Otherworldy adventures

Bolivia (1)

San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

San Pedro de Atacama in the Atacama Desert is a tiny little oasis of a town in one of the driest places on the planet. We drove for hours and hours in a bus, finally arriving at this little green patch in amongst all the dry, pinkish brown hills, canyons and plains. The town is built from similar materials and so looks like an ancient mud village which has morphed into a tourist town, but a tourist town with soul. It has a lovely, South American rhythm, a rustic, inviting, super cute restaurant, bar or café every few metres, and of course hundreds of tourist shops selling the same colourful stuff! But really a gorgeous little town you just don’t want to leave, so comfortable with tons of charm and lots of colourful people. And surrounding it more than its fair share of natural and beautiful wonders. We decided to reach Bolivia via a three day overland land cruiser trip across rugged and strange landscapes, so we decided not to do too many of the excursions from San Pedro de Atacama.

Atacama (1)

The first day we just explored the town, popping in at various curio shops, gawking at the crazy number of tourists doing the same as us, and having a beer of course. The following day we hired bicycles and rode to Valle de la Luna for what was rumoured to be an amazing sunset experience. It was about 18km from town, and relatively flat, but made so much more difficult by the high altitude. So the way there in the hot afternoon was at a very leisurely pace. We reached the first stopping point or attraction in the national park, which was a curving, rugged pathway of caverns and tunnels. There were no tourists ahead of us, so we ventured in feeling like intrepid travellers. At times we weren’t even sure if we could go on in the tunnel it was so dark, narrow and kind of scary. We had our head lamps luckily, parts of it we were crawling on our bellies to get through. There were no markings or signs to say we could go through, just footprints in the dust so knew it was probably ok. It was a pretty cool and crazy experience, especially when we remembered how many earthquakes there were recently and how close the earth was above our heads.

After this we climbed back over the salty rocks we’d just crawled through and pushed our bikes up the hill and over a few more hills and turns to ride into Moon Valley. We parked our bikes again and walked next to this massive black sand dune and up to a long ridge overlooking the valley. We walked all along the ridge right to the end to settle ourselves in for the setting of the sun. It was such a strange and beautiful landscape, really impossible to describe. Totally otherworldly, an epic expanse of bizarreness. A big black sand dune to our right looking like a giant smooth elephants back. Ahead a steep drop down into a canyon full of rugged red hills and slopes of slippery rocks and beyond that hills and mountains growing more opaque till the very horizon. It was a very calming and beautiful experience, until other tourists, seeing our perfect spot starting heading over and even asked us to move so they could take pictures in our exact seats! Oh tourists. We lost our hard found spot but the sunset was magnificent from two metres away too.

Soon after that we had to hoof it back down to the bikes and hit the road before full dark. Ha. Once the sun set darkness came pretty quick, and there were absolutely no lights out there at all. Not one. We had no helmets which was definitely a silly oversight, and our bikes had no reflectors aside from the pedals. We felt invisible and nervous. The busses and cars leaving the site had all eventually passed us and we felt quite alone in the dark expanse. The only illumination we each had was the 40cm or so cast by our headlamps. The occasional car sped past and once an enormous monstrosity of a bus pulled up next to us, all lights and noise, the driver shouted something in Spanish then drove on. Adrenaline pumping we put our legs to work and pedalled ourselves quickly back to town, much faster than the way in. The darkness biting at our ankles.

Atacama (2)

The next morning we were up bright and early to set off on our Uyuni adventure. A van picked us up and we went through Chilean customs, a half hour or so later we were at the border. The first of many lovely, simple meals was set up on a table outside the van once the officials checked and stamped our passports. After coffee and ‘pan with jamon y queso’ (bread with ham and cheese), and cake we were split into our separate Toyota Landcruisers and groups of six. We seriously lucked out and got four other like minded people who ended up being so much fun and who a week later we’re still travelling with. Tash and David from England, the pretty and witty nurse and her bearded and adorable guy. Hidde and Sanne, brother and sister adventure pair from Belgium, and our oddly named but cutie pie driver/guide, Vladimir. Silent and stoic, but considerate and unobtrusively delightful in his own way.

The first day took us past numerous lakes, and the landscape was once again otherworldly. So beautiful in it’s utter desolate vastness. Laguna verde, or green lake, laguna azul, or blue lake, laguna rocha, or red lake. All coloured by multiple varieties of algae giving them their strange colours and attracting thousands of flamingos. Lots of fantastic photo opportunities, lots of getting in and out of the landcruiser to look at various things. A little walk near a volcano left us completely out of breath, this 5000 or so metres above sea level was probably the highest any of us had ever been and you could really feel it in how breathless you were at the smallest exertion. That evening the six of us shared a room and it literally felt as if we were all a bit high from the altitude sickness, we were quite out of it. Very amusing though, people mixing up words and looking a bit lost, poor Jean felt it the worst, luckily only for a short while.

The food on the trip was surprisingly good, every meal was served to us on the tailgate of the cruiser, starter, main and dessert. Nothing over the top but fresh and tasty. We ended up always looking forward to meal times as Vladimir set up the communal affair. The second day brought more fantastic vistas – Salvador Dali fields of sand and extraordinary rock formations, mountains and so, so, so much desert. Dry and sandy and dusty, that’s how the day was and also how we felt, from our hair to our nostrils to our clothes. At one point a random and cute fox was standing pretty much in the road, sort of looking at the passing vehicles and panting, I’m not sure what his mission was but I felt quite sorry for it. Mostly we just saw llamas and alpacas and flamingos otherwise. Llamas have extremely inquisitive little faces. And lovely soft fluffy looking fur.

Bolivia (2)

The second night we stayed in a hotel made entirely from salt. It was so cool, the walls, the tables we ate off, the bed bases – all salt. I licked one of the walls just to be sure. Jean and I got a double room that night and slept like babies. Until 5am when we had to be up. After unwillingly tearing myself from the covers, the excitement for the day ahead began to seep in. We set off at 5:30 for the salt flats. I was dozy and napping on Jean’s shoulder when I looked up and it was just “wow” – all around was deep, hazy, glowing, ethereal, royal blue which rocked the soul. We had hit the salt, which looked like ice. To the left, salt flat, mountain and sky were beautiful shades of blue, to the right, a sight which left me speechless. Crisp ice blue seemingly endless salt flat, and a sky tinged baby pink, yellow and blue with swashes of deep purple cloud separating the colours. It felt like we were the only dark and solid entity in an expanse of breathlessness. Nothing broke the incredible colours of nature, the immense salt flat beneath and around us, the vast blues and sunrise colours above and beside us. And us cruising along with the crackling, crispy salt under our tyres. We were all quietly in awe. Seeped into the blue colour palette glowing around and in us. We stopped at a place with no one else around, to enjoy the sun rising over the salt flats and take a few photos, not that the camera could quite capture it. Then we drove onwards to Incahuasi island, an island of corals and salt, ruggedly jutting from the endless salt plains around it, with enormous cacti pointing thick spiky fingers into the clear sky. After exploring the tiny island we were treated to breakfast and coffee on salt or stone slabs, prepared out of Vladimir’s Mary Poppins like trunk/boot area of the cruiser. One of the coolest places any of us has had breakfast. We set off again across the flats to the spot where we would take the ‘photos locos’ aptly called as we were to see. Of course we’d all done a little research and put some prior thought into what we would do, and as the day progressed we got a little more creative. It was so much fun playing with distance and perception with the camera, only the pictures can explain it!

