Tag Archives: transportation

6 hour bus ride from Guayaquil to Canoa!

Usually on the bus rides I take 10-30 photos and choose 5 to show you. This trip was only 6 hours, but provided what I think is some quality pictures to give a good idea of the typical towns in betweeen the major cities.

This is the inside of the Guayaquil main bus terminal followed by the outside as we take off for the coast.

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The complimentary program starts off with North American wrestling (not olympic, but the men in makeup and tights kind) voiced over in Spanish. This is being competed with the Latin music blaring from the drivers seat, not to mention the woman on the phone behind me that seems extremely determined to get her point across.

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Please keep in mind, all of these “bus” photos were taken through a dirty window while flying through windy roads. Instead of choosing only the quality photos, I’m going with the quality content instead. You get the drift.

In the exact order they were taken, here is 6 hours wrapped up in a photo tour.

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Just Ignore my finger in this one, as I moved quickly when the priceless donkey standing on the side of the building caught my eye. Do you see him?

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The little mobile cart is the primary source of taxi rides around the smaller villages.

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Take notice to the non motorized cycle with cart that’s to the right of the motorized taxi buggie. This little getup is used to move just about anything that you would typically put in a wheel barrow. So far, I’ve mostly seen bulk of fruit and veggies or construction supplies.

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The cylce carts also fill in for the vendors as their booth. I think it’s brilliant! You load up, ride to where you want to work, park and open up for business. Obviously today was next to a truck full of eggs…a lot of them!

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More random shots along the way in the order they were taken.

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As I’ve mentioned before, when the bus stops (for a whole 3 seconds) to pick up or drop off new passengers it usually adopts a salesman with food, drink or a “special promotion” for a random item.

Today has been vitamins, bread, gum, ice-cream and this lovely girl. Apparently everything she was saying was hilarious because the once sober sounding passengers are now laughing after every punch line she drops.

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She passed out these necklaces that was in support of the local school. I accepted the offer for a whopping $1, knowing that I could gift it to an unexpecting little girl along my journey. Win-win!

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More photos as we near the location of my first week in Ecuador.

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I wonder if he gets better cell reception on the top deck.

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Another stop fills the empty seat next to me with a new friend that lives in the city where Ill be volunteering in a few weeks! She only speaks Spanish so the hour conversation was quality practice for me. She was also a helpful comfort when telling me to get off the bus, “¡su parada está aquí!”. Muchas gracias Rocio!

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Im finally here in the beach town of Conoa. I get the keys to my room just in time to unpack and grab a quick bite before the sunset. Check out details of Hotel Macondo here. It’s amazing what I get for $9 a day. The second photo is of my balcony with a hammock… After the bus ride, that just encourages a deep breath and a smile!

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“How do you afford all that traveling?!”

How do I afford it? I’m not a professional traveler nor do I guarantee that “my way” will work for everyone. I’ve just been asked so many times that I feel the need to share as much as I can in hopes that others will take an opportunity in their life and make it happen as well.

Lets start with the primary way I’m able to travel, the beautiful world of volunteering. My thoughts have always been that I have a healthy body, active mind and an abundance of energy… Why not put it to use! While researching my possibilities, I fell upon the program described below and have stuck with it ever since.

“Help exchange” is an online listing of hosts that generally offers a room and meals in exchange for work. You can snoop around the website without registering, but the annual fee is minimal and it allows you to see everyone’s profile in detail. If you desire to travel abroad, meet locals, and learn more about culture than the “tours” provide, I highly suggest you check this out, it’s changed my life.

Help Exchange .

To give you an idea of some of the things I’ve gotten to do and places I’ve seen while volunteering, here are a few links to some of my favorite hosts!

This was with an amazing family in Australia that provided a tree house for the accommodation, scrumptious vegetarian meals and a plethora of knowledge with organic gardening.   LIFE IN THE TREES OF WOONONA .

