In 2009, myself and two friends (Chas and Tyler) decided to use our 2 week winter break from school to skip our Christmas, for a second year in a row, to attempt a cross CONTINENT-and-back trip in South America. Lima, Peru to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and back in 13 days.... or at least that was our plan... So there we were: 3 dudes, 13 days, a rental Jimny (mini P.O.S. SUV), minimal ability to speak Spanish, virtually NO ability to speak Portuguese, a wall map of South America, a compass, three school bags of gear/clothes, 20 extra gallons of gas and an insatiable thirst for a new adventure. Ahead of us, lay a string of unpredictable and unforgettable events; each of which was taken in incredible stride as we embraced the very journey we sought! The Plan: Fly into Lima, Peru and rent or buy the cheapest 4WD vehicle we could find. Then traverse the daunting Andes Mountains in our quest to reach the Atlantic Coast, via Bolivian and Brazilian roads through the Amazon. Upon our Arrival in Rio, we hoped to take a few days of R&R on Copacabana beach before heading back to Lima, stopping to see Macchu Picchu on the way. As you can probably guess, our trip ended up very different... What Happened: We ended up renting, and going with the FULL COVERAGE and UNLIMITED MILEAGE on a Suzuki Jimny. It was a bit pricey but the best option due to our late arrival time, and how eager we were to get this show on the road. So from Lima we would proceed south along the Peruvian Coast as we pondered the thought of seeing and touching the ocean on the OTHER side of the continent, less than a week from that time. The drive through the Andes was breathtaking... literally. And yeah also because the photo ops were nothing short of fantastical too. The isolated small villages we would pass through were certainly a sight to see. You really get to witness how people live when they are TRULY disconnected from a world of running water and electricity. If you're driving through the night and need a little boost, the Peruvians make some killer tea that will do the trick. A note regarding nights in the Andes: It can get very cold, it even snowed while we were driving and it was summer in the Southern Hemisphere! Also, it IS possible to get Carbon Monoxide poisoning if you are sleeping in a vehicle on top of a mountain with the engine running and windows up, so please be careful. Well, after surviving the fierce roads, switchbacks and horrific sights of belly up tractor trailers in the Andes, we eventually came to the Bolivian boarder near the southeast corner of Lake Titicaca (the highest lake in the world!). Mind you, we had no visa for Bolivia because we did not believe we needed one. We chose to enter via the Commercial entrance where all the tractor trailers were lined up for miles. Luckily, our vehicle fit between the two rows of trucks with barely a foot or two on either side of us. We were elated! Eventually we came to a point where there were guards checking the trucks. But security was minimal, and there was only one gate which lifts up for each individual truck to drive through after it has passed inspection. Luckily, again, as we approached this point, the gate was going up and we snuck through a small gap in the traffic to cut off the truck about to pass through and blew through the border as the guards just turned and stared at us... unable to do anything because they had no vehicles themselves. A few miles later, we came upon another "gate" consisting of a man in a lawn chair holding a rope across the road. We decided to stop here and enter the small mud shack he sat in front of. In here we paid a young man 30 dollars for 3 stamps allowing us into Bolivia. He was resistant to our intentions to enter his country until we busted out our American Cash Stash. It was a done deal, we were in, and off we went. Bolivia is Beautiful. The Jungle and villages scattered throughout it are surreal. This is exactly what we came for. Driving through the nights to make good time was easy, as we took shifts driving, sleeping and navigating with map and compass. YES a map and compass. There are not many named roads through the backcountry of Bolivia which appear on the map, so we had to resort to using a compass to determine which road we were on and what direction it was heading. What a trip. As a matter of fact there was a stretch of almost 200 miles of unpaved road through the jungle where there was no road on the map, so that compass came in real handy. Gas, along with everything else, is very cheap in Bolivia. In the 4-5 days we spent there, we spent about $200 between the three of us. That included gas, food, and souvenirs. Soon enough we were in Brazil. Roads there are paved significantly better than in Bolivia. Gas here was significantly more expensive. The sights were spectacular and the weather was great. It gets very hot during the days and at nights it doesn't cool down much. Definitely bring along plenty of bug spray if you're planning on sleeping on top of your vehicle like we did. As we approached the bigger cities like Sao Paulo and Rio, major roads began to appear but they are very confusing so it is recommended that you pick up a map from a local gas station to find your way around. NOTE: Watch out for motorcyclists. Many people travel on motorcycles and mopeds and they don't care to use their lights at night. When we arrived in Rio, we found the nicest hotel we could afford and rested up on Copacabana beach for 2 days. If you're looking for some good beef, boy oh boy that's your spot! And the people there are friendly too. We got locked out of our dilapidated and muddy vehicle one night, but thanks to the help of a bunch of Circ De Sole performers, we were back in business in no time! The trip back to Lima would prove to be the toughest part of this trip. On our way to Rio, we popped a tire on that long stretch of unpaved road through the jungle. And as luck would have it, we popped another one on our way back. No, we didn't have another spare. So after spending the night on the side of a mountain road where we popped our second tire, we decided we would have to drive on the flat tire until we found a place to have our first tire replaced or fixed. Chas rode on top of the vehicle, keeping a close eye on the rapidly deteriorating tire, as I carefully maneuvered through those mountain roads. We ended up stopping three times to put just enough air in the punctured tire to get us from town to town in search of someone to fix this flat. Eventually we found a "mechanic" who used some sort of primitive rig to fix it! All of this calamity cost us precious time