Visiting the Amazon had been highly recommended to me, although I wasn’t exactly a fan of the idea. Having grown up in a city, I much prefer cities to the countryside, or in this case, the jungle. When I pictured the Amazon, I thought of crazy heat and humidity, mosquitoes, giant spiders, and sleeping under mosquito nets in dirty beds or hammocks. I was in Thailand two years earlier and I had a less than fortunate experience on a jungle trekking tour. We rode bamboo rafts in a snake infested river that I fell into not once but twice. Soaking wet, we trekked up into the humid jungle for the next 4 hours. When we finally reached our camp for the night, we were starving but we were only fed rice. In addition, the group had to sleep outside on wooden boards with moldy blankets. Since that traumatizing experience, I haven’t wanted to do anything remotely similar. This time, one of my goals was to really push myself, face my fears, and experience the unfamiliar.
After spending two weeks in Colombia’s capital, Bogota, I flew to a small city called Leticia located between the borders of Colombia, Peru, and Brazil. There isn’t much to Leticia and its main industry is tourism. The city is small with a downtown consisting of a few streets lined with tour agencies and stores selling cheap plastic items made in China. Having come all the way to the Amazon, I didn’t want to spend my time in Leticia. I wanted to get into the real jungle. After spending a few days in Leticia, I booked a two-day Amazon jungle tour.
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.
Leaving Seattle again was hard. I wanted to spend two months in Colombia but I was also starting to get very comfortable back at home. The thought of leaving my comfortable bed, beautiful clean shower with hot water, and all my friends was making the decision all the more difficult.
After participating in the worldwide Women’s March on January 21st, I just had this sense that it was time to go and I needed to go soon. I decided that day that I’d leave four days later on the 25th of January.
Mexico gets a bad wrap. They say it’s dangerous, the people who live there are thieves and rapists, and they illegally come to the US to steal our jobs. The list goes on and on…I’m here to break that myth. I traveled solo in Mexico for almost two months and never once had any issues regarding my safety. Everyone I met was super kind, caring, and helpful. If you want to go on vacation but have limited funds, Mexico is your destination.
Flights from the US are relatively inexpensive, costing between $250 – $500 roundtrip depending on where you live and where you want to go. Mexico City and Cancún are the cheapest cities to fly to. Whether you’re looking to explore a metropolitan city, relax on a white sandy beach, hike in the mountains, or explore ancient ruins in the jungle, Mexico has what you’re looking for at a price anyone can afford.
I had always purchased bus tickets a day in advance in Mexico. It ensures you get a cheaper rate and will be on the bus you want. I stupidly didn’t buy my ticket in advance for Bacalar. When I got to the ADO bus station at 10:30am the 11am bus I wanted was full. I’d have to wait for the 1pm bus meaning I’d waste my day waiting for and sitting on the bus.
I had two hours to kill before my bus and Campanella was down the street, so what did I do? Got ice cream at my favorite place one last time. Not the worst way to kill time.
The next morning I set out to go to Río Largatos solo.
Río Lagartos is a town located on an inlet from the Gulf of México. It’s name means river of the crocodile because the river is well, filled with crocodiles. It is also home to hundreds of bird species. While this is all beautiful and interesting my main reason for wanting to visit the town was to see La Playa de Las Coradas.
La Playa de Las Coradas is a bright pink salt lake in between Río Lagartos and the Gulf of México. The water is a shade of pink from a crustacean called “artemia salina”. The best way to describe a crustacean is something between a shrimp and a lobster. Artemia salina absorbs the pigment of their prey, in this case the pink microorganisms living in the water. The same is true for the flamingos that feed on it, this is why flamingos are pink!
Day two with our car rental in Merida we decided to set out and explore the local cenotes we had heard so much about. A cenote, meaning sacred water, is a sinkhole created from collapsed limestone exposing groundwater underneath. There are over 6,000 cenotes in the Yucatán peninsula.
There were several tours offered through our hostel Nómadas, signing up for tours through hostels is a really great way to explore the area. They usually pick you up in the morning and drop you back off at your hostel in the afternoon. You’ll also be with other travelers from your hostel so it’s a great way to get to know people while traveling alone.
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!