World of Cherie

Syndicate content
With mostly words and occasional pictures, The World of Cherie is full of prose, novel reviews, stories, rants, ultramarathoning, event reviews, and other writing.cherie
Updated: 3 years 9 weeks ago

Reflections on Colombia

Wed, 01/15/2014 - 5:15pm
Do I like Colombia? Everyone kept asking me. Yes, but it wasn’t my favourite county.
I found the people overall to be very rude and aggressive. They’d shove you. They would accidentally kick you and not apologize, even if you made a yelp in pain. They’d cut you in line.
But some of them, individually, were friendly, asking questions about you and where you came from.
There were offers to buy coke. I didn’t accept any of them, but yes, it’s there.
I didn’t have any security issues, but on my last night in the hostel, I heard of two people getting their daypacks (with all this credit cards, passport, etc) stolen from the seat next to them at the airport while they were there.
I felt unsafe at times, but that’s mostly because I was so paranoid. I mainly felt safe. My unsafe feeling was my nervousness because of all the warnings.
The country is pretty, the climate and environment diverse.
Arepas really are best when you get them on the street. In restaurants, they tend to be dry and flavorless.
Juices are amazing and I tried to drink as many as I could. The cheapest I paid was 50 cents for a maracuya juice.

The fruits are unlike anything I’ve ever tried. They were lovely.
The mosquitoes were lethal.
It gets cold in the tropics, sometimes.

You find yourself as you get lost in the city streets.
Categories: Radreffies' blogs

Bogota, the Final Time

Wed, 01/15/2014 - 5:11pm
I arrived in Bogota off a mini-bus, and met a girl at the bus station who was going to my hostel. We shared a cab.
I didn’t do too much on my final day; I walked around the streets, taking in the square, Calle 7, eating salted freshly-made plantain chips. I went back to my hostel, where we swapped travel stories, ate a barbeque, and then, it was time for a few hours of sleep before my flight.
The airport was a chaotic mess. I waited in line, found out I had to go pay a tax, went to pay it and then learned I wasn’t in the country long enough so I didn’t have to pay. I went back in the original line and then answered a lot of questions about my bag and security. Then I went to another line and this guy tried to make me print out my boarding pass but the machine sucked and he singled me out because I was American. I just wanted to have someone help me in person because I had a question about my ticket. Then you give your bag to someone and then they bring it to you when you check in. Then you have immigration and then you are in Duty-Free, where I bought some cheap liquor and had a breakfast.
It’s sad – it took me longer than normal to get into this trip, and I think the main thing this trip has left me with is a lot of questions. What do I want to do with my life? How much more do I want to travel? Is this all worth it? What should I do next? I am left with even more questions, and no answers, but it will figure itself out eventually. I hope. And if not, I’ll sling my backpack over my shoulder and head out to another country to find more questions and more answers.

Categories: Radreffies' blogs

The Charming Villa de Leyva

Wed, 01/15/2014 - 5:10pm
I had wanted to go to Barichara, but didn’t have enough time, so I ended up in Villa de Leyva – and I’m so glad. What a great place.
It was a gorgeous, charming little colonial town. There were some museums in town, but just wandering the gorgeous cobblestoned streets, stopping in cafes, or shops is likely to be enough.
I barely caught the express bus (Liberatadores) and sat next to a friendly Colombian woman who kept trying to give me food. When I arrived, I couldn’t find a cab right away, and then I found a chatty driver. The road to the hostel seems desolate and dark and scary and I was worried about express kidnappings and such – but no, he was a good man and I got to my hostel, Renacer Guesthouse. It was a great hostel/hotel/guesthouse, and the on-site café was great because it meant you didn’t need to walk the 1.2km into town.
My first night, I chatted with other backpackers, ate a rather salty but good falafel from the café, and passed out pretty early.
In the morning, I got up and ran an hour and a half, ate again in the café, and went to do a lovely hike just beyond the hostel. You get to see three miradors, and a small waterfall. On my way up, I met some rather friendly English backpackers. We hiked it together, laughing and talking the whole way. After, I went back to my hostel, swapped my stuff, and headed out to walk around the town. It was gorgeous. I tried to sort out my bus ticket for the following day, but you can’t buy it until the next day. I went to sit on the bus to Santa Sofia. After waiting an hour, I realized the bus would take forever and I wanted to do a lot. So I hopped in an 18,000 peso cab ride and headed out to the ruins. It’s a small site, but almost all of the ruins are phallic sculptures. When the guy at my hostel told me about it, he said “las ruinas son penises.” Yep, Spanglish. I wandered around, but it’s pretty small, so after taking some phallic photos, I confirmed my directions with the guards, and headed to the next site, Pozos Azules (a set of five small gorgeous lakes of a lovely turquoise colour – unfortunately that did not come across in photographs). After walking for a bit, I asked a guy working at the antique car park for directions and he verified. Okay, so this desolate way is the right way. I came to a fork and took the one the cabbie told me about but it seemed wrong. I went into someone’s house where there were geese quacking all over the lawn. Yep, keep going. I kept going. I was supposed to take another fork after a bridge; I saw a fork but no bridge. I took it, nervously. Then I walked for a long time without seeing anyone. Finally, I saw a bunch of people working in an onion field. Yuck. I asked them to verify I was going the right way, and they told me to keep going and ask at the Fossil Museum. This was new. When I got to the Fossil Museum, I should have continued straight but went to the museum, which was small and not fantastic. Then I got new directions from the staff of the fossil museum, which I verified with a jewelry seller. Still, I wasn’t convinced. It was desolate. I yelled at a house where I saw someone on the terrace; the woman yelled to keep going. Turns out, I was sent on a back road that was an okay way to go, faster than the way I was told about earlier. Finally, I found a parking lot and asked where Pozos Azules were. “Aqui.” I had arrived.
I walked down into the lakes and they were gorgeous. There were just a few people there, so I sat for a bit and wrote in my journal and meditated on the beauty of the lake. After a while, I headed out on the road to walk another 1k or 2k (I probably ended up walking 15k that day; I spent most of my day walking.) to Casa Barro, a house made entirely from mud. Mud furniture, mud steps, mud shelves. Well, not really mud, but clay. It was gorgeous, and inspired from Gaudi. The bathrooms were gorgeous with lovely tiles and small squares of mirrors.

