Somewhere out there

travels and wanderings

Road Trip


Erik and I are heading on a road trip soon. We’re flying into San Francisco and driving to Minnesota and back to attend his sister’s wedding. We are happy to be a part of something so special, and grateful that we get to make an adventure out of it.

We plan to go up the Pacific coast and cut across through Iowa, Montana and one of the Dakotas on our way there, and figure out some southern route on our way back. I’m hoping to be able to document our travels along the way.

The End is Near

We are in Bogota, Colombia right now. I’m sitting on the cold tile floor of our hostel room, positioning myself as close to the door as I can get, so that I can pick up the weak but steady wifi signal.

Tomorrow night we fly out of here and head back home. I am full of mixed emotions. A part of me gets giddy at the thought of coming home. I picture friends and family. I picture Hawaii and all its wonderfulness. I am excited to see the people in my life that I love so much. I am excited to go back to the home I know and the activities make me feel like me. But along with the happy, I also feel sad. Sad that it is coming to an end and that life, while going back to the same as I left it, will be different now. I am also sad to return home and not have Tawny there. That’s something that digs like a knife in my side- or more accurately, in my heart. The sad and happy take turns going back and forth. One moment I’m turning to Erik and telling him what I’m most excited for about our return, the next moment I’m moaning and saying I don’t want to go home.

He takes my mood swings in stride, and reminds me it will all be okay.

Which it will be.

Despite the happy-sad ping pong match, along with some nervousness and other emotions I can’t quite distinguish, the feeling I really feel the most is grateful. It has been amazing to see so many parts of the world, and to experience all that comes with the adventure of traveling. I have loved every moment of it, even the parts I initially hated. I feel lucky and humbled having gone through this, and that’s what I hope I will hold on to the most.

I am about a month behind on this blog, and I’m not sure if I will keep at it when I return. I want to, if for no other reason than to give the memories some permanence and make use of the photos aside from creating Facebook albums, but I’m not sure if I’ll still feel the energy for it once back at home. We shall see… I will follow my energy and where it leads me.

If this is my last post, I want to say this… out of all the places I’ve been and all the things I’ve gotten to experience, my favorite has been traveling with Erik. It has been an adventure, honor, challenge and all around great experience that has added to who I am, as well as to who we are as a couple. We’ve definitely had our ups and downs along the way, but each time we’ve managed to emerge from them and grow and become stronger. I feel I’ve gotten to know him even more than I did, and love him to an even greater depth. For that, I am most grateful.

I will end here for now… Thank you friends and family for following along and being with us on this journey, it has meant a lot.

Love always,



Our time in Quito was short and sweet, well at least for me. Unfortunately Erik got sick during this time, so he was a little miserable.

We chose to stay in the older part of town because we like the architecture and feel of old towns. Most tourists stay in the newer Mariscal Sucre section with trendy bars and restaurants- we ended up going down there and having dinner one night, and it was nice, but I was happy with our choice.

While in Quito we walked around and checked out the impressive old buildings.

The Virgin Mary looking over the city of Quito. I've seen tons of Marys but this is the first with wings.

Photo of a really great photo on display in the Plaza Santo Domingo

Santo Domingo Plaza (we stayed about 1.5 blocks from here)

streets of Quito

Museo Fransicano (the front was under construction so they made a veil of what it will look like when it's finished)

more streets, in yellow hue

Inglesia Bascila (this picture does not do it justice- it was beautiful and amazing to look at)

When I travel, I am a big time tourist so since we were in Ecuador, it was really important to me to make it to the equator line. I wanted photos of myself in two hemispheres at one time. So off we went to Mitad del Mundo (“the center of the world”) where there is a big monument and a bright yellow line marking the equator, or at least where they though the equator line was up until the 90’s when scientific advances showed they were about 100 meters off the mark.

Roasted cuy at one of the restaurants at Mitad del Mundi. Appetizing aren't they??

Erik at Mitad del Mundi- in two hemispheres at once (if that was the actual equator line that is)

my turn

10 second timer

Poor sick Erik feeling over it, and yet having to pose for one more pic

We unfortunately didn’t make it to the actual equator line. Erik wasn’t feeling well, and though it was close it was really hard to find.

