Yep, this will be a short update. We stayed only 4 days in Belize and we loved every moment of it. Sure, 4 days is really not enough to explore a country but it is enough to explore one of its pretty little islands. Nothing against Belize, but it was not in our initial plans to visit it, mostly because we wanted to spend more time in Mexico and because it is an expensive country. It turned out, we needed to cross Belize in order to enter Mexico anyway (because we are leaving Rusty in Quintana Roo) and then it felt wrong to just cross the country without seeing at least a bit of it.
The Guatemala / Belize border was the easiest and fastest border to cross; basically no one asked us anything, they just stamped our passports and wished us a nice stay. Three hours after crossing the border we were on the Caribbean again, and parked our van in a marina of Old Belize, Belize City. Yeah, sleeping right at the ocean seemed like an amazing idea, initially. We felt safe and left our van doors open so we can cool down but it turned out to be the worst idea… Sand flies, or whatever the freakin’ insects were they, bit us all night long and we barely slept at all. Little did we know, this was our last night in Rusty. Either way, we got to see this fairy-tale clouds and say goodbye to sleepless nights caused by heat.
The second day in Belize, we headed to Caye Caulker, one of the prettiest islands we have ever seen. The boat ride was beautiful, incredible turquoise waters of the Caribbean were giving us that “isla bonita” excitement. I learned, by the way, that this song – La Isla Bonita, is about San Pedro Island placed right next to Caye Caulker. We decided to go to Caye Caulker for its more relaxed vibe (we have been told San Pedro is more of a party-kind of place). The moment we stepped on the perfect white sand of Caye Calker and felt the breeze of its pretty palm trees, we knew that it was a good decision to see at least a bit of Belize.
It was a big change from the rest of the trip. Suddenly, everyone spoke English (it is one of the official languages of the country) and many people tried to make us buy “funny herbs” explaining how it is completely legal to do that in Belize (not really true though). We couldn’t really tell if people we interacted with were nice and kind or just sarcastic or all of the above. In the other hand, we did not have enough time there to really tell… We did enjoy eating lobster snacks served on the small tables in the water, biking around the island, buying some really good spicy salsas and enjoying some very nice live music in one of the many many bars. All in all, we are happy that we could see another Caribbean paradise island before getting to Mexico where many beautiful things expected us. Belize stays on the list of countries that we need to explore more and we could really see ourselves traveling to Caye Caulker or San Pedro with a group of friends for an unforgettable experience. Who’s in? 🙂
El Paredon – Antigua – Hobbitenango – Atitlan – Chicicastenango – Lake Izabal-Livingston- Rio Dulce – Jungle – Flores – Tikal
We travelled for a month all over Guatemala, from Pacific to the Caribbean and everywhere in-between. From around 38 degrees in El Paredon to using a thick blanket in Chici, Guatemala gave us everything: all kinds of weather, all sorts of landscapes, millions of colours, two food poisonings but also some of the best food we ever tried, many many crazy roads and tons of amazing people and experiences. Our Guatemalan adventure started at its Pacific coast, in a small surfer village called El Paredon. This place was daaaaamnnn hot and did not allow for more than being lazy in hammocks watching the sea. Watching the sea was the only option involving the sea because the waves there were absolutely huge and violent, difficult to master even for experienced swimmers (which is not me). Three days of beautiful black sand, impressive waves and beautiful sunsets were enough and we decided to move to higher lands where the temperatures are bearable.
Off we went to Antigua Guatemala, probably the most beautiful city we have seen on this trip. Antigua used to be a capital of the country but, it being surrounded by impressive (and active!) volcanoes did a lot of damage to the city at some point in history. It was, however, rebuilt and stands beautifully surrounded by volcanoes offering tons of pretty cafés, restaurants, nature tours, volcano climbing adventures and simply relaxing strolls through its beautiful streets. No, we did not climb the volcano to see the impressive Fuego erupting – we only had broken sandals and summer clothes, not to mention only as much energy at this point to let ourselves go on a what many people describe as “one of the hardest things you’ll do in life.” So climbing the Acatenango volcano is now on our “to do list” (after getting a little more fit LOL). Temperature in Antigua was perfect and we slept very well in our van, on a parking lot of a hostel. Antigua is also great for shopping, full of colourful markets selling traditional clothes that almost all women in Guatemala wear. This makes people watching activity so much more interesting, you can’t stop admiring their masterfully embroidered and colourful outfits. Of course I got some of those outfits myself (and was dressed by Guatemaltecas themselves).
