Latin America and the Caribbean!

 

Having previously only visited Honduras as a teenager, I had a one-way ticket to Trinidad and Tobago booked last May and set off to slowly meander my way down through South America with my long-suffering boyfriend Dan. You'll find all of our adventures here...

Sat

28

Jan

2017

Why and how we should be trying to preserve our Oceans.

 

Having spent quite some time ranting about the refugee crisis, I wanted to write about something else close to my heart, incredibly important, but not yet personal enough to make me shake with rage. 

Covering almost three-quarters of the Earth, holding 97% of our water, producing almost half of our oxygen and absorbing carbon from the atmosphere, I can't exactly overstate how important oceans are to our planet's survival. Despite being vital to our economies and way of life, gone are the days when it was possible to believe the deep blue sea was simultaneously an infinite wealth of resources and an invulnerable dumping ground. 

 

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Thu

24

Mar

2016

Camping spots that make you wonder why we ever sleep indoors.

Sapphire Coast Australia
Sapphire Coast Australia

 

This collaboration of magical camping spots has taken an embarrassingly long time to put together, but I can't help but feel proud of the result. With some of my traveller idols, friends and even family involved, it's hard to decide if I'm more excited by the contributors or the places they have written about. If this doesn't persuade you that you don't always want to sleep with a roof over your head, then I'm happy to keep the wilderness for myself. 

 

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Mon

22

Feb

2016

Panama- a budget travel guide by Jess Signet.

 

I've never had a guest post on FeatheryTravels before so this is new for me, but when Jess offered to write me a guide to Panama I thought some of you might find it useful. She seems as genuine and down to earth as I try to be here and I think her advice will be invaluable for anyone heading that direction "on a shoestring" in the future...

 

Isla Iguana
Isla Iguana - Shelly McCullough www.sellallyourstuff.com
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Fri

04

Dec

2015

Friday Fix: wild camping near La Esperanza, Ecuador.

This is the twentieth(!) edition of my bi-weekly series, Friday Fix, a quick burst of inspiration to spur us on through our final day in the office. The idea of these photos is to give you a glimpse of some of the most incredible places I've ever found in a format you can digest in your coffee break...


wild camping, La Esperanza, Ecuador, South America
*click for full screen*
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Sun

19

Apr

2015

Bumbling through central Bolivia- crazy cities and very many monkeys.

Spider monkey in Villa Tunari, Bolivia
Spider monkey in Villa Tunari.

I've been putting off writing this for months...

 

My last post from Bolivia? The last post from South America and the eight month adventure that Dan and I drew out for as long as physically possible. We had to fly back at the beginning of this year- it's already April, but I still can't quite get over it!

 

Anyway... the post is entitled "bumbling" as by this stage in the journey we had extremely dwindling funds and really no idea what we were going to do for another two months. Not everywhere we went I could recommend, but I'll share all the information in case you find yourself in a similar situation. Otherwise just sit back and enjoy the monkeys.

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Thu

19

Mar

2015

Dangers, disasters and dodgy situations in Peru and how to avoid them.

Peru is an incredible country with culture and wildlife as varied as the landscape. A mountainous spine teeming with archaeological sites and home to many proud indigenous communities divides the land between the desert like coast line and the Amazon.

 

With the fastest growing level of tourism in South America, increasing a whopping 25% annually* and now taking its place as Peru's third largest industry, you could be forgiven for thinking there is safety in numbers. Maccu Pichu is top of many backpackers “bucket-lists” and the country as a whole has been a firm favourite on the trail for several decades. With all this in mind, I was surprised to hear of more traveller disasters in Peru than I did in either Colombia or the capital of Trinidad and Tobago.

 

Why was that and how can you avoid the potential problems?

