Tuesday, January 26, 2016

It's our one year anniversary!

It's unbelievable to us, that it has already been 365 days since we slipped away from San Diego at 3am, watching America's Finest City lights fade away into the dark. Sometimes it feels like it was years ago, and sometimes it feels like it was yesterday.

One of the toughest and most liberating lessons of cruising is that there is no room for itineraries, plans or schedules. These were all things that our previous lives hinged on before we set sail. Before we left we wrote down in one of our journals our guesses as to where we'd be celebrating birthdays. Cabo by the end of January?  We didn't make Cabo till the end of February. Costa Rica was where I had hoped to turn 40 last March. Wrong again. Emma was to bring in her first double-digit birthday in Panama and Jess was planning to celebrate 12 in Colombia. Hilarious! We clearly did not have a clue.

One thing is certain, the four of us are not the same people that left on this adventure a year ago.

Each of us has changed individually and we have also become a much more cohesive group. Cruising forces us to deal with problems as they occur, fosters resourcefulness and hones our problem-solving skills. Our girls are much more confident in their abilities and more self-reliant. When we first started out, we noticed that "cruising kids" were different from other kids in that they engage with adults well, make friends fast, and are independent and confident. Now we are seeing these traits in both of our girls and it has been fun to watch them grow and mature in this environment. In a previous life Phil and I would work independently of each other to make everything else "work", now it's a collaboration on a daily basis, something that wasn't easy at first.

Sometimes we think of our "old life" and it seems very foreign to both Phil and I. We are so much happier with less. And it's not just living with less, it's a simpler life altogether. We have also completely fallen in love with Mexico. There is no "keeping up with the Jones's" here and the locals are more focused on family and community than materialism, fashion and consumerism. It is going to be very hard for us to leave, eventually.

Cheers to a fantastic year! Here are some fun facts from the last 365 days and a few of our favorite photos from the past year.

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Terrapin Tribe
San Miguel De Allende

  • 365 of adventure
  • 8 months of sailing aboard Terrapin
  • 4300 nautical miles of sailing, in only Mexico
  • 5 pairs of sunglasses either lost or broken
  • 3 teeth less; 2 were baby teeth and one was extracted by a Mexican dentist
  • We have visited 16 of Mexico's 31 states
  • We have yet to use an entire gallon of sunscreen
  • One case of salmonella
  • For 33 days we lived in Mexico on expired visas
  • There have been too many tacos eaten to count
  • Boat, sail and dinghy repairs have cost us less than $1,000 USD
  • Roof dogs, roosters, fireworks and church bells are all things we can sleep through

  • Hottest day was 115 degrees
  • Lowest exchange rate from USD to peso was 15.02
  • We have entered Mexico by boat, car and plane
  • In both Mexico and Guatemala, Victoria is the best tasting beer
  • We have seen 4 large, dead floating turtles
  • We've met 5 other Grateful Dead boats; Dark Star, Eyes of the World, Cassidy, Jack-a-Roe, Stella Blue
  • Countless new friendships have been made for which we are appreciative
    Courtesy Flags
  • 2 courtesy flags blown out. Guess we need a new one!
  • One dinghy bit the dust

Sea of Cortez

Pacaya Volcano in Guatemala

  • According to Jessica's "Fish Talley" we have caught 56 fish, by pole, handline or spear

San Blas  

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Antigua....you stole our hearts.

We made it home from Antigua despite the airport having been closed due to Volcano Fuego erupting. I have to give an unsolicited 3 cheers to Aeromexico. We were pleasantly surprised by their plush leather seats, edible food, and free booze..heck, the planes even still had a "new plane smell".

The hardest part of navigating Antigua was trying to calculate what we were spending. Just as I thought I had figured out the cost, I was wrong. I kept figuring out costs in pesos, not quetzals, which is a huge difference when one US dollar buys you 18 pesos but only 7 quetzals.

Yes, I know Antigua is a tourist city and should cost more, but still...we lived in San Miguel De Allende all summer and it wasn't nearly as expensive. When purchasing something, the denomination was always correct.... 15 for a beer, 30 for a meal, but with the different currency and exchange rate our trip was a bit more expensive than anticipated. 

