evening we enjoyed the famous hot baths of Baños.
January 10, 2010 Bike Ride and Active Volcano Tungurahua
Finally a clear day and some sun! We decided to take a bike ride on the main road to Puyo. Along the way we stopped at various waterfalls and rode two cable cars that allowed us to get closer to the waterfall. We didn’t make it all the way to Puyo. We had already been riding for 4 hours and it would been another 2 hours to Puyo from El Pailon del Diablo, which is the largest waterfall on the route. There were plenty of pick-up trucks to choose from so we hired one and headed back to Baños. Just as we were arriving into town, our driver told us to look up at Volcano Tungurahua. We could clearly see the volcano spewing ash and plumes of smoke into the air. After arriving in town, we decided to immediately rent ATVs again and head up to the same lookout point from yesterday to have a closer look. Within the hour we were back at “La Casa del Arbol.” Again, we could hear the roaring volcano but this time we could see it too. The ATV rental was for 2 hours only and it wouldn’t be dark out before we returned the ATVs. This was disappointing considering we wanted to see the volcano peak at night. After showering, we hired a ride back up to La Casa del Arbol for a night view. We watched something incredible. You will have to wait for the volcanic video.
January 9, 2010 Renting ATVs
We had originally planned to take a bike ride to Puyo, but the weather has been chilly and rainy. We decided to rent ATVs and go riding up to “La Casa del Arbol”. This is a lookout point for Volcano Tungurahua. Unfortunately, it was too foggy and cloudy to see anything, but we could hear the volcano roaring loudly. It was amazing to hear it’s power.
January 8, 2010 Work day in Baños, Ecuador
Aracely had to work today and Jason took the time to edit some pictures to get them ready for uploading. Unfortunately, the internet service at the hostel is not very reliable. It seems to have a problem with Mac computers and it’s very intermittent making it very difficult to get work done. We are doing our best.
January 7, 2010 Visit Volcano Cotopaxi
At 6:30a.m. we exited our hostel and headed to Volcano Cotopaxi. We hired the same driver that drove us from Quilotoa to Latacunga for the morning. He drove us all the way up to the parking lot just short of, El Refugio (the refuge.) This is the highest point a vehicle can drive up the volcano. When we stepped out of the car, we experienced the strongest wind we have ever felt in our entire lives. We were at an altitude of 14,800 feet. Jason and Chuck began to hike up and reached 15,000 feet. They were freezing and sand blasted.
January 6, 2010 Lake Quilotoa, Ecuador
Amazing! We arrived in the village of Quilotoa at 5:30am and made our way through town to the edge of Crater Lake Quilotoa. It was such a surprise to have walked up to what seemed to be a normal mountain top only too look down at this magnificent lake. We snapped pictures until we were frozen from the wind and cold weather, and then walked back into town to find some warm coffee and tea. After warming up for a few hours, we decided to return back to the volcano to make the trek down to the lake, 400M or 1300ft. The hike up was much more difficult, and after the previous day’s workout, we were struggling. After our hike, we hired a pick-up truck to take us back to Latacunga. That night we enjoyed dinner with a few friends we met in Isinlivi.
January 5, 2010 Hike to Chugchilan
Details weren’t provided to us about how difficult the hike from Isinlivi to Chugchilan would be. We ventured out confidently, hoping we wouldn’t kill Chuck on his first hike. The hike ended up being fairly strenuous. Add the element of being lost and you can add even more hours to your trip. The hike takes you through continuous mountains farmed by the indigenous. If Aracely didn’t speak Spanish we might not have made it. The locals on many occasions provided us directions. Toward the end of the trek, we encountered switchbacks that would take us out of the valley, but only after an hour of tough marching. Chuck shuffled into Chugchilan right behind us, spent from the days challenging hike. We took shelter in Cloud Forest Hostel, a place we were pleased with. Tonight we decided to skip the hike to Quilotoa and take a 4am bus instead. This would allow us to see the sunrise over the Crater Lake of Quilotoa and give Chuck a rest.
January 4, 2010 Drive to Isinlivi
Step 1 of our 2-day trek is to take transportation to Isinlivi, a small indeginous town on the western edge of the Quilota Loop. We are staying at Llullu Llama hostel, a small farm house with eco-toilets. It didn’t seem like there were many choices in town, so they absolutely over charge you. Jason would always exclaim, “I am going to give back to nature, see you soon.” He enjoyed the eco-toilets.
January 3, 2010 Travel Day: Latacunga, Ecuador
After a late night at the airport waiting for Chuck, we woke up bright and early to begin our journey to Latacunga located in the Central Highlands of Ecuador. After 7 hours and two bus rides we arrived at Tiana Hostel. We talked to the hostel staff and decided to change our plans and not climb Cotopaxi, since we won´t have the proper time to acclimate to the altitude. Now we are doing a 2-day trek on the Quilotoa Loop in the Andes.
January 2, 2010 Walk Around El Malecon 2000 In Guayaquil, Ecuador
Today we took a walk down the beautiful Malecon 2000. We also did a little bit of shopping in La Bahia market and realized that we have really improved our barganing skills. Tonight we are visiting the neighborhood of Las Peñas before picking up Chuck, Jason´s college friend, from the airport who will be joining us for the next month. We love visitors!
January 1, 2010 A Day of Rest And Some Travel
Today is for relaxing! You need those kind of days every now and then. Tonight we will ride a 5 hour bus to Guayaquil.
December 31, 2009 Happy New Year And Feliz Año Nuevo!
Today Jason experienced a whole new way to celebrate the New Year. At midnight the neighborhood lit up with burning lifesize home made dolls and hundreds of fireworks that were ignited by each individual home. In Ecuador this signifies burning all the bad that the outgoing year brought and invites all the good of the new year to come. This was followed by a huge midnight meal lots of dancing and drinking.
December 30, 2009 Work Day In Chone, Ecuador
This morning we had a great breakfast that included our favorite bread “pan de almidon” (bread made with yuca yeast.) We haven´t had a good internet connection and have a lot of work to catch up on, so we spent the day at a local internet cafe. The connection was slow but we were able to accomplish what we needed.
December 29, 2009 Back to Chone For New Years With Family
Aracely´s mom and uncle arrived in the morning to drive us back to Chone. Before leaving we visited Montecristi, where Aracely´s mom bought locally made souveniers to take back to the US (lots of hammocks). We also had yet another seafood meal before getting on the road. Along the way we stopped at a few local places off the side of the road to savor some local food specialties such as a fresh chilled coconut. Cut it open and drink the cold coconut juice.
December 28, 2009 Manta, Ecuador
Aracely´s two cousins live in Manta and invited us to visit them. We arrived around noon and Veronica met us at the bus terminal. Manta is located on the coast and is a popular fishing port for hundreds of boats. Veronica drove us to Parque del Marisco, where we climbed in a partially built fishing boat and enjoyed a seafood lunch. The boats are built on the beach and they allow you to stroll into them at any time. Unfortunately, they aren’t made for tall gringos. Watch your head! Next we visited the Eloy Alfaro museum, one of Ecuador´s most respected leaders. Later that evening we all went out and enjoyed a traditional “parrillada” (grilled meat dinner) and drinks.