After I left, a man in his seventies began chatting me up in Spanish. He was really friendly, and we conversed for a while. He told me about the history of Villa de Leyva and we discussed the atrocities committed by missionaries to the indigenous people who wouldn’t convert. Horrifying. Then he gave me a fist bump and a kiss on the cheek and I walked back to town.
I had a lovely dinner, stopped in some shops, and then chilled at the hostel, chatting w other backpackers until the morning.

In the morning, I went for another lovely run on cobblestone, and then had a long wander around town. I stopped at the market, eating avocados, buying  bocadillos, enjoying the sites. I had a final maracuya juice, and then I went to the bus station. The direct bus was sold out, but I got a seat on a minibus that arrived rather fast. 
Categories: Radreffies' blogs

Amazon - It Likes to Draw You Back

Sun, 01/12/2014 - 9:38pm
I’ve been to the Amazon in Brazil out of Manaus, and when I went to Peru, I did two different trips out of Puerto Maldonaldo. But still, I wanted to go again.
After this trip, I found the guides lackluster and a lot of it to be repeats, same old, same old. I don’t think I’ll go back to the Amazon in the same way, but I still find it so thrilling, gorgeous, and charming.
I went out with Amazon Jungle Tours – mainly because they were the only ones who emailed me back. I would recommend them, as I found the guides to be lazy, wanting to rest for any hours instead of doing lots of stuff. But still, there were some great moments….
·         Awesome trek where we hiked at day and night and saw baby tarantulas and lots of other bugs·         Pink dolphins. Do I need to say more?·         Grey dolphins.·         Lots of monkeys, swinging and eating. They are so cute.·         Too many mosquitoes. UGH. Bites everywhere. Impossible. Ouch. Ugh.·         Caimans.·         Sunset boat rides.·         Swimming in “Lucky Lake.”·         Caipirnhas.·         Chilling in the hammocks.·         Scary spiders

You can’t help but be charmed by the water, the houses, the mud, everything. People live very differently out there – with little electricity, boating as a way of getting around, bugs everywhere. I’m not sure I could live there.

Categories: Radreffies' blogs

Leticia....A Taste of the Jungle Indeed

Sun, 01/12/2014 - 9:35pm
Leticia is not a town you plan to hang out in long, but circumstances might force you to.
I had two nights in Leticia, and that was plenty – one before my trip into the jungle, one after. I booked a room at Mahatu Hostel, which is really a great place to stay. The owner is pretty friendly and helpful and the grounds are great – you can swim in the pool, row in the lake, walk around by the plants. I had a private room my first night and stayed in a “treehouse” the second time. Both were fine.
When I got into Leticia, I paid for my tour (though I wish I didn’t – that’s a later story!), and then got to my hostel. I chatted a bunch with Gustavo, and then a Kiwi guy, Jeff, mentioned he was hungry. So was I – so we went out to pizza together. We split a pizza at a place close to the border, and chatted and laughed. Then we decided to walk across the border to Brazil.
Normally, United States citizens need a visa to Brazil. Mine expired a year ago, but luckily, the borders are fluid in these border towns and you don’t need passports or visas to enter.
Jeff and I walked and talked. I immediately noticed differences – Portuguese instead of Spanish, acai for sale (and randomly also, showing how close we were to Peru, Inca Cola!), different music, slightly different styles. It was really neat to see.
We walked for a long time, losing ourselves in conversation. Finally, Jeff pointed out that we should probably turn around. After walking for a few minutes, a downpour began. A torrential downpour.  Jeff and I hid underneath an overhang with some others doing the same, in front of some sort of Brazilian security building. They watched the rain with us.
It didn’t let up. No cabs passed. The Brazilian security dudes tried to call me a cab, but they didn’t answer. Finally, I ran across the street in the rain, where I persuaded some random kid studying to be a flight attendant to give us a ride back across the border for 10,000 pesos.
I went to my room in the hostel, and organized everything for my trek. Then, the next morning, when I woke up, it was STILL pouring. I really wanted to go running – I knew I wouldn’t be able to on my trek, so I pulled on flipflops – because the streets were like rivers, and set out for a pouring rain run. It was actually not too bad.
Then I went on my trek for a few days with Amazon Jungle Tours (I’ll write a separate post about them, but I don’t recommend taking them), and came back. I came into the port at Tabatinga, where I was supposed to be picked up by my tour group. When they never showed, I climbed on the back of some guy’s motorcycle, strapped on a helmet, and went to the Tour Center. I got my bag, got another motorcycle ride to my hostel , and checked in. I talked with Gustavo about my tour, changed into running clothes, gave them my laundry, and went out for a run. On my run, I ended up buying a machete as a present for Wayne, and ran my run feeling a little safer. Unfortunately, the motorcycles were insane and it was too scary and dangerous to run long.

When I got back to my hostel , a big group of people were going out to dinner, so I jumped in the shower, and tagged along. We got the “comida corriente” for 7,000 pesos, which wasn’t too bad. The other people were traveling for a year or so around South America, and I was very jealous. I wish I could do that. Then I went back to the hostel, organized my stuff, used the crappy internet, and went to sleep. In the morning, I ran for 10 miles, visited Museo Etnografica Amazonico, stressed about my delayed laundry, and ran to the airport.
Leticia, you’re just okay, but it was nice knowing you.

