New Experiences & Broken Things

Posted on Saturday November 7, 2009 by Jacob Campbell.

The Late Birthday Present

The Giant Peccary I had for Lunch The Giant Peccary I had for Lunch

I’ve recently broken my camera, so you can view the last of the photos I will be able to upload from my camera at its album Ayahuasca Vision Quest, an Overnight Jungle Trek, and Los Días de Los Muertos Facebook Album. I will probably be uploading photos from Ami’s camera (I apologize in advance for people who are friends with both of us for the duplicates in pictures).

We spent about a week in Puerto Maldonado, which (other than the broken camera) an exquisite trip. Two of our friends live there (Naun and Rachel). It’s one of the largest cities in the Amazonian region of Perú (Iquitos would be the other). It’s more expensive than most of the rest of Perú, but still very cheap by US standards. In Perú they use the Nuevo Sol (New Sun) and the exchange rate, while it fluctuates daily) is about three sol’s to every USD. The double room that Ami and me were staying in (Hostel Moderno) cost s/. 25 per night (or a little over USD$4 per night). We could eat a giant rice, soup, meat, and juice dinner for only s/. 3… which is so cheap. Some places are more touristy, and thus more expensive.

While we were in Puerto Maldonado we did go to a couple of the tourist restaurants. There we ate some traditional jungle food and jungle meat. I had wild jungle pig (Giant Peccary – Pecari Maximus) and Ami had wild jungle rodent (Capybara - Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris). It was good although neither tasted like chicken. We also ate at a couple of great pizzerias, a chifa restaurant (Peruvian Chinese restaurant), and I ate some Juane on my jungle adventure.

We also ate some other unexpected stuff. We were in Puerto for a couple of days, I began to notice that Ami kept going off with Rachael to I figured plan something. I left to go to the bank one day, while we were all getting coffee and dessert and came back to Ami explaining about her birthday experience. Well, were sitting in the hostel room one day, and Naun and Rachael came by. Ami told me, “you need a hammock… and let’s go.” I decided I needed pack a few more things, but I didn’t know where we were going. I had figured this had something to do with my birthday, but I had not know that Ami had been planning it for almost two weeks.

I quickly packed my bags (because everybody was waiting for me), and we headed off on motorbikes. When we got outside of town, we switched drivers (I was riding with Naun and Ami with Rachael). Ami had been asking for days to be able to drive one of the motor scooters so I figured I ought to let her drive us, to where ever we were going. I second guessed myself after we started weaving back and forth across the road. When we came to the first bridge, Ami wasn’t used to the breaking system and we made it more of a jump than a bridge.

 Ami's Scraped Up Leg Ami’s Scraped Up Leg

A little further down the road we ended up laying the scooter down, not going very quickly so nobody was hurt. After a little bit, and some adjustments of my giant backpack, and Ami got the driving down pretty pat. That’s how it seemed at least. Let’s just say that going uphill on a little scooter can be a dangerous endeavor. We had just gone over a bridge. The bridges in the jungle (for buses, trucks, motorcycles, and everything) are somewhat menacing. There have been a number of times on buses that I have been afraid that they would break. The generally contain two wide boards that are higher by about an inch then all of the crossbeams. While the wide boards would seem the more secure bet, they are too narrow to be easily navigated by bike. Taking a bike over the crossbeams has its own challenges too. Normally they are lower than the ground, and so there is always a bump getting on and off. By the end of the hour trip there and back both me and Ami became proficient at navigating these.

The steep dirt road hills are another story. After crossing one of these bridges, Ami started heading up this hill. About half way up, she decided that the bike was in too high of a gear. The combination of me (a good couple hundred pounds heavier than Ami) and my backpacking bag seemed too much for the bike. We road a wheelie for a couple of feet before the bike tipped over onto it’s back. I kind of jumped off of the bike and fell back on my pack. My first response was to look at Ami’s feet and legs to see if they were trapped along the hot metal. Her flip flop (not good riding equipment for either of us) was stuck between the tire and spokes. Out of instinct I grabbed for her leg and tried to make sure she was safe. In the process I managed to create some excess bubbling skin on my forearm (interestingly, it was right over a previous burn). We both came out alright, although Ami was pretty beat up. I drove the bike the rest of the way (only five minutes down the road) to the Shamans place.

An Ayahuasca Vine An Ayahuasca Vine

When we finally arrived in the woods, and first found a wooden platform to set our hammocks on, was when I was first told what the present was. I was being brought into the middle of nowhere to do a vision quest with Ayahuasca (ayawaska pronounced [ajaˈwaska] in the Quechua language). This is a brewed mixture of a vine and some leaves that have psychoactive (hallucinogenic) proprieties. As we have been traveling I have met a number of people who have either taken Ayahuasca or San Pedro Cactus, and it has always been a thought to personally try these. One lady we met from the UK has been traveling around South America for the past several months after being diagnosed with a deadly brain tumor to just take Ayahuasca. She said that she had not been medically tested yet, but she was sure it was helping and that she had a number of physical manifestations.

Knowing that I have come to South America partly to find myself, and help figure out what I am supposed to do with my life… Ayahuasca seemed an interesting experience to have. I did have to spend some time deciding whether or not I would take it at that moment. It is a strange thing, to be brought somewhere and expected to take a hallucinogen without any type of preparation or forethought. We also almost did not perform the ceremony because the Shaman that Naun knew was performing a ceremony at another lodge that evening. We were left with his two understudies. Interestingly, they were gringos (i.e. foreigners).

All in all, there were the two stand in Shaman, Naun, Rachael, Ami, two girls from Spain, and me all participated in the experience. We sat on mats on the floor of a dark hut and took each took our turn of drinking the concoction. We drank about one half cup of the liquid, which both smelled and tasted bad. After about a half hour, they turned off the lights started chanting and shaking a maraca type instrument. Soon after, with my eyes closed I started hallucinating a bit. I, and almost everybody vomited. Vomiting is very normal with Ayahuasca, and supposed to symbolize cleansing the body. One member of our group continued to vomit through the entire night (not a very pleasant experience). While I did not seem to see my purpose or any type of future life vision I did see some other things.

Our Student Shaman Who Preformed the Ceremony for Us Our Student Shaman Who Preformed the Ceremony for Us

I felt both very hot and cold at different points during the experience. At one point, I was sitting on the ground, and I felt like I was a giant ball of gravity… pulling everybody closer to me. I also experienced seeing a white light and seeing all of my thoughts running across this glass like surface as if they were ants. I also saw myself madly trying to type all of my thoughts down in a darkened room. All in all, it was an interesting experience. I would not say that it was life changing or vision forming. But it was very interesting.

