24 November 2023
Guatemala is a country with a rich Mayan-influenced culture. This ancient civilization inhabited the American continent around 5,000 years ago! Almost half of Guatemala’s population are indigenous descendants of the Mayan civilization. Pre-Hispanic traditions are still maintained today, enabling the Maya to preserve their heritage.
The roots left behind by the Maya characterize a special way of life in Guatemala, which sets the Guatemalans apart from other Central American countries.
Even today, around 20 different Mayan languages are still spoken and Mayan communities are spread throughout the country.
The Mayan civilization was very advanced in mathematics and astronomy. The Maya probably developed the concept of zero and left written records in the form of hieroglyphs and whole words. They erected monumental buildings dedicated to their deities. Traces of these impressive achievements can be found in every region of Guatemala. One of the most important and largest Mayan cities is Tikal.
Tikal was one of our first stops in Guatemala. We had already visited several Mayan ruins in Mexico, but we liked Tikal the most. Not only the buildings, but also the wildlife are impressive. Tikal is one of the few UNESCO World Heritage Sites that has been declared a World Heritage Site due to its extraordinary biological diversity and archaeological significance, both in terms of natural and cultural criteria.
Of course, Guatemala has much more impressive nature to offer. Another highlight are the natural, turquoise-colored pools of Semuc Champey, whose crystal-clear water makes swimming a special pleasure. Read all about our first days in Guatemala in our new blog.
7 November 2023
Belize City is the largest city in Belize, but surprisingly not (or no longer) the capital of the country. On 31 October 1961, Hurricane Hattie hit the country. The storm surge killed more than 400 people and left thousands homeless. Almost half of Belize City was demolished by the storm. As a result, the government decided to move the capital further inland. In 1970, the city of Belmopan was founded and the seat of government moved there.
Belize is vulnerable to hurricanes, storms and associated flooding. The country lies inside the Atlantic hurricane belt and has been hit often over the years. Since 1930 there have been over 20 hurricanes that have either arrived in Belize or passed close enough to cause damage or loss of life. Hurricane season lasts from June until November.
In 1931 a hurricane category 4 struck Belize City; it killed 2,500 people, making it the deadliest hurricane in the country’s history.
In 1998 Hurricane Mitch hit the Caribbean Coast. Mitch became the deadliest Atlantic hurricane. Nearly eleven thousand people died, and almost as many were reported missing and never found. Deaths were mostly from flooding and mud slides in Central America. The flooding and mud slides damaged or destroyed tens of thousands of homes, with total damage estimated to be over $6 billion. The arrival of Hurricane Mitch ended a string of 16 years in which no tropical cyclone struck Belize.
Also in the last 23 years there were many hurricanes hitting Belize with hundreds of dead people and billions of dollar in damages. Hurricane Iris in 2001, Hurrican Dean in 2007 and Hurricane Eta in 2022 to name a few. Today the list of hurricane names consist of both men and women names but this wasn’t always the case. Between 1953 to 1979 tropical systems were only named after women, but since 1979 male names are also used.
The El Niño phenomenon was expected to influence the 2023 hurricane season and would likely weaken hurricanes in the Atlantic basin. These factors inhibit the intensification of tropical storms, while the opposite is true during the La Niña climate system. As of October 2023, no significant storm has threatened Belize, yet it has been a very active season with seven weather systems developing into hurricanes in the Atlantic.
Fortunately, we only had good weather during our trip through Belize in April. We went on several hikes and cooled off in various waterfalls. We went in search of jaguars and the mystical quetzal. You can read more about it in our new blog.
29 October 2023
Finally, our new blog appears. We reach the next country on our journey. Belize was kind of unknown for us, we had no real expectations.
We were surprised with beautiful flora and fauna. After discovering snorkelling for ourselves in Mexico, the snorkelling paradise of Caye Caulker was naturally at the top of our wish list. We would never have dreamed that one day we would also swim with sharks!
What else we experienced during our first days in this special small country, you can read here.
17 October 2023
While Eddy has been to the Galapagos Islands for a week, Romy had a week of vacation on Finca Sommerwind in Ibarra. We had some exciting days because our car broke down in the mountains of Ecuador. After beeing towed away out of the Antisana Valley, we had the Diesel Particle Filter removed in Quito. European cars simply are not made for the bad diesel quality and the hights of South America. Now we are hopefully good to go again and conquer the Andes in Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia.
It took a bit longer this time, but now the new Cuba blog is online. It is our third and last blog from our 2-weeks trip with Romy’s parents on this Carribean Island. We got another taste of the great diversity of this island with it’s wonderful landscapes, amazing wildlife and interesting history.
2 Ocotber 2023
Cuba is declared an enemy by the U.S. to this day. Not only the “Bay of Pigs invasion” is a dark chapter in American history in relation to Cuba. Another very dark stain is the Guantanamo Bay prison camp.
Built on Cuban soil that the U.S. has leased for over a hundred years, it is in a lawless space, so to speak. After 11 September 2001 and the proclamation of the war on terrorism, approximately 800 people were detained at Guantanamo Bay, beginning in 2002. Most of the prisoners were held there without any charges; the suspicion of terrorism was enough for an in principle indefinite internment.
The legal situation of the prisoners, their conditions of detention, the interrogation and torture methods used, and the violations of human rights there have led to sharp international criticism and demands for closure. President Obama had already promised to close Guantanamo during his term in office. But to this day, 40 detainees are still held at Guanatamo without charge or trial. The U.S. Congress had decided not to allow the internees to enter the U.S. for security reasons, but extradition to their home countries is also impossible because of the risk of torture there. The remaining prisoners are denied both prisoner of war status and any legal assistance.
The fact that there was no indictment or trial does not mean that the prisoners were all innocent. According to a report by the U.S. Secret Service, about a quarter of the 598 released detainees has “certainly or very likely” returned to terrorism. Many Guantanamo detainees would have joined militant groups as fighters after their release.
According to one calculation, the detention center cost more than $540 million to operate in 2018 – $13 million U.S. per detainee. U.S. President Joe Biden is seeking to close the detention center by the end of his term. A critical review of the Guantanamo system has not yet taken place.
During our trip to Cuba we visited the Bay of Pigs, but we saw little of its exciting history. Instead, we enjoyed swimming in the Caribbean Sea. What we experienced further, you can read in our new blog.
By the way, you can find our best photos from our Cuba trip, but also from the other countries here!
20 September 2023
Cuba is a special country in more ways than one. Cuba is isolated due to its political orientation and the history of the last 70 years. Cuba’s history is marked by the struggle for independence, first from the Spanish at the end of the 19th century and then from the USA at the beginning of the 20th century. This was followed by the governments of dictator Machado and dictator Batista. In 1953, the Cuban Revolution began, led by Fidel Castro and Ernesto “Che” Guevara, with the goal of eliminating Batista and bringing about an overthrow. In 1959 Batista fled the country, the revolution had won.
Fidel Castro now became Cuba’s head of government. He transformed Cuba into a socialist state. Large landowners were expropriated. Since many US-Americans had property in Cuba and were now also expropriated, and probably because of the fear of an expanding Socialism the USA issued a complete trade embargo. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba plunged into a deep economic crisis in the early 1990s. Russian oil supplies stopped, food became scarce and people did not have enough to eat. Because of this the “special period” was declared and food was rationed.
This situation persists to this day, even though the Cuban government is now focusing on tourism and has been able to attract new trading partners. The UN General Assembly has been annually condemned the U.S. trade embargo for about 30 years. However, the U.S. government justifies the blockade by pointing to repression of political opponents and of freedom of speech and of the press in Cuba.
The pandemic brought tourism to a standstill, the most important economic sector and foreign exchange earner. Internal grievances also prevent a better development of the economy. The state is still responsible for the majority of economic activities. However, most state-owned enterprises are often inefficient and loss-making in socialist systems. These are the reasons why the population keeps on suffering from shortages of food, medicine and fuel. Neither local production is sufficient nor does it generate enough foreign currency for imports. The Cuban Peso itself is worth nothing outside of the country.
As we walked through the streets of Havana, we saw lines of people in front of stores, where Cubans still get important food like rice, sugar, coffee, eggs and oil on ration cards called “Libreta”. For the Cubans it means to fight daily for their food. They call it “La Lucha”, the fight, and it describes quite well how the Cuban daily routine looks like. It has to be planned and searched until all the ingredients and necessities are there. If one has good contacts and the right money (Dollars or Euros) to pay for it, one can buy things on the Black Market.
The education in Cuba is quite qood and there are many qualified doctors and nurses. But still the health system is bad as it lacks the equipment and medicine. Many qualified academics switch to jobs that have something to do with tourism. A bartender can earn the monthly salary of a doctor in one day. Even poorly paid teachers try to make a living after their service with side jobs in tourism.
There are many more deficits that complicate the life of the average Cuban. But the people know how to help themselves. Improvise, trade, and barter. There are always ways to help themselves. And what struck and delighted us most was the people’s unbridled love of life, their laughter, dancing, singing, salsa, their hospitality. The vast majority has little, but if the neighbor, friend or uncle has just as little, then maybe it feels less bad.
