Peru, a summary [The Americas – #chronicles 2022]

It has taken me ages to get inspired to write again, and to be honest I’m still not very excited about it, but I do want to keep a record of what’s been happening on this trip, so here it goes. (I reckon I will add more to this post in the future, but for now, a summary).

Everything in Peru felt a little bit rushed, except for the Salkantay Trek. I knew it would be like that but I definetly regret it a bit. I wanted to spend more time in Peru, but due to not being able to change my Salkantay trek, I had to visit it within quite a short period of time.

I arrived to Peru on the 8th August and left on the 25th, which is simply not enough time to fully enjoy Peru. Unfortunately I could not go to the north of Peru and will have to come back for that. (Yes, it is worth coming back to visit Peru again, specially the north.

I used PeruHop to travel around Peru but to be honest you can use the local buses to do all the routes I did, and it will probably be cheaper. At the time I needed convenience and certainty, and PeruHop gave me that.

I had booked my Salkantay trek in the 17th Aug and needed to be in Cusco by the 14th, so I had very limited time to explore Peru (which yes…. Is a shame, but unfortunately I could not change my trek. Trust me, I tried)

Tip: it is worth looking into PeruHop website for ideas of different routes you can take in Peru, even if you intend to use the local buses. (https://www.peruhop.com) … *and no, I’m not getting paid to suggest their website

This was my route through Peru
  • Lima (8-10th Aug): Lima was super nice and I really enjoyed just walking around Miraflores area. It is not a place where I’d spend a lot more time, but definitely worth a visit.
  • Paracas (10th Aug): I stopped at Paracas on the way to Huacachina and I honestly think a few hours there were enough. I got to explore the Paracas National reserve which is pretty stunning and then continued to Huacachina where I spend the night. (There are a lot more activities to do in Paracas, so I’m sure you won’t be bored)
  • Huacachina (10-11th Aug): I wish I’d been able to stay for longer at Huacachina and had stayed at a party hostel. I got to Huacachina around 2pm and at 3pm went sandboarding and riding the dune buggies. This was pretty incredible! I never paid much attention to desert landscapes but when you’re in one you start appreciating it a lot more. Watching the sunset there was pretty incredible. Now…. There was sand everywhere. Yes. There as well. Everywhere.
  • Nazca (11th Aug): Left Huacachina in the morning and before stopping in Nazca to see the Nazca lines we did a Pisco tasting. That got us pretty tipsy before 12pm. The Nazca lines are nice but to be honest I was not that impressed, but I only did the observation tower. Other people who did the flying over the lines might have been a bit more impressed.
  • Arequipa (11th – 13th Aug): I really really like Arequipa and could have easily stayed for an extra night. The city in itself as an awesome vibe. Did my usual walking tour and did a one-day trip to Colca Canyon. To be honest, if you’re going to visit Colca Canyon I don’t think one day is enough and I believe that if you have the time you should definetely do at least 2 days (with one night there). That’s what I’ll do whenever I come back.
  • Cusco (14th – 17th Aug): This was my favourite place in Peru. Yes, its very touristy, and yes it’s moer expensive than other places, but I found Cusco pretty special. It’s a beautiful city with a lot of history and I loved doing the walking tour there and getting to know more about the place. I also got a little kiss from an alpaca when I was there and it’s a memory I’ll cherish forever hehe.
  • Salkantay trek and Machu Picchu (17th – 21st Aug): A new post just on this coming soon
  • Cusco (22nd – 25th Aug): I stayed in Cusco again after my Salkantay trek as I had a few meetings I needed to attend and also because… well, laundry. During my time here I met up with Jake again (who I’d met in Costa Rica and then again in Colombia), and it was pretty good to take a few days to do very little.
  • Cusco – Puno – Copacabana – La Paz (25th – 26th Aug): This was a bit of a journey from hell. Not because the journey in itself is bad, but mainly because I couldn’t sleep on the nightbus (it was far too cold) which meant that when I got to Puno I was pretty moody and sleep deprived. We crossed the border and when I got to Copacabana all I wanted to do was sleep (or have coffee lol). And then finally La Paz.

To the people I met in Peru…

Max, thank you for the company during my time in Lima. I’m really happy we were able to meet again and share all those Miraflores walks and chats. Lima was a better place because I got to share it with you

Ido and Ori, you two are, without a doubt, my favourite Israeli people of all times. I laughed far too much with you and it was just fantastic to see how two friends can share their travelling experiences like you do (considering how different you are). Ori, thank you for asking me such random but somehow relevant questions. And thank you for your sense of humour…. It still cracks me up thinking about it. Ido, you’re a pretty special soul and I feel very privileged to have heard a little bit of your story. The world is not always a kind place but the way you continue to be such a kind and patient person after everything that has happened is a testament that we an go through some awful hardships and still be fantastic human beings.

