We are on our way up to Costa Rica and we would like to give you an update before heading into Uvita for the long awaited Envision festival!
So where were we last...oh yes, we were leaving Pisac and on our way to Ecuador.
My bargain hunting skills found us a cheap flight from Cusco to Lima and then another flight from Lima to Quito. In your face smelly buses! We were accompanied by our dear friend, Andrea from Austria, who we knew from the yoga teacher training in Cusco. Without her I'm not sure if we would of made it to the Eco Truly Park on the outskirts of Lima which we wanted to stay for two nights. Andrea knows her Spanish, so we just sat back and enjoyed the luxury of not having to communicate as we jumped from taxi to bus to bus. The Eco Truly Park was one of the most surreal places I have ever been! It is run by Hare Krishna devotees and travellers can come and go as they please, staying for a few nights, weeks or even months. We chose to be on the volunteer program which meant we would work 4 hours a day, our meals would be provided, boys and girls sleep in separate rooms, and we were welcome to attend a yoga class in the morning and Kirtan in the evening (chanting and reading from the bhavagita). Imagine driving along a main highway, passing huuuggggeee transport trucks and then all a sudden the road curves and around the corner is the ocean 100 m below, the land up to the road is a steep slope of pure sand. Near the beach you can see a little village of what appears to be sandcastle like homes and temples, decorated with beautiful designs and different colors highlighting the images. I felt like I was in a spiritual fairy tale for 2 nights as I slept in my sandcastle and roamed through the adobe sand temples, ooooing and aweeeing at their beauty and grace.
Our flight from Lima to Quito, Ecuador was delayed and we arrived in Quito at 2am. It took a while to go through customs and get our luggage and we were doubting that the chauffeur from our hostel reservation would still be waiting for us at the gates. Sure enough - Andrea spotted him holding a sign with her name and she thanked him for being so patient.
There was nothing in Quito we wanted to see so we took a day trip to Otavalo to see what the fuss is about "The Big Saturday market". We didn't make it in time for the animal market in the morning but I did see a few goats which were pooping on the road and can you believe it....the owner was actually sweeping the turds into a dust pan. That's a first...! Josh and I found a few knick knacks amongst the hundreds of stalls, my favorite being a matching necklace and earrings made from dried bits of melon. The next day we woke up in Otavalo and took a walk up to a refreshing waterfall, snapped some pictures, and jumped on the bus back to Quito. Quito didn't offer much, but it did provide a few delicious and cheap Indian dinners as well as an entertaining walk down Esmeralda's Street. Now I know what Esmeralda's are...but I think some should be called Esmeraldudes...yup. We had heard of a place called Mindo, only 2.5 hours by bus from Quito and decided to check it out for a few nights. We loved Mindo! It's a little jungle town surrounded by mountains and rainforest, sunshine in the morning and guaranteed to rain in the afternoon. Out hostel room was simple with a bed, mosquito net, and a few wooden boards to lay out our belongings. Outside our room was a covered patio area with hammocks and the sound of the nearby river which was so calming to listen to as we fell asleep at night. In Mindo we went to see the butterfly sanctuary and orchid garden. We hiked through the trails with a treasure map which looked like a 4 year old had drawn and made it to all the waterfalls but one. Usually there is a cable car which drops you off near the waterfalls and you hike from one to the other and then you hop back on to the cart and it takes you back to the main road. On this day, they were fixing the zip line cart and they were nearly done when we wanted to get a lift back up to the main road, but we decided to just walk back instead and let someone else be the first to ride the "new and improved zip line." We happened to find a nice restaurant which satisfied our vegetarian needs and it also happened to have the best brownies ever! Besides moms brownies of coarse ;). Mindo is famous for its cocoa and makes a lot of delicious chocolate. We had our fair share of brownies to say the least. On our last morning in Mindo we went zip lining which was a lot of fun. It's always adds some extra excitement not knowing exactly what the instructor are saying before you take the fall into the canopy of trees.
