A Travellerspoint blog

October 2014

How within 24 hours, I knew I was back in Colombia

For Katherinne x

rain 15 °C
View America Latina on chasingsummer's travel map.

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1. James is all over every single television
2. Someone said 'que bacano parce' after I told a story
3. Salsa and Bachata is on every single radio station (if it isn't playing reggaeton)
4. No one even thought to offer me milk with my coffee/ tinto
5. The nice lady I met on the airplane gave me ALL of her details and said I can stay at her house whenever I go to Cali
6. I have already had a pedicure and manicure
7. There are arepa stalls on every corner
8. There are signs for aguardiente
9. I had an avena smoothie for breakfast
10. Someone asked me "Que mas, bien?"
11. I have already heard both Carlos Vives and Juanes on the radio, many many times
12. The super pretty manners everyone uses to speak with each other
13. The taxi driver told we were just around the corner from where I wanted to go, when really we were about 40 streets
14. The busses are on stike - again
15. The feeling of magic and happiness that just magically reappeared in my soul from the minute I went through customs and the officer said, "Welcome back to Colombia Señorita"

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Posted by chasingsummer 15:34 Archived in Colombia Tagged love home_again Comments (0)

The Princess of Mexican TV

sunny 38 °C
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Again, a million things have happened that it is, as always, almost impossible to begin. The easiest thing for me to do is to start where I left off and work my way up to today, by including as many as the cool stories I can – or at least the ones that are able to be shared. In the last 2 weeks I have been on a Caribbean island, my skin has turned black once again, I have had fish eat at my feet while swimming in a cenote, and I have been the Princess of New Zealand for 3 days. I have also flown from Mexico to El Salvador where I met a lovely man who took me for a drink and dinner, before flying to Cali, Colombia where I have a 5 hour wait before I board my plane to Bogota. Hence, I have the time to write this while sitting on a dusty floor in a dirty corner of the smelliest airport I have ever been to. It is 1.30am and I am writing rather than shopping or drinking with new friends as the airport is closed so I am actually not within the departure gates so I am slightly terrified of being jacked. And I am sitting in the corner because this is the only part of the entire airport with free wifi signal. Even my fancy new wifi hacking app (wifi password is the highly original name in case you care) hasn’t found anything available that is near a chair. Actually, I had a chair but then the security came and took it away despite my protests. I guess I lost my royal rights as soon as I left Mexico…

