A Travellerspoint blog

Cartegena, Taganga and parque-tayrona

sunny 38 °C

Sunrise in atlantic city airport and skyping home
After a 4hr flight from atlantic city via Fort Lauderdale we arrived in Cartagena a city in the north of Colombia on the Caribbean coast. The Spanish colonial city was named after Cartagena in Spain. The city has an old walled city and the new part of the city around it. We stayed in a little b&b just outside the old city which was cheaper but still very nice.
We had 3 great nights in this awesome city that we loved and spent lots of time exploring the old city, walking around the lovely little streets, eating great food and looking at the shops.
One afternoon we experienced a huge columbian tropical downpour but luckily we were able to take refuge in a lovely little book/coffee shop and chill there for about 2 hrs until the heavy rain had subsided. We thought it would have been like a joburg storm and cool things down but when we got outside it was still as hot as before.
We had sun downers at the cafe del mar which over looked the sea, ate dinner outside in one of squares and had brilliant street food one night which was chorizo and arepas which are delicious corn/ flour pattys filled with cheese and covered with butter!! On the last evening we had dinner with a couple on a lovely roof terrace who have been sailing the world for three years and are only half way.
It was very very hot in Cartagena so We spent one afternoon at a beach just outside the old city called bocogrande which isnt the best beach but then the next day we took a boat to an island with a lovely beach called playa blanca. We spent the day swimming and staring at the amazing plastic surgery jobs....boob and bum implants are very popular in Colombia!


after a great time in Cartegena we took a bus about 5hrs to an idyllic little fishing village called Taganga. We spent the night there and had a lovely morning on the little beach before taking a taxi half an hour to a hostel just outside Tayrona park.
The only accomodation option in parque-tayrona is to camp on the beach,as I'm not big on camping we decided we would stay 2 nights at the hostel outside the park and walk in for the day but on our first night we met a lovely German couple, Flo and Steffi, and they suggested we walk in with them and stay the night so we changed our plans which turned out for the best!
The next morning we realised that we did not have enough cash (300k COP is the max withdrawal) on us to pay for our accomodation, meals and spend the night in the park so luckily our emergency stash of US$ came in handy and the hostel owner accepted them. We had made this error before in china and its not fun being stuck in places with no cash and no ATMs but luckily this time we had a back up!
So after sorting the money out, we set off on a walk into the park. Walking through the jungle was awesome with lots of different vegetation. After 3 hrs of walking in the humidity we saw the beach and couldn't wait to dive in the sea but the 1st beach we came to was too dangerous to swim in so we walked further until we got to where we would stay for the night.
After a swim and lunch we secured our little tents. We had a choice between sleeping in a hammock or a tent but after hearing the hammocks were tiny we went for the tent option. I have only had to camp once on this trip so I have been lucky but we were very unprepared! We had no pillow and the ground was extremely hard but despite this and the heat we managed to get some sleep and luckily we were at the sea so I didn't feel the need to shower because we had to share 4 toilets/ showers with about 200 people!!
It was a lovely 2 days and night with Flo and steffi and the the park and beaches were stunning!!

Exploring the area outside parque Tayrona
We spent one more night at the hostel outside the park then headed for Santa Marta. Byron was not very well the day we arrived in Santa Marta so while he slept at the hostel I walked around and checked out the beaches. Santa Marta has one very long beautiful beach but it is very busy and touristy so Byron didnt miss out on much. The owners of the hostel where we stayed were so nice, they gave Byron some medicine and took us to the airport the next day to get our flight to medellin.

Our first few days in Colombia were amazing and it was great to practice our Spanish again!
Will update the rest of Colombia soon!

Posted by karenandbyron 07:16 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

DC and NYC

After an amazing 2 weeks back in SA, it was time to get back to the travels. We had a holiday from the holiday so I didn't get our camera out once but Jules and Tbone´s wedding was gorgeous, we had a great night in Londolozi with Rich and 10 special days of family and friend time in Joburg. Getting the back pack ready again was hard but I got to pack a bag of different clothes (which now I am regretting packing too much) and once we were back on the plane I was ready to go again.....

