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Friday 22nd December 2006

Christmas in Australia

Well I've been back in Australia for almost a week now. My parents and sister met me at the airport in Sydney last Sunday holding "Welcome Home Dan" signs .. quite embarrassing .. hahaha. We went to my sisters house in Glebe for lunch and the first thing I did was order a pie ... loved it, missed those badboys.

So after 2 years running amok overseas I am now back at my parents house in sleepy Soldiers Point (near Newcastle and 3 hours North of Sydney) and having to inform them off what time I'll be home etc. Funny stuff. I've had a pretty quiet week as I was pretty jetlagged and burnt out but still managed to go surfing a couple of times and catch up with a few local mates.

My next mission is to find a job and work out where I am going to live. There's plenty of work out there so shouldn't be a problem.

So no more exciting adventures from me for a while

Merry Xmas and Happy New Year!!

Photos from Central America are here:
http://www.danscapers.com/gallery/CentralAmerica


Friday 15th December 2006

Lost in Translation

After an epic 14 hour flight from New York I arrived in Tokyo quite exhausted. With the help of a very friendly Japanese business man I found my way to the hostel in Asakusa.

Jetlagg ensured that I was awake by the crack of dawn each day which created plenty of time for sightseeing. The first day I teamed up with a Norwegian bloke that I met at the hostel and together we hit the streets of Tokyo. We checked out some cool parts of town including the business district, red light district and nightclub district and had a good feed in one of the back streets. Every major intersection is as busy and a lit up with advertising as Times Square in New York, it's crazy. In my opinion Tokyo is like a cleaner more efficient version of New York. It is ridiculously clean and the people are so friendly! The subway system is a bit of a jungle ... just when I thought I had it mastered I would end up going the totally wrong way on a line or catch an express train which skipped the station I wanted.

The food is great. You've got all your usual sushi stuff but most restaurants serve more the rice, noodles and meat sort of meals. The Terryaki chicken was phenomenal. I ate some locusts and whale which was cool!

The remaining few days I hit the streets by myself and explored the Goth area and the electronics district which was amazing. I went to a 7 story electronics store which was awesome, so much technology! The mobile phones here are awesome,  full on broadband with huge wide screens! I also went to the Sony building and checked out the latest gadgets ... engineer's paradise .. hahaha

Friday night came around and I was keen to check out the nightlife as everyone said it is a "must see". I tried to round up a wingman at the hostel but luck wasn't on my side so I hit the subway and did a solo mission to the night club district, Ropongi. It was always going to be a big night as the subway shuts down between midnight and 5am. I met some blokes on the street and the 3 of us went to a huge nightclub called Gas Panick. It was pretty damn awesome and the Japanese people sure do know how to party. I noticed that alot of the Western men were really sleazy with the Japanese women which wasn't cricket! I fell asleep on the train on the way home and woke up at 8am somewhere in rural Japan ... farms and cows (OOC), I was totally on the wrong line and it took me 3 hours to get back to the hostel where I had to check out (by 11am) and then make my way to the airport for the flight home! Epic times!

Tokyo Photos here:
http://www.danscapers.com/gallery/JourneyHome


Monday 11th December 2006

US of friggin A

After a stopover in Miami where I felt like I was still in Central America due to the Spanish speaking influence, a few grillings by US Immigration (they are so strict now) and a couple of bag searches I arrived at Philadelphia airport. Kate picked me up which was really nice and we drove into town and had some beers with another friend Mandy. It was damn freezing, quite the culture shock after 3 months in tropical Central America

I spent the next few days chilling at Kate's house near Harrisburg. It was great to catch up with Kate again and see all the hard work she has done on her house. The polished floors looked fabulous! Caught up with a few other friends and went to Kate's work Xmas party which was fun!

On the Friday we drove to Princeton, New Jersey and from there caught a train to New York City as I was flying out from JFK on the Monday. We checked into a cool hostel 20m from Times Square but unfortunately it was booked out on the Sat night so we had to move to another one on Saturday. New York was also damn cold but it is a really beautiful city with all the Xmas decorations around. On the Saturday we scored some free tickets through the hostel to a free play called "How to save the world and find true love in 90 minutes", it was really good and quite funny!

That night we met up with one of Kate's friends and had some drinks with her friends. I wasn't a big fan of the $7.50US beers and couldn't really contribute to the discussions about the Dow Jones ... damn investment bankers!