December 27, 2009 Isla de la Plata
Today we took a tour to Isla de la Plata. Our tour began in Puerto Lopez where we took a 1 hour boat ride to the island. Once everyone was off the boat and settled we began our 2 hour hike through the Machete trail. Along the way we spotted many Blue Footed Boobie nesting. Our guide Limberg explained different characteristics of the beautiful birds. After our hike we went snorkling just a few meeters off the ilsand where we saw many tropical fish. Later that night we enjoyed our last meal with our travel friend Peter. We did find a restaurant with 1 lobster and Jason ordered it. However, it was $20 double the listed price in our Lonely Planet Guide.
December 26, 2009 Back to the Beach
We awoke up at 8am to catch our bus out of Chone. Scott is headed to the highlands and Peter is joining Aracely and Jason to Puerto Lopez, where we plan to take a tour to Isla de La Plata (aka Poor Man´s Galapagos.) After having a great traditional Chonero breakfast Aracely´s Mom and Uncled dropped us all off at the terminal. We plan to be back in Chone to celebrate the New Year. Our Lonely Planet Guide stated that we can find $10 lobster in Puerto Lopez so we went searching around town without any luck. Every restaurant we checked ran out of lobster. We plan to try again tomorrow night.
December 25, 2009 Christmas Day, A Lot Of Eating
We were all exhausted and woke up at 11am to a great breakfast with Tio Limbert´s family. We had also been invited to have a late lunch at Tio Wilmer´s family farm. By 3pm Jason, Scott, Peter and Aracely had eaten enough food to last us a week. After our meal, Tio Wilmer gave us a tour around his farm explaining to us each plant he grows. We then headed back home and celebrated the rest of the evening with drinks, dancing and more food before we all passed out at 3am.
December 24, 2009 Christmas Eve At The Beach
Jason, Scott (Wales), Peter (Holland) and Aracely arrived in Chone at 6am with barely any sleep. It was a rough and bumpy 6 hour ride from Quito. It was really great for Aracely to see her mother and brother again. Once we showered and settled into Aracely´s uncles house (Tio Limbert) we headed to the beach. We spent the day enjoying the sun, swimming and having drinks with family. That night we celebrated and had Christmas dinner with yet another uncle (Tio Wilmer). It was interesting for Jason, Scott and Peter to experience how an Ecuadorian family celebrates Christmas. Before heading back we stopped at another uncles house (Tio Jofre) to wish them a Merry Christmas.
December 23, 2009 Visited The President’s House And The Metropolitan Museum
Today we had a day full of history and culture. We visited El Palacio del Govierno (the president’s palace) and the Metropolitan Museum of Quito. Now we are headed to Chone, Ecuador on the night bus to meet up with Aracely’s family for the holidays.
December 22, 209 Climbed Our Highest Peak Ever On Volcano Pichincha
Today we took the Teleferico (Quito’s cable car) up to an elevation of 4,100 meters where we began our trek up to the summit of Volcano Ruco Pichincah. At 4,710 meters, it was the highest any of us had ever hiked. The trek rewarded us with beautiful views of Quito, a diverse and challenging trail and very cold weather when we arrived at the top of the mountain. We all felt very accomplished. That night we met up with Troy and Lucy again for drinks at the lively neighborhood of Plaza Fosch.
December 21, 2009 Visited the Middle of the Earth And Dinner With Troy And Lucy
Today we visited both the official and unofficial Middle of the Earth sites. We had a great time learning about the scientific differences between the northern and southern hemispheres and seeing live demonstrations. Later that night we were invited to a great home cooked dinner by Troy Floyd from FoggOdyssey.com. Both Troy and his girlfriend Lucy were great hosts. We had a great time. Click here to read Troy’s blog about the evening.
December 20, 2009 Long Bus Ride To Quito, Ecuador
The overnight bus ride from Cali, Colombia to Quito, Ecuador was everything but boring. After 20 hours on the road which included three security check points, one road accident that caused a 45min delay, and one bus malfunction we finally made it to Quito. We arrived at 1pm to the Secret Garden Hostel in the San Blas neighborhood of Old Town. We are expected to meet up with Scott and Peter whom we met on the sailboat from Panama to Cartagena, Colombia. They are planning to join us for Christmas dinner in Chone with Aracely’s family. It was great to see them again. We enjoyed a great pizza dinner at the restaurant on the terrace of our hostel and had a few drinks to celebrate our reunion.
December 19, 2009 Online Work And Night Bus To Ecuador
We spent the day catching up on computer stuff and took the night bus to the Ecuador border. We hope to be in Quito by tomorrow afternoon.
December 18, 2009 Experiencing Tear Gas and Salsa Dancing in Cali, Colombia
We went to explore the city and noticed that it felt a bit chaotic. There was tons of traffic everywhere and then realized that there was a street demonstration in the center of the city. As we walked we saw a group of buses parked all along the main corridor blocking all traffic. We noticed riot police on one side and a group of people on the other. We stuck around to watch. It was a peaceful demonstration until all of the sudden we heard loud pops and saw green and gray gasses in the air. Everyone scattered to avoid breathing the tear gas. We went back to our hostel to try and get rid of the headache. That night we had a great dinner at El Solar and went salsa dancing at a local disco.
December 17, 2009 Cali, Colombia
We are making our way south; our next stop is Cali, Colombia where we hope to enjoy some great salsa.
December 16, 2009 Valle de Cocora Park
Today we took a very crowded Willy Jeep to Valle de Cocora. There were 14 people on this tiny vehicle, hanging off all sides and even sitting on the roof. Valle de Cocora is home of the wax palm tress, the tallest palm trees in the world. We took a 5 hour hike through beautiful green scenery and shared great fun with our new friends who we met in Casona de Lili
December 15, 2009 Salento, Colombia
In an attempt to take a break from the busy cities, we headed to the small town of Salento, Colombia. It’s located in the heart of the coffee region. We arrived in the late afternoon, walked around in search of a hostel. We are staying at Hostal La Casona de Lili.
December 14, 2009 Exploring Manizales, Colombia
Since we did not go on our planned tour, we decided to take a walk around Manizales. We were glad we did because we discovered a different, more charming part of the city during our 3 hour walk. The center part of Manizales has a lot of character, much more than the area where our hostal was located. It is definitely worth it to take the time to explore what the city has to offer.
December 13, 2009 Shopping in Medellin and Traveling to Manizales, Colombia
We recently broke our headphones which we use for Skype calls, so we set out to find a new pair. After finding what we needed we headed to the terminal to catch a bus to Manizales, Colombia where we planned to do a hike to Parque los Nebados. Unfortunately, we got bad feedback from everyone who had taken the tour and decided not to do it.
