Volunteering in a community in the Bolivian Amazonian Jungle

My first experience as a volunteer, although it was just to photograph the Real Beni community and just a bit of hands-on help, it was by far the most significant experience in terms of culture contact of my trip in South America. My idea of volunteering was different but as I’m passionate about photography I couldn’t say no to this opportunity.

The first thing we did when we arrived at Real Beni was to meet doña Cupertina, our host, the grandmother of almost all the young people from this small community and the mother of Baldemar, the guy who brought us there. We went to find a place to camp, we cleaned the area of branches and leaves, we set our tent and went up the hill, where she had an improvised place to cook, to eat lunch. We cooked food on the fire, fed corn to the chickens and after lunch Baldemar took the boat and went back to Rurrenabaque, where he is running a travel agency, BOA.

So there we were, me and Katerina, curious and a bit overwhelmed. Katerina found this opportunity for us to volunteer while she was searching for a place to paint. She’s an Argentinian art graduate traveling and painting in exchange for board and food and sometimes money. I met her at the hostel in Rurreanabaque and as I was telling her I want to do some volunteering and to have more authentic experiences, and as she saw I’m passionate about photography she thought this opportunity will suit me just fine. Baldemar had this idea of creating a different tour in the jungle, one in the community where he was born, where tourists would meet the people, with their traditions and beliefs, with their customs, their music and eat their traditional food. As this isn’t an isolated community and people go regularly to Rurrenabaque to sell fruits and vegetables this idea seems helpful for them and could be a good cultural exchange. Our part in this was to spend five days with the kids, speak with them about recycling and good practices, and photograph them so that Baldemar can make a presentation of the community back at his travel agency where he had some other volunteers working on a website for him.

From the beginning, I was amazed how kind and open doña Cupertina was, always smiling and always calm. She brought us cocoa pods and we ate the skin of the beans and put the beans to dry to be made powder for the cocoa drink. It was the first time I saw cocoa in the natural form, not in a box already processed, so I was really excited. Next days I experienced the same excitement with the sugar cane we chewed, the pineapples I saw in every stage of growth, the yucca roots which I learned to peel and clean and I wanted to eat each and every lunch.

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Later that day we met some of the kids from the community, first timidly but after we spoke a bit with each other they became very open. We watched the sunset together and they showed us their dog Colita. Those days in the jungle there were mostly about them, about the kids.

First night in the jungle we went to sleep early, mosquitos already were feasting from our blood so we searched relief in the tent. But we couldn’t sleep right away as we heard music from the other community across the river. Next day doña Cupertina told us there is a three-day celebration of a catholic saint across the river, where people pay respects and offer gifts at the feet of the saint statue and then spend the evening dancing. One of the things that amazed me in Bolivia was the strength of the catholic belief of the people combined with their old belief in Pachamama.

At evening, soaked in mosquito repellent, we went with our host to the river and sat there under the clearest sky, with faint music and jungle noises in the background. Doña Cupertina sang two songs for us while smoking a cigarette and told us she likes to sing and dance. One of the songs was about a girl from the jungle falling in love with a boy her parents disagreed with. She has to make a choice and although she loves and respects very much her parents she decides to go deep in the jungle with her lover. Years are passing by but the girl is always thinking about her parents and yearns to see them again. I recorded her and next day when I met one of her sons I asked him to listen. He was impressed, had tears in his eyes when he listened and he sang the same song using his flute. As doña Cupertina is the oldest person in the community I imagined the song might be about her, although I didn’t dare to ask.

Later that evening one of our host’s nephews came to the river to take a boat to cross it to the other side. All three of us went with him and I got a taste of a dancing evening in the community. Doña Cupertina was shining and everybody wanted to speak and dance with her. It was a very joyous evening.

First thing in the morning we woke up hearing the ducks picking at our tent and making noises. When we were getting out from the tent the kids were already somewhere around. Every morning we were trying to wake up earlier than them but with little success. We were eating breakfast together although for them was already the second one and the rest of the day was spend together, going to swim in the river, fishing with worms, playing football, playing with their monkey pet. A big part of the beach was planted with beanstalks because sand is a good place to plant them and it was always an adventure to make sure the ball won’t hit and break them. They showed us the school and brought a world globe and I pointed to where I’m coming from and where I’ve been before coming to the jungle.

