Adventurous Weekends, Surprise Visits, and the Dude: Life in Studio City

Life Off the Road is tough.

Life Off the Road is tough.

I told you last time how we were leaving Venice, and our life from before the Big Adventure behind, but I had no idea how fun the next chapter was going to be. That’s why I haven’t written anything in so long! Time is funny, especially for us dogs. One moment you’re playing tug of war with Maya over the plastic bone from El Salvador, then you look up and Human weeks have gone by!

We packed all of our stuff out of Erik’s apartment and headed north to Studio City, and the beginning of the end of our life on the road. It didn’t take that long to get to Tanya and Sean’s, but my nose told me we were in a totally different part of Los Angeles. We crossed a big mountain to get there, and the smells of the beach were nowhere to be found. Sean and Tanya have a whole HOUSE, and we were going to stay there while they were away. I knew pretty quickly this arrangement was going to be tons of fun. Victoria and Jason deposited me and Maya on the back patio so they could move our stuff out of the camper, and we immediately met the Dude, and his Human Andrew. Dude is super cool, always happy to see you, and a total role model for Maya. Over the next month I watched Maya follow his every footstep, eating his food, barking at the squirrels, and laying about in the sun. Andrew was super nice too. He had no problem with me jumping up in his lap, or even sneaking into his bedroom first thing in the morning to snuggle up.

The Dude.  Enough said.

The Dude. Enough said.

The next day we met Archie, another super cool dog that usually travels with Tanya and Sean but he got left home this time, which was just fine by me. Four dogs in the same house! We outnumbered the Humans! We wandered the house together like a pack of beach dogs all day long, tasting each others food, wrestling, running around, and sharing our toys. I could tell that we were a little bit much to deal with sometimes, but Victoria, Jason and Andrew still let us play to our heart’s content. Pair that with a super sunny patio and a ridiculously comfy bed, and I was basically ready to declare this place doggie heaven.

This is Archie.  He's awesome, and really good at sharing his food.

This is Archie. He’s awesome, and really good at sharing his food.

There were tons of other Humans around to hang out with, and to bark at. Hey, sometimes it just has to be done, you know? There was a big pool outside, almost like the one we had at the big jungle house in Costa Rica, and once a week two people would come over to clean it. They were pretty grumpy, so even though Victoria and Jason told us not to bark, they still kinda let us. Once some ladies came to clean the house, and they were super nice! In fact, one of them was from Oaxaca, one of our favorite places in Mexico! Victoria talked to her about chile rellenos and that beautiful city we had visited. It felt like we had brought a little bit of my Big Adventure to our new home. One day, Katie, Mike and little Marley even came to swim at the pool, and of course Andrew was there most of the time, always more than ready to give us dogs delicious treats. We didn’t even have to do anything for them!

I may or may not have been forced to go swimming.

I may or may not have been forced to go swimming.

It was about this point when Victoria and Jason started noticing my figure. It’s not something us dogs really think about, but apparently I had put on a couple of pounds since returning to the United States. I wasn’t about to be fat shamed, but I guess I had company. Victoria and Jason were complaining that they had gained weight too! I don’t know what their excuse is, but there were four bowls of dog food sitting on the floor. How could you not expect me to graze? Jason blamed his situation on something called In ‘N Out, while Victoria blamed it on the differences between camper life and life in a house. True, I was getting pretty lazy these days. But after so much time spent jumping from place to place, and eating all sorts of different dog foods (some tasty, some not so much), this was easy living.

Just as I was getting really settled in, My Family packed up the camper and we set out super early in the morning. What gives? I’m not entirely clear on Human time, but that didn’t seem like a full month yet. We drove back down the big mountain and through Venice, over to a storage space. A nice man with a giant truck dropped off a mountain of boxes and chairs, and Jason had to put it all away. Humans like stuff, but it takes up room. So when they want even more stuff they have to rent a place to keep it all. It’s complicated and silly, I know. Just as I was starting to wonder why we had to pack back into the camper for this, I got a huge surprise: Lorna and David! Victoria’s parents were in town for a visit! My tail nearly wagged off my behind. Even Maya, who normally just pees herself when there’s any kind of surprise, was jumping up and giving huge kisses.

Maya and me, hanging out with David.

Maya and me, hanging out with David.

We had packed up and left the Studio City house because we were going to spend a few days with Lorna and David in another house. Best of all? It was back in Venice! My Dogtown days weren’t quite over. The whole Family unloaded cars into a cute house near where we used to live, with a huge yard that Maya and I were allowed to explore to our heart’s content. We spent our time together doing some of my absolute favorite things: going on walks, snuggling on the couch, hanging out on the deck in sunny spots, and chasing Maya around the yard. Well, I think that’s only MY favorite thing, but Lorna and David didn’t seem to have a problem with it. Best of all, the smells rolling out of the kitchen were constant and amazing, wrapping around my very soul. More often than not, Maya and I each got a taste.

Pleaty of room for running at out Venice vacation house!

Plenty of room for running and playing at our Venice vacation house!

Soon I discovered why My Family got that furniture. Lorna and David had given up their house in Miami, and were in the middle of their own Big Adventure. They drove all the way across the country to see us, and gave My Family a car they weren’t going to use anymore! After our stay in Venice, they were getting on an airplane and flying to a place called London, which is across the whole Atlantic Ocean. They were going to live there! I was a little bit sad to discover this, even though they were very excited for this next chapter. What’s up with all this change? I sure hope it doesn’t mean we’re going to see them less. Hanging out with Lorna and David made for some of my favorite moments during My Family’s Big Adventure. We may not be wandering colonial cities with them anymore, but I’d be content going anywhere with them. I made sure to give them extra long snuggles (and more than a few kisses) while we were together, so they would be sure to know how much I loved them.

What's better than wandering around colonial cities with Lorna and David? HIKING around the canyons with Lorna and David!

What’s better than wandering around colonial cities with Lorna and David? HIKING around the canyons with Lorna and David!

Lorna and David had to get on a plane. We had a pretty teary goodbye, and then Victoria and Jason took us to the vet for shots. Yeah, that’s right. Couldn’t they have spread this crummy stuff out? We packed up the house in Venice and drove back to Studio City, Maya with Jason in the Big Truck, and me with Victoria in our gifted car, JETT. Jason says it’s actually a Volkswagen Jetta with the ‘a’ missing, but I’m just going to call it JETT, because that’s way cooler. We got back to Studio City without a problem, even though Victoria was pretty nervous. This was her first time driving a car in more than a year and a half. Yeah, she felt a little bit rusty.

Me, in the back seat of JETT.

Me, in the back seat of JETT.

After a couple of days in Studio City, we packed into JETT for another adventure. Hey, this life off the road is still pretty cool! Jason pointed JETT east, and after a couple of hours we were in a town that was very hot and very dry, and Maya and I were panting our faces off in the backseat. Jason and Victoria were super excited about something called ‘Coachella’, and hanging out at a swanky hotel with Katie and Mike. I don’t know about this Coachella thing, and I sure never got to go, but the hotel part was just fine by me. The room was surrounded by grassy spots, and dogs were more than welcome. The bed was super cozy, and My Family was in a great mood. We did get left behind a lot, but I couldn’t really complain. There didn’t seem to be any other dogs lucky enough to be there, so when Maya and I had to occupy ourselves while Victoria and Jason listened to music, we were more than happy to enjoy the icy cold air conditioning . The last night there, Victoria hung out with us all night while Jason and Mike went to that Coachella thing. Jason came home very excited about some guy named Jack White, saying he “killed it”, and he “burned the whole damn place down”. I don’t know, Jack White doesn’t sound like a very nice person.

Our front yard at the La Quinta Hotel. Swanky!

Our front yard at the La Quinta Hotel. Swanky!

A couple of nights in the swanky hotel, and we hopped back into JETT and headed for home. We did make a couple of cool pit stops first, checking out this HUGE body of water called the Salton Sea, and a strange campsite out in the desert called Slab City. By the time we got out of the car in Slab City, I didn’t think I could pant any harder. It was really sunny, and really, REALLY hot. Jason and Victoria wanted to see this place called Salvation Mountain, however, and after Maya and I guzzled water we agreed it was definitely worth the trip. Big and colorful, with all sorts of Humans climbing around and taking pictures. I can’t say I understood exactly what it was all about, but they’re not looking for doggie tour guides anyway.

Salvation Mountain.  DOG IS LOVE.

Salvation Mountain. Pretty sure they meant to say DOG IS LOVE.

We drove back to Studio City and settled back in at Tanya and Sean’s. I was pretty confident at this point that the adventure was over, and I was going to get some time to just lay about and relax. For the next few days, that’s exactly what I did. Jason kept going off to work and working tons when he was home too. Victoria made sure we were all taken care of, and that Jason had delicious lunches to take along with him. Maya played with sticks and learned to be more like the Dude. Archie settled back into his routine, having a daft half hour with Maya during the day, sleeping in the bedroom with us at night, and sometimes even hunkering down on the bed with us.

We all miss hanging out with Archie, especially Maya.

We all miss hanging out with Archie, especially Maya.

One day Sean and Tanya came home. Boy, was Archie happy to see them! I know the feeling. Being away from your family is never fun, and Archie was really good the whole time. So nice to us, and fun to play with. I could tell he loves his family, and My Family loves them too. I don’t think I had ever met them before, but they are really fun to hang out with, and the Dude, Archie, Maya and I all agreed their baby is going to be super awesome too . We enjoyed a couple of days together, hanging out by the pool and catching up on all of their adventures in Canada, Australia, and in some place called Bora Bora, that doesn’t sound boring boring at all.

Then I got really confused. We had moved into a different bedroom when they got home, so I had thought we were going to stay there forever, with our new, bigger family. Boy, was I wrong. A couple of weeks before this we had driven out to another part of Los Angeles called Topanga. It was a quick trip, but a super pretty one. Trees, birds, and curvy mountain roads, like we drove in Guatemala. There was a house there that My Family wanted to show Lorna and David, but we didn’t actually know anyone who lived there. Apparently, this was going to be our home! Yep, My Family was moving to Topanga. Not just another quick stop, but somewhere we are going to stay for a whole year! I’ll check back in soon and let you know how life OFF the road is going!

25
May 2015
POSTED BY Neli
POSTED IN

California, USA

DISCUSSION 3 Comments

Dogtown Daze

Me, lounging in a driveway.  Almost like being at the beach (not really!)...

Me, lounging in a driveway. Almost like being at the beach (not really!)…

After we packed up and left Jason’s family behind in Oceanside, it was finally time for our triumphant return to Venice. This was the last place we called home before packing up the camper and leaving on the Big Adventure, back in the days before Maya, before border crossings, basically before everything I had known as my life for the last year and a half. What was it going to be like?

Well, before I got a chance to find out, My Family took a bunch of time to run errands. We had to get a new part for the camper’s table and a new bunch of treats to eat during the week, all before hopping on a giant highway and turning north. I couldn’t remember the last time I had seen so many cars! There were four lanes moving in either direction, packed with people, and My Family was none too impressed. Even Maya was tapping nervously at the back seat. Jason got reacquainted with American highway driving, and a couple of hours later we rolled into Venice in one piece.

Our old street.  Smells basically the same.

Our old street. Smells basically the same.

The smells! As soon as we crossed the city line I could tell we were home again. There was Abbot Kinney, and my favorite doggie shop. There was the stretch of lawn in front of the wee blue houses that I liked to pee on. And there were Katie and Mike! We got settled into the parking lot behind their house and tucked in for a big meal together. I’m not exactly sure if Wickets and Beverly were happy to see me, but they were both very nice to Maya, and Katie and Mike’s little girl Marley really loved us dogs. She’s a baby, which basically means a small human who walks around like a drunk full-sized human. The adult humans traded stories and ate pizza, while Maya and I tried to get used to city life.

Oh hey!  Check me out on Katie and Mike's front porch, just like old times when I used to be the judge and jury for all the dogs on the block!

Oh hey! Check me out on Katie and Mike’s front porch, just like old times when I used to be the judge and jury for all the dogs on the block!

First of all? It’s so loud here! Humans are terrible about sound; they don’t hear ANYTHING. And in Venice, there’s a lot to hear. At any given time there’s traffic, sirens, helicopters, music, screaming, honking, wheels rolling on pavement, drums, laughter, and basically any other people noises you can think of. It was pretty overwhelming, and I know it wasn’t just us dogs that were affected. That first night Jason couldn’t sleep because of the sound of helicopters above our camper. We’re used to spending the night almost anywhere, but this was something different. We weren’t in a campsite, we were on a driveway, in a busy neighborhood. It felt like one of our nights at a Pemex gas station, except even noisier! I figured it was going to take a little while to get used to this next part of the Big Adventure.

The Boardwalk.  So many people.  So many smells.  And so many good things to pee on!

The Boardwalk. So many people. So many smells. And so many good things to pee on!

Despite the new (old?) noises, the next couple of days were super fun. We wandered our old neighborhood, and ran into all sorts of friends. It was cool seeing so many happy faces, and to introduce Maya to all of the nice humans I had liked so much when we lived here. The dogs around here, however, didn’t seem nearly as happy or friendly. The locals call Venice ‘Dogtown’, I guess because almost everyone has dogs? And those dogs are ALWAYS on leash, stuck in houses, or kept behind fences on well-tended yards. I know it’s not a bad life. After all, us American dogs get all the food we could want, a comfy bed to lay in, and plenty of toys to destroy. I guess it’s a fair deal, but it certainly seemed like the dogs south of the border were freer. They get to go everywhere, run around in the sand and the dirt, and are always meeting new humans and dogs. Around here, humans walking their dogs actually crossed the street to avoid me and Maya. I don’t get it. Do I smell bad? I know I bark sometimes, but can’t we all just work it out? Strange behavior. We did get to be off leash a bit in Katie’s front yard and at the dog park, but it’s not the same. I guess all of those rules I noticed in Oceanside are even more strict here, since there’s way more humans and cars running about.

This is Marley.  She's a baby.  Babies smells (and taste great when you lick them) but they also like to slap you in the face sometimes.

This is Marley. She’s a baby. Babies smell (and taste great when you lick them) but they also like to slap you in the face sometimes.

I noticed a couple more differences during the days we spent parked behind our old street. First of all, humans run here. Like, just for fun. They’re not being chased or anything. And the cars are really quiet! There are all these things called ‘hybrids’ and you don’t hear them coming. Thankfully, it wasn’t all strange. We had plenty of delicious treats with our old neighbors, and lots of great walks around the streets we used to call home. I guess we changed, but Dogtown has basically stayed the same.

After a few more days with Mike and Katie we said our goodbyes. They’re the most awesomest hosts ever, but we were taking up all of their parking spots with our big truck, and in Venice that’s a pretty big deal. There’s nowhere good to camp in Los Angeles, no big sandy patches to park in or beaches you can stay on all night, so we were going to keep staying with friends. We packed down and headed just a few blocks away to our friend Karyn’s house. She’s super awesome. We had a lot of fun together when she came to visit us in Costa Rica, and we were going to spend a few days parked in her driveway. As seems to be the habit now, with our driving days fewer and farther in between, we had to run a bunch of errands before making our next destination. The grocery store, the storage center (to drop off some of the camping gear we didn’t need, now that we were city camping), and finally on to Karyn’s. It was so great to see her again! I thought my tail was going to wag right off when I saw her outside the house. I immediately made my way into Karyn’s lap, and I don’t think I moved until after we had spent hours in her cozy back patio. I finally left Karyn alone so she could get to sleep, and we headed into the camper for bed.

Karyn, me, and Devon.  I love these ladies.

Karyn, me, and Devon. I love these ladies.

The next day brought a pretty serious change in our routine: Jason left for work! As you know if you’ve been following my blog, Jason has been able to work pretty much anywhere during the Big Adventure. He’s made an office of beaches, jungles, farms, coffee shops, bars, restaurants and tattoo parlors, all without much of a problem. Here in America, lots of humans work in actual offices, so now that we were back, he had to do the same. That means getting up early, wearing real clothes and shoes, and commuting to a whole different part of Los Angeles. Jason was none too happy about this new development, so we all tried to give him as much love as possible before he left. Well, Victoria and I did. Maya was too busy barking at all of the dogs on leashes that walked by Karyn’s house. She just doesn’t get why they’re not allowed to play with her.

Chihuahua art.  Not that I'm biased or anything, but this pretty sweet.

Chihuahua art. Not that I’m biased or anything, but this pretty sweet.

The following few days passed quickly. We spent a lot of time going for walks in the neighborhood and hanging out with Karyn, and her daughter Devon. Oh, Karyn has a cat, and that caused a few issues with Maya. If you don’t know by now, Maya is scared of EVERYTHING. I’m pretty sure she pooped herself when she saw the cat nearby in the backyard. Jason worked, Victoria cleaned up the camper and started researching our next step, Maya and I wrestled, played with sticks and loved on Karyn. Your basic week. Maya had to go to the vet one day, something she isn’t used to and seriously doesn’t like, we both got baths another day (something else Maya isn’t enthralled with), and passed the time in the beautiful weather of our home town. I thought that I’d get used to all the sounds, the humans and the leashed dogs the more time we spent here, but so far it wasn’t happening.

Weird flying guy on the street.  He didn't move. At all.

Weird flying guy on the street. He didn’t move. At all.

One day we got to go to a party! Victoria and Jason have a friend name Dana, and it was her birthday. She’s pretty cool, and she let Maya and me come to her party. There was so much food and so many people I thought my eyes were going to pop out of my head! I didn’t get to taste anything delicious, but I did get to see some of my favorite humans I hadn’t seen in a long time. Everyone wanted to hear My Family’s Big Adventure stories, and we got to spend hours lounging on the lawn. It’s sort of a strange thing to come back to a place where so many humans and dogs know you, after spending so much time in places where you don’t know anyone. On one hand, it’s really nice to be surrounded by humans and dogs you share a history with. On the other, it can be pretty overwhelming, at least at first. We had a blast at the party, but when it was time to go home I was more than happy to jump back into the camper.

Human parties basically mean a bunch of people get together in a small space, drink that alcohol stuff they love so much, talk A LOT, and eat a bunch of delicious smelling food without sharing any with the dogs (no matter how cute we are). Fun...

Human parties basically mean a bunch of people get together in a small space, drink that alcohol stuff they love so much, talk A LOT, and eat a bunch of delicious smelling food without sharing any with the dogs (no matter how cute we are). Fun…

We finally decided it was time to say goodbye to Karyn and move on. I was sort of hoping we were going to stay there forever. After all, we had a spot to run around off leash, access to fresh water, and plenty of grass to roll on. It was pretty much ideal to me. My Family, however, didn’t want to overstay their welcome. So Jason packed up the camper and we drove off. More errands, but then a very short drive to our friend Erik’s apartment. Erik is a super nice human, and he let my whole family stay in his apartment while he was out of town!

I mean, how great is carpet, right?

I mean, how great is carpet, right?

Although awesome, this was pretty strange at first. Other than that one night with Jason’s family when the big truck was in the shop, we hadn’t stayed out of the camper since we lived in San Miguel de Allende over the holidays. I don’t know if this is a human years versus dog years thing or what, but that felt like forever ago. Suddenly, there we were, with a bed, and carpeting to roll around on, and a whole big kitchen with room for our bowls and everything! I settled right in; after all, I’m a cosmopolitan pooch. Maya, on the other hand, didn’t really know what to do with herself. Jason keeps calling her a ‘country dog’, and I guess that’s true. She’s from Guatemala, hasn’t spent much time in her life in cities with lots of people, and has spent even less time in people’s houses. Jason called her a ‘bull in a China shop’, and he and Victoria spent a lot of time chasing her around making sure she didn’t break any of Erik’s cool stuff. I didn’t see anything Chinese in there, and there definitely wasn’t anything for sale, but whatever. Humans…

Three-legged dog at the dog park.  Sort of like Keryn's scary cat who only has two and a half legs, but much less cat-like and therefor much cooler.

Three-legged dog at the dog park. Sort of like Karyn’s scary cat who only has two and a half legs, but much less cat-like and therefor much cooler.

The next week passed quickly. Jason kept going to work, and Victoria kept researching. Apparently, instead of looking for campsites, we were looking for houses. We were going to stay in Los Angeles! They didn’t tell me much, so I’m not sure how long this was going to be for, or where it was going to be. All I knew was, My Family was looking for somewhere to call home. Jason and Victoria spent a lot of time on the computer, searching for places that looked nice and were okay for dogs. We even went off and looked at some places. Nothing seemed to fit, though, and My Family was starting to get nervous. They weren’t really sure where we were going to stay after Erik came home. We had a lot of friends in Venice, but not everyone has room to put up two humans, two dogs and a big camper. What would happen?

Me and Allison at Stoop Happy Hour.  Happy Hour means humans sit around and drink alcohol.  Fun!

Me and Alison at Stoop Happy Hour. Happy Hour means humans sit around and drink alcohol. Fun!

One day, Jason called Victoria from work with some good news. Our friends Tanya and Sean were going out of town for a whole month, and they had offered us their place while they were gone! How cool is that?! Jason and Victoria were super thankful and super excited. Our friends were all being so nice, and really supportive of our traveling lifestyle after so long away from home. I readied myself for another errand run and another quick drive to another part of Venice. We packed down, said goodbye to our good friends Hani and Alison (who lived in the same building as Erik), and hopped in the truck.

Then, something truly unexpected happened. We left Venice behind. I was so confused. Were were not going to stay in our old home town anymore? I discovered that Sean and Tanya live in a place called Studio City, also in Los Angeles but quite a ways from Venice. This was the end of our Dogtown Days, and I couldn’t figure out how I felt about that. On one hand, I was excited about a new adventure, and exploring another part of Los Angeles made it feel a lot more like our Big Adventure, when we were always checking out new towns. On the other hand, it seemed clear that we weren’t going to live in Venice anymore. Our old block was just that, an old home, no longer ours. New people lived in the wee blue house, and as awesome as our old life was, it was impossible to recreate it. We had to chart a new path. Well, Victoria and Jason did. All I get to chart is my pee spots but I’m sure hoping that during our time in Studio City I get a chance to overhear what’s next. Right now, it all feels a lot strange, and I’m kind of missing our old life on the road.

 PS: To see some of the photos My Family took during our time in Venice, click here.

05
Apr 2015
POSTED BY Neli
POSTED IN

California, USA

DISCUSSION No Comments

Reunions, Regulations, and Repairs

After 500 days south of the border, we're baaack!

After 500 days south of the border, we’re baaack!

Our last morning in Mexico dawned cold and wet, with heavy, chilly rain pounding the roof and turning the campsite into mud. As you can imagine, all I wanted to do was huddle under the covers and wait for the sun. Victoria and Jason, however, were eager to get our last border crossing handled, so out of the camper we popped. The rain was coming down so hard that even Maya wanted nothing to do with it. Jason scrambled to get us broken down and ready to go, and soon we were back in the truck and on the road towards the border.

The rain cut out, and after a quick stop to handle some paperwork, we rolled to a halt in a line of cars heading for the United States. Talk about boring! There was nothing to look at but a big ugly wall, and nothing to do but sit while we inched forward for the next hour and a half. Finally it was our turn at the border. I knew My Family was a bit nervous, after hearing some horror stories from friends who had crossed back into the US before us. The border agent took one look at me and broke out into a big smile. They didn’t have any problem with Maya coming home with us, and only seemed to be concerned about fruit. Five minutes later we were across the border, and back in our home country!

Other than crossing through a giant wall, I didn’t notice much of a difference right away. Jason and Victoria were beside themselves, however. Jason couldn’t get used to the speed limit signs being in miles instead of kilometers, and Victoria griped that we couldn’t just pick any old spot for a pee stop. We made our way out of the unincorporated country east of San Diego, and soon found ourselves surrounded by brand names and mini-malls. A few twists and turns later, we pulled onto a cozy, quiet street filled with homes. Where was our campsite?

Goodbye sand and grass.  Hello pavement...

Goodbye sand and grass. Hello pavement…

A moment later I understood: Jason’s family lived here! I thought my tail would wag right off when I got to say hello to Lilly, Rosie Pants, Jason’s sister Samantha, her daughter Abby, and Jason’s parents Gail and Elliott. I hadn’t seen them in FOREVER, and I had never met little Rosie Pants before. What a reunion! Everyone was so excited to meet Maya and to hear about all of our adventures, and Abby wanted to hang out in our camper as much as possible.

Lots of room for running around in Jason's family's house!

Lots of room for running around in Jason’s family’s house!

We spent more than a week with Jason’s family, and it was super cool to have a house to run around in, a yard and a patio for lounging, and nice people who love to snuggle up. But I couldn’t believe all the rules here! I guess I’d been out of the United States so long that I had forgotten. The part of Oceanside we stayed in isn’t actually ocean-side, rather it was full of houses, people, and dogs. Not only is there no sand, but us dogs have to be on leash pretty much everywhere! There are even signs about it, and you have to pay money if you break the rules! We even heard that dogs can’t even go on the beaches here, let alone run off leash! I got a little bit sad, wondering if Maya and my days of freedom were gone forever. I did enjoy all the great humans who were around, and it’s pretty cool that most of them like dogs and aren’t scared of us. The other dogs don’t seem quite as happy. The traveler and camp dogs we had met during the Big Adventure smiled so much, and spent their days running around in happy little packs. Most dogs around here spend their days on leashes or behind fences, which seems to make them grumpy and want to bark at other dogs all the time. I noticed that even I started barking more at these dogs, a habit I had really tried to break while we were traveling. I guess it’ll take some getting used to.

Even the 'green spaces' are full of concrete :(

Even the ‘green spaces’ are full of concrete :(

Rules schmules. We don't need no stink in' rules!

Rules schmules. We don’t need no stinkin’ rules!

We ignored the rules one day for some much needed off-leash time

We ignored the rules one day for some much needed off-leash time!

We ran so hard, even Maya got tired out!

We ran so hard, even Maya got tired out!

What won’t be so hard to get used to is the food. Oh my gosh! So many choices! Victoria was giddy that whole first week. She couldn’t believe how many options we now had, and she and Jason sure took advantage. I was getting tasty bites of delicious cheeses and meats I hadn’t seen in over a year. And the dog food? Que fancy! We finished our Mexican kibble and found ourselves treated to what felt like super food. Maya was sure happy about this new development. Jason loved the crazy fast internet that made working so easy, and gushed about the selection of good beer, and the fact that you could find it almost anywhere. I guess San Diego is a big beer place, because the humans here talk about it all the time. It was so good that Victoria’s parents treated Vic and Jason to a night out on the town so they could sample some of what this area had to offer. Don’t worry, just as when we were south, Maya and I were left behind in the camper…

Holy choices, Batman!  A dog could get used to this!

Holy choices, Batman! A dog could get used to this!

We spent a ton of time with Jason’s family, which was quite alright with me. Elliott absolutely loves dogs, and Lilly and Rosie Pants showed us the best methods for getting treats out of him. It wasn’t that tough. Abby really loved us dogs too, and spent a lot of time running around with Maya and me. She even gave Maya a new toy, which was super nice of her. One night, Abby joined us for a sleepover in the camper. After all this time, she was our first sleepover guest! It was pretty fun snuggling up with her on the couch, though I did make sure to get safely back to my spot under the covers with My Family once she was ready for bed. We also had a games night, and My Family broke out the UNO deck that had been so well-used during our time in the Costa Rica house. Who doesn’t love UNO? I jumped from lap to lap, trying to help out, but I wasn’t as much of a good luck charm this time around. C’mon, people. You can’t blame the dog!

Jason and Me.  Turns out I am a good luck charm when it comes to UNO, Jason won!

Jason and Me. Turns out I am a good luck charm when it comes to UNO, Jason won!

It was all super fun, but there were some hiccups. Remember what I said about all those rules? Well, it’s not just for dogs. There are rules for cars too, and apparently the big truck wasn’t yet following those rules. Jason spent a lot of time at some place called the Dee Em Vee, and then we spent two entire days driving around from repair shop to repair shop, panting in the heat while humans stood around scratching their heads and talking about fuses, computers, wires and smog checks. In the end, we had to leave our truck and camper overnight to get fixed! It was weird being away from it, even though we had a cozy home to stay in thanks to Jason’s family. Luckily they were able to get everything taken care of, and soon we were back in our comfy home, finally “street legal,” as Jason said.

Abby's got treats, you say?

Abby’s got treats, you say?

Once we had the truck back, it was time to pack up and hit the road. No, there were no more borders to cross, but My Family said the adventure was going to continue. We were headed back to Venice! We were going to spend time with Beverly and Wickets, and their humans, Mike, Katie and little Marley, who was like two weeks old when we left on the Big Adventure. I was super excited to see our old home again, but a little bit anxious about what was to come. I knew Jason had to go back to work again, and we were going to spend some real time back in Los Angeles. Would we still all be together? Would it be fun? How would Maya cope with city life? There were so many questions swirling around my little head, I thought my eyes would pop out. I felt lucky that we were able to stay with Jason’s family and have a safe place to start our journey back into the United States, but where would we go from here?

PS: To see My Family’s photos from our time in Oceanside, click here!

20
Mar 2015
POSTED BY Neli
POSTED IN

California, USA

DISCUSSION 4 Comments

Bye Bye to the Baja (and Mexico!)

Some days are lazy days. I am totally okay with that.

Some days are lazy days. I am totally okay with that.

The last time I wrote to you guys, we were beating a hasty retreat from the beaches of Bahia de Los Angeles. Beautiful to be sure, but seriously lacking in the internet services that Jason needed to get through the week. So after a nice run on the beach, Maya and I were packed back into the car and off we drove, down a twisty turny highway and headed south. Our final time driving south on the Big Adventure!

We left Baja California behind and entered Baja Sur, passing the gigantic Mexican flag and the town of Guerro Negro. We pulled into a hotel on the highway and settled in. Kadekaman was a nice little place, with enough room for a couple of campers, a bunch of orange trees, and a sweet dirt lot for Maya and I to run around in. Other than that, I don’t have much to report about our time there. Victoria and Jason went out for a couple of delicious meals, but we didn’t get to come along. The highlight of my week was bath time, so that pretty much sums it up. Not so adventurous. Not so much fun.

Behind our parking lot campsite were all these orange trees! It smelled awesome.

Behind our parking lot campsite were all these orange trees! It smelled awesome.

I was more than happy when My Family packed us down to head back out to the beach. Jason was done with work for the week, so we were off to greener pastures. We got up super early and left the highway behind, for a long drive through the desert. As we drove, a dense bank of fog descended over the road, and all of a sudden there was nothing but white out the windows. I’d never seen a foggy desert before! Although there wasn’t much to see for the next hour, the smells were amazing. The fog finally rose, and we saw the blue of the ocean ahead. This was the tiny fishing town of Bahia Asuncion, and Campo Sirena.

My view out the front window from my perch on Vic's lap.  Creepy.

My view out the front window from my perch on Vic’s lap. Creepy.

Thankfully, Campo Sirena was a HUGE improvement. A big sandy lot, sprinkled with nice campers and super friendly dogs. My Family had a ton of fun hanging out with the other travelers, while Maya and I got to know Fuss, Princess, Bonz, Luna and Rosie the Puppy. After several days of sitting next to the car, locked to our leashes and staring at a boring building, this was heaven. The beach was just down a cliff, and we spent most of our days frolicking around with our new doggie friends. Luna started following My Family around, and one day we dashed around the beach together while the humans collected shells. Maya likes collecting shells too, but Victoria won’t let her chew on them. I guess that’s pretty good advice, even though they smell delicious.

The campground was covered in these sparkly flowers.  They are S U P E R sticky on your paws if you walk on them.

The campground was covered in these sparkly flowers. They are S U P E R sticky on your paws if you walk on them.

Rosie the Puppy.  Maya was afraid of her.  Typical.

Rosie the Puppy. Maya was afraid of her. Typical.

Luna begging to come into the camper. I don't think so, chica!

Luna begging to come into the camper. I don’t think so, chica!

At Campo Sirena, we also had maybe the best meal of my entire life. My Family went out for tacos one night, and met a nice man who offered to sell them fish. Apparently, the fisherhumans in this town weren’t allowed to sell their fish right off the beach like in other places, but had to ship them out of town. So one night, Jason’s new friend snuck him over some fish. Actually, A LOT of fish. Jason’s not the best negotiator in the world, so instead of buying one fish like he thought, he ended up buying TEN! Well, his mistake was our gain. The whole campground got together for a big barbecue! All the new human and dog friends cooked up the fish, with rice, french fries, and all the fixings. There was so much food that I got more fish tastes than I think I’d ever had in my entire life. It was awesome!! Even better, the next day was my birthday. I turned five years old, so yeah, I’m a grownup. I got some extra delicious treats, including a big serving of bacon that Jason cooked up fresh. Baja Sur was pretty rad.

Maya and me running on the beach!  It's our happy place.

Maya and me running on the beach! It’s our happy place.

Doggie heaven.

Doggie heaven.

We finally had to leave, so we said goodbye to all of our new friends and headed back up that foggy road. I was pretty bummed when we pulled back into Hotel Kadekaman. I knew My Family liked it, because the humans there were nice, and the bathrooms had hot water, but to me it was snoozeville. Luckily, we only stayed for one night. We spent the next morning doing chores, and then headed for a place called Ojo de Liebre.

It was only a quick trip up the highway, but the road from there took a LONG TIME. It turned to dirt pretty quickly, and then wound through all these salt flats. My Family thought it was pretty awesome, so I was nervous we were going to camp there. All that salt on my paws? No thanks! Luckily we kept going, and came to a stop at a massive campground at the edge of an inlet. There were other campers here, but it was a wide open space, and we got a palapa all to ourselves. There was TONS of room for Maya and I to run around, and we weren’t the only creatures there. My Family said there were whales in the water. I’d never seen a whale, but I could smell them, great big things that blew saltwater into the air as they breathed. I couldn’t believe there were animals that actually wanted to swim in the water, but I guess whales like it. To each their own. I was perfectly content to chase Maya around the sand dunes and lay out in the shade of the palapa. That night My Family had a fire, which scared the heck out of the puppy dog. I told her we were totally safe inside the camper, so finally she relaxed and we called it a night.

Looking down on our campsite from up the hill. So. Much. Room (for running)!

Looking down on our campsite from up the hill. So. Much. Room (for running)!

Turns out palapa roofs are perfect for chewing on!

Turns out palapa roofs are perfect for chewing on!

My rad pink hoodie smelled like campfire for days after this.

My rad pink hoodie smelled like campfire for days after this.

The next day wasn’t nearly as fun. My Family went off to go hang out with those whales, and Maya and I were left behind. Super duper boring. Thankfully, things improved from there. Maya and I got to run around like crazy, and My Family was bursting with stories about the momma and baby whale they had played with. That afternoon we met Bill and Sanda, a super nice couple from Oregon who were traveling in a truck camper like ours, but a much bigger one. They shared their delicious Eye-Pee-Yay beer with Victoria and Jason (which made Jason SUPER happy), and the humans traded laughs and stories well into the night.

Our new friends Sanda and Bill!

Our new friends Sanda and Bill!

I was pretty sad when we packed up the next day, but there were big rain clouds in the sky, so I guess there wouldn’t have been much more running around anyway. My Family had done the math, and it appeared we were heading north again. We didn’t spend that many days in Baja Sur this time around, but we had a ton of fun, and our time in Mexico was soon coming to an end. So we got back on the highway and headed for the desert. There’s a huge open space in the middle of Baja with almost nothing but desert in it, and Victoria really wanted to stay there for the night. However, it poured rain on us for almost the entire drive, and nobody wanted to camp out in the desert in the rain. By the way, what’s up with these deserts? Fog and rain? I thought the desert was supposed to be dry?

Anyway, our quick drive turned into a LONG drive, as we kept heading north to try and get away from the dark skies. We finally pulled into the campground behind the hotel Cielito Lindo. This was actually the second place we camped in Mexico during our way south, more than a year ago! We met a nice camper there, a human who had ridden his bicycle all the way from New York! Other than that, nothing much to report. Victoria and Jason had a nice dinner for a human holiday called Valentine’s Day. Not sure about that one. Who’s this Valentine person, and why does he have a holiday? All I know is, dogs were not invited, so I grumbled to Maya about the unfairness of my existence until My Family finally came home and put us all to bed.

Super friendly camp dog at Cielito Lindo.  She wanted to hang out with us all the time!

Super friendly camp dog at Cielito Lindo. She wanted to hang out with us all the time!

The next day we got on the road again, driving north to a town called San Quintin, and an RV park called Don Eddie’s. It didn’t look like much to me, but as soon as we pulled in I smelled friends. Sure enough, Rufus was there, with his family, Krista and Paul! They only stayed for one day, but we had a blast hanging out with them, and us dogs got to run around together off leash at our camp site. Pretty cool.

We stayed at Don Eddie’s for a few more days, and it was so boring I literally have nothing to say. Jason worked, Victoria took care of the chores, and Maya and I wrestled around on four feet of leash. Yeah, not much of a Big Adventure around these parts. Maya had a bit of fun, walking with Jason to the store one day, but I didn’t get to go. So yeah, this is the sound of one paw with no thumb clapping.

Even Maya was bored at Don Eddie's...

Even Maya was bored at Don Eddie’s…

I practically did a dance when we packed up camp to hit the road. Whatever was ahead, it couldn’t be worse than the yawnfest I just had. We had another pretty quick drive up the highway, then down a bouncy dirt track that hugged the coast, to the parking lot outside of Coyote Cal’s Hostel. What a view! We were hugging the edge of a cliff, staring out at the beautiful ocean. It was so nice being there with the breeze and the delicious smells. We were stuck on our leashes again, but I didn’t mind so much. Things got even better after My Family made some new friends, two nice humans named Nate and Noah. Noah had spent the afternoon collecting mussels, and he shared that deliciousness with My Family. All of a sudden the camper was full of the smell of the ocean and its creatures, exactly what I love to roll around in on the beach. Even better? Us dogs were given ‘the beards’ and ‘the feet’ to nom on. A M A Z I N G !

This is more like it!

This is more like it!

We only spent one night there, packing up yet again to head to Ensenada, a big city in northern Baja. We were super close to the border now! The plan was to go out to the Bufadora, a cool little slip of land south of Ensenada where we had spent our first night in Mexico. We spent hours driving from campsite to campsite, and even attempted to camp at one place that had literally no place flat to park on. We were all getting super tired, and Victoria was laughing so much I thought she needed licks on the nose, so Jason decided to give up on Bufadora and head into Ensendada. Jason had a work week coming, which meant camping with a little less effort was required. My Family decided to stop at the Estero Beach Resort, a massive place just outside of Ensenada. As our friend Sarah would say “que fancy!”. There was a huge grassy field behind our camper, with trees to sniff and plenty of sticks for Maya to carry around. We had a bit of off leash time (don’t tell anyone, I think it was against the rules!), and a couple of nice walks along the estuary that lined the edge of the resort. Although it was comfortable enough, I could tell Victoria and Jason weren’t that happy. They seemed really on edge about everything, and even Maya’s big sloppy kisses weren’t helping out. I guess everyone was getting a little bit sad about leaving Mexico behind. I thought it was pretty silly to get upset about something that wasn’t happening in the moment. After all, anything can happen between now and five minutes from now, you know? Humans don’t think the same way as us dogs, though.

Maya was excited for the big grassy field to run around on!

Maya was excited for the big grassy field to run around on!

I'm still pretty cute, right?

I’m still pretty cute, right?

After Jason got done working, we packed up and headed away from the city, down a long, bumpy dirt road and across a bunch of rivers. The place we ended up was called Rancho San Carlos, which was recommended to Victoria and Jason by our friends at Coyote Cal’s. What a pretty place! There were all these hot pools that were pretty stinky, but Victoria and Jason seemed to like floating around in them very much. Even when they left us in the camper we were pretty content. There was one creepy moment, when all the camp dogs ran up to the big truck and started barking and snarling at us. Victoria did everything she could to try and get Maya and I to be quiet, but I wasn’t about to let them shout at my home! They eventually went away, and we had a great night under a ton of stars.

One of the pools.  Luckily, Victoria didn't even try to make me go swimming.  Winning!

One of the pools. Luckily, Victoria didn’t even try to make me go swimming. Winning!

