Sunday, April 26, 2015

Mercado Campesino in Medellín - Basically an Excuse to Eat


Last Sunday, I finally popped into the farmer's market held every Sunday in Parque de la Presidenta, which I had always been meaning to go to anyway, because it's one of the closest places to feel like you've almost left the city, but I had never got round to going.

Thanks to a bit of gastronomic motivation, I was finally lured to Parque de la Presidenta and surprise, surprise, I loved the Mercado Campesino. I had come with a very empty stomach but I was practically rolling back, having eaten enough good, local food to last a life time. Wholewheat, baked vegetarian empanadas, various different ají sauces (I was in heaven) including one with chinese gooesberries, lots of fried food and probably one of the biggest patacones (plantain fritter) layered with hogao (tomato and onion sauce), guacamole and mushroom ceviche. I was stuffed, but very satisfied.

If you're on the lookout for the perfect foodie present, you've come to the right place, I practically had to stop myself buying so much jams and sauces because I knew I would probably end up eating them all before they reached the intended recipients. If you're around in El Poblado on a Sunday, you could work up an appetite, taking part in Ciclovía -  a city wide initiative which shuts down main roads so people can run, bike, walk, roller blade etc., it's one of my favourite things to do in Medellín - or one of the outdoor yoga classes, before coming to the Mercado Campesino in Parque de la Presidenta to make up for the previous saintly behaviour. It's pretty much a perfect chilled Sunday plan, which you could then finish off by relaxing in Parque de la Ciudad del Rio.

Quite a lovely way to round off the week.

Info: Mercado Campesino runs every Sunday 8am-2pm in Parque de la Presidenta in El Poblado (just a few blocks away from Parque del Poblado). For more information about the Farmer's Markets, check out the link to their Facebook page.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Piropos: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly.


Ahh, piropos.

If you've been to South America, especially as a woman, you'll know exactly what they are.

For those who have yet to have the piropo experience (and let me tell you, it's a treat), they're essentially a chat up line. Although Word Reference (without which I would not have graduated) deems a piropo to be a: "flirtatious remark", "amorous compliment" or "(pejorative) personal comment".

All you have to do is walk out and about on the street, preferably alone or with a girl friend, and it won't be long until you hear one may it be your typical "Hola [insert complimentary adjective of choice]" or something a lot more imaginative, creative, weird or maybe even down right vulgar.

They come as quite the shock to the system, especially if you're only used to the usual drunken "get your tits out love" on a Saturday night, as generally, South American men are a lot more open and forward than westerners.

Because we're cold and daren't express anything to do with feelings or just generally putting yourself out there.

On the whole, I have not had to endure any piropos that have been particularly rude, although who knows, it's quite likely I didn't understand so maybe I'll need to brush up on my dirty piropo vocabulary and I could do a Piropos: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly. Take 2 post later on.

That said not all piropos were created evenly so along with the cheeky vlog I uploaded to Youtube (g'wan have a click) I decided to compile a list of the good, the bad and the ugly piropo chat up lines I've overheard.

The Good

Probably one of my favourite piropos all of time, happened this weekend and was actually the inspiration for the vlog/blog idea in the first place. I was casually returning from a run, looking spectacular as per (aka red-faced, sweaty, wearing a lovely baggy t shirt) and I was about to cross a road when a guy said,

"ah, llegó mi novia ¡hola!"
(Ah, my girlfriend's arrived, hello!)

He then pretended to link arms with me.

Credit where credit's due, it made a change from the usual piropo and it actually made me laugh, so keep up the ingenious creativity - you never know, one day it may work.

The Bad

Like said before, I haven't particularly had any bad or horrible piropos, especially when I take into consideration my track record of attracting people who are bat-sh*t crazy (Paris, looking at you in particular). The only incident I can think of actually happened outside of South America, back in Brixton, when a middle-aged with questionable fashion sense and even more questionable pulling tactics asked me and my friends,

"Which one of you is the easiest?"

Bleurgh.

But I digress, this post is about South American piropos.

