Yellow. This is the word that comes to mind when I think of Cartagena, a port city on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. Of course, Cartagena is more than yellow – its colours come in excess. The blues and pinks and oranges spill through windows and across pavements, a child’s painting before they’ve learnt to stay within the lines. But yellow is the primary colour – whole buildings have resigned themselves to this happy shade, a lifetime’s dedication to Yellow.


Amongst the colour is chaos. Street vendors sell everything – from freshly squeezed lime juice in broad, happy daylight, to grams of cocaine, sold in uncertain whispers in the dark corners of Cartagena’s nightlife. My favourite street delicacy was mango biche: sliced unripe mango topped with salt and lime – a strange combination I was opposed to at first. Performances erupt in street corners and on pavements – in Plaza de la Trinidad we found ourselves joining an impromptu aerobics class that had taken over the square, and attracted an audience of some 50 people. Heat adds to the commotion – colours melt and merge under the pounding sun, and sweaty tourists give in to overpriced iced water and coconut milk. At night, the chaos intensifies as Chiva buses wind round and round the city, blaring reggaeton and serving unlimited aguardiente (the local liquor – terrible) to groups of uncomfortable-looking tourists who self-consciously shake maracas in an attempt to be Part of the Spirit of Things.


In Cartagena, we spent our days wandering (a more fun word for being lost), as Frieke (travel-companion, childhood best friend, leggy blonde with an insistence on doing everything) recounted an uncle’s advice “never take the same road twice”. We did in fact walk many roads twice (constantly losing ourselves amongst the street art), but took the advice to heart as we set out to see as much of the city as possible. We wandered along the 7-mile wall that encloses Cartagena’s old town (built over 2 centuries in defence against pirates), around the old town itself (embossed with bougainvillea and balconies) and around the city to reach Playa Bocagrande (packed with paddlers and ceviche sellers).




Cartagena is like one enormous work of art, and everything within the city has been swept up to become part of the exhibition: locals leaning out turquoise window frames and purple vines crawling confidently up multi-coloured walls. The portrait lives and breathes, almost bursting at its rainbow seams in an effort to contain the explosion of heat and noise and so much colour.



Photo of the Day No. 31



Where I am been fortunate enough to stay and work for the last ten days – The Waterfalls farm in San Agustín (a job I found using the site Workaway).

I will be writing about this amazing experience soon.

Photo of the Day No. 30

Photo of the Day

Two Colombian boys with their arms affectionately round each other.

The last week I’ve been getting to know Colombia’s countryside around the small town of San Agustín. Surrounded by the most stunning landscape, I’ve been working on a farm and reinforcing my knowledge about the fragility of the planet, but how there are so many ways we can start to mend it.


Photo of the Day No. 29



Translation: Look after all dogs

Seen at Parque Bustamante the day I arrived back to Santiago after the Christmas holiday. Feeling a little homesick, this sign reminded me of what a kind city I live in.



Parks, parks, parks


Cities are fun, and exciting, and filled with fascinating things that clamour for attention all at once. But cities are also overwhelming. After a few days of people and metros, the countryside kid inside me (grown up surrounded by more trees than humans) whines for green.

And, luckily for me, Santiago has many interesting and stunning parks. So, in the last couple of days, I have done what I do best in big cities – visited parks. In this post I want to highlight five of my favourites:

Cerro San Cristobal:


La Virgen de la Inmaculada Concepción

The classic. Every tourist is told to climb to the top of this cerro (hill) in Parque Metropolitano (the biggest area of green in Santiago), and enjoy the view from above (which is marvellous, except often hindered by the city’s relentless smog –I am told that after rain, the smog clears, and you can finally see the city through clean air). There are a number of routes up and down the cerro, or you can take the funicular. At the top is an enormous statue of La Virgen de la Inmaculada Concepción and, on Monday in fact, Pope Francis will be saying mass at the outdoor church at the hill’s summit.


