Catch up Entry

South America
December 10th 2007
Published: December 11th 2007
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Too Too Long......

Sorry everyone for being slow on this travelblog thing. It is getting harder and harder every time. There is 2 months of information to catch up on, therefore I am going to do a fast blog with lots of pictures.

When I left you all last night I was in Colombia. Natalie and I went to Cartagena to check out the town and a popular beach known as Playa Blanca. The city consists of 3 parts. The New Town is dirty and poor and that is where we stayed. The Old Town is surrounded by a old wall with cannons on top and has cobblestone style streets. This is where everyone goes to enjoy the beauty of the town. As as goodbye night, Natalie and I splurged a little bit (a splurge was about 15 dollar meals) on a nice dinner on a balcony overlooking a courtyard in the middle of the town. The 3rd part is of a peninsula full of tall hotels and looks like a major tourism getaway. For 2 days and one night we took a tour to the Rosario Islands outside of Cartagena on a big yauht with lots of people.
Colombia for yaColombia for yaColombia for ya

Cute girl with even cuter guns in San Augustin
There were lots of tiny islands with little houses on them which were probably vacation homes for the wealthy people from Bogota. The next place we stopped was on the island of Baru where a long white beach named Playa Blanca is located. It was beautiful, but nothing compared to the beaches we saw in Tayrona park. Along the beach are tons of thatched stands/huts where people can string up hammocks and spend the night. We found a place recommended to us by some travelers. Others had heard about the place too. There were a bunch of Australians there whom at first site seemed like cool guys from Sydney. It turns out there were quite strange because they were 20 years old and talked to each other in Pig Latin like 13 year old girls. One night was enough for us at that place with them. Some of the activites we were able to partake in was riding behind a boat on a blow up banana raft, cheap massages, and drinking (for the australian guys). Well drinking didnt really work out for them. They ordered some rum after the owner gave everyone a free taste of quality stuff, but when he came out with the bottles the alcohol had changed. The same rum bottles had all been preopened and filled up with an alcohol that smelled and tasted like 100 percent rubbing alcohol. It was a dodgy situation to say the least. The next day our tour boat did not return to pick us up, which sucked because we did not take enough money to spend another night and it wound up costing us 6 dollars to catch another boat home. Colombia then shined and showed us how classy it was because we were able to get a refund for our extra cost from the tour company. The other countries down here would have told us tough luck. Anyway, we got back to Cartagena in time for the first day of its annual festival. During the festival there was a parade for the Colombian beauty pageant and its 25 contestants. We happened to stand next to the family of Senorita Magdalena (one of the 25 contestants) and they invited us into the parade with them to walk alongside their float and support their daughter. We were also given beer and invited to party with them afterwards. We did not get
Lake QuilatoaLake QuilatoaLake Quilatoa

How beautiful...check out the others in photo link below
to meet the girl, but she was gorgeous and ended up becoming Señorita Colombia. We were stoked not only to partake in the parade and meet the family, but they gave us shirts with her photo on it. Now Natalie and I have t-shirts with Miss Colombia on them. Merry Xmas Link! The next day, we headed back to Bogota on a 24 hour bus ride. What fun! Natalie and I spent our last few days together in Bogota before she caught a flight to Quito and then to the U.S. to meet up with friends and my wonderful family for Thanksgiving. I spent the rest of my time in Bogota hanging out with Angie and enjoying the wonderful city before I took off for Salento.

Salento is a relaxing place with lush terrain. On the lower hillsides there are lots of wax palms which are said to grow nowhere else in the world. They are very tall, thin, and spread out. Salento is also home to a cloud forest. I only spent one day here and we hiked through all of this area during the morning. In the afternoon I went with a swiss guy that I met
Banos WaterfallBanos WaterfallBanos Waterfall