Categories: Radreffies' blogs

Bogota, Segunda Vez

Sun, 01/12/2014 - 9:32pm
Wonderful – Bogota!
Sad – goodbyes.
We landed in Bogota in the early evening, and after a long wait for our baggage, we took a cab with a rather chatty cab driver who told us that he worked in a carwash outside of NYC in the early eighties. Then we checked into Abadia Colonial Hotel, which was very pretty and comfortable, though cold. (Our verdict – the hotels need heat in Bogota. They are always freezing, which is why we spent some time snuggling and reading under blankets in Bogota during our first visit.) We hopped back out in another cab – to Zona Rosa and more specifically, Zona T – clubs and restaurants.
We walked around, again, amazed with the clubbing scene. “We’re not dressed cool enough to get into these clubs,” I fretted to Wayne. After popping in a few shops, we decided to go to eat. “Let’s go to Wok; Andres [our Colombian friend we met on the trek] says it’s great.” Indeed, they had an entire vegetarian section, but somehow, we ended up not eating off that menu, as due to a language snafu (Um, my Spanish isn’t that great.), we ended up on the 3rd floor: Japanese, which normally I hate.
However, they had a ton of yummy vegetarian things on the menu, and with four small bottles of warm sake, everything is good. We spent hours laughing, talking, sharing our dreams, eating, drinking. It was so nice to really spend so much time, with so much free time, outside of the streets of work and other BS, to bond and get closer.
All those sakes later, we were tipsy. We walked around a while more. We felt boring for not wanting to visit clubs, but really, we were tipsy enough and fairly tired. We hopped in a cab and headed for our hotel.

In the morning, we headed out for a run, during which I took a bunch of photos of the anti-violent and revolutionary street art. Then we headed up to Chapinero to look around, but we clearly were not in the cool part of the neighborhood, and we hopped in another cab to Zona Rosa. All the shops were closed , and we found an overpriced restaurant to have eggs Florentine and eggs Benedict in, and drink mimosas. Wayne bought a hoodie (And warning to those going to Colombia: if you want to use your credit card in a store, you need to bring ID. Argh.). Then, we hopped in another cab to Candelaria and wandered the streets, looking for ice cream. Eventually, we found a place and got a banana split.

After I got my bag at the hotel (Wayne’s flight home to NYC was later in the evening; I was flying to Leticia for an Amazon trip that afternoon.), I began bawling. I know I’ll see him a week, but this trip has been an amazing reconfirmation of what a wonderful relationship we have, and how much I love him. It was SO hard to say goodbye.
Categories: Radreffies' blogs

Oh Medellin, What a Dream....

Sun, 01/12/2014 - 9:30pm
As soon as Wayne and I landed, we were in love. The valleys. The mountains. The green. So pretty. So clean. A great city.
We landed on New Year’s Day, which is a terrible day to be a traveler. It’s a day to recover from your hangover, or travel, or just read books. Most things were completely closed, which was a little sad, but it was okay. We figured things out.
We were starving, and after checking into the super stylish and wonderful In House Hotel, Wayne and I wandered around until we found food. Most restaurants were closed, but we found an amazing Italian one, and filled ourselves with food. We walked around the streets, peering in closed store windows and plotting where we would go shopping and visiting once they were open.
The altitude smacked me in the face, making me sleepy. I napped while Wayne figured out how to get to the Festival of Lights and what we should do in town. We headed out on the long walk down to the Metro and then, WOW. Basically, they cover the river on both sides with crazy Christmas lights and decorations, and over the river, they hang lights to look like stars, or glowing candle lights. Truly amazing. But what really was overwhelming was the vastness of everything – people selling everything you could possibly want (or not), from popcorn to giant hot dogs to aguardiente to arepas to mangos to annoying noise makers to balloons to handmade taffy to cotton candy to helado to chocolate covered apples. It was really intense – with the lights and the people, it reminded us of Burning Man.
The next day, after sleeping lots, we took the Metro downtown and took some photos in Botero Plaza – really beautiful. Then we walked around the streets, and Wayne bought a pair of pants. Then, we headed over to the Botanic Gardens and had lunch at the café, but didn’t stay at the gardens – we finally got an email to head up for paragliding.
Paragliding is wonderful – you are flying, you see the world in a new different perspective. I thought, “Those look like toy horses. Did the creator of toy horses go paragliding?” Really beautiful waterfall. Very amazing.
The negative is that from Medellin, you have to take the Metro to Caribe, wander around Terminal Norte until you find ticket counter #11. Then you take a bus abt 45 minutes up. Then you wait around. We spent about 20 minutes paragliding, but we left the Gardens at 1pm and got back to our room at 7:30pm, so it was a long day for not a lot of activity.
Also fail – our bus driver was out of it, so I didn’t get to tell him exactly where we were going. Then I saw a paragliding school, yelled, and Wayne and I jumped out. Turns out, this school was the wrong one – and closed. Ours was 10-15min drive up the road – and it was too curvy and dangerous to walk. A local guy took pity on us and took turns giving us motorcycle roads up the mountain to the other school. It was scary and amazingly fun and gorgeous. As I waved goodbye to Wayne and headed up the mountains, clutching the back of a complete stranger, all I could think was, “I hope he doesn’t murder me.” He didn’t, and made the day a lot more fun.
We ate fantastic veggie burgers at Lentejas Express, and were so tired, we went to sleep after taking a nice walk around the neighborhood.
The next day was incredible. After running, Wayne and I took the train, then transferred to the in-Metro gondola. WOW. Then we hopped on another gondola and ended up in this amazing park on the top of these mountains outside of Medellin. The views were glorious. We weren’t outfitted properly (I was wearing a sleeveless dress (in the chill) and ballet flats, and Wayne had on his nice dress boots.), but we still did a bit of hiking and talking and enjoying the day. I bought a knit hat from a vendor to keep myself warmer, and they had lots of great vendors, so ended up buying some pressies for friends back home. There was an incredible vegetarian restaurant (set menu – 8,500 pesos) with grass and flowers growing on the roof. Then we took the gondolas back, which was less of a mess of lines and crowds.
We went to the Botanic Gardens, which were free. We took photos, admired the plants, and really enjoyed the gardens. Then, we hopped back on the Metro and went out shopping in El Poblado.
El Poblado is one of the hippest neighborhoods in Medellin – great shops, restaurants, cafes. Wayne bought some clothes, so I was happy. I ended up finding this amazing shop where the woman handmakes all of the original lace dresses. I bought three. She was so friendly, we were chatting and she bought Wayne and I a beer (though I declined mine, as a non-beer drinker). I bought a purse for work, Wayne bought a print and some cards, I bought a shirt. We are never big shoppers on trip, so this was rather fun.
Then we dumped off our purchases at our hotel, and headed back up to El Poblado for dinner. We went to a wonderful pizza place (City Pizza?) on Calle 34. It was phenomenal. We ordered a Grande pizza, which I’m pretty sure if meant for a family, but we ate it all.
Then we explored the streets of Medellin – or rather, the party scene of El Poblado. We were amazed – the styles, the fashion, the clubs, the bars, the party scene, the crowds. We couldn’t decide where to go, but on the way, we found a stand-up bar on the sidewalk with 3 shots for 5,000 pesos. Yes, please. Finally, we find a restaurant/bar with a sidewalk spot, and we drank maracuya capiroskas and pina coladas while people watching. We got up and walked around some more, and then ended up at a cute bars, sitting on the street, drinking mojitos and margaritas way past when we should have been drinking them. The bar itself only existed on the sidewalk, so that shows you how nice Medellin’s weather is – if it was cold or rainy, people wouldn’t drink outside. And really, it’s never either in Medellin – they call it the city of the eternal spring, because it’s like lovely spring weather there all year long.
In the morning, we went downtown, looked at some art and sculptures, visited the library, walked around some really neat parks with places to “ground yourself.” Wayne and I took a cab over to the museum of modern art, which had some really neat displays, including a room with video displays so creepy I almost refused to enter. Then we walked around El Poblado some more, ate lunch at a delicious vegetarian café, and drank delicious tea at the Tea Market. I felt so sad leaving Medellin – but at least the airport (only nine years old) was fantastic, with great shops. I was able to buy a fabulous (and cheap!) pair of pants, which eased the sadness of the goodbye of the city.

