We are home!

Happy new year friends! I am a bit behind on the blogging scene, but I am making my return.

A lot has happened since our stay in the beautiful fishing village of Taganga until now. So now just a quick recap πŸ™‚

We had a crazy few days of travelling. Think 5 countries in 2 days. Hence exhaustion hit big time! We made our way from Columbia to Punta Del Este in Uruguay (via Peru, Panama and Argentina). A highlight of our short stay in Punta was catching up with our friends Loren and Ryan. We cooked dinner together

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Beached and posed with the (apparently) famous fingers, cool hey? But as you can see the sunshine never lasted long, the sky had other plans.

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That was the last of our beach days. We spent the next couple of days catching up on our sleep debt, getting caught and stranded in the streets in the bucketing rain and exploring the town by bus over this insane bridge infamously known as ‘Drunken Bridge’

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Another highlight of our stay here was celebrating New Year’s Eve. We dressed up, hopped on the bus and made our way to our friend Alex’s family, who live in Punta and invited us to spend New Years with them.

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We had a traditional Uruguayan barbecue (asado), where the meat is grilled over hot coals, with lots of patience and lots and lots of love

20130111-061138.jpgAlong with the meats we enjoyed delicious cheeses, insanely delicious sweet potato and potatoes stuffed with Roquefort cheese cooked on the asado, salad and traditional desserts. It was such a treat to experience this with such a warm and welcoming family. Thankyou!

After dinner, we brought the new year in with champagne and fireworks.

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People in the neighbourhood buy their own fireworks and light them at their a leisure. Sitting in the back garden watching these fireworks was incredible and we actually thought we were the center of it as they were happening 360 degrees around us

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The rest of the night involved hitting up a white themed apartment party (in our black and bright orange outfits) and then a longgggg walk home. Was a great night, good company and fun way to begin 2013!
Next we caught our last bus and boat back to Buenos Aires for a few days of unwinding, reflecting, debriefing, drinking, eating and enjoying the very last leg of our adventures. We ended with quite the bang! Josh had accumulated some points from work travel and managed to book us into the magical Park Hyatt hotel for our last 3 nights. Wow. Think showering without thongs, walking barefoot, FREE drinking water, a proper absorbent towel… It is totally the small things you take for granted when backpacking for three months.

The best hotel perk had to be the randomly spontaneous deliveries of fresh fruit πŸ˜‰
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We also enjoyed exquisite breakfast overlooking the gardens

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And complimentary champagne on our last night πŸ™‚

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But it was all over to quickly and after 4:45 wake up and 16 hour flight we arrived home VERY excited to see our families!!!

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And that brings us to the end of our amazing travel adventure. What a journey!

I feel truly blessed to have shared these incredible experiences with the love of my life. We laughed a lot, and cried a lot from laughing alot.

Before I finish up, I want to thank YOU, my friends (new and old), family, fellow travellers and fellow bloggers for following our journey through my little blog. During our trip My Love Affair with Running transformed into a travel sharing space and I will now continue blogging about my passion for fitness, food and healthy living, so I hope you continue to ride along with me.

On a side note, I am always looking for new products and experiences that can enrich my healthy living philosophy to try and share with my readers. If you have got any health, fitness or natural products you are interested in me Trying and Sharing, please Contact Me by following the link πŸ˜‰

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360 degrees of beauty in Tayrona National Park

Following a blissful few days on the beautiful Playa Blanca we began planning the last stint of our Columbian adventures and we knew more beach time was what we were after. Enter Tayrona National Park. Beach, forest and seclusion. From the entrance you walk through the forest and stop and camp at the different beaches along the way.

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Josh’s name for me is ‘Stompy’ as (according to him) I ‘just walk’ without looking where I am going with my head in the clouds. This could have turned dangerous, apparently I missed stepping on this little man by just a few cms! Josh’s lengthy research suggests this was a Colombian Boa, and was about 7 feet long and thick!

