Making Memories in 2017 – My Life Gets Longer and Better
I often speak about making memories. You see, I have a theory that the more different experiences you have, the more memories you make, the longer life feels to be. Since becoming nomads, we hardly ever make statements like: “Hasn’t this year flown by?” In fact, it seems like much more than almost 5 years since we packed up our lives in Australia, flew to Europe, and began building our home for this life.
It’s all the places we’ve been, all the sights we’ve seen and all the people we’ve met that become the memories we make. As we approach the end of our time in South America, I am reflecting on some of those memories – taking them out, one by one, to enjoy their flavour again.
I would like to share some of my best memories from 2017 with you, month by month.
The year started with excitement: my sister and her husband were coming from England to spend 3 weeks on the road with us. I hadn’t seen her since we left Australia in March 2013. It was a joyous reunion full of laughter and tears.
They arrived in Cusco and we shared the Sacred Valley with them before driving to Puno and Lake Titicaca, and then to Arequipa. Some of my favourite memories from Peru, on our first South American trip, are from these places. It was so special to be making new ones with my sister.
First we had to leave Peru – we had been 2 months in the country and needed another 3 months to travel slowly north. The only option for more time in Peru is to leave and come back. But you seem to be able to do this as often as you like. So we left Arequipa (possibly the most beautiful city in Peru) for Arica in Chile. We exited Peru and returned the next day, then began moving north.
The coastline of Peru is not very inspiring, so we were happy to leave it near Paracas, where we headed inland to Ayacucho – a city recommended to us by a Peruvian we had met along the way. Of all the cities we visited in Peru, this one has a special place in our memories. It has a violent history that it has overcome. Its people are so happy to have visitors, but it’s not yet over-run. A great place to have visited before it’s really discovered!
There are many things to do and see, in and around Ayacucho, including a Wari ruin site. The Wari started our ongoing interest in pre-Incan sites in Peru.
And the mountain scenery driving there, and then on to Lima, was simply stunning Andean landscape .
Although we had no intention, nor inclination, to return to Lima, we were glad that life interfered and brought us to that city again. We revisited the Larco Museum on Juergen’s birthday, and it was even better than the first visit in 2008! Months later, memories of the beautiful environment, the food in the restaurant, and the well-organised, informative and amazing exhibits are still clear in my mind.
In March, terrible floods hit Peru. Because of them, we had to change our plans many times due to not being able to take the roads we wanted to. At other times we just had to wait until a particular landslide had been cleared so that we could proceed. It gave us time to be grateful for the life we lead and to think about the local people, for whom this devastation was a tragedy. Memories are not always beautiful.
Ultimately, we reached La Selva and enjoyed what we experienced of the Peruvian Amazon immensely. So many memories of green forests, butterflies and birds, and mountain landscapes; interspersed with semi-flooded roads that gave us pause.
Our fifth month in Peru; still finding more interesting sights and making lasting memories. Now we were heading slowly back towards the coast. But there was much to see along the way, some more memorable than others.
Karajia: we came there to meet up with some overlanding friends we had met in Argentina. We found them, but also a quite amazing burial site – decorated sarcophagi on a cliff face. This unusual place is fixed indelibly in my brain. Sometimes a sight stays as a full-colour memory that pops back up unexpectedly. This is one of mine.
Nearing the end of our 3 month visa, we ended up on the north coast of Peru at Swiss Wassi . We only had a couple of days before our visa expired, but it was so nice that we drove to Ecuador for 2 days and then returned with another new visa for Peru.
We decided it was the time and place for a holiday, after the long journey through Peru . Sometimes you just have to stop for a while and process the many memories you’ve been making. We stayed 3 weeks in this beautiful place, sharing stories with many other interesting travellers as they came and went.
We arrived in Ecuador in the last week of May, and revisited Cuenca, Vilcabamba and the Ingapirca ruin site , before heading north towards Bogota. Ecuador is a small country and diesel is very cheap, so it was a small thing to drive halfway through the country to visit a festival.
And what a festival it was: The Celebration of Octava de Corpus Christi in Pujilí . It is undoubtedly one of the highlights of our time in Ecuador, and was responsible for the making of many colourful memories.
We returned to Cuenca after the festival. Spending time there provided us with many new memories. It also evoked the pleasant memories we had made in 2008. Revisiting a place you have loved has a lot of advantages.
From there we went to the Pacific Coast of Ecuador – a place entirely new to us. The two highlights of our time on the coast were meeting Peter & Maria in Salinas and whale watching in Puerto Lopez. The memories are ours to keep.