On the Sunday we walked around Central Park which was nice then I farewelled Kate at the train station and headed back to the hostel. Early start on Monday morning for my flight to Tokyo!

Photos here:
http://www.danscapers.com/gallery/JourneyHome


Monday 4th December 2006

Costa Rica

Due to celebrations the night before my bus ride to San Jose, Costa Rica wasn't one of my finest memories from Central America. I was now travelling solo as Frank had decided to chill in San Juan a bit longer but I had to be in San Jose for my flight on Monday! The border crossing into Costa Rica was a total nightmare, it was just totally disorganised and took us about 3 hours to get clearance. Fortunately there were a few familiar faces on the bus so I had people to talk to. I even talked to a few locals in hungover Spanglish which was fun.

I arrived in San Jose at about midnight and did everything that I was told not to .. ie I hopped into a Taxi without Taxi markings and without a meter ... it was a nervous cab ride to the hostel but everything worked out fine and I made it safely. The hostel was very modern and clean and even had a pool which was much needed. I really liked San Jose, it was very modern, quite Americanised and the only Central American Capital city where I didn't feel like I was going to be mugged and murdered. Unfortunately my time in CR was limited to only a couple of days so I didn't get to explore any other areas. Before I knew it I was on a flight to the US of A!


Saturday 2nd December 2006

Nicaragua

To be honest if you'd asked me 6 months ago where Nicaragua was I probably would have replied "somewhere in Africa" ... but No, it's smack bang in Central America between Honduras and Costa Rica. It's the largest country in Central America and also the poorest but probably has the friendliest people. It has a huge lake called Lago de Nicaragua.

The Honduras-Nicaragua border was as chaotic and disorganised as we've come to expect and as usual we waited for a couple of hours while the customs officers examined our passports. It was a slightly different procedure to other border crossings, this time everyone on the bus (some more reluctantly than others) handed their passports to the bus driver along with $5US (not sure if it was a bribe or a fee) and he then passed them on to the officials ... whatever works right.

We met a bunch of Poms on a tour group (Toucan Tours) who were headed to the same town as us so the group of us ended up in Leon together! We had heard great things about Leon and The Big Foot hostel had been recommended to us on many occasions and it didn't disappoint. It is run by and Aussie bloke called Darren and he's a total legend and so full of energy! He really has created a special place with that hostel! Leon is a small Colonial town and there is not a great deal to do so we tested a few Nicaraguan beers and just soaked up the atmosphere. We visited our first cultural venue, an Art gallery which was cool!

Next on the agenda was Granada which was only a couple of hours away by bus with a quick change in the capital Managua. Granada was another colonial town so we only stayed a night before catching a ferry to the Island of Ometepe. The ferry took about 4 hours (damn big lake) and we arrived on the island in darkness. We departed the ferry and were greeted by the usual entourage of cab drivers yelling at you in Spanish in a hope to win your business ... that's all I needed after a peaceful 4  hours on a ferry. The island wasn't very impressive at all, it was very poor and run down and the houses didn't seem to have any doors or windows in them. The hostel was just as bad, I slept on a mouldy mattress and the pillow was just too nasty to describe. To top things off, the hostel was full of weirdos including the old American dude that would start drinking at breakfast time and spend the day abusing the people in the bar including me and Frank. I wanted to smack him one! We spent the next day climbing the Volcano (Conception) which was well worth it as the views from the top were spectacular. A storm crept up on us which turned the descent into a mud slide which was fun for a little while.

We got a ferry off the island and headed to the coastal town of San Juan del Sur for some surfing. The hostel there had a cool vibe and there was heaps of cool people so we spent the next few days surfing and the nights drinking with our new mates. We hung out with a bunch of crazy Swedish blokes who ensured that there was never a dull moment! The surf beach was about 30 mins North so each morning we would pile onto the back of a truck and head out on the dusty road and spend the day amongst the waves. The surf quality was amazing, consistent 4-6ft sets and the water temp was 28C which meant you could stay out all day ... awesome times!