The bad piropos that come to mind are the ones when they will mutter under their breath loud enough for you to hear it, but quiet enough that you don't hear exactly what they're saying.

It's that Pandora's Box situation, when you want to know what they're saying, but you're fairly sure you won't like it.

The Ugly

Latin American men, if somehow you're reading this, for the love of God, if you're going to throw a few cheeky piropos, here, there and everywhere, avoid hissing at the object of your, albeit very short-term, affection at all costs.

Or grunting.

Or making kissing noises.

Just don't even contemplate it.

Keep the sound effects to an absolute minimum and let your marvellous gift of the gab do the talking.

Have you come across piropos before on your travels? Any notable ones to share?

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Comuna 13 Neighbourhood Tour

Todd's Travels went to Comuna 13 in Medellín, Colombia earlier this week, it was absolutely fascinating. Thanks to @luisbarretophotos for the photo.
Thanks to Luis Barreto for the photo - check out his professional site or his Instagram @luisbarretophotos, his photos are unreal.

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to finally go see Comuna 13's Electric Escalators. I had planned to go see them the last round I was in Medellin but as per, with my grand and overambitious plans, I didn't get to see them.

This time round I was going to see them and I was so glad I did.

Comuna 13's Electric Escalators in Medellín, Colombia have to be seen.






It was absolutely amazing. The colour and the murals and the innovation and everything just goes to show that you only need to put in a little bit of investment and time to reap big rewards. Obviously not everything is completely hunkydory, even now, but when you heard stories of what it was like then and see how it is now, the difference is huge.

This South America Street Art Mural in Comuna 13 Medellin, Colombia has got to be my favourite.
Colourful buildings, Comuna 13, Medellín, Colombia.
Graffiti in Comuna 13, Medellín, Colombia.
Graffiti in Comuna 13, Medellín, Colombia
Graffiti in Comuna 13, Medellín, Colombia.
Thanks to Couchsurfing, we got to explore the electric escalators of comuna 13 in Medellín, Colombia.

I was inspired and snappy-happy when I got to wander around Comuna 13 thanks to a tour organised on Couchsurfing (it may have changed but there are still people who embody the Couchsurfing spirit) that it pushed me to finally enter into the foray of vlogging. It helps when you have such a fascinating subject matter. So, sit back and relax, for once, I will let the pictures (and my fine self) do the talking.



Have you been to Comuna 13? Have you done a neighbourhood tour before?

Monday, April 6, 2015

Things I will never understand about Colombia

Colombia is a great country but there are certain things I as a foreigner will never, ever understand.

I'm starting to sound like a broken record, but I really, really love Colombia (Exhibit A, Exhibit B, Exhibit C and no doubt there's even more evidence).

It's always quite hard to pin down why exactly I love Colombia, but the country's diversity of beautiful landscapes along with its warm, welcoming and optimistic people and their inherent love of dancing and rumba definitely have something to do with it.

But even though Colombia is probably my favourite country in the world, there are certain things I have never and will never, ever understand about Colombia. It sure is a great place but it also has some particular eccentricities that I'm not going to even bother trying to comprehend.

Let this be a disclaimer: Colombia, I love you and this is in no way, shape or form, an attack or trying to put a downer on Colombia but as an foreigner looking into Colombian culture, these are the things I am never going to understand about Colombia, such as:

Why everyone has to do everything together. I don't need an escort to go to the supermarket, we're not in a Jane Austen novel.

And why Colombians don't understand why you want to do something by yourself. I love spending time with people but I also love spending time on me doing my own thing (because I'm selfish and I love me time).

Why Agua Panela is the go-to solution for when you're ill. It isn't, it's lemon and honey made by your mam, just so everyone knows. I know it may appear almost identical but Lemon and Honey ftw.

Pointing with your mouth. Every time I even attempt to do it, it turns into a bad case of duck face. What is so bad with pointing?

Attempting to point with my mouth turns into duck face.
My awful attempt at trying to point a lo colombiano turns into this

Voice notes on Whatsapp.

