solo female travel

Getting Kicked Out of my Room in The Amazon - DreamsCo

Through books and movies I'd learned of the mystical Amazon filled with deadly creatures, malaria, and indigenous people who have very little contact with the world. The Amazon that I encountered was very different. First of all, malaria pills weren't necessary. Deadly creatures? Well there are poisonous snakes and spiders, but I'm not certain that anyone has been bitten in any of the camps. Indigenous people, yes, but many have plenty of contact with the outside world as scientists and tourists along with private hotels invade the area.Copy of S, America 290

I chose to go to the Amazon in Peru. From Cusco I took an overnight bus. Now the buses in S. America are very luxurious and the full sleepers are great. The seats were comfortable and almost fully reclined. After a light supper and a movie, the lights were turned low and I had eight hours to get some sleep before we arrived in Puerto Maldonado. But who knew that I had gotten onto the bus from "Harry Potter." The bus sped forward, rocking back and forth around sharp mountain passes only to stop short, flinging me forward as we came to a speed bump. Then we were off again at a break-neck speed.

Upon arrival I was a bit tired and really wishing I'd spent the extra money on a plane ticket. But soon I was on the Amazon River. The boat sped along the calm, muddy waters. I was there in the rainy season, but the skies were clear and bright blue. On either side of the river was thick jungle and Scarlett macaws sat in nests high in the trees and flew over us.Copy of S, America 300

At the small research camp I'd chosen far away from the tourist center of Puerto Maldonado, my room was built with logs, lit with candles, and had running water but no electricity. The dining hall had one generator where electronics could be plugged in for a few hours each night.

My guide handed me large rubber boots and with a machete in his hand we began our walk into the jungle. Green surrounded me. The moisture from the forest dripped from the plant leaves. Howler monkeys jumped from branch to branch and giant butterflies flew from one plant to the next. Vultures stared down at me. Ants made incredible condos under the ground. The leaf-eaters carried their food on their backs deep into the hive. There they chewed the leaves into a paste, spit it back out, and created a garden for mushrooms to grow. This is the food they live upon.

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Everywhere there was life. When darkness came we walked the jungle with only a flashlight. This is when frogs and spiders come out. Huge crickets with razor sharp hind legs made noise and always I could hear the buzz of the cicadas.

One night we took the boat downstream. On every bank were crocodiles. Tiny young ones would come to the boat and we tried to catch them, but without any luck. Then we saw a large one. He stared at us for a moment, then bored he went under the water not to reappear.

 

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There's plenty of downtime in the Amazon, when the day is too hot to do anything but relax. I swung in a hammock, drinking tea, my belly full of delicious food and I thought, I've gotten everything out of this adventure that I desired, but what I really want is to see a Scarlett Macaw up close. We'd gone that morning to the salt lick and watched hundreds of birds in the trees. Not unlike typical couples some of the birds were cozy with their mates and other's slightly ticked off. But though there were many green parrots, the macaws had eluded us that day.

Soon after this I walked to my room and to my surprise a visitor walked through my door. A bright Scarlett Macaw had decided to visit. He waltzed around, pulled the sheet off my bed and made a nest underneath the wooden frame. He decided he rather liked my space and that it was time for me to leave. The next thing I knew this Macaw was moving me out of my own room.

 

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Turns out, he's made the camp his home and though he's free to leave and rather wild he's lived in the camp for many years and is used to people so it took a human resident with a big broom to get him to give me my abode back.

The Amazon is being cut down at an alarming rate. It's without a doubt one the most precious gifts to humans from nature. Within the jungle lies cures to incurable diseases. The oxygen it creates is important to this world being over-filled with smog. If we keep harming our planet for instant gratification we won't have anything for the future.

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Getting to Futaleufu, Chile - DreamsCo

Out of all the travel on my list of 101 Dreams Come True, Futaleufu, Patagonia Chile was the number one destination I wanted to see. Tucked in the Andes close to the Argentine border, the entire town can be walked in ten minutes. There's no gas station, one bank that only takes American Express, and only one hotel and a few pousadas. So why did I want to explore this area? As an eternal white water junkie, I'd heard of the pristine aqua river with huge class V rapids. But whenever I looked into going to this region the cost for one week with plane tickets was over $6000. For almost ten years, I would look at the trip, drool over the pictures and then realize it just wasn't feasible.

When I decided to travel through S. America my budget for two months was a little over $8,000 so a tour company was out of the question. There was little on the internet on how to get to the area and places to stay were expensive unless I was willing to stay in small youth hostels in shared rooms.

After hours of research, I finally found a rafting company called Patagonia Elements that did day trips instead of an organized tour. Through email I learned how to get to the region by bus, taxi, foot, and a car picking me up on the other side of a border crossing. They offered a room for rent in their friend's home for $20.00 per night and my dream of seeing Futaleufu and rafting the rapids began to take form.

