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Our Exceptional Journey

A South America Photographic Journal

Photos courtesy of Indochine Photography

My brother and I left the United States in 2012 intending to live in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico for 6 months. We stayed 2–1/2 years. Our early adventures were documented in Stephen’s book: Expat Journal: Postcards From the Edge and in his blog: Expat Journal on his website IndochinePhotography.me.

In 2014 we began an exceptional journey into Central and South America.

MERIDA

Merida, Yucatan, Mexico

CUBA

Local Cuban Color

Before departing Merida for further adventures south, we made a clandestine trip into Cuba — a priority on our bucket lists. We had a glorious time traveling the entire island, staying with the locals in their homes, eating local food, smoking authentic Cuban cigars and drinking authentic Cuban rum.

GUATEMALA

Our first foray into Central America was into Guatemala. Our 4-hour bus trip from San Cristobal in Chiapas, Mexico became 13 — a little problem with the lingo — ending in the town of Panajachel on the lovely shores of Lake Atitlan. Elsewhere on the lake, we also stayed in a hostel in the secluded village of San Marcos.

Lake Atitlan

A favorite destination on our exceptional journey was the beautifully serene town of Antigua with an active volcano all its own and several inactive others to lend surrounding beauty. With a side trip to the beach at Monterrico, our memories still return there often.

Antigua
Monterrico Sunrise

Flores, quaint and beautiful and situated on another lake was our transit point while heading to Belize City in Belize. We took a day trip to see the Mayan ruins at Tikal, which were impressive. Later, we returned to Flores from Belize before venturing into Honduras.

Tikal

BELIZE

Arriving in Belize City for the Christmas holidays, we found the city largely closed to travelers. With a completely different vibe — Caribbean in nature — we explored the fascinating architecture, the completely different palatal selection of local food, and the howler monkeys they call baboons.

Belize City

HONDURAS

Jungle Motmot Bird

San Pedro Sula was but a gateway to the beautiful lake called Lago de Yojoa and the D&D Brewery/Hostel where we jungle-lived for a month.

NICARAGUA

Granada

Granada is a quaint colonial city with charm. We took a boat trip on the lake to photograph some monkeys and the endless chain of small islands. At Mombacho Cigar Factory we indulged our taste for premium cigars and aged rum. Every. Single. Day.

(Grand River Lodge)

The Hut

From the tiny lakeside town of San Carlos we made our way down river to a group of jungle huts known as: Grand River Lodge. We shared our primitive abode with bats and bugs and frogs. From our porch hammock we watched horses, pigs, cows, and sundry other animals wander through our yard. We ate the same food every day for almost a month. We wandered through the jungle. We boated farther down the river into deeper jungle. We wandered into town. We witnessed a bull-riding rodeo. We loved every stinking minute of it!

The Kitchen
The Hammock
The Wildlife

COSTA RICA

Capuchin

On a different river out of San Carlos we boated into Costa Rica to a small way station known as Los Chiles. Not much to do in town, we booked a morning river trip to photograph wildlife. The captain was keen at spotting local critters, so Steve had one of his best shooting days of the trip.

La Fortuna

Tourist destinations in Costa Rica are highly manicured. This does not detract from their beauty, only a little from their authenticity. I have a passion for hanging bridges, and La Fortuna provided the highest ones I ever walked upon.

A Secret Place

I shall not tell you of our secret hideaway for when life overwhelms. 3 months spent in hammocks, wearing swim trunks, drinking beer, simply vegging. We did not want to leave. Our hostel dog even came to say goodbye.

PANAMA

House in Boquete

David (Dah-veed) was remarkable only for its heat. Boquete provided cool relief at 4,000 ft. and was lush with vegetation. We hiked into the solitude of mountain scenery while Steve photographed at will. His photo of a dream house to our taste has been one of his bestselling prints.

