Tag Archives: family adventures

Ingrid and Scott go to School in Bolivia

Homeschooling while travelling

With lots of travel over the past 2 months formal school work had to take a back seat while learning took the shape of experiences and instead.

Ingrid especially like academic work and during times where we have ben doing less of that she has a tendency to become brain bored and start annoying Scott, myself or Paul. Scott on the other hand does not miss formal learning at all. Staying in Samaipata for a month, without any travel would allow us to do another push on school work while living and enjoying rural Bolivia.

IMG_20170508_104247
Enjoying the space of our own little house

Its is always a bit of a struggle for all of us to get back into schoolwork after weeks of travel so to prepare the kids and make them positive about getting back into it we sat down and agreed on a Mon- Fri, 9.30-1 school schedule with the children.

IMG_20170511_113857
Scotts school with the schedule we made together and sticker reward charts

Ingrid made her weekly schedule with Paul in an excel spreadsheet, while Scott and I set up a plan on the wall with a mix of learning and games that he could choose from each day to earn stickers. Ingrid had 3 x 45 min sessions with 3 15m breaks while school did 30 min sessions mixing play and learning.

A school in the mountains that can’t be found

During our first week in Samaipata, this set up worked really well. Breakfast, school, lunch and then a walk exploring the town and surroundings in the afternoon, going to the market and cooking food together in the house. Paul was setting up Ingrids work and managing to do some job searching at the same time. For me however, school with Scott is all consuming leaving me no time to do anything else.

IMG_20170512_092139
A lesson in sewing and home economics…mend and make do!

I enjoy it but after 4 hrs of pushing him through the tasks we are both pretty tired of each other.  Also, after a week of this much intense time together in the little house, we were all starting to get a bit of cabin fever.

IMG_20170511_093433
Ingrid and Scott having a break doing junk modelling

Ideally we had wanted to get the kids into local school as soon as possible, but after a week of inquiring we just had the name of a school up in the mountains for which I had found the Facebook page on-line. However, with no address, contact or any way of finding it we almost decided to give up hope.

Screen Shot 2017-06-23 at 10.38.00
The school Facebook page but with no contact details

The fact that the school was up in the mountains somewhere outside the town also seemed really unpractical for us as we would have no way of getting the kids there and back everyday. In the end we agreed that homeschooling for the duration of our time here would be ok and we’d simply take turns job hunting in the 1 cafe in Samaipata with internet in the afternoons. At least we had a nice little house with enough space for use to teach the kids without getting under each others feet.

IMG_20170517_094758
Internet access only at cafe 1900 in Samaipata, Bolivia

We visit Communidad Educativa Flor de Montana

Finally after a discussion with the host of our AirBNB house, she managed to find us the number for the school principle Lilliana on Monday night week 2. I Whatsapped her asking if we could visit the school and our children potentially go there for a month. On Tuesday morning we went there to visit and on Wednesday morning Ingrid and Scott had their first full day in Bolivian school.

IMG_9877
The Bolivian school buildings and playing fields

15 min in a taxi, up up up on a dirt road just outside town is Communidad Educativa Flor de Montana. I was a bit sceptical having only seen images of a mud house under construction on Facebook and the barbed wired fence and basic building that greeted us did not install much confidence either. We crossed the big playing field and went up to the house to greet Liliana, the head mistress. The school buildings were rustic, built with adobe mud out of the ground and recycled bottles and old broken windowpanes for windows. The green landscape and views were stunning in the cold and fresh the morning breeze. We could hear the wind in the trees, birds chirping and happy children chattering and I was starting to get a good feeling about this.

IMG_20170517_133238
The main school building and view over Samaipata in the background

Scott and Ingrid had both firmly said they would not be going to this school before we got there and they remained apprehensive and shy while Lilliana explained to us that the school was initiated and funded by parents and how recently been fully licensed as a school by the local authorities. She explained the the school ethos was to live happily and creatively in harmony with nature and all living things. Paul and I liked the sound of this but Scott and Ingrid were not interested or impressed.

The magical climbing tree that changes everything

The school has 24 children in 3 classes ages 5-6, 7-8, & 9-11. First we went to see the little preschool class that would be relevant for Scott. On top of the hill in a little room 6 children eagerly eyed up Scott asking him things in Spanish we could not understand. Im not going in said Scott and hid behind me. I managed to have little chat with Scotts teacher in Spanish as she could not speak any English at all. We were still all bit unsure if this could work at all.