I drove us the majority of the way back on the motor bike… but I ran into a similar problem as Ami did. While attempting to navigate a hill, I realized I was in too high of a gear I attempted to downshift. Ami fell off the back of the bike as we popped another wheelie. I was able to control the bike and not let it come crashing to the ground. While I was able to control the bike, I did end up spinning it in a circle (and revving up the engine at the same time because I was holding the gas with my hand). I nearly ran Ami over with the bike. Deciding that she did not want to ride with me anymore, I rode back with Naun and Ami with Rachel.

Church Outreach Event

A couple of nights later, next to the Plaza Armas (the main square), there were people setting up for a concert that evening. Ami and I met a couple who are from Texas, and had been living here for the last four months. They are here to plant a church, and are planning to start an English language school. They also helped to set up the event that was happening later in the square.

The event was pretty spectacular. There were hundreds of people hanging out in the plaza, and around the stage. The event started with some awards for various groups involved. They then had a children’s program which consisted of people in giant costumes, singing and dancing. Some of the pastors who spoke described Halloween (the day the event took place) as evil and of the Devil. They also told parents to not let their kids go out dancing or drinking. There was a number of human videos and dramas. The main event was a singer from Bolivia. It was amazing to see so many people worshiping, and dancing in the streets. At the end, they had an alter call and maybe 20 people came forward to commit their lives to Jesus. It was very exciting. Apparently the local pastors set up a free breakfast in the morning for the new converts to be able to better meet them.

Tambopata National Reserve Jungle Trek

 Sun Rise from Tambopata National Reserve Sun Rise from Tambopata National Reserve

I got the amazing opportunity to go on a very cheap jungle trek. I went with a number of French speaking people, but it was still an amazing adventure. I showed up at the port at 6am, and we took an eight hour boat ride to make it fairly deep into the Tambopata National Reserve. The whole trip cost me less than USD$100… which is really an amazing price. The lodge that is across the river from where we were costs about USD$1,000 for a four night trek, making my price super cheap. During the boat ride, I saw a number of different birds and even a small clay lick for macaws. Macaws will eat the nutrients at the clay licks to help settle their stomachs giving them the ability to eat both ripe and un-ripe fruit. We also saw a couple of peccaries (wild jungle pigs). My necklace I recently bought has a tusk from one of the peccaries. It’s also interesting that there were birds eating the little insects off of the peccaries that we passed.

When we arrived, we made camp and went for a swim. I had neglected to bring a tent, believing my hammock would be enough. Everybody thought that I was crazy. After our swim we had a candle lit dinner and went searching for caiman. I thought it was very funny that we were looking for caiman right next to where we were swimming a few hours before. Interestingly, the only caiman we saw was not more than a 2 minute walk down the beach from where we were. Apparently they aren’t much for attacking people. On our night walk, we also saw a little frog, a deadly snake, and some cool bugs that eyes glow.

Macaws eating at a clay lick Macaws eating at a clay lick

I ended up not sleeping in my hammock, due to a killer rain storm. They made some room for me in one of the tents. From inside the tent the entire ceiling was constantly lit up by lightning and the ground seem to shake from the thunder. I donned my swimsuit to experience the storm fully, and found one of my fellow traveling companions tent completely flooded. After helping them in their midnight wet move, I stood out the storm. Me and four other guys stood out in the rain and finished the rum and coke that was left over from after dinner.

After a long stormy night, 4:30 am came very early. By about five we were in the boat and heading to the world largest known clay lick. We saw so many different types of birds. It was worth the early morning trek. After that, we returned to the camp to pack everything up. While I was heading out into the woods, to use the bathroom, I spotted a little jungle rodent. So much wildlife. After that we took a two hour jungle hike. It was very interesting to see so many different plants and animals. Some of them have really interesting stories. Make sure to check out the photos’ linked above… because I describe about each on the photos themselves. Wildlife wise, we did see some squirrel and howler monkeys.

Is South America Supposed to Be Cold?

We took an 15 hour bus ride from Puerto Maldonado to Cusco Peru. Arriving at about 6:30 AM we decided that Cusco is a very cold place. During the day’s it’s about mid 70’s to low 80’s, and just above freezing during the night. Although we both took medicine for altitude sickness (Cusco is 3,310 m), and drank coca tea… we both ended up not feeling the best. For about two days I have been very sick… barely wanting to leave my bed to eat. But finally this morning I am feeling better.

We spent the first couple of nights couchsurfing, but are now staying at Pirwa Colonial Backpackers Hostel. When we were couchsurfing it was an interesting experience. The guy we stayed with, owned an extra two bedroom apartment and we stayed there by ourselves. He was very nice. Currently we will be starting to do volunteering on Monday. We are also looking for apartments and jobs. We believe we will be staying at the South American Explores Club.

Delays, Couchsurfing, and Boats… Oh My (Brazil)

Posted on Thursday October 29, 2009 by Jacob Campbell.

A lot has happened since I last posted. I’ve uploaded a couple of different photo albums. You can check out Oi… its Brazil Facebook Album, Kite Running and Long Boat Rides Facebook Album, and Out of Brazil… Into Peru Facebook Album. You can also check out Ami’s photo album she just posted, South America!!(only if you are friends with her on Facebook).

It has been a long time since my last post, and therefore seem difficult to know exactly where to start. It seems that I am always weighting the balance between action and contemplation. While I am traveling it seems easier to focus on the action, and lose the contemplation all together. That is not to say that while I have been gone, I have done no thinking about things (this is very far from the truth). It is more that I have done limited amounts of compiling stories, photos, and maps of my journey to be published online.

Wondering Around Manaus

The Teatro Amazon The Teatro Amazon

We spent a little over a week in Manaus. Manaus seems to be the Jungle capital of Brazil (and maybe South America). There were hundreds of tour operators, all with different plans and levels of services. We could not walk out of Hostel Manaus (where we stayed) without a nearby tour agency asking us if we needed a jungle tour. Our Hostel also provided jungle tours that could be utilized too.

The plan was to head to Bolivia to do a jungle tour there (Bolivia is supposed to have more wildlife and be much cheaper). Other than Jungle tours there are many things to do in Manaus. We spent an afternoon touring the Teatro Amazonas (Opera House). A grand theater that was built during the rubber boom of the late 1800’s. It is comprised of materials brought from Europe and entirely decorated by European artists. After checking out the Opera House, we walked across the street and Ami got to see her first Orchids on an actual tree. She went a bit photo crazy and was so happy.

We found other orchids at this Parque Senador Jéfferson Péres. It is a beautiful new park (still partially under construction. It has little outlets of the Rio Negra flowing out to the city in it. They had a building that was supposed to contain different species of orchids. The building was locked the three different ventures that Ami tried to go. The first day we went, was a neat experience.

