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Farewell Ginger!

After a few days of recovery, and shopping, in the warmth of Las Vegas we have the energy and the technology to write this blog! It’s been a tough and tiring couple of weeks since the last entry. So here goes…

Our latest travels

Our latest travels

We spent a cold and wet night by the ocean in Puerto Montt, where even the local dogs were surprised to see us there at this time of year.

Hey guys!! You lost?

Hey guys!! You lost?

This ended up being as far South as we would make it on this trip. We had over a week to get back to Santiago, and planned to cross over to Argentina and travel a small part of the famous Ruta 40 on our way North.

Waterfalls along the way

Waterfalls along the way

We were so happy to finally cross the border into what we thought was our final country and blog namesake, Argentina! We found a great campsite by a lake and got cozy in the van.

Argentina! We made it!

Argentina! We made it!

Beautiful fall colors in the Andes mountains

Beautiful fall colors in the Andes mountains

Pumice from the local volcano was everywhere

Pumice from the local volcano was everywhere

Our lovely and quiet camp by the lake

Our lovely and quiet camp by the lake

Lakes and rainbows

Lakes and rainbows

The next day we went to the tourist town of Bariloche which is right on a lake with the beautiful Patagonia mountains surrounding it. We parked a couple of blocks from the tourist centre and then made our way there to get some information on local campsites and hikes. After about an hour or so we returned to Ginger and a big mess.

That small window sure had a lot of glass

That small window sure had a lot of glass

The remains of our possessions

The remains of our possessions

The van had the small front window smashed out and all three front locks were messed up from an amateur robbers handiwork. They tore the place apart and eventually with the help of our very own tools got into the safe. They got everything – laptop, hard drive, iPad, passports, cash, GPS, everything. We immediately sought help and the police were there shortly after. Christine also talked with the owner of the car next to ours who hooked us up with the local radio and TV station. Radio Seis showed up approximately 45 minutes later and did a TV and radio interview with Christine that was aired right away.

Christine _ Argentina's newest TV star

Christine – Argentina’s newest TV star

By the time we fumbled through a spanish police report and made it to a campground we received a call that all our documents and cards had been anonymously dropped off at the radio station. We were very happy about this but still were missing the most valuable stolen item, all our trip photos from this past year+ of travel. The radio station continued to air the story and the TV station did a follow up the next day where Christine offered a reward for the return of our hard drive or photo files. We also plastered the town with posters of our hard drive and the reward.

Vandalizing Bariloche with reward posters

Vandalizing Bariloche with reward posters

We stayed in the town of Bariloche for 6 more days hoping something would come up but so far no word.

We couldn’t wait any longer or do anything more and had to return to Santiago to meet the buyer of Ginger. We had managed to fix all the destruction and to do a bit of a clean up before meeting Peter on Wednesday, the 15th.

Did we say it was cold in Chile?

Did we say it was chilly in Chile?

Crossing the Andes back to Chile

Crossing the Andes back to Chile

Dave getting distracted while working on the van...

Dave getting distracted while working on the van…

We got a few vehicle ownership documents notarized but in order to get the van out of Christine’s name and passport and into the new owners we required a border crossing. The theory is that Christine would exit the country and then the new owner would produce new papers and enter the next country with the vehicle imported in his name. Sounds easy but the Chile/Argentina border where we crossed had integrated both countries customs offices together so we could not switch the papers. This was a huge glitch in our plans and meant we needed to find another border to cross. Peter was planing to head to Uruguay on the east coast, so we decided that we’d all make the 1500km+ drive together and cross there. This also made sense as Uruguay had no previous record of the vehicle either.

We did manage to have a stopover in the steak and wine capital of Argentina, Mendoza, and got a steak as big as our head!

Argentinian steak and red wine - just what we needed!

Argentinian steak and red wine – just what we needed!

The next 2 days were dedicated to driving. These were not without incidents; like a mud highway where we thought for sure we would be stuck for a few days. The pictures don’t give you any idea of the slipperiness of it or the mess that we got into. And this was a big highway!

Ginger skating sideways in the mud - the trucks in the distance have all slid off the road and stuck. It took us about 2 hours to get back 500m from here...

Ginger skating sideways in the mud – the trucks in the distance have all slid off the road and stuck. It took us about 2 hours to get back 500m from here…

The next big problem was the corrupt Argentinian police that stopped and held us until we produced money. The infringement fine started at $510 USD but quickly disappeared when Dave presented a US$50 bill which was quickly slipped into the officers pocket… the officer then shook his hand with a big smile and sent him on his way. Dirty buggers! This was also where Dave somehow lost one of his hiking shoes (which was covered in mud after the previous incident…).

The Argentina/Uruguay border we crossed was supposed to be on separate sides of a bridge and we were very surprised when we found that the 2 countries also had integrated borders! This made us very nervous but in the end Christine checked Ginger out of Argentina and at the next desk Peter checked her into Uruguay. At one point we thought we were caught but one of the officers thankfully didn’t look too close at the names. Phewf!

Ginger with her new driver in Uruguay

Ginger with her new driver in Uruguay

Once we got into Uruguay we booked a flight to Vegas and got the heck out of there!

Saying farewell to Ginger-Lee

Saying goodbye to Ginger-Lee

 

Farewell Ginger!

Farewell Ginger!

We left South America feeling beaten, as though everything of value had been stolen or taken from us. Not a great end to our fantastic drive from Canada. I think we just need some time to get everything into perspective! Hopefully some warm weather will help!

Dave in his rubber water shoes with shopping bag carry-on luggage.

Dave in his rubber water shoes with shopping bag carry-on luggage.

