Final Thoughts

It went by in a flash.

Honestly, I didn’t think we would last more than 6 weeks, but here we are about to board our final flight home to Vancouver. A year ago, we made the decision to go on this journey and even as the days inched closer to our departure date, it felt crazy and surreal.  Even during the first few days, it felt like we were just on another road trip. All we did was take it one day at a time and make small decisions each day. Where should we sleep tonight? How much do you want to drive today? When should we cross the border? Does Zoe have enough food?

Before we knew it – it was February and we were looking at flights back home. There are so many moments we want to highlight, but here are a few that we keep reminiscing about.

Colombia

Bogota

If it weren’t for the heat in New Mexico, we would have never made the decision to skip Central America. We also didn’t realize that 6 months wasn’t nearly long enough to go through Central AND South America. Looking back, we’re glad to have made the decision.

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Sitting at 9,000 ft, we fell in love with the cold city of Bogota within a few days. The people are warm, the city is friendly (to Zoe especially), budget-friendly and the food is delicious. We would go back in a heartbeat. We did so much walking around the city and every day we found new neighborhoods to see and explore. The Spanish isn’t easy to understand and even though a lot of people don’t speak English, they are so friendly in trying to help you out.

Barichara

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It has the perfect climate of around 25 degrees all day and then the afternoon breeze rolls in around 3pm, for a cool evening. Frequently rated as one of the most beautiful towns to visit in Colombia (or Villa de Leyva), it was worth the detour to stay there for 5 days and spend it with like-minded people who are also traveling long term. We met up with a Swiss Couple and their dog many times and shared the pains of traveling with a dog. Every day we walked to the small town to get fresh groceries and cooked as a group in the communal kitchen and shared stories.  A fantastic place to hunker down.

Ecuador

Quilotoa Loop

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I was dealing with altitude sickness for most of Ecuador, but the Quilotoa loop was one that took our breath away – literally. You drive, drive, drive up through a hill and all of a sudden you come upon the rim of this crater and see the pristine blue lake below. It is definitely one of our favorite hikes and one for the books.

Bolivia

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People say Bolivia is the last true South American country. It is less developed than its neighbors, and still holds the desolate charm most people look for in South America. The landscape, the people, and the scenery are unmatched. Everywhere we look, it felt like we were on another planet and there is nothing like it.

Chile

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Chile was a stark contrast to the less developed Bolivia. Paved roads, highway rest stops, and credit cards accepted everywhere – it felt like we were back in North America. Our favorite part wasn’t any of those modern conveniences, but the beautiful road trip through the Carretera Austral (Route 7). Rated as one of the best road trips in the world, we were skeptical. But dang – It blew us away. Every 2 minutes our jaws were dropping at the beautiful scenery (including the Catedral de Marmol). It was like all the beautiful national parks in North America were aggregated here.

Argentina

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Argentina was our final country and honestly, it has so much to offer and we wish we had more time here. From Mendoza, Bariloche, Perito Moreno Glacier, to Buenos Aires – it is a country filled with so much culture, love for life, and of course delicious food. We loved it here and the friendly people really made all the difference. If nothing else, they have amazing Patagonian Lamb, and Steak – Albert beef tastes like a sad mock comparatively.

Final thoughts

We are incredibly grateful for this trip. Grateful for the people who helped us along the way. Grateful for the ability to take this trip when we did. Going to the countries we’ve been dreaming about and immersing ourselves in the countries has been amazing. We’ve also met some incredible people who have taught us so much about what it means to travel, learn, and really live.

Our Spanish is only a little bit better than when we left, but we definitely want to keep learning and go back to all of the above countries someday. Some of the things we’ve learned:

  • you don’t really need that much on a day to day basis
  • whatever you see on the news is the worst and not an accurate reflection of the country
  • people are really friendly and willing to help
  • not a lot of Asian people do this, therefore we got more attention
  • take it day by day –  things change so quickly in South America you can’t plan very far in advance anyway
  • travel while you can, don’t wait – you make the opportunity happen
  • take time out of the day for you and your loved ones
  • be grateful for everything

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Last but not least, I am so grateful for a partner who said YES. I probably could have done this alone or with Zoe (a lot of women do this kind of trip on their own), but it was infinitely more enjoyable with someone to share this experience with. Plus he makes me laugh every day – that’s hard to find.

