A Travellerspoint blog

Amazing time at home!!!

Home for me is definitely still Colombia. All the times that I have returned to my gorgeous country I get so excited to arrive and then never want to leave. This time, because we had just had Leo we could stay here for six months, which was half of my parental leave. It sounds like such a long time but it has gone so fast and I cannot believe I am 6 weeks away from returning to New Zealand as I am writing this blog.

We have had a fabulous time here, especially over Christmas with the family and seeing how the festive traditions pass from generation to generation. We met with family and friends to pray the Novenas, we ate bunuelos and natilla, which is a special food for this time of the year. We had an amazing Christmas Eve, with everyone bringing gifts for everybody else. There were more than 50 presents under the tree. Obviously the children had an amazing time, even as midnight approached and they were tired, they were still trying to finish opening their presents.

For the New Year’s break, the whole family of cousins and their partners travelled for two hours from the capital to a nice town with very hot weather. We enjoyed relaxing by the pool and enjoying the local area. For New Year’s Eve we did some of the popular superstitious things for New Year that Simon has learnt and knows that I enjoy doing. Such as running around the block at midnight carrying some luggage to bring more travel in the coming year, to count money that will bring riches, etc.

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After returning from our trip to Mexico and Guatemala, Simon returned to New Zealand, and Maya, Leo and I continue to enjoy Colombia. I was concerned about Maya, thinking how to keep her busy and entertained every day as she missed seeing her friends from New Zealand and her cousins were going back to school during the week. But, we has been very lucky because we have found so many things for her to do in this city. She is now practicing Tai Kwon Do, going to music, she has joined a theatre group, and the best part is that I have joined a Zumba group, and Maya has become one of the trainers, ha ha ha. She loves dancing and this group has taught her a lot of new movements and she is very happy to be a part of it.

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Leo is learning to crawl, and he also comes with us to the exercises most days and he loves to see the ladies dancing and having fun. He enjoys seeing Maya in her courses and he is also in a special group for babies.

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I have been teaching English, which I love doing, seeing many of my old friends and spending time with family, teaching stats online, and obviously planning our next trip. Maya has been occupied with working at her own job. She decided she wanted a watch, so we thought we would see if she could sell crackers and biscuits to make some money and to teach her about basic finance. She has been really enjoying it, and we have taken her to the local park where she sells her crackers and earns money.

Maya is speaking Spanish very well and now she is having trouble remembering to speak in English. I am not sure about Leo yet, hopefully he learns Spanish as easily as his sister

We are very happy here, but we will need to start packing soon and getting ready for our next trip returning to our second home.

Posted by erika_simon 18:33 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

Relaxing days in Riviera Maya


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After our awesome time in Guatemala, we crossed the border back into Mexico, to the small city of Palenque, where the gorgeous Palenque ruins are only a few kilometres down the road.
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The ruins were stunning and the entry is relatively cheap compared to some of the other ruins in Mexico. This complex is also in the middle of the jungle and it’s a little smaller than Tikal in Guatemala. The ruins are in very good condition, with walls ceilings, and a lot of the engravings/carvings still visible. We could climb the steps up onto nearly all the ruins and there is even one pyramid that we could enter and walk down some of the corridors and see how well they were built. The architecture was amazing.

Maya had so much fun running around, getting wet with the rain and seeing the vendors inside the complex. On the way out we walked a few minutes off the main track and enjoyed an amazing waterfall. This part of Mexico is well worth a visit.

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After visiting those beautiful ruins we went to the city of Merida on a night bus. We were blessed that Maya and Leo slept like sleeping beauty all the way. Merida is a gorgeous town, with a humid climate. We enjoyed this town a lot because it has great play grounds for children, an excellent zoo, and a lovely town square. Maya had the opportunity to feed a large group of pigeons and some of them landed on her arms and ate out of her hands.

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To finish our trip we went to the beaches on the Riviera Maya coast. On our way to Playa del Carmen we visited the Islas Mujeres. It was a windy day so we used the ferry to cross to the island. We enjoyed the beaches, did some snorkelling and saw some gorgeous fish. Maya and I had the opportunity to sit in a pool and play with a baby shark, which was a great opportunity for a photo.

