A Travellerspoint blog

3 weeks volunteering in an ecolodge

Last weeks in Mexico

Hello from Costa Rica!

There was so much going on lately that we haven't taken time to write any update over here but we're back to tell you a bit about the last three weeks we have spent in Mexico. We found another opportunity to volunteer and to save some money while learning new techniques and while getting to know better how local people are living.

We have therefore spent these weeks in Bacalar at Greta's and Juan's camping, called the Guarumbo. Greta is Italian and Juan is Mexican. After travelling around together in hostels, they have decided to build their own and they settled down in Bacalar, a beautiful city located in Quintana Roo, famous for its turquoise lagoon, far from the party mood of Tulum and Cancun. Thanks to Juan's background in architecture, they drew all the building's layouts and elaborated the concept together. While building the house with the help of a succession of volunteers, they installed a few tents in the garden to offer accommodation to travellers. They have designed the full concept to be eco-friendly (using sustainable materials sourced locally, having their own compost, using plastic waste as a filler to build walls, ...).
During these 3 weeks, we have helped them with the guests (preparing breakfast, cleaning and preparing the tents, going to the laundry etc) but also with a lot of diverse activities like gardening, cutting and sanding down wood for future shutters and tables, sifting sand, making concrete with water, salt and lime, building walls with plastic bottles, painting etc...). It was hard physical work especially with the high temperatures but we loved it. We have learned so much thanks to Juan and Greta who shared their knowledge with passion. Within the three weeks, we managed to finish one dormitory (without the furnitures) and to start the rooftop. Here below are a few pictures of the before/after.
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The heat was so strong that Laura and I could barely sleep in the same tent without suffocating. I was therefore sleeping on the rooftop in my sleeping bag where I could feel a bit of wind. Even though it wasn't the most comfortable thing ever, I have enjoyed every single night as I could observe the numerous stars before sleeping and could wake up with an amazing sunrise every morning before starting with my fitness routine.
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After work, we were taking the bikes and riding to the lagoon to chill out in the clear water. There is worse in life ;).
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During our stay, we had the opportunity to travel around over the weekend. We spent the first weekend camping and exploring Calakmul Biosphere reserve. This reserve is over 723,000 hectares and is UNESCO protected. It is located a few kilometers only from the border of Guatemala and was one of the biggest city of the Mayan civilization. The reserve is the home of many wild species like jaguars, pumas, hawling monkeys, coatis, scorpios, snakes etc... We rent a car and formed a team with 3 other adventurers to sleep in the middle of the jungle and to discover the beauty of this Mayan site, which (to our great surprise) wasn't touristic at all.
What a unique experience to observe the Milky Way from our tent (to which we removed the roof), being rocked by the intriguing noises of the deep jungle! The night was very short, not only because we were afraid of being awakened by a jaguar but because we wanted to start visiting the site before the sunrise to get the chance to spot some animals. Here below is a glimpse of what we saw.
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During the second weekend off, we went to Mahahual, small fishermen's village, very quiet except twice to 3 times a week when cruise ships stop by and the tourists invade beaches, restaurants and massage tables. No need to book a snorkeling tour there, we swam a few hundred meters from the shore and could observe colorful corals, fishes and even 2 turtles. One of them was one meter big and was swimming towards us. Another proof that money isn't the key to happiness but nature can lead us to it.

Over the three weeks, we had the visit of friends from Switzerland and from Canada, with whom we spent great moments. It's always a pleasure to meet friends on the other side of the planet.
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This is how we spent the last weeks together in Mexico. We then split to travel to Belize (Laura with her boyfriend, and me alone). We'll tell you more in the next article. Stay posted! ;)

Posted by Ecoworldtrip 22:52 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

We're settling down

Third country: Mexico!


View Mexico on Ecoworldtrip's travel map.

We have been staying in Mexico for exactly a month now and are loving it. It was kind of a cultural choc when landing to Cancun to find back a developed country with all what we could be looking for at our disposal. Coming from Cuba where we sometimes had to go to 5 different shops to find one with bottles of water available and, arriving in Cancun where there are hundreds of shops, bars, restaurants in every street with menus in English and prices in American dollars was a huge change.
That's not exactly the kind of atmosphere we are looking for when traveling so we only stayed a night and took the next bus in the morning to Holbox.