The Galápagos – What I’ve learn from going to the Galapagos on a budget (And what I’ve learnt from sea lions) [The Americas – #chronicles 2022]

Below there’s a description of my time at the Galapagos but also some tips about doing it on a budget.

I mainly based my research on this incredible blog: https://randomtrip.net/galapagos (thank you Ines and Chris! Your information was precious) and then figured out my own way when I got to the islands)

Tips:

  • you really don’t have to do all those ridiculously expensive tours to see (and swim!) with animals. Manage your money wisely
  • The best islands to see sharks are Wolf and Darwin, so if that’s the purpose of your trip, go on a cruise (and prepare to pay)
  • If it’s sea lions, San Cristobal is the perfect choice
  • You can see Iguanas and turtles in Santa Cruz, Isabela and San Cristobal
  • There are “semi affordable” places to sleep, (£15-£20 a night)
  • There are “meal deals”, where you pay $5 for a soup + a main meal. And it’s good!!
  • Groceries are expensive because they import everything. I ate a lot of fruit only during the day and meal deals for dinner.
  • For the love of whatever you find precious, buy sunscreen in another country and bring a couple of bottles with you.
  • From sea lions I’ve learnt:
    • you can be stupid stinky, as long as you’re cute, playful and goofy, people will still love you.
    • Also, naps, cuddles, scrubby scrubs and nose bumps. I’ve learnt that naps are great, cuddles a requirement and little scrubs and nose bumps are cute!

Santa Cruz Island

As soon as I got to Santa Cruz, I went for a walk and then to shop around for a couple of tours that I might be able to afford

I ended up going to the Darwin centre and saw marine iguanas for the first time at the research centre. You can do this for free but can also pay $10 to access a limited area of the centre and see tortoises.

I decided to book the Santa Fe tour, where I swam with sea lions for the first time and saw my first turtle as well. The journey to the island and back was really rough, and a lot of people on the boat got very ill. Never before have I been so thankful for sea sickness medication.

On my last day in Santa Cruz I felt quite ill, as if I had a cold, and had to stay the morning in bed. However, I did manage to get our of the room in the afternoon and went to tortuga bay which ended up being a really good relaxing day, and just what I needed.

That evening I met Stephan at the hostel and we ended up travelling together for the rest of those 2 weeks at the Galapagos, as we were doing the same route.

Isabela

On the day I left for Isabela Island, I felt a bit under the weather but thought it was just seasickness. After I got to Isabela, and around 6 hours later, I start getting all the symptoms of food poisoning. After over 24th of throwing up etc. and not being able to keep food (or water!) down, I dragged myself to the (only) very small clinic on the island where I had to stay for around 4 hours on IV fluids and antibiotics.

I ended up missing out of my Los Tunneles Tour and had to stay in bed for the rest of the day.

Next day i tried to do Vulcano tour I had previously booked but unfortunately was only able to do half of it as I was still because I was still very weak from the entire food poisoning kerfuffle.

The next day I finally felt a lot better and decided to rent a bike to go to the Wall of Tears, which is a good trail where you can see a lot of tortoises in the wild. Seeing tortoises in the wild has always been a dream of mine, so this day was absolutely incredible to me. A dream come true.

San Cristobal

After 4 days at Isabela, Stephan and I took the boat to San Cristobal (with a stop at sta Cruz). Adding to the food poisoning lingering tiredness and the antibiotics, I decided to add a few doses of seasickness medication, so I was pretty much out of it for the majority of the day.

San Cristobal greeted us with radiant sun and sea lions. The weather was amazing throughout my 5 days there and I’m super thankful this was the island I decided to spend the longest time.

During the first day did we went to the Interpretation Centre and did the trail to Cerro Tigereras. We learnt a bit more about the history of the Galapagos and swam with turtles, sea lions. ❤ We ended the day at the beach and honestly… this was simply a perfect day.

During the second day we went to La Liberia beach. The walk there was torturous (in the baking sun), so I’d recommend you take a cab. It’s like, $3. The beach was ok, we swam with loads of turtles, but it was too touristy for me, specially in the morning when all the tours go there. If you’re still considering going, I’d recommend you go at lunch time, it was quite empty from 12:30pm – 3pm.