Our flight was booked to LA via Washington however we have wanted visit Em for 6 years while she has lived in Washington DC so we decided to get out in DC and not get our connecting flight. It was perfect timing as Em is moving to New York in the new year so we got to see DC while she was still there!
Chris and Em had organised us a lift from the airport which was such a treat so after a gruelling inspection at Dallas Airport customs we set off to meet Em at her house before she had to go to work. It was so lovely to see her and we met Sam (ems friend who she lives with in DC) and her dog Mala.

That day while Em was at work we had to beat the jet lag so we decided to try and see all the sites we could. We walked the city flat and saw quite a bit.
Em lives in a very vibey young neighborhood that is about a 30 min walk to the white house. We Checked out Obama´s pad which is so much smaller than the movies make it out to be but still cool. The day we were there he was pardoning the thanksgiving turkey so we thought we might be able to see him which was wishful thinking.
then before we knew it, it was lunch time. We met Ems and a few of her really great work friends for lunch at the world bank canteen. Em´s office is a 2 minute walk from the white house. The canteen had amazing food and it was great to see where she works and meet some of her friends there!

streets if DC
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White house

Washington, DC is a city full of history, monuments and memorials so after lunch we walked around the Mall and saw the Vietnam and World War II veterans’ memorials, the Korean Memorial, the Franklin Roosevelt Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington memorial.
Then we crossed over the bridge into Virginia state to the Arlington National Cemetery which in an area of 624 acres where veterans and military casualties from each of the nation's wars are buried in the cemetery, ranging from the American Civil War through to the military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq.
After that we jumped in a cab and saw the U.S. Capitol Building on capitol hill before the sun set.The weather in DC was sunny and warm and we had a great day of culture and sight seeing!
That evening we met Ems at wholefoods after work to pick up some things for thanksgiving the next day. It was exactly like you see in the movies, Chaos!!! we quickly ran around the store, got the things we needed and headed home to rest our feet before heading out in Em´s neighborhood for bite and a few drinks!
putting on blister plasters...so much walking

The next day was Thanksgiving....Ems had arranged for a few people to come over to her place and Melanie and Jen were going to do all the cooking for us. What a treat, we got to have our first thanksgiving and we didn't have to do anything!!!
There were 9 of us for lunch. Such great interesting people who were so welcoming and brilliant cooks. It was an incredible day of lots of food.
Melanie said a poem before lunch and taught us about thanksgiving and the meaning behind it. It has officially been an annual tradition since 1863, when, during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of Thanksgiving to be celebrated on Thursday, November 26. The event that Americans commonly call the "First Thanksgiving" was celebrated by the Pilgrims after their first harvest in the New World in 1621.The first Thanksgiving feast lasted three days, and was attended by 53 Pilgrims and 90 Native Americans.
The table was decorated with traditional decor and the spread of Delicious food was endless. the girls made all the traditional dishes which included.....
for starters there were all sorts of tasty dips, crackers and freshly bakes pumpkin bread.
for mains there was, the biggest turkey I have ever seen, a green bean casserole; sweet potato pie, a broccoli casserole, fresh cranberry sauce and stuffing.
and dessert was pumpkin pie, apple pie, whipped cream and ice cream.
We drank a lot of wine, ate a lot of good food, played games and chatted a lot. it was a really fun day and night with great people.
Loved thanksgiving, think we should make it a tradition in SA!!!

The next morning Ems took us around Georgetown which is a historic neighborhood situated along the Potomac River. Georgetown has really beautiful streets with lovely upmarket houses and one main street with lots of good shops and cafes. We walked around the neighborhood, had a lovely brunch then took a cab to hertz car hire to pick up our rental to drive to NYC for the night! being Thanksgiving weekend we struggled to find a car available so we got a huge Chevy traverse which is a 7 seater. Such overkill but hey its America!