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this took me to a tiny coastal town in New Zealand. I got to share a cabin with another volunteer from Malaysia.  ON THE RESERVE .

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An orphanage in Argentina that opened my eyes to a group of smart, funny and extremely entertaining children.  ANOTHER DAY WITH THE KIDS .

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This was in a small village outside of Cusco Peru. We got to work at the school and then direct the after class programs.
  CLUB SUYAWI WARI .
  TEACHING ENGLISH IN HUAMUTIO .
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If I’m not volunteering, I’m usually staying with a friendly fellow traveler that I’ve met along the way.  
“Well, if you ever make it to (fill in a random city here) you’re more than welcome to stay with me”. 
This is a common offer that I rarely turn down… and fully plan on returning the favor when (if) I grow up and get a place of my own.

If I’m not volunteering or reconnecting with a friend, I’m usually on the way to do so. This leads to my next accommodation that, for the most part, is free considering I have to do it either way. Planes, trains, buses and boats!
If at all possible I make my transfers during the “night route”. Prices are generally the same and sometimes even cheaper. Depending on how long the ride is, they depart between 10p and midnight, getting you to your destination by the morning. So if you can sacrafice a night without totally horizontal sleep and can endure the random crying baby, Mr. Sneeze McGee or Captain Cough sitting behind you… You’ve just got one more night of rest (or attempted rest) for no extra charge!

When none of the above has fallen into place, I resort to the hostel life.  
Definition of hostel: A hostel is a budget-oriented, shared-room (“dormitory”) accommodation that accepts individual travelers (typically backpackers) or groups for short-term stays, and that provides common areas and communal facilities.
It serves it’s purpose for a minimal price compared to hotels and resorts.  Even though it’s money out of the pocket, I still feel like it’s a positive addition to my journey. This is usually where I get bunked up with a stranger that leaves as a new friend that I usually reconnect with down the road.  Without the handy backpacker accommodation, I wouldn’t meet nearly as many people as I do. 
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Next expense – Transportation
Of course to get to the main destination, especially from the states, a flight is neccessary. Unfortunately I haven’t met a backpacker yet with part ownership in a major airway company, so I just rely on a few basic tricks to get the best, cheapest flights possible.  Here’s what I’ve found:

What day and time you fly – Be flexible. Do you have to fly out Friday Or Sunday (the most expensive days) or can you swing a red eye on Wednesday?

What day and time you purchase – It’s been proven that shopping and purchasing flights on Tuesday afternoon is usually the cheapest option. Airlines are battling for your ticket because most people snoop for deals on the weekends when they have time to look.

Airports – sometimes flying into and out of a nearby airport can save money.  This isn’t my favorite trick because sometimes you’ll spend just as much money (and time) getting a transfer to your final destination over the direct savings. 

Using the plastic – Because I use so many different airlines and travel companies, I use a general CC that allows me to save up points and use them towards ANY ticket. It’s a beautiful circle of using the card to buy the tickets (paying it off every month!) and then using those points for the next flight.  

Buying in bulk or one ways- Most of the time I just have a general layout of when and where I’ll be month to month.  This prevents me from purchasing specific tickets in advance, however I found a company that allows you to buy in bulk with the flexibility to change your dates.
  AIRTREKS .

If I don’t use them for my flights, I’ll stick to a one way purchase then figure it out as I go.
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Websites – Kayak, Travelzoo, Orbits, Expedia and the list goes on of sites that can help with your journey.  I don’t soley rely on them, however they are helpful to narrow down some options and they’ll email you valid deals that the general public won’t hear about.

Once I’ve landed…

Plane, train, bus or share – Before I decide on my transportation details, I first pick which type is going to be the best fit to my needs.  Financially, what is the cheapest and is it worth it. Is it safe enough to risk and save the money? What about time flexibility, can I afford to loose a day of travel on a 22 hour bus ride or should I just pay the extra for the 2 hour flight? A fancy train for speed, luxury bus for semi comfort or a local van to save the green? 