Bolivia (4)

After playing with the cameras for a fair amount of time, lying and crawling and jumping on the salt, we were dropped off in Uyuni for the next leg of our adventure. Five of us were heading in the same direction, so we boarded a bus, which included a German shepherd on his own seat, his big ears flopping in the wind from the open window, and headed into Bolivia to discover what magic it held in store for us.

Bolivia (3)

Ahead lies cycling Death Road, Machu Picchu and the jungles, hopefully I’ll be lucky enough to write about lots of lovely wild animals!


Claire-Louise on Apr, 17 2014 at 9:46AM

You write things out so beautifully, dear!! Thanks for sharing all of the beauty and images. I laughed out loud when the picture of you popped into my head of you licking the salt wall. HAHA! oh timmy, of course. Love you both, Cape Town is still wilted without you but smelling like fall; vineyards have changed from sweating green to shivering bronze. Happy Trails, lovelies!!

Ash on Apr, 29 2014 at 9:15AM

Just love reading about your other worldly adventures!! Your posts are so descriptive & paint amazing pictures! Can’t wait to see photos!! Lotsa love!! xxxx

beardandblonde on Jun, 2 2014 at 10:6PM

Vlad the lad

My second favourite city

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. There’s just something about it, an almost intangible thing. Sometimes dirty, sometimes smoggy and I’m sure sometimes dangerous, aren’t all cities. But mostly it’s just kinda perfect. There are deli type counters on every corner, selling simple and delicious food and of course amazing natural juices. Most of the avenues, streets and roads are leafy and dappled in ever present sunshine. The trees are giants, huge leafy sentinels with tendrils of hair-like vines hanging from their branches, creating delicious shade for the architecturally cute apartment blocks everywhere. Everybody walks, there are stairs linking everywhere and most of the roads are safe. Mountains frame the city and create beautiful horizons. The beaches and boardwalks, and the ocean beyond are simply stunning. Cape Town has most of these things too, and I love it. But Brazil also has an indefinable energy, and all year round good weather! I can’t really explain it but both times now that I’ve been here, I always think to myself “oh I could definitely live here!” And perhaps that’s what it is, that feeling of liveable, happy spaces, friendly faces, lots of green and blue and although there is the usual city dirt and grime, the energy underneath is what stays with you.

Last night we slept from around 2am on the cold tile floor of Rio’s airport. Our ferry left the island of Morro de Sao Paulo yesterday at 4pm and due to the rain and bad weather the journey took us 6 hours by boat, bus and ferry instead of just 2 hours. After which we camped out on the airport floor for too many hours.

Thus we are back in Rio, arrived today and a happy mishap with our other accommodation brought us into a divine, luxurious guest house belonging to a French architect. Our room is classically designed and beautiful. We have views over the city and a king bed with proper linen. There’s nothing like a beautiful space to make you feel creative and peaceful.

The time has almost come to wrap up this magical little adventure, last of everything now, time to take it all in, absorb as much as we can, and then say goodbye.

May the adventures never end! Little ones and big ones, here’s to being inspired by life and the world!

Cheers, lots of love!

Beaches of Brazil

Salvador, Brazil

Finally! The beach time is upon us! Hot weather, cold drinks, hours of tanning, swimming and snorkelling… Alas for me the final night in Natal we partied with some Argentinian guys we met and the next morning, aside from a blistering hangover, I picked up the worst flu of my life! We actually fretted for a few days that I had Dengue fever or malaria, luckily not.

The bus from Pipa to Natal passed by in a daze, we all felt a bit rough (‘we’ being me, Jean and Chris – Jean’s brother). We arrived in the afternoon late-ish and attempted to find our apartment. No luck in the disarray and chaos of the little beach town! Streets led to alleys or to nowhere, none were named, everyone told us something different, people didn’t even seem to know their own street names! Beautiful, befuddled, overly relaxed Brazilians! Eventually we gave up and just knocked on every pousada’s door, eventually finding a place which was cheap and had two rooms for us. We checked in, and headed out to dinner and to watch another game. I was still feeling relatively OK, and we had amazing pizza and some decent red wine. Good times. Pipa is a fantastic place for great food, if you happen to find yourselves on the shores of Brazil it’s worth a visit. The beaches are nothing to be sniffed at either. You have to walk or get a cheap and quick transfer bus to get to the main beauty, but either way it’s worth it. Framed by two orange cliffs is a +- 3km stretch of dazzling beach, dotted all over with umbrella’s and sun loungers and sunbathing masses. I missed the first beach day with Jean and Chris, I was sore, miserable and feverish in our room, with a running tap for a nose and an ache in every body part. They came back with such unbelievable stories about swimming with dolphins and perfect beaches that I was determined to join in the next day. So, armed with tissues, throat lozenges, painkillers and my book, I tentatively stepped out of my dark cave and into a dazzling sunshine day. Tissue attached to nose I perched happily all day under my sun umbrella and drank in the paradise. It really is stunning, and people stretch all along the beach so there’s no crowding, everyone can have a front row seat to the bathers, dolphins and beach bums! There are some exceptionally pretty people on the beaches of Brazil, it’s like they try to live up to that reputation. They have certainly inherited the rounder bums and voracious curves of the planet! Skinny definitely isn’t in here! They even have curvaceous, plump, big bottomed mannequins.

After my first foray into the sun and fun I started to will myself better, it took a few days of rest but eventually I could join in wholeheartedly. Jean and I decided the next time to walk to the big beach via the middle beach. (Pipa’s own beach is nice enough but all the fishing boats are anchored there). Along the way we stopped off at the middle beach for a dip and a coconut. And then the dolphins came! I think it was a mom and two baby dolphins and they frolicked and swam in amongst all the people, sometimes getting to within 5 or 6 metres and surfacing a fin or face to say hi. It was incredible! The babies were about the cutest things I have ever seen! They would pop up vertically, showing off their skinny little baby dolphin bodies as they peeped around, it was just too cute and amazing!