Categories: Radreffies' blogs

Taganga? Taganga!

Sun, 01/12/2014 - 9:18pm
Wayne and I decided hell no, we did not want to stay in Santa Marta again. We tried to find a place by Tayrona or in Palomina, but everything was full. We gave up. Taganga it was.
The first night, I was so excited to have a real bed, shower, etc. We checked into the Bayview Hotel and I thought I went back in time to the Soviet Era. The next morning on my run, I found the glorious Bahia Taganga up in the cliffs with amazing ocean views. I booked it and we were quickly relocated in a stylish, comfortable room with ocean views, the pool just below us, and lots of jugo de maracuya below us. We were set.
We decompressed the first day, dealing with emails, sorting through clothes, reading, relaxing by the pool. We wandered around the town, and I bought some jewelry for friends, and Wayne finally found a wooden pasta fork to replace my giant one that he stuck in the blender a while back. (I have never forgiven him for this bizarre action, mainly because we couldn’t find wooden pasta forks anywhere.)
New Years Eve had us going on the most terrifying boat ride of our lives. Bump, splash. My camera is now destroyed from this ride. I dug my nails into Wayne’s hand and leg, and the guy next to me was so petrified, he was clutching one of his friend’s legs and had his foot wrapped around mine for stability. So scary. I was almost crying at times.
We got back, somewhat shell-shocked, and showered. We found some food, then took a nap. We celebrated the New Year on the beach with Sherry and Steve and some other hikers, and a bunch of rum.
The morning had us relaxing by our pool. The town of Taganga is a bit dirty. People warned us it was overrun with Israeli backpackers but I really didn’t notice any Israelis at all. There were a lot of Colombians and some other gringos, but lots of drinking, dirty beaches, crowds. There were a variety of different restaurants, wonderful arepa vendors on the street, tons of fresh juice stands (Mmmmmmmm), aggressive vendors. We spent a lot of time in our room, sitting on the balcony, reading, relaxing. Yes, we’re traveling, but sometimes you need to escape even the traveler’s world.

