Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Hola well I´m here in Peru. And I have done a lot of driving. The terrain in Peru changed drastically from any other country. It has miles upon miles upon miles of sand dunes. I mean like hundreds of miles. And there isn't much vegetation. Peru has been a little more difficult for me. It´s not as touristy, at least where I have been, which makes finding something somewhat normal kind of tough. My first full day in Peru, I got searched by the police. And they tossed my car, more so than any other on this trip, and I have no clue what they took but surely something because it was a few of them 'searching' and another guy trying to distract me from watching. Afterwards I made it to a beach near Chiclayo and surfed my first surf in Peru on this trip. I met some guys that were asking me about my truck and they told me where some better surf was so I hit the road for a place called Pacasmayo. I was about to arrive around 430pm, excited to get there in time to surf before sunset when at the exit for PacasMayo I got stopped by police. And of course, for no reason. He starts pulling out some book and telling me I´m missing an insurance for tourists. Nobody has mentioned this at the border, the other police, etc. And surprise surprise, they can take my license and car OR I can pay right there. They wanted 450 soles which is about a couple hundred US dollars. These situations are always tricky because I could pretend not to speak spanish or I try to speak well so they treat me different than a normal tourist so I did that and it didn´t work. Sometimes I just pretend I don't understand anything but then they start writing numbers down which is universal. I argued and in the end, had to give them 50 soles (17ish us dollars) to get my license and papers back. And I missed the surf, it was late. So I started off with a rough day. The next day I got some amazing surf, long lefts reeling across this reef. I surfed it with 3 guys who were on vacation from Florida. I spent the day with them & then I hit the road again to continue south. Another day in the car heading southbound and another encounter with the Police. This time the policeman started off saying I passed in a no passing area but that was a lie. Mind you I was in the middle of miles upon miles of emptiness and sand dunes for as far as the eye can see. The road was so long and straight it appeared like there was water at the end in the distance but it was just more road. I have an attitude of I'm not paying anything this time so I stand my ground tough. The guy circles my car looking at it and starts to tell me I need permission to have my windows tinted. It's the factory tint. I just keep saying "no entiendo" (don't understand) and standing my ground. In the end I got off without paying anything but was a little flustered again. These run ins with the police along with some other travel woes made me tired and really want a break. I took a look at my frequent flyer miles and saw that I could use them to book a rountrip flight from Lima to Norfolk. So after thinking it through, I jumped on it in order to make our family vacation in the outerbanks and I was southbound in a few days to figure out what to do with my car and catch this flight. Arriving in Lima was crazy, as it is going into any foreign city with my big truck. I randomly reconnected via email with a girl I met traveling in Panama a few months back and she's now living in Lima. SO I had a destination, the plan was to stay the night at her shared house (with 10 other students from around the world) and park in a lot behind her house. It all seemed too easy because it was. The lot wouldn't let me leave my car there for 2 weeks which was a bummer because she could see the car in there from her room. So they pointed me towards another place that I showed up to and as always I'm greeted with interesting reactions over the site of my truck. They wanted to hear about it since it has California plates and they wanted my papers to be left with them so I had to fight out of that one. In the end I left it, took my paperwork, gave a little money up front and have to hope that my truck and things are there when I return today. The time away from Latin America allowed me to let some of my travels sink in and reflect on what I've done and how far I've come - distance and personally. It has been strange to be back in our culture and see how much we have at our fingertips. I have missed the Latin culture while I have been in the USA but I do love home and I always will. The south, with my family and friends, is always a place that I love and always feel comfortable here. The weather has been great and the trip was exactly what I needed; a break from the madness of traveling in a foreign nation with a car. The outer banks is still one of my favorite spots and the week we spent down there was amazing for surf and for quality time with the family. It's nice to be reminded of the southern hospitality and friendliness that comes with being here but now I'm ready to get back to my journey. Keep your fingers cross that my car is intact along with my things!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Los Andes

Hola whoever still reads this! Well after a few weeks on the coast of Ecuador i dropped Emily off at the airport, got chased by mangie street dogs on my run in the hot bustling city of Guayaquil & then decided to head to the Andes since there wasnt much swell on the map. Having Emily leave makes the trip different, again. One thing for sure is that I´m going to lose more veggies now. If there is one thing that Emily does not like, is letting food we bought go bad. Logical right? But she sticks to that like a drill seargent, even if it means stuffing me with 10 plaintains a day especially when they´re near rotten and now ´maduros´. Whatever it takes to eat this 70 cents worth of veggies. I am surely giong to sell out more often and lose a few cents worth of veggies here and there. Em has some addictions that I got to know during our few months traveling together. AVENA, heard of it? aka oatmeal. Needs this every morning like Sully needs coffee. It´s funny, unless she didn´t get her avena. Whats not as funny is the addiction to peanut butter. Which only comes on rare occasions if she crosses the line and samples peanut butter when I´m having a pb and banana sandwich. She has the "once it hits your lips its so good" Old School Will Farrel thing. One bite leads to spooning down the rest of the jar. Its like me with chocolate. So it was good having a travel mate and a newbie surfista to watch go thru the stoke, frustration & fear that goes with being in the ocean. It was fun sharing my knowledge of the ocean & the sport.
