Palmtrees, Blue Seas (San Blas Islands)

The Pan-American Highway stretches from Alaska to Argentina – with the exception of the Darién Gap – a 160km stretch. The Darién Gap is notably the wildest place remaining in the Western Hemisphere – covered in both mountainous rain forest and flat marshland. The area has a known guerrilla and narcrotrafficker presence (and the kidnapping and crimes that go along with it); thus, while it is still possible to cross the gap by land or foot, it is not recommended. With a land crossing out of the question we had the choice of flying or travelling across the Caribbean Sea. Continue reading

SALT EXTRACTION: from Flats to Containment Ponds to Underground Tunnels

Salt – sodium chloride – is a mineral everyone is familiar with, it is essential for human life and is one of basic human tastes. Before our travel to South America, we knew salt came from various places (think Black Hawaiian Sea Salt, Pink Himalayan Salt, etc.); however, we had very little understanding of the different methods used to extract it from the earth. As it turns out, mining salt is a huge industry with sodium chloride being one of the largest inorganic raw materials used in the world by volume (and its manufacture is one of the oldest). Today, we use almost 70% of the salt extracted from the earth for manufacturing and industrial processes while only 6% is used in food (the remainder being used for water conditioning, de-icing highways and agriculture). Continue reading

Holy Week in Bogota

“The Canadian Platinum Ticket” – Welcome to Colombia.

Canadians are now the only country that need to pay a fee on arrival to Colombia. That’s right, at the airport there is a massive line for international arrivals and then a sign that with a Canadian flag pointed to an empty line with a single desk at the end. There, they collect the 160,000 Colombian Peso (approx 80$) reciprocity fee for Canadians. The fee is as of December 1, 2014 and came as a complete shock to us. Reciprocity due to the Biometric fee demanded by the Canadian government to Colombian nationals to get a visa to enter Canada. Continue reading

Visiting the Line: 0°0′0″N (Quito)

IMG_5249 (768x1024)From Bolivia to Colombia, the majority of the large cities are situated above 2000m located on several high plateaus in the Andes mountain range. The cities, while varied all have certain things in common and Quito was no exception. While 2800m above sea level doesn’t compare to La Paz’s 3650m, you still get the shortness of breath, pollution problems, cold temperatures and cloudy skies setting in every afternoon. Don’t get us wrong, Quito has a majestic historical town filled with colonial-era churches and monasteries and is full of Ecuadorian culture – I think we’ve just had enough of the Andean cities. Continue reading

Not-So-Stray Dogs, Surfers and “Windblowers” (Montañita)

photo 4 - Copy (768x1024) - CopyFrom the hippie-surfer town of Mancora, we headed to Ecuador’s equivalent – Montañita. Way too many blogs compare the two and we stayed outside of Mancora and therefore, couldn’t do a proper comparison. Instead, this post will start by featuring the dogs of Montañita. At first we thought all of these dogs were strays, playing freely on the beach, in the waves and wandering the towns few streets. After a few days we came to realize that most of these dogs (if not all) seem to have owners. The owners let them run around playing most of the day while they work/surf/play and then reconnect at some point or another. You’ll notice if one gets too rough or too far away some stranger will start yelling after it. Given they all love to play in the ocean they rated as the cleanest dogs we had seen in ages and we happily petted them. Continue reading

Bungalow on the Beach (Máncora)

After a 19 hour bus ride from Lima, we arrived on the north coast of Peru in Mancora. We opted to stay a 20 min tuk-tuk ride out of the town (which wasn’t very large) in a private ocean-front bungalow where we could lie in bed and watch the waves crashing and sunset. Our bamboo bungalow came equipped with everything from hot water to a mini kitchen and was just steps from the ocean. Continue reading