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.



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.


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.



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.


Quilotoa Loop


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.



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 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 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


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!


Steve, Anna & Zoe

Adiós Colombia

We spend the last few days of Colombia soaking up the mountainous scenery and trying to enjoy the country as much as we can before we head to Ecuador – so we make a quick stop at Campground La Bonanza. Kika opened this campground after Overlanding with her family of 5 for three years. We share her Morrocan hospitality of warm mint tea, fresh croissants, and endless advice on our journey south.


Campground La Bonanza. Zoe with new friends!

We spend a couple of nights at Campground La Bonanza and meet up with the swiss overlander couple. Since the southern region of Colombia has some safety issues (think Guerrillas), we decide to travel together until we cross into Ecuador. We travel to a park for the night and hang out in their comfy van for the evening sharing drinks and stories. Then we drive to Ipiales to spend the night near the border so we can get an early start for the border crossing the next day.


Blurry Group Photo! (Anna, Steve, Pascal & Virgine) – Missing (Zoe & Quito)


Santuario De Las Lajas – disco lights sort of ruined its beauty. In the daytime, the church looked like Rivendell

They’ve done all of Central America and for us – this is our first border crossing so we are happy for their expertise. Plus, spending 4 nights together sharing drinks was really an unexpected pleasant surprise.

Our method to the madness

How do we travel? Well, first we find places that would be interesting to visit. While we have good intentions on doing all the must-dos of the country, many times South America’s ever-changing landscape forces us to pivot.  Many times, we meet people on the road who tells us of places we haven’t even read about, so we make another pivot – and more often than not, it’s worth the pivot.

We start planning up to 2-3 days in advance on where we will eat, sleep and what we plan on doing. It might stress other people out not knowing where they will be, but we’ve always traveled this way and having the flexibility really helps with the sanity aspect. Even though you might have planned really well, maybe the entire highway comes to a halt because of a rock slide and now we have to wait 4 hours (it hasn’t happened to us, but wouldn’t be surprised if it did).

Final Thoughts on Colombia


Our last morning in Colombia

Colombia was warned as dangerous, filled with kidnappings, and surely we are going to have to keep looking over our shoulders. Instead, it was filled with friendly and helpful people who are proud of their country, and breathtaking landscape changing by the hour. Sure it was really slow traveling through the roads and the driving methods are questionable, but overall it really was amazing. It was the perfect country to start our South American journey and we are so so glad we took the time to really drive the country.


Los Nevados National Park, Colombia

If you’ve read our post before, you now understand it takes.. a long time to get anywhere in Colombia. The drive to Los Nevados National Park was no exception. It is a 7-hour, 280 km journey through the mountainous roads that are riddled with cliffs, construction and what feels like crazy buses trying to run you off the road.

However, without driving through Colombia – you truly haven’t seen what this country has to offer. With palm trees and rolling hills, it feels like we are driving in Hawaii one moment, and then next it changes to the mountain ranges that resemble the jungles of Thailand.


We finally arrive late in the night to the Los Nevados National Park, a volcano just outside the coffee axis of Colombia. The wild camping spot we found sits at 13,120 ft and considering I’ve gotten altitude sickness every single time, we take the medicine welllllll in advance. The next morning, the views are covered with constant clouds that bring rain and then sunshine within a span of 15 minutes. While beautiful and breathtaking (literally) I have a sharp toothache and Norma’s steering doesn’t feel right.

This is what Steve woke to on his birthday.


After a long journey into and around the nearby town of Manizales, we try and find a mechanic or a dentist. It’s Saturday afternoon on ANOTHER long weekend, so we have very little luck and Steve decides we have to head to a big city before the steering gives out 100%. So we drive the 4.5-hours past the coffee axis into Cali – the 3rd largest city in Colombia.

We message a dentist – Dr. Carlos and he agrees to see me on a Sunday and speaks English – THANK THE LORD! Time to fix Norma and keep on heading south.



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.


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.


Las Gachas, Colombia

Las Gachas

To break up the drive to our next destination, we decide to visit the Quebrada Las Gachas – a riverbed with bathtub-sized holes where the river runs through them. The road to Las Gachas was littered with gigantic potholes and trucks wiping around blind corners into oncoming traffic, but the spectacular landscape distracted us from these annoyances. We arrived at 5pm to the trailhead but decided to save the hike in the morning. Instead, we set up camp and played chess. Steve started teaching me so we have things to do if the weather sucks or we have no internet connection. The first game? He won in 4 moves. Now he is actually walking me through the steps – we are still on our second game 3 days later.

We had a crazy rainstorm that lasted most of the evening so we took shelter inside Norma. At one point, we could not hear ourselves talk since the rain was so loud. Early in the morning, we took the 20-minute walk through the valleys to get the to Gachas. We had to walk through someone’s property so we pay them $1,000 COP each. Can you imagine having Las Gachas in your backyard? The walk takes you through the most beautiful rolling hills and the views made it feel like we’ve stepped into another country. Surely, this can’t be… Colombia?

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The walk to Las Gachas


Zoe falling into the hole. They are about 1-2 meters deep so plenty of space for her to swim.


The entire stretch of the river is lined with these holes, it’s quite interesting.

The Gachas were interesting, but we couldn’t find any information on what caused these massive holes. Maybe underground water channels caused the sinkholes on the riverbed? After a short hike back, we pack up and left for Villa de Leyva – named one of the most beautiful towns in all of Colombia.

