EBC Trek – Tengboche to Dingboche

Wow, today was the most incredible day! For many reasons!

Firstly, before breakfast I had a little wander around the village. The early morning had brought on clear skies and revealed what we had missed out on yesterday when we arrived. It turns out we had been surrounded by more mountains the whole time! Knowing this yesterday would have made the hike up to Tengboche so much easier! I wandered around, enjoying the peace and quiet of the early morning and making friends with some of the village animals. After awhile I headed back inside to join everyone for breakfast.

Our accommodation in Tengboche – check out the mountains!
Forever making new animal friends
 

Secondly, at breakfast I actually had a real coffee! They had an big, fancy coffee machine (god knows how it got here!) and were pouring out delicious coffee all day. I lashed out and ordered a mocha and was stoked that it actually tasted like at home! It cost about $5 but the caffeine hit was more than worth it!

We began the hike to Dingboche and I’m not sure whether it was the caffeine or the stunning view but I felt particularly good today. The first hour of the hike was lovely, through lush green forests along a flowing river. The water in the river almost glowed an aquamarine colour. It was quite warm still and the temptation to jump in for a swim was still there.

Leaving Tengboche

As we hiked through small villages, past porters of all ages carrying loads of all weights, it was again lovely to just hike in silence and enjoy the view. There was a short uphill stint before reaching the village where we were having a break. Again, we were sat here for ages waiting for the final members of the group to arrive. As we were a diverse group, we all had different walking styles. Some people had raced ahead and had been at the meeting spot for an hour whereas the slower members of the group were still good hour or two behind us. Krishna gave us the go-ahead to keep walking but like yesterday, the long break had evaporated our motivation to hike on.

It was a short uphill stint again but at the top we were rewarded with the most incredible view! Lhotse and Nuptse, Mt Everest’s next door neighbours  stood before us while Everest herself, hid behind the cloud. Surrounding us was the most spectacular mountain range. I was in Himalayan heaven! Energised by the stunning view, the six of us who had formed a little hiking group were enthusiastic about the rest of the hike. We walked through a valley at about 4100m, heading towards the Everest mountain range. I felt like I was in Frodo in Lord of the Rings, going on an adventure! We were tiny specks of scenery compared to the vast land mass around us. The mountains that had looked so far away just a couple of days ago, were now dwarfing us in the valley. The landscape had started to change and the dense, green forest transformed into sparse, desolate rocky plains. Only the toughest of plants can survive in the thin air and it was clear that there wasn’t many that could.

B admiring Lhotse
On the way!
Cheering about the stunning view!
One of the many porters carrying massive loads.
Hello Dingboche!
 

We walked through the valley for about an hour, enjoying the lovely mountainous hike until the inevitable uphill began. It was nowhere near as bad as yesterday, maybe because of the clear skies giving us motivation to keep walking or the remnants of the caffiene were still working. It took about an hour or so to hike up the path and around the bend into Dingboche. This little village was situated in a small valley, surrounded by some of the most famous mountains in the world. We were here for two days to acclimatise and with the view as good as this, I wasn’t complaining! Tomorrow is a rest day with just another acclimisation hike about 400m higher.

J. X

EBC Trek – Namche to Tengboche

After a pleasant “rest day” yesterday it was time to get back into hiking higher towards Base Camp. This morning brought another magical view from my windows. The mornings were so crisp and clear that all the mountain peaks surrounding Namche were in full view. Whilst my sleep routine was so out of whack, I was thankful that I was waking up early to witness this amazig sight. Usually by mid-morning the clouds settle in and cover up most of the mountains. 

Today’s destination was Tengboche, a small village of the top of a huge mountain at 3875m. In the village there is a Tibetan Buddhist Monastery which is the major money maker for the small village. In 1989 this monastery was destroyed by a fire so thanks to financial aid for volunteers all around the world, the monastery was rebuilt and a ‘Master Plan’ was made. this included building a water supply system for clean drinking water, an Eco-tourism centre to promote more sustainstable tourism, improving school and education systems for the local people, establishment of sacred land for high altitude medicinal herb plantation, a hydropower station for assured electricity in the village and better facilities for the porters. Without the help of this financial aid, the Tengboche Monastary might not be here today.

