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Published: December 5th 2007
Now the macaw is behaving better
So we had finally made it to our final destination in this part of the world and I was happy to be back in Colombia again. Straight away the difference is obvious as there is a lot more money in Colombia than other countries and people here are happy to see tourists in their country. The infrastructure is better, the people are more educated, the shops are nicer, the houses are nicer, the people are extremely friendly and helpful, I believe that they have a great way of looking at life, they love their salsa and play much better music than most other places in Sth America - this matters as music is everywhere on this continent and is played at high volumes regardless of the neighbours. The most notable difference here as opposed to Peru where we had just come from was that there is no moto taxis.......thank god as they are the noisiest mode of transport I have come across. After making it up the muddy hill and into the town we instantly have people trying to help us out. Particularly these two men on a motorbike, the one on the back is older with a lovely cute friendly
A tarantula that was enjoying the same living space as me!
face and the one driving is younger and also very smiley. They are actually looking for some people who they believe might have been on our boat but have a bit of a random chat with us and point us in the right direction. For the rest of the time in Leticia we are stopped in the street by these two who are always on their bike, always in the same position and always smiling and happy to see us. We have sketchy directions for the hostel we have been recommended and after asking some people we realise that the in true Colombian style Gustavo can´t give good directions. He was meant to met us at the boat but we were early so when we ring him we are lucky that he is still in town and able to come and get us as he is actually on the same street as us. Once we are back at his hostel, or rather it is his house, we can relax and enjoy the serenity as he serves us up coffee and starts to tell us some of his many stories. Staying at the hostel is an Italian couple who actually live
The streets of Tabatinga, Brazil
in the town where some of my family come from, interesting to find out but due to communication difficulties thats about all I find out about the town. Also there is Dale, an American who likes to talk a lot and very loudly, except most of his stories are actually interesting so it takes me a few hours before he is too much.
After a much needed shower and some food we decided that we should actually go to the airport to have our passports stamped. It is so lax here that once you arrive in Colombia it is your responsibility to get your passport stamped, so this place would be easy to hide away from the world if you needed to for some reason. The town of Leticia was quite nice as far as remote towns go. Very clean and lots of green gardens and flowers because of the rain. Also lots of shops selling local produce and for some reason I was wanting to shop here.....so after a few days I had collected some more clothes and a lot more jewellery. For the first days while we were in Leticia I had managed to feel like I
At the port in Tabatinga looking out to Peru on the left and Colombia on the right
was about to explode. Due to eating nearly a whole pineapple, not in one sitting but over a few days, my stomach had decided not to work properly.....basically I was constipated. For days I had been trying all the tricks in the world but nothing was working and I was feeling like crap. Time had come for some serious actions and after getting some medicine from the pharmacy the day before that didn´t work I went back and asked for the stongest thing that they had. The lady at the pharmacy told me to drink the whole bottle of this stuff and not to leave the hostel and I should get some action in five minutes, this sounded good to me as I was desperate at this stage. After drinking it all I could do was to lie down as my stomach came alive and it felt like an alien might soon start making it´s way out of my stomach. To make matters even worse I had just heard Gustavo telling someone outside that the water was currently off and not likely to be back on until later that day.......fantastic I thought as there was no way that I was
The port of Tabatinga....you can see where the water will rise to
going to be able to hold on till then. Anyway the medicine worked and I went from one side of the coin to the other and would of appreciated some running water but I was just glad to that everything was moving again. Moral of this story is not to get carried away when you see beautiful fresh tropical fruits that you have not eaten in ages, just a few pieces will do.
We spent our days in Leticia wandering around the town admiring the bakery treats and extravagant cakes, walking around the houses on stilts down near the water front, walking over to Brazil just because we could and also to see if there was any noticable difference (there wasn´t other than the language), sweating a lot, trying to avoid the daily rain storms, trying to stop the ants from eating our dirty clothes, making sure the that the tarantulas around the hostel stayed out of our room, drinking coffee and watching the town prepare for the federal election that was going to take place while we were there. There was a lot of propoganda and people driving around the streets with large speakers blaring party information and
Just another product that makes us smile.....MINI BUMS!
