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Archive for the ‘People’ Category

After a few days of readjusting to life back in the US, we met Amy’s mom in New York. The three of us were first time visitors, and, man, there sure is a lot to see and do in the Big Apple! After spending two weeks in the city, we were able to put together a pretty good list of our favorite sights and activities. Just so happens that after we made the list, we realized that most of these are either free or pretty economic ways of keeping yourself busy in New York; which is a good thing after 15 months traveling the world.

The Brooklyn Bridge

The Brooklyn Bridge is a New York City icon, and walking the bridge on a clear day from Brooklyn to Manhattan is awe-inspiring. It offers amazing views of Lower Manhattan, the Manhattan Bridge, Empire State Building and Statue of Liberty. Walking has been one of our favorite activities while traveling, and crossing the bridge on foot was no exception.

Brooklyn Bridge

View of Manhattan Bridge

Grand Central Terminal
Another free site, this transit center is one of the oldest in the country and has been a landmark in New York City for the last 100 years, but Grand Central is so much more than just a place where journeys end and begin. It is home to amazing architecture, art exhibits, shops and one of the coolest classic oyster bars we have ever visited. We are not huge oyster lovers, but with over 30 different types on the menu, you can’t really go wrong.

Amy & Mom at Grand Central Terminal, NYC

Grand Central Terminal, NYC

Oyster Bar, Grand Central Terminal, NYC

Chinatown

Out of all of the countries that we visited during our RTW trip, China was one of our favorites. The food, the smells, the language, the people – all were so foreign and intriguing. Going to NYC’s Chinatown felt quite a bit like stepping back into the real deal. If you are looking for a taste of China, but can’t make the flight across the Pacific, look no further than this little slice of heaven in Downtown Manhattan.

Chinatown, NYC

Corner of Mott and Canal, Chinatown NYC

Highline Park

One of the coolest things about visiting large cities is learning about how they have morphed over the years. Highline Park is just one of New York’s many revitalization projects. The elevated rail system that now makes up the park was built as a solution to the rapidly growing number of rail accidents in the 1930s. Towards the end of the century, the rail line was abandoned, in disrepair and on the verge of being demolished before community members came together to develop the idea of turning the Highline into a park. The park now runs for one mile through the Chelsea neighborhood.

The Highline NYC

Old Tracks at Highline Park

The Subway

NYC’s subway is one of the oldest systems in the world with 34 different lines and almost 500 stations. As public transportation enthusiasts, riding around the boroughs of NYC was like a dream. We know it seems kind of dorky, getting stoked about a subway system, but it really is an amazing public service. Although some of the stations are a bit run down, and it isn’t the cleanest transit system we have come across during our travels, it is probably the most impressive when you consider its age, the cost of a ride, and the extensive routes which it offers. Our tip: if you are going to be in NYC for more than 4 days, buy a 7-day pass. For just $30, it will take you everywhere you want to go for a fraction of what taxis will cost you.

Lorimer Subway Station, NYC

5 Train NYC

R line NYC

Staten Island Ferry

Want great views of NYC from the water? Forget the tour boats; take the free ferry from the Whitehall Ferry Terminal in Manhattan to Staten Island! The trip takes you along-side the Statue of Liberty and offers great views of the Downtown skyline, bridges, and Ellis Island. The Staten Island Ferry is definitely a MUST for any first time visitor to New York.

Statue of Liberty from Staten Island Ferry

Downtown view from Staten Island Ferry

Historic neighborhoods

While the NYC subway system is a sight to see in and of itself, to fully appreciate the city you have to do some serious walking as well. As one of the oldest cities in the US, New York has some wonderful historic neighborhoods which feature classic American architecture and were once home to the country’s founding fathers. Brooklyn Heights and Riverside Park were two of our favorites.

Historic Portland Avenue, Brooklyn

Brooklyn Heights

Easter Parade

Our visit to NYC happened to coincide with the annual Easter Parade, one of the only times when 5th Avenue is completely closed to traffic. We spent the morning wandering down the street checking out the creative hats and costumes people created to celebrate this 140 year old tradition.

NYC Easter Parade 2013

Hat at NYC Easter Parade 2013

Dogs at Easter Parade NYC

Brooklyn Museum

Sure, there are the big museums like MoMA, the Met, the Guggenheim, but we most enjoyed the lesser known Brooklyn Museum. The exhibits are diverse, the crowds less overwhelming and the price (simply a donation in the amount of your choosing) makes it accessible for everyone.

Brooklyn Museum

Mike at Brooklyn Museum

Central Park

Last but certainly not least, Central Park. What an amazing place to have at the heart of a city. We developed an appreciation of its vast size by walking the park from end to end one afternoon, which took us three hours!

Central Park

Amy and Michele at Central Park

View of Central Park from the Mandarin Oriental

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We’re Back!

We are back from our writing hiatus and back in the USA where the Chamborres Expedition began 15 months ago. Following its usual form, time has condensed itself and the long weeks away from home now seem like just the blink of an eye. As our plane landed in Florida, Amy voiced her feeling that it seemed as though our travels never happened. The human brain has an amazingly odd way of perceiving time. So what does it feel like returning to our home country after traveling for so long?

