Author: ineke Page 1 of 9

Pretty Palomino.

On the second to last day in Tayrona, I decided to go to Palomina. A small village about an hour away. As I walked to the beach I saw a sign saying, ” dreadloks”! Since my first visit to Africa I have liked the Rastafarian people, peaceful and loving. No war would ever be started by a rasta! Never before my hair has been long enough till now! I was already half way there, my own dreadlocks started to form. Anyway, on the spot I decided that that is what I would do! Get dreadlocks.

Carmen and her husband, Fabian, run a small artisans an shop. Friendly, hospitable and extremely capable, I ended up spending more than eight hours here. Carmel chatted away, most of it much too fast. I could grasp what she was talking about, if she only would have slowed down, I might have understood her more!

How come my rasta friends never told me it hurts?? And it takes literally HOURS to do! Carmel started at about at eleven and finished five minutes to six. I had discovered that I didn’t have enough money on me, but promised that I would come back early the next day. That way she could finish the last three locks as well. As I was running to the bus, as the last bus left at six o’clock, and no other options to get back to the hostel, I saw it drive by. I was too late! I had to run yell for a motor taxi and yell the famous line ” follow that bus”!!! Ah Colombia, how I love Thee!

Palomino itself is full of shops, hostels and backpackers. It was chokkers! I am so glad that I stayed at El Viajero. Here in Palomino the beach was crowded, dirty and lots of hustlers. Nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to stay here. Mind you, to be honest I saw most of the Palomino life from Carmen’s shop! She started on me at eleven in the morning, after I came back from the beach! Finished just before the last bus left!!

Also nearby is El Rio, another backpackers place, a party place. All the young ones would go there for the evening. I stay away from places like that, because, although I have dreadlocks now, I am a boring old fart!!

El Viajero, Tayrona

Of all the places I have ever stayed at over the last thirty years of my travels, this back packers resort tops them all! It is without a doubt the best, and I mean the BEST, place I have ever stayed at! It is a resort, a resort at back packer prices. There is the beach, framed with coconut palms, a surf, and lots of hammocks. Then there is the pool, oh, how I loved that pool! Cool, blue and inviting

The dorms are brand spanking new. Large, spacious and with eight bed, plenty of room for each guest. The shower is open to the sky, and although the water is fresh and cold, it is an absolute delight on a hot day. I booked myself for three nights into the all women dorm. Then asked for two nights more, and another two nights, okay, while I am at it, just give me two more nights. After nine nights, I finally got myself up from the sun bed, and went on my Lost City adventure.

Only to come back afterwards to spend four more nights. It was like coming home. If it wasn’t for my broken tooth that needs fixing ( soon!!) I would have stayed on as a volunteer!! Many young people do! Most of the staff have adopted me, as I have adopted all of them!

This place is magical, mesmerising and I could have disappeared here for ever! The staff is kind, helpful and extremely friendly. Hugs every time they see me, which is a custom in Colombia. The call me by sweet names, mi amor, mi vida, mi corazon or princessa!! Most of the time the young ones address me with ” mami”!! I just love it. As I have stayed two weeks here, I am part of the furniture.

The restaurant food is delicious and reasonably priced! There are no shops nearby, well, there is a supermarket in Buritaca, good twenty minutes walk. The food here is so delicious, that when I make the right Keto choices in the morning, I can go all day on that. There is a bar near the pool, yeah, I know, my down fall! But most days I stick to two beers only. As the water I carry gets heated up by midday, I need a change! There are events, Bon fires, live music nights, volley ball tournaments, and salsa classes. My preferable options was going to bed early most nights, so I could be up early and enjoy the quiet of the place.

Ah, to be able to stay here! How wonderful this would be! But it is time to move on. I have booked my flight to Bogota. Art galleries, dentist and being cold again! I hope to do all this in the next five days, and then I will fly to Leticia, for my next adventure, the Amazon in Brasil! Life is great, just great. I am so grateful to have good health and the money to experience all of this. Colombia is definitely one of my most favourite countries, and it is the people you meet on the way, who make this experience so incredibly special.

I thought I had it all worked out! Coming back a day earlier from my hike and adding an extra night had me all confused in the end. Catching a plane to Bogota on Thursday, I thought I was on the ball starting to pack at two in the afternoon. I finished my book and my beer. Time to move a tad.

When Marley, one of the staff walked into the room looking completely confused. I was meant to check out that morning. I explained that I had added an extra night and I was checking out the next morning. Duh! Saturday night plus three more is check out on Wednesday, NOT Thursday! There went my lovely good bye dinner I had promised myself! I finished packing in a hurry, which I hate, paid my bill. Then sat down at reception to work out where to go to next! Hm.

I didn’t take photos of the staff and lovely volunteers on my I pad, only on my camera! It was hard to do ANY kind of work he Really! I lost hours and days, easily done while you are in paradise!

 

Cartagena Culture

Cartagena is full with art. Hereby no story, just photos! Enjoy!

Colourful Cartagena

The bus trip took eighteen hours, not thirteen! The Lonely Planet as well as the bus station told me it was ” only” thirteen hours! They both lied. I actually wonder if the travel writers actually ever catch a local bus? Just wondering. Totally exhausted I arrived at the Viajero hostel. It was extremely hot! A cold beer went down well! The American cup was playing! Happy hour was filled with young people on their mobile phones! Interesting concept. A courtyard full of young people and nobody talking! After the match finished, it was Salsa class! I was too tired to do anything else but shower and go to bed. Explorations will start tomorrow!

What a town, what a wonderful, wonderful town. People had told me two nights is sufficient. It probably is, if you are not an artist. I just loved, LOVED the colours! All the houses are in different colours, bright and different! Each house a different combination. Every where huge Bougainvilleas, adding extra colour to the colours. The town historical centre was built in 1533. Compared to the lovely Spring like climate of Medellin, it is stinking hot!

It is just a fairy tale city, and according to the Lonely Planet, and every tourist I spoke to, Cartagena de India is the most beautiful city in Colombia. I have a tendency to agree! It was a main Spanish port, it was from Cartagena the Spanish shipped their stolen gold and treasures back to the Motherland. This of course attracted the Pirates, who were looking for an easy “take away” treasure system. Lots of sieges where fought here, one of the most famous battles was led by the British pirate, Francis Drake, in 1586. Of course the Spanish responded, they made Cartagena an impregnable port, that is when elaborate walls around the old town were build and a chain of forts was constructed. Plenty of old canons and guard houses decorate these walls. A pleasant coolish Caribbean sea breeze is blowing. A lovely place to walk around and stay cooler. It is hot, it is very, very hot.

My favourite place, plaza de la Inquisición, or plaza Bolivar, after Simon Bolivar’s statue on a horse in the centre of the plaza. Plenty of huge old trees, which could have been planted by the first Spanish invaders, give a welcoming shade. The plaza is surrounded by some of the most beautiful, balconied colonial buildings. Everywhere you look you see post card scenes. Lemonade, ice cream, coffee and bracelet sellers try to get rid of their products. Beggars galore. A foreigner is an easy target, especially one who spends a week here! I bought one bracelet, to stop the hassle of all other sellers! This is NOT the place to buy anything. Over priced, very expensive, extremely touristy, but early in the morning explorations worthy of every drop of sweat!

All the churches were closed, although I did enter the Cathedral during mass. It was not appropriate to take photos. Work on this Cathedral began in 1575, but while it was still being built, the prates, Francis Drake used his canons to destroy it! It took quite awhile to finish it, 1612. I did visit the Convent of San Pedro Claver, a monk ( 1580-1654) who lived and died here. He was called the “apostle of the blacks or the ” slave of the slaves” as he spend his entire life helping the enslaved people from Africa. He was also the first Saint in the New World!(1888)

The gold museum was closed for renovations, but as I will visit the gold museum in Bogota, I was not too upset! I did visit the Castle of San Felipe de Barajas. It is the biggest and greatest fortress ever built by the spaniards in any of their colonies. It was quite small when they began construction in 1630. Then in 1657 they built a fort on top of the 40 meters high San Lazaro hill. It was then extended in 1762, which resulted in the entire hill being covered with this powerful bastion.

Beaches are promoted by every tour seller in Cartagena. I visited the tranquila beach! I did a tour as local transport was complicated and ended up nearly as expensive as going on a tour. I had met a lovely woman from Denmark, Julie, and we decided to make this tour together! Tranquility was the last thing to be had there! It took over an hour to pick everybody up from their hotels. The drive to the beach was a lot n one de t the congestion in the traffic. It is school holidays, so every Colombian and their dogs went to the same beach! Then, finally, after all the Colombians on the tour spend nearly an hour in the little shop, buying snacks, sweets and shoes, we finally walked to the beach!

I wish somebody could have filmed my face!! The beach of tranquility! It was anything BUT tranquil! Beach bars were touching each other as far as the eyes could see! Each and every one blaring Latin American music, none of it the same though. Then people on the beach playing their own Colombian rap. It was an absolutely, unbelievable scene. It took me about ten minutes to adjust, drop the expectations, and enjoy this complete chaos. There where thousands of sellers, ice cream, bracelets or massages, each an everyone blowing whistle or a horn.

Jet skies roaring so close to the swimmers it was a scary experience. People with no experience at all losing control of their jet ski. At one stage, two people swimming, were nearly beheaded! A young girl on a jet ski had no idea how to steer or brake her machine. I had just come out of the water and watched in horror, there was just nothing I could do. My brain was desperately searching for the Spanish sentence ” get the hell out of the water”. The owner of the jet was running along the beach, jumped in and yelled at the young girl, he somehow managed to grab the brakes and turn her away from the disaster. The two teenage girls on the jet ski thought it was hilarious, and kept laughing and giggling, until the man took the jet ski away from them. I was completely horrified. As a former life guard and swimming instructor this is just not acceptable. Occupational health and safety is not a big issue here in Colombia! I stayed out of he water for the rest of the day, enjoyed my lunch and couldn’t wait to get back to the backpackers!

