Colombia – dias flojas en el Caribe

(slack days on the Carribean)

It took quite some time to overcome the Patagonian blues during an almost-week-long bus strike which held us hostage at Bariloche. It gave us some space to prepare some ideas for things to do on the last 3 months of our gap year. Enters Colombia in the story line.

An early morning ramble on the jungle-clad beaches of the Tayrona National Park, Carribean Colombia.

An early morning ramble on the jungle-clad beaches of the Tayrona National Park, Carribean Colombia.

Impressive boulders ramble the wild Carribean coastline. Tayrona National Park. Colombia.

Impressive boulders ramble the wild Carribean coastline. Tayrona National Park. Colombia.

The mystique country at the northwestern tip of the continent, has had its share of good-news-shows to keep even the most determined tourist out of the country. Narcotic urban legend Pablo, revolutionary jungle terrorists and an enduring armed conflict, predominating the last decade’s headlines, didn’t help much on the image of the country. During the last decade, however, the government has done extreme investement to stabilize the country and improve security (the display of heavy, armed soldiers along the major roads is remarkable), hence widening the gates for tourism.

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Boulder-strewn, overgrown jungle coast of Carribean Colombia. That Indiana Jones kinda feeling was never far away when sweating our way towards the pre-Colombian hidden ruines of el Pueblito. Tayrona National Park. Colombia.

A parade of hard working ants. Tayrona National Park. Carribean Colombia.

A parade of hard working ants. Tayrona National Park. Carribean Colombia.

Despite the bad news, Colombia has always been a secret pearl among backpackin’ gringos in South America. Extremely helpful and friendly locals. A country of superlatives. With any possible ecosystem imaginable, it could keep you occupied for well, quite some time. Colombia is one of those megadiverse countries in biodiversity. Does it have our attention? A yes it is.

Cooling off near the village of Minca. Sierra Nevada National Park. Carribean Colombia.

Cooling off near the village of Minca. Sierra Nevada National Park. Carribean Colombia.

Cloud forrest. Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta National Park. Carribean Colombia.

Cloud forrest. Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta National Park. Carribean Colombia.

After studying the different climate zones and our first 2 week timeframe in Colombia we left for the Carribean. Beach people as we are (ahum), we were suprised by the opportunities for alternatives to beach-chillin’ up here. Once we got a bit used to the year-round humid heat, we were off exploring some of the surprising national parks and hidden villages this northern part of Colombia is rich. So we’ve been overwhelmed by such wonderfull places like the San Bernardo archipelago, the jungle beaches of Tayrona and the world’s highest coastal range of Santa Marta.

Biking through the sleepy, fishing hamlet of La Boquila near Cartagena, Carribean Colombia.

Biking through the sleepy, fishing hamlet of La Boquila near Cartagena, Carribean Colombia.

Need some avocado? Santiago de Tolú. Sucre. Colombia.

Need some avocado? Santiago de Tolú. Sucre. Colombia.

The posh Boca Grande district contrasts with the fortified, medieval walls around the historic centre of Cartagena. A Unesco World Heritage site. Carribean Colombia.

The posh Boca Grande district contrasts with the fortified, medieval walls around the historic centre of Cartagena. A Unesco World Heritage site. Carribean Colombia.

Preparing for some paddling around the mangroves of Tintipán island. Archipiélago de San Bernardo National Park. Carribean Colombia.

Preparing for some paddling around the mangroves of Tintipán island. Archipiélago de San Bernardo National Park. Carribean Colombia.

Creolen kids on the Tintipan island. Archipiélago de San Bernardo. Carribean Colombia.

Creolen kids on the Tintipan island. Archipiélago de San Bernardo. Carribean Colombia.

Fishermen's canoes. Tintipán island. Archipiélago de San Bernardo National Park. Carribean Colombia.

Fishermen’s canoes. Tintipán island. Archipiélago de San Bernardo National Park. Carribean Colombia.

End of May. Goodbye Colombia, see you in July. Enters the Peruvian Cordillera Blanca in our schedule. We’re here for mountaineering and thru-hiking the upcoming 6-7 weeks. Huaraz. Peruvian Andean’s answer to Chamonix. Acclimatisation days before the high altitude weeks coming.

Sun sets over the southern summits of the Cordillera Blanca. Ancash, Peru.

Sun sets over the southern summits of the Cordillera Blanca. Ancash, Peru.

And then we meet Diana, who introduces us to her community development project high up in the Andes at the foot of the mezmerizing Cordillera Blanca. Before we even realize it, our planned schedule changes with the snap of a finger. We’re volunteering. It doesn’t have to be hauling a backpack up the moutains all the time. Exciting weeks coming up. There’s also hiking and mountaineering coming up. You know us…

Happy students leave the Yurac Yacu community center, where we will teach students and teachers some computing skills during the next coming weeks.

