Fiji – Bula, tropical paradise!

9.1.17 – 20.1.17

Whenever we write an article for our blog we are like “Man, we were on the Fiji Islands, how cool is that?!” 🙂 And interestingly, it is not as expensive as you might think. Our impression of Fiji was this posh rich-people island we leave totally broke and ready to fly home. What we got was backpackers everywhere, many coming from/going to New Zealand or Australia and modest prices for food and accommodation (okay, it was a 16-bed dorm, but comfy anyway!). Most of the people were – surprise – German travelers! What a crazy travel nation these Germans are … 😉

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Our first days on Fiji we spent close to Nadi, trying to cope the loss of one day – flying from Hawaii to Fiji caused 23hours time difference and hence, we never lived the 8th of January 2017. 😀 Other than that we organized the following days: we wanted to go on an Islands hop trip around the Yasawa islands close to Fiji. In total, 333 belong to the mainland and 3 of them we wanted to discover within the next 6 days! Early in the morning we boarded the huge Catamaran, basically the water taxi for all the islands the tourists can visit. Within the next 5 hours we shipped along so many stunning and beautiful islands, crystal clear water, amazing to see!

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Our first island was one of the remotest ones and shortly before they droped us off it was pouring! We tried to hide our backpacks and ourselves in black plastic bags, but 5min before we needed to leave the boat it stopped raining, thank you! A small side boat took us to the island and we immediately felt comfortable with our travel group – our honeymoon couple Evelyn and Isaac from LA and Debbie from the Netherlands. I think we will have tons of fun on the islands… 😉 Our first dinner was very traditional and consisted of rice and the local Casawa root, which reminded us a lot of the Yuka-food in Colombia.
Expect for one small walk through the island to another beach, our days were pretty lazy here. We enjoyed the bathtub warm water and jumped in the ocean as often as possible. Here we really got in touch with the locals, because the resort is family owned. One small kid was really cute and kept playing around us, but whenever we tried to talk to him (we asked for his name, “Bill”) he wouldn’t respond or say anything….well, in the end it turned out that “Bill” is actually a girl and he’s not deaf as we had assumed, he was simply a girl named Casey…oh god. 😀 Who got this whole thing wrong in the first place?!

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On the 3rd day we moved to another island, Naviti island. The staff welcomed us with a big “Bula!”, which means hello in Fijian and sang a song. This day we learned that some days ago the islands had a tsunami warning and everyone needed to move to the highest spot possible on the island. All of a sudden we for the first time thought about this major danger and wondered how we would ever survive on such a small island! Everything would be just washed away…scary.

The next morning we woke up to the sound of the morning drum, calling us for breakfast. But wait, isn’t it one hour too early…? Oh no, as we learn, the time has been changed here , makes sense…but Ellen in her German way of thinking almost loses her s***…”why has no one told us this earlier, could they not have made an announcement?!?! What is wrong with these people, why did no one say anything yesterday….”. Haha. 🙂 This is obviously the Fiji time everyone talks about here – whenever we would ask for something like pick up time, they’d say “10am, but Fiji time people!”. Means: add another 30min and you know when to be ready. 😉

The humid and hot days here were really hard to get used to, but our animation team from the island did everything to distract us, such as presenting us the “Gecko Man”, a local guy who has learned to climb a palm tree up, get the coconuts and climb down, head first!!

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Our last island on the 5th day is probably the smallest one we’ve ever seen in our lives – it took us solid 5 minutes to walk around it…haha. 🙂 We enjoy a crazy delicious dinner and a whole next day full of sunshine, snorkeling, submarine ride around the reef and good talks.

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What a privilege to travel as we do…seeing so many different countries, cultures and climate zones, meeting awesome people and live our lifes to the fullest! Thanks also to our best Fiji companions possible – we cannot wait to meet you, Evelyn, Isaac and Debbie again, some day somehow. 🙂 We shared so much fun, laughter, sweat plus mosquito bites like with no one else, haha 🙂

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Hawaii: Maui & O’ahu

16.12.16 – 08.01.17

After our time in South America, we actually planned to fly to New Zealand right afterwards. But checking the world map, then checking some flights, we had decided to make a stop on Hawaii as well, because – hello, what reason do we need for Hawaii?! 🙂 We didn’t wanna miss the chance to see at least one of the islands there. Our first stop would be Maui!

From Santiago de Chile, we flew via Houston, Texas to Honolulu and then Maui. The immigration went smooth („are you guys on your honeymoon?“ :)), until the point when we told the officer that we’re unemployed…holy crap. From one second to another, his facial expression changed and he started to shoot questions at us (where we stay, how much money we have, when we leave the US,…). We felt like being interrogated for a serious crime although we haven’t done anything wrong! Only the fact that we‘re currently not employed was enough to be suspects. After several minutes he decided to give us the desired stamp, not missing the opportunity to put us through a special luggage check…man, we were so happy when we finally sat at the gate for our flight to Honolulu. 🙂 We suppose for the American culture, being voluntarily unemployed AND travel does not make any sense.

