Nikki and Rob’s visit to Galapagos

This was a historical visit: Our first Australian friends to visit and on top of that they were on their honeymoon. Rob is Mick’s good friend. Rob was there when Mick and I first met in Hawaii and now he had married lovely Nikki and they were coming to spend two weeks of their honeymoon with us. We were stoked!

The first few days we spent them in San Cristobal. There were still some waves so as soon as they arrived we went surfing to Carola. Even Nikki decided to come on the mad dog (which is an inflatable mat) with her goggles on to see the wildlife. It was pretty small, but being an island, there is always a chance for a surprise big set and just in time I looked up and saw this big thing coming and screamed to Nikki “I think you should paddle that way” as I pointed to the horizon and luckily she did, and the poor thing didn’t stop paddling until she got back to the boat. That was the first and last time Nikki decided to venture into the Galapagos waves.

The next morning we decided to take the long walk to Tongo Reef and we caught a few fun waves there but chose the worse time of the day to start our walk back and by the time we got on Ondular we all had to take naps..the Galapagos sun is quite strong!

The third day, Rob and Nikki did the tour to see the giant tortoises and Mick and I stayed on the boat and had our Swiss friend Dani, who had arrived on the islands a few days before, visit us in the morning. By the time Nikki and Rob were back, we decided it was time to open the champagne we had bought for the newlyweds and a spontaneous party began, having our next boat neighbour Phil, from Alaska, coming too. It was a fun night and kind of like a farewell party as the next day we were sailing to Isabela.

It’s 80 miles to Isabela so we left at around 1pm and took us almost 24 hours to get there. It was a pleasant passage and Nikki and Rob were keen to do their first night watch on Ondular. I was really impressed by seeing how calm Nikki seemed with the whole sailing thing and it made me a bit embarrassed to think a few months back and remembered how scared I’ve always been and compare it with how calm and collected she was.

In the morning we were all in the lookout for some wildlife. We started seeing this white water and splashes in the distance. We all checked and agreed that it seemed like it was a big pod of whales. We were all excited, got the revs up and change our course a bit to go after the whales, hooting and screaming in excitement. The closer we got, the further they seemed. Our excitement started diminishing but we were still hopeful, until we realized it was all an optical illusion and it was white water breaking over a shallow offshore reef. Oh well, we could only try.

We arrived into Isabela around noon and while they went snorkelling to some lava rocks nearby, I stayed on the boat and did some yoga. The next few days we went on two different tours, one to Los Tuneles which was a snorkelling tour and the next day with a taxi up to the high part of the island for a hiking tour to the volcano Sierra Negra.

I think everyone agreed that the Tuneles tour was our favourite one. We left early morning on a power boat and they took us to this bay 30 minutes from Puerto Villamil where we snorkelled through some caves and saw sleeping white tip sharks, big pleasant turtles and all kinds of colourful fish. The hike to the volcano was a bit harder, starting at 8:30 and finishing almost at 1pm. The views were spectacular but it was a bit too hot to enjoy it.

 Isabela is an amazing island full of beauty. Other things we did while there was see the flamingos, walk to the tortoises breeding centre and snorkel around the boat to check out the cutest little penguins. After three days there we decided to keep moving and our next stop was Santa Cruz only 40 miles away so we left at sunset to get there by first light not without our share of excitement on our night passage.

Mick and I were downstairs washing the dishes and Nikki and Rob were upstairs doing their watch. I came up to check on them and suddenly saw a shade of something, it seemed like a rock but it couldn’t be one as it was moving too fast. We kept calling Mick to come and have a look but by the time he got to the cockpit the shade had passed us and until this day “the captain” still doesn’t believe us when we say that it must have been a ghost ship or something passing us by. I do think that situation scared the hell out of Nikki as she confessed having nightmares that night about the ghost ship.

Santa Cruz is the busiest of all islands in the Galapagos and it has a wide variety of shops, restaurants, bars and businesses. The same day that we got there, my cousin Juan that lives in Denmark arrived too and we hung up with him the next few days. Dani our swiss friend was also there and we had them over on our boat to celebrate Dani’s birthday. We were all pretty tired from the night crossing so Dani left with my cousin a bit disappointed by our lack of enthusiasm but luckily the nightclubs were opened so he still got to enjoy the rest of the night.

