We’re home. One of the toughest things people often ask us about our trip is ‘What was your favorite country?’ It is nearly impossible to answer this question – we enjoyed every country we visited (except for Honduras, but that doesn’t really count). Lately I have been thinking back on some great things, some crazy things, some challenges, and some things we missed (links refer back to the corresponding blog post):
- Mexico - Visiting the re-awakening ghost town of Real de Catorce, beach-bumming down the Pacific Coast from Sayulita to Puerto Escondido, and seeing our first pre-Columbian ruins.
- Guatemala - Hiking up a dormant volcano to look down on active erupting volcano Santa Maria, learning Spanish and living with a wonderful family in Xela, and seeing the thriving indigenous culture.
- Nicaragua - Partying with visiting friends, and chilling in our sweet condo with our great friends Tom and Kelsey in San Juan del Sur to build the best website with information on driving North, Central, and South America at Drive the Americas.
- Costa Rica – Learning the true meaning of relaxation and how to surf at Playa Negra, and exploring our first jungle in Monteverde.
- Panama - Achieving coffee nirvana in Boquete and sailing the San Blas Islands.
- Colombia - Seeing some exquisite colonial towns, and experiencing the pinnacle of delicious Colombian food at Andres Carne de Res with our adopted Colombian family.
- Ecuador - Exploring the beautiful highlands while driving the Quilotoa Loop, and bathing and biking in Baños.
- Peru - Getting off the gringo trail in northern Peru to visit Kuelap, and touring southern Peru. It packed the highest density of amazing Incan and pre-Incan culture between Colca Canyon, Lake Titicaca, and the ruins around Cusco.
- Bolivia - Getting our car blessed in Copacabana, finding ourselves in the middle of a crazy three day dance festival in Sucre, and freezing our butts off in the Salar de Uyuni.
- Argentina - Enjoying the amazing wine around Mendoza, seeing our first glacier in El Calafate, and reaching the end of the road in Ushuaia.
- Uruguay - Getting tranquilo at the hot springs and learning about gaucho life on Panagea Ranch.
Places we missed and are on our wish-list for the next trip
- Mexico - See the Yucatan Peninsula.
- Guatemala - Spend the Day of the Dead in Huehuetenango, and hike two days through the jungle to visit the unexcavated Mayan ruins at El Mirador.
- Nicaragua - Visit tropical paradise on the Bay Islands.
- Honduras - Scuba dive off Roatan Island.
- Panama - Sail more of the amazing San Blas Islands.
- Colombia - Visit the Lost City on the Caribbean coast.
- Ecuador - Visit the jungles of Ecuador and shell out the big bucks to see the Galapagos Islands.
- Peru - Mountaineer in the Cordillera Blanca of Juaráz.
- Bolivia - Visit the colorful canyons of Tarija in Southern Bolivia.
- Argentina - See Iguazu falls and fly to Eastern Island.
- Chile - Drive the Carretera Austral of southern Chile and hike in Torres del Paine.
- Brazil - The whole country!
Fun/insane things that would never happen in the US
- Mexico - Fireworks raining down on the crowds for Independence Day in Zacatecas and in general the very generous use of fireworks, all day, all night, for any occasion.
- Guatemala - Watching men in Chichicastenango dance around while wearing an exploding fireworks-suit to celebrate the Burning of the Devil, and Chris getting sprayed with beer in a good luck ceremony for the demi-god/evil spirit Maximon. Add hiking next to flowing molten lava and fighting off spiders around Lago Atitlan, and Guatemala earns the award for the most lawsuit-worthy country.
- Panama - Sailing across the ocean from the San Blas Islands of Panama to Cartagena Colombia in an overcrowded ship with a captain who liked his booze.
- Bolivia - Crawling through the apocalyptic tin mines in Potosí and biking down the death road.
- Being ill – It’s an unfortunate reality for a trip of this length in these countries that most travelers will pick up some nasty bugs. We spent some serious sick time in Mexico and Nicaragua, but coming down with giardia in La Paz, Bolivia was by far the most unpleasant experience. Hunting down rabies vaccines in Ecuador and Peru wasn’t a cakewalk either.
- Worrying about money – While driving endless days in Patagonia towards the end of our trip, we had too much time to think about our dwindling budget and the unknown costs of shipping the car back to the US and purchasing airline tickets. It ended up being a lot cheaper than we expected, and relaxing at the hot springs and ranch in Uruguay helped us regain perspective.
- Being cold – Throughout the trip, we were continually surprised by how cold we were. Once you’re above 10,000 ft, it doesn’t matter how close to the equator you may be, it will be chilly. We should have brought more warm clothes.
- Not getting too irritated – There’s no hot water, there’s no heat, this hotel is good enough, let’s not stop here, I’m starving, I’m freezing, watch out for that pot-hole, etc. Two people in one car for sixteen months can push the limits of anyone’s patience. We found that if we got really annoyed, we would wait for ten minutes and then think about it again. Chances were that whatever it was, it really didn’t matter.
That said, The Darien Plan is now going on sabbatical. We are currently with Chris’s parents in Florida. We will spend some time with them here before visiting my family in Boston, then we will set off back across the country for California (with many stops to visit friends and family along the way). We plan to end our travels in San Diego. Thanks again for reading. Feel free to contact us (email addresses and Skype handles at the top of the blog) if you have any thoughts or questions. Also check out our website, Drive the Americas, for comprehensive information on driving North, Central, and South America.