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Jules and Sofie: Voyage Through America

Countries visited: The United States; Costa Rica; Panama; Mexico

and then

Jules Does a Bit More.....

Countries visited: Cuba; Guatemala; Honduras; Nicaragua; Costa Rica; Ecuador; Peru; Bolivia

Visited Countries Map

So there I am, for years, banging away with my tiny hammer at the Wall of Careerdom, attempting to make a name for myself in the beautiful, if not slightly arcane, world known as Digital Signal Processing. But I kept meeting people who´d done this travel thing, many times, and knowing my own love of travel, languages, and working in new countries I kept on thinking that any day now, it would be my turn. But I just couldn´t let this career thing go. That unhealthy combination of curiosity and ambition even saw me go completely nuts and complete a Doctorate of Engineering. At least I got to conclude the last 3 years of it whilst working at Philips Electronics´funky research centre in Holland.

But in all that little career move cost me another SIX years, and suddenly, I am 34. Fortunately, I had managed to avoid marriage and children, and having just been dumped, surely NOW was the time to quit. To GO. But then it wasn´t: an offer to work in Copenhagen popped up, just three months, possibly four, on an interesting freelance contract to design audio sound effects for Huge Korean Firm´s new mobile phones. I couldnt resist being able to work just 12 weeks and earn enough lolly to pay for a long trip away with no financial restraints.

But that in fact lasted a YEAR, where in Week One I meet Sofie (the sweetest woman in all of Scandanavia :-) )

Her story is like this: teacher in Denmark meets me. Manages to swing 4 months off work to accompany said me on totally illogical and ill-planned adventures to discover the cultures, the landscapes, the rich and the poor (mainly poor let´s face it), and the politics of the Americas.

Cutting a long story a tad shorter (not my strong point), we both set off for a tour of USA and Latin America, 2nd October 2006 for 4 months, with a view to me doing, er, a bit more on my own afterwards..............


PS All the photos from the trip can be viewed on photobucket

Jules and Sofie,
Jules Solo Extension!

The couple mooching around Yosemite National Park

Jules in California's golden Gold Country

Pro Roadsweepers kit - Oaxaca, Mexico

Learn spanish in Nicaragua from the experts!

South America » Ecuador » North » Quito May 30th 2007

Well it's my last day in Quito, lofty capital of Ecuador. I'm mooching today. Currently sitting outside a busy street cafe on Rio Amazonas. As I wait for the requested menu, my nostrils fill with the sweet scent of wax polish emanating from the rubbings of the straggly-haired shoe-shiner working the floor beside me. His client peers down at his shoes inquiringly at the progress; the patron looks slightly less poor than the service provider. A bus with a belching exhaust pulls away leaving a black cloud in its place, the diesel fumes overcoming the sweeter smells of the shoe polish. On the ground in front, in the middle of the tables sits a bare-legged man with barely any legs, such are his deformities. I'm wondering now if I can stomach the sandwich just arrived on ... read more

South America » Ecuador » North » Quito May 29th 2007

img=http://i126.photobucket.com/albums/p112/julespenk/Jules%20Solo%20Extension/6%20-%20Ecuador%20at%20last/1%20-%20Quito/P5292744.jpg Phew, is all I can say; well, I can and will say more, but that was my immediate reaction as I flopped down my now dog-eared, travel-worn, two-dollar unabridged version of Tolstoy´s tome on my spare pillow this morning...and not without a sigh, now that all that philosophy, channelled throughout the characters (real and imagined) of Napoleon´s crusades into Russia, is gone. For the past few months, War and Peace has been my constant travel companion. I started reading the epic in Cuba in February, and it´s been with me through Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Ecuador....its final resting place. Though it´s hardly in a fit state to pass on - the first half of the book literally fell apart and out already - I had been keeping it together... read more

South America » Ecuador » North » Quito May 28th 2007

So I´m proud of myself today. Despite the raging thirst after finishing the Quilitoa hikes yesterday, I managed to extricate myself from the excellent narrow bar ´Strawberry Fields´ in Quito around 11pm last night. Even that meant not being asleep till around midnight, but given my TOTAL weakness for those rare, ephemeral, good nights out that only happen with the right blend of people, music, general bar atmos and beverage (all the cocktails are named after Beatles songs - though after several visits, we never heard any tunes from the Fabulous Foursome), 11pm was a pretty good effort. img=http://i126.photobucket.com/albums/p112/julespenk/Jules%20Solo%20Extension/6%20-%20Ecuador%20at%20last/4%20-%20Hiking%20up%20Guagua%20Pichincha/IMG_3033.jpg So I awoke at the ungodly hour 6.30am with nevertheless some decent sleep injected and was as ready as I could be for... read more