From one beach to another? Hmmm. We were planning on heading south to Salvador and the beaches to the south which looked blissful, but then fate intervened and we ended up in possibly one of the more random places of the trip! It was by a bizarre set of events and the insistent hand of the travel god! We got to the bus station back in Natal, ready to buy our tickets to Recife – 5 hours away, and then from there we’d travel overnight to Salvador. As we got to the queue Jean said “should we not just go direct to Salvador?” So we changed queues to get a long distance bus all the way to Salvador. After some struggling with language, – we speak virtually no Portuguese and they speak virtually no English, – we figured out the bus at 5pm was full, but there was one at 18:45, no problem. It was now about 12:30. In amongst all the words uselessly thrown back and forth we missed the fact until after we’d paid that she had booked us to Aracaju because the Salvador bus was actually sold out today. Oops and oh no! So Jean (surprisingly) kicked up a fuss, saying that “we want Salvador, not Acabaju!” (“Queremos Salvador!”) She corrected him, ‘Aracajuuuu’ is only 6 hours from Salvador and we can get a connecting bus. No thanks we insisted, we can get a bus now to Recife so we don’t want to wait around for 6 hours. Gosh we’d been off the hard travel road for too long! With a evil glint in her eye she said ok fine, come let’s go I’ll give you a refund (all in Portuguese of course but her intent was clear). She insisted on doing it quickly before we could check the other bus. With a slight feeling of something amiss in our hearts, we cancelled the Aracaju tickets and booked for Recife. The 1pm was sold out but we got seats on the 3pm bus. This, however, meant that we missed the connecting bus to Salvador by around 15 minutes. We hoped there would be a later one. Of course when we arrived there was no later bus to Salvador. We stood in various queues but no go.  The bit of Recifewe saw was a horrible little place and all around us for miles and miles was just ugly uninviting industria. The lady at the baggage storage area said a taxi to a tourist area is minimum 50 Reals, about R250. Plus with a football game in a few nights time, the accommodation would be about 200 Reals minimum, plus the taxi back tomorrow… What a waste. We were fed up, frustrated and needed to get out of there, and on an overnight bus so that we could have a place to sleep. So we hopped from queue to queue seeing where there was an overnight bus to at this hour. (It was around 9pm). Aaah of course, Aracajuuu. So we booked two tickets to Aracaju departing at 23:10. We both laughed, we knew something like this was bound to happen, we both ‘had a feeling’ during the fuss in Natal. We actually found a great little hostel once we could find internet and actually research, for the first time, the place we were in! We ended up staying for four nights so that we wouldn’t have to travel on our anniversary and so that we didn’t miss any football games. It was a surprisingly nice time, we ate out, explored the neat little city, finally caved in and had sushi!! And had a really, really fun anniversary. We picked a well rated restaurant for dinner which was a bus ride down the beach out of town. We decided to have a bottle of bubbly on the beach beforehand as the sun went down and then do dinner. So onto the bus we hopped, and decided to pop into the restaurant to make sure we got a good table later. Only to find out that they don’t even open at night!! Haha whoops. Oh well, we headed down the beach to a quieter patch, set out a sarong and cracked that bottle of bubbly! It was delicious, plastic cups, soft beach sand between our toes, sun setting behind the palm trees at our backs… After the bubbly we decided we may as well stay and drink the red wine too, which was meant for after dinner. So we dug some small holes for candles and lit six around us to create a perfect little romantic moment. And then for about 15 or 20 seconds the skies decided to open up on our little moment, drenching my candles, scattering us like rabbits and then just as abruptly stopping. We stayed of course, 3 sputtering candles, two happy kids and a bottle of wine. It was kind of late by the time we headed back and no more busses were running. So we walked and hitchhiked and swayed our way down the road. Apparently the über friendly Brazilians are a bit more cautious at night, or perhaps off the beaten Aracaju is just different. After a really long time one car actually turned around and came back for us, yay! And they could speak English. Apparently the driver, on seeing we were ‘gringos’ knew we’d have a tough time of it! They were lovely people, on their way for a night out, and they wanted to have dinner and party with us, but we decided on our anniversary to stay just the two of us. Luckily they picked us up, it was about 10km back to town!

The beaches were not all that great in Aracaju, very wide, quiet, flat and with a feel of abandonment, so after our chilled time we excitedly headed on with our journey to the beaches of Bahia. We spent two nights in Salvador at a great little hostel, in the area of Pelourinho, which is beautiful! We arrived on a holiday day, their day of independence. The cobbled streets were buzzing and the street decorations made the whole place really fun and pretty.

After Salvador we hopped on a quick two hour ferry to Morro de Sao Paulo, a place recommended to us by the owner of the pousada in Pipa. And am I ever so glad that he did!! Paradise paradise paradise! Not the deserted kind, but the kind which is ringed with beach bars and restaurants, ice-cream parlours and shops selling dresses, bikini’s and souvenirs. The other kind is too expensive for this trip! But the beaches and lushness are picture perfect, it has just 4 main beaches and 2 smaller ones further from the action, absolutely no cars, and clear, calm, azure waters ringed with reefs and rocks, forming perfect pools for swimming and sup-boarding. Yesterday was a rainy day and perfect blogging weather, today is warm and sunny, so time to hit the beach.

Our room has a balcony with a hammock, which I found myself in yesterday all morning, coffee and book in hand. The day before we watched the Brazil game in the tiny town square with a hundred or so others, drinking beer, cheering, munching popcorn and enjoying this divine place which is Brazil.

I thank my twinkling lucky stars to be here! The time is far too near when it will all become memories.

Stay cosy, stay safe.

Muchos love

To the World Cup! via the Amazon please

Natal, Brazil

Back in Brazil. We sadly said adiós to Colombia and floated down the Amazon as it snaked its way through dense and gorgeous jungle to our next adventure. The Amazon is wide, really unbelievably wide in some places, there was only a couple of occasions where we were close enough to shore to have a chance of seeing wildlife, and we didn’t see any hidden in the green tangles. We did see weird and wonderful pink river dolphins, very cool! We also saw a long black river snake swimming past the ferry one night. That brought out discussions of anaconda and thereafter of ‘so bad they’re good’ bad movies. The trip was a good laugh, super relaxing; beautiful in the way that being so close to nature is; and a one of a kind experience in the way that sleeping in a hammock strung up on the deck of a ferry along with a hundred others is.. It was colourful, full of international camaraderie and friendly banter, and best of all we finally, after 4 and a bit months of travelling and encountering no South Africans, met up with two fellow  Capetonians!! We spotted two guys a few times in Leticia the day before we left, buying hammocks and supplies. We assumed they were Australian, and chances are they normally would be. So with that assumed knowledge tucked safely away we carried on with our own preparations for leaving Colombia.

