For the second time: I arrived to Peru, began planning my trip to Cusco, and--suddenly--had to make an emergency trip back to the States. This time, it's not for a work trip to India--it's because my employment has abruptly come to an end.
ho·bo / ˈhō-(ˌ)bō / (n.) a migratory worker
After my weekend trip to Foz do Iguaçu, I arrived to Lima to discover that my department's Director, myself, and many of my colleagues had been laid off. While it was a total surprise, I'm thinking positive. Though I can't call myself a hobo anymore, I can now be free to wander as a proper vagrant.
va·grant / ˈvā-grnt / (n.) one who has no established residence and wanders from place to place without visible means of support
I've had many projects (including this blog) that I've wanted to dedicate more time to, and now I should have ample time to complete. I've had to scrap my plans for Cusco once again, but I'll be back to Peru. And--next time--likely with a bicycle. I haven't been on a proper (>1 month) bicycle tour since I started working full-time, and I think such an adventure (and new blog!) are due in the coming months 🙂
A couple of weeks ago, I found myself on an unfamiliar bicycle--winding through cars on the streets of São Paulo, Brazil. As we went over a narrow bridge, my couch surfing host shouted back at me, "watch out for the motorcycles!" They were splitting the lanes too, and a force to be avoided.
I arrived to Southern Brazil after Argentina and Uruguay. After a couple weeks in Buenos Aires, I hopped a bus up to Montevideo, Uruguay--where I spent a week. As quickly as I fell in love with the people, the culture, the herbs, and the Fainá, I was off NB again. I had 2 days to bus 2,000 km up to Rio de Janeiro. There was no bus that went the entire distance, and bus companies in Brazil require Brazilian IDs to purchase tickets online. So I bought a ticket to Pelotas and crossed my fingers. When I arrived, the bus to Rio was sold-out, but I just bought a ticket North, and--after a few transfers--I reached a station in Florianópolis with a straight-shot to Rio.
It was a bit intimidating stepping onto the street out of the bus station when I finally arrived (well, after chasing down my bus--banging on the side to let me re-board; I had forgotten my jacket in the seat pocket). Brazil, and Rio especially, is known for both violent crimes and petty theft--both on behalf of the poor and the police. This is a country with vast resources--one of the most powerful emerging economies in the world--yet there is still massive class disparity and corruption. In fact, the streets were still tagged with spraypaint condemning the political coup 5 months earlier that saw the ousting of Dilma Rousseff (from the Workers' Party).
After a week in Buenos Aires, my injuries sustained by 10 days of backpacking in Patagonia have mostly healed. I initially only intended the 123 km circut at Torres del Paine National Park in Southern Chile to take 7 days, but complications with rangers, a blizzard, and increasing pain in my ankles, feet, and--worst of all--my knees slowed my journey; fortunately I over-packed food.
my only ticket or reservation included this one-way plane ticket from Santiago de Chile to Punta Arenas--the furthest south I've ever been.
After 3 weeks in Santiago de Chile, with a brief weekend visit to Valpariso and Maintencillo to visit friends, I woke on Saturday--the first day of my 2 week vacation--at 05:30 to catch a plane to Punta Arenas. I had a rough sketch of plans from the time my plane arrived in this southern Chilean town until the time I was to arrive in Buenos Aires 2 weeks later, but my only ticket or reservation included this one-way plane ticket from Santiago de Chile to Punta Arenas--the furthest south I've ever been.
I arrived to the airport with a overly-stuffed backpack full of instant, no-heat, vegan, dehydrated trail food (couscous, instant potatoes, raisins, mixed nuts, tortillas, peanut butter, oil, and various soup & spice packets). My pack was bulging with two gigantic ever-running holes on the critical sides along the main zipper. My couchsurfing host amazingly had a half meter of webbing to give me just before graciously driving me to the airport, but I hadn't time to sew my pack before the flight. I hastily pulled out my ~50ft of paracord, and tightly bound the pack with the entire length. I waited in line with all the other backpackers headed for Patagonia, sacrificed a lighter to the airport security, and boarded my plane.
After my arrival to the Punta Arenas airport, I searched for a bus to get to Puerta Natales--the gateway town a short 3 hour bus ride from the Torres Del Paine National Park. The information desk told me the inter-city busses picked up at the airport, but required tickets purchased in advance. I awaited one of these busses a few hours later, standing in a line with backpackers more prepared than I. When a bus arrived and my neighbors presented their pre-printed tickets, I asked the bus driver in my broken spanish if I could pay for the ride now. There was no issue; I was told to get on the bus. Moreover, I somehow blended-in with the group, as the ticket man walking up & down the isle demanding ticket proof never approached me.
