Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Driving in Colombia

Up until Colombia, we had happily survived six months of driving in South America. Then a week ago we hit the country, and then I realized all the time we were just prepped for Colombian driving – it is so refreshingly dangerous that it is truly an attraction in its own right.

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They say when in Rome, do as the Romans do. So by the same logic, when in Colombia, drive as the Colombians do, I guess? This is Q safely executing one of my personal favorites of Colombian driving techniques. 2011-03-24 10h59m14s DMC-TS2 P1090823

In case you cannot tell,  it was double-overtaking on the left shoulder. Yes, they drive on the right in Colombia. …at least it was done over a dotted central line!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Two recipes and Colombian music

Got these two recipes when we celebrated Christmas and New Year’s with friends in Puerto Madryn, Argentina. The combination of the first recipe didn’t sound too appealing to me, but I tried it, and I had to admit, it is just amazing! Try it yourself (make sure you have a nice, ripe, preferably Filippino;), mango)!

Rucola, blue cheese and mango salad


  • Rucola leaves (use the stems for the next recipe)
  • Blue cheese(cut up)
  • Mango (ripe! in dices)
and drizzle with 
  • olive oil

Rucola spread


  • Rucola stems
  • Cream or white cheese
and use as spread on
  • Garlic toast

(or add garlic to the mix instead and serve on bread or toast)

Enjoy those!

This piece of music was played in a salsa club in Cali, Colombia. The whole place shouted and sang with this song, very cool! The title ‘De Donde Vengo Yo’ roughly translates to ‘from where I come’, and it is a local Colombian song, celebrating their ‘Colombianism’ and the diversity of the Colombian people.

De Donde Vengo Yo - Choc Quib Town on Vimeo.

(if you are subscribed to our mailinglist, you won’t see the video above, click here to open it in your browser!)

Friday, March 18, 2011

If I were a Tour Guide for the Aliens

If one day an extra-terrestrial life-form comes to me and asks for direction to the one natural site on this planet, I would most definitely point it to the Grand Canyon in the United States. For those of you who have been there, you can relate to the tremendous shock and awe power it had on me when I first cast my sight on it.

However if the alien asks for the one cultural site on earth, I wouldn’t know where to point it to, until a few days ago when I came across this place unexpectedly - “La Capilla del Hombre” (The Temple of Man) in Quito, Ecuador. The masterpiece is built to house paintings and sculptures created by Oswaldo Guayasamín.

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The center of Guayasamín’s work is about the pain and sufferings of indigenous people, but he also draws attention to the warmth and hope for the families and loved ones. His work and words touched me deeply:

For the children that death took while playing,

For the men that weaken while working,

For the poor that fail while loving,

I will paint with the gun scream,

With the thunder potency and

With the eagerness of battle.


(Disclaimer: The above photos are results from google image search.)

I guess the Great Wall in China makes a pretty close competition too, but I feel that the Wall is like us humans flexing our muscles and making ourselves look bigger, whereas the Temple was like that Mona Lisa smile – if you really look into her eyes, the complexity and sincerity will instantly touch your soul and draw you in.

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The site is beautifully set against the mountain range of Quito and Guayasamín’s house and burial site.

Not to mention that while in Quito, in addition to the Temple, the aliens can also sample some of the most delicious and rich hot chocolate! Yum, what a treat. You are welcome, E.T.!

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The route and photos - UAE

(if you receive this post through our mailing list (same for FaceBook probably), then unfortunately it will not show the way it’s supposed to –> please click here and visit the website to view it!)

We’ve had numerous requests to show you the route we have taken. We also received just as many requests to show more pictures of our trip! Here you are, combined into one! I’ve used the website Everytrail.com to upload our GPS tracks and photos, it has linked the both together and it shows you which route we’ve taken and shows the pictures that go with it!

We started our trip from our former home, the United Arab Emirates, we drove from Abu Dhabi via Dubai to Sharjah, where we took the ferry to cross to Iran. This particular post is quite small, future posts will include more routes and more pictures!

The route that we took:

Click this link to view the route plus the photos full screen.


Click here for the full screen slideshow of the just photos without the map.

