A family book study

Even though school has started, and our summer of travel long over, I am posting this travel related piece anyway. Since I wasn't sure if slogging through Colombia for three weeks was enough to make the kids despise me, we've decided to do a family book study, complete with chapter by chapter mini projects and the dreaded discussion questions, for the next few weeks. Luis came up with the idea and chose the book, The 21 Balloons by William Pene du Bois. The kids are aghast that we could come up with yet another way to ruin their lives. As middle school educators we are keenly adept at conjuring up ways to torture kids.

The book, written in 1947, is actually pretty interesting. I am surprised that a book exists that we could all enjoy, but then again I have never tried to do something like this before. In a nutshell, the story is about how an explorer came to be found in the Atlantic Ocean among 21 balloons when he had only departed San Francisco 40 days earlier in a single hot air balloon. I have been writing the discussion questions and coming up with the mini projects as I read.

We do the discussion parts at meal times to take advantage of the captive audience. The very first page describes two kinds of travelers...one kind is all about getting to the destination and enjoying it when you get there, the other kind is all about the journey. We talked about which type of travelers we were and under what circumstances. We related the styles to the different experiences we had in Colombia.
For our hands on project we designed our own hot air balloons using helium balloons.

In chapter 2 when Professor Sherman finally reaches San Francisco to tell his balloon adventure story "a hero's welcome is prepared" by decorating the city with all kinds of balloons. We prepared our own hero's welcome by making mini hot air balloons.

Half way through the project someone decided we should let our balloons go when we were finished.

Maya added a note for the lucky finder of her balloon.

They look pretty cool! Even though we got in at least 3 arguments during the making of these things, I would say it was a pretty successful family project. The kids definitely forgot all about how much they hated it.

And the balloons are free!
Since all they really want to do is have maximum screen time, the next task involved doing an Internet search of hot air balloons capable of crossing an ocean. Then they were to design and draw their own ocean crossing balloon. They could use any of the features they learned about but they had to include at least one of their own design. For all the moaning and groaning they did on this task they each produced a pretty good drawing.

Jack made a four level structure. His features furniture made of bamboo for its lightness and a propane powered stove. His "food floor" is stocked with turkey, mutton, cheese, pickles, bread, and water.

This is a birds eye view of Maya's ocean crossing balloon basket, which is actually an inflatable boat. A pantry stocked with meats, fruits, veggies, and water on one side and a pillow and blanket with a journal and a pile of books on the other.

Her design was in two parts. This second drawing shows the side view of her boat/basket.
The main character crash lands his hot air balloon on Krakatoa and encounters an inventive and utopian society. We had some nice conversations about what kind of characteristics and skills would make a person good candidate for living on a small uncharted island. Each of us, like the islanders, had to come up with an invention that would make island life easier.
Reading this book together was a nice bridge from travel to home, in part because it was all about travel and also because it gave us reason to spend time together which is something we get pretty used to doing on the road.
We had grand intentions of building a hot air balloon out of tissue paper and powered by sterno fuel or candles as a grand finale...but as the start of school approached we became increasingly apathetic. Building a hot air balloon remained on our family "to do" board for weeks, and I think it is still there. It's certainly doubtful that we will do it now that school is in full swing and the kids are in constant book project mode. Anyway, like Colombia, the family book study had highs and lows but was worth it all the same.


Colombia Wrap Up

Some final thoughts on costs and a top 10 list for Colombia.

I have added up our expenses.....we spent 152$ a day for the four of us to travel in Colombia, or about 38$ per person. This budget includes everything but our airfares. It covers in country transport (buses, taxis, motos), food, snacks, bottled water, hotels, activities, and souvenirs (we didn't buy that much).

I was expecting Colombia to be much cheaper. I did hours and hours of research for this trip, but I was still surprised to pay 65$ a night for a hotel room. In Colombia they charge by the person, unlike at home where you can get a 40$ room at a motel 6 and sneak/cram 4 people in there. Staying in a dorm room for 10$ per person a night would have reduced our costs but our family needed the space and privacy afforded by a double room with its own bathroom.

We didn't do a ton of activities so that helped save s bit of money. I think most people would have done a lot more activities than we did. We held back because of the costs and because our kids will only tolerate one excursion a day, and don't like to do activities two days in a row. This works to our benefit because half the time (who am I kidding, more than half the time!) they just want to hang out at the hotel. When you do independent budget travel with kids looking for a place to eat three times a day is plenty of culture for them. Walking to a town plaza and eating ice cream is plenty enough activity. They don't to feel the need to "do" a country. They can just barely "be" in another country.