in our trip back and caused us to re-evaluate our trip. We would not have enough time to see Macchu Picchu AND get back to Lima for our flight in the short amount of time we had left. We chose to make it to Cusco and see Macchu Picchu, drop off the vehicle at the Cusco airport, and fly back to Lima. HOWEVER, this didn't quite work out either. Just East of La Paz, Bolivia, we came to a checkpoint where the guards asked to see our paperwork and passports. They would not let us continue, and threatened to take us to jail because we did not have Bolivian Visas. So I made a phone call back to the U.S. where a Bolivian friend of mine (From La Paz) offered some help. I had him speak to the guards and arrange a "deal." The Guard wanted $300 U.S. money. I offered $60, and he took it and let us be on our way. This ordeal lasted no less than 2 hours, and in the end caused us to miss the last train up to Macchu Picchu upon our arrival in Cuzco. But all was not lost. We made it to Cusco, got the cheapest, worst, driest, most painful massages of our lives and enjoyed the wonderful scenery until our flight back to Lima. It was an exhilarating trip and I would absolutely recommend it to anyone with the desire to take life by the horns and do something most people in this world never will. Each day and the challenges that came with were adventures in themselves. Between popping those tires, navigating through countryside, and overcoming countless unforeseen obstacles, it is sure to be one of those trips we will never forget!
Flew into Auckland, rented the camper van and headed north to Whangarei. While there we did some surfing and just driving around getting used to the country. Steering wheel is on the other side of the car, get ready for that haha. Sandy Bay is a little beach that we went to and really liked, its just north of Whangarei. From Whangarei we drove north west to Ahipara and that's where we rented quad's (ATV's) and rode around on 90 mile beach. We only spent a few hours there but you can take a tour on the quads or just rent them and go off on your own. I recommend just renting on your own and cruising around hitting max speed on the endless straight away and messing around on the dunes they have there. Depending on what you're in to and how much time you have they also have surfing, wind surfing, and fishing there. After Ahipara we drove east to the Bay of Islands. We did our dive trip to Poor Knights Island from a dive shop in the Bay of Islands. I think the dive shop was Dive Tutukaka but can't remember for sure (http://diving.co.nz/) We dove in the winter which made it interesting (freezing) but its one of the best places in the world to dive so if you have the slightest desire to try, I recommend it. Overall the north part of the North Island was really pretty, its also very rural. The winding roads slice right through the mountains and forest and its pretty cool to just stop and pull off the road and wander around in the forest and find a stream. Don't remember where exactly (pretty sure it was in the north) but we did a cave tour with abseiling (rappelling) through waterfalls which was real awesome. It was just me, my two buddies and the two tour guides. You go pretty deep into these caves and there are glow worms and waterfalls all over, its really neat. After that we drove down the west coast to Raglan. Nothing there really, its just a pretty famous surf spot. From there we cut inland to Rotorua. Rotorua has a bunch of thermals/geysers/springs. We didn't have the chance to go to any of them but we were told they were pretty cool, they make the whole city smell like sulfur though. In Rotorua we rented mountain bikes for a couple hours and just rode around in the woods in the mud and rain which was awesome. Rotorua also has Zorbing (giant plastic balls you hop in and ride down hills) which is a blast. It's real quick but worth checking out for sure (http://www.zorb.com/zorb/rotorua/). After Rotorua we drove south to Taupo. Cant' remember if it was Rotorua or Taupo but we also did a River Jet Boat tour. This extremely fast boat goes flying through the river and barely misses huge rocks by inches. It scares the crap out of you but is fun. I can't remember if this is the one we did but here's a link just in case (http://www.riverjet.co.nz/). In Taupo we bungee jumped. You'll still get a rush out of it even if you've been skydiving. This place has it where you bungee jump and its measured out so you dip into the lake at the bottom (http://www.taupobungy.co.nz/). We also rented race cars which was one of the highlights of the trip. You watch a video and then they take you for a couple laps in one of their cars, which is awesome in itself because they're so good, but then you get to take out the single seat race car by yourself. We got the insurance because it was raining and we were pretty sure we were gonna crash haha. Its a little pricey but I'm definitely glad I did it (http://www.fcr.co.nz/). Next we drove down to Wellington. We didn't really stop along the way since we had a flight to catch. We were in Wellington for a night only and don't remember it being amazing but it was the dead season. We then flew to Christchurch on the South Island for a rugby game. Christchurch was cool, definitely a city. It's the biggest city besides Auckland. We just spent a day and half there for the game and then flew back to Wellington. Once back in Wellington we drove up to Tauranga which is back up near Auckand. I can't remember why but i'm guessing its because we were getting kinda time crunched that we shot back north so quick. We were planing on going to Napier (wine tours, aquarium, history) and Gisborne (surfing, and depending on the time of the year its the first city to see the sunrise) but we ended up only stopping to surf at a couple random places on our way north. Once in Tauranga we stayed in Mount Maunganui which is a little town right on the water. It was a cool place to surf but kinda stormy when we were there. After Mount Maunganui we drove up to Auckland and stayed there for a couple days. Auckland has great night life, a huge casino, and an amazing harbor. Auckland is called the City of Sails because of the amount of boats and boating that people do there so if you're into that they always have dinner cruises or bay tours. Fine dining, nice hotels, museums, all the stuff you'd expect with a big city, Auckland has. It definitely takes a couple days to see it all. So I realize I could go on about NZD forever so I'm gonna stop since there's 10 pages of stuff here already. I hope this helps you out, and if you have any questions about anything please ask.