IMG_9975
The amazing climbing tree that won Ingrids heart

We left Scotts class to go see Ingrid potential new class mates. By this time Ingrid was grumpy and her body language completely closed off. Before going in Lilliana pointed out to us the amazing school climbing tree and Ingrids face suddenly lit up. Ingrid loves climbing, mountains, trees, monkey bars…almost anything and by the looks of it, this would be an amazing tree to climb.

IMG_20170526_121307
Playing in the tree

Up she went high into the tree up in the rickety treehouse and down she swung on the ring hanging from a big branch. When she came down she peered into the class room and said, I love it. Ingrids teacher did not speak any English either but at that point it didn’t matter. The climbing tree had closed the deal and with Ingrid happy and excited, Scott just followed her lead. We agreed to pay the school a fee in exchange for the children to go there for 4 weeks starting the next morning.

IMG_20170526_121230
Scott having a go

Early morning start for a fully loaded school bus

The next morning we had an early start to catch the school bus on the town square at 7.30 for a 8.00 school start.

IMG_20170524_072615
Walk to the school bus

We had no real idea what they would need to bring but packed the same bags they’d brought to school in Nicaragua with a pencil and a folder to write in, water, some fruit and crackers hoping that would be enough. Excitement and nerves were playing up in the morning but Ingrid excitement about the climbing tree blew any other doubts away and Scott joined her enthusiasm.

IMG_20170517_072922
Waiting for the bus

Waiting for the bus at the square in the cold morning air, we recognised 2 children from the day before and introduced ourselves wondering what would happen next. Suddenly a little minibus appeared and the kids all climbed in. Paul got in too and would run back down again after making sure they both got to their class ok.

IMG_20170607_075741
This little bus fist 30 people!

Coming back Paul told me in amazement that the little minibus pictured below picked up all 24 kids and 5 teachers along the way and got them all safely to school. Now all we had to do was wait for the kids real verdict when they came back from school in the afternoon.

Mixed reports on their 1st day in Bolivian school

IMG_9874
Ingrid feeling a bit apprehensive on her first day in school

We were waiting eagerly at the square as the bus arrived back at 1 o’clock. As it was a Wednesday, Ingrid would go a full day with extra classes of drama and art in the afternoon and only return at 5.30. Scott on the other hand would come back down with the other little ones at 1. The bus arrived at the square but Scott was not there!! A quick call to Liliana only to find out that Scotts teacher thought he was supposed to stay with Ingrid for the full day and so did not let him on the bus. Scotty was a bit upset as I spoke to him on the phone so I took a taxi up to the school straight away to get him.

When I finally got him in the taxi heading home, he was ok but sad that he had not made any new friends! Scott always makes friends regardless of any language barriers so this really got me worried.

IMG_9693
Talking to Scott about his first day in school

Ingrid on the other hand came back home at 5.30 beaming and starving having had a great time making new friends while not understanding a word in class. Great!

IMG_9965
Ingrid and Anna

In the end they were both happy to go back to school the next day, Scott with some extra words of encouragement and ideas on how to make friends. At the end of day 2 they were both happy and excited about their new school, music class and making pottery as well as new Bolivian friends and Paul and I were happy to finally have some time get into our plans for going back to the UK.

IMG_20170609_124910
Ingrid, Anna and Hannah in a group hug

Rock climbing in Bolivia

Sucre – climbing with new friends in Bolivia

IMG_20170505_081921
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.

 

DCIM100GOPROGOPR1275.
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.

IMG_8269
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.

IMG_20170504_132405
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.

IMG_20170504_144005
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.

IMG_20170504_150823
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.

IMG_20170505_111536
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…

IMG_20170504_153452
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.

IMG_20170504_143427
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.

IMG_20170505_120448
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.

IMG_20170505_091939
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.

IMG_20170505_095339

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.

IMG_20170505_103756~2
Excited and happy to be lead climbing again
IMG_20170505_110733
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+.

IMG_20170505_093108
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.

 

IMG_4363
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.