Food wasn't a huge budget breaker. An average meal with soup, chicken, rice, beans, tostones, salad, and a fresh juice costs about 6$. Since the portions are huge we just ordered 3 meals for all of us. Our usual routine was to make our own breakfast in the hotel from food we purchased in a market the day before. If the place had a kitchen we'd buy stuff to make omelets, if not then we'd eat bread, fruit, and an avocado. For dinner we always scoured the area for street food which was excellent fun. We could eat fried chicken and potatoes at one cart then move on to empanadas and the next. Street food dinners would cost the entire family less than 10$. We could have spent less on food by always staying in a hotel with a community kitchen and cooking most of our meals there. Cooking and eating like a local would have cut our food budget easily in half, as we found grocery store food (the exception being American and European foods) to be pretty cheap.

There's really no getting around the high cost of transportation. Our bus tickets from Sincelejo to Medellin and from Medellin to Tolu costs us 450$. Could it have been cheaper if we didn't take the big comfortable Brasilia buses? I don't know because I didn't go from counter to counter at the bus station surveying the prices of all the other companies looking for a small, rickety, uncomfortable bus to travel overnight. I was more interested in comfort and safety than saving money in this case. Getting in and out of Mompos cost us about 200$. We had a snafu each way which led to taking expensive and lengthy rides in hired cars. In Medellin we over spent on a taxi we used to go all over town looking for a hotel that didn't exist. Otherwise, our bus, moto, taxi travel was pretty straightforward. Transportation mixups are par for the course when you travel independently, there's no one to figure it all out for you so mistakes along the way are bound to be made.

Lastly, we could have reduced our daily budget by eliminating the daily ice cream/sweet treat. I am pretty sure this would have caused a total mutiny as it can be a bright spot in an otherwise difficult situation. The daily treat was also used as a bribe, straight from the parent of the year tool box. Also you need to consider all the times when they upped the ante to more than one treat a day, to which I usually obliged.

A note about safety in Colombia. Without hesitation I will say that we felt completely safe in Colombia. Not even once did we have to duck for cover in a cross fight between paramilitaries and drug lords! Seriously though, there is a lot of police and military presence everywhere you go in Colombia and it does create the feeling that someone is keeping the peace. I definitely felt more safe in Colombia than I do in my home town. At home I fear gang activity, break ins, kidnapping, and gun violence. Makes me think we need a battalion of machine gun slinging national guardsmen patrolling our neighborhoods and public spaces here at home. The average law abiding citizen would be significantly safer, especially from gang activity. Luis said that this was a really republican attitude for me to have. Whatever. I'm just sick of the way gangs have taken over neighborhoods around here and I'd like to see our armed forces do battle with them. Oops, did I just say that? Anyway, using a little common sense (not walking around drunk late at night with wads of cash with a fancy camera strapped around our neck) security was not an issue for us.

What people say about Colombians is also true, they are pretty nice and friendly. Colombian tourists are a particularly happy group of people. They seem genuinely thrilled to be exploring their own country. We didn't meet a ton of other travelers, except a few in some of the hotels we stayed in. The travelers we did talk with were the typical 20 something backpacking type, most of whom were pretty awestruck that we were doing independent backpacking travel with our kids. We certainly did not meet, or even see, foreign tourists traveling with children. With the exception of the Colombian American family we met at the coffee factory in Minca, we didnt meet or notice any Americans in the entire 3 weeks....except at the airport, so we must have been running around somewhere!

We each came up with our own top ten best things about our trip to Colombia list. Here's mine, in no particular order:

1. San Antero mud volcano

2. The food

3. The futbol game in Medellin

4. The old city in Cartagena

5. The Metro and night time cable car in Medellin

6. River trips in Mompos and Tolu

7. Pozo Azul in Minca (riding the motos and jumping off the rocks)

8. La Victoria Coffee Plantation and drinking coffee

9. Interesting and challenging modes of transportation

10. Limeade

It feels good to make a top ten on what I liked about Colombia. It hasn't been easy to describe the trip in glowing terms when people ask how it was, but making this list...much like making a gratitude list....makes it obvious that we had many good times and experienced much happiness and wonder.