Holbox is a little island , very touristic but, it's not the same mass tourism as in Cancun with huge all inclusive resorts and beach clubs. It seems more like the perfect spot for young hipsters doing kitesurfing or having a yoga retreat. We spent 3 relaxing days there, chilling at the beach, studying online and trying not to starve but not to overspend neither, which was pretty hard as European prices are applied everywhere there with no possibility to negotiate...
During the first day at the beach, we came prepared with hats, sunglasses, loads of water and our new Mexican sunblock 30. It turned out that we weren't prepared enough. We got literally burnt! We kept on putting some sunscreen in thick layers but could still feel the sun burning our skin as if it was actually attracted by it. We had to leave the beach as we could seriously not handle it anymore and stayed at the hostel the next days. Sorry, we're not sharing pictures of that ahaha but at least we learned that we should not trust these sunscreens anymore.

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After Holbox, we were joined by friends from France, Canada and then Belgium for a road trip in Yucatan, exploring the beauty of this region. We had a wonderful time jumping in some cenotes, visiting Mayan ruins, going to museums, tasting local food, Mezcal and Tequila, snorkeling and partying too of course.
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Not that we can complain about our current way of living but it felt like taking holidays in our trip, being super active every day and not looking much at our expenses anymore. "Oops, it's quite expensive... Well, let's do it anyway and we'll balance the overcost later " was our speech for these 10 days and we didn't feel too guilty about it. 😀
We met again other travelers on our way with whom who shared hilarious moments, especially in Merida. We can unfortunately not list everyone here but are very thankful.
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Then, back to the life at two, we stayed a few more days in Tulum to visit the area and went to Puerto Morelos, a small fishermen's village much more authentic than what we had seen before. We got to know many people in our charming hostel opened two years ago by Sophie, who shared her story with us. It was really inspiring and nice to meet her too. We could snorkel to the coral reef and do some sports and yoga on the beach after watching the sunrise: what a blast!

After all that time spent traveling, we found an opportunity to volunteer in a hostel in Cozumel island, called La Casona Art & Recycling. We volunteered there for two weeks overall. We were basically working five hours a day, doing check-in and check-out, cleaning the house, and renting bikes or selling tours against free accommodation in a dormitory. Great deal! We met tons of people there everyday and passed our advanced open water certification for diving. It was simply magical to explore the second largest coral reef in the world and it's inhabitants (Moray, lobsters, pistol shrimps, rays, nurse sharks, barracuda, luminescence etc)! We even went diving at night, looking at our surrounding with a torch. Thank you so much Benji for this discovery, we won't forget it!
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The tenants of the hostel, Renso and Fabi are from Argentina. They are very much into art and giving a second life to objects. We actually had the chance to see Fabi painting some beautiful pieces of art: stunning! Plus, they organized a beach clean-up in partnership with dive instructors to which we actively participated. We were 10 people cleaning 400m of beach in Cozumel during approximately two hours and managed to collect 80 to 90kgs of trash. We were separating all the trash which could be recycled and the one which couldn't in different bags. The non-recyclable trash is either burried or burnt on that island. What we found the most were plastic bottles, plastic lids and polystyrene pieces which were deintegrating in fine pieces while trying to collect them (a nightmare!).

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It's now time to leave that beautiful island were we found much more than friends, a second family... A little bit sad but also very excited to see what's coming next.
Nos vemos pronto 😉

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Posted by Ecoworldtrip 09:53 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

We are still alive !

2nd country: Cuba


View Mexico & Cuba on Ecoworldtrip's travel map.

Hola chicos/as,

Yes we are still alive! We haven't been very active on the blog over the last weeks as they were pretty intense. I am going to explain you.
But first, let's start where we left you last time.

