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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almost in australia

Is it weird that I am so incredibly frustrated at being home? Home should be a happy relaxing place to rejuvenate before my next journey. Instead it’s making me more and more anxious and restless.

My previous post touched on how, upon returning home after 5 months in South America, it felt like I had changed so much, but everybody else had stayed the same. But now, after being home for almost 3 weeks, I’ve actually come to realize that everyone else has changed to. Of course life doesn’t stop, and I understand that, but I’m no longer a permanent feature in my friends lives and therefore I’m not a priority. Lots of friends have actually blown me off since I’ve been home, choosing rather to hang with the people that they know will be there in the long term. People move on. Life moves on. Everyone moves in their directions.

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#selfie with my Boston Terrier Willow

Don’t get me wrong though, I have had some absolutely magical moments while being at home, I’ve been to a beautiful music festival out in the wine lands of Cape Town (Origin Festival), I’ve been to one of the most prime up and coming electronic music festivals in Cape Town (Cape Town Electronic Music Festival), been to food markets, eaten incredible food, swam in the ocean and spent time with my family and been for countless walks on the beach with my beloved doggies. All of that said, as much as I still love all of my friends at home, it’s become very clear to me since I’ve been home, who my true friends are, friends that are my friends no matter whether I am at home or not and which people have moved on from our friendships probably without them even realising it themselves.

It’s been a weird trip being home, and I kind’ve wish that I had’ve gone straight from Ecuador to Australia, but such is life, and here I am in South Africa. Three more sleeps, a few goodbyes, and I’m off on the next part of my adventure. I am beyond excited.

Have any of you other long term travelers had any similar issues with friendships and reverse culture shock and settling back in at home? I’d love to know if I am being over sensitive or if this is a general trend.

Happy travels xx

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.

Hitch hiking through Ecuador with a Colombian drug dealer called Juan Pablo

My next stop on my journey was Quito, in Ecuador. A brief stopover in the city, then I split up from my happy family. Elle was heading off to Panama, and Mike and the two Dutch girls, Carolien and Inge, we’re heading to Colombia. I joined up with some others that I’d met along the way, and we heading to the little surf town of Mompiche in Ecuador. I’m not even going to bother describing in detail my bad luck on this trip, because I feel like it’s becoming a theme, but of course, the bus broke down, we had to stay in a dodgy town called Esmeralda’s for a night of extreme sweating and no ventilation, but we made it to Mompiche, and it was great to be back in the sunshine with sandy toes.

Edd (French), Marissa (American) and little Sammy (Aussie) are all super enthusiastic surfers. So we spent the first day going on adventures to find amazing surf spots on beaches covered in the softest black sand I’ve ever seen in my life. Mompiche isn’t filled with travelers and holiday makers in the same way as all the other places I’ve been. It’s a quiet little town where nobody bothers you or tries to sell you things. You’re left at your own device to buy fresh fruit, eat fresh fish, and relax. Tranquilo.
Months back, when Sam and I were still traveling together, we made a memorable stay at the Loki hostel in Salta in Argentina. For the week we were there, we had formed a group of friends who we giggles with for days on end and drank infamous amounts of Loki “Blood Bombs”. My favorite person of the bunch we were hanging out with, was a British girl called Hayley because we just got along childishly well. Her and I always promised we would meet up again at some point on our journeys, and finally the time had come. She came and found me in Mompiche. Instantly, we hit it off as of before, laughing until our ribs ached, laughing at nothing, laughing at everything. Together we are a ridiculous pair. We shouldn’t travel together. People look at us funny because we are in hysterics non stop. We make impulsive decisions. We are carefree. We are two silly blonde girls far away from home.
When she arrived, her and I went for lunch. During lunch we started toying with the idea of heading back down to Mancora in Peru for a couple of days of fun and silliness together before I was to fly back to Buenos Aires in Argentina and before she headed on to Colonbia. By the end of that lunch, we’d found a lift with a man named Juan Pablo, his dog Jax, and his driver (whose name is unknown). They were going to take us half way down Ecuador. We packed up our bags and set off with these strangers who conveniently just happened to be going in our direction.
We probably shouldn’t have been so impulsive about hitchhiking with this guy. During the trip which seemed to take way longer than planned, we stopped to take photos of a giant paper mâché iguana, we took a detour through a beach town called Canoa (just so we could have a look) and Juan Pablo even kindly (creepily) offered to give Hayley a foot massage.
K: Juan Pablo, what do you do for a living
JP: importing and exporting
K: Oh cool, of whaaaaat?
JP: consumer goods
K: not drugs though right
*awkward silence*
JP: drugs are bad
We made it alive to Manta (it took 4 hours), then hopped on a bus to Guayacil (3 more hours), slept in the Guayacil bus station (for 7 hours), then caught a morning bus to Manocora (9 more hours including border control). And then we were home in Mancora…

the tales of my bad bus luck continue…

After New Years Eve, our little family all got a bus together to Baños. I don’t seem to be having the best of luck with bus rides lately.