So how do you afford this anyway?

I've been promising a post for some time now explaining how we manage to fund these trips on teachers salaries, which as you may know are appallingly low in our county. In fact they are projected to be even lower as another pay cut is expected to be issued this year. A pay CUT. Never mind the fact that teachers here haven't received a raise in over four years and the cost of our health benefits have increased.

So how are we managing to still take three week international trips with two kids? While I am not going to embarrass myself and divulge our income, I will tell you that this can be easily figured out on the county schools website. If you have never looked into what a teacher makes in our county, be prepared to be unpleasantly surprised. Ah, but I digress. I'll try to explain how we have been able to make this work and hopefully I don't come across as pious or holier than thou.

First of all, we have very little debt. No student loans, no credit card debt, no car payment. The only debt we have is a mortgage payment which we have refinanced to be pretty low. Not being in debt means we live within our means. We have 9$ cable and a cheap cell phone plan. We don't save a hellava lot for our kids college educations. We both drive cars that are over ten years old and we only buy what we can pay for in any given month.
Every month when we get paid I put 600$ into a savings account which nets us 6000$ a year to spend on a three week trip. Our maximum daily budget is 150$ to include lodging, transport, food, activities and excursions, and trinkets to bring home. With this daily budget we can spend up to 700$ on airfares each which limits the places in the world we can go.

No student loans was a result of some deliberate choices and some luck. I went to community college for two years which was dirt cheap. Then my parents paid for a year of university, I worked, and I met Luis, who helped me pay for the last year. As for graduate school, I had a graduate assistantship. Luis had the GI bill and various scholarships to put him through college and he worked the whole time.

I do realize that our financial lives can be ruined by one large medical disaster or accident, or a hurricane. We haven't run into huge life sucking major expenses like braces. More than likely, the year my kid gets those (and we know he will be getting them) we aren't going anywhere but the orthodontists office. My kids aren't old enough to drive, so we aren't being bled for 200$ a month in car insurance for a new teenage driver. When Luis starts graduate school we will have a huge tuition bill to navigate. Won't be going anywhere for those years either. When he does his year long internship thats gonna be a mighty huge pay cut because he wont be working! Oh yeah, when my 12 year old car or Luis' 16 year old truck bites the dust were gonna need some new wheels....and won't be going anywhere that year either. All signs point to the grim reality that this recent trip to colombia may have been our last for a really long time. That just about makes me cry, but really theres not much i can do about it is there? I am also oddly superstitious so just by typing this post I have made myself vulnerable to the good luck gods who are now jealous of our up until now fortunate existence.

Another part of having enough money to travel with is attitude. A little history on why we don't feel deprived of life's embellishments while we save for travel. Luis and I have been together for over 20 years and have always lived off of very meager incomes. As students we were broke, and we resisted the urge to borrow money because being in debt is a horrible ball and chain. Then when he got his first job I decided to stay home and raise kids. So we lived on this ridiculously low teachers salary with two kids at home! There are several things we did for this near decade that allowed this to happen for us. One, we found ways to make a little extra money under the table like lawn mowing, handyman work, babysitting, and sewing. We made a lot of the things we needed and fixed what was broken. We trash picked (well, I did), went to tag sales, and received many hand me downs. In fact, our kids dressed exclusively in hand me downs the whole time. I breastfed and we coslept negating the need for formulas, prepared baby foods, and nursery furnishings. I cannot underestimate having the benefits of WIC and Medicade that the kids and I utilized during those at home years.

I guess you could say that after 19 years of being frugal and essentially living off the same amount of yearly income and having amazing luck were used to being thrifty, resourceful, and in constant depravation mode.

So when both kids were finally in school and I went back to work, what stopped us from going crazy and buying new cars and iPhones? This is another long story. Do you have time?

Waaaaay back in 1995 we had to make a choice. And it wasn't a choice I wanted to make, in fact I was downright pissed that I was being asked to make it. The kind of choice that, when you are in your early twenties and still feel entitled to your parents financial support, when made will have a profound impact on your life. You just don't know it at the time. And like most kids you resent your parents for putting any boundaries on your dreams of doing nothing forever.

