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.

Turn your week around…

… with a midweek escape.

There are so many simple pleasures in life that we dismiss.  Not enough time.  Too much of an effort.  The weather isn’t so good. Maybe next week. 

Take this on as a challenge.  The next time you have an opportunity to do something different in the middle of the week. Jump at it.  It may turn your week upside down.  It may delay some of your deadlines.  And then again it may not.

I promise you that the time you spend will be rewarded with a great sense of appreciation, relaxation, and accomplishment.  For you would have done something out of the ordinary.  You would have shaken up your routine.  Your busyness will be put on hold for just one day.  And the rest of your week will fly by with a smirk on your face.

Go ahead, I dare you….

Good Friday Paria Challenge

Even before we were lucky enough to lease and now own Manixia, our home away from home, my family and I, and close friends have been hiking to Paria Bay (click here for my blog The Paria Trail), a secluded beach along the North Coast of Trinidad, on Good Friday. It was a simple gesture for our kids to do something challenging in commemoration of the significance of Good Friday itself.

Needless to say, this gesture, some 25 years in the making, has become a tradition. And has come to include many friends and friends of friends – anyone willing to join in the challenge of what I consider to be one of the most beautiful hikes in Trinidad and Tobago – (we can discuss this point at another time). It has become a day of sharing, a day of camaraderie, a day to relax and maybe reflect, but certainly a day when like-minded outdoor enthusiasts get together for a good time.

Then 2020 happened.

And then 2021, when a small light at the end of the tunnel lit a spark, albeit a small spark, and the Good Friday hike was on again. This time with a difference. And as if we needed to inject any amount of enthusiasm, my husband decided that the hike should include a mental challenge as well. These challenges took the form of simple questions related to the location, the environment and of course Good Friday.

Not surprisingly, the participation was infectious, the enthusiasm at its highest, and the day a splendid one.

Thanks to all for being there.

Touring Tobago… the unconventional way.

It sounded like a cool vacation-type day, exploring the coastline, dreamily driving through the quaint villages, stopping to take some pics, experimenting with the local cuisine, and finally dipping your toes in the ocean, relaxing on some secluded beach sipping on your favourite beverage.  Life in the tropics.

That’s one way to tour Tobago – Trinidad’s charming sister isle.  But I met a bunch of determined, strong-minded, never-give-up, leave-no-man-behind kind of tourists, who took Tobago by storm – on their bikes.  Oh, and I am quite sure there must have been some level of ‘crazy’ in them as well – but that’s another story.

Before the sun could rise, vital supplies were packed, bikes prepped, minds set and off we went.  And by ‘we’ I mean, me donned with my camera in a vehicle, and the rest of the group on their bikes (just to be clear). What initially seemed like a cool, slow, leisurely ride around the island quickly turned into a gruelling test of will, strength, preparedness and sheer gut.  They pumped their way up and down, up and down some of the steepest hills, with sharp hairpin corners, in the hot midday sun.  Stopping only to refuel, regroup and start all over again.  Their minds set on the finish line and the oh so rewarding moment when you realise that you have just completed a 102km ride, climbing 2,700m, some sections with a gradient of 15-18%, 5-7 hours of riding your heart out.

I learned a lot on this tour.  I learned that your mind is probably your most powerful tool.  I learned that your body can endure far more than you give it credit for.  And quite unexpectedly, I also learned a few choice words to add to my ever-expanding vocabulary.

Who won? They all won.  If nothing else, they won my complete admiration.

The day did end with the ‘sipping on your favourite beverage’ part, near to a body of water. Not to mention the telling and re-telling of the many personal stories of the day.  There was laughter, camaraderie, relief and most of all a great sense of accomplishment.

You people are all my heroes.

(I’ve included a short video for those wishing to see the heroes of the day)

The Paria trail…

Over the past few years that I’ve had the privilege of occupying a modest space on our north coast, I’ve witnessed hundreds of hikers brave the Paria trail.  It’s not a hike for the faint hearted.  It has its fair share of hills which meander gently down to small creeks.  Views of the coast tease you from time to time.  And the cool breezes that waft through the forest beckon you on to your destination.

It is challenging and well worth the effort.  And over the years that my husband and I have trekked the trail for our early morning exercise, I’ve always threatened to take my camera with me.  To stop from time to time to truly enjoy the views, the flora, the breezes, the birds awakening, the butterflies flitting.

Now that I have nowhere to be and lots of time to get there….. Guess what…. My camera came for the hike.

Hiking the virgin forest …

Early morning wake-up call, an hour’s drive to the start of our adventure, wide open paths (for the most part anyway), scrambling up muddy slopes on hands, tummies and knees, cool breezes, breath-taking hilltop views, ocean-scapes – nature at its best.

A lovely morning spent with like-minded crazies.  And we would do it all again with nowhere to be and lots of time to get there.

@Pigeon’s Peak, Tobago

Tippy Top of the mountain…

I remember exploring Australia (https://wordpress.com/post/manixia.com/282) with my family some years ago. Such a beautiful country. Amazing sunrises, peaceful sunsets. Scenic drives, expansive beaches, challenging hikes. Nature at its best. While sitting at our campsite one day, an Aussie ambled over to chat and exchange experiences. And one of his sentences has stayed with me since that chance meeting – just remember to look for the beauty in your own back yard.

At the ‘tippy top of Paramin’ this morning (as our passionate guide described), I experienced just that – the beauty in my own back yard. Just 10 minute’s drive away from the hustle and bustle of the capital city of Port of Spain, the expanse lush mountains and the quiet scenic views of Paramin greet you with open arms. Inhabited by a community ‘where everybody knows your name’, you are taunted by the smell of fresh seasonings telling tales of the local livelihood, the gentle smells of breakfast wafting from the simple homes, the welcoming smiles of those who know and cherish the beauty that surrounds.

And you thank the ‘tippy top of the mountain’ for welcoming you so gratiously.

In search of the sunset…

What better way to spend your Sunday afternoon than following your son in his search for that perfect sunset. With the rain beating on the road as you climb the mountain, you anxiously anticipate the clarity and beauty of the setting sun as the rain dissipates. You hope for clouds as they always add interest and mystery. You look forward to the serenity of the view and the peace and quiet that such beauty brings. You capture the changes in the sky as the sun sinks ever so slowly into the depths of the horizon. And you very secretly thank God for such precious moments.

If “Peace” were a place, where would it be?

You know the feeling – it’s the moment when your body physically relaxes, sometimes without warning. Your mind stills, sometimes floats away. You become one with your surroundings and nothing, but nothing, can put you in a bad mood. The moment is surreal, your body warms, your heart smiles, there is a beauty around you that you’ve never noticed before, and you don’t ever want to leave.

Interestingly, for most people, that peaceful place lives in a dream – it’s far away and you’ve never been there before. We tend to look beyond, instead of around. We keep this place in our dreams, instead of bringing it to life.

Personally, I love places that seem untouched by man. Places that lure you in to the depth of their being – a mysterious place filled with wonder. It’s an empty beach with a lone palm tree beckoning you to lay there, relax, watching the waves gently caress the shore. It’s the rugged coast line with danger looming with every explosive sound of the water pounding against the rocks. It’s the flower gently swaying in the breeze, awakened by the early morning sun. It’s the sun dropping from the sky ever so slowly at first, then quickly sinking to rise again on the other side of the world, leaving behind a sky painted with the most amazing hues of orange, pink and blue.

Some people find peace within themselves, and luckily, can take the moment with them wherever they go. We all long for peace. We actively seek it. Not all of us attain it.

If “Peace” were a place, where would it be, and will you be there to enjoy it.