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Category: South America

Colombia Recap

Colombia Recap

The soundtrack to Colombia is vibrant, loud, and catchy – there is music blaring from every shop, restaurant and around every corner. Fruit vendors selling mangos and pineapples litter the city. Seafood is abundant and you can buy ceviche almost anywhere. The vibe here is a mix of Caribbean and Latino. There was more poverty than I expected. To be honest, I am not sure if it was my favorite place in the world. I struggled to find the food scene past ceviche, arepas and fresh fish. Perhaps we didn’t dig deep enough into Colombia, as it is a big country and we really only spent time in Cartagena. The glimpses we did see were incredible and Colombian culture is animated and so dynamic. If I could redo our time in Colombia I would go to some other cities to try and get a better feel for this country.

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Cities Visited

Bogota (just in passing on an overnight layover) and Cartagena

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Things We Liked

Ceviche, limonada de coco (holy crap these are good), and beaches

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Things We Disliked

Hot weather, overall food scene, and expensive accommodations

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The Colors of Cartagena

The city of Cartagena is full of vibrant colors and beautiful architecture. The streets are really stunning and every corner you turn seems to be more and more beautiful. There was one problem though…the streets were complete chaos during the middle of the day with a lot of people, tourists and Colombians alike, street vendors, and cars. We much preferred the mornings and later at night when the streets clear out and the beauty of Cartagena can be seen more fully.

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Street Food, Dancing, and Trampoline Hopping

On Saturday night in Gemsmani, a neighborhood close to the center of the city, comes to life. The square was packed full of locals waiting for food at one of the street vendors, musicians, dancers, and kids playing on a giant trampoline that was brought to the square. We sat there for hours watching all of the action and eating all of the food. We ate hot dogs (perros calientes in Colombia are out of this world), arepas, meat on sticks, and ice cream popsicles. We loved this evening and it was our favorite thing we did in Colombia. Sometimes the Old City in Cartagena felt very touristy — we struggled to really get to the heart of the culture and people because of this. This night in Gemsmani felt almost completely opposite of the tourist center and you could feel the culture and life of the people in Cartagena.

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Beer & Laundry

We have really come to appreciate having access to a laundry machine. We have a very limited amount of clothing and clean laundry is sometimes hard to come by. When we arrived in Cartagena we knew that finding a place to do our laundry was a priority so we set out to do just that. There is a little place in Cartagena called Beer and Laundry — it is magical!

This is how it works: you bring your laundry and the lady who runs the store will wash, dry, and fold your laundry while you hang out and have a few beers. You can also order some food while you wait – pizza, beer, and laundry are a match made in heaven for a long-term traveler. You can also just drop of your clothes and pick them up later, but where is the fun in that? While we were waiting on our clothes to be finished we met a ton of people and loved swapping travel stories with them. Most of the people we met had been backpacking around South America for the past couple of months – it was particularly awesome to hear all about their experiences since we had to skip most of South America this time around. Sometimes it is the experiences that you least expect (like doing our laundry) to be the ones to create our favorite memories.

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Ceviche & Coconuts

The food scene in Cartagena was hard for us to figure out. What we did figure out pretty quickly is that ceviche is big in Cartagena and we LOVE it. If you aren’t familiar ceviche it is ……..When we order ceviche in the US it is $15 and served in a shot glass. It was wonderful to pay $10 and get a bowl of ceviche big enough for us to split at lunch. Our favorite ceviche was a fish, conch, and calamari mix in coconut milk from La Ceverceria, a place that Anthony Bourdain visited and put on our radar.

We ate ceviche on the beach from this cart and didn't die
We ate ceviche on the beach from this cart and didn’t die

Coconuts and coconut flavored everything are all over this city. My favorite is the limonada de coco and I think I sampled this delicious drink at almost every restaurant we visited. This coconut flavored lemonade tastes as good, or dare I say even better, than a pina colada. I love me a good pina colada, but damn…these things were incredible. You could say that I am obsessed and I am on a quest to make the perfect limonada de coco once I get back home.

Playa Blanca

There are beaches closer to Cartagena than Playa Blanca, but they are not nearly as nice. We took a shuttle to Playa Blanca to spend the day sitting along the crystal blue waters that make you have been transported to an island in the Caribbean. We spent the entire day lounging on beach chairs saying no to vendors trying to sell us massages, bracelets, hats, and sunglasses. We wish we would have spent a night or two staying here, but we already had a place in Cartagena.IMG_7702

It was a fabulous day…until we went to walk back to the shuttle. We could not find where we had entered the beach to get back to the last shuttle of the day. After asking around we found the way to the parking lot. There was no shuttle in the parking lot even though it was supposed to be leaving in 10 minutes! As we are panicking a bit a “helpful” taxi driver asked what we were looking for…and one conversation in broken Spanish later he told us that our shuttle had just left. Since we don’t trust anyone and something about the parking lot felt different we decided to run down the road a bit further. We found an identical parking lot with our shuttle about to leave in the parking lot! Whew.