Categories: Radreffies' blogs

Ciudad Perdida: Trek to the Lost City

Sun, 01/12/2014 - 9:16pm
The only way to see “The Lost City” is to do a hike – generally, with the tour groups, it’s 4, 5, or 6 days, though if you are fit and hired your own guide, you could easily do it in three days (I think). While a lot of the hike is very challenging and technical, you take frequent breaks and don’t do too much hiking at once,  so it’s not that bad.
We signed up with ExpoTour (or ExpoTur) and Sherry signed up with Magic Tours – Magic never answered any of my emails, which is why we went with Expo. What ended up happening was – perhaps because of the day we left – our groups were small, so ExpoTur and Magic merged their groups and we all headed out together.
I was angry, however, because in emails, ExpoTur specifically told me that they had two English-speaking guides available during that time, and when we arrived, we were told our guide did not speak English. They explained at length that most people did not know English, that they hire people from the communities – they have to, you see, and they didn’t speak English, and could I please be understanding? I was being understanding, I told them; I understand this, but I don’t understand why I was told that there would be TWO English speaking guides when we wouldn’t even have one. I was frustrated. Luckily, the guide spoke slowly enough that I understood most of his Spanish and when I was tired of translating to Wayne, we had a few others whose Spanish was much better, and they would translate.
They were late picking us up, late leaving, took forever. Then we got to a lunch place – they gave us terrible bread, cheese, lunchmeat, and onions/tomatoes/lettuce to put on top. Oh, and “Golf Sauce” which is apparently ketchup and mayo mixed together. It was awful. I hoped the food would be better on our trek, and happily, it was.
We started out in the afternoon sun, and very quickly, had some stream crossings (I fell in, and I’m good at falling in on stream crossings.), and after 40 minutes, we took a swim break. Then we hiked. An orange break. Hiked. A watermelon break. Hiked. Another watermelon break. We arrived shortly before dark at a crowded camp with hammocks. My hammock unfortunately smelled like sweat – or was it the less-than-clean blanket they provided us with? They did have showers, so I took a shower and I felt amazing after. We ate dinner, and then passed out.
I slept poorly; I never sleep well in hammocks. In the morning, I tried to eat the eggs with onions, but I do hate onions so I just could not. I ate my toast and fruit, though. We began hiking at 6am, and it was a lot of downhills, some uphills too, and then we passed through an indigenous village. At 8:50 a.m., we arrived there, and had until 11am. Because my skirt I had worn the day before was filthy and stinky, and I was planning on re-wearing it, I washed it in the sink with some soap and hung it to dry. A small cute indigenous girl (Don’t know which Tayrona group of people she belongs to), begged for my necklace. I made it at Burning Man but found myself taking it off and giving it to her. Then she asked for my bracelet, and I said no. She begged. Her mother came over and asked. It was weird. Later, on Day Three, we had children begging us for “Dulce, Dulce, Sweet, Dulce.”
We swam in the creek, ate some food, relaxed. Our group was small, which was nice, and everyone was great: besides Wayne and I, we had two Dutch guys in their late twenties or early thirties, an English woman around the same age, and a 30 year old Colombian guy who is currently living in Guatemala.
After lunch, we hiked some more – a lot of uphill. We had some breaks for oranges, and then we forded a stream without shoes on. It sucked. Wayne and I were hungry and tired and had taken a break before the stream to have granola bars. I was in calorie deficit, and was on the verge of being dizzy from lack of calories. After the stream, our guide gave us a bocadillo, which was amazing.
The next section was brutal. Horrifying. Ladders gone sideways, walking planks, drop-offs straight down. I fell at one point, sliding down on a cliff. I grabbed a rock, which moved, and then Wayne and Andres (Colombian hiker) pulled me up. I was very scratched, but happy to be okay.
We arrived at the final camp before Ciudad Perdida. It was a dump. People talked about bedbugs. The bunkbeds were so close that you could touch the person through the mosquito net (that very likely had rips) in the bed next to you, and you couldn’t do anything in front of your bed without inconveniencing anyone else who wanted to walk through the “bunkhouse” or go through their stuff. Wayne and I slept together, cramped, on a very uncomfortable surface.
We woke up at 5am again, and headed up to the Lost City. It was really special; almost no one was there. Well, except for the military. They keep a base up there, and a helicopter had just dropped off a month-long supply of food, so they were moving it all up to their base. A little weird how one of the terraces has been turned into a helicopter landing pad.
Oh, but the stairs. 1260 up, plus another 600 in the city. And yes, all the way down. I freaked out on the way up, knowing how awful it would be on the way down. Wayne was a star; he held my hand, talked me down. He is fast on stairs, and I know he could have been way in the front, but stuck with me. I love this boy so much.
To go up the stairs, I used my hands. I was basically on all fours, which is really comfortable and fun (sarcasm). Our guide actually told us some stuff on the visit to the city (which he hadn’t done before), about plants, rituals, traditions, what certain terraces were. You can’t see any of the buildings because they were made of wood, but you see the stone terraces and all the steps – still pretty cool.
Hiking down was worse. Wayne and I went slow and he held out every time I freaked out (which honestly, is more often than I’d like to admit).
We ate our lunch ravenously, then hiked back three hours to the camp we had swam at and ate lunch at the day before. The beds were more comfortable, the river pretty (but cold), and everyone spent the night relaxing, talking, scratching mosquito bites, spraying on bug repellent.
We awoke again at 5am, ate breakfast, and hiked. We didn’t remember there being so many uphills. A break for some guava juice, watermelon and a chocolate cake. More hiking. We got back to the original swimming hole, and it felt amazing. It was cold, but so good to clean off.
We hiked the final bit back, everyone happy with the trip but happy to return to civilization.
Am I glad I did it? Yes, but I thought the accommodations were a bit rougher than I would have liked: there was almost never any toilet paper (I found myself going into the kitchen and snagging napkins to use in the loo.), the beds and bedding were filthy and stinky, there was not much comfy room for hanging out. But it was great – pretty views, lots of quiet time, time to think, chat, reflect. Lots of gorgeous photos.
I’m glad I had my Kindle so I could read, and letters to write and my travel journal to add to. All of these items were light and definitely worth their weight.
I would recommend to others to pack mosquito repellent, extra socks, extra clothes than you think (A lot of people thought they could just wear the same outfit all week, not realizing that it would never dry due to the humid climate and smell more than imaginable.), rain jacket, maybe something to use as a pillow, shampoo/soap/toiletries, sunblock, a few snacks (We packed some granola bars.), warm clothes for night, money if you want to buy beer en route. The safety at times was dubious, so you really needed to be cautious while hiking. But it was wonderful.

Categories: Radreffies' blogs

Santa Marta

Sun, 01/12/2014 - 8:25pm
We arrived later than expected, on Christmas Day. There was a room snafu, but soon we settled into our lovely suite. Casa Amani was a little pricy, but absolutely lovely and beautiful. We felt very relaxed, and it was the best breakfast I have had in Colombia. “¿Donde esta la playa?” I was told the beach nearby was dirty and unsafe and that we should take a 15 minute taxi ride. We were dismayed. Our friends Sherry and Steve arrived, and we headed out to a Christmas dinner of pizza, and of course, I had a maracuya juice. We walked around the town, and then headed back to the lovely Casa Amani to get our stuff together for our hike.

We had thought we’d stay in Santa Marta another four days after our hike, but our first impression told us, NO. So we changed our reservation; we had hoped for something nearby Tayrona, but ended up in the uber-crowded backpacker beach town Taganga.
Categories: Radreffies' blogs

