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Category Archives: Colombia

WHOA!!! Fritz The Cat sank!!!

Breaking news, hold the presses!  Fritz The Cat, the infamous vessel which ferried us and hordes of other backpackers from Colombia to Panama SANK!  That’s right, the catamaran is at the bottom of the Caribbean Sea.  Colombian news website El Tiempo has a video in which you can hear the captain, Fritz, yelling in Spanish for rescuers not to take his picture as you see The Cat half-submerged in the blue water.  Everyone came out alive, but how rough it must be for those 14 backpackers who lost everything.  Here is a link to the video and news article:

http://www.eltiempo.com/colombia/cartagena/ARTICULO-WEB-NEW_NOTA_INTERIOR-11995415.html

Our boat trip seemed pretty crazy, but it’s hard to imagine going through that whole ordeal.  Needless to say that it would have ruined our trip.  I can’t wait to hear more details about the wreck.  I feel like their will be a mention of captain’s error somewhere along the line.  They probably hit an iceberg.

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We end where we began?

The beginning

Summing up La Aventura Project in one post has left us here staring at a blank page for weeks now.  The same questions run through our heads: “What did we do?” and, “What did we accomplish?”  The jump back into life in the USA was quick, and we were immediately left with little time outside of work, back to normal US life.  The world we came from was stuck in the backs of our minds, left to dwell in occasional yearnings and stories misunderstood by their listeners.  When I have a street food craving at 11pm there is no friendly woman selling tortillas across the street.  Saddening, but it’s also nice to have a kitchen.

Here is a quick list of answers to some of the more popular questions we have been getting from friends and family:
Yes, they did in fact have electricity in Latin America.
Yes, we got sick a few times from the food.  But it was all delicious and we don’t regret trying everything!
No, we did not notice any drug cartel activity.
No, we don’t plan on settling down now or buying a house or anything like that.

Trying to make a list of our accomplishments sounded corny but I did it anyways to brag a little bit:
Learned Spanish to an intermediate level in which we could have decent conversations.
Traveled to 10 countries without flying.
Got engaged!
Learned much more about Latin American history than we did at school, more than most North Americans know.
Hiked the Inca Trail.
Built our blog into a resource for other travelers.

Regrets:  I wish we could have done more volunteering, but maybe you could say that we were more like scouts, examining the playing field.  We did have two stays at WWOOF farms, one in Colombia and another in Ecuador.  It would be fun to check out some more WWOOF farms in Central America someday.

The travel at first was much easier than I expected.  The roads were paved and the buses as nice as the Megabus that we took in the United States.  But as we entered Bolivia our luck was about the change.  It was there that we experienced transportation strikes and washed out highways.  Bolivia was by far the most “out there” country we visited.

La Aventura Project started as a film project and a longing to escape from it all.  Along the way we wrote more and more and eventually were able to use the website to make the adventure last longer.  We passed through phases of preferring writing over filming and vis-a-versa.  Near the end we really dreaded the thought of returning to the grind of working class society.  Here everyone makes little problems seem like the end of the world.  There there were real problems.

The future: We will continue adding to the website and will be posting hostel reviews by guest writes.  (More info if you are interested.)  Our goal is for the website to grow and continue as we start posting our travel tales from the States.  We’ll be beginning the US section of the website in September when we take a road trip across the northwest in the process of moving to California!  We’re also working hard to edit the documentary and we’ll post updates on that front as it gets done.

Ending where we began: So now we find ourselves in much the same place we were in when the seed of the idea for La Aventura Project began.  Making the most of the US and working hard to save money for future adventures.  Dreaming and trying to decide which continent to conquer next.  Asia?  Africa?  Europe?  South again to finally make it all the way to Patagonia?  We have no idea where we should go, but luckily we have awhile to decide as we work to replenish our bank accounts.  The only sure thing is that we can’t stay here for too long, so una nueva aventura is unquestionably on the horizon.

“There is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.” -Christopher McCandless

Chau chicos.

The Final Superlatives

We’re still working on a big, cleverly and intelligently written sum-up of the whole darn adventure.  It’s hard though!  It is coming soon, but for now enjoy the final edition of our La Aventura Project superlatives!