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Because this isn’t an isolated community usually when the kids are of highschool age they are going to one of the cities at school, live with a relative there or at a dorm. Until then they have a teacher coming at the community Mondays and leaving Fridays. The kids are separated in two intervals of age thus forming two classes. I asked them what they want to do when they will become adults, not many saw themselves still in the community, some wanted to be teachers or doctors. These types of communities will start to disappear across the world, and with them also their traditions. It’s hard to find a balance, pursuing a good education, a more safe and comfortable life but going back to your family community where your life experience might not mean that much anymore, developing a community but keeping traditions intact.

Some afternoons, when resting after lunch and staying in the shade to hide from the sun, our host was showing us how to make artisanal fans from palm leaves to use when it’s too hot, the type she used to blow the wind on the fire when she was cooking. Each day there were 2-3 tourists coming to make sugar cane jus using a wooden tool she had there. She was bringing the sugar cane plants, then showing them how to use it and helping them. In exchange, she got a small sum of money. After tourists were leaving the jus left was ours to share with the kids.

Saturday was quiet as all of the kids were helping their family to pick food and prepare to sell it in Rurrenabaque on Sunday: rice, coconuts, bananas, cocoa, sugar canes, beans, yucca were some of the cereals, fruits and vegetables they sold at the Sunday market. Although they were excited to spend time with me and Katerina the kids had also responsibilities and were serious about them. By the time we were waking up Brenda already cooked for her brothers the fish she took from the net she had set the night before and Mireja was taking care of her younger brother. Life in the jungle is hard but nobody was complaining. Sometimes at night they were starting the electricity generator to watch a movie from the DVD player. One night they watched Titanic, for the tenth time, they said, and I could hear laughter and giggles from the room the entire family used as a dormitory. Outside, the adults were playing instruments singing songs they passed from generation to generation orally. We made a payment to Pachamama that night, Baldemar brother dug with a machete a small hole in the ground where we put coca leaves, alcohol, and cigarettes, all the good stuff. Seems like Pachamama likes all the vices.

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Saying goodbye was hard, we really had a great time there, and although mosquitos were cruel we enjoyed every moment of those days.

More photos from the Real Beni community here .

Coming back home

I’m sure you heard this often , the hardest part of traveling is coming back home.

It’s been two months and a half since I arrived back to Romania and not a single day passed without having to deal with the post traveling depression. I’ve been overthinking everything last months, been searching for reasons to feel like I feel, I’ve been blaming bad decisions and bad luck, friends and family, my vulnerability and not having a plan for when I come home. I haven’t been able to focus on anything, I’m unhappy with the way I look and the things I do.

And I just realized tonight. It’s normal. It won’t pass soon. I just have to live with it. And luckily I won’t stay long in one place. Feet are itchy. I’m sure most of the travelers, if not all of them, have to deal with post traveling depression when coming home. It’s only natural to feel lost coming home after experiencing more than a year of different cultures, countries, climates, stories and interactions with people from everywhere.

Life of my friends and family went on , without me. I feel there’s some kind of wall between us, and I don’t know how to break it. There’s not much here I can relate to anymore. I don’t feel like me anymore.

Coming home with all this baggage full of experiences and growth, understanding myself much better and having much wider perspective over the world, I see that here nothing fundamentally changed, most of the things and people are the same.

And besides the feeling of being lost and misunderstood there’s actually no drama, it’s just a fact. I grew. I changed. And I should be actually very happy for it. For the new me. For the experiences I lived. For the people I met. For the perspective I have now.

Life here didn’t changed its rhythm, I just synchronized with another one. With the vibe of other places of our beautiful world.

I’m actually very happy several times a day, between the episodes of sadness. It’s like having double personality. One moment I’m daydreaming of past or future travels, the other  I feel so tired and sad. One moment I feel optimistic and grateful, the other I feel chained and unlucky. When I’m with people I look forward to be alone and when I’m alone I feel lonely.

