Tag Archives: month

Random (belated) thoughts/ month 16

15 Sep

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At the beginning of our trip, if you’d ask me where we would be in one year, I would have said Panama. If you’d ask Hani, he would have said already home. Crazy to think that it took us SIXTEEN MONTHS to crawl our way to Panama. This month we:

+ reluctantly left the house in Potrero, air conditioning, pool, friends, bakery with the good brownies and all. That was a sad day.

+ made our way to the towns in southern Nicoya: Montezuma, Mal Pais and Santa Teresa. When we came to Costa Rica 5 years ago, we LOVED Mal Pais/Santa Teresa and were lukewarm about Montezuma. We were so obsessed with this community, I thought this time around, we would buy some business and settle there. The town of Santa Teresa was just ok this time around. Too many people. And much more touristy now. We parked on the public beach and explored other beaches, restaurants and the crappy coastal road (if you can even call it a road) on the motorcycle for a few days. We loved Montezuma! We found a sweet spot in the center of town right on the water and again took the bike down to check out the surrounding town and beach of Cabayu. But as far as settling there long term, meh. Our feelings on the area have definitely changed.

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+ learned yet again there’s a different mentality when you travel on vacation versus travel via camper long term. And what worked well on a vacation once doesn’t really do the trick the second time around. BUT finding the same cabana you rented 5 years earlier for a fraction of today’s price is still pretty satisfying.

+ ferried from the Nicoya Peninsula to mainland Costa Rica. It’s been a while since Skyhorse has boarded a boat.

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+ caught up with our So Fla friends Huda and Jason in Jaco. They, along with a group of friends, rented condos in Jaco and we were lucky enough to get included in their activities. Huda and Jason put us up in their plush rental (thank you guys again!!) and we enjoyed meals and down time with them and their gang. It was nice to be reminded of home after being away for so long.

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+ arrived in Manuel Antonio National Park on a crowded Sunday. We didn’t feel like battling all the people so we planned to go Monday bright and early. Monday morning we packed a bag and lunch, walk the sweaty 10 minutes to the entrance only to find out the park is closed on Mondays. Whaaaat?! So we spent the day with all the other idiots who also probably tried to go the the park and found it closed–at the beach.

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+ explored Manuel Antonio National Park. We had been to this park before but were eager to do it again, since the wildlife is spectacular. As we hiked through the steaming park, we saw loads of birds, monkeys and raccoons. Yes, nasty, greedy raccoons that were trying to steal food right out of peoples’ hands. So gross.

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+ fixed the thermostat on our small fridge. It kept freezing on the lowest setting and ran constantly, draining the truck’s battery. After Hani took it apart, we searched for a repairman in Quepos and then in San Jose. Through a series of fortunate encounters (including running into a mobile refrigerator repair guy) and conversations of not taking no for an answer, we bought what we believed to be the right part, found a repair guy and waited the 3 days near the shop to test and retest the fridge to make sure it was REALLY fixed. It eventually was.

+ parked in a cul de sac in San Jose for those 3 days while the fridge was being repaired. The weather was cool. We were around the corner from the fridge repair shop. The cul de sac was peaceful and neighbors super sweet.

+ were gifted a bag of limes, then gallo pinto, and then invited to breakfast by Miriam who lived in the cul de sac. We were so grateful to be welcomed into their home and in their little neighborhood.

+ arrived at the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. A-MAY-ZING!! Definitely our favorite area of Costa Rica. While there, we camped on the beaches at Cajuita, Playa Negra, Puerto Viejo, and Punta Uva. The beaches were immaculate. The towns of Cajuita and Puerto Viejo had a Key West-y chill caribe vibe with delicious food and friendly people. Punta Uva beach was filled with coconut palms and the water had some cool areas to snorkel. Only a sandy tree covered track lead out to this remote beach. And there were many days we were the ones out there.

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+ dined (twice) in Cajuita on the most scrumptious spicy garlic mussels…with a sleeping sloth above us.

+ met John and Jeanine from California who have been living in Cahuita and are now selling their home. We spent a great afternoon with them checking out their house, having a beer on their deck, going to their favorite restaurant and walking the town with ice cream.

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+ toured the Jaguar Rescue Center in Punta Uva. Though no jaguars, we saw rescued monkeys, toucans, sloths, monitors, big cats, colorful snakes, baby ant eater, and owls. The monkey playroom was the best–these little guys swing and jump and wanted to be cuddled. We weren’t allowed to bring cameras in because they would destroy them so there’s no picture of the baby monkey jumping on my head and nesting in my hair.

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+ got soaked daily. It was a pleasant reprieve from the heat.

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+ spent 81 days in Costa Rica and crossed into Panama on August 19th. Our southernmost country!! We made it!!

