A Travellerspoint blog

August 2014

Family time

leaving sunny Colombia for the freezing cold United States

rain -50 °C

Again, I have left this entry far too long. Now I need to try to remember everything that has happened in the past three weeks. Usually I can do this with the help of my camera… However, I sadly lost my camera when I was tubing with my family down the Madison river in Montana. I hit a rock, flipped out of my tube (probably due to the large amounts of whiskey and beer we had all been drinking), and my camera slipped off my wrist and down towards New Orleans before I had a chance to build a dam to catch it. Thankfully, I only lost a couple of days worth of pictures, rather than my entire trip so far!

I need to update my trip to Medellin, Colombia and Cartagena. Both are large cities – things that I never particularly enjoy. I really was not looking forward to going to Medellin because it was where some awful male I once knew was from. I was determined I was going to hate his city… But I didn’t. It was the annual feria de flores, and the town was alive with people, parades, fiestas, and the most beautiful flower creations I have ever seen.20140806_151424.jpg90_20140806_162123.jpg
The city itself, at least the part I stayed in; El Poblado, is very clean, trendy, and full of beautiful bars, boutiques, classy markets, and amazing clubs. 20140806_175330.jpg20140806_175335.jpg I met two guys from Ecuador who forced me to go out drinking with them one night at a bar called chupitos (shots in English). We did so many, some that were striped yellow, blue and red for Colombia, others that were highlighter green, and so much tequila!
The next day I went on an adventure with them, we went into the city to look at the cool statues in Parque Botero. These are massive statues made by Botero and donated to the city of Medellin. They are huge, made out of bronze, and you are actually encouraged to climb all over them and to touch them. How nice is that?
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We then made our way through the markets to where we could catch the cable car up to the top of the hill. Medellin is in the shape of a bowl. As in, there are mountains all around the city, and so the city has now spread further and further up the surrounding mountains. It really is a magnificent sight. The further up the mountains in certain directions are some very poor areas. The cable car is not a tourist attraction, instead it has been put there to help the local people be able to afford to get down into the city for work. Apparently there are other areas which have escalators going the whole way up, but I didn’t see those. So we rode the very cheap cable car right to the top, where we had a most spectacular view over the city. The photos as usual really don’t do it any justice!
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I again took the over night bus to Cartagena. Luckily, because it was the middle of the feria de flores everyone was entering Medellin, rather than leaving it, so I was lucky enough to have a whole row of seats. I pretty much slept the whole way, and arrived in Cartagena feeling super refreshed! I managed to make my way to my hostel using public transport, much to the row of taxi’s disgust that a foreigner could speak enough Spanish to do so. In Cartagena I stayed at the Media Luna hostel, which turned out to be my favourite of all inner city accommodation. I had chosen to stay there over the El Viajero because of the pool – and I was so glad I had! Cartagena is HOT! Much hotter than anywhere else I had been, possibly because the entire city remains inside the huge concrete wall that the Spanish built when they were busy robbing Colombia of their gold. I don’t have any pictures anymore of the castle, or the wall with the canons as that was all on my camera - which is now about to join Mardi Gras. The city of Cartagena, the part within the wall, is terribly touristy – but beautiful. I found that the best time to see it was early on a Sunday morning before the shops are open and the venders are out on the street trying to get your attention – and your money!
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I met an amazing group of friends from all over the world at Media Luna. We spent two nights drinking and partying on the rooftop of the hostel, which was a godsend due to the nice breeze that came across from the Caribbean sea.
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Somehow, I managed to convince all 12 of them that we should head off on one of the days to climb into a volcano to swim in a massive pile of mud! We drank about 4 bottles of rum on the bus, and when we ran out I managed to convince the owner of a bar to sell us the very last bottle of his. He wanted 40,000 pesos and I told him that was just ridiculous. I managed to get it for 20,000 including a bottle of coke – a pretty good deal since that bottle sells for $18,000 in an alcohol shop! Anyway, we all climbed into the volcano and had a great time. We were all pretty convinced that the volcano is not natural, or at least it has had a serious amount of help to remain standing. But real or not, in we got and we bobbed around like apples inside, completely covered in mud! No matter what you did, you could not manage to be upright because there was no gravity in the mud. It would just flip you over and spin you around so you always had to grab onto people to right yourself. This + the large quantities of Caribbean rum made for a lot of fun!
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The following day I had to take my plane to Chicago. Sadly, leaving Colombia was a giant struggle. I don’t think there are a large number of solo female travellers who aren’t smuggling drugs. Because of this, I had to have 3 police interviews, a full body xray, my stuff searched, and myself and belongings swiped for traces of drugs all before I could board my plane! I was told that if I wanted a translator, then I would have to wait for one to arrive to the airport, so I said that I could do the interviews in Spanish. I knew if I waited, then the translator would be on latino-time and the likeliness that I missed my plane would be 100%. I was very impressed that I was able to have my interviews in Spanish because usually when I am scared or emotional, my Spanish just goes straight out the window! But I even managed to correct him when he wrote something down wrong (my birthdate because January is Enero in Spanish, and he saw Jan and thought Junio for June). I also told the third officer that I was very sorry that he had to conduct the interviews and baggage search, that his beautiful country was still being used and abused for drugs. I was not angry at the airport at all (maybe if I had missed my plane, because I have since heard that if you do because of this reason, insurance does not cover it), but I was (and still am) very angry at the drug trade around the world, for causing such deep pain and despair to such an amazing country. I truly love Colombia, far more than I ever thought that I would. I really want to return and do something that could help to make a difference.

