All posts tagged: Backpacking

Fresh water sharks and volcanoes – Nicaragua

The best way to backpack across Central America is to have no plan and even less money.  It’s a plan your parents won’t agree with but unless they cough up and fund your trip, this may be your only option.  The upside to travelling like this?  Your wad of worthless coins will make you more adventurous and you’ll have fantastic stories to tell anyone who will listen. By the time Amee and I arrived into Central America we were happy to do whatever came our way and that just happened to be Nicaragua.  Although its the second poorest country in the west – after Haiti, it should be on everyone’s list of places to go.  I’d like to return to Nicaragua and explore every part of it. Crossing the border from Costa Rica takes a while but once border control are satisfied  your not smuggling drugs/weapons or people they douse you in insecticide to protect their country from a Chikungunya infestation. (Chikungunya is a mosquito transmitted disease similar to Dengue – there is no cure.)  Back on the bus and 30 mins later we get …

Sailing the Amazon River – Peru to Columbia

The only reason we were sailing the Amazon river was because we missed our flight to Columbia then randomly met a Dutch man staying at our hostel who told us about the river.  I don’t even remember his name but I can see his face perfectly, he was an older man probably in his 60’s.  He was well travelled with many romantic stories about the women he’d encountered along the way.   He had lots of energy and was very white, its an odd comment I know.  If you’d seen the area we were staying in you’d see why it was strange to come across him.  I guess the universe wanted us to miss our flight, meet this one guy who insisted we sail up the Amazon river, cross the Columbian boarder and have a once in a lifetime experience… it was meant to be! We said goodbye to our new Dutch friend and parted ways, we will probably never see him again.  Life is so bizarre sometimes. There are many travel agents near Lima’s airport so we booked a cheapish flight to …

Lost city of the Incas, Machu Picchu – Peru

“Machu Picchu is a trip to the serenity of the soul, to the eternal fusion with the cosmos; where we feel our fragility. It is one of the greatest marvels of South America. A resting place of butterflies in the epicentre of the great circle of life. One more miracle.” – Pablo Neruda Machu Picchu has every right to be listed as one of the new seven wonders of the world.  The great Spanish poet Pablo Neruda summarises it to perfection.  I cry reading his words they are so beautiful and true. Spiritually I’m connected.  I do have mixed feelings about the journey but let me tell you about this marvellous ancient site first. The layout is intense, the Inca thought of everything.  They put many of today’s city planners to shame.  The building structures are made from gigantic stones cut perfectly to fit together without mortar, some still standing over 300 years later.  The sophisticated irrigation system running through the terraced fields.   Zoned areas for farming, residential neighbourhoods, a royal district and a sacred area.  The perfectly positioned temples that align with the …

Surviving an invasion – Lake Titicaca, Peru

It may have been the Spanish invasion that caused the Uru (reed) people to flee from slavery in the 16th century. Or maybe it was the Inca Empire who bullied them off the mainland to the water.  Either way, it is clear that the Uru people of Peru are survivors.  Their defence tactics would have left any foe envious. Today however, the only invasion is that of us tourist.   We arrived in droves, armed with camera’s and Peruvian Soles (dollars).  I’m embarrassed to be this tourist, but sometimes to learn about a culture you have to experience their way of life.  It is said that we give financial opportunities for natives.  I don’t entirely believe this, greed is everywhere.   To remove my suspicions of corporate greed I handed my money directly to the women on the islands, I’m keen to learn. The Uru people made islands from the Totora reed which is sourced on the lake.  Each island has a watch tower and if needed, the entire island can be shifted to another place.   Pigs and cows are fattened up on isolated islands, there is no escape they are surrounded by …

The worlds most dangerous road, Bolivia

200-300 people die each year on this road with an average of 26 vehicles plummeting over the 1000m cliff.  And since mountain biking began, 20 people have died.   So what made me decide to mountain bike down the most dangerous road in the world? I have no idea…. but I’m definitely petrified with my decision. I didn’t get much sleep the night before.  Amee (my cousin) wasn’t coming with me either, she was heading off to an eco resort where I’d meet her the next day.  I said goodbye and for a moment I wonder if I’ll see her tomorrow. 7am a group of us meet at the Irish pub in La Paz, not far from my hostel.  No one is saying much to each other, I’m not saying anything.  I don’t even take advantage of the cheap breakfast on offer.  Our guide Mo came in and he speaks English, thank goodness.  My Spanish is terrible. We start at La Cumbre (4,700m), still in the Andes.  Mo starts with the safety talk. I’m listening so hard I can hear conversations in the distance.  He goes over the brakes …

Gasping for air in the Andes – Bolivia

I had to convince my lungs several times to keep going, it felt like they were going to explode!  I wondered if my mind was going to pack it in too, why am I doing this?  I’m walking up Mt Chacaltaya, in the Andes, to reach the summit at 5,421 meters!  The summit is higher than Everest base camp, or for us Kiwi’s its higher than Mt Cook (3,700 meters).  No wonder I’m struggling!! The altitude is thin, every breath feels like a gasp.  Its cold but it’s not snowing, its dry, its empty. The sun is close, I can feel each UV Ray striking my face.  Should have put that sunscreen on like I was told too! I’m feeling the effects of altitude sickness and no way will I turn back.  It doesn’t matter how fit and healthy you are, the sickness will pick anyone!  Amee my cousin, was back at the hostel suffering badly from altitude sickness.  She was out for 4 days and due to the lack of oxygen her lips turned blue!  Amee is extremely fit where as I’m only average.  50% of people who arrive into La Paz will experience …