Travel as a Solo Gal

Ireland – Horseback Riding Clare Burren Day 3

04 September 2017

The luck of the Irish. Well, we were not as lucky with the weather this morning, but this is Ireland, so misty and foggy weather was to be expected.

After another farm breakfast, we boarded the red minibus and went to retrieve our horses where we pastured them last night. Luckily the rain washed Toibin off some from his roll the evening before. But man does he shed! Covered in little white hairs, but it feels goods to smell of horse. Only horse people really understand this though.

We squished our way through bogs all throughout pastures. Public land is open for people to graze animals on, but they wander without fences, so fining your animals when you want to catch them causes a bit of a search. Our view of the River Shannon and Lough Derg were limited on this side today due to the fog, but no matter – we saw them the day before. But the story of the Lough Derg, or the Red Lake goes:

Long ago, it was only possible to send stories by giving your most valuable possession. The king on the island only had one eye and wished to send a story. He asked the messenger what he wanted – money, is first child, etc. – but he wanted his last eye. The king agreed, but when the eye was removed, it was have said to have bled so much, it turned the lake red.

The mist became rain, but stopped as we got our lunch site. It was next to some ruins of former cottages and the former guardhouse that was between the roads of County Galway and County Clare many years ago. During the famine, all these were abandoned, but if families have proof of ancestral heritage to that land, the government will give it back. Unfortunately, with all that was going on, most paperwork was lost. Most of the cottages are overgrown with moss and vegetation now, but the fuchsia trees from Latin America that were planted, give away their whereabouts. And then the willow trees will most likely lead you to the wells.

After lunch we continued galloping our way down roads and through forests. You know, a typical day. Toibin finally started cantering in 3 beats instead of 4 at times, so my ass hurts slightly less. But that could all change tomorrow…

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Ireland – Horse Riding the Clare Burren Trail Day 1-2

01-03 September 2017

The 8-hour layover in Toronto actually worked in my favor. Has it really been 6 years since I travelled to Peru, the beginning of my annual travel phenomenon? I can’t even describe how great it was to see Adrienne and Nadia again. Just like no time had passed.

Landing in Dublin seemed easy enough. I even managed to find the bus I was supposed to catch to Portumna. Turns out, it was merely by accident. From what I could make out from Jerry, the bus driver, in his thick Irish accent, was that he doesn’t normally park there and the bus departs from the bus station at 1:00pm. Assuring me all was well, we drove off to the actual bus station. I have to say, maybe it was the jet lag and being unable to put together any sort of thought, I never would have found it. Yes, I feel fortunate.

There is not much to say about Dublin or the ride out to Portumna and Shannon since I was in and out of consciousness due to lack of sleep. Nicola, the owner of An Sibin Riding center, was there to pick myself up, as well as one of the guides and 2 Swedish women on the tour. Pulling up at the cottage and farm was like a fairy-tale. I mean iconic Ireland – a fucking fairy-tale! Stone buildings, sheep, border collies, geese in the pond, green, green grass, and so much moss! Unfortunately after arriving, it began to rain, so I took to my cottage I share with a twenty-some year old from France. Super quiet, but nice girl. A taste of my former self I suppose. We are sharing a private cottage, each with our own room, and a downstairs, which is far too cold to sit in. Besides, the main house is much nicer.

Talking with Nicola, they have owned the business for over 25 years, but only in the last few years bought this farm, which was a set of ruins. She and her husband, Bertie, are both handy, and although folks thought they were crazy, the rebuilt all the little buildings and connected them. Then they moved the horses over. They have loads of fields all over Clare Burren, adjacent to the park, which is convenient for riding. Total, they have 47 horses of all breeds – Cobs, Connemaras, Sport horses, and crosses. They breed their own herd, and have 2-3 foals every 2 years. Horses retire in their late teens to early 20’s and are given to good homes, where they can still be ridden for another 10 years. Something to be said for herd-life. The horses work, at most, 2 weeks, and then have a week off. But less if there are fewer tour groups.

Sunday morning, we had breakfast and coffee at 8:30am. As I walked into the main building, the yellow lab was looking into the kitchen as the smell of bacon wafted the air. Different dog, same look. By 10:00am, we had driven to meet our horses outside their field, groomed, and tacked them up, My horse, Toibin, is a colored Irish Cob. Quiet a brick house, but stoic nonetheless. We rode for 3 hours down tiny, winding roads squished between farms. Skirting barbed wire fences, we made our way into the park, and had a nice view of the Holy Island. The story goes:

As the tower was being built on “Holy Island”, each time someone passed the tower, they were to say “Bless the Tower.” One day, however, a woman passing did not want to say “Bless the Tower.” Legend goes, the water and island began throwing stones at her, and she, then, turned to stone. That stone sits near the tower. The legend is, the woman cursed the tower saying it would never be finished since she was stone. The roof has never been completed. Many times it was tried, but through one failure or another, it has not been successful.