I arrived in the USA to be interviewed and questioned again. I know what I am doing is unique, and very different to many other travellers. However, I find it baffling to think I am one of the very few young women who have the courage to travel solita, to have the desire to speak flawless Spanish (or at least grammatically correct), to want to explore beaches and islands, to live forever in the sunshine, and to meet amazing people. I am sure people do it all over the world, why is it so hard to believe someone would want to do it in Colombia, and then to move to Mexico? Either way, I was grateful that my secondary interrogation officer in the USA was from Puerto Rico. We conducted my interview in Spanish, even though English was an option, and he was 200% behind my decisions and wished me the best of luck.

I got to my cousins place in Chicago, slept for 14 hours in her super comfy bed, and then got up and double washed my clothes on hot! I had the longest hot water shower, my first in 5 weeks! I don’t even think my blog entries have mentioned how I was showering previously – with buckets of agua dulce – sweet water that was actually yellow… I had to pour water over myself from a smaller container, cover myself in soap, and then pour again. Every now and then I found myself able to have a cold-water shower from what was basically a hose coming from the wall, never a showerhead! But to be honest, it was so hot that if I had have had the chance for a hot-water shower, I probably wouldn’t have even wanted it! I took the train to my Grandma’s in Holland, Michigan where she was waiting with my Aunt Di and Uncle Bill. It was cold. Like freezing. About 11 degrees! Grandma took me out and kindly bought me 2 pairs of jeans and a new top so that I wouldn’t freeze!
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We had such a great time, we went to breakfast at Jackies – a restaurant/ diner that we have gone to every time I stay with her since I first went to stay with her when I was 5. 20140812_112213.jpgWe managed to have such great luck everywhere we went, car parks right where we needed, free things at lunch, and we managed to stop in at a second hand store to find a brand new handbag (still with the original tags) that was supposed to be $135 but we got for $6! We couldn’t believe it!
I went to a concert to see two amazing guitarists names Rodrigo y Gabriela in Grand Rapids. The concert was in an amphitheatre set amongst the most beautiful gardens. We danced away and thoroughly enjoyed it, Rodrigo y Gabriela put on a very high energy performance, and the couple manage to synchronise perfectly.
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Grandma woke me up at 6am so I could get ready to begin my road trip with my Aunt and Uncle across the USA. I was super excited to see so many of the cool sights along the way that they had told me we would get to see.We spent 12 hours in the car on the first day, solid driving. I have never driven or been in a car for that long in my entire life! We calculated that we had driven further than the entire North Island of New Zealand! Day two was far better because we got to see so many cool sights. Including the corn palace; which is a building in Wyoming decorated with all different types of corn. Sadly it was in the middle of change over (they update it every year) so it was not in it's finest glory. Still pretty cool though as some parts were completed, and you got to see how they actually made it which was very interesting!
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My favourite place we went to was the Badlands, sadly I have lost quite a few pictures down the river… But I did take some on my phone too thankfully! The Badlands are in the middle of nowhere, just this endlessly flat, dusty, dry space of land. And then all of a sudden you feel as if you are actually standing on the moon! It was so amazing climbing all over the rocks, the hills, the cliffs, and then to be able to look out at the view. Aunt Di and I went for a walk and pretty much ran right into a deer. Again, the pic is on my camera but it was a very surreal moment being so close to it. The three of us just looked at each other and didn’t quite know what to do!
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After the Badlands we arrived into a town near Mt Rushmore where we were to spend the night. After a lovely dinner at a microbrewery and a stop in at a (totally awful) wine tasting venue, we headed to see the famous carved heads! I really enjoyed seeing the heads, the night time show where they light the faces was crazily patriotic but I did learn some fascinating things about the United States of America – including how young its history is. Even though I have spent so much of my life here, I had always ignorantly assumed that the USA was really old like Europe or Colombia.
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The following day was our last day for the road trip, it still meant another full day of driving, but we did get to stop at the devils tower in Wyoming. Dom and I had watched a Steven Spielberg called Close encounters of the third kind about a month before my departure, as we were told that the movie featured something that I would see on my road trip. Turns out that the entire movie is based around what we would see – the super weird column from the movie AKA Devils Tower! We had a lovely time, spent about an hour walking around the entire thing – which is really huge and really strange. On our walk I saw these trees with coloured cloth tied onto them. My aunt explained how they are actually prayer trees and the cloths are tied on by the Native Americans to protect the bush as it is a very significant area to the local tribes. Even today, it is a very serene place, and you can really feel how the native people felt such a spiritual connection to this particular piece of land.
