Trail Running in the Mist and Staying in the Present

Trail Running in Peru (©Guy van den Branden)When running, one of my pitfalls is focusing on how much farther I have to go. This can be killing because it often seems too far, which is so discouraging that I give up. The problem is that instead of staying in the present – and thus running right now and right here – the mental focus has shifted to the future. Continue reading

5 Top Travel Destinations in French Guiana

Top travel destinations: watching the hatching of sea turtles (©photocoen)Why this tiny piece of land called French Guyana offers top travel destinations:

  1. May be a little-visitedt territory, but if you care for nature and/or wildlife spotting, it is a top travel destination and you shouldn’t miss it. You can easily spend a 3-week holiday here. Okay, we spent closer to 3 months (over various visits), but Coen and I have the tendency to not being able to leave once we fall in love with a place.
  2. Has been one of our big surprises on our South America journey. This overseas department of France lies north of Brazil and east of Suriname. It has few people, lots of Amazon rainforest, a bit of savanna and a long and easily accessible coast along the Atlantic Ocean.
  3. Offers a diversity of trails for hikers, fun outings for families with kids, and has numerous spots for birding, watching sea turtles or other wildlife. Having said that, it is not a country for those who seek large or imposing museums or suchlike cultural places of interest. Continue reading

Sightseeing in Buenos Aires – 5 Hidden Corners

Sightseeing in Buenos Aires: Banco de la Provincia de Buenos Aires, Argentina (photocoen)

Banco de la Provincia de Buenos Aires: detail of a bronze door

Sightseeing in Buenos Aires, let me think for a sec. Okay: taking tango lessons, eating slabs of beef, visiting the Recoleta Cemetery, strolling around Palermo, checking out the football stadium in La Boca…

All activities worth undertaking and places worth seeing. So, Coen and I did all that and more on the typical must-see-cum-do list for Buenos Aires. Then part two of the fun started, finding the city’s quiet yet charming spots, hidden churches, local restaurants, and anything else worth exploring outside guidebooks.

Continue reading

5 Places in South America to Stand in Awe Before Forces of Nature

In South America we often feel overwhelmed by our surroundings, marvel at views, camp in grandiose terrains, and feel dwarfed by canyons and mountains. Among the well-known spectacular sceneries on the continent are the Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina, Torres del Paine National Park in Chile, the Lake District in Patagonia, the colored lakes of Sud Lipez in Bolivia, and Valle de la Luna in Chile.

Let’s explore some of the lesser-known forces of nature. Continue reading

5 Places in South America to Soak in Hot Springs

Hot springs in South America: Thermal Bath in Southwest Bolivia (©photocoen)After 2,5 year of Amazon tropics Coen and I are happy to have returned to the colder and drier climate of the Andes Mountains. During these past 10 years I have never written, “Boy are we glad to be back in the tropics so we can wear shorts and bathing suits again,” yet I have expressed that, “It feels great to wear socks and sweaters again and to sleep under our down blanket.”

We’re cold-weather people. Continue reading

The Rewards of Rough Camping

I lean backward, 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

An Act of Kindness (Day 6): Pointing Out a Short-Cut

If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there ~George Harrison

This is day 6 in the 30-day series “An Act of Kindness by a Stranger. Our journey through Bolivia’s Jesuit history is pleasantly interrupted by seeing some wonders of nature.

In the Jesuit Mission of Santa Ana we take a look at the map and conclude we will have to return to the mission of San Rafael in order to be able to reach San Miguel. While we are discussing this, Flora, the caretaker of Santa Ana’s Jesuit Mission, chimes in and says there is another road which, in fact, is a short cut. Continue reading

Indian Food – Eating From a Lotus Leaf

We have been staying with a family in a gold-mining town. Uma, our host, lives with her parents and her young son Nigel on the outskirts of town. She suggested we should visit one of her aunties and family for a celebration. It takes a bit of patience but we are rewarded with how it feels to eat with our fingers again. (For some reason we have no photos of this particular day, but these will give you an impression of Guyana’s countryside). Continue reading

The Remains of What Once Was the Largest Sawmill in the Caribbean

We had been driving all day through the rainforest and couldn’t find a place to camp because there weren’t any clearings. Until we came upon a fork and, in the distance, saw an antenna, which indicated habitation. We drove there and arrived at Anarika, which turned out to be a logging concession. We asked for permission to stay, which was granted, and were shown around by the passionate guard Owen. 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 noodle soup 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 the charm of Pousada (guesthouse) Portal do Vento on arrival, but now we wanted to stay. Continue reading