Travel Partners From Hell -Charleston, South Carolina, USA

So there I sat, unhappily crammed in the backseat of a toaster-like sedan with three medium to large sized odorous mutts, all of whom were tremendously excited about their pending car ride. I contemplated asking their owner how much RedBull he had given his dogs before unleashing them on my lap, but I resisted my urge for sarcasm. The dogs bounced happily from window to window, scratching my legs all to hell, while periodically slobbering on my face. In my books pain, doggy breath, all combined with unwanted kisses, are the perfect recipe for disaster. However, Karina and I were both ecstatic to have been offered a lift to our desired destination, so there was no room for complaints. Obviously the dogs did not sense my overwhelming distain for their species and in all fairness, they did reserve their seats before us so technically, they had first dibs on the window seat.

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The Suriname Files

 

I love Suriname - Paramaribo, Suriname -- Karina Noriega

I love Suriname – Paramaribo, Suriname — Karina Noriega

What a difference a single river crossing makes. If you ever wonder why every country is worth a visit, no matter how small or unknown, then the stark contrast between the two tiny young nations of Guyana and Suriname would be an exemplary answer.

The view from my mini-bus window on the post border-crossing part of the journey from Georgetown (Guyana) to Paramaribo (Suriname) has changed dramatically. The first real hint of what’s to come occurred when I was actually able to look out the window without fear that my face would go through the glass on the next major pot hole we hit or yet another terrifying near-miss traffic situation. Looking through the front windshield, I saw a paved road with actual signs and even paint demarkating the lanes! The country suddenly feels tropical but with a definite sense of purpose. All the land is being utilized for cultivation or has actual pens for the animals they rear. The donkeys are being cared for, not tied to the side of the road creating hazards. Bananas and coconuts bloom from the palms beckoning you to feel refreshed. The homes are all in more than livable condition. The style of the older colonial homes are not as elegant and elaborate as in Georgetown but they are cared for here. Fresh paint, no rotted wood or plastic covering to holes. Resident care for gardens.

Suriname is younger than Guyana, earning its emancipation from the Netherlands in 1975. The language is still Dutch and the European influence is very strong here. Politically, this country of 500,000 people has more connection to the Caribbean and Europe than to its neighbours directly South – it is not even possible to cross into Brazil from Suriname despite their shared border! It’s interesting to note that in addition to the Dutch being the last nation to abolish slavery in 1863, they also have a reputation for being the roughest and toughest masters. Here in Suriname, all emancipated slaves were still forced to labour for 10 more years – for free – following their liberation. Seems the only real difference that followed 1863 is that the African people were actually recognized as human beings, not just property. Of course the Dutch, like the British in Guyana, also brought indentured workers from around the world – mainly other Dutch colonies like Indonesia.

A new friend - Suriname -- Karina Noriega

A new friend – Suriname — Karina Noriega

Travel Tip: It’s cheaper for locals to fly from Paramaribo all the way to Amsterdam, Holland and then back to South America than to try flying directly to another country within the continent (outside of neighbours – British and French Guyanas).  WOW!

 

 

 

 


Check out my story on the Maroon people of Santigron @ https://karinasextraordinarylife.com/2014/11/20/santigron-suriname/

Maroons are the direct descendants of escaped slaves.

Once they decided I was ok - Santigron, Suriname -- Karina Noriega

Once they decided I was ok – Santigron, Suriname — Karina Noriega

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Time Travel

Did they even do DUCK FACE in the 80's?? -- www.karinasextraordinarylife.com

Did they even do DUCK FACE in the 80’s?? — http://www.karinasextraordinarylife.com

Our bank accounts had run completely dry and debt was now the vacuous black hole in our lives, from which there seemed no escape. We felt trapped, stagnant, confined to our daily routines and miserable that we were unable to afford a plane ticket anywhere. Without having the funds to seek out a far-off distance land, we postponed traveling through space, and opted instead to jettison through time, accepting a friend´s invitation to an 80’s themed costume party. We eagerly strapped on our leg-warmers, snap-bracelets, head-bands, high-top pumps and tacky eye make-up, all in preparation for our leap backward in time.

It took some serious creativity to design those ludicrous costumes and of course, a sense of self-confidence enabling us to enter a party filled with complete strangers, Karina proudly sporting her side ponytail and me, pleased to be rockin’ a gold leotard. As we were getting ready for our debut, I fully admit to spending 20 minutes working-out to Jane Fonda’s Let’s Get Physical exercise video on YouTube, which seemed to be the logical course of action given how I was dressed at the time. Sue me for getting lost in the moment!