A smog-covered view from the top of Cerro San Cristobal

Parque Bicentenario


Looking across the lagoon to Costanera Centre



I thought this building was going to be something really cool – but it was just a bank

This park is in the fancy area of town – Vitacura. It’s a relatively new park – building completed in 2011 to commemorate 200 years since Chile’s independence from Spain. The park is beautiful though, and the view of trees against skyscrapers is quite spectacular.



Plus, there are geese and flamingos, AND you can buy bird food for 100-pesos-a-handful (so obviously I used all the change I had to repeatedly feed the birds in the laguna de aves). I fell asleep in one of the many deckchairs you can lounge in (for free), which was exactly the kind of park afternoon I was hunting for.




Quinta Normal


Quinta Normal is my absolute favourite. The park was built in 1841 for greenhouses to grow foreign plant species. Now, though, just a skeleton of one greenhouse remains, and the trees have grown so enormous, you could actually pretend that you’re no longer in the city. There are three museums in the park: Museo de historia natural (free entrance), museo de ciencias (800CLP for adults), and one of the museos de arte contemporáneo (free). I wandered around the natural history museum and learnt about the history of Chile’s landscape, as well as saw the 18-metre-long skeleton of a Sei whale that washed up on the shore of Valparaíso in 1889.


Old greenhouse


Museo de historia natural


Bizarre art on the side of museo de ciencia

I also learn about the Selk’nam people and their supposed origin (indigenous people of the Patagonian region, now considered extinct except for one man of part Selk’nam ancestry who is the last remaining speaker of the language): Selk’nam women used to paint their bodies and faces, and pretend to be spirits so that their men would be afraid of them, and subsequently submit to their will (brilliant). However, unfortunately for these amazing women, when the men found out they were begin tricked, they fought the women, killing most of them, and a new society took over where the men were in charge.



The best thing about Quinta Normal is probably how much food you can buy there on the weekend: the main pathway swells with mini stalls selling pizza, chocolate-covered fruit, sopapillas, smoothies and anything you could want. You literally don’t have to get up, as vendors will come to wherever you are lounging.


Adorable school trip I came across – clearly not allowed to let go of each other

Parque Arauco



Another park in the fancy part of Santiago, Parque Arauco has a very upmarket mall in the middle of it. The park itself is surrounded by shiny blue skyscrapers, so it’s difficult to feel as though you’ve escaped the city. However, it’s fun to wander around since there’s a fake-beach (bizarre), tons of sports facilities and a skate park.


Skate park


Fake beach

Cerro Santa Lucía

In the center of Santiago, Cerro Santa Lucía offers another (less high) viewpoint of the city. The hill is actually a remnant of a 15-million-year-old volcano, and there is lots of shade and hidden statues in the little park. The view from the hill’s top of city against mountain summits is, like most views of Santiago, quite incredible.


View from the top of Santa Lucía (then the Andes still had snow on them)


Photo of the Day No. 28

Photo of the Day, Uncategorized

Me, searching for the next adventure. Never have I looked like such a gap yah kid.

Photo was taken at home just before I set off for 5 days in Santiago and 5 weeks in Colombia.


Pichilemu and Punta de Lobos


Pichilemu, a sleepy surf town, lies three-hours south of Santiago and is a popular weekend break for Santiguinos. Comprised almost entirely of surfboards and hippies, this town has quickly become my favourite place (so far) in Chile. Pichilemu is made up of pastel-coloured bungalows intervened by ice-cream stalls which all look out over the wild-looking black-sand beach. A group of us went to Pichilemu for yet another feriado and stayed in the hostel Patiperro right on the beachfront and complete with pool, hammocks and two dogs (Dobby and Noah). What else could we have wanted?


Hostel Patiperro

The first day was spent like any other beach holiday – eating fish and chips, playing rounder’s on the beach, getting horrendously sunburnt, and paddling in the freezing cold ocean. It is actually prohibited to swim in certain parts of the sea because the waves are so strong and there are enormous rocks that stick out jaggered and treacherous-looking.


