Sunday, May 6, 2007

Entonces Que?

Now that it's been almost two weeks since returning, a lot of my trip feels a bit like a dream. I'm trying to find ways of connecting that part of my life and this part. So far I have been quite unsuccessful. Did the trip change me? Yes. How? I don't know. It wasn't as specific as i thought it would be. What I mean is, I suppose, is that it was just life I was living. I don't have tons of stories becasue I settled in and got used to the life that it took something extremely unique for me to deem it a "story". One thing's for sure, I have this strange feeling that I'll always travel... I think I caught the virus.

Ben's Comments on South America:
South America was such a wonderful place, however, sadly, it has such a negative light shed on it. Since it gave me so much, I feel compelled to give something back to it. Latin America is a very misunderstood place. It is rich with culture, wonderful people, and breath-taking beauty. It has it's share of problems, many countries are struggling quite a lot to stay organized, however there is so much potential. I was also constantly blown away at how safe the place was. I realize I only had 4 months there, but I did experience many different places and explored many parts of many cities. I am also aware of the invisible gringo-shield I had, but that also made me a target. It is such an amazing part of the world and I know I'll be back.

To all who followed my footsteps through South America at this amazing time of my life, thank you. It was always nice to read new posted comments. I hope you were all able to vicariously enjoy my crazy life.

To end.

I made a bit of a commitment to myself that I would make myself a resource to other travelers. Once I got going it all became so natural that I completely forgot how daunting a trip like this seems before departure. I don't have a single regret about taking this trip, and I think if you took a tour as well, you'd feel the same way. Entonces, if anyone ever wants help, hints, secrets, or even just a chat about travel, you are more than welcome to contact me:


El Ultimo Semana

I'm Home.

I got home April 24th, the day before my 19th birthday. However before I comment on the strangeness of being home, I'll elabourate on what I was up to for the last week of my trip.

Parque Tyrona was a blast. I just wish I had more time to spend there; lying on the beach doing nothing at all. I met a cool English girl there, Tara, and we headed to Cartagena.

Cartagena is a major port city in Colombia and was once the most important port as all of the plundered gold would be transported there by land then shipped to Spain. This made Cartagena a hot target for both Pirates and the English. The old city is completely walled in. The final defence set up, constructed in the early 1500's made Cartagena impregnable. All of the hostels are a few blocks from the city walls. The neighbourhood is swimming with prostitutes, coke dealers, and drug addicts; it's a ton of fun.

I spent most of my time in Cartagena just wandering the old city, enjoying the atmosphere. However, one day Tara and I took a day-trip to a mud volcano. We walked up the stairs on the side of the 15m volcano then hopped into the crater which was completely filled with mud. Once in, assorted Colombians laid us on our backs and stomachs and massaged us. When we got out, completely covered in mud, we headed down to the lake beside the volcano and Colombian women washed us.

Returning to Costa Rica ended up being somewhat of a mission. I had begun feeling a little ill when I was in Tyrona. By the time I left Cartagena, it was significantly worse. I arrived at the airport in Colombia at 5:00am on friday morning. A full 3 hours of dealing with customs, baggage check, departure tax, and the airline desk had exhausted me by the time I got on my plane. Once in Panama City, I immediately went to the bus station and barely made the 14 hr direct bus to San Jose. I arrived in the middle of the night and was then screwed by a cab driver. I could hardly believe the relief I felt when I finally got back to Chris and Luisa's house. I did end up puking twice, but I got a lot of good sleep.

On my final day in South America, Chris, his family, Melissa, and her mother, took me to a beautiful park with this amazing waterfall. I was still a hurtin' unit, but it was nice to be outside with the friends that gave me so much over the course of the trip.

I ended up spending the night in Miami due to complications with my connection flight. I stepped off the plane in Detroit at about 11am. It felt so good to be home.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

My Vacation

For those of you who think I´m in a long lovely vacation, lets have a little info session. Trecking around god knows how many kilometers in the last 4 months, with everything you own on your back, in foreign, Spanish speaking lands, which are often stifling hot amd full of people trying to screw you, is not easy. Fun? always. Easy? rarely.

