Tag Archives: travel

Colombia Diary Entry

14th August 2014 – Tayrona, Colombia

Cabo San Juan Beach

The thin page of my notebook is flapping in the breeze. It feels flimsy to write on, almost wet, warm and muggy from the damp humidity. Something stings on my ankle, and a hand slaps down to catch it, brushing sand loose. My hair is coarse and wet with the sea, pulled into an unyielding bun at the nape of my neck. The waves crash in front of me, just white lines of foam looming out of the dark.

Cartagena

I am writing this on the ledge of the sandy patio, sitting in the pool of bright white light that spills from one lone lightbulb above the tienda. Three Colombian men are leaning against the blue concrete walls, bellies exposed, speaking in lazy Spanish. I miss most of it, only picking up the odd ‘amigo’ and ‘hija de puta’.

Hamacas

We are in Tayrona National Park, camping in hammocks in the Colombian jungle, and I keep having to remind myself that the salt water dried in my hair belongs to the Caribbean. I am sitting under a palm tree, and the dark nook that connects my ledge to the wooden steps beside me makes me think of tarantulas and iguanas, red ants and other toe-curling creatures. The wind is picking up now, and the chatter from the open restaurant behind me dies down.

Colombian Flag

Tonight we ate a cobbled together camping dinner of boiled eggs, canned tuna, candy and peanuts. The ‘pan caliente’ here is delicious, ham and cheese for just $3,000 pesos, the equivalent of about $2.10 NZD. We buy cans of beer and drink them on the beach for $4,000 pesos. Those are a little more expensive. We hiked in today, catching a five hour bus from Cartagena at 5am. We stopped at a bus station and watched as the sun rose over a hazy sky, casting a milky morning glow over the bus drivers as they sipped their cafe tintos in the derelict carpark.

Cartagena Flag

My Spanish is incredibly rusty, and the Colombian costeños speak with a slow mumble that I find unbelievably hard to decipher. But each day it improves, and we add another phrase to the repertoire, another way to sound a little less gringo. We’ll sleep in hammocks tonight. We snagged the last two somehow, just bright stretches of fabric slung beneath a thatched island roof of palm leaves. It seems surreal that just a few days ago we were waking up to 3°C, our breath misting in the freezing temperatures inside our bedroom, and de-icing our windscreens before driving to work.

Jungle Trek

Tomorrow we plan to hike up to El Pueblito, some ruins about three hours up a nearby hill. Afterwards we will lie on the beach and swim in the warm soft water, drinking those cold lemony beers and reading books from faraway places on our Kindles.

Tayrona was definitely worth the hike.

Sunset Over the Beach

practice – not long now

We’re going to South America soon. Our tickets are booked and waiting, a space for us reserved on some LAN Chile manifest sheet. Our backpacks are empty and expectant, a smug 38L, ready to be carted across insanely expansive plains and up the mountains of the Andes. I haven’t thought much about it until now. It hasn’t felt real. South America to me is just a massive expanse of land on the other side of the map, sketched scribbles tracing far away mountain ranges and coastlines, like a figment of a particularly geographically gifted kid’s imagination.

But it is starting to whet the appetite for adventure, writing this. I am beginning to imagine landing in Santiago, to a cold, sprawling city, filled with a language that I love and people who will speak it much too fast for me. My own rusty Spanish will be dusted off and I will try, shyly at first, perhaps to a shopkeeper who might smile bemusedly and step closer to lend me his ear. But it will get better, along with our pathway across the continent, and by the time we hit Santiago again I will make that same man laugh and nod with some witty local repartee. That’s the plan anyway, so here’s hoping.

I’m not taking a laptop – hell I’m not even taking face wash, obsessed with that elusive minimalism as we are – so I am practising by writing this with pen and paper, scrawling black lines of ink across the pages of an uncharacteristically girly Typo notebook. My hand has already started to cramp – I’m going to have to get better if I’m going to document this trip properly. But the thirst has begun now, almost like the ink that has unlocked it, my sense of adventure has begun to flow.

We are travelling there in August, the South American winter. Working for a New Zealand skydiving company, it’s hard to get time off in our shared summer. So because of this we are starting north – after a quick stop in Santiago we hit Colombia, then down to Lima, then Cuzco, Machu Picchu, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, Patagonia. Places that up until now have just been names and learned capitals, a word to pull out at a pub quiz with an ‘aha!’

