A Travellerspoint blog

Beach Bumming in Puerto Escondido

Enjoying beach life and the massive waves known as the "Mexican Pipeline"

sunny 30 °C

Hola Amigos,

Were slowly moving around Mexico and absolutely loving it! Every day has been filled with lots of sunshine and really great food! After spending a few days in Merida, we went to this really interesting town called San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas. It was a beautiful town and although we only spent 2 days there we really enjoyed it. We learnt quite a bit about its history and were very interested to learn that this is the home of Zapatista movement, which, was founded there and went public on January 1 in 1994 (the day NAFTA went into effect). It is a movement based on support for indigenous people as well as being advocates for women's rights. They have been in a declared (mostly non violent) war against the Mexican state in attempts to call the worlds attention to their movement to protest the signing of NAFTA, which the Zapatistas believed would increase the gap between rich and poor people in Chiapas and Mexico as a whole. They support indigenous people and their right to maintain control over their local resources, especially their land. They also released a charter of Women's rights, which coming from Canada, we found it hard to believe that this day in age something so obvious (like Women deserve a right to an education, the right to choose who and if they marry, how many kids they have etc) would need to be written out and fought for, however it is obviously still needed and the Zapatistas have been fighting for it since then. They have also gained a lot of support from various NGO's worldwide, as well as entering pop culture thanks in part to the support it's received from bands such as Rage Against the Machine, Dead Prez, Anti-Flag, Manu Chao and more. Very Interesting!
To read more about the Zapatista movement click here
A beautiful little girl (named Erika) selling magnets

A beautiful little girl (named Erika) selling magnets

From San Cristobal we took yet another overnight bus to Puerto Escondido, a beautiful beach town with some of the biggest waves we've ever seen! It is known as the Mexican Pipeline and after seeing the sheer size and force of the waves it's not hard to see why. We have been here for about 5 days and enjoying every minute of it! We have an amazing private room with a balcony and a view of the ocean... all for $12 each a night!! Not bad!!!
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We have also been on a bit of a food tour during our time here in Mexico. So much street food, so many mouth watering tacos, so little time!!

We are really enjoying the heat, the ocean and the relaxing pace here so we think we will stay for another 5 days or so. Tough Life, we know!

well, that's it for now... were off to make the most of this perfect beach day!

VIVA MEXICO


This is the life!

This is the life!

Posted by Leerika 17:38 Archived in Mexico Comments (3)

6 Countries...1 Month

A long re-cap of our travels through Central America and into Mexico

sunny 28 °C

Hey Everyone!

The last month has flown by so fast as it's been filled with a lot of speedy travel through Central America and more good times as usual. We'll try to keep the update as short as possible but no promises there as it has been a very busy month!

Last we left off we had just crossed into Nicaragua from Costa Rica, and as we look back to try and re-cap everything we've done it seems impossible that it's only been a month since we were there. In San Juan del Sur (SJDS), Nicaragua we ran into Angelo, a guy we had sailed with from Cartagena to Panama and although it seemed crazy to find him there after so long we were happy to be re-united with a familiar face. He had rented an apartment there and was living with some other people our age and after meeting them we all got along so well that we were pretty much inseparable. We spent our days checking out the numerous beaches in the area and even spent a day playing disc golf (John Bromley- you should've been there) with the whole crew, including our personal taxi driver, Martin!
Disc Golf in San Juan del sur

Disc Golf in San Juan del sur

After 10 fun and sun filled days in SJDS we made our way to Granada with Steven (one of Angelo's room mates). In Granada we got to see our first official baseball game! We had been waiting all year for this! It was game 5 of a 5 game series between the Granada team (Oriente) and Chinandega.
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Although we were cheering for the local team, who ended up losing we had an amazing time!! The stands were packed and the crowd was electric.
At our first ever Central American Ball game!!

At our first ever Central American Ball game!!


We even had the opportunity to see Vincente Padilla, an MLB pitcher, pitch for the winning team. Although he has a bit of a bad rap in the major's he pitched a great game and was very fun to watch. After the game was over we headed back to our hostel with Steve, grabbed our packs and waited for our taxi to come get us to drive us to Managua where we had a 3:30 am bus to catch to get us to Guatemala. We got to the terminal at about 2:30 am only to find out that our bus had been in a minor accident and was delayed until 5 am... great! Ah well, nothing we can't handle. Lee had a nap on our bags on the terminal floor while Erika played angry birds on her iphone until the bus was ready to depart.
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Fast forward about 18 hours, and 2 countries later (we passed through Honduras and El Salvador) and we were in Guatemala city at around midnight. Unfortunately due to timing (we were planning to meet Lee's sister and her family in Tulum on Jan 26th) we didn't have time to stop in either one of those countries so we will have to come back one day and give them the time they deserve. Anyways from Guatemala city we hopped into a taxi and went straight to Antigua. Antigua is a beautiful old colonial city with beautifully painted buildings lining all the streets and a massive volcano in the background. We found a fantastic market there and Erika went a little "souvenir crazy."
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After a couple of days we went to a small town which is located in the crater of an ancient volcano called San Pedro De Atitlan. The crater is now a massive lake surrounded by a few small villages, one of which is San Pedro. There we climbed a 3000 meter volcano (we are still trying to figure out how volcano's inside of other volcanos are formed, but we'll leave that for another day). We started at 6 am and although it wasn't the hardest hike we've done to date, it was still pretty tough. From the top of the volcano we had some impressive views of the lake and the towns surrounding it. The magnificent view from the top made the hard 2 hour uphill trek completely worth it!
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In San Pedro we also began to notice that the Spanish culture was no longer the main influence in the region (Take that conquistadores!). We heard the locals speaking a completely different language amongst each other, and we soon found out that they were speaking 1 of the 20 something dialects of the Mayan language. It was a very beautiful thing to see the Mayan culture, which dates back over 3000 years, still prevailing, with the women and children dressed in traditional clothing and the people speaking the Mayan language amongst each other.
Juice Lady!!

Juice Lady!!

