Experiments In Wandering

Beijing to Ulaanbataar Mongolia: The nitty gritty of independent travel

 

Click here to go straight to the directions

border 1While on the road and back home, I frequently meet people who confuse independent travel with vacation. That it, when I describe a few months-long trip across Asia, what comes to mind is some sort of luxurious tour guided through the gems of the continent. The reality, though, is not like that for someone with a backpack and figuring it out for themselves as cheaply as possible (unless you consider riding across the border of China and Mongolia crammed in the trunk of a car with 12 other passengers “luxurious”).

In any case, I originally wrote this for other travelers who were trying to figure out ways to get across the border from Beijing to the capital of Mongolia, Ulaanbataar, for relatively cheap, but I think it is also an illustrative glimpse of the day-to-day logistics that a traveler has to figure out and that I don’t really write about on my site (it is boring).

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Who's site is this, anyways?

 

Why do I have a site about traveling? Well, I wanted to share useful tips and knowledge that I have gathered while traveling as well as my experiences. Why do I like traveling? I think Pico Iyer says it best:

 

The person susceptible to 'wanderlust' is not so much addicted to movement as committed to transformation.

 

After finishing undergrad at the University of Michigan, I hit the road for a long term trip on my own terms. Although I'd dipped my feet in independent travel, that months-long trip without set obligations had evaded me.

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Step 1 in getting to Panama (the easy part): the last few jungle and beach towns in Colombia

flower in the darien

Sadly leaving from Barranquilla, my next stop was going to be the last few places on the coast of Colombia before reaching Panama. Isolated towns only accessible by boat due to the impenetrable Darien Jungle and heavy guerilla activity, I was pretty excited to see what they were like. The other options in getting to Panama were several hundred dollar sailboat or plane rides, options that didn't really fit into my budget, and I wanted to see some places these means of transport left out (albeit while being far more comfortable). I left Barranquilla a bit late and decided last minute to skip over Cartagena (promising myself that I would return), and ended up having to pass the night in a muggy, mid-sized town called Monteria. Since the buses to the coastal town of Turbo where the motorboats depart from were leaving (supposedly) at 4 am, I just decided to stay in the bus terminal and read and maybe dose off for a little bit. Sleeping proved difficult with all the mosquitoes, but I found a TV in the terminal, which was surprisingly modern and well guarded. After watching Cris Angel's MindFreak, Gene Simmon's Family Jewels, and assorted TV shows describing American serial killers, I was happily reminded of why I never owned a television...

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The quickest pass through Ecuador, ever

 

My stay in Ecuador consisted of a few nights in Guayaquil doing little but killing time with a French guy and a total of 12 hrs in Quito (didn´t even take pictures). It was my second time in Ecuador, so I didn´t feel so bad about skipping over it (okay, I guess a little bit) since I´m trying to maximize my time in Colombia. In any case, the random pictures of Guayaquil are below. Prepare to be underwhelmed.

 

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Costa Rica for me = Beaches + Waterfalls (video of jumping in post) + Way too expensive

costa rica montezuma waterfallKnowing full well that Costa Rica was going to be absolutely overrun with tourists and commanded the most outrageously inflated prices in Central America I made it a mission to get in an out as quick as possible while still trying to see something. It really is a beautiful country, but with the shady citizens all trying to make a buck and the stupidly high prices resulting from years of wealthy, price-insensitive tourists unwittingly leaving poor backpackers hung out to dry it was a bit hard to enjoy ($7 to camp and not even giving a towel...WTF?). I^m pretty sure there are some amazing things to see in terms of wildlife (confirmed by a Quebeqois (sp?) hostel owner in Nicaragua), but I wasn`t about to test my budget. I actually got to the border of Costa Rica a bit late and ended up camping on the Panamanian side in an Adventist school where they graciously allowed me to pitch my tent for the night until I hitchhiked to the border in the morning. I arrived first in the southern port town of Puerto Viejo, which, like many
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Recent Photos

Camping in Puerto Olbaldia along the Atlantic.JPG
Leaf cutter ants in the Darien.JPG
The crystal clear waters of Porvenir.JPG
The jungle of the Darien.JPG
The ornate mola of the Kuna Yala people.JPG
Wax plams in Salento.JPG
a central plaza in tikal.JPG
a compass while hitching back to the US from mexico.JPG
a fire juggler near lago atitlan.JPG
a semuc champey in guatemala.JPG
a the market in san cristobal.JPG
a zapatista graffiti while in san cristobal.JPG
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