I spent 16 days in Australia. I started in Sydney and worked my way north up the East Coast all the way to Cairns. While in Sydney I got to see the opera house, sail around the harbor, and attend a rugby match in the ANZ Stadium where the 2000 Summer Olympics were held. It was a spectacular city. I also took a day trip outside the city to visit the Jenolan Caves and Katoomba in the Blue Mountains. It was at the Jenolan Caves that I actually got to see a platypus in the wild. If you make it to the Gold Coast be sure to check out the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. Rather than just looking at the animals in an inclosure you actually get into the inclosure with them. Kangaroos and emus run around while you can get up close to feed and pet them if they let you. Be wary though, emus aren't always the nicest of creatures. I even got to hold a koala for a photo op. It was a dream realized. Once I reached Cairns which was the last city on my itinerary there was still lots to do. We visited Kuranda a village on top of a mountain. I took the scenic railway to get to the top of the mountain enjoying my view of the rainforest around me and then rode the skyway down and got to see the rainforest from above. I also got the awesome opportunity to visit the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park. It was a unique experience to get to learn first hand about the Australian aboriginal culture. Also, you can't go to Australia without visiting the Great Barrier Reef. I got to spend a day on the reef snorkeling and it was breathtaking.
One week in Rio, stayed in Ipanema (4 blocks from the beach) on the top floor of a penthouse. Such a better area than Copacabana, cleaner, better food, better beach. Here we chilled in our hammock on the upper deck or got in our hot tub. Outside we went to the beach, worked in a local outdoor gym, went to local football games, explored by day, and asked locals about parties/events at night. After a week we flew to Manaus, stayed in a hostel one night and then boarded our our boat with our guide, captain, ship hand, and cook. We traveled deep into the Amazon and even picked up an engineer from San Fran and a Dutch woman. We slept in hammocks on the top level, always had a full meal waiting, and literally called our next move the entire week. Our guide us piranha fishing, cayman hunting, built us a bbq in the jungle, and even took us to a local vacation spot to play a few games of "football" with his family and friends. We did everything you would have wanted in the most amazing rain forest in the world and all of it was directed by us with a world class guide. Next we finished off with a few more days in Rio, this time at a hotel we picked on the fly. We did everything we forgot to the first week. Got tattoos even to commemorate four years of college and new beginnings. Toured a few favelas with the help of a local, and partied with Jack Johnson's entire crew, shortly followed by free tics to a Jack concert in Rio!
China is an amazing place that completely disconnects you from any thing you are use to in America. Being able to hike (literally) the Great Wall and stand on a structure that is so old is an extremely humbling experience. Seeing the Terracota Warriors will blow your mind. It is extremely difficult to rent a car in China. Basically you need to bribe a local who actually owns a car. I did not rent a car because I found ways to travel (trains, taxis, rickshaws and buses). Don't let me halt you from getting a car. With the right amount of bribery you can always get anything, trust me. Remember this, the taxis are ass holes! They rarely pick you up because you are foreign. The buses are very cheap and an adventure in itself, you don't know where they are going because you can't read Chinese. However, with some practice you will start to understand what all the lines on the bus routes mean. (MORE TO BE WRITTEN- ENJOY THE PICTURES)
A driving adventure from the mountains through the jungles to the beach and back. Trip from Bogota to Cartagena and back to Bogota. Trip totals: 1 liter waters– 71, Poker Beers – many, driving hours - ~51, tolls paid - 14, (cost = 226,230 pesos), Pictures Taken – 547, Gallons of gas - 34, Kilometers driven - 2189 Quick flight from Atlanta direct to BOG. Getting into the country was easier than expected. NO VISA required for less than 60 day stays. We jumped on a bus and rode around for hours through the city. We walked around for 3 hours and ate roasted chicken and rice for lunch. Locals hooked us up with a taxi to the central city in the evening. Went to the airport and got a rental car; $330 for 7 days. Fueled up, grabbed snacks and water. Every village sold something, coffee, fresh fruits, or lots of bread/empanadas; we took pictures and quickly passed through. We drove through the crappiest, busiest, and probably the dirtiest part of the city without a map trying to get a hotel, we found a hotel. We refueled ourselves for the next day. We hung out at the beach with locals and made deals with sellers and ate shrimp and oysters in salsa. We walked around the block and bought items. Best purchase: the paintings from the street painter. We met some more locals and Ron Caldas. Salsa danced to great music at El Havana Club. While driving, we noticed good items to purchase. The best purchases: floreros, 3.5 feet high and solid wood. We had meat on a stick from a roadside vendor. This was amazing; anyone who says not to eat the vendor foods is wrong, it’s the best food! We drove through Medellin to Bogota. While driving, we gassed up and paid with pesos and continued driving through the mountains climbing 12,000’ in elevation. The mountains were filled with clouds and rain and hair pin turns and gorgeous views. A good map would’ve been great. We navigated by seeing planes departing/arriving at the airport. We zigzag through the city to get to the airport in order to return the rental car.