When we left Rancho San Carlos the next day, My Family was in much better spirits. We took our time packing up, and drove away from Ensenada into the wine region. Wine is a liquid like water, but much darker, and humans always smile when they drink it. We didn’t get tastes of anything, as Victoria and Jason hauled us from one vineyard to the next, leaving us behind in the car as they enjoyed their day. So lame! I think sometimes they forget this is “Neli’s Big Adventure”, not “Victoria & Jason’s Big Adventure.” What did they think, we’d greet them with kisses after being left in the car all day? Sheesh! When they finally were done with their shenanigans, we ended up at a boring campsite on the edge of the highway. No people or dogs to hang out with, and only a few minutes of running around before it got dark. When we woke up the next day, it was pouring rain! Instead of staying snuggled up under the covers like a smart dog would, Victoria and Jason dragged us into the car, wet and grumpy. Again, the humans wandered around having fun, visiting vineyards, eating delicious foods and drinking that stupid wine stuff, and AGAIN we were left behind in the car. What the heck is going on here?! When we finally drove north to the next campsite, I was pretty fed up with My Family. These past few days were just stupid, and they didn’t even seem to care!

One of the rare moments when we were let out of the car.  Grey skies, closed food trucks, no treats.  Snore.

One of the rare moments when we were let out of the car. Grey skies, closed food trucks, no treats. Snore.

My life is one big snoozefest lately.  What happened to MY Big Adventure?!

My life is one big snoozefest lately. What happened to MY Big Adventure?!

We camped at Rancho Ojai, a very nice campground pretty near the border. I overheard that this was going to be our last night in Mexico. I couldn’t believe it. The Big Adventure was almost over! We stuck close to the camper that night, but Victoria and Jason pretty much ignored us. They were sharing stories about the trip, something they called ‘reminiscing’. Something else that’s pretty pointless if you ask me. I just sat and watched them do it, though. I guess at some point you have to let humans do what they want to do. They’re not as resilient as us dogs, after all, and it takes a lot more to make them happy when they get sad. I mean, if Maya’s sad I can roll over and bite her face and she’s wagging her tail again. That doesn’t work on Jason. We had spent an awful long time in Mexico (almost six months in human time!), and I guess it had to come to an end sometime. Hopefully that doesn’t mean the adventure’s over, though!

PS: To see the photos My Family took during this time on the Baja click HERE and HERE.  They had a MUCH better time than I did!

08
Mar 2015
POSTED BY Neli
POSTED IN

Uncategorized

DISCUSSION 1 Comment

Back on the Baja, Baby!

Finally back on the Baja, baby!

Finally back on the Baja, baby!

When last I wrote to you guys, I told you how excited I was to finally get back to the Baja peninsula. It had been a long time, and on our way south the Baja was nothing but fun. Well, clearly My Family was just as excited as I was, because the alarm went off before the sun was up. Maya groaned and turned over, dragging the covers back over her head, but I knew we wouldn’t have a long morning of lounging around ahead. I watched Victoria and Jason stumble around, swig coffee, and finally pack us away for another long journey. This was the day we were leaving mainland Mexico behind, and I didn’t want to miss a minute of it.

I leapt in the car as soon as Victoria opened the door, and even Maya seemed okay with getting back on the road. The RV parks of northern Mexico were full of nice people, but there wasn’t much action for us dogs. In fact, we hadn’t been off leash for a good long time, and I was hopeful that was about to change. However, we had to get there first. There were pit stops for water, gas and groceries, as well as two military checkpoints that slowed us down. The men in their weird, splotchy outfits were super nice to my family, but Maya didn’t like them at all. As soon as one would step towards Jason’s window, a growl would build from way deep down inside of her. It was pretty scary! Victoria was laughing, even as the military men would take two big steps back. I guess they can’t tell she doesn’t have any teeth.

It took quite some time to traverse the desert and finally loop back onto the peninsula, where we stopped for the night at a place called Kiki’s in the town of San Felipe. Practically the first thing we did when we got there was head directly for the beach, a beautiful, empty stretch of sand where Maya and I were allowed to roam free. Yep, brighter days were ahead of us. After a good long run, things got even better. We met a bunch of nice people from a land called Canada, which is on the other side of the United States. Jamie, Ian, Michelle and Rodney planned to stay on the Baja for several weeks, driving around in their VW buses. They were all super nice, and of course, loved me immediately. That first night was one of the best I’ve had in a long time. My Family stayed up late with our new friends, sharing stories and listening to music, and us dogs were around to hang out the whole time. I did my usual, bouncing from lap to lap, while Maya made sad faces at Michelle and Ian, hoping for some of their grilled chicken. I’ll bet you can guess which one of us got our wish that night.

Our palapa had two floors! Que fancy :)

Our palapa had two floors! Que fancy :)

Doggie heaven.

Doggie heaven.

My Family had so much fun with our new friends that they decided to stay another day. Kiki’s was a nice park, with other dogs who were all super sweet and usually were allowed to roam around. There were big palapas for shade, and of course that great beach to scamper around on. There was even some sort of dead animal buried in the sand that us dogs kept nosing around at. It smelled delicious, but Jason wasn’t having any of it. Luckily, that second day we did get tastes of some even better food, and enjoyed another night hanging out with all the campers. I don’t know if it was the nice people, the beautiful beaches, or simply getting away from the gravel-filled RV parks, but we had an absolute blast. The next day Victoria and Jason got us packed up, and even though I was sorry to leave our new friends behind, I was super excited for the next stop in Baja.

Me hanging out with my new friends Jamie and Ian.

Me hanging out with my new friends Jamie and Ian.

Just me, running on the beach. What dog could ask for more?

Just me, running on the beach. What dog could ask for more?

Seriously? She's so embarrassing.

Seriously? She’s so embarrassing.

I thought we’d be up and out at dawn, as had been our habit lately, but Victoria and Jason were taking their time. Coffee and fresh tamales at camp, and then several stops in town for more gas and flea and tick medicine for Maya and I. All the stopping and starting was getting Maya seriously grumpy. She hates driving as it is, and the bumpy dirt roads weren’t making it any better for her. She was practically quaking by the time we left San Felipe behind, and Victoria and I had to calm her down while Jason focused on the road. The next drive was pretty quick, straight down the beautiful eastern coast of northern Baja. Nothing but white, sandy beaches as far as my eyes could see! We turned off the highway and jounced along a trail to reach a camp site on Gonzaga Bay. Wow, what a spot! First off, the lot that had palapas and bathrooms for the humans was super wide, and had almost no traffic on it at all. That meant our leashes were basically left in the car. Secondly, a steep, fun beach with birds to chase and plenty of sticks for Maya to gum up, and more new camp friends! Karly and Steve were also from Canada (What is up with that country? Is everyone from Canada awesome?!), and they had two big dogs that Maya was terrified of at first. One of them was also named Maya! How’s that for a coincidence? Their Maya was part wolf, and wasn’t scared of anything, so they’re pretty easy to tell apart. Tripp was their other dog, and he was super mellow. The humans cooked dinner while us dogs wandered the beach and hung out by our Big Truck. More stories, more music, and more tasty bites of human food. Yep, this Baja place is where it’s at!

Another Baja day means tons of room to run. I heart the Baja!

Another Baja day means tons of room to run. I heart the Baja!

Beachy goodness.

Beachy goodness.

The next morning, Victoria and Jason woke up in time to watch the sun rise. They were pretty excited about it, while I was far more focused on catching another snooze before they whisked us off again. Yep, we only had one night on Gonzaga Bay. Jason’s work week was on the horizon, and even though this place was pretty special, we just couldn’t stay any longer. We said goodbye to all of our new friends, packed up and hit the road.

We were forced to wake up before the sun was up, but even I can appreciate how beautiful the sunrise is!

We were forced to wake up before the sun was up, but even I can appreciate how beautiful the sunrise is!

The drive to Bahia de Los Angeles was long and pretty intense, which is basically Maya’s nightmare. After a couple of miles driving south the pavement disappeared, and the rocky dirt road twisted into the desert. It was a super pretty drive, surrounded by giant boulders and cactus, but the road was crazy bouncy. Jason even had to stop to let some air out of the tires! Maya hung her head and tried to look as pathetic as possible, while I had my nose to the window, waiting for my next sniff of the ocean. Finally it came, as we left the desert behind and made it to the bay.

Bahia de Los Angeles is super pretty. My Family took a ton of pictures, and those will probably do a better job of describing it than I could. Our campsite was a place called La Gringa, and it was OUT THERE. We left the town behind, then bounced down a wide dirt road, then turned onto a narrow dirt road, then kept going on what basically looked like a random trail. When we arrived at the head of the bay, we found a shelly beach with just a couple of other campers, and a pretty sweet view. It wasn’t the best for running on with small paws, and the wind was blowing pretty hard, so we stuck to the camper and watched the sun fall under the water. It was nice and peaceful here, with no sound but that howling wind, and nothing to do but snuggle up with My Family. Pretty cool day.

Que linda!

Que linda!

Me, waiting for the wind to die down so I didn't get blown away into the bay!!

Me, waiting for the wind to die down so I didn’t get blown away into the bay!!

We packed up the camper fairly early in the morning to head back into town. Bahia de Los Angeles is a small, sleepy community, but Victoria had heard there were other campsites more in the middle of things where Jason could get his work done. We pulled into one place, a sweet camp site right on the beach called Guillermo’s, and talked to some nice Australian boys. Apparently, the internet there wasn’t working. Jason spoke to the owner, who was really cool, but she didn’t have a solution for him. So we drove to another hotel which also was supposed to have internet. They didn’t either. Jason started talking to more folks, and found out that the internet in this whole place simply came and went, blowing through as hard as the past day’s wind, and then disappearing just as fast. Jason was officially in trouble. He did find a little market that had internet, but it was barely good enough to check email. After more than a year of traveling through Mexico and Central America, Jason officially struck out on internet for the first time!

While he was off attempting to work, Victoria, Maya and I hung out on the beach at Guillermo’s. It was the perfect spot for a little doggie play session, away from the highway and all to ourselves. Maya and I ran ourselves silly and Victoria got in the action too, throwing sticks and begging Maya to bring them back. She did, sometimes. By the time Jason got back from his internet mission, we were all tuckered out, laying in the sun and catching a nap.

The super blue water in Bahia de LA.  I was super bummed we didn't get to stay here another night...

The super blue water in Bahia de LA. I was bummed we didn’t get to stay here another night…

As much as we would have loved to stay on this pretty beach, the whole no internet thing is a huge deal breaker for My Family when it’s time for Jason to work. I enjoyed having them to myself (well, myself and Maya, I guess) all weekend, but Jason had to get back to his mobile office, and it didn’t seem like that was going to happen in Bahia de Los Angeles. So with much regret, My Family packed us up once more and left this town behind. They weren’t entirely sure where we we going to go, but it looked like we had one more trip south ahead of us!

PS: To see some of the photos My Family took during our quick trip through Baja Norte, head over to Facebook.

16
Feb 2015
POSTED BY Neli
POSTED IN

Baja, Mexico

DISCUSSION No Comments

Mexico 2.0: Neli’s Trailer Park Adventure

Me and Jason watching the sunset in Kino Viejo.

Me and Jason watching the sunset in Kino Viejo.

Now that Victoria and Jason had decided to skip the ferry ride to the Baja and drive north through the mainland instead, we had a LOT of ground to cover. In case you don’t have one of those map thingeys, Mexico is like, really big. Even after all this time spent in a very cool country, we still hadn’t seen the whole top half! Though driving days are a snooze, I was kind of excited to check out all this new territory.

We had a quick breakfast, packed up and left the Pemex Inn in the rearview. Our first stop was to be a town called Guaymas, and it looked like it was going to be quite a drive. To my dismay, the beach was nowhere to be found, and I started to wonder if I would ever see it again. We spent hours driving through farms covered in carpets of bright green, followed by deserts dotted by scraggly cactus, twisting roots and tiny, red and purple flowers. When we finally got to Guaymas, Victoria and Jason looked around in dismay. Giant RV park after giant RV park, and not much to see as far as nature is concerned. We still had loads of daylight left, so My Family decided to drive on. A bit further down the road I caught sight of the water. We were headed back to the beach after all! We drove through a really pretty town on a hill called San Carlos, wound our way along the coast and finally found a place to set up. Totonaka RV Park was HUGE, filled with hundreds of humans and tons of us dogs. We settled in next to a cement patio and got all set up. It wasn’t right on the beach, but I could smell the ocean on the air. An improvement.

RV Park life: not very adventurous...

RV Park life: not very adventurous…

We spent several days here, and I wish I had exciting stories to share with you about that time. But I don’t. We recharged our batteries, Jason worked, Victoria read and enjoyed the sun, and Maya and I were stuck on leash. Yep, one VERY big problem with these trailer parks is the leash law. There’s no frolicking allowed for the dogs. People get to do basically whatever they want, and we basically have to sit there and watch the fun. We did get to go on some walks, and taste some of the delicious fish one of our neighbors gave Jason to cook, but otherwise the hours slipped into days that felt basically the same. We had one sort of fun night, hanging out with the nice human couple from Alaska named Chris and Jessie. Alaska is way far in the north, and they told us a how in the middle of winter it never gets light, and in the middle of summer it almost never gets dark. How crazy is that? The dark time I could do without, but a whole day of sunlight to play in? I thought it would be paradise, but after overhearing them talking about the temperature up there, I decided maybe I wouldn’t like it that much after all. Maya tried to snag the caribou jerky they brought over, so they were just fine in her book.

We left Totonaka and kept heading north, through more hours of farms and desert. I don’t understand how so much green stuff can grow out here! I guess the Mexican people are pretty good farmers. We turned off the highway and found our next destination a town called Kino Viejo. The town itself was kind of sad, quiet, and mostly empty except for the loads of sad dogs that looked like they could very much use a big meal and a comfy bed to snuggle up on. This trailer park, however, was super cool. Islandia RV was small and sandy, not covered in gravel and cement, and Jason pulled us up in a spot right on the beach. Finally, back in my happy place! Every human we met there was so nice, and the dogs were pretty cool too. After unpacking, the leashes were finally taken away, and Maya and I were free to dash about.

Finally, a beach to run on!  What more does a dog need?

Finally, a beach to run on! What more does a dog need?

Although it wasn’t planned, My Family decided to spend a couple of nights here. We had a great spot, with a palapa to shade ourselves under and a clear view of the beautiful water. There were shells everywhere, and My Family wandered the beach, picking out some of the best to keep for souvenirs. Maya LOVES shells too. She doesn’t seem to care what they look like, as long as they smell tasty. Jason wasn’t too thrilled with this development, and spent hours dragging shells out away from Maya’s seeking tongue. Other than that, Bahia Kino was super cool. Long days, really pretty sunsets, and very nice snowbirds (still without feathers). I don’t really understand why some snowbirds stay in their giant RV’s all day long (like in Mazatlan), while others sit out, go for rides, play games with their neighbors and have fun parties filled with music and delicious smelling food. I guess these snowbird creatures are just as varied as us dogs. Like how I’m not afraid of anything, and Maya runs away from plastic bags?

Seems like My Family's favorite thing to do is watch the sun go down and drink alcoholic beverages.  They never share...

Seems like My Family’s favorite thing to do is watch the sun go down and drink alcoholic beverages. They never share…

I was sad to leave Islandia, but after a couple of days we had to keep moving north. The next leg of our Adventure entailed hours and hours (AND HOURS) of driving through the desert. Northern Mexico is very pretty, but I certainly wouldn’t want to be stuck out there without My Family! The road was also getting pretty treacherous. Jason had to speed up and slow down all the time, swerving from one side of the road to another to avoid the potholes. There was one stretch I thought would never end, and Maya was getting seriously green. She wouldn’t lay down, but just stood in the back seat, head lowered, tongue lolling across the towel she lays on. Not a happy camper on this day. When we got to Puerto Penasco, My Family was less than enthusiastic. Yet ANOTHER giant RV park, made all of gravel, filled with giant vehicles. This one at least was on the beach, but that didn’t seem to comfort Victoria or Jason at all. Apparently, the internet was bad and you had to pay extra to take a shower. Given how My Family was smelling these days, I really hoped they could come up with the extra cash.

Shelly beach.  Not great for running on...

Shelly beach. Not great for running on…

… but I managed just fine :)

… but I managed just fine :)

We spent a few days at the Playa de Oro RV park, and Maya and I were again relegated to our leashes. Jason complained that the view was particularly uninspiring, while Victoria was grumpy about everyone speaking English and paying in American dollars. I guess this Mexican town isn’t that Mexican? Victoria found out that where we were now was only a two-hour drive from the United States border, so all these people from the state of Arizona come down for long weekends. Quite a change from all the great Adventurers we had been meeting, who were all off on long country-crossing trips. I didn’t mind them that much. Everyone was pretty nice to me, and these folks do a lot of grilling! We weren’t going to stay long enough to make any friends, though. Victoria and Jason were eager to set off again. We were now the most northern we had been since first entering Mexico (more than fifteen months ago!), and had almost finished our crossing of the top half of the country. Our next drive would take us back onto the Baja, and what I hoped would be an endless array of empty beaches, ready and waiting for my paws. The trailer parks we had been staying in weren’t bad. We always met nice people, and had comfy places to sit. However, it’s not much of an Adventure. Hey, after all the places we’ve seen, I’ve got high standards! And back at the very beginning of our journey through Mexico, the Baja sure delivered.

PS: To see My Family’s photos from our time in the RV Parks, head over to Facebook.

09
Feb 2015
POSTED BY Neli
POSTED IN

Mainland, Mexico

DISCUSSION 1 Comment

San Pancho, Mazatlan & the Pemex Inn

Me in my happy place!

Me in my happy place!

I woke up to groaning and whining the morning we were set to leave San Miguel de Allende, and for once these pitiful sounds weren’t coming from Maya. Jason and Victoria were in pretty poor shape. As often happened in San Miguel, My Family spent their last night in town out all night with friends, and they weren’t hopping out of bed all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Although it seemed like there was more going on than just too many cervezas at the karaoke bar: Jason was sniffing and sneezing at an alarming rate, and Victoria’s right eye was puffing out of her face. Fantastic. So not only were we set to leave, but I had two sick humans on my hands! This didn’t bode well.

Sure enough, it took them AGES to get us going that morning. Not that I minded particularly. It just meant more time snuggled under the covers for me. Maya, however, was starting to panic. She never likes it when we pack up, and the longer it takes, the more frantic she gets. Apparently, she still thinks every stop we make is our new forever home. I keep trying to explain it to her, that the camper and the Big Truck are really our home, and all these places we go are just temporary adventures. Still not sure she gets it.

We said quick goodbyes to our campground friends before we left.  Looks like Zoe was ready to hit the road too!

We said quick goodbyes to our campground friends before we left. Looks like Zoe was ready to hit the road too!

After much more groaning, sneezing and pouting, My Family finally got us out of San Miguel de Allende. I curled up on Victoria’s lap as the cobblestone city receded in the distance. Maya flopped into her spot in the backseat, her tongue lolling out, drooling over the blanket Victoria lays down for her. Maya still doesn’t have many teeth to speak of, and that tongue just drags everywhere. It makes her look super silly, which means I have to rush in to rescue her any time tough dogs try to push her around. It’s tiring being the big sister sometimes!

San Miguel is smack dab in the center of the country of Mexico, which meant a very long drive was ahead of us. We were heading back to the coast of the Pacific Ocean, which, by the way, is the same coast that Venice is on! I overheard Victoria and Jason talking, and it didn’t sound like we were going to make it all in one day. I sensed a night at “The Pemex Inn” was ahead of us. When the goals of the adventure force us to cross a lot of ground in one day, Jason can’t always drive us to a nice campsite before it gets dark out. Since we were so late in starting out, that was doubly true this day. So instead of going out of our way to find a home for the night, we ended up stopping at a Pemex gas station. They’re all over Mexico, and Victoria was pretty choosy before we settled on one, just to the west of the big city of Guadalajara. It was packed with big trucks, and other drivers taking a snooze before continuing on their way. We settled in to the steady rumble rumble of the eighteen-wheelers and their air brakes, and snuggled up for the night.

The next day we were up bright and early, and quickly packed down. Jason’s sniffles were subsiding, and Victoria’s eye was already looking better. In much better spirits, My Family took off for the beach. A couple of hours later we twisted and turned our way down winding jungle roads, and ended up back in a town called Sayulita, a place we had visited over a year ago in human time. Man, was it busy! It seemed like every inch of space was taken up by restaurants and shops, packed with vacationers. There was literally no space in the campground there, so we set off to check out some other towns in the area. I didn’t really mind where we ended up, as long as it involved days of running on the beach. Maya, on the other hand, was getting seriously fidgety. She really doesn’t like the driving days.

One of the many dogs in our campground.

One of the many dogs in our campground.

We saw a bunch of other towns, but finally settled on a place with two names. San Pancho (also known as San Francisco) is a smaller town just north of Sayulita. We found a super cool campsite right on the beach and quickly got the camper set up. Then it was off to explore! Maya and I said hello to the many camp dogs, and spent the rest of the afternoon with Victoria and Jason in this super cool little town. We stopped for fish tacos (delicious), and watched the sun set at a restaurant on the beach (chilly). After weeks and weeks of being left at home in the big city, it felt fantastic to stretch my paws out and sniff around a bit.

The beach in San Pancho was perfect for running around1

The beach in San Pancho was perfect for running around1

We spent a whole week in San Pancho, and it was the best kind of fun. I’ve loved most of the stops on my Big Adventure, but nothing beats the small beach towns. San Pancho was much smaller and quieter than Sayulita, which meant almost every day Maya and I got to run on the sand off leash. I spent hours tearing around, sniffing other dogs, snapping at the waves and pouncing on Maya as we chased each other across the beach. It was sunny and hot every day, which was awesome after so many days spent shivering up in the mountains. And the campsite was so cool!

These two camp dogs were super fun to play with, even Maya liked them!

These two camp dogs were super fun to play with, even Maya liked them!

Most of the neighbors were from Mexico, and there was always something going on. There was a family that lived next to us in a couple of campers, and they were always playing music. There were guitars, violins, flutes and drums, as well as juggling and fire dancing at night. Victoria said they were ‘gypsies’, but I don’t really know what that means. Their little girl was super nice to me, always stopping by to say hello and pet me, and tossing me treats to eat when Jason wasn’t looking. Even Maya seemed to really settle into a routine here. There were tons of dogs around, which usually makes her very nervous. But they were all so sweet, and since the campsite was closed in we got to wander around off leash all the time. Basically, you’re talking the perfect doggie life here!

We did have one very strange experience in this sleepy beach town. One day, a nice Canadian couple rolled into the campsite. Jason helped them park and get set up, they chatted for a few minutes, and then we went on with our day. In the evening, a couple of their friends showed up, and everyone was pretty noisy. One of their friends had three dogs with him, and the camp dogs were NOT HAPPY. There was lots of barking and growling, which was pretty strange, because the local dogs accepted Maya and I with no problems. Eventually they all went out together, so we thought the problems were over. My Family settled in for dinner, and then got snuggled up nice and early.

It was pretty late when barking and screaming woke me up. Maya launched herself at our window, and was snarling and yelling until Victoria got her under control. But she wasn’t the cause of the noise. The Canadians were back, along with their friend who had the three dogs, and everyone was shouting. Moments later, the owner of the campsite showed up, and he was shouting and pushing the dogs’ owner. We all peered out the window, watching the chaos. The owner had a machete, and he was swinging it in the air! Every single dog in camp was barking, as two men pushed each other in the dirt. Finally, the scary man with his dogs went away, and I tried to curl back under the covers. Victoria and Jason, however, were wide awake.

Me and Krista just hanging out!

Me and Krista just hanging out!

Luckily, that was the only unwelcome excitement we had. Two days later, there was a much more welcome surprise: our friend Rufus and his family showed up at the campsite! We hadn’t seen these guys since our first weeks in San Miguel, so it was pretty cool to be reunited again. And unlike in San Miguel, all us dogs were allowed to run around off leash here. It was so great getting to really play with Rufus for once, instead of being all leashed up. We had one fantastic day together, watching the sun set on the beach, and then hanging out outside with a campfire. I wish these days would just go on forever.

Rufus!

Rufus!

Unfortunately, we had to pack up and hit the road the next day. Victoria and Jason had been talking about our next move, and I overheard that they wanted to get back to the Baja peninsula, which was our very first stop in Mexico. To do that, we had to head further north, to a town called Mazatlan, where a ferry would take us across the water. So we packed up again, said goodbye to our friend Rufus (and My Family’s friends Krista and Paul), and got back onto the highway.

After looking over our maps, My Family decided to check out a little peninsula on our way north. It sounded super pretty, so we veered off the highway and into a thin stretch of road surrounded by endless farmland. There were several campsites towards the bottom of this peninsula, but most of them were closed down. I guess there aren’t that many adventurers that come over here? Anyway, after a super long drive we finally found a nice park right on the water’s edge where we could spend the night. There were several other campers here, most of them in vehicles much larger than ours. Victoria called them ‘snowbirds’, even though none of them had wings, or a single feather I could see. Everyone was pretty tired after a long drive, so we snuggled up early and went to bed.

The next morning, My Family had us up even before the sun. It was very cold out, and everything was soaking wet with sea water. Jason packed up the camper, and we left right as the sun was rising. It was very cold, with a thick layer of soupy fog hanging over everything, but My Family thought it was really pretty. I spent the whole morning curled up on Victoria’s lap, and it didn’t really warm up until we pulled into Mazatlan.

Sunrise on the peninsula was worth getting up for.

Sunrise on the peninsula was worth getting up for.

Mazatlan is a HUGE city, like even bigger than San Miguel. Yet they are nothing alike. Here there were huge buildings, fishing boats, and literally TONS of those big campers and the snowbird creatures Victoria talked about. We found a campsite near the beach and got situated. This was nothing like the dirty lot filled with gypsies we had visited in San Pancho. There were huge campers everywhere, and each spot had a cement patio to lay out on. It’s called an RV park, and it’s sort of a strange place. There were other dogs, but they had to be on leash all the time, and most of them spent their days inside. We spent about a week in this RV park in Mazatlan, and there’s not much I can say about it. I didn’t mind the slow pace. I spent most of the time laying out in the sun, and did get a couple of beach runs in. Maya, on the other hand, was seriously bored. We couldn’t be off leash at all, which meant very little play time. And when you’re a puppy, play time is crucial. Victoria and Jason had an okay time, and did meet a couple of other nice travelers having our sort of Adventure. Yet it wasn’t particularly adventurous, OR fun in this busy city. My Family did enjoy a couple of nice sunsets and meals, but I got the feeling we were here by necessity, not really because we wanted to be.

Life in an RV park is pretty boring. Sigh.

Life in an RV park is pretty boring. Sigh.

I found that to be true when I overheard that the ferry to the Baja was the only reason we were here at all! And what’s worse, we couldn’t get on the boat! Now don’t get me wrong, I had no problem delaying this ferry ride. If you remember our last one, it wasn’t much fun. It was cold and dirty, and the heaving of the waves made me mildly nauseous. I knew it would be much worse for Maya, who doesn’t understand much of anything, let alone what a boat was like. Jason and Victoria kept trying to get us lined up for the ferry, but there was no room on a ship for another ten days. Neither of them wanted to spend that much longer in Mazatlan, so after much debate it was decided we would drive. How is that possible? Apparently, you can drive up through Northern Mexico and around onto the Baja, instead of taking a boat across the water. It would take much longer, but it would also give us the opportunity to explore a whole new part of the country that we wouldn’t get to see any other way.

With that decision made, we swiftly packed up and hit the road. Maya wasn’t thrilled to be back in the car. I tried to explain to her how much better this was than the boat, but the last time she had been on a boat was when she was a little baby, back on Lake Atitlan. She can’t remember that far back. Anyway, we had a super long day driving north, and weren’t able to make it to our next campsite. Yep, that meant another night at The Pemex Inn.

Nary a grain of sand to be seen...

Nary a grain of sand to be seen…

I have to say, I felt a little bit annoyed. I had been promised a return to the beach, but I only got one week in that awesome San Pancho place. Since then it’s been nothing but loud nights in gas stations and long days on leash in the gravel and dirt parking lots of RV parks. It is sunny and warm, but where are my fish taco tastes? Where are my daily beach runs? Where are the other dogs to play with? I sure hope things improve as we make our way north to points unknown…

PS: To see some of the photos My Family took in San Pancho and the Mazatlan area, CLICK HERE.

28
Jan 2015
POSTED BY Neli
POSTED IN

Mainland, Mexico

DISCUSSION No Comments

San Miguel de Allende: Food, Folks & Feliz Navidad!

Me and Jason hanging out on our balcony in San Miguel.

Me and Jason hanging out on our balcony in San Miguel.

Driving days are rarely interesting days. I curl up tightly on Victoria’s lap and try to snooze through as many of the bounces and jounces as possible, sneering at Maya’s drooly face every time she tries to force her way into the front seat. While the drive from El Tule to San Miguel de Allende, our next destination (and one of My Family’s favorite spots), was no exception, it was one of the LONGEST driving days I’ve ever survived. Nothing went wrong; we arrived in one piece and none the worse for wear. However, the drive took us TEN WHOLE HOURS! That’s an awfully long time. Somewhere in the middle Maya started protesting, turning herself around and staring at the back, perched precariously on the middle armrest. Around hour nine, Jason started to get seriously punchy, laughing at things that weren’t funny, leaning forward in his seat, gripping the wheel with white knuckles and asking Victoria “how much longer?” every few minutes. By the time we pulled into the tennis courts/RV park in San Miguel where we were going to stay, Jason couldn’t walk in a straight line! 

Me and Mike, one half of my new friend Ducati's Human Family.

Me and Mike, one half of my new friend Ducati’s Human Family.

Thankfully, I immediately met some cool dogs to take my mind off the mind-numbingly boring day I just experienced. Ducati is a Chihuahua like me, but a bit tougher; he’s riding a motorcycle along with his Family, Shannon and Mike. They plan on driving all the way around the world! We also met a big, black, furry bundle of excitement named Rufus, and his Family, Krista and Paul. They have a camper that comes in two parts, and are exploring Mexico in advance of a longer trip next time around. Maya was too on edge to have much fun with these guys, but after spending so long with Morena as my only company, it was great to meet some new friends! My Family was pretty exhausted, so we tucked in early before seeing much of San Miguel.

Ducati, Maya and I waiting for treats. Our Humans love making us sit and wait and wait and wait...

Ducati, Maya and I waiting for treats. Our Humans love making us sit and wait and wait and wait…

The next few days were not the best of reintroductions to this beautiful city. First of all, Victoria’s ankle was still the size of a small balloon, so she wasn’t exactly in the mood to take us on long walks through town. Secondly, San Miguel was COLD! It’s up in the mountains, which means the nights and early mornings are seriously chilly. Luckily I had my trusty hoody, but I still spent way too much time shivering. Maya doesn’t seem to feel it, but Maya doesn’t notice much of anything, even now. I wonder if she’s ever going to get any smarter. She doesn’t even understand what a blog is! Sheesh! To make matters worse, Maya barked at a man who lost his tennis ball in our campsite, and the next morning the owner came by and told us she was too aggressive, and if she barked at anyone else we would have to leave! Anyone who has met Maya knows she’s the farthest thing from aggressive, though she does have quite the big dog bark. My Family immediately went into Panic Mode. Leave the RV park? What would we do? I overheard them mentioning we were going to have visitors (YES!), so we couldn’t just move on from San Miguel. Since Victoria’s ankle was keeping her pretty immobile, Jason went on the hunt through town to find us a place to live.

Holy Brrrr, Batman!  Lucky for me, I have my rad hoodie to keep me warm.

Holy Brrrr, Batman! Lucky for me, I have my rad hoodie to keep me warm.

It didn’t take very long. Even though San Miguel was very busy with the holidays swiftly approaching, Jason found us an apartment just a couple of blocks away. The owners had no problem with us dogs, and the apartment was right over a restaurant, guaranteeing delicious smells all day long! Jason spent hours unloading the camper and moving our stuff, and soon enough we had moved the camper into a parking spot and relocated into our home away from home for the next six weeks. I was sad to be leaving the nice dogs behind, but at least I no longer had to defend Maya from the grumpy tennis players. I mean, you’re hitting a ball into our campsite? What self-respecting dog wouldn’t bark at that?

Super scary, right?

Super scary, right?

The apartment was super sweet. It had two comfy beds to lay on, a TON of sunny spots, and a nice little balcony I could lay on as much as I wanted. Maya soon learned to jump from bed to bed, and even though the room was small by human standards, us dogs had tons of room to chase toys and wrestle. Not too shabby, if you ask me. The only negative of the apartment situation was it made leaving us dogs behind at home super easy for Jason and Victoria. That meant many nights home alone, while they went out exploring. I heard about trips to get tacos, eat chicken wings, sing karaoke, and chow down on churros in the main square. We didn’t get tastes of anything! I guess I shouldn’t complain too much. How many other dogs get to have an adventure like this? Yet when you’re used to going everywhere with your humans, it made for a couple of incredibly grumpy nights.

Me and Sarah.  We're pretty cute in our matching hoodies, dont'cha think?

Me and Sarah. We’re pretty cute in our matching hoodies, dont’cha think?

Thankfully, the grumpiness didn’t last long. Our good friends Shae and Olivia (and their humans Sarah and Hani) appeared in San Miguel! I found out they were going to stay in town the whole time we were there too!! Maya and I met Shae and Olivia in Costa Rica, but we only got to spend one day with them. I was super excited when we ended up having many more days together, with all of us dogs hanging out in one of our Family’s apartments, wandering the cobblestone streets (as Victoria’s ankle started feeling better) and even sitting in outdoor restaurants. It was a regular doggie party!

My friend Shae.  She's a poodle but we don't hold that against her.

My friend Shae. She’s a poodle but we don’t hold that against her.

The party continued with a super fun holiday: Thanksgiving. In case you haven’t heard of it, Thanksgiving is a Human holiday (though I guess only celebrated by Humans from the United States? Not sure I understand that part…), that involves getting together with friends and family and eating until you fall asleep. Basically, it’s your perfect holiday. We all got together at Sarah and Hani’s apartment, and huddled around the Humans’ feet as they cooked a massive meal. Chicken, potatoes, veggies, and even a pie for dessert! The smells were wrapping around my tiny heart, and Maya was dancing from paw to paw, staring up in anticipation at Jason and Sarah as they cooked. The Humans laughed, ate and drank the night away, making sure to give us dogs many a delicious treat. What a great day!

Cobblestone streets.  Easier on the paws than you'd think.

Cobblestone streets. Easier on the paws than you’d think.

After that, My Family fell into a nice routine. Shopping in the farmer’s market, wandering the gorgeous central district, hanging on the patio while Jason worked, and nights out with friends. The apartment was nice and comfy warm, even at night, and Maya and I had no shortage of playtime. Jason would also take us on long walks on the street and in the big park nearby. I felt right at home in this busy city, but Maya was a bit less enthusiastic. She never lived in Venice, and doesn’t really understand cities that well. I’d walk on leash all day long, but Maya darts around, afraid of every loud noise or person that walks by. It’s pretty exhausting. I’m hoping that she mellows out with more time in the city, but she might just be a country dog at heart. She doesn’t know any different, after all.

Even the walls in SMA are pretty cool.

Even the walls in SMA are pretty cool.

One day Jason came home from the supermarket with a huge box: it was a tree! Apparently there were more Human holidays coming. Christmas was just around the corner, and My Family decorated the apartment with all sorts of cool stuff. The tree sat in the corner, covered in lights and balls and what looked very much like doggie toys. Maya thought the same, and kept trying to chew the tree apart. This tree wasn’t for eating or peeing on, however. Victoria said presents were going to go under it, and some of them were going to be for me! After I heard that I made sure Maya left the tree alone.

Me and Maya in front of the tree.  See all those presents, the pile got A LOT bigger once Lorna and David showed up!

Me and Maya in front of the tree. See all those presents? The pile got A LOT bigger once Lorna and David showed up!

Have you heard of Christmas? I’ve had a few of those, but it was brand new for Maya. It’s another holiday when Humans get together and cook delicious food, but there’s also something about a fat Human in a furry outfit flying through the sky and dropping presents for children down chimneys. I don’t know, it sounds sort of sketchy to me. I was starting to get seriously excited, but we still had a ways to go before ripping into those presents. And I’d have to deal with another change first.

My Family woke up very early one morning, and stood outside in the freezing cold with a couple of bags. Before I knew what was happening, Jason was getting into a van and saying goodbye. It was another business trip! I mean, COME ON! He just went to LA! Now he was leaving again? I’m used to it by now, but Maya was aghast. To make matters worse, Victoria wasn’t feeling well at all. I could smell it on her, and I knew it was one of those times when my licks wouldn’t make any difference. It’s called ‘The Flew’, and Humans get it all the time in cold weather. As Jason was leaving I could tell he felt really bad for Victoria, but Humans have to work so us dogs have food and a comfy home. So off he went, and in bed Victoria stayed. Sarah and Hani brought Victoria fresh juice and pizza, and helped get Maya and I out of the house every once in a while. But those were some slow days. Maya protested Jason’s absence too, spending a whole night sleeping in the shower. What a strange puppy.

Look at these little doors, almost like they were meant just for me!

Look at these little doors, almost like they were meant just for me!

Thankfully, this business trip was much shorter than the last one. Jason was back in just a couple of days, happy to escape the gloomy New York City weather and return to his favorite people and pups. Victoria got better, and we were soon back into our routine. The Humans worked, read, cooked, shopped and explored the city; us dogs snoozed in the sun, wrestled, chewed on toys, went for walks and snagged delicious treats. All in all, I couldn’t have asked for more. As Christmas got closer, San Miguel got busier, and fireworks were a regular occurrence. Maya HATES fireworks, so I had to babysit her a lot, snuggling up so she felt protected. She even hid under the bed sometimes! I don’t know why she’s so scared; loud noises can’t hurt you. Luckily, our visitors came soon after.

Another thing Maya is scared of?  The hot air balloons that floated over our balcony every day.

Another thing Maya is scared of? The hot air balloons that floated over our balcony every day.

It was Lorna and David, Victoria’s parents (aka, My Favorites)! I could barely contain my excitement when they walked through the door. This was only the second time Maya had met them, and she didn’t remember how awesome they are. It took a little bit of time for her to get comfortable, but once she did, we just had the best time. They were staying in a house not too far from ours, so we saw them all the time! They would come over for breakfast, and then we’d all go wandering the city. Lorna and David loved San Miguel, the colors, the art, the beautiful sunsets and the delicious food. Christmas finally came, and oh my gosh, it was so much fun! Millions of presents were piled under our little tree, and Maya and I got to open a bunch of them! We got new toys and delicious treats that look like snowflakes, and had so much fun ripping into the paper. The Humans got some stuff too, and though they weren’t all things you could eat or toss around with your teeth, they all seemed happy. In the afternoon we all went over to Sarah and Hani’s place and had another one of those huge, delicious meals. This one even involved bacon, so Maya and I could barely contain ourselves. We got to try all sorts of stuff, and had a bunch of fun playing with Shae and Olivia. I’m not sure life gets any better than this.

Maya L O V E D opening all our presents! Thank you Lorna and David! xo xo

Maya L O V E D opening all our presents! Thank you Lorna and David! xo xo

Chillin' on the couch with Hani after we all ate way too much delicious food.  I love Christmas :-)

Chillin’ on the couch with Hani after we all ate way too much delicious food. I love Christmas :-)

Of course, then it did. Our friend Heather showed up that night! Heather’s from Venice, but she had come to visit us in Costa Rica as well. The next few days were a whirlwind. We had Lorna and David in town, and I squeezed every last moment of snuggle time with them I could possibly get. They left, but Heather was still here and before I knew it, My Family’s friend Angie came in too! On top of that, we met these cool people named James and Lauren, fellow travelers staying at the RV park (who didn’t have a dog at that point but they do now!), and another traveler named Kelly who had a dog named Zoey. So many fun people, and they all loved me!

It all came together on New Year’s Eve, maybe one of the coolest nights of my whole life. There was a big party at Sarah and Hani’s, and everyone was invited, including us dogs. A big meal, and there were five of us dogs there, along with more than a dozen people. It was the best kind of nuttiness you could imagine. San Miguel was lit up as bright as daytime and jam-packed with people. Music, fireworks, and more smells than my nose could even keep up with. Maya wasn’t thrilled with the busy atmosphere, so Jason took us home before things got too crazy. I still got to take part in the best of these Human holidays, celebrating with some of the nicest folks we had ever met. What a lucky dog!

All of us at the New Year's Eve party (umm… before we got sent home).

All of us at the New Year’s Eve party (umm… before we got sent home).

So now it’s 2015, which is a whole new year in Human time. We left on my Big Adventure in October of 2013, so we’ve now been exploring this beautiful world in the Big Camper for well over a year. Pretty amazing. We’ve had some ups and downs, but what an amazing journey it has been. I’m not nearly the same dog I was when we left Venice way back then. Our family has expanded, we’ve got tons of new friends, and I’ve seen more places than most pups get to visit in a lifetime. Pretty incredible.

