Week 39: Mexico City, Guanajuato & San Miguel. Mexico.

My first stop was notoriously dangerous Mexico city. I was delighted to meet Chloe, a friend from Dublin who is traveling for 13 weeks and we happened to pass through Mexico city at the same time. Things were off to a rough start when a lovely Mexican lad found my passport on the floor in the middle of the airport. It had fallen out of the hood of my hoodie ?? Like who knows anymore.

I arrived in the middle of the night to a lovely hostel called (El hostel Massiocare). The whole hostel is based on the 4th floor of a building and had an amazing rooftop, kitchen and people. The walk up the stairs is the most exercise I have done in weeks! Myself and Chlo just spent our first day catching up on the last 10 months over way too many g and t’s. It was perfect. Thanks Josh for the donation of a bottle of bombay. It went down way too easily. The next day we did a free walking tour around the city where we ended up adopting another Irish guy Dave, who is also traveling for 1 year. The guide wasn’t the best but handy to be brought to all of the hot spots. My sense of direction isn’t the may west so suited me down to the ground.

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People watching in Mexico City

Unfortunately, I had a rough Mexican introduction. While eating delicious tacos in Mercado San Yuan 400 euro was robbed from my bag. I have no idea how but apparently they are experts at it, especially in Mexico City. To date on this trip I have lost/ been robbed a record amount of things. But on this occasion I was surprised as I’m generally really careful with my money bag. I know stupid carrying that kind of cash but I had just come from the atm.  400 euro is a huge amount of money when traveling especially when you have been slumming it in tents for the past few weeks. But money comes and goes and you have to forget about these type of situations. I’m just grateful I wasn’t attacked and that the tacos were delicious. No matter what happens things could always be worse.

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Bloody tacos
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Central Plaza Mexico city
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Just your standard post office. GPO hasn’t got a patch on this lad.
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Mexico’s beautiful buildings

So later that day Elizabeth (our Aussie friend from the hostel) and Dave had bought tickets to go see the band Interpol (never heard of them but apparently they are v good). They bought the tickets from vendors on the street as it was booked out online. Both huge music fans were v excited. We had a few pre-drinks on the hostel’s roof terrace before the gig. Half an hour later they both rocked back laden down with wine turns out the tickets were fakes!! So all in all an expensive day for everyone involved. We all drowned our sorrows listening to Interpol on Elizabeth’s phone while drinking too much wine. Very grim but quite amusing all the same. If you don’t laugh you will cry. Interpol are coming to Dublin in November so that might be on the cards.

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Amazing murals, Mexico city

Next day was to be a cultural one. Generally speaking I’m not the biggest lover of museums and tend to avoid them. My attention span wouldn’t be great and I get bored quite easily. However, on this occasion Chlo had booked to go see Frida Kahlo’s house, a famous Artist in Mexico who was married to Diego Rivera (another famous artist). They are legends in Mexico and of course I had never even heard of them. Ever the organizer Chloe had booked tickets online otherwise you que for 3 hours!

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Viva la Vida never a truer word
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Frida’s studio in her original house

Anyway it did not disappoint and it was really interesting learning about her life and seeing where she grew up. She was definitely an eccentric, unique and talented lady. Frida is so famous over here that wherever you turn there is a restaurant or hotel named after her. There is also a movie made after her featuring Salma Hayak which is worth a watch.

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Frids Kahlo

Afterwards we made our way to the Sumaya museum ( two in one-day serious over). We mainly wanted to go to the Sumaya Museum just to see the building itself. It was incredible and I felt like I was in New York.

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Museo Sumaya
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Gates of hell, Museo Sumaya

It was so nice catching up with friends from home and a welcomed break from the usual travel small talk of ‘where are you from’, ‘where have you been’ and ‘where are you going’. I love meeting randomers and never knowing who you are going to meet or what kind of experience you’re going to have. Sometimes it’s nice not to have to make an effort and speak in drunken Irish and reminisce about home. Chlo it’s been fantastic and enjoy the rest of Mexico.

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Elizabeth, Chlo and myself at Frida’s gaf

My next stop was a place called Guanajuato which claims to be one of Mexico’s most beautiful towns and you can clearly see why. For centuries it was one of Mexico’s wealthiest cities because of its mines. It is made up of tumbling hills and colourful architecture. It was absolutely stunning and definitely a place I could see myself living in. I did couch surfing with a 23-year-old Mexican called Ricardo. I couldn’t have been luckier and he was so nice to me. I had my own private room with a double bed ( unheard of nowadays). On my first night he gave me a tour of the historical centre.

