Category Archives: south america

Rest in Peace, my dear Sandra

Sandra Maria Martinez Vasquez, of Medellin, Colombia
Sandra Maria Martinez Vasquez, of Medellin, Colombia

Those who are close to me will recognize this lovely lady as a very special person in my life who had an enormous influence on me in many ways. Her name is Sandra María Martínez Vasquez from Medellín, Colombia and she taught me what true and lasting love is and feels like. I would like to share my memory with you, as a tribute to her. Continue reading Rest in Peace, my dear Sandra

Feria Artesanal y Cultural del Caribe in Cartagena, Colombia

Colombian arts, crafts and souvenirs on sale at the 63 Feria Artesenal y Cultural del Caribe. A row of vendors’ stalls in the background at left.

Overview: The 63 Feria Artesanal y Cultural del Caribe (translation: The 63rd Caribbean Craft and Cultural Fair) in Cartagena is a great place to go for foreigners and Colombians looking for traditional and apparently authentic Colombian arts and crafts. You’ll also find plenty of souvenirs or gifts with a distinctly local flavour: toys, sweets, authentic Colombian-style hats, knick-knacks, leatherware, pottery, clothing, sculptures, paintings, and musical instruments. Be ready to haggle and don’t buy the first item you see: most items are sold by multiple vendors. We found one item at nearly half of what another vendor was selling it for.

Theatre and music: The fair also includes folklore music (Festival Folklorico) and popular theatre (Teatro Popular). There is a large stage set up at the back of the venue, presumably for music and drama productions. Neither of these appeared to be underway during our visit.

How much: You’ll pay COP 2,000 per person to enter. Typical Colombian fast food is sold inside: arepas al carbon con todo, perros calientes, salchipapas, pizza, etc. Prices are reasonable.

When: The 63rd edition was held this year from June 30th to July 31st. From what I understand its held twice a year, and will be back again in January during the peak tourist season.

Getting there: You’ll find it in the Chambacú sector, on the right side of Avenida Pedro de Heredia as you’re heading past the old fortress of Castillo San Felipe on your way into “Centro”. From the entrance to the Feria, you can see the huge new shopping centre “Mall Plaza El Castillo“. Check out the map made available on (a Colombian entertainment website similar to “What’s On”) – note that the price listed there is incorrect.

Special note: Its hard to know if all the arts and crafts sold at this fair are “authentic”. In this article I read online, some Colombian-style hats are made in China these days and sold at low prices, undercutting traditional hat-makers. In addition it erodes confidence in the market since unscrupulous vendors may claim they are made locally. According to the article, at least one vendor has gone to lengths to convince her customers that she is by showing them what a fake hat looks like. As for the quasi-governmental organisation Artisans of Colombia, it defines a craft as not made through a standardised or mechanised process, but by a craftsman or artisan using a special skill or knowledge.

Got a sweet tooth? This vendor sells all sorts of sweets and snacks.

Skydiving from 12,000 feet in Boituva, Brazil

My friend Gisele, our skydiving instructor “Galinha” and I

I finally took the plunge and tried skydiving! I jumped at about noon today, and I still feel like I’m catching my breath. The experience has left me totally raw and my heart hasn’t slowed down all day. I’ve tried everything – having a beer, flaking in the sun, eating a good meal, taking a 2-hour nap, going for a swim – do you think I should just chill out and enjoy the adrenaline rush? It’s not like I’ll get any real work done tonight, even if I wanted to. I haven’t written on my website in weeks, but if there’s any reason to get back into it, it’s to try and capture in the words the glow and the bubble I’m floating in right now.

My instructor’s name was Galinha, which is the Portuguese word for chicken, and he has jumped over 2,000 times in ten years and in a typical workday makes about 12 jumps. I had only a 15-minute lesson with him before we tandem-jumped at 12,000 feet for 50 seconds of free-fall and 6 minutes with the parachute. During my free fall, I noticed a disproportionate amount of my attention being paid towards following the instructor’s directions and safety warnings. I told myself to disconnect from my fears and instead enjoy the view. Ca you imagine how I would have felt afterwards if I hadn’t taken the time to do so? I wonder how many seconds it took me to reach terminal velocity – the speed at which acceleration stops. The following website has some interesting facts and anecdotes about skydiving and terminal velocity.

Speed of a Skydiver (Terminal Velocity)
It’s been a few years now that I’ve been looking for a partner with whom to try skydiving with for the first time. Two weeks ago, when I went on an adventure weekend in Ilha Grande (an island off Brazil’s southeastern coast) with some friends, I discovered Gisele Braga. We’d both had opportunities to skydive before, but nothing had ever fallen into place. So we were pretty stoked when we realized we could make it happen together this time. Gisele is a cool, sporty girl, working in the area of event management & design. She offered to make all the arrangements with the Centro Nacional de Para-quedismo, and then supplied her car to get us out to the small town of Boituva in the Sao Paulo countryside. Thanks Gisele!

This is totally something you should try at least once in your life. I’m telling you – it is an experience you will never forget. Face the fear of death, the fear of heights, the fear of wide-open spaces; it will open your mind to new possibilities.



As you have probably noticed, this site is undergoing some renovations. I’m tweaking it in preparation for my motorcycle backpacking trip through Mexico and Central America later this year, during which I want to share photos and stories from my travels. I’ve had a lot of free time on my hands lately, as the weather has been horrible here – rain, and cold wind in the middle of may! In fact, they forecasted snow only a week ago! I cannot wait to leave for Colombia, only three months to go.

For a holiday (Victoria Day), today was relatively sedate and uneventful. I spent most of my time working on the computer, doing laundry, and organizing my personal things for my upcoming move. I showed my apartment to two people today. I am hoping I will be able to sublet or transfer my lease as soon as possible. If you’re interested in an apartment in downtown Montreal, click here to see a description of it. I’d like to vacate as soon as possible to save as much money as possible before my trip starts!

OK, it’s getting late; I gotta hit the hay, catch ya later dudes!