May 13, 2020
- Mormons HQ in Salt Lake City
- Bonneville Salt Flats
- Spiral Jetty
What a change in scenery. In a few hours of driving we got from red canyons to white mountains #definitelygoingnorth.
Our main destination was Salt Lake City, Mormons’ holy place. If you are not familiar with this religion we encourage you to read a few things about it. It’s kinda crazy what’s going on there. And illustrates well the freedom and repression dynamic typical of the early colonisation of the country.
A fun attraction nearby is the speedway of Bonneville Salt Flats. You can drive on miles and miles of white flat salty land #fastandfurious.
Driving along the along the Great Salt Lake we stopped at Antelope Island State Park to see our friends the bisons.
We then reached the Golden Spike Historical Site to see where the East and West railroads met for the first time in the 1880’s. Bridging the 2 worlds to form one immense country.
It was time to take a "dive" in the salty water of the lake. We did it while admiring the Spiral Jetty a beautiful piece of land art.
Enough with Utah. We are now ready to discover Idaho. A state we heard good things about but never got the chance to explore #perfectoccasion.
Total Hiked: 26 miles
Hole in the rock
May 7, 2020
- Coyote Gulch
- Peekaboo & Spooky canyons
- Zebra canyon
Just the historical dimension of this road is already incredible. Picture that: almost 150 years ago, Mormon trailblazers crossed the area in search of a better migration route to the promised land. They had to dig an actual hole in the rock to carry their wagons down to cross the Colorado river #thefaithisstrong.
Today we got to cross this surprising landscape following their path. So many unique rock formations. We started off with Devil’s garden and its giant “mushrooms”. Then stopped at Dance Hall Rock for some good ol’ dancing cowboy-style.
Now time for some serious action: Coyote Gulch. After crossing a field petrified dunes, you have go down a sketchy rope to reach the bottom of this vast canyon after. Once down, it looks like a luxurious paradise with fresh water, trees, and animals. Very different from the inferno above.
The day after we were back on the trails very early to "beat the crowd" (read 2 people…). We wanted the popular slot canyons of Peekaboo and Spooky to ourselves #notevenscaredtobestuck. We discovered another slot canyon named Zebra later in the day. The walls were so narrow you have to use you whole body slide in. Oh and you have cold water up to your belly... Raff even dislocated his shoulder to get out #waytocreatememories.
On this adventurous note we slowly left the arid side of Utah to go up North. But for that you’ll have to check out our next story #staytuned.
Total Hiked: 22 miles
May 4, 2020
- Buckskin Gulch & Wire Pass
- Secret "The Wave"
- Cottonwood Road
Definitely our official new favorite spot in the US #sorrynationalparks.
We got so lucky to have all the time in the world to discover this humongous wild area, as big as Belgium (well that probably doesn’t say much…).
We started off strong with a quick visit of Horseshoe Bend. Free today and with no one around #surreal.
The lottery for “The Wave” being closed, we tried to find the “secret” wave near Buckskin Gulch. We found there some incredible rock formations. They looked like brains, towers, and … waves! The Buckskin Gulch was also surprising on its own. You go from wide boxy canyon to very narrow passages #bringasmallbackpack
Before driving further into the wilderness, we toke a refreshing detour by the famous lake Powell #enjoyifwhileyoucan. Ready to cross Grand Escanlate we toke the dirt road of Cottonwood. There are many stops along the way, such as narrow canyons with rivers flowing through and arches.
Our next goal was to drive of the hole-in-the-rock road. But for that you’ll have to wait for our next post #somuchsuspense.
Total Hiked: 30 miles
April 29, 2020
- Bell & Courthouse rocks from the Little Horse trailhead
- Soldier Pass
- Oak Creek Canyon
We spent over a week in the mystical area of Sedona. The intense red of the rocks, and their surprising shapes invited us to hike every day.
At first, we were scared that all the best areas would be closed and we couldn't enjoy the magic of the place. But after some research we discover many other ways to explore it and we pretty much had the place to ourselves. #keeplookinguntilyoufind.
Some of our favorite trails are the popular bell and courthouse rocks, but also some less traveled hikes such as Brins Mesa Trail and Fay canyon.
The signal wasn’t bad there, so we also took the time to catch up with our families and friends. It’s not always easy to stay in touch when living so remote. Good thing Instagram is here #sharingthelove
On our way our of Sedona we toke some time to explore Oak Creek Canyon. The very steep Harding Spring trail brought us to a beautiful view of the canyon.
Total Hiked: 47 miles
Tonto National Forest
April 20, 2020
- Theodore Roosevelt Lake
- Inspiration Point Trail
- Roosevelt Overlook Campground
Let the quarantine begins!