It was time to move on! Santa Marta next, then hike to the Lost City!

Marvellous Medellin

Marvellous Medellin was a complete surprise. A huge crowded city which at first encounter fails to impress. Crazy traffic, polluted, encounters with homeless people, refugees from Venezuela and drug addicts it was a shock to the system. The history of this city is one of murders, drugs and complete violence. Since the drug boss, Pablo Escobar, was murdered by the police in 1993 the city improved immensely.  I started to explore the city.  

The Plaza de Esculturas, with 23 huge sculptures by Fernando Botero (1947)was mightily impressive. So was the museum on the same square. Medellin has a spring like climate, so it was lovely weather to explore. There are lots of green parks. The city has striking public art!

I had seen one of the large human sculptures of Botero in Armenia. Not realising the artist was Colombian!

Barrio 13 with its huge murals, is a showcase of social engineering! Not so long ago it was the most dangerous place to wander through. Disappearing people and children was a daily occurrence. Gang violence, drug dealers and other unpleasant practises were the order of the day. The government decided to step in, offered electricity and other bribes, I believe free education was one of them, and managed to turn the whole area around.


It is now a huge tourist attractions and a stark contrast to the other Barrios, who haven’t been so fortunate to get a make over! I thoroughly enjoyed myself exploring all the art on display. I visited the Arvi park which you can only visit by cable cars! Not a pleasant experience! I did an hour tour through the jungle, looking at different orchids, plants and bird life.

Afterwards I decided I better start practising for my hike to the Lost city, and walked for about five kilometres to the waterfall. This lovely family stopped gave me a lift. We ended up spending the rest of the afternoon together. They were even kind enough to drop me off right at my hostel! The kindness of Colombian people is overwhelming.

I decided to make a day tour to Guatape, catching the local bus. It is a lovely historical village with a huge monolith, that you can climb. It has 740 steps, I looked at it, decided in this heat 1580 steps was too much for my knees and my overall well being! So no go! According to the opinionated Hungarian woman on the bus next to me, I MUST climb it, why else did I go to this village? I am totally allergic to the word MUST, so I immediately declined the climb altogether. This lady had just spend the last two hours telling me all about Australia and Cooper Pedy, how to get there, how to go “noodling” and overall HOW to be Australian! Interesting woman!

Some people you can not have a conversation with, so I just let her talk about her experiences of the two weeks she lived in Australia, and let her believe she was now definitely an ” expert” on everything Australian! She was shocked I travelled ” without a plan”!! This was NOT good in her opinion! I would only have BAD experiences! I smiled a lot! Didn’t say much, definitely becoming “Zen” like! No longer have the need to go into discussions with people, who have strong opinions! Not that long ago I was one of them myself!

Guatape was lovely. A colourful little town, which is famous for its reliefs on the facade on all the buildings. Apparently they were made to deter chickens from pecking at the buildings, and to discourage children to play ball games against the fragile concrete facades. Whatever the reason behind it, it makes for a very attractive display in the small town.

I also made a day trip to Santa Fe de Antioquia. A wonderfully perserved colonial town, which was founded in 1541. It was the start of the Colombian holiday season, so the bus station was chokker block full. Two bus companies had no buses going, or they were full, didn’t quite get what they meant! I went to a mini bus company who told me that there was a one hour to two hour wait before the next bus! Hm. What to do? I decided to wait for one hour and see how it all went. I had no other plans for the day anyway. After less then half an hour the men called me and asked me if I was travelling alone? Okay, they had one seat left for a bus which left in five minutes!

The traffic was absolutely shocking! Big traffic jams, bottle neck near the toll booth. I decided to just go to sleep and see what would happen! Santa Fe is, according to the Lonely Planet, famous for its carved doors! I walked for over six hours and I saw only one carved door! So that was a bit of a disappointment! However the town was filled with over fifty attractions. I manage to see only twenty, but in the heat that was quite a good effort!

Also there is an old bridge, 1895, designed by Jose Maria Villa, who also designed the Brooklyn bridge! I had no intention of going there, but as I had over an hour to wait for my return bus, I managed to get a cheap offer to visit the bridge on the back of a motor bike taxi. So off we went!he asked if I wanted to walk over the bridge, which I didn’t, so he actually drove the bike over it to the other side! I took some photos, and did not want to visit the souvenir stalls and buy crap I didn’t want!

So back we went! A lovely “slow” drive through a forest. Wind blowing, cooling me down. Here in Colombia speed is a macho exercise, the faster you go, the more macho you are! Especially if you actually make a phone call or text while driving along! I have seen more accidents in the four weeks I have been here, then in my whole year living in India! I had planned to fly to Cartagena from Medellin, but due to the holidays, prices had tripled! Okay, the bus trip was “only” thirteen hours, so I did that! Cartagena , I am on my way!

Minimal Manizales

Manizales is a huge town. The bus station is enormous. I caught a taxi to my hotel, which was closed down! Okay. Now what? Luckily a bit down the mountain was a lovely artistic, clean place. I booked two nights. I was too tired to explore the city.

In the morning I caught a local bus to the Recinto del Pensamiento. High up in a cloud forest, this nature park has a fine mariposario, a butterfly enclosure. Lots of wild orchids and a huge medicinal garden. You take up a chairlift on the the top of the mountain, and with a tour guide you slowly walk down.

It was just a small group. The tour was in Spanish, but Luis Miguel spoke also a bit of English. My only regret was that the tour was only an hour. The first stop was a Colibri feeding station, where the little birds hovered around the feeding centres. I gave up trying to capture these delightful little birds on camera. They were just too fast for me!

Then down the mountains where we saw lots of different species of orchids. Stunning just stunning. Slowly walking down the slippery slope, it started to rain. Of course I had left my rain coat in the hostel, as you do!! By the time we reached the starting place I was throughly soaked through and through.

I had plans of going to the hot springs, but being wet and miserable, I decided to go back to the hostel, after a delicious Chinese meal of vegetables! I sure do miss my vegetables! I walked back to the hostel, got out of my wet clothes, had a hot, hot shower, and went to bed early! I slept like a babe, and woke up completely rested! Okay, what next?? Manizales had little to offer, so I made an on the spot decision to move on to Medellin.

 

 

 

 

Surprise in Salento

As it was only a three hour journey to Cali, I decided to go to Armenia! I was in Armenia last year, and it seemed a nice gesture! When I got there it rained so heavily, one couldn’t see a thing! Hm! Go on to Pereira. When I got there the rain had followed me, and the city was very uninspiring! I hopped on a mini bus to Salento! Best move I have made in ages!

Salento was on big surprise! So colourful, so friendly, so compact. I found a delightful B&ab and booked two nights! The next morning I caught a jeep to de Valle de Cocora. A stunning valley, lush, tropical and pure magic. I met a lovely young couple from Bogota. And together we climbed the mountain. At the first mirador, look out, I stopped. The rain had set in, the clouds lowering themselves and the fog settling in!

From experience, I knew that even if I climbed higher, there would be NO view whatsoever! As my knee was giving me a bit of grief, nothing serious, enough to be used as an excuse! I turned back. I found a cafe with a stunning view over the Valley, where I sat down down and drank to magic drinks of canelazo, a hot cinnamon drink with cloves! I found out when I returned to my hostel, that it has alcohol in it as well! I can’t say I tasted that, just cloves and cinnamon. It DID make me feel very relaxed and chilled out!!

I made up my mind to return tomorrow and hire a horse and visit the second look out. Good plan! I returned to the town, where there was a BIG parade. I sat in the sun, had a beer, and enjoyed the music and the parade of people dressed up in traditional costumes. Very interesting and colourful. My hostel was gorgeous with a great breakfast! Lovely people as per usual. I very much wanted to stay two more nights to do some more exploring around the Valley.

Such a shame, there was NO room at the inn, for the next three nights every where was booked full! I couldn’t work out WHY. Then I met an English speaker and was told it was Father’s Day in Colombia, and Colombians LOVE to travel in their own country! I felt a tad sad, but this is life, and on the road I went again. To Manizales this time. A short journey.

 

 

 

 

Popular Popayan

The trip to Popayan, was just another long bus ride. The two exciting things were that the bus driver forgot to pick up some passengers and had to add two more hours to our already very long journey! He received a call, swore a lot, and turned the bus around! Picked up the eight stranded passengers, and again turned back! Lots of landslides in the mountains. Heavy rains cased waterfalls and muddy roads along the way.

Then we stopped somewhere, and the driver asked this truck for ” air”! He got out of the bus, looked at his front tyre, and put in a request! Finally we just stopped as the tyre was completely flat!! I had a chuckle! Did he really believe a bit of air would have fixed this tyre?? It was as flat as a pancake!! It took over an hour to fix! The jack was broken! The tools were missing! And the ” new” tyre would have been thrown out long ago in Oz! There was totally NO thread on it at all! By now I am fully aware WHY everybody crosses themselves before a trip, WHY there are praying chapels at bus stations, and WHY there are NO atheists on Colombian roads!