Cartagena: A Charming City Indeed

Sun, 01/12/2014 - 8:17pm

We landed, exhausted, and got ripped off in a taxi and paid double – but it was hot and humid and it was almost Christmas and we are in love. We’re in Cartagena.
We arrived at our hotel, Tres Banderas. We were instantly charmed with the waterfall outside of our door (But were later annoyed when the housekeeping staff stole my face moisturizer, sold us a crappy overpriced tour (almost 20,000 pesos more than it should have been), and messed up our shuttle so we ended up leaving nearly two hours later) and the squares nearby – lots of places to eat, cute shops, nice bars. We ate Greek food and had a couple of mojitos, and then passed out.
In the morning, I had an amazing run along the water and beach. It was wonderful. Wayne and I spent some time avoiding vendors and exploring the Old City, and then went to La Boquilla (by taxi, 12,000 COP) so Wayne could check out the kitesurfing beach. He talked to a bunch of different shops, but ultimately, the wind didn’t pick up. I drank pina coladas and ate more plantains in one sitting than one really should.
The next day, we walked outside of the city walls, through Getsmani, to the fort. (Wayne of the Old City: “It’s like Disneyland in there! This is the real Colombia,” of dodging trash in the streets and oppressive heat and overwhelming stenches and chaos and vendors and so much for the eye to feast on.) Walking there was a mistake as we spent the whole time feeling overheated and exhausted. After a struggle to get a cab back, we ate at the “Sandwicheria” and then headed to La Boquilla. Our taxi driver was a maniac who drove us onto the beach, past people slamming their fists on the cab windows. We left in a hurry, tossing the twelve thousand pesos at our driver. We found the very last kitesurfing spot on the beach to have the best gear, cheapest rates, and really friendly people. Wayne kitesurfed and I read magazines and books and relaxed.
The next day, we took a boat to Isla del Rosario (65,000 pesos, which is more than it was at other places). It sucked. The boat ride was pretty, but we rode out to a bunch of spots where our guide rapid-fire-in-Spanish told us what everything was. I missed a bunch of words. Then they told us we could either go to an aquarium (20,000 pesos), snorkel (40,000 pesos) or feed fish (25,000 pesos). Those who snorkeled said it was impossible because of the waves. We opted to sit on a bench outside the aquarium, reading, chatting, eating pan con queso y pan con arequipe. Then the boat took us to a beach, which was nice, but not as amazing as promised. We had vendors nonstop asking us to buy things – even while we were swimming. We were glad to get back, and I bought a few more bikinis on the walk back. Because it was Christmas Eve, many restaurants were closed, but we found an awesome one, Collages, where I tried aguardiente with lulu juice, and had veggie burgers and burgers.
Pretty, charming, lots of tourist shops, jewelry bought for V, great bikinis, cute shops, nice drinks, not really the real deal Colombia. But a lovely town regardless.

Categories: Radreffies' blogs

Bogota, Bogota, Bogota.....

Mon, 12/23/2013 - 10:06am
"You're going to get robbed." 

This is what many people told Wayne and I when we announced our intentions for our Christmas trip to be in Colombia. Oh, Bogota was SO dangerous. We were going to get mugged, kidnapped, or worse. And yes, it does happen at times, and we were paranoid at times, uber cautious. And happily, everything turned out okay.

We landed in a rainstorm. Our cabbie (who ripped us off, which seems to happen way too often with Colombia cabbies) told me that it normally doesn't rain this much. It basically rains every single day, for a short while. But today, it was pouring for way too long.

We got into our hotel, Casa Platypus. We had a cute room on the 2nd floor (about 140-150 pesos). I had a wicked migraine from not sleeping the night before (We stayed up all night to pack and clean our apt.), so we basically went out in the pouring rain to the closest restaurant, which was actually pretty good. The walls were covered with paintings of trolls and kitsch (ice skates, old irons, other random things). The food was pretty good. I basically collapsed into bed as soon as we got back.

In the morning, I went for a run. Duh. I ran down a pedestrian-only street a bunch of times, and got to see some pretty neat anti-war graffiti on the flower boxes. Wayne and I spent the morning in a lot of museums. El Museo del Oro was as boring as I thought it would be, but Wayne liked it. We discovered a bunch of fantastic museums, many of them free. We stumbled into a random vegetarian restaurant for lunch. We went back to Casa Platypus to regroup and the skies opened up. We cuddled in bed and read books until it relaxed, and then walked around the Candelaria, looking for a restaurant that had something vegetarian. We ended up at a random cafe with a space cadet American server. We walked around some more, then found a cute bar for the world's sweetest mojito and a beer for Wayne.

The next day, we took a field trip to Catedral de Sal. It was cool, but our tour was entirely in Spanish, I missed a lot of words, and Wayne knows zero Spanish. Wayne was excited to take Bogota's Bus Rapid Transit. The journey was long and we got back to Casa Platypus exhausted...but we should go to the church at the top of town! We quickly dumped some stuff and then headed out. We took the funicular up and the cable car down, and got to see the stages of the cross illuminated by fabulous Christmas lights - a little weird. The Christmas lights were amazing. We got pissed when we realized the ticket seller only sold us one-way tickets and pocked the difference. Tourist tax, sigh.

Our last morning in Bogota had me freaking out after my run that I lost my camera; it turns out, it was in Wayne's bag. Quickly, got ready, stowed out luggage, and headed out on a Bike Tour of Bogota. It was fantastic. My bike should have been put to rest a long time ago, and being nervous on a bike with crappy brakes, Wayne switched with me so I rode the less-sucky-but-still-not-great bike that he got. But the tour was fantastic. We learned a lot about Pablo Escobar's Colombia, the new Colombia, Galen, Gaitan, graffiti art, the red light district, went to a market and sampled wonderful fruit, visited a cemetery. It was really interesting. The only snafu was a woman on our tour thought it was acceptable to take photos of the prostitutes in the Red Light District, who were really angry and wanted to fight her. A little crazy. Why would you take a photo of someone who clearly did not want a photo to be taken of them?

Fascinating, art-filled, vibrant, energetic, polluted, literary, and fun. I did love Bogota, yes, I did.

Categories: Radreffies' blogs

Frozen Bonsai Half-Marathon Left Me Frozen

Thu, 12/12/2013 - 9:39am
Loops in Central Park? But why not when it's the Frozen Bonsai Half-Marathon, put on by the super duper awesome NYC Runs. And what else did I have to do, a day after running a 50k?

Photo by Ken Allen himself. My legs felt tired as I ran over the Pulaski to the 7 train, and as I ran to Central Park from the 6 train. Hmmmm.

When I got to the park, one of my NBR teammates said, "Oh, a half marathon? This is a walk in the park for you." I responded, "Literally, it will be." Literally because I could barely run, my legs were so tired. After the 50k the day before, my legs would be lucky if they could slog out 13.1 miles in a walk!

I started the race, joking around with whoever was around me. Mat Gerowitz was right by, and we began catching up, chatting, talking, laughing. After a few miles, he told me to go ahead.

I ran, and because it was so cold, never once looked at my Garmin. I decided I was running 10 minute miles, and hoped by some miracle I might break 2 hours. Not sure if that would happen.

I ended up meeting a nice guy, Leroy, and chatting with him the last few miles. Then a familiar bike came along - Wayne! "Hey, did the race start late?" Um, no, thanks for reminding me how slow I was. (Turns out, he thought the race started at 8:30 a.m., not 9:00 a.m.! Ha!)

I finished, miraculously, in 1:47. I say miraculously because that's a decent half time, especially since I have raced almost every weekend since September, and I ran a 50k the day before. Wooooo!

