I am a horrible backpacker…

So, I have decided I dislike backpacking.  It is fun for about a week at a time and then moving around and different people get tiring.  You miss the really cool person you met in the other town but who was flying back to Australia or flying to the US for another leg of their trip.  I hate riding on buses especially with almost everything I own in areas where robberies are not uncommon.  I prefer to fly or take a tourist bus.  I also prefer to stay in one place for a longer time.  Get to know the baker and grocery store owner and the guy that sells papayas and mangos.

So I am staying in Gautape on a work exchange at a hostel for a couple of weeks.  Guatape is a gorgeous little town nestled into mountains on a huge reservoir that was created in the 1960s for power generation.  It buried a town called I think El Penol under water.  There is still a steeple under water that people apparently gather around in boats for an Easter service.  There is a big rock with 740 steps to the top of the little tower on top with tourist shops on the top and bottom.  There are wonderful views of the reservoir and surrounding villages and gorgeous houses.

There are waterfalls, hiking paths, great vistas, a monastery, lots of boating and kayaking, and a lot of tourist things to do on the weekends, such as party boats, little paddle boats shaped lie tractors with large plastic wheels, jet skis, private boat tours, touristy shops, and games, etc.  During the week, however, there is a whole lot of nothing going on except backpackers going on treks and school kids running around at lunch and after school.  I have been able to see a marching band and color gaurde practicing, a small wedding, people watching the same futball game at every tienda or restaurant, and since I am getting a bit of a rapport with a few locals I am practicing my Spanish more and I am taking Spanish lessons.

I even got asked for directions today.  Though, when I asked for her to repeat where she wanted to go because I was somewhat dumfounded someone thought I would be able to provide directions and speak Spanish, she stopped.  The sad part is I just was studying directions and might have been able to answer properly in Spanish but the man she was with was English speaking and she just deferred me to him sort of hiding behind him.  Most people here just smile or if they know any English want to say hi to me in English.  Occasionally I try to strike up a conversation with old ladies who are incredibly amused at my attempts and usually end up laughing in fits at me.  It is kind of funny.

In other news I found out how to use a vpn to watch hulu.  It feels much more normal sticking it out in one place, cooking dinner, going on hikes everyday, seeing familiar faces, and watching the sunset with a Colombian cerveza (beer).

Well here are the pictures!

Medellin

Guatape

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Hello from Cartagena, Bolivar, Colombia

Hello!

I have arrived!  It feels incredibly hot here, even though it was only in the 80s I think.  It SEEMS hot though.  Maybe it is because I skipped a Florida summer for the first time in five years?  It is incredibly humid here though, and there is no AC in a lot of places (or at least in places I can afford to go).  Oh and it does rain here regularly at around 2 PM during this season, not too unlike Florida.

Here are some pictures!

The AC is turned on in the hostel dorm I am in at night to freezing conditions yet is not on during the day.  Which is okay as it is dark with fans and actually plenty cool.  I am staying at Casa Viena on Calle San Andres (Carrero 10) in the downtown area called Getsemani.  The place is clean and not too crowded or loud but has enough people to talk to and see what people are up to.  I am thinking of joining a girl here to Medellin next week.  I am hoping to head up to Santa Marta and Parque Tayrona in between so that means I need to head out soon.

So far I am amazed by the colors and the people.  There are people walking around everywhere all day and half through the night.  People are up early, I went to get my yellow fever shot today at 7 AM and there was a huge line already and the vaccinations did not even start until 8 AM.  There are people playing music everywhere and the walled city is beautiful. In Orlando its almost empty at 7 AM.  It is easy to navigate once you figure out the street names change a lot and have a number (that does not change) and name and sometimes I can find the number but mostly not.  Getsemani and the historical waled city center are both nice places to walk around.  Getsemani has more local restaurants and shops and pharmacies that are very affordable.  The historic center is more upscale and very upscale touristy.