Leticia is a river town in southern Colombia, it borders Brazil so closely that you cannot even really tell when leaving one country for another. Also, 20 minutes away by boat is the Peru border. A triborder situation which is also the doorway to the Amazon jungle and river. A very hot, humid, lively and friendly place. The only way to reach Leticia and Tabatinga (Brazil) is by air or river, there are no roads, and as a result both towns are riddled with Suzuki’s, tuk-tuks, poegies (scooters) and moto-taxis. It’s the only way to get around as cars are not exactly necessary and therefore quite rare. Everywhere you go the sound of motorbikes fills the air and with seemingly no road rules you have to be really careful crossing the road. The mototaxi rides by motorbike on the Brazil side are quite exhilarating. The tuk-tuks on the Colombia side seem to be safer and less nerve-wrecking.
Departure day arrived and after a police bag search we found a spot to string up our newly purchased hammocks on the middle deck of ferry GM Perreira, Manaus bound. After getting the help of a deck hand with our knots (mental note: learn to tie a proper knot!), we settled in to people-watch new arrivals and get acquainted with the boat. I was standing by the kiosk for food and cool drinks when I saw the Aussies again, and noticed that one of the guys had a tattoo of Africa on his arm, I figured I will have to ask him why an Aussie has Africa tattooed on him. For real, South Africans are that scarce! We quickly figured out we were from the same city and country and excitedly exchanged greetings, the boat trip was looking up. We spent the days just hanging out together and watching the river and jungle float by, exchanging stories and sharing laughs, looking out for river dolphins and dreaming of spotting the elusive puma. It was a very pleasant experience, the sunsets and sunrises were lovely and all too quickly it was over and we were pulling into Manaus.
Here we parted ways and planned to meet up again in Natal for the Ghana vs USA game. Jean and I had a few days to kill before our flight to Natal, and we did this at a cute, new and cheap hostel called Amazon Adventure Hostel (or with the catchy local correct accent ‘Amazoney Adventurey Hostel’). Manaus is a massive city right in the Amazon jungle, you do not however see any jungle while you’re in the city, it feels far away. It is extremely hot and humid though, and we happily spent hours in the air conditioned recesses of the hostel, reading books and watching movies and shows on the tablet. I love free Wi-Fi. We visited the Teatro Amazonas, which is a beautiful and elegant theatre built during the rubber boom to bring some sophistication to the city.

We flew to Natal early on the 11th, leaving the strange and lonely feeling city behind us for the sunny, popular beach town. Natal is where we watch all our football games. Cameroon vs Mexico was first – a disappointing loss, but the Mexicans are now some of my favourite people on the planet! Friendly beyond compare, loud, boisterous, generous and fun! While they were in town the chanting, revelry and drinking was infectious and constant. During the opening game of the world cup we were in a large, packed bar with many Mexicans and this one guy walked around and gave everyone a mini shot of tequila and took a photo with them, sombreros, lemon, salt and all! The first few days it rained heavily and nonstop, Chris arrived by bus after the opening match, and I think he brought London weather with him. After three days the sun finally shone again and we spent many happy lazy hours on the beach, the guys joined some footie games and the swimming is fantastic! We drank beer copiously every day, watching a LOT of football and my liver and body is desperate for a detox. The Ghana game was extremely depressing, we met up with Matt and Justin and their friend Faizal, also from Cape Town. We painted our faces in support of the black stars, and the gees (spirit) was incredible, the Ghanaian supporters were epic, but it was with sad faces that we left the stadium, to the tuneless, grating chant of USA USA USA. All in all it was still a fun day.
It’s raining again today, so somewhat gratefully I find myself lazing in bed, writing and resting. Our hostel, Lua Cheia has a medieval theme, with turrets, tapestries, arrow slit windows, stained glass, cobwebbed chandeliers (real cobwebs, I saw the spiders), pointed archways and a suit of armour in the entrance hall. Strange but really cool, it’s a comfortable place to stay, and it has been great to settle down for 8 consecutive nights, I even unpacked – a first! Unfortunately we are in the epicentre of the party district, loud music, crowds and chanting goes through the night. It will be wonderful to experience silence and peace again, fun as this has been. Tonight we see Japan vs Greece, tomorrow we head south to Pipa, on our road back to Rio – our final stop before flying home.

Eeek, it’s hard to believe that it is all nearly over! Thinking back on some things we did in the beginning it feels like a lifetime ago, at other times it feels unbelievable that home is just around the corner. I am happy with it, I feel like a traveller; it’s no longer a mission to live out of a backpack, to sleep in strange beds or hammocks or different places every few nights, it now feels natural. Going home is going to take some getting used to! But I look forward to it, to seeing Pinky, family, friends, my beautiful city and familiar streets, shops and food. And decent, well priced red wine, oh how I’ve missed you!! A terrible bottle here is R100, something at least drinkable is R160/R180! I will miss açaì, fernet and coke, proper heat, humidity which means I never have dry skin, the feeling of impending adventure around any corner and constantly seeing and experiencing new things. I’ll miss dearly the amount of time we spend outdoors, and make a promise to myself to seek adventure and nature in my normal life too.
The next few weeks will be spent on beaches all down the stunning coastline of Brazil, 30 degree weather, cocktails, lazing, tanning and just being beach bums. I heard it was cold in SA. See you all soon.
Much love, x

Coffee, fireflies and tranquility

Salento, Colombia

Ecuador held no great secrets, love or allure for us. Our sights were set on the mystery and enchantment of Colombia, and so we sailed swiftly through Ecuador, enjoying coffee, cooking for ourselves, cheap-ish box wine and the occasional charm of a fellow traveller. The cities of Cuenca and Quito were relatively charming and there were quite a few historical buildings to see, and Cuenca is remarkably clean and pretty, with wonderful half decayed and extravagant buildings looming up the hillside next to the river. In Quito we met a lovely older guy from Alaska, a teacher of English to Eskimo’s, a traveller eternal, full of stories and a pleasure to hang around with. We made pescado encocado, a local prawn dish, and invited him to dinner. It was a first for us, hosting a guest within a hostel; we only had boxed white wine to offer, but it was surprisingly good, and the evening was one of our favourites.

In Quito we waited for four hours for a delayed bus which would take us into Colombia, the bus was doing an epic journey from Lima to Venezuela. We eventually boarded the bus, due to take 20 hours, it took 24. It was hot and stuffy, and they played incessant and loud salsa music for hours on end. It may sound fun but it wasn’t, I can still hear the ts ts ts ts ts which is present in each and every song. But we read, relaxed and slept fitfully and finally arrived in Cali. This was just a brief pit stop to refuel, and the next day we set off for the coffee region. The scenery just got prettier and prettier, the mountains grew, the trees stretched into bluer skies, the grass grew greener and everything became more lush and verdant. A pleasant five hour bus journey brought us to Armenia. On the way we had a full police search of the bus, the officer got to us, asked for passports, saw we were South African, smiled and moved right on, everyone else on the bus had their belongings fully searched! Another one hour bus and we arrived in the quaint little town of Salento. Our hostel was 20 minutes out of town, so off we walked, ice creams in hand, through pretty streets, admiring the architecture and colours along the way. Around half way there I spotted the cutest spot for our first real Colombian coffee. The friendliest woman owned the kiosk, we perched on some half logs outside and she brought us mini trays with a small tin cup of coffee. It was black, fragrant and wonderful! It already felt so calm and peaceful and we were still on the road! Our souls mellowed out as we sank into the aroma and flavours of Colombia. ‘Tranquillo’ they always say, and it really was.