(seeing that I’m testing this, please let me know your feedback! any problems, suggestions, etc. are most welcome!)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

You Asked, Now We Answer! (part I)

Thank you all for posting all your questions, we were swamped with them, both through our blog, mailing list (if you want to receive automatic updates when blog, mail us on this address) and through Facebook!

Tell us about the ARCHITECTURE...  - Anne-Marie & Thijs-Jan
A lot of the architecture in South America is colonial, especially in Argentina what we noticed was the lay-out of the cities, all rectangular, with a square (typically called Plaza de Armas) in the middle. The east coast of Uruguay was quite different, it seemed to be this place where a lot of (Argentinian, it would seem, lots of expensive cars with Argentinian license plates driving around) money was. A lot of modern villa’s with a view of the ocean.2011-02-20 10h29m42s DMC-TS2 P1080806

What's the average km you do on a day (and of course also curious to the max you did and the minimum) - Mike
We’ve been traveling for just over 9 months right now, we’ve done 41.000k, which roughly makes 150km on average a day. But of course we don’t drive every day, far from it. We spent 1 month in The Netherlands and Germany waiting for our flight to South America, did 3 weeks in Buenos Aires to learn Spanish, 2 weeks in China to visit a wedding.
I would say we do an average of 400km per day, max around 800km, least, dunno, 0, I guess!

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Best and worst CouchSurfing experience – Kun
As you might know, we’re quite avid CouchSurfers, and we surf during this trip as well! One of the best experiences we had was a completely unexpected one in Iran! We had a flat tire in the middle of Iran and we ended up trying to find a new inner tube on a Friday, their rest day, ie all shops were closed and it took us quite a while. It also didn’t help that we didn’t speak any Farsi, but the very helpful and resourceful locals managed to find just about the only guy in town who spoke English, and he was able to help us find what we were looking for. In the end, he invited us to stay with him and we met every member of his family over a wonderful evening barbecue!
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Worst? Dirty places, like, really really dirty. Don’t like those… it happened 4 times so far that Shu felt the place so dirty that she started to clean the place, that never happened in our house before!!

Best and worst foods – Kun
Talk about a difficult question, seeing that you *know* that we’re Chowhounds!
Off the top of my head…
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Lahmacun in Turkey, wow!

S5030263Asado in Argentina. Rodizio in Brazil 

2011-02-15 18h10m46s DMC-LX3 P1020694_RW2Ceviche in Peru
(or know as
Kinilaw in The Philippines)

Worst? Any food that makes either of us sick or go to the toilet in rapid succession several times a day. So far it only has happened twice, once to either of us.
Shu answers: “When we were in Greece, we stayed with a self-sufficient family with their own garden and animals and cheese and bread. We picked up some sardines and crabs from town. Together we had such an unique and delicious meal. Also I have discovered that homemade food are better than bought.”

Place where you would go back in a heart beat, and a place where you will not go back unless you were clubbed over the head and dragged back forcibly – Kun
Eastern Turkey was amazing! Italy has been and always be a favorite. I loved driving Carreterra Austral in Chile, several roads in Bolivia and Cuzco to Nazca in Peru. Too many to describe! The unpaved parts of Ruta 40 in Argentina were among the worst…  2010-11-27 09h27m38s DMC-TS2 P1050119
Shu answers: “Brazil and eastern Turkey. Oh, just day-dreaming about them brings big silly smiles to my face. And a few friends´ homes as well: a lovely renovated house in Germany, and a self-built house in Tucuman, Argentina. I would not want to go to the Caspian Sea coastline of Iran. The area was poorly developed and traffic was terrible and dangerous. Come to think about it. I find it such a turnoff to see bad development which are quickly and poorly done, and abandoned soon after. Such a waste of resources.”

Can you please relate for us 3 of the stupidest arguments you've had while on this epic trip of yours?  Please also share any interesting injuries or afflictions – Sonya
Hehe… yeah, we’ve had our fair share of arguments… the ride’s not always smooth when you’re spending 24/7 with each other. One specific one that comes to mind is an argument we had whether or not to laminate copies of our passports… yup. We sink that low… I argued we should do it, Shu argued that the ZipLoc bags that we’re using work quite fine. By now, we have one set that’s still in a ZipLoc bag (which, ironically enough, I carry), and Shu carries the laminated one after hers got wet in the rain!
Injuries. I took it to try out Enduro riding with the son of friends of us in Argentina. I made a spectacular crash trying to go down a hill. The bike was fine, I really hurt my knee, was limping for 2 weeks.2010-10-20 17h48m41s DMC-TS2 P1030581