Our first new blog is about us exploring the exciting city of Havana and then enjoying the beautiful fauna and flora of the Viñales Valley and the tobacco reagion of Cuba.
10 September 2023
In our new and last Mexico blog we experience once again all the diversity of this wonderful country. Natural phenomena, colonial cities, Mayan sites, the friendliness and joie de vivre of the Mexicans and a fantastic wildlife.
All this and much more has inspired us during the almost 4 months that we drove through Mexico. There was also the other side of the coin, bad roads, thousands of topes, incredible noise and especially a lot of garbage.
Mexico is often considered a dangerous country and traveling with your own or a rental car usually is only recommended in Yucatan. In our opinop the traffic is chaotic, but never dangerous and always managable. We have stayed at campgrounds, with people in the garden, in the wilderness, on the beach, in city parks. We never felt unsafe or in danger for a single moment.
We have seen only a fraction of this great country, there would be so much more. But there are other great countries waiting for us and therefore with this blog we say “Hasta luego” – See you soon Mexico!
29 August 2023
In the meantime almost 4 weeks have passed since we drove our car into a container in the port of Colon in Panama. We spent 2 weeks in accommodations in Panama City and Cartagena. Lots of red tape, especially on the Colombian side, visits to the notary, customs, an insurance company, the agent and the port. Waiting, waiting, waiting. A lot of patience. Plus a hospital stay of 3 days, because Romy contracted the dengue fever virus in Panama.
All in all, not the best time of this trip. But all that is behind us now. We are healthy again and reunited with our home on wheels. The third big part of our trip has begun. After 7 months in Canada and the USA and 8 months in Latin America we are now on a new continent – South America. Tierra del Fuego is getting closer, but until then fantastic countries, experiences, encounters and discoveries are waiting for us in the next months. We are looking forward to it.
In our latest blog, we reach the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico with its magnificent Mayan ruins, colorful wildlife and cenotes where we could cool off.
19 August 2023
The province of Chiapas has definitely inspired us the most in Mexico. Chiapas is incredibly diverse and especially the landscape with its waterfalls, lakes and jungle are very impressive.
Chiapas is also the gateway to the world of the Mayan people, to the pyramids of Palenque, Yaxchilan and Bonampak. The indigenous traditions and Mayan culture have been particularly well preserved to this day in the inaccessible mountain regions. Chiapas is one of the poorest provinces in Mexico. Although the province has incredible resources, the income from banana, cocoa and coffee plantations and from the oil deposits and gemstone mines flows into only a few hands. The lot of most indigenous people, on the other hand, is still hard labor and poverty.
This inequality and injustice brought the Zapatistas into the world spotlight in 1994 as a result of an armed uprising. To this day, these rebels continue to fight for social justice and indigenous cultural autonomy. This leads to frequent road closures, military controls, occupation of public buildings, and killings even today, and can make travel in Chiapas an unsafe proposition. In the end, we had no problems during the 2 weeks we were traveling in this province.
To date, all attempts to find a solution between the different governments and the Zapatistas remain unsuccessful and it remains to be seen how this conflict will develop in the future and if especially the life of the Mayan peoples can improve.
In our new blog we travel in Chiapas on the Carretera Fronteriza along the border with Guatemala, experience the incredible wildlife and discover Mayan ruins in the jungle.
5 August 2023
Most people who have not yet dealt with the Panamericana do not know that this road from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego is not completely continuous. Between Panama and Colombia, in the jungle of the Darien Gap, a piece of road is missing. You can only get through the Darien Gap with a machete, usually only drug smugglers, refugees and maybe the one or other adventurer do that. So the only way to get our car to Colombia is by ship.
Already in the years of preparation for our trip we read a lot about this shipping, which we expected would be the most complicated part of the whole trip. The whole process seemed confusing, you would have to deal with police, customs and the ports. All in different places, without logic and in Spanish. And the whole thing is expensive, too. We already had nightmares about this whole thing, the trip had not even begun.
Fortunately, there are people who have discovered a gap in the market here. While we were still in America, we heard positive reports from more and more other overlanders about the company Overland Embassy. Alejandro and his enthousiastic team have made it their mission to help travelers who need to get a vehicle from one continent to the other. When we were in Costa Rica, we contacted Overland Embassy for the first time. We planned to be in Panama City by the beginning of August to ship the car.
From that point on, they took us under their wing. They found a container buddy for us (sharing the container means half the costs), they prepared us for all the steps that awaited us in Panama City. They helped us with words and deeds to modify our car so that we also fit into a container. They handled customs, they accompanied us to the port and they gave us a place to stay at their campground in the middle of Panama Viejo.
So right now our car is in a container and in a few days it will set sail for Cartagena in Colombia. We are flying the same leg and spending the 2 weeks waiting in hotels here in Panama and then in Cartagena until we are united again with our home on 4 wheels.
In our latest blog, we reach the jungle for the first time on our journey. The province of Chiapas is probably the most beautiful and diverse in Mexico. From canyons, waterfalls and thermal pools to colorful colonial towns with many indigenous people awaited us here. We not only dove into the water of some of these waterfalls, but also into the hustle and bustle of San Cristobal de las Casas.
27 July 2023
After three weeks on Baja California as a “cautious” introduction to the country, we had finally arrived in Latin America on the mainland, therefore we are in Mexico already now for a while. What experiences have we had, how do we perceive the country and what can we say about Mexico and its inhabitants:
Mexicans are very friendly, helpful and fun-loving people (when they are not at work).
Mexicans like to celebrate parties or just the weekend with loud (very very loud) music. This preferably comes from rather large portable speakers loaded onto pick up trucks. In the best case, several of these cars stand next to each other on the beach or in the park and outdo each other, while we ourselves just wanted to enjoy nature in peace.
The roads in Mexico are bad. And if they are not littered with potholes, they are littered with “topes”. There are hundreds of thousands of topes in Mexico. These are speed-limiting elevations on the road. This can be a gentle rise or a stair-like edge. They are everywhere, in villages and towns, in the middle of the road. Sometimes with an obvious reason, but often completely pointless. Usually one is warned with signs, but sometimes not. And if one is not careful, it can end tragically for ones car. Topes rob us of our last nerve!
Mexicans do not obey any traffic rules. Speed limits are completely ignored (hence the need for topes). Traffic lights, stop signs or overtaking bans are usually only indications, but are paid little attention to. Nevertheless, Mexicans are considerate in traffic, do not drive aggressively and hardly ever honk their horns. The exception to this are large cities. A driving licence is apparently not compulsory, but more and more Mexicans go to driving school and acquire a licence this way.
Mexicans eat a predominantly unhealthy diet. Half of the diet consists of tortillas and related corn cakes (tacos, burritos, gorditas, enchiladas, nachos, quesadillas, tostadas, etc.). The other half consists of high-sugar, processed foods and salty chips. Mexico is the Latin American country with the largest consumption of industrialised food. In fact, it has the world’s number one Coca-Cola consumption, with 163 litres per capita annually. 70% of Mexicans are overweight.
Mexico is widely considered a dangerous country, both for the people living there and for travellers. We travelled in Mexico for a total of 4 months and never once experienced a dangerous or even just unpleasant situation. We went wild camping, we went hiking alone and we were in Mexico City. Maybe we were lucky, or maybe it’s just not as bad as it’s made out to be. Of course we avoid travelling in the dark and use our common sense to assess situations and surroundings. We also personally experienced police corruption only once and that was on the very first day we entered the country. Never again after that.
Mexico is incredibly diverse, both in terms of landscape and wildlife, cities, history and culture. The country ranks second in the world for ecosystem diversity. Beaches on the Pacific and Caribbean, snow-capped mountains, canyons, pyramids, jungles, waterfalls, volcanoes, colonial cities, cenotes, lakes. There are 68 national parks.
The population is just as diverse. There are 68 different indigenous peoples, these make up 10% of the Mexican population. 60% of Mexicans are mestizos (descendants of Europeans and Latin Americans, originating from colonialism).
Mexico has an enormous rubbish problem. There is rubbish everywhere, on the roadside, in their own garden, in the nature reserves, in the sea. Only in cities is there a rubbish collection system. The average Mexican has no sense that rubbish is a problem. Everything is dropped where they stand and walk. Or it is thrown out of the car window. Rubbish collection facilities exist only outdoors, where the rubbish is taken, but before it is processed or incinerated, much of it has already been spread across the landscape. Most Mexicans in rural areas and small towns burn their rubbish in the garden or in front of/behind the house.
Our new blog is another fine example of diversity in Mexico. We climbed one volcano while watching another one spew ash, visited pyramids, marvelled at the colonial splendour of Oaxaca and hiked the mountains of the Sierra Norte.
