Tag Archives: Bliss

Dogs of Colombia: A Photo Essay

For anyone who has traveled in Latin America, you are aware of the number of dogs wandering the streets. Some are house pets just out for a stroll. But most are stray- to be clear, we avoided many, many dogs for hygienic and safety reasons. These friends we made  were all friendly and safe and as clean as can be expected when living outside on a farm or beach…

She was our first love. Up in the mountains in Minca. She didn’t actually live at this hostel and eventually got kicked out. We never even got to say goodbye…

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This beauty lived at the hostel in Taganga… went back into our room and got the bejeezus scared out of me seeing a face peeking out from under the bed apparently her favorite spot to nap.

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Tiniest, cutest puppy ever!!

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This was our first time camping out on someones farm. This pup ran up to help us cook. And knock things over. And bite our hands. And in general be as annoying as possible…

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Second time camping on a a farm. They had many dogs but Chocolate here was the friendliest and snuggliest.

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This big boy was at a stop we made not long after cresting a mountain peak. After sitting and warming up with a cup of deep black joe, he kept blocking my way so I couldn’t leave. Ok fine, I’ll stay a bit longer to give you the loves…

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The route this day was pretty flat. And seeing a bunch of dogs on the side of the road, and having learned from past experience, I slowed way down and stayed on guard for how these dogs would react to me and my bike. They barked a bit then most left me alone…except this guy. He started running along beside me. I stopped, and he stood and waited. I gave him some crackers, which he ignored and we started off again. He stayed with me for at least 15 minutes! Stopping when I stopped, though not getting close enough for me to pet him. Eventually I got to a town and he went a different way. I thought for sure we finally had an official bike tour dog!

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While visiting Bogota we used CouchSurfing, met a wonderful family who also had a dog. We quickly became bffs.

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Another hostel dog. He was always tied up and every time I passed him on my way to the tent I spent a few minutes hanging out.

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Our last night camping in Colombia. The pavilion did surprisingly little to stop the rain. But this guy loved playing fetch with a plastic bottle and did not mind at all to track his wet little paws all over our stuff.

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Moral of the story: I love dogs.

 

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Goodbye, Colombia

The moment after we jumped in the ocean on our first days’ ride where everyone was drying off in the sun daydreaming about what was to come.

The moment of arriving at our new camp site and all having rituals of setting up tents, jumping in the river, playing music and eating cookies.

The moment of reconnecting after a fantastic downhill where despite whatever else happened on the ride, in that moment we were beyond happy.

The moment of hearing a really good song and we’d all start singing.

The moment of hearing a really, really good song and we’d all start dancing no matter where we were.

The moment(s) of funny situations occurring from not understanding Spanish.

The moment of trying to act cool, but really we all wanted more dessert.

The moment of feeling anger and exhaustion and self-doubt and deciding to push through it for myself, and for my friends.

The moment of sitting around a campfire playing cards like this is just totally normal everyday life.

The moment of getting to the top of a climb or hike and feeling so tired and so awe-inspired at the same time.

The moment of realization that I’d rather be camping with these two people than in a hostel.

The moment of sunsets and sunrises.

The moment of realizing this is something I can, and want to do.

The moment of finally letting go.

The moment of knowing things about the people your with in a way that’s indescribable and then learning from it.

The moment of making friends with dogs more often than humans and not feeling bad about it (…duh it’s an adorable puppy why wouldnt we be happy).

The moment after moment after moment of feeling like all of this is too good to be true and there’s no way this is actually happening.

These moments and feelings are what I already miss fiercely about my first bicycle tour. I cannot express enough how extreme everything felt in every moment; the good and the bad.

I’d like to thank the academy, my travel companions, everyone I met along the way and most importantly, Colombia for this amazing trip. My heart is full and my head is light as I head off to my next adventure.

Colombian Hospitality

..and curiosity. It’s huge! Granted, we are three sweaty gringos pulling into tiny towns on heavily loaded bikes asking were there is a good place to camp.

Of course they want to ask about our trip. A few of them try to practice their English. And MANY of them want pictures with us. Specifically, the girls want a pictures with the tall, white, blonde guy.