The next day we did the walk to Tortuga Bay a long white beach where you can see the marine iguanas in full swimming action and we spent the morning there and my cousin came along. At night we caught up with Dani again and had pizza in town. The last day in Santa Cruz, Rob and Nikki did a tour to see the giant tortoises in the wild and Mick and I went to the market to buy some fresh fruit and veggies. We left around sunset and this time my cousin Juan joined us for his first overnight passage which was uneventful but we did have to motor almost all the way due to a strong current against us and not much wind.

In the morning we said good bye to my cousin who was going back to mainland Ecuador to spend some time with his parents and we went for a walk to Tijeretas where we were hoping to swim with sea lions. We got in the water and it was so clear with plenty of fish but not many sea lions around. It was still a nice snorkel but by the time we were out of the water drying ourselves up we saw an incoming sea lion family. We all decided to jump back in and it was so much fun being in the water with them, all coming very close to our faces and playing with us. They are definitely some amazing animals and it seems like their lives are mainly about having fun and being comfortably lazy. The pups are the cutest but the big male ones can be quite aggressive and not cute at all.

On Nikki and Rob’s last day on the boat, we had a big angry male sea lion coming aboard and making it all the way into our cockpit. He was so agro that we couldn’t do anything when he growled himself into laying on one of our cockpit cushions and just stay there defiantly. We tried everything to get him out but he didn’t seem to mind when we gently poked him with a stick or clapped our hands or did anything, he just laid there and stared at us. Mick and I had to go to town to make a skype call and left Rob and Nikki there with the big guest. They finally got him off by using a saucepan and a spoon and making loud noise with it. We were glad when we came back and found the boat back to normal.

Nikki and Rob were with us for two weeks and we wished they had stayed longer. We had some great times together, lots of laughter and good conversations. They both did amazingly well at complying with all boat regulations and seamanship but if we had to pick the best one I think Rob has to come second best due to his confusion when trying to remove the water from the shower by pumping the toilet and we never understood why he needed those long meditative moments in the morning hanging from the anchor chain.

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Living in Shannon

Our experience with woofing has been great. It’s been hard work but we couldn’t have been luckier. We stayed with this wonderful lady Majel and her daughter Elke. They have this beautiful house in an area of town called Shannon, up in the mountains in Tortola.

Their house it’s an amazing place, full of beautiful details and surrounded by trees and flowers. Majel grows tropical flowers and takes care of all the other fruit trees and different plants in her property. She loves being in the garden but also works as a teacher in the international school, so she keeps herself quite busy. She has a great sense of humour and I have been amazed by the amount of energy she has. She literally never stops!

Majel’s flowers

Elke is only 21 but she could pass as a 30 year old. She’s so mature and laid back and she’s always finding something to do. She was quite an inspiration, as she was a great baker and would spend hours in the garden helping her mum. She was visiting Majel for a few months after finishing university and two weeks ago she left to go travelling to Europe. Luckily she left us a few of her recipes and today we baked some really nice cookies from her recipe book.

We spend most of our days up here in the mountain, so by the time we have to go down into Road Town it feels quite busy and overwhelming to us. The capital city can be full of people, cars and chickens. Chickens thrive here in the islands; everywhere you look you’ll see one hanging around. Majel has been kind enough to lend us her car whenever she can, so we can go grocery shopping over the weekends or for a swim to the nearby beach at the end of the day.

Road Town

Going grocery shopping in Road Town is quite an experience because depending on the day of the week you can find the best or the worst fresh produce available; this means that sometimes you have to visit three different supermarkets in the same day to get what you need, but it’s all part of the island experience.

Our time here at Shannon is coming to an end as we are only a few days away of getting our boat.   It’s been great getting to know Majel and Elke and we feel like we’ve made good lasting friends. We’ve been through a few things together: an almost hurricane hitting the islands, building a fence, a gate and a new deck, trips to Road Town, baking bread and many other memories that we’ll take with us. Thank you Majel and Elke for sharing your beautiful piece of paradise with us, we’re sure we’ll see you soon.