Freezing, I headed over to NYC Runs food area to eat some blueberries and bagels with cream cheese and strawberries and hot chocolate, and then went to meet my mom. What a cold day, some hills, but you know what? Awesome medal made it all worth it!

Categories: Radreffies' blogs

Staten Island Trail Festival: Race Report: Cold, Muddy, and a Mud Bath to Boot!

Tue, 12/10/2013 - 11:30pm
I was going to fly out to San Francisco for the North Face 50 miler, but when I learned there was a race the same weekend in NYC, and I was traveling nearly every weekend prior, staying in town was a no brainer. Sign me up for the Staten Island Trail Festival! 50k please!

I headed out with some friends from my running club, all of whom were running the 25k. Beth and I planned on getting a ride home with someone running the 50k, unless he had to leave suddenly. Hmmm...we figured someone else from NYC would hopefully have room; if not, we could call Wayne and beg him or take a car service home. Oh, let's not worry about this during the race (okay, just a bit.), but just run.

The course consists of a 4 mile loop, then you do another big loop, and then repeat the second loop. Despite being Staten Island, there were some hills, lots and lots of mud, some pretty scenery. The aid stations were SUPER basic with bare bone minimum, but the volunteers were very friendly.

I started out feeling good, running with Matthew, who's a pretty tough runner, even when he's not even trying. We had fun chatting, catching up, laughing, telling stories. At one point, we began passing people who were behind us - seems like a bunch of people did a 3 mile loop instead of a 4 mile so...a little confusing but oh well.

After about 10 miles, we hit a hill and I decided to walk it and eat a gel. Matt kept running. He was in my sight for a long time and then he was not. I was bonking pretty bad; only gels don't sustain me and I wish I had packed mini bags of pretzels.

I got to the drop bag area and shoved a bunch of cookies in my mouth. I took off, walking it off, eating more animal crackers (I love bringing bags of animal crackers w me to races - they are carbs, a bit of sweetness, but plain enough to settle an upset stomach.). And then I began running. With strangers.

On a lollypop section, I saw Beth, Zandy, and Will were about a half mile behind me. "I want to run w you guys," I yelled. "Catch up w me."

I walked the hills, stretched, and ran. Eventually they caught up. We chatted, laughed, told stories. 

And then I fell in a pile of mud. Completely. Gloves, pants, shirt, skirt. UGH.

I finished, clearly muddified. But who cares? I was done. I put on warm clothes, and ate some brownies. Apparently, I was 1st in my age group. I didn't realize that until my friend told me later. Wooohooo! Let's eat. I was so cold and tired and hungry that I got home, hopped in a hot tub w Epsom salts and a sandwich. I ate and read and chilled in the tub. YAY.

Categories: Radreffies' blogs

Tofurkey Trot in Branford CT

Tue, 12/10/2013 - 10:58pm
Turkey trots are funny. All these non-runners come out to run this 5k so "I can eat whatever I want today." Realistically, they're only burning about 300 calories, so they probably can't have too much.

Wayne and I ran the Turkey Trot in Branford. The course is flat with a few hills. We ran the race, finishing a few seconds within each other. Then I went out for a 5k cooldown, during which Wayne caught up with old friends and ate chowder.

And then we went to the feast that is known as Thanksgiving. That's all, folks. Run a little, smile, cheer everyone on, and then go eat. 
Categories: Radreffies' blogs

Channukah Chalf: The Coldest, Windiest, Most Miserable Race I Have Ever Run, and It Only a Half-Marathon

Tue, 12/10/2013 - 10:55pm
Because I'm stupid, I signed up for the Channukah Half. "Oh look, there's an Oy Vey 10k and a Gelt 5k. This is the festival of lights race series! And put on by the beloved NYC Runs." I'm not Jewish, but I have a bacon-cheeseburger Jew as a brother-in-law (and don't tell him there's no such thing as a bacon-cheeseburger Jew), so I figured I'd do my part.

"Don't eat gelt. It sucks," he told me.

Okay, Brian. I'll just run the half instead.

As the days approached, I noticed how horrifying the weather reports were. Well, isn't always right,  right? 

Unfortunately, it was worse than you could have even imagined.

Cold. In the 20s, but feels colder. Windy. Wind gusts up to 50 mph. As the race was run along the water, spray from the water would come up and cover the entire race course, which would mean you'd be soaked. And then a gust of wind would come. It sucked. It was a double out and back, which meant it sucked worse in one direction (coming back). There were times I was running as fast as I could, and a glance at my Garmin would show me 10:30 pace. And then my Garmin showed some 6:50s. Ouch.

Tears down my face. I couldn't feel my hands. My feet. OMG I can't even move. This sucks so bad.

Then I finished. A volunteer frozenly handed me a heat sheet and Wayne put my down coat on over that. "C'mon, let's get you out of here."

I grabbed a salt bagel w frozen cream cheese and hot chocolate (Gotta love NYC Runs!) and stumbled to the car. The heat felt so good. I cried when I had to get out. Why? Why be someplace cold and miserable? This race sucked, I'm glad I did it, and I hope I'll never do a race that cold again.
Categories: Radreffies' blogs

Brooklyn Marathon: Why the Hell Not?

Mon, 12/02/2013 - 9:36pm
 It's really not a good idea to run a marathon the week after running a 24 hour race (and the week before that, doing a marathon, and the week before that doing another 24 hour race, and the week before that, a half-marathon). But I'm not always so keen on good ideas.

Wayne has been pretty injured w sciatic problems for a year. But he insisted on running The Brooklyn Marathon, and I thought, "Well, a week after a 24 hour race, the playing field will be pretty level." So we ran together.

We started out, and I felt pretty good. Wayne was not feeling as good, so we ran slower than I would've liked - but faster than we said we were going to run. Oh well.

It began raining. My posture instantly changed and I curled up in the fetal position - well, as much as I could while continuing running. When we got to the NBR water stop, I ran behind it to where my bag was and pulled out a long sleeved t-shirt I had stashed in my bag. Ahhh.....

Then - duh, I ran a 24 hour the week before, WTF was I doing running a marathon? My back hurt and I just felt like crap.