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the drive from DC to NYC is supposed to take about 4 hours but it took us 6! the stupid GPS got lost and we were heading south until ems luckily realised we had gone an hour in the wrong direction so by the time we got on the right highway heading north we had added 2 hrs onto our journey. We wanted to stop in Baltimore and Philadelphia but it was dark and Chris was waiting for us in NY so we decided to do a quick 5 minute detour into Philly to see the stairs where rocky is filmed. We played the rocky music on ems´s phone and did the Rocky run up! ha ha!!
Rocky stairs
road trip
We finally got to Em and Chris´s new apartment in NY. They have a stunning ground floor apartment very close to 5th Avenue and a 2 minute walk from central park, its awesome!
After freshening up we hit the town. NY was a lot quieter than usual because of thanksgiving but it is still such a great bustling city. Chris took us to a lovely restaurant (amazing hummus) and then to 2 bars. the first one we went to (via home because I forgot you have to carry ID in the states) was a roof top bar with an awesome view of the city lit up then we went to another great bar where you drink out of tea cups. at about 4am we decided to call it a night but you really can go on all night in NY!
night out in Manhattan

On our last day we met up with Ady for brunch at a great place called the park. It was so cold that day so we tried to walk around for a while until we decided to grab a drink indoors instead. on our way back to the apartment we drove via time square and had a stroll through central park! kk_080.jpgkk_082.jpgkk_081.jpgkk_079.jpgkk_084.jpg
I love NY, wish we had had more time there but it was so great to meet Chris, catch up with Ady and see where Em and Chris live.

Once again we stopped off to see friends and were totally spoiled by them. Chris and Ems treated us to amazing meals, drinks and they even secretly booked for our hotel in Atlantic city. We were going to drive there and find a place to stay but Chris and Em booked and paid for us to stay in the Golden Nugget for the night, it was amazing to get to such a nice hotel room after a long day and have a few hours sleep before heading the the airport.
thank you SO much for having us and being such generous hosts, what a great few days with special Friends.

Atlantic city - besides for our lovely hotel room it is a rather depressing place. lots of over weight poor people in a smokey casino!!!

Posted by karenandbyron 17:31 Archived in USA Comments (4)

Los Angeles



It was perfect timing.... Barnsie needed to be in LA for business just after we were going to be there so he booked his flight for a few days earlier so we could meet up with him and his friend Clay from Louisiana for a few days.
Poor Barnsie and Clay had the stay in accommodation that was at pack backers level which we felt bad about as the Crimson hotel in Manhattan beach was a little dodgy but we spent as little time there as possible so it was ok!

Clay and Barnsie were already out hitting the bars of manhatten beach when we arrived on the friday night so we dropped our bags and joined them as fast as we could. It was so good to meet Clay and catch up with Barnsie again so we had more than a few drinks until everywhere was shut and we had to go to bed.
The next day we had a great brunch at a spot over looking the beach and then hired bikes and cycled up and down the promenade. Manhattan beaches is awesome! The houses along the beach are stunning and it felt as if we were in a movie. The weather was perfect the whole time we were there too so it was really a fun way to explore.

That afternoon LSU ( Louisiana State University ) were planning ALABAMA in a huge college football game and Barnsie and clay are big LSU fans so the guys were very excited.
We found a sports bar along the main strip in Manhattan beach and settled in there for an afternoon / evening of sport and beer. While the guys watched the game I browsed the cool boutiques and found a few good bargains so it was a great day had by all!!!

On sunday morning Barnsie, byron and I (Clay had to leave that morning ) headed out for a day of sight seeing in the rental car Barnsie had got.
We hit Hollywood boulevard, saw the Chinese theatre, the Hollywood sign, the piano stairs and lots of wannabe Marilyn Monroe and elvis people trying to make it!
Then we stopped off a rodeo drive and admired the shops before stopping for an awesome lunch at a little spot just off rodeo drive!
Then we took a Sunday drive around Beverly hills. Wow, the houses really do top anywhere I have ever seen. We thought there were mansions in CT or joburg but these houses are really on another level, we speculated at who might live in them but unfortunately didn't spot any stars, ha ha.
That evening we walked along the promenade in Venice beach which is next door to manhattan beach but has a totally different feel. Although still very nice Venice beach isn't as fancy and the crowd is generally younger.

