Living with kids in Bolivia – good advice from Facebook friends change our plans

Don’t believe everything you read

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As we were getting into the month of May we needed to settle down somewhere and start thinking about what to do at the end of our year long trip in July. We had started looking for UK jobs already in February while we were living in Nicaragua, only to realise that it was too far out in the future to yield any results. Now was the right time to get into our homecoming plans properly, but where could we settle down for a bit do so?

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Settling in and looking for a job while in Nicaragua

We had agreed that the country we would stay in would be Bolivia, simply for the reason of cost. Bolivia is one of the cheapest countries in South America still and as we were approaching the end of our 12 month travel, our remaining budget was becoming increasingly important in our decision making. I had done some research about travel in Bolivia during our time in Peru and Chile and was feeling a bit apprehensive about staying here for a a month or more after reading about travellers experiences of unfriendly people, dangerous roads, rubbish food and dangerous dogs.  However we know by now not to trust everything we read but rather to follow our own instincts as it always takes a bit of time to adjust to the people and the culture in a new country. After a week here our first impressions of Bolivia did not match the negative things we had read so we thought we’d give it a go and stay.

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Carlos, one of our new friends in Bolivia

While exploring Sucre for a few days, we initially thought we might stay there and enjoy the more developed part of Bolivia. However, we quickly decided we didn’t want to stay there due to the pollution and big town feel.

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Sucre the white city

Paul and I had agreed that our the top priority for the next month or so was to stay somewhere cheap with good internet access to help progress with our job hunting but we soon found ourselves doing the exact opposite.

Great advice from local Facebook groups

Back in January I had found some great Nicaraguan and and Costa Rican expats groups on Facebook. The expats in these groups are in may ways similar to us. Families and people that have left the old “western” way of life to enjoy a new and simpler life in other parts of the world.

By simply asking these likeminded people for advice on the best places to live with kids we found a great place to stay and a local school in Granada, Nicaragua. In the end Nicaragua turned out to be one of our favourite parts of our travel so far. So with no ideas of where to go next in Bolivia or what to do for the next 2 months other than avoiding the big cities and living cheaply, I contacted a Bolivian expats group on Facebook for some inspiration and advice from families who had already made the move.

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Expats Facebook groups have proved very useful

Change of priorities – and plans

Where in Bolivia is a good place to live for a travelling family with primary school age kids? I simply put this question to the few thousand people on the closed Facebook group and only minutes later the advice from friendly folk came thick and fast. Sucre, Cochabamaba, Tarija and Samaipata were the main 4 suggestions with lots of advice and information on why these friendly people through so. Cochabamaba and Sucre we had already ruled out due to size so that left Tarija and Samaipata. Tarija is located in the far southeast on the Argentine border so did not really fit our travel plans, but Samaipata to the east on the Amazon border would not be ideal either.

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After reading up about both places and compering the two I instantly felt that little rural Samaipata could be the right place. A small town of 3500 people, lovely climate of 25 degrees, in the mountains full of wildlife, plenty of things to do and see and with a small community of foreigners that we could tap into to for help.

 

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The Samaiapata crowd had also been particularly helpful on Facebook and that felt like a promising start. The main issue was internet coverage. After 2 weeks in Bolivia we already knew how poor internet is here so when we discovered that there is only 1 cafe in Samaipata with decent internet we knew we had to change our plans or our priorities.

Putting the new plan into action

Hours earlier, on Air BNB I had fond a great little house in the centre of Semaipata that was pretty cheap soI contacted the host to check that there was internet in the house. No was the answer, “but you can buy internet data to use on your phone with a Bolivian SIM”…Could we live for a month and look for jobs and houses back in the UK without good Internet access?? We agreed all other things about Samaipata seemed too good to turn down and so agreed we would go for it and make the job hunting process work one way or another.

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Our house in Samaipata, with a garden and mandarin trees.

Once decided, we started looking at how best to  get there. Bolivia is not a huge country but the mountainous terrain makes it hard to travel anywhere. From Sucre to Samaipata is about 400km but would take some 12 hrs on bumpy roads in an uncomfortable night bus. The advice I got from my new Facebook friends was “Fly don’t die” and so that is what we did. Only 2 days after posting the question Facebook, we were on our way to Samaipata.

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Leaving Sucre for Samaipata by plane via Santa Cruz

We flew from Sucre to Santa Cruz for about £40 each and then got a mini bus to Samaipata from there. Despite opting out of the bus it was not the easiest of journeys. After weeks in the cold high in the mountains we were also surprised and bit bothered by the heat as we got the bus from the airport to the minibus station in Santa Cruz.

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Quick break before the 3hr minibus up into the mountains
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9 people in a minibus. This guy got the short straw.

The mini bus schedule ran as most mini busses do in Bolivia, they leave when they are full rather than follow a specific schedule. So we let the first bus go in order to have something to eat and a quick travel break. The next bus didnt leave for another 2 hours when all the places were full. Finally, with one guy practically sitting on the gear stick, we were off to our next Bolivian adventure.

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Ingrid and Scotts school in Samaipata, Bolivia

Rock climbing in Bolivia

Sucre – climbing with new friends in Bolivia

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Carlos and Ingrid

We desperately wanted to go climbing in Bolivia as we had not managed to do any climbing at all in Peru. When we were in Peru the catastrophic floods and landslides made it impossible to reach many climbing areas and unsafe to climb in many places. It had been 4 months since our last outdoor climb in Cat Ba Vietnam and we were itching to get back on the rock. At the same time I was wondering if I still would have enough climbing fitness in me to really enjoy it.

 

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Beautiful Ha Long bay Vietnam back in December 2016.

Once we got to Sucre from Potosi and started looking at things to do there, we immediately realised that there is plenty of rock climbing in the Sucre area. Happy days! There are 2 main climbing companies that operate in Sucre and through a friend of climbing friend that met in Lima 2 months earlier, I got in touch with Carlos at ClimbingSucre to se if he could help us out.

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Climbing at base camp Lima

By the time Carlos and I got talking we only had 2 days left in Sucre before our flight to Santa Cruz. Luckily Carlos offered to take us out climbing that same afternoon so that we could fit 2 climbing sessions in before leaving. Perfect! With such a long time since our last climb, to fully enjoy it we would need a proper warmup session before trying any harder climbs. We agreed on 2 half days of climbing at BS1000 and headed off out to Sica Sica crag just a few hours later.

Rock climbing at Sica Sica Crag, Bolivia

With only a handful of climbs in the last year in China, Malaysia, Australia, Thailand x 2, and Vietnam. Ingrid and I were lacking our usual climbing strength, especially in our fingers so we were both hoping to  enjoy climbing some lower grades than usual.

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View over Sucre from Sica Sica crag

Carlos met us at our hostel and a taxi buddy of his picked us all up and drove 10min to the crag at the edge of town. How amazing to have such a big wall to climb right on your door step at almost walking distance from the centre of Sucre. No wonder foreigners have settled here to run climbing businesses.

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Bolivia, Sucre, Sica Sica crag set in a tranquil eucalyptus forest

Getting back on the rock after 4 months break

Ingrid was soo excited she was almost hyper. She was skipping along the steep path up the 20 min ascent from the road to the crag and singing non stop. We soon arrived at the gorgeous crag and enjoyed the great view over Sucre right behind us. The 25m wall has a steep path up one side, perfect for setting up top ropes. Carlos went to set up the ropes, while Ingrid and I got our gear out.

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Ready to climb

As he came back down he was keen to point out that there are a lot of unsafe routes set up by amateurs in Bolivia. 2 routes he pointed out on this wall were set up with unsafe bolts and unless you come here with a guide, you would not know this and perhaps have an accident as a result.  Bolts and drills are hard to come by in Bolivia, and although climb Bolivia pay for some of the routes there guys set up, Carlos also explained he and other climbers have invested a lot of money in bolting routes and buying gear that is more expensive in Bolivia than in most European countries.