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Historical centre of Guanajuato at night
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Guanajuato was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998
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Main Plaza Guanajuato
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Guanajuato’s University

We tasted some traditional street food of tamales ( steamed maize stuffed with cheese and spices) and champurrado (hot drink made out of chocolate, maize and cinnamon). Delish everything here has so much flavour. I am as happy as a pig in shit with all of this glorious street food.

Ricardo has 3 business’s on the go; he owns a pharmacy, sock company and invests in property and he is only 23!!!Quite the combo. Way to make you feel inadequate my most valuable asset is my broken tent!!

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Funicular to mirador Pipila

The next day I went exploring on my own checking out the markets, buildings and amazing viewpoints of the city. Later that evening I met up with Ricardo where we went to an Art Exhibition of one of his friends. This was a fancy affair with everyone dolled up to the 99’s. I felt and looked like someone who was just picked off the side of the street (which I kind of was).

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Local vendors in the Mercado Hidalgo
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Getting lost in Mexican markets
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People watching in Mercado Hidalgo

It was an excellent night where I had a lesson on how to speak Mexicano (mainly just learning how to curse). I was then introduced to Guanajuato’s best tacos. These were next level with homemade taco shells , bbq chorizo, spicy salsa and salad. Eating them off the bonnet of cars was just what I imagined Mexico’s street food to be like. I really like spicy food since working with a Mexican in Cusco, Brenda. I realise there is spice and then there is Mexican spice!! Nothing an ice-cold corona can’t fix.

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Mexico’s street food
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All of this for €1.50

That night a gang of Ricardo’s mates came back to the house. They were all really intrigued about hurling so we all sat down to watch some while drinking barry’s tea. Couldnt have felt more Irish. I had an amazing couch surfing experience and love the local and authentic experiences you have when you do it. That is why I travel after all. Money can’t buy these type of experiences and I would recommend couch surfing to everyone.

I’ve said it before when something bad happens something good is just around the corner and that was the case here. My faith in Mexicans has been fully restored. Myself and Ricardo will hopefully meet in Japan for the rugby world cup. Ricardo has great taste with a Leinster rugby ball hanging proudly on his mantel piece.

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Mexico’s colourful houses
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Words cannot describe how beautiful this place is
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The locals

After saying my goodbyes to Ricardo I headed towards another gorgeous colonial town called San Miguel de Allende. It claims to be even nicer than Guanajuato and is described as hauntingly beautiful in all the guidebooks. It is popular amongst American tourists with lots of money. This place is dolla dolla bill. It is stunning but almost too good-looking for me. When someone is that good-looking it is almost intimidating. I preferred the more rustic feel of Guanajuato. Still, a stunning place to pass the day.

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Just your standard church

I just spent the day there eating ice cream, quesadillas and gorditas. So gorditas kind of remind me of pita breads but are made out of maize. They are stuffed with beans, spicy salsa and whatever meat is going. For 50c they are the bees knees. Everything is completely fresh and made right on front of you.

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San Miguel’s stunning streets
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Not over the top at all

My next plan of action is to travel further north to San Luis Potosi where I am going to work in a hostel for the next 2 weeks. Looking forward to having a base for a while and a much-needed break from the backpack and buses !!

 

 

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Week 38: Santa Catalina & San Jose. Panama & Costa Rica

I arrived in Santa Catalina which is on the Pacific coast of Panama. It is famous for its black sandy beaches, excellent surfing and snorkelling. I was really looking forward to a few days camping. The one hour trek to the campsite was torture made even worse when a treacherous storm broke out. Drenched with my ever-expanding baggage I got picked up by the nicest stranger who drove me to my ‘campsite’. The owner tried to warn me not to camp that they were in the height of rainy season and I would be the only one. Anyway I decided to take my chances and figured I have been through worse conditions. With tent successfully pitched I went for an evening stroll where I successfully managed to lose my shoes. When I got back to my tent I got the fright of my life when I found an iguana in my sleeping bag. During the night a coconut fell on my tent causing one of the bars to snap. This really was a disaster especially with the rain storms the tent quickly started to fill up with water. Humidity, heat and sand are a recipe for the worlds worst sleep. The novelty of my brand new tent was certainly short-lived.

