New Zealand: 2/12 – 2/18

(New Zealand) Takaka >>> Puponga >>> Nelson >>> Nelson Lakes Area >>> Hector >>> Greymouth >>> Arthur’s Pass

2/12 – Hiked to Aorere Caves and Watched Seal Pups play at Wharariki Beach!
2/13 – Golden Bay and Driving back south to Nelson
2/14 – Shopping in Richmond and Driving through the Central Mountains
2/15 – Hiked Mt. Roberts Circuit around Nelson lakes
2/16 – Wifi in Westport and Hiking the Heaphy Track!
2/17 – Cape Foulwind, Tauranga Bay, Pancake Rocks, and the Punakaiki Caverns!
2/18 – Rec Center, Monteith’s Brewing, and Hiking in Arthur’s Pass

Continue reading “New Zealand: 2/12 – 2/18”

England & Italy: 10/08 – 10/14

Brighton >>> (Italy) Naples >>> Rome

10/8- Fly to Naples, Italy! Try authentic Italian Pizza!
10/9- Social time at an Italian feast, Explore Naples
10/10- Explore Capri, Anacapri, and the rest of the beautiful island!
10/11- Rest day in our Air BnB, Best Pizza in Naples!
10/12- Explore Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast
10/13- Arrive in Rome and tour the sites at night
10/14- Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museums

Continue reading “England & Italy: 10/08 – 10/14”

Germany & Czech Republic: 9/17 – 9/23

Berlin >>> (Czech Republic) Prague >>> (Germany) Munich
9/17 – Travel to Prague and explore the nightlife of Prague 
9/18 – Walking tour of Prague: Prague Castle, Charles Bridge
9/19 – Travel to Munich
9/20 – Explore Munich: BMW Museum, Glockenspiel, English Garden 
9/21 – Oktoberfest! 
9/22 – Explore Füssen and Neuschwanstein Castle 
9/23 – Heimgarten and Herzogsstand Hike with Laura

Continue reading “Germany & Czech Republic: 9/17 – 9/23”

Spain: 6/18 -6/24

Seville >>> Cordoba >>> Malaga

6/18 – Explore Sevilla: Real Alcazar and Flamenco Show
6/19 – Sevilla Bike Tour and the Cathedral
6/20 – Arrive in Cordoba and explore the Mezquita
6/21 – Arrive in Granada and enjoy the free tapas!
6/22 – Rest and Planning Day in Granada
6/23 – Visit the Alhambra and Travel to Malaga
6/24 – Walk the Cliffs of Caminto del Rey

Continue reading “Spain: 6/18 -6/24”

Ecuador: 5/07 – 5/13

Quilotoa >>> Chugchilan >>> Isinlivi >>> Guayquil >>> Puerto Lopez >>> Salinas

5/7 – Explore Quilotoa Crater Lake
5/8 – Hike from Quilotoa to Chugchilan
5/9 – Hike from Chugchilan to Isinlivi
5/10 – Transport from Isinlivi back to Latacunga and then on to Guayquil
5/11 – Driving to the Coast and Arriving in Puerto Lopez
5/12 – Isla de la Plata: the Poor Man’s Galapagos
5/13 – Travel Down the Coast to Salinas

Continue reading “Ecuador: 5/07 – 5/13”

Colombia & Ecuador: 4/23 – 4/29

Salento >>> (Ecuador) Quito >>> Tena

4/23
Rest Day and Explore Salento
+ With Corey still recovering from his stomach sickness, we spent most of the day relaxing in our room again.
+ Luckily, HBO was running a non-stop marathon of past Game of Thrones in preparation for the premier tomorrow night, so we watched a bunch of those. It was a good break from all the on the go traveling and exploring we’d been doing.
+ In the afternoon we headed out to a Colombian restaurant we’d read about to get the popular trout they serve in Salento. It was tasty and filling, although very garlicy.
+ There was a set of 100-200 stairs nearby that went up to a overlook of the city. So we climbed up those and met 2 different Americans on the way.
+ In the evening we just relaxed again and caught up with email and stuff on the Internet.