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+ left Skyhorse parked in Almirante (because it would have cost $200 one way on the vehicle ferry) and boarded a small lancha with the dogs to Bocas del Toro. It was a pricey 2 days of staying in a hotel and eating out for every meal but TOTALLY WORTH IT! We would have stayed on Bocas longer had it not been so expensive for us.

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+ mingled with locals and took water taxis to a few of the surrounding Bocas islands. After eavesdropping at breakfast, we learned that Emma had a restaurant/bar on a mangrove island 10 minutes off Bocas with a reef around it. We snorkeled for hours and ate and drank on this remote little restaurant island, Blue Coconut. Robin was kind enough to give us a ride back in and showed us the ex-pat nightlife. Very Key West and very fun!

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+ saw the real Bocas. Way outside the tourist center that’s basically Key West circa 1974 live the local locals. Their homes are shacks tucked into the mangroves. To access the homes, a series of practically rotten planks are set up above the mucky trash-ridden waters. You need pretty good balance to navigate this path, especially when someone is coming in the other direction. We followed the plank path a while and it just got too depressing. Garbage was everywhere and no one was doing anything about it. Tons of tourists pour money into Bocas and it’s doubtful that this community ever sees a cent of it.

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+ found the Cangilones de Gualaca, a canyon hidden in a nondescript part of Panama. The river below begins as rapids, gets super deep and narrow through the canyon, then widens into a lazy river kinda thing. The jump in was pretty high and scary, though it doesn’t look it from these pictures. We had the place all to ourselves to jump, float and splash for several hours before a bus load of students arrived.

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+ are impressed with how well stocked the grocery stores are in Panama. I can pretty much find anything I would ever need in ONE store! That hasn’t happened since leaving the states.

+ landed in the cool mountains of Boquete. There we explored the city on foot, drove high up into the mountains, hiked a trail, ate some delicious German sausage, and explored the local farmer market.

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+ have yet to escape the rain. Oh well.

+ hate Claro, the cell service we choose when we entered Panama. Sure it was cheap, but we’ve had an “extended” signal everywhere in the country. Thus, few postings and this belated blog entry. Forgive me.

Random thoughts/ month 15–Playa Potrero

7 Aug

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This month (meaning June 26 to July 26…another belated post) was extremely tranquillo since we spent the entire time at the rental house, Casita Naranja, in Playa Potrero. This was the longest we’ve stayed put since we began our trip. We:

+ vegged in the house the first week, watching tv (I’m so sick of Two and a Half Men!), playing in the pool and just enjoying the air conditioning. Maybe we left twice.

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+ lost power 3 times over the course of the month. The first was a week into our stay at the house. Go figure, the moment we are paying for electricity and relying on the a/c, it’s gone. There was a massive storm and the entire yard flooded. A tree down the block took out 2 poles completely, knocking out the power lines. Within 3 and a half hours, new poles were installed and power was back! We were completely impressed with their speed and efficiency, as the workers and replacement poles came from another town. The second time the electricity went out we weren’t home and were scrambling to find out what had happened. We thought the culprit was the dead iguana under the power lines in our backyard but apparently another animal had chewed the wires somewhere else. Within 2 hours it was fixed. The last time we woke up with it out. Felt like sleeping in the truck and was fixed before we got out of bed.

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+ cheered on Costa Rica in the World Cup. We’re not big sports fans but it was exciting to watch the team advance, screaming at the bar tv with other Ticos.

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+ motoed back to our favorite beaches and explored new ones all within 30 minutes of the house. We went to Playas Penca, Danta, Flamingo, Conchal, Brazilito, Grande, Tamarindo, and our new favorite Bahia del Pirates where we snorkeled with some beautiful fish.

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+ swam in the pool practically every day this month. I would start the day with coffee by the pool followed by a swim. We thought with the beach right down the street, we would swim in the ocean more. Not so much. I think we only took a dip in Potrero Bay twice this month but our pool swim was a daily event followed by a rinse in the outdoor shower.

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+ fought less. Maybe because we had the ability to independently entertain ourselves with either tv, the pool, or Internet. Maybe because we could escape the heat into the constantly air conditioned house. Maybe because we had 4 times the indoor space to hide out in. Whichever way, it was nice.

+ enjoyed time with our Potrero friends Tim, Heather, Gorav, Valarie and Claudia. We beached together, BBQed at the house, invited them over for swims and all around had a wonderful time with them. They all will be missed.

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+ bought countless kilos of fresh tuna, sea bass, conch and clams and ate more brownies than can be imagined.

+ finally, after over a year of cyber-stalking each other, met Victoria and Jason and their pups Neli and Maya from Neli’s Big Adventure. They hung out with us all day in our backyard, swimming, drinking, eating and chatting. Hani and I tried to get them to stay longer than a day until they realized their visas were about to expire and had to run to the border the next morning. I’m sure we’ll meet up again as we all head north.