IMG_9516
Over 5000 dinosaur foot print on this wall
IMG_9537
Having fun in the dinosaur park

 

 

Dynamite sticks & fear deep inside the Potosi mines

Potosi, Bolivia the richest mine in all of world history

IMG_9270
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.

IMG_9264
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. 

IMG_9312
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.

IMG_9327
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.

IMG_9370
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

IMG_20170502_092246~2
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……

IMG_9403
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…..

IMG_20170502_094136
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!

IMG_9421

Feeling scared deep inside in the dark Potosi mines

IMG_20170502_102949
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.

IMG_20170502_103951
Getting ready to head into the mines
IMG_20170502_104100
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.

IMG_9461
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.

IMG_9431
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.

IMG_9452
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.

IMG_9445
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.

IMG_9473
Happy to be out in the fresh air
IMG_9476
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.

Magical Machu Picchu

Aquas Calientes – A charmless town built for tourists

IMG_7674
Arriving at Aguas Calientes

The train ride from Ollantayatambo to Aquas Clientes, or Machu Picchu as the town is called these days, is the most expensive train ride per kilometre in the world but its the best way to get to Machu Picchu unless you are hiking there. You are only allowed to bring hand luggage on the train so we left our big bags at the hostel in Ollantaytambo to spend 2 nights and 2 days there.

IMG_7254
The train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes

We went on a Peru rail train with 300 degree panoramic views, meaning you can see out the window and also up through the roof. The view is great even on a cloudy day like ours. The train ride only takes almost 2 hours and on the way you get served drinks and a little something to eat.

IMG_9560
Not looking at the views…just colouring in!

The quinoa strudel they served was supposed to be authentic and tasted ok but I would have preferred a simple empanada instead. All in all the journey was not too long and quite comfortable ….as expected when paying top dollars for the tickets

IMG_7648
The valley of Aguas calientes

Aguas Calientes town is the gateway for all tourist who come to see Machu Picchu and is very different from Ollantaytambo, the old Inca town. It is built specifically for tourists and so lacks any real charm of the Peru we have grown to love. Streets lined with restaurants and 4-5 story hotels and with the the hot springs at one end and the roaring river at the other. We stayed at Machupicchu Packer, a basic hostel with breakfast is included in the price. For those starting early they give you a parcel with a cheese sandwich, fruit and water to take with you on your way to Machu Picchu.

Unhappy 4.30 wake up call to walk up to Machu Picchu

IMG_7320
5am start…mixed emotions

We had packed 2 small day packs wth essentials the nigh before to allow everyone to sleep as long as possible before the 4.30 am start. 1 bag with raincoats and hats and one with food and drinks. We talked to the kids about the early start the night before, but Scott was still recovering from illness so we were expecting the worst when waking him up in the morning….and he did not disappoint. After very reluctantly getting dressed he went on a huff about not having breakfast before leaving the hostel. I want pancakes he was shouting and he refused to walk.…Nothing we said could change his mood so in the end we just set off with Scott on Paul shoulders and Ingrid and I trailing behind.

IMG_7317
The queue to the bus and taxi up to Machu Picchu that we walked straight pased

We were slightly delayed by the morning tantrum and reached the river crossing 5.15 rather than 5 when it officially opens. As we approach we saw a huge line of people waiting by the river. Oh no, we thought it was the queue up the trail…. but no it was the queue for the taxi:-) Ingrid was laughing wondering why people waiting for the taxi were all wearing hiking outfits and survival gear. With no other hikers in sight we left the streetlights behind, turned on our head torches and started the 2 hr climb up the the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu

IMG_7323
Getting ready to hike the trail up

Scott was feeling happier but had no intention of walking so Paul set off up the trail in his own pace with 25kg of Scott on his shoulders while Ingrid and I climbed at our own speed…as usual while conversing about her shed and invention workshop she is planning to build when we get back to the UK.

IMG_9594
1hr into our 2 hr hike up to Machu Picchu

1hr into the the hike, we started passing people who had set off slightly earlier and that helped keep us going for another 45 min until we were finally there. The path of stone steps up to Machu Picchu criss crosses the main road that the taxies and busses use to shift tourists up to the ruins and we had fun waving at tourists in the busses every time we saw one. The views you climb up through the clouds is amazing but nothing compared to the stunning view you get when you enter Machu Picchu itself.