After a very brief stop in Quito, we arrived in Ibarra, and finally met Graham. He is an Australian expat, who has lived in Ibarra for 13 years. He invites overlanders to stay at his property overlooking the city, where he has a nursery. We had stayed there in 2008, but he was in Australia at that time.
We stayed for over 2 weeks – another ‘holiday’ at the end of our time in Ecuador ! It’s a beautiful place and we have great memories of time spent telling stories over a cuppa with him, Amalia and their delightful 4 year old daughter, Leah. There were also other overlanders, who joined the group. They all came and went while we were there. We also spent time with a German couple, Jens & Kristina, who are living nearby.
This was truly a time of relaxing friendships. It’s the memories of times like these that help us during other times, when we don’t meet any overlanders and don’t get to speak English (or German) for long periods, except to each other.
We had been looking forward to returning to our favourite country of our previous trip since arriving to South America. And here we were in Colombia, at last…
Great memories were revived during our revisit to San Agustin. This time we also went to Tierradentro – one of the most amazing and challenging burial sites we have ever seen ! The memory of descending the staircase into that first tomb will never leave me…
We also made wonderful memories in Salento , where we entered the coffee region. Our plan was a few days, but we ended up staying at La Serrano for 2 weeks. It was interesting because it’s a hostel, guest house and overland camping site. Among the guests there was a mixture of countries, ages, and transport modes. We had many communal gatherings where eating, drinking and story-telling were the priorities. The included breakfast made this a daily occurrence!
Continuing through the coffee region, we visited many colourful, small towns; went to ‘coffee school’ as part of Hacienda Guayabal’s coffee tour ; and spent several hours at Recinto del Pensamiento , lured by Juergen’s butterfly obsession, but experiencing so much more.
Then we arrived in Medellín, and stayed in and around that city for the next 6 weeks. It wasn’t planned that way but once again it was the people we met, the sights we saw and the memories we made. Medellin is a special city. From its violent past it has managed to transform itself into a modern, liveable city.
Al Bosque Hostel & Glamping is a camping place and hostel 1000m above Medellin. It’s operated by brothers, David and Daniel, out of what was their family home. They are super friendly and helpful, making it one of the best places we have stayed. From there you can get to the city by bus – racing around the curves, if you have the stomach for it. Or you can take a short bus ride to Parque Arvi and take the Metro Cable – silently gliding down to the metropolis below. We stayed there for a total of 3 weeks and met many amazing people with interesting stories to tell.
We also met a local overlander in Medellin: Lucana Merce, as she is known. We published her story in our first post about overlanders: What inspired you to travel the Pan-American Highway? She invited us to stay at her finca near San Jeronimo, where we spent a couple of weeks. Beautiful views, interesting people and a restful place – except for the noisy music from a neighbour at times – added to our memories of the area around Medellin.
My 63rd birthday was looming as we were about to leave Medellín for Bogota. Many travellers had recommended the small village of Guatapé, around 60Km from where we were camping and on the right route.
Now, Guatapé has a rock. It’s a big rock with 740 steps to the top – marked every 50 steps. So I thought it might be a nice way to mark my birthday. I left Juergen with Berta, and set out for the top. It was a bit breathtaking – literally. Initially, I stopped every 50 steps for a breather, but managed to stretch it out to every 100 quite soon. When I reached the top, I was quite exhilarated. The view over the Embalse de Guatapé is really breathtaking. Good memories of a special way to mark a special day.
Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.
Once we reached Bogota, we felt like we were retracing some of our steps from our 2008 visit to Colombia – albeit, in the opposite direction. We finally managed to visit the famous Gold Museum – it had been closed in 2008 for renovation. We reconnected with Alvaro and his family, who had helped us so much ‘when we lived in Bogota’ in 2008 (we were halted by the necessity of having the engine in our F250 rebuilt and it took 10 weeks!) Once again, old memories were evoked as new memories were made.
We then revisited Villa de Leyva for Christmas – in 2008 it had been Easter!
New Year was celebrated at La Pacha Hostel . It’s also a working farm, owned and run by a Brit and his Colombian wife, between San Gil and Barichara. It’s popular with Colombians, but also backpackers from around the world. It was a low-key, but enjoyable start to 2018, with good food, music and friendly people.
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It’s like stepping into a new year. The darkness is a blank canvas. The light comes up every day to shine on your experiences that become your memories. At the end of the year, the canvas is peppered with your very own countless gold artefacts, which are an intrinsic part of your history.
So next time you take a break from your routine – to go somewhere different, to do something different – enjoy making all those memories, and extending the length of your life.