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Travel Word Play on World Poetry Day 2014

The Greek philosopher Aristotle reckoned that ‘adventure is worthwhile’, thus giving travelling the thumbs up, while Edgar Allen Poe is quoted as saying that ‘to elevate the soul, poetry is necessary.’ Both are worthwhile and both are necessary, in my books, so to give a nod to World Poetry Day 2014, I’ll share some of my favourite poems that I relate to travel.

I want to start with one that takes me back to my life in England, to a time when I’d catch myself in moments of routine and yearn for a different life, one that I hadn’t yet figured out. It’s sometimes difficult to put your finger on what you want, but reading this is a good reminder of how to feel alive, whether that be through travel or otherwise:

He who becomes the slave of habit,
who follows the same routes every day,
who never changes pace,
who does not risk and change the color of his clothes,
who does not speak and does not experience,
dies slowly.

He or she who shuns passion,
who prefers black on white,
dotting ones “it’s” rather than a bundle of emotions, the kind that make your eyes glimmer,
that turn a yawn into a smile,
that make the heart pound in the face of mistakes and feelings,
dies slowly.

He or she who does not turn things topsy-turvy,
who is unhappy at work,
who does not risk certainty for uncertainty,
to thus follow a dream,
those who do not forego sound advice at least once in their lives,
die slowly.

He who does not travel, who does not read,
who does not listen to music,
who does not find grace in himself,
she who does not find grace in herself,
dies slowly.

He who slowly destroys his own self-esteem,
who does not allow himself to be helped,
who spends days on end complaining about his own bad luck, about the rain that never stops,
dies slowly.

He or she who abandon a project before starting it, who fail to ask questions on subjects he doesn’t know, he or she who don’t reply when they are asked something they do know,
die slowly.

Let’s try and avoid death in small doses,
reminding oneself that being alive requires an effort far greater than the simple fact of breathing.

Only a burning patience will lead
to the attainment of a splendid happiness.

This poem, Die Slowly, reminds me of my own need to drink in as much of life as possible. I’m not sure that it is actually by Pablo Neruda, as suggested by some online sources, but nonetheless it reminds me of Neruda and takes me back some years to when I was studying Spanish, ideas of travel forming in my mind. I would read Neruda’s poems slowly in Spanish, trying to make sense of their meaning, and then look to the mirroring page of the book that my godmother had given me and read the English translation.

And this poem?  Neruda or not, I hear it. I chose to mix it up and live a little. And that included making the decision to travel and leave everything I knew behind. 

Throughout my travels I – like any traveller – have had to make choices about the howswhyswhens and with whos, and  so often I’ve had moments when I’ve thought: have I made the right decision? Robert Frost plays with this idea in his famous poem, The Road Not Taken:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth; 

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

This poem speaks to me about making decisions that are right for you. Have I made the right decisions on my journey? Yes, apparently. Whoever I ask says the same thing: whatever path you chose was the right one. Or neither was the right one. Or something like that.

And so during my travels I’ve immersed myself in places and experiences that have pushed me outside of my comfort zone, and  I’ve connected with people and situations that I might not otherwise have come across. Like with any traveller, these interactions and experiences have left deep imprints. When I take a minute, such as now, to contemplate my own journey, I can relate elements of my experience to this classic poem by William Wordsworth:

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

The theme, one study source states is about the importance of connecting with nature in order to understand oneself and one’s place in the universe. For me, that has often been through travel.

And those daffodils? Those moments on my journey? Each time I remember them, meditate on them, I am back there, surrounded by sight, smell, sound and sensation. Each time, I feel life. 

Have any recommendations? I’d love to hear from you. Feel like reading over a few more? Have a glance over some of these travel poems.

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Travel, belonging and reflections on home

A moment for reflection (courtesy of travel writer Pico Iyer) before the Travelola travelogues move Melbourne way.

 

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Two dogs and a snake stick

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Morning has broken

‘Here,’ she said, ‘take my snake stick. I’ve got a few. Be careful and beat the ground like this…’ She lifted the stick and brought its stout tip to the ground –thud thud – then rustled the grasses of her camp set up.