I arrived in Bariloche (one of the gateways to Futaleufu if you fly into Buenos Aires, Argentina)  the week before and made a reservation for a bus the following week to Esquel. Without the ability to speak Spanish I had my concerns. My adrenaline was running high the day I left the safety of my resort. I sat in my seat on the panoramic double-decker bus and began my five hour drive.

Mountains and lakes spread out before me as we traveled through Argentina. A few hours into the trip, through my usual miming and Pictionary I asked the bus drivers to let me know when we reached Esquel since this bus was taking a twenty-four hour drive all the way to the end of the earth in El Calafate and I didn't want to go that far.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I arrived in Esquel without any problems and missed my connecting bus to Trevelin by ten minutes because I thought I had to buy a ticket before getting on the bus. But no problem, there would be another in half an hour.

Next stop Trevelin, Argentina where I would have to call for a taxi cab and make an international call to Chile to tell the people from Patagonia Elements when I would arrive at the Chilean border. Trevellin was too small to have a bus station and when the driver got off the bus, grabbed my luggage, and motioned for me to get off, I was rather nervous. There was one park, a few restaurants, and he pointed me to a house and left.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What could I do? I walked to the house, realized it was the tourist help center. Once again, I played charades, pointed to maps, and handed over my international calling card. The man and his wife were very sweet and they made phone calls with concerned looks on their faces. At this point I had learned enough Spanish to hold a five minute conversation with their four-year-old daughter. They pointed to the clock, explained what I thought would be a two-hour wait and then took my luggage into the back of their home.

Without anything to do, I went to lunch, got some ice cream, and hoped that I was on the right track. Two hours later my luggage was out in front of the house, a beat-up Nissan that had a cracked windshield and wreaked of gasoline was waiting for me. There was no taxi sign and the man didn't speak English, but what could I do. I got in, and we drove into no-man's land on a rocky back road through a mountain pass along a beautiful aqua river.

An hour passes, I hadn't been robbed, left on the side of the road, nor has the car broken down. But now I'm being left at the border crossing. The road is not only dirt, but rocky and I have two rolling suitcases and I need to walk half a mile to the other side of Argentina to Chile. I start laughing at my predicament. There's no way I'm going to be able to drag these bags down the road.

Then two men show up in a station wagon. They go inside the border control, get their passports stamped, come out, load my bags into their car and tell me to get in with hand gestures. Well what the heck? They can only go as far as the border.

I got out at the Chilean border, they helped me with my customs forms, asked in Charades (my new found language) if I wanted a ride into town? I said, "No, I have a ride." and then they left. My ride didn't show up for another half hour but five families offered me rides.

But this is Chile in Patagonia - warm, friendly, helpful, and giving. So nine hours after my departure from Argentina I arrived in Futaleufu, where the adventure really began. But you'll have to read the next blog for that story.

Bariloche Dream Come True (But boy did you make me work for it!) - DreamsCo

I've wanted to see Bariloche, Argentina since a friend told me about the area. A usual stop off on the way to Patagonia, Bariloche is a lake town surrounded by mountains. The pictures looked stunning with snow-capped peaks rising from the water. I was lucky enough to be able to trade my timeshare into this area and I planned a full week of hiking, relaxing in the spa, and being surrounded by beauty. The only problem was that while I was planning my trip I couldn't seem to figure out how to get to Bariloche from Santiago. I could take an overnight 24 hour trip on a bus, but that didn't sound fun, or fly to Puerto Montt in the south of Chile and take a seven hour bus ride through the beautiful Andes. I chose the latter but there seemed to be no way to book the ticket in advance even though every site suggested to do so in high season.

So I flew to Puerto Montt with the hopes of a ticket. To my surprise there were at least four companies that did the trip, but everyone told me that I couldn't go until the next day, but because I didn't speak Spanish I had no idea why they wouldn't sell me a ticket. I finally found someone who spoke English and he explained that fires had closed the lower border crossing into Argentina and the only way to get to Bariloche was to go five hours north and try to catch a bus the next day from Pucon, Chile.

Now, I'm freaked. I have no reservation in Pucon, but I'm determined to get to Bariloche early the next day and enjoy my spa week so I took the chance.

The countryside of Chile is something everyone should experience. The beauty of the mountains and valleys punctuated with snow-capped volcanoes reach into bright blue skies. Pucon was a small lakeside community with a large volcano. The people in the town were so friendly and I found a nice hotel, had a wonderful meal of pasta and cream sauce with prawns, while sipping on wine. The only problem was that there weren't any buses going to Bariloche the next day - well actually there were but they were booked solid.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I ran around the town trying to figure out a way to get there, but no matter how many people tried to help me it seemed there wasn't a way to get to Bariloche the next day. I took the only bus across the border to San Martin, Argentina (another lakeside town), in hopes of finding another hotel for a night and then take the bus the following day to Bariloche.