Young girls sitting in trash in an inlet of the Rio Negra Young girls sitting in trash in an inlet of the Rio Negra

After wondering around the parque for a while, we ended up coming out to a larger inlet of the Rio Negra. While we were there, it was the very beginning of the rainy season (mostly it had not even started). So this inlet was mostly dry ground with scattered trash and dry docked boats. You can see the houses on stilts further off, on the other side of the inlet. There were some girls sitting and playing in the trash covered ground. There was a boat, which looked as if it had not seen the likes of water for a number of years. There appeared to be at least one family that lived there (possibly more, including the little girls we saw).

I pray that I never become accustomed to seeing people living and playing in and around trash and non-sanitary conditions. There have been a couple of times during this trip that I wondered what would happen if I just got a bunch of trash bags. Started on my own to clean up various areas. Would the people follow suit? If we did get it all cleaned up, a fresh start… how long would it last? What other services do these people need?

We wondered further up, past several other families that were apparently living in the barren wasteland of trash and mud. We came upon a larger section of inlet. Here there were hundreds of kids with kites. Talking in broken Portuguese and Spanish, we realized that the kids were having kite wars. I’m not sure if you have read The Kite Runner (an excellent book, I’d highly recommend), but it was very similar to this. The strings were course enough to cut down another parties kite. We sat and watched them for some time, and it started to rain. First a couple of drops, then it seems the heaves open up and empties all of the stored water. The kids went running to their homes, only to drop off their kites or perhaps spoiled kite, and to grab their soccer balls. In the pouring rain, mud and trash you could see the children happy as could be playing futból. We waited out the pounding thunder, flashing lightning, and drenching rain with a beer and conversations.

Kids Playing Soccer in the Rain Kids Playing Soccer in the Rain

There were many good conversations, and even some half hatched future business ideas (a type of world restaurant) at the Port of Manaus. We took fellow travelers to see the prize we had found at the port. A Torre of beer. For about R$20 you can buy 350 ml of beer. It comes in a giant plastic cylinder complete with its own tap. The cylinder has a hole in top, and a frozen metal object gets stuck down keeping the beer cold. The servers exchange these often, and brought us orders of batata fritas (French fries) with toothpicks.

While we didn’t eat at the discotech, we did have some drinks and attempted dancing. One of the nights we went out with a couple other travelers to one of the local discotechs (dance clubs). It was a lot of fun, and made me really want to learn to dance Forró (our hotel guy told us it came from somebody saying it was music “for all” and then made to be written in Portuguese). The entire time I was in Brazil, I did not see any Samba clubs (ether that, or Samba in the US is very different). I attempted to ask a number of girls to either dance with me or to teach me (my Portuguese is pretty horrible) but got shot down every time.

I did get a lot of action when we went to Bosque da Ciância. We went with some friends we had met at the hostel (Rachel and Naun). It was a thirty minute bus ride from the center of town, through the winding roads of the real Manaus. All of the houses have large fences with metal gates and broken glass on top of the walls. Some were nice, some weren’t. We went past one area that had a little stream that ran behind the houses. You could see naked children, trash, and dirty water. We saw a lot of different animals there, probably more than we would if we had taken a jungle trek. We saw three types of monkeys (one being squirrel monkey). We saw freshwater manatees, a toucan, scarlet macaw, caiman, turtles, electric eels, and little jungle rodents. It was a great excursion, and well worth the R$2.

Riverboat Ride Down the Amazon

Sunset on the Boat on the AmazonSunset on the Boat on the Amazon

The cheapest way to get down to Porto Velho is to take a boat down The Amazon. This was also one of our major goals for going into Brazil. It cost about R$170 for the four night trip. We arrived several hours before our boat was scheduled to leave for Porto Velho, and it was already jam packed with goods, hammocks (what we slept on during the trip), and people. Some of them had gotten there as early as the day before. We were hoping to see the meeting of the waters (of the yellow and black rivers that are the primary feeds to The Amazon) where you can see the different colored water running side by side, but we did not leave until very late (an several hours after our scheduled time). There was no room to sleep on the main sleeping deck, so we mistakenly brought our hammocks up to the bar on the top of the boat. There were a number of people who where were set up there, but we didn’t realize just how hectic it would get.

After spending some time writing and watching the dark water we both laid down to sleep for the night. We were disturbed by the lady working at the bar screaming and locking up the store. Looking to the other end of the boat, we saw a group of three or four men yelling and chasing another Brazilian guy. Disoriented, we got out of our hammocks and saw that they were chasing the man with weapons. One guy had a large board that appeared to have rusty nails. Another guy had picked up a crutch and was chasing him. They came to our side of the boat, and Ami actually got trapped behind the guy they were attacking. I had to pull her out of the struggle before she could get hurt. We went down to the bottom of the boat and waited with the majority of the people. One of the guys appeared to be very injured (with a couple of large gashes, and possible broken arm and leg). In the morning, a police officer came on board and arrested two people, and they carried the injured one into port.

In the rush, Ami left her wallet and I left my cell phone in our hammocks. Ami had about R$100 stolen from her, and they took my cell phone. Apart from the loss, we ended up moving downstairs with everybody else and having a great rest of the trip. Boat riding down The Amazon (I say it’s The Amazon, but technically it’s one of its large tributaries) means dirty bathrooms, beautiful scenery, cards, writing/thinking, movies, and dolphins.

We saw a couple of freshwater pink dolphins, which are common to The Amazon. Ami saw her own personal dolphin. He jumped out of the water, almost completely exposing himself. I believe I saw a caiman, but I am not sure, and a ton of different species of birds. There were lots of different insects that lived on our boat also. The most annoying being this flying beetle that seemed to like to fall onto you. Once on the ground, it would run on its back, trying to get to safety. There were also a lot of bugs that appeared to enjoy the bathrooms.

Packed Hammock Space on the Boat Packed Hammock Space on the Boat

The bathrooms are small little rooms, with locks both inside and outside. Many of them don’t have lights, so if you have to do any business at night it can be difficult. They have a shower that is almost over the toilet, and nowhere to place your hygiene supplies or clothes. A number of different types of moths, spiders, and sometimes cockroaches often inhabited them. Other then insects, the walls seemed to be tinged black by some sort of mold. They stunk of ammonia, and often had standing water inside. It was really quite the experience.

Every day we were provided with copious amounts of rice, beans, and noodles along with either beef or chicken. They often had a couple of slices of tomato to add to the concoction. Getting meals meant waiting in line for long periods of time until there was room at the table, then quickly eating your food so the next could come and eat.