Friday 1st of December signified Frank and my last night together and the last few days of my travels in Central America. We celebrated in style with the Swedish blokes and the $4 Fleur de Cana Rum ensured that I slept through my 5:30am alarm (apparently everyone in the hostel heard it except for me) and had to catch the late bus to Costa Rica. It's all coming to an end ... :(

Photos from Nica:
http://www.danscapers.com/gallery/Nicaragua


Saturday 18th November 2006

Honduras = Scuba

So we made our way to Honduras from El Salvador. We stopped in the Colonial town of Santa Rosa de Copan for a couple of nights which was very chilled out and had a great little town square. There wasn't much to do so we just chillaxed and caught up on some sleep.

Spent a couple of days on buses and eventually made it to the East (Caribbean) Coast and caught a ferry to the Island of Utila where I am now. Utila is all about Scuba Diving and that's why we are here. It's a backpackers Scuba paradise and one of the cheapest places in the world to get certified! So far I've done 9 dives and have completed the Open Water and Advanced Open Water courses. I'm now fully certified and have 4 fun dives left before leaving on Tuesday. Scuba Diving is an intensely exhausting activity ... I've been constantly craving water, food and sleep since I've been here .... damn good fun though. Highlights include the night dive where we saw a huge barracuda and an incandescent blue octopus and a wreck dive were we penetrated a sunken transport ship. This morning we did our deep dive where we went down to 100ft and had to assemble a Mr. Potato Head (kids toy) to observe the intoxicating effects of Nitrogen Narcosis. We also saw a sea turtle, some eels and of course heaps of colourful tropical fish!

The weather turned bad for our last couple of days on Utila and the ferry was not operating so we had to get a flight in a small Cesna to get off the island. From there we headed to the capital Tegucigalpa where we arrived at night (sketchy as hell) and left the next morning headed for Nicaragua.

Photos from Honduras:
http://www.danscapers.com/gallery/Honduras


Thursday 9th November 2006

El Salvador

After some "quiet" farewell drinks on Friday, a hungover climb up Volcano Pacaya on Saturday (the lava flow was extremely spectacular) and goodbyes to our host families we hit the road to El Salvador on Sunday morning! After a brief stop to change buses in the Capital Guatemala City we headed South in a rusty old coach towards the border.

The bus ride wasn´t too bad at all and the border crossing was chaotic as expected. We arrived in the capital San Salvador and caught another bus to the coastal town of la Liberdad. Darkness was descending and the streets were dodgy as hell. We hopped in the back of a ute and headed North to the El Zonte beach. It was Frank and I and a local kid in the back of the truck and during the ride the kid tried to go through Frank´s backpack with the intent of stealing stuff. We caught him in the act and Frank gave him a swift slap across the head! Little bandit!

We spent the next couple of days chilling on the beach. The surf was great so we rented some surfboards which was awesome! The surf was quite big and the waves consistently good! Awesome times!

The owner of the place we were staying at was heading to the Capital so he gave us a lift and dropped us off right at the bus terminal where we got a bus to the small town of Suchitoto. There wasn´t much action there but it had a nice town square a cool lake and friendly locals. While we were sitting in the main square planning the next day´s travels about 4 people came up and had a chat with us ... good times! We were the only tourists in sight and the locals would literally point and stare at us with loacal school girls often waving and giggling as they walked past.

Next stop .. Honduras


Friday 3rd November 2006

A Month in Antigua

Well it´s been a month since I arrived in Antigua and today was my last day of classes which means that it´s time to move on. Heading to El Salvador on Sunday!

-80 hours of Spanish Class
-13 hours of Salsa Lessons
-Too many late nights
-Too many early mornings
-Climbed 2 Volcanos
-Weekend at the beach
-Weekend at the lake
-Met heaps of people
-Made some great mates
-Awesome times!

Funny story from last night .. we were having a few beers at a bar when 2 cops rock up to the bar and start talking to the bar tender. After a minute or so the barman ducks out the back and returns with a bottle of Vodka which he gives the cops. The cop slips the bottle under his jacket and walks out ... gold! What a country!


Tuesday 31st October 2006

Mumma, Nosotros vamos a subir un volcan!

Yep that's right ... last weekend Frank, Kenny and I climbed a 4000m (13000ft) Volcano called Volcan Acatenango. It was probably one of the toughest hikes I have ever done. After a pre trip briefing on Friday night, the journey started at 5am on Saturday morning when we met up with our guides and fellow hikers. There was 10 of us in total, 2 other Aussies, a couple of Germans and Frank and Kenny.

We started the ascent at about 8am on Saturday morning. The scenery was quite spectacular and we passed through about 4 distinct types of vegetation zones as we ascended the mountain.

