Category Archives: El Salvador

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

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