Time for a Revamp!

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Anyone who follows this blog has probably noticed a steady decline in our posts. This is definitely not because we are getting sick of the journey, or of telling our stories. It’s just that, well, we’re a bit sick of the blog itself. Now when we left there was a distinct plan for the blog, keep our friends and family updated on where we are and what we’re doing and in that sense the blog is doing exactly what we planned it to, all be it somewhat out of date! The thing is after a while picture postcard “then we went here, then we went there” gets a bit repetitive and the more we lag behind the more we lose the fun anecdotes and little adventures that made this interesting to do. In reality there are other just as, or even more, interesting things (we think!) we could be writing about such as the journey itself, what it’s like to be a 30-something couple travelling the world, deep in other foreign cultures – what are the realities of travel life rather than just “we were here”. So let’s give one a go, see what you think. This will be interspersed with a few completely irrelevant pictures of Ecuador (our current favourite country!) to break things up.

Banos zip lining 6

Casa del arbol

The discomforts of home

Fascinating and thrilling as the nomadic life can be we can’t deny that sometimes, when we’re standing under the first hot shower we’ve seen in a couple of months, hoping the water gets hot enough to cook the instant noodles we managed to scrape enough coin together to buy for our dinner*, that we think about the comforts of home. All those little things you take for granted like waking up in a comfortable bed, heading into a bathroom where you know you’ll have both hot water and a toilet that flushes and that you’ll then follow the shower up with a trip to the kitchen where you know there is actually food. Ooh it’s a day off work, after eating breakfast on your comfy couch what might you do? Maybe catch up with a friend who knows you really well (you know, has been in your life more than 3 days), see some family, or just potter around in your house – your very own private space. Or you could go out and do something, spend some of that pay packet you have regularly coming into your bank account. Yup, there are certain aspects of the sedentary life that when we’re tired, lost, cranky, broke, bored, hungry, or any combination of the above that we definitely crave. Here’s the thing though –we are by no means ready for it yet. As soon as we wake up the next day and see a spectacular sunrise over a bright red dessert, jump into a freezing cold pool at the bottom of a waterfall after a hot hike in the jungle, or are hitch-hiking along misty mountain lined roads standing in the back of a ute and munching the fresh fruit the driver gave us we know we are not done with our nomads life – so why the hell is NZ so incessant on making us come home??

Cuenca 2

El Cajas 6

El Cajas

Here’s the twist. We meet a lot of people in their late teens or early twenties travelling, usually admittedly not for the length of time that we are but for decent stretches. They don’t have a lot of cash but you learn quickly how far you can go on very little around here and there are always ways to make some extra cash/get a free bed or meal. These young’uns are pretty care free, no debts, no careers, no property or any such concerns at home just a backpack and the road. Now before we left we thought we’d do things the “smart” way – get ourselves some education, careers, all that jazz so we could not just make some cash to travel but we would have our responsible grown up lives to fall back on when needed. We have since learnt that the “smart” track is only smart when you stick to it – follow the education up with the job you stay at for the next 10 years so you can pay off the student loans in time to get the mortgage that you need to buy the home that you inevitably want to house the brood of little people that have inexplicably started springing from your loins. Ok this may be an overly cynical portrayal of everyday life but the take-home stays the same. At this point in our lives we’d be relatively stress-free – if we’d never bothered to get educations and careers.

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The NZ government has a scheme whereby student loans are interest free (yay!) so long as you remain living and working in NZ (boo!). We managed to get a one year holiday but now it’s all on for repayments, no worries, we’re not complete fools we had planned for this. Oh wait what? Change in legislation? You want more money? Of course. Now between us the government is cheerfully slapping about $4-5k onto our debts every few months and sending gentle reminders of those newly inflated minimum repayments. But don’t worry guys, this can all stop…all you have to do is come home. Remember home? Couches and hot water and friends and stuff? Mmmmmm home, you know you want it. The thing is we don’t, not any time soon anyway. So what do you do? Do you give in to the increasingly crushing debt and return to the work mill, or continue living your dream in what some may call a foolhardly and idiotic manner?

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MZA 9

Then there’s another issue of prolonged travel, what exactly do we do when we get back? How long should you wait between one stage of study and another, at what point are you out of the loop? How many times should you suspend your practicing certificate before you’re considered no longer safe to practice? And what if after a decent length of time away you start to have the sneaking suspicion that that career you spent so much time and money studying for isn’t really what you want to be doing?
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Parque Podocarpus 5

We concluded that there is only one truly adult, responsible approach we can take. Ignore it and hope it goes away. Yes we know that our respective parents are probably yelling at us through the computer right now but here’s the clincher, just because this isn’t a normal way of doing things doesn’t mean it’s not right for us. In general we’re taught that we should be working towards our futures; the job, house etc. with the ultimate aim that hopefully one day we’ll retire with a bit of cash. And we’ll just have to hope that once we hit that retirement we’ll still be of sound enough mind and body to enjoy it. That’s the plan anyway. Of course if there’s one thing we can almost guarantee in life – it doesn’t go to plan. Something will come up that we didn’t account for no matter what. If you talk to people whose lives didn’t go the way the planned such a person with early onset Alzheimer’s or terminal cancer very few of them would say “My one regret is that I didn’t spend enough hours at the office”. So instead of working on our future we’ve decided to work on our present for a while, make the most of now while we still have it. Sure we have no idea what’s around the corner, that’s the fun of it however. We could never have guessed this time last year where we would be right now and the idea of this time next year is impossible! So we’ve found ourselves a bit of work so we can pay enough to get the IRD off our backs and beyond that, the road is open. Preach over – on with the adventure!

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Quito 6

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*We actually only made shower noodles once, we’re not quite so bad off that this is a regular occurrence!

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A public service announcement on behalf of Colombia.

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Last time we encountered our intrepid adventurers they were leaving Venezuela, an event that occurred only, well, about 8 months ago. In the interest of moving this beast along let’s catch up with our heroes and completely rip off Colombia with one of those hellish fast overview blogs. woohoo!

Let’s venture into yet another country with an ill deserved bad rep. Now while it can’t be denied that Colombian history is brutal and terrifying, 2014 Colombia is a traveler’s wonderland full of unique culture, jaw dropping beauty, incredible people, phenomenally loud noises, vast quantities of fried food, huge open spaces, and crazy parties. It sucks you in and makes you love it. So we’ve appointed ourselves Colombia’s new promo crew, time to pimp dat country.

Colombia- the coke is the least addictive thing about us.

Think Colombia, think drugs? Fair enough after all Colombia is a great producer of one of the world’s favourite drugs, coffee. And hot damn is it incredible. Next time you’re in Colombia swing past the coffee zone, maybe do as we did and pass a couple of buzzed up blissful weeks in Salento, spending your days drinking insane amounts of coffee, visiting local coffee growers, or taking long fresh air walks including visiting a national park that manages to combine chilly Andean mountain vistas with…palm trees?

