Travel guide

San Agustín, Huila (Colombia)

After 3 months in the city we had itchy feet. We could hear Mother Nature’s call echoing in the wind… convincing us to set off to some place more wild. Also, we just really wanted to go on a nice holiday – drink wine in hammocks, read our books and dreamily throw away our alarm clocks for forever more.

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So we planned a mini adventure during our week off for Semana Santa. First a few days in San Agustín before heading to Putumayo to the edge of the Amazon!

As soon as we arrived in San Agustín we felt this huge sense of relief and calm that we’d been missing in the big city. It sounds cliche, but we needed a big dose of Colombian countryside to magic us back to normal. So the sweet little village of San Agustin seemed like the perfect place for our wine-in-hammock daydreaming...

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Surrounded by hills of forest green, the air felt perfectly fresh and crisp as we ventured from our bamboo cabin each morning. The town itself is quiet and pleasant, with a mixture of quaint streets, artisan shops and friendly locals.

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San Agustín is famous for its archaeological parks and somewhat mystical past. Over 500 ruins and tombstones have been discovered in this area, but incredibly, very little is known about the people who once lived here.

Many of the ruins and carvings here are up to 2000 years old, resembling a mysterious mixture of human, monsters and sacred animals. Visiting the ruins is a pretty nice day activity and is perfect for getting out into the town’s picturesque green surroundings.

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There are a few archaeological sites  to visit, but we just opted for the main one (Parque Arquelogico) which is UNESCO world heritage site and has the main collection! On day two, we did a mini hike to la chaquira, which ends with incredible hillside views that make you feel small in the best way possible. 

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Aside from this, we have to admit that the rest of our time in San  Agustín was happily spent in this little spot...

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But that's what holidays are for, right? 

Life in Cali (March Update)

Here's a little peak into our world this month - the new, the old and the tasty..

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Cali

So we're pretty settled into life in Cali now. After so many months of dorm rooms and travel, our backpacks stuffed full like fat little pastries, we're actually pretty happy to unpack, slow down and have a 'normal person' routine going on for a while. 

Not that we're becoming too normal or applying for a mortgage anytime soon ...(sorry mum).

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But anyway, as far as big South American cities go, Cali is a really cool, energetic place to live. It isn't the prettiest place in Colombia, but there really is such a lively atmosphere here and such a noticeable rhythm of life amongst the peeople.  Caleños are generally very happy people -  the sun shines bright in Cali and they love to dance salsa, so that's probably why!

The central part of the city is loud, busy and unapolagetically chaotic. The hot streets are paved with vendors selling everything from guarapo (sugar cane juice) to tea towels to little pots of shredded mango.

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We're living in San Antonio, a pretty little barrio in the northern part of the city. This is where most of the hostels are, but it's also got good foodie spots (with tons of vegetarian restaurants), nice street art and independent little shops. There's even a beautiful spice shop (La Bascula) with every spice you can think of and different dhals to choose from.

You wouldn't believe how hard it is to find different spices in Colombia, so we were pretty happy cooks when we found ourselves here!

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 Fermenting

Now we've finally got our own place, we've been going a little crazy with fermenting things! This month we've been making fennel infused sauerkraut, pickled jalapenos, fermented carrots with mustard seeds, preserved limes and kombucha.
We plan on doing some recipes for a few of the above soon, but in the mean time here's our recipe for kombucha

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 Watching

One of the best films we've seen recently is 'El Abrazo de la Serpiente' (The Embrace of the Serpent)- A magical colombian film based around indigenous culture and the beautiful nature of the Amazon. Really reccomend this to anyone interested in traveling or different cultures!

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We also watched the documentary 'Cowspiracy' on Netflix recently... Completely mind blowing and a big eye opener to how the meat/dairy industry is effecting global warming right now. It's co produced by Leonardo Dicaprio and is on Netflix if that's a big enough seal of approval! 

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Writing 

30 days of Journalling via The Messy Heads 

I (Gabby) love the messy Heads blog, a really cool online space for creative, messy, cool women! If you like writing or doing a daily journal, this list of prompts is a really self reflective/fun way to change up your writing for a month! 

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Happy Easter everyone! X

Varanasi – Life, death and the world’s best Lassi

I’d never really faced death so closely until we arrived in Varanasi. This enchanting, unforgetble place is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world. Built along the holy river Ganges, it's here that the beginnings and endings of life are woven together to create something truly extraordinary.

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Many Hindus believe that dying in Varanasi offers Moshka – freedom from the cycle of birth and death in order to reach nirvana. Thousands of pilgrims travel here every day to prepare themselves for death. People bathe in the Ganges, drink from it to cleanse their sins and offer their cremated loved ones to the holy water. It's no doubt that this can be an overwhelming place - the demanding heat, burning corpses and endless hassle can leave you feeling both physically/emotionally tired. But we promise It's more than worth it to persevere! 

Strolling along the Ghats is a fascinating, almost twisted-dream for anyone who loves to people watch. From children’s swimming lessons in the river to groups of mourning families and wandering sadhus –it’s incredible to witness a place bursting with so much life and death in one single moment. 

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And so, Varanasi instills such an indescribable feeling in so many of its visitors. To see these intimate acts of religion displayed so publically is so contrasting to our own private culture. But intensity aside, it’s hard not to be astounded by this crazy, magical city that celebrates both life and death in such a unique way. 

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Although strolling along the Ghats and through the ever-winding alleys is a great way to see the city, a sunrise/sunset boat ride is the most popular way to see the streams of life that run through the Ganges. We joined a sunset boat ride which slowly rode us along the Ghats, ending with a perfect view of the famous evening ceremony.

