Thank you. With all sincere honesty your hammocks put us at the tops of trees, beneath bridges, above rivers, on hillsides outside of farm cottages, on cliff sides overlooking oceans, on top of Maya temples… There is a special serenity when you carry what you sleep in as simple as a hammock. It’s something that astounds other travelers at the sight but always draws them to realize what they’re missing in their pack. Thank you Seth for the opportunity to share our stories. Joe and I had taken the time to do this only because we have been so grateful for your support and of course the amazing Trek Light Hammocks. Word up and keep doing what you’re doing. And one message that I picked up on and carried with me after reading through Emerson and Thoreau is to believe in yourself, because that is genius.
What follows is a verbatim letter from Andy Fyfe, who along with Joe Lipnosky, made up the ‘Team Free Base’ duo whose adventures we chronicled in the past as they traveled through Central and South America using their Trek Light hammocks every step of the way.
I asked Andy recently to recap some of the later adventures of their trip and what results is a trip down memory lane which anyone who has experienced both the beauty and wear and tear of true, free-wheeling travel can surely relate to.
I want to say a sincere thank you to Joe and Andy for being such great proponents of the Trek Light lifestyle and sharing their adventures and amazing photos with all of us. I know there are many of you out there who have brought along your hammocks and Eco Totes on adventures both near and far and I would love to feature more of your stories here on the site. If you’ve taken or are planning to take a Trek Light Adventure down the road, please get in touch or leave a comment on this post.
Keep on trekkin’….
I never wrote the other blogs. Joe did. I rarely took any pictures. Joe did that as well. To be honest, for a while I had no idea there was a string of them on the site for people to follow. After reading through them, they brought back fond memories and made me miss the wanderlust Joe and I became addicted to. Besides Joe as a companion, nothing was as essential to our wanderings as were our Trek Light hammocks.
Just the other week I realized there was a story on the site documenting our sketchy hammock setup beneath the bridge in Guatemala. In light of that story, the bridge adventure was en route to a place called Semuc Champey. Up to this point in the trip, apart from our arduous and incredibly lucky trek to Tikal, never had I been so surprised by natural beauty. After hanging our hammocks and jumping off of it, we eventually crossed that bridge to a campsite outside of Semuc Champey. We pitched our tent along the river and set out the next day for the park. We arrived early to avoid any crowds or tour groups. Arriving at the Mirador to gaze from above, fluorescent blue pools laid along the gully of the canyon, connected by waterfalls. The water was pristine and crystals sparkled on the surface as we treaded through from one waterfall to the next. Joe would toss his dry-sac off the edges and then we would leap down to the following pools. As we ate, we visualized a new hammock spot. Joe quickly set up as the camera battery was fading. I snapped the shot and captured the waterfall we had just leaped in the background.
Seth asked me to write about our travels that followed. The memories of Semuc Champey were fresh but others have unfortunately slightly faded. So I open my journal for the first time in 4 months since I have been back.
During the time we were near those waterfalls, we were setting up camp along a river in Lanquin. Over a conversation between Joe and a fellow named Mathias from Germany about underground Hip Hop, Joe and I became enthralled. Living Legends Baby! We spent our entire days with this group of travelers and soon embarked on a 2 month adventure with them. A guy from Germany, a guy from Australia, a guy from Argentina, and two guys from Switzerland joined Joe and I for our journey south. We stopped off in Antigua in Guatemala and managed to all contract identical stomach flues – much to the luck of the hostel management since our group took over the entire hostel. Joe and I attempted to enlighten them on the tradition of Thanksgiving. So on Thanksgiving we had a group of 12 of us sit together on the rooftop with the volcanoes in the distance, and the lit up Spanish-colonial city surrounding, and ate a platter of fish.
