latin america

Playa Concha, Santa Marta
Fun playing football with children at Comuna 13

Colours of Colombia : exploring Medellín and Guatapé

On arriving in Medellin, I was excited. I had heard so many good things about this place, and I really wanted to see for myself. Turns out, they’re not wrong – Medellin is a vibrant, bright and happening city which is much more modern than I had imagined. The people are happy and will go out of their way to help you out (or point you in the direction of the best local food) and there is plenty to see and do.

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A slice of island paradise – Caye Caulker, Belize

Belize, as the locals say, is absolutely unbeliezeable! Hearing how expensive it was, I had considered cutting it out of my itenerary and heading into Guatemala overland via Palenque instead. I’m very glad I stuck to the original plan!

I took a string of three Collectivos (shared vans) to get to Chetumal which is the ferry departure point. I can’t say that I’ve ever entered another country by ferry before!

Leaving Mexico

After a short walk (about 1km) from the collectivo stop, I arrived at the ferry terminal a little hot and bothered. It was there that I first met Ben, the rather tall amd extremely funny Englishman that I would end up travelling with for the next few weeks. Going through the departure process was an experience – was caught up by the mexican ferry departure tax scam – although annoying, there’s little one can do but pay the money when the guy won’t stamp your passport 🙁

   
Bags were placed on the ground outside while we waited for the 3pm ferry, secruity was water tight here. Snacking on a sandwich as we hadn’t eaten all day, 3:30 arrived and so did the armed police who carried out the drug search. We all stood in a line behind our bags while the canines circled around, all clear, by 4pm we had set sail for Belize. 

My first impression of Belize was cemeted when we arrived at the customs hall in San Pedro. After a convoluted process of standing in lines to get passports stamped, we had officially entered the country. Taking a moment to savour the flavour of our first Belikin, we quickly realised that nowhere else in the world had we had a beer at a customs hall! I only wish we got a photo.

   

Every little thing… is gonna to be alright!

Another short ferry ride later and we touched down at Caye Caulker which would be the start of many friendships. Arriving at Dirty McNasty’s (it’s really not that bad) I sauntered nervously up to the bar as I didn’t know anyone, and started chatting with the Italian bartender. Then I saw some people playing cards outside and thought one guy in a aussie akubra hat looked friendly enough, so I approached and met Will, who turned out to be a brother from another mother.  No, completely seriously, he lives in the area where I grew up just a few streets away from my parents (and later busted out the Beder football jersey – those who know the area will know the significance!)
 

Sunset in paradise

 

The next few days invloved plenty of swimming, snorkelling, exploring, socialising and of course the nightly dose of free rum which always ended up in a procession to the sports bar, and then the ‘reggae bar’ – which while I was there only seemed to play the classics, such as Justin Bieber. At least that seemed a safe enough place to hide from the American girl who brought along her Tazer for reasons unknown – which she also took great delight in firing off the hostel balcony in a misguided bid to impress the lads. How did she even get that into the country?

 

A hurricane divided the island in two in the 1960s and the spit is a popular place to swim, with a cool little bar and a laid back vibe. One of the days we decided to make the crossing, swimming across the lake only to find disappointment on the other side – seemingly now only inhabited by creepy animals and some local housing. 

 

Swimming across the spit

 
The laid back feel of the island is such that you will be yelled at by the locals for walking too fast – shouts of “go slooooow!” were not uncommon. However, it should be noted that while the rasta vibe is prevalent, the police tolerance for drugs was not, and one of the Mexicans in our crew was unfortunate enough to be caught red handed which resulted in an unfortunate night in the police cell followed by an unplanned boat trip to the court in San Pedro. No major issue, but I’m sure it wasn’t the most pleasant experience!

Bendict was the local man about town – a very laid back rasta kind of character. We would often see him wondering about the hostel trying to charm all the ladies. His aura seems to work for him, as most of the people we know arranged their tours through him, the clever guy picking up a tidy commission. 