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Around Salento

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Colombia – it’s not just for cartel bosses anymore.

Unfortunately a lot of people that visit Colombia can’t help thinking about the violence, the guerrilla warfare, Pablo Escobar etc. However such thoughts are quickly pushed out of your mind when you realise that the majority of Colombians are astoundingly warm, kind, inviting people who just want to party! If you ever wanted to check out Carnival but don’t want to pay the insane prices in Rio de Janero – we would recommend Colombia.

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Another awesome side-bonus of our time in Colombia was we got to have a reunion. The highly observant (and slightly stalkerish) of you may have recognised the guy in the photos above, this is our good friend Jordan whom we met in Mexico and traveled with for about 6 weeks. A year ago we celebrated his birthday in Mexico, this year we celebrated it in Colombia! Even better we became a foursome with the addition of his then girlfriend (now wife!!) Yasmin Maher who was kind enough to let us use her Carnival photos. By the way apart from good drunken memory photos she also does incredible general photography. You should google her.

Colombia – FARC yeah!

What you like? You like breath taking natural wonders? Its got breath taking natural wonders.

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Desierto de tatacoma

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Guatepe

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Oh you like beautiful architecture? Yup, got that.

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Cartagena 4

Hot sandy beaches, dense jungle, pumping city nightlife, adventure sports, ancient ruins, don’t worry man – Colombia’s got you.

Guatepe 5

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Tierra dentro

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Ok so maybe we shouldn’t start searching for jobs in advertising. Luckily Colombia has sorted that for itself with its (we think) unofficial tag line; Colombia – the only risk is wanting to stay, and dammit it’s really true. We tried to think of a story or particular event to write about for Colombia but the truth is we couldn’t pick one. We spent 3 months there and hardly even touched the surface. So enjoy the taster then go check it out for yourself!

Venezuela – might this be the most beautiful country in the world?

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Well due to a combination of continuing computer problems, poor internet and general apathy we’re a good 8 months behind on the blog by this point. This one is easy however (well easy now we have a functioning connection). We left off by talking about Venezuela’s (ongoing) internal difficulties but we didn’t want that to be the only side of Venezuela we show. Months on when people ask us about Venezuela we crack grins like crazy people and start spouting on about how gorgeous it is. Since as you have likely realised we are no strangers to spouting on nor a good old fashioned waffle this can go on for sometime.Luckily for you all they say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here’s about 30, 000 words on Venezuela.

The national park around Caracas.

Around Caracas 3Around Caracas 2

 

The trip to Salto Angel the world’s highest waterfall.

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The waterfall itself – boom!

Salt Angel a little closer still Salt Angel a little closer with two dorks Salt Angel a little closer Salto Angel we arrived more!!

Now a little trips to the plains.

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Ever seen an anaconda orgy? No? Well check that one off your ,list.

Los Llanos anaconda orgy

Lets cap it all off with some ice cold lakes.

Around Merida 3 Around Merida alpine lakes 2 Around Merida Brylee and Mikey Around Merida hanging with 'bob' the rusta st. bernard Around Merida view from the Andes

So that’s Venezuela – not bad huh? Keep your eyes peeled for Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. They’ll be coming…eventually.

Los llanos 3

Four Weeks – Countdown to Revolution?

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Our little point and shoot camera has died an untimely death. For reasons you’ll come to understand we haven’t been carrying our big fancy camera around much lately so we have very few pictures to supplement this blog – a little google raiding may be in order. So where have we been? After a few weeks chilling on the Caribbean coast in Colombia we took a month side trip to Venezuela. Now we have to admit like many people living on the other side of the world we didn’t know that much about Venezuela before we went. We knew it was a socialist country and that for a long time it had been led by the dynamic and very anti US Chavez. We also knew he had died about a year ago. Very few people travel to Venezuela and the general reaction when we said we were going there was “are you sure?” We have to admit, we were a little nervous as we entered. We had decided to play it safe and rather than wander blindly we would make use of Couchsurfing and only stay with other surfers at least until we got a sense of the country. And so we had our first defining experience of Venezuela before we even arrived. We sent out a few couch requests and let it be known that we were headed to Caracas – and we were flooded with invitations and advice from locals. We were overwhelmed at the reception, so many friendly messages and so many people saying “Yes! Come to Venezuela-we’re more than just a bad reputation” and upon arriving in Venezuela we discovered the most friendly, welcoming people we have met in our entire trip. So let’s start there before we delve into the grittier side of life.