Why no one has credit on their phones, ever.

Crocs, everywhere.

Weird English slogans on t shirts that don't make much sense (Drugs in my body, anyone?) or something if you understood, you wouldn't want brandished on your chest, like this fine example:

Simple but Insignificant weird Colombian t shirt.
Why

Why men think it's acceptable to hiss at women to get their attention. Colombian women don't like it. Nor do foreign women. Basically, as a general rule, women do not want to be treated like pets.

Mullets and rat tails. A trend that should never, ever have left the 80s. Cut them off now, or I will.

The obsession with American shopping centres.

Sugar in bread.

Sugar in juice.

Sugar in 'natural' yoghurt.

I just want food as it was naturally intended without the sugary additions. Please, Colombia. Kthanksbye.

Speaking of food, how do Colombian women eat all the fried goodies Colombia has to offer and still stay slim?

One last food-related point - why. no. vegetables.

Bum implants.

How Colombians have not mastered the art of subtly staring at people and unashamedly do so.

Why can't Aguardiente be mixed.
I'm pretty much like this man when I've had a few too many guaros. Image via mario

Why aguardiente can't be mixed. It would make a great Colombian Caipirinha (Lime, sugar, ice and guaro, job's a good'un), I'm sure it'd be similar to Fernet and Coke and it may even taste nice with some tonic water and a good squeeze of lime. It would probably prevent many guaro-related incidents and injuries too (which I'd be eternally grateful for).

And dare I say it, aguardiente full stop. It just isn't my drink of choice (I know this is sacrilege).

On that note, having practically blasphemed, I will leave it there.

I've said it once, I will say it again - I love, love, love Colombia and I will always say in heartbeat that it is my favourite country. However, as the above list shows, there are some particularities I can never get on board with and will always be part of my outsider status here in Colombia.

What particularities did you not understand in Colombia? Have you encountered similar things elsewhere?

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

How positive thinking changed how I travel

Having a positive mindset has dramatically changed how I travel

You see so much about positive thinking, optimism and the like and how it's the key to success in just about everything nowadays (it really is) and recently, it got me thinking.

I only recently came round to the positive thinking brigade but I've realised how much it has dramatically changed the way I go about things, particularly when I'm on the road travelling.

And I really can't believe I was resistant to optimism for so long.

As well as how much time I have wasted being negative.

A few years back, you could probably say I was that one eternal pessimist that everyone could rely on to put a downer on everything.

But then let's just say the world worked in its weird and wonderful ways, that at the time was pretty difficult to deal with, but it lead to me having an epiphany that I needed to shake things up a bit and change because I was drifting, with no direction and I wasn't a happy bunny.

In the slightest.

It coincided perfectly with my year abroad - I may have mentioned I had a year abroad once or twice? - which was quite possibly ONE OF THE BEST YEARS OF MY LIFE (#studyabroadbecause what I just said), and throughout the duration of my year abroad, my mindset changed dramatically.

I definitely intend on having many more amazing, incredible, adventurous years but my year abroad will stick out as being life-changing because it was finally the year I learnt to be positive and have an optimistic outlook on life.

Being positive has helped me so much. This positivity quote from Roy M. Goodman sums it upAnd you what?

It's true what they say, positive thinking is the way to go.

From then on, I like to think, other than a few blips, I've been pretty positive and it's completely changed my travels, and my life as whole, for a variety of reasons, which I'm about to tell you.

Positive thinking has changed how I travel because...

I'm a lot more confident


Beforehand, I'd be a bit of a shrinking violet because in one way or another, I talked myself out of doing whatever spontaneous thought I'd come up with. Although my gap year was great for boosting my confidence, when I jetted off around the world, on my Todd (sorry, it had to be done) at the ripe old age of 18, I was still lacking in the confidence department because I would talk myself out of things.

Now, nothing can stop me (uh oh) and my confidence looks set to keep soaring.

Although maybe a little bit too much.

I deal with bad situations better


Of course, dealing with bad situations is no walk in the park, regardless how you see it. But whilst what happens to you is usually a case of good or bad luck, the only thing you have control over is how you deal with it.

