7 months on the road; Reflections!

Trip Start Jan 03, 2012
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13
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Trip End Jul 25, 2013


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Flag of Costa Rica  , San José,
Sunday, September 8, 2013

Well as I sit here in Costa Rica awaiting my flight home in the morning, I am feeling quite overwhelmed when I look back over the past 7 months. I can't quite believe how much we managed to pack into our time in South and Central America, and although we didn't visit every single country on the list, we had a good balance of taking it slow and moving at a pace!
 
Thrown into the crazyness of Rio carnival preparations, Brazil was such a fantastic starting point, and spending almost seven weeks there we were able to visit many places off the traditional tourist route, and even entertain life as a local when we visited our friends Lisa and Rafi and São Paulo. Carnival celebrations up in Porto Seguro with a great group of friends from the UK was unforgettable, from our weird and wonderful hostel to the street and beach parties, again we managed to keep the experience as 'authentic' as possible! Argentina began with the draw dropping Iguazu falls which left us vibrating with energy from the sheer size and power of this natural creation. I think Buenos Aires will still be up there at the end of our travels as one for the top cities we've ever visited; the romance of the tango, the darkness of the melungas, the bustling Sunday market and the steak (for Ali!), coffee and ice cream, not to mention our expanding waistlines!
 
We only got to sample a small chunk of Chile, but what we experienced left us hungry for more. The incredible Atacama desert where we undertook a variety of outdoor pursuits, from star gazing (we saw Saturn with all its rings!), to sand boarding, floating in salt water lakes and standing beside active geysers, the Atacama is a natural treasure! The salt flats tour again provided a feast for the eyes as we cruised past some exotic coloured lakes, Dali- esque rock formations, stopping for a photo with flamingos and Lammas, and lastly of course adding the token 'forced perspective' salt flats photo to the collection along with the rest of the travelling population!

When I think of Bolivia my feelings become mixed, much if it was spent with an upset tummy, in cold weather, debating what it was or wasn't safe to eat! In contrast however, we fell in love with the city of Sucre where we had fantastic Spanish lessons, an adorable hostel cat and tasted the best and only tucamanas I think we will ever come across. We also flew in to Rurrenbarque for our pampas wetland boat trip, where we saw monkeys, pink dolphins, sloths and turtles in their natural habitats. Not to mention slept in a hut above a resident cayman which we could hear moving around below us at night!
 
Peru was an absolute delight and as great as I remembered from my trip their 8 years prior! We fell in love with the charm of Cusco, the spiritual heart of the Incas, and in turn had our own eye-opening and life changing spiritual Ayahuasca experience, something that fills us with warmth and happiness even at the mention. It was in Cusco where Pat came out to meet us, and from there we spent 3 weeks visiting the major cities, sipping pisco sours and embracing the local culture. I will never forge Pat's near death experience when we decided she should come sandboarding with us in the Huacachina desert- her wails and Ali's hysteria still resonate every time I recall the afternoon! The best cerviche I think I will ever taste was in Huacachina! We also went against many recommendations and decided to spend a few days in Lima, which we loved! Such a metropolis of old and new, the lazer water show we watched was out of this world and surpassed even the Belagio fountains in Vegas in my opinion!
 
South America alone blew us away for the sheer variety of culture and traditional customs that the locals uphold even to this day. Omitting festival season in Brazil and Argentina, it was incredible to see traditional dress still being fashioned almost everywhere else, and local customs played out at every possible opportunity. Its nice to see that the whole globe hasn't succumbed to Westernisation! I have a picture of a smiling, round cholita in a bowler hat and a vibrant layered skirt come to mind every time I think of Bolivia! One of the biggest memories we will take away is that they love a party! Any excuse for a street parade or procession, in almost every town we visited in South America there was always some kind of celebration going on, be it a religious anniversary, a protest or as I concluded by the end of it, just because it was Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday etc!
 
From Peru, the plan changed quite dramatically, and we made the tough decision to omit Columbia, and instead spent a fantastic 2 and a half weeks in Florida with Ali's family! It was such a welcome break from backpacking; a lovely family circle, the Florida heat and all it's charm, and a proper bed! It was so great to meet more of the family and we were truly spoilt out there. We topped of the trip with a 3 day stay in Orlando, where we managed to bag a bargain package for a 3 day pass at islands of adventure and Universal studios!
 
From Florida we began part two, Central America  first stop Antigua in Guatemala! After a bout of bad luck with a tummy bug and bed bugs hitting me again on day one, we set out to explore the charm of Guatemala taking in an incredible coffee tour on an local plantation funded by an NGO and also spent a few days relaxing and taking in the breathtaking volcanic views from Earth lodge! I can also say its the first time I've ever slept over in a treehouse - even if it was as close as you could come to a 5* version! We spent a few miserable rainy days on Lake Atitlan, but put off by the weather, we headed on to visit the turquoise waters of Semuc Champey, one of the Central American highlights for me. From there we headed further north to Tikal to visit the incredible Mayan ruins, and were fortunate enough to visit at a time when the park was deserted, omitting the need to jostle with the tourists for a decent photo!
 
Belize was probably one of the best 'oh a whim' decisions we made, when we had had enough of the bad weather and were desperate to dip our toes into the Caribbean! On route to Caye Caulker, I stopped off at the ATM caves in San Ignacio and got up close and personal with some Mayan skeletons- the whole tour itself was out of this world, and I think in years to come, I will have been one of only a few to have visited them before large scale tourism kicks in around San Ignacio. When I think of the island of Caye Caulker, which we called home at Yuma's house for 10 days, all I can do is let out a big sigh and let a huge smile spread across my face at the thought; turquoise waters, swimming with sharks, turtles, rays, the purple table, NBA finals, lobster season! It was paradise! We had the best time, with the best people, on Caye Caulker.
 
Nicaragua was the final destination for me, and I ended up spending 5 weeks here in total! Enough time to reverse my first impressions, having had our camera stolen and succumbing to the bed bugs again! In that time I really got a feel for the soft nature of the locals and was pleasantly surprised by the breadth of outdoor activities the country has to offer. I took on some of m biggest physical challenges here, gained a few new scars!, discovered a new love for yoga and truly relaxed ahead of the long journey home! Volcano boarding has to have been one of the best things I've done whilst on our travels- the adrenaline rush was immense!
 
When we set of in January, nothing could have prepared us for the richness of travelling, the beautiful way plans change and adapt as you meet people along the way, the challenges you face both personally and as a couple; from being pushed out of your comfort zone to making the best of a bad situation ( with Ali's 'nursing' ability improving by the second following the number of times I got sick!). I never expected to hold a tarantula, cycle down death road, succumb to bedbugs 6 times, climb an active volcano, board down the side of a volcano, swim with dolphins in the Amazon, and sharks, rays and turtles in the Caribbean, stay in 48 hostels across 9 countries, visit Harry Potter World, eat meat!, sand board in a desert oasis, watch rehearsals for the Rio carnival in the stadium and celebrate carnival local style in small town Porto. I feel we have experienced and learnt so much about the world, my appreciation and love for everything we are fortunate to have in our lives has skyrocketed, and the gratitude and fortune I feel at having been able to share this experience with Ali is amazing!  
 
 
Leg two begins in September when we will both be revisiting Thailand and working our way around Asia and on to complete our trip in Australia. Watch this space for updates...!
 

 

 


 
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