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.

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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!!!!!!!!!!!!

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El Salvador Financial Summary

Total money spent: $354.31

Total days: 17

So, we spent $20.84 per day, or $10.42 per person per day.  Basically, we were WAY under our $15 per person per day goal!  Woot!  El Salvador was our cheapest country yet!

The fact that food was half our budget proves how cheap everything else is, because food is still really cheap!  Especially if you eat pupusas.

Buses are also amazingly cheap, although dumpy chicken buses, in El Salvador.

We only paid for one night of lodging the whole time!

El Salvador would also be a great, easy place to travel if you had a car or a motorcycle.  Flights through Spirit Airlines are also really cheap, so you should go!

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The Last Stop – San Salvador

San Salvador was just…meh.  Supposedly it has the best nightlife in Central America but we didn’t really have time or energy to explore that.  The city is sprawling, noisy, crowded, polluted, and dirty.  We wanted to see more historical sights but everything is so spread out and we were just kind of tired and focused on making it to our flight in one piece.  So we wandered around the centro for a few hours and didn’t do much else.

san salvador
The cathedral
san salvador
Iglesia El Rosario

san salvador

I know we missed a lot in San Salvador, but it wasn’t one of our favorite cities, and honestly, we were pretty burned out.  Luckily we made it to the airport and we’re now at home sleeping for about a week to recover from all our 8 months of adventures!  Thanks for following along everyone!

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The Creeptastic Auto Hotel

auto hotel

Note: This is NOT a hostel review, it’s merely a story about an auto hotel that some of you will probably find hilarious and some of you will probably find disgusting (those of you who need to relax). 

So it’s 6:45pm and we’ve just pulled into the bus terminal in Sonsonate (nicknamed “Cincinnati”).  It’s been a long, hard day of tons of different buses from Panajachel, Guatemala and the border crossing.  Finally, we’re only an hour away from our destination San Salvador, and the free hotel that awaits us there.  We can make it!

Except…no.  Very unexpectedly, we are told that the last bus to San Salvador left 15 minutes ago.  What?  Usually buses run frequently until at least 10pm, especially for such a short trip.  But everyone confirms that there are no more buses ’til morning.  After checking the price for a taxi all the way to the capital, we give up and decide to just stay in Sonsonate for the night.  We ask the taxi driver if he knows of a “hostal muy economico” and he says yes, he can take us to one that only costs $10 per night.

Off we go, strangely, away from town.  Soon we pull up to the Auto Hotel Canada, a large complex that looks like a casino from the outside.  Once inside the front gate though, the taxi driver pulls right into one of many adjacent open garages.  “What is this?  Where is reception?” I was thinking, my sketch radar on high alert and my eyes checking to make sure the garage door was not going down.  Sensing that we were confused, the taxi driver told us to open the door inside the garage and pay through some “Spanish Spanish” that I didn’t get.  “Oh, AUTO HOTEL,” I thought, “It must mean you pay through an automatic machine or something!”  Not quite, it turned out, but we figured out what was going on eventually.

auto hotel
Nasty garage
auto hotel
See the brown box on the left wall?

You open up the box and it connects to a staff member across the wall.  You communicate and pass things between each other without ever seeing each other!  We put our $10 in the box, someone took it, and then gave us towels, change, and two free orange juices in return.  Finally we grasped what was going on…this is totally just a sex hotel!!!!!!!!!  Complete anonymity: you pull into a garage, put the door down, enter your room, pay and conduct all your business withoutever being seen.  What a genius yet quite terrifying concept…perfect place to have an affair, meet a hooker, or kill someone, you know?  Realizing where we were, we were definitely super creeped out at first.  We’d seen “Auto Hotels” everywhere, but never stayed in one or realized what they were.  But there was nothing we could do about the situation, and it was cheap and seemed clean enough, so we just had to laugh about the hilariousness of this place.

Other features of the “Auto Hotel”:

The price was $10 but for only 12 hours exactly.  We got there at 7pm and were told (through the box) that we had until 7am.  Okay, I guess we’ll get up early!  Guess they gotta wash the sheets and get ready for the day shift!

Huge mirror on the wall

TV with only one “special interest” channel

Lock on the toilet paper

auto hotel

auto hotel
The bottom sign says: “Esteemed Guest: Pick up the phone to ask for your frequent client card.” Ha!!!!!