Though I wax and wane over my excitement about cities, I liked Quito and was glad we stopped here.


Banos was a big kid’s playground. I loved every second of being there. It was filled with beautiful green mountains, tons of waterfalls, thermal baths and lots of heart pumping activities. Erik and I had a great time. If you’re in Ecuador, I highly suggest going here. We were lucky to hit it during the low season so it wasn’t swarming with tourists. We also had beautiful weather during our entire stay.

Glimpses of Banos:

View of the town from a rooftop terrace

Banos is famous for this taffy that is pulled in storefronts everywhere. It was cool to walk around and see it being made. We tried some and it was extremely sweet, but kind of addictive.

There is a legend that the Virgin Mary dipped her toes in the waterfall that feeds this fountain on the upper side of Banos. It is said to have healing properties. We both gave it a try. It had a strong mineral taste and was cold and refreshing.

where Jesus's momma dipped her toes

Tungurahua Volcano. Currently quiet but still active. Responsible for heating the baths of Banos.

Chanco- a regional dish in the area. Delicious fried pork with all sorts of goodies. We ate a lot of this during our stay.

On our first day we got oriented to the town and booked a canyoning tour (it’s where you rappel down waterfalls) for the following day; we also rented bikes to tour the city and surrounding areas. The road from Banos to Puyo is called Ruta de la Cascadas because of all of the beautiful waterfalls along the way. We biked about 30 kilometers that day stopping along the way to take in the sights. We ended when it started to get dark though I wanted to keep going and going despite how tired I was. It was a gorgeous ride and a good workout. What’s great about this route is that you can bike until you want to stop, and the buses will take you and your bike back to town.

Go Erik, go!

One of the many beautiful waterfalls along the way. This is the canyon I ziplined across.

At the first waterfall stop I tried out the zipline. It was only $12! There’s one in Maui that I’ve been interested in, but it’s over $100, so I’ve always put it off because it’s too expensive. I was stoked to find it so cheap. I loved every moment. It wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be and the views were amazing. The scariest part for me was being on top of the shaky wooden platform they send you off from. I got to zip across the canyon and back again. On my way back I didn’t have enough speed and got stuck about 30 meters from the finish. It was trippy to look down and see how high up I was. I worked to pull myself across the cable and the company sent a 9 year old to come rescue me. It was cute and funny.

Climbing up.

Suspended above it all

Getting saved

My little hero

To see video of me ziplining click here

We also did a short hike to Pailon del Diablo ( which I was told means “the devil’s nose”). It was am impressive gushing waterfall. There’s a nice look out area, and you can crawl under rocks and through a cave to get to a set of stairs which will take you behind the waterfall. We crawled through and climbed up, but didn’t go behind the falls because we didn’t feel like getting soaked since we still had a ways to go on our bikes.

They had cute signs on the way down to the Diabalo falls. This one says something like- "are you ready to be impressed?? God does exist!"

Diabalo falls

climbing through the caves to get to the top

up close

finally calling it quits on our bike ride. it was a great day

On our second day we did our canyoning tour which was awesome, incredible, scary and jaw dropping. It was just Erik, a German guy named Mark, our guide Johnny and me. We rapelled down 4 waterfalls. The last being over 100 feet. I was really proud of Erik for giving it a try. He is terrified of heights and did all but the last waterfall. He had a  fun time too. It’s been fun to each push each other past our comfort levels on this trip and I was stoked he was willing to give this a try.

Geared up and ready to go

Erik climbing up

Ready to go down the first waterfall (it was about 20 feet)

Go Erik, go!

second waterfall and he's becoming a pro

on the third waterfall we slid down

Erik slip sliding away

my turn!

The last waterfall was my favorite. It was so scary and so so cool. Going down, my whole body shook with anxiety and fear. I looked at Johnny and said “no muerte?” (no death) he laughed and said “no, it’s okay.” I was in charge of  belaying myself down and it was hard to release myself from the safety of the rock, especially when looking down made me dizzy. But I worked up the courage and did it. Going very slowly at first, and then working up speed. At one point I stopped and just hung there, dangling my feet and taking in the beauty and sheer incredible-ness of it all. I wish I could show you pics of what it looked like from my view, but here are a couple that Johnny took. In addition to keeping us safe and guiding us, he also took all the photos from our canyoning experience.