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Friends!
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We have a few stories to illustrate the welcome we received in Venezuela. Firstly, there are not a lot of tourists in Venezuela at the moment so we were frequently treated to a royal reception when we entered local businesses – faces would light up and people would be falling over themselves to chat to us. It was a bit overwhelming but certainly made us feel wanted! Then there were the people that went out of their way to help us, our wonderful couchsurfers of course but also complete strangers such as the hotel manager who when we were looking for a tour to Salto Angel, the world’s biggest waterfall (that’ll be another blog) took a couple of hours out of his day to drive us around the city so we could find places easier. Then there was the time we were in the (delicious!) chocolate shop and another customer we hadn’t even spoken too bought us a block of (DELICIOUS!) chocolate – just because! And the time we were stuck in a city waiting for a bus for 9 hours- what to do? How about be taken under the wings of a couple of locals, fed for free at their food shop and given a personal tour through the city? That’s the Venezuelan people we met time and time again, always ready to share a drink and have a chat – normally about politics. So what’s all this about revolution then?
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Life in Venezuela isn’t easy. As soon we entered Caracas we noticed the change from other countries, the huge gas guzzling cars from the 1970s, not so much classics as clunking death traps that are only being held together by the rust. Arriving at our couchsurfer’s house we were asked to be sparing with toilet paper seeing as it was pretty hard to get hold of at the moment. Toilet paper? Walking through the streets we quickly realised that if you were in the mood for a new pair of Nike shoes or Levi’s jeans no worries, so long as you could somehow find the cash you would find stores bursting at the seams with these goods but try to find some basics, milk, rice, and yes toilet paper and you were in for a bad time. We would hear stories of people travelling on a bus for an hour or two because they had heard that a store stocked something they needed, they would go in a group of 5 or 6 as purchases were limited to one or two per person, get the precious goods and travel home all the while fielding questions about where they’d managed to find it. Walking into a supermarket in Venezuela is an experience in itself, you’ll see one aisle lined solely with one maybe two brands of cooking oil, the next will be crammed with one brand of washing powder, walk to the third and you’ll find 9 different brands of soy sauce neighboured by one brand of spaghetti, finally the odd vegetable, meat, and packets of chips.
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That man has toilet paper – get him!
Reportedly (although you can never trust media either inside or outside Venezuela to be highly accurate regarding the country) this situation has gotten even worse since we left.
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The other thing that hits you when you enter Venezuela in the socialist propaganda, Chavez is EVERYWHERE as are brief lessons about how good socialist life is. Now many people here really do love Chavez. In general you kind find every kind of opinion on him but most people seem to feel he did at least some good things for their country such as free education and healthcare. Maduro (his replacement) however was quite frequently referred to as an idiot that people voted for either because Chavez has asked them to of they were scared not to. Scared? Yup some people are permanently blacklisted from little things like getting credit, a mortgage, or international travel for not supporting Maduro. And what about the doing it because Chavez asked part? Here’s a little taste of the Chavez love that you see literally everywhere in Venezuela.
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Chavez is the people
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Chavez lives, the fight continues was a popular one.
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Chavez the heart of my country was everywhere.
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Even kids love Chavez!
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??!!
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Words escape us…
But it is far from all love of country and joy in Venezuela. During the time we were in Venezuela things bubbled up until they hit boiling point. Protests begun by middle-class student very quickly spread to the wider population. The first major event occurred while we were out of touch with the world visiting Salto Angel. We had no internet where we were so no idea of what was happening. When we returned to the city of Ciudad Bolivar we came across a decent sized group of people marching through the streets, tooting horns etc. They had no signs and seemed fairly peaceful, we were aware that that day was national youth day and thought this may be something to do with that. It was only upon waking the next morning and checking the news (international not Venezuelan) that we discovered there had been major protests around the country and that 3 people had been killed in Caracas. It was a huge shock to hear of such things happening in a place we had been just over a week ago. We tried to find some more information but internationally we could only find the same news article over and over and nationally there was no chance. Throughout the rest of the time we were in Venezuela we would hear the odd news article they generally ran along the lines of a very small number of fascist country hating people are protesting against the government with the encouragement of the United States but the Maduro-loving citizens should not worry it is all very peaceful, the country is perfect and the government has it under control. Venezuela is good and great and those interfering Americans who are stirring up trouble should get out of the country – due to the bad history between Venezuela and the USA it seems like it was easier to blame them than admit any citizens were actually unhappy. In a country where the government own all the media the only real way to get news is via text message or social media. Meanwhile the protests got bigger and bigger. People would march all day and make noise all night.
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Talking with young people in the country revealed how scared for their futures they are in Venezuela. Venezuela has a pretty great education system but very low pay and limited work opportunities. Many young people want to leave Venezuela in order to get a better life which is a very hard decision for them as ultimately they are an incredibly patriotic people, as one girl commented “I love my country but I love my life more.” Many young people feel that there is very little they can do against such a powerful government that literally can kill it’s people and have no repercussions.
We had about 2 weeks left in our trip to Venezuela when the protests began and decided to keep going. We personally were never in any danger from the events and felt that if we left depending on how things went we might not get another chance to return in a long time.

When we arrived in Mérida, a big centre of the protests, we encountered our first demonstration. It was between us and where we needed to go so we had no choice but to walk through with our giant backpacks. This was during the middle of the day however and during the day the protests had been very peaceful and so it was on that day. There was almost a carnival atmosphere, as if people were reveling in the experience of speaking their minds, a bunch of students with painted faces and pens to write on cars and buses may also have contributed. Where we were staying in Mérida was far from the protests and so we were at no risk. However, it was still disconcerting as the sun went down and we started to hear explosive noises off in the distance. Usually these noises were firecrackers however sometimes they were gun shots and even occasionally dynamite apparently.
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Closer to us people would stand outside their doors for hours banging pots and pans in support of the protesters. We would wake up in the mornings to showers of ash from the rubbish that would be burnt during the night and see streets littered with the stuff. Shops began to close earlier and earlier and eventually some stopped opening. We had arranged to couchsurf at a local guys place however the night we were to go there he could not leave his house to come and get us as it was in student central and he didn’t feel safe. Things felt like they were boiling hotter and hotter and yet in reality nothing was really changing, the exact same protests were occurring day after day. There were some signs that things were escalating, suddenly the leader of the opposition party was in prison and being blamed for the protests. We would hear stories of yet another person killed and these killings started to hit people more and more when local celebrities such as a Venezuelan beauty queen and a famous boxer were killed. And yet what could they do, life had to go on until it ended one way or another. Then, in a shock change, the pro-government mayor of one of the cities most affected by protests spoke up and said that it was government doing the killings, not “rebel gangs” or anyone else the government was blaming. We’ve heard no news of where he is now.
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We took a few days out from Mérida to visit the savannahs of Venezuela (again, another story for another time). It was very strange leaving Mérida and suddenly being in the middle of an area that had barely any contact with the rest of the country and couldn’t care less what was happening in the cities. For 4 days we were unaffected by the protests. It was only upon returning that we began to catch the local atmosphere again. Our guide called his wife to get a sense of the atmosphere in Mérida, in general she said it was unchanged but somehow even having contact with people who were there was enough to remind us of what was going on. Our guides young daughter began crying for worry about her mother and didn’t stop the rest of the (8ish hours) trip, whilst he took the opportunity to stop at store and stock up on about 15kgs of rice “just in case” – this was a part of the country that still had rice. We were a bit nervous as we returned to Mérida however things actually looked the same. We had plans to leave the next day as out visa was up however we were informed that the bus terminal which had been closed since the day after we arrived was still closed and we could not leave the city by bus. We arranged to hire a taxi to take us to the border and went to sleep hoping we would be able to make it through the protests in the morning.

We left Mérida uneventfully and spent the next 2 days travelling in taxis across the country to the border. We had heard rumours that some borders were closed and so were hoping we were going to be able to get out. It took a very long time to get to the border, what should have been a 2 hour drive at one point took 7 due to us being stopped every few kilometres to be searched. This was a clearly pointless undertaking as we were travelling on a straight road and each soldier that searched our bags knew that they had likely already been searched multiple times before. Of course being foreigners we were stopped every time however we’re fairly sure this was not actually to look through our stuff, which they often didn’t bother doing, but to break up the monotony of their days. So what were the soldiers looking for? Food mostly. What food there still was in Venezuela was exceptionally cheap and soldiers were confiscating it off people who were trying to take it to Colombia. The checkpoints were littered with giant containers of mayonnaise and pasta. We finally made it to the border, and took another 3 hours to get across due to the rampant corruption there but finally we were back in Colombia. It was a bittersweet feeling. It was good to be out of Venezuela really as we knew things were getting worse and worse and yet we didn’t really want to leave. Venezuela is an incredible country full of amazing people and it was hard to say goodbye. We often think of our friends there and try and keep in touch with what is happening but the rest of the world (even in Colombia) is fairly disinterested in Venezuela and the news is relatively quiet.

At this point (2 months on) the protests continue, the violence has escalated, and it would appear that little has changed. The people are refusing to back down and the government is refusing to acknowledge them as anything other than peace-hating troublemakers.
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Maduro we’re coming for you
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A cry for peace – yes some of the protesters messages are conflicting.

