Travels With my Aunt
Simply we love to travel. We love new experiences and we love to feel that we connect with those across the lands . Always feeling that we live in a world and not just a city it was time to explore
it. John 66 and me nearing 50 in a few months the timing couldn’t have been better. The weather on our travels was perfect averaging 25 degrees but never going below 18 during the day and never above 40 in the hot Spanish sun. Moreover, The Americas
is extremely busy in the summer so we had planned to arrive in specific countries to capitalise on the lack of crowds and the weather and make the most of our trip.
So why The Americas and not Asia or Australasia? We had been east on a couple of occasions
and there are a variety of complications when travelling there. The countries in The Americas are set up well for travelling. With most countries being poor this often means train, boat and bus travel are cheap and so you can go long distances for pennies
and communicating is easier - language, both reading and speaking, is accessible – many people speak English and our knowledge of Spanish was adequate. People are very friendly and humble and there are no complications for a black woman with dreadlocks,
other than some friendly curiosity. There is rarely a need for visas and finally the weather is perfect - no monsoons or hurricanes. So the plan began. We would start in Spain, a familiar place, and relax and if possible begin to hone our understanding of
the Spanish language.
Spain was, as ever, hot, dependable and a haven for relaxing. Other than the daily hike up and down ‘cardiac hill’ we just relaxed on the beach and by the pool and soaked up the Spanish sun. Bliss, perfect bliss.
Then onwards to Madrid a ride in a mosquito for a plane and I had a kicker behind me. My Paddington Bear hard stare did nothing to deter them, but hey we landed safely and Madrid revealed its beauty to us. The tour bus was well organised and we used this
to get about the city. We loved the San Miguel Market and of course the ambience of the entire city. We welcomed the rain clouds, strolled through the parks and continued to soak up the Madrid culture through Goya’s eyes and that of the others who had
put Madrid on the map. Well worth a visit and much quieter than Barcelona. I guess Barcelona has many day trippers coming from Costa Brava.
A quick hop over the Atlantic and on to Mexico. I don’t know what I thought Mexico would be like other
than hot, but I certainly didn’t expect what was given to us. A beautiful country with such interesting history - you would never be bored and like us I am sure, be nspired. There is something for everyone in Mexico and I think I would recommend it as
my number one family destination. The beaches, the resorts, the ease of travel, the safety of Cancun, the history of Chitchen Itza, Tulum, sink holes and Coba were simply breath-taking and finally the people made for an excellent holiday. There are many Americans
The Mexicans favoured phrase was ‘It’s my pleasure’ and you really felt that they meant it. They always went the extra mile. Everyone we met was just fab! In addition, I met an old pal from London who I discovered on FB had
landed just up the road! That encounter really did put the icing on the cake. The beaches – well what can I say – they are dreamy, really dreamy and so perfect for that contentment that you have been striving for on your holiday. The Mexicans and
Americans didn’t use the beaches, most preferring to sit by the pool, so they are quite empty and of course it was turtle egg laying season so there were hundreds of turtles laying their eggs every night. This tranquillity coupled with a light breeze
meant that their beaches really are the best I have every visited in the world.
After some drama at the Mexican airport we arrived in Costa Rica where we were to encounter more drama as well as some amazing and thrilling wildlife, some closer up than
we had hoped for. Our cabin was deep in the jungle on an island and the only way off the island was by river taxi.
Costa Rica was full of surprises none greater than capsizing in a river taxi with no life vests and crocs out ready to eat their morning
meal. We lost all our digital belongings; we were due to go out on a canoe trip into the jungle later that morning we had all our cameras with us. It was one of those moments that you think this isn’t happening; it was so surreal. We didn’t die
yes, but the incident marred the holiday and it made me very nervous when near water - both the canoe trip and all the other river trips off the island and later whilst on the river above Iguazu Falls in Argentina. We also ended up in a wrangle trying to report
it to officials and spent our last day in Costa Rica in the British Embassy. Nevertheless we made the most of our trip and continued with the canoe trip and the turtle watching at midnight. Unforgettable experiences. A must see and do for anyone.
were to be so many experiences that left us with rambling goose bumps and so very happy to be alive – this was just one of them. Sometimes it was the simplest of things like watching the giant (I mean bigger than my two hands) butterflies flitting around
me as I lay in the hammocks scattered around the garden. We had a great Canadian host who really loved CR and it was difficult to leave Tortuguero, but my welfare was too important to stay and so we hotfooted it over to the west coast to Jaco and San Antonio
National Park for some more jungle fun. The heat and the mosquitoes had gotten to us, so we welcomed the relief from these for a few days. I spent most of my time just sweating in Mexico unless on the beach and CR wasn’t any easier, but we were prepared
Costa Rica was expensive and a significant number of people were more interested in making dollars than offering a good service, this did dampen our spirits a little, but being in the jungle amongst the wildlife was worth it.
was a pleasant surprise. A beautiful country with a constant temperature of around 24 degrees, it was growing in confidence and offered something unique to us. Travelling isn’t just about taking something from a community for your own gratification it
is also about giving something back. I would like to think we did this in Ecuador and on our visit. We put places like Ecuador on our map and we tried hard to be part of the local scenes and be respectful of customs and their norms. Ecuador would never
have been considered by us as a playful place until we visited it. It had many attractions including the hills, the low clouds, the people, the access to the country, volcanoes, wildlife, entertainment, art, bars, restaurants, sports, outdoor pursuits and
the hot chocolate. The list was endless, a real adventurers’ paradise was to be found in Ecuador.