No muerte, right Johnny????

After canyoning, we went to the baths, which Banos is famous for and named after. They are fashioned like public pools, but the water comes from under water springs heated by the nearby volcano. While in the pool, you can feel the hot water bubbling up from below- it’s pretty trippy. The water is a brown color from the minerals that are supposed to have healing properties. There are also blue pools are filled with icy water from the rivers. We had fun jumping into the cold ones, then warming up in the hot ones. When we were done, our bodies felt like jello and our skin was extra smooth and soft.

Erik enjoying the hot springs and healing minerals

A list of all the water properties.

On our last full day we decided to book another white water rafting trip since we had fun doing it in Peru and it’s something we can’t do back home. Ecuador is known for it’s rapids so we were excited. The tour company that we booked all our trips with was great- Wonderful Ecuador, I highly suggest them to anyone going to Banos. They offered us a 9am trip, but realized they wouldn’t be able to take us until 11am, so gave us free bikes for the extra 2 hours with the option to bike down with guides and be picked up. It was nice to do the route again, this time with our rafting guides- Tony and Igeko, and Isaac and his father Dave, both from Colorado.

We stopped at another zipline spot, this time going over 1 km in a downhill motion, so there was a lot more speed. So much speed in fact that as I came to the end, I felt fearful because I wasn’t slowing down. I smacked right into a foam wall. It didn’t hurt but it was jolting and made me scream.

Getting ready to fly

and off I go again

still going...I ended about where the river bends

We also rode a cable car across the canyon to one of my favorite waterfalls called Manto De La Novia (meaning the veil of the girlfriend). Originally it was only one waterfall but over time it became 2.

cable car

Erik feeling nice and comfortable being up so high. (left to right- Dave, Isaac, Erik, Igeko)

La Novias

When we finished our bike ride we were met by 3 other Ecuadorians from various parts of the country. Igeko manned the safety kayak and Tony was our river guide. The 7 of us bounced our way down the river. It was exciting and more turbulent than in Arequipa. At a particularly rough part, Katherine, one of the Ecuadorians with us, got tossed from the raft. Igeko helped her get back to the boat and I was in charge of pulling her in. It was intense but filled with good cheer. Katherine said she actually enjoyed the experience and it made our adventure feel more adventurous.

heading down the stream

Hitting the rapids. I love these parts

whoo hoo!

We were on the river for about 2 hours. Stopping for a quick swim break after an hour and then continuing onward.

swim break

back on the river again

high five! great crew, great time

It was a great several days. From here we headed to Quito.

Mompiche and Sua

Continuing in search of the dream, we head to Mompiche. After 3 bus transfers and several confirmations we would be taken to the town, we were instead dropped off on the side of the road about 5 miles away. We were told another bus would eventually come, but after waiting for 45 minutes, seeing dark gray clouds and hearing  thunder in the distance we decided to start walking.

where's the bus???

We started off cheerful. We were in adventurous moods and it felt good to move our legs after being on a bus for several hours. Along the way we heard howler monkeys in the distance and saw leaf cutter ants along the roadside. It was lush and green. About 45 min into our walk (we didn’t actually know how far away the town was- we just knew what direction it was in), and still no sign of a passing bus we could flag down, it began to get hard. I felt my shoulders screaming for some relief and my legs feeling heavier and heavier with each step. I let out my most pathetic doggy whimper, and Erik responded back with a sad howl.

and off we go...

We continued on, two sad pups, when suddenly to our rescue came Steve and Sara in a red camper van. They passed us, stopped, reversed with Sara sticking her beautiful smiling face out the window, and asked if we wanted a ride. We couldn’t say yes fast enough, and reaffirmed it several times just so there was no confusion- we were so relieved and grateful. They drove us into town, where we booked a simple rustic room in a hostel and parted ways with loose plans to meet up later when our paths crossed- which was bound to happen in a town so small.