And there is no better spot to do it than Tonto National Forest. A refreshing mountainous area with a huge and beautiful lake in the middle.
Every day, we would hike or kayak for a while and then read, cook, or play board games.
We even organised our very own “cooking contest”. The concept is simple: we each write a few words on pieces of paper. The other picks one of it. And then has to cook something related to these words (e.g. Mexican Apocalypse). The outcome is often time very ... creative. To say the least.
After a few days near the lake, we drove up to the mountains overlooking it. It was colder, but the view was stunning. We parked right on top of really steep cliffs where we could hear and see swallows passing by at high speed.
Next stop: the red and mystic rocks of Sedona.
Total Hiked: 75 miles
April 1, 2020
- Picacho Peak State Park
- Bisbee & Tombstone
- Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
After trying to fly back to Belgium and getting our flights cancelled, we decided that the best option was to actually do a lockdown in our van #vanrantine So it’s with the new philosophy of “the plan is no plan” that we start exploring the area.
We did a few nice hikes, such as the top of Picacho peak, and the hilled desert of Saguaro National Park (West part).
We also visited the old mining town of Bisbee with its old-school shops and cars, and the cow-boy town of Tombstone. The fact that everything was closed made it even more spooky.
We then drove almost to the Mexican border to check out the Organ Pipe Cactus national monument. We (Raff…) were a bit stressed to cross border patrol checkpoints. But we made it ok and it was worth it!
We finished it up with Lake Pleasant. Where we finally settled down for a few days. So relaxing to stay in one place for longer than few hours :)
Total Hiked: 25 miles
From Mexico to USA
March 26, 2020
- The bats show
- Crossing the border with the US on time
This is a bittersweet post. Thinking the Covid-19 pandemic was far from us, we never realized how quickly things would change.
But before that an incredible surprise was waiting for us. Every day at dusk, thousands of bats get out of a cenote in a growing vortex #incredibleNature. We ran across the forest to get there right on time.
Still thinking we were heading East to Yucatan we stop to the most famous Mayan ruins of Calakmul. A vaste religious and living complex of a powerful city-state about 600 years ago. We climbed the 3 tallest temples to have a panoramic view of the jungle #noDroneNeeded. It’s hard to believe people could build such enormous buildings without wheels and metal tools #kudos.
A day later, we really got the feeling that something was going on. The US and Canada decided to close their borders, we could only imagine it was a matter of time before they’d do the same for the border with Mexico. It was time to think fats. After a few hours of planning, we decided to take our chance and get back to the US asap. Knowing we were on the other side of the country, and we probably had 3 or 4 days max. We took our chance anyways.
What followed was actually 2 days and half of non-stop driving. We passed by amazing landscapes from humid wetlands to mountains, and deserts. It was really hard to see all the great things we were missing out.
After days of stress and driving in very hot conditions we arrived at the US custom late at night. No spoiler alert here: we made it, but that was very close. One day later they would announce the closure of the border…
Exhausted and not really sure of what would be next for us, we stopped in a Walmart parking lot to get ready for what was next.
Our initial plan was to crash at Manon’s American “family”’s beach house in Delaware to wait for the storm to pass. But as we crossed Texas, we started to cool down and think of other scenarios. After a few days of rain, we decided to U-turn to go to the sun, the wild West! And we were right. A few hours after deciding our new destination, we saw our first sun rays in days #destiny.
Total Hiked: 20 miles
Chiapas - Part 2
March 15, 2020
- Bats show
In the second part of our journey in Chiapas, we drove along the border of Guatemala through jungles and mountains. We also got to experience the worst roads ever. Basically huge craters everywhere #potholesonsteroïds. But that didn’t stop us! Just slowed us down a bit…
We visited on our way the wide falls of Las Nubes (where for the story, Raff got really scared when we arrived late in a dark forest…) #ManUpBro.
We then stopped in Agrara Reforma where we encountered our first howling monkeys. Initially, we thought dinosaurs still lived in the jungle. We realized later the crazy loud screams we heard were coming from monkeys #howisitevenpossible. We also saw a couple of guacamayas (red parrots).
We kept driving through huge swats of lands that were probably incredible forests before being destroyed for cattle and crops. It’s really heartbreaking to see Nature being treated like this. Later that day we met again with our favorite cyclists #TheChachis in Frontera Corozal.
From there, we took a small boat to get to Yaxchilán. A huge Mayan city lost in the jungle along the river bordering the country.
Next, we drove to Palanque to see another Mayan city. The ruins were even bigger with impressive features, such as the red queen’s tomb inside the base of a temple. On our way there, we stopped at Misol Há waterfall for a refreshing jump in the water.
