Archive for May, 2009

Published by Linda on 27 May 2009

Over and Out

Here’s the deal, this is a long blog, even by my standards, so if you prefer pictures telling the story then feel free to skip past the text…….

I’ve never kept a diary but huge thanks to Donal from work, lindybear.com was born for that function. I am surprised and delighted that I kept it up because I’ll have it forever. I also want to say thanks to everyone who read and even complimented my ramblings throughout the year, you’re very patient and kind. God I talk waaaaaaaaaay too much :-) To those who said I should write a book and/or change to a career in journalism, I think that might be just a little over generous and I’ll probably be sticking to the day job!!

I think I’ve been pretty open and honest in my blog and, this being a round up of the whole experience, is set to be probably the biggest insight into my head so far. Good luck :-) Here goes……

This is it. Back at home, one year over. In some ways it flew by and in some ways it seemed like I never lived any other life. The most incredible, amazing, awesome, whirlwind adventure I could have wished for. So did I find myself? Or what I was looking for? They are the questions most people ask, don’t they? Well to be honest, I didn’t go looking for myself, myself or anything else. I just went to have a time out and to see a bit of the world.

I like that song by Johnny Cash – I’ve Been Everywhere Man. It’s not a particularly good song or anything, but it makes me smile and gives me that wanderlust feeling. I haven’t been anywhere near as many places as Mr. Cash but this past year I’ve seen a lot. I’ve travelled about 50,000 kilometres by air, sea and road, slept in strange beds mainly (weirdly now that I’m back in my own bed, I keep waking up wondering where I am!!) Also spent nights on trains, buses, boats, hammocks, hostel couches and tent floors, in bus stations and airports. I’ve slept and sometimes laid awake in hostels, hotels and kind strangers’ houses.

All throughout the trip people asked if I’d changed or learned something about myself and my answer was always pretty much the same. I know me pretty well, warts and all :-) I’m still the same person, with the same qualities and the same flaws. I’d also add to this and say that travelling has really just confirmed what I knew about myself, a person who’s mainly good and if I’m not so good, I’ve pretty much been pushed to my limit :-)

 

As I say these were my thoughts……….. until about a month or more ago and then things or me started to change a little. I initially put it down to tiredness from such a haul – particularly through south America. But now I face the reality that yes I have changed, in the weirdest possible way. I look at myself now and see a shyer, quieter and more introverted, even serious version of me. I seem have less to say, at least out loud, hence my conclusion of shyness. Maybe I’ve just relaxed, maybe I’ve calmed down, maybe it’s a good change, maybe it’s temporary, I’m not too sure yet. It’s just a strange change in personality considering all the travels, or taking on the world, if you will, which in my head just doesn’t seem to go hand in hand. Hmmmmmm….

Patriotism is something that has come up in different shapes and forms throughout the year. People reckon when you’re travelling it brings out pride in your country. Physically, it is certainly the case considering my hair turned red and latest freckle count is up around the 7 billion mark :-) In my head though, I’ve always been proud to be Irish, I’m not sure whether travelling accentuates that in me or not. A lot of travellers are quite negative about their home country, which, in some cases, is why they left. You still meet or see Irish who do things you’re not proud of but in general most are friendly and just up for fun. It’s interesting to watch some of your own out of their environment :-)

 

I’ve learned a lot this year too, other cultures, other people and it’s been eye opening, frustrating, fantastic, hilarious and at times sad. Travelling wrecks you physically too, I’ve been my lightest and my heaviest in a very short period of time. I’ve been through every possible emotion, level of energy and level of fatigue. And yes, honestly, towards the end, I was getting a bit tired and needed that stop in Taganga. It was really the only place I allowed myself to stop. After that couple of weeks recharging, I definitely could have kept going for another 6 months or more, but hey I ran out of time and money and all good things come to an end, right? And I can honestly say I relished every second, good and bad.

God I love travelling though, I liken it to relationships, in ways it’s similar. It gives you the same highs and lows, the same excitement, the same frustration, the same fear, the same pay-off, the same craving for more and for me, the same loss when it’s gone. A sort of emptiness. It’s an addiction you see, the more you see, the more you want to see and I’ve never been too good at kicking habits. My list of places to see is longer now that when I first left home. Human greed I guess.