Nevado Pastoruri, Huaraz, Central Peru.
Dan and I admiring the view at Nevado Pastoruri, near Huaraz, Central Peru.
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Wed

04

Mar

2015

El Jardin eco-campsite and accommodation, Samaipata, Bolivia.

pond, El Jardin campsite and accomodation, Samaipata, Bolivia

Having spent a week or so hopping from one nasty, [relatively] expensive accommodation to another, we were heading to Samaipata in the hopes of finding a peaceful campsite. Being enormously ripped off on a long, hot day of buses, I was feeling quite miserable by the time we arrived. It was dark, raining, everything was soggy and I wasn't appreciating being stuck back in our one-man tent. Balancing electronics and valuables on a mountain of shoes, under waterproof coats in our 'porch' to stop the water from destroying them didn't lead to the most restful night's sleep. 

 

Waking up groggy with sun, I found El Jardin more intriguing than I could have imagined...

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Sat

14

Feb

2015

Architectural details of Cusco.

architecture Cusco Peru stonework
architecture Cusco Peru stonework

 

Without the money for Maccu Pichu, the incredible archaeological site singularly responsible for the majority of Peru's tourist industry, I'd mentally prepared myself to dislike Cusco. As a famous colonial city and the only logical point for most people to begin their Incan adventure, I imagined it would be tacky, teeming with wealthy foreigners and generally lacking the "real" whatever I was looking for.

 

I should have had to eat my hat.

 

There was an element of everything I'd expected, snippets of English conversation from passers-by jarred in my ears and there were a startling number of shiny, never-walked-in boots clomping around, but as much as I tried to find things to scoff at, Cusco just kept surprising me.

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Mon

26

Jan

2015

Falling down the rabbit hole- life in the woods at Espiral de Luz, Samaipata, Bolivia.

 

I've been struggling for weeks over this post- how to explain my two month hiatus, how to cobble my words and photographs into describing my total infatuation with this little patch of woodland. It's been twenty-six days since we were forced to leave, but I still wake up expecting to hear the sound of insects, before realising the sad truth and missing the beautiful simplicity of that life. I'm finding it hard to move on, to step forward into modernity and realise I don't like the way the world is going, but lets start at the beginning.

 

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Mon

24

Nov

2014

El Vergel permaculture farm, camping and accommodation, Sorata.

 

As usual we'd been searching for somewhere cheap, relaxed and beautiful to stay...

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Mon

17

Nov

2014

Coiroco- tropical garden of the Yungas, Bolivia.

Plant in Coiroco, Yungas, Bolivia

The Yungas, where the rain-forest begins to creep into Bolivia's towering mountain range, are just a few hours North of La Paz, but an entirely different world when you actually arrive. With panoramic views of tree coated mountains from the picturesque town center, Coiroco seemed like a promising beginning for an adventure.

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Mon

10

Nov

2014

Lake Titicaca: Copacabana and the Isla del Sol.

Entering Bolivia at Copacabana, it´s hard to remember this is a landlocked country. Wide enough the horizon is flat in places, with sandy beaches and the occasional seagull, Lake Titicaca is a beautiful concession for the Bolivian people´s stolen coastline. 

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Fri

31

Oct

2014

The high road: Ayacucho to Cusco

 Ayacucho

 

I'm finding it hard to decide whether I love or hate the pompous postcard material photo above, but it gives you a good idea of the grandeur of this city. Ayacucho, a name I´d never heard a couple of weeks before arriving, feels a world apart from other cities we've visited in Peru. Unlike the crumbling concrete structures of other metropolises, here we found well maintained colonial structures, wide, clean streets and an air of independence. With an interesting but troubled history, only connected by a paved road to the outside world in 1999, Ayacucho has developed differently to elsewhere.

 

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Sun

19

Oct

2014

The high road: Huancayo, the train and Huancavelica.

Huancavelica
Huancavelica from the mountains.

After arriving in the North of Huancayo (a city of over 300,000 people), trekking to the East only to find an enormously overpriced campsite and then finally walking all the way down to the South with our bags, in the dark with rain lashing down on us and thunder in the background, we were exhausted and predisposed to dislike the city. Luckily a fantastic Chifa (Peruvian Chinese food), meeting up with our friends Coraline and Greg and exploring the never-ending market improved our experience greatly. 

