Amazon Basin

Iquitos | Pucallpa | Santa Clara

After Coca we didn’t know what we were going to experience. Our trip in the Amazon from the Ecuadorean city of Coca to Iquitos and then from Iquitos to Pucallpa (and Santa Clara) has been full of great surprises. 

Being in the Amazonas is almost the best way to step outside of your comfort zone and confront yourself with your limits and fears. If you are scared of insects there will be tons of them around. If you get concerned when you don’t have a bathroom then there will be almost no bathrooms for hours or days or a week. If you are paranoid about something you will need to accept that and get over it. This is the first rule of the Amazon. 

That’s what the rainforest is meant to teach you: get over your limits, let it go and you will have fun! 

Let’s start from the beginning: Coca is a petrol-centered not-so-pretty city at the edge of the jungle in Ecuador. Just 10 hours bus from the hills of the capital, Quito. We spent 3 night there: finally on a Thursday morning at 6.30 we found a boat that would drive (for 15 hours) us (+kids/mamas and few other tourists) to Nuevo Rocafuerte. 

Nuevo Rocafuerte is the frontiera of Ecuador, where you get an exit stamp and, if you are lucky, you’ll find a gentle señor Gugliermo waiting for giving you a boat-passage to the first little village of Peru, Pantoja. 

Pantoja is by itself a very small village with kind people and loads of grasshoppers. We had to stay there only for the night because the day after a boat for Iquitos was ready to leave. Buena onda was on our side and we didn’t need to wait for a boat to come another day (or week).

Since the boat that leave from Pantoja is a lancha that goes pretty fast and leaves at 5 am. It takes two almost-full days to get to Iquitos but it stops for the night. Therefore we paid with the ticket one night-stay in Santa Clotilde. A very small village, where, searching for a beer, we met a 9 years old kid pretty good at English and we spent the rainy afternoon talking with him. We had dinner in a little kiosk in the middle of the street and we slept some hours before leaving at 4 with the boat. 

Iquitos was a shock. When you get there the first thing you feel is all the overwhelming amount of mud, river-smell and food. A huge city that is possible to reach only by airplane or boat and has basically no cars only moto-taxis. A crazy amount of tourists and tours and people trying to sell you tours at every corner of the street. Iquitos is well known to be the best place to do a rainforest-tour of 2 or more days. But we didn’t do it. Our feeling was that everybody was trying to make a business out of it and nobody was really concerned about the “real” life in the rainforest or about offering a “sustainable” tour.

Iquitos became then a city to leave and we decided to embark in this 6 days adventure to get to Pucallpa. On a busy and hot day we got our ticket for Henry, a cargo-boat with other 250 people and at least 400 chickens and 100 mototaxi (plus one cat and one monkey). 

We were not feeling very well at that time but we decided to get on board anyway at around 4 pm since the boat had to leave at around 6 pm. We thought it would be fine to sail on the river. But then, after setting up our hammocks and making a pile with our backpacks, the boat was stuck and didn’t leave the harbor until the day after at 9 pm! 

How was the boat when we finally left Iquitos? A good mix of kids running around, very curious locals that were asking the most funny questions to both me and Lasse and an Italian couple, now living in Brazil, that was our main company in the middle of hammocks, people and luggages.

After 6 days at the edge of every hygienic condition we left our lovely cargo-boat Henry and we got to Pucallpa, where we took some days just to relax and have WiFi. 

We got in contact through some friends with a family from the Shipibo community of Santa Clara and we decided to stay with them for a week. The Shipibo tribe is well known for being a matriarchal based community where women are making beautiful embroideries and hand crafting. They use natural medicines, as ayahuasca and many more, and their diet is mostly based on rice, fish, chicken and platano. As most of the communities in Peru they have a very strong connection with Pachamama and its natural cycles.

Life near the jungle is where you really have time to work on yourself because every other need is satisfied with simple things. You have a roof over your head, cook on a fire, shower with three buckets of water every other day and use a very simple toilet as bathroom. 
We spent a lot of time walking around small villages and talking with some people there, meditating, talking about fears and limits and looking at how simple life can be without the stress of our “westernalized” society. 