I’m still getting my head around the fact that we will actually see these places, do mundane things like eat breakfast and wash our clothes in these far away cities. I guess that’s what travelling is about, really. The wonder, the thirst to keep going, see more, the absolute beauty and surrealism of the experience and the landscape, accompanied by everyday things like showering and clipping nails, those things that keep you tethered to home, to the person you are.

I can’t wait now. Time for the expired passport to be renewed, the Mini sold, the tiny backpack packed. My hand is killing me now. I’ll be back for more practice soon.

Sydney lights

I wrote this last week when I was in Sydney, before moving on to Brisbane and Byron Bay, and then home to Taupo, NZ.

Sometimes things are almost more beautiful when they are blurry. Tonight I came back from yoga, at hom in Sydney, a delicious place where the heat from our collective breath steamed the high windows, the 38 degree humidity felt as though it was sinking right into my sweat slicked chest and they sold iced coconut water from a tiny fridge nestled beneath the reception desk.

I walked back to my hostel through the bustling crowds and lights, holding my bag to my side, my steps slow as the warm evening air swirling against my still hot skin. My eyes were still blurry and short sighted from the class, so used to focusing on my breath and staring lazily at my upside down shins through half closed eyelids. As I stepped onto George Street, my breath snatched away as my eyes trailed up, above the crowds across the road. The Town Hall was aglow, its beautiful old stone an exquisite canvas for the light from the projector that was wreathing it in radiant, brilliant patterns of colour.

I stood across the street with my wet hair, marvelling up at the hall as I waited to cross, my eyes not quite picking out the design, but not trying to either. It was as unimportant as it was beautiful. Some others around me ignored the magnificent show, their impatient glances flickering between each of the streetlights, anticipating when they would turn, their clenched hands tight on the straps that held their bags. Eager to get home, I guessed, to wives and boyfriends and new babies and houses that smelt of warm cooking. But many more took photos of the Hall, pointing and smiling in wonder, or turning to friends with delighted, open mouths, their cameras forgotten in their hands.

The streetlights turned and the green man shone across at us, the sound of his tapping feet echoing across the empty, grey expanse of intersection. The rush of people was immense, like the sea, crushing in on each other, hundreds of steps crisscrossing and darting between others. I love crossing the road diagonally. Something about it is so thriving metropolis, so urban, so, Tokyo.

George St, Sydney

It makes me feel the way I am, just one tiny fish in an entirety of a huge melting of culture, insignificant and immensely small. Something about this thought awakens me, enlivens me, instead of being the depressing notion that it sometimes would be, if pondered differently. There is nothing expected of me, nothing to stop me, nothing to hem me in. I just have to live, and be content, and that’s all right with me.

It was only when I got closer that I realised what the design was. Christmas wreathes, green and red and gold, winding their way across the stone façade. It made me smile even more, until I was grinning alone in the street, taking blurry photos with my cassette clad iPhone. I am a Christmas freak. Goes with the territory of having a name like Holly, I suppose.

Tomorrow I will go to see the Opera House and the blue water of the harbour, the green trees nestled amongst the houses of the opposite bank. I have not seen it before, only from the air as we flew in, our plane hanging low above the near suburbs. The gorgeous Harbour Bridge stood proudly above the twinkling blue of the ocean, reminding me, bizarrely, but perhaps expectedly, of Finding Nemo. I smiled looking down at the winding blue, imagining a little clownfish in there, and angry crabs.

Sydney Opera House

those damn itchy feet

The itchy feet have struck again.  They are like a plague, some kind of warped obsession, an obsession that has me scouring webjet.co.nz, my mind whirling with the possibilities and the wildly exhilarating knowledge that I have enough in my account at this moment to just grab a flight and go. Vancouver, Tokyo, Tahiti, maybe Chile? Reading the checked baggage conditions and the flight times quickens my heartbeat, and my mind flits to the backpack that hangs in my wardrobe at home. I begin to think what I would take, a bikini, and a pair of jeans, mascara, make up wipes. My mind is already formulating the list, whirring with excitement. Jandals and my journal would be thrown in, a pencil and a glue stick too. My passport would be rummaged from the drawer, the bed made and left, empty.