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Sore toes

I was not looking forward to unwrapping our smelly shoes that had been hiding in layers of plastic bags in the bottom of Ingrid backpack for months. Happy to find that they were ok and good to use…my feet however were not as pleased. I got another little bag out with what i thought was chalk, only to discover it was a bag of pasta! What a plonker, a days climbing without chalk as Carlos had not brought his either! At least the crag was in the shade so we would hopefully not be climbing too hard or sweating enough to really need it…

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Lovely routes on the Sica Sica crag

We started easy on a couple of 4s on the giant slab and were happy to find that the technique was still in us. We were also pleased to start the 2 days of climbing on a slab as it meant more leg power and less reliance on our weak fingers and arms. Most of the climbs were along flakes and cracks and friction on this sharp sandstone was good all they way. We continued climbing through the 5bs and 5cs  and finished on a couple of lovely long 6as. What a lovely afternoon of climbing.

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Ingrid on top rope at Sica Sica crag Bolivia

Lead climbing on Garcilazo Crag, Bolivia

Day 2 we headed off at 8 and had only a 15 drive to Garcilazo crag. The driver who’s car was running on something other than petrol was struggling to get the car up the hill to our drops off point, but eventually we made it.

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Tricky approach to the Garcilazo crag in Bolivia

Once there I could not see the crag anywhere…turns out that we were on top of it and the approach was s steep scramble down a slippery hill to the impressive wall of exposed sandstone. Luckily Ingrid is like little mountain goat these days so we managed to get there safely in the end. The Garcilazo crag is a high quality vertical sandstone with long cracks, some tough crimpers and a distinct lack of foot holds.

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Typical route on Garcilazo crag in Bolivia

It is south facing so in summer, this shady spot provides great protection form the sun, but as this is winter it was very cold in the shade so I was glad we had brought our hats and puffers. Yann (one of Ingrid climbing coaches back in London) says cold is good for friction said Ingrid with a smile.

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No hanging about, I has asked to lead and that is what I got. I set up the first 5a route and Ingrid second it after me. We were both really suffering with cold fingers, especially the 1st third of every route. It was total agony and  sharp rock on our cold weak fingers made for an uncomfortable start.

Fingers apart, I felt really confident leading this route as it had many options for hands and feet. As the crag is approached from the top, all the ropes can be cleaned from the top as we were leaving, meaning could spend more time climbing and less time cleaning routes.

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Excited and happy to be lead climbing again
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Ingrid working her way up this 6a+

We moved on to top a few other routes of the same line and started to feel the pain building up in our relatively weak finders and feet after months of no climbing. I loved this crag, such a perfectly clean and sharp vertical rock towering up above you and a great mix of comfortable and hared moves. There are also many different routes to climb in a great range of grades from 4 all the way up to 7b+.

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Having a rest before topping out on this long crack

The first few moves on all the route were quite reachy and hard so Ingrid opted to second me while I led. Even I struggled to get the first 2 clips in on all routes and was secretly pleased she opted out of leading today. With more recent climbs in the bags I’m sure she could have led these routes with confidence, but lack of regular climbing does quickly take your top performance and climbing confidence out of you.

 

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Sore fingers after 2 days of climbing

After 4 leads and 2 top ropes my feet were absolutely killing me and Ingrid was getting hungry. Time to head back into Sucre to meet up with Scott and Paul who had been out to se the dinosaur footprints and park.

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Over 5000 dinosaur foot print on this wall
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Having fun in the dinosaur park

 

 

Dynamite sticks & fear deep inside the Potosi mines

Potosi, Bolivia the richest mine in all of world history

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Waiting for the bus in Uyuni

We initially through we would stay in Uyuni for a few days to chill out after our 3 day 4×4 adventure across Salar de Uyuni, but quickly changed our mind. Uyuni is not a particular nice place to hang out, just a transit town where the roads from both Argentina and Chile converge before continuing up towards la Paz and all other cities in Bolivia.

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Uyuni playground had a great slide and not much else

We only managed dinner at a really good pizzeria, a visit to the playground in the morning followed by lunch and a 4 hr bus ride up to 4090m, to Potosi, the old silver mining city but that was just about enough. 

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Beautiful colonial buildings and me looking silly in Potosi!

We could definitely feel the lack of oxygen at this altitude and the pollution from heavy traffic made it even worse. We all suffered light headaches, dehydration, general fatigue and grumpiness. Hostel Realeza was in a good spot right in the heart of the colonial city centre, close to the market and the beautiful town square.

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May 1st march in Potosi, a town full of workers and unions

Our first full day here was May 1st, the whole city of Potosi was closed as different unions of miners, farmers, shop keepers, teachers etc marched through the city centre. A great sight to see all the people out marching for their rights, especially the ladies dressed up in the finery and traditional costumes.

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Ingrid showing off on the monkey bars

After spending the day acclimatising and hanging out at an amazing playground we organised our trip to the mines the following day.

Safety gear for us – dynamite sticks for the miners

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Excited miners – before going into the mines

The main thing to do in Potosi is to visit the old silver mines so this is what we decided to do. There are a few travel agencies offering a mine tour, but we chose Koala tours, the only tour that takes you into an actual working mine rather than a closed down mine. Early departure in a minibus a few blocks up from the main square then a quick stop to get kitted our with protective clothes. Ingrid and Scott were both excited as Paul had explained to them that going into the mines would be a bit like playing Minecraft. Little did we know……

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Getting kitted out with safety cloths before heading into the Potosi mines

We all got protective trousers, coats and welly boots. I was surprised that they had wellies just the right size for the kids. Final touch was a protective hat with a head torch and a heavy battery pack clipped into your belt. Just getting dressed and walking in all the gear was hard, especially for Scott. How would he cope walking like this deep inside the mine…..

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Buying dynamite gifts in the miners shop

Next, the minibus took us to the miners market were we bought gifts to take with us to give to the miners we’d meet inside the tunnels. The guide explained that its the part of our tour fee that goes to the miners and the gifts we bring that keep the working miners happy for tourist to come into the mines to see them working. We bought dynamite sticks, ammonium sulphate, detonators, coca leaves and soft drinks that they mix with 96% alcohol while working. Next stop the actual mines!

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Feeling scared deep inside in the dark Potosi mines

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Cerro Rico at 4400m

After a 15 min drive up the hill we were there. Young coca chewing men covered in dust and dirt were having a break outside the mine entrance as we got a safety briefing from our guide. Every now and then a 2ton cart with dirt and stones came hurtling out of the entrance on old rickety train tracks pushed & pulled by 3 young men. These were the carts we would have to avoid at all cost once inside the tunnels.

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Getting ready to head into the mines
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Last minute safety chat before we head into the mines

With our head torches turned on we went into the tunnels covering our mouths with our buffs to limit inhaling the dangerous mining dust. The tunnels were pitch back and very small,  much smaller than I had imagined. Only Scott could walk upright the rest of us were folded over trying not to trip on the tracks and stones along the tunnel floor.

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Inside the dark mining tunnels

In the distance we could hear carts being loaded and pushed down the tracks. “Out of the way” cried the guide and we all had to jump into a niche along the side of the track to avoid being run over. Every 10 min or so another cart came hurtling at us as we stumbled along the dark tunnel, folded in half and sweating profusely in all our heavy gear.

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Miners hard at work

As we got deeper into the tunnels, the oppressing feeling and slight fear was getting to all of us, especially Ingrid who was looking very uncomfortable stumbling along in the little light from her head light. After 40 min of walking, 450 m deep inside the mountain, where more than 10 000 men work everyday, we finally arrived at a resting station. During our 10 min break the guide told us about the hard life of the miners in Potosi and the gods they worship to stay safe.

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The mining god

Each man work for himself in a syndicated group with their earnings depending on the minerals they find. Around 50 miners die every year in accidents and another 50-100 in lung related diseases, their life expectancy is only 40-50, but working the mines earn them more money than any other job they could possibly do here. 