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Black sandy beaches of Santa Catalina
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View from the campsite

The next day was just spent chilling and swimming on the beach where I stupidly lost my 21st pair of sunglasses ( but who is counting). Don’t worry hairy eyes your still going strong and only brought out for the best of occasions.

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Hairy eyes cruising through the Caribbean

My second nights sleep wasn’t much better when I found a dead eel lying outside my tent infested with flees, ants and insects who subsequently paid me a visit. I am still trying to get over the vomiting bug and got violently sick during the night. I ended up landing on the ell mid puking episode unable to see a thing. To add to the situation  mid getting sick my toes were getting bitten by swarms of crabs (apparently Panama is v famous for its crabs).  I’m not going to sugar coat this one it was so so shit.

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The only idiot in Santa Catalina

The next day I had planned on going whale watching. Panama is unique in that Whales migrate from both north and south poles and meet in Panama. At this time of year it is breeding season for humpbacks so I was very excited to spot a few and apparently there are thousands at this time of the year. This was the only reason I had Santa Catalina on the list.

The tour started out with a 2 hour boat ride to Isla Coiba, a world heritage site. It contains exotic sea life often compared to that seen on the Galapagos. My head was in bits trying to spot whales but there was no sign of them and things were looking a little bleak.  Our first snorkelling spot was nice.  We saw two sharks and a few sea turtles but I was most impressed with a blue puffer fish.

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Our first snorkelling spot

After a seafood lunch we made our way to our next snorkelling point and this is where things started to get better. We saw 4 huge humpback whales. Unfortunately I couldn’t get a decent picture as they were way too fast. I was delira and relieved to have spotted them. 10 seconds later the guide said we could snorkel there. Just a little concerning knowing there were a load of whales floating nearby. Anyway quite nervous I jumped in nonetheless mesmerised by the amazing coral and sea life. After a few minutes I looked up and realised  I was completely alone with no sign of the group.  I eventually realised they were all back on the boat. The guide was screaming at me to come back, not concerning at all….. Trying not to panic I tried to swim but the current was way too strong and dragged me out further. At this stage I was freaking out imagining the humpbacks close by. The guide was directing me to swim behind some rocks to try to get back. This is where I ended up swimming into a gang of jelly fish stinging my entire body. After what felt like a life time I reached the boat. Relieved that jelly fish stings were my only complaint.

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Humpbacks on Isla Coiba
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Views of Coiba Island

We had one final snorkel spot which most people opted against freaked out by the whales and jelly fish. This was fantastic and I saw amazing schools of exotic fish most of which I had never seen before.

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Dolphin spotting en route back

My last night camping was as horrific as the rest. So with the tent broken it was already soaking wet and covered in black sand. Trying to ignore the bleak set up I tried to listen to my sleeping playlist. After a few hours I felt movement in the tent and knew I had a visitor. At first I thought it was a rat but turns out it was a massive crab eating through my food bag. I freaked out ended up hitting it with my pepper mill trying to get rid of it. The little fecker ended up eating my brand new ear phones ( sorry Una). Obviously there was no more sleep to be had for the rest of the night.

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Night time views kind of compensating for the camping situation

During my camping escapades I managed to break my laptop I think caused by all of the humidity.  Any way all in all a successful few days that I certainly won’t be repeating. As always trying to look at the positives rough episodes like this make having a bed all the sweeter.

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Throwback to simplar times in Patagonia when I camped without a tent I actually thing it’s better!

Unfortunately my bed the following night wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. After a 10 hour bus journey I arrived in the middle of the night. There was a horrific thunder-storm so I was desperate and just went to the only available hotel. All that was on offer was a toilet-less room for an extortionate 15 dollars. The owner told me the area was extremely dodgy and advised not leaving the ‘hotel’. He said if I really needed the loo I could pay his next door neighbour. The bed was covered in muck and there were ants on the walls. I’m not fussy at all but you have to draw the line somewhere. I went searching for the mysterious neighbours toilet which was padlocked up and neighbour was MIA. I asked the owner could I use his bathroom and he said he didn’t have one either. Apparently Panamanians don’t need toilets!!!Absolutely desperate and dying for a pee I had no other option but to use a plastic 7 up bottle I luckily had in my bag. Feeling like a caged animal I realized this certainly wasn’t my finest hour. It also made me realise that there are some horrible people out there and that hotel owner was a nasty piece of work.