Jane Fonda, who else?! -- www.karinasextraordinarylife.com

Jane Fonda, who else?! — http://www.karinasextraordinarylife.com

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A Chance Encounter: Travel Inspiration

A message of inspiration to women worldwide.
Our world is full of surprises.
And so are you.
Discover what you are made of.
Take a chance. Travel.

Find out how to take your first steps:

https://karinasextraordinarylife.com/2015/02/10/travel-girls-be-one/

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An Open Letter To Travel Girls And Those Who Want To Be One

Volcano Panorama viewed from atop Volcan Pacaya -- Guatemala -- Karina Noriega
Mount Bromo, Java, Indonesia --Karina Noriega

My favourite selfie! Climbed Mt. Penanjakan in the darker to watch the sunrise over the active Mt. Bromo, Penanjakan, Java, Indonesia — Karina Noriega

Open Letter to the Global Degree girls & every other travel dreamer:

I want to get this message out before the contest ends. Before it seems as if this were about winners and losers. This open letter goes out to the girls who ‘always wished they could’. It goes out to the excellent applicants who are well traveled, versed in marketing and social media, girls who have the potential to inspire others. But more importantly, it goes out to the girls who have never left their hometown. The women who look at the world as something beyond their reach, who took a leap at the chance to join hands with others who are already in pursuit. To follow Global Degree on an amazing journey 193 nations strong.

You ladies took the first step already. You took a risk. You put yourselves out there. You probably haven’t stopped thinking about the possibilities since then. Whether traveling around the world has been a lifelong endeavour or a recent inspiration, I want to encourage you to follow through.

Travel will teach you more about the world and about yourself than any book, any show, any school or any one person ever could. I’m talking about lessons beyond the history, culture or state of a particular place. I can speak to my own transformation as a girl who learned to believe that I could do ANYTHING!

My first solo backpacker adventure down the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico -- Karina Noriega

My first solo backpacker adventure down the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico — Karina Noriega

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Please Vote to Help Me Become the Youngest Woman to Visit Every UN Country

Winner will be declared on live web video stream on Sunday, February 15th, 2015!

Still plenty of time to vote, share and send your comments in.

PLEASE VOTE TO HELP ME BECOME THE YOUNGEST WOMAN TO VISIT EVERY COUNTRY IN THE WORLD!

Global Degree is looking for a new female cast member to join their quest to visit every single UN country in the world. I submitted my video application. I know I have what it takes but I need YOU to help me WIN.

PLEASE VOTE FOR ME

VOTES must be made on the contestant page: http://www.globaldegree.tv/#!contestants/c1gzb

LIKE on MY video entry under Karina Noriega. (Last names N – S).

Be sure to follow all the direction in order for your votes to be validated! (Less than 50%) of the votes so far have counted)

Share please. Help me reach farther than I ever could on my own.

Here is what I would receive if I win: 4 years all-inclusive opportunity to be the female ambassador for people across 193 nations!

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No Pants Subway Ride – The Film

Undoubtedly, this became the most popular YouTube film of the year for ThirteenSquared. I particularly love the song chosen and the ensuing comments by – meacomefeyou – will always be a source of comedy relief 😛 (Go to the YouTube to view the comments)

Check out the article I wrote about why I had to follow through with this challenge, and lessons learned.

https://karinasextraordinarylife.com/2015/01/28/no-pants-subway/

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No Pants Subway Ride – Toronto, Canada

No Pants Subway Ride, Toronto, Canada -- Karina Noriega

The hardest was walking along stations with no pants on — No Pants Subway Ride, Toronto, Canada — Karina Noriega

In honour of 2015’s No Pants Subway Ride, I’m bringing back this story  (from ThirteenSquared)* of my own experience riding around the Toronto Subway without pants in the middle of winter!

ThirteenSquared is a resolution based blog that I began on January 1st, 2013 in order to enact small positive changes in my life. I utilized the power of accountability in order to overcome the many of the things that keep us from achieving the goals that we set for ourselves.

Written and shared by Karina Noriega. Use with permission.

 

THE RESOLUTION: Challenges by YOU!

CHALLENGE  ACCOMPLISHMENT # 1

… this story, is about that other challenge, the one that proposed that I casually take off my pants in a very, very (context inappropriate) public place; in the huge metropolis of Toronto, Canada.I’m not sure what I expected (or what I was thinking!) when I created the final ThirteenSquared resolution. Apart from finding an exciting way of including you, whomever you may be, I opened myself up for more creative suggestions than I ever stopped to consider. In fact, the first two submission have already proven the versatile nature of the possible challenges.  They both push me outside the boundaries of my ‘normality’ in very different ways and in my world this can only mean one thing: adventures in self-discovery.