Our hike began the same way as yesterday and feeling slightly more energetic from the influx of red blood cells I bounced up the steep track. The path flattened out after half hour and it was a beautiful stroll along the edge of the mountain. We were walking towards the same view as yesterday but as usual Everest was hidden by cloud and Lhotse was claiming all the glory! . I was starting to think that Mt Everest was just a very clever marketing ploy by Nepal Tourism – or its the world’s best mountain at hiding! It was still surreal to think that I was walking along the Everest Base Camp trail in Nepal. Just a week or two ago I was working in a office, now I was here! 


The path was built into the side of the mountain and with no guard rail to keep us in, one wrong step could mean a very long fall into the valley below us. Our group had formed its own little mini-groups, measured by walking pace. Three guys zooming ahead at the front, our group of six with us three Aussie girls, two Scots and one of the Germans. Behind us were the trailing Germans and the Americans taking it nice and easy. We mostly walked in silence enjoying the scenery, leaving conversation for break times where we spent most of the time discussing the scenery! One may say we were a little one-track minded! 

We walked along the path for an hour or so before we started to descend into the valley. It appeared we had to walk down to the river to cross it before making our way back up again to reach Tengboche. Undoing all our hard work from yesterday we dodged donkeys and yaks as we stepped our way down to the river. I could feel the pressure in my knees already from walking down steps. If they could last the whole trip, it would be a miracle! 

Stopping for a lunch break (at 10:30am) we sat in the sun at a little cafe by the flowing river and waited for the last of the group to arrive. This little break turned into a massive two hour one and by the time our guide Krishna told us to ‘Jam jam’ (Let’s go) we were all drowsy from the sun and not in the mood to hike up to Tengboche. Nonetheless we put our backpacks back on and walked across the suspension bridge that would start our hike uphill.


This hike uphill wasn’t fun to say the least. The constant steps, thinning air and moody weather made the hike uncomfortable and it was slightly frustrating that we were higher only just a bit higher than we were yesterday. If only we didnt have to go down to the river to cross it! As the heavy clouds set in for the afternoon, there wasn’t even the stunning mountainous views to look out to. Pink wildflowers dotted the path but apart from that we were still in quite a forestry, green area. The temperature dropped dramatically with the clouds and it was getting chilly, especially in our sweaty clothes. Thankfully there was the six of us hiking together so we all were in the same boat, happy to stop regularly and dream about a warm cup of tea and clean socks!

The porters carrying loads of up to 140kg were always a remember not to complain about your own backpack

Finally we reached Tengboche and as per usual, the last two hours were erased from my memory. It seems I was suffered from short term memory loss when it came it hiking. Once I reached the destination and become enthralled in it, the pain of hiking uphill disappeared. I wont lie, its quite a good problem to have!         

We walked into our lodge, thankful to be out of the cold and starving hungry. Thankfully the lodge knew we were coming and were quick to get food and drink out to us. After lunch we had a little rest before visiting the monastery to watch the monks perform one of their sermons. Our guide Dawa warned us it would be long and loud and to feel free to leave at any time but I was intrigued to see what goes on behind monastery walls, it seems like such a sacred and secretive place.

The monastery had a strong Chinese influence to its architecture. We walked through the huge ornate gate, elaborately designed with gold painted ornaments and walked up the stairs to the entrance. We had to wait for the monks to enter before we could go in and the whole thing felt a like cult like. As we walked in I was gobsmacked by the interior of the room. For a building that sort of looks like a large dormitory on the outside, it was so beautifully decorated on the inside. The Chinese influence (I guess its Chinese? Could be Buddhist?) flowed through the room, with more ornate carvings on the walls and roof.  Incense burned and candles were lit, creating a very zen-like atmosphere. There were four rows of long raised wooden boxes that the monks sat cross-legged on top of. Long, gold instruments sat at the two front corners of the room and several monks sat behind them, ready to play when told to. At the front of the room sat a statue of very large gold Buddha, the siza of the whole wall! I felt sorry for the poor sucker who had to lug this massive statue up the mountain, it was bigger than an elephant! His huge presence loomed over us and we sat on the hard wooden floor, pretending to not be there. I wish I could have taken a photo but were were forbidden to bring cameras inside.

Dogs of Tengboche
A monk waiting to begin his afternoon ritual

We sat waiting to see how the sermon unfolded but didn’t have to wait long as the monks opened their scripts and began to chant. There was a lead monk who ran the chants and the others followed. His voice was raspy and at times he seemed to just be making noise, but the others followed suit so I can only imagine it was part of the mantra. They added the musical instruments to their chants and the large horns scared the crap out of us sitting close to them, as the monks blew them without warning. I stifled a laugh, our dirty, tired, smelly group couldn’t be more out of place in this sacred building.