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In Playa del Carmel, we were extremely blessed with our apartment being located next to beach, so every morning we could walk along the sand or sit and watch the waves. In this area of Mexico there are no rivers. They have underground springs called cenotes which are holes in the ground with fresh water bubbling up. We had one of these close to our apartment.

Every morning we went to the beach and sat by the cenote, which was a highlight for Maya and Leo. Unfortunately, Leo’s first meal was sand, but it was great he could sit on a blanket and play on the beach surrounded by his family. Maya loved the beach and the cenote, and really enjoyed swimming in the cold fresh water from the spring, and then in the warm sea water afterwards.

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We finished our trip by staying a few days in Cancun, which has some famous beaches. Although I prefer Playa del Carmen which wasn’t as crowded, we also enjoyed Cancun. Here there were so many people and the vendors tried so hard to sell you things at ridiculous prices.

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We had a fabulous trip, and the 6 weeks of travelling and adventure were a lot of fun. Maya and Leo were easy to look after and behaved very well. We encountered so many angels that looked after us, and for me the most important lesson was that it was possible to travel with the children, so we are already thinking there will be more trips in the future for our family.

Posted by erika_simon 17:20 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

WE WILL DEFINITELY COME BACK HERE!


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After our amazing time in Mexico City and Puebla, we headed to Guatemala. I was really concerned about this destination, but now I can say that I love this country and hope to come back soon. The people were so nice, generous and humble. The landscapes were gorgeous, the food was yummy and it was really cheap to travel.

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We arrived in Guatemala City and the next day we went to Panajachel. We decided to take one of the (in)famous chicken buses, and it was a wonderful experience. We were so impressed with how the companies looked after their buses. They are the old school buses that were previously used in the United States, and here in Guatemala the buses are cleaned very thoroughly every single day. We arrived earlier that the departure time for our bus and could witness the guys going over the bus cleaning everything from the roof to the wheels, and doing a great job.

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During the drive we saw the driver and his assistant made a great team. The driver just went like maniac. The first time on the bus I took out Leo out of the carrier and held him on my lap, but we were moving from side to side so much that I thought I was going to lose him at any moment, ha ha ha. After that I understood why the other women carried their babies in their carrier all the time. On the next bus I kept Leo in his carrier and felt much safer. Most of the roads were in good condition, which is one reason why the drivers can drive so fast, take the corners without slowing, and overtake vehicles all the time. Most of the drivers have had significant experience and have driven the same route for many years.

Maya enjoyed the buses, because she could see everything passing by out the windows, and could look at what the vendors who came onto the buses were selling – which was all different kinds of stuff, like food, electronic devices, animals, etc.

At lake Atitlan we stayed in a village called San Pedro de Laguna, which was the best place we stayed during our holidays. We had a great view of the lake and some of the other villages, and each of us could have had a room if we have wanted. Cooking while seeing a beautiful view of the lake was an inspiration. I can say we made the most delicious food of the trip in this house, ha ha.

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San Pedro was a small and quiet town. Its people still wear traditional clothes, its central market had everything we needed, and the famous tortillas were wonderful. To travel between villages we used boats, which was fun for everyone, and especially Maya and Leo who enjoyed seeing the water, mountains, and also the people and animals on board the boats.

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We visited a couple of villages and each of them has something very different. For instance, in the village of Santiago Maya had the opportunity to go into a classroom in a school and make friends with some of the local kids. In the village San Juan there was a lovely beach on the lake and there were coffee and plantain fields.

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After we left the lake, we headed to Antigua, which is a famous town. This is relatively close to the capital and most travellers prefer to go immediately to Antigua rather than stay in the crazy capital. Antigua was a nice place to stay but I didn’t really enjoy it, because I preferred our stay in San Pedro. I missed those days by the lake.

Antigua had lots of interesting areas to visit, with some active volcanos around the town, and old ruins to see. We were lucky that from the Airbnb where we stayed we could see an active volcano from its terrace, and when we had breakfast we could see smoke rising from it and at night during dinner we could see the yellow and orange flames of the lava fountains. It was one of the most unforgettable sights of our trip.

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Simon has dreamed of visiting the pyramids and ruins made by the Mayans in Guatemala, so we got a night bus from Guatemala City to Flores, which is one of the closest towns to the Tikal ruins. It was the first time using a night bus for Maya and Leo, and they slept all night and it was a relatively easy process.