At the end of the day I go to bed and I feel I haven’t done anything significant. Only very small steps, baby steps in the direction I want.

But luckily I have some things to look forward to: the visit of a wonderful man, setting an online business and flying to Germany (and later to Iceland).

Life is seasonal” he said

And this is my winter” I agreed.

Life it’s about ups and downs, I would get bored if it would be constant.

 

I think that speaking with other travelers who passed through similar experiences would help.

Do you have a similar experience to share?

 

 

 

Highlights of my 2015

I started 2015 with an amazing idea to travel from Antarctica to Alaska visiting most of the countries while zigzaging my way from south to north. It took me most of the year (with some breaks) to get to Bolivia and Brazil and then I decided I want to see something totally different and I flew to South Africa for New Years Eve. It wasn’t a race to get to Alaska, it was a dream, maybe a bit of a challenge, but as money were less and less I abandoned my idea and went to meet other cultures also.

Nonetheless , my 2015 was amazing and here are the highlights of it, in chronological order and described in moments:

1.Antarctica

I woke up one morning with the screeching sound of something touching  Expedition, our ship. It wasn’t morning yet but it wasn’t totally dark either, a new day was coming. I looked on the porthole window both scared and curious and what I saw is one of the most beautiful views I ever laid my eyes on. The icebergs and pieces of icebergs around us, totally different than the day before, the light before sunrise, the shapes and sounds were making everything surreal, and for me that’s how Antarctica is : surreal. He woke up, watched the magic outside, placed a kiss on my forehead and went back to sleep. It felt warm and magic. It felt like being in another world.

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2.Torres del Paine

The third day of the W trekking is mainly uphill at the beginning. And you go up and up and sometimes you look behind and you are amazed. That’s how beautiful it is. And it makes you forget the park it’s like a boulevard with way too many tourists. It was me , and music, and the guys I ignored a bit those days because of the music and the talk I had with myself, completely absorbed by the beautiful nature.

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3.Bahia Inutil

After seeing so many penguins in Antarctica and already passing Punta Arenas I decided to go back and get the chance to see the King penguins. And that day was a bit of an adventure, but a good and memorable one. We crossed the Magellan Strait but one the way back we got a bit stuck, as the waves were too big to cross it back. The view was beautiful, it was so cold and windy, and I was happy I finally saw those penguins and although people were panicking around I felt free and capable of every single thing I decide to do. I was speaking Spanish also, my broken funny Spanish people compliment all the time (except when a linguist told me I speak a medieval Spanish :)) ).

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4.Perito Moreno

Such a famous glacier and such a rainy day. I was in waterproof but 80% wet, that’s how heavy it rained. But if you just stop trying to find the perfect spot, between all the people and all the selfies, just focusing on the immensity of the glacier, on all the sounds of cracking ice and ice falling in the lake, you realize the rain plays also a part in the magic and feeling wet of rain will always remind you of something special. And I smiled . A truly genuine smile. Because the world is amazing.

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5.Fitz Roy

Still my favorite mountain, although later the Amphitheatre in South Africa amazed me a lot. I still have on my retina the image of the mountain, the lake and how we stayed there for two hours and still didn’t want to go back. How we said we will wait just a bit more for the clouds to pass. And they passed few times but it was too beautiful to leave it behind. How cold was the water and how alive I felt.

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6.Candelario Mansilla

This was definitely a challenge and an adventure, 24 km with 24 kg. Took a bus from El Chalten, a boat, got exit visa from Argentina and walked and walked (first 6km painfully uphill), met a guy from USA on the boat, we crossed many little rivers, me full of mud and with wet shoes, he clean like a spring flower because was always behind, all day us and the maps.me app to be sure we are on the track. But when we got closer we felt the trekking and the mud and dust and tiredness are completely worth it because the landscape it’s completely beautiful. Later that evening I ate one of the best dinner ever (as I trekked all day with only 2 boiled eggs and a carrot in my stomach).