We arrived on Maui in the evening and headed straight to our Airbnb place close to the small town of Paia in the North. The place we stayed at had a huge property and a beautiful big garden with banana and avocado trees, exotic flowers and a great view on the ocean (which was far away but still, we saw it ;)). We would share the kitchen and bathroom with a family from Oregon and they were already there. Hans and Ella were pretty cool and we knew we would get along with them well…and then he asked us if we wanna smoke some weed, because he has good contacts since his job is growing weed….in California…what?! 🙂 🙂 After a quick stop at the grocery store „Costco“, where you typically buy XXL packages such as 3kg of grapes, 3liters of milk and so on we go to bed early – and wake up the next day with a colorful rainbow right in front of us. Wow Maui, you beauty.

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The first days we didn’t have a car yet and stayed mostly on the property, enjoying the beautiful garden and the possibility to get settled somewhere for little bit longer. I even went so far as to unpack my backpack and store my clothes in a closet. When did we have a closet for the last time? Finally we have a car and head right away to the next beach in Kihei, the South-west of Maui. Cruising down the street with automatic gear, we feel flashbacks back to the time in the US 4 years ago where we met – great times. 😉 The water is refreshing and although we have all the luxurious hotels right behind us, there are not too many people on the beach. OMG, did we just see a whale jumping out of the water on the horizon?? Yes, no joke, while we sit on the beach, whales are playing in the water and jump…it’s indescribable. We stay until the sunset and then head to a Hula Show close by in one of the Hotel resort shopping malls. Hula actually plays a huge role in Hawaiian history:

A trip to Hawaii is incomplete without enjoying at least one Hawaiian hula performance. The hula dance is one of Hawaii’s oldest traditions and is often accompanied by either Hawaiian music (mele) or a traditional Hawaiian chant. While the Hawaiian hula dance has become a popular source of entertainment for visitors to Hawaii, its role in Hawaiian culture is to visually portray the story of the chant or song [http://www.govisithawaii.com/2013/05/21/hawaiian-hula-dance/].

For the first time to be honest, we get a little bit of a Christmas feeling there because the decoration is beautiful and the band, among the Hula music, plays traditional Hawaiian Christmas songs…Mele Kalikimaka,lalalalala… 🙂

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The next day we drive to Lahaina, a cute coastal city on the western side of Maui. It is especially known for the Banyan tree growing there, a huge tree with roots growing from up to down. The branches grow to the earth and create more roots so that the tree can get bigger and bigger. Fascinating to see. This day it is very hot outside and so I have to try the famous Shave Ice. It consists of normal ice cream on the bottom, topped by actual ice which is shaved in a round shape and sweetened by sweet syrup with different flavors to choose. I expected so much and then it was just…ice..like ice cubes with flavor…so weird. 🙂 Since we also wanted to try some snorkeling, we headed to „Snorkel Bob’s“, a store which sells and provides diving and snorkel equipment. Close by is a beach where we try to snorkel – unfortunately, the water is too wild and moreover, there’s almost no space for our beach blanket because all the hotel guests occupy the area. It is great that Hawaii has the rule to guarantee free beach access to everyone, but this sometimes means you have to enter a resort area first to even get to a beach. Like the next one we head to, where we are completely surprised by the size of the hotel area: it’s a small village! Golf resort, Spa & wellness, all combined in 3 big hotels with very expensive rooms and Americans who are obviously willing to pay 380$ the night. And there’s us, not willing to pay that but still sitting on the same beach with them – funny. 😀

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Jaws! Our next destination the following day. It’s a really famous surf spot on Maui, because only the very brave, utterly fearless surfers come here to catch waves as high as a house! They are being pulled in the waves by jet skis and then…it goes far far down. Crazy surfers. Sadly, the waves are not that high this day and so we decide to drive along the North coast of Maui. The vegetation changes immediately, everything is green and lush, it doesn’t feel like Hawaii but looks like Scotland. 🙂 The road is so windy, with narrow curves and a lot of view points for observing the steep cliffs. We stop at the Olive pools, a natural hole formation on the shore, but we don’t even make it down the stony slippery way because I slip on a stone, fall down and scratch open half of my leg (okay okay, maybe not half of my leg but a tiny part under my knee). It bleeds. I will certainly die, I know it. But my savior Jakub comes, cleans the wound with water and disinfection Kleenex and the stupid olive pools can kiss my ass. 😉 We he’d back up to continue driving to a blow hole, which blows out water from the crashing waves.

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It’s Christmas day, the 24th of December! For this special day we will do a special trip: early in the morning at 4:30am we get up, pack all the warm clothes we have (who would have thought that we need them on Maui?) and head straight to Haleakala Crater:

Haleakala, or the East Maui Volcano, is a massive shield volcano that forms more than 75% of the Hawaiian Island of Maui. The western 25% of the island is formed by another volcano, Mauna Kahalawai, also referred to as the West Maui Mountains.

The tallest peak of Haleakala (“house of the sun”), at 10,023 feet (3,055 m), is Puʻu ʻUlaʻula (Red Hill). From the summit one looks down into a massive depression some 11.25 km (7 mi) across, 3.2 km (2 mi) wide, and nearly 800 m (2,600 ft) deep. The surrounding walls are steep and the interior mostly barren-looking with a scattering of volcanic cones [https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haleakalā].

