Tag Archives: traveling

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 .

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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.

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Afro-Mexico

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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How to eat a 3 year old pizza…

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The expiration date on the pizza crust was more that 3 years past. I spotted the Boboli in the back of the freezer, tainted with frost and freezer burn, it looked more like the iceman. The placement between a bag of P.F. Changs stir fry and a half eaten sack of tater tots caused the pizza crust to deform. It’s shape was closer to that of a taco shell, than a pizza. The pizza crust was older than my nephew, I was unsure If I should eat it.

Once defrosted, I examined the crust, prodding it, smelling it, studying it closely. It appeared unscathed. I also found some Boboli pizza sauce in the depths of the cabinet, with a similar expiration date as the crust. They must have been purchased during the same shopping trip, over three years ago. They were a team, partners in crime, like a Bonnie and Clyde.

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When we were traveling, I was always surprised I did not get food poisoning, or even a little sick at any point. I would eat street food from most any individual, no matter how deranged the vendor or the food appeared. My stomach seems bullet proof. Now back in the states, I figured, “How bad could the expired Boboli pizza crust and sauce be.” Like Ted Williams, it’s been in a deep freeze for several years.

To top it off, I used Mexican cheese that expired two years prior, which I also found in the freezer. I’ve been eating the expired cheese all week, so that already proved safe.

Another thing I’ve learned, when eating questionable food, its a good idea to chase the food with liquor. The strong alcohol content will kill whatever bacteria lurks within your meal. So during this Boboli challenge I kept a bottle of vodka within arms reach, strictly for safety reasons.

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I sliced up some mushrooms and used them as a topping. I then accidentally overcooked the pizza, but I figured it was for the best. After sprinkling some pre-grated parmesan cheese (not expired) on top of the pie, it was finally ready to eat. I dove right in, bite bite, vodka, bite, sip of beer and so fourth.

The combination of alcohol and expired food left me feeling drunk, full (I ate the whole pie) and a tad uneasy. It was most likely placebo, from overthinking the situation. Next thing I know, its morning, Im fully clothed on the couch with the tv still on, dazed and confused, feeling like Marty McFly upon his final return back to 1985. The experiment proved successful, Im ready for the next challenge.

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South America… a short video

Our bags are packed and we’re ready to fly home today. As this trip comes to an end, and another trip is in the planning stages, we will continue to tell tales from the road. So stay tuned…

Here is a short video showcasing some of the things we encountered during our travels in South America. Without cheating, can anyone name what 80’s movie this song is from? If you enjoyed this video please share it on your feed. Thanks everyone for following…

McDonalds in Colombia Video

As some of you already know, we have a love/hate relationship with McDonalds. Although we don’t eat McDonalds back home, while traveling we have definitely taken advantage of the free internet and familiar paper cup of coffee. “Im loving’ it,” as the catch phrase goes. Sometimes its just easier.

“Im hating it,” when I walk in hungry and eat a little too much, more than I initially intended to. I exit the colorful building, hunched over and shamed. Its even hard to look in the eyes of the homeless parking attendant, but I hand him some pesos anyway. Then I would drive down the road and wonder where it all went wrong.

After visiting McDonalds on an international level, its cool to see the different food specific to each country. In Colombia you can order yucca fries while in New Mexico you can get green chile on your burger. For breakfast in Buenos Aires you will order a media luna, (Argentine croissant) and in New York you will get bagels. The little differences are nice, but the one thing they all have in common is the shame and regret you feel after eating a meal at McDonalds.

Using the Bathroom in Mexico

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The sun was freshly set when my stomach began to bubble. I felt the “plato del dia” sink low, to the dark haunting depths of my bowels, making its way to the end of the line. We have all been there. This can happen after eating 3 Brothers Pizza on the Jersey boardwalk, or even in your own home. This specific instance, while at high elevation in a Mexican forest, we were able to pull into a roadside posada during the early evening hours. Not wanting to drive at night, and desperate for a place to camp, we approached a small bundled up Mexican gent and asked for permission to camp in his lot. He was enthusiastic regarding our request, and welcomed us to camp for the night. We had been traveling Mexico via automobile for the past 3 months. This was just another day on the road.