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We weaved our way through forest and sand, reaching open areas with great views of the sea.

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We eventually arrived at El Cabo

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where we got our tent

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Made our standard tuna sandwich πŸ™‚

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And spent the rest of the day on the beach and exploring…

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Nothing better then sitting on a rock as the sky gently turns from blue to red to darkness, watching and listening to the waves go by

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The next morning, after an eventful storm night, we had breakfast, spent the morning on the beach and then headed to Arrecifes, where we would spend our second night. On the way we found coconuts and tried every possible method of cracking it open (without a machete). Failed.

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We got our tent and pretty much spent the rest our time

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Right over here…

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Real unspoilt beauty.

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Oh Caribbean, we are most definitely falling more and more in love with you!

White sand and fresh fish

I write this post with a heavy heart, as my thoughts and prayers are with the families and community who are living through the nightmare of the tragic events that took place in Connecticut last Friday. So many innocent lives lives lost, and so many people left suffering. On a more personal note, my grandfather is unwell at the moment after suffering from a stroke; so too are my thoughts and deepest love with him as we pray for a speedy and full recovery.

Despite the hardships in life, things must go on. We are continuing our journey through Columbia and are loving the sunshine, beaches, colourful fruits, different culture and fascinatingly beautiful towns. Especially that of Cartagena, a real feast for the senses. Immaculate colonial architecture, brightly coloured walls lined with greenery and flowers

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Fruit carts on every corner

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and old school horse and carriages pass through the narrow steers and plazas.

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Some quality beach time too (a bit more relaxing on day 2 when we were used to the vendors hounding us and we didn’t bring any valuables with us so we spent most our time in the water without a worry)

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And beautiful sunsets!

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Our friends, Jared and Ryan (who were with us in Salento and Medellin) raved about this ice cream on a stick. So guys, this photo is for you! And yes, dulce de Leche ice cream dipped in hot white chocolate sauce was AMAZING! We went back for 4ths πŸ™‚

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Now Josh, the accountant did some quick calculations, and came to the conclusion that our budget needed cutting until we make up for our unexpected flight to Columbia (remember it wasn’t on the agenda). So we resorted to beers on the sidewalk.

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The old tuna sandwich for lunch (and home cooked pasta for dinner)

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We also paid a visit to the Volcan de Lodo El Totumo- the mud volcano! It was a real experience of a lifetime.

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Floating in this thick, dense, slimy mud- you experience the feeling of zero gravity. It was really fun! You stay in the mud for about 45 minutes, while you can pay people to take photos of you, massage you, rub you down etc, and then you head down to the lake and wash off. **budget cuts allowed us to choose one, we chose the services of the photo man.

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We refreshed ourselves with watermelon. Our daily routine here is pretty much x followed by fruit followed by y followed by more fruit followed by z followed by even more fruit… It is just so sweet and plentiful!

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Great day, smiles all round πŸ™‚

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Next day, bright and early we caught an overwhelmingly speedy speed boat to Playa Blanca, the nearby Caribbean beach on Isla de Baru.

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Our 3 blissful days on this small island beach consisted of this. Heaven on earth!

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Life seems pretty simple when you are staying in a small cabana (approx $7 each a night), with only a bed, just a few meters from the waters edge.

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Hop out of bed from (a)

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to (b)

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Before you are spotted, smooth talked and basically forced into having a massage from one of the local ladies

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Only one option for lunch and dinner! Fresh (and confronting) as it gets…

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Devoured and enjoyed every last bite

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Followed by…

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and a piΓ±a colada!

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and as the hours slip away, this

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becomes the backdrop to a magical evening sunset

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From both of us here, cheers, salud, la chaim.. to good health, healing and happiness.

And an extra toast to my amazing dad on his birthday today!

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Happy birthday Dad! I hope your fun-loving spirit stays young forever. Wishing we were home to celebrate with you, but we will have a drink for you tonight. Love you lots!