 

This market, possibly the biggest I've seen in South America, was a great place to buy anything from reasonably priced knitted handicrafts and delicious snacks, to a new lead for Dan's camera. It took us the best part of a day to explore. 

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Wed

15

Oct

2014

The high road: Cerro de Pasco and the rock forest. 

 

With hundreds of half-finished concrete houses, clustered around the gaping mouth of a mine big enough to consume the whole city, and the natural climate of somewhere that boasts itself to be the "highest city in the world", Cerro de Pasco was an unlikely stop on our journey down South. 


 

Image and information in Spanish about this man made disaster from here.

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Tue

14

Oct

2014

The High Road- La Union to Huanuco

The small, muddy town of La Union, an unlikely travel destination, is where we began our lengthy adventure through Peru's central highlands. From the number of astounded local expressions that followed our everyday movements, it was obvious that finally we'd well and truly escaped the gringo trail.

 

La Union is a friendly town however and everyone was interested to know what we were doing there. Before long the lady selling fruit-bread in the market was greeting me like an old friend and children were asking the name of my father. Where was he?! 

 

This is the ramshackle view from our hostel (Hostal Picaflor)...

 

 

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Wed

08

Oct

2014

Huaraz, Nevado Pastoruri and a long walk up to Laguna Churup.

Nevado Pastorui glacier Huaraz Peru

After a couple of months along Ecuador and Peru's often unspectacular coastline, I was excited to get back to the mountains. Unfortunately, when our bus arrived at 5am, the only places open to sit in the warm were a small enticing establishment called 'Sex Burger', which we abandoned after two coffees and being joined by a group of over-friendly drunk locals, and an empty casino who's security guard offered us a third cup. 

 

By 10am, after a fifth cup, our friend Coraline, Dan and I abandoned all thoughts of napping and tried to decide whether our brain-crushing headaches were just the natural result of little sleep and too much caffeine or an unpleasant effect of the new height above sea level. Three days later and exhausted after a 40 minute walk, it was obvious that those altitude warnings shouldn't be taken lightly.

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Fri

03

Oct

2014

Huanchaco and the ruins of Chan Chan.

Chan Chan Peru
pelicans Huanchaco

As you might have read in my previous post about our friends' express kidnapping and robbery, we've got a rather mixed impression of Huanchaco. A small touristy destination, twenty minutes away from the third largest city in Peru is bound to have some problems, but if you follow the advice in my previous post, there is no reason to avoid the town altogether. 

 

First and foremost, Huanchaco has become a tourist destination for its surfing- board and the very necessary wetsuit hire costs S25 for a day. If you are clever enough it's possible to haggle down the price or argue that a day is 24 hours, so you can have a go the next morning too. We tried to surf with limited success, but I think it's the wrong season for the best waves.

 

Otherwise, the village is known for its unusual reed fishing boats which can be seen more often on show for tourists than actually in the water. The beach is a little grubby, but it doesn't seem to worry the enormous flock of pelicans which congregate by the pier. 

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Tue

23

Sep

2014

The friendly city of Chiclayo.

Chiclayo market

Chiclayo wasn't the sort of place I really expected to like: with quarter of a million people, backstreets smelling strongly of urine and a constant sound of beeping taxi horns, it's not at first glance a very appealing city. Actually the fact we ended up staying there was mostly a misunderstanding with the buses and the fact that we'd heard of a cheap place to stay, so my expectations were low.


Hospedaje San Lucas has such a tiny entrance that we walked past a couple of times thinking it must have shut down before spotting the faint blue 'backpackers' on a yellow door frame.  However, after being greeted by a remarkably friendly lady and discovering we had our own room with bathroom for S40 (about £4 each), we decided to stay a while to see what Chiclayo had to offer.