We stopped for lunch at a small hut about halfway up then continued the journey. The higher we got the thinner the air got and I it was really noticeable. I still had heaps of energy but the altitude seemed to suck the stamina from me and frequent stops were necessary to regain my breath. Towards the top the atrocious 80s song "Step by Step ... oooh baby" may have spontaneously entered my brain and spurred me on to the summit! hahaha ... I´d be lying if I said that it wasn´t tough going!

The weather on top was pretty bad and the visibility only a few metres so we setup camp at "safe camp" which was out of the wind. The guides cooked up a delicious vegetarian curry and we drank red wine and watched the sun set! We were all exhausted so were in bed by 7:30pm.

Sleep wasn´t something that dominated my night ... there was 5 of us jammed in a 3 man tent so it was pretty tight. I also experience a bit of altitude sickness, not too bad ... just insomnia and a slight headache. 2 Aspirins to thin the blood fixed that in no time though. One of the other chicks was not so lucky and was vomiting and feeling quite ill.

We woke up at about 4:30am and hiked to the top of the crater to watch the sun rise. It was absolutely spectacular. From the top we could see numerous other volcanos, the Pacific Ocean, Lago Atitlan and as far as Mexico. An active volcano, Volcan Fuego wasn´t far away and we saw it erupt a few times, just smoke though!

It took about 7 hours to climb the mountain and only 2 hours to descend. The descent involved basically running down the mountain as it is the easiest and most efficient technique. My quadriceps are hurting today ... my salsa teacher wasn´t impressed!!

Awesome weekend!! Highlight of the trip so far!
Photos here:
http://www.danscapers.com/gallery/Guatamala?page=2


I´m not one to talk up my soccer skills but last Friday I played soccer for my Spanish school against another Spanish school and I scored one of the best goals of my life. Some bloke crossed the ball in behind me and in a split second of total coordination I managed to score a goal from a bicycle kick (overhead kick) ... highlight of my life .. hahah! Gold

On Sunday I bumped into a mate from Nelson Bay (Macca) on the streets of Antigua ... can you believe it!! Plenty of "catch up" beers were consumed and Monday morning was not fun!


Tuesday 24th October 2006

Lago Atitlan

Last weekend, Frank and I headed to nearby San Pedro which is on beautiful Lake Atitlan. The journey there involved a 3 hour shuttle bus and then a ferry to San Pedro. We were a bit sluggish as Friday night was Tim and Chrisīs farewell party and we only got a few hours sleep. Anyway we checked into the Hotel in San Pedro and it only cost 20Q (less than $3US) for a night .. gold! We met up with some people from our Spanish school who had arrived the day before and headed straight for the beach. The water was quite refreshing but the beach was nothing to write home about really. The town of San Pedro is quite picturesque as it is set right into the hill that borders the lake. There wasnīt much to do in San Pedro apart from chilling in the hammock and taking in the scenic vistas. That night we went out for a few cervezas at a cool bar. Pretty tame really.

The next day we decided to go for the cheap option and returned back to Antigua on a "Chicken Bus". It was good times, at one stage the driver pulled over and refilled the engine coolant with a bucket from a stream next to the road! And of course there was a chicken chirping away in a box in the luggage rack. The bus was packed so it was 3 to a seat with no shoulder room at all. Was glad to get the hell off that bus.

Everything is going well here in Antigua. Weīre into a pretty good routine at the moment with daily Spanish classes and plenty of Salsa. Iīve cut down the Salsa from 6 hours to 4 hours this week as it was a bit too much! Not too much to do here at night so we usually go out for a few beers. Tuesday night is the big one though, cheap drinks at Mono Loco (Crazy Monkey) then time to show off your Salsa skills at the bar next door (Sin Ventura). Going to be interesting tonight!

Photos here:
http://www.danscapers.com/gallery/Guatamala?page=2


Tuesday 17th October 2006

A Weekend in Monterrico

Last weekend a group of us went to Monterrico for Sat and Sunday and it turned out to be good times! Monterrico is on the Pacific Coast of Guatemala and is about 3 hours away by shuttle bus. On arrival we were greeted by an entourage of local kids who I suspected may be trying to steal our wallets but turned out to be just friendly kids. We found a cheap hotel and headed straight for the beach. I was a little disappointed to discover black sand and a messy shore break as I was hoping to maybe rent a surfboard. The surf was quite big so we did a bit of body surfing and chilled on the beach. We then headed back to the hotel for a dip in the pool, some fresh coconuts and a delicious seafood dinner. That night we went on a turtle tour and were fortunate enough to witness a large tortoise laying eggs on the beach. We waited till she finished and escorted her back into the ocean before collecting the eggs to take them to a sanctuary. She laid 115 eggs in all, what a mission. A few beers at a nice little bar on the beach and we were ready for bed!

