¡Otra vez!

Northern AZ sunset
Northern AZ sunset

Funny how things come full circle.  Three years ago today, I sat in this same house, in this same town, Williams, AZ, planning the very first La Aventura Project.  Tomorrow we leave with the same initial destination in mind–Burning Man!  We’ve wanted to go back every single year since that first epic week.  It’s never worked out, until now.  As 2nd time burners this year I hope the experience will be more mythical, more colorful, more educational, more productive, shadier (as in…Zach’s very Boy Scout-ish hand-built shade structure) and just as exhilarating.  I also plan to write more about it and take more pictures!  (Yeah GoPro!)  , planning the very first La Aventura Project.  Tomorrow we leave with the same initial destination in mind–Burning Man!  We’ve wanted to go back every single year since that first epic week.  It’s never worked out, until now.  As 2nd time burners this year I hope the experience will be more mythical, more colorful, more educational, more productive, shadier (as in…Zach’s very Boy Scout-ish hand-built shade structure) and just as exhilarating.  I also plan to write more about it and take more pictures!  (Yeah GoPro!)  !  We’ve wanted to go back every single year since that first epic week.  It’s never worked out, until now.  As 2nd time burners this year I hope the experience will be more mythical, more colorful, more educational, more productive, shadier (as in…Zach’s very Boy Scout-ish hand-built shade structure) and just as exhilarating.  I also plan to write more about it and take more pictures!  (Yeah GoPro!)

Thoughts from on the road to Burning Man:

I REALLY hope Java Johnny is there again.

Man, that last bath felt so good.  I’m going to hold it in my memory dearly for awhile.

I’m so excited that we have a solar shower!

What did we forget?  Oh well, other citizens will let us borrow theirs.

I hope my outfits are rockin’ enough!

I wanna go to yoga every day! (Hope this happens.)

Will we be able to find all our friends there?

After the burn we head once again to SF (just like last time) to catch up with old friends and stuff ourselves on gourmet vegan food.  We will probably find ourselves sitting in a lot of bars on my laptop while I finish up last minute video work, but that will be totally worth it, because, then…

The next overseas venture begins!  On September 8 we fly to London by way of NYC (gotta have some fun there too!) for 6 weeks of western Europe and Morocco.  Couchsurfing, hitchhiking, train-riding, museum-going, backpacking, wine-tasting, face-stuffing, camel-riding, surfing, people-watching extravaganza!  Hopefully we’ll survive one trip involving four different foreign languages (more if you count Basque and Catelonian).

So stay tuned, although it’s only 8 weeks as opposed to a 7-month “aventura”, we’re still sooo excited for our first stint in Europa!  And I can’t believe I am finally going back to Africa!!!!!!

Now to wrap it all up, here’s a video of a very angry frog found in Arizona.

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/104949980″>frog</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/journeylostproductions”>Journey Lost Productions</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>

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Mexico City Adventure: Centro Historico

We literally ran out of work around 11pm the night of our flight, rushing to cross the border.  It was finally time for our long weekend Mexico City adventure!!! Delta Airport Parking is a convenient place to park on the US side if you’re going to the Tijuana International Airport.  It’s only seven dollars a day and they will drive you to/from the border 24 hours a day.  A $12 taxi ride took us to the aeropuerto.  Then we had to get $25 tourist visas to go past the border zone.  They don’t check if you have them on the way there, but do on the way back.  The visas last for six months so hopefully we can use them again.  Airport security was different.  “WE DON’T HAVE TO TAKE OFF OUR SHOES!?!?!”  ¡Viva México!!!

Since our flight left at 12am and lasted about three hours, it was still dark when we made our way towards the Metro.  Conveniently located right by the airport and taking you all over the city, the Metro is a cheap and efficient way to get around.  We grabbed some churros and easily navigated the subway to the Roma, a hip neighborhood where Jaime, our CouchSurfing host lived.  The architecture was cool, eclectic and Spanish with crooked walls from many, many earthquakes.   Our host was a great tour guide as we searched for early morning food.  We ate lamb tacos and tamales with mole.  We talked about food.  Life was good.

Getting some energy after eating, we let our guide go off to work and walked several miles to the Centro Historico, home to beautiful government buildings, museums, and many cool bars and restaurants.  Walking was really nice; its our favorite way to enjoy a new city.