I arrived in Popayan late Sunday night. Stayed the first night in an empty dorm room in the centre. The blankets were see through, but the coffee tasty, delicious and very HOT. Amazingly friendly staff, but the hostel was booked out for the next five days, so Monday morning I went bed hunting. Found a dorm room , cheap, clean, huge and central. I was on my own! At A$9,50 per night, it was a complete bargain! I booked and paid for three nights.

Then I went to look for the musea and art gallery. I found them but of course, it was Monday, so they were all totally closed! Okay an early night then! Tuesday morning I caught a very early mini bus to Silvia, where the BIG markets are. I took some extra money, in case I saw something I liked! Looking for a traditional shoulder bag, to store all the little pressies in!! The drive to Silvia was awesome. The mountainous journey was mystical.

Every Tuesday all the local indigenous people arrive from the mountains to sell their wares and to do their own shopping! I was there very early, people were still setting up! I had been looking at the traditional handbags, which were crocheted in wonderful patterns. I had decided to buy one. I seem to have a thing for bags. Bags and jackets!

The bags are  around thirty to forty dollars depending on the patterns and materials used. This young woman was so determined to make a sale, that she grabbed her OWN bag, took everything out, and sold it to me for twenty five dollars! I didn’t have the heart to tell her that it was not a favourite of mine! I bought two bottle holders as well. All the patterns are symbolic. Representing the mountains, rivers etc. The people don’t like being photographed, so I just “sneaked” a few on my camera. The ones taken on he iPad were all taken with permission!

On the Wednesday I went back to all the musea that were closed on Mondays. Popayan’s centrum is very colonial, with all the buildings being brightly white washed. A shame that the youth of Popayan seems to have the need to tag each and every building! I did a lot of walking and was glad to catch the bus to Cali next day! It seems that my travelling days are also my “rest and relaxation” days!

The Tatacoa desert.

The trip from Tierradentro to Tatacoa, was rather uneventful. A lovely young couple from Germany, whom I had met yesterday, also travelled in the same direction. I had planned to go to Neiva and just do a tour! According to this young couple you could get out all the way into the desert in walking distance. They were right.  I found a lovely simple, but functional room. Then explored the surroundings.

The next morning I was up early and went exploring. I ended up walking for two and a half hours through a lunar like landscape. It was a labyrinth, full of twists and turns. There were supposedly dinasour fossils to be seen, although I got lost several times, I never got to see them. The solitude of walking in this weird and wonderful place was awesome. Only birdsong to disturb the silence. I didn’t attempt to take photos just sat down and listened. Magic , just magic!

The hottest part of the day was spend in a hammock with a Spanish book! Just practising my reading. It was a book about history in South America. Very easy to read! Must do this more often! Late in the afternoon, after several nana naps, I explored the desert from the end point backwards. This time I got completely lost. I met a wonderful family from Bogota, who were also looking for the fossils! Well two and a half later it was getting dark and still NO fossils! We gave up and returned to the starting point! By now it was dark!! Not a good place to be! We made it safely to the end, but only just! Tomorrow Popayan.

Tierradentro, San Andrés De Pisimbala, Colombia

Tierredentro, a national park, near the village of San Andrés de Pisimbala. I had e mailed Alejandro,  the owner of Tierradentro Hostel, and booked a room. Two may be three nights. The place was lovely and I was the only guest. It was quiet, warm and so peaceful. It was still early, about four thirty pm, so I decided to look for something to eat. There was a restaurant nearby, where the woman told me rudely she didn’t open till six pm.

I walked on to the village, gorgeous old church, lots of murals. Looked around, walked back, and saw a young couple at the restaurant. They were from Holland. I ordered my food, and had a beer. The young couple received their food, while I waited, waited and waited some more! When I went to ask what happened to my food, the woman was down right rude!  No idea what all this was about, I paid for my beer and left.

I woke up rather late, about eight o’clock, late for Clombians, who are all up at the crack of dawn, and when Alejandro asked how the dinner was the night before. I had to tell him that I had not eaten anything the day before! He apologised for the behaviour of the rude woman, and came down with a coffee, fruit and two empanadas!! Mind you, I was glad to meet one rude person, all the people here have been so incredibly polite and wonderful, it is good to see that there are other kinds too!

At nine o’clock I was in the park, looking at the two musea, before starting my climb upon the mountain. It had started to rain! This made the cobble stone path extremely slippery, and rather hard to walk on. I stopped several times on the climb to watch the amazing view. There was nobody else on the path. This is something I delight in, normally touristy sites are so very crowded, but not here, not yet!

The burial sites are just amazing. They have been discovered in about the seventies. Very little is known about the Indigenous people, who have created these amazing chambers.  These underground constructions are called hypogea, created by the NASA people, who have all but disappeared. The experts think they were created between 600 to 900 BC. The first cluster of burial chambers is called Loma de Segovia, sorry, I forgot to take a photo of the overall place!! It took awhile before I caught my breath.!

A young German couple were already climbing in and out of these tom So! I took one look, and freaked out!! There are steep, and I mean STEEP, spiral staircases, without any handrails or supports what so ever, a BIG black hole you need to step into! Oops! This is an absolute NO GO zone for me!

The lovely young man, who was guarding the place, called John, ( not Juan!) offered to help me. There were about six to nine tombs if I remember correctly. I suggested he just help me into the ones with the paintings and carvings! I climbed in and out these contraptions with enormous difficulties. I saw four stunningly beautifully decorated burial sites! I could not take photos on the iPad, due to the lack of light. Here are just a few taken from the information boards. It was awesome, just awesome! Mind you, my knees are never going to be the same again!

The next stage was a steep hike up, up, up to Alto del Duende, where the guide was an old man, with worse knees than me, so I didn’t go into any of the chambers here. The young German couple, told me that their knees were hurting too, and they were in their twenties!! I did read all the information, sat down with the guide, and enjoyed the stunningly beautiful country site.

Time to move on down the mountains! One more stop to make! A place with several sculptures like the ones in San Agustin, but not as old. By now I was quite exhausted. My minuscule breakfast had worn of and I needed fuel if I was to keep on going on! So I stopped in a wonderful restaurant, La Portada, the owner Leonardo , I had met the day before! Lunch was delicious. Leonardo offered to take me up on the other mountain the day after, so he could help me to climb into the burial tomb up there. This burial tomb is decorated with stars, the rainbow, the seasons etc. But……..it is a two hour hike UP the mountain!

Hm! Can I get back on that one, after I wake up tomorrow morning?? I need to see how my legs and knees are holding out! The next morning I woke up, stiff and sore and to more rain! Hm! Time to move on to warmer parts! The desert!

 

 

 

Cool Colombia

On the road to Colombia. The border crossing was very easy! When I worked out that the enormous queues had nothing to do with tourist, but were hundreds of people from Venezuela, I calmed down! At first the signs, or rather the non signs at the Ecuadorean side, made me need to ask at least three times, where I needed to go. The Colombian side was very straight forward. When I stood in the wrong queue, the police man directed me to the two person queue instead! The old man and I started talking, just to pass the time. He shook my hand when it was my turn!

The young man stamping my passport was extremely friendly. Welcoming me to his country. Even obliged by putting the stamp at the back of my passport, where I have lots of empty pages! Across he border, there were only taxies, no collectivos to be seen. I took a taxi to the Santuarion de las Lajas. A church which is famous since 1768. As lots of miracles have happened here! Never one to let a miracle slip by, I burned my nine candles. My driver was delightful. Juan, was sixty and flirted like mad! Which is so funny as he has four grandchildren and has been married for forty two years, he told me! It is a magical place. Stunningly beautiful architecture.

Juan dropped me of at the terminal, where I caught a collectivo ( mini bus) to Pasto. Pasto is famous for it’s beautiful lake. The 64 kilometre drive took nearly four hours. Due to extensive road works. They are building a double highway, with huge bridges over the valleys. Lots of waiting time, which served the people selling food and drinks really well. Their business thrived. Finally we arrived in Pasto and my driver pointed to an hotel across the road. It was a ” safe” hotel he told me! This left me wondering if they have non safe hotels too? The hotel was reasonably priced and close to the bus station. This is all that is important when only staying one or two nights!

I woke up freezing, under my very thin blanket, and watched the down pour! What to do? Stay in bed all day? Go to the lake? By ten o’clock the rain eased up, and I walked the five blocks to the collectivos stand. Half an hour later I was in the Venezia of Colombia.

Two of the local children I played with.

Due to the heavy duty rain, all the roads were flooded. It was amazing. A pretty place. I had hoped to walk to the lake, but this is impossible. One needs to take a boat. Since I am on my own, the price per boat was too high for my liking, and after hanging around for about two hours to see if I could share with other tourists I gave up. It is busy on the weekend, but that was too late for me. I had a delicious lunch of fresh trout in a garlic sauce with salad, chips and plantain ( fried green bananas).

When I came back I walked to the bus station to find out about the bus to San Agustin. Ah, there was one at 6.15am. Do I need to book? Ah, NO, señora, this is NOT necessary! Okay!

Had an early night with an extra blanket. Rocked up at 5.45 am to buy my ticket, and guess what? Yeah, you are right! It was FULL! Okay, lesson one, buy the ticket the day before anyway, what ever they tell you! I took money out of the ATM from the Bogota bank, which charged me A$5,50 for taking out A$86,00 !! So this morning I thought I try another ATM!! I tried the bank of Colombia, again it would not let me take out more money than A$86.00 ! This bank charged me A$7.50!! Doubly great! So they won’t let you take out large amounts, but they charge you BIG money for small amounts! I won’t tell you what language I used! But is was NOT good at six o’ clock in the morning. After a delicious coffee and two corn breads, I felt better! I should start a book, the Zen of travelling!