Sunset view from our hostel


Pichilemu beach complete with A LLAMA (one of the most Chilean things I’ve ever seen)

People come from all over the world to experience the ideal surf conditions of Pichilemu and neighbouring Punta de Lobos. So, of course, we had to give it a try. At Manzana 54 Surf school we were given a 3-hour group lesson and all equipment rental for 10,000 CLP. The first part of the lesson is spent learning how to stand up on the beach as if you were on a board. This was rendered entirely pointless when I was on an actual board in the sea, totally without balance or grace – I never managed to stand up despite the promise I showed whilst learning on the beach.


Manzana 54 surf school

The town of Pichilemu offers a wide selection of food stalls (no complaints here). We wandered around the slightly crappy artisanal market and lay on the beach ‘tanning’ (I got burnt again). In the evening, we ate more seafood and tried to go clubbing but, on discovering that the entrance fee was 10 luka, we ended up in an empty restaurant, pushing the tables and chairs back, and dancing until the staff eventually couldn’t put up with us anymore (I also managed to fit in a nap).


Hitching-hiking (ft. Lara)



Paila Marina

On the final day in Pichilemu we hitchhiked to Punta de Lobos (during the ride we were asked if all British girls were as beautiful as us) which is stunning. If you fail to hitchhike (unlikely if you are patient enough) ­­­colectivos (shared taxis) continuously drive up and down the road and will take you to wherever for 1,000 per person. When you get there fields, that pan out to nothing except yellow blossom and blue sky, eventually meet a yawning, winding road and halt for a second to take in that insane view, before tumbling over the cliff. Punta de Lobos bay curves elegantly around Chile’s coastline, studded with surfers skilfully navigating the jagged rocks, and treacherous waves fleck the turquoise with white before crashing dramatically against the rocks, scattering pieces of themselves back into the ocean. After a slightly over-powering paila marina (a seafood broth that mixed all the grossest bits of sea creatures – not sparing any tentacle or crusty bit of shell), we spent another afternoon on the beach, climbing the rocks and playing racket ball, before reluctantly dragging our very sunburnt bodies back to Santiago.



Punta de Lobos beach


Photo of the Day No. 27


Surf school seen at Punta de Lobos, a famous spot for surfers in Chile. 

I have fallen in love with this part of Chile.


Football, 80s Music, an-almost-mugging and Pink Hair


It’s been a hectic weekend. I feel like the title contains all the spoilers – I was hoping the mugging part would keep readers hooked, so read on if you want to know how this brave, year-abroad warrior (me) battled against two muggers on the rough streets of Santiago at 5am (story only slightly over-exaggerated).

Part 1: “Concha tu madre!


Estado Nacional, there were about 37,000 people there that day

I don’t watch football, ever. I ‘support’ Liverpool because when I was 10 my brother told me I ought to, and assigned me Liverpool to which I have been a faithful supporter ever since (despite knowing nothing about the team). In the UK, I would never even consider going to watch a football match, but somehow was overly excited about the idea of watching Universidad de Chile play against Audax Italiano at the Estado Nacional.

We bought tickets for 6000CLP (approx. £7) for Saturday afternoon. On my way to the stadium, the metro was full with supporters completely kitted out in blue (the Universidad de Chile’s team colour) and chanting – I (dressed in green which I hadn’t realized was the colour of the opposing team) felt very out of place until I bought my own UC cap. Sadly, my ‘cover’ was blown by one Chilean man who walked past us and gasped “gringos?!” before asking for a selfie.



I strongly feel that everyone visiting Chile should experience a football match at Estado Nacional as the atmosphere was incredible – however it was boiling with no shade, so wear sunscreen or you too will have to buy a flag just to cover your burning skin (nonetheless an ingenious idea from Gillian). The other team scored 3 times in the first 20 minutes (there was a lot of conca tu madre and weoooonnn), but it was fantastic to see how unfailingly the blue fans supported their team, and also to be part (or try to be part) of the cheers and chants.

