After 12 Months…

After 12 Months…

After twelve months in South America many things that were once strange to me are now normal.  And it is now what should be the normal back in the UK which feels very strange to me.


For instance, last week I landed at Heathrow and I caught the Tube into London.  Nobody spoke.  Everybody looked at their feet or stared blankly out of the window.  There was no music being piped in and everybody had headphones on rather than holding mobiles up and listening to them.  It used to drive me nuts when there were eight different tunes playing around me, or a stranger insisted on sitting pressed up against me even though there was stacks of room elsewhere, but with hindsight I prefer the noise and connection with my fellow human beings than this distance which I am now having to readjust to.

transport – Colombian style

After twelve months of not putting toilet paper down the loo it will just seem so wrong to start throwing it down the pan again. Nobody throws anything down the toilet here – the pipes just can’t cope with it.  I have worked in hostels and I have had to empty the bins in the toilets daily – in one case I had to take the paper to the compost bin and mix it with the kitchen waste. Honestly, it’s not half so bad as you might think – but I apologise in advance if I come to visit and I forget where I am and you find my paper in your bin.

unpolluted beauty

After twelve months of not using a washing up bowl, but washing the dishes under the running and usually cold water tap it will seem odd to run a sink of hot, bubbly water and not eating off ever so slightly greasy plates.

llama or alpaca? Just like sheep but softer and some of them spit

After twelve months of sleeping in dorms with complete strangers and sometimes having to clamber up into the top bunk bed, it will be odd to have my own room and space again. On one occasion in a hostel in Medellin I woke early and I went to the bathroom. When I returned there was a man in my bed. He had just got in from a wild night out and rather drunk and high on some happy pills he had navigated his way to what he thought was his bed (it had been his bed two weeks previously) and he had passed out. No amount of poking and prodding would wake him so I simply gave up as I had to leave early anyway and I got myself showered and dressed and I checked out.

a bed with a view

After twelve months it will be funny to not see vultures hunched on roof tops and trees just hanging about and waiting for something to die.  I don’t know why, but these birds fascinate me – perhaps since I went to see The Jungle Book when I was about seven years old.

hanging around waiting for death

After twelve months of cold showers, showers which stop mid shampoo, showers that gave me an electric shock or one which actually rained sparks down onto me when it burst into flames, I can’t wait to run myself a deep, candlelit bubble bath. Accompanied of course, by a glass of red wine, some soft music and a good book.

evening bath time in the lagoon

After twelve months it will be strange not to jump when I take a saucepan out of a cupboard because giant cockroaches scuttle out, and as for spiders… well they hold no fear for me after these monsters.

one of the bigger specimens

After twelve months of disputing the prices charged in shops, cabs, the bus station and even the Post Office, it will be very odd to simply hand over cash and not question the integrity or the mathematical skills of the vendor. Unlike some travellers I don’t get angry or take it personally when I am targeted and charged ‘gringo prices’. I just question everybody with a raised eyebrow and an ‘are you serious?’ in Spanish which usually does the trick and gets me the correct price.

so fresh, so good and so cheap

After twelve months of drinking tap water, well water, stream water, home made juices off some very unsavoury characters on the street and home made ice creams, let alone eating meats from fly infested street stalls I suspect that I may have a parasite or three. However I have never once had a bout of food poisoning, or a dodgy stomach (apart from those which are self induced and caused by an excess of rum, aguardiente or beer).

street food sold by local women

After twelve months I accept that Health and Safety is not a top priority here – or at least there is no culture of suing organisations.  If you trip or fall it is your own look out – people here take responsibility for their own actions.  This includes choosing whether or not to wear a seatbelt or a crash helmet – although in reality there is often no choice to be made because there is not usually a functioning seatbelt available or a spare crash helmet.