We then continued south as a group to Lago Atitlan. We crossed the lake to San Pedro and again took over a hostel that overlooked the lake and the small town beside it. Taking over hostels was not only fun but also saved us more than we ever would have been able to save in any other accommodation. Thank you Manuel from Argentina! Here we shared bonfires, met artisans, cooked big meals, I think I shaved here for the first time in months, and we continued to enjoy each other’s company. Well, I think all the fun we had here isn’t going to be on this blog…
The Argentine wanted to find a gift for his girlfriend in Ibiza who he wanted to propose to when they were to meet in Costa Rica in 2 months. So he went on the search. What a find he made. He found an artisan who not only had the magical hand with jewelry and also real turquoise from Mexico, but he also had a circus van he planned on taking down to Costa Rica. Lucky us, that’s where we had to be as well…
So after a day to the market in Chichicastenango, we returned to the port town in Panajachel. Long story short, a guy and two girls got caught for theft and so the townsfolk blocked the sole road to town to block out the police. As we hopped out of the micro and hurried down the hill to see what was happening, word was already out. The thief was curb-stomped and subsequently hanged in front of masses and set afire for all to see. Two days later as Joe and Manuel climbed the hills to retrieve the turquoise, the body still laid there.
A few days later we set out on the trip in the circus van. Joe and Mathias would be sitting writing lyrics to the beats they shared through two earpieces. I found myself peering out the window as we skipped through town like runaways. Groups of kids would stand aghast to the appearance of our van cruising through their country. The Argentines sat up front. We skipped around beach towns, pitching our tents and Joe and I in our hammocks as the artisan slept in his van. The nights would begin with the sunset creeping into the horizon of the waters. The waves continued toward the shore but the surfers remained sitting on their boards. Their eyes fixed toward the falling sun as their backs atop their boards faced us. We ran down from our towering Cliffside toward the beach and danced in front of still shots. I remember this night.
I had a family friend in El Salvador. Not doing a good job of keeping in contact with her as we approached San Salvador, I unjustifiably invited our gypsy caravan to stay at her place. We embarked. After challenges with directions we finally arrived to her gated community and five of us stood at her front door as she answered. A small, aged lady looked at us with her wrapping smile and extended her arms. “Andres! Porque no me llamaste? He tenido comida preparada pa ustedes por una semana!” I looked at the others after the hugs and our faces communicated contentment. We had all entered in to the home of much needed grandmotherly comfort.
After a week we made our way through Nicaragua through Leon and down to Isla Omotepe. A beautiful island full of beaches, organic farms, and finally . . . baseball! My first bus ride as we headed across the island to set up camp I met a young kid named Lionel. He loved Mickey Mouse but also loved baseball. He talked to me about what his Little League lacked. I would sum that up by saying they lacked everything. I love baseball and I felt it was my mission to carve them out a diamond to play on. However, I continued with the gang toward Costa Rica to see my family for Christmas hoping to return some day.
We eventually made it to Costa Rica after arduous hitch hiking and bus troubles. The plan was to be in front of the airport to meet my parents, who I had not seen since I left San Francisco in seven months. I remember sitting against the glass windows outside of the airport where the flyers exited awaiting my parents. The airport in San Jose, Costa Rica reminded me of what you’d expect to see in Miami or Cancun. Tourists galore. The two weeks we spent with them made us feel like street dogs going to doggy day care. We had some good adventures with them but they didn’t fall in line with the quagmires and journeys Joe and I had found ourselves falling into in the past few months.
After the family left, we continued to travel around Costa Rica for a bit despite the elevated costs and heavier tramped upon trails. We met some new fellow travelers, Alex and Sebastian from the States and hiked into Corcovado in southwest Costa Rica. Before entering into the park we stayed in a campground ran by a man who we instantly connected with and enjoyed late night drinks with at the site. Little did we know he was known in town for blowing a fool in the head with his shotgun a year prior. As was becoming customary of my routine, I again met somebody on the bus heading toward the “trailhead” and invited the ginger Israeli to come along with us. This kid looked like a red Q-tip. When we met up with him at camp, he showed us all he had brought with him: a can of Nutella, a handle of Tequila and one extra pair of socks. So I offered the ginger boy my hammock for the night. I took the tent. It rained that night.
We then made it down to Panama and I spoke with the border control and managed to get all four of us across without paying the mandatory fee. We headed over to Bocas del Torro and that is where Joe and I parted ways.