My dad told me if I went that I’d never settle and it would eat away at me forever, and I’ve a feeling he might be right. That’s not to say I’m not thankful for what I got, my god I am sooooo soooo lucky to see all that I have seen. And I think I squeezed in as much as I possibly could in the the time that I had and it must be said I’m so lucky to have so much to come home to.

I have some great memories too, I’ll focus mostly on the happy ones/places/events for the sake of (relative) brevity! So here goes……. 

………the sad but nicest goodbye at home. Sprinting through heathrow airport – jumping over suitcases style! Trying to let go. Buddhas everywhere. That hole in the boat in Indonesia. Flores road trip. A big, big goodbye in Asia. :-( Meeting Kate in Singapore. Australia. Drunken phone calls from home. Missing some great weddings and the birth of Maeve’s daughter, Cara. Hilarious emails from one particular work colleague – you know who you are!! Awesome landscape in the Northern territory. The day I turned thirty.

The laughs we had in Darwin. Cooking with Janz in the morning and all of us laughing at the “savages” we had to feed. Cracking up with Frankie in the Italian restaurant. Sitting on the bed at 4.30am almost crying from tiredness and wondering how we would get through another day of work. Planning our departure. Counting down the days. Deserted coastline in Cape Tribulation. Whitehaven beach. Sunshine coast. Driving down the east coast of Australia with sun blazing in the windows, listening to Christmas songs. Christmas in Sydney. The awesome great ocean road. Climbing glaciers, that big bungee jump and sky diving with a hangover from hell. Goodbye in New Zealand. Just me again.

Mesmerised by the sky all over south America. Spanglish. Beautiful Bariloche. Long, long bus journeys. Swollen ankles. Blown away (metaphorically and physically) in Patagonia. Trekking alone at what felt like the edge of the world. Freezing in Ushuaia (end of the world) waiting for my disgusting (but only warm) clothes to be laundered. Great bunch of folks in Buenos Aires. Rio Carnival. Eaten alive by mosquitoes. Lying on the salt flats in Bolivia. Death Road. The giggles. Trekking to Macchu Pichu. Holding my breath on a beach in Tayrona National Park, Columbia. Writing. Late nights in Taganga. Feeling not quite myself.

Meeting some great people and sometimes being lucky enough to meet them again. Also meeting some very, very strange people :-) And on that note, being more patient and tolerant beyond what I ever thought I had the capacity for :-) Phazed by nothing. Getting on with it. Surprised at my lack of laziness. Days where it all went wrong. Days where it all went right. Making plans. Going with the flow. Chilling out properly. Just loving it! Immensely energetic. Aging incredibly. Sweating profusely. Shivering uncontrollably. Disgustingly dirty. Muddy clothes. Blistered toes. Flip flops. Sandy feet. Constantly meeting, smiling, laughing, talking, singing(!) packing, moving on, leaving and saying goodbye. Wishing for one more hour, day, week or month. Feeling nervous meeting my family. Chilling out southern style with the folks in Kentucky. Walking into arrivals in Dublin airport. Cork. Home.

This has been my adventure, my journey and these are my memories, and of course so many more. Now I have to let go and like leaving so many amazing places and great people from this past while, this is a tough goodbye. For the best ones, I’ve tried to burn them into my memory. I’ll miss you, you consumed me, filled me up, entertained me, made me laugh and cry (sometimes all at once!!) Great things always seem to have to be fleeting, don’t they? But now it’s back to real life and all that brings. Good things I hope. Great things would be even better :-)  (told ya I’m greedy) Yes Lindy officially needs a new project, anyone got any ideas??  :-)

I want to thank everyone at home for being so good to me all year. And to the those who kept in contact, you were great :-) As for lindybear, well I’m not sure, it may be nice to keep it going, it’s been really interesting to read back over it, just in terms of how I felt at that time more so than where I was and what I did. I’m not sure there’s enough going on with me to write a regular blog though. Play that one by ear I think. So for now I’ll leave you with some of my favourite (million) photographs………

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published by Linda on 21 May 2009

Chicago Town & Back in the ‘Ville

My flight to the US took me through Panama and a horribly cold overnighter at Miami airport – shiver!! It’s a funny thing to say but I think arriving into the states was the biggest culture shock this whole year. It’s so uptight and security conscious, I constantly felt guilty or as if I was doing something wrong even in total innocence!! It was very strange to have access to anything you needed, sooooo much choice, god I even struggled with flushing the toilet paper – well it’s been a while!!

