3 months probation!

3 months probation! It’s not what you think. it’s the good kind of probation.

I’ve now been at my job for almost 3 months. What defines 3 months to you? When I look back, 3 months to me equals 3 horribly difficult, soul numbing months of banana farming in Australia. 3 months was just under half of my trip through South America. 3 months can drag by, or it can fly by, depending on what you’re doing. But this time, the 3 months have flown by,  3 months of probation at my new job, and at the end of this month we will (hopefully) sign my permanent contract.

So, what has been happening in the past 3 months (other than me neglecting my blog)?

Well, to summarise…

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travel map

Click here to see my lovely Travel Map at Travellerspoint. It’s still a work in progress. So many places I’ve been that I still need to add (mainly Europe). Still so many more places to see. Travelling makes me happiest.

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Time to unpack my backpack…

The boring stuff: To summarise the end of my time in Australia… Hayley and I worked in Dingo, Australia for three months, and it was an interesting experiences to say the least: from baby kangaroos to light aircrafts filling up at the service station, a town with  a  population of 56 people, one dingy pub with no ambiance in the slightest, lots of hours spent cooking burgers for truck drivers in the roadhouse, mopping kitchen floors, but most importantly at this stage (at the end of a year of travels), we were saving money. I know money isn’t everything in the world, and I try my best to live with only the necessities,but in order to come home and happily settle my feet back down on the sandy shores of Cape Town before starting to look for a job here, money is a necessity!

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most memorable and magical moments

A summary of the most memorable moments of my adventure through South America (in no particular order of importance, simply memories that stand out)

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homeward bound

I feel as though I’ve been falling a bit behind in my blogging lately. I guess that means I’m having too much fun! Its almost time to go home, so here is a summary of my final days in South America. All the love in the world for South America, but I am so happy to be going HOME!!!!

  1. Fun in Mancora (Peru) – Few words are needed to describe this point. Going back to Mancora felt like I was going back home. Back with our little family of travellers. Hayley and I were happy 🙂

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    Happy in Mancora with Hayley

  2.  Traveling back to Quito (Ecuador) via every form of transport possible – A collectivo (minivan) from the bus stop to the town where nearest to the border, squished between some sizely humans and the lady who booked the bus tickets for us (lets call her “Maria”. Then, we hopped into Maria’s friends car, along with Maria and her hubby, and the 5 of us drove to the border like a happy little family. At the border, Maria’s friend left, Maria and hubby stood with our backpacks while we went through passport control (they didn’t go through passport control????), then Maria, hubby, Hayley and I got a taxi to the town on the other side of the border where Maria made sure we were at the right bus terminal to then get a shitty bus for a whole long many hours from that mystery town to Quito bus terminal. At Quito bus terminal, we then got a taxi to our hostel, and pheeewwww, we finally made it. Hello cool weather in Quito. I never thought I’d be so happy to be cold.
  3. A chilled night in Quito (Ecuador), a little bit of wandering around (mainly to find a bank that worked with my bank cards, but also to the ECUATOR!!). – Here’s a tip for travels in South America in general: Always have a VISA bank card. I had one, but it got eaten by an ATM in Cusco, but nonetheless, its a necessity, otherwise you ill continuously be fighting with various ATM’s to try get your hard earned money out of the machine, and into the world of spending cash!

    Middle of the World with Hayley and our monkeys

    Middle of the World with Hayley and our monkeys

  4. Time to fly back to Buenos Aires (Argentina) – I didn’t plan on going back to Argentina this soon. I though I still had another few weeks to travel up to Colombia and see the beautiful Caribean cost but….flights in South America are soooooo expensive. While I was looking at different options to fly back to Buenos Aires (Argentina), I found that the cheapest option was to fly from Quito (Ecuador). Therefore, I never made it up to Colombia (but I will be back someday I promise!!), instead I hopped on a 6 hour flight back to the land of good wine and beautiful people.
  5. Iguasu Falls (Argentina and Brazil) – Met up with a Belgian friend, Salvatore and we hit the road on an 18hour bus ride to the border of Argentina and Brazil to go see the magical Iguazu falls. We saw them in Argentina then crossed the border and saw them from the Brazilian side too. Both sides are a must! Soooo much water!
  6. Home Sweet Home (South Africa) – The long flight home with the most crazy turbulence of all time. But now I’m home and happy and adjusting… The adjustment is weird but seeing everybody is great.

