Author: Michael Woods

I have been using a Mac since 1984 and before that I was rocking a green and black screened Apple IIe

Huevos Thomás Recipe

A twist on Huevos Rancheros using crispy tortilla shells and chorizo.
Created by Brad Thomas and Jocelyn Woods
Serves 4

  • ¾ lb – ground pork Chorizo
  • ¼ cup – cured Chorizo diced
  • 1 can – black beans, rinsed
  • 4 to 8 eggs – 1 – 2 eggs per person
  • grated cheese – your choice we like sharp cheddar
  • 1 avocado
  • small handful of Cilantro leaves
  • 1 ½ cups – fresh Pico de Gallo, your favorite recipe will work
  • 8 tostada shells
  • sour cream

Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Cook ground Chorizo and beans fully. Add cured Chorizo and warm.
Fry or poach your eggs.
Put one shell down. Add a layer of Chorizo mixture. Add another shell to the top. Put down another layer of Chorizo mixture. Add eggs and cover in cheese. Place in oven for 4-5 minutes to melt cheese.
Remove from oven, top with avocado, cilantro, pico de gallo and a dollop of sour cream.

Extending your visa on arrival in Bali

We planned our trip to Indonesia to be 39 days, nine days over the amount that the visa on arrival (VOA) permits. Before we left I had read that you could get a 30 day extension and that it was pretty easy. Some even said you could just get it on arrival by asking the immigration officers as you entered the country. That turned out to be untrue.

Once we got settled I asked our hosts and other travelers what they knew about extending. Everyone had a different answer or had no experience. Online travel forums also had a variety of information and tales of different experiences. I couldn’t find a source that seemed authoritative or current enough so I started to lean towards the hiring an agent to do it for me.

I researched agents and I couldn’t find any that had good reputations or that gave me confidence in them. The agents also supposedly charged IDR 750,000 which included the 250,000 extension fee.

So I decided to just try it myself. I skipped the crowded Denpasar immigration office (Kantor Imigrasi) and try the one in Singaraja since I was staying in Lovina. The office is quite convenient to get to and you cannot miss it’s huge white “immigration” banner on the road side.

My research said that you would need two copies of the photo page of your passport and the VoA stamp page. You should also have a print out of your proof of onward travel. I found a photo printing place and had the copies made. One set of copies would go into your red application folder and the other set would be your copy since the Kantor Imigrasi would be keeping your passport during this process. The copies only cost me IDR 1,000.

The Singaraja office is only open Monday to Friday. I am not sure what the hours are but I arrived around 9:30 and there was only one foreigner ahead of me. It is a very modern office and feels much like an American DMV. They have a touch screen for picking your number and a clean air conditioned waiting area.

The woman working the foreign desk spoke English and reviewed our documents. She then handed us a red folder and told us to fill out a long form. Upon returning the completed form we waited for about 30 minutes. I am guessing they entered the information into a computer and checked it over. Once that was complete I confirmed that all the information was correct and we wouldn’t need to redo it in a few days. She assured us it was good.

The next confusing step is that you need to return to the office two times. About one or two days after the initial time to pay the fee of IDR 250,000 per extension and then a few days after that to actually pickup your passport.

When I returned to pay the fee it only took ten minutes. I then reconfirmed the date I needed to pick up our passports. She gave me the same date but this time added that I need to come after 3:00 pm.

Hopefully everything is in order for a successful pickup Monday.

Our Kiwi Experience

During our journey across New Zealand we were welcomed by many caring and genuine people who stole our hearts. New Zealand’s landscape from north to south is magical! This is the first time we have seen so many breathtaking views and diversity from one country alone. We can’t wait till we return.

Mike and I brainstormed a list of things we found fun, unusual and unique about New Zealand. In general, we feel it sums up our experiences of the country and general living in these remarkable two islands.

Green kiwi fruit
Golden kiwi fruit with smooth skin
Strange cuts of meat
Green Mussels
Meat pies
Fish & chips
Lack of malt vinegar
Lack of hot sauce
Only brown eggs
No refrigeration of eggs
$5/bunch parsley
$18 top shelf box of muesli

$115 bottle of Hendricks Gin
Any vodka $60+
Decent wine
Pinot Gris
Decent micro breweries
Long black coffee
Soy flat white coffee
Lemon lime bitters soda

Strange birds such as kiwi, tui, fan tail, NZ pigeon, kokako, ruru, robin
Kiwi, the bird, have no wings
Annoying sandflies

Kiwi fruit grows similar to wine grapes
Two story hedges to protect kiwi fruit
Bright green rolling hills
Bluest blue waters
Snow tipped mountains
Huge rocks of various shape and color
Green Mossy forests
Ancient trees such as rimu, kauri, totara
Funky ferns
Flax plants
Roadside flowers, an invasive species

One lane bridges
Stay left
Unsealed roads
Windy roads
Hair pin turns
Black and yellow direction signs
30km construction zones
South Island full of camper van
Logging trucks
100km roadway speed limit
50km city speed limit
Car Ferries
Roadside lunches

Common Road Kill
Huge rabbits
Hedge hogs

Farm Friends

Barefoot shoppers
No ozone layer (supposedly)
Expensive sunscreen
Unpronounceable Maori names
“Wh” is an “F” sound in Maori
Saying “good on you”
Greenstone jewelry / Pounamu (Maori name) / nephrite jade
Bone jewelry
Maori flax weaving
Tons of expats

Vehicle may be of considerable age!

