A Travellerspoint blog

The End

:::eyes wide open:::

all seasons in one day
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As I am flying back to Berlin and think about all the incredible people I met, the adventures that presented themselves, the landscapes that blew me away, the bustling cities, the scents and tastes, the oceans I swam in, the waves that wiped me out – there is one thing for sure: the past 20 months and 46,014 km since I left New York and lived like a nomad rocked!

But I also feel really good about returning to Berlin. It has been more than 13 years, since I have lived in my hometown, reconnecting with life there and exploring what has changed will be a new adventure. To me, living in Berlin now sounds really exotic! One of the reasons, I decided that this journey from New York to Patagonia on the Panamericana and then along the Atlantic Coast should come to a close is that I found it always so beautiful to meet people, who were from the places I visited. The way they belonged to a place was always something special - and apart from my friends, who accompanied me on parts of this trip and made it the adventure it was - the people I think about most when I contemplate this journey are the ones who are from the places I visited and who invited me to take part in their life for an hour, a weekend or in the case of Mexico a year. It made me realize that not only visiting new places can be exciting, but it is the relations you make, what you give to your surroundings that can make any situation special - wherever you are.

Leaving New York and starting this journey also showed me that there are so many possibilities out there that one never imagines in one’s daily routine. It took a leap of faith to leave New York and start this adventure, but one thing that I made my mind up long ago - and that this journey confirmed in so many ways - is that I never want to be bound by any comfort or routine and want to do what feels right, particularly if it turns many things upside down. Change is good and a sign of being alive – in that sense I am looking forward to all the changes that lie ahead and end this blog with pictures from some of my favorite moments of this journey (click here).

Recharged with adventures, a feeling of independence and knowing that a lot is possible with the right attitude, B FRED!
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Posted by freddop 01:52 Comments (0)

Brasil!

–muito legal.

sunny 30 °C
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Brazil and in particular Rio de Janeiro was the fitting end to this grand trip. First a dash via Porto Alegre to Florianopolis and the amazing Ilha de Santa Catarina of Florianopolis. From there to Blumenau, a strange German – Brazilian pioneer town, reminiscing about what foreign countries make of Alemanha. Next stop sustainable Curitiba (Oscar Niemeyer – wow!) and Sao Paulo. What a great weekend with Karla and Mauricio, in which Sao Paulo grew on me (of which pictures are here),
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I spent some very relaxed days, working and surfing in Paraty and Trindade, contemplating what should be the next adventure before coming to the last stop on this journey: Rio de Janeiro. Two fun days with Konny and Ricardo in Flamengo and then Easter and a good week at Eva and Gustavo’s place in Ipanema. In between taking in this grand city -its sights and beaches- Gustavo and I were looking for a way that he could use the Jeep and I could avoid handing it over to the Brazilian customs, resulting in a crash course in Brazilian bureaucracy. [Anybody who wants to buy THE Jeep (aka la Bestia Negra) in Rio de Janeiro and drive through the Americas, let me know!] The last weekend of this trip in Buzios, the vacation place for Cariocas, was a dose of paradise - the best company one can hope for made for a rather appropriate end to this journey.
(for pictures of Rio click here)
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Posted by freddop 01:32 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Uruguay

semi-overcast 25 °C
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Some photos from two weeks in Uruguay are here!

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Posted by freddop 19:57 Archived in Uruguay Comments (0)

Buenos Aires!

la vida es bella.

sunny 30 °C
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I think my favorite Latin American city. I could live here - also the reason why I came back after Carnival... the sights, the sounds, the smell, the style, the grace of the beautiful people - I had such a good time the three weeks I spent there, often I just wandered the city without my camera, trying to blend in - to the point of explaining to Porteños which bus goes where -haha.
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I thought I make a list of some of my favourite places if anyone intends to go:
Sights (apart from the obvious, i.e. the neighborhoods of Palermo, Boca, San Telmo, Recoletta and Microcentro):
- Street art is amazing in BA. I did a tour with Graffiti Mundo and discovered more than I would have ever by myself. It included a studio visit and chat with the artists - very cool.
- A football game at la Bombonera (Boca Juniors) or el Monumental (River Plate).
- Barrio Chino - continent hopping to the small Chinatown
- The parks (particularly Jardín botánico, jardín japonés y rosedal)
- Tango in the street.
- The San Telmo Sunday market
- Theatre - West of the Obelisk there is a ticket booth, where they sell half-priced theatre tickets.
- Teatro Colón
- A lot of interesting small galleries in Palermo and San Telmo, Graffiti Mundo (see above) keeps an up to date list.
- The many many museums, particularly, el Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Museo de Bellas Artes de La Boca, Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA), which also has a nice cinema.

