Archive for the ‘South America’ Category

4th December 2020 I booked a 10 day dive trip to the Socorro islands in Mexico in the hope that Boris Johnson would keep his promise of restrictions being lifted during Christmas. As I could not fly via America, I booked a flight for the 26th December via Paris- Mexico City- Cabo San Lucas. On the 17th December a new (Kent) variant appeared, whereby most European countries shut their borders to enter from the UK including France. It was a week of HELL. I put all my cards on this trip…I’ve become accustomed to solo travel ever since I did my first trip to Thailand in 2011. I love travelling on my own because it’s the ultimate freedom and forces me to meet new people. I can do whatever I want, whenever I want, and I don’t have to worry about compromising. Needless to say how much I missed this during the year of Covid-19 when independence and freedom were the last on the list of opportunities.

As the situation was getting worse and worse by the day I got more and more angry, frustrated and desperate for my trip..I saw flights being cancelled, borders being shut but in my mind I hadn’t given up. My flight to France at 6am on Boxing Day was still ON! I did all the requirements, negative Covid test, packed my bag, bought a new underwater strobe, ordered spare batteries, my mind was set on this trip and for some miraculous reasons I found myself on that plane early morning on Boxing Day. I felt as if I had won the lottery! Empty airport, closed shops, hardly any people, fast check in and security, I stood there in that huge empty space and in that moment it was all that mattered.

The plane from Paris to Mexico City was full..

The whole trip to Cabo San Lucas was a whopping 30hours but I didn’t feel tired. As I was in the taxi from the airport in Cabo to my hotel I stopped the driver on the main strip, I listened to the live music from the car, watched the people having fun in the bars….and from that point I left Covid, the restrictions, the demoralised feeling, the fear, all the ‘walking on eggshells with people’ and the cold winter behind. I crashed in my hotel, next morning I went to the gym, had breakfast, checked out and headed straight to my Liveaboard, Solmar V.

It was warm! I had a bit of fear what the group would be like based on my last Madagascar experience with the French group but the fear was gone after I checked into the boat and met my roomie, Katy. Lovely girl, passionate about diving, super laid back, I knew I was going to have a blast. Maybe I didn’t think of the extent of blast I would be having! Once everyone was on board we left and it took us 24h to arrive from Cabo to San Benedicto island.

The famous Arch of Cabo San Lucas
The first group of dolphins en route to the Archipelago Revillagigedo

During the first 24 hours we could drink alcohol from the afternoon as we were not diving, so Bernard our wonderful bartender was bringing the Margaritas and within the first 6 hours the Tequila group formed..

Mark and Todd, the American brothers, Manuela and Filipe from Brazil, Katy from California, Klaudia from Poland living in Mexico, and our divemaster Rodrigo from Mexico. What a group this was!

The first (check out) dive wasn’t very successful for me as I had a 5mm brand new wetsuit and I didn’t have enough team saw a Manta, so they didn’t wait for me! I adjusted my weights and went down after trying to follow the bubbles, but couldn’t see them so I came up after 10 mins. But at least I was set for the next day with the right weight!

29th December

Fantastic schools of Hammerhead sharks, really action packed dives, Mantas on each dive. I was in my happy place!

30th December

I saw my first ever whale shark!!! The most emotional part of the trip! So so so so so so so happy!!! And for the record, I DID NOT RIDE THE WHALE-SHARK despite the rumours of my Tequila Team…..

Every afternoon after the last dive we sat on the sundeck or the front of the boat, sipping Margarita, watching the sunset, talking about our common passion travelling, diving, talking about life, bonding and making lifetime friendships…

31st December- The last day of 2020

I got up at 5am and did a pre-dive workout in the morning, we did 3 dives on this day, all wonderful again. Whilst we were on our last dive, the crew decorated the boat, the party scene was ready! We dressed up for our ultimate New Year’s Eve party and the rest is history.. Some illustrations below.

I will summarise this from now, every day was a magic, every day we celebrated life and our luck to be there together, every day we were grateful for this opportunity. The Tequila Group is still going strong from different parts of the World via WhatsApp.

10 days without internet was just what I needed. All we did was eat, sleep, dive, party. I did a fair bit of learning on this boat, Luke started introducing me to the fine details of underwater photography, I met this wonderful individual Taj who is travelling the World, and through his amazing videos and photos he is not only doing the best motivational speeches but also promoting his religious beliefs. Check out his YouTube channel Revelation of Hope Ministries.

Upon arrival to Cabo, when we started to have signal our bubble slowly faded. We had our last night, people were checking emails…and I became so sad. I wanted this to last forever! As I opened my phone on the 4th January..we all know what I saw: ‘England is going into a three months Lockdown’ It wasn’t a totally unexpected piece of news so I decided to postpone my return date…and the Adventures of Alice in Wonderland continued…

Katy and Komathi stayed for an extra night so we booked a hotel in Jose del Cabo, went for sushi and cocktails and then mezcal tasting. Rodrigo, our DM joined was a fabulous night.

Next day they left and I joined Manuela and Filipe and their friends from a previous Galapagos Liveaboard Casey and Philip in Cabo Pulmo National Park to do some more dives together. I think on the whole trip these couple of dives were the coldest..17 degree water. Stunning dives though, I was hoping to see some bull sharks but they were not around sadly. I changed my UK SIM to a Mexican SIM as I knew I would stay for longer.

After one night in Cabo Pulmo we all went to La Paz, and reunited with Klaudia.

I feel it was so nice to hang out a few days more with half of the Tequila Team! Baja California has definitely been one of the highlights of the whole trip! As I started working online I could not do the trip with them to snorkel with the whale sharks but it was ok as we had a fantastic interaction underwater with one on the first one ❤

However we did a tour together to Santu Espiritu to dive with the sea lions! Very cold day, very cold water but it was worth it!

The next day we separated 😦 But I officially got the title of Founder of the Tequila Group ❤ I still have my little badge:)

I took an overnight ferry to Mazatlan on the mainland and took the bus to Puerto Vallarta to see my bestie Bea who moved from Hungary to Mexico in October 2020! She was kind enough to let me stay with her for a couple of weeks. She lived at Marina Vallarta, a really nice part of PV. I was OK not to cram these 2 weeks with things to do. I just wanted to hang out, have nice meals, chill on the beach, talk about life. But we are both travellers, so it’s inevitable that something just randomly happens…so as we are walking in the Zona Romantica one night, we got stopped by a sales man selling us an opportunity to visit a 5 star hotel, have free breakfast, listen to a presentation and get a half price whale watching tour…..where is the catch..? Of course we said YES! We agreed that he would pick us up the day after at the address we gave him (trust is a big thing in these countries both ways and somehow it works!) and we got a voucher of a tour, date of our choice. So..let’s talk about time-share. It was a brand new concept for me. In Mexico it’s huge! Americans love buying time shares. This part of Mexico is like the extension of what you do, is go to a fancy hotel, listen to a presentation individually not as part of a group, go through some complex financial formulas showing how much of a good deal you are getting by purchasing time share in this hotel compared to the amount of money you are currently paying to do your annual holiday and voila, the champagne pops and the cheerleading starts! In that 2 hours that we were there a few bottles popped…needless to say I can get carried away with these kind of things especially having visualised my next fitness retreat there so I nearly bought a time share too! Grateful to Bea and my risk averse husband for talking me out of it…

She introduced me to all her friends who were mainly Hungarians, it was like being in Hungary! Dinners, drinks together, shared traditional home cooked Hungarian meals and felt yet again extremely lucky to have been able to share all this together.

If anyone is looking for investment opportunities or buy a holiday home in Mexico, don’t look any further! Katya is the person! What an amazing girl! here is her website:

During my stay with Bea I made a rough plan on how i was going to spend this time, I worked out a rough itinerary in Mexico and I was going to finish my trip with a huge dream! A Galapagos Dive Liveaboard. The prices of these liveaboards were heavily discounted and I went with the approach that I might as well do it if I was that part of the World. What I did not expect was that the UK was going to introduce hotel quarantine.. 2 weeks after me booking the Galapagos trip, the whole of South America (including Ecuador) went onto the UK’s red list which meant that upon arrival I would have needed to quarantine in a hotel for a total of £1700 so I worked out that flying back to Mexico (or to the US in case Mexico went onto the red list in the meantime) was cheaper than coming home straight from Ecuador and stay in a hotel 20 minutes away from my house! See travelling (especially during COVID) is a bit like playing chess. You never know what the next move is! The unpredictability is that I’m hooked to beyond the necessity to experience different life situations and cultural differences.

After Puerto Vallarta I travelled to Oaxaca. It’s a city I missed out on in 2014 and it was very high on the list! It was kind of an adventure to get there because not only the time of my flight changed from Puerto Vallarta but also the day and the city of stop between the two so instead of flying on Monday via Mexico City I flew on Sunday via Monterrey. I didn’t plan to visit Monterrey, I tend not to visit cities on my travels but I have to say Mexico City is amazing but I already covered it back in 2014. The good thing about Monterrey was that again it proved to be a good thing trusting people. My first instinct is always trust humans. I arrived late – must have been after 10pm and I booked a hotel for the night but didn’t really look up how to get there. There was this guy at one of the bus stops at the airport and I thought he was waiting for a bus that goes to the centre of Monterrey. But it was just drop off bus to the short and long term parking so he told me to come with him and that he would drop me off at my hotel. We chatted, he just came from a weekend in Cancun. He dropped me off and asked if I was hungry. Of course I was so I thought I’d return the kind favour of dropping me off by treating him for dinner. In my dreams…super gentleman, he said ladies never pay in this country when they are with a man. Ha-ha! so we went for a takeaway dinner (it was lockdown so couldn’t sit in anywhere, we sat outside and ate, then he kindly showed me the city, dropped me off my hotel and we said bye. It was nice to spend the evening in a city you don’t know with someone who does! Next day I had my corporate class on Zoom and as my flight was in the afternoon I got to see the fifth largest square in the World called The MacroPlaza. 400,000m2! Super impressive!

After the short sightseeing I flew to Oaxaca – my Airbnb was phenomenal!

Lovely Travellers, we made truffles together on the first night!

Oaxaca is a lovely colonial town with highly creative artistic, culinary and craft scenes. Top class museums, fascinating markets, easygoing vibes.

Oaxaca is always the home of the BEST mezcal that Mexico has to offer. It’s an agave based sipping spirit- tequila is a type of mezcal. You can get reposado (rested) or añejo (aged) which are smoother, you can get bottles with a worm inside or caterpillar that feeds on the agave. It’s usually served with mix salt and chilly and orange as opposed to salt and lime.

The city is surrounded by fascinating archaeological sites, the most famous one is Monte Alban, the ancient Zapotec capital. It means White Mountain. Pics below.

As part of the tour we visited little villages along the handicraft route.

Upon arrival I got dropped off at a market as I wanted to stock up with mezcal. I love markets! the colours, all the character and the weirdest combination of things from live animals to fresh cheese, flowers, Mexican fight masks and the list could go on….

Oaxaca is also famous for it cocoa. The most popular form of consuming is as hot chocolate!

Sadly due to the COVID restrictions I couldn’t explore Oaxaca to its full potential, realistically there is so much to see in the mountains from the little pueblo magicos (magic villages) through the different ruins and ideally you do this by hiring a car.