Steep climb to spectacular views

You can only see the actual ruins once you get through the tickets gate and round the corner into the main site. As we were there at 7am the stillness of this majestic place as it appears in the fresh air through the lingering clouds is breathtaking. This must surely be the best time to visit. It felt like it was all ours.

IMG_7437

IMG_9611
Machu Picchu with Huyana Picchu peak in the clouds just behind

The tickets we had bought a few months earlier gave us entry to Machu Picchu and to climb up Huayna Picchu, the highest and most spectacular viewpoint over Machu Picchu itself. Our time slot to climb up was 7-8 so once inside Machu Picchu we went straight through the ruins to the Huayna Picchu entry point. There is an age limit of 12 to do this steep and slightly dangerous climb that takes about 2 hours up and down. Our plan was for Paul to race up on his own at 7am on the dot while I hung our with the kids by the entrance.

IMG_9648
Playing about while waiting for Paul

We were assuming he could go up and down in less than 1 hour so that Ingrid and I could still go up before the 8am deadline. Paul came down just before 8 so next up was me and Ingrid. We showed Ingrids passport and luckily the guard only checked the name in the passports against the tickets, not the age, so we were good to go up!

IMG_9656
Steep and narrow path to the top of Huayna Picchu

The view was totally amazing climbing up the steep and narrow stone step path. We kept a high pace and passed over 50 people on the way up to the top. Ingrid keeps count. We slowed down through a bottleneck of people just below the top viewpoint where everyone had to climb using hands and feet on the steep, slippery and very narrow steps that wound up ever higher and higher. Finally if was our turn at the very top and the view simply took our breath away.

IMG_9670
View from the top of Hayana Picchu

We found a perfect boulder where we sat for a minute and enjoyed a morning Twix while the clouds scattered revealing the beautiful site of Machu Picchu far below. We didn’t stay long as we were keen to get on the path down before most of the crowds and quickly defended the 500m down to the waiting Paul and Scott. What a  glorious morning of hard core climbing!

IMG_9678
Twix at the top

Exploring the ruins of Machu Picchu

You are not allowed to bring in food or drink to the Machu Picchu site and there are no toilets or resting areas inside the site. I guess it helps keep the crowds moving on as otherwise people would be inclined to linger and spend the whole day there. I liked how it was done as it helps keep the site clean and natural looking without modern buildings or constructions ruining the view or experience.

IMG_7526
Ingrid and Scott having fun exploring Machu Picchu

By the time Ingi and I reached he bottom of Hyanu Picchu it was already 10.30 and high time for a rest and recharge of everyones fading batteries. We went out of the main gat for a toilet break and to enjoy our packed lunch. Scott was tired but gradually we could see his entry levels were on the up soon ready  for some more exploring of the ruins themselves. Some ice-cream and coca cola for a final boost and then we were all ready to get going again.

IMG_7598
Scott like to pretend that the sun dial was a human sacrificial stone
IMG_9703
Exploring the royal temple and the fantastic the stonework

We entered the site again on the same ticket and joined the marked trail round the ruins, spectacular buildings and sights. A couple of hours later the big crowds started to appear just as we were feeling ready to leave. Paul and Ingrid walked the long trail down while I took a sleepy Scott on the bus.

IMG_7644
Ingrid still going strong after 6 hrs of high pace hiking

Finally together again at the bottom we had a celebratory early dinner, giant burgers all round! We had all too been looking forward to this day in macho Picchu and I have to say it did not disappoint.

Home comforts & temptations in Miami

Catching up with friends

 

 

IMG_5257

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.

IMG_8165
Kids playing football in the garden
IMG_8182
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.

IMG_5192
Wynwood walls Miami
IMG_5206
Climbing is not just a sport its art
IMG_5230
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?

IMG_5131
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.

IMG_5237
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.

IMG_5251
Scott playing with Sebbies toys
IMG_5114
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. 