Restaurants:
- El Obrero - a great Argentinian Restaurant off the beaten path, I walked there in the evening, in retrospect, taking the taxi would have probably been a better idea.. Map.
- Rondinella, a family restaurant with good food I felt Porteños go here. Map.
- Sarkis, the large Armenian population puts on some good food. This one was recommended to me and was delicious. Map.
- Malvón - brunch in an incredible house. Map.
- Siamo nel Forno - true Neapolitan pizza. Map.
- La Pharmacie - me thinks, the best pizza in town. Map.
- La Cabrera - to some the best beef in Buenos Aires (which is a tall order), but it is really good, especially with all the delicious side dishes that come with it. Map.

Nightlife (apparently it changes a lot, so best to find out when you are there what is happening):
- There is a lot of underground stuff going on. I met some cool people that took me to places, which change all the time.
- Konex - I felt like I was in Berlin. Monday is a big night there with percussion by La Bomba del Tiempo.
- The Roxy Disco - ROCK.
- Niceto Club - apparently a BA classic, particularly on Thursday nights
- Jet Lounge - some decent electro music, but not too exciting, apart from its location on the harbor.

Information:
When I was here a series of truly spectacular free summer events was on. I got the information here.

oh yes, and for accommodation AirBnB worked great, I stayed at two different apartments in order to live in different neighborhoods (Centro y Palermo), both places were really good (and a fraction of what I would have paid for a hotel room)

...y algunas fotitos.

Posted by freddop 23:09 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Carnaval del país en Gualeguaychú

no hay palabra que defina lo vivido

sunny 35 °C
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In the middle of the Corsódromo of Gualeguaychú (the capital of Argentinian carnaval, as the town is called), in a lycra-onesie carrying a giant fish, 30,000 people in the stands going crazy, some asking me for a photo with them, samba music blaring and rather sparingly dressed dancers behind and in front of me, I asked myself, 'how did I get here again?'
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I arrived for the long carnival weekend in this usually tranquil town 4 hours North of Buenos Aires, staying with Gustavo and Marina and their two kids in a room they are renting out on AirBnB. The town was awash with visitors from all parts of Argentina - I did not notice one foreigner. In fact there were so many visitors that the authorities gave up on counting, the only thing that was certain was that visitors more than doubled the population of the town of 65,000 inhabitants. In some parts, such as the city square, make-shift campground were being set up.

The first night I ventured out to the carnival of the people - a street party, where the primary aim, apart from the really cool groups that passed through dancing (such as 'ancianos divertidos' - 'the happy elderly'), seemed to be to spray the next best stranger with as much foam as possible - I felt like the prime target.. The second night I went to the big carnival show and watched in the stands of the Corsódromo -the "stadium" along the 500meter long route- the huge production of 3 different carnival clubs. I met a fun group and we continued the festivities in the packed streets along the river. On Sunday I decided that a break would be healthy and ventured out to a Gaucho festival in the countryside and sampled some very nice cheese and chorizo.

On Monday, Marina asked me if I did not want to see the whole production of the carnival backstage and put me in touch with a friend of hers, Gata, who took me along with her daughters to the preparations of the carnival club, or rather "comparsa", Marí Marí. As I was chatting with some of the people, one of the main organizers of the club approached me and asked if I did not feel like participating. The person who usually carries one of the big fish of their production could not make it today... ahhhh sure, and before I knew what was happening, I was in an incredible onesie and got my make-up on.

There is really no way to describe the energy on the Corsódromo - 45 minutes, 500 meters - something I will never forget, on the list of the top ten crazy moments of my life.

We got back to the community center of the comparsa at 2 o'clock at night, a barbeque was started and beer served. I met incredible people that night. At 5 in the morning a group decided that it is about time to join the festivities by the river, where the party continued well beyond sunrise...

The carnival weekend ended in Argentinian style with Gustavo barbecuing a leg of lamb and watching the sunset.

what a weekend (of which the pictures are here) - thanks to all the unbelievably friendly people of Gualeguaychú!

