John, I’m Only Dancing to Juxtapozed With U

Traditionally, a new year brings two blog posts, but 2023 has been a bit different and one event warrants a post of its own. In keeping with tradition, the other two posts will follow – and be later than planned.

Let me tell you a story. Are you sitting comfortably (or as comfortably as those of us of a certain age can manage)? Then we will begin.

Once upon a time, there was a little girl from Australia. Little in stature, not age. Otherwise this story could get a bit creepy.

Bitten by the travel bug but caught in a work maelstrom, she dreamed of heading off on overland travels and a return to Africa.

Finding a spare few moments at work on her birthday in Canberra, she started googling overland travel companies and the big yellow trucks of Oasis Overland caught her eye.

Digging deeper into trip reviews, she spent time reading a blog of the Trans Africa journey around the continent written by an English bloke. And wondering exactly why it had a picture of a marmot (well, probably, let’s just roll with this for dramatic effect).

A few years passed and, after saving up her Monopoly money – sorry, Aussie dollars – our heroine (oh Lord, that one will come back to haunt me) finally booked a spot on one of the big yellow trucks. Not in Africa, but to pastures new in South America.

As she and her future travelling companions prepared for the trip, emails started to fly, a Facebook group was set up and one of those posting started to look familiar – the African blogger was chipping in on truck life ahead of adding a new continent to his travels.

And, as she sat in a Quito cafe the day before everyone was due to meet up at the start of the trip, the English blogger posted a (not so) fresh-off-the-plane picture with the view from his hostel terrace across the part of the old town she was exploring.

She was unable to work out where our clearly jetlagged romantic lead (hey, if she can be the heroine) was posting from, but as the travellers assembled at the pre-trip meeting the next evening, she recognised the English guy listening patiently to a monologue from a bearded American.

Not sure the two spoke much to each other that first night. Or even until he jumped in on the back of her haggling to grab the same rug (both lost somewhere in Brazil) at a market in Otavalo.

They definitely did speak during a freestyle game of Jenga in a bar and, over the coming weeks, began to chat more and more, spending an increasing amount of time together. Pretty much from the moment they were cursed by a random busker in Lima.

To cut a long story short – via becoming a couple in Argentina, being forced apart by the premature end of the trip in Colombia, daily video calls across the globe in lockdown, a couple of visits to wintry England and the quest for a visa – our heroine welcomed her Prince Charming (yeah, OK, that might be pushing it a bit) to Australia.

And on August 14, 2023, on an island off the coast of Queensland, the travel tale written by a single bloke from Gloucester officially became a two-handed affair with the girl from the beaches north of Sydney who had first stumbled across his ramblings several years earlier.

And somehow still agreed to marry him.

It was not a big wedding – the elopement package at Fitzroy Island giving a clue to the plan – in the middle of a two-week exploration of Queensland, but in a secluded garden (if you forget about the overlooking hotel balconies) overlooking a beach, the story which started with tales of Africa and took root in the wilderness, cities, beaches and jungles of South America had its happy ending.

Well, at least this chapter. There’s plenty more to be written yet.

And, keeping with a romance which first linked its romantic heroes via this blog (in which the bride has long considered herself to be the star), there was even a link to the A-Z iPod blog – which makes it a lot easier to shoehorn into this tale, even if it briefly threatened to derail the whole musical journey.

Having mopped up the remaining J songs – the shortest letter yet at 233, although not for long – from David Bowie to the groom’s former Cardiff neighbours the Super Furry Animals, the alphabetical trek had reached track 7,311 out of 15,960 (for now).

The latest section saw us through more Johns, Johnny and Jonny, Jonathan, Jolene, Jorge, Joy (with oven gloves and in Leeuwarden with a couple of Half Man Half Biscuit outings), Julie (working for the drug squad) and a fairly lengthy list of Justs – Radiohead, Feeder (Just A Day), REM (two versions of the glorious Just A Touch) and Jesus & Mary Chain (the equally glorious Just Like Honey, twice) – before the wonderfully bonkers clash of cultures which is The KLF’s Justified and Ancient.

Which is not a comment on the groom’s age.

And for a while, that looked like it might be it for the iPod – a key component of the A-Z.

Dragooned into action to supply the music throughout the ceremony – downloaded at the last minute after a failure to agree on anything – it was hidden in the groom’s back pocket with his phone to avoid an unsightly bulge in the wedding photographs.