Enduro riding in Argentina

Tell us more about bed bugs!! Did the person who infected you know they were infected? Do they hurt? How can we save ourselves from them? – Sonya
No bed bugs for me! Luckily! But Shu has had them thrice so far, once during a CouchSurfing experience and twice in a ‘hotel’. We would not know who gave it to us, Shu says they do hurt. How to save yourself from them? If you know, let us know, cos we obviously haven’t learnt how to know. The obvious: make sure the room you’re staying in is clean, if it looks dirty, all the bigger the chance of getting them.

What have you discovered on this trip that you didn't know about yourself or your partner? Good or bad – Sonya
Good: I had been thinking of doing a motorcycle trip like this, but one of the things that held me back was that I have zero technical knowledge. ‘What would I do if I have a breakdown in the middle of nowhere?’, was the question that held me back. But I learned to accept whatever happens, and that things will sort themselves out, with the creativity that I have, and that others have. That, and I did take it upon myself to learn at least a few technical things about the bike.2011-02-21 11h01m01s DMC-LX3 P1020799_RW2

Replacing the front tire

Knowing what you know about what's involved with a trip like this, would you do it again?  I guess you're doing it right now so that answers that... – Sonya
Yup, would do it again in a heartbeat. And if you’re thinking of doing it: JUST DO IT! It’s you who’s stopping yourself from going, no one else. It’s scary to do the first few steps, but it is SO worth it!!!2011-02-18 12h17m34s DMC-TS2 P1080722

The rain, so worth it…

More answers to your questions will come soon! Keep sending us your questions!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Are You Ready for a Dirty Story?

Quite honestly South America is a bit like most parts of Asia, with all sorts of toilet facilities that one can imagine. So every time when the nature calls while outside a touristy area, I often find myself debating whether I am ready for another possible surprise.

Today’s surprise came after a delicious lunch at a roadside food shed in a small Peruvian town. While Q paid for the bill, which was a whopping USD$ 6 for two complete lunches including soups and meat dishes - outrageous I know -my eyes quickly scanned the little roadside restaurant for any indication of a bathroom facility.

Definitely nothing obvious that I could see, but maybe in the back behind the shed? Hmm… I wonder if I should just cut my losses and go straight for the Shu-Pee device. Oh wait, but that’s at the motorcycle and I didn’t feel like running across a busy street just to get it. And holding out for a better spot isn’t an option either. Q already gave me heads-up on a long ride ahead. Hmm.

A couple minutes of cost-and-benefit analysis later, I find myself walking up to the lunch crew ladies by the big pots, and asked them if they had a bathroom. I was certain a small part of me was hoping the answer would be “no”.

Surprisingly somehow my question generated quite a bit of reaction from the ladies - I may even use the word “excitement”. Maybe it was because I was one of the few women who have lunch there? Just about all the diners were men when I was there except for me. Anyway, so one lady nodded “yes yes” so enthusiastically it was as if they have been waiting for this question the whole time! She gestured to the second lady who heard my question and was already acting on it. She quickly picked up a big bucket from somewhere, and scooped up some water from somewhere else with it. Then she signaled me to follow her to the back of the shed. Here it goes.

Aha, so there was a area shielded by a couple of weaved bamboo sheets. I was signaled to wait while the lady went in first. 2011-03-05 14h06m01s DMC-TS2 P1090094

I made out from the small cracks in the sheets that she first dumped the bucket of kitchen water down a what-looked-like a bare toilet seat, then she bent down and proceeded to wipe the seat’s rim clean with her bare hand!

At the moment I simply couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I called her that it was okay. She looked through the sheets and pointed up at the sky trying to tell me - what I believed was – that the toilet got dirty from rain.

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It was such a humbling moment. All the time when I looked down on the lunch ladies for what little they had, I didn’t realize how they offer it all with all their hands with outmost kindness. For once in my life, I was grateful for a bare toilet seat.

Back on the road, the question did cross my sanitized mind whether the lady would wash her hands before tending to lunch duties. Then I told myself not to worry since there is no point. Well, at least until the next stop.

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