18 July 2023
“Mariposa” is the beautiful Spanish word for butterfly. A very special representative is Mariposa Monarca or Monarch butterfly. What makes this butterfly so special is not necessarily its beauty, but the enormous migration that North American monarchs undertake every year. Here, the monarch butterfly and we have one thing in common – a long journey from Canada through the USA to Mexico. Every autumn, as the cold season approaches, millions of these delicate insects leave their home territory in Canada and the United States and fly south. They are flying until they reach southern California or until central Mexico which is 4,000 kilometers away! They cover up to 300 kilometer per day!
We had already been able to admire a small colony of these butterflies in Monterey/California. Now we had arrived just outside Mexico City. Here in the Mariposa Monarca Biosphere Reserve in the rugged and forested mountains of the Sierra Nevada these international travelers return to each year. They find the same forests, and some even the same tree that their ancestors landed on. Some estimates say up to a billion butterflies arrive in the mountains of Mexico each year.
Scientists are not sure how the migrating monarchs know which way to go, as they only live a few months and none of them makes the whole journey. In spring, they begin their return journey to Canada, returning after 8 months. During this time, four generations are born.
The history of the Mariposa Monarca Biosphere Reserve is closely linked to the Purepecha indigenous communities that have lived in the region for centuries. These communities have a deep spiritual connection to the Monarch butterflies and consider them sacred beings. They believe that the souls of their ancestors live on in the monarch butterflies and that they serve as messengers between the physical and spiritual worlds. The arrival of the monarch butterflies is welcomed by the communities with rituals and celebrations.
Observing this phenomenon, which we had previously only seen in TV documentaries, was a very special experience. Being in this beautiful landscape high up in the mountains gave us the necessary strength and peace we needed to plunge into the metropolis of Mexico City afterwards. You can read the whole story in our new blog!
10 July 2023
After four weeks of home leave we are back in Costa Rica and continue our journey. Meanwhile, more than a year has passed since we shipped our camper to Halifax in Canada. Soon we have another shipping coming up, namely from Panama City to Cartagena in Colombia. Until today, there is no land connection between North and South America. We are slowly preparing everything for this shipping, which is planned for the beginning of August. Until then, we are still enjoying the landscape and wildlife of Costa Rica and soon Panama.
13 months and almost 55,000 kilometers through 10 countries are behind us. You can find the most beautiful photos of this time at “Images”. If you want to know where we are at the moment, you can find our current position and the route we have travelled so far here. How often we spent the night in the wilderness, how many volcanoes we climbed, how many national parks we visited, and how often our car had to struggle over the annoying “topes” (speed bumps), we note all these numbers in our “Statistics”. Just take a look from time to time if you feel like it.
Our latest blog shows you the enormous variety of colours, people and cities in Mexico. We were able to witness the wonderful spectacle of a Concheros dance and immerse ourselves in some of the most beautiful colonial cities in Central Mexico.
27 June 2023
Ever since we reached mainland Mexico, we kept encountering the famous mariachi. Mariachi music is probably the best known of the many Mexican musical styles outside Mexico. In 2011, it was included by UNESCO in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
The term mariachi first appeared in the mid-19th century and later the music became a symbol of the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920) because it represented the Mexican national spirit or the Spanish-Indigenous blood of the Mexican ethnic group.
To this day, mariachi music is an integral part of culture. There is no occasion on which the mariachi do not play. They play at engagements, weddings, baptisms and many other festive occasions, they sing at masses and church processions. At many funerals, a mariachi group joins the funeral procession. Still popular is the tradition of the “serenata”, where young men order a group of mariachi to the front of their lover’s house at 2am to serenade her. Families would often bring mariachi to pick up relatives from the airport, but because of the crowds involved, this has been banned for some years.
Only since the 1940s have the musicians worn special costumes. The fine suit of the “charro”, the wealthy 19th century Mexican horse rider: pointed cowboy boots, a wide-brimmed decorated sombrero, tight trousers with embroidered borders or silver fittings and a waistcoat-like jacket that is also richly decorated. A modern mariachi ensemble consists of 7 to 12 members with guitars, vihuela, guitarrón, violins, trumpets, harp and singers.
Sometimes they play, like street musicians, in squares and busy tourist spots. Often, however, they come to restaurants or cafés and then play directly at one of the tables for the people sitting there. Depending on the quality of the musicians, this can either enrich the dinner or spoil one’s appetite.
Mexicans love to party and most of the times we enjoy the music and joie de vivre of the people. But even more we love the days when we can disappear into nature and enjoy the landscape around us in peace and seclusion. Read more about our experiences in the hustle and bustle of Tequila and about the miraculous formation of the Paricutin volcano and a sunken church in our new blog.
By the way – if you are wondering why at the moment there is no movement on our “route” and “statistics” – we are on holidays in Germany and the Netherlands to visit family and friends. We will be back on the road from 5th of July and continue our trip down south on the Panamericana highway.
17 June 2023
On the Mexican Riviera Nayarit, at the end of a forgotten palm plantation, nestled between an estuary and the glittering Pacific Ocean, lies an almost untouched piece of paradise. Every year between July and December, thousands of olive ridley sea turtles (Oliv-Bastardschildkröte) come to Playa Las Tortugas to hatch their young. However, like on many other beaches in this world, the little baby turtles would fall prey to their natural hunters or poachers if it were not for the small turtle rescue station that looks after the welfare of the little ones.
These turtles are solitary and prefer the open ocean. They travel hundreds or even thousands of kilometers each year, coming together only once a year when the females return to the beaches in their thousands to nest at the same place where they once have hatched. There they know that the conditions are right and their offspring are likely to do well.
The turtles leave the water and build their nest in the sand a few meters away. Then they start to lay the eggs in the “chamber”. They each press about 100 eggs into the cavity. Afterwards, the chamber is closed with sand so that it cannot be seen by predators. Then they make their way back to the sea.
The volunteers of the rescue station are searching for nests during their nightly patrols, digging out the eggs and bringing them to the safety of the station. There they incubate them under controlled circumstances and after about 45-65 days, the turtles begin to hatch.
Like all other sea turtles, olive ridley sea turtles had been intensively hunted for their meat and eggs and are now under international protection under the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.
Still, only 1% of the eggs laid will survive to sexual maturity which the turtles reaches at around 15 years of age. Of course, the turtles don’t know these statistics. And so the babies muster all their energy to arrive safely in the ocean.
Seeing hundreds of tiny sea turtles on their way into the sea was an amazing experience. Only 3 of the 300 that we were allowed to watch at one evening, will eventually come back to care for new offspring, which we somehow found a bit saddening, too.
Releasing the baby turtles at dusk and watching the little ones swim back into the waters of the Pacific; wave after wave, in tune with the last rays of the setting sun was magical.
We saw more wildlife during our stay at the Pacific Coast and visited the lovely town of Mazatlan, please read our new blog.
4 June 2023
Barranca del Cobre or Copper Canyon, is a region in the desert of northwest Mexico that hosts some of the most spectacular natural scenery in Mexico.
Situated in the Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range, this canyon system is larger, and in some places deeper, than the Grand Canyon. The area is a series of twenty canyons, formed over the years by six rivers. The majority of the landscape in inaccessible but in the mid-1960s, after nearly 60 years of on and off construction, the painstaking process of laying railway tracks through the canyons was completed. The railway was designed to connect the Pacific Ocean with Mexico’s central desert territory and Chihuahua. The train known as “El Chepe” is a much used form of transportation for locals and for tourists and continues to be a major freight connection between Chihuahua and the Pacific coast.
The train runs from Los Mochis on the Gulf of California to Chihuahua. On this 653 km route, the El Chepe crosses 37 bridges and goes through 86 tunnels. It climbs from sea level to 2400 m, passing through varied and breathtaking scenery.
The Tarahumara people, descendants of the Aztecs, still live a simple life in these canyons, as they have done for centuries. 500 years ago the Tarahumara retreated into the canyons of the Sierra Madre Occidental to escape the invading Spaniards.
The Tarahumara are quiet, reclusive people. They live far from each other in small brick or wooden huts or under rocky outcrops. Since time immemorial, the Tarahumara have been known as endurance runners, living for generations in steep canyons through which only footpaths lead. That is why they call themselves Rarámuri, which means “runner” or “one who is good on his feet”.
The fact that the Tarahumara fled from the Spanish to the Sierra Madre, of all places, is both a gift and a burden for them today. Modern Mexico is penetrating further and further into the mountains and threatening the indigenous culture, which until now has been able to keep the outside world at bay for an astonishingly long time.
The people lead a very simple, poor and difficult life. The Copper Canyon area is cartel territory and drug traffickers grow marijuana and poppies for opium production, driving Tarahumara families from their fields. Government efforts to connect Tarahumara communities to the road network are bringing junk food and armed crime to formerly isolated regions.
Tarahumara men used to wear wide headbands and loincloths even in freezing weather. Today they wear jeans, cowboy hats and pointed, dyed leather boots. Most women still wear their colourful head scarves, sandals and long skirts with floral prints. Today, they try to sell their crafts and food to visitors who visit the Copper Canyon.