As there were so may restrictions I decided to take a night bus down to the Oaxaca coast to Puerto Escondido. I almost forgot the joy of travelling on a night bus but I very quickly remembered the ice cold journeys, uncomfortable seats, people falling on you. I always thought that getting on a night bus tipsy is always better than sober as you fall asleep quicker but I definitely disagree with this after the 4-5 night bus journeys that I did from Oaxaca through Chiapas to Yucatan.

But it’s usually worth the struggle…arrived at Paradise quite literally…

I stayed in a wonderful hotel La Hacienda de Las Suites, which became my second home. I met so many wonderful people there, Patricia and Hansen from Buffalo NY, Gina and Roy from NYC. Luiss who worked there was a dream!

Next day I was already on a whale watching tour, swimming with dolphins, visiting the most beautiful virgin beaches..

Next day Gina and Roy’s friends arrived to celebrate his birthday and we had a beach party with lots of Coco Loco:)

It was time to move on. Next stop: San Cristobal de las Casas in the highlands of Chiapas. It was a bit of a shock to the system arriving from 31 degrees to 11! Another colourful colonial city with its cobbled streets and charm. I walked around on the day I arrived and the next day did a tour to the Cañon del Sumidero and a pueblo magico nearby Chiapa de Corzo.

The day after visiting the canyon I checked out of the hotel and took a tour to Palenque. We stopped by Agua Azul and Mizol-Ha waterfalls. Both beautiful!

And we finally arrived at Palenque. Set in the middle of the ‘jungle’ the temples are the best examples of Maya architecture in Mexico dated back to 100BC.

I got dropped off at the bus station where the guard kindly offered me to look after my stuff whilst touring the magic town of Palenque. I had about 4 hours until the night bus.

I arrived at Merida early in the morning next day. Checked into my hotel, and my lovely friend Ana Karen whom I met for the first time in 2014 (see my blog post from back then) and then a couple of other times after was coming that night to spend a long weekend together after years of not having seen each other! I was very much looking forward to seeing her because somehow we always connected through life/job/lack of father figure in our lives etc. I was out and about exploring the town, markets during the day, she arrived late. Some impressive art was displayed for everyone to see free of charge… lot of political messages behind some…

I also realised that Mexico and Hungary have a lot of similarities and yet they are the complete opposite when it comes to mindset. The ultimate pessimist meets the ultimate optimist…somehow this exchange does work though!

I was super tired after the series of night buses and parties that I didn’t quite recover from so we had a bottle of wine together with Karen at the hotel balcony and then I crashed. 

The next day we decided to hop on another bus in the morning and visit a coastal town called Celestun which is famous for its flamingos! Such a fun day!

The day after was our last day together. 😦 We did some errands and shopping in Merida..had an emotional lunch together followed by a very quirky dinner recommended by my friend Gina at the Saloon Gallos! If you are in Merida, go there! And to add a breakfast place to this: El barrio! These 2 places were just magnificent! Food, service, atmosphere. I had a really fun weekend with Karen! I stayed one more day in Merida after she left, mainly teaching, gymming (those occasional opportunities when I could get my hands on the weights!!)

Next stop: Tulum!

I have been in touch with Luke from the Liveaboard throughout the whole time, and I booked a Photo workshop with him, along with a few photo specific dives in the cenotes. The Yucatan Peninsula is known to have the world’s largest number of underwater sinkholes (cenotes). Formed when limestone is gradually eroded over hundreds of years, cenotes are excellent places to dive, and as turns out to improve your underwater photography skills!

I would highly recommend Luke to anyone, if you are up for having a FUN, interactive and in-depth photo course and cenote diving experience, check out Luke’s website!

Aaron and Michael were a lot of fun to dive with too, Michael used to live in Ickenham, around the corner from me!

And some of my best photos from these few days:

Once the photo course finished, I had a few more days to spend in Tulum before flying to Ecuador to the Galapagos islands.

Tulum was a very different place in 2014. Very remote, backpacker, all prices set in US$, booking system, minimum consumption etc. It has gone through an extraordinary change! But I still love Tulum! The beaches..the atmosphere. Ibiza of the Caribbean!

Another dream came true visiting the Tulum Jungle Gym!

I got my PCR test done and the next day I took a bus to Cancun where my flight departed to Quito via Mexico City.

Next stop: Returning to the Galapagos islands after 9 years!! I was beyond excited! I became a certified diver a month after I visited Galapagos in 2012 and nobody could believe that I was there and didn’t dive! So it was time to make up for the lost time!

I arrived at Quito very late in the evening, booked a hotel close to the airport as my flight to the islands the next morning was super early!

Getting to the Galapagos is not as straight forward. You need a so called ‘salvoconducto’ (permit) to enter the islands. This needs to come from the hotel you are staying at, or in my case the dive company provided it. You need to specify exactly how long are you staying on the islands. You have a very strict list of prohibited items (mainly food) that you cannot bring onto the islands. They are very particular about their eco system for a reason!

When I saw the islands from above, I knew I was home!

The way you get from Baltra airport to Santa Cruz is to take a bus to the ferry station, hop onto a ferry and ride to Santa Cruz where you can either continue by bus to Puerto Ayora or by a taxi. I had a taxi waiting for me. I stayed one night at the lovely Hotel Coloma, went to Playa Aleman and Las Grietas on the same day as I arrived, had dinner and the next day my taxi picked me up from the hotel and took me to Calipso, the most luxurious Liveabord I have ever been to!

Calipso operated with half capacity which made this whole experience so much better! Full crew, half of the guests, undivided attention! Wolf island was my favourite day…every single dive on that day (4 of them) was just an hour of adrenaline with schools of hammerheads, dolphins, sea lions and many other amazing sea creatures! The group was great as well! I felt much more confident than on any other liveaboards before..I guess the one in Mexico was the closest but not quite like here as I pretty much have been diving 3 months in a row by the time I got to Galapagos!

The rooms were amazing, food was fantastic, and having known the language I got treated like a queen by the crew! It was almost like a private trip. The schedule of the 9 days were pretty much like, dive, eat, dive eat, dive, eat, party, sleep:) I am still in touch with most of the crew, the captain delivered the sad news to me that after me standing at the front of the boat admiring the beauty of Darwin’s Arch, it is now only history….It collapsed a month ago. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have seen it in its full beauty. It’s interesting that I also got to see Lonesome George in his last days in 2012 and a couple of months after he died. I wonder why I have such a strong connection with Galapagos.

The last day was a land day. We visited collectively a tortoise ranch and then went to Tortuga bay.

It’s funny to compare 2 pictures 9 years apart!

Me and Adrian went back to the boat to have the last party with the crew, the others left to the land to maximise their time on the islands and getting to know this heaven in earth also above the sea! What a fun last night..I could really imagine living there..on the boat..owning nothing, but owning everything by watching the sun rising and setting every day. I really don’t need much to be only seems the opposite when I am in London. I truly believe that I have two personalities, one is living by or on the sea..the other one is the city girl..In order to keep the balance, I need to experience both equally.

After we left the boat, me and Adrian spent a couple of more days together, visited another beach in Santa Cruz and Isabela island…and we got a tattoo together! My first ever! Im so so happy that I took home a memory from the Galapagos!

It was nearly time to go home!

As Ecuador and the whole South America was/is on UK’s red list, I had to find a way to avoid hotel quarantine..So I took a risk and went back to Mexico for the last 10 days hoping it wouldn’t go onto the red list. I chose to go back to Puerto Escondido, because Gina and Patricia were there and also because it was probably the most remote and least Americanised part of Mexico.

Next day I was on a fishing tour with my friend Shon Cruz. We caught nothing but my love for boats is endless!

I decided to visit nearby coastal towns, Mazunte, Zipolite so I took a bus and found myself in paradise. Mazunte is even more of a hidden gem than Puerto Escondido. I had the best room…it was so so simple. But that was all I needed! The smell of the ocean and standing on my balcony literally above the ocean!

I met Yosimar in Mazunte who owned a bar by my hotel. We became friends and he took me a few places which are more local rather than touristy. Introduced me to his was a magical day! Grateful for this experience!

These kids are so happy. They have everything. The sea, the sun..they don’t need the internet whilst the busy parents are not home, they don’t need a nanny, multi-generation living together, talking, eating together, living a pure life.

After Mazunte I went to Zipolite. Ana Karen decided to spend the last few days with me and she came directly to the Hotel I booked. It was called ‘Nude’. Zipolite is famous for its laid back, gay friendly, nudist vibes. It’s a magical place! Bigger than Mazunte but lots going on, and one night we went to a beach party. It was THE BEST! Seeing people dancing, being in crowds, under the stars with electronic was like Covid never happened! We slept on the beach and it was safe and wonderful. I can still hear the waves if I close my eyes.

After Zipolite Gina, Diablo and another friend Marianne came to pick us up in the car and we went to San Agustino- famous for its snorkelling. We spent a day there enjoying fresh ceviche, seafood and of course Coco Loco. They all snorkelled but I still didn’t want to go into the water because of my tattoo. San Agustino is relatively close to Huatulco, which is more known than Escondido, Mazunte or the other coastal towns because they is where cruise ships stopped pre-covid.

When I first arrived at London, I got a job relatively quickly at an Italian company where I met Chiara. It was a strange company and being one of the only non-italian made it difficult at times to fully ‘blend in’, but I liked Chiara, and have been following her on Facebook. She moved to Mexico not long after we worked together, opened an Italian gelateria, found the love of her life and they had a beautiful girl. They opened a cooking school near Huatulco, so I decided to write her and ask if she wanted to meet up. I’m so happy I did! As it’s quite far from Puerto Escondido and most of my stuff I left there knowing that I would be flying out from there we spent 2 nights there. One in the little town where she lived (La Bocana), which was a paradise! And another in Huatulco city. Ana Karen had to work so me, Chiara and Isabella went to the beach! They live so happily in that tranquil place of the World. She doesn’t really miss the city, she created a simple but wonderful life for herself and her family. She is a true inspiration!

After Huatulco we took a super early bus back to Puerto Escondido so that Karen can start working at 9am (2h bus ride) and it was the final stretch of my trip. I reckon in these 10 days life gave me the best of the best having met Chiara, Ana Karen again, and one last surprise, my fitness buddy arrived from Brasil, Eliane!!! She came to Mexico as well to avoid hotel quarantine upon arrival to the UK from Brazil.

We said by with Gina, she has been a huge part of this trip for me and was sad to see her go. Same level of craziness and hunger for life!

We watched the last sunset and had a last party together with Eliane, her new friends and Ana Karen..which was an emotional rollercoaster! I felt sad, happy, grateful! My love for the sea and that lifestyle has become so strong..the positivity around me, the thrill of meeting new people, new inspirations. After a trip like this I always feel that my life shifted.

Settling back to the UK wasn’t easy. I lost a few clients during this experience but it was a ‘natural selection’. Grateful to those people who recognised how important this trip was for me and stuck with me.

I’m looking forward to sharing my next blog post..hopefully very soon! Thank you for reading and living this trip with me through my photos.

The border crossing between Costa Rica and Panama was very smooth. All you need is 500$ cash, and an outbound ticket or at least a proof of some ticket that takes you home from either Panama or Colombia.