The only bad note of living in the village was the amount of mosquitoes that every night tried to get me. After the first day I had 167 itchy bumps only on my left leg! And I spent most of my sunsets and nights inside of the mosquito-net that we have brought with us. 

Leaving Santa Clara for Pucallpa felt like the good thing to do after 7 days of full immersion on ourselves and on the culture of the shipibo community. But when planning to get to Lima we found out that the street have been closed for at least some weeks and it was not meant to open in the near future. The only option was to fly (unfortunately). 

After a month where our only transportation was a moto-taxi or a boat the idea of taking an airplane sounded weird. Coming back to all the comforts it was great but it gave us many things to think about.

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Ecuador

Otavalo | Quito | Latacunga | Quilotoa Loop | Coca | Nuevo Rocafuerte 

From the border of Tulcan (3 hours at the Colombian immigration + 1 in Ecuador) everything seemed going as it was meant not to go. It was really difficult to find a taxi at the border, there was a fight between big mamas and bus drivers at the ticket-desk at the terminal and, last but not least, we were 5 hours late and 3 hours far from our Airbnb check-in in Otavalo. 

The starting point was not one of the best but from the day after Ecuador was perfect. We spent Christmas time chilling in this small town. Otavalo is known to be the biggest textile, animal and food market of Ecuador. Next to the town, in the region of Imbabura, there were an infinite amount of hiking spots, waterfalls, vulcanos and lakes to discover. 

Right after Christmas it was time to move and we decided to spend a very rainy day and night in Quito. The capital is big, with crowded busses and not worthy a visit it’s just a useful place to catch the next bus to jump in a new adventure! 

What’s next then? A bus for Latacunga, where we left some not useful stuff for hiking at the Hostal Tiana (ps. The staff there is really nice we don’t agree with the reviews online!). And finally a bus for Segchos where our Quilotoa Loop adventure was ready to start. 

The Quilotoa Loop, 50 Km trails and 1000 mt to reach the top, has been one of the best experiences we have done in many years. Hiking 4 days keeps you strong and gives you limits and at the end you can only be proud of yourself. 

We started from Segchos a small town where we don’t suggest to stay but only to arrive and start the hike. We have been sleeping the night before the hike in Segchos but we couldn’t find food after 8.30 and we ended up eating a toast that a angry woman didn’t want to prepare for us (watching telenovela).

1st day hike: Segchos – Isinlivi

The hike was hard, we were seriously questioning ourselves how it’s possible for the locals to run down the trails so fast! But we got to Isinlivi pretty early under an amazing heavy rain! We stayed at the LluluLlama one of the best hostel I have seen in my entire life! Great atmosphere, good food, a steam bath and a lama in the garden! 

2nd day hike: Insilivi – Chugchilan 

It was time to take it slow and we did. It was the most chilled day of hike, when we got to Chugchilan we decided to find a spot where to camp. The fog was rolling down the mountains and it was really surreal around there. The owner of the local Cloud Forest Hostel gave us a place in her field and we had an amazing time under the rain (again). 

3rd day hike: Chugchilan – Guayama San Pedro 

This was the worst. Really bad trekking paths and a altitude to reach of more than 700 mt. But we made it! And we slept in the most cozy place: Hostal Rosita. A family owned big house in the valley where the food it’s great, the showers are cold but the company of Dory and Ester is a blast! We found ourselves roasting peanuts on the fire in the “cabana” outside and discussing about the traditions of that area for New Year’s Eve. 

In Ecuador they traditionally celebrate the “Año Viejo” that is the old year to kick out with bonfires, music, chicha and dancing. In small communities there is a big group of people playing music moving from house to house to wake up the people at around 7 am. Then the day before they have been preparing a goat to cook and the day goes for the preparation of the party. While the day after, the 1st of January is the “Año Nuevo” that kicks in and it’s a great party at midnight! 

4th day hike: Quilotoa Lagoon and back to Latacunga

And then this was WOOOOW! We got there early in the morning and it was just a surprise! Hopefully it’s possible to understand from the pictures! 