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We finally arrived at my Uncle Butch and Aunt Terri’s house in Montana. I was so excited to be there, not only to see them, but because I knew that my parents were inside the house! I just ran through, completely ignoring all of the dead friends on the walls to hug my parents! Followed of course by the rest of my family who were all there and waiting seeing as that we were one of the last to arrive from our big drive. It turns out in total that we actually drove longer than the entire length of New Zealand – and about half again, so it was no wonder my back was killing me, PHEW! My Uncle Butch is an avid hunter, he is also a ranger and does some amazing work for the environment. I knew that his house held a lot of what I like to call dead friends, but I wasn’t quite expecting this! These are just some of them, of course there are far more!
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I have made peace with them now, but I have chosen to sleep in the room without them – that is also my cousin’s old bedroom and has an Audrey Hepburn poster on the wall, whatever are the chances of that?!
My parents and I spent the next few days exploring the area, stopping in an old western ghost town. We had ice cream, tacos (super western, not!) and had a fantastic time dressing up as an old cowboy family for our latest family picture.
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After some amazing days in Bozeman with the family, including the famous river trip with the entire family that lost my camera…God, two family reunions in a row, something has happened to my camera - try living that down!
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We all headed up to Big Sky for my cousins wedding. The location of the wedding was just heaven, way up in the mountains and in the most amazing lodge called Moonlight. The rehearsal dinner was so much fun, especially the bus ride home where we had the entire family in one bus singing songs for about 45 minutes after drinking a lot of wine and beer – too much fun! IMG_5589444141095.jpeg
The rain set in, and we thought that we would never see the sunlight again. However, about 1 hour before the wedding, just enough time to make sure everything was nice and dry, the sky broke and the sunshine poured through. The wedding was beautiful, next to a waterfall, and my cousin was the sunshine as she walked down the aisle to The Beatles singing ‘here comes the sun.’ After the ceremony and the photos were finished, just as everyone was heading inside to be seated, the rain came from nowhere and continued to pour for the rest of our time at Big Sky. I can only say that our Grandpa was certainly helping out Tiffany from above, because nothing else could have made such a magical thing occur. I believe it is truly a sign of good things to come for one of my favourite people and her new husband Alex. And in true Dood style, we partied and celebrated and danced and drank for as long as we could...
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The following days meant leaving Big Sky, saying farewell to my amazing family who all had to depart back to their different parts of the United States. It is always so sad saying goodbye, something that never really gets easier even after doing it so often throughout my life. But the time I have with my Grandma, my Aunts and my Uncles and my crazy cool cousins are amongst the best memories of my life. We realised that I will have to have multiple weddings if I marry a Latino – one in his country (which ever amazing place he is from!), USA and NZ – of course if anyone is to have 3 weddings to one man, it will be the same girl who had 25 birthday parties to celebrate turning 25!
My parents and I headed up to Flathead Lake and Glacier National Park. We had a wonderful 5 days traveling through the beautiful countryside of Montana. From rivers to canyons to glaciers to lakes to mountains – this state really has it all! We stayed in a lovely 2 bedroom/ 2 bathroom apartment that was actually the size of an average house! We went to a waterpark and rode the waterslides, we went to the Glacier park and saw a real live Grizzly bear, IMG_54918842868820.jpegIMG_54922911106123.jpegwe went out on a boat trip on the lake and saw a family of deer drinking water from the lake as well as a giant Ram doing the same.
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We saw ancient cave paintings made by Native Americans. The significance of this one is that this particular cliff was used as a point where the hunters would strategically march the animals right off the cliff onto the shelf below so that they would be easier to kill and use for flesh/furs/meat/ bones etc. There were tally charts that marked how many times this had been done successfully. Just amazing.
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Even though so much of my time here in the USA has been spent far too cold that was in my original plan, I have really enjoyed it and I can see how there may be a time in the (very distant) future where I will actually work in a cold place, perhaps a ski season or something on a beautiful mountain range. For now, the sun is calling me back to the Caribbean!
It was so lovely spending time with my parents. I had missed them so much, and I can’t wait to see Dad again in Chile in 2 months’ time As the lyrics of one of my favourite song says ‘tiempo vuele’ or ‘time flies’ and it really is true. I feel that the 4 months since I saw them has literally flown by, and I know that the next 2 will do so aswell. I am now staying here at my Aunt and Uncle’s place in Montana. My Uncle is going to take me hunting and fishing and then teach me how to skin and cook up what it is that we manage to bring home! Hopefully we get some good fish because he is going to teach me how to smoke it. I won’t be killing anything more than a rabbit though, after seeing such beautiful animals in the wild I am still as vegetarian (for land animals) as ever. I seem to be eating a lot of fish again lately, but hopefully once I am in Mexico I can revert to being a true veggo because I have heard that there are far more green options there than there are in Colombia.