After San Pedro we had some more Mayan culture to take in, in the form of the massive Mayan Ruins of Tikal. This is one of the worlds largest archeological sites of the Mayan people, and man was it impressive!! Although we had seen the Mayan ruins in Tulum in the past, and saw Machu Picchu (Inca Ruins) in Peru, we were incredibly surprised by the massive size of this ancient Mayan city.
so impressive

so impressive

Apparently only about 20% of the ruins have been uncovered to date, so its hard to imagine just how big this place might have been in the height of the Mayan rule in the years 200-900 AD. Tikal is located in the middle of the Guatemalan Jungle so after the collapse of Tikal all the buildings slowly became covered with vegetation, to the point of being unrecognizable. We were told that many areas that look like small "mountains" or "hills" covered in trees and vines, are more structures which they are unable to uncover without completely ruining the integrity of the architecture. Amazing!
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Walking through the 16 square kms that make up Tikal, really got us wondering how on earth they built these massive structures in those times, and how amazing it must have been to walk around when it was a fully inhabited, bustling Mayan empire.

Ok enough with the history breifing, and on to more fun times...

After our visit to Tikal it was time to make our way to our 15th and final country, Mexico!!! We got a bus which drove us from Guatemala, through Belize (with a brief stop in Belize city) and into Erika's mother land, Mexico!! We arrived in Chetumal and needed to make our way to Playa del Carmen as we were planning to celebrate a friends birthday there that night. It had been a looong travel day, but after a brief stop to a Taqueria (which gave us our first taste of proper, mouth watering, spicy Mexican tacos) we found a hostel, put our bags down and were ready to let loose.
after a 15 hour day, were in Playa del Carmen!! time to party!

after a 15 hour day, were in Playa del Carmen!! time to party!

We had such a great time and needless to say the night would not have been complete without a few rounds of tequilla shots. We woke up the next day feeling a bit rough, but the hangover was quickly overshadowed by excitement as we were about to be re-uinted with Lee's older sister, her husband and Lee's two adorable nephews, Alexander (2 1/2) and Evan (6 months) in Tulum. They were going to Tulum as part of a work function and would be staying at a 5 star all inclusive resort, so we saw this as an incredible opportunity to pamper ourselves a bit and get to spend time with family which we had not seen in over a year. It was also the first time we had met Lee's 6 month old nephew, Evan, which made this reunion all the more special!
The Reunion!! Lee's first time holding Evan <3

The Reunion!! Lee's first time holding Evan <3

On the first two days of our stay we were both quite sick with what we can only imagine was food poisoning (we'll spare you the details) but we found it quite ironic that after a year of eating cheap and dirty street food all over this continent, we managed to get food poisoning at a 5 star resort....or could it have been the taco stand we stopped at just north of the border??? guess we'll never know! haha

Well, After 6 AMAZING days filled with family, "uncle Funny", food, drinks, swim up bars, beach volleyball, and everything an all inclusive has to offer we were ready to get back to our backpacker life style and begin exploring Mexico as it is meant to be explored; by bus and in hostels, eating street food and visiting markets in all the little towns you don't get to see when you stay in a resort.

We are now in Merida, which happens to be Erika's mom's hometown and we are really enjoying it here. Its a beautiful city- the capital of the Yucatan and it has been a very special experience for Erika. Although she has no family here or any reference points, just to be walking the same streets and breathing the same air that her mom used to she was young has been an extremely moving experience.

"What an incredible adventure it has been for me, to start in the city I was born in, and end in one (of the two countries) that runs through my veins and fills my heart and soul... and to be able to share all this with the man I adore, well it doesn't get much better than that! Even though we may be close to being broke, I feel like the richest girl in the world!"
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Posted by Leerika 02:22 Archived in Mexico Comments (2)

Moving along the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica

sunny 30 °C

After an unforgettable Christmas with Mariana, Teo, Thomas and their family we had to decide where we were going to next. We were very excited for the upcoming days as our friends; Liz and Ian were coming down to visit us from Toronto. They were flying into San Jose on the 28th, but we wanted to see a few more places which werent on the agenda for the time Liz and Ian were here, so we had to pack in as much as we could into the next 3 days.

During christmas we met a lot of Mariana & Teo's family, including Mariana's brother; Esteban, who is about our age and a really fun guy! We got along really well with him and after talking about our plans for the next few days while we waited for Liz and Ian, he invited us to join him on a little road trip. On boxing day, Mariana and Teo took us for lunch to a beautiful area outside San Jose called Orosi and then in the evening we met up with Esteban to start the road trip. it was a very cool day as we woke up in the city, spent the afternoon in the mountains, and at the end of the day we were sleeping by the beach. So, we drove from San Jose to Esterillos and stayed with some of Esteban's friends who are part of a group called Christian Surfers. Lee was a little nervous as he thought we were going to sleep in a church, however it was nothing like that at all. The family who was taking care of the house were really nice and hospitable and welcomed us in with open arms. While we were there, we got to experience the true surfer lifestyle as we were up both mornings at by 6 am and in the ocean, surfing by 6:30. What an amazing feeling watching the sun go up as you are playing in the waves!! By 10 am we were back at the house having coffee and breakfast and feeling so exhilarated by our morning accomplishments.
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We had a really great time with Esteban on the coast and by the time the 3 days were over we were sad to say good-bye, as Lee and HIm had pretty much become brothers (not only do they look similar but they both love joking around, and had Erika laughing pretty much all the time).
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Esteban dropped us off in Jaco, where we were scheduled to get on a boat and head to the Nicoya Peninsula where we would meet Liz and Ian. After the very scenic boat ride we were in Montezuma and ready to party! We rented a gorgeous house in Montezuma where we would be staying for the next 3 days and for New Years. Lee and I got the keys to the house, settled in, jumped into the pool, and waited for Liz and Ian to arrive. We were so excited when they arrived and after catching up it was time to start exploring the town.

New Years came quickly and before we knew it we were right in the middle of Montezuma (we kept switching between the streets and the beach) amongst all the people ringing in the new year. Everyone was lighting fireworks and celebrating and there was such an electric vibe in the air. It was a great night!

On the first day of the year we were off to continue the roadie so after packing up the car we were off to Santa Teresa, which is a beautiful beach town on the Nicoya Peninsula. There we spent our days laying on the beach and boogie boarding in the ocean, making the best of the amazing weather.