What a horrific journey we had today! Pasto to Pitalito. Eight hours of solid horror. The mini bus was driven by an absolute mad man! The road is through high mountains, unsealed, sharp Devil’s elbows, rock slides, mudslides, crosses at every corner. Every barrier in every sharp corner is damaged or broken. Advice of twenty kilometres per hour was totally ignored. Going eighty through the sharp corners, cutting them severely wherever possible. All the while driving with one hand, texting on his phone, talking on his phone, coming close to disaster too many times for me to recount. I did my deep breathing, told the driver several times to slow down, these requests were ignored. I was sure I would end my life on this road today. Saw two major accidents, which at least got the driver of the phone for a little while! Four ambulances with blaring sirens and flashing lights passed us. Eight hours of pure hell! ( in Spanish this road is called the trampoline to Death!)

In Pitalito I had to change over to a ute with cover, which was the local bus. Finally at six o’ clock I was in San Agustin. It took awhile before I could climb out of the back of the ute. This lovely young woman helped me. She was the owner of Diamanta Real, a hostel, across the road. I had planned to go up the mountain, but the thought of another ride on any kind of vehicle made me stop. Paula, the young woman, had lovely clean accommodation. An hour later and I was fast asleep. I slept solidly for over twelve hours. Strangely enough I had no nightmares what so ever after this horrifying ordeal.

As soon as I arrived at the hostel, Paula explained where all the archeological sites were, and I booked and paid for a tour. I was picked up at nine in the morning, to go and see the special sites. Our group was seven people, all Colombian, and the driver. No English was spoken. This is actually very good for me. It forces me to understand the fast speech of the locals. I do miss a lot, though. San Agustin is famous for its burial grounds with the unusual sculptures. These burial grounds are between five to two thousand years before Christ. The significance of the sculptures is debated, but they seem to be guides, protectors or guards.

The first stop was a museum. Again everything in Spanish only. Beautiful mural explains the history of the place. The graves were discovered and opened up in 1972. They were already looted. The thought is that the graves have been looted since the mid seventeen hundreds. Some of the gold is in the museum of Bogota. Still the site is very impressive. Several big burial sites and lots of different sculptures. We visited a museum, two sacred sites and a wonderful waterfall. It was a great day. A slow driver made it ever so enjoyable!

The ticket I bought was valid for one more site. The next day it rained cats and dogs. What to do? Stay in bed or face the elements? I faced the elements. Took a motor taxi, promised to pay extra if he went slow! Another beautiful site. Met a lovely young man on the way down.

He kindly offered me his arm, as the path was incredibly slippery and I had fallen already twice. Osman, the kind young man, gave me a lift back into town. By now he rain had stopped, so I decided to walk to the museum about two kilometres up the mountain. A lovely private museum, where they served great coffee! Colombian coffee is one of the many nice things! It is absolutely delicious!

Here I met a young couple from French Switzerland. Alas, they did not speak English! Chatting away in Spanish, I did manage to ask what was wrong with the local ATM machine. They had e same problem and gave me he name of a different bank, which is in Bogota! Okay! Will see if I can solve this eighty dollars a shot problem.

There was an older man sitting there, who spoke wonderful English. His name was Juan, and he spend the last thirty years in the US as a truck driver. We ended up chatting and Juan was kind enough to drop me back into town! I like this place, with its friendly people! Only one more place to visit. I organised my bus trip to Tierradentro, for Wednesday

The next morning I took a motor taxi most of the way to the sculptures which still had most of their colours! When I arrived, there was a film group making a documentary. I waited until they had finished filming before I climbed up to see the sculptures. Very impressive they were too. Walking back I asked the police man if he was going back to town, and yes! I got another lift!! Life is good!. In the back of the police ute with the film crew, we talked, laughed and time flew by.
I like Colombia, interesting places, friendly people and great food! Moving on tomorrow!

Keto in Quito; Keto while travelling

Bolo, chicken, deep fried, probably in vegetable oil. Non keto

You may, or may not, know that I started a new lifestyle choice on the first of January. On advice off my dear friend, Michele Sawyer, I changed the way I eat. Why? The main reason was to combat the terrible joint pains I have been living with these last years. You know, often elderly people complain about their bones? Well, there is a reason for that! These bones bloody well hurt, all the time! After several unsuccessful conversations about this new way of eating, I finally decided I was ready. I have been eating the low GI way for over ten years and have stabilised my weight for most of this time. To take the step to Keto wasn’t too big at all. Actually, it was rather easy!

Organically grown food readily available at local markets.

One of the main Keto ingredients is vegetables, preferable green ones! I have never been fond of veggies, and I HATE green ones the most! My dear friend gave me a Keto for dummies book, well, no, a Keto recipes book. Now all the people who know me, know that I am as interested in cooking as Pirahnas are in bananas! So since the first of January I have cut out sugar, processed food, pastas, bread , rice and all wheat products. After four weeks my joint pains were gone! After six weeks my right knee was back to normal. After ten weeks my left shoulder, which I damaged on the 17 July 2010 and which has given me grief ever since, is back to nearly normal.

Freshly caught trout! I said no to the rice, chips and plantain! Expected just trout and salad!

Of course I had some setbacks, I ate a kilo of green grapes one day. I experienced excruciating joint pain for over five days! Message received! No more green grapes in excess. The challenge however comes now while travelling. I looked on you tube, Keto while travelling, and the main message was ; FASTING! Yeah, great! Lovely if you are only on the road for a day, however I was on the move for two days and a night! I tried making sensible choices, such as salmon, or fish, chicken and leave the rice, leave the white bread behind. Sitting in the gold lounge of Aviance airlines, I DID eat sandwiches, and had a sweet as well! However, I did NOT go overboard, just a few small bites. I compensated by fasting immediately after. Again this was no big deal, mainly because I slept over 23 hours! And by the time I finally had some breakfast, I was well past my 24 hour fast, and back in Ketosis.

lunch on a snorkelling tour

Snorkelling tour lunch

I know a lot of my friends like me to write about the local food. Well, on this trip this is not going to happen! I know that most foods are fried in un- healthy fats, eg. Vegetable oils etc. I have no control over this. Travelling twenty hours on a bus, I DO eat what is given to me! And yes, I had a triple chocolate Magnum at the border! When I get to the Galápagos on Sunday, I will eat a lot of seafood, without the chips, rice or yucca. I had ordered, what I thought was fried eggs, and received a fish platter with yucca and salad. I assumed that yuccas grow above ground, hence It should be fine. As soon as I ate them I realised that they were like sweet or normal potatoes. I just ate a little bit and left the rest. The breakfast platter was huge so I spread it out over two days.

Delicious potato soup, with avocado and cheese

I don’t want to be fanatic about it, but I also don’t want the pains back. Due to the facts that most places were closed on good Friday and Easter Sunday, the intermediate fasting was easy to do!! I do NOT allow myself to go hungry! I wait until my body tells me that it wants to eat. I will allow myself some treats, especially at border crossings, which are boring, never ending and energy sapping. It is all about making choices. Had I only known how easy it is to make the right choices, I would have started much earlier in life! And Yes, I have lost weight, BUT…..it was the weight I put on after I returned from the Old Silk Road. I came home at 69 kilos. Then the weight crept up, slowly, over Christmas, having lots of visitors and, well, making bad choices and not enough movement! The day I left Port Augusta I was back at 69 kilos and my aim is to travel the Keto way as much as possible and increase my walking daily until I am walking again three to four hours daily. I also watch at least three you tube videos about Keto daily, or whenever I have wifi.

Potato soup, with avocado and cheese. Half the price of the first one, twice as delicious!

To make a summary, I will be eating local food, but it will be very selective!! More beans than seven cups of vegetables! More fish than meat. Less ice cream than on previous trips! More fasting, and more just looking at the sweets, rather than eating them!

After being on the Galápagos for three weeks, I have to declare defeat! There are NO healthy fats! I refuse to pay U$15 for a small bottle of olive oil. There is NO butter, only margarine. And coconut oil is no where to be found. Where ever possible I would buy eggs, boil them up for breakfast. All meals in restaurants are made with the wrong kind of oils. On trips the lunches were made with rice, potato and plantain. ( fried green bananas) only on Santa Cruz and San Cristobal did I find avocados. Nuts were plenty full, albeit very expensive. The eating out I had imagined turned out not to be a good option. The meals were expensive, the vegetables rather limp. And I would have a beer to wash it all away. So I relaxed and enjoyed, ate whenever I could, and tried making good choices. However, I was not able to maintain Keto.

Delicious Spanish omelette, quiche, with mushroom sauce. Yes, I did eat the two , very small slices, of bread!

Things I have learned; after three weeks of ” dirty” Keto, my right hand is playing up. I can’t close my fingers. Again they are stiff and painful. My right knee is giving me grief again! Very subtle the changes show themselves. After eating carbohydrates it is much harder to fast. I am hungry much more often. The biggest thing however, my sugar craving has come back! Now after being on the Keto lifestyle for close to five months, I have not had any problems with sugar cravings at all. But after three weeks of not being able to eat the Keto way, they are back with a vengeance.
I did crave fats daily, but after three weeks this craving is gone. I am not sure how to handle this while travelling. I mean I cannot really travel with a packet of butter in my pack. I have decided that if I can find a bottle, plastic, of coconut oil I will buy it. I miss my butter coffee. I have bought avocados, and I do eat a Spanish tortilla in the morning. But anything cooked in restaurants is cooked in unhealthy fats.

Yeah! I DO have a beer with my lunch! It is the only alcohol or drink other than water!!