I look at travel photos of friends on Facebook and I am jealous. So jealous! Enticingly wild photos of rice fields in Vietnam, back flips into the azure water of the Croatian coast, hot street food in Denmark. I feel the familiar rush of thirst for the unknown, for those parts of the map not yet ticked, as yet unseen, just curved lines on paper as far as I know. I want to breathe the spices of Africa, see those cherry blossoms in Japan, eat chimichangas in México, feel the sticky heat of a summer evening in Shanghai. I am hungry for change again. But for now, I guess the snowy view of the mountains is pretty good.

Skype

I felt the miles between us then. Felt the acres and acres of sea and sand and grass, the mountains stretching out across the globe, just one tiny thread, this phone call, binding us. I missed her now. It was good to talk about new friends, funny stories, silly American girls who snap their fingers at bugs, happy to laugh together and smile at each others frozen photos on the screen. It was only afterwards, when the phone call had stopped, the soft crackle of the speaker abruptly silenced that I felt it. My little sister is so far away, and I miss her. We are so close in every other way, we see each others photos and light hearted comments and share stupid YouTube videos within seconds, but if I wanted to see her, actually hug her and laugh wetly through the tears, she is hours and days and thousands of kilometres across the oceans, brave and happy with new friends.

boundless travel

It’s a strange thing, this travel. I have nowhere in the world that I need to be. No commitments, no chores, just the world at my feet and pocket full of money earned from a summer of seriously hard work.

And suddenly, decisions get hard. Because there are so many options. I think about all the things I’ve ever wanted to do, and my head reels with all the choices. Laze on a beach in Thailand for three months, volunteer with elephants in Cambodia, visit the Red Square in Moscow, work with the orphans in Romania, see the Northern Lights of the Arctic Circle, Angel Falls in Venezuela, Bora Bora in Tahiti, snowboard the Alps, Yosemite Valley in the States – I could spend hours on this list!

So I’ve decided to take it one step at a time. My goal for this year is to have my first White Christmas, and wherever that takes me, we shall see!

halfway up the steps of the Calvario

The Calvario Steps

The day is warm, the sweat beads on my upper lip and the sun warmed stones beneath me are slippery against my skin. The sun is waning behind me, dropping lower and lower towards the horizon, casting shadows that grow longer with each passing moment. The village clock chimes once, a high, solo note, signalling quarter past seven. Even the air tastes sweeter, the still, hot air more caressing, the arguing tourists passing more insignificant in this new found freedom. Ivy grows up the face of the villa across from me, artfully guided into a perfect arch above the doorway. Everything here is warm, ambient. The colours are terracotta pinks and warm beige; the stones forming the ancient roads are still warm from the Mediterranean sun that rested there, half an hour before.

It is past siesta time and everybody is out. It is mid August, the busiest time of the year in this tiny village, and yet everything is still, tranquil. The humidity muffles the sounds of the restaurants down below, the air too dense to allow the clattering sounds of cutlery and kitchen bells through. I feel as though I am the only person here, even though I can see, high above, a camera laden couple picking their way carefully down the stairs.

I try to imagine winter in Pollenca. The village blanketed in a damp cold that penetrates through to your bones, the cool, drafty stone houses would provide little relief from the biting chill. These smooth stone streets, would they be covered in a thin sheet of ice? Would there be a cap of white snow on top of the Puig? I can’t imagine it. Everything about life here seems to be adapted to this heat, under this oppressive, unwavering, almost ruthless sun. The tiny, hairless dogs seem as though they would hardly survive a winter. I hear them barking now, small intermittent yaps coming from houses all around me. Their feeble barks mingle with the growing and fading chatter of the panting tourists who pass me.

Casita on the Calvario
Casita on the Calvario

They walk confidently, the tourists, yelling at each other often, the women indignant, the men arrogantly knowledgeable. Some walk with an absent minded, almost confused air about them.They stop often to contemplate their new surroundings, and chatter to each other while pointing triumphantly at different landmarks.

The clock chimes again, three alto notes this time. It is a quarter to eight. A warm breeze has picked up, I feel a subtle shift in the evening. The sun has moved lower still, soon it will dip below the far hills into dusk, and later, Pollenca will be bathed once again in a sultry, hot, moonless night.