It's not just dealing with bad situations that have got easier with being optimistic, it's also confronting the fear of the unknown.

You can choose whether to dwell on it and leave it behind. I know which option is easier (in the long run).

How positive thinking change my travels | Todd's Travels Travel Blog - a little bit out of the ordinary.

I'm a yes person


Yes I know, it's a huge cliché but it was that or 'I have richer travel experiences" and that just sounds a bit obnoxious and pretentious. Positive thinking has really helped me embrace being on the road and taking those opportunities that you otherwise wouldn't get at home.

There are so many times I have to pinch myself because I know how truly lucky I am to be out on road and it's such a big waste of my time if I turn down opportunities that I'm probably never going to ever have again.

I'm more body confident


I could talk until the cows come home about my old body issues and just about all of them stemmed from my worst enemy, myself. When you're on the road, you realise how many different types of beautiful there is and you see so many women and men just owning it and not giving a sh*t. That's when you realise that is way more sexy than just gorgeous looks. Sparkling personality and confidence will get you even further.

Being positive has also meant I'm kinder on myself and treat myself better. Before I used to swear I was going on a diet tomorrow or some load of tosh like that, but now I realise, it's all about LIFESTYLE CHANGES, the whole 80/20 moderation rule and no faddy diets. It also means I no longer get myself in a vicious circle of starve, binge, repeat and I make sure I make time for exercise because all those endorphins are pretty damn good.

I'm still not at the stage when I don't wince every time I see myself in photos (I AM SO UNPHOTOGENIC IT HURTS) but I no longer hesitate being in a bikini on the beach. I'm getting there.

My personal perspective is better


Travelling by yourself gives you a lot of time to think and sometimes that time thinking can lead to a huge over analysis of every past mistake, present misdemeanours and potential future catastrophes that do little good.

So much so that I practically thought I was having a quarter-life crisis, when really I just needed to take a few breathes, have a good nap and probably eat something too (hanger is a true affliction, people).

Once I started to think positively, things started to go my way and things almost slotted themselves into place. As the great Willie Nelson says, "Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you'll start having positive results."

Whilst the whole "what is my calling in life" anxiety is still quietly in the background, worrying about something that is yet to happen is never to make me a happy bairn. So at the minute, my mentality is pursue what makes me happy, work hard and somehow, life will work in its weird and wonderful ways and things will, bit by, bit fall into place.

Mi plan es bailar hasta que todo se solucione.
Dancing is a great way to stay positive

I wish I had the answers for what made me think more positively and impart my wisdom like some knowledgeable oracle but sadly, I'm not.

To be honest, I think the only pearls of wisdom I can impart is that I scrawled through Pinterest endlessly and looked for inspirational quotes (sad, but true) when I was meant to do more pressing work as well as develop a massive addiction to self-improvement articles.

But whatever your method is to think more optimistically, there's one thing for sure - it enhances your travels, your mentality and your perspective on life tenfold. Don't be stubborn like me and resist it.

Give the whole "glass half full" thing a try.

How do you stay positive? How has positive thinking changed for you?

Monday, March 23, 2015

Everything you need to know about going to Parque Tayrona

Destination Travel Guide To Parque Tayrona National Park, Magdalena, Colombia
If you've even contemplated going to Colombia, you will have seen or heard about Parque Tayrona.

The above photo of Cabo San Juan del Guía or photos of it from different (and better) angles, that conveniently have no people in the photos, is everywhere from the Colombian tourism board's publicity, the front cover of the Lonely Planet guide, travel blogs or no doubt, via word of mouth, you'd be hard pushed to have not heard or seen anything about it.

Even if you hadn't heard anything about Parque Tayrona before you got to Colombia, you will soon be well acquainted with the national park as travellers everywhere will be telling you all about Parque Tayrona.

So you've heard all the hype, your curiosity is peaked and you want to go. But before you go, you'd better prepare yourself, it's a bit of a trek to get there.