COLOMBIA

Awarded our designation Friendliest City in South America. Cali exceeded all our expectations. Lovely parks to wander, a beautiful zoo to explore, scrumptious food to eat, and healthy people to admire. We settled in quite comfortably and were most reluctant to take our leave.

Cali Zoo Shots

With quick layovers in Popayan and Pasto, we took a day trip to the world-famous basilica church spanning the canyon of the Guáitara River at the Las Lajas Sanctuary just outside Ipiales.

Las Lajas Sanctuary

ECUADOR

Quito was our longest stay. Luxury hotel at a hostel price. The city was a base for our venturesome trip into the Amazon Rain Forest and Steve’s solo trip (too pricey for me) to the Galapagos Islands.

Street Vendor in Quito
In the Amazon
Galapagos Friend

At the last minute, we found out we could not extend our already lengthy visas in Ecuador, so it was beat-feet time to the border.

Although we loved the town of Cuenca, it really was just a quick stopover on our way into Peru.

Street Vendor in Cuenca

PERU

Lima is the central hub for travel in Peru. Located on the Pacific Coast, it is ideal for long beautiful walks by the ocean. For Christmas we journeyed north to Huaraz, 10,000 ft. high in the Andes populated by local Incas. We returned to Miraflores before venturing south to Cusco in order to see the wondrous Machu Picchu.

Miraflores, Lima (Internet photo)
The Andes of Huaraz
Christmas in Huaraz

We journeyed on to gorgeous Cuzco at an altitude of 11,000 ft. — way station for those traveling to Machu Picchu and back. A photographer’s delight, not to mention a stunning drive through Sacred Valley. Alas, the ruins at Machu Picchu were heavily blanketed by fog.

Cuzco
Sacred Valley
Floating Island — Lake Titicaca

Still not quite high enough, we hit our next bucket-list item with Lake Titicaca at 12,500 ft. Most intriguing was our visit to the floating islands made of reeds and the indigenous folks who live there.

Island Girl — Favorite Photo of the Trip

CHILE

San Pedro de Atacama

No place surprised us more than Atacama, highest desert in the world-most exotic landscapes. San Pedro businesses: Hostels, Tour Agencies, Eateries.

Lagoons in Atacama
Fields in Atacama
Atacama — The Other Red Planet
Valparaiso

We hit Valparaiso in wintertime. A dirty town, frigid cold and gray. Also the most colorful, the most intriguing, the most memorable. With a bohemian personality, graffiti both ubiquitous and artistic, its decadence lends to it a romantic sense of freedom.

ARGENTINA

Deciding to approach Patagonia by way of Argentina, we headed east from Santiago, Chile to Mendoza, Argentina at the other base of the Andes. Traveling a gorgeous landscape, we passed the highest peak outside of Asia — the mountain Aconcagua.

Man of The Mountains
Lake at El Bolson

A 32-hour bus ride from Mendoza to get to San Carlos de Bariloche with a gorgeous lake and a quaint and charming town. Colder every hour. Day trip to El Bolson to another gorgeous lake and a quaint and charming town … you get the idea.

Perito Moreno Glacier

El Calafate — The quietest place we stayed. A lovely town. For drama, nothing equalled our day trip to the world famous glacier.

Stephen and The Penguins — End of the World

And finally at last we arrived at THE END OF THE WORLD — official title for the city of Ushuaia in Patagonia. Obviously, the coldest stop on our long journey south from Merida in Mexico. Bundled up 5 layers thick, we went to walk with the penguins and say good-bye.

Since Buenos Aires was but a place to cool our heels while waiting for a plane to Merida, we went to Puerto Iguazu for a month. Just to hang and veg and see the famous waterfalls. Which is exactly what we did.

Iguazu Falls

We call ourselves the Muppet Brothers. We are traveling the world. Everything we own we keep in our backpacks and we travel slow.

I write.

Steve shoots pictures.

Joel R. Dennstedt — Author
Stephen F. Dennstedt — Photographer

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