Emotional sauna, Quito, Ecuador, April 6, 2018

Today is my 4th day in Quito, but I haven’t explored the city much, well, at least in the touristy sense. The day I crossed the 4,000 meter-high mountain range to arrive in Quito, I saw my car struggling to go uphill – the speed was comparable to the human walking speed. Although I knew that there were only about 60% of oxygen at that altitude compared to the sea level, I thought something was definitely not correct. So I meant to thoroughly review the exhaust gas recirculation in Quito before heading for Peru, where the altitude goes up to 4,700 meters.

For some reason, reviewing the exhaust system was not a common practice in Quito – it took me 3 days to find a repair shop where they were willing to review the system. In the meantime, I was looking to buy a gas pressure gauge so that I can just check the exhaust pressure myself; however, all car part stores (I’ve contacted 9) said they didn’t have any type of gas pressure gauge. It was surprising because I believe it’s one of the basic tools.

After days of calling and visiting numerous shops, I realized that I was exhausted and slightly frustrated. Then my friend Gabriel offered to show me around the city after his work hours. He’s my old colleague in D.C. and he has been hosting me in Quito. I know that there’s not too much time left just to rest and relax after a day’s work, so I appreciate his kindness. Every once in a while, I meet hosts/friends with natural hospitality, whose energy wraps around my body and gives a sweet emotional sauna!

On another note, spending days in a city while fixing a car has not been particularly less enjoyable experiences. Sure, I get to sightsee less, but I talk with many local people who do businesses, either in person or on the phone. And I get to visit neighborhoods where the people just work hard and live and there’s usually no hint of foreigners.

*3rd photo – Ecuadorian ceviche. Seafood is cooked and then mixed with sauce, instead of being fermented as raw

*4th photo – Basilica del Voto Nacional

*5th photo – Plaza Grande

Ajiaco santafereño, El Mejor Ajiaco del Mundo, Centro, Bogota, Colombia, March 26, 2018

This soup is called Ajiaco. To be exact, this particular one is called Ajiaco Santafereño, implying that it followed the recipe in Santa Fe region in Colombia, I assume.

According to Google, Ajiaco is a popular dish found in Colombia, Peru, and Cuba, and the origin of the dish is still unclear.

As seen, the soup contains chicken, potato, corn and avocado. Although the list is not enough to give an idea about the taste, it was like a smooth and medium-heavy chicken soup.

@El Mejor Ajiaco del Mundo, Centro, Bogota, Colombia, March 26, 2018

Good people after an accident,Taraza, Colombia, March 10, 2018

I had an accident two days ago. I hit a cow on a highway while driving. Fortunately, no one was hurt and even the cow seems to be doing okay. Although I am even grateful that no one was hurt and that I learned some valuable lessons, I’ve been feeling emotional weight since the accident, as I am in constant contact with the Police and the cow’s owner, figuring out the best option for all.

And today, as if some supernatural force decided to cheer me up, I met these new people in the town where I would not have stayed were it not for the accident.

The boys first approached us. They were curious and innocent – so innocent that a couple of them asked me, “Usted es gringo?” It was a pleasant and fun change to get to know people in a town where there is very limited exposure to foreigners.

Gloria(far right in the last picture)’s daughter is in Medellin. She is crazy about Korea or its people so when she found out where I was from, she called her and passed the phone to me! Now I have a friend to meet next week.

@Taraza, Colombia, March 10, 2018

parque nacional Tayrona, march 3, 2018

Getting to the picturesque beach at Cabo San Juan required some efforts. We woke up at 7:30am, walked to the city center, took a bus to the entrance of the Tayrona park (1 hour), and hiking in the forest for 2.5hrs.

It seems that we took a rougher hiking course than what people usually take – it ended up taking almost 4 hours which involved half-crawling below big rocks and frequent jumping from one rock to another.

The beach area was very beautiful. Usually any beach is enjoyable enough for me, but I could tell that this place was special. The mountain and the rocky island were surrounding the beach, adding a sense of height to an otherwise flat area. Clean bathrooms and the only but not-too-pricey restaurant were convenient additions.

Understandably, due to the popularity, every accommodation option was sold out 2 meters before me in the line. We motivated our already exhausted bodies to walk for another 40 minutes to the next beach town, Arrecife.

An hour before sunset, I could rent a small and not too clean tent in the forest. There is no electricity or cell signal. There are buckets of water for you to take a shower behind a curtain. I’m in my tent while enjoying the art of doing nothing in the darkness. It’s 7pm.

@parque nacional Tayrona, march 3, 2018

with Juan Arrieta and Brett, Cartagena, Colombia, February 27, 2018

When Brett and I were people watching inside the campus of Universidad de Cartagena, Juan came to us. He expressed that he wanted to show us around the city center and it took us awhile to understand his genuine and friendly intention.

A law student at the University, he is a native of Cartagena. In fact, he told me he had never visited other places other than Cartagena.

I appreciate that he took up courage and expressed that he wanted to know about us, especially because it had been awhile since I last made an effort to get closer to the lives of local people.

Darien crew, pollo Broaster caliche, cartagena, Colombia, February 28, 2018

Darien Gap, the impassable roadblock between Panama and Colombia let us get together and enjoy fried chicken today. Alizee and Stevy (left) are from France who started their overlanding journey from Canada. Brett (right top) has ridden his motorbike from Nebraska, US.

When we were in Panama, there were two ships to choose from to send our vehicles. Alizee and Stevy chose the “right ship” – theirs arrived in Colombia on time and the rest of other tourists, including myself, were told that ours is delayed by a week!

Many people think of long-term traveling as a sequence of romantic activities but there are lots of logistical roadblocks and preparations to deal with every day. Despite that, we agreed that we were happy to be traveling. It is not our goal to finally get to somewhere – the value of what we do must lie in our act of going and experiencing.

@pollo Broaster caliche, Cartagena, Colombia, February 28, 2018

Panama canal, esclusa Miraflores, panama, February 24, 2018

Days ago while driving, I heard an interview of a Panamanian painter from a local radio station. He said, ”people need to know that we are much more than the canal.”

Despite this fair claim, most tourists think of the canal when they think about Panama. As today was my last free day here, I decided to check it out.

We were lucky – when we arrived, two ships passed by in a row. Watching the coordination between the water level changes and opening of the gates convinced me of the serious achievements in engineering that enabled this routine passage.

While people at the outlook were excited about taking pictures of the passing boat, the workers on the boat seemed excited about taking pictures of us.

@esclusa Miraflores, panama, February 24, 2018

lago de Coatepeque, el salvador, February 9, 2018

I visited another lake formed in a volcanic crater. This one, lake Coatepec, seemed a lot smaller than lake Atitlan in Guatemala, but to me, it was equally beautiful and enjoyable for a tranquil afternoon.

I also dropped by Tekunal cafe next to the lake to meet the owner, who is a friend of the hostel owner where I stayed in Santa Ana the night before.

Finally I tried to shoot an overdue self interview close to water. Everything was going well until I was kicked out of the park at 4pm because they needed to close!

@lago de Coatepeque, el salvador, February 9, 2018

Chris and Pupusa,santa Ana, El salvador, February 8, 2018

The first thing I was thinking about as I was approaching El Salvador was Pupusa. Pupusa is a corn or rice tortilla stuffed with a variety of fillings. I think I first tried pupusa years ago at a potluck at work in Washington DC and I remember thinking then, “This thing is more serious than what it looks like!”

And thanks Chris for the conversation on relationships, long term traveling, and other general craziness of yours which certainly dropped my jaw several times.

@santa Ana, El salvador, February 8, 2018