We were living in Chicago at the time. We committed to staying for a year at a cheap apartment in the city while working two jobs to save up for a round the world trip with no definite end. We had just come back from many months spent in India, South East Asia, and Central America and we're seriously and hopelessly bitten by the travel bug. We had decided during that time of our young lives that traveling, specifically shoestring budget backpacker nomad type traveling, was the absolute number one priority in our lives. We were bitten at just the right time in life I think, to always have it in our blood. And so here we were saving our pennies working 16 hour days just so we could go off again on a big explore.

Enter my mom. My mom, who in an act of self preservation, told us that we needed to have a plan for what we were gonna do when we returned. She had a litany of friends whose twenty something kids had returned home to live, no, leach, off of their parents because they hadn't bothered to make plans after college, as in finding a job and a place to live on their own. These friends of hers did nothing but complain about these lecherous kids, and yet they never did a thing about it. They didn't kick them out or even require them to pay rent. These parents were miserable, they complained to my mom, what with having an extra mouth to feed and loosing their privacy and all. Never mind that these twenty somethings were slobs to boot.

My mom had resolved to not let this happen to her. So she told us that we better have plans when we returned. When we returned? Geeze, that's half the fun of it! Who knows what we are gonna do when we get home? And who wants to think about when we come home? What a buzz kill. We were living in the moment, baby! Who needed plans?

Then she let the hammer fall. We'd better have some plans for when we return BECAUSE WE WEREN'T GOING TO LIVE WITH HER (and ruin her life like her friends kids). Hold it, you mean she wasn't going to catch us when we fell? What kind of mother.......humph, you know I was pissed. Really, why can't we just do whatever we want, spend all our money, and have the old rents to fall back on? Let them pick up the pieces, we deserve our fun in life!

But she was serious. She kinds freaked us out a little. So we made some plans for our eventual return. We made some plans to go to college and find careers already!

Put the brakes on and hold the phone. Careers? Uh, no, we were too good for the likes of a nine to five career. Chained to a company for 30 years begging for a few days off at Christmas? That lifestyle is for our parents generation thank you very much. What fun is that anyway? Who even LIKES working? And HOW do people travel the world working 50 weeks a year anyway?

Asking these questions led us to pursue the only kind of employment you can have that affords ample time off....teaching. Now, I am sorry to anyone who thinks that we had any other REAL motive for getting into our profession. Sure, we like kids, we dig that "ah ha" moment in our students, and all that fluff. But the real reason we chose our careers is because we would have to spend the least amount of time doing them. Oh sure we have a bunch of more mature motivations for being educators nowadays. But that's how it started.

And that leads us back to those broke ass college days, which you already know about. A combination of luck, deliberate choices, not many financial disasters, and teachable moments- that's how we afford international travel on a teachers salary.


Tough Travelers

And they are indeed, tough travelers. If they were a few feet taller they'd fit right in with the scruffiest of twenty something backpackers. Maya practically has dreads and Jacks shoes are so beat up they are being held together by threads (in fact they did finally break this evening while we were walking through the old city in Cartagena. He had to walk back to the hotel barefoot which was disgusting).

I am really proud of them for making it though three weeks in Colombia. There were tears and temper tantrums for sure, but many happy times doubling over with laughter at the many inside jokes we created along the way. The smell of our stinky clothes that have been washed once in three and a half weeks is pretty powerful, especially in this small hotel room.

And speaking of our hotel, we are staying at La Magdalena again, having made a one night reservation through booking.com like last time. Wouldn't you know it, they remembered us, had our room ready, even called us by name. They seemed genuinely happy to see us again. The street food vendor at chorizo katy remembered us too, from three weeks ago,when we walked by, calling out to us, hey amigo! Of course we had to buy a little bag of his sausage and potatoes. At Mulato Sabor where we had lunch for three days in a row when we first got to colombia were so pleasantly surprised to see us when we walked in this afternoon.

So what they say about Colombian people being so nice really is true, and we knew it all along (well, except for preadolescent boys, see previous post from mompos). We didn't come here for the sights, actually we didn't really know what kind of sights Colombia would be famous for. We didn't come here because the people were rumored to be nice. I guess we came here because it's something not many people do, and we wanted to do something and go somewhere really unique and different, yet relatively affordable. I mean, really, who goes to Colombia? We do!