January 15, 2012 - On our way to Spain (photo on left)March 19, 2013 - Back in the USA (photo on right)

January 15, 2012 – On our way to Spain (photo on left)
March 19, 2013 – Back in the USA (photo on right)

Since our first stop back in the States is New York, an international destination and a new city to us, it honestly feels like we are still exploring the world. In addition to that sensation, we are excited to catch up with our family and friends. We had butterflies of anticipation the night before leaving Panama. Mike’s dad, step-mom and siblings met us in Fort Lauderdale for our layover which was the perfect way to feel welcomed back home. We have been staying with friends in NYC, another way to have a “soft” introduction back to life here and yet continue to ride out the adventure. However, there are a few things that have caught our eye so far.

The Williamsburg Bridge in NYC.

The Williamsburg Bridge in NYC.

Our first observation was that despite many people’s image of the US, our country is not so “vanilla” after all. Standing in the line for US citizens & residents at the Customs and Immigration check, we were pleasantly reminded about the diversity of our country. The mix of people in line was as eclectic and varied as any international youth hostel that we stayed in, and it was even more diverse than the line for foreigners. The last few days in NYC have only further amplified this notion with the many different languages we have heard spoken on the streets. We may take a second trip “around-the-world” later this week by visiting each of the countless ethnic communities that make-up this enormous city.

We needed a few more lines here for the "countries you've visited" questions

We needed a few more lines here for the “countries you’ve visited” questions

The next thing we noticed is that Americans are loud. Perhaps it’s that we’re back in an English-speaking country which means we can again understand most conversations happening around us, therefore making it seems loud. And we are in NYC where people may in fact be more boisterous than the West coasters we grew-up with. Regardless, it’s something that caught our eye (and ears) almost instantly.

We’ve also become aware that people are glued to their “smart” devices. Americans, more than any other culture we have witnessed, are unequivocally addicted to technology (Japan comes in close second). People are constantly on computers in coffee shops, staring at cell phones on the subway, clicking photos with iPads, headphones glued to their ears. Is this constant connectivity a bad thing? We’re not sure, but it is something that has really stuck out to us during the past few days. When we tell people that we don’t have a cell phone where they can reach us, they look at us in astonishment. Some people comment on how liberating it must be, and others get a touch of fear in their eye as they imagine life without their phone.

It is glorious to be back in a country where we can get our hands on any cheese, any wine and any international food that our hearts desire. We have been seeking out our favorite dishes from our trip, have had wine and cheese nights, and enjoyed delicious American-made microbrews. For food and beverage lovers, the US has to be one of the best places to achieve a varied palate via international fare.

We found a phở place in NYC that rivaled the real deal from Vietnam.

We found a phở place in NYC that rivaled the real deal from Vietnam.

Although we’re back, in a way it still feels like we’re on the road. It is exciting to see friends and family, and challenging to begin processing the past 15 months. There is a lot of uncertainty in our future and endless possibilities. We want to remain conscious of our journey and continue to incorporate positive changes into our lives that we learned on the road. If there is just one thing that we have brought back from our travels, it’s the idea that you don’t have to separate your “life” from your “adventures” by taking a vacation. Life is an adventure; a different expedition for each of us, but all ending in the same place.

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Don’t fret! By final chapter, we don’t mean final post. But the end of our expedition is near. As you read this, we are en route from South to North America via ship through the Caribbean Sea headed towards Panama. We are a bit afraid to tell you what type of ship for fear that you may think us “martini explorers,” so we’ll save that story that for another day (hint: it rhymes with snooze). After we land in Panama, we will have 10 days to explore, which used to sound like a long vacation in one country and now seems like nothing at all. When we board our flight out of Panama City, we will be bound for the US of A. Home. Well, almost home. First, we will be stopping in New York (our long overdue, first ever visit to NYC!) and then will be on a flight to Denver at the beginning of April.

It feels surreal to have our flight home booked. It goes without saying that we are incredibly excited to see our family and friends, but at the same time, we are anxious and nervous about transitioning from a life of nomads abroad to ________ (meaning we don’t exactly know what the future holds for us). We figure that if we just keep following the same goals that we set for ourselves when we set off on this around-the-world adventure (living in the moment and stepping out of our comfort zone), we’ll be just fine.

As for these last few months in South America, they were as spectacular as any other part of our journey, but were quite unique in that our friends and family played a major role in this portion of our story. We had visitors come from the States to travel with us; we reconnected with friends we hadn’t seen in years; we stayed with family to celebrate the holidays; and we met up with various parents, siblings, and cousins of friends from back home. Our Shout Outs page is dedicated to some of the special people that helped make our trip all that it has been, and our time in South America certainly would not have been the same without all of the amazingly generous people we know in Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Peru and Colombia.

While our travels abroad are nearly at an end (for now), there are still countless stories to tell and pictures to share. We have decided to take a blogging hiatus during our last few weeks of our trip to maximize every moment. After all, even travel writers need a vacation sometimes. For the next two weeks you won’t be receiving any new posts from us, but with 92 posts there is plenty of old material for you to re-read! We are not sure what will become of our blog in future months and years, but rest assured that The Chamborres Expedition will live on beyond our return home.