This was a trip for the London2012 Olympic Games taken two of BeenWhere's finest, Ry & Ty. This trip included tours in England and Wales and totaled 2 weeks in duration. Culture, food, and fun were experienced throughout the entire trip. London has an insane level of adventure around every corner, so do your best to keep up. The idea to pre-purchase Olympic tickets paid off, we got 'em! We attended multiple events. Our favorite event: Table Tennis...INTENSE. Also, pre-booking a hostile for the first night was a wise idea, we needed to rest up for the adventure; lots of athletic events, socializing, and traveling to come. We stayed mostly at hostels and other random locations, just a place to nap and maybe shower. We flew directly into Heathrow for travel ease from Boston, MA. We purchased a London Underground Oyster Card and put $40 on it; it lasted the entire trip. Public transit is fairly cheap and incredibly convenient. TAKE THE UNDERGROUND, you won't regret it and neither will your companions. Before, between, and after Olympic events we toured the city sites and tasted local eateries and experienced the classic London pub scene, many, many pubs... Recommendation: find a pub, order beverages, and make friends. SIMPLE. After a week in the city and the metro area for the games and site seeing, we decided to rent a car at Heathrow. Always an awesome adventuristic idea and ALWAYS recommended by BeenWhere to encounter the full experience where ever you might be. Don't pre-book, you'll potentially get screwed on pricing. BeenWhere magic dealing skills kicked in and we got a deal for a few days and then headed West! Destination: UNKNOWN. After driving for a day and passing through Wales, we finally arrived on the West coast in a small party town call Aberystwyth. Here, we found a place to crash on the water, eat, and drink, and of course we made more friends and talked about our worldly travel experiences. A couple days later we hit the road and nearly 7 sheep as well on winding country road through the woods and over the hills. Eventually we made our way back to the heart of London, after returning our mess of a rental car back in to the authorities at Heathrow. Having a few more days remaining in the city we explored some more and found hidden gems we'd never heard of or thought we'd see. Along the entire trip we purchased our authentic England/London memorabilia to include clothing, decorations and beverages. The overall fun had on this trip to London, which also included the LONDON2012 Olympic Games, can hardly be expressed in this brief trip description. Rest assured, it was one heck of an experience. London is a great time any time of year, and includes a multitude of things to do and many different level of adventure.
Once I left Addis Ababa and traveled into the Simien Mountains I felt like I went back in time 1000 years. It almost felt biblical as I walked through the mountains. I constantly had my guard up because you were always being watched and followed. Ethiopia is a magical land so different from our western culture. Very educational and I would go back at a moments notice.
I've skied all over Tahoe and Kirkwood is one of the best spots. It's not as crowded as the other resorts, and its a great mountain with really awesome runs. PJ's Tavern is a good bar/restaurant to hit up after a long day skiing. The locals here are really welcoming, unlike some places like Mammoth. Mt. Rose Ski Resort is another good place. The mountain isn't as big and you can get bored over a season of skiing there but its a great spot for a vacation. Access is really easy as its only 25/30 minutes outside of Reno so you can get a cheap hotel in reno instead of having to stay on the mountain. The lodge has great food too!
This was a fun and wild time in Santo Domingo while only briefly visiting the country. Flight from Miami to Santo Domingo. Getting into the country was easy, cost of $35. Rode a taxi to take me to my hotel. Work a deal with the driver. Spent time in the Districto Nacaional. There are lots of good sites to see, shop to negotiate at, and restaurants to eat great Hispanic and Caribbean food at, always fresh. There is fresh food stands on most corners. Walk around and check it all out. Taxis are a good and safe way to travel around to city. While walking around the Distrito Nacional, don't let anyone offer to "show you around." This is a total scam and it's what they do - show you around as an unofficial tour guide and try to sucker money out of you for their "services."
Out of my entire Italy trip, Venice was by far my favorite place we went. It is such a unique place, you won't find anything like it, anywhere. I like to compare it to New Orleans, in that it is so unique and has so much character. It's kind of weird that your in a busy city but there isn't a single sound of cars anywhere. There are tons of things to see. Plan a couple days to spend there if you want to fully take it in.