So after she left I dcided to start driving towards the south east. There is this small remote town in the Andes fairly close to Peru where they say people live to be over 100 yrs old. Vilcabamba!
Getting to Vilcabamba took longer than I thought. It's different navigating alone. Though I didn't get too lost, only lost about 20 mins once, but the roads were winding up high elevations and I definitely miscalculated that. Plus they're still working on some of those roads. The temps dropped down to the 40s from the 80s during this trek. Of course I have on boardies, T and flipflops. Passed through some really cool towns & breathtaking views all along the way. Saw a lot of indigenous people herding sheep or whatever. I arrived late so I ended up at a place that I didn't really like but I was over it to go searching. I did meet a mom and daughter from ecuador who now somehow live in Richmond, VA. Strange and they were nice to talk to and work on my spanish with. I left there the next morning and found something more up my alley. Some cabins that you have to hike up to and you listen to a river running. I spent the day hiking into this park. I made it to a waterfall and on my return I ran into a big group of local kids on a hike. So I spent the next hour walking with them, having a bunch of 10 yr olds push and shove (almost off the cliff) to talk to me. It was a good test for my spanish. Funny thing is they ended up talking a bunch about Michael Jackson and singing Thriller along the way. Good times for me in the mountains for sure.
Today I left Ecuador and headed for Peru. The drive was way longer than I anticipated passing through mountain pass after mountain pass. One painful lesson I learned is up in these parts, gas stations are closed on Sundays. And because gas is so cheap in Ecuador, I planned on filling up my tank & my spare, which I had just used for this purpose, before getting into Peru. Gas in Ecuador is 1.48 per gallon, about half the price of everywhere else. I made it to the border, decided to pass since this border was the easiest one I've done yet. I guess because it's a small one in the mountains, their aren't many people hassling. The down side, is there weren't money changers hassling me either. They are usually a rip off but it's good to get some local dollars...especially when you need gas. Sure enough I drove and drove with no ATm to be found. I then came upon a toll both and I have no loot, I was worried but got lucky they weren't charging for my direction. Then an hour later, still no atm, another toll booth but I got lucky again. So now I'm in peru, found a hotel and going to regroup at daylight. Definitely been missing my friends & family!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Ceviche heaven

Well here I am again, sitting at a computer with a loss of what to blog about. I always think of some thing to write in my blog but I'm never near the net. Internet has been a little tougher to come by here in Ecuador. At my last blog, I think, I was still fighting my car out of the port and into Ecuador. That proved to really test my patience and push my Spanish. I am thankful for my time spent with Ricardo and him training me how to interact in Spanish more like the way they do it. It's not so eloquent but it's direct and to the point. Everything is direct and open here and in all the Latin countries. The communication is different, people don't get offended at small things. If someone wants to strip their child down right next to you, at a restaurant and wash them by pouring water on their head then they will do it and nobody will care. Everything is direct and there aren't any hidden messages. If you want your bill or a refill, you get up and tell someone and they don't get mad. And if you want to get anything done at the port, you have to push your way through many windows with a bunch of other people doing the same & get your stuff looked at and dealt with. if you think there is a line, you will be waiting all year. This training with Ricardo definitely pushed me through on getting through the nightmare of a process to get my car but I finally got it and immediately hit the road. Unfortunately the last day I didn't actually get my car until 8pm which meant I was already breaking one cardinal rule of the trip, don't drive in foreign lands that you're completely unfamiliar with after dark. However my options were limited and I chose to shoot the 3 hour drive to the beach town Mantanita rather than spend one more hot and noisy night in the port town of Guayaquil. Driving at night here is dark, no street lights and I am not sure where I'm going so I do what I have done at least 10 thousand times on this trip, I start asking directions. Yet again I'm aware of my surroundings and looking for the worst thing to happen to me as I pass through a small town and the people are all walking on the streets because not many cars really pass through, especially at night. So I am forced to slow down and endure all the stairs because as has been amused a lot on this trip, seeing me is like them seeing a UFO. I ask someone how to get out of this town and on my way to where I'm