Surfing the Sea

Since 1995

Holiday in Colombia: Week 5 — Aug 27, 2016

Holiday in Colombia: Week 5

The morning after I ended up in the small village of Rozo in the Valle Del Cauca region, the hot sun baked the surroundings with tropical heat, the sky a bright light blue. That made it a perfect day to go out and cool down in some cold river water, and that’s exactly what we did. We drove through vast landscapes of green mountains and blue skies towards the nearby town of Ginebra (which is also the Spanish name for the city of Geneva in Switzerland), then onto some dusty rocky roads which are too common in Colombia to another nearby village called Costa Rica (not the country!)

Ginebra town centre

At Costa Rica, there were two swimming pools beside the river (which makes me wonder what’s the point of having a pool if the river’s nearby). I alternated between dipping in the river and pools at regular times, the pools’ water much warmer than the river’s, so I could cool down in the river after warming up in the pools. I even got to meet the resident pet, and jumped off a diving board. It was scary!

By the river
Kids’ swimming pool
A little pet…

I also found a rather exotic-looking species of butterfly at the riverside – the 88 butterfly, so-called because the markings on its lower wings looks rather like a number 88. The upper wings are soot-brown or black with navy-blue stripes. These butterflies are only found in South America, although they can occasionally end up in the far south of Texas.

88 butterfly on the wall
88 butterfly close-up

Even though I had been in the water, I ended up getting suntanned because the sun was burning hot – my feet even got hot from trying to walk on the baking ground – as I write now, I’m still peeling! I was in pain for the next day going back on the bus to Pereira due to the burn, which made me feel a little dizzy and want to lie down on a cool bed. On the plus side, I now think I’m addicted to ham-and-cheese tortillas… 😉

The scratchy, prickly tingle from my sunburn having settled down, I got to fulfil my wish of seeing my father at our old house again just before I left Colombia. I once again relived nostalgic memories of my past life, reading through all my old books and looking through all my old drawings – some of which I’d somehow left behind the last time I visited four years ago. I finally got my Dad’s scanner to work, and scanned in all the drawings I’d made over the past month or so – it was quite a bit of work and took up quite some time since it scanned very slowly, unlike my own scanner back home in England. I made another new drawing while I waited for the others to be scanned in, though I must keep it secret for now as it’s for a certain project I’m contributing to… 😉

Front of the old finca

I even got to visit the nearby finca of one of my Dad’s friends, who is from New York but of heritage from the Dominican Republic. While I’d seen it before during my last visit to Colombia, it was now a lot bigger and more spaced-out. They grow their own bananas, pick and roast their own coffee from the nearby fields and have ducks down in the artificial pond. They even have a swimming pool and feeders for hummingbirds, which made buzzing sounds as they zipped around. I tried to catch a photo, but they were too fast for me!

Outdoor swimming pool
Fresh coffee beans
Bananas on the tree
Duck in the shed

As much fun as I was having revisiting my old Colombian home, I couldn’t forget the fact that I would be leaving for England in a matter of days. The next couple of days after returning from my Dad’s home were spent at my Nana Stella’s apartment back in Pereira, where I was stationed while my family started packing the suitcases for the home flight.

When the day finally came, I couldn’t stop the tears coming. I knew I would see Colombia again someday, but it just felt sad having to leave my family in Colombia behind, as most of them still live there. It was especially hard having to say goodbye to my Dad – it looks like he might live in Colombia forever, as he’s been there for ten years now and doesn’t look like he’ll be coming back to England anytime soon – and Nana Stella and Nico. I at least still have my cat. 🙂

I got to take this shot of Pereira at night just before I left for Bogota:

Pereira city night lights

Once in Bogota after a short hop on the plane, we began our return to London on a much longer flight. As it was a night flight, I went to sleep to pass much of the time, though technically it would be afternoon in London when we landed. The crew were still working by Colombia’s time, however, so I had breakfast when it should have been lunch time my time.

When we finally landed back in London, I felt somewhat sad but happy to be home at last. We had a little pick-up at a local café before hauling all our suitcases onto the Underground back to Seven Sisters, where I’ve now returned and am writing this from.

More memories have been made during my holiday in Colombia, and many more will be made when I next go there – which will possibly be in the next couple of years. My next travel wish will be to finally see Canada in the summertime after seeing it in winter (and of course live there).

Thank you, Colombia, for once again having me. I’ll be back sometime soon! 😉

Some highlights of my holiday in Colombia
Trip to Nova Scotia: Day 9 — Feb 20, 2016

Trip to Nova Scotia: Day 9

Our flight home to London from Halifax had been delayed… by a whole day! We would now be setting off at 9pm the next night rather than 11pm that day as originally expected. This would mean that we had to stay overnight at the airport, because we’d now checked out of our hotel in the city and so couldn’t return for the night. I had to sleep on both the floor and the seats, and it was very uncomfortable having my head pressed against a hard surface rather than a fluffy pillow and having only a jacket as a blanket.

Once I’d managed to wake myself up with the help of Tim Horton’s, there wasn’t much exploring left to do as we were already on our way home from Halifax. While I mostly just connected with family and friends back home and browsed the Web on my computer and tablet (as well as writing for this blog), I did have a break to eat at a pub, where I had a cheeseburger with chips and another ice cream sandwich, and revisiting the lobsters at the seafood store just around the corner from the lounge.