I left Corcovado at 7am and arrived in Sona at 7pm. Sadly from Sona there was no bus anymore to Santa Catalina but I met a taxi driver who gave me an acceptable price..i did try to look for accommodation is Sona but sadly it’s not a backpacker town so there is one or 2 hotels there for about $25 so I thought why not pay this for the taxi instead and stay in Santa Catalina. The reason I went there was to dive in Isla Coiba. In the end I stayed in a lovely place called Hibiscus Garden which is about 10km away from Santa Catalina. It’s owned by a German couple living there with their kids and there was a lovely Argentinian couple volunteering..they made my stay excellent! So diving was awesome there..I was with the dive master only. He is from Oz…I got slightly annoyed though cause during first dive he touched a coral and he panicked so after 45 mins we had to go up….even though my tank was half full but hey..rescue diver was doing what she was meant to do;-) On second dive he lasted 50 minutes (again half full tank)  cause he had to pee!!! I mean bloody hell pee in your wet-suit if you are a dive master and you are with only one person on the dive! I was really annoyed. But hey ho, we saw sharks, turtles, rays and amazing schools of fishes so it was satisfying in the end. In the hibiscus garden I also did some horse riding and engaged with the locals working on the farm. The food was excellent! Price was 11$ a night or so.

Hibiscus Garden Brekkie

Horse riding on the beach

You can actually stay on Coiba ..and I would recommend it as it’s beautiful:

Coiba Coiba Coiba coiba Coiba

After Catalina I headed to Panama city to spend the weekend there before starting my epic trip to San Blas and Colombia on 26th May. Panama City was about 7 hours away from Catalina, so I arrived there late afternoon. I got recommended to stay in Casco Viejo, so I picked the most popular hostel there called Luna’s Castle. It was a party hostel but I wasn’t too bothered as I stayed only 2 nights and I wanted to go out.

I really liked Panama city. It had a great vibe, nice buildings, nice people..and I felt very close to Colombia..In the end I opted to rest cause i was tired but at least I did some sightseeing:

Tom and Jerry Panama City Panama City Panama City Panama City

There is a great fish market where you can eat fresh fish and ceviche, there is a lovely Modern Art Museum that I visited, and I just walked around. It’s advisable to buy Metrobus card for 2$ and top it up with a few $. You don’t need much as a journey is 0.25$.

Panama City


I also visited the Canal. It was interesting to understand the history behind it.

Panama Canal Panama canal Panama canal

I only spent 4 days on Panama mainland. Sadly I didn’t get the chance to visit Boquete- fantastic place to do some trekking (although a few people went missing there recently) or climb the Baru volcano (where you get to see the 2 oceans on a clear day) or to visit Bocas del Toro..the Caribbean paradise of Panama. Knowing though that I will shortly go to the San Blas islands during my 5-6 days of sailing to Colombia made me feel ok about not going to Bocas.

So..the sailing trip started on the 26th May on a Monday. We got a transfer from Panama city to the San Blas islands by 4×4 and a little speedboat where our catamaran was waiting for us (Nacar 2).

Nacar 2 Nacar2

The name of the first island where we spent the first night (never on the island, always on the boat) was Analunega. This was a fairly developed island with the indigenous community (kuna) living there. If I compare them to the Tayrona people in Colombia the kunas are much more commercialised and charging tourists a lot for a necklace or any kind of handicraft.

Analunega Analunega Analunega Analunega

The first lunch was on the island, then Jonathan (sailor) cooked our dinner. Our captain was super cool- Jose. I almost forgot the story of how I got onto this particular sailing boat. I have a friend called Danila whom I met 2 years ago in the Bolivian jungle. She is Argentinian and she is still travelling since 2012! I can say without any exaggeration that she is a master of life! She found a job in Quito last year that allowed her to go to the Galapagos islands twice for free! And now she is working on the sailing company called Blue sailing (highly recommended if you are planning to do a trip either from Colombia to Panama or the other way round) so she booked me onto this boat as I had fixed dates.

So I got a fantastic bed outside..I knew this would be my best bet cause inside the boat you are more likely to get seasick during sailing, plus it can be a bit stuffy.

My bed

On the second day we moved after breakfast to the second island called Chichime. On this island I swam a lot! I was always in the water with my snorkelling gear and what you can see down there is a miracle. Not particularly because of the marine life as I was spoilt previously on my dive experience allover the world but this place is famous for its stunning sea stars..tons of them in the bottom of the sea and you can see them perfectly as the water is crystal clear.

sea star

On the 3rd day we sailed to the 3rd island called Huaisaludo. This was the least developed island, only one family lived here Julio and Laura. They moved 5 years ago from Panama City…cannot imagine a bigger contrast..but can perfectly imagine how a person can get to the point living 50 years in a big city to move to a deserted island. They are living from selling coconut to tourists for $1 each. They also sell empty beer cans to different commercial boats. They haven’t got much but what they have is worth more than any Versace bag or a super car. They see the sun rising above the Caribbean sea every morning and they see it setting every evening. We spent an afternoon with them drinking Coco Loco (rum in the coconut water).

Huaisaludo Huaisaludo Huaisaludo Huaisaludo

This 3rd night was the best night in terms of the group. Lobster dinner…(some killed the a diver I didn’t have the heart)



We all got to know each other by this time, all the alcohol appeared on the table which everyone brought with themselves, we made a fire on the island, instruments came was a superb night which ended with some skinny dipping in the 28 degree water.

Next day everyone was hungover and we all knew that we would pay for last night this day…We started sailing on the open sea..We all took our seasickness pill which helped but everyone was silent and sleeping most day.

The 5th day was the longest..we had enough water and food but the fact that we couldn’t move just sit or lay made it a bit hard. Also that we didn’t have wind! So the max speed of the sailing boat was 4.5 knot and we had 230 miles to do..That’s an average 5.1 mile/hour…Therefore we knew we wouldn’t arrive on Friday to Cartagena. On the last night people were taking turns in guarding while he captain and sailor were sleeping. My turn was from 10pm to midnight ..I had to check lights around, check the monitor to see if there is any boat nearby, check is there was a storm coming. I enjoyed this task immensely. I have never felt more free in my life than on this boat surrounded by only water and sitting by the steering wheel under the stars..I had time to think. About my life, and about the world. I felt incredibly grateful that i had the opportunity to travel such a big distance…already the second time ..And I was heading towards he country that I most loved on my first trip..Colombia…


I felt the excitement in my tummy..this was the first time for me to return to a country that I visited before as a backpacker..and because I had very strong memories I was very curious about how it would feel being back there.

On Saturday we had still a long distance to cover..sadly the engine stopped about 37 miles away from Cartagena. The captain knew immediately what to do. The dinghy boat pushed us until he called for help..and then we just got pulled into cartagena by a fishing boat.

being pulled by fishing boat

We arrived at 4.30pm.

In my next post I am going to write about Colombia, the last country I visited on this trip.

It’s almost a month now that I am working for Guias y Baquianos and I have to say that my stay in Santa Marta  is beating the Carnival in Brazil!! I absolutely LOVE  interacting with tourists, and learning about their way of travelling, planning etc. I met some super awesome people..the only ‘downside’ is that I am going out basically every night because every day there are tourists coming back from one tour or from another who are happy to be back in civilisation and want to get smashed and rumbiar!!!:)

However I have to say since David Steinig left Santa Marta I am going out a bit less..

The people I am working with are just unbelievably kind sweet and they love me:)

This is how a normal working day looks like:

I work from 9ish till 7pm..have a 3 hours lunch break that I am spending like this:

or this:

or this:

And once I night looks like this:

or this:

I get paid around £7 /day and I get free accommodation, occasionally food and drinks and obviously free tours worth at least $300 each.

So therefore I did my diving licence (Padi open water, Nautilus diving school is highly recommended), I went to Cabo de la Vela and Punta Gallinas (the northest part of South America, amazing lobster) and I am going up to the Lost City one more time next week.

A few pics on the programs above:

The plan is the following..I’ll leave Santa Marta on the 17th of August, then visit Cartagena, Medellin, Salento, Bogota and it’s surroundings. I’ll fly to Los Angeles on the 7th of September and from LA to Auckland on the 8th.

I’ll update my South American part with one more post on the places above and then….new chapter…I don’t think I am ready to leave this continent but I don’t think I ever will be so I just need to do it.

Hey by the way I heard a lot of promises from you on ‘joining in’ somewhere….I shall remind you I am half way I look forward to travelling with you guys a bit! Take those holidays off!;-)

Besitos a todos!

Once I left Ecuador I jumped on a bus to go to the Colombian border…luckily there were 2 other ‘gringos’ on the bus so we crossed altogether.

Big surprise on the Ecuadorian border, I met Tracy, my Aussie friend from Brazil!!! How cool!! She was on the way back to Argentina…

Once we crossed with the guys, we separated, and I went to see the stunning church that I have been hearing from since Peru called Las Lajas.

After the church I hopped onto a bus to go to Pasto (about 2 hours from Ipiales). The place didn’t particularly attract me but I wanted to avoid night travel in Colombia as everyone suggested. Now saying that I met a lovely girl who was travelling to Cali so decided to continue until Popayan which was meant to be nice. I arrived at 1am….that’s all about night travel 🙂

I went to the hostel that everyone recommended called Hosteltrail where the next day I met Corrine (EN), Mark (EN -with whom I crossed the border) and Vivien (US). We all went to a village called Silva to a market but the market was a bit crappy..still we had a good time.

Few pics on Popayan:

Next day midday we said bye to Mark and us girls were hitting the road to Cali..the Salsa Capital of Colombia!!! I was super excited about it understandably 🙂 We stayed in an excellent hostel called Pelican Larry…I loved it so much! The girls at the reception were beautiful and sweet..I had a motorbike ride to the centre too with one of them to buy shoes as my ‘going out shoes’ wore out. We went out 2 nights to Cafe de Madre Tierra, Tin Tin Deo..both salsathecas but you hear all kind of latin music from reggeaton, baciata, merengue and the rest…Needless to say the way how South American people dance gave me such a satisfaction that it’s not easy to describe…Cali is a full on passionate city..I learn some great moves however all my dancers thought that i learnt dancing in South America:)

After Cali I took the night bus to Bogota. I was very optimistic by just turning up at the Terminal at 10pm hoping to have a bus because it was a bank holiday weekend in Colombia so all buses were full for the day…

Here come my actress skills in the pic:) I had a flight from Bogota to Cartagena 2 days after but I thought the only way to somehow get on a bus would be to say it was next day (the bus ride is 10 hours) the guy was very nice and put me on the seat next to the driver…There was no way that I could sleep on that seat due to the position, the loudness of music and the full blast aircon.

So..arrived to Bogota at 10am knackered..went to Hostel Cranky Cranc, slept, went on a little individual city tour in the afternoon and in the evening FIESTA!

There is a place called Andres Carne de Res, just outside Bogota…an incredible place. You can have a massive asado (barbecue) or if you just want to party, the dance floor is waiting for you…I went with the hostel, we got drunk in the minibus, upon arrival we hit the dancefloor..superb night!

A little insight in the party (last song)

The next day I was fresh, no hangover from the famous Colombian drink called: Aguadiente..similar taste to Uzo and watered Sambuca.

My flight was at 3pm, arrived to Cartagena at 4 and took a bus to Santa Marta where my English grumpy friend Iain was waiting for me:)

Next day David arrived too (we had a cracking time in Rurrenabaque in the jungle and since then we have been in touch trying to catch up but we had to wait till here). So we booked the Lost City tour together for the next day (Guias y Baquianos agency is highly recommended).

The tour was quite tough walking in the heat and humidity but so so beautiful! The group was great too, a very nice girl joined us from New Zealand called Ali. We quickly realised that we are on the same page, so after the Lost city I continued travelling with her.