Back to Latacunga we were both really happy and proud of what we have accomplished during the 4 days-hike. And ready to kick the 2017 out! 

After Latacunga we decided to dramatically change the landscape outside of our windows and got on a long day-night bus for Coca, the extreme border with the rain forest and the Rio Napo, one of the affluent of the Amazonas. 

Coca it’s a terrible city but if you want to navigate to Perù it’s the only way you have to get to Nuevo Rocafuerte where you get to the immigration and get your paperwork done! From Coca to NR we took a great 15 hours speed boat with kids, mamas, guys programming Arduino and so on. It was a pretty funny experience overall! 

But for our adventure on the Amazon Basin you should wait until next post!

Colombia part 3. 

Medellin | Manizales

Third and last post about Colombia. The last part of our trip in Colombia has been more relaxed and we had indeed a more safe feeling about Medellin and Manizales. 

Even though Medellin is a huge city where many neighborhoods are still “dangerous” we went walking around a lot and we hadn’t occurred in any trouble. 

We stayed in the Laureles barrio, booked a very cool room in Airbnb from Hugo. The place was really chilled and near restaurants, bar and supermarket. 

One place it is absolutely standing out from the crowd is Café Cliche where they also have some very good artisanal beers from South America. We tried one from Argentina, blonde but 7.5% of flavor and taste.  

During our stay in Medellin we decided to take a free tour of Comuna 13, once the most dangerous place in Medellin now the safest neighborhood of Colombia (the least number of murders and crimes in Colombia in 2016). All the pictures of murales are street art from this neighborhood and they are a representation of the history of this place, the fight against the drugs lords, the violence and the illegal business. 

After Medellin, we decided to try the famous thermales of Manizales. A smaller city in the mountains with a great cable car system and some great thermal pools. We needed some rest and to chill before crossing the border and going to Ecuador.

Our Colombian adventure ends now. Soon there will be a most about Ecuador and the crazy trekking of Quilotoa Loop that we have just finished. 

Colombia – part. 2 

Tayrona National Park | Santa Marta | Taganga| Minca 

The first week of our trip we went to the Parque Tayrona hoping to find a less loud and more natural environment where to camp.

Unfortunately it was not the best moment of the year to do that. Rain season and a natural park in the middle of the jungle don’t get along very well!! 

We arrived at the entrance of the park quite late in the afternoon, around 5 pm, and we got suggested to book a spot for our hammock at the first “camping spot” on the way. 

The place was stunning and chilled but also pretty expensive if you think you’re camping. Plus I got my sleeping back stolen from the locker’s room ( still trying to understand who uses a sleeping bag great for the mountains with 35 degrees outside!) 

The morning after we went for a 2 hours hiking in the jungle to get to Piscina ( a nice beach, less crowded than Cabo San Juan) and since the night before had been raining a lot all our way was a big muddy trail. 

After the two nights at Tayrona Park we decided to move to Santa Marta and we found a great place to sleep: El Patio De Tommy. A cultural center and place for artists that are trying to bring the kids of the neighborhood in contact with some graffiti art, circus performances and dance classes. 

Santa Marta has been one of the highlights during our traveling. We met great people and the whole city is filled with street art, graffiti and very nice cafes. Plus: it’s the first colonial town that have been built in South America by the Spanish conquerors.

If you want to go for a swim Santa Marta’s beach is a little too crowded and not the most beautiful one. The local suggested to us to go to Taganga to chill and swim in this small fisherman village 15 minutes from Santa Marta. We did but, as suggested, we brought with us only money for the bus and for beers. No phones and no valuables. Taganga is the beach of the tangas but also a very easy place to get robbed (apparently).

During our stay in Santa Marta we decided to take one-day trip to Minca, one of the coffee places in Colombia. A small village in the mountains near the Sierra Nevada where it’s possible hike, try really good and cheap coffee at the haciendas. We tried La Victoria, near by there is also an artisanal brewery called Nevada Cerveceria).

Small note: Colombia is one of the biggest exporter of coffee in the world. They export mostly a coffee called “second quality” and they use to drink the “first quality” in the country. The second quality is a bit more bitter while the first quality is sweeter. Both of them have the same price but apparently in Europe we prefer the bitter one. 

