WHERE IN THE WORLD IS ERIN? (you can zoom in!!!)

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Saturday, December 3, 2011

One step foreward, ten steps back......

We have now been in Ecuador for just over a month, and despite 3 trips to Quito and numerous trips to the Civil Registry Office in Canoa where we live, we are FARTHER away from getting our paper work in line for our residency visas. On average, it takes about one working week for anyone in any office here to print off a simple form.... and that's only if there are no mistakes in the system. Unfortunately for us, there always seems to be something! Whether it's a double identity or a spelling mistake of his moms last name, Lalo seems to always have many troubles with any and all paperwork that he needs to arrange.  It is for this reason that we are now in Ecuador illegally, and now unable to apply for our residency. So, our options are now limited. With Lalo unable to come to Canada, and an processing wait time of a year and a half for his residency visa, it looks like Luca and I will be spending more time in Ecuador than I originally thought. Because I am now in the country illegally, when I do go back to Canada, I will be barred from re entering Ecuador for 9 months unless I can obtain another visa. The only visa for which we qualify is the 12-9 visa, which is the visa that I had most recently. This visa is valid for a period of 6 months and can only be granted once every year. Considering that my visa expired two days ago, the soonest that I will be able to return to Ecuador if I leave, is in 6 months from now.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Paradise Lost

So it´s been a little over a month since the last update....oh, what you have all missed.

I have spent the past month-ish in Canoa, Ecuador. I love Canoa, it is a quiet, beautiful little fishing village, with sand roads, lots of sunshine, good waves so i can surf everyday, and amazing people. It is inexpensive and has everything I need to be happy. It is paradise. Everyday in Canoa, I encounter amazing new people, surf, I started to take capoeira lessons on the beach daily, as well as salsa lessons nightly. My plan was to stay in Canoa for as long as possible, 2 months more, then work my way south when it was a little warmer. Owen told me that it is super cold in Peru and Bolivia right now, and I m not ready for cold...so the plan was to wait...but the plan has changed, Canoa is no longer an option for me, paradise has been lost.

On May 30 at 3:40am, Makako, one of the locals who had become a close friend of mine, was shot and killed while we were at a bar on the beach. It all started a week earlier, on a friday night. While in the street with a crowd of people after the bars closed, a single man pulled out a gun and started firing at the crowd. I had just started to walk back to my hostel, so luckily, was a bit ahead of the crowd when I hear someone yell ¨Corre!(run)¨ and then heard a series of 7 shots fired. I have never run so hard in my life.It was one of the single most frightening moments in my life up until that point. Shortly after seeking refuge in my hostel with a group of other people who needed to get off of the street for fear of being shot, one of my friends recieved a phone call, and a group of the guys started to run back to where the shots had been fired. Fearing that one of my friends had been injured, I followed behind. I was wrong in my assumption. It turned out that a couple of the guys had managed to get ahold of the shooter, and started to beat him up, then the group joined in too....as soon as i realized what was going on, I ran again, as fast as I could back to my hostel, the last thing I wanted to see was someone killed, no matter who it was. This was the beginning of chaos in Canoa. Luckily that night, nobody was shot, nobody was killed.
It turned out that apparently the guy who had been beaten, the guy who had fired the shots was a part of the Colombian mafia...and now wants revenge on the people who beat him. Last weekend, on saturday night, while at a full moon party at a bar on the beach, two men with guns opened fire, killing my friend. I myself was nearly hit by 3 bullets. One hit where I was sitting, another missed my foot by millimeters( i could feel the sand as the bullet hit the ground), and another just missed my head, I could feel the air as it passed by. You feel the bullets before you hear them, its scary, because you dont have time to react. The sound is something you will never forget. Everyone ran for the beach, people were running into the water, you could hear a vehicle drive away....i was sure i heard that someone got hit...but I didnt see it... it was surreal, straight out of a movie, this stuff doesnt happen in real life...i thought.  I managed to get back to my hostel...not far from the beach....trembling, not able to fully comprehend what had just happened, having just found out that my friend had been shot. I was joined by a number of people who where also at the bar during the shooting....none of us spoke, we all just sat there, none of us could sleep....it was really screwed up.
The next day, after having slept for a couple of hours, I learned of my friends death. He had been shot 4 times and died in the hospital. He was one of the most energetic, friendly people I have ever met in my life....it is so crazy how one moment a person can be so alive, vibrant and so present in the lives of those around him, and then next moment they only exist as a memory, it really makes me appreciate every moment in life. That night (sunday) we went to pay our respects at the funeral home. The next day was the actual funeral. It was something that I had never expected to experience in my life. It was beautiful....sad, but beautiful. It started in the funeral home with frineds and family paying their respect, sharing their stories, their memories. Then the crowd hoisted the coffin and carried it through the town, through the park to the church. The procession included all of the friends, music, alcohol, things that Makako loved. At the church, a Catholic funeral service was held....the first (and hopefully last) time in my life that I have to attend one of these services.  After the service, the crowd again carried the coffin to the cemetery, where Makako was laid to rest. Everything happened so quickly.
That night I left Canoa...its not the same now. I am now in Quito. I have been here the past 4 days with a few friends from Canoa, trying to figure out where to go now. I  fly to Cusco, Peru on Wednesday where I will go to see Machu Picchu, and will then work my way north from Cusco up the coast to Mancora, where I can surf and live cheaply for a while. I want to return to Canoa in a month or two, when things cool down a bit. I want to leave Ecuador on good terms.

RIP Makako, You are missed by many.

Monday, May 3, 2010


Well, we are all in Ecuador now...Good bye Colombia, you will be missed!

From Taganga, Jesse, Owen, Corey and myself, along with the 3 germans from the trek to cuidad perdida headed to Medellin, a large metropolitan city in Colombia. I was pleasantly surprised with Medellin. It is a very modern city with a convenient (and cheap) metro system very similar, but better than the Vancouver skytrain. The metro system made it very easy to explore the city, allowing us to go in search of places to skateboard, which was nice. We also went to a huge waterpark in Medellin, but were dissappointed when we got there to learn that due to a lack of people in the park, that only 3 of the bajillion waterslides were actually open....bummer.
From Medellin, we took an overnight bus to Popayan, another really nice, but little colonial town. The nice thing about Popayan was that it wasn´t really touristy, and all of the buildings, litterally all of them were white. We ended up going out while we were in Popayan, and the first place we ended up was this really local bar...never in my life have i been stared at sooo hard before...the place was filled with locals only, and not even young locals, they were all at least in their 50´s...and litterally every single one of them was staring at us as we went up to the bar and ordered our beers...pretty funny. Then, these two really old ladies started hitting on the Germans, and Felix was totally down for it, he ended up chatting with them for quite some time. After that bar, we ended up at a really expensive, really tacky salsa club, with everyone dancing old school, and vibing on us hard...we left.
From Popayan, we went to Quito, it was a loooong trip, that had to be done by day due to the high risk of being hijacked on the night buses on that route. Quito is a cool place...I loved Quito. Its a surprisingly large city, but is very interesting. It has lots of really cool looking churches and buildings. We stayed in the old town, which of course is visually more stimulating than the inner city. While in quito, we only had a couple of days together. Jesse and corey were in a rush to get going to Peru, as Corey had to fly home today I think...and owen wanted to go with them. I on the other hand did not want to rush through Ecuador in less than a week, so opted to stay in Quito a few more days with the Germans. So, I said goodbye to my three friends. 
I ended up spending 2 more days in Quito. I went to this wierd convent, where they have all these creepy pictures and statues depicting the different phases of christs life, as well as the bones of Santa Catarina, the saint that all the nuns there worship. They wouldnt let us take pictures while we were in there, so you cant really get the reality of just how wierd it was, but i got to see 2 of the nuns... The nuns go into the convent by choice, the earliest age at which they can enter is 18 years old. As of right now, the youngest nun is 19 years old. The nuns remain in the convent for 5 years, during which they are ¨training¨. During these 5 years, the nuns may decide at anytime to leave the convent. However, after the 5 years, should they decide to stay in the convent, they can never leave again. Also, these nuns live in silence, and solitary confinement for most of the time. They are alotted only one hour per day in the garden to speak and socialize with each other....its really strange to me... they also make these creepy dolls and crafts, and use their own hair in the crafts. Anyhow, definately the strangest thing i did in Quito.  On my last day in the city, the germans and I decided to take the public bus out to the ¨Mitad del Mundo¨ or the equator as we know it. Its an overly touristy, kind of dumpy place, but its cool to know that you can stand on both sides of the equator at the same time. We also paid the extra dollar for the planetarium, which ended up being this totally irrelevant show about the spots on mars.