4/24
Rest Day in Salento
+ We spent most of the day relaxing in our room and enjoying the cool weather, tv, and working wifi.
+ We did venture out for a late lunch at a place called Brunch. It was packed entirely with gringos, and had a fun and decorative scene. Plus, the burgers we ordered were humongous! Corey’s came topped with chili and it overflowed so much it filled up the rest of his plate. They also had the best hot wing sauce we had tasted since buffalo wild wings back in Florida!
+ We didn’t decide on what hike we wanted to do until around 6 pm and through What’s App we managed to book the 2 day tour through Los Nevados National Park starting the next morning.
+ That meant most of the rest of night was spent packing our normal backpacks and hiking bags.
+ Then we got to watch the season premier of Game of Thrones on HBO!

4/25
Hiked through Valle de Cocora and into Los Nevados N.P.
+ Woke up really early without getting enough sleep and groggily ate breakfast.
+ Left our bags at the hostel and met our guide, Andrés at the office. Then we caught a Willys Jeep for the 30 minute ride into Valle de Cocora.
+ We walked along through the lush green valley of the super tall wax palms (Colombia’s National Tree) for about half an hour until we entered the Bosque (forest). Then we hiked uphill for a few hours until we reached Paramo scenery. Here, the landscape was littered with Frilajones. These are a unique type of plant that only grows at this altitude.
+ We walked along the rolling mountains and got up to about 4000 meters before descending to 3600 where the Finca (farm) was where we would spend the night.
+ Overall we had hiked over 8 hours and 16 kilometers and almost all of it had been uphill. Needless to say we were very tired.
+ After a couple hours of rest, we all gathered in the kitchen for an authentic Colombian dinner. We were happy to have warm stew and drinks (more delicious aguapanela!) since the temperature was rapidly dropping outside!
+ After supper we taught a few card games to our guide, like Go Fish and War. It was fun to practice our Spanish with Andres. Andres even caught on that Liz does not always understand even when she smiles and nods! Lol!
+ Then we all called it a night and got ready to sleep in what was by far the coldest temperature we had experienced since we started our trip. We don’t know how cold it got to (would’ve been in Celsius anyway), but in our dorm beds we needed to sleep with all our clothes on (double or triple everything), a blanket underneath us, and 3 blankets on top of us! So very very cold.

4/26
Hiked back to Salento and took a bus to Ecuador!
+ Woke up happy to see the sun and we also had an amazing view of the glacier nearby. It could be summited by another 6-7 hour hike (each way) and another day of acclimatization to avoid altitude sickness, but we didn’t have the time or money to attempt it this time.
+ After breakfast it was time to complete the loop in Los Nevados National Park.
+ Our return hike through different scenery took over 8 hours again from our Finca in the Paramo highlands back to Valle de Cocora. It also involved a good number of uphill climbs, but thankfully most of it was downhill.
+ During the 2 days we didn’t see many exotic animals, but tons of cows, some sheep, horses, donkeys, mules, and dogs. The cows here in the highlands were different than any we had ever seen before. They were dairy cows and much bigger and somehow they were much cow-like. They reminded us of ones from chick fil a commercials.
+ Caught a Willys Jeep back to Salento and said goodbye to our guide.
+ Back at our hostel we took a much needed shower, changed, ate our leftovers, and caught a bus out of town to Armenia.
+ We were going to go to San Agustin, Colombia but at the last minute we decided to just head straight into Ecuador! So we bought a bus ticket to the border of Colombia and settled into the first double decker bus we’ve ever been on for a nice 13+ hour ride. (Our longest single bus ride of our travels so far!)