Visited Ober Gatlinburg to go snow skiing/snowboarding with friends. Besides myself, no one had ever skiing nor snowboarding before. Great place for beginners or those without the money to head to the Northern States for real snow.
Drove the entire northern half of the country for 8 days looking for ex-patriots while all the while trying to get into Laos for no good reason. Finally, finishing it off with a 4 day sailing excursion around the southern half of Thailand. Unbelievable sailing and exotic islands! The only way to get the most out of this trip is to sail it. This is where you take a girl to really impress her.
This city is where I spent 5 weeks taking two study abroad classes. Vicenza is a fantastic city to put on your list of places to go on your Italian vacation. The downtown area isn't very big, but that's what's so great about it. It's such a relaxing city. Not once did I ever feel threatened here (Rome you got to always be on your toes, its nuts). Vicenza makes a great place to visit to get away from the big city craziness that you'll experience in say Rome. The downtown doesn't have very many historic sites to be seen, but it makes up for it with shops and fantastic cafes. Vicenza is a 15 min train ride from Venice, 45 min from Padova and Verona, and 3 hours from Florence. Definitely make time to visit Vicenza, you will not regret it.
This is a local trip that includes fun in the sun while sailing and enjoying local restaurants and bars. Water, boat, sun, and fun. There are lots of great places to chill or rage up in the Tampa/St Pete’s local area; everything from the best gelato to fresh local seafood.
It was a 4 day trip to Whistler/Blackcomb for skiing and Vancouver for nightlife. It exceeded my expectations in both aspects. Flew to Vancouver, rented a car and drove up to the mountain. No problems getting into the country. From Vancouver it was about a 2 hour drive to the skiing area. The UBS Whistler Lodge, nice accommodations. Cost: $21, quiet place. The only thing that sucked was parking, kind of a rip-off, watch out. Purchased a 2 day rental package with everything and lift tickets. The best rental setup ever. It was so easy to pay, fit and leave, plus free storage for your gear at night. The HI-Whistler; awesome place. A kitchen area, hot tubs, nice cafe, and new. I made some friends here and later went up to the village to party. Irish Pub, Longhorn Saloon, Maxx Fish. Maxx Fish was a good club to be at that night. The village has a lot of great places and people to party with. Go with friends or go along and meet people, it will still be a swell time. Some spots have better nights or simply better deals. SameSun Backpacker Lodge, had great bars and the clubs were right next to it. It was packed with travelers who want to have an awesome time and there was tons of great fresh food and selection of local and international brews.
It was another wild Xmas/New Years trip taken by BeenWhere Execs. The trip totals: Days: 12, Kilometers driven: 2052, Kilograms of Ekmek (bread)eaten: 5.44, Kebabs consumed: 17, Liters of Raki (Turkey's liquor): 4.5 This trip was an interesting ride throughout the Western portion of Turkey. We landed in Istanbul and explored the local scenery for a day and carried on our way to the south, destination of Antalya with many stops along the way. Driving in and around Istanbul might be one of the best driving challenges in the world. Ensure you rent yourself a true battle chariot for the rough road ahead; you're going to need it. We drove as close to the coast as we could get on the way to Izmir. There are so many awesome places to stop, look, take pictures, eat and hang with locals. Definitely check out the historic sites along the way. We stayed in the vehicle, napping while driving, and in cozy ma 'n pa hotels with classic Turkish breakfast included, normally. Restock for Efes (Turkey's most prominant beer)as needed. We made many stops to snag local produce off trees, tangerines, lots of tangerines. The roads are decently structured for driving across the country, but you'll still get messed up. Don't worry though; you'll make it just fine. We stayed in Antalya for a couple of days, purchased local items and started to cruise back to Istanbul for our trip capstone. During the trip we ran into warm weather, cold weather, high winds, rains, sunshine and snow through the narrow mountain roads along with icy conditions, all of which were in some of the most picturesque locations. Instead of traveling the same path twice, we veered off with our battle chariot to Badirma to catch the ferry across the Sea of Marmara to Istanbul. Make sure to check the ferry schedule, it can be sketchy due to winds on the sea and variable weather. We were able to leave, so we drove our van on the ferry and then proceeded to enjoy the 3hour ride back to the ports in Istanbul. When back in Istanbul, after touring the mosques and picking up additional; Efes and Kebabs, we headed straight to the bazaar near the Blue Mosque. This is where business goes down. You want, you got it. It has everything...everything. Don't be silly and not deal, get what you want. We remained in Istanbul for a few days. Later, we proceeded west to make a quick trip to Turkey's neighboring country. We stayed on a nice beach town on the Marmara Sea. After making our way back to downtown Istanbul, we found a place to crash and celebrate the New Year with locals, whom love it as much as everyone else on earth. Departure was out of Ataturk.