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Sun

21

Sep

2014

Cabo Blanco- a safe haven in Peru.

Cabo Blanco, Peru

 

By the time we left Mancora, our first stop in Peru, Dan and I were feeling pretty down. Although nothing terrible had happened, we'd spent too much time in tourist hell-holes, been ripped off a bit too often and just felt a little out of our Spanish speaking depth in the dirt-cheap campsites we'd been staying in. To make matters worse, a manic, middle-aged Australian woman approached us in Guayaquil bus station asking for $10, quickly changed her story and ran off with the money without saying thank-you. The final straw came when, after only managing to hitchhike about 50km all day, our final lift turned out to be an unmarked taxi. 

 

We were on the edge of the mountainous desert- out of sight coastline on our right and the desolate town El Alto on our left. Both directions seemed like a long hot walk, so when a truck stopped to ask us if we wanted a lift down the cliff road we jumped straight in the back. 

 

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Sat

20

Sep

2014

Safety warning: Huanchaco taxi robbery, Peru.

 A French couple, friends of ours, left the campsite at 8.30pm to catch a night bus from the nearest town Trujillo. Three or four hours later they returned with bruises on the man's face and having lost almost everything they owned. The story unfolded like this...

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Sun

14

Sep

2014

Whale watching, fishy street-art and hitchhiking Puerto-Lopez to Ayangue.

 

Bouncing along in the back of a fish-truck we watched the parched, cactus territory along the coastline turn to lush forest. With isolated micro-climates changing the scenery from place to place, Ecuador is amazingly varied for its size. Winter is warmer than Summer here, but the only season I didn't want to miss was when Humpback Whales come to mate. We'd spotted a few from the beach at Puerto Cayo, but it's hard to get a sense of scale at distance and I really wanted to see them up close.

 

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Sat

06

Sep

2014

Fishing boats of Manabi province, Ecuador.

The coastline of Ecuador's Manabi province is dotted with fishing villages. Each boat is carefully decorated in the style of it's owner and the fishermen are understandably proud to show them off. 

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Thu

28

Aug

2014

Hitchhiking the coast between Puerto Lopez and San Lorenzo, Ecuador.

Crab at Los Frailes

Most of the time the weather in Puerto Cayo looks something like this...

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Tue

19

Aug

2014

Wandering along the beach at Canoa

At weekends, the stretch of beach directly in front of Canoa's town center is mayhem. There are hippies selling jewelry, places to buy fresh fried octopus and the usual pot-bellied middle-aged men lying prostrate on the sand. Occasionally you might even see clueless tourists bobbing along on horses which will only move if chased by a man running behind with a whip. You'd be lucky to find a couple of square meters to lay out your towel and turn your head away for a second too long, your bag might disappear.* 

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Thu

07

Aug

2014

Mindo: hummingbirds and butterflies, but not really a waterfall.

Camping next to the river, surrounded by cloud forest, with the occasional eagle swooping overhead, we've spent most of our time in Mindo cooking.

 

camping, Mindo, Ecuador
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Sun

03

Aug

2014

A final few days of celebration and a sad farewell to La Esperanza.

There have been few places in the world that have brought tears to my eyes when it came to time to leave.  As I'm sure I've made quite obvious in my last four(?!) posts about La Esperanza, Dan and I really loved living there. This post isn't going to be very informative, but mostly a thank-you to the friends who made us feel so welcome in the village. 

 

We finished painting the house just in time for fiesta of San Juan. This was the third fiesta we'd been part of in La Esperanza and by far the most extravagant. There were lavishly decorated vehicles throwing out sweets and roses for spectators and several parties of costumed dancers; everyone was wearing their finery and some people even brought their animals along to display.

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Sat

02

Aug

2014

Casa Aida- A Home Away From Home.

Usually when I see signs outside a hostel stating it to be my 'Home Away From Home' or similar cliques, the skeptical voice in my head replies with something sarcastic.

