Trip Start Jul 06, 2005
31Trip End Mar 10, 2006
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Well, I'm home...weird. It still feels pretty surreal to be here - I can smell dinner cooking in the oven, the hockey game is on in half an hour, and my dog wants to be let outside. How do I feel so out of the place in the middle of such an ordinary scene in the house I grew up in! Biggest adjustments? Well...
1) Prices..what do you mean I can't get lunch and a beer for $2?!?
2) I can't jaywalk anywhere I want and buses refuse to stop when I just waive them down on the side of the road!
3) Hot showers, comfy bed, clean clothes and a refrigerator full of food available whenever I damn well please
4) All of sudden drinking a beer on the bus is frowned upon! Who cares if its noon on a Tuesday?!? Man...
5) Everything is so freaking clean and organized, what is this - A Brave New World?
6) Did you know the toilet bowl flushes in the opposite direction down there?
7) Not getting mobbed in clubs just because I'm a gringo.
8) Time and day of the week matter all of a sudden.
9) I can't carry everything I need for the next eight months in a backpack, but I also don't have to lock it all to my leg every time I want to sleep.
10) I can hug my family whenever I want to...maybe that one isn't so hard to get used to.
Missed my family like crazy and sooo good to see them. I set my parents up to think I'd be home on the 10th, so you can well imagine they were a little surprised when I rocked up for the dinner date they had with Jessica, my ex, last night. Dad almost fell out of the booth, and my mom took a few minutes before she was saying anything particularly coherent. Tee hee! only downside is my sis is working in Summerland until tonight, so have to wait a bit yet to see my favourite person!
So 50 hours of travel, SIX flights and TWO airport sleepovers getting home meant lots of time lately to reflect on the trip; how am I possibly supposed to write a wrap-up for a trip that epic, that crazy, and with that much of a personal impact? Parts are already starting to take on a dream-like quality...
I´ve challenged myself physically and mentally
by trekking for days above 4000 metres, through maze like canyons, cloud forests and death defying crater lake ridges in Ecuador...
by hiking 6 days deep into paramilitary controlled Colombian coastal rainforest in the melting heat and pouring rain. We crossed raging rivers and conquering grueling climbs to find hidden, clinging the mountain high above a winding river, "Ciudad Perdida" - isolated ruins of the lost Tayrona civilization.
by 3 days and nights at altitude and crossing 5000 metre glacial passes through one of the most beautiful places on earth in the Andes of Huaraz, Peru...
by dodging security checkpoints to march 30 kilometres, each way, on the railway tracks in contention with the fierce Peruvian sun and a vicious stomach virus to see Machu Picchu...
and by carrying all our food, clothes and gear to hike well over 100 kilometres in 5 days through the snow, wind, freezing rain, blazing sun and gruelling terrain in Torres del Paine, Patagonia, Chile. Some of the most stunning views of a lifetime.
I've seen what must surely rank among some of the most beautiful, and often incredibly isolated, places on earth, including...
Parque Tayrona, Colombia - Kilometres of untouched beach and coastal rainforest next to crystal clear and amazingly warm Carribean waters. Even lived off local coconuts for 5 days, literally.
Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia - Completely surreal blinding white salt flats, mars like moonscapes, and Dali-esque colourful lakes at up to 4000 metres in the middle of absolutely nowhere.
El Chalten and Moreno Glacier, Patagonia, Argentina - Spent the morning seeing the worlds only advancing glacier as building sized pieces fell crashing into the water, only to drive 200 kilometres to spend two days hiking and climbing amidst scenes of unparalleled natural beauty beneath (and on) Mt. Fitzroy in El Chalten national park.
Iguazu Falls, Argentina and Brazil - Some of the most powerful and beautiful waterfalls in the world, with dozens of unfathomable torrents of water crashing all around you while surrounded by jungle forests and wildlife. Awe inspiring.
Beaches of Brazil - Not all stacked up as expected, but the ones that did were unbelievable. Kilometres of sand to yourself, warmest water imaginable, brilliant sunshine and clear water. Oh man, just one more day, please?!?!
And had a few off the beaten path adventures along the way
Never pictured riding a piece of plywood strapped to railway wheels and ripping off at 70 K deep into the Colombian jungle, to reach a tiny town with no other access and virtually no contacts with the outside world (San Cipriano, Colombia).
Hitching?!? Got a ride 2000 K from the tip of Argentina with an ex-breakdancing, MC Hammer rapping, 3 stooges impersonating, and lonesome trucker music listening crazy cool Argentinean trucker named Juan. Not to mention sleeping in the middle of nowhere at night in roadside huts with broken windows or half torn down gas stations with styrofoam sheets for bedding.
Chased Che´s trail so far off the beaten path we ended up in a town of 20 people, where he was captured in a nearby overgrown valley and assassinated in the schoolhouse. Walked hours to get there through the mountains with no transport, and ended up sleeping in the local school dorm and eating at a locals house across the room from the family.
AND the odd party
The Secret Garden - Quito, Ecuador - Not just parties, as we worked at a hostel for a month to kick the whole thing off. Paid in food, room and unlimited drinks 24/7 and unofficial duties as tour guides of Quito's nightlife; I think we performed admirably.
Zona Rosa - Medellin, Colombia - An entire district dedicated to funky bars and clubs, and cheap litres of beer to be drunk street side with the locals. The place of MANY a funny (and occasionally classified) story.
Buenos Aires - Unbeatable nightlife. Just don't show up before 3 am - the club won't be open yet! LOVE THIS TOWN!
Rio de Janeiro - Copious caparinhas, crazy street parties in Lapa and some serious funk action on the edge of the City of God favella kept Rio rocking.
Salvador Carnaval - Biggest party on the planet, period.
-Bombing down the "world´s most dangerous road" on a mountain bike chewing coca leaves in La Paz, Bolovia
-Climbing into the bowels of a medieval mine in Potosi, Bolivia
-Learning to salsa in Quito, Ecuador
-Paragliding over Medellin, Colombia
-Spiritual journeys and alternate realities with the help of my good friend San Pedro the Cactus in Vilcabamba, Ecuador
-Sandboarding and dunebuggying in the deserts of Ica, Peru
-Swimming with dolphins off of stunning beaches in Pipa, Brazil
-Visiting Penguin colonies in the southernmost city in the world, Ushuaia, Argentina
-Wild Colombian and Brazilian futbol matches
-Talking our way into clubs all over Argentina because "Jose" said we could get in for free
and much, much more...
I also have to mention the PEOPLE of South America -some of the most kind and generous I've met. We nearly always felt incredibly welcome and despite seeing some of the most abject poverty, rarely did you sense any resentment towards the world. In hindsight, I guess its fair to expect to need a few days to wrap your head around ending a trip like this. Didn't help that I went from 30 degrees on Brazilian beaches to -3 and snow in my front yard!
Its been a hell of an adventure; thanks so much for following along with me, and I hope its been reasonably entertaining. It always meant a lot to hear from everyone and I'm really looking forward to catching up with you Vancouverites in the days and weeks to come (and you UK folk in a few months). All the very, very best to you and yours,