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7.Easter Island

Rapa Nui. For me it’s always Rapa Nui and people don’t know what I’m speaking about. Watching sunset during my first day there with beautiful happy people around. On a very tiny beach. Dog trying to eat my camera as I was doing a time lapse. I empathised with those young guys and I felt there are no worries in the world worthy of my attention. Rapa Nui is one of the most magical places I ever saw.

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8. 5592m altitude

I ended up spending almost two weeks in Atacama, each and every day with a beautiful story. But the one I like the most is the one when after struggling to breathe and very slowly climb Lascar Volcano I’m not tired anymore, I’m just happy to be there, the highest I ever got with my own feet,the first active volcano I climb, ignoring the sulphur smell and smiling huge smiles.

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9.Salar de Uyuni

It’s cold, so crazy cold but I want to jump in this immensity of white. So I change my ski trousers and my goose feather jacket with summer colorful clothes and I jump, for this place is surreal too.

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10.Real Beni

Real Beni is the name of a natives community in the amazonian jungle north of Bolivia and although I really love the kids from that community and I fancy the idea of seeing them again, the special moment I have in mind is the one when our host, Cupertina sang to us. She’s the grandmother of all the children I met. At night, near the river, listening the wind and watching the clear skies, with a million mosquito bites, with a million thoughts, I hear she starts to sing and she gets all my attention. She sings a song about love, and choices, about nature and life. I feel nostalgic.

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11. Flying over Rio

More exactly flying over the ocean next to Rio de Janeiro. And turning, and increasing or decreasing speed as my instructor showed me. Freebird. Too short but life it’s made up of moments.

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12.Iguazu Falls

As the legend says:

“Once upon a time, a Guarani warrior named Caroba, who was in love with a pretty Indian maiden named Naipi, took her into his canoe and fled the village, paddling for all he was worth down the Iguazu River.

But Caroba was not the only one who was enamoured of the fair Naipi. She had also attracted the romantic attention of a forest god. When the forest god saw Caroba paddling downriver with Naipi, he was angry.

To try to stop Caroba, the angry forest god made the land under the river disappear. Naipi fell out of the canoe and dropped over the edge. She landed at the bottom, and turned into a rock. Caroba turned into a tree that overlooks this rock. Where the river bottom disappeared or fell away is the site of Iguazu Falls.”

Everybody it’s going back for the train but I linger there hypnotised. It’s not a cliche, it’s one of the most powerful sites I ever saw.

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The brazilian side of Iguazu Falls

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The argentinian side of the falls – Garganta del Diablo

 

 

 

First impressions about Thailand

Only 10 days in Thailand and I already felt all the feelings someone can feel, I felt both loved and not wanted, I felt jaded about love, overwhelmed by thousands of feelings, I fought with the idea that I want to smoke ,I’ve been proud resisting it, thankful when David didn’t let me smoke in my weakest moment, I’ve been curious, I’ve been awed, I’ve been sad and I might have been a bit happy at moments, like always I’ve been grateful to see amazing places and beautiful people, I learned tips from other blogger to help me with my blog space problem and if I started writing again it’s also glad to Luke, I abused Lays, Pepsi and beers but finally adapted a bit more to thai food, I’ve been more patient than I use to be and more meditative than usual (and I’m a meditative person in general), I’ve been bitten by mosquitos on every inch of my body and used at least 4-5 types of creams failing to make it less itchy (including Tiger Balm, they recommend that for everything),  I’ve felt lonely and loneliest, I felt lot of bad feelings and some nice ones, and then I restarted my system.