Time to get out of the mines – we end the tour early

After the 10 min break we were supposed to head further into the tunnels for another hour of exploring the tunnels deep inside the mines. At this point Ingrid and Scott were starting to feel a bit unwell and so I told the guide we had to take the kids out. To be honest, at this point I did not want to go in any further either.

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Feeling uncomfortable deep inside the mine

On the way out we had to wait as carts were filled up with rubble from a shaft in the roof…and all I could think of was the terror of being stuck in the mine behind falling rocks. The guide assured us we were safe, but I certainly did not feel very safe.

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Happy to be out in the fresh air
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Well deserved rest in the fresh air

Once outside, we waited an hour in a little safety shack before the rest of the group returned. Ingrid almost fainted as we sat down, totally overcome by the stress of being inside the mine for over an hour. I too felt unwell and relieved to be out in the fresh air again. Scott and Ingrid both promised then and there to study hard in school so that they never ever would have to work in a mine.

Colourful and empty cities in Chile

Family reunion in Santiago

After 6 weeks in Peru we were all excited to be heading into Chile to meet up with Granny Olive and Uncle Adam who were travelling all the way from Scotland to spend 2 weeks with us here. Fantastic to be with family again but less so in the capital Santiago.

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Empty streets in Santiago during Easter

We spent 2 days wandering round the huge and quiet city realising that most of Santiagos tourist attractions closes over the Easter weekend unfortunately leaving  tourists without much to do.

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Art installation at the Centro Cultural part of which was open over Easter.

We found a couple of great playgrounds, wandered to the modern art collection, walked up the central hill and had lunch and dinner in a couple of small eateries. A shock to the system to pay for anything here and eating out was so much more expensive compered to all other places we have been on our trip so far. Thailand still comes up the cheapest still while Chile is similar to London prises.

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Plaza Brasil playground in Santiago
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Scotty loved this one man puppet show

The best part of Santiago was simply being together with family. Both Scott and Ingrid were so excited at having some of their favourite people to hang out with after months of just the 4 of us. The boutique hostel we stay in was also very good, with a large, well set up roof terrace where we chilled out and had coffee, dinner and snacks, played games and lego while enjoying the view and the sunset over the city.

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Lovely roof terrace at our hostel in Santiago

I did not enjoy Santiago that much. It did not feel like a happy friendly place and after being robbed of my backpack while having lunch and another 2 attempted robberies just walking down the street I felt vulnerable and unsafe for the first time on our round the world trip. I could not wait to leave for Valparaiso. the next city on our list.

Valparaiso – a city full of art and dirt

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Stunning street art in Valparaiso
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Graffiti and dirt on the streets of Valparaiso
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Sunset in Valparaiso

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Valparaiso is a cool costal city a couple of hours bus ride north of Santiago. It is famous for its bohemian  culture, colourful street art and stunning views of the sea from the many hills that make up the city. Our hostel Acuarela at the top of a hill was right in the heart of the art district and offered stunning views from the roof as well as short walking distance to many little cafes and restaurants.

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Cool slide at Anibal Pinto Square. We all had a few goes and loved it! 
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Great lunch spot at one of many cafes in Valparaiso

The colourful street art makes the city interesting and happy when nor over run by awful graffiti and dirty, run down streets full of stray dogs. The best thing we did here was the Wheres Wally tour, walking and bussing through interesting parts of town with a very knowledgeable guide. We also found a great little walkway through the hills many stairways with a slide right next to a bar with great views and Pisco sours.

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Wheres Wally walking tour that even the kids enjoyed
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Lovely views and drinks at Fauna Valparaiso

Algarrobo – the seaside and largest pool in the world

The last stop before heading to our main Chilean destination the Atacama desert, was a small fishing town 2 hrs down the cost from Valparaiso Algarrobo. A seaside get away for many Santiagians during their summer months. As it was getting into winter when we were there the town was totally deserted.

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Evening walk on the beach in Algarrobo
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Dip in the pool – not as warm as it looks!

Over our 2 night stay there we went for long walks on the beach, cooked fresh fish for our dinner and the kids had a cool dip in the pool where we were staying. Unfortunately the pool Paul had his eyes on, the largest swimming pool in the world, the main reason we were here in the first place, was a residence pool only and not available for anyone else …bit more research next time perhaps. Next stop the Atacama desert!

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In the Atacama with llamas

Hikes on your doorstep in beautiful Sacred Valley of the Incas

Finally in the Peruvian mountains

Travelling on the local bus for 1.5hr from Cuzco to Ollantaytambo I was getting excited about the beautiful mountainous landscape. Such a contrast from the deserts by the coast where we had spent the past 4 weeks. The fresh cooler air I had so longed for since Nicaragua here as well, finally! The local bus from Cuzco to Ollantaytambo cost S10 per person and was very comfortable so we were happy we didn’t pay more to go on one of the big tourist busses.

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Mountain view in the Sacred Valley of the Incas

The route to Ollayntayambo is on good roads across mountain passes and along fields with a view of amazing snowcapped and rugged peaks along the way. We were dropped off on the little town square and walked 2 blocks on ancient cobbled Inca streets to our hostel. The town itself is the heart of the Sacred Valley of the Incas nestled in the beautiful valley among hillside ruins and streams.

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Ollantaytambo main square
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Pooh sticks
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Cobbled streed in the oldest active Inca settlement in the Americas

A great place for Scott to rest

Scott was ill since 2 days with diarrhoea and a high temperature and getting worse so we spent our first few days there just resting trying to get him better and adjusting to the high altitude of 3000m watching films on the laptop and reading stories on the kindles.

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Scotty very ill while travelling

After our 1st night in a quite expensive hostel I went looking for the best possible place for us to stay for the next 4 nights. To our delight I found a great little family run hostel Hostal Killari for half the price we were paying through booking.com! The winning formula as we know by now is a big room with beds for 4, communal space and a kitchen we can use and this place ticked all the boxes and had a bonus dog and a cat as well! Happy days!

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Common space at our hostel

Happiness in the hills with Ingrid

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Happiness on the mountain

While Scott was resting Paul and I took turns going for walks up the hills with Ingrid, exploring the town and the many ruins scattered down the side of the mountains. I totally fell in love with this place and felt so happy to finally be in the mountains. Streets with traditionally clad woman with wide brimmed hats, carrying children and heavy loads in colourful blankets on their backs under the long black plaits.

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One of many Peruvian lady carrying a heavy load
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Ingrid having a chat with the ladies
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Elena 4 in traditional Peruvian clothes

Small shops and cafes mixed with houses and hostels. No big hotels or other intrusive buildings here just a food market for the locals and a small handicrafts market for tourists but best of all lots and lots of hiking trails and ruins to explore right on your door step.

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View of Pinkullyuna from our hoslel

On one side of the valley on Pinkullyuna are ruins you can explore for free. There are a few trails up the side of the mountain taking some 400m up to ruins of ancient Incan storehouses overlooking some of the most spectacular views of the Ollantaytambo ruins on the hills on the other side of the valley and town and the whole of the Sacred Valley.

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Pinkullyuna ruins
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View from Pinkullyuna over the town and the Ollantaytambo ruins on the other side

To enter the main ruins of Ollantaytambo on the other side of the valley you have to pay an entrance fee of S70. The structures from the old inca town truly are amazing and definitely worth paying for. At the very back of the ruins Ingrid and I found a hidden trail leading up the mountain. We hiked up for an hour or so tis the trail ended halfway up to the top and headed back down again after a quick rest.

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Ruins of Ollantaytambo

Ingrid was soo in her element while hiking she was skipping along singing and talking about her plans for the future and about the amazing adventures we have had on our trip so far. I love reliving our fantastic hikes in the mountains in Nepal, China, Australia in Thailand and feel excited to add Peru to the list of amazing hikes.