One of the pictures which almost ended the A-Z trip through my iPod

Which would have been fine, if some of the photos had not involved the happy couple sitting on some rocks on the beach.

Thankfully, the spider web of cracks on the screen does not have much impact on its use – more thankfully, the fairly new and rather more expensive phone was unharmed – and the big day did not claim a casualty.

Tradition in these blog posts dictates several videos or links being posted to songs from the latest section, but if we cannot break the rules on this post, when can we?

So let us sign off with a song which should rightly feature in the next post catching up on new additions from A-J, but one which means a lot to us – the bride was given a crash course in some of the finest British television over her trips up north, developing a couple of obsessions with plans to escape to the country and live in a big house full of friendly ghosts.

This formed one of the songs on the playlist for the wedding, as we signed our lives over to each other.

And the words seem to fit. As long as you don’t dig too deeply.

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If We Make It Through December to In Spite of All The Damage

ONE of my favourite nights in a bar – and there have been a few to choose from – came partly due to a T-shirt.

There were other reasons.

We had been recommended Brendan Behan’s by a friend who had made a previous visit to Boston (the one in Massachusetts, not Lincolnshire – we had plenty of inside information there and another T-shirt story, but we will save that for another time).

But having moved beyond the confines of downtown Boston on the Friday night of our first visit to the States – the first of many which would change both of our lives in years to come – we had got slightly lost.

We had rough directions. We knew it was in Jamaica Plain and we had made it as far as a largely deserted subway station, but with no idea where to go next and no real way of finding out (this was before smart phones, kids), we were debating the wisdom of leaving a dark, less than salubrious-looking neighbourhood and heading back to one of the bars we had come to know in the previous few nights.

Until a bloke stumbled out of the shadows and, as he reached us, stopped, did a double take and broke into a smile.

He was quite taken with Nick’s well-worn Mighty Mighty Bosstones T-shirt and suddenly became very helpful.

While he regaled us of his love for the Boston ska punk band, we managed to break in long enough to ask for directions for our destination and we were on our way.

His opening gambit of “you go past The Projects” was hardly promising, but it turned out we were not too far from our intended target, a walk up a hill away.

Settling in for a long night

What we found was the type of bar you do not find too much anymore. Certainly not in the States (apart from the Irish bit, they are everywhere in Boston).

Small, rough wooden floors, no food and no TV showing sports – which had us waiting for the latest Red Sox score until the next morning at the start of a long fixation – with people (and dogs) wandering in and out with pizzas from the takeaway place across the street.

All watched over by pictures of Behan himself.

We warmed to it immediately. Even more so when the barman had our drinks memorised after the first round – we pretty much only had to look at him for the rest of the evening to get served.

It did not take much longer for a darts game to break out which pitted us against half of the bar and by the time we rolled out of there several hours later, we had savoured a wonderful evening that cemented the early impression that we got about Boston being to be our new favourite place.

The taxi ride home also confirmed how much of a ridiculously circuitous route we had taken to get there.

Pretty sure neither of us made it back to Brendan Behan’s, despite good intentions and repeated visits to Boston – both solo and together at the end of a trip four years later in which the same T-shirt had another part to play.

This tale owes less to musical taste as cheese.

Cheese damage

The shirt had been a regular in Nick’s travel wardrobe throughout three months on the road from London to New York without flying – the trip which ended with him meeting his future wife when we headed to Boston at the end of the journey and which kicked off my overland travel addiction (and, in turn, this website).

By the time we reached New Ulm in Minnesota a few days from the finish, thoughts were turning  to journey’s end and clear outs of our kit revealed we all wanted to do some laundry, but none of us had a full load.

With several hours to kill in town – and blog posts to write while waiting and using the launderette’s WiFi – we threw several of our piles in together, sat back, started tapping away and waited.

Right up until the load was finished and reaching in to pull the clothes out of the machine answered one of the questions which had popped up in the group over the previous few days.

What had happened to Phil’s lump of blue cheese?

Most of the laundry escaped largely unscathed – although we felt it best to put it through another wash – but a pair of socks and Nick’s Mighty Mighty Bosstones T-shirt bore the brunt.

Whenever anyone mentions cheesy music, my mind heads in a different direction to most people’s.

And when The Mighty Mighty Bosstones crop up, it brings back good memories of trips and Nick. Which is always welcome.

