Our Travels in 2016/17
Who decided that only 18 year olds can have a gap year? Why not 58 year olds? Well, that's what we decided to do for 2016, to spend a full year on the road.
We flew to Santiago in early January 2016. Initially we travelled down south to Patagonia then gradually made our way through South America, the Caribbean, Central America, and Mexico by the end of 2016. The original plan was to arrive in the USA in late September and finish the trip in the US and Canada by Christmas. But we got stuck in Central America (pleasantly so - we loved it) and so, in order to visit North America we have extended our travels until the end of June 2017. In total we were on the road for 18 months. Below are maps of where we went and a list of posts that were generated through the trip.
NB: Please forgive the messy maps - we haven't mastered Google Maps yet.
Map 1 covers the period from commencement, January 2016 to November 2016.
Map 2 Covers the period from November 2016 to April 2017.
Map 3 covers our European leg from April to the end of June 2017 and flight home.
Red or thick black line indicates route completed by flight.
Blue line indicates route completed on land (road or rail).
Green line indicates route completed by boat.
Note: This map may not display if using Windows Explorer. Please open site in Google Crome or Firefox.
Here's What Happened
January, February, March - Chile, Argentina & Uruguay
April, May - Brazil, Ecuador & Colombia
June, July - The Caribbean
August - Cuba
Karst mountains, caves, tobacco farms, and horse riding - rural Vinales is very different from the other places we've visited on our Cuban trip. Here is our 4th and final postcard from Cuba.
Our Third Cuban Postcard is from the colonial gem of Trinidad.
This Postcard from Cienfuegos, Cuba's third biggest city, known as the Pearl of the South, features some of our favourite images of this laid back town.
This Postcard from Havana features our favourite images from one of the World's most fascinating and engaging cities.
Much is written about Cuba nowadays as it is such a popular destination. The aim of this post is not to repeat what can be found elsewhere. What we have aimed for here is two things: (1) Our immediate impressions of Cuba having just spent 2 weeks in the country and (2) A few tips that we either found useful before we went or wished we'd known beforehand that might help to make your trip a little easier
September, October, November, December - Central America and Mexico
Maybe it’s just us, but we’d never heard of Guanajuato until recently. But having read that it was one of Mexico’s most picturesque towns, and it lay on our route from Mexico City to the country’s second biggest city, Guadalajara, we decided to check it out. As things transpired it turned out to be one of the most visually attractive and interesting colonial towns we’d visited in Latin America.
Tikal, the ancient Mayan city in Northern Guatemala is probably only surpassed by Chichen Itza on the “must see” list of Mayan archaeological sites. But how does it stack up against Monte Alban, the significant site of their neighbours, the Zapotecs of Southern Mexico? Here's what we thought.
We took a day trip from the small Guatemalan town of Lanquin to the nearby limestone caves and amazing natural pools of Semuc Champey. The day consisted of an awesome river cave experience, tubing down the river with beers in hand (provided mid stream by some enterprising locals), a hike to an impressive vantage point overlooking Semuc, and a well earned dip in the pools to finish the day. All in all one of our best days ever in Central America.
When we booked several nights’ accommodation in Oaxaca, Mexico for the Christmas period we were blissfully unaware that our arrival day, 23 December is one of the city’s biggest nights – the Noche de los Rábanos or Night of the Radishes. Every year on the night of 23 December displays of intricately carved giant radishes are displayed in the Zocalo (Central Plaza). Here's what we saw.
This post describes our trip from Punta Gorda in Southern Belize, via Livingston and Rio Dulce(Sweet River) in Guatemala to Copan Ruinas in Honduras. We had trouble getting clear, accurate information on transport options for some of this trip so thought it was worth retelling our experience here.
long the way we take a series of boat, bus and colectivos (small minivan collective taxis) to finally get to our destination, Copan Ruinas, Honduras's most important Mayan Archaeological site.
