Well, that’s it we are done traveling. Kinda….
We are planning to move to Kelowna BC in May, and are begining the hunt for a room to rent for the first few months. It’s going to take some time to get our lives back on track, get jobs, find furniture, locate a proper apartment ect… Until then we will be staying in Montreal and visiting our friends and family in the area, eating good food and sorting out how we are going to get our meager possessions shipped to us in BC.
The end of the trip was great, we really enjoyed Panama and the Bocas del Toro islands. We met loads of great friends there and played on the beach for hours and hours. It was a nice high point to end with and I’m very glad that it turned out that way.
What does this mean for this blog?
Well, Magalie will still be editing photos and back-dating her blog posts for the next 6 months or so, when that happens I may make a few more videos and this is where I will post them. I also plan on putting together a few general posts about long term travel and exotic travel planning. I would like to turn it into a bit of a resource for ‘would be’ travelers to get a little info. Lastly I am a big fan of statics in my travels and it’s going to take some time but I will be posting a few here once I compile them. Until then I will leave you with these:
Total days on the road 575
34 different countries
Visas & stamps in my passport 93
3 broken watches
3 broken flashlights
3 penguin species spotted
Yesterday we arrived on Boca Brava, a tiny island outside a marine park on the Pacific side of Panama. Getting here was much much easier than we expected (just one of those days where everything seems to line up just perfectly without effort or planning). We walked to the bus station, found the un-labled mini-bus to Boca Chica. It left a bit late and dropped us off a bit early, but our bus change was fight behind us and our bags barely touched the ground. As we rolled into Boca Chica the bus driver slowed to have a heated conversation with an old lady while a guy sitting nearby noticed us 2 ‘gringos’ sitting in the back. He asked us if we needed a boat to get to the island and offered to call his friend who captained a boat. His friend was waiting for us when we arrived and once again our bags never even touched the ground. We pulled right up to the hotels’ dock and our journey du jour was over.
If you’ve ever done any backpacking, you know that it’s rare that the stars align like that and you have a seamless travel day, but every so often you just get lucky. Yesterday was one of those days.
After an excellent dinner (Lobster for Mag and a bacon-cheeseburger for myself) we were chilling on the bed watching an episode of the Big bang Theory when we had a uninvited guest. A 4 inch scorpion climbed up onto our bed almost as if to say, “Hey guys whatcha watchin?” He freaked the crap out of me (Mag was much more calm I’m ashamed to admit) and sent my heart racing. Growing up in Texas I’m no stranger to scorpions, but they have always been one of the things to give me shivers. I feel like God decided to improve on the design of a spider by adding crab-claws and a wicked stinging tail. As a cruel joke he added a propensity for them to sleep in your shoes. This scorpion didn’t fancy our flip-flops, so he crawled straight into my pillow case. After I regained my composure I smashed him with a shoe, but I was jumpy as hell all night long.
We made our way up the Caribbean coast of Colombia looking for beach. Maggie was looking forward to clear blue water, and I just wanted to have some time to read. We arrive at a busy intersection in Santa Marta to catch our ‘chicken bus’ (full of locals, stops anywhere, cheap, minor danger of breaking down on every bump in the road) and while I was trying to verify that we had the right bus Mag poked her head into the bus and came back with the consensus that there wasn’t enough room. Chicken buses don’t have compartments under the bus for luggage or cargo, everything gets piled up in the aisle behind the driver. In this case she appeared to be correct because the area behind the driver was packed to the roof with sacks, luggage, a mattress, but no chickens *sadly*. Never one to turn down a fare the bus helper-guy grabbed our backpacks and simply wedged them into the middle of the aisle right next to our seats. Granted this meant that anyone who wanted to pass had to hurdle our bags, but at least we got some seats. 8000 pesos ($4.00 u.s.) and 2 hours later we were almost the only ones left on the bus. The driver pulled over amidst a bunch of stalls on the side of the highway and shouted “Palomino” and motioned for us to get off. ‘Town’ consists mainly of a few restaurants and stores that services long haul truckers to Venezuela and a single gas station. The always handy bus helper-guy pointed down a dusty dirt road and said “playa” and then in a cloud of exhaust the bus was gone.
We wandered down the road for 3 km and eventually came to the beach, this was where the 1st story begins.