Our finished projects in Shannon

Plans are better unplanned

no plans zone

This story is divided into two parts

1st part

Once we decided to embark on this new adventure, we knew that our lives (from now on) would have to be lived without a set plan; always open for adjusting and adapting.

While we were in Ecuador we had thought that if the boat would take a while to be ready, we could go to Costa Rica to visit my brother and spend some time there. We also knew that it was now time (after 8 months of the REAL good life) to look for ways to decrease using of our savings and lower our expenses. So we started looking for ways to maybe do some volunteer work in exchange for accommodation or food.

That’s how we came across a really useful website called www.workawayinfo.com . It’s not free but for a reasonable amount of money ($35.00 for two years) you can become a member and be in touch with people worldwide that offer a place to stay and sometimes food in exchange for some hours of work. I really like this website because there are endless possibilities of what you can do, from taking care of monkeys to helping out at backpackers.

We wrote to a few interesting places in Costa Rica and also Nicaragua and we did get a few responses.  We were all set; our plan was to fly to the British Virgin Islands, find a boat, and while the boat went through the maintenance and so on , we would go to CR, visit my brother and start volunteering.

At the airport in Guayaquil, not knowing what was expecting us!!
At the airport in Guayaquil, not knowing what was expecting us!!

But then we packed all our stuff and we flew from Guayaquil through Miami to San Juan Puerto Rico to Tortola, BVI and the plan changed a bit.

Arriving into Miami we had to pass through customs. There was a huge line that went really slow. Once we got to the immigration officer, I got called in into “the special room”; they didn’t tell my why (luckily Mick was allowed to come with me as well). We sat there for about 15 to 20 minutes and then they called my name, gave me back my passport and pointed at the door. We still don’t know why they gave us such special treatment!

 By the time we arrived to American Airlines they told us we had missed our flight and we got put into another line. Once we reached the counter, we found a really nice guy who even took some extra time to talk to us about surfing, he gave us a new ticket which was only two hours later than our original ticket to San Juan. We were finally able to relax, we went and had lunch and walked slowly back to our gate.

While we were sitting waiting for our flight, Mick looked at our tickets and realized we hadn’t been assigned seat numbers so he went and approached the lady at the counter. “Excuse me, there must be a mistake, we don’t have any seat numbers”, said Mick in a friendly manner. “That’s because you ain’t on this flight!”, replied the AA lady abruptly. (I will stop this dialogue now, to prevent from writing any swear words that may have occurred after that response).

To make the story short, we were only stand-by passengers and the friendly guy at the first AA counter, wasn’t really that friendly;  he probably didn’t want to actually explain what was happening and distracted us from asking any questions with his smile and quirky chit chat. Unbelievable!!To make things worse, there weren’t any more flights to San Juan that day, so we had to stay in a hotel overnight.

The part that was the most frustrating for us, was that fair enough, it wasn’t really American Airlines’ fault that we missed our flight, but it wasn’t our fault either that we got held up by immigration (we had 1.5 hours to connect to the other flight!, that’s plenty of time in any other airport in the world!), but the people in American showed no compassion and no sympathy whatsoever. Every time we would approach the counter to ask about our situation they would treat us like we were the last people they wanted to see on the face of the Earth. That’s what’s sad about this. But anyway…

Luckily we managed to change our connecting flights and we were back at the airport really early the next morning trying to catch the first flight. This time, we were successful. We arrived at Tortola only a few hours later than what we had expected.

After all of that we went through, we didn’t feel like travelling anywhere anymore for a while, especially carrying all the stuff that we were travelling with. Imagine dragging a board bag filled with 6 boards on one side and a long board on the other, plus two backpacks, two ukuleles and two 23kg bags..No way!! We were going to try our best to stay on the BVI until we had a boat and we could travel that way from then on.

So that brings me to the second part of the story.