Art at the central palace.
Murals inside the Palacio Nacional
Downtown DF - Mexico City Adventure
Templo Mayor

As I said, there are a lot of awesome places to eat and drink in the Centro Historico.  On our Mexico City adventure one awesome place we found was an old cantina, La Faena, which served dual functions as both a bar and a bullfighting museum.  Notice the very complicated matador-themed crown molding.  The best thing about cantinas is that with every drink you order you get some free food.  The more you drink, the better the food!  We started off with some bar nuts here, and after a few rounds were given amazing bean tacos!

Cantina/Bullfighting Museum - Mexico City Adventure
Cantina/Bullfighting Museum

I ate grasshoppers.

Mexico City Adventure
Obviously there are some mixed feelings on the eating of bugs issue.

Pulque.  It’s a lightly alcoholic drink made from the sap of the agave plant and flavored with various fruits.  Super thick and milky and not for us.  The bar was awesome though.

mexico city adventure
Las Risas, one of many places to grab a glass of pulque around downtown Mexico City.

Eventually, all the food and walking, plus the effects of being up all night caught up to us and we took the long walk home to crash for a nap at Jaime’s house.  The rest of the night involved some more relaxed wanderings around the neighborhood.

Coming up next in our Mexico City adventure: our trip to the pyramids!

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Baja Mexico Road Trip Advice

When you cross the border into Mexico, all of the stresses and worries of hectic United States living evaporate, leaving you instantly refreshed and rejuvenated.  Do you stay feeling so awesome after hitting your first pothole, the first American tourist that flies past you over 100mph, the first time soldiers with machine guns are digging through your car?  Here is a quick recap of problems, suggestions, annoyances, and misconceptions and general Baja Mexico Road Trip Advice.

-If you drive into Mexico your car insurance is no longer valid.  You can buy Mexican insurance at the border and there are several different options.  Since we have an old dumpy car, we got the cheapest available plan, $6 per day which would at least keep us out of prison in the event of a fender bender.  No one ever asked if we had this or not and I think a lot of travelers skip it. I wouldn’t take my chances.

-To travel south of Ensenada, tourists are supposed to get a card from immigration for $25 each.  We got them but this was also probably unnecessary, as no one once looked at our passports.  One soldier at a checkpoint did ask for my passport once but I told him “No tengo (I don’t have it)” and handed him my California driver’s license without a problem.

-Everyone told us to keep a $20 bill in a visible spot in the car.  Apparently $20 is “the fine” if the Federales (Mexican federal police, notoriously corrupt) stop you.  We were also advised to never give them your passport because to get it back you’ll have to pay much more than $20.  We never had any encounters with the Federales.

-Watch out for potholes!  We hit some bad ones but were lucky enough to not blow any tires.   Some of the worst we spotted had to be more than a foot deep.  No recovery after hitting that.  Also, there are a lot of unmarked speed bumps.  If you were driving the speed limit these wouldn’t be a problem.  However, you won’t be driving the speed limit.

-Don’t run out of gas!  Most Baja maps show you which towns have gas stations.  There are some very long stretches without and you’ll need a full tank!  Plan wisely, or you’ll end up stranded!

-No one drives the speed limit.  If the sign said “40 km per hour” I tried not to exceed 40 miles per hour.

-People hassle you to buy tours and souvenirs, especially in Tijuana and Cabo San Lucas.  Just say “No gracias,” firmly and continue like they aren’t there.   If you make eye contact you will never be left alone.

-Drugs will be offered to you all the time (especially if you have dreadlocks or other hippie-ish characteristics).  Rarely do tourists ever have a problem in México unless they are looking for that stuff.  It’s a great way to get robbed, kidnapped, or jailed.  The booze is cheap and legal!  Stick with that.

-There are about eight military checkpoints (different from the Federales) along the way.  Headed south we were searched at two of the checkpoints.  Northward we were searched at all but one stop.  We always hid our money but at times we forgot to put away the bribe $20 bill.  The soldiers never took it or anything else and were always pretty polite.  Just don’t bring anything into the country that you don’t want found.

Waiting in line at one of many military checkpoints. Baja Mexico road trip advice
Waiting in line at one of many military checkpoints.

-When you’re eating and drinking you should tip around 15%.  Nothing is expensive so don’t get cheap on people.

-The tap water is safe to consume in some places.  Ask the locals!

