Our three day trek in the Sierra Juarez mountains was great, but we needed something a little higher, a little more challenging to help us prepare for trekking the great Himalayas. Toluca de Nevado offered us just that challenge. Towering at 4600 metres, this long dead volcano is now home to two beautiful caldera lakes and absolutely stunning views.
We paired up with Julius and Sandro again and decided to rent a car. We grabbed snacks and fluids and hit the road around 1030am. Major props to Juluis for being the hero and doing the driving to get us out of Mexico city! It took a while, as traffic in this beast of a city is horrific! But finally we made it out, paid a couple of tolls and eventually took the turn off Mexico highway 10, drove past the little town of Raices, past the National Park area (where all the vendors are set up) and began to gruellingly slow switchback ride up the mountain. The reason so many people trek this mountain’s peak is because you can drive almost all the way up! In fact, you used to be able to drive right to the caldera, however the road now stops 2km before and you must hike in. Continue reading
With our upcoming plans of trekking the Himalaya’s in Nepal, we needed to get a trek or two under our belts. There were plenty of hikes online with pricey tour companies, but we didn’t want to have to pay someone hundreds of dollars to walk with us, we were quite capable of that, thanks! After digging around some more we found there was a company in town that helped coordinate treks through the Sierra Juarez mountains and the Pueblos Mancomunados (united villages) for a fair price. The best part was the money went directly to the guides who lived in each of the villages so your money was actually making it to the villages. What made these villages united was that they pooled resources to help each other out, and 6 of the 8 communities came together and created the ecotourism programs that helps sustain the villages today.
And so, on the first day of the new year, I awoke at 6am after not really sleeping at all (thanks anxiety!), caught a cab to the second class bus station and hopped in a collectivo van headed for the village of Cuajimaloyas, resting at a mighty 3100 meters above sea level. Continue reading
Day 7: Wednesday, November 25th 2015
I had the most terrible time falling asleep last night. I just couldn’t quiet my mind. I was excited about my sudden change of plans to stay another ten days in Namibia and I was crazy excited for our sunrise adventure in just a few hours. Finally, around 1am I drifted off only to awaken an hour later needing to pee. The moon was so full and bright, I didn’t even need my head lamp as I trudged half asleep across the dirt road to the bathroom. I fell back asleep quickly, but 445am came all too soon. Up we rose and within 20 minutes we had the tent all packed up, were dressed, made bathroom stops and boom – we were on the road! I was impressed with our efficiency – we were getting damn good at packing up camp in a hurry! We were third in line to get to the gate and only had to wait for five minutes before they opened it and let us through. You could feel the excitement rippling through the line of vehicles waiting, it was like the line to get in to Disney World or something; I didn’t know people could collectively muster that much excitement at 5am! Rug and I blasted Macklemore’s Downtown to get us even more pumped up.
I would have loved to have gone a half hour earlier to get the full effect of sunrise, to be able to enjoy the vast array of colours as the sky shed her sapphire night gown and donned her flushed violet, copper and periwinkle ensemble. But alas, they don’t open the gates quite early enough so as to limit driving in the dark to protect the wildlife. The drive only took a half hour this time as we were following the other cars who were most definitely not obeying the speed limit! And so by the time we reached dune 45, most of the pre dawn stunning sunrise colours had already played out. But we could still at least catch the sun itself as it crested the dunes if we scrambled up this dune fast enough. Continue reading
Day 1: Thursday November 19th, 2015
Well, it was a blasted long 30 hour journey with another sleepless night in another airport, but I at last have touched down in the Motherland. Africa. Windhoek, Namibia to be exact. Since I was a little girl I can recall feeling the desire to one day visit Africa. I have no idea where it started or what fuelled it, but it’s only grown stronger and stronger as I grew older and older. When I decided to travel around the world, I knew without a doubt that I would find myself in Africa. Ten months into my journey and I am finally here. I don’t know what it is about Africa that has always called to me. But, being a desperate lover of nature, the vast expanse of her epic wilderness no doubt beckoned me more than anything. And the unknown, the mysterious, this land so drastically different in every way from my own. I suppose I’ve always been pulled to that which I do not know, the enigmatic and exciting. To say this is a big one on my bucket list just doesn’t do it justice. It feels like a satiating of my very soul – not just food for my soul, but life for my soul. And now at last, I am finally on those strange and extraordinary soils of Africa. Continue reading