A little earlier I’d zipped back the tent doors to reveal a rolling hill clearing in the forest, three other tents dotted in undefined camp spots, some sleepy souls emerging into the gentle morning sunlight.

Read on! (+more pics)

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Marooned: what the hell do I do now?!

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Time to say goodbye?

It was never a guaranteed that I’d stay on board all the way to Australia, and with space for only one of us, either Matt or me had to make a move to a different boat or a different whatever. The rules of the world dictate, first on last off. I had no problems with that.

It was only as we got closer to Tahiti that we finally broached the subject and thrashed out the reality of the situation. As it turned out, Matt wanted to stay on board, so I was off. It gave me a few days thinking time. As far as I was concerned, I had three, no four, options:

1)      Find another boat to crew for. The positives are that I might even find paid work, the negatives that most boats would want to do some exploring of the islands. Bora Bora? I heard it’s amazing, so why a negative? I wanted to get back to Oz sooner than August. I needed to go earn some money, catch up with friends and family.

2)      Find a stout Tahitian man and get stuck into island life. A beautiful place, who wouldn’t want to settle in tropical paradise? Nah, my ideals say that something like this, should it happen, would be spontaneous and emotionally driven, and not a calculated decision. And honestly, my heart was a little too distracted to really consider this option.

3)      Find a cheap flight to Oz. After nearly a year of being transient, I was ready to put down roots for at least a few months. My bank account suggested that it was a necessity to get some paid work quickly, particularly if I hoped to finally return to my family in the UK for Christmas.

4)      See what turns up. This approach has worked well for me over the last year. I’ve freed myself of the need to plan and be overly prepared. It’s liberating. Only occasionally has it fallen flat, like when I turned up to New Zealand not having booked a hostel after taking three flights. Of course, everywhere was fully booked because the Foo Fighters were playing that night. But generally, adventures and interesting experiences have presented themselves when I’ve just been open to seeing what turns up.

So here in Tahiti, I started to pack up my bags and prepare for pastures new.

What would life have in store for me?

The logical thing as a free-spirited, solo traveller would be to continue the sailing adventure through French Polynesia. But something else was pulling me in a different direction, no, not just the one thing, some things.

As I sat in the sunshine sipping a fresh fruit juice, gazing out at a fleet of yachts, Pride told me to find another boat, to do the full Pacific crossing. What’s another two months? he asked, you’ve come so far, why give up now? Because, I replied, I’m actually quite ready to stop for a while. Tropical islands are all well and beautiful but I want to be with friends again, be part of a little community that doesn’t dissipate in a few days, get somewhere where I can talk to doctors in English and get these tropical sores treated.

I recalled a friend’s wise words about there always being more opportunities to do things in the future. If I want to sail around French Polynesia, if it’s really, really important to me, I’ll find a way to come back. I wouldn’t be giving up, I decided. None of my adventures had had definite start and end points so why force this one? No Pride, you don’t present a strong enough argument.

Adventure perked up. You like Tahiti, right? Imagine more of this, more remote, more beautiful, more Bora Bora. People would sell their souls to get to Bora Bora. And then there are the Cook Islands and Tonga and maybe Fiji. You could spend months sailing, not spending much money, maybe even earning some, months enjoying waters perfect for snorkelling and diving and splashing about. You would be in paradise, away from the responsibilities of real life, putting off your return to rent and taxes and all things boring.

In many respects, it sounded appealing. Adventure talked my language, romanticised escapism, abhorred conventionality. But how realistic was Adventure? Did she not realise the power that denial and stresses played on the mind? No, life in its conventional sense of salaries and so forth needed to be addressed.

Responsibility smiled. Finally! he said, you’re starting to be a bit more level headed. Level-headed? I cringed. Maybe you don’t want to return to teaching, but drifting along will soon become tired. Know that you have lots of options. If you really want to be a little less responsible, if you really want to be a writer, he paused and raised an eyebrow, then you’ll still need to find some other work to cover your living costs. You may actually feel quite good earning money again, – you’ll be able to treat people and be independent and, if you must, save for further travels.

I thought about it. Responsibility was right. My return to Australia could just be a stop-gap. If it happened to extend into something more long-term then fine, but if I approached it as just another step in my adventure it would panic me less, and be less of a reason to run for the hills. Or the sea, in this case.