So when I left my big bag in a hostel in Santa Marta and took off with only my day pack and a hammock to Parque Tyrona, Colombia´s claimed best beaches, it was like going on vacation. This is a beautiful park with rich beaches and really amazing boulders scattered in interesting formations all over the park.

Unfortunately my SD memory card for my camera is on vacation as well... It has decided to only display the fotos on it on my camera, not on a computer. I hope he decides to come back soon.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

In Colombia; In awe

This country is blowing me away. It's hard to say it's may favourite becaue I have absolutely loved every country I have been in, every one has been so different from the others, and I have visited them all at different times in my travels, but Colombia is amazing. It is by far the most beautiful and it definitely has the friendliest people... ok it´s the best

*This rediculous idea that Colombia is extremely unsafe is no longer valid. A few years ago the place was a little shady to visit, but today it is no more dangerous in most places than any other Latin America country. Sure the country exports about 6 billion of the 8 billion dollars worth of produced cocaine to the US every year, and yes there are a few very dangerous rebel groups, but for the most part the rebels stay in their part of colombia (which is roughly half) and the regular people stay in theirs. I reccomend Colombia to everyone.

When I arrived off the boat, I had to walk 2 hours through the jungle to another town to get my passport stamped. This was an interesting first impression.

So much has happened since I arrived here, and I need to save some stories for when I return home, but there are a few that need telling.

One major difference between Canada and the US and pretty much the rest of the world is football.
I saw a game in Medellin of these two teams and wow... the fans for this sport are like the fans of nothing else. When a player would take a corner kick, riot police would have to rush over and put shields up around the kicker becasue the opposing teams fans would be throwing hurling all kinds of things at the player.

The police or military are everywhere in Colombia. Here's a little example of how tight security was at the game.

Unfortunately on the way home from the game, my friend Kim and I were mugged by four guys. She had her camera taken off her but I fended 3 of them off one-handed with my eyes closed and luckely we escaped unharmed.

On her camera were some great photos of a club we went to in Medellin, which is famous for its night life, its plastic surgery, and its breast implants. Now forever lost are some pictures of me breakdancing on stage at Mango's as well as 5 go-go dancing midgets on the stage beside me... like I said... it's famous for night life.

After Medellin me and 2 frinds headed for a quiet little pueblo called Salento. We had two other friends show up and made great friends with a guy working at the hostel. This place was so much fun. We visisted a cofee plantation, saw the tallest plametrees ever, hung out in the mountains... too much to list. I definitely had the best time here over anywhere else in my travels. The Wax Palms are breathtaking as well...

Yesterday I visited a remote little villiage in the deep jungle that is only accessible by little platforms on an old railroad track that is powered by a motorcycle. My friends and I grabbed some innertubes and spent the day floating down the river with nothing but jungle at our sides.

Now I'm in Bogota, the Capitol. It's a really happening place of roughly 8 million people. I'll probably be here only a couple days as I need to get to the coast soon so I can fly back to Central America in time for my flight home.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Seasick in Paradise

After about a week in Panama City, I managed to get a hold of a Captain of a sailboat to take me to Colombia.

The sailboat, Irene, was 37 feet and had 7 passengers when we left the port of Portobelo in Panama. The crew consisted of the Captain, Humberto, 44, his first mate and girlfriend, Lady, of less than half his age, 21, and Humberto´s Nephew Juandavid, 20. Then there was myself and three people from France. At times it was a little frustrating as the crew would be in an indepth conversation in Spanish and the other three would be speaking in French. All but 2 people spoke English, however we did most of our communication in Spanish.

The first few days of the trip were wonderful, with the exception of the third night. The third night was the first night we spent sailing instead of anchored in a bay. Let´s just say dinner didn´t stay down.

We visited many of the San Blas Islands which are georgious, postcard-perfect, islands with white sand and terquoise water, just of the Carribean coast of Panama. They streach from just east of the Canal to Colombia. Most of the islands are scarcely or uninhabited and the only people living in the area are the Kuna, an indigenous tribe. The Kuna were granted the land by the Panamanian governement and essencially have total control over the area.