Crop up they did in the latest batch of songs on the A-Z trawl through my iPod with The Impression That I Get.

The latest section took us from Phoebe Bridgers’ festive offering – far more apt now, in many ways, than when these songs were actually listened to many months ago, such has been the delay in getting back to writing – to The Be-Good Tanyas.

Never bad places to be.

Along the way we had two outings for the Manic Street Preachers – and one “cover” from The Shirehorses – with other multiple visits from REM (Ignoreland and Imitation of Life, twice), In My Life by The Beatles (and a cover by Johnny Cash), If We Were Vampires by Jason Isbell and three plays of In Between Days by The Cure.

And two appearances by The Jesus & Mary Chain  taught us the song is In A Hole, not In My Hole as thought for all these years.

There was also two versions of In Bloom – the original by Nirvana and the very acceptable cover by Sturgill Simpson – and 25 minutes plus of Impossible Soul by Sufjan Stevens.

Beyond the list of songs, cannot tell you too much about what was happening as they played – it was several months ago when good intentions to get back to writing got overtaken by events.

We will get to what those events were. Along with the promise to write more as a new year’s resolution – one of the annual traditions which this blog specialises in come this time of year.

• The last outing for this blog in February was something of a standalone, an elegy for the demise of the overland travel company Oasis Overland as it headed into administration.

Wrote at the time about how “that exciting world waiting out there for us when we are able to get out in it again got a whole lot smaller”.

Thankfully, not too much smaller – Oasis exists again under new owners, with one of the founders remaining, so the “blocked horizons” have been cleared and are ready to be explored.

Some time soon.

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Goodbye Yellow Truck Road

This post was written in response to the sad news that the overland travel company Oasis Overland had ceased trading. It became one of this site’s most popular articles, so for those stumbling across it, felt it needed updating with the much happier news that Oasis has been rescued and is back on the road. Happy travelling.

Nala’s Trans Africa tale

A year ago today, caught my last sight of a big, yellow overland truck as we boarded the replacement ferry over the river from Suriname to Guyana it had narrowly failed to fit on.

A reunion was delayed by red tape, missing paperwork and, eventually, by our forced retreat from Colombia as borders shut and the world shrank with the spread of coronavirus.

But for the last 12 months, there has always been the belief the big yellow truck was out there waiting to open up new horizons when we eventually emerge blinking into the light when travel is not a dirty word.

And then came this week’s news that Oasis Overland, the small company which operates the yellow trucks, had ceased trading.

Final farewell to Spongebob

All of a sudden, that exciting world waiting out there for us when we are able to get out in it again got a whole lot smaller.

The news of Oasis’ demise was met with dismay and no end of shared memories from former passengers and staff on social media – it may not be the best known company in the world, but those in the know will really miss it.

To understand why is to  understand the aspects of these trips which are hard to explain when people ask about what makes an overland adventure on a big yellow truck.

Overlanding: The Things They Don’t Tell You

Have tried to do that elsewhere on this blog – and there is plenty more on the list of pieces to write – but here goes.

My two Oasis trips total more than a year when the answer in the address box on a visa form could easily have been “a big yellow truck” – 10 months on Nala around Africa from north to south and back again, followed by six months on Spongebob in a (sadly uncompleted) circle of South America.

Along the way, both trips took in extraordinary sights and experiences which feature highly on any travel bucket list – trekking to see gorillas, the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, the Serengeti, New Year’s Eve on Copacabana Beach, journeying up the Nile, the Uyuni Salt Flats, some of the world’s great cities and so much more.

You will find plenty about those in travel guides. They are on the highlights list for the trip that persuade people to sign up in the first place.

And they are all great – an hour spent with gorillas is one of the greatest experiences of my life, likewise rather longer trekking to Machu Picchu.

Even if we could not see much of it through the mist and rain when we got there.

But suspect the reason people feel so strongly about their Oasis experience runs rather deeper than that – it is not the big-ticket items, it is the imponderables, those moments you share with your truck family which elevate the whole experience.

They might be small moments, the stories behind the pictures, but they add up to something special that makes me – and many others – itching to get back for more.

While trying to forget the itching from insect bites.

Travel is not so much about the destination but the getting there. Nowhere is that truer than life on a big yellow truck (and it is always a truck, never a bus – unless putting that on a form makes life easier).

There is some truth in that joke about putting the truck as your address. These trips, certainly the longer adventures, are not holidays. They do become your life, your home.

