Mike & Helen

MikeandHelen

Mike & Helen

Update since our last trip ended: We got back to the UK from our fantastic year travelling in June 2011. We spent the summer in the UK catching up with friends during a "glorious" English summer. To keep the thrill of discovering new places alive, we decided to look for work outside the UK, so home since October 2011 has been The Hague in The Netherlands, which we are looking forward to exploring in the near future.....

Oh, and of course there is the small matter of a wedding to organise!

Watch this space for future travels and thanks to everyone who has checked in over the last year. We have loved sharing it with you all.

M & H xx





Back to Beautiful Buenos Aires So this was it, after 51 weeks on the road, we started the journey east from Colombia back towards the UK. Last, but not least however, we had Argentina, where we had planned one last week in Buenos Aires for a period of living the good life, catching up with friends we have there and celebrating the end of our adventure. Why Buenos Aires? Well, simply put, before this trip it was, and still is, our absolute favourite city that we adore, so it was a treat that we were looking forward to as the best climax to our trip. Although we were still enraptured by the gorgeous aesthetics and eclectic vibe, this time we weren't going so much for the discovery as for the social and culinary pleasures....great wine, amazing ... read more
Partners in Crime
Mike & German solving the world's problems
Lots of meat for dinner

South America » Colombia May 26th 2011

Cartagena After spending 5 days in the cramped conditions of the sailing boat, we were glad to finally stretch our legs and have some space to ourselves in the beautiful colonial city of Cartagena, where the temperature was hot, hot, hot. We stayed just by the old town walls, in the backpacker enclave of Getsemani, and spent many of our waking hours in the historic old cobbled streets, soaking up the atmosphere. Cartagena is situated right on the Caribbean coast, the old town being surrounded by 13km of old colonial walls. These were built by the Spanish to try to prevent the successive pirate raids on the town which, despite being the storehouse for the vast South American treasures which had been forcibly removed from the indigenous populations (the Incas in particular), was initially undefended. Those ... read more
A coloured building in Cartagena Old town
Statue in Cartagena
Let sleeping dogs lie (On pictures of Miss Colombia)


From Panama, there are essentially three ways to get to Colombia, the next stop on our trip. Option one is to fly, but it was going to be a very expensive flight and where there is an alternative, we usually prefer to do that. Option two is to travel overland across the Darien Gap. Downsides of this route are that there are no roads, so it involves days of hacking through jungle with a machete, and the fact that still today there is a high risk of kidnap. As exciting as that sounded, we chose option three, taking a sailboat from northern Panama across to Cartagena on the northern Colombian coast. Many boats offer trips on this route and are advertised in hostels in Panama City. Choosing the right boat and captain is a little bit ... read more
A Kuna person preparing coconuts
Tropical island paradise
Phil goes for a double flip from the boat


Throughout Central America, chicken buses have been ever obvious, decorated to greater or lesser degrees as they chug along roads and through towns, conductors shouting from the doors s they pass, trying to entice people on board. Many of these buses have been changed from the standard yellow American school bus style and given a more Central American style! When we arrived in Panama City though, we realised the obsession with decorating buses has been taken to a whole new level. Buses are decorated in incredibly ornate styles with intricately designed murals covering the buses. The skill of the artists is really quite amazing. Neon lights are often fitted around the edge of the buses, one bus we saw even looked like the Coca Cola "Holidays are coming" advert as it was so covered in strips ... read more
Brightly painted bus near to Colon
Super wide, huge exhausts have been fitted
No space on the bus is left uncovered


Back to Caribbean Islands - it's a tough life! We arrived into Panama at one of the more scenic border crossings we have gone through, crossing from Costa Rica by walking over a rickety old railway bridge spanning a wide river. We had just passed through Costa Rica in two days from Nicaragua, quickly bypassing the 'rich coast' due to time being against us by this stage of the trip, and Helen having already been on a few occasions. From this scenic arrival into Panama, we went straight out to the islands of Bocas Del Toro on the Caribbean coast, hoping to get in a bit of diving and generally getting into the laid back, sun fuelled vibe. Except that unfortunately we did get quite a bit of rain during our time there, Central America slipping ... read more
Helen checks out a starfish on Bocas Del Drago
A coffee finca near Boquete in the Panamian highlands
Angel trumpet plants on the roads surrounding Boquete


