Slow pace of life, but big strides…

January 1, 2013

Just a quick update to show some photos of what I’ve been up to in Sri Lanka. The Buddhist temple is the Cave Temple in Dambulla. I wish I’d taken a picture of the never ending stairs you have to walk up before you get to this cool UNESCO heritage site!

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Happy New Year!

December 31, 2012

It’s been a busy couple of days in Sri Lanka. Well, by busy I mean it’s been three days spent in the most terrifying automobile rides on the planet. My taxi driver splitting lanes on the freeway at 95 MPH in South Korea doesn’t even compare to the crazy of driving in Sri Lanka. The second day here was spent in Kandy, the old Capitol and home to some amazing sites. Beautiful Buddhist temples built long ago, located in a hazy, foggy mountain city.
After walking around and checking out all the Kandy sites, it was back in the car to a spice garden. They’re huge on Ayurvedic medicine, so I got to learn about all the different oils and herbs and how they cure everything. Honestly, I would recommend skipping the spice garden. It was a forty foot walk down a path and back without much reward.
After the spice garden it was on to the elephant orphanage to play with elephants. It’s crazy how big they are, and they’re roaming free everywhere. You can walk right up to them, feed them, ride them, really anything you want to do. It was pretty cool.
New Year’s Eve was spent playing ping pong, chess and drinking some terrible local rum. All in all a successful close to 2012!
I’m sure anyone reading this just wants to see the pictures, so here goes:

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The longest set of flights ever…

December 29, 2012

Please, next time I think it’s a good idea to spend three days flying on four different planes somebody should kick me in the head. But, after San Francisco, Newark, Frankfurt and Doha, I finally made it to Colombo, Sri Lanka. I just checked into my frugal accommodations (no, seriously, the room rates in Colombo start at $9 per night), and the weather is really nice. I had a nice 45 minute conversation with the taxi driver on the way. This beautiful island has had a bad run. Between a thirty year guerrilla war and losing 50,000 people in the 2004 tsunami, I’m amazed to see everyone smiling here. This place has a ton of potential, and I’m really looking forward to traveling around here. Now it’s nap time…

Palm trees without cruise control

December 12, 2012

I arrived in Uruguay the day before yesterday via the ferry service, and was greeted by a crazy tropical storm. Rain blowing sideways and all the fun parts of a mini hurricane. So after watching six hours of crime dramas, went to bed and woke up to blue skies and awesomeness. Both Argentina and Uruguay are not the cheapest countries you can travel to. But surprisingly the rental car rates are not a lot more than cross country bus tickets, so I get to drive while in Uruguay. The car is pretty new, it’s a Chevy Spark, and it’s a little bigger than a backpack. Everyone drives in the tradition of Italian road rules (look forward and don’t hit anything, but people behind you don’t matter). It’s also been really fun driving a stick for the first time in eight years :).
So I made the drive across Uruguay to a tiny beach town called La Paloma. It was about a five hour drive through coastal city after coastal city, including Montevideo. La Paloma has about 3,500 people and a really cool lighthouse. Check out the pics below:

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Don’t cry for me…

December 10, 2012

Okay, okay, I am the laziest blogger ever. I’ve been in Buenos Aires for six days now, and this is my first post. It’s been a combination of keeping busy here (for the most part) and relaxing after the last couple weeks in San Francisco. Buenos Aires is not what I expected initially. At first glance it looks like any major city in Europe. The architecture, terrace culture, late night eating all remind me of Europe. It’s really nice. But any metropolitan area of thirteen million people has its annoyances. The traffic is crazy, and getting to the other side of the city is a long process (the subway makes it easier, but the cab rides add up). If you choose to visit, bring your meat belly. Everything is a meat of some kind. Chorizo is the official national vegetable, and even a side of grilled vegetables has a ton of bacon in it. Luckily, they have this great soft drink called “Malbec” that gives you a really relaxed feeling after drinking lots of it. It tastes like grape juice that’s been sitting out too long, but is cheap and delicious (yup, my beef and wine trip is going great so far). So, to recap the last six days:

Day one – Plaza de Mayo (government buildings, cool square, watched people protest)

Day two – Torrential rain, visited the Evita Museum, National Museum of Fine Arts, drank wine

Day three – Recoleta Cemetery to see Evita’s grave, went on a graffiti tour of Buenos Aires, drank wine

Day four – Teatro Colon, visited El Caminito walking street, had more meat and wine

Day five – visited a Sunday mercado in San Telmo and walked around, took a nap, ate more meat

Today I’m off to Uruguay to see what their wine and beef taste like. It’s a one hour ferry ride to Colonia and then a couple hour drive to the beaches to relax.