It was now time to drive to the legendary Yucatan.
Total Hiked: 12 miles
Chiapas - Part 1
March 10, 2020
- The vertiginous Cañón del Sumidero
- The mystical city of San Cristóbal de las Casas
- The incredible adventures of the Chachis
A long road awaited us from Oaxaca to the heart of the tropical forest of Chiapas. We went from hot desert mountains to hot & humide tropical mountains. The contrast of climates was brutal, but you get use to everything as they say.
Our first stop was in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, the state capital, where we drove to the top of the Cañón del Sumidero. Impressive cliffs, but very windy. So much so that we couldn’t embark on a boat to explore the canyon from the bottom later that day.
On the same day, we arrived at San Cristóbal de las Casas to meet Charlotte and Cachis (our cycle-traveling friends) #TheChachis. We spent a couple of days with them as they prepared for the next step of their journey and we took the time to discover this almost mystical city on top of the mountains.
Next our curiosity brought us to San Juan Chamula a small town, where the population has kept their ancestral cult. Even with the christianizing efforts of the missionaries. Which resulted in very very very interesting rituals performed in the church. No photos allowed, which for the best as you really need to see it to feel it. We won’t say more…
After this spiritual experience, we started following the border with Guatemala in the deep jungle covering the mountains. Along the way we stopped at beautiful places, such as the tall waterfall of El Chiflon, and the colorful lakes of Montebello (although a bit gloomy that day)
Discover the rest of our adventures in the Chiapas in the next post. Until then, stay safe!
Total Hiked: 20 miles
March 4, 2020
- The archaeological site of Monte Alban
- Oaxaca downtown
- The rocky "waterfalls" of Hierve el agua
Time to start exploring the ancient civilization of the Zapotecs in Monte Alban. The view from this imposing religious complex on top of a hill is just mind-blowing. Hard not to feel like the queen/king of the world on top of the main temple. Even though a bit sweaty after the endless stairs climbing. Difficult to imagine how people could build such marvels without any wheels or metal tools.
We then headed to the city of Oaxaca. A lot of history and culture mixed with a general good vibe and beautiful public spaces. There, we tried 7 types of mole (flavorful sauces from sweet to spicy).
On our way out, we stopped at El Arbol del Tule. The widest tree in the world! Not surprising since it’s about 1,400 years old.
Later we crossed an artisanal village where we discovered the ancient process to make wool products. So impressive to learn how creative people are, and how much know-how we are losing as these methods disappear.
On that note, we also visited a sustainable mezcaleria. They produce their mezcal old-school from wild agaves.
What a journey in the state of Oaxaca. We made one last stop in the middle of the mountains, where natural pools from springs formed “iced” waterfalls.
Next stop: Chiapas!
Total Hiked: 17 miles
On our way to Oaxaca
February 29, 2020
- Nevado de Toluca
- Grutas de Cacahuamilpa
- Piedra del Agua spa
Our next destination is Oaxaca, further down South. To get there we had to cross a few states (Mexico, Guerrero, Puebla, and Morales). Many beautiful places were waiting for us along the road. Here are some of our favorites:
After crossing small villages and wanting to stop at every food stand to taste their food, we arrived at Nevado de Toluca. A National Park on top of a volcano with 2 lakes inside its crater (Luna & Sol) #poetic. Wheely brought us almost to the top and we hiked the rest of the way to reach 4,558 above the sea level.
From the top of the mountains we drove all the way down to Grutas de Cacahuamilpa. Where we walked for kilometers literally in the biggest cave we had the chance to visit. Impressive by its sheer size, it also offered massive rock features illuminated perfectly to make it even more dramatic.
We then toke a quick detour to the city of Taxco. Well-known for its steep and narrow streets filled with 2CV’s. But mostly, very stressful to navigate with our big Wheely. After risking to be stuck for a good a couple of times, we resumed our journey.
We crossed some cute villages, and incredible landscapes along the way. One final stop to relax at a spring pool before Oaxaca!
Total Hiked: 10 miles
February 26, 2020
- Lago de Camécuaro
- Iglesia Viejo San Juan Paricutín
This state impressed us with the variety of nature it had to offer, but also its history and the beautiful towns and ruins it left behind. Here are some of the things we enjoyed the most:
We first visited our first Mexican national park. Let say it’s different from the US vibe. Nevertheless, we enjoyed some farniente at the shade of gnarly trees around the lake. Mariachi concerts included!
After that, we explored a village totally submerged by lava a few decades ago. The only remanent is an ancient church standing in this dark sea. We also had the chance to assist in a “reenactment” of the volcano explosion with a local cook for his kids. Very cute and delicious quesadillas made with blue corn!