So I finally arrived in Chicago, checked into the hotel and finally got an hour’s sleep. My cousin Nader arrived a couple of hours later and we checked out Chicago’s Navy Pier for lunch and a catch up.

 

It was great meeting Nader as we pretty much wanted to see the same things in the city and then we would both fly to Louisville for Julie and Eric’s wedding. Next day we headed for the Art Institute where I was dying to see George Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte which looks like this……

……have had a fascination with this painting for ages and it’s displayed so that your first view is facing it from a corridor and you walk towards it. Couldn’t stop staring at it. Of course I know nothing at all about art so Nader gave me loads of info and for any art buffs out there, this museum is a must!!

After that we headed to Sears Tower to get a good old view of sunny (but COLD) Chicago. Great day for it as it was really clear and the lake just looked spectacular.

After that we attempted a little retail therapy which we didn’t get too far with so we headed to see the bean in Millennium Park at sunset instead.

It’s a nice park in the middle of everything, with ducks wandering around and off course The Bean. The bean is weird, you actually get a little dizzy standing under it :-) I’m not quite sure what exactly it’s meant to be or what it means but it draws a crowd.

We finished off the evening with dinner and some Jazz (well you gotta, right?) Chicago is another big city but we were both impressed by pretty little places around……

……and I’m sure we would have found many more if there had been more time but we were off to Louisville, Kentucky.

I had been to Louisville for the Kentucky Derby a couple of years ago and had intended to do the same as the last stop of my travels. Then Eric and Julie announced they were getting married so it seemed like an even better excuse to roll in there for a few days. Quite a few on my mum’s side made it over from Europe so it was set to be a great reunion. Weird thing was I was really, really nervous to see everyone. I drove Nader mad on the plane I reckon, read him the whole skymall magazine (i.e. useless items you will never need in your life but provide great entertainment)

So great to see my brother Johnny and my mum…….

…….and of course all the rest of the Louisville bunch. It’s such a laid back place and these folks are so welcoming, good people y’all :-) So we had a few days of catching up, sessions, sing songs, being fed within an inch of our lives(!) and of course the wedding.

It was a great opportunity for a reunion and as we get older that will become more and more difficult to get us all in the same room…..

……. so we made the most of it. Last time one of these photos was taken, my grandmother was alive and I was about 5 years old I reckon!! Also got to meet some new additions to the family, baby Emily and Maire’s husband Hywel, I missed their wedding last October. Got to meet Brian’s girlfriend, Susan and David’s girlfriend Erin, who make great additions to the clan.

I feel like I should mention everyone because it felt great to be there. Jim and Madeleine are not only FANTASTIC dancers……

…….but are great entertainers and cooks too. Since I got my invite to the wedding, I’ve been dreaming about Jim’s fan-feckin-tastic omlettes, every time I made an omlette during the breakfast rush in the hotel in Darwin, I’d think How does Jim make his soooo good. Still can’t say for sure but hell it was worth the wait!!! Mmmmmmmm :-)

The rehearsal dinner went off well and unusually the speeches are done this night which is all good as everyone can relax and enjoy the wedding the following day. Afterwards a crew of us headed off to a Karokee bar, which was hilarious and scary in a kinda American Idol deluded auditionees sort of way :-) Brian and Don sang a couple of songs before we couldn’t take it any more and ran scared from the place!

The following day we peeled ourselves off the beds and hauled our asses to the church to see Eric and Julie tie the knot.

 

Have to mention that it was really weird to get this dressed up after a uniform of shorts and flip flops for so long, a dress and HEELS were definitely a little strange!! Anyhoo it was a beautiful service and the weather behaved itself which was all good. Lovely reception, food and band so all in all a great day. And as if that wasn’t enough, we rounded off the celebrations with an outstanding brunch (dispite feeling ever so slightly “delicate”) the following day.

Outside of that we just hung out at Brian’s and spent time together, so good to spend time with my big bro again. (you know what Madeleine, I think you’re right, I seem to have shrunk!! What the hell….)

Nader, David and Don entertained us with singing and playing the guitars (putting the rest of us to shame) and it was great to just chill out……

don’t we look real southern?? :-) Think it might be the banjo Dave!!! And of course we had the usual laughs, largely provided by Don, who I think could possibly be the funniest person I know.

