Saturday, 27 April 2013

300 Days of Travel!

We hit 300 days of travel yesterday.. so I thought I'd re-cap some of our stats .. to put our travels in perspective.  Enjoy!

This is how we've been getting around:

'84 VW Westfalia (Canada/US Road Trip): approx. 13,000 km
Car Rental: 37 days
Coach Bus rides: 5... shortest one 5 hours... longest 12 hours.
Chicken bus rides: 12
Collectivos rides: 8
Tourist Shuttle buses: 8
Tuk-tuks (motor rickshaws): 12 
Taxi rides: 10
Boat rides: 16
Ferries: 5
Sail boat: 3 days
Plane rides: 2

This is where we have been travelling:

Canada (Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia), United States (Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma,  Missouri, Indiana, Michigan), Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, Belize, Mexico (Chiapas).

This is what we've been seeing:

World Heritage Sites (12)
Grasslands National Park - Saskatchewan; Dinosaur Provincial Park - Alberta; Wateron Lakes National Park - Alberta; Canadian Rocky Mountains - Alberta; Olympic National Park - Washington; Redwoods National Park - California; Yosemite National Park - California; Grand Canyon National Park - Arizona; Mesa Verde National Park - Colorado;  Copan Ruins - Honduras; town of Antigua - Guatemala; Laughing Bird Caye (Great Barrier Reef) - Belize (which has been listed as "Endangered" since 2009); Tikal National Park - Guatemala.

Lake Superior Provincial Park - Ontario; Banff National Park - Alberta; Jasper National Park (Icefields) - Alberta; Brohm Lake Provincial Park - BC; Great Sand Dunes National Recreation Area - Oregon;  Dealth Valley National Park - California; Monteverde Cloud Forest- Costa Rica; Manual Antonio National Park - Costa Rica; Corcovado National Park - Costa Rica; Curu Wildlife Refuge - Costa Rica; Caye Caulker Marine Park - Belize; Hol Chan Marine Park - Belize.

Mayan Ruins
Copan - Honduras; Gumarcaj - Guatemala; Xunantunich - Belize; Tikal - Guatemala; Palenque - Mexico; Yaxchilan - Mexico; Bonampak - Mexico.

Animals seen in wild:

Canada: Black bear, Moose, Chipmunks, Bald eagle, Buffalo, 2 Pronged deer, Prairie dogs, Marsh hawks, Scrub jays, Deer pronged horn antelope, Black tailed prairie dogs, Burrowing owls,  Swansons Hawks, White tail deer - Big bucks & doe and her fawns, Ground squirrels, Mountain goats, Jack rabbits, Mule deer, Elk, Pika, Black bear with cubs, Habour seals, Jellyfish, Crabs, Starfish, Blacktail deer.

United States: Flying Squirrel, Brown rabbit, Olympic Marmot, Hawks, herd of Roosevelt Elk & Bull, Black tailed deer with fawns, Ducks, Blue Heron, Coho fry, Sea lions, Star fish, Crabs, Green sea anemones, Sea lions, Harbour seals, Gray whales, Red legged frog, Elk, American Dipper (bird), Road runner (bird), Lizards, Bats, Kangaroo mouse.