A few days after the New Year we said goodbye to our friends and this incredible city. We spent almost two months in San Miguel de Allende, but really it felt like two minutes. I overheard My Family saying they could easily live here, and though I prefer the warmth of the beaches, I definitely understand why they feel that way. We had an amazing time, and everyone was a little bit sad to be leaving. However, the beaches were calling our names. After three months in mountain towns, it was time to hit the coast. I couldn’t wait!

PS: To see some of the the photos My Family took (and more pics of me!) click here!

19
Jan 2015
POSTED BY Neli
POSTED IN

Mainland, Mexico

DISCUSSION 2 Comments

El Tule and LA

Did you miss me? Don't worry, I'm back :)

Did you miss me? Don’t worry, I’m back :)

Phew! This holiday season has been something pretty special! I’ve been so busy hanging out with friends, family and other travelers (oh, yeah, and Maya too) that I haven’t had a chance to blog in a really long time! Okay, maybe I’ve gotten a little bit lazy, since we made it up into the mountains and the weather turned cold. But I’ve got a job to do, and I’m going to do it! So after much delay, here’s what happened when we left Playa Zipolite.

We packed up to leave the beach pretty early in the day, as My Family had been warned this was going to be a super long, super twisty drive. Although it was both of those things, it wasn’t so bad for us. Maya thankfully didn’t get carsick much at all, even with the curvy mountains Jason had to navigate. We didn’t get into Oaxaca until late afternoon, and following a couple of stops for groceries and odds and ends, we arrived at Overlander Oasis.

Snaggletooth. Some humans call her Morena.

Snaggletooth. Some humans call her Morena.

We were immediately greeted by our friend Morena, and her human family Leanne and Calvin. It had been almost a full year since we last saw them, so I was super excited. Morena remembered me immediately, and of course deferred to my awesome presence right away. Maya, on the other hand, was another story. As you probably know by now, Maya is afraid of everything, and Morena was no exception. Morena’s a super nice dog, but we were coming into her territory, and she definitely made that known to Maya right away. It took a bit of time before they were able to get along, and more than a couple of incidents of terrified peeing on Maya’s part. I don’t really get it, but I suppose she’s still kind of a baby. I showed her that Morena was nice, and was more than happy to share her toys and lap time with her humans. I did end up having to get between them a couple of times. I mean, I’m allowed to terrorize Maya. She’s my sister. Other dogs have to get in line.

It was awesome to see our old friends, but there were plenty of new friends to meet as well. Overlander Oasis has become something of a destination for travelers like us, as Leanne and Calvin are super nice and have a really pretty campground. For dogs like us it’s amazing, because we get to explore off leash the entire time. Well, as long as we don’t venture into the cats’ territory; that’s when we get yelled at. Otherwise, our time at the OO is filled with running around, playing with toys, and meeting all sorts of wonderful people from all around the world.

Me and Joe hanging out in the sun together.

Me and Joe hanging out in the sun together.

First there was Joe, a nice man in a huge camper from Europe (that’s a whole other continent by the way, across a HUGE ocean). He gave us treats when we did tricks, and didn’t mind if I shared his sunny spot when he was laying out on his lounge chair. Then there was Jon and Alyssa, a couple from Seattle who were staying in the casita. They liked to cook delicious food and share stories about all of their traveling adventures. I also got to hang out with Robbie and Kristen, a couple from Canada who were in the middle of a long trip, planning to drive all the way to the bottom of South America. Robbie might be the tallest human I’ve ever met, and one of the nicest too.

Me helping Alyssa with her video-editing.

Me helping Alyssa with her video-editing.

Because Robbie is the Tallest Human Ever his lap is extra large.

Because Robbie is the Tallest Human Ever his lap is extra large.

The campground continued to fill up with people, more travelers in one place than I think I’ve ever seen. We met Ryan and Kathi, a couple of tent campers who had left from Vancouver, Colin and Aeurlie, truck campers from Quebec, and Katrin, a super nice French lady in a Sprinter van. At this point, there were fourteen humans staying in the OO (including mine), and the days were packed with activity. Best of all? EVERYONE really loved me. They seemed to like Maya too, but she doesn’t get the quality lap time that I do. The whole group of humans went out in El Tule that night, and though I didn’t get to go with them, the delicious aroma of hamburgers followed them back home, so it must have been a good time.

Kathi and me sharing a beer.  Overlanders like beer.  A lot.

Kathi and me sharing a beer. Overlanders like beer. A lot.

The next day was Dia de los Muertos in Mexico. That means ‘Day of the Dead’, and although it sounds kind of scary, it’s actually a super fun holiday. I thought it was their version of Halloween, and although it does share some of the same characteristics, it seems to be much deeper than that. Leanne set up an altar on the campground, and placed pictures of her older relatives on it. Victoria shared her photo of her grandmother too. I guess it’s a holiday where you celebrate your favorite older relatives that aren’t around any more. The humans light candles, drink mezcal, play music and tell tales. It’s pretty cool. All the humans went into Oaxaca for the night to celebrate the holiday, and we didn’t get to go. So while they were off, probably having an incredible time, I was stuck in the camper, watching Maya cringe every time a firework blasted off. Yep, good times. I know I have it good, but sometimes I wish I was a human so I could do some of these things.

Our street in El Tule. Not many cars so it's perfect for running around on.

Our street in El Tule. Not many cars so it’s perfect for running around on.

The next morning My Family was up early packing two backpacks full of gear. This was super confusing. We just got here, and by the look of things Jason wasn’t packing up the camper. What’s the deal? Soon I figured it out, and my tail wilted: Jason was going on a trip, WITHOUT US! He smelled nervous, and Vic was certainly a bit sad. They drove off with Leanne, and then when they came back without Jason, Maya was super confused. I knew the deal, because Jason’s had to go on trips before. I’ve even been left in a doggie hotel while my whole Family went away somewhere. For Maya this was all new territory. In fact, I don’t think she’s been away from Jason for more than three or four hours in her entire life. Victoria had a bunch of fun that afternoon, meeting another super nice couple that arrived named Heather and Dan, and checking out the town cemetery for the end of Dia de los Muertos. For Maya, that night was a disaster. She stayed up literally until sunrise, crying and staring at the door.

Me and Lord Dan.  Don't tell anyone but he was my favorite out of all the campers at the O.O.

Me and Lord Dan. Don’t tell anyone but he was my favorite out of all the campers at the O.O.

I don’t think any of us slept. I tried to console her, assuring her that he would be back, but she just didn’t understand it. It’s hard to be a puppy sometimes.

The next day, some of the travelers left for southern destinations, but a couple more arrived, nice people named Brendan and Bridget. I got more attention, and Maya and Morena started to really get along. Yet I could tell she was still panicked about Jason’s disappearance. Luckily, the time while he was gone passed pretty quickly. Maya still panicked at night (even chomping on a pile of receipts in the camper), but started calming down and sleeping more. Victoria hung out with the other campers, one of which had a dog that helped us turn the OO into a canine party palace. A vet came by and treated Maya, telling Victoria that Maya would never get teeth because she didn’t get enough nutrition when she was a little baby. How sad is that? I ran around, stealing toys from Morena while Victoria and Leanne bought fabric to make a new garland for the camper. The days were warm and sunny, the nights late and filled with human games and laughter. Other than the fact that Jason wasn’t there and one time Maya peed an ocean inside the camper, life was pretty good.

Maya, the Toothless Wonder.

Maya, the Toothless Wonder.

One morning, the day I knew would come finally arrived, as Jason strolled back into the campground! He looked super tired, but really happy to see us. The whole family went crazy. Maya and I slathered Jason with kisses before he could even get to Victoria. Maya’s tail was wagging so hard I wondered if it would fall off. He was gone for ten human days, which of course felt like MONTHS to Maya and I. Jason dropped off his gear and we all hung out. Apparently, Jason had to go back to Los Angeles for work, so that’s why he left us behind. He also got to see a bunch of his friends, so we all looked at pictures and heard the latest from our old home in Venice Beach. Maya leapt up into his lap and refused to move for hours, even while Jason tried to meet all the new campers he had missed while back in the United States.

We spent another week at Overlander Oasis, and now the My Family was back together it was absolutely perfect. Maya and Morena were pals, and the days were filled with exploring El Tule, watching the humans cook delicious food, and putting on our best cute faces to make sure we got tastes of everything. There was pizza, chilaquiles, parrillada (basically the best thing ever, a huge meal with every kind of meat you could imagine), tacos, tamales and one of my favorites – grilled cheese sandwiches. Although Maya and I spent almost the entire time within the walls of Overlander Oasis, we were totally content. Good food and nice people who love us? What more could you ask for?

Since I've already been to a lot of the places Heather and Dan are going to, I was a big help in helping them plan their next stop.

Since I’ve already been to a lot of the places Heather and Dan are going to, I was a big help in helping them plan their next stop.

We were all ready to pack up and go when My Family suffered a mini disaster – Victoria fell out of the camper and hurt her ankle! Everyone came running and found her in a lot of pain. I licked her face as hard and fast as I could, and though it did make her smile, it didn’t seem to help her ankle much. Luckily our new friend Heather works in a human hospital and knew what to do. We stayed for a couple more days so Victoria could get back on two feet, but finally it was time to pack up the big camper and head north. Our next stop would be San Miguel de Allende, one of our favorite cities on the entire trip, and a meeting with my friends Shae and Olivia (and their humans Hani and Sarah), who we hadn’t seen since Costa Rica. I was sad to go, but excited to see what was in store next. My Family shared hugs with Calvin, Leanne and the remaining campers, and promised to stay in touch with all of them. Morena ran around as we pulled out of the campground, clearly sad to see us go. I hope she knows how thankful we were that she shared her home with us!

PS: To see some of the photos My Family took while we were in El Tule, head on over to our Facebook page!

30
Dec 2014
POSTED BY Neli
POSTED IN

Mainland

DISCUSSION 4 Comments

Mexico 2.0: Back in Paradise

Me and Maya in the backseat as we head to Mexico!

Me and Maya in the backseat as we head to Mexico!

If you read my last entry, you already know how super duper excited I was to return to Mexico. As we drove to the border, I could smell that My Family felt the same way. They loved their time in Guatemala, but the thought of leaving the rain behind and discovering some new parts of this beautiful country was filling the Big Truck with the taste of grand adventure. AND, I suspected there would be many taco tastes in my future. CAN’T. WAIT!

We strolled our way to the border between Guatemala and Mexico. We were crossing in a very different part of the country, so of course My Family was a bit nervous wondering how that was going to go. We rolled out of the beautiful mountains and down into a busy border town. Music was blaring, motorbikes were zigging and zagging around the truck, streets were transforming magically from two ways to one, and everyone in the car was beginning to get nervous. Thankfully, our concerns quickly flew out the window. This border crossing was amazing! As always, Maya and I got to huddle up in the air conditioning while Jason and Victoria handled all of the paperwork. It’s so fantastic that humans don’t think I can write! They were back in no time at all, with big smiles on their faces. Jason and Victoria couldn’t believe it, but this was the easiest border crossing ever!

We drove under the ‘Bienvenidos a Mexico’ sign and found the other side of the border to be just as easy. There were two spots to visit, but Victoria said later that everyone was super nice and accommodating, and the whole process was over before even Maya had the chance to become bored and grumpy. This country really is paradise! Jason drove off and the entire family was in good spirits. The music was jumping, and we had the whole country laid out in front of us. I overheard My Family saying that we may well spend six months here, and I couldn’t believe my luck! Two quick stops later, and we pulled into El Chiflon, a very pretty campsite right next to a river.

After a fairly long day in the truck, Maya and I leapt to the ground to explore. We had a wide open field all to ourselves, and couldn’t be happier. The sky was clear, and after so long spent cooped up in the LJH the vast open space was just what I was looking for. Our plans for the afternoon? To do as little as possible. I couldn’t believe my luck! I ran around, lounged in the sun, chased Maya, and generally reveled in the absence of rain. The only downside? The stray dogs that decided to hang around our camper. Maya and I let them have it, but they weren’t getting the message. I was more than happy when it was time to snuggle up in bed and call it a night.

The river was pretty muddy after all the rain but it was still super fun for splashing my feet in!

The river was pretty muddy after all the rain but it was still super fun for splashing my feet in!

The next day we took some time before hitting the road, so Maya and I could run around the river bank. I loved slipping and sliding along the clay shore (though Victoria didn’t really love cleaning me off) and dashing into the river. After that we were off again, this time to the city. San Cristobal de las Casas was one of the places we had missed on our way south, and My Family had heard nothing but great stories about this beautiful place. It was a super long drive, with some stressful hills and a tricky few minutes squeezing our way through narrow alleys, but finally we arrived at Rancho San Nicholas, a beautiful campsite just outside of the city.

Tons of super comfy grass for rolling around in. I loved this campground!

Tons of super comfy grass for rolling around in. I loved this campground!

This place was super cool. Another big, grassy field, with ideal pooing territory and some great dogs to play with. My favorite was Tita, a sweet girl dog who was just my size! We spent about a week here, and I loved nothing more than lounging in the sun with my new friend. Best of all? No rain! Maya and I got to run around for hours, chasing down sticks that Jason would throw, rolling around in all the delicious smells hidden in the grass, and generally loving our doggie life. Jason and Victoria had a good time too, but not quite as care-free. The internet was very bad at the Rancho, so Jason spent many days wandering off into town to find a place to work. We made sure to always give him an extra special greeting when he came home. We got to go into the city with Victoria and Jason several times too. San Cristobal is another colonial city and it reminded me a lot of Antigua, just without the volcanoes. There were people there from all over the world, eating delicious food, shopping in super colorful shops (or so I’m told; us dogs aren’t the best where color is concerned), and taking pictures in front of the beautiful central square. After the last few months in Guatemala I felt like I was in paradise.

My new friend, Tita!

My new friend, Tita!

Of course, it wasn’t all perfect. We did get one day of pretty serious rain, but nothing like what we had been seeing. There were also a couple of people at the campsite that I really did not like. Maya and I would bark at them when they got too close to the camper, but they never seemed to get the hint! Look, I’m not a biter, and I really love people, you just can’t mess with our home, you know? That’s our space! The whole thing was stressing Victoria out a little bit, so My Family started to think about moving on. San Cristobal was absolutely beautiful, and jam-packed with the sort of restaurants Victoria and Jason love the most. After all of our time stuck in cold, rainy places, however, My Family was more than ready for some sun and heat. We packed up the camper and left on our mission to find a beach.

We left in mid-afternoon, which is strange for us. Normally my family liked to leave for a new camping home early in the morning. But the drive to find the beach pushed My Family to decide to just get on the road. I heard that it would take more than a single day to get to the beaches of Oaxaca, so Victoria figured we’d just get a head start. Our first step was getting to Tuxtla Gutierrez, a very busy city where My Family hoped to fill the camper’s water tank. This was a pretty serious miscalculation on their part. The drive out of San Cristobal was beautiful but slow, with a ton of mountain driving. We ended up reaching Tuxtla in the middle of rush hour. That’s a human thing, when everyone is trying to get somewhere at the exact same time. It makes for a very slow, very frustrating (for Jason) drive. At the end of their ropes, Victoria and Jason decided to stop for burgers and reassess the situation. I snuck some french fries while they figured out the next step. There was no way were were going to reach the campsite Victoria had chosen as a mid-point before it got dark. Yet we couldn’t well camp in the parking lot of the burger place. Jason decided we’d just get as far as we could, and then look for a Pemex.

We ended up stopping for the night at a Pemex in a town called Cintalapa. In case you missed some of our other Mexico posts, a Pemex is a gas station. Yep, we were spending the night in a gas station. Jason and Victoria passed several they didn’t really like before finding the perfect spot. It was just outside of town, it was quiet, and the bathrooms had grape-scented hand soap. I don’t know why this was so important, but Jason and Victoria couldn’t stop talking about it. Apparently, it reminded them of Welch’s Grape Soda, whatever that was. Sleeping in a gas station is an unusual experience, and this time it was a first for Maya. I’m a pro at it, and had no trouble snuggling up under the Pemex lights and calling it a night.

My Family slid out of bed bright and early to get us back on the road. We still had quite a drive to get down to the beach, but with the anticipation of finally seeing sand again I leapt into Victoria’s lap and sat up for most of the next few hours, sniffing at the air as the familiar ocean smells began to take over. Maya is still not particularly thrilled with the driving days, but Victoria and Jason reworked the backseat situation to try and make her more comfortable. She was still a bit drooly, but nowhere near as bad as she had been before, and mostly just laid down with her head on the center armrest, looking sad.

Pretty sure this is what doggy-heaven will look like!

Pretty sure this is what doggy-heaven will look like!

After eight hours of crawling up and down hills and bouncing along dirt roads, we finally made it to the beach! Our first stop was a town called San Augustin. I jumped out of the car as soon as the doors opened and dashed onto the sand. It was beautiful! San Augustin is a very small town, basically a string of restaurants perched at the ocean’s edge, and My Family found a nice place to park behind one of the restaurants at the far end of the beach. The people there were super nice, and there were tons of dogs to play with. Unlike other beaches we had visited, all of these dogs were pretty cool, and most even had families of their own. That meant everyone was happy, and Maya even enjoyed their company after a little while. The beach was wide and clean, just perfect for running. And the water was crystal clear, very welcoming for my little paws.

Me and Alberto.  He doesn't really speak to the humans but I could completely understand that he loved me!

Me and Alberto. He doesn’t really speak to the humans but I could completely understand that he loved me!

We spent the next two nights at San Augustin, hanging with the other doggies, and playing with the nice family at the restaurant. There was a little boy there that absolutely loved my family and me, and spent much of each day asking questions about every little piece of the camper and petting us dogs. One dog in particular latched on to My Family and followed us everywhere. Her name was Puma, and though I liked her a lot, I didn’t like overhearing Victoria and Jason debate possibly taking her with us. C’mon, one puppy is enough! Thankfully, nothing ever came of it. All in all, San Augustin was just what I was looking for, and I would have been more than happy to spend weeks running along this beach. The problem was, there was no good internet here, and with Jason’s work week approaching we had to go find a better place for him. Oh, and the humans reported that you had to pour buckets of water into the toilets in order to flush them. Sometimes being a dog is pretty great. The world is my toilet!

Sorry, Puma, you're not coming with us!

Sorry, Puma, you’re not coming with us!

We bounced back up the beach road and out to the highway, making our way to a town called Playa Zipolite. My Family had heard a ton of great things about this beach, so everyone sported big smiles as we drove into town. We quickly hit a snag, however. The road that leads to Cabanas los Habana, the campsite right on the beach Victoria had planned for us to visit, was completely dug up. Big trucks were blocking the path, and workers were shoveling and mixing concrete. Victoria went in to investigate, and they told her that the road was closed, and there was no way to get to the campsite other than walking. Disaster!

Jason turned the big truck around and we quickly looked for Plan B. We found a pretty place called Rancho Los Mangos that was open and right on the main road. We pulled into the front gate, and Jason’s face dropped. It was beautiful. Too beautiful. A pool, big swatches of grass, and a pretty hotel. This was one of those RV parks that the snowbird creatures like to stay in. And just as My Family feared, it was really expensive! The people there were very nice, and even offered Victoria and Jason welcome coconut drinks after we set up, but My Family knew our plan to stay in Zipolite for quite some time was in jeopardy.

Some street art from Zipolite.  This is what I look like when Maya wants to play with me!

Some street art from Zipolite. This is what I look like when Maya wants to play with me!

Jason popped up the camper and we left to explore Zipolite. What a pretty town! The streets are all paved in beautiful designs, and the broad beach is fronted by restaurants of all shapes and sizes. This town had everything from tiny taco stands to beautiful restaurant/hotels perched on the side of the hill. I was enjoying the hot walk, but Victoria and Jason were getting a bit annoyed. We walked every inch of the town, looking for a better place to stay, and just had no luck. Finally, Jason suggested we walk over to Cabanas los Habanas and check out the situation. The sand was so hot that they had to drag us along, and everyone was getting grumpy. When we got to the Cabanas, we found a set of beautifully painted cabanas up on stilts, and a couple of campers who were very friendly. One of them had a car so My Family talked to one of the owners about how they could get in. Apparently, there was a tiny side road right next to the closed road that we might be able to slip through. My Family thanked them and we headed home, plotting the next day’s attempt at getting to our new campground.

That night just underlined why we had to change locations. Rancho los Mangos was very, VERY hot, without the ocean breeze to cool everything off. And there were tons of biting bugs too! We all woke up early the next day to pack up and make the attempt. The owners of the Cabanas were very helpful, and they even moved part of the fence so we had room. It was a tight squeeze, but we finally made it onto the campsite. What a difference! We parked right on the beach, with our very own palapa for shade. Immediately My Family’s thoughts about Zipolite changed. Maybe this would work out after all?

Bliss...

Bliss…

Best of all, this was Jason’s birthday! We celebrated by going out to one of the beach restaurants, where My Family enjoyed botanas (snacks) and beers and stared at the ocean. It was pretty sweet. Playa Zipolite is known as a “hippie paradise”, and Jason and Victoria were laughing at the evidence of that all day. I don’t really know what that means, so you’ll have to ask them. We spent the rest of the day and night hanging out with our new friends at the campsite, a human named Oleg who came all the way from Russia, and a nice man named Denny who was planning on driving down to Panama. Jason had a blast, and after the disappointment of the day before, everyone was in much better spirits.

I ran on the beach every day, so awesome!

I ran on the beach every day, so awesome!

We woke up the next day to find the sky dark with thunderclouds. Not a promising sight. That afternoon the rain started, and it was crazy! The wind was blowing so hard that the rain was flying sideways, right into our camper. We spent much of that day huddled inside, while Jason and Victoria worked to keep the leaky bits under control. The next day was better, but Victoria soon discovered the rain was not done. They spent some time online and found out something called Tropical Storm Trudy was on the way. Trudy’s a pretty nice name, but it didn’t seem like this Trudy was going to be so nice. The humans were expecting as much as a foot of rain and high winds over the next couple days, and here we were on the beach! Not a good combo. Jason and Victoria pulled the giant tarp out, and with the help of one of the nice men at the campground, managed to totally cover the camper and the big truck. It was awesome! Everything was blue inside, and there was a wide covered area where we could all sit that Victoria called ‘the party tent’. When the big rains came we were totally secure, and the other campers all spent time hanging out with us in the only really dry spot available.

If I wasn't running on the beach, you could find me snuggled up with Victoria in one of our hammocks.

If I wasn’t running on the beach, you could find me snuggled up with Victoria in one of our hammocks.

It took a while, but the rains finally passed and everyone was fine. The next few days flew by in a whirlwind of awesomeness. Victoria and I hung one of our awesome hammocks (thanks, ENO!), and we spent hours swinging in the breeze under the palapas, talking to all of the vendors that walked by. My Family met tons of people, from the super nice locals, to the ex-pats who have made Zipolite their home, to a bunch of other travelers. A couple of days into our time on the beach, two humans named Ike and Bethany pulled in next to us. They had just come into Mexico a couple of weeks before, and were planning on driving all the way to the bottom tip of South America. That’s super cool and all, but even better? They really liked me! Ike was super duper nice, letting me snuggle up on his lap, and even allowing for a kiss every now and then! We spent a bunch of time with these two, sharing stories and laughing at Maya’s attempts to fetch. She’s good at the fetching part, but not so hot on the bringing it back aspect. The days stretched on and on, and Jason and Victoria started to realize that they didn’t want to leave this amazing spot. It might have been Jason’s favorite campsite ever. So our plans changed. Instead of checking out one or two more beaches on this southern Oaxaca coastline, we were just going to stay!

Every day right at sunset there was a soccer game.  I wasn't allowed to play though :(

Every day right at sunset there was a soccer game. I wasn’t allowed to play though :(

We ended up spending two full weeks at Cabanas los Habanas, and almost every moment of it was jam-packed with awesome. I tasted fish, croissants, fruit, tacos, and even got to chew on a coconut! We met all sorts of nice humans, and spent many nights sitting with them under our lit up palapa, trading stories and snuggling up on laps. Sure, Maya and I were a bit barky from time to time (always, if you ask Jason), but who else is going to protect our home from people walking by twenty feet away? Finally, it was time to go. With heavy hearts we packed up the camper and left the beach behind. Luckily, we had a great next destination: El Tule, and my friends Calvin and Leanne at Overlander Oasis! We had a mountain to climb first, but I couldn’t wait to see these great humans I had loved so much on our trip south. Now that we were back in Mexico everything was looking up, and each day seemed more fun than the last. I can’t wait to see what the future holds!

PS: To see some of the photos My Family took, check out our Facebook page!

01
Nov 2014
POSTED BY Neli
POSTED IN

Mainland, Mexico

DISCUSSION No Comments

Guatemala 2.0: The Extended Stay

Me and Maya love to wrestle on the bed!

Hey Adventurers! I sure hope you enjoyed our ‘year on the road’ posts as much as My Family and I loved putting them together. It’s been quite the journey so far, but it’s also far from over. We celebrated our year travel-versary in Guatemala, and I just realized I haven’t yet told you about our time back in this amazing country! Well, it’s long overdue, so here we go…

After our quick trip through the border, we pointed the Big Truck straight towards Antigua, and didn’t stop until we arrived. Antigua Guatemala is a great human city, one we spent a bunch of time in during our journey south (you can check the details out here), and we were more than grateful to return. We parked once again at the Tourist Police, a nice grassy field patrolled by smiling officers and scattered campers. Exhausted after our long day of border crossing and driving, I was ready to snuggle up and call it a day. Victoria’s back, however, disagreed with me. All the driving time had left her in a bunch of pain, so we ventured out into the city to find a pharmacy that might have something to make her feel better. Two stops later and we were back at the campsite.

The next couple of days were a blur of boredom. Victoria was super duper sore, and any time she’s not feeling well I end up on constant High Alert. I tried to snuggle up with her and lick her nose a bunch, but even that didn’t seem to make her feel better. Jason kept wandering out into Antigua to try and find something to help her out. Nothing was making much of a difference. I had been so excited to revisit this beautiful place, but our week in Antigua was basically spent in the camper or out on the grass, keeping Victoria company. Jason ventured out to work, to buy groceries and to look for a good massage place for Victoria. That was about it. So instead of wandering the parks, sniffing the local dogs and hanging out in the restaurants, Maya and I were reduced to whining for leftovers and worrying about Victoria. No one slept well this week, and I was starting to wonder if the adventurous portion of the Big Adventure was well and truly over. The only bright spot was the couple of nights we hung out with Adam and Rikki, cool travelers who kept us company at the tourist police.

Here we are parked at the Tourist Police. Look at all that space for running around!

Finally, Jason decided to pull the plug on our failed Antigua trip. He and Victoria had thought about possibly finding an apartment here to hunker down and let some of the rainy season pass us by. With Victoria laid up and Jason having to work, clean and keep us all fed basically solo, there was never any time to research and explore. So instead of sitting around the campsite for another week (with what My Family said was possibly the most devastatingly terrible bathrooms and ice cold showers they had ever come across), Jason packed up the camper and we set out for another return trip: to Lake Atitlan.

The drive to the lake is one I plan on forgetting quickly. Victoria was miserable, and Jason was more than a little bit stressed out. Lake Atitlan is an incredible place (you can read about our last trip there here), a massive lake surrounded by volcanoes with super cool towns all around it. But it also features some of the steepest, most treacherous roads we’ve encountered. On our previous trip here we almost lost the brakes on the Big Truck, and Jason smelled of residual fear and anxiety for the whole next day. This time around we were certainly pros, but at this point, months into the rainy season the roads were disastrous. We bounced and braced our way down steep inclines, around ridiculous switchbacks and through narrow, cobblestone streets until we finally arrived back in San Pedro, one of our favorite stops on our way south.

We pulled into Cafe Chiyuasani, a coffee shop/pool/parking lot where we had spent a week previously. The owners remembered us, and couldn’t believe how big Maya was. This was Maya’s first campsite when she was a little baby, small enough to fit in Jason’s hand. Now Jason and Victoria have to lift her with two hands and sling her against their shoulders to pick her up! Anyway, we took our old spot, set up, had some food and relaxed. The journey was hard, and not so great for Victoria’s back, but we got there in one piece and snuggled up early for bed.

Our first two weeks in San Pedro were spent sampling all of our favorite restaurants, relearning the town and trying to find some sort of cure for Victoria’s pain. Between the croissants, barbecue, kung pao and guatemalan tacos there were massages, acupuncture treatments, internet research and muscle relaxers. Slowly but surely, Victoria started to feel better. Sitting still for a while probably had something to do with it, as well as the super nice people and laid back atmosphere, but whatever did the trick I was sure happy about it. Victoria started to smell less tired and strained and more relaxed and happy. My nose licks started doing the trick, and our walks around town got longer and longer. We were cooking more, staying up later, meeting more people and even dancing a little bit! After so little fun from El Salvador on, I was pretty darn happy about our change in fortunes.

Things got better for Maya and I as well. The Cafe is set on a wide stretch of lawn, and since it’s all gated in My Family let us run around off leash a bunch. Maya likes to pounce in my direction and then dash off, egging me into chasing her. I bark and bark, even though I kinda like this game. She’s getting really big now, and I can’t catch her anymore. I’m definitely still the older sister, though. If I want a toy she’s running after, she gives it to me no questions asked. As it should be.

A couple weeks into our stay in San Pedro, My Family made the decision to stay a bit longer. Jason met a nice girl at the Sunday barbecue at the coffee shop, and she offered to give Victoria a job at her hostel. Meanwhile, My Family went house-hunting. I guess they had gotten tired of the ice cold showers at the coffee shop, and having to trudge up a hill and awkwardly hand wash dishes without a sink with running water. They found a place to move us to, and Victoria started working at Mr. Mullets, a spot we would soon get to know very well.

Of course, we weren’t out of the woods yet. During Victoria’s very first day on the job, things took a turn for worse. I could sense that something funky was going on with Jason the whole previous day, and sure enough by the time Victoria got home Jason was glued to the bed. He was shivering and shaking, and Victoria said he had a bad fever. Things were just not going so well for us in the heath department! We were set to move into our new, temporary home just two days later, and Jason could barely move. He talked to some of our new friends about it, and people were concerned he had something called ‘Dengue Fever’. You know those stupid mosquitoes that bite you and leave bumps? Well, apparently they can leave something even worse behind, this fever that just sticks around. It ended up taking weeks before Jason felt better, so now Victoria’s super cautious about all of us where bugs are concerned, even us dogs.

Jason did manage to get out of bed long enough to drive us to our new home, a cabin in a place called Hotel Chi-ya. This was up the hill on the outskirts of San Pedro, then down a steep driveway, down an even steeper set of stairs and into what we started calling the Wee Jungle House. My Family liked it because it had a huge window that looked right out over the lake, where you could even see a shape in the mountains that people called The Indian Nose. I liked it because it had two beds, (two!) both of which I was allowed to jump on. Maya didn’t like it at first, because Maya is basically afraid of anything new and different. Jason could barely carry anything heavier than a pillow at this point, so moving in wasn’t too much fun as Victoria had to do most of it herself. Even worse? The bathtub was cracked when we moved in, and the owners didn’t know! So after being in the Wee Jungle House for just two days we ended up having to move all of our stuff across the way to another cabin, which we called the Little Jungle House. This would be our home for the next six human weeks.

During our time in the LJH, you could almost always find Jason sitting on the deck, enjoying a cup or coffee (or a super split) and enjoying the view.

At first I absolutely loved the LJH. It was HUGE, like ten times the size of our camper, with a big balcony on the outside where I could lay in the sun for hours and hours. There were also two beds here, as well as a big television! Well, that last part was more of a plus for the humans, as they got to practice their spanish watching movies in english or spanish with subtitles. Maya and I could dash around the house, chasing toys and snapping at bugs, which there were in huge numbers.

After a while, however, I started to dislike, and then hate this place. First off, there was the peeing situation. There were no grassy spots for me. Everything was stone stairs and overgrown jungle. Maya could care less; she would pee anywhere (even inside the house from time to time). But I had nowhere comfy to do my business. Jason started taking us up the hill to the flat driveway every morning, something he personally dreaded before coffee. The problem was, there were two dogs who lived at the hotel, and the younger one didn’t like me at all. She kept snapping at me, and Jason even had to scramble and pick me up a couple of times. I wish he hadn’t. I totally could’ve taken her. So the terrible outside situation, coupled with the massive rainstorms that would pummel the house on a daily basis, made me miss the camper fiercely.

After a little while the LJH started to feel like a jail...

After a little while the LJH started to feel like a jail…

My Family, however, fell into a happy and laid back routine. Jason would write on the deck each morning, and then move to the big table or head into town for delicious coffee during his work days. Over time he felt stronger and better, until finally his flu or Dengue was nothing but a bad memory. Victoria’s back was also feeling better every day, and she was working at Mr. Mullets three days a week, meeting a ton of great people and having a bunch of fun doing it. We’d head up the hill into the market once or twice a week, buying delicious fruits and veggies for My Family, and even found a nice vet in town who took care of the shots Maya and I were due to receive.

I was feeling grumpy about the LJH and Maya’s constant pestering when out of the blue, something amazing happened. I smelled them before the door opened, and immediately perked up. It was my human grandparents, Lorna and David, here for a visit! I couldn’t have been more excited, immediately jumping from lap to lap and planting kisses until I thought my tongue was going to fall off. Maya was a bit leery at first; this was her first time meeting them and she’s always on edge when other humans are near our living space. But Lorna and David are so awesome her tail was quickly wagging.

I love Lorna and David SO much!

I love Lorna and David SO much!

They stayed for a week, and we all had an absolute blast. Lorna and David love us a ton, so we got to go everywhere with them, to cafes and restaurants, and on long walks through town. Lorna and David had seen San Pedro once before, for a quick trip on their last visit to Guatemala. Now Jason and Victoria knew the town a ton better, so they showed Lorna and David everything My Family loves about San Pedro. The bustling food market, the beautiful textile shops in neighboring San Juan, the incredible restaurants all over town (with tastes shared all around every time!), and My Family’s group of new friends at Mr. Mullet’s. The only thing I could have lived without was the boat trip to Panajachel, a town that’s way on the other side of the lake. I turned green just as soon as we got on the boat, and Jason had to drag Maya on kicking and screaming! She had been on the water taxis when she was super young, but this time around she was just not having it. She leaped into Jason’s lap and wouldn’t move until we arrived on the far shore. We had a nice lunch and strolled through all the markets, but the ride back was even worse. The water was so rocky that we all got soaked, even after My Family helped hold a tarp up against the splashing water. Maya looked absolutely depressed when we finally got back to San Pedro, drenched and tired. Lorna and David headed home the next day, and I was seriously not thrilled to see them go. It’s always super fun when they visit, and I end up grumpy and sad for the whole first day I don’t see them. Victoria promised me they’d come and visit again when we get to Mexico, so at least I have that to look forward to!

Remind me again what humans like so much about boats?!

Remind me again what humans like so much about boats?!

The second half of our stay at the LJH was pretty boring, honestly. We were quite a ways outside of town, and since it was now raining for huge chunks of every day, My Family ended up leaving Maya and I home a lot. We always had plenty of fresh food and water and lots of room for playing, but the days sort of blended together. I know Victoria and Jason were having a ton of fun in San Pedro, meeting great people and sometimes staying out super late, but I was rarely invited. Maya has so much energy that she just pokes and prods me until I either play with her or snap and yell her into submission. It’s not pretty. I began to count the days we’d spent in this prison-like house, and wonder when I’d be paroled. I know My Family works hard, and now that they were feeling better they deserved to enjoy where we were. But I’m pretty sure this is NELI’S BIG ADVENTURE, right? When’s my turn coming around again? No beaches, nowhere good to pee, a puppy hounding me day and night and no good way to pass the time other than trying to trap and pester the hundreds of bugs that flew in through the cracks in the doors and windows every day. Suffice to say, I was starting to go stir crazy. Worst of all, the LJH leaked every time it rained, so Maya and I got blamed for peeing in the house a couple times before Jason and Victoria figured it out. When do we get a break?!

Me, caught in the act of plotting my escape from the LJH.

Me, caught in the act of plotting my escape from the LJH.

Don’t get me wrong, there were a couple more highlights. One day, Victoria plugged in the buzzer and shaved Jason’s head! It looked like there was a bird’s nest sitting there on the patio! Maya didn’t like it at first; she’s pretty dumb and I think she couldn’t tell it was him. I liked it right away, though. Now I can lick his head as well as his face! More real estate. My Family did also take us out into town for a couple of walks, and we even visited Victoria at work a couple times. Jason and Victoria also spent many nights at home, cooking delicious meals we always got to taste. Jason would throw toys around for Maya and I for hours on end. We ran and ran, playing keep-away and bouncing from bed to bed. The LJH was leaky and wet, and the bugs were seriously nutty, but it did have it’s strong points.

Near the end of our stay in the LJH Victoria celebrated her birthday! This was a super fun day, full of music and smiling faces. Victoria even had a birthday party at Mr. Mullets. We didn’t get to go, of course, but I heard all sorts of stories. Apparently, everyone dressed up like they were in Los Angeles, and Victoria got to break open a pinata. Maya and I made sure to give Victoria a bunch of extra kisses to make super sure she knew how much we love her. The next day Victoria and Jason started packing up the camper, and we hit another snag. The truck wouldn’t start. Our trusty home on wheels! Jason waved down a tuk tuk, which is basically a motorcycle taxi, to try and jumpstart the truck, but that didn’t work so well. Finally, a nice Guatemalan man dressed all in black with long curls and a big beard helped him get the truck started again. Jason said the man was a Hasidic Guatemalan, which I guess was pretty unique to him. I have no idea what that means, so I should probably look it up. Anyway, the truck was just fine after that, and the next day I was happy to watch My Family empty the LJH and finish packing up the camper. I could barely contain my excitement as we left that house behind.

Maya and I relaxing (um, not helping to pack the camper)  our last day at the LJH!

Maya and I relaxing (um, not helping to pack the camper) our last day at the LJH!

I had no regrets as we watched San Pedro disappear in the rearview. I know My Family was pretty sad to leave. They had met both old and new friends, and made a ton of memories in this unique place. I was more than happy to be back on the road, however. The house I thought was so super cool ended up being terrible, and with the constant rain I barely got to do any adventuring. If a dog could die of boredom, I guess I was close. Maya, on the other hand, was not that enthusiastic. She had grown so big that she barely fit in her old perch in the truck, and suddenly she started getting car sick! She had never had this problem before, but the entire journey away from Lake Atitlan she was a miserable, slobbery mess. She never vomited, but she soaked both herself and the bed under her with spit, and tried to jump down into the front seat at every opportunity. Victoria and Jason had no idea what to do, so it ended up being a pretty awkward drive.

We left the lake and drove north, heading for the Mexican border. We had one last night in Guatemala, in the parking lot of a hotel, before slowly but surely finding the border. It’s hard to say exactly how I felt about this part of our adventure. Jason and Victoria had been dealing with a ton of sickness and pain ever since El Salvador, and nothing that terrible had happened to me. Yet I was pretty unsatisfied. Don’t get me wrong, I know now how cool a life this is for a dog. We pass dogs every single day that don’t have families, and barely get enough food or clean water to survive. I’m doing great, and Maya basically won the doggie lottery. Yet I was yearning for something more. Some time out of the rain, footloose and fancy free, hopefully with a sandy beach I could call my own. It had been a long time since I’d seen Mexico. We’ve been on the road for just over a year now, and more than nine human months of that time had been spent in Central America! That’s a lot of great memories, but we were all super excited about what was going to come next. I stood up on Victoria’s lap, sniffing the changes in the air, thrilled to see the ‘Welcome to Mexico’ sign in front of us. Hopefully this would be the end of the rough times, and a new beginning for the Big Adventure!

PS:  To see some of the photos My Family took during their A W E S O M E time in San Pedro, head over to our Facebook page!

20
Oct 2014
POSTED BY Neli
POSTED IN

Guatemala

DISCUSSION 2 Comments

Guest Post: Victoria & Jason – One Year On the Road

Today marks one year on the road! We thought the whole trip was going to be six months, and now it looks like it’ll be more like a year and a half. You can plan for almost everything, but you never really know how long things will take, where the road will lead you, or how much you’ll love the adventure. To mark the occasion, we thought we’d take over Neli’s blog for a day and share some of the details with you.