Mompiche is another beach town that has just a few dirt roads. It is even smaller than Canoa and the vibe is warm and friendly.

streets of Mompiche

We spent the late part of the afternoon walking the beach and becoming acquainted with our surroundings. The next day we woke to rain… we put our rain jackets on and made our way over to the far left side of the beach. There is a river that passes through on this side, but when the tide is low it becomes shallow enough to walk across without getting your clothes wet. On this side there are cabanas for rent ($16 per night) from a wonderful lady who’s name I can’t remember, but who I really really loved. She had a high shrill laugh which she used quite often and it made me instantly endeared to her. She had about 12 dogs, all who were once strays but now adopted, and she took the time to introduce us to each one by name. She also had cats, turkeys and chickens. The dogs ran around freely and were some of the happiest dogs I’ve ever met.

Mompiche shoreline

view from above

a few of the dogs checking out a washed up eel

Erik with Yogi... he loved having all the dogs around

Nice lady managed horse tours and offered us a 4 hour horse ride for $10 per person. It was too good of a deal to pass up.

We went back to our place, got ready and met up with her again, where we were introduced to Jose, our guide. Erik and I were given two beautiful white horses. Mine was named Antonio. We rode up into the mountains and were surrounded by lush greenness everywhere. There were tons of large white cattle that were about as big as the horses and looked intimidating  but always shied away from us.

Erik mounting up

and off we go...


us... on horses... in Ecuador!

At one point as we were looping back around, my horse Antonio took off running. Up until this point, let me remind you- I’ve swam in alligator infested waters, braved sea lions, biked the “death road” and survived South American drivers- but this was by far the scariest experience I’ve had on this trip. Antonio sprinted up over a hill as I held on tightly bouncing like a rag doll, shouting “no! stop! please!!!”  It was terrifying. I felt like I was close to falling off in moments and actually contemplated how I would jump off. He rode about 500 meters before I was able to get him to slow down and turn back around. As I made my way back I was met by Jose who had come to get me with Erik close behind. Once Jose saw that I was okay he started laughing; Erik did too. I gave my best chuckle back to them, but on the inside I was really shaking and crying. I wanted off of that horse so badly but I didn’t know how to tell them, especially since we were miles away from the stable.

Fortunately about 5 min later Jose spotted a tree with lots of mangos, so we dismounted and climbed up to pick them. It was fun and delicious and it gave me time to calm down and regroup.

Jose is not only a horse man, he's also part monkey

We continued the ride with no other threats to my life and made our way back safe and sound.

be good Antonio

We passed the dog lady on our way back to the main part of town and she called us over and gave us two green coconuts to drink, afterward splitting them open and letting her cats feed on the spoon meat. She walked with us down to the crossing, where the river was now flowing strongly as the tide had risen, it was about waist deep. Erik gave everyone a laugh by carrying me over his shoulders across the way. I was grateful for his chivalry- and it’s a fun memory I look back on and smile at.

coconut loving cats

That afternoon we checked the water but it was murky, so we spent our time relaxing. Once evening came, we headed out to grab dinner. On our walk we were called over by some young fishermen who were grilling fish over the fire and had too much to eat by themselves. We met Michelangelo, Joe and several of their friends who all fed us well. It was rustic and yummy. I bought a round of beers for everyone to thank them for their generosity (seven 22oz beers for $10- not a bad deal) and we hung out by the fire listening to music and talking story.

Michelangelo making our dinner

After a few hours we met up with Steve and Sara and shared stories of travel and experiences. They are a German couple who bought a camper van in Argentina and have been making their way up north for about 6 months. It is always nice to meet other fellow travelers and compare  notes on where we’ve each been. It’s also great to have someone to talk to in English.

Chris, one of the friends of the owners of our hotel also met up with us and told us a group of tourists were supposed to be coming into town the next day and if they made it as planned we could tag along on a tour that went out to Jupiter island where the diving was supposed to be good. We were stoked, readily said yes and thanked him for thinking of us.

The next day, it rained again. The tour group fell through and after chilling for a while, we decided to head to Sua, another place recommended in the guide book. We searched for our new friends to say goodbye, but we couldn’t find them and had to catch the bus. We were sad to leave, but also feeling the crunch of time. 3 months, while long, is short too- especially when you’re covering so many countries. We didn’t want to lose time in future places.