A few pics on the tour:

Upon arrival to Santa Marta we had a crazy night out with the group, then the next day we continued with Ali to Palomino. This little heaven is situated about 70km from Santa Marta and has very few tourists..and a beautiful eternal beach.

We stayed here 2 nights, slept in the La Sirena hostel in hammock right by the sea…so usual wake up time was 5.30am:)

Then we went straight to Tayrona Park..

Now here we met a few crazy is him above…so funny and annoying in the same time!

When we got back to Santa Marta we spent a night in the Dreamer hostel (my all time favourite in South America) then Ali was off to Cartagena and I started working for the tour operator I went with to do the Lost City…

I should open a new blog with the title of: Working ethics in South America:P

Needless to say I am dancing more on the street then working in the office..I am supposed to do some marketing for them (which never existed)..but since my starting suggestion was to change the name and we all agreed that it was a good move the logistics of the process will take…..maybe 10 years. I am planning on staying here till end of June only 🙂

See how it goes..I am used to the thought now that my life and plans are changing on a daily basis…

It’s Saturday…time to Rumba!!!!!

When I left my beloved Huanchaco I didn’t know what was waiting for me at the apparently most dangerous border crossing: Tumbes…I got off the night bus at 10 am and a man came to ‘help me’. He said how dangerous it was crossing the border alone, and he offered his help, as a representative of a major Peruvian bus company (CIFA) that has services directly to Cuenca, Ecuador.

As I read in my Lonely Planet that this was the best way to cross the border, taking a bus directly from Tumbes to Cuenca, and also having asked a few more people around at the station and they all confirmed this, I went up to the man (asked him to show me his ID as a CIFA representative and all this) and said let’s go to CIFA then.

He had a beautiful black BMW (should have been my first doubt ), another man joined us and he asked if i had dollars for Ecuador. I said no but he shouldn’t be worried about that I’ll withdraw in Ecuador. He said that I should take money here as in Ecuador the cash machines are charging $21 commission after every transaction. I found it weird but I listened to them…

Once I was loaded with money we got back to the car and drove to an agency which wasn’t called CIFA. I said to him I wanted to go to CIFA. He said that this was a sub agency of CIFA (with a completely different name). I started to be worried so asked around people and they all said that there was no CIFA in Tumbes only this agency. So the fare would have costed 80 Soles or a budget option 50 Soles which sounded about right. This new man from this sub agency hopped in the car and we were driving somewhere the 4 of us. Me and 3 men….This was the moment when I knew I was trapped….they said we would go to the border and take the bus there but surely if you take a direct service from Tumbes it doesn’t leave from the border but from the city. So they set the new price for the border crossing service and bus fare to Cuenca: $148. I said..NO WAY! They started to panic as soon as I raised my voice and said ok, so be prepared to be killed and robbed at the border if you cross alone. I tried to control my fear and I said firmly that I wanted to get out of the car at that moment. They said ok but I should pay $20 for taking me to the border. I said we are not even at the border and on the other hand for 5 minutes driving I will NOT PAY $20. He said I didn’t pay he wouldn’t return my backpack from the boot. I started screaming and crying and said I will not pay $20, so he said pay whatever you want then. So I paid 20 Soles which is about 10$, got out of the car and stopped the first microbus going to the border. From here all went smooth but I was shaking the rest of the day. The bus fare from Cuenca was $7….imagine how many tourists pay $148 for his ‘services’ that allows him to circulate in this fancy car….

Anyway Cuenca. I stayed in ‘El Cafecito’ hostel. Very mellow, romantic place.

Since I arrived on Saturday there was a life concert which I slept through as I passed out at 9pm. On Sunday I woke up early and was eager to discover Cuenca however I had to realise that on Sunday everything is closed…A few museums were open though so I visited them, had lunch at the market with fresh orange-carrot juice (you have the choice of min. 10 flavours that you can mix too). Then in the evening I chilled with the 2 Swiss girls I was in the same dorm with..we didn’t even realise that we were chatting till 2am. Very nice people. On Monday I continued my city tour ..the culture in Cuenca is amazing..very high level city with great nightlife, funky bars and versatile restaurants.

I also visited a stunning lake close to Cuenca in Cajas  National Park:

In the evening Tegan (my Aussie friend) arrived – it was so nice to see her. But just before in the hostel some musicians got together so we decided with the Swiss girls (one of them played the guitar and sang too) to join..we had some Canelazo (this is a fantastic drink, you can read more about it here: )

The drink and the music made me very emotional. It was a happy emotional feeling though…I knew this year would happen only once in my life and I knew I would always remember that night…They sang and played amazingly:

Then once Tegan arrived we went for dinner and to bed. The next day we visited with Tegan Ingapirca ( gift to Ecuador from the Inkas from the pre-Hispanical  season- Similar to Machu Picchu the main  structure in Ingapirca is the Temple of the Sun, a giant elliptical structure that was built without mortar, just like the traditional Incan way of constructing buildings.)

Once we arrived to Cuenca we had time together with T till midnight, so we had dinner in a restaurant called ‘The Maiz’ (corn – where all dishes were made of corn). Despite the fancy look the food didn’t impress me too much. At midnight I took the night bus to Banos.

This lovely city has a lot to offer..great place to hike, cycle, horse ride, do some extreme sports like ‘Puenting’ or canopy or canyoning..

I spent there 3 days, on the first day I went hiking in the surroundings, on the second day I hired a bike and did the ‘Ruta de las Cascadas’ (The waterfall’s route) and the 3rd day I went to the nicest waterfall in the area and in the afternoon I just chilled in a mountain spa for hours. Perfect 3 days..I didn’t meet anyone though. Maybe I stayed in the wrong hostel (Princesa Maria). Viktor the 60 year old man working there was very nice tough..we had a lot of evening conversations.

After Banos I wanted to check out the Laguna Quilotoa close to Latacunga but didn’t want hike. Once I got to Latacunga people suggested me to go to Hostel Tiana where I can get info on how to get to the lake but it was already late for the day to go there and also I accidentally asked about the Galapagos and she found an amazing deal for me which she couldn’t book because it was Saturday so I decided to go straight to Quito and start looking around for Galapagos deals ( I haven’t done any research on it earlier just because I knew I wasn’t able to afford it ). So Quito..I stayed in the Mariscal area..where all the bars and clubs are. Stayed in Centro del Mundo hostel which is great to meet people and it’s close to the bars (walking home is not recommended though from a club..I did it only because the hostel was literally one corner from the main hub). So the hostel was full of early twenty something Americans who headed out but I didn’t really want to go with them, so opted for the going solo one 🙂 Well…to be honest with you’s great to do at the beginning of your meet lots of different people (mainly local men though)who wanna chat you up but after a while the repetition of the same questions over and over again can be tiring…the top 5 most common questions are:

–          De donde eres? (Where are you from?)

–          Viajas solita? (Are you travelling alone?)

–          Desde cuando estas viajando y donde fuiste? (How long have you been travelling for and where have you been)

–          Ahh que bien…entonces tienes mucho plata! (Ah..wonderful, so you have a lot of money)

–          Quieres que te acompano? ( Would you like me to come with you?)

So I hit Bungalow 6..had a superstrong rum and coke watched the people having fun in groups and went home a bit disappointed that my friends were not there with me…

Next day on Sunday I went to the historical centre and I met the most amazing old man who was selling maps..We had a perfect connection..a bit like grandfather and his grandchild..I invited him for lunch as he showed me the whole city centre and explained the history. The man was like a walking library…it was so nice to meet finally someone with brain and not having to explain where Hungary was. He knew Liszt Ferenc and all that…So hats off. We spent the whole afternoon together, he also recommended me some islands on the Galapagos (I still wasn’t sure if i should take a cruise or do it individually but everyone suggested the 2nd oprion). So in the evening (Sunday) I went to the airport and bought a return ticket to the Galapagos islands from Monday (next day) to Friday.

I was superhappy. For some reason I felt I needed this trip to get me back to my normal balance..

So I woke up at 5.30am, went to the airport and this is where the fun starts…I bumped into Cam Smith my previous affiliate sitting at Quito airport..The last time we met was in London a few years ago so it was incredible meeting him there. Turned out he was heading to Galapagos on the same flight to we travelled together. The flight was a bit delayed unfortunately so we landed at 3pm..didn’t have much time on Monday but I found a great hotel (cheap too), checked in, walked around, went to the Charles Darwin complex . ( story in brief: in 1831 he sailed to Galapagos and 30 years later published his theory of evolution- the conversation of animals (giant land turtles mainly) had to be started as they would have instinct in 10 years time from the discovery)

After visiting the complex I went to every single agency on Santa Cruz island to plan my next days. Unfortunately I didn’t find any cruise going to Espanola island (one of the best ones but the furthest one too so no day trips are avail.) which turned out to be better because I still saw the best islands in the neighbourhood: Seymour Norte, Isabela and Bartolome.

Seymour Norte:



I met on my first day trip Simone- english girl, we had a click so we were hanging out the rest of the time together…our ‘local’ for the week has become the Bongo bar and Panga club downstairs..

I’ll upload few videos on the animals…

On Friday in tears I said bye to the Galapagos islands, flew back to Quito, went straight to the ‘Mitad del Mundo’ (Middle of the World)

I wanted to go straight to Otavalo as a festival was starting on Saturday but in the hostel when I returned to collect my backpack (I went only with a light pack to Galapagos) they didn’t suggest me to arrive late in the evening so I stayed in the hostel and left Sat. Morning.

The market is impressive in Otavalo..almost occupies the whole city. Everyone can find something for their taste that’s for sure. In Otavalo people are wearing traditional clothes.

And men have long hair (pigtail) and they are wearing a poncho and black trousers, black waistcoat and white shirt under the poncho. Very nice people. The festival kicked off at 7pm, I went down a bit later, met a guy and his gf. Whom I met first in Banos, so we hung out together and participated in the dancing bit too.

On Sunday I just chilled in the hostel and walked a bit in the city. Today heading to the border and the Colombia. Fingers crossed for a safe crossing….

I think it’s the first time that I am going to talk about my feelings here in the amazing South America beyond describing my adventures…I don’t know whether it’s the fact that I have been travelling for 4 months now or Peru or the combination of things but for the first time I feel that I miss my life back in London. I miss my family, my friends, my job at Foxy ..the office banter, my nice clothes, my decent look, the bars and Asian restaurants and I could carry on….but hey let’s talk about Cusco and Machu Picchu first.

After Copacabana I got to Cusco in the middle of the night with 2 lovely Dutch travellers, Klaas and Ivora. We got lucky with the hostel (well more or less) as a man was waiting for us with a great offer at the bus station so we went to Apu Wasi hostel close to the centre of Cusco. We didn’t waste our time too much, slept till 10, then went to discover a bit this stunning city.

In the afternoon we booked our Machu Picchu jungle inka trail which started the next day. After a long minibus ride up to the mountains I felt terrible..I don’t know whether it was the altitude again or the serpentine but I felt so sick…I got a bit scared too because I felt that I had fever and it was exactly 7 days after the Jungle of Bolivia which made me think that I had malaria (apparently it kicks off after a week of getting bitten, and I was covered by bites). Once we were on the top of the mountain we started cycling downhill…it reminded me of the Death road but a less scary version of it. The fresh air helped me, so I felt better. Our guide’s name was Martin, seemed like a nice guy. After the bike ride we went for lunch and to our hostel in Santa Maria. It was basic, still nice. In the group there was an English couple, an English guy, a Chilean couple, my Dutch fellows and me. In the afternoon we went rafting. This was the first time I did it…AMAZING.

