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.

Making memories with people you meet, places you go, and sights you see make for a fulfilled year. The more you have, the longer your life seems to be.

Making memories with people you meet, places you go, and sights you see make for a fulfilled year. The more you have, the longer your life seems to be.

I would like to share some of my best memories from 2017 with you, month by month.


January

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.

With all the places we've been and all the experiences we've had in 2017, my favourite memory is still the time spent with my sister. Here we are just sitting and having a chat in Cusco.

With all the places we’ve been and all the experiences we’ve had in 2017, my favourite memory is still the time spent with my sister. Here we are just sitting and having a chat in Cusco.

Chinchero: a small place in the Sacred Valley. It has ruins, a church built on Inca ruins, and this very colourful market. We visited in 2008, but it was lovely to revisit with Bron & Bob.

Chinchero: a small place in the Sacred Valley. It has ruins, a church built on Inca ruins, and this very colourful market. We visited in 2008, but it was lovely to revisit with Bron & Bob.

 

February

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.

Ayacucho is a lovely colonial city, high in the Peruvian Andes. It has transformed itself from its violent past to be a city in waiting - for the visitors to come. A beautiful memory from 2017

Ayacucho is a lovely colonial city, high in the Peruvian Andes. It has transformed itself from its violent past to be a city in waiting – for the visitors to come. A beautiful memory from 2017

And the mountain scenery driving there, and then on to Lima, was simply stunning Andean landscape .

Just one example of the amazing, colouful Andes. No wonder these mountains are one of the memories I like to take out and revisit from time to time. These particular mountains are on the way from Pisco to Ayacucho in Peru.

Just one example of the amazing, colouful Andes. No wonder these mountains are one of the memories I like to take out and revisit from time to time. These particular mountains are on the way from Pisco to Ayacucho in Peru.


March

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.

We revisited the Larco Museum on Juergen's birthday and had a special lunch in this lovely environment. Revisiting this museum was an incredible surprise - it was even better than the first time.

We revisited the Larco Museum on Juergen’s birthday and had a special lunch in this lovely environment. Revisiting this museum was an incredible surprise – it was even better than the first time.

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.

Remnants of Peru's catastrophic floods along the Pan-American Highway. They may have inconvenienced us a little, but were devastating to the country and its people.

Remnants of Peru’s catastrophic floods along the Pan-American Highway. They may have inconvenienced us a little, but were devastating to the country and its people.

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.


April

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.

Karajia: we had no expectations for this sight. But it amazed us. How did they get those sarcophagi, with a body inside, up on the cliff face? Just one of the incredible memory making sights of 2017.

Karajia: we had no expectations for this sight. But it amazed us. How did they get those sarcophagi, with a body inside, up on the cliff face? Just one of the incredible memory making sights of 2017.

The road to Cajamarca: after visiting Kuélap , we drove a road that I will never forget . It was at once terrifying and amazing.

This road is only just wide enough for Berta - one wheel on each white line! Was it worth it? Yes, the scenery was incredible. Would we do it again? Not on your life!!! No wonder it's one of the strongest memories of the year.

This road is only just wide enough for Berta – one wheel on each white line! Was it worth it? Yes, the scenery was incredible. Would we do it again? Not on your life!!! No wonder it’s one of the strongest memories of the year.


May

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.

The perfect place for making perfect holiday memories. Sunsets over the Pacific Ocean like this - every day. Swiss Wassi in northern Peru.

The perfect place for making perfect holiday memories. Sunsets over the Pacific Ocean like this – every day. Swiss Wassi in northern Peru.


June

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.

June found us back in Ecuador, revisiting memories of 2008 - until we reached Pujili for it's Corpus Christi Festival. Then we found the highlight of the month - an abundance of colourful memories to be made.

June found us back in Ecuador, revisiting memories of 2008 – until we reached Pujili for it’s Corpus Christi Festival. Then we found the highlight of the month – an abundance of colourful memories to be made.


July

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.

We really enjoyed returning to Cuenca, and made a lot of new memories while revisiting some of the old ones. This is the flower market, with plenty of Cuenca's colonial architecture as a backdrop.

We really enjoyed returning to Cuenca, and made a lot of new memories while revisiting some of the old ones. This is the flower market, with plenty of Cuenca’s colonial architecture as a backdrop.

The coast of Ecuador was a new experience for us. Being befriended by Peter & Maria in Salinas was a lovely start to the memories we made along the way.

The coast of Ecuador was a new experience for us. Being befriended by Peter & Maria in Salinas was a lovely start to the memories we made along the way.

 

August

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.

One morning Graham asked: Do you want to come up to the lookout? Sure, I answered. So we all piled into his pickup, and wound our way up a gravel road. We finally stopped at this beautiful meadow. It had views down into the city and up to a snow-capped volcano. This is Graham & Amalia with Leah in front. Behind are other overlanders who shared the experience he gave us.