Most people, including us before we came here, think that Colombia is totally off limits because of security issues. But when we met backpackers in Peru back in 2010 who had been to Colombia we were intrigued about their glowing reports of traveling in Colombia. I read a jillion lonely planet thorn tree forum postings about how safe this country actually is and that was reassuring as well. Colombia has such a bad rep for being dangerous, but like I have said before, I felt completely safe here all the time day and night....except for that nasty river port town. The safe feeling wasn't entirely due to police presence either. We have experienced that before in other countries and sometimes it makes us feel safer (Peru) and sometimes it doesn't (panama). I think part of the reason we felt safe here was the energy from Colombian tourists. There were just so many of them, everywhere we went. These folks seems to be enjoying traveling around their country more than any other people we have encountered...even if they do leave all that darn trash everywhere.

A few days ago I might have said I regret coming here, that it was too hard going and too many roads were unpaved. With less than 24 hours to go, I don't feel that kind of regret anymore. I am glad that we pushed our selves, faced tough times and unknown circumstances. All I have to do is look at this picture on this post and I know that this trip has given the kids so much confidence that they really can handle anything life gives them. With any luck, our family travels will make them want to seek out the fartherest corners of the world and crave intense experiences. We joke that we have beat the traveler out of them, and that when they grow up the only place they will ever want to take their kids is Disney World.

On this trip the kids revealed new plans they have dreamed up for their future which gave me a little window into the people they might become. Maya said she wanted to work in a foreign country helping people recover from natural disasters. This trip is helping her to form her place in the world and how she might contribute to it. As for Jack, well, we were in a small corner store and he put a 500 peso coin, worth about 50 cents but it would buy an empanada or a little sweet treat, on top of a cereal box and exclaimed that he was going to make someones day by leaving it there for a lucky person to find. Then he said that when he becomes rich and famous, as a soccer star of course, he was going to walk into stores and tape random $100 bills onto boxes of things so that people could find them and be happy. In our day to day lives I don't often see, or stop to see, the charity and generosity that is growing in these children of mine. Just looking at this picture again I see it more and more.


Mangroves, oysters, and street food nirvana

There is a lot to do in tolu, Colombia. One thing we would not do here though is go to the beach, even though it is a beach town.

That's becasue the beaches here are full of trash. And that's the problem with all of the small towns in Colombia, there is so much trash polluting the beautiful natural resources of this country. Local tourists who visit these little places like Minca and tolu completely trash the place. Food containers, broken liquor bottles, dirty diapers. They just leave it all behind without a care. My friends at home will know what its like to have tourists trash the beaches. Just have a look at the beach by the pier or one of the barrier islands after a holiday weekend, both are totally trashed by visiting tourists.
We don't mind that we didn't go the beach here, we can certainly do that at home. Today we went to La Boca De La Cienega, which is a nature preserve just a short collectivo ride from tolu. It is a brackish river with five kinds of mangroves and a beautiful ecosystem.
When you get off the collectivo there are canoe guides waiting to take tourists on a two hour canoe ride.

You can rent a giant hat for a dollar which I highly recommend not for it's style but for the sun protection!

The ride itself is very relaxing and quiet.

I took the pictures while everyone else helped the guide paddle the canoe.

Oysters grow on the roots of the mangrove trees and harvesting and tasting a few is a part of the deal.

We paddled over to the mangroves and the guide pried a few right off the roots. He piled them up on the seat and we kept going until we came to this little floating snack bar.

We docked, had a coke, and watched the guide prepare the fresh raw oysters.

I felt pretty sure I was going to be poisoned by eating this raw thing, something I wouldn't even eat at home. But we all decided it would be the first and last time we had the opportunity to do something like this. So we each took one, the boys ate theirs gladly and wished there were more.

Maya took a while to get up the nerve to slurp the thing down, but she finally did.

It's been ten hours since we ate the things and I think if we were going to be sick it would have happened by now. I hope I am right because sitting on the toilet is not how I want to spend my last 48 hours in Colombia.
So the rest of the trip was spent paddling through tunnels made in the mangroves.

Nice way to spend the morning! No motors and no music, just peace and quiet. A rare treat in this country. Afterwards we waited by the roadside for a collectivo to come by.

But at least the view was beautiful.

Back in tolu we had a little fresh fish at a seaside place.

The best part of the day was discovering street food nirvana. I am pretty experienced at street food in my opinion, we eat it every day. But the empanadas and the fried chicken were getting seriously old. Then I came upon this delight.