The chanting went on and on. They stopped at times and then began up with a different chant or a new blow of the horn. It was mesmerising to watch in a way that you could almost fall into a trance,  but after an hour the hard wooden floor was making my backside numb and some of us in the group were giving each other side eyes to see who would get up and leave first. 

Thankfully the Germans left first, making way for the rest of us to slowly file out and head back to the lodge. It was almost dark by this time and dinner wasn’t far away. They had lit the fire in the dining room of the lodge so it was toasty warm for our return. After dinner we had another UNO competition go down. I have to say, not having access to technology has been pretty great. I feel like we’re closer as a group because we haven’t spent all our times in front of our mobiles. It was another early bedtime as we were knackered from today’s efforts and knew tomorrow was going to be another big one.

J. X

EBC Trek – Chomua to Namche Bazar

After a solid sleep in the fresh mountain air, I was ready to face what the day would bring. The sky was clear in the early morning and the snow-capped mountains that were hidden by cloud last night decided to show their faces. We wouldn’t be getting out first glimpse of Mt Everest until the next day but the view was already jaw-droppingly beautiful. 

We had breakfast – porridge and honey for me- before jetting off on the trail. Today we were only hiking about 6km but would jump about 600m in elevation. Hopefully the porridge power would pull through! The first hour or two was quite leisurely. We followed the river, surrounded by pine trees and beautiful mountainous terrain. It was surprisingly warm and layers of clothing were being pulled off left right and centre. Just as I was thinking I could get used to this lovely hiking business, we approached the Hillary Bridge – aka the ‘suspension bridge of death’.


Tied up about 200m above the river between two very high cliff faces was a bit of metal rope that was our way across to the rest of the path. To make matters worse, the old bridge was still intact about 50m lower, making the Hillary Bridge appear even higher. Why we couldnt walk across that bridge I didn’t dare to ask, I just hoped for the best. We hiked up the stairs to the start of the bridge and faced the what was about to come. Before we could walk across, we had to wait for a herd of donkeys to come across. It made me feel a little better because if it could support 18 donkeys, then surely it could support me!

Once the donkeys were safely across we lined up to cross. I wanted to be up the front so I had a quick exit. Once we were walking out on the bridge, it didn’t feel as scary as it looked. The bridge was quite stable despite the loose wires everywhere. The view from the middle of the bridge was incredible. We were in the middle of a huge gorge and in the distance the snowy mountain ranges could be seen. I wanted to stop and just watch for awhile but I was creating a backlog of traffic as another herd of donkeys were waiting to cross.



Now that we’d crossed the Hillary Bridge, the first tough part of the trek was ahead of us. Two or so hours of uphill hiking. Our guide Krishna took us a different way which seemed steeper – he said because its less busy but I think he was just testing us out! It wasn’t the worst hike in the world. We stopped regularly to enjoy the view (and catch our breath!) and passing the odd Sherpa carrying a 100kg load was a reality check that we didn’t actually have it bad at all. I could definitely start to feel the affects of the rising altitude, you had to really focus on breathing in the thin air. Though this was only a taste tester of what was to come in the coming week.


We reached Namche Bazar after a final climb into the large village. Namche is a groovy little place built into the mountains. Colourful houses and lodges are stacked on top of each other in the terraces of the mountain and the pebbblestone streets are lined with bakeries and shops selling all sorts of hiking paraphernalia. Situated at 3400m we had a brilliant view of the mountains and our guides assured us its even better when the clouds clear in the morning! We had the afternoon free to ourselves so a few of us wandered around the town however as the whole place was going through a power blackout there wasn’t much going on. We headed back to the lodge for dinner and a few games of UNO before heading to bed.

Haven’t mastered looking like a hardcore trekker yet
Hello Namche Bazar!

The next morning I woke up to the most spectacular view outside my window! It was only 5am but already the light was light and the colourful houses were enhanced by the white reflection of the snowy-peaked mountains that surrounded us. Our guide Dawa was right, this view was 120% times better! I sat in bed and watched daylight fully form in front of me. It was a really, really pleasant way to start to the day!

Goooooooood morning Namche Bazar!!