One morning Graham asked: Do you want to come up to the lookout? Sure, I answered. So we all piled into his pickup, and wound our way up a gravel road. We finally stopped at this beautiful meadow. It had views down into the city and up to a snow-capped volcano. This is Graham & Amalia with Leah in front. Behind are other overlanders who shared the experience he gave us.

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.

More new friends we met in Ibarra. I think Jens and Kristina might be suffering a bit from 'parked overlander syndrome', but we shared some great stories of our adventures over lunch.

More new friends we met in Ibarra. I think Jens and Kristina might be suffering a bit from ‘parked overlander syndrome’, but we shared some great stories of our adventures over lunch.

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.


September

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…

A repeat of a photo we took in 2008 in the San Agustin archaeological site. We remembered it well and enjoyed it again.

A repeat of a photo we took in 2008 in the San Agustin archaeological site. We remembered it well and enjoyed it again.

Down into the tombs of Tierradentro. Some of the experiences that are most scary, make the most indelible memories.

Down into the tombs of Tierradentro. Some of the experiences that are most scary, make the most indelible memories.

 

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!


October

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.

A colourful hotel in a colourful town. Jardin was our last small town in the Colombian coffee region - and just might have been our favourite.

A colourful hotel in a colourful town. Jardin was our last small town in the Colombian coffee region – and just might have been our favourite.

Recinto del Pensamiento was a lovely surprise. We went looking for butterflies but found orchids and colibris and innovative architecture and these bonsais as well.

Recinto del Pensamiento was a lovely surprise. We went looking for butterflies but found orchids and colibris and innovative architecture and these bonsais as well.

 

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.

Al Bosque Hostel & Glamping: as well as meeting other travellers, we had some amazing sunsets while staying at this camping place outside Medellin.

Al Bosque Hostel & Glamping: as well as meeting other travellers, we had some amazing sunsets while staying at this camping place outside Medellin.


November

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.

Loma Hermosa: sunset at Lucana's finca, near San Jeronimo, outside Medellin. It was a beautiful view and a mostly peaceful place to be.

Loma Hermosa: sunset at Lucana’s finca, near San Jeronimo, outside Medellin. It was a beautiful view and a mostly peaceful place to be.

The leaders of two walking tours gave us a special insight into the recent history of this troubled and transformed city: Stairway Storytellers of Comuna 13 & Real City Walking Tours .

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.


December

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!

A Sunday afternoon reunion with Alvaro and his family. We have many fond memories of 'when we lived in Bogota' in 2008, and many of them revolve around this man and his family. It was a pleasure to spend time with them again on this visit to Bogota.

A Sunday afternoon reunion with Alvaro and his family. We have many fond memories of ‘when we lived in Bogota’ in 2008, and many of them revolve around this man and his family. It was a pleasure to spend time with them again on this visit to Bogota.

Christmas dinner in Villa de Leyva, shared with new friends, John and Mandi. Good food and great company.

Christmas dinner in Villa de Leyva, shared with new friends, John and Mandi. Good food and great company.

 

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.


Our “Featured Image” on top of page
This image was taken at the climax of our visit to Bogota’s Gold Museum. With a small group of visitors we walked into a darkened room. As the lights come up, they are focused on different parts of the display. Eventually we recognise that it’s a collection of countless gold artefacts from Colombia’s history. They dazzle and burn themselves into your memory.

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.

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When you travel you make more memories: memories with people you meet, places you go, adventures you experience, sights you see, and exotic foods you eat. It's a more fulfilling time of your life. At the end of such a year, with many memories your life seems longer and better than a life spent in your daily routine at home and work. This is our 2017 review – full of good memories!

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Yasha

dare2go's human navigator (we're not lost because there's nowhere particular we have to be) alongside our Nexus 7 tablet, writer and editor of our blog, first cook and loving wife. Teaching English as a second language when possible.

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8 Responses

  1. What an amazing year you had! I really enjoyed reading about your adventures and learning new things about many places I had never heard of before. It’s a big world; those who don’t travel truly don’t understand what they are missing!! Thank you for sharing!!

    • Yasha says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment, Marilyn. You are right – those who do not travel… But sometimes I am truly grateful that not everyone travels – sometimes it’s nice to find a place that stays mostly off the beaten path and isn’t over-loved.

  2. It’s hard to fathom all of the memories we make in a year, but your article gives us a reason to look back ourselves. Thanks for sharing these excerpts from your life, and keep traveling safely!

    • Yasha says:

      Thanks for your comment – it’s really important to value our memories, even the bad ones. They are what bring us to where we are, and make us who we are.

  3. It sounds like quite a wonderful year of travel you have had! I especially like that photo of Karajia. WOW!!!

  4. I love your philosophy about memories — that the more memories you have, the longer your life. I see them as just proof that you lived your life fully, which you certainly have this year! I hope 2018 brings you another full year of making new memories and revisiting old ones!

    • Yasha says:

      Thanks Rachel. I think I noticed this thing about memories when I realised that we really don’t ever feel like ‘this year is over already – where did it go?”

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