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We couldn’t help but to extend our days in Salento. It is like summer camp for adults. At the beginning of our stay, we had reserved only three nights, and then we added a few more, and then a few more, and before we knew it, we’d been there for more than a week. It is the perfect place to slow down and relax. If it weren’t for the flight we’d booked from Cali to the northern coast of Colombia, we may have stayed forever.

Hiking, coffee fincas, mystical clouds swirling around the green hills, great meals with great people, hammocks, games of tejo, delicious trucha con patacones, rainy days, campfires, fireflies, card games, movie nights & popcorn, humming birds, wax palms, hot springs…what is more to love?

We were lucky to catch this view of the Cocora Valley from the mirador in Salento, as clear days are few and far between.

We don’t normally advertise the places we stay on our blog, but La Serrana Eco Farm & Hostel was a big part of the reason that we chose to slow down our travel pace and just soak it all in. It is about a 20 minute walk from the town center and provide peace and serenity, especially on foggy mornings like this. We truly enjoyed our quiet walks through the country side.  To be clear, La Serrana offered us nothing to mention their name, we just loved the place.

Hiking through el Valle de Cocora is likely Salento’s biggest tourist activity. These towering wax palm trees cover the valley floor and are stunningly beautiful.

After hours hiking, we stopped at a humming bird sanctuary, which was really more of a rustic lodge run by an elderly couple. Who said humming birds can’t be captured mid-wing flap? One Croatian traveler hiking the trail with us said it couldn’t be done without a tripod and special camera. Mike begged to differ and got this shot in just a matter of minutes.

Divine chocolate caliente con queso served at the humming bird sanctuary.

As we descended back down the trail and out of the fog, we found ourselves once again surrounded by wax palms reaching towards the sky.

Have you ever had avacado flan? We hadn’t either before the incredible 8-course tasting menu prepared for us by Chef Michael Neff, a fellow guest at our hostel in Salento. Communal meals in the dinning hall added to the summer camp feel.

Hot springs Colombian style: pumping music, back flips, party time. Not exactly the relaxing day that we had envisioned for ourselves, but enjoyable nonetheless.

This chicken bus to the termales in Santa Rosa de Cabal made our day! Riding this bus turned out to be better than the hot springs themselves. The salsa music was blaring, and the driver slowed down to holler at every señorita in town.

The weather in Salento seemed to rotate between rain and shine. We took advantage of the sun one day to hike down to a nearby coffee finca. With views like this all around, you can imagine why we chose to stay for a while.

We took a tour of Don Elias’s coffee finca not far from our hostel. When these arabica beans are bright red, they are ripe and ready to pick.

Don Elias and his family run a very small operation.  This peeler is the only one they use to remove the skins from all of their beans. Our tour guide, Juan, walked us through the entire process from planting the crop to brewing a cup. It was some of the best coffee we have ever tasted.

One last look at our misty retreat, La Serrana, and the loyal house dog, Pablo.

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There is something special about Buenos Aires. In a similar fashion to our other favorite big cities (which include Istanbul and Tokyo) it plants a seed in your mind, making you slowly start to wonder, ‘maybe I should live here?’ We may have fallen so hard for the city because we spent most of our time there with family. It is easier to connect with a place when you have locals showing you the way; the way to make a proper parrillada, the way to drink mate, the way to enjoy homemade gnocchi on the 29th day of the month, the way to find the best slice of pizza with morrónes. We haven’t written in a while, but we haven’t just been sitting around either. Our last two weeks of 2012 were spent in Buenos Aires, and they flew by as quickly as the year itself.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Our bus from Bariloche arrived in Buenos Aires a week before Christmas, and we were greeted with a huge smile and hugs from one of Mike’s aunts. In true Latin American fashion, Mike has a family with countless tios, primos, and abuelos; it’s often difficult to explain connections between family members. Mike hadn’t seen his aunt in over a decade, and had never met her husband and children before, but we were welcomed into their home for a week and had an incredible time getting to know them better. For Amy, it was a long awaited immersion program for practicing lots of Castellano.

This was our first holiday season spent in the southern hemisphere, so it was a bit of an adjustment. We can’t complain about the sunny days and balmy nights, but must say that it is a lot more comfortable baking pies in the cold of winter. Hot ovens and hundred-degree weather just don’t mix. Christmas Eve tradition in Argentina includes the usual fare of family, food and gifts, with the added benefit of fireworks at midnight! The show far surpassed the size and sound of the 4th of July and New Year’s Eve in the States…combined. After a late night, we woke up “early” around 11am and headed over to another aunt’s house for a Christmas asado (BBQ). It was nice to get out of the city and explore the suburb of Escobar. It was a fantastic day relaxing in the backyard grilling, playing games, chatting and watching the children (more primos) enjoy the holiday. We were particularly excited about the number of different cuts of meat on the grill (seven!) plus provoleta cheese.