If we had done things differently, I think we would have split our trip (and possibly added some days) between Antigua and Quetzaltenango. We didn't need so much time in one spot and it would have been nice to see a town less "touristy". Maybe next time. 

Fantastic rooftop view from the Cafe Sky

My kids didn't even notice this fountain ( I guess most tourist giggle at it).  Apparently our girls have gotten used to living in the tropic on a boat with a topless mom who's trying not to sweat to death. Another day, another boob.

View of Antigua from Cerro de la Cruz

If you go....

You must hike up to Cerro de la Cruz for a view!

If you're like us, you like cheap, cold beer. In Mexico, it's a daily occurrence to find beer under $1, not so much in Antigua. The cheapest beer we found was during happy hour at Frank and Fre for roughly $1.30. Not only do they offer cheap beer, it's also a hostel complete with a rooftop bar.

Looking for a rooftop bar with a sunset view? Check out Cafe Sky and head straight up towards the roof. Just kitty corner to Frank and Fre, Cafe Sky doesn't have the cheapest beers in town, but their rooftop bar/restaurant offers a better view. 

Speaking of beer (starting to sense a theme?) who doesn't LOVE an Irish Pub? Reilly's is a great place in the middle of town with drink specials till 7pm.  Confused by all the beer suggestions? You must be new to the blog, welcome. We love beer... hell, we even beg for it...check out the Buy us a Beer button at the top of our blog.

What made our trip extra special was staying with a host family. As with everywhere we've stayed (besides our boat) during the past year, when searching for fun, funky or authentic places to stay we use airbnb.com.  You too can stay in a comfortable house with 3 homemade meals a day for $60 USD a night.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

"Sleeping" atop a volcano

Sitting in the lobby of the expedition group we had hired for our overnight adventure atop a volcano, Phil spotted a t-shirts they were selling with the saying, "Pacaya is for pussies" splashed across the front.

Phil shot me a look of disappointment and grumbled, "oh great". 

How quick a 40 year old man with a shattered ankle is to forget he's no longer an invincible 20-something, leading backpacking trips up the sides of glaciers. 

I assured Phil, yet again, that I had done proper research and that our overnight adventure on the Pacaya volcano was going to be perfect.

Our van showed up and we drove an hour and a half to the base of the volcano where we started our ascent. Stopping along the way for needed breaks and moments of education about the area, we finally made it to camp about 2 hours later.

While one guide was to get our camp set up and begin cooking dinner the other offered to take us to roast marshmallows over volcano hot spots. What we hadn't realized, was that the hike to roast marshmallows was going to take 40 minutes each way and that we'd be returning in the dark. Only changing a few top layers we took off with Carlos to roast marshmallows.

Midway between our hike to the hot spot Emma had asked me, " At what temperature does someone get hypothermia? " I said I didn't know, but assured her she was far from hypothermia.

On the way to finding our hot spots we stopped to watch the sunset that was botched by the amount of clouds starting to fill the sky. As soon as the sun did set, the temperature began to drop, the wind began to howl and the clouds were moving in all around us. Soon we were surrounded by a deep fog.

Once we reached the hot spot, Carlos showed us his marshmallow roasting techniques. After 20 minutes of eating marshmallows and cookies it was time to hike back for dinner....in the dark, minus a few headlamps.

Back at base camp, we put on most of our clothing and quickly ate dinner so we could return to the tent and escape the blistering wind. It wasn't but 8pm and we were all tucked into our sleeping bags for the night.

Emma wakes up and needs to go potty. As she opens the tent an Arctic blast pushes through the door and the wind is whipping the sides of the tent. After going potty, she returns to her sleeping bag and tries to sleep.

9:05pm "Mom, I'm shivering and can't stop" I reached over and rubbed her back to get her warm. "Are you cold?" I asked. "No, just can't stop shaking"

9:11pm "I have to go pee again, I guess I have a small bladder" She leaves the tent again, back out into the frigid air and then returns.

9:18pm "I'm shaking all over my body and it won't stop. I think I have to use the restroom again." I put my legs over her to warm her up and could feel her shaking.