Some 5-10 kilometers uphill from Antigua, the narrow and curvy (sometimes scary) roads will bring you to a fun village called Hobbitenango. Its name says already what the village is about 🙂 We had loads of fun visiting little hobbit houses and enjoyed the views over Antigua and the surrounding mountains before heading to Lake Atitlan, one of the spots I was most excited about to see.
We had a very adventourous road to reach Lake Atitlan. It’s as beautiful as it is scary at some point; some parts are really really steep while others indicate signs such as “bridge does not exist, cross the river.” We first thought it was a joke but not at all; the sign was very honest. Rusty did not disappoint though and crossed the river like a champ. We arrived to Atitlan right at the sunset and had this magnificent view of the lake and surrounding volcanoes.
But Atitlan was not really what we expected it to be. It was beautiful and magical, yes, but people kept pushing us to buy things (and sure enough we did, mostly because we wanted to help a family owning a small business), we got loads of warnings about bandidos on the road, and then I also got a food poisoning which made us book a hotel and stay in the room (well, close to a toilet LOL) at all times for one entire day. It was beautiful and it was fun trying on the traditional Guatemaltecan clothes but we decided to move on to a calmer place to recover some more. And we found just the perfect spot in a city whose name is complicated to pronounce – Chichicastenango. That’s why everyone calls it simply Chichi.
Chichi is especially visited on Sundays when all the city center streets become one huge market where one can buy basically everything and enjoy watching the crowds walking through labyrints of beautiful handicrafts. We had a fun day exploring the market but we had even more fun staying in a beautiful camping spot that gave us the best sleep we had in a while. Chichi is on nearly 2000m altitude which makes it significantly colder than other places in Guatemalan flats. It was around 16 degrees at night and we took our blanket out to sleep and it was a comfy feeling we did not have for a while. We stayed 5 days in this place, enjoying home-made food, hot shower, talking to Luis – a kind young man that manages the camping spot, making fire, playing cards, playing guitar and singing, and observing Mayan rituals that happened daily right next to our van.
Now that we were well rested and experienced cold weather, we were ready to continue and explore Guatemala’s jungle and all those other HOT places. We headed to Rio Dulce and the huge Lake Izabal before travelling to other places accessible only by water. That meant that we would suffer the heat again, but we could park Rusty right at the lake which was our only refreshment even though the lake water was super warm. In Rio Dulce we met Mario, the manager of the camping spot, and his son Isac who came for a chat every day, took us on boat ride and taught us how to fish with a net. We cooked a Peruvian dinner for them not only to thank them for their kindness but because the food always tastes better when shared. Also, some great hair days happened here and I felt like a lioness. LOL
Mario and Isac took us across the lake on their fishing boat so that we can catch our next ride to Livingston, a small village on the Guatemalan Caribbean accessible by boat only, special for its Garifuna culture. Garifuna people are a beautiful mix of African, indigenous American and Caribbean cultures that gave us not only great vibes but also one of the best meals we ever had called “tapado” – a kind of fish/seafood soup cooked in coconut milk with some herbs that, they told us, remain a secret. We will try to recreate the recipe but we do know that it will never taste the same as the one we had surrounded by smiling women and served on the terrace of a small family restaurant.
The way to Livingston was a beautiful journey through a fifty-shades-of-green breathtaking jungle. We were excited to stay in a small cabin at the beach that we found on Booking, but, as it turned out, some things on this website can be a little deceiving.
So, Livingston gave us mixed-up feelings. Garifuna culture is beautiful, food even more. The village is very relaxed, the music is great, people seem to like to party and many people will offer you to smoke funny ‘herbs’ on the street. So far so good. On the other hand, a big part of the beach is basically a trash dump. We were so disappointed to see how little effort is taken to clean up what otherwise would be a paradise beach on the Caribbean. We walked through piles of plastic everything on the way to our cabana that looked nothing like pictures on Booking, and when we met Patrick, an old French dude who owns the cabana, we offered to clean up the beach and asked him to give us some plastic bags. Here comes the moment we met the ONLY unpleasant person in this entire trip. Patrick gave us a lesson of how it doesn’t make any sense to clean up because the trash will just reappear again, how he gave up on that and how naive we are thinking something could change by trying to clean up. I didn’t like his attitude at all and his attitude became even worse as the days went by. If everyone would think like him, I guess we would all just be ok with destroying our nature.