I spent a considerable amount of time doing what I call meta thinking (thinking about thinking). I wrote down my personal mission statement (it’s still not complete), read my bible and book, and wrote some letters (which I still haven’t sent off a week later). It was also magnificent to stare off into the expanse of the jungle. It made me wonder at the grandness, and imagine a future trip that would be comprised of exploring the jungle and seeing if I could survive. It also made me wonder at how much life and biodiversity we couldn’t see in the distance. The sunsets and the storms were amazing.

One night, we had a particularly large storm we traveled through. I donned my rain poncho, sunglasses (to keep the pelting rain out of my eyes), and went to the top of the boat to get drenched. There is something vastly different with the storms in South America and the ones in North America. The rain comes down in blankets here and thunder claps loud enough to feel it in your bones. It is a glorious thing. Me and Ami in our rain gear got a lot of laughs from all of the locals, who hid from the elements under the boat. When we finally landed in Porto Velho, we were happy to have real bathrooms and showers.

Couchsurfing in Porto Velho

Renata's Family who we Couch Surfed WithRenata’s Family who we Couch Surfed With

In Porto Velho we stayed two nights with an amazing family through couchsurfing.org. They were phenomenal people. Renata is a medical student, and loads of fun to hang out with. She lives with her mother, father and younger brother. Only Renata speaks English, but her family was so welcoming. We arrived on October 18th, which is my birthday. I was very happy to just spend time with their family and eat dinner together.

We also got to hang out with Renata’s brother, who wanted to show us all the different foods we had to try while in Brazil. With her younger brother, I played some futból… which the language barrier doesn’t seem to affect. We also taught Renata to play Texas Hold’em, and she taught us to play a local card game (Truca). To show our appreciation for their hospitality, we made some homemade lasagna.

All We Want is to Leave Brazil

We took a six hour bus ride to Guajará-Mirim, the border town to cross into Bolivia. We took a night bus, with hopes to get the paperwork started early enter Bolivia. We were prepared to pay the USD$100 to enter Bolivia, but they did not want to accept us. Nobody at the consulate spoke English, so communication was difficult. The paperwork they gave us, apparently showed new requirements (not mentioned in our Rough Guide to South America). They require that US citizens have an official criminal background check. They told us that we would have to take a two day trip back to Brasilia to obtain the proper paperwork. That was our first attempt to leave.

We bought bus tickets to Rio Branco (heading to Assis Brasillia and the border to Perú) for the next morning. When we showed up to catch our bus, we were denied due to having an expired visa. We spent the rest of the day attempting to get our visa in Brazil extended. We transferred our bus tickets to the next morning (our second attempt to leave). The next morning we had complications in getting to the bus before they left. Again we had to transfer our tickets to the next day. Our third attempt to leave kind of turned into a fourth. We stayed at two different hotels while in Guajará-Mirim, Hotel Lima and Maylla Park Hotel. Maylla Park Hotel had the nicest people there.

  Ferry Across the River  Ferry Across the River

One morning, I had gone downstairs to get some coffee. I had missed the breakfast, so I asked them to boil some water and I would use my own instant coffee. It must be said that Brazilians put a lot of sugar in their coffee. I put some in and went back to the room. About 10 minutes later, two of the maids came knocking on my door. They had brought a note written in Portuguese (they knew I understood Portuguese written more than spoken) and some sugar. They insisted that I put some more sugar in my coffee because they did not know I already had. Unable to describe myself properly I added lots more sugar to my coffee. But really, what caring and hospitable people!

We also met a guy who was driving his truck to Rio Branco. We decided to drive us (which makes it our fourth attempt to leave). We had the tickets transferred for one more day, and exchanged for money when we got to Rio Branco.

Rio Branco is a beautiful city that we spent one night in. It has a neat market, and beautiful streets. The next morning we successfully caught a bus to Assis Brazil. Assis is border town to enter Perú through. We spent one night there, playing pool at a local bar before going to sleep. The next morning we took two taxis, and a ferry to get to Puerto Maldonado. In Puerto Maldonado we have been lucky enough to get to hang out with some local traveling friends we met in Manaus. We have plans to spend some time in the jungle and do a number of other things I will hopefully write soon about.

From Jungle to Jungle

Posted on Wednesday October 7, 2009 by Jacob Campbell.

More from Venezuela

The Botanical Gardens Cuidad Boliviar. The Botanical Gardens Cuidad Boliviar.

Now that I have more time, I will go a little more in-depth regarding the last week or so. We sadly left Isla de Margarita. It was a really great place. Ami said a number of times that she could imagine just taking a short trip there and spending a couple of weeks sometime later. We took a ferry to Port of Cruz. The ferry ride took about two hours. The ferry was very nice and smooth ride (a nice change from the small sailing yacht we were on before). I guess there was some sort of wildlife out the window, but both Ami and I missed it. All I know is I was listening to some Daddy Yankee on my iPod and then there was a commotion and everybody was standing next to the window. When I tried asking in broken Spanish what they saw, I believe they told me it was dolphins.

When we got to Puerto La Cruz we took a taxi to the bus terminal. Our broken Spanish made us think we had to wait around the bus station until the early morning. We came to find out that we were catching the bus that was leaving in a half hour.

It was a 10 hour bus ride to get to Ciudad Bolívar. We stayed at a place called Hotel Ritz. It’s really a kind of funny name, because it is probably the dingiest accommodations that we have stayed at so far (and that’s saying a little bit). We got there and finally found a bus heading the right direction and it was starting to get dark. We were greeted by a couple of Missionaries (I mentioned them before). They were a bit older and they told us that it is unsafe to go out after 6pm. Through hand motions and similar words in both English/Spanish we figured out that he was worried we might get robbed or shot. We were tired anyways from the bus ride earlier and decided to stay in. Later that night we ate a meal at the Hotel, talked with the missionaries for a while and just went to sleep. While I was standing outside our room, I could have sworn that I saw a lemur or something similar. But after getting my flashlight the only animal that I could find in the nearby tree was a cat (I’m not saying there wasn’t a lemur though).

The next day, after a breakfast of fruit and empanadas we wondered down to the Jardín Botánico Del Orinoco. It was a really pretty park. A lot of it was under construction. At the far end, it looked like they were getting ready to plant a bunch of parts of a type of display garden. There was also a giant fish tank that didn’t have anything in it. We did see an iguana in the trees and try to sneak into the payed part of the garden during everybody’s lunch break (we didn’t realize that you had to pay for a guide). After spending time at the park, finding lunch, and relaxing at the Hotel Ritz… we went to wait at airport (where we were too catch our bus). About then it started storming. It was the first real rain storm that we’ve gotten while we’ve been here. Which I find to be really odd, due to the fact that it’s supposed to be the rainy season. The power went out at the airport several times, the wind tried to blow the glass doors off the hinges, rain came down sideways and tried to flood the doorway. It was a pretty amazing storm.