Today we had an acclimatisation day so after breakfast we headed for a short hike a little higher to get some more red blood cells flowing through us. Again, I didn’t find it too difficult, was just short of breath for most of it. However the views easily outweighed the shortage of breath situation. Once we hiked uphill for about half an hour, it cleared to a big valley were the views were 360 degrees of beautiful mountainous ranges. We had scored the most brilliant day with only a few clouds in the sky. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m from a really flat country or I’m just easily excited but I couldn’t stop gushing about how stunning the views were. How can Mother Earth get it so dang right!?


In awe of the view
 

We climbed another 400m in altitude and at the top reached the Everest View Mountain Lodge. With a name like that we had high hopes about what was to come. We’d been spotting peaks of mountains over the past days and asking our guides if they were Everest. “Not yet,not yet” they would say. But today we were promised with our first glimpse of Everest. 

As we arrived to the tea house it was recommended to walked to the back garden and through the gates towards the lookout. As I pushed opened the big blue wooden doors it was like finding Narnia. A small path lined the edge of the mountain and looking out from there were the big beautiful mountain peaks we’d been hiking towards. Beyond the path dropped into a steep valley and the river that we had been walking beside only the day before. As I walked the 30m to the lookout, I was greeted by the bluest sky and a mountain range which I just knew had to have Everest amongst them. After discussing with the group and getting confirmation from Dawa it was true! Everest was in front of us!

Welcome to Narnia
Our first view of Everest! (She’s on the left)
 

The crew stoked about catching a glimpse of the might Everest

The thing I didn’t realise about Mt. Everest, is that front this side (the Nepal side) Everest was blocked quite a bit by the mountains beside it. Lhotse and Nuptse, the two massive mountains that stood beside Everest were trying to steal its thunder. Lhotse in particular was succeeding because from where we stood, it appeared much bigger than Everest. . And proceeded to fool every single one of us in the process. What we later discovered (once we had taken a bazillion photos) that the tallest and most grand moutain we were seeing, wasn’t actually the moutain we’d come to see! So all the selfies, group pictures and excitement was over a mountain that wasn’t actually the tallest. The disappointment was real (though I secretly think Lhotse was a more spectacular mountain anyway!)

Possibly the cafe with the best view in the world?!
Coming back into Namche Bazar
 

After all the confusion, we settled for the fact that we had actually seen Everest on a brilliantly clear day so all in all it was a good morning. We hiked back down to Namche for lunch and had the afternoon free to do as we pleased. It was quite a hot day so I braved an ice cold shower as it had been a couple of days since I’d had one. Hot water was an expensive commodity around these parts so a hot shower cost about $6AUD! Most of us were planning on going as long as possible without showering to save money, but the temptation was definitely there! As there was still no power most of us opted for a snooze and another wander through the town. After dinner we were settling in for another round of UNO in the dark when the lights suddenly came back on! We cheered and some of us headed down to one of the bakeries in town for a quick WIFI check in on the real world before heading back up to play more UNO.

It was another early night. We had a big hike to Tengboche tomorrow and the combination of constant exercise and the lack of air was tiring us out quite quickly. Going to sleep at 7:30pm when Big Dog goes to bed suddenly didn’t seem so unrealistic for a bunch of grown adults!

J. X

Coffee Plantations & Waterfalls

After our couple of days living in the isolated paradise of Tayrona National Park, we headed back to Santa Marta and got the chance to wash our hair and dry out our clothes and become civilised again. We were only staying for the night before heading to the small village of Minca, which was only half an hour away.

Minca is famous for its coffee plantations and jungle-like surroundings. Hidden away 600 metres above Santa Marta, its the perfect place to escape the heat of the Caribbean coastline. The tiny village is all of one small road long and full of friendly Colombians offering lifts or tours.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
A village local

We arrived in the late afternoon, just as the heat of the day was starting to subside. Our hostel for the night was Casa Loma, which was this groovy treehouse-esque style hostel tucked in high above the village of Minca. We were thankful for only bringing small backpacks as the walk up to Casa Loma was a vertical ascent. Sweaty and out of breath, we reached the open area of the common area and checked in. Already I could tell that i would love this place. Big timber tables sat out on the edge of the mountain, with the spectacular jungle view below us. The hostel was covered in postcards and memorabilia and the staff were super friendly. It was obvious that people stay much longer than they intend here, its just a very homely place.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Casa Loma