The hostel / farm La Serrana was set on the top of a mountain ridge with valleys on either side, the view was almost 360 degrees, green green green, our eyes were saturated with colour, I was pretty speechless once again. We smiled at each other and began setting up our tent. This place is so popular it seems to be fully booked every night. Lucky we have our tent. As evening settled in we grabbed some beers and sat down to enjoy the view. Slowly as the darkness grew complete, the fireflies came out.. Hundreds of thousands of them blinked and twinkled on the dark soft rolling hills around us, it was like nothing we had ever seen before, nature’s beauty is often unexplainable in terms of man’s limited vocabulary and imagination, some things have to be seen and experienced. Our minds and souls absorbed this wonder and grew richer for it. The following morning we woke lazily to a quiet garden and house, the dogs and everyone still slept. The air was so fresh and calm, a few clouds hung over the neighbouring mountains. After breakfast we grabbed our books and a couple of hammocks and settled in for a few serene hours. The afternoon was set aside for a visit to a coffee plantation. It started to drizzle but they said it should stop within the hour. So we set off on foot to town for some lunch before our coffee mission. I took my rain poncho as I didn’t feel like getting cold. Luckily I did, the drizzle carried on all the way to town, so we both huddled under it. During lunch of grilled trout the rain seemed to stop for a little while, then a sudden clap of thunder and the skies opened up! It was an intense tropical downpour, we were stuck in the restaurant for what felt like hours, the proprietress luckily offered us a strong cup of ‘tinto’ which is basically delicious black coffee. It was getting pretty chilly as we got wet with one attempt to jump into a taxi which was waiting outside, hooting. Jean got in first I shouted at him over the roar of the rain to grab my polystyrene coffee cup as I clambered into the back of the jeep. A whole family was already inside, we all looked at each other, the woman was saying something to us, oh ****! It wasn’t actually a taxi! It was a private car we had just scrambled into! She apologised profusely as we climbed back out, into the rain and back into the restaurant. All the taxi’s are Jeeps, and they were hooting, so you can understand our confusion! Eventually the rain began to let up, so we held my poncho above us and waded through the streets back to the hostel. Unfortunately this was our coffee plantation day so we missed out on that.

The next day we went on a hike to a place in the jungle with lots of hummingbirds, it was amazing to be so close to so many of them, watching them drink water, their little wings almost invisible as they darted about, thudding, however, very audibly as they whizzed past your head. The hike then led us down a mountain road and past impossibly green cow fields with the tallest palm trees I have ever seen, dotted all over the hillsides, very Dr. Seuss, I could picture the Onclers wagon puffing along through the trees, chopping them down.

Sadly we had to say goodbye to the green magical fields and carry on our journey through Colombia. We decided to fly to Cartagena as we found out the busses were horrendous and it is only a little bit more to fly. An Irish couple we met and did the hike with told us that Viva Colombia was supposed to be the cheapest but that you can only book at the airport. We saw online the flight was at 9:30pm, but to be on the safe side we decided to get there early and make sure we got seats. We arrived at about 2pm and there was no one at the Viva Colombia desk. Apparently they would be there at 3. So we had some lunch and went back at 3. There were three ladies at the desk now, having a discussion of some sort. We waited patiently in line, 3:15, 3:25, getting steadily impatient and annoyed at what was clearly a personal conversation. I looked angrily at them, clearing my throat, huffing etc. to let them know I was running out of patience, finally one of them looked at me and seemed to say sorry we’ll be with you in a moment, a terribly fake smiled graced her face for 2 seconds. A few minutes later a woman arrived, walked through main doors, lifted the rope of the queue and went straight to the desk. They began to help her. I nearly had a fit, I think I hyperventilated a bit and one of them noticed and pointed me out, they called me up. Luckily, otherwise I think my fist would have acted on it’s own accord and flew over the counter and planted itself into one of their noses. Online the price of the flight was 399,999 pesos, roughly $200. Which was what our Irish friends had paid, what we could afford and what we were expecting. She typed a bit, then held up the calculator showing 300,000, perfect, then pulls out a piece of paper when I ask ‘para dos?’ just to make sure, and writes 600,000 on it. I ask why when it is so much less online, and they just say, online it is cheaper, but here it is more. You cannot book on their website, as I mentioned before, you have to go to the airport. In utter tears of frustration we sit back down. I am inconsolable at this stage, the idea of staying in this bleak city and then only getting two long busses the next day is unbearable. Eventually I run off, I went to every airline counter, eventually at LAN a lovely helpful guy who could speak English had flights for $107 each, yay!!! I was so relieved! Should’ve given up on the terrible trio long before.

We flew via Bogota and landed in sultry hot Cartagena around 10pm. We’re staying in the historical walled city, with its labyrinth of streets lined with pretty, colourful houses. Most of them have indecently large wooden doors, with lavish wrought iron knockers in exquisite designs of lizards, lions, lion koi fish amalgams etc. Each beautiful façade is a different colour, the windows have wooden – useless – burglar bars (it’s probably more for decoration than anything else, the city feels pretty safe) and many are draped with pretty magenta and pink bougainvillea. I’m lying on my top bunk now, there is a big bird cage outside my window which looks onto the lobby with checkered floors and a gilt mirror. The fans are humming overhead, moving the hot sticky air around and keeping the sweat at bay. I know as soon as I walk outside the sweat will run in rivulets down my back again. The heat is immense, it’s everywhere, there is no escape, we are not rich enough to stay in a place with a pool, and even the water out of the showers is not really cold. But I’m truly happy to be here, to be warm all the time, to shudder at the thought of fleece or wool, blegh. Because I know that this adventure which has taken us vast distances and to wildly different places will all too soon be over. And I love the sunshine.

So cheers, I’m off for an ice cold beer and to bathe in my own sweat as I amble through the streets.

Love you all.

Mastering the art..

Of doing nothing. I’m getting really good at it. Lazing about in hammocks, lying on the beach, lazing in bed.. The idea even of doing anything is just too much effort. I know I should be doing something, something productive and anything worthwhile, but that ocean breeze on my sun kissed skin is so very pleasant.. Ok ok it’s blog time, it’s been four days of relaxation in Mancora, Peru and I suppose I am ready again.