Anyway, the Patrick experience gave us a lot of food for thoughts and also mixed-up feelings about Livingston. The last night there we went to another place for another ‘tapado’ experience and as it turned out… I got another food poisoning. It’s something I have to check later on when we’re back home, but based on the 3 food poisonings in this trip I guess I might have an allergy to crustacea. At least this time I could recover from this horrible thing in one of the most beautiful places we stayed at. Some 30 minutes boat ride from Livingston, there’s a Hotelito Perdido (Lost little hotel), in the middle of the jungle. And this place is cure for soul and body. Look at it:
Once I regained my strength and was able to eat again, we went on the most relaxing kayaking through the mangroves, enjoyed reading in the hammocks at the lake, and sharing meals with some wonderful fellow travellers we met at Hotelito. We loved it so much there that we decided to stay a day longer and enjoy the peace only jungle can give you. Our Guatemalan adventures were coming to an end but not before we saw Flores and Tikal, one of the most beautiful and biggest Mayan ruins sites in the region.
Isla de Flores is a small island ‘city’ surrounded by water, sometimes referred to as “Venice of Guatemala.” Flores is beautiful and walkable in 30 minutes and a great spot for a day before going to see the magic of Tikal. Tikal is a huuugggeee and impressive site of Mayan ruins and just like Copan in Honduras, it completely dehydrated us. We were really really having a hard time walking there in humid, probably 38 degrees weather surrounded and bitten by hundreds of mosquitoes. But the sights of beautiful temples and the jungle surrounding them stays in mind, mosquito bites are (almost) forgotten.
With hearts full and with loads of memories of a month-long beauty we have witnessed in Guatemala, it was time for the last jump in the lake and the last beautiful sunset before heading to Belize. I can say with certainty that Guatemala is one of the most beautiful places I have seen and its people some of the kindest I have had a privilege to interact with. This country really has it all: two beautiful coasts, mountains, jungle, cultures, colours, art, music, incredible food, people… It’s also one of the cheapest countries in Central America. So, go ahead, book your flights, there’s no reason to wait any longer 🙂
Lake Yojoa, Pulhapanzapak Waterfall, Tela, La Ceiba, Utila, Rio Congrejal, Copan
Honduras still has this bad reputation of being one of the most dangerous countries in the world. We have been warned by some people, in a friendly manner, to take a real good care. We tried not making any assumptions about Honduras, and we avoided reading too much online (if you listened to these official e.g. US and UK government travel advise you probably would never go anywhere). So let’s get over with it and answer the question: did we ever feel in danger in Honduras? We’re happy to answer with a big NO! That being said, we should tell you that we didn’t go to the cities like Tegucigalpa or San Pedro Sula which are very often described as the most dangerous places in Honduras and even locals told us they don’t go there unless they really have to; they also told us their experiences of being robbed in those cities.
From the moment we crossed the border from Nicaragua, we were very positively surprised with Honduras. We were suddenly driving on the most beautiful highway I have ever seen. Surrounded by big mountains and stopped by military who basically just wanted to wish us a good day, first impressions of Honduras were just WOW.
It was time for our first stop in a camping before making the way towards the Caribbean coast. Another surprise: it was the most beautiful camping we have stayed at until that point. Huuuugeee area with swimming pool, lake, restaurant, bbq spots, tables and chairs, and most importantly, clean showers and toilets. We loved Honduras already. The next day, we made our way to the beautiful and serene Lake Yojoa. A warm and sunny day called for a visit to a local brewery (expensive but the most beautiful brewery setting ever) and then for some more refreshment by kayaking on the lake. Kayaking seems to have become a recurrent activity for us; I love it way more than Jorge; there’s something about the exercising and enjoying the serenity at the same time but Jorge always complains how kayak hurts his back. I guess we’re in that age now LOL. Well, we did have to kayak on the canal for a good hour before reaching the actual lake and we did get caught up in a huge rain on the way back but it was absolutely beautiful and worth it nevertheless.