Clay and Barnsie were so unbelievably generous while we were with them. We hardly paid for a single thing, they treated us to their company and meals/drinks and even our stay at the crimson! Thank you so much guys, your southern hospitality was incredible even in California. We have been so touched at how generous our friends have been to "the travellers" and it is always amazing to get to spend some of our adventures with good friends.

After a great last in LA we had fish tacos and hit the sack before a 5 am start at the airport the next day.
We knew it was going to be a long journey back to SA but it turned out to be much longer than expected. Our route was supposed to be LA, WASHINGTON, JHB but due to delays etc it ended up being LA, WASHINGTON, LONDON, JHB. In the end it worked out as we got to drop in to the see the Goves in London for the afternoon and it happened to be Eve's birthday so it was a great to see Roy, eve, grant and Jamsie boy before heading back to joburg for 2 weeks of fun, family and the Smith wedding!

Posted by karenandbyron 12:23 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Oahu Island


sunny 27 °C


Beach time again, our favourite!!! The best way To get from Japan to the US was to go via Hawaii so we decided to spend 6 nights at one the most remote islands in the world! besides for Taiwan this is the longest we have stayed in one place, it was an awesome stop and it's not a place you can easily get to so I doubt we will ever be able to go back.

We flew into honolulu airport on Oahu island. We wanted to try see some of the other Islands but you have to fly and the prices were crazy so we decided to just stay put and explore Oahu island. It is quite a big island so there is plenty to do.
We searched on our good old faithful booking.com for accomodation and chose the second cheapest place to stay which to our surprise was Great. It was located a short walk from Waikiki beach, had a pool and a nice big room with a balcony!

Waikiki beach in the south is very built up and commercial but we loved it!
Coming from Asia for the past few months the states is quite a culture shock. The US is the first native english speaking country we have been to in 19weeks. Everything is bigger and better and after so much rice for the past few months we pigged out on big kahuna burgers and Starbucks! It is so easy to be over weight in America!
Despite being busy the beach is lovely and wide with white sand and warm blue sea. The first day we were quiet jet lagged ( we left 9 pm and arrive at 9 am on the same day)but had to try keep ourselves awake till the local bed time so we walked around the whole of down town Waikiki and orientated ourselves
We had a few mornings on this cool beach and Byron took a board out and surfed, it's a little flat on the south side of the Island but there is still the odd wave to catch.


There are 8 million visitors a year to Hawaii and most of them go to Waikiki so it caters for everything. The shopping is amazing, there is one Main Street parallel to the beach and one huge mall where we browsed after too much sun!
Most of the visitors are Japanese . We had just come from Japan and thought we were finally out of Asia but being in Hawaii was a bit like being in Japan.... Some shops accept yen, the waiters and waitresses speak Japanese and there are lots of Japanese restaurants! The strange thing is that the Japanese don't like the sun so you get lots of wealthy honeymoon couples just shopping with massive designer brand bags.
When we were in Tokyo we walked past a restaurant in the harajuku area with a huge que around the block. We took note of the name as it must have been good, it was called eggsnthings. Then we saw one in Hawaii and realised it is a Hawaiian chain but clearly all the Japanese in Tokyo knew about. We were desperate to go there to see what the fuss was about but every day there a few hours wait so we never got there!

We rented a car for the day and cruised around the island. First we went to pearl harbour which was very interesting then we drove along the coast to the north shore. Waimea bay is famous for the huge swell where they have many surfing competitions. We sat on the beach until sun set , swam and watched the crazy guys catch the massive shore breakers.

north shore
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pearl harbour

Halloween fell while we were in Oahu which was crazy! Between the Americans and the Japanese people went all out! We spent the evening cruising the streets where everyone parades their outfits. The kids and the dogs were the best dressed.

After 5 great days of beach, runs and lots of western food we were fast settling into the American life..... Off to LA for a few days.