On the 3rd day we did the Kicker Rock tour and I saw sharks for the first time (from afar, but still). This tour made me realise that I really want to do my diving certification so that I can dive more often and see a lot more animals at a closer distance.

Everything about San Cristobal was incredible. The weather, the tours, the beaches, the animals.

After being ill and getting pretty bad weather on the other islands, I’m very thankful for the beautiful time I had in San Cristobal.

The Galapagos was not originally in my travelling plans, but during my first 2 months a lot of people recommended I try to find the money in my budget to do it, because it was worth it.

So I did. And it was worth it. Every minute of it (Expect for those 48 hours of severe food poisoning lol)

To the people I met at the Galapagos:

– Thank you to Paul for the endless hours of chit chats and for being an inspiration when it comes to travelling at a later time in life. It’s refreshing to see someone enjoying every single minute they have, in the best way they can, despite their age.

– To Kath: You are an absolute legend. Your life story is so inspiring and I feel really privileged that you have shared a little bit of it with me. Thank you for trusting me. I know that whatever you decide is next for you, it will be the right thing. And until then…. Keep on going for unplanned underwear dips in the sea =p

To Stephan: A big big thank you for being the best Galapagos travel companion someone could ask for. Your endless patience and filming skills absolutely made my days when Thank you for accompanying me to all the ice cream shops.

Colombia, a summary [The Americas – #chronicles 2022]

(Written in June 2022, published August 2022)

I’m currently at the immigration queue on my way out of Colombia. One month went by since I waited for 3 hours on another immigration queue to get into the country and I remember it as if it was yesterday.

Where has time gone?

Knowing fairly well that I still have to write and reflect a lot about my time in Medellin and Cartagena, I’m getting all the inspiration now to look back overall about my past month…. But to be honest I think words fail me.

My route (and the people I met) were:

  • Bogotá
    • Capital, good intro to the history of Colombia, including current political situation. Walking tours of the city centre and food tour. Biggest night club in South America. 🤍Matty boy, Katie🤍
  • Cali
    • Salsa, salsa, salsa. Where I celebrated with locals the result of the elections. Where I met the most incredible people who I’ll take with me for life. 🤍Sarah, Jose🤍
  • Salento
    • Coffee, jungle hikes, nasty insect bites. 🤍James, Tom, Ali, Angus🤍
  • Cali (yes, I went back lol)
    • More salsa! Reggaeton! Dance…. 🤍Andrew, Eduardo, Tahra, Luke, Jules.🤍
  • Medellin
    • A different side of Colombia but one that broke all my stereotypes about it. Where I experienced first hand the results of community work in action! More salsa! 🤍Ollie, the Irish crew🤍
  • Cartagena
    • Hot, hot, hot. Too hot. This is where I said my goodbyes to Colombia.
    • 🤍Where I met up with Tahra, Matty, Ollie, Jules and Sarah again🤍

Colombia will forever have a special place in my heart. I had no expectations about it at all and It completely blew my mind.

The people are fantastic. They’re outgoing, helpful, funny. They have this special ability to make you feel at home and you end up staying for way longer than you initially thought you would.

I’m thankful to Colombia for the people it allowed me to meet but also for giving me back my love for Dance. I studied dance when I was younger but along the way I stopped dancing, even though I still attend performances and support the sector. But unfortunately, the love for dancing went numb during the past 15 years. And then I got to Cali and it all changed. The way Colombians appreciate dancing is like nothing I’ve seen before. It’s a part of who they are and it doesn’t matter if you’re old, young or if you know how to dance. You will be asked to dance floor.

Colombia gave me back something I thought was lost and for that I will be eternally grateful.

I will probably continue to add to this post, but for now, I leave here a promise of coming back, to pick up the bits of my heart that were left behind and to dance my soul away till the early hours of the morning.

Medellin. For the community. With the community. By the community. [The Americas – #chronicles 2022]

From narco city to transformational city.

This is how I will always remember Medellín. This was supposed to be one of the most dangerous cities I visited during my 6 months travelling and it proved to be welcoming, inspirational and one of the best experiences I had in Colombia.

One of the things I liked the most about the city (which I researched about afterwards), is how it demonstrates “…the concept of cities as a solution, and not as a problem, to the global challenges we face”. But most importantly, the fact that in Medellin, the solutions to the problems the city and its communities faced were created, developed and implemented by the people, the community themselves.

It’s not often we see this level of ownership and commitment to finding solutions with and for your own community. It reflects how much the people from Medellin cared (and still care) about the city, how hard they were (and still are!) willing to work to change it into something they believe in and, how they want to ensure the city changes in a positive direction and shifts its “old school” negative reputation.