Hope you got one of those ties to bring home Don. Gotta say a big thanks to Dave who donated his soooooo comfortable bed to me for the duration of my stay, and amazing to hear some of his album which should be finished by the end of the summer. Come on Davie, hurry up!! Also big thanks to Brian for use of his house as the battleground for many a great night. Lastly, just a big thank you to the Louisville gang in general for making this the best possible end to a great trip, even if I did take the long way getting there :-) I can’t think of a better way to round up a fantastic journey.

And so after just over a year, I packed my rucksack one last time and headed to catch the red-eye home. 

Apart from the inevitable last blog, which is in the making, Lindybear’s travels are all but over – sniff :-(Still though I’m looking forward to seeing everyone and to the Irish summer which I’m sure is going to be in full swing……)

More photos on http://www.flickr.com/photos/lindybear/sets/72157618288776419/  http://www.flickr.com/photos/lindybear/sets/72157618503598150/

Published by Linda on 13 May 2009

Cartagena & The U-Turn…..

Sorry, been bold, haven’t blogged in a while, so where was I….. ya had a few days after Tayrona and then left Taganga behind and headed for Cartagena. Cartagena is a real touristy spot, massively advertised all over South America. It is also the spot where you can catch a boat to Panama for about US$350/$400. So I planned to spend a couple of days in Cartagena and then head off into the sunset. The boat takes about 5 days and you cruise around the San Blas islands. By the time I reached Cartagena, the boats leaving on the dates I needed were all booked up! Feck it anyway, but at this point time is running a lot shorter than I’m happy with so unfortunately San Blas will have to wait for another time, boo :-(  But I guess you have to leave something for the next trip!?

So here I was in Cartagena, Lindy-planless (pretty much a rarity) and also minorly concerned about getting into the US via Mexico, which is where I pick up my round the world ticket. Decisions, decisions, whatcha gonna do? Well go out and rip it up with some Irish lads apparantly. Feeling a bit seedy from the night before in Taganga but they wouldn’t take no for an answer. Willie and Kenny, you have a lot to answer for!!! Had good fun at a bar in the old town……

……… lots of salsa dancing. The following day, after a very lazy start, decided to check out the old city with Alister and Kildare lad Kenny…….

 

…….who reminds me so much of Tommy Tiernan so we’d good old craic. The old town in Cartagena still has it’s original walls dating back 500 years.

It’s a really pretty place…….

…….and you can even walk the walls in some places. Had a good old stroll around and bonus, stumbled across some dancing in the local park, seriously energetic stuff!!! Check out this video for more Dancing in Cartagena Old Town 

Back out on the town that night and we found a couple of bars and had another big night out.

The following morning was not so good. Made my decision to head back to Taganga with Kenny and John who were headed that way. It’s the first time I’ve backtracked my whole trip but chilling out on the beach is all kinds of good and it’s more or less what I had intended to do anyway before I got distracted :-)

Back I went and it’s weird but kinda comforting to go back the same place. It’s kinda nice when people know your name and the like. I decided to do my advanced diving course, because of course I say I can chillax and completely intend to but the reality is I need constant distraction or I go a little crazy! The diving course was great, no exams or any of that, you just do different types of dives. Got to use these scooters…….

…..James Bond or wha? :-) Also did a couple of night dives which can be a little freaky, especially when we turned off the torches at the end – pitch black until we waved our limbs around to activate the plankton. Awwwww so pretty!! Got up close and personal with this puffer fish…..

No, I didn’t crush him with my giant manhands, don’t worry!! Also saw some giant green morays…….

……..Awesome!! They are a bit evil looking though – they watch you too closely, hmmmmmm. This really is a good spot for fishies and the company I went with were great. If you’re looking for a genuine recommendation, with small groups and great equipment, then try Vida Marina.

Other than the diving, I did relax mostly. Even read a couple of books – can you believe it!!! Had a few more big nights…….

 

and so glad I went back as I got to meet up with a few people I met along the way in South America, Cork lad Darren who I meet everywhere…….

Also Leeanna & Jason and Emma who I met in Buenos Aires. Great to see her again :-) Lastly I met up with Albert, from way back in Patagonia, so it’s true everyone who travels in Columbia seems to get sucked in by Taganga at some point. 

