One year on the road...

On 28.10.2014,in less than 10 days, it will be one year since we have been on the road. :) Besides treating ourselves to celebrate the event, we'll take some time to think over things and create new plans, which I'll write down in this post.
We spent about half of our time in the Caribbean, and the other half in 4 South American countries. In total, without counting the countries in Europe we went through, we have visited and seen 7 islands and 4 continental countries. Our favourite island became Dominica, and our favourite country on the continent (in fact, the only one we liked so far) is Ecuador. At the moment we're still in Peru and we already have some plans about the rest of the trip around South America. We plan to have entered Chilе in about a month and to travel around Patagonia in Chile and Argentina during the next few months. At the moment I'm desperately trying to find a way to go to the Antarctic, but funding is a problem.It's too expensive to travel by cruise ship and so far I don't know of any other option.If anyone has connections in BAN(Bulgarian Academy of Sciences) and is able to get me a place on one of their expeditions, that would make me the happiest person on the planet :) I would agree to clean their toilets, I wouldn't mind, if only they would take me with them! So far the Antarctic's status is unknown, and I keep dreaming of it day and night... After Patagonia we're heading to Uruguay, then we're going to enter South Brazil just to look around and immediately after that we're going to Paraguay - we expect to have got there sometime around May. We're spending June in Bolivia (they give a visa for 1 month there), and in July and August we're returning to Peru, only to the mountains this time, in order to finish our trekking :) Maybe we will go to Ecuador as well, because I really want to climb Chimborazo and I think I'll spare some money for equipment and I'll do it eventually. After that we're considering 2 options. 1st one - a freight ship on the Amazon somewhere from Peru or Ecuador to Manaus or Belem in Brazil, or a 2nd one, which we prefer - we want to buy a boat and sail the Amazon River to Belem on our own, however money is a problem in this case. We need to buy a boat and equipment and to seriously study the route. If some sponsor is reading this and wants to invest in this expedition, we'd be very grateful and if we manage to complete it successfully, we may possibly become the first Bulgarians to sail the entire Amazon by themselves (it may actually be only me, since I'm considering leaving my buddy somewhere to wait for me, it might be too dangerous for him). The main problem is the money for the boat and equipment, we'll handle the rest. After sailing to Bolivia we want to see the country more, then we're heading to Venezuela and Colombia in order to take a boat to Panama and transfer to Central America. This is supposed to happen until the end of next year at the latest. Then we're going to travel around Central America and Mexico and we're going to think how to get USA visas while we're not in Bulgaria (if someone has information about this, please share it). We hope to succeed with the visas and head to USA and spend the summer there. For the winter we're probably going to go to Mexico and take on Canada later, or we risk spending a fierce Canadian winter. Somewhere in this crazy plan we'll fit in Alaska, which personally to me is the most attractive place on the continent and deserves a lot of attention.So, as I said - we accept all info and help regarding American and Canadian visas, we need to take them without being in Bulgaria, which can turn out to be complicated...

Dates in the journey so far:

28.10.2013 - 02.11.2013 – hitchhiking from Haskovo to Italy (Civitavecchia)
02.11.2013 - 13.11.2013 – cruise ship to Saint Martin
13.11.2013 - 06.12.2013 – Saint Martin
06.12.2013 - 08.12.2013 – sailing to Dominica with a cargo ship
08.12.2013 - 31.01.2014 – Dominica
31.01.2014 - 17.02.2014 – Saint Lucia
18.02.2014 - 25.02.2014 – Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, sailing
26.02.2014 - 11.03.2014 – sailing to Trinidad
11.03.2014 - 25.04.2014 - Trinidad
25.04.2014 - 23.05.2014 - Venezuela
23.05.2014 - 16.06.2014 - Colombia
16.06.2014 - 13.09.2014  - Ecuador
13.09.2014 - ?????????? - Peru