We arrive there in the early morning hours and most of the parking is full – all these tourists. We walk 5 minutes up to have a better view, make ourselves comfortable and wait for the show – the sunrise. As the first light is visible the colors are amazing! When the sun is almost up, a big cloud hides it from our view and instead of being disappointed by the blocked view, we are stunned because it looks even more magical! What a great experience.
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Being awake that early we use the day, Skype with our families, then head to the beach and get some groceries for our Christmas dinner. We want to cook something traditional and combine Slovakia potato salad with German sausage and Californian red wine – and then we realize that it is the first time for us celebrating Christmas together. 🙂
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Our new housemate Francis from Canada arrives on the 25th and since we get along with him from the beginning we decide to drive along the famous Hana road with him. We start at 7am to avoid traffic jams on the narrow road…it has 600 curves and a lot of beautiful nature to offer! We feel like driving through Jurassic Park and wait for the T-Rex to catch us. 😉 We make several stops, to hike through muddy forest paths, see the power of huge waves crashing on the cliffs, hop in the ocean to play with the waves and enjoy life.

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Between Christmas and new Years Eve, we have seen the heaviest rainfall we’ve ever seen in our life’s. For 24 hours it did not stop raining! The region around Haiku, where our Airbnb is located is known for rain during Winter, but that was just crazy. Several landslides on the road to Hana, which we drove along a couple of days ago makes it impossible to use the road. Hence, our New Years Eve was pretty rainy and we decided to have a delicious homemade Paella from our chef Jakub, invited Francis over and spent the evening at home.

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It’s 2017! And we’re still on the road, fulfilling our dream…for almost 6 months we’ve been travelling now and had the pleasure to end the year on Maui, Hawaii…can someone please wake me up from this dream? 😉
We have a couple of days left on Maui, which we spent visiting the Maui Ocean centre, a nice Aquarium with many endemic fishes. We also visit Hookipah beach, not only known for the windsurfers paradise, but for the Hawaiian green turtles which come every night ashore to rest and hide from the tiger sharks. Amazing how they lie on the beach and sleep!

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We migrate to the next island, O’ahu, to spend the next 4 days there. Our hostel is, of course, in the center of Waikiki Beach, where we head right after Check In. Holy crap, it is so crowded here!! Walking a little bit more left or right however, we see a beautiful park area, Banyan trees, more locals and less tourists. To get around and see the „real“ Hawaii, we rent a car and drive to the North Shore – it’s indeed completely different to the Honolulu area and in our opinion, the Hawaii how we imagined it to be: hilly, green, forest and jungle, lonely beaches, wonderful. Of course we drive to Banzai beach, the famous pipeline surf spot on O’ahu!

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But the biggest adventure is still ahead of us. We’re really excited…because we planned to see the „Stairway to heaven“. 🙂 When we started to Google it we thought: „Nope, not gonna happen,impossible, too dangerous, what if they catch us,…??“. But we did it!! Enjoy the pictures (and our video)…. 🙂

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The crazy thing about this hike is not the amount of stairs (3.900!!) or the access to it (sneaking through bamboo forest to avoid the guard), but that it is actually illegal and if we’d got fined for it, we would have payed between 600$ – 1.000$. That scared us „a little bit“, haha. All in all, we met many people on the stairs and since the guard hasn’t even seen us crawling around him, no fine expected us…only severe sore muscles from these stairs. It was an amazing way to end our time on Hawaii…our resume: if you ever have the chance to visit Hawaii, please do it! Not only did we have such diversified nature on both islands and such friendly locals we met, but you can spend so much time there on different things and explore the island easily by car. However, it is pricey and especially around Christmas and New Years Eve, prices rise. We think it was worth every cent we spent and leave Hawaii with a big smile. Admittedly, the best things we did or saw on Hawaii anyway were for free. 😉

MAHALO, HAWAII!

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5 Months in South America – our Review

We sat in the bus on our way to somewhere in South America. The tickets for the bus we bought 30 minutes before departure. I looked out of the window, seeing the half-done houses, the street dogs, the indigenous women with their colorful clothes and I turned to Jakub, saying: „We have to write a last sum up about South America…I don’t wanna forget what we liked so much about these countries…okay, and we should also mention what we didn’t like…“ 😉

So that’s what this text is about!

WHAT WE REALLY LIKED ABOUT SOUTH AMERICA

The uncomplicated and spontaneous planning: you wanna go on a hike tomorrow morning at 7am, but it’s already 6pm? No problem for SA, the tour agency would just call one of their 34 contacts and book you on some transport available

Nature in every kind: no matter if it was the ocean in Peru, the mountains in Ecuador, the banana plantation in Colombia, the lake in Bolivia – everything was breathtaking beautiful

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Tradition: the amazing colorful skirts of the indigenous Ecuadorian or Peruvian women, the strange sounding native language as old as the country itself, the music played with flutes and guitars,…so different to our European culture, but simply wonderful to witness

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Menu del Dia: wow, where do you get a whole menu including soup, a main dish, dessert and a drink for 2,00 – 4,00$?! Only in SA!

Different food in different countries: Colombia was super famous for its fried platanos, whereas Ecuador served corn, Peru has its potatoes, and so forth. Generally, we rarely didn’t like the food in South America – if so, then it was because of a certain spice…Ellen found out that she doesn’t like Cilantro AT ALL when we ate a soup in Colombia, full of Cilantro 😀

Encebollada - the soup which helps against any hangover ;)

Food markets: whether you wanted to buy fresh vegetables from native women, fresh fish from the ocean or enjoy a good Menu del Dia lunch, the food market was the place to be. This huge variety of fresh fruit and veggies, combined with the smell of 37 food stands cooking delicious things is indescribable.