Even provided an emergency bed when we found ourselves locked out of the hostel at the end of the world.

And the people you share those days, weeks, months, miles, campsites, bush camps, cook groups, nights out, border crossings and back of the truck with become as important as those travel highlights. Even digging the truck out of whatever it is stuck in.

A Day In The Life On A Big Yellow Truck

One of the high points of South America was a reunion in Buenos Aires with a friend who shared those 10 months in Africa for the first time in five years. It was an instant reconnection.

At rough count, have travelled with about 40-plus people on those trips and would happily meet up and share a few beers, rum and cokes or caipirinhas with pretty much all of them.

Couple of honourable exceptions, but even one of them might be fun to see how much effort they put in to avoiding talking, or even making eye contact, with me.

Mind you, at the moment would be delighted to have a drink with pretty much anybody.

While such a drink or travel is off the agenda, spend much of each day surrounded by the same four brick walls.

Given the huge distances covered, overland travel can mean equally long hours surrounded by the four sides of the truck. Often while hot, sweaty, dusty and sharing the space with a number of other people with equally limited access to a shower.

The Overlanding Cookbook

But rather than being restrictive (or even that smelly – you are, after all, in the same boat), those days on the truck always offered a window and access to a wider world full of anticipation about what view is round the next corner or what lies in wait at the next destination.

Be that a Patagonian wilderness, west African dirt road, Brazilian beach, Sudanese desert – all of which provided scenery, destination and camp for the night – or a small village or settlement keen to welcome us with open arms. Or the odd rock.

News of Oasis closure has obscured that view, blocked those horizons.

Thoughts are with the staff and crew – several of whom have become good friends – and the countless guides, local operators and fixers along the way who all help to make the adventure and depend on travellers to make a living.

One day, when this pandemic is over and the world is open again, we may see the yellow trucks or something similar back on the road.

Into The Wild Camping

Until then, we can dream about more amazing overland adventures – and those remaining five weeks we were forced to miss in Colombia and Ecuador, plus a Trans Africa return and the Silk Road adventure were very high on the list – and reflect on the memories of those life-changing journeys.

And life changing is not pushing it too far – even without the yellow trucks, my horizons are far broader than they were before first stepping on Nala six-and-a-bit years ago. Even in lockdown.

Have made friends for life, seen places and experienced things which seemed to be out of reach, have countless tales to tell, learned a lot about myself (despite being well past 40 before starting this obsession), challenged my physical capabilities and my own conceptions of them.

And fell in love.

So for all that and so much more, thank you Oasis.

If this is the end of the road, it has been an amazing journey – there is just an awful lot more miles left to go.

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The Unravelling

Cartagena’s old town at night

EVERYONE who expressed an opinion – or knew where it was – assured us Cartagena would be a trip highlight, a jewel in the Colombian crown they were confident would shine brightly among South America’s other treasures.

And they may be right, what we saw was fun, striking, memorable… it’s just that Cartagena will always come with an asterisk. A what if. An if only.

Memories of Cartagena will always be clouded by the fact it is where our trip came to an abrupt, premature end as the real world reached out and dragged us back in from our six-month suspension of normal life.

Not that what we returned to can be classed as normal.

No idea this was going to be one of the final days exploring

Hopefully, as time draws by, the memories of iguanas and sloths in a city park, colourful adornments to narrow streets lined with art, old city walls and a bustling nightlife we met head on will take prominence.

But two weeks since being forced to return from Colombia by the looming spectre of coronavirus, the abiding memories of our time in the historic city remains a trip cut short, hurried goodbyes and a homecoming to a life which is not as familiar and comfortable as it should be.

Only two weeks, but it seems somehow longer, lengthened by forced confinement which contrasts so markedly with the sense of freedom and steady flow of memories and experiences which have characterised the last six months.

The sense of disconnect – both from the life we left behind in South America and the one we expected to be returning to – is palpable.

Umbrella street

Wrote before about “having landed back in a familiar world which all seems a bit out of focus” and that remains true.

Recognise what is around me, it is all just a bit fuzzy round the edges. Like trying to function when ill, everything just seems a bit muted, slightly distant, a touch out of sync.

All a far contrast from the vibrant colour and life of Cartagena which deserves better than being remembered merely as the place it all came to an end. It is too good for that.