Just after, we come across a huge stone, and have another folklore story about the dolmen we pass and young woman from an island in the sea where you never age. She wants to marry an islander. Her father says no, as if she leaves the island she will grow old and die. Her father finally agrees but allows the man to come to the island in the sea. They live for 1,000’s years until the man gets so homesick he wants to return to the island. The father says the only way they can do so is by riding horses, for if they touch the ground, they will immediately die. When they make it to the island, they come across a farmer trying to move these stones in his field. The offer to help but the man falls off his horse and immediately dies. The wife, grief stricken, dies beside him, and the dolmen represent their grave.

The heather is in full bloom, so purple, purple, everywhere! And of course, because it is Ireland, it is muddy, muddy, muddy. But it is perfect again for all that fair-tale moss and red-topped mushrooms.

Lunch, we headed back to the farm, and ate at the picnic tables situated outside the tackroom and the wood stove, fueled by sod. The horses, too, got their lunch and a quick nap before heading off for another 2-hour ride.

By now, the sun was out full force. Never thought that would happen here! We stop and come across a Fairy tree – made of a twisted plum and holly tree. The legend goes:

You will have a life of bad luck if you break or take down a fairy tree. Offerings or wishes are usually left to them. The Irish are so superstitious that a road was actually build around a Fairy tree because no one wanted to chance removing it.

Continuing on through the fields of cattle, our guide is continually unmounting to open the gates for us. Being true to self, I am gazing at every puddle and pool growing greenery in it to look for turtles. I forget where I am. But then we come into a Fairy tree forest. A fairy-tale I tell you. Oh yeah, and we are on horseback! Complete. Fucking. Fairy-tale. I am in love and look forward to tomorrow.

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My Southeast Asia Adventure: Arrived in Vietnam

August 26, 2015

Heading out for my 2015 adventure: Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, and Cambodia.

August 27, 2015

I have arrived! Taxi dropped me off at the front of a dark alley to finish walking to the hotel. The noise, loose dogs, smell of urine – I seriously wouldn’t have it any other way!

Good morning Vietnam! It is hot and humid here! And the sound of tuk tuks!11917675_10153166202063284_8623000503495561111_n.jpg

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Adios and muchas gracias Cusco! Onto Lima tomorrow


September 8, 2014

Bienvenidos todos!

What a marvelous couple of days in Cusco. My first night, the rain and fog hit the lights on the streets in such a way making plaza enchanting. The city welcomed me back with open-arms. I have made ensured meals consisted of lots of quinoa and cerveza!

The place I’m staying is off the road and requires walking through three courtyards within a schoolyard to reach it. The terrace on the fourth floor lends itself to a most miraculous view of the city. Morning wake up calls are the sounds of dozens of chatty children pumped up on sugary treats running around the courtyard during a break from their classes. I can faintly make out teachers attempting to settle the balls of energy with exhausted efforts.

The following days yielded much walking. I have even hiked up to the Cristo Blanco on two separate occasions! No doubt the over 550 steps left me slightly winded but the altitude has not phased me. Maybe my body has just resigned itself to the fact that it is going to be pushed to some ridiculous level above sea on annual basis so it has decided to cope? Nija Warriors, here I come!

Shopping is the ultimate downtime here. As if a game, I weave myself in and out in the various markets tucked away on the old brick streets. This years style of alpaca sweater is strewn throughout  the markets, each with something slightly different to offer. Finding exactly what you’re looking for is a skill that requires precision, patience and haggling.

Between all my shopping sprees, I managed to have time to take a chocolate making workshop at the Chocolate Museum. Nibbles of milk chocolate, dark chocolate and white chocolate awakened the palate for further indulgences of chocolate tea, Mayan hot chocolate and Inca hot chocolate. Two polar opposites – one spicy of cayenne the other sweet with honey.

As fortune would have it, there was the parade going on Saturday through Monday, all through the night, in celebration of one the many saints. Bands harmonize with classic Peruvian music; masses of Peruvians  adorned in costume marching and smiling through the streets. Various sweets, chicha and corn snacks lend themselves at every turn. Normally quiet and reserved women are indulging in cans of Cusquena and startling the passing tourists as they block their paths, trying to engage them in a dance. The random wafts of sage reinforce the ancient feeling of the city.

Wrapping up my time here, I took a cooking lesson with CuscoCooking. Our chef, Luis, lead us to San Pedro market (a market I’d become quite familiar with) to obtain supplies. Navigating the narrow aisles of salted alpaca meat, freshly butchered meat assortments and smells, we weigh out the vegetables and herbs required for our meal. The fruit section comprised of many unfamiliar fruits. And what better way to determine what to buy? Tasting of course! Passion fruits, pepino, cherimoya and the likes introduced themselves to the class happily.

Back in “la cocina”, Luis guided us through a three course meal –  corn soup, llomo saltado and chocolate fondu with our new-found fruit friends. And let’s not forget the passion fruit sour – salud!

Completely satiated, I have made my way back through the courtyards and up to my room to try to consolidate all my wonderful treasures into my backpack before setting off for Lima tomorrow. I may get up early to grab a Starbucks coffee (yes, corporate America has found its way here) and bid the Plaza de Armas one last goodbye. And then onto Lima for the last leg of the trip and to meet up with Natalia!

