Sunday, 26 December 2010

Panama City

*spoiler alert: we didn’t visit the famous canal*
Since we are running quite late in keeping the posts up-to-date (and we are receiving some complains), I would summarize the trip to Panama City in the following way:
  • A 6 hour over night freezing cold bus ride from hell, without a reclining chair.
  • Beautiful Casco Viejo with colonial buildings.
  • Trip to old panama city ruins under rain.
  • Tentative trip to the canal, spoiled by traffic jams due to the love of Panamanians for their mothers. 

Friday, 24 December 2010

Merry Christmas Everyone

This Christmas feels different...

For us, there is no rush for buying Christmas gifts, no stress in traffic jams etc etc..

But there is also no family gathering, no friends, neither the Christmas traditions we have been used to.

But, we are not sad! we are just missing you all, a lot!

So, this Christmas our gift is sharing with you our smiles.

Merry Christmas Everyone
God Jul
Feliz Natal
(more pictures below)

Saturday, 11 December 2010

One bull's mouth coming right up 2of2

Day three started with a bit of an indecision spell. We had decided to stay one extra day in case the sun came back to go on a boat tour around the islands, or to leave if it was still raining that day as well. So of course, the morning came up in grey, with some threatening clouds hanging over the sky. So what to do? Leave as the risk of another rainy day stuck on an island seemed very close. Or look the rain in the eye and just go out on the 9h boat ride, no matter if we would end up sitting it all out in a big downpour (well, we kind of knew that at least the boat was partly covered).

Thursday, 9 December 2010

One bull's mouth coming right up 1of2

After a bit more than 2 weeks in beautiful Costa Rica, we actually felt rather satiated with the country and ready to move on south into Panama. (yes, there is such a thing as too many spotted animals, too many days at the beach, too much time hanging around and just enjoying oneself. Well, actually there isn't. But as we are running on quite a rigid schedule, it was really about time to make the move.



And it's not like we actually left the beauty, the animals, or the great beaches behind when crossing the long metal bridge of border between the 2 countries.
(yep, this is the boarder crossing from Costa Rica to Panama)

As we headed out to Bocas del Toro (now, did anyone actually think that we ate a bull's mouth?) by boat, we quickly relaxed into the assurance that Panama has nothing to regret in comparison to it's more tourist developed neighbour.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Cahuita and Puerto Viejo de Talamanca

After the amazing time at Manuel Antonio it was time to change scenery; What about going back to the Caribbean side?

The trip started once again at 6AM (we have gotten used to it), a 4 hour bus ride to San Jose followed by a stressful 10 minutes taxi ride to change bus terminals. We arrived at the terminal just in time for Helena to hold the bus, while I went inside the terminal to buy tickets. We managed to get our ride, but it was too late to get seats.

Once again we stood, this time for another 4h of  bumpy road bus ride to the town of Cahuita.
Cahuita feels like Jamaica! Although I have never been in Jamaica this is how I imagine it  to be.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Manuel Antonio

Today, we had a great day again in Costa Rica (it seems that the days here are either exceptional or rather boring, while in Nicaragua for example almost all days were really cool but neither boring nor exceptional) at Manuel Antonio.


We started off the day with making our own pancakes. Nuno ended up eating 6 (cookie monster), while I actually had 5, well the last one was a tiny one ;) The perfect start to the day! Oh, did I mention we were making these pancakes at 7 in the morning? After a bit of salsa dancing while waiting for the paste to be finished.

Montezuma and Malpais

Leaving the relatively cold, very cloudy and quite rainy cloud, rain forest of Monteverde, it was really nice to get back down to the coast and it's summertime feeling!
In what seems to be the norm when travelling in Central America, the bus left at 6am - the only bus of the day that is -, meaning that our alarm was set for 5 am as usual. After a 3h bus ride, we made the semi-crazy decision when arriving in Puntarenas to walk from the bus terminal to the ferry. The approx. 1 km walk ended up taking us 40 minutes, as 1km in Tico term is more like 3 km in real term.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

La Fortuna and Monteverde

After the relaxed time in Tortuguero beaches and wildlife, it was now time to hit the mountains.

Leaving lovely Tortuguero, we spent 8 hours on avoiding to go through San Jose bus hub and instead we made our way up through a more rural path passing by Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui, San Carlos and finally La Fortuna.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Tortuguero

Arrived at San Jose by night and had the sensation of going back to reality, normal airport, normal cars, normal city.