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+ celebrated Shae’s 10th birthday. And she’s still a wild lil pup!

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+ got a flat. 20 minutes, a patch and $10 later, we were on our way. Easiest fix yet.

+ ate at the McDonalds in Liberia for the third time. First was with the Chlobys when we entered Costa Rica. Second was on our way to Potrero from Monteverde last month. And this last (and final) time was as we waited for Peter to land. They’d since redecorated (totally disturbing that I recognized this). We hunkered down in the kids playroom–the only area with air conditioning–and sat for 2 hours using their wifi. Too bad they didn’t do free refills anymore.

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+ hosted Peter again. It had been almost a year since he met us in Alaska and were excited for him to visit at the house for a week. He brought us a bunch of goodies (some delivered to him from my mom) the best being 2 six packs of our favorite beers: Shiner Ruby Redbird and Abita Strawberry. It was an awesome surprise! We had a fabulous time with Peter, as we always do, showing him our spots, the best beaches, introducing him to our friends, singing karaoke, and even finding time to “mingle.”

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+ yoga-ed overlooking the ocean. It’s been too long since that happened.

+ pushed two strangers’ vehicles out of the sand after getting stuck trying to drive on Playa Conchal. After getting stuck ourselves many times on the road, it was time to pay it forward. Hopefully the good karma will continue.

+ heard howler monkeys practically daily but saw them once, watched herds of cattle roam the neighborhood, saw tons of colorful birds and found a dead iguana in the yard.

+ scrubbed down, cleaned out, and bathed Skyhorse from head to toe. I can’t even share how long it’s been since we’ve peeked into every nook and cranny and washed all out bedding and couch cushions. You’d be disgusted. I know I am.

+ packed back into Skyhorse on July 26, turned in our keys and headed back out into the great (hot) unknown, moving further south.

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Random thoughts/ month 14

28 Jun

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This month, we:

+ nearly died of heat in Granada and Madera Beach, Nicaragua. We spend one day in each of those areas but could have easily stayed longer had the weather been more pleasant. In Granada, we were sandwiched between two chicken buses.

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In Madera beach, even though we had an open ocean view parked between tent campers and some businesses, it was breeze-less, thus incredibly brutal.

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+ kicked butt at trivia in Granada, winning 1st place (a bottle of rum!) among 11 teams, each consisting of more than 2 players.

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+ opted for a hotel with a/c in our last city in Nicaragua–San Juan del Sur. We just couldn’t handle the heat. Plus, being sticky and cranky doesn’t make for good company or even amicable conversation. The town was full of Americans, thus had an awesome food selection–fab pizza, tasty coffees, fresh seafood and our favorite: chocobananas for .40 each! These ladies live on the main drag and sell chocolate covered frozen bananas out of their house all hours of the day. Just knock, or yell, on their gate and out comes a delicious snack.

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+ arrived in Costa Rica on May 31. It’s been 5 years since we’ve been here and are enjoying the comfort of returning to a country we loved so much the first time around. The scenery, the people, the howler monkeys, the towns– everything is just how we remembered it. Even the crazy expensive prices for everything. Toto, we’re not in Mexico anymore.

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+ experienced decent weather. It’s definitely cooler in Costa Rica than it was in El Salvador and Nicaragua. But don’t get me wrong, it’s still hot. Just not insanely, can’t breathe or function, sweat dipping from every crevasse kinda hot. And even though it’s the rainy season, the worse rain we’ve seen has been the monsoon that greeted us when we entered the country and lasted almost 12 hours. Otherwise, the overcast days and random sprinkles have been a welcome reprieve from the heat.

+ ate our first meal in Costa Rica at McDonalds. Because sometimes you just need it.

+ reunited with the Chlobys at said McDonalds. We spent 6 glorious days together exploring waterfalls, hot springs and the Lake Arenal area, playing cards and just having a grand ol’ time!

+ had some great beer FINALLY! I’ve been dying for a dark brew, or anything that’s not the generic watery beer produced throughout Central America, and was impressed with the Lake Arenal Brewery.

+ found a free natural hot spring in La Fortuna. The area is known for pricey resort hot springs but we discovered the super secret local spot. We bathed in natural pools of hot water surrounded by lush tropical forests. Prefect activity for a cooler drizzly day. Photos thanks to Chloe who was brave enough to bring her camera 🙂

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+ camped with Toby and Chloe at two different spots around Lake Arenal for a few days. The lake was peaceful and views were spectacular, even with a storm rolling in.

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+ for real parted ways with the Chlobys. In a few days we’re going to be on a different continent for the first time in our 7 months of off and on travel together. They’ve been our besties on the road from Baja to Costa Rica, celebrating holidays, birthdays, the good and the bad and the stuff in between. Though we are jealous they are continuing on to South America, we look forward to reading about their travels and a time in the future when we can adventure together again.