Health and Safety? There was a safety rope. Of sorts

After twelve months I don’t give it a second thought when I see soldiers, police or security guards carry or even draw their weapons and plenty of people are walking around swinging evil looking machetes or knives. But it doesn’t make me feel any safer to see these guns and I certainly hope that the British forces do not begin to visibly arm themselves on the streets any more than they do at the moment.

it’s not just any old mountain, it’s a volcano

After twelve months I will certainly miss the food opportunities on the buses. At every stop, toll booth or traffic jam they stream on or if they are not allowed to board they tap at the windows and shout out at you. My bus vendor record has been twelve different sales people at one time, jostling in the aisle and shoving past each other to sell their fried plantains, herbal parasite remedies, ice creams and sweets.

colourful personality in the market

After twelve months I will miss the Latino people and  I have met people from every country on this continent. Of course I generalise here but they are friendly, warm and generous. They are relaxed and laid back. They are helpful and inquisitive with a wicked sense of humour. They generally have an infectious attitude to and a love for life. And they can dance.

the full lunar eclipse from Colombia

After twelve months I will miss my fellow travellers. You will have already read about some of them in previous blog entries. They are a special tribe of the human race; open minded, non-judgmental and fun. They work hard and play hard. They know the best hostels, the best bus routes and the places to avoid. They will come together to support each other in times of need, they will share cabs and costs, dinners in hostels and even beds in a tight situation. All ages, all nationalities and all classes are out here, adventuring, working and exploring.

After twelve months I will miss South America and my nomadic lifestyle.

a little slice of paradise

Fast Forward to Ecuador and the Mallki Hostel

Fast Forward to Ecuador and the Mallki Hostel

I am going to pause in my story at this point and fast forward you to Ecuador.  I met some very special people when I got back to Cartagena and I shall continue my Colombian story in a later post, but for now, mid October found me in the south of Ecuador in Cuenca.

The colonial gem that is Cuenca

Described in every guide book as a ‘colonian gem’ I have to say that I have seen better on my travels but this city in the south of Ecuador oozes calm and tranquility.

old architecture in pristine condition

I stayed at the Mallki Hostel which was only opened six months ago by Andres.  Along with his partner Eliana he has converted a derelict building into a home away from home, breathing life into its old bones.  It is a hostel like many others with dorms and private rooms, a kitchen and a roof terrace, but what sells this hostel above many others is the ambience that Andres and Eliana have created.

The Mallki Hostel

Breakfast is included and there is a really great seating area with a large TV, an extensive DVD library and a Playstation with many games.  A nice touch are the different guitars which are dotted around for guests to play and the beers in the fridge which are paid for with an honesty system when you settle your bill.

My Israeli friend strumming away on the roof terrace

There are optional daily (free) activites available to guests as well as plenty of free bikes to hire.  They offer a free dinner to guests once a week, a cocktail evening, bike tours and group walks too.  On my first afternoon there were no other takers for the bike tour but Giovani who works at the hostel didn’t hesitate to take me along for a tour of the parks and along the river banks.

Bikes and breakfast in the sun

On my second morning a group of us walked with Andres, Eliana and Vincent (their rescued from Peru Old English Sheepdog) to the large weekly produce market. I love markets but what made this one special was the presence of Andres and Eliana.  They pointed out many of the different fruits and vegetables and even purchased different things for us to sample and then we all sat down to a filling set lunch which cost us very little indeed.

local colour and fresh produce

It was here at the Mallki that I met Brian.  He is from the US and has been travelling for over four years on his BMW 1200cc motor bike.  Beginning in Alaska he is working his way down to Buenas Aires and as I write this he is somewhere in northern Peru.  You can check out Brian’s route here – but as a bike owner and rider myself I was very envious of his trip and mode of transport.

Brian preparing to set off for Peru

One evening Andres boiled up a big cauldron of magic which included a bunch of flowers, and then with the generous addition of home-made shnapps we all tested the local drink known as canelazo.

cooking up a storm in the local market

An extemely funny convoluted game of Jenga followed with ten of us from all nationalities playing until late into the night.  Despite the large amount of canelzo, or perhaps, because of it, we all took it very seriously although we did end up bending the rules quite wildly.