After a sleepy ride on the bus with more comfortable chairs than the plane, we arrived to Puerto Natales' main bus station. I previously searched for the cheapest hostel online, and walked there with my fingers crossed. They had a 13.000 CLP bed in a mixed dorm, and offered cheap luggage store during the trek for 1.000 CLP. I separated my items, leaving my electronics and some superfluous clothes & toiletries behind. I spent the rest of the night sewing long patches of webbing to pack's critical rips. I ate dinner and went to bed early.
The next morning, I had a fast breakfast, grabbed my webbing-patched pack, and was on the bus to Torres Del Paine by 07:30. The scenery was mostly the same--Patagonia is mostly large, empty fields with cows--with only the occasional mountains & glaciers, to which I intended to immerse myself in shortly.
we had to ford a river...I stubbornly didn't want to remove my boots, so I decided to jump...While I was able to jump to the sandbar without issue, I did so immediately after I had thrown my backpack directly into the water
We arrived, stood in line, paid for entry, and watched a bilingual video about the rules of the park. Their biggest concern was wild fires, as careless tourists from Czech Republic & Israel have tragically burned down nearly 500,000 hectares in 1985, 2005, and 2011. Personally, I didn't even have a stove. Everything I had could be rehydrated cold--though I would never do this again where the water source is glacier melt and the temperature is regularly less than 10 degrees!
In 2 months, I took the train from Ottawa, Ontario to Halifax, Nova Scotia. I stopped in Ottawa, Montreal, and Moncton between. After I crossed the border into the US on a bus from Montreal, I arrived back in New York City's Penn Station at 04:00 AM. I assembled my bike, and I rode through Manhattan to Brooklyn--crossing the East River over the Manhattan Bridge.
I stayed in Brooklyn for a week, then caught the Greyhound to Miami--stopping for a week each in Asheville, Atlanta, and Orlando to visit friends & family.
Next week, I board a plane back to Chile. This winter holiday, I take my long-awaited journey to the south of Chile in Patagonia!
After a month in Vancouver, I rode the train to Edmonton, bussed to Calgary, hitch-hiked to BANFF, and then hit the rails again to Toronto & Ottawa. I'll be here in Ottawa for a week, then I take the rails up to Montreal, Qubec, and Halifax.
Vancouver & BANFF have been the highlight of my Canadian journey so-far.
If you can manage to find free rent in Vancouver (it's legal to erect an overnight tent on public property in all of British Colombia, per BC Supreme Court), you will find it to be a very cheap place to travel. The city's cycling, beaches, people, discount fruit, free events, and near-by hiking are great. For a $30 bus, you can take touring bike & all your gear up to Whistler, and ride the 120km Sea-to-Summit highway in reverse, descending the 600m from mountains to the sea, which is a beautiful & easy 2-day ride--but don't forget the bear spray.
We awoke to the sound of a marmot under our mini-van shelter atop Hatcher Pass. It was my last weekend in Alaska, and S wanted to take me outside the Anchorage bowl--where I've been living the past month. We ate breakfast as we gazed upon the snow-capped mountains in the distance, then grabbed our packs and climbed up to the ridgeline, stopping to appreciate the fine view of Mount Denali--the highest peak in North America.
I hosted S as a couchsurfer in my temporary "apartment" in Anchorage, but we initially met in an online form; we were both searching for a travel companion to split the cost on a ship from Anchorage, AK to Vancouver, BC.
3 months ago, S left her office job in Zürich, flew to Vancouver, and bought a mini-van named Bourbon. Living in Bourbon, she drove through BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, the Yukon, and west into Alaska. I hosted her a few times when she passed south through Anchorage down to Homer, then again West to Valdez. Our last weekend in Alaska, we took one last trip outside Anchorage before she sold Bourbon
After climbing down from the ridgeline above Hatcher's Pass, we drove through the valley down a long gravel road to the Reed Lakes trailhead. 4 miles and much climbing later, we arrived at the most pristine, glacier-fed lake I've ever seen. A local told us it's the best lake in Alaska, and that the glacier that fed this lake (just over the ridgleine) was called "bomber glacier", as a crashlanded (world war 2?) bomber plane could be found atop the glacier. If we had more time, gear, and food, it would make a glorious multi-day weekend hike to Bomber Glacier--perhaps for my next visit to Alaska.
I've been in Seattle for nearly 3 weeks. On Saturday, I'll pack my bicycle in a box and fly the furthest north I've ever been--to Alaska.