Here is a recent news article and a fairly comprehensive Wikipedia article if you’re interested.

In our next blog we are going to talk about some of the beautiful and incredible things we saw and did in Venezuela because despite anything else this is a gorgeous country that we had an exceptional and unforgettable month in. Big love Venezuela.
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The Great Escape

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Phew, it’s been awhile huh? What started as a few technical difficulties, mainly being without a computer charger for about a month kind of devolved into general slacker-dom. While the travel continues to be eventful, inspirational, and challenging the desire to write about it faded somewhat. A couple of subtle (and not so subtle!) reminders have swiftly kicked our pants however so here goes.

And so we went to Panamá…and after a couple of weeks we were ready to leave. Excitedly we began to think about the next leg of our journey, finally, South America! It was so very close, all we had to do was get to Colombia. All we had to do…

Now despite being joined by land it is not possible to drive from Panamá to Colombia due to a large expanse of jungle which is liberally dotted with guerrillas (the ones with the landmines and big guns). This left us with limited options, all of which involved some time sailing waters known to house Pirates of the Caribbean (yes really). Yarg me hearties, to adventure! After extensive internet based research into sailboats, ferries, and planes we determined 3 viable options. Sail on an expensive 4-5 days booze cruise through San Blas – a series of gorgeous tropical islands inhabited by people from a unique and well-preserved culture (Kuni), fly a short distance and then take a speedboat across the water, or skip the flight and have a boat wrenching 8 hour speedboat ordeal. Now which do you think we picked? If you chose option A then BEEEP I’m sorry you fail Mikey and Brylee travel 101, naturally this wonderful cruise was the most expensive choice ($400US upwards) and so a no-go. The flight option was the cheapest and most appealing choice of course meaning that all the flights were sold out until February. This left us with one remaining option, at a mere $177 the speedboat seemed a fast, cheap, and effective choice (if this were a TV show this is where you would hear dramatically tense music). Having made our decision we spoke with the man who could book it for us and inquired about departures.

“Hmm, well, he’s definitely going tomorrow (December 31st) and then maybe the 5th I’m not sure”

We had plans for New Years in Panamá and so asked to confirm the exact date of the next departure. Meanwhile we attempted other avenues, narrowly missing hitching a ride on a sailboat. The next day (the 1st) we were told that the boat might be leaving tomorrow but they weren’t sure, check back later in the day. Upon checking back we were informed that tomorrow was out but for certain it would be leaving the day after (the 3rd), just check back later in the day. Whoops nope, looks like the 3rd is out but for sure the 4th. Supremely confident in this clearly well organised operation we prepared for our January 4th trip to Colombia and lo and behold, upon rising from bed at 4.15am we did in fact encounter a somewhat crumpled looking gentleman who informed us he was the driver who would take us the 2 (read 3) hours by road to catch our boat. Was this it? Were we really on the way? Yes! Colombia here we come!

The road trip was narrow, unpaved, and bumpy – bog standardly uneventful you could say. We arrived at the dock and managed to have breakfast despite the sweet but highly disinterested service of a few girls who had unreasonable amounts of trouble understanding our simple request of “may we have some more” (this was not due to our Spanish, our Argentinian friend had just as much difficulty). After breakfast we were loaded onto our vessel for the trip, picture if you can a “boat” that we will graciously say is slightly larger than a dugout canoe, adorned with 5 rows of bench seats, 2 40 horsepower engines and nothing else. If we had harboured any delusions of sheltering ourselves from either sun or rain they were now gone. Ah well, if we’d wanted luxury we would have paid for the cruise. On we hopped and off we bounced.
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10 minutes later we arrived at a small island. Having officially now entered the fabled San Blas region, an area that consists of 365 tiny pieces of paradise you could understand our surprise when instead of approaching one such marvel of sand and sea we instead pulled up to what appeared to be a shanty town built on top of a rubbish dump. From our vantage point in the boat we could see that every available space was taken up with housing constructed from poles strapped together. As Mikey commented “It looks like a strong wind would blow this whole place over, you wouldn’t even need a tsunami”. The island was ringed by the refuse that the locals (lacking any form of rubbish removal) dump into the sea, not just rubbish but also human waste as all toilets were simple long drops with a hole directly into the ocean. This was not the San Blas of the tourist brochures, our brief stop for (what? Fuel maybe?) gave us a small window into the real life of some of the Kuni people.

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We watched our boat driver get off, wander into one of the shacks, waited a moment and saw him return. Upon which he informed us that we would be going no further today. He had expected to pick up more passengers but this was not happening and so in short, he wasn’t getting enough money so we would not be going to Colombia. Now as you can imagine we calmly accepted this and went on with our day. BEEEP, wow strike 2 on the Mikey and Brylee knowledge. What actually ensued was hours of bargaining, attempting to gather up other passengers so we could leave, debate and quite frankly flat out arguing. Now to be honest for us it wasn’t so bad, one extra day, whatever but for the Argentinian guy with only a short time to travel and the Colombian who had only 2 weeks off work and family waiting for him this was an exceptional inconvenience. And showing an impressive display of unprofessionalism, arrogance and general jerkery the boat drivers could not have given two shits between them. Even after wrangling, cajoling and managing to get together a boat of passengers who were willing to pay $950 all up they refused to go, they would not move their supercilious asses for less than $1000, which lacking any access to cash was not an option for us even were we willing to pay it. And so we were stuck for a night on the island. Now this did give us a unique opportunity to meet local Kuni people and maybe get to know a bit of their culture, however this did not go down so well. We could (and probably will in the future) write a lengthy blog about our cultural exchanges here and other places but at this stage just imagine you had been relocated by your government onto a rubbish dump. Now the situation is much more complex than that and the Kuni people have chosen to remain independent in many ways for many reasons. Nevertheless it cannot be denied that where these people were living was cramped, poor, and unsanitary and it did not make for open and friendly interactions with the comparatively rich white tourists who had popped in for the night. And so frustrated, upset, and angry we curled up in our hammocks and went to sleep – hoping against hope that we might be able to leave in the morning.

The sun rose and so did we, attempting to work kinks from the hammocks out of our backs. What did not appear unsurprisingly was the complimentary breakfast that the organiser of this little trip had turned up late at night to promise us as he just felt so bad about this (but not bad enough to give back his commission). Our two pleasant boat drivers had gone, we could only hope this was to pick up other passengers so they would deign to continue our trip and after a while surely enough they did arrive. Our new fellow travellers had smartly claimed the back seats of the boat (less bounce) and so we were relegated to the front but who cares, at least we’re going, right? Maybe today we would see Colombia, we were willing to hope but not to believe.