2nd part

It’s been over 10 days since we arrived and everything’s worked out really well. We have been staying in this really cosy and comfortable granny flat up on the hills in Tortola. We found this place through a website called www.airbnb.com . It’s an amazing way to find great accommodation (from cheap to luxurious) but instead of staying at hotels you can stay with families or rent people’s houses or apartments. For us, this was the cheapest way to stay on the island. BVI can be quite expensive and when you’re on a budget, like we are, cutting costs is very important. This granny flat has a little kitchen and it’s perfect because we can cook at home instead of having to eat out all the time.

Once we settled in we started visiting all the different marinas to look for boats. We kept ourselves pretty busy the first few days and once we had a few on the lookout, we started focusing on ways to stay on the island. We found a few volunteering opportunities through workawayinfo but then we also remembered there was woofing. For those of you who haven’t heard about woofing, it’s a way to travel around and get accommodation and food in exchange for work in organic or sustainable farms around the world. We looked into the Caribbean woofing website http://www.wwoof-caribbean.org/home/  and found a few options. We soon realized that the place where we were staying at (the little granny flat on the hills) was listed there as needing some woofers to come and help.

We didn’t want to miss our chance so the following morning we talked to Majel about it, the lovely American lady who owns the property, and she told us that we were more than welcome to stay for as long as we needed to, in exchange for a few hours of work a day. How good was that? We didn’t have to move our things anywhere else and we got to stay in this lovely and comfortable flat.

We really love it here. It’s up on the mountains so we sleep with the sounds of nature; it’s all green and peaceful. The only downside to it is that it’s up on the mountains!; for now it’s good because we have a rental car, but on Sunday we’ll return the car and from then on it’s hitch-hiking for this pair of budget travellers! The last few days we have been giving rides to everyone we encounter, hoping on building our karma bank :).

CONCLUSION

We have our eyes on a boat but we can’t say too much about it yet. The only thing we’ll say is that it’s on the process of becoming ours, but we’ll need to wait a few more weeks for that to be certain. So for now, we won’t be saying anything else about it. If and only if it becomes ours, we then will have to wait 6 weeks for it to be fixed and ready for us. So at the moment the only definite is that we will be staying on the island at least until the end of October whether we get that boat or we find another and from Monday on our paid accommodation finishes and we’ll start woofing. See as I told you at the beginning of the story, life is all about adapting and adjusting.

Sivananda Teacher Training Course in Colombia

It’s a Thursday night. I’m at the hotel Real Dinastia at La Pintada, a small town two and a half hours from Medellin in Colombia. I’m there to do a month long intensive teacher training course for Yoga. It’s the talent show night. We had been asked to prepare something and share it with everyone. It’s my turn. I stand up and put my surfing hat on, literally, I put my blue hat on that makes me look more like a surfer: “Alright, you can use your mat as your surfboard. We are going to lay down on the mat like we are in the cobra pose, hands next to your shoulders, palms facing down, legs together and at the count of three we are going to jump up, ready,  1,2,3, up! We are surfing!.”

during the talent show
during the talent show

You may think I’m crazy; How can I teach 30 odd people to surf while I’m in the middle of the mountains during a yoga course? I also thought that when I was getting ready for the talent show, but once I started thinking about it a bit more I realized that it made perfect sense. See Yoga and Surfing are really linked, at least for me.

While I was preparing my “surf lesson” I realized that the Hawaiian greeting “Aloha Ke Akua” which means “ I am what I am, or God is inside us”and refers to saluting the spirit in you , that is the same spirit in me,  has the exact same meaning as the “So Hum” in Sanskrit; so I used it to finish my lesson and it showed the strong spiritual link that these two activities have.

 Surfing has helped me so much to get in touch with myself and also it has taught me many lessons. I think I can sincerely say, that the ocean has been my first “Guru” teaching me lessons of humbleness, perseverance, respect, love, gratitude and specially recognizing the unity in all, and how we can find ourselves through nature.

Surfing and Yoga have been huge in my growth and development as a person, and it was actually thanks to surfing that I started doing yoga. My desire for surfing for as long as my body let me, led me to search for something to maintain my body. That something was yoga, and thanks to yoga I’ve learned to enjoy surfing even more, I’ve also learned more about myself and how to live a healthier and happier life.