Mexico is a lot of fun, and actually really easy to travel in.  Don’t let the scary news reports keep you away from a good time.  We hope this Baja Mexico road trip advice article helps all our fellow travelers out there!

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Moving to California – Day 1

We changed plans.  Between planning a wedding and really wanting surfboards, we decided to cancel the big looping road trip and settled on a more direct route through the center of the country.  There isn’t much new for us to see this direction, but we really just wanted to get to sunny California as soon as possible.

Ohio cornfields and the bobblehead moose that relaxes on the dashboard of our car. 

After turning in our apartment keys in Toledo, we started west on the Ohio Turnpike (80/90), stopping to say a quick goodbye to my family.

Toll roads, toll roads.

Just about one uneventful hour later, we made our way into Indiana.  Not much different than Ohio.  Near the end of Indiana the landscape became more and more industrial and soon we were entering Chicago, our destination for the night.

The Windy City

We stopped in Lincoln Park to meet up with a good friend and spent the afternoon walking the city streets.  It had been a long time since we had been to a big, American city.  Hunger set in so we found the closest pizza place and the three of us dug into a 12 inch deep dish.

Mr. Moose didn’t help us with the pizza.

It was good to see our friend and his family.  They always take us in during our travels and they’re always a good time.  The first day of traveling never feels quite right, with our minds all jumbled up with work and the stresses of life.  Chicago was a good start, but still only a start.  “TO THE WEST!!!” we yelled.

 

 

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WHOA!!! Fritz The Cat sank!!!

Please read the comments on this one, there is a lot of controversy.  Fritz gets involved in multiple ways…

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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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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Steve’s Mind=Blown

Remember our friend Steve who joined us for our adventuring in Nicaragua?  Now he’s back with a summary of his first major travel experience!

Steve

Its been exactly two weeks now since my return to the states from my 10-day journey to Nicaragua. The experience there was surreal and still very difficult put into words. “Amazing” doesn’t even come close to describing what I want to express. As I wrote pre-trip many people were very excited for me and said things like, “I’ve always wanted to do something like that.” Unfortunately, many others were terrified for my health and safety, asking why would I want to go there? I would simply reply my favorite way, “Why not?” That’s not saying thatI was jumping in head first, blindfolded, and with my hands tied behind my back, hoping for the best. Some people are just too constricted by the word “WHY!” I’m sure everyone knows some of those people, because they outnumber people like Zach, Carrie, and me. They use the question “Why?” to tie themselves to an idea of life that amounts to slowly rotting away all the while complaining about how much life sucks. I actually find it hilarious and aggravating when one of those people tell me how lucky I am to be able to travel. I just want to shake them and yell, “Luck has nothing to do with it, it’s called making a choice!”

The trip in general is probably the best experience I’ve ever had. The only way I can try and describe it is like the personal change that occurs when you leave home for college and discover yourself. When suddenly instead of your ideas and knowledge being shaped by what others tell you, they begin to come from your own experiences. I came to Nicaragua from this place (the USA) where all anyone tells you is what bad things are going to happen you, and I ended up having the time of my life. That was the result of a mix between doing awesome things and being there with amazing friends! Everything is so much different in Nicaragua, but not in a bad way like many people believe. I can understand how many people, if they go without an open mind, may see it differently, but for me it was perfect. We stayed in several hostels, and I discovered I actually prefer them to the hotels we have in the states. Besides being an inexpensive place to stay, it was awesome meeting and talking to people from all over the world!

It was as if I found a part of me I didn’t know was missing, and it awoke this amazing something inside me that gives life a WHOLE new flavor. Part of me feels like I still haven’t returned home, but not in a bad way. The best way to describe it like getting lost in your favorite book that takes you on this adventure to a whole new world. One where the last page leaves you sad because BOOM, you’re back in reality and the story’s over. You’re left wishing it was real and that you could stay in the world of the book. The part that makes it most amazing is when you realize that it all was real, and you really were the main character in all the adventures that you had. This realization keeps looping in my mind and has left me with this “head in the clouds” feeling, even now, two weeks later. I’m very anxious to experience the next “book”, and fantasizing about future travels has preoccupied my thoughts ever since returning.

I’ve definitely caught the travel bug, but I’m not sure how someone could go out into the world like that and not catch it. Some said that my trip was a “once in a lifetime opportunity” but I prefer to agree with what someone else said in response: “Not for Steve, that was just the beginning!”

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