Christmas in Buenos Aires

In the days before and after Christmas, we took our time exploring the various neighborhoods of Buenos Aires. Palermo, Puerto Madero, La Boca, San Isidro, Recoleta, San Telmo, Boedo – each one had something different to offer. La Boca, perhaps one of the most visited parts of the city, was a hub for many early immigrants to Buenos Aires and is known for its colorful buildings. While we could have done without the hordes of tourists and very pushy business owners, it was still fun to wander the streets and pick out our favorite houses. The neighborhoods of Boedo and Palermo were a pleasant surprise to us. Neither was on our radar before we arrived, but they turned out to be our favorite places to walk, visit parks and stop for café con leche and medialunas (croissants).

La Boca

We did a whirlwind, self-guided, walking tour one day from where we were staying in Boedo, through San Telmo, across the levees of Puerto Madero, along la Costanera Sur, past the Centro, down to la Boca, and over to Constitución, before making our way back to Boedo. It was a hell of a walk to say the least. We loved the antique shops in Mercado San Telmo, and think that the parrillada stands/carts that border the Ecological Reserve on the Costanera Sur are the perfect place to stop for an afternoon snack or cheap evening meal.

San Telmo y Puerto Madero

On another day, we made the long trek over to the Recoleta area. This part of town is filled with museums, plazas, and vast green parks. We enjoyed something very modern and something very old. The Floralis Generica, an enormous public art installation, is a giant flower in the middle of a reflecting pool, but what makes this particular piece so cool is that the petals open each morning and slowly close as the sun sets, just like a real flower. After scoping out the Floralis Generica, we walked a few blocks to the Cementerio de Recoleta. At first we weren’t sure how we felt about visiting a cemetery for purposes other than visiting a loved one, but once we arrived and saw the tour buses lined up, we knew that there would be many other tourists far more conspicuous than us wondering the grounds. The ancient Greek word Necropolis (meaning city of the dead) instantly came to mind as we entered the cemetery. The tombs, mausoleums and monuments to Argentina’s most famous and wealthy citizens are more like small houses than burial sites. Instead of a grassy space with crumbling headstones, Cementerio de Recoleta is a well-kept gated community with cobblestone walkways, polished marble structures and street lights. If ever there was a place to be buried in “style,” this is it, and following suit, it is the final resting place of Argentina’s iconic first-lady, Evita Duarte Perón.

Recoleta, Buenos Aires

After Christmas, one of our good friends from college, Adam, flew down to B.A. to travel with us for a few weeks. The three of us headed over to the Olivos area to stay with another one of Mike’s cousins. The next couple of days allowed us to see just a few of the areas outside of the city center. Olivos is a pretty quiet and quaint part of the city which is home to The Great Wall of Argentina. Never heard of it? That’s because most people refer to it as the Presidential Residence. We decided to go take a look at it one day, only to find that unlike the White House, the entire complex is surrounded by a three meter tall brick wall. We walked the entire length and couldn’t even get a peek at the place, so we dubbed it with a new name. On another afternoon, we took a bus to the neighborhood of San Isidro, where Mike’s cousin’s grandparents live, to celebrate the 29th day of the month. What is so special about the 29th? It’s gnocchi day! Argentinians, as well as Brazilians and Uruguayans, enjoy a meal of gnocchi on the 29th day of each month. We can’t tell you exactly where or why this tradition originated, but trust us that it’s fun. The homemade spinach and ricotta gnocchi that we ate were to die for. After stuffing ourselves, we hopped on the Tren de la Costa towards Tigre. Tigre is a small town at the mouth of the Río de la Plata and is the perfect place to walk along the water, soak in the sun, buy cheese and watch Porteños drink mate.

Tigre, Buenos Aires

After some crazy New Year’s festivities in the city, and a full day and a half of recuperating, our two weeks in Buenos Aires had come to an end. We haven’t stopped talking about how much fun we had, how much we love B.A. and when we can go back to visit next. It is an easy place to fall for, and we fell hard.

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Weddings are always fun, and a wedding abroad brings a little extra excitement. As you might remember (or may not if you are a newer follower) a few months ago we stayed with our friends Daniel & Libby in Thailand. Mike met Daniel in 2005 while studying in Chile, and one night in Chiang Mai the two of them got to reminiscing about their adventures in South America. They got to talking about their other friend Mark, who was still living down there, so Mike decided to send him a message to see about meeting up sometime in November.

Mike and Mark back in 2005

Mike and Mark back in 2005

Mark wrote back, and not only did he want to meet up, but he was getting married to his Chilean girlfriend, Carolina, on November 24th, and they invited us to attend the wedding. Our first thought was, AWESOME, weddings are such a blast! Our second thought was, oh shit, what are we going to wear? There wasn’t exactly room for formal wear in our small backpacks. We soon realized that the clothing issue could be easily resolved, we would just buy some new threads and either leave them behind or send them home. We added the wedding to our travel plans, bought plane tickets to Chile a few days later, and continued on our trip through SE Asia without further thought.

Two weeks ago was the big day for Mark and Carolina. With some help from friends, family, and the thrift store, we were able to make ourselves presentable for this special day.

Us getting dressed up for the wedding - it felt odd to wear dress clothes again!