No Pants Subway Ride, Toronto, Canada -- Karina Noriega

I has NO Poker Face 😛 No Pants Subway Ride, Toronto, Canada — Karina Noriega

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Santigron – Maroon Villages of Suriname

Drums of Santigron, Suriname -- Karina Noriega
Drums of Santigron, Suriname -- Karina Noriega

Drums of Santigron, Suriname — Karina Noriega

I never intended on writing about this place.

The big story, the token article for Suriname was supposed to be the much anticipated Carifesta XI taking place for 10 days in Paramaribo during August 2013. I would have never known of the existence of the Maroon people and their villages if not for picking up travel tips and advice from every traveler we meet – which has been a rare occasion since arriving in Guyana. In fact, I came to the Maroon village of Santigron, hardly a drive from the capital city of Paramaribo, without much knowledge of what or whom I was coming to see.* Mr. Gilles and the most helpful Ms. Bianca at Access Suriname Travel made every neccesary arrangement to bring us to the village despite our unscheduled, last-minute request. This would only be the beginning of many delightful surprises and exceeded expectations.

Learning to find water in the Amazon - Santigron, Suriname -- Karina Noriega

Learning to find water in the Amazon – Santigron, Suriname — Karina Noriega

*(Surprise guests are not welcome in the villages without a local guide.) Before we even arrived in the village we began to understand what this ‘tour’ was all about. A man, who fell in love with this community, and has spent years of his own sweat, tears, money and provided a voice for people here. He opened up a channel so that tourism could come here – profits going to the people and proliferate the traditions of a dying culture. The children are once again learning the dances of their elders so they may perform them for visitors with an invigorating energy. Mr. Gilles has founded the ‘eco park’ within the village but every single person associated with it is a local Maroon. The park itself is a tiny and exemplary resort where tourists can come spend a single day (or a multi-day tour where you sleep in the eco park) learning and interacting within the village and jungle — and it all benefits the community!  Several beautiful cabins adorn well groomed grounds around a kitchen/dining room area. A ‘relax lounge’ holds eight hammocks at the creek side, directly under the looming jungle that surrounds this village. Inside the cabins continues to impress, as so far it has been the nicest accommodation I’ve had in Suriname. Simple but spacious, comfortable and clean.

Dining area of the eco-hotel - Santigron, Suriname -- Karina Noriega

Dining area of the eco-hotel – Santigron, Suriname — Karina Noriega

I can’t speak highly enough of the staff here, the ladies running the kitchen (always with a smile), Stanley, the park host, and especially our guide Kenneth whose unparalleled knowledge of the life, culture, languages, history, environment and even the local gossip made our visit spectacularly interesting and welcoming. There are 6 different groups of Maroons here in Santigron village each with its own chief, its own language and other cultural differences. There is also the influence from multiple religions, but mainly a belief in spirits and afterlife which is taken very seriously. Oracles and medicine men in the village help interpret the needs of these spirits (human or animal) and what they demand in order to achieve peace with the living. Every family here, polygamous units traced matrilinealy, has one or more pray houses which they dedicate to appeasing the spirits. Other traditional aspects of life for these grandsons of escaped slaves are still evident and set very much in superstitions believed here. Amongst the traditional thatch roof homes also stand more modern concrete homes, some even with a television, built by individuals returning to the village life after years or even decades of working in their former colonialists nation of Holland.

Beautiful handmade anklet instruments added vigour and joy to their dance - Santigron, Suriname -- Karina Noriega

Beautiful handmade anklet instruments added vigour and joy to their dance – Santigron, Suriname — Karina Noriega

The national language in Suriname is still Dutch. Children as young as six are already well versed in 4 different languages as they begin with the language of their tribe. They are then taught the common language that ties together the village community. By primary school they are conducting classes in Dutch.  Many more are also learning English independently or begin lesson in secondary school when they are sent away from the village for education.

Before they got comfortable with me the little boy in green would scream in terror if the foreigners got to close - Santigron, Suriname -- Karina Noriega

Before they got comfortable with me the little boy in green would scream in terror if the foreigners got to close – Santigron, Suriname — Karina Noriega

Once they decided I was ok - Santigron, Suriname -- Karina Noriega

Once they decided I was ok – Santigron, Suriname — Karina Noriega

After another excellent home-cooked traditional meal in the park you make your way to the Santigron disco to drink and party along side the locals. The party goes late but remember you still have to wake up in the morning for the jungle trek.  Truthfully, the trek is more about getting to know how the Maroons connect with their environment and other tribes around them such as the Amerindians; the natives of this land before the Europeans came to America. The Amerindians are actually know to have helped African slaves escape plantations and taught them to survive in secret in the jungle – the way of the first Maroon people.