Sardines in a bus It's a hot day, the temperature around a humid 30 degrees, and we are wedged onto the rattling, old bus as tightly as sardines. It feels like we will have to be peeled apart eventually, as limbs slowly stick to those next to us. A sign at the front informs us this school bus was built in Ottawa in 1986, designed to hold 86 school children. There are at least 250 people on today. Three local people hang out the front door, holding on for dear life as the bus chugs on over the potholes in the road. With each stop for the first hour, another few people manage to squeeze on, until, eventually, people start to get off at the larger towns we pass through, creating much needed space so we ... read more
Jesus model makes his way to his cruxifiction
Preparing sawdust carpets in Leon
Jesus in a pensive mood


El Salvador, isn't that like a city or something? We arrived into El Salvador not really sure what to expect. For those without an encyclopaedic knowledge of Central America, El Salvador is the little country sandwiched between the Pacific on one side and the two much larger countries of Honduras and Guatemala on the other. Despite being a land dominated by volcanic peaks, it squeezes in a population greater than Honduras, which has a land mass over 5 times larger. Typically in this part of the world, El Salvador is bypassed by many travellers on eastern or western trajectories, who pass through Honduras to the north instead. But without wishing to spoil the ending of our blog too much, that really is their loss! Natural Beauty (the "We climb it because it's there" syndrome) Being located ... read more
After 10 months on the road, neither of us pushed the other in!
The crater of the Santa Ana volcano
The young Izalco volcano from Santa Ana

Central America Caribbean » Honduras March 27th 2011

Chicken busing it towards the Caribbean The gaudily decorated bus chugs along the smooth asphalt road, the azure blue Caribbean Sea to our left, while the tree covered hills rise to our right. The speakers that line the carriage strain from the levels of bass of the Latino tunes that pump out at high volume, while in front on the windscreen a large signs tells us that "God is my guide". With each gear change a black cloud of diesel smoke puffs out from the side of the bus and at each stop, many people get on, selling fried plantains, sweet breads, fruits, or giving a speech on the benefits of purchasing some new miracle cream or pamphlet on alternative medicines to make you slim. This is our first chicken bus experience in Central America. The ... read more
Sunrise at the dive school
The chillout area at the dive school
Sunrise over the bay of Utila island


And now time for something completely different.... The thought of a whole new continent really excites us and after a few days of western comforts in Los Angeles, we are ready to get back on the road again for a complete change of scenery.....Central America beckons! First up - Guatemala. Having both travelled within Latin America previously (Helen extensively with her previous work), we have really been looking forward to some familiarity again after such a long period in Asia. Except that the reality turns out to be a little different. We thought it would be easy to transition back into the Spanish speaking world, but after 9 months in Asia, we find everything odd, like we don't quite fit in where we use to feel so comfortable. We now miss the roar from hundreds of ... read more
Volcan Agua dominates the skyline over the central square of Antigua
Colourful walls in Antigua
Volcan Pacaya gently brooding

North America » United States » California » Los Angeles February 25th 2011

Time travellin' to the USA Anyone who loves '80's pop trash will know that Cher once wanted to turn back time. Well, we have discovered that you can take back all of the bad things you said on the flight from Tokyo to Los Angeles, where time travel becomes a reality. After taking off from Japan at 16:30 on a Tuesday afternoon, and flying for 9 hours, we managed to arrive in LA at 09:00am the same Tuesday morning, allowing us to relive most of the day again in another city. Admittedly, the reliving part is slightly slower and more dopey than the first time around due to jetlag, and the culture shock of arriving in the US after so long in Asia is pretty dramatic, but still we stumbled our way through Tuesday for a ... read more
Playing Basketball on Venice Beach
Sunset at Venice Beach
Sunset at Venice Beach




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