My relationship with yoga started 10 years ago. I was still living in Montanita and a girl from Brazil (Ingrid)was in town. One afternoon at the beach, she taught me a few yoga postures. (Thank you Ingrid!)That same week, I decided to end up my 6 year old long relationship (a pretty bad relationship, so it was a good thing!) and I thank yoga for that.

Yoga has helped me through so many things. It consoled me when I was feeling lonely in a new country. It helped me heal all kinds of injuries and it has helped me connect with my true inner self. Thanks to yoga I have a better relationship with myself and with the world.

I was lucky enough to have found an amazing yoga school once I got to the Gold Coast. Before I arrived there, I tried a few others, but it wasn’t until I went there, that I felt at home. I just loved all the teachers, each one of them, sharing a different style of teaching and each of them wonderful. I loved that it wasn’t only focused on the physical part of yoga, like many schools especially in the West do, but they also taught us a bit of the philosophy, meditation, pranayama and bhakti yoga.

  gold coast yoga centre

Thanks to them, my interest to know more about yoga grew, so I started reading lots of books and not only having yoga as an activity in my life but making it part of my lifestyle.  If you happen to live on the Gold Coast or pass by, please make sure to visit the Gold Coast Yoga Centre. It’s an amazing place to practice. http://www.goldcoastyogacentre.com/

Although Yoga has been an integral part of my life, I never considered becoming a yoga teacher. I was just happy to do my own practice, until we started this trip and I thought, why not? I love yoga and I love teaching, so why not combine both and share what I know with others. So, once I got to Ecuador I started researching for schools that offered teacher training and luckily enough , there was going to be a course during July in Colombia with the Sivananda Yoga School.

Now I’m back in Guayaquil, after spending 4 weeks of intense training, I feel so blessed to have found Sivananda Yoga Schools and to have gone there to do my training. It was an amazing course. We lived and shared our time with the teachers and other students. The days were so busy, from 5:30 am until 10pm, we were meditating, chanting, studying, practicing, doing karma yoga, reading, listening, doing yoga, breathing; there was not enough time in a day to do all these things  but magically we fit them all in.

In my group, there were 24 people from different parts of the world, like Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Germany, France, Brazil and Colombia. We were all from different ages and different backgrounds but we all shared the same love for Yoga. It was hard and intense, but we also had fun and shared lots of laughter. The course was really well planned and we had different activities every week.

 I loved learning about the Masters of this tradition, Swami Sivananda with his love for humanity and wanting to share the teachings of Yoga with everyone and Swami Vishnudevananda, who was his disciple and came to the West to spread yoga all over the world and was a big peace activist. They and the teachers in our course, Kanti Devi, Swami Premananda, Swami Dayananda, Nirmala and Satyadev, inspired me and motivated me to go out, practice earnestly and share the new acquired knowledge with the world.

I’m not sure exactly what I’ll do with this new training. I know it’s helped me a lot with my own practice. Mick has been my first student so far and we’ll see… now that we start travelling I’m sure the opportunities will present themselves for me to teach and share what I’ve learned. I’m thankful for having the opportunity to experience this course and I highly recommend it to anyone seriously interested in Yoga. You can check their website for upcoming courses http://www.sivananda.org/courses/  and also check the Divine Life Society website for free reading material http://www.dlshq.org/download/download.htm. All I’m sure of is that I’ll continue practicing because as Swami Sivananda said: “One ounce of practice is worth a ton of theory”

mick y yo riendo

P.S. I’m so lucky to have a wonderful husband who supports me and encourages me to follow my passions and dreams. Mick travelled with me to Colombia and while I was doing the TTC, he continued travelling around the country. He left me at La Pintada and then continued south to Manizales, where he’s stayed with this beautiful couple, Martha and Felipe. After that, he went to Salento and saw the coffee plantations. Later, he travelled north to Rio Claro and back to Medellin where he took a plane to Bahia de Solano. He stayed there for a week with Enrique and Nancy at Cabo Mazo. There, he enjoyed the beaches and beauty of the area, went fishing and relaxed. Finally he travelled back to Medellin and took a bus to La Pintada where he met me for my graduation. We travelled back to Medellin and stayed with this great couple, Isabel and Yusuke, they rent rooms through airbnb and are looking to start their own hostel soon. We then travelled together back to Ecuador.