going and sure enough some guy on a motorbike offers to drive in front and have me follow him. This has happened to me so many times on this trip. It reminded me of being in Panama City when I was searching either for an office or police station or hotel and more than once after driving up next to a car in the city, waiving my hand to have them roll down their window and asking for directions and they offer to just drive me there because explaining how to get this is harder. And these are never just a couple blocks away, I'm talking all the way across the city. I had one guy drive up next to me after he saw me asking another guy and he asked what I was looking for so I told him and he drove us there, to the police station and even got out to tell me to be safe because this particular part of town was dangerous, called the red district. After these things happen, I always sit back and wonder what would happen in New York city if you waived at someone in another car and tried to get directions from them? I always think about blogging something but it's hard to say what to write. I've just searched just about all of the pacific coast for waves, driving on beaches and off road a bit. I could focus on that in a blog. Or focus on that I've probably cooked at least my 200th meal out of the back of my car this year which isn't an easy way to live but it works. Or that my skills with a coconut have improved, I open, drink & eat them quite often. I could write a delicious blog describing every incredible bowl of fresh ceviche I've eaten here in Ecuador. But what always seems to be missing from my blog, that which seems tough to relay, is all the sites of people & towns I pass through. I'm fairly sure this is how UFO sightings get posted, someone like me flies through a town where the kids are working hard with a machete & farming tools at say, 6 years old, and everyone is awestruck just stares with jaws open at the truck & me while I pass thru. I have passed through a good deal of Ecuador in search for surf which has been hit & miss. The sites are still amazing though. I still come across people bathing themselves & their clothes in rivers. Millions of shacks hand made from bamboo or something similar. I'm still avoiding hitting dogs, pigs, goats, horses, cows, and many many people on bikes on the roads. Everyone, every age rides a bike and usually the bike is too big or too small. And there is hardly ever just one person on the bike, a family of 3 or 4 will ride down the road on a bike. And in between all of these views of the local people, and the conversations I try to have to get directions, find bakery's, or anywhere else I might be looking for, I am in the water surfing. After spending my last blog talking about how I can't meet other travelers abroad my faith in there being some other nice people abroad was restored. After an argument over price in a hostal in montanita, one that I was thankful Emily had to handle for a change, we bolted out of there in a hurry. Instead of packing up my truck and reorganizing as I had intended, we split paying less than the guy all of a sudden wanted from us, and I drove a bit and then turned down a beach road to regroup. Up walks a couple, a guy and a girl with a surfboard and surely not from Ecuador. They had seen my truck, as is the case with everyone, and starting asking about what I was doing there with a California plated vehicle. One thing led to another and we hung out at their house for a few nights, 'camping' in the truck. Tom & Shannon are down in Ecuador from California. It was really refreshing to meet some genuinely nice people for a change. After a couple of days together exploring the area for surf, I invited them to go on a little journey with us. They jumped in and we were off. They got to see first hand how fun it can be in a car but also how not easy it is with a car. Searching for places to sleep that are safe and have safe parking. Being lost constantly. I have basically been lost for 7 months. Asking for directions a million times to get anywhere. Being stared at all day. It's fun, it's frustrating, it's exciting, it is still an adventure. 5 or 6 days with those guys & it was time for them to head back to their current house down south so they split on the bus. It was a good experience after I had so many not so good experiences with travelers abroad. Now it's down to myself & Emily. Emily has been traveling with me for a couple of months and now her time is coming to an end as well. She is done with this leg of the journey in 5 days and then it will be down to just me. It's been amazing to have a woman's touch to my casita & to improve the health of my eating, let alone a companion to get through this adventure with. But now this part of the journey will be taking a new turn. So things will change again soon & who knows what effect it will have but the only constant I've had on this trip is....CHANGE.
PS: missing the birth of my brothers baby & Justin's baby definitely makes me miss home. I think and talk about you all constantly....surely to the annoyance of others around. Hopefully I'll meet these new additions sooner than later.