I once had 2 young girls at a stop recently ask to take pictures with me- the mom invited me into their house to do a little photo shoot. Made me feel special.

But so far the greatest moment was for all of us combined. A group of kids on the side of the road were yelling at me and while usually I wouldn’t stop, something made me think they wanted something innocent.

This 16 year old girl started speaking to me in very broken English; she asked were I was from, what my name was and then to write it down. She had her English notebook for school so I wrote “I am Caitlin” for her to see.

She then asked if I liked coffee, to which I enthusiastically replied “yes”. I was quickly invited in for a drink and was being introduced to her grandmother, uncle, and many siblings who had all been crowding around me this whole time. Sam and Casey rode up then and were invited in as well. We sat and drank our coffee and explained our travels while she explained about learning English in school.

And then many group photos were taken. It was a special moment, the whole family was intrigued and welcoming. It was one of those times were we just looked at each other like, is this really happening right now? This family invited random people off the road to just come hang out. It lasted all of 15 minutes, but it was a beautiful moment. I will never forget the light In this girls’ eyes as she spoke to us in English and hosted us in her home.

The Magic of Minca

Having been on tour for about a week at this point, Team Siempre Perdido made their way to Minca; a small town up the mountains about an hour drive outside Santa Marta for some much desired R&R. We stayed at a hostel called Casa Elemento. An oasis in the mountains. A place to rest tired legs and exhausted bodies.

This hostel is known for its massive hammocks. And by that I meant three different hammocks fit about 12 people each and hang off of the side of the mountain. They have a wooden deck that leads out to one and that’s where we three sat for about three days.

imageIt gave us the best view of the valley, straight to the ocean. Everyday at least once we would be completely engulfed in clouds. The bar had local beers (Happy Toucan and Happy Jaguar. Yum). The bathrooms were what we call “a loo with a view”, which had open walls to enjoy the nature. And our meals were family style with everyone at the hostel mowing down delicious food. And after long days of sitting, we needed our nourishment.

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Loo with a view!

There is a hike you can take to some waterfalls. And to the local brewery. And in general, beautiful hikes anywhere you go.

But we did none of those. And I do not feel bad about it. I loved staying in one place. I loved the view and just spending the days in peace and reflection. I got some solid “girl time” with friends made at the hostel. I even played a little Cards Against Humanity.

Our second day at this hostel we were surprised to see our old friends, The Yucky Boys! Our paths surprisingly crossed again. It was great to let them know how we’d been doing since we spilt- how much lighter out bikes were and where we’d gone.

I was also surprised to run into someone from our hostel in Cartagena. He recognized me as the girl that asked him to turn the light off in the dorm at 11pm when he was trying to read. Four of us were trying to sleep, but he wasn’t happy at me for making him move to a common room. Sorry not sorry. Good to see you again, buddy.

At night I heard what I later learned were howler Monkies one night far off in the distance. We saw crazy cool looking birds. And one morning we had a large swarm of bees rise up in front of us, hover overhead for enough time for us to wonder if we needed to run for it, and then fly away. The sound of that loud buzz haunts me to this day.

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Anyways, those days were beautiful in their simplicity. We were still figuring out so much about bike tour, it was nice to take a break from all that.

 

Awkward Dance Party

A little view into my time in Europe this past year. It started about 3 months into the trip when I bought a new camera…next step: hire a camera man/woman.

These are a few of the people who made an impact on my trip. Friends visiting me from the US. Couch Surfing hosts. Hostel Friends. Random people I met in the city.

Enjoy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BsFzU7ZrVdc

https://vimeo.com/112664874

 

**sorry, it might not work in all European countries

Swing Dancing at Madame Moustache, Brussels

Making plans to use Couch-Surfing in Brussels for a few nights, there were not a large pool to choose from, but the message I got back from one guy had me sold:

“Hi Caitlin, I can only host you for 1 night because I am going out of town, but Tuesday is my swing dancing night is that ok?”

Swing dance in Belgium? Sure!

I left the train station and headed towards Madame Moustachesomeplace I recommend anyone to visit just for the atmosphere. It’s designed like an antique circus, freak show acts not included. A room was sectioned off with glass doors for smoking and there was a large wooden floor just for dancing.