It takes 16 hours to get to India by plane which usually includes a layover somewhere in Europe. With that being said I spent about 36 total hours in the country before I was forced to leave under extreme circumstances. Either way, I had an amazing 36 hours in that very hot, dirty, smelly, fast paced country. I had an amazing plan to travel around the entire country in 19 days and hit all the major cities but I only visited New Delhi and Agra, which were both exciting!
We took a 4.5 hour flight from Atlanta to Bogota on the 24th of December and spent our first night in the Airport Marriott (about 5 km from the Airport). We attempted to rent our car on the 25th of December, but because of it was Christmas nearly everything was closed so we spent the remainder of Christmas day riding a bus for $1.50 around the city of Bogota watching people and exploring all the neighborhoods. Once the bus stopped driving on paved streets and ended up on gravel roads in the less developed hillside neighborhoods of Bogota, Rylan and I got off the bus and proceeded to explore on foot. We got our car on the 26th of December from the Dollar Rental agency and used Google translator to make the deal. We rented a 4 door Hyundai for 6 days for $380 and unlimited millage. From Monday until Saturday we drove around the entire northern half of Colombia with a mission to get to see Colombia in it's natural and most common form. We explored so many Villages, drank about 15 cups of coffee a day (usually bought from roadside stands) and talked to so many people in our broken Spanish (which we learned on the plane ride down). We got to Cartagena on Tuesday night and stayed on the beach at the Dann Hotel for $180/ night. It was our treat after staying in the car and battling the heat, trucks and buses. Left Cartagena on Thursday at 4:00 PM and drove back via Medellin ( the opposite road we took to go north). Finished by exploring Bogota again on New Years Eve, however, to my surprise it's not very exciting on New Years Eve.
This last minute adventure began in Swindon, England after spending some time in the Wales country side. Let me tell ya, if you're looking for sheep, that's your spot. The rolling grassy hills, littered with big ol' fluffy sheep was nothing short of picturesque. Swindon was great. A smaller town, but there's a good little area with bars and clubs which are pretty fun. I experienced my first Wetherspoon's in Swindon. For those who don't know, Wetherspoon's is a pub chain. It may not be looked at as a stellar establishment by the locals, but hey, if nothing else, they sell their beers and ciders for cheaper than most other pubs, usually. Ciders and beers are fantastic in England. I don't know, maybe it was just being in the country that made everything taste better, so i guess you'll have to try it all for yourself! Some of the places I went that I would totally recommend: Eye of London- Cool at sunset for some great pictures of the city, but go pee before you get on line, it could be a long wait. Big Ben- You see it on t.v. and in magazines all the time and it may not look so cool, but once you've seen it for yourself, and then see it in another magazine, you'll think it's cooler. London Bridge- Pretty neat because of how old it is, but definitely not what I was expecting. Wetherspoon's- Like I mentioned above, its a nice pub for outsiders and locals alike. Buckingham Palace- I actually saw Prince Charles roll up in his Bentley motorcade the second time I visited. The changing of the guards was a sight to see also. Mostly so you can say you've seen it. P.s. the guards really won't move unless you touch them, but they're human, and you CAN make them laugh. Walking along the river though London- Generally just a good time, and very nice scenery. Next stop was Amsterdam for 2 days. Amsterdam is like Mardi Gras... I'm glad I went, but I wouldn't be heartbroken if I never made it back there. The city definitely gets bustling at night time because of the Red Light District, pubs and Absinthe Bars. Take a walk though the Red Light District at night time (with some friends), even if you're not there for the reason most people are... it'll change your life, good or bad, you decide. I actually enjoyed the outskirts of Amsterdam a bit more than the city life. It was pleasant and there were some nice restaurants to visit. Places to visit in Amsterdam: Red Light District- For whatever reason you go, you will certainly find what you were looking for. Anne Frank's House- I don't know why, but i expected much more than I saw. It was a great historical experience and I really shouldn't have expected much more, considering it is a representation of what the household looked like at the time of the Holocaust and the area which they all hid upstairs wasn't lavishly furnished like I pictured in my head. Local Parks- There are some little local gathering areas/parks where people sing and play music about peace on earth and other happy things like that. On to Brussels.... We had an 8 hour stop in Brussels so of course, we ate Belgian Waffles, visited Manneken Pis, tried to steal a beer glass and drank beer! It was a whirlwind but real cool. As for the restaurants around Manneken Pis, they're no exception to other restaurants around tourist hot spots... way expensive, and you CAN NOT just walk out of a restaurant with a beer glass. They'll literally chase you through the street. France was next: We stayed in Paris about a mile or two from the Eiffel Tower, in a room above a bar. Be ready to embrace the sight of more smokers and cigarette butts on the streets than you've ever experienced. But that's not to say that Paris is dirty, because it's not. Just different. The French people really appreciate it when you try to speak French, but when you don't... well they may be a little bit abrasive at first. Since we only saw Paris, the sites we checked out were: The Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe (there are tunnels that you use to get past the hectic traffic circle surrounding the Arc... use them to avoid near collisions with vehicles!), and numerous parks. If you get a chance, take