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Street markets: you need headphones? New sunglasses? A North Face windblocker jacket? Just walk the main street and you’ll find everything you need and more 😉 Okay, the North Face jacket might be a fake…as well as the Ray Ban sunglasses…but they look pretty real at least 🙂

Baby transport: most likely every European woman when having a baby spends a lot of money on a baby buggy. In South America, you take a big multicolored scarf, roll the baby in a very sophisticated manner in the scarf and put it on your back. Done. No big deal. No pushing the carriage through crowded streets or trying to get in the packed bus. So convenient.

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Transport: we Germans think having the Deutsche Bahn is so handy because it takes you everywhere! So wrong. So expensive. So late. South America is certainly not known for their punctuality, but when it goes to bus schedules, hell yeah – then they know what „departure on time“ means! We’ve had so many comfortable, cheap and friendly bus rides…we’ll miss that, for sure

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Public transport system: well…where do we even start?! 😀 First of all, in countries like Peru or Bolivia, basically everyone can be a bus driver as long as you have a mini van or something alike. You just put a sign on the windshield indicating where you go and that’s it 🙂 And wherever people wanna get off they yell the the driver to drop them off at the next corner. So funny. Okay, let’s consider the situation having a normal public bus as we know it in Europe. Honestly, we only saw those in Argentina and Chile, the most developed countries :D. And you couldn’t get off wherever you wanted, no no, only at designated bus stops.

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Taxis: mainly because they were cheap, but also because every scooter,  motorbike, trike or whatsoever could possibly be a taxi!

The fastest Taxi in town

WHAT WE COULDN’T REALLY HANDLE IN SOUTH AMERICA

Environmental treatment: unfortunately, most of the people in South America don’t care at all about rubbish in the streets or emissions of cars. We have seen so much dirt in backyards, on the street, next to rubbish bins, in corn fields, you name it…only in very remote villages where people live from their own grown veggies, the nature was clean. Same problem with exhaust gases: the cars are so old or badly maintained that we kept putting a scarf or our sweater sleeves over our noses when we stood at a busy street. Even worse were the buses…they blew so much dirt in the environment that you could feel how little oxygen your lungs got! The dirtiest city among many was probably Guayaquil in Peru. Next to the street, small water puddles were black and sometimes even green from all the dirt! We hope that the education about pollution at some point starts at school so kids learn from early age what a clean environment could look like.

Toilet paper: might sound funny, but the toilet paper in South America doesn’t go in the toilet – it goes in the rubbish bin next to the toilet…might explain the big amount of rubbish they have to deal with

Hygiene standards: okay, when travelling through South America you don’t expect the same hygiene as in your own country, because you know they have less officials controlling these standards. That’s okay and you’ll survive anyway there – maybe with some stomach issues at a certain point, but still alright. 😉 What really shocked us however, were the prices for hygiene products, such as deodorant, shower gel, tampons,…it was so expensive that we completely understand why the poor natives cannot afford any of these!

Organization: We’d say that’s most likely one of the bigger problems as well. Yes, we both do work in a country which is so organized that you have a rule or law for every possible situation, whether it’s business related, daily life or school. 🙂 Maybe that’s the reason why it was especially difficult to understand why for example when boarding an airplane in Colombia, the last row passengers take the stairs at the front door and the first row passengers at the back door…or why 7 men are busy on a construction site, but only 3 are working and 4 are talking,…we could continue endlessly.

Tourist prices: Yes, as a tourist you will be ripped off many times, but they do it so obvious that we sometimes wondered if we should just walk away and don’t buy the bananas…or the street food….or book the trip… we have no problem paying more money on something when we know,  the right people who really do need it ask for more. But mostly the ones who already have enough rip you off.

We would say spending a couple of months in South America,  especially in countries such as Bolivia, Peru or Ecuador opens your eyes. The poverty there sometimes breaks your heart and if you hear on how much money some people live there a day you cannot imagine you’d ever be able to survive. And still, these people were so happy and friendly! They just see their happiness in other things as we Europeans do. Sometimes we arrived in a hostel and didn’t have hot water or maybe no water at all for a couple of hours. Internet was a precious thing – we just take it for granted in Europe to have water coming out of the grief or high-speed Internet everywhere. But most importantly: you don’t need a lot to be happy. We have our backpacks which still contain the clothes we brought on our trip and it’s totally sufficient! A good Menu del Dia, mountains and nature around you and the right travel companion is all you need sometimes. 🙂

 

Patagonia: Wild, Windy, Wonderful – Argentina & Chile

17.11.16 – 10.12.16

ARGENTINA

Where can we start with our text about this beautiful piece of nature? Honestly, Patagonia was one of the most stunning landscapes we have seen and combined with the rough weather, it was pure nature!