Many people want to know what my next plans are, and to be honest it is very hard to say because I am not entirely sure. I do know thatI fly to Guadalajara in Mexico on the 10th of September to sort my visa. I need to sort my visa (which will mean I am a temporary resident of Mexico) so that I can keep traveling, otherwise I need to buy a return ticket to New Zealand, something I can't afford and really don't want to do! I will then head to Tulum in the Yucatan peninsula (in the Caribbean of course) where I have secured a one month job through workaway. I will be helping a business man to write his letters from Spanish to English, in a way that they read very well, so that he can use them to send to larger organisations in the hope of receiving funding for his goal of creating a rehab centre in the area. It depends on how well I do as to how long I stay, and if I get offered paid employment – rather than the 5 hours of work per day in exchange for food and accommodation. Many people think I am being ripped off, however I like to remind them that I am also essentially getting 24 hours a day of free Spanish classes/ practice as I refuse to speak anything but Spanish.
Depending how the work (and my Spanish) in Mexico goes will determine my stay. I am planning/ hoping on going to the Dominican Republic in January for 3 months to work at a hostel. I have nearly secured this job, and hope that it works out for me. My main goal for moving to the DR is to learn to dance Bachata because I really love both the music and the dance.Depending on my Spanish, I may find a 'real' job in the near future. I quite like the idea of settling down for a while After that, I have no plans. However, I really hope that any future plans will include my brother and best friend Dommy. I am so excited for him as he is about to embark on his first every travels next week. I really hope that the travel bug embeds itself as deep into his soul as it has mine, because then we can travel through the Caribbean together next year!

Yea mon!

