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Top Ten Trips!

South America Road Trip- Lima to Rio and back... almost  Dom

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!

Added: December, 2011 • Views: 13 • Comments
Light Travel in Spain  Bmaynard

More to come.

Added: December, 2011 • Views: 13 • Comments
RUNNING WITH THE BULLS  VondotheExplorer

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.

Added: December, 2011 • Views: 12 • Comments
Whistler/Vancouver: Awesome Skiing, Incredible Nightlife   Rylan

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.

Added: December, 2011 • Views: 12 • Comments
New Zealand in a Camper Van  Porterfoulon

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.

Added: December, 2011 • Views: 12 • Comments
Puerto Rico  Brandon

Added: December, 2011 • Views: 11 • Comments
Cairo, Egypt: ride a camel  Chas

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!

Added: December, 2011 • Views: 10 • Comments
Van Landingham Estate  Brandon

The Van Landingham Estate in Charlotte, NC.

Added: December, 2011 • Views: 10 • Comments
West Coast Road Trip!  O0tiana0o

We drove down the Pacific Coast Highway from Seattle to sunny Southern California enjoying all the stops along the way!

Added: January, 2012 • Views: 10 • Comments
Driving and Sailing Thailand   Chas

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.

Added: December, 2011 • Views: 9 • Comments