Well folks, it’s now been an entire year since we began this crazy journey. We just can’t believe how quickly those 365 days have flown by. There never was a concrete plan or route in which we were traveling in but we never intended for our round the world trip to go for more than a year. Yet here we are in Chile, having just begun yet another leg of this ongoing adventure!
Month #12 At A Glance
- Countries visited: 5
- USA, Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, Peru
- City-to-city transport segments: 13
- Boat segments: 5
- Car segments: 8
- (No flights, trains, or busses!)
- Miles traveled: 5,888
- Beds slept in: 7
- UNESCO World Heritage Sites Visited: 2
- Cartagena (Colombia), Chan Chan (Peru):
- Breweries visited: 9
- Charlie & Jakes (Melbourne, FL), A1A Aleworks (Saint Augustine), Wicked Weed (Asheville), Olde Mecklenburg (Charlotte), NoDa Brewing (Charlotte), Birdsong (Charlotte), Heist (Charlotte), Funky Buddha (Fort Lauderdale), Barranco Beer Company (Lima, Peru).
- Local beers sampled: 61 directly from the breweries + unknown amount of other local American brews
Month #12 Travel Recap
What a month these past 30 days have been! During our Month-11 Travel Update we recapped our travels from Turkey to Greece and our two-week voyage across the Atlantic, which left us off returning to our home state of Florida. It was a rushed few days back visiting friends & family, sorting through a year’s worth of mail, renewing driver’s licenses and all of those other regular tasks that have been neglected throughout the year. Before we knew it, Thanksgiving was approaching. So we snagged a rental car for a quick jaunt through the southern United States visiting friends and family along the way.
Stop #1: Highlands, North Carolina USA
Our first stop was in the beautiful mountains of Western North Carolina to visit some great friends. Highlands, NC is a mountain resort town with tons of fantastic restaurants and is a gateway to a slough of nearby recreation. I’ve been coming up here since I was a kid, so it was really neat to make Highlands a stop during our zigzagging round the world trip. Many tall waterfalls, whitewater rafting, and cliffside hiking trails wind all through this beautiful region. Just outside of town there’s even a waterfall you can drive under!
Stop #2: Asheville North Carolina, Beer City USA
Next we headed east towards Charlotte but not before a quick pit stop in Asheville, North Carolina. This city has ten breweries or brewpubs in the immediate downtown area alone and often wins the title of Beer City USA in an annual poll, so of course we just had to stop in for a quick pint or five. With limited time, we only made it to one of the more raved about brewpubs in town, Wicked Weed, where we sampled at least a dozen beers on tap, which included some creative renditions like a saison brewed with local ingredients such as sweet potatoes and grits. And while it may sound a little strange, it was actually pretty damn good!
Stop #3: Charlotte, North Carolina USA
We then traveled on to Charlotte to now visit one of Heather’s best friends. She knows how we roll, so they were kind enough to show us around four of their favorite breweries in town. We were quite impressed with the relatively new and burgeoning Charlotte brew scene!
Stop #4: Smithfield, Virginia USA
Then it was Thanksgiving, so we ventured north to the town of Smithfield, Virginia to celebrate with Heather’s family. This American holiday was a perfect opportunity for us to catch up with loved ones we haven’t seen in years. And Smithfield is really a charming and quaint little southern town to spend some time in. While most visitors to the area venture to Williamsburg, we’d definitely recommend looking into Smithfield if traveling through Virginia. Unfortunately we were there just a few months before the new Wharf Hill Brewing Company is set to open.
Stop #5: Portsmouth, Virginia
Our final stop on our Thanksgiving road trip took us a short jaunt over nearby Portsmouth, Virginia where Heather’s cousin showed us around some of his favorite places to grab a pint. (No picture, as this brief stop was literally a blur.)
Back to Fort Lauderdale, FL
It was a long road trip back down south to Florida where we only had a day to pack and take care of some last minute details. We never quite finished our to-do list but the night before we left, we just said F-it and dropped everything so that we could see our friends one final time and share a few last laughs & pints at yet another brewpub, this time back in Fort Lauderdale, FL.
Repositioning Ourselves Yet Again
December 7 marked our next embarkation day and we jumped on our next repositioning cruise, this time it was on the Celebrity Infinity. We left from the exact same port we had arrived in from Europe just a few weeks earlier. For those keeping track, this is our third repositioning cruise this year and we just love using these luxury liners to travel long distances in style and on the cheap. We’ve now spent 45 days this year as passengers on cruise ships and we find that they have acted as the perfect relaxing vacations within our otherwise fast pace of travel.
Stop #7: Getting Dirty in Cartagena, Colombia
After a few fun-filled days sailing around Cuba and across the Caribbean Sea, we reached our first port of call: Cartagena, Colombia. We’d been there once before back in April so it was nice to arrive at this city already knowing the lay of the land. But when we were in the area earlier this year, there was one thing we never got a chance to do – the Totumo Mud Volcano! So we had to go back and check it out. It was awesome. (We hope to write a full blog post about this soon).
Stop #8: Meeting the Locals in Panama
Our next port stop was Colon, Panama, which we had also visited briefly earlier this year. This time we went ventured into the Panamanian rainforest on an excursion to visit an indigenous Emberra tribe. After a long bus ride away from Colon, we reached Parque Nacional Chagres, where we hopped into motorized dugout canoes that whisked us up the river and into their village for lunch.