After two nights in the sweet little town of Vik, we thanked our host most graciously for her help, and within minutes of driving away from the coastal town, we left the rain and mist behind us and burst back into bright sunshine. Oh the joys of the open road! Today we were off to see glacier lagoons, another national park and a river that tore down through a gorge in a valley called Fjathrarglijufur. As we drove, the landscape changed drastically and we suddenly found ourselves amid the largest lava field in the world! Every which was you looked was a blanket of blackened, cooled lava, which was being taken over by bulbous green moss tufts, creating a strange spectacle. Continue reading
I left the enchanting city of Edinburgh to escape into the Northwestern side of Scotland and venture into the Isle’s, the area of Scotland that I was excited to see most. I had a Pinterest board filled with images from this fabled land and couldn’t wait to explore it for myself at long last! I spent most of the day on a bus, traveling straight North to Inverness where I transfered and took another bus along the edge of Loch Ness. I kept my eyes peeled out the bus windows, just in case I caught sight of the ever elusive and mythical Loch Ness monster! (Just in case you were unaware… loch simply means lake, and there are loads of them in Scotland!). Sadly, the beast never reared her head and I was left to ponder her existence. In the later afternoon I arrived at the Isle of Skye, which is connected to the mainland with one large bridge near the main town Portree, but can also be reached in the south by ferry. Continue reading
Cuenca, Ecuador, was a city that I had heard much about, but never made it around to on my first time through Ecuador, mostly due to the fact that I fell in love with Montañita and ended up spending all my time there! So on my second time through the country, I made sure this city was a priority. Hailed as the most beautiful colonial city in the country, it’s easy to understand why. The cobble stone streets, the old baroque buildings and stunning churches; the city has the feeling it’s been trapped in time. You can detect a Parisian influence here as well with some of the charming architecture. Wire moulded flower pots hold vibrant red flowers spilling over them, as the pots cling to the sides of buildings on narrow streets. The strong smell of aromatic Ecuadorian coffee fills the streets, and vendors hawk their snacks on street corners. Continue reading
It was a long 18 hour bus ride through some hard terrain to reach the renowned city of Cusco. The bus ride left Sally feeling awful; it was the high altitude and the tight corners that we zipped around at dizzying heights as the cliffs fell away below us. Sally had to close the blinds and force herself to not think about it as it was giving her some major anxiety. Eventually she dozed with the help of some sedatives, and I spent the whole evening trying my best to sleep and failing miserably as I always do on night bus rides. I listened to my music and only snagged about an hour of sleep around sunrise. We rolled into Cusco at 8am and stepped off the bus into a frigid morning, our breath misting heavily in front of our faces. Sally quite literally screamed as she desperately tried to layer on more clothing as quickly as possible. Continue reading
After being bed ridden in Medellin for several days, the itch to move on had become unbearable, despite my illness. It was time to get out! The bus up to Santa Marta would have taken me 24 hours, and since I was on a tight time schedule (and wouldn’t trust my bowels for 24 hours on a bus!) I booked a flight for a decent price with Avianca, a huge airline in Colombia. I arrived in the morning and while I waited for my room to be ready, slipped into the pool at the Dreamer hostel where I was staying. The cool pool was refreshing and kept the fever at bay. I decided I was going to tackle heading into Tayrona National Park even though I felt awful. I wanted to see a little of this beautiful country and didn’t want a little illness to stop me. So I packed a day bag, grabbed 5 litres of water and began my adventure into the park.
It was a sad goodbye that we paid Laguna de Apoyo. We all packed up our bags, and some of us our hangovers and regrets over lost phones. It was time to move on yet again.
Ometepe island was the one major destination in Nicaragua that seemed to come up again and again from other travellers. It was the must see/do of the country. Thus, we all had rather high expectations heading there. We made our way by shared taxi to the port town of San Jorge, near Rivas. We walked down the pier heading towards what looked like a safe and reputable ferry. Continue reading