Posted by freddop 21:38 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

North again...

sunny
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after much pondering at the end of the world, exploring Tierra del Fuego, getting ahead on work and meeting family friends, I came to the conclusion that there is really no other direction than North and that I could use a bit warmer climate closer to the equator. My initial proposition not to plan much beyond Tierra del Fuego somehow didn't prove to be a problem and I decided that while I am in a position to combine travel with work, still enjoy my vagabonding lifestyle and la bestia negra goes strong I should explore this continent some more. So off I went, 3000km in 6 days along the Atlantic coast with some quality stops to Mar del Plata.
In Mar del Plata Argentinian summer break was in full swing - somehow I even liked the crowds and the Argentinian beach club craziness after the solitude of Patagonia - making Argentinian friends and finally surfing again.
click for pictures.
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Posted by freddop 11:43 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Tierra del Fuego

all seasons in one day 15 °C
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woa.- ♫ what a feeling ♫ to reach the end of the road after leaving New York 1.5 years and 36,680 KM ago.

here are some photos of exploring Tierra del Fuego!
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Posted by freddop 22:28 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Patagonia.

carajo!

all seasons in one day
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The beginning of Patagonia was technically already reached in Valdivia, but for me it really started with the ferry to the beginning of the carretera Austral.
The region was incredible, from seemingly untouched wilderness and glaciers to people taking such pride in helping - full of stories, which I think are better told in person... just posting some photos of Patagonia's beauty:
Here are some from the Carretera Austral in Chile
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...and some from Cerro Torre y el glaciar Perito Moreno

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Some photos from Torres del Paine (soon also to be known as 'House of Pain')
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And from the Estrecho de Magallanes y el Monumento Natural de los Pinguinos.
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Posted by freddop 20:06 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Chile, el Norte y el Centro

sunny 22 °C
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Arriving at the border way past their opening hour the migration and customs official were ready to help but the dude from the agricultural check proved uncooperative and suggested I should sleep in my car in this no man's land until the next morning. But I was finally allowed me to enter Chile by foot, so I could get to know the border town of Ollagüe at 11pm with a pack of stray dogs in tow and learn that the twon's three Bed & Breakfasts were full. I ended up talking with a nice lady, whose introduction to her place was “yes, we have an extra room, but you probably won’t like it”. A bed was all I needed, and at this point the blood stains on the sheets did not concern me. The next morning I was at the dot of the opening hour at the border to learn that electricity was down and that they were planning to open an hour late. Chatted with the nice customs official, had a good breakfast and finally got the paperwork to drive by beautiful lagoons on a dirt road to Calama, where my first quest was to find some new tires and get alineación y balanceo para la bestia negra con tecnología Chilena. A nice drive to San Pedro de Atacama followed, where I chilled in their cool restaurants and bars. The next three days were full-on driving; first through the salt flats and mining areas to Antofagasta and then along the coast and Valle del Elqui to La Serena with some stops at surf spots arriving in Santiago for a very nice evening out with Elena. At the crack of dawn of Sunday I picked up the copilot for the last part of the trek, Stefan. After exploring some of Santiago together, the decadence was in full swing in the wine region of Colchagua, were we duly stocked up on some nice bottles and made our way to the hippie-surfer town of Pichilemu. After a fun weekend we left in direction to Patagonia, with a highlight at Frutillar – Germany in the 50s in Chile – wow.
Here are the pictures.

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Posted by freddop 19:39 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Bolivia

sunny 25 °C
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10 años desde que pasé un año increíble en Bolivia he vuelto para unas semanas de maravilla, lleno de recuerdos - momentos de otro mundo. Encontré Coral en La Paz por un fin de semana con buenas fiestas y un viaje a Cochabamba, donde encontré los buenos amigos de la U – realmente lindo un descanso de todo lo nuevo que encontré en este viaje y un recuerde de todo lo bueno del pasado – las fotos tal vez dan una impresión.

Salí de Cochabamba el lunes – 6 días antes que el vuelo de Stefan llegue a Santiago, 3000 kilómetros – va! El primer día a Uyuni y allá la aventura boliviana realmente empezó. 80km antes de Uyuni y 80km después del último pueblo en medio de la nada una llanta se descompuso …pero total. Una tormenta después estuve en el camino otra vez con mi llanta extra, pidiendo a cualquier poder de arriba y abajo que las otras llantas duren – porque aparte de unos camiones que me pasaron cada media hora no había nadie que me hubiera podido ayudar y el camino estaba bastante feo.

Pasé por el Salar d’Uyuni – una maravilla! - y llegué a Uyuni – puh. El próximo día recorrí todo el pueblo y encontré una llanta que estaba más o menos el tamaño de los míos para tener una extra para el tramo del día hasta Chile. Toda la gente que pregunté me indicaron que solamente hay un camino por la dirección que quería recorrer a Chile y después de llenar mis bidones estaba en el camino.

