Well, January has been… Different! If you’re reading my monthly recap I imagine you’ve probably read my blog before (although if this is your first time, hi!), and so you’ll know that I have spent the whole of January travelling – three different countries, spending nights in 14 different places, 5 long distance bus journeys (anything longer than 3 hours), 1 night spent in a bus, one in a tent that looked like an egg, one in a room built into the rock and one in a hammock!
A quick recap – I started the month chilling out on a beach in Tulum, Mexico, before moving to the jungle in Chiapas to visit the Palenque ruins. Then I crossed the border into Guatemala via boat and rickety old bus, visiting more ruins in Tikal. I flew to Antigua for one night and then a spent few days relaxing by the shores of Lake Atitlan. Then it was off to Colombia! I spent a the weekend in the beautifully colourful Guatape and a few days exploring the thriving city of Medellin. Mum flew out to join me and we explored the desert – Desierto de la Tatacoa – for a weekend before flying to Santa Marta to begin a four day hike to the Ciudad Perdida (Lost City). I ended up the month enjoying some awesome food in Cartagena, on the Caribbean coast! Phew! I have been instagramming a lot (I’m @adarling575) and am gradually updating the blog although it is slightly behind me!
Swam: I have no idea of the distance as I have no GPS waterproof watch and haven’t been swimming in proper pools. One thing I forgot before I left to go traveling is that hotels with pools so rarely have pools that can actually be swum in! I have done some proper swimming 6 times in various pools, lakes and oceans (that’s including scuba diving…) and have also breast stroked around tiny pools or natural pools in lakes a further four times. I am on top of my goal for swimming twice a week every week with 10 swims in January!
Cycled: maybe 10km? Maybe? We cycled a bit on some horrible rental bikes in Tulum but watching the cyclists go up the hillside to get out of Medellin into the countryside is the nearest I’ve come to any proper cycling this month!
Ran: 103.4 (just over 62 miles). I didn’t do a December recap but I ran less than 30km in the whole of November and only around 15km in October so that’s a lot! In fact, it’s the most I’ve run in a month in a whole year – only last January had higher totals! That makes me really happy as it just shows that despite travelling and running being difficult I have managed to get a lot of good runs in!
Yoga: I’ve been pleased to get in a reasonable number of yoga classes and hotel workouts this month – 8 in total so about 2 a week! Really pleased with that consistency while travelling – one of the first things I do when I get somewhere new is to look up and see if there are any yoga studios!
As always, being on holiday is brilliant for reading and so I finished a whole ten books this month.
Delirium by Laura Restrepo: a fantastic novel by a Colombian novelist covering insanity, love, Colombia’s drug war, and what it was like to live in a Colombian city. I would really recommend this to anyone but particularly if you are looking for a Colombian novel that isn’t by Gabriel Garcia Marquez!
The Meursault Investigation by Kamal Daoud: a novel set in Algeria in the aftermath of the end of French colonial rule, focusing on the concept of identity. It’s a fictional response to Alberto Camus’s novel The Stranger, but you don’t need to have read Camus to enjoy this.
I, Rigoberta Menchu: an Indian woman in Guatemala by Rigoberta Menchú: a memoir about the life of one fascinating Maya woman and the role she and the indigenous people played in the Guatemalan civil war, together with lots of information about Maya culture. A must-read if you are going to Guatemala as it will explain so much of what you see! Review at the link above.
Who is Rigoberta Menchú by Greg Grandin: this book examined the controversy of Menchú’s book – both are reviewed at the link above.
100 years of solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez: I loved this! The novel covers 100 years of Colombian history set in a fictional village. I first read Garcia Marquez at school, in Spanish, for my Spanish a-level and I just could not get to grips with it. I think I never managed to properly understand it as a novel rather than just translating individual words. But it completely put me off Garcia Marquez until I was coming to Colombia and figured I should probably give it another go. And then it turned out I just loved 100 Years of Solitude so have now bought several others of his books to read! Kindles are fantastic.
More terrible than death: violence, drugs and America’s war in Colombia by Robin Kirk: this book actually terrified me when I began reading it, until I realised it was published ten years ago before things started to get better in Colombia. Robin Kirk is a human rights activist who worked for Human Rights Watch in Colombia, documenting the abuses by both sides in the war against the guerillas and examining the impact of the drugs trade. I am going to write a proper review post on this one as it was fascinating and I learnt so much!
Robber of memories: a river journey through Colombia by Michael Jacobs: this is a more modern book set in Colombia as the author attempts to travel up the Magdalena river to its source. Having just finished More Terrible than Death I found it slightly too lighthearted for me, it just seemed as if the author wasn’t really taking the danger of Colombia seriously and had no real idea of just how bad things had been. But it was an easy, enjoyable read.
Oblivion by Hector Abad: a wonderful memoir written by a Colombian author about his childhood growing up in Medellin and the murder of his father by the Colombian army. It is lovely and devastating all at the same time.
The mountain shadow by Gregory David Roberts: the sequel to Shantaram, which people either loved or didn’t enjoy depending on how they got on with the rather stylistic prose. I loved it and The Mountain Shadow did not disappoint.
The Illuminations by Eleanor Catton: this book took some time to grow on me although that may have just been the circumstances in which I was reading it (before bed, exhausted, after full days of hiking), but eventually I was hooked. It is a sort of murder mystery, set in New Zealand during the gold rush and is told really cleverly, moving backwards and forwards in time to eventually fill in the whole story. I really, really enjoyed it.
Phew! That took some writing!!!
On the blog there were:
Travel posts – a lot of those… How to get to Palenque from Tulum, waterfalls in Palenque, exploring the Palenque ruins, how to cross the border into Guatemala from Mexico, and exploring the ruins at Tikal.
My best moment in January was… probably playing around on the top of a temple completely by myself at sunrise or walking along a ridge of the Sierra Nevada as the sun rose from behind the mountains… Actually just that whole trek with my mum was wonderful!
Right now I am….
Reading: Life after Life by Kate Atkinson which I am so hooked by that I can’t believe it took me this long to read it!
Listening to: Series 2 of Serial! This podcast tells the story of Bo Berghdal (not sure on spelling) and I am learning so much about the US army, the war in Afghanistan, Pakistan… Its fascinating.
Enjoying: the wonderful hotel we are currently staying in, perched on top of a cliff edge, our room built into the rock. It’s lovely spending some quality time with my mum in such a beautiful place! More on that to come….
Excited about: heading to Barichara, a little colonial village, spending a morning in Bogota and then finally being back at home with James and Oscar-cat. I am looking forward to not having to run only at sunrise to beat the heat!