Category Archives: nature

Three days in Parque Tayrona

A and I spent some time in Parque Tayrona, a national park on Colombia’s Caribbean coast.

And even though LOTS of other people had planned to do the same thing, we still had a lot of the park all to ourselves. And it is a beautiful place. One just needs to keep in mind that Tayrona is quickly becoming one of the most hyped places that Colombia has to offer, which definitely cannot help but take its toll on a place. We were lucky enough to see monkeys jumping around in the tree tops and we saw lots of birds too. And swam in amazingly refreshing water.

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a moment of reflection

The park is full of camping options and we chose the first place we got to, which was also the cheapest and the biggest. We slept in hammocks.

During our days we walked around the park and looked for monkeys in the trees. We also spent a lot of time swimming and exploring caves.

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Tayrona is full of beaches. Most of them are dangerous and have strong rip currents, but they are all sign posted. And they are all equally beautiful; strewn with boulders and lush with jungly vegetation.

We brought most of our food ourselves since the food you can buy there is very expensive. I was surprised to see that the park does not offer adequate communal cooking sites; there is a fireplace and some run-down pots and no wood for making a fire. So we ate oatmeal and banana crisps for three days.

One evening we were talking to some other travellers who were interested in knowing where A goes to school. When I told them she doesn’t go to school and never has gone they were amazed by how much she knew even though she’d never actually ‘learned’ it. Especially one person was intrigued by how A learns. He asked if we’d seen the movie ‘Captain Fantastic’? And even though there are lots of things about that movie that I felt quite disappointed about when I first saw it, I was still happy to hear that someone who doesn’t actually unschool or even homeschool could be inspired by a movie about homeschooling.

I am mostly weary of talking too much about unschooling with people who have no concept of alternative education. It is tedious trying to explain why we do what we do and how much learning actually takes place outside of a conventional schooling scene. But in this case I could feel that what I was trying to explain was actually sinking in. It is uplifting to have such encounters with people.

A was climbing the big rocks at our camp site during the day. She befriended a young boy who lived there and they spent some time climbing and talking. They had some difficulties understanding each other from time to time but they made it work with a little Spanish and a lot of sign language.

One day we went with a Canadian girl to see if we could find a place where we could jump straight from the rocks and into the water. A and I had noticed some people doing it the day before and we wanted to try it.

A wanted me or Sarah to go first so someone would be in the water when she went in. And then we jumped, and jumped, and jumped! We had a lot of fun.

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rock climbing in Parque Tayrona

After two nights of sleeping in hammocks in close proximity to lots of other people we decided to return to Santa Marta.

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A and her new friend

Visiting nature parks is always a good experience with A. She loves spending time outdoors and often walking outside together makes for interesting conversations. We both like the quiet of the nature and getting away from the crowds. Maybe I more so than A, but we both deduce from it something of greater value than might be visible to the eye.

It has to be said, though, that Parque Tayrona is probably the least charming out of all national parks we have visited thus far.

A walk in an Ecuadorian national park

We are visiting our first national park on our travels. After having spent time in Montañita we take the bus one hour north to Puerto Lopez, which is known to be the eco-tour mecca of Ecuador.

From Puerto Lopez you can visit the Machalilla National Park, see the most beautiful beach in the country, Los Frailes, or go see ‘The Poor Man’s Galapagos’, Isla Los Platas. There are many other tours to be taken from Puerto Lopez but we settled for the Machalilla National Park. The entrance is free as is true for all Ecuadorian national parks, except for the Galapagos Islands.

Machalilla National Park is beautiful! And it is very easy to get there from Puerto Lopez. The whole trip costs us 4 USD in total. 2 to get from the center to the bus station with a moto taxi and 2 to get a bus to the entrance.

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We decide to hike through the park on a trail that took us up in the hills along the coast and through thick bush landscape. We see interesting plants, lots of lizards, and a snake. But our favourite part is definitely the beaches. And I should think that they are what the park is known for. Especially the last beach is magical, Los Frailes.

