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A Warm Welcome to Peru!

This weeks travels

This weeks travels

After fixing up the van we enjoyed a ‘free day’ in Banos. This consisted of a walk to the nearby village to try the highly recommended empanadas and to see the waterfalls.

Enjoying some fantastic emenadas

Enjoying some fantastic empanadas

Christine at the falls

Christine at the waterfalls

After, we took a bus into the main town of Banos to find some hot springs which the area is famous for (and named after). However we got distracted by eating ice cream and then every darn place where you could soak up the hot springs was closed! We went home, disappointed, to the van and decided to try the trout farm next door where you fish your own trout and then have it prepared and cooked on site. But would you believe this was closed too! Maybe this was just not our day.

Dyslexic humour - hehe...

Dyslexic humour – hehe…

The next day we headed out pretty early and made it to the UNESCO World Heritage city of Cuenca. It’s a cool colonial cobblestoned town. We’ve seen a few of these on our trip! It was a nice place to walk around and Christine even found a shop to try on a dress. No luck still and the search continues.

Not quite what Christine had in mind

Not quite what Christine had in mind

Peru was in our sights for the next day. This was an uneventful driving day except for the encounter with the Ecuadorian police who stopped us after observing us go over a double yellow line. Now this is after a long long time following many trucks going very slowly and being overtaken by many yahoo’s unsafely. We just happened to peak around this truck and saw the truck drivers hand frantically waving us back. However, too late! We were stopped and told by an officers english friend he called on his mobile that we made a “very, very, very, very, very bad infraction”. The fine was $150USD to be paid immediately to the officer. Well this did not go over well with us and we stated we had no money but would get some and pay at the police station or bank. He wasn’t quite sure what to do and we said we could wait all day if necessary. You could see his little brain working but in the end he couldn’t come up with anything and waved us on. No extra Easter money for him!

Road side delicacies in Ecuador

Roadside delicacies in Ecuador

We got into Peru after a great and easy border crossing despite it being 1.5 hours to complete.

We headed to the beach, and the warmth! We ended up in Mancora staying in the parking garage at a hostal. We were surprised at what a touristy and surfers place it was. Christine enjoyed her first Pisco Sour, Peru’s national drink, on the beach.

Christine enjoying the sunset and Pisco Sour

Christine enjoying the sunset and Pisco Sour

Driving through the deserts of Peru

Driving through the deserts of Peru

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Camping on a horse ranch down the coast

Camping on a horse ranch down the coast

Chiclayo was our next destination and was a special stop as Christine’s parents used to teach there 7 years ago and still had many connections. We met up with their good friend, Gladys, who does great things in the community with Centro Esperanza, an NGO.

Christine with Gladys and her friendly family

Christine with Gladys and her friendly family

She showed us around and then we were treated to lunch at the community Soup Kitchen where they are trying to help with the large problem of poverty and malnutrition of the young school children. Here the mother’s volunteer and learn to cook healthy budget friendly meals while helping to feed part of the community.

Christine working in the kitchen

Christine ‘working’ in the kitchen

Sharing lunch with the local children in Chiclayo

Sharing lunch with the local children in Chiclayo

The mother’s and children prepared a great afternoon for us. There was singing and dancing and the highlight for the kids and adults, I think, was the tour of our van, Ginger! They all thought our trip was amazing and never knew it could be done. It was a great and insightful afternoon for us and them! A very worthwhile project.

Outside the Soup Kitchen

Outside the Soup Kitchen

The kids were fascinated with Ginger

The kids were fascinated with Ginger

Only 7 children - we had 11 adults inside at one stage!

Only 7 children – we had 11 adults inside at one stage!

We enjoyed spending more time with Gladys and her family and were overwhelmed by their hospitality. They hooked us up with a hotel room right downtown, helped us get a safe place for the van, fed us many delicious meals and were just the most wonderful hosts! We didn’t want to leave but knew that we needed to stay on target if we wanted to get to Argentina before our time runs out. So we enjoyed one last lunch with Gladys, prepared by her sweet mother, and then hit the road.

We drove a few hours and made it to a beach area just north of Trujillo.

Traditional fishing boats at the beach

Traditional fishing boats at the beach

The next day we planned on a long days drive to get us back into the mountains and to the start of our next trek. We ignored the directions given by our GPS, as we could see a much shorter, and obviously quicker, route on the map, so we were taken by surprise when we realized that it was going to take 2 days of driving on our chosen crazy windy switchback road, averaging less than 25km/hr.