 

 

A month in Playas

General Villamil Playas although is a coastal town in Ecuador, was a mystery to me. I didn’t go there much when I lived in Ecuador, but through one of my best friends, Henky, who is also Ecuadorian and lives on the Gold Coast, I had heard so many stories of good waves there, especially during the month of May.

When planning our time in Ecuador, we definitely knew where we wanted to be at during May. Next thing to sort out was finding a place to stay.

It was thanks to Henk again, that we got in touch with this nice couple who let us rent a small suite that they usually lend to family and friends. That was our little home for the month. This suite was  in the best spot in Playas, a private neighbourhood called Cascol, own by several families that have been going to Playas for decades. This neighbourhood is so privileged because it is really close to many of the best breaks so we didn’t even have to drive anywhere to get good waves, we had them all walking distance.

The neighbourhood gets busy during the weekends when all the owners of the houses come from Guayaquil to relax and enjoy the beach, but from Monday to Friday, the only people there, were the guards or maids that came to the houses to clean and maintain the gardens. There are a few families that do live there but not many. During that month, we weren’t the only outsiders staying at Cascol. There was also a couple from America, Dane and Jocelyn, renting a house there. They were also keen surfers so we shared a lot of surfing sessions with them and it was great spending time with them.

It was an amazing month. We had waves almost every day and almost all the time, we had the waves to ourselves. We surf one of those spots the most. This wave is called Olas Verdes (Green Waves) and it was the kind of wave that gives you lots of room to practice and get comfortable. It’s not too scary or fast but it does have some power, so it kept us entertained.

Playas is the beach closest to Guayaquil and Guayaquil’s main river, the Guayas, flows all the way from the city to have his sea mouth near Playas. This makes Playas one of the most polluted beaches in Ecuador, so apart from surfing, we picked up bags and bags of rubbish everyday from the beach.Here is where we started making our mats from the bottle caps we found in the rubbish, so we kept ourselves really busy most of the time.

We also did a few trips to Puerto Engabao. This is another beach in the area, a fishing port, where we have some really good friends that live there; Daniel(Ecuador) and his beautiful Swedish wife Nadja and little daughter Suniva. They own a hostal called ”Hostal Puerto Engabao, Surf Shelter”, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Hostel-Puerto-Engabao/383981581654999 and it’s the place to stay, if you want to share a few days in this beautiful spot.

Engabao has a fun wave and it’s just a very rustic town, full of fishermen, donkeys, cows, chickens and pigs, with beautiful sunsets and a long beach. We also went to visit our friend Helena there; this crazy inspiring free spirited surfer girl, who decided to swap the cold winters of Sweden for the sunny days in Ecuador and is now slowly but surely building her own little piece of heaven in Engabao, using a lot of recycled materials and living a more simple but happier life in the company of her cat, dog and new acquired chickens.

Other friends that we were lucky enough to spend some time now in Ecuador and especially while we were in Playas, were Roberto alias Patachon and his girlfriend from the Netherlands, Fenja. I knew Roberto from years ago but hadn’t seen him in probably 9 years. We met again and we clicked immediately because, they were also planning a big trip, not in a sailing boat like us, but in a kombi (a Volkswagen kombi) called “El Verde”. We shared the same views on life and the same desire to live a more simple life, with less complications and things, more connected to the rhythms of nature. We shared a love for the ocean and surfing and Fenja, like me is also into yoga and meditation. We had an amazing time with them, always filled with laughter and funny stories. We missed them dearly now that they have left Ecuador to start their adventure. At the moment they are in Peru but they plan to continue driving south and who knows where they’ll end up. If you would like to follow them on their adventures please visit Fenja’s blog called navigate on trust http://www.navigateontrust.com/ .

It was a fantastic month. At the end of it, we were surfed out and happy.