From Quito, Tino, Bernd and I left Felix, who has decided to go to the Galapagos Islands (JEALOUS!) and headed for the small mountain town of Baños. Baños is beautiful. It´s main attraction is the plethora of hotsprings in the area, none of which we visited. It is also the hub for a lot of adventure tourism. You can rent any type of motorized vehicle there, dune buggies, motorcycles, quads etc. We rented bicycles and rode around for the day. We ended up crossing this bridge, where people were jumping, and Tino and Bernd decided that they were going to jump too...it was like a bungy jump, but instead of a bungy line, they just used climbing rope...was too high and too sketchy for myself..but was fun to watch the Germans get their adrenaline going.

I am now on the coast...how nice it is to be warm again! It was really really cold in Quito and Baños, the first time this whole trip that I had to wear jeans, a tee shirt, a hoody, jacket, socks, shoes and a toque just to be comfortable. It took us two day to get from Baños to Canoa, where we are now. Its hot here, and there is surf, so im happy. Will hopefully be able to find a cheap (ish) surf board to buy to use as I travel down the coast from here to Peru. Not sure how long I will spend here, but hope to be in Ecuador for at least another couple of weeks, im trying to figure out a way to get to Galapagos without blowing my budget. I got a message from Owen today. He and Corey and Jesse are currently on a 26 hours direct bus from Guyaquil, Ecuador to Lima, Peru. Corey flies out home to Canada tomorrow I think...although, i thought it was today. And Owen will continue on to Cuzco with Jesse and her boyfriend Geoff. They plan to do Macchu Picchu next week, which is a shame, because I will be unable to join them, it will be next to impossible for me to get there in time unless I spend the next week entirely on busses. So I am officially travelling solo now. I am still with the Germans, but not sure for how long. Will hopefully be able to meet back up with Owen somewhere in Peru, but at this point, Im just going to enjoy  being back on the beach in the sun and the surf.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Thank you! Stick!

Wow, where to begin....
We are in Colombia now, we flew into Cartagena from Panama City just a little over a week ago, after spending my last day in Panama in the Hospital Nacional due to a severe kidney infection.
The hospitals in Panama City are amazing, the private ones anyhow. They are all huge, new, modern buildings, and the fact that they are private means no waiting....at all!!!  Being accustomed to the 4-10 hour wait times in Canada, I was a little thrown off when they took me immediately from the reception into the hospital, and the doctor was waiting for me. In all, I spent about 5 hours there, got 2 IVs, one of morphine for the pain I was in, and another antibiotic, had a bunch of tests done, was given a couple prescriptions, and then sent on my way...all in spanish of course ;)  The bill ended up being about $500, but luckily i have health insurance to cover that..

Anyhow, on to Colombia.
We flew into Cartagena, and spent one night there...its a beautiful city, and we were lucky to meet some people from the plane who were willing to share a taxi and hostel with us. That night there was also a huge conference on South American culture, and they had a huge stage set up in the main square of the walled city that night, with a whole bunch of different dance performances from all over South America. Very Cool.

The next day we headed for Taganga, where we are now. It took 4 hours by shuttle. Taganga is a nice little beach town about 10 minutes outside of Santa Marta . Its a hippie haven...very mellow, tranquillo....  This is where Jesse and Corey met up with us. After they arrived, we decided to book a trip to the lost city- Cuidad Perdida. 

I had read a little bit about Cuidad Perdida. That it was a strenuous trek in the Colombian Jungle, in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, and that it actually rivaled the Inca Trail trek to Machu Pichu. This was intriguing to me, that and the fact that it was half the price of Inca trail, and twice as long. We booked a 5 day trek through our hostel, being promised a round trip by an indiginous guide, one day in an indiginous village, as well as time with a shaman. Everything was to be included, food, accomodations, guides and porters.  We were stoked. We packed a couple pairs of clothes, a few snackes and were ready to go. We were picked up from our hostel the next morning and driven to Santa Marta where we were loaded into an off road truck with all the food and supplies for the week. 3 hours later we were dropped off...Jesse, Corey, Owen & I in a small town called Machete. Only once the truck unloaded the supplies and drove away, were we informed that our guide was nowhere to be found. The guides from another company were in machete with another group of 7 people and offered for us to join their group, however, the tour was different, they paid less, would return after the third day via the same route, and no shaman, no indiginous anything. We were a bit choked, but agreed to join the group up until day 3 when we would arrive at the lost city, then would be joined by another guide, who would take us four the rest of the way we originally planned. So we were off with our 3 new guides, Carlos, Che (the cook) and Ariel ( the porter)
20 minutes into the trek it started to rain....and not just rain...torrential monsoon type downpour.....for the rest of the day. This made the trail ( which is very rugged as is) extremely muddy and difficult to hike. We were headed straight up a mountain for 2 hours....slipping 2 steps back for every one we took, and loving every moment of it....soaking wet of course. After 5 hours of treking in the rain, muddy and soggy, we arrived at our first camp. The camps were very basic, just shelters with hammocks hanging, and some fireburning stoves for the cooks. The first night was special. There is no electricity, only light is by candlelight. We ate a simple dinner, hung our clothes to dry and played a round of cards before hitting the sack early. We were to be up at 5am to start again.
We rose early, to find that due to the nearly 100percent humidity in the jungle, that our clothes from the day before were still wet...and that everything else was damp. We put on our wet clothes, ate breakfast and then were asked if we wanted to see a cocaine factory..it would only cost us $20000.00 pesos each ( about 10 bucks) Considering that I probably would probably never have the opportunity to visit a colombian cocaine factory in the middle of the jungle ever again in my life, I opted to go. It was not what I expected. The factory was in fact a small little shack in the jungle. We were allowed to take pictuers of everything, as long as we didnt take any photos of the guy who worked there. He walked us through the entire process, from the harvesting of the coco leaves, to the final product. He showed us EVERYTHING including the names of the chemicals, how to mix them etc. it was pretty unreal. We were also given the opportunity to test the finished product (PURE colombian cocaine) which we all declined.
The rains did not stop. It rained every day.
The first 3 days of the trip were amazing. Everyday, the most spectacular sights lay before us, things that i never thought I would ever see! At the end of the second day, we were informed by Carlos, that due to the heavy (unexpected) rainfall, that we would not be able to do the round trip, because the trail had been washed out by a huge mudslide and was unpassable. We were all a little bummed, but accepted it as fact, and moved on.
Day 3 we reached the camp for Cuidad Perdida. Let me point out to you all that this whole time, we were wearing wet clothes, and wet shoes. THE WHOLE TIME!!! By this time we were all blistered and starting to get sore, and the fact that we arrived to camp before the afternoon rain storm was  comforting to us all. We got to relax, and again tried desperately to dry our clothes and shoes...to no avail.  Carlos told us this day that we would not be visiting the Cuidad Perdida due to the rains that were starting, and that as a result we would have to visit it the following morning. Due to this fact, our trip would have to be extended by at least one more day, making it 5 nights, 6 days total. He also told us, that he had been told of an ALTERNATE trail that we could take out of the jungle, but that it was rarely travelled by tourists or the indiginous. We all decided to go for it, all 11 of us in the group.
Day four we rose at 5am to go to Cuidad Perdida....our goal. The hike in took an hour and involved climbing 1200 ancient stone stairs up the mountain to the base of the ruins. The city is dated to be pre incan, it is very very old. We spent a total of about 3 or 4 hours there, climbing about 2000 stone steps in total.... very cool. Among the lessons learned in the Cuidad Perdida:
1) Dont eat or smoke the plants or leaves, because you will go crazy, take your clothes off and jump from the terraces, smashing open your face.
2) If you find an artifact, dont tell anyone.
3)Indiginous women are not allowed to move or make any noise when they are making love.

After Cuidad Perdida, we returned to camp, grabbed our backpacks and began the most difficult hike i have ever done in my life.
We had 5 hours ahead of us on the alternate trail.... which was not a trail at all. Carlos had only travelled it once or twice, and the other two guides, had never travelled it at all. We were litterally trudging up mountains, off trail, in torrential rain. By this point, the ground was so soggy , that in some places you couldnt even stand without slipping. And let me emphasize this....we were litterally going straight up and down the mountains. The first ascent took us about 2 hours....2 hours of sheer hell...we  thought, but going down the other side was even worse. I kept falling, it was funny the first 10 times or so, but then it just started to suck. At one point I decided that it was probably best to just sit and slide down the muddy mountain instead of falling and sliding. By the time we reached the bottom, I was covered head to toe in mud, cut up, and felt as though my legs could no longer support me. I just sat in the river....the cold cold river, in the rain, and tried to relax...preparing for the next hour and half up the next mountain. 
Now, you may think that this was miserable, but as hard as it was, I actually loved every moment of it. It was a challenge, I didnt think I was going to make, and the view from the tops of the mountains made it worth it....but Im glad day four will never live in my life again.