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+ forged our first river around Lake Arenal and then our second around Samara. We, well Hani, walked both first to test the ground and just to make sure the water wasn’t too high. The first cross was cool because the water was super clear, calf high and running really fast. It was quite picturesque, with all the lush trees, low clouds and rocky terrain.

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The second river cross really freaked me out. Since it’s the rainy season, the water in this river was higher than usual (whatever that means) and completely murky so you had no idea how deep your next step was going to be. Hani was determined to cross this one because half the people we asked said we could do it but the other half were unsure, probably because they didn’t want to get blamed if something happened to Skyhorse. Luckily, a car full of cops arrived and guided us across the lowest points of the river–a crazy zig zag we would have never figured out on our own. Goes to show, just ask a local! And foreign police are nice and helpful!

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+ went zip lining in the Monteverde cloud forest. When we came to Costa Rica last time, we did a zip lining trip and loved it, so it was a must do this time around. We took an early morning trip, soaring well above the trees. The last two lines you “fly” in Superman pose and end the trip with a bungie jump/Tarzan swing kinda deal. Awesome!

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+ began the Nicoya Peninsula, a long stretch of beaches that are even more beautiful than those in Mexico. We started in Playa Potrero, meeting Shannon and Josh and their huge golden Kaleb from The Next Adventures. We had a great night watching sunset and hanging with them and when they left town the next morning, we decided to stay. We parked steps from the ocean behind a fruit and veggie stand, picked up a rouge wifi network, had a German pastry truck deliver sweets twice a week, found fresh fish and unbelievable gelato, and met some phenomenal new friends: Tim and newlyweds Heather and Gaurav. We spent our 9 days exploring the neighboring beaches and communities on the motorcycle, finding a perfectly deserted beach entirely to ourselves and a picturesque white sand, crystal clear water beach the next. We watched sunset on the beach and joined our new friends for some great meals.

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+ did my own laundry for the first time since Mexico–so what’s that, like 4 months? We’ve been spoiled with dropping our laundry off but Shannon and Josh were sweet enough to let us use their washer before they hit the road. It was nice being the one to handle my own unmentionables.

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+ dumped the motorcycle on a rocky hilly climb. We’re ok, just a few bruises and scratches, the prettiest being a purply blue thing on my rear. Made walking around in my bathing suit kinda awkward. So not all days for us are picture perfect.

+ were the victims of our first theft on the road– our flip flops got stolen. In all fairness, we had camped for the night on the public beach in Tamarindo and should not have left them out. I hope they’ve broken on that SOB.

+ discovered a radio station outside Tamarindo that played only Whitney Houston. It was the greatest love of all!

+ realized buying in bulk isn’t cheaper in Costa Rica. For example, a six pack of the crappiest local beer, Bohemia–tastes like water or Miller lite or Coors lite, take your pick–comes out to 514 colones per beer ($1.03). But buy the beers individually and they are 470 each (.94). I do some serious math in the grocery. And that $1.80 I saved by buying 20 individual beers, well, let’s just say it will add up to something good. Maybe. Someday.

+ embraced the country motto Pura Vida!! We’ve camped for free every night in Costa Rica and found some spectacular beaches as we headed further south along the Nicoya in Tamarindo, Samara, Carrillo and Playa Islita.20140627-153625-56185449.jpg

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+ returned to Playa Potrero 2 days ago to begin our month long stay in a cute lil house with a sweeeeet backyard. A pool, beach down the street, A/C, wifi, cable, SPACE, friends around the corner–this is going to be a gooooood month!

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Random thoughts/ month 13

27 May

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It feels like we did a lot more this month than pervious ones. Probably because we were in a bunch of countries in such a short time span. This month we:

+ celebrated my 33rd birthday on April 30th while in El Tunco, El Salvador. Toby and Chloe stayed for the occasion and treated us to a fantastic noodle dinner at Take A Wok, which was the first thing I ate all day. The day before, I was close to death. I was the sickest I’ve been, progressively feeling worse, totally dehydrated and unable to hold down a thing. I finally took some meds in the morning and started a much needed round of cypro. Happy 33 to me!

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+ officially took out our first cable. We were squeezing ourself into a tight space and forgot to look up. The guy said it was his fault for the gerryrigged low set up but then asked for $5 to fix it.

+ got unbearably hot. Air conditioning seems to be a necessity out here.

+ stayed in our first hotel since beginning this trip in El Tunco to escape the heat. The girls hated it, can’t you tell?

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Then our second in Leon, Nicaragua while we volcano boarded (also escaping the heat).

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And our third in Chinandega while Hani recuperated.

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Notice anything different?

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+ got a nice stash of American goodies. When I went to the states for a wedding the first weekend in May, I had a night layover in Miami on my return flight. It was awesome spending time with my parents and weird seeing all our stuff we had packed away in their house a year ago. My mom bought us a bunch of random items we were missing/ needing from home. Now Hani has enough airborne and his manly Oil of Olay ribbons soap to last another 6 months.