And so began the speedboat leg. 8 hours of being thrown about as our tiny craft navigated high waves. As we jolted and bounced across the shark infested sea that bordered on uninhabited land we couldn’t help but note the tiny voice in the back of our heads that said “maybe this isn’t the smartest thing you’ve done”. However it was quickly drained out by the one that said “WEEEEEEE!!!” It must be said that the thrill of the journey left Brylee much faster than it did Mikey, there’s a distinct moment in time where having your spine repeatedly driven up into you skull stops being a fun roller coaster and just becomes bum numbing monotony. Our darling drivers were certainly in no hurry stopping off at this and that little overpopulated, under sanitised island, none of which was able to provide us with food beyond a packet of crackers. Eventually we could spy in the distance some truly gorgeous islands, it would appear we had come into the region of San Blas tourism style and a greater antithesis to the island we stayed on would be hard to imagine.

It has to be said that the scenery during the trip was breath-taking, especially the jungle of the Darien Gap, we’d have taken pictures but our hands were occupied with holding on for dear life. Slowly we crept closer and closer to the border when suddenly BANG POP SHUDDER….silence. We just looked at each other. Of course we’ve broken down in the middle of the sea. Fortunately this was just a temporary glitch and off we bounded once again. Agonising hours later we saw it, the Panamá border, one of our final hurdles. We unloaded all our goods while our dear drivers looked on, slogged them to the border (why we hadn’t stopped at the jetty RIGHT THERE who can tell), passed the sniffer dogs with flying colours and headed off to get our passports stamped. Hmmm, the office appears to be locked, that’s a bit odd. Finally we managed to track down the woman who (we think?) works in the office. Imagine our surprise to learn that it was after 4pm and the office was closed and so we’d have to come back tomorrow. Now there was no way we were spending one more damn night in Panamá. Upon hearing this the woman was much more helpful, she’d be willing to open the office and give us our stamps – for $20. Fine, whatever, we’ll play the game just get us out of the country. How very unusual however that our drivers who do this for a living had absolutely no idea that the office would be closed by the time we arrived. Upon returning to the boat naturally we couldn’t find those same drivers, Likely they were off getting their cut of the cash from the office lady. Sometime later they strolled over. Whatever, bags in, aching bums on benches let’s just get to Colombia. We won’t dare hope the office is open but maybe we can sleep in the road or something.

Bounce, thump, jolt, crash, along we sped and suddenly there it was, land of our dreams, sparkling in the late afternoon sun – Colombia. We arrived at the jetty and needless to say there were many smiles, hugs, and exchanging of details with our beloved boat men before we took our first hesitant steps on Colombian soil. Eyes streaming from the wind, faces red and shiny from too much sun, lips cracked and festering from dehydration, ragged, smelly, and exhausted we dared to dream. But what was this? Smiles? Friendly greetings? People asking if we needed help and not charging us for it? Oh Colombia, could it be true?! We made our way to the customs office – and it was open! With a smile and a “Bienvenidos a Colombia” we received one of our most precious possessions, that little stamp that says Entry Into Colombia, January 5th. Finally, after over a year we were in South America!

P.S. If you happened to be wondering why our feature image was a monkey it’s because the damn computer wouldn’t let us upload any more photos. Due to this we also unscrupulously “borrowed” the photos of the Kuni village from two other bloggers (who you could check out by way of thanks :D) http://bodeswell.org/2010/09/28/into-the-gap/ and http://adegreeaday.blogspot.com/2012/09/the-kuna-yala-islands-or-san-blas.html

Animal Cruelty in the Name of Money

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As a rule we don’t go to zoos. Undeniably there are a few incredible ones throughout the world that have brilliant habitats and focus on preserving endangered species. And then there are the ones that are cruel prisons for humans to oooh and aaah over nature while ignoring the miserable conditions the animals are in. Such a zoo is El Nispero zoo in El Valle Panama. Up until now we have avoided zoos in Central America, sure it’s the convenient and easy way to be able to view all the incredible wildlife this continent has to offer but we really weren’t willing to take the gamble about what the conditions would be like. One of the reasons we had come to El Valle however was for frog-lover Mikey to see an amphibian centre that is there. This centre is working on protecting endangered frogs and increasing their population. It is however housed in the El Nispero zoo. We asked around a bit about the zoo and got a fairly positive response from the locals “oh it’s a beautiful place”,”the cages? No they’re very big, very nice”. What we hadn’t fully come to appreciate yet was the Panamanian trait of never speaking ill of your neighbours’ enterprises, gossip can go a long way in a small town and you don’t want it getting around that you have been spreading bad rumours. Therefore after the general positive we were rather looking forward to seeing up close what we had up until now often only glimpsed from afar. Such as the 200kg Tapir we spotted in Costa Rica, remember him? Well this is how Tapirs look when confined to a concrete pen.
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You might also recall that we spent a couple of months in Belize working at a wildlife rehabilitation centre that works with animals such as monkeys and helps rehabilitate them into the wild after lives in zoos or as pets. Well this is why we worked there.
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When we first came across this little guy he was sitting in a corner huddled over on himself with an expression of pure misery on his face. There were three capuchins in the cage, this photo show 2/3rds of the size of the cage.
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You may wonder why this guy is sleeping in his food bowl?
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Well look at his other option.
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We have spent hours wandering through bush to see various phenomenal tropical birds such as macaws and toucans. There was really no need, we saw them all at the El Nispero zoo, and look at what laudable conditions they live in!
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Don’t they look thrilled?
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We finally made it to the amphibian centre which to it’s credit had much better habitats for the frogs. The star of the show, the golden frog has this fine home.
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When in the amphibian centre we were charmed to overhear one tourist (after peering into the golden frog enclosure for all of 20 seconds) whine “If they didn’t make the enclosure so darn big we might actually be able to see it”. Give that girl a conservation award. This is the problem however, it’s not so much the people who are trying to make a quick buck off animals, it’s us who LET them. We placidly paid our $5 each to witness this just like everyone else did. Were other people also appalled? Maybe but who’s to know if we don’t say anything?

We excited the amphibian centre fully ready to leave as soon as possible but the zoo had several more nasty surprises for us, some things we couldn’t capture like the clearly wild animals constantly running around their cages desperately trying to find a way out, or the others that just sat and rocked. We did snap one more however. There’s one animal that has always eluded our attempts to see it in the wild and to this day we wish we could still say we’d never seen one.
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That’s a jaguar. Two in fact, in a cage this size.
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The younger one just paced frantically back and forward the whole time DSC_4802 while the other tried to make herself comfortable on this joke of an attempt at enrichment.
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We have been lucky enough to see so much incredible wildlife in Central America and until this we have done it all by visiting national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, and rehabilitation centres. Have they all been perfect? No, but they’re so very much better than these monstrosities. Yes sometimes we had to work hard and walk far to see what we did but not always (Manuel Antonio for example) and even when we did, finding it for yourself is half the thrill! So we beg you, as you travel please learn from our mistake, avoid zoos that do not have a good international reputation as well as other tourist attractions that exploit animals. If you want to see them, go to them (in as non destructive a way as you can). If we stop paying for it, they’ll stop providing it. And please DON’T t go to El Nispero zoo in Panama. Think of the jaguars.