a nap in a park. It's relatively safe, and people do it all over the place! Finally, Spain... things got real in Spain. Here was the plan: Arrive in Barcelona, hang out for a day, Take the train to Pamplona, partake in the San Fermin festival and run with the bulls, take the train back to barcelona the evening after running with the bulls, hang out in Barcelona for another day, and then head for London where we'd catch our connecting flight back to the States. What actually happened was: Hung out in Barcelona for a day, got made fun of for wearing speedos when trying to fit in on the beach, took the train to Pamplona, bought all the cool white and red garb, got totally stoked about how flawless and great the trip had been, got incredibly drunk on Sangria, slept in a park on an open patch of grass like tons of other people, got robbed blind while we slept, lost our train tickets, lost our money, and lost all our souvenirs, later found our backpack in a bush with surrounded by empty candy wrappers from the candies i took along but NO TRAIN TICKETS OR MONEY, ran with the bulls and had the time of our lives, realized we had no way of getting back to Barcelona, met a stranger from Albuquerque who my friend's mom wired a good sum of money to with the faith that he wouldn't just take the money and run, hung out with this stranger the rest of the day and bought him a nice cracker and nutella dinner in the park, bought next day bus tickets back to Barcelona, made it to the airport barely in time to check in for our flight to London, and lived happily ever after! Running with the bulls was exhilarating to say the least. I think every person should do it in their lifetime at least once, minus getting robbed! I'm planning on going back someday! Oh, and definitely run INTO the arena so you can play with the bulls after the running is over!
This was a weeklong trip spent enjoying the sites, local shops and cafes in Lisbon, followed by a costal adventure and the rural areas. We, BeenWhere, spent 3 days in the city of Lisbon. We traveled around by public metro lines throughout the city, stayed in hostels and hit up shops and the best unknown eateries in the city. The metro lines are fairly easy and decent priced; cheaper than a taxi. We stayed at the Hostel Lis'bon, nice place for great views of the water and city with good breakfast and hospitality, primo location too. We also stayed at Home Lisbon Hostel, where we were fed mama's authentic Portuguese cooking. Yum! Both were great locations. The Bairro Alto bar hop is a great time in the streets with tons of people and lots of bars/clubs for the entire night. There are many tourist traps to include but are not limited to restaurants, gift shops, and castles. Watch out, workers at the restaurants in the Praça do Comércio and surrounding area will hound you while walking near their restaurants and the food will be severely overpriced and generic. Don’t settle for the tourist restaurants, find the smaller streets and alleyways and you’ll discover the best grilled chicken and sides in the city. We departed the city for 4 days and traveled up the coast driving by rental car starting at the airport. We drove all the way to Aveiro, stopping in Figuera da Foz for an evening to sleep on the cliffs for the night breeze near the light house. As true with most trips, in the smaller towns/villages and off the beaten path is where you will find the most authentic gifts, trinkets, the best food, the best prices and of course the best people of that country. We found this to be an extremely accurate statement.
This trip was the beginning of an even greater adventure. Singapore is a great place to enter and continue your journey in SE Asia. The International Airport is extensive but well designed and easy to move around. It is one of the nicest, cleanest, and well designed cities of the world. Getting where you want or need to go: easy, buses or trams are cheapest. Public transportation is easy and common. High end stuff: it has it Low end stuff: you've got to find it Food: everything you can think from across the Asian continent; heavy Chinese & Malaysian influence. There are lots of activities to do. Not exactly a magnificent city to "sight-see" but you can do cool stuff. Great city great country!
In the Summer of 2008, I travelled with a group of fellow classmates to Europe for a 6 week study abroad program. The group that I travelled with over there decided to go to Paris for a few days before the classes started. While in Paris we explored the city and visited The Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, Notre Dame Cathedral, and the Arc De Triomphe. Those were the major stops, but we saw many other things.
2 Day Trip to Cairo from Athens, Greece to see the Pyramids. We were standing in front of the makeshift track designed for the first Olympics in Greece when we came to the realization that we needed to continue to explore history in the first person, and right then and there we bought tickets to to Cairo. Our plan was simple: arrive at the airport, rent a car, locate the pyramids (how hard could that be), sleep in the car and in the morning explore history. What we ended up getting was the "4 time, double big tour with camels" from the owner of the perfume shop we were coaxed into. We were skeptical about the situation until he offered us a decent price/person for the camel rides ($80) and a couch to sleep on in his dilapidated shop crowded with orphan children. Of course because this would make an amazing story we took the offer. Long story short, we woke up at 0500 as the sun crossed over the horizon and we rode on camels to witness the beautiful morning pyramids. Unbelievably magical! You can easily relive this experience and of any adventure I've ever taken I would confidently say this was the most fulfilling. To see those unbelievable stone triangles in person and touch what you've only ever seen in books will blow your mind. We finished this trip to Egypt by driving our car north to Alexandria to see the lighthouse and Stand where the most famous ancient library was once housed. Enjoy the pictures below!