Apparently auto hotels are an institution around Central America, and we can see why.  The culture is very socially conservative, very Catholic, and most young people live at home until they marry.  Also, prostitution is legal.  Places like this are the only place to go for some people seeking to engage in certain activities.  I’m not passing judgement one way or the other; I just thought staying in an auto hotel was a very interesting (and funny) cultural experience.

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Hotel Tazumal House in San Salvador, El Salvador

Hotel Tazumal House

Hotel Tazumal House is a professional and cozy place to stay in the safe and quieter neighborhood of Boulevard de los Héroes in San Salvador, El Salvador.  The hotel is spotless with soft white sheets and pillow-top beds.  The rooms are also equipped with air-conditioning, WiFi internet, TV with cable, hot water, and personal mini-fridges.

Hotel Tazumal House

The staff at Hotel Tazuamal House are ready to help, with large detailed maps of the city and lots of information on local tours and activities.  Included in the price is a choice of several breakfast options ranging from delicious pancakes to a local “desayuno tipico.”

Hotel Tazumal House

Hotel Tazumal House is a great choice if you’re looking for a place to retreat from the noise and crowds of the capital city.  Only a bus ride away from the center, the hotel is a tranquil and comfortable option!

Services:

Mini-fridge

Included breakfast

Free drinking water

A/C

WiFi

TV with cable

Hot water

Computers with internet

Car rental available

Maps and tour information

Address: 35 Av Norte #3, Reparto Santa Fe, San Salvador

Phone: +503 2235-2506

Website:  www.hoteltazumalhouse.com

Email:  info@hoteltazumalhouse.com

Prices:

Single: $33

Double: $43

Triple: $53

This post was sponsored by Hotel Tazumal House.

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Jungle Rash – Visiting The Doctor In Antigua

The morning after hiking in Parque Nacional El Imposible in El Salvador, I woke with a strange burning sensation all over my fingertips.  As the day progressed, my hands got redder and redder and I started having trouble unscrewing water bottle tops and unzipping backpacks.  It started to get so that my hands really hurt every time that I touched anything.  As soon as we got to Antigua, I went and bought some Benadryl and hoped that the antihistamines would knock the problem right out.  It didn’t so we had to go to the doctor in Antigua.

In the morning I found my hands to be slightly worse and when I stood, I noticed that my feet hurt horribly.  What was worse, when I walked to the mirror I noticed that the rash had moved to my nose and I looked like a zit-faced teenager.  But, being stubborn, I refused to go to the doctor and just hoped that the medicine I was taking would start to work.  After all, I hadn’t been to see the doctor in about six years!  I probably bragged about it and didn’t knock wood!

By afternoon I was having trouble walking and my hands and face had grown worse.  We went to the pharmacy to get something stronger and the pharmacist suggested we go see the doctor.  So we walked a block to where he recommended we go, to the best English-speaking doctor in Antigua, Dr. Marco Bocaletti (Address: 3 Avenida Norte, No. 1 Appt. 3).  It was about 6pm on a Friday night, yet the doctor was surprisingly IN.  I waited about 15 minutes and then I was shown into his office.  He looked me over and agreed that my rash was probably from some kind of plant that I touched.  I was prescribed some stronger antihistamines and an antihistamine skin cream.  The doctor spent a lot of time with me and answered all of my questions.  He was way friendlier than my usual doctors in the USA!  The visit cost about $32, payed in cash to the doctor.

My jungle rash. Doesn’t look as bad as it was in photos.

The skin cream felt MAGICAL and by the next morning all the redness was gone.  However, I could tell that the rash had done a lot of damage.  My hand was pretty much senseless, with the most numbness at the finger tips.

After a few days almost all the dots have faded.  All of the callouses on my finger tips are falling off and there is a lot of dead skin in general.  My face is looking almost perfect, but my feet still have some sore spots.  At least once I peel off the dead skin I can feel again!  Note to self: don’t touch anything and just get home!

Eventually all of my fingernails and toenails fell off and grew back really weird.  It was quite the experience returning home looking like that after 8 months of healthy travel.  Mom was very pleased.  Good thing I visited the doctor in Antigua or who knows how bad it could have gotten.

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