December 12, 2009 Paragliding and Touring Medellin With Claudia
Today we went paragliding. It took the entire day and even made us late for our meeting with Claudia, our new couchsurfing friend. Luckily, she was patient and waited for us. We had a great time with her while visiting the river front where they set up extensive Holiday decorations. It was spectacular. Later, Claudia invited us to her home where we met her family and had great political conversations about Colombia.
December 11, 2009 Explored Medellin Points of Interest
Today we dedicated the day to exploring many of Medellin’s points of interest. We road a Metro Cable car, visited many different plazas, and a lookout point. We even witnessed a public demonstration in the city center.
December 10, 2009 Lazy Day in Medellin and Couchsurfing Meet-Up
During the day we felt like doing nothing, so we did nothing. We laid in bed and watched TV the entire day. That evening we attended a couchsurfing.org meet-up and met some great people from Medellin. One of them, Claudia, offered to take us around town on Saturday. We happily agreed.
December 9, 2009 Walk around Medellin
We took a short walk around Medellin today and went out for drinks late in the evening around Poblado which provides lots of options of restaurants and bars.
December 8, 2009 Work day in Medellin
It was a work day for us in Medellin. We are staying at Casa Kiwi in the Poblado neighborhood.
December 7, 2009 It’s Alex’s (Aracely’s little brother) Birthday & bus to Medellin
Today Aracely’s brother, Alex turns 14. She misses him and wish she could be there with him to celebrate. We are taking an overnight 14 hour bus ride from Santa Marta to Medellin tonight. We board the bus at 5pm.
December 6, 2009 Tayron Park
We arrived at Tayrona National Park around noon and walked for two hours through beautiful beaches and junble to El Cabo beach where we spent the night on hammocks.
December 5, 2009 Taganga, Colombia
We decided to leave Brisa Loca due to our experience last night. It’s definitely too much of a party hostal for us. We took a taxi to Taganga a small fishing village just 15 minutes away. We are staying at Pelican Hostal. Once we settled in we took a walk to Playa Grande and spent the afternoon relaxing on the beach.
December 4, 2009 Work Day in Santa Marta, Colombia
We are staying at Brisa Loca Hostal. They did not have any private rooms available so we are staying in a dorm room for a couple of days. Aracely had to work today and Jason worked on the website. That night, two of our dorm mates started snorting cocaine right in front of us with the lights on and the door open. This was the first time either of us had experienced that. We shared one single bed that night because the thought of two drugged up people walking in our room in the middle of the night made both of us uneasy. Then we were woken up at 4am by a group of people getting home from a night out. The hostal bar began to play loud music and people were smoking weed right outside our door.
December 3, 2009 Altercation with Santa Marta Shuttle Bus Driver
Today we left Cartagena and headed to Santa Marta, Colombia. We were told that our shuttle would pick us up at 12pm. At 11:25am the hostel attendant told us that the shuttle was here. Jason and I were not fully packed yet, so we rushed to finish gathering our things. We needed another 5-7 minutes before we could be ready to go. As we are in our room packing the last of our things, we hear the bus driver honking his horn. Then the hotel attendant comes to our room to tell us to hurry up. “We were told 12pm,” I snapped at her. Both Jason and I began to feel stressed about the situation. As we are walking out of the hostel to get on the shuttle, we see the driver driving down the street. We were both very upset by this. I began asking the driver why he was pulling away and then ended up getting in a shouting match with him. This was horrible customer service. I realized then that I had not felt that level of stress since I was lost in a volcano. We finally arrived to Santa Marta after a 4 hour drive. That night we had a great Casuela de Marisco at New Welcome Restaurant.
December 2, 2009 Islas Rosarios and Playa Blanca
We purchased boat tickets to the Rosario Islands and Playa Blanca. It was a long slow journey getting there since we signed up on a tour that required us to go to a different island before actually getting to the beach. We finally arrived at beautiful Playa Blanca around 1pm in time for a delicious lunch. That evening we went to Café del Mar, a posh bar located on the fort wall of Cartagena with a great view of the city.
December 1, 2009 Explore Cartagena and Volcano Tutomo Mud Bath
During the morning we took a walk around the Center of Cartagena. We were impressed with the beautifully decorated balconies, restored streets, flower filled parks and breezy plazas. In the afternoon we road a shuttle bus to Volcano Tutomo for a completely new experience; a hot mud bath.
November 30, 2009 Arrive in Cartagena, Colombia
We all woke up excited to see land again! As the skyline of Cartagena began to reveal it self across the horizon our faces lit up. We had arrived. It was a great sight to navigate around the peninsula into the city’s port. The group strategically began to get ourselves and our stuff off the boat by making multiple trips to shore by way of a dingy. After everyone was on land we took some taxis to Casa Viena Hostal in the old town.
November 29, 2009 Second Day in Open Seas
Aracely continues to just lie in bed trying to avoid getting sick again. The wind died down during the day so we had to turn on the motor this keeps the boat at a much better angle than when the sails are up. We can actually move around the cabin a bit. There’s not much to do on the boat beside stare at the open sea. The group tries to keep themselves entertained with the occasional card game.
November 28, 2009 More Snorkeling and First Day in Open Seas
We can’t get enough of the snorkeling. Captain David took us to Warseiladeup Island where we experienced the best snorkeling so far this trip. At approximately 2pm, the sails went up and we began our open sea sailing to Cartagena, Colombia. That night several got sick and no one slept due to the boat’s rocking.
November 27, 2009 Officially Exit Panama and Visit Kuna Tribe
After breakfast we sailed to the island of Porbenir where Captain David disembarked our sailboat to process our exit out of Panama. Then, we headed to Wichiwala Island, a Kuna settlement. We eagerly explored the small populous village and restocked on our rum supply. We moved on to the island of Niadep, a shipwreck site where we snorkeled some more and anchored for the night.
November 26, 2009 Set Sail to San Blas Islands
Today we set off to the San Blas Islands. Aracely began her day by taking her sea sickness pills. Our first stop was the Island of Chichime, which was 8 hours from Puerto Lindo. Both Jason and Aracely felt queasy and spent most of the trip lying down in the cabin. Our captain, David, turned out to be a great chef. He cooked up a fresh fish we caught by trailing a lure. We arrived to the island at around 3pm and were greeted by the native Kuna tribe offering their hand made crafts. We put on our snorkeling gear and jumped in the water to explore.
November 25, 2009 Travel to Puerto Lindo, Panama
Today we headed to Puerto Lindo, Panama where we boarded a sailboat to Cartagena, Colombia. The journey took about 8 hours. We arrived at Wunderbar Hostal at 1pm. Puerto Lindo is a tiny fishing village in the Caribbean. There are two tiny convenient stores and two “restaurants” that typically serve the same dish, catch of the day. They are located in the restaurant owner’s house. There isn’t anything to do in Puerto Lindo, so we just hung out at our hostel with others that were sailing with us. We watched the movie Cast Away, which we thought was appropriate for our journey the next day
November 24, 2009 More Shopping in Panama City
We still needed to find a few more items for our up coming sail trip so we spent the day shopping at the MultiCentro and MultipPlaza in center city. We also had a nice meal in El Cangrejo neighborhood.