Climbing into the mountains on our crazy road

Climbing into the mountains on our crazy road

Christines view as we climbed

Christine’s view as we climbed

We decided at 5pm that the fog was so thick that we needed to find a roadside campsite. Not easy when the road is precariously hanging from the side of a mountain – but we did it.

Climbing into the clouds

Climbing into the clouds

Our roadside campsite

Our roadside campsite

The town we were headed for is at an elevation of 2,000m, so we were again greatly suprised when our ‘shortcut’ kept climbing to over 4,300m, and then found the roads even more scary on the descent.

Beautiful mountain views on the way up

Beautiful mountain views on the way up

At the pass - Gingers new (and unplanned) altitude record - 4,314 metres

At the pass – Gingers new (and unplanned) altitude record – 4,314 metres

Dave was an awesome driver though!

Looking down one of many sets of switchbacks

Looking down one of many sets of switchbacks

Looking across the valley to fields cultivated on amazing slopes

Looking across the valley to fields cultivated on amazing slopes

As we neared the bottom of the descent, and we could see the town in the distance we checked the GPS once again – the town was 7km away, but would take over 25km of roads to get there, it was that windy and switch-backed! We had almost made it to our town when we came to a washed out bridge. After checking out the signposted detour we found that bridge inadequate too.

The suggested detour - we decided to keep looking for another option...

The suggested detour – we decided to keep looking for another option…

After a bit of searching and checking with the locals we eventually found another option about 40 minutes away and crossed into the town of Caraz.

Not perfect, but it will do!

Not perfect, but it will do!

Not the quaintest of Peruvian towns but it’s a jumping off point for the trek we want to start tomorrow. Wish us luck!


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El Salvador, Honduras and beyond!

This weeks travels

This weeks travels

The last week we have been busy! We started with a lovely barbeque farewell in Antigua with all our fellow campers. It was a great night until the boys decided rum and tequila was a brilliant idea

Enjoying a few drinks on our last night in Antigua

Enjoying a few drinks on our last night in Antigua

Not so good the next morning when Christine found herself in the drivers seat with a less than fully functioning Dave beside her. Thank goodness we were travelling with Denis and Renee who took the lead on the road. We made it to the border crossing into El Salvador shortly after lunch and both managed to muddle our way through with all the different photo copies and documents needed.

Close to the Guatemala/El Salvador border we found our way to Parque National El Impossible. It was on the outskirts of a little town that obviously doesn’t see a whole lot of tourists, especially with RV’s. Our neighbours, Denis and Renee have a very unique, for these parts, truck camper that is constantly turning heads. The kids were so interested and loved to listen to Denis who’s spanish is excellent!

Enjoying one of Denis' stories

Enjoying one of Denis’ stories

We had a guide take us on a 5 hour hike up to the look out and explain about the area and its history.

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The view from the lookout – with our guide

It was a beautiful area and one of the best parts was cooling off in the river, sometimes with the company of half a dozen local kids.

Cooling off in the river behind our camp

Cooling off in the river behind our camp

Schooling and singing in the jungle

Schooling and singing in the jungle


These grow these jungle animals huge!

They grow these jungle animals huge!

Leaving El Imposible for the coast

Leaving El Imposible for the coast

We then headed towards the coast to a little surfers town called Sunzal Point. We hunkered down in the parking area of Sharky’s Restaurant and had access to their bathrooms, outdoor showers and internet, plus it was a two minute walk to the beach.

Sharkys restaurant

Sharkys restaurant

A typical view as we travel

A typical view as we travel

Our first look at the El Salvador coastline

Our first look at the El Salvador coastline

The beach here is really fine black sand and the surf is quite high with a very long right hand break (apparently??) which is why the surfers take up residence here

The beach at Sunzal Point

The beach at Sunzal Point

Dave and I enjoyed the waves and took a couple of days to try and plan our next few weeks of our trip as well as try and do some maintenance on the van. Ginger’s fridge is not working so well when it’s on gas but is perfect on electricity so Dave, with the assistance of Denis, tried to clean the orifice jet and see if it that was the problem. After a lot of sweat (literally) and work they got the fridge out and cleaned the jet and flue, but sadly there has been little improvement. Any other suggestions out there??? (It’s an ammonia fridge – very different to your fridge at home).