We then had another surprise on the way back from kayaking, not the nicest one this time. Camping at the lake proved to be a bit challenging; we found a spot near the lake but it rained so much that we got stuck in the mud and had to ask for help to get out. It’s funny to look back at it now but at the moment it was pretty shitty. Our amazing pilot Jorge got Rusty out of mud and we went to search for a less muddy sleeping spot. We were faced once and again with the kindness of people of Honduras. We found a nice café which was about to close and asked if we could camp there. They allowed us to their property for free and even excused themselves for toilets not being super clean (and they were spotless, in comparison to the many toilets we have seen before). We’ve spent a calm night and I woke up well rested and smiley. It was time to visit the Pulhapanzak waterfalls, an incredible nature park close to Lake Yojoa. Imagine falling asleep with the sound of a waterfall and then wake up, have coffee and swim in the river next to the waterfall. Don’t even get me started on the views and the fact we had the entire nature park to ourselves that night.
Every day in Honduras brought beautiful places and people. Soon enough, we have arrived to the Caribbean coast and decided to spend 3 nights in the parking lot of a hotel in Tela. Parking lot doesn’t sound super attractive, but… add an amazing swimming pool next to it, hammocks, access to a private beach and many conversations with a nice lady working there and you have the winning combination. On the negative side, Honduran mosquitos seemed to have LOVED us in Tela and it was, as you can imagine, really really hot but what else can you expect from the Carribean? We couldn’t complain at all.
It was around this time when we decided to visit the Bay Islands and then I convinced Jorge that he has to have another adventure (without me this time) and get his diving licence. We joked later that I was “pushing him” to do this so I can spend some time on my own, but the truth is that Jorge knows me and that’s exactly what I wanted. LOL. No. I just knew he can’t miss the opportunity of diving in one of the most beautiful reefs in the world, learning diving in a very professional school and in the cheapest place in the world to do so. So, off we went to Utila, one of Honduras’s Bay Islands.
Utila is a small island that can be (mostly) explored on foot or scooter. We got to the island on the fanciest (but shakiest) ferry I have ever seen and as soon as we arrived we loved the vibe. Most of people there are divers and divers seem to be chill and cool and know how to party. Jorge started his diving course the day after our arrival and I started my own little routine: coffee, swimming pool, beach, book, blog. We both loved our days in Utila and Jorge, up to this day, cannot stop talking about diving. As the matter of fact, he is diving right now as I am writing this (in Mexico). I guess planning our future trips will also depend on the diving sites but that is totally ok for me; it means that there is a beach and, while I don’t like tanning and spending hours in the sun, watching the sea and listening to waves is one of my favourite things in the world.
Jorge made many bubbles in the water, I read many chapters of my falling-apart book and it was time to return to the mainland. Upon the return from Utila, we visited the largest botanical garden in Americas in La Ceiba; we saw many beautiful and many poisonous plants, got bitten by a thousand mosquitoes and then left for Rio Congrejal, world-famous for rafting. At this time, we have had enough of water sports so instead of rafting, we spent time talking to people and playing with the cutest animals, while having amazing views.
The last stop in Honduras was Copan – a famous site of Mayan ruins and a beautiful little town. Mayan temples were super impressive but the temperature was crazy: we couldn’t stop sweating and couldn’t spend more than 3 hours on the site. We were happy but absolutely dehydrated. That’s a good way to shortly describe Honduras, it will make you happy and thirsty for more.
So for all of you still leaving Honduras at the bottom of your travel lists, please move it up. This country has everything; the most beautiful highways, great food, very kind people, great art, history, nature… something for everyone really. Don’t be stupid and get wasted in San Pedro Sula on your own at 3 AM and you will be totally fine. We said goodbye to Honduras in Copan and crossed the border to a very colourful Guatemala where we stayed for a whole month.
So, our new way of traveling started the moment we arrived to Costa Rica. We arrived to San José, the capital, late at night and already the next morning at 9am we met a very cool Spanish Couple, Raquel and Mikel, who travelled for 8 months in the van that we will call home in the next 4-5. They started their trip in Canada and finished it in Costa Rica: now we’re travelling the opposite way bringing the van up north all the way to Mexico, and who knows… maybe someone will drive it back to its motherland again. So, how do a Brazilian and Bosnian acquire Canadian van from Spanish couple in Costa Rica? I know, it sounded crazy to us too but it was pretty easy and straightforward.