Finally we all go hiking together

After 3 days of illness Scott was still not getting better and with only 2 days left before our train to Machu Picchu we decided to get Scott some antibiotics. The next morning he woke up demanding pancakes! I took him for his first walk in 4 days to the little local market to buy flour and eggs and ended up with some corn on the cob as a special pre-breakfast snack.

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Scotty demanding food – a clear sign he was getting better

Once back at the house we spent a raining morning cooking pancakes in the traditional Inca kitchen belonging to the hostel family. With food in his belly Scott was keen to go out exploring. We all went out for lunch and an afternoon stroll to test the waters. Paul and Scott exploring the ruins at the bottom of the valley while Ingrid took me up high on the other side to show me the secret cave she’d found on her morning hike with Paul. The sun came out and we had such a lovely walk.

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Enjoying my hike with Ingrid

The best walk though was on our last day here. Scott was feeling better so after packing for Machu Picchu we all walked up to the top of the trail on Pinkullyuna. Ingrid ran ahed leading the way while Paul and I took turns encouraging Scott to keep going.

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Scott did so well walking up the long trial
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A rest on the way up to Pinkullyuna

Scott made it to the top all by himself and so we all enjoyed the packed lunch we had brought with us marvelling at the views over this very special and Scared Valley. This was the warm up hike and perfect day on the mountain that we all needed before our big hike up to Machu Picchu the following day.

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At the top of Pinkullyuna

Wildlife and rest in Paracas, Peru

We escaped the floods – where to next?

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Once safe in Lima we had to decide where to go next. All roads into the mountains, our preferred destination, were still closed due to recent landslides and continuous flood risks so we had to stay by the coast.

One of the few places not to have been flooded was the small coastal village of Paracas, 4 hrs south of Lima. We met a French couple in our hostel in Lima who recommended it and confirmed it was free from floods. Perfect! The next day we were there.

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The main attraction in Paracas is the beautiful desert coastline that is the Nature reserve of Paracas and its close location to other interesting towns, ICA, Nasca, and a few km up the coast the larger fishing town of Pisco.

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After spending 1 night in in a rubbish little hostel I went looking for a more spacious place to stay. After walking round for half an hour I found a nice cheap little hostel with great communal space, a clean kitchen and fridge, a cat, a dog, a kitten and a little girl called Cielo. Perfect for Scott! Also a little park close by where the local kids hangout with a great set of monkey bars. Perfect for Ingrid. All in all a perfect place to chill out for a few days.

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Time to do nothing much

Schoolwork every morning or afternoon, followed by long walks on the beach, cooking together, playing in the park and going on little excursions.

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There is an area in Paracas filled with luxury houses and hotels, so eating out is not very cheap but with not much in our schedule here we liked spending time buying ingredients and cooking. Ingrid got her mojo back after her tummy bug and was keen to help me cook. Scott as always loves helping with any meal. A huge batch of Chile con carne got everyone back in great sprits!

The beach in Paracas is a beautiful wildlife sanctuary but not great for swimming as there is quite a lot of seaweed in the water. Instead we loved long walks to the kite surf club and back among flamingos, pelicans, sea lions and many other beautiful wild birds.

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Deserts and wildlife while waiting for the mountains

We had a great day swimming in one of the best beaches in Peru, a 15 min drive through the desert from Paracas at Mina beach.

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We went there early in the morning after at stop  to admire the red beach in the desert landscape along the way. Once at Mina, we climbed down the stairs to the sandy beach tucked away between 2 big sandy hills. Fresh, clear  and sparkling clean water, what a great little place for a swim. We paid S70 (£15) for a private car to take us there and wait 3 hrs to then the us back plus S 40 to enter the national park.IMG_9221

We  also did the mandatory boat trip to see the amazing wildlife our on the Islas Ballistas. The tickets cost S35 per person, but then just before boarding the boat they tell you to pay the national park tax as well S15 per person. 2 hrs of sea lions, pelicans, penguins and boobies with a great guide in a quiet and comfortable speedboat is well worth the money. The roaring herds of Sealions made the most amazing sound as we bobbed along the cliffs in the boat.

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So even though we enjoyed our time here, some days hiding for the blowing sand in our room, we would not have stayed here more than a few days under normal circumstance. Given the trauma and illness over the past 2 week in Trujillo and Huanchaco, this was a good place for us to rest and recharge our batteries, just be together and not do too much. We are all ready and excited to finally go into the mountains in Cuzco and Machu Picchu.

Emergency call to the British Embassy

Stranded in the floods of Northern Peru

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 Enjoying a bit of surfing our 1st day in Huanchaco 

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Kids playing in the park by the beach

We had 2 days on the beach in Huanchaco and a morning of wandering around town before the floods hit us in this town as well! We had tried to follow the unfolding Peru floods on the news, but its amazing how difficult it is to get information without access to the internet.

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Trujillo under water – residents being evacuated

Through the owners of the hotel we found out that Trujillo, where the roof of our hostel caved in just 2 days earlier, had been badly hit with the first of 7 floods the day we left our hostel there. Everyone we met in Huanchaco were concerned about the floods but not expecting it to be a problem in Huanchaco a few km up the coast from Trujillo.

Worst floods in 30 years hit us in Huanchaco

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The river in Huanchaco burst its banks

When the river bursts its bank at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, all the houses and business were caught unprepared. As muddy sludge started making its way down the main street, all we could do was to seek refuge on the roof and watch as the water continued to rise. In the distance we could see the sea turning brown from the outlet of the swollen river.

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Watching the events unfold from the roof of our hotel

Mud and sludge filled the streets and the ground floor of our hotel and all the other houses along the water front wiping out electricity, water systems and all the local phone and internet networks.

 

 

I felt completely helpless and yet somehow strangely calm as we watch the water fowling and the sun setting over the flooded streets. Time to get our head torches out, cook some spaghetti on the gas cooker and play a game of cards. We went to bed hoping to get some sleep but sirens, rain and worry kept me awake while the kids slept an unsettled sleep and Paul resting but with a high temperature and in pain day 3 of his tummy bug illness.

Stocking up on water and food

The morning after the floods Paul was feeling worse, I was exhausted and the kids naturally stressed about the flooding and situation all around us. Most of the water had subsided and in the hotel, staff and the owners had spent most of the night trying to clear the ground floor of  the mud and water. No electricity, no water in the taps but at least we had a gas cooker that worked. I set out to find and stock up on supplies. 

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People buying what they can carry
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Empty shelves in the big supermarket as people stock up and no new deliveries are made

With many shops affected by the floods those that were still open were limiting the what you could buy to make sure everyone could get something. I took our big back pack and went round looking for open shops stocking up on water and dry food to last us a few days. Spaghetti, tuna, tomato sauce, biscuits and crackers. I also got some eggs, flour, sugar and milk hey presto pancakes of breakfast to lighten the mood!

After the floods the real nightmare begins

…20-30 cm thick sludge and mud was covering everything where the water had flooded and then subsided…piles of dead fish, plastics, trees and rubble washed up on the beach and streets along with many damaged houses and buildings, some still under water.

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Mud after the flood
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Main street still under water the next day
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Beach filled with rubbish and dead fish
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Once the mud is dry everything is caked in dirt and dust

Watching the news in a little shop I could see that Trujillo and nearby Chiclayo and many other places were still inundated and that all roads in and out of Trujillo and all of Northern Peru remained closed due to landslides and ongoing floods.

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Roads still under water

I realised our plans to go further into the mountains Cajamarca and Chachapoyas would not be realised. Disappointed of course as we had all been looking forward to exploring the less touristy mountains and ruins of northern Peru…but what can you do?

Help! – Emergency call to the British Embassy

While the streets remained unsafe filled with dirt and water, Paul was getting worse, no electricity to help the kids pass time reading on the kindles, watch TV or a film…and as boredom kicks in.the kids decide to spend the morning making and running a beauty salon! I just love my kids!

