Cartagena – Caribbean Columbia

Cartagena is a beautiful colorful city on the Caribbean. It was the richest city during Spanish rule because all of the gold and jewels from the Incas were sent here before being put on ships back to Spain. The old city is a UNESCO world heritage site and is surrounded by a huge wall. Because of all of the money in the city the Spanish wanted to defend the city to the max so the wall was built along with multiple fortresses.

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Cocktails on a rooftop bar at sunset. 

We spent 2 of the days in Cartagena on the Islas del Rosarios which is a cluster of islands about an hour boat ride from the city. We decided we needed to take a vacation from our vacation/traveling and just relax by the pool before heading back to the states. The Islas del Rosarios is surrounded by a protected reef so we got a few more dives under our belt. Our favorite dive was a night dive where we saw a ton of lobsters and crabs. Then at the end of the dive we turned our lights off and got to see the bioluminescence in the water.

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Another one of the highlights was during dinners one of the guests would play the guitar and sing traditional Spanish songs. It was such a cool experience. Then on the last night the owner of the hotel shared a bottle of rum and Cuban cigars with all of the guests and the musician to thank him for playing. He also invited us all down to the lagoon near the hotel because it was one in five lagoons in the world where you could see great bioluminescence.

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Heading back to the city we had a pretty epic boat ride where the driver seemed to only drive the boat at full throttle over enormous waves. All of the passengers in the back of the boat were soaking wet by the end of the ride. Dan and I lucked out and only got a little wet. During this ride Dan coined the term #backlivesmatter so more attention would be put towards passengers at the back of the boat.

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Once back in the city we spent our time strolling the beautiful streets and city walls. At night the city really came alive with street musicians, dancers, and a male Shakira impersonator. These performers would rotate down the plazas to each of the restaurants. So each night you could sit on the patio of a restaurant on the plaza and have free entertainment.

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Nighttime is when the city really comes alive. The streets fill with tourists and locals, street performers, and horse drawn carriages. We took one of these carriages around one night. It was actually real affordable for a 20 minute ride where the driver tried to explain in broken English what the sites were. It ended up being a really cool way to see the city at night.

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Since Cartagena is on the coast we had a bunch of great seafood including some delicious ceviche. We ended up going back to the Cevicheria twice during our stay. The Cevicheria was also visited by Anthony Bourdain.

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Top 5 Things to Do in Cartagena:

  1. Take a boat trip to the Islas del Rosarios
  2. Sit on a patio sipping a mojito watching the street performers
  3. Get a horse drawn carriage tour of the old city
  4. Wander the city walls during sunset
  5. Eat ceviche
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Cusco, Peru – Machu Picchu, Quinoa, Potatoes and Guinea Pig???

Leaving Buenos Aires we head to Cusco Peru the capital of the former Inca Empire. At 12,500 ft Cusco challenges even altitude seasoned Coloradans. This flight turns out to be one of our most challenging yet. Long story short, after a night in Santiago, Chile our early morning flight to Lima was cancelled. After 3 hours with customer service we finally land in Cusco. We have no luggage. The next morning we leave for Machu Picchu. Booked weeks in advance, with only beachwear on our backs, we needed our bags. After several more baggage f’ups, Dan was finally able to get our bags literally seconds before we had to leave to catch our Machu Picchu train.

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Getting to Machu Picchu is still a breathe taking adventure. Even in 2016 it requires getting to Cusco. A 90 min cab ride, 2-hour trains ride and a harrowing 30 min bus ride. Or you can walk “the inca trail” and that is 4 days.

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The hippie and her backpack.

The small tourist town closest to Machu Picchu is called Aguas Calientes, Hot Water in English because it has hot springs. This town isn’t very exceptional, mostly standard tourist town junk. Overpriced low quality restaurants and knock off souvenirs.

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Our time here was only worth mentioning because for the 36 hours we were there, the power was out almost the whole time. Even in a remote city that should be used to being cut off the impact of having no power or internet created a semi-controlled chaos.

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Necessity dictates a romantic candle lit dinner in Aguas Calientes.

Walking in to Machu Picchu early in the morning we are a little drowsy and still getting our bearings. We quickly walk through most of the site, hurrying to get the gate for Huayna Picchu by 7 AM.

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The peak of Huayna Picchu looms over the ruins.

Only 400 people a day are allowed to hike the very harrowing steps up to the peak. It’s quite a trek up but we’ve heard the view from the top is amazing. Huayna Picchu itself is really cool. Built as a sentry tower overlooking everything there are a good amount of ruins and stuff to see even on the top of this crazy steep mountain.