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+ left Guatemala, toured through El Salvador, drove Honduras and have been in Nicaragua for 2 weeks. Our 90 day visas expire on June 8 so we’ll be entering Costa Rica soon. 4 countries down, 2 more to go.

+ chilled at an awesome surf beach hotel thanks to our new Florida friend we picked up in Honduras. Apparently there’s a group of Miami guys that have moved to the northern Pacific coast of Nicaragua. One found a wave and bam–Playa Aserradores is a destination among the surfing community. We spent a few days at Hotel Chanceletas, lounging around and had a great meal with an even more amazing view at the nearby Al Cielo property.

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+ had an extremely positive experience with Nicaraguan health care. Hani had 2 minor procedures done by a plastic surgeon and dermatologist while in Chinandega. He is now officially a woman. Ha. Kidding. He had a cyst removed that kept getting infected and a harmless-but-bothersome fatty deposit on his head taken out. $450 later (meds included), he’s healing up well and looking forward to people not asking him what happened to his head. (Central Americans can be very invasive about stuff like that.)

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+ discovered that Nicaraguans like their bombas almost as much as the Mexicans. And our poor dogs still aren’t used to the unnecessary freakishly loud blasts.

+ found the beach again at Poneloya after leaving Leon. We only spent a short time there because it was hot hot hot but the beach was pretty deserted and sunsets were spectacular. It reminded us of our days in Baja.

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+ saw the active volcano of Masaya. For $8, you can drive up the lip of the steaming Santiago crater and drive right out when it gets too hot and smelly.

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+ escaped to Lago Apoyo. I don’t know how, but we found a breezy non-sweltering area in Nicaragua and are forever grateful that it exists. This country is fantastic but we came at the hottest time of year. The lake is a volcano crater that houses a small laid back community of hotels and restaurants with a breeze to die for. We found a private property to park on for $4 a day (the owners live in the nearby town and rarely come to their lake house) and have our own little beach front. We swim and have taken the kayak out for the first time in a long while. It’s going to be hard leaving this spot, knowing our next stop–Granada–is supposed to be brutally hot.

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ONE

26 Apr

Happy trip-iversary to us!

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One year ago today, we drove out of Key West with plans of a one year trip up to Alaska, down to Panama, ending in a move to Austin, Texas. I never expected that a year later, we’d be in Antigua and finishing our month and a half stay in Guatemala, looking forward to crossing into El Salvador in the morning.

Four countries and 23,000
miles later, we’re still going strong.

Life is funny like that. You never know how long “a years trip” will really be. And we kind of like it that way. We made it to Alaska. We’re making our way slowly to Panama (we WILL make it to Panama). And as far as relocating, welllll we’ll just see where we land.

So here’s to more months (years?) on the road, more memories, and to many more adventures in Skyhorse!

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Random thoughts/ month 11

4 Apr

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Sorry this post is so belated. I was heading to NY when this should have been up and got sidetracked. Half this month was full of gorgeous green scenery and natural water formations. The other half was spent dealing with a set of truck issues that I’ve avoiding documenting (until now) and been dreading to acknowledge. This month we:

+ left the beach and traveled through the jungle state of Chiapas. We spent 13 days traveling there and could have easily spent 13 more. The region was just so incredibly lush and rich with culture and beauty.

+ visited an orphanage. Hogar Infantil boasts free parking for RVers, which draws a bunch of travelers to the grounds in Ocozocoautla. They school and house not only orphans but also Chiapan kids who live in rural areas and wouldn’t receive schooling otherwise. There is a farm, animals and gardens on the property. We walked the dogs around one day and the boys from one house swarmed us! Everyone wanted to either throw a stick for Olivia or hold Shae’s leash and treat her like a doll. The kids were beyond sweet, calling us Tia and Tio, and I seriously wanted to take them with us. They operate on donations. If you’d like to donate, visit: www.hogarinfantil.org

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+ threw up for this first time on this trip, a major milestone for me, as I get motion sick a lot. But this wasn’t motion sickness. I caught the plague in San Cristobal de las Casas and I have no idea what caused it. Felt nauseous one moment and was hanging out the back door the next. And I couldn’t stop. It was awful.

+ drove Mex 199 between San Cristobal and Palenque. We’ve heard rumors of roadblocks and “tolls” along this stretch and to proceed with caution. Some travelers we know avoided this road because of the warnings. But we decided to go for it. We locked everything up, carried a small amount of money and didn’t so much come across a single person on this entire road. Hani was disappointed.