Vincent surveying the dining area

Another afternoon and evening found a lot of us piled on the sofa and huddled under a blanket from the cold watching DVDs.  We watched three in a row and was just like a grey autumnal day at home – I think we all needed this downtime.

yet another pretty church

Cuenca has some cool museums and architecture but much of its attraction lies in the surrounding countryside.  I never actually made it to the Ingapurka ruins which are apparently Ecuador’s version of Machu Picchu but I did get to the Parque de Caja.

one of the lagunas at Parque de Caja

Formed from glaciers this region reminded me very much of Dartmoor in Devon – it was just bigger and higher with the muted greys and dusky greens and the Ecuadorian versions of gorse and heather.  This park also has one of the highest concentrations of individual bodies of water in any highlands with over 271 lakes, ponds and puddles.

water water everywhere

We – two Spaniards, a French woman and a Chilean woman set off to walk around one of the larger lagoons. We had been warned not to attempt any of the larger hikes due to the inclement weather and the thick fog which was due to come down later.  Sylvi, Gonzo and myself followed this advice and finished early, waiting for the others in the on site restaurant over a late trout lunch.  We waited, and we waited and eventually we had to run so that we didnt miss the last bus out.  Luckily the other two turned up in Cuenca having actually walked out of another entrance earlier.

another angle,another laguna

On another evening Andres led a group of us up to the Mirador.  We climbed many steps up to the pretty little illuminated church at the top and stood and watch the city light up as the darkness fell.

marking the top of the mirador

I visited the largest museum in Cuenca – the National Museum of Banco where  bizarrely, the ground floor was given over to an exhibition of erotic art whilst upstairs there were tableauxs and displays depicting life through the ages,m including a display of shrunken heads.

one of the little shrunken heads

The best bit about this (free) museum were the extensive ruins behind them.  They were quite impressive and had some good information boards and some really nice gardens and water features, as well as a rather nice Belgium waffle place.


Cuenca had a very nice Indian restaurant which I tested with Connor from Australia and a not bad Italian place which I sampled with Daniel.  I was really pleased when a young man from Colombia sat next to me in the central park with his seven year old son and began chatting to me.  Colombians are so friendly and will chatter away to anybody and as you know I fell in love with Colombia and found it to be mostly safe but this man’s story showed the dark side of the country.

B and his son – I have disguised his face

B was a refugee who had fled from Colombia with his wife and two young children in fear for his life.  He had been working as an anti-narcotic police officer in Cali but (and I really hope/wish that my understanding of his Spanish was incorrect) three members of his immediate family were very recently assasinated by members of the drug cartels when they found out he was a cop and he feared that he and his children were next on the list so he left his home and country

He was searching for work in Ecuador but had no papers and basically very little money to live on.  I apologised and said that I had no spare money but wished I could help – but B was quick to tell me that he wanted simply to chat and forget his troubles and was not asking for anything from me.  I believed him and despite his problems he was smiley and polite and his little boy very sweet yet subdued and quiet.


I gave his son some money for an ice cream and then I had to leave them to go and collect my computer which was being repaired.  That didn’t cost as much as I had expected so I searched for B who was still wandering around the park and I gave him the difference that I had set aside for my computer repair.  If I ever wondered at the truth in B’s story I didn’t doubt it when I saw the look on his face as I gave him the cash.  He was lost for words and gave me a massive hug as did his little boy.  I wish that I could have done more but hopefully he and his family at least had a decent meal that evening.

Cuenca is one of my favourite places in Ecuador despite being a bit cooler than others.  If you visit and want a place to stay I highly recommend the Mallki hostel.  If the efforts put in by Andres and his team so far are anything to go by the place can only go from strength to strength and get better and better.  And if you want secure off-road parking for your motor bike he can supply that too.

