So I finally managed to pull an itinerary together for my last 5 weeks in South America! it took many hours of research and a little bit of liquid courage to actually book the flights...
But I'm officially going to the AMAZON!! And can still fit in Machu Picchu ;)
The quick rundown goes like this: Bogota - 1 week eco yoga farm near Cartago - Salento - Bogota to fly to Leticia - boat along the amazon to Iquitos (Peru) - fly to Lima - Cusco - trek and Machu Picchu etc. - work at a hostel? - then Lima to fly to London June 16.
Right now I just arrived in Leticia, ie. the Amazon (!!!!) so I thought I should write about my eco yoga experience before it gets overshadowed by all the piranhas and pink dolphins I'm about to see ;)
The eco yoga farm I went to is called Mayapurita, and it is only a small one close to Cartago in Colombia. I guess to describe it... it's a hare krishna hobby farm that aims to support itself and also provide food for those in the community that need it as well as supporting sustainable and ethical living :) They have lots of banana, papaya, plantains, cacao, mangoes, other fruits, herbs, pumpkins and then some lettuce and tomatoes. Some other things are donated to the farm from the local markets and neighbours too :)
Krishna (28yo) is the owner, american parents but pretty much always lived in colombia, and she lives on site with the volunteers and one other girl from Bucaramanga called Vaisnavi (who is 23 and absolutely awesome, we bought matching single earrings one afternoon in town :P). Then every day there are about 5-20 kids or young people from the community who come and hang out/help out throughout the day until about 8pm, once they're done with school which is all in the mornings here ...and Carlos their lovely old neighbour comes and tends to the veggie garden every morning for a couple of hours in exchange for breakfast :) Then there are always between 1 and 4 volunteers staying too.
It is such a lovely community! Based on the values of yoga, which is the Hare Krishna religion really. There is a temple part of the farm building, and all meals are vegetarian and someone offers it in a small ceremony and prayer before we eat. Plus they have yoga class at 4pm every day besides Sunday. Score!
It was so nice to be able to settle in to a good routine: a shared breakfast followed by volunteer work, an amazing lunch, chill time (or siesta time!), yoga, then hanging out or doing something with the local kids before a late-ish dinner. Perfect way to reenergise and refocus, a little attempt at realigning my karma after selfishly being on holiday for months on end! ...I feel a bit better about it now anyway, I'm ready to be a tourist again.
Some of the volunteer work I did was painting the house, weeding, baking vego carrot cakes and then selling them in town later, teaching English at the farm and at the local primary school, and general helping in the kitchen or cleaning. Nothing too strenuous, and plenty of variety. You could really do what you liked, invent a project and go for it!
There were two other volunteers there with me last week, an English couple who are exceptionally well travelled and had infinitely better Spanish than me. Spud is cycling from the top of Colombia down to the bottom of Argentina to prove that you can travel anywhere on a bike - if he can do that you can cycling to uni/work right? Pretty insane, and inspirational. I really want to do a cycling holiday one day, ...maybe not quite that far though! Then Lexi is currently teaching English in Bogota between research stints in Peru for her PhD. So they are catching up at the farm really. Both really awesome, it was fun to hang out, get more travel advice, learn about veganism (they are both vegan) and do yoga (Lexi instructs too)...and also to speak English, everyone else besides Krishna only spoke Spanish! Which I still suck at.... I really have to work at it more...!!
But anyway, back to the volunteer work thing. Spud is going to be setting up a broken bike to run a blender with the cycle-energy from pedalling! Nice. The kids are super excited :)
Other than the volunteer stuff we went for a few muddy group runs which were pretty hilarious! Not sure if exercise is the top priority for locals around here... Haha we also took turns cooking meals or at least helping out, and all of the food was absolutely incredible, and plentiful!! Each meal, even breakfast, had at least 3 different parts to it and a hot drink or juice.
Fun fact: Hare krishnas don't eat anything before it is offered, ie. no tasting whilst cooking! A test of will power and cooking ability! ( ...it was rough baking cakes).
Then on the weekend we went hiking up some hills nearby and got an amazing panoramic view of the area, we had to cross the river that borders one side of the farm in a row boat which was fun! The current was so strong, I was very glad not to be in charge ...I got to help on the way back though :)
That pretty much sums it up. Such a great week, I highly recommend one of these eco yoga farms to (like minded) travellers!! There is a global network of them so you can go anywhere and stay on one pretty much :)
Between the farm and Leticia where I am now I did a micro-trip to Salento to see the infamous Cocora palms. They are a symbol of Colombia and I'd heard so many good things about the Salento area from other travellers I had to squeeze it in. I was irrationally excited to see those palm trees! Haha but I wasn't disappointed!
I met an Irish couple (who are moving to Perth!) and a Norwegian (who wants to move to Aus too! Haha) on the bus there and we spent the following day hiking to the hummingbird reserve and through some cloud forrest to reach the valley of Cocora palms. To get to the hummingbird place you had to hike 2hrs, it is so remote! I love stuff like that, it really makes it unique :) and it was, entry included your choice of local beverage. The most typical being aguapanela con queso which is hot water, almost made into a syrup with panela (raw sugar from the cane), served with a hefty slice of local cheese. Kind of like feta that tastes more like goats cheese? Then the reserve itself was just lots of bird feeders. But you saw so many beautiful hummingbirds up close anyway it was just amazing! Didn't need anything more.
Then the palms were awesome. It's a huge valley of rolling green hills surrounded by cloud forest, then growing up in the grassy fields (complete with horses as cows) are hundreds of 60m tall straight and narrow trucked palm trees. It is so bizarre!
Now. It's time to go and find a boat to take me down the amazon for the next couple of days!! Welcome to the jungle! ;)