Snorkeling was a frequent activity and there were some beautiful reefs. I saw a manta ray that was roughly a meter and a half wide.

The last few days of the trip weren´t as nice for a couple reasons. For one I began to get a little sick of the crew they were fun but I couldn´t stand them after a while. Also, the trip was supposed to be 5 nights, six days. Instead it was 7 nights, 8 days. As well, the captain tried to get me to pay money that I wasn´t supposed to, then ended up ripping me off five dollars. He was even more stingey with the others. The only good thing about the extended trip was we got to sail in a beautiful catamaran and there were dolphins jumping all around us.

So here I am coke-capital of the world.

I´ll have to go do some exploring before I say anything else.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Sleep Walking

On my last day of diving, I woke up a little late so I was in a hurry to get to the boat. My room mate mentined some Isreali guy was looking for a key from me but I didn´t have any idea what he was talking about so I scurried off to the boat. When I got back someone mentioned something similar; that I had taken someone´s room key the night before. Someone else then told me that the night before I had gone into someone´s room and got in bed with them. They awoke and were startled and as I left I took their room key. I kept hearing little bits and pieces of the story until finally I found Ido, the friend of the guy whose key I stole. He preceeded to tell me the story, while laughing his ass off. He had left the key in the outside of the door to allow drunken friends to enter later that night. He said he awoke when a man opened the door, but he didn´t recognize the man as one of the people staying in the room. He was about to say something when the man sat down on the edge of his friend Mosha´s bed (who was at the time sleeping with his girlfriend) and laid down. Mosha awoke but was still quite tired so he assumed it was his friend Ido playing around. He quickly realized the man laying beside him had dreadlocks so, startled, he yelled ¨What the hell?¨ The man replied Öh, sorry¨, stood up, and left the room, taking the key with him.

Now apparently this man was me. I have no recollection of the event as it was 4:00am. The only reason I believe such a rediculous story is becasue so many people were telling me it was true, and my friend said he went into my room and retrieved Mosha´s key, which was sitting beside my bed...

Scuba Surf

I got my open water scuba diving liscence when I was in Bocas Del Torro. I can´t describe the beauty of the life under water, but those of you who have dove know what I´m talking about. It feels like you´re floating weightlessly, in slow motion, across an alien planet. I´m sure the beautiful reefs and fish of the Carribbean Sea added a little to the experience as well. I hadn´t planned on scuba diving when I arrived, however a $175 three day course by PADI with 2 free dives shounded quite appealing.

I left Bocas the day after my last dive with some friends I met. We headed to beautiful Sta. Catalina on the Pacific side. I did exactly what I wanted to do for 4 days... nothing. Well, surf a little too. We had a beautiful round purple cabina right on the beach. There´s not much better than opening your front door and walking out onto sand.

I got to Panama City with my friend Kat and we went to see the canal for a few hours before her flight back to Los Angeles.

Panama City is a cool place. It´s like any major city and doesn´t look all that different from Toronto. However it´s nice to be here as it´s a change. And with big cities comes big diversity. There´s a killer vegetarian restaurant around the corner from my hostel that can support my veggi needs.

Uh Oh.... Today´s St. Patty´s day isn´t it? I wonder if they do green beer here...

Thursday, March 8, 2007

The Boozing Boondoggle

I returned to the lovely South Eastern Carribean in Costa Rica. I called some friends that I met in Nicaragua to see if they wanted to hook up for a bit. It turned out they were planning on driving down to Panama in an old Volkswagen Westfalia
with their friend who in San Jose. I was planning on heading to Panama, however once I got to San Jose, to my dismay, yet not to my surprise, the van was broken so we all went to Cahuita for the weekend. After a three nights with Jeff, Jill, and Jake, I headed to Manzanillo with Jeff, Jill, and two friends we met in Cahuita, who also had previously met Jeff and Jill in Nicaragua (far right and far left in picture). We also had this crazy, true Rasta guy come up trying to sell burned reggae CD´s. (middle)

*Side note: One of the best parts of traveling... and wow there are many... is how often you run into people you met in the past. On Ometepe for example I turned around and out of nowhere my friend Philipp from Granada climbs up a ladder and into the loft. I only have a little over a month and a half left, but I´m sure I´ll run into at least a few people I know.