IMG_5302
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

 

 

 

 

 

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.

img_3137
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.

img_3676
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.

img_7283
Our house is at the end of the Calzada in Granada so this is where our walk to school starts
img_7285
The Parque central is quiet at this time in the morinng
img_7818
We love walking past all the colourful houses on the way to school
img_7825
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.

img_7809
Cafe Bristol makes the cheapest and best hot of iced latte in Granada
img_7437
Catching up on homework before class
img_7435
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.

img_7246
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.

img_7829
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

img_7279
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.

img_7238
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

img_7411

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.

img_7441img_7880

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.

img_3392

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.

img_7844
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.

img_7666
LEGO!
img_3371
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.

img_7695
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!

img_7594
Scott and Geco playing lego after school
img_3593
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.

img_3159
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.

img_7692
Ingrids delicious pancakes

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

img_7208
There are lots of climbing frames down by the lake, this one has the best monkey bars

img_3045

img_3054
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.

img_3724
Paddle boarding with Ingrid at Laguna de Apoyo
img_4189
Sunset at the Treehouse outside Granada
img_3945
Amazing lava at Masaya Volcano!! So close you can feel the heat!
img_4054
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.

img_7643
Sunset over Catedral de Granada
img_7613
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.

img_7890
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!

Rock climbing on amazing Railay beach

Opting for a cheaper stay in Ao Nang

The main reason we went to Krabi in Thailand was so that Ingrid and I could do some longed after rock climbing. We opted to stay on the cheaper mainland area in Ao Nang where we could also afford a place with a pool and got a bonus pingpong table at the same time. From Ao Nang the crags at Railway and Tonsai Railay beach is just  a quick boat ride away.

Choosing a guide to climb with in Railay

There are many climbing companies operating in the area to choose from, some are better than others…. For me the most important thing when choosing who too climb all the way through this trip is safety, official certification and insurance policies as Ingrid is very young. Prices for climbing range from 2000 Thb for a 1/2 day in a group of 4-8 to 4000 for 1/2 day with a private guide and 6000 for a full day with a private guide.

img_5379

You can rent just the gear and climb on your own, but with limited time to climb, I prefer to hook up with a guide who can show us the best routes and help us set up ropes and to clean the routes. That way we usually get to climb more and I get the trusted belay I need to do some serious climbing myself.

img_4949

We booked 2 x 1/2 days climbing with Real Rocks on Railway beach with a private guide. We paid an additional 500 Thb for Paul and Scott come along in the shuttle and boat so that they could hang out at the beach for the day while Ingrid and I climbed.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0737.

Getting to the 123 crag at and Railay beach

img_8425The Real Rock shuttle picked us up at 7.30 and did the rounds collecting people, then a 20min  boat ride from Krabi Town to Railey beach. Once at the climbing shop the boys went off exploring while we met our guide Wan and got kitted out with ropes, quick draws, slings and helmets.

To get warmed up we started off with some gentle top ropes on the 123 crag. This is the really big crag often used for beginner classes so it was quite crowded through the day. The good thing about this crag is that it had a range of routes suitable for both me and Ingrid. It was also in the shade all day, perfect for climbing in the hot weather here.

Our last outdoor climb climb was over 2 months ago in Yangshuo China so we were feeling a bit rusty to start off with. I was worried about how much my hands and feet would be able to take as well and so with 2 days climbing planned wanted to make sure i left them in a good place for some harder climbing tomorrow.

Ingrid lead climbing at 123 crag Railay

The sand and sea keeps the friction on the rock pretty good with lots of little pockets for your hands and feet. Most of the routes are straight up with little overhang or slabs. A couple of top ropes to start and them I was leading Dr Jekyll & Mrs Hyde remembering how much I love lead climbing. Ingrid started leading indoors a few months back and now wanted to give it a go on this wall. Wan was great supporting her, giving her the right routes to lead and the confidence to do it.

img_4812

As in many situations, in sport or with school I find that Ingrid respond much better to coaching from an outsider than me telling her what to do. In Yangshuo I was amazed at the confidence and grit she showed when being pushed by Alex and Karst climber.

img_4826

The same happened here with Wan, and as she was one of the best and most experienced climbers on the crag that day, surrounded by beginner climbers, she pushed her on that bit harder as well. Ingrid lead 3 routes starting with Little Monkey, finishing  and topped 3 while I led 5 and topped 1. The last route was a 25m+ 6a hat she simply took in her stride.(cannot remember which one.