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That fall is every bit as deadly as it looks. 2000 feet down to the river below. No guardrail.

Finally getting there we look out over the valley and… all we see if fog.

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We wait a few minutes for the sun to rise higher in the sky and magically the fog clears and it’s stunning.

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All the work, all the money, all the hype, seven wonder of the world… It’s worth it all. Machu Picchu is amazing.

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Back down Huayna Picchu we explore the grounds. There is so much to say, I’ll keep it short and let the pictures speak. One thing you should do is hire a guide, for a couple hours. Well worth the $10 each.

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Only in habited for 90 years, much of Machu Picchu is unfinished. These 3 windows, were for the Condor (sky), Puma (earth), and Snake (ground). You can see the precision and scale of Inca building.

 

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The terraces of Machu Picchu were not used for growing food. Instead they grew Coca. Prized throughout the Inca Empire.
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How to keep the jungle from encroaching? A team of 16 llamas patrols the terraces keeping the grass cut.
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The classic view of Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu from the Watchtower Hut

Reversing our course, we head back to Cusco and have 3 days to explore the city. Cusco is one of the best cities we’ve seen. We loved it. 7½ months in, we’ve seen a lot, Cusco is unlike anywhere we’ve been so far. It’s got a great vibe, really nice people and a very unique history. Plus some very special shopping, but we’ll get to that later. The central square, Plaza De Armas, is a UNESCO world heritage site, and it’s beautiful at night.

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First day in Cusco, what’s on tap? Cuy of course! Following a few local tips, Dan drags Kristin 45 minutes outside the city to Tipon, the cuy jump off for locals. Getting a very local experience, this was a fun adventure for us. What is cuy?

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Guinea Pig! Plucked of hair and stuffed with local mountain herbs, they then get roasted in an oven for an hour. Delicious, at least in Dan’s opinion, they taste like fatty rabbit.

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In our experience, one of the best ways to see a city is by taking a walking tour. Most of the tours we go for are free, where they ask you to tip the guide at the end. In Cusco, we were the only ones who showed up for the afternoon tour. A private tour for us! There is a ton of history in Cusco. It was the capital city for the Inca’s and their 3,000 mile empire stretched from Bogota, Colombia to Santiago, Chile.

The stone wall on the right has stood for over 1.000 years.
The stone wall on the right has stood for over 1.000 years.

Many buildings in Cusco are built on top of, or using stones originally cut by the Inca. When the Spanish conquered, they tore down many Inca palaces, and rebuilt their own palaces in their place, also known as churches.

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The jesuit church in the background was built with Inca stone.

The size and scale of their construction is the most amazing part. Hundreds of thousands of precisely cut stones are still found throughout the city.

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In our 7½ months we’ve seen a lot of junk. Many “local” souvenirs appear in lots of places and are made in China. We feel like we have very high standards for buying stuff. But in Cusco we went a little nuts, why? Alpaca. These high land animals are raised in the Andes of Peru and have been used for thousands of years to create soft and warm sweaters, jackets and hats. In Cusco however, the real attraction is Baby Alpaca. Baby Alpaca is actually juvenile alpaca, it’s the first shaving of their wool. Like a baby’s butt or petting a puppy it is unbelievably soft.

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Blarfs! This is Baby Alpaca blanket will set you back about $130.

Taking off, we pause to realize our next country is our last of the trip, Colombia.

Top 5 things to do in Cusco

  • Go to Machu Picchu, obviously
  • Have a sunset cocktail at dusk over Plaza de Armas
  • Gross out your friends and eat a guinea pig
  • Take a walking tour of the city and live the Inca past
  • Fondle some baby alpaca and buy as much as you can carry

Montevideo, Uruguay – Meat and Mate

Montevideo is the capital city of Uruguay and only a 1 hour boat and 3 hour bus ride from Buenos Aires (BA). A lot of portenos (Buenos Aires residents) board the boat on the weekends to head to the beaches of Uruguay. We decided to head to Montevideo after discovering that it was a pretty simple trek from BA. You would think that with Uruguay being so close to BA they would be very similar but that was not the case. Uruguay has a very strong African influence and is bordered by Brazil on the west so there was a lot stronger Latin flavor to the city. The first night we arrived we heard drums down the street so we went outside to investigate and found a troupe of 30 drummers and 20 dancers heading towards us. Apparently they were practicing for Carnaval so we got to stand on the street with the local and get a sneak peak of the show.