Hanging out in Santa Elena de Uairén Waiting for Brazilian Visas

It was another 10 hour overnight bus ride to get to Santa Elena de Uairén. I find it nice to arrive in a city in the early morning. It’s much better than trying to figure things out late at night. The problem is that you never really sleep on the night bus (especially when it’s deathly cold as the buses are in Venezuela). Shivering we left to find Hotel Michelle. Both Ami and I passed out for a couple of hours before we set off to try to find food/visas… and trouble.

One thing that you must understand about Venezuela is that it is a very cash oriented society. Almost nowhere accepts visa (really the commercials lie… it’s not good everywhere). The places that do accept visa it’s a bad idea to use it. Currently the exchange rate for the bolívar fuerte is about 2 to 1 USD. If you get this as the exchange rate Venezuela quickly becomes a very expensive country. The best thing to do is to go to the “black market” and exchange your money. There we got 5 to 7 for each USD. This expands your money well over a hundred percent. The “black market” is not as dodgy (to use a great term from the UK) as one might think. Usually in a town there are areas that many men stand around with calculators and fanny packs full of money. They just ask everyone if they want to cambio dollars. And you settle on a rate. I’ve seen the Guardia National watching them obviously. I guess there is some risk (somebody knowing how much cash you have, or taking your stack and running… etc). But it really isn’t bad. The problem comes when you don’t account for this before you get into Venezuela. This was our problem almost the whole time we were in Venezuela. When we were on Isla de Margarita our hotel owner had a friend who preformed a bank transfer getting us about a four to one rate. We figured the amounts that we would need to make it to Brazil… but fell short of the four nights that we ended up staying in Santa Elena de Uairén. We ended up paying for night at our hostel and using the last of our bolivars.

We woke up and went to find food (I’m happier and think better when I have something in my belly), hoping to just get the bad exchange rate though our debit cards. But it was nearly impossible (there is one in the city) to find a restaurant that excepted Visa. The two banks in town would not let us withdraw money from an international card either so that was not an option. After obtaining food, we found our way to the Brazilian Consulate who told us that we had to pay in bolivars to obtain our visa and that they did not want to start the process on a Friday (due to the fact that they would have to keep our passports over the weekend).

We ended up convincing a taxi driver to take us to La Linea (the town on the border of Brazil and Venezuela) to use the international ATM. At first the ATM wouldn’t accept our cards and we ended up enlisting the help of an an off duty police officer (the National Brazilian Police ended up calling him). Finally we got cash and went back to the Hotel. That night we decided we had some money, and we would go to the local Discotech. It turns out that not many people go out in Santa Elena de Uairén. But we danced at the local bar and the Discotech and had a really fun night. The next day we just kind of hummed around town with thoughts of trying to rent a car to get to some waterfalls (we were going to take a bus… but we couldn’t figure it out).

  Waterfall near Salto Agua Fria  Waterfall near Salto Agua Fria

You can check out the photos on Venezuelan Jungle Treks to See Waterfalls Facebook Album. The next day we ended up tagging along with some people from Poland to go on a short jungle trek. We went to go and see Salto Agua Fria (Cold Water Waterfall). It really wasn’t that cold, but was really amazing. On our trek we didn’t see a ton of wildlife (birds, insects, reptiles) but we did see some amazing views. We had to walk about an hour down this steep hill, wonder into the jungle crossing this river on stones several times. The first waterfall was pretty small, but when I first saw it I was really excited. We trekked up and down pulling ourselves up by the plentiful vines some more and finally made it to Salto Agua Fria. Most of the group of us who went, stripped down and jumped in the little pool that formed just below the waterfall. Sitting under the waterfall it was a little hard to breath with the pressure of the water falling from so high. Our guide lent us his socks to climb and jump off some rocks (a good second free fall). After getting out of the beautiful fresh water we started trekking again. We swung on some Tarzan vines and ended up the the second larger waterfall. This one was significantly lower than Salto Agua Fria, but had it’s own challenge. In Spanish our guide tells us to put everything in a garbage bag and strip down. We comply and he explains that we are going to climb straight up the waterfall. It was a really amazing experience.

After getting to the top of the water fall we left our stuff on some rocks and forded the river barefoot. We could hear water and assumed that we were coming upon another waterfall. Our guide told us to close our eyes and he hand led us through the river for a while. When he told us to open our eyes, we were staring at Salto Puerta del Cielo (The Door to the Heavens Waterfall). It was magnificent. We climbed up more and were able to get right under it. The entire waterfall ran over this jade rock.

It took us a long time to hike back up to the top. When we got to the top our guide asked if we wanted to hard or easy second part of the trek. We decided even though we were still out of breath, that we would take the hard way. We ended up driving a little ways and climbing down into the jungle at the top of Salto Puerta del Cielo. As we climbed down we came upon about 30 people just hanging out (swimming, BBQing, talking… etc). I feel like that is where I would be if I lived in Santa Elena. We wondered down the river, and found the edge of Salto Puerta del Cielo. It was really glorious to come to the top of the waterfall and be able to look out at at the expansive jungle.

After trekking back to the car and making it back to Santa Elena we were both pretty exhausted. We figured it would be a good day to sit and watch a movie. The first movie I bought the store owner said that it was in English… but we quickly found out that none of the six movies were in English (burned disk with 6 different movies). I was sad, because the movie I had wanted to watch was Man on Fire, a movie about abduction in Latin America. We went out for a second try and found a really nice and excited store owner. He showed us which movies were in English and which weren’t. He even let us preview them. We ended up watching The Soloist, a really great movie I’d recommend.

  Yep... all my hair is gone! Me in Manaus at the Teatro Amazon with all my hair gone.  Yep… all my hair is gone! Me in Manaus at the Teatro Amazon with all my hair gone.

The next day was Monday, and the Brazilian Consulate was finally going to be open. We went and paid for our visas. We spent the day going to La Línea to pull out more Brazilian Reais with the idea that we would exchange them on the black market (maybe once or twice) and hopefully make some sort of profit. When we got to the ATM, both of our cards were denied. Almost two hours of phone calls later, and some lunch later we got our debit cards unblocked (they got blocked because we didn’t notify our banks prior to traveling). We decided to just pull out some and exchange it. The problem is since we’ve been in Brazil nobody seems to want to exchange our Bolivars (and give us about a 150% profit).

When we finally got back I went and got my hair cut. It’s really complicated to explain to somebody how to cut your hair. I tried to tell the lady how much I wanted cut off. I think that she just wanted to cut my hair how she thought it should be done. I came out of the salon feeling much lighter and with very little hair.

