Month two: Crossings

Month two has been wonderful. I’ve met many more travellers from all over the world, improved my Spanish and made an ocean crossing. I am still scared of bugs.

Places visited: Peru (Cusco, Machu Picchu, Lima), Colombia (Bogota, Cartagena), Panama (San Blas islands, Panama City, David, Alimarante, Bocas del Toros), Costa Rica (Puerto Viejo, Cahuita).

Currencies: Nueve Soles, Colombian Pesos, Dollars/Balboas, Colones.

Time differences: -5, -6, -7 GMT.

Modes of transport: Plane, taxi, car, bus, water taxi, sailboat, chicken bus

Favourite things: Spanish lessons in Cusco, the Inca Trail, stepping onto a deserted island, everything about Panama City, seeing a sloth.

Worst things: Colombian immigration, waking up in Bocas to a powercut in the sweltering heat.

What I should have brought: Litres of insect repellent.

Items bought: T-shirt, necklace, book, sundress.

Items lost: Pants. Very upsetting.

Books read: State of Wonder, Born to Run, The Handmaid’s Tale, A Thousand Splendid Suns, How to Travel the World on $30 a Day

Illnesses and injuries: Sunburn, seasickness, carsickness, general vomiting, scrathes, insect bites of all types.

Strange/ Interesting food: Lobster out of the shell, Dairy Queen

Best food: BBQ fish on an island with coconut rice, Jamaican jerk chicken

Coming up in month three…Costa Rica and its rainforests, Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala. Expecting a lot of volcanoes and beaches!

Sailing the high seas

The Independence sailed from Cartagena on the 19th – we started with a full day crossing the open sea, before travelling between the San Blas islands. The islands are almost too beautiful, with white sand and clear blue water, complete with coconuts and palm trees.

Our captain was fairly crazy, but the other travellers were a really nice group of people, who I‘ve still been hanging around with now we are in Panama.

We ate fresh lobster and drank rum, jumped off masts and went snorkelling. Stepping onto some of the smaller islands felt really deserted; it‘s something I’ve been fascinated with for so long, actually being there was quite surreal.

I‘m really glad I got a taste of life at sea – although it has made me reconsider my future calling as a sailor. 

Meanwhile, I am busy falling in love with Panama City. More soon!

Adios to South America

I‘m currently spending a few more lazy days in Cartagena before sailing across to Panama via the beautiful San Blas islands; after a little over six weeks, it‘s almost time to say goodbye.

My trip didn‘t originally include time in South America, but I‘m really glad I came. It is more different than I could have expected, leaving me continually surprised and inspired.

(Inside a mud volcano, just outside Cartagena)

The countries I visited remind me a lot of Zimbabwe, from the brands sold to the places they sell them, the colour of the grass, and the absurd weights people manage to carry.

My impressions of Brazil are obviously coloured by Carnaval – it would be nice to see what Rio is like during a more normal time of year – but it remains one of my favourite cities I‘ve visited. The Pantanal was definitely furthest outside of my comfort zone, and while the scenary and wildlife were simply amazing, I don‘t think I‘ll be heading back there.

(The geographic centre of the South American Continent in Cuiaba, Matto Grosso)

Into Bolivia and my first taste of Latin America; I saw such a range of urban and rural landscapes here. I saw, and then ate, my first llama (not the same animal!), witnessed the indigenous culture that is still alive and kicking, and started to see the same travellers in different places – I officially joined the Gringo Trail.

Peru saw me become more confident, in both getting around on my own, and in speaking Spanish. I took lessons in Cusco and have been chatting to locals as much as I can. The country is full of adventure, as well as jaw-dropping natural beauty, and I would definitely come back here.

And now Colombia! The heat is very welcome, and the pace of life slows way down. People here seem more relaxed – there‘s no shocked stares if you wear shorts – and there‘s also a larger mix of different ethnicities. After Bolivia and Peru, the variety takes a little getting used to.

I‘m very excited to see what Central America has to hold!

Fear and trust

In South America, when someone asks you if you want to jump off a cliff, you say yes. Even if you’re shaking. Because how many times will you hear that question?

When people hear about my trip, they tend to think I must be terrified all the time – because travelling alone is gambling with your personal safety – or that I am never afraid.

Of course I get scared.

But I don’t accept my fear as an excuse not to do something. In fact, I’m more likely to use it as a reason to do something scary.  Because that same something is usually really exciting.

I also tend to trust people. Maybe a little too much, but I’m glad of that. I would not want to go through this wonderful world afraid of everyone I meet. Travelling alone makes trust a requirement; trust not to hurt you, trust to welcome you. It opens up so many possibilities that have already made this trip an incredible experience.

Here’s to the next adventure!