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Travelling to remote and not so remote places


May 2016

In the jungle, the mighty jungle…

Traveling South America and not going to the Amazonian rainforest felt like a no-go. Being on a budget but still wanting to avoid hoards of tourists, we decided to enter the Amazon basin in Ecuador and not the often preferred route through Brazil. The Napo Wildlife Center in Yasuni National Park offered a perfect family solution: comfortable eco-lodge owned by the Yasuni community, daily trips into the depth of the rainforest to ensure lots of wildlife spotting and respectful and knowledgable guides. Top Choice!

Tree canopy
Eco-tourism is a way to prevent the rainforest from being exploited – and destroyed – by the oil companies

Already on the first day we spotted a scary looking caiman in the lake on which the lodge was situated, as well as Giant River Otters looking for fish. The caimans looked peaceful enough but four years ago, when swimming in the lake was still allowed, a caiman attacked two guests. Although they both (miraculously) survived, the poor woman’s head had been stuck in the caiman’s jaws and she needed extensive surgery. Ouch!

The lake around the lodge has plenty of caimans, hence swimming is (now) forbidden.
Giant river otter
Giant River Otters are dangerous predators although feeding mostly on fish (and not little blond girls)

Early morning every day, we were taken by paddle boat along the black water creeks surrounding the lake. It was wonderfully calm and peaceful to float along slowly in the early morning light. Even the kids kept quiet to listen to the sounds of the rainforest!

Continue reading “In the jungle, the mighty jungle…”

Marlboro woman

After the hot and busy Havanna it was nice to breath in the fresh air of Vinales, a town in the eastern part of Cuba. Vinales is a really cute little town where everyone seems to have caught on to the (only?) way for ordinary Cubans to make an extra dollar – renting out a room in your house. You are allowed to rent out a maximum of two rooms to a seemingly fixed rate, and many people make the most of the opportunity. At least Castro has not managed to kill the entrepreneurial spirit of his people!

Vinales street view
For app. 30 CUC (Cuba Convertible Peso aka foreign money), the equivalent of $30, you can rent a room at somebody’s house and live together with the family. Nicer way to experience Cuba than staying at a hotel.

Vinales is surrounded by breathtaking mogotes, residual limestone formations, and endless tobacco plantations. How best to experience this wonderful landscape? By horseback of course! Yes – my dear cousin Eva – I mounted a horse and headed off into the sunrise! Who would ever have believed THAT?!

Marlborough woman
“I’m a poor lonesome cowgirl…”

Continue reading “Marlboro woman”

The Classic Cars of Cuba

Ooph – over two weeks in Cuba generated quite a backlog of experiences to report on! That meant that we were over two weeks offline, since getting an internet connection in Cuba is not exactly straight forward. And getting a working internet connection is pretty much a lottery – when I eventually was sitting on a workstation in an internet cafe it took me forty (40) minutes to complete our online check-in for the flight back to Panama City.

In the meantime we have arrived in Quito, where internet connections exit, but the quality of the connection is somewhat late 90’s. Enough rambling, backlog #1:

I’ve heard a lot about classic American cars in Cuba and expected to see the occasional vehicle. I was not prepared for the fact that virtually every car that was on the road in 1959 when Castro took over is still in use! At times it felt as if more than half of the cars on Cuba’s streets where classics. Interspersed with the occasional Lada, probably a subsidy from the happy times when the Soviet Union was Cuba’s main supporter, and a few Japanese and Korean automobiles. We’ve seen hardly any luxury cars – I recall a newish Mercedes E Class and an Audi A4.

Classic Car XIII
Our trusted Ford, which brought us from the Bay of Pigs to Trinidad and from there to Varadero. Ford chassis, Fiat engine, Mercedes gear box, Hyundai transmission – Cuban mechanics are creative in working with what they’ve got.

All the cars are in full use. Most cars date from 1952-1959, Continue reading “The Classic Cars of Cuba”

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