Working on the fridge

Working on the fridge

Our next planned destination heading south was somewhere on the beach around a little town called Costa del Sol. Would you believe that we could not find anywhere to camp?! We tried, with Denis’s excellent Spanish, at least 6 different hotels and turi-centers but no one would accommodate us and if they would it was for an extortionate amount of money. We tried one recommendation that had been previously used by other overlanders, but which closed down only 3 months before our arrival. Dave drove into the driveway and ran over what he thought was a steel water pipe. Sadly it was an aluminum irrigation pipe and the security guard decided that Dave would have to compensate him $15 USD as it would be taken out of his salary otherwise. We payed – and let me tell you Dave was not a happy camper!

The section of pipe we 'bought' in Costa del Sol

The section of pipe we ‘bought’ in Costa del Sol

After hours or trying, and not managing to find a place to stay in Costa del Sol we made our way back to a water park we had passed earlier in the day, Atlantis Aqua Park. Here we were welcomed and informed we could stay over night no problem just for the price of admission. We gladly paid the $8/per person and enjoyed the waterslides and pools all afternoon. The scariest was the huge tandem tube drop (Dave made Christine go on this!) but we even kind of liked the odd wave pool with waves going sideways.

The fantastic tandem slide at the aqua park

The fantastic tandem slide at the aqua park

A very bizare wave pool - where the waves went across the pool....

A very bizare wave pool – where the waves went across the pool….

Then at 6pm when everyone else left we plugged into their electricity and enjoyed our happy hour.

The next day we drove north to Perquin where there is the Museo de la Revolucion showing the photos and history of the not so long ago civil war. Over 100,000 people died and people came from all over to fight alongside the guerrillas.

The route our GPS - and the police! - recommend we take. No chance!

The route our GPS – and the police! – recommend we take. No chance!

That Bimbo's got to move! (not Renee...)

That Bimbo’s got to move!

When we finally got to the village at 1200m elevation, Denis informed us that our gas tank was leaking! We checked out the museum, then went in search of a mechanic. We couldn’t see any leakage on the way, and the mechanic couldn’t see any specific issue, like a cracked tank, and said everything looked ok.

Not so easy to see that gas tank

Not so easy to see that gas tank

Really getting in for a closer look

Really getting in for a closer look

Dave feels it’s more likely due to pressure and overflow as we had just filled up the tank then climbed steeply. Fingers crossed that’s it because if that gas tank needs to be lowered from the van we’ll probably never get it back up with the amount of rust under there!

Public Transport in El Salvador...

Public Transport in El Salvador…

After the gas leak excitement we needed to find a place to stay for the night, our last night with our friends Denis and Renee! We looked at a couple of spots before eventually stumbling upon the Arizona Hotel that is about 3km outside of town on a horrendous dirt road. However the camping spot was stunning with mountains, great view and excellent amenities. Too bad about the gale force winds that kept us from having a fire and really enjoying our last night together.

Ginger climbing up to our campsite

Ginger slowly climbing up to our campsite

And an amazing site it was!!

And an amazing site it was!!

Good luck to Denis and Renee (and their beautiful dog Mimi) as they now head north and eventually back home to Quebec. They were a wealth of information and experience for us first timers, and we really enjoyed spending a couple of weeks with such friendly and caring people!

Some other hazards of the road

Some other hazards of the road

Even the babies have machete's in these parts

Even the babies have machete’s in these parts

We decided to attempt to do 2 border crossings in a day – through Honduras and into Nicaragua. We got to the El Salvador/Honduras border around lunchtime today, Saturday, and had no problems exiting El Salvador but the Honduras border was a different story. The customs officer, and the random guy that had been following us unrequested throughout the whole exit/entrance process, told us that because it’s Saturday the bank was closed at noon and that we could either pay more than double the normal rate or wait until Monday. They had obviously seen on our immigration forms that we were just transiting and were doing their darndest to get as much from us as they could. But what can you do when it’s the goverment official telling you this??!! Well Christine did say a few words and even brought out some new spanish vocabulary, which included telling them that Honduras was a terrible country… All to no avail. We payed the stinkin money and set our mission to get out of Honduras ASAP.

Local boys selling Iguanas for food - very illegal - but still a common sight in Central America

Local boys selling Iguanas for food – very illegal – but still a common sight in Central America

The roads in Honduras were truly awful!