After I left Dexter, I took a 4 hour train north to it's big sister city: Portland. From San Francisco to Eugene, Portland to Seattle, and--soon--Vancouver, there's pretty much one dominating theme: homelessness & gentrification.
In Portland there's a joke that you don't meet anyone actually from Portland anymore. And it's true. I met folks born in Portland only in Eugene & Seattle, and they had a wealth of knowledge to share.
From the half-dozen cranes stacking gross luxury apartment complexes in Portland's Pearl District to a new-age/city-integrated sprawl of Amazon's office towers that blight Capitol Hill in Seattle, big tech companies have drastically changed these cities. And if you pack a bowl at the ever-growing tent cities that form in clusters under nearly every bridge in these Pacific Northwest cities, you'll learn how these "developments" aren't helping its people.
I never saw someone sitting in a public space tied-off, needle-in-arm, searching for their vein on the metro in Santiago (as I did in San Franciso's Civic Center BART station).
I just spent 2 weeks living in an intentional community in the forest ~20 miles outside Eugene, OR. This is my first time in Oregon. My-oh-my, is it beautiful! Just a bit cold & wet for my tastes (welcome to the Pacific Northwest!). I give massive cred to the crusties living on the streets here. How do they ever dry their clothes?
I spent a wonderful week with a new friend in Sacramento. I was surprised how much I enjoyed Sacramento. The weather was great, the dumpsters were full of gifts (two unopened 4-packs of Pilsner Urquell?!?), and the streets were easy to navigate by bicycle. Coworking offices were pretty ridiculous ($192/day are you mad?!?), but fortunately I was able to work from home.
I was just finishing dinner, planning to see a friend play a folk punk show in Sac when my friend in Eugene asked what time I'd arrive tomorrow. Looks like my calendar was off-by-one day; my train leaves in a few hours. Whoops! I made a call to a friend, packed my stuff, rode-off to amtrak, and quickly boxed my bicycle. When I awoke on the train the next morning, I was crossing a gorgeous lake via causeway with snow-capped mountains in the distance. Everything was green, and--as we climbed in elevation through the cascades--there was snow on the ground.
I've been living with my friend in the SF Bay Area for the past month. I'm writing this from a cozy, finished room in the corner of a large, leaky warehouse hosting a datacenter and massive library of books in Richmond, CA. The building is owned by a nonprofit library that digitizes books and makes them available online, and my friend has become something of its caretaker while in school.
Last weekend, on my friend's Spring Break, I went on my first bicycle tour in over a year. From the Bay Area, we took a train down to San Luis Obispo, and started riding ~300 miles along highway 1, through Big Sur, back to San Francisco. It was a trying journey--both physically & emotionally, but also really really really beautiful. And I needed the Vitamin D. But I could have been spared the Poison Oak and sunburn...
The SF Bay Area is always a great place to be. It was great to spend time with Friends & Family I hadn't seen since I moved from Berkeley to travel the world over a year ago. I'd like to stay longer, but there's still so much of the world to see. The weather is getting warmer, and Canada is calling!
Saturday morning I plan to wake up at the crack of dawn, load up my bicycle, and ride ~80 miles to Sacramento before Sunday evening. I'll spend a week staying with a new friend in Sacramento, then I'll be going up to Eugene, where I'll be staying with a friend at the Lost Valley Eco Village.
My 46-hour train ride from New Orleans (through Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, & California) finally arrives at Union Station LAX at 06:00.
I paid my respects to Mahatma Gandhi whoose ashes...are located in a sarcophagus in Santa Monica.
After spending an hour wandering through the massive station, I finally find my bicycle behind an Amtrak employees-only locked door. I present my luggage claim ticket, slide my bicycle out of the box, reassemble it, and load my panniers on. By 07:00, the February sun is high & warm in LA, and I'm happily rolling through the streets. I don't bother to check a map. I'm headed to Santa Monica; a compass indicating "west" is all I need.
After passing through chinatown, I wheel into the first grocery store I find for breakfast, which turns out to be in Echo Park. This is home to PETA's headquarters, where one of my college friends lives & works. We meet for tea, catch up, hit up a couple thrift stores, and I head back down hill.
I biked through Hollywood. This reminds me of Times Square, but it was interesting to see. Then I rode through Beverly Hills. And finally, Santa Monica.
LA is a massive city. Even though it was down-hill, it took me far longer than expected. It was a fun ride, and my friends were relieved when I showed up (mostly) unscathed. I took a long-needed shower, and enjoyed a bowl of their delicious vegan curry 😀
The following weekend I paid my respects to Mahatma Gandhi whoose ashes--little known fact--are located in a sarcophagus in Santa Monic