Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Peru and Pachamama

We arrived in the North of Peru, which again is a quite different country than its neighbour. The first exiting moment came right when our taxidriver gave Sebastian his keys to drive us all to our destination in the middle of Chiclayo. There we went through the streets with hundreds of motorcycles and almost non existent traffic rules. But at least we arrived pretty awake at our hostel after this ride in the morning.

Chiclayo was a really nice and modern city with a nice and big cinema complex where we watched our first movie completly in Spanish.

And of course we followed the game Germany vs. Spain full of hope that we can watch Germany in the final again in Lima, where they had public viewing for all the games.
(Since this did not work out too good we changed our plans later and skipped Lima instead)

Our next Stop was a little fishing village named Huanchaco, where fishermen still traditionally fished in their little boats made out of straw. They also have the tradition to treat criminals that harm tourists in a special way, drowning them with stoneweights in the ocean.

This made us feel really safe!
We continued our trip going south to Huancachina which is basically a little oasis in between large
sanddunes. This was only a shortbreak to enjoy some sandboarding and a harakiri drive with a doom-buggy. From there a quick 18 hour drive up and down the Andes along dangerous roads brought us to Cusco, the starting point of the famous Machu Picchu ruins.
We quickly symphathized with a bunch of real nice guys from Holland that shared the same loss against Spain. All together we went on the Salkantay trail where we walked all the way up to an altitude of 4600m. In these 4 days we first walked through mountain landscapes and glaciers, and as we walked further down we came through green cloud forests. The last day was just for climbing up to Machu Picchu that we started already at 3 am in the morning.
It was a really great adventure with astonishing views and a lot of fun with our group.
The only bad thing was that we ate bad food the night before the trip, which made Anna feel really sick the first days. But with half of the group beeing sick of the altitude she was not the only one feeling bad.
"It is all in your mind!" said our guide to poor Anna and another Dutch guy that had high temperature :-)
With loads of amazing impressions and the experience that Anna + Mountains + Alpaca meat from the street is a deadly combination we left Peru and went to Lake Titicaka in Bolivia.

Saturday, July 3, 2010


Here we are now, in the land of volcanoes and massive mountains. Our last class flight (we got a first class free upgrade, because the flight was overbooked) brought us to the capital Quito which lays in breathtaking 2800 meters altidute. Coming from a country with around 30 degrees celcius we arrived only in shorts and tshirts at only 8 degrees. This was quite a shock for us since our luggage was still in Venezuela due to the overbooked flight (there were some ecuadorian families that were flying with 8! suitcases, which we found out later).

But at the end we got a little bonus (thanks to our great argumentation in spanish) for the 2 day delay of our luggage. Satisfied with our victory we went straight to the market and invested the money in some colourful ecuadorian souvenirs.

In the following days we checked out Quito and the famous "la mitad del mundo" where we jumped between winter and summer right at the Equator.

Back in our little hotel right in the heart of the old town of Quito we later that day celebrated Annas birthday with some good old chilenian wine.

From there we went south to a little nice volcanotown called Baños (like the name says it is full or thermal swimming pools that are heated buy the still active vulcano).
We also decided that this lovely place is the perfect location to sharpen our language skills. In the end we had five days with a private teacher in combination with the daily bargaining for souvenirs that helped us a lot with our spanish.

This was quite a welcoming alternative to our normal sightseeing tours and gave us and our knocked out stomaches some more time to relax.

Completly recovered and full of energy we rusehd into our next adventure in the wild Amazonian jungle of Puyo. With monkeys, spiders, snakes, million unknown sounds and jungle-snacks we had quite a time. Equipped with rubber-boots and mosquito repellend we made our way through the thick jungle vegetation. The tour included also voluntary bridge jumping secured with only a rope as well as swinging on top of the tree tops like tarzan. Both of which Basti could not resist trying.

With our face painted with the traditional warrior colours and a blowgun (Blasrohr) in our hand it made us feel like the still existing Shamans (except they are barenaked with only a tiny rope holding up their manhood.

Covered with mud and rain we happily came back to our hostel two days later.

From Baños, we experienced a spectacular mountain train ride through the Andes to Aulausi. From there we grabbed one of those public buses that took us across the mountains again to the beach in Puerto Lopez. There we met some nice Germans, sister and brother, who were travelling together in Ecuador. We made out the cheapest and best hostel together and enjoyed the nights with cigars, cocktails and talks on our balcony across the beach. We also did a tour to the "poor man's Galapagos", called Isla de la Plata. There we saw the famous blue footed birds very close to us and tons of wales swimming and jumping (too fast for the camera) in the water. It felt wonderful to see these big mammals so close to us.
Rich of experiences again, we moved on to the nice city of Cuenca. Our bus ride was interrupted and we arrived in Cuenca a little later than planned. After some organisational issues we watched the amazing footbal game Germany versus Argentina with some German tourists around us. Very delighted and being proud wearing our German shirts we were greeted with hand shakes and honking cars by the Ecuadorian people.
"Germany will win the World Cup"
was what people told us and what we hoped after this spectacular game.
Our last stop in Ecuador took us to Loja. From there we crossed the border to Peru and arrived after a long but pituresque bus ride in Chiclayo, Peru.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

From Fidel to Chavez - bienvenido a Venezuela!