Throughout the walking tours (The City Centre Tour and Comuna 13 Tour), the tour guides said a few things that stuck with me:

  • “Peace is different than security”
    • At some point during one of the walking tours, our guide said that “Peace is different than security”. We were talking about the narco trafficking situation in Colombia (in general) and how even though the country is at (apparent) peace, that does not mean everyone feels safe. This then led to our conversation about internal displacement and how a lot of people in Colombia run away to the bigger cities, looking for what a lot of us take for granted. Security.
  • Internal displacement.
    • There are a lot of homeless people in Medellin, and you can see entire families on the street, including a lot of children. This made me think a lot about internal displacement. “Internally displaced people (IDPs) have not crossed a border to find safety. Unlike refugees, they are on the run at home. IDPs stay within their own country and remain under the protection of its government, even if that government is the reason for their displacement.”
    • There’s a lot to be said about the issues related with the ‘drug industry” in Colombia (which I’m not well informed enough to comment on), but a lot of people run away from their homes in the regional areas to try to escape internal conflicts. Usually, families are actually trying to prevent their children from getting “sucked into” that life and becoming criminals.
    • So… my question is…. Will we start thinking twice before making assumptions regarding homeless people and why they are on the street? There’s always a story we don’t know about. We all have one, and it’s not always pretty.
  • “Education is about who you are, not a certificate on the wall”
    • During the tours, our guides shared a few inspirational stories from people in the neighbourhoods (one of the guides actually grew up in Communa 13). One of the stories was about a tourist losing their phone and the local kids actually going to extensive lengths to return the phone to the owner. (Yes yes, I know it sounds a cliche story, but hear me out). These kids were raised in what was one of the most dangerous neighbourhoods in the world… and they still did the right thing, because they were educated to a standard that allowed them to make the right choices. That’s education. It’s about who you are, not a paper on the wall.
  • “Living from art in a place with social classes 1 &2”.
    • Social classes 1 &2 are the lowest social classes in Colombia, and people from these classes usually live in the mountains, far away from the city centre (the place with the best views! The opposite of other more developed countries). For anyone who’s ever worked in the arts, we know how difficult it is to make a living from it. Almost impossible in some places. But they did it! From dancing, to painting (some of the best graffiti I’ve seen are in Medellin), to music etc. These artists continued to develop their work and managed to persuade us (tourists) to engage with it. This led to more and more visits, which led to the community making an effort to making it a safer place as they understand this is a beneficial cycle for everyone. We (tourists) bring in money and other tourists (thanks social media), artists get to continue to work on their art, and we all learn a bit more about each other and become better people for it.

From some of the things I’ve read since my time in Medellin, a few stuck with me as well:

  • Cities do not make poor people.
    • People move to the cities looking for a better life, and in this specific case, a lot of people in Colombia were internally displaced from the rural areas as they try to escape quite a dire situation that more often than not relates with the narco traffic
  • Investing in infrastructure to support human interaction
    • In Medellin, one of the things that supported the development of the city the most was the investment in their metro, specifically their cable car. The cable car now allows the people living in the class 1 & 2 regions (mountains) to come to the city to work, shop etc., supporting them in being active citizens. This has had a profound positive effect in Medellin
  • Involving the local community
    • Involving the local community in deciding which solutions can work for them and to support the development and improvement of those areas. The people “on the ground” should always be involved in the decision making process, specially when they will be the most.

Medellin kept a little bit of my heart and I honestly can not wait to go back. I really wish to one day be able to spend a good 3 months there and get more involved with grassroots and community led organisations so that I can really try to understand the city’s past, and where they see it going in the future.

Some articles you might find interesting:

Medellin – where did time go? [The Americas – #chronicles 2022]

I could have sworn that I only spent a couple of days in Medellin, but no… one week went by and I didn’t even noticed it. Apparently other people felt the same. The time just runs away from you in Medellin.

And yes, just like so many other people, I fell in love with Medellin.

I arrived on a Thursday and left a week later and when trying to write about it now, it is actually quite difficult to retrace my steps.

I did 2 fantastic walking tours, one of the city centre, one of Comuna 13. I went to Guadape with Matty boy and Tom. I had 4 hours of salsa classes.

I went to my first Pride and had an amazing time. I was reunited with some incredible people I’ve met in Cali and Bogota and met new amazing travellers.

However, an entire blog post will have to be dedicated to the amazing “community work” I became aware of and experienced first-hand when I was in Medellin.