On the bus, I met six great people all in the same boat as me (or I guess bus) - all trying to get to Bariloche.

We arrived in San Martin in the rain at six in the evening with most hotels and hostels booked solid. People were setting up camp in the small bus station for the night. Bariloche was only two hours away by car on a dirt road through a national park,

but it was Sunday night and everyone said renting a car was impossible. Well I don't believe in impossible. While everyone else bought bus tickets for the next morning, I went out into the rain in search of a hotel, but with the hopes I would find a car along I negotiated not only for a car, but for the owner to drive us to Bariloche. Once he agreed, I ran back to the bus station, had four of the people I met return their tickets, and convinced them to head to Bariloche.the way. That's when I came across a car rental company that had opened because the man needed to get something from his desk.

The five of us crammed into a truck and took one of the most scenic rides of our lives, while switching positions to find comfort. By ten pm I was at my hotel.

Bariloche is a beautiful area, known for it's chocolate, skiing and lakes. Chocolate shops line the streets, and I must say, that after one taste, I bought three large chocolate bars for the rest of my trip (though they only lasted maybe a week).

I hiked to the top of the ski mountain and looked out over the beautiful lake and mountains. I ate steaks cooked to perfection that In the park-like grounds of the hotel, I rested, read, and finished up all the work that needed to be done for the rest of the month. I allowed the beauty of the area to refresh my mind and clear my head, while the sauna, yoga, and Jacuzzi relaxed my muscles.I could use a fork to cut (I don't really like steak, but it's incredible in Argentina) and delved my fork into chocolate volcano cake.It was the downtime I needed to remember that this journey is about experiencing the moment, not just on my trip to S. America, but in all the incredible dreams that have and are coming true right now.

Santiago Dream Come True - DreamsCo

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Fireworks burst from the top of the tall cell tower in the middle of Santiago as people screamed Happy New Years in Spanish. I stood on top of the roof of the apartment I had rented on www.airbnb.com with new friends amazed at how life had opened to me. I was supposed to be in an airport at that moment, figuring that I didn't know anyone in S. America I had booked the cheaper flight that would cause me to spend New Years in customs. But then the man that had rented the apartment to me, Raul, had invited me to join him and his friends to bring in the New Year from the rooftop.

As luck would have it, I was able to change my flight from Rio and make it to Santiago just in time for the fireworks. When I walked into the apartment, I found that Raul had left me wine, food, and champagne to start my trip. On the rooftop I met his other renters hailing from Australia and Taiwan. Together we toasted travel, new friendships, and luck by eating 12 grapes and making a wish for the year with each one we tasted. We lifted our glasses of champagne and I never felt more at peace in a new city.

The next day, Raul went beyond kindness when he invited me for lunch and brought me on a tour of his beautiful city. Here once again, my dream was greater than I could've imagined. Santiago is filled with European architecture, parks, wonderful artistic neighborhoods like Belle Artes, Belle Italia, and Belle Vista. We climbed the hill of Santa Lucia where the battle between the Spanish conquerers and the native Mapuchi took place many centuries ago. At the top of the hill we looked across this massive city to the Andes to the East and the ocean ( which can't be seen) to the west.

As we walked and talked, sharing ice cream (a huge part of Santiago culture) Raul spoke of how he lives his life - going after his dreams, envisioning his life, and making it all better by giving the most that he can to everything and everyone he comes in contact with. We spoke of the syncronicity of life and how when you allow life to open to you amazing things happen.

When he took me to Chile's capital building, he explained that a few years ago, Chile sent a few men to Chicago to study with American economists. These men, called the Chicago Boys, returned to Chile and since then Chile's economy has thrived. Funny, do you think Chile could send back the Chicago boys to us?

In Belles Artes, I sat in little cafes drinking fresh juice smoothies and people watching. Okay, Chilean men are pretty good looking too. In Belle Italia barrio, I shopped in funky antique shops and home decor stores that were laid out in between car repair shops. In Plaza des Armes I went to church in the cathedral where the priests chanted as incense gave the church a surreal look.

In the modern part of the city, Providencia, I shopped in the tallest building in S. America which just opened a few months ago and walked along the river park. I stopped for juice in a little cafe and spoke with a kind older gentleman who scolded me for not speaking Spanish.

But as beautiful as this city was, it was my friendship with Raul that made this dream come true dear to my heart. If you are ever in Santiago, rent his apartment www.chile4rent.com. Visiting him is worth more than the city itself.