While we walk, A is writing notes in her book. She talks excitedly about how she wants to be a scientist and an explorer. She draws lizards in the book and wants me to get a perfect picture of one so that she can see all its details.

While we are walking A starts reciting a poem from one of her audio books. It goes a little like this:

‘In the garden of light I will walk. With beauty in front of me I will walk. With beauty behind me I will walk. With beauty above me I will walk. With beauty below me I will walk. On the path of beauty I will walk.’

She tells me that the place inspires her to recite poems because of its beauty and I fill up with happiness and pride because of my daughter’s wisdom and her love for the world ❤

I feel blessed that I am able to experience something like this with her.

 

 

Montañita, Ecuador – a walk along the beach

This is actually my 50th post – what a nice thing 🙂

Crossing the border into Ecuador from Peru was quite easy. The border force officer even smiled at us – it is the first time in my life I have met a smiling border force officer. And he gave us a 90 days stay even though I only asked for 2 months.

However, our bus was searched no less than three times. Everyone was ordered out of the bus every time and there was a dog that was made to enter the bus and sniff around while our backpacks and suitcases were searched.

I am not sure if there is a particular reason for this. I wondered if it had something to do with the possibility of someone trying to bring coca leaves into the country from Peru, since we experienced no such thing the two times we crossed borders between Peru and Bolivia, where coca leaves are legal.

We were both very tired since we had spent the whole day waiting for our bus in Mancora, which was a nightbus. It came at 11 pm and we were at the border at around 2 am. A had almost fallen asleep when we reached the border and had to get out and through the pass control. But she always takes it so fantastically. She wakes up, gets her things and gets out of the bus. If something seems weird, like our bus being searched so many times she will ask me why they’re doing it and I’ll try to explain as well as I can. But A always makes it through things like these without complaining and I really admire that. We are definitely not travelling the most comfortable way possible, first of all I can’t afford that and second of all I choose to travel slowly overland for many different reasons, and she never complains about it. I don’t think A even thinks about our way of travelling as being ‘unusual’ for a single parent and a child, she simply thinks of it as another aspect of our lives. This is part of how we do things.

Our first stop here in Ecuador is Montañita. We had a quick stopover in Guayaquil but I had chosen to skip this city for now; I had read different things about the city that made me not want to stay there and besides, we wanted to swim, so we moved on up north. Montañita is very good if you like partying, and, needless to say, partying is not exactly what we’re after. But, there is also a very nice stretch of beach here. We walked up and down the beach yesterday and went for several dips. We almost had the beach to ourselves. It was quite cloudy and we were both wearing sun screen but we found out that the sun is very harsh here, so we need to be really careful. None of us sunbathe but we like to swim and that exposes us to the sun as well.

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montañita beach

We have found a favourite juice stall with 1 dollar shakes and toasts and crepes and another stall with veggie burgers. But prices are different than in Peru here. I don’t know if it is just Montañita that’s pricey because it’s so touristy, but I suspect Ecuador is just a little more expensive than other countries in South America.

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A is waiting for a delicious juice at our favourite stall

Today we met a friend from Huanchaco. A girl from Switzerland, Shania. She had made almost the same journey we did and is now staying in Montañita for a while. She is making her way up north to meet a friend in Colombia. It was really nice to see a familiar face and we enjoyed talking and exchanging experiences. Shania is looking for a job here, so she can save money on food and accommodation. That’s how we met her in Huanchaco; we came to the hostel she was working at for breakfast. We also met two Dutch girls at our favourite juice stall who had been to Colombia and were making their way down to Peru. They showed us some very beautiful pictures of places they had been to in Colombia. A was so delighted to have someone to talk to other than me that she couldn’t stop telling them how happy she was to meet them.

After breakfast we went for a long walk along the beach. It is quite beautiful here. And almost deserted. All we saw were pelicans, black vultures, and lots and lots of little sea snails.

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funny little snails are everywhere in the sand

A ran along the beach in front of me, following the lines in the sand, which the waves were making and dancing while she was singing a made up song.

