August - December 2019
  • 1. Setting the Stage

    July 29, 2019 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 63 °F

    Its finally happening. The trip that has been in planning stage for over 2 years, and at various times questioned as to the likelihood of actually happening, has begun. After multiple delays for various business reasons, it became real when Craig waved “adios” on July 11.

    The trip in its entirety is an overlander’s journey through Mexico, Central and South America. Conceived by “mi novio” Craig about 3 years ago as a kick-off to his upcoming semi-retirement, it begins in Reno Nevada, and takes him to Ushuaia Argentina, via car. I am joining him in Costa Rica and expect to travel through Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Galapagos, Peru, and Bolivia, with expected departure back home from Santiago Chile.

    Stats: 7,750 miles, 190 driving hours, 8 countries, 3 months.
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  • 2. Travel Prep

    August 1, 2019 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 73 °F

    Those interested in pursuing a venture like this may be interested in the massive planning that took place. If this is not your thing, just skip this step. I’ll try not to bore you with too many details, but here are some of the high points:

    ITINERARY
    o Craig poured over travel books, websites and blogs for months as he created the route for his trip. He had hoped to avoid being on a schedule by just noting points of interest in each town, and staying or leaving as the urge hit him, but the fact that 3-4 other people (some of whom have jobs and schedules to keep) would be joining him along the way, required him to create at least a loose itinerary with dates. Each of us joining the trip know we need to have some flexibility with dates.

    CAR PURCHASE
    o Maximus – (that's what Craig named his new 4Runner TD Pro). This car is in high demand and was not available in Reno. Craig researched availability across the country, made the purchase on line, and ended up flying to Kentucky to pick it up and drive it back.

    OUTFITTING THE CAR
    o This included a roof basket, metal gas cans, winch and winch anchor, front & back dash cams, tilt car alarm, skid plates, sideboards, steering wheel lock, back-up car battery charger, locking lug nuts, tire repair kit, and what appears to be a mini- mechanic’s garage in a huge tote bin.

    BORDER CROSSINGS
    o Craig obtained an international driver’s license, passport pictures for visas, proof of car insurance, and ensured compliance with various customs requirements for each country.

    SAFETY
    o There was significant research on travel blogs and travel advisory sites for advice and guidance, which included having a plan to deal with corrupt policia, carrying extra license plates, copies of driver’s license and passport, as well as equipping the car with the safety and recovery gear mentioned above.

    IMMUNIZATION
    o I got vaccinations for Typhoid, Yellow Fever, Hep A, and Hep B. With a planned visit to Galapagos, I considered a set of rabies shots, but at $400 a pop (3 shots required), I passed on this. Rabies WILL kill you if untreated, but apparently it is a very slow acting venom that is quite curable with after-the-fact treatment. (Fingers crossed this does not become an issue!)
    o Medical travel insurance was obtained just in case something dire occurs that requires one or both of us to be transported back to the US.

    PACKING
    o I think it was surprising to both Craig and myself how quickly the car filled up when we did a trial car packing exercise. With the Kong cooler, the huge tub of mechanical and safety equipment, our 2 large suitcases, the winch anchor, and tubs of extra food/supplies, there was little space for anything else but us. He wasn’t happy when I told him I may need more than one suitcase, but c’mon – a girl needs multiple pairs of shoes and a hairdryer, right?

    SHIPPING THE CAR
    o Although this is yet unscheduled, much research was done on shipping the car over the Darien Gap (which connects Panama with Colombia, and is much too dangerous to drive through), as well as shipping the car back to the States at then end of the trip. The biggest concern is that everything will be stolen out of the car. I’m not sure how this will play out. Again, fingers crossed.
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  • 3. The Date is Set!

    August 12, 2019 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 73 °F

    Craig is now close enough to San Jose to confirm our rendezvous date, which is...…
    AUGUST 23, nine days away!

    My 12+ hours flight leaves at 6A and arrives after 7P. Craig’s stepson Ken, who has been travelling with him since Belize, will be departing as I arrive. I’m really glad Kenny, who is a big strong (young) guy, was with Craig through some of the more dangerous areas of Central America. Safety in numbers, right?

    I’ve been to CR before, but not in the area through which we will travel this time. Although much of the trip is loosely planned and will be a journey of discovery, I am looking forward to a few highlights. They include surfing in Costa Rica (I’m determined to get up on the board this time!), seeing the Panama Canal and experiencing the vibrant and modern Panama City, doing business with Colombian drug lords (not), seeing how the retired ex-Pats live in Ecuador, (could be my future – you never know), enjoying the wildlife and understanding the ecological challenges of Galapagos, trekking to Machu Pichu in Peru, visiting the 16,000+ ft high Lake Titicaca, and finishing with 3 days of roughing it through the Laguna Trail in Bolivia. Another highlight would be grabbing a pick-up game of soccer with the locals somewhere, if they’d be willing to let a gringo (and female at that!) on the pitch.

    I’m so excited.
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    Janet Tewhill

    Have a fantastic journey! I am so excited for you and also very envious! Be safe and enjoy every mile of it. Janet

    8/13/19Reply
    Yuki Yang

    Only a few days to go! Looking forward to following your journey.