So, Punta Cana... Well, as expected from the first impressions, we haven't been really impressed by this region. It was all very touristic, full of huge resorts all-inclusive, high prices and local people always approaching us in English to make business. So, all in all , not the best experience we had.
However, we met Leonel, another traveller from Argentina who taught us a lot about his country and culture. As we had to compensate the over expenses from the previous days, we were pretty limited in terms of activities but Leonel definitely made our days. Thanks Leonel!!
One funny fact is that we discovered the outdoor laundries and the joy of humid countries where clothes take several days to dry off. Here is our camp in the bedroom.

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Next destination: Cuba

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The trip could not be called "adventure" if there weren't some challenges, right? I guess that's why we missed our flight to Cuba 😁. We had a bit more than two hours to change flight in Fort Lauderdale but had to queue for almost the same time to go through the custom, which obviously prevented us from catching our connecting flight. Long story short, we managed to take another one a few hours later with no extra cost. Getting the visa to travel to Cuba was also not that easy given the fact that tourism isn't a valid reason to visit the country when one is traveling from the USA but we made it!

We spent 2 weeks getting around Cuba with local transportation and sleeping in casas particulares (guesthouse). It felt so good connecting again with the local people. Laura and I both had already visited Cuba before and nothing had changed since then. Still the same atmosphere in the streets, with the sound of latin music, the buildings in really poor conditions, vintage American cars going down the streets and kind people always smiling and willing to help.

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The highlight of our trip was definitely our stay in Baracoa, a small town near the sea where we spent four days. After a long day traveling in colectivos (small buses in which people are piled in the back, sometimes with no window, sometimes illegally, most of the time with no comfort and always without seat belt and either no air or way too much AC), we left our bags at the guesthouse and went for a drink in the cacao museum. While resting a bit at the table, we were approached by a group of musicians who offered us a private concert: such a magical moment! We were invited to their official concert the day after and even took a lesson of percussions. It looks like we actually have some talent! 😂

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We also had the chance to meet the owner of a bakery and his staff who offered us bread everyday. Bread is quite tough to get on the island as , in most of the cities we visited, it can only be bought twice in the day. People have to wait in line for hours to get the chance to buy some (cf picture) when it's available, without any guarantee that they won't be left without bread for a few days. We became good friends with the people from the bakery and were even invited to the birthday of one of them, Damian. His family cooked a traditional meal for us and we had a great party all together, dancing Cuban salsa.
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During our stay in Baracoa, we also met Helene and Clement from France when visiting a farm, where we tasted delicious tropical fruits (goyavas, bananas, maracujas, ...). We immediately connected and actually spent the rest of our days and nights with them. Their great sense of humour made our hike to the Yunque a memorable one. Thank you both 😘.
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Another rich experience we had over there was the visit of a waste collecting center. Indeed, we wanted to learn more about the way waste are managed on the island and therefore went to these facilities to interview the manager. That's where we met Antonio Luis Lobaina who was kind enough to explain us everything about their process and who gave us a tour of the site.
Empty packaging are not sorted at home but it is mandatory for industries to sort their waste and prepare them for recycling. Some inhabitants do recycle but not really by consciousness about the impact on the environment. People can actually get money when bringing the sorted packages to the
collecting centers (cf prices indicated on the picture) or to the factories which reuse the containers. This system works for glass, metal, paper and plastic.
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There are collecting centers in each province where the materials are sorted and compressed. These latest are then sent to the main facility in La Havana to be then sold and exported. There is almost no recycling center in Cuba.
People aren't well informed about sustainability, there is no specific program at school on that topic. However, some provinces are starting their journey towards sustainability and intent to bring awareness through specific events like "marathons". These marathons occur twice a month and consist in a big trash collection day when the inhabitants participate and weigh the results of their collect at the end of the day. It is organized a bit like a competition.

Our impression is that the touristic beaches are well maintained by the hotels around but as soon as we get a bit off the beaten track, waste are simply piling up in the nature. People are living in such conditions that the environment is the least of their priority and a lot has to be done to inform the population.
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Here below are some pictures of the fantastic landscapes we have seen during the two weeks on this charming island. We hope you will enjoy it too. I promise that next post won't be in too long.

Cheers!

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Posted by Ecoworldtrip 08:29 Archived in Cuba Comments (0)

Ready to go

Dominican Republic

sunny 30 °C
View Dominican Republic & Departure for new adventures on Ecoworldtrip's travel map.