The Stats 

Total Number of Nights: 7

Languages: Spanish

Currency: $1 USD = 2,957 Colombian Pesos

Number of Miles Traveled:  4,350 miles (including our flight from Argentina)

Number of Miles Walked:  36 miles (average of 6 miles per day)

Steps Taken:  76,387 steps (average of about 12,700 per day)

Transportation Used: Taxi, mini-bus (shuttle), Uber, and plane

Type of Accommodations: Hotel (2)

Number of Beds: 2DSC_0536

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Scott Taking Cool Photos in Cool Places

Scott Taking Cool Photos in Cool Places

This post is out of order and only has one theme: Scott taking photos around the world. While he photographed some of the world’s prettiest places, I had to practice being patient while I waited for him and in the process I took a ridiculous amount of photos of Scott taking photos. Also, if you haven’t noticed in some of the other posts his photos are REALLY good. Without further commentary, here are my favorites of Scott taking pictures in cool places. You may need to give this post a minute to load!

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Sunset in Marlborough, New Zealand
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Volcanoes in Antigua, Guatemala
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Subway stations in Prague, Czech Republic
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At the top of the Burj Khalifa in Duabi, UAE
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Laguna de los Tres in El Chalten, Argentina
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Floating Nori in Miyajima, Japan
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Yosemite Falls in Yosemite National Park, California
Laguna Torre, El Chalten, Argentina
Laguna Torre, El Chalten, Argentina
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Desert near Dubai, UAE
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Cape Flattery, Washington State
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Golden Gate Bridge, California
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Spotted Wolf Canyon, Utah
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Tower Bridge in London, England
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Half Dome in Yosemite National Park
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Temple of Heaven in Beijing, China
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Hakone, Japan
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Nearby Sydney, Australia
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Nosara, Costa Rica
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Animal Friends in London, England
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Taj Mahal in Agra, India
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Somewhere in Australia
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Shipwreck in Astoria, Oregon
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Graffiti in Melbourne, Australia
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Glenchory, New Zealand
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El Chalten, Argentina
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New Zealand
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Olympic National Park, Washington State
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Prague, Czech Republic
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Olympic National Park in Washington State
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On a Beach in New Zealand
Patagonia

Patagonia

Oh, Patagonia. We sure do love this place.

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Our time in Patagonia was amazing and completely opposite of Buenos Aires — it is hard to believe they are in the same country. We stressed about our itinerary a lot….was it wrong to make it all the way to Patagonia and not do the W trek in Torres del Paine? Was it smart to go backpacking for 5 days when we had to rent all of the gear we might need – not only would that be expensive it would be difficult to be stuck with gear that was only adequate? Where do we store our laptops and other technology while we backpack? It was frustrating since we have everything we might need back in Denver, but we were left ill-prepared. For this post, I am going to let the pictures do most of the talking.

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Cities Visited

El Calafate and El Chalten

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Hikes Completed

Laguna de los Tres (16 miles), Laguna Torre (15 miles), Chorrillo del Salto (5 miles),  and Los Condores and Las Aguilas (3.5 miles)

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Things We Liked

NATURE and views like the one below

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Things We Disliked

Expensive, bad food, rainy, windy, unpredictable weather and our lack of camping/hiking gear

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Note: Scott is not dry

El Chalten

Ultimately we decided to skip Torres del Paine (and the 3-5 days backpacking with rented gear) and instead spend 4 nights in El Chalten exploring some of the premier day hikes. The hikes were long, but stunning. The weather rarely ever cooperated. There were days when we hiked with cold, sideways rain and with wind about to knock us over. We had read that the views in Los Glaciers National Park rivaled the views in Torres del Paine National Park (and that some people even preferred Los Glaciers National Park). A few days we rented hiking boots two of the days (thank goodness!) and even some day packs for some of the longer hikes (7 plus hours). Although they were not the greatest boots they saved our feet and I am so thankful we were able to rent some gear!

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My favorite hike was Laguna de Los Tres — although the last kilometer very steep and almost straight up, but the stunning views of three glacial lakes and and Mount Fitz Roy made every step of the 16 miles of hiking. The pictures really say it all….

