Published by Linda on 12 Jul 2009

I’m FINE!! YES REALLY!!!!!!!!!!!!

Over the past while, I’ve had a lot of people tell me they read my last blog and almost started crying?! Was it really that sad? Now I did want to pour my heart and soul into it, just because it was the summing up of my whole experience travelling but I didn’t think it sad really. So I re-read it and I still don’t see that it’s THAT bad. The funny thing is I do look at the photos now and kinda wonder, “did I really do all that”? Not in a sad way but in a kinda wow that was awesome way. Well it’s looks like me so I must have :-)

Anyhoo, I’ve been writing a few blogs here and there, I suppose it’s habit and well, I kinda like writing too. I haven’t been publishing them as they’re probably not of any great interest but they do get my creative juices flowing. A lot of people have told me to keep it going and a few have said park it up, I dunno. It’s also weird to give people the inside track on you, because you do kinda forget that you’ve written something and then wonder how people know things! I’m very open in general but it feels like maybe it’s not something grown ups should do (ah I’m safe then!!) Anyhoo, I said this week, in case anyone thought I’m sitting at home curled up in a ball, twitching and sodden through from my own tears :-) I said I’d do a little update.

So what have I been up to since? Well….. I’ve been very depressed, allergic, will never settle back, dear god how am I managing, etc, etc or SO I’VE BEEN TOLD – REPEATEDLY!!!! I can understand why people would think I’d be down in the dumps but let me set the record straight here, contrary to popular belief, the truth is I’m all good. Yes really!!!

What I have found is that people look at you, give you the head tilt (tilt your head, look concerned and you’ll get my drift) and say “ooh you’re really depressed, aren’t you”. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I honestly don’t feel like I look depressed. I’m pretty smiley and good humoured most of the time. That line “you’re really depressed……” is like check-mate though, the more you try to convince people you are, in fact all good, the more you look like you’re on the defensive and in denial, and so just end up convincing them even more!! No matter what way you respond, you CANNOT win :-) You’d almost think people want you to be depressed – ah well really just because they keep saying it (I hope!)

It kinda amuses me though, the reaction I’ve been getting since coming back. I have to tell you my absolute favourite….a person (I’ll leave it vague) I know has asked me (a few times!!) “so what do you do now that you’re home?” What the hell? Whatcha mean what do I do, I do what everyone else does. Last time I did laugh and asked, well what do you do??? ūüėÄ In general though people just tend to ask me where was my favourite place or where would I go back to. I kinda don’t like talking about the travels though, well because let’s face it, no one likes a holiday bore. I also get a lot of “Well, is it out of your system now, are you going to settle down”, blah, blah, etc. Aaaarrrggghhhhh leave me alone!!! I suppose people just care and are concerned, but that makes me feel bad because I did something great, not something that needs to draw concern.

Went back to work a week after coming home. Sounds nerdy but I actually don’t mind going to work, it’s always pretty good for me. That said, the night before starting back, to make it vintage Sunday night back to school blues, I was only short the theme song from Glenroe. (An old Irish soap opera that you didn’t want to watch but had to if only to make the weekend last half an hour longer and to distract you from that english essay you totally forgot about!!) I also had a mini heart attack standing on my driveway my first morning but there was no need for my nervousness at all. Work is great, the people are great and whilst I could be more *sigh* “illusioned” with my job (for a multitude of reasons) I really have no cause for complaint. Lots of changes there though, which can’t be a bad thing.

I feel settled back in nicely. Have had great weather since I came home, apart from a few days of rain here and there. The last couple of days have rained ALL DAY. I was almost at the press-my-nose-against-the-window stage so I said I might as well do a little writing. Have caught with most people by now, had some good nights out & catch up sessions, went to a gig or two but I haven’t been partying all that much to be honest. The baby train coupled with the economic “mess-ness” has definitely slowed people down a little. It’s been great though just to see how much has changed, and it has people, it really has. I guess people in my age bracket progress pretty quickly, i.e. there’s new babies all over the place :-) The economic state of things must have been a whole lot worse nine months ago!!! Everyone reckons the year flew by and nothing changed but, take it from me, it did!! Maybe because I covered so much ground I felt I was away a lot longer than a year so maybe I’m just conscious of all the little changes.

So I suppose I have been keeping a lower profile than usual but this has kinda suited the pocket though as the rest of the summer is set to be pretty busy so I’m looking forward to that. Heading to a couple of concerts, some big bashes, a fab wedding and hopefully even a little holiday (the rain will finally get to me) squashed in there somewhere. I think I’ve also mentioned I need a new Lindy-project and I’m working on a couple of ideas there too.

And so I’m not sure why I felt the need to but hopefully have set the record straight that things are good, and whilst yes, it is great to be travelling and have the freedom to wander, you always know it can’t last forever. I guess I just had accepted that, even before I left. Other other hand if I win the lottery, you won’t see me for dust…… ūüėÄ

P.S. I’m not sure if I will make this a regular blog but I promise to change the site around if I’m gonna keep posting.

Published by Linda on 27 May 2009

Over and Out

Here’s the deal, this is a long blog, even by my standards, so if you prefer pictures telling the story then feel free to skip past the text…….

I’ve never kept a diary but huge thanks to Donal from work, was born for that function. I am surprised and delighted that I kept it up because I’ll have it forever.¬†I also want to say thanks to¬†everyone who read and even complimented my ramblings throughout the year, you’re very patient and kind. God I talk waaaaaaaaaay too much :-) To those who said I should write a book and/or change to a career in journalism, I think that might be just a little over generous and I’ll probably be sticking to the day job!!

I think I’ve been pretty open and honest in my blog and, this being a round up of¬†the whole experience, is set to be probably the biggest insight into my¬†head so far.¬†Good luck :-) Here goes……

This is it. Back at home, one year over. In some ways it flew by and in some ways it seemed like I never lived any other life. The most incredible,¬†amazing, awesome,¬†whirlwind adventure I could have wished for. So did I find myself? Or what I was looking for? They are¬†the questions most people ask,¬†don’t they?¬†Well to be honest, I didn’t go looking for myself, myself or anything else. I just went to have a time out and to see a bit of the world.

