The final stage of our four month trip takes us by air to Pereira capital of the coffee country. Just as I say, ‘we’re all aboard and taking off 5 minutes early’ we find ourselves being asked to disembark due to a technical issue. It doesn’t look good as we are given drinks and snacks but suddenly we are asked to board again and we leave only an hour or so late. Phew! Continue reading
So here we are almost at journey’s end. The last part of our trip takes us down the western side of Colombia and back to Bogota and then home! But it is so rich in experience that I’m splitting it into two blogs. We travel via a mix of plane and car, and see two extremes of this country – the very rich and the dirt poor and, in Medellin, some green shoots of transformation. Venezuelan refugees continue to be a major theme, always on the road – walking to who-knows-where, begging in the cities, sleeping rough. Depending who you talk to there are between two to three million of them. Some find work undercutting local labour, but most rely on generosity and handouts in this poorest of countries.
The last leg of our world tour! Arrive here after a pretty poor flight on Avianca, the pride of Colombia – they don’t even serve tea. It’s a grey morning here but luckily our room is ready at 7 am and we manage a kip before venturing out to explore Candelaria, the colonial quarter of Bogota, a city of over 9 million people. Continue reading
New Year’s Day and it’s time to move on. We board the Waiheke ferry and then head south-eastwards then back up north towards the Coromandel Peninsula. Tommy entertains us with various podcasts to pass the time. When we reach the peninsula we decide to go the scenic route up the west side. Continue reading
My New Zealand visit starts badly. I am so obsessed by the thought of the rigorous customs police confiscating our Solomon wooden carvings we have brought as gifts that I completely forget the banana I popped into my bag in the lounge, intending to eat it on the flight. Suffice to say, dear reader, I got done and it cost me $400 – ‘no criminal record’ the official says brightly. I have to admit the officials are charm itself – and I just feel a complete fool.
The next stage of our trip takes us to the Solomon Islands for a 14-day dive adventure aboard the MV Bilikiki. This has been a long-time ambition of ours and the trip was carefully planned around these dates and Christmas in NZ; for dive boats such as this you have to book a year in advance. Continue reading
So here we are in Granada, home to Alhambra, which means the Red Fort. It is correct to simply call it Alhambra as ‘al’ means ‘the’ in Arabic. Granada itself is named after the old Jewish settlement, Medina-al-Granata, or Pomegranate City, the fruit being a symbol of fertility, which is said to contain the same number of seeds as the volumes of the Torah. We have a free day to explore before our extortionate tour; still nervous about whether we have been scammed, we are relieved to get a text confirming the meeting time. Phew! Continue reading
It’s still raining when we arrive in Salvador, Brazil’s former capital, site of the first landing in 1501 by Amerigo Vespucci and centre of the slave trade. It is the most African part of Brazil with 80% of people having African heritage and where traditional African religions survive today with the numerous Candomblé cults. There is even a choir that sings in Yoruba.
After our magnificent week in the hot & dusty Pantanal we set off for the NE coast of Brazil, first stop Olinda and Recife. We are due to arrive at 2 am and, despite numerous emails and entreaties to our travel agent, are repeatedly told we have to go via São Paulo, a journey that will take 8 hours. Continue reading
‘Watch out! The Pantanal has the world’s worst mosquitoes!’ With this warning ringing in my ears, here we are with our Avon skin-so-soft spray (the best according to experts), craghoppers mosquito-proof trousers and shirts and even face nets to fit under hats. The African in me who has never bought any safari gear is appalled. Continue reading