North America, South America · 31 Days · 23 Moments · August 2017

Travelling with a Tiger

14 September 2017

Day 17 - Santa Cruz Day 1 - A luxurious lie-in until 6:10 this time.... The mission was a three day hike through the Santa Cruz region, camping out at night. We took a bus up to a small village called Vaqueria. There we met our guides and donkeys, who were getting loaded up with the tents and other equipment, and we started walking. Our group consisted of a French girl and German guy both similar age to us, and we became friends straight away. There was also a couple from Chile, and one guy from Ecuador. It was about 6 hours to the campsite, and then we had dinner in our little dining hall tent with some Coca tea. With no lights around it was completely dark as soon as the sun went down (6pm ish) so we ended up going to sleep at about 7.

13 September 2017

Day 16 - Altitude gives us attitude. The trip up to Laguna 69 started at 5:15am, with a long drive up to a restaurant for breakfast, then another hour or so afterwards. On the way we met a very friendly cow and made it to the top in just over 4 hours. The altitude was a big factor, combined with the lack of sleep and a lot of uphill, made for a difficult walk. That being said, the view at the top was stunning. An amazing blue colour, the water is a run off from the glaciers above and we heard creaking and crashing as the ice shifted on the mountains overheard. The only logical next step was to go swimming..... Diving in was like being punched in the chest, and as my head surfaced to scream expletives, my vocal cords had frozen shut, resulting in some very impressive gasping. Without a doubt the coldest water I have ever been in.

12 September 2017

Day 15 - 9 hours on a bus.... Not much more to say really. The journey to Huaraz had some nice views as we headed along the coast and then up into the mountains. Once we arrived at the hostel we decided to book a trek up to Laguna 69 the following morning, with a nice early start.....

11 September 2017

Day 14 - Off to Peru. We arrived at around 7am and started to make our way to the airport. Despite two different tourist information booths and a policeman warning us it was impossible, we were determined to prove them wrong (and save money), so we managed to figure things out ourselves and got there by bus. There were a few delays on the flight as a bunch of technicians came in and had to replace some computer something in the cockpit. Excitedly we made it to Lima, booked our bus for the following day and crashed out in the hostel.

10 September 2017

Day 13 - Last day in Medellin. Today we managed to avoid the arranged tours and saved ourselves some money getting a local bus out to Guatape. The main attraction is the huge rock that sticks out of the ground, completely at odds with all the lagoons surrounding. 657 winding steps later we made it to the top, with spectacular views over the surrounding area. It was full of lakehouses, and looked like the neighbourhood where anyone who was anyone in Medellin would have their weekend home. Having made it back, we went up the cable car on the north side of the city. As the city spreads up the side of the mountains enclosing it, the cable car is an extension of the Metro, and a regular occurrence for anyone living up the steep slope. Santa Domingo was the station at the top where we walked around and got ourselves a hearty meal of chips, bacon and sausage, known as 'salchipapa'. We enjoyed the views across the city, before heading to the bus station for our overnight trip back to Bogota.

9 September 2017

Day 12 - A wholly holy experience. So completely by accident, it turns out Pope Francis is travelling around South America, and is actually visiting Medellin! So we went along to the route where the parade was going. There were thousands of people lining the street and police everywhere. We were standing behind a few people but were able to see over the top of them, and after a while he finally arrived..... The crowd to our left began to erupt, and then the Popemobile drove past to an enormous swell of cheering. As quickly as he arrived , he was gone, and the crowd began to disperse almost instantly. There was an interesting interaction where a local woman wanted me to send her the video I had taken because she hadn't managed to see. Lots of fun with our excellent Spanish skills... We spent the rest of the day exploring the markets and shops full of fake designer clothing.

8 September 2017

Day 11 - We started off with breakfast at a small restaurant by our hostel. Some poor translation later, we ended up with a enormous bowl of what was essentially a broth of beef, bacon, cheese and vegetables. It was completely unexpected, and completely delicious. With the weather pretty questionable, we went over to the science museum situated by the university. The complex has a whole outdoor exhibit area demonstrating interesting physics phenomena as well as an attached aquarium. There was plenty of fun things to do and see, so much so that we ran out of time as they closed up and kicked us out.

7 September 2017

Day 10 - Walking and Talking. A nice early start for the Real City Walking Tour , led by our enthusiastic guide Hernán. We covered lots of the downtown areas over the course of 4 hours and learned a huge amount about the history of the city and Colombia in general. Ranked as the most dangerous city in the world twenty years ago, it has undergone a huge transformation with lots of money spent on education and infrastructure. One of the most interesting sights was the two adjacent bird statues. The ruined one was where a bomb was hidden during a concert, and then the artist made a new one and demanded the debris be kept as part of the memorial to the 23 people killed. In the evening despite the forecast saying we were actually inside a thunderstorm, we roamed around and ended up watching some local five-a-side football until they managed to (quite impressively) kick the ball onto their own net roof.