With no means of leaving the flooded area or ability to check our options to fly out I took a taxi to the local little Airport to see if we could somehow buy tickets to fly out somewhere safe. No such luck….

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Only people with tickets and or ID were allowed to enter the Airport area

Military planes were evacuating people, locals and gringos had been waiting at the tiny airport for up to 36 hrs to get on a plane to get out. With the airport in chaos and no information or help to be found.

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Line for the military evacuation plane

 I returned to Huanchaco disheartened and even more worried. Flights could only be bought on line or through a travel agent, but Internet was not working and all travel agents closed due to the floods….

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7 days without food

When Paul started vomiting and shaking with 40 degrees temp, the following morning and with only $20 left in cash, no way of getting medicine or money and no where we could go I made a call to our travel agent in London on the hotel owners phone to see if they could help us buy some flights to get out …4 tickets suddenly became available to fly out the next day but Paul was way too ill to travel. Next available tickets were for 6 days later and costing us a small fortune….With the thought of 6 more days in the flood zone I feel panic kick in and decide to make contact with the British Embassy in Lima, to ask for advice and medical help in case Paul would get even worse.They tell me there is a place in Trujillo where ATMs are still working and a functioning private clinic we can go in case of an emergency….

After I made it to a shopping centre where there was still cash, Travel Nation confirmed our flights out 6 days later and I managed to find antibiotics for Paul I was feeling a bit better…that only lasted 1 day until Ingrid suddenly turned really ill as well.

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Keeping the mood up and the kids relaxed

This time I could get antibiotics quickly but was still worried sick about Ingrid who was vomiting and had diarrhoea for 2 days not being able to keep liquids down….I was counting down the days till we could leave…..

Unforgettable lessons in life

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Since we started travelling we have, and especially me, practiced being in the moment and not worrying about things that could or might happen. During our 2 weeks in flooded Peru I had to work really hard to keep calm and not get worked up, agitated or frustrated about the situation is which we accidentally found ourselves. The kids are very resilient and adaptable but they take their queue from me and Paul on how to act ad react. Keeping calm and positive was essential for their wellbeing and peace of mind in this very stressful situation.

We got a first hand experience of a huge natural disaster, it is not something I would wish on anyone but its part of life for many people and something we will never forget.

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We were never in a life threatening situation even though some moments felt dangerous and scary. We have talked about it a lot with the kids, made drawings and write ups about it to help process the experience. It has also given us an amazing opportunity to talk about global warming, water flow and rivers, about flooding and city planning, plumbing, recycling, water, volume and the devastating effects of floods.

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We wanted to explore and experience the word, show the kids that life in different parts of the world have different challenges. Ingrid and Scott have learned so much from this experience and felt first hand the fear it causes but also the importance of community and solidarity while helping clear up after the floods. I am glad we have managed to finally leave and sad that we didn’t get to see the beautiful north in its full glory, but looking back, its an experience I wouldn’t change.

Feeling emotional – Peru in floods

Feelings of doubt

Piles of rubbish and dead sea life after the floods

The past few days have been very emotional. For the first time on our trip I have gone through waves of doubt and distress wishing we were back home in the UK…. I hit an all time low just after the roof fell in in our hostel in Trujillo and then seeing Peru in floods with many people in distress on the news realising all the roads were closed and we were trapped.

The floods are still happening although water has started to reside in some areas Trujillo and Chiclayo are still under water, Lima and many many other areas have been hit by flash floods and land slides. Meanwhile, we are glad that we can pay our way to safety in an apartment hotel in nearby Huanchaco

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Taking refuge in Huanchaco

Now a couple of days later, safe from the floods in a flat in Huanchaco, just a few km up along the coast the feelings of doubt have mellowed somewhat. I would not choose to take the kids to a natural disaster zone if I could avoid it but at the same time this is real life, this is most likely the effects of global warming, this is the world we are creating for our children and it is happening right now.

Floods and mud in northern Peru

Feeling and seeing with their own eyes the consequence of global warming and how precarious life is makes you really appreciate the things that matter the most, safety and life itself.

The roof falls in

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The roof starts to fall in

We knew it had been raining a lot more than usual in parts of Peru, all the locals said so. When climbing in at the Base camp, the climbing wall in Lima enquiring about climbing in Cajamarca and Huaraz, the guide told me there is too much rain to climb and that a lot of land slides have made many routes unsafe.

We spent 3 days exploring Lima before heading north on a 10hr night bus to Trujillo for the sun and moon temples with a plan to go forth north east after a few days into the mountains.

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Magic water fountains in Lima

Once in Trujillo we could see on the news that big landslides and floods in the north along many of the big rivers causing the northern region and 811 cities in Peru to declare a sate of emergency. No busses or traffic can travel on the pan American highway that goes along the north coast into Ecuador.

Flooded cities in a state of emergency

The second night of heavy rain, I woke Paul up around 10.30pm when a big chunk of the roof in the middle of our room fell to the floor. The electricity was not working so in the light of our head torches we could se water gushing in through the wall by Ingrids bed and more chunks of the roof falling in, this time on top of the bunk bed Ingrid was sleeping in.

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The roof falls in on Ingrids bed

All the while Scott was happily sleeping in the bottom bunk in one of the other beds in our room. We decided that Paul and Scott would stay the night in our room in the relative safety in the bottom bunks and moved the bed slightly to where the roof looked less likely to collapse. Ingrid was awake and very scared so we quickly moved her into a bed in one of the relatively dry and safe dorm rooms full of excited German youth while Paul and I moved all he bags up onto the beds safe from water on the floor.

Bathroom roof falls in

At this point we did not realise the extent of the flooding in other parts of Trujillo and now also Lima together with many other areas Chosica, Piura, Chiclayo, Ica to mention a few…we only saw it on the news once we have managed to get to Huanchaco, a few km further north the next morning.

Central Trujillo under water for the 6th time in a week

Roads closed – change of plans

As the internet was not working anywhere we could only talk to people and watch the news to try and inform ourselves of the situation and the risks of flooding and damaged roads. We found out through a girl in the hostel that one of the bus companies were not running any services at all as they had had 2 accidents with overturned busses in the past 3 days…

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At the bus terminal

We had bus tickets to go on a mountainous 8hr bus trip to Cajamarca  at 2900m that day, but I was actually relieved to find out that the roads were closed as it made our decision about weather or not to go easy. At the bus office they confirmed no busses were running north or east to Cajamarca due to land slides,. The main road to Lima was also closed as one of the big road tunnels had collapsed.

Enjoying the here and now

Boys go surfing in Huanchaco

Rain is forecasted for another 5 days and more and more towns are hit by the floods as the rivers continue their paths down the mountains. In Huanchaco, we are safe for now staying in a flat a relatively expensive apartment hotel but you can’t put a price on feeling safe, especially when it comes to the kids. Ingrid was really shaken up after the roof fell in and is now after a couple of days of school work, beach and surfing starting to get back to her normal self again.

Huanchaco playpark

We have had to put our plans to go to Cajamarca and Chachapoyas over the next 3 weeks on hold and try to enjoy ourselves here and now while we wait for the roads to open. The logical part of me says this is all part of living in the now and appreciating the things around us rather than planning and wishing for things that may or may not happen while the emotional me would prefer to be somewhere else…

Here and now in Huachaco, the food is good, the flat is good, there is a little playground just across the road a good surfing beach and we are getting back into schoolwork.

Afternoon of school work

All in all things could be a lot worse and our thought go out to the people of Peru who are not as lucky as we are….

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Home comforts & temptations in Miami

Catching up with friends

 

 

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We had our 1st hot shower in a week at our friends house in Miami. I had almost forgotten the lovely feel of crisp clean sheets in your bed and the calm feeling of home that we enjoyed here while relaxing for a few days. The children had a great time hanging out with their friends and the 2 dogs and Paul and I loved the opportunity to catch up with Celia and Jean, our dear old friends from London.