The times when there just isn’t enough time.

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We know right, what jerks. Travelling the world with nothing but time and here we are whinging about not having enough. Yeah you may have noticed that ‘pressed for time’ has not been one of our major concerns during this trip, coming up to one year in and we’re still in Central America, you know, that part that “should only take about 3 months”. But recently we did find ourselves pressed for time – for the first time in our entire trip we had a time limit and quite frankly we didn’t know how to cope! Here’s the run down, we had plane tickets back home to NZ for Brylee’s brother’s wedding (congrats bro!). We’d known about the date for some time and hadn’t been too concerned, we had plenty of time. Then a certain demon contraption came into our lives and threw everything out. Suddenly we had two weeks left and a whole country to see and not just any country, Nicaragua, one we’d been excited about for a very long time. So what to do? Come back again after NZ, no we decided we’d already spent too much time backtracking, we wanted to move forward. This left us with two options, minimise or cram. Now minimising was smart, just see a few things really well, ok, we can do that, there’s only really these 7 things that are absolute must dos, that, oh actually that’s pretty intense…so…cram? Now we’d tried cramming before, with 11 days to see Vietnam we’d crammed the crap out of that trip, let’s just say there were some very strained interchanges and maybe a few tears in the street. We are not good crammers. Seriously, how do people do it?? Just rock up and blast through a country? How do you not get side tracked by stories of other amazing things? How do you not kill your travel companions? We decided the answer was a schedule, a very strict to the day schedule. After much working out DSC_4723
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It took us a day to go off schedule.
More or less however we did manage to stick to it and it gave us a whirlwind tour of the amazing Nicaragua.

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And once again we fell in love. It seems the places we don’t get enough time in are the ones we love the most (or maybe that’s why we love them – could there be a lesson in that for us sloth-paced travellers? Nah). We saw all the usual awesomeness subjects with some extra new treats as well like volcano boarding – Mikey’s new favourite thing to do in the world. Imagine hiking hot and sweaty up to the top of a volcano then sitting yourself down on what we’ll generously call a sled (piece of wood) and zooming to the bottom at speeds of 50 up to 80kmph. Fun? Hells yes!!
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For us the big problem with cram travel however was what do you do when you make the wrong choice? Yeah yeah, there’s no wrong choices in travel, it’s all an amazing experience. We know that stuff, we may have been heard to say that stuff but sometimes you do make slightly less awesome choices. What if (just to select completely random examples) you go to a magical volcanic island paradise but happen to pick a place to stay that’s not near anything at all, or instead of a wonderful homestay experience learning about life on a coffee plantation you’re basically left to your own devices to wander uninspiring farm land for two precious days. Normally it’s no problem- we’ll just try again tomorrow but when the schedule says you’re leaving tomorrow you don’t get another shot. That sort of how we felt about Nicaragua – an amazing place which we went too fast through and ripped ourselves off with, and we’re not going to get another shot anytime soon.

In contrast, after some more whirlwind time in NZ (LOVED seeing everybody xxx) the high costs of Costa Rica helped us minimise significantly. This is how we spent 2 weeks in Costa Rica, just 3 locations – a couple of days kicking back in San Jose before moving onto Manuel Antonio where our time was more or less spilt between days at the beach and spotting sloths, agoutis, and monkeys.
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Finally to Corcovado “the most biodiversity rich place on earth” (Everyone, all the time) for some deep jungle slogging with 200kg sleeping tapirs, a 3m long croc, toucans, bull sharks, and a host of other incredible flora and fauna.

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Sigh, yup, much more our sloth-like style.
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Feliz Navidad (otra vez!)

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Greetings from Panama! Is it Christmas Eve again already? How insane to think that this exact time last year we were touching down in Mexico City bright eyed and full of travel wonder.
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The wonder is definitely still there after such an exceptional year. We’ve seen and done so many phenomenal things.
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We’ve worked hard
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We’ve definitely played hard
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We’ve confronted fears
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achieved life-long goals
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discovered brand new passions
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and had experiences we never could have even dreamed of before we left
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To top it all off we’ve made a world full of friends. We don’t talk a lot about the friends we’ve made travelling as we realise not everyone wants to be splashed across someone else’s blog but the people we have met this year, both other travellers and local friends are truly what have made the trip. As well of course as those at home, heck, we even managed to cram a visit to those guys in too!
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We’ve both turned 30, our relationship has turned 5 and now our adventure is 1 year old! Of course it hasn’t all been a dream, there have been days full of scream worthy frustration, others of bone numbing boredom, for every laugh we’ve yelled at each other! And then there’s been the real downers, the dengue fever, the “van incident”, and yesterdays discovery that some charming nephew or niece of Uncle Sam took a $6000 joy ride with Brylee’s cloned credit card. Whatever we’ve come against though we’ve tackled it as a team. So now onto the next year. We’ve got decidedly way less money and way more ground to cover than we planned, who knows what will come of it! In a couple of weeks we’ll finally hit South America, so this is it, one year, 14 countries, very little cash. Can we do it? Who knows, but we’re ready to give it our best shot!

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MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

Four wheels bad, two legs good.

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This is a story of a car. We have however very few pictures of said car and Brylee maintains that pictures of cars are incredibly boring and so we will supplement the story with pictures of macaws we saw in Honduras. Macaws beat cars every time.

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Hold onto your hats this is a doozy.

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Our feet hurt and our backs are tired. After 8 months carrying our bags on our backs we were more than ready to abandon the snail way of life and upgrade. It was time to enact a plan we had made before leaving NZ, time to buy a van! The plans were big, get a van with enough space that we can install a bed, maybe a small cooking area and be self-sufficient on the road. We could go where we wanted when we wanted. We could even pick up other travellers along the way. A beautiful dream – our own van. We really wanted to buy in Guatemala as from everything we’d heard so far it seemed like we would have the smoothest and most straight-forward time changing the ownership there. We knew what we needed too, something practical, something like a Toyota which we could fix easily and find parts for everywhere. Yup a Toyota would be perfect. So we bought this.

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Well actually not this one, but this idea, google gave us this pic. But it’s black with a white roof, and it’s a 1979 VW Kombi.

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Ahh, the screams of anyone who knows anything about cars is ringing through our ears, yup we did it, a VW Kombi – the world’s most unreliable vehicle. But look how cute they are! His name is Pingu and he would be our friend and take us all through Latin America. To be honest giving any car a good once over was hard in Guate without paying for a mechanic, for example we ended up buying this one in a petrol station in the middle of rush hour, we couldn’t lift it up and get a good look at it which was frustrating but we had a friend who sold used cars with us to help negotiate and our seller was from the Kombi Club (seriously there’s a Kombi Club in Guatemala) and prized himself on caring for his Kombis so compared to other options we’d viewed this seemed like our winner.