   
 
We were lucky enough to arrange an absolutely amazing day tour through him, snorkelling with sharks and sting rays in the marine reserve and then in the afternoon spearfishing which resulted in a very, very tasty fish stew dinner!

 

Diving for some dinner

 
He also took us down to the local dock to have the tarpins (big fish!) take the bait fish from right out of our hands!

 

Feeding the tarpins

 
On the last night we met an interesting English lass named Willow who had invested £150,000 to buy a local Belizean Island – Virginia Caye. Needless to say she hadnt had company in weeks and was eager to share a few drinks with us. While Ben and I were super keen to visit and check out what life is like on your very own island, it wasn’t to be as Willow had rented it out for the weekend on AirBnB to a nudist hippy couple… Maybe best to leave that one right alone!
So to sum it all up on the day we were meant to leave for ‘Hopkins’ on the mainland (more on that in my next post), we ended up missing our ferry, and the next one, and the one after that… After a brilliant few days in paradise, I can completely see why it is such a favourite on the gringo trail.

Throwing caution to the wind (most of the time)

I’m rapidly learning that the best adventures often begin when you are afraid of something. That unsure footing, a lingering doubt that you are making the right move often clouds you from making exactly the right decision – any decision at all!
Throwing caution to the wind has lead me to awesome experiences from driving a bici taxi in Cuba to an impulsive decision to end up on the “wrong” bus to San Ingancio. I’ve made some great friends along the way, and the adventure has only just begun.

Be open to people as most are keen to be helpful and friendly – in any population it’s really only a very very small percentage that you need to be careful of their motives. The fear brainwashed into us by the “stranger danger” campaign when we were small can have life long consequences and we miss out on bringing some great people into our lives.
I’m not saying to be completely carefree – there are some things which one just shouldn’t risk (such as being blind drunk as a single girl on their own in a sketchy place) but taking the risks into account be free to follow your heart. A gut feeling is often the way to go!
So trust me, if you have a feeling that you want to do something just make the decision to let go and do it – the rest will follow 🙂 at the end of the day, you can almost always land back exactly where you were.

About me and my blog – my first post

So here I am – a happy solo female traveller going with the flow for the first time in my life – but more to the point how did I get here?  And where in the world exactly is Carmen Sandiago?



For so long I was going about my life doing exactly what “society” expected me to do – go to school, get a university education which leads to a good career, follow hobbies, play sport and make friends.

Always above average at everything I tried, but never exemplary, I always felt something was lacking. In any case I never really felt like I fit in, a bit like a square peg in a round hole.  

My time at university was great but the endless stream of social events and waterski trips to organise just masked the fact that underneath it all, I hadn’t yet found what I was seeking – what exactly is it that I want to do with my time in this life?

Through primary school my two best friends had always known what they wanted to be when they “grew up” – a chef and a hairdresser. Sure enough, thats the path that life has carved for them, and on the surface, they seem happy.

I however, never felt like I had a natural calling…

As a bit of a multitasker took to being experienced in just about anything – since variety keeps me interested. This has meant though that I have not followed any one true passion enough to become a master in it, whatever that may actually mean!

Underneath the cover of having a decent career, many friends and plenty of hobbies, I was becoming more and more unhappy about the fact that I wasn’t sure that I was following the right path and achieving everything I was capable of… the self doubt and insecurity would set in and my mind would tell me all the reasons why I wasn’t able to do it rather than believing that I could.

My worst enemy was in my own mind…

The fear of making the wrong decision has kept me hostage for such a long time, and it has only been recently that I have finally realised that any decision is a good decision. More on that later!

Publishing this blog post is the first step towards ending my constant procrastination and indecision, finally holding myself accountable and realising that putting something on the table is better than nothing at all, even if it is not perfect the first time.

I’m aiming to update my blog every fortnight with my progress, stories and anything else helpful that I come across along the way – hopefully you can read along and enjoy the ride!

Adios for now

Kelly

**follow me on instagram or twitter @vivethejourney