Tag Archives: adventure

Nova Scotia Surf Trip

Our travels through Nova Scotia were lacking the excitement we frequently had while traveling Central and South America. For example: the border crossings were quick and anxiety free, the vegetables were all recognizable, and police corruption as well as food poisoning were not daily concerns. In fact, the only trouble I seemed to get into was when I made a goofy turn into a deli and a local hooligan honked his horn at me. With that being said, I will not bore you with a cliche trip overview .

IMG_3152

On the other hand, We did get to experience some great surf during the first East Coast hurricane swell of the season. In fact, Nova Scotia has an excellent variety of waves up and down their rocky coast. We were very lucky to have witnessed some of Canada’s best waves working so nicely. Like most surf trips, especially trips on the Atlantic Coast, luck is something that will always come in handy.

IMG_3186

Living the Good Life: Driving Mexico’s Pacific Coast

The following story was recently published on The Inertia. You can read it below, or click here to check it out on theinertia.com.

For almost 20 hours, we trudged through the night’s dark sea. We left the brown desert of Southern Baja and arrived in Mazatlán, Mexico, the only gringos aboard a ship filled with drunken truckers who stood beside their rigs.

We felt comfortable aboard the vessel alongside the truckers; they were mostly old timers and family men. Colorful pictures faded from the desert sun–religious figures, naked women, photos of loved ones–plastered the walls inside their rigs. The ship’s diesel burned through the night while the stars made their way across a clear sky, the air cool against our skin. Exposed to outer space that shone from above, knocked out in a tequila-induced slumber, we slept through the night. The song of burning diesel was soothing while we were in our little tent on the roof of our truck.

IMG_3487

After we were dropped off by the ship deep on the Mexico coast, we began heading south in our truck. No specific destination and no timeline; the feeling of total freedom was as distracting as it was overwhelming. There was always a cloud of smoke as we blazed down the camino–fires burned constantly on the sides of the road, filling the air with a cloudy familiar smell. It was the smell of chicken being cooked, fueled by burning wood in an old oil drum cut in half on the side of the road in Mexico. It was the smell of life on the road. It was the smell of being free.

An offshore breeze blew through the tent. It was hard to sleep because the ground was rumbling. Close by, heavy waves crashed the Mexican sandbar until dawn. The chilly morning quickly warmed us up. Like a piece of steak marinating before it gets cooked, we embraced the cool morning before getting roasted. The mid-day heat forces shady naps. It is a dry heat; it hasn’t rained in months.

The military and police presence was strong on the major highways, but in some of the villages and more remote spots we were on our own. On the flip side, there are the other guys. They’re the guys wearing nice street clothes with neatly combed hair. Bullet proof vests, hand guns wedged in their belt, shotguns casually leaned on their shoulders. Several clean cut men just relaxed in their truck or strolled down the beach. While the afternoon scorch melted the sand, they also liked to sip a cerveza in the shade, watching the waves crash on the shore. I walked past their truck after a session, board under my arm, and they spoke to me in Spanish. “How are the waves,” they asked. I told them they were good.”Buenas olas.” They were not cops, nor were they military. They left us alone, and we tried not to stare.

Three months in Mexico and we camped every night. Countless waves satisfied, just like the cheap street food. Young kids wandered through camp selling freshly picked papayas. We were invited to a Christmas Eve dinner at a local place in the village. The party was filled with just as many surfers as locals–perfect strangers breaking bread and sharing the familiarity of a holiday dinner. The clock struck midnight and time suddenly stopped; everyone embraced one an other with open arms. Fisherman, farmers, surfers, children, drunks, degenerates, Europeans, Americans, and travelers all tipped their mugs and wished a “feliz navidad.” A stout older gent, a complete stranger, hugged me and smiled. His face told a story, nostalgic of another year passing by. So far from home, I felt right at home.

The palm trees danced from the afternoon wind as I scoured the ground for fallen coconuts. With some help from my trusty machete, I learned how to drink the water from the shell. Coconut water quenches your thirst, like a swing from a machete just feels good to do. I drank the sweet water and remembered how much coconut water costs back in the States.