Con unos puntos en mi GPS que no me sirvieron para nada estaba en el medio de la nada – hermoso el paisaje – pero pucha, no estaba cierto a veces si era camino o campo, totalmente solo en el altiplano y lo único que era cierto era que nadie me ayudaría… Después de destruir otra llanta y medio perdido en el altiplano, sabía que mi aventura boliviana ya está en camino. Crucé un río que no apareció muy profundo (pero bueno la realidad era bastante diferente) y por suerte tenía la velocidad desde el principio para llegar al otro lado y después de manejar por una hora en la obscuridad, llegué a la frontera cerrada. Por suerte podía convencer la buena gente de la aduana y de la migración de hacer los tramites fuera de su hora de atención y me abrieron la barrera de la frontera para salir a la tierra de nadie hacía Chile en la noche – me sentí como en una película.

Las fotos están aquí
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Posted by freddop 19:07 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

Perú!

sunny 25 °C
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Across the border between Ecuador and Peru and a taste of what kind of incredible drives where ahead of me I headed to party-central Mancora, where Peruvians and foreigners mix in a charming way under the pretext of sunbathing and surfing. Staying at the prime party hostel and meeting some cool Peruvians brushed my apprehension at this tourist onslaught aside. The days I spent chasing waves and working on my consultancy and the evenings were always good for some party after heaps of ceviche.

After celebrating Obama’s victory hard, I decided that it was time to get serious and headed to Lobitos one hour South for some serious waves, where a good salt wash awaited and relaxed evenings at Lobitos Lodge (major recommendation) were a treat.

I continued down the coast and if I ever had any doubts about my intentions, the Panamericana won me definitely over in Northern Peru - epic. No better place to contemplate the rhymes, reasons and future of life. Every morning I asked myself what I wanted to do and just did it. In Huanchaco the surf and a cool group of locals convinced me in no time to stay a few extra days - a book by itself this stay, which led to a side trip to a bay in the middle of nowhere. But the Panamericana drew me back and led me to Lima, which I really enjoyed with its sights, mix of Peruvian and cosmopolitan bustle, beach and haute cuisine.

And then it came, the camino gringo - from Lima to Puno -sigh... I was a bit unprepared for this kind of tourism with its quite sophisticated infrastructure and the heaps of tourists from all walks of life. Also an experience, which was entertaining at first, but more than happy to get away from it as much as I could. Yet, the sights which draw the masses are obvious and undisputed in their charm, so I was a complete part of it, and played my role as the crazy with his Jeep from New York... Huacachina in the dunes is a fun stopover for amazing views and fun in the sand, a flight over the Nazca Lines cannot be missed, the drive up into the Andes was serene, Cusco the ancient Inca capital is marvelous and Machu Picchu blows your socks off...

So the places taken by themselves are truly incredible, but it was about as much as I could take in this setting and my current state of mind. So I was even more excited to swing back into my Jeep and drive off to mi querida Bolivia, where I am ecstatic to meet the people I hung with 10 years ago and things are a bit less touristy and more rough!
Here are the photos

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Posted by freddop 09:22 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

viva Ecuador! viva.


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They are not exaggerating in the glossy tourist brochures about the multitude Ecuador offers.
Mita and I arrived late in the evening in Otavalo after a bit of a wait at the border, where they needed to do an inventory of the chairs that were laying around (...). I was grateful for the country's good road conditions, as I would have otherwise pulled over when it got dark to avoid a broken axle due to a pothole, which seemed to be a constant risk in Colombia. But smooth sailing into Ecuador, where we stayed in Otavalo at a former Guinea Pig farm and explored the light version of the Otavalo market on a Wednesday, which becomes huge on Saturdays. We continued towards Quito on a dirt road through the Andes to stay at a very impressive hotel at the edge of the Pululahua volcano and visited the "Middle of the World" - the equator. First the real thing with some cool experiments - balancing eggs, flushing toilets on both sides and on the equator where my favorites! - and then the equator line a bit off (drawn by the French a hundred years ago) with a large monument.
Mita left from Quito back to NY and I celebrated a legendary weekend with Duende, 10 years after we saw each other last in Bolivia - now making plans to continue parts of the voyage South together, when he has finished his work in Quito in a few weeks time.
After Quito, I drove to Baños, relaxed with some nice hikes there and decided that I really want to see the Ecuadorian part of the Amazon basin. Stayed at the fantastic lodge Huella Verde, alone with the Swiss owner, Christof, whose wife, who is usually with him, was in Quito. Great conversations, excellent Ecuadorian and Swiss food (partly from his garden), a fun ride down the river in a truck tube and a very educational hike with Don Lucho from the nearby village, made for my most memorable hotel stay on this trip so far.
I was lucky that the following weekend the independence day of Cuenca took place there, which made this beautiful town even more friendly with concerts rocking the streets - viva la Cuenca! VIVA!
Debated a long time, whether I should drive to the Ecuadorian coast, but then decided that I'd rather leave something to come back to in Ecuador and hit the waves of Peru, where the swell is picking up in November - time to finally get the surfboard off the roof again!
a link the photos from Ecuador - VIVA
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the most exciting bridge I crossed on this trip