Posted by chasingsummer 12:05 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Island love

San Andres y Providencia

sunny 30 °C

I was so lucky to be able to spend two amazing nights with the families of Didier and Cindy in Santa Marta. It was so nice to be with them, it almost felt like I was with Didier and Cindy, something so comforting when so far away from home. I got to meet Didier's son Samuel who was so much fun to play with, I chased him around and wound him up in the way that I always do with kids I really like. I was very happy I could understand him and he could understand me too, I often find it very hard to speak with children in Spanish!
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On one of the days, I went to the beach in Taganga with Cindy and Didi's parents. It was not the best beach day, but because the weather is always so totally hot, it really didn't matter at all about the clouds! If anything, they seemed to make it all look even prettier, somehow more magical. Not so much in the photos, but in real life it was spectacular. I could just imagine the days of the pirates, steering their ships through the mist as they fought the Spanish for the stolen Colombian gold!20140727_095417.jpg20140727_095034.jpg90_20140727_091410.jpg20140727_091417.jpg20140727_093754.jpg
We had to hike from Taganga around to the more secluded beach, where we spent the rest of the day. We had the most amazing lunch, fresh fish straight from the sea. One of my favourite things about the coast of Colombia is when you organise your lunch on the beach. The vendors come up to you with a tray full of freshly caught fish and ask you which one you want - the hard part is choosing!
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After a wonderful day with them, teaching Cindy's father how to say "what's up bro", "Kia ora", and "all good", I boarded the 16 hour night bus to Medellin... I was not too impressed with the idea of this bus, infact I was dreading it. But I took 2 sleeping pills/ travel sickness pills and I slept in a coma for 14 hours - fantastic!
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I got to Medellin, dropped my bag off at my hostel and then headed straight to the airport carrying not much more than 2 bikinis, a towel, tanning oil, and a couple of party dresses. I was so excited to get to San Andrés, a Colombian island that is located close to Nicaragua, right in the middle of the Caribbean Sea. San Andrés is famous for what is known as 'the sea of 7 colours' and I couldn't wait to see if it was able to live up to it's name!

I arrived quite late to the island (Airline Viva Colombia again did what it does best... get people to their destination in their own time, with their own strange rules, inadequate organisation, and just outright WRONG advice and directions!) so I wasn't able to get out and explore as I had hoped. I instead checked into the hostel (El viajero, nice enough) where I met a couple of girls who had been on the island for a while. They told me I had to do the day exploring to the Acuario and Johnny Cay islands. I booked in with the hostel to do this the very next day. Every person I met who knew I was going to San Andres, and everyone I met once I was there, told me that I had to go to Providencia, that it was very expensive to get there but just a waste of being in the region to not go.
Anyway, the next day I woke up really early and headed down to the wharf. As I got near, a group of boys were being really funny and trying to get my attention by sweeping the path of leaves in front of me and pretending I was a princess. I was laughing, talking and joking with them, when I managed to get the attention of a guy on the other side of the road. He called out, asking what I was looking for and it turned out I was right in front of it! He told me not to use my ticket, to sell it back to the hotel, and that he would take me out to the island on his boat for free! I was a little skeptical, but when he showed me the huge line of tourists queing to use their tickets that we could bypass, I was sold! Also, I could physically SEE the island we were heading to and there were a lot of other boats in the water so I knew I could get help if I did need it. As we headed out in his boat, I got my first glimpse of the most beautiful water, the prettiest blue, the sea of 7 billion colours, not just seven.
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We arrived at a little island next to the Acuario, I can't remember it's name right now. There weren't many people there yet (all still back int he queue, suckers!) so we got to explore. DSC04472.jpgDSC04477.jpgDSC04478.jpg
Because there were no people, the iguanas were out enjoying the sunshine! They are just so freaky and so cool all at once, like dinosaurs! DSC04485.jpgDSC04486.jpg90_DSC04484.jpg We managed to count 8 at one point. I didn't realise that they actually live in the tops of the trees, I had always been searching for them in the scrub, when they actually live in nests way up high!
The little island and the acuario are very close to each other, basically the same place. The acuario is a sandspit surrounded by natural rock pools, reefs, and coves filled with fish. The sandspit has kiosks that sell food, alcohol, snorkelling gear and sun chairs. Where as the island is a bit bigger, but you can walk around the whole thing in about 10 minutes. It is possible to walk between the two but you would be up to your chest, so impossible when carrying towels and phones etc.20140731_104332.jpg
Unfortunately, the guy started to become a little weird and I just no longer felt comfortable with him. I asked him to take me to the Acuario and pretended I had a friend there waiting for me to arrive. Thankfully he complied, even though he tried to follow me. I managed to ditch him (enough) and that was when I met Brando...