Before we experienced the beautiful nature of the Sierra Madre and getting to know a bit of Tarahumara life, we spent some last days at the beach and in the mountains of Baja California. You can read everything about it in our new blog.
26 May 2023
One of the highlights of Baja California is whale watching. Besides humpback and grey whales, even blue whales can be seen from time to time. Now, of course, there are many places in the world where you can watch whales. On the Baja, however, one can literally get up close and personal with the grey whales.
The annual grey whale migration is one of Earth’s greatest wildlife spectacles. These animals make one of the longest migrations of any mammal, traveling about 16,000 kilometers. They start at their feeding grounds in the Arctic and their destination is the Baja lagoons in Mexico, where they calve and nurse, and then they swim all the way back again.
The summers from May to September are spent in the nutrient rich waters of the Arctic. In October they start their long journey south. The first animals arrive at the Baja in late December. That is when the whale watching season starts.
Grey whales can reach 12 – 15 Meter in length and weigh more than 36 tons when fully grown. The calves are born in the sheltered and safe lagoons at the west coast of the Baja between the end of December and start of February. From the end of January and in the following months is the ideal time for having a really close encounter with the whales.
Grey whales are known for their curiosity toward boats. They even initiate interactions with the awaiting boats in hopes of playing. They jump, slap their flippers and show off their tail flukes. Perhaps the most soul-touching moments, however, come from the grey whale mothers who “introduce” their calves to humans as they nudge them up toward the boat. Scientists hypothesize that these are learned behaviors from mothers who were also introduced to humans as calves in Baja.
Grey whales leave Baja’s lagoons to migrate back north starting at the beginning of February. Female whales with newborn calves are the last to depart from the lagoons in April in order to give the calves as much time as possible to grow.
Grey whale calves will nurse for approximately seven months and will stay by their mom’s side for up to nine months. If they (and we) are lucky they all will return happy and healthy to the lagoons of the Baja next year!
For us watching these majestic animals was a truly wonderful experience. Even if we were too early in the season for having a “cuddle-moment” with them (we can’t always be at the right time at the right place), it was still awsome to see them so close to our boat.
At the southern end of the Baja we also could admire the humpback whales from the beach for hours and hours every day. Seeing a whale jumping in front of the setting sun is something unforgettable. You can read about all our “wildlife moments” in our new blog.
17 May 2023
The Jesuits who founded the first successful mission in Baja California at Loreto in 1697 were the last in a long line of Europeans who attempted to subdue and convert the peoples of the land they called California.
The Spanish missions in Baja California were a large number of religious outposts established from then until 1834 by Catholic orders, the Jesuits, the Franciscans and the Dominicans, to spread Christian teachings. The missions also provided Spain with a valuable influence on the border area and introduced European livestock, fruit, vegetables and industry to the region. In a policy followed in much of Latin America called reduction, missionaries concentrated Indians in or near the mission for religious instruction and training as sedentary farmers and pastoralists. Their aim was to create a self-sufficient theocracy in which the missionary sought to rule over all aspects of the Indians’ religious and secular life.
The introduction of European diseases such as smallpox and measles had serious consequences for the indigenous population. At the time of first contact with the Spanish, there were about 60,000 Indians living in Baja California. By 1762 their numbers had dropped to 21,000 and by 1800 to 5,900.Mexico secularised all the missions in its territory in 1834 and the last missionaries left in 1840.
Some of the mission churches still remain and are still in use. We visited some of these churches, the buildings themselves are usually really impressive. Otherwise, however, we finally used the time to relax on the beaches of Bahia Concepcion and so the year of travel 2022 ended with a Tequila Sunrise at Playa El Coyote. In our new blog you can read all about our beach adventures.
4 May 2023
In our new blog, we swap the Pacific for the Gulf of California. Here on the narrow Baja, you can theoretically make it from coast to coast in a day.
As soon as we left the Pacific coast, it is as if we are entering another world, the land of cacti.
Having already hiked enthusiastically through the cactus landscapes of Joshua Tree National Park and the Anza Borego Desert in California, we find entire forests of these fascinating plants in the Cataviñá Desert.
Imagine cacti that are more than 200 years old and can weigh 10 tonnes. The Cardon cactus is the largest cactus plant in the world and we are amazed that it can reach this size here in the desert. It is able to store huge amounts of water and its girth expands with rainfall.
Another special cactus and endemic to Mexico is the Cirios or Boojum Tree. This one somehow reminds us of a slender fir tree. Maybe it’s because Christmas is coming up, but we can imagine it as a Christmas tree when it’s decorated.
Now we can only see the green leaves. In July though, yellow flowers grow on the Boojum Tree. It can grow up to 20 meters and the oldest is said to be about 360 years old.
Among all these big and small cacti, huge volcanic boulders are scattered, stacked on top of each other, ready to be climbed by us. From up there we watch a beautiful sunset. We cannot imagine a more magical place to spend the night in our camper.
25 April 2023
Baja California was our first destination in Mexico. Dry desert landscapes with cactus gardens, small fishing villages and historic missions, barren mountain formations, rocky coasts and sandy beaches awaited us. A paradise for whale watching, humpback whales pass along the Pacific coast and gray whales give birth in the bays of Baja.
The peninsula stretches 1300 km from the U.S. border to the southernmost point at Cabo San Lucas, where the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of California meet. A long highway winds from north to south, alternately touching the east and west coasts of the Baja. The peninsula is very sparsely populated and is used mainly by Canadians and Americans as a wintering place. We were excited to see what our first weeks in Mexico would be like and were looking forward to relaxing on the beaches of the Baja. First, however, we took another short trip into the mountains, which we did not regret!
Check out our first blog in Mexico where we went from a sunny beach into snow and ice within a day.
17 April 2023
Joshua Tree (National Park) is best known to most people for U2’s album of the same name from 1987.
The idea of using a Joshua Tree photo came from photographer Anton Corbijn, who suggested a trip through the Mojave Desert to take pictures. Bono liked the name so much it became the album title. Corbijn recounts that Bono consulted a Bible and was taken by how the tree got its name from Mormon settlers who thought its limbs reminded them of a Biblical story of Joshua lifting his hands in prayer.
That the park itself is proud of this is evidenced by the fact that a Fender Stratocaster guitar by “The Edge” hangs in a display case in the visitor center.
For us, it was a dignified farewell to the United States of America. Once again we could enjoy the incredible variety of landscapes and lace up our hiking boots. In our new blog, we will report on our last week in America before heading to Mexico.
Check out our latest video about the even more famous Grand Canyon National Park and about the probably less known, but not less spectacular Red Rock State Park.
4 April 2023
It has been quiet here on our blog for a while now. We have given our camper a break for two weeks and on 20 March we flew from Cancun to Havana.
Together with Romy’s parents we explored this wonderful Caribbean island by rental car. Accompanied by Cuban rhythms, we drifted through the streets of Havana, went hiking in the tobacco fields of Vinales and the mountains around Trinidad and dived into the blue of the Caribbean. The warmth of the people, the music and quite a few delicious cocktails will always remain in our memories.
Now we are back in Cancun, sleeping in our own bed and will slowly say goodbye to Mexico. In a few days we will continue to Belize and we are excited to see what will await us there.
While enjoying the Carribean sun, we jump back in time with our latest blog and find ourselves at the Californian Pacific Ocean. It wasn’t as hot there, but after many weeks in mountain areas and deserts with cold and snow we really enjoyed the sun and warmth. We followed the famous Highway No. 1 from Monterey to Los Angeles and saw a lot of wildlife in and out of the ocean.
18 March 2023
For nearly two centuries, from the days of scrambling peaks in the Sierra to the cutting edge free climbing on El Capitan, the cliffs of Yosemite National Park have set the standards for climbing.
El Capitan is probably the most recognized chunk of rock in the world to rock climbers. Climbers come from across the globe to challenge themselves on the walls of El Capitan. It’s an awe-inspiring thing that first time one goes to the Valley and stand at the base of El Capitan, looking up 1000 meter of granite.
The first ascent of El Capitan was made in 1958 when after a 12-day push Warren Harding, George Whitemore and Wayne Merry reached the summit. More routes were developed in the coming two decades. The 1970’s saw an increase in the number of climbers and a greater focus on free climbing.
In the early 90s, climbers began racing up El Capitan, climbing “The Nose” in under 5 hours. More impressively, Lynn Hill made the first true free climb of El Capitan, with an ascent of “The Nose”. Free climbing means that the climber can only use climbing equipment for protection, but not as an aid to help in their progression in ascending the route. Lynn Hill returned a few years later to free climb the route in a single day.
Later in the 90s two Austrian brothers, Alex and Thomas Huber stormed through Yosemite, adding to El Capitan free climbing. Other climbers raced up El Capitan as well with “The Nose” speed records dropping from 4 hours to just over 2.
The American climber Tommy Caldwell turned to the steep section of the Dawn Wall. After 10 years of preparation and practising he finally had completed the route after a 19-day climb in 2015. To this day it is considered to be the hardest long free climb in the world.