Once we were back we went for dinner and played pool. I had my first Peruvian Pisco sour..I don’t think I should blame the drink though for falling into a water fount on the way back to the hostel as it was very dark (no street light) and it was hidden on the pavement! I do think I can blame the Pisco sour for my next day diarrhoea though (sorry for the details but I reckon it’s part of the story:P).

The next day after breakfast we started walking up in the jungle..quite hard walk but on the way we were surrounded by stunning trees, banana, monkeys and picturesque landscape while listening the story of Pachamama, coca leaf and the inkas.

Martin painted some Inka pattern on all of us so we could feel that we were part of the history for a few days…

At lunch we went to an Inka farm and chilled for an hour in the hammocks.

In the afternoon we continued our trip all the way until Santa Teresa but just before that we reached the hot springs and had the opportunity to relax our muscles after 8 hours of walking.

Evening- dinner, then we went to a club where I could show off with my salsa moves:)

The next day after breakfast we went to do some Zip line adventure. It was an incredible fun..the only thing that put some shadow on it was that I wasn’t feeling great again. Fever and dizziness.

We had a terrible minibus ride again to the lunch place where I had no appetite and all I wanted was just lying down. Martin suggested me to take the train to Aquas Calientes instead of walking for 3 hours but I didn’t want to be a lightweight so I said I would walk- bad decision. My group walked fast..I felt I was left behind and walked with a German group- they were nice and helpful…I honestly thought I would pass out during these 3 hours. My group hated me because they had to wait for me (which they only did when they got close to the town). I still had no appetite, went to see a doctor who said I had bacterial infection so he gave me antibiotics. I went to bed at 6pm because the last day was the highlight..Machu Picchu. I knew I wouldn’t be able to walk up the stairs the next morning so I took a bus up there with Ivora ( her ankle was really bad so she couldn’t walk either) at 5.30, and we met Martin and the other up there at 6am. When the gate opened everyone went in and was enchanted by the beauty of Machu Picchu.

We spent up there 4 hours then went back to Aguas Calientes and chilled until our train back to Cusco (9pm). We got there after 1am so we went straight to bed. I was feeling a bit better but because of the antibiotics I couldn’t eat much for days (great way of losing weight, horrible way to travel). I stayed a few more days in Cusco and did some day trips to the Sacred Valley. Met Zoli my Hungarian friend and Danila, my Argentinian friend with whom I was in the jungle in Bolivia.

The next destination was Lima. The bus ride was fairly long, around 20 hours but good. I stayed in the historical centre, met Anne-Laure (French girl, we met first in Brazil- she is studying in Lima), and I hang out with an American girl, Maggie. We got on well. Lima was a nice surprise, beautiful cathedrals, and great vibe. Miraflores is a stunning area by the sea.

After 2 days I took the bus to Trujillo. This is ‘the capital of the North of Peru’, but I went straight away to Huanchaco, 20 minutes by bus to a little beach town which I fell in love with. Upon arrival I got some bad news from back home which changed completely my plans..- I guess this was the aim of the bad news- so I decided to stay here for 2 weeks and study Spanish here instead of rushing to Quito. I realised I needed to take a break of the rush and just chill out for a while. I have to say I did the right thing. My Spanish has improved a lot. My teacher Sam, is a Welsh guy and has been living in Peru for years. (highly recommended!)

He gave me the same deal as I got in Quito, and I have been taking 4 hours per day. Now mentally it’s been tiring but I combined it with some physical activity too such as running, exercise and surfing so I have been busy all day every day and managed to digest the bad news….well..mas o menos…

I found a fantastic place to live- it’s a vegetarian restaurant called ‘Otra Cosa’, where I rented a private room, free from tourists. The restaurant is run by a Dutch guy called Berry- he is living here with his Peruvian (beautiful) wife and kid, there was a girl volunteering from the US and a Dutch guy working for a travel agency..apart from them the kitchen crew was awesome too and they had a little dog Yardy (coming from Yard dog) and Killy the few months old kitten. So I feel I found a bit my equilibrium involved with a lot of local people and made lots of friends…oh I am going to miss those fresh juices and breakfasts on the market in Jerrer’s shop..and the surf guys, and the vibe of this amazing place.

It’s time to move though…tonight I am going to Tumbes (city on the Ecuadorian border) and tomorrow hopefully I will be in Ecuador.

Peru has been amazing…and if I had to choose a place to come back, Huanchaco would be the one.

A few pics on my ‘paradise’ 🙂

I left San Pedro de Atacama on the 22nd April. The group seemed to be nice in the minibus on the way to the border..There were a few people though who didn’t speak much. After the border crossing we had breakfast in the beautiful National park of Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa. The group halved and we packed all our stuff into 2 jeeps. I wasn’t very happy at the beginning because the ‘cool’ people stayed with the other group, so i continued my way with a Polish guy Szymon, a French couple, Tom and Elena and a Spanish guy Carlos. We visited on the first day the Laguna Verde (for me this was the highlight):

then we went to the geysers..impressive:

And after this we headed to the hot springs where I didn’t go into the water for 3 reasons:

A, I was a bit sick of altitude (5200m)

B, I had bed bug bites all over me

C, It was freezing cold and i still had my cold from the Navimag

After this 1 hour break we went to our accommodation.

Had lunch and a bit of siesta, then in the afternoon we went to Lago Colorado..Now this was something special with all the altitude sickness kicked off though even more. Luckily Chino (our guide) had a lot of coca leaves so I mastered in the chewing technique.

We went back to the hostel, had dinner, and played cards with the guys while having a bottle of wine. Early bed time (I was happy to lie down but i woke up a few times during the night because I couldn’t breathe. I measured my heartbeat by the way in the evening and it was 90 which is fairly high..this gives u an idea how is this altitude sickness.

Next day we left early to continue our way to the rocks where there is the Arbol de Piedra:

Then we continued to the Train Cemetery and to the market of the Salt flats.

We arrived to Uyuni around 5pm (There was an hour less than San Pedro). Walked around. It’s not a particularly nice city. Then dinner at 7pm and another card night with the boys. Won again:)

On the 3rd day we had to be out at 5am to see the sunrise in the Salt flat…

Chino’s family came with us. In Bolivia the guides for the Salar work almost 7/7 so he only gets to see his family for an afternoon every 3 days…and earns 1500Bolivianos /month which is about £150.

We had breakfast in the Hotel of Salar de Uyuni where everything is made of salt.

And we carried on discovering this massive Salt flat, plus went to a place where we could see some mummies of the Inka’s.

We got back to Uyuni at 11am, the tour finished. Everybody took the 12pm bus to Potosi. The bus ride was about 3 hours, we stopped once to eat in a place.

After we got to Potosi we went to the same hostel. Elena and Tom to a different room, I stayed with Carlos and Symon.

We went out a bit and met some people from San Pedro, then we did a bit of shopping in the Central Market (you could buy there even Langos!!) and I cooked in the hostel. We had dinner but everyone was dead so went to sleep.

The next day I had a lie was incredibly good not being on a schedule. In the afternoon i went to explore Potosi, had lunch at the market. They have these set lunches for 6 Bolivianos: soup, main and soft drink..I met there Ute and Rosa, we booked the tour in the mine for the day after in the morning, except Rosa she did it straight away. I did a tour in the ‘Casa de la Moneta’ of Potosi, the history of the coins…quite dull tour but one thing surprised me. Even though Bolivia is rich in minerals, the country doesn’t have money for the technology of printing they outsource is to Europe , Canada and Chile..impressive. After the tour I was walking around with Ute, and went up to the ‘Gherkin of Potosi’:

In the evening we met Rosa again and went out for a meal. Then hostel and sleep.

Big day was waiting for me the Mine tour..i was the only one on the English tour which was great. Pedro, my tour guide- his nickname among the local girls is ‘Lama face’- made sure that I get a proper intro into the minor’s world. We first went to the mining shop where I bought soft drink and dynamite to the minors..Look at my outfit:

Then we went to the place where all the minerals are processed:

And after we entered the mine..imagine something like this:

We spent about 2 hours inside..met Tio who is the Devil but kind of God of minors…they have a ‘party ‘ every Friday, they bring coca leaves to him, cigarette, and the famous 96% alcohol:

I have to say the life of the minors is tough…they are self employed, therefore some of them start at 6-7 in the morning and leave at 9-10 in the evening..I had the luck to try to work there a bit..after 2 minutes I was sweating..they smash incredible stones to get a tiny bit of minerals of them..

After the tour one of the ex minors (now working as a tour guide) invited all the tourists to his wedding which took place on Saturday. I couldn’t miss this opportunity so I offered him that I could take some nice pics for them and this would be my present. He was over the moon.

So I left Potosi at 4pm and went to Sucre, to the capital of Bolivia with Ute. We had a 3 star hotel called Hotel San Francisco for 6 euros/night..not bad..I needed a bit of luxury after the past days.

On Thursday we went to bed straight so we can start early with the sightseeing..after amazing avocado, cheese and fruit breakfast we started the city tour..very cultural amazing city:

In the evening we met Verana (I did the Uyuni tour with her) and Daniel from Izrael and we went to a local 1st of May (Labour’s day) celebration. I had the spiciest food ever and the drink’s base was the 96% alcohol I reckon because it hit my head straight away. We bought a 1.5l bottle for the 4 of us..

Ute went home earlier, Verana and the guy did too so i had no other choice..Funnily enough I was walking home drunk with the remaining of the alcohol and the police came in front of me, and without saying anything they took my drink. Later on I found out that u cannot drink alcohol on the street..probably better that they took it from me:)

On Saturday I did a bit more sightseeing then packed and left to Potosi at 1.30pm. Upon arrival I checked into a hostel, bought some ‘wedding accessories’ in the market and went to the tourist info office where Carlos accompanied me to the church. In Bolivia the church ceremony can start at 6,30pm as it did in the case of Efrain and Juliana. The priest did an awesome speech..he asked them why they were here..and then demonstrated the difference between loving each other or being used to each other with the example of the bread and cheese dinner every day. I was truly impressed. After the ceremony the couple went out to the church yard and a Mexican band was waiting for them with music. First they danced with each other then with relatives. After this they went to the official ceremony (only the family went with them, the guests including me had some free time until 9pm). At 9 I went to the tourist office again, they hired a minibus for the tourists (certainly not for free) and we went altogether to the party..The first 30 minutes were very serious..which very quickly turned around and in about an hour you saw the 70 year old Bolivian lady dancing with the 20 year old English guy or the Hungarian girl dancing with the 60 year old Bolivian granddad. It was hilarious..

The cake distribution was another impressive moment:

I lasted till 3..and then I left. I lost the key of the hostel so I had to wake up the owner of the’s a family and a 10 year old little girl let me in.