+ skipped the Yucatan and Belize. We debated about where we were going after Palenque, Mexico for a while and opted against going to the touristy Yucatan and pricey Belize. We heard that boondocking isn’t easy in the Yucatan and we weren’t crazy about seeing a hundred more ruins. As for Belize, I would have loved to learn to dive (Hani is already certified) but that would have forced us to commit to one week in a hotel on an island where the diving is best. $2,000+ for one week just isn’t in the cards right now.

+ said goodbye to Mexico and crossed into Guatemala on March 12.
Last tacos in Mexico: delish! Probably the best we had during our time in Mexico.

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That was an interesting border experience. As I wrote before, leaving Mexico was a snap. The building was new, everything was clearly marked and stamp–we were on our way. Entering Guatemala…welllll, let’s just say we learned what not to do at the border: DON’T call the fees “shit” even if you think they are. DON’T start a shoving match with locals. And DON’T move cones away from the front of your vehicle and start your engine after the “officials” tell you to stay. I’m surprised we were let into the country. In our defense, no one wore uniforms so it was hard to tell the officials from the official idiots sitting around asking for “border fees,” the “bank” didn’t have cash and I had to exchange pesos for quetzales from a tuktuk driver, and was sent a ways to make copies. The buildings, if you can even call them that, consisted of a two trailers, what looked like a old food truck and a palapa. No flag, no “customs is here” sign. Nada. Because, I mean really, no one crosses at El Ciebo. It’s not even on our maps.

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+ are in love with Guatemala. It’s very much like Chiapas, Mexico–green and mountainous with great traditional food and clothing. The women are dressed to the 9s in traditional skirts and lacy or woven tops, cinched at the waist. They carry bundles of food or wood on their heads. And some do this barefoot. Bad. Ass. The people are incredibly friendly too. Everyone wishes you a good day with a smile. And every view is breathtaking, even as you are driving the crappiest road ever.
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And the country-wide ice cream brand…
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I mean, come on! These people know me!

+ explored Tikal, the impressive jungle ruins in northern Guatemala. We’ve seen our share of ruins at this point but the experience here was so different from the ones in Mexico. We parked outside Tikal (no dogs are allowed in the park) and moto-ed the 17ish miles at 5:30 am. Yes, you read that correctly. 5:30 AM! First time we’ve used the alarm this entire trip! Everyone said the park gets insanely hot once the sun is up so it’s best to go early. So we did. Turns out, it was a very overcast chilly day and even rained a bit (which was nice!) so it didn’t really matter what time we arrived. Go figure. But the park was pretty amazing. The ruins are tucked into the jungle even more so than at Palenque and you can climb up the majority of them. The views were spectacular from above watching the jungle below awake. We heard and saw a ton of shrieking howler monkeys. The rain kept most tourists away which made the park was pretty peaceful.

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view from the bottom

view from the bottom

view from the top

view from the top

 

+ headed to Rio Dulce and enjoyed a cool marine town. Hani marveled at all the sailboats while I lounged around and had a gigantic piña colada. We parked on a open lot with our back doors open to the river. From 2 to 6 daily, the wind picked up and rushed through Skyhorse. Best air conditioning yet!

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+ took a very expensive, but gorgeous, boat ride to see the very poor town of Livingston, where the Rio Dulce meets the Atlantic Ocean. We passed communities tucked into the mangroves that reminded me of “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” Lily pads, thermal waters, a cave and then Livingston, a town divided. Less than half the inhabitants are Guatemalans. They run the boats, the restaurants and majority of hostels and hotels. The majority on the island are Garifuna, descendants of African slaves and Carib Indians, brought to the area in times of slavery and since remained. They have their own culture, language, separate community and delicious cuisine. We met one of the Garifuna community heads while we were walking around and he gave us a tour of the area. It was eye opening to see how poor the people are (their school blew away a few years ago in a hurricane and have no money nor government assistance to rebuild) yet how happy and giving they can be. We had a scrumptious meal of tapado (seafood/banana soup with a coconuty broth), coconut bread and coconut black beans and rice. A-ma-zing!

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+ went to a hot waterfall and gorgeous canyon on Lago de Izabal. Hot water flowed off cliffs into cool limestone pools. Standing under the falls felt like a shower. Fab. At the canyon, we took a kayak until the rocks prevented a further ride then walked/swam even more down the river. Looking up was unbelievable.