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Practicing for Carnaval on the street in front of our apartment. 

Montevideo seems to beat to the rhythm of its own drum (see what I did there?) where the people set their own schedules lunch in the afternoon, dinners not until 10pm, and dancing at 4am. I now know how they can stay up until the sun comes up. They are continuously drinking a caffeinated tea called Yerba Mate. You see most locals carrying around thermoses and mate’s with bombillas sticking out of them. Mate’s are the vessels that the mate is served in and the bombilla is the straw. These three accessories are crucial to drinking Yerba Mate because the Yerba Mate is a loose leaf tea that you pour into your mate, add hot water from your thermos, and sip through your bombilla. The Bombilla is a metal straw with a filter at the bottom that filters your Yerba Mate. You also have to carry around a thermos because the Mate (cup you are drinking from) only holds a small amount of water and mate so you are continuously filling and emptying. The locals especially liked to sit by the river on La Rambla during the weekends and evening sipping mate.

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Montevideo is covered in street art. Here is an example of some of the better works.

 

Another Uruguayan specialty is the Chivito. The Chivito is the ultimate fat kid meal and a heart attack waiting to happen. We ordered the complete plate which consisted of a pile of French fries, potato salad, and a small green salad topped with a steak, ham, cheese, and an egg. It was delicious but I could definitely feel my arteries clog a little while eating it.

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This is a chivito. Largest pile of french fries topped with meat, ham, cheese, and eggs.

A similarity between BA and Montevideo was the love of grilled meat. The Mercado del Puerto is an awesome market that is filled with Parillija’s. You pull up a chair, sip some medio y medio (half white wine have sparkling) or litres of beer, and order delicious grilled meats and vegetables. The chorizo we had here was the best probably ever. The Mercado del Puerto is also great because it is surround by local artisans selling awesome crafts so you can eat your heart out and then wander around the city shopping and looking at the beautiful buildings and striking street art/graffiti.

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Parrilla in the Mercado del Puerto.

Another market worth checking out is the newer Mercado Agricole there are some neat souvenir shops, a food court, brewery tasting, and Materia. Dan and I got the skinny on how to drink Yerba Mate so Dan could use his newly purchased mate and bombilla that he picked up at the Sunday outdoor market.

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Dan and I didn’t end up staying up until the sun came up but we did check out a cool live music and tango venue Baar Fun Fun where we got to listen to some authentic music and tried uvita which is a sweet wine drink. They have different acts every night so it is worth checking out the schedule before heading over.

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Uruguayan craft beer.

On our last day in Montevideo we stopped to check out the Museo de Andes 1972. This museum outlines and pays tribute to the survivors and casualties of the 1972 Uruguayan airplane crash in the Andes. The museum tells the story of how 15 people not only survived a plane crash they survived 72 days above tree line in the snow covered Andes. Their story is amazing. The plane that crashed was carrying a Rugby team and their friends and family. In order to survive that had to resort to eating the dead. It’s a great story and the museum was well done. Definitely recommended if in Montevideo.

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Top 5 things to do in Montevideo:

  1. Eat Chorizo and sip Medio y Medio at the Mercado del Puerto
  2. Wander the colonial streets looking for street art and appreciating the architecture
  3. Sip Yerba Mate with the locals on the Rambla
  4. Visit the Museo de Andes 1972
  5. Try a Chivito at one of the local diners

Buenos Aires – European City in South America

We spent about 10 days total in Buenos Aires and still feel like we didn’t even come close to seeing the entire city. There are so many cool neighborhoods and places to see the city will definitely keep you busy. The first half of our visit was spent in the Recoleta neighborhood and the second half was in Palermo. We would definitely recommend the Palermo neighborhood over Recoleta because there are a lot more restaurants nearby and it seems like the happening place to be. Recoleta was nice because it was near some of the main sites and really close to a subway line.

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At first we weren’t so sure about Buenos Aires because it seemed that too many things were going wrong. First Kristin’s checked bag was lost but was eventually delivered at 11:30pm that same night. Second we were majorly scammed for the first time on our trip. We needed to change money on a Sunday and had been reading that the street exchange rate is a lot better than the exchange rate that a bank will give you so we headed to Florida street where it was recommended by our host to exchange some USD to Argentinian pesos. As you are walking down Florida street you pass people offering you to change money. We ended up selecting a pair of seedy looking dudes to exchange money with. We then walked away from the main street and gave them $200 USD and we got our Argentinian pesos. After Dan and I walked away we had a bad feeling about the transaction and lo and behold when we tried to use the money the cashier took one look at it and new it was fake. We basically bought Xeroxed copies of pesos!! YEA! At first we thought about throwing the fake money away or maybe lighting it on fire but decided against it and will be bringing it home as a souvenir and maybe figuring out some way to use it.