Happy students leave the Yurac Yacu community center, where we will teach students and teachers some computing skills during the next coming weeks.

Sunday afternoon gathering in the Yurac Yacu community center, where you can find us enhancing local people skills the upcoming weeks.

Sunday afternoon gathering in the Yurac Yacu community center, where you can find us enhancing local people skills the upcoming weeks.

Andean Alliance is focused on supporting “grass roots” community development planning capabilities and implementing programs that strengthen the educational and economic base of Andean communities while enhancing their social and environmental conditions.

Andean Alliance

For more pictures from our couple of weeks, please click:

Carribean Colombia
Huaraz. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

With love from the Mud Volcano de Lodo. San Antero. Carribean Colombia.

With love from the Mud Volcano de Lodo. San Antero. Carribean Colombia.

Packrafthike gapyear – family farewell, gear list, adventure and science

Last stressy weeks at work. Nightly gear, logistics and route check-ups. Preperations got accelared. Hectic at times. Eventually the day arrives you shake hands with your colleageus. “See you in 400 days” with a deadpan grimace.

Walking on a ridge on the wild northeast coast of Tenerife

Walking on a ridge on the wild northeast coast of Tenerife

2 weeks before we leave on our expeditions to Lapland we go on a close-to-home farewell weekend-trip with Katrijn’s family. Eat, drink, bike, walk, laugh, fun. Immediatly followed by a 10 day family trip to the volcanic island of Tenerife with Steve’s family. A trip to a holiday resort island, which attracts 5 million tourists a year? Not our kind of destination you’ll think. But the island had more to offer then what we came for, watch the video impression…

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What do you take on such a 55-day packrafthike in the subarctic?

Well, here is our gearlist for download, or click on the picture below. This is our full skin packlist, calculated with 10-day food ratio stretches. Is this ultra lightweight? Not in a distance. It’s lightweight in our mind with subarctic, mosquito-laden, summer-autumn climate conditions in mind. And some comfort too. Andrew Skurka’s blogpost on Stupid Light, just came in time to stop us from gram hunting 😉 I could write a full blogpost on our gear. Can you wait for a year?

Gear List Packrafthike Lapland - 1100km

Gear List Packrafthike Lapland – 1100km

Adventure and science

Not working for a year. You lazy horse. Why not combining all this with some voluntary usefulness for society. That’s why we shaked hands with Adventure and Science. This NGO facilitates partnerships between adventure athletes and the researchers who need them to collect data all around the world. From Mt. Everest to the Ocean, they have asked hundreds of athletes to make their time outside more meaningful. All of them become volunteers and make the decision to become adventurer-scientists because they have a strong desire to make more of their expeditions.

Adventure and Science

Adventure and Science

On our 1100km subarctic Lapland expedition we will be working for the Evolutionary Biology department from the Uppsala University in Sweden. We will do field data collection on Lichens, which are symbiotic organisms between a fungus and algae. Even if they are very important members of an ecosystem, their life cycle and biology is very little understood. Thamnolia vermicularis lichen grows all over the world in alpine and artic environments. It was not discovered yet in Africa or Antarctica but there is o reason it should no grow there. Because is an asexual species its wide distribution is quit a mistery among biologists. Some consider this lichen a very old species dating from Permian-Triassic when the Pangea continent still existed. Other think is spreading by birds, or by air currents. In lichen world this dispute is quit intense. By using a genetic approach (extracting DNA from it) scientists will be able to make a phylogenetic tree and solve its mistery. More then that the answers of this investigation will also help scientists and nature conservation people to understand the lichens migration patterns and their biology.

We are choosen as the first adventurers who will collect these species on such an expedition. It’s an honour.

Click for report and video on Joery's blog

Packrafting Grensmaas, last rehearsal before Lapland expedition. Click on picture for report and video on Joery’s blog

Oooh, before I forget, on the last weekend of June, we got a very nice, last minute, 24-hour packrafting trip wit Yves, Michael “Andreas” Jackson and Joery. Please visit his blog for a report with a nice vid. Joery is leaving in August for a 5 week wilderness packrafthike into the Mackenzie Mountains. Allready looking forward to his report!

We are ready. This is it. Let’s get the heck out of here. See you in September, when we are home for 3 days before leaving for the Great Himalayan Trail in Nepal.

Click here for live updates from our SPOT GPS Satellite Messenger

Click here for live updates from our SPOT GPS Satellite Messenger