November 23, 2009 Visit Panama Canal & Walk Around Casco Viejo Neighborhood
We woke up early, had breakfast and took a taxi to the Panama Canal. We arrived at 9a.m. to see the first boats pass through the Miraflores Lock. It was a really interesting day. The pictures will be uploaded soon. In the afternoon, we took a long walk around Casco Viejo. This neighborhood is full of history and it’s currently under a huge urban revitalization project.
November 22, 2009 Shopping in Panama City, Panama
Today we took a walk around Avenida Central (Central Avenue) and then headed to the Albrook Mall to buy some essentials. Jason has already wore through his bathing suit and his flip-flops and I was hoping to find a stronger camera lens, but still no luck. I also “need” a new sun dress. We were able to find great products at good prices.
November 21, 2009 8 Hour Bus Ride to Panama City, Panama
We boarded the bus in Boquete heading to David at 7:30am and arrived in Panama City Albrook Bus Terminal at 4pm.
November 20, 2009 Our Own Private Island in Panama
We had such a great time yesterday and were very happy with Boquete Outdoor Adventures that we (Rolf, Mario, Mark, Jason and Aracely) booked another one of their tours, this time to one of the Islands in the Golf of Chiquiri in the Pacific Ocean. Great decision. The island of Gamez was absolutely post-card perfect. For 6 hours we had a gorgeous island all to ourselves. We hiked, snorkeled, swam and relaxed in our private paradise. Our guides set up hammocks and provided snacks and lunch for us.
November 19, 2009 White Water Rafting and Hot Springs
We woke up at 5:30am, got ready and headed out to breakfast before staring our rafting adventure. There were six of us taking the tour. Dona from New Zealand and Mark from Australia joined Rolf, Mario, Jason and Aracely. A shuttle drove us 45 minutes to a drop off point where a pick-up was waiting to take us over some difficult terrain to the edge of Chiquiri Viejo River. The rapids are rated 3+, but the entire ride was non-stop action. After about an hour of rafting we beached the raft on the edge of the river and our guides prepared us an amazing lunch. We continued for another hour and half of more rapids and more fun. After the rafting trip the group of six decided to visit local hot springs.
November 18, 2009 Bus Ride to Boquete, Panama
Today we woke up and it was still raining in Bocas Del Toro. We made a game time decision to leave the Caribbean coast and head to Boquete, Panama. We quickly packed up our bags rushed to catch the next boat off the Island of Colon to Admirante, a town in mainland Panama. Once on the mainland, we boarded a bus to the town of David and then to Boquete. The entire journey included one boat ride, one taxi ride, two bus rides and totaled 7 hours. On the bus ride from Admirante to David we met two German travelers, Rolf and Mario. Once we all arrived in Boquete, we went looking for a hostel with them. After walking around town for about 45 minutes we finally decided to stay at Numba Hostel. Rolf and Mario had the same idea as Jason and Aracely and wanted to go rafting in Boquete. We made arrangements that evening for an early morning trip with Boquete Outdoor Adventures.
November 17, 2009 Rain Day in Bocas del Toro, Panama
Guess what, another rainy day. Jason worked on video Episode #6 and I put some consulting hours in. Not our ideal day on the Caribbean coast.
November 16, 2009 Snorkeling and Swimming in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica
Finally a sunny day! We scheduled a shuttle from Rocking J’s Hostel to Bocas del Toro, Panama at 2pm that afternoon. Since it was clear and sunny we got out of bed (tent) early and rented snorkeling. After an hour of poking around at some fish, we walked south on the beach and found a great swimming area for body surfing. The ride to Panama was hassle free. We did get to walk over a wooden plank bridge during the border crossing. We are staying at Gran Kahuna hostel.
November 15, 2009 Bike Ride to Mazanillo Beach, Costa Rica
It’s not raining today but it’s overcast, so we decided to rent bikes and ride to Manzanillo Beach. The hour and half bike ride is on a long bumpy road that runs parallel to the coastline. We were surprised to see many hotels and restaurants along the journey. The road cuts through thick forest, we even spotted a family of monkeys playing in the tree tops. Once we arrived in Manzanillo, we grabbed lunch at the only local bar in town and headed back to Puerto Viejo in hopes to beat the rain from the looming clouds.
November 14, 2009 Rain Day at Puerto Viejo Beach, Costa Rica
We boarded a bus to Puerto Viejo and arrived at Rocking J’s Hostel in the middle of yet another torrential rainy day. Again, we grabbed our computers, took advantage of the WiFi access and worked most of the day.
November 13, 2009 Rain Day at Cahuita Beach, Costa Rica
We had planned to go on a snorkeling trip with one of the outfitters in Cahuita Beach, but we woke up to torrential rain. We gathered our computers and headed to the Internet Café to work. That evening we splurged and had a delicious meal at a local restaurant.
November 12, 2009 Cahuita Beach
We left San Jose and took the 3.5 hour drive to Cahuita Beach. When we got to the bus terminal in San Jose we ran into a couple from San Francisco who we originally met back in Semuc Champey, Guatemala about two months ago. This was the second time we ran into them, about 4 weeks back we also ran into them in Granada, Nicaragua. They were also headed to Cahuita. Just fifteen kilometers before getting to our destinaltion the bus breaks down. Everyone on board (about 55 people) got off the bus and stood on the side of the road waiting for a new bus. Jason and Aracely decided to share a cab with the couple from San Francisco to Cahuita. After finally settling into our beautiful beach front hostel, we took a walk on the beach and through the Cahuita National Reverse. Later that night we met up with our friends from San Francisco for dinner.
November 11, 2009 Shopping in San Jose
We made our way to San Jose just for one night. Jason needed to get new hiking boots, new rain jacket, a mono pod and polarized lenses for the video camera. The boots that he bought for the trip were not wide enough for his feet and they would give him a lot of pain during every hike. He also lost his rain jacket so he needed to replace it. Aracely tried looking for a new lens for her SLR camera, the one she uses now doesn’t have enough zoom but unfortunately she was not as lucky as Jason was in finding what she needed.
November 10, 2009 Begin Work on Episode #5
We are taking advantage of the $15 for a double room rate with a great breakfast at Casa Tranquilo to get work done while in Costa Rica. We probably won’t find a better deal in San Jose or Cahuita, our next two destinations in this country.
November 9, 2009 Work & Episode # 4
Aracely had work and Jason uploaded Episode #4. Click here to see VIDEO
November 8, 2009 Hanging Bridges and Night Tour of the Forest
Activities in Monteverde are expensive. Today we walked the hanging bridges with Selvatura Adventures. At $25 per person it’s definitely something we could have skipped. We did get great pictures on the bridges though. At night, we took a 2-hour walking tour through the cloud forest where we saw two sloths, a kinkajou and many of insects.
