The Perfect Reason to Visit Venezuela

Open your eyes and let the adventure begin!

Open your eyes and let the adventure begin!

“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” ~Jawaharial Nehru

Los Llanos are vast plains of grasslands and savanna in both Colombia and Venezuela. In Colombia we had traversed them for six days to reach the Venezuelan border. We felt a bit saturated with the landscape, but now had to cross the Venezuelan Llanos as well, this time to get to the Andes Mountains. Continue reading

A Butterfly in Ecuador’s Amazon Rainforest

Butterfly, Amazon Ecuador (photocoen)

“Happiness is like a butterfly. If you chase it and chase it directly, it will elude you, but if you sit quietly and busy yourself with other things, it will come and light upon your shoulder.” ~Old Chinese Proverb

What’s so special about a butterfly, you may ask. Well, I got a visit from one who cleaned my keyboard. Seriously. Continue reading

What Makes a Sunset so Special? – The Mashpi Eco Lodge

Sunset at Mashpi Eco Lodge, Ecuador (©photocoen) “You know what would be a great idea?” Coen asked as we moved up the last steps of the stairs that brought us to a 30-meter-high watchtower.
“What?” David, our guide, asked.
“To serve champagne upstairs. Wouldn’t that be a fantastic surprise?”
David didn’t respond and we continued our way up. Continue reading

Admiring Wildlife from a Canopy Walkway – The Pakaas Jungle Lodge

View of Pakaas Lodge Swimming Pool & River (©photocoen) For weeks we had been traveling through the Amazon Forest in Brazil. Some areas consist of virgin forest, but large parts have made way for cattle ranching. The region is known as the Arc of Deforestation. From Mato Grosso we drove into Rondônia, the state where in the 1980s each minute an area the size of a football field was deforested – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for a period of 10 years. The speed of cutting down forest has diminished, but the deforestation is an ongoing process.

Meeting Paulo

Beautiful Tree with Fruit (©photocoen)Rondônia was our border crossing into Bolivia, but that step was delayed as Coen got dengue. For a week  we stayed in a hotel where he slept close to 24 hours a day for a week. In this town we met Paulo, who invited us to stay at his lodge: the Pakaas Jungle Lodge. We had seen pictures of it and took up this invitation with pleasure.

The Pakaas Jungle Lodge, constructed on an eight-meter-high stilts (called palafitas) in Guajará Mirim, offers a dazzling view of the confluence of the black-water Pakaas River and the white-water Marmoré River along the borders of Brazil and Bolivia. It has two kilometers of canopy walkways for wildlife spotting, and organizes boat trips to Warii indigenous people and the Seringal, a rubber plantation. By the way, thanks to the (acid) black water river, the place is blissfully free of mosquitoes. Continue reading

Appreciating True Ecotourism: the Cristalino Jungle Lodge in the Brazilian Amazon

Cristalino Jungle Lodge - White whiskered spider monkey - Will Carter_

White whiskered spider monkey (©Will Carter)

In 2013, the Cristalino Jungle Lodge was selected as one of National Geographic Traveler magazine’s 25 Best Ecolodges.

In South America, the term ‘eco’ has little meaning. People market a lodge as ‘eco’ just because it happens to be situated in the woods. Hence I have grown somewhat allergic to the term.

To my great pleasure I discovered some notable exceptions in Brazil. Places that truly embrace eco tourism, which reflects in where, how and why they build their lodge and/or bought a reserve. The Cristalino Jungle Lodge, at the southern edge of the Amazon, is one of them. Continue reading

Exploring São Paulo – Meet Extraordinary People & BossHouse

São Paulo (©photocoen)Throughout our more-than-ten-year journey we’ve met people in intriguing ways, which in some cases has led to a long-lasting friendship: people who stopped us in the street to invite us to their house, an invitation through our website. We love the sightseeing and roaming-the-countryside aspect of traveling; however, in the end our warmest memories are always related to people.

I was reminiscing on this the other day with Coen, as we tend to do every while. Admiring a sunset above the ocean, sipping from our pisco sour cocktail, talking about the rich lives we lead… I figured it might be a nice idea to focus on a short series on exactly this aspect of traveling: meeting people, how beautiful they are, and how one thing can lead to another. Here’s part 1.

Meet Our Friends & BossHouse in São Paulo

São Paulo is South America’s largest metropolis and the place to go if you love international cuisine, entertainment and nightlife. Coen and I weren’t particularly attracted to it as its huge (17 million inhabitants!) and didn’t really have an image of being a safe place. There was no reason to visit it until we received an invitation from Milena. Continue reading

Pousada Vila Bela Vista in Jericoacoara, Brazil

At 6 a.m. the sun is rising rapidly above the horizon, yet not burning fiercely as it will in a couple of hours. I stroll over the sandy plain dotted with shrubs that feed the local horses and donkeys. Behind me is the village of Jericoacoara, along Brazil’s northeast coast. In front of me are only dunes. They attract like a magnet.

I take off my flip-flops and feel the yellow, soft sand under my feet and between my toes. Steadily I climb one dune, and another and another. There is no one but me. The last dune offers me a view of the ocean: blue, vast, empty except for a couple of early morning walkers along the shore. I sit down and absorb this extraordinary landscape. Continue reading

Relaxing at Pousada Vila Bela Vista in Preá (Northeast Brazil)

I am lying stretched out on a wooden bed covered with a brightly striped bath towel. The sun prickles my skin and a breeze caresses my body, preventing me from overheating (note to self: next time slather myself in sun lotion before lying down). I look at the ripples on the transparent, blue water of the swimming pool – large enough to swim laps and surrounded by wooden walkways. Behind the pool a fence of woven branches of a local shrub separates Pousada Vila Bela Vista from the white sand beach and the Atlantic Ocean. Continue reading

Pousada Portal do Vento Along Brazil’s Kitesurfers’ Beach

At the end of a long day of exploring of Brazil’s beaches we meet the kitesurfers first. It’s late afternoon and Coen and I are in search of a place to spend the night. We drive onto Tatajuba Beach and see the sky filled with a dozen colorful kite sails: with windforce six the skillful kitesurfers put on a fantastic show of sailing at enormous speeds including spectacular jumps. Continue reading

Camping in an Ocean of White

Salar de Uyuni, in southwest Bolivia, is a vast ocean of white of 130 by 90 kilometers surrounded by the Andes Mountains – it is said to be the largest salt flat in the world containing some 10 billion tons of salt. At the entrance are series of salt pyramids that have been scraped together from the surface and are ready to be transported to the nearby village of Colchani.

Wherever we look we see white. It looks like a world of fresh snow which has not yet been disturbed by footsteps. Continue reading

The Rewards of Rough Camping

I lean backwards, balancing my body on my tailbone, holding my hands under my 45-degree-bent knees. With my feet just reaching the surface I can perfectly balance myself in the river, sitting on the laterite road. According to our GPS the river should run 1.8 kilometers from here! However, it is rainy season and the river has flooded vast stretches of the countryside, including the road. Continue reading