Category Archives: new friends

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.

Taking a slow boat up the Amazon river from Leticia, Colombia to Iquitos, Peru

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Puerto Nariño, Colombia

The Amazonas has been on my list of places to visit for a very long time. It has always been a place of mystery and magic to me. When I was a child my dad would speak about the Amazon and the river, about crocodiles, snakes, about the people who live there, and the place became one of magic and wonder to me. It became a place of my dreams, and somewhere I wanted to go.

As it happens, when I first asked A where she wanted to go on this journey her immediate reply was: ‘The Amazonas’. I don’t know why but I suppose the Amazon has that air of mystery about it that makes you want to go and see for yourself. So, we did.

We took a plane from Bogota to Leticia in the south of Colombia. Leticia is in the Amazonas, right on the shores of the Amazon river. I was anticipating the weather to be very hot and humid but actually it was not nearly as hot as I had thought. We have experienced much hotter weather on our trip so far and we all quite liked the way the air felt in Leticia. It was unmistakenly a jungle destination; the sounds of the jungle were close to us at all times, the air was hot and humid, and there were (almost) no cars in the streets, only tuk-tuks. It was magical.

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climbing a lamp post in Leticia

We stayed at a cosy little guesthouse where we slept in hammocks on the veranda and showered under the open sky. We have become accustomed to sleeping in hammocks by now but the first few times we did it I did not sleep very well. A has no trouble sleeping in a hammock though. There was an air of friendliness and tranquility about the place that easily made it one of my favourite places we’ve stayed. And we met some very nice people.

Leticia is a beautiful town. We went on a guided tour. One of the few tours we’ve been on on this trip. Our guide, Britman, was from Peru and had his own little river boat. He was very passionate about his job and told us everything he knew about the Amazonas, the river, the plants, the animals, and the tribal peoples who live in the area.

From Leticia we took a slow boat, also called a banana boat up the Amazon river to Iquitos in Peru. The trip took less than 48 hours even though we were told it could take up to 4 days.

There isn’t much to do onboard a banana boat. We put up our hammocks and lay swinging back and forth in the warm Amazonian breeze. We looked at the river, the Amazon forest, tiny villages. We were lucky enough to see a few river dolphins, but other than that there isn’t much wild life to see when you’re on a slow boat.

A of course quickly made friends with a little Peruvian girl and they spent most of their waking hours playing.

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A and her new friend

The meals were made and served in large portions by a talkative cook, who couldn’t for the life of her understand why we didn’t want to eat meat.

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with our cook onboard the slow boat

I took up reading Sherlock Holmes and found out that I really enjoy the story. I’ve never read it before but lying in a hammock all day seemed like a good occasion to read a long book.

We all enjoyed the simple life onboard the boat. But we were happy to reach Iquitos. Not least because it made it possible for us to use toilets that weren’t outright health damaging.

We spent almost a week in Iquitos and from there took the 5 day boat to Pucallpa. But that’s a different story.

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.

Sucre, Bolivias little known capital

Moving from place to place can be exhausting. Both A and I are feeling the exhaustion in different ways. I am trying to maintain a sense of stability in our travel lives by establishing little routines in the new places we come to. Our “routine” here in Sucre is going for a little walk every day. We have both taken a liking to the city cemetery. And it really is a beautiful cemetery. We like to go there and just wander around the place, take pictures, talk, admire the flowers and the graves, and sit down on a bench to relax. A man told us that Sucre cemetery is the most important cemetery in all of Bolivia. No less than 6 presidents are buried there, if I understood him correctly.

Today when we went there A wanted to borrow my camera to take pictures. I went ahead of her and walked slowly, looking at the plants, the graves, and just enjoying the stillness of the place. At some point I noticed that A wasn’t behind me anymore. I waited for a couple of minutes and then went back the way I came from. A was rushing towards me with tears filling up her eyes. She threw herself in my arms and said “up” in a small voice, like she used to do when she was a lot smaller. I lifted her up.

She had been frightened because she thought she had lost me. But what she was even more upset about was the fact that she had accidentally erased all the pictures on my camera. She had been taking some really beautiful pictures and now they were all gone. She was so upset by what happened she couldn’t stop crying for a while. We talked about how pictures are just pictures and how the things will still be there even though the erased pictures are gone.

We decided to back another day to the cemetery. We were off to meet Steph, an English girl we met here in Sucre, for lunch. We ate at the Condor cafe, a coop that sells vegetarian food from local producers. It is a nice place to hang out though it is very touristy and almost only other travellers go there. It is a bit pricy for Bolivian standards as well. We sat and enjoyed lunch and then played cards for a while before we left to find the dinosaur playground.

A was happy to play for a while at the playground. She found some children and they tried out the seesaws. She also managed to convince Steph to go on the slide with her. I didn’t feel like trying it at the time.

We have learned that the weather here in Sucre changes quite suddenly. It can begin with bright, sunny skies and a warm breeze and then change into rain, cold wind, and thunder. So it’s good to be prepared for anything. We got quite cold coming home from the market today. Sucre’s central market is a really nice place to hang out for a while and have a juice or a fruit salad.

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We befriend one of the fruit ladies and come to her stall almost every day.  She always remebers what we want.

Sucre has a really nice vibe to it. It is quite tranquille compared to other cities we have been to in Bolivia and even though here are lots of tourists it still manages to keep an air of Bolivian authenticity. And of course Sucre has its strange perks. Like zebras helping you cross the road.

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Sucre is also a place for us to make new friends. We meet Steph from the UK. We both instantly like her. It is like meeting an old friend. Steph and I have quite a lot in common. Like our perspective of the world. How we understand people around us. We have long conversations about spirituality and connectedness with your surroundings. A enjoys listening to our talks. But she finds it frustrating when she doesn’t understand everything we say and I am too into the conversation to want to translate everything. Even though A’s English is very good there are still things she doesn’t quite understand and that is frustrating to her.

The woman we stay with, Bertha, and her family are all very sweet people. A makes friends with Bertha’s son and daughter and they have some hours of fun. In spite of the difference in language children have a way of communicating that renders the spoken word obsolete. They communicate in spite of the difference in mother tongue, or maybe, they communicate better BECAUSE of their different native languages; they don’t let words come between them.

We also meet the sweetest couple you can imagine; Martina and Mathias from Switzerland. They are on a long journey as well. We play cards, talk about the different places we have been to and all in all enjoy each others company.

All in all. Sucre treats us nicely. We hope to return at some point. For more good memories ❤