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Kids playing football in the garden
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Taking Magic for a walk

We didn’t do much here apart from chilling out. Paul took the kids to Wynwood walls and south beach while I went to the hairdresser to get some long overdue highlights done. We spent another day at the mall stocking up on essentials such as socks and pens, new kindles to replace our cracked ones and a new tables since our last one got stolen in Nicaragua.

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Wynwood walls Miami
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Climbing is not just a sport its art
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South Beach Mimi

 

Shopping temptation in the American shopping mall

As we are out of the habit of shopping I was interested to see how Ingrid and Scott would react in the mall. Would the old “I want this, I need that” come back or would they stay as uninterested in buying and having things as they have been over the last few months?

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Scott going for a roller coaster ride in a pair of 3D phone goggles

The only things we had to get Ingrid and Scott got a new t shirt and pair of shorts each, the first clothes we have bought them since we left London. With all the temptations of an American mall I have to say, I was surprised that they keep their calm and only asked for ice cream! which is a treat you cannot deny them after a long morning of Not shopping. We still had a lot of fun looking at all the crazy things you can buy. I am happy to say the we walked away from the mall having bought only the things we really needed.

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Ice cream break

Leaving home…..again

While at the house, when not playing with the dogs, Scott spent most of the time in Sebastiens room playing with all the toys. Ingrid took the opportunity to find a bit of space to read as usual.

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Scott playing with Sebbies toys
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Comfy bed for a bit of Ingrid reading time

The feeling of “home” can be a bit unsettling for all of us as we all of a sudden are reminded of many of the simple home comforts we don’t always have while we travel such as individual space, fridge and kitchen,  clean sheets and towels and little things like that that can make it hard to get going again. So, when it was time to leave I was excited to see that the kids were happy, relaxed and ready to go on our next adventure in Peru. As Scott put it, travelling is fun when its not boring because you get to do and see new things. 

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Miami airport – We re off to Lima Peru

So after a month of having our own little home in Nicaragua and a few days in the home of our drear friends we are ready to rough it again end explore the present and past of Peru

 

 

 

 

 

Magical moments among Nicaraguas volcanoes

Nicaragua is the land of volcanoes and lakes so while we enjoyed not doing many touristy things during our stay here, some things are simply unmissable.

Swimming in Laguna de Apoyo – the crater lake

In the centre of the Pacific strip of Nicaraguan territory, along the long volcanic chain that crosses the country from north to south, is a large and extinct crater. In the centre is one of the most beautiful lagoons in Nicaragua, Laguna de Apoyo.

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Ingrid loves swimming and Scott has found a stick as usual

We went to one of a handful of hostels located here for a day pass to their “beach club”. The entrance fee to spend the day is 6.00 dollars per person and 3.00 dollars for children from 6 to 12 years old. We spent the day relaxing in a sun bed overlooking the lake on one of the spacious terraces. We went kayaking, swimming played ping pong and petanque, all which is included in the entrance fee. Getting here is easy from Granada by chicken bus and taxi or shuttle service that takes you all they way there.

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Ingrid paddle boarding
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Me paddle boarding and Ingrid hitching a ride
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Playing games at the Laguna Beach club

Watching bubbling lava at the awesome Masaya volcano

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You can see the lava churning in the crater

We went with Erick tours out of Granada for a night viewing of the volcano. We spent a few hours exploring Massaya town before heading up the actual volcano just before sunset. There is a bit of a wait to get up to the volcano as they only allow 50 people at a time, but our guide, Alberto, was excellent. He spent the waiting time giving us information on  Nicaragua volcanoes & Masaya and the general history of Nicaragua.

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Lava!! at Masaya Volcano

Once at the top, the lava lights up the whole sky in a magical orange glow! Amazing view of the bubbling lava but strong sulphur fumes means you can only stay 15 min at the top. We were all seriously coughing by then and glad to get off the top of the volcano.

Rooftop ride to swim in the cool waters of Aguas Agrias

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Cool mammas on the roof on our way to the lagoon

In the rural community of Aguas Agrias, located south of the Mombacho Volcano , is a stunning natural lagoon where the locals go to cool off.  Together with friends we took a pick up truck there and enjoyed an epic ride on the roof. We spent a few hours swimming in the cool waters watching the monkeys overhead. Simply wonderful!

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Beautiful natural lagoon in the jungle
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Howler monkeys in the canopy while we were swimming
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The locals come here too
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Scott and Gekko having fun
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Me and Scott enjoying the sunshine

Sunset at the Treehouse

On the way from Aguas Argias we went to the Treehouse for an amazing dinner at sunset. The Treehouse is located half an hours drive from Granada, 200m up in the jungle. 

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Canopy bridge with treehouse on the right

Its is a wonderful place to bring he kids, although some  might think its perhaps a bit dangerous for little ones. The actual house is built into the side of volcano Mombacho, surrounded by howler monkeys, complete with a  fire mans pole, some swings and a 60 metre canopy bridge connecting the main house where you eat to a smaller house where you can sleep in hammocks. The kids have never climbed up 200m so fast before in their life. We stayed for drinks, a communal meal and a truly beautiful sunset.

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Sunset at the Treehouse outside Granada
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Sunset from the Treehouse

Other things we enjoyed in Granada

Pottery practice

Pottery class making our own eggcups out of red clay from are area of san Juan de Oriente. We all had a go under the instruction of the watchful eye of the master, Carlos. We were not very successful, but persuaded him to sell us the little creations we made. Eggcups!

Watching the annual parade at the global poetry festival

The International Poetry Festival celebrates poets from around the world (and is also the largest poetry festival in the world).  We didn’t go to any of the poetry readings but enjoyed the many events that took place in Granada’s open plazas, parks, churches, and markets. The highlight for us was the Carneval which made its way trough the centre of Granada stopping at every street corner for a poetry reading.

Turtles and friends – Malaysia RWT itineray

Malaysia, one of our favourite countries on our round the world trip so far.

We cut our planned time in China short by 2 weeks as we could not face to process of applying for visa extensions. By paying a small fee we managed to move our planned flight to Kuala Lumpur forward and thought why not stay for 2 weeks somewhere in Malaysia before our next planned flight to Australia. Having traveled inland in Nepal and China for 2 months we were longing to swim in the sea and found cheap flights from Kuala Lumpur to Kuta Barhu, form where we would get the taxi and boat to the Perhentian Islands. Go there its amazing!

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Friends in Kuala Lumpur

Our next stop in Kula Lumpur was on our way back from Australia and Bali before heading off to Thailand. This time we stayed with our new friends , Eun, Sean and Scott who we met in Perhantian Islands 6 weeks earlier and with some old friends of ours from London. Kuala Lumpur is such a great place, it even has some amazing indoor climbing.

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Australia Campervan Itinerary

From Cairns to Sydney in a campervan

We spent 4 weeks driving along the east coast of Australia in a camper van. This is our 4 week itinerary with camping stops and other points of interest.

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Our favourite things in Granada

A more local view on Granada

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Granada market

While living in Nicaragua for a month we have enjoyed getting into a more normal routine and not doing a lot of touristy things. In our day to day life here and during the weekends there are many simple things we enjoy doing. We have even made a map of the city centre with all our favourite things on it!

Monkeying around by lake Nicaragua

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Monkey on the monkey bars

Late afternoon play in the park down by lake Nicaragua. The music is loud, the ground is littered with plastic bags and cups and by the shore are starving horses and cows grazing. We enjoy coming here to climb on the many climbing frames & monkey bars with the local kids.

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Playground by lake Nicaragua where horses and cows also like to hang out
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Lots and lots of colourful swings in the park

Sunday lunch delicacies in the park with the locals

The local have Sundays off and come in busloads and in overfull cars to enjoy a day by the lakeside. Families chill out in hammocks in the shade and eat Vigoron with Chicharron, a delicious plate of food with Yucca, plantain chips and pork crackling, sold at one of the may simple stalls here.