Thanks for following along and reading our adventures in South America and until next time – Hasta Luego!

Love,

Steve, Anna & Zoe

Bogota, Colombia

Mina de Sal de Nemocon

On our way to Bogota, we stop off at Mina de Sal de Nomocon – an old salt mine. The mines are interesting and from the shallow saltwater pool, the reflection looks like the ground is falling beneath you.

Bogota

We decide to stop by Bogota for a couple of days to resupply –  Steve needs new pants and I need a belt. Since we know this city pretty well, we’ll be staying in Bogota for a few days to get the supplies we need – like pants, belt, etc. Steve ends up finding his hiking pants from Tatoo – a Colombian outdoor clothing/gear store. We also have a chance to visit Min Mal – a local restaurant highlighting ingredients and cooking methods from Amazonian region of Colombia.

We also meet up with Pascal & Virgine who have also stopped by in Bogota and we go for a disappointing dinner in the Usquen park area. The company is good so its all ok! Since we know we’re going towards the same regions – we know we’ll meet again! Guess who loves Bogota? This dog.

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Road to Cartagena

Our last day in Bogota

We spend the last day in Bogota driving to neighborhoods we haven’t been able to go to since we can’t walk that far. Driving in Bogota is scary as hell. The attitude of driving is mostly “I am going here, you deal with it”. All the cars and buses budge in where they feel like. In place of turn signals, they just move and then honk. Btw, they really like using their honks for everything. It’s their universal communication system on the road.

  • *HOOOOOONK* – “get out of the way”
  • *HONK*  – “the light just turned 1 second ago, why aren’t you moving”
  • *honk* – “thanks”
  • *honk honk* – “can’t you see I’m coming into your lane?”

Salvo Patria

For our last meal in Bogota, we head to Salvo Patria. This is a restaurant known for using local ingredients to highlight Colombian cuisine. They actually have a board written with where all of their daily ingredients come from (the farm, the ingredient, what region of Colombia etc). The restaurant is on the first floor of a converted house and it’s absolutely charming and beautiful (this is a house I would love to live in). I guess they are well popular with foreigner travelers because our waiter spoke perfect English – trust me, this is rare.

The food was delicious and seasonal. But the dessert was a start on its own. It was so good we ordered one more of the same dessert and coffee – I mean when in Bogota right?

To Cartagena

On October 4th, we finally pick up our rental car from a local company Localiza instead of AVIS because it was half the price and they seemed to have better reviews. The road to Cartagena isn’t nicely paved and instead of getting the cheapest option, we pay a little bit more for a sturdy 4×4 and SUV since we will be driving a lot of hours in it. Even though the journey is only 1,100km google maps say it will take just under 18 hours.

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Ok so, I didn’t think it would actually take that long to get to Cartagena. We aim to stop at Aguachica, a small town 600kms outside of Bogota. Guess what, it took us an hour to move 20km. It was going to be LOOOOOOONG drive. It takes that long because there are small patches every 20km with “small towns” where the speed limit is 30km. The “highways” are sometimes a single lane road with semis and buses passing cars in the opposite direction. It’s a sobering experience to see these small towns and makes you want to do something to help them.

We get to the hotel in Aguachia 9 hours and 9 toll booths later. There is a toll every 80kms or so and there is no way to avoid it. It costs anywhere between $2,800 COP – $12,800 COP (Now to put this in perspective with local dollars, a breakfast empanada or arepa costs about $2,000 COP. so it definitely adds up). It felt like we were paying our way to travel.

Does anyone remember that movie “In time” with Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried? In the movie, people use time as a way of currency and each district is divided according to how poor or rich they are on time. By a fluke of chance, he gets a lot of time given to him by a stranger and he has enough time to fit in with those in district 1. He takes a hired car and every time he passes a district, he has to pay in time in order to even enter. The tolls on the highway reminded me of that scene where you have to pay just to travel from one area to another.

After 14 toll booths and $121,160 COP ($47 CAD) later, we finally arrive in Cartagena. Hello, Caribbean beach!