The next part of our journey in Michoacán was to cross many small villages (Pátzcuaro, Tzintzuntzan, ...) that go way back in time. Some still have ruins hundred of years nearby. We learned more about many cultures and peoples living on these lands who preserved as much as possible their way of living. Aways with many bright colors. That must be the secret of their enchanting smiles.
Our last stop was Morelia, a big city comparatively, but which kept its good ol’ days feel with nice Hispanic buildings. We also did a quick stop to see what was making our Wheely cringing its tires.
Total Hiked: 20 miles
February 21, 2020
- Tasting in Tequila
- 2-km long market in Tlaquepaque
- Guadalajara's historic downtown
On the road again! And what an excellent way to reboot our trip than to do it in the birth place of Tequila. There we had the chance to visit a distillery owned by 3 sisters. Our guide was really cool and knowledgable. But more importantly, he made us try a lot of different tequilas. From blanco (young) to anejo (barrel aged).
Excited by this first stop we headed out Guadalajara, the second biggest city of Mexico. We were positively surprised by how nice the downtown was. Lots of public spaces in the shade of historical buildings and trees, many car-free streets, and a huge 3-story market to try local food. We also got to discover local art and handcraft in its periphery (Tlaquepaque & Tonalá).
After these busy days, we left the urban world to the natural one. After a first stop in a town near the biggest lake of the country, Lago de Chapala, we crossed yet a new state, Michoacan. Bye Jalisco!
Total Hiked: 16 miles
February 18, 2020
- Gym in the park
- Fresh smoothies home-made
- Our Airbnb (hot tub, wifi, hammock)
Over 6 hours of intense driving was waiting Manon in Mazatlan to reach Puerto Vallarta. She got us safe and sound to our new home for the next 2 weeks.
Our travel insurance paid for our Airbnb instead of sending us back to Europe the time of the healing #superNice. And healing we did, as well as mucho relaxing. Our daily life was very chill. At least for Raff, since Manon was doing everything ;)
We got to catch up on a lot of things, such as the blog and its videos. Raff could geek for hours with a strong wifi. We would go for short walks in the park in front of the house, make fresh smoothies, and end the day in the hot tub. Manon took the time to get in Yoga mode and Raff recorded some tunes with his portable music studio.
After one week, we went to see the doctor for a check up and he told us that Raff could start walking on his foot with the splinter #greatNews.
We also took the opportunity to visit the city’s maleçon and downtown, as well as drive North to a beach town, Sayulita.
In short, we made the most of this unfortunate situation #nothingToComplain
Total Hiked: 25 miles
Baja California South
February 2, 2020
Almost at the bottom of the peninsula. We shared the road with Cersten, our new fellow traveler. Cersten is like us, a big fan of board games. We got to learn new games very complicated and nerdy!
But we didn’t just play games, our stops included:
Todos Santos, an artsy/ surf town. We had the incredible chance to release baby turtles in the ocean. It was so humbling to see such small creatures speeding to the ocean where huge waves were waiting for them. Not far from the village, we bought some fish from fishermen on the beach #superfresh.
The two Cabos. At the end of the cap, Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo, two very touristy cities. For instance, we couldn't even park near a beach at San Lucas because hotels block all the accesses to the beach. A bit disappointing. San Jose was nicer with a more authentic downtown. The real surprise was a beach in between the two cabos. It was one of the best snorkeling spots: warm and clear water, and thousands of fish close to the shore. There was even a shower!
Parque Nacional Cabo Pulmo. We spent a few days snorkeling on the coast of this national park. Lof of fish and even... a few turtles! We took our kayak for a swim out in the ocean.
It was now time to get to La Ventana for a week of kitesurfing lessons. A gift for Raff's birthday by Manon and his family. Every day we had about 2 hours of lessons with our personal instructor. We quickly made some good progress. Unfortunately, Raff broke his foot the last day #gustywind.
Oh well, life happens. We had to adjust a bit our trip but decided to still cross the Gulf of California after seeing the Super Bowl in La Paz #unstoppable. We chose the « truckers ferry » for an authentic experience. Next stop: Puerto Vallarta for a chill recovery.
Total Hiked: 22 miles
Baja California North
January 20, 2020
- Whale-watching at Laguna de San Ignacio
- Double rainbow sunset at Bahía Conception (only the unicorns were missing)
- Cute small towns along the road
We started exploring this area by going to the very remote laguna of San Ignacio to look for whales coming for the winter to give birth. Not much luck there. The road was bumpy as ever, but we got to cross incredible landscapes. Attaboy Wheely!