The next morning we met up with our guide again to take the eggs to the sanctuary but he did a shifty on us and tried to sell half the eggs on the way. We were right on his case and managed to get all the eggs back and delivered safely to the centre. Makes you realise how desperately poor these people are, they´ll do anything for a quick buck!


Thursday 12th October 2006

Spanish Classes, Salsa Classes & Meet the Parents

Monday was my first day of Spanish classes and talk about brain overload!! It was an intense experience! The classes consist of 4 hours of one on one tuition every morning (8-12) and are a mixture of speaking and grammar. Great way to learn! Itīs got slightly easier as the week has progressed but after each class Iīm still mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausted. My teacherīs name is Sergio and heīs a top bloke.

On Sunday Frank and I moved in with our host families. We requested separate families so that we wouldnīt be tempted to speak English all the time and we ended up in houses next door to each other which is perfect! My family is really nice, they have 3 kids and the motherīs name is Chiqui. It was fairly uncomfortable at first but now I feel really welcome there. My Spanish has improved considerably and I got a bit of a buzz last night at the dinner table when I was able to understand about 90% of what was going on and even throw a few of my own (slowly spoken) sentences in! The family must be quite well off as they have two cars, a tv and the kid has a Nintendo. The 9 year old son is pure gold, his name is Oscar and heīs always in trouble. The mum is always yelling "Donde va?" (where are you going) as he is running out the door. Itīs funny as Oscar is always on the phone to his girlfriend .. he calls her el amor .. gold!

The house is an interesting setup .. itīs 4 rooms set around an open courtyard and the kitchen is outdoor but covered and consists of 3 sinks and 2 gas burners .. very basic indeed. One of the sinks is for dirty dishes, one is constantly full of water and the other is for clean dishes as they donīt have any cupboards or storage. They have a fridge but donīt seem to use it as all he food is bought fresh on a daily baisis from the local markets. The shower and bathroom is a disgrace and make Aussie public toilets look 5 star .. hahaha. I had heard some horror stories about travellers ending up with bad families and being served beans and rice for 3 meals a day but Chiqui is a fabulous cook and I have been eating like a king for the last week. She asked me what my favourite food is so I said Guacamoli and she cooked it the next night. The avocados here are out of this world! Yeah so I get 3 meals a day at the house and have basically no other expenses so am living very cheaply indeed. Beers in a bar usually cost $1-$2.

During the week we went to two group salsa classes and pretty much became addicted. Itīs extremely difficult but great fun. We booked 5 one hour one on one lessons for next week ... bring it on! So next week is shaping up to be a full on Spanish immersion! Iīm thinking of abducting a salsa instructor and a Guatemalan chef and bringing them back to Oz to start a Salsa bar ... what do you reckon?

Weīve only been here a week and yet everywhere we go we bump into people that we know ... so much fun! Loving life at the moment!

Spanish word of the day ... Talvez - maybe

Some photos from Antigua here:
http://www.danscapers.com/gallery/Guatamala


Tuesday 10th October 2006

Antigua

The Lonely Planet describes Antigua as a haven for backpackers who want to half ass study Spanish ... not too far from the truth really. It´s a very beautiful city nestled in a valley surrounded by three volcanoes, one of which is still active! It´s a Colonial town and has a cool town square and cobbled streets. The town is full of mainly European backpackers here to attempt to learn Spanish, just like me. Should be good times!

We rocked up here last Friday and checked into the Black Cat Hostel which had been recommended to us on numerous occasions! It didn´t disappoint! Friendly staff that remember everyone´s name, $1 cervezas, a great atmosphere and even better breakfasts (included) ensured that a good time was had by all. We went out on both Friday and Saturday night and had a phenomenal time, making some great new mates in the process. Pretty much all the bars here are Salsa bars and the locals bust out some amazing moves on a nightly basis.

On Saturday we organised some Spanish classes and accommodation with a local family for the next couple of weeks, should be good times!