We stayed in 2 parts of Ecuador, Banos in the south offered many outdoor pursuits and we did do some white water rafting and Quito in the north and
on the equator. Whilst there Cotapaxi had been smoking although it had yet to blow its top. It lay a thick layer of ash across the land devastating the crops and making the immediate area uninhabitable. The vision of seeing this long time dormant volcano gently
smoking from the skies was again a memorable experience.
All of the cities we visited, except for San Jose, were colonial in style and no more than Cusco in Peru. Cusco was the heartland of the Inca’s empire and contained many Inca sites in and
around the city. When the Spanish raided it in the 16th century it changed radically to what it looks like today. It was a beautiful old city 12000 ft above sea level and this altitude did cause us some problems, although Quito at 9000 ft above
sea level had prepared us well and we were able to walk the well-known Inca site of Machu Picchu with relative ease.
Peru provided an attack on the senses. Firstly we encountered a several religious parades one in Lima and 2 in Cusco and they were without
a doubt one of the highlights of the visit. A lively affair performed by people of all ages dressed up in all different costumes representing their community and faith – the festival was called Natividad de Virgen.
We could not forget how the
sights of Machu Picchu affected us. It is not possible to describe it well in my opinion, but I wrote a poem and there are photos which at least attempt to give the reader some insight into this majestic site. Ecuador had provided by far the best hot chocolate,
like no other I had had before or since and I was determined to not leave ‘ this cocoa area’ without at least attempting to make and eat our homemade chocolate. It was a fun event which was shared with other tourists; we even bought some cocoa
beans which we hoped we could turn into hot chocolate upon our return to the UK if we could get them through the many customs.
Peru had the most stunning vistas, just like Ecuador. Snow topped mountains and hills, some carved by hand by the Incas. The
Peruvians are beautiful people and I could see the attraction of travel to this land. We would love to return.
We were to visit 3 countries in quick succession and all blew our minds. Rio leaves you numb and tingling. A stunning city which dances all
night long and it is full of lively favelas with lively and ambitious people, whereas Buenos Aires is cultured and fun loving and full of dancing people, political unrest, music and sport. With only one short visit to Uruguay it was difficult to get under
its skin, but what we saw of it we loved. It felt very similar to Argentina, cultured, high spirited and ready to play its part favourably with the most highly regarded countries in the world.
A visit to South America would not have been complete without
a tour of the majestic Iguazu, but this time on both sides of it - Argentina and Brazil. Each time we turned a corner whilst in the national parks we screamed Wow! It was a heavenly experience made all the better by seeing much wildlife.
the crossing of the bordersbetween Argentina and Brazil we would encounter some problems with immigration. They were easily sorted, but with no help from the police or immigration in Brazil and for our entire 5 day's stay we were illegal immigrants, but no-one
seemed to care except us.
Whilst I see the Olympics in Rio will be a big success it will not be without its challenges and I would suggest that all who go plan the events and their visit well to avoid any pitfalls.
By the end of our South American
tour we would have stayed in 25 hotels and visited 14 airports been on nearly every type of transport known to man including horses, motorbikes, cable cars and a dingy and had loads of adventure with water. Water featured a lot – the sink holes in Mexico
where we went swimming in the freezing water and dove under to look at the caves, the rivers of Tortuguero where we thankfully only lost our cameras and not our lives, the river rapids in Banos near the Amazon, the waterfalls and the boat ride just above them
in Iguazu, jumping and romancing with the waves on the beaches of Copacabana in Rio, Jaco in Costa Rica, Cancun in Mexico and Nerja in Spain and the numerous swimming pools including the highest one in Buenos Aires which had a 360 degree view of the city.
We played so many games in Argentina including tango lessons, riding horses, participating in events with gauchos, visiting an art gallery almost every day as well as pounding the streets while the activists or football fans pounded their drums on a daily
basis through the streets and of course I must include drinking Malbec. It is such an inspirational city I defy anyone to go there and not love it.
We said goodbye to Central and South America and although we will never probably return we have lots
of unforgettable stories that filled our hearts and minds.
Link to photos on Facebook from Caminito and Plaza be Mayo https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10208156652862177&type=1&l=ab9f54ab90