The equipment:
The things with which we left Bulgaria have already either turned to rags and been thrown away (t-shirts and pants) or are in such terrible condition that it is very hard to use them – the tent for example. Ferrino Nemesi 1 turned out to be a really low-quality tent, it didn’t last 1 year on the road and fell apart. The bad thing is that we don’t have any spare racks and the situation is on the edge – if another rack breaks we’re going to be in trouble. Upon leaving the tent was almost new, it had only been used in the summer on my Kom-Emine journey and it was in good condition. At the Caribbean, after only a few months of use, a rack broke. Later on they began breaking like wooden sticks, they are all cracked and we’ve plastered them with Scotch tape. Some are so broken that we replaced them with the iron from some blinds and a rack made of fiber glass which we bought in Quito. It surprises me that my High Peak tent, bought around 2005, which lasted many years in the Bulgarian mountains plus two big journeys in Asia and Africa, broke for the first time when I got back from Africa, on one of the last days of the journey. That was the first time that a rack broke and it was only due to the strong wind in the desert, and long years before that the tent gave me no trouble at all. The Ferrino one has not only broken racks but a broken zipper as well, which we can barely close. The net is covered with holes in its bottom and side parts (we have no idea how they have appeared), and to top it off, some huge ants ate a part of it one night and made even more holes in it and now it looks like Swiss cheese. I have no idea what we’re going to do in the strong Patagonian wind with this tent – I just can’t imagine it! And it was worth 250 lv! I’m really angry, it drives me mad. We’ve been living in it for one year, it’s our house. Considering how much we love living in a tent and how we wouldn’t change it for anything, I don’t know how we’re going to continue with a tent so damaged. The other equipment – our sleeping bags are surprisingly well and we have no complaints, although we have used them a lot during the last 10 years. My camera is behaving well, the matrix is a bit dirty, you can see that on photos – they have lots of spots, but the camera is in good condition and it works, which is the most important thing. The bag I keep it in is in a terrible state and I really want to buy another, but good ones here are too expensive, while the rest are not good at all. The little Kodak camera which is living a new life after being stolen and then returned, is also okay, as well as my buddy’s laptop and our other technology. All in all we have no problems with technology. The MP3 player which Kalin gave me while I was traveling in Africa is also doing good and I often listen to it. J Clothes are something which is always in bad condition J We threw away a lot of t-shirts and a few pants, which were, to put it mildy, in a terrifying state – had many holes and were whitened. We bought new ones and we’re doing okay – we stitch up torn clothes and if they become irreparable, we buy new things. The sandals which I left Bulgaria with tore in Dominica, but thanks to Teodora I got the coolest sandals in the world, I’ve never worn a more comfortable shoe in my life. I still wear them, they already need to be repaired after so many months of constant walking, but they’re still okay. My mountain shoes are really torn but I still wear them. I try not to wet them a lot, as they have two large holes and they fill instantly. My Tashev backpack, which is also from 2005, hasn’t changed a bit, even though I pack it very heavily and I always feel as though it will tear from the load. My buddy’s one, however, which is also by Tashev but was bought two years ago, has turned to a rag – the stitches give in, the upper part has torn unexplainably, one of the clasps broke just like that… My buddy is very careful with his things and is now complaining that new backpacks are being made disposable, and my ten-year-old, much-used one is like new…

Spending the night
On the whole, we live in a tent on this journey. Couchsurfing is almost Mission impossible, the locals here have nothing in common with these in Africa or Australia, and almost nobody invites you to their home.
In the beginning we spent 12 nights in Celebrity’s cruise ship. At out first island, Saint Martin, we visited the wonderful Captain Massey for a few days. In Dominica we spent 2 months in our tent and we were invited, on Christmas’ Eve, by a drunk local called Martin. We visited a local person a second time – Paul from Soufriere, who we hitchhiked with and he invited us to his home. In Saint Lucia we visited a wonderful Bulgarian who put us up on his yacht that he was repairing. Then Captain Kirk took us aboard his yacht Fidler and we spent a few weeks on board, sleeping in the cockpit – the coolest part of every yacht. We reached Trinidad with him, where we spent about 2 months in total. Most of the time we slept in the tent, we stayed on Fidler for a week to help Kirk with fixing the yacht. Once an Indian family invited us to their home, then we were invited by a black person, and a third time by the owner of a pet shop. We made two couchsurfings – at the Austrian Iza and the Indian Fletch. In Venezuela we were invited two times – first by Juan and his family in Tucupita, and then by Orlando and his family in Merida. In Colombia we were Couchsurfing once in Bogota at David’s and once a driver invited us to sleep on the roof of his house. In Ecuador we found a host from CS only once in Quito. A lot of people invited us to their homes in Esmeraldas after we got robbed, but we only agreed to two invitations. We visited Latina from Haskovo and her family in Cuenca for a few days. So far in Peru we have only found one host – in Lima. We spent 2 nights at a hospedaje in Huaraz in order to record our photos and 3 more nights with a family, where I wrote my blog. We slept in our tent in their house.
The rest of all the other nights of last year we spent in the tent: in mountains, beaches, jungles, deserts, parks, police yards and many others.

We started off by hitchhiking from Haskovo to Italy, there we boarded a cruise ship to Saint Martin, then a cargo ship to Dominica, a ferry to Saint Lucia, the yacht Fidler to the islands below and to Trinidad, a little ship to Venezuela and from there on we’ve been on the road ever since. On the islands our only transport was hitchhiking. The first time we had to take a bus was in Venezuela – 3 times total, in 2 of which were in order to leave the country without having our visas expired. In Colombia we hitchhiked all the time, in Ecuador we took the bus a few times when leaving the large cities so that we wouldn’t walk through the ghettoes at night. For the same reason we once took a minibus in Peru from Huaraz to Carhuaz .
In all other cases we only hitchhike and walk -  most of the time we spend on foot and not in a car.