But, it is now time to talk about the past few weeks before I can talk about today. I know in my last entry, I was in Tulum with two good friends Memo and Juan. Memo is from Mexico City and Juan from Colombia. We travelled together from Tulum to a town called Bacalar. The reason we went to this town is because it sits on the bank of the most beautiful lake I have ever seen, La Laguna de Bacalar.
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We stayed in a horrific hostel, shared a bed in a sweaty and crowded dorm room because they mucked up our last minute reservation. I was full of a nasty flu (which at one point I was convinced was Dengue) so I went outside at about 11pm, covered myself in repellent and slept in a hammock under the stars and with the breeze. Everyone thought I was nuts because of the mosquitos, I just laughed and added a couple of extra layers of coconut oil before sleeping until the came up. I was still feeling sick but we had already booked out sailing trip out on the lake. I figured that what I truly needed was a cleanse – and what better place to do it than in one of the best lakes in the world? So off we went.
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The lake was stunning, and the day was super hot and sunny. We stopped at all sorts of interesting places along the way to swim and explore the different areas.
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At one point we all jumped off and followed our sailing captain to a specific area. He started covering himself with sand from the bottom of the lake, instructing us to do the same. We covered ourselves in calcium and sulphur rich minerals that made our skin feel as soft as silk. Some people kept theirs on until it dried, but as always I needed to be clean so mine didn’t last much longer than a few photos and many more laughs.
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The sailing trip was a full day out, at least 7 hours. At one point everyone jumped off with their legs through the arms of life jackets and then floated down a beautiful canal way. DSC00351.jpgDSC00350.jpgDSC00348.jpg
Ichose not to because I was cold, despite the 35 degree weather. I knew my fever had really kicked in, so I tanned on the boat in peace and quiet instead which was heavenly. I kept looking up to see that I was all alone in the most beautiful turquoise water. It was the same colour, if not more vibrant, as San Andres. But the water was fresh water rather than salt, or agua dulce (sweet water) as it is called in Spanish.
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We decided not to spend another night in that hostel. It was just super weird, the girls were super hairy, the men had long nails, and everyone seemed to be pregnant to each other. I don’t know about that last part for sure, but we certainly didn’t dig the vibe. So we headed back to Tulum to camp in a remote part of the beach for a few days. The bus ride back was a joke, we were all crammed in like sardines and had to wait for people to get off in order to get a seat. I didn't like it one bit because it wasn't safe, but there was nothing I could do as getting off the bus in the middle of the night to stand on the side of the road in Mexico is probably even less safe.
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We met up with Ilse, a friend of Memo’s from Mexico City, and we rented a little beach cabin. By night we partied on the beach and by day we swam. Ilse and I made a fantastic sandcastle one day which we were so proud of, I think the photos are on Memo’s camera and I hope I can get a hold of them. It really was a spectacular castle which everyone on the beach came along to admire!
After my time in Tulum and Bacalar I needed to say adios to my 3 traveling buddies and head for Holbox. Now, I ask that as you read this you please say the name properly. The word Holbox is not Spanish, and is actually a Mayan word and it is pronounced like this: OLL-BOSH.
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Holbox is a beautiful island three hours bus ride north of Cancun. You then need to take a short 30 minute ferry to the island itself. On Holbox there are no cars at all and the streets are made of sand. All of the buildings are painted different colours or have murals on them, it is so pretty. If you need a faster way to get around you can rent a bicycle or a golf buggy. Everything is in walking distance so I chose to walk, which is always a great thing to do as a traveller because I find that I meet so many more people - especially if I walk without a phone in my hand or headphones in my ears. I stayed in a Hostel called Tribu. The hostel itself is gorgeous, it has the most beautiful buildings and artworks everywhere you look.
