Medellín: Botanical Garden and the Metrocable

For my second day of sightseeing in Medellín I decide I head down to the Jardín Botánico (Botanical Garden). I like Medellín but it is busy and there is pollution; I am craving some nature today.

I walk from my hotel Diez Hotel Categoría Colombia down to the metro station of El Poblado. It is a 20 minute walk but it is all downhill. Even with the downhill walk it gets hot walking to the station since it is pretty warm outside.

Along my walk to the metro
Active streets today

Once inside the station it takes me a little while to get the confidence to purchase a ticket and determine which direction I should go on the metro. I finally figure things out (note: There is no electronic ticket booth to purchases passes. You must visit the attendant at the ticket booth who speaks no English.). I purchase a pass with a balance on it. It is hard to determine how much I should initially put on the pass and they attendant isn’t much help (the line is long so I don’t want to hold up everyone else asking many questions). The balance enough for the current ride so everything is fine for now.

The metro system so far seems to be efficient and clean. I later learn that the metro is a huge thing of pride for the city. Other parts of the city may occasionally get destroyed but NO ONE messes with the metro. Building this train was a public works project when things were still so grim for the city. One can say it represents a beacon of hope.

It is pretty easy to reach the botanical garden once I exit the metro. I am happy to discover the garden is free to the public.

First thing I notice some of the same plants that grow pretty well where I live. It makes sense because we have a similar climate back home.

One thing we don’t see in central Florida is iguanas randomly walking around.

We do see many of lizards of the smaller size back home, like this one.

The butterfly garden is closed for some reason.

I basically wander through the park and admire all the plants.

Gardens

I finish out my visit with the succlents.

It isn’t the best botanical garden I’ve visited but it is good that it is free. It appears like some of the bigger exhibits are closed during my visit.

When I leave the botanical garden it is still early so I try to visit a sculpture park – Parque de Las Esculturas Cerro de Nutibara. The sculpture park is supposed to contain interesting sculptures and a charming replica town among other things (according to descriptions). I map out a route for a metro/bus to what I thought was one of the main entrances. I get dropped off in a quiet industrial area on one side of the hill. This area does not seem like the correct place. I wander around trying to find a park entrance and I come up with nothing. I search on my phone and it appears that where the entrance should be is blocked off due to construction. If I want to visit the park I am going to have to try to get to the other side. The problem is at this point that I am tired, not familiar with the safety of the area, and not even sure it is feasible to get there by foot. I give up and take the metro back to my hotel area.

Once I get to my metro stop it is a long, hot walk uphill. I make lots of stops to catch my breath.

More street art
Street performers

Instead of going back to my hotel I hang out in a park for a little bit. This area is quiet now but I know it gets busy in the evening. I end up calling early night once again.

The following day I decide to try at nature once more. Today I want to visit Arvi park. According to my research all I have to do is take the metro to the Acevedo station (on line A) and take the metrocable (K-Line Metrocable).

The metrocable gives me an arial view of town.

I arrive to the top of the line where I am supposed to switch to the L that will take me to Arvi Park. The only problem is the L line is closed. There is no reason posted. My only choice now is to wander out into an unknown neighborhood to find a taxi or take the cable line back down the way I came. I end up taking the line back down. I wish I would have known the line was closed so I could have arranged another form of transport. At this point a good amount of the day has passed so I decide to just go back the neighborhood I am staying in. Hopefully I have time to visit the park on my next visit to town.

View from metro

Once back at the hotel I do research on how I am getting to my next town tomorrow. I have been using the app Rome2rio the past couple months for travel research and up until now it has been pretty reliable with routes and time frames. The app is not accurate in Colombia. I tried using it to plan my travel to Jardin tomorrow. It is completely wrong. First it has me leaving from the wrong bus station; there are two bus stations in Medellin (north and south) and it is very important to be clear on what station you need to leave from. Secondly the app routes me through the wrong town. Luckily I discuss my travel plans with the concierge at my hotel prior to leaving. I would have had a very unhappy travel day tomorrow.

Marlborough Wine Tour

Misty Cove vineyards in Marlborough

On my visit to the Marlborough region I wanted to safely visit multiple wineries. Fortunately I found Marlborough Wine Tours and it was perfect. I was worried because my lodging was a little out-of-the-way but it was no problem for them to come pick me up. Phil was our driver and very knowledgeable about wines in the region. We were lucky to have him as our host. The wineries chosen were well thought out and I am grateful that they didn’t pick the larger wineries in favor of visiting the small and some up-and-coming wineries. We visit 6 wineries in total and didn’t feel rushed in any of our visits. This is a great option if you are lacking a designated driver and really want to enjoy the region.