After the fourth day, things were just difficult. We were all beaten up, bruised, bloody, and wet...wet to the bone. The next two days were a challenge. Hiking out of the jungle. Drinking from the rivers, just trying to make it to the next mountain top, so that we could then make it down to the next river crossing. Luckily everyone in our group was really really tough...nobody complained, nobody cried, everybody helped everyone out. We shared our little bits of snacks, our water and our conversation. We became a family.  Yesterday was our last day. It was by far the hardest, we were tired before we started, and knowing that we had 5 hours ahead of us, 4 of which were uphill made the day hard to start. On top of that, my kidney infection had returned, and I was barely functional as it was.  To reach the final mountain top was a feeling like no other...I honestly didnt think I was going to make it. I felt defeated just 10 minutes before finishing...I had no idea how close we were to being done...We all collapsed at the top, we couldnt move.

I can honestly say that it was the hardest physical thing I have ever done in my life. I pushed myself to the limits of what I could handle, we all did. We made it, but barely. On our trip we met some people that have done alot of treks including machu pichu who said that this trek was the most difficult, as well as the most spectacular trek they have ever done. We did something that not alot of people get to do. We got lost, then found in the colombian Jungle. You cant buy that tour. We had the best guides, and unreal experiences.
I cant wait to post the photos.
Oh yeah...i forgot to thank my stick.  Thank you stick!!! you saved my life....quite a few times actually.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Back in the city

This is the first time in 7 months that I have been back in a real city...its strange, and the first sight of highrise buildings and smog through the hostel window this morning, really threw me off. At that moment I realised just what it is that I have been doing, and it blows my mind. I want to get out of the city. I've only been here for a few hours, but it offers me no allure. Nonetheless, I must remain here for a few days and complete this journey that has been Central America. Only then will I be able to move on to the new adventures and experiences that await me on the Southern Continent.
I have learned many lessons over the past seven months...things that will change my life forever.
First and foremost, I have learned the value of a true friend. I have learned that they are hard to come by, but appear when you least expect it. I have learned through a lack of seeing them, just how much I miss my true friends at home, as well as the select few that I have met along the way. These people are life changers, offering up lessons that cannot be learned in any other way, other than through them or by them. The best thing about travelling is the new friends....its also the worst, because they are the people that make an impact in your life, then disappear with only hope that you will encouter each other at some other point in life.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Pics and whatnot...

Okay, so because it would take about 10 years to upload all the pics from our trip so far, I am giving you all a few links to view my albums on line. Here they are, enjoy!

Guatemala - http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=143896&id=517421794&l=49aaff1b5b

Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua:


Nicaragua & Costa Rica

Costa Rica and some of Panama

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Bocas Del Toro, Panama

This is the most amazing place for surf. I have never been on such a beautiful wave in my life. It was a bit scary at first, because it is a reef break, and this was the first time ever surfing a reef. We have to hire a local boat to take us out, and the just stop outside the break and dump you off in the water, then they come back a few hours later and pick you back up.  We are staying at a hostel called Mondo Taitu, very cool vibe there. The people are all amazing, and the hostel has one of the most popular bars in it, so its always busy, and there are a lot of people from all over the world. Add the free pancake breakfast and internet, and it is easily one of the better hostels around. Despite the laid back, mellow atmosphere here, crossing the border was anything but. I couldnt believe it! You walk across this old rickety bridge into Panama, and there is a little border office there, but they tell you that you need a return ticket from panama to somewhere else before they stamp your passport. The lame thing is, is that even if you have an onward ticket proving you are leaving the country, unless it lists Panama City as the departure point, they wont accept it. They sell one way bus tickets that will never be used  to every tourist entering the country for $12.  Luckily, I had my ¨fake¨flight itinerary that I made with me, and by chance it actually listed panama city as a departure, so we didnt have to pay. But what a joke.

Monday, March 22, 2010

And so then....

Ok, so where did I leave off? Ah, yes, Flores. After meeting up with Steve and Travis in Flores, Guatemala, the 5 of us (Owen, Morten, the other 2 guys and myself) we decided to go check out the ancient Mayan ruins of Tikal. We were told that if we went after 3 pm then we could get in that evening, spend the night in the park then have the next day as well all for the price of one days admission. We were sold! We all piled into a shuttle bound for Tikal. Tikal is simply amazing. We made it with plenty of time to explore the main temple complex and watch the sunset while being litterally the only people in the park. This was also my first experience with Howler Monkeys. That night we camped at the Jaguar Inn and rose early at 5 am to watch the sunrise from the Jaguar Temple...very cool, and we were the very first people in the park!

Happy with our group, we all decided to travel together to Caye Caulker, Belize, a beautiful little island in the Carribean. While there we took a boat trip and went snorkelling with huge sea turtles, ate great food and watched beautiful sunsets...paradise. From there we all split up. Steve and Travis decided to head north to Mexico, Owen to El Salvador and myself to the Bay Islands of Honduras for a few days before meeting back up with Owen in El Salvador. In El Salvador we camped in a little place called El Tunco, which is home to a beautiful point break which provided some of the best surf of the trip so far.
Despite the nice waves, the small town was starting to get boring so we hopped on a bus bound for Leon, Nicaragua and headed straight for our hostel: Via Via. When we arrived, we were greeted by our friend Morten who was also staying at the same hostel. We invited Morten to continue travelling with us. While we were in Leon, we were drinking the local rum: Flor De Cana , which is actually really good, and decided that we would like to visit the factory, so the next day the three of us, plus two french guys: Christoph and Bertraud, who were also staying at our hostel, decided to hop a crazy chicken bus and find the factory... which after about an hours ride and a short walk through a random small town, we actually succeeded in locating. Unfortunately though, they wouldnt let us in, so back on the bus and back to Leon we
went. From Leon the three of us travelled south to Granada where we met up with my cousin Kelly and her boyfriend. From there we were picked up by my Aunt Shelly and taken to her home in Rivas. Staying with Shelly was great. It was nice to eat some canadian food ( she cooked us christmas dinner!) and visit with some family after 6 months of being without both. We also had a lot of fun with Shelly, going full moon fishing in San Juan del Sur, swimming, and having a tour of her property.

From Rivas we hopped a bus bound for Costa Rica. First stop- Santa Teresa. We had been told that this was THE place to go. Upon our arrival we realized that it was infact the place for every Costa Rica bound tourist who wanted to try surfing. It felt like spring break in Cancun, with prices to match. The only plus side to Sta. Teresa was that the surf was amazing and we met a really cool Swedish couple, Marc and Johanna. Just 40 minutes from Sta. Teresa is Montezuma. Montezuma is a cool place. Very laid back, very tranquilo. That's where we ended up after a couple of days amongst the tourist crowds of Sta. Teresa. We were met there by the swedes, making us a grand crew of 5. This unfortunately was Morten's last stop with us before having to head back up north to Mexico from where his Norway bound flight leaves. We all made the best of this last nit of time togethet. We went swimming in a beautiful waterfall, spent the day at the beach bodysurfing, had a
nice dinner and watched a movie. We all caught the ferry to the mainland together and said goodbye to Morten the Viking, with whom we had been travelling with for two months... It was sad to see him go.

With Morten on a bus for Mexico, Owen, myself and the Swedes all headed for Monteverde, high in the mountains of Costa Rica. Monteverde is home to the beautiful cloud forests, which are actually very reminicent of our west coast rainforests in Canada, and surprisingly, the climate was not much different either, which was a nice break after the 45 degrees we encountered on the coast.

We are now in Panama in Bocas Del Toro, an island archipeligo on the Carribean coast . The Swedes are here too. Its raining and there is no surf, so, we are going to leave the Swedes and head for the pacific coast.

Thats our last six months in a nutshell. Sorry to leave out the interesting details, but otherwise id be here typing this forever. I promise more frequent ( and interesting) updates.

Ps. I will post pics when i find a real computer :)

Check out my blog: www.erin-owen.blogspot.com

Friday, March 5, 2010

Well, we finally left Mexico....can you believe it?

I am really really bad at this whole blog thing....its really hard to find / make the time to track down a computer that will actually allow me to update this site, so I do appologize for the lack of current happenings. Nonetheless, I will attempt to share our going ons with much more frequency in the future.

So, we left mexico....it only took us 4 months, but we actually managed to leave the lovely place that I could easily call home. We made a direct dash for the Guatemalan border leaving Melaque by bus. We took 2 days to go direct to Puerto Escondido, where we spent the night to sleep and shower before continuing from Pt.Esc. to the Guatemalan border. The total trip time from Melaque to Antigua came up at around 50 hours... which isn't that bad considering the distance.  We arrived in Antigua where we stayed for a day before going to the coast for a surf camp called El Paredon. Apparently El Paredon has the best break in Guatemala....it was alright, but definately not something special. The camp is located on an island, and you have to get there by boat from Sipicate. It is really secluded. The people there are antisocial, and there are no grocery stores...so the fact that the food at the camp was probably some of the worst I've encountered ever, was not a good thing. Anyone going to this camp should seriously consider bringing their own food supply. On the plus side, while we were in El Paredon, we met up with an  American named Steve, and two Norwegians: Morten and Jonas, with whom we would continue to travel with throughout Guatemala.