I am a lot less nervous about just walking around and hostel except I am getting a little paranoid about the bugs now.  A group of people here from Australia had bed bugs all over their bodies.  Another group had i have no idea what type of bites from Playa Blanca.  The Australian girl I talked to also got salmonella three times in Peru and her friend got it even more times and she has also had a problem with fleas here.  One of the girls who was in the room for a few days had dengue fever.
I have not taken many photos since it rained when I got here and the second day I only took pictures in the afternoon as I explored the city without camera, probably a mistake, but I just  wanted to get a lay of the land so I would not get lost.   Today I have not done much since I had to do a lot of things online, book travel arrangements, and job searches online.  I had a really great lunch and a great mango iced smoothie later.  I used an ATM (it all had English options) at the supermarket.  It was a good day either way, and its not over yet.

Update! 8-18-2012

There was a power outage the other day when I was writing this post.  It at least kicked me out of the hostel and got me going.  It was an amazing rest of the day.  I went out to lunch with a new friend from Switzerland, which was amazing, went to the grocery store to get sunscreen since mine didn’t make my pack for some reason, walked around the City again, took a video, had another juice ice smoothie at my favorite juice bar .  The juice bar is also on Carrero 10 down the road from Casa Viena.  If you are walking towards the ocean and not towards Media Luna it is on the right side and there is a hostel before it with a street light pole or something in front of it.  I cannot remember for the life of me but the drinks are either fresh or frozen fruit with water, ice, and sugar (if you choose that).  They also have coffee/espresso an serve a restaurant I think.  It costs between 3000 and 4000 COP but always made me feel better from the heat from the sugar, vitamins and cold!

Later that night an Aussie and I went out to find her a pina colada.  She wanted a fruity cocktail very bad.  We had to search around.  None in the area where we were had any such thing.  We knew we could find something in central historic area and ended up on the wall looking over the ocean at Cafe del a Mar or something along those lines.  It had some jazz fusion like music playing and it was nice to just sit in the rain and talk with someone like minded.  To just relax.  We then ran all around the City trying to find some dancing but it was only 1030 and the only dancing we found was like real dancing.  like with partners.  I cant dance let alone lantin dance.

So we went back and chatted with some people for a while and I went to bed I think my friend went and looked for something stronger than the cocktail.  It is very easy to get here, for sure.  You just walk down the street and and hear “buena coca” coming from some interesting looking ladies all over the place.  The prostitutes are numerous also.  But, none of it feels unsafe so much.  Maybe since I am not partaking :).

In the biggest news, I am in Santa Marta!  Since I am going with a new friend to Medellin next week I wanted to go to Tayrona before I head south/inland.  Honestly though, it is nice here, but I want to move to the cooler climate sooner than later.  I am over traveling in the heat.  I was enjoying the last few days in Michigan where it was COLD.  It was so hot (in the hundreds in MICHIGAN) until the last week I was there.  Maybe I will regret that later.  Also I am trying to find one place to just stay for a while.  Maybe volunteer at a hostel get to know some Colombians that could help me with my Spanish.  At least I am trying more.  Has anyone been to Guatape?

Anyway.  I have to go repack my back for Tayrona!  I will be trying my first local bus so here it goes.  I think I am just going to Taganga and catching the boat.  Hiking that long with my full pack in this heat does NOT sound like fun.  Maybe boat in and hike out?

Hopefully I will not keep forgetting things.  I left my camera charging at Casa Viena, though they have it and I am going to get it before I leave to the airport.  So I might not have a lot of pictures.

Buenes Noches.

Quick Update!

Finally, after several attempts (I will try to clear up the duplicates!) have all pictures up from 4 days at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lake Shore in northern lower peninsula Michigan.  Beautiful dune buffs!

Also, I am about to be on my first leg of flights to Cartagena Colombia!  Yay!

Here we go!

 

Drought

Drought of Posts

I know it is has been a while since I posted anything! I even have drafts written I never submitted. I have no excuse, I have simply not felt like posting things. This happens to me a lot when I am at my parents. Keeping up any kind of schedule is almost impossible, mom works on spur of the moment and she smokes so much I immediately am assaulted with respiratory problems and sore throats. I need to get over it, so here I am in town spending some time smoke free, dog free, dog poop free, and mostly going places to use the free, unlimited and fast internet. Such an easy solution.

Drought of Photos

This drought is over. I had a hard time misplacing things when I got to Michigan because you have to get everything away from the dogs who will chew everything and anything. I lost my phone and batter charger for my camera. I am happy to announce though I have been taking pictures for the last couple weeks and the drought is over!