After meeting up with Helena and a cool night to put conversation up-to-date, next morning we decided to head to Parque Nacional del Tortuguero, close to the border with Nicaragua on the Caribbean coast.

We almost missed the bus and the punishment was to spend half of the 3 hour bus ride standing. The bus took us through bumpy roads, into greener and more dense vegetation, after that a 1 hour taxi ride (actually it was a 4x4 jeep) through even more bumpy roads. And finally a 1 hour taxi boat took us to our final destination.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Cuban Experience 2 of 2

The second day in Vinales was dedicated to relaxation due to the dancing of the night before. Walked up the hill, passed some schools and enjoyed a swimming pool day, with the visit of a few chickens.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Cuban Experience 1 of 2

When the airplane approaches the runway for landing I understand that IT has started.
The vegetation is dense but low, the soil is vivid red and the Sunset tainted horizon is only disrupted by palm trees. Hello Cuba.

With only one week to visit I dedicated my time to Havana and Vinales.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Departure nr.2

After months of planning, most of them just dreaming about how it would be to just go, finally I find myself across the Ocean in a place called Cuba. This actually means I did the first step, I left. Now its all about travelling. The act of leaving feels nothing as it should, it
means a big stress, of making everything ready for what is to come. So, the nostalgia of leaving is overcome with the excitement of doing a lot of different things that need to be done. Im in Cuba now, La Havana. Gentle people, friendly people. Time travelled to a different speed of life, where latin rithms set the pace. I will discover more soon. Internet is slow but experiences go fast. Kisses to everyone. My familly, my friens, and Helena.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Guatemala - wrap up


As I'm about to leave Guatemala tomorrow (if everything goes according to plan that is as I have quite a complicated and long trip ahead of me and with a departure time at 6h30, and that as you know dear readers is a bit on the early side for me...), I thought I would make a short wrap-up of my 3.5 lovely weeks in this terrific, compley, amazingly beautiful, slightly scary, wonderful country.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Indecisions, indecisions....

I am currently in Xela, or rather Quetzaltenango, in Guatemala and have been here for almost 2 weeks enjoying the freezing cold weather and a lovely cough-inducing cold...

Although the above is true (well, except for the enjoyement part), this is a cool place. Quite a big city, the 2nd biggest in Guatemala after Guaté (or Guatemala City), it's beautifully placed with mountains and volcanoes surrounding the city in every direction. And the school I'm in is really cool with good direction (I really like one of the 2 directors, named Jocelyn, an GB girl who's been living in Xela for 4 years, but who is only 30 years old and always with a great big smile and cheerful attitude), and nice coordinator, and my main Spanish teacher, Susan (yep, they like to give American names to kids here) is really super nice!

The family stay is also working out well. The mother of the family is nice, cooks well, and

Friday, 15 October 2010

Too tired for real blog entries, so here's a super quick update

A normal day of mine in Xela, Guatemala since I arrived on Saturday, or scrap that, since I started school on Monday, looks something like this:
- Wake up at 6h30 by myself (still on Cuba time? because this is so not me!)
- Spanish from 8am to 1pm (5h!!!! but usually goes past fast when I have classes with my fun teacher Susan, however today and tomorrow I had another teacher, and counted the time and felt for the first time that 'I hate Spanish'...)
- 1h for checking emails and getting home for lunch
- Cuddles, diaper changes, kisses, breaking up fights, cuddles, cuddles and cuddles with 'my' 9 children from 2pm to 6pm - there are 3 babies and 6 kids from the ages of 3 to 6 including one autistic who acts much like a baby - and yep, quite often I am alone with them....
- home, washing my hands a few times (just a bit paranoid), short cuddles with the kitty, dinner, and then about 1h of reading before dying in bed at 9h15 pm....

So fairly different from a normal day in Geneva, or even in Cuba, but good, albeit exhausting. Getting a bit better though as I am recovering from a cold probably due to the extreme weather change going from 35 degrees with around 80% humidity where a cold night meant I could wear jeans and a t-shirt with my flip flops, to here in Xela where a really hot day means I can wear jeans and a t-shirt with closed shoes if I stay in the sun.... Around 5 degrees at night and no isolation or heating in the houses, although the worst is in the school where it gets really cold in the mornings. A bit warmer during the days, but still rather cold.