Before you go to Parque Tayrona

Trekking to Parque Tayrona isn't difficult, you just need a bit of advance planning.
Arrecifes beach

The majority of Parque Tayrona is only accessible by foot, so leave your big backpack at your hostel in Santa Marta and then take everything you need in a smaller backpack. Regardless of if you decide to do the 11/2-2 hours trek on foot or hop on a horse, you'll have to carry your stuff somewhere along the way. Make it easy on yourself and pack as light as possible.

That said, trying bring a big 5L bottle of water, whilst it's a pain to lug around a big bottle of water, you'll need to rehydrate loads and as everything is at a premium, you'll be paying double for your water ($4,000 COP for a 1L bottle).

Park entrance hours are 8am-5pm but get there before 3pm to ensure entry. If you can, get there for when the park opens before the majority of people arrive and it gets too hot and sticky to trek through the jungle.

In unspoilt paradise, there are no ATMs and you can only pay by card for food at Cabo San Juan del Guía, so save yourself the stress and withdraw more than enough money in Santa Marta for the duration of your stay in Parque Tayrona.

When packing remember plastic bags or alcohol aren't allowed into the park so make sure you leave them out of your rucksack because entrance staff will confiscate them.

Packing List for Parque Tayrona


What to Bring:

Shorts and a quick drying top (exercise tops are great) to trek in
Trainers for the trek in (you can bring hiking boots if you want but trainers are more than fine)
Flip flops
Swimwear
Light, loose clothing
Warm clothes for night time - I was seriously under-prepared for how cold it got. This is absolutely *essential* if you're sleeping in a hammock.
Sun cream
Insect Repellent
Torch
Camera
Toilet paper/tissues
Books
Pack of cards
Snacks - Cereal bars, dried fruit and nuts, sweets, fruit
Water - as much as you can manage without it weighing you down too much.

How to Get to Parque Tayrona

Cabo San Juan del Guia, Parque Tayrona National Park, Colombia
Cabo San Juan del Guía at dusk

You can get the bus from Santa Marta or Palomino and the journey will take about an hour costing $6,000 COP.

To get the bus from Santa Marta, you need to head up to the market on Calle 11 with Carrera 11. You'll know you've got the right place as you'll hear Tayrona shouted everywhere.

It's fairly straightforward from there.

From Palomino, you get the bus by the petrol station. Make sure you ask them to tell you when to get off because they'll carry on driving to Santa Marta (true story/it happened to me).

Entering the Park


The gates open at 8am so you can enter the park from then on until about 3pm.

*BEFORE YOU QUEUE* You must watch the presentation and get a ticket to prove you've done it before you queue. If you don't have the ticket and you queue, you'll be taken out to listen to it and have to queue once again.

The talk goes through all the dos and don'ts, most of which are straightforward, but here's the main ones:

DON'T swim on Arrecifes beach, the riptide is incredibly strong and people have drowned swimming there. Don't be part of the statistics.

DON'T decide to have a cheeky wander in the jungle at night. The park is home is to a variety of animals, such as snakes, monkeys and jaguars (Lions and tigers and bears, oh my), who stay out of the way during the day. When night falls, however, different story. A guy had to be airlifted to hospital just before I got there because he got bitten by a snake, walking the jungle path at night (true story).

DON'T get too close to the lagoons on Cañaveral and Arrecifes as they're home to resident caymans. Seeing as they can grow up to be 4 meters long, I don't fancy my chances and I doubt most would either.

Once you've watched the presentation, you'll be given the ticket and then you're free to queue.

Entrance fee for foreigners is $38,000 COP. If you're Colombian or if you're a foreign resident with a Cédula de Extranjería it's $15,000 COP and for students under 26 with valid student ID, it's $8,000 COP. So it's worth bringing your student ID or your Cédula de Extranjería if you have them.

Once you've paid, you're good to go.

The Trek


You can catch the buseta to the last possible point vehicles can go for $3000 COP. It's takes about 10-15 minutes and it takes 5 km off your walk.