 

Thankfully this time I was proved entirely wrong!

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Wed

30

Jul

2014

The third house we've painted this year...

As you might have seen in my previous post about the history of Casa Aida, the hostel was beginning to look a little run down...

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Mon

21

Jul

2014

Why are we still in La Esperanza? -Northern Ecuador

I think it must be well over two weeks since we bumbled into La Esperanza- I've lost track and Dan has no idea. For anyone travelling between Ecuador and Colombia, this is a perfect spot to relax before or after dealing with the border crossing. Probably the best way to explain this tiny, slightly dilapidated town's hold on us is to show you it's setting...

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Tue

08

Jul

2014

Casa Aida- a story to restore your faith in life.

Our home for now is a tent in the garden of Casa Aida, a lovely hostel in the tiny village of La Esparanza, Northen Ecuador. This afternoon we were lucky enough to hear the story of where it came from- it's probably the most beautiful I've ever heard...

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Thu

03

Jul

2014

San Agustin- Ancient Civilisations, Tasty Colombian Specialities and an Incredible Mountainous Landscape.

I don't know if it's just me, or maybe the presence of so many horses and those hats, but San Agustin feels a bit like the Wild Wild West. This small, isolated town up in the mountains of Southern Colombia is picturesque, but would never have been considered any more remarkable than its neighbours had it not been for the discovery of the largest group of religious monuments and megalithic sculptures in the whole of South America. It must have been quite some excavation!

 

Firstly though, the town itself is worth exploring: there are plenty of cheap, tasty places to eat, people are friendly and they've really been very patient as we've tried out our limited Spanish with them. I've been trying to capture some of the locals going about their every day lives. I find taking portraits very difficult, but this horse was tied up and therefore fair game...

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Wed

25

Jun

2014

Bogota- Street-Art, Couchsurfing and World-Cup Madness.

With a mildly dangerous reputation and generally miserable weather, Bogota isn't somewhere I'd have been attracted to had it not been our entry point into Colombia. At a first glance it isn't the prettiest city. The mountains to the East make the skyline impressive from some angles, but the streets generally look a little unloved. Give the city a chance though and look a little closer, Bogota's soul lives in it's people. 

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Tue

24

Jun

2014

Our first Work-Away experience.

We spent the last three weeks living and working on Tobago with a voluntary job we found through the website www.workaway.info.  I don't think Sparkle and her family would be offended if I said that the back of Angel Apartments looked pretty dingy when we arrived...

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Tue

24

Jun

2014

A short note on flying to Colombia with a one-way ticket.

After our minor fiasco getting through immigration in Trinidad, I wasn't keen for anymore airport problems. The official warning for flying to Colombia (and a lot of South America) is that you 'might' be asked for proof of a departure ticket. That wasn't all that encouraging, but further internet research told me that this was pretty outdated and that we were unlikely to get trouble on the Colombian side.

 

Unfortunately though, according to a variety of conflicting advice I found on travel forums, some of the American airline officials take it upon themselves to enforce this rule before you even get on the plane. This is obviously a scam to make you buy a useless return ticket on the spot. Although it's possible to get a refundable one, I didn't much fancy sorting out the paperwork while trying to travel in South America without a working phone or easily accessible internet. We also didn't have any spare cash to tie up in a useless flight.

 

I started worrying (a refined talent of mine) about a week before we flew. We were generally too busy to talk about it, but it was always in the back of my mind. What if the flights were too expensive and we got stuck in America? Would they send us back to Trinidad, to England or just leave us stuck in the airport until we could figure out an answer. It would probably have been the latter option and I didn't fancy that at all.

We flew from Tobago to Trinidad to Miami with no issues worse than hunger, but our flight out to Bogota wasn't until the next morning. I don't think I would have slept well in Miami even if it hadn't been for the bright lights and continuous elevator Jazz music.

