Mark Simmons

fromthebottomup

Mark Simmons

Spending 5 months travelling to Antarctica and then in South America. Still thinking about what I want to get out of this blog...mainly to share with friends and family back home and to make impose some discipline on myself to make sure I record the highs and lows of travelling. Current biggest concerns - how to match the high standard of photos from other bloggers and make my travel map visible to followers!



South America » Colombia » San Andres July 9th 2014

I had always planned to end my travels with some quality beach time. A chance, I thought, to relax and reflect on the last few months, or, if the latter proved too arduous, at least to drink beer and, in between football matches, sit in the sun. I also thought it would be nice to keep the gang together for as long as possible. As we travelled west through northern Colombia it felt as though our travels were leading to an inevitable conclusion on the beaches of San Andres and Providencia. San Andres and Providencia are Carribean islands about 800 kilometres north of Cartagena, due east of Nicaragua, whose claim for jurisdiction was recently dismissed by the UN in favour of Colombia's earlier claim and many years of administration. My mind´s eye pictured a stereotypical Carribean ... read more
San Andres - the search for tranquility continues
San Andres - view out to Rocky Caye
San Andres - Swimming with stingrays

South America » Colombia » Cartagena July 3rd 2014

Cusco remains my favourite South American city but Cartagena comes a close second. We had travelled down from Santa Marta with high expectations - unusually for a city The Lonely Planet identifies Cartagena as the #1 must see in Colombia - and the city didn't disappoint. Cartagena, or at least the old part, juts out into the Carribean and is ringed by a defensive wall intended to protect the city from naval attack. We'd picked up plenty of advice and information about Cartagena during our travels all of which had been broadly positive and suggested we should base ourselves in the old town (the walled part of the city) and allow a couple of days to see the sights. We'd booked into a hostel in a central location near San Diego Plaza. It was a comfortable ... read more
View across the ramparts at San Felipe De Barajas
Convento and Iglesia de San Pedro Claver
Funerary urn at the Museo Del Oro

South America » Colombia » Cartagena June 26th 2014

Almost from the start of my trip a sense of communal expectaction had been building in South America about the World Cup. As early as March the lead news story on Argentine tv had been the replacement of the normal run of the mill strikes and protests about the state of the economy with demonstrations in favour of the inclusion of Carlos Tevez in the Argentine World Cup squad. (Tevez is very much the people's hero, seen as the local boy who made good but remained true to his roots. Messi may be admired and respected but Tevez is loved.) In Peru the conversation was more analytical. Having failed to qualify themselves the locals wanted to know what I thought of England's chances and who the dark horses might be. By the time I got to ... read more
Our eco-lodge on the edge of Tayronna National Park
Patriotic water hydrant
Beach at Tayronna

South America » Colombia » Santa Marta June 24th 2014

What's not to like about a 4 day trek through mountainous, mosquito-infested jungle, in temperatures of up to 40 degrees to find a lost city? (No I'm not sure any of us can explain how John and I managed to persuade Penny to join us - perhaps that was our greatest achievement). But after all a whole city, it's not every day you get to find one of those. The trek to La Cuidad Perdita starts about 50 kilometres up the coast from Santa Marta and a few miles inland on a dirt road to a small village called Machete Pelau. We'd originally planned and booked the trek as a 5 day trip heading out on the 20th and returning on the 24th in time for England's final group game against Costa Rica. However, a closer ... read more
Sleeping arrangements at Camp 1
Jungle view on Day 2
Jungle and river on Day 2

South America » Colombia » Riohacha June 16th 2014

We'd decided to take a road trip to Punta Gallinas while were still in Quito. The attraction for me was simple - Punta Gallinas is on the tip of the Guajira Peninsular. This makes it the northernmost point in Colombia and so in the whole of continental South America. By a happy accident this would allow me to dovetail my trip with a pleasing symmetry - having more or less started my journey at Ushuaia, at the very bottom of the continent, I would now be able to complete the journey from the bottom to the top. If this were not incentive enough Punta Gallinas is a seriously remote place where the desert of the northern Guajira peninsular runs all the way to the Caribbean Sea. It would take 2 days in a 4 wheel drive ... read more
The car, the man, the voice - Emilio!
Flamingos on the way out from Riohacha
Heavy traffic on the salt flats