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Our first suspicion that we may have made a horrible error was on the drive back to where we were staying. While our test drive had not brought up any big questions this longer drive indicated that actually the steering on this beast was terrible, and seriously what was wrong with the engine? We were chugging up a hill in 2nd gear and barely advancing. Chug chug chug, come on Pingu you can do this! We crawled into the driveway and went to bed, ready for a big day of getting our ownership papers changed at SAT the Guatemalan transport authority tomorrow.

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Upon rising we discovered that Pingu had a present for us – a flat tyre. Naturally we had no jack, no spare, and were a few kms from any viable places to get these. Cue a walk to the store 2km away for tools, a return, a trip back the same way with a tyre, and a return with bright spanking new wheel. We weren’t too miffed, annoying yes but we had checked out the tyres previously and had already planned to replace a couple today, it just would have been nice of Pingu to hold out until we could actually drive down and do it. Ah well we’re set up now and off we drove into the city, only having one minor pant dampening incident when the accelerator pedal popped off, no worries, it just lacks a bolt – we’ll get to that after. We arrived at SAT, well to be precise at one of the many lawyers outside the SAT building, we had been informed that this car changing business was definitely not something to be attempted sans legal representation. We weren’t entirely sure what was in store but we were guessing it was a touch more complicated than the NZ process of walk into the LTSA, pay $9, sign a paper, walk out. So into the lawyers we walked and were met with a barrage of rapid Spanish, if we’d thought car Spanish to be a touch specialised and hard to follow legal Spanish was a killer, surprisingly during our time in Xela we had never learned the Spanish for avadavat. Why on earth would we need an avadavat to buy a car you ask? Oh coz the previous owner had changed the colour. And? Oh yeah, that’s a big deal here. A really big deal. Any changes at all and suddenly you’ve got inspections up a wazoo but hopefully our little letter from the lawyer with help circumvent that – for a price. But that was a worry for another day, as it turned out we would not be making it to SAT today. Bird break.

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First we had to go….somewhere, for….something. We had no idea what but it was clearly very important. No problem, one of the friendly girls at the lawyer’s office would go with us and help. Off we popped in our trusty Pingu, a few minutes down the road and we sputtered to a stop. What the hell just happened? It didn’t take long to figure out – the fuel gage was broken and when the guy who sold it to us yesterday at a petrol station said he just filled the tank he was full of shit. Ok, no big deal, do a run to a petrol station with a can, get a small bit of petrol and get ourselves moving, Done and back on our way when our lovely guide promptly turned us into a one way street – gaaaah! This is not the most restful first journey – did we mention that all of this was occurring in Guatemala City, a crowded behemoth full of horrific drivers? And our indicators also didn’t work. Smoothly enough we manoeuvred through getting back on track when, poof, we stopped again. Seriously what now?? The fan belt. Naturally we had no idea how to change a Kombi fan belt which would have to be different to every other fan belt in the world, also where the hell would we even find one? Giving up on our mission for the day we sent our helper back to her office and went about changing the belt. We won’t bore you with the 2 hour agony that was the changing of the fan belt but eventually, via the petrol station, we were back on the road and limping off, tails between our legs to try again tomorrow. As we slowly but sure- well slowly chugged up the hill we finally knew the truth. All those people who talk about amazing adventures in Kombis were propaganda tools for VW. Kombis suck. Oh and on the final extra steep bouncy stretch we managed to only break down 6 times.

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Waking the next morning we were full of joy and sunshine so very ready for another wonderful day of car adventures. We (ok MIkey) had discovered that the cause of the problems the night before was a loose HT lead so we temporarily glued that on and off we zoomed. Wait a minute, we WERE zooming! What the hell? Suddenly we’re climbing hills in 3rd, even 4th! We’re flowing like a black dream down the road, one little lead and everything is changed. Uneventfully we sauntered into the lawyer’s office, and equally as uneventfully we completed our task of the day before, gathered all our bits and pieces, paid money where they told us to pay money, paid more money because – well we weren’t entirely sure why but it looked like progress and off we went confidently striding into the SAT building. The friendly SAT lady told us everything looked good, our letter should be more than enough for the colour change (money well spent!) we just needed to wait 24 hours for the computer to update the payment we’d made (taxes and, some other stuff…) and we’d be good. Since it was Friday we needed to wait until Monday and spend the weekend getting Pingu set up. Sufficiently satisfied we putted off in the nearly-ours Pingu. After a short pull over to adjust the accelerator pedal (we really should fix that) we pull out and heard a sickening snap – and that was our steering gone. Now on the one hand the guy who sold the van really should have let us know that the steering was only held together by one very shoddy bolt so that you know, it didn’t do something like snap while we were driving around a corner on a hill so we could plummet off the edge and die. On the other hand we now knew why the steering had been a bit off and it was a relatively simple thing to fix. Fortunately for us we had snapped right in front of a mechanic, possibly the greatest mechanic in the world – should you for some reason ever need mechanical repairs in Guatemala City get yourself to Juan Pablo at Autobox Services the man is a saint! Originally Mikey just wandered over to get a couple of bolts and borrow some tools but do we really need to tell you by now that it just didn’t turn out that simply? Long story short some genius had welded the steering to the chassis and this was not a 2 minute fix. Screw it, we needed tyres anyway. We decided to leave Pingu in Juan Pablo’s capable hands and take the weekend off car duty, come Monday we would have everything ready at SAT, the steering would be fixed, new tyres would be on and we would be good to go.

We had a lovely relaxing weekend.

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Come Monday we were ready to tackle SAT. We got past the first hurdle – everything was good on the computers. Finally we had made it to the sacred inner sanctum, the long waiting line for car related activities. Waiting, waiting, waiting and finally we were at the desk! We suspected we would have difficulties as soon as the guy looked at our faces and grimaced, no we’re not from here, yes we have the papers we need, yes we can speak enough Spanish to survive this transaction, lets just get it done! All good, fine, fine, ok, then came the colour change.
“You’re just changing the colour?”
“Yes”
“No parts?”
“Nothing else, just the colour.”
“You changed the colour?”
“Actually, the guy who owned it before us did it”
“Just the colour?”
“Yes”
“No others parts?”
“Seriously, just the colour…that the other guy did”.
Now at this point Jerky Asshole the third could have simply looked at our pricey avadavat and given us out new title but nooooo
“You need the receipt from the place that did the colour change”
“But we didn’t even do it, we have no receipt, we cannot get a receipt”.
“Well I couldn’t possibly change the colour on the title without it. No receipt, no colour change.”
And of course, no colour change, no getting the van across borders. Well F@#k you very much small man in a menial job. Back to our lawyer who said she could get one for us, amongst the stress we had to appreciate a country where our lawyer was hunting down a forged document for us! After getting sick of waiting we thought we’d wander over and pick up the van, a touch of brightness in the day. Naturally it wasn’t ready and we would have to come back tomorrow, and now that we had no van we had no time to go and pick up our fake receipt and take it to SAT. Good, looks like we get to do this all again tomorrow.