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Our beds for the night

We checked and signed up for the home-cooked dinner that night because a home-cooked meal sounded absolutely amazing (and we didn’t want to have to climb those stairs again!) To tide us over until dinner there was a very welcoming tray of brownies that we tucked into. As we watched the sunset over Santa Marta, with our beer and brownies, it was clear that Casa Loma had definitely won us over.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Dinner was delicious but slightly on the small side, luckily there were extra brownies for dessert! We headed to bed early that night, eager to make the most of the following day. It was another night in a hammock but these ones were miles better than the hammocks at Cabo San Juan. I managed to get a full night sleep comfortably and woke up feeling fresh and ready to explore the area.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Sunset at Casa Loma

We walked down the hill to a little cafe and had a filling breakfast of plantain, eggs and chorizo – washed down with local coffee. After breakfast we negotiated a price for some of the locals to drive us around for the day. Our driver from yesterday was there and he happily organised drivers for us and off we went on the back of their little moto-taxis ready for adventure.

Our first stop was the La Victoria coffee farm, about a 15 minute ride from the village. This small coffee farm still uses the original machines and has ingenious systems using water to transfer the coffee to one point from anywhere on the huge farm. We learnt about the coffee making process and the steps that goes into creating the perfect cup of coffee.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Our drivers and us at the coffee plantation

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Learning about the coffee making process

It was interesting to learn that all the best coffee in Colombia gets shipped overseas and the Colombians only use the second and third rate coffee beans. It seemed peculiar that they would give away all their incredible produce but I guess whatever pays the bills! The farm does keep a small selection of the first grade coffee for their small cafe, which we happily took advantage of! They even had freshly cooked brownies and carrot cake which had our name all over it. This was definitely turning out to be the brownie tour of Colombia!

 

After the coffee farm tour, we jumped on the back of the bikes again and were taken to Pozo Azul to cool off. This little swimming hole was the perfect way to spend the afternoon and we played in the icy water, jumping off the waterfall ledge and taking a few too many GoPro selfies! We reluctantly headed back to the village of Minca, sad that the day had gone too quickly.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
At Pozo Azul

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

DCIM102GOPRO

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADCIM102GOPRO

DCIM102GOPRO
Defs up for Colombia’s Next Top Model :p

Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 1.23.52 pm

Unfortunately we were out of time in Minca and had to head back to Santa Marta to catch the bus to Medellin. It was a quick but peaceful stay in the this tiny village and when I return to Colombia one day, I’m definitely going to spend more time there. Its the perfect little oasis to escape the daily grind of travelling.

Now to catch the bus to Medellin! Hello 16 hour bus ride – I’m sure you’ll be a delight! :/

J. x

Tayrona National Park

We were back in Santa Marta and ready to tick off another one of Colombia’s must-do things. The Tayrona National Park was about a two hour bus ride from Santa Marta and super cheap, thanks to the local buses. Tayrona National Park not only has an immense natural importance on the region, but also it is a cultural treasure as it was once inhabited but the famous Tayrona tribe. Their culture is still present today with their direct descendants, the Koguis tribe still living and maintaining many of the original traditions.

We reached the park entrance and paid our entry fee (note – bring a student card if you have one, chops off 45% of the price!) and took a colectivo to the start of the hiking trail. We planned to stay in Arrecifes for the first night, mainly because it was the first stop on the trail! We hiked for about an hour through the Tayrona jungle, dodging long hanging branches and spotting monkeys. After being in busy Santa Marta it was nice to be back to nature, with hardly anyone in sight. Reaching the campsite dripping in sweat, we paid for our hammocks and dropped our bags off before heading to find some water to cool off in.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

However the beach at Arrecifes isn’t suitable for swimming due to its dangerous currents. Judging the currents and our swimming abilities, we decided to ignore the sign and paddle in the huge swell. This didn’t last long though as a security guard swiftly came over to tell us off. At least we got to cool down a little!

