Archive for January, 2010

I am lagging

I haven´t been very good about blogging on this trip, I confess.  When I rode the GS through Baja Mexico, I did much better and blogged just about every night.  Here, on this trip, I´m blessed with a great traveling companion who not only writes good posts on the blog but who distracts me from writing.  I would much rather be out exploring with her than sitting at a computer.

No offense but them´s the breaks.

I do plan on writing some posts but they may have to be more reflective. We´re in Cartagena, Colombia and it´s pretty fabulous out there.


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iPhone, iLike, iMiss

A little over a week ago our iPhone was stolen. This was more than a disappointment, and it took a good three days for us to get over it and just accept the fact that it, along with A LOT of personal information, is simply gone.  Such a bummer.

Though I was never a big fan of it, I certainly became a believer on this trip. We used that contraption as our currency calculator, stereo (music speakers) in our hotel rooms, back-up camera when we lost our other two cameras, computer whenever we found free wi-fi to email people or get information at the drop of a hat, mobile Lonely Planet guides (pdf downloads) throughout multiple countries (serving as a map, restaurant and lodging guide), a watch/clock in multiple time zones, as well as a phone in which to call home (via Skype) whenever we found free wi-fi. The thing was a brain. and an expensive one at that. We quickly put a request in with Apple to have the information swept clean the next time someone connects our iPhone to the internet. Yes, we did file a police report. and yes, we do have traveler´s insurance. No, we don´t know how much or if we will get reimbursed. Oh, and don´t forget to add Casey´s missing luggage and our other digital camera to the traveler´s insurance claim (all of which we are required to have RECEIPTS for in order to get reimbursed)! Part of the adventure I suppose…

We are now in Cartagena, Colombia. A mere 3 hours ahead of San Francisco time. Though without our iPhone, we now have a SIM Card loaded in our unlocked cell phone (thanks again Fran – this is saving us). So for those of you who don´t mind paying a little extra to send or receive a text from us, please pop us a few lines via text (or email one of us) to give us permission to ping you via text message from Colombia. We think of our family and friends often. Here is our phone number to text in Colombia for the next 4 weeks:



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This Little Piggy

This little piggie went to Africa.

This little piggie stayed home.

This little piggie had a parasite.

This little piggie had none.

This little piggie went wee wee wee, all the way to Argentina.

Many questions and concerns about Casey’s parasite. Little pinkie toe seems fine. No itch. No worm (as far as we can see, or Casey can feel). Wound healed. We will keep an eye on it though. We have pretty much resigned to the fact that we’ve picked up lots of “friends” on our RTW and will likely get a full body check upon our return. I remember taking my microbiology class when I returned from Africa (back in college) and my prof got all excited when she found out that I had been in Africa a few months prior…she wanted me to give her a stool sample so she could check out all the parasites I had picked up! Can you imagine? Giving MY stool sample for the lab class to rummage through under microscopes. Good golly. Did I ever tell you I’m a germ freak?

We’re in Buenos Aires and finally over our jet lag. The trip from Australia to Argentina was probably our roughest leg. We’ve rented a little apartment in downtown Buenos Aires (Recoleta) and are enjoying our own space. Today we are heading off for a day trip to Uruguay (another country that was not on our original itinerary). It is supposed to be a quick 2-hour ferry ride to the town of Colonia so we figured, what the heck.


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Our Sunday in Sydney

Sundays are supposed to be a day of blissful rest, no?  For some reason, even though Casey and I are jobless and without any specific place we have to be at any given time (except when we need to catch a flight), we have found that we still need those days of rest.  Traveling can take a lot out of a person, and constantly packing our bags, trying to think one day ahead to figure out where you’ll sleep, what you’ll see, how to get internet, wash your clothes, store your luggage, find clean and drinkable water, obtain local currency in cash (when your bank limits your daily withdraws), and communicate with the people around you who often don’t speak your language.  Sigh… There seems to be a constant underlying feeling of stress we carry and it can get tiring to say the least.  Believe it or not, one of the most difficult parts of this trip has been resting.  One, to give ourselves the grace to stop trying to see everything in whichever country or city we are visiting, and two, to find our own space where we can really stop and relax.

Sundays are our day of rest back home.  We sleep in, walk down to Farley’s (our neighborhood coffeehouse) to get our hot chocolate and egg-bagel, go to church, grab a late lunch and spend the afternoon at home resting, taking a long walk in our hood or watching a movie and making dinner.  When Casey finally moved back to the City this past year, I was in the midst of heavy training for my triathlons at the time, but I made a very specific effort to reserve Sunday’s for rest.  For this I am grateful, because it became one of the few constants in our fairly busy lives, and became somewhat of a sacred morning and routine that we came to love.  We miss this.