Our flight from Cuba to Venezuela was quite easy as we already were used to Russian airplanes and desinfection smoke. Once we arrived at Caracas we were happily greeted by all kinds of airport personal that offered us a special money exchange. It took us a little while to understand what exactly was going on with the money.

Since some friends (even a Venezuelan who lived in Caracas) did not recommend to stay there, we planned to go to Choroni. Our adventure began right then, when we took the bus that would take us there. Having a nice little drive on a Venezuelan Autobahn in mind we were pretty surprised by a 2 hour adventure ride through the mountains.

With streets as wide as our bus, twisting roads, rain, fog and darkness we felt more like in a roller coaster. The busdrivers here must have nerves of steel when they cut corners, and swirled up the little mountain roads always with one foot on the brake for oncoming traffic. It was a real relief to leave the bus again after we arrived all in one piece.

The next day after we took a little tour around our fishing village we quicky figured out how the money-system works. There are two forms of getting money here. One is at the bank through ATM machines, and the other one is on the black market. The last will provide a rate that is 3 times higher compared to some puplic banks.

With our lesson learned and enough money we did a hike through the jungle to see a famous waterfall. After a hike up the hill, countless river-crossings (-fallings), as well as great varieties of butterflies, snakes and tarantulas we were rewarded with the great Cascada. Altogether we spend 5 hours hiking through the jungle with a little boy as our guide who walked the whole way barefoot (we called him Mogli)! The trip was really worth all the effort and the swearing.

Anna: I HATE !"·|@#'-ing mountains!

The next stop in Venezuela was the Morrocoy National Park, with dozents of Carribbean Mangrove-Islands. We stayed in Tucacas at amazing Panaderias (Bakeries) and Swimwear stores. Here we heard that it is also possible to get dropped off at one of the Islands to camp over night.
It sounded really great and so we packed some towels and mosquito spray and tried our luck without any further equipment.

Overwhelmed by the friendlyness of the always drinking Venezuelan tourists we even got invited for vodka and bbq. The island itself was gorgous as well, with the clear water and palm beaches that we were already used to from Cuba.
We got some deck chairs and sunshades and built our little shelter for the night. We felt just like Robinson Crusoe on a lonely island with only a view other campers and fishermen that were there as well.
It was just amazing until a thunder-storm surprised us at 5 am in the morning. Fortunatelly, there was a little dry shelter that we had to share with tons of mosquitos. Good thing that the rain did not last too long. And at the end we got rewarded with a nice sunrise as well as some hot coffee and sandwiches from the Venezuelan fishermen who followed our struggle in the rain.

What an exiting day with so many adventures!!

Since Venezuela was the last country with access to the Carribbean Sea we decided to stay at the coast and hit the next famous Island, Isla Margarita.
The first small fishing town was Juangriego where we got to know a lot about Venezuela and its government. Following the nice little beaches towards the north and always looking for some way to find money again we hit the famous beach Playa el Agua.

Next to the 5 km long beach we found one of the best posadas (hostels) so far on our trip. With a luxury room in the first floor, hammocks, TVs in every corner, internet, pool and the only guests we found an incredible place to enjoy our last couple of days. Here we relaxed again from stresses and strains from our trip so far and enjoyed the first games of the World Cup on one of the many TVs.

This is also our last chance to absorb the carribbean flair, since our last flight will take us to the hights of Quito, Ecuador. But first we cross our fingers for Germany's first game against Australia.

Alemania los campiones del mundo 2010!!!

p.s. if anybody wants to know about the nice Hostel: www.villadelsol.org

Monday, June 7, 2010

Traveling through Cuba

Hola desde CUBA!!!

After 3 weeks cut off from the world thanks to little internet access we say HI from our beach hotel at Cayo Coco. In the past 2 weeks we experienced so much that we can already fill nights of storytelling. But since we are a little restriced with time and internet, here are at least some little details. Our adventure continued right before we went to Cuba with the last day in TULUM, Mexico. There we saw the famous Maya Ruins and Anna had her first experience and lesson learned riding a little Motorcycle. From our little Beach Cabin on a wonderful Playa we prepared our next stop to another world: Fidel's famous Island CUBA.

The first thing that striked us on our way there was the white smoke coming out into the cabin of our old russian Yak airplane. Our worst thoughts stopped when we got to know that this white smoke was just desinfection spray for eventual CIA threaths of bacterias or diseases:) After the exciting ride in the shaking airplane we had our first tour in Havanna with a German speaking taxi driver. Here we quickly realized the former connections between Cuba and East Germany.