Finally, when I was ready, Love added her two pence worth and told me what I already knew. You have a friend in Australia who is soon moving on to pastures new, you have a cousin arriving into the country before too long and you have someone there who is so looking forward to your return.

Pride tried to butt in but Love was having none of it. She continued. Your family would be so, so happy to see you at Christmas, and I know how much you want to catch up with friends back in the UK. So lightly listen to Responsibility – he makes a few good points – and realise that the journey is never over. To continue your adventure in a meaningful way, you know what you need to do. And the stout Tahitian man that you mentioned? He’s not for you, dear. Leave him be.

Three hours later I had a flight booked to land in Brisbane, Australia. But first, another two weeks in paradise.

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Winding up life on board

It’s all whizzing by so fast now! I’m watching the miles tick by and it’s making me a bit nervous. I’ve mixed feelings, of elation and apprehension. Some excitement too. How do people go back to real life after sailing the seas?

Our ration of sweet things ran out over a week ago. Alan, the captain, disappears into his cabin and returns with a Toblerone bar. I make a mental note to remember to have my own secret stash on future voyages. Surprising the rest of the crew is priceless. We each break off a piece – dessert for the evening – and leave the rest in its packet in the middle of the table.

We’ve eaten well on board, a little too well and I know I’ve definitely put on some weight. The lack of ability to exercise has been frustrating, but I’ve resisted keeping up with the boys’ daily press-ups and sit-ups in favour of lounging in the hammocks and watching sunlight speckle the ocean surface with a million diamond fragments. Between losing myself in Paulo Coelho books and reflections brought on by the Ya Ya Sisterhood, I’ve been listening to Keith Richards on my MP3 player. Stories. People. Life. I can’t get enough.

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Hammock time to tune in, tune out, switch on

And I’m writing like a woman possessed, articles and diaries full of thoughts about past and future, about opportunity. Out of nowhere come contemplations on life and philosophies that reveal some growth and the start of a connection with something a bit bigger. And hope and confidence. For the world and everything in it, including little me. Cabin fever has got to me, it would seem, in a crazy, creative sense.

Two days later and we glimpse land for the first time since leaving the Galapagos. With no deep-rooted earthiness, in some respects this coral collective is a bit of a cheat claim to sighting land, but the tree-lined strip of the atoll nonetheless breaks up a constant flat horizon and reminds us of a different view, of a world we were part of not too long ago.

Mirage fuzz or something more?

Mirage fuzz or something more?

Later I wrote in my diary that it

‘was so exciting to see something other than ocean! Birds were flocking towards it, around it. Signs of life. Wonderful.’

Suddenly the excitement of a piece of chocolate is put into perspective. It was important, for sure, but this sighting? Something else.

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Sampling the sounds at sea

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Sound check

20th Century American writer, Henry Beston, once said that ‘the three great elemental sounds in nature are the sound of rain, the sound of wind in a primeval wood, and the sound of outer ocean on a beach.

But what about getting away from the beach and actually being out in the outer ocean? Maybe he never had the opportunity to check out the sounds associated with sailing across the vast South Pacific Sea. During my three-week journey from Galapagos to Tahiti I certainly had the time to get familiar with the noises of the middle of nowhere.

Back sometime in the reign of the Romans, poet Virgil uttered that ‘every sound alarms’. Totatlly out of context, I hear him on a literal level, because although this quote is more usually linked to discussions of guilty conscience and such like, sounds – and unknown sounds in particular – seem to put me on high alert.

The creaks and thuds and squeaks of the boom as the wind grabs the mainsail and rattles her about were initially unsettling, but now I tune out, to some extent. Below deck clunks and bashes as waves whack the bottom of the boat are sometimes so strong that they physically jump me in my bed and send a shock through my body. These sounds, in forte, are so linked to motion that their impact is accentuated. I feel each thing that I hear. Their sound is fully imprinted.

Gentler overtones include the flutter and ripple of the sail when the wind blows a different directional gust, whilst the whoosh of water rushing out of the back of the boat gives a sense of momentum and is the constant soundtrack to our voyage. It’s too light a sound to be the baseline but it’s there, always; a practised concerto with a limited melody.