South America June 9th 2014

Our home for the seven days we spent exploring the Galapagos by boat was the Yolita II. We´d spent a lot of time and energy back in Quito trying to choose the right boat and the right route. In the end we´d decided that the Yolita was the best size for our purposes and the Western Circuit of islands offered the best chance of ticking the most boxes on our wishlist. Once we´d made our decision we´d spent a lot of money to secure it so there were as a lot riding on the next seven days. Within a couple of hours of boarding on Sunday morning it was obvious that we´d made a good choice about the boat. The Yolita II was modern, spotlessly clean and comfortably spacious. There were 16 passengers in total - ... read more
Attentive Swallow Tailed Gulls
Posturing male frigate bird
View across Bartolome to Santiago


Our plan for Galapagos was to divide our time between the island of Santa Cruz (5 days) and a boat trip (8 days) around the western and northern circuit of islands (Santa Isabela, Fernandina, Bartolome and Genovesa). In theory this would give us the best of both worlds - a chance to organise our own trips and diving whilst based on Santa Cruz and to maximise the diversity of wildlife we would see whilst we were on the boat. But first we had to get there... After an enjoyable morning basking in the bright sun of Alausi (and in my case the afterglow of the Championship play off final victory) and marvelling at Alausi's transformation from sleepy backwater to bustling market town we boarded a bus to Guayaquil. On the map it looked like it would ... read more
John and Penny consider going native in Alausi...
Tree lizard in Guayaquil
An extra helper at the fish market

South America » Ecuador » Centre » Baños May 26th 2014

The first stop on our road trip south was Banos - about 4 hours south of Quito. The bus would pass down the "Avenue of the Volcanoes" and maybe even afford a tantalising glimpse of Cotopaxi. However, in the event, even this was denied to us - the weather closed in, bringing rain and minimal visibility. The journey itself - my first on a bus for some considerable time - was uneventful and we arrived in Banos in the late afternoon. Our focus had been all Galapagos and judging by the apparent emptiness of Mariscal (Saturday night excepted) we'd decided that to we should be able to sort out accommodation on arrival in Banos. And so it proved. We ignored the scrum of touts that met the bus and walked along to the top rated hostel ... read more
Banos - About to hit the trail on our bikes
Banos - one of several means of transport across the valley
Banos - The Devil's Cauldron

South America » Ecuador » North » Quito May 21st 2014

I've said before that people don't come to South America for the cities. That remains the case even when, like Quito, they have been recognised by UNESCO with World Heritage status for its old town. (Quito's tourist literature proudly boasts that it was the first city to be assigned this status). However, despite such august plaudits, to me, nice though Quito was, it was really just one in another long line of South American cities. I'd arrived late on Friday night, meeting the pick up from the hotel at the airport and finally making it to my hotel at around 1.30 in the morning, so my first chance to get a look at the city was Saturday morning. At first glance it seemed small and a little provincial (particularly after Lima), although undeniably pretty in places. ... read more
The Teleferiq
Saturday Morning in downtown Quito
Vaulted arch in the Basilica

South America » Peru » Lima » Lima » Lima May 20th 2014

How the heart must sink at the sight of that first photo - he may be waving a different glass at us but he still hasn´t bothered to shave - and here he comes to put us off our dinners with some more thoughts about food. Well far be it from to disappoint...so here it is...a distillation of my food experiences in Peru, although I should stress that this comes with one serious qualification - if I discount my time trekking I´ve had just about 2 weeks here. By way of comparison my food blog from Argentina represented nearly 2 months of exhaustive (and at times exhausting) research - hence, the scope and depth of my conclusions - "big portions, lots of meat". So if my comments about Argentina were half-baked these have barely seen the ... read more
#5 - Ceviche as served at Punto Azul
#6 - Lunch! Home-cut Chips, Chicherrones sandwich and Chicha.
#7 - Inkazuela - Chicken and Lamb Stew




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