Believe it or not, not all of our days look as pretty as the ones I post on the blog. We have had awkward travel moments, gotten sick (though surprisingly not nearly as much as we get sick at home!), bad travel days, and met some rotten eggs. That said, our good days far outnumber the bad, but in wanting to look back at our last 8 months through Central and South America we thought we'd do a bit of a recap that looks at the good, the bad, and the ugly. These are all our opinions and resulting from the experience we had in each place, we may have hated a favorite of yours - but this is our list, so here it goes:
BEST travel couples we met: Liz & Steve were the first. We still use inside jokes that the 4 of us came up with after we crashed their 2 week vacation in Nicaragua. This generous, hilarious, and thoughtful couple were a blast and we feel so lucky to have met them and to still call them friends. They are even going to honor the bet we had and come visit the Superbowl winners in Seattle, since their Denver Broncos didn't fare so well...
The second awesome couple we met was Ruth and Ronan while we were in Patagonia. We met through a former coworker of mine, Alexis, who is also now traveling the world and whose path we crossed in El Chalten. We have had hilarious times with Ruth and Ronan in Argentina and again when we saw them in Peru.
WORST travel couple we met: Matt & Alyssa. Sadly they were even from Seattle. We met them on the bus traveling in Honduras when we were still afraid of bus travel and long distances (how far we have come!). They agreed to come on a crazy adventure with our guide from the ruins that morning. Matt couldn't share a story without it being from some remote-on-the-edge-of-the-earth place that seemingly he has only been lucky enough to visit. Trying to play the travel game with us he confidently out-did us on each location - he has seen every corner of the earth! We were gagging by the end and happy to say goodbye. The silver lining is that we now know what NOT to do.
BEST place we stayed: La Casona de Odile, El Bolson, Argentina (the end of Route 40). We arrived here after 2 hot and boring days on the bus, bumping along the dirt roads of Route 40. We would have been happy anywhere. But we loved this place so much we ended up staying 6 nights, most of it raining, but we loved the space, food, and people so much we couldn't leave! We met friends, like Anneka, that we ended up traveling further on with and had some awesome dinner parties with other guests.
WORST place we stayed: GM Hostel, Granada, Nicaragua. GM had awesome reviews online and at first we over looked the prison-cell sized room. But when we had to take sleeping pills to sleep because of the heat (and no AC) we started to look for other places. When the owner of the hostel and his girlfriend decided to have loud sex in their room for everyone to overhear during breakfast, we packed and left before they finished their business.
BEST meal: The vegetarian pizza at "the cevesaria" in El Chalten. Life changing and will be a lifetime favorite. Eric added prosciutto to his half...
FOOD SICKNESS stories (aka WORST meal): I ate a baguette and butter on the 8 hour bus ride from Mendoza, Argentina to Santiago, Chile. We were all set to stay with friends in Santiago. Well, upon our arrival to Santiago, I immediately ran to the bathroom. By our subway into the city I had thrown up in a bag Eric had already prepped for me (what a guy!). After almost filling the bag, we had to get off, and find a hotel. I couldn't subject a friend from college to this! Before leaving the subway area I had to throw my bag of throw up away... I'm gagging just thinking about this whole experience.
Eric's food sickness was luckily confined to our hostel in Lima, Peru. We were in Lima for 1 night while waiting for a night bus to Huaraz, Peru. Eric spent the whole day in the bathroom and we had to rent our room an extra night to make sure he could be horizontal when not on the toilet.
FUNNIEST translation errors: Sarah: My first weekend after 2 days of Spanish lessons I thought I'd practice on the police officer at Cerro de la Cruz in Antigua, Guatemala. I told him I thought he must be hot in his all-black clothes. Well, Eric's teacher Helen told us later what I'd actually said: His black dress made him look horny. Damn vestido and ropa and calore and caliente mistakes!