Where did I leave you… I think we had just arrived in Bolivia. Our first main chosen stop was the ancient, colonial city of Sucre. Very Bavarian with beautiful balconies, plenty of beer and delicious baked goods. We stayed in a lovely hostel with a beautiful courtyard and a very big friendly wooden table where the five of us (we were still travelling with Tash, David and Hidde) drank a bottle of whisky as well as a selection of beers. We made whisky sours and fresh guacamole and ate corn chips while divulging secrets and generally having a good old time. After that we went to see a Pink Floyd tribute band… interesting… and after that we went to a bar / club called Joyride, even more interesting. Otherwise Sucre was mostly about rest, there was a lovely fresh fruit and veg market, they have a meat section too but the smell kept us away. Our final day in Sucre was spent drinking beer from 9am and watching a lot of football.

After Sucre we headed to La Paz to meet up with Chris and Monica. La Paz, la paz, la paz… Highest city in the world? Yes. Weirdest city I’ve been to so far? Yes. What is difficult about La Paz is deciding whether it is an enjoyable city or not. From far, at a quick glance, or at night it looks like it could be a city in Italy, with all the buildings built on impossibly steep hillsides stretching far into the distance. From the 5th floor of our hostel the nearest mountaintop homes are still above you. It looks really beautiful. However, from close up the buildings, about 75% of them, are half built, derelict and abandoned, with no windows, door or roof, brown, sad and with an empty promise of a brighter future. From up close it is definitely a city in South America’s poorest country. The area we stayed in was relatively tourist friendly, you can tell by the number of market shops selling llama jerseys, earrings and other things tourists love, and by the number of pizza places and tour companies, or by a bar called ‘The English Pub.’ Hmmm, cosy it wasn’t. La Paz is very full of tourists and most of us really enjoyed the time there, but it’s not a quaint and friendly city, rather it is a terribly poor city that wants (needs) your money, and so is nice to you in that way but you never feel immersed, smiles turning to frowns as you walk past without buying. It is an interesting city for sure, lots and lots of markets to keep the girls of our group busy. We did find an Amazing Mexican restaurant, with a plethora of cinco de Mayo paraphernalia – best Mexican food I have ever had!

We cycled the Death Road which was an unforgettable experience. Death Road, or North Yunga Road used to be the only road from La Paz to Coroico, it was christened as the worlds most dangerous road and one estimate is that 200-300 travellers died in vehicles falling from the road each year. Now it is popular with tourists looking for an adrenaline rush as it is quite a hairy experience!! 18 cyclists have died on the 64km ride since 1998. We took it slow, easing around the bends and bouncing over the rocks carefully, but some people flew past us, I don’t know how fast, but any faster than 10-20km per hour felt like suicide! I love speed but that particular place seemed like a good one to exercise caution. The road is single lane most of the time, you start at 4650m and descend down to 1200m. The first half is still used, wide and tarred and took us maybe 20-30 minutes, the second half is all dirt road with horrible rocks called babies heads, designed to make your bike go awol on you. Not fun with the cliffs next to you offering a 400-600m drop. That part took significantly longer.

Afterwards we headed off towards the little town of Copacabana on the shores of Lake Titicaca in Bolivia. We ate loads of trout, explored what little amusement the quaint hippy town had to offer, and went on a ferry trip to Ilha del Sol. The journey to Ilha del Sol was sooooooo slow and cold it felt a never ending torture. But we got there eventually, over 2 hours to do what should be a half hour trip. We hiked across the hills looking at various ruins and enjoying the sunshine. I had terrible runny tummy somewhere around the middle of the island, and there were NO bathrooms along the route, so I had to try find a “bano naturales” which was not visible to another part of the pathway… There were lots of tourists, no trees and just a few rocks and scrub here and there… Not a pleasant experience ducking and diving as other perambulators kept popping up over a hill I thought I was hiding behind! Lucky I took previous lessons to heart and ALWAYS had tissues on me wherever we went on this entire trip. It was otherwise a very pleasant amble, we had to pay to take a photo with a baby llama, the woman’s sole English being “Llama baby” and followed shortly thereafter with “money.” Towards the end, hot, tired and sweaty we walked through a little village heading toward the port, and a lovely local lady was selling orange juice out of her window, best orange juice ever and at the perfect moment! An oasis of happy cold liquid and a smiling face was the perfect end to the walk.

heading north up skinny Chile

Happy perro

Vina del Mar, Chile

After the intense Patagonia we head up north along the wonderfully long and narrow country of Chile. After our first stop after the ferry in Puerto Montt and an overnight bus, we have spent three very relaxed, colourful and happy days in Viña del Mar, which is around two hours north of Santiago. A beach side town which is quite similar in feel to Sea Point in Cape Town. The best part has been the long walks, the afternoon beers, the sunshine and the wonderful little hostel called Street Garden Hostel. Run by a supercute and friendly young couple it’s the perfect little oasis to put your feet up, cook, watch movies, enjoy sunny courtyard breakfasts and chat to the other travellers passing through. It has been the perfect counterpoint to the bizarre and harsh Patagonian beauty. It reminds us of home and as we’re on the same latitude for once, sharing weather somewhat, it has made us think more of home and all the beauty and love we have back there and dotted all over the globe.

Homesickness is a normal part of the adventures, and missing people close to you gets more intense as the days add up behind us.. 50 days in now, and not even half way! Raising a glass of vino to everyone back home tonight, can’t wait to see you all.

Hugs peace and happiness xx

Hiking the W

Torres del Paine National Park, Chile

I don’t know what to say about the Torres del Paine, words simply do not add up to be able to equal the experience in any worthwhile manner. Each time I try to cogetate an acceptable word picture of our hiking and camping mission, a bunch of images and feelings fly though my head. Images begin forming into thoughts, but language doesn’t come to the rescue and I’m left mute.
I know I can’t really end the blog like this, as much as lazy Keri would like to, conscientious Keri forges on.

Puerto Natales

We left early morning by bus from Puerto Natales to the Torres del Paine National Park, to hike “the W”. Which is a popular route taking in three mountain passes. On arrival we boarded a ferry which took us to the refugio/camp at the base of the bottom of the first “v” of the “w”. The first day took us up the first upward slant of the w, and to Glacier Grey – “the bluest grey you will ever see.” The hike up was 11km, it was pretty windy and cold, but we were happy and excited and bounded up the pass eagerly. For a long while couldn’t see the glacier, then we saw a few big blue ice blocks in the lake alongside us, then suddenly around a rocky bend we saw it, a big expanse of rippled ice massed behind a rocky island and seeming to bulge around the sides of the island into the lake, like a solid, frozen tidal wave. The blue of the glacier is this kind of exquisite turquoise blue, an almost impossible, luminous blue, especially floating in the deep, indigo grey of the lake.