Panama Canal Crossing
From Colon it was onward to cross the infamous Panama Canal 100 years after it opened up to the world in 1914. We both really enjoyed this experience much more than expected. Rising up the locks, voyaging across Lake Gatun, and then being lowered down into the Pacific all was a very memorable experience.
Equator Crossing & Hazing
We then set sail for Ecuador and this actually became our first time crossing the equator. The ship made a big deal about the event and marked the occasion with an equator crossing ceremony, complete with Neptune himself. Apparently it’s an old maritime tradition to haze first-time equator crossers, who are known as pollywogs. The hazing was in full effect – pies, ketchup, flour, raw eggs, chocolate syrup, bright yellow mustard, mayonnaise, ranch dressing… you name it. There was a nasty cluster of all sorts of guck that was ceremoniously poured all over new crossers like us. It was really a lot of good fun.
Stop #9: Manta, Ecuador
Our third port call brought us to Manta, Ecuador and our first new country (#36) since Greece. This nice seaside town was full of markets selling, among other things, signature hand-woven Panama Hats (which are actually Ecuadorian not Panamanian). Manta is a fishing town known particularly for its tuna. And the beachfront restaurants made a perfect spot to sip on some cervezas and indulge in some of the fresh fish its known for.
Stop #10: Trujillo, Peru
Our fourth cruise port took us to Trujillo, Peru which was actually not planned on our initial itinerary. So we were delighted to be able to enjoy a day in this often-overlooked region of Peru. We spent it roaming around the ancient adobe ruins of Chan Chan. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, they say this was the largest pre-Colombian city in the Americas and the largest adobe city in the world! It was really a neat place to visit, a little bit off the typical South American tourist trail.
Stop #11: Lima, Peru – at night
Our fifth port took us to Lima, Peru for an overnight stop, which was really nice to be able to explore a city’s nightlife, often not typical on most cruise itineraries. Peruvian cuisine is really beginning to make a name for itself yet we’ve somehow never had any. So when we docked in Lima around 7pm, we immediately went to the Miraflores district to try some traditional Peruvian cuisine at a really neat restaurant set amongst more ancient ruins. It did not disappoint! The traditional ceviche was a winner. The lomo saltado was another hit amongst our friends and us. But what was my personal favorite was actually the cuy chactado, also known as fried guinea pig (eek!). So how’d it taste? A little like chicken but perhaps a little gamier.
Our Travelversary with Sea Lions!
Finally Dec 15th rolled around, which marked our 1-year travel anniversary. We decided to celebrate the occasion with thousands of wild sea lion friends, swimming with them at Palomino Island near Lima. It was a fitting adventure for our one-year travelversary, as it was one of our favorite experiences to date. The sea lions zoomed in and out of the water all around us for a really interactive experience.
Month #12 Superlatives
Favorite Adventure: Swimming with Wild Sea Lions
Without question, this was the highlight of our months and one of our favorite experiences so far. Will definitely be posting more about this awesome excursion soon. Check out the video above, for now.
Favorite UNESCO Site: Chan Chan
This really expansive ancient site was really neat to explore around and learn about the Chimu people who occupied these dwellings in this rainless area of Peru.
Best Value: $1.02 USD for John’s long-overdue haircut in Trujillo, Peru
The price also included a complimentary Coca-Cola or candy bar. I chose a packet of Oreo-like cookies to accompany my new do.
Favorite Beer: Heist Saison de Pon Pon
With so many fantastic breweries we visited this month, its extremely difficult to pinpoint one particular beer that stands above the rest. We were delighted to try many new (and new-to-us) releases since we’ve been away like Stone’s Xocoveza Mocha Stout, which was a definite highlight. But for a favorite this month, I’m going to limit contenders to only those breweries we actually visited. I usually have a clear favorite but this month I don’t. Yet I was really impressed with the many creative Belgian-inspired brews we tried at Heist in Charlotte, NC so I’m going to go with their Saison de Pon Pon (French for pumpkin), since it was Thanksgiving.
Favorite Local Dish: tie – Buffalo Wings & Sub Sandwiches (don’t judge!)
Sorry, we’re going to be a little boring this month with our favorite food selection. After eating lots of delicious local specialties from all over the world for the past year, it was just nice to come back and get a taste of some of our favorite American guilty pleasures. I ate a sub sandwich and/or buffalo wings almost every day. Some days that’s all I ate. They were all delicious. I regret nothing.
Favorite Local Snack / Appetizer: Traditional Peruvian Ceviche
Traditional peruvian ceviche is made with corn and sweet potato, mixed in with the large chunks of raw citrus-marinated fish. It was unlike other ceviches we’ve had before and it was really quite tasty!
So, Where Are We Roaming Around Next?
Peru technically concluded our twelfth month of travel, although the cruise has continued to Chile, where’s we’ve disembarked after 16 fantastic days voyaging down the Pacific coast of South America.
From here, we’re spending a few days in the coastal towns of Valporiso and Vina del Mar. Then we move on to the capital of Chile – Santiago – where we’re going to live for two weeks and spend the holidays. From there, we have absolutely no plans but we’re hoping to journey south and spend the bulk of January and February in Patagonia, roaming around both Chile and Argentina. If anyone has been there and has recommendations, we’d love to hear from you!
A special thanks this month goes out to our friends in family back in the States who may have helped us out with a ride somewhere or even hosted us in their homes. But most importantly, thank you to those who came out to say hello during our short time back in the US. We can’t even put in to words how happy it made us to see you all again.
Until next time, happy holidays and happy travels!
-John & Heather