It is going to be a great year…

Because I said so…

I am tired of the doom and gloom that has pervaded our lives over the past two years. Tired of that one topic that seems to find its way into every single conversation. Tired of keeping my distance from my family and friends. Tired of the sadness. We seem to have lost what little control we thought we had of what tomorrow could possibly bring.

Like everyone else, my 2021 plans were turned upside down. But with my positive thinking-cap on, I have convinced myself that they may not have been the right plans for me at that time anyway. Instead 2021 allowed me the opportunity to spend time delving into some of the things I’ve always wanted to do and never had the time to do (or the will, whichever is the real reason). In my first year of retirement, I was allowed to reconnect with family and friends. To truly R E L A X. To literally sit and and watch the grass grow, as they say – or the waves roll onto the shore. To take the time to rebuild my garden, my sanctuary, my pride and joy. To enjoy my hummingbirds who from time to time awake me from my reverie to remind me to refill their feeders.

I’ve reconnected with my creative side and reacquainted myself with my sewing machine. We have once again become good friends and we are happy together. I have become a student of the University of YouTube where there are no limits to what you can learn to do. And most of all I have learned that the roller coaster that is life can change its speed, and that’s OK.

With your positive thinking-cap on, the world is a much better place. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel as small as that light may be, the good things outshine the bad, and you are able to move forward one step at a time, slowly but surely.

2021 was great and 2022 will be even greater, as I will soon be on my way to meet my three grandsons, two of whom I am yet to meet personally. FaceTime has become an integral part of my relationship with them and as grateful as I am for being able to watch them grow from afar, it is time for that ever important transfer of love through the hugs and kisses I’ve been storing up over the past two years. We will all be overwhelmed when we finally meet, but it will be good.

It is going to be a great year, because I said so…..

Glamping, Lumbre style…

I remember as a child watching the movie “Sound of Music” over and over again.  I shamelessly admit that I’ve also seen it as an adult multiple times.  And every time that I’ve had the opportunity to hike across the ridge of a mountain, my mind goes back to that scene when the Von Trapp family leave Austria and escape to Switzerland.

Lumbre offered that experience, with cows grazing on the hills, open landscape as far as the eye can see, and as a special treat, what seemed like a secret hike through the forest to an enchanting waterfall – our own private escape.  Such a perfect way to spend a beautiful sunny morning just oustide the small quaint town of Salento nestled in the Cocora Valley.

For those of us who think they want to go camping but aren’t quite ready to sleep on the ground, who want to enjoy the simplicity and beauty that nature has to offer, to wake up to gentle breezes and the chirping of the birds, to be pampered and catered to by the most gracious of hosts, Glamping at Lumbre will fulfil all of your desires and more.  With hiking trails just 100m away, horseback riding at your whim and even the extreme pampering of a masseuse, if you so desire.  A treat for bird watchers.

Our short 3 night stay wasn’t enough.  If there’s one place you want to put on your bucket list – this is it.

Salento – Touring the Wax Palm Forest in the Cocora Valley

We arrived in Salento late into the night, in pouring rain, cold, damp and hungry.  What was supposed to be a 5-hour drive from Jardin stretched into an 8-hour journey due to unforeseen traffic and road works.  Needless to say we were tired and after a quick dinner, bundled into our ‘Glamping accomodation’ and fell asleep before anybody could say “Jack Sprat”.

As we emerged from our tents in the morning, the beauty of the surrounding mountains, the sound of the birds chirping and the cows mooing in the distance immediately erased any displeasures we may have experienced the day before. We were on the Lumbre farm in the Cocora Valley situated in Quindio, Colombia, located in the Central Cordillera of the Andean mountains.  What an absolutely beautiful morning view.  And the day had only just begun.

For we were about to embark on a tour of the Carbonera estate known for its Wax Palms and amazing views.  We chose however to do this tour with a local guide (www.salentocycling.com) in what could only be described as an unconventional way – not only hiking through farm lands bordering the Wax Palm forest, but exploring what is known as the Cloud Forest on dirt road bikes.

We met our exuberant guide Eduardo in Salento and once fitted with our gear, climbed into the back of a Jeep and made our way 20 km up to 11000’ up into the estate.  Rumbling along the rocky dirt road we eventually arrived at our first point of decent – an 8k downhill bike ride which took us to the start of our trek to the Wax Palms.

Amazing views awaited us as we climbed up and down the gentle slopes back to the top where we picnicked relishing in the peace and quiet of the nature that surrounded us.  And then the adventure really began as we were carried back up to the top and jumped on our bikes to make the final 20k ride downhill back to Salento.