Our bus ride from Quito to Cali, Columbia was quite the show. Andrea had taken the bus trip a few days earlier and reported back to us with low reviews. Luckily, we chose a different bus company which meant we still had a chance for it to be an alright 21 hour trip. We decided to sit on the upper level of the bus, usually we have been riding lower deck but the bathroom is always on the bottom and the bottom is more expensive because the seats are a "wee" bit bigger. When the bus arrived we were surprised to see how full the bus was already. People had come from Lima to Quito, which is about a 24 hour trip and going onwards with us to Cali. The bus driver opened the compartments to put our bags and there was room for maybe one middle sized bag. Of coarse we weren't the only ones getting on the bus and other people had luggage too. After some serious rearranging our luggage was on board and we found our seats up top. Everyone on the upper deck (UD) seemed to know one another, it was like a soap opera. There was the drama queen In her tights and 3 inch platforms, her 3 boys, 4 guys Josh's age ( hopefully one was the father) and the grandpa. The first movie they played was cast away Spanish of coarse, still awesome, but the second movie was a full on horror film. The. The song don't worry be happy came on afterwards which was a much nicer vibe. It played once, it played twice, three times..four times. It started to become ironic. " don't worry, be happy! " When we got to the border of Columbia the young fellows were asking us to do shots with them and go to the bathroom for a toke or a sniff. It was nearly midnight and we were more interested in sleeping, so instead they gave us their number so we would have a hook up in Cali, lol. The UD was the party deck. We put in our earplugs and managed to get a decent sleep. The bus ride ended up being a 24 hour bus ride because we were stopped at the border crossing for 3 hours. A little old lady from Ecuador forgot her passport and in the end her and her husband had to get off the bus, the police wouldn't let her go into Columbia. Our bus driver also took many many stops which I didn't mind because that meant I could pee outside instead of in the pissy bathroom. To this day I'm not sure if there is a septic tank or if the pee goes directly onto the road below every time someone takes a wee. The last hour on the bus we listened to a variety of loud salsa music and watched music videos with girls shaking their bootys.
Shortly after noon we arrived in Cali, Colombia. We needed to find a wifi connection to get the directions to the ashram. We walked to the closest hotel and enjoyed a well deserved beer as we looked up directions to Centro Yogendra, also known as Samantha's house. Samantha is Chaitanyas partner who assisted in the yoga training in Cusco. We were grateful to be staying in such a beautiful home while volunteering and teaching our first yoga and pranayama and meditation classes. We were reunited with yoga friends from Cusco who also came to help out and teach for the first yoga teacher training course here in Cali. Every day we would do volunteer work and us teachers would rotate to teach yoga classes in the evening. Prabhu and Damodhar were the head chefs, we had met them in Cusco, and we became close friends during our two week stay. They cook the best vegetarian meals every day! I was in baby heaven for the first week, taking care of Samon who is nearly 2 and Kiyana who is almost 1. Josh bonded with them as well and we inherently became the baby sitters. He will tell you he even changed his first diaper, however I'm not sure if watching really counts. When we weren't on baby duty we would help out in the kitchen or be cleaning. Most nights we would spend at the ashram and have dinner, some nights there would be an acro yoga jam, and one night we went out to Salsa! Cali is the salsa capital of South America and no one who goes out to salsa is left standing alone. The men are happy to teach and impress the ladies. On Saturday, a group of us packed ourselves into Maria and Peters van, "the yoga express" and spent the day and night at Miguel's place outside of the city by the river. We hung out in the river, ate mangos, roasted plantains on the fire, made dinner, tried some sugar cane, and peter played music. The next week everyone went to Pance, a little place about 2 hours from Cali and we joined them on the Friday. Pance is great; a little place with lots of character and a real country feel, lots of vegetation and a beautiful river. A few of us stayed the night at Louisa's place, which is pretty much a tree house and made a delicious thai soup for dinner and shared our banana choco cookies we made the night before. The next day us ladies, the babies, and Josh went to the river for a dip and a relaxing afternoon. So nice. In Cali we became closer friends with those we first met in Cusco and made new friends we hope to see again. Our experience at the ashram wasn't exactly what we had in mind, however it was nice to be in service and contribute to the first teacher training held in Cali. While in Cali we went to the salon one day and I got my feets done while Joshua got a trim, we got out teeth cleaned for $30 each (first dentist to give me a kiss on the cheek when leaving), we found the most delicious ice cream place EVER....the first day we found it we had to go back again for seconds. We also had a bizarre experience purchasing flight tickets in which our Colombian friend Maria kindly phoned Viva Colombia airline and figured out what we needed to do to make a reservation. In Cali they have what's called balotos to purchase flight tickets...when we found one it was pretty much a convenience store and he took our money and gave us a printed receipt with a reservation number. Two days before the flight we can print out our tickets. Seems like it could be a scam but that's how they do it, it was a very cheap flight ($42 each) from Medellin to Cartegena and we ended up not going that route up to Panama anyways.