After a few days there we headed to Monteverde as our last stop on the Road trip with Liz and Ian. Monteverde is in the cloud forest and it was a shock to all of our systems as it was cold, windy and rainy!! We had arranged to go Zip Lining through the cloud forest while we were there and although it was a very windy, cold day when we did the Zip lining, we still had a blast!! On Jan 6th we knew it would be our last night together so we went out for a nice celebratory dinner as the 7th is both Erika's and Ian's birthday. :)
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We had planned to head to Nicaragua as soon as we separated from Liz and Ian, but had heard that it was a bit of a mission to get to the border from Monteverde...so best we leave as early as possible. Well we did just that. January 7th at 4 am we were out of the hostel and on our way to get a bus... Happy Birthday Erika!!!

5 buses, a very slow border crossing and 12 hours later, we arrived in San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua....a beautiful little cove with plenty of shops and great seafood. We immediately went out to celebrate Erika's birthday by watching the sunset in a beachfront restaurant with a few beverages. It was an early night for us as we were pretty tired from all of the travel that day. We are now well rested and ready to explore some of the other beaches in the area over the next few days until we continue our journey north.

Posted by Leerika 22:58 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (0)

FELIZ NAVIDAD!

from Costa Rica

sunny 32 °C

After an amazing 5 days of sailing through the beautiful palm tree filled Islands of San Blas, we arrived to our first Central American destination; Panama.
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We headed straight to Panama City where we spent the day checking out the Panama Canal. The canal itself can be quite boring as there are not always boats passing through. But when there is a large ship, it is like a big show with announcers describing the ships origin, cargo, crew, people waving and clapping from the deck.
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Its quite impressive. Whats more impressive than the sheer mass of these boats is that they are expanding the canal to accommodate ships 3 times the size!!! This project should be completed in 2014 which means that large companies will then be able to ship 3 times the amount of goods overseas in one trip. Really? Will that be necessary? Sadly this proves that the world is continuing to head in the direction of mass consumption for a disposable society, instead of the opposite. Anyways...moving on. From there we continued (with the whole crew from the sail boat still in tow) to an archipelago of islands named Bocas Del Toro. Its a very beautiful place, and although it rained all 5 days we were there, we were still able to admire the beauty of the islands and enjoy every minute!!
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After those 5 days in Bocas, we decided to head to Costa Rica. After 2 boat rides, and 2 bus rides we were at the border ready to cross into Costa Rica.... however it wasn't quite as easy as we had hoped. The border patrol "require" you to show proof of onward passage past Costa Rica (like a plane ticket, or a bus ticket- which we obviously didnt have). When we explained our story to them they proceeded to tell us we could buy a "fake" bus ticket back to Panama for $14 (which may not sound like a lot to you at home, but to us, at this point it's quite a fortune, especially when we paid $3 for the same ride into Costa Rica). Anyways, we decided to one up them and found a computer where we proceeded to design and print a fake plane ticket from Costa Rica back to Canada, which they accepted... and TA-DA we were now in Costa Rica! One more bus ride (and 7hrs later) and we were at our final destination for the day: Puerto Viejo- A super hippy, laid back beach town. We spent 6 days there, hanging out on the beach, riding bikes, chilling out and simply loving life...
A SLOTH... up close!!

A SLOTH... up close!!

After our nice relaxing time by the ocean, it was time to make our way to San Jose for Christmas. We are very fortunate to have been invited to spend the holidays with family friends of Erika's parents, named Mariana, Teo and their son, the most adorable 1 and a half year old- Tomas. They invited us into their home and into their very large families to celebrate the holidays. Like at home, there is a lot of running around between families and lots of gift giving, and of course, TONS of food. Lee was even asked to play Santa at one of the parties as none of the kids would recognize him, and he was such a hit!! In Erika's words: Lee saved Christmas!! The kids loved it and all sat on his knee, and one little girl even said to her mom "It's the REAL Santa, mom". For us, being away from our families for so long and being invited into another one at Christmas time was a very special thing that we will never forget. We are so Thankful to Mariana and Teo and the rest of their amazing family for sharing a very memorable Christmas with us.
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Well that concludes our time leading up to and including the Christmas portion of our trip.....we will soon update the next segment which includes lots of beach time, Christian Surfers and friends coming to visit to ring in the New Year and celebrate Erika's birthday.

Posted by Leerika 07:30 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (0)

3 months in Colombia, and it's time to move on...

Leaving South America after almost 11 months of exploring... making our way to Central America

sunny 33 °C

After spending a full month in Medellin we knew we had to hurry through the North coast of Colombia as our granted 90 days were running out quickly.

While in Medellin, we were re-united with our friend Luke (who had volunteered with us in Salento) and he mentioned he was thinking of heading back to visit all our good friends at the hostel and foundation for a few days. This was all we needed to hear to decide where we were going next. Our month lease ran out on our Medellin apartment, and off to Salento we went. We were able to surprise all our friends at the hostel and were welcome with very open arms. It was such a nice feeling going back to a place where you feel so loved and welcome.... we kept saying it was the closest feeling to being "home" without actually being back in Canada. After a few days of hanging out and relaxing in a place we called home for 5 weeks earlier this year we were off to the Northern Colombian coast.

We went to a town called Taganga which is very close to Tayrona National Park, our next destination. After packing up a bag for a few days in the jungle we set off for the national park. What a spectacular place! We spent 3 nights and 4 days hiking between camp sites, jungle and beaches, palm trees and tarzan-like vines.... we'll let the pictures tell the story.
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After an amazing 4 days in the park we were off to our next destination- Cartagena. This is a picturesque old colonial city set on the Caribbean coast. Every street of the famous "old town" is like something out of a postcard.
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Cartagena is our last stop on the South American leg of our adventure. After 11 incredible months of exploring this amazing continent we are very excited to get to Central America.

A very popular way of getting from Colombia to Panama is to sail for 5 days through the famous San Blas Islands. We have arranged to sail with a boat called the "Gypsy Moth" which has an English captain along with his wife and young daughter. There will be 6-8 passengers on board as well.

We have heard magnificent things about this trip and the islands and are very excited to set sail! We leave this afternoon and will be arriving in Panama on Sunday evening. Can't wait!!!