It was during my city centre tour with Danny that I became a bit more aware of how Medellin went from one of the most dangerous cities in the world to one that is way safer than anyone thinks. It was during my Comuna 13 that I saw some of the grassroots work being done on the streets. And it was during my solo walks across the city that I met locals to whom I spoke with and discovered what a difference it makes to go to a place and see it for yourself instead of just hearing about it.

I could have spent weeks in Medellin and not even notice it. From all the places I’ve been to in Colombia, Medellin is definitely up there as one of my favourite ones, and I want to believe this was not the only time I visited.

The things I’d recommend you do:

  • City Centre Tour with BeyondBogota
  • Comuna 13 Tour with Zippy. Stay for a few hours afterwards and experience what it is like to be in what used to be one of the most dangerous neighbourhoods in the world. Appreciate the changes and development it experienced, done by the community, for the community! (A blog post coming up about this)
  • Go salsa dancing (and get some classes at dancefree)
  • Go party (hehe not sure I need to say it)
  • Take the time to walk around (in the day time) and just experience the city in your own time.
  • Talk with locals. Even if you have nothing to say.

I’ve got so much I could say about Medellin, but I don’t think it’s something it can fully be understood by words only.

I would say this is true about Colombia in general. You can’t just hear or read about it, you have to experience this marvellous country by yourself.

Cali – it’s a trap! (The best kind of trap)

Cali is a trap. You go there, want to stay for a few days and then continuously extend your trip until you: 1) run out of money 2) get kicked out or 3) die of and old age.

It’s a trap. We all know it, we’ve all experienced it, we wouldn’t change it :p

The look of someone who partied all night….

I’m not even sure where or how to start here. I had not planned to go to Cali and it ended up being one those experiences I will never forget. Thank you Matt, who I met in Bogota, for suggesting I go to Cali. It changed my life.

My first night in Cali was actually pretty bad and both Matt and I were pretty disappointed. There was a weird vibe across the hostel, no one seemed particularly nice and on the second day I actually wanted to cancel it all and leave.

And then somehow everything changed.

The next morning I met Andrew and Eduardo at breakfast who told me about giving Cali a chance and how everyone ends up extending their stay at Viajero (I found that very odd, but ok).

During my first weekend in Cali we were lucky enough to experience something that doesn’t happen often. Elections. During that Saturday there was some tension in the air and after a certain time no shops were allowed to sell drinks because of the election the next day.

After having done my walking tour in Bogota, I understood a little bit about why this was so important. Colombia’s election delivered the country’s first left-wing president. Gustavo Petro, a left-wing senator and former guerrilla fighter, has emerged as the front-runner. Many of his proposed policies stand to shake up Colombia’s economic and energy policies, its diplomatic relations, and the implementation of a peace deal that seeks to end decades of internal armed conflict.

It was the highest turnout since the 1994 elections, at 58 percent, Gustavo Petro, 62, became the first leftist to win a presidential election in Colombia’s modern history. The parties on the street were absolutely mental and nothing like I’d never experienced before.

The elections celebrations took a tool on everyone and Monday was a little bit…. “Quiet”.

However, Monday nights are “La Topa” nights (the place for salsa dancing were locals and foreigners go to dance), and I can honestly say I’d never seen any dancing like that. It was pure pure joy! It was a “dance performance” without being a dance show off. The locals were not trying to show off or embarrass foreigners, they were just enjoying themselves and inviting everyone to dance. There’s no competition, only joy.

A man or woman extends their hand in your direction and you know you’re being invited to the dance floor. Your skill level does not matter, how much you enjoy yourself does! It was one of the best experiences ever.

After that, I decided to book two private dance classes for the next day, one at the hostel and one at Salsa pura dance school. Needless to say I absolutely loved it. Something happened during those classes that reminded me why I love dance (*a different blog post to be written about this).

However…. I was leaving the next day. I had already extended a day and I had a bus to Salento. My gut instinct was telling me to stay, but my plans and hopes to see Salento made me go. So I went.

My time in Salento was great (*different blog post about Salento coming soon) and I loved the town. I could have stayed for a while, but I didn’t. I went back to Cali.

Sometimes all you need is some distance, and a long hike in the muddy jungle to sort out your thoughts.

So, back to Cali I went!

As soon as I arrived I knew it had been the right thing to do. I booked 5 dance classes, I to a fantastic dance show with Andrew and Eduardo and it was just so heartwarming to hug Tahra again and see Luke and Jules.

It felt right. It was right. All was good.

I’ll always remember those days in Cali as some of the best I’ve had and where I’ve learnt and understood a lot about myself. Yes, the level of partying is beyond this world and I definitely partied too much, but there were also all those connections I created with people that I’m now taking with me forever.