Whenever we arrive somewhere without reservations one of us will plop down somewhere (cafe/bar/park bench/shady tree) while the other one has a look at the accommodation options. It never ceases to amaze me to see groups of backpackers trudging from hostel to hostel with their packs on toiling in the heat. It was my turn *again* and Mag hung out under a coconut palm guarding the bags. I checked out all 3 accommodation options in the area and settled on the slightly desperate landlady’s place that also had a kitchen *bonus!* and went to collect Mag. On my way out the door I popped my head into the bathroom to check out the facilities and I noticed a bat hanging from the rafters over the toilet. I pointed this out to the landlady and she let me understand that it was no problem and she would shoo it away. Now I’m willing to let something like that slide once (it’s the jungle after all) but when we returned the bat flew right back into the house, zipped around the kitchen and settled right over the toilet again. The lady was swatting at him with a broom and he deftly flew through the living room and out the front door. He sure knew his way around. Mag and I didn’t even have time to take off our packs before he was back hanging above the toilet again. Needless to say we didn’t stay there for the week.
Story number 2
I am a huge fan of tubing. Where I’m from in Texas it is a very serious pastime, and much time in the summer is devoted to floating down rivers in innertubes and drinking beer. The perfect activity for the football offseason, and you even get bonus ‘spending time in nature’ points. Palomino is framed by 2 rivers that flow down from the Sierra Nevada mountains and when I heard that you could go tubing there I got very excited. Tubing in Colombia isn’t quite as sophisticated as it is in Texas, there are no busses to take you to your destination, there are no cooler tubes full of beer, there are no shacks on the side of the river to sell you more beer. What there is though is jungle. To go tubing in Palomino you head to the largest hostel where they will call you a motorcycle taxi and let you borrow one of their tubes. For 15,000 pesos you hop on the back of a motorcycle, hanging on to your tube and ride up a mountain. It is probably one of the stupider things we have done on the trip, but… tubing! …. after a 30 minute ride through the jungle on an underpowered motorcycle, and through rocky creek beds, and over a bumpy, sandy, dusty,
road err trail the taxis could go no further. We payed the men and proceeded to hike for 45 min with our tubes further into the mountains. We were so far back that at one point we could see snow covered peaks. It was gorgeous. We came back down to the river and hopped right in. The water was clear with a slightly green tinge, and pretty quickly moving most of the time. It was about 2 – 4 feet deep and pretty wide, ideal tubing conditions (if only we had brought some beer). For the next 2 hours we drifted downstream listening to the exotic birds in the trees, dodging figs that were dropping into the river and marveling at the scenery. As we neared town we started to see more people using the river to fish and do laundry. At one point there were a bunch of locals chasing something around in a shallow part of the river. The kids were squealing and running from it and the adults were trying to head it off and catch it. My first thought was, “Holy crap we’ve been tubing in crocodile infested waters” but one of the men reached out and grabbed it by the tail and held up a huge iguana. I have no doubt that there were dangerous snakes and probably other things in the water, but ignorance is bliss and I’m glad we didn’t see anything dangerous. At the end the river narrows and we were at last swept into the sea amidst flocks of birds and the crash of waves. It was a great day and one that I will remember for a long long time.
After an extraordinarily long day we finally made our way to Colombia, just in time for a quick ceviche dinner and then to fall wearily into bed. The next day was our first full day in Colombia, and we wandered through the streets flipping a coin at each intersection to decide which direction we should head. We stuck mainly to the old town which is picturesque and really ‘feels’ like the Spanish Main. Mag snapped a bunch of lovely photos and has generously allowed me to post them before she has had a chance to edit them. Thanks honey!
We are loving Colombia thus far, great food, friendly people, tasty exotic fruits on every corner… We are heading up the coast tomorrow to try and find some nice beach and a hammock maybe do some diving.
It is official, we are headed back to Canada on March 28th, 2012. Our first stop back will be Montreal (where all our stuff is) and where we will get to spend some quality time with my in-laws. As you can imagine there is quite a bit of catch up to do after taking a trip of this magnitude (It will officially be just over a year and a half total) such as taxes, banking, license renewal, Maggie’s green card application, finding an apartment in Kelowna, and eating foie gras.
We expect that this will occupy our time for around a month and then we plan to head back to B.C.
Having already booked our homeward bound flight, the only thing left to do on our around-the-world trip is enjoy the beaches of Columbia. I am very much looking forward to swinging in a hammock between some palm trees with a glass of rum slowly sweating in my hand. Also there is a cool lost city somewhere in the jungle north of Cartagena which stirs the “Indiana Jones” in me, so we will check that out while we are there.
