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A Year on The Road

So it’s been one year, twenty thousand kilometers, eight countries and one hundred malarial pills since we left Calgary last February in that -21º snow storm. We put together a little slideshow of our trip highlights to date.

I open my eyes, turn my head and feel my muscles shriek as I attempt to roll off the mattress, my noodley arms are useless so I flounder on the bed till I manage to work into a semi-standing position. My neck feels like Andre the Giant stepped on it, I think my spine is crooked and my stomach feels like some sadistic trainer made me perform 500 crunches in a row. No, I haven’t been in car accident, I did not trip or fall down the stairs, and I am not following some insane work-out regime.

I am learning to surf.

This sport, which surfers perform so effortlessly, has been one of the hardest, and one of the most humbling, things I have ever tried to learn.

This is a rough idea of how I tend to surf: grab my board, paddle through the white water as it continues to hammer me, fall off, lose my board, get smashed by the white water a few times, finally arrive at a place where the waves can’t beat me. Face my board to the beach, look behind for a wave, paddle (again) to catch the wave while trying to time it so the wave doesn’t crash directly on top of me, if I manage it right, get pushed faster than I expect, try and stand up, lose my footing and perform a spectacular crash into the water, almost drown for a little bit, subdue the panic attack and with the last bit of air leaving my lungs, come to the surface gasping and spluttering, turn around only to find another wave preparing to land directly on my head, hang out underwater, do a couple back flips, wonder how my head can touch my toes like that, resurface, and repeat 4 or 5 times. Once the set has ended have a little cry and thank the heavens, Buddha, Vishnu whomever that I am alive, climb back on my board and REPEAT.

Catching a wave


The beautiful part is that very slowly you figure out how to stay on your board, being beaten by the waves is a little less scary, wiping out becomes humourous, and eventually the feeling of riding a wave gets addictive in an “I can’t move my arms but just one more” type of way. There are still moments of indescribable panic but somehow this lessens and I’m finding myself wanting more. I’m still a little scared that I could drown but Tom doesn’t want me to worry because:


“You won’t drown…your wetsuit floats.”


The Rich Coast


We’re staying at Playa Negra in a sweet little cabina on the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica. It’s offshore here almost all of the time and we’ve had a couple of days of good surfing—we’re waiting on a big south westerly swell coming up from New Zealand that should hit here midweek. So while the waves are small we’re going to try our luck at spear fishing with some home made Hawaiian Slings. Yesterday we bought some lengths of 1/2″ aluminium tube and some spear tips, attached some bungee cords and we now have a couple of formidable looking slings …  heading out today, so we’ll see how it goes.

Puerto Escondido

So we have been rocking it in Puerto Escondido for almost two weeks…you might say the waves have a hold on Tom. He’s been getting up around 6AM every morning to head out surfing with Derek, the guy who owns the place we are renting. I, on the other hand, am NOT up at 6AM not only because early mornings make me feel ill but because these waves are huge and scary. We have seen so many people coming out of the water with surfboards snapped clear in two! Derek broke his board in half last week…that does seem to keep the faint-hearted away from these waves.

The main beach, where many surf tournaments take place is called Zicatela. It is massive and is known as a “back-breaker”. Gee…can you imagine why I have chosen not to go in the water?

To the left of Zicatela is La Punta (good name “The Point”) which is another main surf break. If Zicatela is misbehaving the locals all head out here and surf all day long. It is a bit crazy to watch as the take off is right in front of some serious looking rocks. I just about freaked out one day last week when Tom fell right in front of them luckily he was fine as usual. On smaller days it can be an okay spot to learn but I think (after getting caught in a big set) it is a bit strong when you are new to the water.

Here is Tom surfing – early morning at La Punta (sorry the quality is not so great)

Surfing La Punta, Puerto Escondido from Kels M on Vimeo.

I did manage to catch one little wave one day last week at La Punta which was pretty fun. Tom was yelling at me to paddle and then a local surfer was yelling the same thing in Spanish which was just a bit distracting but it must have done something as I managed to get myself up and on the wave. YAY! Right…now I have to try and do it again.

Another great beach just to relax and swim in Playa Carrazalillo. It is beautiful and reminds me of some of the beaches I saw in Asia. It has a couple of shacks selling food and drinks as well as a couple of board rental places. It can be a good place to try surfing on long boards…we did see a couple of people catching waves the last time we were there.

The people here are all really friendly and chilled out. The vibe is pretty laid-back and surfing is the lifestyle fact we heard that the kids got a day off school to surf because the waves were so good! There is a pretty large gringo population but, like Sayulita, everyone seems to get along ok.

There is some serious road construction going on on the main highway here as well as the main road by the beach. The way work is done is pretty shocking and, to the westerner’s eye, more than dangerous but somehow they manage to get things fixed up..well for a few years at least.

And Tom has been busily trying to fit in with the Mexicans here…the “roll my t-shirt over my tummy it is so hot” look really seems to suit him.


Driving from Manzanillo to Troncones was pretty slow going, back on the 200 and following the coast. It’s only about 400ks but it took us over six hours. Lots of small towns, speed bumps (Topes) and gnarly sections averaging about 65 km/hr.

We hit Troncones in the Lowest of low season, rainy and slow. Battled off our second spider invasion finding nests with thousands of little spiders all through our gear and in the car – we fumigated the car with 6 mosquito coils for two days straight.

Surfed Manzanillo bay in Troncones – A big lefthander that peels off the point and into the bay, a really sweet setup … had it all to myself.

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