And just an hour and a half from here, down by the coast in the South, the climate is supposed to be like in Cuba!! The reason? Well, Xela is at 2'300m altitude so really up in the mountains, hence the sun is very strong when it does shine.

Kisses

Saturday, 9 October 2010

I'm in freaking Central America!!!

Cuba has felt somewhat like a fairly bizarre vacation in a beautiful country with a lot of nice people, and some very very exhausting people, loads of other tourists, a bizarre two-currency system that it has been fun to play with seeing how far I could survive using only MN (national pesos), a lack of many of the products one would expect to find in supermarkets, although most products can be found if one has the money, a country of contrasts between those who have access to CUC, and those who have not, between the country side and the cities, between rich and poor, although this of course goes completely against what the revolution was supposed to stand for.

But it has felt like a vacation that I for some reason decide to go on by myself, perhaps because Nuno had to work. It has rarely felt like the beginning of a year of travelling, of experiencing many different places and cultures. And those few times when I have realised that I have actually left for a year, it has mostly been with a feeling of sadness and nostalgia.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

The Break-In

My second week in Havana started rather emotional as we were awaken fairly early in the morning by the man of the casa, Alex, who asked us if we still had all our belongings... Being newly awaken, and having only gone to bed at around 2.30 am the night before after a great night out discussing politics with a Cuban couchsurfer and one of my fellow UK casa stayers, I had a moment of confusion at first as I could not find my money belt which has usually always been either on me or under my pillow while I sleep.

That morning it was in neither places, and I seemed to recall that I had hung it in the bathroom when I was getting ready for bed and must have left it there. Big panic as the Finish guy who was sleeping by himself in the second bedroom of the casa has had all his valuables stolen during a break-in that night! Poor Salomon.

I ran to the bathroom that was busy, knocked on the door and asked if the person could see a bag in there and she answered that no, the black bag was not there any more. The black bag? How about a beige bag? No, everything was gone...

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

The kindness and heat exhaustion

Before arriving in Cuba, I had read about the supposed kindness of the Cubans, but it took me some days in the country before I actually managed to see real proofs of this unselfish kindness, in opposition to the profit induced 'kindness' of people wanting to 'help' you find a paladares or a casa or whatever you might be looking for.



But in general yes, it seems like most people are extremely kind and ready to help their neighbour without second thoughts. The problem is that as a tourist it is fairly difficult to get to know the genuine Cubans, those who do not try with all means to improve their situation by profiting on tourism. But sometimes you are lucky and there they are, even as a tourist.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Money, money money, must be funny, in a rich man's world

YES! If you are rich, taking off travelling for a year, or why not for the rest of your life, is a lot easier. Just make up your mind and go!

But do you have to be rich to travel for an extended time?

Well, let us be honest, this kind of travel is for a privileged small part of the world's population. A rich part. However, a part that most Europeans are lucky enough to belong to. And if you are reading this blog post – hence having internet access and time, energy and opportunity to read blogs, heck, even to be able to read – then you most definitely belong to this group.


So, am I saying that anyone can save up enough money for several months of travel? Actually, I am!

Monday, 20 September 2010

Day 5 – Salsa!!

After a lazy morning mostly spent on the net sending blog entries and pictures to Nuno (he is the webmaster of our blog while he's still in Geneva, then we'll both be working on it during the rest of our travels), I came back to the flat and bumped into Matt, an English guy who is staying in a neighboring casa but likes to have breakfast in our casa as it's a big nice meal (I had already opted out from this choice after the 3rd day, as although a lot of food, the cost is 5 CUC, and for this you can get enough food in the market for all the day's meal).

Matt suggested I come with him for his salsa class as it is in a private place where you need to be introduced to be let in. At 10 CUC per hour, I thought it a bit expensive (considering that my one-to-one Spanish classes cost 5 CUC per hour), but I figured that I would give it a try.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Day 4 – early morning, a city void of tourists

For some reason, now that i do not have to get up to go to work – which has always been a struggle for me – I find myself wakening up at around 6.30 am. And it's not even that I'm jetlagged really as I fall asleep around midnight without any problem and sleep through the night like a kitten.

This morning, I again woke up that early and decided to catch the sunrise over the Malecón (the wall protecting the city from the waves) as it is supposed to be really beautiful. The sky was indeed slightly pink outside my room, but the time I made it out the sun had already risen. So, sunrise spotting and pictures will have to wait until another day.