In the mid 2000s Alex Honnold began climbing in Yosemite as well, free soloing several routes. The most astonishing, scary and crazy climb was his free solo climb of El Capitan.
Free solo means climbing without a rope, in this case climbing a 1000 meter high rock – without a rope. Everybody who has seen the movie “Free Solo” might have got sweaty hands just by watching Alex climbing. Not only did he succeed, he was also filmed while doing so and this National Geographic Film one an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. It’s a great movie, not only for people that like rock climbing.
We stood at the base of El Capitan and looked up the wall into the sky. We could not imagine to climb even 20 meter on this wall, let alone 1000!! We saw some climbers high up there, almost invisible, trying to reach the summit. The view from up there must be awesome.
But also the rest of Yosemite National Park is wonderful and worth a visit, even in winter. In our new blog you can read about our hiking there and about the giant trees in Sequoia National Park.
12 March 2023
A desert metropolis built on gambling, vice and other forms of entertainment, Las Vegas has drawn millions of visitors and trillions of dollars in wealth to Nevada in just over a century of existence.
Las Vegas was established as a municipality in 1911. Nevada banned gambling in 1910, but in practice there were still illegal casinos. By the time gambling was legalized again in 1931, organized crime had taken root in the city. That same year, construction began on the Hoover Dam, which attracted thousands of workers to the city. Casinos opened and showgirls arrived. The Wild West-style freedoms Las Vegas enjoyed – gambling and prostitution – provided a perfect home for East Coast organized crime. Money from drug trafficking and organized crime was invested and laundered in the casinos.
In 1941, the first resort opened, soon followed by other hotel-casinos, and the stretch of highway became known as “The Strip”. In the 1950s and 1960s, mobsters helped build several large resorts. Money from organized crime was combined with money from more serious investors. Tourists flocked to the resorts, attracted by artists such as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Elvis Presley, and by the rows of slot machines and gaming tables.
Beginning in the 1940s, Las Vegas experienced a military boom with Cold War facilities, most famously the Nevada Test Site, where more than 100 atomic bombs were detonated overhead between 1951 and 1963. Mushroom clouds were often visible from hotels on the Strip. Postcards have referred to Las Vegas as “Up and Atom City.”
In the 1960s, billionaires like Howard Hughes came in and bought up the hotels in Vegas, displacing the interests of the Mafia with those of mega corporate conglomerates. In 1989, casino developer Steve Wynn opened the “Mirage”, the city’s first mega-resort. Over the next two decades, the Strip underwent another transformation: Old casinos were blown up to make way for huge complexes that transport today’s Las Vegas tourist to ancient Rome, the Egyptians, Paris, Venice or New York in just 6 kilometers.
Here are a few more interesting facts about Las Vegas:
And even though we avoid cities as much as possible on our trip, we still had to take another quick look at all this craziness that is taken to the extreme here in Las Vegas. We only stayed a few hours, and before and after that there was a big dose of indescribable nature. Thus we made sure that our inner balance was not disturbed. Valley of Fire and Death Valley helped to digest the Las Vegas shock well. But just look for yourself in our new blog.
4 March 2023
The state of Utah is probably one of the most scenic in the USA. Zion and Bryce Canyon National Park are two of the most spectacular and visited parks. Even though we have been there many years ago, we wanted to visit them again.
But there are many more scenic features in Utah. Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument was totally unknown to us before we came to Utah. Grand Staircase–Escalante has been created about 275 million years ago. But it’s relatively new to us humans: It was the last part of the lower 48 United States to get cartographed and has been established a national monument only in 1996. The Monument now spans across more than 750.000 hectares of America’s public lands. Since 2000, numerous dinosaur fossils over 75 million years old have been found at Grand Staircase–Escalante.
Much of the sweeping Grand Staircase region is quite remote. Very few trailheads can be reached on paved roads.
The Escalante Canyons area is the most popular area of the monument. Especially the “slot canyons” are part of the appeal of hikes through the Escalante’s backcountry. “Slot canyons” are very narrow canyons and often have particularly beautiful shapes formed by rainwater trying to find its way through them. They can measure less than 1 metre across at the top but drop more than 30 metres to the floor of the canyon and they are often subject to flash flooding. It is important that one checks the weather situation before hiking them. In many of these narrow canyons, it can be a long way before a safe exit or rescue is possible.
It is said that Utah has the largest concentration of slot canyons in the world. The most famous slot canyon is probably Antelope Canyon. The “problem” with Antelope is that this canyon is commercially exploited. The prices for an hour-long organized tour were not feasible for us. We found the perfect alternative in the slot canyons of the Grand Staircase Escalante.
We did some really adventurous hiking through the Dry Fork Narrows, Peek-a-Boo Canyon and Spooky Canyon. You can have a look at all the wonderful pictures not only from the canyons but also from Zion & Bryce in our new blog.
23 February 2023
The Colorado River, one of the most important river in North America, rises in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado and flows through seven states – Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona and California – over a length of 2,330 kilometers into the Gulf of California in northwestern Mexico. Because of the intensive development, the river is often called the “lifeline of the Southwest“.
For more than 1,600 kilometers of its course, the Colorado has cut a deep gorge. Each subsidiary river has cut another canyon, and thus the upper and middle portions of the Colorado basin are crisscrossed by a maze of deep gorges. The longest of these canyons is the spectacular Grand Canyon. Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Marble Canyon and Glen Ganyon are some of the other canyons we visited.
Extensive economic development caused other spectacular changes in landscape. In 1936 the construction of Hoover Dam was finished and this created Lake Mead. In the mid-1960s Glen Canyon Dam was completed, impounding Lake Powell. Multiple other large projects on the Colorado itself and its tributaries have been completed. Laced with innumerable dams, both large and small, that impound the total flow of the Colorado and by increasingly severe competition for whatever small quantities of water might remain, the Colorado basin remains fraught with controversy.
When one sees the Colorado River where it empties into the Gulf of California in Mexico then one knows that the river is over-apportioned. At this point the river is only a trickle, and, at times, it is totally dry.
The Colorado River and the 40 million people who depend on it for their water supply are facing uncertain times. Due to decades of overuse and because of climate change, demand for the river’s water far exceeds its supply. In the next two years, Lakes Mead and Powell could reach water levels too low to flow through the dams and downstream to the communities and farmers who need the water.
Despite these obvious problems we were still able to admire the greatness that nature (and humans) created, on our trip across the Colorado plateau. If you want to see more pictures, please read our new blog.
13 February 2023
When reading in our guide book about Arizona we found some interesting information about a place called Sedona. We hadn’t really heard about Sedona before, but it seemed to be a special place.
Sedona’s worldwide reputation as a spiritual mecca has attracted some of the most amazing healers, artists and spiritual leaders. Sedona is considered by these people to be the perfect place for spiritual and personal enrichment of body and soul. From healing massages, yoga, spas and salons to hypnotherapy and retreats, everything the spiritual heart desires can be found in Sedona.
Among the red rocks, there are said to be so-called “vortexes.” Sedona vortexes are believed to be swirling energy centers that promote healing, meditation and self-exploration. They are places where the earth seems to be especially energized. Many people feel inspired, recharged or encouraged after visiting a vortex. Two of the most famous vortexes are located at Cathedral Rock and Bell Rock – each radiating its own energy. While hiking in this areas, we saw several people meditating, doing yoga, or performing other rituals.
We also tried to feel these powers, but perhaps it takes more patience and practice. In any case, the beautiful landscape and vibrant colors were once again impressive and we enjoyed hiking to the fullest. You can check out our new blog to read everything about it.
4 Feburary 2023
New Mexico is called the land of enchantment – and the chili capital of the world. As we strolled through Taos and Santa Fe, we saw chili everywhere. People hang dried red chiles on long strings along fences, on patios and on portals all over New Mexico. These strings, called “ristas”, are used for decoration, as a symbol of good luck and good health and as a constantly available supply of hot chile spice.
New Mexico is the largest producer of chiles in the United States and they are used abundantly in virtually all dishes. Chiles range from the sweet bell pepper to the fiery hot habenero. They are considered a vegetable when green, and a spice when dried. For hundreds of years, people in Mew Mexico have perfected the art of growing exquisite chiles on the rocky, rugged soil. Several hundred varieties of chiles are grown here, including New Mexican (green and red), cayenne, and jalapeño. Chiles are an important source of vitamins and many essential nutrients. A green chile pod can contain six times as much vitamin C as a Florida orange. As pods turn red, the vitamin A content increases. Then they contain twice of the vitamin A of a carrot. All the more reasons to eat chile!!
We also admired the adobe architecture in New Mexico and we experienced a bit of the old charm of the Route 66. Read our new blog for more information and photo’s.
Our latest video tells our adventures in the incredible Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Park. We were amazed by the natural wonders and wildlife that can be found there.