Mallki Cuenca 7

I have stayed in countless hostels and I firmly believe that the best ones are owned or run by people who have travelled themselves.  Andres was born in the jungle and is a qualified jungle guide as well as an adventure guide (leading rafting and survival courses), and as I have already mentioned, he has travelled himself.  He can give you information on the local area as well as your further, onward travels and he plays a mean game of Jenga.

Disclaimer:  Note:- Whilst I received some complimentary accommodation at the Mallki Hostal this did not influence my opinion or review in any way.  I have portrayed an honest picture of my stay

Santa Marta…again and again and again!

Santa Marta…again and again and again!

Lio and I took the bus to Santa Marta.  It turned out that the Fiesta de Mar was in full swing with stages set up around the seafront and bands playing.  A food market in one of the plazas was selling ceviche and other tasty things and it seemed that the entire town was out and taking part.

Fiesta de Mar in Santa Marta

We  joined in with a Zumba session on the beach – much to the amusement of the locals, we watched a proesson go past but we gave up after two hours when it showed no sign of ending – and then as the most magical orange sunset lit up the beachfront we walked back to our hostel.  We had some cheeky little cocktails on the way back as we chatted about our respective travels, life and the universe.

Santa Marta looking mystical

Lio is French and he has had his own fantastic journey before finally ending up here on the Carribean coast.  It was his final fling on the continent and I was certainly up for a change of tempo.  I hoped to visit Parque Tayrona and I also wanted to do the Lost City trek but both plans went by the wayside.  I had lost/had my bank card stolen whilst in Playa Blanca so money was a bit tight.  The next few weeks were crazy in their own way.  We were joined by Emy from England who was also en route north and who had been persuaded by Lio whilst she was in Cartagena to join us.  The three of us met up at the Hostal Jackie in Santa Marta where we shared a dorm and soon we were the best of friends and setting off on our adventure – heading first to Taganga for a night or two.

landing the day’s catch

Silly me! I had imagined that three well travelled people would be resourceful and imaginative and that we would be covering the ground effortlessly.  We seemed to sink into a stupor, going to bed very late (if at all), mooching around until lunchtime and then more often than not we realised that we had missed the last bus (or simply couldn’t be bothered to go and  find it) and we checked back into whatever hostel we were at again!

on the coast it’s too hot to move much

We didn’t seemed to do too much over the next couple of weeks except to ‘make a ploof’ – a Lio-ism for swimming in the sea, eat copious papa rellanas (on this stretch of coast they rivalled those in Trujillo, Peru), and laugh.  We wandered slowly from place to place, eating and drinking and sleeping and diligently sharing out the bills to the nearest centimo, or dust as Lio tagged the shrapnel that we all carry around in our wallets.  Me and Emy were attacked and stung my an army of wasps and poor old Emy had some ferocious sandflies nibble on her ankles.  She will probably carry those scars to the end of her days and will forever be reminded of those couple of weeks when the three of us explored the Caribbean coast of Colombia.

our ‘cell’in Taganga before we trashed it. We drew straws for the double bed. Emy won

Taganga is a funny little place.  It seems to be populated by people learning to scuba dive and aging hippies who kept the local drug barons in business.  We met a lovely guy called Andres, a gentle giant who has an incredible talent for taking portrait photographs of the people that he meets and we met a couple from Spain who were travelling around.  We all spent a VERY weird night sat chatting and chilling on the beach which involved visits from the local cops and being searched for drugs.  At about two in the morning the majority of the street dogs joined us and flopped down on the sand amongst us and we also had one of the beggar/homeless men circling us for over an hour, yelling obsecnities at us while fumbling around with a stonking great big knife which was tucked into his waistband.  It was at this point that I realised that I had settled into life in South America completely as he was not threatening or scary, just a little annoying as we were all trying to chat. and we ignored him like the pesky mosquitoes and the sandflies which were biting us.