I might have missed the sunrise, but I witnessed the rise of the city instead.

Day 3 – homesick


After two good first days, the third day homesickness hit me like a cold shower over the head. I spent the morning wasting time in my room and feeling generally sad, low, alone.



Perhaps it was the normal state of realising that this is the beginning of a year of travel, including two months by myself in the beginning. I never had time to really realise this in Geneva before leaving, and probably the realisation slowly dawned on me.

The following is what I jutted down, sitting by the sea on top of the Malecón after a tear filled phone call with Nuno. To reassure you, about half an hour later, it started to rain, first a tiny bit, then like if the ocean decided to jut up into the sky and throw itself on the city. I got trapped in the middle,

I'll be a Spanish pro shortly

My first Spanish classes with the lovely el maestro, also known as Ada. A professor in languages (if I have understood correctly), who speaks fluent English (although we mostly speak in Spanish, well, at least she does, I speak in bla bla language), and is really nice and quite well structured.

We spent two hours together this first day, and I think we were both surprised of how much I actually manage to understand. And even how much I can say.

Losing myself in Havana

I like to 'loose' myself the first day in a new city.
Basically, walk out the door into the unknown streets and just start walking following my instinct of what might be an interesting road. Very often this technique has meant that bumping into cool places I would most probably never have discovered if just following the guidebooks.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

How did I do it?

Besides one day wakening up and deciding that if you want to do this RTW year, it is now or never, as in a couple of years you risk to be tied down even more than now – how does one actually go ahead and leave for a year of travel?

Well, dreaming about it for more than 10 years definitely help ;)

Seriously, it actually does as you get somewhat mentally prepared, you have time to make a plan of the places you really want to visit (and remake it, and remake it), and if you are lucky, as I was, talking about this dream for so many years might also help you financially.

But... I must be crazy!!!

Have you ever decided to leave a good, well-remunerated, safe, interesting, sought of job?

I have now. And yes, sometimes I have agreed with the reaction of about half of the people that are informed, that I must indeed be crazy.

At moments, when nothing seemed to come together and my life was just a big chaotic mess, or when taking this leap suddenly seemed more frightening than interesting, or when I listened a bit too long to those mentioning how difficult indeed finding a job is in these times – I agreed. I thought that indeed I must have been crazy that day back in May when I went in and told my boss that I was leaving come end of August. The reason:

Take-Off / Day 0

As I am starting to write this blog entry, I find myself in a quite comfortable seat after a meal of pasta Siciliana at some 10'000 meters, somewhere over the Atlantic sea. We left 2 hours late which were spent in this same seat, but it does not matter. The flight took off, and I have all the time in the world to reach my destination with another 360 or so days of travel in my own rhythm ahead...

How is this possible?

Adaptation Lag

Helena is enjoying "the warm and humid Havana"  where there is "music from the streets and old American cars".

But for us, enthusiastic readers, that are anxious for an update on Helena's experience we might have to be a bit patient... I just learned that:
Currently Cuba still uses its satellite connection with a 65 Mb/s upload bandwidth and a 124 Mb/s download bandwidth for the entire country.
I made a rough calculation and realized that the entire Cuban territory has access to about the same amount of internet traffic as 100 persons in EU! Plus the access to internet is limited and costly.

Moreover Cuba is CET-6 hours. In practical terms it means that although it has passed 2 days since her departure, she only had 1 adaptation day in Havana.

Gooood Morning!

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Departure Nr. 1

There she goes.
This morning we drove from Geneva to Milan, where Helena embarked on a flight to Havana - Cuba.
It was a mix of stress, nostalgia, sadness and Happiness.

Below I put some pictures that catch the moment.

As you can see, here at Global Travellers the way to travel is: light, in style and with a big smile on the face.

After watching these pictures an old Stevie Wonder song came to my mind: "Isnt she lovely, isnt she wonderfull".

Helena, we all miss you, and are now anxiously waiting for the first impressions
Kisses, Nuno.

This is where it officially starts!

The idea is that 2 travellers go for a trip around the world.

Helena and Nuno started dreaming about this project long long time ago, but it has always been delayed for later.

The dream was made up of beautiful flashes, vivid colors, interesting cultures, amazing places, flavors, smells, encounters, friendships, and returning safely with an experience that would stay forever in our minds.

Now it is finally time for the dream to come true.