And the salsa!!!! Omg the salsa. So much to say about how much this country cherishes and values this beautiful art form! (Apparently dance (salsa in specific) is heavily supported by the Colombian government. I’ll need to research more about this).

And finally…. to answer some of the last questions that Tahra asked me during our last dinner in Cali:

  • What would I have done differently if I could?
    • Nothing. What happened, the way it happened and with whom it happened are what made Cali so special. They are all moments I will cherish and remember, even the not so pleasant ones.
  • One thing that I’ve learnt during my time in Cali?
    • Follow my gut instinct. It’s a continuous lesson that I’m yet to learn, but I’m slowly getting better at it. I need to start “following that feeling” even if it was something I was always told not to do from a young age. I’ve been taught to think first, act after, but I think that’s a lesson I’ve got to unlearn.
  • Do I think we have a purpose in life?
    • I don’t think so. I think we play a role/purpose in each other’s lives, and we meet at the exact time and place we were supposed to, but I don’t think we have one sole purpose. Eduardo reminded me of my initial days of travelling, Tahra reminded me to keep my curious mindset, and Andrew brought pure light to my life. That was their role in my life, but I’m sure they will have a different role in someone else’s.
    • I’m not sure what my role has been doing in other peoples life’s, but I hope it was helpful.

And to the people that I met… thank you. From the bottom of my heart. You are all fantastic. To the people in the hostel who make it such a fantastic place… Andres, Ariel, David… to the teachers, Michael, Brian, Johnny… you are beautiful humans. Thank you.

I know that I’m forgetting a ton of people, but I can not not write something about a few special ones.

To “my” Andrew… from your crazy life story to all the incredible moments we’ve spent together, I’ll never forget you. Your contagious laugher and dry British sense of humour made my days. I loved every moment with you. Thank you. Do put yourself first, do fight for what you want and don’t be scared to “go for it”! You might be surprised with the results 🙂

Tahra, another of those sisters I didn’t know I had in this world. Something happened during that lunch of ours that created something really special between us. You are one of the most self aware and curious people I know. One of the most accepting and most down to earth. What a privilege it is to have met you! And now that I have you in my life, I will not let you go 😉

Eduardo, the person who told me to “give Cali a chance”, and was so right! Who came shopping with me (which is always a challenge for me) and who showed me that investing in something (salsa dancing ) brings the most beautiful results. Thank you Eduardo.

Jules… I don’t even know what to say here. As you’ve said (and I agree), “keeping you on your toes” was a good thing, and your persistent commitment to the cause finally gave you a positive outcome :p keep being that inclusive social butterfly you are. Keep helping others, specially when they’re starting out. It’s a scary place to be, and having someone like you helping us through those “first steps” (literally), changes everything. Keep being fiercely you. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Luke, “mate!”. The laughs, the good times, the open smiles everytime I saw you. You, my darling, are precious.

Brixton (Ollie), I’m not sure where you are now, but the little time I spent chatting and laughing with you was brilliant. Thank you for “meeting me twice”. I’ve never laughed so much in a club. Welcome to the alzeihmer crew heheh.

José and Sarah, our Irish crew! Wherever you are, keep it up! Jose… hope those “spirits” allow to sleep well at some point and Sarah, keep dancing! I hope to be lucky enough to see it at some point.

Bogota – an introduction to Colombia [The Americas – #chronicles 2022]

Getting to Colombia was no easy feat.

It was an absolute shitshow at the airport, with 3-hours long massive immigration control queues. They then lost my bag, and after 1hour an Avianca staff member finally found the bag. Following these 4 hours delay and constantly texting my cab driver to tell him not to pick me up just yet, I tried to get money out and no ATM had any money at the airport, the exchange desks didn’t accept cards and I was honestly losing my chill. Luckily I had 50dollars with me, so was able to change it to pay for my cab.

On the 1st day I did a walking tour of Bogota in the morning which was super interesting. Walking tours are seriously underrated and it’s always something I tell all my fellow travellers. Wherever you go, do a walking tour! There’s so much history to Colombia and Bogota, it was an awesome experience.

After the walking I went straight to do a food tour in the afternoon with the same company (BeyondColombia). Although the tour was awesome, I’m still very undecided about Colombian food. The fruit and vegetables are amazing, but a lot of stuff is fried which my little stomach does not react very well to. Regardless, was very full at the end of it. During the food tour I met Matt, from Canada, who inspired me to go to Cali and forever changed my journey in this country.