The next morning I packed up and made my way to the bus station delira to be leaving Panama.  I had a flight out of San Jose to Mexico city. At the moment Nicaragua is extremely dangerous with no one allowed into the country. It is a similar situation to what is happening in Venezuela.

I stayed in a hotel in San Jose just before my flight to Mexico. I was sharing a room with an odd American Man. Before going our separate ways he asked me if I wanted him to pray for me. God knows it couldn’t hurt given my track record so I agreed. After an uncomfortable 5 minutes of prayer we said our goodbyes. The hotel I was in had a school tour of about 30 15 year olds. I was absolutely allergic to them and even more so when they dipped into my supplies of chocolate that I stupidly left on the table. Once again I almost missed my flight spending ages trying to hunt down my pepper mill which the hostel owner had taken!! That pepper mill is one of my best assets at the moment.

Certainly one of the more challenging weeks but that is to be expected when your travelling for 10 months. The rough times make the good times a lot sweeter. My friends Meabh and Coco describe backpacking as periods of peaks and valleys and this week was certainly a deep dark valley. I am looking forward to a stiff tequila and a bucket load of tacos.

Hasta Luego Panama.

 

 

Week 37. San Blas Islands & Panama City. Panama

The San Blas Islands are located on the Caribbean coast, a total of 226 km long. A popular option is a trip from Colombia to Panama ( or visa versa) and take a sail or a speedboat passing through the islands. These islands are the most idyllic place I have ever seen and I don’t think anything will ever compare.

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San Blas Islands

I decided to go with San Blas Adventures where they take you on speedboat ( thanks Lucie and Rhys for the best recommendation). It meant we spent less time on the boat and more time on the islands. We visited two different islands each day.  The turquoise water, white sandy beaches and palm trees were on the agenda for 4 days.

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Home for 4 days

We met the group in Capurgana in Colombia also a stunning place where the jungle meets the sea with a cute little town. I couldn’t have been luckier with the group, really sound people. Our first night we went for a delicious seafood dinner followed by far too many beers. That night I was really sick obviously not over the vomiting bug from Minca. I got really worried when I started vomiting up blood. I genuinely thought I would have to cancel the trip it turns out I had actually eaten a beetroot the day before so happy days I set about packing my bags.

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Afternoon strolls in Capurgana

The sea here is notoriously rough and puke inducing. We were also warned to waterproof everything that most likely things would be soaked. At the dock there were local children selling ludicrously expensive black plastic bags which I had no option but to buy. Seconds later they all ripped not able for the weight of my stuff. To add nicely to my load I was carrying  6 litres of water and a litre of rum( worth it). My bag was a mere 15 kg overweight so that resulted in a hefty fine to get it onto the boat. Anyway  all abroad we made our way to meet the rest of the group. I felt like Santa Claus carting around all the black sacks. We were all very relieved to arrive at the first island ready for some relaxing after all the heavy lifting.

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Coconuts coming out of our ears
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Playing cards on our first island

After a few intense games of volley ball I did a spot of snorkelling where I got a nasty jelly fish sting on my bum. With my right cheek completely swollen I decided for a risk free activity of reading on the beach instead.

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One of many volley ball matches
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Palm tree heaven

That evening we visited a local village home to the Kunas, the local indigenous people who live on the San Blas Islands.

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The local Kuna dress
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The children don’t get to wear the local dress until they have their first period.

The Kunas are legends to put it very simply and I fell in love with them immediately. They have their own unique culture of dance, language, music and some crazy traditions. They are some of the happiest people I have met on my trip so far.

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Every single Kuna child we met had the biggest smile
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They loved getting their photo taken

In the past the Kunas never had any money and used coconuts as their currency. They are very welcoming  and open to absolutely everyone and are not prejudice against anyone ; tourists, homosexuals or transvestites. They welcome everyone to the islands as long as you respect the Kuna culture. One of which being whenever a girl is born, on her 7th birthday and when she gets her frist period there is a 3 day celebration aka piss up. The whole village must attend the party (this is compulsory) which goes on for 3 days where the locals just drink their lethal chicha drink. Failure to attend the party results in a fine.

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Drunk Kunas post fiesta
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7-year-old Kunas having a casual game of cards
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Another local Kuna village

I absolutely loved meeting the Kunas and we were treated to some traditional music and dance. Interestingly the children never once begged for presents or sweets off us and seemed really content just playing. Afterwards we played some 5 a side football with the locals which was brilliant and extremely sweat inducing.

