February 14, 2015

Facing the Leech!

Mel: Part of our Southeast Asia adventure in 2013 was a three day jungle zip-line trek in Laos. The man who organized the trek, Thor, wrote us this email beforehand:

Dear Kate,
Regarding the tree top explorer, it would be good for you to get the leech socks as on the way we trek approximately 1,5 km you will face the leech. However, beginning of May is still in dry season so there will be fewer leech.

Kate: Thor! I'm still a little sad that he wasn't our actual guide after all our emails. I pictured him leading us through the jungle with his giant hammer. Though our actual guide Mr. Bahn made up for it with his pocket-sized hotness.

hot Mr. Bahn helping Kate
Kate: I love how panic-stricken we were about those leeches and in the end, you got one leech on your neck and didn't even notice until it had already fallen off.

Mel: Umm, hold up.

I was so panic-stricken that I ordered leech socks from a company in Malaysia, Endemic Guides, before the trip.  So I had socks sent to me in California from Malaysia, only to turn around and bring them with me to Southeast Asia - I must have been super freaked for that to make sense at the time. And if Thor's warning was not enough, the images on the Endemic Guides website was enough to give me nightmares.

As for your level of leech anxiety before the trip, you wrote in one of many emails about leech socks to me:

the countdown has officially begun! here are the things i have left to do. let me know if you can think of anything else...

still need leech socks (might be able to borrow from a friend)

do we need hiking boots or will sneakers suffice? 

want to print everything out and send itinerary to some folks in case i die in a leech attack

I think you were staying pretty calm though until you started watching leech YouTube videos the night before we left for the trek. That was enough to convince you to go to the local shopping mall in Pakse Laos to buy long tube socks and salt for us to slather on our legs.

Kate: I also think all those Chang beers we consumed while watching the YouTube videos added to my paranoia.

Mel: I kind of feel like looking up leech attack videos on YouTube is like trying to self-diagnose on WebMD; you just can't help yourself but it's really NEVER a good idea.

Kate: OMG do you remember the one that burrowed through that man's hiking boot?!? Just thinking about it makes me want to check my shoes. 

Mel: Exactly! Thor wasn't playing around when he warned us.

Kate's "leech socks" and Mel's legit leech socks
Mel: I'm glad we got that photo if only because you wrote in an email before the trip:
just emailed thor to ask if we need leech socks. i'm secretly hoping we have to get them, if only for the amazing photos!

Mel inspecting her legs for leeches (and hot Mr. Bahn on the right)
Mel: This photo was taken about an hour into the hike. I wasn't tired enough yet at this point to stop caring about the leeches.

As it turns out, I only ended up facing one leech on the trek. One leech on my neck. Luckily, one of our guides removed it with his thumb before I even knew it was there. The blood was gross, but I was mostly just curious as to how I got a leech on my neck?!

leech removal from Mel's neck was a success!
Mel: So I got one leech on the neck and you were leech-free the whole time. I guess the leech socks and all the salt might have been a little overkill?

Kate: Maybe, but I think the prostitute on our trip got bit a couple times. Those short-shorts probably weren't a great idea.

February 10, 2015

Nom Nom Nom Nom: The Inca Trail Edition

Mel: Snacks, snacks, snacks! They really are one of the most important things to think about when planning a trip. This photo shows what we brought for our Inca Trail hike: peanut butter sandwich crackers, chocolate chip granola bars, Tropical Fruit and Berry trail mix, Monster Mix (trail mix with M&M's, chocolate chips, and peanut butter chips).

Kate: But of course the healthier of the two trail mixes we never ate. We were exhausted and starving but trail mix without PB chips and M&M's is just a bad idea and something you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy. Not sure why we ever bought it in the first place.

Mel: Yeah, I just noticed that the healthier trail mix says "Low-Fat" on it. We should have known better. The last thing I was worried about on the Inca Trail was a few extra calories. Nope, I was more worried about things like falling off a cliff, getting caught in a rain storm after my poncho blew away, or shitting my pants since there never was a bathroom when I really needed one.

And I will say that our "healthy" option was still more appealing than the boring snacks that most of the people on the Inca Trail were eating, like Cliff Bars and bananas.  They were probably so jealous when they saw us eating our Monster Mix.

Kate: OMG do we have any other photos of us with snacks? I look like I have bells palsy.

Mel: Well, you had just hiked 26 miles at 13,000 ft with a beast of a backpack.

I wish we had a photo of the yogurt pretzels. Did we eat all of them before we even left for the hike?

Kate: I bet we ate all the pretzels before the plane took off.

Mel: Too bad - because I really did love the story we made up before we left about how when we are at our lowest moment on the Inca Trail and on the brink of ruining our friendship, the only saving grace was going to be finding one lone yogurt pretzel in our bag and splitting it. Although in reality, that one yogurt pretzel probably would have been crushed into a million pieces at the bottom of our backpack but I guess we could have split the crumbs.

Kate: We can reenact the scene in Morocco... maybe a gif of us being mad and then smiling while sharing the last yogurt pretzel.