On the second day I didn’t feel well at all so I had to take the morning to sleep. No idea if it was something I ate on the food tour or altitude sickness but it completely knocked me out. In the afternoon I went up to Monserrate mountain with Katie (who was in the same dorm as me) in the and then met people at the another hostel for drinks. Things got a bit out of hand at El Teathron and I can only say it’s a night to remember.

I felt like 2 full days was enough for me in Bogota and on the 3rd day Matt and I went for a fight to Cali.

To Katie, thank you for all your help and tips for Ecuador. I’m not sure I’ll be able to go but your suggestions were super useful. I’m not sure if I’ll see you again but I hope the end of your travels in Colombia are everything you hoped they would be. Traveling alone is an awesome and scary experience, and I hope you enjoy every bit of it before meeting up with your other half.

To Matt… I’m not sure there’s enough words for Matt just yet. We’ve just met up again in Medellin, so I’ll have to get back to the thank you’s to Matt. One thing I can say for sure is that your passion for Salsa and your enthusiasm completely changed my journey, and I could not be more grateful. Keep being you, unapologetically you.

La Fortuna & Monteverde – Costa Rica [The Americas – #chronicles 2022]

La fortuna and Monteverde are some of the most touristy areas in Costa, and there’s a good reason for that. Both places are absolutely gorgeous, even during rainy season.

As usual, tips first:

  • Hostels selina… maybe I was just unlucky, but I think Selina chain hostels have a specific vibe ( at least La fortuna did). You are willing pay for everything & are not really in a budget or you’re between 18-24 and just want to party ( and do the good old.. buying cheap booze and partying at the hostel. It was not my vibe and in probably won’t stay at a Selina again. To overpriced for what it is.
  • Do the volcano walk, with or without a guide
  • Monteverde: the zip lining is worth it.
  • Your clothes won’t dry at all during rainy season (indoor or outdoor). Find laundrette with a drying machine. You’ll thank me later.

I arrived to La Fortuna by shuttle (still had to take two buses and a boat before that), and somehow didn’t feel the vibe of my hostel. The facilities were amazing but you had to pay for literally everything! I had chosen. 10 bed room and when I got in and saw the state of it (clothes and bags everywhere, you could barely walk), stinky smell, no window) I turned around and asked for a smaller room. Had to pay a small fortune for a 6 bed dorm. Anyway. (It was a tough long day… I fell over and sprained my ankle fairly badly, so nothing was in my favour that day).

Met Lauren on the first night and ended up doing the volcano and waterfall tour with her and Omar, our tour guide. It was expensive but worth every minute. The views we got of the volcano, seeing snakes, the explanation about the animals and plants etc. was just indescribable. That was a good day.

On the second day at La Fortuna I went to a coffee place to “work” and then did a coffee & chocolate tour! Omg I looooved that tour! Learnt sooo much about coffee hehe. Tried to make my own chocolate and failed spectacularly.

I decided to leave La fortuna earlier and go to Monteverde. The journey there was “interesting”. Took a “shuttle”, then a boat to cross the lake, then another “shuttle”. The road were and absolute mess andou swear I don’t know how the people here drive in this roads.

Monteverde was a short stop as well (as far as travelling goes). I met an amazing group of people there but unfortunately people seem to be leaving when I arrived.

Sam (from Holland), stayed for a few days and we were sharing a dorm. On the second day we were joined in the form by James and Tom (from the US) we did the El Tigre hike together, which was….. fairly difficult for me. There’s clearly something to be said about being the oldest and the less fit in the group. the boys seemed to be just fine doing the hike but I was exhausted!

Even though it started pouring down halfway through the hike and we were all soaked to the bones, it was a beautiful hike. The road was pretty awful to get there and on the way back Sam tried to teach James how to drive a manual car….. let’s just say that it didn’t work out very well.

Finally, before leaving Monteverde I went Ziplining which was pretty cool. One full morning of that and then I just chilled for the rest of the day which was very much needed.

Once again, La Fortuna and Monteverde were deffo cool stops on my journey, but I felt like I spent just enough time there and didn’t really need any more.

To Lauren… thank you so much for the company, the laughs and for making my time at La Fortuna so much better! It would have not been the same without you.

To Sam. Monteverde would have been way boring without you and your goofy mood. Thank you for driving us to the El Tigre hike and for sharing so much of your travelling experiences with me. I hope it continues to be great experience 🙂

Costa Rica, a summary [The Americas – #chronicles 2022]

When I first planned going to Costa Rica I intended to stay for a month. I had big plans! Rainforest, hikes up volcanos, beach time and seeing loads of animals, sloths, sloths sloths and turtles.