Headed into the wild amazon and a plethora of wild encounters to come - Santigron, Suriname -- Karina Noriega

Headed into the wild amazon and a plethora of wild encounters to come – Santigron, Suriname — Karina Noriega

Our initial walk through the village began within Kenneth pointing how every tree and flower around us has use in the village life or has medicinal qualities. It is truly impressive. These are people who until recent years all lived off the land independently. A man’s worth was and still is measured by his ability to provide for his family by fishing and hunting for their meals. Others pick fruit or make medicinal remedies to take to the markets outside the village. The females are still sent to the “women’s house” where they are separated and prohibited from entering the village during menstruation because the blood is considered unclean. The men are forbidden to cry even during the long designated mourning periods lest they risk being called homosexuals – clearly something that is still unacceptable within the community. There are simply too many interesting, rare and wonderful facts that I learned in a single day here.

Clay pots cook over a fire. Made by the Amerindians of the Amazon, Suriname -- Karina Noriega

Clay pots cook over a fire. Made by the Amerindians of the Amazon, Suriname — Karina Noriega

This is to be experienced with the people – once they warm up to you that is. There are strict rules that you must respect as a guest here. Photography is only allowed with expressed consent outside of the designated park. Children may still scream and cry if you approach them and many children and adults may be only half dressed or bathing from a bucket beside their homes. The people are joyful and calm though and the children are impossibly cute and very talented dancers. Perhaps the highlight of the entire journey was the traditional music and dance presented by Santigrons youngest inhabitants. More than 40 people gathered to celebrate and move in a presentation just for the two of us, their special guests. Following that, we were taken into the jungle by boat to explore more wildlife (we saw a very large Anaconda!) and another small Maroon village known for its handmade canoes. Every piece of the day is filled with enlightening new information and entertainment that can also be yours if you find yourself in Suriname. Plus if you choose to spend a second day in village, the adventure continues in the evening.

The tour wrapped up with a goodbye lunch that truly felt like I was saying goodbye to people that touched my heart. It is the people here, the love and feeling of welcome that was first initiated with sensitivity and community empowerment by Mr. Gilles, is what sticks out to me. I feel special myself to get the opportunity to learn and listen and play with the people of Santigron.

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Cost breakdown for travel through Guatemala

Volcano Panorama viewed from atop Volcan Pacaya -- Guatemala -- Karina Noriega
The main 'anda' carries Jesus Cristo de Nazarene through the street of Antigua, Guatemala. -- Karina Noriega

The main ‘anda’ carries Jesus Cristo de Nazarene through the street of Antigua, Guatemala. — Karina Noriega

Guatemala offers so many possibilities for every type of traveler. As a worldly backpacker and efficient shoestring traveler ($10/day in hostels, chicken buses,eating street food is a breeze), but in a country like Guatemala, $100/day means you travel like royalty. Most of you will land somewhere in the middle.

Tucan of Peten, thousands fly wild in the Northern jungles -- Guatemala -- Karina Noriega

Tucan of Peten, thousands fly wild in the Northern jungles — Guatemala — Karina Noriega

I created a very general breakdown here to give you an idea. (Actual cost will depend on the number of people traveling and what level of comfort and adventure desired.)

Flight

Costs will vary depending on your departure locations and tend to increase in price as departure date approaches.

I have flown several times from Toronto, Ontario for $500-700 roundtrip. My friend Jesse once scored a roundtrip flight from New York City for $350. I can send you tips on how to get the best price.

                   * A quick search today, January 13, 2015, brought up more than 30 options for less than $600 round trip from Toronto’s YYZ *

The infamous, colorful, Chicken Buses of Guatemala -- Karina Noriega

The infamous, colorful, Chicken Buses of Guatemala — Karina Noriega

Transport

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Guatemala – Growing up in the Land of Eternal Spring

Temples of Tikal Tower above the jungle canopy -- Guatemala -- Karina Noriega

When I was young girl growing up in Guatemala, my mom would delight in dragging my siblings and I around the country in search of history, culture and adventure.