What else... Many people, mostly dudes..would say Colombia is the land of nice butts. I would have to agree. However, I am not a fan of the butt implants and breast implants. It's absolutely crazy how normal it is in Columbia for women to get both of these. Some women go wayyyyy overboard. My friend Jai told me a funny story about how he was on a beach and one lady was in her bikini ( most women wear thong bikinis), and he could see her actual butt implants which looked like little bags of water. Attractive? Another thing typical to Columbia, and most of South America is women and men selling food and drinks at stop lights. It does come in handy when your on a bus and you didn't have time to buy anything before hand. Then there's the people who come on the buses and sell drinks and junk food. Some have suitcases of jewellery or belts and wallets and they do a sales pitch talk and then sell their stuff. It's never a completely quiet bus ride. There are big buses in Cali that are very colorful and painted, open sides and long bench seats; they are called Chivas. There are also jeep taxis people pile into to as a cheaper option than the yellow car taxis. And many many people drive motorcycles! The presence of police and military is quite strong, all are suited and booted and have an assault rifle. All they do is stand on street corners, some ride around on their bikes, and once in a while you'll see a bunch of them in a open back canvas military truck. I never felt unsafe in Cali.
Our next stop was Salento, in the coffee region. We stayed at a beautiful place in the countryside called La Serrena and slept in a tent for 4 nights. It was fresh! We met up with friends, Marc, Jai, and Ella and went on a trek one day together which we ended up turning around because it was raining so hard and we didn't have proper rain gear. I battled a stubborn cold for a few days after which was probably a result of the air conditioning on the bus and the rainy walk. What else would make me feel better than a horseback ride to a beautiful waterfall! Josh went in the river fresh waters of the falls and I gave my bum a rest from the saddle. It was a pretty steep, muddy, and rocky trail ride back until we got to the main road again. The horses were working hard and sweating! In the mornings Josh got up just before sunrise and did his pranayama and yoga practice, the view was lush green with mountains all around and a few snowy peaks in the far distance. One night, lots of us staying at La Serrena sat around a camp fire and chatted about past and future travel. We left Salento on a Saturday morning and continued on to Santa Rosa where we stayed for one night and went to the natural hot springs! The location of the hot springs was magical. There are a number of different pools and a minute walk away is a huge rock surface with streams of water running down, compiling into a waterfall and plunging into the pool below. It was the "cool thing to do" to stand under the waterfall and take pictures, so we joined the fun. It felt like a high pressure massage.
The next day we took a bus to Guatape where we spent the night and watched the drunk men ride through the cobblestone streets on their horses. There wasn't much to see in Guatape and we left the next morning on a bus to Medellin. It was either spend a expensive night in Medellin or take the night bus to Turbo. Leave it to the coin toss. Tails - we go. We had 4 hours to spare to get a good meal and roam the city, so we checked our bags at the bus station and hopped on the transit rail. A few beers, some caesar salad, vegetarian quesadillas and fajitas and we were on our way. It was a full blast air conditioned, 9 hour bus ride, we brought some warm-ish clothes, slippers from Oma, and slept on and off through the curvy roads. In the early early morning we were pulled over at a check stop and the police came on to search the bus and we all had to wait outside. The air was super humid and it was a nice change from the cold AC. Medellin used to be the cocaine capital of the world and now buses leaving from here are a target.
At 5:30 am we arrived in the port town of Turbo, had a coffee, and found the port for our boat trip to Capurgana. The boat was scheduled to leave at 8:30am and we found out there were no ATMs in Capurgana, so we better have some cash before going there. We had some money on us and for whatever reason the maximum amount of money we could take from the ATM in Turbo was $200. Okay, not ideal but we had enough for the time being and went with the theory there is always a solution if we were to get in a sticky situation. The boat to Turbo was a fibre glass huge ass canoe with 2, 100 Johnson motors on the back. Everyone's luggage went in the front and 18 of us took our seats. The captain had no mercy and everyone's insides were taking a beating from the Carribean Sea. It got worse, and then it got better, and then it really got worse when I had to pee. Thank the sea gods that we stopped half way and my bladder was emptied. The last hour of boat ride was more humorous than anything. I think everyone realized this is just the way it is and we had fairly slim chances of dying. We did pay for this after all! The poor souls in the front row had it the worst, they had to save the luggage from flying overboard and one guy managed even had to snag some clothes as they blew by him. Or maybe it was the lady in the back who had it the worst with her sea sickness and probably cursing the captain the whole bloody way. The rest of us oooooed and ouuuuuuued when the boat would slam down and jolt our bodies. The backboard supporting the people in the row ahead of us looked like it might snap..there was a small crack starting to form and with every big wave it would weaken. I suppose my life jacket would keep the board from stabbing into us if it did break....