Costa Rica: Yellow headed gecko, Lineated woodpecker, Rufous tailed hummingbird, Leaf cutting ants, Two-toed sloth, Mexican hairy porcupine, Side striped palm pitviper, False coral snake, Pitviper (baby), Black guan (bird), Black vultures, Golden owl, Green parrots, Replesentant quetzal, Blue morpho butterfly, Glasswing butterfly, Leaf katydid, Giant walking stick (bug), Red knee tarantula, Quails, Ground anoles (little lizards), Trogan (bird), House geckos, Green iguana, Black ctenasaur, Long-nosed bat, Green parakeets, Orange fronted parrots, Scorpions, Coatimundi, Howler monkeys, White throated Magpie-Jay, Great Kaskdee (bird), Hummingbirds, Hermit crabs, Giant grasshopper, Crickets, Tiger heron, Whimbres (birds), Flyng fish, Crested Caracara (bird), White-fronted parrots, Rufous-naped wrens, Pantropical spotted dolphins, Olive ridley turtles (arrabada), Green turtle, Magnificent frigate bird, Brown pelicans, White-throated capuchins monkeys, Agoutis, Red brocket deer, American crocodile, Jesus Christ Lizards, Blue-crowned motmots (birds), Common black hawks, Inca doves, Magnificent owl butterfly, Banded owl butterfly, Spider monkeys, Stingray, "Glow eyes" fish, Hermit crabs, Red crabs, One armed crabs, Cane toads, Julia butterflys, Streaked headed woodcreeper (bird), Sloth with baby, Raccoon, Aracari (toucan), Squirrel monkeys, Crested manibled toucan, Fer-de-lance snake, Crested guan (bird), Black river turtle, Praying mantis, Yellow trogan (bird), Cormorants, Great egret, Laughing falcon.

Honduras: Scarlet Macaws, Agouti, Blue-crested Motmots.

Belize: Kite birds, Frigate birds, Southern sting rays, Nurse sharks, Green turtles, Brown eel, Barracuda, Lion fish, Spotted trunkfish, Parrot fish, Jew fish, Barjacks, Dolphins, Gray angelfish, Red snapper, Squirrelfish, Cowfish, Blueheaded wrasse, Butterfly fish, Yellow sting ray, Porkfish, lobster, needle fish, gray snapper, and many, many more tropical fish and coral... just couldn't find a name for them all.

Guatemala: Howler monkeys, Spider monkeys, Golden frog, Lizards, Turtles, Hummingbirds, Crocodile, Coatimundis, Agoutis, Geckos, Pigeons, Cormorants, Pelicans, Great egrets, Toucan, Green parrots, Crested guan, Montezuma oropendola (bird), Oriel.

.....don't keep track anymore...

This is where we've been sleeping:

Houses/apartments: 5
Hotels/hostels: didn't keep track... maybe 50 or so?
Camping spots: maybe 20 or so?
Family and friends: 8

Towns/Cities visited: approx. 75

Health status:

Injuries/scraps/bruises: approximately 100 - 200 (Sean's estimate)
Illnesses: 1
Medication taken: Anti-malaria pills, Tylenol, Antacids, Imodium, Kids gravol
Mosquito bites: many
Scorpion stings: 1

Number of blogs written: 174... oh wait... plus this one... 175!

Pictures taken: maybe thousands... I think maybe 60GB worth.

Incredible experiences and precious moments:  uncountable

Day 1

Day 300 (early morning .. we look a little tired)


Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Our home away from home

We are settling into our little  apartmento here in San Cristobal de las Casas (such a long name... haven't figured how people shorten it or if they do) and so far so good!  It's more sparsely furnished than the place we rented in Antigua but it feels so good to have our own space and feel like we have a home (even if it's only for 12 days).  We went out to the big shopping plaza (full of mega stores) and loaded up with groceries so we have a fully stocked kitchen now.  We've been exploring the streets and getting familiar with things... our corner store for  matches for the gas stove,  refills of "Agua Puraficada" and the occasional treat! There is a little vegetable and fruit tienda about 5 blocks down and over and the local market is about a 7 minute walk away.. for a more colourful shopping experience.  And there are two supermercados  in walking distance for basics like bread, eggs, cheese etc. (we have to go to the megastore for more westernized foods... like spaghetti sauce or instant oatmeal).  It's amazing how the routine  things like  shopping for our own food and cooking have become exciting to us, but it's that sense of comfort and home that we've been needing in our travels.