Posted by karenandbyron 15:25 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Japanese alps

we boarded a Bus from shinjuku station in Tokyo to the town of Takayama in Hida district. It was a 4 and a half hour journey on very windy roads through the mountains. Luckily the bus had toilet because I was car sick for the 1 st time on the trip so I couldn't wait to get off.
Takayama is known for the merchant houses and strong crafts. We Went to a lovely morning market where we could have bought lots of little odd things and then we walked around the quaint little streets admiring at the old wooden houses. That night We slept on bunk beds in a hostel that was decorated in authentic japanese style. we found a great place to try out the famous hida beef. In our own private room we cooked our own meat on a hot stone, it was one of the best meals we've had!


The following day we took a bus An hour down the road to the little village Shirakawa-go. It is well known for its A framed thatched houses. After a walk around town and a hike to the view point we got back on the bus to Takayama. It was in this place that we discovered a fried potato snack that we then had a few times in the following days.


After collecting our bags from the hostel, we got on another bus headed for the town of Matsumoto. This is Nagano's biggest town but the place we stayed was a Nice traditional Japanese place just outside town. Despite arriving very late we managed to find a lovely local spot to have ramen for dinner then hit the sack.

It was an early start the next morning to catch the first of many trains to do the Takayama-kurobe alpine route ( although we did it from kurobe to takayama) . it was going to be very cold up in the mountains so we dressed in every warm thing we could find in our backpacks and I bought a beanie and gloves from 7 eleven ( you can buy everything there ) . we locked our big bags up at the train station in Matsumoto and headed off with stuff packed just for the night.
the alpine rope way is 90km route divided into 9 sections and lots of different Modes of transport: train, rope way, cable car, bus, trolly bus and your own feet.
We were expecting a hike but it was a very " fake hike" with Lots of transport and hadly any walking.
The scenery in the kurobe mountains is absolutely phenomenal. the autumn foliage is so beautiful with so many different colours, we were lucky to time it so well and see this.
once we arrived at the lake we saw all the fresh snow on the mountain peaks, it was stunning against the very blue/green water. When we got to the top of the mountain it was like being in a ski resort and walking through the snow was surreal after being in such extreme heat for the past few months!

Alpine rope way

We ended the day in Toyama where we had booked a place to stay but the address of the hotel was so confusing so we took the train too far and missed the stop so we decided to cancel the hotel booking ( it was 8pm so luckily didn't get charged) and find other one that was closer.
The town of Kanazawa was only one stop on the train and we wanted to go there anyway so we headed there to find a place to stay. The only affordable place we could find was such a dump but after an exhausting day and a good tempura meal we crashed.
kanazawa is famous for the kenroku-en castle gardens from the 17th century so early the next morning we took a bus to see these stunning gardens which are supposedly the 3rd best gardens in japan.


Then we missioned for 5 hours back to Matsumoto to get our bags. After picking up our bags we got a train and then a bus to a little town in Nagano. In winter Nagano is japans main ski resort area, the Winter Olympics were held here in 1998.
We stayed at a little b&b that had a private hot spring bath which was great as we had not showered since the walk!!!
The next morning we wanted to head for the well known Shirahone onsen area to have a bath as the japanese do. shirahone Means white bone and milky waters in the outside onsen surrounded by autumn colours is supposedly very beautiful. 3 days of bathing in here is supposed to keep a cold away for 3 years.
We tried to catch a bus there but After serious confusion to get there a guy from the hotel offered to drive us.
The hotsprings was meant to be a huge highligh but it turned into a laugh as I couldn't bring myself to get naked and bath with all the old naked ladies and men with face cloths on their heads! I tired to talk myself into it but after walking into the change rooms a few times we decided just going to look was enough! So now we were in the middle of nowhere in the mountains with all our bags so we walked along the road aimlessly until we found a restaurant to take refuge at. The beautiful autumn colours and scenery were worth the mission and we had fun just walking around taking photos.Then Luckily we found out that we could catch the last bus back to Matsumoto and connect to Tokyo


Travel in japan is insanely expensive and we clearly did a lot of it in one week. We saw a great deal in the short time. Japan is so clean, efficient, friendly and beautiful! We really loved it and hope to get back there one day.


Posted by karenandbyron 12:03 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

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