At the Caribbean hitchhiking was relatively good, with minimal differences from one island to another. But overall  it was good. It became much harder in Venezuela, we waited long, and in Colombia it was even worse. In Ecuador hitchhiking became absolutely perfect. In Peru its quality went down a bit and it became harder, but not as bad as it was in Colombia and Venezuela.

Ever since we left, it’s often that someone is hurt, either my buddy or more recently, me. My buddy holds the record for getting injured with 2 tick bites (Thank God no one was infected), an injury of the toes of his right foot, various temporary illnesses such as diarrhea or headache. I, on the other hand, nearly killed myself with a bike, I managed to get my leg stuck between two rocks, I fell on my face and hit my head full of beetles pretty hard ☺ We both got altitude sickness in Venezuela for a while, but it passed away and never came back. Sea sickness destroyed us on our first sailing on a cargo ship from Saint Martin to Dominica. To top it off, we had a car accident in Venezuela, my buddy’s first and for me – it was a fourth one.

In the Caribbean we were often hungry at first, especially in Saint Martin, where we lived mainly on biscuits and bread. But further on, in Trinidad, Venezuela and Ecuador, we became more generous to ourselves regarding food, it doesn’t work if you only eat junk when travelling for a long period of time. The first time we bought cheese was in Saint Lucia – 3 months after we started our journey. To me cheese is my main and most favourite food, so it was very hard for me to go without it. In Dominica we ate almost only fruit and my buddy became dangerously thin, but has  long since recovered. In Venezuela our food improved both in quality and quantity, because there was very cheap cheese and all other delicious things. In Colombia we lost appetite, food seemed very disgusting to us, and expensive too, and in Ecuador we really took it easy with food, which had a bad impact on our funds. All in all we eat a lot better on the continent, compared to the islands. In Peru we continue to eat well, but the price of cheese has risen, which is a big problem for me. In Ecuador we also ate yoghurt at least a few times a week, but here in Peru it’s too expensive and we don’t buy it. Potatoes and rise are also a main part of our menu, as well as bread. To buy a dish in a restaurant here is not easy at all for vegetarians, nobody understands what we are and why we’re like that, so usually we need to explain and argue a thousand times so they would give us a portion of just rice. We can’t really say we have a diverse menu, but we’re content with rise and potatoes which we sometimes exchange for beans, lentils and chickpea, which they sell readymade in Peru’s markets. We haven’t eaten real chocolate for very long, it’s too expensive both in Peru and Ecuador, which we didn’t expect at all, as they have cocoa here. All the chocolates are, for example, 15 soles, which is crazy – that’s around 8 lv for an ordinary 100 gr chocolate. Only the ones which are made to be dissolved in milk are much cheaper – they look like normal chocolate, but they aren’t as delicious.

Using automatic laundry:
Once in Saint Martin at Massy’s, once on board the Fidler, once in Trinidad. Then in Ecuador my buddy used a street laundry to wash his sleeping bag. Our last laundry was in Lima at our host’s. In total it appears we have used the laundry 5 times in one year. ☺

Watching movies and television:
We began by downloading Pirates of the Caribbean 1,2 and 3 and we wanted to watch them while still in the Caribbean. Well, we managed to do that in Trinidad ☺ To my immense joy in Trinidad I managed to download Frozen and so far I’ve watched it 5-6 times. While at Latina’s I downloaded a few others – Tinker Bell and the pirate fairy, Cloudy with a chance of meatballs 1and 2, Maleficent, Bears, Zapped and Rio 2 ☺ So at least the joy that movies bring to me returned to my life for a while. I already watched all of the above-mentioned movies and I hope to be able to download new ones soon. We unwillingly watched television once in Dominica, once in Trinidad, a few times in Ecuador after we got robbed. I hope we don’t have to watch it again.