From El Paredon we went back to Antigua. We spent 3 days there. We stayed at a hostel called the Black Cat, which was a really good value, and included a free breakfast. Antigua is a really cool old colonial town. The food there is really really good, and there is a decent night life....there are also a lot of travellers there, so its really easy to meet people. While we were in Antigua, Owen and I decided to go to hike Volcan Pacaya, an active volcano just an hour and a half from Antigua. The volcano is really neat....its a long hike, about 5km, but is really worth it. The trail is really sketchy...infact, it really is nonexistant once you reach the base of the volacano, so hiking up the volcano through the lava fields is a bit tricky, and definately would not be allowed if located in Canada or the US....it really could be dangerous, but that is what made it fun. We hiked up to the top where you could watch the lava pumping out of the volcano. You could feel the lava moving under the rocks we were walking on, and if we weren't careful where we walked, our shoes would actually start to melt.

From Antigua, Owen and I decided to meet up with Morten (the Viking)  in Lanquin, a small mountain town outside of Coban, which has a series of caves, and the amazing Semuc Champey river pools. The journey from Antigua to Lanquin took us 7 hours by shuttle through the mountains...it was a very beautiful journey. Once in Lanquin we went to El Retiro Lodge, an eco hostel run by the local mayan indians. It was really nice, with all you could eat dinners....and good prices for tours. We stayed for 35Quetzales each, which works out to less than $5 a day.  Our first day in Lanquin, we went to Semuc Champey and the caves. The caves are really cool, but you must have a guide to go in them. The caves go on for about 15km into the mountain. We only went about 1 km deep, but that was enough. The caves are formed by an underground river system, so as you can imagine, we had to swim through them...it was amazing. Swimming under the ground, in caves, with waterfalls and pools...by candlelight. It was one of the coolest things I have ever done. After the caves, we tubed down the river, then hiked another 2km or so to Semuc Champey, a series of clear blue pools formed by the underground river. The water is unlike anything you have ever seen, clean & clear....
From Lanquin, Owen, Morten and I took a shuttle to Flores to check out Tikal, and were met later that night by Steve and his friend Travis. We stayed at the Los Amigos Hostel in Flores, and were able to rent hammock space for $2 a night. The food at the hostel was really good, boasting the only all vegetarian menu in Flores, which was especially nice for me, after eating nothing but rice and beans for the last little while.  oh shoot....computer time is up...i have to continue next time...anyhow...right now we are in Nicaragua, will fill you in on the in betweens next post.
Lots of love to everyone!!!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Mexican Busses...From the Costalegre to Pochutla and back again.

This blog post is for anyone...and everyone... who could benefit from our experience with our massive bus trip down the mexican coast. There wasn´t a lot of information available to us, and as a result, we had to figure it out along the way...so, hopefully this helps someone out.

From Melaque, there is only one bus line that will go straight through to Ixtapa / Zihuatanejo. The bus line is called "Elite" and operates a direct first class bus service that runs only once a day from Melaque. The bus leaves at 5pm everyday and costs $400 pesos per person ( roughly $30- $35 canadian) The bus that we were on took exactly 12 hours to arrive in Zihuatanejo.

From Zihuatanejo to Puerto Escondido, you cannot take a direct bus, as one does not exist. You must first take a bus to Acapulco. The bus to acapulco is run by "Estrella Blanca" bus lines. We took the first class bus as it was only a few dollars more than the second class bus. The departures were at 4pm and 8pm. We chose the 8pm bus, as we were told that we would be able to transfer to a 2am bus in Acapulco going to Puerto Escondido, minimizing our wait time. The bus from Zihuatanejo / Ixtapa to Acapulco Ejido cost $133 pesos per person (roughly $10 canadian), and took 4 hours.

Unfortunately for us, when we arrived in Acapulco at around 12 or 12:30 and tried to buy tickets for our connecting bus, we were told that it was sold out, and the next bus would be leaving at 7:45am, meaning that we had to spend the night on the floor of the bus terminal. Note to anyone who is planning to do this leg of the trip that it would be in your best interests to pre buy your tickets from Acapulco to Puerto Escondido. The bus line that ran this bus was "Alta Mar / Costeños" The bus trip was first class and took 10 hours. It cost $303 pesos per person (roughly $25 canadian).

From Puerto Escondido to Mazunte, San Agustinillo, Punta Cometa, or Zipolite, you must take a bus at the OCC bus terminal bound for Pochutla...but get off at San Antonio and take a cab to you destination. This will save you about an hour of travel time, and money. The fare cost $30 pesos per person ( about $3canadian) and the taxi from San Antonio to San Agustinillo cost $50 pesos.

Some notes on bus travel in Mexico:
- First class buses do not really have a specific standard that they have to adhere to. Some are really new and fancy ( and we found the most uncomfortable) and some are extremely old and ghetto. The only thing that makes a bus first class is the fact that they will all have the air conditioning blasting you the whole time, a TV (whether it works or not) and some sort of toilet facility, which the second class busses do not have.
 - I highly recommend that you wear pants, bring a sweater, and a blanket on any first class bus ride. It is freezing on those busses, so much so, that it is impossible to keep warm and makes the trip uncomfortable. Someone told me i should bring a blanket, and i figured, im from canada, the AC on a bus cant be that cold....but believe me, it really is.
-Any time we got on a bus they tagged our bags and gave us a ticket. This lead us to believe that the ticket would be required to claim our luggage at our destination .Wrong. The tickets are basically just a show...nobody checks anything, so if there are people getting stuff from under the bus before your stop, i would recommend that you watch the bags coming off the bus to make sure yours isn´t one of them.
- You must stop in Acapulco, whether you want to or not. Acapulco is the end / starting point for all of the bus lines. The bus lines that run north of Acapulco only run north, and the bus lines that run south of Acapulco only run south, therefore if you are doing a trip such as ours from the northern mexican coast down to the southern part of Oaxaca, Acapulco is unavoidable.... which is good if you want to go there....but if you dont, it sucks.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Mexico in a nutshell

Mexico really is an amazing country, and as a result, our time here has been just flying by....a lot more quickly than anticipated. We have been here for over 2 months now, and will be here until after christmas, at which time we will work our way south into Guatemala and the rest of Central America.
We started off in by stopping in Melaque, a quiet little town on the west coast of mexico just a few hours south of Puerto Vallarta. I had lived here for close to a year when I was 20 years old, and we decided that it would be nice to start off our trip with visiting our Mexican friends. We had originally planned to stay in Melaque for a month maximum, then work our way south along the west coast of and then across from Puerto Escondido over to the Yucatan Peninsula...however, after a month in the costalegre, we decided that we were not ready to leave, and that we would at least stay for the halloween festivites. In total we ended up staying in Melaque for 7 weeks...it was too easy. Life in Melaque is sweet. We have amazing friends that share their time and their food with us, take us surfing and are just overall spectacular people. Its sunny all the time, and we generally have no worries other than trying to figure out what we are going to do in the afternoon.  The end of our time in Melaque was to be marked by a trip to La Ticla with our good friend Benja for a week long surf trip, after which, Owen and I would continue south, trying to surf along the way until we got to Puerto Escondido...but.... that didnt happen....the going south part...we ended up going back to Melaque for a couple of days to figure out just where we were going to go, and how we were going to get there.  We departed from Melaque just short of 8 weeks after we arrived. We dedided that we were going to take the bus to Zihuatanejo, the fourth largest city in the state of Guerrero. It was a first class, 12 hour bus ride that went surprisingly well and cost us each only $400 pesos (roughly $35 canadian). 

We arrived in Zihuatanejo at 5 am, and waited at the bus terminal until 7:00 when it got light out. Before we left Melaque, i wrote down the name of 2 hotels in Zihuat so that we could have a bit of an idea of where we were going to go when we arrived. So we climed into a cab and asked him to take us to the first ¨budget¨hotel on my list. The hotel was in the middle of nowhere, and the cab just kind of dumped us off and took off. The place looked really sketchy on the outside, and when we rang the bell, there was no answer, so i phoned....also no answer. Then a guy from across the street told us that the hotel was no longer open...ugh... Luckily in mexico you can pretty much get a cab anywhere at anytime...so we only waited a few minutes before climbing into cab number two to take us to the next hotel on the list (which i first phoned to ensure that they could take us).  We ended up staying in Zihuatanejo for about a week. We met a cool guy that Benja recommended to us, named Sixto Mendez. He owns a surf shop in the centre of Zihuatanejo...really nice guy. He took us surfing everyday to a place called Playa Linda, a nice break that was not too big. From Zihuatanejo, we planned to go straight down to Puerto Escondido in Oaxaca.