So when our Sunday in Sydney came about, we decided to stop.  To rest.  We had a nice hotel; the same hotel; for 3 blissful nights.  A space of our own for what had become an extended amount of time – anything over two nights has become “extended” for us.  When we first arrived I quickly unpacked every single item of my suitcase, putting away clothes in drawers, hanging them on hangers and setting out my toothbrush and toiletries in the bathroom like I owned the place.  Now mind you, we only had four days in Australia – an unexpected and extended lay-over to a continent that was not on our original itinerary but we happily took advantage of – of which to see what we could.  There was much to do and see in Sydney and beyond, but on this Sunday we decided to rest.

We slept in late (mmmm).  Then lay around (in bed) for another solid hour before considering getting up.  We watched TV from bed – a no-no in our household – then moseyed up to the gym and worked out.  Took a long shower.  Ate in.  Watched the news.  Checked our emails.  Left our clothes on the floor.  Giggled.  Lay back in bed.  It was crazy nice.  The best part?  We didn’t leave our hotel until 3 p.m.!  We then took a long walk down to the water, had lunch overlooking the infamous Sydney Operahouse, hit the Museum of Contemporary Art for quick look and then went to the Aquarium to see Australian crocodiles and sharks.  Home early enough to plop ourselves in front of the TV (yes, again) to watch a movie.  Sundays in our household.  Much needed.

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We are the Majority

Imagine for a moment a place where cars yield to bicycles.  Where there is a large designated lane (the same size as a car lane) for two-wheeled modes of transport, specifically bicycles, scooters and motorcycles, on the right side of every two-lane road, and a separate single lane designated for cars, trucks and/or vans.  There is no road rage from cars and trucks trying to run us cyclists (bi-cycle or motor-cycle) off the road.  There is a common respect for each other.  Everyone merges in the round-abouts, which are a dime a dozen because street lights are very few and reserved only for the larger cities.  When a car decides to turn right, s/he must work their way through the traffic of the cyclists.  Imagine the amount of emissions that are saved by the larger use of motos and bicycles and lesser use of the gas-hogged cars and SUVs that seem to be limited here.

Then imagine the smiles on Casey and my faces as we ride motos through the hills of breath-taking countryside and mountains of the central highlands of Vietnam, and ride bicycles along the coast of the South China Sea.  Freedom.  Beauty.  And each of us reunited with something we love and miss.

In Vietnam, us two-wheeled modes of transportation are the majority.  Geesh, where have I been??

Casey on a moto-taxi

We knew that we were headed to somewhere good when we showed up for our Vietnam Airlines flight to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) a mere 50 minutes for the international flight departed in Singapore, and the flight attendants just smiled, handed us our boarding passes and told us to “have a nice flight.”  We hadn’t missed a flight yet (and this being our 33rd flight on our RTW we felt pretty proud of ourselves), but we had already resigned to the fact that we were certainly going to miss THIS flight.  We just didn’t time our transport to the airport very well, and I think we were having a tough time leaving Singapore where we had finally felt some culture relief.  Nonetheless, for those of you who may not travel internationally much, it is a standard requirement to be checked-in for your flight at least 2 hours prior to the departure time at a minimum.  So us arriving under 2 hours, and even worse, UNDER 1 hour, was pretty much a guarantee that they were not going to let us on the plane.  And to add flame to the fire, if we did happen to get on the plane, it was more than likely that our baggage would never make it with us.

Thankfully, we were taken care of.  We made it, bags and all!

We spent time in Saigon by enjoying the incredible national and international food (from Vietnamese pho to Spanish tapas), taking in the night life with the tourists (with a glass of wine/scotch at the top of the Sheraton overlooking the city, and hit the infamous dance club “Apocalpse Now”), experienced the hustle and bustle of busy city life (jumped on moto-taxis and sho

Boiling the silk worms and unwinding their silk.

pped at the markets) and took a different look at the history of the American War (as we call it, the Vietnam War) by visiting the War Remembrance Museum.  In the central highlands of Vietnam we spent three nights in the mountain town of Da Lat where life was cooler in temperature and the sun was shining sans city smog.  We rented motos here, and explored the countryside on our own, whizzing past the locals and taking in the smells and sights with the wind hitting our faces.  It was so lovely.  We got lost a few times, stumbled upon a few villages, found a silk making farm and watched how silk was made (from hatching silk worms to the weaving of fabric), scooted past the trucks up the mountains, stopped for a late afternoon café and racked in about 120 kilometers or so.  It was so fun!  This is also where we rented a few bikes, wandered the large local markets, botanic gardens and partook in one of the better Vietnamese meals we had.

