Monday, September 21, 2009

The video/slide show is up. Because of size I had to split into 2 files. Please click on below images to view.


Sunday, July 12, 2009


Summation I:
It was fun. Not necessarily life changing, especially in the sense of finding my calling or deciding to give my life savings to a charity (although I know many organizations that could really use $27) but possibly life refining to the degree of any 6 months you spend doing anything and likely even slightly more so in a new and different environment, but to be fair and true it really was more simple enjoyment than anything else.

Summation II: Common sense statements, learnings and literary wanderings based on aimless wanders

On this day I find myself starting over this section once again, and as always my gaze wonders from the gnarled up notebook and this time lands on the transparent turquoise of the Caribbean, viewed from a point above, however I can´t seem to see through the clearness, thanks inpart to the rare whitewash to my right and the sun´s reflection blanketing and bounding towards me from left yonder.

My goal of sorts for the last few weeks has been to look through the fun, and jot down learnings, important takeaways and experiences to partly justify the experience (money spent, over 250 hours of bus travel and a few good bouts of food posioning), but really to finally sit down, examine, pick apart and highlight the last 6 months of life... of constant movements where at the time it often wasn´t easy to tell what I was experiecing or that a seemingly normal moment would be one that still impacted me months later.

However, it´s been suprisingly difficult to write, I guess because there is so much to remember and because I´m impacted and learn from the unknown and different and this has been a place where adaption is easy, but rarely truley needed because life here just doesn´t seem that different anymore and has seemed that way for a long time now. Especially ringing true through the tranquil tan encircled gaze at nothingness and absolute natural beauty I´m wearing now, somehow seeing two things at once. But to attempt to fight through the excuses, complacency and fear of coming across as preaching here it goes.

1. My first day in the Bolivian orphanage I saw kids showing off their soccer skills, dragging me by the hand wanting to show me their special place or thing in the facility, laughing at me and making fun of my poor spanish language skills, height, hair color, etc., stealing my sunglasses and wearing them around proudly, and demonstrating how cool they were by breaking the rules. Some kids were outgoing and tried to be at the center of attention. Some shy. And some of the little ones just wanted to hang out hoping to catch the feeling of love from a new, possibly parent aged figure. I felt like I was home.

In my mind the kids here behaved exactly as they would back home.

In fact, the people I´ve encountered in South America just seem like the same normal people I´ve known for years. Sure the adults are slightly molded by the environment, but the differences have been few.

I guess one of the big differences here is that strangers are usually more willing to help you, especially the poor. At first I attributed this to them having less to lose, but I think it´s really the community way in which they live. With poverty sometimes at extremes and personal privacy barely present, these people survive living as a group and it seems normal for them for people to ask for help and them to give it.

In addition, one of the highlights has been meeting, talking with and usually sampling the local beers with travelers from well over 20 countries. It's always interesting to hear their perspectives on politics and country sterotypes, but I've found I have more in common with these people than most back home.

People from different places are really really similar (first common sense statement).

2. While in Lobitos a man selling bread from a basket perched on his shoulder would come by our hostel every morning. It would cost 33 cents for 8 pieces of bread. He couldn´t have made much, his clothes were rags, and I never saw him lose his smile.

On many bus journeys and a few strolls I would find myself in a very poor section of town. Shacks would line the street with gaping holes in the roofs, in the walls, and in the people´s shoes that inhabited them. However, one thing would almost always be a constant in one of these sections of town, tons of people would be outside. Usually congregated around the local store or restaurant, with music shaking through the dusty air, and the people playing a table game of sorts or talking, smiling, and laughing. The joy would be constant... And there is something so much purer in poor joy.

Refreshing to see the cliche living vibrantly around you that money doesn´t make happiness.

3. I´ve encountered far fewer beggars in South America than I have in the US. People want to work. In most places the poor try to at least sell something and earn money.