    8/20/19Reply
     
  • Day1

    4. Costa Rica - Arrived!

    August 23, 2019 in Costa Rica ⋅ ⛅ 70 °F

    After watching the clock tick slowly towards my departure date over the last few weeks, it's finally here. My flights were on time and were unusually pleasant (thanks, Alaska Air, for the upgrade!), and the customs line in CR relatively short. I was worried that they might have questions about me having no documented departure plan from the country (b/c I'm flying back from Bolivia), but the agent looked tired and apparently didn't view me as much of a threat. Upon determining where I was staying for the evening, he produced the coveted passport stamp and I proceeded without incident through the baggage check and out to where Craig was waiting.

    The journey begins...
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  • Day3

    6. CR - Dominical

    August 25, 2019 in Costa Rica ⋅ ☁️ 81 °F

    Dominical is a beachfront community focused on surfing and more surfing. We stayed for 2 nights at a beach resort called Diuwak. The word resort is used loosely; a Costa Rican small town resort is not the same as the Half Moon Bay Ritz Carlton by any stretch. While the grounds were quite lush and beautiful, the a/c died in our first room, and we had trouble with the plumbing in our second room. The shower had no temperature control, but the room was clean and quite pleasant otherwise.Read more

  • Day4

    7. CR - Dominical - Surfer Girl!

    August 26, 2019 in Costa Rica ⋅ 🌧 82 °F

    At Dominical Beach, I took my first ever surfing lesson with Eze from the CR Surf School. They are careful to schedule lessons at low tide, and teach you in the white water, not the big breakers. They guarantee you will get up on the board, and they were right! It was so fun, though there will be no style points awarded today...Read more

    Diane Oswald

    Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?!?!!! JK. I’m very impressed - you looked great!

    8/28/19Reply
    Mike Heap

    You go girl! Awesome.

    8/29/19Reply
    Yuki Yang

    Way to go! 🙌🏻

    8/29/19Reply
    Chris Hottinger

    You look awesome surfer girl!

    10/2/19Reply
     
  • Day4

    8. CR - Dominical - no Pura Vida today..

    August 26, 2019 in Costa Rica ⋅ ☁️ 81 °F

    You have probably heard the Costa Rican phrase "pura vida", or pure life, which loosely translates into "the good life". Craig and I have been enjoying the pura vida - until today.

    Craig had a number of things that he did not need regular access to stored in a water-proof soft cargo bag affixed to the roof rack, including a few things I gave him before he left so as not to have to transport them on the plane. We finally got around to opening the bag to find a few small rips that allowed enough of the occasional torrential downpours over the last few weeks to sleep in. Clothes were drenched, smelly, mildewed and moldy. Kinda gross.

    We asked at the front desk about local laundry facilities in the area. They told us there were none around except for the on-site facility that would do laundry @ $1 per item. Yikes! With very little additional research, we located 2 public laundry options within a mile of the hotel, and used one of them. BTW - when I say public laundry, the one we chose consisted of a guy in a garage with a few washers and dryers hooked up, and a few bags of laundry ahead of us I'm the queue. We left the clothes, crossed our fingers, and later retrieved a bag of freshly laundered, 95% mildew-free, folded clothes. Although a few things could not be salvaged (Craig's hiking boots for one), we came out relatively unscathed.
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    Diane Oswald

    😐 Bummer. At least you were able to salvage most of it.

    8/28/19Reply
    Chris Hottinger

    I could have salvaged those boots! ;-)

    10/2/19Reply
     
  • Day6

    9. CR - Pavones

    August 28, 2019 in Costa Rica ⋅ ⛅ 84 °F

    We thought Dominical was a one-horse town with its raison d’etre being surfing, until we came to the tiny 600 resident community of Pavones. It consists of 2 grocery stores (about twice the size of a 7-11 mini-mart), with several hostels/family run hotels (usually with 1-4 rooms), a few eateries, (mostly like your typical outdoor beach-bar), and the ever-important surf shop. The guide books announce clearly that there are no banks or gas stations here, so you need to stock up before you arrive. (Credit cards are rarely accepted).

    This area is famed for having the second largest point-breaking surf in the world. Craig has taught me – beach break is bad – that’s when the wave pretty much breaks all at once, and point break is good – when the wave starts breaking at one end and the break rolls towards the other end. Remember the Hawaii 5-0 TV show opening?

    Surfing today – then on to Panama.
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    Ronald Geraty

    So jealous, Karen. Stay as long as you can.

    8/30/19Reply
     
  • Day6

    10. I no longer take for granted...

    August 28, 2019 in Costa Rica ⋅ ☁️ 79 °F

    Though I've been traveling for only about a week so far, I have quickly come to realize and appreciate how good we have it in the US. Here are a few things I no longer take for granted...

    Karen Moore

    If you drink enough tequila you will get used to throwing toilet paper in the trash. Having so much fun following your trip!

    9/3/19Reply
    Karen Hechinger

    No tequila for me. As you probably know, JT put me off tequila years ago!

    9/4/19Reply