Here’s a quick and dirty number breakdown: 365 days, 7 countries (with two visits to 5 of them so far), almost 10,000 miles, spending an average of $75 a day (which includes absolutely everything, from import permits to doctor’s visits to ferries, dog food to gasoline to souvenirs). That’s about $2,280 a month, which is basically what we were paying in rent back home. We spent one night sleeping on the deck of a cargo ferry, 30 nights in hotel rooms, 1 night in an 8-bed dorm room, 60 nights housesitting in Costa Rica and 38 nights in a rented house on the shores of Lake Atitlan. The rest of the time was spent sleeping in Bliss Island, our trusty camper.

It’s worth mentioning that we never made it to Panama. That was obviously not the plan. The trip was supposed to end in Panama City, but after we spent two months housesitting in Costa Rica, we ran into a snag in the rules regarding temporary vehicle import permits. Basically, we ran out of time, and were wary of getting stuck in Panama for three months. We’re disappointed we never made our final destination, but you know what they say about the journey…

It’s really hard to explain what this year has meant to us, with more new experiences, new friends and beautiful beaches than we could ever count. We’ve had ups and downs, but far more ups, and we can easily say this is one of the most amazing things either of us have ever done. We do have some standouts though, so here’s a quick look at some of our favorite people, places and things from our year on the road.

Food: If you know us, you know any recap HAS to start with food. We’ve loved trying the local fare in each country, stretching our palates while always hunting for cheap, delicious street carts. The fresh fruits and vegetables, while sometimes limited in selection, are always cheap and tasty. We had a ton of fun shopping in local markets at every stop.

Cooking on your own is one thing, but cooking together with friends makes everything taste that much better. We’re pretty sure that our friends Marcia and Andre thought we timed our ‘accidental meetings’ to coincide with lunch or dinner. Marcia also taught us how to make real deal Brazilian rice, our go-to at least once a week. Kenny and Jenn‘s carnitas could win an award, and inspired us to attempt recreating it. Sam and Erica made us curry, and now that we know how to do it it’s become our go-to for cleaning out the veggie box. We were also lucky enough to share Christmas dinner at Overlander Oasis with Calvin, Leanne, and a bunch of new friends. We’ve had fantastic homemade sushi with Sarah and Hani, and a sliders party with Chloe and Toby. In general, we try to prepare two of our own meals a day, but here are some of our favorites we’ve found along the way.

Mexico:

  • Random ceviche stand in Baja: the owner kept feeding us (free!) dishes we couldn’t recognize, but loved all the same

  • Roadside fish soup: we stopped to gas up and Victoria braved a roadside stand where the flies seriously outnumbered the people. Jason chickened out and ate a bag of chips, but the fish soup was outstanding, and Jason was seriously jealous.

  • Cracked crab at Ceilito Lindo Motel and RV Park: we slept in a dirty parking lot just so we could try this legendary cracked crab. It was worth every sleepless minute that night.

  • Il Vizietto in Sayulita: we returned several times to eat the homemade pasta and sauces, and to sit at the swing bar

  • Buffalo wings in San Miguel: The Beer Stop had killer chicken wings, offering a welcome taste of home

  • Taco stands: we ate at countless roadside taco stands in Mexico, and were never disappointed. Especially if it involved Tacos al Pastor.

Belize:

  • Pizza from Pizza Caulker: Caye Caulker has tons of restaurants, but this pizza was the real deal. You also have the option of cooking the country’s favorite hot sauce right into the pie.

  • Hot Mama’s: Speaking of hot sauce, we all love Marie Sharpe’s, but after stopping for barbecue in the middle of the country we discovered Hot Mama’s, which is now our all-time favorite.

Guatemala:

  • Barbecue night at El Retiro: We stayed in the town of Lanquin before heading up to Semuc Champey. They offer a killer barbecue once a week.

  • Mucho’s Gastropub in Antiqua: We stumbled upon this place on Valentine’s Day, and it has become one of our top dining experiences ever. Mucho’s would be at home in any major city, the food and drinks were ridiculous and beautiful.

  • Cactus Tacos: Also in Antigua, Cactus has an inventive and imaginative taco selection, including wasabi tempura shrimp tacos. Say no more.

  • Pappi’s BBQ: Yep, in Antigua as well. Pappi’s had a bbq sandwich that’s as long as your arm, and worth the struggle to eat every last bite.

  • Croissants at Idea Connection: The best cafe on Lake Atitlan, their croissants are the real deal.

  • Pop-up Indian: There’s a pop-up Indian restaurant at the cultural center near the Santiago dock in San Pedro. We’ll be making this our last meal in San Pedro.

  • Smokey Joe’s BBQ: Yep, we love barbecue. And Smokey Joe’s is the best we’ve found in Central America. Every Sunday at the pool in San Pedro, it’s everything you could want and then some. We never walked away without leftovers.

El Salvador:

  • Pupusas! Ranging anywhere in price from twenty-five to seventy-five cents a pupusa, we could (and sometimes did) eat these for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

  • Tunco Veloz: This pizza restaurant in El Tunco was incredible, with a staff to match. Try every pizza on the menu, but especially the PPP.

  • Rancho Clemente: We spent one night at this restaurant/campsite close to the Honduran border. There’s no menu, it’s just what they caught that day, and what’s left by the time you get there. We had shrimp and a whole fried fish, and left full and blown away.

Nicaragua:

  • Street meat in Leon: It sounds weird, but it was incredible. Right outside the main market every sundown, the vendors cook delicious meats of all shapes and sizes, and you can pile your plate high.

  • Dessert at Imagine: We had mango bread, with chocolate fudge sauce and vanilla ice cream at this tiny, artistic spot in Granada. Sounds simple enough, but it was mind-blowingly good.

  • Cha Cha Cha: This San Juan del Sur restaurant offered great ambience and live music, but the Korean steak tacos won the night.

Costa Rica:

  • Campground cookies in Monte Verde: We spent a few nights at a beautiful farm called La Colina Lodge. The cookies they sell at reception are spectacular.

  • Pizza Cahuita: This unassuming pizza place on the Caribbean was maybe the best pizza we’ve ever had, not just on this trip.

  • Bamboo Taco: A taco truck outside of our vet’s office in Uvita. Two Americans cooking killer tacos.

  • Fresh mangos: Jason pulled fresh mangos out of the trees at our campsite near Uvita, with a bamboo pole that must have been fifty feet long. For whatever reason, they tasted extra delicious.

Drinks: Chances are if we’re eating, we’re probably drinking as well. Nothing beats an ice cold beer at our campsite after a long, dusty, bumpy, stressful driving day or a homemade sundowner on the beach while wild camping. There have been some amazing finds, however. Here are our standout drinks.

  • Mexico: Baja Beans Coffee served espresso drinks that made us feel like we were back on Abbot Kinney, with prices to match. Prior to visiting San Miguel, we thought Mexican beer consisted of Tecate, Corona and other flavorless, semi-alcoholic brews. We were happy to discover there’s actually 40+ amazing Mexican brews, and we tasted several of them at the Beer Stop. The corn-based Atole is the perfect warm drink on a cold night, though Victoria didn’t like the strawberry one. Mezcal is made in Oaxaca, and is so much tastier than tequila.

  • Belize: Even though the bottle is small, Belikin Beer was our favorite Central American brew. Try both the ‘beer’ and the ‘stout’ for the full experience.

  • Guatemala: The spicy margaritas at Cactus Taco are the best we’ve found so far. Coffee-wise, it’s a battle between Coffee Loco in Panajachel and Idea Connection in San Pedro, so you might as well try both, and more than once. Our new friend Oliver learned to make Super Splits while bar-tending in Peru, and brought them to Mr. Mullet’s in San Pedro, where they quickly became everyone’s favorite. We’ve duplicated the recipe many times at home. Thanks Oli!

  • Nicaragua: Flor de Cana, Flor de Cana, Flor de Cana. Enough said.

  • Costa Rica: Lake Arenal Brewing Company is the real deal. Try an IPA and let the awesome owner bend your ear for a night. We also loved playing mixologist with our friends at the Big Jungle House in Costa Rica. Two of our favorites were Lydia’s ‘Everything’s Coming Up Wellner’ and Heather’s ‘It Looks Nice At the Beach’!

Places We Loved: This is a really tough one, as we found something to love in almost every place we stopped. There are some standouts, however, places we thought we could potentially never leave.

  • Mexico: The entire Baja Peninsula is incredible. We can’t believe we lived three hours away from here and never visited. Can’t wait to go back! We were also surprised by how much we loved the interior, as we thought we’d spend all of our time in Mexico by the beach. We couldn’t get enough of the mountain towns, however, especially San Miguel de Allende. We’re going back this November!

  • Belize: It’s not a standout, because we would never want to go back, but Belize City is the sketchiest place we’ve ever been. It’s the one place we felt concerned, even just driving on the road. We loved our time on Caye Caulker, but it was very short (and not particularly dog friendly). Would be a great place to go back for a fly-in holiday.

  • Guatemala: Semuc Champey is one of the most stunning and magical places we’ve ever been, especially as we had the park to ourselves. We also loved San Pedro la Laguna on Lake Atitlan. The laid back vibe, great Mayan culture and incredible food make this the hardest place to leave in Central America.

  • Nicaragua: Laguna de Apoyo is a gorgeous crater lake with the best weather and water temperature we found anywhere. The kind of place you go for a night and end up leaving a week later. Playa Maderas is a little beach community north of San Juan del Sur. We could have spent months had the internet been better. Between here and Playa Gigante, we saw the most incredible sunsets of our trip.

  • Costa Rica: The entire Nicoya Peninsula is stunningly beautiful. We wished we had a ton more time to spend here. The mountain town of Monteverde is gorgeous, with a great ex-pat community to match. It’s one of the places we would consider living longer term. We spent two months in the Big Jungle House, up a mountain south of Uvita. We felt like we were living in a dream, in a 3,000 square foot home with an infinity pool overlooking the ocean, and it gave us the opportunity to spend time with friends we hadn’t seen in a year (or hadn’t met in person yet).

Relationships: You would think spending 24 hours a day together, living in the square footage of the bed of a pickup truck that our relationship would have been sorely tested. We don’t know if it’s because we lived in such a tiny house before or if we’ve just had a blessed trip, but we really never argue. The trip has brought us closer together, both literally and figuratively, and beside a couple of grumpy, long driving days it’s been smooth sailing.

We’ve also found that our definitions have changed drastically. Our definition of ‘clean’, for example, is much more relative now. Both concerning ourselves and our environment. Bathrooms that would turn your stomach back home have become an oasis down here. We’ve gone from showering daily in the US to questioning whether or not we smell after the third day on the road. Cheap vs. expensive has been totally redefined: if a beer costs more than $1.25, that’s expensive. Sleeping in late means getting up after the sun has risen. 7:30 is super late. Staying up past RV Midnight (9:30) is often a challenge.

Our lives have become much simpler. We sold 90% of what we owned, and still feel like we have too much stuff. When we were leaving home, Victoria sold or donated over 75 pairs of shoes, most of which had only been worn once, if at all. Running water is a luxury. Hot water is an even bigger luxury. Toilet seats are miraculous, though we still don’t understand why they seem to be optional in many places. Gas, electricity and internet are not basic human rights, and often take some hunting to track down. Jason has spent many frantic mornings riding in the back of pickup trucks trying to find WiFi that can handle a Skype call.

Money Matters: We thought we had budgeted six months, but at this point we’ve stretched it to over a year. The fact that Jason works while we travel, something we hadn’t counted on, really helps. It changes the trip significantly, but having money coming in definitely takes some of the stress out of the picture. Victoria also got a job at a hostel while we were in San Pedro. She made a whopping $1.50 an hour, but that often paid for a special meal or two out on the town each week, and the bar tab and free laundry were major bonuses.

Friends: Obviously we miss our friends and family from home dearly. We were lucky enough to have several visitors while on the road, including Victoria’s parents (twice!), Heather and Karyn (Venice peeps), and Lydia (one of our favorite NYC gals). We hope to have several other visitors as we make our way north, and always look forward to sharing the trip with the people we love. In addition, we’ve made a ton of new friends on the trip. There’s a unique, basic connection with other travelers that turns relative strangers into BFF’s almost immediately. It’s a shared experience and set of values that unites people from different backgrounds and cultures, creating the backdrop for some incredible nights and lasting memories.

Would We Do It Again? Absolutely! Look, it hasn’t all been legendary adventures, the ‘living the dream’ ideal that many people might think it is when we tell them what we’re doing. There’s a great deal of stress, of making do without things you used to take for granted, of dealing with sick dogs, sick people, dangerous roads, unmet expectations, car trouble and scam artists. Yet we wouldn’t trade this last year for anything in the world. Traveling always expands your perspective, and traveling slowly by car gives you the opportunity to see a country through the eyes of the locals. It’s not always about the major tourist destinations as much as the unexpected detours through tiny villages you never planned on seeing. Thriving in the unexpected is a skill, and there’s no better way to learn it than by traveling slowly. There are a ton of sacrifices inherent in a journey like this, but what you gain along the way is both hard to describe, and absolutely priceless.

We head back to Mexico in a couple of days, where we plan to use all 180 days of our visa, exploring parts of the country we missed on our way south as well as returning to some of our favorite spots. We hope you’ll all continue to follow along with us, and maybe squeeze in a visit!

01
Oct 2014
POSTED BY Neli
DISCUSSION 3 Comments
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One Year in the Life of an Adventure Dog

Napping on the beach is one of my favorite things to do!

Napping on the beach is one of my favorite things to do!

Today is the 364th day since we packed up the Big Truck and left the Wee Blue House behind. That means tomorrow will be one whole year away from home, exploring Mexico and Central America on my Big Adventure. Humans like to count things. They’re always marking time, noting dates and celebrating anniversaries. Since my blog is probably read by humans for the most part, it seemed like a good idea to note the occasion. After all, a year is an awfully long time. That’s like 20% of my life so far! Although I probably would have been content to spend the last year with our friends in Venice, laying in the sun and snuggling up in my favorite home ever, it’s certainly been an amazing experience. We’ve had ups and downs, but overall I couldn’t have asked for a better human family and a more interesting life.

Instead of going on and on about all the cool stuff we’ve done, it seemed like a good idea to let the pictures do the talking. We’ve spent the past year exploring California, Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, and we’ve got thousands of pictures that tell a better story than I ever could. I hope you enjoy reliving our adventures as much as I have!

 90291, baby! This is me right before we left the Wee Blue house and our life in Venice.

90291, baby! This is me right before we left the Wee Blue house and our life in Venice.

Before we crossed the border into Mexico, we did a quick 2-week tour of California. This is me and Jason taking a break on one our hikes in the Sequoia National Forest.

Before we crossed the border into Mexico, we did a quick 2-week tour of California. This is me and Jason taking a break on one our hikes in the Sequoia National Forest.

Turns out not all of California is as warm as Venice. Here I am snuggled up in bed in my favorite American Apparel hoodie. You know what they say, you can take the dog out of LA but you can't take the LA out of the dog...

Turns out not all of California is as warm as Venice. Here I am snuggled up in bed in my favorite American Apparel hoodie. You know what they say, you can take the dog out of LA but you can’t take the LA out of the dog…

One of my favorite things about the Big Adventure is all the empty beaches we camp on. Even better than an empty beach? I don't need to be on-leash! Here I am stretching my legs on the Baja.

One of my favorite things about the Big Adventure is all the empty beaches we camp on. Even better than an empty beach? I don’t need to be on-leash! Here I am stretching my legs on the Baja.

Another awesome thing about the Big Adventure? All the new friends we have made along the way! This is me getting some love from our Canadian surfer buddies.

Another awesome thing about the Big Adventure? All the new friends we have made along the way! This is me getting some love from our Canadian surfer buddies.

Me running on the beach in Baja.  Life really doesn't get better than this!

Me running on the beach in Baja. Life really doesn’t get better than this!

My friend Olivia and me playing in the water on the Baja. I miss you Olivia!

My friend Olivia and me playing in the water on the Baja. I miss you Olivia!

I get so many tastes of human-food on this trip! This is me and Vic shopping for croissants in Sayulita, Mexico. Yum!

I get so many tastes of human-food on this trip! This is me and Vic shopping for croissants in Sayulita, Mexico. Yum!

I don't especially love the time we spend in cities but even I can admit this is a pretty cool view of Guanajuato!

I don’t especially love the time we spend in cities but even I can admit this is a pretty cool view of Guanajuato!

Family holiday of snap of us in San Miguel de Allende.

Family holiday snap of us in San Miguel de Allende.

I get left in the truck. A LOT. I spend most of the time waiting for My Family to come home...

I get left in the truck. A LOT. I spend most of the time waiting for My Family to come home…

Leanne and Calvin, the owners of Overlander Oasis near Oaxaca, got me my own special Christmas present just in case Santa couldn't find me. I loved aardvark so much but My Family left him on an island in Nicaragua :(

Leanne and Calvin, the owners of Overlander Oasis near Oaxaca, got me my own special Christmas present just in case Santa couldn’t find me. I loved aardvark so much but My Family left him on an island in Nicaragua :(

Here I am waiting while Jason gets his boots shined in Oaxaca. It took forever but Jason was very happy with the results!

Here I am waiting while Jason gets his boots shined in Oaxaca. It took forever but Jason was very happy with the results!

Me and Jason hanging out in the (frigid) pools at Hierve del Agua.

Me and Jason hanging out in the (frigid) pools at Hierve del Agua.

Vic and I out for a bike ride on Caye Caulker, Belize. It was just like when we used to go for rides back in Venice!

Vic and I out for a bike ride on Caye Caulker, Belize. It was just like when we used to go for rides back in Venice!

This is me the first time I heard Howler Monkeys, near Tikal in Guatemala. Don't like.

This is me the first time I heard Howler Monkeys, near Tikal in Guatemala. Don’t like.

Victoria' parents, Lorna and David, came to see me in Antigua, Guatemala. I love them so so SO much!

Victoria’ parents, Lorna and David, came to see me in Antigua, Guatemala. I love them so so SO much!

Me and David sharing a beer on Lake Atitlan.  He's not a very good sharer but I managed to sneak in a lick or two!

Me and David sharing a beer on Lake Atitlan. He’s not a very good sharer but I managed to sneak in a lick or two!

The first time we went on a water taxi on Lake Atitlan I thought I was going to be sick. Not cool at all.

The first time we went on a water taxi on Lake Atitlan I thought I was going to be sick. Not cool at all.

This is me snuggled up with one of the Christmas presents Lorna and David got me. Thanks guys!

This is me snuggled up with one of the Christmas presents Lorna and David got me. Thanks guys!

Victoria and Jason took Spanish classes in San Pedro, Guatemala. I went to class with them most days, but I didn't learn that much.

Victoria and Jason took Spanish classes in San Pedro, Guatemala. I went to class with them most days, but I didn’t learn that much.

Oh yeah, the puppy. You can tell how excited I was to learn she was staying with us forever...

Oh yeah, the puppy. You can tell how excited I was to learn she was staying with us forever…

Another day, another beach run. This is me shaking off after a run along the beach in El Tunco, el Salvador.

Another day, another beach run. This is me shaking off after a run along the beach in El Tunco, el Salvador.

Here we all are sitting on the wall in El Tunco. Look how tiny Maya is!

Here we all are sitting on the wall in El Tunco. Look how tiny Maya is!

Me running on the beach in Nicaragua. I really do love an empty, seemingly endless beach!

Me running on the beach in Nicaragua. I really do love an empty, seemingly endless beach!

Me and Vic on our friend Andrews island in Lake Nicaragua. Yup, we're friends with people who own their own islands!!

Me and Vic on our friend Andrew’s island in Lake Nicaragua. Yup, we’re friends with people who own their own islands!!

Maya finally got big enough to join me on beach run in Playa Gigante, Nicaragua. Here we are tearing it up together.

Maya finally got big enough to join me on a beach run in Playa Gigante, Nicaragua. Here we are tearing it up together.

Our first (of many) stops in Costa Rica. This place was full of monkeys and sloths, none of whom really wanted to play with me.

Our first (of many) stops in Costa Rica. This place was full of monkeys and sloths, none of whom really wanted to play with me.

This is me relaxing on Vic's lap on Lake Arenal, Costa Rica. I love relaxing.

This is me relaxing on Vic’s lap on Lake Arenal, Costa Rica. I love relaxing.

We spent 90 days in Costa Rica.  N I N E T Y  D A Y S !

We spent 90 days in Costa Rica. N I N E T Y D A Y S !

Me running on the black sand beach in Cahuita, Costa Rica.  Note to self:  Black Sand gets way hotter than white sand.  Ouch!

Me running on the black sand beach in Cahuita, Costa Rica. Note to self: Black Sand gets way hotter than white sand. Ouch!

Reunited and it feels so good! We ran into our German friends Doris and Torsten in a Walmart parking lot in the middle of Costa Rica, what fun!

Reunited and it feels so good! We ran into our German friends Doris and Torsten in a Walmart parking lot in the middle of Costa Rica, what fun!

Me and my friend Heather hanging out by the pool in the Big Jungle House.

Me and my friend Heather hanging out by the pool in the Big Jungle House.

Heather came to see us all the way from Venice. Here we are again sharing a glass of wine at the BJH.

Heather came to see us all the way from Venice. Here we are again sharing a glass of wine at the BJH.

One of the great things about living in a house again was the couch! Occasionally, I let Maya share it with me.

One of the great things about living in a house again was the couch! Occasionally, I let Maya share it with me.

My friend Lydia also came to see us in Costa Rica. I was her good luck charm when we played UNO.

My friend Lydia also came to see us in Costa Rica. I was her good luck charm when we played UNO.

Oh yeah, I had almost forgotten about this. Victoria made me swim in the pool every single day. Not cool Vic!

Oh yeah, I had almost forgotten about this. Victoria made me swim in the pool every single day. Not cool Vic!

On our way out of Costa Rica, we spent a little more than a week going from beach to beach on the Nicoya Peninsula. Here I am running on the beach with Victoria right before the sun went down.

On our way out of Costa Rica, we spent a little more than a week going from beach to beach on the Nicoya Peninsula. Here I am running on the beach with Victoria right before the sun went down.

Me and Jason playing on the beach in Playa Maderas in Nicaragua.

Me and Jason playing on the beach in Playa Maderas in Nicaragua.

Every night on Playa Maderas, we would all go down to the beach and wait for the sunset. My Family would drink sundowners and then we'd all run around. It was one of my favorite places in Nicaragua.

Every night on Playa Maderas, we would all go down to the beach and wait for the sunset. My Family would drink sundowners and then we’d all run around. It was one of my favorite places in Nicaragua.

Me and Victoria after we were dancing on the street in Leon, Nicaragua. What fun!

Me and Victoria after we were dancing on the street in Leon, Nicaragua. What fun!

Our second trip through El Tunco, we went to a pizza place almost every night. This is me and Maya with Carlos, one of the waiters who liked us so much he bought us treats!

Our second trip through El Tunco, we went to a pizza place almost every night. This is me and Maya with Carlos, one of the waiters who liked us so much he bought us treats!

Lorna and David came back to see us in San Pedro, Guatemala. I heard they are going to visit us again in Mexico, I can't wait!

Lorna and David came back to see us in San Pedro, Guatemala. I heard they are going to visit us again in Mexico, I can’t wait!

Whenever Lorna and David come to visit us, they bring tons of treats for My Family AND me. This time they brought me this weird chicken pirate toy that Maya and I love to fight over, even though they brought one for each of us!

Whenever Lorna and David come to visit us, they bring tons of treats for My Family AND me. This time they brought me this weird chicken pirate toy that Maya and I love to fight over, even though they brought one for each of us!

Here I am hanging out in the Little Jungle House we rented on Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. It's got tons of room for running around and a great deck overlooking the lake that always has a sunny spot for me to lay on.

Here I am hanging out in the Little Jungle House we rented on Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. It’s got tons of room for running around and a great deck overlooking the lake that always has a sunny spot for me to lay on.

It was super hard to pick just a few pictures that tell the story of our amazing life on the road. So I might have overdone it a little bit in this post! I can’t believe it’s been a year already. My Family says that we’ve still got a little bit more time before we have to go back home, and I intend on enjoying every minute of it. Well, except for the times when Maya won’t leave me alone. She’s awful chewy. Can’t wait to get back to our adventures, and to share them all with you!

30
Sep 2014
POSTED BY Neli
DISCUSSION 2 Comments

Ailing in El Salvador

After a long day we F I N A L L Y made it back to El Sal!

After a long day we F I N A L L Y made it back to El Sal!

With our second journey through Nicaragua coming to an end, I knew that we had a big and potentially stressful day in front of us. Well, not so stressful for Maya and I. A border crossing should probably be renamed a boring crossing, if you ask me. It’s basically eight hours stuck in the truck, growling at Maya every time she tries to snuggle up, my tummy grumbling because there’s no treats and no food until dinner time. I’m dragged out of my snuggly slumber too early, and kept up too late. All my whining aside, however, I knew it was usually even worse for My Family. And this border crossing was no exception.

Leaving Nicaragua, our goal was to cross through a teeny tiny bit of Honduras (a big country that we didn’t have time to visit), and end up in El Salvador, a super fun country we had visited in the spring, with wide beaches and tons of delicious food. We had done this crossing before with no problems, so My Family’s confidence was high, despite not getting much sleep and probably drinking a beer or two more than they should have. The Nicaraguan border was super easy. Last time we crossed here it was during a holiday weekend, and the border was overrun with grumpy humans tired of waiting around in the heat. This time it was almost empty. Maya and I got to sit in the air conditioned truck while Jason handled pretty much everything. We were in and out before I knew it!

The drive through Honduras was quick and easy as well. This was shaping up to be a pretty simple day! That’s when the problems began… We pulled up to the border between Honduras and El Salvador, and it didn’t look anything like we remembered. There were all these tin shacks, and trucks everywhere we looked. We were just about to turn around when an official looking human waved us down. He told us we were at a special border for truck drivers, and NOT where we needed to be. Jason thanked him for the help, but he wouldn’t let us go. He wanted to see the health certificates for us dogs, and I guess My Family hadn’t done something properly. At the trucker border they deal with plants, food and animals all the time, and they simply weren’t going to let us just drive away. So there we sat, while Victoria worked with the nice humans there to resolve our paperwork situation. We sat, and we sat, and we sat some more. Jason started getting frantic, as hours were now passing by. All of a sudden, midday was turning into mid-afternoon, and we still had to get through this border and into El Salvador. Just when Jason looked like he was going to give up and turn us around, Victoria came back with all the papers. We were free to go!

After that, getting out of Honduras was easy. We were up to the final step: getting into El Salvador. We weren’t yet out of the woods, as Jason likes to say. And believe it or not, we ran into even more troubles! They had changed the border since we had been here last, and My Family couldn’t find the building where we had to register our truck and camper! Jason drove back and forth down the same road, and it took us another hour to figure out where we were supposed to be. Now the sun was getting low in the sky, and Jason was getting seriously worried. He left us behind in the truck while he went to handle the final round of paperwork, and we didn’t see him again for like two hours! At this point, even Victoria was starting to get nervous. Jason was as grumpy as I had ever seen him, and Maya could barely keep herself still anymore. The sun was setting, we had already been in the car for nine hours, and we still had to drive to our campsite! As they say down here, that’s no bueno.

Jason was almost silent as he sped us down the highway, grumbling to himself every now and then about the potholes (the roads in El Salvador are pretty bumpy), the disorganized car import process (he had to stand around with the truckers and the drug enforcement agents waiting for our paperwork) and our terrible luck in Honduras. It was almost pitch black when Victoria realized we might not make it to the campsite we had hoped to reach and started scrambling for more options. We pulled up at a place called Rancho Clemente after eight o’clock at night, exhausted and grumpy. Luckily, our hosts were super nice, and there was a restaurant open right above the beach! Jason and Victoria stumbled into their chairs, while Maya and I sniffed out crumb after delicious crumb off the sand. I don’t know why it was such a problem for us to be eating tasty crab bits, but Jason had no patience for it on this night! My Family got a bit happier after the food arrived, an incredible whole fish and the largest shrimp I had ever seen. We got to taste everything, and we headed back to the camper with bellies full, thankful that this long, stressful day was over.

Sunrise (!?!?) over the Pacific.  Vic and Jay were pretty excited about this.

Sunrise (!?!?) over the Pacific. Vic and Jay were pretty excited about this.

Before I knew it, Jason was waking us all up. The sun wasn’t even all the way up in the sky, and he was pointing excitedly out the window. Apparently, we were seeing the sun rise over the Pacific Ocean, which I guess is a big deal for humans. Jason and Victoria like geography, and Jason was even on a geography game show when he was a kid! It was a pretty sunrise, with pinks and purples and blues and oranges, but I could barely keep my eyes open. Maya just stared at me, all confused, until I managed to catch a little more sleep as My Family packed up the camper. We were off early, headed up the coast to a town called El Tunco. We stopped in a busy town, the marketplace packed with people and dogs and loud music, and a few hours later pulled off the main road and parked at Sol y Mar, the same campsite we had visited our last time in El Salvador. The owners remembered us, and were so surprised to see how big Maya was getting.

Maya holding it down at our campsite at Sol y Mar.

Maya holding it down at our campsite at Sol y Mar.

We spent about a week here, and the whole time we did… absolutely nothing. Victoria hurt her back during our stressful border crossing, probably from shoving Maya back into her spot over and over again, and she could barely get out of bed. I spent most of my time snuggling up with her, licking her nose to make her feel better. Jason, on the other hand, spent most of his time wrangling Maya, who has become quite the goofball. As soon as we wake up, she wants to play. After breakfast, she wants to play. At the hottest point of the day (and it gets pretty dang hot in El Salvador), she wants to play! The only time she doesn’t want to play is when she’s afraid of something, and that’s A LOT of the time. A new person, a random dog, a firework or even a squirrel in a tree is enough to send Maya, tail tucked, running to crouch between Jason’s legs. So between Maya’s nuttiness, Victoria’s soreness and my general grumpiness about doing anything but snuggling up, Jason had his hands full. Even worse, he got a bad cold at the same time. Jason tried everything he could think of to help Victoria feel better, including bringing a sweet human over to the camper and setting up a space so Victoria could have a massage. Nothing was working, however, and our moods were seriously in the dumps.

Not much going on in El Tunco in the green season...

Not much going on in El Tunco in the green season…

El Tunco is a super cool town, with nice humans, great food and a pretty sweet beach. However, this might have been one of the lowest points of the Big Adventure. Victoria was in a ton of pain, Jason was sniffling and sneezing all over the place, Maya was bored, and it rained every day! Even the beach seemed as grumpy as I was! It was completely different from last time we were here. The sand had been totally replaced by rocks, and the water was so rough that you couldn’t get anywhere near it. My paws were not happy, so we only played there one time.

Turns out a beach covered in millions of rocks is not that much fun to run on :(

Turns out a beach covered in millions of rocks is not that much fun to run on :(

The only fun thing that really happened was meeting the owner and employees of Tunco Veloz, the super delicious pizza restaurant right next door to our campsite. We went there several times, since everyone was so under the weather (and My Family loved the pizza). And they love dogs! They let me and Maya go anywhere we wanted, and played with us the whole time. Carlos, one of the nice humans there, even bought us ball toys and treats when he went into La Libertad! Our last night at the restaurant, Maya and I found this awesome toy laying around that the owners keep just so dogs will have something to do while the humans are talking and eating. We loved it so much that the owner gave it to us! How cool! It’s quickly become our favorite toy, and Maya and I spend hours wrestling around with it.

Maya and I giving Carlos a big thank you for our presents!

Maya and I giving Carlos a big thank you for our presents!

Although the original plan included another stop in El Salvador, the state of My Family was so bad that they decided we’d head right into Guatemala with no other stops. We were going to go to Antigua, and Jason knew they had doctors there that might be able to help if Victoria wasn’t feeling better. So Jason packed up the camper and we headed for the border.

I couldn’t believe we had to face another boring crossing so soon after the last one, and really no one was in the mood for it that day. Even worse, as we got close to the border the line of cars, trucks and buses seemed to stretch on and on forever. We got stuck behind several gigantic buses, and as we pulled into the border Victoria started to groan. The line at the passport station stretched all the way around the building. We were going to be here forever!

Jason left Victoria, me and Maya in the big truck and got in line. I watched through the window as the minutes passed, and he wasn’t making any progress. Out of nowhere, a man came up and knocked on the window. I recognized his smell, and Victoria remembered him too. His name was Jorge, and he had helped us out the last time we crossed from Guatemala into El Salvador! Jorge recognized the camper, and asked Victoria if we needed help. She was more than happy to accept, and Jorge went to talk to Jason. We were left in the camper, and I watched as Jorge worked some miracle and got My Family moved way up to the front of the line. It took us a little over an hour to get through to the other side, and Jason thought without Jorge’s help it might have been more like four or five. Victoria was in too much pain to wait that long, so Jason was more than happy to pay our way through. You see, humans use money when they want stuff like pizza and dog treats, but I guess money can help out at borders in other ways.

Our border buddy, Jorge,

Our border buddy, Jorge,

We left El Salvador behind and found the Guatemala border almost deserted. Since we had beat the line, we got through everything else super quick. My Family thanked Jorge and we were on our way, back in Guatemala once again. Our time in El Salvador was very short and super boring, so I was pretty happy we were moving on. I was worried about Victoria, and Jason wasn’t in great shape either. Only Maya seemed to be happy, oblivious to pretty much everything. It’s nice being a puppy sometimes. It’s never great being sick, but being sick on a Big Adventure is seriously terrible. I’ll let you know if things turn around in Guatemala!

PS:  My Family didn’t really take any pictures during our quick trip in El Salvador since everyone was sick but you might be interested in checking out my post from last time we were in El Sal.  Oh, and you can always check out our Facebook page to keep up to date on what’s going on (like me becoming a cover girl!)

10
Sep 2014
POSTED BY Neli
POSTED IN

El Salvador

DISCUSSION 3 Comments

Nicaragua: The Return

Maya and me running in the ocean.  I'll admit it, sometimes it's fun to have a little sister!

Maya and me running in the ocean. I’ll admit it, sometimes it’s fun to have a little sister!

Although I was sad that we were leaving our overlanding friends and Costa Rica behind, I have to admit I was itching to get back on the road. The overlanding life is pretty good for us dogs. Since I don’t have fingers or a license, Jason never asks me to do any of the driving. I basically get to lounge on Victoria’s lap, snoozing away or stretching up to watch the beautiful countryside pass by.

Almost as if Victoria had heard these thoughts, the drive to the border of Nicaragua started with a rather disappointing turn of events: I was thrust in the back seat of the truck! I guess now that My Family has set up a comfy perch for Maya back there they figured it would do okay for me as well. As if! Now I have to sit next to the puppy, without Victoria’s comfy lap supporting me during the bumps and bounces! Also, Maya is getting BIG! She takes up a lot of room, and she likes to chew on my legs and face. Definitely a downgrade. I was sure I’d find a way to squeeze back onto my princess perch in the front seat, but for now I just had to grin and bear it as we drove the steamy road up to the border.

Crossing back into Nicaragua was no trouble at all, and thanks to a suggestion from our friends, I got to stay in the air conditioned truck the whole time with Maya and Victoria, while Jason handled all the paperwork. Much better than panting my little furry face off in the midday heat while kids whistle and snap at me. We drove back up the highway and into the town of San Juan del Sur, a pretty little beach community that Victoria had visited years ago, and was excited to see once again. We drove in a bunch of circles, striking out on places to stay, until a nice man that called us ‘chicos’ told us about a pretty beach just twenty minutes away that was great for dogs. Dog friendly beach? Now we’re talking!

Pretty sure this is what doggie-Heaven looks like.

Pretty sure this is what doggie-Heaven looks like.

We drove the super duper bumpy road to Playa Maderas, and found that special beach our friend had suggested. We found a comfy place to park behind Cafe Revolucion, a small brick building that smelled of cheese and pepperoni, two scents that wrap around my heart. Yes, they do make pizza as well as coffee, and yes, I did get to try it during the week my family spent at this fantastic beach!

I could chase Maya on the beach all day.  Luckily, she seems to like being chased!

I could chase Maya on the beach all day. Luckily, she seems to like being chased!

Boy, what a beach it was! There were tons of dogs around, and since Maya is still pretty much afraid of everything that made off leash time a bit tricky. We did get to have some, however, which means my favorite past-time: chasing waves! I ran until I thought my heart would leap out of my chest, biting at the waves and charging at Maya in the sand. She’s become pretty good at this herself, but she’s much braver than me when it comes to going in the water. She even started swimming a little bit! I couldn’t let her show me up, so I tried to brave the waves myself. It’s not so bad, but I definitely prefer solid ground under my paws.

Me, just taking it all in.

Me, just taking it all in.

That’s basically what life was like in this special place. My Family got to know some of the other Adventurers who were staying there, people from all over the world. I barked at all of the other dogs that tried to get close to the camper, and thankfully Maya has joined in these all important security duties. Victoria got back into speaking Spanish with the locals, and Jason had yet another bouncy ride in the back of a pickup truck, when the internet went down on the beach during one of his work days. This was after a crazy windstorm that blew out the power everywhere, and also blew away our wicker door mat. It was never to be seen again. Other than that bit of craziness, our time was spent slowly, eating delicious food, running on the beach, and taking in some of the coolest sunsets yet. I think I could have stayed here forever. Gosh, I forgot how awesome Nicaragua was!

Sunset on Maderas. Pretty sweet.

Sunset on Maderas. Pretty sweet.

Unfortunately, good internet access was not high on the priority list for the residents of Playa Maderas (that list basically reads: surfing, cheap beer, fish tacos, chocolate bliss balls and loud music), so once Jason’s work week came around again we headed back into San Juan del Sur. We had heard there might be a hostel there that loves dogs, and with a bit of searching we found Hostal Suenos del Mar. I was immediately happy we did, because the owners LOVED me. Sure, they gave Maya that puppy attention, but they knew I was the star of the show. They showed us a great room, with a huge bed and chilly floors that was absolutely perfect. So Jason parked the Big Truck outside, we unpacked and got ready to check out the town. Before we got out the door, we ran into our friend Amelie, a super nice human we had met months ago in Guatemala. It was pretty cool getting to catch up on her Adventures, with months spent in El Salvador and other cool places.

We spent several days in San Juan del Sur, and Maya and I got to walk around every bit of it with Victoria and Jason. Most people there are super nice to dogs, so we got to go in all the restaurants. It’s a really pretty town, but way busier than the beach. We stayed just long enough for Jason to get the Big Truck’s brakes worked on again (he was worried about all of the mountains we’d see in Guatemala, and a nasty squeak had developed over the past week), and then packed up and headed north. It felt like we were moving really fast through Nicaragua, but I guess My Family had big plans in mind for other spots along the way. After all, this was our ‘return trip’. The biggest part of the Big Adventure was through, and we had to keep moving. I sure hoped we’d be able to slow down at some point!

San Juan del Sur is full of colorful buildings, dirty backpackers and amazing things to smell.

San Juan del Sur is full of colorful buildings, dirty backpackers and amazing things to smell.

Luckily, we did just that at our next stop: Laguna de Apoyo. We went right back to Hostal Paradiso, a spot My Family had really loved on our trip south. The owners were super happy to see us again, and we even got our same camping spot back! We went right down to the lake to relax under the Rancho, and relaxing is basically all we did for the next week! The temperature on the lake is perfect, so Maya and I didn’t have to spend any time panting on our backs. Of course, there was the lake to contend with.

Back in our old spot.  Woohoo!

Back in our old spot. Woohoo!

By now you should know pretty well that I’m not the biggest fan of lakes. Well, any big bodies of water in fact. I don’t mind the ocean as long as I don’t have to go in. For some reason, however, Victoria thinks it’s her job to get me to go into the lake! Even Maya wasn’t a huge fan of this. I swam until the humans were satisfied, but I was much happier chasing Maya around the sand. Luckily, My Family gave up on these meaningless efforts pretty quickly, and we settled into a routine of relaxing near the water, not in it.

Plenty of room to run on the beach here! Not a bad life...

Plenty of room to run on the beach here! Not a bad life…

One day, we all had quite a bit more water than we wanted. In Central America, the summer isn’t called summer, but ‘rainy season’. That means it rains… A lot. We haven’t had to deal with that much, but one day on the lake the sky just opened up. It was almost as dark as nighttime, and when the rain started, it just pounded and pounded and seemed like it would never stop. Maya and I were in the Big Camper with Victoria while Jason was working down at the restaurant. All of a sudden we hear this huge WHUMP on top of the camper. Apparently, the tarp thing hanging over the parking area had fallen down, right on top of us! It was even blocking the door, so we couldn’t get out! Jason rushed over and with the help of one of the nice people who worked at the hostel, was able to free us and get everything back in place. That was one wet, muddy day!

