Looking back in my notebook, I found some scribbles of useful or handy tips that I picked up while on the road. None are particularly worthy enough to write whole page on, and only a handful were generally applicable to traveling, so I decided to start this page as a sort of collection of these sorts of tidbits I would like to share.
- $7,035.57 = How much it costs to travel around the world through nine countries over five and a half months
- Revisited: How to pack for an independent traveler with no set return date
- A glimpse in the thoughts of Bolod Namkhai Mukhadi
- Beijing to Ulaanbataar Mongolia: The nitty gritty of independent travel
- How to get Chinese and Russian visas as a United States citizen: My experience
- Writing assignment: "Inside The Candelaria Festival of Puno, Peru"
- Marathon hitchhiking: Southern Mexico to Michigan in 7 days over 3,400 mi
- Mango Surprise: Being the victim of a random, delicious act of kindness
- Legendary Vagabonder Rolf Potts with priceless advice on travel
- Fire juggler in San Pedro de la Laguna, Lago Atitlan, Guatemala
- Romania: WWOOFing in Transylvania and back to the US
- Bulgaria: Nice cities, tipped off about an isolated beach, and getting perspective from a prostitute's cigarette burns
- Kazakhstan Pt. 3: Almaty, where kids watch pole dancers, and joining the family
- Kazakhstan Pt. 2: Astana, WTF? Diagnosis: major inferiority complex
- Kazakhstan Pt. 1: Whoa Aunt Jemima's!, the Darth Vader Mosque, and a failed haircut
Leaving from an uneventful stay in Panama City, I decided to skip over probably the most popular tourist destination in Panama (Bocas del Toro) due to time limits and get some cool weather in Boquete. Initially recommended by a doctor that I met while desperately trying to get to Panama, as soon as he said cool weather I was dead set on getting there. Besides that, there were some nice hiking trails that I explored with Brett, a Philly native that I met in Panama City. It´s also known for its coffee and strawberry production in the area, but I never got around to seeing any of that. Most of the pictures of flowers are from a free garden in the area called ´Mi Jardín es su Jardín´, and and I put them on a separate page (click here for the link). Pictures below.
After arriving from the exhausing boat trip with the Panamanian tuberculosis researchers, taking things easy was mandatory in Panama City. Approaching the city, the driver asked if I had a place to stay, and I said I was planning to just look on the internet nearby the district that supposedly had a lot of hostels (San Pedro). He said he would drop me off at a hostel he knew in the area, which normally is a danger signal to me since there are always commission networks of taxi drivers and owners of horrible hotels, but I was too tired to protest. The hostel actually ended up being legit and apparently popular with touists (it was the Our Pick in LP, something I try to steer clear from since they tend to turn into cattle-herding operations). I took the obligatory visit to the Panama Canal and basically just relaxed while battling a minor stomach disruption. It seemed like a cool city, but I didn´t really give it much of a chance before heading to the cooler Boquete. Pictures below.
You have set out to travel to extract yourself from the daily routine, but there is one chore that will never go away: dirty clothes (nudist colonies an exception). And if you´re trying to save money on the road, or just don´t trust that random lady on the corner lavanderia, washing your clothes by hand is the only option that´s left. The good news is that it´s easier than you think, and with practice becomes no chore at all and you can tailor it to your situation. Here´s a quick run down on how to get it done.
Step 2 in getting to Panama (the hard part): Nausea-inducing island hopping (Kuna Yala/San Blas) with the tuberculosis researchers
After arriving in Puerto Olbaldia (for the first part of the trip from Colombia to Panama click here), the first port on the Panamanian side and a fairly depressing, lifeless, and beachless village, I realized I had only about 20 dollars in my pocket and zero access to banks until getting to Panama City. Since all of the towns are so isolated in the Darien region there are no ATMs, something I hadn't really bothered to research before leaving from Colombia. I needed to make it a long distance up the coast to the nearest town that had a road connection to Panama City (apparently a 5-14 hr boat ride depending on who you talked to) that would cost me at least forty dollars. When I arrived at Puerto Olbaldia I got my entry stamp in my passport to Panama from an incredibly rude immigration officer and walked down to the dock to figure something out. There were a few ships in the harbor going in the right direction over the next few days, but most of them weren't permitted to carry passengers. In terms of the small boats that were allowed to carry passengers, I was informed that they might come, they might not, they might be full, they might not, they might be willing to take me for the cash that I had, they might not...basically a lot of information that was totally...