Manzanillo was great. For an entire day all we did was snorkel. The coral reef there is beautiful. I saw so many crazy fish, a nurse shark(completely harmless) a stingray, and a huge crab.
I had to go to Puerto Viejo again to take the bus to Panama. It brought back great family vacation memmories.
Now I´m in Bocas Del Toro, a small island in the far West of Panama. Panama seems a lot safer and richer than anywhere else I´ve been. They haven´t sold their souls to tourism like Costa Rica has so maybe it´s teh Canal. They seem to have something different going on here, but I can´t put my finger on what.
To end I´d like to point out this picture to the right. This is in my current Hostel, Mondo Taitu.
You may need to click on the picture to blow it up, but you will quickly notice that half of these over achievers are Canadian. Cheers Canada.

Saturday, March 3, 2007


I spent three nights on the island of Ometepe in Lago Nicaragua. It was sucha beautiful place. It didn't have the paradise look and feel of the Carribean (It's easy to compare... if I turn my head to the left all I see is the sweet, baby blue Atlantic and a waving palm blocking half my view) but it had a majesty I've never seen or felt.

I climbed the smaller of the two volcanoes. It was a long hike; 6 hours total.
The first 5 kilometers were clean, but steep. The last kilometer was knee deep mud. The crator was slightly unimpressive. It was a cool crator lake that was possible for swimming, but that meant wading through waist deep mud. I stayed on land. The bummer was the crator was set into the volcano so we couldn't see the surrounding landscape. On the descent, however, I was able to snap a picture of the bigger volcano from 1/4 of the way up the smaller one. You can tell by the picture how small the ithmus is between the two volcanoes.

I'm in Cahuita, just north of Puerto Viejo. I'm going to chill here for a few days, soak up some serious reggae, then head to Panama fo who knows what.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Leaving Granada

Tomorrow I say goodbye to Granada. I spent an entire week here which was weird, but it was so easy to. I've quickly learned that long term plans simply don't exist when you're traveling like this. I guess I was just having to much fun with Chris, Conway and Evanya. I have also met some great people at my hostel, The Bearded Monkey. This hostel is a little dangerous as it is so hard to leave. There's hammocks everywhere, a killer restaurant, free internet, movies, books, and best of all a big bunch of other hippie like-minded individuals with whom you can just chat and chill the night away.

I walked through the graveyard here. It is so strange because all over central America, bodies aren't buried. Caskets are placed in little cement aboveground tombs. The rich have huge elegant ones for their entire family and the poor often are buried in the back of the graveyard. As beautiful as the tombs are, I'm a little opposed. Not that I have any issue with dealing with the bodies like that, in fact, I think it's better than putting bodies underground because the tombs can be stacked. The result is sort of like small apartment buildings of corpses. How fun. But what I don't like is how your wealth is so obviously displayed even after you die. In NA grave yards often consist of tombstones that are rather simple and quite similar... everyone is equal...

One other quick thing about Granada... There has always been a fued between Granada and Leon, a City more north. Granada was always the richer, more conservative city, and Leon was always the more liberal city blooming with artists, philosophers, and students. I'd love to visit Leon, but I hear visually it's almost the same and it's farther north than I want to go. Nicaragua has an amazing history. If your interested, check out I think william walker is an animal.

Tomorrow I'm taking the ferry to Ometepe. It's a big island in the middle of big Lake Nicaragua. The cool part is that the island is simply 2 joined volcanoes. I'm kind of excited...

Friday, February 23, 2007

What´s Up?

I´ll tell you what´s up.
Granada, Nicaragua... That´s what´s up. This colonial city is absolutely gorgeous. Every house is painted up so colourful and there are amazing churches and monuments everywhere. Horses and carriages still roam the streets and I feel like I walked back in time 200 years. The people here are super friendly too. Chris, from Costa Rica, just so happened to have a friend, Conway, heading to Granada the same time I was. He managed to get some time off so Conway, Chris, myself, and Evanya (Conway´s friend) have all been having a great time on the town. It´s so nice to see Chris again.