Next day I was running around to develop pictures and write them on CD, once it was done I left them with Carlos, walked around a bit and caught the 22.00 bus to La Paz. My was truly the toughest night trip since I started travelling…it was 10 degrees outside and 5 in the bus..everyone was coming with 2 blankets and i didn’t know that in Bolivia you don’t have blankets supplied so I had none!! I begged the driver to turn on the heating but I don’t think it was working. Slept nothing, arrived to La Paz at 6am, took a cab and went to the hostel to sleep. At midday I woke up and went out to explore. I booked both the Death Road bike tour and the Rurrenabaque Pampa’s tour…very happy! In the evening I had a few drinks..I stayed in the biggest party hostel..which was a mistake. Screaming 20 years old blond English/Dutch girls and zoned out people coming back in the morning from Ruta 36..what is ruta36? It’s a cocaine bar, moving around in La Paz. Ruta 36 is the address u need to give to the taxi driver if you want to go there. I didn’t. I went out for dinner to the Steakhouse and had Lama steak..The taste is similar to lamb, so I didn’t like it too much but I had to try it. The next day early start, I went to the Valle de la Luna:

After I went to the market…and bought a few things…about 6 kilograms to send home. To be honest if I had been aware of the costs of sending home stuff from Bolivia I might not have gone near the market..but hey..I will be very happy opening them up when I am home..FACT.

In the evening I had dinner with 3 girls from the Isle of Wight and went to sleep to be fresh and relaxed for the Wednesday activity, the Death road.

So early start in the morning, 7am I had to be at the El Solario hostel. We had breakfast there, picked up our gear and jumped into the minibus. Then when we arrived close to the death road we mounted the bikes and started the adventure. The first hour was easy..on concrete, going down fast, but then we arrived to the proper dangerous narrow stony road. Our guide went first always and we followed. He was pretty fast. At the beginning I went a bit slower but then got used to the road and reached the speed of 60km/h..we crossed rivers and took edgy curves. This was the road:

The landscape was pretty amazing. In the end I came 4th out of 18 J We had lunch in a restaurant and the biggest surprise was that the owners were Hungarians. And the funny thing is that there was another Hungarian guy, Zoli who was travelling in South America. The owner (Laci) said that every half year there is one Hungarian passing cool that he had on one day 2!! This was the crew:

Unfortunately a guy from Izrael fell with the bike and had to have his chin was bleeding badly..but we didn’t go back to La Paz until everyone had lunch and had a dip in the swimming pool..I heard that this is normal..2 weeks ago a guy broke his shoulder but lunch and swimming was still priority before the hospital..Laid back population..We got some stats on deaths /’s about average 10 people..quite high number if you think about it.

In the evening I met Verana again in La Paz in my hostel!! We were happy to see each other and planned on going out but it failed on my behalf. So we just had a few drinks with her and Darran (Irish guy, he was on the same death road tour).

On Thursday I woke up early, went to Killi KIlli mirador. View from it to La Paz:

Then to the post office to send home the stuff. I had a set lunch on the market, then headed to the airport to catch the plane to Rurrenabaque.

Imagine a mini plane like this:

I arrived in the evening, took a motor taxi and went to the Tucano hostel. Surprisingly Darran was on the check in list, so i thought we were doing the Pampa tour together which we did.

In the evening I walked around, had some dinner..I was suffering though because meanwhile I was chatting to the Hungarians after the death road i got bitten by sun flies…annoying little creatures..the bites are not only itchy but after a few days your legs look like you were beaten up and it hurts a lot too.. By now they are gone luckily.

So the Pampa tour started next day with a 3 hour jeep ride on a very bad road. The team was great, Maki, Japanese lady, Darran, Dani, Argentinian girl, Marie from France, Fanny, from Holland, and 2 Izraeli girls.

We had lunch close to the place where we took the boat..lots of laughs and fun. Then we arrived to the boats, packed all our backpacks there and all the food for the 3 days met Tas our guide and the boat trip started..We saw a lot of animals already on the way…caimans, monkeys, lots of birds. Around 4 pm we got to the hostel, went to play football in the only field in the neighbourhood and went back for dinner. (food was awesome during the 3 days..our cook was top!) Oh before dinner we got introduced to Anthony the alligator..I played a bit with him..and touched him too..if I think back that I was afraid of frogs this is a massive achievement:

Evening activity: searching for alligators with head interesting their eyes are so bright

in the dark. We saw a few.. Upon arrival Tas introduced us to his rules…6.10 am we had to be by the boat next morning to see the sunrise. He said even if there was only one person by the boat he would leave.

We were 5 minutes late..the whole group except the Dutch girl with great team spirit who was by the boat. They left the 2 of them…7 people were standing there like pigeons waiting for Tas..we all thought he was sleeping. Eventually we figured out that he left with Fanny..and we were so pissed off. Another guide felt a bit sorry for us..or maybe he just realised that we paid for the tour and NO GUIDE CAN JUST LEAVE US THERE WITHOUT WARNING, so he took us out on his boat to see the sunrise..we just about caught it. Upon arrival I had to open my mouth and tell Tas that this behaviour is not accepted and next time please be a bit more flexible and give us at least one warning. Hehh..the answer was: there will not be a next time… chin dropped.

The atmosphere wasn’t the greatest after this..after breakfast we went for anaconda search. This activity was on a small island and the previous group returned from it all muddy and wet until their bum. So we opted out with Dani and took some sexy pics instead:

I seemed to be the only one to be in fight with Tas so Darran tried to suggest the white flag policy but Tas was stubborn and hurt..well me too!

So in the afternoon we went to swimming with the dolphins..they were there but they seemed to have only little interest in playing with us..few of us went into the water once Tas reassured us on the lack of alligators and piranhas in the water when a dolphin is around..He also told a story about a girl who went into the water a few weeks ago and he vagina got bitten by the piranhas because she was on her period!!!!

We were pretty close to the dolphins but they didn’t swim with us…until the last minute when I felt that one swam under ,my hand…it was amazing experience..but as a first reaction I screamed a bit..Tas hated me for this too (and we were still in fight) so we left the place went to play volley ball and for dinner. In the evening we were in the hammock room where Tas made a ring to Dani saying to her that she was the only one who wasn’t Hypocratic….hahh!

But..I think he might have had bad conscious because before i was going to bed he shaked hands with me. That was his way of apologizing. I was fine with it..

Oh a few pics on the Refugio we stayed in:

Oh and I forgot to say that I fed monkeys just before dinner, Tas gave me bananas from the kitchen but he didn’t tell me that i am not supposed to give him straight away the whole banana..


Next morning we did a second attempt to see the sunrise..This time everyone was 5 minutes earlier than the meeting time..and we saw a lot of animals:

Then after breakie we went to Piranha fishing..I didn’t get any, the whole boat got 3:

Then lunch, saying bye to the camp and we made our way back where the jeeps dropped us. On the way monkey feeding:

Tas got mad at me again for giving the monkey the whole banana…..i couldn’t do anything right on this trip 🙂

In the end we said bye to him, gave him a nice tip…and even though he seemed to hate me I got the biggest hug and he suggested me to come back right now for another 3 daysJ

Jeep ride back to Rurrenabaque was horror..Maki left her backpack in the camp which made her things complicated…also there was a 2-3 days of road blocking coming from Monday in the whole Bolivia..You couldn’t get the correct info on it so I was hoping that if I fly back to La Paz early in the morning I would have a little chance to catch a bus straight to Copacabana..FAILED.

I was at the airport for the whole day with Marie (French girl), in the end I found a ‘dodgy’ taxi driver who was willing to leave at 3.30am in the morning with us to Copacabana for $100 (the people who block the road go to sleep this time..but again this is not sure..maybe they drank 50 cans of redbull and they wouldn’t move from the road. This blocking is physical blocking people are on the street with stones..if there is a car passing they throw the stones at the car. So fairly risky..but I didn’t want to spend one more day at the airport so we took the risk. It went all smooth..Arrived to Copacabana in the morning around 7, got a hostel, Marie left to Arequipa and I went for a walk..pretty cool little town. I went to bed early due to my 36+ hour sleeplessness..

Next day as of today I came to the Isla del Sol situated in the middle of Lake Titicaca. I am walking in the island’s stunning..Tomorrow back to Copacabana and take the 13.30 bus to Cuzco to see Machu Pichu.

See some pics on the Isla del Sol. Bye everyone! X

I arrived to Pucon very late (11 pm), and went straight to the hostel called El Refugio where Bea (Hungarian girl, I mentioned how we met first in Buenos Aires and then in Torres del Paine) stayed.

We met immediately and jumped into each other’s arms of the joy again. She climbed the Villarica volcano (main attraction in the area) on that day because the weather was nice, and since the next day it was forecasted similar weather I begged the hostel to book me in for a tour. (You can only do this climb with guides –advance booking just as in the case of any tours is essential and usually at 11pm there is not much chance to be able to book anything, tears always help though 😉

So next day after a 6am wake up we started the tour. 2 guides picked us up (a girl and a guy), and took us to the volcano in minibus (6 people is the standard group size). We saw the sunrise from the bottom of the volcano:

The starting point of climbing was 1800m.

You had 2 options to start the first 400m with:

Chairlift or walking. 5 people including me took the chairlift and 1 warrior walked.

The first hour after the chairlift was ok..on volcanic sand, then we had the ice bit where we had to put on special ice walking gear like this:

By the way the tour company provided boots, jacket, ice walking gear, gloves and sliding gear for the way back..yes, sliding, I will explain later..

My boots were brand new so I had to stop to cover the fresh blister caused. After the ice bit we had the hardest part, climbing on moving volcanic rocks..very steep climb, one bad move and you are down…

Saying that, about 2 month ago 2 people fell off at this point..bodies were found only after 2 days..they fell about 500m.

I was a bit worried therefore very cautious of my steps. We were on the top around 1ish, but the wind was very strong so the fume of the volcano let us stay there only 10-15 minutes. (incredibly horrible feeling to inhale that toxic fume, it gives you headache and coughs)

But the crater looked amazing:

The view from here was well worth it though:

On the way down, my knees were suffering from all those downhill but then we got to the first sliding bit..Imagine a snow slide like this

We put our sliding gears on and the fun started

There were 2 more of these. You had to listen to the guide on how to slide because the snow was very icy and full of rocks underneath. One of the girls on the 3rd slide couldn’t slow down and literally flew away in the end landing off the slide. Since she wasn’t moving for a bit everyone got scared but in the end she was fine just hit a little bit her hip. The tour finished at 5pm, I went back to the hostel, met Bea, decided to cook together, but first she had to meet a friend in another hostel, so I walked with her..where I bumped into Iain, Chris and Katherine (Navimag)..small world.  And on the way we also bumped into our tour guide, Emir, who invited us for an asado (barbecue) in the evening, and since we were starving, we accepted the invitation 🙂

Pucon Tours was the host, so we were the only travellers there. To give you an idea about the amount of meat on the grill:

A few beers later the Spanish seemed to be our mother tongue 😛 Then the cherry on top of the cake was Tal who turned up at the asado a few hours later…she lived there!! I was supposed to give her back her driving licence that she left in my wallet in Bariloche a month this fact eased the meeting:)

We got a bit tipsy and went home around 1-2..

The next day we woke up 10ish, did some admin , bought the tickets to Santiago for that night, and then went to the hot springs to release our tired muscles. After a month of hiking this seemed to be a fab idea.

I wanted to stay a bit longer in Pucon, but since Bea got super excited about the Sensation White 2012 in Santiago, even though the tickets were sold out, we decided to go there and try to buy tickets on the spot. The journey took 10 hours- we took a night bus.

Arrived to Santiago at 6am, then we were hanging out at the station a bit, as I didn’t want to call Carmen very early (she is my amazing Spanish friend whom I met on the W trek..she straight away offered me without even knowing me that I can stay in her sweet), so we went to a hostel to book Bea in and she discovered a free city tour starting at after the vague sleep on the bus we did a 4 hour walking tour…my brain was a the end we lost our tour as we were busy taking pictures of a couple of lama-like animals on the street.