Us getting dressed up for the wedding – it felt odd to wear dress clothes again!

There ceremony was held at the Naval Chapel in Viña del Mar. The weather was perfect and the views of the ocean and Valparaíso in the distance made it the prime surroundings for two people to get hitched. The ceremony was a small, traditional Catholic service, that couldn’t have been more beautiful. It was conducted in Spanish, which created some funny scenes of Mark’s guests from the States looking around for tips of when to stand, when to sit and when to exit after the ceremony.

Carolina's beautiful dress

Carolina’s beautiful dress

Mark and Carolina making their way out through the rose pedals flying through the air.

Mark and Carolina making their way out of the chapel through blue and white rose petals flying through the air.

If there is one thing better than a wedding, however, it’s a wedding reception! Mark and Carolina took off in a Hummer to do their photos and such, and the rest of us hopped in vans and headed to Concón. At first, the vibe of the reception was a little quite; when you have a multi-cultural wedding with two different languages involved, people tend to segregate themselves a bit, but after some quality speeches (which were translated), some tasty food, and the opening of the bar, people were mingling freely and the party was in full swing.

In many cultures, it is common for the bride and groom to have their first dance; accordingly, Mark and Carolina took the dance floor and stepped to a slow love song. Then something somewhat unexpected happened. Someone brought out a cowboy hat, two handkerchiefs and a sash. Having spent time in Chile, Mike knew exactly what was about to go down when he saw those items. Amy looked at him for some explanation. The answer: Cueca Time! Cueca is Chile’s traditional folk dance, where the couple dances around each other in a fun and flirtatious way.

Cuenca time!

Cueca time!

In contrast to the old tradition of dancing cueca at Chilean wedding receptions, a new custom has emerged as well over the last decade. Late into the festivities, after rounds and rounds of drinks have been consumed, cheesy party costumes and favors are handed out, similar to what you would expect at a New Year’s Eve Party (i.e. masks, noise makers, oversized sunglasses, etc).

Crazy costume time

Crazy costume time

Everything about Mark and Caorlina’s wedding was perfect. It was one of those weddings where you could feel the love beaming between them and from all of their family and friends. The Chilean-American family that was formed that night made us think about tough decisions that sometimes have to be made in the face of love. We often talk about where we want to live after our trip around the world, and it is a difficult topic to discuss as our family is spread between multiple states. For Mark and Carolina, however, their family is divided between different continents; leaving them with an even more challenging decision. For us, celebrating with them that night wasn’t just a good time; it reminded us that family will always be family, near or far, and family stays in your heart wherever you are in the world.

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We arrived in Chile on November 12th and spent the first few days hanging out and recharging our batteries while we waited for Amy’s dad, Dave (a.k.a. Big Dave; named not for his physical stature, but because of his magnanimous personality), to arrive from the U.S. Those first few days in Chile before Big Dave landed, we honestly didn’t do a whole lot; we mostly just walked around town and visited with friends who Mike studied abroad with in 2005. And then Dave arrived!

While we’re sure he would have been perfectly capable of finding his way from the airport in Santiago to Viña del Mar (a two hour bus journey), we worried like parents and promised to go pick him up. But alas, we were late. When we found Dave, he was wandering around looking a bit lost and wondering where we were. In our defense, his flight did land an hour early.

Once back in Viña, we settled into our apartment and made a rough plan for how we wanted to spend the next week. One of the nice things about visiting this region of Chile is that you get three very different cities all in one place. Steeped in history and art, the bustling port of Valparaíso is often described as the cultural heart of Chile. Its neighbor, Viña del Mar is a more suburban coastal city filled with numerous parks, plazas, and gardens. And just a bit further up the coast lie the smaller resort towns of Reñaca & Concón, with their sandy beaches, high-rise hotels, and seafood restaurants.

Being that the apartment we rented was centrally located in Viña, we decided to begin our exploration there. First up was a local market known as a “feria.” Most cities in Chile have some sort of mercado central that operates daily, but they also have rotating markets that take place several days a week in various locations around town. We visited the Sunday Gomez Careño feria in the hills above Viña del Mar. Big Dave loves to cook and is damn good at it too, so we went all out stocking up on produce for our kitchen and fixings for a Thanksgiving feast. The place was absolutely packed with locals buying veggies and fruit. This isn’t the type of market where you buy individual pieces of produce; you buy things by the kilo! Fortunately, Chile’s diverse climate makes it an ideal place for growing many different crops, so the prices can be unbelievably cheap. A whole kilo of kiwis, for instance, will run you less than $1 USD.

We devoted the next two days to seeing as much of Viña as we could. Covering most of the city on foot or by micro (small bus), we definitely hit the main tourist attractions like the Museo Fonck & Flower Clock, but also visited the house where Mike lived during his study abroad and some of the places where he hung out. We walked the coast along Cerro Castillo and Avenida Peru, and we even stopped for completos along the way (a completo is the Chilean style of a hotdog). Dave was particularly excited about trying one at that the restaurant we visited, because it was featured on an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. Eating a completo is a major undertaking: a foot-long hotdog, topped with copious amounts of diced tomatoes, a hearty smearing of mashed avocado, and at least a half cup of mayonnaise. Amy tried them twice, and said that was enough.