I think we've refined the airport bed quite well. Screw trying to sleep on the metal chairs- make a bed on the floor!
I think we've refined the airport bed quite well. Screw trying to sleep on the metal chairs- make a bed on the floor!
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Sun

15

Jun

2014

Cooking on Tobago- How to make Coconut Bake.

 

People on Tobago really love their food! Dan is a much better cook than me, so I've asked him to explain how to make this tasty local recipe at home...

 

Coconut Bake is a type of savoury flat bread which is eaten for breakfast in Tobago. It's delicious when eaten with saltfish or herrings or just on its own with a bit of butter and jam. Debbie Taylor*, the chef at CasCreole restaurant in Castara, taught me this recipe. Traditionally bake is supposed to be unleavened but Debbie recommends a little yeast in order to make the bake a bit lighter.

 
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Tue

10

Jun

2014

Castara, Tobago- "Just a Small Part of Paradise"

Snorkelling, Castara, Tobago

 

We were talking to Benny, a drunk Rastafarian, down at Little Bay's beach bar one evening. He'd been rambling for a while, but Dan and I were tired and happy to let him do the talking, only interjecting with the occasional "oh wow". He likes living here in Castara as he grow his own food, catch his own fish and just enjoy living amongst the Almighty's creation. Generally in this sort of situation it's a good idea to tell somebody how amazing their home is, but when Dan said that he lived in paradise, Benny got a little indignant. He'd travelled around a lot and said that this was only a small part of the work of the Almighty- "everywhere is paradise". I'm pretty sure he'd never been to my old home in Portswood, but having lived around Tobago all his life it's easy to see how he'd come to that conclusion. 

 

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Fri

30

May

2014

Sun, smiles and coconut trees?

We met a mad woman at the bus station in Sangre Grande. Her pupils were enormous, obscured by a milky glaze which also covered the thin blue ring around them. Her faded greeny yellow dress and decorated, but dirty, straw hat, along with her accent, implied that she'd once held a different position in society. The lady sat next to her moved to another bench.

She asked us what we were doing in Trinidad and told us (loudly, in a queue of Trinidadian people) that we should "exercise extreme caution" as we were not  in a "civilised country". I was worried that people would overhear and think I was agreeing, or worse had started the conversation, so told her that we'd actually found everyone to be very nice and helpful so far. She replied in a patronising tone that I was suffering from the "sun, smiles and coconut trees syndrome"- we'd come from a cold country and were so dazzled that we thought we were in paradise, failing to notice the corruption and criminality around us...  

 

When her attention was diverted, some friendlier people around explained that she'd run away from hospital and that nobody wanted to sit next to her on the bus because of the smell. She got on our bus, causing some sort of commotion at the back, and I felt strangely disquieted until we'd got off and checked that she wasn't following. I don't think that she was dangerous, but the intensity of her cloudy stare made my skin crawl. 

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Sat

24

May

2014

Trinidad: Immigration officials, a journey up North and a few days on the beach doing absolutely nothing.

Mission Beach
Mission Beach

I've never had any trouble getting through immigration before... We'd read somewhere that you 'might' be asked to provide proof of onward travel upon arrival in Trinidad, but thought that a bank statement and not looking like too much of a tramp should be enough. Unfortunately, we must have looked a little too much like illegal immigrants as after asking us a series of grilling questions, the stony faced lady behind the immigration desk asked us to walk back past the queue and wait on the plastic chairs o the far side of the room. We nervously watched everyone else filter through, sitting on the edge of our seats as she appeared to be having a cheerful natter with some of her colleagues. I couldn't imagine the embarrassment of having just said goodbye to my friends and family, hoping to go away for half a year or so, only to be sent back the next day after being refused entry into our first destination. 

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Mon

07

Apr

2014

Honduras- the time a frog got stuck on my face...

Restrained to a small Scottish island for the time-being, I've been having a think back to some of my most ridiculous travel experiences. This is certainly one of them...
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