Dreams that have not yet come true:
I dream about a cup of chocolate milk every morning, lunch and evening. This is one of the things I miss the most about home. And if only I could have a banichka with the milk too! ☺ However I miss my bicycle even more. L I’m dying to get on it and to fly down a loooong downhill. I want to cycle through the continent so bad, but considering the unique driving skills of past 4 countries’ inhabitants, cycling would be the fastest way to an ugly death and to have a plate with my name on it by the road for the Lilliputians to pee on and cover with trash. ☺  I also dream to go to Antarctica, to visit the Easter Islands near Chile, to fly over Nazca with a small airplane, to sail the Amazon River in a small boat, to reach the Angel Falls by walking through the jungle, to climb Chimborazo, to go to The Galapagos Islands, to watch all new Disney movies and other animations, to find and buy nice, cheap new camouflage pants, to swim with the humpback whales, to ride a horse… I have millions of dreams, I can’t list them all. My buddy on the other hand dreams about a month of rest, when he can sit on his computer and work. He also dreams of a new Nokia N95 – the phone which they stole from him. He also wishes that we are alive and healthy, as well as all the people close to us. He’s much more modest that me. ☺

Money spent so far (for both of us):
In the Caribbean for transport we spent: 1482 lv. for the cruise ship, 346 lv. for the cargo ship to Dominica, 382 lv. for the ferry to Saint Lucia,288 lv. on sailing to Trinidad with Fiddler, or 2500 lv. in total for transport for both of us. We also calculated everything we have spent in this time period: in Saint Martin 478 lv, in Dominica – 825 lv, in Saint Lucia – 244 lv, during the sailing – 449 lv and if we add the cruise – 1482 lv. In total – 3478 lv, this includes all the transport fees. So without including transport, it turns out we have spent about 500 lv. each for everything else.
We also calculated what we spent in Trinidad – 450 lv for food, 204 lv. other expenses, 162 lv. packages for Bulgaria, a ferry to Venezuela -338 lv.
In Venezuela we spent (in dollars) – 114 $ for food, 22 $ other expenses, travel expenses (buses) – 16$, exit fee – 3,5$.
We have not yet calculated the money spent in Columbia and Ecuador.

Meeting Bulgarians:
The first accidental meeting with Toni from Varna in Saint Martin, who saw our note on one of the marines and was amazed to see a Bulgarian e-mail address for contact J After that , even more accidentally, we met Teodora and Liubo in Dominica and Teodora gave me the coolest sandals in the world as a gift, with which I felt like a new person. And in order to continue the tradition, on the next island – Saint Lucia, we met Hristo (that’s not his real name, he just doesn’t want me to write it), who even put us up on his boat which he was repairing. Then in Ecuador we stayed with Latina’s wonderful family – meeting them wasn’t by chance, it was previously planned.

Relationship with the tamagotchi:
 To put it simply- my buddy continues to get on my nerves, as he has since the first day of our journey J Absolutely nothing has changed so far. His status is still “tamagotchi” and I have to watch over him, except for the glimmers of hope  that shine from time to time, but they are short and that just proves the indisputable: for me traveling with a tamagotchi is absolutely horrible and a great challenge. Every time I open my mouth to suggest that he return to Bulgaria, a revolution almost breaks out and his answer is always the same: “NO, I WON’T!”. So we continue together, it’s how it is, I can’t leave him on the road. We have cut down on quarrels to the minimum and replaced them almost entirely with a better method – fighting J Recently I almost pushed my buddy down an abyss when we were fighting, and in the end we slumped down a scree, but we survived. Pinching, slapping and throwing rocks have also become frequent methods for control over the tamagotchi (I have become just like the Ethiopian children J) Recently I had to pour cold water over him once, because he really drove me mad. When we don’t fight, however, we get along really well, everyone does their own thing – I walk and look around, and my buddy is on the computer. In general I can say that since the tamagotchi is very cool, patient, quiet and good, he often remains above my enormous evilness and constant striving for conflict with everything and everyone. So for this reason, being somehow more noble, we rarely come to the abovementioned fights and get along perfectly almost all the time.

In conclusion I can say that, as a whole, I really like the journey, although I don’t like the people at all in most countries so far and we’ve had all sorts of annoyances thanks to them. However I’ve also had really cool moments in the journey which I constantly think about, such as swimming with sea turtles and meeting dolphins in the Caribbean, watching humpback whales in Ecuador, trekking in the Venezuelan Andes, the views of the volcanoes Cotopaxi and Chimborazo in Ecuador, as well as the Cordillera Blanca in Peru, all the waterfalls, forests, beautiful sunsets we have seen… I can’t complain at all. As a whole we have given up on people, we have understood long ago that you visit this continent for the nature, not because of the human factor. I believe that I’ll enjoy the journey even more in the future, because my desire to see more and more new places and my longing for adventure grow with each day. Everything is really interesting to me and after 1 year of traveling I feel that my curiosity grows all the time and more and more new dreams are born. I already know I’ll never grow tired of traveling and it can never become less interesting to me. Although South America is far from being my favourite continent, it has many exciting places and they’re worth all the difficulties of traveling here. Since so far I have got very disappointed by the continent, now I just try to not have any expectations and to ignore everything I don’t like (in this case the people) and to enjoy the things I like to the fullest.

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