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Puerto La Cruz

July 24, 2012

After a short stint in Murderville, a crazy few days in the jungle, and the chartered flight on a four person Cessna back to civilization, I’m in Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela. It’s like being in a different country. This has seemingly been three different countries in one trip. Every place has a really different feel. Puerto La Cruz could easily be compared to Santa Monica, CA. It’s a safe, hip city with an amazing walking promenade lined with shops and restaurants. People are doing group yoga on the beach and street vendors sell everything from trinkets to popcorn. A thriving middle eastern community has transformed the local cuisine into shawarma and falafel. Venezuela is far from a cheap country, and this place is an especially bad example of budget travel. The giant light up cross at the end of the promenade reminds you of the country’s catholic roots, but the stray dogs, arepa vendors and Chavez posters remind you that you are in Venezuela. The official exchange rate is around four and a half bolivares per dollar, but it’s obligatory to change money on the black market here despite the warnings about safety. The black market doubles your money, and I have no idea why, the money is the same. I’ll add some photos from around the city soon.

Canaima, Venezuela

July 23, 2012

Waterfalls. Lots of waterfalls. After dropping my stuff off at the base camp, our tour embarked on a two and a half hour hike to El Sapo and El Sapito, two spectacular waterfalls. These aren’t waterfalls like you can imagine, these are half a mile across rivers that drop a hundred feet. It is amazing the amount of water pouring off these falls. El Sapo has about a three foot cave behind the falls that allows you to walk across to the other side. I feel like I can try out for one of those reality Alaskan fishing shows. Walking under the falls was the equivalent of a typhoon. The amount of water you get hit by every second is probably the equivalent of three normal showers. Afterwards, we all kept hiking another hour. I took a spill down a rock embankment into a tree (I love my Vans, but they aren’t exactly waterfall hiking material). Sleeping under mosquito nets facing some other falls was some of the best sleep I’ve ever gotten. Today we head to Angel Falls (in the Pixar film Up, Paradise Falls is based on this wonder) to see a 3000′ waterfall. That is as high as El Capitan in Yosemite, with a giant river flowing from the top of it. Certain things are worth risking getting your cell phone wet for. Bruised, sweating, having a great time.

Bolivares of Broken Dreams

July 19, 2012

Well, after three days of traveling, three days of planes, and three days of eating greasy arepas, I’m in Puerto Ordaz, Venezuela. This is the first place that the Posadas (guest houses) would let me go outside. Apparently it’s not safe to walk around even in the day in Caracas or Cotia LA Mar. Puerto Ordaz is a great city though with tons of side of the road attractions, empanada stands and Chavez posters. It seems really Venezuelan. Tomorrow I’m off to Canaima and Angel Falls. Very excited to get to the middle of nowhere…

Joshua Tree National Park

April 7, 2012

A beautiful time in Joshua Tree National Park! The weather was perfect, some of the trees were blooming and the rocks were incredible! Southern Californians are spoiled for sure! I didn’t do any climbing, but had fun scrambling around on the boulders and hiking. Here are some of the views:

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And, of course, the Joshua Trees…

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A 90 degree shift in in temperature

February 7, 2012

So I have returned from the terrible, muggy heat of Thailand, to the worst cold that Europe has seen in half a century apparently. Since the day I returned (about a week ago), the temperature has been dropping. One night it was minus 18 degrees Celsius. For the record, that is cold. It’s also the first time I’ve seen snow in the Benelux countries. It was really nice at first, but I’ll take a warm day over any snow for sure. I’ve been visiting with friends and trying to find times that work with everyone’s schedule to say goodbye. I have had such a great time seeing everyone that I don’t know why I waited so long to come back. I have a feeling that I’ll be back here very soon…