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You know sometimes, you see a guy, they see you, you look away, then you can't help but look again, you see that he is still looking. You look down, look back up to catch his waiting eye, and he winks... and it's the cutest god dam wink you ever saw in your whole entire life? Well, that's exactly what happened. We hadn't even spoken a word, yet I knew he had a beautiful energy to him, and that I would be safe with him. He worked at the Acuario, and was currently helping a friend with a giant sting ray, so I headed for a different spot. It wasn't long before the boy with the cutest wink in the world found me, and asked me if I would like to go snorkelling with him. What's a girl to say? Free boat ride, now free snorkelling? I felt a bit mean, this was supposed to be island hopping not man hopping!

However, I knew with Brando it was different to the first guy. The first was an elder man, not attractive AT ALL, and I had thought was just being kind. With Brando, I knew he was asking me because he wanted to get to know me...and I wanted to get to know him too. So.... I accepted the snorkel and mask (again, without the giant queue or the fee) and we headed out into the incredibly warm, crystal clear water hand in hand.
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Brando showed me these amazing sea creatures, they are similar to kina from New Zealand. They are all spiky, but when you hold them on your hand, under the water, they suction onto you with this weird sticky glue stuff they produce to suction on. Once you have them on your hand, you can bring them out of the water and hold them up in the air!
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After helping me get rid of the creepy guy, we left the acuario and headed back to the main island to go to the beach. We went to a lovely beach and swam for hours, played a bit of football (well he did, me not so much), tanned (I did, he not so much), and just had an awesome day looking out towards Johnny Cay island.
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When Brando went to football training, I went back to my hostel. We met later that night to go dancing, and we ended up at a really cool beachside rasta bar in San Luis, a far less touristy side of San Andrés.
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We spent the next few days out on his boat, going between the different islands. We went snorkelling again and this time I was not so scared, because I had learned how well he knew the sea. Before we went out to the area with no people, I found the courage to hold the stingray! I was sooooooo scared, I can't even explain! I just kept thinking of Steve Irwin! Plus, the texture of it is disgusting, and it tried to climb out of the water to be on top of me, and when it lifted it's body I saw it's freaky little face underneath - YIK!
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Brando lead the way to a place with no people, where we could see 'tiburones.' For some reason, I thought that meant tiger fish - so I imagined little nemos or something. Imagine my surprise when I realised it meant a shark the size of my torso!
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Brando kept touching this one, telling me that it didn't want anything to do with us because there are so many fish that we are just not tasty enough. But I wasn't brave enough to touch it, I was still recovering from the sting ray! I don't know what it is, I know that these things are in the sea...but in New Zealand, we can't actually see them, so it is almost like they aren't there. However, when the sea is clearer than bath water and you can see every single grain of sand, every single scale of every single fish, it suddenly makes things very very real.
Brando showed me how to break open the 'kina' and feed them to the fish. I loved doing this and then having all of the fish eat out of our hands.
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There were fish of every single neon colour - purple, blue, orange, green, yellow, turquoise! I suddenly realised these were all the fish I had seen in New Zealand in fancy heated water aquariums in certain restaurants or reception areas - I was in their homeland!
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For the next few days we swam, we snorkelled, we island hopped, and we just had a generally great time. I met his sister Elide 90_DSC04546.jpg and his gorgeous 4 year old (but super tiny) neice Danalyse, who (other than my Grace) is the happiest child I have ever known - she would literally throw herself into the ocean despite her tiny size, give me the best cuddles, laugh every single minute, sing along with movies, and just be a beautiful little princess. Somehow, I could understand her Spanish really well and she could understand me. She was introducing me to all of her little friends saying 'this is Aunty Katy" ... How can you tell a 4 year old otherwise? 20140804_214704.jpg90_20140804_214811.jpg
As much as I was loving my time with Brando in San Andres, with the worlds best water, where every colour signifies the depth and the growth below, often forming very distinct lines in places,
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I still really wanted to go to Providencia. Soooooo, we decided to go together. We had to wake up at 5am to make it onto the catamaran for the 3.5 hour trip to Providencia. I had been warned by other travellers that the sea was rough, that people were vomitting etc. I had only thought "chickens". But when the lady at the dock gave everyone on board a travel sickness pill and we were strapped into our seats, I started to get worried. And sure enough, the following three hours (in a drugged haze from whatever it was I had swallowed) were among the worst 3 hours of my entire life. The catamaran was fighting against open water, to get us to Providencia which lies just 50km north of San Andres. At one point, I remember I couldn't even handle Brando holding my hand. I was wrapped up in a sweater because of the freezing air con, face screwed up, arms wrapped around myself, and literally thinking death by jumping overboard would be nicer than continuing. I can't even explain, how high we bounced over the waves, often gaining air. Because the waves have their own rhythm, there was nothing you could do to prepare yourself for the next one, except try to let the little white pill float you into unconsciousness. Many people vomited, I had not eaten so I did not, but I was very very close. I will never take that trip again, in my entire life. It was so awful that I still can't look back and laugh about it, I just look back and want to throw up.