The roads in Honduras were also truly awful – some random bits were shaken off Ginger today!

This was successful a couple of hours later (and after three police checkpoints) when we exited Honduras and entered into Nicaragua.

Passing volcanoes in Nicaragua

Passing volcanoes in Nicaragua

By this time it was late afternoon and we started to look for a place to stay. We asked at the parking lot of a recreation park but we couldn’t stay over night. Next door was a hotel and they were kind enough to let us park as long as we got a room. Crazy but we did get a shower and toilet. The rooms are fairly yucky, and neither of us would dream of sleeping in the bed!

We’ll stick with Ginger thanks!


This weeks banner - the surf beach at Sunzal Point

This weeks banner – the surf beach at Sunzal Point


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Fin de Guatemala

We finished up our last day of Spanish school today! Over the last week or so since our previous blog we’ve been occupied with school in the morning and different activities each afternoon.

Dave studying with his tutor Sonia

Dave studying with his tutor Sonia

Fun with pinatas at the school

Fun with pinatas at the school

Christine has been busy doing volunteer work at Common Hope (or Familiar de Esperanza as it’s called locally). It’s a well run organization based in Minnesota that has been doing lots of charity work in this area for 25+ years. The project is at a huge old coffee plantation on the outskirts of Antigua complete with medical and dental clinics, a workshop for making pre-fab houses, a nursery, library and lots more to assist the community. One afternoon Christine went with one of the many social workers on home visits to some of the families and hear how they were getting along. The families were very welcoming and proud of their modest and extremely basic homes. Some with no running water!

Community laundries for those familes without running water at home

Community laundries for those familes without running water at home

There were many families affected by alcohol abuse and violence besides being poor and trying to take care of their many children. Common Hope focuses on assisting the children with education and all that this entails; happy home, family, health,and safety. I obviously worked in the dental clinic and saw a lots of different people and did everything from extractions to cleanings and even a root canal! All the patients were so appreciative and grateful, making it an unforgettable experience.

One very happy patient

One very happy patient

Christines helpful assistants

Christine’s helpful assistants

Dave has also been a busy little beaver! He’s been getting the van all fixed up so that we can continue our journey without cringing every time we see a huge bump coming our way. Our suspension has been tested to the limit and it was in desperate need of some help, especially since our rubber bumper thingys fell off. We found a mechanic right down the street from us and took Ginger in on 2 different days. All went well but the true test will be when we drive her!

Dave also went to one of the many coffee plantations for a tour, which was reasonably interesting, and educational.

Coffee beans out to dry before roasting

Coffee beans out to dry before roasting

This week has also brought many new campers into our little patch of police compound, including a few other overlanders heading to Argentina or Chile.

It's getting busy around here!

It’s getting busy around here!

For a few nights we had an English lad on a motorbike camped next to us. He had travelled up from Argentina and was headed to the USA to sell the bike before heading home. We’ve had a few hippies come and go, a Canadian girl in a hammock and a strange Italian guy that didn’t talk to anyone. There have also been a few really nice couples that we hope to keep in touch with and hopefully catch up with as we all head further South.

We are making the most of our last day in Antigua, Guatemala before heading to El Salvador tomorrow. Our good friends Denis and Renee are also heading off tomorrow, so we may tag along with them for a couple more days.

Christine dwarfed by the 'Gigantes'

Christine dwarfed by the ‘Gigantes’

Beautiful sights in Antigua

Beautiful sights in Antigua

We have really enjoyed it here and being stationary for 2.5 weeks but the trip is far from over and it’s time to get going again.

This weeks banner - Christine getting blown off of Volcan Pacaya

This weeks banner – Christine getting blown off of Volcan Pacaya


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Mazatlan to Acapulco

This weeks progress

What we thought would be a day waiting for Ginger at the mechanics turned into three days, and an unplanned return on the fourth after a brake failure.

On the first day the mechanics stripped all of the front brakes apart, but couldn’t get the new parts they needed to rebuild them… so we left Ginger there with her parts strewn all over the workshop floor and went in search of a hotel.

The next day they managed to finish the brake work and also replaced all of the fuel lines from the tank to the engine as they were convinced we had a leak in one of the lines. They were also convinced that our fresh water tank was the fuel tank… but we had been smelling gas, so let them do the work anyway. When we went to pick her up at the end of the second day they had forgotten that we also had issues with the temperature gauge, but promised that they could do it first thing in the morning. So, another night in Mazatlan for us.