In 1982 I visited Belize with my mate Muz Paddison and we spent some idyllic days on the small island of Caye Caulker, just off the coast of Belize City. There were few travellers and little in the way of tourist amenity and infrastructure back then. It really felt like an unknown tropical paradise.
Fast forward 35 years and things are very different now. Tourism is Belize's number one industry and Caye Caulker is in the frontline. Needless to say the Caye Caulker of 2016 is almost unrecognizable from that of 1982. Here's what we found.
Lamanai is a Mayan archaeological site in Northern Belize. It was occupied for over three thousand years from 1500 BC until the 19th Century AD. A boat trip up the New River from Orange Walk Town is the preferred method for accessing Lamanai, which is what we chose to do. There are only a small number of temples and other buildongs that can be visited as most of the 700 plus strutures remain buried under thick jungle. Nevertheless we found Lamanai an excellent choice for a day trip.
The Mayan civilization flourished for over 2,000 years from the appearance of the first Mayan cities around 750BC to the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century. Their legacy is vast and impressive. There is no better place to see it than the Mexican Yucatan. This post covers four of the most famous sites in the Yucatan, including Chichen Itza.
Lake Atitlan is a spectacular, volcano rimmed lake in the Guatemalan Highlands. Two Mayan peoples, the Kaqchiquel and Tz'utujil, live around the lake and their colourful traditional costumes, which are worn all the time, are one of the aspects that gives Lake Atitlan a special feel. We had a wonderful short visit to the lake which included a day trip to two villages. Here'e what happened.
Antigua, a former colonial capital of Guatemala, is the country's most visited tourist destination. It is surrounded by three towering volcanoes, each over 3700 metres. It has been listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage site due to it's magnificent churches and other colonial buildings, some restored and others in splendid collapse due to the many earthquakes which have impacted it over the centuries. Join us on a walking tour of this fascinating city.
January, February, March, April - USA and Canada
We spent three and a half months on a road trip around the US and Canada in the winter of 2017 (Jan to April). Before we went we couldn't find much specific info on road trippin' at this time of year so we just had to wing it. This post contains our tips on some things we did and items we took which made the experience a good one.
In 1763, after the British had defeated the French to take control of what is today Canada they ceded a small archipelago of islands off the Newfoundland coast to France. Today St Pierre et Miquelon remains a little piece of France in North America. It is a self-governing overseas territory of 7,000 people. The currency is the euro, the language is French and the baguettes are authentic. I'd always wanted to visit since I learned about it as a boy. Here is my pilmgrimage to St Pierre et Miquelon.
We had a hire car booked for a week starting and ending in Vancouver, and we’d both always wanted to see the Canadian Rockies, so it was a no-brainer as to where we were going to head when we arrived on Canada’s west coast. The only problem being that it was the first week of April, and the ski season was in full flight so snow and ice were potentially going to be a problem.
But, we decided to give it a crack and see if we could reach some of the major attractions such as Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper.
So, you’ve only got one day in Seattle. It’s definitely not enough, but if that’s the predicament you find yourself in, here’s a plan for how to make the most of your one day.
The Alaskan Maritime Highway (AMH) is a system of ferries that connect 14 coastal towns on the Alaskan Panhandle (SE Alaska) with each other and the rest of the US via the port of Bellingham just north of Seattle, Washington. The ferries carry cars and pedestrian passengers.
We wanted to see this part of Alaska and decided to use the AMH ferries to get around. These are cheaper than cruises and they run all year around, while the cruises don’t. We did the trip in March 2017. Here's what happened.
A long held ambition of Cally's was to see "The Lights" of the Polar Regions, either Southern (Aurora Australis) or Northern (Aurora Borealis). With no luck over the years with seeing the Southern Lights we went in search of their northern counterparts in Alaska. Here's how we went.
This post covers a road trip we did over four days in early March 2017 from Portland, Oregon to San Francisco, California down the Pacific coast.