Love to all,


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Arrived in Cusco – Behold, the Andes Mountains!


September 5, 2014


I have arrived in Cusco! The weather is cool and drizzling, but already my spirits have been lifted with the Andes in view. Insert huge sigh here…Found my way back to Cusco Plaza where I stayed with G Adventures 3 years ago! Insert second gigantic sigh here…I am already indulging in a warm cup of coca tea. I need to rest and take it easy while I adapt to the altitude but my itchy feet desire to wander around the Plaza de Armas again. Maybe a hot shower and non-jungle clothes will do for the time being. Yes, I think so.

I’m here until September 9 then off to Lima.

Love to all,


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Heading to Cusco Tomorrow


September 4, 2014

Today has been a day to explore Puerto Maldonado…and I am done. After spending two hours in the Star Peru office trying to gimp my way in Spanish, I managed to change my flight and I depart for Cusco tomorrow. Words cannot even begin to relay my relief to be venturing to the mountains again and seek cooler climates. It is hard to believe, but Puerto is hotter than the jungle. Although, the rains came this morning and have mellowed the temperatures slightly, sweat unceasingly ripples out of every pore.

Seeking a bookstore for a Spanish-English dictionary, I met a new-found friend, Raul. At first I thought he worked there, but again, after using some broken Spanish on my part and broken English on his, he was just hanging out. He was a lawyer and psychologist from Arequipa here for family. The bookstore was closing at 1200 pm, as everything does for “siesta” and Raul embraced me in a whole-hearted hug and confirmed we were friends. I left without a dictionary…

We set out to Anaconda Lodge today for lunch and had Thai food with Holwer monkeys. Sadly,   more monkeys revealed themselves today than the entire time in the jungle.

I know there is  much to fill you in on about my almost two-weeks in the jungle, but still wrapping my head around things. And currently, I am doing the hunt-and-peck method on this foreign keyboard, making things quite challenging. Not to mention, it has literally every word underlined as being mispelled! Not an English-speaking computer. So, if there are typos, a thousand pardons, as I would not know at this point.

Wish me luck in my last minute change of plans for tomorrow and hope things go smoothly. Off to catch a tuk-tuk in the dark, crossing my fingers I make it back to the house without being mauled by a pack of wild dogs…

Love to all,


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Made it out of the jungle…

Creepy spider

September 3, 2014

I arrived back in Puerto Maldonado today after leaving the jungle two days early, mostly unscathed. There is much to catch up on and I have some mixed feelings. I was stalked by an ocelot, caught a few bats and snakes, and managed to get chiggers.

I will write more in the coming days, but I’m ready for the mountains.

Love to all.

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Made it to Puerto Maldonado

August 23, 2014

After many delays, I’ve arrived at the Fauna Forever headquarters. I’m getting ready to be briefed and set out to my station tomorrow morning for 2 weeks. I’ll be keeping a journal (I hope) and write when I can. Already seen owl monkeys and a fellow bunk mate (below).

Love to all.


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Friday meshes into Saturday

August 23, 2014

My sleep at the Lima airport rivaled that at the Qatar. This time, there were no chairs since. I have been unable to check in so I am not the departure terminal and therefore STILL lugging the bags around. I feel I found what was “the sleeping place”described by fellow travelers in Lonely Planet: a hallway leading to the security gate.

A few Peruvian men line the floor, already snoring with a newspaper to cover the face as a passerby reads the news he is sheltered with. A cluster of young female travelers sit awkwardly and another young man busies himself inflating his travel pillow. Allowing my overstuffed backpack to crash to the floor, I envision what a nice back rest it would make. Crouching to the ground, I thought this is something I should have done in my 20’s but here I am in my 30’s, making my nest on the hard surface. But honestly, I don’t think I would have been comfortable enough to do this in my 20’s and would  probably resemble the uptight cluster of female travelers perched at the end of the hall.

Amazed at how quickly I doze off, I was awake just as easily to pillow man using his hand pump unceasingly. He’s blowing up an air mattress! You go dude! Maybe I should have whipp out my sleeping bag…

My next sleep-cycle breaking noises are more common – floors being buffed, luggage being dragged. Gazing around, the entire hallway was lined with folks as sleepy as I. It’s Saturday; a day to prove just as lengthy as Friday.

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So close but still so far…

August 22, 2014

I know at this time tomorrow, I’ll be in my new home for the next two weeks. Or at least on a boat to Tambopata or wandering Puerto Maldonado in search of knee-boots. But for now, I pace the one-chambered terminal in the Fort Lauderdale airport. Drank some coffee, harassed at TSA agent (per my father’s suggestion since we all know I would never do anything of that nature 🙂

But once I leave here I wait again; this time in Lima. I only just realized I will be needing to claim all my checked bags before finding a spot to sleep in the airport and check into  my next flight tomorrow morning. Those of you who helped me yesterday can stop laughing at any point now!

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