Made it to Matagalpa: Facing My Solo Travel Fears

Leon to Matagalpa
Leon to Matagalpa

I asked around and did online research, and the only way to get to Matagalpa was 2.5 hours on the chicken bus. I barely slept on Friday night I was so nervous about the morning bus ride. Things I worried about: not getting a seat, losing my bags, missing the bus, getting robbed. You know what? It was awesome!

I got to the bus station early so I could get a good seat, and it worked. The bus driver gives out assigned seats! I got a window seat (score) near the back door (double score!). I was able to put my bags above me and a woman sat next to me and that was it for the whole trip. Easy peasy. Nothing like Rivas! I had worried for nothing. Continue reading “Made it to Matagalpa: Facing My Solo Travel Fears”

Day 6: Hot Tubs and Rough Roads

So Brian made sure today included some off the beaten path “hot pots” in Iceland. He knew there was one southwest of Akureyki on the way to the offroad destination he planned for today, and by god, we were having a soak!

We packed up and left the campgrounds by 9am. The morning started beautifully in Akureyki but the sun never came out from behind the clouds,

Campsite View Akureyi
Campsite View Akureyi

and the day got cloudier and windier, with rain intermittent. Still, when in Iceland we must find the hot water! Continue reading “Day 6: Hot Tubs and Rough Roads”

Day 5: We The North

We’ve been exploring the northern parts of Iceland today, which included some really bizarre and interesting geologic formations and lots of sheep. Plus, April, you will be happy to know I took some heel clickers!

iceland Map
Iceland Road Trip Day 5

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Day 3: Watch Out for Sheep!

There are lots of sheep in Iceland! They are all grazing alongside the major highway and often with no barriers to the highway, also known as the ring road. Needless to say, I had a close encounter with some sheep! It’s all ok. They move surprisingly fast and I had a lot of notice they were coming. They moved so fast neither myself nor Brian were able to get a photo (boo!). Anyway, for the remainder of the day, I had to keep on the alert as the sheep were never far from the road.

Other than sheep, we saw a lot of beautiful natural wonders: glaciers that stunned us into silence with their magnificence and beauty, waterfalls and streams cascading down rock cliffs and mountains, fjords and more. Our campsite last night was alongside one of the fjords with a mountain view to match. Iceland is gorgeous. Continue reading “Day 3: Watch Out for Sheep!”

Day 2: Rain, Glaciers, and Lava Fields

Map Selfoss to Skaftafell
Day 2: Selfoss to Skaftafell

It rained while we were sleeping last night, and was really bad this morning. Plus, very overcast. So, our thoughts about going to the islands on the south via a ferry boat didn’t seem so good. Instead, we decided to drive along the highway and stop at all the pretty sights until we made it into the big national park and Skaftafell. Continue reading “Day 2: Rain, Glaciers, and Lava Fields”

Iceland Day 1: Water

Yea! We made it to Iceland past midnight and promptly went to duty free to buy booze. That seems to be the first move for anyone, locals included, and we want to follow the local customs!

We checked into our hotel, the Base Hotel by the airport, had a few beers at the lounge and went to bed for about 5 hours. This morning, we got up, went back to the airport for a 45 minute bus ride into the Reykjavik bus station, then a taxi to Camp Easy to pick up our ride, and home, for the week!

Continue reading “Iceland Day 1: Water”

Busy First Day in Bogotá

Bogotá is a big bustling city – the capital of Colombia, with the largest population of 6.7 million – and we arrived yesterday for a 3 day whirlwind tour!

Our flight and taxi rides were easy, and we are couchsurfing with a friendly, interesting and generous guy named Robin. He has a roommate who is on crutches, Anna Maria, and 3 cats. His apartment takes up the 2nd floor of a building in the heart of a great neighborhood called Chapinero. This is a barrio north of the city centre with a lot of nightlife and restaurants.

Bogota Map
Bogota Barrio Map

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A Trip to Tolu

For my last weekend on my own, I wanted to explore the country around Cartagena. I looked in my Lonely Planet for ideas of a weekend getaway. Then I read it – 2 hours by bus to the south and a cute little beach town called Tolu! Sold!

I booked a hostel for Friday night in Tolu and packed my bag. Another independent adventure in Colombia! I couldn’t wait.  And when I learned the school was closing at 1pm on Friday, I was even more excited. I could catch an earlier bus and check out the seaside town before nightfall.  Fun!

Continue reading “A Trip to Tolu”

Getting Around

So I mentioned yesterday that the bus rides in Cartagena are an experience. They are certainly affordable. Every bus costs 2,000 pesos, which translates to approximately 65 US cents, or 84 Canadian cents. Pretty cheap. But, is it worth it? It depends.

I took 3 buses on different routes yesterday. 2 of them I would take again in a heartbeat, the other, probably not.

  1. First bus – from my home to the foundation (work). My home is in the “Campestre” barrio or neighborhood. I love that they are called barrios, it makes me feel like I’m in the L.A. of Sanford & Son or something. So retro sounding. But really it’s just a Spanish word for neighborhood.

Campestre

Anyway, the Campestre barrio is inland – it’s a middle class area kind of far from the tourist parts of town (on the map above, that’s the area along the ocean from Bocagrande – sort of like the South Beach – to Getsemani and beyond to Old Town).

My bus ride today (which I successfully completed on my own) was really easy. I catch the bus at the corner 2 blocks down the street and take it about 20 minutes and walk about 5 minutes from the stop. All for 84 cents. I will do that every morning. No problem.

Cartagena Bus
The bus I take to work in the morning

2. The second bus took me from the stop near work to the old city. I will definitely take this bus again. It took about 15 minutes, had some great views along the way, and stopped right outside the old city, which is GORGEOUS! That’s for several other posts. As you can see in the map below, the foundation is pretty near to the ocean.

Map of Foundation Granitos de Paz Cartagena
Where I work in Cartagena

So there will likely be a lot of days where I head from work into the walled city for a walk, beer or any excuse I can think of!

3. The last bus was painful. It was oppressively hot – because the buses have no AC – and standing room only. This is the bus from the Old City to the barrio. It took an hour and the driver was insane. He was racing around corners and braking and starting with crazy frequency. I thought I was going to vomit. I do get car sick so this was not for me. THEN, I find out from the person who took me on this rotten journey that a taxi is only 12,000 – 14,000 pesos. I’m like why am I getting sick when I could have spent FIVE DOLLARS!?! Anyway, never again with that bus. The cabs have Air con. Win.

I did take a taxi home from work today, simply because no one has shown me where my end stop is. It was fine and only 8,000 pesos. Compared to Toronto, the taxis here are CHEAP!

I have also been warned to be very careful on the buses. Don’t flash money (duh) and don’t take out my cell phone at all. That’s a bit of an inconvenience but I get it and certainly don’t want to lose my mobile.

Traffic here is insane. I had speculated about trying to find a bicycle to use, but it’s very uncommon with the heat. Plus the fact there are so many motorbikes going on sidewalks and around traffic I do worry about safety. Apparently many of those motorbikes are used as taxis and they do circumvent traffic pretty well. My Colombian mother, Marcela, and I discussed that this morning and she does not want me to try it. I think my U.S. mother might agree. But everybody says if you’re in a rush, it’s a good idea. And cheaper than a real taxi. But we’ve already established that real taxis are dirt cheap and there are a couple of buses I will keep taking. I’ll let you know if I ride one of those motorbikes. Just don’t tell Marcela.