November 7, 2009 Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve
The day began with some bad news. The room next to us got broken into last night while the guests were sleeping. They took their money, documents, and cameras. The hostel owner called the cops and the wallets were found further up the street on the side of the road. It was a scary thought that it could’ve been us. On a lighter note, yesterday we booked an early morning guided walk in the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve. The reserve was beautiful and our naturalist guide took us on a trail rich with wild life. We learned about the different plants, trees and animals in the reserve and in Costa Rica. We also saw lots of hummingbirds that were flying around us much of the time. It rained most of the day so we stayed indoors after that and Jason worked on Episode 4.
November 6, 2009 Headed to the cloud forest of Monteverde/Santa Elena
Today we made our way to Monteverde/Santa Elena. The night before we asked the hotel attendant what was the best route for us. He explained and we planned to do just as he said. But, as always, traveling from town to town was an adventure. Seven hours, three buses and one unplanned and expensive taxi cab later we arrived at Casa Tranquilo hostel. We were very pleased to find out that rooms were only $15/night total.
November 5, 2009 Boat ride with local fishermen & work
We scheduled to meet local fishermen for a boat ride at 7am today. Like most Costa Ricans they were 30mins late. We went out looking for dolphins but didn’t see any. We did see a large sea turtle and a stingray launch itself out of the water. We didn’t realize they could do that. After we got back at around 11am we began catching up on work and website stuff.
November 4, 2009 Long Walk on the Beach, Swim & Surfing
Today we took a long walk on Samara Beach. This place is very peaceful. We walked for about three hours along the shoreline; we swam and practiced some surfing in the afternoon. The waves were very strong and Aracely only stayed in the water for about 20mins while Jason was enjoying himself and getting better and better with every wave.
November 3, 2009 On to Costa Rica: 4th Border Crossing
Crossing the Nicaraguan/Costa Rican border at Peñas Blancas was our most difficult walk yet. The process was confusing and unorganized, other borders were much easier than this. There were multiple buildings and no direct road leading you through the process. We arrived at our final destination in Playa Samara after dark and in the rain. We asked around how to find Las Olas hostel where we planned to stay for the night. After walking through dark muddy road we found the place but they didn’t have any rooms available. It was pouring rain by this time. They pointed us toward town; we finally arrived at Cabinas Playa Samara where we found available room that looked more like a dungeon. We took it since we didn’t want to go back out in the rain.
November 2, 2009 Canopy Tour & Game 5 of World Series
Today we did a canopy tour with zip lines. We choose San Jaun del Sur since it’s incredibly cheap compared to Costa Rica. For $30 USD each we got ride 17 zip lines with one of them 400m long the forest canopy with views of the beach. We head out to Costa Rica tomorrow. Click here for PHOTOS
November 1, 2009 Surfing Lessons & Game 4 of World Series
Today was our first surfing lessons with Fredo who works with Casa Oro in San Juan del Sur. He was great and Jason and Aracely both did surprisingly well, unlike the Phillies. Things aren’t looking good in Philadelphia.
October 31, 2009 Headed to the beach & Game 3 of World Series
We are ready to continue with our travels and headed to San Juan del Sur where we plan to take surfing lessons. We are staying at Rebecca’s Inn and booked our surfing lessons for tomorrow morning at Casa Oro hostel. Unfortunately, watching the game was not very fun, since the Phillies didn’t do very well. Let’s hope tomorrow turns out better.
October 30, 2009 Boat tour around “Las Isletas de Granada”
Jason is feeling better! We took a walk around town and the pier to take some pictures. We were approached by a local fisherman that offered us a boat ride around the islands just off the coast of Granada called Las Isletas de Granada. There are a group of about 300 Islands; we got to see about 60 of them. Many of them housed beautiful homes of foreigners and Nicaraguan nationals. Click here for PHOTOS
October 29, 2009 Feeling much better & Game 2 of World Series
All symptoms indicate that Jason has Dengue Fever. Thankfully, he no longer has a fever but is still feeling aches in his muscles and the back of his eyes. We spent the day resting and watched the 2nd Game of the World Series, this time at a local restaurant. Phillies didn’t have as good of a day, but we hope that things will turn around when they play at Phillies Stadium.
October 28, 2009 Rest Day
We are still recuperating.
October 27, 2009 Sick Day
Jason is not feeling well. We took the day off from travels. Aracely took the opportunity to catch up on work while taking care of Jason.
October 26, 2009 Laguna de Apoyo
We took a very relaxing day trip to Laguna de Apoyo. The water is crystal clear but there’s not much to do besides swim and just chill. It was nice to just lay around on the hammocks and chat.
October 25, 2009 Uploaded Episode 3!
We spent the day looking for strong internet, seems that it’s a scarce item in Nicaragua. There are plenty of internet cafes but their internet is intermittent and we can’t get a solid two hours of connection. Finally, we found one at the Euro Café and we were able to publish Episode 3! Click here to see video
October 24, 2009 Headed to Granada
You live and learn. We over packed for this trip big time, so we decided to shipped 18 lbs (yes, 18) worth of stuff back to the US. DHL is sending the package to Aracely’s mom’s house in Miami. It should arrive on Tuesday. Feeling a bit lighter, we hopped on local transportation and headed to the terminal to catch a minivan to Managua. After an hour and twenty minutes we arrived to yet another bus terminal and caught yet another minivan to Granada. We are staying at The Bearded Monkey Hostel.
October 23, 2009 El Hoyo Trek Day Two
The group was up by 4:30am to get ready for another day of hiking in the remote mountains. First, we headed to the summit for a look at the other two craters of Volcano El Hoyo. After breakfast we began our descent and headed to Laguna de Asososca for a refreshing swim and lunch.
October 22, 2009 El Hoyo Trek Day One
The alarm sounded at 3:30am and we walked around the corner to meet our guides at the QuetzalTrekkers office. They gave us each six 1.5 liter bottles of water each and a bag of food to add into our backpacks. To say our backpacks were heavy would be an understatement. We rode a local bus towards Cerro Negro Volcano, but got dropped off on a farm still where we spot Cerro Negro in the distance. Two hours later we arrived at Cerro Negro, walked into its crater and ran down to the bottom again. After a 30-minute break we began the hardest part of our hike. It was an hour of steep incline on loose sandy soil. When we got to the top we were drenched in sweat and hungry for lunch. Later that afternoon, we arrived at our campsite inside the crater of Volcano El Hoyo. It has an amazing view of surrounding volcanoes, lakes and grazing cattle. We set up our tents, made dinner and laid our tired bodies to rest. Click here for PHOTOS
October 21, 2009 Volcano Boarding in Leon, Nicaragua
Eight of us hopped in the back of a pickup truck for a bumpy ride to the foot of Volcano Cerro Negro. Our guide handed us an over sized skateboard sans the wheels and led us up the black mountain of volcanic rock. Once we arrived at the top, he gave us instructions on how to make it to the bottom fast or safely. In groups of 2 we began to volcano board our way down. Many of us flipped, tumbled and crashed; all of us had either scratches or bruises and an exciting story to tell. Click here for PHOTOS
October 20, 2009 Leon Nicaragua
Internet in Leon is not very consistent; it cuts in and out, making it impossible to upload a 300MB video. We had no luck yesterday or today on uploading Episode 3 but we keep trying. Maybe we will have better luck in Granada
October 19, 2009 Work day
We haven’t had many internet options the last few days so we needed to catch up on the website, work and finally try to upload episode 3!