Winery 1 : Allan Scott Family Winemakers

Notable from this winery is their special ginger wine; it has a sweet and strong ginger flavor. Nice for a seasonal drink.

The Pinot Noir Rose is light and drinkable. Also liked the Pinot Noir.

The gardens are pretty with lots of plants to look at and a large chess game.

Winery 2: Rock Ferry

Rock Ferry is a boutique winery with some of my favorite choices of the day.

The Corner’s Sauvignon Blanc is my favorite Sauvignon Blanc of the day and contains flavors of gooseberry, peppers (capsicum) and asparagus.

They have a Pinot blanc that is from an “egg ferment” case, a special wine experiment of theirs.

Their Pinot Noir isn’t bad as well. I am loving the pinot noirs today.

Winery 3: Wairau River

We head to Wairau River Wines at lunchtime. I didn’t write down tasting notes about the wine or food so I am assuming it was very satisfactory.

I enjoyed sitting outdoors on this beautiful day.

Winery 4: Misty Cove

The next winery is pretty small. I left with some of their bottles because they sells styles not as common. I loved the Waihopai (Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Gris and Gewürztraminer) and the Gruner Vetliner. Gruner wines are especially a target of mine since they serve them frequently at the few restaurants to liked to visit when I lived in Brooklyn but they are hard to find anywhere else. Whenever I see Gruner on the menu it always catches my eye now.

Misty Cove also has a fun pool onsite for their lodging guests.

Winery 5: Spy Valley Wines

The second to the last winery of the day is Spy Valley. Just to note I am pretty intoxicated at this point so I can’t really rely on my taste buds to say what I think of these wines. Right now, everything is good.

Spy Valley is named so because it is located very close to a super secret US and UK satellite communications monitoring facility.

Wood walls are actually morse code.

Naturally the tasting room decorated in spy stuff.

Pinot noir was my favorite out of the ones we tasted today.

Bottle decorated in morse code.

Some of these are actually imported in the USA. I am able to purchase the Sauvignon Blanc at Total Wine.

All the Bonds

Winery 6: Jackson Estate

The last of the day is Jackson Estate. We almost don’t make it in time because the entire group is pretty intoxicated by the last winery. The driver had to get a little firm with us to keep time. I don’t blame him, he wants to get us to all our locations so we get our money’s worth.

From my tasting notes (whatever they are worth) I find the Pinot Rose and Vintage Window Pinot Noir are not bad and the Bortrytis Riesling is pretty good (and reflected so in the price!).

The winery seemed to be closing soon but they still took the time to show us the cellar. This is the only winery of our tour that let us see their cellar.

The driver took us back to our respective lodgings at the end. I am thoroughly grateful for the safe transportation today.

I am back at my wine cabin and being intoxicated I am unable to drive to dinner but I fortunately prepared enough cheese and snacks so driving would be unnecessary.

Cheese and Snacks are an acceptable dinner for an adult right?

Christchurch

Titan arum aka Corpse Flower

I have arrived in Christchurch New Zealand to begin a couple day tour with my aunt and then a multi-week tour in a campervan by myself. I am excited about New Zealand because everyone who has visited before me boasts of its beauty.

We stop in Christchurch for the evening before taking the train to Kaikoura tomorrow.

After we check into the motel I suggest we go walk to dinner nearby at Dux Dine. It is a cute restaurant built in what looks like a former house. I order one of the fish dishes. I am also tempted to try Pavlova, a New Zealand sweet dessert. I order another glass of wine to enjoy with the dessert. I’ll be a while so my aunt leaves before me to walk back to the hotel.

Walking back toward the hotel I come across a walking trail with some wall art.

Brockworth Street Art Gallery

I head back to the hotel where I again meet up with my aunt. She has gone for a walk and discovered the nearby botanical garden where a corpse flower has begun to bloom. She knows I have been awaiting corpse flowers to bloom all over the USA and just seem to miss them. This is my chance to see one in action. The admission is free at the Christchurch Botanic Gardens.

We walk to the botanic garden which is not far from the motel (Aalton Motel). The path to the conservatory contains many interesting looking pines.

The corpse flower or titan arum is fun to catch in action because it only blooms every 7-10 years.

As we wait in the line for the plant I can start to smell the signature smell, a smell some compare to rotting corpse stench. But the smell doesn’t bother me too much; perhaps because I am not catching it at full bloom.

The conservatory is open until late tonight so I could come back to try to catch it at a fuller bloom but I choose to just be satisfied with my viewing.

We catch some roses on our way out. A great way to cleanse the nose palate.