Eric: When we needed a few more minutes to look over (and try to translate) a menu on Ometeppe, Nicaragua, Eric asked for 3 more minutes. Somehow the waiter immediately returned with 2 Smirnoff Ices. We still don't know what happened here!
Most FRUSTRATING day of travel: Getting from Lake Yojoa to Leon, Nicaragua. I even wrote a blog post about it, and it stands as our worst day of travel, so far.
FAVORITE city: Granada, Nicaragua. In our dreams we still want to move there for a few years.
LEAST favorite city: Ica, Peru. There's one attraction nearby: Huacachina, to go sandboarding. Get in and get out - don't spend a night in Ica!
Cities we can't wait to RETURN to: Argentina: El Chalten, Mendoza, Bariloche. Peru: Cusco and Huaraz. Brazil: Paraty, Rio de Janerio.
Where we didn't get to go, but still want to see: Antarctica, Galapagos, the Jungle in Peru, the Panatal of Brazil, the North of Brazil, and the W trek in Chile.
Notable cities we'd NEVER return to: (All in Honduras...) San Pedro Sula (murder capitol of the world), Tegulcialpa, and La Ceiba.
Most EXPENSIVE lodging: $175 for a hotel in Santiago when I got food poisoning and we couldn't stay (for free!) with my friend from college.
CHEAPEST lodging: Most of our lodging has been between $20-$40 a night, with exceptions for the more expensive countries like Brazil and Argentina.
- Our Steripen. I think we have bought 5 bottles of water this entire trip thanks to the Steripen. It's amazing and anyone who hikes or travels a lot should have one.
- GoVinos. My dear friend Jehan gave me these before we left and we loved them so much we brought them with! They made it all the way through SA without breaking and we used them daily. They are a must for drinking wine while camping or outdoors. They unfortunately were cracked while sitting on our bag riding in the back of a truck.
- Cribbage Board. We play nightly. We had an ongoing score sheet but it became too competitive and had to start only playing for fun.
- Eagle Creek Bags. These keep us sane and organized. We each have 1 bag for our clothes (we seriously wear the same things over, and over, and over again now!). Can't you tell by the pictures?
- Braven Jam Box. This thing works on a charge and is waterproof so it goes everywhere with us. To the beach, to the pool, outside, inside, and improves every dinner party we have had.
Things we SENT HOME:
- Extra clothing.
- Power adapters - we now just buy a cheap one when we get to each country.
- Extra cameras - we sent our Cannon G11 home. The Cannon S110 takes amazing pictures and is so easy to fit in a pocket that we never go anywhere without it. It also draws less attention so feel safer to tote around.
BEST thing we spend $$$ on: Mozy to upload all of our photos to the cloud. Everything can be replaced but not our photos. Thankfully almost everywhere has had internet, which means our photos are always safe. I get more excited than I should when each upload is complete.
And some numbers from the last 8 months:
# of Countries: 8. Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Brazil.
# of ATM cards stolen & location: 2. 1st time we found out on Eric's birthday that our card had been stolen while in Leon, Nicaragua. 2nd time we realized it weeks later when my US Bank account had been drained at "Hands of Love". We had only used my card once in an emergency in Quito, Ecuador, and it seems someone stole the number then.
# of night buses & locations: 5. Pucon, Chile to Santiago, Chile. Ica, Peru to Arequipa, Peru. Lima, Peru to Huaraz, Peru. Huaraz, Peru to Huanchaco, Peru. Foz de Iguazu, Brazil to Florianopolis, Brazil.
# of flights: 10. Nicaragua to Houston to Seattle (home for Christmas!). Seattle to Houston to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Buenos Aires, Argentina to El Calefate, Argentina. Santiago, Chile to Lima, Peru. Cusco, Peru to Lima, Peru. Guayaquil, Ecuador to Quito, Ecuador. Quito, Ecuador to Lima, Peru, to Foz de Iguazu, Brazil (that was a long day!).