We swam in the pool of the second fall
to a private organic finca. Also known as a coffee plantantion. David and I got a private tour to learn about the process of growing and making coffee and 2 free cups of amazing coffee afterwards. It was the highlight of the area. Since David and I were headed in the same direction, we jumped on a night bus together and went to San Augustin. This area is known for its 2000 year old ruins. We found a hostal, that gave out free and fresh organic coffee from its own finca and then set out to check out the ruins. It was an interesting place, but after a few hours of seeing carved stones and graves I got a little bored. That night we met another swiss guy staying at our hostal and a swiss girl staying elsewhere. The next day the four of us went to a place called El Estrecho where a large river called Rio Magdalena passes through a thin area of rock only 2 meters wide. It was very beautiful on the ride to the place and the location itself was spectacular to see. The water was very ferocious in this area where it had weathered the rock down. The ride back was also fun. We had 28 people on a pickup truck and large sacks of coffee beans. I wish I had a picture. The rest of our time in San Augustin was spent drinking local alcohol called Guarapo with a tour guide and going out to listen to live music. Then David, Stephen (the other swiss guy) and I headed out to the town of Popayan. It turns out we were all on our way to Quito, Ecuador. We made it to Popayan, but were all short on cash. So we bought a ticket out of there to the border town of Ipiales. Before the bus left though, we went bar hopping to get ourselves a little buzz to help us sleep. It was while doing this that we met 2 crazy locals (brother and sister) that wanted to drink with us and then attempted to convince us to skip our bus ride, spend the night at their place, and then have sex with the sister. She even jumped into the cab with us as we more or less ran away from them and tried to kiss each of us. She ended up biting
I love sunsetsI love sunsetsI love sunsets

I need a bigger memory chip for all of these sunsets
my cheek and landing a wet one on Stephen´s lips. It was an interesting few hours in Popayan. In the morning we made it to Ipiales where we wanted to check out a cool church built on a bridge spanning a large canyon. It was a great site to see and we took many photos. Finally, we had to say goodbye to Colombia and cross the border. It turns out we were not dissappointed. Ecuador was beautiful from the start.

There were volcanos all over the place and large canyons that we passed on our 5 hour bus ride from the border to the capitol Quito. In Quito we found a place to stay at a hostal in the Old Town, which is known to be safer. This part of town is really quiet at night, but really beautiful. I have never seen more churches in my life. The largest one, a gothic church, was visible from the rooftop of our hostal. We spent our days here checking out two main churches (the gothic church and the gold church....the gold church was constructed using 7 tons of gold). We took lots of pictures of these as well and we even snuck in a few pictures of the inside of the gold church were pictures are forbidden. What rebels eh? Quito is also known for its great views because the town is built on several hills. We went to 3 main ones and the views were as expected...wonderful. One of them was at an alititude of 4100 meters and we needed a gondola to reach the top. I met an Ecuadorian girl Lorena here and ended up coming back to celebrate the first few days of Quitos big festival with her a week later. Anyway, my time in Quito was up because I had plans to meet up with Peter from the Way Inn Lodge in Latacunga 2 hours south.

I met up with Peter in Latacunga which was a cool stop off town for travelers doing the Quilatoa Loop. It had a great market with lots of street foods. My favorite was the grilled chicken gizzards which reminded me of the fried hearts and gizzards of back home. Anyway, I met up with Peter which was a nice reunion and we hopped on a bus for Zumbahua. This was a po dunk town on the loop that looked deserted. We decided not the spend the night here, but instead just go for a day hike down a canyon and up a hill. That was the end of that town. We decided to head to the town of Quilatoa which is next to the magnificent crater lake, Laguna Quilatoa. We spent 2 nights in the hostal while we enjoyed the incredible lake located at about 3500 meters. We saw sunsets, brilliant water, and met cool people. On our full day at the lake we hiked around the upper ridge and were rewarded with beautiful views of the lake and of the valley on the other side. It took us 5 hours to walk around, which we did no problem. We even did some rock rolling down the steep sides of the volcano trying to reach the water. We were not very lucky. The rocks broke apart too easily. We had tons of fun though. As you can see from the photos, Peter and I traded beanies. He got mine that I have had for 4 years and I got his that cost less than 2 dollars. It seemed like a good trade, until I lost it within 2 days.
Dan near the summitDan near the summitDan near the summit

5100 meters and we didnt make the top. We were just heading back down at this point
I guess I shouldnt have traded. Anyway, on our last day there we hiked down to the lake to get a different view. Peter decided to go for a swim. It was not too cold but we were hoping the bubbles coming up from one area were hot.....they were not. Anyway, we left that day and skipped the rest of the loop. We did not think anything could top the lake and Baños was waiting. We headed out to the ultra touristy town located right by a large active volcano.