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Sadly, the atmosphere was horrendous and I didn’t particularly enjoy the company of anybody there. Actually, that’s not entirely true, the first night I met some lovely girls who were leaving the very next day. But the reason for the lack of atmosphere was because the owners had called in some friends from Argentina to help with renovations. And these friends were very closed off to anyone else which is a shame because as workers they should have been actively trying to make the hostel a fun and friendly place. Also, the only area with wifi was the common area so everyone would go there and just sit on their phones! It was such a shame. However, I was very grateful to my amazing friend Gabi from Guadalajara who had given me the phone number of her friend Adriana, who lives and works on the island. The first night I was there, I met up with Adriana for a quick drink and a dance – one that ended up with us returning home to bed at sunrise!
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The following day, Adriana's cousin Alan had arrived for the weekend to celebrate his birthday. We hired a golf buggy and went off with another friend Cristian to explore the different points of the island.
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At the different points there were some beautiful and remote areas for swimming and exploring
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We tried to see the flamingos but we couldn’t cross the river because there were crocodiles swimming in it (thankfully they knew what to look for, if I had gone by myself the thought of a crocodile would never have even crossed my mind!). We saw sunset from the beach which was stunning, then went home to get ready to go out for dinner and some drinks that night.
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There were many days of tanning on Holbox, and I loved spending the day with Ariana at her hotel. Her hotel was right on the beach and had all sorts of amazing tanning chairs that non-guests paid a fortune to lounge on - but not us! DSC00398.jpgDSC00399.jpg
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There were days spent lazing on the beach with the local fishermen. Sometimes they would cook up fresh ceviche on a beach stove they had made.
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Sometimes I would go for a drink with new friends, there were plenty of cool bars to try. My favourite ones had swings at the bar where you could catch a breeze.
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Other times we would just share a rum or a beer. I met lots of lovely people in Holbox and I loved how everywhere I would walk I would meet someone I knew, and then they would offer me a seat and a beer. It was the atmosphere where to say no would be rude, so I found myself casually drinking beer with new friends all day long. I met one friend who became my Mexican father. He was a fisherman with a lovely heart, reminding me of my own dad. He would always bring me a beer or a michelada and make sure that I had the comfiest seat or that I was warm or dry or whatever.
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Sadly, I got sick during my time in Holbox. The Not-Dengue-Flu had not quite left me (the cough still lingers now of course, in true Katy style). It wasn’t a normal sickness that struck me down, rather a terrible allergic reaction to the mosquitos. Holbox has a terrible mosquito problem, in fact it is the reason most tourists don’t stay longer than 48 hours. They are vicious and relentless, and there are billions and trillions of them per square centimetre. And it wasn’t long (despite the 3 types of repellent I wore) until my skin had broken out with massive hives and rashes. Some of the hives were 20cm long and at least 2cm high. I was in pain and I could hardly walk, so I hobbled my way up to the hospital/ emergency clinic for a couple of injections. One which is full of vitamins and it actually changed the scent of my blood so that the mosquitoes no longer wanted me! However, after a whole lot of gel, antihistamine injections, blood scent changers, and some time spent in the sea and sun, it wasn’t long before I was ready to party again. So I met Adriana and we headed off to a Bachata dance class for the evening. Luckily the injections healed me, because my trip to Holbox coincided with their 3rd annual Gastronomical celebration.
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The party went for 5 nights, of which I was there for 3 of them. All I can say is wow – the food, the music, the location, the decorations, the mezcal and tequila! They had booklets for sale, and you needed to buy one every night. Each one cost about $50NZD and it was full of coupons to eat at all of the different stalls and to get drinks and alcohol. But because I had spent over a week on the island, I was able to eat at most of the stalls for free because I knew all of the owners and workers of the restaurants! And the people that I didn’t know, Adriana or other friends knew – it was perfect! At one point, I even got given a book half full of tickets which meant I could then hand out some to other friends - so much for tickets and them making money from an event huh? They were great nights, and it always ended up in dancing until my feet ached. Everyone was drunk due to the huge amounts of free liquour. One guy was so out of it, he was dancing romantically with a chair! I was in stitches, trying to take sneaky photos of him.