This bus ride was meant to be a direct bus for without any stops, just a bus filled with traveller’s all moving from one destination to the next. After about an hour on our journey, the bus was pulled over by the police as it was found to be missing a certain license. It was therefore prohibited that that bus with that driver could take us to our destination. One of the policemen hopped into the driver’s seat and attempted to drive the bus to the nearest bus terminal, with a convoy of police cars surrounding us. Of course this man was incapable of driving a bus, and so the bus shuddered and jerked along for a couple meters before the policeman gave up and put the bus driver back on his throne. We were taken to the nearest bus terminal, where we were left to cuddle up on the floor and try sleep/keep warm for 3 hours. Eventually at 3am the bus terminal opened and there was a lot of commotion, all in Spanish of course, with people trying to figure out what was happening and how we would be getting to our next destination and who would be paying for it. Some kind souls translated for us. The police didn’t want to refund us our tickets or pay for our new ones. But with lots of kicking and screaming, the police eventually agreed to put us onto another bus to a big bus station called Guayacil. There we were swopped onto another bus to the middle of nowhere and from there we were finally swopped onto a bus to Baños. By the time we arrived, we were all pretty exhausted. We went to a recommended hostel and were turned away because they didn’t have space for 6 of us. On to a dingy motel and found ourself in rooms, in beds, fast asleep for the rest of the day. We went out for a lovely dinner, then back to bed.
The following day, Elle and I split from the group. They went canyoning and doing all sorts of cool things. Elle and I were both bed bound by a lovely never ending stomache big. That evening we decided to join the others on a little gander to the hot springs. I should’ve learnt my lesson from my previous hot springs experience back in Peru. Picture this. It’s rainy and icy cold (a vast contrast to the heat in Montanita). The hot springs are filled with locals. We all have swimming caps on. The water is dirty. A collection of people’s hair, in the form of a nice hair ball, casually wraps it’s way around my hand. I was out of there in no time. We headed home. Got some dinner. Back to bed.
The following day was a better day. We went and swung off the edge of the world. I remember seeing a blog post about it a few years back and then there I was, swinging happily from the tree house at the edge of the world. In the afternoon we got a bus to Quito without any complications. Things were looking up. Hello Quito, the capital of Ecuador.

Ending 2013 in Ecuador

After the crazy times spent in Mancora in Peru, my kiwi friend Elle and I hopped onto a bus to Montanita in Ecuador. Our New Years Eve destination.

We arrived there without accommodation, and over this time of year, we were lucky to find a place for one night. A beautiful dorm at the top of the hostel, open to the night air, with mosquito nets to guard us from the feisty flying creatures of the night. That first night was a rather calm one, considering what we’d put our bodies through in the weeks prior. We just spent our time hunting down a hostel that had space for 9 people. A big quest. The following day, a bunch of different friends were arriving, so we wanted to secure a place where we could all be together.

We found a place. It wasn’t glorious, but it was ours. The hostel which literally did not have a name. The showers were cold. The toilets had no seats. There was only water when the owner went to go pump water for us from below the hostel. We used the WIFI from the hostel across the road. The kitchen smelt like mould. But we were happy to have a place to call home for the following four nights.

Montanita is a crazy place. It’s a beach town that is bigger than Mancora (where we’d just come from), and crazier too. There were so many Ecuadorians and Peruvians walking the streets without tops on, lots of muscle, lots of “Jersey Shore” really. Unexpectadly, there weren’t nearly as many travellers in Montanita as expected. The majority was creepy Ecuadorian men.

The 9 of us became a happy little family. People would ask us where we’re from… uhm… 3xAussie, 2xDutch, 1xKiwi, 1xSaffa, 2xCanada. We spent a few days just relaxing and lying on the beach, going for walks, and just catching our breath again. Mancora really took it out of us.

New Year’s Eve was completely childish. They have this tradition in Ecuador where they paper mâché figures of cartoon characters (you can buy them from pretty much any store) and then on New Year’s Eve you throw them into a big bonfire on the beach. I have no idea the significance of it, but it’s so much fun. A group of us bought a paper mâché Sid the sloth, a character from the movie “Ice Age”. We took him around on activities with us for a couple days leading up to New Years Eve. He road a donkey, chilled on the beach, came on a hike, came to dinner with us and a whole bunch of exiting activities for a Sloth. We then bought a whole ton of fireworks, and at about 10pm on nye, we shot fireworks at Sid the Sloth, then put them up his legs and blew him into smithereens. We only threw the remnants into the bonfire (as per tradition).

The actual New Years party was something Else entirely… On the beach there were thousands of creepy Ecuadorians and Peruvians. A South American form of jersey shore really. Walking around very arrogantly, shirts off, bumping past people, and just not really caring about very much at all. Very different to the backpacker lifestyle I’ve been living so far. Just before midnight, about 40 surfers came running onto the beach with there boards and stood in a big circle and chanted while some guy did fire dancing, then they all went off and had a midnight surf. Again, I have no idea of the significance, but it’s really interesting to experience traditions in different parts of the world. People were blowing up stuff all over the place and it actually got to the point where it was actually quite unsafe. People were setting them off among the crowds of thousands of people on the beach. I actually even saw a guy rolling in the sand trying to put out the flames on his clothes. It is possible to buy any fireworks you want, on any street corner. At home in South Africa fireworks are very regulated, and even quite badly viewed. They frighten dogs and are quite dangerous. But here, there was no concern for safety whatsoever.

Almost directly after the New Years countdown, our troop of friends headed off to an amazing nightclub that we had stumbled upon a few days before. It is the only club I’ve found in South America so far that plays good music. In the opinion of all backpackers, South American music is AWFULL!! ThE club was epic and it was a refreshing change from the rest of the music we’ve been exposed to in the past few months. The club is called “The Lost Beach Club” and they had an American deep house DJ playing called Lee Curtis.

And that was how I ended my year of 2013, in Ecuador. I would never have expected to spend a NYE in Ecuador but now I’ve done it! Happy New Years everybody.