Unfortunately, a direct bus from Zihuat to Puerto Escondido does not exist, and we were told that we would first have to take a bus at 8pm  to Acapulco, then connect with another bus departing for Puerto Escondido at 2am... meaning that we would only have a 2 hour wait between busses and arrive in the morning...perfect. We arrived in Acapulco on time, but ended up having to sleep on the floor in the bus station for 8 hours, as our connecting bus was sold out, and we had to wait for the next one...so that sucked....but we ended up getting on the next bus and arriving in Puerto Escondido the next day at 5pm. Puerto Escondido is a surf town known for its famous break at Zicatela Beach. It is known as the heaviest beach break in the world, and is second in size only to the hawaiian pipeline, so naturally, i was expecting something spectactular ( just to watch of course...not to surf...i would die) but...there was nothing spectacular about it. The water was flat...no waves...no gnarly surfers....no mind blowing, life changing experience....bummer... BUT, it was still a fun place....we just couldnt surf.... and that defeated the whole purpose of being there, so we left after 4 days to a destination just an hour south of Escondido called ¨Costa Chica¨which consists of 4 or 5 little fishing villages along the southern Oaxacan coast. We decided to stay in a town in the middle, called San Agustinillo, the only one of the towns that apparently had waves to surf. When we arrived, it looked amazing. A quiet little bay, with only a handful of local stores and guest houses, and a deserted beach with clear blue water and a nice wave to surf. Sounds too good to be true right?  Exactly.  The place is a complete tourist trap. Apparently lots of europeans go there...so as a result, everything cost an arm and a leg....it was rediculous how expensive it was, and nothing was opened after 8pm...and the nice wave....well, it wasnt so nice any time we tried to surf it... I wanted out of there after only a day...and so did Owen, so we hopped on the next bus outta there....back to Melaque....it would be a 30 hour journey.
This time, we took a bit of a different route. From Puerto Escondido we hopped on a first class bus for $500 pesos to Acapulco, where, we would connect with a direct bus 6 hours later that would take us straight through to Melaque. The differences in the first class buses between the different carriers is staggering. Some of the first class buses from one company will be complete shit, and so was the case with our bus from Acapulco to Melaque. When we arrived at the bus station to catch our connecting bus, we were joined by a massive group of native people....with more kids than adults (about 25 in total) all carting with them big rice bags stuffed with various oddities. The kids were wild children, and one of them infact, just decided he was going to take a shit in the middle of the floor of the bus station and dropped his pants and let it go....it couldnt believe it...so Owen jokes that they are all probably going to be on our bus...but i didnt think so, because our bus was a first class bus, and i couldnt imagine how this group of people would be able to afford the first class bus...but, when the bus arrived...they all piled on with us..joy oh joy...
Well, that was a bus ride from hell... the natives decide that they didnt need to use their seats and all decided they were going to sleep in the aisles, blocking anyone from using the toilet...and our bus driver decided that in order to make a bit of extra cash on the side, that he would pick up each and every person on the side of the road that wanted a ride, whether there was a seat for them or not....then, on top of that, just outside of Zihuatanejo, I felt a grinding jolt...and the bus wasn´t sounding too good... the bus stopped for about 2 hours, then carried on. I figured we had a flat tire, and that they had fixed it.... but when we got to manzanillo the next morning, they made us all pile off the bus.....turns out that one of the back wheels fell off, and they continued to drive for the next 8 hours with the wheel missing... well, they told us they were going to fix the wheel before we continued on  with the rest of our trip, so we waited another hour. Then the bus pulls up and the wheel is still missing!!! Seriously! so, we drove the rest of the way to melaque with one missing wheel, on the most ghetto ¨first class¨bus ive ever been on in my life....and arrived nearly 6 hours late. 

I am happy to be back in Melaque. We will be here until christmas, then will bus (yes, we will do the long journey once again) straight through to Guatemala, where we will be spending some time at a surf camp in Paredon on the west coast.
So, thats been mexico so far...in a nutshell....

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

La Ticla, Michoacan

Originally uploaded by erin-sims

On November 9 Owen, myself and Benja departed Melaque for a week of surfing and camping at la ticla. La Ticla is located on Nahuatl land and therefor has not been overrun by tourists and hotels. It is a beautiful, relaxing haven with a nice break at the rivermouth. It was bigger than anything we have surfed and proved to be a challenge, but we both ended up catching some great waves. I love ticla. The camping is great and the people I was with even greater. The week flew by so fast. Now we are in zihuatanejo after a 12 hour bus ride from Melaque. I was super sad to leave Melaque and the AMAZING friends there, especially Benja, who helped us in so many ways. Today. We surfed a spot called Playa Linda in Ixtapa. It was fun, a small river break that was super easy to surf. The best part tho, was the huge sea turtle that popped up next to me in the water. SO COOL!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Catch Up.....6 weeks and counting

So, its been a while.....a bit of a catch up for you all!
Shortly after my last post I came down with a case of the Dengue Fever, a sickness that has become epidemic in this part of mexico, and is spread through mosquitos. In fact, within 2 weeks, 2 people in Benja´s family contracted the sickness as well, his oldest daughter Paulina, who contracted Dengue on her 13th birthday has spent the past 3 weeks in hospital, they weren´t sure if she was going to make it.  I was lucky, mine only lasted a week, and the downtime was minimized by my quick action in taking the emergency antibiotic that we brought with us from canada. There is no cure or treatment for dengue other than to kill off any bacteria in your body, and get plenty of rest. It is a brutal disease, killing many children and elderly people everyday.  Its nicknamed ¨breakback fever¨ as one of the symptoms is an intense pain in the bones and muscles of the body, mostly concentrated in the neck and back....it seriously sucks...my whole body was in excrutiating pain, even my fingernails were throbbing. The fever is the second worst thing compared to the pain...a constant high fever of 104F for 4 days straight....and thats with acetaminophen to keep the temperature down! Next is the inability to keep anything down, including water....ugh....so gross...so, Im glad that its over, and that I and the other people I know have managed to pull through alright. Damn mosquitos!!

Since being sick, we have been keeping rather busy. We managed to complete the ramp and have been skating in the evenings when its a bit cooler out. Still, due to the heat, we are only able to skate for about 20 minutes before we need to take a break and mop the sweat from ourselves. We have been surfing as much as possible, but the past week or two there have not been many waves, so we have been paddling out to an island and back to get our daily excercise and build up our muscles.

Last week we celebrated halloween with a small halloween party in the back of Benja´s place. About 30 people attended...it was a blast. Halloween here is so different than in Canada, prettty much nobody celebrates it!!! Everyone outside of the party was looking at us like we were freaks because we had costumes on. Owen dressed as a ghost with a huge sombrero, and I dressed as a native girl.
In mexico, they celebrate the day of the dead which falls on the 2 of November. The festivities are most extravagantly celebrated in Morelia, more inland, and unfortunately in Melaque, not much happened. The cool thing though, was that to try to keep the tradition going, the highschool kids have an alter competion, where they all build the traditional style alters to honour their deceased family members. The alters are elaborately decorated and contain items that the deceased person liked when they were alive. They also contain offerings of food and drink, and incense. Its really cool. I will post some pics when i can find a computer that will let me upload them.

As for now, our time in Melaque is almost over. We planned to leave yesterday to go to La Ticla, a small surf town on the west coast just past Colima, however, we have changed our plans and will leave on monday so that our friend Benjamin can join us for a week. It should be fun. After a week in La Ticla, we will move south along the coast, working our way next to Rio Nexpa, then on to Zihuatanejo and Puerto Escondido. Wish us luck!!! We´ll keep you all posted on where we are and try to put up some pics as soon as we can.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A day in the life

Ok, so, so far we haven´t really described our typical day in Melaque, so here we go...

First off, you would think that being in Mexico and not having to work, that we would take advantage of the luxury of a regular sleeping-in.....not so. 
On the days that we dont surf, we meet with Benja and his little dog Botas at 8am for our morning swim or paddle at the nearby beach.
On days that we do surf, we are up around 6 or 630 to get ready for our morning outting with Benja, Lupe and his wife Carmen, and any number of others depending on the day. We usually head for one of the regular spots: Ranchito-which is the closest, Boca De Iguanas - which is the most frequently surfed by us, or Arroyo Seco - which includes two separate beach breaks: Las Brujas and Las Brisas. 
After surfing (or attempting to...depending on the day) until at least noon, we head back to Melaque. Once back in Melaque, we chill with Benja at his arcade or work on the mini ramp for a few hours until lunch time. Here, lunch is around 3 or 4 oclock in the afternoon. We have been extrememly fortunate to have very generous friends here in Melaque, and have been invited to have lunch with Benja, Rosy and their two daughters every day since we´ve arrived in town. We have been treated to a huge (delicious) variety of traditional vegetarian mexican cuisine.  Thanks Benja and Rosy!!!After lunch its either back down to the arcade, work on the ramp or back to the bungalow for a siesta. Then around 6pm we go out for surf #2 and surf until its dark out....then back to town. Next is dinner time. Dinner is typically eaten at the restaurant of Benja´s family, its called Hacienda San Miguel, and is the BEST restaurant in Melaque, in my opinion...