The landscape here is too beautiful, its such a privilege to just be here let along climb. Ingrid is already planning her own climbing trips for when she is  older and can go on her own with her buddies. Seriously need to come back for some more climbing as well.

img_4805

We climbed from 9.30-1 then went to the other side of the island for a cooling swim afterwards. Definitely something I recommend. Boat back at 5.30, shuttle just after 6 and back at the hotel for 6.30

Day 2 Climbing Diamond Cave

Day 2to was just Ingrid and me, the boys opted to stay at home. Wan took us to Diamond cave crag which was less busy and offered some shorter but more technical and very enjoyable climbs. The 1st hour here was totally exposed and we were sweating profusely during our first climbs. Slightly higher grades, Ingrid opted not to led, but I lead all day finishing on a couple of great 6bs.

img_4981

The other great thing about this place is the amazing coffee right at the bottom of crag where Highland Rock climbers have their “office”.img_5016

A hot latte never tasted so good as it did that day. I am excited watching Ingrid climb today, full of confidence and with fantastic technique. My favourite was watching her conquer the overhang on KFC and  effortlessly out climbing top young men on the routes next to her. We were buzzing after 2 days of real rock and eager to plan our next climb in Chiang Mai a couple of weeks later.

How we planned our Round the World Trip

Deciding where to go on a round the world trip

Planning out a RTW trip can be very daunting! We started  with a simple top 10 destination wish list each which we compared and aligned after some discussion. We then researched the weather in our now joined destination wish list to make sure we would avoid major rainy season and too hot weather if possible.
screen-shot-2017-02-26-at-21-04-45
You then have to choose weather to go clock wise or anti clockwise depending depending on where you want to be when. We choose to travel clockwise as the weather in our planned destinations seemed to work out best that way.

Finalising a round the world trip itinerary

8-9 months before our planned departure days we got in touch with a few travel agencies to get quotes for RTW tickets. Travel Nation worked out cheapest and best for us and we have many dialogues with our appointed travel agent who helped us finalise the trip. We got proposed flights from TN to match our wish list and decided to make some changes due to cost and others due to logistics and recommendation from TN. We allocated a rough time to each destination with the knowledge that most flight dates could be changed with little or no cost along the way.
screen-shot-2017-02-25-at-21-28-32
A map view of our round the world itinerary

Involving the kids in planning our year away

Once we had confirmed what countries we were going to and actually bought the ticket, we wanted to get the kids involved and excited about the trip. Paul bought some giant scrapbooks and together with Ingrid and Scott we made 1 spread per country.

Paul and I printed ideas, images and articles from the internet, collected travel magazines and brochures that we put in a big basket together with some scissors and glue sticks. Every weekend, typically on a quiet Sunday morning or afternoon we sat down browsing, sharing ideas, answering questions, cutting and pasting in the scrap books together. Not only did it help make the kids feel involved, but I think it also helped them prepare mentally for some of the amazing and strange places we have visited since. We also made pinterest boards for each country with ideas and tips from other travellers.

screen-shot-2017-02-25-at-22-28-50
One of our Pinterest boards on Peru – pinned by Ingrid & Scott
screen-shot-2017-02-25-at-22-13-49
Some ides for Cambodia – pinned by Paul
screen-shot-2017-02-25-at-22-17-33
Peru with some of my ideas
screen-shot-2017-02-25-at-22-26-16
Australia pinterest board, this one pinned by Scott

Our 12month Round the World Itinerary

All in all we booked 17 major flights on one round the world ticket. We also got a camper van for Australia and insurance through Travel Nation and so far it has all worked out great. The biggest change to our plans so far is in South America where we are swapping time in Chile and Argentina for more time in Peru and Bolivia. Chile and Argentina are simply too expensive for us to sty in for a longer period of time while Bolivia is one of the cheapest countries. We also swapped Costa Rica for Nicaragua due to cost and that has worked out great so far.

screen-shot-2017-02-25-at-22-04-44

The flights cannot be book more than 1 year in advance, so Travel Nation keeps a log of proposed flights and confirm the bookings while we travel as the tickets become available to book.

Booking & changing the tickets while travelling

Most of our flights are flexible with the dates and can be changes with no cost. Any time we have wanted to move or change a flight we simply email Travel Nation who check possible cost implications, options, rebook the tickets and send us an up to date itinerary.
Change of destination can be dome but is very expensive as it is more or less the same as buying a new ticket.
So, this is the big picture of the travel planning we did before leaving on our trip…the detailed day to day planning is a whole different story for another post another day!