We arrived in Sua and instantly missed Mompiche. It was a nice place, but nowhere near as nice in my book, and it lacked that charm Mompiche had. We hung out that evening on the Malecon sipping on rum drinks and then made our plan to head inland to Banos.

glimpse of Sua

This little girl was the daughter of the woman who cooked our lunch. She climbed all over Erik throughout the meal and stoledsips of his juice when he wasn't looking. She was the cutest naughtiest girl.

enjoying a nightcap and a swing


When we were in the planning stages in our trip, Erik and I would fantasize about the experiences we might have. He would tell me his vision of the two of us, on the beach, a nice campfire and a fresh catch. There would be coconut trees nearby, because he would include his idea to cook the fish/crab/lobster/etc with coconut. There would always be that twinkle in his eyes that I love so much when he would talk about this vision.

Because of this, we decided to continue to head up Ecuador’s coast to Canoa in search of beautiful water and good diving spots.

Canoa is a small beach town about midway in Ecuador. It boasts surf, friendly people and nice waters. The place consists of little more than a handful of dirt roads. We arrived there in the late afternoon, unfortunately bringing a lot of rain with us. We quickly ran for cover and found a nice hotel right on the beach. When the rain turned to a light sprinkle we spent our evening walking up and down the shoreline. It was misty and grey, and though not the weather we hoped for, nice in its own way. At least for the first day…

Canoa beach

On our walk, 3 dogs joined us making us feel welcomed and at home. They were cute and playful, and one was especially loving and affectionate. Along the sand we found lots of pretty shells and had fun orienting ourselves to our new temporary home. We made our way over to the far right end of the beach, where when the tides are low enough allow one access to caves that host a ton of bats. I really wanted to check out those caves, but unfortunately the tide never got low enough.

Erik with our new doggy friends. He named them Rusty (in the back) and Pedro (the one he's petting)

One of the things I love about nature- life for that matter- is that you never know what you’re going to happen across, and it always seems that some of the most magical things happen when you don’t expect them at all. Maybe this isn’t “magical,” but for me it falls into the really really cool category, which is similar to magic in my book- On our long walk, we happened across a baby turtle making his way to the ocean. He was so cute and frail and I felt happy we came across him, but also worried for his well being. I was overwhelmed with respect for turtles, and how much they must overcome in order to make it to adulthood. We didn’t see any other baby turtles so our assumption was that he must have been washed ashore. We watched him for a good while as he struggled, each little flop at a time, to make his way inch by painstakingly slow inch. Erik wanted to pick him up and take him to the ocean but after hearing the “boy and the butterfly” story, I felt worried to tamper with nature’s way. However, after watching him so tired, and working so hard, Erik and I compromised and helped him 2/3 of the way there. We waited until he finally made it to the ocean and watched to make sure he was swimming well before we parted ways. That night when I lit my Tawny candle, I asked her to watch after him.

playing along the shoreline

isn't he cute??

one of the many cool shells we found

look! a baby turtle!

20-30 small steps for human kind.... countless for this little guy

so small and fragile

Erik to the rescue

The next morning it was raining lightly so we put on our rain jackets and walked along the shoreline again continuing to look for treasures, checking the passageway to the caves and taking in our surroundings. On our walk, we came across a local boy who offered to have his brother-in-law take us out on his boat for a decent fee, where we could dive. I crossed my fingers that Erik would get lucky, but unfortunately with all the rain, the water was murky and dirty, and quite honestly a little scary to swim in. (In hindsight we should have taken the time to assess and think about the conditions- because we could have saved ourselves the time and money, but I think we were too excited and had our hearts set on a hopeful “but, maybe…”)

more treasures... pink coral


Erik helping to get the boat to water... they use logs to push them up and down the sand.

That day it poured. Erik and I took comfort in the fact that the night before we found a delicious restaurant, Cevicheria Saborame, where we ended up eating almost our meals at. Everything we ate had us moaning in pleasure of pure deliciousness and each lunch and dinner (it was closed for breakfast) felt like Christmas… we were excited to order and dive into our gifts of scrumptious food.

yummmm. ceviche


a plate of concha... tasted like a cross between clams and opihi. quite tasty


encocado mixto... a mix of shrimp, fish, crab, etc in a warm rich spicy coconut broth. soooo good.