Ahoy Maitees!!

Posted by Leerika 02:07 Archived in Colombia Comments (1)

Taking our time through Colombia

Enjoying all of the amazing things this country has to offer

semi-overcast 25 °C

After 5 weeks (not the 2 we originally planned for) in Salento, we have finally moved on and are now in Medellin.

We love our gum boots!!

We love our gum boots!!


Our time in Salento was pretty amazing, we couldn't have asked for a better experience. We met some really amazing people, made some life long friendships, had a ton of laughs, and even learned a thing or two about what it takes to run a hostel. Apart from the hostel (working) life, we also spent many of our days at the foundation we had mentioned in our last post, which was extremely rewarding. The kids were all so sweet and after 5 weeks, we all got very attached. It was really hard to say good-bye after such a wonderful experience, but as we have learned throughout this year-the show must go on. After a few tear-filled good-byes (at the foundation, and then at the hostel- Erika was a big crying baby!!) we had our lives packed on our backs once again and were ready for the next adventure!!
Our La Serrana Family

Our La Serrana Family

So on another bus we get, and 7 hours later (at 4 a.m) we arrive in Medellin. What a modern, clean and exciting city!

Medellin is known for a few things. For those who don't know it was the home of Pablo Escobar and used to be a very dangerous place to visit. Since his death, it has become a haven for tourists as it is also known as the city of eternal spring as the temperature remains in the mid 20's all year round. In Medellin we were also reunited with our friend Sam who we travelled through Bolivia, Peru and most of Ecuador with. It was really nice to see him again and catch up as he had been in Colombia the whole time we were on the Galapagos so he had some great tips for us. Unfortunately, our visit with him only lasted for 3 days as he was heading back south to take the slow boat to Brasil and will be heading back to Australia for Christmas. We can't wait until the next time we get to meet again...who knows where it will be though???

We really like Medellin, so much that we have decided to stay here for a month. We have rented an apartment with a guy named Ryan from the US who we met at the hostel we were staying at together. We now are living in the nice area of the city in a beautiful apartment with a pool, steam room and close to all the action. We will stay here until the 26th of November then will continue North in Colombia until we sail to Panama in early to mid December. At this point, we don't know where we will be for Christmas but if anyone wants to come down to visit us in Central America we are open for ideas.

Talk to you soon....sorry we haven't uploaded any pics of Medellin yet but will get on that for the next post.

Chau!

Posted by Leerika 10:00 Archived in Colombia Comments (2)

We are now "Employed" in Colombia...

Adding a little responsibility to our wonderful life of freedom and exploration.

sunny 22 °C
View THE Permacation on Leerika's travel map.

When we first arrived in Salento (Coffee country) about a week ago, we had only planned to stay a couple of days. Well, its been about a week and we are still here! Its an absolutely amazing place, with majestic scenery, great weather, really nice people and a very cool vibe. The hostel we are staying at is called "La Serrana- Eco Farm and Hostel" which is on a large property overlooking the mountains and some farmland. It is on a dairy farm, so every morning we have the pleasure of drinking fresh milk with our coffee and eating fresh yoghurt with our breakfast.
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So originally, we were staying here as guests, but after meeting the owner (a very nice, young guy, originally from NY) and talking to him for a while, we decided to help out around the hostel, in exchange for a free room, free breakfast, and cheap dinners. We have committed to work here for at least two weeks, but we are loving it here so much, we might stay longer... who knows?! We have been "working" for the last few nights and have really enjoyed having a bit of responsibility and purpose added to our life of freedom and exploration.
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We have also decided to help out at an organization while we're here, which supports disadvantaged children, called Palmitas Unidas (united palms). They currently have over 40 kids who come after school, get fed, learn a little, and get to play with all the other kids. When we spoke to the lady who organizes it she was so happy to have some volunteers join her as she runs this whole organization by herself and is spreading herself very thin. We went yesterday to meet all the kids and are looking forward to going back today. Although entertaining 40 kids can get a bit exhausting It feels really good to be able to give back, even if it's just a little... travelling through this incredible continent has really shown us just how lucky and privileged we really are. It may be tough to realize it when you're living in your routine everyday, and things don't always go your way... but when you really stop to think about it; you have food on the table everyday, a roof over your head, and people that love and care about you... Things could be a lot worse...and are for many people around the world. Today, instead of complaining when/if something goes wrong, lets stop, and be grateful for what we have, because when all is said and done... Life is good!

Love and miss you all.
Erika and Lee

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Posted by Leerika 11:14 Archived in Colombia Comments (5)

Island Life Comes to an End...Another adventure awaits

Leaving the Galapagos....Venturing into Colombia

We had a fantastic time on the Galapagos, but the month just flew by!!! Guess thats what happens when you're having such a great time.

The weekend before this past one, we went to an island called Isabela, with a few of our housemates. It was such a gorgeous place, with the brightest turquoise water, white sand beach as far as the eye could see, volcanoes in the background, and some of the coolest animals inhabiting it!
We snorkelled and got to see some amazing coloured fish, a giant sea turtle and a penguin chasing massive schools of fish... it was absolutely mind blowing how fast a penguin can swim! We also had the amazing luck of swimming with a sea lion pup out in the wild. It was so cute and curious and kept coming up to us and spinning around, splashing water and being super playful. On our way back from this Island to Santa Cruz, we had the luck of being able to sit up top with the captain...and halfway through the ride he pointed way out in the horizon... it was a humpback whale!!! As we got closer it started jumping out of the water and making giant splashes as its massive body hit the water. We got to see it jump many times and once it was behind our boat, as if saying good-bye it flashed us its massive back fin. It was one of the most impressive moments of our trip for sure!! We felt incredibly lucky as it was, but the captain said we were super lucky because its not very often at all that they see humpback whales like that. Needless to say our trip to the Island was complete!!
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We had such a great time on Isabela but our time on the island was quickly coming to an end. Two short weeks later, we had to say goodbye to our class, as well as our host family. Both were very emotional days! On the last Friday that we taught our class had a little party for us-- they decorated the classroom with balloons, we had cake and danced the afternoon away with all the kids. it was really sweet to know that we had made a bit of a difference and that they really enjoyed our presence in the classroom. We made 2 posters for them with all the words we had taught them and with some pictures we had taken in hopes that they continue to practice their english long after we are gone. We are really going to miss all those kids...they were a handful, but so sweet!! The teachers also invited us for lunch which was very touching.
Professor Lee!!