The end of the trip approaches and while I am excited to see my friends and family again, eat my favorite foods, have access to English books, the internet, and many many other luxuries that are usually taken for granted I remain focused on enjoying the hell out of the last little bit of traveling that is left to me.
Canada, I’m coming home!
I have been trying to think of other activities that I have done for 500 days in a row. Thus far I have come up with, well… nothing!
But today marks a serious milestone for our travels around the globe, our 500th day. We are in Posada, Argentina and intend on celebrating by trying to find an open restaurant (a more difficult task than previously anticipated). Most of the town has taken their summer vacations to the coast and many shops and stores are closed for a few weeks. To compound the issue there is a 5 hour siesta in the middle of the day when everything (even the grocery store) is closed. Fortunately we have a nice hotel room on the 11th floor looking out across the river at Paraguay where we will be heading this weekend.
Today also marks the first day of the end of our travels, as we have booked our flight back to CANADA. After much thought discussion and soul searching we have decided to return to the Pacific northwest to settle down for good. It is a bittersweet decision as there is still so much of the world that we haven’t had a chance to see, but our budget and our stamina have dictated that some places will have to remain unseen.
Our final itinerary is as follows:
1 week in Paraguay
60 days in Columbia
1 week in Panama
A brief stop in Montreal to see family and arrange moving our things back to B.C.
and that is it.
I had hoped to catch a glimpse of the southern lights while we were down here in Punta Arenas. I had the good fortune of seeing the Aurora Borealis (Northern lights) on Vancouver Island during an evening of heightened solar activity 2 years ago, and was hoping that by getting very close to Antarctica I might be in luck. Sadly the combination of constant cloud cover and being on the “wrong” side of Antarctica meant that there were no lights for us.
On the other hand we still had an amazing time here, we visited a Magellanic penguin colony and got to walk amongst 100,000 penguins. They were curious and only a little bit afraid of us (mostly when we walked too quickly) and one even tried to taste my shoe. It was a wonderful experience, and double wildlife bonus: we also stopped by a sealion colony for a few minutes on the way back to the dock.
We’ve had a great time in Chile, but now it is time to move onward we are heading to Argentina to do some hiking, whale watching, and catching up with friends in Uruguay and Buenas Aires.
A quick trip through Moldova and into Romania where we rented a car for a drive to Transylvania. We also caught up with our friends Liz and Josh in both Bucharest and Chisinau.
We have finally hashed out a sort of rough itinerary for the next 6 months or so, and I thought that I would share it with you. Please keep in mind that this is a really really rough idea as we want to remain free to lag behind in areas that we like and be able to wait out in-climate weather in Patagonia. Tentatively though it looks like this:
Now – Mid November: Make our way to a Patagonia springboard. Barlioche or Puerto Montt
Mid November -Mid December: Patagonia
Christmas : Ballena Franca national park or maybe Montevideo, Uruguay
New Years: Uruguay
Feb: Iguazu / Paraguay
March: Bolivia / Machu Pichu
April : Columbia
At that point we will do a serious reassessment of where we are, how much money is left, if we still feel like pushing into Central America, or if we are ready to settle down somewhere already.
While we are traveling we will be not just touring around, but also trying to decide where we want to live for the next 10 – 20 years. The current list of contenders in no particular order is:
Canada (B.C. Alberta, Montreal)
USA (Oregon, Cali, Texas, Georgia, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington, New Mexico)
Not to say we might not end up somewhere else, but thus far on paper (and according to some basic criteria have put down) these are the most likely candidates.
Lastly, when we were in South Africa… wait for it….. We saw PENGUINS! they were so awesome (but stinky but awesome). There was one that was coming out of the surf from fishing and every time the waves crashed over him he got drug back out to sea, it was hysterical.
I love penguins \m/ > < \m/
After a month of family meeting up with us on the road in Tanzania, Zimbabwe, and Argentina we are on our own once again. We are going to take some time to assess our current travel situation, and figure out what sort of route through South America we are going to take. As many of you know we are hoping to find our little corner of the world down here, so we will be looking for a place to settle down.
Most excitingly we are; for the first time on this trip, under no obligations to be anywhere at any specific time. We have no visas expiring, no festivals planned, no tour reservations… the calender is blank! I’m going to be enjoying that sensation for sure.
Stay tuned for a video with a few of the 7000+ photos from Africa. Now if only I could decide between “The lion sleeps tonight” and “I miss the rains down in Africa”