We left our cozy apartment in Salta fully “recovered” and ready to meet Ela in El Calafate, where our trip through Southern South America would begin. The weather in El Calafate was great and the craziest thing: we had daylight up until 10:30pm in the evening – so confusing! 🙂 Summer was about to start in Patagonia and there was not a tiny bit of Winter feeling coming up. Ella arrived one day after us in El Calafate, unfortunately without her backpack (which indeed was in the airplane, but they forgot to unload it, which we found out later. So it flew to Ushuaia and back the next day…:). Nevertheless, we started our first tour to the very famous “Perrito Moreno” Glacier in the National Park and were fascinated by the immense size of it. We both saw it from a boat ride as well as from the famous terraces – suddenly, a big piece of the glacier cracked and fell in the water, wow!! The noise it made was like a thunder rumbling close by – so cool. You would think that, like all the other glaciers in the world, the Perrito Moreno shrinks more and more, but actually the opposite is the case: it grows significantly! To celebrate this, we brought some champagne and cheered right in front of the glacier. 😉

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Once we had Ella’s backpack, we headed straight to El Chaltén, a hikers melting pot 3 hours away where we wanted to see the famous mountain “El Fitz Roy”. Our first trek lead us to the Laguna de los tres  in the Glacier National Park, a beautiful hike through forest trails. The last our is a constant uphill hike, super tough, but then you see the Laguna lying in front of you and it was worth the sweat. 🙂 Unfortunately, the weather was not on our side, at least for the lookout: it was cloudy and rainy and the Fitz Roy not to be seen. Well, we anyway enjoyed the trek (in total, we walked 20km this day and we all thought we won’t make a single step the next day!) and treated ourselves with some good Argentinian wine…from the countless of different bottles of wine we have tried in Patagonia, all of them were so delicious. 🙂 Not even the box wine we bought on the campsite in Torres del Paine National Park was bad. 🙂

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The next day our legs were heavy and the weather cloudy again and we thought: “what’s the point in walking to a lookout when you don’t see a single thing?” 🙂 🙂 But as we know, the weather changes very quickly here and additionally learned from our hostel receptionist that on another trek, we’d end up at a mirador where we would see both the Fitz Roy mountain as well as the Cerro Torre. So we packed our backpacks and headed straight to Laguna Cerro Torre. Again, the trail was incredibly beautiful and green…unfortunately, the promised lookout did not show us both mountains at the same time – that was geographically impossible. 😉 However, the weather got better and better, the sun was shining and we enjoyed the laguna without seeing the Fitz Roy again. Our chase for that mountain drove us almost insane! 🙂 On our way back, the mountain panorama was simply stunning. Returning to the village we met a guide with a group, so we asked him for a good way to see the Fitz Roy. Embarrassingly, he said “Turn around! There it is! And you even see it from the village!”….oh man. Really? Haha. 🙂 And true, while we were cooking this evening in our hostel, we could spot the summit from the kitchen window.

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CHILE

Travelling through Patagonia usually includes a visit of the famous “Torres del Paine” National Park, which is why we headed there the next day. Of course, the bus ride did not take us 6 hours only, but 7,5 hours – typically border crossing process craziness. 🙂 We arrived in Puerto Natales, which is the starting point for everyone who decides to explore the park. Most of the people come here to do the well-known “W-Trek”, a 4 days hiking adventure, the nights being spent in a tent, self-guided and you can start wherever you want with your hike! Sounds so cool, but it’s not that easy actually…all the campsites in the park and along the W-Trek have to be booked in advance, even the ones which don’t cost a cent (and obviously, don’t have any luxury such as a shower or a normal toilet). As we only learned that 2 days before we arrived in Puerto Natales, Jakub, the best planner in the world, googled until his fingers bled and organized the perfect route for us. 😉 We’d start the first day in the park by doing only a day trip to see the Western trail, then would come back 2 days later to start a 3 days/2 nights trek from East to the Middle. 🙂 The committee (Ela and Ellen) decided that 2 nights in a tent would be completely enough and agreed to Jakub’s plan.

Starting on the Western side of the park at Laguna Grey, we got to know Patagonia from its roughest side. First of all, the prices were absolutely crazy: a 30 min. boat ride to the starting point cost us 40$ round trip! Secondly, the wind on this part of the trail literally blew us away. We could barely enjoy the glacier at the end of the trail, because the lookout point was high up and the wind so strong and cold that we could stay there for maximum 2 minutes and needed to return down. 🙂 What a lesson – starting our 3 day trek would mean for us that we’d better be prepared for all kinds of weather!

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But before this adventure could start, we needed to rent all the equipment: tent, warm sleeping bags, sleeping mats, cooker, kitchen equipment, a donkey carrying our stuff,…just kidding. 😉 Since the city Puerto Natales lives from the trekking tourism, you can seriously rent stuff in every hostel and outdoor shop there. Of course, we would have to carry everything in the backpacks, so we should think smart about what to bring. When Jakub saw Ela and mine supply of chocolate in the supermarket cart however, he decided to throw 4 of the 6 cookie packages and 3 of the 5 chocolates out and replaced it with some rice and pasta, of course some wine for the first evening (although, as mentioned previously, the box wine was super good as well ;)), fruit and sweets. Still, we secretly bought some snicker bars, knowing that we would need a lot of sugar to “survive” this trip! 😉

The first day started, surprise surprise, with heavy rain and wind. Damn it, how would we even build our tent when the weather is as crazy as it is?? Luckily, at around noon the sky cleared up and we were able to search the campsite for a good spot. Once the tent was built, we hiked up the Eastern part of the trek. Our plan was to go all the way up to the Torres lookout, but unfortunately, we heard that it was snowing and the sight was 0, which is why we ended up hiking until the campsite Chileno, enjoyed hot chocolate, one of our cookie packages and walked back down. Up at the Chileno campsite, the wind was again so strong, we had to fight against it constantly. Down in the valley however, we enjoyed dinner in the sun. 🙂 Patagonian weather phenomenon!