My favorite way to really save with ground transportation is sharing a ride.  I’m not necessarily talking about hitch hiking, although that was a blast in New Zealand! The photo below is the brave driver who picked me up, my new and still friend Hamish!
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The other option which is an organized ride share that you can usually find in every country.   www.blablacar.com for example is a site that links people looking for gas money if you want a ride to where they’re going.  A high speed train from Madrid to Barcelona is about 120 euro, a public bus averages 50 euro, but a ride share would ask for 30 euro. Is it worth it at that time?
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Last option that Ive always kept as a possibility is car relocation services.  There are online sites that link you with companies that need a one way driver. Maybe it ws rented by a previous traveler to go to an major airport and now needs to make it back to it’s original city. You pick it up, drive it to your next stop and then viola, you just payed for gas with a bonus of the open road! This is even more amazing if you can find another backpacker going in the same direction who wants a ride and will split the gas… Score!

I get there, stay there and now it’s time to eat!

When volunteering, part of your work is rewarded with meals.  It can vary between getting all your daily meals to just eating dinner with the family. Either way, I always have a variety of protein, carbs and fat in my backpack to hold me over and or consume as an emergency meal. Some examples are a variety of nuts, dried fruit or veggies, dry oats (granola if you need more flavor), honey, etc. Once I arrive to a new destination one of my favorite things is to find the local store or market and look around for healthy items that I’ve never seen before to throw in my bag for the next bus ride. Financially I can survive much longer by making my own meals which is another bonus of hostel traveling. The kitchen is open to the guests to use (something you won’t find at hotels).  

Left overs? Save them! If I DO eat out I’ll always see if someone wants to share a meal and if not, I’ll wrap up what’s left and eat that for meals to follow until it’s gone. See the “edibles” posts for some examples of creative re-use of food.
This meal, I turned into three!
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Commonly hostels or volunteer hosts will provide a spread for breakfast that might include (rarely including ALl) things like fruit, cereal, oats, breads, yogurt, eggs and so on. The yogurt will spoil over time on the road so eat that first. You need heat to cook eggs, so if yogurt isnt your choice of protien go for the egg.  The breads, oats and grain travel well, so snag a serving and throw it in your bag for a later snack.  Ive even put my morning yogurt in the freezer and taken it when I leave. This is so when I hit the road and get hungry, I snag a piece of fruit from a stand and my thawed yogurt is thawed and ready to eat…and free! 

Lastly, “Do you ever make money”?

Yes! I’m fortunate that the 4 career choices I’m experienced with, I can take around the world.  Primarily hairstyling because everyone wants a haircut and most travelers don’t have the desire to trust or over pay a salon.  So when I arrive in a new hostel I’ll hang a small sign stating my prices and room number and see what comes my way.  Usually at each hostel, I’ll make enough to pay for my stay and walk away with some change.  At one accommodation, the owner of the place let me give his staff haircuts and didn’t charge me for the 3 nights I stayed!
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Massage therapy, bar tending and teaching are the other three that I use when opportunity arise. Sometimes I get paid cash, other times its a barter like dinner, a bus ticket, a free night stay or my personal favorite, language lessons!
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So there you have it, a general guide to my sneaky ways of traveling like I do. Hopefully it’s obvious I truly enjoy it, so please don’t hesitate to email me with specific questions.

universalaughter@yahoo.com

Cheers to adventure!

Trek to the base of Machu Picchu

There isn’t a main train station at Machu Picchu itself, the closest stop is in the nearby town of Aguas Calientes. Here is where you can hop on a smaller train to connect you the rest of the way. From Cusco you have a few options to get there:

You can enjoy the fancy train that provides food, drinks, lounge chairs, pillows, blankets and a few hundred other tourist. All just for a “ticket price”, a huge commitment and your left arm.

You can take a tour bus that has a guide, a pitstop with lunch buffet, and only 100 other tourist. All for a “small fee”, a minor commitment and a sore toosh.