4/27
Arrived in Quito after 23 hours of travel!
+ Took bus into Ipiales, Colombia and crossed the border into Ecuador!
+ Caught chicken bus to Tulcan, then another 6-7 hour bus towards Quito.
+ Bus broke down on the way so we switched to a different bus and finally made it to Quito! (over 23 hours after we left Salento!)
+ At the station we needed to catch a taxi towards the hostel we wanted to stay at. Unfortunately we were never able to book it because out of the 3 buses we were on, wifi only worked in 1 and it cut out about a minute before we were able to complete the booking. So for about 11 hours we didn’t know if the hostel would still have a room for us or not.
+ Luck was on our side because when we arrived, the receptionist said they only had 1 room left and it was only for 2 nights (exactly what we wanted!). So we tiredly carried our bags one last time down the hall and stairs to our room, which turned out to be huge and really nice!
+ Although we wanted to just lay down and relax, our empty stomachs forced us back out again. Our hostel was right next to a happening area though so we didn’t have to walk far to find a pizza place that was recommended by Lonely Planet.
+ While waiting for our pizza to be cooked, we got some Ecuadorian beers next door. We ordered the special of 3 for $5 thinking they would be small ones, but they were each 1 liter beers! Plus, when we finished our 3rd, they put down another. We told them we’d had 3 already and they were mistaken, but they insisted they were right so we actually got 4 big beers!
+ While eating the pizza we talked with the owner who was a really nice guy and gave us tips for Quito the rest of our time in Ecuador.
+ Being so full of beer, we didn’t finish all the food our hungry eyes had ordered earlier so we took our food back to the hostel and each laid down with a sigh of relief. We had traveled for over 24 hours and hundreds of miles in buses, shuttles, and taxis. We had also made it south of the Equator and to our 9th country on this trip!

4/28
Explored Mitad del Mundo and Quito breweries
+ Relaxed at the hostel in the morning. Finally decided around noon to go explore the city.
+ Caught a taxi up to the Mitad del Mundo, which stands for the center of the world! It is located directly on the equator at 0 degrees latitude. Spent 3 hours exploring all of the cool museums and scientific demonstrations about the effects of the equator.
+ Caught another taxi back south to the Mariscal district of Quito. This place was very lively and had tons of fancy/touristy looking restaurants, shops, and bars everywhere. Very different from the quiet and quaint part of Old Town we were staying in.
+ Ate at a Mexican restaurant called El Mariachi Taco Factory and split a humongous 2 foot long burrito!
+ Then we went down the street to a brewery Corey had read about called Cherusker Cerveceria. This micro brewery had a pretty good selection of homemade brews and we got a 5 glass sampler. We assumed they would be small 4 oz pours, but they were all big glasses! Really good deal.
+ After finishing our drinks and watching the Ecuador national soccer team defeat the Argentinian team on tv, we headed out. Another short cab ride later and we were at our final destination for the evening: Bandido Brewing. We hadn’t planned on getting more food, but the overwhelming delicious smell of pizza made us change our minds. So with another sampler flight of Bandido’s craft beers, we took in the unique setting of the brewery (in a type of church/worship center) and had some of the yummy pizza.
+ Once we arrived back at the hostel, we found it still strangely deserted (like it had been since we arrived!). So we hung out in the tv room outside our room doing stuff on our phones and tablets while movies played in the background. Ended up going to bed way too late, but it was nice to enjoy our own private hostel for a while.

4/29
Travel to Tena
+ We had breakfast in the morning in the very pretty courtyard (again, by ourselves). It was nice to enjoy the cool weather, garden, and music they had playing.
+ Then we checked out of the room and moved our bags downstairs to the game room area. Our plan was to hang out for a few hours doing Internet stuff until we caught a bus to Tena. So for the next 4 hours we lounged around on the giant cushions/beds they had researching white water rafting companies in Tena while Liz “Shazammed” about every song from her new favorite cd.
+ Eventually it was time to say goodbye to what had been one of our favorite and nicest hostels we’d ever been in and move on (it was tough to pull ourselves away). So we caught a taxi down to the bus station, then booked the first ticket headed towards Tena.
+ The bus company we were on was called Amazonas and it looked like a decent enough bus (reclining seats, a tv) but it proved to be a very strange experience. Whether it was because it was a Friday afternoon, the bus driver’s preferences, or just a cheap budget company, the bus moved so slowly for the first 90 minutes! Like slower than a bicycle would’ve gone. On the highway nonetheless! We honestly thought something on the bus might have been broken since we were moving so slow, and everyone else seemed annoyed. And to top it all off, it was not a direct bus (no stops), it was a chicken bus. So it was constantly stopping for people to get on/off. We were sure our 5 hour trip was going to turn into a 8+ hour trip.
+ Luckily they put on the movie Rush Hour (in Spanish) to distract us, but by the time it finished, we were just exiting Quito’s borders! So we went to sleep to try to gave time pass by quicker. It didn’t really help because even after we woke up we had 3+ hours left.
+ We thought about taking out our tablet to watch stuff on there, but Ecuador buses are notoriously known for bag slashing or theft, so we didn’t want to advertise our fancy electronics. So just when we were getting restless, they put on another movie: Rush Hour 3! (Don’t know what happened to #2) So we watched that and after it finished we only had another 30 minutes or so to Tena. Hooray!
+ After finally making it to town, we caught a taxi to our hostel, checked into yet another room way too big for us (3 beds this time) and ordered a pizza.
+ We saw on snapchat our friends Brittany and Josh had just gotten engaged so we FaceTime’d with them for a while and caught up on what’s been going on, which was nice.
+ Then we devoured the pizza, watched tv, got updated on the NFL draft results, and went to sleep to prepare for our full day tomorrow!