The cloud forest, at a temperature of roughly 18C provided mystery at every turn as we could see just 10 meters ahead at any one time.  As we descended further the views of the Cocora valley opened up once more and we were treated to the mooing of cows and even accompanied by a couple of young foals who galloped alongside us for part of the journey.  The excitement building, adrenaline pumping as we had just experienced the tour of a lifetime.

The pictures speak for themselves, and the memories etched in our minds forever.

Jardin – A small town with a big heart

We pulled up in front of our hotel perfectly located on the picturesque square, El Libertador Park,  of the small town of Jardin, located in northwest Colombia.  We gasped at the imposing presence of the neo-Gothic Basilica of the Immaculate Conception which towered over the square in all its glory.  The square was encircled by tents with vendors of local food and art, restaurants full to the brim of customers enjoying their Sunday lunch, parents sitting amongst the rose gardens, while their young children ran around chasing the birds, laughing with their friends.

We smiled, and immediately fell in love with the sheer beauty of Jardin, known for its brightly painted houses, colorful floral displays and milk candies.  We too began to laugh and chit chat as we wandered in and around the stalls and shops making our way to the nearest local restaurant for lunch.  A normal Sunday, in a small quiet town.

As the afternoon continued, we began to notice young children in their costumes, likewise teenagers and some adults.  It was Halloween we were reminded, but nothing prepared us for the unfolding events that would take place as the sun set on what we thought was the sweet quiet town of Jardin, Antiquoia.

While relaxing on our balcony overlooking the square, we noticed crowds lining the streets under our noses, music from bands began to play on the other side of the plaza, the stalls that were selling local art and candies filled the air with the inviting smells of street food.  The town had come alive in a way totally unexpected.

And then we realized that we were about to witness a parade of Halloween bands, not unlike the Carnival parade of ‘Ole Mas’ bands we are accustomed to in our small twin island of Trinidad and Tobago. This parade however not only featured the well orchestrated bands as they marched or danced pass but also included a large contingent of motorcyclists showing off their road skills.   The revving of their bikes, intermingled with the sounds of the orchestra, the costumed participants of all ages and the varying methods of expression, made for a highly energetic display much appreciated by all.

We were thoroughly entertained and left this sweet town with its unsuspecting vitality imprinted on our hearts.

La Piedra, Guatape

675 steps up to an altitude of 200m to witness what is claimed to be the best view in the world.  A panoramic vista as far as the horizon towering above the town of Guatapé Antioquia.  Fresh water lakes formed by a hydro electric dam interrupted by small islands, dotted with what you can only imagine to be vacation homes and the odd boat speeding from one island to the next.  You can almost see vacationers tanning on the decks with children splashing in the water enjoying the brilliant sun shiny day that it was.

It is known as “La Piedra” and has been the reason for many rivalries between the towns of El Peñol and Guatapé over the years.  This is highlighted by the letters “G” and an incomplete “U” (leaving the letters GI) painted on the western face of the rock.  The two towns had long disputed ownership of the rock and the residents of Guatapé decided to settle the matter by painting the town’s name on the rock in huge white letters.  It did not take long for the residents of El Peñol to notice the work and a large mob was assembled to stop it, leaving behind the unfinished graffiti.*

According to geologists the rock is approximately 65 million years old.  The indigenous Tahami, former inhabitants of this region, worshipped the rock and called it, in their language “Mojarra” or “Mubarak” (rock or stone).   The landform is a granitic rock remnant that has resisted weathering and erosion.

Climbing the rock is not for the faint hearted.  Yet it’s a challenge that many take on as the view literally takes your breath away.

* Wikipedia

La Comuna 13

Children should not be working in the streets, but on their dreams.

Comuna 13 was considered one of the most dangerous communities in Medellin if not the world.  Many may remember our fear of even so much as visiting Colombia due to the rampant drug trafficking and the violence that surrounded this trade.  Stories abounded with kidnappings, drug lords taking over small communities, the crime rate soaring.  After the death of Pablo Escobar in 1993 however, the government decided to intervene in the ongoing destruction of its youth in Comuna 13 one of the hardest hit communities where a life of violence and crime seemed to be the only option open to its residents to climb the social ladder, or so they were led to believe.

Investment was made in the infrastructure of the community allowing everyone access to schools and public transport instilling in them not only a new vision for their future but a sense of pride in themselves and their community that has transcended from generation to generation.  A community that truly embraces the spirit of ‘each one help one’.

Today Comuna 13 is considered one of the safest districts in the world, its walls covered in graffiti art depicting not only the struggles faced by their inhabitants and the evolution of its community, but also embodying messages of peace and unity amongst its people.  As you walk the streets, you are entertained by self made dancers, hip hop artists, singers – all intent on making an honest living while promoting a life of honesty and integrity.