Sadly leaving from Barranquilla, my next stop was going to be the last few places on the coast of Colombia before reaching Panama. Isolated towns only accessible by boat due to the impenetrable Darien Jungle and heavy guerilla activity, I was pretty excited to see what they were like. The other options in getting to Panama were several hundred dollar sailboat or plane rides, options that didn't really fit into my budget, and I wanted to see some places these means of transport left out (albeit while being far more comfortable). I left Barranquilla a bit late and decided last minute to skip over Cartagena (promising myself that I would return), and ended up having to pass the night in a muggy, mid-sized town called Monteria. Since the buses to the coastal town of Turbo where the motorboats depart from were leaving (supposedly) at 4 am, I just decided to stay in the bus terminal and read and maybe dose off for a little bit. Sleeping proved difficult with all the mosquitoes, but I found a TV in the terminal, which was surprisingly modern and well guarded. After watching Cris Angel's MindFreak, Gene Simmon's Family Jewels, and assorted TV shows describing American serial killers, I was happily reminded of why I never owned a television...
After quickly passing through Medellín (and promising myself I´d spend more time there in the future) I started my way up towards the Carribean coast of Colombia. Initially I just wanted to spend a day or so in Barranquilla or Cartagena on the way up to the Guajira Peninsula on the far northeast side of the country, but instead I sent out a few Couchsurfing requests and was invited to stay in Barranquilla. More than a few people responded, but the first was David (aka Jose aka Josh), a university student in Barranquilla. If you were to ask me why I love Colombia so much, I would definitely have to cite David and his family and their incredible hospitality and warmth towards a tired traveler. David (who freely switched between Spanish, French
Definitely worth a watch. An impressive show by a street soccer juggler in Medellín. He would dash out in the street as the light turned red and start a mad display of soccer skills before throwing out the hat for change for the waiting cars. He made a descent amount of cash in the bit that I was watching him.
After taking off from the Tatacoa desert the next stop was Bogota, the largest city in Colombia and one of the largest in the Western hemisphere. I really hadn`t read much about the city, heard mixed comments about it from Colombians and foreigners, and had no guidebook to reference. It turned out to be so much better than I imagined. Unfortunately for a lady from California I met, she had her passport, about 500 dollars worth of pesos and dollars, credit and ATM cards, and license stolen in a parade from her fanny pack. I spent the best part of two days helping get everything sorted and lending her money, but all in all I´m glad I helped since at the very least I´ll know what to do if it happens to me. Besides that incident, Bogota was great, with amazing people, nightlife, and neighborhoods, and the city comes highly recommended from me, for what it´s worth. I still have a lot to see there.
- First stop in Colombia: Checking out Popayan and the weirdest desert I´ve ever seen (Tatacoa)
- Does this make me a travel writer/photographer?
- The quickest pass through Ecuador, ever
- Last few days in Peru: Sun and mountains
- Joining the parade during La Fiesta de la Candelaria
- Video: Inflating sheep´s lungs by mouth after the slaughter (Huañuscuro, Peru)
- How to get the local price for anything while abroad
- How to pack for a trip with no set return date (with post-trip comments)
- Tips to turn a long bus ride into an unforgettable time
- "Gas jugging" and coke dealers: hitchhiking for the first time (Ann Arbor, MI to Chicago)
- Who's site is this, anyways?
- A quick peek at the Zona Cafetera/Coffee-producing Zone