…and then there’s OUR choice…

We scored with a local collectivo (a 7 person mini van that seated 9 adults and all of their luggage) for only $14 USD per person.
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This spacious ride lasted 4 hours with a complimentary stop at a stand on the side of the road. It had several food options like blocks of cheese, raw chicken and an assortment of candy! They also let us use the bathrooms!
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After the bus ride we hopped in a cab that picked up this woman. She climbed into the back trunk area with her blanket of corn as she politely stared at the gringos (I don’t blame her).
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We then got dropped off to another taxi that only had room for 2 more so I followed the woman’s idea and got cozy in the back.
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Some pics from all the rides:
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Finally we arrived to Aquas Calientes (the place where you can get on the small train to the city below Machu Picchu).
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We each bought a banana and started our hike from here. A 3 hour walk along the tracks that hug the Urubamba River. The sun was out and shining… for the first 30 minutes.
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At last! The place where we will rest before the day in the sacred city of Machu Picchu. I didn’t realize there was a tiny town that sits on a steep hill full of shops, restaurants, hotels, hostels, schools and homes. This adorable area has paths and bridges surrounding a stream that rushes through the center.
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We’re all signed in and ready for tomorrow… 4am to Machu Picchu, here we come!
(I had a neat picture here with all of our names in “the book” but deleted it when I realized it also had everyone’s detailed identification info. So, lets just pretend it’s here.)
Instead, here’s a photo of our future sight!
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The next chapter of volunteering!

After a short 4 1/2 hour flight, I’ve landed safely in the country of Peru. I dare not complain about the rough flight (so bumpy that an elderly woman was escorted to the front of the plane as she gripped her stack of religious cards that had pictures of Saints on them…and the young man next to me that repeatedly did the hand cross prayer) because the technology alone that has aloud me to see this planet is simply amazing! With that said, I’m here.

The next week of this adventure will be spent outside of Cusco volunteering in a community that has dedicated there land to the energy of the local children while teaching about the positive development of the planet. If you have a minute, check it out… My new temporary home:

  http://www.suyaiwari.org

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I have no idea if there is wifi or computer access, so if I’m unheard of for a bit… Just know I’m probably out in a field teaching fútbol or in a kitchen learning Peruvian cooking or perhaps just singing spanish songs around a campfire with the locals.
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A sincere thanks to all of you that have taken time to send me emails and encouraging messages. The joy I find in a familiar connection and the pleasant reminder of my roots has been an unexpected addition to this journey… All my love back at ya!

A friend from the states = another reunion!

Ian is an incredible friend that has been nothing but amazing since the day we met. His gentleman like demeanor combined with his spontaneous “let’s go for it” attitude makes him the perfect travel companion for a South American adventure! I only get 10 days with him due to some wonderful airline mistakes, but he’s here and I’m stoked!

Here’s a picture of us last year at my birthday, followed by a photo from my “Happy trails departure party”.
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Getting started the right way with a surprise treat from Ian… Tickets to the Foo Fighters right here in Buenos Aires!
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Had to wash my hands 4 times…. With bleach.
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Here’s a quick tour of our place for the night. The first picture is the “front porch” with our door to the right. We were on the top floor, so of course that means super stairs workout again!
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A quick walk around the block before we head to the airport to get Ians bags (that a certain airline didn’t have for him when he landed).
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On the way back from the airport journey, the clouds began to flash with striking bolts of lightening… the crack of startling thunder… and then the storm! It reached the point of cars parking on the freeway with no visibilty. Leave it to us, our sweet taxi driver put his flashers on and with a “Ayiah yai!” through it in gear and kept going.
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We’re still alive!
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After the rain stopped (and we were safe on our feet again) we took a walk to see some of the damage caused by this random chaous.
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This is a telephone booth… Now decorated with a fallen tree.
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The first pic is me in Amsterdam, the second was last night. Makes me giggle.
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TOMORROW…IGUAZU FALLS!!