We also met some really great people there. Humans from all over the world come to the lake for mini-adventures, and a super nice couple from Portland named Tom and Marci hung out with us for a couple of days. They really love dogs, and Tom even tried to get Maya to go swimming with him! That didn’t work out very well. I did enjoy sitting on their laps, though. And one night, they went swimming in the lake with My Family. Stars were out everywhere, and the beach was so quiet that Maya and I got to run around off leash, even though it was nighttime! I think that was a first. Maya was pretty brave; she went swimming super deep with them. I just ran around on shore barking for them to come back on the sand. What’s with humans and these lakes? They seemed to really like it, though, and when we left the next day we were all a little sad to leave Tom and Marci behind.

Tom trying to get Maya to go swimming.  She wasn't having it because she was afraid of the waves.

Tom trying to get Maya to go swimming. She wasn’t having it because she was afraid of the waves.

Maya and I loved Marci and Tom!  I hope we get to go visit them when we get back to the US.

Maya and I loved Marci and Tom! I hope we get to go visit them when we get back to the US.

We kept moving north, continuing our quick but crazy fun trip back through Nicaragua. It was a very short drive to Masaya National Park, where we were going to camp for the night. This was way different than any of our other stops in Nicaragua so far. It was very quiet, and there were no other campers, travelers or Adventurers around. Maya and I got left behind in the camper for HOURS while Victoria and Jason hiked up to see the volcano. Volcan Masaya is a ‘live volcano’, which means there’s actually lava and smoke and the chance of an eruption, raining rock and lava all over everything. I sure wouldn’t have picked this as a stop, and I definitely WOULD NOT have hiked right up to the crater’s edge. Like always, I don’t get a vote. Victoria and Jason seemed to enjoy the hike, although they were super tired afterwards. As the sun went down the ants and biting bugs came out by the thousands, so we snuggled up in the camper and went to bed early.

The next day we drove on to our last stop in Nicaragua, a town called Leon. Leon was super hot, super noisy and jam-packed with cars and humans. We drove around for what felt like forever before finding a parking spot in front of Bigfoot Hostel, which was going to be our home for the night. We had a nice room all to ourselves, and all the Adventurers there were super cool. It was pretty special getting to stay in all of these hostels; most places like that don’t like us dogs so much. Maya and I were more than welcome there, so My Family prepped for the next day’s border crossing, and then hung out in the lounge meeting new people.

Me and Jamie at the bar. I didn't get to try the drinks but My Family sure seemed to like them!

Me and Jamie at the bar. I didn’t get to try the drinks but My Family sure seemed to like them!

That night was maybe the most fun yet. We met tons of cool humans, and there weren’t any other dogs staying there, so Maya and I got loads of attention. The bar was packed, and Maya and I got to stay out the whole time! It’s pretty rare that we get to party with the Humans. I mean, Maya’s just a puppy, so it’s fine for her to be left home, but I’m a grownup now! We sat in the lounge chatting with all sorts of funny people, went out to the main square to eat delicious street food with our new friends Jamie and Phil (Phil runs an awesome surf camp we want to visit next time), and danced outside of a club. I love to dance, but I think at this point Maya was overtired, so My Family dropped us at home in order to enjoy their last night in this special place.

It was hard to see what exactly was cooking but it smelled amazing.  Luckily, Victoria is a great sharer so I can tell you it tasted great too!

It was hard to see what exactly was cooking but it smelled amazing. Luckily, Victoria is a great sharer so I can tell you it tasted great too!

Yep, I'm a Dancing Queen!

Yep, I’m a Dancing Queen!

Well, I’m pretty sure that when we all woke up the next morning Victoria and Jason were regretting that decision. Not only did we have to leave Nicaragua today, but we were also crossing through Honduras and driving all the way to El Salvador! After a long night of fun in the big city, My Family was a little rough around the edges. We packed the Big Truck and headed towards the border, each of us more than a little sad to be leaving Nicaragua behind (except Maya; I still don’t think she thinks much of anything yet!). The last time we were here it was insanely hot, and everyone seemed kinda miserable. We had spent another three weeks in Nicaragua this time around, and it was an absolute blast! The humans were all nice (except for those mean cops who pulled My Family over, but you’ll have to ask them about that!), the bits of food I got to try were delicious, everywhere we went was beautiful, and we made like a zillion new friends. Although we had to keep moving north now, it was pretty special to be able to go back to some of our favorite places, and check out some of the spots we missed on the way down. The drive to the border was hot, grumpy and slow, but it didn’t take away from our time in this country at all. I sure hope that we make it back again some day, on another of our Big Adventures.

PS:  To see some of the photos My Family took, head on over to Facebook.

PPS: In case you missed my posts about our last trip to Nicaragua, you can catch up here and here!

13
Aug 2014
POSTED BY Neli
POSTED IN

Nicaragua

DISCUSSION 4 Comments

Time’s Up: Costa Rica Pt. V

Me, enjoying the grass during the last few days in the Big Jungle House.

Me, enjoying the grass during the last few days in the Big Jungle House.

Hey Adventurers! Lots going on since last I wrote. We’re back on the road, and the Big Jungle House is already fading into the far recesses of this little dog’s memory banks. It’s been such a full couple of weeks that I haven’t had a chance to write any of our adventures down. I’ve seen a lot of you asking questions, and Jason and Victoria told me it was time to get back to work. I’ll do my best to tell you all about what we’ve been up to, but before I bring you up to speed on the last couple of weeks on the road I’ve got to tell you about our last days at the Big Jungle House. It was a quick and unexpected end to our time there…

The Big Jungle House was still amazing, and if you asked me, I would have been pretty content staying there forever! I loved our long days full of playtime, late nights packed with laughter, and even a couple of unexpected twists. If I had known back when we first drove up that scary big hill to this house what the past two months would be like, I would have been much more excited! It’s probably better sometimes that I don’t get a vote. I don’t like change very much, but each change that comes seems to bring a whole lot of awesome along with it. I guess I’m learning that you shouldn’t be afraid of things changing. Sure, it’s always a little scary at first, but if you trust the humans who love you the most, you’ll know you’re always in good hands.

I'm not that into swimming but this was a pretty sweet place to practice!

I’m not that into swimming but this was a pretty sweet place to practice!

After we dropped Lydia off at the airport, I expected life at the BJH would go back to normal. You know, tug of war with Maya, barking at toads, scampering away from the pool, chasing lizards and oodles of snuggle time. For the most part, that’s how things started out. Maya basically always wants to play, so I’ve got no shortage of entertainment. We play so much I think I’ve even slimmed down a bit! Then, as is often the case on my Big Adventure, things changed. We drove down the huge hill and into the town of Uvita. I could smell the vet from miles away, but when we pulled into the driveway I wasn’t scared. He’s a very nice human, and I could tell he really liked me. I soon realized that we weren’t there for me, however. Victoria and Jason talked with the humans for a while, and then someone came out and picked Maya up and brought her inside. She looked so sad I almost chased after her. Almost. I mean, go willingly into the vet’s office? I like her and all, but I’m not crazy.

Worse yet, we left her there! Jason and Victoria both smelled pretty sad on the drive home. Apparently, it was Maya’s time to be spayed. I’m not entirely sure what this is. I mean, most dogs I know go through it, and I did too. The memories are a bit hazy, though. All I can remember from being spayed is being nervous, sitting up on a shiny metal table, and then falling asleep. It was a deep sleep, full of strange dreams and visions…

A field of long grass, and every inch of it smelled delicious. Like it had been newly mowed, coated in bacon and then sprinkled with cow poo. I rolled and rolled, until my fur was covered with puffy white balls that blew apart as I sneezed. Then I heard a great wind, whooshing and flapping, and the sky was filled with cracked open cans of tuna fish. The cans had wings, and they swooped and dove all around me. I chased after them for hours and hours, as the sun went down and a fat, cheesy moon rose, and they weren’t mad at all when I leapt up and took a bite.

After that I woke up, sore and grumpy, with stitches in my tummy. It wasn’t the most fun I’ve had in my life, that’s for sure, but I knew Maya would be fine. Jason and Victoria, however, were super nervous. People can be so weird and dramatic sometimes! We picked Maya up later that afternoon, and sure enough, she was totally fine. She had those stitches, and was pretty out of it. She kept talking to me about swimming chickens, a river of potato chips and a plate of hamburgers as big as a bus. She’s pretty goofy anyway, so I took it in stride. Suffice to say, there was no playtime for a couple of days. I was just fine with that. I’m a bit older now, and it’s nice to have a break sometimes. Maya felt better super quick, and didn’t want any part of taking it easy. My Family was insistent, however, so she skulked around and threw the ball for herself over and over again for a couple of days.

Sad face :(

Sad face :(

One night Victoria received a message on the computer and got really excited. Apparently another group of friends were close by and were coming for visit. Problem was, they were lost! Jason drove off in the big truck, and when he came back another HUGE truck followed him up the hill. I got to meet Erica and Sam, two other adventurers who had come to stay with us on their way south! They got to talking with My Family, and I realized that we had actully met once before, way back at Overland Expo! They were the very first Adventurers I ever met! Pretty cool that we got to see them again, especially now that I was an experienced Adventurer myself. Erica was super nice, but Sam was just DREAMY. He loved to play, and obviously liked me way more than Maya. He’s pretty smart. Erica and Sam stayed with us in the BJH for a couple of days. There were delicious dinners with my family (no tastes for us), and lots of time out by the pool. Sam even shot a video at the house, my movie debut! Hopefully I’ll be able to show it to you guys soon. I sure hope we get to see these humans again, although it sounds like it could be a while. They are driving all the way to Argentina in their Big XP Camper! Argentina is a country in South America, which is a whole different continent than where we are! Continents are like a bunch of countries put together, so yeah, it’s BIG. On a side note, they should really find a dog along the way. Things are just way better with us around.

You can tell Sam would rather be playing with just me, right? Right?!

You can tell Sam would rather be playing with just me, right? Right?!

Sam and Erica's Big XP Camper.  I tried to sneak in so I could go to Argentina with Sam (and Erica) but My Family made me stay behind...

Sam and Erica’s Big XP Camper. I tried to sneak in so I could go to Argentina with Sam (and Erica) but My Family made me stay behind…

After Sam and Erica left things got quiet up at the house again. My Family spent their time working, reading, writing, laying by the pool and chatting with Alvaro. Oh, hey! Did you know that my poo is useful? Alvaro told Victoria that it’s really good for the grass, helping it grow tall and strong. Jason was very happy to hear this, because it meant less clean up. And I have to say I felt a sense of pride every time I slipped off to do my business. My poo is saving the yard!

A couple days later we were lucky enough to have yet another visitor! Jason drove off one morning and came back with Karyn, one of our favorite people from back in Venice! Victoria was super excited to see her friend, and Karyn really liked me and Maya too. Her first day here was crazy long. The humans stayed up really late – eating, drinking and catching up – and Maya and I were practically asleep on our paws when everyone finally went off to bed. Humans get to do all sorts of fun things, but I don’t think they quite appreciate the finer points of an all-day nap.

Me and Karyn hanging out at the pool.

Me and Karyn hanging out at the pool.

The next morning Maya and I were seriously dragging. Victoria and Jason weren’t early risers either, but I think I spent the whole morning in bed. I just can’t hang with the humans and their schedules sometimes! I had a super lazy day, just hanging by the pool, watching the sun wander through the sky and snuggling up with Karyn when I had the chance. Basically perfect.

Karyn spent a bunch of time with us at the BJH, and we got to do all sorts of fun stuff. One day we drove down to Uvita so Karyn could watch something called ‘The Word Cup’. I don’t know, that sounds like an awfully big cup. How the heck would you pick that thing up, even with thumbs? Maya and I got to sit in a restaurant while the humans ate, drank, and talked about something called ‘soccer’. The highlight for me? I tooted, and the whole restaurant smelled it. I know, hilarious, right? Victoria and Jason were so embarrassed! Hilarious!

A couple of days later, we drove to a town called Dominical, to watch more of this World Cup thing on TV. When we got there, we met EVEN MORE friends. What is this, heaven?! Adventurers named Chloe and Toby met us at a restaurant with their dog, Tia. They were pretty nice, but Tia was super cool. She’s even older than me, and didn’t want much to do with Maya. Yep, right on my wavelength. Take it easy, snag some treats, look cute, your basic awesome dog existence. We spent most of the day in this restaurant, and everyone was super excited for the World Cup. People from all over came to watch the soccer, all wearing red and screaming every time something happened. Apparently, this is a big sports thing, and Costa Rica had a team. Best of all, the team won their game! Everyone there was so excited. One human in the bar was so happy he hugged Karyn and gave her his shirt. It smelled very sweaty, but Karyn was pretty excited.

Toby and Chloe came back to the BJH with us, and we had a full house for a couple of days. This was maybe the most fun time we had at the house. The humans cooked all sorts of delicious meals, swam in the pool, and gave all sorts of attention to us dogs. Tia and I had a lot of fun together, too. She wasn’t much for playing, but she loved to snuggle and nap, which are basically my two favorite things. We spent a lot of time together hanging on the couch, and Maya was even able to relax with Tia around. That was a really good thing, because after she healed from being spayed she managed to chew open a spot on her shoulder and give herself an infection. The humans put her in a jacket for a few days so she wouldn’t mess with it, and yet ANOTHER trip to the vet was needed to make her feel better. Gosh, this puppy is high maintenance.

Tia. She's pretty mellow but knows tons of tricks and totally put me and Maya to shame.  High Five, Tia!

Tia. She’s pretty mellow but knows tons of tricks and totally put me and Maya to shame. High Five, Tia!

Tia's big truck. It's called Moby and she has her own special dog bed in the back seat.

Tia’s big truck. It’s called Moby and she has her own special dog bed in the back seat.

Karyn eventually had to head back to Venice, but we got to have a couple more days with Toby and Chloe. They had a lot to do with their camper, as they are also going down to that South America place. The humans still got to spend a lot of time together, though. I could tell My Family was pretty sad when they finally packed up and left to continue their Adventure. I sure hope I get to see Tia again.

Oh, so I forgot to mention. When we were all out at the restaurant in Dominical watching that world-sized cup? That’s when My Family realized there might be a bit of a problem with our plan. See, Victoria and Jason liked the BJH so much that they had talked about staying for a couple more months. That suited me and Maya just fine. Sure, the Adventure was great and all, but more time at this amazing place? Yes please! The problem is, there’s some kind of rule about how long our Big Truck could stay in Costa Rica. Apparently, if we left for Panama, we wouldn’t be able to come back for a long, long time. I don’t really understand the details, and all of that political stuff is pretty boring to me anyway. I guess you should ask My Family if you want the inside info. Basically, what this discovery meant was that instead of staying in the BJH for several months more, we’d have to leave in like a week! I was NOT impressed with this change of strategy. Instead of lounging around the pool, chasing lizards, growing the grass with my poo and barking at Maya we had to pack up?! I know, I know, I didn’t have to do any of the packing. But watching my family pack and smelling their stress was no kind of fun.

Regrettably, it was inevitable. We were leaving the Big Jungle House. Not. Cool. Victoria and Jason scrambled through the preparations, repacking the camper and putting it back on the Big Truck, saying goodbye to our new friends and figuring out where we were going to go next. By the time Maya was fully healed we were ready to hit the road. Even though I wasn’t thrilled about the timeframe, I was pretty excited to get back on the road. The Big Adventure has always been super fun, and I knew that even this newest of changes would bring amazing things. Maya, on the other hand, was none too pleased.

We left Alvaro and the Big Jungle House behind with hugs and waves, and headed down the mountain. Victoria and Jason were both a bit freaked out, more due to the vast amount of work it took to get back on the road than any sort of fear for what was to come. We went right back to Dominical and spent our first night back in the camper in front of that restaurant where we watched the Big Cup. It was super fun to get my paws back on a sandy beach, but I could tell My Family was still stressed. It was hard going from a huge house to a tiny camper, even for a small dog like me. And Maya was WAY BIGGER now than she was the last time we were in a camper. She didn’t fit in any of the spots she used to fit in! It felt nice to be back in our own home, surrounded with all of our own stuff again, but it was going to take a bit of getting used to.

Tiny stone walls in Dominical where we spent our first night back in the camper.

Tiny stone walls in Dominical where we spent our first night back in the camper.

The next week was spent adapting to our adventurous life once again. We saw some incredibly beautiful places, driving onto the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica. I got to run on three different, incredible beaches, and we almost instantly started meeting new people. That’s one of the best parts of the Adventure, all the super nice humans we get to see. Jason seemed a bit grumpy, though. He was hitting his head on the camper door, stumbling around looking for things, and basically trying to get used to everything once again. Luckily we had great places to stay, nice weather, and not too much trouble as we started heading north again. It took me a little while to realize that we weren’t going to go to Panama, the country south of Costa Rica that had been our original end goal. It really didn’t matter to me, though. If there’s one thing I’ve learned during the Big Adventure, it’s that the journey is far more important than the destination.

Driving into the jungle on the Nicoya. It's full of bumpy, muddy roads and rivers.

Driving into the jungle on the Nicoya. It’s full of bumpy, muddy roads and rivers.

We camped just outside of Playa Manzanillo on a deserted (but rocky) beach.

We camped just outside of Playa Manzanillo on a deserted (but rocky) beach.

We spent about a week driving up the Nicoya Peninsula, and Maya and I were quickly back in the routine. I think she still remembered the camper, even though she had been very young when we were last inside it. After a few days My Family got over their frustrations with the small space, and we were happily adventuring once again.

Big waves and a tiny island in Playa Samara.

Big waves and a tiny island in Playa Samara.

I do love feeling the sand beneath my paws!

I do love feeling the sand beneath my paws!

Another day, another beach on the Nicoya.  This is just outside Playa Tamarindo.

Another day, another beach on the Nicoya. This is just outside Playa Tamarindo.

Sunset on Playa Tamarindo. Pretty, huh?

Sunset on Playa Tamarindo. Pretty, huh?

We even got to see yet another group of Adventurers! We stopped in a place called Playa Portrero, and met up with Sarah and Hani from Adventures in Skyhorse. They have two dogs named Shae and Olivia, who are both basically awesome. Sarah and Hani had rented a house on the beach, with a pool and a big yard perfect for running in. We stayed with them for a night, and had a ton of fun. Maya was a bit scared of their dogs at first, but I laid down the law and soon we were all the best of friends. My Family had a great time with Sarah and Hani, and they were all talking about us staying longer. But because of that stupid car rule, we had to leave Costa Rica the very next day. So even though we had a blast with these new friends, we had to pack up and head out in the morning. It seems like we might see these guys again, though, as they are also going to be headed back north pretty soon.

This is Olivia.  Maya loved running around with her!

This is Olivia. Maya loved running around with her!

Shae might look like a typical fluffy dog but she's really chill.  I loved hanging out with her on the couch in the air-conditioned house!

Shae might look like a typical fluffy dog but she’s really chill. I loved hanging out with her on the couch in the air-conditioned house!

What a whirlwind the past couple of weeks has been! My head was spinning as we drove away from Sarah and Hani’s place and headed for the border. We were on our way back to Nicaragua, a country we had seen a few months ago. We had gone from thinking we were going to spend the summer in Costa Rica and then head to Panama, to frantically packing and rushing back up towards Nicaragua. Quite the turn of events! It’s a good thing I’m such a seasoned traveler. Maya was a bit out of sorts, and Jason and Victoria both had their stressful moments. All in all, life is good. We’ve got a comfy bed, plenty of delicious food, and the open road in front of us. I wonder what the next few weeks will bring…

PS: To see some of the photos My Family took during our last few weeks in Costa Rica, head on over to Facebook and check out two different albums: here and here.

20
Jul 2014
POSTED BY Neli
POSTED IN

Costa Rica

DISCUSSION 6 Comments

You’re In the Jungle, Baby: Costa Rica Pt. IV

Victoria taking me to the edge to throw my into the jungle. KIDDING! She forced me to go swimming which is almost as bad.

Victoria taking me to the edge to throw me into the jungle. KIDDING! She forced me to go swimming which is almost as bad.

It only took about a week for me to feel nice and settled into our new temporary home, which I’ve started calling the Big Jungle House. Although it’s not as cozy as the Wee Blue House back in Venice, it’s sure got its perks! For one thing, I’m free to wander the BJH all day off leash. Here’s a peek at a day in the life of a jungle dog.

5:30 AM: Wake up to Maya wanting to go out to pee. Jason stumbles out the door to deal with the puppy, while I snuggle in closer to Victoria.

6:30 AM: I lose my snuggling companion when Victoria gets up, chase Maya around the house yelling at her for messing up my beauty sleep.

7:00 AM: Wander around the lawn, sniffing flowers and biting at the little flying bugs. Get lucky and chomp one down. Delicious.

7:15 – 10:15 AM: Find a sunny spot, lay in it. Find a different sunny spot. Lay in that one. When necessary, move to the couch. Growl at Maya for wanting to play so early.

10:30 AM: Eat from Maya’s giant doggie dish. She just sits there and watches. Sucker!

10:45 – 11:15 AM: Playtime. Maya may be bigger, but I’m smarter and quicker. Plus, her face is fun to chew on.

Puppy face! Nom nom nom!

Puppy face! Nom nom nom!

11:30 AM – 1:00 PM: Lay in the sun with Victoria. Try to lick her sunscreen off. Dart away from the pool when Jason tries to lure me in. I may be cute, but I’m not stupid.

1:05 PM: Jockey for treats. Hope for one of the homemade frozen yogurt/peanut butter/banana/honey things but willing to settle for a beggin’ strip. Just don’t leave us hanging!

1:15 – 2:00 PM: Playtime. Eventually tell Maya off because she just… Won’t… Stop!

2:00 PM: Lunch time. I graze between my bowl and Maya’s, taking the choicest morsels. Maya doesn’t seem to notice.

2:00 – 3:00 PM: Nap time. If I’m in a good mood, Maya gets to share the couch with me.

3:00 – 5:00 PM: Wandering the jungle. Maya and I try to see how far we can get away from the patio before Victoria and Jason start screaming. Eat bugs, chase birds, paw at lizards and roll around the yard. Basically the best part of the day.

5:00 – 6:30 PM: Lounge on the patio while My Family watches the sunset. Wonder when they’re going to make dinner.

6:30 – 8:00 PM: My Family makes dinner. Maya and I remain close at hand, to snag anything that gets dropped and make cute eyes to insure a taste.

8:00 – 10:00 PM: Couch time. Growl at Maya when she tries to steal my spot on Victoria’s lap. Jump off the couch to periodically put her in her place. Hope for more treats.

10:00 PM: Bed time. Often preceded by wrestling with Maya. Curl up under the covers to snuggle by Jason. Dream of a mad dash through the jungle.

One of the sunsets My Family loves so much.

One of the sunsets My Family loves so much.

Maya napping in my bed, she doesn't really fit but as long as she doesn't try to join me on the couch I'm okay with her using it.

Maya napping in my bed, she doesn’t really fit but as long as she doesn’t try to join me on the couch I’m okay with her using it.

As you can tell, I’m pretty much living the best dog’s life you could imagine. Every day is pretty similar right now, but I’ve got no complaints. There have been some unique moments over the past couple of weeks, however, both good and bad.

The front yard.  Perfect for having a Daft Half Hour.

The front yard. Perfect for having a Daft Half Hour.

Once I was dragged to the local doctor’s office just after Heather left. It’s amazing that no matter what country we might be in, THAT SMELL is always the same. I can sense the doctor’s office from like a mile away. But as always in these situations, I don’t get a vote. The man who took care of me was very nice, although he did some rather awkward things to my bum. He redeemed himself, however, by giving me the best pedicure ever! Not only did he cut my nails, but he buffed and shaped them too. I felt like I was back in Los Angeles!

Me and Maya love hiding from My Family here, around the corner from the bedroom. It takes them F O R E V E R to find us, ahaha!

Me and Maya love hiding from My Family here, around the corner from the bedroom. It takes them F O R E V E R to find us, ahaha!

One afternoon, Maya and I got to conspiring. She’s still only five months old, so even though she’s a lot of fun and getting much bigger, she’s not much of a conversationalist. I noticed that Jason was busy working and Victoria was inside cleaning the house, so I suggested we should go explore the jungle. Maya doesn’t know what explore means yet, but she was more than happy to bound after me as I tip-toed around the corner and off the patio. We sniffed our way down the driveway, and then stopped at the grassy edge. I looked back up the hill, but My Family was nowhere to be found. Success! We dashed off into the jungle.

All the really good stuff happens down the driveway.

All the really good stuff happens down the driveway.

Suddenly we were surrounded by an amazing amount of smells that we had only sniffed from afar. There were flowers, fruits, trees, plants and dozens of animal smells. The howler monkeys were shouting in the trees somewhere down the mountain, but we were far more excited by what was right in front of us. Yes, right there in the grass… Something had died. I needed to get a closer look. Oh, man, I think it was a bird! I heard My Family yelling for us, but there was no stopping me and Maya from rolling around in that deliciousness. The yelling up the hill got more frantic, so finally I pulled myself together and darted back out onto the driveway. Victoria and Jason were pretty upset. They stormed over, and Maya and I dashed back up the hill and into the house. They grabbed us up for a timeout, and that’s when Jason got a whiff of what we were rolling in. I don’t know why that was such a big deal, but suddenly they were even more angry. We both got baths immediately, a punishment that definitely did not fit the crime in my mind. I don’t like making My Family worry, though. I tried to explain what had happened to Maya, but she was too busy licking the water off her fur to try and understand. I guess I’ll have to set a better example for Maya next time.

A dead bird on one of the patios.  Not the same one we rolled around with in the jungle, but it smelled almost as interesting.

A dead bird on one of the patios. Not the same one we rolled around with in the jungle, but it smelled almost as interesting.

Maya really does follow my lead. Twice a week a nice man called Alvaro comes up to the Big Jungle House to play with the flowers. Even though I know his smell, I bark at him pretty much every time. Maya does too, although I don’t think she knows why she’s barking. Alvaro doesn’t seem to mind. Apparently he has seven dogs of his own! I would like to meet them someday. If they’re as nice as he is, I bet we’d have fun.

Turns out having a little sister is a lot of fun, even if she's twice the size of me! (NOTE: At the time of this blog post Maya is clocking in at 25 pounds while I remain a svelte 12 pounds!)

Turns out having a little sister is a lot of fun, even if she’s twice the size of me! (NOTE: At the time of this blog post Maya is clocking in at 25 pounds while I remain a svelte 12 pounds!)

There’s just so much to bark at up here! We get huge storms, and the thunder rolls through the hills for ever and ever. Also, all sorts of animals come into my territory. Every time a huge toad, a colorful lizard, a long snake, or even a flittery hummingbird get too close I end up having to go inside. Stop cramping my style! One time a huge toad even came into our house. I didn’t know what was going on at first. I just heard Victoria open the front door and start screaming. Jason ran over, and so did me and Maya. Jason saw the toad before I did, and scrambled to get us out into the kitchen. The toad jumped at Victoria again, and she started screaming! Before I knew it I was overcome with a barking fit, and ran around the house. Maya started crying and wailing, scrambling around behind me. She was so scared she peed all over the floor. C’mon, puppy, get it together! Jason and Victoria were able to encourage the toad to leave after a bit more screaming and a lot of laughter. But Maya cowered by my side the rest of the night.

The power also goes out sometimes. It’s usually after a big storm, with the rain pouring and lightning flashing over the ocean. I don’t really mind, though. We’re always comfy, dry and warm, and the flashlights and candles remind me of our time out in the Camper. Thankfully, Maya’s not afraid of thunder. Yet when Victoria uses the blender it sends her scampering across the room. Really? Puppies are so weird.

So much room for running around inside the house!

So much room for running around inside the house!

One day saw a real break from the fun routine, but it turned out to be super special. My Family packed us into the Big Truck and we drove down the hill, south through the town of Palmar Norte. We bounced around on dirt roads and long trails through jungles of palm trees for what seemed like hours. I could smell Jason was getting frustrated. We were looking for something, and having very little luck. Finally, after backtracking half a dozen times we rolled into a parking lot next to a long, open field. A friend was waving to us. It was Lydia, here to visit us all the way from New York City! I hadn’t seen Lydia in years, but I remembered she was super duper nice, and really likes dogs. That makes her a keeper in my book!

I really L O V E Lydia, even if she does like to go in the pool.

I really L O V E Lydia, even if she does like to go in the pool.

Lydia stayed with us for almost a week, and I had some of the best times yet in the Big Jungle House. Lydia spent so much time with me. She let me snuggle up on her lap, or lounge by her feet at the pool. I sat on her lap while they played a people game called Uno, and danced around with Maya while she fed us treats. I even got to spend the night snuggled up with her once! What a cool visit! One day, two more friends came up the mountain, and it turned into a full on pool party! I obviously wasn’t that enthusiastic when they made me go swimming, but it seems to be growing on Maya a bit. Look, her paws are like three times as big as mine so of course she’s a better swimmer. Anyway, it was nice to have the house filled with people laughter, and good meals that I got to taste for the rest of the week. I even got a bone all to myself when My Family made carnitas. Are you kidding me? Amazing!! I was pretty sad when we dropped Lydia off at the airport again. We had a long goodbye, and I might have cried if I had tear ducts.

Lydia said I was her Good Luck Charm so whenever she played UNO with My Family I made sure to get a good spot on her lap.

Lydia said I was her Good Luck Charm so whenever she played UNO with My Family I made sure to get a good spot on her lap.

Maya and her giant paws splashing in the pool.

Maya and her giant paws splashing in the pool.

We’re not seeing as many new places these days, but staying put definitely has its perks. We get to have visitors, I’m allowed to play with Maya all the time without worrying about roads, people or other dogs, and I’ve got all the room in the world to run around in. In fact, I think I’ve lost a bit of weight. I’m looking pretty cute these days, don’t you think? My Family tells me that at some point we’ll be getting back in the camper and continuing on The Big Adventure, but right now, the jungle life is adventure enough!

PS: If you want to see more pictures of the house and Lydia, check them out on Facebook!

08
Jun 2014
POSTED BY Neli
POSTED IN

Costa Rica

DISCUSSION 4 Comments

Our Paws Take A Pause: Costa Rica Pt. III

Me enjoying the view at our new home!

Me enjoying the view at our new home!

Victoria and Jason had promised me that some beach time was ahead, but first we had to finish crossing Cerro de la Muerte. They said the Pacific Ocean and the sandy goodness that I love so much was somewhere close by, but it sure didn’t seem that way. We spent our next morning on my Big Adventure driving down one of the curviest, scariest roads yet. Jason was happy that at least it was paved, but he still smelled a bit anxious. When we woke that morning and said goodbye to Doris and Torsten, it was bright and sunny. Yet as soon as we got back on the road and started our descent, rain and clouds settled in around us, as thick and white as the chunks of cheese Victoria sometimes puts in my food bowl.

It took a couple of hours to get out of that mess, most of which I spent perched on Victoria’s lap, scenting the heavy air. Maya tried to sleep through it, but she’s getting too big for her perch on the arm rest between Victoria and Jason. She kept twisting and turning, trying to find the perfect position. Soon she’s just going to have to go on the floor. She keeps eyeing Victoria’s lap, but that is NOT going to happen.

Our cozy camping spot near the beach, even though we didn't even SEE the beach...

Our cozy camping spot near the beach, even though we didn’t even SEE the beach…

We finally left the mountain behind and found ourselves back on the main highway, just north of a town called Uvita. We had crossed the whole country in two nights! I saw the wide ocean off to our right, and though the rain kept pummeling the Big Truck, we made it into Uvita without any problems. We did some shopping and headed towards the beach, finally pulling up at a campsite called Camping El Chaman. The man who ran the place was super nice, and showed Jason how to use a huge bamboo pole to pull fresh mangoes right out of the trees. We even had a covered spot to park our Big Truck, so when even more rain came we were nice and dry. The sand was super soft, and the camp dogs were all pretty nice. Maya was kind of scared of them, and stayed glued to Jason’s side pretty much the whole time. We only spent one night there, with the rain pelting the roof and the ocean waves breaking just down the dirt road, but I really loved it. I have to say, I’m just a beach dog at heart!

I thought this campsite was pretty perfect, so I didn’t understand why we got up so early and packed up to leave. After that crazy mountain, didn’t I deserve a day off? It wasn’t meant to be. We were gone with the sun, bouncing back up the dirt road and further south. We pulled up outside of a big restaurant with funny, frozen cows out front, but we didn’t go in. What’s the deal? Were they going to force me to sit outside smelling the delicious smells with no payoff? A few minutes later a man pulled up on a motorcycle with four huge wheels, and after he spoke with My Family for a few minutes we got back into the Big Truck and followed him across the highway and up a huge hill. What gives?

The road got worse as we drove, leaving town behind and heading deeper into the jungle. At one point we stopped beside a hut with no walls, and this new friend pointed out a house far up the mountain. He said that’s where we were going, and Jason and Victoria got really excited. It sure didn’t look like any campsite I’d seen on the Big Adventure. Another ten minutes of bumping and bouncing up crazy mountain roads and we pulled up outside an amazing house, with the biggest, best lawn I’d seen in as far back as I could remember. I thought we would get to run around the house and all over the lawn but for the next couple of nights we just camped in the driveway.

I have to say, I was a bit confused. Sure, Maya and I had playtime, and we got to sniff around on the side yard, but we mostly just sat around the camper. This didn’t seem particularly adventurous. It sure felt like a strange stop to me. Things got even stranger when the nice man came out of the house one day and handed us over the keys. Wait… What?!?

Yeah, apparently we were going to live here for a while. In. The. House! I couldn’t believe my luck. Don’t get me wrong, I love all of our travels. But the chance to lay on a couch all day? The house has tons of comfy, sunny spots, cool floors, and best of all, no more bumpy roads to drive! Well, that’s not exactly true. The house is way up in the mountains, and I don’t think Victoria and Jason trust me and Maya alone in the house. That means we’re constantly being packed up in the Big Truck and bounced up and down that terrible mountain. First Cerro de la Muerte and now this? It feels like we are back in Guatemala! Strangest yet, there’s a lot more room in the Big Truck now. My Family actually took the Camper off! That means when we drive places I get Victoria’s lap to myself, and Maya gets to stretch out on the back seat. She’s getting so big now that she needs the space.

Sometimes the clouds roll right up to the house and it looks like the world ends at the end of our pool.  YIKES!

Sometimes the clouds roll right up to the house and it looks like the world ends at the end of our pool. YIKES!

I spent a couple of days exploring the house, avoiding My Family’s efforts to make me swim in the pool and spending hour after hour playing with Maya. Okay, I’ll admit it, I love this puppy. We wrestle, we play tug of war, and she really seems to love me a lot. I don’t even mind sharing food with her. It’s pretty cool having a friend, especially one who loves to hang around me and looks to me for advice. She’s still goofy, and gets into all kinds of trouble, but Victoria said that will change as she gets older. Plus, I now have a partner, with eyes just as sad as mine. Very useful when you’re trying to get treats.

Maya keeps stealing my bed, even though she doesn't really fit in it.

Maya keeps stealing my bed, even though she doesn’t really fit in it.

Just as we were getting into a nice routine, something pretty special happened. We drove back to Uvita and waited around for a little bit. Then I smelled someone familiar. Our friend Heather from Venice was here! How cool! She was coming to stay with us and hang out at the house. It was so great to snuggle up with someone I already knew, and Heather liked Maya just as much as everyone else.

Me and Heather at the pool.  I really love her a lot!

Me and Heather at the pool. I really love her a lot!

The day after Heather arrived we finally got to go to the beach! The Pacific here is pretty special. The water is warm, and the jungle comes right up to the sand. Maya and I got to be off leash, and since there weren’t any other dogs around I was able to run to my heart’s content.

The beach! Finally!

The beach! Finally!

We did have a bit of an adventure that day. My Family was trying to find something called The Whale’s Tail. Apparently there’s a bit of sandy land that is shaped like a whale’s tail, and you can walk right out onto it. I’d much rather stay on shore, but I never get a vote. Unfortunately, it was high tide, and to get to the Whale’s Tail we had to cross a little river. Jason waded through first, and it seemed pretty deep. He wanted us to wait, but once Victoria and Heather waded in I couldn’t help but follow. Suddenly I was swimming, something I definitely DO NOT like to do. Even worse, big waves were coming. Before I knew what was happening I was washed away! I paddled my legs just as fast as I could, but the water was just too strong. Jason started screaming, and suddenly I bounced off of a tree! Heather ran to me and grabbed me out of the water, while Jason stood there holding our bags and a soaking wet Maya dog. I found out later that I was a few seconds away from being washed off into the jungle. You see? Why do humans ever go swimming! It’s just nuts.

Crisis averted, we finally made it to The Whale’s Tail. Of course, we didn’t actually know it at the time. Because the tide was in, the Tail was just totally covered up. Waves were breaking against themselves as Heather and My Family went swimming. Whatever. At that point I was more than content to bounce around on the shore, jumping at the small waves while Maya sat with our bags. That was definitely enough adventure to last me for a while.

I mean, how can you not love this silly face?

I mean, how can you not love this silly face?

A couple days later, our new home in the mountains got even busier. Kenny and Jenn, two friends we had met in Guatemala, came to stay with us too! They were traveling with their friend from home, a nice human named Mike, and all of a sudden our big house was filled with awesome people. Better yet, the house was also filled with amazing smells. Those three love to cook, so each day the humans got together and made incredible meals. Maya and I snagged all sorts of delicious tastes, and got to stay up late while all the friends told stories, swam in the pool, and did an awful lot of laughing.

We went hiking with all our friends to find a waterfall.  It was almost all uphill.  Not cool.

We went hiking with all our friends to find a waterfall. It was almost all uphill. Not cool.

We spent a couple of days together as a new, bigger family, before Kenny, Jenn and Mike had to leave. We said goodbye in the driveway, and Heather went with them, so she could have her own Adventure for a little while. I was sad to see our good friends leave, but it was time to catch up on my naps. We spent another couple of days relaxing in the house, and then jumped into the car to go pick up Heather. Problem was, we weren’t picking up Heather, but dropping off Victoria! I got no notice, and only a moment to say goodbye. What was happening? I stared out the window a bit worried as Jason drove away. I couldn’t remember the last time Victoria had gone away, and I was just hoping that it wouldn’t be for long.

Maya was just as confused as I was when Victoria and Heather left.

Maya was just as confused as I was when Victoria and Heather left.

Thankfully it was only one night. Don’t get me wrong, I love Jason a lot, but things just aren’t the same without Victoria. Jason packed Maya and I back into the Big Truck, and we rejoined Victoria and Heather in a town called Dominical. I guess the girls had been on a horse riding adventure. That’s fine, but why couldn’t I come along? Humans have strange rules sometimes.

I really miss snuggling with Heather :(

I really miss snuggling with Heather :(

We had a nice meal by the beach, and then everyone started saying goodbye to Heather. I was confused because it felt like she had just arrived, but I guess she had to go back home to Venice. I hope she’ll tell all of our friends how much I miss them. It was so great having her come to visit us, and I love sharing our Adventure with such great people, even though Maya gets half of the attention. After Heather went home we went back to the house, where I think we’re going to stay here for a while. I’m not exactly sure what’s happening, if the Big Adventure is over, or if we’ve just taken a pause. It sure is nice to relax and throw my paws up for a little while, though. I do love all of our travels, but for this homebody, laying in a comfy lap and looking out over the ocean, safe from the rain, is a pretty good alternative.

PS: My Family posted some photos about all our friends visiting and moving into the house here.

PPS:  Victoria said to mention that the house we are living in is for sale.  I guess that means we can’t stay forever? Anyway, if you would like more information email me or My Family.

29
May 2014
POSTED BY Neli
POSTED IN

Costa Rica

DISCUSSION 4 Comments

Mountains, Forests, Beaches & Besties: Costa Rica Part II

Sometimes a dog's just gotta relax, no matter how amazing it is outside, ya know?

Sometimes a dog’s just gotta relax, no matter how amazing it is outside, ya know?

Our next stop on the adventure through Costa Rica was a place called Monteverde. When Victoria and Jason were planning this stop I managed to take a peek at the map. I don’t know much about how humans get around – dogs don’t really think about what’s over the next hill that often – but it didn’t seem very far away. I should know by now that the line on the map doesn’t really mean much at all, especially when it’s showing you the way to a cloud forest.

The road to Monteverde.  Not cool.

The road to Monteverde. Not cool.

