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Solo traveller

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In Merida, Mexico I stayed in the home of Miguel, the owner of the Spanish school where I went in the afternoons for lessons, after my voluntary work in the dog shelter. Oscar, who was the programme coordinator, also lived there. My first impression of Oscar was a highly intelligent, borderline autistic individual with strong Mexican features, cool glasses, and longish black hair. He seemed a very friendly and caring guy. The morning after my arrival Oscar was to take me into the city for a quick walking tour. I was somewhat taken aback when he glided down the stairs wearing a full length purple floral dress, glass floral earrings, which dangled past his shoulders, pink hair slides and flip-flops with socks. I completely ignored his surprise attire and we headed out on the bus. However as we wandered around the beautiful city, I was struck time and time again by…

My time in Cuba came to an end last weekend and I headed off to Mexico. Never has any country evoked in me such extreme emotions as Cuba. I had a love/hate relationship with the place. I struggled to comprehend how Cubans could be so warm, friendly and generous when they led such bleak lives. There is no question that Havana is a wondrous city full of colourful colonial buildings which are being painstakingly restored by the government, yet this is a government which cannot afford to feed its people. Havana is equally famous for its gleaming 1950s American cars, yet the reason why they are still in existence is that the importation of American cars has been banned since this time. Cars are wildly expensive, and beyond the reach of most. A 20 year old Merc with 200,000 miles on the clock sells for $100,000 dollars here. Highest paid…

Plane Jayne When I started writing this blog a few years ago I thought ‘How not to have a Midlife Crisis’ was a great title. However now, at the age of 57, it is hard to kid myself, or anyone else, that my desire to head off every year, armed with a case of mosquito repellent, is some form of Midlife anything. The truth is I am beyond midlife (sadly) but I still love travelling. That is why I found myself on Saturday in the departure lounge at Gatwick once again, before catching planes to Madrid and then on to Havana, Cuba. So this is a big Hello from Havana, home of the cigar, rum and Salsa. So far I have seen plenty of all three amongst the crumbling relics of what once was a beautiful city. The people are incredibly friendly and the rum is flowing but don’t come…

Sloth in treeI am pleased to announce that I am still ‘ringworm free’ and have now moved to work in a wild animal rescue centre. This is the most amazing place. Sick and injured animals are brought here by members of the public or the Costa Rican government. Some have been trafficked or injured and others have been kept as pets. The aim is always to release them back into the wild. Sadly this is not always possible. There is a Sloth that fell out of a tree as a baby, and hence requires physio on his back legs every morning, and there is a Capuchin monkey who was tragically kept in a bar and fed on alcohol and cigarettes and is now too domesticated to fend for himself.

The  work here is enormously rewarding, we feed and clean out over 100 animals every day. Although the policy is that we must never touch them, being up close to monkeys, parakeets, sloths, raccoons, lizards, deer and wild pigs feels a real privilege. These residents live in complete luxury and eat the most delicious combinations of fresh fruits and vegetables, which we chop up every morning. I wish the same could be said for the humans…

Dog shelter San JoseIt was with a very heavy heart that I left the Galápagos Islands and the wonderful 2 and 4 legged inhabitants I had shared my stay with. 4 boats, 3 planes, 3 taxis, 3 buses and 2 hotels later I arrived in San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica. My route involved a change of planes in war torn El Salvador and I was relieved to note, as we came into land, that the runway was basically  intact and the terminal was functioning.

I have many things on my bucket list but camping on the side of an active volcano isn’t one. However when the opportunity for such a trip arose I knew that I couldn’t say no. One of the group volunteers in the Galápagos National Park office and he had managed to get clearance for the trip, which had never been done before. When I was told I had to submit my passport number so they would know who was missing if the volcano erupted, I thought it was a joke. Sadly it wasn’t. The Sierra Negra volcano erupts usually in October every 2-3 years, and it hadn’t erupted for 3 years. On Friday afternoon our random gang piled into pick-up trucks and headed off into the lush countryside. After a steady climb for an hour the trucks stopped and on the side of the road were 4 horses and 2…

My journey from Ecuador to the Galápagos Islands was far from straightforward. Firstly, I had to catch a plane to the tiny island of Baltra, which is only the length of the runway and the airport terminal. So if a pilot gets it wrong his plane ends up in the Pacific. I was on a big plane so, needless to say, it was a heavy landing following by a deafening screech of brakes and screams from nervous passengers. Once through the tiny terminal, I caught a bus to the edge of the island where a small boat ferried passengers 200m across the sea to the island of Santa Cruz. This should have been a pleasant little crossing, but the majority of the passengers were short, plump Ecuadorian ladies with massive suitcases and even bigger behinds. I had a suffocating 5 minutes squashed between such two senoras and 4 suitcases, on…