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5 aside football against the Kunas
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Traditional Kuna dance

My genius idea of drying my clothes on the balcony resulted in them flying into the Caribbean sea. Not in a position to lose any more clothes I went for an evening snorkel to try to relocate my wardrobe. It was a complete success! Our neighbours that evening were treated to a surprise visit from a huge rat. We were all warned not to be harbouring any food that rats were v common. I begrudgingly threw out some stale bread I had been nursing for quite some time.

That night after  a dinner of sea-snail, ample amounts of rum and a few aggressive games of ping pang pong  I took to the leaba ready for our early wake up call.

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Island hoping in local boats
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Dolphin spotting
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Having an awfully hard time

Still a bit ropey from the vomiting bug the boat was testing. Lucky me I got front of house the next morning during  a massive thunder-storm where I almost got wiped out of it. I genuinely thought I was going to get frost bite unable to feel my fingers or toes by the end of it. Presumably a first on a Caribbean island. We were all dreading the storm would persist for the day. After multiple hot chocolates and coffee we all settled down for an intense game of taboo (similar to articulate) waiting for the storm to pass. As per usual I got carried away and ended up insulting a few people in the best possible nature.

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Smiling on the outside dying on the inside
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Tensions high during Taboo

Luckily the sun made an appearance. After a delicious lunch of different salads we made our way to the next island for more coconuts, volleyball and snorkelling. That evening we slept in hammocks  in a different Kuna village.

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Just casually playing on some boats
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The local pig

Day 3 and we arrived in the most picture perfect island. Paradise personified. Our last night consisted of exquisite lobster, a bonfire and of course plenty more rum.

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Freshly caught lobsters

We were sold rum by a legitimate pirate. Doesnt really get much better than that. That night a performance of your so vain went down like a ton of bricks. I didn’t realise that the non native english speakers had never heard of the song. After a crowd of confused and blank faces I quickly decided total eclipse of the heart wasnt going to be a goer. An extremely uncomfortable experience for everyone involved.

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Picture perfect paradise
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Boat made by the Kunas getting us from Colombia to Panama in 4 days
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The captain

The next day we had time to chill on the island and soak up the last of paradise before making our way back to Panama city.

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Rough….
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Caribbean style basket ball courts
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The best San Blas crew
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The boys!!!
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The girls!

We all met for dinner that eve and celebrated arriving in Panama with some roof top drinks and bar hopping. The next day was a write off with a trip to the supermarket being the activity for the day.

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Rooftop drinks in Panama city
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Rueben, Jiltu, me and Jules back to civilisation

A trip to Panama city isn’t complete without a trip to the Panama canal. I’ll be honest I had never even heard about it but it is one of the man-made wonders of the world. Apparently it is one of the worlds great engineering marvels. The canal connects the pacific and the atlantic together and worldwide ships are constructed using the Panama canal dimensions. It is quite impressive seeing huge ships marginally pass through this narrow canal.

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This little fella in his element at the canal

A gang of us from San Blas went to visit the famous landmark and waiting a mere 4 hours to see a ship pass through ( and a military submarine). The highlight of the Panama canal for me was definitely my bottle of rose wine. It really was delicious. Advice anyone going to the Panama canal go early that’s when all the boats pass through.

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4 hours of waiting and there she is!

That evening we all decided to check out the famous Mercado de mariscos. The place was buzzing with locals and tourists. For me I found the place to be ridiculously expensive (like everything else in Panama). 20$ for fish and 2 beers. Especially when your expected to eat with plastic knives and forks. Shock horror the fish is deep fat fried. I think my body is craving a long overdue salad. Anyway it was a lovely way of saying goodbye to the remaining San Blas crew. I absolutely loved the trip. The food, people and islands were top-notch and in the last 10 month it is definitely up their with one of my highlights.

Next stop Santa Catalina for whale watching.

Week 35 & 36. Salento, Medellin, Cartagena and Minca. Colombia.

Salento is Colombia’s famous  coffee region. I stayed in the stunning hostel serrena, a 20 minute walk outside the town with the most amazing views. I  visited a local coffee farm. It was lovely but a little commercial.