Probably my first jet lag

I arrived in Bangkok after two long flights, one from Johannesburg to Dubai and one from Dubai to Thailand. In Dubai I changed 5$ in coins for my collection and had a very expensive dinner (I could have bought a nice watch with the money for dinner). Dubai really looks impressive from the sky and now I want to visit it one day and skydive above it. Somehow I see Dubai like a city of the future but it can be also some brainwash from the airport.  The plane to Dubai was almost empty so I had 3 seats for myself but it was too early to sleep. The second one was full so I couldn’t get any rest. In Bangkok first thing to do was to go to get my visa on arrival. Filled papers and realized I need photos (my photos where in the checked baggage) and baht instead of $. After changing money and making photos I queued for maybe more than half hour. Although I stressed a lot about needing dollars to show them I have money for traveling, in the end nobody asked about it, as they didn’t asked about hostels bookings either. I bought a sim card for 15 days with 4Gb data costing 600baht (15euros), withdrew money and took a cab to hostel. Drivers don’t really speak english but my driver told me a lot of things in thai. I’ll never know what was that about. He tried to make a price for me but I showed him the meter and we left. If they use the meter don’t be surprised to pay the road tax at two stops, and 50 baht surcharge for driver. That’s normal, it’s not cheating you.They have Uber too, it’s just a bit more expensive than taxi. There’s also a train but then you have to take a tuk tuk or cab from train station to hostel, depending where the hostel is located it might take longer.

It was still morning by the time I got to hostel and I was so tired. It was too early to check in but I asked them nicely to let me in the room because I can’t keep my eyes open. They let me in and I slept till midnight with maybe one or two short breaks. And then I was awake till morning and then slept till middle of the day and realized something it’s very wrong with my sleep schedule.

Thai food

Traveling you keep hearing these stories about how delicious and cheap is the food in south east Asia. And it’s true, if you are not as picky as I am. First meal was snails from a food stall. That’s how I met parsley or cilantro, a herb I can’t touch or smell. And I might have had a bit of indigestion after, stomach was in pain. I’m not completely adapted to the food yet, I still buy crisps and boiled corn, but day by day I try to eat some real thai food. The salt is very rare because they use soy sauce but I bought salt and I have it always in my bag. I also translated parsley, cilantro and bean sprouts in thai and I show them from my phone when buying food in order to ask not to have those in my food. Everyday I discover something I don’t like but patiently add it to my list and continue trying. As about price, you can pay around 3-5 euro in restaurants and 1-3euro at food stalls for vegetarian or seafood. I also ate 2 crickets, a tiny one and a fat one. Albert and his father, Arnold. Not completely disgusting but still a bit weird. There’s plenty of disgusting things for crazy people to try: scorpions, tarantulas, worms and big bugs. About disgusting, I saw a rat in a restaurant during lunch, it’s so comforting that I don’t eat meat. Beer costs around 1-3 euros, remember that you cannot buy alcohol from shops and some restaurants between 2-5 pm and after midnight.

Most active at night

Because during the day I feel it’s very very hot I prefer to explore at night. There’s plenty of night markets both in Bangkok and Chiang Mai and I really feel safe there. Maybe it’s too early to say how safe is south east Asia, but for the last 10 days I could explore at night, even sometimes alone and with my camera. As walking in the tourist night area of Bangkok, Khaosan street, you can hear tuk tuk drivers asking you if you want to go to ping pong show. I’ll let you search on internet about it, it’s not table tennis. The streets are full at night, both because during the day it’s too hot and also because many people come to Thailand because it’s a cheap place to get wasted. You can have a massage at night outside or inside with 150-200baht (less than 5euro). You can have also cheap manicure, pedicure, haircut and cheap clothes, and cheap souvenirs, and so many cheap things available for you. Which brings me to something that bothered me on few occasions, I can see people bitching about service and quality, and I keep wondering what kind of expectation can you have when paying so little. Just have patience, thai people will smile and say yes even when they don’t understand you. You can easily bargain price for clothes, souvenirs and tuk tuk, but don’t try to get them for free.

To know

I read in Shogun about japanese culture and “save face” – retain respect, avoid humiliation. When I came here I saw it’s applicable to Thailand too. You should keep this in mind: their honor is very important therefore avoid showing displeasure in public, they try to respect you as much as possible, do the same!

You’ll see at airport all sorts of posters telling you to respect Buddha and not to buy Buddha heads. And you’ll see them in different other places and temples. That doesn’t mean nobody is selling Buddha souvenirs at the corner of the temple. As in any other religion you have to show respect, cover your shoulders and knees, respect their rules. In some temples you can use a scarf to cover, in others you have to borrow a shirt from them. The temple of the Emerald Buddha is the most beautiful one I saw by now, and the White Temple in Chiang Rai is the most surreal and interesting one. First one has an entrance fee of 500baht (12euros), seems much but it’s worthy.