After dinner, we always do something different depending on the day, the weather etc. Last night for example we ended up getting dressed up and driving to Manzanillo with Benja, Rosy, and another friend Alonso to start celebrating Alonso´s upcoming birthday. It was a lot of fun. The great part about it was that when we paid the $100peso ($8) cover charge at the night club, it included either 4 beers or 3 drinks of your choice. Not something that we see very often in canada. And the dancing!!! well! lets just say, the dancing is quite different than what I´m used to! It seems that people have a lot more fun at the clubs here.....from what I can tell!
So, thats a typical day in the life of Erin and Owen right now. Its tough I tell you.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Crocodiles, surfing and rain.....whatelse?

We have officially been in Mexico for over 2 weeks now. Its amazing just how quickly time flies, and Im a bit sad to have to leave Melaque in a few more weeks. We initially planned to stay only until the 23 of October, but have since changed our minds and will stay for another week to join our friends in their halloween celebrations. So now, Owen and I must figure out our costumes and get them made in time.  The weather here in Melaque has been on and off....one day really sunny and hot, and then the next day really rainy and hot....so the humidity is insane. We had planned a big ramp party for yesterday to celebrate the restoration of the skateramp in the back of my friends old theatre, but due to a torrential downpour on Wednesday, it had to be postponed until next week, because the ramp ended up getting flooded and we had to wait for the rain to stop and for the ramp to dry up before we could continue working on it. Luckily, the new supplies (masonite and ply) weren´t yet on the ramp, so it wasn´t destroyed. We will continue to work on the ramp tonite as long as we can get a saw.... finding tools here is impossible unless you go buy them.
On the plus side, Owen and I ordered custom formed surfboards from a mexican brand called ATL....they form all the Squalo boards as well, and we went to Guadalajara last week to pick them up. They are beautiful. I recieved a 6'1 fish, and owen a 6'4 egg with a fish tail. I love my board, and have been extremely fortunate to be able to go surfing at least once everyday, if not every morning and every night. 

The most commonly surfed spot for us is a place called Boca De Iguanas, and is home to a break for surfers of every level. It is also home to some crocodiles, and in the wet season, to get to the beach to surf, it is necessary to cross the waist deep lagoon.......fortunately for us, its dried up right now, but the crocs are still there and very close. The other day we arrived for our evening surf, and the big guy, about 10 feel long was just strolling on the beach a few feet away from us. It was unreal!! I wish I had my camera for that. We watched him walk across the beach from his little lagoon and go into the ocean where we are usually surfing. Luckily for us he was heading for a place called La Manzanilla to visit his girlfriend and was not looking for lunch. We surfed up the beach from him....it was crazy tho.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Oh mexico.......

Well, we finally arrived in Melaque, Mexico....a week ago!
Its been a great week so far. We managed to arrange through our friend Luis  (choko) to stay at the Bungalows Laguna Del Tule for $4000 pesos for the month...thats cheap, around $325. So thats where we are. Its pretty far from town, at the very far end of San Patricio, so we do need bicycles to get around, but Luis was generous enough to lend us those as well, so its worked out amazingly for us.
Its been really hot here, and the humidity is crazy. Averaging at least 35- 40 degrees out everyday, and raining for at least a half an hour everyday as well. Its like we are living in a sauna....but I cant complain really, now can I?
Owen and I have decided that due to the incredibly cheap prices here, we are able to purchase ourselves some  custom shaped surf boards and are looking forward to getting some waves (small ones for now) really soon. As for now tho, we are getting everything together for the miniramp. We have started taking it apart, and are heading to Guadalajara tomorrow with a couple of friends to try to find either masonite or skatelite. Keep your fingers crossed for us that we find it. Choko has aranged a big ramp party for the 9 of October, so we have a little more than a week and a half to get the ramp fixed and skateable.
Other than the ramp, we have been living a lazy life...we´ve been forced to really. Not much to do in this heat other than laze at the beach, have a nap or eat.... so we´ve been doing just that....repeatedly.
Anyhow, im off to go have a post lunch nap! adios!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Donkeys may not sleep in bathtubs...

Believe it or not, this is actually a current law. In Arizona, it is illegal for donkeys to sleep in bathtubs. This is just one of the many facts that we learned while doing a bit of research for a quick trip across the Mohave desert.
We arrived in Desert Hot Springs on Tuesday night, after a longer than anticipated drive from Los Angeles. Word to the wise: DO NOT take a flight into LA and plan to drive in RUSH HOUR!!! OMG!!  It was insane...it took us nearly 2 hours on the freeway to move a total of 20 miles!! Never again will I make that mistake. Anyhow, we got to Owen's mom's house after a lengthly 4.5 hour drive and a much needed stop at my favourite american fast food joint: Rubios. If you haven't had Rubios you are seriously missing out. Fish tacos to kill for!
After arriving in DHS and having a lazy day in the 45 degree heat with Karen, Owen's mom, we started to plan a quick 2 day excursion to go see the Grand Canyon in Arizona. We figured we would be able to make it there and back with only a one night stayover. We did it...but it was tight.
We departed from DHS at 5:30am on Thursday morning and started driving through the desert. We decided that we were going to take the scenic back route and make our way to the Grand Canyon then down to Sedona to camp. We ended up driving the old Route 66 highway. We were literally the only car on the road pretty much the whole way. We made a point of taking an extra few hours to drive through an old ghost town that "refuses to die" called Oatman.
Oatman is apparently famous for being haunted by Clark Gable, as well as for being over run with wild and not so wild Burrows (donkeys!) They are said to roam the streets of the old town to the extent that it is hard to drive a car down the road. As we approached Oatman, we were greeted with "watch out for Donkey" signs, and signs warning to not feed the animals, so I was just a litte more than disappointed when we arrived in the town centre without sight of a single burrow. We got out of the car and walked around. Still no burrows. So we decided to leave and continue on our way...We saw signs all over the town with a carrot with a cross through it, that read: "Do not feed the donkeys with this sticker on their heads, they will choke to DEATH. Do not remove the stickers from their heads!"  My guess is that too many people removed too many stickers and ALL the donkeys choked to death, so now Oatman has no donkeys.
So on from Oatman to the Grand Canyon. We drove for a total of 8 hours, and finally arrived at our destination. The charge for admission to the park was reasonable at $25 per car and was valid for 7 days. They give you a little map and let you do your thing. We parked the car (for FREE!) and walked towards the "south rim" really couldn't see anything except for trees, and I thought that we were still quite far from actually seeing anything, when all of a sudden (YES! ALL OF A SUDDEN!) the ground opened up into one of the most spectacular sights I have ever seen. The grand canyon really is quite amazing. It is nice that the state of Arizona really hasn't let the beauty of something so unique be taken over by vendors and attractions. I was pleasantly surprised that the park layout was very basic, with a narrow paved path parallel to the rim. Owen and I found a nice little outcropping hanging out over the canyon, and upon further inspection, noticed that we could climb down to a small ledge about 8 or so feet below us. That was our lunch spot. It was amazing. No people, and only the view of the canyon. We were very soon joined by a curious little squirrel who no doubt wanted our food and was by no means shy. I swear he would have hopped right up on our laps had we let him get that near.

After a few hours at the Canyon, we decided to head 2 hours south to Sedona, home of the mystical red rock canyons. Our plan was to camp overnight along the oak creek, which is said to have mystical healing properties. That didn't quite work out. 2 of the 4 campground were closed and the remaining 2 were over capacity.Bummer. We ended up driving for about 4 more hours before finding somewhere to camp. We settled ourselves atop a long winding mountain road above the eerie town of Jerome. It was cold, we were tired.

I didn't sleep a wink, so we were up early, on our way to Las Vegas to try to find Owen some shoes...haha...yes, that is the ONLY reason we were going there. We detoured on our way to vegas to drive over the Hoover Dam, and let me tell you, it really isn't that spectacular. At least I didn't think so. We moved on quickly and arrived in a sweltering hot Las Vegas around noon. We shopped for a few hours then left for home... well... owen's moms home.
We again decided to opt to take the scenic route home. We drove down an old road through the middle of the Mohave National Reserve. Again, the only car on the road, for a very LOOOOOONG time.  The drive was really cool. We came across a random group of sand dunes, a volcanic crater, and a forest of Joshua trees.
Now we are back in DHS. 3 states, 37 hours and 2495KM later. I dont want to sit in a car anymore. Thankfully, we'll be in mexico in a few days, car free!!!

Until then, xoxo
(Hope my drawn out account didnt bore you all!)

Monday, September 7, 2009

Homeless and jobless....by choice of course!

No more countdown!!!
We are officially homeless and jobless...its a lot more work than I expected!
The biggest worry is over, and my darling cats have found a new home. Thank goodness!! I miss them so much already, but I know that they are in good hands. I was fortunate enough to find a lovely woman on Saltspring Island to care for Cola and Jebus. Last I heard they were warming up to her and becoming more social, which is a good thing, because the moved proved to be very traumatic for all of us. It took us 5 hours each way to get them to the island, all the while, Cola had her head burried in my armpit and wouldn't budge, and Jebus was a nervous wreck. They were super mad at me when we got to where we were going and as a result I had to leave them without a final snuggle, as I couldn't reach them in the far corner under the bed where they had stationed themselves.