Killing time in Mazatlan

The next day they had the temp gauge replaced by about 2pm, but we decided to spend a another night, rather than risk driving after dark trying to get to our next destination – so back to the Mar Rosa RV park we went.

During our time in Mazatlan we saw how they celebrate Halloween and more importantly Dia de la Muertes or what we call All Saints and All Souls Day. This is to remember people who have died and they even think they come back to visit. Hence the reason why they make these sometimes quite elaborate alters with picture and food and flowers. It’s also a national holiday although we didn’t see much closed up but we were in the touristy area.

Typical family altar

We had also had the front sway bar removed while in the workshop, as both of the brackets that mount the sway bar to the lower suspension arms had broken and were making terrible noises on all the dirt roads we were driving (this was often the main interstate highway). Now it seems that in taking the sway bar off they have also somehow removed or loosened the rubber stop from the passengers side, as we now have metal to metal contact when we hit the bigger potholes and topes (speed bumps) that Dave seems determined to not see.

The next morning we set off nice and early on our way to Sayulita, only to have a horrific grinding noise start on the front left brake about 20km down the road. Thankfully we were able to pull into a Pemex gas station, from where we called the Green Angels (an amazing free roadside service available to all tourists). About 45 minutes later we had both wheels off of the drivers side of the van while trying to work out the issue. It turned out that the new brake caliper body was rubbing against the inside of the wheel rim. The Green Angel mechanic arranged to have the offending part of the caliper body ground away, and then happily sent us on our way content that his work was done.

We were not so convinced that the problem was solved, so decided to take her for a test drive, but head back towards the original mechanic in Mazatlan while we did so. As expected the grinding noise returned after the first application of the brakes. We managed to nurse Ginger back to the mechanics, where it was decided that the retaining brackets provided with the new calipers were not good enough, and was allowing the caliper body to rotate and hit the inside of the wheel rim.

Troubleshooting the brake issues

Once the old brackets were put back on all seemed to be fine (and still good a week later). It was once again mid afternoon in Mazatlan, so we headed to our now very familiar Mar Rosa RV park for one final night.

The next day we had an easy drive with no mechanical issues all the way to Sayulita. This turned out to be a very touristy small town, with more white faces than locals, but it also had a great little RV park, right on a beautiful beach and within walking distance of plenty of restaurants and bars.

The beach at Sayulita

It was in Sayulita that we met some other travellers with the same plans as ours. These guys are driving three camper converted Sprinter vans (soon to be four) down to Argentina. We had a good chat about each others plans, and they were even nice enough to introduce us to a great taco stand nearby that had absolutely amazing coconut shrimp. These guys are keeping a blog at

Ginger and two of the Southern Tip Trip vans

We decided to keep moving, so headed out early again for a 500km day down the coast, to what we had read was a great little eco resort with a nice pool and grounds right on the beach. We had planned on about 7 1/2 hours to cover the distance, as the roads here aren’t great, but eventually took over 11 hours of solid driving to get there. I did give the brakes a good test when I locked them up because of an unsigned tope which I was about to hit at 80km/hr… We also had hours of slowly swerving around the coast highway, trying to avoid the killer potholes that looked big enough to swallow Ginger whole.

The main coastal highway

Another great section of road

Vultures cleaning up some roadkill

The last two hours of the trip was in the dark, along the windiest road I have ever driven, with the threat of livestock on the road around every corner. This was not a good day, and not one of us enjoyed.

There were some nice views – very reminiscent of the Oregon coast

We were both very happy to finally reach our destination though! This was short lived and we were dismally disappointed to find out the pool was empty and going green, the camping sites were completely overgrown and there was no longer any power or water available. A couple of beers and off to bed, knowing we would just get up and get back on the road again in the morning.

The green pool and broken playground

The next day, 250km down the road, we found a great little site in the back of a hotel in Ixtapa. This had shade, power, water and wifi, and was only 100m from a beautiful beach with bars and restaurants. We spent a couple of nights here, and even managed a full day of chilling out.

Chilling with a margerita

Watching the sun set from the bar

Our lovely site behind the hotel

We are now in Acapulco, and plan to go see the famous cliff divers tonight. The RV park here is nice, but they are only just setting up for the season, so the pool’s not ready yet. We will probably head on again tomorrow.