6 September 2017

Day 9 - Today was mostly recovering from all the travel the previous day. I was still feeling pretty rough, fortunately we found our hostel easily and crashed out for a few hours. Later on we explored the local area for a while, before heading back and spending the evening trying to plan the next sections of our trip.

5 September 2017

Day 8 - Missed bus, taxi, delayed flight, aeroplane, sick, taxi (local hero), bus station, 6 hour wait, overnight bus, sick, sleep.
THE LOCAL HERO refers to the incident as we were getting out of the taxi from Bogota airport to the bus station. The driver asked for $25 which seemed very steep for such a short ride, and we started to negotiate with great difficulty. At this point THE LOCAL HERO steps up and asks what's going on. We explained to him, and he starts talking to the taxi driver in Spanish. The look on the drivers face said it all, as THE LOCAL HERO began to tell him off, and said we should actually pay him $6. So we did, and he drove off with his tail between his legs. Not all heroes wear capes.

4 September 2017

Day 7 - Retracing our steps. We said our goodbyes in Mérida and hopped on the bus back to Cancun. The journey was easy enough, with only a few directions needed from the locals to reach out hostel for the night. On the recommendation of one of the staff there we headed to a nearby plaza filled with food carts for our dinner. We had some delicious (and more importantly cheap!) tacos, helped down by some churros. Back at the hostel we chatted to some travellers from Israeli who were in the process of altering their plans for Cuba due to the hurricane. Fortunately our flight was unaffected, and still nice and early.

3 September 2017

Day 6 - The almost pink lake. For lunch we had a collection of local dishes, including empanadas and enchiladas. We set off to visit Las Coloradas, which was fairly close to our adventures in Rio Lagartos the previous day. It is famous for the pink lake, which is a result of the very high salt content of the water. Unfortunately the weather was a bit overcast so we didn't get the full effect, but the water was still very obviously a different colour. Tourists are not allowed in the water any more, but it was still very impressive to look at. We also stopped at a nearby beach in San Felipe for a few hours, before heading to a restaurant on the shore for some delicious seafood.

2 September 2017

Day 5 - Lujo, Lightning and Lessons Learned.... We woke up nice and early and set off for Karly's hometown, a small village called Panaba about 2 hours away from Mérida. She was going to attend a family wedding, so we decided to go the beach instead. We were dropped off at a corner shop and told to wait for a guy named Davide (who didn't speak any English) in a red truck, who would take us there. Sure enough, at the agreed time a red truck pulled up and the driver hopped out. As he was talking to a friend nearby, we approached the vehicle. We were standing there waiting to get in, when he finished his conversation and walked back over. We said hello, to which he gave us a confused look, and then got in his car and drove off. Awkward. Three minutes later , Davide arrived in a decidedly MAROON truck, and off we went...
Day 5 part 2. The journey with Davide passed smoothly, and we arrived in Río Lagartos with no trouble. It is a small village right on the coast with more fishing boats than houses. The beaches are not actually on the mainland , but on a set of islands about 1km from the shore. We found a tour service to take us out there and agreed on a time for collection. 5 minutes on the boat and we found ourselves on our very own deserted paradise beach. The sun was shining, the water was beautiful, everything was perfect.... For about 15 minutes. Whilst lounging in the shallows we noticed some rather ominous black clouds beginning to fill the horizon. It became clear quite quickly that they were moving towards us. With James' famous last words "at least the sun is still out" there was an enormous crash of thunder and the sky began to turn grey. It was 2:10 and without a soul in sight, we were now stranded waiting for our arranged water-taxi at 5....
Day 5 part 3.... So now the sun has gone and it starts to rain, at this point we realise that every single fishing boat we can see is heading full speed back towards the town. Not exactly promising when you have another three hours to wait.... We pack up our things and walk out to the end of a nearby pier and start trying to hail the intermittent fishing boats that are still passing. After about five that ignore us, one comes over and decides to save the day. As we are heading back to shore, another boat full of tourists flags us down and stops us. The captains have a quick conversation, then our driver starts pulling out octopuses from a box in the middle of the boat, and hands then over in a bucket in exchange for a stack of pesos. Thoroughly surprised , we were dropped off right where we started , and sheltered from the rain until Davide came to take us home. Lesson learned: not all red trucks are what they seem.....