Flores is a reasonably small town that’s full of tourist shops. We picked a tour company to take us to Tikal and got to the departure place at 4am, which was very early for us but we managed to be on time.

Tikal is an impressive complex of Mayan ruins in the middle of the jungle. We could see monkeys, birds, and a funny animal that we didn’t recognise but looked like a cross between a monkey and a raccoon. We were impressed with the ruins and the large area of the complex. We walked for a couple of hours in the jungle and Simon and I were so excited to be able to explain to Maya one of the reasons why we had picked her name. Maya means ‘wise’ in the Mayan culture. Of the three main indigenous cultures the Mayans were the scientists and architects, the Incans were the farmers and miners, and the Aztecs were the killers who had all the human sacrifices. It was interesting that the ruins that were in the best condition were always the Mayan ones because they were the best designers and had the best methods of construction. We are not sure Maya understood everything we were explaining to her, but we tried. Ha ha ha.

Maya enjoyed climbing around in the ruins, and even though we were all exhausted by midday she was still going. Ha ha ha. We were blessed with the weather and the lack of mosquitoes. It was a little cloudy and nice and cool in the jungle, which was perfect for walking.

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After our adventures in Tikal we headed back to Mexico again, to the city of Palenque. In my next blog you will find out all about our adventures in the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico.

Posted by erika_simon 06:52 Archived in Guatemala Comments (0)

First backpacking trip with the children


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We had the amazing opportunity to visit Mexico and Guatemala in January and February. My mum turned 70 in December last year and we gave her a birthday gift of a trip to Mexico and Guatemala, and of course we all went with her, because we needed to be sure she was going to be fine, hahaha. As you all know Simon and I love travelling and it was a great excuse to visit Central America.

It was our first backpacking trip with both children and I was a little concerned with the dynamics of travelling with a baby and a young child. Simon and I have a lot of experience travelling but this time we knew it was going to be different. Thank goodness everything worked perfectly and was amazing and relatively easy to travel with Maya and Leo. We just needed to travel a bit slower and do a little more planning beforehand, but the trip was great fun for everybody.

One thing that was different was that I did not have enough time to write my blogs while we were travelling, so I am writing our stories now while the children are sleeping.

We arrived in Mexico City and we were a little unlucky because immigration stopped us and checked our luggage and found some food that we should have declared (boiled eggs and popcorn). We only received a warning, but we lost some time having to wait at the airport.

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This trip was also our first time using Airbnb, which worked great for our family. Our first apartment in Mexico City was better that we expected, and we loved it.

While in the capital we visited the Zocalo area and some ruins in the middle of the city, some nice museums, etc. My mum was delighted to visit the Virgin of Guadalupe, which was the biggest highlight of the trip for her. When you are inside the church there is a famous image of the Virgin that you had to stand on a conveyor belt to see, so there was no stopping and making other people wait, you are moved passed it and then it’s gone. I think we circled around 3-4 times to get a good photo. The castle and the zoo were stunning. The zoo is enormous and fun to walk around, there are many animals such as giraffe, panda bear, hippopotamus, penguins, camels,

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After visiting the capital we headed to Puebla and San Pedro de Cholula. There were some stunning towns close to the city, and Simon was brave enough to get a rental car and drive us around the area. Cholula is famous as a town that has more than 300 churches, there is a different religious celebration about something every day. In Puebla there is are some gardens called the Giants Park, which was one of the best parks I have visited. It had a lot of famous locations and buildings done as models in small sizes, so we could show Maya and Leo the Egyptian Pyramids, the Eiffel tower, Vatican, the London eye, The White house, and lots of famous places in Mexico and some specifically in Puebla - The Star Ferris wheel, the Virgin of Guadalupe church, etc.

From our Airbnb near Puebla we were blessed that we could see the two live volcanos, which was a remarkable view for us to appreciate.

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We had the opportunity to meet up with Elizabeth and Jose who were some friends we had made in New Zealand a couple of years ago. We had a lot fun with them and they showed us around the town where they are located Texcoco and they also took us to see the Teotihuacan pyramids.

The place where these Azteca pyramids are located is an enormous area, that took a number of hours to walk around. The temples of the sun and the moon are gorgeous and stunning to see. We were lucky that we could climb to the top while Elizabeth and her son Pepito looked after Maya and Leo. From the top the view was marvellous, and it was possible to see many small ruins and the rest of the complex spread out below us.