The view from our bed

What else this week? We put the finishing touches on our fly screens and have them in full use every night. They may not look too flash, but they make the inside of the van a lot more comfortable, especially when we can sleep with the back door open.

Dave sewing up the mosquito screens

The back screen – fantastic for sleeping

Screens on the side doors – and our water filtration system at work!

We also finally made a decision about travelling back to Melbourne in December. This was an issue that we had been trying to find a solution to for a long time. Basically Daves brother, Steve, is getting married in early December, and we had planned to both be there for it. Unfortunately Mexico does not allow you to import a vehicle and then leave the country without it. The vehicle becomes illegal if you do, and can be confiscated – not something we need right now. This left three possible options.

1 – Christine would stay with the van while Dave went home for the wedding.

2 – Drive all the way back North to the USA and leave the van there while we both went to Melbourne.

3 – Drive all the way down to Costa Rica and leave the van there.

No one is really happy about it, but we eventually decided that Christine staying with the van was the only truly feasible option.

So Dave has booked his tickets home for the wedding. Luckily Christine’s sister Rita is going to fly down and spend most of this time with Christine.

Dave is flying out of Cancun on the 21st, which means that we need to get over the Yucatan Peninsular before then, which is also why we are moving on most days.

In short, we are doing great and still really enjoying ourselves, especially now that Ginger Lee is running well once again. We are driving most days, but keeping them short so we can enjoy the beach in the afternoon. Our Spanish is still terrible, but hopefully we can find a good school once Dave is back from Australia.

This weeks banner


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Yosemite – (Yoh–sem–it–ee: For Mom/Madeleine)


Ok, so we had a beautiful drive into Yosemite, with great views of all the peaks and down into the valley.

The view over Yosemite valley, with the Half Dome in the distance

Once in the valley we hit all the information and wilderness offices to arrange the required permits to go backcountry hiking and camping for the next few days. Thankfully we managed to arrange a permit that would also allow us to climb the Half Dome, otherwise we would have to enter a lottery as there are only so many permits issued per day. Once we had all of our permits in hand we headed to the campground reservation office to arrange a site for the night. The ranger there was nice enough to let us know that everything in the valley was 100% full, so our only option was to sleep in our tent at a walk in only site. We weren’t keen for an extra night in the tent, but the only other option was to drive out of the valley again (at least an hours drive). As we were about to leave the ranger mentioned that we could put our names on a list, in the hope that we might get a site from a cancellation or no-show, but that the list already had 35 names, so would probably be a waste of time for us… Yippee, we were the second last to get a site! This was great because we really needed to get organized for our next 2 nights in the wilderness.

The next morning, Saturday, we emptied Ginger of all bear enticing food (everything!) and put it in the numerous bear bins around the trailhead parking lot. They show you lots of pictures of bears that tore through cars to get to food! The bears just peel the door from the the top of the window like a tin of sardines. We were pretty sure we’d be OK but wanted to make sure Ginger was safe while we were away.

We started trekking straight uphill for the next few hours with our packs. We thought we were making great progress until we got to a sign that said 8.4 MILES (not kms!) still to go to Merced Lake – and this was after already climbing for 3 hours! We didn’t make it to Merced Lake where we were to camp until 6pm, and were both dirty and completely pooped. When we double checked the map we had hiked 20km and climbed well over a 1,000 metres. We managed a wash in the freezing creek and a decent pasta dinner before flopping into bed. Despite the tough day it was a beautiful walk through steep sided glacier carved canyons with beautiful waterfalls and streams.

The valley we hiked up

Dave with pack on

Christine enjoying breakfast

Hiking back down the valley

We had a slower morning the next day and decided to go back the same way we came as the rivers on the other side of the loop we had planned were all dried up. No water to drink is not so cool. We had a really nice leisurely walk back to the bottom of the big Half Dome hike that we were anticipating so much for the next day. We had a wash, dinner and then hung out by the communal campfire and met some really friendly and interesting fellow hikers. Especially the entertaining Wisconsin guys!

Chilling at the camp site

We were up pretty early on Monday to start our ascent of the famous Half Dome.

Great views on the way up

Dave – still climbing

We made it to the bottom of the really steep cable climb by about 10:30 (after an introductory steep and scary part).