Food was next on the agenda so we headed off down the trail in search of comida. There were a couple more campsites and small restaurants as we walked along the trail. The park had a very ‘Lost’ feel about it, I was expecting to see a crashed plane and a tribe of people to come running out at any second! We gushed over the beautiful scenery and the amazing light of the setting sun before stumbling across a life-saver of a lady who sold the most delicious bread in the world! Freshly baked, still warm pan was just what we needed for an entree for dinner. We sampled the ham and cheese, the guava jam and cheese and the chocolate bread before telling the lady we would be back first thing in the morning to have it again for breakfast.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
After views in Tayrona National Park

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Beautiful sunsets

We found some dinner at a small restaurant at the next camp to ours. Full from the bread, we just had a small dinner before attempting to brave the walk home in the jungle alone. We were all set to go until some fellow travellers told us how they had just seen the alligators by the beach. Slightly freaking out, we ruled out walking back by the beach and decided to go via the way we came. However the topic of snakes popped up and suddenly we were too scared and stranded to walk back alone! Luckily a couple of locals were heading the same way we were so they guided us back through the jungle and we made it back to our hammocks snake-free. Sleep came easy that night, which was surprising because it was the first time I’d slept overnight in a hammock. But the clean hammock and solid mosquito net made for the perfect slumber, especially with the sound of the ocean lulling us to sleep.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Our ‘hostel’ for the first night

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The following day we packed our bags up and hiked towards El Cabo San Juan. Despite it still being early, the sun was beating down on us hard. We dodged some monkeys and made a pit stop at La Piscina (‘the pool’ for those non-Spanish speakers) for a quick dip and to admire the amazing view. Finally the white sand, turquoise blue water dream I had been envisioning was starting to come to life.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Horses for when you couldn’t hike anymore
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
La Piscina – the ‘swimming pool’

DCIM102GOPRO

We walked onto El Cabo San Juan, which took about half an hour and jumped straight into the blue water. This place was way busier than where we had been previously, mainly because it was the most advertised area. We spent our day sun baking, swimming and generally enjoying life. L and I braved swimming out to a huge rock with some boys we met and managed to scar ourselves climbing up the rocks to jump into the ocean. Luckily there were no sharks nearby to smell the blood!

DCIM102GOPRO
GoPro Fail #10230949
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Cabo San Juan

DCIM102GOPRO

We dined on garlic prawns and rice for dinner and played cards until it was an acceptable time for bed. This sun-baking business was tiring! Unfortunately I didn’t sleep so well in the hammocks here, they just weren’t as comfy as the night before.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Fresh garlic prawns! Muy bueno!

After a fitful night of tossing and turning I was happy to get up and start the day. We had freshly cooked ‘caprese pan‘, which was warm bread filled with cheese, tomato and pesto sauce, washed down with a fresh maracuya juice. It wasn’t quite as sunny as yesterday but we still managed to get in some solid sun baking time. We considered staying another night but the thought of sleeping in those hammocks again put us off and we decided to head back to civilisation that day.

In the late afternoon we had a final meal at the only restaurant on Cabo San Juan and caught the boat back to Taganga and returned to our hostel in Santa Marta for a proper shower and a bed! Tomorrow we planned to go to Minca, the tiny village in the mountains about 40 minutes away from Santa Marta. I couldn’t wait!

J. x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Diving in Tagana

To be honest, I hadn’t really considered scuba diving in South America. But then again, I hadn’t really planned much past Cusco and here I was in Colombia by the Caribbean coast so I guess anything could happen. Like the majority of the things that I’d done so far, I’d heard from other travellers that scuba diving was cheap and beautiful in Colombia so I dug out my old PADI license from the depths of my bag and signed up for refresher course.

My pal L and I booked our dives with Tayrona Dive Centre in the small town of Taganga. This little town was known for diving and crazy parties but it was so dirty and unfinished I was much happier staying 15 minutes away in Santa Marta. Our dive instructor Juan made us watch a video on the basics of scuba diving and then suited us up and ushered us out to the boat. L hadn’t dived before so I was expecting the first dive to be all about learning techniques and skills but once we were in the water, Juan made sure L was calm and confident and we set off to discover the world below the water. It sure was a big change from when I got my PADI license a few years ago, where it was all about safety techniques and practising skills. It was nice that they were so relaxed about it all because we got to spend more time under the water!

The first dive I was still a bit nervous because it had been four years since my last dive but once I got my ears to equalise I was on fire.We swam amongst schools of fish and past healthy looking coral life. Massive puffer fish floated past us and we found lion fish hidden away in in the hard coral. We took a break on a lone beach, where small geckos flitted around our feet before diving into the clear waters once more. I’d forgotten how amazing diving was and was so glad I decided to do it again.

DCIM102GOPRO

IMG_1892

IMG_1909

 

IMG_1910

IMG_1916

IMG_1919

IMG_1921

IMG_1956

IMG_1925

DCIM102GOPRO
Cheese!