Las Vegas was lovely and hot and we had 2 nights to get ourselves organized. This included Christine getting a wedding dress (YAY!) and Dave figuring out what electronics we were going to need to replace (a new Microsoft Surface tablet!). After shelling out a small fortune we got most things accomplished, picked up a rental car and headed for the hills! Well Zion National Park anyways.

It was Thursday before the Memorial long weekend and of course everything was chock full. We eventually found a state park and tried to take shelter from the gale force desert winds for the night. The next morning we returned to Zion to try and snag a first come, first serve campsite. We really appreciate having the language as we asked a fellow camper at the park gate about the process of getting a site and he offered for us to share his site with a couple of his friends! You’re allowed to have up to 3 tents and 2 cars so we were set. We’ve met some really wonderful people along our way.

Exploring Zion National Park again

Exploring Zion National Park again

Rock scrambling

Rock scrambling

Christine hanging on

Christine hanging on

We had a good day hiking around Zion and a nice night hanging out with our fellow campmates. We headed for the tent early and had a much needed sleep in today. We are currently at McDonald’s using their free internet and eating sundaes.

We are spending the next couple of weeks car camping around America (Utah, Colorado etc) and hope to do a bit of hiking before heading back to Canada for the next adventure.

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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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Hola Mexico!

We left Grand Canyon and headed towards Joshua Tree National Park. We camped in the park among the Joshua trees and cool rocks. It was quite cool and very deserty. The next day we did a tour of the park, mostly by car and a bit of hiking.

Interesting rock formations and joshua trees

Campsites in the Joshua Tree National Park

Dave checking out the strange trees

Very very bizarre trees!

Cholla cactus gardens

Cholla cactus and the view over the Colorado desert

A flowering Ocotillo

Another green Ocotillo in the desert

We then headed for the coast and San Diego. Enroute we remembered someone telling us about Salton Sea, which is the largest lake in California. Not a natural lake as it was created around 1905 by flooding of the Colorado River and the breaking of a dam. It was a huge tourist attraction in the 40’s and 50’s, with more visitors than Yosemite. But the lake started to become more salty as the years went on and was a bit of a dumping ground for chemicals and pollutants. Needless to say it’s not a very nice place now. It’s a graveyard of old buildings and trailers from the glory days and smells dreadful because all the fish they stocked it with that are dying because it’s too salty for them. We passed through here pretty quick!

Some very dead trailers (caravans) on the lake shore

In San Diego we found a nice RV park a bit north of the city in the Pacific Beach area. It was expensive but had a pool, jacuzzi, laundry and was right on the water. We booked in for 2 nights so we could really celebrate Dave’s birthday on the 10th – the big 38!!! We had a cake and some wine and a great day biking and relaxing. Thai was Dave’s choice for his birthday dinner.

Dave trying hard to wake up for his birthday muffins

Birthday Cake!!

Exploring San Diegos beaches by bike

We made it to Mexico! We crossed over the Tijuana border on Thursday. We were all prepared for the “busiest border in the world” and expected huge wait times. However we pretty much rolled right on through, in fact we rolled too far through and missed getting all our tourist and vehicle permits – ooops. So we parked on the street and a security guy said he’d look after Ginger while we walked back to sort out our stuff. We got our tourist visas and then went on a search for our vehicle importation permit. As luck would have it the office at this border was closed so we had to somehow find our way to the unmarked and obscure office at the Otay de Mesa border crossing, about 20km east. It was a difficult task and I’m still not sure how we found it but we did. Unfortunately our GPS was utterly useless. No sweat with getting Ginger’s permit and we were on our way south shortly after midday. Our goal was the coastal town of Ensenada and we found a gorgeous hotel/RV resort on Esterico Beach complete with pool and jacuzzi.

Enjoying our own RV resort

Another bonus was that we were the only RV’ers in the entire place! Lots of preparations going on there for the big season of snowbirds/nomads coming up though.

Friday we did a bit of shopping at a Walmart of all places! Quite similar to the ones at home except for the taco stand at the entrance. We set out for a short driving day and ended up in San Quintin at a hotel that also has some RV spots with hook ups.

The pacific coast in Baja

Maybe not the best hookups, as Dave was shocked numerous times from the electrical connections, but it did get the fridge cool! We even got in a bike ride to the beach and over the huge dunes.

Christine collecting sand dollars on the beach

We weren’t alone on the beach though as we were approached by a military jeep with mounted machine gun and 5 guys all decked out with camo and bulletproof gear and carrying machine guns. Doesn’t make you feel all warm and fuzzy! We got out of there and went for some yummy Mexican food at the restaurant at the hotel. Our first taste and we were lovin it! Bring on the food!

I think Dave somwhow upset the waiter before he took this photo…

Saturday we went inland from the Pacific coast. We stopped at Mama Espinoza’s which is supposed to be famous for their lobster burritos. Have to admit it was very yummy, with generous lobster meat, but the price maybe inflated for tourists – $15!

Lobster Burritos – YUM!

We got to the desert town of Catalina a couple hours before sunset. Huge cactus and vast desert. We camped down at a ‘campground’ that was just a desert area/parking lot with a couple of trees. There was water and a flush toilet though, all for$7 USD.

Ginger shadowed by a massive cactus

Desert plants

Beautiful desert views

Gas here in Mexico is the cheapest yet! About $0.79/litres. Our most expensive to date is Quebec and California at a high of $1.439/litre.

We’ve also just seen our most bizarre moment to date, at a bar on the east coast of Baja… We went in to find about 50 America retirees watching a puppet show… of a shark in sunglasses… singing only Roy Orbison songs… and they loved it! Though to be fair – after a couple of margaritas it did seem to make a lot more sense!

This weeks banner:

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