The view up to Half Dome on the way up

Zoomed in on the ‘U’ you can just see the climbers on the cable way

After watching some others start the climb and then give up we both decided that we were happy not to go to the top and chickened out. Too freakin steep and scary!

Looking at the cable way

After an early lunch and observing the cables we both reconsidered and found ourselves at the bottom scrummaging through all the discarded gloves looking for a pair that would do. After we fitted ourselves out we started the steep and horrifying ascent, almost straight up (well it felt like it!). Slowly, slowly we pulled ourselves up and eventually made it to the fantastic and well worth it summit.

Christine coming up to the top

Looking back down the cables

Great views over the valley

Christine on top of the dome

The obligatory couple photo

Great views from the top

After all the photo ops were exhausted we started climbing down, which Christine thought was much more frightening than going up. Dave helped guide Christine down as did the many fellow climbers who could sense that she was a having a bit of a freak out.

Christine on the way down

But all is well that ends well and we both made it down safely!

VERY happy to be down

Except we still had 5+ hours of hiking down to do. It was another very long day, but we were thrilled to see Ginger, not bear scarred, and looking like a palace. So happy that we had reserved ahead at one of the busy Valley campsites, and that we could finally take a hot shower again.

Tuesday we were up early and on the road to the north eastern part of Yosemite – Tuolumne Meadows. Ginger climbed like a champion to a new all time high of 2700m and we got a nice campsite. We took it easy exploring by bike the flat meadows and river area. Then we vegged out at the campsite, wrote this blog, drank some wine and rested our poor feet. A great day!

Christine on Tuolumne Meadows

Dave – just standing

Christine – just standing

Dave very happy to be finished hiking!


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Note: This blog was ready to post last Thursday (13 Sept), but we couldn’t find decent internet access, so it’s going up a week late – Sorry!

We started our California adventure by heading to Lassen Volcanic National Park which is a few hours from the border. But a very mountainous and hilly few hours. And of course we were arriving there late and it was dark and the deer were out in full force. We didn’t make it to our destination and instead parked a few miles short in a campsite along the road for the night. The next morning, after a few more ascents with Ginger we arrived at the National Park entrance and got all the info we needed. We spent the day checking out all the volcano hot spots, literally, and getting ready for our first backcountry hike the next day.

The view from up high on Mt Lassen

Looking down into Bumpass Hell

The steaming vents and landscape at Bumpass Hell

The sulphurous steam at Bumpass Hell

Our backcountry hike was around a couple of lakes, Butte and Snag lake, volcano lava fields and a final climb up and over a cinder cone.

Ready to hit the trail!

The view of the lava field and cinder cone across Butte Lake

It was hard going with the terrain being mostly sand and fine cinder. Christine was not impressed. We saw lots of deer enroute and they even came to visit us at our camp site.

Hiking around Snag Lake

Christine deer spotting

Christine and the friendly deer around camp

A bear also came pretty close and just as we were about to start cooking our dinner. But he pretty much stayed to himself and did a little bit of washing in the lake before heading in the opposite direction of us. Phewf! Before going to bed we tied up all our food and scented things and hung them between a couple of trees a distance away from our camp. We didn’t have any problems and did manage to get a pretty good sleep in our new sleeping bags and matts. And the tent also was a success.

Our new camping gear

The black bear at the lake

Dave remembers that there are Hershey bars in the bear bag!!

The edge of the lave field at Snag Lake

Christine climbing the cinder cone – and hating it!

The lava fields from the cinder cone

The view from the cinder cone, with Snag Lake in the distance

Dave on top of the volcano

The crater of the cinder cone

We made it out of the woods on Monday and headed to a campground to shower, do some laundry and get ready for San Francisco. We’re going into the big city!

Dave, very happy to be finished hiking

We left Tuesday and drove through a fair bit of traffic to land at Glenn and Emma’s, friends of Dave’s from Melbourne, in downtown San Fran. They even were so gracious as to give up there bed to us! And we really appreciated the 2 nights of comfort and space. When we got there Tuesday we went out for a super meal at a Peruvian restaurant. The next day we got up and out and explored the city. Mostly walking and looking at the Golden Gate Bridge, the steep hills, the cable car, the seals, etc… Lots to see and a beautiful day to do it.