30 January 2023
And again the landscape changed on our journey through the USA. Almost every day we were immersed in different landscapes, we felt like we were driving in fast forward, so often the savannahs changed to mountains, to farmlands, to ranges of hills, to badlands, back to mountains and now to desert.
The highest sand mountains in North America, a sandpit of epic proportions, the entire dune field covers 77 square kilometres and the highest dune rises 229 metres. Nestled in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the Great Sand Dunes have formed and sifted over billions of years – the result of the unique wind conditions in the San Luis Valley.
Before that, we visited the unique dwellings of the pueblos on the Mesa Verde (the green table). See and read all about it in our new blog.
We posted a new video, too. This one is about our first natural highlight in the USA, the Glacier National Park with its beautiful mountains, immersed in autumn colours. We did some great hiking there and even found icebergs in the middle of the mountains.
19 January 2023
Since our last leg of the journey had revolved around the history and fate of the Sioux around the Black Hills, we were now on the road again in the mountains. Besides the already known Rocky Mountains, we also visited the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, which was unknown to us before. Winter had finally arrived and we were hiking in snowy surroundings. In between, we mingled with the basketball fans and experienced a live NBA game in Denver. You can find the story and the photos in our new blog.
In our latest video we say goodbye to our first country on this trip, Canada, where we had traveled 4,5 months and had enjoyed nature and wildlife even more than expected.
7 January 2023
“Die Söhne der grossen Bärin” is one of my favourite books from my childhood that I have read countless times. The six-volume novel by Lieselotte Welskopf-Henrich tells the story of the Indian boy Harka, who fights for survival in the Black Hills with his “bear band” from the Sioux-Oglala tribe. Although the story and most of the characters in it are fictional, Welskopf-Henrich’s novel cycle is based on scientific findings. Thus, real-life characters from history, such as Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse or Buffalo Bill, also appear in it. For her meticulously incorporated historical background of the novels, the author used sources that were highly regarded as ethnological works and travelled to several reservations in North America herself.
One of the main characters in this book is Crazy Horse, first Harka’s enemy, later teacher, friend and comrade-in-arms against the whites. Crazy Horse or Tasunka Witko (Lakota language) was born around 1840 as a member of the Oglala Lakota. It was a time when cultures clashed, when land became a deadly issue of contention and when the traditional way of life of the indigenous people was threatened and suppressed.
Even at a young age, Crazy Horse was already a great warrior. His bravery and skill in battle were well known among the Lakota and he became one of their most important leaders. In 1876, Crazy Horse, along with Sitting Bull, led a group of Lakota warriors against Custer’s Seventh US Cavalry Battalion in the Battle of Little Bighorn, also known as Custer’s Last Stand.
In 1877, Crazy Horse went to Fort Robinson, Nebraska for negotiations under the flag of truce. He was killed there by a soldier on 5 September 1877.
I have always wanted to see with my own eyes the home of the heroes of my childhood and already in 2000 I had planned a trip to the northwest of the USA, which unfortunately did not come about at the time. If you like, you can join me in our new blog on my journey through the homeland of Harka and Crazy Horse. We were visiting the sites of their struggle, victories and ultimate defeat in the states of Wyoming, South Dakota and Nebraska.
We also have a new video for you to watch, about the magical trees in Pacific Rim National Park on Vancouver Island.
Happy New Year 2023!!
28 December 2022
Well over half of the world’s geysers and hydrothermal phenomena are in Yellowstone National Park. Hundreds of species of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians have been documented here. Grizzly bears, wolves, Wapiti elk and the largest and oldest free-ranging herd of bison live in this park.
Yellowstone was the first national park in the USA, enacted by President Grant on 1 March 1872, and is also widely regarded as the world’s first national park.
For thousands of years before Yellowstone became a national park, it was a place where Native Americans seasonally hunted, fished, gathered plants and used the hydrothermal waters for religious and medicinal purposes.
Trappers and mountain men came to the area in the first half of the 19th century, and there were numerous reports of boiling mud, steaming rivers and petrified trees, but most of these accounts were thought to be myth at the time. In 1869 the first official expedition took place and in 1871 the Hayden Expedition laid the final and decisive foundation for the protection of the area.
During the 1870s and 1880s, Native American tribes were effectively excluded from the national park. A treaty was negotiated in 1868, under which the indigenous people ceded their lands but retained the right to hunt in Yellowstone. This treaty though was never ratified and the government denied their claims.
These days 27 tribes are formally associated with Yellowstone. They request to participate in resource management and decision-making, to conduct ceremonies in the park, and to collect plants and minerals for traditional uses.
The railway arrived in 1883, making it easier for tourists to visit Yellowstone. Visitors in these early years faced poor roads and limited services, and most access into the park was on horse or via stagecoach.
Nowadays, 150 years after being declared a national park, 4 million people visit the park each year. We have been two of them and we were amazed by the natural wonders and the wildlife. You can read our story and watch our photo’s in our new blog which also contains a couple of amazing days in neighbouring Grand Teton National Park.
By the way, did you already watch our latest video about the Sunshine Coast and Vancouver Island?
We wish you and your loved ones a happy and healthy New Year 2023 with lots of love and happy travelling.
20 December 2022
On our journey through Canada and Alaska we had come across many former gold mining areas. But all that glitters is not gold. There is another, very valuable precious metal, and it is unearthed in the Silver Valley in Idaho, which was one of our first stops after crossing the border from Canada.
From the earth into our lives – silver is not only used for coins and jewellery, but is also an essential component of solar panels, wind turbines and smartphones.
Did you know that silver also has antibacterial properties and is therefore used in bandages to treat wounds, to purify water, in clothing to regulate body heat and in dental amalgam?
And so, once again, we learned something on our journey. After our stroll through the silver town of Wallace, we went back into nature. You can see how beautiful autumn was in Glacier National Park in our new blog.
11 December 2022
As we write our last blog about Canada and our great time on Vancouver Island and in Vancouver, we are currently on our way to the Mexican border in our camper. In three days we will start a new chapter on this journey, we will dig out our currently still sparse Spanish skills and plunge into the adventure in Latin America. Our first destination is Baja California, where we hope to find sun, beaches, deserts, cacti and whales. From now on, we will no longer count the bears we encounter, but the police-checks along the way. We will eat tacos and enchilladas instead of pasta. We will still enjoy the beautiful nature and maybe from now on we will stroll through one or the other beautiful colonial town again.
People here are slowly getting into the Christmas spirit, the decorations are getting more colourful and the Christmas lights are getting brighter. We’re not really in the festive mood ourselves yet, so let’s see what awaits us at Christmas and New Year in Mexico. We are curious and excited.
4 December 2022
Why is tree hugging good for us? Research shows that spending time in forests and near trees has real and long-term benefits, such as stress reduction, improving the immune system, lowering blood pressure and faster recovery from illness or trauma.
The giant trees in the Pacific Rim National Park were perfect for hugging, even though our arms didn’t come close to reaching around the trunk. It still felt wonderful and the atmosphere in these almost mystical forests was unique.
We hugged a lot of trees, before we went to Nanaimo to meet a very interesting, kind and inspiring couple, with whom we spent a few days in their beautiful home. Please read more about it in our new blog.
Although we had already left Alaska and were back in Canada, we had another brief but very impressive reunion with this state. On the eastern edge of Misty Fjords National Monument lies Hyder/Alaska, which is so isolated from the rest of Alaska that its 60 residents depend almost entirely on canadian Stewart. Hyder residents change their clocks to Pacific Standard Time (not Alaska Standard Time), use Stewart’s area code and send their children to Canadian schools. All this can make a trip here seem like an international affair. But one that was definitely worth it, as you can see in our new video.
27 November 2022
After we had started our journey in Canada in May at the Atlantic Ocean and had driven over the Dempster Highway to the Arctic Ocean, we now reached Canada’s third ocean that bordered the country in the west, the Pacific Ocean. It was nice to be back at the sea and especially with nice weather, after our time in Alaska had been so rainy. That meant we could get the towels out again and enjoy ourselves in the water. But there was much more to do and see on the Sunshine Coast and on Vancouver Island and Quadra Island. Whale watching, hiking and learning everything about a Potlach. Read about it in our new blog.
In our latest video you can see our bear encounters in Valdez and us walking on a glacier in America’s biggest National Park Wrangell-St. Elias. We hope you enjoy it!
18 November 2022
Today a short update about our trip. In the meantime we have been in the United States for almost 7 weeks. Our original departure date would have been November 4, but fortunately it worked out in the second attempt with a new 90-day visa at the border between Canada and the USA. So now we theoretically have until the end of December to travel on to Mexico. We are enjoying the time in the States more than expected and are glad we got the extra weeks. In the meantime, we have arrived in Nevada, having already traveled through 10 states, and we are amazed every day by the incredibly diverse nature and landscape. We will stay a few more weeks and after the last wintry weeks with often sub-zero temperatures at night, we will seek out the warmth of California. By Christmas at the latest, we will probably be at the Baja California in Mexico.
