Travel Memories – The Beauty of People

Workshop in Quito, Ecuador (©photocoen)In Quito, Ecuador, Coen and I camped in a car workshop for a couple of weeks. We were surrounded by broken vehicles and mechanics whose overalls were black from grease and dirt, and the noise of a blaring radio. This was not the first time we were camping in a workshop; we had done so before during our then ten-year overland journey in Asia and South America.

You get used to many things when traveling for a longer period of time, but each time I am flabbergasted by the hospitality of people and the confidence they have in us. 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

The Major Advantage of Learning a Local Language

“Language is the road map of a culture. It tells you where its people come from and where they are going.” ~Rita Mae Brown

When Coen and I started traveling, in 2003, everything was new and exciting. Having our first conversations with strangers with whom we didn’t share a language was a challenge. Using hands, feet, physical expressions and drawings in sand to get a conversation going was a lot of fun.

However, when the novelty started to fade, we missed an important element: language. Continue reading

Allowing a Place to Unfold

“I have some chicken on skewers left. Would you like one?” Marcel asked. I looked at Coen; we just had noodlesoup for dinner and aren’t hungry. “With peanut sauce,” Marcel’s wife Sandra added with a smile. Coen was lost: this guy lives for peanut sauce. The chicken, succulent thanks to a marinade, and peanut sauce came with a beer. We had already fallen for Pousada (guesthouse) Portal do Vento on arrival, but now we wanted to stay. Continue reading

Skip the List and Enjoy

Vendor at Praia da Lua, a popular beach near Manaus.

We arrived in Manaus with a list of places I wanted to visit, but Providence ruled differently. In the past I might have had a fit. I had made a list, damn it, and we were going to stick to it. We had to visit these places. After all, wasn’t that what Manaus was about? The rubber boom, historic buildings, the Amazon Theater, parks with wildlife among which an endemic monkey, the Meeting of the Waters, the surrounding Amazon rainforest and indigenous villages? Continue reading

Dinner without Distractions

It is Saturday night, and it’s dinnertime.

We move two tables next to the swimming pool. Our hosts Leandro and Viviane set them with white tablecloths and light candles. For a second the night is about to go up in smoke as the cat discovers the fringes of the tablecloth – one table with candles and an open bottle of wine wobbles back and forth dangerously, but we manage to steady it in time. Continue reading