Irony in Taganga. We couldn’t find a burger but we could have smoked and sniffed our body weight in drugs

The three of us were sharing a little cave of a room in a hostel and as we all just spent the next day recovering we quickly turned it into a pigsty.  We had an ensuite bathroom but as the place was so small and there was only a curtain for a barhroom door we soon learnt to talk loudly!

leaving Taganga – just before our driver lost control and skidded towards the cliff edge

When we finally managed to stir ourselves from Taganga we went back to Santa Marta and spent another night at the Hostel Jackie.  Walking into reception we were pleased to get our old room back.  Up on the roof terrace I met Martin from an Argentina who explained that yes, the pool table was supposed to have no pockets and only three balls,  and no, it wasn’t a pool table at all but a game called billar which was frustratingly difficult to play and made snooker and pool look like childs play.

playing billar

The next day, or maybe a couple of days later, who knows because by now the days were all merging, the three of us got on another bus and headed up the coast to Palomino.  The countryside got wilder and dryer (they are having a serious drought here) and the homes got poorer.  Palomino was once a little indigenous community on the coast but now includes some seriously laid back hostels and beach bums.

Lio making a ploof

Our first hostel of choice was probably as far from the beach as you could get – and after staggering back home in the pitch black during a power cut the next day we relocated ourselves a bit closer to where the action was happening.  Not that an awful lot happened in Palomino.  We did eat some amazing fish in a tiny little local restaurant and we did plan to go tubing on the river, and we did plan to go for a hike …..but you know the drill by now – we didn’t do an awful lot at all.

the estuary at Palomino

We bought ourselves a bottle of rum and whilst we were sat on our patio we were joined by the guy next door who I shall call Scot but who originated from Finland.  He had been in the area for a while and had been helping on a project to build a treehouse.  There was a little bit of alpha male banter happening and then when the guys decided to go together to the shop, me and Emy both looked at each other and announced that they would either end up fighting or come back as best friends.  Luckily they turned up later arm in arm and the best of friends!  And armed with more rum.

traditional meets modern – a man from an indigenous community on his mobile

We did manage to get ourselves along the beach to the point where the river joined the sea but we did decline the ayawasca ceremony which we were invited to because we needed to begin to head back down the coast and our respective onward journeys.  Rolling into Santa Marta we had of course missed the last bus out again so rocking up at the Hostel de Jackie we treated ourselves to a dip in the little swimming pool and planned our next move.

just add mojitos

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Amaga; Bonds and Friendships

Amaga; Bonds and Friendships

As the end of my original planned five weeks at the Ecohostel drew nearer I knew that I wasn’t ready to leave the area yet.  Amagâ is a small mountain town where not a lot happens but it is one of the places on my trip that has stolen my heart.

the mountains around Amaga

Paola arranged for me to move in with a family and to teach English to the seven year old who I shall call Abra.  So one weekend I moved from my shared dorm in the hostel with its cold showers and (very nice) vegetarian food to a place with a pool,  my own room and massive grounds.

My routine was flexible but I began every morning with an hours walk back to the hostel so that I could continue with my Spanish lessons.  Paola had replaced herself with Lu so that she herself could travel for a month and Lu from Mexico endeavoured to continue my education.

a pool with a view

I may have moved to a lovely home but this was still Colombia.  Several events had the family laughing at me over and over again – from my shower which burst into flames above my head and dowsed me in thick smoke and flames, to the giant ants which set up a nest in my shoes.  A dangerous spider was marching across my bedroom floor one morning – had it bitten me during the night I would have had to spend three days in hospital and the cockroaches and beetles were the two inch long variety.

these things actually manage to fly

Abra had an adorable four week old kitten which clambered everywhere and Abra just loved to kick a football around.  I played handball with the sports team on one of their days out when as a group we all went for a hike into the countryside and I helped out with the basketball trainingat the town sports hall.  I also taught English to a great seven year old girl (Juli) at her home and often  Abra was joined by Jac – the thirteen year old daughter of the lovely Vivi who helped out at the big house.