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Tomorrow came, we got to our lawyer who had the shiney forged document (and fresh bill) for us. Over to SAT, this time, this is it!! Oh no, we didn’t even make it past the first stage this time, see THIS receipt doesn’t have the word factory on it, so how could they possibly know that this is a place that paints cars, maybe we could find another one? Oh sure, not a problem, let us get right on that. Our lawyer was pretty confident she could get another one – in two weeks or so. After pulling various sad and stressed faces she promised to do it as fast as possible – Guatemalan fast – we held out limited hope. So into the bus one more time, oh good, wrong bus, this one dropped us off about 15 blocks from the mechanic – “Hey, what’s that sound? Thunder? Oh good”. Saturated and miserable we finally arrived at the mechanic so we could have this conversation…
“Hey guys, how are you doing?”
“Bad, we could use some good news”
“I have really bad news….”

You know how sometimes you really need to lift a car up to see what’s going on with it, you know how there are problems you can only really identify when you pull it apart a bit. This van had all of them. We’re not exaggerating one bit when we say had we driven any further in it, it would most likely have blown up. With us inside. After going back to our friend’s place, crying, ranting, and throwing our toys all through the house we came to a decision. The problems were fixable, not cheap but fixable and we’d come this far. We would hand over more (quite a bit more) of our hard earned cash, fix this thing and get moving. And while the receipt was being hunted down and the car being fixed we would go to El Salvador. Perfect plan. And perfect it was, El Salvador was a little piece of paradise that helped get us back in the travelling spirit.

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After 2 weeks we reluctantly but optimistically headed back to Guatemala.

First, to the lawyer, new receipt – check. Off we go to SAT, past the first hurdle, easy – upstairs we go. This receipt is fine? Great ok, sooo? Then we were informed that we had to pay more money due to us not changing the ownership within 2 weeks (and whose fault was that hmm?) as well as some various other monies for various things fine whatever, off to the bank, money paid let’s get this DONE!
“Well you see, there’s a problem…”
Now one of our documents was a bit old and worn at the edges which made it a touch hard to read the last number in the serial number in the corner, not impossible, just hard, oh and the number was written out again directly below it.
“But that’s not the point, I need to read THIS number, so you need another one, you’ll need to go to the police, it’ll take about 15 days….”
This was when Jerky Assholethe third menial office worker SAT man got bombarded with a flurry of very imperfect but very impassioned Spanish. Oh HELL no we were not leaving without that ownership paper today, NOW. Latin passion should not be overestimated, suddenly this insurmountable problem just didn’t seem that big, 15 minutes later we walked out the proud owners of a hunk of shit Kombi, that should be all shiney and new by now. Do we really need to tell you what came next? Parts were hard to find, being built blah blah blah – screw this, we’re going to Honduras, we’ll be back in a month, then we’ll take this money pit and drive off into the sunset with it. Please enjoy some non-bird images from Honduras.

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One month and a helping of dengue later we were both feeling pretty exhausted with the whole thing. Even if dear old Pingu was road worthy when we got back, did we really want to deal with this vehicle on an on-going basis? But what about all the money we’d sunk into it? We’re talking months of travel, gone. What to do? We arrived back to Juan Pablo our friendly mechanic and saw Pingu still in pieces.
“Ok guys, I can have it all done in a couple of days, there’s just this one little problem with the serial number on the engine.”
That’s it, we’re out.
We’re now in Nicaragua, the van is in Guatemala, the papers are signed and Juan Pablo is holding onto it and will try and sell it for us. Here is our last view of Pingu.

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So if anyone wants a Kombi – it now runs well, there isn’t a problem with the serial number (engine or document), you would have no difficulty changing the ownership as it now says black – all in all it’s a great purchase for a traveller, just not us. Really we should have listened to our past selves, this blog is Two Legs Good for a reason, and our two legs are good enough for us, they’ll carry us as far as they can with the money we have left. And if we EVER mention buying a Kombi again slap us. Seriously.

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Same World, Different Eyes

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It’s not unusual for the two of us to have different reactions to events. Something that one of us finds breath-taking the other responds to with a hearty “meh”. An occurrence that makes one furious and fuming the other simply doesn’t care about. Usually this just comes down to small details, how we’re feeling on the day, if we’re tired, or hungry, or just not really that into being dragged to yet another damn ruin. Occasionally though we can be in a place and have completely opposing experiences and that was definitely the case in Roatan, in the Bay of Islands in Honduras.

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If you ever ask Brylee about Roatan you’ll probably see a dreamy glazed look come over her and hear her incoherently mutter sounds like “tropical paradise” or “incredible reef”. If you mention it to Mikey however you may notice a distinct pallor come over his suddenly clenched jaw…

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The Bay Islands was on our agenda even before we left NZ for one reason, located in the Caribbean it is home to the world’s second largest reef and also happens to be one of the most affordable places in the world to learn to scuba dive, something very high on Brylee’s must-do list. Now leaping into a world that is entirely hostile to humans being with the express purpose of not dying may not be everyone’s cup of tea but while you’re drinking those teas on dry land check out what you’re missing.

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Pez Mariposa en Esponja Tubo

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ok so the last 3 photos were stolen from google not taken on Brylee’s dives but are all things she saw while diving.

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But wait a minute? What about Mikey why wasn’t he diving? Unfortunately due to bad ears the underwater world is out of bounds for Mikey but no worries there’s plenty for him to do on dry land. In fact we specifically blew the budget on Roatan because it was rumoured to have lots of non-diving activities, except it doesn’t, not really, and not for an affordable price. Ah well to the beach then! Cue fire coral and a nasty rash that kept Mikey not wanting to hit the sun and surf too much. But no worries, Brylee finished her diving course and bubbling over with enthusiasm we made some friends and embraced Roatan – we even treated ourselves to some cocktails -splurge!

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All in all Roatan was looking up, then Mikey got a rare bite from a mosquito and suddenly, dum dum duuuum, dengue fever!! How to describe dengue fever. Imagine the worst flu you’ve ever had, now triple it, add delirium, dehydration, various ever changing nasty symptoms. And Mikey being Mikey couldn’t just get a touch of your average “oh dear god this is awful let me die” dengue, he got “your platelets are so low that we might have to medically evacuate you incase you start bleeding and bleed out and die” dengue (sorry parents, we didn’t mention this part but he’s FINE now…honestly!). Word of advice, as far as memorable 5 year anniversaries go we don’t recommend spending the day in a clinic strapped to an I.V.

So that’s Roatan, if you ask Brylee about it you hear all about breathing underwater, flying with fish and lazing on the beach. If you ask Mikey, well actually, best just not to mention it to Mikey.

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