Check out our Travel Page for more of our adventures!

Volunteering in the Amazon Jungle

Next stop, Taricaya Conservation Lodge in the Amazon jungle! In 2009 I spent a month volunteering here here so I couldn’t wait to return this time with Josh.

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We caught an hour long long-boat to the lodge hidden deep in the jungle along the Rio Madre De Dios

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Arriving at the lodge, it was time to meet and greet the volunteers mosquitos, wasps, ants, bees and all the other lovely creatures. And of course it was time to get working! Our first morning job was feeding the animals.

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Taricaya takes in animals who are in need of care and rehabilitation with the ultimate aim of releasing them back into the wild. But for now, nothing beats a cuddle with these cheeky little things!

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These baby spider monkeys all have their own story of why they are here e.g. Kept as pet and seriously malnourished, lost their mother etc. it was great to see that many of the spider monkeys that were there in 2009 had since been released and are now living free and wild.

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Feel the love?

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Now this little fellow, 1 month old Theo, is the newest member to the Tarikaya Tapir family. He is the cutest, oddest looking creature on earth!

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We had fun cleaning out the tapir poo pool (on Josh’s birthday)

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One of the afternoon jobs at the new farm near the lodge is feeding the turtles which have been bred in protected area at the lodge to prevent hunters poaching the eggs to all in town. This project has been so successful and it was great seeing all the beautiful turtles! Here we are preparing their food which consists of extremely finely cut spinach, cabbage, carrots and chicken liver. We were sweating buckets here!

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But the turtles of all sizes enjoyed their meal

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And in return, we enjoyed playing πŸ™‚

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Another activity was animal enrichment where we made paper mΓ’chΓ© snakes and filled them with meat for the cats to practice their hunting. Loved seeing josh being creative πŸ˜‰

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Now in Tarikaya you feel as though you are taking risks all the time. Climbing the new animal enclosure (no adequate ladder of course) to continue on with the building is just one example. I never quite made it up…

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A few hours of machetting in crazy humidity takes it out of you!

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But other projects like butterfly catching and releasing are a bit more chilled

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As is picking mangoes that have fallen off the trees near the hammocks and devouring them… Knife not even necessary!

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Where ever you go here, there are animals! This man paid us a visit in the dining room.

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And Trumpy enjoys his regular tickle under his chin by the hammocks

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Other birds require binoculars and a 45m rickety canopy platform to be sighted.

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My favourite thing to do in the jungle is just to walk, listen to the sounds of the forest an enjoy the serenity.

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Night time in the jungle involved many games of cards

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And an awesome cayman catching session on the long boat with Stuart. He first gave us a talk about the creatures which are part of the crocodilian family and then we set out in silence and darkness on the long boat where he spotted, pounced and caught a cayman, showed us and released it.

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Finally, Josh got to play his long awaited soccer! Peruvians verse volunteers for a large coke. Peruvians won 10-9.

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And last but not least we celebrated a very special milestone in the jungle, Josh turned 25! Yummy dinner (home cooked food was well received by us)

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And then cake time…

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Followed by machetting the piΓ±ata πŸ™‚

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A birthday spent in the Amazon jungle, not bad ay?

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I just love this boy!

Plane is now taking off to Lima where we are super excited to scrub up, wear clean clothes, no insect repellant, use a dry, fresh towel and enjoy the city for 2 days before heading up to Colombia! Let the adventures continue…

Check out our Travel Page for more of our adventures!

Sacred time, Sacred Valley

Music, colour, history, ruins and the warmth of the wonderful people. Welcome to Cuzco and the Sacred Valley of the Incas! Spending time chatting with Maximus on top of the mountain overlooking Cuzco was a highlight!

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We arrived in Cusco at 4:30am, unable to check into our hostel until 9:30am… What did we do? Walked the streets and awaited sunrise πŸ™‚ Feeling slightly on the lost and hungry side, we stumbled across a Novotel hotel and saw a mammoth buffet breakfast on offer. We decided to treat ourselves and made ourselves comfortable for a good few hours!