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I also knew the members of Holbox's local salsa band (and they knew me too, cos I was always requesting Bachata!). My friend Raphael let me try his saxophone and I was so excited, I knew one would present itself into my life at some stage!
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There was quite a bit of media covering the event, and for some reason I boldy approached a TV crew and asked them if they would like the privilege of interviewing the Princess of New Zealand. They were thrilled to do so, and of course I was super excited to be interviewed – and to be called princess while doing so!
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Each night we partied the whole time, and on my last night we found a whole lot of left over rum, vodka, cocacola, ice cubes, and a bag of fresh limes… Talk about an omen! So off we went, laden with goodies. I was scheduled to take the 7am ferry back to the mainland so I could meet my friend Brissa in Cancun at 10.30. However, I knew that if I did not get on the 5am ferry straight after the party, I would never ever wake up for 7am!
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By this stage I had long left Tribu and was staying with Adriana in her adorable little house. It was really sad saying goodbye as she had become such a good friend in such a short time. With promises of trips to Cuba and visits to dance bachata in the Domican Repulic together, it was time to leave behind the great life and the amazing people I had found in Holbox. I arrived in Cancun to meet Brissa in the lobby of her hotel. I was beyond exhausted and fell straight asleep for a few hours.
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When we both woke up, we headed off with a couple of her friends to Cenote Azul, about an hours drive from Cancun. This was exactly what I needed, a dive in fresh, cool, crystalline water.
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The water itself was bizarre, it was full of lots of fish that would come and nibble on my feet and legs – causing me to laugh and freak out every time! They were like the fish in the fish foot spa’s in Asia, only bigger and scarier!
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We then went to the beach in Playa Del Carmen for a few hours, had some dinner, and I then passed out for 12 hours!
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I had been in contact with Benjamin, the owner of the TV station, in the hopes of receiving a copy of my interview. When he realised I was in Cancun, he asked if the Princess of New Zealand would have time to accompany him to events over the weekend. I was super excited, and of course I said yes – as both meant free backstage passes to events and places I would never have had the money to go to otherwise! The experience was amazing, I went to a musical called Que rico mambo and got to meet all of the actors before watching the show from right up the front.
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I got to go to Xplore in Cancun and see everything behind the scenes of the race, including all of the sexy men!
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And at the race, I got to interview people for the TV channel! It was all super exciting, and everybody called me Princess. Someone even wiped down a chair for me before I could sit on it. I guess I will never truly know if people truly thought I was the princess, or if they were just playing along. But either way, I was treated like royalty and it was so much fun. I really enjoyed seeing all the behind the scenes stuff for the press – for the most part it seems to be quite a lot of running, very little sleep, and a lot of waiting around! The funniest part for me was interviewing people who were clearly Mexican celebrities, them thinking I was the Princess of New Zealand, yet I had absolutely zero idea of who they were!
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When they realised I had no accommodation booked, I was put up for the night. Which was so lovely as money is certainly running low these days.
I was taken to a secret spot in Cancun where it is only for the locals. The water is a mix of fresh and salt and it so clean and pretty with tropical fish swimming all through it and around you.
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Benjamin dropped me at the airport where I made my first flight of 3 to Bogota. And now, here I am sitting here in this dusty and cold airport with now just 2.5 hours left to go. I was sad to wave goodbye to Mexico, especially to all of my amazing friends who live there. But a huge part of me is already so happy to be back in Colombia. On the plane I met a lady who has invited me to stay with her when I come to Cali to explore properly, and I already have the magical feeling of being wanted and loved by even strangers, the feeling that only exists here in Colombia . I know it sounds stupid, sitting here on a smelly piece of concrete, but the truth is that Colombia well and truly stole my heart.