It took us like four hours to get there, and me and Maya were green pretty much the whole time. It felt like riding an earthquake! Nothing but bumpy, rocky, muddy roads, and most of them pointed straight up. My Family was loving the view out the window, but I basically spent the whole time curled up in Victoria’s lap, trying to find my happy place. There were some pretty cool moments. We crossed six rivers, saw a happy human riding a horse with three happy dogs running behind, and drove past a field of those cool wind turbine things, which are basically the biggest things I’ve ever seen. When we finally got to the mountain town of Santa Elena and our first stop, a hostel called Pension Santa Elena, I was hungry, tired and all shook up.

Camping almost on the street in Santa Elena. At least the tacos were good!

Camping almost on the street in Santa Elena. At least the tacos were good!

Santa Elena wasn’t really what I was expecting. It was a super busy town with restaurants, traffic and a ton of people. Where was this forest we were supposed to be visiting? We ended up spending a few nights parked in the lot outside of a hostel, and I wasn’t particularly impressed. We did meet some nice people, including a couple who had driven all the way from Canada in a tiny car. Victoria and Jason used this time to regroup a little bit, shopping for food in a big market, eating tacos from the delicious hostel restaurant, getting some work done and contemplating what comes next. They wanted to find somewhere to stay in the area that was actually part of the forest, and I couldn’t blame them. Me and Maya didn’t have anywhere great to run around, and there were so many street dogs wandering that we basically had to be on leash the whole time. I was more than ready when we packed up the camper and took a short trip further up the mountain.

First super bumpy roads and then shaky wooden bridges! Costa Rica is turning out to be more adventurous than any of us could have imagined!

First super bumpy roads and then shaky wooden bridges! Costa Rica is turning out to be more adventurous than any of us could have imagined!

Once leaving Santa Elena behind we quickly found ourselves on a dirt road surrounded by thick forest. This was more like it! I could smell all sorts of people smells, so I knew we weren’t really that far from civilization. Yet the animal and plant smells overwhelmed anything people tried to do out here. My Family was super excited when we rolled into La Colina Lodge, a hotel and campground that was surrounded by nothing but nature. The woman who worked there was super nice, and got us set up with a honest to goodness campsite, in a field right next to the main house. When we got there we saw there were other campers already set up, a nice couple that Victoria already knew from the internet. Yeah, that’s another human thing, knowing someone you’ve never actually seen and sniffed before. Strange, but it happens all the time. I guess how you guys know about me and Maya and the Big Adventure?

This creepy guy hung out by our campsite the whole time we were at La Colina Lodge.  He didn't move a muscle the entire time!

This creepy guy hung out by our campsite the whole time we were at La Colina Lodge. He didn’t move a muscle the entire time!

We spent a couple more days in Monteverde there at La Colina, and had so much fun. Me and Maya got to be off leash the whole time, hanging with the camp dog, chasing birds and laying in super comfy grassy spots in the sun. And for a cloud forest, it wasn’t that cloudy! We saw beautiful sunsets, hiked the dirt roads and trails, and My Family cooked delicious meals with fresh greens straight from the garden! This was a super nice stop, and I don’t think any of us were ready to leave when we packed up that final morning.

Maya may be bigger than me now but she STILL can't get up stairs.

Maya may be bigger than me now but she STILL can’t get up stairs.

Apparently we had to make an unscheduled stop, which meant leaving a bit earlier than expected. We packed quickly, waited while a nice man washed the big truck for us (Jason was very excited about this) and then left Monteverde behind. The drive out was even crazier than the drive in, with the sort of steep, winding roads we hadn’t really seen since Guatemala. Jason spent some quiet time gripping the wheel and staring straight ahead, but we made our way into the valley without a problem. I’m glad I’m never asked to take a turn at the wheel! I much prefer using driving days for napping.

Our road was closed for over an hour.  It wasn't terrible because My Family let me try Cool Ranch Doritos, yumma!

Our road was closed for over an hour. It wasn’t terrible because My Family let me try Cool Ranch Doritos, yumma!

This was a super long driving day, broken up with a stop at a place called Angel Valley B&B. I didn’t really understand this stopover at the time, though I do now. Angel Valley was a small hotel with a very pretty view, and when we rolled up I was ready to cut loose and run around the yard with Maya. I guess My Family was thinking about spending a few weeks looking after the hotel for the owner. Instead we basically wandered around, looked at stuff, stretched our legs and got right back in the big truck. Didn’t like this so much, especially because the detour took us right through San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica.

I know what you’re thinking – what’s wrong with that? Capital cities are pretty cool right? Maybe we’d see the Queen of Costa Rica, or the Captain or whoever it is that runs things down here? Nope. All we saw was traffic. Lots and lots of traffic. Jason cursed our timing, once he realized that we were crossing the city during something called ‘rush hour’. Well, that’s officially my least favorite human concept. First of all, it took way more than an hour, and secondly no one seemed to be rushing anywhere! It should be called ‘slow afternoon’. By the time we got to the other side of the city it was already getting dark. We don’t usually drive at night, so my hackles were up. My Family wasn’t concerned, except for the fact that we now had to find somewhere to stay in the dark.

My view from Victoria's lap as we drove into the clouds!

My view from Victoria’s lap as we drove into the clouds!

We navigated another mountain and down into a valley to find the town of Orosi. I liked this place right away. Even at night, with the clouds rolling in off the mountain it was pretty, with lit up streets and lots of people walking around. We pulled up in front of a hostel we had heard would accept campers, then stared at it for a while, as they had no driveway. Victoria and Jason spent about ten minutes debating whether it was safe to just park on the street, when finally a nice man waved us down from the field next door. Jason got out to speak to him, and discovered he was friends with the people who run the hostel, and was going to let us stay on his property! He drew back the fence and we rolled onto a cozy, quiet, grassy field to spend the night. Good thing too, because just then it started to rain. We were all pretty grumpy from the long drive and from dealing with traffic for the first time in like forever, so My Family quickly set up the camper and we hunkered down to stay dry and listen to the drops hitting the roof.

Sometimes we camp in actual campgrounds.  Other times we camp on a field owned by a kind stranger.  Life is certainly a Big Adventure!

Sometimes we camp in actual campgrounds. Other times we camp on a field owned by a kind stranger. Life is certainly a Big Adventure!

The next morning was just as wet, and super cloudy. I guess the cloud forest had followed us down into the valley towns! We said goodbye to our host and drove on. The roads evened out, and after a couple of twisty turny mountains we reached the highway. Jason pointed the big truck east, and a couple of hours later I caught a glimpse of something I hadn’t seen since Nicaragua: the ocean! Of course, this is a different ocean. It’s called the Caribbean Sea, and it’s on the opposite side of the country from the Pacific Ocean, which is where our home in Venice was. In fact, we hadn’t seen this particular ocean since our time in Belize! I don’t even really remember back that far.

The roads out at the beach weren't great but a lot less bumpy that when we were in the mountains!

The roads out at the beach weren’t great but a lot less bumpy than when we were in the mountains!

Jason said he was expecting light blue water and reggae music. Well, we got the second one. We spent almost a week in the tiny beach town of Cahuita, and it rained every day. The water was all churned up; it looked mean and cold. Since swimming was basically out of the question (phew!), My Family was very happy to find Camping Maria, which was a really great place to visit. Maria (the owner of Camping Maria, of course!) was super nice to me and My Family. She had a dog named Mancha who was pretty sweet, too. She got on my nerves a little bit, but Maya absolutely loved her. I think they would have played all day together if they could. Maria brought My Family coffee every morning, gave us a comfy covered spot to hang out in, shared fruit from all the fruit trees on the property and told us super funny stories in a unique mix of Spanish and English. I hate rain even more than I hate swimming, but with such a nice hostess, a cool town to wander around and another dog to distract Maya from bugging me all the time, I was pretty much good to go.

Mancha from Camping Maria.  She's the second Mancha we've met on our trip.

Mancha from Camping Maria. She’s the second Mancha we’ve met on our trip.

Me, after running on the beach.  I really L O V E the beach.

Me, after running on the beach. I really L O V E the beach.

The puppy likes to chew things, even in her sleep!

The puppy likes to chew things, even in her sleep!

I wasn’t all that impressed when Victoria and Jason said it was time to leave. I was even less enthusiastic when I overheard their plan: to drive across the entire country in one day. Yep, brilliant idea. Wake up on the Caribbean Ocean, fall asleep on the Pacific, in a small town called Uvita. As I’m now a seasoned adventurer, I knew this would mean a very, very long day in the big truck, battling for Victoria’s lap supremacy with the puppy. I was in quite a mood as we drove away from the ocean and through some pretty bleak towns. We were on a boring stretch of highway when Victoria called out “There’s another truck camper!” Jason was still trying to locate them when Victoria said, “It’s Doris and Torsten!”. This perked me right up. I knew those people! I was standing on Victoria’s lap with two feet up on the dash while Jason drove us around the block, across the highway and into a Walmart parking lot. My Family hadn’t even stopped the truck yet and I was already scrambling for the door. It was true, it was Doris and Torsten!

Reunited and it feels so good!

Reunited and it feels so good!

We hadn’t seen Doris and Torsten since Mexico, which is way too long, because they are two of my absolute favorite humans. Torsten is especially my favorite. He’s so nice, and he loves hugs and kisses as much as Victoria and Jason do. Victoria had tried to get us all back together a couple of times, but we were always a day or two off from crossing paths. And now there we were, in a Walmart in Costa Rica? This adventurous life is pretty strange. Anyway, after standing around chatting and hugging as much as four people and two dogs reasonably can in a Walmart parking lot, My Family decided to scrap the coast to coast plan and join Doris and Torsten for a night up in the mountains.

We split up to run some errands, and then set off to meet them at a place called Mirador de Quetzales. It was sunny and warm when we started driving up this next mountain, but that changed in a hurry. Up ahead we could see what looked like a white wall approaching. We passed through it, and found ourselves in the middle of the thickest cloud I’ve ever seen. Jason could barely see the car in front of us, and nothing beyond that. The rains started, the air cooled and the road pointed almost straight up. We later found out this place was called Cerro de la Muerte, or ‘The Mountain of Death’. Yeah, not very encouraging.

View from Victoria's lap as we headed up The Mountain of Death.

View from Victoria’s lap as we headed up The Mountain of Death.

Slowly but surely we made our way through the cloud and found the Mirador. ‘Mirador’ means ‘Viewpoint’ in Spanish, but there wasn’t much to see when we got there. The clouds were there to stay. Thankfully, our friends weren’t far behind! Along with another camping couple, Heidi and Tomas (who we had met once before back in Antigua, Guatemala), we enjoyed a great night at the campsite. The jungle was thick here, and smelled amazing. I got to spend hours on Torsten’s lap, and everyone was laughing and having such a great time. I didn’t even mind that Maya was getting attention, too. This was the kind of night when there was more than enough love to go around.

Unfortunately, we only had the one night with our friends. Doris and Torsten were headed for Panama, where they are going to ship their camper down to South America. That’s a whole other continent! A continent is a bunch of countries put together, by the way. Torsten joked that I could go with them, and although another big adventure like that was tempting, I would miss My Family too much. Even Maya. She may be an annoying puppy, but she’s kind of growing on me. We saw our friends off, and then packed up to leave as well. We had to make the Pacific Ocean today. Apparently, something different was happening in Uvita. This wasn’t a stop like other stops we’d made, when the timing isn’t really all that important. I didn’t know what was different this time, but anticipation was in the air. Before I’d get any answers, we had to finish crossing Cerro de la Muerte. That meant another two hours of climbing through the foggy dampness before a 12,000 foot descent, to the ocean far below.

Driving through the clouds on our way down the mountain.  Scary.

Driving through the clouds on our way down the mountain. Scary.

PS: Some of the photos My Family took are on our Facebook page.

19
May 2014
POSTED BY Neli
POSTED IN

Costa Rica

DISCUSSION No Comments

Pura Vida! Costa Rica Pt. 1

Me and The Puppy, we were supposed to be resting.

Me and The Puppy, we were supposed to be resting.

Sorry it’s been so long since my last blog post! We’ve got really good internet right now, and that means that Victoria and Jason are like ALWAYS on the computer. When am I supposed to write while they’re hogging it all the time? Sheesh! Anyway, here’s what’s been happening…

We left Playa Gigante and headed towards the border between Nicaragua and Costa Rica. My Family always gets a little bit worked up when we have to get through a new border, but the whole thing is really pretty boring to me. Basically I sit in the car panting, then I lay by My Family’s feet panting even more, then I hunt around for a place to pee that’s not right in the burning sun. Eventually there’s a bunch of human papers passed around, stamps handed out, and I’m plunked back down in the Big Truck to pant some more until we’re finally through. This border crossing wouldn’t prove to be much different, but it took a lot longer. I mean, A LOT.

We were standing in like the longest line I’ve ever seen, with people all around us screaming “Fila! Fila!” over and over again, laughing and groaning. Maya wasn’t making things any easier either, basically dragging her feet and peeing where she shouldn’t. I mean, this puppy needs to learn! Jason was running around like a lost chihuaha, hunting down one border agent to stamp a piece of paper, a police officer to sign and stamp the stamp, and then another border agent to restamp the signed stamp and stamp. Sheesh! Victoria realized we probably made a big mistake by crossing a border on Semana Santa. That’s basically the biggest holiday in the world, and it seemed like everyone was trying to get either into Costa Rica or into Nicaragua. By the time we got through the Nicaraguan side we were all seriously sweaty and pretty grumpy. Luckily things went much smoother in Costa Rica. The border office was even air conditioned, and they let me inside! Swanky!

As we left our longest border crossing behind, I noticed the sun was already pretty low in the sky. That made Jason smell very antsy. It was late in the day, we were in a new country and we had to find our next campsite, and fast! By the time we reached Finca Cañas Castilla it was already dark, and we were all more than ready for bed. Luckily the nice people who take care of the farm were cooking dinner for their guests, so we had a chance to relax and take it all in. Jason broke a wine glass, and I didn’t get to taste anything. Some first impression of Costa Rica!

Monkeys in the trees above our campsite.  They aren't that into playing but they sure liked checking us out!

Monkeys in the trees above our campsite. They aren’t that into playing but they sure liked checking us out!

Things improved dramatically in the morning. Maya is finally starting to sleep through more of the night, which means I get more uninterrupted snuggle time with Jason. And first thing in the morning we enjoyed our first up close and personal monkey visit. ‘Finca’ means ‘farm’, and Finca Canas Castillo had everything. Beautiful trees, a pretty river, horses, chickens, roosters, sloths and a whole family of monkeys that spent the morning swinging around in the trees right above our camper. They smelled weird but they seemed pretty nice, and My Family took a ton of pictures of their playtime. The finca’s dogs didn’t seem to like them too much, however. They spent their morning chasing monkeys from tree to tree, barking and clawing at branches. It definitely raised my hair, but I wasn’t about to get involved in any of that. Maya agreed, and basically spent hours hunkered down underneath the Big Truck.

Hiking isn't as much fun as running on the beach, but I'll take it!

Hiking isn’t as much fun as running on the beach, but I’ll take it!

We only spent two days at the Finca, but we all agreed that was way too short. We cooked delicious food, My Family drank coffee sitting on a bench by the river, we went on hikes, ran around with the other dogs, ate a delicious dinner with the owners and their other guests (one of whom played guitar that was so beautiful I would have cried… If I had tear ducts…) and relaxed with the monkeys. One complaint? The ticks. They’re kinda gross, and they were EVERYWHERE. My Family spent what felt like forever picking ticks off of themselves, me and Maya. Seriously, not a fan.

It's pretty dry in Costa Rica, which makes me itchy, but Victoria says 'rainy season' is coming.  Great.

It’s pretty dry in Costa Rica, which makes me itchy, but Victoria says ‘rainy season’ is coming. Great.

Our next road trip was a short one, through the mountains, into a town called Liberia, and out a twisty turny road to a place called Casa Rural Aroma de Campo. This was a really beautiful, huge lawn and a pretty house just outside of one of Costa Rica’s national parks. The man who got us set up was very nice, and there was even a dog kinda like me there! It was very, VERY hot, but we had an entire field to wander all to ourselves. Me and Maya got a ton of time off leash, and I even enjoyed playing with her… When she wasn’t eating cow poo. Our first night there was so bright, with a giant full moon, tons of stars and no other humans or cars around. It was one of those nights when I stop to think about how lucky we are, and how amazing the Big Adventure really is. I mean, I get My Family all to myself (Well, sort of. Stupid puppy.), all day and night, with more time off leash in the grass and the dirt that I ever had before. Besides the fact that Jason gets a little frantic about internet from time to time, Victoria seems to always crave pizza when we’re in the middle of nowhere, and Maya won’t leave me alone for five minutes, life is good.

Cows coming to visit our campsite.  They poop A LOT.

Cows coming to visit our campsite. They poop A LOT.

We spent several days at Casa Rural Aroma de Campo, and they were nice and relaxing. Jason worked, Victoria read and caught up with her online support of my blog, me and Maya laid out avoiding the heat, and we all watched the incredible sunsets and moon rises, listening to the bugs calling out to each other in waves. We were going to go into the national park to see the volcano and some waterfalls, but the volcano is apparently very angry right now and too dangerous to approach, the park doesn’t seem to take too kindly to dogs, and Jason hurt his leg when he was run off the road by banditos. Kidding! He was walking into town and slipped in his sandals. Life is so much easier with paws and four legs.

I have to give Maya credit, she had learnt how to sit for treats super fast. Here we are waiting for our T-bonz.  Yumma!

I have to give Maya credit, she had learnt how to sit for treats super fast. Here we are waiting for our T-bonz. Yumma!

Since the day at the park was out, we packed up and headed off to our next destination, Lake Arenal. I know, another lake! Man, there’s gotta be more lakes than people in Central America! Anyway, the drive to Lake Arenal was super fun. We passed through really pretty jungle and ended up on a dirt road circling the long and winding lake. Our first stop here was an unexpected one. We were looking for a campsite, but the day was getting away from us. As with most of our driving experiences on my Big Adventure, things tend to take longer than expected. The trip to Lake Arenal wasn’t much different, and we soon found ourselves facing sunset with our final destination nowhere close by. Luckily, we saw a sign for a hotel connected to the Lake Arenal Brewing Company, and My Family decided to give it a shot.

These strange creatures were all over the place at the brewery.  They don't move a muscle, no matter how much you bark at them!

These strange creatures were all over the place at the brewery. They don’t move a muscle, no matter how much you bark at them!

Boy, were we all glad we did! This place had everything. A great place to camp, a beautiful view, plenty of space to run around, nice people, a super cute, super friendly dog, and really really good beer (Well, at least Maya liked it. Apparently, she’s a Boozehound). It was nice and cool by the lake too, which was a welcome change from all the heat we’d faced since El Salvador. I didn’t even mind so much when Victoria and Jason decided to have dinner in the restaurant and leave me and Maya in the car. Maya isn’t peeing in the camper anymore, so things between the two of us are much improved. We only spent one night here, but that was way too short. If I have any say in the matter we’ll be back very soon! Somehow I don’t think Jason will have any problem with that.

My first view of the lake from way up high, too far away for Victoria to force me to go swimming!

My first view of the lake from way up high, too far away for Victoria to force me to go swimming!

We left the Brewing Company early in the morning and drove further around the lake. We made a stop way way WAY up a mountain in the jungle. Jason wanted to see these things called hanging bridges. He said something about Indiana Jones, whoever that is. But this was yet ANOTHER place that didn’t want me and Maya there. Man, considering how many dogs there are around here they’ve certainly got a lot of rules! Well, we headed back down the mountain, continued around the lake and stopped off at some natural hot springs. I would have liked a little dip – rivers are way better than lakes or the ocean – but there were so many people there because of Semana Santa that we couldn’t even find anywhere to park. Off we went again, looking for a hospitable place. We found another working farm right outside of the national park entrance that happily accepted campers and dogs, so we settled in for the night.

Pretty sure this is the ugliest bird like, ever.

Pretty sure this is the ugliest bird like, ever.

We only spent one night there, and that was just fine with me. We were far outnumbered by the horses, weird duck-creatures, and the ATVs that were rolling in and out at all hours of the night. It was very pretty there, but it was also kind of rainy, and I don’t think I have to tell you how I feel about rain. We were safe under our awning, but everything outside was soaked, and I was very happy when My Family packed us up to head further down the road. The drive to our next destination was pretty uncomfortable, just a lot of bouncing around and going super slow. We stopped at a cool bakery, and I got to taste a delicious pretzel. Maya needs to work on her sad eyes; she missed out completely.

We crawled the Big Truck down a hill, and rolled to a stop right next to the lake. This is when I started to get worried. Lake Arenal is super pretty, and we were camping out at this spot with a great view of the volcano. I was pretty sure, however, that Victoria was going to make me swim. Not a fan of that. Luckily, the water was kind of cold, so no one was interested in taking a dip. Dodged that bullet.

Arenal, the lake and the volcano.

Arenal, the lake and the volcano.

What a fun night at that campsite! It was super quiet, with no one around but one other family enjoying the lake. We did get some rain, but when it cleared up the volcano was showered in colors. Jason says that’s a rainbow. It was really pretty. We all slept really well, and since Victoria and Jason spent the afternoon making new nets for our windows there were less bugs munching on us than usual. This might have been my favorite spot in Costa Rica yet. At a lake, no less!

Big old tree stump near our campsite.  Perfect for peeing on!

Big old tree stump near our campsite. Perfect for peeing on!

We only enjoyed one night there, too. It was time to leave the lake and head up into the mountains. My Family says there’s something here in Costa Rica called a cloud forest. That’s a bunch of trees that’s so high up you’re actually inside a cloud. Sounds damp, but whatever. I don’t get a vote. Here’s hoping it’s just as much fun as the lake and the farms has been! Oh, and in case you’re wondering about the title of this post, ‘pura vida’ means ‘pure life’, and people say that everywhere in this country. Always with a smile. Costa Ricans are so nice!

Arenal has serious clouds. Glad we got out of there before the rains came!

Arenal has serious clouds. Glad we got out of there before the rains came!

PS: To see some of the photos that My Family took, check out Facebook.  They love monkeys, just sayin’…

30
Apr 2014
POSTED BY Neli
POSTED IN

Costa Rica

DISCUSSION 6 Comments

Overheated: Nicaragua Part II

Another day, another beach.  Life is hard for us Adventurers.

Another day, another beach. Life is hard for us Adventurers.

I was pretty excited as we drove away from Laguna de Apoyo towards Granada. I knew that this was one of Victoria’s favorite places, and considering how beautiful and fun the lake had been, that could only mean good things. Plus, the drive was nice and short! Maya curled up and fell asleep in her new spot, the comfy hole behind the armrest between seats, and I stood on Victoria’s lap so I could watch the city approaching.

The buildings in Granada are beautiful.  Victoria said it's because they are 'well-maintained'

The buildings in Granada are beautiful. Victoria said it’s because they are ‘well-maintained’

As soon as we got there I realized two things. First, Granada is way pretty! It’s a very old place, and you can tell the buildings have been there a super long time. There’s so many colors everywhere, which probably means there’s a ton more that I can’t even see! It’s right up against another lake too, even bigger than the one we had just left! Sweet. The second thing I realized is that Granada is WAY HOT. Holy. Moly. I’m talking hot like you can see the pavement sweating. As soon as we got out of the car me and Maya were panting, and I don’t think I stopped the whole time we were there. The roads are all cobblestone and tile, and where they hit the sunlight Maya couldn’t even walk. The sun was like some great yellow monster, snarling and spitting heat rays at us all day. As you can tell, I was plenty content to hang out in the shade.

Most of the sidewalks in Granada are tiled, like this, which makes it really easy to drag Maya when she doesn't want to walk (which is basically ALL the time).

Most of the sidewalks in Granada are tiled, like this, which makes it really easy to drag Maya when she doesn’t want to walk (which is basically ALL the time).

Luckily we had a super comfy place to stay! There aren’t any great camping spots in Granada, and since it was so hot My Family decided to find a hotel that would be okay with me and Maya too. We found a great spot called Casa Sacuanjoche. The main room was big and dark and quiet, the perfect place after hustling through Granada. There was even a curious kitten living there. I really REALLY wanted to play with her, but My Family didn’t think that was a good idea. Apparently “dogs never win”, whatever that means?

Jason spent some time working, and regrettably chose the open air courtyard just outside of our room. Nice and close to the food and water, but almost always in the sun. All I could do was lay around with my tongue hanging out. Apparently we were there towards the end of the dry season, which means it’s the driest time of year in Nicaragua. Man… HOT!

In Granada, horses pull carriages full of people around town.

In Granada, horses pull carriages full of people around town.

We spent the next couple of days exploring the area. Granada is really nice to dogs, which meant Maya and I could go pretty much everywhere with Victoria and Jason. Regrettably, the first place we went was to the vet’s office. The stupid puppy needed yet another shot. And this time I had to get looked at too! The vet was really nice, but the half hour walk almost made me cry (and I don’t think Victoria was far behind). Oh, and remember how I said Granada is really nice to dogs? Well, apparently the cab drivers didn’t get that memo.

Otherwise we had a ton of fun here. We went out to restaurants, walked through the main garden (called Parque Central, as it’s called in almost every city we’ve visited on my Big Adventure), and met some really nice and funny Granada residents. There are a lot of people who came from other places to live here, but there’s also a lot of people who were born here that speak at least a little bit of English. I guess they get a lot of Adventurers down here.

Speaking of Adventurers, we met up with Andrew, a friend of My Family’s, to go see his property. Andrew is from back home, but he and his sister visited Granada years ago and loved it so much they wanted to have a place they could call their very own. I was all excited to walk there and check it out, but then we got into a taxi, and the taxi dropped us off on the shore of that huge lake. Yep, they were forcing me onto ANOTHER BOAT! What is it with My Family and boats?! I thought this was supposed to be a driving trip! Sheesh!

This is me on the boat (!!!) out to see Andrew's island.

This is me on the boat (!!!) out to see Andrew’s island.

Okay, so maybe it wasn’t so bad. It was a very small, very pretty boat, and the waters of Lake Granada are very calm. We moved slowly, and I got to sit on Victoria’s lap the whole time. Maya didn’t seem to mind at all, but still, the whole thing just makes me a little bit uncomfortable. After about twenty minutes we arrived at an island. There are hundreds of them in Lake Granada. They’re called isletas, and you can actually buy them with human money if you want to! Andrew did just that, and he’s building a hotel called El Espino. Pretty cool.

Me and Victoria on Isleta El Espino.

Me and Victoria on Isleta El Espino.

We got to spend the whole morning on Andrew’s isleta, running around off leash, barking at the water, checking out the plants, and playing with our toys. I’ve been sharing my toys with Maya, because she’s just a little baby. I don’t mind. My Family brought along Aardvark, which has become her favorite. It was a Christmas present for me, but you’re supposed to share your things. I may not have chosen to be an older sister, but I’m still going to be a good one. Anyway, our morning on the isleta was the perfect escape from the city. It was so much cooler there, and just really pretty. I guess I can sort of see why someone would want to live on an island, at least for a little while. We headed back to Granada and planted ourselves in the best shade we could find around Parque Central. My Family sipped coffee and shared their breakfast with us, and it was decided we’d leave Granada the next day. I guess we’re going to come back another time, when the weather is just a little bit cooler. Apparently it’s going to start raining around here pretty soon, so the heat isn’t quite so bad. I’m not a fan of the rain, but I would like to spend some more time in Granada! I mean, Victoria and Jason went out for a pretty fancy dinner our last night there, and me and Maya were allowed to come with them! How rad is that?!

Pretty sure there still isn't anything going on in that head.

Pretty sure there still isn’t anything going on in that head.

Goodbye, Aardvark :(

Goodbye, Aardvark :(

The next day we said goodbye to Granada and headed off to the beach. There had been talk of checking out the huge island in the middle of Lake Granada (it’s called Ometepe), but it was decided that we didn’t really have time (phew!). My Family has these things called ‘visas’, and they were about to run out. They were just pieces of paper, where could they go? I found out that humans from one country only give humans from another country a certain amount of time to visit. After that they have to leave, at least for a little while. It’s a pretty complicated process, which is why each border crossing is so long and tiring. I don’t really get this stuff. I mean, if you’re having fun and not being mean to anyone, why can’t you stay as long as you want? I guess it’s just one more of those human things that don’t make a ton of sense, once you stop to really think about it.

So skipping Lake Nicaragua, we were headed for the southern Pacific beaches. Victoria had been there before, to a town called San Juan del Sur, but we were hoping to stop a little further north. I guess San Juan was very busy, and there was another beach that was supposedly much quieter but super pretty. It was called Playa Gigante, and the name had me excited right away. Once we got there, off the highway and after twenty minutes of bouncing down a dirt road I was definitely not disappointed! Playa Gigante is a sleepy little town with a huge, beautiful beach and super nice people. Basically, everything I could ever want.

Leave nothing but paw prints (and poop)...

Leave nothing but paw prints (and poop)…

Maya is still a little bit afraid of the ocean so she spends a lot of our beach time hiding under Jason.

Maya is still a little bit afraid of the ocean so she spends a lot of our beach time hiding under Jason.

We camped at a place called Gigante Bay. This was a really fun hostel with a huge field next door for campers. We looked out our back door at the ocean, and aside from the occasional wandering dog, chicken, pig or frog, we had the place to ourselves. There were also plenty of nice people staying in the hostel, so the funky bar was always full of music, happy voices and the delicious scents of cooking. As you can tell, this stop was right up my alley!

Oh goodie, another boat!  Luckily, we didn't have to go anywhere in this one.

Oh goodie, another boat! Luckily, we didn’t have to go anywhere in this one.

The heat did not leave us alone in Gigante, however. The first day we got there was nice and breezy, and I was content running on the beach, biting at the waves, bowling Maya over and covering her with sand (ha!), and snuggling on laps next to our camper. The next day dawned hot and bright, with none of that beautiful breeze. That meant far more time spent panting on my back, with My Family stuck to the shade, trying to get Maya to come out from under the Big Truck every once in a while. It was still a super cool place to be. Jason was happy because the internet was good and the sunsets were beautiful. Victoria liked the sunny times and the great fish tacos in the bar. Maya’s always happy as long as she’s allowed to wrestle with me and eat and drink a ton. Oh, that reminds me, our meals were switched up this week! Instead of the regular stuff, me and Maya got fish, rice and vegetables for dinner! Man, you’ve never seen two dogs eat so fast! I don’t think the food even hit the side of Maya’s mouth! Trust me, I savored every bite.

Maya trying to beat the heat by laying under the Truck on our out bucket.  Gross.

Maya trying to beat the heat by laying under the Truck on our out bucket. Gross.

Our last day in Gigante was also to be our last day in Nicaragua. We only had a couple days left on those pesky visa things, but also a huge holiday was coming up. Personally, I love holidays. At home that always meant My Family wouldn’t have to work, and we could go do fun things all day. This holiday that was coming up, however, was called Semana Santa, and it was special because absolutely EVERYONE celebrates it in Nicaragua. And most people celebrate by going to the beach. My Family thought that meant serious chaos was coming, and while we were talking about it the ground started shaking. It was almost like a preview! I wasn’t scared, because I’ve been in plenty of earthquakes before. In fact, I notice earthquakes that My Family can’t feel at all. This was a pretty big one, however, and we found out later that some nice people in another part of Nicaragua got hurt from it. Not cool at all.

The sunsets in Gigante were amazing.  My Family took a gazillion photos.

The sunsets in Gigante were amazing. My Family took a gazillion photos.

With the earthquake behind us, we packed up the Big Truck and set out for the border. We were headed for Costa Rica, the seventh country visited on our Big Adventure. I can’t believe it! Seven countries? Maya is a little less than four months old and she’s already been to three countries. That’s more than some grownup people! Man, are we ever lucky dogs! Nicaragua had been a ton of fun, though I wasn’t going to miss the heat much. Victoria promised we’d be back when it was a little bit cooler, and I’m going to hold her to that. If we had had a bit more time we would have stayed anyway; there’s A LOT of the country that we didn’t get to see. For now it’s on to Costa Rica, where I’ve been promised we’ll see a ton of monkeys. What is it with humans and monkeys?

PS: You can see some of the photos My Family took here.

18
Apr 2014
POSTED BY Neli
POSTED IN

Nicaragua

DISCUSSION 2 Comments

Two Borders, a Beach and a Lake: Nicaragua Pt. 1

Is there anything better than a new beach to explore? Here I am in Las Penitas.

Is there anything better than a new beach to explore? Here I am in Las Penitas.

I knew the day we left El Salvador was going to be a long one. First of all, Victoria and Jason dragged me out of bed just as the sun was rising. Jason’s been getting up with Maya at all hours of the night for weeks now, but I would much rather sleep in. On this morning I didn’t get a choice. We were heading out of El Salvador, through Honduras and into Nicaragua all in the same day, and there was no time for beauty sleep. There was barely time for another sniff around Playa El Cuco before we were packing up and hitting the road. Back down the bumpy dirt road, a couple of hours driving across the last stretch of El Salvador and we were at the border.

By the time we left El Salvador the sun was high and hot, and both me and Maya were panting pretty hard. I’m still not particularly thrilled with this new ‘little sister’, but I did feel bad for her, laid out on the ground while My Family got us through the border. I’m used to this process by now, but everything’s so new for Maya. She’s just a baby! Luckily everything went smoothly and we were soon back in the big truck and heading into Honduras. Since it was going to be such a long drive we gave in to a couple of comforts. There was air conditioning for me and Maya, and soda in a bag for Victoria and Jason. I’ve never seen that before, and it was certainly an adventure for Jason to drink from a bag while driving! Thankfully, that was the most adventurous part of this drive.

Jason and Victoria had been stressed out about Honduras for as long as I could remember. It was the only country we weren’t really going to see so the plan was to drive through this teensy little bit of the country, just enough to get into Nicaragua. It was only eighty miles or so, but My Family had heard the drive could take all day because of police checkpoints. My Family relaxed pretty quickly, however, as we didn’t get stopped even once driving through Honduras! Maya slept through the whole thing; I don’t think she can smell nerves on humans yet.

Although we didn’t hit any issues we did have to get through both borders in a single day, and by the time we entered Nicaragua we were all pretty tired. It was super hot, and after all the stress of a long driving day everyone was super excited to get to our campsite for the night. Luckily, it wasn’t very much further. We got out to our first top in Nicaragua, the beach town of Las Penitas, just before the sunset. We found a great little hotel right on the beach called Playa Roca, and the super nice owners were happy to have us camp there. Even though we were all exhausted, I still got a chance to run on the beach a bit. This part of the Big Adventure was certainly shaping up well. So many beaches to run on! After months of shivering at night in the mountains, all of this sun and sand made me one happy dog.

The beach in Las Penitas was empty most of the time!

The beach in Las Penitas was empty most of the time!

We spent a few days in Las Penitas, and boy was it HOT! It was hard to do much else but lay around, and thankfully there were plenty of shady spots. Maya wants to play all the time, but even she got tired of chewing on my face in this weather. I didn’t even mind so much when Victoria took me in the ocean or under the shower. This was a great beach, with plenty of room to run, lots of nice people and other dogs, and delicious food to taste. Jason didn’t have it quite so good as I did. He had to take the bus into Leon twice to get supplies and find internet so he could work. Even though lots of people go to Las Penitas for fun there are no real shops there, which makes it pretty tricky for Adventurers like us.

Maya is SUPER slow and she trips over her big feet all the time.  I'm slowly teaching her how to run.

Maya is SUPER slow and she trips over her big feet all the time. I’m slowly teaching her how to run.

It kept getting hotter, and then there were crazy dust storms that covered My Family head to foot in sand. Victoria and Jason started to seriously drag. Even Maya was running for cover. After a while we knew it was time to go, so we packed up the big truck and headed for our next stop, Laguna de Apoyo. This drive was nice and short, something I’ve noticed is pretty much normal now. Victoria says that these Central American countries are much smaller than Mexico and even Guatemala, meaning we can see a lot more of them in a short amount of time. We drove through a couple of small towns, stopped on the side of the highway so My Family could get another tank of gas for the truck, scaled a big hill and caught our first look at Laguna de Apoyo. It’s much smaller than Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, and the drive down was way less scary, but this place was just as pretty. It’s in the middle of a volcano! I don’t really know what that is, but it was pretty cool to see a lake that was almost a perfect circle. Victoria also said that this volcano has been a lake for a very long time, so I didn’t think there was anything to be nervous about.

There were lots of steps to get from the lake to our room at the Monkey Hut but I didn't mind!

There were lots of steps to get from the lake to our room at the Monkey Hut but I didn’t mind!

Our first top was a hotel called The Monkey Hut. We didn’t see any monkeys, but we sure heard a lot of them! Not my favorite thing in the world. We weren’t able to camp here, but instead we stayed in a super comfy room! We had our own private patio, which looked right out over the lake. So cool! The weather was much better here, but that didn’t stop Victoria and Jason from forcing me and Maya into the water. I did like this a lot better than the ocean. It’s much less scary. Maya’s a pretty good swimmer too! Finally, something she’s actually good at…

Maya loved laying on the cool tiles in our private room which was fine by me because it meant I had the bed all to myself!

Maya loved laying on the cool tiles in our private room which was fine by me because it meant I had the bed all to myself!

We could only have one night in the comfy room, but instead of leaving the next morning My Family decided to stay in a dorm room. This was definitely a first for us on the Big Adventure. A dorm is basically a big room with lots of beds, and you share it with other Adventurers. Jason wasn’t too sure how this was going to, and he was even less pleased when we found out that the whole dorm was going to be full of girls. Thankfully they turned out to be super nice, and Maya managed not to pee inside or cry or anything. I guess she’s starting to be a little more fun.

Laguna de Apoyo. Better to swim in than the ocean but I'm still not loving it.

Laguna de Apoyo. Better to swim in than the ocean but I’m still not loving it.

We left The Monkey Hut for another spot down the road so we wouldn’t have to share a room with anyone. This place was called Hostel Paradiso, and it was super cool. So pretty, with all sorts of levels, great grassy bits, hammocks to swing in, and delicious food I got to taste. We spent a couple of nights in our own room here, relaxed during the day while Jason worked, and spent the evenings down by the beach, swinging in hammock chairs and meeting all sorts of nice people. I’m happy to report that the travelers we met were just as interested in me as they were in Maya. As it should be.

Lots of stairs at Paradiso but at least Maya is getting better at climbing them (finally).

Lots of stairs at Paradiso but at least Maya is getting better at climbing them (finally).

Hostel Paradiso was probably my favorite spot in Nicaragua so far. This is Victoria’s favorite country, and I could certainly see why. The people were so nice, and there was loads to do. I actually enjoyed swimming here, as long as Jason held me tight. I played a bit with Maya, and got more than enough beauty sleep. We even got to move back into the camper our last night there, and met a nice couple from Switzerland who had been traveling for two years! I have to admit I didn’t really want to leave, and I think Jason felt the same way. But we had to keep moving. Victoria made reservations in a hotel in a city called Granada, so after a couple of days we got back on the road. The stress of our big border crossing day was pretty much forgotten, and it was time to see more of Nicaragua! Maybe we’ll find someone in Granada who would take this puppy off our hands. Just kidding! Well, sort of.

PS:  My Family has been pretty lazy about taking photos lately but you can see some of our time in Nicaragua on Facebook.

09
Apr 2014
POSTED BY Neli
POSTED IN

Nicaragua

DISCUSSION 1 Comment

Our El Salvadorian Vacation

Hi! My name’s Maya, and this is my blog. Um, no! This is, and always will be my blog, thank you very much! Clearly there is nothing going on in her head, what would she even tell you about? Ugh! Anyway… I’m here today to tell you about El Salvador, the fourth country we have visited on our trip so far.

I couldn't believe my luck when we pulled up and parked right next to the beach.  I got to run and play in the sand every day when we were in El Salvador!

I couldn’t believe my luck when we pulled up and parked right next to the beach. I got to run and play in the sand every day when we were in El Salvador!

We woke up before the sun on Lake Atitlan, packed up the camper and the big white truck, and headed off for the border of El Salvador. I had heard My Family discussing the trip, so I knew it was going to be a long day. Victoria had plotted out the trip in detail, while Jason drank a ton of coffee, trying to make up for the fact that he was up all night with the stupid puppy. Seriously, this Maya dog was really making everything difficult. Since I don’t have thumbs I couldn’t ‘accidentally’ unhook her leash and leave her behind in San Pedro, so I reluctantly settled in on Victoria’s lap for the drive, making sure to give Maya the stink eye at every opportunity.

The roads were smooth, and Guatemala is so pretty that the trip to the border was a breeze. As soon as we got to the busy border, a nice man name Jorge rode up to us on his motorcycle, offering to help. My Family is usually wary of these ‘helpers’ at the border, because they’re normally very loud and pushy, and despite their job title not particularly helpful. I could smell that Jorge was different, and that afternoon he helped us out a lot. The border was confusing, and with Maya in tow everything was super slow and complicated. Thankfully we got through the process and into El Salvador without much of a problem.