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Then things got shitty…

+ took what looked on the map to be a short road from the waterfalls/canyon to Semuc Champey. Only this road–all 46 miles of it–is uphill, one lane with massive potholes and rocks and just horrible all around. It was by FAR the worst road we’ve been on to date. We drove literally 10 miles every hour. And at 6:00, we found a small clearing off the road and parked for the night with 30 miles left to our destination of Semuc Champey.

bumpy and blurry and concentrating like crazy

bumpy and blurry and concentrating like crazy

+ busted the transmission hose. The next morning we were up and ready to go and Hani noticed we were dripping a red oil, transmission oil. I guess the hose had been rubbing against some part under there and sprung a leak. And of course it’s a special kind of hose, the ONE kind that we don’t have as spare. Hani appoxyed the hole. Wait a few hours. Then a different appoxy. Wait a few more hours. No go. Now it’s 4:00 and we’re literally in the middle of nowhere and can’t leave. But hang on–there’s a construction site right up the road! I walked with Olivia, the scaredy-beagle, as security to the site looking for a mechanic. After a few moments, two guys came to our rescue. This pair swiftly cut off the bad part of the hose and said they’d return the next day with a way to reconnect everything. AN HOUR LATER, they were back, having welded some connection together to secure the existing good parts of the hose! They put everything back together and we were up and running. They even recommended a place in the nearest city (4 hours away) where we could buy a new hose. And then they didn’t want anything in exchange for all their assistance!! I was blown away! I mean, we are completely at their mercy with no way to get moving, they fix us using their manpower and machines and don’t want money–crazy! We stuffed some bills in their hands and they even came back the next morning to make sure we were all set.

+ continued on to Semuc Champey, a series of natural limestone aqua pools high in the mountains surrounded by lush jungle. To get to the park, you drive 6 horrifyingly disastrous miles from the town of Lanquin and then across a rickety bridge that has concrete barriers on either side and low (for us) hanging cables, all of which greatly reduced our turning radius onto the bridge. We just couldn’t get on the bridge. But kept trying. And I’m the world’s worst navigator. I started the nightmare by making Hani crash the passenger front bumper into one of the concrete barriers which cracked right next to the headlight and broke the hood latch in half. As if that wasn’t enough, I had him back up into the cables that tore off one solar panel completely and shattered another. I was a wreck. Hani was livid. The locals watching were silent. Needless to say, we didn’t attempt to cross the bridge again.

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+ fixed the truck. We spent the entire next day on the roof of Skyhorse parked next to the offending bridge reattaching the solar panel that had come completely off and taped up the panel that had shattered (thanks Kuypers). During this time, we were accosted by locals, yelling up to us on the roof, to buy chocolates and beer. The next morning we fiberglassed the front bumper inside and out and finally went into Semuc Champey while it dried. After all we had gone through the past few days, we barely enjoyed ourselves and kept saying that even though the pools were cool, we had seen more spectacular ones and the horrific travel/damage coming to this stupid site wasn’t worth it.

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the uncrossable bridge

the uncrossable bridge

+ replaced the transmission hose and did some random maintenance on the truck in Coban. We got new front break pads and a new fuel primer for the fuel filter over the course of 2 days.

+ bought 2 new (used) tires. The road from hell tore up our tires and 10s are hard to come by. Luckily, we got them for a good price because no one uses them.

+ parted ways for a long weekend. Hani dropped me at the airport in Guatemala City as I flew to NY for a friend’s bachelorette party and he continued on to Lago Atitlan. He claims he missed me, but after the heinous preceding week and a half, I think he was needing a break from my stupidity. It was weird being apart. After all, we’ve been attached at the hip for the past 11 months. As I was  having culture shock being in an insanely huge city, Hani hung out at a spot on the lake in Panajachel.

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Random thoughts/ month 10

26 Feb

Double digits baby!! And no signs of slowing down now. We are loving this carefree life too much.

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This month we:

+ finally left San Miguel de Allende and went to the Michoacan region. On the way, we ran a bunch of annoying errands (which included dumping our used oil, getting the fuel gauge fixed, and picking up a package at UPS, seemingly normal tasks but you’d be surprised. It’s freaking Mexico). So we “treated” ourselves to Mickey Ds. Our first in Mexico. And it was every bit as tasty and unhealthy as in the states.

+ spent some time in Patzcuaro, a cool historic village with an awesome market. We found some delicious eats, sat in the bustling grassy square, met Kevin an American who gave us a walking tour of Patzcuaro’s highlights and hung out with Audree and Simon, travelers from Canada.

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+ butterflied. It. Was. Unbelievable. (See Mariposa post for full details and pictures).

+ visited some ruins. We saw the Tzintzuntzan ruins on Lago Patzcuaro, went with Sam and Erica to Teotihuaca the pyramids outside Mexico City, and finally to Monte Alban outside Oaxaca. Each time was fantastically amazing and fantastically stifling outside.

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+ made the traffic blunder every overlander dreads–we drove THROUGH Mexico City. Because it’s one of the most populated cities, every overlander book and blog strongly advises to go around the city center. But we missed a turn and ended up in the heart of it all. Traffic was surprisingly light and we didn’t get stopped by the police. I was completely impressed with our luck!

+ played with Toby&Chloe and Sam&Erica in Teotihuaca. We all found ourselves at the same campsite at the same time so we explored the town together.