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Freshly picked coffee beans in Salento
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Traditional weaved baskets in Salento
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Traditional coffee machinery
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Salento’s transport system

Dinner that night was grilled trout which is famous in Salento . The town is really pretty and there was horse racing going on between the locals. Amazing to watch. The following morning I made my way to the Cocora valley, famous for having the tallest palm trees in the world. This place is stunning and you can do a 6 hour loop to enjoy all of the scenery. I somehow got horribly lost. Everyone I asked for directions to the palm trees looked at me blankly? After hours of trekking I got back on the route and eventually found the bloody trees. Midway through I had a pit stop at a bird sanctuary where I sampled the local delicacy of  hot chocolate with a lump of cheese. Hot chocolate and cheese were perfectly fine separately. Together….. minging

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The Cocora Valley from a far
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World’s tallest palm trees
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Me in Salento
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Cocora Valley

I had the best surprise phone call a few weeks earlier when 3 of my great friends from home decided to surprise me with a 2 week visit to Colombia ; Orla, Meg and Holly. Subsequently we had two new recruits to the group Meabh and Corinne who were going to be travelling at the same time. I made the exciting journey  back to Medellin to meet the girls for  round two of Colombia. I was so excited to meet friends from home for the first time in 9 months and delighted to be going back to one of the coolest cities Medellin.

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A throwback to  the last time seeing O

Holly did the honors and booked us into a  penthouse apartment on top of the trendy Selina hostel. Poor Meabh and Corinne were slumming it in the 20 bed dorm (my usual stomping ground!). We spent 5 days in Medellin hitting up the usual sites. The girls came seriously equipped. Not mentioning any names but someone had brought 10 pairs of bikinis for 1 day at the beach. I’m currently living off 1/2 a bikini for the past couple of months. Smuidiu, curlers, hair straighteners and buckets of clothes were produced. I forgot how rough I have actually been living.

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Meabh and Meg in Communa 13
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Making my first Colombian TV appearance
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Graffiti Tour, Medellin
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The gang at Communa 13, Medellin
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Me, Holly, Meg and O at Guatalupe
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Making mates in Guatape

So menu del dia is  every backpackers best friend . A soup, main course, juice and postre. It’s cheap and cheerful albeit a little rustic. You get good bang for your buck because your stuffed for the day (Dom you would lap it up). On our way back from the walking tour we were starving so with a few objections everyone was eventually convinced to sit down for their first menu del dia. It was one of the best I’ve had in Colombia and the cheapest. Happy days. Not everyone agreed  and it was the first and last of the menu del dia for the foreseeable.

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Holly lapping up menu del dia

For some reason the girls didn’t want to get the 21 hour bus to Medellin so we treated our selves to the 40 minute flight. I insisted we all take a trip to the local Bazurto market wanting to show the girls some of the more rustic Colombian culture. This was a short and not so sweet visit. Myself, Meabh and Coco were doing the food shopping for dinner that night while Orla, Meg and Holly made a swift exit once they entered the fish and meat quarters. The used condom beside the meat was the straw that broke the camels back (fair). I absolutely love this place and was so happy to be back. The more chaotic the better.

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Hygiene is taken very importantly in this market (especially by this chap)

That night was more salsa and this time we were paying a visit to Cartagena’s famous Cafe Havana renowned for its amazing dancing and live music. It didn’t disappoint. The Colombians take salsa very seriously and Coco was hands down the star of the night and could have easily been mistaken for a local salsa dancer. I on the other hand not so much….. Mid way through I got the nibbles so we all ventured out to taste the local arepas. A simple pleasure turned into a nightmare as I was nibbling away at my pineapple arepa when arepa woman pushed Meabh over and grabbed 20,0000 out of her hand ( my change!) saying we didn’t pay enough. Things escalated and a fight almost broke out. We found our afterwards that arepa woman is dangerous and is constantly involved in dodgy dealings. We were told to steer very clear. So it was one of my most expensive Colombian meals I’ve had. I’m sad to say it was a shriveled up arepa. Anyway all relieved to have survived angry arepa woman we made it back to the club to boogie the night away.

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Me and O at Cafe Havana, Cartagena
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Coco, Meg, Meabh, Me, Holly and O in Cafe Havana
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Cuba libres go leor

The following morning a very hung over bunch of girls were bundled into a sauna of a bus en route to a local volcano where you can go swimming in mud. Midday through we considered abandoning ship about to pass out with the heat. We eventually survived the journey and made it. It was the most bizarre yet hilarious experience I’ve ever had. We were all practically naked getting bathed in this mud by local Colombian men. As per usual I went overboard and dunked my head in and spent the next week trying to remove mud from my ears. I still can’t decide if I found it relaxing or just weird. Really handy gig for the Colombian men who spend their day massaging women in mud.