After taking the cats to Saltspring, we had to bring our motorcycles over to Victoria to put into storage. We had a nice final ride in the sun with Corey Lekas then put our bikes away for the next two years. Boo....

Now we are in the Kootenays. We have been here for the past week and leave tomorrow to visit with Owen's dad in Victoria before heading down to Desert Hot Springs to visit with Owen's mom and her husband Wayne. Its been nice not having to work, and we've been taking advantage the leisurely life. Its nice to spend some time with our families, and they are sure going to be missed over the next couple of years.

Our bags are packed, and have been unpacked and repacked a number of times to ensure that everything fits. Owen actually had to return his backpack (as I had to do also) in exchange for a larger one, and even then, its a tight fit. Even after narrowing everything in my bag down to what I thought was the bare essentials, I still had to cut out some more clothing. The final count is as follows:

  • 2 Pairs of walking shorts
  • 2 pairs of surf shorts
  • 2 pair of pants
  • 2 bikinis
  • 3 t shirts
  • 1 long sleeved shirt
  • 3 tank tops
  • 4 pair of socks
  • 3 pair of underwear
  • 1 hoody
  • 1 cardigan
  • 1 summer dress

That's it. I had to cut out a pair of pants, 2 t-shirts, 2 tank tops and some socks. They were just taking up too much room. Hopefully I use everything I bring, otherwise, its getting left behind somewhere in Mexico.

As some of you may already know, while we are in Melaque, Owen and I will be rebuilding the skateboard ramp (mini ramp) that we started when we were there a couple of years ago. We have managed to raise about $600 so far to donate towards purchasing the materials needed for the ramp. We also have a Mexican friend who is a musician and will be holding a concert when we are there and donating all the proceeds towards the ramp as well. It should be amazing. The kids there are super excited, as are we!! We also received a large donation of skateboard clothing, which we will be bringing to Mexico as well to donate to the kids who need it. I am really looking forward to being able to help some people out. If any of you are interested in donating to the cause, you can do so through the donate now button on this page and just leave a note that the donation is for the skate park project. Also, check out the group on Facebook-A skate park project: fundraising to share the love worldwide. I will keep you all posted on the ramp progress and post some pics of it when we are finished.

Well, I'm off to see a movie with my dad...so next update will likely be from either California or Mexico.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Is this really happening??? REALLY??

Well, the official countdown is at 19days, 19 hours, 19 minutes......its unreal...less than 3 weeks!

We have been planning this trip for a long time, and it seems so unreal that the time has actually come for us to depart this beloved country that I call home. Everyone keeps asking me if I'm excited, and to be quite honest, at this point excitement is not something that I can say I am feeling...if anything...I'm nauseous...nervous...anxious....sad...scared....i don't even know....but certainly not EXCITED! No...not yet anyways. I am sure that once I have everything taken care of, and I'm sitting on the plane...that then, and only then will I begin to feel excited.... for now, there is still too much for me to worry about.

I only have 2 weeks! I am a wreck...I appear to be cool, calm & collected on the outside, but in my head.....its a complete mess right now! I am however very relieved that I may have (cross your fingers until its 100%) found a home for my darling cats on Salt Spring Island... but...until they are there and purring happily...I'm certainly not going to relax.... Even if it is 100% (again...fingers crossed please!) I still have to figure out when & how we are getting them there, have to purchase a 2 year supply of wet & dry cat food, and get the cats...especially Cola (the spaz) out of the house and into the car and onto the island in one piece....haha...should be fun right? That is my main concern right now...but certainly not my only concern.

So many people don't realize just how much stuff needs to be done to prepare for a trip of this calibre... in fact, I am just realizing it, and I leave in just over 2 weeks. For anyone planning a big trip like this...here's a checklist... if you can think of anything I'm missing, please...PLEASE email me and let me know!!!
  • Get rid of possessions - Check! well...most of them so far... a couple more yard sales to go!
  • Submit change of address form - Not cheap BTW.
  • Arrange to have all your utilities turned off - Make sure they send your last invoice via email so you can pay online once you are gone.
  • Buy travel insurance. - This one I researched A LOT! honestly, the cheapest travel insurance provider by a long shot was BCAA... oh, and you can only buy 1 year worth at a time....so make sure you know how to renew it.
  • Get all vaccines - . This part is the worst part....so many needles, but picked up my Dukoral booster dose the other day, and other than that, no more needles for at least 2 years.
  • Get a new passport - Although my passport was still valid for 2 years, you do need to have at least 6 months of validity left after your expected return to Canada, and...with us visiting so many countries (hopefully) on this trip, we wanted to make sure we had enough blank pages for all the visas we will need, so we went with the 48 page passport.
  • Renew drivers licence - My license would have expired when I was gone. Even though it was not time to renew my licence ( there was still more than a year to go), I learned that you can do a 5 year renewal early, they just backdate your licence...so it works.
  • Scan all documents and email to myself & family....just in case. Get extra passport photos taken for Visas etc.
  • Get an international drivers licence - BCAA is your best bet for that also.
  • Sew secret pockets in all clothing - This is a big job, not for the weak...haha...but saves having to wear an uncomfortable (not to mention predictable) money belt in questionable countries.
  • Get a physical exam- Better safe than sorry....after all, I will be gone for 2 years...
  • Eye Exam - Update prescription for glasses & contacts, and get a 2 year supply of contact lenses....which are going to be a total pain in the ass to carry around for 2 years...but what can I do...glasses just don't cut it for me.
  • Meet with the banks & set up auto deposit from my savings acct to my debit linked checking account. Also make sure all bank cards/ credit cards have the new chip, and that I know all the pin numbers, and that they will work over seas. Oh yea, and call the CC companies and tell them that we will be gone travelling so they don't assume my cards have been stolen and cancel them...which would suck.
  • Prepay BC Medical - I learned that if you don't prepay it, you can be denied coverage when you return to BC after being gone for 6 months or more. And you can only prepay for up to 2 years, and only on a special request to MSP. Bummer. Oh yea, and its REALLY REALLY expensive.

So...yeah... I know that I am missing some things...but I'm working on it, and hopefully can get it all together in time.

I would also like to give an update on my backpack situation. I'm going to start with everyone was right....and I was wrong. After packing all my stuff into my teeny tiny 42L backpack, I realized that I was at full capacity.... maybe even a little more than full capacity. Not a good thing. I even went through all my stuff to see what I could sacrifice to create more room, but truth be told...i need everything...it is the minimum that I would need to be comfortable backpacking around the world. So I had to return my backpack and settle on a bigger one. I now have a 65L backpack that will not be filled to capacity, and has a nice feature that allows it to compress down to just as big as I need it. However, if the room is needed, it will now be available... lucky Owen, I can carry all my own stuff now. Haha!

Well, I must be getting back to getting ready for our departure. Next update will be just prior to our leaving Vancouver. TTYL!


PS. I talked to my brother Dan the other day. He and his girlfriend Sarah are doing a similar trip around the world. They, like Owen & I, plan to be gone for about 2 years. They have now been travelling for just over 2 months. They have just finished Europe, and have recently arrived in South Africa. They have rented a place in Cape Town for a week, and have also bought themselves a 4x4 SUV vehicle, which they plan to drive through South Africa, Namibia, Botswana & Zimbabwe, then back down to South Africa and re-sell the vehicle. Their trip sounds amazing so far....cant wait to be in their shoes!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

So much to do...so little time...

The official countdown is at 44 days, 21 hours, 47 minutes .... just over a month!

Well, time is flying....quickly....I have a lot of stuff to do in soo little time.
A lot has happened since the last "update". Let me fill you in.

1) I quit my job at the Aveda Academy Salon. After being there for 5 years, I decided that for my last 3 months in Canada that I would like to just relax and be stress free...so now I am at a small little salon in Kits called Poppy Hair Boutique, where I have no worries other than my own.

2) Owen picked up a second job washing dishes 4 nights a week at Watermark Restauraunt on Kits Beach....he hates it, and has given his notice for the beginning of August.

Owen & I have almost amassed all of our gear for the trip, and our bags are pretty full. I have been getting a lot of comments from people that my 42L backpack is not big enough...and they have been questioning my intelligence based on the fact that I do not desire to lug a huge bag around the world with me. Granted, my bag is at full capacity, but as far as Im concerned, I will be getting rid of more stuff than I will be aquiring, so I have nothing really to worry about. Plus...Owen's bag is bigger than mine, so if need be, I'll donate some things to him to carry....haha..
I am going to post pics of everything that I am bringing, but will do so when my collection of items is complete.