4. I´ve talked to many travelers who have traveled the world over and it´s interesting the countries they mentioned with the friendliest people - Iran, Afghanistan, Philippines, Laos. For me Colombia has been the warmest and most welcoming, a bit of a surprise given the US´s rocky history of international relations with Colombia and arguably some continued questionable operations within. What´s even more of a surprise is that formally uneducated Colombians can hate the US, know I´m from the US and still separate me from my government and treat me warmly... a tough concept not even always understood by the most educated

Countries aren´t evil and people are different than their governments

5. Travel times have a whole new meaning. For example a 4 hour trip has become a short ride instead of a debate if there is enough time to make the journey for a weekend.

6. With the group I have been traveling with the last few weeks we've debated the highlights of the travels and changes if we did this trip over again. The highlights are many and cover the whole list of countries, different experiences and many people, while barely any regrets surface.

For me all the countries and almost everything was good.

Bolivia was amazing. A wide range of different cultures, beautiful varied landscapes and was amazingly affordable. Peru was also really good and I wish I had another month to spend there and cover whole sections of the country that were completely missed.... But I guess more time could have been used in almost every place... possibly setting up a return visit for one day.

Fly home tomorrow. I might try to put together a video from the travels, but not sure if I have the technical capabilities. Therefore, if I do it I´ll probably post it here in a month, if not, this is it...

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Colombia Caribbean

Mud Volcano
Day trip from Cartagena to the largest mud volano in South America

Largest... and apparently best guarded and safest

Los Naranjos
Set off by myself in seach of Caribbean surf to the "town" of Los Naranjos. When I got dropped off I realized it wasn´t a town at all, but instead barbed wire encircled private drives. After getting turned around at one I ventured to the next which happened to be a coconut farm and I found a hammock to sleep in for 2 nights.

Los Angeles Coconut Farm- a good place with basically all you can eat and drink cocos given that you climb up a tree to retrieve them.

The beach - with suprisingly decent surf (not pictured here) and the friendlest local surfers I´ve ever encountered. Waves decent enough to break my board (ripped leash plug out) and then fixed with some resin a guy had on hand.

And I finally got rid of the surfboard, trying to sell it to this great local guy for a few bucks and he forced me to take more.

Parque Tayrona
Arguably the most beautiful Colombian beach and one of the best in the world. Had to hike about 2 hours to get to Cabo San Juan where I slept 2 nights again in hammocks. This time perched on a point with a 270 degree view of the clear turquoise.

Tough to beat lodging

Currently staying in fishing and vacation town of Tagonga eating up days until flying home. In a 3 day open water SCUBA diving certification course.

View of Colombia

Getting SCUBA certified, laying on the beach, drinking incredible fresh fruit juices

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Bogota, Medellin, Cartagena


Few day stopover in capital city. Walked around town and stumbled across a party on the 30th floor one evening with panoramic city views.

Another few day stop, this time in Pablo Escobar´s former hometown. In parts, was the most upscale city of the trip so far.

The perfect utensil for eating chicken - plastic gloves

A rare chance to do something good for the body

Night bus up to the Carribean and the romantic city of Cartagena (especially true if you find it romantic when your significant other is constantly wearing a thin coat of perspiration).

The travel group at the moment on the hotel deck, Michele, Ant, Abdi, Shane.

Playa Blanca
Boat trip to snorkle off the coast of the Rosario Islands and then stayed a night at Playa Blanca.

Slept in hammocks about 20 ft from the clear blue for about $3. I have a deep love for hammocks, a love for taking siestas in them and for what they embody, but found out it´s not the most comfortable way to spend the entire night.

With the beauty come the bugs

Some of the guys left earlier hitching rides of the back of locals bikes
Bumming around the Carribean coast for the next 2 weeks. Re-entry into reality is coming soon, with a return plane ticket having recently been purchased for July 13th.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Ecuador and the start of Colombia

Ecuadorian beach town similar in look and feel to Mancora, but probably had a bit more laid-back vibe in day and fesitive mentality after dark. A good place... unfortunately we arrived on a Sunday night in the off-season so it was quiet and the sea was chop so we didn´t stay long.