It is my last day on the Galápagos, in a minute I will go for a coffee. The daily beers will have to go. It has been hot and very humid. In Quito I will go back on Keto. Mainly because it works, it makes me feel good. And I don’t want to undo all the knowledge I have gained. And most of all, I want to FEEL great, full of energy, full of happiness, in my pain free existence. I have come to the conclusion that sugar is the biggest, hidden poison in our food. The hardest addiction to give up, and the easiest to fall back into. Keto in Quito, thank you Dennis for this quote. Every day is a new day, so today I start again. Fasting first. I will not be fanatic, I will have to adapt, but where ever possible, I will leave the bread and the white rice, which by the way, is the main staple of South American diets. Let’s see how I go. Go Keto, Stay Keto.

¡Provecho por ustedes!

p/s I have had many more meals!! Just forget to photograph them!!

Equatorial Ecuador

Twenty two years after I visited Quito last, I am back! I have very few memories of my first visit, so very long ago. I remember the cold, the fog and rain. I remember a tiny little old woman slicing my hand woven, hand embroidered shoulder bag from Guatamala. Not that she had anything to take, it only had my Lonely Planet guide in it! I DO remember it was on the way to the monastery of Saint Francis! So here I am again. In Quito. In a wonderful boutique hotel. The staff is extremely friendly, from the moment I was picked up from the airport by Gabriella and her husband Moses, I felt like I was coming “home”. I booked four nights, thinking it would be enough. It wasn’t !

Ecuador has grown, moved on. I noticed this first in Guayaquil, where the HUGE new bus station was incredibly impressive. The new, safe Malicon was fabulous. Safe, cameras and lots of police presence. I don’t like travelling back to places I have been before. I often find the changes disturbing and the new memory replaces the original ones. But coming back to Quito and Ecuador has been an extremely positive experience.

The first thing I did was to find an optometrist to order long distance glasses. My eyesight has started to give me problems, and suddenly I am in desperate need for glasses. ( I just got a new pair before I left, but decided, as they were just for driving, not to take them with me! So duh, I can’t see anything at airports and bus stations! Let alone details on the fascinating old buildings!) Luckily the owner of the hotel knew this place, rang up, booked me in, called a taxi, and an hour later I had my brand new glasses in my hand! Unreal!

So now with my new insight, or eye sight, I am able to enjoy the fascinating old buildings in the historical centrum. This too has drastically changed! I keep asking people, was this here 22 years ago? A lot of reparations are going on in the centre. Always a positive sign. I DO remember all the poor people sitting on the church thresholds. They still do, but now they are from Venezuela.

Mind you, my friend told me, that the poor people are forbidden in the historical centre. I did a free walking tour earlier this week, with Lucas, a young student in tourism. There were just a young Brazilian couple, who were staying at my hotel and me. Lucas was very knowledgable and very entertaining. He made us act out certain legends. It was fun, the sun was shining and everybody was happy. ( except my legs!) Quito is 2850 above sea level and high in the Andes, so extremely hilly!

I had marked all the musea and churches I wanted to visit, ticking them of as I went. I caught up with my lovely new friend, I made on the ferry from Santa Cruz to San Cristobal, Rosita. She shouted me lunch on Monday. At a vegetarian restaurant. It was lovely. We agreed that I would invite her to lunch on Thursday when she was free again. Her daughter Patty had to get back to work. Holidays are over. I extended my stay by one more night, as I was unable to fit in all the musea in two days.

I visited the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo. I was disappointed to see that all explanations were in Spanish only. I can read it, understand it, but miss the small nuances. Some of the art was questionable. Nine empty, blank canvasses, without any marks, paint or whatsoever on it, just stay nine empty, blank canvasses to me, no matter what the explanation says on the wall. The old tyre on a plinth didn’t impress me, nor did the stack of news papers hanging on a rope!

There were a series of strong portraits, drawn in a material I didn’t recognise. Was it tar?? I asked, and it was shoe polish. These portraits were not of old people, but of street children, who lost their childhood as they have to work for a living. I was deeply touched by these amazing portraits. The comments on the ” Fake news” of mass media, I understood too. I spend a good three hours looking around, going back, enjoying myself immensely. A strong cup of coffee kept me going.

The musea are of high quality, and very impressive. I also enjoyed visiting the many churches, seeing the different styles and the ornate decorations on the inside. Gold, gold and more gold. Of course it is all gold leaf but still, the riches are overwhelming, when at the same time you have people begging for a couple of coins, so they can eat!

Visiting the Equator with my two young French friends, was interesting. We shared a taxi. What a fascinating place. Did you know, due to the strong magnetic field, you can’t walk in a straight line? Nor can you hold your arms up on the line it self, only if you take a step to the either Northern  or Southern Hemisphere ! It was amazing. The other thing I really like was the head shrinkers. In the museum of Guayaquil I had seen some shrunken heads, with the instructions of how to do this! Here the had the instructions in picture form!

I was planning to leave on Friday, so I could catch the Saturday markets in Otavalo. Instead I was invited to a “fiesta”. It was a holiday on Friday, so I thought my friend was inviting me to a street party. I dressed up warmly, as it gets cold late afternoon! Rosita and I met, we weren’t going to the street party , but to her friends house. It was a belated Mother’s Day celebration! Everybody had a wonderful time.

We danced the night away, had wonderful food, and enjoyed karaoke. At nine o’clock my poor body screamed for rest. It was a magic evening with lots of wonderful women. I stayed for the weekend, just to rest up, work in my diary and catch up on my e mails.

On Monday I left for Otavalo. I stayed in a building that was 170 years old and always had been a posada. Che Guevara stayed here, also Simon Bolivar, the liberator of South America, Hillary Clinton stayed here as well, although I doubt she stayed in my room!

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Gorgeous Galápagos, the sequel

The Galápagos consist of many islands. Only four however, are inhabited by people. There are two airports. One on Baltra, an empty island, you have to catch a boat to the bigger island, Santa Cruz. About fifteen to twenty thousand locals live here. The main town is Puerto Ayora. It is a pleasant place. Lots of restaurants, hostels and hotels. There is the Darwin Research Centre within walking distance. A pleasant white sand beach on the other side, where you find lots of marine iguanas crawling along. At the Darwin Research Centre there is a lot of history and back ground. I spend a good two hours there, reading and trying to take it all in.

One day I rented an electric bike, and drove fifteen kilometre inland, to El Chato Ranch.
It made for a pleasant drive! When I arrived, this huge tortoise was crossing the road, I had to stop, and took many photos. At the restaurant, I could charge the battery, while I explored some underground caves. Then walked around the property. I lost count of how many tortoises I came across. On the way back, the bike just stopped! This couldn’t be happening! It was fully charged! Now what? Luckily I was close to the guard house of a local hotel. I had met Cristobal, the guard, in the morning, when he was kind enough to let me use his toilet. This time he rang the rental company. The number on the pamphlet was not responding. So here I was, ten kilometres out of town and no transport. Just then a large truck came out of the hotel grounds, Cristobal stopped the truck, explained the situation and before I knew it the electric bike was loaded into the tray of the truck. Another adventure, another lovely local.

About three kilometres out of town, Juan, the driver, dropped me off as he had to turn in another direction. ” it is all down hill”, he said. ” you will be fine, ” he said. And there I was, on the crossroads of the main highway. Considering how far I would get, with the crooked bike. Luckily Julio, the taxi driver, sat in his cab on the corner, watching me. Offered me a lift, and dropped me off, right in front of the office door. The rental company paid for the taxi. Mainly because I just told them, “pay this man!” It was a loose cable! The elderly man looked at me and said, “you should have plugged this cable in”. Duh, do I look like a mechanic? Mind you, three men looked at this bike and not one realised there was a loose cable! It was all in fun though.

Nadine was staying in another hostel. Here she had met Guiliana, from Germany. The three of us got on tremendously well. We would meet in the evening to catch up on what we had been doing. Have a meal together, have a glass of wine. Very enjoyable.

I made an awesome tour to Seymour Island. I saw nesting blue footed boobies, mating red necked frigates,( frigate macho con la bolsa inflada) flightless cormorants and many, many different species of finches. It was incredibly clever how these tour groups organised themselves. It is about an hour walking around this island. So one group goes left, while the other group goes right. After half an hour you meet in the middle, but most of the time you have the feeling that you are alone on the island. I saw the large land Iguanas. Which were yellow/ orange in colour. They drink the water of the cacti. All the animals have adapted themselves to their environment. Charles Darwin figured this out all by himself, which made him famous. Natural selection! These arid conditions on the islands vary, hence the animals adapted to the islands they were on. After snorkelling for an hour we returned back to town.

Tours vary in price and one does well to shop around. However, having said that, the more expensive tours have better and bigger boats, more lunch, include wet suits etc. I would ask around at three places and pick the middle priced one. There are so many last minute bargains. I decided to NOT go on a cruise. A five day cruise, all inclusive costs U$1000. I did speak to people who had managed to bring the price down a tad. What stopped me in the end wasn’t the price. It was the idea of being on a boat with a whole lot of strangers 24/7 for FIVE days! I get claustrophobic, and the not being able to get away when needing time out would drive me nuts. Different strokes for different folks. I decided to do a day tour on each island, and do a lot of walking, renting bikes and see as much as I could.

The ferry ride to Isla Isabela was smooth and fast. In less than two hours I was on the island. After Santa Cruz, which is the most developed island of the four, the sandy streets and the small size of the place, shocked me. It was also more expensive hotel wise. I decided to stay in the nearest hotel, and look for a better deal the morning after. I ended up in hotel ” Insular”. Great room, good price for five nights, and very friendly people! The first thing I did was to book a snorkelling tour to Los Túneles.