She said to me that even though our Christmas this year would be so different from all our other Christmases it would still be a Christmas. ‘Just a different one – one that we will remember always’, she said. I smiled.

I hope she will look back on this Christmas and remember it as a fantastic adventure.

Salar de Uyuni, a natural wonder; where I wish I had more time to ponder

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Salar de Uyuni. This amazing place has been a place I’ve been wanting to visit for years. For A, it is a place she has only heard about because I have told her and we have seen pictures. She is excited to see the salt flats, she talks about it a lot. But of course to her, the experience is a different one than mine.

She hasn’t had time to ponder about the salt flats for hours on end like I have. And she doesn’t have the same expectations.

Even so, the experience is incredible for both of us. Visiting this place has truly been an adventure. It’s breathtaking beauty and grandeur is almost indescribable and pictures don’t really do the place justice.

As with so many other wonderful places in the world, Salar de Uyuni is difficult to get to if you don’t go on a tour. I swallow my ideals once again and pay up. 1400 bolivianos for the two of us. It is actually a discounted price. And food is included, luckily.

The good thing about going on a tour is that we get to meet other travellers. This is almost always a lovely experience and this time is no exception.
We meet Valeria and Lucas, from Italy and Brazil. And we meet Brooks and Angelica, from the States.

The tour lasts for three days and we’re not the only ones going, lots of other travellers are headed the same way. We all bundle up in the same locations. We meet each other at eating times and when we’re accomodated for the night. Everything is shared, from restrooms to sleeping quarters and there is not much time to contemplate impressions or to catch your breath and just relax.

These things are hard for me I wont deny. It is as if my body is always tense around so many strangers. All the chit chat all the time, the having to small talk. It is draining me. I get tired. I get sad. And I get lonely.

For A it is a different ball game. She loves having strangers around. She talks to EVERYBODY. She speaks in English and Spanish (she is learning) alike and she doesn’t get exhausted the same way I do. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it isn’t exhausting in some way for her too. She just reacts to things differently than I do. With her ability to stay so amazingly present in the now her experience is a different one. She gets exhausted, she simply saves her exhaustion for later and sleeps it off when she has the opportunity to do so.

In these situations I have a really hard time keeping my focus and staying relaxed. When I don’t have enough time for myself to sit quietly and mull things over my brain slowly turns to a kind of muddy texture that wants to press the pause button. I need to be ALONE.

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alone in naure

I love being out in nature. It is one of my main goals of going travelling. But somehow the nature experiences we have had so far have been cramped with other people looking for the same kinds of experiences. So the idea of nature, solitude, and time for meditation and mental relaxation is somewhat skewed; on tours you don’t get to spend all the time you want alone on a mountain side or breathing in the fresh air of a salt desert. You are a part of a group, ever moving on, ever in search of a pretty picture to put on facebook.

I wont lie; I’ve have been posting lots of pictures from our travels on facebook. It’s a way of keeping people back home updated. But I don’t like the idea travelling through countries only to be able to say you’ve been to all the “highlights” of said country. I don’t like tours actually, for exactly that reason. They are tours, a kind of tourist traps. But they’re SO hard to get around if you want to discover some of the wonders of the natural world.

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A takes in the beautiful view of Laguna Colorada

These are the times when I think to myself that it would be nice to have a partner. Someone to share some of the hardships of travelling with. Someone to plan a trip out in nature with, alone, with no tour companies involved.

Anyway. Bolivia is mindblowingly beautiful. No doubt about it. The Sala de Uyuni is such a fascinating place it is hard to fathom. Salt, salt, and salt as far as the eye can see. And the mountains with all the colours, the flamingos, the colourful lagunes, the weird rock formations. Everything looks out of this world.

In one place, it feels like we’ve been dropped down on Mars. The red sand and rocks around us look eerily unearthly.

Our driver, Jose, is not a talkative guy. He turns up the Spanish rap music as we speed through the deserted landscapes, bumping up and down in the car as we go.
A and I sit in the back. We both look out the window, amazed at what we see. The nights are freezing cold and we bundle up together in the same bed to keep warm. It helps a little bit.