Corner Tienda

Our apartment has a cute little patio where we get the afternoon sun and watch the lizards scamper about on the terracotta roof tiles. The morning sun blazes in on the kitchen/living room area while the kids draw, we sip on coffee and listen to CBC radio, our connection to home... love it (when the internet connection is strong enough, that is).  We have TV again and are getting our fill of movies and tv shows (Sean loves the Jamie Oliver 15 minute meals) and we just found a great bookstore and loaded up with reading material (Eric is steadily working through them so we don't have to carry them all.. always the practical).  Homeschooling has been going surprisingly well... it feels fairly easy at this point... light years away from all those frustrations we had in the beginning (back in November).  Our litte bit of spanish (pocito espanol) has come back... Mexican spanish is so much easier to follow than in Guatemala so we are feeling encouraged to try again, though we are still heavy users of miming! We went to the craft market today and bought a few tipicos for our apartmento (I'm not a very hard bargainer.. so I'm sure I paid more than needed but I don't feel  right to haggle over a dollor or two). You'd think we are settling in for long stay  (we even bought a pot and cups for the kitchen at the mega store), but I think we are just really needing this sense of home for now (we've been travelling for 298 days!).

30 Tapachula, Barrio Carrillo, San Cristobal de las Casas


walking back from a days outing

Outside the apartment, the socio-economic and political inequities here in Chiapas are grabbing our attention.  We see little, little kids being so independent, walking the streets selling the tipico crafts or offering to shine shoes.   We look at them and wonder how old they must be.  Many people here have a smaller stature... many grown men and women are the same height as Sean, so we are not sure if these kids, that seem so small, are as young as they appear but we figure some of them are 5 or 6 years old... out on their own all day... responsible for making some money... possibly every day.

When we were at the mega super store, two little boys came up to us to help us out with our groceries. They  flagged down a taxi for us, loaded up the trunk with our groceries and scampered away with huge smiles on their faces when they checked how much "propina" we gave them.  The contrast of the privileged and not privileged is so evident here... seeing two boys probably the same or younger age than Sean and Liam... side by side... the boys busy working and Sean and Liam just standing their watching.  And I image those boys at the superstore  might be considered privileged amongst some... they have a way of making some money.  We see a lot of older women begging and grown men working as shoe shine boys along side the 7 year old doing the same.

When we walk to the Zacalo and through the pedestrian streets lined with stores, cafes, restaurants and bars, we see  people requesting a few pesos or urging  tourist to buy their crafts.  We tend to give "donations"... it just doesn't seem right not to (as we sit there leisurely sippping on our wine and beer).  Liam petitions us to give more, to hand out the big stuff... the bills instead of our loose change, and he is right.. the change is  never really enough anyways.  He is our helper, we look at each other when we first notice a person with hands out.. I dig into my bag for change, and he runs over to put the money in the "begging" bowls.  In exchange we've gotten a lot of kind blessings along the way. We hope the boys realize that they come from a very privileged place (and appreciate that) and  are also able to  value the strength and industriousness that these people seem to have. We try to explain why things are the way they are but mostly the boys just observe.. soaking it all in.... we'll see what impact is has for them someday. Hopefully an expanded, more compassionate world view.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

San Cristobal de Las Casas, Mexico

We arrived in San Cristobal after a very windy bus ride into the highlands with pine trees replacing tropical plants (yet... bananas trees still around... interesting mix).  Our ride on a coach bus was pretty comfortable (but Sean and I both get motion sickness... so not without some discomfort) and after 5 hours of foot numbing air conditioning... we disembarked from what felt like a moving meat locker!  So, okay... maybe not the greatest bus ride... but still not bad.  Arriving in San Cristobal in the late afternoon we got a taxi to the hotel that manages the apartment we are renting for the next two weeks. Easy enough... actually Eric and I keep commenting on how easy travelling has been.  We feel as if it's taking a bit of the adventure out of it all!  When we got to the hotel (a very a stylish colonial boutique hotel) we were informed that there was a problem with the hot water in the apartment so we are to stay at the hotel for 3 days while they get it fixed.  So, we are now enjoying the upgraded comfort of a beautifully decorated 2 bedroom "Villa" with fireplace, kitchen, beautiful little inner garden and the best beds (the hotels in our usual price range seldom have really comfy beds or pillows). We all had the best sleeps ever!

Happy Kerri after a good night sleep!