We then visited small towns lost in time like San Ignacio, Santa Rosalia (an old French mining town with a church from Gustave Eiffel. Go figure!), and Loreto. They all have their cute colorful mission church, and a maleçon (boardwalk/waterfront).
After 2 weeks of traveling alone we started to meet a lot of other travelers from around the world on their own impressive journey. A couple of Australians crossing both Americas. A German hombre coming from Australia with his super sleek 4WD. A German couple, and an Italian fisherman. We all spent a few days together at various bahías along the mar de Cortés to fish, snorkel, and drink local beverages #coronalight... We picked up some many mussels, we made a huge feast on the beach and got to try new shellfish. With our favorite, fresh oysters of course!
Total Hiked: 18 miles
Crossing over to Mexico
January 13, 2020
We did it! We crossed the border. After a bit of confusion at the custom we made our way to Tijuana. We walked along the "wall" on the beach. A bit chilling, but there were hopeful paintings on it.
We then hit the road along the coast to Ensenada. Where we prepared ourselves for a first night in Mexico. Well! It was interesting... We were right by the beach, so of course people came in at night with very loud music to drink a beer (or ten). We decided to move to the next street. Even thought we promised to never drive at night in Mexico! #SoLongPromises
What a "stressful" night! Good thing we planned to spend a relaxing day in the wine country. We did a guided tour of the biggest producer of wine of the country and spent the night in our van inside the propriety. Cheers!
It was now time to get ready for the coming months of traveling. After many back and forth between stores while trying to speak Spanish, we got a few things done: got a custom-made adapter for our stove, bough a big gas tank (full of air. That's another story...), filled up our water, etc.
We crossed the mountains to reach the Sea of Cortez on the other side of the peninsula. We drove along the coast and stopped at various places: San Felípe, Valle de los gigantes, Puertocitos (a fishing village), and Bahía de San Luis Gonzaga . Crossing back to the Pacific side we discovered the Valle de los Cirios. A surreal place with huge cactuses, and (you guessed it) cirios, a very surprising tree/cactus looking like a candle with a small floating flame on top.
After going through a few military and police checkpoints along the way we crossed the state line of Baja California Sur to get to the factory town of Guerrero Negro. We did a tour of one of the biggest salt producers in the world. It was crystal white miles around. We even had the chance to get a private tour in our own car. A bit weird and not super comfy, but we got to see the whole production. Very impressive for such a small town!
Total Hiked: 20 miles
Nevada - California
January 6, 2020
We’re heading to Mexico for the winter #smartmove. But not before saying goodbye to our friends along the way.
Our first stop was Los Angeles. Not too far from home. And it was a great opportunity to once again drive along the legendary highway 1. We celebrated this promising new year with our friends Céline and Alexis, LA Style #whateverthatmeans. We also finally took the time to go to a garage to get our Wheely inspected. Good call. Turned out our shacks where in pretty bad shape which meant that we would seriously damage the van on Mexican bumpy roads. The quote was expensive, but Manon was able to bargain big time with her “assertive charm.”
We were then ready to go for our first short adventure with C & A who rented a van for a few days. No way we would miss their first van life experience! We drove with our two vans near Las Vegas (but far enough to not see the lights or hear the music). After a last breakfast with sunrise on Lake Mead, we split ways. We also tried for the first time our inflatable kayak. And it floats!
After a surprising stop at the outdoor art exhibit of Nipton, we headed to Mojave Desert. We walked on top of a cinder cone and on top of the highest sand dune of the park. The same day #noteventired…
We then headed to Joshua tree to meet Micol, Ivan, and a VIP guest, Elli. There we squatted their cute Airbnb #borderlinekitsch. Good times in the national park and already time to leave.
Our final stop before Mexico was San Diego, where we met up with Phoebe and Nial. We had the chance to tour the new murals of #ladieswhopaint in East Village. Great work! A few last things to prepare before crossing and no more excuses: Mexico here we go.
Total Hiked: 25 miles
Wheely meets us
December 31, 2019
- Finding Buying our new compagnon.
- Getting recycled material at SCRAP and Building Resources
- Making Wheely our new home on wheels
It takes a lot of energy to build a van. Good thing we got it pre-built with a few big features, such as a water tank, a sink, a microwave (?), an awning, and a high roof. Yet a lot was still missing to make Wheely our new home on wheels. The first step was to find construction materials. Not easy when trying to use only recycled material. Lucky us, we can count on some awesome places, such as SCRAP to get what we need. Even though it requires some digging around and a lot of creativity. So here we are. Ready to take on North America for one year!
Total Hiked: 9 miles