Here is the first post from the other side of the Atlantic.

31st of January, 5am: the alarm clock is ringing after a very short night packing and organizing the last things before the departure. The excitement is at its maximum. Here we are, it's the day that we have prepared for months. Once the goodbye kisses done and the backpack of 12kgs on the conveyor of the airport, we realize that the adventure is becoming reality.

Laura and I met at Madrid's airport and took the plane together to Santo Domingo. Fully motivated to start our backpacking life, we planned to take a bus to our first destination: las Terrenas. However, we had a bit of delay so we weren't able to catch the last one and had to take a taxi. Clearly not yet ready with our negotiation skills, we had to pay the equivalent of our budget for 3days. First failure...

The hostel is a lovely place owned by an American named Dan, and his Dominican wife Manty. We're sharing the room with Judith, an Hungarian young traveller looking for a job or volunteering activities in the region.
After these stressful months spent organizing millions of things, we have decided to start our journey by a few weeks of vacation.

We have therefore spent the first days exploring the beaches around (playa Bonita, playa Ballenas, playa Rincon, Cayo Levantado, ...), hiking in a tropical forest to reach an impressive waterfall (El Limon), learning kite surfing, watching whales in Samana bay and of course meeting old and new friends.

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We were surprised by the cleanliness of the beaches here, even the hidden ones where very few people are going. Not a single trash on the sand. We even found sorting bins for recycling on the main beaches. The lands are unfortunately different... We let you judge with pictures.
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Highlight of our stay: sleeping at a local's place for the first time. Loria, the sweetest grandma ever proposed us to stay at her place while we were discussing on the beach. We met her family and spent a great evening playing with the kids. Comfort was very basic (no water, electricity in the living room only, huge spiders and other insects) but it wasn't necessary as the kindness of the family represented much more for us. We were treated like princesses and could not express how grateful we were.
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Regarding recycling, the family was giving all organic waste to feed their animals and to plant in their garden. Glass waste are gathered under a tree for collection and reuse. People are using glass bottles to put fuel in it.
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Today, the 6th of Feb, we spent the day traveling from las Terrenas to Punta Cana. It seems a lot different here, much more touristic, full of American brands, big malls and fast food but that's only the first impression we had from the bus. Let's see tomorrow how it really is.
Now it's time to sleep.

Posted by Ecoworldtrip 02:00 Archived in Dominican Republic Comments (0)

LET'S GET OUT OF OUR COMFORT ZONE

Dream life becoming reality

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Hi everybody (family, friends, colleagues, stalkers ^^),

Welcome to our blog where we will share a bit of our life, experiences, challenges, status on our mission, travel plans and pictures so that you can follow us around the world.

Let's start by introducing ourselves. Our names are Laura and Tonacie. We are two French girls working as packaging engineers for a big food company. We met at work and immediately became close friends, sharing lot's of passions in common (traveling, dancing, sports, diving, nature, ...). It's after a first backpacking trip together in Indonesia in April 2018 that we have decided to get out of our comfort zone and go for a worldtrip.

We are both living in Bern, the capital yet small city of Switzerland that one could compare with Hobbitown where everything seems quiet, peaceful, safe, rich and beautiful. Very happy about our current living conditions, we however started to question ourselves while traveling to Indonesia. We discovered an extremely generous population and fantastic landscapes but polluted by waste.

We could not stand watching all these waste without doing anything so we have decided to change our lifestyle and dedicate a year of our life to environmental activities such as beach clean-up, preservation of wildlife, teaching courses on sustainability etc while traveling the world.
Our aim is to use this opportunity of making our planet a better place to live at, to also meet new people from different cultures, to become fully fluent in Spanish, to discover fantastic places, to learn traditional dances and to dive with beautiful animal species.

In order to complete our operational experience through this trip, we have also started an online training on sustainability which we expect to get graduated from.

On January the 31st, our flight will leave France in direction to new adventures. First stop: Dominican Republic.

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Posted by Ecoworldtrip 10:30 Archived in Switzerland Comments (2)

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