Two men with furrowed faces under wide sombreros enter the arena. Callused hands leisurely hold the reins of the horses and short ponchos striped in natural colors fall around the cowboys’ shoulders. A gate is opened, a young bull set loose. Let the game begin!
The huasos, as Chilean cowboys are called, work in twos and have to corner the bull against the fence three times. The horsemen’s strength and skills are masterful, but so are the bull’s. At times it succeeds in outrunning the horses or evading the circuit, which leads to puntos malos (penalty points) for the huasos.
Understanding a Rodeo
I ask my neighbor how much time each team is allowed in order to achieve their goal. I get a bewildered look. It takes a moment before he answers, “They have to corner the bull three times. Time is not relevant”. Continue reading
Hexagonal tiles of salt stretch to the horizon, hemmed in by bluish mountains. The crunching of salt crystals beneath my feet sounds like stepping on fresh snow. I’m encompassed by total silence in an otherworldly spectacle that is largely devoid of life.
Salar de Uyuni is the world’s largest salt flat and is situated in the southwest corner of Bolivia. The town of Uyuni, characterized by guesthouses, overpriced tourist joints and tour operators, is the place to organize a trip to this salt plain. Continue reading
I follow a winding trail along the slopes, which demands a bit of clambering over slippery rocks. I pick another handful of those juicy blackberries along the path, which constitute my breakfast. At a stream, I strip and lower myself into one of the shallow pools sheltered by rocks. Water of 100º degrees (40 degrees Celsius) flows down my shoulders, which is bliss in the crisp temperatures of dawn.
Around me are twittering birds, chirping cicadas, and crawling insects that are leaving their hiding places to search for food or to warm up in the sunlight that filters through the foliage. Leaves rustle and their coloring betrays the arrival of fall. This little paradise is mine until about ten o’clock, when other hikers start crossing my path. Even then it remains a quiet place; few have discovered this hidden hot spring near Lago Queñi. Continue reading
Maybe you think the Philippines are all about beaches. Not so, there are lots of mountains. In the northern part of Luzon, the biggest island, we came across this mountain tree, drunk by the local people.
Couple of leaves, hot water, let it sit for a bit, and sip.
Coen and I are running amidst hills covered in lush vegetation. Our run started at six am, with darkness fading and making way for a new day. From Basekamp we covered the first two kilometers over asphalt, looking out over rolling hills on our right that were partly hidden in a haze.
Before we knew it we dove deep into the countryside. Our upper legs were immediately beaten on a steep descent, an eroded trail where not even a mountain bike could do down anymore. I needed to give all attention to where I put my feet. The first runner was soon limping uphill, back to Basekamp, having strained his ankle. Continue reading
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
Slow travel is growing! The term is getting familiar to more travelers and I have come across a number of encouraging initiatives. Among them are a couple of people who have started Slow Travel City Websites. The ones I learned about are Barcelona, Berlin, Brussels and Stockholm. If you know of more, let me know in the comment section below, and I’ll add them to the list. Continue reading
The music stopped. Silence took over, only interrupted by the twittering of birds. In her new coat of snow-white paint, the recently restored Santa Rosa Church stood outlined against a green landscape of coconut trees, palm trees and weeds that were about to reconquer the cemetery around the church.
Wooden crosses, bare wood or painted blue or white, bore the names of the deceased. Their dates of birth and dead were referred to as ‘sunrise’, or ‘dawn’, and ‘sunset’. Across from the church stretched the savannah, the late afternoon sun turning the grass into a mixture of golden yellow, warm red and soft green. The Moruca River cut across the savanna, which was interspersed with narrow waterways; families and their kids were quietly paddling in their dugout canoes. It was a moment of bliss. Continue reading
History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again. ~ Maya Angelou
One of our surprises in Guyana has been its earliest colonial history, which happens to be Dutch. Why did we never learn anything about Guyana in school? The Dutch were the first Europeans to establish settlements, forts and plantations in this region and stayed for two centuries before the colonies became British. You’d gather that does deserve some attention, wouldn’t you?
Of course our colonial history isn’t something to be particularly proud of but that doesn’t make it a reason to exclude it from textbooks, does it? On the contrary. And so we took up the opportunity to fill in the gaps during our journey here. Continue reading
Ahead of me stretched a flat, green savanna. Having spent a couple of days in dense forest, the view struck me right in the heart. I like forest; I love open spaces. Being enveloped by vastness of my surroundings feels liberating. Continue reading
Beautifully located amidst the green undulating hills of the Sierras Chicas in Córdoba Province, Candonga was one of our surprises when traveling in central Argentina. Our friend Agustín, at whose nearby estancia we were camped for some a couple of months, invited us on a day trip. “I want to share something with you,” was all he gave away. Continue reading
Hard to believe that this tranquil stream in fact is the Seine. With 14th-century Pont (bridge) du Perthuis-au-Loup that has a historic monument since 1928.
“Next time we come here we should stop and walk around for a bit,” I remarked as we traversed Chatillôn sur Seine.
“Why don’t we do it now? Mélanie suggested.
Indeed, why not? Continue reading
Driving some eight hours straight from the Netherlands to France doesn’t exactly qualify as slow travel, I know. Yet that’s what I did with my friend Mélanie. And, of course, I have an excuse (two, to be exact). Continue reading
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
Even after more than ten years on the road I can still be surprised how one meeting can lead to all sorts of events, adventures and other meetings. Maybe because I never take them for granted. It is not something you can plan, or find in a guidebook. You can plan a meeting, but you can’t plan all results of such a meeting. And that’s where the charm lies: the unexpected. Continue reading