We have just begun to explore San Cristobal.  It's an old Spanish colonial town, similar to Antigua in Guatemala, but whereas Antigua was put on hold in it's development (when it was abandoned) and therefore retained a lot of the colonial architecture, San Cristobal continued to developed.  It's a colonial town but with more development and modern buildings... more of a mix.  The indigenous people (Mayan) live in the Barrios circling the town and come in on market days to sell their crafts and produce.  They have very different dress than what we saw in the Guatemala highlands.  The ladies wear their hair in long braids, wrapped with ribbon and they have satin colourful tops with black fur like skirts (like fake bear fur type thing).  There is a bigger range of crafts that are sold, more wool items, leather, and jewelry with amber and jade (mining is big industry around here... and amber in particular.)


Little girls selling their wares
We found it a little harder walking around though because the streets are quite narrow and so are the sidewalks.  There are however a few pedestrian exclusive streets around the zocalo (main square) which are lined with great little cafes and restaurants and shops.  There are a few open markets... one for food  and produce and used mainly for the locals and one for crafts and stuff... for the tourists.  I love walking through the markets and what I really love is that it's all kind of normal for the boys now... when we get back home going to a mall or big box shopping areas will seem strange!  Also along the streets the walls are covered with a lot of graffiti, much of it referencing the Zapatista social movement that came to international attention 20 years ago.  Along with the graffiti, there is some evidence that it is still alive and well (see the photo of the site-in taken in front of one of the churchs).  I'll have to read up a bit more on the politics of the area.  The Zapatista references are alive and well on the tourism front too, in restaurants and through t-shirts and souvenirs and has been humourously referred to as "zapatourism"!


A good find... awesome guacamole and sangrias!

We are told we'll be able to move into our apartmento this afternoon so we need to pack up again and then we'll be able to settle in and get to know this area a bit more (and also get a bit more serious with the homeschooling... we might have to add a unit on politics.)

Happy Weekend everyone!

Friday, 19 April 2013

Tropical Chiapas

(originally this blog was part of the Triple Temple Tour.. but I couldn't get all the pictures loaded..and we were rushing out to catch our here it is.. a bit disjointed now..sorry.)


We did do one more tour while in Palenque which included two stops, one to a very pretty waterfall (Misol-Ha) and another to the beautiful Agua Azul River. This whole area of Chiapas is so lush, tropical, beautiful.. which totally goes against my stereotype of Mexico as hot and arid. Mexico has lush tropics just like Costa Rica!

Agua Azul

Mango Season
water was a bit chilly

But between Mayan ruin exploring and seeing the tropical sites.. we've had quite a few "recovery days" where we have been just hanging out in the mornings (there is a swank cafe attached to the hostel where Eric and I have been indulging in Cappuccinos and Cafe Lattes.. something we would never do back home!), hiding in our air conditioned room in the afternoons (hot and humid all the time!) and then a meal or two out (one amazing shrimp meal.. huge amount of shrimp and just for 90 pesos.. so about $8!). We've had a few encounters with scorpions in our room (it's really freaky when you see one) and one actually got Eric.. a burning sting on his thumb (oh boy did he jump!) which was numb for a bit but he's okay now. We were a bit more wary of picking up our clothes and gave our shoes a good check through before putting them on after that! And some pretty low pressured homeschooling.. just reading and writing .. no math. We didn't plan on staying a week here.. but  I think it took us a whole week to decide where we were heading next, which is  San Cristobal de las Casas.  It's a 5 hour bus ride and we have an apartment set up to rent for 2 weeks.  Ahhh.. it'll feel good to unpack for a bit and have our own kitchen again (the hostel had a communal kitchen which was actually really awesome.. made us realize how good it was to cook for ourselves).

Chill time (but the tranquility usually doesn't last long...)

grocery shopping - street vendors
grocery shopping - supermercado (with A/C!)
VW beetles everywhere.. love it!

walk downtown for a cool treat

now that is a plate of shrimp!  .. and that's after I already ate a few!
the scorpion  was hiding in Eric's pack!
Lots of excitement trying to get him out of our room
on the road again.. 5 hour bus ride .. piece of cake now.