We made it to Capurgana without a scratch! Perhaps my internal organs had moved up a wee bit higher but no biggie. Capurgana was awesome! No motor vehicles except for some motorcycles, but mostly horse and buggee. We went swimming in the ocean, chilled at the beach, had cold beers, and r-e-l-a-x-e-d. During the day the local men would sit at a outside table, get drunk and listen to music. It was entertaining every time we passed by to go to our hostel down the road. It was nearly impossible to be a vegetarian here so we enjoyed some seafood during our stay. On the second day Josh went to a nearby place by boat to get out more money for our travels ahead ( ATMS are a rare commodity in this part of the world) and I found another hostel for us to stay with a bed a softer then the floor board bed we slept on the night before. After some investigating we found out there were no flights available from Obaldia into Panama City until the 19th. We had to get to Panama City one way or another and to Envison in Costa Rica by the 17th for our volunteer shifts. We set good intentions, asked for some help from our angels above and the next morning took a short half hour boat ride over the border into the Obaldia port of Panama.
Everyones bags were thoroughly searched by the guards and sniffed by a black lab and after patiently waiting for permission to carry on we hoofed it down the road to get our passports stamped. We had heard many stories about the troubles of getting into panama and needing proof of a departing ticket and $500 bucks on hand but we were not asked for either...good thing, cause we didn't have em anyways. We found the shack for the airport and asked to be on a standby list. There was already a long standby list and slim chances of getting a flight. Oh dear. But..there is a but! She told us we could catch a boat to Carte and then take a jeep taxi into Panama City. With little hesitance and remembering the boat ride from Turbo to Capurgana we agreed this was our only option. How long of a boat ride is it? 5 hours. Suuuuuureeeee. It can't be worse than the worst we already experienced. We chatted with the other folks who were also taking this boat trip and everyone seemed pretty calm and ready for the journey ahead. One lady was a Debbie downer and had nothing but complaint after complaint, now I knew who I didn't wanna sit beside. We considered ourselves lucky that there was an option B and not every day there is a boat doing this trip. The weather was good and the sea looked calm. It was a much smoother ride and we made stops at small islands along the way to re-fuel and stretch our legs. Some of the islands we passed were the spitting image of paradise and we waved at all the boats we sped by. This boat was again, a fibre glass canoe but had smaller motors on the back which was a good thing. No luggage was flying loose, they actually tied it down this time and no one was sea sick. When we got to Carte we had been on the boat for a total of 7 hours. We made it! Everyone, except for the 3 from Japan, was wanting to go onwards to Panama City. It wasn't clear if there were jeep taxis around to take all of us and maybe we would have to spend a night in Carte. For us, this would be a minor problem because, well, the boat ride was $100 each and we knew the jeep to Panama City would be $25 each, which meant we had $9 left.
It seemed as though it was every man for himself to find a ride into Panama City but then the good news came that we could all fit into the back of a flat deck cargo truck. Everyone was loading there bags in the back and jumping in for the open air ride. A nice SUV pulled up and told us there was room for 2 to go with them. Josh was nearby and talking to the guy driving. Okay, were going with them! I sat in the back seat with the ladies and babies and Josh was in the back resting on our backpacks. We had comfortable seats, we had air conditioning, we were serenaded with gospel music, and the full moon lit up the sky. It took 2 hours to get into Panama City and we couldn't help but think about everyone else riding in the flat deck truck. We were sure they were still on the road, and probably had to pay extra money at the check points past the security guards because there were so many of them riding in the back. Us on the other hand breezed by all the guards cause our driver would just roll down the front windows and the one back window and all the guards saw were a family of Panamanians passing through. We made it!!!!
We managed to find a private room with a fan in a nice hostel for the night which is hard to do without a reservation...mucho turismo in Panama City. We went out for a bite to eat and called it a day.
Our objectives in Panama City were to get our laundry done and prepare for Envision festival; nothing could stop us now! Off to the Albrook Mall to find some camping gear and do some shopping. It would of cost us $75 to rent a tent at Envision but instead we bought a tent, air mattress, pump, sheets, and tent lights for $100. Thanks to my extra backpack zip up cover we even have a bag to keep all our gear. Perrrrrrfeccto! It will be smooth sailing from here. A bus ride across the Costa Rica border and we will nearly be there. I'll never complain again about being on a long ass bus ride now that I've travelled across the sea in a canoe. Here we come ENVISION!!!!
jack Nyholt Way to go you too exciting, loved it,so happy you're both safe !!!and got to where you were going
Jules You both are very good writers and I'm impressed you can remember all the details. This trip is definitely an adventure of many "firsts"! Thanks for taking the time and sharing your experiences so we can live vicariously thru your blog. xxxooo