Our group is the quiet one. Valeria and Lucas are both artisans making their own jewelry and selling it to earn a little cash. Brooks and Angelica write their diaries and I try to write mine but am unable to concentrate because of all the noise around me. A has found a couple of Bolivian kids to play with. She offers them gifts from her little gift bag. Erasers, paper, candy, and stones she found by a lake in Peru.

Always making new friends, A laughs and makes suggestions for games they can play. They end up playing tag and red light, green light. Brooks and Angelica join the game. I talk to Valeria about children and learning. She likes the idea of unschooling. We talk about many things. Like rainbow gatherings, activism, how capitalism is ruining the world. About the poor people of Bolivia. About how to sell handicrafts.

The tour lasts 3 days. in the car back to Uyuni A and I are the only ones left from the group. Everybody else is crossing borders into Chile. We are joined by one of Jose’s friends. She smiles and waves at A. “Hola chiquita”, she says. The Spanish rap is replaced by Backstreet boys and we speed along the windswept roads with the tunes of “bacsktreet’s back” blasting from the speakers. I can’t help but smile. And at the same time I am overwhelmed with a strange kind of nostalgia. It quickly passes though. A likes the music.

When we reach Uyuni we hurry to buy a ticket for Potosi. Uyuni is not a town we want to spend another night in.

And with the breathtaking sights of Salar de Uyuni fresh in our minds we relax on the bus to Potosi. A falls alseep with her head in my lap while I contemplate how lucky we are to be having this experience together.

The beauty of the natural world is unfathomable.

Having fun in Puno, Peru

Arriving in Puno after having spend such great days in Arequipa is a bit of a shock. Puno is confusing, noisy, ramshackle, and smelly. Streets are filled with people bustling one way and the other.

The night we arrive both A and I are feeling a little under the weather. It is the altitude, I am sure. We manage to find our way downtown from our hostel and wander around the streets to find vegan food. We have no luck, so we stop by Plaza Vea. Believe or not, but Puno has a huge supermarket in the middle of it’s narrow streets. It sits right by the abandoned train tracks.

We buy avocado, olives, and bread. We walk back to our hostel and the friendly girl at the reception tells us we can use the kitchen on the fourth floor if we like. We thank her and go to fix our sandwhiches. The staff at our hostel are wonderfully friendly. We enjoy the somewhat boring breakfast and we go on tours.

Puno itself isn’t worth much praise. But it sits among beatiful surroundings. On our first day we visit Sillustani. An old burial ground, which is actually an old dweilling as recent archeological findings has discovered. It is a beautiful place to visit. We walk with our group and our tour guide, Freddie, who has a lot of knowledge about the place. A is tired though, she isn’t finding the place as facinating as I am. When we get to the top she wants to go back and after a little bit of talking back and fourth, we decide to go down. I don’t gwt to see the whole place. But A gets to go down and relax. She is hungry.

On our way back, we visit a traditional household. They serve potatoes with mud. A loves it. She wishes there was more. She is so hungry. At the hostel we order a pizza. Order is restored by a 22 PEN pizza. My budget hurts.

The following morning we go on a tour to visit the island of Taquile. First stop are the floating islands of Uros. We are going on a motor boat. We meet a New Zealand couple, Jessie and Luke. A is brimming with joy. Finally some people to talk to! She immediately undertakes the task of entertaining the couple, who are really sweet. They play with her and indulge her ideas. We also meet Chihiro from Japan, who lives in Oregon. Chihiro loves hiking, she tells me we should come visit her in Portland at some point and I REALLY want to! Chihiro is great. A loves her. She LOVES meeting new friends!

The islands of Uros are a curious experience. We are greeted by the chief of the island, who gives us an introduction of life on the island and how the island is build and maintained etc. The intro is quite long and A looses interest. A bird seems to think the intro is too long as well, she shrieks in a loud, persistent voice as the chief continues to explain and our guide translates. A mostly enjoys talking to our new friends. Chihiro and A walk around the small island, talking and taking pictures while the rest of our group sit politely and listen.