We met Carmen after and went to the Mercado central to eat amazing sea food..I just cannot have enough of the fresh Chilean sea food..I love it!

It turned out that the venue where the highly sought Sensation took place was just next to the Central market. So we went there at 5pm, as we saw already a few people were gone, and since it’s illegal to sell tickets on the spot we had to hunt for them..after 2 hours of waiting/negotiation on prices we managed to get 2 tickets for 50.000 pesos which is about £60 (original price was: 55.000 CHP). We were super happy!!! Carmen stayed there as she met Cora (the other lovely girl I met on the W, Carmen’s friend), and me and Bea went back to the hostel to get ready, pick up my stuff and make out way after to Carmen’s house, and then to Cora’s house for pre-drinks. It’s a shame that we didn’t get the chance to go altogether but the girls didn’t have budget for it (me neither in theory but I just couldn’t say no to an event like this!!!!).

This was our outfit:

We had a really fun taxi ride with my favourite salsa, La vida es un Carnaval, and upon arrival (midnightish) we got interviewed by CNN Chile…I would love to see this shot but probably they cut out from the production as it was scandalous:)

By this time we were fairly drunk (almost had a litre of vodka, just the 2 of us).

The party was SENSATIONAL!!!! OMG! Total euphoria! Check out a short video:

The party finished at 6am, so we went home. The next day was a bit rough…when am I going to learn that Redbull gives the worst hangover ever?? Malta should have taught it to me.

Anyway, I spent the afternoon with Carmen and Bea, cooked spaghetti Bolognese, chilled in the afternoon and in the evening went to Valparaiso.

It’s a little town 1.5 hours away from Santiago. Colourful houses, antique, authentic. We got there eat 9pm, so we didn’t want to spend too much time with searching for hostels. Through a weird sales guy we reached our destination, a nice old family house with a beautiful baby. Chilean babies are sooooo nice!!!

Next day we decided to make our lives easier and we took a tour for 10.000 pesos with minibus. It was a great idea as the city is quite big and we could save some time by going by car.

‘The colonial city of Valparaíso presents an excellent example of late 19th-century urban and architectural development in Latin America. In its natural amphitheatre-like setting, the city is characterized by a vernacular urban fabric adapted to the hillsides that are dotted with a great variety of church spires. It contrasts with the geometrical layout utilized in the plain. The city has well-preserved its interesting early industrial infrastructures, such as the numerous ‘elevators’ on the steep hillsides.’


The tour was fun, with 2 Brazilian ladies, one from Rio, the other one from Belo Horizonte..oh all the Brazilian memories came back during the day..Such happy people!

Our guide Mario was very good and funny so all of us enjoyed the tour. We also went to Vina del Mar, which is much more modern.

We got back into town at 6pm.The hostel we stayed in was full for the upcoming night so i went to another hostel (family house rather) and that’s where the fun started.

Bea left in the evening for Mendoza and I sat down in the living room to do some admin. An old guy (Jorge) who lived there came up to me to chit chat. I wanted to focus on what I was doing but then I gave up as he sat down and just talked to me. So very quickly turned out that my birthday was coming up, he brought beers, wine and we had a drink together. Then the son of the landlady (Jose) came home from uni (20 years old) and joined us in the drinks. By the time we finished 2 litres of beer we wanted to have more so i went out with Jose to buy some more. Unfortunately Jorge came out after us and while he left the house a lady who went up to collect the rubbish in the house nicked my precious Maltese metal lighter..I loved that lighter but oh they felt bad about it but I told them not to worry…considering that my credit card, dslr camera and laptop were on the table too and they stayed untouched I felt quite lucky. But the atmosphere was going down after this…in the end we decided to go to sleep, when….the house started to be shaking…more and more and more. I freaked out…we all knew that it’s an earthquake. I wanted to run out, but they said it’s safer in the house so apart from a few plates and bit falling nothing major happened. Turned out it was 6.8 strong, it lasted about a minute. It was followed by 2 smaller ones…first time I experienced something like this..I calmed down after a while and went to sleep.

The day after I met Hannah, she was on the Navimag too and she stayed in Valparaiso too. We decided to take it easy and just go to Vina del Mar to chill on the beach.

In the evening I went back to Santiago and we just chilled with Carmen, didn’t go out.

The day after (Wednesday, on my birthday) she went to school in the morning, and I happily stayed in. I needed some rest and catch up with my things. Went to buy my bus ticket for Thursday to San Pedro de Atacama, then she came back home and cooked very yummy Spanish tortilla with original salsa from Andalucía.

In the evening both Jessica and Pat (flatmates of Carmen) were ready to have a few drinks with us on my birthday. I bought a bottle of Pisco, and some food to cook them Rakott kel, a typical Hungarian dish. They were so sweet, prepared a little surprise cake for me..the candles were quite powerful, so we almost lit up the house:

We had a power nap before and we woke up super late so the whole night was a bit delayed. We were meant to meet Mariona and Xavi and Hannah too, but we had no time unfortunately.

So we managed to get ready by 2am, which was too late for me..I couldn’t face all those drunken students at the club, so I went home after an hour.

Next morning we spent together with Carmen, packed and caught the 12.20 bus to San Pedro de Atacama. It was a 24 hour bus ride, I was travelling with Julia, a German girl. In Calama during our 10 minutes stop I met the German couple from Navimag whom I met also in Chiloe and Pucon. So funny that you keep bumping into people.

We arrived on the 20th April at 12pm to Atacama. As usual, hostel sellers were waiting for us at the bus station. So we went to La casa sol de naciente, but Julia didn’t like it. I stayed.

It turned out that it was worth doing 2 very good tours, one is sand boarding and watching the sunset in Valle de la Luna and the other was star-gazing in the desert.

So I booked the sand boarding tour for 3pm on the day of arrival. It was a lot of fun. I never tried any board whether it’s skate or snow…but I assume sand boarding is the easiest and softest terrain.

After the 2 hour long fun we went to Valle de la Luna to check the salt caves..Incredible, San Pedro de Atacama was under the ocean millions of years ago and you could see all the salt on the clays.

We had to rush to see the sunset on top of a beautiful clay mountain where you had a perfect view on the volcanos and Los Andes..Unbelievable views..

We celebrated the end of a fun day with a few Pisco sour..the last ones I had in Chile..then went back to the hostel and I slept.

The second day in Atacama I hired a bike and went to Pukara Quitor.

I met Rene and his daughter on the hill and continued the day with them.. Around 3pm I went back to the hostel, returned the bike and wanted the collect the video on sand boarding but it wasn’t ready.

I also wanted to book the stargazing for the night but I was too more spaces were left but they suggested me to go back at 8pm in case some people cancel. It did happen, so at 9.30pm i went to the desert where a Chilean lady did a 2 hour explanation on the constellation of the stars, the zodiac, and the rest. It’s incredible how limited things we see in Europe. Chile and Australia are the 2 best places to see the amazing galaxy.

I went back to the hostel at 12.30, packed for next morning when I started a tour to Uyuni crossing to Bolivia. This is the topic of my next blog.

Isla Chiloe’..magical little island..well not that little but I am comparing now everything to the size of Brazil/Argentina.

1st stop: Ancud. Surprisingly there was free wifi on the 15 minutes ferry journey that we did to arrive to the island. This is the size  ferry:

The weather was not great..rain, we found a hostel with Benny went to eat fabulous seafood on the fish market and early night. The first surprise with Benny was during the night….I was up late doing some admin (after 4 days of no access to wifi on Navimag kinda made me keen on catching up with the world), when Benny after 5 mins of going to bed started snoring in a way that the Aussie guy coming in to the dorm to sleep could only say: This is selvage!

Apparently people heard him downstairs…so..I hoped i would get some sleep which I did but I kept waking up to the incredibly loud snoring melodie…The Aussie guy had enough at some point and climbed up to Benny’s bed to hit him 🙂 Now if I think back to this action, I am still pissing myself of laughing.

Next day Benny had pokerface..maybe I should have told him something but I didn’t..So we are at Easter Saturday now…everything was closed. The main reason I wanted to check Ancud out was the penguin community living very close to it along with sea lions, but 2 problems occurred..

  1. I just missed them by a week
  2. National holiday …life completely stops

So in the afternoon I grabbed Benny to go to Castro (Capital of Isla Chiloe;) I used the word ‘grabbed’ deliberately as the poor guy had no clue( and interest) in where we are going, what we are doing, he just tagged along because ‘I speak Spanish and he doesn’t so it’s good for him’ I kinda quoted him here…At the beginning I kinda enjoyed his company..learnt a few things about him, such as him working as a rescue man (not sure if it’s ambulance or fireman but one of the 2..I needed a lot of patience to his English), him having a family back home but he decided to go travelling at the age of 50+ before pension, that he eats rice with every meal and many other things. But then he started to annoy me big time..simply with his uselessness..and his inability to choose between 2 suggestions of mine that was coming from his lack of interest I think…or I don’t know.

Anyway..after arriving to Castro i made our way to Palafito area which is little houses built on poles

There was a hostel which was recommended by Lonely Planet but sadly it was full. Luckily I popped into the Tourist info before where they gave me a kinda ‘underground’ cheap hostel (not advertised as a hostel- called Hostel Mirador, Palafito), which was managed by a 14-15 year old little guy who kindly showed us the room. It was a private room with 2 single beds…As soon as I saw it I remembered last night and the snoring so the first thing coming out of my backpack were the earplugs..I think these were the last ones so whoever laughed at me at the beginning on taking 40 pairs of earplugs on my trip and making me uncertain on my decision (followed by reducing quantity) can admit here that it wasn’t a bad idea in the end considering taking large amount of this helpful tool! The person knows exactly that he made a mistake therefore I am expecting a comment to this post from him/her.

I planned to stay in the hostel 2 nights, so the afternoon when we arrived we visited Castro..very nice little town with all the Palafitos, restaurants and hidden gems like this for example:

Next day early rise: Plan was to go to Isla de Quinchao. Since our hostel didn’t offer breakie and the whole city was closed at 9.30 am we went to a hostel where some Navimag folks stayed (oh we kept bumping into people from the boat, it was funny) and i begged for some breakfast to us obviously with payment..aaaaand who was having breakfast there?? My favourite couple on the boat from Barcelona: Xavi and Mariona!!

I briefed the story to them on Benny. They were about to go on my second day plan to the National park, so I asked them if we can come with them.

So we spent the day together in the green, then finished the walk with a nice meal in Parador Darwin restaurant. In the evening I sat in a cafe, did some admin and decided to send off Benny that night..(giving him a day notice). He didn’t seem to bother  too much..

In the morning we went to the little island and to Achao (capital). I lost Benny pretty early, and couldn’t find him anymore in that little island (ok.. ok i was mean and didn’t put a 100% into his research)

I went to a few places on the island, then returned to Castro, got a sim card (along with a phone- paid about £18 which was a full credit) then took the bus back to Puerto Montt, as there were 2 more little towns I wanted to visit. I decided that I will try to couchsurf.(whoever is not familiar with the term can look it up here:

I had one guest back in the time in London but I never stayed at anyone’s house. Luckily Ricardo replied to my request but said that we wasn’t going to be at home as he is working during the night, and his parents are away too, so he said he would leave the keys under the doormat…PEOPLE, I DON’T KNOW WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THIS BUT I FIND IT QUITE INCREDIBLE!