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Bogota, Colombia Part 2

Food Adventures in Bogota, Colombia

 

Highlights of Food

  • Mancho Biche is a green mango with lime juice and salt. It is sour, very mango-ish, and definitely an acquired taste.
  • They don’t eat a lot of spicy foods or use garlic in their cuisine. I finally found garlic after visiting 5 grocery stores.
  • There is a lot of fruit that is very sour and is made into a jam.
  • Bogota is very dog-friendly and everyone loves Zozi. They even have something called Dog university where dogs go to school and get training/exercise for the day.
  • Even though Colombia is known for its coffee, most of it is exported out of the country. Locals drink something called ‘Tinto’ or instant coffee sold by ladies in thermoses for $0.10/cup. Otherwise, you go to coffee shops where they specialize in more specialized coffees/lattes.
  • They don’t use fresh cream for much. It’s been really hard to find coffee cream of any sort.
  • Cheese everywhere!! Literally, in everything. on top of a salad, as a side to meats, in your hot chocolate (yeap it’s a thing).

Other Highlights

 

 

Our jeep was supposed to leave Houston on October 2nd and arrive in Cartagena by Oct 7th. Guess what! due to some miscommunication about our information, it wasn’t loaded and the ship sailed without her. T.T

Now the new arrival date is October 15th. We were planning to limit our time in Cartagena since it gets so hot, but we might as well make the best of it and spend a week in Cartagena and explore the areas there. So, we are staying here until Sat, Oct 5th and then making the 1,000 km drive in a rental car this weekend.

Even though we can just stay in Bogota another week (temperatures are much more favorable here), we are getting a bit restless. We might as well head to Cartagena, talk to our broker in person about the process and explore the Carribean town of Colombia. Plus, fresh seafood and beaches? why not.

Bogota, Colombia

The First Day

we take it easy and go out to the surrounding neighbourhoods to take Zoe for walks. But it’s not the nicest neighbourhood to walk in since we are on the corner of a really busy intersection and from what I can tell. We are in the car/auto district. No problem. Zoe has been sleeping non-stop so we decide to find a nice restaurant that’s a 15-minute walk away for dinner. Our first true meal in South America and let me tell you. It. did. not. disappoint.

We have some basic Spanish down. We can ask for a table, order drinks, but when it comes to menu it’s like there are only so many ingredients you recognize. So eventually, Steve asks the one guy who speaks some broken English for recommendations. Everything was so delicious, tender, and with the live music playing the in the background – it’s a really good night. Ok, just you so know the beef tenderloin was the best ever. And not pictured is a delicious fresh tomato salad. For 5 dishes and 3 drinks, it came out to $157,000 or around $60 CAD. We were so stuffed.

Things we learned about Bogota, Colombia

  1. Colombians don’t eat large dinners but instead, have large lunches. They have a saying “Eat breakfast like a prince, lunch like a king, and dinner like a pauper”.
  2. It is the capital city of Colombia
  3. The traffic is horrrrrrrible. They say it is as bad as LA. It takes about the same time to walk vs. driving.
  4. Most people don’t speak English like not even a little bit.
  5. Bogota is also really pet-friendly.
  6. It’s also the 4th highest capital of the world at 8,660 feet.
  7. When you pay in credit card, they ask you how many installments? Turns out, you can ask them to charge some of the bill now, and some later.

Day Two

So, we walk a lot instead of driving or taking a taxi. Gives us a chance to walk Zoe and explore various neighborhoods. On the second day, we come back after a walk and take a small nap and then guess what finally hit me – Altitude Sickness. I start with a splitting headache, nausea, and then the vomiting starts. I start throwing up at 5pm and don’t stop until 11pm. I can’t keep water down and start getting a nose bleed. Eventually, steve google some things and says drinking a coke helps. I take some sips and pass out.

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It was a rough night.

Day Three

I wake up feeling better and then we go to the markets and the food district to get some snacks and see what’s out there.

Day Four

Today is a long walk day. We walk to the Park 93 district which is a much much nicer neighborhood. We go for a nice 10km walk and get some interesting fruits and foods while we are at it.

So far? We like Bogota. It’s a very mild temperature climate with access to beautiful produce/fruits since it’s proximity to the equator. The people have been nothing but nice and sweet.

On Sundays, the entire city engages in something called Ciclovia. They prohibit cars from driving on major roadways from 7am-3pm to encourage people to take bicycles and go walking outside (Map of where they shut down the streets –  2019-mapa-ciclovia).

Guess what we are doing tomorrow? going on a loooong walk.