The drive from Da Lat to the coast of Nha Trang was probably the most beautiful drive we have taken on this trip – albeit the most windy and nauseous imposed.  Glorious lush green mountains with views that would not quit, on well-paved roads and in a comfortable bus no less!  We then spent a few days on the beach where we took long walks, rented more motos and bicycles and saw a few of the local temples and sights.  We also treated ourselves to a traditional mud bath at a spa up in the mountains as we watched the sun set.  We had to pinch ourselves…nope, we’re awake!

The bottom line on our experience here: we fell in love with this country.  It was an unlikely place for us, during an unlikely time (travel tired) for us to feel this way, but we have loved our visit in Vietnam.  We were sorry we hadn’t more time to stay (we already bought our next 3 flights back to Latin America and it was ridiculously priced to change them) but we are hopeful that we will return again some day.  It is a gem.

Yes, that is a mud bath we're in!

Saigon at night

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$50 Pad Thai

(flashback: 15 January 2010)

Lets see, on our way to Australia we have a 6-hour layover in Bangkok (Thailand).  We’ve both been there before but have a hankering for some pad thai, one our of favorite Thai dishes.  Lets do it!

We land, disembark and make it through customs with about 5 hours left to spare.  We scramble through the very large (new) international airport, cash out a $50 traveler’s check into Thai Baht currency and catch a $16, 45 minute, cab ride into the center of Bangkok.  The entire cab ride into the city we are counting our remaining baht (putting aside another $16 for our cab trip back to the airport) and the minutes/hours until we need to be back at the airport to catch our connection to Sydney.  We are dropped off at the Grand Palace, of which closes in less than an hour.  We push our way through the very large crowds of tourists in the heat and humidity to the front gates to see the price of entry to be 750 baht for two people – $23 US.  We haven’t enough money left to get in!  Classic.  We take a few photos at the gate.  Yes we made it to the gate of the Grand Palace.  We putter out to the streets and find ourselves some authentic thai street food – we found our pad thai we’ve been craving, some other unknown deep-fried-goodness, and some thai ice cream to fill our hungry and tired tummies.  All for the cost of a mere 70 baht (a little over $2)!  With less than three hours to spare on a Friday afternoon in traffic-ridden Bangkok, we finally catch a cab back to the airport…

Upon arrival and the realization that we will make our connection, we then scramble around the airport trying to figure out how to spend up our remaining thai baht that will be useless in Australia, and not worth exchanging back into dollars.

About an hour-and-a-half and $50 spent on authentic pad thai in the streets of Bangkok, a few laughs, a bit of stress, and a memory we will not soon forget.  Totally worth it.

Grand Palace

Grand Palace

Made it all the way to the GATE of the Grand Palace but we didn't have enough money to go in! Wearing Casey's sweatshirt to cover my bare shoulders (Buddhist temple).

Our pad thai in the making.

What we call "deep-fried-goodness"

Thanks Bangkok.  It was lovely.

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Late night in Sydney

Earlier this week in Sydney I finally tried to figure out what was going on with my right pinky toe. It’s been itching for awhile now and had begun to bleed a bit near the base of the nail. So, like any redblooded male I woke up at 1:30 am and, equipped with what little tools I had at my disposal, began to “dig around.” What I discovered was that I have been carrying around a parasite of some kind that had burrowed into my toe and taken up residence. The little guy (who consequently had gotten big) had created a cave for himself in the upper part of my toe and had been there for I’m not sure how long. By the time I got to him he had numbed up the better part of my toe and become about an inch long.

I am saving you more details and certainly pictures of the event. Suffice to say it was a tug of war pulling him out with tweezers and both of us lost: he got broken up into pieces and I got left with parts of him still in my toe. Field surgery can have such complications. But I seem to be healing up well, though in the back of my mind is the sneaking suspicion that he’s still in there regenerating. A round two of Casey v. Parasite Toe Worm may very well be in the making.

We’re in Buenos Aires now, recovering from a long day of air travel. Sydney, Auckland, Buenos Aires in one leg. Our little apartment we’ve rented for the nine days we’re here is settling in nicely. More adventuring awaits. Parasites or no.

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