However, it was all worth it when we got to the beautiful paradise of Providencia. With just 5000 inhabitants and very very VERY strict immigration and tourism laws, the island has managed to keep it's unspoilt beauty. It almost stands still in time, a true Caribbean island. We had very little money between us, so the sickness continued from the catamaran onto the land when we were told the prices of the cheapest hostels. However, the universe played its amazing part once again and we met a wonderful guy Clinton on the side of the street.
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He took us to meet his friend Roland, the owner of the coolest bar/ restaurant on the island.
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Roland is one of those people who can see your soul when he looks at you, and you can see his. He knew we needed his help, and I knew I could help him in some way, I just didn't know what yet. He gave us not only a room, but our very own cottage in the hills above the beach and restaurant! Ok ok, cottage maybe not quite - cute little beach shack maybe a better word? Whatever the word, English or Spanish, it instantly felt like home. DSC04610.jpg
By night we partied, we drank rum, we shared 'cigars' with the rastas (sorry, but it has to be done in the Caribbean), we danced by the fire, and made friends for life with the locals. Brando speaks only Spanish, but most of the locals in Providencia speak English and Creole. I am not sure if they are one and the same, but they sound like Pirates to my ears. They all thought I was hilarious, because I couldn't understand them and kept calling them all pirates - yet I was the one swigging the rum straight from the bottle! Despite a few conversations in English (where I persevered because I wanted to listen to the accents, it was mostly easier to just speak Spanish with most people even though they spoke English as a native language - because of the accents and the Creole, I just couldn't understand them!
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I was fascinated by the freaky, giant crabs that would come and hang out near the fire, some Brando had to save from becoming roasted crab! They were easily the size of a small cat, some as big as Bob!
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Having Brando there with me was amazing, because he is a local (as people from San Andres and Providencia identify with each other) he shared a lot of contacts and friends, so it was like being accepted into another family. We were able to use Roland's place as if it was our own and I will be forever grateful to him. He doesn't advertise for people to stay, you need to be invited in order to be able to do so, and from what I heard this is a very rare thing.
By day we swam, we explored, we tanned, we ran around like idiots, we ate fish fresh from the sea, and drank water from buckets that has fallen from the sky - the most delicious water I have ever drank. 90_9E093D332219AC68179FDB2F33C62E1E.jpgDSC04611.jpgDSC04614.jpgDSC04618.jpgDSC04710.jpgDSC04711.jpg
On one of the days, Roland took us out to see the horse races on the beach. But before we got to the beach, we drove around on the back of his truck drinking cuba libres and visiting all of the horses in their homes before the race. I gave each a kiss for goodluck!
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Being out and about with Roland in Providencia, was like being out and about with a celebrity in Hollywood. Everyone loves him as the guy who hosts the best parties on the island, respects his work as he helps out a LOT of people - lends his boat so people can make money from the fish the catch (in return for just one fish), lends his motorbikes/ truck/ horses so people can do work, he hires locals for the kitchen and bar. A very very good man with an amazing heart and soul.
We finally made it down to a neighbouring beach together, watched the race (Serena won, Muñeca did not), and then Brando and I wandered around for the rest of the afternoon while Roland went to help out with the horses. DSC04707.jpgDSC04709.jpgDSC04706.jpg270_DSC04713.jpgDSC04705.jpg20140729_144815.jpg20140729_144821.jpg270_20140729_152708.jpg