Days in South and Central America: 217

Dollars Spent: $10,586.14

Average Dollars per day: $70.45

Countries Visited: 10

Books Read: 22 (Carrie), lost track (Zach)

Doctor visits: 1 (Zach), 0 (Carrie)

Things We Lost: More random stuff than we remember

Favorite Food: ceviche (Zach), pupusas (Carrie)

Favorite Beverage: Colombian coffee, Campos de Solana vino tinto from Tarija, Bolivia, and Flor de Caña rum from Nicaragua

Best Wildlife Sighting: dolphins on the cruise from Panamá to Colombia

Nicest People: Colombians and Salvadorans

Most Touristy Countries: Perú and Guatemala

Most American Retirees: Panamá

Scariest/Coolest Experience: the eruption of Tungurahua Volcano

Most Liver Damage: Loki Hostel

Biggest Personal Changes: dreadlocks and eating meat (Carrie), actually speaking a second language (Zach)

Longest Bus Marathon: 3 days almost-straight, Trinidad, Bolivia to Arequipa, Perú

Best Hostel: Hostal Las Olas in Copacabana, Bolivia

Best Place to Open Our Bar Someday: Canoa, Ecuador

Most Sobering Site: civil war museum in Perquín, El Salvador

Most Life-Changing Moment: getting engaged

Sweatiest We’ve Ever Been in Our Lives: Nicaragua

Most Expensive Country/Most Fast Food Places: Costa Rica

Most Breeds of Potatoes: Perú

Best Shopping: Panajachel, Nicaragua

Creepiest Hotel: the Auto Hotel in Sonsonate, El Salvador

Favorite Country in Central America: El Salvador

Favorite Country Overall: Ecuador!!!!!!!!!!!!

Write for La Aventura Project/Stay in hostels for free

A big announcement today, everyone!  Since we are back in the US now, working real jobs again (boo) and editing the documentary, we don’t have as much to post here!  Thus, we are looking for current travelers in South or Central America to write hostel reviews for us and keep our directory growing!  If you are a good writer (in English), good photographer, and would like to stay in hostels and hotels for FREE, please contact us about an opportunity to write for our website.  We will also gladly feature a link to your own personal blog or website on all of your hostel reviews.  Again, we are only looking for travelers currently in South or Central America to review hostels in those regions.  Leave a comment or email us at laaventuraproject AT gmail DOT com if you are interested in more information about this awesome project!

Tasty Tasty Tap Water

I thought I would take a quick second to talk about where we have been told that the tap water is drinkable and our experiences with drinking it.  As we travel further, we will add to the list.

Bolivia:  We did not drink any tap water in Bolivia and would not recommend doing so.

Colombia:  We drank the tap water in the following cities:  Medellin – The water there was perfect and tasted pretty good.  Have not heard of anyone getting sick from it.  Bogotá – The water didn’t give us any problems but didn’t taste perfect and we were told that it bothers some peoples’ stomachs.  Cartagena – we drank tons of tap water there but one time I did have a pain that felt water related.  Taganga: We drank the tap water there but my stomach did feel a little weird a few times.  San Agustín – The water was pretty good and we had no problems.  Cali – We filled up our water bottle in the bathroom there and had no problems.  Popayan – We filled up a bottle in the bathroom at the bus terminal and had no problems.  Basically all the cities and population centers seemed fine.  However, out in the country and the places where the bus lets you off to eat lunch are questionable and you should always ask a local before doing anything stupid.

Ecuador:  The water there is not good.  Don’t drink it.  Baños – As of now the water is not safe but in the next few years they hope to have a new purification system running.  I did drink some water one night in Chugchilan when I was really desperate but it wasn’t a good idea.

Panamá:  We drank the tap water in Panamá City and had no problems.  Don’t drink the water in Bocas del Toro.

Perú:  We did not drink any tap water in Perú and would not recommend doing so.

Since we are always trying to save money, we try to buy as little bottled water as possible.  We always boil some in our hostel kitchens (at least three minutes of hard boiling to purify it) when we get a chance and if someone tells us we can drink from the sink we always do.  Yes, sometimes this comes back to haunt us but with the money we save I think its worth it.  Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?

The Passage to Panamá: Were We the Last?