Posted by freddop 10:22 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

Colombia

a good run from Cartagena - Medellín - Cali - Popayán - Laguna de la Cocha - Las Lajas


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Cartagena has been my favorite city on this trip so far - hanging out and partying with the crew from the boat that got us there from Panama followed by 3 interesting days of getting to know the port, half the people that work there, customs, and pretty much every other institution that could have remotely anything to do with the port, celebrating finally reunification with la bestia negra - my black pet -the jeep- which also made it well across the Darien gap on its cargo ship. Interestingly the process of getting it out of the port included getting a 3-day life insurance, a hard hat, a reflective vest (I thought at one point that they wanted me to work there) and dreams about the correct order of port procedures (which I have now down by heart) - an all-encompassing experience.
A beautiful but rather long drive of 13 hours up into the Colombian Andes to Medellin - to roam the streets where Pablo Escobar's Medellin cartel used to rule and celebrate the 30s birthday of Mirko - my Swiss sailing companion, whose friends put on a good celebration there. Then on to Cali - Salsa capital (I tried...)!
Mita from NY joined as my co-pilot and photographer on the road for the stretch from Cali to Quito and we made our way through beautiful landscapes to the white painted town of Popayán, the Laguna de la Cocha (a respite from the cities, where we were the only guests in a Swiss Chalet style hotel and stuffed ourselves with trout), and on to the border with Ecuador to "El Santuario de Nuestra Señora de las Lajas" (Our Lady of Las Lajas) - an impressive basilica built inside the canyon of the Guáitara River.
The photos are here
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Posted by freddop 07:34 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

Leaving Central America

Costa Rica, Panama and the Caribbean

sunny 30 °C
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Two and a half day driving from Nicaragua through Costa Rica and then on to Panama! Decided that I want to spend more time in South America, since I know Panamá quite well and feel one can always get back to Costa Rica. In Panama lived the bureaucracy, running from A to B and then back to A to get to C (as in Colombia). With a lot of patience and help from some very nice people managed to get my car on a boat to Cartagena and had nice farewell drinks from Central America with Katya, the sister of my neighbor in Mexico, and her friend Adriana.
The boats that transport cars don't take passengers so I looked for a sail boat and found the "Mintaka", a 46 feet sailboat run by a nice German couple, which took me and a crew of 6 chilled other travelers from England, the US, Germany, Switzerland and Israel from Portobelo in Panama through San Blas (Caribbean as you find it in the coffee table books) to Cartagena, Colombia in 5 days. The trek had it all: snorkeling, drinking, goofing on and off the boat, lobsters, fishing, endless sea, plenty of sun, tropical showers, sea-sickness, starry nights. Now happy to have solid ground under my feet (the ground seemed to keep moving for a few hours after landing) off to explore Cartagena (yay!) and trying to get my car out of the port (not so much fun).
Here are the photos
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Posted by freddop 11:02 Archived in Panama Comments (0)

birthday surf and business strategies of Nicaragua

sunny
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ooooooo Nica-ra-gua! some relaxed days on the shores of Lake Nicaragua in Granada were followed with a complete immersion in hostel culture at "the Naked Tiger" - the name says it all... and finally hitting some prime surf spots. Met some very chilled Aussies with who I spent my Birthday at the "Magnific Rock" -again a very appropriate name, the surf 50m down the cliff was extremely fun, spent at least half of my birthday in the water. Big thanks to everyone at the Rock who made the best day of the year a memorable day and night! also learned what it means to have a diversified business strategy - after the morning surf we were approached by a surf instructor, drug dealer and pimp - all rolled into the same person - when we declined all of his three offers one by one, he just threw his arms into the air - probably thinking 'what do these guys want from life'? ...the answer was right there - very content the trek continued to Costa RRRRRRRica!

Pictures from the fun in the sun are here
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Posted by freddop 18:56 Archived in Nicaragua Comments (0)

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