A return to the mountains to a town which is named after it´s hot springs or baths (also the word for bathrooms). Probably rained more in the 5 days we were there than it has in the prior 5 months of travel, so pictures are limited to ensure continued camera operation.

We did visit the hot springs, but they were nothing special and not worth writing about... well except when an English guy I´m traveling with used an elderly lady´s bar of soap for the pre-shower and she didn´t appreciate it, but that was just somewhat typical, confusing and hilarious spanish comedy.

I also did a 3 day white water kayaking course. Two days in a swimming pool and then a day on the river.

Learned to roll over, sometimes it worked...

and sometimes not so much. A good time with the highlight of course being on the river and the highlight of that was coming across 8 or 9 Ecuadoran boys swimming/bathing in the river. After a minute I had 4 of them hanging off of and sitting on the Kayak as I attemtped to paddle downsteam.

The Evil Empire of Colombia
So before the start of this trip (and really for the last 26 years) I´ve read and likely watched the same Colombian news highlights as you of how FARC is running wild and how this drug rich country continuously plots how to poison America´s youth. I had no desire to come here.

However, every person traveling that I talked to that had been to Colombia not only recommended it, but listed it as a highlight, with the most common claim being that the most friendly people residing in the sud americas live in this great dangerous evil empire. After hearing the same praises repeated, I set aside almost a month to travel here, basically ran though Ecuador to make it, and shockingly somehow lost even more faith in the always "objective" American media.

Toured around the town of Cali for two days. A good stopping point to break up the journey to Bogota, but was a nice big somewhat typical city... probably the richest city I´ve visited in several months. Was also rummored to have the most attractive woman in the world (often aided my modern plastics), but didn´t seem overly superior to other places.

Stopped in Armenia to do a coffee tour. Found one about an hour out of town via local busses and then a 2 km walk down a plantane tree lined road.

Bean picker - makes about 15 cents per kilo picked. Picks around 70 - 100 kilos per day.

The winter cafe picking atire

New Zealand guy I´m traveling with, Shane, drying out the beans. Over a two hour tour where we saw and participated in the whole process.

Ant, Shane and I and one of the best cups of coffee I´ve ever had.

Night bus to Bogota tonight.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Lima and Northern Peru


Esentially a living cesspool.

Stayed in the rich beach-side suburb of Miraflores. Also a cesspool, just with more money, American fast food chains, and an overcast/smog layer hovering over possibly the most polluted and trash strewn beach/sea out there.

Two notable things happened in Lima:
1. Bought used surfboard, wetsuit, bag
2. Rode in the backseat of a cab wedged between 2 prostitutes. Long story, but we assumed they were well intentioned locals, and soon after our 30 minute cab ride began I realized their intentions were slightly different than well intentioned.

Chicama (Puerto Malbrigo)

10 hours north to small fishing and surf town famous for claiming to have the longest left hand wave in the world (2km - 4km rides on a good swell)

For the first 2 days had a bit over head-high waves with a few sponsored surfers in the water and professional photographers on the beach.

The foam stairs: A beautiful long peeling wave with a view from our deck. Other than surfing, ate cheap seafood and slept.


North another 8 hours to resortish town of Mancora, white beaches, clear lake-like water and large leafs roofing the restaurants and beach shacks. We were there mid-week in the off-season, so not too much craziness, but a fine place to relax for a better part of a week.

Traveling in style

A bit of an oxymoron - resort hostel where we stayed for about $10 per night

Beach soccer


Small small town about an hour south of Mancora and one of the highlights of the trip so far. Historically a military base. Now a hot spot for off-shore oil. And also a world class surfing beach since El Nino reconfigured the beaches a few years ago, with about 7 waves breaking within 2 miles of town.

View from the one hostal in town

The hostal - $5 per night. With food probably spent between $10 - $15 a day for the 9 days I was there.

A pretty good swell hit while we were there, probably peaking with about 3 foot overhead waves

Small town got a bit crowed when the waves hit. A few videos being shot from the beach.


Arrived in Montanita, Ecuador yesterday. Another beach town to relax for a few days... a hard life