What is not to like about a city where you can spot sloths in the park near our hotel, wander down lanes under canopies of multi-coloured umbrellas, flags or plants, watch the sun set over the Caribbean Sea while raising an overpriced cocktail on the city walls or watch a man in ridiculously tight yellow trousers salsa on the street while you eat a pizza?

It does not, apparently, have an escape room, unlike its namesake in Spain. Just in case you are browsing the web and booking things to do in either city.

Not that we had any thoughts of escaping when we flew in from Leticia via a quick layover at Bogota’s El Dorado International Airport – a place where most of would spend too much time just a few days later.

Having made it to the hotel via an adrenaline-fuelled taxi ride, my first meaningful act was to climb in another taxi. And out again when it became apparent he was going nowhere in a hurry, opting for one that was – especially when the driver took the blue lights behind him as the signal to start racing the emergency vehicle.

Our destination was a bit of pampering, once we had found an alternative for the closed initial barbers, for what was always intended to be my last haircut and full shave of the trip.

Got that one right.

Freshly trimmed, headed out for a first outing into the lanes of the Getsemani and an alfresco pizza while entertained – or otherwise – by our colourfully dressed salsa dancer and assorted musicians.

The hat looks better on Lisa. Just wish we had got some more use out of it

All a pleasant, quiet enough prelude for a long, busy, fun day and night that has taken on extra significance with what happened in the following 24 hours – told you it was impossible to distance Cartagena with what it came to represent.

First stop on our day of exploring was the nearby Parque del Centenario spotting the iguanas which call it home. Not that difficult, they are huge.

Next up was the old town where the task was simple, wander the narrow streets, squares and city walls while trying to retain some sense of where we were – a handy trick when we headed back in the late afternoon for cocktails watching the sun go down.

The first signs of what was to follow kept us from our planned destination, new local rules limiting capacity in bars forcing us to find a less congested, slightly cheaper (only slightly and still overpriced) option further along the wall.

After that it is a bit hazy. There was street food, happy hour drinks which lasted rather longer than an hour and a club which involved dancing, trying to track down the drinks we were due with our entrance fee and painting on the wall.

A fitting final blowout if we had any idea that was what it would become.

But by the time the sun rose on Sunday in Cartagena, it was to news of border closures in neighbouring Ecuador (our final destination) and cancelled onward trips, but with our trip to the beach the following day booked, it was another morning exploring the considerable charms of the old town and Getsamani.

First on foot, via a return to the park and more iguanas (this time up trees), monkeys and the sloths we had not fully believed were actually there, then by bike – my first time on two wheels for several years.

Thankfully, it is just like riding a bike and the guided tour provided a fun, informative look at the areas we had been wandering around.

We were all smiles when we returned to our hotel – at least those who made it back.

It cost enough, taking a picture of it

A couple only got as far as the nearby hostel bar which became the breaking news centre throughout the evening as the rest of us dropped in as we passed to discover the latest restrictions, courtesy of Danny and his chats with the hostel owner.

As we headed out for food, restrictions were being tightened and our Playa Blanca trip was off. By the time we headed back, those restrictions were being ramped up, travel was about to become much tougher and the hostel owner was warning of closure.

There was just one option – get home as soon as possible. The frustration many of us felt trying to secure one of the diminishing, increasingly expensive flights proved how right we were not to leave it any longer.

Which means our last view of Cartagena was another taxi ride, this time to the airport and as hurried as the packing and goodbyes which proceeded it.

And from there… not Santa Marta, Taronga, San Gil, Medellin and beyond, but a third visit to Bogota and first time out of the airport. At least as far as a hotel for 24 hours or so before one final goodbye, a last, longer than planned, visit to the airport, an unscheduled night in Paris and home.

To make some sort of sense of what has happened, both in the hasty retreat and the previous six months.

We will work our way through what sense does appear in a few more posts, but that’s it. Journey’s end.

Until next time…

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A Better Understanding

Picture: Bradley Slocum

WHAT made Colombia famous?

You could answer something about eccentric goalkeepers, extravagantly-coiffed midfielders, Shakira’s hips not lying, cyclists who go uphill fast and the dubious distinction of losing to England in a World Cup penalty shootout.

Wikipedia tells us Colombia is the second most biodiverse country in the world, is a ‘perennial powerhouse at the World Roller Speed Skating Championships’ (which explains a track in the centre of Cartagena) and the Piloto public library has Latin America’s largest archive of negatives.