Bursts of laughter and conversation colour the piece and add a choral element, whilst the daily generator eruption provides some guttural oomph. Indoor fans and the random hum of the sumps in action add some sound fuzz and grate and purr to the score.  We need some electronics in there. Let’s make this rich and big and keep it real. This isn’t a fairytale with a twinkly, tinkly track list.

In some respects our boat and time at sea are part of an expressionist orchestral piece, dissonant yet full of life. And we’re not talking vivace here, please, this is a sailing overture created by the universe, our great conductor, our maestro, and the tempo is far more lento than we’d like at times. Lento yet full of awkward dissonance; gentle with some heart tightening explosions.

As I conclude this post, I think back to Beston’s comments and realise that the sounds I’ve experienced out at sea are the result of interactions between humankind and nature, and not just elemental forces working alone. In terms of elemental forces out at sea, the sound of night-time silence has to be the strongest, a loud sound accompanied by a full, sparkling sky.

But no! Of course, that silence isn’t true! I’ve obviously tuned out the gentle water rush as we slice through the sea, onwards to French Polynesia and the upcoming reality of real life. The tricks of sound and of the mind. Who knows any more what is actual or imagined out here. Does it even matter?

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So, flying fish and suicidal squid actually exist?

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Not a happy fishy as the boat gets in the way of his flight path

Before I left Puerto Ayora in Galapagos, I’d had a goodbye chat with my parents. At least three weeks without contact was going to be a real challenge for them but they knew that once I set my mind on something, there was little point in trying to persuade otherwise.

I’d been gone nearly a year during which time I’d backpacked solo through parts of New Zealand, Australia, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil and Bolivia, coming in contact with some challenging situations but always having some sensibility and a lot of luck on my side. As a result, my family were somewhat assured that I wouldn’t do something totally stupid, even if they struggled to understand why I had to sail across a vast ocean with a some strangers instead of choosing a more regular, safe option and route.

My mother, however, refused to let her worries burden me.

‘Wow. It’s so exciting!’, she said, ‘Such an adventure! You’ll see flying fish, won’t you?’

‘Erm… I guess so.’

I hadn’t really considered what sea life might make an appearance during the 3,ooo mile voyage, although I hoped we’d sail with some dolphins and maybe some sharks. And flying fish? Did they really exist? I racked my brains trying to recall any of the ocean nature programmes I might have watched over the years. Nah. Nothing.

As it turns out, flying fish do exist. On my second day at sea I stood out on deck and watched a shoal fly through the air, a flash of unified silver splintering off as each little fishy particle dived into oncoming waves. Another school jumped out of the water and soared across the sea surface before pelting back into the depths. I ran inside.

‘I’ve just seen a load of flying fish!’ I told Alan, my skipper, ‘Loads of them’.

He looked up from his book. ‘Yeah? There have been a lot about’.  My novice excitement contrasted with his nonchalant response. This world was his world – his  familiarity – where flying fish were part of a more routine picture.

For me, though,  this new world of ocean and rocking, of starry nights and short sleeps, of flying fish and squelchy squid visitors, it was enough to flick a childhood switch inside my brain and set alight some intrigue.

Over the next few days I didn’t just marvel at the sychronised schools of flying fish, but I got up close and personal with all sorts of slippery, salty and strange creatures. I was fascinated by their alien forms, their determination to get on board our catamaran and their night-time pranks (not all so wonderful, I must add).

So during some downtime I got creative and wrote a few articles, one of which is soon to be published and another that I will share here. Enjoy.

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You can also access the article Sea life suicide and the squid who would be captain through the Articles tab on the main menu.

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When travel and terror collide

www.travelola.orgBack in October 2002, two bombs went off in the midst of Kuta nightlife, killing 202 people, many of whome were travellers enjoying a bit of social time in Bali. Ten years on, survivors have returned to Indonesia to remember those who died in the blast.

I’ve met a few people on my travels who document their journeys, but often, like me, their writing focuses on foreign intrigue, on misunderstandings, on the quirks of being out of your comfort zone. Some travel writing goes deep and addresses the big ones, but so much stuff out there seems to only skim the surface of cultures and countries that would more than likely require a lifetime to properly understand.