It also took us about a day to figure out the double currency, the real prices and infinite tricks of the so called jineteros (people that try to help tourists to spend theyr money a little faster than planned) With our Spanish knowledge and our tight budget we quickly understood most of the tricks and managed to get prices cheaper from first 45 cuc (40€) to 10 cuc (8€) for b&b per night. Same happened with our budget for food when we figured out where to get a whole dinner with drinks for just 1 cuc (0,8€). We also figured out that a lot of our tshirts, pants, pocket knives and other little souvenirs we brought from "the western world" are of high value for Cubans. This helped us to a lot of good Cigars, Souvenirs and other nice things from Cuba without having to spend anything. From amazing Habana with its giant black market (we made a friend in the cigar factury that took us to a secret chamber in order to sell some cigars for a third of the price that he just "borrowed" from the official tobacco store next door) we started our round trip through the island beginning with Vinales. Vinales is a sweet little village in a wounderful countryside of tobacco fields, mango trees and old caves within the mongote mountains. The colours on the whole island are so intense that you have postcard views everywhere you look at. The greenest green we have ever seen! Wonderful! We went horseriding, swimming in a dark cave in the mountains and we went to a tobacco house where we were welcomed with rum drinks served in a coconut. After we got familiar with the cigar making process we enjoyed some self made ones on our ride back.

It was also in Vinales where thanks to a nice Cuban guy Anna could fullfill one of her many dreams. He invited her to take him for a ride in his 1954 Chevrolet Belair. With a dream coming true and a never ending smile on Anna's face we went on further South to Trinidad.

This city was famous for its long music nights were everybody was dancing and drinking outside at the Casa de la Musica. We even saw one little Cuban dancer, who could handle two girls at the same time. We also met another nice German couple and exchanged cigars and stories about the many Cuban ways to help tourists with their money.

After some last cigars we split again and went north towards Santa Clara where we visited Che Guevara's monument and mausoleum. It was an emotional moment and we learned a lot about Cuba's history and the famous revolution.

Hasta la victoria siempre!

Meanwhile in Germany we heard that our package with all our belongings from Canada arrived at the German customs. We did not think about having any problems until they wanted a bill or prove of every single piece of clothes and belongings to prove that they are not all importet. Struggling with hardly any reliable cheap Internet and unable to send information about our belonings we feared the worst already. Thanks to Annas mom and her outgoing personality towards the customs she managed to bring our package back home to Stuttgart.
What A big relief!!!

On our way to the East we went to Santiago de Cuba, the second biggest city in Cuba and famous for its music, carneval and the Revolution. We will remember the city especially for a great deal of a box of Cuban cigars that we changed for some pants of mine.

The next great deal was in Baracoa, a little fishing town further west. Here we enlighted the day of our host mom with an H&M Top for some chocolate and cacao from Che's chocolate factory. With almost no cash in our pockets because of the lack of ATMs we were forced to keep on trading.

With our rental car we drove along the north coast, always with some hitchhikers in our car. Children, Families or Policeman all wanted a ride along the road and we liked their payments with fruits and vegetables. Passing some more Carribbean beaches we arrived in our 4 Star all inklusive ressort in Cayo Coco to relax after all the hard bargaining (20 cent spiceless pizzas, partially illegal hostels, etc).
4 days we enjoyed all the luxury that is only accessible to the all inclusive tourists.

The most striking adventure there was that Anna left all her fears behind and went into the dark and dangerous deep see. Scuba diving was the least thing Anna had in mind when we started the trip but finally we enjoyed diving in the incredibly colorful coral reefs.

We spent our last days back in good old Habana where we got our last box of cigars before we took the plane to our next destination: VENEZUELA

From Canada to the USA

After our 8 months in Canada in the wonderful places Sudbury and Hamilton (!) we started our Tour down South. Our first stop was Ardmore, Oklahoma.

There we stayed with Basti´s former host family and we enjoyed all kinds of activities that real rednecks only do: Fishing, golfing, fast food, getting stuck in the mud, driving around in a big GMC Envoy and having some nice BBQ. We were amazed how friendly rednecks and Oklahomans can be :).

After some great talks we heard about a town called Stuttgart (like our city in germany) somewhere hidden in Arkansas. That´s it, we thought, and always looking for a challenge, we went on a long journey to find Stuttgart, Arkansas. It turned out to be a little quiet town with about 9000 inhabitants, with the world´s famous duck calling championship. Furthermore, it is also the home of the incredible RICEBIRDS high school football team. Still not challenged enough, we moved on to Memphis, Tennessee, to see how Elvis Presley is doing.

Actually, he is pretty good, and Graceland with his house and all his colorful crazy suits is astonishing! It made us feel like back in the 50s and 60s and we have to get more Cds of this great dude. After this trip, we went back to Ardmore for some more fishing before we went South to Cancun, Mexico. Arriving there, we finally felt the long missed hot weather again. Beautiful sunshine and about 35-40 degrees celcius made us feel good after 8 long months in cold Canada. We changed from heavy goose feather jackets to short light swimwear.

First we stayed in Cancun, and now we are on the wonderful Isla Mujeres. Just like we imagined while planning this trip, we now lie here on the beach in white coral sand surrounded by crystal clear turquoise water. Of course with a cold Corona underneath a coconut palm tree! The next few days, we will relax and slowly plan our next trips throughout the Caribbean Islands...

Hasta la proxima vez, con un abrazo muy fuerte, Anna y Basti