I didn’t know anything about where we were going. I didn’t even know the name of the town. My Austrian traveling companion, Hedi and I hopped on the Transmilenio (Colombia’s bus system) and headed to Portal Norte where we met a friend from Bogotá, Alejandra and Ästa, another friend from Norway whom we had met in Mexico. From Portal Norte, the four of us then took a taxi collectivo to Sutatusa. All in all, the trip took about 2 hours from our hostel in La Macarena, Bogotá.
When we arrived at the “town,” we had a quick lunch and then headed to our hostel. I quickly learned that it wasn’t really a “hostel” but a place people could pay to stay if they wanted to come out into the mountains to highline. I had seen people slackline before but had no idea what slacklining or highlining was or what it was called. Slacklining uses a flat rope about 2 inches thick that is stretched taut between two objects. The goal is to walk across it, kind of like a tightrope. It’s much harder than it looks and takes an enormous amount of leg and core strength.
A friend that I made in Mexico City, Perla, decided to come visit me in Merida. She has close family friends in Merida who she hadn’t seen in over a year, and me being there was the perfect excuse to come visit.
Perla’s friends, Jorge, Roxanna and their daughter Andrea, are the nicest people I have ever met. Jorge is like the picture-perfect TV husband and father: very generous, caring and patient. Jorge and his wife made me feel so welcome and part of their family. They own two homes, one of which they use for storage. Perla and I were lucky enough to be able to stay in one of their homes while she was visiting.
My next stop after Oaxaca was Puerto Escondido! I had put it down on my maybe list of cities to visit. Most of the backpackers I met in Oaxaca were headed either there or Muzunte, a smaller beach town close to Puerto Escondido after Oaxaca. One of my goals for this trip was to learn how to surf and Puerto Escondido is famous for surfing so it was my obvious next choice.
I was happily surprised that Helena, my Austrian friend decided to join me! To get to Puerto Escondido from Oaxaca there are two options, you can take an ADO bus which takes about 10 to 12 hours or take a taxi collectivo which only takes about 6 to 7 hours. The ADO bus goes around the mountains and is a much smoother ride while the van goes through them, it takes less time but in my opinion is not worth it.
When I arrived to Oaxaca I had chosen to stay in a co-ed dorm in my hostel. I thought why not? More opportunity to make friends. At first the room was completely occupied but slowly as the week went on people began to trickle out and no one was coming to replace them. There was an older man in his 70s, who was a chain smoker with a terrible cough and had been in my room the entire time I had been there. He didn’t look like he was going anywhere anytime soon. At breakfast one morning I asked the two remaining guys in my room when they were leaving, they said today, so after that it would be down to me and the old guy in the room. I decided I had better move into an all female dorm.
That morning a new woman arrived at the hostel and was staying in my new dorm room. Asta is from Norway and backpacking Mexico solo as well. She will eventually fly to Colombia where she will spend three months. Asta LOVES Colombia, she thinks it’s the greatest place on Earth. She was compelling me to skip Central America and just fly straight there after Mexico.
After Guanajuato, I spent the night in Mexico City with my friends Cinthia and Perla before catching a morning bus to Oaxaca. The 7 hour bus ride would be my fourth this week and I was exhausted from traveling around so much. I decided I would stay in Oaxaca for a week and take a Spanish and cooking course. In addition to rest, I needed a little more structure to my day and I also desperately wanted to improve my Spanish.
Just as I was about to doze off on the bus a rock was thrown at one of the windows! It immediately shattered into a million little pieces. Everyone quickly moved to the other side of the bus as the shattered pieces of glass began to fly into the bus. The bus driver knew the window had been broken but didn’t stop. I’m not sure if it was because there was no where to pull over or if it was because he didn’t want to stop anywhere near the person who had broken our window. Welcome to Oaxaca…?
While I did enjoy staying with my host, Angel in Morelia, I was very lonely. I was also missing Cuba terribly. There was something about that Caribbean vibe that I missed. Maybe I was just missing constantly being drenched in sweat. I decided to change course – instead of going North into the cold as planned, I would go South and start staying in hostels to meet other travelers. Before making my way South I decided to first stop in Guanajuato, I had heard amazing things about this city and didn’t want to miss it.
On the bus ride to Guanajuato I met a woman named Grecia – I hadn’t had anyone to talk to in over a day so, I was so exited to make a new friend. Grecia grew up in Oregon and ran away from home to Mexico when she was 16. Her parents are Mexican so she speaks Spanish and has dual citizenship. She got a job on a border town then eventually found her way to Morelia where, she’s been living for 7 years.
On average Cubans make around $20 a month and don’t even come close to making ends meet. Many of them see tourists as an opportunity to them help them survive. This does not go for all Cuban people, once you get outside of Havana the attitude and motives starts to change. However, here are 4 scams that I have personally fallen victim to in Havana. Hopefully this will help you avoid them before visiting Cuba!
The plan for the unplanned trip was to buy a one way ticket to Mexico City – wing it, go wherever the wind takes me, find myself. I checked out travel guides from the library on every country in South America and began researching. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that, but I knew almost nothing about South America. I assumed it was similar to Central America in the sense that it was tropical and cheap. I’m glad I had enough sense to do a little research before. Read More
I fell in love with travel at the age of 22. I impulsively purchased a ticket to Guatemala and signed up to volunteer at an orphanage. I went knowing nothing about the culture, what to expect, or who was picking me up from the airport. I left it all up to chance and the trip ended up being one the best months of my life. I realized two things about myself while in Guatemala – I love travel and I love Latin American culture.
When I returned home, I made a vow to myself that one day I would backpack from Belize to Brazil. Fast forward six countries over seven years, and my love for travel and Latin culture has not changed. However, I still have not accomplished the goal I set for myself those many years ago. The “right companion” or the “right time” always made for suitable excuses. Read More