I like that song by Johnny Cash – I’ve Been Everywhere Man. It’s not a particularly good song or anything,¬†but it makes me smile and gives me that wanderlust feeling. I haven’t been anywhere near as many places as Mr. Cash but this past year I’ve seen a lot. I’ve¬†travelled about 50,000¬†kilometres by air, sea and road, slept in strange beds mainly (weirdly now that I’m back in my own bed, I keep waking up wondering where I am!!) Also spent nights on trains, buses,¬†boats, hammocks, hostel couches¬†and tent floors, in bus stations and airports. I’ve slept and sometimes laid awake in hostels, hotels and kind strangers’ houses.

All throughout the trip people asked if I’d changed or learned something about myself and my answer was always pretty much the same. I know me pretty well, warts and all :-)¬†I’m still the same person, with the same qualities and the same flaws. I’d also add to this and say that travelling has really just confirmed what I knew about myself, a person who’s mainly good and if I’m not so good, I’ve pretty much been pushed to my limit :-)


As I say¬†these were my thoughts………..¬†until about a month or more ago and then things or me started to change a little. I initially put it down to tiredness from such a haul – particularly through south America. But now I face the reality that yes I have changed, in the weirdest possible way. I look at myself now and see a shyer, quieter and more introverted, even serious¬†version of me. I¬†seem have less to say, at least out loud, hence my conclusion of shyness. Maybe I’ve just¬†relaxed, maybe I’ve calmed¬†down, maybe¬†it’s a good change, maybe it’s temporary,¬†I’m¬†not too sure yet.¬†It’s just a strange change in personality considering all the travels, or taking on the world, if you will, which in my head¬†just doesn’t seem to¬†go hand in hand. Hmmmmmm….

Patriotism is something that has come up in different shapes and forms throughout the year. People reckon when you’re travelling it brings out pride in your country. Physically, it is certainly the case considering my hair turned red and latest freckle count is up around the 7 billion mark :-) In my head though, I’ve always been proud to be Irish, I’m not sure whether travelling accentuates that in me¬†or not. A lot of travellers are quite negative about their home country,¬†which, in some cases, is why they left.¬†You still meet or see Irish who do things you’re not proud of but in general most are friendly and just up for fun. It’s interesting to watch some of your own out of their environment :-)


I’ve learned a lot this year too, other cultures, other people and it’s been eye opening, frustrating, fantastic, hilarious and at times sad. Travelling wrecks you physically too, I’ve been my lightest and my heaviest in a¬†very short period of time. I’ve been through every possible emotion, level of energy and level of fatigue. And yes, honestly, towards the end, I was getting a bit tired and needed that stop in Taganga.¬†It was really the only place I allowed myself to stop.¬†After that couple of weeks recharging, I definitely could have kept going for another 6 months¬†or more,¬†but hey I ran out of¬†time and money and all good things come to an end, right? And I can honestly say I¬†relished every second, good¬†and bad.

God I love travelling though, I liken it to relationships, in ways it’s similar. It gives you the same highs and lows, the same excitement, the same frustration, the same fear, the same pay-off, the same craving for more and for me, the same loss when it’s gone. A sort of emptiness. It’s an addiction you see, the more you see, the more you want to see and I’ve never been too good at kicking habits. My list of places to see is longer now that when I first left home. Human greed I guess.

My dad told me if I went that I’d never settle and it would eat away at me forever, and I’ve a feeling he might be¬†right. That’s not to say I’m not thankful for what I got, my god I am sooooo soooo lucky to see all that I have seen. And I think I squeezed in as much as I possibly could in the the time that I had and it must be said I’m so lucky to have so much to come home to.

I have some great memories too, I’ll focus¬†mostly on the happy ones/places/events for the sake of (relative) brevity!¬†So here¬†goes…….¬†

………the sad but¬†nicest goodbye at home. Sprinting through heathrow airport – jumping over suitcases style!¬†Trying to let¬†go. Buddhas everywhere.¬†That hole in the boat in Indonesia. Flores road trip.¬†A big, big¬†goodbye in Asia. :-(¬†Meeting Kate in Singapore. Australia. Drunken phone calls from home. Missing some great weddings and the birth of Maeve’s daughter, Cara. Hilarious emails from one particular work colleague – you know who you are!! Awesome landscape¬†in the¬†Northern territory. The day I turned thirty.

The laughs we had¬†in¬†Darwin. Cooking with¬†Janz in the morning and all of us¬†laughing at the “savages”¬†we had to feed.¬†Cracking up¬†with Frankie in the Italian restaurant.¬†Sitting on the bed at 4.30am almost crying from tiredness and¬†wondering how we would get through another day of work. Planning our departure. Counting down the days.¬†Deserted¬†coastline in Cape Tribulation. Whitehaven beach.¬†Sunshine coast.¬†Driving down the east coast of Australia with sun blazing in the windows, listening to Christmas songs. Christmas in Sydney. The awesome great ocean road.¬†Climbing glaciers, that¬†big bungee jump and¬†sky diving with a hangover from hell. Goodbye in New Zealand. Just me again.

Mesmerised by the sky all over south America. Spanglish. Beautiful Bariloche. Long, long bus journeys. Swollen ankles. Blown away (metaphorically and physically) in Patagonia. Trekking alone at what felt like the edge of the world. Freezing in Ushuaia (end of the world) waiting for my disgusting (but only warm) clothes to be laundered. Great bunch of folks in Buenos Aires. Rio Carnival. Eaten alive by mosquitoes. Lying on the salt flats in Bolivia. Death Road. The giggles. Trekking to Macchu Pichu. Holding my breath on a beach in Tayrona National Park, Columbia. Writing. Late nights in Taganga. Feeling not quite myself.