Farm life in San Rafael

We really had no idea what to expect when we arrived at the bus station in San Rafael (Argentina), hoping to be picked up by the man who’s farm we were going to work on for the next 10 days. So far on this trip though, everything has fallen into place so easily and this is yet another example of how perfectly things worked out.

 Our friend Gabi, who we were working with at the hostel in Córdoba, travelled with us from Córdoba to San Rafael, as she had also gotten a job on a finca (farm in Spanish) in San Rafael. Her farmer had told her to catch this bus then that bus then walk here and hitch hike there etc. to find her way from the bus station to his farm. Our farmer said he’d be waiting for us at the station. We arrived and waited outside for about 10 minutes. Along comes Mike. Our farmer. As we all know, this world is so small in so many ways, so of course it turns out that Gabi’s farmer, Robbie, is friends with our farmer, Mike, and their farms are opposite each other. Maximum 2km apart. Mike kindly gave Gabi a lift to her farm and saved her the torturous journey of lugging her 3 huge bags across the town… and the rest is history. Visits to each other’s farms every second day. Swims in our pool. Asado’s (an Argentine braai/barbeque). A day trip to Valle Grande, where we got horribly sunburnt (WHY DO US GIRLS NEVER LEARN OUR LESSON EACH TIME THIS HAPPENS TO US?). And apart from all the fun things, we worked, and boy did we work hard.

In the 10 days spent at Finca Andes Lands, I’ve learnt so many new things, gained new skills, and done some arbitrary things that I’ll probably never have to do again in my life. These skills and arbitrary things range from plastering the quincho (the braai area), sanding and varnishing new furniture and learning new ways to live more sustainable to ironing, cooking, herding cows, stripping bamboo, cleaning the pool, watering the lawn, watering the tomatoes, building fires, chopping wood and getting a ridiculous amount of thorns, scratches and nettles in my hands and arms. Life on a farm. We’ve worked long and hard hours, but it’s been great. It’s taught us what we can achieve when we put out minds to it and how much physical strength we really have.

Finca Andes Lands is over 100 years old and is run by an Anglo-Argentine couple, Mike and Vicky. They are the genuinely the most lovely people we’ve  ever met. The farm has been in Mike’s family since the beginning of time with a huge old farmhouse that has expanded over the years. The house spreads out onto a huge lawn with a massive pool, The farm runs as a B&B, and then they have volunteers such as ourselves to come and help out with the general upkeep of the property.  If you have a moment, go take a look at their website. www.andeslands.com

 It has been an absolutely magical soul nourishing experience, and I am so glad that websites such as www.workaway.info and www.helpx.net exist, the help facilitate such opportunities.  I wouldn’t change my experience on this finca even slightly.

Time to reflect

Long bus trips around South America are a pretty common experience. The continent is so vast, and the buses are relatively inexpensive. The climate ranges from beautiful tropical beaches in Columbia to the worlds largest salt flats in Bolivia, and there’s even the option of skiing on the Andes Mountains in Argentina and Chile.

Yesterday morning we completed our second long bus trip so far on this journey through South America, traveling within Argentina, from Córdoba to San Rafael. A casual 12 hour overnight bus trip. I woke up in the middle of the night on the bus, body shivering and bladder bursting. Damn they really know how to crank up the air conditioning on the busses. But luckily I woke up, because I got to look out the window and see the nature in all its magical glory. As the bus cruised along the flat landscape, the sky lit up for a few seconds at a time, then the blackness would engulf us again, then more brightness and so the pattern continued. There are many fires in this region around spring so the rain is much appreciated and the lighting really put on a show for us to watch. It was a beautiful way to observe the landscape passing us by and spend time reflecting on our journey thus far.