After climbing Rincon de la Vieja, John and I went to La Fortuna. We saw lava spewing down the side of Arenal Volcano, and again, I sat in delicious hot springs.

John went home and I went to San Juan Del Sure in Granada with a wonderful couple from Israel. We clicked immediately. I gave my friend Dreadlocks and he knitted me a tam (a hat of dreadlocks). I was in San Juan for 3 days and now I´m here in Granada and I never want to leave. I swam in a lake in the crator of a volcano and got attacked by 5 monkeys. I don´t know what adventure lie in the immediate future, however I´m just looking to sit in a hammock, read my book, and drink a cold Victoria.

You´ll be sure to hear more ranting from me about this subject later on, but this part of the world is so misunderstood. People do horrible things when they´re desperate. There´s a lot of desperation here; roughly 70% of Nicaragua lives in poverty. However there is also so much beauty, so much culture, so much safety, so much respect, and so much realism. The people here are so genuine. If it´s danger you´re looking for, you can find it easily, but if you want to avoid it, that´s easy too. Central America is a work of art.

Oh ya, and when I was in a hostel in San Juan Del Sur, there was a huge painted map of the world. In southwestern Ontario someone had added in ¨Parkhill¨ in pencil. I slyly added in Ailsa Craig.
Small world though...

Friday, February 16, 2007

Volcan Rincon De La Vieja

This is the most beautiful place I have ever been in my life. John and I hiked 9km up to the crator of Volcan Rincon De La Vieja, then 2 km over to the Crator of Volcan Van Sebeebachh then 9km back down.

Words can´t describe the beauty of this place, and my pictures don´t do it any justice either.

I´ve never felt so alone, so small, so light..... so good.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

La Casa

Habitat For Humanity was an excellent experience. There isn´t

even a whole lot to say other than I feel good about helping others

out the way I did and I had fun time doing it. I met great people...

lots of people came and left and I became good friends with some

of the locals. My family was great and the Miestro on the

construction site was a riot.

The people in the office were extremely unorganized here, but

once the initial configuriung was done and I was on the site, it was

better. That big group of Canadians had everything all figured out.

It´s obvious which office has their crap together.

As much fun as it was, I was ready to leave when I did. Let´s just

say that hard physical labour in a near-equatorial sun is a little bit

draining. Work was 5 days a week and weekends weren´t always

jam packed with sleep...

John and I are currently in La Fortuna (again for me). We´re

toured around for a few days but John has to go back to the US

on thursday. I however will be going to Nicaragua for

unimaginable good times.

Just a p.s.

There´s going to be a pretty mean blog comming up. We hiked to

the crator of VolcanRincon De La Vieja the other day. I have never

seen anything so beautiful in my entire life. I´ll explain and show

you all later.

I got to start the house... just wish I would have gotten to see it finished.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Tropical Bungee

Have you ever jumped off an 80m high bridge?


Well don´t, it´s scary as shit!
John and I went bungee jumping a few hours ago. It was the most intense thing I have ever done in my entire life. It was pure terror as I started falling, but that´s what made it such a great experience. I think everyone should experience sheer terror on a safe level at some point in their lives.
It was a little painful for a couple reasons. The straps attached to my ankles were really tight and take a hell of a lot of pressure. I was alsounfortunate enough to have the bungee cord smack my left foot on my first bounce, causing some brusing, as well as some bleeding. I don´t know how a massive bungee cord could draw blood through my sock, but I suppose I was falling pretty fast.

However, despite the pain, bungee jumping is great and I highly recommend it.

Edward Forty Hands

Edward Forty Hands is a rather foolish game that is of growing popularity among young adults. Extensive information on the game can be found here.