I went out a couple of times with Mauri into the campa.  Maura speaks fluent English and German as well as teaching Spanish and told me many stories and tales about the area.  On one occasion we trekked slowly in the searing heat, stopping to swim in the crystal clear pool of a river which tumbled refreshingly cold down from the mountains and then we poked our head into the dark entrance of one of the (probably illegal and unregulated) coal mines.  We also had a beer at a football pitch on top of the world.  Up here there was a three hundred and sixty degrees panoramic view where the mountains just marched on and on in their green folds for ever and ever.

fresh cold water from the mountains

I popped in and out of Medellin and I also stayed for  a while at the Ecohostel whilst Paola was away.  That was challenging – not least because one of the big humpback cows got onto the land through a hole in the hedge.  Me and the amazing dog Guia managed to herd it back out of the gate (four times) and stopped it doing too much damage.  It was a massive animal and not very sweet tempered but I was very proud of myself that we accomplished that between us before it could eat or trample too many of the vegetables.

Before I set off on this Latin American adventure I was always nervous out by myself and I would avoid walking out in the dark or the countryside alone.  But now I was walking miles and for hours  down country lanes.  I wouldn’t freak out when a truck or motorbike slowed to talk – in fact  I was actively hitching rides from them and as for living in the middle of nowhere all by myself – some of my friends would never believe it possible.

hitching on the back when the truck is full

I met up with Diego a couple of times for English/Spanish intercambio.  One night I was unable to return home to the big house because the guard dogs were roaming free during the night and the odds were high that I would get eaten if I attempted to open the gate,  D’s mum insisted that I stay and she gave me dinner and then made up a bed for me in the spare room.  I cannot get over the kindness and the generosity of people here in this small town.  They never see anything as an unsurmountable problem and they are full of trust and sunshine.

I was invited to dinner with families when before eating I would be introduced to the neighbours and local kids would hang through the bars on the living room windows watching me eat.  I will be a lot more sympathetic when I next visit a zoo and stare and watch the penguins because it is very weird to be watched and listened to while you are trying to get on with other things.  Everything happens in the open here – even the Alcoholics Anonymous meetings take place with the double doors open to the street because it is so hot – and whilst everybody can see the semi-circle of people gathered I guess that it is such a small community there is no way very much can be anonymous.

these kids watched us eating for ages

Yo and his partner Joha always have an open house in the town – for people and animals.  They are both involved with a local community group called Corporacion Cultural Poncherazo and Yo also organises an intercambio language group with the volunteers from the EcoHostel.  People just drop in and out of their home and they seem to know EVERYBODY in the town.  They are both mad keen on animals and they have adopted some of the street dogs and cats, taking them into their home at night and leaving bowls of food and water outside their door for the others.  I lived with Yo and Joha for nearly two weeks at the end of my stay in Amaga and I cannot thank them enough for showing me such kindness.  I was living with them close to the centre of town and I was a part of the community.

my favourite street dog, Orejas (Ears) I would adopt him if I lived in Amaga


the view from my kitchen window for a few weeks

Night life in Amagâ is low key but fun with a couple of bars and nightclubs.  One rather odd place even has the mens urinal at the side of the dance floor!!  There are a couple of hotels (love hotels) where people check in for the night or part night so that they can get some privacy and countless bars with some very colourful locals who are often rolling drunk but funny and harmless and spend their days in the parque or in the market.

Amaga on a sunny Sunday afternoon, complete with childrens car ride

Colombia is one of the richer countries that I have visited so far in Latin America but there are massive differences between here and my old home in the UK.  For the majority of people here, their social interaction with others is of the highest priority – both for the simple act of connecting and sharing with others and also because good manners have been instilled into them from an early age.  The children will just as quickly approach and ask very politely how you are, or ask where you are from, engaging in a conversation, just because they can.

just an ordinary mountain town

Shopping takes on a whole new meaning as shopkeepers serve several people at once and all contribute to a five or six way conversation about what is being bought, the price, why you want the product and the news of the day.  I have finally got used to being in the middle of being served and then abandoned for another customer – but that just means that the customer to my left can start a conversation with me.  I am also now used to interrupting the customer who is being served and asking the price of something and I no longer feel embarrased when the shopkeeper abandons them for me.  Its just the way that it is here.