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Now Cuzco is the most charming city with cobble stone streets, narrow alley ways, beautiful green plazas and colonial style Cathedrals. We spent plenty of time walking the streets, having tea or a happy hour drink on the balconies of the little restaurants and bars overlooking the plaza

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But what I was most eager to do was head to the small town of Urubumba, where in 2009 I spent a month teaching English and living with a host family. We arrived in Urubumba and walked through the busy market place where they sell everything from live chickens to lambs, 100’s of different types of potatoes and corn, hard wares, clothes and everything else you can imagine.

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We then headed to some other markets, where we stopped for a fresh banana and mango fruit juice.

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Feeling fuelled and a bit anxious to approach the house of my host family, we walked down the street and immediately recognised the house and knocked on the front door.. Only to be greeted by the warmest hug and shrieks of joy of my host mother. It really was a very special moment! We sat down, had a drink and some fruit and chatted away. It was so lovely seeing her and laughing about how she taught me to hand wash my clothes and whip the clothes dry before hanging them on the line! Oh the memories!

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Arriving back in Cuzco we visited what was my favourite cafe, Jacks, and it still delivered the most amazing salad and warm delicious bread. Sarah, I thought of you every bite through πŸ™‚

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Cuzco has some great bars.. And happy hours

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we watched this guy play and he was amazingggg!

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Another special spot in the Sacred Valley is Ollantaytambo. We walked up the ruins here

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And enjoyed the beautiful view of the town.

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Sun got a bit much for this lad πŸ˜‰

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Now the highlight of visiting this region is going to Machu Piccu. I never went with this time as I had been before and it’s a bit of a splurge to do twice… So lucky Josh had a day free to himself πŸ™‚

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Can you spot the face in the mountain below???? Once you see it, you can’t escape it.

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Such a fun stay, but its over now and next stop 1 week volunteering at a conservation lodge in the Amazon JUNGLE! And guess who will be celebrating his 1/4 of century birthday…

Check out our Travel Page for more of our adventures!

Llama foetuses to island hopping

After our amazing few days on the road jeep crossing from Chile to Bolivia, we caught an overnight bus to the bustling city of La Paz. Wow.

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The markets, the lovely people, the vibrancy of the busy streets, the hooting of cars, the street food and finally being able to better speak and understand the Bolivian Spanish brought the city to life and made us truly fall in love with it!

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After a couple of days suffering from the typical South America travelling bug, I recuperated thanks to being in the care of the most caring guy ever.. And soon enough we hit the markets and became regular diners at our Bolivian momma, Elizabeth’s busy market store. Fried trout for me, chicken (complete with all its parts) for Livia and chicken for Josh

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We spent 3 great days walking the streets from the mystical witches markets selling potions for every ailment, spiritual statues, incense and most bizarrely llama foetuses which are supposed to bring good luck.. Business here can keeps the lovely ladies on their toes…

Can you spot the llama foetuses below? (Click to enlarge)

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Another highlight in La Paz was visiting the San Pedro prison… If you haven’t read the book Marching Powder you won’t understand our thrill of seeing the prison (only the outside don’t worry moms). A Brazilian guy tried to lure us in to visit an inmate who he had connections with, but we were hesitant and luckily so, as once we said no thanks he tried begging us for money. Hello what’s with the begging? We thought you claimed to be a tour guide and a security guard.. Needless to say we quickly departed the area

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After a bit too much market shopping this guy was looking for something with a bit more adrenaline.. Hello running down a building in a Spider-Man outfit

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Ahhhh so much worse being the person down the bottom watching my love dangling down a building

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But what can I say? He did great! And all smiles as he reached the bottom πŸ™‚

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After a great stay in La Paz it was time to zip up the back packs and goooo northhhhh. Our next port of call was Isla Del Sol. We caught a bus to Copacabana (northern tip of Bolivia, bordering Peru). Now listen to this! I was sticking my head out the window as I do and I spotted 2 friends from Sydney, Nat and Tash! Was so excited to see them and we managed to spend that night with them (and 9 crazy Argentineans) at the magical Isla El Sol!