The king it’s very important and respected therefore any insult at the king might get you imprisoned. Abstain of stepping on coins or notes also, thai money have the face of the king printed on them.

An idea about costs

I paid for my hostel dorm room in Bangkok 350baht (9euros) and I like it, it’s clean and in a good area, 430baht (11euro) for the taxi from airport , 690 baht (17.5 euro) for the night bus to Chiang Mai ( hostel to hostel), 150 baht for dorm room there, 1400 a day trip to Chiang Rai and 3-4 other places+lunch, 320 return bus ride to Damnoen Saduak floating market, around 40 baht (1 euro) for laundry, you pay separately for drying, detergent, softener, 10baht per page to print, 15baht a soda, 40-50baht a small beer,18 baht a boiled corn, 3000baht trekking to Doi Inthanon, highest peak of Thailand , with a guide, because apparently it’s not safe to do it alone ( haven’t done it although I would have liked it), 10baht to take a photo of the bugs, 50 baht a spoonful of them to eat, 20baht 6-7 quail fried eggs, 290baht a lady boys show ( I almost got to one but decided to stuff myself with food and beers instead).

What I have seen 

I’ve been to The Emerald Buddha Temple and Palace and I loved it. It’s really impressive. I recommend to go there in the morning, and spend as much as you feel to there. There’s also a museum included in the 500baht entrance fee. If you are not properly dressed they can borrow you clothes for free but you have to leave there 200baht which they will return when you bring clothes back. Inside the temple you are not allowed to photograph but I sneaked my gopro there. The Emerald Buddha is very small and positioned very high and you might have trouble seeing it with all the golden stuff around. At the exit of the complex there’s an old man with small cages with birds. You pay and you can release the birds. A mother bought two cages for her daughters. They released the birds and they were happy and the old man was happy too seeing the girls joy. But the joy disappeared when the girls took a look at the birds left in the other cages. There are good people doing not very good things without even knowing it.

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I visited the Damnoen Saduak floating market, really beautiful but one big minus for me. It’s full of snakes. At every corner you can see a guy with a huge snake around his shoulders. You pay and you can take the snake for a photo. You can buy all sort of things from the market, food, fruits, souvenirs, clothes.

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In Chiang Mai I just walked visiting markets, temples, the Lanna museum, the Sunday street market where the streets are closed for cars after 4pm and they get full with street vendors, locals and tourists. I like the bars with live music, they play good covers here in Thailand.

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From Chiang Mai I took a day trip to some thermal springs, to Chiang Rai, to a hill tribe village and the golden triangle where the border with Thailand , Myanmar and Laos meet. The last stop was a temple in a city at the border with Myanmar.

In Chiang Rai there’s a White Temple built by a very wealthy man. He still has plans to build more. The temple is unique in the world, inside has painting about Samsara, the material world, so you can see the two towers, minions, Keanu Reaves in Matrix, and so many other popular figures from this century life. Before entering the temple there’s a bridge and in front of the bridge there are many many hands going up from earth symbolizing desire. You can find there the most expensive “happy room” – a fancy toilet.

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The hill tribe visit was my favorite part of the trip in Thailand by now. They are called Long Neck Karen tribe because they use brass neck coils in order to have longer necks as a beauty standard. They start to wear then at age of 5 and stop adding longer coils around 45. This tribe fled the conflicts in Myanmar and lives 100% sustainable from tourism. They sell scarfs, fridge magnets, and all sorts of souvenirs. There’s also a donation box there. More info here.

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At the Golden Triangle, a small piece of sand island where many years ago Myanmar, Thailand and Laos where dealing in opium, we saw a huge Buddha statue and huge golden gates, we took a boat ride on the Mekong river and stopped a bit in Laos which intrigued me in therms of poverty, as tourists were buying stuff I saw a mother with child in a corner, I saw kids eating under a bridge and washing their mouth with water from river.