In San Francisco, with the Golden Gate bridge behind

The seals at the fishermans wharf

The famous cable cars

The steep streets of San Fran, with Alcatraz island in the background

Dave riding the cable cars

At dinner with Glenn and Emma. Thanks again guys!!!

After a very long lie in on Thursday morning we loaded the bikes back on the van and hit the road again. We are now in an RV park just outside of Yosemite National Park, and will hit the park first thing in the morning.

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A little van on the prairie

After the truck stop in Sault Ste Marie, we headed to Pakaskwa National Park on the north coast of Lake Superior.  A good night with marshmallows on the fire.

We started out early Friday with a quick walk along the coasts peninsulas and beaches, then continued to drive around the top of Lake Superior to Thunder Bay.

On our morning walk

Geese on Lake Superior

The timber strewn beaches at Pakaskwa National Park

Christine having a ‘Lonely Planet’ moment

 Christine has started a new habit of running off in the morning, and hoping that I will stop when I drive by.  She’s been lucky so far…
A quick stop at the Terry Fox Memorial on the way.

The beautiful monument to Terry Fox

We then spent the night at CracknSack Provincial Park and a quick bike ride and walk along the river gorge and waterfalls before bed.

CracknSack Falls (or something like that??)

After picking Christine up from the side of the road again, we headed for the Manitoba border, with plans to stay at Whiteshell Provincial Park, which is right at the border.  This was also the day that we passed the half way mark, and would now be closer to Vancouver than Halifax! Unfortunately this was a Saturday night and all the park campgrounds were full.  Knowing we still had a lot of ground to cover, we decided to keep on driving towards our next destination:  Riding Mountain National Park.
Unfortunately again, it was further than we thought, and took a lot longer than we’d hoped.  Especially as our GPS decided that a route through downtown Winnipeg would be the quickest way (???).
So a discrete stop outside of a Tim Hortons to steal their wifi, and we had a truck stop lined up to spend the night for free.  This was to be a Petro Canada in a small town enroute, which we found with no problems.  When we woke the next morning we realised that we had somehow parked in a CO-OP, and not the Petro Canada.   So we very quietly and sheepishly packed up and moved on, as we were probably not meant to be camping there at all…
An early check in at Riding Mountain Park, followed by a few hours of napping.  We did get a bit more adventurous with Ging’s stove, and cooked up a fantastic Indian chicken curry with rice.  Very nice!
The next day we moved to another, more isolated camp within Riding Mountain, which included a drive through the Bison enclosure. Those things are massive, and hairy!!!
We tried to do a 20km ‘easy’ bike ride around Lake Audy, but found the trail super rough and churned up by horses as well as being a mosquito breeding ground.  We turned around and went home after only a couple of kilometres.  Nothing to be done but drink beer and wine by the roaring fire instead 🙂

Ginger camped at Lake Audy

Sunset over Lake Audy

Tuesday morning we headed out early as we had another big driving day planned.  We drove all day (800km) to the Grasslands National Park in Saskatchewan.  Another province plus another time zone!  Christine’s brother-in-law, Roger, had described the prairies to Dave as “de-press-ing”.   We’re not sure we agree.  And for sure Ginger is lovin them, with not a hill in sight!
At the park we were greeted by deer, prairie dogs and more bison on the way into the park.  Also very happy and surprised to find a brand new campground with electrical sites.  We had planned for ‘primitive’ so were very ‘happy campers’ with this.  We had a very windy night, with the van being blown about all night, but managed a good sleep regardless.

Our little van on the Prairie

The welcoming deer

Dave and a toque – it was cold!

Wednesday we decided to put our cold weather gear on and check out the grasslands by following an 11km route. This turned out to be a random wander through the grass, occassionally bumping into the yellow trail markers.  Still fun though!

The old homesteads on the Grasslands

In rattlesnake country – thankfully this was just your common friendly type of viper.

Bison herds on the prairies

Dave found some missing parts

Out on the plains

Wednesday night turned out to be our coldest yet, with the temperature dropping to around -4C overnight.  For some reason our furnace decided to keep switching on and off during the night as well, so neither of us actually slept very much.
On Thursday we drove through to Calgary and had a great BBQ with monster Alberta steaks at Christine’s cousin Paul and wife Shelley’s house.  We also had our first night in a real bed since leaving Halifax. Thank you Paul and Shelley!!!

Another province down!

Next… to Banff.


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