We found an amazing deal with Ace Rental Cars through the online rental car broker Car Del Mar for a whooping price of $24 US a day. This amazing deal gave us a Category A (CCAR) Supersaver 1999-2003 185,000kms+ car. These are supposedly a Toyota Corolla Hatch or similar, but in the car hire world every car is a similar to a Toyota Corolla. The all caps “ATTENTION” should frighten most people but we ignored the warning attached to it that the “vehicle may be of considerable age!”. The exclamation mark was even in the contract.

We were hired out a Nissan Sylphy Bluebird sedan that started the journey at 213,000 km. When were handed the keys one was broken in half. Apparently it had been lodged in either the trunk or the passenger door. Neither of which would permit a key to be inserted.

From the outside it had plenty of rock chips on the hood, a cracked taillight and a bumper that was nearly falling off. The tires routinely lost air and needed topping off. The trunk also leaked when it rained and soaked our packs.

Inside it had an amazing stale cigarette odor that they tried hard to wash out. The stereo was after market and had an aux jack which made the trip great if you were sitting in the passenger seat where the only speaker worked. The mirrors had hi-tech folding capabilities which helped them from being knocked off when parked on the small city streets that don’t exist in New Zealand. Instead it made them wobble when we occasionally hit 95 km/h on the windy NZ roads. Lacking cruise control meant the driver was constantly going to fast or to slow.

Apparently these models of Nissans suffer a common problem a mechanic referred to as a flooded engine. Where the only way to start the car was by pumping the gas and holding down the ignition for 30 seconds. We had to hire a mechanic to come out to the boondocks of Franz Josef to teach us how this worked. This was an extra charge because of the remote location. Apparently being ten minutes from the nearest AA mechanic demands an extra $50.

Once the car was started Mike attempted to bribe him to disable the annoying backup alarm that went on when you reversed. The mechanic staunch refused.

“Ace” only had to be jump started one time. After our drive though the huge dark one lane Milford Sound tunnel we learned that the car has no notification that the lights are on when you stop the car. We were nearly stranded in the Milf, but $20 buys you a jump from the cafe that also owns the only gas station.

In all we put 7,592 km (4717 miles) on this Category A (CCAR) Supersaver Ace Rental Car. That is just shy of making a trip from New York to Los Angeles and back.

The planning will pay off

Today after years of reading and months of preparation we are leaving. The plan kicked into action in mid-June when Steph quit her job and focused all her time and energy into reducing the clutter in the house so it would be ready for sale. We also sold off the majority of stuff we own and have reduced our possessions down to a dozen or so rubbermaid style bins.

We were already pretty much current on the majority of immunizations we need for a years worth of travel. The common Hepatitis A and B, Typhoid and others were all done before we went to India last December. The Uptown Travel Clinic in Minneapolis did a surprisingly good job reviewing what we might need. They hooked us up with preventatives and remedies to the things we might run into.

Another larger task over the last two months was consolidating various investments and 401k from previous jobs. These companies do not make it easy for you to move your money into other accounts. I wish we would have started this earlier, but our advisor helped us though it.

We also switched up our banking. The archaic brick and mortar banks all have fees, penalties, restrictions on minimums or the need for direct deposits. We can’t be bothered with this because we won’t be connected 24/7 anymore. We opted to move to online banks and primarily are using Charles Schwab for cash. Their debit cards have no foreign transaction fees and they refund ATM fees imposed by the random ATMs we will encounter around the world.

The other bit of planning was what do we carry for a year. I ended up with a 70 liter pack and Steph has a 60 liter pack. We started consolidating the things we need months ago and would review it every few days until we had only what we needed.

Those are just a few of the things we did to get started right. This planning will pay off.

Starting off.

For a long time now my wife and I have been contemplating quitting our jobs and traveling. We had been researching it. Wondering where we could go and how long we could go for.

She reminded me recently that on our last trip to Little Corn Island I was swimming with her in the ocean contemplating how we could change our lives and make this place our home. I didn’t necessarily mean Nicaragua, I meant the world, seeing things.

This last New Years we spent an amazing month in India and Nepal. Shortly after which my father passed away. Upon returning to Minneapolis we received an offer to travel to Jordan, Palestine and Israel. We leaped at the opportunity even though we didn’t have any time off from our American jobs.

We knew experiencing the world is what we wanted to do. So a few months ago my wife quit her job. The goal was to first get the house on the market. A full time job of decluttering and reducing awaited her. We had lived in the house for seven years and collected a lot of baggage.

Now today, the day has come. I put in my notice two weeks ago and today is my last day at the office. We have a few things to tie up before our house is sold in two weeks. Then we are going to see some family and friends before we leave.

We don’t have any specific plans other than head to Sydney and hook up with some old friends. So we will start there.