I am sure that I will return to Amaga and the region of Antioquia one day.  In the meantime I take a little piece of it and its inhabitants away with me in my heart.

public transport mountain style

On my final bus ride out of the town I sat on the left hand side so that I could drink up the views for one last time.  I had my dark sunglasses jammed on tightly and I wept a few tears at leaving.  I really hope that I will be back one day.





No snappers in Cartagena?

No snappers in Cartagena?

I finally dragged myself away from Medellin and I hit the night bus for Cartagena.  After yet another twelve hour journey through twisty turny mountain roads I was deposited on the outskirts of Cartagena.  Stepping from the ice cold bus I immediately broke out into a sweat due to the intense searing heat and the humidity and I was to remain a hot, damp sweaty mess for the following five weeks.  I was so damp  that the metal clips on my bra got rusty!

Old town, Cartagena

If you remember the film Romancing the Stone you will know that it is about a writer called Joan Wilder who ends up having all sorts of adventures in Cartagena with Michael Douglas.  It became a bit of a family joke that I (Jane Wilder) may eventually end up in the dangerous Colombian countryside so I was keen to check out the area.

Parque Trinidad buzzes at night

I was intially disappointed to discover that no filming was acutally done in Colombia and that no snappers (alligators) are roaming around in catacombs under the old city walls.

gathering on the walls to watch the sunset

However,  Cartagena did not disappoint.  I had the best of times here and as is becoming a bit of a pattern, I ended up spending a lot more time around here than I originally intended.

To begin with I checked into the Mamallena hostel on Calle Media Luna.  This street is a hive of activity and in my mind is THE best place to be located if you stay in Cartagena.  These little streets throb.  Yes, they are noisy and dirty and very overwhelming but it is nitty gritty life acted out in front of you everywhere you look.  Just along the road by the park the prostitutes sit and watch the world go by, the beggars roam around in their rags searching through the rubbish and you will probably be offered all sorts of drugs, but don’t let any of this put you off.  Everybody is very friendly and just getting on with their own lives in their own way.

Media Luna Street

There is the famous Club Havana salsa club on the corner of the street although the night that I got in there it was standing room only and no dancing was physically possible.  There are countless bars, restaurants and clubs here and the walled city is just a couple of blocks away, so as I said, it is the perfect location

just hanging around

After spending almost a week here during which I visited the castle and I spent a night in a hammock on the idylic beach at Playa Blanca, a face from the past (a Frenchman that I had previously met in Medellin) turned up at my hostel.  After a brief chat and discovering that we were both heading up to Santa Marta a few days later,  me and Lio decided to team up and travel together.

the idyllic Playa Blanca beach

My time on the Carribean coast all began quite normally but it soon escalated into a time of craziness which spun me way outside of my comfort zone and ended up with me having half of my hair cut off!

You can read about that crazy time in a future post but I did survive and after nearly two weeks on the coast in which I was the victim of a failed robbery,  I got invited to an ayahuasca ceremony and I almost got arrested on a beach I ended up back in Cartagena again.

I only intended to stay for four days this time because I had seen most of the city, but as usual I ‘got stuck’.  I don’t know what it is about Colombia but I keep sticking.

Oh, I do know what it is about Colombia.  It is the people that I have been meeting – Colombians and travellers alike – who have been marching into my life and forcing me to re-evaluate myself – and dare I say this – to actually begin to like myself!

these guys were wild in the old town



Check out my new book page

This week I am going to give you a break from reading about my travels and I have published my new page about books that I have read whilst travelling.



I love to read about other countries and cultures and especially about places that I am visiting.

Click on the link here to see what I have been reading and maybe get some inspiration for yourself.

I will pick one or two books a month and give you a more indepth insight into what they are about.  The list will be updated regularily so do keep an eye on it


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