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I strolled to the restroom just like I had done a million times before. I did not have much time to spare. The restroom was in my peripheral vision and appeared to be vacant. This was child’s play- no worries. I will mail the package, then resume my evening plans of sipping cerveza and discussing tomorrows drive to Oaxaca.

I finished my restroom meeting and reached for the flush handle. It was night time and there was no functioning light source. I pulled out my flashlight and inspected the situation, soon to realize, a flush handle did not exist. “Ok, just relax,” I thought to myself. “I can solve this riddle. I can pull the plug up from inside the tank and then be on my way.” Next, to my continued amazement, I shone my light to the depths of the tank and startled the insects inside. Not only was the tank bone dry, but there was a golf ball sized hole in the bottom where I could clearly see the grey concrete floor below.

I contemplated just leaving the scene, as is, and later warning my fellow campers to not use the “stall on the left,” but this would only prove that I am not just inconsiderate, but a complete asshole. The poor Mexican man that owned the establishment was extremely generous. He does not deserve such a gesture of disrespect from American travelers, especially those privileged enough to tour several countries over extended periods of time.

This predicament might baffle even the most “off the beaten path” traveler, but after being presented with situations such as these, numerous times, one has no choice but to educate him or herself on proper 3rd world bathroom use. This includes the ins and outs of how a toilet properly functions. One becomes an “amateur plumber,” in a way. You will soon leave these situations confident and coming out on top, literally.

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some tips:

-Bring your own toilet paper: Toilet paper is usually absent from both public and private bathrooms. On occasion,  you can purchase it on the spot, but it is always a good Idea to keep a roll handy when traveling. There is no guarantee that a given location will have some to sell, and exiting a bathroom with only one sock or sleeve will make you an easy target for possible humiliation.

-Keep spare change handy: Often times you will need to pay to use the restroom. It is never much, but it is indeed a reality.  Also note that having to break a 100 peso bill might prove difficult for some establishments, not to mention the lack of enthusiasm from the attendant to finish the transaction quickly. In this situation time could be your worst enemy.

-Toilets missing water tanks are still functional: When presented with this predicament, you can flush the toilet by pouring a bucket of water in the actual bowl, or in the hole where the tank once lived. Most likely there will be a giant drum of water outside the bathroom with a smaller scooping bucket for doing this.

-No toilet seats are common: In this situation, one may develop his or her own methods to cope with the inadequacy. You can do “the hover”, which can be tough on the thigh muscles. There is also “the one-cheek lean”, which people have mixed feelings about, but after a quick bowl rim cleaning this might prove to be sufficient.

-Do not flush toilet paper: The plumbing in most countries South of the border can not handle toilet paper. There will be a receptacle usually within arms reach. In the rare case the receptacle is absent, you can either throw it in the corner, or take it with you and find a trash can. But do not flush, because clogging a toilet can prove to be  not only embarrassing, but also a messy job to clean up.

Sometimes one needs to step out of their comfort zone and see what’s around the corner (no matter how dark it may be). You might have to sacrifice luxury in order to get a unique travel experience. Roughing it proves necessary in order to get things done when things get rustic. And to conclude the story above: I managed to find a large drum of water outside the restroom. After using the “pouring water in the bowl method” I was on my way.

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Photos of the Buenos Aires Streets

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Wandering aimlessly around Buenos Aires you might come across a nicknack strewn mercado, Che Guevara merch, doll heads, and old buildings plastered with graffiti. When you want to take a break from that, there are plenty of museums to peep, or just enter one of the several salami shops and gaze at the selection. Theres nothing like relaxing in a grassy well manicured park, cutting up salami and bread after a day of street walking.