As hundreds of people sung from the Ghats, the golden fires reflecting upon the water and clouds of smoke filling the air, this definitely felt like one of the most surreal experiences of our lives so far. We didn't even take any photos as we were so consumed by the whole moment – either way I’m not sure they could do it justice!

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Sleepy dogs in hidden corners  

Sleepy dogs in hidden corners  

No surprises - we also found some delicious food in Varanasi, including (probably) the best Lassis in the world from ‘Blue Lassi Shop’. For those new to Lassi, this is a tasty Indian drink made with fresh yoghurt, water and often fruits and spices.

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Blue Lassi Shop is no secret to Varanasi, in fact it’s got a pretty legendary reputation as being one of the oldest joints in the city to churn out incredible Lassis. Served in rustic clay pots with mounds of delicate toppings and a spoon – each Lassi is incredibly thick, creamy and so tasty. Definitely the best Lassi we had in the whole of India. There’s a huge amount of flavour options – we tried quite a few, but our favourite was this perfect mango and coconut one.

Blue Lassi is also famous amongst travellers for its strong Bhang Lassis. Drink one of these before a river boatride, and you're guaranteed to have a crazy, dazzling trip of a lifetime.

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We also found some delicious dosas hidden away amongst the faded alleyways. Dosa is a thin, crispy pancake made from fermented rice. This one was stuffed with cashews and vegetables, served up with spicy samba and dreamy coconut chutney! 

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So happily tired and with our bellies satisfied, we left the wonder of Varanasi to head onwards to Agra. So for anyone planning a trip to India, make sure this city is on your list. This true experience of the senses is something you won’t forget for a very long time….

Little Andaman Island

As we rode through Little Andaman Island in the back of a jeep, a small part of us felt like we'd reached the end of the world. And it felt like pure magic, like a true adventure beginning to unfold.

Nowadays it’s rare to visit a place in the world that feels undiscovered, but Little Andaman still feels special in that respect. Its beaches are dramatic in their emptiness, the locals’ huge smiles are warm and genuine…and there isn’t a souvenir shop in sight.

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Despite its name, there isn’t actually much all ‘little’ about Little Andaman – it’s got a big heart, it’s large in size and the boat journey from Port Blair is around 10 hours long. With infrequent boats, no internet, vast rainforest and a few crocodiles (yes, really), this is definitely a place more suited for those wanting to escape the beaten path and feel truly disconnected. And while the longish journey and remote location puts a lot of tourists off, we practically skipped onto our boat and could have stayed forever more…

So here’s more about our favourite place we’ve ever been to and the kindest souls we had the pleasure of meeting…

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Blue View 

Our 10 day stay on Little Andaman was partly so great due to the home we made at Blue View Resort. Run by possibly the happiest and friendliest man in the whole of India, Bubba, we immediately felt so at home here in this basic but extremely welcoming hostel.

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There aren’t a lot of accommodation options on Little Andaman and on the first few days of our stay there were only 4 other tourists on the whole island. But while most of the hostel options are aesthetically similar, Bubba’s real priority is creating a contagiously happy and relaxed atmosphere for his family of guests. And it works so well. Our simple beach hut cost just 100RS (£1) per night with shared toilets, but more importantly we have incredible memories simply hanging out here with new friends and delicious food.

There were also 4 puppies clambering about the place during our stay…making hammock time even sweeter!

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Highlights: Butler Bay, Big Waterfall, The Lighthouse

There is a lot to explore on Little Andaman, from empty beaches to waterfalls to sweaty jungle trekking. These were our favourite three spots:

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Butler Bay

Butler Bay is the most famous beach on Little Andaman – a dreamy turquoise bay tucked away behind the forest. Despite being the island’s main attraction, we only saw around 2 other people on the beach during all our visits. This is also a great spot for surfing – boards are available to rent on the island if you ask at your accommodation. We opted for the sloth-like option and buried ourselves in books and mangos.

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The Big Waterfall 

The Island has 2 main waterfalls, helpfully referred to as the little and big waterfalls. We heard great things about the latter (official name: Whisper Wave Waterfall) and found ourselves flung into a day-long adventure getting there on our first full day. Located deep into the jungle, getting there yourself requires renting a motorbike/moped, driving on tricky terrain for 1-2 hours and then over an hour trek in the jungle. As you can imagine, it feels like quite an achievement finally arriving there, and it's worth it to see this beautiful waterfall and its surroundings.

It is possible to rent a guide to get you there, but we really enjoyed the journey and it was a great day trip with a few people. It sound obvious, but make sure to get clear directions before you leave! Annoyingly we didn't bring our camera, but trust us, it's cool! 

Lighthouse Beach

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Near the islands' lighthouse lies the favourite bit of beach we visited. White sand and crystal clear, shallow water make this place seem almost unreal. I definitely had to pinch myself when we arrived here...

There's also some really beautifully rugged beaches on the road past the jetty, so we recommend exploring there!

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Food

The food on Little Andaman was one of our favourite parts of Island life – with endless fresh coconuts, incredible fish and classic Indian dishes. Mainland India is a very cheap place to travel, but Little Andaman was even cheaper.  Any place where fresh fish fry costs 60RS (60p) and mangos are 30RS (30p) for a kilo (!) is our version of paradise. Oh and you can find small lobsters for 120RS (£1.20)!

Hut Bay is the main place to get food on the island but, weirdly, most places close during lunchtime hours (12 onwards). Everywhere begins to open again from 3pm onwards, so it’s best to adjust your mealtimes accordingly and buy lots of snacks!

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Some of the nicest memories we have are from this special island and it's warm-hearted people. For more island life, check out our posts on Neil Island and Ross Island.