Nashville Nights ( I was just passing through one night, it’s even crazier than New Orleans)

Mammoth Cave (Really not good photos – I am not good at that lighting, the tour was rushed, and honestly it was boring, more to come about that.  Oh and I forgot to reorient pictures into portrait.  I am sorry.)

Michigan Summer

Drought of Cash

I have been hesitant to spend much since I know I will have to have enough money in savings to go to pay my loans for 2 years while in the Peace Corps. So I have been a very boring person.  I have been reading a lot of 99 cent and free Kindle books.  Going for walks. Spending time with family and my dog.  Also trying to keep up with the unemployment thing. I actually had to fly down to Florida for a meeting to learn how to apply for jobs on the internet.  The Florida unemployment system seems ridiculous, they have all my information and yet someone hacked their account and changed the settings so that everyone spoke Polish, was Hispanic and a migrant worker. And the letter they sent me used text type (pls).  Hopefully I can get into the Peace Corps and get a part-time job for in between once I get back.  There are no jobs in my field available at the moment for my level.  Seem to be above or below me.  I have to search for five jobs per week for unemployment. So far no hits. Lots of spam and scams.

But, I am thinking of going up to Sleeping Bear Dunes north of here if I can let my mom borrow one of her cars or get my car to act normal.  Oh, did I mention in Asheville I found out my car has seven, yes SEVEN, oil leaks. My dad just put two quarts of oil in for me.  Such a nice guy.   Either way, Sleeping Bear Dunes is a national park voted Good Morning America’s “Most Beautiful Place in America” contest in 2011.  It is on the coast of Lake Michigan and has dunes, bluffs, forest and apparently a lot of ticks this year because of the mild winter.  I have never been.

Real Drought

While driving through Tennessee, Kentucky and Indiana is was very apparent that there was a horrible drought occurring.  It honestly was as brown as fall.  Where I am at now it is not too bad, but south of here in Michigan it is pretty bad. Thoughts and hopes of rain for all the farmers and those who depend on the agriculture market for survival.  Everything here is so green and luscious looking.  I can pick fruit and vegetables out of the garden and wild blackberries on my hikes through the woods.  It is sad to see so many places so brown.

Detours and Road Blocks

Detour Before it Begins

Things will always go wrong if they can go wrong.  Isn’t that Murphy’s Law or something?  Every time things go wrong I have to believe it is to put me on an even better path or else I might go crazy.  First my oil sending unit (?) burst in Winter Haven, thankfully in front of a shop.  I got the car fixed for only $20 if I got an oil change at the same time, an oil change I had been putting off.  Only I missed yoga and did not get to the restaurant on time for a seat and got to bed so late I did not get to do the trail the next day and yoga got rained out Sunday also.  I however rested, spent time with S, and caught up.  It was not what I planned but it was a good time.  I would not have traded the extra time with S for everything going right, we had our famous deep philosophical talks.  I miss them.

Tropical Storm Debbie

Then there was Tropical Storm Debbie.  I was going to Savannah to walk around and take pictures and stopping in Jacksonville, FL first to see the massage therapist that changed my life by turning me onto yoga for healing my body.  So instead of just moving on from Jacksonville, I looked up some couch surfing (as I have yet to actually couch surf) and who should be on there but the same massage therapist.  So I asked if he knew anyone able to take a couch surfer and surf his spare bed I did.  I got to know him and his family more, including his completely adorable 8 month old son.

Keith also suggested a place I could see in Georgia would be the Hostel in the Forest.  I thought I would not be able to go because I needed to take pictures in Savannah, right?  Well Debbie decided to slow down and not go anywhere.  Stay one more night with my new friends or continue on?  I felt I really needed to cross the Florida border, as if the storm was testing me and my resolve to really start this trip I had been putting off for so long in my life.  So what is one tiny tropical storm to get in my way?  Right?

A mess, that is what it is.  A giant mess.  If there is one thing you are always able to use for an excuse is a tropical storm.  Honestly, it is okay to not drive through torrential rain storm with gusts of wind blowing people into your lane.