Meeting some great people and sometimes being lucky enough to meet them again. Also meeting some very, very strange people :-) And on that note, being more patient and tolerant beyond what I ever thought I had the capacity for :-) Phazed by nothing. Getting on with it. Surprised at my lack of laziness. Days where it all went wrong. Days where it all went right. Making plans. Going with the flow. Chilling out properly. Just loving it! Immensely energetic. Aging incredibly. Sweating profusely. Shivering uncontrollably. Disgustingly dirty. Muddy clothes. Blistered toes. Flip flops. Sandy feet. Constantly meeting, smiling, laughing, talking, singing(!) packing, moving on, leaving and saying goodbye. Wishing for one more hour, day, week or month. Feeling nervous meeting my family. Chilling out southern style with the folks in Kentucky. Walking into arrivals in Dublin airport. Cork. Home.

This has been my adventure, my journey and these¬†are¬†my memories, and of course so many more. Now I have to let go and like leaving so many¬†amazing places and great people from this past while, this is a tough goodbye. For the best ones, I’ve tried to burn them into my memory. I’ll miss you, you consumed me, filled me up, entertained me, made me laugh and cry (sometimes all at once!!) Great things always seem to have to be fleeting, don’t they?¬†But now it’s back to real life and all that brings. Good things I hope.¬†Great things would be even better :-)¬† (told ya I’m greedy) Yes Lindy officially needs a new project, anyone got any ideas??¬† :-)

I want to thank everyone at home for being so good to me all year. And to the¬†those who kept in contact, you were great :-)¬†As for lindybear, well I’m not sure, it may be nice to keep it going,¬†it’s been really interesting¬†to read back over it, just in terms of how I¬†felt at that time more so than where I was and what I did. I’m not sure there’s enough going on with me to write a regular blog though. Play that one by ear I think. So for now I’ll leave you with some of my favourite (million) photographs………


































































































Published by Linda on 21 May 2009

Chicago Town & Back in the ‘Ville

My flight to the US took me through Panama and a horribly cold overnighter¬†at Miami airport – shiver!! It’s a funny thing to say but I think arriving into the states was the biggest culture shock this whole year. It’s so uptight and security conscious, I constantly felt guilty or as if I was doing something wrong even in total innocence!! It was very strange to have access to anything you needed, sooooo much choice, god I even struggled with flushing the toilet paper – well it’s been a while!!

So I finally arrived in Chicago, checked into the hotel and finally¬†got an hour’s sleep. My cousin Nader arrived a couple of hours later and we checked out Chicago’s Navy Pier for lunch and a catch up.


It was great meeting Nader as we pretty much wanted to see the same things in the city and then we would both fly to Louisville for Julie and Eric’s wedding. Next day we headed for the Art Institute where I was dying to see George Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte which looks like this……

……have had¬†a fascination with this painting for ages¬†and it’s displayed so that your first view¬†is facing it from a corridor and you walk towards it. Couldn’t stop staring at it. Of course I know nothing at all about art so Nader gave me loads of info and for any art buffs out there, this museum is a must!!

After that we headed to Sears Tower to get a good old view of sunny (but COLD) Chicago. Great day for it as it was really clear and the lake just looked spectacular.

After that we attempted a little retail therapy which we didn’t get too far with so we headed to see the bean in Millennium Park¬†at sunset instead.

It’s a nice park in the middle of everything, with ducks wandering around and off course The Bean. The bean is weird, you actually get a little dizzy standing under it :-) I’m not quite sure what exactly it’s meant to be or what it means but it draws a crowd.

We finished off the evening with dinner and some Jazz (well you gotta, right?) Chicago is another big¬†city but we were both impressed by pretty little places around……

……and I’m sure we would have found many more if there had been more time but we were off to Louisville, Kentucky.

I had been to Louisville for the Kentucky Derby a couple of years ago and had intended to do the same as the last stop of my travels. Then Eric and Julie announced they were getting married so it seemed like an even better excuse to roll in there for a few days. Quite a few on my mum’s side made it over from Europe so it was set to be a great reunion. Weird thing was I was really, really¬†nervous to see everyone. I drove Nader mad on the plane I reckon, read him the whole skymall magazine (i.e. useless items you will never need in your life but provide¬†great entertainment)

So great to see my brother Johnny and my mum…….

…….and of course all the rest of the Louisville bunch. It’s such a laid back place and these folks are so welcoming, good people y’all :-) So we had a few days of catching up, sessions, sing songs, being fed within an inch of our lives(!)¬†and of course the wedding.

It was a great opportunity for a reunion and as we get older that will become more and more difficult to get us all in the same room…..

……. so we made the most of it. Last time one of these photos was taken, my grandmother was alive and I was about 5 years old I reckon!! Also got to meet¬†some new additions to the family, baby Emily and Maire’s husband Hywel, I missed their wedding last October. Got to meet Brian’s girlfriend, Susan and David’s girlfriend Erin, who make great additions to the clan.

I feel like I should mention everyone because it felt great to be there. Jim and Madeleine are not only FANTASTIC dancers……

…….but are¬†great entertainers and cooks too. Since I got my invite to the wedding, I’ve been dreaming about Jim’s fan-feckin-tastic omlettes, every time I made an omlette during the breakfast rush in the hotel in Darwin, I’d think How does Jim make his soooo good. Still can’t say for sure but hell it was worth the wait!!! Mmmmmmmm :-)

The rehearsal dinner went off¬†well and unusually the speeches are done this night which is¬†all good¬†as everyone can relax and enjoy the wedding the following day. Afterwards a¬†crew of us headed off to a Karokee bar, which was hilarious and scary in a kinda American Idol deluded auditionees sort of way :-) Brian and Don sang a couple of songs before we couldn’t take it any more and ran scared from the place!

The following day we peeled ourselves off the beds and hauled our asses to the church to see Eric and Julie tie the knot.


Have to mention that it was really weird to get this dressed up after a uniform of shorts and flip flops for so long, a dress and HEELS were definitely a little strange!! Anyhoo it was a beautiful service and the weather behaved itself which was all good. Lovely reception, food and band so all in all a great day. And as if that wasn’t enough, we rounded off the celebrations with an outstanding brunch (dispite feeling ever so slightly¬†“delicate”) the following day.