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And I know I didn’t had a very busy trip yet but I will come back to Thailand two more times in the next months.

More photos from this trip to Thailand here.

Carretera Austral – the most scenic landscapes in Chile

Chasing sunshine and getting rain

I started this beautiful road from the very beginning (or end) , in the south , after I crossed Lago O’Higgins with a boat from Candelaria Mansilla. After 7 km with a bus I got to Villa O’Higgins, a place I read much about and one of the reasons I trekked 23 km with all my stuff. I knew about many beautiful trekkings in the area and dreamed a lot about this place. I imagined myself taking a nap in the grass with the sun warming my body. But in the 4 – 5 days I spent there it rained almost all the time. Nevertheless the place is really beautiful. And I did a short trekking there because rain is not really melting. There’s no ATMs there but I was lucky and managed to make a deal with the girl from the boat I took from Candelaria Mansilla, she had a POS and took some money from credit card and gave me cash. So I had some money for a while.The hostel I stayed in Villa O’Higgins , El Mosco, is really nice and the people who run it are really helpful and know many trekkings.There’s only 2 buses per week and they go to Cochrane. But before going there I wanted to go to Caleta Tortel.

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Midway to Cochrane is an intersection and from there are 22 km to Caleta Tortel.

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Unesco Patrimonium village and some bad luck

The driver of the bus stopped once and showed us salmons swimming up the river. That was a first for me. After sailing the Pacific the salmons were swimming up the river to get to  a mountain lake where they will lay eggs and die, there, in their birth place.

Going to Caleta Tortel I met a chilean couple, they were going there too. So here we are, all wet, raining heavilly, hitch hiking with all our stuff for 2 hours because there aren’t many cars and the few that were passing were full. We found shelter under a bus stop foyer where one day others in our situation wrote “dedo o baricada” and we laughed thinking we will sit in the middle of the road to make cars stop if needed. When one car stopped and driver said they have only one seat available in the car the couple decided I should better go first. Got quite fast to Caleta Tortel and went to informations to ask about a tour either to glacier or to Isla del Muertos and to ask about a recommendation for hostel. It didn’t went very well. She couldn’t recommend anything but showed me a book with options. And about the tours she said is shoulder season and there aren’t many tourists, so I have  to find a group and then call to the boats, because she has only private phone and cannot call. Alone it would have been too expensive. I went to find a hostel in the rain and stopped to a guesthouse I remembered from the book. It was very basic but I was supposed to stay there only one night so it was fine. Did’t had much money left, only one night of food and accommodation , and no ATM until Cochrane. I went for a walk, the place is very nice, there are no streets, just wooden bridges and wooden ladders. It’s quiet and peaceful, and it’s UNESCO Patrimonium for it’s uniqueness and the foyers made from wood. The experience with the guesthouse was quite weird, I was the only tourist there, it was cold and I had rain in every pore after a week of rainy weather. The woman there was quite weird, but maybe my spanish wasn’t that good. Next day I checked out and read in the sun for 2 hours. It was such a nice, warm and happy sun.

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At the time of going with the bus they said they have to wait for few more people, and that proved to be a bad moment for me, although I found it later. When I arrived in Cochrane I noticed I’ve been robbed. But by the time I noticed and said about it everybody left. The bus was small and didn’t had designated space for luggage, therefore everything was on the backseats and everybody was with the back at their luggage. When we waited for some people I went outside to smoke and some other people joined me. It was only a local woman with her kids there. That’s the only thing that comes to my mind as what had happened. They took the cover from backpack, unzipped the vertical zip, took whatever was closer, zipped and put cover back. I went to the police in Cochrane but they said is useless. So I just had to forget about it.

Trekking 26 km to convince myself to let go

I was so unhappy with myself because of being robbed, and only thought about it. But there’s the beautiful Tamango National Reserve very close to Cochrane. I trekked 26 km all alone and by the end of day I convinced myself to let go. It could have been worse and I will be more careful the next time. And I cannot change anything. I saw there the most clear water ever.