And now as my own written journey looks to leave South America once again, I can’t help but think how fortunate I was during my travels throughout Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Brazil. No muggings, no violence, no hold-ups. South America, many people warned me, was still a highly dangerous place to visit, particularly as a solo female traveller. For some reason, I was undeterred, and I refused to buy into the scaremongering.

And South America showed me her beautiful sides, her warmth, generosity and a little dash of chaos. People opened their doors to me, invited me to socials, looked after me when I was sick and alone. And they encouraged me to keep an open mind and heart. I did at times feel uneasy, there were a few moments of military interrogation that shook me up, and in some places there were guys in the street shadows bearing batons. But no dramas for me, thankfully.

But of course not everyone is so lucky, I appreciate that. When I heard about the recent kidnapping of two tourists on the Ecuador-Colombia border, I stopped in my tracks. One of the captured women was my age. The girls were doing the same Cuyabeno jungle tour that I had done back in October 2011. And they described wading through the same mud that I vividly recall.

It could easily have been me. Not that that’s the point, but rather it made me reflect on travelling and timing, on coincidence and luck. These girls did nothing different to what I would have done. It’s not as though they could have been more savvy about the situation, unless you suggest that they should never have visited Ecuador in the first place (and the idea of never leaving ones home comforts out of fear would surely only serve to narrow our views on the world, to close off to different cultures and people? No, please don’t go there.). The girls were released, evidently traumatised, but alive.

Ecuador with its varied terrain and climate and wildlife remains my favourite South American country to travel in. This news won’t discourage me from going back, but it might make me more aware, more alert. Not that that would necessarily make a difference, though. The girls, having been through such an ordeal, may well feel very differently. I’d be curious to know whether it has affected their entire perception of the country.

Because how can such an event not impact on your entire psyche? On your attitude? Different people, I guess, will find different coping mechanisms for traumatic travel stories, ones that hopefully won’t quash their zest for adventure.

Returning to Bali in 2012, one girl who has worked towards finding some solace in the aftermath of the bombings is Hanabeth Luke.

In January 2012 I temporarily put down my backpack in New South Wales, Australia where I met Hanabeth, – a surf chick tomboy mixed with a good dash of feminine quirk and a twist of British. During chats I discovered that she was writing a book, something to do with the upcoming ten year anniversary of the Bali attacks, but I didn’t pry. It seemed too sensitive a subject for strangers.

As time has passed I’ve learnt more, although I’ve undoubtedly learnt more about the spirit of Hanabeth than the event itself. Being in the now is where we’ve been at, in some way as important as remembering. But I will read her book, and I will try to understand what surviving the Bali bomb feels like, what losing a love actually means. Right now it is beyond my comprehension.

The people returning to the place of the 2002 Bali bombings have had ten years now to try to make sense of what happened, ten years to grieve and reach some level of acceptance. I can’t imagine the process ever stops, and that for different people there will be different ways of working through the pain. Writing one’s journey, for example.

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Filed under activity & sport, culture, dancing, ecuador, health, indonesia, random, solo travel, south america, south east asia, surf

Freshly Pressed: who cares?

I do. I definitely do. And it’s not just me that cares, it seems. Many a blogger who has been fortunate enough to be Freshly Pressed echoes this sentiment.

Because being Freshly Pressed is like getting an almighty slap on the back, the sort that tells you you’re doing something okay in life (or in the blogging world, in this case).

A few days back I checked my emails and in amongst a load of rubbish I spotted ‘Congrats, you’ve been Freshly Pressed’. Really? Yes. A personally addressed email.

Turns out the girl done good.

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A sweet moment

Out of 1,191,930 new posts, mine was one of ten selected by the WordPress editors to feature on the front page for that day. How the hell they found my lil’ ol’ blog, who knows?!

I read back over the post and checked that there weren’t any glaring problems. It made me giggle: here was a post that was far from my favourite in terms of creativity and flow. It didn’t even contain any of my own pictures, goddammit!

But apparently it was good enough for them and I wasn’t about to complain, oh no.