1 September 2017

Day 4 - Prep and Party We woke up to a wonderful buffet breakfast. With Karly already out for work, what followed was a hilarious series of conversations with her mother, using plenty of miming and confused looks. Eventually figuring everything out, we planned and booked some flights and buses for the next part of our trip: the foray into South America..... Karly's friend took us out for some authentic and delicious tacos, during the drive there was one of the most intense downpours I have ever experienced. Even with wipers on full speed, the windshield was still a puddle of water. We went to a mall for a few supplies, before heading back for a siesta. In the evening we met with friends and went out to some bars with live music. Despite the fact that all Spanish music uses exactly the same beat, we still had a great time.

31 August 2017

Day 3 - Off to Mérida We had a late start with a simple breakfast at the hostel before check out. Just as we were about to leave there was a minor rainstorm, so we just waited it out in the lobby. Finally on our way, we got a public bus towards the coach station, only to have our bus pulled over by the police! They spoke to the driver briefly then let us carry on.... Close call.... Upon purchasing our tickets, we decided to treat ourselves to a 'platinum' class bus for an extra $8. What a decision. With access to a exclusive air-conditioned waiting room and a provided meal on the bus in fully reclining seats, the 4hr journey flew by. Our host Karly met us at the bus station, a friend of mine from my first summer at camp four years ago. We went back to her house and enjoyed pizza out in the evening air.

30 August 2017

Day 2 - Tour day We set off nice and early on an organised tour of some of the famous locations in Yucatan. Our first stop was a traditional village with lots of handmade obsidian and silver souvenirs. There was a local shaman performing cleansing ceremonies on the artefacts and also doing readings for people. Next stop was one of the 'new' 7 wonders of the world, Chichén Itza. The structure itself was amazing, built as a huge podium for high priests and kings to address crowds of up to 80,000! The acoustics of the place are phenomenal, the echo from a single clap all the way across the plaza can be heard clearly, despite the hundreds of people around. It is built to very precise specifications, with each side having 91 steps and one extra step all the way around the top, to account for 365 days in the year. One of the surrounding restorations was an Ulama court, a game where two teams compete to hit a ball through two hoops high up the wall, using anything except hands and feet.
Day 2 continued..... It seems Iike an ancient blend of volleyball, basketball and martial arts. Our final stop was a Cenote or sinkhole. The landscape is very flat in this region, but there are lots of underground rivers and streams. Occasionally the ground will collapse to produce these stunning caverns with freshwater lakes at the bottom. We had to climb down a series of steps circling around the inside of the cylindrical hole to reach the pool. After a long day in the sun, it was glorious to swim in the cool water. Unfortunately we were both kicked out straight away when I took off my life jacket to dive down below the surface. Not that I have an advanced diving certificate and we are both certified lifeguards.... With a few moments on the naughty step we were allowed back in before we headed off to the bus, and returned to Cancun.

29 August 2017

Day 1 - The real adventure begins... An early flight, very little sleep and a lot of turbulence all combined to produce some minor nausea on the plane.... Things can only go up from here! James and I met up in the airport, then managed to find our hostel. We had our first real Mexican meal at a cute little local cafe, with a selection of beef, chicken and seafood tacos. The food was good, and the waiter was even polite enough to include his own tip in the 'incorrect' final bill. Following that, we wandered around Cancún for a while. There were very few people around, and the whole place was much quieter than we had anticipated. A lot of the hotels back onto the ocean and have their own section of sand, so eventually we found a public beach and got to swim in the ocean right around sunset.

20 August 2017

Week -1 This week was a lot of relaxing with family and preparing for the trip ahead. With some stunning barbeque (the pictures were taken at Pecan Lodge) and a trip or two to the outdoor store, it was a great way to prepare for the next part of my journey.

14 August 2017

Week -2 So with a wonderful summer at Camp Cobbossee coming to an end, a small expedition of four set out to explore the surrounding areas in Maine and others states. After a night in Boston, first on the list was Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. The weather was lovely and we had stunning views across the whole bay from the top of the Beehive Trail. We went to Salem, MA, and learned about the famous witch trials that took place in the late 1600s. Maybe the most interesting part was visiting the hundreds of local shops selling all sorts of magical and spiritual paraphernalia. Heading down to Connecticut, we stayed in a real house for the first time in months! One of our group was kind enough to host us for a few days as we concluded our adventures. Aside from one maple syrup luggage spillage incident, the whole week was amazing fun with amazing people. Just what was needed to treat ourselves after working so hard all summer!