The first time ever we thought of travelling in a van was at the very beginning of our trip, as soon as we landed in Brazil. We somehow gave up the idea along the way, probably because we were a little afraid of how all that could happen since we never really travelled in a van before. But somehow, the idea of having a house on four wheels started to shape again in our minds already in Uruguay when we met a couple who told us about their adventures of travelling the PanAmerican in the van. It’s the first time we heard about the ioverlander app (great and essential tool for any van traveler in Central and South America) and how easy it was to actually travel this way. I don’t know about easy but it is exciting and convenient, that I do know now. Further on, travelling in a car through Central America made us realize how much we loved the freedom the car gave us: we could stop when and wherever we wanted, and we didn’t need to make loads of plans in advance. Sure enough, once we got back to Brazil and left Cabron, we knew we wanted to have that freedom again also in Central America. That’s when our little home on 4 wheels, became a reality. Ladies and gents… meet Rusty:
Voilà, we call it Rusty for obvious reasons. We closed the deal with Raquel and Mikel before ever seeing the van and they were really helpful arranging necessary meetings for the van documents. The process with documents was pretty much straightforward, and civil servants in Costa Rica very nice and professional. There were a few minor setbacks that made us stay in San José way longer than we wanted to but all in all… it was a painless and pretty quick process. And so, Rusty took us to many wonderful places…
San José is a very unimpressive city and big cities, especially capital cities in Central America, are not our cup of tea so we try to avoid them altogether. We did see some nice street art and had some very nice food at the San José Market but other than that… we slept in a parking lot and didn’t find this city interesting. Moreover, it is rain season in Costa Rica, and our days in San José were mostly rainy so we were not really into trying to explore further.
What we were really looking forward to was exploring Costa Rica’s nature and discovering the magic of “pura vida” you hear so much about in this country. We found a really nice place up in the hills where we could completely empty, clean and arrange our van. We went to see the beautiful Poás Volcano (it’s an active volcano that erupted last time in 2017), and then headed for the beach for some sun.
Our beach life and sunny mornings, waking up to the sound of waves, had started. The first official camping we stoped at was 50m from the beach, mangoes and avocados were literarily falling off of the trees next to us and we had some very nice visits by monkeys and beautiful birds. We were slowly learning how is it to live in a van. Now, Rusty is not a fancy camper-van with solar panels, AC, toilet or shower. None of that. It does have a huge bed, a cooler, equipped kitchenette, portable fans, loads of charm and well… that’s all we really needed for 4 months. The most precious of all is waking up to the views like these, over and over again:
Pura vida it is, we got it. We drove along the Pacific coast of CR for about two weeks, stoping on the beaches, sipping coconut water, doing yoga, eating great food (casados mmmhhhmmm), amazing fruit, cooking food, enjoying the simplicity and feeling free and happy.
Somewhere in between, a huge storm (later named Cyclone Bonnie) was brewing on the other side of the country and heading towards the region we were at. That’s when we met Carlos, one of the kindest people we have ever met in life. He not only gave us a very useful information about the cyclone but took us in, gave us his cabaña and amazing coffee produced at his finca and all he wanted in exchange was absolutely nothing. He just wanted to help and wanted more people to visit Costa Rica knowing that good people live there. Oh boy, some ABSOLUTELY GOOD people live in CR and we were really happy and lucky to have met them. We can never thank Carlos enough for his kindness and friendship; people like him are a loving and living reminder of why we all travel, and of what is the biggest value of seeing the world. It is not only about discovering beautiful places and taking instagrammable pictures; in the essence it’s really these human exchanges that teach us what in the world is the most beautiful – our connection to other people. It is so heart warming to be reminded again and again that strangers can become your best friends in a minute; that we are all so similar, that we want, dream of and hope for the same things. Gracias, Carlos!
In this trip, I found and re-connected with my soul sisters and brothers; people that felt so familiar after knowing them for less than an hour; people that taught me so much about life and myself. I will forever be grateful and I know that because of them, I am a better person. Ohh, I am getting sentimental and starting to miss LOADS all those beautiful souls. It’s time for a coffee break.
Speaking of which… we cannot get enough of the amazing coffee we bought at Carlos’s finca (If you want to try it yourself, it’s called BATSU – you can order it and have it shipped to your home. This is unsponsored content, we just really do love this coffee). The finca itself is gorgeous, it was the best spot to sit the storm out.
