Freefall

Benbrook78

Freefall

I have been living in Brazil for the past seven months and will now be backpacking from Northwest Argentina to Mexico.




South America » Colombia » Medellin December 20th 2008

Joy Contagion The Medellín River runs through the center of the city. Near one of the primary bridges that crosses it, there is a cluster of parks and pathways that run alongside. Every year, for most of the month of December – and well into January – a spectacular array of Christmas lights known as Los Alumbrados is on display along the river. Hundreds of luminous, plantlike fixtures rise up out of the water. Dozens of scenes are constructed featuring animatronic figures that move around. Each season brings a completely different display than that of the year before, and an entire industry has grown up around the world-famous event. A small crowd of us from the hostel spend an hour or so walking around and looking at all the different light displays. Streams of families, couples, ... read more
Los Alumbrados
Los Alumbrados
Los Alumbrados

South America » Colombia » Medellin December 19th 2008

Fruit of the Gods I stare at the mango. The mango – cleverly donned in a camouflage swirl of red, orange and yellow – just sits there. But it knows I can see it. It wants me to. Overhead, the supermarket's PA system cranks out a bad fusion of Muzak and salsa rhythms that aren't made any better by the whine of aging fluorescent lights. The problem here is very simple. One morning while living in Brazil earlier this year, I woke up in a mild panic. One eye was swollen mostly shut. My lips were easily double their normal size, and the rest of my lower face was covered in a horribly itchy rash. A few hours of research online carried out against everything I had eaten in the previous 48 hours revealed the cause. ... read more
Urushiol Molecule

South America » Colombia » Medellin December 18th 2008

Somewhere along the line, wiseass software developers such as myself made a resolute decision to include progress bars at the bottom of web browsers to indicate how far along it is in downloading the requested web page. This decision was made either in total ignorance or sardonic mockery of the average Wi-Fi connection in a South American hostel. Which is why, seated cross-legged in a huge, over-stuffed armchair at the Palm Tree Hostel in Medellín, I have spent the past six minutes staring like a fool at the colorful little bar on my screen that cheerfully reports 75% success in downloading my email inbox while the rest of the window shows nothing but a blank hypertext void – on the fourth attempt. The sound of laughter pulls my attention up from the screen. Across the ... read more
Parque Berrío
Parque Berrío
Parque Berrío

South America » Colombia » Tierradentro December 15th 2008

By mid-morning, Paul and I are on our way to Tierradentro. Two days ago, the trip from Popayán to San Agustín was on a short little shuttle bus owing to the rough terrain and light traffic. But now, on the real back roads of rural Colombia, all forms of mass transportation of any size is discarded entirely in favor of a 4x4 pickup truck with a fiberglass shell and two solid bench seats that run either side of the bed. I sit at the back – elbow perched on the lip of the tailgate as I watch the trees roll past and disappear into plumes of dust kicked up from the tires. All six and a half feet of Paul sits to my left – hunched over and wound up like a watch spring in the ... read more
San Andres
Tierradentro
Tierradentro

South America » Colombia » San Agustin December 11th 2008

Into Colombia The bus pulls over to the shoulder of the two-lane mountain pass and stops. I can't imagine why we would want to stop here. I'm sitting at the very back, and can't really see to the front where the driver is saying something to someone through the window. A moment later, the door pops out and slides over and a man dressed in camo steps onto the bus. He surveys the passengers from one side to the other for a few seconds, then clears his throat. "Ok can I get all the men to step off the bus, please?" He says something else as he steps back off onto the grassy shoulder, but I can't make it out at this distance. My first assumption is that this is a military checkpoint. They'll take all ... read more
San Agustin
San Agustin
San Agustin

South America » Colombia » Ipiales December 6th 2008

Just over the Colombian side of the border with Ecuador is the small city of Ipiales. It is a frequent stopover for backpackers traveling between the two countries. Few are aware of the tiny village of Lajas just 20 minutes away. Here you can find the Las Lajas Sanctuary - a gothic cathedral built into the side of a mountain gorge with a bridge extending to the other side. It is not to be missed. ... read more
Las Lajas Sanctuary
Las Lajas Sanctuary
Las Lajas Sanctuary

South America » Ecuador » East » El Coca December 1st 2008

Teleportation I sit perched on the edge of the boat's bow with my bare feet dangling in the water. This isn't one of the long, wooden river canoes, but the fiberglass outboard motor boat we had when I was a kid. Rusty orange. Thirty-five horsepower. This isn't even the Napo River. It's a lake somewhere in Oklahoma. I am sitting at the very front of the bow - just on the port side where the two halves of the hull come together at a point. I look out at the expanse of the lake and try to identify it. Definitely not Tenkiller. Not rocky enough. Bar-Dew? Could be. Grand, Hulah, Skiatook? Maybe. Beside me on the coarse synthetic excuse for a carpet of the deck is a Zebco rod and reel. Actually, the Zebco is sitting ... read more

South America » Ecuador November 30th 2008

Pan and the Art of Motorcycle Smuggling A few minutes later, Fernando and I are standing in front of the customs office. Next to the closed door and down at waist level, there is a wide, open window. A thin-faced man in a white polo shirt sits at a small table just on the other side and looks up from my passport. "The purpose for your visit to Ecuador?" "Just passing through on my way to Colombia," I say. "Anything to declare?" "Nope." "Ok," he says as he finishes copying the pertinent details from my passport onto a registration clipboard. "Don't forget to swing by the police station so they can stamp you in." "Got it." He hands me my passport and takes Fernando's. "Ok, and you?" he asks, flipping through the pages. "Just going ... read more

South America » Ecuador November 29th 2008

A blood-curdling scream rips me from sleep and carelessly drops me into consciousness. For several seconds, I have no idea where or when I am. I sit up and look around in the darkness - straining to see. Pieces of reality fall into place and I become aware of the empty deck of the Cabo Pantoja. Beyond the railing I see the village of Pantoja itself dimly lit by the moon and deadly silent. But what was that sound? Far off to my right and at the back of the boat, I hear the bubbling clucking of a rooster. In the darkness, I can make out the faint outline of a small cage that someone must have brought up from the depths of the lower level cargo hold. The rooster crows again. The sound is warbled ... read more

South America » Peru » Loreto » Iquitos » Amazon Rainforest November 28th 2008

Late morning on the final day aboard the Cabo Pantoja feels oddly like the last day of junior high in mid-May. For one thing, the sky is empty of clouds and the sun is out for the first time since we left Iquitos. There are only about fifteen passengers left on the top deck and, like the last day of school, there is an atmosphere of pleasant finality. Everyone is taking down hammocks, repacking bags, and getting ready to depart at one of the last few villages. With a good chunk of floor space opened up, kids are running around and playing - having finally been liberated from the impossibly confined torture of the first few days. But mid-May in the Midwest was never so hot and humid. The only ones not participating in the last-minute ... read more
The Cabo Pantoja at dusk




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