7 November 2022
On our trip through British Columbia, we were able to admire the masterful totem poles of various First Nation tribes in many places. We were incredibly impressed by these expressive symbols of their culture and craftsmanship. Totem poles are monuments created by Native people of the Pacific Northwest to represent and commemorate ancestors, stories, people or events.
Totem poles are usually made of red cedar, a malleable wood relatively common in the Pacific Northwest. Most totem poles depict creatures or heraldic animals that mark a family’s lineage and confirm the powerful rights and privileges the family possessed. Common figures on totem poles include the raven (symbol of the Creator), the eagle (symbol of peace and friendship), the killer whale (symbol of strength), the thunderbird, the beaver, the bear, the wolf, and the frog.
Totem poles are between 3 and 18 meters high, but some can reach over 20 meters. The colors used for painting the totem poles are mainly black, red, white and blue-green. Carving a totem pole requires not only artistic skill, but also a deep understanding of cultural history and forest ecology. Before a cedar tree is cut for a totem pole, many First Nations communities on the coast perform a ceremony of gratitude and respect in honor of the tree. To the artist, each tree is like a person; it has its own personality and uniqueness.
Apart from bears on totem poles we were extremly lucky to also witness grizzly bears in action at the Fish Creek in Hyder/Alaska. Have a look at the incredible images in our new blog.
29 October 2022
A headline on the front page of the “Seattle Intelligencer”on July 17, 1897, triggered the greatest gold rush in North American history. Thousands dropped everything and set off on foot, on horseback or by steamship to the north of Canada.
A popular route led from the port in Skagway over the mountains to Dawson City, the fortune seekers had to cross the 1067 meter high Chilkoot Pass. About 100,000 people crossed this trail, about which Charlie Chaplin later made his film “Gold”. Jack London also processed his own experiences in the book “Alaska Kid”. The hike had to take place in winter in order to reach the Yukon River in time for the ice to break up. In addition, it was obligatory for the gold seekers to be able to present equipment and provisions of one ton for a whole year. They had to undertake the hellish ascent to the pass up to 30 times, heavily packed. The up to 45 degree steep climb over ice steps was also called the “antechamber to hell” at that time. Many men gave up on the way and returned home, less than half reached the Klondike after three months.
We crossed the mountains parallel to the Chilkoot Trail by car to the border at White Pass and could – probably in contrast to the hikers at that time – enjoy the beautiful panorama of the surrounding mountains and lakes and were even allowed to admire the northern lights.
19 October 2022
During our time in Alaska, we saw a myriad of seaplanes. Be it a scenic flight over Denali or Wrangell St. Elias National Park, grizzly spotting in Kodiak and Katmai, or the cargo flight to McCarthy bringing mail and groceries. Alaska would not function without its bush pilots. They bring equipment, mail and medicines, fly patients to hospitals, search for missing persons or take explorers to remote areas.
Anchorage is home to the largest seaplane airport in the world, with up to 1000 takeoffs and landings on a busy day. We saw runways on the side of the road and private planes in the backyard, every small town has an airfield and many people in Alaska own their own plane. We thought about this experience ourselves, but the prices were too high for our travel budget. Nevertheless, we found it fascinating to watch the many small airplanes in front of beautiful mountain scenery.
We have reached America’s largest national park Wrangell St. Elias without a plane and were able to watch black bears eating salmon in Valdez. You can find the story and photos here in the new blog. Don’t forget to also read about our time on Kenai Peninsula in the “United States of America” Travelblog.
By the way, we saw our first grizzly on the Dempster Highway and our Arctic Ocean adventure can be watched in the new video.
6 October 2022
What little we knew about salmon before was, that it comes from Alaska (or sometimes Norway). We had seen the pictures and movies about jumping salmon that somehow swim up the river instead of drifting with the current and occasionally is caught by a grizzly. We have learned a lot more about salmon on our trip through the Yukon, but especially in Alaska. And it is fascinating, somehow sad, but also simply a miracle of nature.
There is not one but five species of salmon in Alaska. The largest, King or Chinook salmon can weigh up to 50 kg. Salmon eggs are laid in freshwater streams typically at high latitudes. First they stay for six months up to three years in their natal stream, after that the majority then migrates to the ocean, where they stay for up to 5 years. When they become sexually mature, they return to their birthplace. Salmon can make amazing journeys, sometimes moving hundreds of miles upstream against strong currents and rapids to reproduce. Some species travel up to 1400 kilometer and climb more than 2000 meter on this journey, while not eating anything. This exhausting journey also means the immediate end. The salmon will die after spawning.
We haven’t caught any salmon ourselves, but we have watched the whole spectacle of salmon. Their struggle to get back home, their somehow tragic end on the hook of a fisherman, the claws of a bear or the beak of eagles and seagulls. The cycle of life in nature.
28 September 2022
In the meantime we have arrived in Vancouver and our time in Canada is coming to an end. Soon the exciting moment will come at the border, where the question will be clarified whether we will get another 90 days to travel through the USA to Mexico.
When we entered Alaska at the beginning of August, we have already entered the territory of the USA and since then the countdown has actually already started, which means that we need to arrive in Mexico at 4th of November. Now we hope for good-natured border officials so that we have more than 4 weeks time.
Either way, Alaska was a milestone on our journey and what we have experienced in the first week there in Denali National Park, you can read in our new blog.
A little further back are our adventures in the Rocky Mountains. If you haven’t done already, you can find out what we did in Kootenay and Yoho National Park and how beautiful Banff and Jasper Nationalpark are.
17 September 2022
Dawson City was the capital of the Klondike Gold Rush which brought around 100.000 prospectors from all over the world to the Klondike region of Yukon between 1896 and 1899. Gold was first discovered in the summer of 1896 and when the news reached the United States, the run up north began.
One of the men that had big dreams of striking it rich in Dawson in 1897 was 21 year old John Griffith Chaney from California, better known as Jack London. I guess most of you know at least his name or have read one of his books. I remember the books from my childhood standing in the book shelf in my parent’s house. He did not become rich and his health suffered strongly from the harsh circumstances in the Klondike region. But after he had returned home with empty pockets he started writing and created a couple of his most famous novels about his experiences during the Gold Rush – “The call of the wild” and ”White fang”. He was one of the first American authors to become an international celebrity and ultimately became very wealthy, not from finding gold but from writing.
There is a museum about his life and work in Dawson City and it is one of the places full of history in this intriguing town. We’ve quite enjoyed our stay there and it was a great place to start and finish our adventurous drive to the Arctic Ocean. Read more about this in our new blog.
9 September 2022
Having already had 12,000 kilometers across Canada on the teller, arriving in Dawson Creek meant the official arrival at the “Panamerican Highway” for us. The road that made us decide to make this trip and that connects North America with South America.
The origin of this road is in Central America, where Mexico was joined with Panama. It is estimated that the entire network of roads now consists of 45,000 kilometers from Fairbanks, Alaska to Ushuaia, Argentina.
The last section was constructed during World War II. From a military point of view, it was considered necessary to better protect the unguarded Alaska. America and Canada felt increasingly threatened by Japan and the Soviet Union in 1940. In February 1942, ground is broken. Approximately 11,000 soldiers work on the so-called “Alcan Highway”. At temperatures of up to minus 20 degrees in the most impassable terrain, later tormented by myriads of mosquitoes, on mossy permafrost soil, man and machines suffer. Many soldiers have accidents, but after 8 months and 12 days, 2,237 kilometers of road are built. The Alaska Highway, as the road is called in 1948 after its opening for non-military use, was born, from Dawson Creek in the ‘south’ in Canada to Delta Junction in the ‘north’ in Alaska.
For decades, the road was an adventurous rough gravel road and the only connection to the Yukon Territory. Today the highway is paved, but it still leads through deserted regions. The asphalt of the Alaska Highway is largely of excellent quality. Especially when you consider the weather conditions it faces especially in the winter. To maintain this quality, a lot of maintenance is needed which we witnessed from time to time during our ride. We passed several larger and smaller construction sites where sometimes longer waiting times were inevitable.
What else happened on our way to Whitehorse, the capital of “Canada’s True North”, on the trail of the adventurer and gold seekers, you can read in our new blog.
30 August 2022
Although we both love to travel by train, we are not “rail fans” or otherwise particularly interested in railroads. However, during our crossing of Canada we often noticed the endless freight trains of the Canadian Pacific Railway running parallel to the Trans-Canada Highway. It is not uncommon to see these trains stretch to more than 4 kilometers, weighing up to 18,000 tons. The railroad line in the Rocky Mountains is impressive and in Yoho National Park we were able to see with our own eyes how one of these trains struggled at snail’s pace for a whole 26 minutes through the upper of the two spiral tunnels over the Kicking Horse Pass.
How do you connect such a gigantic country from east to west and also overcome the Rocky Mountains? This question was asked after the founding of Canada in 1867. Work on the Trans-Canada Railroad began in 1881 and Calgary was reached in 1883. It took another two years and untold effort to build the track through the steep Rocky Mountains. In 1886 the first train left Montréal for the Pacific. The construction of the railroad played a decisive role in the settlement of western Canada, brought farmers and gold seekers, but drove away the bison herds and the indigenous peoples who had resisted the construction of the line until the very end.