The Next day we went back to La Línea and caught a taxi for about 2.5 hours and $15 USD. Then we took a 12 hour bus ride to Manaus. We arrived early in the morning having met new fellow travelers. We caught a taxi to Hostel Manaus. While we’ve been in Manaus we have done some pretty cool things. We went to a wildlife preserve, A giant discotek, got an English tour of Teatro Amazonas (the Amazonian Opera House), and just wondering around. It’s been really fun so far. Pictures coming soon.

Sad to Leave the Caribbean Lifestyle

Posted on Saturday October 3, 2009 by Jacob Campbell.

Yacht Trips, All Inclusive Hotels, Two Day Birthday Celebrations, and Leaving

 Sunset Off the Yacht Sunset Off the Yacht

As I briefly described in the last post, we got the opportunity to go on a small yacht. This was a pretty phenomenal opportunity. It also meant that Ami got to celebrate her birthday on two separate days (something that I don’t think I will get in return). A guy named Gorden (originally from Great Britain, and having retired on his yacht for the last 15 years) took us out. Michael (the hotel owner) and two travelers from England (Son & Ella) all went out. I decided that I’m not a sailor by nature (so maybe I’ll have to practice and I’ll get there). While I didn’t puke, I did get very noxious both going and coming from Islas Los Frailes (about a 4 hour sailing trip there, and 2.5 hours coming back). When we got there, I burnt my back getting lost snorkeling. There were bits of coral, amazing tropical fish, and beautiful countryside/water. After I and especially Ami were thoroughly burned we got the opportunity to play with some scuba gear for a short period of time. It reminded me of my days wanting to be an underwater photographer and wanting to become certified to dive. We ate some chips and corned beef to sail with the wind at our backs and the sun setting beautifully over the oceans expanse. When I tried to sail, I got the boat to spin to donuts (on purpose, I swear). Gordon gave us some jungle homemade wine, told us sailing stories (both about women and the sea), and felt the cool ocean breeze. When we got back, I went and bought Ami a Tarta (A kind of cake). They turned the lights down low, everybody at Hotel Patrick sang happy birthday to Ami and her extinguishing candle.

 Ami trying to flip over a turtle. Ami trying to flip over a turtle.

The next morning, we made our way to La Asunción, the capital of the provincia that we are in. It’s a quaint Spanish colonial town. We got to see the museum, the oldest church in Isla de Margarita, and some neat art work. We also got lost looking for our next bus and ended up getting picked up by some nice locals (kind of hitch hiking…). We went to Playa Agua, a very long beach that is on par with the same in California. Although we didn’t make it to the beach. We went to Palm Beach Hotel and met up with some fellow travelers we met on the ferry, Daniel and Bine. They are an awesome Austrian couple where were ending their trip. They had an all inclusive stay and ended up continuously brining us drinks for Ami’s birthday (number 2). After that, we made our way back to Hotel Patrick for a fresh fish dinner. It was so amazing with potatoes and onions. We hung out with everybody, talking, dancing, playing some games… a pretty great night.

Today we relaxed, finalized some of our plans (we are heading to Ciudad Bolívar Venezuela and then to Manaus Brazil). We went to Polamar to get our ferry tickets, hung out and looked at the local shopping, drank tea, and came back to Hotel Patrick. We had to say good bye to everybody because we are leaving early in the morning (speaking of which I ought to head to sleep here in a couple of minutes. We will both miss being here at Isla de Margarita and the Caribbean.

Long Bus Rides and Jungle Cities

I’ll apologize straight off, I wrote the majority of this post several days ago, but we have mostly been without internet. Currently I’m in Santa Elena Venezuela. It’s interesting that we are in an area called el fronteira (the frontier). It’s not a tiny town, but it is small and in the jungle. It’s also very beautiful.

After leaving Margarita Island, we took a ferry which landed us in Porta La Cruz. We were immediately able to catch a bus heading down to Ciudad Bolivar. We spent the night at a place called The Ritz (a very sarcastic name). It was a fun place to stay. We met a missionary there named Raul and had some pretty awesome broken conversations. The next day we went to the botanical gardens (but mainly walked around the park. As it started to get dark, we decided that it was time to try to get our bus down to Santa Elena de Uairen. It was a 10 to 12 hour bus ride… but I at least got some sleep.

We are staying right now in the Hotel Michelle. It’s a pretty nice. We went out last night to try to go dancing… but there weren’t as many people as we would expect on a Friday night. Today we spent time thinking about going to some waterfalls, but had trouble finding the bus that headed that direction. All and all it’s been pretty amazing. We are hoping that we can get our visas on Monday and head into Brazil. Hopefully when we get to Manaus there will be wifi and I can upload pictures and spend more time updating everybody.

Out of Trinidad & Tobago and into the New World of Venezuela

Posted on Monday September 28, 2009 by Jacob Campbell.

 This is a photo is from my missions trip to Africa. We went for a speak at a church in  Goma . It was kind of intense, there apparently was fighting going on within 100 miles of where we were. You can check out  Africa Mission Trip 2002 -- pt 1 Facebook Album  and  Africa Mission Trip 2002 -- pt 2 Facebook Album . This is a photo is from my missions trip to Africa. We went for a speak at a church in Goma . It was kind of intense, there apparently was fighting going on within 100 miles of where we were. You can check out Africa Mission Trip 2002 – pt 1 Facebook Album and Africa Mission Trip 2002 – pt 2 Facebook Album .

What is Our Relationship to the Poor and Needy

Traveling through South America there are a lot of opportunities to see different governments, social service institutions, churches, and poverty. But what is the churches/government’s responsibility to these people. Psalm 82 seems to address just this and share some of God’s heart to the poor and needy.

God takes His stand in His own congregation; He judges in the midst of the rulers. How long will you judge unjustly And show partiality to the wicked? Selah. Vindicate the weak and fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and destitute. Rescue the weak and needy; Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked. They do not know nor do they understand; They walk about in darkness; All the foundations of the earth are shaken. I said, “You are gods, And all of you are sons of the Most High. “Nevertheless you will die like men And fall like any one of the princes.” Arise, O God, judge the earth! For it is You who possesses all the nations. – Psalm 82:1-8

I find this Psalm particularly interesting. I was reading it while I was in Trinidad at the Hotel. I think it was really interesting to read before we made it to Venezuela, a mostly socialist nation. While it seems to have corruption, and a lot of it’s own issues… it is interesting to see how they care for their people.

Particularly with this Psalm, I find it interesting that it describes God both judging the church and the rulers (v. 1). It talks about about God judging them based on three tasks (vs. 3-4).

  1. How they vindicate the weak and fatherless
  2. Do justice to the afflicted and destitute
  3. Rescue the weak and needy and deliver them out of the hand of the wicked

In the Christian circles I travel in, it seems well known that it is the churches/individuals responsibility to take care of those in need. Within those circles, I don’t hear very much about that same responsibility being on the government/officials. If I was to describe my political viewpoint, it can sometimes be difficult to describe.