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After getting over the initial ass kicking that Buenos Aires provided we ended up having a pretty good time. Buenos Aires is famous for their Parrillas which are restaurants that serve all kinds of cuts of grilled beef, lamb, sausages, and chicken. They usually have an open kitchen where you can watch the meat being grilled. These places are everywhere so we ended up eating at a few different ones during our stay. You really can’t go wrong with some delicious grilled meat, salad, and a bottle of Malbec.

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Our two favorites were the Parrilla Pena and Don Julio. Parrilla Pena was a really affordable option near our place in Recoleta. Don Julio was a little bit more expensive but so worth it. This was probably the best steak I have ever had and was perfectly cooked. I had the tenderloin and Dan got a ribeye. Dan also had a Morcilla which is a blood sausage that he said was out of this world.

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Oh and I forgot to mention the grilled meat is always served with Chimichurri. I love Chimichurri. The Argentinian chimichurri is a lot different than what we are used to. Instead of fresh herbs it is usually made with dried herbs, is less garlicy, and sweeter from the addition of roasted peppers. Each parrilla had its own version so it was fun to try different types.

Buenos Aires is also famous for the Tango and a Tango show is a must see while in the city. We decided on Tango Porteno which was near Recoleto and was more modern than the traditional shows. We really enjoyed it.

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A good way to see Recoleta is to participate in the free walking tour on the neighborhood. We did this one morning and got a good introduction to the city, some history, and overview of the great and differing architecture. Our guide was really fun and played the guitar/sang during different sections of the tour. During the tour we walked by a protest (we saw more than a few during our stay) and the guide proceeded to tell us that there is always a protest in BA and you never know what they are protesting about. The tour ended at the Cemetary Recoleta which is gorgeous to walk through and you can see Eva Perron’s grave (aka Evita).

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Another neighborhood worth checking out is the San Telmo neighborhood. It is more hippie than Recoleta and Palermo. The streets are lined with cool antique shops and boutiques. We explored the neighborhood on Sunday when there was a huge outdoor market. People were selling antiques, handicrafts, art, and all kinds of random stuff. The market ended at the Plaza de Mayo where more protests are held and the famous Casa Rosada stands where Evita spoke from the balcony to the Argentinian citizens. Near the plaza is Café Tortoni probably the most famous café in BA. We stopped here to grab some churros and chocolate but they were out of churros!! We ended up settling for the more authentic coffee and medialunas (aka sweet croissants).

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There was a cool Jazz bar, Notorious, that we stumbled upon while we were exploring the Recoleta neighborhood. We stopped by one night for dinner and a show. They musicians were paying a tribute to Miles Davis. Definitely worth a stop if you are in the neighborhood.

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When we got back from Uruguay we stayed in the super hipster trendy neighborhood of Palermo. We fell in love with this neighborhood. There are tons of cafes, restaurants, bars, and shops that you can walk to and the sidewalks are full of locals milling about. We ended up finding a super cool coffee shop that was only a few blocks from our apartment and ended up heading here every day. It was so great to have a great light roast Aeropress or Chemex coffee (Yea I know. We are coffee snobs.) One day at the shop this guy on a bike showed up serving handmade New York bagels with cream cheese and lox. And he was a Jew from New York living in BA. It is amazing the people you meet while traveling.

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On one of our last days in BA we headed to the La Boca neighborhood which is totally worth the trip. The neighborhood is home to the Bocas Juniors soccer team stadium and Caminito a row of buildings painted bright colors where tons of artists hang out. We took a tour of the stadium and were impressed that they don’t let anyone in wearing another teams jersey. The stadium is pretty run down but you can tell that the locals love the Bocas Juniors because people are sporting their colors all over the city. Caminito was fun to tour around and look at what the locals are creating. There were also stands slinging fresh squeezed OJ!

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Top 5 things to do in Buenos Aires:

  1. Eat a perfectly cooked steak at Don Julio
  2. See a tango show
  3. Visit La Boca and wander Caminito
  4. Sip a hipster coffee in Palermo
  5. Take a walking tour of Recoleta and end with a café and medialuna at Café Tortoni

Ushuaia, Argentina – Fin del Monde

Ushuaia is as far south as south gets. The land of fire, tierra del fuego, is an large island at the tip of South America. The bottom of Patagonia, it’s a place where Antarctic winds blow daily and the weather changes in minutes. Ushuaia is a far as you can go before you reach Antarctica.