Outside of that we just hung out at Brian’s and spent time together, so good to spend time with my big bro again.¬†(you know what Madeleine, I think you’re right, I seem to have shrunk!! What the hell….)

Nader, David and Don entertained us with singing and playing the guitars (putting the rest of us to shame) and it was great to just chill out……

don’t we look real southern?? :-) Think it might be the banjo Dave!!! And of course we had the usual laughs, largely provided by Don, who I think could possibly be the funniest person I know.

Hope you got one of those ties to bring home Don. Gotta say a big thanks to Dave who donated his soooooo comfortable bed to me for the duration of my stay,¬†and amazing to hear¬†some¬†of his album which should be finished by the end of the summer. Come on Davie, hurry up!!¬†Also big thanks¬†to Brian for use of his house as the battleground for many a great night. Lastly, just a big thank you to the Louisville gang in general for making this the best possible end to a great trip, even if I did take the long way getting there :-)¬†I can’t think of a better way to round up a fantastic journey.

And so after just over a year, I packed my rucksack one last time and headed to catch the red-eye home. 

Apart from the inevitable last blog, which is in the making, Lindybear’s travels are all but over – sniff :-(Still though I’m looking forward to seeing everyone and to the Irish summer which I’m sure is going to be in full swing……)

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Published by Linda on 13 May 2009

Cartagena & The U-Turn…..

Sorry, been bold,¬†haven’t blogged in a while, so where was I….. ya¬†had a few days after Tayrona and then left Taganga¬†behind and headed for Cartagena. Cartagena is a real touristy spot, massively advertised all over South America. It is also the spot where you can catch a boat to Panama for about US$350/$400. So I planned¬†to spend a couple of days in¬†Cartagena and then head off into the sunset.¬†The boat takes about 5 days and you cruise around the San Blas islands. By the time I reached Cartagena, the boats leaving on the dates I needed were all booked up! Feck it anyway, but at this point time is running a lot shorter than I’m happy with so unfortunately San Blas will have to wait for another time,¬†boo :-(¬† But I guess you have to leave something¬†for the next trip!?

So here I was in Cartagena, Lindy-planless (pretty much a rarity) and also minorly concerned about getting into the US via Mexico, which is where I pick up my round the world ticket. Decisions, decisions, whatcha gonna do? Well go out and rip it up with some Irish lads apparantly. Feeling a bit seedy from the night before in Taganga but they wouldn’t take no for an answer. Willie and Kenny, you have a lot to answer for!!!¬†Had good fun at a bar in the old town……

……… lots of salsa dancing. The following day, after a very lazy start, decided to check out the old city with Alister and Kildare lad Kenny…….


…….who reminds me so much of Tommy Tiernan so we’d good old craic. The old town in Cartagena¬†still has it’s original walls dating back 500 years.

It’s a really pretty place…….

…….and you can even walk the walls in some places. Had a good old stroll around and bonus, stumbled across some dancing in the local park, seriously energetic stuff!!! Check out this video for more Dancing in Cartagena Old Town¬†

Back out on the town that night and we found a couple of bars and had another big night out.

The following morning was not so good. Made my decision to head back to Taganga with Kenny and John who were headed that way. It’s the first time I’ve backtracked my whole trip but chilling out on the beach is all kinds of good and it’s more or less what I had intended to do anyway before I got distracted :-)

Back I went and it’s weird¬†but kinda¬†comforting to go back the same place. It’s kinda nice when people know your name and the like. I¬†decided to do my advanced diving course, because of course I say I can chillax and completely intend to¬†but the reality is I need constant distraction or I go a little crazy! The diving course was great, no exams or any of that, you just do different types of dives. Got to use these scooters…….

…..James Bond or wha? :-) Also did a couple of night dives which can be a little freaky, especially when we turned off the torches at the end – pitch black until we waved our limbs around to activate the plankton. Awwwww so pretty!! Got up close and personal with this puffer fish…..

No, I didn’t crush him with my giant manhands, don’t worry!! Also¬†saw some giant green morays…….

……..Awesome!! They are a bit evil looking though – they watch you too closely, hmmmmmm. This really is a good spot for fishies and the company I went with were great. If you’re looking for a genuine recommendation, with small groups and great equipment, then try Vida Marina.

Other than the diving, I did relax mostly. Even read a couple of books – can you believe it!!!¬†Had a¬†few more¬†big nights…….


and so glad I went back as I got to meet up with a few people I met along the way in South America, Cork lad Darren who I meet everywhere…….

Also¬†Leeanna &¬†Jason¬†and¬†Emma who I met in Buenos Aires. Great to see her again :-)¬†Lastly I¬†met up with¬†Albert,¬†from way¬†back in Patagonia, so¬†it’s true everyone¬†who travels in Columbia seems to¬†get sucked¬†in by¬†Taganga at some point.¬†

All the while I was¬†quietly freaking out about this being the end of the road, or at least the roadtrip. Awww I’ll miss South America so much, the colours, the smells, the music, you get used to it so quickly and it seems like you’ve never been anywhere else. Still though, I’ve had a blast and I’ve made some genuine friends along the way. I also can’t forget that I have a few days in Chicago and my cousin’s Julie’s wedding in Louisville, on the way home.

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Published by Linda on 01 May 2009

Beach Bum Bear

Left Medellin on an¬†overnight bus to Santa Marta. Headed straight for Taganga, which is penned as a little fishing village outside Santa Marta. It is nice place to live as a beach bum for a a week or two (or a month or three for some people!) So I have been hanging out here for a while. Relaxed? Well kinda, my first few days, I thought I’d crack up from the doing nothingness of it all, even though i was staying in the nicest place with hammocks everywhere.

Decided to do a bit of diving, why¬†not and I¬†thought it would ease me into¬†re-lax-a-tion a bit better :-)¬†The diving here is pretty good as you go to sites which are part of Tayrona National Park. Was a little nervous as I haven’t been diving since December but it all went swimmingly (pardon the pun!!) Pretty nice down there………..