Click here for more photos from Colombia & click here for more photos from Ecuador!

Guatemala: 1/8- 1/14

Semuc Champey >>> Xela >>> San Pedro La Laguna (on Lake Atitlan)

1/8
+ We were concerned we had missed our 8am shuttle to Semuc Champey when it had not arrived by 8:25. We are slowly realizing that Guatemala seems to run on “island time”… despite not being an island.
+ The 8hr ride to Semuc Champey turned into closer to 10 hrs with the multiple stops at convenience stores for bathroom/snacks as well as a stop for a flat tire!
+ When the shuttle stopped in the small town of Lanquin, (keep in mind, it is already dark now) we were met by teenagers yelling out each hostel name and the glamorous  amenities each offered. (I.e. “a bed!” “Water: hot and cold!”, etc)
+ A little bewildered, we found the teen shouting Casa Zapote ( the hostel reservations included in our Semuc Champey package). Our bags were moved to the back of a pickup truck and we were directed to climb on in.
+ We took off in the back of the truck for a 25 min ride up the very dark, pot-holed, boulder-filled road.
+ Arrived at our hostel to find the beds were actually only box springs in a loft in the middle of the jungle. All in the name of Adventure, right?
+ Spent the evening eating, drinking and meeting other travelers  during the hostel happy hour.

1/9
+  Toured Semuc Champey with 1 other couple from Costa Rica. Our guide was named Manu. He looked and acted like he was 16. He thought it was hilarious to repeatedly yell “What up mannggg!”
+ Hiked up to El Mirador (the viewpoint) to get aerial view of pools. The river runs from the mountains feeding the pools from underneath.
+ Explored the 7 cascading pools. Jumped from one to the next, slid down rocks. Swam around and talked with other travelers.
+ Joined up with other larger tour group to explore cave by candlelight. Swam, climbed, slid and jumped. Met expat from Kentucky who now owns hostel in Antigua.
+ Corey did a rope swing into the river!
+ Our group of 5 tubed down the river. Great views of the waterfall!
+ Corey did bridge jumping into the river. Manu only wanted to jump once but Corey called him a Rojo pollo! Lol! Then Manu shouted “No polloooo!” As he jumped off the bridge again.
+ Rode back to the hostel in the back of a pickup truck. Truck stopped halfway back to load up with firewood and many locals. Corey talked with nice guy from Switzerland who has biked entire west coast of US. He started biking in Vancouver and was now in Guatemala! That’s insane!
+ Met our new roommates in our boxspring-loft: a couple from Tasmania  (“Tazzy” as they called it) and a nice German guy.
+ Spent the evening comparing dangerous animals from our respective countries and learning new card games.

1/10
+ We were up and ready to go at 5am to catch a ride to Lanquin (nearby larger city) to catch the shuttle to Antigua and then onward to Xela. No hostel staff was up and we appeared to be only guests leaving that early. At 530, Liz had to wake the hostel staff who groggily called us a pickup truck to get to Lanquin. (We assume the hostel staff must have forgotten we were leaving at all)
+ Found the shuttle in Lanquin with a few other tourists from other hostels. Eventually left and rode 9hrs to Antigua.
+ After arriving in Antigua, immediately jumped on another  shuttle bus for 4hr ride to Quetzaltenango (Xela).
+  Half way there we stopped for bano  near Chicitenango. We had been eating chips and snacks all day and really wanted some real food. Corey ran across the street and found some delicious fried chicken and potato wedges. When we were done with the chicken, Corey fed some of the street dogs that were hanging around the gas station.
+ We arrived at Parque Centro in Xela after dark. (That’s over 12hrs of travel! ) We met our air bnb host, Rosita, at McDonalds and she led us back to her apartment.
+ Rosita and Irvin were great hosts during our stay! Very accomodating and friendly!
+ Ate delicious street tacos for less than $1.50!
+ Xela is known for their fresh bread and drinking chocolate. Yummm!