October 18, 2009 Headed for Nicaragua
We missed the first bus out of Alegria in the morning and had to hitch a ride in the back of a pick-up truck. This was the beginning of a long travel day. It took 9 hours, 1 pick-up truck ride, 6 different buses, and 2 border crossings to get to Leon, Nicaragua. Our original destination for the day was Esteli, Nicaragua but when we learned that buses to Esteli did not run on Sundays we decided to head for Leon instead. The first thing we noticed is that for the first time there are backpackers everywhere.
October 17, 2009 Lagoon Inside the Crater of Volcano Tecapa
Today we decided to take the short cut and finally see the lagoon. Luckily, it was a clear and beautiful day, perfect for a swim in the sulfur water. Click here for PHOTOS
October 16, 2009 Lost in the Mountains
We booked a guided tour to hike Volcano Tecapa and visit Alegria’s lagoon which lies inside the volcano’s crater. The estimated time for the entire tour was 3.5 to 4 hours. The first hour of the hike was enjoyable with great views of Alegria and it’s surrounding areas. We spent the following 6 hours completely lost in the dense vegetation of the mountain trying to find our way home. We never did make it to the lagoon. Click here for the blog
October 15, 2009 Drive to Alegria, El Salvador
Traveling is the worse part of traveling. We are each carrying a large, heavy backpack and day packs. When we move from town to town, unfortunately we usually have to take 2, 3, or even 4 different buses. It’s a pain to travel with this much stuff in an already crowded sweaty bus. We departed from Santa Ana at 8am and arrived in Alegria at 1pm, a total of 6 hours traveling. If we would’ve been able to take a direct bus and route, it would’ve taken us only 3 hours. Click here for accompanying blog
October 14, 2009 Climbing Volcano Santa Ana
It’s Jason’s birthday! We woke up early to catch the 8 o’clock bus to Volcano National Park (Cerro Verde). It was a 2-hour bus drive to the park. The hike up volcano Santa Ana was beautiful and challenging, but the reward was more than worth it. From the top of the volcano you can see its massive 300 meter deep crater and at the bottom rests a neon green sulfur lake. After 4 hours of hiking we returned back to Santa Ana city for a pupusa dinner and some fresh local deserts to finish celebrating Jason’s birthday. Click here for accompanying blog or photos
October 13, 2009 Exploring Santa Ana
Santa Ana is the second larges city in El Salvador and it definitely has a different feel than Juayúa. Small towns feel cozier, more friendly, and safer than the city. We did venture out to walk around Santa Ana’s main square. The main square, Plaza Libertad is the nicest part of town and it’s surrounded by two impressive buildings: the Santa Ana Theater and The Cathedral. We also browsed through The Market which was also impressive in size. It’s also a great place to observe the local culture. Click here for photos
October 12, 2009 Waiting for Bus to Santa Ana
We planned to catch the bus to Santa Ana at noon today but for some reason this bus route does not have a very reliable schedule. We waited to 1pm and nothing; 2pm no luck; 3pm still no bus. Finally it arrived at 4pm and we hopped on for the 45mins drive to Santa Ana. We arrived safely at our hostel before dark.
October 11, 2009 More Food
The food fair continues and we continue to eat. We love the “chorizo” and “longaniza” it’s very tasty sausage loaded with flavor. Jason continues to work on the next video.
October 10, 2009 Food Fair in Juayúah
They quiet town of Juayúah turns into a busy town on the weekends. It is nationally and internationally known for its weekly food fair. Jason and Pedro were very eager to try Armadillo, which we all heard they would have at the fair. But we were told that they only have it on special occasions. Today, there was also a school band competition, which they take very seriously. It was great to experience such and important piece of the Salvadorian culture. Click here for photos
October 9, 2009 Still Working
Yet another day of work. At least we are in a beautiful location. Jason is making good progress with the videos but still has a long way to go.
October 8, 2009 Computer Heads
Both Jason and Aracely are still glued to their computers. Aracely is working and Jason for video editing. There are more visitors coming to the hostel for the weekend food fair. We went to dinner with Maritza and Pedro (a couple from Norway) to Cadejo Café, which is owned by the same people that own Hotel Anahuac, where we are currently staying.
October 7, 2009 Back to Work
Aracely will be spending these next few days working and Jason will upload and edit video clips for our next episode about Semuc Champey. Jason ate what he thought was a hot dog originally, but it wasn’t. It seemed like chopped pork with mayonnaise, ketchup and salsa on a toasted hot dog bun. Either way it tasted good to him.
October 6, 2009 7 Waterfalls Hike in Juayua, El Salvador
Another great hike through the jungle to witness the beauty of 7 waterfalls in Juayua, El Salvador. We were lucky enough to repel down one of them. Mario and his brother William taught us about coffee trees, the national flower of El Salvador and encouraged Jason to jump off a cliff into a cool waterfall pool below. We did some food shopping since our hostel has a kitchen. This is the most modern grocery store we have seen since leaving the states. And El Salvador uses the US dollar, so prices are easy to understand. Oh, and Jason’s veneer fell off his front tooth, but no worries, we found some super glue! Click here for accompanying blog or photos
October 5, 2009 First Land Border Crossing Guatemala to El Salvador
We woke up at 4:30 am to begin our trek out of Guatemala and into El Salvador. This was our journey: we walked 10 minutes to a boat dock and took a 20 minute wooden boat ride through mangroves swamp to the town of Avellana. We then hopped on a local bus with a very speedy driver to Taxisco, where we picked up yet another local bus that dropped us off at the Guatemalan border. After walking through and clearing Guatemalan immigration we continued to walk another 10 minutes over a bridge to the Salvadorian immigration, which consisted of two officers standing at the other side of the bridge. They looked at our passports and wished us a save trip. We asked them how to get to Juayua, our first planned destination in El Salvador and were instructed to take a local bus to Sonsonate (a 2hr ride) and catch the bus to Juayuah. We finally arrived at our very nice and comfortable hotel by 2pm.
October 4, 2009 Beautiful Sunset on the Pacific Coast
Today we researched our options for traveling to El Salvador and mapped out our route. We also watched a beautiful sunset and 75 baby turtle be released into the sea.
October 3, 2009 Arrived at Monterrico Beach
We took a 2 hour shuttle ride to Monterrico Beach and arrived at Johnny’s Place. The hotel sits on the beach and includes a dinning area/outdoor bar, a lounge area which turns into a disco at night. The town is small but with a lot of restaurants on the one main street where you can get authentic food. During the late afternoon we enjoyed watching the locals play soccer and volleyball on the sand. Click here for accompanying blog or photos
October 2, 2009 Last day in Antigua
Today is our last day in Antigua and Spanish class. We had to run a few errands such as find a shuttle to Monterrico for tomorrow morning, buy more malaria pills and get some cash to last us for the weekend since there are not cash machines in Monterrico. We will miss our friends at Base Camp Hostel and our teachers. We hope to keep in touch with everyone.