There is not only freight traffic; even today you can also make this long journey as a passenger. The distance of 5000 kilometers from Toronto to Vancouver is thereby covered in 4 days. With our camper it took us a little longer to get to the Rockies, but we have no hurry. What else we have experienced in this fantastic mountain world, you can read in our new blog!
21 August 2022
Before European contact there were around 30 million bison roaming the Great Plains of North-America. They were extremely important to indigenous people, supplying food, clothing, shelter, tools and more. When Europeans arrived on the prairies, a war against the bison ensued. By 1880, there were only a few hundred bison left in North America.
Nowadays bison have made a comeback and are no longer threatened with extinction. After 120 years of absence, in 2005 Plains Bison were re-introduced into the Grasslands National Park. Today the park manages a population of 500 – 650 animals. In our new blog “The big skies” we will tell you more about our visit to this beautiful national park and its flora and fauna.
How we got there, all the way from the forests and lakes of Ontario to the prairies of Manitoba on the Trans-Canada Highway, you can watch in our new video.
13 August 2022
In the meantime, we’ve arrived in Alaska and we’ve already run across a moose or two here. Our experiences with moose and bears in the Canadian province of Manitoba, on the other hand, were already a while ago. But these were particularly exciting and you can read in this blog what else we have experienced between endless wheat fields, 30 meter high sand dunes and the animal-rich Riding Mountain National Park.
8 August 2022
It’s been a while, we’ve been traveling in northern British-Colombia and the Yukon for the last few weeks and that’s when towns become scarce and so do internet options. Now there is a new blog about our trip to the west of Canada on the Trans-Canada Highway.
On this trip we also visited Manitoulin Island, an island which is inhabited to a large extent by indigenous people. Our experiences there and other experiences on our journey so far have prompted us to write an article on the topic of “Indigenous Peoples of Canada”.
Also for the film fans among you there is something new, our video about our (animal) experiences on water and land in the two big provincial parks Algonquin and Killarney can be found here.
17 July 2022
Chip ‘n’ Dale
Since we are travelling through Canada, we are almost daily harassed by hundreds of annoying mosquitoes and pursued by them on our hikes. You have probably already seen this in the blogs or in one of our videos. But today we would like to tell you about another, much more pleasant, really cute hiking companion…
Already in Martina’s garden in Great Village they welcomed us to Canada. On all our tours they are present; we usually hear their warning calls before we even get to see them. Most of the time they are very well camouflaged, then we do spot them, but before we have our camera “ready to shoot” they have already scurried across the path and disappeared again. In contrast to the squirrels, which climb up a tree quickly and are still easy to see with their bushy tails, these little forest dwellers disappear in a flash in the bushes or in one of their holes in the ground.
10 July 2022
All Canadians know Tim Hortons, 92% of residents between the ages of 18 and 34 have visited Tim Hortons at least once in their livetime. For some, it’s their morning coffee-to-go or breakfast burger with egg and bacon, and the line at the drive-through is always substantial. For others, it’s the daily meeting place with friends to chat about the good old days. There are nearly 5,000 restaurants worldwide, and in Canada you’ll find them at most gas stations, in cities, in commercial areas or along the highway.
For us, “Timmies” means wifi and thus working on the website, checking our emails, bank statements, Whatsapp messages and the regular video call with our families at home. And all this usually with a “dark roasted filtered coffee” and a “roasted hazelnut cold brew”, of which only 3 people even know the blend and roasting receipe of the main ingredient.
Tim Horton was a Canadian hockey player, named one of the “100 greatest NHL players in history” in 2017, who founded the company in 1964 but died in a car accident in 1974 at the age of only 44. 40 years later and worth $11 billions, Tim Hortons accompanies not only most Canadians, but a great many Overlanders on their journey across Canada.
3 July 2022
Just a few thoughts….
A few things that we have noticed on our trip in Canada so far:
Canadians are really very calm and friendly people. We had numerous random conversations with strangers that approach us, everybody is very welcoming and curious.
Canadians love to mow their lawns. Their houses are built on big properties (there is a lot of land and there are not many people in it compared to how we live in Europe). Mostly they have just a huge piece of gras around the house and they are constantly driving around in their little “mowing machines” likely to compete with their neighbours about who has the best “golf course lawn”.
The roads in Canada are worse than we had expected. Many roads – even the highways – are not very well maintained and there are even, not only a few potholes on the highway. That might have several reasons, we can only guess. Maybe the climate is too rough, from 40 degrees in summer until -25 in winter may not be good for the asphalt. Maybe they do not have the money for maintenance as they are not paying any road/vehicle tax. The latter is also the reason why so many can afford driving these huge and heavy 4×4 pick up cars.
We are always the slowest car, on any kind of road. Even if we drive a little over the speed limit, everybody – also the big trucks – are overtaking us. There are fines for speeding, up to 300 CAD, but nobody seems to care and maybe there is no speed control?
22 June 2022
Nous sommes en voyage!
We have finally left Nova Scotia after spending almost 3 weeks in this Atlantic region.
Right now we ‘pratiquer’ our French as we are in French speaking Quebec at the moment!
Read the new blog about our last week on the Gaspé Peninsula right now!
14 June 2022
We’ve made a video about the days in Halifax and about finally picking up our camper. Check it out here.
Um unsere Webseite in Deutsch lesen zu können, kann man rechts unten die Sprache anpassen. Ook de Nederlanders kunnen rechts onderaan op de pagina de taal aanpassen.
2 June 2022
We are reunited with our camper, everything worked out well yesterday! Now we are on the road in Nova Scotia with our own van, how wonderful is that!
Check out our adventures with preparing this trip and the first week in Canada in our new video!
31 May 2022
It’s about to begin!
As you can read on our blog, we have been through a few things already. Every day we try to shift down a gear in order to enjoy doing nothing. At the moment this only works partly, but maybe this will improve when we finally travel around with the camper!
Speaking of the camper…it has now arrived in Canada! Even though our Airbnb is around the corner from the harbor, we totally missed the boat coming in and going out. We tried to get as close to the harbor area as possible to get a proof photo. As you can see, our car is in good company with about 20 other RVs!
We will try to pick up the camper tomorrow and get ready for hopefully great miles together!
21 May 2022
Get set, ready, go!
The last few days have been hectic. The whole house had to be thoroughly cleaned and everything tidied up. You think you don’t have a lot of stuff, but secretly you have saved quite a lot over the years.
What do you throw away, what goes in the camper and what goes on the plane? It was a lot of planning until the last moment!
The stress of Schiphol Airport is now also behind us and we drink one last coffee on Dutch soil. There is no way back 🙂 The sun is shining so nothing can stop us anymore! Get set, ready, go!!
16 May 2022
Port of Antwerp
On 16 May, the time had finally come…we would bring our car to the port of Antwerp today!
On this day, we got up early in the morning to get ahead of the morning rush-hour traffic from Maassluis with two cars. At 8 o’clock we were already standing in front of the gate of the Euroterminal where the official part of the day began. Since only the owner/driver of the vehicle is allowed to enter the port area, Romy was on her own. We were prepared for the process to take about two to three hours, but after the last preparations and checks Romy was outside the gate again after about an hour and we drove back home…The car is on its way to Halifax with the Atlantic Star leaving Antwerpen 19th May…we still have to wait six more days!
Update April 2022
Who would have expected this – not one year, but two years of waiting and postponing this trip. Two years have passed, the year is 2022 and finally we can set the countdown again until we leave for Canada. Countries have opened up and our van is ready to go on the Atlantic Sea freighter “ATLANTIC STAR”, planned departure 13th May in Antwerpen. Unfortunately we are not allowed to join our van as we had originally planned. The shipping company decided to not take passengers anymore on their vessels. We will follow by plane two weeks later, ETA 21st May 2022. Right now we are busy with the last preparations and enjoying some family & friends time in Dresden.
Update July 2020
I am writing this input on the day we were looking forward to so much. We had booked a room and a place for the van on this particular day on the Atlantic Sea freighter to cross the ocean. Instead I drove to the small Dutch village Zalk spending the night along the river IJssel changing the countdown settings further into the future…
The work has been done and basically we are ready to go. Waiting for winter time to be over and the sun taking over starting a new spring season in Canada. And of course Corona will just be a subject for new history books…
We are aiming for April 2021…
After one year of preparations we obviously are looking forward to the day that the Atlantic Sea freighter will take us from Antwerp to Halifax. Hours of organizing and planning will be left behind us and we will settle down, reading a book on an 11-day-long cruise across the Atlantic Ocean, until we reach the city of Halifax on the Nova Scotia peninsula…Canadian soil…
Feel free to visit our website once in a while to check out, what we are up to. We would love to keep you up to date.
Let the journey begin…but until then we’ve got some work to do!
Take care and see you soon!