Let’s see the risk factors for me:

-keys are not going to be under the doormat and i would need to look for accommodation in the middle of the night

For him:

–          Considering that i had no feedback on my couchsurfing profile and even thought he heard my charming voice over the phone I could have been a psycho murderer, thief, robber…i could have put his house on fire or do whatever the f…ck I wanted!

He took the risk and left the keys for me under the doormat….Thank you so much again Ricky, if you are reading it.

So I spent 2 night at his house. It was so nice to have a lie in and not to worry about check out before 11am, living in a family house with a cute dog, having amazing meal that Jeanette cooked (she works in the house every day) Please meet Ric, Pitufo and Jeanette:

I visited the 2 little towns I wanted: Puerto Varas

And Futillar:

You can see the German influence here.

The next post is going to be Pucon, Santiago and Valparaiso.


After the beautiful Argentina and the first 3 stops of Patagonia I jumped on a bus and crossed the border to Chile. The bus ride is 5 hours from El Calafate to Puerto Natales and leaves usually at 8 in the morning. I had heaps of things to do on that day (27th), like find out more about the W trek and the Torres del Paine National Park, hire a tent, sleeping bag and all the necessary equipment for 5 days of camping. I was a bit scared of this adventure since I knew I was going to do it alone but when I got to the town and found an excellent hostel (Dos Lagunas), Alejandro (the owner of the hostel) explained me the trek and the park very well and also there is a session every day in a place called Erratic Rock where you can meet people and hire gear too.

So I went there, met a lot of people and got to know the following info:

So the W trek was named after the shape of the hike you need to do in order to accomplish. Here is a map:

The easier (and therefore the most popular) way of doing it is from West to East. So from the Glacier Grey to the Torres del Paine. Obviously the highlight is the Torres, but you need to calculate a few other factors such as weather for example.

The weather in Patagonia is changing hourly and also the end of March is pretty much the end of the season. Autumn, cold nights, stronger wind, more rain. But you can always get lucky. I had no clue until the first day where shall I start, west or east so I relied on the weather of the first day which was nice and sunny when I entered the park.

So the gear I hired:

-1 tent

-1 sleeping bag (with temperature of up to -5 degrees)

-1 matt

-1 cooking kit (gas, head, pot)

Renting price for 5 days: 45.000 CHP (around £60)

I wanted to start fresh and relaxed but after a random decision of going out for a meal with the people in the hostel and Alejandro I managed to down a half bottle of wine that actually woke me up and made me want to discover a bit more the bars in Puerto Natales. Bed at 1am.

Day 1:

Bus left Puerto Natales at 8am. The park is about 100km from the town so we enjoyed the picturesque landscape for 2 hours hoping that the weather will be superb. Most of the people I was in the Eratic Rock with started from west to east. Since I sensed a good weather I started from East to West with 15 kg on my back and 5 on the front in the small backpack.

The first part of the W is the most difficult part…UP UP UP…for 3 hours…until you reach the free camping place: Campamento Las Torres. I took a little video on my way:

Once I reached the camping, I registered, built the tent and went up to the Torres (it’s another 45 minutes of killing hike uphill-on rough rocks- but without the heavy backpack). The wind was very strong but I had a perfect view in sunshine on the Torres. I have to say it was amazing..but if I wanted to be completely honest, I preferred Fitz Roy in El Chalten. These towers were impressive but just 3 piece of stones with no glaciers and snowy top..and maybe I was missing the company of Greg and Marzena as well.

After careful examination of the view I went back to the camping and a few sips of Palinka helped me crash at 6pm..until…I heard someone outside my tent saying: Kip Kop, kip kop. This is a Hungarian way of knocking on a door…it was Bea, who I met in Buenos Aires!!!!! She saw me on the list of registered people in the camping and found me! Such a nice surprise! We both jumped of joy to see each other and spent the rest of the night together gazing stars and chatting to other pple. It was her last day..and my first one.(she started a few days earlier from west to east that’s why we managed to bump into each other)

We agreed that even though I had a long long way to go on the second day to the camping site, we would go up to the Torres again for sunrise. So we left at 6.30 am, arrived at 7.20 and hoped to see those burning red colours on the Torres that the sun paints on them but unfortunately it wasn’t a sunny day so we ‘just saw this’:

I took a video too:

So carrying on with Day 2:

I packed my tent and the full backpack and made my way down to do the U turn..

Unfortunately turned out later there was a shortcut (which wasn’t very obvious as the trail is designed to be made from west to east) so I earned myself another 6 km more by going back to the starting point and doing the U as per shown on the map. The map unfortunately didn’t say that there would not be an obvious trail to go on, so I ended up walking with my heavy stuff 4 hours long without meeting anyone and without being sure that I am on the right way..Here is a little taster:

Around 3pm I managed to get on the right track and I met a person finally who said that it was another 4 hours to reach the camp…I thought I would die…honestly..the exhaustion and the wind against me almost broke me. I had to stop a lot..I was crying swearing, I was surprised and enchanted by the view..I was laughing and happy to suffer. It was weird J Eventually after 5 hours I reached the Campamento Cuernos around 8pm (6000 CHP for the possibility to camp, but having a hot shower really helped me recover). I had no problem falling asleep:)

Day 3.

In the Cuernos I met Tasha and Denise (OZ and Swiss girls). They were both very nice, and were similarly exhausted and with full of blisters and back/shoulder pain, like me.

At 10am I made my way to Campamento Italiano (free camp 2 hours away). I got there at 12.30 and decided to have a quick lunch and go up to the French valley which was meant to be the second highlight of the W. I didn’t tell you but despite all the sufferance and physical challenge the landscape on these 5-6 hours walks since I started was absolutely stunning. On the first day when I saw the valley that lead up to the towers almost made me cry (of joy)…check this:

Also the tough second day was quite impressive scenery:

So back to day 3..lunch in Campamento Italiano. A group of Spanish speaking people invited me to sit with them so I did and we had lunch together. Was amazing, I could practice my inexistent Spanish…I have to say Italian helps a lot in South America. Around 2pm (sunshine, no sign of rain) the camping guard (Roberto) joined us and offered to take us somewhere off the beaten track. So the 6 of us went very close to the glacier in the French valley through rivers, climbing big rock..a great experience. After that we made our way to the normal track towards the first view point (Mirador).  Unfortunately it started raining..and the route was very steep and slippery too, plus you didn’t get to enjoy the view because of the rain. So I didn’t go up to the second view point . Went back to the camping, met Iain there (I have been travelling with him since Lencois in Brazil but I was always 1 day ahead of him since Buenos Aires!) We had a little evening reunion in Roberto’s house (cooked together and had a nice chat there in the warm while outside it was raining constantly). Around 1 I went to my tent hoping that the rain would stop by the morning. It didn’t. Cold and wet night…that’s all you need 🙂

A few pics on the 3rd day:

So on the 4th day I washed the tent in the river and we continued with Cora and Carmen (2 girls from the group, the other 2 guys went opposite direction) towards the Lago and Glacier Grey.

This is the route that made me sad…4 month ago a group of Izraeli people decided to have a little cooking party on the trail (strictly forbidden! You can only cook in the camping), and they left the fire on after moving on…a massive part got completely burnt down. It was so sad to see all those black trees…check this:

The rain stopped and the sun came out but the wind was incredibly strong. It took 2 hours to arrive to the Refugio Paine Grande where until 31st of March (the day we were there) there were 2 catamarans to take the passengers back to the point from where the bus left the National Park. At 12.30 and 6pm. We got there after 1pm, so the question was to go up to the glacier Grey and sleep one more night in the park, or go back to Puerto Natales and celebrate our hard work with a beer and a nice meal. To be honest with you I had a lot of reasons to opt for the 2nd choice..

  1. I did an amazing job on my own completing the rest of the W starting with the most difficult and most beautiful part…
  2. I didn’t feel like sleeping in a wet tent
  3. After Perito Moreno glacier (El Calafate) it would be hard to find a more beautiful glacier…so Grey didn’t appeal too much.

So we took the 6pm boat, and went back to Puerto Natales, had the great meal and crashed IN A BED, IN WARM BLANKET in a hostel we found with the girls.

The next day I went back to Dos Lagunas (where I stayed the first day, since I paid it already and Alejandro was very sweet) and spent the afternoon there uploading pictures and doing some planning (outside it was raining so i didn’t feel too bad staying indoors..I know i shouldn’t have even if it wasn’t raining as since I started my trip I had only 1 day off in BA when I was sick, and sometimes you need to rest but I am incapable to do so)

Did you notice my friends that for the first time I didn’t make any April fool joke? 😛 Surely you did…that’s how tired I was after the W.

On Monday (2nd April) I checked into the Navimag, and boarded to the ship. After a few drinks on board and Salsa with Rodrigo (one of the coolest people who works on the ship) I went to sleep and set the alarm to see the sunrise. It was great:

On the first day the weather is pretty shit..rain and therefore not great view on the glaciers and fjords of Chile..It’s a pretty chilling trip..I bought 2 bottles of red and a few beers..Iain and Roberto are here and other cool people so I am studying Spanish, resting, playing cards etc. The meal is’s a full board with breakie, lunch and dinner.

Well the night was absolutely amazing..a lot of dancing..(salsa, merengue, baciata and the rest)..I don’t know but the people on the boat are not massive party faces…only a little part of the people were there so i had the whole dance floor and dancers for myself.:) Loved every minute.

On the second day the weather was slightly better..until 3pm when we arrived to Golf of Penas and had a very rough 12 hours..lots of people throw up and were lying in their beds sick. I started to feel a bit weird too but it was more of a cold coming than seasickness. After an hour of chilling I was fine, had dinner and watched ‘Into the Wild’. No party was available after so I just went to bed.

Last day on the boat..usual breakfast, presentations on flora and mammals of Patagonia. Everyone started to feel that this was the last day/night together, people got to know each other by then, groups were formed. Really nice group of people..In the afternoon Benny, my friend from Hong Kong gave me a beer so I started drinking in the pub. Later on I joined the second Capitan (Enso) who was sitting by the bar. We had a very nice chat, and as the beer started to kick off I felt like climbing up on the highest point of the ship but it was closed, so Enso opened it for me if I promised not to tell anyone. After this he invited me to join the Official’s table (Capitan, second Capitan and all the VIP staff)…I didn’t believe what I heard so ladies and gentleman, I had my last supper with them, in their cabin at the principal table (because there were 2 for the slightly lower level staff- and here we are not talking about the people working in the kitchen), stylish with a glass of Chilean red. What an experience. My Spanish is pretty good by now so I could converse with them easily. They were all above 50 so obviously they also enjoyed the company of a young Hungarian girl travelling alone….

After dinner, we had bingo at 21.30…how first real bingo game after working in the industry for so long..I didn’t win   🙂

Bingo was followed by other fun games like limbo, apple game and finally salsa..Rodrigo was far the best dancer so I made the most out of the night. Everyone was pretty drunk..couples were formed by the end of the night so by 1am the pub was pretty empty. Since we arrived to Puerto Montt at 4am and we had to leave the boat by 8 I decided to stop drinking and go to sleep.

Breakfast at 7, and we left. First time it was so weird to leave a group of people that you were stuck with on a boat..I got half of the people’s details..And we will probably bumb into each other in the area.

So Benny decided to come with me for a while to discover Chile. We are on the bus now to Isla Chileo after a few hours of walking in Puerto Montt (very nice fishmarket with delicious seafood empanadas).  I love Chile so far!