Ps. If you get to Minca and you still want to be in one piece, don’t try to get the moto-taxi…those guys don’t care about life!

Colombia – part 1. The Caribbean Sea 

Cartagena | Isla Baru

Arrived in Cartagena the heat was meant to melt us. Cartagena is a typical city that came up from the Spanish colonialism. Beautiful balconies full of flowers, little colorful houses, people chilling in the squares and music all over the place.

We didn’t like it at first sight, too much touristic. But after spending there some more days I can say that I appreciate the authenticity of the area where we were sleeping – Getsemani- ex redlight district nowadays the place to sleep and hang around if you are a backpacker or a street artist. 

While in the old town everything looks like it was built many years ago and never changed, with the old walls around the heart of the city protecting Cartagena from the pirates. 

On the other side Getsemani is a Barrio full of Graffiti, streetfood stands and people talking all the time with you(in Spanish of course!). There are many restaurants, cafes, bakeries, tiendas ( small grocery shops) and also a good supermarket open until 8 pm. 

During our stay in Cartagena we finally met Simone, a good friend of us that is travelling since May 2017! It was absolutely the best time we spent so far and we stayed at Casa Eugenia, a very nice hostel/guesthouse with outdoor Patio and kitchen. 

Spending on-off 8 days in Cartagena we also had the opportunity to visit Isla Baru and Playa Blanca. One of the most touristic places during the day but an absolute desert beach after 4 pm! Stunning nature and ocean were the characteristics of the place.

First stop: Florida, USA

On November 18th, due date for our trip, we flew from Denmark to Fort Lauderdale. The next 10 days were meant to be an immersive experience into the American way of living. 

Lasse’s father and his wife, Torben and Amber, have been our guides during these 10 days in Florida. Nobody would have been more suitable for this role! 

We visited the Kennedy space center of NASA and we went around looking for alligators, taking breaks at really typical diner places. During the week we spent four days at Amber’s parents house, in the countryside, enjoying the days of Thanksgiving with them. And on the 21st November night we celebrated the birthday of Torben at the beautiful Solomon’s Castle and The Boat on the Moat. A place full of beautiful art pieces made out of recycled materials. 

While we were in the country side we had the opportunity to visit a small and nice vineyard and winery called Bunker Hill vineyard that makes unfiltered wine from muscadine grapes, a grape wine native to the southeastern and south-central United States. The Bunker Hill Vineyard and Winery makes also very good jams and fruit wines. 

Back to Fort Lauderdale we had few days left. Saturday night we decided to go to Heart Nightclub in Miami downtown. Unfortunately coming back home we got in a car accident but both us and the guy that caused the accident are fine, luckily! 
Now we are in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia. And we will try to keep the blog updated as much as WiFi allows us! 

The (un)lucky trip

Here we go!

Some updates are coming from Lasse’s walking trip from Germany to Italy.

When I first met Lasse last year he was planning a 2 weeks walking path in Sweden through the forest in the north of Sweden, it was only him, a trolley and his hammock. After coming back he has always talked about that moment as one of the most free of his life and a turning point where he realised many important things about how he want to live his life.

Since that walking trip has changed him so much he started many months ago to talk about another walking trip, more advanced and way more challenging than the first one: almost 2000 km of walking from Germany to Italy with an hammock, a Biolite and few other things.

The idea was the following one: Copenhagen – Rostock with a bus and a ferry and then straight down to Italy, walking through small villages and the Alps. Camping in national parks, forests or where it was possible to find a shelter.

A friend of him, Kasper, decided to walk with him.

Unfortunately after only 500 km Lasse got an inflamation in his ankle that got him stuck for at least one week. Because of that the guys decided to rent a car and try to get the best out of the trip, heading to Munich for the beginning of the OctoberFest and to Italy, where I was visiting my family.

Even though they couldn’t walk all the way they have been visiting quite some places, here a list of them: Rostock, Berlin, Hanz, Leipzig, Güstow, Müritz National Park…
Down here you’ll find all the pictures they have been taken during the trip!
Hope you’ll enjoy!