Last night we were privileged to see the band from the Buena Visa Social Club (they are quite old now). In a Spanish class I did in Newcastle we sung one of the songs ... El Cuarto de Tula (Tula´s room), so I went up and requested it and they played it straight away ... amazing!

I´d be lying if I said there wasn´t heaps of hot girls here!


Thursday 5th October 2006

Guatemala ... baby!

After getting the ferry back to Belize city we got a bus to Flores, Guatemala. Turned out to be another crazy bus ride! The highlight was when the bus driver pulled over at some markets, jumped out and returned to the bus clutching a chicken by the neck .. funny stuff!

Stayed a few nights on the island of Flores which is very picturesque indeed. Itīs a fairly rich sort of area as everyone has cars and the architecture feels very European ... not stereotypical of Guatemala I would imagine! There was some more Mayan ruins nearby (Tikal) so we checked that out. It was similar to Chichen Itza although set in a jungle complete with crazy monkeys and colourful birds!

We caught a chicken bus to Coban which was just as life threatening as weīve come to expect. At one stage we rocked up to a river and the bus boarded a tiny ferry with a bloke and a small outboard motor at each of the 4 corners. Whatever works I suppose. We spent a night in Coban but there wasnīt much action so continued on to Antigua the next day! We drove through the capital city, Guatemala city which was absolutely chaotic!


Sunday 1st October 2006

You Better Belize it!

Our introduction to Belize was transferring from a Luxury Mexican Coach to an ancient ex-American school bus (they call them chicken buses) just before the Mexico-Belize border. The bus ride to Belize city was total mayhem, the bus seemed to be going around in circles and took forever to arrive in Belize city.

First impressions of Belize city ... dirty and scary! After a day there it was still dirty but turned out not to be as dangerous as it looked. Belize is a crazy country ... English is the primary language and the dollar there is indexed to the US dollar. Much more expensive than Mexico but still cheap. It had a mega Caribbean feel to it ie Reggae music, dreadlocks and chilled out people. Fried chicken seems to be the national dish and they must eat alot of it as there are heaps of Big Mummas around! The locals although speaking English could easily be mistaken for speaking an alien language!

The next day we headed to the island of Cay Caulker ... another island paradise!! It is famous for diving the Blue Hole! Unfortunately I didnīt dive it as I am saving the scuba for Honduras as it is the cheapest place in the world apparently! We met some German chicks and a Swedish bloke and went on a snorkeling trip to the nearby reef (the 2nd largest in the world next to the Great Barrier). It was an absolute highlight of the trip ... we swam with Nurse Sharks and touched huge Sting Rays. There was a moment when I thought about avenging Steveīs death by piercing a Rayīs heart with its own stinger ... but decided against it. Also saw some Barracudas, eels, lobster which was cool!

Back on the island I bumped into an Aussie mate, Dieter and his girlfriend which was pretty crazy. I knew he was in Central America somewhere but had no idea where so that was pretty coincidental! That night we got a good group going and ate freshly cooked fish and lobster from the BBQ ... beauty. The locals cracked some coconuts for us as we drank the coconut milk with some local rum ... good times.

One of the locals, Jacko, a nutbag and self proclaimed king of the island showed us some great Belizen hospitality and entertained us for the night! He taught us some of the local language ... Creel - a mix of Spanish and fast English. My favourite expression was "Congo with me", which translates to Come with me ... gold!

Photos here
http://www.danscapers.com/gallery/Belize


Friday 29th September 2006

Mayan Ruins & More Beautiful Beaches

From Cancún we checked out nearby Chichen Itza which is an ancient Mayan city. It was pretty spectacular! The huge pyramids were particularly impressive. The acoustics in the Ball Court were amazing .. you could whisper at one end and be heard 40m away at the other end. My high pitched Cooees echoed about 10 times!

Our next destination was Playa de Carmen, a nice little town situated right on the beach albeit a bit too touristy for us. The hostel there was heaps cool so we just mixed it up with our fellow travellers and chilled on the beach. The highlight of Playa de Carmen for us was the ginormous Wallmart which was across the road from the hostel. It was the largest supermarket I have ever seen and sold everything from motorbikes to computers to groceries. Our thrice daily visits were great fun and it was also good to get away from the intense heat outside.