We might have been.  While we were riding on Fritz the Cat, there was a message over the radio that the Cartagena immigration wasn’t letting anymore sailboats with backpackers on board leave port.  This was reportedly because they are trying to get the government-run ferry between Colombia and Panamá restarted.  We had heard many rumors that this ferry would be starting within a few weeks and cost around $100 and such but it still had no website, information, etc.  The ferry would greatly decrease the price of the crossing and would undoubtedly be a blessing for all of us poor fellows searching for the cheapest way across the dreaded Darien Gap.  Whether or not more tourist boats will cross is still unknown, but I would just suggest not to have too tight of a schedule if you are trying to sail.

Until the rumors of the ferry are proven true, there are still only two (recommended) ways to cross from Colombia to Panamá: either by private boat (like Fritz) or by plane.

By Boat:

Here is a rundown of the cost of sailing with Fritz the Cat:

$488 per person payed in USD.

$6 for a National Parks fee.

$3 for the boat from Fritz to where the road is

$25 for the 4×4 to Panamá City

Total = $522

Included on the boat are all 12 meals plus unlimited fruit, water, and lemonade until it runs out every night.  Activities include the two days cruising around the San Blas Islas.  Fritz also takes care of all the immigration stuff and you don’t pay anything to enter Panamá.

By Air:

For this I’m going to assume that you don’t care which Colombian city you fly from and you want to see the San Blas Islands in Panamá.  The cheapest flight I was able to find today was about $350 from Bogotá, Colombia to Panamá City, Panamá.  Add onto that the $66 airport departure tax and probably pay for a bag so lets say $450 for the plane.

The trip to San Blas is $50 for round trip in the truck from Panamá City, plus $6 for the boat round trip, plus two nights lodging on the Islands $20 per night.

Rough total = $496

If you add food to all of this then the total will be far over the $522 of sailing.  Even if you don’t want to see the San Blas Islands (well worth the money) then the $450 + 12 meals is still going to be more than the $522 for sailing.  Any way you look at it, the boat is the better deal.

Sure, there are other ways to get to Panamá.  One is by heading to the shady Colombian town of Turbo, taking multiple boats through different mosquito-ridden backwater villages until finally getting into the first town in Panamá, Puerto Obaldia.  There is no road out of Puerto Obaldia, so from there you can take a domestic flight to Panamá City for around $100.  This is possible, but no one really recommends doing it, so try at your own risk.

The price of these sailing trips has soared in the last few years, but we think it is still a great value and a great time.  Maybe the new ferry will start; maybe everything will stay how it’s been, but for now we feel lucky that we were some of the last (or the last) people to experience this amazing adventure.

Read about our voyage on Fritz the Cat.

The Passage to Panamá: Part Two

First read this: The Passage to Panamá: Part One

When we walked up to the deck after waking up on Day 3 of our cruise, this is the view that greeted us:

We had reached the Comarca Kuna Yala, otherwise known as the Islas San Blas, a pristine chain of paradisaical islands off the Caribbean coast of Panamá.  Most islands are totally uninhabited, but those that are are occupied by the Kuna people.  The indigenous Kuna have managed to maintain their culture and independence despite over 500 years of outside influence.  Their islands are technically part of Panamá but the group maintains a mostly autonomous government.

And their islands are literally PARADISE.  For the next two days, I felt like I was living inside a postcard!  Fritz cruised us around to several different islands where we lounged on white sand beaches, saw starfish bigger than dinner plates (sadly we didn’t get a picture of one), snorkeled over diverse coral reefs, and caught glimpses of Kuna life.

Absolute paradise!

Kuna huts

Kuna village

This is basically what the last two days of the voyage on Fritz the Cat consisted of: snorkeling, lounging, and taking in the beauty!  Watching the sun set and the stars come out each night as the anchored boat smoothly bobbed in the ocean was a surreal experience.  We also enjoyed lots of fresh seafood bought from the Kuna who would drive up to Fritz the Cat in canoes.  On the fourth day, as we were eating lunch, Zach glimpsed a flash of silver in the sunlight.  A dolphin!  It ended up being three dolphins who swam along side us for several minutes!!!  Watching them dart and jump alongside the sailboat was, I think, the most magical experience of our entire trip.  The rare privilege of visiting the Islas San Blas was definitely what made the whole Colombia-to-Panamá voyage spectacular.