There’ve been some people we’ve met that have truly touched our lives and a few of them who deserve mentioning. These include our wonderful spiritual mother Elizabeth, who guided us and taught us incredible lessons about life. She’s been through the toughest life possible and yet, the radiance still shines through her soul. Another kind soul we met was Damian, an Argentinian guy. His English is as bad as our Spanish, yet instantaneously upon meeting him, it was clear that he was an earth child of the same mindset as ourselves. Although sometimes it was infuriating to only be communicating with hand signals and clicks and frustrated nothingness, we still connected, and it’s a beautiful thing to see that language is not the only way to communicate. Music brought us all together and his great taste in music allowed us all to communicate on a deeper level. He will hopefully join us later on in our travels, and it will be an incredible experience to be able to actually converse with him (when our Spanish has improved somewhat, and the same goes for his English). I could go on mentioning beautiful souls for days on end, but that’s not too interesting to read about if you haven’t been there to absorb the experience. Nonetheless, there is one more person I have to mention and that’s our dear friend Freddy. He is a Columbian guy who took us under his wing from day one and treated us like his little sisters. We will definitely be meeting up with him again on this journey, as he is also going to be winding his way home to Columbia. Our paths will undoubtably cross again and I’m so grateful to have met him.

…and so here we are now, safely in San Rafael, in Mendoza Province, Argentina, the beautiful wine region filled with fresh air, nature, and smiles all around. We’ve finished our second day of work on a farm called Andes Lands. We’ve painted a well, been grocery shopping and helped prepare dinner, stripped many branches of bamboo, helped sand down raw timber to construct new pool deck chairs, started painting a mural on one of the walls in the house and even driven in the most broken down pick up truck know to man. We couldn’t be happier. Tranquilo.

…and while everyone else is at rocking the daisies

Pretty much everybody I know is at the most epic music festival that South Africa has to offer. It is called “Rocking the Daisies”. If my time difference calculations are accurate, Alt-J ∆ is busy performing for thousands of very happy people right now. So my contribution to the festivities is to sit here in Córdoba (Argentina) with my daisy headband on and watch various Alt-J ∆ Live sets on YouTube. It’s as close as I can get to the real thing. But anyway, who needs FOMO. I’m living the dream right here, right now.

We have one week left in Córdoba, and then we are hitting the road to further our travels. Córdoba is a student city and considering that there are seven Universities in the town, there are ample young people around and the nightlife is always great. During the day, the city itself is a bit of a dud. The colonial buildings and mass amounts of churches are beautiful to see, but the main reason to come to this city is to use it as a base and then take day outings to various towns in the surrounding Sierras. It’s been a great stay here and Turning Point Hostel has become our pseudo-family. We will definitely miss them, but at the same time, we’re both rather excited to move on to new experiences. We’ve got a 13 hour bus trip ahead of us to San Rafael (Argentina) where we will be working on a farm at the foot of the Andes. On the farm we will be helping out with gardening, going horse-riding, helping out with their Eco-Project, and always, everywhere, no matter what, trying to learn Spanish.

It’s now almost (only) been one month since we set off on this journey. Still so many great things coming our way. Life is perfect. Wanderlust.

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Feeling Restless

The intention was to stay in Córdoba for a month. So far, we have been here for just over 2 weeks. I (Karen) am starting to get restless. These itchy feet of mine are begging me to take them to the beach. From spending evenings watching the sun go down at home on Glenn Beach or walking my dogs at Hout Bay beach, my toes are pretty well acquainted with sea sand. Now it’s been three weeks of sea sand deprivation. Life is tough right?

I’m starting to consider the possibilities of leaving here a bit earlier. What are the protocol’s with leaving a host hostel earlier than anticipated? Does anyone have any ideas?

Córdoba has been great to us. The hostel where we’ve been working has become a family of sorts. Sam, myself, Gabi (from Columbia) and Eugene (from Canada), spend endless days lazing around the hostel, drinking tea, eating far to many delicious empanadas, and drinking copious amounts of wine and beer. Every once in awhile we go on a day outing somewhere. I know I shouldn’t be complaining. But I’m on this epic trip, and I need to make the most of it. I feel as if Córdoba and I need to go our separate way.

We have actually done a fair amount while we’ve been here, and I’ve learnt quite a few new skills too.