The third day we woke up to more gray clouds and rain, and decided to head further north in hopes of blue skies and clean waters.

on our last day, Pedro (my favorite of all the dogs we met in Canoa) came back to visit us before we left

Entering Ecuador- Machala and Peurto Lopez

From Mancora, we crossed the border and headed to Machala, Ecuador, a city whose main source of income is bananas. We had been warned that riding the bus at night in Ecuador is dangerous due to bandits, so Machala served as a resting port for the night- we were scheduled to get there around 4pm.

We learned the hard way a few things we would experience from time to time in Ecuador; first, that bus times are give or take a couple hours, and second, that just because a bus says it will take you to a certain destination, that doesn’t mean it will actually take you all the way there.

Around 6pm we got dropped off on the corner of a road with no directions on where to go. Assuming the closer town was our destination we walk 20 min to get there, only to find out our assumptions were wrong- we were in Peurto Bolivar… Machala, however, was a good 7 kilometers in the opposite direction. As we began the long trek toward Machala, the daylight started to fade along with our patience for the situation. Right as we began to get snippy with one another, we were saved by Pepe, a Machala native walking in our direction, coming from washing his clothes in the river. He came to the rescue by helping us flag down a small city bus and sticking with us until we found a hotel room. He even negotiated the price, saving us a few extra bucks. We thanked him profusely and took him out to dinner to repay his kindness before parting ways. That day would have been so much harder without him and I feel really grateful he happened upon us. I am always grateful for the helpers life sends one’s way. Thank you again Pepe.

The next morning we woke and caught another bus to Peurto Lopez, a southern beach town that neighbors a national park. This time we made sure to double check that the bus would take us directly to the location.

Peurto Lopez

We arrived there in the evening and checked into a small room a few blocks from the beach. The following morning we explored the national park, which includes Los Frailles, a beautiful empty un-littered span of white sand and blue ocean, along with another smaller beach cove. We relaxed, dove and played, and took our time in enjoying clean ocean water.

View from the mirador

Smaller beach cove (photo by Erik)

Following the beach we checked out Agua Blanca, a small village with pre Incan archeological sites and a healing thermal pool. It was dry and dusty and the site really didn’t really have much to show that struck us as impressive, but it was still fun to walk around and learn about the area. There was another couple with us, and I loved the lady… she reminded me of my mom, pointing out all the plants and sharing about them with lots of enthusiasm.

Toward the end of our tour, we arrived at the thermal pool claimed to have healing powers. It was black and smelled of sulfur (think rotten eggs), I tentatively dip my toe in the water to find it was lukewarm- not hot. The pool was the whole reason I was interested in checking out the Agua Blanca, but the stench was too much for me to brave going in.

Some of the not so impressive (but still cool) archaeological pre Incan sites

Funeral pots

The very stinky healing thermal pool

Erik pretending to throw me in

The following day, we had plans to visit Isla Plata, advertised to the “the poor man’s Galapagos island” but they fell through so we rescheduled and spent a mellow day in Peurto Lopez. We walked the beach and found tons of sand dollars along the shoreline (something I always thought were so rare). If I had a dollar for every sand dollar we found, I would have had $35. Although I wanted to keep some, they were so fragile and I knew they would never make it. Instead I made a shrine for in honor of my friend…

always in my heart dear Tawny...

The next day, we headed out to Isla Plata, also a part of the national park and about 2 hours off the coast of Peurto Lopez. We saw humpbacks breaching and waving their tails along the way. The island itself is known for the blue footed boobies- strange looking birds with crazy eyes, who we had fun walking around and taking pictures of. We hiked across the island then later went snorkeling. It was a good playful day.

La playa at Isla Plata

Blue footed boobies! (photo by Erik)

"Boobie Lovers" (photo by Erik)

Awkward family photo (Erik)

Us on Isla Plata

The frigate (photo- Erik)

Tortuga (photo Erik)

Blue starfishy (photo- Erik)

Photo by Erik

The next day we headed back out on the road, making our way further up the coast of Ecuador.