Surrounded by coffee plantations and incredible nature, we listened to the rain pass, relaxed, recharged, happy to have made another friend in the world. Luckily, Bonnie did not do too much damage in CR but because of it some roads were closed so we had to tweak our travel plans and we went to the beach again. After the storm, the weather got much better and it barely rained for weeks. We could go back to beach life and enjoy cooking simple but good food, play cards and most beautiful of all, see this almost every night:
Our last few days in CR gave us the most gorgeous beaches. One of them was apparently proclaimed the most beautiful beach in the world but the one we found later, Playa Rajadita, was our absolutely favourite one ever. So many times we were alone and had the beach, the waves and the sunsets just to ourselves. We woke up so many mornings with the sound of waves crushing against the shore and little birds singing around us. It felt like parraa paaarraaa paradise 🙂
So, that was it. We were officially in love with Costa Rica, and with travelling in our van so much so that we want to buy one once we’re back to Lux.
It’s not all rainbows and butterflies though: there were tough days too. There were days when the rain just wouldn’t stop – we were just constantly wet, improvised a shelter to be able to cook something and washed dishes in the rain (Jorge had a great little dance while doing it too). There were days when it was so hot that we couldn’t sleep – we were just tired and a little grumpy the day after and sometimes checked into a cheap hostel to recover. There was a time we got stuck in mud – we asked locals to push us out and found the most amazing place to camp after that. There were moments of toilet emergencies- nature is your friend. There were and there are tons of freaking mosquitos – we made it into a game to kill them before sleeping and choke in repellent smell. But none of this diminished the beauty of waking up early surrounded by beautiful nature and not knowing where you will actually wake up the day after. Pura vida.
From Brazil to Luxembourg to Dominican Republic and Colombia
04.05.2022 – 16.6.2022.
Long way back to Brazil
It’s been over two months since we last wrote about our adventures in Peru, and so many things have happened since then. This period following our Peruvian trip brought many crazy ideas, several mini and long-distance trips, and new adventures that changed the way we travel, possibly forever. We took several flights from Peru to Chile in order to get back to the Atacama desert where Sr. Cabron Porsupuesto was patiently soaking up the desert sand and heat before going back home. We’ve spent a few more days in Atacama chilling (or more like freezing at night) under the starry desert sky, and enjoying the Chilean wine again accompanied by the little barbecue dinners. The borders finally opened and it was time to start the 3000 km long way back to Brazil. The way to Curitiba was an exhausting adventure on its own; we got lost, almost ended up in forests of Paraguay, the hotel we booked (and had the confirmation of booking) was closed (and it was the middle of the night); we ended up eating dinner during someones’s wedding party in a random restaurant, and had to search for border police (at the border itself) in order for me to get a stamp in my passport. From the north of Chile to the south of Brazil, besides the beautiful memories we made, we also we brought loads of mud from Argentina, and salt and desert sand from Chile. The car was so dirty it really needed the deepest of cleaning to be put back into the state we have received it in. It was time to say goodbye to Sr. Cabron and return it to its owners. You served us well, Cabron! Gracias.
In Brazil, as usual, smiley faces welcomed us back. It was nice to spend some more time with friends and family before starting new travel adventures. It was a creative time, Jorge was working on his music album and I got to try, and fell in love with, making ceramics. We took a quick trip to the beautiful Ilha do Mel that gave me another not-so-beautiful food poisoning. I still love you, Ilha, I just will never ever eat shrimps there again.
After 2 weeks in Brazil, Jorge had to go back to Luxembourg to fix a few documents and he had the nightmare two days, stuck at the airport, before he could actually get back to Lux. Thanks for that, KLM. Jorge spent two weeks in Lux with our friends and I decided to enjoy Brazil a little more (also, it was really expensive to go back for this very short period of time) but I admit, I was a little sad to miss the great moments Jorge had with our crazy friends in Luxembourg. To make myself less sad… I took another trip, I was on my own this time and I can’t complain at all. I’ve spent four amazing days in Rio, which is probably my favourite city in the whole world. I was wandering Ipanema, Leblon and Copacabana, enjoyed açai, people watching and reading my book on the beach. I’ve been to Rio 3-4 times before so I also wanted to see something new. I went to Ilha Grande, a beautiful island south of Rio and enjoyed very relaxing time on the beach listening to bossa nova coming from beach bars. But then the days spent alone started to be long…
Both Jorge and I realised that two weeks without each other is at least 12 days too much.. we realize that this is pretty much crazy since we have been spending ALL the time with each other in the past 8 months. It’s crazy but it’s amazing at the same time, so it was time for us to meet again. And what’s a better meeting point than a beautiful Caribbean island country? Dominican Republic it is!!!