……….as it should be, I am in the caribbean parish now!! Still managed to be freezing by the time I got out though! Saw some nice corals, sponge(s?),¬†crayfish (mind those claws now!!) a weird brown eel with white spots and loadsa fishies of course.

Piles of stuff to see so after a post mortem and a snack we ventured down again. The water here is beautiful, and although the visibility was just at about 15 metres, I reckon given the right conditions, you could see forever. Met a scotty called Marty in Taganga and he was my dive buddy that day……..


……..and we hit it off. Decided to head off to Tayrona National Park.¬†Headed out to La¬†Garaje the night before, great old spot, a favourite here¬†on a wednesday and¬†I really enjoyed it.¬†


It ended up being a pretty heavy night which finished off¬†on¬†the beach in the wee small hours.¬†Extreme devastation the following morning after little or no¬†sleep, was hoping¬†Marty would bail¬†and we’d head for Tayrona the following day. No¬†such luxury, he turned up at my hostel¬†(early) and ready to rock. After a bit of faff, we¬†headed to Santa Marta where we faffed even more trying to find the post office. I was in a little world of my own so didn’t really notice¬†time passing. After all was in order at the post office – incidentally in South America (well Peru and¬†Columbia anyway) you¬†get finger printed if you don’t have your passport…..


i kid you not!! So¬†EVENTUALLY we reached the park entrance and begin¬†the trek to the beach.¬†Nothing taxing, just a 45 minute¬†or so very pretty walk…….


…… the first beach.¬†People rave about Tayrona and it was so built up I was afraid it wouldn’t live up to it. Well it’s just that people rave about Taganga and it is lovely but not without it’s flaws. The beach can be kinda mank in places. Anyhoo when we reached this sign……..


…….we knew this was going to be all kindsa goooooood. The beaches here are amazing. (photo overload forewarning) They kind of have this pre-historic look about them, with great big boulders……

………..and you feel like you’re the first person to discover them.¬† The boulders kinda remind me of Abel Tasman in New Zealand, we saw lots of split apple rocks around the place……

The first couple of beaches are fab to look at but probably more suited to surfers, not a fraidy-cat like me. Stroll down a little further and you find waters more suited to swimming and snorkelling with beach that had palm trees for shading under……

Had¬†a great couple of days. Slept in a hammock up on this hill behind¬†me……..

…………….doesn’t it look like a holiday brochure!!¬†Lazy days on the beach, dodging death by falling coconuts but they tasted good, thanks to Marty……

….and just generally wandering to find the next beach. You find yourself completely alone on these beach and it really is just amazing :-)

Took a bumpy(!) boat back to Taganga and it was another place I was so, so sad to leave. There’s something so unspoilt and dramatic about it but mostly it’s just the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. This is undoubtedly my favourite spot so far,¬†magnificant, overwhelming, awesome.¬†

Even the odd military helicopter flying overhead doesn’t spoil the mood, it simply adds to the notion that you’ve entered Eden on borrowed time. Well all good things must come to an end :-(

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Published by Linda on 22 Apr 2009

Bet Pablo Escobar didn’t have to climb 649 steps…….

….hmmmm anyway we¬†trundled up El Penol, this amazing rock which just juts out of the ground.

It’s likened to Sugarloaf mountain in Rio but I think it’s even more dramatic as there are no other mountains, to speak of, for miles and miles!! It’s got some great colours going on through the rock……

and, as I said, it’s like someone dropped it there outta nowhere. However, with these steps they’ve installed, it’s no the prettiest thing you’ll ever clap your eyes on, unusual yes, pretty, well, not so much! But the rock itself is not really what it’s all about, it’s the most beautiful view once you climb those steps……

…this video captures it a bit better (El Penol view)¬†It’s just masses of tiny islands, some with houses and linked by bridges. Seriously, this was just gorgeous and some where out there was one of Pablo Escobar’s joints!! Weird huh? We spent quite a few hours up there and it was just perfect, weather was great and it’s pretty much undersold by the travel guides¬†but I can say it’s definitely worth the visit.

Back in Medellin, we decided to have some lazy time, interspurced with a look around the city. It’s not an especially pretty place, but there are a¬†few unusual bits here and there…….


Columbia is like¬†this though, you get these huge elaborate sculptures every so often, from the smallest towns to the biggest cities¬†and it’s kinda nice to happen across. Wasn’t too sure about this one…..

……but something to¬†ponder on¬†nonetheless!! We eventually found this barefoot park, which was something of a let down after we had heard a bit about it. It¬† was meant to be a park full of pools where barefooted city walkers could soak their feet. And that’s kin-da what we found…….

…….. it was pretty non-descript though, two pools for bathing, blink and you’d miss it!! We still had a soak there but wondered why the city didn’t promote the Botannical Gardens more, much more to see I reckon. Big social scene in Medellin’s Zona Rosa too but we were there mid week so there wasn’t heaps happening then.

Decided to seek our thrills elsewhere outside the city. So if I was asked “if Stuart jumped off a cliff, would you do the same?” And yes apparently I would!!

Yep, harnessed up, ran off a mountain and did another paraglide. Awesome, really could get used to it!! Not the most graceful take-off but have a look at my video anyway Paraglide Medellin The scenery was not quite as nice as Sucre, Bolivia but pretty good all the same. Told the guy it was my second time out so he spun and dipped us around, great rush, oh my god it was fantastic!!!

It was pretty¬†funny though, as in paragliding you finish where you start¬†(if the winds are with you) but the hill where we took off from was pretty tiny so he had to be quite exact and lowish coming in. I was a bit OH MY GOD WE’RE GOING TO CRASH INTO THE MOUNTAIN!!!!! But he just laughed and landed us in so worries :-) Loved it though and second time over I still¬†reckon it’s definitely got great rushes going on, especially with the little tricks they can do. Bargain too, cost just¬†23 euro – sweet!!!

So it was here I said goodbye to Stuart, she was a great travel buddy. We’re both in the (ahem – shush!!) twilight of our trips so both very chilled, yet wanting to see as much as possible. She’s off to meet her Dad but we might meet up again on the coast some place.