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Our other favorite hike in the area was Laguna Torre, clocking in at 14 miles round trip. I would have loved this hike even more if there wasn’t rain the entire day and clouds obscuring our view most of the hike. F285791F-7D30-4380-BA0D-AE07D2B91DC1

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El Calafate

After El Chalten we headed to El Calafate to check out Perito Moreno Glacier. We have seen a couple glaciers before but this one was really special. Every so often pieces of the glacier would fall of into the water and it sounded exactly like thunder. To hear the glacier creak and crack was amazing. We took a boat ride to get a better view before trekking on the glacier — it was touristy and I loved every minute.

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Scott getting geared up with some crampons
Scott getting geared up with some crampons

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Don’t Drink the Water

Fun fact about Patagonia is that you can drink the water. I am not talking about water from the tap either (although you can drink that too) — I am referring to lakes and rivers. Never have I ever heard a park ranger encourage me to dip my water bottle into the river and drink it. There was nothing better than filling my bottle up with some nice, cold glacial runoff water and drinking it. We even had ice cubes from a glacier in our whiskey on the rocks at Perito Moreno Glacier.

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Signs letting you know the water was potable

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We really loved our time in Patagonia. It is incredible here. It also reminded us of Colorado and made us so, so excited to go back and explore our state more 🙂

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We found a Colorado friend, Daniel!
We found a Colorado friend, Daniel!

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Way Down South in Argentina (& Uruguay)

Way Down South in Argentina (& Uruguay)

We went to Argentina in February. It is now June. Oops. I knew this would happen eventually, but I really wanted to stay up to date and stay in real time (which actually never happened). We have just returned home and have so much to catch up on the blog. We also have so much to process in terms of being home once again. I have no words to describe any of that yet. Until then I am going to time travel back to Argentina and think about all the wonderful times there.

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South America…finally! I have been itching to get to some Spanish speaking countries for a while now. Emalie, my sister-in-law, wanted to come visit us in South America and we decided Buenos Aires was just the place to do that! We never really anticipated making it to Argentina on this trip and we certainly did not expect to spend 18 nights here. Our original plans included Maccu Piccu in Peru and the Bolivian Salt Flats, but our plans on this trip are constantly changing in a way that has been impossible to predict. We had no gear for Maccu Piccu, we would be arriving in rainy season, and we would be unable to do any of the treks we wanted to do because we didn’t sign up in advance.

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Since we would be so far south in Argentina in Buenos Aires we started thinking that maybe Patagonia would be a possibility. The weather is perfect this time of year, we found relatively cheap airfare to get there, and we have always dreamed of going there so a new plan was born (Sidenote: This plan really makes no more sense than Maccu Piccu since we still have no hiking gear, but I digress). Since our trip to Buenos Aires and our adventures in Patagonia are complete opposites of one another, I am going to write two separate posts.

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Countries Visited

Argentina and Uruguay

Cities Visited

Buenos Aires and Colonia del Sacramento (Uruguay)

Things We Liked

Seeing family, steak, empanadas, pools, free walking tours, wine

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Things We Disliked

Expensive, potentially unsafe cities, hot weather (really, really hot), and malbec

We had heard that Buenos Aires might not be the safest of cities and we found out the hard way one night when we almost got robbed under a bridge (that was out of the view from the road) just a block away from our apartment. In our 7 months of traveling, I have never felt so unsafe or uncomfortable. Lesson learned…we took Uber and taxis at night going forward.

Highlights

1. Emalie in Buenos Aires469B0FE7-4FA0-42E9-A17C-1B30B636C053

We spent just over a week in Buenos Aires with Emalie eating empanadas, learning about tango, getting some sun, taking day trips to Uruguay, sampling all the helados (ice cream) and wandering the city. We were so, so sad when it was time for her to go back to the US at the end of the week! We had a wonderful time exploring a new place although we all agree that Buenos Aires might not be our favorite city in the world. Spending 9 days there was maybe a few days too long for us, but we never ran out of things to do, see and eat! We are starting to feel really tired of moving around every few days so it was really awesome to unpack our bags and stay put for a while. Also, Emalie visiting was a breathe of fresh air…we much needed her impromptu mini-concerts in the living room to take away some of our stress (although it did not help us book anything any faster)  🙂

Special thanks to Emalie for putting up with Scott and I try to frantically plan Patagonia a few days before the trip (like I said…it was a tad bit stressful for us).