We had to snorkel in a group, which I found hard to do! The water was very clear, and we saw so many enormously HUGE sea turtles! I started to count them , but after twenty I gave up! One swam right underneath me! Not knowing the correct protocol when meeting a sea turtle face to face, I tried to swim backwards! I went to the surface and so did the turtle, he looked me directly in the eyes, and I heard him sigh! ” another bloody tourist”! Everybody else saw sharks underneath a lava tunnel, I didn’t, as I was watching the BIGGEST manta pray EVER!!

It was an amazing day! I rented a push bike and rode to the “Wall of Tears” . A huge wall built by prisoners between 1946-1959 when the island was a penal colony. It was hot and humid. Hard slog going up and down the hilly road! Going down was as scary as going up! I climbed up to the look out and sat in silence, just birdsong, nothing more. It was fantastic. On the way back I stopped at one of the many playas, hidden in the mangroves, and…….met Guiliana! This is one of the nicest things while travelling! When you bump into the same people more than once! Guiliana was walking up to the Wall of Tears. I went on to La Playita, a beach full of Marine Iguanas. It is funny how, when you first see these wonderful creatures, you take thousands of photos, and then after a few days, you go, ah, another Iguana!!

On Isla Isabel, near the ferry, is Concha de Perla, a coral reef, where one can go snorkelling for free. I snorkels with two sea lions playing around me! Four little penguins diving for food, while I watched them up close! At the end I got terrible cramps in my foot and right hand. When I finally managed to get back to the platform, I asked the time, I had been snorkelling for over two hours!! There is a place one can walk to and see flamingos, there were only six there, not very impressive! When you have seen thousands in Namibia, six is a bit understated! I did contemplate booking a dive or two, but settled just for snorkelling in the end. Ever since I dived on Ras Mohammed in Egypt and ran out of air, I am a tad frightened. ( well, no I am petrified!)

I caught the ferry back to Santa Cruz after six nights on the island. It had been raining the last two days, which gave me time to work on my diary and read some books, and not having to do anything at all! ( which is great, by the way!) the ferry ride back was so incredibly rough, not that I noticed as I fell asleep as soon as I sat down! When we arrived three hours later( it is less than a two hour ride, normally) in Santa Cruz, every body walked of the boat with a small black plastic bag in their hands, I wondered what presents people had been given? Later that day I bumped into a couple from Slovenia, with their nine year old daughter, who were on the same ferry. The mother told me that her daughter and I slept the whole ride, while everybody else puked in small, black plastic bags!!

The next day I booked a tour to Pinzon island, where I would see hammerhead sharks for sure! I had hoped to leave on the ferry for Floreana, but everything was booked full. The tour to Pinzon was a bit of a flop, as the motor of the boat broke down. There were seven people on board. Two Americans, one German, two French, one young Ecuadorean and myself. The guide tried to get the boat swapped over, but couldn’t get a ” new” boat. He asked the question if we wanted to turn back or go on? Well, the American couple turned around and said, ” we are going on, we came to snorkel, and snorkelling is what we are going to do”! Hm. Interesting.

As soon as this sort of thing happens, my hackles rise. I was in favour of getting my money back and turning back. ( it was going to take something like seven hours there and back!) So I asked everybody to think about what they wanted to do, and in five minutes we would vote! The Americans were NOT happy! I explained the concept of Democracy to them in very simple terms! Four of us wanted to return, one was neutral, and the decision was made. We would return! Before we could let our guide know what had been decided, the captain made an executive decision to turn back! This took us over five hours as it was! Without seeing anything! I received a voucher for a tour on San Cristobal.

The next day I left for Floreana island. This is the smallest island with about a 170 people on it. It has a very interesting history, murder, intrigue and mysteries never solved. I found a lovely hotel near the jetty. I asked a woman where the main centre of the island was, she looked at me as if I was mad! This empty black lava road was IT!! I did find a wonderful restaurant, Conchalagua, whose owner Betty, was a fellow pilgrim de Camino de Santiago! I snorkels with lots of turtles, sea lions and stingrays. In the afternoon I took a camioneta to the top of the mountain, where I walked around for two hours, seeing lots of tortoises, fresh water springs and old caves. The caves were first used by Patrick Walker, a pirate, who was dropped of here, probably because he was a naughty boy! He grew tobacco, pumpkin and made alcohol which he swept with visiting boats!

In the afternoon watching a mother and baby sea lion playing in the surf, I also saw a mother and baby stingray. They gave quite a good show, just for me! There weren’t many other tourist on the island. Very quiet, peaceful and serene. On my last day I walked to the lagoon, where one solitaire flamingo pranced up and down. The path was hard to walk, as it was all lava rocks. Still plants grew there, which always amazes me. I liked this small island. You didn’t have to do anything, just enjoy nature. There was a tourist office I was told one could book tours there, but I didn’t see it open once! Two nights was all I had, and back to Santa Cruz for my final island, San Cristóbal.

San Cristóbal varied from he other islands! It was dirtier, more rubbish every where. Hotels were more expensive, less clean. I changed my room after one night at a hostel. The owner gave me my money back without asking WHY! She knew! ( the bed and bathroom were clean, but it was small, cramped and the walls were filthy! First time I paid without checking!) found another lovely place, which is where my 360 tour, started from, so it all worked out. The tour was amazing, snorkelling at Kicker rock, we saw hammerhead sharks, only two, which is unusual as normally they swim in schools. I didn’t realise how BIG they were! A white tipped shark, but it looked just like a big grey blob laying on the ocean floor. The snorkelling conditions weren’t very good. The water was murky and with my eyesight deteriorating rapidly, I couldn’t see much at all!

San Cristóbal’s foreshore is fenced off for the thousands of sea lions, who live there. They are a sight to behold. It became my favourite pastime to watch the sunset while watching the sea lions. One little pup, skinny and under nourished, tried to find his mother. He was neglected by everybody. After his exhausting search, he climbed upon a small rock, and went to sleep. I made an effort daily to seek him out, to see how he was doing. On my last night, I found out that he had found his family again. Sea lions are incredibly territorial, and will fight for their space. Outsiders are NOT welcome, this little one was literally slapped away, over and over again!

On my last day I decided to have my Galápagos tattoo! My little blue booby on my ankle! I was so incredibly sad to leave, but after three weeks, and an enormous amount of money spend, it was time to fly onwards to Quito, to start my real travels!!

underwater photos downloaded from facebook

Gorgeous Galápagos

The magic started long before I arrived at my destination. Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz. On my early check in I received an upgrade to first class! Never happened before in my life! Sitting in the lounge area, I watched a gorgeous young girls face as she expected a sweet juice and instead got a sour juice! Her face was the funniest thing ever. I couldn’t help but laugh! The young boy was making observations and his dad quietly told him how he appreciated his young son thinking things through and being an independent thinker. As a teacher I am always intrigued by the way parents interact with their children, as you can see the child s future written in those moments.

As I was enjoying my delicious, expensive coffee and my wicket peanut treat, free of carbohydrates and sugar, a young woman asked if she could sit in the other chair opposite me. Of course! It was Nadine, from Switzerland. Travelling on her own to Santa Cruz. No boat trip booked, neither had the young family. Good to see there are other like minded people. When landing, flying low, I saw hundreds of large fish, jumping about and one huge creature, which I was sure must have been a whale amongst hundreds of dolphins!! Magic! Just Magic!

At the first ecological airport in the world, the airport of Santa Cruz, I met my first locals. Hundred of small lizards running about. All the luggage was handled onto the grids. Smelled, and in one case pissed on, by the the K-9 unit. While waiting for the actions of the two huge dogs to finish, this couple and I laughed about the pissing dog, only cause it wasn’t pissing on our cases! The man asked where I was from, Australia, where in Australia, South Australia, where in South Australia, three hundred kilometres north of Adelaide! “Well, he finally said, then we beat you! We are from Port Lincoln!!” Instant family!! What are the changes, eh? Magic! Just Magic!

All the pre booked people were picked up by their boat companies. The rest, the plebs, had to queue up for the local bus. Entry into the Galápagos is straight forward and direct. Passport control ,you need a tourist card, for which you have paid U$20 when you checked in on the mainland. Next to the passport control sits the U$100 collector. Now I don’t know if this is the entrance fee for all the national parks, or just a general national parks maintenance fee. I am sure I will find out. Next to this money collector, stands the bus ticket seller. U$5 gets you on the bus, which I understood would go all the way to Puerto Ayora. Anyway, while standing in the bus queue, there is an obvious guide/ park ranger talking to a Japanese couple. I rudely, interrupted several times! I really needed to know if that was a whale and hundreds of dolphins I had seen on the plane! The young man was not too impressed by my pushy attitude! Although he politely answered everything I wanted to know!

On the bus I found a seat, right in front of the young family I had interacted with in Guayaquil airport! The children’s faces lit up, and we chatted for a while. I always bring about forty small koalas from the cheap shop, with me. Just to hand out to children who make me smile, or adults who are in need of kindness. Basically I am trying to change the world, using one smile at the time. I gave two little toys to this gorgeous girl and her big brother! The parents were delighted. We chatted for awhile. I did tell the boy I gave it to him as he was extremely polite to me that morning, and the little girl, because she made me laugh, with the funny faces she pulled!!

The bus trip went fast. We spotted our first large, iguana and a huge bird. The ferry cost an additional dollar and the young guide was kind enough to help me get on and to sort out the hassles with everybody’s luggage. I gave him my last koala for the day and his face lit up in delight! I told him I appreciated his, reluctant, kindness. His face was magic, just magic!