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The rest of our time in Providencia was more of the same... finding giant conch shells in the sea, resting in hammocks, swinging from coconut trees, drinking fresh coconut water straight from freshly chopped coconuts ... paradise 90_9EA8E4842219AC6817D0AF6B3B3A67FF.jpg90_DSC04679.jpg90_DSC04682.jpg90_DSC04726.jpg90_DSC04728.jpg
I spoke with Roland at length about the need for a kiosk of hammocks on Providencia. Not many, just 6 hammocks so not to ruin the vibe of his place, but 6 hammocks that are always available for travelers like me. Travelers with little money, but a love of life and adventure. People who aren't worried about the bugs or the dirt, who don't need a bed or air conditioning. People who just need somewhere safe to sleep and store belongings, and a place full of good energy and wicked vibes. I explained to Roland about the kiosks I had been staying in previously in my trip, and how we could find travelers willing to come and do free building work in exchange for food and a bed. He explained how he couldn't organise this, that he was still building his own dream down on the beach and had been doing so for the past 25 years. But that perhaps I needed to see that this was why I had come to Providencia, that this was MY project, and that I needed to help him to make it happen. And I feel as if I do, he helped me and now I want to help him. Not because he needs it, but because I want to. And I also want to be able to help future travellers like me, so they can afford to stay in paradise too.
Knowing that I would return to Providencia to work, without having the safety of Brando, was made a lot easier knowing I had my very own body guard - a GIANT ridgeback named Boxer who looked out for me like crazy. He slept outside our hut, he followed me around, and would always walk just 5 steps ahead, checking around and back at me to make sure I was safe. He gave the best cuddles, would play with me gently enough that he never hurt me, and was just my soul brother. I was not surprised when Roland told me that him and Boxer were so also, and that he had raised Boxer since a tiny puppy on a philosophy of love and respect.20140803_160027.jpg20140803_160047.jpg20140803_160049.jpg
I made other friends at Rolands, not so sure if they thought of me as one though... two tiny little chicks that Brando caught so I could give them a cuddle! DSC04738.jpgDSC04739.jpg
I saw a tee shirt on the island. The tag says 'hecho en Colombia' which means made in Colombia. It has the New Zealand flag and a ladies leg standing on the ground. I have always been one for signs, and as my amazing Cindy told me - this seems to be one that signals perhaps my destiny lies here in Colombia. At least for now, it is only one leg on the ground after all.
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With a head half filled with rasta plaits 90_20140804_104012.jpg , a mind full of ideas and promises to help create something new in the hills of Rolands bar, the handshake promise from my good friend Clinton for motorbike lessons and a bike to borrow for my stay when I go back, a beautiful dog waiting to hike the mountains with me, a camera full of pictures full of paradise, and a heart full of love for a local boy, sadly the time to leave approached. As easily as I could have stayed forever, I have an amazing family to see in the United States next week. Thankfully, the return trip home on the Catamaran was smooth like promised it always is - it's just going there, everyone needs to sacrifice something to get to paradise I suppose!
Brando understood, somehow, that what we had would not last forever. That if we tried to make it so, we would end up crushed and broken. Not only are we from different worlds, we have different dreams and motivations. And those who know me well, know that the one thing I respect and love more than anything else in a man is dreams and motivations. I do hope we can always be friends, that I can see him when I go back to San Andrés before I take the plane to Providencia (never again the catamaran, I swear it!), and that his heart is not too shattered right now.
Until next time paradise, hopefully it won't be too long until I am back in the sea of 7 colours x
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Posted by chasingsummer 19:12 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

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