I would describe myself as pragmatically very liberal, but idealistically conservative. This means that in an ideal world all of the poor, needy, destitute, fatherless would be cared for in the private sector. I believe the private sector is much efficient and people friendly. Having worked within some of the bureaucracy in Washington State (DSHS, and JRA) I have found the pubic agencies to be difficult to find services for people, sometimes have more burnt-out people working there, and they are not efficient. It seems very different in the private sector. This is especially true in regards to if it’s a church/individual. The problem I see, and the reason that I would say pragmatically I’m very liberal is that I don’t see the private sector as having the funds, and the churches/individuals are not stepping up enough. In my introduction to Social Work Class, my professor described that the yearly budget for United Way (a giant international agency) is the same as the daily budget for DSHS. It seems that while the private sector is a more idealistic way to go, that the finances are not there.

When Ps 82 describes that the government officials are responsible for how they have done justice to the people, I think that we ought to listen. While there are many needs and problems in a country like Venezuela, at least they have a health care system that looks after all of their people. Something that I hope happens soon in the United States. I just pray that our politicians will get a measure of the fear of God and understand that they will be judged according to how they work for the people they govern.

The last little bit of Trinidad & Tobago

 A Tomb in Lapeyrouse Cemetery that was obviously lived in by the homeless A Tomb in Lapeyrouse Cemetery that was obviously lived in by the homeless

Again, you can see all the photo’s from Trinidad & Tobago on their album on Facebook (Miami Heat in the Evening and Trinidad CoExisting Island Style Facebook Album). We ended up spending a total of five days in both Trinidad & Tobago. It was really interesting to go and walk around Lapeyrouse Cemetery in Port of Spain. We saw a couple of homeless people. One of which was a bit scary because he was walking around with a lead pipe. We met a father and son (at least that was our guess) who were staying in a tomb in in the cemetery. The father talked to us for a while, and it was really interesting to hear his perspective. We ended up giving him some TT (the money used in Trinidad & Tobago). I was struck thinking that I couldn’t imagine living inside of a tomb. By the third day in Port of Spain, we were ready to head out and find a beach somewhere. The only problem is that they are not easy to get to in Trinidad (at least there were non in Port of Spain, you have to go to another part of the country). We had heard really great things about Tobago, so we decided to adventure out to there.

There are ferries that run multiple times per day to Trinidad. We landed in The Port of Scarborough. We ended up staying at a guest house with a lady named Phyllis. It was beautiful to sit on the porch and talk with her about life/politics. The next day we went to the Beach at Store Bay. There is a beautiful beach there, and we got to meet some travelers from England there. We did not stay in Tobago for very long, and we had to catch a ferry to Venezuela early the next morning.

Venezuela: Guardia Nacional, Fellow Travelers, and Beaches/Yachts

 The Beach at Store Bay The Beach at Store Bay

We originally flew into Trinidad, because it had the cheapest flights. We figured that it would be really simple to get to the mainland and head to Venezuela. This was not the case. We found one ferry that travels to Guiria once a week. Trinidad is significantly more expensive and less friendly then Venezuela so we were really glad to finally make it to the mainland. On the Ferry we ended up meeting about 10 other European travelers (from England, Germany, and Austria). This was a very beautiful thing. It is really strange to get into a new country, be unsure of the money, not know where you are, have issues with the language… etc. Traveling in a group is a great thing. We had gotten to Guiria too late to catch a bus to Cumana. We had to exchange some US dollars on the “black market” and catch a taxi to Carupano. Venezuela’s exchange rate is about 2 Venezuelan bolivar fortes to 1 USD. But if you exchange on the “black market” it’s about 5-7. The best we’ve found has been 6.

Before leaving Guiria, our taxis were stopped by the Guardia Nacional (the national police… or these guy’s with large guns speaking to you in Spanish). We all had to empty our bags/pockets. They wanted to know how much money we had, and even made us count it out for them (I think due to black market). About an hour taxi ride later we were stopped again, and had to do the same. Every other Guardia Nacional stop after that, we clapped for the taxi driver because we didn’t have to stop. I was worried about some sort of “imposed tax” but there was nothing like that. An almost 3.5 hour taxi drive later we ended up in Carupano (it only cost the equivalent of $6 each person… amazingly cheap). We grabbed some empanadas, and caught a bus to Cumana. We arrived pretty late in Cumana and stayed at a place called the Hotel Astoria. The next morning we did some exploring, and six of us took a ferry to Margarita Island.

Ami and I having a Margarita on Isla de Margarita Ami and I having a Margarita on Isla de Margarita

The first night we stayed in a city in Polamar (Hotel Centro… basic accommodations but under $10 per night). The next morning we found out that the governor of Isla de Margarita had called an holiday the day before. We watched Hugo Chavez talk about Bush trying to assassinate him on Larry King Live only to find out that he (and other Latin/African national leaders) were having a summit on Isla de Margarita. With everything closed we made our way to Juan Griego to stay at Hotel Patrick. While we didn’t realize this, Chavez was to have the summit right outside of the city. We arrived disoriented with two other English travelers in Juan Griego to a crowd gathering to hopefully get to see the loved presidente (apparently not everybody is happy with him, but this city is a part of his political base). We’ve found Hotel Patrick to be the best we’ve stayed in (and for me better than anywhere in Europe). While we’ve been here, we have spent our days at the beach. Playa Caribe is a wonderful beach. We also chartered a 30 ft yacht ($50 per person) who took us to this beautiful little island and we snorkeled/scuba dived (amazing fish and a little bit of reef), got to learn to sail a little bit. It has been truly the vacation part of our trip. Tomorrow we are meeting up with our friends from Austria and celebrating Ami’s second birthday (she will get two parties… lucky).

Quick Update From Isla de Margarita

Posted on Sunday September 27, 2009 by Jacob Campbell.

While traveling sometimes, it seems like I might spend too much time on my computer. Especially because I am a bit of a perfectionist, I take quite a bit of time to get any one thing finished. I was hoping to write about some of my experiences over the last week… but it’s just taken way too long to get everything done (so hopefully tomorrow). It’s already almost 11pm here in Venezuela, and I have a 6am boating excursion in the morning. I did figure that I would leave you with a couple of things. I’m making a list of all my posts, and other facts (including my Google Maps trip viewer) at a page on my blog (Jaunt Down South). I have uploaded my pictures so far from Venezuela, Entering a Whole New World Facebook Album. I have also updated places that we have been on my Google Maps:


View Jaunt Down to South America in a larger map

So happy viewing and I will write more soon.