After a couple of days of walking around and sightseeing, we were ready to relax and enjoy Thanksgiving. This year it fell on Amy’s birthday, which was part of the reason why Dave came to visit when he did. There was no way that the three of us could stomach a whole turkey, but we did cook up a pretty good feast including roasted chicken, artichokes, garlic mashed potatoes, asparagus and a surprise birthday cake from Mike. We can now confirm that Thanksgiving tiredness is not because of the tryptophan in turkey, it is from eating way too much.

One morning we set off to explore Valparaíso, and it turned into an all-day endeavor. The metro, which coincidentally opened on the last day of Mike’s study abroad program, is now fully operational, making it easy to commute between the two cities. Valpo’s most noticeable and beloved feature are the hills of jumbled, colorful, tin houses. You can easily get lost wandering through the winding streets and admiring the buildings and unique graffiti. We made our way into the hills to visit the home of Pablo Neruda, a renowned Chilean poet and national icon. He named his house in Valparaíso “La Sebastiana.” The funky architecture and décor made us long for a home of our own that reflects our personalities in the same way that La Sebastiana does Neruda. After that, we walked through the Open Air Museum which is a “typical neighborhood” of Valparaíso. The path led us down to the base of the hills where we ate at the Casino Social J. Cruz. This famous restaurant serves only one dish called chorrillana; another classic Chilean specialty that is just about as healthy as a completo. Chorrillana starts with a heap of French fries, topped with sauteed onions, fried egg, and beef.  While it is impossible to prove, local legend has it that J. Cruz was the birthplace of this tasty treat. After such a gut bomb of a meal, hiking back up another hill would have been too hard, so we took the ascensor up to Cerro Concepción. Before heading back to Viña, we stopped at the brightly colored Café Brighton for an afternoon coffee and incredible views of Valparaíso and its port.

On the morning of our visit to Valpo, we stopped for a brief look at the central market. As we mentioned before, Dave loves to cook. So missing the market was simply not an option. Located just two blocks from the shore, one would expect the market to be filled with fish and seafood, but it wasn’t. In Valpo, there is a separate market for that, so we assured Dave that the next day we would go see “El Tunel.” As promised, the next morning we set-off down la Avenida de España to the fish market that sits right on the border between Viña and Valpo, near the Diego Portales Metro station. Before going into the market itself, we ate an early lunch of fried fish. The market is named El Tunel because it is exactly that, seafood stalls lined up one after another in a narrow, tunnel-like, corridor. When we visited Tsukiji Fish Market in Japan, we thought we had seen every kind of seafood imaginable, but El Tunel still had a surprise in store: the larges barnacles we have ever seen! These things were about the size of a Coca-Cola can and you could see the crabs living inside. After checking out the day’s catch, we headed out back to watch the fishermen feed scraps to hoards of sea lions, pelicans, and a menagerie of other sea birds. It was hilarious watching them swim/fly in mass back and forth between the two piers as fishermen dumped huge buckets of fish guts into the sea.

By this point in Big Dave’s trip to Chile, we had tackled Valparaíso, Viña del Mar and Thanksgiving, but what still remained was the beach town of Concón. We hopped a micro and headed out one day, not knowing exactly where we were going, except with the goal of finding seafood empanadas. If there is one thing that Concón is known for its food, and more specifically, empanadas and seafood. The bus ride was beautiful with amazing views of the ocean and sand dunes. After nearly a week in Chile, Amy’s dad was a pro at riding the local buses and dealing with the masses of people and confusing tariff system. When we arrived in Concón, we tracked down a delicious empanada restaurant and stuffed our bellies. The beach is much more low key than those in Viña and Reñaca, which was a nice change of pace.

Well, that nearly wraps up our time in the Viña-Valpo area. You may not think that the name of this blog is very accurate – did they really chill at all during Big Dave’s visit? In between the sightseeing, we actually did. Our apartment was an oasis of calm, and it was such a treat to unpack and relax together for a week and a half. We had a blast hanging out with Amy’s dad and were sad to say goodbye when he flew out yesterday.

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The circle is now complete. We have made our way fully around the world: from the USA to Europe to Asia to Australia & New Zealand to South America. We are now on the last segment of our round-the-world trip. The time difference between home and our current location is now only a few hours. We are fully settled into our life as nomads. So now what?

When we set off on this expedition on January 16th, 2012, our initial plan was to travel for one year. We are happy to report that we are running behind schedule and will be able to extend our travels for a few more months, which is a good thing as it will give us at least four months in the Americas. It does feel a bit like the beginning of the end, but we are trying with every fiber in our bodies to resist that sensation.

Last week we boarded a flight from Auckland, New Zealand to Santiago, Chile. It was a first-hand experience in time travel. We left at 4:00pm, spent 11 hours in the air, yet landed in Chile on the same day but around 11:00am. Meaning that we arrived before we even took off from New Zealand! That was pretty awesome. For us November 12th, 2012 will go down as the longest day in history.