DCIM102GOPRO

IMG_1930

DCIM102GOPRO
All the gear … No idea

The following day we woke up early again and headed back out to Tanganga for our second day of diving. I was feeling a lot more confident today and loved every single under the water. Completing my Advanced Dive certification was now much higher on my bucket list!

IMG_1939

IMG_1942

IMG_1943

IMG_1960

DCIM102GOPRO

IMG_1994

IMG_2004

After our dives we said goodbye to Juan and headed back to Santa Marta. The following day we spent at Playa Bahia Concha, a local beach on the outskirts of Tayrona National Park. It was the perfect way to decompress after our two days diving.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Hanging out at Playa Bahia Concha

DCIM102GOPRO

Tomorrow we head out Tayrona National Park to discover one Colombia’s must-see attractions. And to get in some more tan time!

J. x

 

A Holiday From a Holiday in Palomino

It was time. I’d been gallivanting around South America for about four and a bit months now and was surprised at how worn out I was getting at playing tourist. Whoever said travelling was a walk in the park obviously has only been on all-inclusive holidays. This travelling business is just as hard as a job, the only thing is that its full time. So after reaching Colombia, I was a little tired of always being the tourist, I just wanted to relax and chill out. I guess you could say I wanted a holiday from my travels – ah its a tough life!

Luckily Colombia is full to the brim of places to get stuck in and really just live like the Colombians. After a week and a bit in Cartagena, I was ready for some serious beach time and Palomino Beach seemed like the perfect idea.

I caught the bus to Santa Marta and spent one night in this hot, busy city. Santa Marta didn’t leave much of an impression on me in the short time I was there. It seemed too chaotic, dirty and busy so I caught the bus to Palomino the following morning to meet two of the English girls I had stayed with in Cartagena. The drive to Palomino was long but beautiful. We passed Tayrona National Park, the starting point of the Lost City trek and many different little roadside villages. I arrived at the Tiki Hut Hostel where the girls were staying at instantly felt at ease. This tropical resort looking hostel was exactly what I was chasing. I spent the afternoon lazing around the pool with the girls, catching up on what we’d been doing in the past week.

The following day I did more of the same – devouring the amazing breakfast on offer at the Tiki Hut, sun baking, swimming and sampling one of the best brownies I’ve had ever. Not even kidding, these brownies were LIFE-CHANGING! Life is good! I went tubing down the river with some Danish girls that were also staying at the hostel and a big group of us solo female travellers found a delicious vegetarian restaurant that we may have visited twice in one day!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The Tiki Hut – amazing!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Screen Shot 2016-06-18 at 6.17.55 pm

For the first time of the trip I was surrounded solely by girls and it was absolutely wonderful. We were all either travelling solo or in pairs and it was great to see how we could all come together from different parts of the world. I felt like girl power was definitely at its finest in Palomino, no boys needed here! I also found it hilarious that despite your address, every group of girls will have the same conversations. We talked about boys, our bodies and futures. As cheesy as it sounds but talking with these girls was empowering and it made me realise that my decision to travel instead of settle down was the right decision.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Girl Power!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Falafel and quinoa 
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Raw beetroot salad

We stayed in Palomino for the week, extending our stay every morning much to the hostels staffs humour. Each time we’d go to reception they’d said ‘Another night girls?’. That was another great thing about the Tiki Hut, the staff were so friendly and welcoming. I definitely recommend this hostel to anyone in Palomino – it’s the perfect place to enjoy the Caribbean coast. Plus the pancakes at breakfast are absolutely bomb!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Palomino Beach

One of the English girls L and I wanted to go diving so we reluctantly left our little oasis in Palomino and headed back to Santa Marta to find a dive school. We booked into Masaya Hostel which was a grand old building, that must of have been a fancy hotel back in it’s day. The best dive shops were 15 minutes away in the small town of Taganga, so we put it on tomorrow’s do-to list and enjoyed dinner at a small little cafe called Carambolo, which had the most delicious wraps and drinks. It was here that I was introduced to coconut lemonade and let me just say that my life has never been the same! Carambolo was situated in a colourful little street that opened up into a big square, which was much nicer than the area of Santa Marta than I had seen briefly. My opinions on this city were starting to change.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Inside Masaya Hostel

We headed to bed early that night, still running on our Palomino schedule where the bed time was early and the sleep was solid. Tomorrow, lets go diving!

 

J. x