Then you get dropped at the car park and you're free to roam the park. The path is fairly straightforward and well signposted so even those who are slightly lacking in the sense of direction department (ie. me) would struggle to get lost.

Trek to Parque Tayrona beaches.

If you fancy it, you can hire a horse to Arrecifes for about $18,000 COP if I remember correctly.

After a bit of hike uphill, you eventually get to the beaches and it's straight on along the beach from then on in.

You'll first hit Cañaveral, which is where the luxury eco-huts are based. Prices are pretty steep to stay here but this is the accommodation option with the most amenities available.

There are also camping sites in between Cañaveral and Arrecifes. Prices were about $15,000 COP for a hammock and $20,000 COP for a tent.

Arrecifes beach is one of the most beautiful beaches Parque Tayrona in Colombia has to offer.
Cañaveral Beach

Then you'll pass Arrecifes, which in my humble opinion, is the most beautiful beach. It's rugged, maybe not quite the idea you had of Parque Tayrona, but the beach that stretches out in front of you, goes on and on and on. Sadly you can't swim here but take the opportunity to dip your feet in to cool off after your uphill hike.

Next is La Piscinita where, you may be able to guess, you can swim. If you fancy a cheeky dip, go for it. But if you want to carry onto to San Juan del Guía, it's only another 10-15 minutes walk.

From above, Cabo San Juan del Guia in Parque Tayrona.
Cabo San Juan del Guía

San Juan del Guía is where the majority of the accommodation is based. You have the option of hammocks or tents. If you somehow know the right people, you can stay in the cabañas above the hammocks on the rocks.

To check-in for accommodation, you'll have to queue up to reserve at 2pm. People start queuing up at 1:30pm so if you want the hammocks on the rocks you better stake out your place in line early. A tent for two cost $50,000 COP per night. A hammock by the beach costs $20,000 COP per night and a hammock on the rocks costs $25,000 COP. If you're going to sleep in a hammock, bring warm clothes, it gets so breezy at night that I had to fashion a blanket out of my towel, it was that cold. The one upside of the sea breeze is the fact you won't need a mosquito net, but heed this advice - it gets chilly.

Eating in Parque Tayrona


As you've probably guessed, food is expensive in Tayrona and there's not the most exciting culinary offerings. Expect to pay around $12,000 COP for some basic pasta with tomato sauce and about $20,000 COP for grilled chicken, rice and salad.

You can bring noodles or pasta and ask for it to be cooked for you. You give them a tip (about $7,000 COP) and this is a great way to save a lot of money. I wish I had known about this before I went.

That said, you must get the bread that they sell on the beach. For $5,000 COP you get a bread stuffed with ham and cheese, cheese, tomato and basil, ham and it's a cheap and cheerful lunch. If you time it right you can get a freshly baked, warm chocolate bread and my god, it is so, so, so good.

You can also get your usual ice lollies and ice cold Aguilas on the beach too.

There's also a small shop that sells snacks and drinks too, but at an inflated price, so bring plenty of snacks and you should be good to go.

Things to Do in Parque Tayrona


La Piscinita Parque Tayrona, Magdalena, Colombia
Cove between La Pisicinita and Arrecifes

There's not a great amount to do in Parque Tayrona but that's the whole beauty of it. However, there are a few activities you can partake in whilst there:

Snorkelling in La Piscinita: Just off the shore of La Piscinita, there are some coral reefs to have a look at. You can rent equipment there at the beach.

Trek to Pueblito: If you really can't sit still for long, a hike up to the Tayrona indigenous village of Pueblito will do the trick. It takes about 2-3 hours hiking up hill and you'll reach the village at the top. You can do the trek to Pueblito as an alternative route to leave the park, going via the Calabazo entrance, which will take you about 4 hours to complete.

Flora and fauna tour: Before you start on your trek to the beaches, there's also the option of going on a wildlife tour on the Sendero de las Nueve Piedras path. Tours are offered by guides at the entrance costing around $15,000 COP.