This continent jump, unlike the previous two, is a step back into a familiar place. We have both been to South America before, and the first country on our itinerary this time around is Chile, where Mike studied abroad in 2005. We have been in Chile for just over a week now, and despite the changes that naturally occur over seven years, Mike still feels quite at home. We would love comments from any readers who have been exchange students, as it helped shape our outlook on travel and what it means to be part of an international community. In February, we visited Amy’s host family in Denmark (which you can read about here, if you haven’t already).

While we still have stories to share from New Zealand, which we will post down the road, we are happy to be back to a region that offers us a little more excitement. The natural wonders of New Zealand are truly beautiful beyond words, but being an English speaking tourist there seems to be just too easy. We have enjoyed sharing our voyage thus far, and although home no longer seems so far away, we still have plenty of places to see and adventures to come. So don’t stop reading just yet, The Chamborres Expedition marches onwards!

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This post is about our visit to Western Australia, but the story begins many months ago…

Split, Croatia – April 2012

While riding a ferry to the island of Hvar, we were attempting to take a picture of ourselves when a guy came up to us and asked if we would like him to take our photo. We began to chat and told him about our RTW trip. Upon hearing about our plans to travel to Australia, he quickly replied, “Well, it’s lucky you met me then!” and said nothing further leaving an awkward moment of silence. Does he work for the Travel Channel? Does he want to offer us a book deal? Maybe he’s a local hotel owner with a discount? Curiosity swirled through our heads until he finally chimed in again telling us that his name was Juan and that he and his girlfriend Saskia were on a lengthy road trip around Europe. Despite having only known us for about 30 seconds, he offered to host us at their home in Perth, Australia. We exchanged information, but at that point didn’t think much of it. After all, who would fly to such a remote place to stay with complete strangers?

This is the fateful photo taken on the ferry in Croatia

Fast Forward 6 Months

We landed in Perth at 5am after a red-eye from Kuala Lumpur. Out of it from not sleeping on the flight, we walked out of customs to see Saskia’s smiling face saying “Welcome to Australia!” I guess we are the type of people who fly somewhere to stay with strangers, not complete strangers though, as we did spend one crazy fun night in Split with Juan and Saskia making our friendship about 12 hours old.

After a few hours at dinner in Split, we decided they weren’t axe murderers

As we exited the airport, we saw that they had the car packed up for a proper camping trip and even had a boat in tow. And so began our road trip adventure through Western Australia. Straight away, we headed north from Perth towards Gnaraloo Station, a 12 hour drive that allowed us to see some true Aussie outback. The road we took made its way along the west coast through barren desert, fields of wheat, white sand dunes and rust-red flatlands. Just about now you are probably thinking, did they see kangaroos? YES WE DID. Sadly, the first 20 were all road kill (apparently hitting a kangaroo isn’t at all uncommon when driving in the bush) but eventually we began to see groups of them hopping through the shrubs. We even saw some emus too!

By the time we arrived at Gnaraloo Station, the sun had already set. We unloaded the camp gear, and before we knew it the night was upon us and brilliant stars had filled the sky. Pardon the pun, but the stars of Western Australia are truly out of this world. We have seen our share of clear, starry nights in the Rocky Mountains, but these stars take the cake hands down. Between the drive and the stars, the feeling of remoteness was astonishingly wonderful.

We awoke in the morning to views of the Indian Ocean with humpback whales breaching just off the shore and headed to Gnaraloo Bay for some beach time and fishing. Over the last couple of months in SE Asia, we have become pretty good at beach-time but when it comes to fishing we both fall in the novice category. Juan on the other hand is an avid fisherman and was happy to show us the ropes. Over the next few days we spent countless hours soaking up sun, snorkeling, fishing on the boat and flying a really fun kite (that’s right, kites aren’t only for kids these days). Although Saskia pulled in more fish than the both of us combined, we did land a few good catches. It was the best fishing trip we have ever been on.

Eating fresh seafood is something that we always enjoy, but the experience of catching fish at sea and then cooking them up for dinner is tough to beat. Juan even caught a huge squid that we grilled up on the camp fire.

What time wasn’t spent at the beach was spent telling stories and making jokes while we sat around the fire and looked out over the dunes and sea. For the first time in ages, we didn’t turn on our computer or feel the need to be “connected.” After just four days of camping our new friends felt like people we had known for years.

The end of our camping trip did not, however, mean the end of our visit to WA. Juan and Saskia still had a few things planned. Along the way down to Perth, we made our way to the coastal town of Kalbarri for a night. To get there, we passed some blowholes that shot sea water up through circular holes in the stone creating a whistling noise and huge bursts of water. Then we made our way through Kalbarri National Park which is home to a deep gorge that cuts through the red stone and provides a refuge for lots of annoying flies. Finally, we drove into Kalbarri, a cute little town on the ocean, where Juan and Saskia had booked us an incredible B&B where we stayed the night.

After a delicious breakfast, we drove out for the last section of our road trip back to Perth. Along the way, we stopped at The Pinnacles, an area of land that has interesting rock formations jutting out of the dunes, which actually reminded us a lot of the fairy chimneys in Cappadocia. We even got a little unexpected excitement from a flat tire when we pulled off a road to see Pink Lake. After snapping a few pics of the interesting pink color that is created by beta carotene and fixing the flat, we headed on our way.