Professor Lee!!

A few days later it was time to leave the Galapagos all together.. :( Our host family bought us a cake and said some really nice things to us which meant a lot.DSCF5039

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A few of the volunteers also wrote us letters, with some very kind words, which was very touching as well. It was very hard to leave as we had really gotten comfortable there and really enjoyed our time with all these people, but like anything in life, the show must go on...

...And so it did. We flew back to the continent and spent a few days in Quito organizing ourselves and getting healthy (as we got a bit sick on our last days on the island.) We also took advantage of being in the capital city and found a sports bar to watch the NFL season kickoff!! After that we hopped on a bus and made our way into the next country; Colombia!!! After a very long travel day (3 buses, 3 taxis, a border crossing, and a total of 16 hours on the road) we were finally in Colombia.
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We have met many travellers who have ranted and raved about this beautiful country, and although we have just gotten here, we can definitely see what they are talking about!!

We are currently in the Coffee region of Colombia, called Salento. We just arrived here from a big city named Cali, where we spent two beautiful sun-filled days shopping, exploring, watching football and dancing salsa. In Salento we plan to hike through the national park which has giant palm trees and beautiful scenery, as well as taking a tour of an organic Coffee farm where we will get to see and participate in the whole coffee making process. We are really looking forward to drinking some proper, fresh roasted coffee after 8 months of downing the instant variety.

Needless to say we are very excited about our upcoming time in Colombia! We will keep you posted on all our adventures.

Posted by Leerika 20:14 Comments (1)

Living on the Galapagos!

Volunteering on Isla Santa Cruz

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Hello to anyone who might still be reading our blog and following our adventure!! We are living on the Galapagos right now and as bad as we usually are at updating this, this place is way too good not to write about!!

We have been living on one of the 5 inhabited islands of the Galapagos for just under two weeks and are absolutely loving it!! We are living on Isla Santa Cruz and it is the island with the largest amount of inhabitants out of the 5. We are living with a host family in their large house along with 5 other volunteers.It’s like being part of a very large, really fun but sometimes dysfunctional family, however our host “mom” is lovely and takes very good care of us.

We have been volunteering at an elementary school just outside of town and have fallen in love with our class. We are working with a kindergarten class and although we are there mainly to teach English, our day is filled with lots of games, colouring, song singing, learning activities in both languages, and what seems like a lot of babysitting. The kids are so adorable and after 2 hours of meeting us were stuck to both of us like glue! We are now greeted every morning with huge hugs and a very loud “Good Morning” which is one of the few things we have taught them since our arrival. They are all very bright and energetic and we are always very excited about going to “work.”

Apart from our responsibility of shaping the young minds of Santa Cruz, we have spent a lot of our free time exploring our new surroundings. We have seen a ton of wildlife and some incredible landscapes. We spent this last weekend on San Cristobal, which is another island in the archipelago and had a fantastic time. We checked out this beach where we saw lots of sea lions, really cool birds (blue and red footed boobies), marine iguanas, manta rays and sea turtles!
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Not only did we see all of these creatures from a distance, but we even got to swim and snorkel with the sea lions and giant sea turtles!! We have never been so close to such magestic creatures in the wild like that before. To think you can just bring your snorkel gear and jump into the ocean and get to have such an incredible experience with some of these islands coolest creatures….no tour or tour guide required!! We had our waterproof camera with us and managed to get some really cool shots of the turtles so check them out! (unfortunately after this amazing time in the ocean our camera started acting funny and we fear it is now in need of some repair…hopefully we find someone to fix it like we did in Bolivia.)
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We still have 2 more weeks here on the Galapagos and are planning on doing some more island hopping so stay tuned.

Hope you like the pics we have posted...we think its some of our best photography yet!

Chau!

Posted by Leerika 22:14 Archived in Ecuador Comments (1)

Enjoying our time at the middle of the world

Making our way through Ecuador, and finding our way to the Galapagos

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Hola Amigos!!

We are in Ecuador right now and absolutely loving it!! Just thought we would post a short update on our most recent adventures as we have been really really bad at keeping this blog up to date.

As you know from our last update, our friend John came down from Canmore, Alberta to visit us and we had a blast together. We climbed up to Machu Picchu and from there decided we had had enough of the altitude so we made our way to the beach!! We spent just under a week in Mancora, which is the best beach town in Peru. We had some great food, got some surfing in, and even had some time to play sports and games with some local kids at an after school program, which was extremely rewarding. We stayed at a party hostel called Loki and it was a lot of fun!! However after 6 nights of being rocked to sleep by the music from 3 different discos blasting into our room until 7 am, we decided it was time to move on.
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We crossed into Ecuador and made our way to an amazing beach town called Montanita. It was a really funky town with a great big beach, the most amazing fresh fruit juices ever, delicious street food, and a lot of tourists! The two of us and John tried our hand at surfing once again, and although we are no where near being pros yet, we are slowly getting better! We all fell in love with the vibe from Montanita, however after 10 days there we were ready to find a town where you could fall asleep, and wake up without hearing raggaeton blaring from discos all around. It was also time for John to head back to Peru in order to head home, so he took a 26 hour bus back to Lima to catch his flight, and we headed to Banos for a few days where we did a bit of hiking and rafting. It rained a lot during our time there so we never got to see the active Volcano which towers over the town and most recently erupted in May of this year.
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We are now in Quito which is the massive Capital city of Ecuador. It is located about 20 kms south of the Equator, which we took a day trip to check out. It was a really neat experience to be standing right in the middle of the world!!
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There are 2 sites in that area; the "Historical Equator"; which is where they thought the Equator was when they built the monument in 1930's, and then the "Official Equator" which is the actual 0 degrees latitude line that was only realized once GPS was invented and used. They conducted some really neat experiments at the official equator which really blew our minds. The coolest one was where they put a tub of water right on the Equator line and then pulled the drain plug. On the equator- the water flushed straight down. Then our guide refilled the tub with water, and moved it 1 metre North, pulled the drain plug- and the water started flushing making a counter-clockwise funnel, just like back home. He then moved the bucket 1 metre South of the Equator and did the same thing- and the water began flushing in a clockwise funnel. It was very impressive and really cool. Another experiment was trying to balance an egg on a nail right on the Equator. We both managed to balanced the egg quite easily, and even got a certificate to prove it!
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We have been hanging out in Quito for the last 11 days, trying to plan our next move, which has finally been sorted!! We really wanted to go to the Galapagos Islands Click here to read more about the Galapagos... however all tours are only a few days to a week long and are VERY expensive. We met a Canadian couple early on in our travels who had done some volunteer conservation work on the islands, and that definately got us thinking... So we did our research and spoke to a few organizations and our next move is official!! Starting tomorrow, We will be living on one of the Islands (Sta Cruz) of the Galapagos for the next month, living with a host family and volunteering at a local school teaching English to kids aged 6-12. We get the weekends to ourselves so we will be discovering the Islands and getting to see what we hear is some incredible wildlife and landscapes! We are so excited about this adventure because we have been feeling like its time to give back, and we can't think of a more amazing place to be making a difference and staying for a full month than on the same set of islands which contributed to the Theory of Evolution!!