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It was nice to be able to see some of the smaller towns in Mexico and appreciate things at a slower speed, and then to return to the big city and view the difference. Mexico was much wealthier than we had expected, the local buses were safe, clean, cheap, and a great way to get around. The weather was perfect the whole time we were there and we enjoyed every day.

Hopefully we can return again soon and visit more of Mexico.

Posted by erika_simon 09:47 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

Wow what a year!!!


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This year went so fast. I was supposed to write a blog a long time ago but finally I have found the time and managed to do this one.

We have had an incredible year. The best thing that happened to us was the birth of our second child Leo. He decided he was going to be born 12 days before his actual due date, which was the day of our baby shower, and four days before his grandmother arrived. We were so blessed that’s we had another great pregnancy and a beautiful birth. It was a water birth again and it was so fast that I honestly enjoyed it. Leo was 3780 kilos which was nearly the same weight than Maya was(3800). The contractions started around 6.30am, I went into serious labour at 9.30, we arrive at the hospital at 10, and he was born at 11:53am. It was fast, smooth, and easy. I practiced all the hypnobirthing techniques again which helped a lot.

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Maya has been a great big sister to Leo over the last four months. At the beginning it was a little difficult to get used to the new routine but after a week or two Maya was fine with Leo. Leo is a very relaxed baby, with an easy-going nature, and thankfully a really good sleeper. We are having an amazing time with him and obviously with Maya as well. We are trying to remember the baby stages that Leo is going through, but we have forgotten so much. It is unbelievable how much we need to remember about what happens and the development that Leo goes through in the few first months of life.

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My mum came to visit us in New Zealand and helped us with the children. It was great to have her with us, and she was a huge help with Leo, the house, and good company for Maya. Mum was here seven years ago for our wedding, but it has been great to reintroduce her to our friends and take her to the regular activities we attend like church, kindy, dancing, the gym, soccer, swimming, etc.

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I continued playing in the Brazilian drumming group last year, and it was extremely enjoyable. The practices and performances have been a really relaxing time for me, and I think it helps to generate the love for music for Leo. Also Maya is now one of the dancing members of this group and she has enjoyed this experience. She practices the dancing steps at home every night and has learned the songs. She knows she is one of the stars of the performances, with people taking photos and videos of her dancing with everyone.

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Simon has also had a great 2018. He finished a contract at the University in the middle of the year where he learned a lot, and now he is working for the City Council. He enjoys his job, his colleagues and the projects he is managing.

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Health-wise, all the family had a great year, with excellent health. All of us carried on biking and walking everywhere. I nearly went to the hospital on my bike to have Leo, hahahhaha. Maya loves her bike and I cannot wait to start carrying on Leo on my bike and for all the family to do long bike rides together.

Simon´s parents moved houses last year. They are living in a smaller place now, which was a change for the better, but it was a challenge to reduce their things from a five bedroom house to two bedrooms. They were happy after making this decision which was the most important thing.

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We had three great friends who passed away during 2018. Christy was a colleague from work, who loved Maya so much and helped a lot when I was pregnant with her. Charmaine, who was an extremely helpful person in the last three years and was always there when we needed her and had a big heart to help us and many families. And my great friend Bev, who I cannot believe was there for Leo´s baby shower in August and was healthy and happy and in December a rapidly growing cancer in her pancreas took her. She was always there for me and looked out for me and my family so much. We are going to miss her a lot. Life is definitely too short. These people taught me how important it is to share the most we can with our family and friends. People can go at any moment.

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We are currently in Colombia, having the most amazing Chirstmas holiday with my family. I love to be here at home. Maya is learning so much Spanish and I am sure Leo will too. We are so spoiled here. Next month we are planning to travel to Mexico and Guatemala, I promise I will write a blog sharing our adventures traveling again and this time it will be with more companions - Maya, Leo and my mum (and Simon of course). I am so excited to travel again to new places, however I am a little scared for the children. I know everything is going to be fine, so far they have been amazing travellers. Maya has visited five countries already and Leo three countries and both of them have been on many long flights, all with no problems. I am sure we are are going to have a fabulous time.

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Posted by erika_simon 08:47 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

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