October 1, 2009 Tripfilms Video of the Day
Honestly, we are ecstatic about this. It’s great when friends and family tell you they enjoyed your video, but it is solidified when a non-biased party recognizes your work. We earned Tripfilm’s video of the day and received a nice review by Kyle read here. Jason spends a lot of time on these videos hoping that one day he can get paid to do what he loves. We have the hostel house to ourselves tonight… PARTY! Just kidding. Oh and by the way, our tattoos are almost healed.
September 30, 2009 Uploaded Videos to Social Video Sites
In an effort to promote our videos and website as much as possible, Aracely spent several hours uploading our episodes on Tripfilms and Vimeo. We still need to upload on YouTube. Class is becoming challenging for Jason as he tries to learn different tenses of verbs in Spanish.
September 29, 2009 Introduced Jason’s Spanish Teacher to Grilled Ham & Cheese
Everyday Jason explains to his teacher what he has been eating. For lunch we always make grilled ham and cheese sandwiches, the same way you would make a grilled cheese sandwich in the US using a skillet. Instead of talking about it with him, Jason made Carlos one, and he seemed to really enjoy it. And we also bought some more fresh chorizo from the grocery store. Our favorite.
September 28, 2009 Back to School and Work
We both returned to school and Aracely to work . For more exciting news, we got our second video up! Click here to watch Climbing San Pedro Episode 2.
September 27, 2009 Cerro de la Cruz and House Party
We went up to a look out point that sits up on a hill where one can see great views of Antigua. Cerro de la Cruz is just a short walk from our hostel. We took Xela (the hostel’s dog) with us, she is a great dog and made our walk even more enjoyable. Everyone staying at the hostel was invited to Sophie’s (guide for O.X.) house for a party that night. We all had a fun time enjoying drinks and pizza.
September 26, 2009 Tattoo’s and Market
Jason got a tattoo and I got my old tattoo touched up because after almost 10 years it was looking dull. We will post pictures when they are all healed. After we were all inked up, we took a walk through the local market where you can get amazing deals. We bought fruits, vegetables and a pair of shoes.
September 25, 2009 Game Night
First, Happy Birthday to Aracely’s sister Priscilla! OK, now for Antigua news: there are new people staying in the hostel and we all had a fun games and drinks night in. We played an intense game of four player Chess and Jason learned how to play Backgammon.
September 24, 2009 Jason’s Design
Jason has been working on a drawing that he plans to use for a special project. We will keep this a mystery for now and give you more details later.
September 23, 2009 Bar Night
After Aracely had another rough work day and Jason filling up his brain with Spanish we were both ready for a night out. It’s also Victor’s last night here. He is taking a two month trip to do some expansion research in South America for OX Excursions. All the staff and the hostel guests went out for drinks to wish him a safe trip. That night Jason and I tried a Don Julio 25 year old shot. It was very smooth and expensive.
September 22, 2009 Studying & Working Day
Aracely had to work today to take care of things that came up with the group she supports at her current job on the road. Jason is continuing to dedicate a lot of time to his Spanish classes, 5 hours of one on one instruction and 2 hours of studying. He’s really come a long way after just one week. We plan to extend our Antigua stay until the end of next week (October 3) so that Jason can get another full week of school.
Setember 21, 2009 Watching the Sun Rise on Pacaya
Our day began very early at 4:30am; the group got ready and headed out to watch the sun rise. We hiked further up the mountain to the top of the ridge for a better view. After taking pictures and enjoying the beautiful sights that surround the area we descended back to our campsite to have breakfast and ultimately back home for showers. We both had Spanish class to attend that afternoon. Aracely is taking Spanish classes to improve her writing and reading skills.
September 20, 2009 Volcano Pacaya Camping Trip
We got up and began preparing for our camping trip to Volcano Pacaya. The tour headed out at 2pm from our hostel. After an hour and half drive from Antigua we arrived at the park entrance. Our tour guide Sophie led our group of four up a great trail that had some challenging parts, but overall was very manageable and enjoyable. As we ascended up the mountain we walked through clouds of mist that would build up in our hair making it a bit wet. We arrived at our campsite after an hour and half of hiking. We set up camp and headed to the lava just as the sun was setting, allowing the lava to glow in the darkness. We found a long stick to roast hot dogs and melt marshmallows with the heat of the lava. See Pacaya Pictures Here.
September 19, 2009 Learning to Play Chess
We are staying at Base Camp Hostel for the next two weeks. We really feel comfortable here and our enjoying the company of Sophie and Victor who both work for OX Excursions, the company that runs the hostel. Victor is also a student of the game of Chess and likes to share his passion with the guests that come to the hostel. He gave Jason a private lesson and we even played four person chess which is an exciting way to learn different techniques of the game.
September 18, 2009 First Video is up!
Jason feels much better about Spanish language lessons 3 days in. And has decided to switch to the afternoons only, 1pm – 6pm, beginning Monday. It will give us some time to go sight seeing in the mornings. We posted our video on our website! Click Here For Video. We are heading in to Guatemala City tonight for bowling with some hostal friends.
September 17, 2009 Tested First Video
After Spanish class Aracely and I spent a great deal of time in the Internet Cafe uploading our first HD video of our trip. The wifi in the hostal is not strong enough to upload large amounts of data. We also weren’t able to play the video at the Internet Cafe or hostel due to the bandwidth needed. I got on Twitter asking for some feedback and sure enough in a few minutes several people had confirmed it was streaming well. It was exciting. Even better news, Aracely is all better now.
September 16, 2009 Reactions to Antibiotics
Aracely can’t get a break! It seems as if she is having a reaction to the Cipro and she has a full body rash that won’t stop itching. She didn’t get to sleep last night at all. We stopped the Cipro and put her on Benadryl. I started my first day of Spanish Language school at La Union in Antigua. When you haven’t studied or learned anything for 12 years your brain pretty much goes dormant. This won’t be easy.
September 15, 2009 Guatemala Independence Day!
Most of the partying seemed to be done the night before, unfortunately we were both still recuperating. Independence Day, however did bring lots of school bands parading around town, eventually meeting in the town square. Aracely and I were able to catch some incredible footage of the day’s events. Check out the pictures! We have come to the conclusion that school marching bands are a big thing in Antigua. That’s an understatement. Oh, and Aracely is now getting a rash all over her body.
September 14, 2009 No More Fever
By the morning her fever was gone. Their best guess was possibly salmonella. We picked up the additional prescribed Cipro and headed back to our comfortable hostel. The hostel we are staying at is an excellent atmosphere to relax and socialize in a house setting. The hostel also runs their own adventure tours through OX outfitters. We both napped most of the day since our hospital stay kept us awake throughout the night. The hospital was very clean and the staff was extremely courteous.