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2. Patagonia

More on that in the next post!

3. Day Trip to Uruguay

We talked about doing 2 or 3 full days in Uruguay to check out Montevideo and Colonia del Sacramento. In the end we decided to be lazy and just take a day trip to Colonia, a cute town that is a UNESCO site and that is quite literally the opposite in every way to Buenos Aires. It is about 1.25 hours away by fast ferry service. We enjoyed some quiet wandering around the cobblestone streets and almost melted due to the heat. There is not a ton to see in Colonia del Sacramento so once we had seen all the site we checked out the beach close to town along the banks of the Rio de la Plata. Even with no ocean in site we enjoyed our afternoon at the beach before catching the last ferry back to Buenos Aires.DSC_0131

In an attempt not to just tell you the awesome stories and show you beautiful pictures I must admit to a blunder we had the first attempt to make it to Uruguay. Scott had not been feeling well for about 24 hours and decided the morning before our 8:15 am boat that he would not be going with Emalie and I. We obviously didn’t like this as life is more fun with Scott in it so we tried calling the boat company a few times – I am pretty sure the answering machine told me in Spanish that the office would not open until 8 in the morning, but there was no way for certain. We had to leave the house way earlier than that to make it to the boat on time. We wasted a lot of time trying to get in touch with them that we were running later than we wanted to be. Finally we decided we had to go and we would try to get them to change the tickets and if they wouldn’t then we would be going to Uruguay without Scott.

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We hopped in an Uber and told the driver we wanted to go to the port. Well, he took us there and upon arrival we learned that we were actually 10 minutes driving from where we should be. Finally, we arrived at the ferry company’s port at 8:20 am. 5 minutes after the ferry took off…

We talked to the office and they told us we needed to get a doctor’s not for Scott if we wanted to change the tickets. Emalie and I are pretty okay at expressing ourselves in Spanish usually, but both of us were unable to communicate effectively. It was embarrassing how badly we were communicating. It just wasn’t working for us. When they asked what was wrong with Scott and why we wouldn’t go to the doctor we explained we were afraid to go because our Spanish was so bad (not totally true, but I had limited vocabulary to explain our situation). We must have butchered the language so bad that they felt sorry for us. Tickets were changed for two days later and we were all able to go to Colonia together!

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Beating the Heat at Parque Norte

There is no beach in Buenos Aires much to all of our surprise.The city sits along the Rio de la Plata and there are no beaches within a few hours of the city. A heat wave had rolled through town right before we arrived we knew we needed to find a pool. Enter, Parque Norte. This place reminded us of a Vegas pool or a water park and it is a popular local hangout. It is located under the airspace of the domestic airport located in the city. Every few minutes a commercial jet would fly pretty low over the park as it was approaching the runway – it was nice to relax and watch the planes fly by. We rented some lawn chairs, an umbrella and drank some cold refreshments while enjoying some sun. We went back again we enjoyed it so much the first time around!

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The Best and the Worst Steak

Argentina is known for beef, especially steak. We have some mixed reviews. We went to a restaurant nearby our house with good reviews. The service was awful (even bad in South American standards), it took us over an hour to get a bottle of wine we ordered, and the steaks were up there with the worst steaks I have ever consumed. It was confusing to say the least.

We decided that this could not be our only steak experience so we headed to one of the most well known places in Buneos Aires, Las Caberas. They have a happy hour deal every night that is 40% off your entire bill. All you have to do is shown up just before 7 and be out of the place by around 8 so they can continue their regular dinner service. It was fantastic! When we passed back through Buenos Aires after our Patagonia trip we hit up the happy hour here one more time.

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Queso, Queso, Queso

Everything in Argentina has queso on it. Argentine style pizza 10% crust and 90% cheese, we ordered a steak, which came with more cheese than steak, and there was rarely anything we ate that did not come with a healthy amount of queso. I love cheese just as much as the next person (or maybe more), but perhaps they have taken the level of mediocre cheese on everything just a bit too far.

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The Stats (including Patagonia)

 Total Number of Nights: 18

Languages: Spanish

Currency: $1 USD = 15.4 Argentine Pesos

Number of Miles Traveled:  10,000 miles (including our flight from London and to Patagonia)

Number of Miles Walked:  144 miles (average of 8 miles per day)

Steps Taken:  310,504 steps (average of about 17,250 per day)

Transportation Used: Taxi, Uber, bus, boat, and plane

Type of Accommodations: Hostel/hotel (3) and apartment (2)

Number of Beds: 5

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We need some work on our tango…

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