Our Western Australia trip came to an end at Juan and Saskia’s place, where we enjoyed a few more laughs and some tasty Jamie Oliver hamburgers. It is amazing how quickly a week can go by when you spend it with great company, exploring new places. The coast of Western Australia is amongst the most isolated places in the entire world, and were it not for that chance encounter on the ferry in Croatia, we probably never would have seen it. Turns out that Juan was absolutely correct; it was very lucky that we met him, because it lead to an unforgettable Australian experience and two new friends for life.

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The snoring began at 11:57pm on Tuesday September 18th on a night bus from Melaka to Kota Bharu. 40 minutes into the hurricane of noise coming from the seat behind me, I decided to whip out the computer and write this…

The guy on my bus right now clearly has a terrible case of sleep apnea, causing him to inhale massive gulps of air through his mouth, nostrils and what seems like many other holes on his face. I am seriously in fear that he might suck up all of the oxygen on this bus, leaving the rest of us dead. But that may actually be a nice reprieve. He is a true sasquatch, as I’ve come to call them. Just being a snorer does not make you a sasquatch. One crosses the line into sasquatch-dom when at least 5 different noises are produced while snoring.

I mean, how is Mike sleeping through this? I am in awe that those ear plugs are doing any good.

No clue how he does this

Me on the other hand, I am not so enthused. My thought right now: why the hell are we going to the Perhentian Islands anyway?

Me being really pissed off

My disdain for snorers started long ago, and has grown to a deep seated hatred over the course of this RTW trip. Let me share a few of the stories to help you understand why.

Zagreb, Croatia – March 28th, 2012. After taking the train in from Budapest, Mike and I stopped for the night in Zagreb before making the long haul down to Split early in the morning. We met one of our dorm mates, a nice college girl from the States, and enjoyed a fantastic Croatian/Italian feast up the street from our hostel. We climbed into bed, a few glasses of wine in us, and fell asleep rather quickly. After a few hours, *slam* goes the door, *sound of rustling clothing*, feet up the ladder, and BAM the most intense snoring I have ever heard begins faster than you can say fuck. I swing my head off the top bunk and say to Mike, “Oh my god, I’m going to kill those 2 guys!” and Mike’s like “What 2 guys?” I could not believe my ears, but that horrible sound was seriously only coming out of one person. It didn’t take long before my anger was boiling so high that we relocated ourselves to the couches in the common room.

The best couch bed in the world

Istanbul, Turkey – April 11th, 2012. We checked into our hostel, a lovely and clean place right in the heart of Sultanahmet, just a few blocks from the world famous Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. After an awesome day of sightseeing, we came back, showered up, and plopped ourselves into bed. After some time, a fellow dorm mate arrives and starts up snoring louder than I have ever heard in my life. This guy takes the cake by 255% over “man who sounds like two” from Zagreb. Unfortunately this hostel’s common area locked at midnight, so there was nowhere for us to go. I walked out in the lobby to sit and let my anger fester a bit, which prompted some questions from the front desk guy. I explained the situation. He said “just wake him up or stuff a dirty sock in his mouth; I used to do it all the time back when I was in the army.” Never before in my life did I imagine that I would shake a stranger awake for snoring…but, I did. And so did Mike. And so did another bunk mate. We shook this guy awake over and over and over and over and over again and he just kept at it. Snoring like mad. No one in our 12 person dorm room could sleep. Mike even resorted to taking a sleeping pill. Finally, after a few hours, I went back to my friend and the front desk and begged him to let us sleep in the lobby. He wouldn’t let us sleep on the couch, but agreed to something even better; we finally got some solace in another dorm room.

Tokyo, Japan – June 19th, 2012. One night Mike must have figured, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. The previous night we’d discovered that we not only had a snorer in our dorm room, but a sleep talker as well, a very boisterous and animated sleep talker at that. In an effort to help ourselves sleep a bit more heavily on our second night in Tokyo, we shared some beverages with a few Aussies at our hostel. They must have done the job for Mike more than me, because he was out like a light as soon as his head hit the pillow. Soon enough sleep talker starts up. And not too long after a new arrival has added in his snores. Next thing I know, Mike has joined the crew too, and I had a god damn snoring/sleep babbling symphony on my hands. If you think snoring is bad, you don’t know anything until you’re in a room with 3 of them!

So there you have it, a brief history of my hate for snorers. Although, I will admit that I’ve had an epiphany on this bus ride tonight.

There is nothing I can do about said snorers, other than physically remove myself from the situation (although not really possible in this particular instance on the bus, I did consider throwing myself out the bus when sasquatch started up a few hours ago). Anyway, if I can’t control the situation, why not just laugh about it? People who willingly put themselves into a dorm room of strangers, knowing full well that everyone will hate them for snoring, are buffoons and buffoons deserve to be made fun of. After nine months on the road, and many encounters with snorers, I have finally learned that to remedy my hatred, all I have to do is laugh.

-Amy

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