September 13, 2009 Overnight Hospital Stay
After 4 days of fevers and chills, we were glad to be back in Antigua to get Aracely some care. We called World Nomads travel insurance to recommend a place to visit for some medical care. They referred us to a private hospital in Antigua. Aracely did register a fever over a 101 and her white blood cells were abnormally low. They tested for all common illness (malaria, deng), but weren’t able to determine what it exactly was. We stayed overnight while she received fluids and doses of antibiotics.
September 12, 2009 Drive from Rio Dulce Back to Antigua
Since Aracely was still feeling ill, we splurged on our transportation back to Antigua. The 6.5 hour trip was in an air conditioned full size bus. It was cool, but Aracely still almost got sick on the bus. We arrived at Base Camp Hostel in Antigua that evening.
September 11, 2009 Finca del Paraiso (Paradise Farm)
After 4 days of work and a sick day we were craving some physical activity. Aracely, still not feeling well, made the trek to Finca del Paraiso (Paradise Farm). It is a beautiful place to spend a few hours at while staying in Rio Dulce, Guatemala. A hot spring river feeds a waterfall that intersects with another cool water river. It was a great feeling to rest in the cool water with the steaming water falling from above. There were many locals utilizing the river for bathing, fishing and clothes washing. We took a great picture of some of the local children selling us food.
September 10, 2009 Sick Day
The plan was to go to Finca del Paraiso (Paradise Farm) but Aracely didn’t feel well. She had a high fever that kept us in bed all day.
September 9, 2009 Yet Another Work Day
Aracely did more consulting work for American Express today, it’s nice to be earning some money while on the road. We went into town for a quick lunch and were amazed at the large 18-wheeler trucks that drive through such narrow busy street. Jason is getting closer and closer to finishing up the fist video.\r\n
September 8, 2009 Yet Another Work Day
Aracely did consulting work for American Express today while Jason was working feverishly to learn video editing. We sat in front of our computers all day long but at least the view is great. In the evening we took the long walk across the bridge and into town for some pizza. The meal was delicious but it was a little pricey. We followed with a few drinks sitting next to the river and playing games on our iTouch.
September 7, 2009 More Work on 2backpackers.com
Jason was having a little bit of a stomach problem so we had to lay low. He was able to make tons of progress on our first video which we hope to put on the website very soon. I laid on the dock next to the river and also did some writing. I made some small updates to the website and added a map function. We had a great dinner at the Backpacker Restaurant adjacent to our hostel. The view here is amazing specially at sunset. We watched sailboats pass by as we sipped on a few drinks.
September 6, 2009 Drive to Rio Dulce
The drive to Rio Dulce, Guatemala was a 5-hour bus ride. It was very hot and very crowded. Seemed like a Greyhound bus from the 80’s. All of the large buses have been old buses from the US. It was funny reading the sign that states, “Federal Law prohibits standing on the bus.” The entire middle isle was packed with standing people and the bus operators stood next to the door with the door open. Our hostel is Hotel Backpackers, a quaint little boathouse next to the river.
September 5, 2009 Enjoyed Down Time
We woke up a bit late relative to other days after our night of celebration and relocated from our hostel to the one across the street in hopes to scape some ants. This gave us a chance to experience a beautiful thunderstorm on the balcony that faced the water of Lake Peten. Taking advantage of some down time, we worked on editing and uploading pictures and wrote a blog about climbing Volcano San Pedro.
September 4, 2009 Visit Tikal
Our day began at 3:30am. We were scheduled to be picked up at 4:50am and be in Tikal by 6am. There were options to take later tours but had we done that, we would’ve missed the chance to see Tucans and monkeys, which we did see! We needed enough time to pick up our breakfast at Los Peches Restaurant. Today we also said good-bye to our friends from London, they are heading north and we are heading south. To celebrate the past 9 days we had a few drinks (that’s an understatement) on the terrace of our hostel.
September 3, 2009 Explore The Island of Flores
Today we walked around the Island of Flores. We found delicious and cheap food and booked our tour to Tikal for tomorrow morning. The vendors on “Parque Central” have delicious tacos and burritos for 5 quetzales each (or 60 cents each.) Also, Restaurant Lost Peches has a simple but delicious menu and the owner, Don Domingo (Mingo) is all smiles and dedicated to customer service. When we told him about our tour to Tikal in the morning, he offered to cook us breakfast at 4:30 am. He usually doesn’t open until 6:30am.
September 2, 2009 Drive to the Island of Flores
Our drive out of Semuc Champey was a struggle, since it rained most of the night. We held on tightly to the rails of the pickup truck as the driver made up to five attempts in some cases to overcome each hill. Once out of the deepest regions of the jungle surrounding Semuc Champey, we transferred onto a small Kia minivan for our eight hour drive to the Island of Flores. The ride was not as enjoyable as the previous one from Panajachel, due to the skills of our driver, the lack of an air conditioner and road conditions.
September 1, 2009 Semuc Champey and Las Marias Caves
Our tour for Semuc Champey began at 9am, it began with a climbed even further into the jungle made of steep includes and loose wet rocks. Half and hour later we reached a look out point which gave us a great view of Guatemala’s third wonder. We descended to the edge of the river to see the entrance tunnel of strong waterfalls that fills the 300 meters of pools. We swam our way to the exit tunnel to repel down a waterfall into the exit tunnel cave. Jason jumped 12 meters into the river, Aracely was too scared. We headed back to our hostel for lunch and a short rest before heading to Cuevas Las Marias, water caves.
August 31st, 2009 10-Hour Bus Drive to Semuc Champey
Another early morning, we got picked up by our bus at 6am for the long ride to Semuc Champey. Our drive was very bumpy but with beautiful scenery. We arrived in Lanquin without any reservations but we quickly hopped in the back of a pickup truck and drove deeper into the jungle to find a beautiful hostel next to the river, El Portal.
August 30th, 2009 Climbed Volcano San Pedro
We woke up at 5:45am, got ready, picked up breakfast at a nearby bakery and met our guide at 7am in time to catch the first boat to San Pedro. By 8 am we began one of our hardest hikes ever, Volcano San Pedro. It took us three torturous hours to make it to the top and two slippery hours to make it to the bottom.
August 29, 2009 Panajachel Guatemala
We woke up early to catch a 8am shuttle bus to Panajachel Guatemala, two and half hours later we got dropped off in Panajachel’s main streets. We all put on our backpacks and began heading towards our hostel. Later we walked around the town and found a tour company to book our transportation for the next few days. During the sunset hours we went to the docks of Lake Atitlan and enjoyed dinner with volcanoes as the backdrop.
August 28, 2009 Planning Trek Around Guatemala
Our original plan was to immediately look for Spanish language schools for Jason, but that was derailed during breakfast. Andy and Paulina from London were planning a 10-day journey all around Guatemala’s major sites. We have decided to join them for 8 days and part ways after Tikal when they head to Belize.
August 27, 2009 Arrival to Guatemala
We arrived in Guatemala City via American Airlines from Miami, Florida. After being offered many rides to Antigua, we hired a shuttle bus with another couple from London, England. An hour later we arrived at El Hostel in Antigua. That evening we ate popusas from a street vendor and had a few beers with our new friends from London.