Freshly-cooked Nova Scotia South Shore lobsters with smoked salmon
Freshly-cooked Nova Scotia South Shore lobsters

I then noticed another lobster sculpture like the one in the lounge, except this one was made out of glittery mosaic tiles rather than decorated with the Nova Scotia tartan. Maybe they’re part of a series and people have to follow a trail to find each one?

Glitter mosaic lobster sculpture

I also had a good look at the real lobsters in the shop tank, and I even put one out to see it close-up. Even though its claws were tied together with elastic bands, I still felt a little afraid of the spikes on its legs as they might give me nasty scratches. It was fun seeing the lobster make its way back into the tank and splashing inside, flipped over onto its back. (This sort of reminds me of the lobster hatchery scene in my novel Once Upon A Time In Canada, where Pictou is being shown a pregnant female lobster with eggs and she is carefully placed back down into the pool.)

Lobsters in a tank
Lobsters underwater

Of course, eventually the time rolled back around, and I had to leave my love Canada back for home shores in England. I tried not to cry again as the bright night lights of Halifax and the environs whizzed past me outside my window onboard the plane.

Goodbye Halifax, see you some other day!

Once I finally landed back home, I was so sleepy but happy that I was back in familiar territory. (Of course, I was also still sad I couldn’t see Canada again for some time afterwards.) I fell asleep on the train home until I was tugged awake to get on the bus near my house… and that’s where I am now, home.

In retrospective, I’ve found that even if I only saw Canada once, it would complete my dream of simply seeing it. Now my next wish is to visit it again in the summer, and possibly eventually live there where I will always be around Canadians.

Thank you, Canada, for having me experience you for the first time in my life, and for seeing what you’re really all about!


Trip to Nova Scotia: Day 8 — Feb 19, 2016

Trip to Nova Scotia: Day 8

Finally, after a week of enjoying Nova Scotia (or rather, two towns in Nova Scotia), I was ready to head back home to London and resume my normal working life! Inevitably, the tears came – and Canada is a country which I’ve previously never visited before, but it being my lifelong passion means I am inextricably attached to it. (I also cried when I left Yorkshire, my birth county in England, after visiting it for three days as a nostalgia trip, because nearly my whole childhood was spent there and so I’ve made a lot of memories there.)

We dragged our bags down Inglis Street towards the Halifax ViaRail train station, which also doubled up as a coach stop, and stored them in the bus’ luggage compartment. When the bus set off for the airport, I watched outside the window to enjoy Halifax and the surrounding area for one last time before I flew back home, having a short stopover in Dartmouth.

As the bus arrived at the airport, we went to fetch our bags from the luggage compartment, and since there was a lot of time to go before the flight back home to London, we had to find ways to keep ourselves entertained.

I came across a seafood shop which had real live lobsters for sale, just like the ones I’d seen in Peggy’s Cove the day before! They had been caught off Nova Scotia’s South Shore, so they were local – perfect for tourists who wanted to bring home the taste of Nova Scotia. I even got to see one of the lobsters up close – touching it felt somewhat surreal!

A real live fresh Nova Scotia South Shore lobster!

Around the corner in the waiting lounge, there was another lobster! Sadly it wasn’t a real lobster (unless one of the lobsters from the seafood shop escaped), but rather a sculpture of a lobster decorated with the Nova Scotia tartan. There are apparently a good number of these lobster sculptures around Halifax, and they are being auctioned off for charitable causes in Nova Scotia.

Nova Scotia tartan lobster sculpture

After we’d stuffed ourselves with fish and chips, ice cream sandwiches and Tim Horton’s, it was time to get ourselves ready to board the flight back to London. Or were we heading back to London…?

Trip to Nova Scotia: Day 1 — Feb 12, 2016

Trip to Nova Scotia: Day 1

The day I’ve always dreamt of for the past five years has now become a reality, and I’ve now touched down in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada!

Landing in Halifax, NS

However, I didn’t come to Halifax straight from London – I had to make a stopover in St. John’s, Newfoundland, before I could fly on my connecting flight to Halifax. The flight took a good 6 hours, half the time it takes to fly to Colombia, so I spent it sleeping, eating food and typing up some ideas for new stories on my tablet. (And viewing the live flight map.) As I flew in February, the snow was so deep, it went up to my ankle! I tried to pick some of it up to roll into a snowball, but because I didn’t have any gloves on, it froze them!

Landing in St. John’s, NL
Heavy snow in St. John’s, NL

After lounging around for a good time in St. John’s (including having lunch at Tim Horton’s!), I could finally get onto the plane to Halifax! It took quite some time to take-off as the plane needed de-icing, but it was well worth the wait, as the taxi driver who took us to our hotel in Halifax was the prime example of a Nova Scotian – funny, chatty and loves to laugh! We chatted about Nova Scotia, Halifax and my dream of living in Canada. Since we arrived pretty late (at Halifax local time), we decided to settle in to our hotel and have a good sleep to restore our energy after almost a whole day of flying.

I have a whole week in Nova Scotia ahead of me, so I should make the most out of making my dream out as I’ve always expected it to be for the past five years.

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