South America » Ecuador » Centre » Quilotoa May 26th 2007

So how come I decides (Oldhamese grammar) to deviate from my plan of heading south and on into Peru, after landing back in Quito from my week in Galapagos, and instead decide to climb the monstrous Cotopaxi volcano? Well, here is a look into my jelly-for-brains thought processes: Upon awaking: "mmm, really looking forward to seeing a bit of the Amazon - oh, but I´ll do that on my way to Brazil by boat anyway - so let´s head south for now, yesss, south....so, Banos it is then...then Cuenca and all that, but then there´s the beaches in the West.....this Coca looks interesting with its jungle lodges though (maybe I wont make it to Iquitos in Peru, so best go East to the jungles now)......anyway, main thing is to LEAVE Quito - been here TOO long ... read more

Yesterday, Monday, I contrived to get a spanking new passport, of this latest biometric type. Amazing, one day only. Thing is, I look like this now: img=http://i126.photobucket.com/albums/p112/julespenk/Jules%20Solo%20Extension/5%20-%20Costa%20Rica%20Again/IMG_1876.jpg img=http://i126.photobucket.com/albums/p112/julespenk/Jules%20Solo%20Extension/4%20-%20Nicaragua/4%20-%20San%20Juan%20del%20Sur/Imagen444.jpg My new travel-head: not really my usual style.....(but for sure I feel better than wandering around with the mohawk; to be added to an entry as I back-track this blog) img=http://i126.photobucket.com/albums/p112/julespenk/Jules%20Solo%20Extension/5%20-%20Costa%20Rica%20Again/journo_loses_diary.jpg So I hope in the future the biometric facial chip thingumagig permits an hassle-free passage :-) I also managed to get the police report written up, and I w... read more

So I called Tranquilo Backpackers (which I see has been included in the location selector here even), and got myself a room reserved. Without any complaints, the hotel receptionist at this soulless place let me check out. I HAD to go and meet people. Here´s Tranquilo´s funky recep area: img=http://i126.photobucket.com/albums/p112/julespenk/Jules%20Solo%20Extension/5%20-%20Costa%20Rica%20Again/IMG_1873.jpg After my complementary pancakes, I met one man who proffered insights into the seedier, and well-hidden, side to Costa Rica. He cut a striking figure with his large belly, complemented as it was by a handsome head of curly grey hair and enormous silver eyes; his facial features were big in general and his mid-eastern look and accent reminded me of Omar Sharif (not that I can remember how Omar sounded). He talked in an easy-going way that was almost melancholic, e... read more

Breakfasted heartily at Costa Linda, Manuel Antonia national park area, this morning and then merrily moseyed down to the beach where I was to get my bus to San Jose. I was in fine spirits as I watched the beach vendors, masseurs and sunbed renters setting up and the morning waves crashing in. I stood chatting with an American girl and her mother as a few drops of rain ushered in what would be a thoroughly grey day. I remember having my small pack down at my feet - ankles inside the straps - lest unseen grabbing hands should take a chance..... I had been on the bus a few minutes, in my rightful spot, but it was a shit spot - in my view - so I moved to a seat two rows back. Sometime ... read more

So Granada's like this really nice old colonial town, rather like Antigua Guatemala, but with less capuccino vendors. Colourful too: img=http://i126.photobucket.com/albums/p112/julespenk/Jules%20Solo%20Extension/4%20-%20Nicaragua/2%20-%20Granada/Imagen357.jpg img=http://i126.photobucket.com/albums/p112/julespenk/Jules%20Solo%20Extension/4%20-%20Nicaragua/2%20-%20Granada/Imagen356.jpg Like Leon however, it's a sweat-shop. Me and Keith take a room at the Gestapo-managed Bearded Monkey hostel, but it's such a mellow environment with great food that we ended up staying about 4 nights. And in the relentless heat, lying in a hammock under a whizzing ceiling fan is just about all you can do. Good times..... img=http://i126.photobucket.com/albums/p112/julespenk/Jules%20Solo%20Extension/4%20-%20Nicaragua/2%20-%20Granada/Imagen341.jpg img=http://i126.photobucket.c... read more

Decided I´d better get up to date and then backtrack or I´ll be home before I get chance to write about my extended little jaunt around Latin Am sans girlfriend :-) On 5th April took a 6am bus from unhappening capital of Honduras, Tegucigalpa (try remembering how to say that after a few light ales) all the way to the sand-pit that is Managua, capital 'city' of Nicaragua. I didnt get any pics of Man, but suffice to say the centre of town is simply the highway where there is a junction, marked by an incongruous Holiday Inn. On arrival at the bus station, a gang of portly middle-aged latinos, shirts open to their sweaty navals, were all crushed up against the wire fencing hawk hawking at us like a pack of seals. "Taxi taxi!! Amigos ... read more

Next day I met up with Chris and his girl for a beer, and it turned out even SHE, at the age of 18, worked the boats up in icy Alaska; her father was a captain and owned his own boat. Seems they only work about 3 months a year, and make enough money from that to more or less live on the rest of the year. Chris had a really slow, drawling way of talking that made me think he might be one or two ciggies short of a packet - not a full bob (weird English expressions), ie., a bit on the slow side. This made me feel a bit sorry for him, and I kept trying to tell myself it was just his accent. Thing was, his girlfriend was as chirpy as a ... read more

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