As for me, I really did debate going to another couple of places but nothing massively appealed so it’s off on a night bus with me. Headed straight for¬†Taganga, a¬†little fishing village just outside Santa Marta.¬†Relaxation¬†begins there (at least that’s the theory, I’ll let you know how it goes!! Am I the only person who gets nervous about relaxation??)

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Published by Linda on 20 Apr 2009

Bogota & Zona Cafetera

And so, much to the horror of my loved ones at home, I arrived in Columbia. I met an english lady on the plane who has been living here for a year. She freaked the feckin pants off me, I must admit, but 24 hours later I realised that Columbia was as safe (or as unsafe) as pretty much anywhere else in South America. People give South America such a bad name, honestly I’ve never felt¬†restricted or in danger¬†here whatsoever.

Now to be fair, there is a strong military presence here, at ATMs, in the airport and checkpoints throughout the countryside as you travel on the buses. It is a little strange but I guess it leads to a place being safer.

Anyway got into Bogota and my plan was to¬†spend a couple of days there¬†and then head for the coast to do nothing on the beach for my last couple of weeks. Now¬†I was told¬†that I’d probably never be able to sit still that long but that was my plan to make me relax because I’m pretty tired now and apparently look about ten years older than I am – grrrrrrrrrr :-(

Bogota really shocked me. There’s money here in Columbia, much more so than I had expected or experienced anywhere else in South America. Myself and an American girl, Stuart (yes like the boy),¬†I met in the hostel headed off to see the Gold Museum. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a museum like this. The exhibits were displayed like pieces of art but sort of floating in the display case…..


…….really beautiful, I was totally impressed with it and it cost just under a euro to get in – sweet. Gold’s cheap it would seem, at least to view it, unfortunately you weren’t allowed take any home¬†:-) Hit Bogota coming into Easter weekend and celebrations were at large on the streets……

…… a real party atmosphere going¬†on¬†with street performers, clowns and stalls selling pretty much everything.

Anyhoo, I fell at the first at the first fence of my relaxation plan and decided to visit the Coffee Plantation (Zona Cafetera) on my way north (it’s totally on my way¬†so it doesn’t count)¬†and Stuart¬†said she’d¬†come with me. All good.¬†Our first stop was Salento, home to Valle de Cocora, this amazing¬†steaming valley which was so green, it kinda reminded me of home, apart from the humming birds and¬†giant palm trees!!

Such an ususual landscape and it was pretty bizarre so see cows grazing under these palm trees!! We did a 10km hike¬†over many scary bridges¬†like this one…….

in what I would call very VERY muddy conditions!!! You know when your foot comes out but not your boot, that kind of muddy!!

Still though we got to do it in our rented wellies, which I grew rather attached to and kept them on the whole time we were in Salento. Nothing like wellies for going to the local pub!!

Oh yeah! Tee hee, hee :-) Well I’m not going to be able to do it at home, now am I??

Easter time was still at large but there was no such thing as everything closing down on Good Friday, god no, the streets were hopping here. It was like a festival, I guess how it’s supposed to be, right? No easter eggs though, boo.

Next morning a bunch of us from the hostel decided to go horse-riding.

There was some great scenery of the region…….


……..and unlike the horse-riding I’d done in Brazil and Argentina, we got a good few gallops in so it was good fun.

On to Manizales we headed for some more coffee, which I’m seriously struggling with but trying to appreciate it while I’m here. So another bunch in our hostel decided us to join us for a tour on a coffee farm……….

………which was pretty in depth, we learned a lot (and i mean a lot) about coffee.¬†We finished with a really¬†“holy crap that’s strong”¬†coffee and a lovely lunch, oh and now we’re certified coffee experts!!

Hmmmmm we’ll see, think my coffee drinking days are over now. Phew!¬†It was a nice day and we got back into town standing up on the back of a jeep which was great fun, if not just ever so slightly dangerous but it’s all good when you survive, right :-)

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Published by Linda on 17 Apr 2009

Ladies & Gentlemen, THIS is Machu Picchu……


DO NOT¬†adjust your screen, this was it! After trekking for days, blisters, vomiting,¬†burning lungs,¬†getting up at crowfart and running up those giant steps, this-was-the-view. Are you kidding me?¬†Boo to the fog, mist oh and just for good measure some drizzle¬†:-( Soooooo disappointing, I¬†didn’t have to worry about seeing it from the sun gate as the others¬†didn’t see a thing.¬†A couple of us from the Lares trek¬†signed up to climb Waynu Picchu, a mountain that overlooks Machu Piccu, but the weather never cleared enough to make it worthwhile.

Over the course of the morning, the weather did improve so we found ourselves running up and down Machu Picchu like mad men. (Damn those Incas and their steps!!! Thought the hard part was supposed to be over!) It is so impressive though, both up close…….

………but especially from a distance…….

…….. I mean, look at that –¬†WOW!! I strolled over to have a look at the scary Inca bridge…….

……you couldn’t walk over it, due to the risk of plunging to your death(!) but check out my video of it Inca Bridge¬†– it shows how sheer the drop is. There was an¬†breath taking¬†view of the valley¬†from there……

…….and being there all alone (for a few minutes anyway) made me feel tiny. So what started out as really disappointing, ended up being very worthwhile and I just couldn’t¬†stop staring at it.

(yes, yes I know my hair has turned red!!)

Headed back to Cuzco for the last time and we celebrated. Both for completing the treks and as this was the end of the tour!! 

Even stole Phil’s leather jacket, which he wore with his cowboy boats for the entire Inca Trail – legend, just had to mention that. Had a good old night out, finishing off the skittle vodka I brewed earlier in the trip – it’s always¬†good party starter


It was sad to say goodbye to everyone, you do get to know people quite well and when you’ve been travelling around for a while, it’s nice when someone just gets you :-) So thanks to the crew, it was great, hopefully might see some of you soon and if not, stay in touch :-)

My first impression of Cuzco was good, a real party town where you could celebrate the end of trek. By my last visit there, I was pretty sick of it. There are so many people on the streets trying to lure you in with their restaurant or bar or nightclub or post trek massage. It just got a bit wearing after a while.