Hostel in the Forest

After an incredibly crazy drive through the storm and almost getting stuck in the driveway, as soon as I set foot into the actual hostel area, I realized I needed to stay another day.  My entire body seemed to let go of all the stress from the last few days.  It was amazing how liberating the place was.  I really needed to let go of the expectations from my trip and the expectations I place on myself.  In a yoga class at Asheville Yoga Center, the teacher said to let go of all the definitions of who you are and who you are supposed to be.  In that class you are supposed to be who ever you are in that moment.  That is what I am working on for this trip.  At the forest that was the closest I had been to that person yet.  It was just what I needed to start my trip.

While at the hostel I was going to do yoga when some people asked me if I could lead a class.  I said no, I am not a teacher.  Later more people asked so I did lead a small class.  I am not good enough or not a teacher or do not have something to offer are all things I have used in the past when people have asked me if I would like to teach or lead a class or just do yoga together.  But while I was there I was able to do it and it was amazing.  The second night I was there I also taught a class but this one was a candle light class in the glass room which is an isolated, octagonal glass room overlooking a pond.

St. Simons

The next day I spent part of the day at the Hostel and the massage therapist and Reiki master Donna was from St. Simons and wanted to show me around town so it was another detour.  We had the most amazing sea food lunch at Gnats Landing (I think that was the name) and spent the day touring the island and hitting the beach.

Savannah

That night I left to Savannah and stayed at a cheap motel, Inn at Mulberry Grove, close to I-95.  It was very nice and clean compared to many hotels I have stayed at and the furnishings were upscale and it included free breakfast.  I got it for 40 dollars bid on Priceline, while in their parking lot, with Name Your Own Price.  Only I could not sleep, so I did not get to Savannah until almost noon.  And it was hot, HOT, HOT!

So hot that I only stayed for four or five hours before I could not handle it any more. I started from there towards Black Mountain a day early and skipped a second night in Savannah or Charleston.

Black Mountain

Somehow my GPS took me to the scenic route through Route 9.  In the dark up and down a windy mountain road.  Another detour.  It was however gorgeous. I arrived later than I thought I would and ended up chilling out with my friends I had not seen for a while and my car STILL smelled like burning oil.  Turns out I have leaks.  Like four or five oil leaks.  Yes that many.  So now what?  Another detour.  I have been in the Asheville area for a week now.  But in that time I have played play-dough with an adorable three-year old, saw gorgeous waterfalls, did yoga, went to a dance collective dance wave, and in general had a great time.

What is Next?

I am going to have to take a much more direct route home and I need to figure that out.  But I have had a great time and saw some great things.  I am heading to a drum circle tonight.  Everything is just a reminder to let go.  Let go of where I am supposed to go when I am supposed to get there and who I am while traveling.  If I can let go, I can let so much more into my life.

Pictures are Up!

I am currently in Black Mountain, North Carolina!  And I did not even get a speeding ticket from a trooper in Georgia.  There are first times for everything.  I did get asked if I was a “working woman” in Savannah and had several offers to join me by creepy old men with no teeth in South Carolina.

For a teaser, the uploaded pictures from my Michigan Road Trip thus far.  I will be updating my map soon!

Jacksonville, Florida

The Hostel in the Forest in Georgia  (I seem to have messed these photos up when I re-sized them.  I forgot to set the it to keep the aspect ratio.  Oops.  I will re-upload them soon.)

St. Simons, Georgia

Savannah, Georgia

Updated! 

Here are the correct sized pictures for the Forest Hostel!

Seminole Wekiva Trail – SR 434 to Lake Mary Blvd

After being on the computer for days for the same amount of time I was when I was working, I realized that I was wasting my time off.  I know I need to blog and social network and apply for unemployment, but I need to take the time off to accomplish the goals I want to accomplish and use the time to just explore the world.  So after sitting on a couch for almost two days, I got off my lazy butt and did something I have meant to do for a while.  I did not feel too bad, as it had been raining every day I had been back for a large portion of the days. I walked the Seminole Wekiva Trail to Lake Mary Blvd. from SR 434 or Starbucks to Panera as most people will recognize it. And in my true fashion I took photos along the path.

The Trail

The Seminole Wekiva Trail in in Seminole County, Florida and starts at the San Sebastian Trail head near SR 436 and ends at Markham Woods Road Trail head on Markham Woods Road.  Total distance is about 14 miles.  The portion I walked was almost 6 miles (or 12 there and back).  Along the trail there is the Seminole County Softball Complex, Sanlando Park, an Altamonte Springs Leisure Center, and several restaurants.