Glacier Grey 2
The bluest grey you’ll ever see

The glacier spotting was really exciting, suddenly we were seeing things we’d never seen before, and these things were impressive! A breathtaking, bewildering landscape totally new to our eyes. From a certain rocky outcropping serving as a view point to the glacier, we took some photos, the wind at this point was like nothing I have ever felt, you could pretty much try and fall forward to the ground and the wind would hold you up, it felt like my eyeballs were going to blow out of my head, and I am pretty sure it was moving my eyelids, you couldn’t help laughing at the craziness, then the wind would whip any spare spit right out of the corner of your mouth. As we turned to head back to the pathway the wind caught me at my back and pushed me forward so I raced past Jean, flailing in the force of the wind, it was either be bowled over and fall on my face, or quickly drop to the ground skidding downhill, so I chose the latter and landed flat on my butt on the rocks. Jean cleverly pipes up ‘you mustn’t run darling!’ Smartass.

Crazy weather

After another 6km or so we finally reached the refugio and camp site and set up our tent. We then did the quick hike to the glacier in case it rained the next morning, in this place the weather is wholly unpredictable. So of course it started raining just after we set off. Cold, wet and slightly miserable we tramped through underbrush, rounded a bend and suddenly there it was, in all its mammoth, motionless glory. The biggest block of ice we had ever laid eyes on, with the wind whistling right off its back onto us – cold, fresh, exhilarating. We got back to the tent with red wind-burnt cheeks, gathered all our dinner stuff and cooking gear (mini stove, gas can, lighter, knife, pasta, can of tuna, pack of soup mix, onion, garlic, proud stash of spices smuggled over the Chilean border, wine, plastic crockery, sporks, camp cups and hungry tummies).

OK so a little explanation on the refugios and camp sites. The refugios are small, basic hotels for hikers, ridiculously overpriced and a way out if you don’t feel like carrying your own camping stuff and food, but if you’re doing the hike you should really just do it properly, otherwise I feel you cannot claim the bragging rights. The camp sites are located nearby, if you’re lucky under some protection of trees. The refugios usually have a basic room or shelter where the campers can cook, in case of inclement weather and also since a devastating fire a few years back you cannot make any fires or cook anywhere except the designated area. If you’re lucky there are some tables and stools, and usually a washing up area. The cook areas are always way too small so you all have to squeeze elbow to elbow and share the little space there is. It’s fun, an escape from the cold outdoors and you meet the people who you’ve spotted on the path all day. Also you finally get to eat warm food! Cooking on your own little gas stove and making the little you have into something tasty is a lot of fun. And tuna pasta after a long day is delicious! Early to bed, we tuck and crawl and wiggle into our 3 sleeping bags and fall asleep immediately.

The first night was calm and we slept a decent time, woke a little late the next day, made instant oats and instant cappuccinos, and set off back the 11km we’d hiked the previous day. And an extra 7km to the next camp brought us to the Vallee del Frances. But not so hasty. The way down on this day was wrought with terrible weather of epic proportions. The wind was insane, at times I had to walk in a bit of a half squat to make sure I didn’t get blown over, there definitely wasn’t much talking. After the wind began hustling us quickly down the mountain, the rain and sleet decided it would like to smack us around a bit too, which it did. And not even always from one side, oh no, it came at us from all angles, mostly it liked slapping the side of the face of course, but it started up a ceaseless beating on the back of our legs which brought us to the starting point thoroughly miserable and ready to get the ferry straight out again. We crawled wetly into the camp cook area and made our selves a cup of tea. And it seems like there really is nothing a cup of tea can’t fix. After 30 or 40 minutes of relaxing and drying off, we decided to brace ourselves and head back out into the bitter cold, wind and rain. Let me tell you it took all of my personal resolve to force my unhappy body back into that onslaught. But onward we soldiered, the weather let up a little thankfully and we trudged into the next campsite in the early evening.

Icy cold rivers
This was just a campsite next to a pretty river, with no refugio and a little wooden shelter with some tree stumps and shelves for cooking. Also there was no tap or basin and you had to go to the river to get water and wash your dishes.. This resulted in extremely cold, numb hands! Mostly for Jean… I made my excuses, I had a cold and didn’t want pneumonia, nor did I want such cold hands! A rushed dinner and we quickly crawled back into our nest of sleeping bags, the night was bitterly cold but we got rest and having learnt our lesson the previous morning we were up before sunrise to cook breakfast and set off up the mountain pass to the view point. I’m so glad we rose early, as we were washing up our breakfast dishes in the beautiful rocky river, the sun was rising and the huge snowy mountains above us were tinged pink, a truly beautiful sight. The hike up the mountain was difficult for me, my cold was peaking, again, and I was tired and finding the going tough. But my eternal motivator was there pushing me on and making sure I got to the top. And I am very glad he did. We passed through a clearing of fluffy snow (the wonderful after effects of yesterday’s weather) and the panoramic vista of snowy mountains, jagged peaks, two-toned soaring monolithic formations, the lakes behind us, the cloud-littered blue skies above, was… I don’t know, adjectives don’t do it justice, otherworldly, awesome – in the words original sense… it was so worthwhile and I’m so glad I didn’t miss it!

Torres del Paine beauty

After missioning back down the mountain we packed up camp, shouldered our backpacks and headed to the next campsite. It was around about here somewhere that my knee started twinging a bit on the downhills. The day was stunning and warm – believe it or not – a strange warm wind was blowing, I should’ve guessed it was bringing something more sinister, my dad would’ve warned me to choose a camp spot carefully that night… I thought of this only in hindsight. Not that I think it would have helped! In any case, we had a really warm and pleasant hike this day, sweating and my knee hurting a bit, but overall a great days hike through interesting bush and forest and alongside lakes. About 30 minutes before the end, our feet and shoulders were aching and we’d had enough of walking for one day, we heard the unmistakable sound of a girl getting into cold water, and we sped up hopefully. Yes! Our path-mates were spread out on a pebbly beach, shoes and socks off, pant legs rolled up, and dipping into the milky aqua waters pink toes which hadn’t felt fresh air in days! We joined in immediately, the relief on our tired feet was amazing. Never stopping for long though, too many people were passing us and we didn’t want to miss out on good camp spots, we set off for what was to be our last camp site.

It was a good looking campsite with wooden platforms and we hurriedly bagged a spot and set up camp. We enjoyed a relaxed dinner of tuna pasta and the last of our wine and headed to the tent for reading and relaxing. Sometime after we fell asleep, I think maybe an hour at most, a terrible, evil and vicious wind ripped though the campsite. It shocked us awake as it attempted to pull our little green tent apart. I checked outside after hearing some commotion and saw a German guy standing by the kitchen, his tent had broken and he was looking for a place to sleep, ouch. We didn’t have space, later we would wish we’d asked him to sleep in our tent to help us anchor down. I was irresistibly tired and so attempted to keep sleeping while the wind howled and raged against the vulnerable campers and Jean singlehandedly tried to keep the wind from snapping the tents bones. He yelled at me a few times to help and eventually I had to muster the energy out of my exhausted bones.

