Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The list post

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):

Hiking in to Yaxchilan, Mexico

Greatest Hits
High jump in the Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

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!
Tropical paradise in the San Blas Islands, Panama

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.
Five-minute fuse in Potosí, Bolivia

Biggest Challenges

  • 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.

Surfing at Playa Negra, Costa Rica

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.


  1. We've had a bunch of questions via email about the camera we used on the trip, so I thought I'd post that information here. Chris was the main photographer, so I can't take credit for many of the fantastic pictures I posted on the blog.

    Chris used the Canon 40D, and started out with two lenses: the Canon EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM for most photos and a EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM telephoto zoom. However, halfway through the trip the aperture of the 17-85mm stopped working, allowing us to only use the lens when set on the largest aperture. When we went back to the U.S. for three weeks last spring, we sent the broken lens into Canon to be fixed under warranty. However, it wouldn't be fixed by the time we flew back to Ecuador, so we bought the Canon EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens which has worked out great for travel. With such a wide focal length Chris barely changes lenses anymore.

    I took most of the videos and used a Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS Digital Elph. It worked ok for videos but you couldn't zoom in and the sound quality wasn't fantastic (Chris's camera doesn't take videos). It was nice to have both cameras though - if we were going out at night or in an area where we didn't want to be flashing around a big expensive looking camera, we'd bring the little camera.

  2. Guys!

    Congratulations on finishing the trip!!!
    Can't wait to do the same route.

  3. How did the Ecamper hold up during your trip? I'm thinking about getting one myself. Is it comfortable for 2 people? Do you have any pictures showing 2 people in it?

  4. The ECamper held up great during our trip - a little better than the Element itself I think. Once we got the Element back to the states we had to have the rear subframe and axle replaced $$$. In terms of the Ecamper we need to use some seam-sealer around the bottom of the screens since they leak a tiny bit in heavy rain, and there is one rubber piece on the outside of the car that is currently duct taped down (it's just cosmetic, not structural) but the Ecamper survived intact and still functional.

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