So this guy takes a giant smashed plantain and tops it with sautéed chicken, cheese, shoestring potatoes, and four kinds of sauce. For under 3 bucks it's the best thing all around! Jack opted for a hamburger and said it was the best one he has had in all of Colombia.

Meanwhile a virtual parade of Colombian tourists are coming by on their triple seater bicitaxis.

Each one of these vehicles is equipped with a set of speakers powered by a car battery and they all play different gut vibrating music. The kids really wanted to go on one but Luis refused saying he didn't want everyone staring at us...like it was an unusual thing to do. The kids made a deal that if I would buy them some candy then they would shut up about the ride. I went for the deal.
We are leaving in the morning for cartegena, our very last stop before the flight home.


A four star day in Tolu Colombia

When we first started looking into a trip to Colombia, one of the things that interested me was checking out a very unique feature of the carribean coast, mud volcanoes.

There is one 45 minutes south or Cartagena which attracts a lot of tourists. I showed the kids pics I found online before we came here and they said no way! It was crowded, only 15 x 15 feet, and there was actually a line to get in. There is also a huge crater another few hours south in arboletes, but we decided not to go that far.

So when I found out that there was one near Tolu I was thrilled! We got directions from the hotel and it seemed pretty straight forward. We took a 45 minute bus south to Covenas for a few bucks each.

Then in covenas we took another smaller bus, the kind of minivan thingy designed to hold 7 but actually carries 19, to San antero. Actually you don't get off in San Antero, but just tell the driver you want to go to Volcan de lodo (volcano of mud), which is another 30 minute ride. So we are let off in what looks like the absolute middle of nowhere, and we see this sign.

We start walking up the dirt road, which, since we can't see what's over the top, it looks like its going to be a long long march in some god awful heat. The kids swear that if this turns into a hours long trek they are going to hate me forever. I guess I have a bad rep for telling them that these walks will be easy and quick and that the sight or activity at the end will be infinitely rewarding. But the walks are never easy nor quick, and they are usually bitter and unimpressed at the end. But what choice do they have in the middle of nowhere in the jungle colombia?

Soon enough we see a few shacks and a place to buy tickets, which were about $1.70.

But where's the mud? Off to the left there is a fenced in area, and just beyond that fence is the most ridiculous thing.

Yup, it's a huge crater of mud. The kids take one look and cry that this is the worst thing I have ever done to them and that there is no way they are going in there. They stomp off to sulk on a bench in the shade, hating life.

Even Luis looks a little skeptical. All I can do is laugh! But Luis saves the day and breaks the ice....I mean mud. He strips down to his bathing suit and makes his way in.

I am laughing hysterically as he sinks into the deep and bottomless mud pit. This piques the kids interest and they can't help but make their way off the bench to look in. Dad is in the mud!?! Unable to keep their sour attitudes a moment longer they soon join him with huge grins on their faces.

Soon enough I make my way down into the pit. A mud volcano is the most tactile experience I have ever had. Its the consistency of toothpaste, but more dense. You cant really sink, but are more suspended in a kind of weightlessness. You can put your limbs in any position and they will stay suspended. To get past your chest you really have to work at screwing your hips down. It is really really viscous. It has no smell and it practically body temperature. Getting more than a few feet away from the steps takes tremendous effort. It's like you weight 400 pounds and can only move in slow motion.

Let me tell you that I really enjoyed this so much and would rate it as one of the coolest things I have ever done! I stayed in there for at least two hours and I would lounge in one of these every day if I had one in my backyard.

We had the place to ourselves for a little while, but we're soon joined by a group of Colombian tourists who had as good a time as we did.

When you finally make your way out there are outdoor showers and ladies there to help you get the mud off for a small tip.

They really just reach right into your suit and start swishing the mud off. But you let them do it because the amount of mud you have to wash off is a two person job for sure.

Finally clean we make our way down the dirt road and to the main road back to San antero, not exactly sure how we will get back but knowing that soon enough some form of transportation will show up. Within minutes a mini van pulls up and takes us back to San Antero when we find a fantastic place for lunch. San antero is a lovely little town. I see me or two hotels that seem ok. If i had to do it again i would stay here. Its close to the mud volcano and a good beach,playa blanca. The kids are absolutely beat from trying to get around in that mud all afternoon so we cancel our plans for an afternoon at the beach and make our way back to the hotel, knowing we have an hour long two bus ride journey ahead.

When I make my top ten list for Colombia I know this experience will be number one!!