After a minute, I turned over to Phil and informed him, that Emma couldn't stop going to the bathroom and was shaking. Previous years of having been both an E.M.T. and Wilderness E.M.T. we're about to pay off.

"She's hypothermic! Get her down to one layer and move her into my sleeping bag with me."

Emma couldn't get her body warm on her own and needed to contract heat from someone else.

9:30pm While stuffed in Phil's sleeping bag, "I have to pee again". Opening up the tent door with the cold air screaming through the tent, Phil took Emma potty.

Sensing Emma would soon be dehydrated from the constant potty breaks, he made her drink water. A symptom of hypothermia is cold diuresis..basically, her kidneys were working to keep her blood pressure low and reduce the volume her body was trying to keep warm, hence the constant urination.

9:45pm " I have to pee........again". Phil took Emma out of the tent......again.

Coming back into the tent, Phil asked that Emma do her best to resist the urge to pee. Back and forth into the Artic blast wasn't helping her condition.

10:05pm "My skin is hurting......feels like its burning".

Success! Emma was getting warm. Unfortunately as your body warms after hypothermia, it hurts. After another 2 hours, Phil crawled out of the sleeping bag allowing Emma to stay warm and snug. Within 10 minutes she was sleeping. We placed Emma between us, taking turns, keeping a watchful eye on her in between watching the tent attempt to collapse on itself with the 40 mile an hour gusts.

6am We were woken up by an explosion and felt the ground rumble! Miles away volcano Fuego was erupting.

Oh yeah...during the entire hypothermia ordeal, there was another couple in our 6 person tent! I can only imagine how much they were hating us during the whole experience. I passed on offering them a boat card with our blog address, I'm sure they had seen enough of the four of us!

 During breakfast the wind still blew and the clouds did their best to clear...with no real success. While hiking around for a few good photos we could see smoke coming out of Fuego from the early eruption. After an hour or so we packed it up and went home.

All said and done we had a good time and we're happy to have done the trip, even Emma.

Some of Pacaya's hot spots.

Carlos and his toasted marshmallow

Waking up all smiles

Good morning!
Pacaya volcano

Cold Morning

Volcano Fuego blowing black smoke in the distance.
Ready to hike down and get warm.

Close up of volcano Fuego driving home

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Chicken bus madness to roads less traveled.

Some time in the last year, the girls had asked if they'd ever be privileged enough to ride an American school bus. Having riden school buses (aka 'the cheese box') most of my school life,  I assured them that they weren't going to be missing anything other than feeling trapped on a moving vesel with insufficient air to properly breathe amung preteen boy flagellants. 

As of this weekend, our girls are 'one up' on any child who's riden the school bus. In the life of a school bus, you're lucky if you end up in Guatemala covered in bright paint, hauling locals and a portion of their belongings through the stunning countryside. 

Needing a break from what has been a surprisingly expensive trip, we headed out on chicken buses the last two days with no real destination. Hearing that this particular form of transportation can be dangerous, we've limited how far we're wiling to travel in an effort to see 'the real Guatemala'. Both days we've asked a local how far we could travel in about 20-25 minutes and then boarded a bus. 

Today after getting settled in our seats, a man boarded our bus who must have gotten the crap beat out of him last night. Poor guy had an eggplant for an eye and had yet to change his shirt covered in blood. One look at him and Jess was begging to not ride the bus...she was convinced everyone was right and this was too dangerous a feat for us.

After 25 minutes bouncing around the countryside, we made it to a local pueblo and began searching for what seemed interesting. Interesting to us, is what most would consider, 'the wrong way' or something that looks 'dangerous'. We ventured off on dirt roads and found ourselves amung banana trees, coffee plants and locals. One's reward for traveling isn't staying in the touristy towns paying 5 times the worth of everything.... it's venturing out where the locals are surpsied you've made it!

Tomorrow's agenda? Oh you know, hiking up the side of a volcano and then pitching a tent for the night once we make it to the top. 

Trying not to trade paint with a passing chicken bus.

Emma's trying to pretend she doesn't see the neighbor clearing his field with a machete

Coffee beans

Most Guatemalan women wear braids.

Home sweet home.