John and I, having no plans for friday night, decided it would be a perfect opportunity togive the game a try. Technically we weren´t playing Eduard 40 Hands as we were drinking 2 litres of beer, not 80 oz, as 40´s of beer aren´t sold here, but whatever. We had our host-father tape the liters to our hands, then tape the caps to strings attached to the bottles so we could close them. So John with his Pilsen and me with my Imperial set out of a night on the town (drinking in public is legal in Costa Rica). We decided we´d take a bus into Poas, a near-by town, and meet some friends. We paid the bus driver with coins we had previously put in a bag and wedged under my pinkey finger. (We cheated a little bit as we left our pinkeys exposed. However we thought we deserved some slack, seeing as we would have to somewhat function in public). When we got on the bus it was packed... packed with staring Ticos. The bus driver was laughing his ass off, especially because we had to stand the whole time without hands to support ourselves. I accidentally hit a girl in the head with one of my 40hands. However, instead of being upset, after I apologized she preceeded to ask my how old I was and where I lived, then her friend commented on my delectable appearance that evening. (readers take note of the potential for getting picked up when one assaults someone with their beer bottle) We then met our friends (other volunteers and one local) in the park and had a gay old time in a well named bar, Pollo Frito (Fried Chicken), and yes, still with our 40hands.
I give this game 5 Stars.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Vida a hora...

So apparently I can speak Spanish now. Going out to bars and needing to speak stricktly Spanish probably helps...

Habitat is a lot more interesting now. The walls are almost done and all the volunteers know eachother a lot better. However, volunteers come and go quickly. Two just left, including one of my room-mates, Jimmy, but 12 Canadians are comming to work for all of next week... oh how I do love Canadians.
My host family took John, Jimmy, and I to Poas Volcano. It was really cool becasue it´s still active, it has the biggest crator in the world, 1km diameter, and there´s a lake in the crator that boils. The bad new was it was too cloudy to see the 1km crator or the lake. At least there´s some cool vegetation at that altitude...

Quick note: I haven´t seen a single cat since I got here. Lots of dogs, but no cats. What´s the story?

I´ve mostly just been chilling out after work at the house. John and I met some people in a town near by so we´ll probably hang with them now and again. We´re going to try to fit in some hang-gliding next weekend.

Ok. Hold the phone. I was just told one of the most important things I have ever heard in my career as a human being. Rage Against the Machine is playing a show called Coachella on April 29th. My return flight is April 23rd, my 19th brithday is April 25th, and I have to be in Southern California for the 29th. Close but totally do-able. Mom, Dad, I need the car for a few days when I get back...

Monday, January 22, 2007

Ketchup and Mayo

A quick update...

Habitat is getting a little more exciting. We are actually building the walls now, not just digging holes.

The other volunteers and I went to the beachtown of Jaco for Sat and Sun. It was, well, a crazy time. There was a beautiful white sand beach and we met some good people on the ride down. I even had a conversation with a pimp in a bar. It was, well, depressing, but interesting.

John, Jimmy, and I ate at a little restaurant by our house last night. Between the 3 of us we got 4 different dishes. Every single one was absolutely smotheres in ketchup and mayo. I do love mayo, but no, it was not a pleasurable experience.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Habitat for WHOmanity?

Well, here I am.

I just finished digging a 2mx2mx1.5m hole. We dug the foundation out then tied rebar for hours. Concrete should start soon.

My host family is pretty good. They´re super friendly. They do my laundry and cook my food. I live with 2 other volunteers from the states which has it´s ups and downs. The up is that I have people to chill with, the down is I´m not forced to learn nearly as much Spanish. One of them is is Jimmy. He´s a fairly stereotypical rich American boy. Private highschool, goes to Princeton, and plays football. He´s tall, built, has a smiling face, but there´s still that undercurrent of ¨I´m better than you.¨ that you picks at the back of your mind. Then there´s John. He has some ¨nerd-like¨tendencies, but hey, so do I. Definitely a solid guy.

Building has been, well, ok. I hope it picks up in excitement although I doubt it. I suppose I´m still a little upset with Habitat for there unacceptable lack of organization. I had communication with them for 5 months prior to my arrival and they didn´t have a placement for me until the 15th of January... Not to mention many lost e-mails and untimely responses. The meeting my group of volunteers had with them was fairly uniformative and somewhat unprofessional... However, they are undergoing huge administrative changes right now so I guess theres that. I just don´t think they should be accepting volunteers.

BUT, here I am, I have a smile on my face and a shovel in my hand and I´m ready to build a house.