Me and Laura

True UC supporters

Part 2: “NO! Es mio!”

On Saturday evening I experienced Blondie (a club in ­­Alameda) for the first time and have slightly fallen in love. After a huge previa (pres) mixing the English with the Chileans, we headed to the 80s/90s night that Blondie was hosting and danced until 5am. Highlights include: Don’t you want me? And Girls just wanna have fun – we were in our element.

Tip: The cheapest drink you can buy here is a piscola for 3000CLP, but be warned because it is strong. The bartender got out two bottles of Pisco and tipped them simultaneously into my glass until it was 2/3s full of spirit – with just enough space left for the coke.


The moment when songs from the Shrek soundtrack started playing

Another great feature of Blondie is the pizza stand directly outside the entrance. After my 1 luka slice, a friend and I started walking home but were stopped by two man who were all of a sudden trying to take our stuff. One guy grabbed my hand with my phone in it and I was so perplexed (Don’t you want me? still ringing in my head) that all I could think to do was yell: “No! Es mio – EN SERIO.” (“No! It’s mine – SERIOUSLY.”) Even more bafflingly they backed off almost straight away – possibly the most pathetic mugging attempt ever (but has made me re-realize that one should never wander Santiago’s streets alone at night).

Part 3: “Que es fucsia?”

On Sunday morning after three hours of sleep (the best time to make decisions) I dyed the end of my hair a bright fuchsia because #pinkhairdontcare. I think Santiago, which is teeming with hippies and a rainbow collection of hairstyles, is having too much influence of me – I feel slightly more Santaguina now. Just need to wear my UC cap everyone, beat up a few more muggers and I’m all set.





Pomaire is very small town about an hour out of Santiago, and famous for the ceramic pottery its residents make. The two main streets, which are very narrow, have been filled with an impressive amount of artisanal shops, each overflowing with “greda” (brown clay) goods, and some selling jewelry and clothes. Because the buildings are so low, you’re able to see the hills that surround the town, and the whole place has a strange I-stepped-back-about-fifty-years charm (except when a pack of tourists wanders by speaking English and snapping photos – like me, basically).

DSC01880 2

“In the earth, we find out past, our present and our future. In the clay we find our people, our history and our trade.”

DSC01894 2

Local potter teaching his daughter the trade

Pomaire’s most famous souvenir is the chanchito; a clay piggy bank which you can buy in the traditional greda style, or I also saw some in very funky Spiderman and Hello Kitty designs (why not?). Another thing Pomaire is famous for are the half-kilo empanadas you can buy (I also saw one restaurant advertising a kilo empanada). However, as a boring vegetarian, I contented myself with a sandwich at La Fuente de mi Tierra (recommend this restaurant).

DSC01895 2


DSC01900 2

Beast of an empanada

Pomaire’s clay history goes back to 1482 when a group of indigenous people arrived in the area and used the surrounding hills as their source of clay. Inhabitants used to travel to other regions, such as to Valparaíso, to sell their products. Pomaire was even used as the backdrop of the first Chilean soap opera to be filmed in colour – La Madrasta (The Stepmother); the tragic story of a Chilean woman stranded overseas who turns to pottery-making in order to save enough money to return to her beloved home: Pomaire.

DSC01897 2

View from La Fuente de mi Tierra restaurant

To get to Pomaire, we took a bus from Estacion Central, which cost about 4,000CLP fora return. You get dropped off 1km from the town and can walk the rest of the way, or take a minibus for 500CLP. Before heading back to Santiago, in true Chilean spirit, Gillian and I bought a terremoto which we were sure wouldn’t be allowed on the bus. However, the lady at the ticket booth/café (efficient use of space) just laughed at our concern and said what ‘buena onda’ (good vibes) that would be.

Chile is just great.

Gill with terremoto

G & T (Gillian + Terremoto hahah)

DSC01899 2