The End of the Road and Back to the Beginning

Trip Start Dec 01, 2009
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Trip End Aug 01, 2010


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Flag of United States  , California
Friday, July 16, 2010

pengs: It was strange to return to Panama after all this time in South America, seeing the familiar sights and sounds of Central America. We had also returned to Panama in the rainy season and it was a very different country to the one we had left: it rained everyday and it was overcast all the time, not at all pleasant. But we were here to mission, so mission we did. We had left Rojo in David with customs and already had a very interested buyer through advertisements we had placed online. David for me is always going to be a strange dichotomy of a city that I never intended to visit, would never recommend to anyone, but through coincidence, I ended up spending a hellava lot of time in.

We met with Bill Hill (that's hill-billy to his friends) a retired American looking to setup a new life in Panama. Never a more patient and kind gentleman have I ever met! We went through the process of importing the car (where weirdly enough they cannot tell you before you import the car how much it is going to cost to import it, you have to import it to find out...... hmmmmm) and sorting out the reasonably painless paperwork.

We also took our surfboards down to Santa Catalina to sell them and discovered the irritation of travelling with boards when you don't have a car! We stayed a few days in the town, chilling in hammocks and watching the final world cup matches.

With the money from Rojo in our back pockets (well actually our fanny packs) we were on our way once again to Los Angeles and finally home! Costa Rica was a lot cheaper to fly from, so we took a bus to San Jose, and spent a boring couple of days just hanging out waiting for our flight, in which time Nadya managed to wipe-out so spectacularly that she grazed her forehead!

nadya: We stayed in the town right next to the airport, which I kid you not, did not have ANY of the road-names signposted. Nobody (and we asked a lot of people) had any idea about which road we were in, or where the road was we were looking for - unbelievable! Makes me wonder how any of them manage to get any post: "er... well, no, I don't know my address, have no idea what road I live in, in fact..."...???!

We had an 8-hour stop over in Mexico City, which was so lovely to visit again - we spent the time finding our favourite street-food and stuffing our faces, and were reminded about why we love Mexico so much!

Spent 4 days in Los Angeles chilling with Guillermo, and soaking up some californian sunshine (we left the winter behind in the Andes)... Had a 'barbecue' at one of Guillermo's friends, and enjoyed splashing around in the pool, and went to a couple of fantastic restaurants - a great rounding off of our Latin American adventure It made me realise that LA is so much a part of that, with it's strong Latino culture and community, and with spanish so widely-spoken. Though 2 big differences (which we were very happy to leave behind in Latin America) is the carefully rationed toilet paper handed out at public toilets, and not being able to flush any loo paper down the loo!

pengs: So with sad farewells, we said goodbye to Latin America, loaded with incredible memories and some basic spanish skills. Hasta Luego! We will be back.....

We know that everyone is going to ask us to summarise this trip in just a few words. They will also expect us to say what the best and worst part of the trip was (so difficult to even begin to condense 8 months in just a few sentences). So we have provided a short and incredibly subjectve summary of the best and worst of our adventure:

Best and Worst list
Top 3 all-round countries - 1) Mexico 2) Bolivia and 3) Peru
Best food - Mexico
Best people - Colombia
Best surf - Costa Rica
Best scenery - Peru and Bolivia
Best town - Cartagena, Colombia
Best officials - El Salvador
Best beaches - Costa Rica
Cheapest country - Bolivia
Best ruins - Mexico
Best drivers - Costa Rica and Panama

Worst drivers - Honduras
Worst toilets - Honduras
Worst roads - Honduras
Worst signage - Honduras
Most expensive - Belize
Ugliest towns - Peru and Guatemala
Most chaotic - Bolivia

We have also included a summary of the relative wealth of the countries we visited which I thought would be interesting for all you number geeks out there (this is for you Ellen!).

List of countries by GDP per capita in the order that we visited them (according to the IMF, 2009):

For comparison:
USA - $46,381
UK - $34,619
South Africa - $10,244

Mexico - $13,628
Belize - $7,719
Guatemala - $4,840
El Salvador - $7,366
Honduras - $4,151
Nicaragua - $2,627
Costa Rica - $10,579
Panama - $11,788
Colombia - $8,936
Ecuador - $7,881
Peru - $8,638
Bolivia - $4,455
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