We’d spent a lot of time recently on interstate highways travelling across the country, so we wanted slow it down and cruise down the coast.
We spent a spectacular day touring Yellowstone National Park in a snowcoach in winter. It was a blast. See for yourself.
Many of us have heard of the Badlands but what are they and where are they? Well, they’re in the western part of South Dakota near the Wyoming border. The name maco sica (badland) was originally given by Native Americans due to the strangeness of the landscape with it’s weird spires, mounds and walls. What we had read sounded interesting so we decided to check it out and to see what else was in the area.
First time in New York? Not sure what to choose from the huge range possibilities for things to do and places to visit? And you’ve only got three days.
Here's how we tackled this challenge.
May, June - Europe
The Greek island of Ikaria sits in the northern Aegean Sea close to the Turkish coast. It doesn’t have the profile of a Santorini, Mykonos or a Crete. The advantage of this, for travellers who venture there, is that it doesn’t have the big tourist numbers of its better-known brethren.
We spent a few very enjoyable days there in June 2017 with our friends Ron and Ellen, who were holidaying on the island. We knew nothing about Ikaria before we went, but discovered a wonderful destination full of great locations and experiences. If you get a chance to visit, here are a few possibilities to put on your list.
This post describes a road trip we did traveling through the Western Balkans, that is the region that sits on the Eastern Adriatic and Ionian Seas. We started in Dubrovnik, Croatia, and moved south through Montenegro and Albania before arriving on the Greek island of Corfu. The trip took two weeks and was made in glorious late Mediterranean spring sunshine, with temperatures from the mid 20’s to the low 30’s.
This pictorial post consists of some of our favourite shots taken while travelling around Italy during late May and early June 2017. On the trip we visited Trieste, Florence, Rome (chiefly the Vatican), Syracuse in Sicily and Naples (including Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast).
The Path of the Gods (Sentiero degli Dei) is a walking trail that runs along the monumental cliffs of the Amalfi Coast in Italy. It is 6 kilometres of some of the most spectacular coastal scenery you’re likely to see anywhere in the world.
We were keen to do the walk, which takes 2 – 3 hours, and to do it as a day trip from Naples where we were based. This post describes how we went about it and some comments on the walk.
This was our first visit to Malta. Ken’s dad, Don had moved there two years ago so our main motivation for the trip was to see him. We had just four days there but learned a lot about this small and fascinating island nation in that time. It has a very complex and interesting history along with a few quirky features that make it like no other Mediterranean destination.
Here are ten things we learned during our stay that helped to make it so enjoyable.
How can you be in Italy, yet not be in Italy? OK, so smarty pants people will immediately say “the Vatican”, and yes they are correct. But what about another country? What about tiny San Marino, embedded in the north east of Italy? It's full title is "The Most Serene Republic of San Marino". At only 61 square kms it’s one of Europe’s smallest nations. We felt that we just had to pay it a visit.
Slovenia is a small, fascinating and beautiful country in south east Europe. It has rugged mountains, a tiny Mediterranean coast, and spectacular lakes, and throughout its landscape are scenic and historic towns and villages. We spent some very full and rewarding days visiting some old friends who showed us around their interesting and friendly country.
This post covers a trip from Amsterdam to Salzburg in Austria through some iconic European cities and a couple of less well known places. The post is largely images, many of which will be familiar, such as the canals of Amsterdam, architecture of Bruges and mountains and castle of Salzburg.
Oslo, the capital of Norway, is an interesting and attractive city. There is Viking history, world famous art, ancient castles, and excellent parks, just to name a few possibilities. But Oslo can be an expensive city, one of the costliest to visit in Europe. While you won’t get by without spending any money, here are five things to do in Oslo that are affordable for most people and represent some of Oslo’s main attractions.
We were surprised to stumble across a connection between an 900 year old castle in Ireland and our home of Tasmania that we'd never heard of before.