Posted by chasingsummer 13:12 Archived in Mexico Tagged beach caribbean tv colombia holbox media princess tanning cenotes Comments (0)

From Tequila to the Caribbean

sunny 38 °C
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Again, it feels like I just can't keep up with my own adventures. I try so hard not to be a tourist, uploading a million photos onto facebook that just annoy everyone because they aren't on holiday too - and because I know how know one really cares about another persons travel stories. It's why I like this blog, because it is partly for the amazing people in my life who do care and want to know where I am and what trouble I am causing (love you guys so much), and also because essentially, it is purely for myself and for the day when I compile the entire thing into a printed book. But to keep both the people I love, and my future self, up to date with this whirlwind adventure is dam near impossible.
Right now however, I am slightly sunburned so I can not face yet another day in the unrelenting heat. I am in Tulum, sitting in my dark dorm room, all alone, with the fan blasting on me while I take the opportunity to write my stories and share some photos.

I guess I need to start with Tequila, the region I went to explore with Advier, Alain, and Dirce on the day after Dirce's birthday. We all had a slight hangover from drinking too much red wine and tequila the night before when we went out for dinner.
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I was so pleased to see Dirce enjoying her day, especially when she got given her prized gift of a ukelele!
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After dinner, we had cake and tequila back at Dirce's house. I didn't know about a particular Mexican tradition where everyone chanted 'mordida' after singing happy birthday, and then Dirce was face planted straight into the cake!
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Next thing I knew, there was a full on cake fight! Luckily there were 8 dogs and of course, me and my Taquito, so we could be licked clean!
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So the following day, with head aches and the odd piece of sugar or cream still in our hair, we left to see the round pyramids. On the way, we stopped in the Tequila region to drink cantaritos, which are the most delicious drink ever! They are made from various types of freshly squeezed juice, salt, and tequila. The entire process is done right before your eyes, straight into a clay drinking cup that you get to keep!
First you have to pick the size that you want, I chose medium. The grande has an entire bottle and a half of tequila poured into it!
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Then they chop and squeeze all of the fruit into the cups
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And then they use a hollowed out cows horn to add 5 horns of tequila into each mug! The traditional way to pour and measure tequila is through a horn, and it is only recently that many places have changed to using shot glasses or more western types of measures. So I was very happy I could drink the real deal.
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Then it is time to sit back, relax, and drink a whole lot of tequila!
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Where we were was certainly not for tourists, I was the only person there who was not Mexican, and the outdoor bar was full of live music and chatter. The bar looked out onto the beautiful, UNESCO protected Blue Agave landscape and mountains.
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Blue Agave is the blue plant from which Tequila is made. And Tequila can ONLY be called Tequila if it is made in this particular part of the world. And I went there!
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I saw some cactus's and realised I had promised Erie I would take a picture behind one pretending to be the shape of a cactus.
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I didn't see the wasp nest while doing it though, and one of the little buggers got me on my arm. I wasn't sure if I was allergic but I had my bee injection on me so I knew I would be ok if so. Thankfully I am not allergic so it was definitely worth the sting for the picture for my darling esposa Erie!
After finally finishing our huge drinks we drove to the pyramids. But we were devastated to find that our time in Tequila land had meant we missed our opportunity to enter to see the pyramids. And no matter how hard we tried to convince security that I am the Princess of Nueva Sandalia (translates as New Sandal, where my friend Ariel had mistakenly thought I was from, starting a great joke and of course, an entire new country of which I am the Princess), there was no way we were going to be let in. We were very disappointed as we headed back to Guadalajara, but the sunset over the mountains was beautiful and I was very grateful to Alain, Advier, and Dirce that we had tried, and that I had made it to see the Tequila territory.
That night we all went out for my goodbye party, we went to Paul-O, Gabi, and Ariel's house before going to a karaoke bar until the early hours of the morning. We had street quesadillas, of which I will always remember as the best drunken 4am food of my life, before heading back to sing and dance around the apartment once more. At 6am, we decided it may be time to get some sleep, so Advier, Alain and I headed off for home. However, we were locked in by the giant fence around the apartment building. Every house or apartment building in Guadalajara has a fence around it, many are also protected with very high voltage electricity at the top. Thankfully this one was not, as we had to jump it in order to get out! The fence was at least 12 feet tall but after I saw Advier jump, I knew that Alain would make it too, and I was NOT going to be the girl who couldn't jump a fence! So before Alain had the chance to go ahead of me, I began to climb up. By this stage, the rest of our friends were watching, cheering, and laughing from upstairs. I got up with the help of a car, a few broken bricks, and some dodgy electrical poles only slightly freaked about going down, and then swung my way down a very scary looking spikey part and a wobbly telephone pole. It was great, Advier was so proud of me and everyone cheered "we love the princess of Nueva Sandalia!" to which, I explained that everyone at home can do these things, and now everyone thinks New Zealand breeds tough women... And I guess in many ways we do, because I have been laughed at many times for wearing barefeet, running over rocks, choosing to take the beaten path instead of the paved one, and now climbing massive security fences like a monkey!
The next day though, I realised my jeans didn't quite like the fence jumping...
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A couple of days later I met up with Franco's cousin Carlos. We went to see the pyramids together, and this time I managed to make it inside. The hike up the hill in the heat was pretty intense, and I was regretting not wearing my jandals so I stripped into barefeet again much to Carlos's disgust. I didn't care because I was boosting it up the hill and he was straggling behind, constantly asking for me to help haul him up and stopping for rests. I had to laugh, and I was grateful too because that has been my position many times with ex-boyfriends, and of course my amazing brother Dom. I laughed, partly at his unfitness, and mostly with pride at my new found independence and ability to do anything I put my mind to.
The view on our way up was spectacular, so Carlos got to rest while I stopped to take some pictures.
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I saw a short cut, that looked beautiful. Carlos was too scared to take it, but I explained to him that shortcuts are only created out of humanity's laziness and desire for an easy route - that appealed to him. I kept secret that shortcuts can also mean harder terrain leading to somewhere remote and idyllic, but thought I would keep that one to myself. I had to wonder though, how could anyone desire a paved road of concrete over one so beautiful
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Once we got to the top, there they were - beautiful round pyramids of grass and rock. We walked around, exploring them all. Sadly, no one is allowed to climb up onto them but you can see how they need to be preserved instead.
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Carlos dropped me home, and then I took Dirce and her family out for dinner to say thank you for letting me stay there for 2 weeks. The next morning as excited as I was to head back to the Caribbean, I was very sad to say goodbye to Dirce and to Taquito. I was especially sad when Dirce told me that Taquito came straight back inside, failed to climb up onto my bed without my help, and instead curled up right against it and waited there for me. I wish I could have taken Taquito. but I know the best thing for her is to find a forever family now while she is still a puppy.