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Vigaron – One of Pauls favourite foods in Nicaragua
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The locals swim in the lake, most other people don’t. Only lake in the world with sharks!
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Trying to negotiate the price

Wander up and down the Calzada to Parque central

Even though this is the tourist bit of Granada its still a nice walk. There are restaurants, shops, hotels and cafes lining the streets. The street is closed from traffic, only horses and bikes are allowed to come down the street.

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Morning walk with view of Mombacho volcano, one of 19 active volcanos in Nicaragua
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The Calzada

Going to school learning Spanish

The only difference to the local kids school is that their school day starts at 7 and ours starts at 8.

Arts, crafts and playing at home in Casa Ranita

Its nice to have enough the space to play without all of us having to do the same thing and just like the locals, we spend much of the day inside avoiding the blazing heat.

Buying fruit, vegetables & meat at the local market

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My favourite fruit stall on the left

Early morning is the best time to go to the market. There is lots of produce to choose from and lots of stalls selling the same things. Different areas in the market typically sell different kinds of things, e.g. meet section, fruit section, clothes, school supplies. I have a few favourite stalls that go to every day.

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This is where I buy vegetables
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Scott looking for the best bananas
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This is where I buy our meet
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Rice and beans
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Paul looking everywhere for a 2nd hand bike.
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You can buy almost anything at the market here

Cooking our own food – and clearing up too!

Eating every meal out, ordering an waiting for your food gets a bit tedious when you are on the road. Ingrid and Scott especially, love eating in and to help with mealtimes.

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Ingrid making pancakes and Scott cutting up fresh pinapple
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Ingrids amazing pancakes
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Scott usually does the washing up, Paul dries and Ingrid puts it away
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Making Swedish meatballs

Watching the many horses wander around in town

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One of many working horses in Granada

Horses play an important role as working animals and transportation here. In the mornings there and many horses out wandering the streets eating out of the bins or grazing down by the lake.

Walks around among the beautiful coloured houses

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Love walking up this street

Pictures that speak a thousand words. Imagine if all these houses were plain grey concrete, life would not be the same. I just love the colours in this town just walking around town puts a smile on your face !

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My favourite colour in all of Granada
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The more contrast the better
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Little coffee shop round the corner
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Another colour I just love

Watching the sunset and sunrise over the mountains

Early morning sunrise or evening sunset it is all so beautiful and we just cant get enough of the crips blue skies and the beautiful colours of the sun.

A ride on the local chicken bus

Everyone packs in and no matter how full, someone will always try to make space for you if you are travelling with a child. Latin music is blaring out of the speakers, the wind is blowing in through the open windows as we slowly make our way towards Masaya. Its great fun, cheap at 10$c per person and very easy to get around.

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Chicken bus to Laguna de Apoyo

All these things makes Granada a great place to stay! I will share our favourite touristy things here in my next post!

 

Feeling at home in Nicaragua

…and now we have to pack up Casa Ranita & leave

Our time in Granada, Nicaragua is soon coming to an end. Right now we are all really settled in and not looking forward to leaving our little house and all our new friends. Its been amazing to see how quickly Ingrid and Scott both got into their new school life and the normality and familiarity of it all. In many ways it feels just like home.

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Our lovely little 2 bed house in Granada Nicaragua, Casa Ranita

Our Typical day in Granada, Nicaragua

A typical weekday here is not that dissimilar to a day back in the UK.

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Early morning run up to Laguna de Apoyo

Paul and I typically wake up at sunrise around 5.30-6 am. I have a coffee while reading emails and do some travel research while Paul goes for a run before the sun is up and it gets too hot. At 6.30 I wake the kids then we all have breakfast and leave the house about 7.30 for the 2km walk to school which starts at 8.

At this time of day the sun is still low in the sky and the streets are pretty empty. We all really enjoy the the walk along the Calzada and across the main square to get there.

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Our house is at the end of the Calzada in Granada so this is where our walk to school starts
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The Parque central is quiet at this time in the morinng
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We love walking past all the colourful houses on the way to school
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Scott and Ingrids schools are right next to Iglesia Xalteva

Usually I part with Paul and the kids halfway there to head off for a quick coffee before I go to Casa Nica for my 2hr Spanish class.

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Cafe Bristol makes the cheapest and best hot of iced latte in Granada
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Catching up on homework before class
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This is my Spanish school

A lovely school experience in Nicaragua

Already on day one Scott was excited about going to school and making new friends and he has enjoyed going there every day since. The school is bilingual and half the class is made up of Nica children and the other half expat kids who mainly speak English. Its been wonderful for all of us to have the school experience for a month and to meet and get to know the teachers, children and and parents who have been travelling like us and those live here. It was hard to find a school that would accept us for 1 months only, which I wrote about in a previous post, but it one of the best things we have done on this trip so far.

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Sancuanjoche International School – Pre-school

Scotts typical school day in Nicaragua

Scotts school day starts with circle time and Spanish, followed by motor skills, snack & play in the park. After a play outside they focus on social development in Spanish then maths. School lunch is served at 11.30 and Scott loves it!  At the end of the day they do science and play.

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Typical daily schedule for Scott

Scott really enjoys school here and have made so many new friends both with Nica and English speaking children. There are 12 to a class and they all mix  the Spanish & English speakers during breaks to encourage them to practice the other language. His best friends are 2 girls, Brissa a local Nica girl and Gekko, an American girl from Texas.

They hang out every day playing mums and dads, zombies, tag and lots of other crazy games. Last week he went to his first Nica birthday party complete with piñata, clowns, cakes, ice cream and the best party bags ever!

Ingrid also loves school in Nicaragua

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Ingrid happily heading intoschool

Ingrid has made some great friends too, but I think she enjoys access to the school library more than anything else. Every day she gets through 2-3 new books which she reads at home and in reading class and any other free moment at school.

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Ingrids schedule

She is doing great it both English and Maths and is studying both of these with the older children in year 4-5. Spanish is the hard one as she is far behind the rest of the class. However, they have a great system where the other children in her class takes turns helping her translate, read and write in Spanish class so although its a bit more difficult, she is picking it up slowly and its still something she enjoys.

Science is taught with much debate and discussion here, right up Ingrid street. She comes home everyday with new ideas, telling us about all the fun discussions they have had in science class that day. Best of all, she got to see all other kids present their science projects at the school science fair, which she loved. We usually see Ingrids class head back from the park after lunch when we pick Scotty up at 1.

My typical day and Nicaraguan routine

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While the kids are in school, I am in school too enjoying 1-1 lesson with a young Nica girl called Rebecca. The lessons are a mix of slow conversations, grammar run throughs, quiz games and picture cards to practice vocabulary and conversation.

I am by no means fluent yet but have come a long way with a wider vocabulary and the basic grammar and conversations with Rebecca. On the way home I get fresh fruit, vegetables and chiceron from the market.

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Pauls typical day

Meanwhile Paul is deep into catching up on all our admin, planning our next stage of travel and our return to the UK in July. He also goes to the big supermarket at the edge of town to buy the basic groceries.

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Sometimes we have some lunch in one of our favourite spots before picking up Scott at 1. Most of the time though we cook lunch at home after collecting Scott from school. Our favourite food to cook for lunch here is plantain with cheese, nachos and guacamole.

The 2km walk home from school with Scott usually takes up to 1 hour and I love it. There is no stress no reason to hurry him along, we just wander together take in the sights and chat about the day.

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Walking home from school with Scott

After school…lazy afternoons avoiding the heat

After picking Ingrid up at 3, we spend the afternoons in a similar way to what we would do at home. Ingrid typically gets a book out and chills on the bed while Scott plays with his toys or helps me prepare dinner.

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LEGO!
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We  cook all the food from scratch and get the ingredients from the local market

One of his favourite past time these days is helping round he house, either cooking, mopping the floors or doing the washing up. At mealtimes we all help out either setting up and cooking or washing up and tidying up. After some initial resistance, now it all happens without complaints at every meal time.