Dominican Republic: A tropical paradise!
Before meeting in the Dominican Republic, we have already made a crazy plan of how the rest of our trip would be – we basically had bought a van in Costa Rica! We found the add in a Facebook travel group, and made a deal with them without actually ever seeing the van (well, we did see some pictures of it). Then we figured that in the next almost 5 months we will be living in a tiny metal box with no shower nor toilet and so we decided to treat ourselves first with something quite the opposite. And kids… that is how we ended up booking four days in an all-inclusive resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.
This was the first time for both of us to stay in a resort, since we’re not the kind of vacationers that will only sip cocktails and stay on the beach. But OMG, we might become just that in future since those four days were a total bliss. The hotel is like 20 meters from the beach, it has many restaurants, three huge swimming pools, pool bar, daily entertaining activities and well… as many piña coladas as you wish. It was a perfect spot to recharge batteries, do stupid dances at the pool, walk on the perfectly white sand beaches and just relax.
But ok, we couldn’t stay too lazy. After four very relaxing days at the resort, we decided to book a cheaper accommodation and visit more things. We went to the Saona island – it’s basically paradise on Earth with the greenest and the bluest and the cleanest sea water we’ve ever seen. The little boat taking you to the island stops at the natural pool with transparent, incredibly green water, in the middle of the sea, and then the crew serves the well known Dominican rum while you chill in the water. I mean… can it get better than that? Short answer is yes. After that amazing swim, we reached the island bordered by perfect palm trees, and were served the finest piña colada in its original pineapple recipient. The lunch was also included in the price of the excursion but it was probably the worse food I tried in the Dominican. Who cares, everything else was absolutely heavenly (obsession with the pineapple pictured here below).
The Katamaran ride back to the mainland was amazing too, pure pure joy and relaxation (Jorge was probably too relaxed and slept most of the trip). The endless blue sea, nice music, perfect wind that takes some heat away and thoughts of : shit, my life is amazing!
Perfect beaches and paradise islands are not the only thing Dominican Republic has to offer. We also decided to visit Santo Domingo, the capital of DR. The beach days were over since one needs to go outside the city to enjoy the beach but we did enjoy wandering the streets of Santo Domingo, visiting museums and trying local food. It was nearly 40 degrees outside which made our air-conditioned museum visits even more pleasant.
Beautiful and colourful city of Santo Domingo counts with loads of colonial and resistance history visible in its architecture, nice food scene and food markets, and beautiful nature around the city. We visited the “3 ojos” park with cave pools whose colour is totally surreal. It was so damn hot that day, we almost fainted but it was well worth it!
All in all, Dominican Republic was amazing and we decided to go back every time we need to recharge batteries and enjoy the magic of the Caribbean. Our next stop was supposed to be Costa Rica, but we decided to first spend a couple of days in Bogotá since our layover was there anyway.
Layover in Bogotá
It was raining cats and dogs when we landed in Bogotá, but the day after the weather was perfect for exploring the city. We got loads of great tips from our friend Carol who lived in Bogotá until recently and enjoyed thoroughly the food scene, the gold museum, wandering colourful streets of Candelaria and seeing at least a tiny bit of what Colombian life is like. We got incredible views, incredible food and met some really kind people.
We got only a tiny taste of what Colombia offers: it tasted reaaallly well so we cannot wait to have the opportunity to explore this country more. Our trip to Bogotá was very short because we had to be in San Jose, Costa Rica, to take over our van and arrange all the documentation we needed to cross many borders in the upcoming months. Our new, crazy and simple van life had started with the most magical sunsets. More about that… super soon!