And, as one former colleague and various tourist T-shirts repeat, it is Colombia, not Columbia. 

But chances are you answered something about cocaine, Pablo Escobar or the war on drugs (the ongoing fight against narcotics, not the band).

According to The Wire’s Ellis Carver, it cannot be a war because wars end.

But if our all too brief stay in what proved the final country of our South America circuit is anything to go by, there is at least a pretty solid ceasefire in play.

Our last drinks in Brazil

The drug trade which almost brought the country to its knees is still alive, but this is not life in a war zone anymore. 

Even with armed soldiers patrolling the streets – or queuing at the food carts – in Leticia, our first port of call which boasts a healthy number of casinos in case you found yourself with large amounts of illicit cash for some reason.

Colombia, somehow, has managed to turn itself into one of the more stable stops on our itinerary – in comparison with the tear gas which greeted us in Chile, the domestic upheaval which followed us through Ecuador and Peru or the problems which forced us to make a rapid run through Bolivia.

Never mind the issues afflicting neighbouring Venezuela which had us skirting around it and tackling an extended itinerary in Colombia before the need to get home to avoid getting trapped abroad by anti-coronavirus measures.

The border. On the side of the street

Pretty much everyone picked Colombia as a highlight before the trip and if first impressions were anything to go by, that extra time would have been very well spent.

Which is why almost the first (and second) thing we did on arrival was leave.

The border into our final country differed from all the previous ones in that it existed merely as a small sign on a wall, our taxi driver from our slow boat up the Amazon to our hostel pointing it out as he drove along the main road.

Welcome to Colombia. For the third time that day

By the time we realised what he was saying, we had crossed from Tabatinga in Brazil to Leticia in Colombia. From Portuguese back to Spanish.

There are border controls which had us walking the way we had come – in punishing heat given how early it was – to be stamped out of Brazil. 

And straight back again and further to officially enter Colombia.

That all produced the first signs of what was to come, a masked nurse asking health questions as we queued for Brazilian immigration and queries over our well-being and my French Guiana stamp (given France’s status on the danger list) at its Colombia equivalent, tucked away on a raft at the edge of town.

There was a reason for this. Just have no idea what it was

Having officially got ourselves across the border and settled into Colombia, we left again.

This time via a boat across the river with no sign of a border into an island belonging to Peru for a group challenge of three cocktails in three countries in three hours.

Pay attention, this does get tricky. Certainly too tricky for us.

Relaxing with a new friend

We managed the three countries, we just took rather longer than three hours and had to substitute beer at our Peruvian stop because they did not sell cocktails – unless you count pouring Inka Cola into your beer.

Which you really should not do. Count it or pour it into your beer.

Another boat ride ferried us back to Tabatinga and another walk up to the border and a final chance to grab a Brazilian caipirinha. Which some of us grabbed more than once.

A few photo opportunities – another change to normal border protocol – and we crossed into Colombia for one final time and a rather lengthier assault on a bar’s happy hour supplies of Cuba libres, pink dolphins and what they translated as caipirinha milk shakes.

Some subjects are easier to get looking at the camera than others

Thankfully, given the number of cocktails consumed, we had plenty of time to emerge the next morning, pack for a couple of days, explore the town or lounge in a hammock with the hostel cat before heading up the river again for a couple of nights of quiet at a guesthouse in the small riverside village of Macedonia.

Basic but comfortable, much of our food was fresh out of the river.

Some explored the village, some headed out on a muddy nature walk, some fished, some spent plenty of time relaxing, but the highlight for many of us was another river trip to Isla De Los Micos – Monkey Island.

Ready for their close-up

To be honest, it was not the expected day out (and it took a big chunk of the day, given the slow boat which carried us there and back).

Had thought we would be wandering around the island, trying to spot the monkeys in the trees.

What we got was a short walk to a clearing into a posse of little squirrel monkeys who descended around and on us, prompted occasionally by a tactically placed piece of fruit.

Shamelessly touristy and guaranteed to get the camera clicking – if you could click your camera with monkeys crawling all over it.

One of these little buggers disgraced itself all over me

A quiet evening was followed by a much quicker morning boat ride back to Leticia where our final evening produced more spectacular crowds of animals.

As we settled down for a couple of caipirinhas, thousands of parakeets flocked into the park around us to roost at dusk.

While they took up residence for the night, we headed for more cocktails. And a few more.

There were more to come, just not as many as we would have liked.

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