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An alternative hangover cure
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O in the height of it
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Holly clearly enjoying herself
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Delira

Next stop was a visit to Isla Grande. We made the last boat by the skin of our teeth. This was slightly more luxurious than my last visit here. This time I had a bed as opposed to sleeping on the pier getting beaten by waves. We spent our time eating delicious seafood, drinking beer and swimming in the Caribbean sea.

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Isle Grande
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Enjoying Caribbean life
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Beautiful Isla Grande

The last time I was here myself and Nils adopted the most legendary dogs who stayed with us for 3 days. This time I came equipped with chorizo and dog food dying to reunite with the stray dogs, Jonathan and Lorraine! I was chatting with a few locals who said that Jonathan hadn’t been seen in 5  days. They were well-known on Isla Grande. I did a deal with one of the locals who didn’t care about the dogs and only wanted to sell snorkeling tours. The agreement was the girls would do a snorkeling trip with him in exchange for finding Jonathan (not dodgy at all!). Jonathan was eventually located on a private beach on the other side of the Island with his mother Lorraine. I got a boat to meet them and spent the rest of the day feeding them. They escorted me back to the pier later that evening where we went swimming together.

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1 year old Jonathan waiting for his chorizo
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Me and Jonathan chilling on our own private beach
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Love
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Going for dip with Jonathan

Our last night in Cartagena was a gorgeous one where we splurged and  went for a lovely dinner.The restuarant we picked is where all the local politicians eat. Food and setting were divine. I got lost en route back from the loo and ended up in the kitchens where I got a little tour. This place was the real macoy especially the sea food. But the star of the show was a stunning warm coconut pie. Thanks Una for the special treat. Also thanks O for the guna I clearly don’t own anything that fancy.

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Back with my main slice

En route to the bus station to Santa Martha  I realised I had lost my laptop and camera in the air B and B.  Luckily I had planned to return to Cartagena a few days later to catch a boat to Panama so was able to organise their pick up. Once again blessed with the amazing Colombian people. When we arrived in Santa Martha  I realised I left my food bag in the taxi. Miraculously we had exchanged numbers with the taxi man so he contacted me and returned the goods. I was so so lucky as it was laden down with loads of chocolate from home, a thing I have been desperately craving (Thanks Ann for the delicious present). I am progressively becoming more and more of a mess at loosing things.

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Sampling Cartagena’s coffee scene

Next stop was Minca one of my favourite places in Colombia. Myself, Coco and Meabh on a budget decided to do the 3 hour trek up to Casa Ellemento. This was a stunning walk and we stopped off for a much-needed  dip to some gorgeous waterfalls.  Later that night we met up with the rest of the girls who  had gotten motorbikes to the top.

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Local waterfalls in Minca
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Bird watching in Minca
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The best of mates. These parrots hung out in our gorgeous hostel in Minca

After dinner and a dance one by one each of the girls started vomiting and getting really sick. Everyone was in ribbons except for me (surprisingly). I think at this stage my stomach is made of stone after my 6 week vomiting stint in Argentina. It was horrible and I felt so bad for the girls as it was there second last day of the holiday. The next day I piled them all into a jeep to bring them to a nicer quiet hotel. This place was an idyllic paradise that no one could enjoy unfortunately. The owner Grace acted the Mammy and looked after everyone making us all chicken soup and lemon teas. Orla was late joining the sick brigade but did so in style later that evening. I wasn’t escaping either and was the last to join but by the end of the night we were all dying. So the last day of the trip wasn’t exactly as planned but es la vida. Meabh perfectly described our room as a naked infirmary. I would say the owner was over the moon to see the back of us all.

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Me and Meg in Minca
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Pre sickness in Minca

Having friends from home was amazing and completely un expected. The best surprise I could have asked for. Girls thanks so much for coming and all the goodies you brought. Memories to cherish. Through sickness and in health. I couldn’t have asked for a better bunch to be puking my ring up with!! 9 months in and I am most definitely nackered so spending time with some of my closest was just what the doctor ordered.  I think the buses, backpack and stresses of travel have caught up on me. Holidays and backpacking are definitely a different kettle of fish. Anyway the show must go on and I am looking forward for some Panama adventures.

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Hasta luego chicas