Barichara, Colombia



A small town in the countryside of Colombia filled with cobblestone roads, white walls, and red-tiled roofs. It’s a town that looks like it was built for a fairytale so we decide to stay at least for a couple of days. The city’s climate is in the high 20s all day and then around 3pm, the cool afternoon wind comes in and the evenings are nice and chilly 15-17 degrees. It’s perfect weather for us. We find a campsite run by a Dutch couple nearby that many overlanders have recommended called Guaimaro.


Julia – an architect and Joep – an archeologist, has built a beautiful home (based on permaculture) and campsite just outside of Barichara. Almost all of the construction materials were recycled/repurposed from the previous buildings, and the large stones were excavated from their property. They use the sun to heat up the water for a beautifully built outdoor shower surrounded by big tropical leaves and stones. Due to the scarcity of water, all the grey water at the campsite is recycled using a plant filter which is then used for toilets and watering the garden. It’s a thoughtfully designed and beautifully made Finca they’ve taken seven years to perfect. They are currently adding in two more outdoor shower/bathrooms (they get lots of campers), and eventually adding a small natural pool. If you are looking to do a workaway program near the countryside of Barichara, Colombia – you can find them here (

When we arrive, we meet a couple from Australia (Daphne & Danny) who is doing a work away program and traveling around South America for a year. There is also a French couple name Solene & Julian who have been traveling parts of South America for 5 months also doing a workaway. And Kelly, a sole backpacker from Estonia, has just started her journey. Couple of nights in, a Swiss overlander couple name Pascal & Virgine with their Dog Quito also roll into Guaimaro. There is a communal kitchen so we make dinner, hang out, and talk about our journeys. It lets us know that the idea of traveling for 7 months isn’t radical, but the norm within this kitchen.


These wonderful people shared their stories and experiences – we’re so grateful to have spent 6 days with them

We ended up staying 5 nights at Guaimaro. During the day we hike the 45 minutes to the town of Barichara, get lunch, fresh produce, then walk back and spend the day researching, reading, and planning our next steps. After 5 nights, we are sad to leave especially, Julia’s freshly baked bread – but we pull ourselves away and go to our next steps to Las Gachas.

Cartagena, Colombia

Casa Pancho – Cartagena

After the final 9 hours drive on Oct 6th,  we drive into Cartagena check into our beachfront Airbnb in the el Cabrero district and meet Omaira – our host. Casa Pancho is a ground floor unit within a 4-story apartment building near the old city and it has AC in the bedroom and its mostly clean so we make do with what it is – except the internet is not working. We’re here until 10th and then we’re off to a new Airbnb nearby anyway so we make do and play tourists instead in the walled city.


The Old Walled City

Cartagena is primarily defined by a city surrounded by a wall built in the 1500s by the Spanish. The old city is protected and fortified with stone walls and inside is Instagram worthy picturesque buildings everywhere. The first day we take a stroll with Zozi and instantly, people are looking at her with a very curious and confused face. We saw so many stray dogs on our drive into Cartagena and we know that she is not as welcome and loved. But that’s our normal so it’s ok.

In the old town, we visit La Cevicheria – a restaurant visited by Anthony Bourdain in 2008. It’s quite expensive at $40,000 COP per bowl but the ceviche is very well balanced and delicious. Would i return for it? this is our first ceviche place so we aren’t sure yet. Sitting on the “patio” turned out to be a mistake because every street vendor stops to try and sell you something – sunglasses, hats, drawings, dresses, a customized rap song…

On another day we visit La Mulata – a restaurant recommended on the iOverlander app*. The prices are much better and the food is not bad. The ceviche? Not as good, so maybe La Cevicheria is better than expected.

Most days in Cartagena…

We take Zoe out for a walk so she gets some exercise and then we bring her home to rest in the AC room. She doesn’t last more than 1 hour in the 30-degree heat anyway. Then we go out just the two of us to look at places she can’t go. We usually don’t go out at night since most advisories warn against it due to potentially dangerous situations. We’ve heard some stories of people being robbed or pickpocketed because they flash their foreign wealth (This is also why I’ve only been using my phone and not my DSLR and the quality of the photos aren’t as good).

One of the walks we went on with Zoe, we see two American looking girls in bikinis on the beach and there are some local guys trying to talk to them in Spanish. I think the girls were trying to pretend they don’t understand so they would leave them alone. On our way back we the same two girls being led by another group of older guys down an alleyway. This time we follow because well we have a dog people are scared of so maybe we can help if they are in trouble. Turns out, they were being taken to the local police and they were waiting for their statements. Down the street, we see another group of locals and police and it’s the guy we saw earlier bothering them on the beach. He is covered in blood and in handcuffs. No idea what actually happened, but just to be smart we take some extra measures to be safe in the future.

Steve doesn’t quite trust our neighborhood so he doesn’t let me take Zoe out alone and every time he takes her out I keep an eye out from the apartment just in case something happens. Let’s just say we felt a lot safer in Bogota than Cartagena. After 5 days in Casa Pancho, it’s time to move to another Airbnb 5 minutes away.

*iOverlander is an app where people who travel similarily like us contribute information and their experiences about where to camp, eat, avoid etc. It’s been a lifesaver for us on more than one occasion.

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!




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.


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.