From Surreal to Real

Posted on Monday September 21, 2009 by Jacob Campbell.

Some background

 From surreal to real From surreal to real

The last days before heading out on this adventure of a lifetime (see post: Let The World Change You, and… You Can Change The World for more information on my trip) I had a lot of different feelings and thoughts. You can also see my photo’s I uploaded of my End of Summer Adventures Facebook Albums. It felt very surreal to know that i was leaving for a long period of time. Spending some last day’s hanging out with friends, it felt like I would be able to see them again anytime that I wanted… just like I always have been able to. When I gave back my apartment, I had a realization that I was then homeless. Hanging out with my mom before I left, I went on my way feeling like I haven’t spent enough time with her during the last couple of years.

The closer I got to the trip, getting inside the airplane… landing in Dallas then in Miami… then in Trinidad it all became very real.

The Miami Heat

You can view the album Miami Heat in the Evening and Trinidad CoExisting Island Style Facebok Album if you are interested in seeing the pictures.

So I guess that I ought to explain a little bit of what’s happened so far in the last couple of days, so that you can keep up. We had a 12 hour layover in Miami, which was planned to be that way. While it was supper hot outside, it didn’t start out so hot. We took forever to figure out the bus system, missed the last night bus (at 12:30… doesn’t make sense). We ended up paying for a taxi ($32.00) to go to Miami Beach. It was a lot of fun, and worth all of the hardship. We salsa danced at Mango’s Tropical Cafe for a couple of hours. We spent some time at The Clevelander, a pretty cool club. We ended up wondering down to the beach and just playing in the water and talking about life, love, and God for a couple of hours. It was really great, and made me so glad that I was going with Ami. I could tell it would be a great trip. Around about 6am, it was getting late enough that we could catch a bus back to the airport. We first caught the one going the wrong way, then we ended up missing the next one. While we were waiting for the one after that, we got the great idea into our heads that we should sneak onto a yacht and do some exploring. Well, we missed the next bus due to that. So when we finally got back to the airport around 8am, combining jet lag and lack of sleep we were both exhausted. After three and a half more hours we were in Trinidad.

Co-Existing Island Style – Trinidad & Tobago

 Live Crabs on Fredrick St. Live Crabs on Fredrick St.

We arrived in Trinidad and encountered a couple of problems right away. First they didn’t want to let us into the country because we didn’t have a specific place we were staying and we didn’t have a specific plan for leaving. In hindsight, I believe that this is important. We took a taxi to Port of Spain, the city we are staying at in Trinidad. It poured rain on and off the first night. Ami and I were so tired that we both went to sleep around 6 or 7pm. The next morning, we woke up early. We met a couple of different people. First was Chester, who wondered around with us trying to help us find a restaurant. We ended up buying him a soda. Later we met Marcus, who we ended up paying about $15.00 for his service as a “certified tour guide.” Although we probably got swindled a bit, it was worth it to get to see the sights. One place that was really interesting was the Reggae club he took us to. It was pretty eclectic, locked people inside of this bar, and everybody was smoking marijuana. That night we ended up going out to see what the night life was. We ended up meeting a guy named Steven. He was totally enamored with Ami, and had no problem telling her that, after he found out that we weren’t together. Today, I slept in much later than Ami did. We wondered out looking for a meal, and then spent hours agonizing over how to get off of this expensive island. When we decided to just follow the plan we had made the day before (wait till Wednesday and take a ferry to Venezuela) , we walked down to Independence Square. It’s was pretty amazing to see how many people were out. It was full of the eclectic groups of people that make up Trinidad. From business men, families, Rastafarians, homeless, and everything in between. It was awesome to see so many people outside, enjoying community, parks, and the early evening. All and all, even though it’s become very real. I’m very excited to see what happens during this trip.

Let The World Change You, and… You Can Change The World

Posted on Friday July 24, 2009 by Jacob Campbell.

The Motorcycle Diaries Poster Art

The Motorcycle Diaries (2004) is about two men from Buenos Aires who make plans to travel by motorcycle travel around the coast of South America. The story comes from journey and written memoir of the 23-year-old Ernesto (“Che”) Guevara. Che Guevara years later become internationally known as the iconic Marxist revolutionary. The film recounts the 1952 journey, initially by motorcycle, across South America by Guevara and his friend Alberto Granado. As the adventure centered around youthful hedonism unfolds, Guevara discovers himself transformed by his observations of the life of the impoverished indigenous peasantry. The road presents Ernesto Guevara and Alberto Granado a genuine picture of the Latin American identity. Through the characters they encounter on the road, Guevara and Granado learn the injustices the impoverished face and are exposed to people they would have never encountered in their hometown. The trip serves to expose a Latin American identity as well as explore the identity of one of its most memorable revolutionaries. This description changed from Wikipedia entry

I watched this movie last night with my friend who I am going to be traveling around South America with. It was a powerful movie, and one that I highly recommend for anybody to watch. Watching it, made me think about my upcoming trip, and what some of my expectations/reasons for going are. The following is some of what these are

  • Learn Spanish: When I was in Barcelona Spain during my European Excursion, it was the place linguistically I felt the most comfortable. I want to be able to come back fluent, especially able to counsel and work with people I might other wise have had a language barrier.
  • Meet/See/Do: I’ve been very fortunate in my life to travel and see lots of the world. Already in my life I’ve been to four of the six continents I want to see (I have no desire to go to Antarctica). I love the feeling of being on the road. During my travels I’ve gotten to meet so many different people, that have improved and influenced my life. As I’ve gone places, the people have opened up my heart and encouraged me. I’ve also seen some of the most beautiful sights all around the world. I love seeing new places, and learning about the history and culture.
  • Sort of a Sabbatical: Sense graduating from High School, I have been working on preparing myself for my career for the last seven years. I spent two years involved in a leadership training/discipleship program called the Master’s Commission. After that I went to community college and earned my AA, transferred to Eastern Washington University and first earned my BA in Social Work and now most recently my master’s degree in social work. I think it is fitting to spend a year traveling and refocusing for my return and beginning of my career.
  • Finding Direction: I don’t feel like I’m running away scared from my future, but I don’t know really what the next step is for me. I think the traditional concept for after graduation is to start “real life.” I don’t like the idea of this. I feel like we should live/love the moments we are at in life. We don’t have any time other than the now. I don’t feel ready for things like getting a career job, buying a house, getting married, having a dog… etc. OK, dog thing sounds good, but I’m just not ready for the rest.
  • Letting The World Change Me: Just like in the movie the Motorcycle Diaries, I am hoping that the experience will change me and prepare me to go out and change the world.

I think that is quite a list of different hopes for my trip. If you want to see a preview of the move Motorcycle Diaries watch it from youtube below.