Our visit to Christchurch is short but we will be back in a day or so. In that time I will learn more about the effect the earthquakes of year 2011 caused on the south island. The effects of that earthquake are felt far and wide, including the destination we head to tomorrow, Kaikoura.

More Sydney

In Sydney our hotel isn’t too far from the Royal Botanic Gardens so we end up walking past it a few times during our visit. We finally take the time to book a garden tour. I do love being introduced to new types of plants. The climate in Sydney seems to be similar to Florida so it makes sense that I see some of the same sorts of plants I have seen back home. The garden has some fun and different ones as well that are native to Australia only.

When you have just given up collection in the bookstore #forevercatlady
Brachychiton rupestris or bottle tree
Hard to see but this tree is full of parrots.
Fun old Fig Tree

Manly Beach

Another day we take the ferry out to Manly Beach. We must be taking the slower ferry because we see the fast ferry pass us by.

The ferry drops us off and we walk through a district with shopping and restaurants to get to the beach.

We view Manly beach but walk on to another beach

We end up at another beach called Shelly Beach. The sand is basically broken shells and they are beautiful. The water is very cold but I love it. I walk out cautiously so I don’t slip on the shelf of rocks.

We don’t stay long since we aren’t much for sunbathing and the water is a little too cold for my family. We walk back towards the ferry and see a fun lizard on the way.

Manly Beach

Before hopping on our ferry back we stop at Betty’s Burgers for a yummy burger and some fries.

The next day we take an Aboriginal walking tour. For some reason I put down my camera during the tour but the guide, an aboriginal guide, takes us on a tour of the area near the Rocks and informs us of history and customs of his people. He shows medicinal uses of local plants. We learn about totems, a natural object, plant or animal that is inherited by members of a clan or family as their spiritual emblem. They are tasked with protecting that totem. We are told about how it is a rite of passage for a boy to carve a canoe out of a tree. It is a great tour.

Our last day is spent lazily. We could have left town for the day to view the mountains but the brushfires have made those activities dangerous at this time. We wander around some of Sydney. I check out some street markets.

Steps near our hotel

I leave Australia tomorrow for some time in New Zealand. My aunt will be joining me for a couple days of exploring. We are both excited about visiting what we think will be a beautiful country.

I say goodbye to my cousins hoping to see them soon when they make a trip to the USA next summer. Note: They are not able to visit USA this year (2020) due to covid outbreak. Unfortunately we’ll have to wait longer to see them in person again.

Bali Silent Retreat Day 3

Sunset at the retreat.

The wasps want in their room. I’ve been keeping the door to my room closed and I can tell they are annoyed.

I again miss the first gong and wake to people stirring. It doesn’t matter though since I’m skipping morning meditation today since I want to attend the afternoon session instead. I do attend yoga and there is a different instructor that I find more challenging. Even some of her “easy” poses I struggle with. I feel defeated when she performs a stand up from sitting move that the whole class can do except for me. The move is supposed to be a sign of good health. It makes me poo all the progress I’ve made. I still feel fat, I still feel ill. Not much seemed to change over these months. I’m losing my patience. Will I always be this mess of a person? She does say one thing that resonates: “breathe through the discomfort”… so for now I just keep breathing.

After yoga it is breakfast and then a trip to the hot springs. It is early and there are not many people at the springs. I start at the rocks at the river below and I find it really hard to navigate the rocks to get to the springs in the perfect spot. However once I get to my spot it is worth it. If feels good on a tired body to have cold water rush over you. It is futile to try to move to a better spot because no new spots will compare to the perfectness of the spot I just left. I finally take some time to be in the moment and enjoy it. After a little while I decide it’s time to try the hot pools. I didn’t love any of them. All felt dirty. There is a regular pool the top with some running water that I used for water meditation . “I deserve love. I deserve love.” was my mantra. I gave myself meditation love hugs. It is tough to believe I deserve love after feeling unloved for so long. Is this how it all works?

Return to retreat

I am back at the retreat after a nice few hours at the springs. In the afternoon I attend meditation that is a guided meditation that takes you through the 7 chakras. I did pretty well during this meditation except for there are two chakra colors that I struggled with and I believe those were the orange and green corresponding to the lower abdomen and heart respectively. When I read about why those are blocked it kind of makes sense the way my life has been the last 5 years (heck maybe last 10 years). I still have work to do when I get home.

I do doze off during some silent moments but wake myself up before the snoring gets bad.

After meditation I finish exploring the retreat and spend some time at the medicinal garden. I love gardens.

I also observe other areas on site.

Rice terraces in the distance

I also visit the water meditation area.

One more peaceful night then I am off to my next adventure.