Next day it was off to Lima, which was not recommended by anyone so far on my travels. To be honest it was just a big city to me, which isn’t really my thing anyway. There were some nice plazas……

…..but¬†one street away from¬†them, it turned¬†pretty slum-like. Headed off for dinner in the nicer area of Miraflores and¬†then off to the airport the following day. Next stop….. Bogota, Columbia……

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Published by Linda on 15 Apr 2009

Linca Lindy

Had one more day before the trekking started.  We headed to the Sacred Valley to check out some ruins around Ollantaytambo and Sacsayhuaman. Got a great view of Cuzco on the way, you might be able to see they have a Cristo, like in Rio de Janeiro, overlooking the city.

Apparently there is one in Bolivia too but I didn’t get to see it. Anyhoo we checked out a llama farm on the way to the sacred valley. I think¬†llamas are a bit scary at times…..

Like overgrown sheep!!¬†Okay, okay some of them are pretty¬†cute but¬†this is as close as I was willing to get. The ruins and scenery around Sacsayhuaman were¬†beautiful……..

……..and we got a few¬†short treks in over the course of the day. We headed on to Ollantaytambo where we learned more about the Incas and how they achieved architectural marvels by hand – more or less. Check out this face carved into the mountain…….

……pretty amazing!!!! As the crew were all doing the Inca Trail, I left them in Ollantaytambo, where they would start from the following day. I headed back to Cuzco gazing at a gorgeous sunset against the most amazing backdrop but honestly I couldn’t even concentrate on it because the nerves about the trek were really kicking in!! Went back to Cuzco and packed my duffel bag (which the porters would carry)¬†and the lightest possible day pack.

Okay so I made a decision not to do the Inca Trail just because I heard that it is really packed and I heard about an alternative called the Lares trek. It’s another (less heard of Inca trail) which was said to be just as nice as the Inca trail. It’s about 5km shorter but the altitude is much higher so I heard that it was really tough. All through Bolivia, I didn’t really suffer badly from the altitude so I knew I’d be okay, apart from maybe slight nausea and dizziness. The only thing I was a little sad about was missing seeing Macchu Pichu from the sun gate which can only be seen when you do the original Inca Trail.

Anyway the day arrived and I was picked up at 6am. Met my group and we drove towards the town of Lares. Stopped off at a market to buy little gifts for local kids we might meet along the way. Next stop was Lares which was the last stop in “civilisation” but on the way I started feeling really quesy. I put it down to not much sleep the night before and maybe some nerves. By the time we got to Lares, I was running for the bano (bathroom) and having¬†some serious upchucks!! Boo to that. Tried to convince myself that I felt better as we moved on to meet the porters and cooks to have our first camp lunch but couldn’t manage it and had a sleep on the grass until we were ready to set off for day one of the trek.

Couldn’t believe I was sick from the altitude and we had not even started!! Didn’t really want to let on to the others how horrible I felt because that would be admitting it and I knew I’d feel worse. Literally just put one foot in front of the other and¬†that distracted me pretty well but to be honest that was a hellish walk to first base.

Camp for the night looked pretty much like this……

……and I counted¬†the minutes before I could go to bed. Managed to get some¬†soup into me and headed for bed. (anyone who knows¬†me well will know I’m ill if I can’t stomach food¬†–¬†it’s just never a problem)¬† Never felt so dreadful and even though it was freezing (and I mean seriously brrrrrrrrrrrrr) I was feverish¬†yet shivering in my thermals and my -20c sleeping bag!!

Day two arrived and this was to be the day of hell by all accounts. Now I start very slow when trekking anyway but the next morning, I couldn’t get it together at all. We spaced out and I was walking alone for the first while.¬†I’ve trekked a bit on my travels but this was soooooo hard.¬†Actually started crying in the first half hour and that did it!! I just snapped with myself and said “come on Linda, you have to do this, there’s no way back so get on with it” Think I scared myself a little but it worked and I picked up my pace.

One of my group, Rachel had caught up with me and we started walking together. The first pass was just under 5000 metres above sea level and we’d just pick a marker, like a rock or something and aim for that so we could take a break to catch our breath.¬†The funny thing is once you stop, you feel fine straight away but then you start again and 20 metres later it feels like your lungs are about to explode!! That damn altitude is a killer and makes you feel so weak. Anyhoo, by picking our markers, taking shorter strides and looking down,¬†we hauled ourselves up that first pass!!

Woooooo hooooo, we’d made it past the worst point!! Yippeeeeeeee :-) OR SO WE THOUGHT!!! Beautiful view of this lake and we bounded down towards it. The scenery up in those clouds was just amazing and as our group was small and we spaced out a bit, myself and Rachel had it all to ourselves. After a few minutes, it began to twig that we were really descending quite far and then we realised that we would be starting even lower for the second pass!! So¬† unfair!! We almost cried ………… and¬†then the hailstone started¬†:-( Boo to it but honestly it was almost better than rain because it did just bounce off us. Thank god for small mercies – I think?!

So again we had to slap ourselves and start the ascent up to the second pass. It was just as hard as the first one and all that kept us going was that after that we would finally be coming down from the altitude – somewhat anyway. So we made the second pass and then the trail got a little confusing so with my limited spanish I asked a local farmer if we were headed in the right direction. He pointed us on our way and off we headed to third pass.

As soon as we got over the third pass the trail split into four so we were totally confused. We walked on for a bit and realised we were totally lost!!! Sooooo we had to¬†BACKTRACK to find the others that were walking behind us. A bit of a trial to do the pass again but the thought of being lost in the Peruvian mountains kinda spurred us on. So if anyone is interested in doing the Lares because the Inca Trail is too packed, I can guarantee you won’t be bumping into anyone too easily. Plus this really is some of the most beautiful landscape and to see it with no one around is pretty special.

Anyhoo, we eventually found the others and stopped for our lunch. Ended up doing an extra couple of kilometres which was a bit of a struggle but never mind. We were a much happier and healthier bunch reaching base camp that night…..