The Czech Rep is an underrated country definitely that has lots to offer. The people are good hosts and courteous, it just takes some time for them to warm up to you. Traveled during September, which is a perfect time to go. The fall in Czech is harvest time and is full of festivals, including everything wine related (special wine though), live music and sales of local products. Flew into Prague briefly toured for a day and hit the tracks for a train ride across the country to Brno. After meeting up with locals, we toured the city of Brno to see the historical sites and then food and beer (daily standard). After Brno, we hit the road to Mikulov and hit up numerous towns and cities along the way. Every fall the city has an epic wine and music festival. Its special wine... Burcák (a young wine produced mainly in southern Moravia). Beer is available, but not the focus - cheap and plentiful. Tons of available camping and lodging; festival lasts a week. Departing Mikulov we hit up multiple castles, lots to see. Traveled to Lednice to see the castle and beautiful greens – be prepared to walk, a lot, lots of acres. We made it to back to Prague for the future departure. There are many things to see and do in the city, with an abundance of historical aspects and culture. However, if you’re going to Czech just for Prague, fine, but you're a standard tourist. It's more expensive and you'll receive an un-authentic representation of the entire country. It's up to you. Prague is a fantastic world city, but there is more than just Prague in Czech.
Weather started off nice, smelled a little like cow manure. There's no DJ scene at all, although DJ Pacman showed me a good time, took me to Leals Mexican restaurant and showed me a legit time at Cannon AFB. Then we cruised prince street CSO POWER!!!
During this last minute adventure, Ry and Ty headed out to foggy ol' London town to represent BeenWhere at the Olympics and beyond! They both stumbled into some free time and decided to make good use of it by grabbing some tickets to the UK. Rylan got there a few days early, so he had some excursions throughout Portugal, France and Spain. We're very excited to get the details on those when he has some time, so keep checking in to find out more! Soon enough, Rylan and Tyler met up in London and are currently venue hopping between the different events, all while proudly representing the U.S.A and BeenWhere. What a life!! Show 'em your cities fellas!!
My sister and I made a road trip out of moving me to Kirksville, Mo. We started in Las Vegas and made our way east. This will just briefly highlight the main stops. The Big Rock Candy Mountain - for any of you that know that song or have seen O Brother Where Art Thou and think that candy mountain might be cool, guess again. Driving out there was a huge let down, and is totally out of the way...there’s a tiny restaurant there that smells like a barn…but not in a good way, and the mountain is really more like a small hill. Green River, UT- stay at the River Terrace Inn. its the cheapest and best of the 13 hotels in the town. Moab- Arches National Park...definitely fill up your gas tank before making your way out there. Arches is an awesome place. Nebraska- There is not much in southern Nebraska... Kearney trading post has a memorial to a two headed calf. From Lincoln, NE we dropped down into St. Louis. St. Louis is a really cool city.A lot of attractions in St. Louis are free, like their awesome zoo.. Other cool things to check out are the botanical garden, the arch, the science center, the Budweiser center, art museum, and a cardinals game. If your looking to be outdoors more Creve Coer lake is a great place to run, fish, or have a picnic, and you can spend hours doing some great people-watching at Forest Park, right outside of the Zoo and Art museum. food- Iron Barley (there will probably be a long wait but you can make yourself comfortable at the bar, they have quite the beer selection) and if you like sushi - Café Mochi in Tower Grove
Imagine waking up from a cold night's sleep and slowly coming to the realization that your backpack containing your train tickets, clothing, and most your money has been stolen! And on top of that-you need to catch a plane back to the States with less than 30 hours to go. To make matters even worse, the airport that you have to fly out of is 400 miles away. Yep--me and my two buddies were in that situation back in July 2008 while we were visiting the San Fermin Festival (aka Running with the Bulls) in Pamplona, Spain. After realizing that someone stole our backpack, we went on an unsuccessful search for it--searching the bushes and trashcans in hopes that the thief took what he wanted and left the backpack behind...no luck. After searching for the backpack, we had just enough time to make it to the start of the Running with the Bulls--what an adrenaline rush! There is no other feeling in the world than to have a 1 ton bull run past you. I remember seeing the bull run past me in a turn and I just hoped that it didn't single me out and charge me. We had actually joked about getting hurt during the run just to get a "free ride" back to Barcelona--solving all our problems. Anyways, the run was a blast. I hopped out just before the entrance into the stadium since I didn't want to waste any time looking for the bag. I met up with my other two buddies afterwards and the search began. Luckily, I had kept 20 Euros in my shoe--so that was enough for water, phone calls, and internet time. I could go on and on about the roller-coaster of a ride we were on that day, but i'm gonna cut it short. So, long story short, we ended up wiring money from a US account to a random American's account whom we ran into at the Western Union in Pamplona. Using this money, we bought the only remaining bus tickets from Pamplona to Barcelona. Once we got to Barcelona, we packed up our apartment and went to the train station to catch our plane to England--then from England back to the States.