I flew to Cancun (far longer than I had realised so I did some work on the plane). I got to my hostel, which was full of Aussie's and Kiwi's so we had a great evening. I met a guy from Venezuela and he gave me lots of advice about my upcoming trip there. We danced salsa and bachata too which was lots of fun. Again, I was the only non Latina who could speak Spanish, so I got extra tequila in my cocktail, free sunglasses given to me when I lost mine, and free beers all night. Sometimes, even still, I just high five myself!
The next day I took the bus down to Tulum where I have been for the past few days. I met a couple of friends in the hostel, one from Mexico City, one from Bogota, Colombia, and one from USA. We hired a car on one of the days and went to see Chichen Itza which was beautiful.
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The only thing that faulted it, was the large numbers of vendors everywhere. They lined the sides of the grounds, and called out to you every single step of the way. It was very hard to enjoy the ruins, and appreciate the tranquility when there were so many people calling out for your attention. I said to my friend how I didn't like it and one of the vendors overheard only part of the conversation. He asked me, "don't you like it, don't you like the Mayan culture?" I turned to him and said, "I love the culture, but this is not culture this is cheap souvenirs sold by pushy vendors." He realised I was right, and let me go without any more hassle. I felt very sad though, to be on the grounds of such a significant place for Mayan people, to be hassled for a few pesos. I can't even imagine what the ancient Mayans would have done, considering the vendors lined the paths to their sacrificial steps where they would make the steps rain in human blood until the real rain would come.
One part that was very cool was how you could clap, and then hear the sound of the quetzal bird echoing through the pyramid. I was bouncing up and down with excitement, it took a while for me to learn how to make such a loud clap (the louder the better) but once I got it, I was away!
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After walking around twice, clapping our hands a million times, being hassled for cash, and sweating more than I ever have at the gym, we left the pyramids and headed for a cenote. A cenote is an underground pool of water and there are said to be over 4000 of them in the Yucatan peninsula. We headed for one called Ik Kil and it was one of the most beautiful places I have ever swam. You could look down on the cenote from above, and of course in the nearly 40 degree head, that was super exciting!
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You make your way through tunnels underground, carved into the limestone to get to the water DSC00188.jpg
and then all you have to do, is jump!
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We stayed there for a couple of hours, enough for the water to cool us down so much that we stayed cool for the rest of the evening. It was so beautiful, floating on our backs and looking up at the opening with the vines making their way down. Their were also all sorts of rocks, cavern, and mini waterfalls around the edges. It was paradise!
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As we had entered the carpark, someone had taken a group photo of us. When we left, we were handed a bottle of indigenous Mayan liquor with our photo on it! We didn't buy it, but I was allowed to take a picture! I never had my face on an alcohol bottle before so I needed a pic!
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We spent the following day riding our bikes to the beach, at a place called Papaya Playa Project. It was such a neat place, all sorts of alcoves to enjoy a drink with a great view! There were also beds on the beach inside little cabañas so we took over one of them for the day. The waiter brought us beer and nachos with salsas and fresh guacamole - bliss!
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That was where I picked up the sunburn, forgetting it had been 6 weeks since I was in the Caribbean sun I over did it. Not too much, but I am feeling a little bit sore. Today I rode my bike to the Mayan ruins that are in Tulum. They were once a port city for their trading, and it was much bigger and much more impressive than Chichen Itza. Also, no vendors were allowed inside so it made for a much more pleasant day. And because of its location on the coast, I was able to stop for a swim half way through!
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Tomorrow I am heading off to la laguna de bacalar which is a lake of 7 colours. I am going to go sailing and kayaking for a few days, perhaps before heading into Belize. Then I will head to the island of Holbox for 10 days before meeting Brissa for one last weekend of partying in Cancun before I leave Mexico and head to Venezuela!
x

Posted by chasingsummer 13:50 Archived in Mexico Tagged beach caribbean pyramids tulum mayan tequila cenotes Comments (2)

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