I anticipated the flurry of visitors and prepared myself mentally for any harsh criticism. Whilst the high increase in traffic and blog followers was welcome, the very real potential to be publically slated remained at the the back of my mind. But of course any nastiness didn’t come. Why should it? Feedback and banter and warmth shone through instead.

So thanks for sticking by me, previous followers and bloggers extraordinaire, and a warm welcome to all those new to my site. I’m glad you’re joining me on my travels! And thanks also to WordPress for connecting us.

After a year of blogging every couple of days, being Freshly Pressed has given me a little boost, a skip in my travel writing step, if you like. It’s a bit of recognition, something that we all crave (and I’m not kidding myself here, I got lucky).

But being selected has also planted a seed. I’ve found myself pondering on how to get Freshly Pressed again. And again. Without understanding the logic of how I was selected in the first place, this is another unhealthy focus that I think I’ll have to quit. Now.

Back to what I was doing before, then.

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Lakes, llamas and flamin’ flamingos

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Exploring the lakes on the Uyuni tour in Bolivia

Imagine days chock-full of reds and greens and some of the highest lakes in the world. Throw in a few llama sightings to keep the cute factor high and some pale pink flamingos for the bird spotters. Drive between places through desolate desert landscapes. And there you have it. A tour for those who want to see loads of spectacular nature with minimum personal input required. Food and accommodation sorted. Pay your money, off you go. Enjoy the ride.

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Curious roadside llamas

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Anyone fancy a llama cuddle? Although, on second thoughts, she looks a little stern

No wonder my guide Gonzalo sometimes wished he could take a longer tour, say maybe ten days, to really allow time to soak up some of the beauty. But who would want to spend out on such a long tour when you can do the lot, get your pictures and move on for half the price? Ah, the pity and absurdity of our busy, self-inflicted schedules.

So on Day 2 of the tour south west of Uyuni in Bolivia we started off with a teaser of lesser lakes before we drove onwards towards the two most significant ones: Laguna Colorada and Laguna Verde.

Laguna Colorada sits at 4,500m and even on this slightly dull day, she greeted us with a spectacular show of red tinted waters and shores freckled with flamingos and white borax deposits.

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Laguna Colorada quite convincingly showing us her colours

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Flamingos

No other humans were present. It was just us, thin air and some hungry birds chomping on colour altering algae. And a dusty surround with makeshift roads along which two other tour jeeps sped off into the distance, their bellies full of tourists in a rush.

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Dust trails

‘Time to go!’ shouted Gonzalo. Quick, quick. Everyone back in the cars. Off we went.

Give me another lake!

Okay. Laguna Verde. Laguna Verde sits ‘at the base of the Lincancabor volcano’ at an estimated altitude of between 4,300 and 6,390m. I had no idea we were heading that high. No wonder the altitude got me. Overcast skies didn’t give us the copper green waters that one can expect to see on a sunny day so those hoping for a winning photo were a little disappointed. We did a group photo instead. One, two, three, jump.

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Group shot at Laguna Verde (me third from the left)

I like to spend a few moments by myself to take in the stillness of lakes. Unlike my first love, the sea which feels alive with movement and constant change and turmoil, lakes instil that sense of deep calm that can occasionally spill over into eeriness. Not here though. Nothing to fear, no weird vibes, no danger alerts. Just lonesome lakes, visited every now and then by groups of creatures sporting compact cameras.

But on the morning of Day 3, I can’t say that I was overly excited about getting up early to visit yet MORE lakes. My preference would have been to go slower and enjoy the views of the early ones, stop for a picnic, that kind of thing.

The weather turned cold. Icy blasts whipped us as we jumped out of the jeeps to gather around the various lakesides. Lauguna Kata, Laguna Kachi, Laguna Churungkani. Pretty lakes. Lakes surrounded by grey, brown landscapes and snow-capped mountains and piles of rockiness. It’s difficult to know what else to say. I became a bit lake-blinded, lake-spoilt.

It started to snow and with hats and scarves we enjoyed the falling flakes before retreating to the warmth of the vehicles. The short stops soon became a blessing.

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Grass tufts and cloud covered snow caps

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Moodiness as the weather closes in

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The crew just before the snow came down

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A bit of cloud cover

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