Well that's it for now! We will post an update during our stay and let you know how everything is. Hope everyone is doing well back home and enjoying the summer!!

Lots of love from us both <3

Posted by Leerika 17:07 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

Fun In Peru

Meeting up with a great friend from home, climbing Machu Picchu, and more!!

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Hey Everyone!!

So we are through Peru and in Ecuador, and realize we haven't updated you on our most recent adventures....sorry about that, guess we aren't avid bloggers haha!! So since we got into Peru we have done quite a bit! As we mentioned in our last entry we climbed Colca Canyon which is one of the worlds deepest canyons, and that was a very technical, steep and difficult trek...but we survived, and it was well worth it! We considered it to be training for Machu Picchu, and after climbing up to the 'Lost Inca City', man are we glad we had some prep.

After Arequipa (where the Colca Canyon is) We made our way to a small town called Huacachina which is nestled in the middle of giant Sand Dunes! Never seen anything like that!! We took a dune buggy/sandboarding tour which was so much fun. We did some sandboarding, Watched the sun set over the dunes and headed back to Huacachina.
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The next day we went on a Pisco tour which was good fun! We learned how the liquor is made and had a few samples, of course! After that we jumped on a bus and headed to a town called Paracas which is home to an island called Isla Ballestas, or the "poor mans Galapagos'. We took a boat tour around the Islands which is home to hunderds of thousands of birds, sea lions, Dolphins and more.

After that we made our way to the countries capital city, Lima to wait for our friend John to arrive!! After Johns long journey to South America we figured there was no better way to welcome him into our new way of life then by putting him on a 22 hour bus ride to Cusco, where we would depart from to climb up to Machu Picchu. After the loooong bus ride we found ourselves in the beautiful city of Cusco, which was a nice change from cloudy Lima. Cusco is already filled with history and all the Inca culture you could want, however we showed up during Inti Raymi which is a HUGE festival to celebrate the winter solstice and the city was just buzzing with culture, history and music, it was majestic. After a few days in Cusco we set off on one of the great adventures of our trip; Machu Picchu!! We booked a tour called the "Inca Jungle Trek" which not only involved hiking, but it was 4 fun-filled days complete with mountain biking, Rafting, Zip-lining, and lots of walking. We had such a great time, were fed so well and saw so much we were blown away. Also, after hearing about how much walking the traditional Inca trail involves, as well as how poorly paid and mistreated the porters are on that trek, we were very very happy with our decision to take the jungle tour. On the 4th day of our tour we had to get up at 3 am to start hiking at 4 am to get to Machu Picchu in time for it to open. (Please note, for some reason on this particular day Mother Nature decided to play a little joke on us and it was just pouring rain, so apart from an early morning uphill hike, we got the pleasure of doing it in the rain!!) The reason for the early morning is there is a mountain which overlooks Machu picchu which you can climb, however due to its steepness and to preserve it as much as possible, they only let in 400 ppl per day, so if you want to climb up WaynuPicchu, you have to be one of the first 400 to arrive. Well, we arrived in time, got our stamp for Waynupicchu and set off to explore the Lost Inca City. Its funny, because albeit the rain, how cold we were and how cloudy it got at times, we were still able to appreciate just how amazing this place really is!! To think they built all of this, so high up, in the 1500s without all the machinery we have today...wow!!
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After a full day of walking around Machu Picchu, Climbing the steep & slippery Waynupicchu mountain and hiking back to the town of Aguas Calientes, we were exhausted!! We got on the train back to Cusco and passed out!! After Cusco we decided that we were done with high altitudes and the cold weather so we all agreed it was time to hit the beach!! we went to the small town of Huanchaco for a few days then off the the oasis that is Mancora. Located in Northern Peru, very close to the Ecuadorian border, this town had everything we needed, sun sand and surf, so we decided to stay for 6 days. We met some cool locals, ate some fantastic food and stayed at a "hostal" which looked more like a resort...nothing short of luxury for us!! We also had the opportunity to volunteer with a local after school program, playing sports and games with kids. It was an incredible experience and Erika wished we could stay longer because she fell in love with all those kids (and the kids seemed to have fallen in love with both of us.)
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After 5 fun filled nights & 6 fun filled days we decided it was time to head to another fantastic beach town, only this time in Ecuador. We got on an 8 hour midnight bus and set off for Montanita, Ecuador, which is where we are now! Today is our 6 month travel anniversary and we couldnt think of a better place to be half way through....The sun is shining, the waves are crashing, and the hammock I am laying in as I write this is rocking slightly in the breeze...life is very good!!
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Posted by Leerika 04:17 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

Bolivia and Beyond...

La Paz - Lake Titicaca - Isla del Sol - Arica, Chile - Entering Peru

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Hey Everyone!!