We listened to the unearthly howls of the wind, each time it gusted we had to reinforce the edges, two corners each. We gathered some rocks (aah so that’s why there were big rocks on the platform) into the tent to keep it down, one of which ended up where Jeans head had just vacated after a particularly violent gust picked up the side of the tent! It was scary, but also wild and real, someone was ow ow owoooo-ing nearby, the wind was really showing us a spectacular example of her powers. Jean said at one point, “I keep thinking it’s over… then I remember we aren’t next to the ocean…” because the gust in the distance heading toward us sounded like a rough ocean. It whistled and whipped through the low bush of thorn trees around us, it sounded like a voice at times, groaning and screaming at us to get off her land. We eventually fell asleep from sheer exhaustion, then it woke us up again some time before dawn with what felt like even more force. The rocks were rolling around in the tent, and with them we formed a puddle in the middle of the tent, the wind had forced bodies, rocks, sleeping bags all into a pile. We gratefully packed up camp, on heading into the cook area it was covered with people in sleeping bags and all their stuff lying all over, it seems around 15 or so tents had been snapped under the gale.

This morning was cold again, and rainy as we set off around the mountain to the next pass and camp site. It was horrible weather to walk in, even though the route was pretty easy it felt like one of the worst days. My knee really started hurting on the slippery downhills, I tried to ignore it. On top of that the incessant rain had soaked through my ‘waterproof’ jacket and I was soaking and freezing. On one of the river crossings I slipped off the rock and into the river, so my feet too were soaking wet. Not a good time. A refugio was coming up where we hoped to dry off, warm up and finally eat something. Unfortunately this refugio decided to close for the season about 10 days early 😦 So, frozen to the core, our essential clothing wet, no sign of the weather improving, nowhere to dry off and my knee so sore by now it is taking us double time to get anywhere… We decide we’ll be better off heading back down and back to Puerto Natales. Not an easy decision, but when I had to limp all the way back down, and Jean carrying my bag at times, we knew it was the right one. We had a few hours to kill before the bus picked us up, so we sat in the cosy hotel bar at the base and shared an incredible pizza, nursed our wounds, thawed out and readjusted to the real world.

The first night the hostel was full and all they had left was a huge double room with private en-suite, fluffy white towels and a big king size bed with fat pillows, it was 11pm by now and raining so we had to take it despite budget constraints.. Not the usual basic accommodation we’d become used to! And we totally felt like royalty, in that moment it felt better than any 5 star hotel could. We buried under and into fresh, soft white linen and our bodies were just so, so happy. Next night our budget forced us back into a cheap twin room with shared bathroom, but that first night was healing to our battered souls. We were sitting having a beer next day and I rubbed my calf and felt a muscle! A real, defined hard little muscle! It was so exciting, I wanted immediately to plan the next hike!!

Unfortunately this was followed by 3 virtually immobile nights in a stuffy cabin on a ferry, meaning cabin fever and definitely no nice hiking. We took the Navimag ferry to Puerto Montt, the blogs led us to believe that we would see dolphins and seals, perhaps a whale, glaciers and fjords… Alas we were accompanied all the way by a vast and heavy mist cloud, sometimes breaking for rain. So not a lot was seen and we couldn’t even go outside much. I finished a book and Jean clocked a good 15 hours on his tablet game. There was a crazy part in the beginning when our huge 200m long, 6 storey ferry passed through a gap in between two islands which was maximum 80m, we could almost have touched the trees growing on the mountainous little island. It was pretty insane landscape.

The hike was by far the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I pushed myself to limits I never thought I had, I was the happiest unhappy person! Physically everything was extremely difficult, but emotionally I felt enlightened. Even though I was soaked, frozen and aching I was exhilarated, the surroundings almost never failed to move me, I was keen to keep going and see and experience more. I feel quite proud of myself I must admit.

We’re very happy to slowly be heading north again to some heat and sunshine! Next up is the Valle de Elqui for some camping, braaing, star gazing and chilling, then the Atacama desert followed by Bolivia, salt plains and then it’s into the jungle we shall go.

Muchos love! Xoxo

Little Luxuries

Torres del Paine, Chile

A pizza, thin and crispy, a beer, cold and tasty, just come in from the cold outdoors to the cosy restaurant… Luxury. A cup of tea, a crackling fire in the kaggel, feet up and through the large window a snow capped big and beautiful mountain… Luxury. I’m sick as a dog, but it’s all the little luxuries which bring you back to exquisite truth and bring you up from what may have been the doldrums of a mood or situation to happiness and contentment again. Small, little luxuries like that cup of tea, that indulgent pizza, a cup of whiskey or 2 on a cold night offered from a kind stranger, a good book, that towering mountain just lit up by the sun for you to see and appreciate. All are life’s little luxuries which are ours to use as stepping stones to happiness. Even if we slip and land in the bog, the next stone is just ahead. We just have to appreciate its presence.
I’m truly a lucky fish to have all of the above and more during this adventure, and not to have work on my mind, or worry about the next sale so that my bog is not so terrible. Everyone should do this, everyone should take time off from work and just indulge immodestly in all of life’s little luxuries. Bury yourself in it, forget about seriousness and responsibility and assign a few short months to pure enjoyment. We only have this one little chance at life, why not do it? The responsibility and seriousness will more than likely wait for you to get back. I can attest that you do not need that much money to do it, where there is a will, there is a way, and living cheaply and simply has the added benefit that even the smallest little luxuries are absorbed with total pleasure.

This has been an indulgent blog post for me. More news will come soon, waterfalls and mountains and a difficult day in a city will follow with whatever else may happen to us along the way!

Soon we head off on a hike in the Torres del Paine, it will no doubt test my indurance and my currently calm spirit and plunge me into the depths of a freezing cold and unpleasant hell, but it will also no doubt be riddled with epic beauty and unforgettable moments.

I’m afraid of the cold but I cannot let fear stop me from doing it. If I don’t try I will never know.

Much love and peace.

Claire-Louise on Mar, 18 2014 at 9:42AM Delete Comment

Awwh. I love this post. A beautiful picture of your imaginings and your surroundings, sweet. The cold brings you a different kind of vivacity and makes things crystal clear on how little it takes for comfort to warm your heart. Take care of yourself in the adventure! You are such a brave heart, keep jumping to the next stone, the next ice block, the next floating piece of wood and know that whatever happens… you know how to swim. Love and light and spurrings on from Cape Town, where the chill has started to peek in the breezes. love love love xxxxx

Ash on Mar, 18 2014 at 12:27PM Delete Comment

So awesome to read all your news and to get to picture your journeys!

It must be so brilliant to get back to the basics of life and just be, and to live day to day and appreciate both the small pleasures and awe-inspiring experiences!

Hope you feel better soon and keep having an amazing time!

Lots of love!


beardandblonde on Jun, 2 2014 at 8:36PM Delete Comment

Couldn’t agree more with this post