The first thing I noticed here is that it was hot. Boy, was it ever HOT! All I could do was lay on my back on Victoria’s lap and pant. I do have to admit, Maya was pretty good in the truck. It was a super long travel day, and she never pooed or peed in the truck, and she didn’t even cry that much. Pretty good for a stupid baby. Finally, after eleven hours (!) of driving we reached our first destination in El Salvador, a hostel called Horizonte in a small town called El Zonte.

This is the view out our back door!  Yaaay!

This is the view out our back door! Yaaay!

As soon as I got out of the truck I could smell a big difference between here and Guatemala. The salt in the air, the breeze, the low whoosh in the distance. Yep, we were back at the beach! My Family spoke with the nice man who runs the hostel, and he set us up with a covered camp spot right next to the sand! We were all exhausted, but that didn’t stop us from immediately having some runaround time. I don’t know about you, but I think the absolute best thing in the world is running around on the beach. I’ve even gotten a bit more used to the water. I don’t like the waves very much, but they’re pretty fun to chase and bite at. Saltwater’s pretty delicious too, even though My Family doesn’t like me drinking it. Maya got her first taste of the beach as well. She was born on Lake Atitlan, and everything so far has been totally new for her. Her first car ride, her first new country, and her first time stepping on sand! She’s pretty much scared of everything, but once she saw me running around she began to get the idea.

This is Maya peeing in the ocean.  Victoria said it's okay because lots of humans pee in the ocean as well.

This is Maya peeing in the ocean. Victoria said it’s okay because lots of humans pee in the ocean as well.

We stayed in El Zonte for several more days. It was really pretty there. The hostel had two pools, the sand was at our doorstep, and delicious restaurants were all around us! It was full of surfers who all wanted to play with me and Maya, and every single one of them asked My Family if they surfed too.  They don’t but we sure love the beach!  The heat took some serious getting used to, however. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Jason sweat so much! Maya had an especially hard time getting acclimated. She really likes My Family, but she had a tough go of it those first few days in El Salvador. She just smelled sick. My Family took her to the vet twice because she had worms. I came too, and got a shot of my own (what did I do to deserve that?!). Maya also got blisters on her belly – pretty gross. She slept a lot, and My Family was pretty worried. I never make My Family worry like that. Luckily they were able to find the right medicine, and after a few days Maya was a lot happier. Of course, that just meant she spent all her time biting at me and trying to eat my food. Seriously, I don’t know about this baby thing.

This is me relaxing on the roof deck.  We spent a lot of time up here while My Family sat in hammocks, read books and forced me and Maya to go in the pool.

This is me relaxing on the roof deck. We spent a lot of time up here while My Family sat in hammocks, read books and forced me and Maya to go in the pool.

As the weekend came around, My Family packed everything up and we drove a few towns further into El Salvador, to a place called El Tunco. The travelers we had spoken to called El Tunco the ‘party town’, and I saw why right away. The air was jam packed with the smells of food and people, and music played day and night. After failing to find a hostel that would take us campers, we discovered Sol y Mar, which is basically a dusty parking lot, but it had a little market (called a tienda) and a restaurant, and was close to everything else in town. We also had some super cool neighbors, an Italian couple named Didi and Gaetano who are camping their way through Central America in a Volkswagon. They had just adopted a local dog of their own, a cute girl named Mancha. Maya and I spent a lot of time playing with Mancha, while our families hung out, sharing stories and that nasty human drink called beer. Maya seemed to like licking the bottles, but I’ve just got no taste for it. It makes humans do stupid things but Maya does stupid things without any help at all!

Playa El Tunco as seen from the wall.  It was nice to look down on everyone for once!

Playa El Tunco as seen from the wall. It was nice to look down on everyone for once!

We had a lot of fun in El Tunco, even though it was pretty busy. Maya and I walked with My Family basically everywhere, so I got to meet all sorts of cool people and taste some delicious food. The beach here is great for swimming and running around, packed with people from all over the world, other dogs and even some horses! We would watch the sunset, sitting on a stone wall overlooking the ocean, and then sit in outdoor cafes trying to cool off. We even met another family with a Chihuahua, a nice boy named Lucky but he wasn’t that into me. We probably would have stayed in El Tunco longer, but our campsite was a little complicated. We couldn’t park in the sun, so Jason had to keep lugging out the generator to keep everything working. That, coupled with the constant heat and so many people, made My Family decide to pack up and head back to Horizonte

This is me taking it all in on the wall in Playa El Tunco.

This is me taking it all in on the wall in Playa El Tunco.

We did just that, and spent another couple nights relaxing in the shade and peacefulness of El Zonte. Victoria would drag me and Maya under the outdoor shower from time to time or make us swim in the pool, trying to cool us off. I didn’t particularly like it, but I have to admit I felt better afterwards. We would relax at camp, cooking and staying out of the sun, go for walks on the beach, and eat delicious pizza at the hostel next door. There was even a movie night! They showed a movie called NORTH SHORE. It was pretty terrible, but everyone was laughing and cheering, so I guess it’s the sort of thing that humans like. Maya started feeling lots better; she’s even growing a bit now, and doesn’t look quite so scrawny. I finally let her play with me, although most of the time she just gets annoying and I have to knock her down to stop the constant nipping. It’s been a while, but I seriously don’t remember being that pesky as a baby. Victoria thinks Maya might be like this for the next year or so. Great.

Finally it was time to put El Zonte behind us. We packed back into the big truck and drove for a couple of hours to a place called Playa El Cuco. Back at the beach, down a super bumpy dirt road, we found a place to camp called Rio Mar. We were the only ones there, and it was absolutely beautiful! A long beach to ourselves, and delicious food at the locals’ restaurant next door. Everybody there loved me, and paid just as much attention to my cuteness as they did to Maya for once.

One of my favorite things about this trip is all the beaches where I get to leave the first paw prints.  Playa El Cuco was empty except for me and My Family (and Maya).

One of my favorite things about this trip is all the beaches where I get to leave the first paw prints. Playa El Cuco was empty except for me and My Family (and Maya).

We enjoyed watching the sunset, and I heard My Family talking about the long driving day were were going to tackle in the morning. Apparently, this was the sun setting on our time in El Salvador. All in all, it felt like a vacation. We had finally gotten back to the beach, which we hadn’t done in ages. We’d met some great people, spent a ton of time relaxing, ate delicious food, and helped the puppy get well. I guess that means we’re stuck with her. We went to sleep that night to the smell of burning garbage and some noisy roosters, while Jason fretted over the day to come. Apparently we were going to attempt something major: the crossing of two borders in one day! Was it going to work out? Would it be our longest driving day yet? Would we be okay in Honduras? I’m sure glad we had such a great, relaxing vacation in El Salvador. We’d need all of our energy (and a relaxed puppy), to navigate what was in store.

PS:  To see some of the photos My Family took during our time at the beach, click here!

27
Mar 2014
POSTED BY Neli
POSTED IN

El Salvador

DISCUSSION 7 Comments

Language Lessons in Gringolandia, and an Unwelcome Surprise: Guatemala Pt. 3

This is me tearing it up n the garden at Corazon Maya.

This is me tearing it up n the garden at Corazon Maya.

I knew it was coming, but that didn’t mean I had to like it. After two weeks in this super fun town called Antigua, we were headed back to Lake Atitlan. In case you’re new to my blog, I’m a pretty easygoing dog. I love people, I’ll eat just about anything and if you give me a sunny day and a lap to snuggle in, I’m pretty much good to go. There are only a couple of things I don’t like, and one of them is big bodies of water (I’ll get to the other thing later). So to put it simply, knowing we were about to spend some time on the edge of a giant lake, that very same lake I was forced to ride back and forth across in a tiny boat, and I was less than a happy camper. As always, My Family didn’t ask for my vote. So we left the nice people at the Tourist Police at drove off for the lake.

The roads to Lake Atitlan (or Lago de Atitlan, as the locals call it) are pretty smooth, but boy do they twist and turn! We spent a bit of time on the actual Pan American Highway, something we hadn’t done since early in our travels through Mexico, and then turned off to head down towards the lake. Our destination was the town of San Pedro, which was one of the places we had visited with my Grandparents two weeks before. We were taking another road down the huge mountain towards the lake. Holy cow, I had never seen such a steep road before! Jason smelled awfully nervous as we slowly made our way down. At one point in the trip, Jason pulled us over to give the big truck’s brakes a break. They weren’t that smelly, but I could tell for a moment that Jason wasn’t sure how the rest of the trip was going to go. Victoria walked me around so I could sniff the delicious scents of the jungle, while Jason hunkered down to watch the other trucks go by. Seeing these huge vehicles packed with logs, metal bars or dozens of people with their bags rocket down the hill way faster than we had, Jason seemed to realize the proper approach. We got back in the big truck and headed down, matching the other vehicles’ speedy descent. And aside from a couple of switchback turns when my eyes nearly popped out of my head, we got to the bottom without any issues!

San Pedro La Laguna is a pretty special place, even for us dogs. The town is a perfect mix of travelers from around the world and Guatemalans who still stick to their Mayan culture. Smells of cooking linger in the air along with that special, sweet smell of burning garbage we’ve found at every stop along the way. And the dogs live the life here! Although they’re not as lucky as me, with my bed and my special food and My Family to snuggle with, they all seemed pretty happy. We drove through town and pulled up in front of Corazon Maya, the Spanish school where we were going to stay for the next week. As always, I thought we were going to camp out, but my heart leaped when I saw we were going to stay in a little house! It had a yard all our own, a cool porch for lounging, and plenty of nice neighbors to pet and scratch me. There was even a camp dog who was super nice, and didn’t mind me sniffing around at all. We settled in for our first night in San Pedro, with our camper safely parked up the hill.

Our casita at Corazon Maya, complete with our own front yard!

Our casita at Corazon Maya, complete with our own front yard!

The next day we got up and out pretty early, so we could explore the town. Our first stop didn’t pan out so well (no dogs allowed at the pool with the yummy barbecue?), but the day was full of fun exploration. San Pedro is almost like two towns in one. Up the hill is ‘Centro’, where all the locals live and shop and pass the time. Down the hill by the lake are the super cool walk streets, which everyone calls ‘Gringolandia’. It’s nothing but shops, restaurants, bars, Spanish schools and happy tourists lounging by the lake. I got to wander with My Family pretty much everywhere (they love dogs here!), close enough to the lake to enjoy the breeze, but far enough away that I surely wouldn’t have to swim. Locals and tourists alike were all super nice and friendly, and since a lot of people come to this town to take Spanish classes, all the people were super patient with My Family’s attempts at communication.

Grindolandia.  It's so beautiful here and full of delicious smells.

Grindolandia. It’s so beautiful here and full of delicious smells.

We fell into a nice routine during the next five days. In the morning, Jason and Victoria went to Spanish school. I usually came with them, running from one little room to the other so I could get good lap time with both of them. It was pretty funny listening to Jason try and speak spanish for four hours a day! Victoria was definitely better, but I think I understood the teachers better than either one of them. In the afternoons I would relax on the front lawn while Jason worked. And in the evenings we would go out to explore, eating yummy food, meeting nice people and enjoying the cool weather by the lake. After our second day of Spanish school we met a couple of super nice campers named Kenny and Jenn. They’ve been traveling as long as we have, and also came from California! It was pretty cool to meet people who knew about my home, and we hung out with them a lot. I didn’t always get to go out with My Family as they wandered around town, but even when I was left at home I didn’t mind. We had a comfy bed, and I felt super safe in this place. I knew we weren’t going to stay forever, but I was very happy when My Family decided to stay and spend a second week in this great place.

This guy lives at Corzaon Maya and is really chill.  I repeat, he lives at Corazon Maya.  Not with us.

This guy lives at Corzaon Maya and is really chill. I repeat, he lives at Corazon Maya. Not with us.

The days passed quickly here. Jason got to experience a little more of the Mayan culture, taking part in a couple of ceremonies to mark the new year on their calendar. I got delicious bits of bacon when we went out with our new friend Benjamin to an all you can eat brunch! Victoria spent a lot of time reading on our front porch. I got to eat fresh banana bread! Jason and Victoria went out with Kenny and Jenn, ran around in the rain, and tried delicious restaurants basically all the time. I got to chase a cat around Corazon Maya. All in all, a perfect week.

Things changed really quickly, and I had no warning at all. One morning, Jason and Victoria left me at home for quite a long time. I knew they were planning on visiting another town along the lake called Santiago, so that they could help some of the local dogs and cats. Before the Big Adventure Victoria had found an organization called Ayuda Perros Y Gatos, run by a nice woman named Selaine right here in Lake Atitlan. They take sick dogs and cats off the streets and give them medicine. Apparently, those dogs I kept seeing roaming around weren’t as well off as I thought. Nobody takes care of them, so they don’t feel very good. Jason and Victoria left me at home so they could help take care of some of these animals. They came home, and I was super happy to see them. Then I noticed a new smell coming in with them: another dog!

Maya, Maya, Maya! Not only does she cry, poop and pee all the time she also steals my toys.  My family thinks everything she does is cute.

Maya, Maya, Maya! Not only does she cry, poop and pee all the time she also steals my toys. My family thinks everything she does is cute.

My Family never asked my opinion, which I surely would have given them.  They just went and decided to bring one of these Guatemalan dogs into our house! Her name is Maya, and she’s just a puppy. She doesn’t know how to do anything right, and basically they expect me to welcome her into our family? At first I thought that maybe she was just going to spend the night, until she started to feel better. But the days kept passing, and every morning she was still there! Not amused. At the beginning of this post I mentioned there were two things I don’t like: Large bodies of water and Surprise Siblings.

Since we now had this interloper with us, Victoria and Jason decided to spend one more week in San Pedro. This little whiner who just pees and poops all over the place ALSO needs all sorts of shots and medicine! The plan had been to head off to the beach, but because of Maya we were staying on the lake instead. Our Spanish lessons were over, however, so it was time to move on. My Family found another place to park, outside of a coffee shop in the middle of Gringolandia. That’s right. I lost my front lawn AND had to deal with a puppy all at the same time.

The coffee shop was pretty cool, though. I had room to run around, and there were some super nice campers there as well. Henry and Kristina came all the way from Canada in a minivan, while another couple was here from Germany. Sweetl! Everyone was super nice, but that didn’t make up for the fact that this stupid puppy was now always around. In fact, people started saying hello to her before even noticing me! C’mon, I’m seriously the cute one, right? Just because Maya’s small doesn’t mean she’s cute. She doesn’t do anything! Even worse, there were a bunch of nights when Jason wasn’t snuggling with me in bed any more. The puppy is so whiny that Jason ended up sleeping on the couch with her. Seriously, I don’t know what My Family was thinking.

The gardens at the coffee shop were really fun to run around in. Plus? Maya can't get up stairs!

The gardens at the coffee shop were really fun to run around in. Plus? Maya can’t get up stairs!

Finally, it was time to leave San Pedro, and since we had spent an extra week there it was also time to leave Guatemala. Now the real shocker: Maya came with us. We missed out on the beach, AND I apparently now have a sibling to deal with. I really REALLY loved Guatemala, and My Family felt the same way. This ‘Maya’ situation, though, was about the most unwelcome surprise I could imagine.

Somebody please save me from my new life with the puppy...

Somebody please save me from my new life with the puppy…

PS: To see some photos My Family took click here.

16
Mar 2014
POSTED BY Neli
POSTED IN

Guatemala

DISCUSSION 2 Comments

La Vida de la Ciudad: Guatemala Pt. 2

After Victoria and Jason, Lorna and David are my favorite humans.  This is all of us hanging out on Lake Atitlan.

After Victoria and Jason, Lorna and David are my favorite humans. This is all of us hanging out on Lake Atitlan.

You might remember that our first couple of weeks in Guatemala ended with quite an adventure, and a night camped out on our new friend’s property. We woke up the next morning refreshed and ready to go, but we weren’t out of the woods quite yet! My Family still had to get us, the big truck and our camper out of the mountains, through Guatemala City and into the city of Antigua. It was going to be a long day, but my Grandparents were at the end of it! I love my grandparents (which are called abuelos, in spanish), almost as much as I love treats, so whatever we had to do to get to them I was happy to deal with.

We said goodbye to our friend Ariel and headed off for Guatemala City, the biggest city in the country. Ariel had mentioned to us the night before that there was a river up ahead we would have to cross, and that the bridge had been washed away in a storm two years ago. My Family had already crossed a bunch of rivers during the Big Adventure, so no one was too concerned. When we pulled up at the edge of this particular river, however, my ears perked up in a hurry. It was HUGE! The drive to get to this point had been anything but easy. We had driven on gravel and dirt, found a way around a washed out road, crossed mountains and almost set our brakes on fire. There was no way we could go all the way back. The only thing to do was to cross it. Luckily, this is a pretty normal thing in Guatemala.

Jason spoke to a nice lady standing by the river, who pointed out a man whose job it was to help you get across. He spends all day navigating cars across the river for 20 Quetzales (that’s Guatemalan money). Before I knew it we were descending a steep slope and splashing out into the river in our truck. The man told us to turn down the river, and suddenly we were driving right down it. I could tell Jason was pretty nervous, but Victoria was enjoying it enough to snap a bunch of photos. I didn’t like being in the middle of the water one bit, but the whole thing was over super quick. We drove up the far shore, thanked the man and were back on our way.

Looking back across the river we just drove through. Not cool, Guatemala, not cool at all.

Looking back across the river we just drove through. Not cool, Guatemala, not cool at all.

The rest of the drive into Guatemala City was pretty uneventful even though the roads were absolutely crazy. Thin dirt trails through the jungle, rocky roads passing by Mayan villages, and nothing but huge hills all the way there. I tried to snooze as much as I could, even though I was pretty excited about the visit. The first thing I noticed was the change in smells. To this point, Guatemala had smelled like farms, horses, chickens, other dogs, and a few people here and there. As we got closer to Guatemala City, I smelled something I hadn’t smelled in a very long time: smog. And there were people everywhere! Guatemala City is big, noisy, colorful and packed with people. It was a bit overwhelming for me, and I noticed that Jason wasn’t particularly happy with the fact that there didn’t seem to be anything resembling lanes on the big highways. We took it all in stride, and soon pulled into the parking lot of what seemed like an office building. What was this all about? Jason went inside, and soon came back with a big cardboard box. It was packed with Christmas presents from Victoria’s parents, and some of them were for me! Apparently, this was something My Family was supposed to receive way back in Mexico, but it had just reached us here. Delay or not, I was super happy to have some new bones and toys to chew on.

I discovered that picking up this box was the only reason we went to Guatemala City. From there, it was a straight trip into Antigua. My Family was pretty excited to see this town, and once we got there I could tell why. It was so beautiful! Surrounded by volcanoes and set in a big valley, Antigua is what is known as a colonial city. That means there were some really old people, a long time ago, who built the whole place, and it basically looks the same as when they were walking around. I’m not too sure how this whole time thing works, so you’re going to have to ask My Family if you want some more details.

I mentioned that there are volcanoes in Guatemala, right?  That sounds totally safe.

I mentioned that there are volcanoes in Guatemala, right? That sounds totally safe.

We bounced along the cobblestone streets and soon stopped in front of a hotel. Not only were we going to have visitors, but we were going to stay in a hotel! I had barely had a chance to jump all over the bed in our new, temporary home, when My Grandparents showed up! Okay, so they’re not my blood grandparents. Lorna and David Palmer are Victoria’s parents, but I think they love me as if I was their own, real, non-adopted granddoggy. And I love them the same way. From the moment I smelled them my tail started wagging, and I don’t think it stopped the entire eight days we spent together!

Before I tell you all about the fun we had, I should say that the hotel was pretty sweet too. Lorna and David treated us to a little over a week in the hotel which meant we didn’t sleep in the camper and we got to stay in the same place as them! The people who run the hotel were more than happy to have me there with My Family. The inside was so pretty with flowers to sniff and a nice breeze and… our room had two floors! That means I got to run up and down the stairs, jump on the couch, and generally stretch out in ways I never get to in the camper. It was super fun.

This is me lounging UPSTAIRS at the hotel.

This is me lounging UPSTAIRS at the hotel.

Even more fun was exploring Antigua with My Family. My grandparents love going for walks, and they LOVE taking me with them. I was more than happy to wander beside them, taking in all the sights and smells of this pretty city. All the streets are cobblestone, which isn’t particularly fun to walk on, but I got to go almost everywhere. There were huge buses, covered in paint, lights, horns and chrome, and people lean out of them yelling “Guate, Guate, Guate!!” all through the day. There were parades, fireworks, and music almost all the time. There were parks, churches, shops and restaurants to explore, and I think we checked them all out. I didn’t get to go out with My Family all the time, though. One night they went to a bar to see something called The Super Bowl. I was picturing my food bowls, but bigger than me, and filled to the brim with grilled chicken covered in melted cheese. I guess the Super Bowl wasn’t anything as cool as that, because My Family seemed kinda disappointed when they got home.

The next few days were pretty much a mix of one fun thing after the next. We walked all over the place, stopped for lunch at all sorts of restaurants and snuggled up at the hotel. I basically spent the whole time jumping from one lap to the next. I think my favorite is Lorna’s, but don’t tell David that!

A big church we saw on one of our many walks around the city.

A big church we saw on one of our many walks around the city.

Me and Lorna. She always smells really good, just one of the reasons I love her so much!

Me and Lorna. She always smells really good, just one of the reasons I love her so much!

A few days later My Family packed our things and we got into a car. It wasn’t the big truck though, it was a ‘rental’. I guess that means it’s not ours forever and David drives it instead of Jason. We were driving out to spend the night at a place called Lake Atitlan, but our day’s adventure was almost over before it started. We ended up stuck in a huge traffic jam, the biggest one I think I’ve ever seen. David asked some of the people hanging out at the side of the road (he really likes speaking Spanish), and found out the road was blocked by something called a ‘protest’. That’s what happens when people are angry about stuff. I protest all the time, but no one pays any attention. Anyway, we spent more than three whole hours stuck in the same place! People were walking up and down the street, selling food, playing music, throwing frisbees and basically looking for any way they could possibly pass the time. Eventually the protesters decided to go home, maybe to take a nap or something, and we finally got to keep going. We stopped for a yummy lunch, drove down a HUGE mountain, and made it to Lake Atitlan.

View from the bridge looking back to where we are parked (behind one of those giant trucks).

View from the bridge looking back to where we are parked (behind one of those giant trucks).

The lake is surrounded by three volcanoes and a bunch of little villages. The one we were heading for was called Panajachel. It felt a little bit like Venice, with its bars, street vendors and general craziness. We stayed at a Bed & Breakfast that was really pretty, with a huge garden and several other nice dogs to play with. Jason settled in to get some work done, while Victoria, Lorna, David and I went out for a nice, long walk.

Me and David, a little too close to the lake if you ask me but everyone else seemed to like it.

Me and David, a little too close to the lake if you ask me but everyone else seemed to like it.

After the walk things took a turn for the worse. My Family went out for dinner, and I got left behind. I don’t know what My Family was thinking, but they zipped me up in my travel bed. Now don’t get me wrong, I actually kind of like my travel bed. It’s soft and cozy, and just the right size for me. But something about this Bed & Breakfast just rubbed me the wrong way. There were strange smells, and the other dogs kept messing with our door. They weren’t as nice as I thought. I couldn’t help but make some noise, but apparently this wasn’t allowed. Before I knew it the owner of the Bed & Breakfast came into our room and took me out of there! She carried me into a thing called a yurt, and expected me to play nice with her dogs. Look, I may have made some noise, but I certainly DID NOT want to leave my cozy bed for some weird yurt thing. And I sure didn’t want to play with some strange dogs. I was more than a little relieved when Victoria and Jason came home and rescued me from this strange situation. They couldn’t believe that someone had come and taken me away, and it seems like they were pretty scared when they came home and I wasn’t there. When we snuggled up in bed I was more than a little bit relieved to be ending the night safe and sound with My Family!

This is Sammy, one of the THREE dogs that live at the B&B. Sometimes I wish I wasn't an only-dog.

This is Sammy, one of the THREE dogs that live at the B&B. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t an only-dog.

The next day we got up early, checked out of that strange place and went down to the dock. We were getting on a boat! Sure, I thought the lake was pretty, but only from far away. You better believe I didn’t want to get stuck out in the middle of it! That’s exactly what My Family wanted, though. We spent almost the whole day taking a boat from one place to another, with some breaks for walking around all the cute little towns. Each time we got out to walk around I thought I was safe from the water, only to find we were getting right back on the boat again! I loved all the time with my grandparents, but after a while I was feeling a bit woozy. Just when I thought I couldn’t take it any more we came back to Panajachel and ended our boat trip. My Family was so happy; they really loved it. I’ll never understand humans.

Volcanoes.  On a Lake.  Awesome.

Volcanoes. On a Lake. Awesome.

I really really don't like boats.

I really really don’t like boats.

The paths in San Marcos are full of holes that are the perfect size for my feet to fall in.  I hope we don't go back there.

The paths in San Marcos are full of holes that are the perfect size for my feet to fall in. I hope we don’t go back there.

We drove back to Antigua and spent a couple more days having fun with my grandparents. We walked up to the top of a big hill where we could look out over the whole city one day and drove up to a very pretty place called the Earth Lodge one another day. Finally, it was time for Lorna and David to go home. I surely didn’t want them to go, but I didn’t really have a vote. They gave me some final kisses, said goodbye to My Family and drove away. I spent the rest of the day waiting for them to get back but apparently, this was just a visit. I was kind of hoping they were going to stay with us on the rest of the Big Adventure, but yeah, like I said, I didn’t get a vote. We had so much fun, though! I hope more humans come visit us!

Looking down on Anitgua from on top of the hill.

Looking down on Anitgua from on top of the hill.

Earthlodge dogs. The dogs in Guatemala seem to have it pretty good, they look way happier than the dogs we met in Mexico.

Earthlodge dogs. The dogs in Guatemala seem to have it pretty good, they look way happier than the dogs we met in Mexico.

Although my grandparents had left, we weren’t leaving Antigua yet. We did check out of the hotel, though, and drive the big truck to a parking lot just a few blocks away. The police live there, and it seems they let some traveling families stay with them when they are visiting Guatemala. We set up camp in a nice sunny spot and took some time to settle back into camping life.

This cat hung out with us the entire time we camped at the police station, even though I chased her away several times a day.

This cat hung out with us the entire time we camped at the police station, even though I chased her away several times a day.

I didn’t lift a paw, but My Family took some time to clean the camper from top to bottom. We hadn’t been in it for a while, and it had needed a cleaning since the time we got all that rain. Jason wasn’t too thrilled about the process, but Victoria seemed to enjoy it. We spent about a week camping with the nice police (I found out later they were police people who were only there to help the tourists – what a cool job!), met a couple of other campers, and did a bunch more walking around Antigua. At one point we packed up the camper and took it into a garage to get our brakes looked at. Jason wanted to make sure everything was okay after our experience trying to get into Guatemala City. It took almost a whole day, but everything worked out great.

The truck waiting for a little love.

The truck waiting for a little love.

On our last day in Antigua, Victoria noticed an ambulance with New York City license plates parked on the street. She got super excited, thinking these must be other adventurers. And they were! The ambulance belonged to Team Last Responders, a group of super cool people who were driving to South America to donate the ambulance and some medical supplies to people who need them really badly. You should check out their story – it’s pretty neat.

When we packed up to leave Antigua, I couldn’t imagine where we could go that would top this. It’s a beautiful city with super nice people, and we had spent half of our time there with my grandparents! What could be better than that? My heart sunk a little when I heard where we were heading next: San Pedro La Laguna. That’s one of the small towns we visited on Lake Atitlan so that meant we were going back to the lake!. If they expect me to get back on a boat again…

PS: To see some of the photos My Family took click here!

26
Feb 2014
POSTED BY Neli
POSTED IN

Guatemala

DISCUSSION 5 Comments

Sick Days, Smoking Brakes and String Theory? Guatemala Pt.1

Alarm clocks are the worst human invention. Ever.

Alarm clocks are the worst human invention. Ever.

The morning started with a pretty familiar routine. The alarm went off, Jason and Victoria grumbled about it, and I curled up tighter to snuggle under the covers. But unlike most mornings, when I’d be allowed to snooze to my heart’s content, My Family quickly jumped up and started packing. That could only mean one thing: a border crossing day! We were ready to leave Belize behind and cross into our third new country on my Big Adventure.

The Trek Stop was only a few miles from the border of Belize and Guatemala, and we were there before I knew it. Leaving Belize was much easier than getting in. The Border Agent looked at me a little sideways, but My Family had all the paperwork in place and we were soon through the process. Once I heard all the humans speaking Spanish again, I knew we were in Guatemala. We stopped a couple of times in some cool little towns, so Jason could find the little stick that lets him use the internet, and so we could go shopping. In the afternoon I looked up from Victoria’s lap to find we had made it to a pretty little town on a big lake. El Remate is a great spot for travelers, apparently, as it’s close to one of those ruined things called Tikal. Our destination was a campsite called Gringo Perdido. Perdido means ‘lost’ in Spanish, which wasn’t that encouraging and when we first got there it felt like it. It was a big hotel, but totally empty. We found someone to show us the pretty campsite, where we settled in for our first night of sleep in Guatemala. We met an odd camper who seemed like he lived there full time, and a nice older couple from the United States who liked me a lot. Good people and a cozy place to stay! I was pretty happy, until I heard screaming in the trees. Victoria called them “howler monkeys”, and I did’t want anything to do with them. They didn’t sound very nice at all, and they smelled super weird.

Me listening to the Howler Monkeys. Don't Like.

Me listening to the Howler Monkeys. Don’t Like.

The Dock at Gringo Perdido.  Don't like this either.

The Dock at Gringo Perdido. Don’t like this either.

Luckily, we didn’t spend long at this place. The next morning we quickly packed up to hit the road. Victoria and Jason took a break to listen to the other campers chatting. Jason was laughing because one of them sounded like someone named Christopher Walken, while Victoria couldn’t believe she was hearing a debate about string theory at the side of a lake in Guatemala. I didn’t get any of this at all. What sort of theories would you need about string? You play with it, you wrap things in it… and that’s about it, right? Anyway, I was happy when we got back on the road, even with another long stop in the city for Jason to fix a problem with his internet stick.

We spent the morning on a beautiful drive through the country. Jason and Victoria stopped to take a bunch of pictures, but soon enough we reached a place called Finca Ixobel. This was a really pretty spot, a big hotel and campsite that was packed with a kids’ party when we arrived. Apparently all the rain that we had had in Belize also came down here and their campground was totally flooded out. My Family thought if we tried to camp there we’d get stuck so the nice people who ran the hotel allowed us to set up our home right in front of the restaurant on the pavement.

We ended up spending quite a long time here at Finca Ixobel. I’m not sure if My Family would agree, but I had a pretty good time. There were all sorts of nice people to meet, delicious food to taste and plenty of grass for running around. Of course, that grass was soaking wet most of the time, as it rained on and off for our whole stay! I don’t like the rain one bit. It usually doesn’t seem to bother My Family that much, but after another day or two of rain I could tell Jason wasn’t feeling very well at all. He just didn’t smell right. Sure enough, he was soon stuck in bed with something Victoria called ‘the flu’ and all of the snuggles and kisses I could muster up didn’t make him feel any better.

So here we were, in a parking lot outside of a beautiful hotel in Guatemala, and getting more miserable by the day. Jason felt terrible, and Victoria and I were stuck either inside the camper or in the hotel’s common area, staring at the rain. There was so much to do around here, and we weren’t getting to do any of it! There were some highlights, however. The nice couple from Gringo Perdido ended up showing up again, and I got to spend some time with them. My Family also met a nice girl from a place called Germany who makes bracelets for people. Victoria got her to make me a collar, the first time she’s ever done that for a dog!

After a couple of days of shivering and groaning, Jason finally started to feel a little better. The rain broke for a couple of hours, so My Family took the opportunity to pack up and hit the road. Some of the other travelers who were staying at the hotel had told us that the weather gets better as you drive south, so we were off to find some sun. I was more than happy with this plan. I mean, I couldn’t even remember the last time I got to run around on a beach or lay on the grass in the sun. Those were the two things My Family said I’d get to do all the time on the Big Adventure, so what gives, huh?

Guatemala is beautiful but also full of mountains.

Guatemala is beautiful but also full of mountains.

We got on the road, and the drive started out pretty cool. The sun was finally out, and everyone was in a good mood. We followed directions that Jason had found, and suddenly ended up on a dirt road that was super duper bumpy. It was like we were back in Belize! Jason and Victoria had thought this was going to be a short trip, but the road just kept going on and on, bouncing along super slow through tiny towns. It was neat to see for a while, but soon I started to feel a little woozy with all of the bouncing. I put my head down in Victoria’s lap and didn’t pick it up again until we finally got back on the pavement.

The smooth sailing wouldn’t last. We were headed to a place called Lanquin, and we thought we were taking a highway there. It was a big red line on the map, and even had a number. That fancy road ended up being the bumpiest, craziest drive yet, up into the mountains and through tiny towns filled with people wearing super colorful clothes. They all smiled and waved, yelling things like “Gringos!” or “Hello!” or “Goodbye!” to My Family as we passed. It wasn’t scary at all, but it sure was bouncy. Every time I started to feel a little sick I looked out at these colorful humans, carrying huge baskets on their heads or massive packs of wood on their backs and forget all about the bumpy roads. My Family said they’re called “Mayans”, and they speak a whole different language from anyone else. I realized what a lucky dog I was to see all of this. I mean, none of my friends from Venice had ever met a Mayan, and I got to meet a ton of them! Pretty cool.

None of the highways at home looked like this.  Sheesh.

None of the highways at home looked like this. Sheesh.

Soon the excitement started to wear off, as there didn’t seem to be any end to this mountain or the bumpy roads. What felt like forever later we finally got back to pavement. That’s when things got really weird. There was a car on its side in the middle of the street, and it was on fire! The heat as we drove by felt like it could have singed the whiskers right off my face. Then down and down and down the mountain we went, into a valley and the town of Lanquin. It seemed like everyone in the town was out that day, and we could barely drive through! I thought that maybe they were there to greet us, but we heard later that something bad had happened there, and the people of the town were pretty angry. Luckily we found a place called El Retiro, just outside of town, that was completely safe for me and My Family.

El Retiro is beautiful but also built on the side of a big hill.  My family took forever to get up  and down the stairs every day since they only have two legs,

El Retiro is beautiful but also built on the side of a big hill. My family took forever to get up and down the stairs every day since they only have two legs,

El Retiro was a huge place, set right next to a really pretty river. It’s called a hostel, which I guess is a hotel for people who have big adventures with only a backpack instead of a camper. And we met a lot of these adventurers! Everyone was so nice to me, and there were a couple of really cool dogs to hang out with too. And the food! Holy moly, the food! Every night there were gigantic feasts, and all the new friends staying there got to go up and get as much as they wanted. Because of this, me and the camp dogs always had delicious tastes. I think I got to try more chicken at El Retiro than I had ever had before in my life. My Family had planned on staying here for just a couple of nights, so they could check out a place called Semuc Champey, but we ended up staying for a whole week. Victoria actually got pretty sick too, so we did a lot of laying around. Luckily the weather was much better here. We had tons of sun, and there were great spots down by the river with hammocks to lay in. Every day new people arrived, and most of them really liked me. That meant a ton of attention, so even though My Family still wasn’t feeling well it was pretty cool there. We hung out at the restaurant listening to good music, laid in bed watching movies, and laughed with the other adventurers at all the cool travel stories everyone had collected.

This is Cho-cho. She lives at El Retiro but she slept outside our camper every night. We all really loved her and My Family even said if she didn't already have a good home she could have come to live with us.  What?!

This is Cho-cho. She lives at El Retiro but she slept outside our camper every night. We all really loved her and My Family even said if she didn’t already have a good home she could have come to live with us. What?!

Victoria and Jason had been talking for days about doing a tour at Semuc Champey, but they didn’t want to leave me alone all day. I was pretty happy with this decision. The camper hadn’t been plugged in for a long time, and nothing was working at full power. I couldn’t imagine being stuck inside all day with nothing but a weak fan to keep me company! Luckily this didn’t happen. We finally packed up our home, said goodbye to our new friends, and drove off.

This Semuc Champey place wasn’t far away, but the drive took FOREVER. As soon as we left the town of Lanquin to head up there, the road disintegrated into little more than a trail. There were huge boulders to crawl across, gravel and mud to navigate, and some of the biggest hills I’ve ever seen. At some points the road was so narrow that only our big truck could fit, with a steep drop on one side and a hill on the other. I curled up into the tightest ball possible and held on to Victoria while Jason drove. We made it to the parking lot outside of Semuc Champey an hour or two later. Mayan children sold chocolate to My Family, but even though it smelled delicious I didn’t get a single bite. I guess the plan was for us to check out this park in the morning, so we settled in for the night. There were nice Mayan guides there camping as well, so we had company as things got very dark and VERY quiet.

Late in the evening, just before bed, I heard beautiful music. I climbed over to the window and looked out at the campground to find a whole gathering of Mayan men. Three of them were playing a huge instrument, banging on it with sticks, while another walked around swinging a ball of smoke. Other people sat around talking, clapping, or stepping in to take over at the instrument when someone got tired. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. I have no idea what it was, but it was a pretty neat way to end the day.

The next morning I found out that I wasn’t going to get to see the Semuc Champey place at all! Apparently dogs aren’t allowed. What a stupid rule. I mean, what did they think I was going to do? If I happened to poo, Jason was going to pick it up anyway! There was no arguing it, so I spent forever stuck at home while My Family went adventuring. Apparently it was a really beautiful set of pools and waterfalls, but all I got to see was the parking lot. I guess you’ll have to check out My Family’s Facebook page if you’re curious about this stupid place with the no dogs rule.

We left soon after and headed for the city. My Family was very excited, because Victoria’s parents were going to be visiting us the next day! I hadn’t seen my Grandparents in quite a long time, and I love them lots so I was more interested in the drive than usual when we hit the road. But before I could cover them with kisses, we had to get back down that terrible road. It was even worse this way! Some people put a rope across the road and stopped us at one point asking for money to use the road (which we didn’t pay, by the way), and then we had to keep pulling to the side while other cars tried to squeeze by. I could smell the stress pouring off of Jason but we made it back to town with no problem, and headed off for Guatemala City and towards our next destination, called Antigua.

Things got strange in a hurry. Later I discovered that Jason had found the directions, which is something Victoria usually does. Apparently, he chose the ‘scenic route’. Scenic means pretty, and everything in Guatemala certainly is. But in Guatemala, scenic also means, bumpy, bouncy, hilly and SLOW. We spent hours and hours doing nothing but driving up and down mountains on really bad roads. Then something really weird happened. Halfway down another huge mountain, Jason suddenly pulled the car over and stopped driving. I knew something was wrong, because I could smell really stinky smoke. In case you don’t know, cars and trucks have things called ‘brakes’, which stop you from going too fast. It turned out that we had spent so much time driving our big truck down mountains that our brakes had given up! Jason was pretty shaken by the whole thing, and we sat there on the road in the middle of nowhere trying to figure out what to do.

Not having 'brakes' is not a good thing.

Not having ‘brakes’ is not a good thing.

While Victoria placed emergency signs around the truck, a man rode up on a motorcycle and asked us in English if we were okay. He was a Guatemalan, but had spent a lot of years in the United States and his English was WAY better than My Family’s Spanish. We explained what was going on, and he suggested that we had overheated the brakes. He thought we should let them rest for a while, and then said he’d come back to check on us. Well, we sat there and sat there, getting hotter and hotter while the sun sunk lower and lower in the sky. My Family started getting nervous. Problems with the truck were one thing, but how would we ever get to Guatemala City now? Apparently we were still really far away from our next stop.

The nice man came back to check on us, and the brakes were still not so great. He helped Jason drive down the hill, while I stood watching with Victoria. I didn’t particularly like watching the big truck drive away, but soon the nice man came back for us. You know what happened next? I got to ride on the motorcycle! It was so cool! Victoria held me while we scooted down the hill to find Jason and the truck. I had never felt so much breeze on my face! It was a little scary, but one of the neatest experiences of the Big Adventure so far. What came after was almost as cool. The nice man, whose name was Ariel, let us drive to his house and gave us a place to stay! It was starting to get dark at this point, and he said the road was pretty bad up ahead. He let us set up camp on his property and the whole town came out to watch, with their dogs and their chickens and their donkeys and their pigs, and played soccer while we sank into our camp chairs. It had been a pretty stressful day, but we were all in a great mood. My Family couldn’t believe how nice Ariel was, and his wife even cooked us dinner! My Family had heard all sorts of stories about how kind strangers could be, but they were still amazed that this perfect stranger could be so fantastic. I know that people are generally nice (and I can tell right away when they’re not) so I wasn’t that surprised, but when we snuggled under the covers that night we all felt particularly lucky. Our first couple of weeks in Guatemala had been filled with rains, flus and smoking brakes, and yet we were happier than ever. What a cool country!

