From Medellin we took the 16-hour bus to Santa Marta – my last overnight journey in South America. A quick cab ride transferred us to Taganga, where we stayed for close to a week, including spending a night in a hammock at Cabo San Juan in Parque Tayrona – definitely worth visiting if you’re ever in the area.
Another (shorter) bus ride took us to Cartagena and similarly, our six nights there included a night in a hammock – this time on Playa Blanca. This popular beach on Isla Baru can be reached by boat, but we took the cheaper option of local bus > ferry > motorbike. It probably took twice as long, but was around a quarter of the cost and the local bus passes through a market in quite a poor part of Cartagena that you wouldn’t normally see.
I’d travelled 24,000km in South America by road, train and boat, so taking my first flight in 6 months was quite a strange experience. I flew from Cartagena to Fort Lauderdale and then onto Dallas/Fort Worth, spending a night in nearby Irving before taking a $1 Megabus to Austin the next day. If taking the plane was weird enough, being surrounded by freeways and fast food joints definitely took a few days to get used to.
We spent a couple of days checking out the city’s nightlife before hitting up Austin Psych Fest. We spent three days camping at the Carson Creek Ranch and met people from all walks of life who love psychedelic rock, some who’d travelled three days to be there.
We managed to get hold of some great craft beer either side of the festival, generally heading to the bars to the east of Interstate 35 to get away from the (mostly) trashy bars downtown. Included in the local brews we sampled were beers from Austin Beerworks (served in a can), Hops & Grain Brewing and Live Oak Brewing Company. We also tried three year round beers from Real Ale Brewing Company out of Blanco, Texas and a Black IPA by the Alaskan Brewing Company, who are based in Juneau.
Next up was our first trip to New York and plenty of decisions to be made on what to see over six days. Highlights include the High Line in the lower west side of Manhattan, the Top of the Rock Observation Deck (for great views of Central Park and the Empire State Building) and the (free) Staten Island Ferry. I also caught the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club gig at Terminal 5 on the Saturday night. They’d played at Psych Fest a week earlier, but my memory was a little hazy.
From a craft beer perspective, I can’t go past the Blind Tiger Ale House in the West Village, where they have approximately 30 different beers on tap and (according to their website) over 50 bottled beers – to be honest, I didn’t even consider any of these due to the options available on draught. Standout brews were the Founders Brewing Porter (well-needed after aimlessly wandering the streets at 2am) and the Anderson Valley Wild Turkey Bourbon Barrel Stout.
From NYC, it was on to Vancouver to catch up with another mate from Tasmania. Our first full day started off with grand plans of checking out the main sights around the city, however as is so often the case, these plans were scratched around 40 minutes later when we walked on to Granville Island and saw Granville Island Brewing. We promptly signed up for the next tour, where we found out that the brewery opened in 1984 and that their regular beers can be found across Canada.
We were also told that whilst the company was bought out around three years ago, they still brew 1,000L batches of their limited releases on site. These small batches can only be found in British Columbia and we were lucky enough to try the Cloak & Dagger Cascadian Dark Ale at the end of the tour. We also sampled two of their seasonals – the False Creek Raspberry Ale and the Ginja Ninja Ginger Beer. Not a bad way to start a day of sightseeing…