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Leaving Hawaii, the easiest way to get to South America, is back through Auckland. Landing very late on Dec. 31st, we actually got to celebrate the Worlds first New Years, in New Zealand.

 

wp-1453639333229.jpgAfter what was basically a long layover, we hopped on a flight to Buenos Aires, and then on to Ushuaia. Ushuaia is a strange place. An outpost, a link to the world beyond, for one of the most isolated regions in the world. Ushuaia is normally just a transit point for people boarding ships to Antarctica, but for us it was a destination.

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Ushuaia is cool, similar to coastal Alaska. A place where steep mountains crash into the seas, massive glacier sculpted valleys inspire awe, and unique wildlife roam the bays. It’s also has a very interesting history. Settled by the British as a penal colony, it was a major port of call for everyone from Magellan to Darwin. It has since served the world as a whaling port, then a major fishing port and now as the jumping off point for Antarctica.

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Prison cells now serve as exhibits on everything from Darwin’s expedition here to whale anatomy.

On one of our days in Ushuaia we hopped on a boat for a harbor cruise. Probably the best activity of our trip, out boat took us to see a colony of Imperial Cormorants, a group of once nearly extinct southern sea lions and a famous lighthouse that serves as a beautiful photo opportunity.

 

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A male sea lion stands tall watching over his “honey babies”

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The real attraction for the cruise is however to see a few of Antarctica’s most famous residents, 2 types of penguins. Magellanic and Gentoo penguins summer off Ushuaia.

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We were only able to see this group of the smaller Magellanic penguins as the Gentoo proved to be more elusive.

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Another great day for us was when we hiked Tierra del Fuego National Park.

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Only 10 miles from Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego is a beautiful and well maintained park.

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Our hike along its incredibly windy coastline provided many beautiful photos. Being here, we’ve felt as small as anywhere we’ve been on our trip.

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They love their “southern-ness.” After a long hike in the park, we enjoyed a pint of the world’s southern most beer. Brewed with Patagonian hops and barley.

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Another day, we headed just outside of the city to hike to one of the many glaciers that overlook Ushuaia. The only chairlift for this “ski resort” was broken, so an hour hike it was up to see the snow. Living in an endless summer for the last year, seeing snow was a welcomed site for Dan who loves his winters.

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As you know, we love our food and Ushuaia didn’t disappoint. Still a major fishing port, it one of the only places in the world where you can get fresh King Crab. After a few mediocre overpriced meals, we found Garibaldi’s Restaurant and we never looked back. We ate here 3 of our 5 nights in Ushuaia. Standout dishes were a mixed seafood stew, black risotto with shrimp and king crab and king crab ceviche.

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This entire pile is king crab. Only in Ushuaia could you get this because ceviche requires uncooked crab.

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Top 5 things to do in Ushuaia

  1. Go to Antarctica, we didn’t cause it costs $10 – $15k a person for a 10 day cruise
  2. Take a harbor ride to see the penguinos
  3. Hike to coastline in Tierra del Fuego National Park
  4. Visit Garibaldi’s and go nuts ordering king crab
  5. Hike to the glacier for spectacular views of Ushuaia

Big Island, Hawaii – Mele Kalikimaka

A very big thank you to Chris, Dan’s dad, for surprising us with an offer to join him, Beth and Alex in Hawaii for Christmas. Initially we had booked to go from New Zealand to Argentina but after Chris offered tickets to Hawaii, we changed plans deciding to fly from Auckland to the Big Island.

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Flying to Hawaii from New Zealand time wise is the strangest flight in the world crossing just one time zone, the date line, flying to Hawaii means going back in time 23 hours.

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Poppa Peterson, just completed his dream home over looking Kona harbor. We we’re so happy to be able to christen it with him and the rest of the family. Hawaii was a great breath of fresh air for us. Traveling, packing, moving. Changing languages, currencies, time zones. Waking up in a strange land every day, it’s amazing and we wouldn’t trade it for anything, but it’s also tiring. Hawaii was a great dose of the familiar.

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View of Christmas Eve sunset from the porch of the new house.

This year for Christmas, we decided that instead of gifts, we would exchange experiences. So our time in Hawaii, was mostly punctuated by the adventures we had.