1/11
+ Explored historic Xela. Booked Tour for volcano hike the next day.
+ Stopped into Xelapan – a delicious bakery chain that offers everything from French bread, huge chocolate croissants, and even funny bread shaped like snapping turtles!
+ Refilled our snack arsenal at the local super Mercado.
+ Ate lunch at restaurant  tipico- authentic guatemalan food.
+ Did some research back at the apartment while Corey watched the 1st half of the national championship game in spanish. Lols
+ Went out with Rosita to local sport bar called “Playroom” to watch 2nd half of game. Very westernized with sports paraphernalia all over the walls from every sport or activity ever invented! (Even chess and luge!) Corey explained americano football rules to Rosita.
+ Irvin met up with us after he got off work. Drank local beers and then moved to another bar for local dark beer- Moza. It was served out of a carafe!
+ Walked back together late and had to avoid the street dogs. According to Rosita and Irvin, the street dogs are much more aggressive and territorial at night!

1/12
+ Caught shuttle to Santa Maria volcano at 5am
+ Began hiking around 5:30 am. Finally arrived at the summit (12,375ft) at 9am. We were above the tree line and clouds. We could see all the  other volcanos in Guatemala! (Lake Atitilan, volcanos bordering Mexico, etc) Stayed until 10:30am. Watched the nearby volcano, Santiaguito, erupt! Many locals also climb the summit to pray and make offerings.
+ Ate our chocolate croissants from Xelapan. Delicious!
+ Began climbing down at 10:30am and finally made it back to the shuttle at 1:30pm. We were completely exhausted and very dusty.
+ Ate lunch special at Giro’s gourmet pizza. Delicious and cheap!
+ Went back to apartment, showered, and napped for a few hours.
+  Liz got one last hot chocolate at nearby cafe. Yummm
+ Ate dinner tipico- soup, entree, tortillas, and drink for $6 total!!
+ Went back to apartment and researched transportation to San Pedro for the next day.

1/13
+  Hung out at apartment, packed up, and updated blog.
+ Ate lunch at Pollo  Campero- a Guatemala chain similar to PDQ.
+ Caught local city bus (collectivo) to Minerva bus station. Very hectic.  Everyone we asked for San Pedro directed us 2 blocks away from the bus station.
+ Confused and nervous with all of our gear, we walked through large local markets offering everything under the sun! from Holister clothes to raw meats! Eventually we came out on the other side of the markets, to see many more chicken buses. (We’re still not sure why so many buses were blocks away from the actual bus station!)
+ Hectic situation again, we eventually found one of the brightly decorated buses to take us to San Pedro on Lake  Atitilan.
+ Chicken bus dropped us off in San Marcos, caught another chicken bus to San Pedro.
+ Views coming into town of the mountains, volcanos and Lake Atitlan were INCREDIBLE!
+ Frantically jumped off bus with all our gear and walked through city to San Pedro Spanish school.
+ Checked in and were escorted to our homestay by the youngest daughter of the local family, Billie.
+ We have a nice size room with a private, albeit very tiny bathroom. The bathroom is about the size of one you would find on an airplane. Corey barely fits in bathroom sideways.
+ Met all the family members: Rosa (madre), 4 daughters and 1 son: Melissa, Lezlie, Linda, Billie, y Julio. 2 babies: Abigail and Guillermo (cutest baby ever! He blows kisses when you say hola)
+ Met 2 other students staying with same family: Yvonne and Alice both from Australia.
+ Ate a nice authentic dinner with the family and students.

1/14
+ Started 1st day of Spanish school at 8am in a beautiful garden right next to the lake! Corey and I have individual teachers.
+ Finished class at 1 (5 hours of study) and went back to our homestay and had a big delicious lunch with our family and other students. (Lunch is biggest meal of day in Guatemala).
+ Spent the afternoon researching online and having a siesta in the hammocks overlooking the lake.
+ Ate dinner with everyone and studied Spanish in the evening before bed.

Click Here For More Pictures from Guatemala!

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