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Our second day started sunny, although the night was freezing cold – even with 2 pair of socks, my feet were icy. Once we moved and started walking, we warmed up quickly and had this amazing view of the mountain range in the park, the typical Patagonian flowers and the turquoise laguna…unforgettable. Our trek led us through open fields, forest treks, stony paths all the way until our second campsite “Frances”, which we reached after 4,5 hours. At this site, we had a tent platform and while Jakub was building our casa, Ela and I headed to the “supermarket” (which was one tiny cupboard at the reception of the campsite) and stocked up our wine supply. 😉

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As we were cooking dinner, we started talking to our tent neighbors, 2 girls from the UK, who walked the same direction on the trek as we did. To our great shock, they told us that one connecting bridge broke this very day, making it impossible to cross to the end of our hiking trip and the exit of the park. WTF. This cannot be true. The worst was, as we got to know the South American mentality, this bridge would not be fixed within one day…well, now only wine and a strong Slovakian Schnaps could help us and we postponed the decision of how to continue to the next morning. 😉 We woke up in our tent (this night, with several layers of clothes to be warmer) and heard the rain dripping on our tent…noooo! Since the rain just wouldn’t stop we had to get up at some point and discussed what to do during breakfast: either walking further to the next camp and viewpoint to, most likely see nothing there, since it was cloudy or walking back the same way we walked yesterday to be able to leave the park and not spend another night there. Sadly, we decided to take the same path as yesterday and headed back to our first camp site. The 2 UK girls wanted to give it a try and hoped that the bridge would be fixed the same day or the next day, heading further West (as we learned later, the bridge was not fixed until the 9th of December – South America! :)). Overall, the Torres del Paine park was a great adventure and showed us the real beauty of Patagonia. Around every curve you find another amazing view, you walk through so many different landscapes and the best: you can do all these tours by yourself without any guide. Although we didn’t do the “actual” W-Trek, it was anyway fantastic and we had a bunch of fun on our trip in the nature. 😉 With good friends, good humor and good wine this outdoor experience was awesome! And we’ve never appreciated a shower more than after this. 😉

Our next stop was then Punta Arenas, a nice city more southern in Chile, where we mostly enjoyed seafood and the city itself. Additionally, we planned our next bus trip from here, which would take us all the way down to the most Southern city in the world: Ushuaia!

We actually planned to do this route by boat – it would have been a little bit longer and more expensive, but the views on the glaciers are supposed to be stunning. In the very last moment however, Jakub found out that the connection boat between the harbor where we would end up (Puerto Williams) and Ushuaia would take us 30 min with a cost of 120$!!! Far too expensive!! We cancelled the boat then and took a bus. Ushuaia was bigger than expected and way colder. We checked in our AirBnB apartment, which we rented for 3 nights and right away planned our trip to the penguin island. But first we visited the Tierra del Fuego National Park – although it was raining, we enjoyed walking through the Patagonian landscape.

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The perfect spot for the penguins is Island Martillo, which is why the next afternoon, we took a bus to the Estancia Haberton, a private property consisting of endless forest and many small islands. From there, we took a boat to the Isla Martillo – and we couldn’t believe what we saw! Right there on the beach, where we docked at endless penguin groups took a sun bath and hung around. 🙂 Wow, they were so close to us and watched us curiously. All around the island, approx. 3000 typical Magallanian Penguin couples gather and we even saw a baby penguin – so adorable. For us, this was one of the best encounters on our trip (and for Ela THE best ;)), because we saw the animals in their natural habitat.

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After this great experience, we left Ushuaia the next day by plane to fly back to El Calafate. The last evening we spent in food heaven: to treat ourselves, we ordered “Parilla” in a restaurant. This dish basically consists of meat, sausages, meat and meat. 😉 We shared it among the three of us and had a good bottle of wine. Unbelievable that these 2,5 weeks are already over! It was magical here, we had so much fun (Gracias Ela, fue increible contigo!!), we will never forget the nature and animals we’ve seen here and we will always remember the Patagonian box wine. 🙂

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Time Out – we Relax

14.11.16 – 21.11.16

We arrived in Chile in this super tiny village called San Pedro de Atacama – the sun is shining, people wear shorts and Tshirt and it feels like actual vacation. 🙂 We head to one cafe on the main plaza (they have Wifi here, in the city, wow!) to check what to do next and decide to book a tour for the evening to the famous “Valle de la Luna”, the moon valley. As you can guess, this valley is called like this due to the bizarre landscape which resembles the area on the moon. 🙂 We’re really impressed by the rock formation and the dry area! As it gets later in the evening, we wanna see the moon rise – this night is the night of the super moon. We wait forever as it seems in the cold and windy night until the moon finally rises and it’s an amazing moment – the mountain scenery combined with no light pollution at all is wonderful.

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Our plan was then to head to Salta in Argentina the next day, but since there is no bus for this day we stay another night in our 12 bed dorm (private rooms are seriously expensive in Chile ;)) and catch a bus the next day.