So we have been in Bolivia for the past month and as we had mentioned earlier; internet was pretty slow and nowhere we stayed had wifi so uploading pictures was nearly impossible. Maybe it is partly due to the altitude as we have been living at about 3500 metres above sea level for quite some time. We are now in country #5; Peru and have wifi for the first time since Buenos Aires so we are taking this opportunity to update everything. We just posted a bunch of new photos so take a look.

Here are the coles notes of what’s been going on since the last update:
- Went to La Paz
- Flew to the Jungle for 4 days to get away from the altitude and get our first taste of the Amazon (got our yellow fever shots in a Bolivian hospital before of course)

- Flew back to La Paz and hung out for 6 more nights
- Did the downhill bikeride on the DEATHROAD (the worlds most dangerous road)….was an awesome ride, got the T-Shirt!
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- Went to Copacabana and Isla del Sol on Lake Titicaca. Feasted on freshly caught trout everyday – Awesome!!!
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- Said "See you later" to Kevin and Karen from Toronto as they needed to move on to Peru for their Macchu Picchu Trek - Hopefully we will see them before they head home. If not, we will reunite back in Canada.
- Came back to La Paz for the night then took a bus to Arica, Chile because the border from Bolivia to Peru was closed due to protests against a Canadian mining company (apparently it is resolved now but we stuck to our plan to take the detour)
- Found out that John has finally booked his flight to Lima on June 22nd...we can't wait!
- Erika got bitten (we counted 20+ bites) by a venomous spider in her sleep, her arm swelled like a baseball, went to the doc, got meds, $130 later…hopefully our insurance comes through...fingers crossed!
- On the same day, Erika got her hiking boots stolen on the bus….DUH!!! clipped them to the outside of her bag and checked it under the bus…easy steal!!!
- We are now in Arequipa, Peru and going on a 2 day canyon trek tomorrow in the Colca Canyon (more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon)...Erika just bought new hiking boots (probably stolen as well)

Oh and by the way, we would like to introduce you to our friend Sam from Australia who we adopted about 3 weeks ago. We all met doing the Salt Flats tour and have no end in sight now…Sam is an avid animal lover and likes long walks on the beach...
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That’s it, that’s all folks…..check our awesome pics….leave comments so we know you're still following us!

Posted by Leerika 15:30 Archived in Peru Comments (1)

Life in Bolivia

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Hey All,

Hope all is well back home or wherever you may be as you´re reading this. We are currently in Rurrenabaque, Bolivia which is a small village just on the outskirts of the Bolivian Jungle. It is so humid and sweltering hot here (which we are not complaining about as it has been pretty cold at the altitudes we´ve previously been in.) However it has been a bit of an adjustment! We originally came out here to do some volunteer work at an animal rehabilitation centre, however after we had booked our transport we found out that they did not need any help at this particular time. :( So we find ourselves in the jungle with nothing but time and good company.

So up until now we have been to a few cities in Bolivia which we have absolutely loved! After our salt flat tour ended we headed to the highest city in the world called Potosi, which was really neat. We ate at what was boasted to be the world´s highest bar which was also pretty cool. On our last day there we were sitting in our hostel lobby when we looked over and saw a couple with ´MEC´backpacks (#1 indication amongst travellers that you are Canadian). Turned out we were both headed to Sucre on the same bus so we started chatting and it turned out they are both from the GTA....and after a bit more talking, we figured out Erika had worked with Kevin at Baton Rouge back in the day...very small world! We spent 2 days in Sucre then headed to Cochabamba together which was another lovely city; Home to Bolivia´s biggest market which was really impressive. After a couple days, our new Canadian friends headed out as they were going to do a jungle tour before we were meant to volunteer, so we said our goodbye´s and arranged to meet in Rurrenabaque in a week or so. We spent the next 4 days in Cochabamba (re-united with some other friends we have met along the way) as well as got our yellow fever vaccinations, which we were told was a MUST to enter the jungle. What an experience! As some of you know, Lee and Erika are huge babies when it comes to needles and doing it in a Bolivian hospital didn´t make us feel any safer. However the needles were new, the doctors were proper, and being surrounded my numerous kids also getting their vaccines made us feel the need to act tough and not pass out!! haha After that we hopped on a bus and headed to La Paz for a few days before heading into the jungle, where we are now.

We will be leaving here on Wednesday evening and head back to La Paz for a few days, where we will explore the city properly and do everything that all visitors have to do when in La Paz. Then we have to do some serious planning as to what our next move will be... There are currently land border crossing issues around lake Titicaca where we had planned to cross into Peru then slowly make our way to Lima where our friend John plans to meet us (If he ever books his trip...AHEM AHEM!!) We are waiting it out and speaking to other travellers to figure out what any alternative options may be. Wish us luck!!

Anywys that is it for now. Internet is a bit hard to come by so updates may be few adn far between for the next little while.

Talk soon,
Erika and Lee

Posted by Leerika 08:21 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

Where have we been???

A recap of our time in Northern Argentina, the Chilean Desert and our first taste of Bolivia

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We’re really bad at keeping up with this thing so we decided to try to keep things short for a while. It is quite easy to post pictures up but takes a lot of time to actually sit down and write about what we have been doing…regardless, we will try here in a few less words and more often.

We arrived in Buenos Aires on April 4th to our little apartment in the neighborhood called Recoleta. It was a great neighborhood to live in as it had all services we needed and was close to some great sites. BA is full of parks, monuments, historic buildings and PEOPLE…about 13 million actually. It is a city like New York but with a more European feel to it. We ended up extending our stay at the apartment to 3 weeks because after 2 we felt there was still a lot to do and see. We spent most of our days walking around the city checking out all of the different areas (good and bad…we always felt safe though). Most of the nights were spent with Team Finland going out on the town or just hanging out playing cards (we are now masters at Knepe!). Like Santiago, it was great to again unpack our bags and have our own little place to call home for longer than 3 or 4 days. Take a look at the pictures we posted of some of the highlights we got to see and experience.

