“Where everyone knows your name” is now published by Bradt Travel Guides. The tale takes place in tiny Wimbí, an Afroecuadorian village along the farthest reaches of the Cayapa River, as it snakes its way through the Chocó rainforest. Separated from the Amazon by the Andes, the Chocó is remote, barely explored, and bloody hot.
But unlike the routine travel we do back home – the daily commute, the weekend trips to visit family – “travelling” can provide some truly memorable means of reaching a destination, and as the Chinese proverb says, the journey becomes the reward. Here’s a round up of my five most memorable travel experiences – some because they were terrifying, others because they were unexpected. And many were both.
La Nomadita has a “Lord of the Flies” moment with the boy hunters of the Choco rainforest, Ecuador
The Afroecuadorians of Esmeraldas are descendants of West African slaves brought here five centuries ago. Some of their ancestors escaped slavery, some were freed from the mines. Others dodged slavery altogether when their ship was wrecked in the rough Pacific watersc, and they managed to swim to shore to create a new life for themselves in the South American jungle.
At five foot ten, Juan the shaman was unusually tall for an Aymara indian. He lived alone in the forest under the dense canopy of a mahogany tree, alongside the jawbones of his long-dead ancestors.
One of the surprises of travelling is that it is often the big attractions and wildlife that draw us to a place, but the tiniest, quietest things that end up being most fascinating. So many times I’ve looked forward to admiring a towering mountain, or encountering an enormous African elephant, but it’s the diminutive insects …
Laguna Cuicocha – a bottomless lake in the high Ecuadorean Andes, is a sacred place where even the most cynical westerner can feel the spirit of Pachamama – the Inca Mother Earth.
I often wonder whether the bizarre situations I find myself in when I travel are a reflection of the craziness and unpredictability of the places I visit; or simply that, when travelling, I consciously open myself up to new experiences that, at home, I would not. I’m inclined to think it’s a potent combination of the …