We are invited to try on traditional garments, to have a look inside the houses, to buy souvenirs and take photos. Later we go for a little boat ride in a traditional boat and the women of the island sing us some songs. I have an unsettling feeling that everything is part of the big tourist machine. I don’t know weather to laugh or cry. On one hand, the money brought in from toursim helps support the islanders and their lives, on the other hand, what kind of life is it to always have foreigners visit your home. To have to let them inside your house, have them take photos of you, sing songs for them, and so on. I myself wouldn’t want that kind of life.

Chihiro and talk about it sitting on the roof of our noisy motor boat. She says it must be weird having to sing those same songs every day. I totally agree with her.

After Uros we have approximately three hours of motor boat sailing before we reach Taquile. Jessie and Luke are amazing, they play with A on the whole ride. A tells them stories, she smiles her incredible smile and laughs loudly. None of us listen to our tour guide. It is a bit unpolite. But we have fun. I look at A and know why I love her so much.
Taquile is a beautiful Island. However, it also has the tourist bug. So many visitors every day. Children there are accustomed to jump into photos and afterwards asking money for posing. A young girl runs to stand in front of A and I while Chihiro takes our photo. We wait and explain to her that we would like a photo without her. She stands there for a while and then moves. She has taken a liking to A’s doll with the pointy hairdo though. She wants him. But it is A’s son. A doesn’t want to give him away.

Afterwards A keeps asking me why the girl wanted her son. She is so sad about it. It is so strange to her that someone would want her son without her wanting to give him away. I tell her that the girl is used to having so many strangers visit her island every day and quite probably she often receives gifts. “She doesn’t see just another girl when she sees you, sweety, she sees an opportunity to receive a gift”, I tell her. “But he’s MY SON!”, A says forcefully. I know what she means.

We take in the breathtaking views of Taquile. Look at the beautiful handicrafts in the artisan shop, and, finally, go for lunch on top of the island.
It is delicious! And there is a vegan option! Quinoa soup and rise with vegetables. A has the soup and fish. She was so hungry, but she can’t eat very much. Conversation flows at the table. We talk to Jessie and Luke and to an Indian couple from Chicago and to Maya from Israel.

Afterwards, we try out traditional hats and pose for pictures. We have a great time. A and Jessie have a secret that they have to carry out on the boat ride back. A is so excited about it. She laughs and looks secretive and gets that wonderful spark in her eyes.
We walk to the other side of Taquile to take the boat back to Puno. Everyone is a bit tired. But the mood is amiable and we chit chat as we go down. I am thinking that one of the best things about travelling is the people we meet. Such wonderful, magic people ❤ ❤

In the evening we buy tickets for Copacabana, Bolivia. Our adventure continues.

Photo diary from Puno:

 

 

 

 

Out and about

We have been spending lots of time outside the past few days. We have found a place not too far from where we live that we both love. It is a meadow with a very small pond bordering some other meadows where cattle are grassing on one side and a small forest on the other side. We have very little wild nature where we live so it’s great to find a place like this where you can go and enjoy a bit of at least partially wild nature. We always bring a blanket and books.

On our way there we usually go past this playground where A likes to climb a little before we move on. She enjoys playgrounds a lot, even if there are no other children, but she likes them even better if there are some kids to play with. Yesterday she got lucky.

We also met a woman who was walking her dog. A loves dogs, especially if she gets to play with them and this one was very amiable and really liked playing.

We often don’t leave the house till well past midday since we’re both slow risers and we are definitely B-people. Thus, A likes to spend her mornings like this:

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And I like to spend my mornings quietly with time to read and write, do projects and practical stuff and with a good cup of coffee.

There are lots of wild flowers on the meadow we pass to get to our little place and on the way home we picked some of them.

The forest where my parents live is a wonderful place to go for a walk. A and I always go there when we visit. I took these pictures last time we were there.

Just living is not enough.. one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower – H.C.Andersen