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A chilean guy from the hostel gave me the cable I needed to charge the bateries from my camera. He was my hero. It would have been so difficult to find that cable and for sure not sooner than Santiago.

There’s another nice trekking close to Cochrane but again couldn’t go because you need a car to drive you for 50 km and pick you up after 2 days. Alone was too expensive. And there wasn’t any place to rent camping gear, but someone offered to borrow, so that could have been solved.

Peaceful in Puerto Tranquillo – the best sky of the month

Decided to move north, to Puerto Tranquillo. The drive to there is maybe the best one I had, the landscapes are so beautiful, all mountains, lakes, forests. The Lonely Planet guide says Route 40 is a must in Patagonia, I say Carretera Austral is a must. Route 40 in going through steppe but Carretera Austral is in the most beautiful part of Patagonia.

After quite bad accommodations and many cold showers I went to the nicest hotel in Puerto Tranquillo, not very expensive and anyway only for one night. The trip to the marble caves was so very nice but I think is better to go there with a kayak, you can spend more and better time this way. After the marble caves I wanted to go to a place supposed to be very nice and you can do a nice trekking. I tried to hitchhike for a while but I gave up and went to have lunch. I spend my evening reading near the river. The weather was fantastic.

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At night I saw one of the most beautiful and clear skies and felt a bit sad because I had a tripod with me which I couldn’t use because when they stole from my backpack they took also the mount of the tripod and that’s not a very easy thing to find in Patagonia.

Kind stranger

I waited next day for the bus to go to Cerro Castillo from 11 to 12 and when it got there it was full from Cochrane. So I had to hitchhike for hours, gave up, went to buy something to eat and the lady from the shop called someone and sent me to a hostel where a guest was going with his private car to Coyhaique. Went there and the guy was nice enough to offer me a ride, bit skeptical at the beginning but convinced after he heard I’ve been robbed. Although I wanted to stop in Cerro Castillo for trekking I had to change my plans again and go to Coyhaique because the village seemed deserted, no information office, no place to rent equipment, no tourists. In Coyhaique I went to the national reserve close to town, nice but not impressive. At the bar all the bartenders had t-shirts saying in spanish something like ‘it’s a waste of time to rush in Patagonia’ : “quien se apura en la patagonia pierde el tiempo”. It sounded so true, I had a good laugh and decided to reorganize and take it slow.

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My first kayak experience

My last destination on Carretera Austral was Puyuhuapi. Although is famous for the thermal baths I just let them for the last moment and then found that I don’t have time for it, and also I’m not the biggest fan of thermal baths. You can get there with a bike, I know people who did it and it was nice. Instead, I went to the National Park, trekked a bit and saw a very nice hanging glacier. Another day I rented a kayak and that was an adventure. All started nice, weather was fine, we saw dolphins, but on the way back the weather got bad, sky was grey, wind was fast and lake had big waves. Although I panicked a bit and kept saying “it’s not safe” at one moment started to rain and waves got down and we finally got back to the town and had a good laugh about the adventure during the dinner.

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Dissapointing boat trip

I went back to Coyhaique for 2 or 3 nights because I had reservation on a boat from Puerto Chacabuco to Puerto Montt. The whole time I just relaxed on the hammock and read.

The trip on the boat is better on the other way around, from Puerto Montt to Puerto Chacabuco, there are fiords to be seen but on my trip we passed them during the night. People were very happy with the food but didn’t liked it. Also, I had the cheapest ticket on the boat and my bed was literally on the hall. So I would recommend a better bed/cabin. I heard many good things about this trip but my experience was a bit disappointing. If it wasn’t shoulder season and if it was less rain I would have kept going north on Carretera austral. And that’s the same reason for skipping Chiloe. But one day I’ll go back, in better weather and maybe with a rented car.

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"A journey, after all, neither begins in the instant we set out, nor ends when we have reached our door step once again. It starts much earlier and is really never over, because the film of memory continues running on inside of us long after we have come to a physical standstill. Indeed, there exists something like a contagion of travel, and the disease is essentially incurable.” ― Ryszard Kapuściński, Travels with Herodotus