Get up early: The magic of Parque Tayrona is slightly lost when you have to share it with everyone else. But if you get up early at the crack of dawn to explore the park, you realise its true beauty. I practically had the park to myself when I took the above picture (aside from my stray dog companion) and it was such a gorgeous moment that was hard to capture.

Otherwise, kick back, relax, get stuck into a good book and relax. Maybe get up and about and take a few cheeky photos. At night, there's not a huge amount to do, other than play a few games of cards and if you're lucky, do some stargazing too. That's the beauty of the simplicity of the place and that's the best way to enjoy Parque Tayrona.

Have you been to Parque Tayrona? What advice would you add?

Monday, March 16, 2015

#ExploreTheElements

#ExploreTheElements Thomas Cook UK Title Image

Late to the party as per and cutting it as finely as possible, being on time when it comes to deadlines and important stuff is sadly not my strong point but that's the way I roll (yes, I was that student who was always flapping at the uni office 5 minutes before the deadline).

You may or may not have seen various amazing, incredible and inspiring #ExploretheElements entries already on the internet that just make you want to get out and explore this beautiful place we all call home but if you haven't, you should definitely check it out.

Basically, bloggers are being asked by Thomas Cook UK to enter a photo for each of the four elements: earth, air, water and fire. Then Thomas Cook UK has got some snazzy expert judges to have a look over each of the four categories. They'll decide a winner for each of the categories and they could win a MacBook Air (nice nod to the competition), a FujiFilm X-T1 camera (ooh) or an iPhone 6 with Bose noise cancelling headphones. The overall winner will win £5,000 travel fund (big oooh indeed).

Obviously, my curiosity was peaked and I love a good competition so I had to join in, so without further ado, here are my four elements:

Air

#ExploretheElements Air Entry: Loch Lomond on an Overcast Day

This may be a surprising entry for air but bear with me.

I was absolutely desperate we got to Loch Lomond before the sun went in, but true to Todd family form, we missed the dying moments of the sun. But then I realised how beautiful it looked in all of its overcast and rugged beauty, especially when you noticed that the water is so clear that it reflected the sky (hence the air entry). Because we were in the middle of quite possibly one of the most Baltic winters I can remember, it felt like we had the whole Loch to ourselves and the air was so still, it was incredible.

The more I travel, the more I realise there is so much beauty to be discovered, pretty much on my doorstep.

Fire

#ExploretheElements Fire Entry Dinosaur Valley, San Pedro de Atacama

San Pedro de Atacama embodied fire. Everywhere was a rich, terracotta hue and when it was sunrise or sunset, the changing of colours from rich fiery reds to cold purples was so amazing, words cannot do it any justice. Nor can any of my photos, but I think this photo from Dinosaur Valley (best name ever) slightly - great use of artistic license - looks like dancing flames, as well as the ridges of a stegosaurus.

Earth

#ExploretheElements Earth Entry, Valle de Cocora, Colombia

As if you needed reminding that we are mere drops in the ocean when it comes to nature, come to Valle de Cocora in Colombia. Home to the tallest wax palm trees in the world that can grow up to 60 metres, throughout the whole walk you are constantly made to feel tiny. Those trees you see as specks in the distance will soon turn out to be just as overbearing, as the first gigantesque trees you encountered once you get up, close and personal with them.

Water

#ExploretheElements Water Entry Parque Tayrona

If there's one thing I'll remember about Parque Tayrona, it's this scene from above. It was early morning, no one else was about - apart from my newly found stray dog companion - and the tide was in. The water in Parque Tayrona is so clear and you can understand why the Tayrona hold the area so dear for their rituals. Take me back.

So nomination time (although I'm cutting it very, very fine and you've probably already been nominated), thanks to the lovely Kirsten from Kirst Over the World for the nomination (check her blog outtt), now is time I hand over the baton to these lovely lads and lasses:

Lizzie from Nomad Notebook
Rebecca from Creative Nomad
Ed from REXY Edventures
Cassandra from Gee, Cassandra
Alex from Backpacking Brunette

What's been your favourite #ExploretheElements photo so far?