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Washing up after dinner, Scott loves it and Ingrid hates it

Occasionally we have a playdate after school either at our house or at friends and sometimes later in the afternoon once the temperature starts to drop we go for a walk on the Calzada or head down to the park for a play.

One of the things we love about staying here is all the friends we have made. After 8 months of mostly playing with each other Scott & Ingrid both enjoy the break from each other.In fact we all do!

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Scott and Geco playing lego after school
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Evening stroll

In addition to helping with meals, Scott has to read a book everyday and Ingrid does touch typing and updates her diary. Once all of that it done, the kids watch something on the laptop or play mine craft with Paul, while I do some work on the iPad. Early bed for an early start.

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Ingrid and Scott playing minecraft

After sunset all the locals sit in the cooler air on the street outside their houses enjoying the free light (electricity is very expensive here) and animated conversation. Our neighbour Freddy often invites me to sit down and join them for a chat. A great way to practice my newly acquires Spanish and to get to know the people and the community a bit better. Its a lovely way to spend the evening.

Weekends in Granada, volcanoes and play

The weekends are also very much like our weekends at home. Paul goes out at 5am with a running group while the kids and I have a lazy morning. Ingrid makes pancakes then we do bits and bobs round the house, lego, a creative project, some mine craft.

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Ingrids delicious pancakes

In the afternoon we go exploring, head to the park down by the lake or go for an ice cream.

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There are lots of climbing frames down by the lake, this one has the best monkey bars

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Sunday lunchtime down by lake Nicaragua is full of music and local families hanging out

Sundays are our typical day trip days with visits to volcanoes, museums etc. Our favourite spot so far is Laguna de Apoyo, the volcano crater lake, we you can go swimming, kayaking and paddle boarding in lovely clean and fresh water.

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Paddle boarding with Ingrid at Laguna de Apoyo
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Sunset at the Treehouse outside Granada
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Amazing lava at Masaya Volcano!! So close you can feel the heat!
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Fresh water swimming pool, by Mombacho volcano

Just like home….enjoying the simple things

So, with the exception of adapting the time of our activities to the hot climate here, our days are very similar to many days back home in London. After 8 months of being together 24/7 it is nice to have some time without the kids where we can get on with our plans and think about our return to the UK. Usually this is something we can only really do before the kids wake up or after they go to bed.  When travelling is quite hard to find enough time to get it all done.

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Sunset over Catedral de Granada
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Evening at Iglesia Guadalupe, right next to our house.

We would all be happy to stay here longer, in fact we have talked about it. The town, the country and people are very easy to get on with and to enjoy. Its been nice having the space to be able to do separate things. So far on our travels we have spent most nights together in 1 little room all going to bed and waking up at the same time. The simple pleasure of being able to go to bed and get up at different times, cook if and whenever we want to and even do separate things during the day is not to be take for granted.

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Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries in the world where horse and cart is most often used for transport and work.

There is a great local and expat community with plenty of opportunity to make a real impact in Nicaragua together with the locals. In the end, we have decided to continue to the coast for a few days of surfing before a quick stop with friends in Miami then onwards and upwards to Peru.

We’re thinking that we could always come back to Nicaragua sometime after our round the world trip!

School for a month in Nicaragua

Swapping expensive Costa Rica for a more affordable stay in Nicaragua

It was only in the last few weeks of our time in Asia that we actually started looking at the next phase of our travel in Central and South America. As we got more into the details of travel blogs and websites we realised that the initial plan of spending a long time in Cost Rica would be difficult for us as the cost of food, accommodation  of and travel is pretty much on par with Western Europe. Too expensive for us!

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Catedral de Granada one of many beautiful churches here

Searching for ways to make or time cheaper we started looking at Nicaragua as a potentially cheaper option.  In the end, we decided we would go either to Costa Rica or Nicaragua as long as we could find a self catering place to stay in close to somewhere all 4 of us could learn Spanish. We had always planned to do a Spanish course at the beginning of our 6 months in Central and South America, to help us get around more easily, to fully enjoy our time in this part of the world and to be able to talk to people beyond Hello and Thank you.

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Leaving our house for school

Finding a school for Ingrid and Scott

The 2 weeks of rest in Koh Chang was invaluable for us in researching Costa Rica and Nicaragua. I spent many hours trawling through blogs and FB groups to find some contacts that could help us with affordable AirBnB or other self catering place where we could settle in and lay low for a few weeks. How hard can it be to find an appropriate school that can take the kids in for month and to help them learn Spanish. VERY!!

Ingrid and Scott are too little to benefit form 1-1 classes in Spanish and just throwing them into a local school for a few weeks is simply not giving them the time to learn enough Spanish to make friends and understand anything the teachers say.

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Ingrid and Scott in Koh Chang – still so little!

I contacted lots of bi-lingual schools (English & Spanish) in Costa Rica and Nicaragua and eventually got some leads through a closed FB group for travelling families and some closed Expat groups for people living in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. I contacted one of the schools recommended and finally found a little school willing to accept both children, for 1-2 months at a cost. As luck would have it, the school was located in the heart of Granada, the first town we were planning to go to in Nicaragua.

Preparing for school in Granada

We arrived in Granada on Friday night and Ingrid and Scott would spend their first day in school on the following Tuesday. A quick visit to the school on Monday to see Miss Beth, the Head mistress and director who helped me getting the children into the school via FB and email, to get all the paper work sorted. Ingrid and Scott also got a chance to see some of the children who go there, helping them mentally prepare for the official school start the following day.

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Beautiful colours on our way to see the school in Granada

Sancuanjoche is a small but perfectly shaped school with class rooms on 2 levels around a shaded courtyard where the children have lunch and hang out during recess.

The pre-school where Scott is going is spacious and creative with 4 classrooms set up for the different ages and needs. It also has a big open room for  play during break time and a little park just across the road for a run around when the weather is not too hot.

Completely bilingual school and curriculum

The school has about 80 students in classes 1-7 from the age of 6 and up and the adjacent pre-school  run groups with children aged 3 to 6. Classes have a maximum of 16 students with a great mix of native English and Spanish speakers and all teachers are bilingual too.

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Happy to be back in school again

English, Maths, Science and Social studies are taught in English and Spanish. All students have Spanish class every day and in addition, English or Spanish as a second language depending on which native language they speak. The school day runs from 8 till 3, an hour longer than school in the Uk.

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Ingrids school day is full of Spanish – exciting!

In pre-school all classes are also bilingual but with more focus more on learning through play and social interaction. Here there is also Spanish class for the English speakers and vice versa every day. Scott’s school day is slightly shorter than Ingrids and finishes at 1 .

Miss Beth and her staff were super friendly and welcoming. Ingrid and Scott were both excited and nervous about starting school the following day.

First day in Nicaraguan school – one month to go

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Looking for school uniforms at the local market

I picked up the school uniforms at the local market after visiting the school. When I saw the kids putting them on the next morning, getting excited my heart simply melt and filled with pride at their ability to take it all in a stride. Scotts nervousness made him worried and upset he wasn’t looking cool enough and Ingrid was very quiet…..Pancakes for breakfast much earlier than we’re used to and then we were ready to go.

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First walk to school

After a 20 min walk in the warm sunshine we arrived at school. At the sight of his teacher, Lauren, who reminded him very much of Miss Lavander, his first teacher back in England, he happily went in and waved good bye.

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Scott happily heading into school
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First piece of writing in Spanish

As we approached Ingrids school round the corner she went all serious, looked at us and said, ” You are not coming in. I am not related to you!”. This was the first but definitely not the last time she was worried about her parents embarrassing her!

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Ingrid heading off -too cool for mum and dad these days

Im excited to find out at the end of the week what school is really like and how the kids get on. Im sure their Spanish will be better than mine and Pauls by the time we leave Nicaragua!

 

 

 

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Ledingham Family Adventures Round the World

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