It’s been exactly one month since we left Peru. Peru was everything great, kind of perfect combination of the best stuff we have experienced so far. It’s definitely on the very top of our list of the best places we have experienced. At first, we were a little disappointed that we could not drive to Peru from the north of Chile, since we got used to the freedom car traveling offers. We waited for a couple of days to see if the rumors of border opening would be true but they weren’t. We were not gonna miss Peru and seeing Machu Picchu so we decided to fly over. We read about a company called Peru Hop which, on one of the routes they’re offering, allows you to see many great places between Lima and Cusco. The good thing about the Peru Hop is that you have a flexibility of deciding how long you want to stay in a place. The ticket for this route costs about 200 US$ per person and you get to meet a lot of fellow travelers who are on the same mission of discovering Peru. First stop: Lima! Originally, we thought we’d spent only one day in Lima – thinking that it’s another big city that we probably won’t like that much. We were so wrong! After only a couple of hours spent in Lima we decided we wanted to stay at least another day and see more of it. It’s a beautiful city on the coast, with amazing food, great parks, vibrant neighborhoods, great street art and really really welcoming people; basically every single person we met was so super kind and nice.
Lima gave us also some of the best food ever! One of the highlights was eating “combinado” at the “Al Poke Pez,” a tiny place owned by a Netflix-famous chef that hosts guests in his kitchen. In Peru, I was forced to eat a lot of cilantro and I must say that after eating it for a month in almost everything I ordered, I could swallow it without cursing my life 🙂
Travel gives you these new perspectives; not only do you open your mind to new people and sights but also to new textures, taste, and ways of eating local food. And let me tell you, food in Peru was one of the best things one can experience, like seriously, it’s so so good. I learned that, besides ceviche, cuy (guinea pig) and alpaca meat, Peruvians are also crazy about eating soup. I tried only “crema de quinoa” (and didn’t like it really much) because most other soups are cooked with meat. No cuy for any of us though. Besides the best ceviche one could have, I really liked chaufa (fried rice; veggie and vegan options available) and I plan on making it very often once we’re back home. The only thing I didn’t really like was Inca Kola – that drink is incredibly sweet and has bubblegum flawor; I have no idea why Peruvians love it so much (but I heard they really like sweet stuff). And then fruits and veggies… so many kinds that I’ve never tried nor seen before in my life. Peruvian markets are probably the best spot to discover and try fruit, veggies, and some local food, plus they’re like live theater; one can observe local way of life, see and buy amazing crafts, spices and many other produce, listen to live music and simply enjoy a very good and cheap meal (we ate very tasty food for 1€50). Well, pictures will tell you more about Peruvian food:
Did you suddenly get hungry? Yeah, me too but I gotta stop thinking about Peruvian food ‘cos there is so much more to say. After Lima we went to Paracas, a small coastal village some 4 hours south of Lima. Some of the Paracas highlights were: 1. great food again 2. buggy rides through the National Reserve and 3. a visit to Islas Ballestas. OK, all I will say about the point 1 is that I had the best ceviche in a small restaurant which is actually a room of a family home and can receive max 6 people at the same time. 2. Buggy rides? OMG, that was an adventure! Jorge and I try to support small business and local people whenever we can, so instead of booking the buggy ride trip with one of the famous tour operators, we booked ours with a cute couple selling tours. They were so kind to us that we couldn’t resist. At the end we did not regret leaving our money with them because they’re young and honest people trying to make a living but the buggy they rented to us was like the worst one in the entire Reserve. We just laughed when we pushed the gas to the bottom and the rest of the buggy crew still left us far behind in their dust. On the way back our buggy had a flat tire and we had to leave it in the middle of the desert but we still laughed about it and had an amazing adventure and we still went back to the same couple and booked another tour with them to Islas Ballestas.
3. Islas Ballestas are also known as “Poor man’s Galapagos”. One cannot walk on the island since it is a preserved area for many birds, seals and other animals that live there. The clear, perfectly blue waters, rock formations and wildlife are beautiful to see from the boat and it’s definitely a “must do” when in Paracas.
After Paracas we hopped on the bus again, this time to explore Huacachina, the only natural desert oasis in South America. Huacachina is a tiny village surrounded by the sand dunes and it provides sooo much fun. We booked our adventure buggy ride through the dunes as soon as we arrived and what an adventure that was. You know that feeling when you’re on the roller-coaster going up and then you know that, inevitably, you will go down in a great speed? That’s exactly what riding on those sand buggies in Huacachina is, a really unforgettable feeling and experience. Once we got to the top of one of many dunes, we went down sandboarding, laying down, and that was another great thrill. And then… the sunset over the dunes… that was definitely “I love my life” moment.