After one week and a half I realised that actually, my plans to Costa Rica would probably change very soon.

The country is gorgeous and one month would never be enough to see it all. So why did I decide to cut my trip short from 1 month to 17 days? The truth is… I had very very high expectations for Costa Rica, and even thought the country is everything I expected it to be, there were also things that changed my mind about staying.

It is more expensive than I thought, and travelling between places takes a very very long time. This is obviously part of the adventure but after almost 2 weeks I felt that it was time to go.

In Tortuguero I took 4 days to try not to do anything, except enjoy nature. In Fortuna and Monteverde I did a lot of activities, from Ziplining to trekking etc. In Manuel Antonio I stayed for 7 days and had one of the best weeks ever, surrounded by incredible volunteers, trying to surf, playing with puppies, sloths and even a chicken.

I decided to not explore Costa Rica any further. I could have gone to Santa Teresa, Montezuma, Puerto Viejo. I could have done so much! But I didn’t. And half the learning process for me was actually to learn that I don’t have to do everything I had planned or everything other people suggest I do.

I was happy in Manuel Antonio. So I stayed. And it was the right thing to do.

People in Costa Rica are fantastic and I will miss them. The willingness to help is pure, and the laid back attitude can be felt everywhere.

Thank you, Costa Rica. You have been the beginning of what I believe will be a very long learning journey, and I could have not started with a better teacher.

Maybe I’ll come back. Maybe I won’t. But I do not regret one single second of the past 17 days.

Manuel Antonio – Costa Rica [The Americas – #chronicles 2022]

Manuel Antonio…. The place where I started to really relax. And the place where I changed half my plans about the next few months. It was a beautiful adventure. I was only supposed to stay for 3 days and ended up staying for 7.

I met incredible people, saw sloths up close, a ridiculous amount of animals, baby turtles being released into the sea and was able to try surfing again. It also allowed me to get some headspace and rethink my travel plans.

In Manuel Antonio I stayed at Planet B hostel which was an absolute dream of a hostel. They had foster puppies, a chicken, activities ran by volunteers, free breakfast and a really good vibe created by all the guests staying there.

The initial idea was to stay for 3 nights and then go to Santa Teresa and up that coast… but everything I wanted to do in that coast I could do in Manuel Antonio, so I decided to avoid countless hours of rough travelling cross country and just stay put.

On the first day I immediately had to take my clothes to a local “lavanderia” (the hostel was not offering laundry service anymore but they try to support locals by asking the guests to use local services). It was really hot and humid and I was in a very bad mood after getting lost twice! Walking around in extreme humidity and heat, up and down hills is no joke.

As I’m complaining to myself (being the privileged little white woman that I am), I suddenly notice something on the side of the street… something greyish… moving very slowly. It was a sloth!!!! On the floor.!!! Right there. I couldn’t believe it. One of my dreams was to see a sloth up close and there it was. I’ll never complain about doing the laundry again! Lol

On my second day I went to Manuel Antonio National Park with Alex, a local guide who helped me identify and find loads of animals; Monkeys, sloths, lizards, spiders, iguanas, different birds… we saw it all! Thank you Alex!!

Following that, we had a couple of really bad rainy days which allowed me to rethink my plans for the next few months (not sharing what they are until it’s booked).

One of the nights we went to a local bar where they were having Karaoke and let me tell you… Karaoke in Costa Rica is a whole different experience! I loved it!

Having left Manuel Antonio, there’s a few special people I want to say thank you to: Dolina, Lies and Wihan.

Dolina for the hours and hours of chit chat and for being just like me when it comes to organising cupboards (lol). I don’t know what the future holds for you but somehow I know it will be good. It will be more than good, it will be fantastic. Seeing the way you care for others and always give 100% to whatever you do gives me this feeling that whatever happens you will be ok.

To Lies, for showing me (again), why I want to continue to work with young people. I will really miss your energy, enthusiasm and cheeky sassiness. If you ever read this, I hope you know that you are one of the most promising young girls I’ve ever met. You have within you such a pure combination for youthfulness, courage and trustwortiness that is very rare to find. Follow all those dreams of yours, continue to move forward and keep looking for all those things you want to do. They’re all possible, and if someone can do it, that someone is you. Thank you for the surf lessons, thank you for the chats, thank you for the time.

To Wihan, for being my company during that early morning meeting, and for showing an honest interest in everything I told you about my work and my volunteering adventures. Your ‘groundedness’ is such a calming trait, and I was very lucky to experience it first hand. Thank you.