We thought we were going to visit an exhibition of the finest street art Medellin has to offer.  Instead we were silenced by the beauty and humility of its people, the exuberance of a new culture of youth who look out for each other and who understand the value of community living.  We felt safe and secure exploring the ins and outs of the many shops and thoroughly enjoyed the talents of the local artists who performed on demand for our voluntary contributions.

You can visit on your own or with a tour guide (Aeroturex).  You will be welcomed with open arms at all times.

An overhead view of la Comuna 13, courtesy our Tour guide Aeroturex

Beauty just around the corner…

We’ve been hiking the Paria Trail for very many years now, enjoying our treks with the rainforest on one side and the waves crashing on the north coast on the other side.  The pelicans and parrots accompanying us on our journey.  A lovely hike with its fair share of challenging inclines.  A trail well-travelled by many an adventure seeker.

And just like that, with a glint in her eye, one of our neighbours living on the trail let out a well-kept secret of a hidden waterfall nearby.  Not far off the trail.  Around some rocks.  Crossing a beach covered in pebbles.  Look to the right and follow the river.  And right there, without any fanfare, a small but pristine waterfall, welcomed us.

Happiness for any hiker.  Clear refreshing pool of water.  A gem found.  Just around the corner.

I am learning something new…

I am developing a new skill – the art of quilting. Yup – a crazy lady living in the tropics learning to make quilts – primarily used in temperate climates as a warm bed covering – according to google. Crazy maybe, but boy is she having fun. Thanks to the encouragement of a long-time friend whose talent can only be described as inspirational.

It’s a mind boggling thing – a quilt. You purchase yards of fabric, cut them up into small pieces and sew them back together again. My husband shakes his head at the process, but allows me my space as he has to admit that I am happiest in front of my sewing machine. Well let’s just say that it is one of my many happy places.

I learned to sew sitting next to my mom while she was at her machine, quite some years ago. She wasn’t meticulous about her sewing but the outcome was always good. Her advice was simply to measure twice and cut once. And when that didn’t work out so well, she quietly quelled my tears by assuring me that ‘every mistake is a fashion’ which has served me extremely well with my quilting.

I’ve joined a Facebook group entitled ‘Quilting‘ – a group of extremely talented, generous, inspiring and caring women and men who share the love of, you guessed it, quilting. It is a hobby for most and an income earner for others. It’s a space where you can share your successes and be applauded and what you consider to be failures and still be applauded, because as I’ve learned, there is no ugly quilt. It’s a space where you are encouraged to continue regardless, where getting advice is quicker than google and where you feel a great sense of belonging. You seriously ‘feel the love’ in this group.

Why didn’t I do this before? Well for me quilting takes time. You pretty much need to have nowhere to be and lots of time to get there, not to mention a whole lot of love for this art. So, here I am quilting to my heart’s content.

A baby quilt entitled ‘Trini Roots’ for my grand niece living in England

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Making the most…

So many times we talk about making the most of every day, every moment. I often wonder however what that really means and whether or not I am living a life of ‘making the most’.

There are moments filled with excitement, moments filled with anxiety, love, adventure, sorrow, sheer joy. Those moments filled with the good stuff should be easy to enjoy – and I even wonder if we actually do. And what about the other moments, where we are not sure what to do, where we become angry or are faced with challenges seemingly beyond our control. How do we make the most of those moments that we would rather they just disappear.

When you can make last minute decisions to spend time with family just because. When you can drop what you are doing and drive an hour to your favourite location on the coast and spend a few un-interrupted days with no specific agenda. When you can drop by a friend for a spur of the moment glass of wine. And those times when you can spend the day tucked away in your personal cave reading, watching videos, sewing, creating. When you have nowhere to be and lots of time to get there. Sure it’s easy to make the most.

I firmly believe though that making the most doesn’t depend on the amount of free time that you have – otherwise we would all be a lost cause. When you are disappointed – how do you make the most of that moment. When you are angry, sad, lonely – how do you make the most of those times in your life. How do you make the most of the times you’d rather forget. Moments that probably make up a very large percentage of this short life we have on earth.

If I’ve learned anything in my plus 44+ years, it’s your attitude that pulls you through every single time. It’s the choice that you make every single moment of the day to keep looking forward, to seek the silver lining, to do what you can to fix those undesirable moments, if you can – and if you can’t, you need to work hard to accept those moments and carry on regardless.

It’s not easy to make the most of every moment of our life, but it certainly is worth the try.