On the other side of the water another bus awaited us, another U$5 to be paid. At this rate my money will be finished before I get anywhere! The bus trip was uneventful and before I knew it I was at my pre booked hostel. I had asked for a bed near a wall in a four bed dorm! Imagine my face when I received a room with a double and one single bed in it, and a private bathroom! Since I was first in the room I picked the double bed, I was there for five nights, only once meeting one of my room mates! Would you believe she was a girl from Eindhoven? The city where I was born!

One night I was on my own, a great deal for U$15 a night! That night I Treated myself to a delicious fish meal at one of the many local restaurants, and lo and behold if I didn’t hear my name being called! It was the Swiss girl, Nadine! How lovely it is when you meet people again after you have encountered them before! Nadine joined me for dinner, and afterwards we decided to walk to the Charles Darwin research centre. Who would I meet on the way? The wonderful family I met that morning at the airport! We chatted for a while, and walked on.

Again my name was called, you wouldn’t believe it, would you? It was he lovely young guide from the bus stop with his Japanese clients. By now I had worked out that he was their private guide, and I apologised for my rude behaviours that morning. I introduced Nadine, and we agreed to meet later for a drink. The Charles Darwin research centre itself was closed but you could still walk around and see the tortoises. How excited I was! On the way back we stopped at the Ceramic garden, where we saw our first sea lion, marine lizards and many, many birds!

Jorge, the young guide I had met, wanted to shout us both a drink, as he had been given an enormous tip by his Japanese clients. Jorge wanted to give me a present too! He told me the story of his little doll, who went every where with him! A character from a famous Mexican children’s show. El Chavo del Ocho, I was reluctant to accept, but realised he wanted to give me something back. After convincing me that I had changed his day, which was a tad blue, I accepted. A lovely evening was had by the three of us. At nine o’clock I had to declare defeat, and excused myself and left the two young people alone, to go and have a well deserved sleep! What a day it had been! New friends, tortoises, sea lions and marine iguanas! Magic, pure magic!

Feature photograph by Nadine Alltweg

Art and Culture in Peru

 It was unfortunate planning on my part, that I arrived in Lima, Peru during Semana Santa. The first twenty three hours were wasted on just sleeping! Only to find out that on Thursday and Good Friday all the galleries and musea were closed! I had picked my hostel, just because it was located close to the Museo de Arte Contemporaro. Fortunately my bus to Trujillo left at 10.00pm on Saturday night, which meant I could spend all day indulging myself in the art and culture of Peru. I did however enjoy the many murals and street art the day before.

At the MAC entrance I met a delightful couple from Bath, England. We kept finding each other in front of the same paintings and sculptures. The space was enormous. The museum was opened in 20017 and was indeed very impressive. What I liked was that each work of art was given plenty of space around it, the dark blue walls enhanced the works as well.

There was an enormous painting, which kept pulling me back. It was in black and white, very layered, very intriguing. Imagine my surprise when I found out it was painted by a Dutchman, Gam Klutier, who has been living in Peru since 1981. After googled him, and saw more images of his work on line, I became a big fan. I enjoy the palimpsest intrigue, wanting to see beyond the first layer. I hereby include some more photos of works that I enjoyed.

When Amal and I started talking, she invited me for a coffee. Amal was born in Iraq, an English mother and an Iraqi father. Her husband Salah was originally from Yemen. Salah is a retired eye specialist for children, and Amal is fluent in six languages and works as a translator. Fascinating and interesting people.

We found out that we were going to the same museum afterwards, so they suggested to catch a taxi. Non of the taxies stopped, so I suggested to jump on a local bus instead. Of course my high energy and enthusiasm, made us all jump off at the wrong place! Yeah, well, this is how I travel! It was a huge craft centre, terribly expensive, but magnificent handmade goods. There was a hand crafted bed, which really was a sculpture! Hand woven, hand knitted, gorgeous dresses and jumpers. At two hundred dollars a jumper, I left them in the shop!

We, well, I, decided to walk to the next museum. Pedro the Osma. The building alone was just awesome. It was mainly religious art, but at the back was a delightful, gallery with sculptures. Afterwards my new found friends and I said good bye. I declined to share a taxi, preferring to walk the hour back to my hotel. Passing another gallery called ” MATE”, the Argentinian social drink! It had a great collection of photos by Mario Tesserino, who took the last photographs of Diana, just before her death. He is a famous Vogue photographer. Thoroughly enjoyable!

That night I took the ten hour bus to Trujillo, sleeping for nine and a half hours! I arrived totally rested, I had arranged to an early check in! So I showered, put on my lovely new dress, my friend Kym gave me, and went to the Cathedral of Freedom. Just in time for the Easter service, where first the tragedy in Sri Lanka was acknowledged. The Mass was deeply touching, the bishop speaking slowly and clearly. I nearly understood it all! The cathedral itself was stunningly beautiful. All the ceilings were painted, it was light, bright and very warm and welcoming. On the way out the bishop blessed all the people, he stood still in front of me and said something to me, before I received the blessing! When I turned back to the front, the woman next to me hugged me, while she had tears in her eyes! I have NO idea what all that was about!

That same afternoon I went to the famous Chan Chan site. I had not planned to do tours, but I was rested, had energy and the tours were dirt cheap. All the famous sites near Trujillo are part of the Moche culture, from I-VIII AD. I only knew what I had read in the Lonely Planet. Fascinating history. I went to see El Brujo, where the Lady of Cao, was found in 2005, wrapped in layers of cloth. Found dressed, with all her teeth, hair, dress and jewellery. She was probably between 20 or 25 years old, and might have died in child birth. One of the most beautiful places was the Huancas del Sol y La Luna. Absolutely fascinating!

I had every intention to go to Chiclayo, further north. However, I had booked myself here for three nights, not realising that the only bus to Ecuador, does NOT stop in Chiclayo!! I needed two more days! Shame! Due to jetlag, Easter, and of course bad planning as usual, I am missing out. Ah, well, I found half day tours easier, and more interesting than full days. I have a need to wander around the streets, going to musea, visit old local houses, and take it easy. Leaving for Ecuador tonight. Flying to the Galápagos Sunday morning. I am thinking of coming back this way, time permitting. Ready to go on.

On the road again, another time, another place.

Here I am. In the LATAM lounge at the Auckland airport! The gates will be opening soon. What a day. I left Adelaide very early this morning. My darling son and his gorgeous wife, were kind enough to take me to the airport. The Adelaide check was fast and easy. Except I left all my medication at the X Ray machine. Luckily I found out before boarding and I was taken back on a trolley with flashing lights!! VIP feeling, and I only just started my trip! I asked several staff members about the very tight connexion in Sydney. The woman at the check in counter was NOT impressed! ” you should have booked an earlier flight” this is NOT the responsibility of Qantas”! She obviously got up in a lousy mood! Mind you this was the ONLY unfriendly person I encountered! And it happened to be in Adelaide!

Great! Luckily all other staff members were incredibly supportive! Of course I wasn’t the only one with a tight connexion! There were all together six, two people who needed wheelchair support, which they didn’t get by the way. When all the people were on the bus, to be driven across to the international airport, a lone, black back pack, sat lost and forlorn out there on the Tarmac. This resulted in two buses stopping for twenty minutes, while emergency services dealt with this Lone Ranger! Then they waited for another trolley to come and pick it up. Glad to see people in Sydney are doing their job right! Of course Qantas held the plane for us!

I was supposed to have a two hour time slot at Auckland airport, due to the delay, I was on the next flight within an hour! The eleven hour journey to Santiago de Chile, was boring. Took my sleeping tablet, my painkillers, watch Bohemian Rhapsody again and two more movies which I have forgotten already. Barely slept! Plane was packed! Chair not reclining, all good. Did a lot of Spanish practise with the staff members! When I left the plane, the first class flight attendant gave me a good bye gift! She could not believe I can travel for five months with a 6.7 kg backpack! I didn’t tell her that I buy another bag on the way, which I fill up as I go!

Waiting in the lounge I connected with a lovely young woman from Switzerland, who bought me a cup of coffee, and gave me her little pillow to travel with. After big hugs she left to catch her connecting flight. After a four hour sleep, I chatted with a lovely young man from Brasil, who had just broken up with his wife, and was shattered! I lend him my ears, and gave him lots of kind words, while he sobbed in the airport lounge. Big hugs, and more good byes and I was on my own again. It is really those short intense Connexions with other transient souls I treasure.

There was no information desk, it was the wonderful, elderly cleaning lady, who guided me towards my new airline’s golden lounge. After organising my seat, no boarding pass as yet, the young man let me into the golden waiting room, where there was a buffet of food, drinks, soft drinks and wine was freely available! Stuck to coffee, charged my iPad with the free Chilean connector, and indulged in another short sleep, and watching Trevor Noah and Steven Colber on You Tube! Ah, life in the golden lane! How wonderful! Don’t dare to take another sleeping tablet! The last stage of my journey, for now! LIMA here I come! I can taste the Pisco Sour already!! 

Dilijan and Lake Sevan

Dilijan is a lovely little town high up in the mountains, it is a wonderful escape from the city heat! The cool change has arrived! It was wonderful to actually be cold for a change! Glynis came to pick me up from the bus station. As we walked to her hotel we passed the museum, and of course we hopped in, as you do! It was surprisingly good! Some excellent contemporary art.