Siesta time beachside. As I enjoyed a rest between sessions, a middle-aged Texan, as loud as he was irritating, tried to sell me ecstasy in the desolate grassy camp. I brushed off this madcap and resumed my catnap. My dog did not like him and let out a low growl. He threatened my dog’s life and disappeared into the heat. One day, the jaded Texas tourist will get his. So I simply watched the ocean and waited for the breeze.

The life of a traveler is a simple life. It’s a good life. While moving from place to place, you have few priorities: keep your things safe, spend your money frugally, see how long you can go, and surf as much as you can. Live an interesting life while owning as little as possible. Some may say its the easy life, but it’s not the life for everyone.

IMG_3622

Afro-Mexico

IMG_3914

So we decided to drive to Punta Maldonado, in Guerrero, Mexico. It’s only steps from the Oaxaca border. Punta Maldonado is an old African settlement on the South coast of Mexico, most of the decedents are derived from escaped African slaves. This area holds the record for the highest population of Afro-Mexicans in the entire country. Punta Maldonado was recommended to us by an older Canadian gent named David, who has apparently spent several years traveling around Mexico. Today Punta Maldonado remains an out of the way fishing village on a dead end road. Tourism is non existent, locals only, mostly fisherman and their families. Our caravan consisted of Sara, Lupe and I in our truck, followed by George and Rachel in their VW Vanagon.

We spent our previous days on touristy beaches, we fought for waves amongst surfers from around the globe. Although the swell was small, the crowds were not. The holidays just past, leaving the crowds still intact. All the “cool guy” surfer types still marched the beaches and lingered in the water. The “cool guy” is just an attitude. These types are all very serious, they are everywhere, aggressively fighting for a wave no matter how small the surf may be. They wont make eye contact with you because you are the enemy, the rival wave rider. You say hello to break the tension, but they usually just sneer and grind their teeth at your salutation. We decided to get away from this nonsense.

As we swiftly drove down the dead end highway, the sun was to set at any moment. We did not want to drive at night because the roads in Mexico are complete shit. Just when you think the pavement looks fresh, a piece of the road will be missing. Where does it go? its like the devil comes down with a giant spoon and launches a section of the road into the ocean. Sometimes half of an entire lane will have washed away, leaving a dried up water slide big enough for your truck to be sucked into the bowls of a Mexican canyon. These holes in the road come with no warning, no sign, no traffic cone to prevent sudden death. Sometimes there will be a rock roughly the size of a human head, painted white, only a few feet before the hole to warn its potential victims. Driving conservatively, in daylight is something to take seriously.

IMG_4162

The sun had just set when we arrived in the town. It was a typical Mexican beach strewn with panga boats and palapas. Large palapas, covering loads of plastic furniture displaying fading beer logos on their backrests. The road that ran parallel with the beach was lined up with a few open air restaurants. The village’s tienda blasted merengue music while skinny shirtless men painted in tattoos and fishing scars played cards and gambled. They eyed and sneered us up and down as we slowly rolled by. They were not used to people like us coming into their village.

At this point in our travels we did not mind the eyes and sneers. Eyes and sneers are everywhere we go, in the USA, Mexico, family dinners back home, everywhere.

IMG_4139

We were approached by some restaurant employees, almost forcing us to eat at their place. Quickly without warning they approached our crew, forcefully, they said they would make us all dinner. It was almost impossible to refuse. I wanted to make my own dinner because I’m cheap, but the rest of my party accepted the meal. I ordered what I always ordered, a whole fried fish with a side of plantains. I sucked the bones dry, and just left the spine connecting the head to the tail. When I was finished I looked at the meatless fish in the eye, and sneered.

I parked our truck on the beach while George and Rachel parked alongside the restaurant, Their van could not drive through the thick sand. Personally, I liked to be away from the lights, where I could sit on the tailgate and drink, while I watched the stars and listened to the waves. This came to be a ritual. Just starring into space not thinking about, or doing anything specific. Just drinking in the dark, alone, while Sara and Lupe the dog slept. I would take in the smells and sounds of a place I would never return to again.