Right now our main concern is still finding a home for my kitties...its a hard one, nobody out there is receptive to my pleas....it's a bit disheartening, but Im not leaving until the perfect home is found and they are rolling around comfortably on someone else's floor. The other priority has been clearing our apartment of all that we own. It is amazing how much "stuff" we've aquired over the past 5 years. So, to anyone that wants anything that I have: call me, you can take it (for a small fee)!!

My brother and his girlfriend Sarah were here to visit just before leaving on their ultimate world trip. They've been travelling for 6 weeks now, and although I haven't heard much from them, through the few pictures and updates from my mom, it is clearly evident that they are getting the most out of their trip so far. The pictures are amazing, and they look so happy....it makes the fact that our trip is upon us so much more exciting. I only hope that we have as much fun as they are (our savings are significantly less).

Dan & Sarah in Italy

Anyhow, these pre-trip updates are hopefully not as boring to you as they are to me...not to worry tho, one more, then the real good stuff will take its place. First stop: Mexico.... I can't wait!

Sunday, April 19, 2009


The official countdown is at 131 days, 13 hours, 43 minutes - YIKES!
Its crazy how quickly time is flying by...scary in fact, condsidering just how much I have to get done before we're gone.
Anyhow...a bit of an update for you all.

Owen getting Hep B shot #2

Erin getting Japanese Encephalitis Shot #2

Owen and I have almost completed getting our shots done, he is going on to his 3rd hepatitis B shot and has decided to NOT get the Japanese Encephaliltis ( a foolish decision in my opinion) so will be done his vaccines as of the end of this month. I have recieved 2 of 3 of the Japaneses Encephalitis shots and have one more to go. Of all the vaccines, this was the one that actually did give me side effects, although not too bad. The main thing was that it just made me extrememly tired and gave some stomach pains, but the first shot was worse than the second, so Im hoping by the time the third shot comes around that the side effects will be non-existant. I also learned that the Japanese Encephalitis vaccine is in short supply and will soon not be available in some places...also the price has gone up since I started my series of shots, so anyone contemplating getting this vaccine should be aware that if they choose to wait and think about it some more, that it may not be available to them. On the plus side though....no more needles for me after the last one!

My backpack is getting fuller by the day. 40 Litres is not a lot of space, and im a little worried that I may not have enough room in my bag....but, I have to make it work, there is no way on earth that I am carrying a bag as big as myself around this huge world of ours....not a chance. So far in my bag I have a few new purchases! After a lot of research I found the underwear that I will be bringing with me (and at a fraction of the cost as expected!). In all of the travel stores and online you see all this info about quick dry / wicking underwear that everyone recommends for travelling, but what they dont tell you is that it costs $30 a pair. So, I went and checked it out and yes, it does look very comfy...but a little outside of my budget for undies...seriously. So I checked out the fabric content on all of the labels and started browsing the internet. Every time we go to the USA we always stop at the outlet stores, and they have an underwear store there, so I decided to check out what they had in stock. Well, I ended up buying my undies!!! 4 pair for under $20 ! Exciting, I know. They have the exact same fabric content and feel as the expensive ones at MEC and also are seamless...which seems a bit better to me, so I'm happy about that. Owen has also FINALLY bought a backpack...pretty basic and rugged...just what we need. The nice thing about his bag is the fact that it is bigger than mine, meaning he gets to carry the tent...ahaha..

Jebus & Cola - My lovely cats

The scariest (saddest) thing about our upcoming trip is the fact that I still have to find someone to take my lovely cats....this is stressing me out sooooo much. They are my babies...I love them. If anyone knows of somebody who may be down for some snuggles, here's the deal: I supply 2 years worth of food + kitties to snuggle. In exchange the kitties must be kept together, indoors, and snuggled on a regular basis. Then, when I return, I get my cats back.

Cola & I

Well, thats it for now... until next time...

Friday, March 27, 2009

Yay for mexico!

The official countdown is at 157 days, 23 hours, 46 minutes

After recently talking with my mom, we now officially have 3 destinations confirmed...hopefully, it stays at 3 and we dont end up over planning where we want to be. After all...this is supposed to be a "go where you decide at the last minute" kind of trip right?

1) LA / Palm Springs, USA - September 14
2) Melaque, Mexico - September 22 - To rebuild a miniramp & visit with frineds.
3) Progreso, Mexico - December 24!!! For Christmas with some of my family!!!!!! YAY! I haven't had christmas with family in about 10 years now....

So we will make our way from Melaque (West coast) down to Progreso (Yucatan Peninsula) between September & December. Anyone who wants to meet us in Mexico during those times, just let me know!
After Christmas, we will more than likely be moving down into Guatemala as soon as possible.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Well, here we go! A little bit of catch up..

The official countdown is at 164 days, 2 hours, 24 minutes.

Welcome to my blog! I have been inspired to start a bit early, urged on by some of my guests at Aveda, so that they can peer into the process and preparations necessary in anticipation of us (Erin & Owen) travelling the globe for two years.

For those of you who do not yet know, Myself and my beloved partner Owen will be embarking on the "Ultimate World Trip of a Lifetime". We are starting in Mexico on September 22 and from there, we will travel to where the world takes us. No timelines, no specific destinations, just an epic adventure. We plan to do as much travel as possible overland, meaning that we wont fly if we dont absolutely have to. So far, the rough outline of countries goes like this: Mexico, all of Central America, all of South America, hop over to South Africa and work our way up Africa thru to the Middle East and into Europe. From Europe we will have to fly to India. After we explore India we will move on to SE Asia, the Phillipines and Indonesia. Lastly, we will journey over to Australia and New Zealand before making our way back to Canada. Should be interesting.

Those of you who know me well, know that I am a COMPLETE geek, so the preparations are right on track. I have constructed a detailed graph outlining the ideal months to be in each country over the span of approximately 2 years, I have compiled a list of every holiday and celebration and their dates for each country along the way, I have predicted our expenses pre and post departure, and researched the visa and immigration requirements for every country. I have also been spending ALOT of time on travel forums...afterall, the most important info has nothing to do with where we're going, but what we're taking with us.

Even though we still have some time until we leave, I have made the all important decision of purchasing my bag. I have read many posts of travellers complaining that they brought too big of a bag, so Im going with a wee little 40 Litre backpack. It will do tho, the less stuff I bring with me, the less stuff can be stolen..haha..
So, into this bag so far: 1 travel hammock with built in mosquito net, 1 silk travel sheet, 1 tiny sleeping bag ( we plan to do a lot of camping along the way), 1 waterbottle, 1 lightweight compressable, windproof/ waterproof jacket, 1 toiletries bag and a knife. So far the bag is only half full, which is good news considering I still have to pack my clothing. That list will be confirmed later, but for now I m thinking: 2 tee shirts, 1 pair pants, 1 pair surf shorts, 1 pair walking shorts, 1 pair flippy floppy's, 3 pair of undies, 2 bras, 3 pair of socks, 1 bathingsuit, 1 long sleeve shirt, 1 hoody, and a dress. If anyone has any feedback on this list, PLEASE let me know, I can use all the help I can get at this point :).

As many of you may know, I am, as well as a geek, a total hyper-condriac, therefore after many many hours of researching the possible side effects of each and every vaccine, we made an appointment for the travel clinic. Surprisingly, we dont need as many shots as I initially thought (yay!) so we got started.

Owen needs a few more than me, so he got his first 3 shots: MMR, Yellow Feaver & Polio. Turns out he never got the Hep B vaccine in elementary school either, so he has to get those 3 as well, and possibly may also be vaccinated for Japanese Encephalitis, which consists of a series of 3 more shots. I've yet to convince him that it would be a wise move to get that one!
I got my first 2 vaccinations: MMR & Yellow Fever. I am definately going to get the Japanese Encephalitis vaccine, I mean, why wouldn't I?
I also asked about rabies, and the doc told me that typically she would recommend that we be vaccinated against rabies based on the fact that we plan to spend a lot of time in rural areas, but at the moment there is a world shortage, so we cant have it....so...if we get bitten, make sure to get to a hospital within 24 hours or we will more than likely die.... nice.
Lastly, we talked about Malaria (yikes!)
Obviously nobody would choose to want to take anti-malarials for such a long term...especially with the side effects, and not to mention the cost. I was a bit concerned about what to do; do we take them and feel like crap the whole time or do we not take them and cross our fingers and hope we dont come down with malaria? I was talking with one of my clients a while back about this dilemma, and it just so happened that she was from Europe and did a lot of travel. What she told me was that in Europe, they do not prescribe anti-malarials on a preventative basis, that instead they prescribe a "treatment" or emergency dose of anti-malarials should you become sick. Sounded like a good idea to me, so I asked about that, and the doctor wrote me a prescription for the emergency dose which I will keep in my first aid kit. I also recieved a prescription for an anti-malarial for when Im in Africa and India (they have the highest risk) but may or may not take it...i haven't decided yet.

The all important Yellow Fever Vaccine!

Well, that should help to get everyone up to speed on our progress. I dont want to bore you with too many details, so if you have any questions, just send me off an email!