The last few days in BA were spent planning our next move to the Iguazu Falls. We elected to take a 1.5 hour flight rather than the 17 hour bus ride. The cost wasn’t too much more and we figured the time saved was worth it (not that we are on any sort of schedule). We flew into Puerto Iguazu, Argentina on Monday April 25th and booked a hostel for 4 nights. We were so happy to be back in hot humid weather as the temperature had started to drop off in Buenos Aires the last few days we were there. We are not sure what we can write about the Falls other than that they were amazing! Imagine a lush Rainforest with Monkeys, spiders and a ton of other species (YES we saw spiders…BIG ONES) with this massive river running through it. There are about 275 different falls to take in. There are circuits of walkways that take you to see the falls from under, beside and right over…pretty scary…and wet! We think this place should be considered a world wonder for sure!! Pictures hardly do it any justice but Take a look anyways!
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From Iguazu we took a 24 hour bus…yes you read that correctly, 24 hours to Salta, Argentina, where we spent the a couple of days hiking and exploring.

On Tuesday May 3rd, we left bright and early and got on a bus to the Atacama Desert in Northern Chile, which was just amazing!! We went on a tour of the desert and the ‘Moon Valley’ as well as a night tour to look at all the stars. The Chilean Desert is one of the best places in the world to star gaze and it did not disappoint! The lack of light pollution as well as a very knowledgeable (Canadian) astronomer helped us see and understand a whole lot about the sky, stars and atmosphere that surrounds us. We even got to see Saturn through a telescope! One afternoon we went with a few friends from our hostel, rented bikes and boards, rode out to the middle of the desert and went sandboarding! It was such a fun experience and we were pretty good at it!!!
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So, From Atacama we had planned to head into Bolivia, and one of the most popular ways to cross that border is though a 3 day, 4x4 tour of the desert into Uyuni, Bolivia, which is home to the words largest salt flats. It’s hard to imagine how big this place is but to give you an idea, our driver told us there is 12,000 square km’s of salt that covers this area. Now, that’s a lot of salt!! It was really fun as we went with the group of friends we had met in Atacama, so we had a lot of laughs at every stop. The sheer immensity of the salt flats allows for tourist to get very creative with their pictures as all depth perception is blurred…. Check out some of our photos to see what we mean.
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We had such a fun time with this group it was hard to say good-bye, but after a night in Uyuni we all parted ways (with hopes of meeting again soon) as we all headed to different parts of Bolivia. We are now in Potosi which is the highest city in the world at 4,090 metres above sea level! Good thing we acclimatized to the altitude during our tour of the desert.

From here we plan to head to the 'official' Bolivian capital called Sucre and slowly make our way to La Paz. Bolivia has been very interesting for us both as it is a lot poorer than the countries we have been in before and it is definitely a bit heart wrenching. Erika wants to help everyone she sees (especially the poor kids begging on the street) and has been constantly thinking of ways she can help all those in need. Plumbing is not at all what we’re used to either which is a bit hard to get used to but we have learned very quickly that you never leave home without your very own roll of toilet paper!!!

Anyways that is a (not so) short summary of what we’ve been up to this last month. Hope you are all doing well and we will check in soon!!
Lots of love, Erika & Lee ☺

Posted by Leerika 16:19 Archived in Bolivia Comments (1)

Uruguay Continued

An update on the rest of our time in Uruguay

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Hey Everyone!

Sorry once again for the lack of updates …but we are keeping really busy and having a ton of fun!

So to pick up where we last left off: we left Punta del Diablo and did not make it to Cabo Polonio as we had hoped. Instead we headed back to Punta del Este where we went back to our favourite hostel to date and spent about 7 days there. We just couldn’t get enough of the beaches, the people, the food and the atmosphere. Our hostel was run by this really cool young couple, and we just loved it there. By the time we showed up the second time around we were greeted more like friends than like guests. They held “Asados” (Parilla/BBQ’s) every second night for all the guests, which was not only our most delicious option for dinner but also the cheapest. This time around Lee was labeled Rodrigo’s “mano derecha” (his right hand man) which was a quite the honour. The asado’s were a great opportunity to get to know all the other people staying at the hostel, as well as for Lee to continue to master his parilla skills.
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On our third day back, we all went to the beach together and Rodrigo ran into a local surf instructor and arranged for us to get our very first surf lessons. It was a great time and not only did we get the instructor, but Rodrigo came into the ocean and helped out too….2 surf teachers for the price of one!! It was an amazing experience and we are hooked. It’s really a tough workout but we are excited to continue practicing! It’s really a shame that we are headed inland for quite a while after we leave Uruguay, so we will have to wait a while before getting our next surfing fix.
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A few other highlights from our time on the beaches of Uruguay include all of the wildlife we saw. In Punta del Diablo we saw a venomous snake (which Erika almost stepped on!!) a very big sea turtle, a ton of giant sea lions, and some amazing birds including a vulture feasting on an animal carcass….amazing!!
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Where to next?

We had now spent about 3 weeks on the beaches of Uruguay and knew we had to plan our next move. We decided we would rent an apartment in Buenos Aires, Argentina for a couple of weeks. Once we got one and the rental date was set we realized we only had a few days left in Uruguay ☹ We hadn’t yet seen the capital city; Montevideo, so we decided we would spend a few more days at the beach then one night in Montevideo and one night in Colonia, which is a beautiful port town where you take the ferry into Buenos Aires. The morning we were scheduled to leave we reluctantly packed up our backpacks and said bye to Rodrigo & Alejandra and hopped on a bus to Montevideo. Right before we left the Hostel Rodrigo told Lee that his favourite soccer team (Nacional) would be playing that night in Montevideo and that we should go.

We arrived to Montevideo at 4 in the afternoon and got in a cab to our hotel. Upon check in we asked the lady at the front desk about the soccer game and she quickly went and got the owner to give us more details. He said the game was at 7 and we should go immediately to get tickets because we wouldn’t be able to get them right before the game. He even offered to drive us down there! So we quickly dropped off our bags in our room and ran down to meet him. The soccer game was an amazing way to spend our only night in Montevideo. The atmosphere in the stadium is electric with all the fans chanting and cheering in unison….and when the home team scores the place goes wild!! The home team won and we had a great time! The stadium itself was home to the 1st ever World Cup soccer match in 1930 where Uruguay won of course…pretty amazing to see this piece of history!!
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The next day we went to Colonia which was a beautiful town. From there we took the ferry to Buenos Aires and the next adventure begins…

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Posted by Leerika 18:20 Archived in Uruguay Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises people animals Comments (3)

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