……..but some folks decided to do the easier walk the following day. Ended up being just four of us (outta nine)¬†finishing the intended trek. We literally ran up the mountain and back down but¬†I have to say it was worth the walk. Saw some great Inca ruins, probably the nicest so far but I guess the sunny weather had a lot to do with that :-)

The high was really kicking in that day……


……..dispite 40km, some quite hellish, and many blisters from going down – which is sometimes worse than going up especially on the knees. But nevertheless I had done it, me – very unfit me – had completed an Inca Trail¬†and I felt I’d paid my dues to see Machu Picchu the following day.

We trekked down to Ollantaytambo and met the others. Caught our train to Aguas Calientes and relaxed in the hot springs that evening, pretty damn proud :-)

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Published by Linda on 12 Apr 2009

Lake Titicaca, The Islands & The Amazon Jungle

I sadly left Bolivia and¬†crossed the boarder into Peru……..

Headed for Puno, a touristy jump-off town for Lake Titicaca. Had a nice stroll around the local markets before heading to the islands the following day.

Took a cutie rickshaw (or equivalent) to the harbour………

then¬†a boat ride¬†and a visit to the Uros Reed Islands, where we learnt a bit about island life…….

…….and got to dress up in the local fashion…..

….something tells me this ain’t going to catch on at home. By the way those things plaited into my hair were REALLY heavy!!! First impressions of Lake Titicaca were all good……

We floated on to Amantani Island where we would be staying with local families. The altitude is quite high here and so the half hour trek to our houses was a little frightening bearing in mind the upcoming Inca Trail!! Anyway we got there in the end. Myself and Ruth stayed in this house…..

……..which was a few buildings, this was just the kichen and backyard.

Had some lunch cooked by our Island Mammy and¬†Granny¬†in their kitchen…….

which consisted of potato soup, then fried cheese (bleugh) potatoes, potatoes, rice oh and more potatoes!! Now being Irish I can handle my starch but this was insane, myself and Ruth were trying to decide how much we could leave on the plate without it being an insult!!

We headed off in the afternoon to learn life on the island. Farming an weaving are the main activities and we even got a spinning lesson which was much harder than it looks!!! 

See my new hat, my island Mammy knitted it for me – you’ll be able to pick me out of a crowd anyway :-)¬†After work we got to play/watch some football with the locals. As I’m not most coordinated of folk, I settled for spectator status. Have to say it looked¬†pretty challenging at high altitude, as is a walk up to the top of the island to watch sunset.

After dinner (more potatoes Рstarch overload) our Mammy gave us some traditional costume to dress in for an evening of dancing.

Dancing at 4000 metres above sea level and after eating a ton of potatoes is pretty difficult. Particularly to never-ending Peruvian songs! The costume was a bit of a killer too, top, shawl, petticoats and a sash which our Mammy tied for us Рfelt like wearing a corset Рwithout the slimming effect!!! Really should have took off my fleece and jeans but it was bloody freezing!

I’m not sure how comfortable I was with the whole experience of staying with a local family, to be honest. It felt a little phoney at times. You know, the western tourist staying for the night. I guess it helps them out a lot but our family seemed to be a little bored of the whole thing. In fact the Dad literally only spoke to say hi and bye but it was interesting to see their way of life.

In the morning we headed off to Taquile island which was just beautiful.

Lots of long hills and steps – again Inca trails haunt me. The men do all the knitting on this island. They knit a hat which their give to their prospective father in law, who in turn pours water into it. If the hat leaks, the “son” has to start again!! He does get three attempts before he’s out though.

Headed back to Puno on the boat.

Sweeeeeeeeet¬†I love boat trips when it’s sunny :-)

Headed to Cuzco which is a serious party town as¬†it is the jump off spot for the Inca Trek so it’s generally full of¬†nervous folks and those celebrating afterwards!!¬†Some great clubs in Cuzco so we went¬†to check out some salsa……..

……..which was all good, well at least for those who can do it –¬†I just muddle along :-) Next morning¬†we took a flight to Puerto Maldonado, and then a boat into the Amazon Jungle. Was seriously debating not going after the 80 mossie bite incident. I really toyed with it but eventually I decided that I couldn’t go to South America and not visit the Amazon.

So armed with two different types of mossie repellent, long sleeves, long pants and a hat with face net, I headed into the battle zone.

Started off with a lovely lunch of chicken, veggies and rice steamed in a banana leaf….

Yum!!! Heading off for a boat trip that night to see if we could find some caimans lurking around in the water. It was a little scary being out on the water at night, listening to the sounds of the Amazon…..

…….but we soon relaxed and watched the stars. Was almost asleep by the time we came back!!!

Next day we headed off into the jungle to see what we could find.

The jungle was hot and humid which was a change from the chilly altitude of late. Our guide was pretty good too and sported this machete………

…… cut back the greenery, which was pretty unnecessary, I reckon he just had it for effect :-)¬†Anyhoo we saw some interesting things, including this tarantula……

……who was sleeping soundly in a tree until the guide poked him outta there. Very impressed I must say, he was an aggressive little fecker too!! Simon and Julie actually found one in their room that morning!!! That’s a bit close for comfort!!

Anyone who knows me will have heard me talking about my wish to be on Survivor (tv show) so I got a chance to prove I could do the gross eating challenge!! I ate one of those live white grubs (like a slug basically) Didn’t taste too bad to be honest – kinda like very mild coconut milk. He wasn’t too rubbery either and apparently very nutritious :-) Didn’t get a photo because I ate him too quick but he looked pretty much like one of these……..

Climbed up to an observation platform which gave nice views……

……..of the lake here. Took a little boat ride afterwards there too. We trekked on and then took another¬†boat trip to Monkey Island. Those monkeys came straight over looking for bananas….

……they are certainly not shy!! This guy was a little scary too with his fangs!!! He was the boss around these parts too. I was glad I made the decision to see the Amazon, got play Tarzan for a while and¬†stayed in a great place……..

……..saw¬†some wildlife and amazing trees¬†some of which were 500 years old!!¬†Had a good chillax (well as much as I’m capable of).

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