My new host immediately bought me a nice beer and then led me out onto the dance floor. Did I mention there was a live swing band? Because there was, and it was wonderful. My host stayed with me for the first few songs to teach me the basic steps gradually getting a bit more advanced. Since I have been dancing since I was 8, I consider myself pretty musical and a fairly quick learner. However, it didn’t hurt that he was also a really good leader so I had to do was basically keep moving my feet…

There were all types of people there; old and young, beginner and very advanced. And for each song everyone changed partners. The young and advanced danced with the old; women danced with women; people who were very serious with people just there to have a good time. I always had a new partner and each time I clarified “I’m a beginner”, although I did have a few steps under my belt. There was no pressure. No embarrassment for mistakes. No time to rest. And no cares in the world.

Dancing like this, for fun, with no pressure and not trying to impress anyone doesn’t happen too often in the world of dance I grew up in. I’m used to the idea of competing with others around me, or trying to impress the teacher whether in class or auditions. This night I was free. It was bliss. I never wanted this night to end.

At one point in the night I did stop twirling to enjoy a beer so I could stand back and take it all in. Moments like these are not only the things I enjoy about traveling, but life in general.

Underground World of Paris, Part 2

So after spending a night walking around the catacombs with my couch surfing host and his girlfriend and spending the following day attempting to wash the muck off my pants and boots and of course,  sleeping, we pulled another all nighter. This time about an hour outside of Paris to go to an old rock quarry…

Still feeling a bit dazed and amazed (to say the least) at last night’s adventure, we set off for another. This time it was my CS host and his friend. I was told the walk would be easy, and as my hiking boots and short pants were out of commission, I was left with some wide-leg pants and my 10euro H&M tennis shoes, not ideal but I could manage.

Packs filled with food to grill, snacks, drinks, and a portable movie projector and screen we set off. The emotional roller coaster of having my things stolen just 2 days earlier followed by a night of no sleep where a wrong step or turn could’ve lead to my demise, put me in a sort of daze for this car ride. I could not tell you one thing I saw or one thought in my head in that time…

We eventually parked at some random farm house and just started walking. Turns out the 2 guys couldn’t find the correct trail. We back-tracked. A lot. Then, we trekked through a rather large motor cross track. The day after it had rained. Long pants? Muddy nearly to my knees. Shoes? Destroyed and constantly sticking in the mud instead of to my feet (imagine Ezma in the Emporer’s New Groove).

And then we where there. At the top of this…hole. A pit. Covered in trees, bushes and all sorts of beautiful growing, naturey  things. We climbed nearly straight down and found the group we were searching for in a little cove set behind some tall trees. Soft, white rocks with ledges to sprawl out on. Some one had brought candles to place throughout all of the levels and a bonfire was already warming up for everyone’s dinner. There were at least 25 people already there when we arrived.

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It was another dream-like experience. I think everyone can relate to nights like these- bonfire, beers, friends, music. However, this night had a twist. Eventually there was a commotion of conversation I couldn’t follow and people started to grab headlamps and blankets and move away from the fire.

We were heading underground.

A guy in front had a map and once again I was led into a vast maze of tunnels. This time beneath my feet instead of water was the whitest, softest sand I have ever felt. And instead of coming into rooms full of hundreds of years old skeletons, there were vast chambers with sand floors and pure white rocks for walls. This was where we set up the movie projector and watched most of ‘Waterworld’ before the group collectively decided it was horrible and turned it off.

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these used to be BRIGHT yellow

When we went into these tunnels it was still pitch black outside. When we emerged the sky was beginning to lighten. I could hardly follow conversation (English or French) and was content to sit back and slowly watch the sunrise.  My energy was zero but my happiness was 100. I was back in a fog of exhaustion as we eventually made our way back home (with my pants and shoes caked with mud). I think around 2pm I was finally able to shower and sleep.

The strange thing is that my CS host and I are not exactly good friends. We didn’t really ‘bond’ during this time together. For him this was his normal life and I was just tagging a long. My spirits were soaring as the next day I headed off to Belgium where I was greeted with another CS host in Brussels…