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Beth, took the whole family on a helicopter tour of the volcanic side of the island. Kristin and I hadn’t ever been in a helicopter, so that we really cool. It was amazing to fly over miles of black volcanic lands seeing the changing landscape over time.

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Chris bought us a whale watching expedition. Capt. Dave McSweeney is one of the worlds leading researchers of humpback whale vocalizations. It was awesome to get to learn about their research while searching for whales and dolphins. We saw humpbacks, bottlenose dolphins and Hawaiian spinner dolphins.

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Kristin and Dan got everyone in the water for a nighttime scuba/snorkel adventure with Kona’s very famous manta rays. The manta night dive consistently ranks as one of the top scuba adventures in the world. This year landing at #7, you might remember #1 from earlier in the trip.

This dive takes place off the coast of Kona, near the airport in a “plankton corral”, where the ocean current forces the plankton up against a lava rock wall. The lights attract the plankton, and the mantas swoop in to collect an easy meal.

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North Island, New Zealand – Hot Springs and Hipsters

We put together a video of our whole NZ adventure. It’s pretty much chronological, if you haven’t seen it, it sums up the whole crazy roadie. Drive a few hours, get blown away by something awesome, sleep in van, repeat!

Top 5 New Zealand Adventures

  1. Take the drive to Milford Sound
  2. Visit a glowworm cave
  3. Visit Queenstown, the adrenaline capital of the world
  4. Spend the day cruising Marlborough wine country
  5. Visit White Island, and hang with an active volcano

North Island Exploits

Exiting the Interislander in Wellington, we drive Rocket onto North Island soil. Thnka to a great tip we got way back in Myanmar,  its WAY cheaper to rent a campa in the South Island and drive it to Auckland. Even paying the ferry fee ~US$175, we saved a thousand bucks renting Rocket in Christchurch and dropping it in Auckland.

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14 days in a van has it’s downside. Showering in communal showers at holiday parks just doesn’t get one clean. 3 – 5 hours a day driving cramps your body up. The cure? Natural hot springs. Waikite was awesome. Beautiful pools, and for US$40 you get a home for Rocket and entrance for both days to the pools. What a refreshing way to wake up.

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Fueled up, we push on toward Waitomo and its famous glowworm caves. What’s a glowworm? It’s a creature that drops a spider web like net that glows in the dark. Bugs from the outside the cave fly towards the light inside and dinner is served.

wp-1453049205781.jpgThis cave is a tourist trap, but very worth going to. It’s jaw dropping to experience the caves.

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Back in the light of day, we head to Whakatane, and white island. Whakatane is famous in the native Maori culture for a story of a woman single handedly saving a boat full of women and children during a storm. This statue stands in her honor at the mouth of the harbor.

wp-1451710244893.jpgWhite Island is just off the coast, and is an active marine volcano.

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For science nerds, its like going to Disney land. We got to, stand on the edge of the crater rim, see a lake that is -2 pH and taste pure sulpher. Plus, on the ride out, we saw dolphins!

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Last day before heading to Auckland, we head to Hot Beach. Hot Beach is just that, a beautiful coastline beach where hot water seeps out via the sand. The process is simple, show up just before low tide, elbow out some space, dig a hole and relax in your own private jacuzzi. Only when we dig our pit and we scald ourselves. Turns out you got to be careful where you dig, some of the water is up to 140 degrees!

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Packing up, it hits us our last day with Rocket has come. One more night in the woods and we’ll have to return him.

wp-1453049254698.jpgWe make our last night count, camping in the bush and hiking to see a grove of massive Kauri trees before starting our drive to Auckland.

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New Zealand has really well maintained hiking trails. Still, it doesn’t make the over 660 steps much easier.

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Saying goodbye to Rocket, we check into our Airbnb for 3 days in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city. It was really nice to get out of the van, sleep in a real bed, and shower in a non-communal bathroom. In Auckland we stayed near Ponsonby road, a really cool street filled with hipster shops and restaurants.

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We spent a decent amount of time just chilling, catching up on work while in Auckland. Our highlight activity was our day trip to Waiheke, also known as Wine Island.

wp-1453049171538.jpgOnly a 30 min ferry from downtown, Waiheke is a sweet day trip. A bus circuits the island and drops off at over 15 wineries. Good wines and a great day trip, like going to Sonoma valley, just easier to get to and tour.

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We bought a case of wine to take with us, because next stop is Hawaii for X-mas. Thanks for taking our case of wine home Chris!