February 4, 2015

Morocco Planning: Homemade Selfie Sticks!

Kate: Have you seen those selfie sticks? In public, I make fun of them but secretly I think it would be awesome for travel photos.

Mel: Can you imagine us on camels with a selfie stick?

Kate: Knowing us, we'd make a cheap one ourselves out of a stick and tape, like when you taped your camera back together.

Mel: Well, in that case, our selfie stick will be held together with bandaids.

Of course I noticed my camera was busted as soon as I got to the airport to leave for our last trip. So I was the fool carrying a camera held together with bandaids all around Southeast Asia.

Kate: You're basically MacGyver.

January 31, 2015

About Mel

Kate: Mel is the best travel buddy because:

She's never at a loss for fun facts.  

always with the guidebook
Mel:  Nothing says tourist like reading from a guidebook while you're walking around, except for maybe my American Tourister passport holder. Good thing I LOVE being a tourist.

Kate: I think this would be a perfect place for the picture of you in your flannel looking like the American Tourister superhero that you really are.

Mel:  I'm really touristing it up here with both the camera and the American Tourister passport holder around my neck. And I'm sure I must have had a guidebook somewhere in that backpack.

I'm not sure who I thought was going to steal my passport on the Inca Trail. I think I just love hanging as much crap as possible around my neck.

She's ballsy enough to climb to the edge of a church roof with a stranger in Peru.

mission accomplished

Kate: I love the thumbs up photo. You look like John McCain!

Mel: Oh god.  Apparently his campaign theme song was Barracuda so that can be the soundtrack in your head when you look at this photo.

I'm really not sure what disturbs me most about these photos: that I followed a complete stranger that I couldn't understand to a church rooftop, that I trusted that the rusty ladder wasn't going to collapse, that I climbed it so that I could basically stand on a ledge with next to nothing to keep me from plunging to my death, or that I look like John McCain.  

I am impressed that I managed to climb that ladder in China flats though since they are pretty much the flimsiest shoes ever.

Most impressive though is her bloodhound-level ability to sniff out a McDonald's anywhere, anytime.

Kate: I don't know if it's the neon light from the signs, but you're practically glowing. I've never seen you so happy.

Mel: I'm not going to lie; I was very happy. I think I'm a pretty adventurous eater, but sometimes I just want something predictable, even if it's predictably kind of crappy.

Kate: I think that's what makes it so amazing. It's much funnier BECAUSE you're usually so adventurous and inclined to avoid American food. But when you do, you go big or go home. #respect

January 28, 2015

About Kate

Mel: Kate is the ultimate city bitch abroad because:

She can pack for a two week trip in the time it takes to play a Michael Jackson song.

Kate packing for our South America trip while listening to Bad. Yup, she packed for the entire trip in 4 minutes and 7 seconds.
Kate: Omg these pictures are the definition of hot mess. I also love that my reading material for the trip was apparently an issue of Marie Claire with Mary Kate on it and The History of Love. The absence of US Weekly or In Touch is troubling.

Mel: We can only hope I was carrying the other trash mags. 

She's tough enough to carry a backpack that’s twice the size of her.

Kate hiking the Inca Trail. Badass.
Mel: I love how I can barely see you in these pics because the backpack is insanely huge. Also, the woman on the left clearly opted to pay a porter to carry her backpack because she was smarter than us. And I think the porter on the right is actually carrying less than you!

Kate:  I'd like to clarify that not only did we scoff at the people who decided to pay a porter to carry their bags but we also thought it would be genius to swap off carrying one ginormous bag with both of our sleeping bags rather than us each carrying one normal size bag of our own. #lessonlearned

Mel:  A small part of me still stands by our backpack idea but that might just be because I got to see the porters laugh at you every time they passed by.

Kate: The only time I really regretted that decision was when we were going down the "gringo killer" stairs and the bag was so big it got stuck while I tried to climb through a cave and then about 15 porters came barreling down the hill at me. I always wondered how frustrated they must have been with us tourists. Here we are with hiking boots and walking sticks struggling and they're basically running the entire thing in flip flops, while carrying all our food and shelter.

stuck in the cave 
Mel: Although to be fair, we didn't actually have hiking boots. We were probably the only gringos doing the trail in gym sneakers.

Kate: And everyone else was decked out in North Face and EMS gear while we're rocking Old Navy performance fleece and Goodwill flannel. However, we were the only ones who were prepared with ponchos, so that has to count for something.

She also does an EPIC Hammer dance.

Mel: One of my only regrets from our travels is not getting photos or video of your MC Hammer Dance. I'm sure I would have if the dance hadn't been suddenly interrupted by the person knocking on our door to get us to be quiet in our guesthouse in Chiang Mai. You have to promise to do it again on our next trip so I can get some video of it - people really need to see it.
Kate: Let's be honest. I love doing the Hammer dance and wearing big pants so the chances of you getting on video at some point are pretty damn good. Do you think it would become a "meme"? Am I using that word correctly?