Mile 23. Wayne and I shared an airport-sized bottle of whiskey at the top of the hill. I could barely run for a little bit, laughing and feeling the whiskey immediately.

I began to kick and Wayne didn't have it. He pulled me back so I'd slow down and run next to him. Then we crossed the finish line and kissed.

Categories: Radreffies' blogs

Grandma Betty's Broccoli Casserole

Mon, 11/25/2013 - 1:53pm
Grandma Betty makes it old-school. This delicious (though it may sound scary, mayo, eeek!) dish will win over crowds at your Thanksgiving potluck party at work or on the Thanksgiving table itself. I'm pretty full.
  • 2 packages of chopped broccoli, cooked & drained
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 3/4 cup of mayo
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar
  • 1 T minced onion (optional; I find onions to be gross)
  • Breadcrumbs
Mix beaten eggs with mayo, 3/4 of cheese, onion and broccoli. Put in a greased baking dish; sprinkle remaining cheese and bread crumbs on top.
Bake covered 30 min 350. Remove cover last 10 min.
Categories: Radreffies' blogs

Cover of New York Runner...

Fri, 11/15/2013 - 8:11pm
So I see my running club just put me on their website a while back, for when I was on the cover of New York Runner. Wheeeee!

Categories: Radreffies' blogs

Croatan 24 Hour 2013 Race Report: Grits, Grit, and a Whole Lot of Fun Despite Layers of Misery

Sun, 11/10/2013 - 9:10pm
Loving the trails My blister still hurts. I'm still hungry. I felt like hell, but it was fun.

YAY, another 24 hour!

Croatan 24 Hour is a great 24 hour put on by Brandon Wilson and his family. There is absolutely phenomenal support (The aid stations is amongst the best of any ultra I've ever run at - veggie & chicken broth, potato soup, turkey, potatoes, grits, grilled cheese, burgers, veggie burgers, sandwiches, various kinds of cake, tons of snacks, and all the usual traditional ultra fuel.).

The course has some slight uphills on some of the bridges, and there was one "hill." It's not bad but when it turned dark, I would walk it some of the time. But a lot of the times, I ran the beast. The course is very runnable - I think it is as equally hard as Hinson Lake. It is really pretty, as you are running through swamps and you get to see water and lots of trees, though it can get spooky at night. (Think hallucinations of witches, ghost hands touching you, shrunken heads.)

I was trying for 120 miles, but missed it by just over 10 miles. Booo. Not my day, but I still had a good time hanging out with lots of great friends.

I checked in to get a neat hoodie instead of tech tee (Sweet! I know what my new work-at-home top will be.), and Brandon showed me to the yellow bib area where I could stash my stuff in a tent, which made things a little simpler. (Yellow bib were runners who were being tracked closely, as they had hopes of making the national team/elite runners.) Also, got to have the awesome Jonathan Savage give me blister advice, and his son help me with little things like replacing batteries in my headlamp and opening containers of coconut water. (He is a mechanical engineering and physics college student; I may as well take advantage of that.) It was really great.
Enjoying the view
I started off, feeling like my tummy was a little off. I ran with various people, making new friends, chatting with old friends. It was a blast. I ate vanilla gus and drank water. Because it was a no-cup (for water and gatorade) race, everyone left their handhelds by the aid station and a lot of people just drank a little from their bottles whenever they felt like it.

4:12 marathon. Not bad. I ate carefully, but still felt bleh. 5:17 50k. Keep going. 

OMG my blister. The one from The Hard Way returned. I changed my socks and shoes and walked my cramped self back towards the course, where one of the runners asked me how I was. Dan was dropping. I mentioned my blister. 

"Want me to pop it?"

"I don't know if you can. There's a callous on top."

What did I have to lose but time? I took off my sock and shoe and showed it. Soon, he was jamming a needle into my toe and squeezing it flat while I squeezed Paula's friend's hand so hard I thought I was going to break it. He put some lube on my tootsie and I hobbled off.

And then I ran. Again. Wooohooo!

The day grew warm, but not too warm. Comfortably warm. It was sunny and I squinted a little below my visor. There were birthday spanks every time I passed Frank Lilley, chatting with Susan and Fred Dumar whenever I passed them, cheers for Paula. It was fun.

Dusk. I changed my outfit completely; I was sweat-soaked. I put on a long sleeved tee, which I ran in most of the race. I was moving enough and it never got that cold, though around 6am, I added an extra shirt.

On one of my first headlamp routes, I thought my tummy started feeling worse. I had some ginger ale. 

And then...

Yes, it's only a 1.36 mile course BUT OH MY GOD IT WAS SO LONG WHERE IS THE PORT-A-POTTY? I thought abt running in the bushes, but I didn't want to use my gloves (They were my warm ones.) or my socks. And there were not enough bushes in the entire Croatan National Forest for what I needed for.

I ran as fast as I could, hoping, suffering.

And then - relief in the Port-a-Potty. I let myself stay in there for one Bob Marley song and then I was out. Ugh. I took Immodium and went to the aid station for more ginger ale. One of the volunteers gave me a natural gu, and then I got a bowl of grits with some broth (for extra nutrition). I walked a lap with Paula, eating my grits, feeling better but not great. Oh, how I hate my tummy troubles.

I began running again, slower. I hallucinated. Witches. Curled-up dogs. Wolves. Witches. All sorts of things I now can't remember, which is probably a good thing.

I ran alone, with music. I ran with Paula. I ran with various people. I tried to keep food down, which was hard as I had zero appetite. My body hurt all over. I appreciated that the port-a-potties had handles to lower yourself down to pee. Ouch.

I tried to not hallucinate. I failed at that. I smiled. I waved. I cheered everyone on. I had fun.

I ran with a woman I had met at Hinson, Melissa, who was getting revenge for not running 100 at Hinson. We ended up running until the end, and as I suspected the race for 3rd place was close, I convinced her to run with me until the finish. Which she did. And got third place.

Mosi won for the men. Connie won for the women (after being on a cot under a sleeping bag for 2 hours, and having people beg her to get an IV). I was second woman, which was nice. I won a military hat from WWII. My grandpas, were they alive, would like it.

the hat  & the buckle
Categories: Radreffies' blogs