After a steep, hard walk we reached our heaven! And only $4 a night!

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We watched sunset with drinks and good company

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After a fun night we woke up bright and early to watch sunrise..

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Josh and I carried on walking and exploring this awesome island and Josh made some friends along the way

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But soon enough it was time to leave 😦 easily could have spent another day enjoying this tiny slice of paradise!

But drum roll… Time for Peru! We walked and bussed over the border and arrived in Puno, on the Peruvian coast of Lake Titicaca. With just a quick stopover here we took a morning trip to islas flotantes de los uros – the floating islands of the Uros people.

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It was so cool to see how the Uros people use the naturally growing totoro reeds to construct everything on their islands- from their houses to their boats, furniture and even food!

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That’s all for now friends. Next up we catch an overnight bus to Cusco

Adios and thanks again for following our journey and keeping us company with your comments!

Check out our Travel Page for more of our adventures!

Enjoying the desert life

We have journeyed from big cities like Buenos Aires and Santiago, hiked up an active volcano covered in snow in Pucon, relished the smells and tastes of Maipu just outside of Mendoza, trekked and camped Torres Del Paine and the list goes on. But now friends it is time to share our latest adventures in the Chilean desert town of San Pedro de Atacama…

Presenting our hostel, our cozy haven which began as a 2 night stop over stay and rapidly transformed into to an awesome 4 night desert experience.

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The town quite simply has a special touch. The streets are sandy and lined with tourist offices, restaurants, mini-markets and huddles of people waiting to board their collectivo and begin one of the many morning/afternoon/evening tours on offer.

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We don’t usually do the group tour type of thing, but in this town it is what you do. The more you book the better deal you get, and it is the easiest way to see the coolest places. Our first tour was visiting the Valle de la Luna. Awesome natural sculptures formed over millions of years..

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We watched the sunsetting over the landscape which was beautiful!

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Next day, 4am wake up “what the hell have we gotten ourselves into?”

This… Sunrise at the mind blowing El Tatio (the geysers) which means ‘old man crying’ in Quechua

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and by the way, temperature update: -11.5 degrees Celsius

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As the sun continued rising, we huddled around the geysers where the hot steam offers welcome warmth

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Our guide began explaining how the steam comes for the pools of water bellow surface, when he stuck his hands into the water and pulled out a bag of magical oval balls… Eggs!

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Also known as hand warmers ( and breakfast!)

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We continued on stopping at these hidden gems for snaps

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And then we took a dip in the natural hot springs.

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Such an awesome tour and well worth the early wake up. We returned to town at midday, grabbed lunch and napped in preparation for an 11pm star gazing tour. No pictures here but we were truly blown away by how crazy our sky is! Being in an unpolluted, undisturbed desert we saw our night sky up close and personal..planets, the Milky Way, moons, shooting stars.. The list goes on.

Next day stove cooked oats for breakfast in preparation for….

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SANDBOARDING

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Similar to snow boarding (not as fast according to Josh) but definitely fast enough for me!

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Was very cool being surrounded by these massive sand dunes, feeling as though we were in the middle of nowhere.
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That afternoon we hit up the Laguna Cejar.
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Crystal waters, sunshine and blue skies!
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and overall a relaxing afternoon of floating in the 25m deep salt lake..
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Complete with watching the sunset and drinking pisco sours πŸ™‚
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What a crazy few days, feeling so blessed and lucky to be sharing it all with Josh.
Next we have a 3 day jeep journey through the salt flats into Bolivia.

Adios amigos!

Check out our Travel Page for more of our adventures!