Trail heads include:

  • San Sebastian Trailhead
  • Seminole County Softball Complex
  • Jones Trailhead
  • Markham Trailhead

Goals

My goal was to walk there and back, carry a pack (just my computer, wallet, Kindle and camera), survive, and take pictures.  I was successful! I did not think the pack would affect me as much as it did, but it did.  I felt so sore the next day.  I decided in the future to carry my laptop but no cords for anything and carrying the laptop and Kindle is a bit redundant.  The light was so bright that day the pictures were not so good, but helpful.

This is where I get a bit upset the Eye-Fi card did not work better.  I could have just uploaded my pictures to a map using the GPS location of the pictures.  Too bad it crashes my camera all the time.

Off to a Late Start

The day started later than I had wished, I could not sleep the night before so went to bed very late and woke up very late.  I did not get to the trail until almost 11:00 a.m. And it was hot.  God was it hot.  I started off in the parking lot behind the Starbucks on 434 in Longwood.  There is plenty of shade there and its seems like most of the businesses are vacant.  It was Sunday anyway.  I see people park there a lot.

And I headed north towards Lake Mary Blvd.  There is a nice underpass under 434 so you do not even have to cross the street.

I was awfully upbeat and chipper at being out of the house.

The trail was bright and sunny.

There were pretty flowers out.

The light was sparkling as it filter through the lush green leaves.

Miles are marked for you every half mile (this one is just after the SR 434 underpass).

I am always amazed to see what is at the houses once you get going.  I did not take pictures of other people’s houses and property, but there are people with goats, chickens, huge houses, giant pools, people with huge self-made solar systems, etc. I did get a picture of a some art someone put on their fence.

I thought it was awesome.

Chasing Shade

Then, around noon, I realized it was really hot and I had not put sunscreen on.  My neck was kind of burning.  Around this time my tactics changed.  I walked fast through the sun and strolled through the shade. Luckily there are a lot of shaded areas with benches.

Then as you keep going the path get hilly.  Everyone I know from Michigan will laugh at this, since its not like most of the area gets to more than 25 feet above sea level so hills are not really hills. But, when its 90 something degrees they seem like mountains.

Right when I ran out of water and thought I was going to burn to a crisp, I reached Jones Trail Head.  There were two nice bikers talking and the lady gave me sunscreen, a water bottle, and a frozen water bottle.  It was so nice.  I keep hoping I see her again so I can repay her.  There is a working water fountain at Jones Trail Head also.

The clouds were still gorgeous but the shady areas were becoming far and few between.

Then suddenly the trail got much more Urban.  There were really nice looking condo and apartment complexes…right across from a ranch with cows and horses.

You Have Arrived

And then you are there.  You can tell you are at the right place because of people waiting in line for a spot on the bike rack.

There is a shopping center where there is a Panera, another cafe which had a line out the door when I was there, and a bunch of other shops.

View from Panera’s patio.

Long Way Home

So I stopped and ate and cooled down and drank tons of water.  And then I was off.

As I said, the clouds were gorgeous.  However, they were moving quickly and a nice cool breeze blew up.  Since it was much later in the afternoon, and this was the first day since I had been back it had not rained, I was worried.  So I started moving quickly and did not take many pictures on the way back.  It was fairly quiet since it was the hottest part of the day.

The last part seemed to take forever.  Finally I could see 434 ahead.

I was so happy to get to my car, though it was hot as a sauna inside.  It was also still sunny and clear.  It did not start raining until around 8 p.m. that night and it had some pretty impressive lightning, thunder, and a nice 30 minute downpour that is typical for Florida and floods everything low-lying within minutes.

Google Maps

My Google Map with helpful locations, trail heads, water fountain and bathroom locations, and pictures.  Updated as I get the time and walk the rest of the trail. The map can also be found on my “Maps” page under “Seminole Wekiva Trail.” If you click on the camera icon you can see pictures. I plan on doing the northern portion of the trail this Saturday from Panera to the Markham Trail Head. Ignore the parts in the directions which make you take a road. For some reason Google will not let me keep the path on the trail but it always runs next to a road in those instances. For instance, you do not need to cross Lake Mary Blvd. because there is another underpass.