Fredy (a Columbian guy that works at the hostel) has made me my very own Quena, which is a traditional Incan flute. It’s a huge gesture on his part and I am blown away with his generosity. It is said that if you can play the Quena, you can control your soul. I’m well on my way in learning to play it. It will be quite a significant personal achievement to be able to play it well. On the funny side, everyone thinks I will make so much money if I can play it, busking around town playing this traditional Incan flute with my ditsy blonde hair and fair skin and very poor Spanish skills.

I’ve also learnt the basics of Macramé. We’ve been to a trance party in the Spiritual centre of Argentina in a town called Capilla del Monte. I’ve gone to a beautiful Alpine village called La Cumbrecita, which is situated at about 1450 meters above sea level in the middle of the wood and is said to be the town that inspired the setting for the Disney Movie Bambi. I’ve even had a little bit of a holiday romance. Yet still my feet are itching.

Soon enough, Sam and I will be sitting on the beach in Peru, braiding wraps into the hair of tourists, selling my Macramé jewellery, playing the Quena (and hopefully surfing a bit too). Aah, those are the days I am dreaming about and itching for.

the beginning of the best

I’m sitting writing this with my Spanish Audio tapes playing in my ears. We seriously need to brush up on our Spanish ASAP!

Buenos Aires was a bit of a whirlwind trip for Sam and I because we were still coming to grips with what we are actually doing. We’ve quit our jobs, sold up our lives, and set off on this adventure, and now we are actually here. We are in Argentina!

The first two things we noticed when we got off the plane were the beautiful people and the hot muggy heat. Everywhere you look, you just see beautiful faces. Everything you feel is hot and sticky. So, with our grubby faces and sweaty clothes, and lots of eye candy all around us, we set off on a mission to find the local bus that takes you into the city (no luxury taxi’s for us, we are travelling on a VERY tight budget).

If you get the local bus into the city, it only cost $4 pesos (which is about R8.00 and less than US$1). The catch is that it’s a 2 hour bus trip, and after a 12 hour flight, it’s not exactly ideal. For the bus, you need coins, and I’m not sure why, but coins are hard to come by in Argentina. There is a Cambio (currency exchange place) in the airport and you just need to cross your little fingers that its open so that you can get your trusty coins. Then you’re good to go. Bus number 8 takes you right into the city. We weren’t to sure which stop we had to get off at, so of course we ended up going way to far, then having to walk back to our hostel, fully loaded with backpacks, but we made it eventually. All part of the adventure. Let the fun begin.

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graffiti in the hostel

Milhouse Hipo Hostel has the reputation of being a crazy party hostel, and one of the most highly rated hostels in Latin America. After a couple drinks with some new friends, we ended up sneaking off to bed relatively early. In Argentina, dinner is only at around 9pm, then pre-drinks start at 10h30pm, and people only go out to nightclubs at 2pm! It’s madness. So you really have to be on your top game to endure a long night out. I sound like I’m getting old. I’m not I promise. I’m blaming it on jet lag seeming as we did gain an extra 5 hours to our day from the time differences.

On the second night we had our first Couchsurfing experience at an Argentinian guy’s house. His name is Emilio, and he was such a wonderful trusting host and gave us so much advice. He was also such an interesting person to chat to. Really cool guy. Our first couchsurfing experience!

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don’t ever drink the cheapest wine on the menu

We didn’t do any of the typical tourist things while in BA as we are anticipating that we will do these all on our final return flight when we do eventually leave South America at some point. Some things we did do though included going to Florida Ave and the surrounds, changing our dollars on the black market at a cueva (pronounced kwe-va), eating many empanadas (AMAZING!!), drinking mate (pronounced ma-tey), having dinner in San Telmo, seeing lots of beautiful graffiti and just exploring and getting very lost in the streets of Buenos Aires.

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beautiful buildings in the city

Such a lovely city and I will be back to explore it properly, but it was a great way to start our adventure. Next stop, a 10 hour overnight bus trip to Cordoba, where we will be for a month, volunteering at a hostel (this includes free food and accommodation).

Much loves to all. ❤ Oh and one last thing… the men in Argentina are BEAUTIFUL!!!!

For more photos of our time in Buenos Aires CLICK HERE