All the while I was quietly freaking out about this being the end of the road, or at least the roadtrip. Awww I’ll miss South America so much, the colours, the smells, the music, you get used to it so quickly and it seems like you’ve never been anywhere else. Still though, I’ve had a blast and I’ve made some genuine friends along the way. I also can’t forget that I have a few days in Chicago and my cousin’s Julie’s wedding in Louisville, on the way home.

More photos on http://www.flickr.com/photos/lindybear/sets/72157617530611309/   http://www.flickr.com/photos/lindybear/sets/72157617797880501/   http://www.flickr.com/photos/lindybear/sets/72157617891557599/

Published by Linda on 01 May 2009

Beach Bum Bear

Left Medellin on an overnight bus to Santa Marta. Headed straight for Taganga, which is penned as a little fishing village outside Santa Marta. It is nice place to live as a beach bum for a a week or two (or a month or three for some people!) So I have been hanging out here for a while. Relaxed? Well kinda, my first few days, I thought I’d crack up from the doing nothingness of it all, even though i was staying in the nicest place with hammocks everywhere.

Decided to do a bit of diving, why not and I thought it would ease me into re-lax-a-tion a bit better :-) The diving here is pretty good as you go to sites which are part of Tayrona National Park. Was a little nervous as I haven’t been diving since December but it all went swimmingly (pardon the pun!!) Pretty nice down there………..

 

……….as it should be, I am in the caribbean parish now!! Still managed to be freezing by the time I got out though! Saw some nice corals, sponge(s?), crayfish (mind those claws now!!) a weird brown eel with white spots and loadsa fishies of course.

Piles of stuff to see so after a post mortem and a snack we ventured down again. The water here is beautiful, and although the visibility was just at about 15 metres, I reckon given the right conditions, you could see forever. Met a scotty called Marty in Taganga and he was my dive buddy that day……..

 

……..and we hit it off. Decided to head off to Tayrona National Park. Headed out to La Garaje the night before, great old spot, a favourite here on a wednesday and I really enjoyed it. 

 

It ended up being a pretty heavy night which finished off on the beach in the wee small hours. Extreme devastation the following morning after little or no sleep, was hoping Marty would bail and we’d head for Tayrona the following day. No such luxury, he turned up at my hostel (early) and ready to rock. After a bit of faff, we headed to Santa Marta where we faffed even more trying to find the post office. I was in a little world of my own so didn’t really notice time passing. After all was in order at the post office – incidentally in South America (well Peru and Columbia anyway) you get finger printed if you don’t have your passport…..

 

i kid you not!! So EVENTUALLY we reached the park entrance and begin the trek to the beach. Nothing taxing, just a 45 minute or so very pretty walk…….

 

……..to the first beach. People rave about Tayrona and it was so built up I was afraid it wouldn’t live up to it. Well it’s just that people rave about Taganga and it is lovely but not without it’s flaws. The beach can be kinda mank in places. Anyhoo when we reached this sign……..

 

…….we knew this was going to be all kindsa goooooood. The beaches here are amazing. (photo overload forewarning) They kind of have this pre-historic look about them, with great big boulders……

………..and you feel like you’re the first person to discover them.  The boulders kinda remind me of Abel Tasman in New Zealand, we saw lots of split apple rocks around the place……

The first couple of beaches are fab to look at but probably more suited to surfers, not a fraidy-cat like me. Stroll down a little further and you find waters more suited to swimming and snorkelling with beach that had palm trees for shading under……

Had a great couple of days. Slept in a hammock up on this hill behind me……..

…………….doesn’t it look like a holiday brochure!! Lazy days on the beach, dodging death by falling coconuts but they tasted good, thanks to Marty……

….and just generally wandering to find the next beach. You find yourself completely alone on these beach and it really is just amazing :-)

Took a bumpy(!) boat back to Taganga and it was another place I was so, so sad to leave. There’s something so unspoilt and dramatic about it but mostly it’s just the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. This is undoubtedly my favourite spot so far, magnificant, overwhelming, awesome. 

Even the odd military helicopter flying overhead doesn’t spoil the mood, it simply adds to the notion that you’ve entered Eden on borrowed time. Well all good things must come to an end :-(

More photos on http://www.flickr.com/photos/lindybear/sets/72157617365244546/  http://www.flickr.com/photos/lindybear/sets/72157617406442188/  http://www.flickr.com/photos/lindybear/sets/72157617365307312/