IMG_4108

In the morning when we saw George and Rachel, they said their was a fire in this middle of the night at the restaurant, right next to their van. The heat and smoke woke them up. They did not know how the fire started, but it grew quick, it almost burned the whole place down. George put it out with his extinguisher and went back to bed. In the morning George explained to the restaurant owners what had happened, but they did not seem to care or acknowledge the charred debris on the side of their building. Maybe they did not know what he was trying to say. The language barrier was always an issue.

IMG_4133

Mid-morning we were approached by a fisherman, stocky with a thick neck, squinty eyes like I was shining a light in his face, his baseball cap was clean and and had a NY emblem on the front. He was probably the same age as us, mid 30’s. He spoke excellent English but had a very raspy voice. He introduced himself as Roberto, His voice sounded like he was gargling rocks. He asked us “how did you find this place, no one ever comes here.” He was friendly, he claimed he used to live somewhere in the Carolinas, USA. He then said, “My friends warned me not to talk to you. they think you are all very angry and miserable people, they said I should not talk to you.” He claimed that he told his friends to “fuck off,” and he came over out of spite and curiosity. I do not know what gave his friends this impression of us. I was simply drinking coffee on my tailgate, enjoying the sun.

IMG_4128

Roberto talked our ears off. He had stories of living in the USA, making a lot of money as some sort of private driver, a private taxi of sorts. Roberto said, “I was making so much money, over $1200 a week, cash.” not to bad for an illegal immigrant, I thought. He said he became an alcoholic and drug addict, spending all his money on cocaine. “I did so much cocaine, I spent all my money, and the cocaine messed up my throat, thats why my voice sounds like this.” Ahhh, I though, that explains that. Roberto then explained how during a New Years celebration, a week earlier, him and his friends were drunk, shooting guns in the air, celebrating. One of his drunk friends had a gun in his waistband and drunkly fell over, triggering the gun to fire, sending a fatal shot through his friends body. His friend left behind a wife and two young daughters.

Interrupting Roberto’s story, Lupe the dog bolts after a beach cat. Sending sand in the air, the cat heads straight towards an open air kitchen. The kitchen was filled with half a dozen chubby old Mexican women. They cooked with massive crusted pots over large flames. Meat, beans, broth, everything stewing, smoking. The cat jumps on the stove, diving through the flames and the food. Im frantically chasing Lupe, but my speed is no match. Im yelling, chasing my dog, causing a scene, it was a bit of a spectacle. Lupe chases the cat through the kitchen, jumping on the counter, bolting through the fire. The Mexican women are screaming waving there hands in the air. They were scared of my dog. I ran in the kitchen and grab Lupe by the collar, apologized to all the women, not making much eye contact due to the embarrassment. I dragged Lupe back to camp. We decided maybe we should hit the road sooner than later.

We spent less than 24 hours in Punta Maldonado. It was just another stop on the Pan-American highway. Although the town claims to be Afro-Mexican, the people looked more Mexican than African. Roberto looked Mexican, everything looked Mexican. Come to think of it, Im not 100% sure we were in the right place. It doesn’t really matter. It was just another day on the road.

IMG_4153

Selling your USA regestered vehicle in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

A step by step guide to selling your USA registered vehicle in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

IMG_1531

Everybody’s situation for selling a USA registered vehicle in Argentina may be different, depending on a variety of circumstances. In my specific situation: I drove my 2001 Toyota Tacoma to Argentina from the USA, then I sold my vehicle in Buenos Aires to another traveler from Germany and his girlfriend from the USA. Given these circumstances, from what I researched, this was the only way I was able to transfer my paperwork to someone else’s name. Most of this information is courtesy of Dan, from The Road Chose Me. It was posted on Wikioverland in the Argentina section. Wikioverland has been a great information source regarding Pan-Am travel, crossing the borders, etc. I highly recommend it. The entire selling process was relatively painless and stress free. The most difficult part travelers might face will be to actually find a buyer. I posted the truck for sale several months in advance on a variety of online resources, including: Craigslist (I got the most action on craigslist), Facebook travel groups, Expedition Portal, and my personal blog (Sardinetaco).