For the next 10 hours we have stunning views from our seats, crossing the Andes and having endless mountain landscapes. We cannot wait to arrive in Salta and finally settle down for the next 5 days, because this is what the plan for the following days looks like: doing absolutely nothing! 🙂 We feel exhausted from these indeed beautiful, but challenging last weeks. So many new experiences and impressions we have to digest, which is why our private Airbnb apartment seems like the perfect get-away until Ella arrives and Patagonia welcomes us. The apartment is perfect for our needs, we enjoy cooking and pancakes in the morning, work on the blog (the internet was sooo fast – the first time in a while that we don’t share it with a crowd of hostel people) and organize our weeks after Patagonia. Christmas is coming soon and we have big plans: we’ll be staying in Hawaii, woop woop!! 🙂 From 16th of December until 8th of January the island of Maui is our home, beach and sun we’ll be our Christmas decoration and bananas and mangos our Christmas cookies. 😉 So different to the Christmas we know from home and to be honest, I miss the beautiful decorated cities, the Christmas markets and Glühwein, cookies and just the smell of a Christmas atmosphere. But let’s see how we will experience Christmas this year and what New Years Eve will be like…

One Week in Bolivia: Copacabana at the Beautiful Lake Titicaca // La Paz // Uyuni

07.11.16 – 14.11.16

Crossing the border to Bolivia was luckily super easy – when we think back to the Central American countries, always demanding onward travel tickets, we appreciate the laid-back mentality here. 😉

1.Copacabana

Yes, there is indeed a small village called Copacabana in Bolivia – maybe it copied a little bit of the flair of his bigger brother in Brazil…? 😉 We definitely like this small village which is located right next to the Titicaca lake. Lots of bars, restaurants…and good weather. 🙂

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There is mainly only one thing to do here, which is taking a boat to the „Isla del Sol“. This is what we do the next day and are surprised by the beautiful lake. At some spots on the island, the lake looks like an ocean and is crystal clear! We learn from our guide that the pre-Inca culture believed that the sun was born on this island. A 3 hours walk from the northern part of the island to the southern part gives us time to enjoy the nature. Back in Copacabana, we watch the sunset over the lake – beautiful.

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2. La Paz

As we approach the outer borders of La Paz we are shocked: we knew it was big, but it seems endlessly huge! Although not the capital of Bolivia, it hosts the seat of the government. From many parts of the city, one can see the famous Illimani mountain. Additionally, La Paz is as high as almost 3,700m and hence, the highest administrative capital in the word!

Once we sneak our way through the complicated arrangement of streets by taxi, we actually like the vibe of La Paz. Dropping off our luggage in our hostel, we wanna discover the city, of course, with a free walking tour! 🙂 Here we learn for example about the famous San Pedro prison. Located in the middle of the city, the system there is known to be the craziest in the world: inmates have to pay for cells and and additionally, they pay an entry fee! A couple of years ago, one could even do a tour through the prison. If you had the wrong tour guide, it could happen that you never left the prison again. 😉 I suggest you to read the book „Marching Powder“ by Rusty Young, a “true story of friendship, cocaine, and South America’s strangest jail” [https://www.amazon.com/Marching-Powder-Friendship-Americas-Strangest/dp/0312330340].

One activity we had on our plan for La Paz was the famous „Death Road“ (Yungas road), which you can bike down. Years ago, this street was the only connection road from the remote villages to La Paz. Since the quality of the street was terrible, many deathly accidents happened there. Today, it is only permitted  for a few locals to access the street by car, otherwise only bikes are allowed. We weren’t quite sure if we were up for this adrenaline kick or not – we came to a point on our trip where the question was: „Do we really wanna do the activity or do we just do it so that we have done it??“

We’ve traveled pretty fast the past 1,5 weeks and were somehow „travel tired“…so we gave ourselves one day to think about the death road and then we’d see if we feel like doing it. Lazy day, lazy dinner in bed, lazy movie watching – that helped. 🙂 We were ready for the death road and it was a hell of a ride! Not of the speed or the danger (actually, we stopped so many times and had a very comfortable pace, we didn’t feel in danger at all), but for the landscape. From our starting point up at 4,700m (cold, windy, dry), down to 1,200m (jungle, humid, hot) it was a great trip. Right after this thrilling experience, the night bus took us to Uyuni where we planned to do the salt lake tour.

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3. Uyuni

This city’s only attraction is the famous „Saltar de Uyuni“, the biggest salt desert in the world! Since the tours start mainly at around 10:00am in the morning and we arrived at 7:30am, we decided to cancel our night in the hostel and signed up for a 3-days tour through the desert. 🙂 Mainly, our decision was influenced by the fact that on the last day, our driver would take us to San Pedro de Atacama in Chile. Hence, we didn’t have to take care of this transport. Getting some breakfast in the sleepy town (where Wifi was treated like it was gold: not available for everyone ;)) and, typically, snacks and lots of water, we were ready for the desert! Our jeep was loaded and our group was a nice mix of nations: 2 Australian guys, 1 French girl, 1 guy from Poland and of course the fantastic Slovak/German team. 😉 The first day we spend mostly in the desert itself, taking the most hilarious pictures in the salt lake: since everything is white there and one has no orientation of sizes, you can take such funny pictures by positioning objects in the right ankle. 😀

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We also saw the cactus island and watched the sunset in the desert. The first night we spend in a salt hostel – walls, bed and small table made of salt. 😉 Enjoying dinner together we went to bed early, because the electricity generator anyway turned off at 9:00pm. Surprisingly, hot showers were available…still wondering where they got the water from in this dry area…

The next day we saw the sunrise and headed further in the desert. We saw beautiful lagoons in different colors: one was super green whereas the other was pink-red! The algae together with the sun and wind do photosynthesis and create different colors. Additionally, we visited the geysers in the desert. This night was supposed to be freezing cold outside (temperatures below 0), so we decided to jump in the hot springs and enjoy the hot water as we had never before – the moon and the starts above us make it a perfect end to our day!