Peter had been there before, but loved it so much that he went back to show me around. It was a beautiful bus ride there and the town met my expectations. On day one, we went on a bike ride down a road to various waterfalls that were each amazing in their own way. At the final one we went for a swim and cooled off from the hot day. At night, a friend of Peter´s showed up and we hung out with her. We ate lots of tasty street food. The best being these mashed potatoes that had so much butter and oil that it was a heart
Rima Rima and ChuropitaRima Rima and ChuropitaRima Rima and Churopita

I climbed both of these 5000 meter monsters (barely missed the summit on the left)
attack waiting to happen and well worth it. The next day I strolled around by myself and then met up with Peter to go for a walk to check out the smoking volcano and eat sugar cane. Both were great for a bit. In the evening we went to the hot pools (man made pools with natural hot water). This was a popular hang out and we spent the better part of an hour soaking up the hot water and cooling off under fresh water taken from a nearby waterfall. My time was up in Baños and I decided to skip Vilcabamba, another hot spot in Ecuador, and head back to Quito to meet up with Lorena, check out the first part of the festival, and see a Salvador Dali exhibit.

The weekend in Quito was fun. Lorena and I hung out most of the time (mostly accompanied by her 15 year old sister and her boyfriend) The first night we went to see a concert being held in the Old Town. I did not really like the music too much, but it was fun seeing all of the people crowded in the town square. On the second day we went to a parade through the New Town. It was interesting to see all of the people again and also to see how skimpy the clothes of the young girls were. I dont think the attire would be allowed in the U.S. On Sunday, there was not anything with the festival so we went to check out the Salvador Dali exhibit, but it was closed becasue it was Sunday. Instead we walked around for a few hours. It was too bad we only had a couple days to get to know each other, but we had fun and then said our goodbyes. That night I got on a bus to the border of Ecuador and Peru. On the bus I met an guy born in Iran that now lives in Sweden and convinced him to come with me to Huaraz and check out the lodge. It took many hours in total from Quito - Huaraz, but the time and trouble was well worth it in the end. Through all of my rushing from Bogota, Colombia to Huaraz I was able to save myself a week of relaxation.

I spent my time in Huaraz as a guest this time, but was lucky enough to get a discount. I did not have to pay for my room. I spent the time reading some books and one day doing the biggest hike I have ever done. With an english guy, we attempted the mountain Rima Rima which is just outside of the lodge. We did 11 hours of hiking in total and we missed the summit. We made it to within 100 meters of the 5200 meter peak before it got too dangerous to continue. We were upset, but still happy to be alive because the mountainside was rough. In all we did 1400 meters of vertical from the lodge and of course another 1400 meters back down. It was tiring and fun. The rest of my time was spent soaking up the view and checking out the amazing stars. Today I left and it was sad to say goodbye again because the place has been so important to me on my trip. I do have on good thing going for me now that I am leaving Huaraz. I am going to BUENOS AIRES!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I have extended my trip 4 months since I last wrote and 3 months of it will be in Argentina with time in Uruguay and Chile. I cant wait. I fly out of Lima on the morning of the 13th. As for now, I am uploading more photos so you can all see the places I went. I am also happy because I found out today that my ipod that broke has been replaced with a brand new one. I used to happy the company Apple, but they gained some points in my book today. I cant wait to see all of you. Check out the many photos. I apologize for any photos that look redundant (especially in Quilatoa) I have a hard time deleting good photos. Take care.

Argentina here I come!


23rd December 2007

Jame!!! ahhh. reading this and seeing these pics is killer... i want to travel so stinkin bad. thanks for the detail on your posts. sounds like even more than a "life-changing" experience.. kudos.

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