IMG_2460
The customs woman was freindly and extremely helpful.

 

1. Go to a Public Notary (Escribano Publico) and have a Power of Attorney (Poder) made authorizing the buyer to drive the vehicle in Argentina and all countries for an unlimited time period. (I found an English speaking notary where I got the power of attorney, They charged me $300 USD, Kier Joffe)

2. Go to a customs office (Google Map for downtown Buenos Aires) to cancel the current temporary import papers and have new ones made in the name of the new owner. This cost nothing.

IMG_2458
The customs office.

 

3. The new owner can now drive the vehicle in Argentina for as long as the temporary import papers allow. They can also leave and re-enter as many times as they like to get new papers, and they can drive to any other country they wish. The original owner can now legally exit Argentina. (Although, from what I concluded, there is no information in my passport that says I entered with a vehicle. I think I could have left the country via airplane without any of this new paperwork.)

4. For more info on selling your vehicle in Argentina, please visit Wikioverland Argentina.

IMG_1545
The deal is done!

 

Using this method was fairly easy, but you must remember, your vehicle is not officially sold, and you are really just giving somebody else permission, for an unlimited time, to travel with the vehicle. There is still a chance you could be held responsible (as the owner) if your vehicle is involved in criminal activity, vehicular homicide, etc. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen. I am not very comfortable with my name still attached to the vehicle, but my only other option was to ship the vehicle back to the USA, and that was out of the budget. The new drivers of the vehicle and I made a written and verbal agreement, to work together once they were in a position to sell the vehicle, including, possibly shipping it back to the states (or doing whatever means necessary to remove both our names from the vehicles history.) I put a certain amount of trust in the new drivers that these things will be considered when they are ready to end their trip and sell the vehicle. I think it’s important, if you use this method, to trust the people you are dealing with (for obvious reasons). To some this may sound like a risky deal, but then again this was a risky trip. If your not a risk taker you probably won’t go on a trip like this to begin with. The entire trip was an amazing adventure and we have no regrets with anything we have done regarding the trip, except eating the airline food on the plane ride home, yikes!…

IMG_2500
This was the last time I saw the Taco in person… Sigh…

 

Final Destination… Success…

IMG_1697
Cape Cod

 

The greatest feat of our journey was not surfing epic waves, eating delicious foreign food, or hiking to hard to reach glaciers in the Andes. In fact, the most rewarding part, was when all three of us flew into Newark, New Jersey safe and sound after 15 months of rugged travel, and seeing the face  of my smiling father when he picked us up at the airport. We set a huge goal and followed through till the end. That, my friends, feels so damn sweet, and that first jersey bagel we ate, tasted oh so good.

IMG_2518
Lupe on the plane asking for airline food.

 

Two and a half years ago we made a serious commitment to save all our money and travel. Although many of our friends and family thought we were nuts to even think about doing something so drastic, their support and skepticism were great motivators to make it happen and actually follow through. When times got tough and our tent smelled bad, we could always count on the comments and backing from our loved ones on our social media outlets. It would have been hard to do this without everyones amazing support.

IMG_1705
Breaded smelts ready for the fryer. Yumm…

 

After spending the holidays with our families, we finally reached our final destination (Cape Cod) where we will fry fresh smelts and remain until, who knows… I must admit, being able to stay in one place for a while is comforting, especially since we are minutes away from surf spots, have access to fresh food from the sea, and being able to view bayside sunsets every night. Rest assured, we do hope to go on an epic journey like this again, hopefully sooner than later. So stay tuned for our next big odyssey. Until then, we will do our best to keep telling tales from the road, and posting the progress of the building of Taco 2 (photos will be posted soon.)

IMG_2523
Taco 2… Can of worms, possibly?