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The third day we mainly spent in the jeep and made our way to Chile – again, the border crossing was super fast and easy and bam, Chi-Chi-Chi-le-le-le, here we are. 🙂

Southern Perú – Arequipa and Puno

02.11.16 – 07.11.16

After a week in Cusco full of history, shopping for souvenirs and enjoying the city centre we head to the next beautiful city in Peru, Arequipa! Of course we travel by bus through the night, which saves us a night in the hostel and gives us an additional day in Arequipa. 🙂

And wow, we have great news: Jakub’s best friend Ella will be visiting us soon!! We are super excited and can’t wait to travel through Patagonia with her – it’s gonna be awesome. That means for us however, that we have to be in El Calafate latest the 23rd of November and will skip our planned Volunteering (postponed for Hawaii maybe… :)). We have a deadline. For the first time. How weird. 😉 So we sit down, make a detailed plan of where we are when to be able to arrive on time in the Southern Part of Argentina. Turns out that it‘s actually nice to have an overview of the next 3 weeks and where we’ll spend each day. 😉

But right now we’re in Arequipa, were we arrive in our alpaka sweaters and scarfs, just to realize that it’s way too warm for this type of clothes! So used to the colder cities, we wonder when we wore a Tshirt for the last time or sandals… 🙂 Arequipa is Perú’s second largest city, known for its beautiful city center, the THREE volcanos surrounding it and the proud  “Arequipeños”, who feel a little bit different than other Peruvians. 😉

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Plaza de las Armas

Enjoying a sunny day, we head to some travel agencies to book a 2 day hike through the Colca Canyon:

“Slicing through the High Andes like a giant fissure for more than 100km, Colca is the world’s second deepest canyon, approximately 3,400m at its deepest point — a shade shallower that the nearby Cotahuasi Canyon and nearly twice as deep as the US’ Grand Canyon. More impressive than the statistics are the region’s emblematic attractions, including soaring condors, endless trekking routes and unshakeable Spanish, Inca and Pre-Inca traditions little altered since the conquistadors first arrived in the 1570s.” [source: http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20121012-exploring-perus-epic-colca-canyon]

Hungry from all the walking, we decide to try the famous „Triple Picante“ dish which our guide from the free walking tour we’ve done recommended us. And wow, it’s delicious! Although it mainly consists of meat and we don’t know how one person can eat one whole plate (we shared one), we do enjoy the filled pepper, potato-cheese mix and the pork.

Triple Picante

Triple Picante

Additionally, we try the famous chicha, a sweet Peruvian beverage made from purple corn, a variant of Zea mays native to the Mesoamerica, and spices. Non-alcoholic, it is a type of chicha usually made by boiling the corn with pineapple, cinnamon, clove, and sugar. [source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicha_morada%5D Of course we also had Pisco Sour, which the Peruvians claim to have invented, although the Chilenians say the same…anyway, it’s delicious!

Grrr, the alarm clock rings at 3:00am, why do these trips always have to start so early?! Pick up time is at 3:30am, and at 3:35am we sit in the van on our way to the Colca Canyon. The last stop before we start hiking is a small restaurant where we arrive at around 6:00am to have breakfast. Another hour later we begin the hike – strangely, the first 3 hours is only descending. On our usual hikes, we start walking up, not down. 🙂 But obviously, it’s a canyon! The further we walk down the greener the nature gets. After a lunchbreak of 1 hour we continue walking and arrive our accommodation in the late afternoon – a small oasis in the middle of the mountains! We’re super hungry and cannot wait to take a shower. But before that we treat ourselves together with our group with a whisky and Cuba Libre. 😉 Since there’s only electricity from a generator and this one turns of at 9pm, we go to bed early and fall asleep under a bright sky full of starts.

Colca Canyon

Colca Canyon

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The 3$ Machu Picchu hat was worth every cent in this sun! :)

The 3$ Machu Picchu hat was worth every cent in this sun! 🙂

5:00am the next day our ascend back up begins – pretty exhausting, but the morning is cool and within 2:50hs Ellen is up. Jakub even made it in 1:30hours and was the second person up there, great! 🙂 Breakfast awaits us on the top of the summit and after we got some energy back we head straight to Arequipa.

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All in all, the hike was okay but we couldn’t quite understand why everyone recommended us the Colca Canyon…it was not as special as we expected it to be. 😉 Maybe we have seen too many nice lagoons in Cusco and Huaraz, haha.

The next day we leave Arequipa to head further South. Puno is our last stop before we cross the border to Bolivia. Hence, we only see the city center, have a very delicious dinner, buy a CD from a local Peruvian folklore band who plays at the restaurant and look forward for the 7th country on our trip. 🙂

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