Me, hanging out by the truck on Ariel's property.  Thanks again, Ariel and Marleen!

Me, hanging out by the truck on Ariel’s property. Thanks again, Ariel and Marleen!

PS: If you want to see the photos My Family took during our first two weeks here in Guatemala, they are on Facebook.

09
Feb 2014
POSTED BY Neli
POSTED IN

Guatemala

DISCUSSION 12 Comments

Belize It Or Not: Rainy Days and Changing Plans

I can't really see out the front window but I like watching the trees fly by.

I can’t really see out the front window but I like watching the trees fly by.

Hey everybody! Sorry it’s taken me a while to update my blog. This has been a decidedly strange time for the Big Adventure. After spending what felt like forever in Mexico, my favorite new place in the world, we were on a whirlwind through Belize. My family was super excited about starting the next part of our trip, but as I’ve come to see during my new traveling life, things don’t always go according to plan.

First off, there was the day we left Mexico for Belize. My Family had planned on getting up first thing in the morning, as early as the sun. Instead, we stayed up super late the night before with some new friends, and ended up getting a slow start on our border crossing day. This caused the smell of stress to fill the big truck, leaving me shifting around nervously on Victoria’s lap. The trip to the border of Belize and Mexico was super quick, and we got out of the country exactly as My Family thought we would. The interesting part started once we got to the Belize side of things. I knew there might be trouble, because all My Family had been talking about for the past two days was the fact that we didn’t exactly have my papers in order. I guess Belize doesn’t like new dogs so much, or they’re nervous about making sure everyone is healthy. Given all of the lonely, sick dogs I saw wandering around, I didn’t understand what sort of harm I could do. But they required My Family to ‘import me’, with all sorts of applications. We hadn’t received a peep back that our application was ready, and as Victoria had feared, the nice health officer had no paperwork on me.

I tried to look well-behaved and bug-free in his office, but it felt and smelled too much like the doctor for me to relax. I dragged as hard as I could towards the door, while Victoria smiled a lot and chatted constantly in her happiest voice. We had all of the rest of the border crossing handled quickly, but ended up waiting three whole hours for the paperwork to go through! Finally we could all breathe a sigh of relief. I was going to be allowed into Belize, and so we continued on our Big Adventure.

Of course, with our late start and delay at the border, the drive to our first camp spot started WAY later than we had hoped. Once we saw the road that would lead us to Sarteneja, a tiny village out in the northeast corner of Belize, Jason started seriously worrying about time. I had to agree. I’ve been on all sorts of roads on the Adventure so far, and the paved ones are my favorite. The bumpier the road, the less comfy Victoria’s lap starts to feel. And her lap is usually the best place to be. This road was like one, long, continuous bump. There was some beautiful stuff to see, though. Bright green jungles, a free ride across a river on a boat pulled along on a rope, huge farms with people wearing suspenders and bonnets (Victoria said they’re called Mennonites, and they certainly didn’t look like anyone else we had seen since leaving California!), and lots of horses, cows, goats, chickens and other dogs. The drive was actually a lot of fun, until the sun started going down.

My Family debated for a while about what to do, but there weren’t many options. We were literally in the middle of the jungle. It was too late to go back, and there was nowhere to stop and wait for morning. The only choice was to keep going, and break one of the few rules My Family had set up for this trip. We were going to drive at night. Soon it was pitch black, and Jason steadily and slowly wove in between huge potholes and across muddy ditches to get us to Sarteneja. There were some nervous moments to be sure, but I managed to curl up and catch a little sleep. When I woke up we were at Backpacker’s Oasis, our first stop in Belize!

Some guy named Bob. His picture is all over the place in Belize, even on the bathrooms at Backpackers Oasis.  He was a musician.

Some guy named Bob. His picture is all over the place in Belize, even on the bathrooms at Backpackers Oasis. He was a musician.

Even at night I knew I would love this place. It’s a working farm, and it smelled amazing. There was a nice, jungly spot with soft grass for us to park, and a common room for hanging out with the other dogs and campers. It was the first time I had seen local dogs with their own comfy chairs, so I knew immediately that we’d get along. The girl dog was a little bit mean at first, but once she saw that My Family was cool and I wasn’t going to try and take over we got along just fine. And the other campers were super nice as well. We were all there from all over the world, somehow finding each other in this tiny spot in the middle of nowhere. We spent two awesome days here, and on one of them we walked into town. There were lots of dogs there, and not many of them liked me. But the people were super nice, and the food I got to try at the restaurant was really really yummy.

Both nights at Backpackers, me and My Family stayed up late hanging out with the other travelers.  It was fun until I got tired.

Both nights at Backpackers, me and My Family stayed up late hanging out with the other travelers. It was fun until I got tired.

We left on a nice day, just before everyone was expecting a big rainstorm. I guess My Family didn’t want to attempt those roads when they were even more muddy, and I was happy to go along with that plan. We started early, but took some extra time before we left so Jason could take some of the air out of the tires. This ended up being a really good idea. The trip away from Sarteneja was way less bumpy and bruising than the way there. Especially considering we passed some spots where huge trucks were literally plowing the dirt road back into shape as we drove by! We finally found some pavement, and soon reached a place called Belize City.

We passed through Belize City super quick, which suited me just fine. The place smelled strange, desperate and scary in a way I had never experienced in Mexico. The people’s houses were in bad shape, and no one looked particularly happy. I didn’t really understand this that well. Jason and Victoria were talking about their surprise. I guess Belize is expensive? That means food and treats cost too much money. And yet the people didn’t seem like they could afford any treats at all. Sounds pretty unfair to me. Jason drove the Big Truck out of Belize City to a place called Old Belize. I could smell the ocean and the fish long before we saw the Marina where we’d be parking.

This place was super neat. Very pretty, with big boats rolling along on the water. Now, I am not a fan of the water. It’s cold, it’s deep, and you can’t run in it. My Family had tried to get me to swim a couple of times in Mexico, and I was pretty sure I had made it crystal clear that I wasn’t interested. I took one look at that huge ocean with its rumbling waves and dug my feet in. I wasn’t getting anywhere near that, thank you very much!

Luckily, My Family wasn’t planning on that either. We parked well away from the water and settled in for the night. They left me inside while they went to eat dinner, but I wasn’t too disappointed this time. It was windy and cold outside, and I was more than content to curl up under my blanket and wait for them to get back. They returned soon enough, and we settled in for the night.

I don't really mind being left in the camper, even though it happens All The Time, as long as I can peak out the window to see if Victoria and Jason are on their way home.

I don’t really mind being left in the camper, even though it happens All The Time, as long as I can peak out the window to see if Victoria and Jason are on their way home.

I dreamed about a relaxing day, digging in the mud, running towards the water and then quickly away, and maybe strutting by the other dogs to show off my designer collar and fine, Venice Beach grooming. Instead, the alarm blared way too early, and unlike on most mornings Jason and Victoria actually got up and turned it off. We were packing up the camper, but differently this time. Backpacks were coming out. Did that mean another trip to a hotel? I got pretty excited, because that probably included a super comfy couch somewhere. I soon found that there was going to be a bit of an adventure before I’d find myself on that comfy couch.

We got up early enough to see the sun coming up.  Who knew getting up so early could be so pretty?

We got up early enough to see the sun coming up. Who knew getting up so early could be so pretty?

We waited for a taxi that didn’t show up. My Family was getting nervous, so they accepted the offer of a nice man at the Marina who said he would drive us into Belize City. I saw his two-seater pickup truck and quickly realized there wouldn’t be room for all of us and our stuff. Would they leave me behind?! Instead, Victoria and I climbed into the truck while Jason and the bags went back in the truck bed. We bounced and jostled our way into the city with Jason out in the open air, holding his hat to make sure it didn’t blow away. It didn’t look particularly safe to me, but Jason was smiling big so I stopped worrying.

Our next destination was a ferry terminal. This is when I started to get nervous. Wait, My Family expected me to get on a boat? I don’t do boats. They go way out into the water, and there’s no escape. I’d rather be forced to swim in the waves all day than get on a boat. But it appeared I wasn’t going to be given a choice. Jason hoisted me up, and I gripped him just as hard as I could as we got onto the boat. I tried my best to sleep through the next forty-five minutes of noisy, rolling chaos, but I just could not get comfortable. I couldn’t smell land at all, and was completely surrounded by water smells. In espanol, I would say this was absolutely, no bueno. Just when I thought I couldn’t take it anymore we arrived on Caye Caulker, a beautiful island.

See ya later, Belize City!

See ya later, Belize City!

I was immediately in a better mood. There was sand all around, and I got to pounce and prance through it while My Family lugged all of our stuff behind me. I have to admit, it’s not a bad life. We walked and walked, and finally showed up at a series of strange cabins with bars on the windows. I wasn’t getting a good feeling here, and sure enough, my nose was proved correct. The owner of the place wouldn’t allow me to stay here, even though he had said he would! Jason smelled desperate and sweaty, while Victoria was super angry. We trudged off, and soon I realized we had no place to stay! We stopped for lunch at a restaurant where My Family could use the internet, and with just a little bit of work they found a solution. Boy, was I happy about this! As soon as we got to the Hummingbird Cottage, I knew I’d be totally content if we never left.

In Mexico AND Belize, dogs get to hang out on the roof. I'm never allowed to do anything as fun as that...

In Mexico AND Belize, dogs get to hang out on the roof. I’m never allowed to do anything as fun as that…

This place reminded me so much of our Wee Blue House back in Venice that I almost thought it had been built just for us. There were comfy couches, a big porch I could wander off leash, and even a comfy chair with a pillow that was just like the one we had outside back at home! The only downside was being left in the bedroom while My Family went out for dinner. But the Cottage was far away from town, and they didn’t think the restaurant would allow dogs. What is with the dog prejudice in Belize?! I hope some really good writer who works for a bigger blog reads this, because there should be an expose or something.

Just like the Wee Blue House.  Except purple.  And on something called stilts.

Just like the Wee Blue House. Except purple. And on something called stilts.

The next day I was allowed to join in the adventure across Caye Caulker. Victoria set me up a comfy seat on the front of her bicycle, and we rode up into town as a Family. The roads were just dirt, which were mostly mud now from all the rain, so there was a lot of zigging and zagging going on. We eventually stopped at a place to have breakfast, where I didn’t get to taste very much at all. At least I had a good view and a great breeze on the front of the bicycle. We rode on from there to a place called The Split, which is the small bit of beach where people go swimming on the island. It was a pretty spot, and I was enjoying myself nicely until Jason made me go in the water. I don’t know why he laughs every time I doggy paddle; I sure don’t think it’s that funny. Now wet and shivering, Jason and Victoria started studying the sky. It was getting dark; rain was on the way.

At The Split just minutes before the rain came.  Don't. Like.

At The Split just minutes before the rain came. Don’t. Like.

We weren’t on the bikes for more than two minutes before the downpour came. At first My Family tried to ride through it, but I was happy to see them heading under an overhang for some shelter pretty quickly. It was freezing in the rain! We waited until the rain slowed down a bit, and then rode carefully around the huge puddles to get back home. It rained in bunches that day, but cleared up enough for My Family to ride out to dinner that night. I was left home, again! But at least I was warm and cozy in the cabin. Victoria and Jason got home super late, covered in mud and laughing about basically everything, so I guess it was a pretty good person night.

We got up the next morning very early again, to head back to Belize City. My Family had debated staying on Caye Caulker longer, as our initial plan was to spend four nights on the island. There is a cat sanctuary there that Victoria had hope to volunteer with. But the cottage wasn’t available any more and we didn’t have any other options. Not that I’m all that crazy about cats, but I saw that Victoria and Jason were pretty sad that they were going to miss out on another opportunity to help out the animals. I wanted to tell them they could help me out tremendously by getting me back to dry land any way but on a boat, but it’s clear my communication skills need some work. We took the same boat back, and this time in the pouring rain. Seriously, I am not a fan.

We spent a very rainy day back at the Marina, and a long night filled with noisy dogs and noisier people. Everything felt wet and cold, and I would have been happy to never get out from under the covers. But we had to dry out and pack up, so we could make it to the next destination.

San Ignacio was to be our next campsite, a town on the border of Belize and Guatemala. Yep, you read that right. We were already heading to our next country! I was pretty shocked to hear that. I mean, we had spent three months in Mexico, but only one week in Belize? I took a peek at the map before we started the drive, and even I could tell Belize was a lot smaller than Mexico. But I could also tell we were missing a lot of it. Thankfully, the drive to San Ignacio was super pretty. The rain held off a little bit, and the countryside was incredible. I noticed that the signs were all in English, and realized I hadn’t heard almost any Spanish since we crossed into Belize. Apparently, Belize people speak English as their main language. They’re the only country in Central America that writes in English, and uses measurements like miles, pounds and dollars when dealing with people things. They also listen to a lot of reggae music, which made Jason super happy.

Tons of room to run around at The Trek Stop! Woo!

Tons of room to run around at The Trek Stop! Woo!

Our final campsite in Belize was a place called The Trek Stop. It was really pretty here, in the jungle with all sorts of birds and butterflies to look at, plus tons of delicious bugs to chase down. My only complaint was their camp dogs. Boy, were they pushy! They certainly wouldn’t get by in Los Angeles with those sorts of manners. Because of those bullies I ended up staying in the camper most of the time, which isn’t much fun. But I didn’t mind after a little while, because it got really cold outside! My Family stayed at the restaurant pretty late, using the internet to post photos, and they were both shivering when they got back to the camper. Thankfully, no matter how rainy and wet it was, My Family and I were always warm and cozy under the covers.

As I was drifting off to sleep, I tried to collect my thoughts about our time in Belize. It felt pretty hectic. Nothing seemed to go exactly to plan, and the rainy days that followed us from Mexico definitely threw a wrench in things. But I still met all sorts of nice people and dogs, had some delicious food, and enjoyed two great days in a cottage that reminded me of home. Maybe it wasn’t a perfect leg of My Big Adventure, but it sure left me with a lot to blog about. Thanks for reading!

PS: To see some of the photos My Family took while we were in Belize, head over to Facebook!

25
Jan 2014
POSTED BY Neli
POSTED IN

Belize

DISCUSSION 8 Comments

Banditos, Breakdowns & Bribes

Me at Hierve del Agua after My Family tried to make me go swimming.

Me at Hierve del Agua after My Family tried to make me go swimming.

After My Family recovered from the fantastic Christmas celebration, it was time to hit the road. We did have one last cool visit before leaving Overlander Oasis. On our last day, Jan and Mona from PanAmericana 2013 pulled into camp, with their puppy Lissie. She was super cute! Lissie had a ton of energy, and spent most of the day tumbling around with Morena and it was fun seeing how excited Lissie was about pretty much everything. I hope Lissie knows how lucky she was to have found a great family in Jan and Mona!

We left Overlander Oasis the next day, and I have to admit I was kinda sad. I plopped my head down in Victoria’s lap and pretty much didn’t move for hours. I knew we’d have other fun adventures, but I bet I could have stayed at OO forever. We drove through a couple of small towns, got lost in the middle of a field filled with goats, crossed a mountain on a winding dirt road, and finally ended up at a place called Hierve el Agua. Victoria discovered that this means “the water boils” in Spanish, but the pools of mineral water we found there were freezing! There was a cool stream of mineral deposits on the side of the cliff that looked like a waterfall frozen in time, and we had an awesome place to set up the camper. We spent the day wandering around the pools, and I managed to evade Jason’s attempts at getting me to swim. Then we settled in at our campsite, where we were joined by a couple of other campers in tents. They were nice enough to share their campfire with us. It’s cold up in the mountains.

The mineral pools at Hierve del Agua.

The mineral pools at Hierve del Agua.

The next day we left the mountains and drove for a state called Chiapas. I could tell that Jason and Victoria were really excited about this. Back in Baja, in a restaurant in Cabo Pulmo, a couple from Mexico City told My Family this was the most beautiful place in the country. I was pretty busy trying to get a taste of Victoria’s fish at the time, but My Family had been looking forward to this day ever since. It pretty much just seemed like another day on the road to me, but Victoria and Jason were pretty antsy.

 The problem was, the roads towards Chiapas took a very long time to drive. They were skinny, bouncy and twisted in what felt like every possible direction. Before I knew it the sun was setting, and Jason smelled nervous. We weren’t anywhere near where My Family had planned on staying for the night, and there didn’t seem to be any way we’d make it. We were driving by a Pemex gas station in a small town just before the state border, and Jason suggested we try staying there for the night. This was something I’d never heard of before. Sleeping in a gas station? Apparently it’s something people do all the time on Adventures like this, but My Family hadn’t tried it yet. That night we had no choice.

The night in the Pemex actually ended up to be kinda fun. There was loud music playing, the security guard hung out with us most of the night (after Jason offered him a beer), and the food at the local family restaurant was delicious. It smelled amazing when Jason brought it back to the camper, and I got so many tastes I began to wonder if my birthday had come early.

We had a surprisingly cozy night of sleep, and then continued on our way, passing into the state of Chiapas within an hour. I have to say, it was worth waiting to see it in the daytime. Curving mountain roads, misty jungles, green farms and the tiniest villages we had seen yet. We only spent a day driving through this area, but I know My Family would have liked to stay much longer. My only complaint with this day was that My Family stopped for the most delicious smelling empanadas at a nice lady’s roadside stand, and I didn’t get a single bite. We pulled into our next campsite, a place called Mayabell outside the town of Palenque just before dark. It had been an awful long day in the car, one of our longest yet, and Jason seemed pretty exhausted. But Mayabell was a beautiful place, in the jungle just outside something called ‘ruins’. This I really don’t get. If it’s all ruined, what the heck would you want to do there?

My view out the window at the Mayabell campground.

My view out the window at the Mayabell campground.

That night it started pouring rain. This was more rain than we had seen on the whole trip, and just about the most rain I can ever remember seeing in my life. It just kept coming, sounding like thunder on the roof of our camper, and keeping me firmly glued to my bed in the camper. Worse than the sound, though, was the leaks! Victoria smelled in a near panic, because two windows in our camper were leaking. It was really bad, but thankfully we stayed nice and dry in bed.

The next day, everything was soaked. The sun struggled to show her face, and the Mayabell camp was a soggy, muddy mess. Now I don’t know about you, but wet, muddy paws are not one of my favorite things in the world. Victoria and Jason were feeling great, however, because this was New Year’s Eve! So humans keep a calendar, I guess because they like to name things so much. Today was the last day of the year 2013, and people use it as a reason to eat and drink a lot. Eating is firmly on my ‘favorite things’ list, so I’m all for that! Victoria and Jason went to the Mayabell restaurant for a special dinner. No dogs allowed, so I sat in the camper, taking whiffs of the food floating by on the breeze, and enjoying the music floating my way as well. My Family finally came back from a super long dinner, and soon after their new friends, Brodie and Diane came by. They were super nice people. Brodie’s on his own Big Adventure, riding a bicycle through Mexico and Central America as part of Ranger Rides. My Family and I stayed up super late with our new friends, even enjoying the traditional countdown to midnight being screamed from the restaurant. It was seriously one of the most fun nights of the trip, as far as ‘people fun’ goes.

On New Year’s Day my family had planned on getting up early and hiking out to the ruined things before getting back on the road. But things really didn’t go according to plan. First of all, thanks to the late night none of us wanted to get out of bed when we were supposed to. Then, when we were finally all packed up and ready to go, Jason noticed that one of the straps holding the camper to the big truck had broken. Yikes! It was a good thing he noticed, but it took a couple of hours for Jason and Victoria to raise the camper off the truck and fix everything. By the time we actually left Palenque it was well into the afternoon, making it crystal clear that we weren’t going to make our destination that night. Instead of getting to Campeche as Jason and Victoria had hoped, we ended up spending ANOTHER night in a Pemex station. This one had a Burger King, so My Family had a fast and easy meal of comfort food (I snagged a french fry. Maybe two.) and free internet for the night.

The next day we got up bright and early and made our way to Campeche. This was a super pretty city, and the first sight of the ocean since we left Sayulita! Apparently, this was the Caribbean Sea, not the Pacific, which means we had crossed the whole width of Mexico. Pretty cool. Campeche had a restaurant that wouldn’t allow me in, so My Family got some food to go and we sat out in the town square. Delicious food and a very pretty day. From there we headed for Uxmal, basically because My Family wanted a second chance to see some ruins. We parked the big truck in a grassy field next to the park, and as soon as the sun started to set I heard Victoria start to scream. The bugs were pretty bad, and they decided to climb all over her, including squeezing under her clothes! She wasn’t particularly happy about this, so she and I snuggled in the camper while Jason went and got tickets so they could go see the ruins. Wait, you have to pay? Could I ruin my bed, set it behind a gate and charge for it? I don’t know, some human stuff is just beyond me.

Big church in Campeche.

Big church in Campeche.

When we left the next day, the clouds were dark and ominous. It seemed we hadn’t left the bad weather behind. We kept driving east, hopeful to make a town called Tulum by early in the afternoon. Along the way Jason pulled us over in a small town because he had found somewhere to give the truck an oil change. We pulled in a nice man’s driveway, and Victoria and I played with his kids and their dogs while Jason and the nice man got the job done. By the time we left, it was pouring rain. And it kept raining, on and off, for the rest of the day. As we kept driving on and on, Victoria smelled nervous. She thought the drive was taking way too long. Sure enough, we had made a wrong turn. But My Family didn’t realize this until they had already gone too far to turn back. At the end of the day, we ended up driving more than two hours extra, and didn’t pull into Tulum until right before dark. It was still pouring rain, and after our longest driving day yet Jason didn’t think it would be safe to keep going. So guess what? We ended up parking in a Pemex. AGAIN! And unlike before, this was pretty miserable. When we popped up the camper we discovered the leaks were really bad. And after long days of driving and rain, it seemed like everything My Family owned was either smelly, soaking wet or some combination of the two. Jason and Victoria seemed miserable. Certainly not one of our better days.

Walking down from the wall around the city of Campeche.

Walking down from the wall around the city of Campeche.

It rained all night, and was still raining the next day. Although Jason and Victoria had hoped to stay and explore Tulum, the weather was so bad that they decided to take us all the way south, to the town of Chetumal. It rained the entire way, and by the time we got to the Yax Ha RV resort, literally everything we owned was wet. My Family hung everything up to dry, pulled out a huge tarp to cover the camper with, and basically breathed a big sigh of relief. It looked like the worst of the rain was finally passing, and I finally got a little time to lay in the sun. The campsite was beautiful, right up against the water, with soft grass to run around in and birds to chase.

My private playground at Yax-Ha.

My private playground at Yax-Ha.

Over the next few days, My Family prepared for our trip out of Mexico. They tried to repair the leak in the camper, and got the worst of it handled. They finally got a chance to shower, which certainly helped the smell inside the camper, and wandered the small town outside the RV park. We met some other overlanders, a nice couple from South Africa, and a great couple from Colorado with three awesome dogs of their own. We did have a little more rain, but with room to spread out, delicious food cooked in the camper or from the local restaurants and plenty of nice company, we had everything we needed. Before I knew it, it was time to head for the border. After almost three months in Mexico, we were going to cross into a whole new country!

Me, hanging out at Yax-Ha. Loved it there.

Me, hanging out at Yax-Ha. Loved it there.

Before we left Venice for the Big Adventure, a lot of My Family’s friends were a little nervous about our trip. I could smell the fear on them every time Victoria or Jason started to talk about Mexico. People had all sorts of concerns. It was too dangerous. Too much could go wrong. People even asked Jason if he was going to buy a gun to bring along! Guns are probably my least favorite people thing. If you asked most people, it seemed like all we would come across in Mexico was banditos, breakdowns and bribes. But I’m happy to report My Family and I had an absolutely incredible time in Mexico! A beautiful country, with delicious food and some of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet. It just goes to show that you can’t let fears or what you hear on TV to stop you from exploring the world. I didn’t know exactly what My Family was getting me into when we started this trip but at this point, over one hundred days into my Big Adventure, I know how important it is to see new places, explore different cultures, and step out of your comfy zone sometimes. After all, life’s supposed to be about the adventure, right?

PS: If you want to see the pictures My Family took during our last couple of weeks in Mexico you can find them on Facebook.


11
Jan 2014
POSTED BY Neli
POSTED IN

Mainland, Mexico

DISCUSSION 6 Comments

Christmas in El Tule

Me, hanging out in Oaxaca.  Some of you have complained that there aren't enough pictures of me here on my blog so I've included a bunch this time around!

Me, hanging out in Oaxaca. Some of you have complained that there aren’t enough pictures of me here on my blog so I’ve included a bunch this time around!

First of all, a very Happy New Year from My Family to yours! Victoria and Jason told me to say that, though I’m not exactly sure what the fuss is all about. Today seemed just like yesterday to me. But now it’s 2014, and we’re still on the Big Adventure. And man, has life been good! I want to tell you all about what’s been happening, but I’ve been so busy with things I haven’t had a chance to post in way too long. So before I can say anything about New Year’s Eve or what’s happened since, I have to tell you about the three weeks we spent mostly in a little town just outside of the city of Oaxaca, called El Tule.

The drive from San Miguel de Allende to Oaxaca was super pretty, with the Tundy twisting and turning up and down mountains. I kept hearing Victoria ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’, so I even picked up my head from her lap to take a look out the window every now and again. I can see why they loved it so much, although there’s not much to smell when you’re going so fast.

After we drove through Oaxaca I could smell My Family starting to get nervous. I guess the GPS (which is a little computer that points us in the right direction) stopped working, and the notes Victoria had written down to get us to the next place weren’t making much sense. Jason kept us pointed in the right direction, and soon enough we found our way to Tule, and a camping spot called Overlander Oasis.

We rolled into camp late in the afternoon, and were immediately greeted by Morena, the camp dog. I don’t know what sort of dog she is, but she sure has a lot of energy. Morena immediately ran out of the gate and jumped up on Victoria, and then spent the next several hours following me around smelling my bum. It was sure a lot to take at first! But as we settled in Morena calmed down, and I could tell we would quickly become friends.

My new buddy, Morena, and me.

My new buddy, Morena, and me.

Overlander Oasis is run by a very nice couple from a place called Canada, which I guess is way far North of here. They have a bunch of cats too, but I didn’t hold that against them. They were super nice to me and my family, giving us the best spot in camp to set up! The super nice British couple Wendy and Steve, who we had hung out with in Mazatlan was there, as well as another couple from England, Jayne and David, who have been on the road for years. We had a nice night together, and then settled in to get some sleep.

The next morning both groups of campers were gone, and we had the place to ourselves. Plus, an extra surprise: Wendy had bought us donuts! Apparently the neighbor lady comes by with fresh donuts every morning, and Wendy had left a couple of them for us. I even got to try some! Now, this was a place to stay for a while. We relaxed for much of the day, and then Calvin and Leanne, the folks who run the place, invited us to something they call The Peanut Bar. Basically, they sat around with My Family drinking beer, eating peanuts and tossing the shells on the floor. I didn’t get any peanuts, but Morena and I were allowed to wander around off leash, crunching on the salty shells. Not a bad day at all.

Me, snoozing in the sun at Overlander Oasis.

Me, snoozing in the sun at Overlander Oasis.

When we woke up in the morning Jason had to start his work week, but he had a comfy place to sit and good internet, so he was pretty much taken care of. We met another couple traveling from Canada that evening, and My Family went out with them for dinner. I didn’t get to go, but the weather was so good here, and Morena was such good company that I didn’t mind at all.

As the week went on Victoria wasn’t feeling that well, so we took it easy for a while. Morena and I strolled around the campsite, laying in sunny spots, sniffing particularly tasty stretches of grass and running after the cats until Jason or Victoria yelled at me to stop. My Family wandered out into Tule several times, and sometimes I got to go with them. The first time was one of the strangest experiences of my life. Leanne invited us to join her for something called the Celebration of The Virgin of Guadelupe. We walked over to the pretty church in town, where all the kids wanted to pet me. I don’t know what it is here in Mexico, but they always yell out “chihuahua!” and smile at me. Have they never heard of a chi-weenie? On that note, I’ve actually seen far fewer chihuahuas here than I thought. My Family kept saying we were traveling to my original home, but clearly the chihuahuas have moved on! In fact, Victoria found out that people in Mexico actually buy Chihuahuas from America and bring them down here! Crazy.

I think I lost track of my point. Oh, the Celebration! There was a parade around the church, with people lighting candles and singing songs. Other people lit off these huge wheels of fireworks that rained sparks on everything and made a HUGE boom! I didn’t like the sound all that much, but everyone seemed happy and I could smell that my My Family wasn’t worried at all. I guess it was okay. As it got dark, there was music from a big marching band, and everyone in town gathered around a square. Suddenly, townspeople circled around the crowd throwing things. This was called a Candy Toss, but they were tossing all sorts of things. I saw bottles of water and beer, tupperware containers, bags of chips and even sandwiches. It was chaos! I’m sure I would have been trampled if Victoria didn’t carry me for most of it. Anyway, it was a lot of fun.

Whizz-Boom.  Don't like.

Whizz-Boom. Don’t like.

That was a pretty typical sort of night for Christmas in El Tule. We spent a ton of time walking around the town, which was super cool. The street that Overlander Oasis is on had a ton of dogs. They barked and barked at me each time we walked past. I guess they were grumpy that they didn’t get to go on more walks. There was a turkey farm too, which smelled absolutely delicious. I saw some chickens and roosters, which I don’t like one bit, and made plenty of new dog and people friends. We walked to shops, ate crazy delicious tacos, fresh grilled chicken and more tamales than I could ever want. Everyone was super nice, and were very patient with Victoria’s and Jason’s attempts at Spanish.

One of the many times I was left at home while My Family went out for dinner.

One of the many times I was left at home while My Family went out for dinner.

One of the best parts of our time there by far were our days just hanging out at Overlander Oasis. It was so comfy there. I got to lay about off leash almost the entire time, except when the neighbor dog came around wanting to wrestle with Morena. Calvin and Jason worked on a couple of projects for the camper, making it more safe for our trip further south. Leanne kept baking delicious treats and sharing them with us. I couldn’t always get My Family to give me a taste, as some of it isn’t good for dogs (or so they tell me), but it always smelled so so good. Smells would just float out of Leanne’s kitchen and right into our camper, almost as if it was being pumped in. This was pretty much heaven. There were so many smells – roasting coffee on Calvin’s barbecue, spicy peanuts that Jason bought at the dry goods store, Ratatouille that Calvin and Leanne made and Brazilian rice that Jason made (with Marcia’s recipe!), warm atole, broccoli fritters and basically anything else you can think of!

The Hotel Camba

The Hotel Camba

I did get to see the city of Oaxaca for a night, which was pretty cool. I knew something was up because Victoria and Jason were packing two backpacks, which they pretty much never do these days. And then once my travel bed came out I knew the adventure was headed in a new direction. We found a taxi and Victoria had a full on Spanish conversation with the driver on the way into the city. We stopped in front of the Hotel Camba, which was a super cool place. It was so pretty, with most of it outside of our room in the open air. There were two beds in the room, which was awesome, because I got to jump from one to the other over and over again.

Woo Hoo!

Woo Hoo!

We went out exploring for the afternoon, and saw more people than I think I’ve seen since we left on our Adventure. We walked to the Zocalo, which is the center of Oaxaca. Beautiful trees, a couple of big old churches and TONS of restaurants. I couldn’t take a single step without snagging a whiff of something delicious. We stopped for lunch and I got to taste pretty much everything. Then I took in the sights while Jason got his boots shined. It felt like it took forever, but he was all smiles when it was done. I wish I could tell you what Oaxaca was like at night, but I got left in the hotel while My Family went out for dinner. Now THAT really did feel like forever. They left the TV on for me, but that didn’t really help pass the time all that much. I mean, even I don’t want to watch bad American movies overdubbed into Spanish.

Getting Jason's boots shined felt like it took forever.

Getting Jason’s boots shined felt like it took forever.

We left Oaxaca in the morning, stopped a couple of times to do some shopping and then settled back in at Overlander Oasis to get ready for Christmas. Calvin and Leanne were expecting a bunch of people, and My Family was going to cook some of their favorite dishes to contribute. Jason was basically in charge of the scalloped potatoes, while Victoria was taking the lead on Sticky Toffee Pudding. I could smell that they were a bit nervous, just wanting it to come out well. But once all the cooking really got started, I knew they had nothing to worry about. Besides, if nobody liked it I’d be more than happy to eat the leftovers! Leanne and Calvin had us over for breakfast, and even gave My Family a present. There was a new toy in it for me, too! It’s this really cool anteater, with all sorts of great pokey bits that are perfect for chewing on. And the squeaky inside is good and loud. Yep, perfect present.

I haven't gotten presents at any of our other campsites.  Thanks, Overlander Oasis!

I haven’t gotten presents at any of our other campsites. Thanks, Overlander Oasis!

Once Calvin got the Turkey in the oven the smells were just about enough to drive me crazy. It was so much fun, though. I got to hang around while everyone cooked in the kitchen, and once Calvin and Leanne’s guests started arriving the table filled with a truly special dinner. And then: treachery. Jason put me in the camper. I wasn’t getting a spot at the table?! Unthinkable! And yet that’s how it went down. I didn’t get to come out again until dessert. Okay, I guess I can be a bit of a pain sometimes when dinner’s happening. But can I help it if people naturally want to give me treats when I look at them? After all, I’m pretty darn cute.

Goodbye, Morena!  I hope we get to see each other again soon!

Goodbye, Morena! I hope we get to see each other again soon!

As Christmas came to an end, I knew we were soon going to be leaving El Tule. Jason was getting antsy to hit the road again, and Victoria was thinking about trying to get back to the warmth of the beach. They might have been ready to go, but I sure wasn’t! This place was pretty much heaven. There’s not much more a dog could ask for than Overlander Oasis and El Tule, Mexico. We had spent so long here that I was beginning to hope this was the end of the Adventure, and that maybe we could just stay. But if there’s one thing I’m getting used to on this trip, it’s change. As long as My Family is there, I don’t mind where we go. That was even more clear to me during the holidays. We saw so many dogs without families, not just here but all over Mexico. They don’t have anywhere to go during special occasions, and don’t have anyone to share treats from the table with them. I’ve got a blog, a big truck to ride in, a comfy camper with a bed to sleep in, and two humans that love me lots. I’m really one lucky dog.

 PS: My Family has a bunch of photos on Facebook, you can find them here, here and here!

05
Jan 2014
POSTED BY Neli
POSTED IN

Mainland, Mexico

DISCUSSION 3 Comments

Hunkered down in San Miguel de Allende

 

Me on one of our many walks around San Miguel de Allende.  It was really cold, but luckily I had my puffer jacket to keep me warm!

Me on one of our many walks around San Miguel de Allende. It was really cold, but luckily I had my puffer jacket to keep me warm!

The morning we packed up to leave Guanajuato, Victoria was pretty sad. She even started crying. I don’t see her cry that often, but even before that happened I could smell that she was upset. Jason and Victoria were talking, and apparently someone Victoria loved had died. I had never heard this word before but apparently everyone and everything dies eventually, even dogs and people. From what I understand, when you die you go away. Forever. That means you never get to see the people you love ever again. I can’t imagine not ever seeing the people and dogs I love again. I have a ton of questions about this: Where do you go? Do you get to come back eventually? Am I going to die? I feel like if I was going to die at some point I’d know, so maybe I won’t? Do people know this and they just walk around everyday just not thinking about it? So many questions, and no good answers. Anyway, I gave Victoria some extra special snuggles and kisses, to help her feel better. I don’t think it really helped that much because she was still sad, but she did smile and we finally left the camper to meet our new friend Katie.

Katie works with an organization called Do Good As You Go, and my family had planned to volunteer with them while in town. I guess we didn’t tell them we were getting there in time, because there was no volunteering to do on such short notice and we were only in Guanajuato for a short while. But we did have a nice chat with Katie, and we gave her a video camera that our friend Hani had donated before we left the wee blue house. I guess that camera is going to do some good in Guanajuato, so an extra special thanks to Hani for helping out!

Cobblestone streets mean you have to pay attention to where you are walking

Cobblestone streets mean you have to pay attention to where you are walking

After breakfast at Katie’s we hit the road. Our destination was a town called San Miguel de Allende, which is in the mountains just like Guanajuato. The drive wasn’t terribly long, which I really appreciated. San Miguel is really old, the streets are very narrow and paved with bumpy stones, so Jason needed help getting inside the gate. I think he scratched the side of the camper a little bit, but thankfully nothing was broken! The San Miguel RV Park & Tennis Courts was really nice, with comfy grass to lay in and a lot of people to say hello to. Unfortunately, most of them didn’t understand My Family that well. Victoria found out they were all from Germany, which is another country far across the ocean. They don’t speak English or Spanish in Germany, which made it a bit difficult for My Family to communicate with them. But we had a great spot to stay, perfect for exploring the city.

I thought we were done climbing up and down hills when we left Guanajuato.  I thought wrong...

I thought we were done climbing up and down hills when we left Guanajuato. I thought wrong…

Our time in San Miguel was good. When Jason was working I got to lay out in the grass, snooze in the sun with Victoria, chase cats and basically take it easy. I did get to go on a few really nice, long walks through the city, and that was pretty cool. The cobblestones were fun to walk on, and there was always something to see. We met up with a new friend named Robert and his girlfriend Patricia. Robert had been doing a trip like our Big Adventure, but once he made it to San Miguel he decided to stay for a while. Jason and Victoria seemed like they might do the same thing. They loved the nice people, the beautiful buildings, the delicious food and the incredible art. Personally, I didn’t see what the big deal was. I spent a lot of time waiting around, standing outside of art galleries, watching them eat delicious food I didn’t get to try and freezing in the cold night air. Oh, and the church bells! There was a church right by our campground, and the bells would ring at all times of the day and night! Victoria joked that she wanted to keep track, because the bells went off at odd hours, like 3:22 or 8:13. Jason didn’t appreciate the 7AM wakeup call, especially because that was when the bells would ring louder and longer than ever. But on the plus side, there was really pretty live music in the streets, and even a concert we got to check out in the main square, or Jardin. There were even huge dancing dolls that would swing their jiggly arms around and shake their hair over kids’ faces.

Gato, that means Cat in Spanish.  They don't like playing with dogs, just like American cats.

Gato, that means Cat in Spanish. They don’t like playing with dogs, just like American cats.

One of the most fun nights we had was Thanksgiving, which is a holiday we celebrate back home where family and friends get together and eat a lot. Obviously, it’s one of my favorites. Victoria and Jason found somewhere that was serving Thanksgiving dinner just like at home, and it was awesome. I got to go to a really fancy restaurant, which is unheard of. There was a beautiful view of one of the town’s big churches, every dish smelled amazing, and from the sounds Victoria and Jason were making I could tell it was good. I got to taste the turkey and we made some new friends, including a nice lady that hugged me and let me kiss her face. Basically a win all around.

The biggest house in San Miguel de Allende.

The biggest house in San Miguel de Allende.

Not every night was that good. There were a couple of times that I was left in the camper alone. I made sure I didn’t scratch up the screen anymore, so Victoria and Jason would know I’m a good girl. Each time, My Family came back smelling delicious. Once it was Italian food I could smell, and yet there were no leftovers for me. The next time it was chicken wings. Chicken wings! And none for me! But Jason was pretty excited that they had finally found good beer in Mexico. In fact, they even went back a couple of days later and bought some to bring with us on the road. I’m hopeful they will share some with me this time…

We spent a lot of time just walking around town while My Family looked at buildings.  Fun.

We spent a lot of time just walking around town while My Family looked at buildings. Fun.

I know that Victoria and Jason really loved San Miguel de Allende; they even said they could picture themselves staying there long term. I hope if that’s the case they get me some extra blankets and share some more of their tasty treats. Sure, I got to try tacos and tamales and even some Chinese food… But no sips of that sweet smelling alote? Not even the smallest bite of chocolate? Maybe I’m doing something wrong?

PS: If you want to see the pics My Family took in San Miguel, you can find them here!

06
Dec 2013
POSTED BY Neli
POSTED IN

Mainland, Mexico

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