We (Frank (Dutch bloke I met) and I) bussed it a little further down the coast to Tulum where we stayed in a hut right on the beach! Didnīt do too much apart from swim at the beach and enjoy fine Mexican cuisine! Itīs been a pretty stressful time ... having to decide between 2 for 1 cocktails or cheap beers every day isnīt easy!

The buses in Mexico have been fabulous! They are always coaches and 2nd class which we have been using is very comfortable. I wish I could say the same about the drivers though ... they are total maniacs! Itīs funny as the buses have a red light above the driver which lights up whenever the driver exceeds the speed limit (ie all the time) just so you know that you may die soon!


Tuesday 26th September 2006

Isla de Mujeres (Isle of Women)

I spent the last 2 nights on Isla, an island paradise just off the coast of Cancun. It was deadset stunning ... luke warm, crystal clear water lapping up against white sand. Very reminiscent of Thailand.

Didnt do that much apart from spend the days relaxing on the beach drinking cheap beers and cocktails and the nights living it up at the various bars scattered around the beaches. It was tough!

My Spanish has improved quite considerably. Me and another bloke paid a fat, gay Cuban bloke some cash for some Spanish lessons. It was pretty good, he basically just walked around with us and helped us converse with people.

The hostel was great fun and there was a good crowd of people. It was mainly British and European backpackers and I was the lone Aussie which was suprising.

Off to explore Chichen Itza today, some Mayan Ruins. Then from here I head south down towards Belize and then on to Guatamala. Im travelling with a Dutch bloke I met who is doing a similar route to me.

Photos here:
http://www.danscapers.com/gallery/Mexico


Tuesday 19th September 2006

The Real Cancun

I left Kelowna slighty intoxicated (thanks guys for the awesome farewell!) on a 12 hour overnight Greyhound to Seattle. I stayed with a friend Beccy for the night then flew to Mexico the next day.

The flight was fairly uneventful and I arrived at Cancun airport at about 8pm. Stepping outside I was greeted by numerous scamartists trying to sell me over inflated modes of transport to downtown Cancun. My Spanish skills were non existant but I managed to get myself on a cheap bus and find the hostel I booked. I met a pommie bloke at the bus station and we went out for some cheap tacos (70c) and a few cervacas! It is unvelievably hot here, must hit over 40C most days and its humid as well so its unbearable at times!

Spent the next 2 days exploring downtown Cancun which is very Mexican unlike the Zona Hotella where all the American tourists stay on their packaged holidays. We checked out the hotel zone and it was very disappointing. The whole area is set up for tourists, not my scene.

Met a good group of people at the hostel and played some drinking games. A couple of Aussies but mainly European travellers!

Anyway some photos are here:
http://www.danscapers.com/gallery/Mexico


Sunday 17th September 2006

I've got one ticket to Paradise

Well my time in Kelowna and Canada has finally come to an end. I finally sold my van after 6 weeks! The first person that came to look at it bought it as I expected but I lost a bit of cash on it. Not to worry, I got my moneys worth out of Stan the Van!

So my plan now is to hit Central America. I found some dirt cheap flights on expedia.com (as it's hurricane season down there apparently). So I fly Seattle - Cancun, Mexico next week then San Jose, Costa Rica - Philladelphia then New York - Tokyo - Sydney, arriving home just before Christmas. 2.5 months in Central America .... bring it on!

My last week in Kelowna was amazing fun! It was pretty much a 5 day bender!
Some photos here:
http://www.danscapers.com/gallery/LastWeekinKelowna


Tuesday 5th September 2006

Back in Kelowna (Canada)

Well the full circle is now complete and I'm back in Kelowna for the sole purpose of selling my Van. I've been here around 4 weeks now and I have only had 2 calls which sucks big time. Wish me luck!

I've been staying on the couch at my old sharehouse (The Bates Motel) which is fun but not ideal. It's been good times though as there is a great bunch of people in the house and I've got to know the new flatmates really well.

Kelowna summers are always action packed so I've been out on the boat a few times and even tried wake surfing which was amazing.

I've picked up a few shifts working with the Duct Doctor and doing some pressure washing which has relieved some of the strain on my Aussie bank account.

Last friday night we had an 80s party at the house as it was Conor's birthday and Alex and Marie's farewell. It was a ripper of a night. I went dressed as Maverick, the photos tell the story.
http://www.danscapers.com/gallery/80sParty




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Dan brand Orange Juice in Slovenia ... what a country!

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