A wonderful coincidence I should find a photograph the 3 of us riding a pony led caravan with the heading "Turistas" (Tourists) -- Guatemala -- Karina Noriega

A wonderful coincidence I should find a photograph the 3 of us riding a pony led caravan with the heading “Turistas” (Tourists) — Guatemala — Karina Noriega

“But Maaaaaam,” I frequently whined, “it’s just another bunch of rocks!” I was of course referring to the legendary and renowned ruin cities of the great Maya civilization. Back then, the derelict pyramidal structures were mostly jungle covered mounds (with exceptions such as Tikal). I certainly lacked the appreciation, negotiating my attentiveness for today’s history lessons in exchange for a chance to slide down the hills on a battered cardboard box.

Sometimes my mother would heave us into the back of the 4X4 or onto one of those famed ‘chicken buses’ if we were lucky. We’d ride endless hours on ramshackle roads (that disappear during times of heavy rains) into remote villages of the Western highlands. These volcanic chains are the heartland of Mayan tradition, unchanged for thousands of years. On any given weekend, exuberant and vibrant celebrations take place. My mom revelled in educating us about Guatemalan culture and heritage. The colourful dress, energetic dancing, hand carved masks, and superstition based performances, were fascinating teachers for our young minds and short attention spans.

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An Extraordinary Journey to Guatemala & You Are Invited

Volcano Panorama viewed from atop Volcan Pacaya -- Guatemala -- Karina Noriega

This is your official invitation to join me on an extraordinary journey through landmark destinations in Guatemala. 

Temples of Tikal Tower above the jungle canopy -- Guatemala -- Karina Noriega

Temples of Tikal Tower above the jungle canopy — Guatemala — Karina Noriega

Join us on this Extraordinary Journey around Guatemala! For more information, please contact:

Karina @ karinasextraordinarylife@gmail.com

April  @ aprilberesford@hotmail.com

Path to Agua -- Guatemala -- Karina Noriega

Path to Agua — Guatemala — Karina Noriega

I want to take fear, uncertainty and hard work out of going to a foreign land (specially if it’s your first trip). I have the research, connections and the know-how. Unlike big, established tours, traveling with me means traveling with a friend who is eager to explore, share, and help you travel safely. Our small group will result in more freedom, flexibility and a personalized experience.


Before you come

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Lighting up 2015 – Pacific Guatemala Style

Fisherman throw nets over the Pacific waves -- Karina Noriega
Happy New Year's 2015 from Karina and April

Happy New Year’s 2015 from Karina and April

The holidays are always an adventure when traveling. There is a slight panic of demand for experiencing something special, a trip within a trip. This New Years’ was no different. For the first time in my life, I found myself in my native country, with no family to whom I could simply attach myself too. I suddenly realized my dependency when I began constructing a list of possibilities. The only conclusion I arrived at was a bit dreary. Elevated prices at every hotel and increased chance of runs ins with drunk drivers on the road. April and I don’t exactly subscribe to common practices of hard partying and staying up all night either. We glumly agreed to stay in Guatemala city and ‘guard’ the homestead.

Another thing I don’t like is telephones. I shy away from ever having to carry on a conversation without present company, or at least written word. I’ve even been quoted saying “I’d rather go hungry than have to call to order a pizza.” But as a dutiful grand-daughter and grateful guest here, I answered the telephone in lieu of my Manina. Forty-five minutes later we were loading baskets of random food hastily collected from the house, a change of clothes and our neglected books into the back of a chauffeured SUV Crossover.  Continue reading

Tropical New Years – Chulamar, Escuintla, Guatemala

A new film for www.karinasextraordinarylife.com

As we set the stage for a perfect New Year’s celebration (crystal blue waters, black volcanic sand beach scattered with coconut trees), we are reminded that no explorer’s adventure is complete without a worthy a perilous battle against a worthy adversary. Witness a stubborn ‘Gringa’ face her opponent head on and the passionate rage that ensues when she loses the fight. Wait for the final moment when our two heroines ride towards the sunset, in style, hoping that next year will be filled with even more adventure than the last.

A film by April Beresford


 

Find out how this impromptu New Year’s celebration came to be and check out some more pics –> Lighting up 2015

 

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Casa Guatemala Fundraiser and Volunteer Mission

A film by April Beresford for www.karinasextraordinarylife.com

In November of 2013 I launched a prodigious campaign to positively affect the lives of hundreds of children at a remote Guatemalan school and orphanage called Casa Guatemala. My mission was to raise funds for the organization, utilize them to personally purchase necessary supplies, and delivered them to the homes, classrooms and kitchens of the jungle haven. I cut out the middle man and ensured accountability for every cent of every dollar meeting the needs of the kids.
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Read the whole story @  https://karinasextraordinarylife.com/2014/12/31/heroes-for-guatemala/

~ An Extraordinary Story by Karina Noriega ~

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