I mentioned to him earlier that I wanted to live on a permaculture farm for a bit and learn about what it’s all about. I felt it was my opportunity as I had seen them everywhere through Costa Rica. He wanted to surf and chill in Bocas for a bit. After a week of creating lifelong memories on this island and meeting characters that I wouldn’t be able to put into words, I headed north back up to Costa Rica to farm. Joe stayed and found an apartment, a baseball team to play for on a neighboring island, a job at a local coffee shop on the water, eventually a girlfriend, and surfed every day. I had to stop hearing about all the fun he was having and especially the details about him playing for the baseball team.
My experience on the farms was interesting. If you are looking for a good one I recommend Punta Mona just south of Puerto Viejo in Manzanillo. You’ll get all you’re asking for . . . and most likely a little more.
A few months later I rejoined with Joe to find him content as a butterfly on a piece of fresh pineapple. Something like that. So I parted toward Mathias, the crazy German kid who began to settle himself in Medellin, Colombia. He had begun to take Anthropology classes at the University learning about hallucinogenic remedies and natural alternative medicine used by the natives of the Amazon. He had an apartment he had been hooked up with through his host from Couch Surfing. I pitched my tent in his back courtyard which was a concrete square surrounded by towering brick walls toward the sky. I felt like I was in a George Orwell novel. But I was happy to be there.
I learned how to crochet hats and scarves from a lady in the street in Medellin and this hobby kept my hands moving through the remainder of my trip. It also supplied my pack with handy gifts for kids I would run into and hate to walk away from.
We eventually moved into a farm cottage in Santa Elena. Santa Elena is made up of rolling hills covered in small farms looking down toward Medellin. The nights, the parties, the trips, the sunsets, the neighbors all made this farm we had inherited a magical refuge from our transient travels. After about three months I headed toward Peru. Peru has always been the place that has struck fine chords inside of me when thinking about it. Through words, I cannot do justice to explain the unparalleled hospitality I have always received from Peruvians. The hikes through the Cordillera Blanca and the canyons that carve deeper into the Earth than anywhere else, and the sunsets that seem to be once in a lifetime exhibits. To Peru: I love you!
As many travelers who have visited Peru know, if you want to travel cheap, your body will probably not keep up. Mine did not. I began to get sick. I cut a hole in my belt to keep my pants on because I was sharing everything I ate with an unwanted neighbor I contracted in my stomach stealing the nutrients from my meals. I then knew that I had to get to Santiago, Chile.
After trying numerous remedies for my stomach condition and off and on fevers, nothing was working. I then got to Nunoa in Santiago, entered an apartment building wearing my artisan made poncho pants, hair beginning to dread, a pack on my back with a machete tied to the side and my hammock hanging from the bottom asking the receptionist for Pipe or Guillermo. He made the phone call and within a few seconds a heavy round man, bald headed, with a light beard growing, and a smile worth all the smiles I’ve ever witnessed called out: “Gringo loco! El hombre de la noche! Que haces huevon?!” We hugged and it felt good to feel at home. I had lived with them years prior when I studied in Santiago. I did not tell them I was coming this time and they brought me in like a lost son. Thank you Monica, Pipe, and Guilllermo.
This is when the trip wrapped up. I stayed for a month and planned on staying for the entire Winter to work for a ski rental business in Santiago. I craved skiing. But plans changed. Can you imagine that? Plans changing? I ended up rushing my departure and headed home.
I could reflect on this decision and my subsequent challenges of dealing with the transition but I’d rather take a moment to express my gratitude to Trek Light.
Thank you. With all sincere honesty your hammocks put us at the tops of trees, beneath bridges, above rivers, on hillsides outside of farm cottages, on cliff sides overlooking oceans, on top of Maya temples… There is a special serenity when you carry what you sleep in as simple as a hammock. It’s something that astounds other travelers at the sight but always draws them to realize what they’re missing in their pack. Thank you Seth for the opportunity to share our stories. Joe and I had taken the time to do this only because we have been so grateful for your support and of course the amazing Trek Light Hammocks. Word up and keep doing what you’re doing.
Andy Fyfe “Red Skywalker”
And also Joe “Oski”
(Click here to see more of Joe and Andy's photos and videos from their adventure)