Glynis’ son, Joe and his friend Asya, joined us for lunch. There is a lovely arty-farty cafe In the Main street. The B&B was basic, but not too expensive. Two nights for the price of one! The old part of Dilijan has been renovated, and is rather delightful! Little fancy boutiques, and a wood carving shop, jewellery shop, and galleries. Very attractive.

After Glynis left the next day, I visited the monastery, Hagharts, 11-13th century. I saw some Khatchkar stones, scattered in the country site. ( from 996) the other monastery was not accessible, due to the heavy rain the last day and night, there were mud slides, and it looked like there was more rain coming! The taxi driver still charged me though, although he knew full well I wasn’t able to get to the actual monastery! Ah, well, such are the breaks!

Lake Sevan was only about an hour away! For the first time on this trip, I was yelled at! Three Polish hikers were on he marshrutka and carried their big packs on to the bus. One of the packs was dropped in front of me, and I just held it up, so it wouldn’t roll around on the bus! This young woman hopped on the bus and by the look on all the other passengers, I know she was not being polite at all! As she is yelling at me, I very politely and friendly pointed out that this was NOT my back pack, and that she could yell at me all she liked, I didn’t understand a word she said! The back pack was moved to be with the rightful owners in the back, and the woman grumpily sat down! Very unusual, the yelling I mean, as Armenian people were up to now so incredibly polite and welcoming towards tourists! May be Dilijan just has too many of them!

At Lake Sevan I found a lovely guest house, where I managed to book a taxi driver to visit the Hayravank Monastery. Afterwards I visited Sevanavank Monastery, Arakeslots Church (874 AD)
It was just so incredibly busy with tourists, that I decided to go back the next morning, without the crowds! The guest house had locked the gates! Hm! Now what? I use crawled underneath them, and walked the half hour to the top!

I was on my own for the first hour! Stunningly beautiful, quiet and peaceful. Lake Sevan is very, very blue, due to the moon stone that is found here!
I slept all the way back to Yerevan, so I have no idea how long the trip took! I caught the metro back to the hostel. One more day to go, before leaving Armenia! I was so fortunately that my cousin wrote to me about the fabulous museum of Sergey Parajanov’s, an Armenia artist, filmmaker and very famous person! It was a wonderful way to finish my visit to this amazing country. Five days of rest and relaxation in Oman, and another fabulous trip has finished. I am grateful and feel incredibly blessed.

Yerevan, Armenia

Yerevan, oh Yerevan. What can I say that does you justice? The first thing one notices is the water fountains! Fountains are absolutely every where. Drinking fountains and coffee dispensers on nearly every corner! Large leafy trees provide one with the necessary shade. Yerevan was hot, stinking, boiling hot. Most days it was forty degrees, in the shade!! I had so many plans, but running around in this heat was just not practical! Instead I found a lovely cafe with very friendly staff, and cold, cheap beer! It became my favourite watering hole!

The museum was fantastic. Informative and well set out. It was a tad confusing that they had the national art gallery on the second floor and you needed to buy extra tickets! I saw the works of Minas Avetisyan, an Armenian artist, who died quite young, at age of forty seven in a car crash. His works are vibrant, colourful and stunningly beautiful.

I did a tour of three of the major attractions. Khor Virap, which has Mount Ararat as a back drop. However, it is unusual to see the mountain in the summer time due to the haze. I was fortunate that the fog lifted for about ten minutes and I could see the impressive mountain. The mountain, as the myth has it, was the landing place of Noah’s arc. It was from this mountain that he send the doves to see if the water had diminished. The mountain has always been part of Armenia, and is regarded as a Holy site. Now, however, it belongs to Turkey, which is an on going dispute between the two countries. Needless to say they are not friends.

Khor Virap was build in IV till XVIII, I was disappointed there were no frescoes of importance. When I saw the Armenian churches in the Armenian quarters of Isfahan, Iran, my expectations were set too high! After KHor Virap, my crazy taxi driver, Artur, drove me to Etchmiadzin, the Hripsime church, which was build in 618. (I was suppose to see the cathedral, to this day I am not sure if this church was the cathedral or not! ) Not having a Lonely Planet is a problem at times. I realise how much I rely on the information in the guide book!

Last but certainly not least, we visited Zvartnots. The first cathedral in Armenia, if I am correct. The remains of St Gregory are buried here, or was it St George?? So many Saints, such a small brain to retain all the information given to me! If I had been smart I could have written down the main points of interest!

There is so much to see and do here, it comes down to having the energy and the money. One can do tours, with groups, but only on certain days is one able to visit certain sites. I took a private taxi, which is a tad more expensive, but gives those young people an income as well. Plus it is a lot more fun when one cannot speak a communal language and you need hands, feet and facial expressions to communicate ! We laughed so much. Artur was thirty seven years old and had a seven year old daughter and five year old son. He was keen to show photos of his lovely family, just a shame he was driving while doing so!!

Garni was another fascinating place.i believe it is the oldest pre Christian site in Armenia, it dates from the 8th century BC. The Temple of the god Mihr was beautifully restored. There were ruins of the palace and the King’s bathroom, which had Roman mosaic floors. It threatened to rain all day, and it was extremely overcast. The previous night it had rained profusely, resulting in a rockslide, which closed off the road to Geghard! I had paid Artur to visit both sites, but as this was an act of God, neither of us could help this. We did have an interesting intermezzo with a trail of police cars behind us, sirens blaring, lights flashing, Artur was not disturbed by any of it!

When we were stopped by the police, who had blocked the road, Artur told me it was the president, with his entourage, visiting the rock slide site! Hm! It could have been! I choose to believe him!

I visited the impressive Genocide Museum and monument. Deeply disturbing tribute to the genocide of 1915-1922 , when an enormous part of the population was murdered by the Ottoman Empire. I cried. How anybody can kill small children and innocent babies if beyond my human understanding. ( and still goes on today!) I met a lovely woman from England, Glynis, ( who was also crying ) and we ended up spending the day together, and shared a meal at the end of it. I don’t often eat out, mainly because it is a boring thing to do on my own, and the breakfast at the Bonjour Guest house is so incredibly huge, that I am often not really hungry for the rest of the day. We ended up going back to the museum, and again to see the art of Minas Avetisyan.

Last but certainly not least, was Cafesjian, Center for the arts. An amazing place where I spend nearly a whole day! The main galleries were closed, only open from Friday till Sunday, I happened to be there on a Thursday! Shame! Didn’t have the energy to go back a second time! A sculpture garden and show casing European artist, in a display that changes every couple of weeks.

Glynis was going to Dilijan the next day, and asked if I wanted to come. I had to organise this with the guest house, as I had booked and wasn’t sure if I could change the dates!

So the next day I travelled to Dilijan, high in the mountains, where it would be lovely and cool! Of course it was Murphy’s Law, that the cool change came the night before I left! Go and figure!

Ancient, Amazing, Armenia

Armenia, what did I know about Armenia? I knew it was one of the first Christian countries in the world. That seemed to be the extend of my knowledge. I did visit the Armenian quarters in Isfahan, Iran. Where I visited the genocide museum. So I knew about that too. Two small facts. Hm! I have no Lonely planet, so I visited the tourist information centre in Gyumri. I was helped by the gorgeous Araks. My level of ignorance showed up very quickly.

I had seen a star with Charles Aznavour’s name on it in the fort at Akhalkalaki, Georgia. Here is an enormous statue of Charles Aznavour at the beginning of the centre of town.
What has Charles Aznavour got in common with this region? Charles real name is Shahnour Vaghinag Aznavourian. His father Michael, was Armenian, born in Akhaltsikhe ( now Georgia) and mother, Knar, was Armenian, born in Izmir, Turkey. Apparently he has got his statue, because of his enormous financial support of the people of Gyumri, after the earthquake.

Earthquake? Which earthquake? On the 7th of December 1988 at 11.45 an earthquake hit Armenia. Two different accounts on how high it was on the Richter scale. One source says 7.2 and another 6.8 either way it was enormous. A large area was affected, mainly Gyumri. Most of the buildings that were build during the Soviet time, had a poor quality concrete, and hence collapsed. An estimated 50.000 People died, and an estimated 130,000 were injured. Over 500,000 people ended up homeless.

There is an enormous monument that reminds people of this tragedy. It also explains why so many of the buildings in town are damaged and derelict. Overgrown with weeds, high grasses and wild daisies, it creates a feeling of despair and neglect, even after thirty years. Large concrete blocks, rubble and an enormous amount of rubbish add even more to these negative feelings. The centre of town, the main tourist area, is being done up beautifully, a lot of major repairs are undertaken.

Arak took me to the oldest barbershop, in Armenia(?), which was completely undated by the earthquake, and still in the same state as when it was first opened!

I have read all the articles suggested by the lovely Araks. I now know about the Velvet Revolution last May, when people took to the streets in their millions and over threw the government. Without any blood shed. I now also know more about the Armenian Genocide, but will visit the museum in Yerevan, and afterwards write about it.

One of the major highlights in Gyumri was the visit to the two sisters, Eranuhi and Mariam Aslamazyan. I liked the bold, colourful works of Mariam the best, while I admired the subtle portraits of Eranuhi. These sisters were something else. Eranuhi was married and had a daughter, while Mariam stayed single. These sisters travelled all over the world, India, Sri Lanka, Africa and painted on location. This is way back in the seventies, when home duties, kitchen duties and duties to husbands and children was still the norm!! After spending time here all I wanted to do was paint! I will re think my travelling, I have been dreaming of taking an easel and materials to the slopes of the mountains in Mestia, Georgia. I will look into this!

I stayed in a lovely backpackers, right in the centre of Gyumri, and although very noisy, I had two excellent nights before travelling on to Yerevan.

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