+ survived our first intense Mexican festival. Cannon-sounding fireworks were set off throughout the night for an entire weekend. The dogs, especially Olivia, were beyond freaking out and didn’t even want to step foot outside.

+ lamely explored Mexico City. We bussed into the City on a cushy cheap coach and, feeling a cold in full swing, we rode a tour bus around town instead of hoofing it. I was just not in the mood. And sadly we opted against visiting the Museum of Anthropology. I really wanted to go, as it’s supposed to be one of the best in the Americas, but there was no way I could have made it. Unless Hani carried me.

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+ successfully navigated public transportation in Mexico City. In addition to the bus in, we metro-ed. The metro was immaculate but vendors jump on at every stop selling crap and, like a chant, annoyingly repeat their item and price over and over again until they get out.

+ camped at our first Pemex, the national gas station chain. Guess it’s every traveler’s rite of passage.

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+ paid an absurd $90 on toll roads around Mexico City and down to Oaxaca. That meant no topes, no driving through tight village centers. Insanely expensive but worth not hearing Hani curse the crummy road system every 5 seconds.

+ marked 3 months in Mexico. Halfway through our visas!

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+ was introduced to the amazingness that is a tlayuda, a gigantic crisp tortilla filled with gooey cheese, refried beans, shredded lettuce, tomatoes and avocado. We had the best one on the street in Oaxaca. None have compared since but I dream (literally) about finding one.

+ tasted some interesting mezcals. We found a bar in Oaxaca where we tasted a turkey breast based mezcal then went to a mezcal distillery in Santa Maria del Tule where we sampled a bunch more. Of course we didn’t leave empty handed!

+ had a blast at the Overlander Oasis, an RV park owned by Calvin and his wife outside of Oaxaca in Santa Maria del Tule. They have been following our travels since the beginning and it was only fair to visit their place. Calvin organized a BBQ at the OO where the guest list included Toby&Chloe, Sam&Erica, Harmony&Mike from Canada, Alaskans Breena&Spencer of Straight Six Straight South and Trixie and Martin from Switzerland. I made some kickass (read: strong) margaritas, the men grilled, the ladies prepared side dishes, we bashed a lollipop filled piñata and ended the night with a rowdy game of cards. A great time was had by all!!

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+ left the mountainous cold and arrived back at the beach. Such a welcome (and hot!) change. But the 200 miles took 8 hours of slow windy tope-filled mountain roads.

+ cracked a limb. Right as we got to the beach in Puerto Escondido we noticed that one of the welds that holds up the plane had completely separated. I rushed around to find a welder but at 4pm, no work was actually going to get done that day. We spent the night parked outside the welder Cleofas’ shop (we were too scared to move the truck). Work began bright and early…and lasted alllll the next day, mainly because 30 minute breaks were required after every 5 minutes of work. And Cleofas kept disappearing. And his helper couldn’t work if Cleofas wasn’t there telling him what to do. All 8 joints that hold up the plane were reinforced. The end result was cheap and sloppy but done. Hani did a lot of the work himself, providing all the aluminum for the job, sanding down the old welds, and positioning the reinforcements. We found paint that matched the existing color and later, Hani painted the offensive-looking new brackets. Much better now.

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+ participated in our third turtle release! This one was in La Barra, outside of Puerto Escondido. The volunteers had thousands of turtle eggs they were monitoring, by far the largest organized rescue we’ve seen. At our release, we liberated almost 200 turtles. They were passing around buckets of turtles to each person instead of just the normal one turtle. It was beautiful watching all the little eager dots make their way to the water as the sun set. And then we turned to our right and saw a fisherman with a giant net. Guess he was having a hearty illegal meal that night. Fabulous.

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+ are in love with the Oaxaca coast, specifically Playa Zipolite. We have been parked next to our new adoptive grandmother’s restaurant for almost 2 weeks right on the ocean with our back doors open to the waves. The breeze is lovely, the waves spectacular and people really laid back (and naked–ew!!).

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+ watched a circus and a half! We found ourselves eating dinner at a mediocre restaurant in Zipolite to watch an acrobatics show a few nights ago. With the exception of the weird guitarist, the show was really cool! It kick started a week long (international?) circus event for the neighboring town Mazunte. We then went to Mazunte to see the opening night of the festival. We made it through one and a half acts of interpretive dance before we packed it in.

+ practiced yoga on the beach several times with the fabulous Marjorie. It was great to stretch and do some exercise while listening to the crashing waves. And yes, Hani even yoga-ed a few times.

+ have become fast friends with our yogi Marjorie, her husband Art, their baby Rita and friend Donny. They’ve been living in Zipolite since Christmas and are renting a house on a hill overlooking the ocean. We’ve done lunch, dinner, and a few homemade ice cream parties with them. Art and Donny took us to the nearby market twice to stock up on produce. And we can’t get enough of baby Rita!!

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