each candidate had their own offices where their supporters were hanging out in the lead up to the election. We did check out the options to head out into the Amazon rainforest to spend some time out there, both of us had been there previously but since we had come such a long way it seemed to me that it would be silly not to go. After a little bit of research it turned out that they charged ridiculous amounts to do anything near Leticia and you would only really be along the rivers and not deep in the forest, unless you wanted to pay an arm and a leg to go to an eco-village for a few days. So being happy with what we both had already done and seen we decided to head down to the canal and see where we could go for a little look around on the cheap. As usual we had someone informing us instantly on what our options were and we decided to take a speed boat down river a little bit and have a look at some animals and a little bit of the jungle. The benefit of being on the speed
A little boy busted having a wee on the side of the street, only just missing his friend
boat was that once we were underway the breeze was lovely and cooled us off. After around 15 minutes we pulled into a place called Victoria Reia which seemed to be some kind or reserve where we got to see macaws and then wander around to see different sort of trees and plants. Was good to get out of Leticia for a while and see some of the nature that surrounds the area....it was only the smallest taste but I was glad that we had made the effort. Also with the mosquitos attacking me like they had not eaten in 4 weeks I was also happy to just be out here for an hour or so and not any length of time. After visiting here we headed off to the next place which was in Santa Rosa in Peru, we were told that we would see more animals and I was kind of thinking that because we were surrounded by jungle it would be a case of luck to see the animals. Unfortunately when we arrived we were taken up to one of the restaurants and there caged up we found a few different sorts of monkeys, anacondas, caymens, iguanas,
Sharyn dancing her way down to some houses on stilts
toucans, a baby owl and more macaws. These amazing animals were sadly not here for any other reason than to satisfy the strange human desire to see these animals even if they are out of their natural environment. I thought at the start that maybe the animals might have been found injured or sick and that they were there to be cared for and then released back into the wild. Once I found out that that was not the case then we made sure that our guide/driver knew that we did not agree. He told us that in Peru that it was legal for people to capture animals but in Colombia it was illegal to do so and he said it as if this would make it ok. It was good to see the animals but I would have rathered not seen them and had them back in their natural environment. Besides that we had a wonderful view over the river and looking back at Leticia and also at Tabatinga in Brazil. Also to make us laugh there was a giant statue of a pink river dolphin standing upright dressed except that his had his rather large willy was exposed……of
One of the stilt houses....most of these houses had lovely plants and flowers on their walkways and balconies
course this is something that you would put in your restaurant - see photo. This area is amazingly beautiful especially when the sun is out so we were lucky to see it in all its glory.
During our previous stay in Colombia we had discovered the street food of arepas. They are patties made from corn flour and then cooked on a grill and when served they are cut in half with butter, salt and cheese added - lets just say that we were getting some what close to having an addiction. So we decided that we should have an arepa night at the hostel where we would make our own arepas from scratch and see if we could pull it off. The short version of this story is that we did manage to make arepas that looked like arepas but just weren´t as good as the ones you can buy on the street. Definately not bad but with a lot of room for improvement. The other local delicacy that we had on the menú that night was fried plantains, which Sharyn and I both had a huge liking for. That day I had sworn off them as we
Another house on stilts
had been eating way to many of them but with deciding on our own local food night with the American Dale, I thought just one more time. Dale was interested to learn how to cook them so that was his job. Sharyn has a great technique and passed on her words of wisdom to Dale but for some strange reason he decided that he was going to deep fry them instead. The result was lots of soggy plantains that no one wanted to eat and Dale trying to include Sharyn and myself in his failure. It was not such a bad thing as I have note eaten plantains since, he actually cooked them so bad that he had put me off forever.
That weekend was the election weekend and in Colombia it is illegal to drink alcohol from 6pm on the Friday night until early morning on the Monday. This is done to limit any kind of trouble that might happen as you can imagine that there had been issues in the past. Sunday was a busy day with people out voting and come around 6pm the results were announced. We happened to be near one of the candidate´s
The streets of Leticia
offices during this time on the internet and could hear the people cheering as the results were read out. I thought that this was a running tally but it turned out to be the final results and once the results for Leticia were read the crowd went wild. They then proceeded to get on their scooters, cars or just go on foot and circle the whole town in celebration. I followed after them to find the new governor in front greeting people and walking into shops doing what politicians do - kissing people, shaking hands and hugging people. I found out later when talking to Gustavo that this particular guy had already been in power and had done some dodgy business with some money that he had been given and that he possibly might be on the way to court. How the hell can he be running for parliament?
Sunday´s in Colombia are my favourite days as everyone comes out in the streets and has a good time. Leticia was no different. People and kids everywhere eating ice-cream, fruit, chocolate, getting juices, playing in the playground, sitting around talking, kids on bikes and of course the ever present salsa
Our American friend Dale munching on a bakery treat....yes that is not watermelon
music playing loud from everywhere. Sharyn and I decided to join them and sat for ages just people watching as we were watched ourselves. I decided that day that I was going to sell watermelon on the street when I got back home as the lady doing it here was making a killing. It was our last day in Leticia and it was a great way to spend it. We had been in Leticia more days than expected and due to the remoteness of the town we had seen it all and done everything that we could so we were happy to be leaving the following day. Gustavo´s hostel had been a great place to stay and he was a typical Colombian with great hospitality and lots of stories to keep us entertained. Other than having consistently crap experiences in many internet cafes Leticia had been a wonderful place to visit and I was so glad that we had made the huge effort to get there. To cap off a great adventure we flew out towards Bogota over the Putumayo region that gave us great views of the rivers, jungle and the mountains once the clouds cleared. We had definately
A very fancy cake in one of the bakeries......ducks sliding down waterslides, as they do!
got a different look on life in such a big continent.
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